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Friday, 8th October, 2004, 08:13 PM #181Originally Posted by Meloch the Pygmy
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Monday, 6th December, 2004, 01:27 PM #182
Novice (Lvl 1)
Monday, 6th December, 2004, 11:23 PM #183
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I met Orichalcum, Cerebral Paladin and Cornelia's player (whose screen name I don't know, but she runs a fine game of Call of Cthulhu) at a convention on the weekend. Apparently there are still a few sessions to catch up for the SH, and it is ongoing (yay!)... but we may have to wait a little while for more updates (boo!)
Tuesday, 7th December, 2004, 10:16 PM #184
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I'm Cornelia's player, and it was great fun to meet you and GM for you, Capellan!
"We're just babies making up a game....But four babies playing a game can make a play-world that licks your real world hollow." --CS Lewis
What I Write: The Cheyenne Mountain Irregulars: A Stargate Story Hour
What I Play: Alea Iacta: A Mythic Rome Campaign
Cerebral Paladin's Story Hour
Sunday, 12th December, 2004, 05:32 PM #185
Novice (Lvl 1)
Tuesday, 1st February, 2005, 06:22 PM #186
Alea Iacta VIII: Hidden Secrets
My apologies for such a long absence; I've been hard at work on my dissertation and job applications, which are still ongoing, but this is, I've decided, a much healthier form of procrastination than many others, as at least it gets me writing.
When last I wrote, the good news was that we had just saved Roma from sacrilege, fire, and Druids, and that we had all lived to tell the tale. The bad news was that Metellus' parents were rather angry at him for throwing an unauthorized open orgy in their house (even though he didn't show up till it was half over), we still didn't know who the Black Chain Philosopher was, the 9th's Eagle was still corrupted and tainted by the BCP, and, oh, yes, some of us had killed 11 young Celtic girls.
The Caesar and Emperor's son Cimbrus, in his imperial mercy, sentenced the 8 girls whom Cornelia, Llyr, Heilyn, and Meloch had rendered unconscious to be sent immediately to the salt mines in northern Italy, rather than executing them. Of course, the average lifespan in the salt mines is about two years. Meloch and Llyr glanced at each other, and decided to put a possible rescue at the bottom of the Amphora of Bad Ideas for now. We'll see how long that lasts.
Meanwhile, Roma was hot and muggy, and those of the group living in Metellus' villa found it a rather uncomfortable atmosphere. A few days after the ludi Romanes had ended, the nobilissima Hadriana, wife of Cimbrus, summoned Cornelia, Wena, Meloch, and me to the imperial summer Villa Hadriana at Tivoli, which, as she reminded us, had belonged to her great-grandfather the Emperor. We were shown into her private study, which was a small house on a tiny artificial island, surrounded entirely by a moat, which in turn was surrounded by 15-foot walls; it was clear that this was to be a very private conversation.
After dismissing all but her most trusted guards, Hadriana, looking a little weary from the heat even up here in the Italian mountains, leaned forward.
"My beloved, Cimbrus Caesar, has been very distressed of late. He has been communicating with the Emperor his father about the progress of the Parthian War, through a means reserved to the members of the imperial family, and the news he has received has disturbed him greatly. Legions lost, rebellions - the war seems to be going very badly. "
Wena thinks to herself, "Huh, I wonder if this means of communication has anything to do with that spherical dark crystal, full of philosophical power, that I saw in the Governor's palace back in Londinium. I wonder if they'll let me use one or two to speak to the Iceni if we make Hadriana happy, or maybe even give me one for myself! Still, doesn't seem like she wants to talk about it for now. Still, worth passing along on the mindlink to Cornelia."
Hadriana continues, "The odd aspect to this is that I have my own agents in the east, and the reports that they have been sending me suggest a much more positive story - no major victories as of yet, but some crucial positions fortified and allies gained, and no significant loss of troops. Of course, my reports are always several months out of date, but this has been true for some time now. I am not certain as to whether my network of agents has been hopelessly compromised, or whether, and this is in some ways an even worse possibility, the means of communication between the imperial family has become...faulty, in some way."
Meloch suggests, "Well, couldn't you send more agents?"
Hadriana responds, "It both takes more time, and I don't know who has been compromised and who hasn't been - the rot could be at the very top. This is why I have developed the following path of enquiry. Cornelia Crispa, I believe your mother is now at her coastal villa down at Misenum, near Cumae?"
"Indeed, nobilissima, she is. She's been asking me and my friends to visit for a few weeks now. But how does this help you find out information in the East?"
"Perhaps," Hadriana murmurs, "when you and your friends are visiting your mother, you could happen to drop by the cave of the Sibyl of Cumae, the most respected prophetess in Italia, enquiring about your futures. And if one of you were to ask about the question I've been pondering, rather than about your own destiny, and were to happen to report that answer to me, well...I remember my friends."
Cornelia reflects to Wena over the mindlink that this comes awfully close to asking for prophecy about the fate of the Imperial family or Empire, but also decides that, if they've got this powerful a patron, they should be all right.
Speaking slightly more loudly, Hadriana comments, "Besides, there is another matter in that region which might interest you and your friends. A report has recently come to my attention that there are signs of digging, and mysterious strangers, around the former site of the villa of L. Calpurnius Piso. Piso was an important senator from about 60 years ago, known for collecting obscure and strange philosophical manuscripts. His villa was buried in volcanic mud during the eruption of Vesuvius. It certainly seems...curious that someone should be investigating it right now, and I thought you might want to take a look at it."
She gestures to them to leave, and Meloch, who has been kneeling until now quietly to one side, looks up at her, and his eyes widen briefly for a second, although he tries to conceal it.
"What is it, good pygmy," Hadriana asks sharply.
"Mmmost beautiful nobilissima, it is...I believe that you will give birth to an Imperial heir in some seven months or so," Meloch stammers, having used his innate racial powers to detect her early pregnancy.
Hadriana smiles with joy, beginning to pluck a small emerald bracelet from her arm, then looks at him again. "There's something else, though, isn't there?"
Meloch tries to dodge, but she stares at him penetratingly. Finally, he whispers, "The baby...it is not in the best of health, nobilissima. You must be very careful."
Hadriana bites her lip and nods sharply, once again dismissing them. They cross the quickly lowered bridge across the moat and leave Tivoli quickly, soon rejoining their friends and announcing the Imperially mandated summer vacation.
Tuesday, 1st February, 2005, 06:30 PM #187
Yay! This totally made my day. Welcome back!Originally Posted by Orichalcum
Tuesday, 1st February, 2005, 07:37 PM #188
Novice (Lvl 1)
Tuesday, 1st February, 2005, 09:15 PM #189
Novice (Lvl 1)
Good to have you back.
Wednesday, 2nd February, 2005, 07:18 PM #190
Alea Iacta VIII: Under Mud, Over Sea Chp. 2: Family Reunion
We journey to the harbor of Ostia and embark on Metellus' ship, the one we liberated from the pirates en route to Roma, and begin a speedy cruise down the western coast of Italia to the Bay of Naples. Along the way, Marcus and Wena inform us that the former owner of the buried villa, Lucius Calpurnius Piso, was a patron of Epicurean and Neoplatonic philosophy who had a gigantic villa, perched on top of a cliff with terraces that stretched down to the seashore. He had both Greek and Latin libraries and a coterie of philosophers whom he paid to adorn his estate and enlighten him and his family. Also, very fond of word games and puzzles, and a collector of art. They all died in the eruption of Vesuvius when the wave of boiling mud swept over Herculanaeum, burying everything in its wake.
After 2 and a half days of travel, we arrive at the Villa Luculli, summer residence of Cornelia's maternal ancestors, also, like most of the elite villas in the area, perched high on top of a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples, on one edge of Cape Misenum, where the Western Fleet is stationed. Thousands of handsome young sailors throng the street as we make our way by litter and horse up to the villa, where Licinia Luculla, Ogulnius the fat steward, and other slaves welcome us to a fine meal of freshly caught fish. Llyr and Meloch explore the villa and its elaborate garden after dinner, and are slightly puzzled by a crude, old-fashioned covered stone well in the middle of all the highly fashionable landscaped trees and plants, but decide that there are more important things to focus on, like getting a good night's sleep before going exploring in ruined villas the next morning.
That night, Meloch, lying as usual on a cushion across the threshold of Cornelia's bedroom, is startled into wakefulness by the sound of someone quietly chanting a spell and sprinkling herbs on him. He is well versed enough in magic to realize that this is some powerful variant of his own Sleep spell, and, though he resists the spell's effects, he feigns sleep convincingly. The figure steps over him, quietly wakens Cornelia, and escorts her out of the room. As they leave, Meloch glances after them and realizes that Licinia Luculla is leading her daughter out into the garden somewhere. He quietly casts invisibility on himself and Shast and creeps after the pair, trying to avoid making any noise.
The two women are remaining very quiet, and Licinia goes over to the covered well, waving her hand across it and murmuring some words which make it glow red briefly. She then lifts off the iron lid and begins climbing down into the well, with Cornelia, surprised but clearly intrigued and curious, following her. Meloch waits for about 30 seconds and then sneaks over to the well, discovering that, in fact, it appears to be a long vertical tunnel down into the rock, with iron bars hammered into the stone as a ladder. Although I tell him that this is clearly none of our business and we should just go back to sleep, Meloch insists on descending the shaft, and reluctantly, I scamper down after him.
The shaft eventually opens out into an enormous cavern, partially full of water, which seems to have an underwater passage to the ocean outside; we have reached the bottom of the cliff. Meloch and I stay within the shaft itself, peering out at Licinia and Cornelia, who are standing on a rocky beach at the edge of the water, while Licinia calls out "Kalliston?" to the rocks and crevices which extend deep into the cliffside.
After a few more seconds, three people come walking out of one of the deep, wide crevices in the rock; a middle-aged, red-haired, olive-skinned woman, who seems, somehow, vaguely familiar, an extremely handsome Greek-looking young man, and a young girl with long blond tresses, and nothing else, who smiles as she runs past Cornelia to dive into the water, diving deeply before coming back up to bob in the small waves. Needless to say, Cornelia is highly disconcerted.
Licinia Luculla lifts her mantle over her head, clasps her hands, and nods in deep respect, the most courtesy Cornelia has even seen her show to anyone. Cornelia, confused but courteous, quickly tries to imitate her. "Mother, why are we here? Who are these people?" she whispers, not adding the mental thought of "and why is she naked???" Meloch, meanwhile, quietly ogles the group.
"Greetings, honored ancestress Kalliston," Licinia says to the red-haired woman. "As is tradition, I have brought my heir to meet you, my eldest daughter and the only one of my children to show the signs of your gift."
"Ancestress?" Cornelia queries. "But...I didn't think we had any..."
"Dear, perhaps it would be easier if, before explaining fully, you allowed me to calm you down? Trust me, I think it will go much better that way," Licinia answers.
Cornelia debates the wisdom of allowing her mother to do anything to her, but finally decides that, indeed, being calm can only help this situation. She sits down on a rock, and her mother chants the familiar spell of Calm Emotions, which she remembers vaguely being used frequently when she was a small child. Suddenly, she feels very, very mellow. The same cannot be said for Meloch, unfortunately.
"Now we can continue," Licinia says briskly. "You see, Kalliston is your great-great-great-grandmother."
"But," Cornelia says calmly, "you don't look very old...honored ancestress."
"That's because this is not my true form," Kalliston smiles.
"Oh. What is?" Cornelia inquires with vague, calm curiosity.
This! Suddenly, Kalliston takes a step back and begins shifting, larger and larger, as red scales grow on her skin. Within a few seconds, the middle-aged human woman has been replaced by an enormous flying serpent, with gleaming red scales, a golden underbelly, golden whiskers, and long, trailing red and orange wings. The other two people in the cavern, who have largely been ignoring Cornelia until now, glance up, and begin transforming themselves, with the nude blonde squealing "Time for fun?" as she? changes into a small white serpent, wings tucked under her as she glides through the water, and the handsome Greek man becomes a 30-foot long serpent with mottled blue and green scales and wings.
Cornelia is amazingly grateful that she is so mellow, because otherwise, she knows she would be screaming in panic. "Mother...is this why the local servants were referring to this place as Draconara?"
"There are rumors, sadly. You should tell me whom - we can arrange for that to stop." Licinia answers.
"But, um...how exactly am I descended from you? And who are you???" Cornelia asks the red one, Kalliston.
"Well, many of your years ago, I was experimenting with different forms, and met your great-great-great-grandfather, Licinius Lucullus. We began a relationship, and it seemed like an interesting experience to have a child of my own. To my surprise, she was born fully human, but with certain talents for manipulating the elements. That trait seems to have largely bred true in your female line, as it has with you. As for who I am...I am Kalliston. The blue is Thalasson, the white Hieron. We, well, we are. We are born at the birth of a volcano, one dragon for each mountain. I came from the first fires of the mountain you call Vesuvius, and had returned here with my young friends at the time of the most recent eruption. But the giants were wandering then, and your family offered us shelter here in the cavern, and it has not seemed safe to fly freely out since then. Besides, I needed a rest."
"The giants? "
"The giants who wander the slopes of Vesuvius, causing earthquakes with their hammers. They are a dread enemy for us, and Hieron is still young and frail."
Hieron speaks up indignantly. "I am not! And I know something you don't know!"
"What is that, young one?" Kalliston asks tolerantly.
"I smell two soft ones up there in the shaft! They smell of fear, but I can't see them. I've been trying to, though..."
It is perhaps unfortunate timing that it is just about at this point that Meloch's invisibility spell runs out. It is certainly true that we both smell of fear; Meloch nearly fell out of the shaft when the dragons appeared. And certainly, I will confess to nearly fainting when, about at this point, a white dragon's head sticks its way up into the shaft, nearly filling it, and squeals shrilly as it flies back toward the water, "I told you! They're in there! A little dark one and a tiny furry one."
Cornelia quickly stands, a sense of urgency overriding her calm, and pleads, "Please don't kill them! It's my...servant."
Kalliston raises a whiskered eyebrow, scales flickering in the reflected glowing magelights of the cavern, and glances up towards the shaft, twitching a few claws. A few seconds later, a large transparent bubble, containing Meloch and myself, floats down to the water's edge.
"You ordered your servant to spy on us?" she asks Cornelia with some anger.
"No, no, he must have done it all on his own," Cornelia tries to explain, unhelpfully.
"While you're working this out, can I play with them?" Hieron asks petulantly. Thalasson also lifts up its long head.
"Certainly. Try to avoid permanent damage for now; they are family toys, after all." Hieron bats our bubble into the water with a claw, and then splashes it with glee over to Thalasson. Thalasson whacks us into the air with its tail, sending the sphere spinning end over end but luckily not penetrating, and we float back over to Hieron, who tries juggling us with its nose. The next few minutes are extremely terrifying, especially while we try to pay attention to the conversation regarding our ultimate fate.
Cornelia vouches for our innate harmlessness and loyalty and devotion at fervent length. Kalliston is clearly highly concerned that the dragons' secret will be revealed to the authorities. "You know, dear Licinia, that we are not completely unvulnerable, and until Hieron is older, we must remain in safety and darkness."
Licinia calmly offers, "While the pygmy is under the control of my daughter, I believe him to be safe and without risk, just as the slaves who occasionally prepare food for you are. We will simply ensure that he always remains under her or my control, or else unable to communicate your secret."
Kalliston nods, slowly. "We have trusted the Licinii before and never been wrong. As long as your slave remains firmly under your control, Cornelia, we shall allow him to live. But there are more pleasant matters to speak of. Why are you visiting us now?"
Cornelia, calm somewhat restored, decides that it really isn't worth pushing matters to try and get the other dragons to stop playing ball with Meloch, so she settles down for a nice chat and explains their visit to explore the Villa Calpurnii, deliberately not mentioning the Sibyl in front of her mother.
"Ah, yes, I know of that place. It is good that your companions choose you to lead this mission, for without you, they would surely fail."
"Why? Is there some magical trap? I mean, Meloch also has talent there...I wonder if he has a dragon ancestor as well..." Cornelia is still free-associating a bit as a result of the spell on her.
Kalliston glances over at Meloch and shakes her head decisively. "I think not. There are other ways for the gift to be passed on. In any case, this is not precisely due to your talents at manipulation. Rather, my blood will also have given you, I believe, a certain resistance to some kinds of volcanic ethers, those we were born in. Many of the buried villas still have some areas full of such air, which will kill all your friends quickly, but should not harm you. But, as extra protection...it appears that you have consumed some of the gifts of your family's necklace?" The dragon glances at Cornelia's necklace of explosive golden baubles, given her by her mother as a coming-of-age present.
"Well, yes...we were fighting the Chief Druid of Britannia, and they were very useful! Thank you, great-great...ancestress, I did not know they came from you!" Cornelia stammers.
"They are distillations of our breath. We shall bestow another one from each of us upon you, but be careful with these; they are very difficult to make properly, young descendant. Still, your line must continue, so protect yourself, and may your blood bless you." Kalliston reaches into a crevice in the rock and carefully plucks out three tiny golden baubles, which she places gently in Cornelia's hands. Cornelia quickly threads them onto her necklace, which has now four baubles.
Licinia suggests that they leave before any more of Cornelia's friends think to investigate, and, with a nod from Kalliston, Hieron reluctantly punctures the transparent sphere with the tip of its claw and lets Meloch and I fall, trembling, into the waves at the edge of the shore. As we follow Cornelia and Licinia back up the shaft, Licinia mentions how much easier it would be to simply drown Meloch and me in the night, which would solve any lingering problem of secrecy. Cornelia politely refuses the offer, and then the second offer of mind control, and, as we finally make it back to Cornelia's bedroom, I can hear Meloch desperately thinking of ways to buy his freedom as soon as possible - and keep Cornelia alive in the meantime.