Aphonion Tales (New posts 6/13, 6/15, 6/19)

Ladybird

First Post
When Kit received Brionna’s note about needing help checking out the Tiara of Flame she immediately thought of the Master Farsensor. Not only was the Eldar one of the most skilled psions in the world, he was also greatly enjoying the Council’s requests for assistance in various matters. And as Kit had suspected, when she sent out the telepathic request, the Farsensor replied with a great deal of enthusiasm – more, in fact, than she had thought an Eldar was capable of.

Certainly, Dame Katherine! I would be happy to!

Thank you, Master Farsensor. I really appreciate your help with all of this – it’s just that we need everything checked out very quickly…

And that’s why it’s so fascinating to work with you on it! Intrigue like this would take – oh, 500 or 600 years out in the forest! I’d often wondered how humans managed to conduct complex politics. It seems that you just speed it up, the way you do everything else. It’s terribly entertaining.

Kit tried to keep her own amusement out of her thoughts. Thank you, Master Farsensor. The item is in the Treasury. I’ll meet you down there.

Of course, of course. I’ll be there at once. There was a brief pause, and then the Eldar’s thoughts resumed. Odd. I didn’t think your treasury was on fire.

WHAT? Kit thought back, panic rising, as she started to run.

* * *

In the Treasury, Brionna was waiting for Kit, hoping that she would not have to fill out a Loitering Time Request form or some similar bureaucratic nonsense from the Keeper of the Vaults.

The tranquility was broken by the sudden pop! of a teleportation. An instant later, flames erupted from the floor, encasing the teleporter in a fiery cage. Brionna sprang back, sword in hand – until she saw who it was inside the cage.

The Eldar Master Farsensor stood with an expression of mild puzzlement, contemplating the flames around him. “Odd,” he stated, his words echoing his thoughts.

By the time Kit skidded to a stop at the bottom of the stairs, panting, the Keeper of the Vault was fussing and fretting about the office, waving wands and magical keys in arcane patterns to remove the flaming cage from around the palace’s distinguished guest. “I must compliment you on the efficacy of your wards,” the Farsensor was saying. “And…er…I suppose I should have realized that you would have them in place. Teleporting in was perhaps a bit imprudent. But, as I was telling Dame Katherine, I am rather enjoying the way that things happen so quickly here among the humans. It’s quite invigorating.”

Once the fiery cage had been dismissed, the Keeper went off to retrieve the Tiara of Flame for the Farsensor to examine.

“Oh, this is impressive,” the Eldar mused, as he turned the tiara over in his long, slender hands. “Quite impressive for…ahem. Your pardon.” He was going to say, ‘for humans,’ Kit thought, with an inward smirk. “Yes, it has been tampered with,” he continued. “It has been altered so that it will ignore the auras of…oh, thirteen or fourteen people. There were even more at one time; there are seven or eight blank spaces.”

“Thirteen or fourteen? Can you be any more precise?” Brionna asked, already starting another list in her mind.

“One of the figures is wavering,” the Eldar replied. “That could represent an undead, perhaps?”

Brionna gulped. “An undead?”

“Could it be someone in another condition?” Kit asked, her own apprehension rising. “Another altered state of being? Like, someone possessed, maybe?”

“Yes, possibly.” The Farsensor’s voice was as calm as ever, as if he were contemplating the possibility of carrots being served at dinner instead of spinach. “Not a demon, but perhaps someone possessed by a demon.”

“What about the others?” Brionna pressed. “Can you tell anything about them?”

“They appear to be…part elven? Or servants of the Ultimate Enemy. I cannot see any more clearly than that.”

“Who could have done something like this?” Kit wondered. “Who could have had the power to tamper with one of the artifacts of the Crown Jewels?”

“It was definitely a Noldar,” the Farsensor replied. “But beyond that, I cannot say. Not without a good deal more examination.”

“Well, we can’t have the Archduke wearing it in this condition,” Brionna declared.

The Farsensor blinked in mild surprise. “But he couldn’t wear it, Dame Brionna. He isn’t psionic.”

“Plus, it’s a tiara,” Kit added, with a brief snicker. Then her smirk abruptly faded, as she realized who the duty of wearing the tiara might fall to – she was the only member of the Council who was psionic. The secrecy of her true position might prevent her from wearing it publicly, but still…

Brionna, of course, was still sticking to the main point. “Then this must be part of another plot, separate from the one to disrupt the coronation. Which means that we can table it for now,” she concluded, allowing a tiny bit of relief to show through. “At least until we can gather more information about the tiara and who might be responsible for damaging it.”

“After the coronation, I can take it back to the Forest,” the Farsensor offered. “We may be able to repair it there. I doubt anyone except the Eldar could even attempt to repair it, for it will take some extremely delicate work to do so without breaking it.”
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Ladybird

First Post
The nature of one of Lady Brenda’s requests having been determined, Brionna went off in search of more information on the other one: the mysterious Box 378.

Lady Danielle, one of the late archduchess’s few surviving ladies-in-waiting who had also been on the expedition to Tarsh, received Brionna in a sitting room primarily decorated in floral-patterned cloth, with large squashy seats. Lady Danielle herself was similarly comfortable – plump, gray-haired, maternal, and smiling. “Do come in, dear. Would you like some tea?”

“Ahem. Yes. Thank you, Lady Danielle.” With a vague worry that her armor would snag on the doilies, Brionna took a seat in the offered chair.

“Now, what can I do for you, dear?”

“I’m curious about an item that Lady Brenda requested from the treasury just before the expedition to Tarsh. A Strongbox 378?”

Lady Danielle’s eyes immediately widened, and she nodded seriously, her high-pitched voice lowering to a more businesslike tone to match Brionna’s. “Oh, yes. Amelia asked her to get that. We took it with us to Tarsh.”

“What was in it?”

The elderly lady-in-waiting leaned forward. “This must remain absolutely secret,” she warned. “It contained nearly a pound of orichalcum.”

“Was it used in Tarsh?”

“No – it disappeared there.” A frown of remembered distress crossed Lady Danielle’s face. “It was nearly the entire royal supply – it had been laid down by Amelia’s father.”

Brionna frowned deeply. “The entire royal supply?” she repeated

“Yes,” Lady Danielle sighed. “It was a great loss, but other matters soon took precedence, so we couldn’t investigate. And then Amelia became ill so soon after we returned…” She trailed off, looking away briefly, before continuing a little too brightly to cover her grief, “The supply should be replenished, though. Have you considered asking the emissaries from the Twin Dwarven Kingdoms for some more? They have a small vein of orichalcum in their mines, and they’re here for the coronation.”

“We could ask for some as a coronation present,” Brionna suggested.

“Oh, yes!” Lady Danielle paused, her smile dimming a little, “You must not take offense, though.”

“I would have thought the risk of offense would be the other way, with us asking them for a gift.”

“Oh, they wouldn’t mind about that. But they are even blunter than most dwarves. There’s no telling what they might say.”

Brionna made a mental note of that, and continued, “What about the Tiara of Flame? Lady Brenda requested that, too. Who had charge of it during the trip?”

“We kept it in a portable vault. Amelia wanted to wear it herself – she didn’t have much psionic ability, just enough to be sensitive to the tiara and its effects. She feared that there might be some people still tainted by the chaos beasts - the tiara would allow her to sense them, and then the orichalcum would allow her to – “

“Destroy them?” Brionna finished.

“Cure them, was Amelia’s word.” Lady Danielle gave a surprisingly fierce grin. “I like yours better.”

“Did she identify any tainted people while she was there?” Brionna continued.

“Yes, as a matter of fact. Two of them. But when she went to the vault to get the orichalcum, she discovered that it was missing. Unfortunately, given the diplomatic circumstances, a more…direct approach wasn’t possible. So we sent a note to the Archbishop of Tarsh – but that was shortly before he was assassinated. I don’t think the note was given to his successor.”

“Do you remember what was in the note?”

“Oh, we have a copy of it here,” Lady Danielle said. “It’s in the throne room, dear. In the hidden storage compartment.”

There’s a hidden compartment in the throne room? Brionna thought, as she blinked at Lady Danielle. Who knew?
 

Aylowan

Explorer
I am really enjoying this story hour -- it sounds like you have a great DM and a fun campaign.

And to Cerebral Paladin and Ladybird -- I love the writing from you both and hope you continue. :)
 

Quartz

Hero
I'm a little hazy on Aphonion religion, but in polytheistic societies, isn't it normal to revere multiple deities? You offer a prayer to the deity of travel when travelling, you offer a prayer to the deity of love when pursuing your beloved etc. So you can't really be an apostate except to reject the gods entirely.
 

Baron Opal

First Post
Paranswarm is a jealous god. While you do still acknowledge other gods, Aphonion was more henotheistic than polytheistic when I was playing. The major deities, while somewhat specialized in their spheres of influence, try to have a broad enough appeal to handle most of their worshiper's needs.
 

Ladybird

First Post
Happy Monday :)

In response to the religion question - Baron Opal is right. Aphonion's religion is more like multiple monotheism than Greco-Roman polytheism, and the Paranswarmian church is on the extreme end of the scale in terms of severity. The Ecumenical Council has been doing quite a bit of work to ease relations between the various religions, but in some places (like Augurt) the Paranswarmian church is still extremely strict and possessive.

And now, on with the show!

--
Kit was back in her sitting room – ‘Dame Katherine’s’ sitting room, not the Mouth’s office – when the Chamberlain came in. “Dame Katherine, have you seen Dame Brionna? Her new protocol officer is here.”

“I believe she’s with Lady Danielle?” Kit hazarded. “I can pass along the message if you like.”

“Certainly. Please inform her that Lady Dora Talenshire is here and at her service when she is ready.” The next step, thought Kit, should have been a polite bow and a ‘goodbye,’ but the Chamberlain continued to hover by the door.

“Yes?” Kit prompted.

The Chamberlain cleared his throat. “Dame Katherine, would you by any chance wish to have a protocol officer of your own?”

Kit hesitated for a moment, then conceded, “You know, actually, that would be pretty useful.”

“Ah! Very good!” Relief flooded the Chamberlain’s normally impassive face, and he actually smiled. You don’t have to be quite so enthusiastic about it Kit grumbled to herself. “Would you prefer male or female?” the Chamberlain asked.

“Um…female?”

“Very good. Old or young?”

What, does he have them lined up in a closet, like dresses? “In between?” Another thought struck Kit, and she added urgently, “And not too pretty.”

“Ah. Quite. How about a hobbit?”

Kit grinned. “Perfect.”

Shortly thereafter, the promised assistance bustled up to Kit’s sitting room: as advertised, a middle-aged halfling, dressed very neatly, but with oddly long sleeves that nearly covered her small hands. “Dame Katherine? I’m Dame Pressa Underhill. The Chamberlain has assigned me to be your new protocol officer.”

“Ah. It’s – er - nice to meet you.” Kit retreated to her chair, a little uncomfortable under the onslaught of so much efficiency and propriety. “Er…where did you work before now?”

“I served the ambassador to Haven – Lord Brendan Brightspan.” Kit’s ears pricked up. More Brightspans… “He was – ahem.” Now it was Dame Pressa’s turn for awkwardness, as the little halfling glanced away from Kit. “He was summarily asked to leave. For spying! The charges were absolutely absurd! The Archduchess never permitted spying!”

“Of course not!” Kit agreed fervently. “I’m absolutely shocked to hear that anyone could even think that there would be spies in the Archduchess’s service!” Can’t laugh can’t laugh can’t laugh… “What did they claim he had been doing?”

“They said,” Dame Pressa began, with a prim, disdainful frown, “that he had been talking to members of the lowest sections of society and asking them to stand around watching members of the nobility!”

“Absolutely shocking.” Kit nodded gravely. “And before that?”

Dame Pressa’s smile returned, with a hint of nostalgia. “Oh, well, once upon a time I was in the palace guard. That came to an end when I was wounded, though.” The little halfling flicked back the lacy cuff of her left sleeve revealing a hand that was missing its two smallest fingers and half of the palm. “It was a cursed weapon, so it couldn’t be regenerated. Oh, don’t worry, dear, I manage perfectly well,” the halfling added, catching sight of Kit’s wince of sympathy. “And the Archduchess gave me a very generous pension, and a position among the protocol officers. Oh! My papers! Forgive me, my lady.” The halfling leaned forward quickly, holding out a piece of parchment closed with the Chamberlain’s seal. It read, in carefully clear script:

Dame Katherine – I think you will find Dame Pressa very useful. She is blind to what she does not wish to see.

Kit grinned down at the parchment. “Very good,” she said.
 

Ladybird

First Post
Kit hesitated slightly as she looked back up from the halfling’s credentials. All right. Time to get down to actual business. “Dame Pressa?” Kit began, more slowly than before. “You understand that my position at court is…somewhat delicate? I have to walk a fine line…”

The halfling broke into a wide smile. “Oh, I understand, dear. I was good friends with a…close friend of the Archduchess. I understand your position better than you might think.” Dame Pressa patted Kit’s arm maternally.

“Right,” Kit nodded, with a sigh of relief. “So you’ll help me figure out where to stand so I won’t be seen, and the proper place to sit at all of those big dinners and things?”

“Don’t worry about it at all, dear. I’ll take care of everything once your privy secretary gives me all the invitations.” Kit looked at Dame Pressa blankly. “You do have a privy secretary, don’t you, dear?”

“Er. Well. I have a scribe?” Kit ventured hopefully.

”Does he or she take care of your social calendar?”

Kit sighed. “No, not really. Um – I guess I’d like you to do that, too?”

The halfling beamed again. “Of course! And what about a guard?”

“Do I need one of those too?” Kit asked, with a sinking feeling. A scribe, a protocol officer, a ladies’ maid, and now a guard? How many people do these nobles have to have?

“Oh, yes,” Dame Pressa said, nodding quickly, but her expression was much more serious. “Who’s guarded you before this?”

Kit lifted her chin, a little defiantly. “I have.”

Dame Pressa shook her head. “Well, that won’t do. As soon as the coronation is over, the Archduke will become practically invulnerable as long as he’s in the palace. You and the rest of the court will become the targets, dear. You’ll have to have a guard whenever you leave the palace, and it will be best to get one soon, so that you can get to know him or her.”

“All right,” Kit sighed, and hastily changed the subject away from the all-too-common topic of people wanting to kill Alistair and the various members of the court. “Is this the sort of thing you did for Lord Brendan? What exactly was he doing, when you were sent away from Haven?”

The halfling sniffed in remembered indignance. “Well, they claimed that he was spying - having people watch the ranking nobles of Haven, and keeping track of their comings and goings.”

Kit sniffed too, but it was in an attempt to stifle a laugh. What could he have been playing at? That’s the least competent spying job I’ve ever heard of! But he is still a Brightspan, and we can’t rule out any connections when it comes to that family… Out loud, she said, “How long ago was this?”

“Well, they sent us away five months ago, but we didn’t return to Canberry City until recently. The leader of Haven sent us across land! Right through the middle of the orcish tribes. You’d think they were trying to kill us!”

“But clearly, you made it back all right – and so did Lord Brendan?”

Dame Pressa nodded. “Oh, yes. He’s here in the city, still.”

“All right,” Kit said, with a decisive nod. “The Archduke will want to speak to him, I think.” And so will I. Either he was pulling a brilliant feint by looking that incompetent, or he really is that incompetent. And either way, I want to know if he actually found anything out.

--
Here ends my section of the Story Hour. Tomorrow, it's back to your regularly scheduled Cerebral Paladin :) Thanks for reading!
 

Thanks, Ladybird! (And welcome, Aylowan-- glad to have you with us.)

----

Dame Brionna and Kit proceeded to the throne room to find the document compartment. But despite carefully checking, Kit could not find it. “If we didn’t know it was here, I would be convinced that there is nothing concealed. I could locate the doors to the secret access passages without much difficulty, even if I didn’t know where they were, but I’m getting nothing on this compartment.”

“Maybe it’s magically concealed? If there were a spell that made it look like it wasn’t there, would you be able to find it?”

“Probably not… But we need a mage then.”

They quickly returned with a trusted mage in the Archducal service. He cast a powerful detection spell and looked around the room. “Ah, yes. There’s a compartment built directly into the throne itself. Very well secured, too-- it’s both magically concealed and sealed against entry. Still, that shouldn’t be too hard to deal with.” He cast a spell to dispel its wards and frowned. “Perhaps I was too hasty… The ward was beyond my dispel’s power. Truth be told, I’m now uncertain that I can dispel it, and I would certainly not be able to today.”

“You needn’t trouble yourself,” replied Dame Brionna. “We will have another mage who specializes in such things deal with it. Thank you for locating it.”

After he left, Kit said to Dame Brionna, “I think we should ask Lady Constance to handle this.”

“I don’t know… I don’t like dealing with diabolists, certainly not any more than necessary.”

“But is there anyone else who’s likely to be powerful enough that doesn’t introduce new security risks? We still haven’t even had a chance to vet the Minister of Magic. Lady Constance is the safest route.”

Dame Brionna grudgingly agreed. The choice was fortuitous: when they spoke with Lady Constance, she chuckled. “I could dispel the wards, but there’s no need to-- I placed them and can tell you how to bypass them. The passphrase is ‘gryphon hunter’; if you say that phrase while standing near the throne, the compartment will open. When you close the compartment, it will seal itself again.”
 


Yeah. Part of me is very, very afraid that someday she's going to ask for a boon. Because Alistair won't be able to say no to anything halfway reasonable, but... We'll see. :)

----

They thanked her and returned to the throneroom. Sure enough, the password opened a small door to an alcove holding a thin stack of parchment. All told, there were about a half-dozen documents, although some were multiple pages. Most of the documents were flattened out dispatches, but there was also the message from Haven and the order of battle of some country. Kit handed all of the documents to Dame Brionna, who focused on the order of battle.

“It’s the armies of Debeney. Debeney is the country next to Augurt-- the Archbaron’s wife is Debenean. There are also orange or yellow wolfs’ heads marked next to four of the units-- that’s the sign of the wild, a mark sometimes used to indicate units that might be disloyal. I’m not sure what this mark at the top of the sheet means, though.”

“That one I recognize,” said Kit. “It’s a mouth icon. This was from the Mouth.”

“Ah. That makes sense. The most interesting thing about this, though, is which units are disloyal. All four are heavy cavalry, which are usually among the most reliable troops. But none of the artillery or infantry units are marked. It may be a divide between the monarch and the nobility-- the heavy cavalry in a land like Debeney would consist exclusively of the children of the nobles.”

Dame Brionna carefully returned the document to its compartment and looked at the missive from Haven. Lord Brendan Brightspan wrote a two page report to Archduchess Amelia, with “For Her Grace’s Eyes Only!” written across the top. Even from just the written form, they could tell that he was excited, nervous, and eager to handle the conspiracy that he had uncovered. He reported that the agents that the Mouth has in Haven had been corrupted. In response, Lord Brendan had gathered his own agents, to watch the enemies of Canberry and to keep an eye on the agents of the Mouth. He also wrote extensively of the rats in the city-- clearly unaware of the full significance of this, but able to see enough to know that it needed reporting. He also recommended that the prior ambassador be arrested. Dame Brionna checked some records, and found that the prior ambassador had served for forty years, but was now being held in the Archduchy’s dungeon.

[My notes at this point say “Grand Dame Sophia, Adept General of the Order of the Azure Flame (most powerful of the Paranswarmian arcane orders)”; I assume that this is listing another guest who is arriving for the coronation, but it could be saying that she had also been corrupted, or something else entirely. I’m trying to get clarification.]
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top