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Aphonion Tales: The Archducal Council -- Unedited notes; later posts are edited transcripts (posts MWF, update 3/1/23)

CPaladin

Explorer
About a decade ago, I wrote a storyhour of a long-running D&D campaign. I wrote up storyhours for roughly the first 31 sessions of the campaign. I then ran out of time, largely for professional reasons, to keep writing up the storyhours. But the campaign continued, and I kept notes on the campaign. We've played roughly 100 more sessions beyond the end of the storyhour. I'm never going to write those up as actual Storyhour posts, but I can still share them for people who are interested in following the storyline, which I find very interesting. I'm going to use this thread to post those notes. Some of these notes include content more appropriate for adults (but not explicit), including references to (off-screen) sexual violence by enemies.

For people who are interested, the Storyhour part of this campaign is at: Aphonion Tales (New posts 6/13, 6/15, 6/19).
Other discontinued written-out storyhour on Aphonion (on Zestqua, a different continent from this one) (contains adult content): Journals of a Licensed Diabolist
A collection of notes, similar to this thread, for a teen and tween game set on Drucien, the same continent as this game: Aphonion Tales: Adventures in the Spice Lands (updates Tuesdays)
A collection of notes, similar to this thread, for a pre-teen game set on Zestqua: Aphonion Tales: Ravenskrag and the Shadowlines (updates Thursdays)
Between the three active note threads, there should be a new post every weekday for the foreseeable future--it will take more than a year to catch up to the present, and each campaign meets every other week, so by the time we're caught up to the current date, there will be a lot more material.

Session 32 (January 29, 2008)

Military briefing:
Different orkish horde about to attack Caldra itself. Caldra is unwalled. This is the Horde of the Clawed Foot. They vanished at the beginning of the invasion, after defeating a regiment of militia. They appear to have hidden in the swamps. They are attacking salt mines, some swamp thorps, and at least one fortified manor. If the saltworks at Caldra were destroyed, we would lose our main capability for processing salt for 4-5 years.

Brightspan has at least two legions of barbarian cavalry; could have raised a full field army if he had more time and logistics.

Scout vollers have returned from the new islands. They lost three airmen. We set up an appointment with their captains today.

We also received a map of Zorplona-Argoni in Enclaves from an agent within the Council of Opposition.

Kit with domestic report.
More info on attacks in Caldra-- clearly attacking salt mines. Also, wyvern riders have been spotted.

House of Furrows largely disgraced-- will take generations to regain support.

currently crime low; probably from cleaning up the underworld leading up to the coronation. Dame Brionna suggests recruiting people for the army to try to keep the numbers down.

we also discuss the small number of recent murders. Many of the people on the lists have died; the others are in pain, crippled, or mentally ill. (We arrange for the temple to investigate and treat the survivors.)

People are getting very worried about the shortage of salt.

Alistair suggests using automata or golemim to clear out the salt mines. (We implement.)

The hostage prince appears to be prospectively the best khan ever. Responded very forgivingly.

We discuss Furrows. The current Duke is senile. Lady Susan is not the heir; the Duke’s grandsons would be. Benjamin is 11 and promising. His older brother (Mark) is rogueish and about 18. We worry about the reactions of the other nobles if we took action.

All of the other great nobles (the dukes) view themselves as roughly equal under the overlordship of the Archduke. The current Duke was captain of the Royal Guard from 24-34, and fought at the Battle of the Twin Passes, when Lady Amelia directed the battle against an invading force coming through the Twin Passes. He is remembered for that with great respect. The House is respected because of a history of service. Lady Susan, and the niece, Lady Viola, were never trained to be ruling lords, and since they functionally assumed control, most of the bad things have happened. Certainly a sense of understanding among his peers that he lived longer than he should have, so there is sympathy for the last 10 years. Lady Viola is earnest, youngish (about 30), can be taught, is a bard.

We discuss marrying him off to Alistair’s half-sister, Margaret, who is competent, a little dodgy, and was recognized, so received an upbringing mostly appropriate to high nobility. She’s about 20.

We ask Mark and Alistair’s sister to meet with us. We set up the meeting with Margaret for this afternoon, Mark in six days.

We also leak to Brightspan that we plan to urge Furrows to make Sir Derrick either Caldra or Caligshire.

Scouting report from the captains of the vollers:
Almost immediately upon being summoned, Capt. Brennan reports.

Approached from the north, circled island, one to east, one to west, then did a search pattern at 2000 feet above the highest outcropping, using the gnome spyglasses. Most of primary island is heavily jungled, with reddish-brown trees that seem to move apart from the wind. The outcroppings are covered with buildings, not quite a city. 6 types of beings. Some that look like illithids, but are not-- different coloration, number of tentacles, no indication that they eat brains (as best we can tell, they eat emotions); large numbers of slaves, some no longer quite human, though some are; large doglike things, also tentacled, absolutely vicious, we saw them take down a rhinoceros sort of things (like dogs crossed with displacer beasts), seemed to move without blinking or shifting-- tentacles exude paralytic poison; rhinoceros-like beasts fed on the trees, which is somewhat disturbing (the trees defend vigorously) (don’t think they are intelligent); the trees exude a dart-like thing to defend, about 90’; in addition to those groups, a floating creature (in the air above the island), it also carried weapons, some pole-arms, a couple of clubs, and seemed to be guarding the pass that leads up to the pinnacle (only saw one, floating largely in place); then saw a protean mass that we initially thought was a giant slime or ooze until it surprised us. It suddenly elevated at substantial speed nearly two-thousand feet and attacked us. It could change portions of its shape and propelled itself by absorbing and expelling air. It damaged the deck with some sort of viscous ooze, and plucked three men off before we got the boarding pikes out. We punctured it and it retreated to the ground. The structures are clearly of non-human design. No right angles, few corners. The illithid-type creatures are using them; we presume they built them, but did not see any building in progress. Only things that didn’t use weapons were the rhinoceroses and the trees.

Ships in the bay. Two structures that we took to be temples. No identifiable holy symbols, but there was a design. (He shows a sketch on parchment, a ball with squiggly arrows coming out in all directions.) I recognize it from an obscure book in the Library of Glittertowers, its an ancient and lost holy symbol from some lost god, but I don’t know more.

Who crewed the ships? Humans, no illithid people on them.

Ships made of wood? Yes, well vast majority. Two large metal barges, long contraption near the top with a long tube sticking out the top. Not completely sure they’re ships, but they were in the water. Black metal, but not adamantium. Almost seemed to absorb the light. Saw skaven, but not many, only in port. Did not appear to be slaves. Believe that they were of Clan Moldar, and trading, but we don’t know for what.

Island honeycombed with tunnels. Slaves brought carts of material, probably fungus, out of the tunnels. Also, many trees bear fruit. Overseers do not seem to do a great deal of directing, but would walk among them and select a group to go to the building complexes. None who entered the buildings besides the overseers emerged. Selected slaves showing the most emotion, of any sort.

Something strange about the sea, if you get away from the channel leading directly to the isle. The very water seemed to be red and thick, like a red tide but thicker. And there’s a fish kill along the edges. Could be undersea trees-- couldn’t tell from the air. Could still be more structures or people under the water, but nothing to go on.

Area not currently expanding. They have a thing about bones. One of the few things they have the slaves do is collect bones from creatures that had died, carry them back to structures. Those didn’t come back out either.

Kit passes a mental image of Sir Denro over from Dame Brionna. Did you see this man?

Not to recognize him, but 60 or 70 thousand slaves on that island. We saw three groups, each of three or four, brought into the structures.

Significant magical activity in both temples, one other structure. No resources to check psionic activity. Magic on one of the wooden ships, but they probably brought that with them. The metal ships were “dead”-- either absorb magic or don’t show up at all.

On our way back, three more ships heading there. Appear to be coming from around the coast to the east. Our guess is the Trade Cities. Some of the Trade Cities are slave states, most aren’t.

We hire privateers to interdict them.

Dismiss the Captain.

[Cont'd]
 
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CPaladin

Explorer
I'm glad you're enjoying it, Baron Opal!
-------
Session 32 (cont'd)

We set up a meeting with the illithid ambassador.

The hostage train arrives. We move them into the palace. We set up a reception for the afternoon.

We talk about what to do with the prisoner (from context, who attacked the prince?). If the prince asks for mercy, we’ll banish him.

Word reaches Kit that the train is making its way slowly across the city, because the Prince has never seen a major city before.

We receive the prince in the great hall. Kit is onstage, in a dress. Alistair is in full regalia. Dame Brionna is in armor.

The heralds announce Prince Altyn oba Kurda Ulda Dangizach-Ronalonin.

The particular formation of the name, with hyphenated last names implies that the Great Khan married (as his "first" wife) the craft mistress of one of the great crafts. It would take time to figure out which one, since each craft mistress is referred to only as "mistress of XXX craft" from the time she attains that rank until she dies - but this boy is the child of that craft mistress.

20 young women, in saffron and diaphanous robes and jeweled veils. They position themselves between all of the women in the room, except the ones on the dais, and the prince. The prince is very young, about 12, wearing very appropriate clothing. Sir Jennings walks along a couple of steps behind. There is also one older woman.

“Greetings and honor to the House of Ashberry of the Archduchy of Canberry. I bring gifts and tribute from my father the Great Khan to the glory of the empire and of our … united people.”

He seeks permission to do something, but is rejected by his about twenty year old sister. Kit is pretty sure he was going to plead the case of the farmer.

We offer him a position as a page, which he accepts.

I ask that you accept my cousin Parni if it pleases you, as … a lady-in-waiting in training, perhaps? You can do with my other women as you please, my lord. (He’s clearly trying to get free of their protection.)

We accept Parni as lady-in-waiting.

Parni is beautiful, about 20. Other women-- picked as children for exceptional ugliness. Old woman probably quite beautiful in their youth.

Kit approaches the old woman. “After this, His Grace would like to meet with you to discuss the accommodations for the other women in the Prince’s company.”

Sarasi, matron of the children of the Great Khan. She agrees to meet with Alistair privately.

Kit notes that Sarasi is completely unarmed, but has many long worn indicators of where she carried weapons.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 32 (Cont'd)

Sir Jennings and Dame Brionna move off to a drawing room. “He is a remarkable specimen. He was ready to defend his mother to the death. I underestimated Sir Derrick-- he is a strong commander, but he was able to negotiate better than I expected. He was gracious in victory. The boy was a surprise as well. From the moment that he understood that his mother’s honor was not in danger, he has been pleasant, friendly, etc.

Very scared of becoming a spirit-walker-- his father’s spirit-walkers summoned a goristro that nearly killed Lord Brightspan. I think all of them are demon summoners. Beginning to learn to read. Also learned to write his name-- that took longer than I expected before I learned what it was. Do not like their custom with women-- honor keeps a man honest, but it is their way. Women run all aspects of life except military and economic. Saw his generous heart a number of times. He says, “If bloodfeud is allowed to fester, it is an open wound that festers for a hundred years.”

Khan’s word is known to be good. Having given his surrender, he will keep that as long as the Archduke is alive.

May ultimately be a bard; excellent at repeating songs back, memorizing tales, and the like.

Dame Brionna sounds Sir Jennings about a guard captain/tutor posting.

Alistair talks to the Prince and to Parni. After a few minutes, Altan brings up the issue of the farmer. He stabbed me with a hand-spade.

Agree to commute to banishment.

Also talks with Parni. [I believe the conversation with Parni was primarily Alistair hitting on her, with some success.]

Then private discussion with Sarasi.

Spirit-callers have always been a powerful force among the hordes. He has no respect for the spirit-callers or spirit-walkers. He has a revulsion from them. But he is beloved of the Khan.

Parni cared for him during his mother’s sickness, when he was an infant, and she was still a young child.

Sarasi agrees to dismiss the guardian women

She will remain at least until the daughter arrives.
---
Kit agrees to have rumors spread about her and Alistair
 

CPaladin

Explorer
I've updated the first post in this thread with links to all of the Aphonion storyhours. Two are discontinued, fully written out storyhours; three are currently active, notes only storyhours like this one.
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 33 (February 12, 2008)

Missing. This is the first of a group of notes from 2008 that appear to have been permanently lost when I switched computers. I was able to recover most of the notes from this period, but not these. There are a total of about 5 missing sessions.

Session 34 (February 18, 2008)

Missing.

Session 35 (March 20, 2008)

24 of O-Kas

We review the holy org chart (Attached)

We agree that Kaitlyn should be staying at the palace now.


Mtg with the Master of the Royal Warehouses wants to meet with us; Garfield Tuffle

a young man, no gray in his full head of hair, carrying his cap in his hand

introduces himself as Acting Master of the Royal Warehouses

Here for a couple of reasons. One of his men was approached with a bribe to let someone into the warehouses where the salt is kept. Don’t have all that many guards. I’m worried. They’re well built, but…

Man was approximately 5’10”, white blond hair, wrinkles, not young, and a potbelly.

Salt supply only in one warehouse. Checked the bags, all in good order, but… Someone tried to start a fire, but it didn’t work. Set near the intakes, may have been trying to smoke us out. Nothing like that has ever happened, ever.

Announcement of guarantee in the lower city has calmed the common folk. The criers have been saying that the Archduke guaranteed that there wouldn’t be any shortages of salt in the fall.

How much of the needs of the Archduchy could be met out of the warehouses? Perhaps 25%.

Brought in the alchemists to test for poison-- no problems.

Prior head followed the Archduchess.

Blonde hair tends to be from the far north-- blondes from around here tend to have dirty blonde hair, and they are unusual. Blonde hair also quite common in the Eastern Trade Federation-- second and later generation northerners who settled there.

We realize that reports have been backing up in the Privy Secretary’s office. We talk about hiring Lady Violet of Furrows to fill the position.

Kit sends agents to gather info about the town criers.

Kit also goes to meet with Gary (the guy who was bribed), with Detect Thoughts up.

Gives a description of the man who tried to bribe him. None of the rest of him was fat-- just the potbelly. Very similar to Vivian Parley’s boyfriend, but older in appearance-- wrinkles, sagging around the bones. Potbelly looks fake-- could be carrying something, could be wearing a fake potbelly. Kit believes that it is exactly the same person, but with some sort of unknown effect aging him 30 years-- only thing that looks fake is the potbelly.

He said, you’re on duty nights, right? And I said, yes, sir. And he said, I need to look at something in the warehouse. Do you think I could see it when you’re on duty? And I said, no sir. And he said but there’s the side door on the alley, but I said that’s kept locked, and he showed me a hand of coins.

With some prompting, Kit gets an image of 5 gold pieces-- at least one has the head of Alistair’s grandmother on it.

But I had to turn him away. Glor’diadel doesn’t preserve those who lie and cheat on their rulers.

Did he have an accent? Sounded like he had marbles in his mouth. Talks like I imagine a fish does.

Didn’t seem like it hurt him to talk, but sounded like it hurt him to breathe. Some people get that problem when they get old. It’s sad.

He wasn’t that old, not more than 55, and that’s old, but he wasn’t ancient, not like the priest. But he had trouble breathing, rasping in and out (Kit hears the sound in his voice)
[cont'd]
 

Attachments

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 35, cont'd]
Meanwhile, Dame Brionna gathers up a stack of reports from the Privy Secretary’s office.

The Master: I didn’t want to ask around, because that could make someone go looking. So I’ve been keeping a watch, and I reassigned some of the least reliable to other warehouses.

Dame Brionna hands Kit a stack of love poems to the Privy Secretary. They are sappy and swarmy; they are signed, “Davron Crickhollow”; Davron is the younger brother of the squire of Crickhollow (a vassal of the Earl of Quickford, himself a direct vassal of the Archduke); Davron is a moderately successful merchant, not hugely wealthy, mostly an exporter, but of course he carries loads back. Winters and lives in Canberry City. Maintains a permanent suite in one of the residential inns. Recently departed. Alistair suggests having someone burglarize his suite.

We’ll have Father Waters function as Privy Secretary until we get a permanent one.

We send a regiment of guards to the warehouse.

We implement the options plan in the Exchange-- writing lots of call options on salt.

Kit puts some people to watch the other senior warehouse people.

That afternoon:

Several young people who saw the crier have been brought in and Dame Kit is informed.

She goes in with detect thoughts up. There are a whole gaggle of twelve-year olds. The criers were crying this at about 9 at night, which is fairly normal-- people are home, but not asleep yet.

Criers didn’t give their names, which is normal; they give the best descriptions they can, but the descriptions are lousy. She is seeing dark shapes, clearly correct tabards, top hats, but nobody saw a face. They had the handbells. No suspicious potbellies, but one did have a goose on a leash. He cries all the time. So definitely his regular crier. All of the voices sounded right.

The Archduke was calling for calm. Gave his personal guarantee that there would be enough salt to preserve the food of all in the fall. Part of the usual list of announcements. Right after the announcement of someone being elevated in the military, right before the local deaths.

We call up the functionary in charge of the announcements. Dame Brionna goes down to his office, in the bowels of the palace. There is a small mousy man with gnomish spectacles, writing away on the evening crying. Any special announcements from the Archduke come with his seal from his office. These days, it gets delivered by a runner from the Archduke. Usually, by two at the latest. Salt announcement was delivered late, by a different runner from normal, but things have been irregular lately. Only other particularly odd one was the one announced 5 or 6 days ago, the announcement of incipient military movements. Sheet of papyrus with the Archducal seal at the bottom, announcing the intent of the Archduchy to transfer several legions in or near the city to the eastern frontier. I gave the boy a message to take back. There was some panic about this-- it would leave us unprotected to the west. Been doing this job for 25 years. What’s the best way to counter this? Would an announcement that the troops are staying help? Yes, it would calm people greatly.

Dame Brionna makes a plan to grab the messenger when he next delivers a message from the Archduke.

Also, we are seeking new recruits for the army and new guards, and welcome those of common birth. Pay will go up by 2 coppers a day.

Also gives her the names of the people from the middle and upper. Dame Brionna sends guards to check them out. No false announcements made there.

Scribe notes that the handwriting was also matched to the archduke’s normal messages (Marcus’s handwriting). Whoever does this is good. Not perfect, but easily good enough to fool any non-professionals.

Scribe looks at the message to Lord Alonzo, which is in Alistair’s personal handwriting. The errors match the same mistakes, reflecting the underlying concealed handwriting. The scribe relaxes when it becomes clear that the topic is not risqué. No similarity to the handwriting in the love notes (or the old Privy Secretary’s handwriting.)

Dame Brionna goes through several of the logistical and support requests, which go through several iterations, getting increasingly desperate. The top level stuff has all reached us, but all of the functional stuff has been falling down. Dame Brionna asks her secretary and squire to start answering these, along with Father Waters-- both are competent to answer most of these questions.

Next day! Alistair does his marital duties, then spends the night in Kit’s room-- he knocks and does not assume, but does spend the night. [If I recall correctly, in one of the missing sessions we all concluded that the sooner there was an heir on the way, the better. So there was a public ceremony announcing the betrothal and having Kaitlyn baptized into the faith of Glordiadel, followed immediately by a private, basically secret but legally and religiously binding wedding, with the public wedding scheduled for substantially later with an appropriate lag time for a public event of that magnitude. Also, if it hadn't already happened, I think Alistair had Dame Constance dissolve the fertility block his grandmother had placed on him.]

[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 35 [cont'd]
Overnight, the Thieves’ Guild burglarizes the inn. The two people who were sent got caught and arrested. Kit leaves them to stew over night, then has someone untraceable bail them out.

Report from the Spicelands: their forward scouts have met the gray elves and the Forest Lords. Significant casualties were inflicted, and they were stymied for the day.

The Archbishop there reports that there is a seal in place blocking access to the greater powers of the Light. He asks his clerics to be judicious about using their more powerful spells. A small dragon delivers the message.

My lord is an ally of the Archbishop, the gray elf. He can do a series of short pops and get their much more quickly than a normal messenger. He made the trip in a few hours.

Dame Brionna: Did you see anything as you traveled? Did anything catch your eye?

Pretty things, dangerous things, other things?

Dangerous things.

Yes, one. There is a considerable force of drow to your south.

Insignia?

They fly banners-- I could project.

(Moriquendarim-- several battlebarges there as well)

4 hops south. Blasted landscape.

How many?

20 paws (100)

Seem to be waiting for something-- they have tents. Also not afraid of the light-- that is odd.

Dame Brionna is fairly certain that that’s completely south of Canberry, even of Brightspan.

Alistair reaches out through his connection to the land, and senses it. The land was horribly injured-- there was a bombardment of fire and negative energy. Also, there are many corpses there-- some of the dead have been laid to rest normally, others have been crammed into a single grave. There is poison leaking into the earth from the mass grave (none from the others). They are attempting to walk lightly on the earth, but even attempting they are not successful. There is a completely dark hole near them that leads into the earth. It feels like what a gate to the underdark feels like.

Mahler approaches the meeting, in the persona of a middle-aged, bent-over woman (Lady Sepulva). He reports that the salt contracts are being snapped up very rapidly. He’s done an analysis, and while what is driving up the prices are that many merchants are bidding, but about 90% of the purchases are from three merchants. Two are local; the third has a seat on both the Canberry Exchange and the Eastern Trade Federation Exchange. They are pricing out almost all of the local merchants who are trying to cover real needs; the other 10% are from when they actually let contracts go because the bidding got so high. Peter Pluckard; Edrick Overunder; and Zachary Doorwood, who has seats on both exchanges-- Middle Circle here, top circle there. The other two are both middle circle here and only here.

We have them watched.

Doorwood is an originally Canberran name; Overunder is probably also; Pluckard is probably not, but doesn’t sound Eastern Trade Federation-- probably Utolian (from the North). Many Utolian, but not all by any means, are blonde.

We ask for Zachary’s dossier-- he’s important enough that there will be stuff on him. The other two are successful merchants, but nothing like him. So we ask to have something worked up on the other two. Zachary has been running merchanting operations in both cities for over twenty years. Left Canberry as a young teen and moved to the Eastern Trade Federation; his family was not terribly functional. He determined that he was going to make his life making money and moved there. He started a very small trading house with money he saved from doing semi-licit work-- did ad hoc work, never stopped growing. Worked his way up. A sense that it is probable that he actually used strong-arm tactics to help himself grow--kept a great many friends in the group that he might have operated with in his youth. A number of direct competitors failed spectacularly. He reached the second level, began trading extensively in products from the Confederacy of the South Kingdoms-- had a large supply of some of their rarer items when the Confederacy collapsed. Hoarded and sold carefully, bought in at the top level. Only then did he return to Canberry, bought out a local merchant house. Also has a seat in the Exchange in Enclaves, although represented there by a factor. Very little known there. No price-fixing-- he’s been watched for it. Keeps his family in the Eastern Trade Federation-- little known about them beyond their existence. Goes back and forth, but at the moment here.

That evening, 10 church-knights, two mages, and two clerics get sent to arrest the here’ku. A dimensional lock is cast right before they rush in. The church-knights include all of the remaining knights that are starving themselves to death. They rush in. There is a considerable struggle as it shifts form into a snake. In fairly short order, they manage to capture the creature, stick him into a fairly solid cage, know having trashed that corner of the restaurant. (One of the knights apologies and pays for the damage.)

Next time: interrogation!

That night, a better squad of burglars successfully robs Davron Crickhollow’s suite, upsetting the owners of the inn greatly.
[End Session 35]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 36 (May 21, 2008)
Notes are missing. However, there were some documents from this session that we do have (attached), and also some pre-game activity involving Dame Brionna that I'm including here.

DM wrote:
A messenger awaits you as you approach morning chapel service. He is young, you recognize him as one of the squires. He bows deeply. "Dame Brionna -- a visitor of breathtaking power appeared just outside the wards about a hour ago. At his request he has been taken to the chapel garden. He has asked for a representative of the Archduke and also mentioned the possibility of attending chapel if that would facilitate it.. He is... I cannot describe him..." The squire shakes his head, as if to clear it. "An elf honored Dame -- its an elf -- I'm so sorry, I've hardly been myself since he spoke to me. I have difficulty thinking clearly." He bows again, obviously flustered.

(here I am taking license based on the Dame's observed behavior) With a quarter bell to spare before service, you forgo your normal private devotion and go to the chapel garden. There you see a beautiful, and you think quite young, male elf. He is dressed in finest shirt and pants of what appears to you as purest elven weave. The shirt has an elven coat of arms embroidered on the left breast. A combination of the Great Tree, the Seven Stars and some sparkling elven runes. That same design is captured on a small seal on a torc of mithril and rose laen which he wears around his neck -- as his only jewelry. From classes long ago, refreshed when you knew you had to deal with a number of elven powers, or might -- you recognize the crest of the house of S'Giliath -- the most fabled Elldar house -- the house of the OverQueen - a house rumored to have less than 300 surviving members, and less than 20 young. The elf is singing in Queyna ( eldar) , and a soft glowing light spills out of him, as if he were a lamp. Two female servants and a young male stand entranced nearby -- their faces transfixed with joy. Another figure, a middle aged female servant that you have seen occasionally, an under secretary you think -- lies prostate at the young elf's feet -- weeping, a dagger fallen from her outstretched hand.

The elven boy, who is completely unarmed, upon seeing you, smiles, stops singing and bows slightly to you -- an unusual honor from an elf. The two servant girls and the boy shake their heads, prostate themselves, then rise, and with a visible inner calm you have rarely seen on anyone their age, wander into the chapel -- where you often see them at morning prayer, bowing to you as they pass. The boy even reaches out to touch just the helm of the elf's garment, the young elf reaches out in return instead, and touches the boys hand whispering a word in Queyna. The boy smiles, bows and goes on into the chapel.

"His mother has been ill -- I do not completely understand what sickness is -- but I could see her condition in his mind -- it is her heart, it weakens for some reason. I have sent strengthening energy to her. It should restore her for some time to come -- I do not think forever though -- father says that humans ... die for no reason other than age.

'Oh!" he flushes. "I bring greetings and honor from my father, Lord Elros S'Giliath, emissary of the Overqueen unto the Queen of Singing Leaves." He extends a rose Laen tube, within which creamy parchment is rolled.. "Battle Commander, I bring these words from my father unto the court of the Arch-duchy of Canberry together with our respect."

The elven youth falls smoothly into a court style genuflection, extending the tube. At the same time, the weeping secretary rises from the ground, her face contorted to the point of being almost unrecognizable. In a single motion she scoops up the dagger and she lunges forward toward the kneeling lad's back.

----
Dame Brionna's player responded:
Given her bodyguard training (and I did guess it in the 2nd paragraph), Dame Brionna had been watching the middle-aged servant carefully, and activated her standard auras giving a +2 AC and DR 2- to all allies in the area. As it is early morning and she was preparing for services, she's not armed herself except for a small dagger and is dressed only in her uniform and surcoat. Nevertheless, she attempts to throw herself between the servant and the elf, grappling the servant if possible. For the record, on a Disarm check, she gets a total of 28. Perhaps more importantly, she's also using her special Marshal power which allows her to grant an immediate move action to an ally within 30 feet - yelling, "Run!" to the elf.
----
DM responded:
You easily move in between, startled into action by your power he tumbles forward and lands on his feet, running toward the chapel door. You successfully grapple the servant, who cries out "no, no - they are past, they must die, they must all die!!!" Weeping and howling she attempts to struggle free of you. "They come and they charm your children -- and the children are never the same. Let me go, we are the earth now, they are old and arrogant and lost, they must die. Abomination, Abomination!"

The boy, from the chapel door looks horrified. "But we wish you no harm, I would never harm your children, I would heal them - I am a child too. I just want to be friends with everyone."

"Abomination" she screams, "you can never understand," and clumsily tries to hurl the dagger at him. She fails because you are mostly pinning her, and in the process she cuts herself. Her back arches, she screams, froths, and as Father Waters rushes from the chapel, past the boy, she expires.

"No, no, no!" cries the young messenger, and then begins to weep. "I wished no harm -- this is why, this is why Great Grandmother thinks we must pass to the West, this is why! I love humans, I've always wanted to know some, that's why father let me be the messenger, and now I do know some and one of them is dead because of me. I tried to stop her from dying -- but she rejected me -- she wouldn't let the power help her. What have we done that she hates us so -- what have I done?!" He bows his head, choking on his tears, the Laen scroll tube laying nearly forgotten at his side.

Father Waters kneels by the woman. Hyperaware, you see him check her pulse, shake his head, then check the dagger, blocking the boy's view with his bod. With a twist, he opens the handle -- revealing a vial of clear liquid, half empty, inside the hilt. "Poison dagger," he murmurs, as softly as he possibly can. "She planned for this, for being this close to one of them sooner or later -- I would bet my life that this is some form of poisoned Kirian. It wasn't that she wouldn't let the power help her -- the Kirian prevented it completely if it is indeed tainted."

He slips the hilt closed and drops the dagger into a leather pouch.
----
Dame Brionna's next response:
First, I offer a quick prayer of thanksgiving to Glordiadel. Then I summon a paladin to take careful custody of the dagger and bring it someplace (Far from elves) where it can be studied (by the mages?), and ask Father Waters to summon a priest to take care of the woman's body, preserve it for Speak-with-Dead, and find out as much information as possible about her. I also send a page to wake up Alistair and Kit and get him ready for a formal reception of such an august dignitary. That done, I pick up the Laen scroll tube, extend a hand to the Eldar, and suggest that we pray for her forgiveness by the Light and our own understanding of her suffering in the chapel. Once he's calmed down and we've gone through the services (his deities as well), I offer to escort him to the meeting room - keeping him well within sight and protection, and making sure there are reliable guards lining the corridors en route.


The paladin removes the dagger to one of several safe locations designated for emergencies within the palace. Father Waters summons a priest to remove and preserve the body. He also sends a runner under your seal (which has respect in the Capital second only to the Archduke and the Archbishop) to the Archdiocesan records archives, requesting an immediate report and any information available on the woman, whose name, he says is Susan Eve LeClair. "she often attends chapel here in the morning" he explains softly, "she's never given evidence of insanity before -- and certainly not of this." You send a page to the Archducal quarters (please compose a brief note you would actually use and forward it to both players via email addressed to the characters -- just for the sake of the rp - please send me a blind copy as well) to wake them and inform them of the visitor.

There are several dozen people in the chapel, as there usually are -- a few household guard, you, another paladin (plus the one sent off with the dagger) and quite a few servants and pages. The boy who was listening to the young elf earlier, and who clearly knows something went horribly wrong after they parted rises, together with one of the girls, and comes over to sit with you and the visibly upset elven boy. He and the girl glance at each other with worried expressions, as they get near you -- but square their shoulders and come on over anyway. They carefully sit on the opposite side of the boy from you, the servant boy closest to him.

Father Waters, in a few, carefully worded sentences explains that an incident, unexpected and unprecedented has occurred, and that Susan Eve LeClair is dead as a result of it. He explains that rather than routine morning prayer, instead this will be a specialized form of the prayers for the dead, for she had no chance to confess prior to her untimely passing. He asks all present to forgive the woman any wrong she had done them, and leads the congregation then in the prayers for the dead, asking for forgiveness of the souls of the dead and peace in the paradise of Glor'diadel and finally flawlessly guides the ceremony to a point where he can ask the young S'Giliath lord to pray to the elven Creator for the peace of the woman's soul and her repose since "he too was present at the time of her death, and was wronged by her."

The boy, rises, a bit shakily, the human servant boy reaches out sympathetically and touches his hand, gently. "Creator, in the mercy that you show your brother, that you show the Kinslayers, that you show all of us among the trees, I ask that you see the soul of this Susan Eve LeClair and redeem her to the Light of Creation." Then he slips out of common and begins to sing an Eldar dirge in Queyna. He sings for only a couple of minutes, a hauntingly beautiful song -- and at its end he bows his head. You are moved by the song, but several of the other participants are openly weeping. Slowly, haltingly a young woman, an assistant cook you think, says "I forgive Susan for yelling at me when I was too slow to prepare the plate she had to take to Lady Brenda. I have nursed this anger for 5 years, it is wrong, and I forgive her and ask Glor'diadel to forgive me for this anger." A moment later a man, one of the grooms says "I forgive Susan for publicly humiliating me after I gave her a rose to show that I was sweet on her. For a year I did not dare tread where she might walk, for ten years I have lowered my head in shame and anger when I recalled what she did and steadfastly avoided her gaze. I forgive her, and I hope that she will forgive me too and that Glor'diadel and all the Saints will do the same." Several other members of the congregation forgive Susan as well, enough so that you become aware that she apparently had made some enemies in the household -- and that she was a brittle and demanding woman for some time. Finally, when all the humans have finished, a silence falls, and just before Father Waters begins to speak again, the Eldar boy raises his voice anew. "Creator, First Daughter, Stars and Principalities and Powers, I, Elhieardacil, son of Elros, of the house of S'Giliath forgive Susan Eve LeClair for attempting to kill me. I forgive her for hating me. I forgive her for desiring my death. I forgive her for refusing my help as a redactor, even as she died. (He is trembling as if he had the auge, but he continues). I ask that she also forgives me. Forgives me because sometimes my people are arrogant. Forgives me because I did not realize that she wanted to kill me, I thought she was only as the Grugarch and some of the Sindarin, approaching with weapons only to show their strength, and thus I proved that I too am arrogant even though I do not wish to be. I ask her to forgive me because her hatred of me has left her children without a mother and her grandchildren without a grandmother, and I cannot give that back to them. I ask her to forgive me and to accept my forgiveness, that her spirit may be restored to the Light of Creation and have endless days in the West."

As the silence falls again, Father Water's does speak. "Hear our prayers and grant our requests I humbly beseech. Keep us ever mindful of the nearness of death and ever ready to enter into your eternal presence. Have mercy on us, and grant us peace."

Turning he bows deeply to the sun disk, and then turning again to the congregation he announces the benediction. As he finishes people genuflect, nod toward him, and many toward you and Elhieardacil and begin to depart to their daily routine.

As you depart to take the boy to the audience chamber, the servant boy and girl each hug him tightly, and walk a little way with him, before hurrying off to their duties, the messenger that Father Waters sent for Susan Eve LeClair's records approaches from your right while the boy is thus distracted and bends forward, murmuring softly "The report you requested will be ready for you before lunch time honored Dame -- where shall I have it delivered? Your office or the pages at the privy council chamber?" Seconds after you answer that, another figure, a mage's apprentice that you have seen from time to time around the palace you are quite sure, slips a note into your off hand and walks away.
-----
Dame Brionna's player wrote to Kit and Alistair's players:
As the first grey rays of dawn are beginning to come through your windows, the page Tad Sedge knocks very politely on both Kit's bedroom door and the Archducal bedroom door, bearing small scrolls sealed with Dame Brionna's personal signet ring. He'll betray no surprise at finding both of them in one location or the other.

"Your grace, m'lady, please, my mistress said she's sorry but it's very important you read these right now and that I should then go get your squires and lady-in-waiting." He bows nervously; he's clearly had some serious shock, as he is stammering and quite pale, but also has an incongruous look of joy in his eyes.

You take the scroll and close the door on him. Opening it, you see a neat but quickly penned message in Brionna's handwriting:

"Major Eldar noble - child of S'giliath House appeared, nearly assassinated by palace servant. Safe for now, bringing him to meeting room after chapel services. No prior exp w/humans. See you in hour. - DB."
[The documents from that session are attached. As I mentioned, we don't have the notes for the session itself.]

[I'm pretty sure based on looking at the context of this that this was the beginning of what in many ways is the defining plot thread of the last decade of the campaign. I won't clarify further now to avoid spoilers, but the message to the Spymaster ends up being very important.]

After the session, I sent the following email:
I've attached a letter from Alistair to the Patriarch of the Light.

To flesh out what I said in the last session, Alistair calls the Archbishop to the palace and asks the Archbishop to personally deliver the message into the hands of the Patriarch. He tells the Archbishop that the message has to do with the idea they had previously discussed of Alistair speaking to the College of Cardinals about organizing a more active intelligence gathering capability within the Church. Something has come up that increases the urgency of that, but Alistair won't say more in explanation. Alistair offers the Archduchy's capabilities to teleport the Archbishop to the Holy See.
[Letter to the Patriarch also attached]
 

Attachments

  • Unto the Archduchess spymaster.pdf
    58 KB · Views: 378
  • To Alastair from Ambassador Elros.pdf
    28.3 KB · Views: 425
  • Report to Dame Brionna regarding poison dagger.pdf
    44.1 KB · Views: 392
  • Report on Susan Eve LeClair.pdf
    39.2 KB · Views: 451
  • Letter to the Patriarch of the Light.pdf
    39.2 KB · Views: 387

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