Aphonion Tales: The Archducal Council -- Unedited notes (posts MWF, most recent 10/5/22)

So, the Shadowline is on the continent of Zest'qua, far from where Canberry is (but right near where the Theocracy of Light is that we're going to be at for the next couple posts). The incident I'm aware of with the Blue Mage was about 4 years ago in game time--when the Blue Mage used a Wish to try to take over Krashmere, and instead lost the Blue pool to Krashmere and caused a major expansion of the Noldor empire. I'm not sure what the Helltide was--was that part of the same event with the Blue pool? Or maybe when the Southern Kingdoms fell to a bunch of demons? :)
The Helltide was basically a massive swarm of giant army ants. We helped the town evacuate- building wagons and gathering food sufficient to flee to the nearest walled port. Quite a substantial journey. We thought it might have been Shadow generated to disrupt support for the Shadowline defenses. A few of the characters built a subterrainean redoubt to wait them out. Yeah... A couple of us went back there after the consuming carpet of insects passed, and they hadn't fared so well.

The Church of Paranswarm was everywhere. Drove my CG elf up the wall.
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 89 (October 5, 2017)

Evening of 30 Tar-Skard

Dame Brionna speaks to Bishop Waters. “Your excellence, I do have a request. Is there any divine blessing that you could give me that would enable me to go without sleep for 3 days?”

“Yes, but you will sleep an equal amount of time afterwards and be very hard to arouse.”

They agree that that makes sense. He performs a ritual, and then Dame Brionna is literally very bright-eyed.

The Council goes to evening prayers. The proctor, a representative of the Order of the Archangel Zadkiel, says that he’s honored to meet us. Zadkiel is an Archangel of Mercy; when the other archangels were battling the forces of Darkness, Zadkiel shed Mercy on both sides, and by changing hearts, swayed the battle.

All the chapels here are magnificent. This one is one of the first they’ve been in with a clockwork animation. There is an enormous animation of the Sun declining behind the horizon. Young Lord Brightspan is the only person in the entourage besides Dame Brionna and Bishop Waters who knows the whole litany. While the liturgy is continuing, someone slips Dame Kit a piece of paper. She puts on her glasses “Indolorian must serve out.” Followed by a symbol of her secret service.

Alistair offers the Intention: “May those who flee in darkness and chaos find the Light of Glordiadel and may Lord Glordiadel illuminate His Order for them, that they may live in peace and prosperity in the Light.”

A completely different proctor takes them in hand. His robes are edged in silk the color of the sea and he walks very quietly, almost like he’s floating. His hands are folded in front of him. “It is an honor, your grace, honored ladies. His holiness is looking forward to this dinner. The Familia is very hopeful. Have you visited with any of the Societies?"

"Not as yet."

"The Patriarch of the Hands of the Blessed Zech-archthea would be honored to receive you."

Everyone is standing in the dining chamber. Most people are dressed in ecclesiastical robes; there are very few complete laity, mostly members of the Familia. There is also one in wizard robes.

Kit raises detect thoughts—she hears the name of Indelorean, and a young priest is worrying about where the Archbishop is and about the fact that his closeness to the Patriarch prevents him from retiring. The young priest returns with a very elderly Archbishop, in extremely elegant robes. The Archbishop appears quite senile.

The Council meets the Patriarch and exchange some pleasantries.

Kit notices something strange through her detect thoughts--the Archbishop all in chased gold is literally of two minds.

"I should introduce you to a few of those present. Those of the Ecclesiae who are joining us—my dear friend Davron Indelorean. Davron was my teacher when I was in seminary. He is the Archbishop of the Lower Basin."

He goes through a list, and for most of them, he introduces by first name and then almost as an afterthought, their titles and sees.

There are three exceptions:
"This gentle (in the gold) is the Archbishop of Cese Mai, Archibald called the Purified.
"This the Archbishop of Calimshire, Raymond Soaringspire
"Robin Sumner, Archbishop of White Cliff, Lord Stera"

(The Council all note that “the Purified” is an awfully Sytryite epithet.)

Conversation then starts. There are two types of conversation; there are people who are friends and having a wonderful time together, and there are people for whom it is all a show. There are people who are chatting with each other, and on the other side of Lord Brightspan, there is a very chatty Archbishop—Raymond Penrod.

“You and Dame Brionna have gained quite a reputation. It is commonly said that he closets himself with you after he rises from his bed and that you help him sort through the business of the day."

"Thank you," replies Kit. "Are there any that we should be wary of?"

“There are different ones you cannot trust for different reasons. Davron is a dear soul, but his mind has faded—he might repeat things he ought not to repeat, and there are things he might forget.

“Be extraordinarily careful of Archbishop Archibald. He used to be … well, he was never reasonable, but he used to be more reasonable. If any were to start a Paranswarmian style Inquisition, it would be him.

"Their interpretation of scripture is not exactly heretical, but they have a ritual of purification that is theoretically voluntary upon advancement to the Ecclesiae. They strap people to a rock facing the sun for three days. Those who survive—some die—are eligible to call themselves the Purified. Some of the Archbishops of Cese Mai have been Purified for 300 years, and exclusively for 100 years. Has a small entourage, including one wizard."

"That one?"

"No, no. That’s the Grandmaster of Holy and Sacred Mages. He’s from Zest’qua and most of his Members are lay members, but we wouldn’t want to mention that. He’s a dear fellow.

"The Archbishop of Cese Mai is a Cardinal, and as a canon of the Church he is qualified to become Patriarch, although the other Cardinals would never permit that. He also controls a large army back home, but …

"That’s a little better than White Cliff, where not only are the Archbishops still lords, but they actually use the title. Very portentous.

"Anyone can convince Calimshire of anything if they talk to him long enough. I have talked him into some terribly unwise bets on the horses."
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 89, cont'd]
Dame Brionna gets herself engaged by one of the few other female attendees, who gives her a military style salute. “Viviana, Mistress of the Order of the Swords of Flame.”

Viviana discusses the problems they’ve had with pride leading to corruption—it’s one of the tools of the demons of Zest’qua.

Viviana praises Dame Brionna’s work in Canberry. “I’m absolutely sure that the struggle is not over. One of our seers has said that a greater danger exists near the continent of Drucien than the one that we have struggled with for a thousand years on Zest’qua.

"Someone needs to spend their time here easing the flow of supplies where they must go. Things have gotten better with the current patriarch, but there are struggles with the bureaucracy."

"Have you had any problems with supplies for the preservation of goods?"

“You mean salt. Yes. Tarkenia had problems with that, but they dealt with it in the way that Tarkenia does. Delwan may have, but who knows, or even if they preserve goods. They struggle for the Light, and that is good enough.”

Dame Brionna asks her about the Sisters of Purity. “A branch of them are a bit fanatical for my taste. It’s a fairly small branch of them and recent. But a branch of them on Zest’qua… we are not Paranswarm. The commons can be deceived. If you find a corrupt group, you put them to death. It is simple, it is direct, it is merciful. Some of the Sisters of Purity have taken to forcing extreme confessions. I am not convinced that everyone who confesses is guilty of what they confess. Other members of the Sisters, and the tradition, is to purify the willing. They have historically worked to purify the faithful, as a means of penance. They would guide those who have sinned to offer restitution, and to forgive themselves and purify themselves. That is their tradition. This group that uses torture… that is not our way. It has tended to be commons, usually in rural areas. To be fair, that is where it is most likely to be corruption. And I cannot say for certain that they are not finding corruption. And I cannot say for certain that they are following Paranswarmian Inquisition approaches. There is of course a Supreme Proctor of all the Sisterhoods, but I am not even in a position to effectively approach her and to accuse a fellow sisterhood of borderline heresy.”

Without warning, Davron Indolorean leaps to his feet. “A deva, a mighty deva is among us. Behold, the light shines forth from her.”

Lord Brightspan reports that there is a blob of light surrounding Dame Brionna that is very protective of her and Alistair. It only appeared when they walked in the room. Or really, when we approached the table.

Alistair offers the honey and fruits they brought for dessert. Archbishop of Cese Mai is not upset, but the other thing with him is wroth.

They ask Kit’s agent, who is one of the cooks, to secure a sample of the original dessert.

"Archibald Tallstaff Thiphu of the Thousand Baronies would speak with you."

"We would be honored to meet any that Glordiadel has exalted."

"The title is big, I am not. But I am glad that you would meet with me. I have heard rumors and I wish to share with you my experience. I have heard rumors that small sects have emerged in the Temple that none dare called heretics, but that are heretics. We have led no fewer than six baronies to repentance. There is no ill in the hearts of the priests. But their actions disturb me.

"The Thousand Baronies and their ships are at your disposal."

The Council returns to our chambers before the concert. A young boy delivers a plate of puff pastry filled with pudding.

Grandmaster Farsensor extracts two spheres of material from the pastry. "This one should go in lead, that’s taint; this is mercury, and should go in the crystal."

Davron arrives. The Council asks him to provide a blood sample, and they confirm that it has mercury in it. Dame Brionna purges the mercury from him.

The Minister of Security arrives. The Council discusses what has been revealed with him, and raises the question of motivations for targeting Davron Indolorian.

The Archbishop of the Lower Basin is conducting negotiations with the Kingdom of the Haunted Forest, which is a Paranswarmian body. They were going very well before Davron Indolorian … began being poisoned. There is a coadjutor selected by a committee of hierarchs—two of the three Archbishops assigned to that committee sent priests, because they were too busy with diocesan matters. Tucker Whitesmith, Archbishop of the Trade Cities, sent a priest, Brian Clapper. Caedwe Willian, Matriarch of the Faith from the Steppes, sent a barbarian priestess to represent her. And of course the chair of the Committee was Archbishop Archibald of Cese Mai. One of them was a canon. The vote was not unanimous (but not recorded), and for a minor parish priest. The Council concludes that the priest almost certainly deferred to the Archbishop, with the priestess opposing but not being sophisticated enough to delay matters for her principal to intervene. The coadjutor is not of obvious noble background, so was presumably selected because of having a Blue Star rider with him.

The Council discusses the sexism of the hierarchy of Glordiadel with the Minister of Security—"Only men can be canons (and thus eligible for high office) but that’s only tradition, not revealed truth. That also has the consequence that the leaders of the women’s orders are disproportionately able and competent, because ambitious families don’t try to advance their daughters through those orders. Dorcas Bracas is about as competent an abbot general as I’ve seen and I’ve seen three."

Dame Brionna knows that the prior servants of the Blue Star have had a tattoo on their foot. We come up with the plan for Alistair to offer to wash the feet of Archibald—he won’t be able to refuse without revealing himself, and if he has the tattoo that reveals him as well.
[End Session 89]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 90 (November 21, 2017)

31 Tar-Skard
Morning in the See of Light.

Lady Marybell Trotten OML has invited Dame Katharine to tea. Probably from the Order of the Magical Light, a mostly lay order.

Dame Brionna also gives the Council a rundown of the religious orders represented at the See of Light. [Attached] The Council identifies the Order of Saint Theobald the Incorruptible as worth investigating. Knights of Truth also bears investigation.

Dame Katharine accepts Lady Marybell's invitation. Her coat of arms is from one of the Mages of the Mounts of the Mages (the ones who fight over pieces of an Eldron pipe organ). Some of them are (or at least were) Glor'diadelian.

A little while later, a representative of another one of the minor holy orders arrives to escort them to morning prayers. "I am pleased to welcome you on behalf of the Order of St. Thornwald the Incorruptible."

The Council asks about St. Thornwald.

"He's a regional saint of Northeastern Khamista. He was a warrior who struggled against the forces of Morgrath. He protected his people in a small town north of what is now the City of Light, of Sytry. Several of his companions were repeatedly resurrected in battle against orkish hordes. Numerous of his followers have been raised from the battle and continued the battle. That has not been an easy thing for his home temples and monasteries."

"Are there those who seek rapprochement with the Sytryites?"

"Nothing could be less desired. They... they are not above taking lands that are vital to the survival of Glor'diadelian villages. They have also killed commoners simply for being followers of Glor'diadel.

"Devotions to the Blue Sun is very common among the most militant of their knights. We have also seen creatures that would assert they are angelic taking the field against those who are blameless in the Light of the Sun.

"The Sytryites continue to persecute the little people--halflings, gnomes, and the like.

"None of the counts or barons alone are matches for the Sytryites."

Morning prayers will be offered by Abbot General David Smith of the Brothers of Light. There are also several bishops, and a nun with striking panache (Dorcas, the Mother Superior General).

Field Marshall Marcus Tottenheim is also introduced to the Council.

The Council discusses with Tottenheim, the Abbot General, and the Mother Superior General the need for a head of logistics for the militant orders with more talent for logistics and status and clout to make it work. They agree that it is in fact essential, and with prodding agree that Bishop Simmons would be most suitable.

Sister Abigail from the Society of the Order of the Helpers of the Poor escorts them to breakfast with the Patriarch.

There are only a small number of people present at the breakfast, but they are of exceeding importance, including multiple cardinals.

Cardinal Augustus, overseer of the combined orders of the light, is introduced to the Council by the Patriarch. They're unsure of whether the Patriarch was signaling trustworthiness, but some detection of thoughts confirms that he is trustworthy though not truly friends with the Patriarch.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 90, cont'd]
The Patriarch makes a formal statement: "I declare you Blessed of Light, and Supreme Commander of the Forces of Glor'diadel on Drucien south of the barrier mountains." The latter is almost entirely ceremonial, but it may carry weight and shows the support of the Patriarch for the Archduke.

Afterwards, as they talk in private, the Patriarch says, "We face 4 challenges: One is on Drucien, where we have been greatly weakened by the Order of the Ram; one in the Eastern Reaches of Khamista; one in Zest'Qua, where the Shadow always waits; and one in the walls of this Court.

"The bureaucracy has become very set in its way. And, though this cannot extend beyond these walls, I believe three assassinations have taken place within these walls since I took power--all of people who were trying to move the bureaucracy forward to a usable state. The Chancellor of the Basilica of Light is also the Minister of Security and is investigating. One of the ones we believe was assassinated was a cardinal; there haven't been assassinations of Cardinals in almost 700 years, since the split of the Council."

They inform the Patriarch of the corruption of the Blue Sun and of its spread through the followers of Sytry.

Alistair suggests that it might be better to include women more fully in the hierarchy.

The Patriarch replies, "In the early days of the Church, there were women cardinals. They were not bishops--but they were canons and cardinal-electors. It could be done."

They bring up Bishop Simmons.

"Their patron is a major noble from the Trade Federation; one of the nobles of the Spice Lands. Tulani? Ulani? Some city like that. He might be .... well, it rhymes with dastard."

The Council also suggest the Duke of Mortrose for King of the Eastern Reaches. The Patriarch agrees to appoint him and deflect as much blame as possible to the Council. :)

The Deathlord Umaroth Moriquendarim is the official representative of the First Lord of Death. He cannot attend himself, because he would cause people to start dying. He will be represented instead by Duagloth, a drow of a cadet branch.

They then travel to the Ecumenical Council with the Patriarch and the Cardinal, while the rest of the group breaks off.

Alistair informs the Council of Arthranax and the One Other, and of the destruction of Berta. (He leave out the Blue Sun.)

The Legate of Paranswarm confirms that the usurper of Hanal is an imposter.

"Umaroth confirms that Morgroth and his enemy threw back the Pariah deities after they consumed six worlds, and that the Council should heed us. Still, we must act." The drow then collapses.

The rainbow clad women shakes her head sadly. "It's true, true, true. They have broken through, they are reduced. I can see him, and much as my mistress might wish, I cannot change him into a bunny rabbit."

The Elven priestess nods thoughtfully, and a cooler, gentler mental voice speaks to Kit. <<Tell your beloved that the Creator shall hear his words, for we have been much troubled by a sense of wrongness in the fabric of reality. We shall speak of Arthranax to him, and the Knights of the Elven Steading will do all that they can.>>

Alistair also tells them about the corruption of the City of Life; of corruption within the the Temple of Sytry; and of the need to recover the Throne-Globe in order to close the gates of the Pariah deities.

Alistair proposes organizing a military push, along with a small team to actually recover the Throne-Globe.

The Star Priestess says that they will send a psion and a man of war to bombard the enemy's position.

The drow becomes a puppet again, and promises a necromancer and a man of war captained by one of House Aufaulgautharim to bombard.

Whimsey offers to send an illusionist (and to turn some of the enemy into bunny rabbits, and maybe mice or octopi)

Gunnora offers some midwives, or maybe a cook? And then decides to send supplies and sit out the special mission.

Paranswarm offers a warrior.

Glor'diadel offers a priest.

Dain agrees to send a representative as well, as well as some ground troops. [People who count carefully may notice that this is exactly a 6 person group. People who played in RPGA tournament adventures back in the day may understand why specially formed groups of non-PCs for side quests on Aphonion seem to so often be exactly six people... This adventure has not yet been played, but will presumably show up at a convention or three at some point.]

They tell the drow privately about the Blue Sun. Lord Morgrath and his saints and demigods are very concerned about anything that might disturb the balance. It is because of the Pariah deities that the temple of Morgrath participates in the Ecumenical Council in the first place.

They also talk to the priestess of Gunnora.

They then talk to the Star Priestess, and tell her about the Blue Star as well.

The Archducal Council then travels to the Basilica of Fate. It's a modest size for a basilica. A very tall, thin priest greets us at the door. "Are you here to adore the Hair?"

They discuss whether people try to steal the Hair of Fate (Hairs of Fate have major magical uses), but they're told that it is fated to remain here until the end of time or until the basilica collapses upon it.

They watch at the service, while the hair is processed, and then a sunbeam reflected upon it.

Dame Brionna has a vision of a beautiful woman in a glade. "Protect your sister's womb." The rest is caught up in magical static.

She then leaps in front of Kit.

The Council asks the priestess of Gunnora to attend on us. She examines Kit, and confirms that Kit is pregnant, with a healthy boy. The priestess of Gunnora also agrees to provide several scrolls of a spell to detect any harmful herbs or other matters that could harm the baby.

The Council plans on asking the Patriarch to bless Kit and Kit's child.
[End session 90]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 91 (December 7, 2017)

Tar-Skard 31

Kit goes to meet with the Chancellor of the Basilica, her counterpart in the Curia. They share a cup of tea. Kit begins a conversation about professional courtesy, and the need to set up people who will keep an eye on the church—the Chancellor responds that she must be concerned about the heterodox, which Kit confirms. Kit suggests a network of church caretakers, beggars, little old ladies—people who have reasons to be around the church, but would not be noticed.

Chancellor: "It is said that the Patriarch has his network of people in the Holy City. But they are limited within the City. For us to establish a full network would require the approval of the Curia, but that’s only if it has a full approval and a budget. If it’s unofficial and doesn’t cost any money—say, caretakers who are already on the budget and little old ladies who do not need any funding… that could be done."

Kit recommends looking to recruit people with psionic power.

The Chancellor asks if they know that Alistair is likely to be declared Protector. "These titles are largely honorary, but they are important. They dangle candy in front of the faithful, and they also provide influence among the bishops."

"Do you have analysts?"

"Oh yes. You see my secretary? You see me? We are the analysts. I propose that if we are to do these things, we set up a direct conduit for teleportation of information that can be sent to you on no more than a daily basis, for you to teleport analyses back.

"It will take some time to find people to watch even the cathedrals, let alone the parish churches. But there are several hundred on Khamista that should be watched, as well as on Zest’qua.

"You are aware of the Delwan heresy? A group of not very well organized troops near the Shadowline, who had lost their officers, wiped out a village, believing it to be tainted, and accidentally offered them as a sacrifice to a chaos power. I’m not sure it’s not connected to the other heresy we’re dealing with, and when it was suppressed, it was fought to the last man.

"One of the catpeople on Zest’qua is a powerful paladin of Glor’diadel. He has been keeping an eye on things. It disturbs me that there has been no push near Delwan, but perhaps they are distracted by the newly retaken Kingdom belonging to Paranswarm."

Kit agrees to put a bunch of her people on watching the churches and Delwan as well.

(The Chancellor leaves clear notes (in code) in his office recording the plan.)

The Chancellor responds about other possibly corrupt hierarchs. "We have the Archbishop of the Guard Cities and Life, and I cannot accuse him in open council of possibly being a traitor, though we are aware of what is going on in Life. He is not too bright, and he has been here for years, so he may simply not know what is going on."

Kit suggests the idea of a loyalty test. "What sort of man is he?"

"He is very fond of his own opinions. He’s not arrogant; he knows his limitations. But he is fond of his own opinions, and he is close to the underground people. Hasn’t been home in fourteen years. If your liege permits, I will tell him that your liege wishes to question him."

Kit comes back and tells everyone. Alistair agrees to talk to the Archbishop.

We mock up a document for a loyalty test—it’s the Archduke approving a grab of a high-ranking person of interest at the Guard Cities, that he won’t be able to resist reporting back if he’s corrupt.

The Archbishop arrives. He shows no interest in the loyalty document, making no effort to see the rest of it, even when left alone with the document briefly.

"Are you aware of any difficulties in the Kingdom of Life?"

"Rumors reach me, but not many people at home speak to me. My branch of the family does not rule in Life itself, but the Guard Cities."

"Do you find the work challenging?"

"Oh no. I have a very nice, very efficient assistant; I was very worried about when he might be recruited away. I might have to devote more time to administration and less to my painting. I make devotional artwork, you know. I always found that more interesting than canon law, but my family insisted that I could be an archbishop, so here I am."

They tell him about the corruption in Life. He seems genuinely appalled, but also thinks that it might be an opportunity for his brother to be advanced.

He’s clearly innocent. Alistair suggests to him that he might want to retire to a monastery, where he could pursue his art. It’s very sad.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[session 91, cont'd]
Alistair suggests Dame Brionna seek out elucidation of her revelation. Bishop Waters steers her to the Sisters of Fate, a small order in the lower city.

Dame Brionna goes to talk to them.

Other tasks: 1. Kit’s tea with Lady Marybelle.
2. Washing the feet of the Purified.
3. Getting Kit blessed.
4. Searching for poison

The Sisters of Fate know that the Lady of Fate is continuously sought out be people who would gain her assistance—as well as those who would steal her hair, although that is only fated to occur three times, and has twice.

The nuns lead her to a sacred pool. They are weird nuns. They dunk Dame Brionna’s head into the fountain, saying that the weaving is still upon her. "Four dangers still lie ahead. Behold! The first is poison, but that you have already begun to avert. The second is serpents. That you must face on your way from here. The third is the heart. Look upon it. Finally, in desperation, after your return to the place of belonging, the final is those who will lurk and wait for their chance of assassination."

The water seems almost like a weaving of cloth. When she says each of the four threats, an image appears. The serpents look like literal serpents, though winged. When she mentions the heart, an image of a heart does not appear, but rather the bosom of a woman.

The nuns also say, "All people deserve the touch of fate, though few will accept it. The child… children… child… children she carries has great value."

Kit goes to meet Lady Marybelle, who leads her out of the Holy City and to an inn in the upper city. She asks for the rose tea and the finger cakes for both of them.

"How was your travel here?"

"We travelled by gate, so no trouble at all."

"Traveling by voller here could have been deadly. For some reason, they’re after you. Not the Archduke, Grand Duke whatever. A cadre of men, generally right… there. I overheard the plotting, and I have a loyal retainer of Brightspan who is also from my order, so I took it upon myself to notify you. But there was no easy way to notify you. They meet here nearly every afternoon. They use the dice games as a cover, and the noise. But I have this small device… it looks like a mouse’s ear. It cuts through the noise. The other people who are here are absolutely lovely."

(The tea and the cakes are perfectly safe. Very sugary, but nothing else.)

"I thought you should see them." She makes a gesture, and Kit changes her appearance.

A little while later, four men come back. The waitstaff don’t like them.

Kit calls psionically for more people. Dame Brionna sends a standard strike team.

Kit listens in with the device.

“Do you think the poison will take her?”

“She is well protected, Awfulness. I do not think it will reach her.”

“Must we rely on the Snakes of Abomination?”

“We may need to, your Awfulness.”

(“Your awfulness” is an Arthranaxian title, Alistair confirms.)

“If the Snakes fail, we must see her dead one way or another. The entrails reveal that if her child lives, our faith will die.”

They get up from the table. The leader tosses a pack of silver down on the table, and leaves out the back door. Kit’s person follows him. Dame Brionna’s team tries to grab the other three. They are trying to leave at the same time as the team tries to grab them.

Lady Marybelle’s guards throw themselves on her and Kit to protect them. That’s when one of the people trying to escape drops a fireball. Two of the three are captured, although one is incinerated.

There are a bunch of dead little old ladies, some waiters who are the worse for wear, and two who are unhurt—one who looks confused, and one who is in a force bubble, saying “That was surprising—I thought I gave that up years ago.”

Meanwhile, the leader goes into the lower city and enters a small but sturdy stone house. We recruit Lady Marybelle to put a dimensional lock on the building, while Dame Brionna goes with a group of champion paladins recruited via the Chancellor. Lady Marybelle senses an extraplanar being in the house—too lawful to be demonic, but very evil. Kit puts up a mindlink with Lady Marybelle and then retreats since she needs to stay safe.

There is a larger ball of light here that fights viciously, but has no chance to defeat high level paladins. There is a person here as well, dressed in fancy clothes, with a large purse. He’s just there, though, slackfaced. He’s breathing, but does not come back to himself. In the house there are caches of 4000 pieces of silver, some clothing, a ring of mindshielding on the body. There is taint in the building, including liquefied taint. Also various records clearly indicating that they are Arthranax cultists.

Grandmaster Farsensor examines the coins. It came from off the south coast of Drucien; probably money from the old South Kingdoms that got recycled.

Dame Brionna interrogates the prisoner—there’s no evidence they are aware of the Blue Star duplicity. They sought out Arthranax because they felt unappreciated by the Church of Glor’diadel. They met a powerful Arthranaxian mage—the guy in the cell, who gave them money and helped them gain status.

They have seen the Snakes of Abomination before. The Snakes are manifest on the material plane; there are at least 5 of them, they’re not dragons, but they’re very large and fly and can alter material so much by their venom or touch that the substance will alter into another shape, which makes them particularly powerful against flying ships.

Do they know of other active cells? Nowhere near the Holy See.

Any other active plans? Nope.

They get the Patriarch to bless Kit, which he is happy to do. After dinner, Alistair is declared Protector, at the recommendation of the Curia—the last of the three major titles they can grant a secular ruler.

The Patriarch declares a foot-washing, and Alistair washes the feet of everyone, in descending order of precedence, starting with the Patriarch. He then assists in washing everyone else’s. Alistair makes sure to publicly reveal the mark on the foot of the Archbishop of Cese Mai, Archibald the Purified. He’s the only one with the mark. The Patriarch and the crowd see it, and Alistair passes on to the others. One particularly elderly archbishop has a prosthetic foot.

And with that, their visit to the See of Light wraps up.
[End session 91]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 92 (February 6, 2018)

1 Zar
Kit and Alistair have a quiet conversation about the weirdness of needing to let other people protect you.

Dame Brionna reports a new situation involving the Mountains of the Thirty Mages. [Report to Dame Brionna attached]

A caravan of refugees who were less literate and being chased by a band of skaven slavers fled over the border and into the Mountains, without heeding the warnings we posted. The skaven pursued them, at which point a group of locals (strange amalgam people and constructs) appeared and rapidly slaughtered all of the skaven, then leaving with various bits and pieces. Few of the refugees were killed, but they were taken captive. A corporal in the army of Canberry advanced to the edge of the border, and requested that the refugees be released. The hybrid people don’t seem to have understood him; they summoned a flying part-human, part-mechanical creature, which has talked with them a little. It’s unclear that the hybrid understands anything our people are saying. It sounds like what the hybrid says should be trade speech, but it isn’t, and it’s incoherent gibberish. The people from Canberry have no idea what they want.

Kit decides her message can wait until the Council returns home—she doesn’t want to talk about it in the Holy See. [Attached]

The Patriarch sees them off; he bestows a ribbon of honor on Dame Brionna. He blesses them all.

* * *

The Council gates back to the palace. There is a great deal of bustling. The Midsummer Eve Feast was postponed to today, and all of the nobles of Canberry are attending. No one dared decline, nor to attend with any extra unexpected guests.

The Undersecretary of Protocol discusses matters with the Council, as well as how we want to respond to internal invitations—Alistair instructs that she organize them, then send them to the Privy Council for review.

The Council discusses Kit’s info and decides that they don’t want to order the Nails into action yet. Also, they need to replace the spinal column that has been incapacitated.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 92, cont'd]
Minster of Mind comes in. They dispatched a psion. The psion has achieved some communication, but is almost being driven mad by the combination of their different view of reality and the pipe-organ music in his mind.

The message he's received is: "Gear wheel-circle-sun, Cloud, cloud, gear wheel, tree, explosion"

Some of the hybrid creatures have come forth and are grooming the humans.

Kit takes this to her cryptographers for analysis. “So, you’re right against the territory that Aberlomme holds?”

"Been there for generations. Didn’t want to become a lich, though. So when things failed, he replaced them—for himself and all the others. He is the only one who holds more than one piece—he holds two, and is constantly looking for a third. He swears he and his people can smell them. He used to be one of the most friendly of the Mages, but then his people became less and less like people, the longer and more they change."

They seem to be looking for reassurance, that the Canberry representatives mean the people no harm. The Council works on images to send back—cup, comb, bread.

"There doesn’t seem to be any way to break the rapport—it will eventually drive him mad."

They tell the psion to send back sun, tent, water, food.

After the mostly mechanical figures have received that, send an image of the psion sleeping?

He receives an overwhelming sense of pleasure. Then he sends the sleeping imagery, and the flying mostly mechanical figure looks startled, and then the image goes dark as he puts it to sleep.

The refugees cross back. The leader flies over, and says in clear language: “Thank you. My lord holds two. Trade. Care.”

* * *

The Council also arranges for grain shipments to Hanal.
[End Session 92]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 93 (July 19, 2018)

Afternoon of 1 Zar (leading up to the Midsummer Festival dinner)

Dame Brionna reports on the war in Hanal [see attached]; mostly paused until spring while they wait for starvation to shake things up; she expects most of the unaligned nobles to become involved in the spring. The war is also clearly taking place in the Underdark as well; an entire Drowan city was destroyed (Canberry doesn't know which one, or how). Powerful magic is at work. The Council plans to reach out to our Drowan contacts about that.

Singing Leaves has set up a refugee camp near the southern border of Hanal, protecting it with 200 elven rangers and two schooners. There’s also a Noldar man-of-war from House Curinirim; it fired on Hanalian troops attempting to enter the refugee camp, but the elves and the Noldar are ignoring each other. There are thousands and thousands of refugees; they don’t have enough access to food.

The Star Priestess also identified two people as “corrupt embers”—the healers and redactors are trying to deal with this, but they don’t know if they’ll be able to. The Council doesn’t know what that means.

The Council asks the Ministers of War, Trade, and Agriculture to come up with a plan on how to get food to the refugee camp, and then report to them.

The Council asks Lord Silverleaves to join them. They ask about the “corrupt embers” and he becomes… almost agitated.

“It could explain the few remaining loose ends that haven’t made a great deal of sense. As I’m sure you all know, at the beginning of time, when the split occurred between the Creator and his brother, there were those among the Maiar and the Valar who followed the Creator, those who followed his brother, and those who followed a third path and tried to make themselves into gods. There were 30 who did that, and over time they turned on each other. The one who ultimately came out atop the struggle and absorbed the power of the others sought an alliance. That is what led to the first intrusion by the Pariahs. When they were ejected, he was of this place and could not be ejected. Instead, in a final act of unity, he was bound and imprisoned and the location of that imprisonment forcefully forgotten by all involved in the binding. 'Ember' was the extrusion of energy from him in his consumption of his former colleagues. It was given in small quantities to those who acted as his emissaries, spies, and messengers to those who went between him and the Pariahs. It was theorized that it would crystallize around the place where he was imprisoned over time, but that is not known. Ember corrupts those who consume it, and addicts most of them—although some are able to free themselves.”

“This couldn’t be ember that existed from the beginning of time?”

“It could be. There could be a deposit—we sought to destroy all of them, but fell to fighting amongst ourselves.”

“This required reaching across the Kinslaying?”

“Yes—the last of the Eldron facilitated it.”

The Council speculates that this might be about finding and freeing the bound god.

"We were also wondering about another matter. The Eldron seem to have a particular interest in pipe organs, and to use enormous magic through it. Are they connected to the Mountains of Thirty Mages?"

"Yes, the Eldron there passed to the West unexpectedly, to make certain that they remained. His apprentices were not prepared for his departure and each view themselves as his successor. The great organ had pipes that each contained the resonance of a particular type of magic—any type of magic could have been exalted through that organ. Of course, he never would have finished the project, and now his apprentices cannot.

"I should take you to the City of Bells sometime. He passed over even earlier, because of the conflict I was telling you about."
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 93, cont'd]

A very familiar looking young woman (the Undersecretary of Protocols) comes in. She has a long list of tasks to discuss.

The Council puts her off for a moment, so they can talk to Princess Curinirim and begin reaching out to the Drow through the Sixth Daughter.

They quickly feel as if they are on the deck of a flying ship. She is seated on a throne, with Feldur, an elderly Noldar, next to her. He is Lord Feldur Aufaulgautharim, Lord of House Aufaulguatharim--likely one of the handful of most powerful Firstcomers on Aphonion.

After some discussion, Lord Feldur agrees that Canberry's House should be the one to inherit the world when they depart. He also blesses Alistair’s lineage, with magical consequences.

Lord Feldur leaps to his feet and is wroth to hear about the presence of corrupted embers.

A Drow officer reports that the City of the Nine Houses underneath Hanal has been overwhelmed by humans.

"I must go there after this fete." [Lord Feldur also mentions that Glor’diadel is a “nice young lad.”]

After the meeting, they discuss matters with the Undersecretary of Protocols. In addition to the Noldar, the One of the Threes will be there. Also a beholder. Also apparently a bishop or archbishop of Glordiadel from Enclaves, although he is poverty stricken.

The Matron Mother is sending her Eldest Daughter. She asks that we keep her daughters from killing each other.

The Council asks the priestess of Gunnora to attend on them.

They ask her to look on the food that they’re supplying to the people. The also ask about how Lord Aufaulgautharim’s blessing has affected anything. It has, but nothing bad—particularly strong life and utterly clean in the baby, a strong system on Alistair.

Dame Brionna goes to meet the Noldar.

"If they have to announce me, I am her Supreme and Awful Highness Anistasia Princess of House Curinirim, ..." (she goes on, ending with Mistress of the Thousand Silks).

Dame Brionna chats with them about Lord Davion and the Moriquendarim lord who has resettled in Canberry.

Lord Aufaulgautharim bestows 30 speed on Honor, Dame Brionna’s paladin steed.

"Ah, the streets. People in the streets—it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything but empty streets in the city of my home."

Meanwhile, the Grandmaster Farsensor is entering in the most casual clothes he’s ever been seen in, with an unusual ribbon on his shoulder. He bustles over to Kit. “It’s aware! Maybe that just happens in humans, but it wasn’t when last I saw you.”
[End Session 93]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 94 (July 31, 2018)

Later Afternoon of 1 Zar
They discuss the issues with Lord Aufaulgautharim’s gifts.

Dame Brionna asks whether the Duchess of Brightspan is attending—no, but she sent a young man, presumably a noble but of an unknown house, as her emissary with a large casket. Dame Brionna and Kit go with Aunt Cecilia and Lady Constance to check out the emissary.

Alistair meets with the First Daughter of the drowan house, and informs her that he expects her to respect his hospitality and to not pursue any family disputes. She sighs, but agrees and promises to not do anything that would dishonor her house by disobeying.

Lady Constance asks Dame Brionna what she is supposed to do if the being is inappropriate. Warn Dame Brionna and Kit.

Dame Brionna also asks what she would look out for in connection with a gift from the High Priest of the Giver of Gifts. Lady Constance says to listen to what he doesn’t say, as he will not lie.

Alistair arrives at the gathering of vassals. He gives a little speech, emphasizing Glor’diadel. He then receives pieces of paper representing people’s tithes. Two of the nobles—the Duke of Brightspan and a lesser noble from the west—hand a small piece of origami. Those are requests for private audiences, which Alistair acknowledges and nods in response to.

Aunt Cecilia points out to Kit a few people who are not exactly as human as they appear. One of them in particular is a human man, with an emissary ribbon; he’s shielded, has no ill intent, but is not really human—he doesn’t think of himself as human, so he can’t be. Lady Constance says that he’s a Tiefling of Paranswarm and his father is a prince of Hell. Kit wants to know what needs to be done with that. He is determined to do his duty. His aura is that of Lord Dispater; it’s almost certainly one of his endless offspring by a human female. Lady Constance believes that the Duchess of Brightspan had him deliberately bred with one of her ladies-in-waiting. Dame Kit is concerned about what the gift he’s accompanying is; Lady Constance believes that there is no great matter of concern.

Alistair receives the tithe of the Duchess of Brightspan, which is very reasonably sized. He then delivers a message through the emissary, cautioning the Duchess that there are things that a noble of Canberry cannot command their followers to do, and ought not to ask lest it be taken as a command.

The Noldar enter, and the Tor Lord arrives with Grandmaster Farsensor.

There are the two Noldar, the Drow, an unexpected orc, some humans, and the Tor Lord and Grandmaster Farsensor.

Grandmaster Farsensor offers a gift for the little one, when he is born. It will help him sleep, and once he is old enough will teach him to play the instrument. Alistair asks him to arrange an audience for Alistair and his household with the Overqueen, as the paramount ruler of the good kingdoms of the world.

The Tor brings them "boots for the wee lad, that look like they have been knit of starlight. They will grow with him as he grows, and when he puts them on his feet will not tire."

The Noldar approach. “We are delighted to have been invited. We have never been invited to these celebrations before. I thought to bring a simple thing. At last, I thought of rain dust.” Princess Curinirim holds up a small casket. “A handful of rain dust will bring rain even in the greatest drought. There are three handfuls in the casket.”

Lord Aufaulgautharim. “I too thought long and hard, and I consulted the oracles of my house. And I concluded that while your house is destined for great things, it is never harmful to take an extra bit of surety.”

He hands a painting of a black stone gate against a storm wracked sky, with grass beneath. It will summon as many princes of Gehenna as there are volunteers, who must be loved by the person who activates the gate and will be lost to Gehenna forever; they will serve for three tasks. The lord of the Second Plume is powerful in magic; the other two not so much. It can only be activated by Alistair or his lineal descendants, though legitimacy does not matter for these purposes--any blood descent will do.

The Council agrees to wall it up and put it behind layered wards that can only be lowered by the High Priestess of Gunnora of Canberry, and the Archbishop of Canberry.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 94, cont'd]
After their mental discussions, the whole room is watching them somewhat concernedly. Kit and Alistair dance a dance and eat some food, to signal that the party can start. Grandmaster Farsensor brings in a blushing middle-aged servant, who dances a jig with him, and then scurries out of the room.

Kit follows, and invites her to return, and offers to dress her appropriately. She agrees and comes back later.

Alistair receives the Lord of the East of the City of Gates; the orc lord; the First Daughter of the House of Aleval; and a One of the Threes.

The Council meets with the Lord of the East. He gives a gift of platinum. We have a quick conversation about alliance.

The orc lord bows profusely. “Great Lord of Canberry. We thank you for inviting us to settle on your border. I bring you the teeth of those who would cross the border and raid your vassals.” They discuss fostering his children, and begin discussing the idea of formal vassalage.

The First Daughter: "My mother sends her Midsummer’s greetings, and this token of her affection (a shield, worked in mithril and adamantine)." She also passes a request for a private audience.

The One of the Threes tells us that the One of Ones has sent a full field army of threes.

Kit hears among the lesser nobility that there is concern about the Archduke just pausing after receiving the painting.

The private audiences:
Duke of Brightspan: "I come to you on a personal matter. As you know, it has been some time since my wife and I… shared a personal chamber. I am not yet too old to care about such things. And I have never been one to do things that would be looked askance by his liege. I would ask therefore for your permission to either put aside my wife, which I would not wish to do out of thoughtfulness, and marry another, or to take that other as a mistress with your permission." (Mistress is a minor noble, widowed, they would not have children.)

The lesser noble: I’m sorry to bother you with this. There is a red cap in my lands. It suddenly appeared.

The Council calls the Lord of the Tor.

"I’m not missing any of my people. That means it has to have come from the next Tor over."

They caution him to be careful. He offers a fey stone that will allow them to step to the Tor, and tells the Council that they should move in a fortnight if they do not hear from him.

First Daughter of Aleval: "I bring you greetings and a great deal of information in confidence. The North is gone. Both cadet and true drowan cities have fallen. A mindflayer enclave has been destroyed. And at least one beholder nest. An island came down from the north 20 sleep cycles ago. A Council of drow houses dealt them a crushing defeat. Cadet drow have traveled to other cities of their ilk. We have been considering tunneling around the force walls that block the tunnels entirely. The forces that fought against us had many demons among them that were not of our mistress. They were mostly servants of the Ram, but there was one among them that was an ancient demon. We believe that was an attempt to cut a tunnel to the south. Torture is worthless.

"We believe, based solely on the path they were trying to follow, that they were seeking to access the island that has surfaced."

The Council warns her that it might involve ember. They also mention that if the cadet houses asked Lord Aufaulgautharim, he might be willing to assist with coercion on the demons, as he has taken an interest in this matter.

She works with Dame Katharine to set up a channel to communicate. Grandmaster Farsensor sets up a channel. Kit forms a link to the Matron Mother of House Aleval. She is very cold. “I hear you and I sense my daughter’s seething rage. Very good.”

“Yes, your daughter is here, and she endured some hardship to help you in this matter.”

“Ah, I shall reward her then. We have repelled a searching probe—not in force. But they may have inserted invisible forces. I think we may be being overly cautious, though. These things seem about as brutish as I’ve ever seen—I doubt they’re doing anything with finesse.

“We lost 6 cities, between us, the cadets, and other races, in the blinking of an eye. The bulk of the cities are in the South, and our coordinated defense should hold. I am not the only Matron Mother who has gained caution in old age.

“The overcouncil sets strategy, the Matron Mothers command troops on house lines, the illithidae are providing psionic support—but the beholders have fled to the far south. They lost a third of their numbers, and were targeted more directly. One of the greater oddities are that they seem to have taken the handful of Shadow elves captive rather than killing them.

“I did not hear much about children, but the rout was complete. The majority of the refugees were not high ranking. The Matron Mothers, the First and Second Daughters, they assumed they would prevail.

"There were a handful of obliques that the illithidae fought—they are completely immune to psionics. They broke the defenses of the illithidae. They had to be preparing for the initial attack for months or even years."

The Council talks with the Noldar.

"The first time through, they planned well, executed well, but underestimated us. This time, they have planned well again, but they overestimated our weakness and underestimated the humans. If there is a third time, it will be after we are gone."
[End Session 94]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 95 (October 23, 2018)

5 Zar
Nothing significant happens until the night of the 5th of Zar. Dame Brionna is out patrolling at night when a guard lieutenant salutes her and says that they’re holding an odd fellow and think someone from the Order should see him. "He says he’s a messenger, but I’ve never seen someone so decrepit. He seems sure that he needs to talk to someone from the Court, and that he is a messenger from someone notable, but I can’t imagine he’s a messenger from someone notable."

Dame Brionna calls for a standard investigation team, and heads over. Even before entering the square, she senses uncleanness. Dame Brionna casts protection from evil.

The man is diseased, horribly so, despite the rareness of that.

"I bring word, word to the Court, from my lord, Mydim Claris. Mydim Claris wishes to warn you that there is a plot, deep in the Southlands. The One of the Island seeks allies in the planes of the endless Abyss. They have sought my lord Mydim Claris and they have been rebuffed. They know that they do not have enough allies in the Abyss. My lord is a mighty lord, and he knows better than to make alliance with the Unspeakable. He has incarnated me upon this plane to bring warning, and this plane is consuming me.

"He has sent representatives throughout the Abyss. My lord, may he reign forever on the 458th plane, believes that Darou ib Shamiq of the 601st, a lord of vile plotting and thievery and murder, has been suborned, and Harashiq af Fulqesh, of the 609th plane, of whom little is known, has not turned out the servant of the Unspeakable. We have no truck with your kind, no desire for you. We are bound by the proclamations of the Gods of the Upper Planes, that our diseases may not infect you as they should, but even for all that we are not so foolish as to make alliance with the Unspeakable. It is in the lower most planes that some might be swayed."

"Are they subordinate to some greater lord?"

"In theory, they all bear allegiance to one of the 6 of the Council, but within the 500 and 600 planes—their reach only extends as far as their power. They have no such structure as your laws."

The demon asks to be sent away from this plane, and the priest dismisses him with an unresisted turning.

Dame Brionna begins purification processes for the square, the guards who had contact, and so forth.

Dame Brionna reports about the message to the Council, with Dame Constance invited.

Kit mentions that she’ll reach out to the Guilds, to make sure there isn’t an effort to move in, take over some of their territory, etc.

Dame Constance knows of Darou ib Shamiq as a master of assassins. "Harashiq hasn’t done anything significant since his attempt against the Six some 2000 years ago. He almost was bound—that’s why he has been so cautious. He is one of only 2 or 3 that have risen without being either obliterated, imprisoned, or prevailed. It’s generally presumed that he has either some hold over one of the Council or something one of them wanted.

"Even the Unspeakable would be a fool to trust Shamiq. He has guilds on thousands of worlds, but has less of a presence on this prime. On many of the primes, he has substantial cults that could act. A sufficient ally in the Abyss… they could be seeking to move onwards without taking us. As if a military tactic. They can’t normally do this, but our planes of the Abyss border other worlds as well, and those three lords are the only ones who have direct access to other primes.

"Only one member of the Court is both trustworthy and capable of serving as an emissary to Mydim Claris: Dame Brionna. Obviously, His Grace could not go. Dame Kit could not go. I could not go—my association with devils would result in me being torn asunder.

"Mydim Claris was once an Oinodaemon in the service of Morgroth—a fallen Maia who defeated the former lord of disease and assumed his place when he fell. I believe he would treat our emissary with respect."

Alistair muses, "We could reach out to the Skaven—to go through them to the Horned Rat. We can’t reach out to the Council of Six directly, but the Skaven and through them the Horned Rat could."

Dame Constance sends a page to get the book bound in green flayed mind-flayer.

He does have individual assassins here who sell their services for considerable sums, though none in this country. There are no organized cults here—just a few followers here and there. It seems like there are two primes bordering the Abyss where there is more activity on their part. It seems there is a world where science is stronger, and magic much weaker. And then there is one other, which appears to be a complete mess—no centralized government, strife throughout, small warlords that hold small territory and fight each other.

Dame Constance copies the record of each of those primes.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 95, cont'd]
They call for the Skaven ambassador, a piebald mage. He discusses his improved grains.

They invite the Skaven to the Council of Southern Drucien. Clan Skree promises that they will send a representative.

"Clan Pestilence has contact with Mydim Claris. Clan Eshen does not deal with the Lord of Assassins. They treat him as untrustworthy, which coming from the assassins of Clan Eshen says a great deal. But the warlocks of Clan Skree can inform the Horned Rat."

The Council dismisses the ambassador.

The Glor’diadelian church mage arrives. They ask him about the planes involved; he’ll have to research them. They send a request to the Archbishop to expedite assistance for him.

After some time, he returns. There is an extremely militant relative of the faith of Glor’diadel—on one of the two worlds. The fractious plane is torn apart because they all follow different versions of the Glor’diadelian like faith, but the minutia separates them—they fight over the differences, and religion and politics is one. They all worship light, they are all human, they are all essentially one culture, but the largest band is in the small thousands.

The other world shares a different deity with us. The Weaver is a minor deity here, but a major deity there. Here, the daughter of Glor’diadel fills most of the roll. But there, the Weaver is a major deity. We think the Weaver would be willing to carry a message across. But we think the other world is at more risk anyway.

The fractious world may show the signs of interference by enemies of order—likely by the demon lords that we know have presence there.

They discuss asking Lord Glor’diadel to send a demigod or similar emissary to unite the religion of Light there.

They meet with the Archbishop to discuss the matter. He agrees to bring it to the Holy See, and that it will likely be presented to Lord Glor’diadel, although we don’t know how Glor’diadel will respond.

The Tor Lord returns several days later, carrying two heads. "The Red Cap tortured a human into turning into an Unseelie servitor. Every redcap was once a brownie. It’s a sad thing. The horror after the day of the dead might have changed a Southlands brownie. Or Hanal might have caused a Northern brownie to change. We shall mourn him on the third day of the month next at the Tor, and we would invite you to join us."

The Council plans on asking Princess Caitlyn to reach out to the Southlands Tors, both to see if they are under assault and to see if they can identify a name.

The Duchess of Brightspan arrives. The Council invites her to tea.

"I am very proud of my sons. I have tried hard to make our marriage succeed, but I have failed. My husband believes that the Court at Brightspan is unaware, but I believe that they are fully aware. I have no bitterness towards him. I would take no action to damage the Duchy or the Archduchy—they are the only hope for stability for the next centuries."

They reach an agreement that she will request a divorce “for reasons known to the Duke of Brightspan” (so that her reputation will not be harmed and he will accept any social blame for the divorce), that he will not oppose, and Alistair will grant it. She will then take up residence in Canberry City and join the guild. She plans on styling herself by Lady So-and-so; Alistair assures her that she will retain the style of Her Grace, although she seems less concerned about her personal status than he would have expected.

They discuss the school to be, and she suggests one of the great mages of Northern Aurelian for school head.

She reports a poisoning attempt on her some months ago. They also discuss her youngest son, who has the Sight. They discuss arranging a marriage (and a suitable court title).
[End session 95]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 96 (November 20, 2018)

2 O-Zar
They get a message from the paramour of General Vondrov. [Attached] He served for three years with the Inquisition, before being discharged back to the local army.

They redact the message to anonymize its source, and then pass it on to the Inquisition. They also reach out to Northern Aurelian.

They contact Susan the Scintillating, who does put us through to Meredith the Dazzling. She agrees to mobilize her folk—primarily magi, although also a group of golemim; she might bring her minotaur honor guard.

"Gabrielle the Glittering might be interested in the position of headmaster of the school of wizardry. She’s very competent, although only a few centuries old, but very serious." Meredith mentions that the Paranswarmians are much more interested in divinatory and oracular magic than Glor’diadel. "There are three oracular spots of great notice; the first is the Pool of the Overqueen in the Steading of the Elvish Lords. Do not look in it unless you are desperate for knowledge—it is perfectly reliable, but mortals who look in have some tendency to drop dead. In the dividing mountains, there is a gateway in a small city that draws people to the city. In that city there is also a seven-eyed lizardman who has tremendous oracular powers, and is still alive after three centuries. Finally, if it could be recovered, there was an oracular device as potent as elven divination. It was in the Kingdom of the Isles before the South Kingdoms fell. If it were recovered—it would be of great oracular value. It warned of the fall, but was not believed."

The Starpriestess in trance said after looking in the pool, “Drucien rises or falls on the nature of the rising or falling of Canberry after the Eldar depart.”

The Noldar are also aware of these prophecies. Their oracles I know very little about except that they are in the depths of their Necropoli. Both Curinirim and Goldorim have oracles of power.

She asks if they’ve been to the Hidden Enclave—the enclave of elves. They have not—she plans on setting up a meeting.

They ask whether the Enclaves have been more fractious since the Eldron Cube was removed. There have been some destabilizations, though thus far nothing that cannot be handled.

Also, extraplanar beasts are appearing, which never used to happen. Summoning used to be nearly impossible, but now is normally easy.

They discuss after the call the fact that the Noldar are probably trying to groom Canberry to make it more like them, based on the details of the prophecy.

3 O-Zar
None of the Southern Tors that responded know who the brownie was. Two did not respond, however.

The Council travels to the mourning with the head of the Redcap. Many of the fae have put on grotesque shapes. They wail, they cut themselves with sharpened flint. The lord of the Tor greets us immediately.

“Thank you for coming. Be it known that this is the first time any of the humans have cared enough for us to join us in mourning.”

He leads us to a dais with Sidhe lords, most of whom we don’t know. He recounts the whole story of destroying the Redcap. When he gets to the death, Alistair draws his silver dagger and rends his clothes. This impresses the more reclusive, less used to human members of the Tor. Fae from the floor then tell the tails of what he did before his death. Finally, the Sidhe announces in his loudest tone, “we weep for our cousin who has fallen.” The Tor gives loose in its grief, and in anger—not at the Council or even the Redcap, but at something beyond the Redcap. They take a group of possessions and bundle them together. The earth in the Tor—the Tor itself—is moving, and opening a pit. The Tor itself is clearly intelligent and sensible. The Tor eats and destroys the corrupted belongings. They then ritually say, “Remember the brownie who was.”

Alistair is given the last toast: “We remember the love that the brownie had for our people, and the love that our people have for the brownies.”

The Tor lord expresses that he is vexed that they do not know from whence the Redcap came. They tell him of the two tors that did not reply. He says that those tors had very few sidhe—mostly the least of the fae. He will visit them in some force.

The Council are instructed to take their cups with us—"they will grow in time, though never to the size of your glasses."
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 96, cont'd]
O-Zar 8
A runner contacts Dame Brionna. "The Sixth Daughter wishes that you join her." The runner leads Dame Brionna to a candy shop in the commercial district where the Daughter has a man cowering on the floor at dagger point.

“He is a candy seller, but he is not a candy seller. The young Grumash lord came here with his friends—I could not help but notice that this candy seller tried to sell him this.” (Grumash is rebel Drowan slur for Noldar.)

The candy radiates extremely strong evil—among the strongest Dame Brionna has ever detected. Dame Brionna begins securing the shop, checking for records, etc.

A young guard comes out—“Dame, he’s dead in the back.”

“Who?”

“Him!” he says pointing at the prisoner.

It surges up, and its right hand alters into a blade. It guts the guard.

The Second Daughter levitates the candy away and immobilizes the creature. The creature doesn’t detect as evil (likely Seen-unseen).

They summon Dame Constance, who twists one of her rings to summon a tall, commanding presence with a spade beard. “That thing. What is it?”

“Corruption, Lady. Utter corruption.”

“Hmm. For you to say that?”

“It is the corruption of hunger—not hunger for things, a hunger for power. It’s mind altering over time, changes the personality, the mind. It’s not from this place.”

“Is it singular?”

“It is with great difficulty that I believe that even one of us could bring that here—it is intended to subvert a very powerful being.”

Dame Brionna thanks the Sixth Daughter. The Sixth Daughter is grateful for the recognition, but stresses that she does not honor the Grumash lord, even though he was too young to warrant such a thing.

Dame Brionna arranges for the Noldar lord to be brought back to the palace and taken to the pastry chef of the palace in place of candy sellers.

They set up on investigating other people who might be targeted—the kids of the court, Lord Brightspan, Lord Davion’s children, etc.

The Noldar lord comes to speak to Alistair.

They talk about the difficult aspects of enemies striking at those around them and harming others to get at them.

Alistair also calls in the Sixth Daughter and offers her a boon to be claimed in the future in thanks for her actions.

She believes this is a mix of the Seen-Unseen and a doppelganger. The Council did not know that they could breed.

The Council wonders whether they can scry on these foes.
[End session 96]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 97 (February 28, 2019)

9 O-Zar
Dame Brionna has a scouting report from military intelligence. [Attached.] They scouted both the Guard Cities and the unsettled areas near Hanal. The Guard Cities are on guard against the City of Life. The Bishop of the Guard Cities has determined that he is no longer under the authority of the Archbishop of the City of Life, based on a Commune, but other religious leaders are unsure. There are also bandits raiding around here, but local lords are dealing with it.

There are many refugees in the areas south of Hanal. There are large bands of Hounds, Pigs, and Mantis from Masque. They’re helping with things—Hounds are providing relief support; the Pigs are hunting down bandits; and the Mantis are hunting demon tainted people and protecting elves and hobbits.

The lands of the Crystal Cities and City of Bells; they all have huge numbers of refugees, but are dealing well.

Dame Brionna reports from another letter, with tears in her eyes. [Also attached.] Her father’s closest friend, Sir Eodan, was badly wounded in the wars. He has sent his son to Dame Brionna to seek training, but he is without financial support. We agree to take him on as a page, and to check on the reliability of Dame Brionna’s parents’ friends so they can support them and use them to help rebuild the South. Assuming Darag checks out, since they’re worried that he might be a plant or an impostor, he will succeed young Lord Brightspan as personal page to the Archduke.

Kit also has two messages [attached]—neither is terribly urgent, but one is more political. Reports from the West lands—things are getting more stable, people are moving back in, and there’s more food there than they thought, so they may not need to send food at all, or significant food support.

Also, Alistair’s sister found a secret door in the wine cellar and is exploring it on her own. They send some people to support her.

Kit also has a letter from Lyneham. Alistair discusses how to handle it.

Alistair accepts a position as arbiter for the Eldar and Noldar patrolling over Hanal. [See attached.]

The psions of Canberry arrange to send simultaneous messages to the Eldar and the Noldar. The Noldar show the Moriquen’darim banner, quartered with Curinirim, Aufaulgautharim, and the Prince of the City of Death’s Great Wolf—some follow the Father of Wolves, some the Mother of Spiders. There is a gray elf general standing on the deck of an Eldar ship, in crystal armor.

Kit also bonds to the mapping crystal. It’s not particularly powerful by Eldar standards, but it can show the movement of armies, of voller, and of powerful individuals. It has its own pocket dimension that it can be kept in.

Discussing with Grandmaster Farsensor: he has been observing the South, and fears that some of the Spicelands will not recover. In some places, it is consuming the land, rendering it infertile.
[cont'd]
 

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  • Missive to Alistair from Elrohir.pdf
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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 97, cont'd]
O-Zar 12
They get a brief report that both of the southern Tors were destroyed; their inhabitants were tortured, so there might be other redcaps.

O-Zar 13
The Cathedral for the wedding is overflowing. The Holder of Two from the Mountains of Mages attends, as do many of the Ones of the Three. There is a Heron from Masque to represent the Queen-Empress. Meredith appears, along with Gabrielle the Glittering. No one from Hanal, to nobody’s shock. Lady Jane Peryton will appear—a magnificently attired woman of imposing height, carrying a bone staff carved with runes, and dressed in a dress made entirely of feathers. She drops off a gold-leaf box on a table and then floats serenely. She went into exile hundreds of years ago, and moved north, established a manor, and somehow along the way became immortal. She’s believed to still have connections to the dragonkin, and her forces managed to stop the enemy at her borders.

As Alistair and Kaitlyn process through the city, the poorer people throw eggs in front of them, as a fertility ritual. They throwing coins back as largess.

No one attending detects as evil.

The Paranswarmian representatives are mostly ecclesiastical, heavy on followers of the Weeping Woman, and a representative of the Archbaroness of Mandrath, along with the Heron of Masque.

Once they reach the Cathedral, the Archbishop of the Sun performs an elaborate wedding ceremony. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Alistair is crowned as King of the South Kingdoms with joint authority with his wife, and Kaitlyn is crowned as Archduchess-consort.

Lady Peryton offers the blessing of the dragons and dragonkin to Alistair and to his line, because "the bones foretell long-life and success."

"The Dragon Claw that I have gifted you was freely given by an ancient gold dragon for this purpose."
[End session 97]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 98 (March 28, 2019)

14 O-Zar
Kit presents a grim report. [Attached] They sent three assassins against targets in Hanal; at least two failed. Their spymaster has a diviner, who is his brother. The general of the palace guard was wounded and may die; he was possessed. Another had a body double. The third was captured.

The wrist who sent the message committed suicide and took steps to avoid posthumous interrogation.

They call for Grandmaster Farsensor, the Minister of Magic, Dame Constance, and Princess Anastasia.

They ask Princess Anastasia about Magister Adapon ti Delphor Caterion, the brother of the spymaster. He was a leading mage in the Society of the Hands of Hell. The SHH ordered him cast out for his mistreatment of subjects, and the old Queen-Empress ordered him put to death for the same call. Princess Anastasia thought that the sentence had been carried out. His brother is a major wine merchant and a close confidant of the usurper. He is a powerful mage, but conventional as a mage; if he is divining, it is through bound devils. (Or perhaps consorting with demons.)

Dame Constance says, "that kind of divination would require enormous blood sacrifices—sacrificing innocents. Demons always want the blood of innocents. Devils you can sometimes deal with in other goods that they want, but likely not. Of the hordes that we know of, there are none of the demon lords that we know of with portfolios of divination. Likewise, none of the devils he was known to have bound were divinatory."

Dame Constance steps out into the hall, and summons a major pit fiend. “Who is the Magister Adapon ti Delphor Caterion using for divination?”

"He is dead—body was consumed and entered the fires of the Abyss. His brother made a simulacrum. His brother is a magus as well, although no one ever noticed because his brother was so flamboyant. He has created a vessel and filled it with a spirit of divination."

"Oh, in that case, we could have it banished. These divinatory spirits are neither of the Abyss nor of the Hell. They float. They will not automatically detect something aimed at him, unless we telegraph the attack. A proper device or spell should be able to conceal the bearer from the simulacrum."

They ask Princess Anastasia. She has partisans who could approach him, but not with magical ability. But a priest could do it—so they think that working through the Temple of Paranswarm could work.

The Council sends a message to the Temple of Paranswarm, apprising them of the situation and asking them to send an exorcist.

Kit then goes to speak with her scribe. He doesn’t have the names or identities of the fingers or toes—there were a wrist and two ankles. One wrist and one ankle are confirmed dead, as is the spine. They have one ankle and one knee left in Hanal, maybe. The knee is still sending reports. They’re just very routine, because he’s a military officer who has been deployed. Kit asks her scribe to contact the knee, and recommend potential wrists and ankles.

[cont'd]
 

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