Aphonion Tales: The Archducal Council -- Unedited notes (posts MWF, most recent 12/2/22)

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 137 (January 20, 2022)

26 Tar
Alistair and Kit sleep in until after breakfast, when Dame Brionna calls them in for a meeting.

“We have news from the south border, from the commander of the border guard. There is a small group of prisoners, wagon of goods, and troops. They have a writ directly from Randall the Purified. During the war, they found that certain targets were focused upon—graveyards, priests of the dead, and monasteries of Paranswarm. They found some who had given themselves over to the Queen-Empress of Hanal, and received special powers, the like of which neither Randall nor any of his magi had ever seen, and they wanted to convey them to the Emperor of Southern Drucien.” [Report and credentials from Randall the Purified attached.]

The Council quickly agrees that they have to accept them and investigate, and that this is likely either Seen-Unseen matters or translucent-blue-flames things. They send a voller, with lead to contain the possessions and a team of people who are well capable of carrying this.

Kit also has a report of apparitions being seen near the northwest border, and several people report feeling like they’re being watched.

All of the rest of her briefing has been good news; salt shortages are under control, no imminent risk of famine. [See attached.]

Kit follows up on the reports of apparitions and gets a list of specific villages—they’re all clustered in a group, right near the northwest corner.

The Council asks to meet with Lord Silverleaves, who gives Kit a flower that eases the difficulties of very late pregnancy. They ask him if he can get a closer look on those villages.

He settles down and begins to focus. “Interesting. Someone’s been destroying mausoleums up here. Some of them are Glordiadelian cemeteries, some are Death cemeteries, and the Priest-house in the cemetery of Death has also been blasted. Hmm. And the sense of something watching… yes, I feel that. Ah, yes, that missing voller you have been looking for is right there.” Suddenly a blast of psionic energy knocks him backwards. For just a moment, hovering above the village, there is a twisted elven visage visible.

Alistair ducks out of the room immediately, and grabs a human psion to link him to Princess Curinirim’s duty psion.

“The Princess is not available, your majesty. How may I help you?”

“The renegade Noldar voller we have been hunting has been located. This elf is with them and attacked a Farsensor psionically. We cannot reach them before they go to ground, but hoped you might be able to.” Alistair gives them the location, and his psion projects the image from his mind of the elf.

“Let me call her general.”

The General joins the mindlink. “That elf is there? That is Alvinus, the only of Lord Raf’s followers who remain mobile. We still have our voller in the area—we’ll try to engage them, though they must be shielded extraordinarily well. And he should not have been able to harm a Farsensor at that range—perhaps his psionics is being boosted by necromancy. Was it that Grandmaster you have visiting who was scrying?”

“Yes, he is a Grandmaster and of great elven blood.”

“Good. A human would have been killed. We may not catch them, but we’ll try.”

“Good hunting.”

The Council then quickly reaches out to the nearest major center of Glordiadelians—a convent of the Order of the Silvery Veil. They immediately head out to evacuate the local communities and to protect them against undead that we expect are attacking. They will move them back to a local castle. They also send messages to conventional troops to move in as reinforcements, but the nearest substantial numbers are days, maybe weeks, away. A voller could get them there sooner, but the Council doesn’t dare send a human voller into possible conflict with a Noldar voller.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 137, cont'd]
Lord Silverleaves says that it was far beyond Alvinus’s normal psionic abilities—perhaps boosted by demonic energy. It should not have been within the capabilities of a Twilight Elf. It will burn him out—when you routinely use energy beyond the capability of a given mind, it damages them. But it might take decades for that to happen. A Noldar could handle that power, but a Twilight Elf could not.

“I know that elves who are not born as Eldar can become Eldar—is the same true for Twilight Elves and the Noldar?”

“It’s extremely rare, even among us, and even rarer among our cousins. They will almost never have the support of the existing structure, as it offends them. But it is possible—it would take a great Redactor, but then, Lord Raf is a Redactor.”

The Council speculates that Lord Raf may be willing to do this because he’s now fully renegade, and not mobile either, and thus may want more Noldar followers.

“He could not be a full Noldar—I would not have survived then.”

“But a half-Noldar, perhaps?”

“Perhaps. And that is the stage he would pass through. It’s possible.”

The group also speculates that the fact that Glordiadelian dead can be turned into undead might suggest that the funerary rites were performed incorrectly—perhaps due to corruptions among the seminaries.

They call for the Archbishop, planning on tracing where those parish priests were trained, who else was trained there at a similar time, and so forth, so they can check whether the training was adequate. They also pass on information about this and the attack on the house of the priest of Death to the Mother of Death.

The Archbishop attends upon them quickly, with a variety of people with many scrolls.

Alistair describes the situation to him and their concern.

“That’s interesting. I have heard from the Ecumenical Council that this new Mother of Death has a great deal of clean-up to do. Her predecessor did not seem to be corrupt, just completely and utterly incompetent. Our priests have mostly been seminarians. But in areas where there are circuit priests, or elderly priests, funerals are often carried out by deacons. In theory, the graves are later properly sanctified by a priest. Out in those areas… so many funerals have been handled by deacons. And I have no method of verifying that those graves have been properly blessed.”

“Perhaps they could be sent an episcopal letter emphasizing the importance of that duty and that a higher emphasis is currently being placed on that?”

“Yes, I think that might be wise.”

“Would I be correct that the circuit priests would also be consecrating Holy Feast and leaving it in the tabernacle for distribution by the deacons?”

“Of course, standard practice.”

“Since we know that they have been stealing some Holy Feast, they may be stealing more in these villages.”

The Archbishop calls in an abbot, and asks him about his research about what heretics could do with the Hosts.

“If it were stolen, and then abominated, it could be used in principle to undo any consecration.”

“What about bolstering undead against turning?”

“Yes, it could be made almost impossible to turn undead.”

“And what if it were used to deconsecrate a Church?”

“Than any rituals performed on the consecrated ground would have been ineffective—the Enlightening of children, the funerals of the dead, the like.”

They agree to have a set of priests work with the Grandmaster Farsensor to verify the holiness of all the churches in the archdiocese. Also, the archdeacons are called upon to verify the ordinations of the deacons—the priests are ordained by bishops in cathedrals, and the bishops would almost certainly notice if there was a flaw.

They warn the Mother Superior of the Order of the Silvery Veil through a sending that the undead may be highly resistant to turning because of abominated Hosts and that they should be careful to secure the Hosts as they withdraw.

A group of priests works with the Grandmaster Farsensor in building a map of all the churches and checking them all. As they cast, blotches start appearing on the map. After they are all done, they file out. “Two areas of concern. The major one is the northwest. Also, this thing off the southeast trade road—two villages. They didn’t exactly sense it as unholy, but I didn’t know how else to mark it. They sensed it as blank.”

“Shielded?”

“Not by psionics, or magic—I would recognize it. But you might be right, as the other blank area is the area around the tor. But that’s your undead army, north of the border about two days’ march, and most of the churches in the area have been desecrated. Not that one, though.”

“Can you tell why that one isn’t?”

He reaches out. “Ah. It has a dedicated priest assigned there. He is not able bodied, so he stays in the church at all times.”

Alistair contacts Princess Curinirim’s duty psion and tells her about the undead army, in the hope that they will attack the army after attempting to deal with the renegade Noldar voller.

Kit asks her people about whether there have been any efforts to steal Host that they were aware of. She is told not recently, but a while ago in Tusslefields and some of the other major cities (Kesselford) (though not Canberry City proper) there were people soliciting it. None of her people in the Guild took the job, but in a large city, hard to know. The person asking had credentials from the Guild of Slayers, from Enclaves. There’s no local Guild of Slayers, but they recognize their credentials locally. The warning scared anyone off—they were told that if anyone tried to cheat them, they would be hunted down and bled to death over a pit of vipers. This was about two and a half months ago. People didn’t take the job though—they found him off, even for a Slayer, and the job was strange. He was offering gold coins.

Kit asks to have a (via a blind) meeting with someone who spoke with the Slayer.

Kit also reaches out to people in Enclaves. She has a real fast fan conversation with her person in Enclaves.

“Oh, that would be Devon, Lord of the Pit. Didn’t always have a lot of money, but someone gave him a big contract recently. Everyone knows who he is, since he’s done some high profile jobs—not what he looks like, but who he is. He’s good at changing his face—remarkably good at it.”

“Not quite human talent?”

“Don’t know. Never seen him—or if I did, don’t know it!”

Separately, they send a warning to Archbishop Humbold of Enclaves about the risks that people may try to steal consecrated Hosts.

Alistair contacts the Tor Lord. He sheepishly confirms that there are some changelings there—some of the Tor Lord’s children, and the wards are there to protect them.

27 Tar
Kit goes into labor and has an easy labor over the course of a couple hours.

After the baby is born, Alistair gives Kit several gifts. He first confers upon her the title of Countess of Lyneham, with the personal style of Your Grace, ranking with but after the Duchesses of the Archduchy of Canberry, and with their children ranking with but after the children of the Dukes and Duchesses of the Archduchy of Canberry of equivalent birth order. The son is named Lord James Duncan Fitzalistair-Lyneham (called Jamie, at least in his childhood).

Alistair also gives a more significant gift: he brings out a lap harp and plays a love song that he wrote for her, that describes his love and admiration for her in all sorts of different ways, including her beauty, her courage, her ingenuity, her sexiness; as he plays, illusions form through his bardic magic and also there are bursts of empathic psionic emotion that can only be perceived by those with psionics, expressing the love, lust, and admiration as psionic feelings. The psionic bardic music is not sufficient to alter emotions, but uses them as another part of the experience, solely for people like Kit who can perceive them. By the end of the song, Kit is crying. Alistair kisses her tenderly and holds her and the baby as they snuggle and slide into an exhausted sleep.
[End Session 137]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 138 (January 27, 2022)

28 Tar
Kit’s mother has been with her the full time since she went into labor. Jamie is now mostly in the care of a wet nurse—carefully selected for the combination of appropriate very petty noble rank, fanatical loyalty, and high intelligence, to eventually become a core part of the “Jeweled Necklace,” the new Body part devoted to palace intelligence and counter-intelligence. Kit is slowly getting to fully understand the way in which she can use her wet nurse and the rest of the staff to only do the fun parts of parenting a young child, while foisting off the annoying parts to other people.

Bishop Waters plans a formal albeit private Enlightening ceremony for Jamie in seven days. Dame Brionna and Lord Silverleaves are the godparents—well, the non-fairy godparents, because the Tor already assigned a fairy godmother.

They arrange to send a letter announcing the birth to Lyneham and announcing a feast day in celebration of the heir-apparent’s birth. Alistair also asks to endow a second day of feasting from “Jamie’s father, Alistair,” in Lyneham.

Dame Brionna reports a military intelligence report that a force from Alberyth, between two to three months ago, intercepted and defeated a force of the enemy—20 human cultists, six ram demons, some drow followers of Quinliart, and the sister of Alvinus, who was captured and delivered to Zorplona-Moriquendarim for interrogation. The human cultists were led by a powerful corrupted cleric of Glordiadel.

"For Your information

I have just obtained information from an asset we possess in the near Underdark that between two and three months ago, the forces of the City of Abburth (a mixed city of cadet and renegade drow) together with a top unit from the Enclave of Zaploni-Moriquendi’rim ambushed and destroyed a unit containing 6 Ram Demons, over 20 human cultists, over 20 drowan guard, the Lady Sister of Alvinus, the former seneschal to Lord Quinliart of the Aragoni - prior Proconsul of the Enclave and servant of the Eldritch.

It is suggested that the lady has been captured and is being returned to Enclaves for interrogation (by now is there).

It is also suggested that the drow with her were part of Quinliart’s personal guard and surrendered after her capture.

Lastly, it is suggested that the human contingent was commanded by a former priest of Glor’diadel, fallen into service to the abominable - and that he is of considerable power.

I wished to let you know directly."

Kit receives a report, also from about two months ago. The court of Dame Brenda the Dispossessed had a purge of people who were found out to be traitors, followers of the Abominations. Two grey elves fled and escaped. They speculate that Zorplona-Moriquendarim may have passed on actionable intelligence to Dame Brenda from interrogating the sister of Alvinus.

They call for Lord Silverleaves, who is very disturbed. He says that Dame Brenda could provide more information.

“She has been in a tizzy since we learned that three of our people were fallen to the enemy, and two escaped.”

Dame Brenda is in laen battlearmor, tinted in the color of Redaction. She tells them that they received a report from an unexpected source, and that she trusted it enough to perform the test. One of them was revealed by the test—the traitor from her cousins had somehow managed to create a secret way into Tidbiddle and tempted some gray elves into collusion and then corruption. The other two then fled, taking a war schooner with them. They had already stolen another schooner, that of the Crown Prince of the House of Glyr. He came in a small war schooner, with only his seneschal and a body guard. They entrapped and killed him, and then moved his schooner away. Both she and the House of Glyr assumed he was attacked on the way back to his home, and they searched the land in between, but found nothing. In fact, he was slain and his body hidden in a secret chamber. She explains, "We only found out because our cousins overlooked the bloodfeud and informed us. It was tempting to blame them, as Quinliart came from their stock, but that would be playing into the hands of the Eldritch, who have after all sought to corrupt all, and from our cousins' perspective, he is a renegade beyond all renegades."

She is considering turning her prisoner over to Zorplona-Moriquendarim, though she is hesitant. Alistair also suggests that she might consider hiring a unit of Kathroven illithid, who have Coercers stronger than most others besides the Noldar.

"Two more schooners together with their man of war is a formidable force facing anyone but the elves. I'm certain that Alvinus can use them effectively. I have indirectly warned trade partners that they should take extreme care with their flying assets, and let me do the same to you."

"Indeed. We wanted to make sure that you know that we fear that Alvinus may be boosted by either necromancy or demonic power. We also have speculated-- although it is pure speculation-- that Quinliart may be using redaction to transform him towards being a Noldor."

"That would strengthen their hand. The Noldor generally don't permit that because of their beliefs about hierarchy and status, but Quinliart has likely left those behind. He seems to have left every reasonable emotion behind."

"Would you be willing to send us impressions of the traitors?"

"Oh, by all means."

"We worry that they may seek to infiltrate other elven groups."

"You are more experienced in the world as young as you are. I assumed automatically that they would flee to their principal."

"They might. That would be a bad thing in that it strengthens their capabilities but less bad than them, for example, finding themselves in the Court of Singing Leaves."

"It is possible that they may make other attempts. Gray elves are well regarded and well received by nearly all the human kingdoms on the rare occasions that they appear."

"It's true. To be perfectly honest we would welcome a gray who had some reason to take up residence here in Canberry City. And that is despite the fact that we have much more power than many human kingdoms."

She sends them images of their lives in her court for the past 2000 years. There are plenty of them to send, and they see a cascade of images of the course of their lives. One is female, the other male. The male appears to be a military officer. When the cascade finishes, they're quite sure you would know them instantly even in any disguise.

"I will speak to my cousin the Queen of Singing Leaves, and see if I can break the news to her gently."

"Might they try to corrupt members of her court as well?"

"It is probable that they were able to entice three of mine because my court is larger than theirs. They had secret access, and the abominable offer great rewards. Even so, elves falling to them escapes me. I understand the humans."

"We've been told that the last time, essentially no elves did."

"I know of one that did." She tells them that one of the Noldor did fall to corruption in the First Age, and almost undid the alliance against the Eldritch. An Aufaulgautharim general realized, and then struck the traitor down with a wrath terrible to behold. The Noldor have either forgotten this or, more likely, refuse to tell this under any circumstances due to the shame.

"We greatly appreciate this, and we will do our best to locate and capture the remainder of your traitors." After some mental prodding by Kit, Alistair asks, "I wonder if you could be more specific about how you found out there were traitors."

"Lord Moriquendarim sent the Prince of Gwyr back to us after they uncovered a hidden stepping pad in the sub-basement of the Palace of Gargoyles. Once we knew that there had been a way for them to enter the Palace of Flowers here, I began to suspect. I accepted the Mother of Death's suggestion that we perform a test--you may not know that she has developed a spell that can uncover Eldritch taint."

"Yes, we've received copies of it."

"Fortunately, almost immediately we uncovered one of the traitors. I cannot speak their name to you now. But then we noted that two others had fled the court. At first, I did not realize they fled the court. I thought for a moment that they were so disgusted by the fact that a member of our race fell to this that they had left to be sick in private. But when they did not return within a few minutes, I reached out to one of my guard, and they had already departed in the war schooner. We pursued, and then were temporarily forced to stop and do battle with a great flying cloud of bones and skulls that attacked the vessel, and by the time that we had eradicated it, they had disappeared. We initiated a search pattern with our man-of-war, but we were unable to locate them."

"We will see what we can can do in that regard."

"I could not bring myself to ask Lord Moriquendarim to commit his man of war as well. I simply could not. I fear the crews would have killed each other anyway. He appears strangely immune to the blood fury. I knew that the great elves could control it, but he appears truly immune. He is effective, but he's very young, very young. I can't imagine putting a mere 157 year old in charge of a major enterprise for an empire for even a moment, but it is what it is."

The humans all try to keep their faces steady at this statement.

"In any event, he does not need to control himself. He does not need his ambassadors to take an incredibly expensive potion to be able to exist in our presence for a few minutes without deciding to kill us. He simply acts like we were anyone else."

[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 138, cont'd]
"Do you know anything of how the Moriquendarim found out about this?"

"Yes, they found an ancient tome that referenced a hidden storeroom. They didn't know of any hidden storeroom so they scoured their cellars until they finally uncovered the trigger, and it opened the door. Within the storage room was a stepping pad, that leads to a hidden part of my palace, three corpses in caskets, and the personal effects of the three of them separately. And in the greatest imaginable disgrace, he had written in the Sacred Book, 'So ends the House of Gwyr. I, Quinliart have done this.' I will kill him for this, if I can reach him."

"Would that be within your power?"

"Not to reach him currently. Even the High Clanslady of Aufaugautharim only killed a few field armies, and I am not her equal."

"I asked out of curiosity, because others have said things that suggested that they do not think they would be capable of besting him in combat. Do you think then that you could best Quinliart, if you have access to him?

"If I do not attempt to attack him mentally, for he will crush me psionically--but if I only defend and can physically reach him, yes. I must not engage him in psionic combat--deflection and defense is all I could possibly do, even bolstered by armor and allies. He is powerful beyond nearly any mental contact I've ever seen."

"And reaching him would be difficult in the extreme, with the great barrier around the capital city of Hanal and the blood driven turned loose. Perhaps if we colud get both the Noldar and the Eldar to assault the barrier at once..."

"I do not believe it would required a combined effort. We have breached the outer barrier, and now there is hope if someone could crush several of the supporting towers inside the city. But first, they would have to get inside the city and overcome the defenses."

"We'll have to think on that."

"Yes. Please keep me in mind while you're thinking on it."

"Indeed. Is there ought else we should hear of?"

"Just that you must be wary of confronting the stolen voller in the air, because this is effectively an Eldar war schooner. You know the different classes of warships for us? I understand that there are some different ones for humans."

"At least vaguely. There are armadas and men of war?"

"Armadas are the largest, next men of war, and then there are the war schooners and the flitters. And then you go to the barges and the scouts and other things that we haven't used in thousands of years. The schooners are the third largest of the ships and the most common because they're quicker to grow, they're easier to impress, which is what you must do with a voller to have good control of it. If you are going to fly with a minimal crew, which even for a schooner any less than three is a minimal crew, then you also should impress the weapons so they can fire on their own. Most war schooners mount one energy lance. Occasional war schooners mount one rear and one forward energy lance."

"Did this one mount two?"

"Of course. It was from the House of Gwyr. I'm sure if they allowed their young heir to travel all the way to Drucien, probably because he was young and adventuresome and wanted to, House Gwyr would send him well protected. House Gwyr is of course one of the six great houses--one of our six great houses, I should say--and the house that primarily grew our vollers historically. It is the house that focused the most heavily on psychokinetic abilities within the six houses, and on magic of elements."

"I take it there's some mystic significance to six?"

"Divine significance. No mystic significance that I know of."

"What is the divine significance?"

"When the Brothers were young, and the divide began, before the Kinslaying and the bloodletting, each of the Brothers chose six champions. After the bloodletting, from those champions came the six houses on either side. And never have we shot to increase the number either upon our hand or upon theirs."

"But of course that would be sacrilegious."

"Yes."

"And Quinliart just ended one of those lines."

"That is why the death of the heir of the House of Gwyr is such a blow."

"I cannot help but wonder if their next effort will be to end one of the Noldar lines."

"There was the death of the young Curinirim lord. He was the heir to that house, but I am not certain if he was the only one. I do not discount the possibility that he had already reduced the Noldar houses to five, and seeing the opportunity to also take the heir of one of the Eldar houses, could not help himself. And of course the inscription. Yes, it was boastful, but it was bound to be uncovered sooner or later."

"And under other circumstances, could have renewed the Kinslaying at the time when it might lead to the fall of the world."

"Indeed, that might almost be the purpose in and of itself had it happened before his perfidy was discovered."

<<That would be my thought,>> Kit sends to the others as Dame Brionna departs. <<What do you think would have happened if unsuspected conspirators in the court of Dame Brenda had convinced her to insist before the Council of Opposition that Zorplona-Argoni search for any signs of the boy? And then if they had been the ones to "accidentally" stumble upon the secret pad that led to the heir's body in Zorplona-Argoni? What do you think would have happened?>>

<<They might well have attacked Zorplona-Moriquendarim directly. And then the Argoni would respond in kind and then off to the races... That raises another concern about the traitors. If gray elves known to be associated with Dame Brenda were to, say, find and murder a Noldar youngling...>>

<<You mean like the Noldar lord you're fostering, your grace?>>

<<I got there a moment after I thought that, but yes.>>

Alistair heads over to explain to the Noldor lord personally why he's confined to the palace for the near future. They have a quick conversation about why he must stay in the palace, because of the risk of assassins (like the candy seller) and have his friends visit him. He understands immediately, in his child-like way, and agrees that he is the only high-born young Noldor outside the homelands. The next youngest in age beyond the homelands, though somewhat lower in status, is the Lord Proconsul Moriquendarim, and he is at least in full adulthood.

They also contact the Cities of Crystal to warn them about the gray elf traitors.

Finally, they think about something else Dame Brenda said:

“The temple of Glordiadel purged out a man well on the way to becoming a bishop, perhaps six months ago. Bishop Humbert would be the person to speak to about that. He uttered the word of entropy and escaped. There was recently a battle in the Underdark. My cousins have cadet houses down there—pretentious--and engaged in a battle to protect them.”

They decide to contact Archbishop Humbert about the fallen priest through the Archbishop. The Archbishop recognizes him as likely Peregrine Godric. "He became a priest from a humble beginning and rose rapidly. He fell into error and was removed shortly before he would have been elevated to one of the new dioceses. He'd been a priest in Enclaves, I believe. It was a considerable scandal. He was an excellent scholar, and had formidable powers. His word was said to be almost hypnotic."

"How long ago did he fall?"

"Less than a year, but certainly more than a few months. I'm aware of this primarily in conversations you may recall where we put Humbert and other people back in contact recently during the incident with your parents." The archbishop nods to Kit. "And he did send out a warning letter telling everyone that the priest was corrupt and had fallen into ultimate error, although he didn't exactly define that given the Ecumenical Council, and that if he appeared in any of our dioceses he was to be seized immediately by paladins of any of the most devout orders and held for questioning. That is an unusual instruction from Humbert."

"Unusual in that he would usually not be that aggressive?"

"Yes, Humbert gained his nickname 'the holy' for his extreme piety and humbleness before the light, not for sounding like a bishop militant and choosing someone for the question is about as out of character for him as I can imagine. It sounds almost Paranswarmian."

"We believe that as of a few months ago, the apostate may have been active in the underdark with various forces aligned with the enemy."

"Do you have any idea where he has gone?"

"No. We think he was not captured, but we're not certain."

"He's been described as being almost hypnotic. I cannot imagine that he's lost that gift of rhetoric."

"Almost hypnotic as in charismatic speaker or as in he had some other gifts that made it actually hypnotic?"

"People found it difficult to disagree with him..."

"So, we're thinking coercer," says Kit.

"How would he talk about the Light?"

"He talked about the Light like any other young enthusiastic priest, but something came up. I'm not privy to the exact details-- I'll send a missive to Humbert and see if he's willing to share the details, but something came up. The church did some form of an investigation and concluded he needed to be defrocked. And he got away. I cannot speak to whether or not it would be coercion. I don't know enough about those things."

"It really does sound coercive," says Alistair. "Does Enclaves check its people for psionics?"

"No," says Kit. "They don't because usually there aren't enough to make it worth testing and nobody knows what to look for anyway. That's how I got away."

"The Ministry of the Mind does here, although their record of identifying everyone who has in fact psionic is spotty. Lots of people go undetected especially if it was a more subtle gift like coercion. Most people would just think he was a charismatic preacher, unless they knew what to look for. And of course that could also be either that he had an untrained gift that manifested in that way, or that he was already working with, for example, the corrupted elves."

"Or that they saw his gift and recruited him because of it. Actually, for a young ambitious priest, being offered the way to a way to make your oratory more persuasive and convincing..." Kit trails off.

"That in and of itself could have been a key step in the tempting," continues Dame Brionna. "Especially for a low born priest. That can be a path to power and influence."

"Right, but that's why I'm wondering about the content of his sermons," says Alistair. "It doesn't sound like they were explicitly leading people theologically astray, in and of themselves."

"Oh, there's no excessive talk about purity, if that's what you mean," adds the Archbishop. "He talked a great deal about righteousness and the Light, and about self-sacrifice."

"That is not that unusual a topic."

"No. Wouldn't be consistent with falling into a Sytrian heresy, shall we say, but I'm not certain. I will contact Humbert and see what he's willing to share."

They discuss the need to systematically check the clergy and the nobility, as well as anyone with magical power, for corruption. They also make sure that they're contacting other major courts about the gray elves, but quietly--so that an inner circle will know to respond if they show up, but not tipping off the enemy that they know of them.
[End Session 138]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 139 (February 23, 2022)

29 Tar
In the morning, Alistair raises an idea for the Council. "We spoke yesterday about our fears that the enemy are targeting the young scions of both the Eldar and the Noldor. I had a thought about that. Perhaps we could use the young Noldor lord who is our vassal to entrap the gray elf traitors, or perhaps some other servitors of the enemy, if we created an image of him out and about in the city to lure them into attacking him when he is 'vulnerable,' while he actually stays safe in the palace."

Kit thinks for a moment. "Wouldn't gray elves be able to see through that sort of illusion?"

"If they interacted with it closely, certainly. But we might be able to lure them in close enough to check, and then mouse trap them. I thought this might be a task for the Sixth Daughter to supervise."

"Oh, she'd be most interested in that."

"Ideally, we would have the image surrounded by his actual companions."

"Yes, that way if they have intelligence about who he associates with, it would seem to confirm their intelligence that he's out and about in the city."

"We would need both his permission and that of his friends to endanger them in that sort of way," notes Dame Brionna.

"Of course."

"Wouldn't they be able to sense that the Noldor lord's mind wasn't present?" asks Kit. "Powerful psions, especially ones who are not yet fully trained, have unmistakeable psionic signatures."

"We could let it be leaked that he has a ring of mind shielding--which we do in fact have access to. That might work. If we are all agreed, I will go speak to him to ask his permission and advice on picking the right friends to ask."

Dame Brionna accompanies Alistair to meet with the Noldor lord. As Alistair approaches, the lord gives him the elaborate, almost gymnastic, Noldor greeting of obeisance. Alistair returns it with a respectful, but much more subdued, nod. "That whole greeting isn't really necessary, you know. We don't do that sort of thing here."

"No, my lord, but it is proper. You are the Emperor, and I should show my respect."

"Yes, but it's also proper for you to use the same sorts of signs of respect that any of my other vassals would use. I'm not criticizing, mind, I'm just saying that it would suffice to follow local custom."

"I will do as you request. You are the Emperor."

"I wanted to speak with you further about why we have asked you to remain within the palace for the time being, and also about possible action we might take connected to those reasons. As you know, the Eldritch have become much more active, and they have corrupted various highly placed people. They have sought to achieve greater problems. We believe that they were responsible for murdering the young prince of House Curinnirim, who, you may remember, was killed on his research schooner some time ago, as well as the Crown Prince of the House of Gwyr--one of your cousins' noble houses-- and thus we fear that they would view you as being an attractive target without the full protection of either a Noldor necropolis or an Eldar forest."

"I see," replies the Noldor lord.

"We believe that the wards of the palace--recently re-empowered and strengthened as they are-- to be sufficient to keep you safe within these walls. We can't be as confident that you would be safe elsewhere in our lands. And so, until this threat has passed, we think it wise to keep you within the palace."

"Thank you, my lord."

"There is an opportunity, however, that presents for us in taking the fight to the enemy, which is, that if we can mislead them into thinking that you are elsewhere and unprotected, they may commit substantial forces to try to capture or kill you, allowing us to then ambush those forces."

"I don't have much formal military training yet, but that seems reasonable."

"Now, we can't use you personally, because the risks to the overall cause would be too high were you to be injured or even killed. But we could use the appearance of your seeming to try to lure them in nonetheless. The most effective way to make that convincing would be for some of your actual friends, who are known to be your friends, to be involved with the ruse. This would put them at risk. There's no way of avoiding that. So we would, of course, not do that without both your permission and theirs. But we wondered if you thought that there might be some of your known friends and companions who might have the right mix of bravery, but not foolhardiness, and capabilities to take care of themselves, that might make them suitable to use in such an effort."

"I think they're all very brave, my lord, but I can't choose for them."

"No, of course not. I'm not asking you to do so. We would not ask for you to do so. What we were asking is if you might make suggestions of ones among them who it might make sense for us to ask, and do note that I mean ask, and not command." Alistair is privately unsure that one raised among the Noldor would understand that distinction, but he makes it nonetheless.

He gives a few names of friends he would suggest--Gregory, his closest friend, or perhaps Todd.

Dame Brionna says, "Thank you, and again, we do need to ask you to stay safe in the palace and take no part in this. It is not that we do not wish your assistance in this regard, but at this point, you do the cause of Light and of good far more help by remaining safe yourself."

"Thank you, Dame. I think I'll go pray in the chapel."

"A wise plan. We all have great deal of experience with needing to keep ourselves safeer than we would wish, and not being able to do as much actively as we would wish," adds Alistair. "I know it's hard that you can't go out and play with your friends or have adventures with this as they may. There will be a time when you will be one of the last of your people on Aphonion, and it will be your place to carry the banner for all that is good and right in the world against forces that are beyond humanity's capabilities. That time will come, but that's still some thousand or several thousand years in the future."

"Thank you, Lord." He bows to Alistair, although much more clumsily than with the complex Noldor salutation.

They then head back to the Council chamber and call in the Sixth Daughter, who is enthusiastic about the plan--almost disturbingly so.

Dame Brionna sends one of her guards to summon Gregory--one of the Noldor's friends that he recommended--to the palace. A short while later, the guard rushes back in and throws himself prostrate before the Council.

"My lord! The youth has been kidnapped, along with one of his friends. Those who were around him cannot seem to speak, and he's gone! His younger brother indicated that the ones who took him went into the air, upward into the air, and disappeared. He cannot speak well, and they can barely move. I'm having others carry them here, as we speak, my lord; I hope I did not exceed my rights."

"No, that's good and let's call for some healers and some redactors."

"And young Lord Brightspan," adds Dame Brionna.

"They're trying to bait him out," says Kit.

"But we may still be able to turn this to our advantage..." [The GM noted with amusement that our plan tied right into, and somewhat short-circuited, his plan for the evening's events.]

"With your permission, your grace, if you will deal with the people here, I could go to investigate the scene of the crime with some of my squads," says Dame Brionna.

"My concern is that that we know this is a trap. I suppose you can investigate the scene, but be careful."

Kit is meanwhile comforting the boys who were brought in, because they are young and traumatized by the event, crying about their friends who are missing. The most functional of the boys is Todd--an eleven year old who is crying about the fact that they took Gregory and Thaddeus.

"Yes, we need to rescue Gregory and Thaddeus. Do you understand that this was a trap to try to kill your friend?"

"Yes. They thought I was sleeping. Would they know when he's not in this building, like I know when he's not in this building?"

"You know when he's not in here?"

"I can't hear him when he's in here. When he's not here, I can hear him in my mind if I listen for him. I can hear what people are thinking if I concentrate, but not in here."

"Yes, there are powerful wards. By the way, did you have those abilities before you met the Prince?"

"Never!"

"Really? Are there people in your family who had strange hunches, or..."

"Oh, sure! But I never did, and he said I ought to be able to talk to him when we work together. And ever since I have."

"He activated your latent talent," says Kit. "Have you started receiving formal training yet?"

"Training?" he asks, obviously confused.

"Well, we're going to change that now because you you can be taught to do a lot of really really useful things, and serve your country."

"Can I be taught to rescue Gregory and Thaddeus?" asks Todd.

"That's exactly what we were going to begin discussing," replies Alistair. "They want your friend the Noldor Lord to go racing off with you and some of your companions trying to come to the rescue, so they can then try to capture him. We want to send out a group that will be perceived as including him. But it will not, so that when they try to grab that group, our hunting party can grab them, and hopefully also, by grabbing them, get access to actually rescue Gregory."

"That sounds good. I've got a knife."

"A knife, huh?" says Kit. She's shocked that the Noldor lord would have suggested an 11 year old, but from his perspective, they're all children, so he didn't distinguish between the teens in his coterie and the younger children. "I believe you that you are trained and I believe you that you are brave and want to do whatever you can to rescue your friend, and we're going to find a way for you to help. But you have to understand the people that took your friend are really powerful and so we need to give you some more help, so that you don't have to go face them by yourself."

The child nods.

Alistair continues, "I need you to understand this could go badly. There's no guarantee that this will be successful, and there's no guarantee that even if it is successful that everyone who participates will make it home. So you need to understand that you're taking a chance that you'd get killed or that you would return with your mind broken, so that you couldn't think properly or your body broken, so that you can never walk again. There is a place in the Heavens for those who fall in the cause of Good. But even I, as the Emperor, can't order you to do something like this, because the risks are too high. I can only ask you."

"I can't leave my friends with them."

"I just wanted to be clear about that."

"Thank you, your majesty..." he says, while remaining determined.

Kit uses the mindlink. << We are going to keep this kid far away from anything who can hurt him. He's just a child! We are not going to throw him out there for the for the gray elves to attack.>>

<<No, but but he may need to be part of something so that they can see him.>>

<<That's fine as long as he is far away from any danger.>>

Alistair says, "There's someone we'd like you to meet who will be leading the effort to make sure that that your friend and you make it back safely, and that the people who are trying to hurt your other friend are brought to justice. She can be a little intimidating, but she means well, or at least she is loyal to the Empire." He sends for the Sixth Daughter again.

Meanwhile, Dame Brionna travels to the scene of the kidnapping. She is no longer in the upper city, because the Noldor’s friends are drawn from all ranks of society. She’s in a reasonable working class area. The house is open, and there are guards present.

“Can you tell me what was reported to you?”

“At some time around the fourth hour of the morning, a malaise fell over the house. The goodwife awoke, but could not move. She is the only one who can speak. The children have now been carried off to the palace. They were in the common room of the house. They had drunk grog and played dice late into the night. A malaise fell, and they were stricken to the ground, though she was not. A group of figures entered, though she had difficulty describing them except that one of them was an elf. She touched the children on the forehead, and then took her son and one other.”

Dame Brionna heads in to speak to a woman who is weeping in the kitchen, and sometimes whacking a man who is standing with her, as if she blames him as well.

Dame Brionna greets her and says that she is here to investigate on behalf of the Archduke. She tells her that they believe that her son has been taken as a hostage because of his friend.

Dame Brionna asks if one of the investigators could take a mental impression.

“She is Coercively obdurate, which is why she could resist the Coercer. It must have been Coercion. But she must have been held unmoving by some other mechanism. I have the image of the elf, but it was in truth no elf as we would say it. He was a twilight elf. The malaise is not permanent, but is still having some residual effect until it passes because of how powerful the effect was.”

The investigators also find an elven rune freshly carved in the side of the table—it represents the eye. The mage in Dame Brionna’s group reports that it’s magical, and still active. Her psion does psychometry and tells her that it was slashed in by one of the boys, as if he had no control over his own limbs, but then enchanted by one of those who have gone over completely. He must be concentrating very hard—he’s having trouble holding that many of them with his Coercion.

The mother reports that in addition to the elf, there were 5 strange figures who were largely transparent.

When that’s reported, Alistair calls for Lord Silverleaves. “I bear word from the Queen. There are a total of at least 4 elven ships within the barrier. Only one of them is a powerful ship, but with them is a sloop, a schooner, and a war flitter. They appear to be from both races. There are not enough elves to man them, so they are likely stolen, and they will not fly well with human control. But while they are at anchor, they are a light squadron by elven standards. That would be capable of destroying a whole human battlegroup.

The Noldor lord’s friend Todd says that the other missing person is Thaddeus. Gregory is the Noldar lord’s best friend.

Suddenly, the cook drags in a sullen looking boy, who said that he was given three pence to deliver this message to that nice young man who likes my cookies.

“Esteemed young lord, you have forty-eight hours to come to a location that will be provided to you mentally. If you do not come within forty-eight hours, Gregory will be sacrificed to my lord and his soul lost to this plane.” It is signed with a Noldar ideograph.

Dame Brionna has the rune “discovered” and then destroyed. She has some scent hounds sniff around, and they follow the trail for about a block before sudden confusion. Asking around, they get reports of some men walking down the street and then flying directly up into the air, perhaps two-hundred or three-hundred feet. And then they vanished, though they could still be heard talking.

A psion checks their memory. “I think they fled in a voller—under an invisibility cloak.”

They make a plan: they’ll send the Noldor lord out wearing a ring of mind shielding. He’ll then remove the ring, some distance out from the palace, but still reasonably close, with the Sixth Daughter, Lord Davion, and Lord Silverleaves protecting him. Once he has the location, he’ll put his ring of mind shielding back on, and return to the palace. And then Lord Davion, the Sixth Daughter, and Lord Silverleaves will plot to ambush the people who want to ambush him.

They implement the plan: he takes the ring off, some discussion ensues mentally, he falls to his knees and begins crying, and then clumsily puts the ring back on and is brought back into the palace.

“They’re cutting Thaddeus! They showed me. They said that if I came to them, they’d let them go. They said that I’m the one they want.”
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 139, cont'd]
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Kit tries to reassure him. "We are going to get them back. We're going to heal any hurts that have been done, and this is not your fault."

"He said, if I came to them, he'd let them go. He said I was the one they wanted."

"They're lying," says Alistair. "If you come to them, then they will certainly kill your friends. That's why we're not letting you go there."

Kit adds, "We're going to keep you safe, and we are going to take care of this. What you just did was very, very brave. Good job."

"The brave thing was coming back when they told me to come and save them?"

"It's very, very hard to do your duty when your duty involves letting other people remain in danger," says Alistair. "Protecting yourself at the risk of others is much harder than doing your duty when that requires being brave about your own peril."

"I would cut the elf who sent me the message if I could. He's evil. He's a traitor."

"That is true, but that is also another reason for you to not be the one who performs the rescue. Sometimes we need to harm people for the evil they do. To make them suffer because of your anger at them is a path to evil. It leads away from what we try to do as as lords and as warriors. We sometimes need to harm people because it's necessary to protect our society, our people, the greater good. But there's a difference between ordering someone executed because of their crimes and of a need to send a signal and ordering someone tortured and killed because of the desire to exact vengeance upon them. One of those is the path to Glordiadel in the Heavens, albeit not an easy path, and one that may require us to seek forgiveness for the evils that we must do. And one of those is a path to Paranswarm in the Hells."

"If you say so..."

"The same can be said, of course, about the great gods that most of your people follow. That is not an area where I am as comfortable speaking of it."

"What I can tell you, young lord," says Dame Brionna, "is that in my desk drawer I keep a piece of parchment with two numbers on it. Currently those numbers are 31 and 15. The first number is the number of times I have helped prevent His Majesty from being assassinated. The second to the number of people I have personally killed. And I pray for guidance, and mercy, to the Lord of Light for both of those numbers. I play that I may continue to protect His Majesty, but also that the second number may not grow larger unless there is need--mostly in service to the first number."

"Thank you, Dame. I'm going to go back to the chapel."

"If I may, before you leave..." Alistair pauses to make sure that the Noldor youth will accept it, and then gives him a tight hug.

He bursts into a fresh set of tears, losing his composure altogether.

Kit takes over hugging him, and providing handkerchiefs.

"If you could see him to the chapel, he'll probably be able to pull himself together there."

Kit nods, and leads him away, ready to talk if he wants, and just to be quiet with him if he doesn't. He remains silent. He knows that he can't save them, and believes that the Council can. When they reach the chapel, she asks, "My lord, would you prefer to be alone? Would you like me to send Bishop Waters?"

"Yes, maybe a priest would be good?"

She nods, and quickly briefs Bishop Waters, who happily goes to minister to him.

Meanwhile, Alistair, Dame Brionna, and the Sixth Daughter are planning the response. Lord Silverleaves got the location from the young Noldor lord. It's odd--it's outside the city in a direction that they would have thought the Fae would have been aware of, but they haven't said anything so they appear not to be aware of it. It is in the same direction as the Tor, but not all the way to it.

Alistair decides to reach out to the Tor to see if they can cut off flight in that direction. "The Sixth Daughter should scout it and figure out a plan for a line of attack. And then we'll bring down the hammer with all of our heaviest hitters."

"Yes, lord. If I get to stick a dagger in one of them, I will be content," says the Sixth Daughter, with a gleam in her eye.

"I am sure you'll get the opportunity to get some. Can I ask, you won't have problems in a military operation with a Noldor lord and an Eldar lord, will you?"

"I know who the enemy is. My mother knows who the enemy is. Lolth will ride with me."

"Some drow would know that but still find themselves unable to avoid attacking their allies."

"Yes, I know." She makes a flippant motion with her hand. "They're not well trained. My men are."

"Understood," says Alistair. He also suspects that the Lolthian drow may have lost some of the blood fever, but he isn't about to point that out.

The Minister of the Mind reports that the children will be recovered after maybe 8 to 12 hours in skin. It is simply the aftereffect of Coercion, although the most powerful aftereffect he has ever seen. He also confirms that there must have been a mass hold effect if the Coercively obdurate person was unable to move, as Coercion would not have affected her at all. They assume that it was simply a second layer, as a precaution against the first failing, because there is no evidence that they perceived her trying to move. That suggests that they are operating effectively and taking precautions against possible failure points.

They also notify the childrens' parents that their children are safe but in the palace and that the young Noldor lord will be rescuing the lost ones shortly.

They consult with Lord Silverleaves on the best way to scout the enemy. "There might be a way with the Fae that they could send an animal and see through its eyes. That's not psionic as mine would be, and not magical; for if they have a mage of sufficient power to cast a mass hold, he will also be capable of detecting magic. But just sending a bird flying over..."

They reach out to the Tor lord.

"Your Majesty, when shall we see you for another... you're very serious at the moment."

"Yes, I am very serious. There will be time to frolic together soon enough, but for now we must talk of more serious things."

"Very well. Are you in danger now?"

"There is a trap that has been laid for the young Noldor lord, who is with us."

"Who would lay a trap for such a one?"

"A Twilight Elf, who is among those who have fallen to the greatest corruption."

"I see."

"Perhaps a Twilight Elf who is being advanced in some way, or having his powers augmented in some way, as he's demonstrated more Coercive capability than most Twilight Elves would be capable of. We believe that they are located in the area. We are planning a rescue operation, but we wondered if it might be possible for you to gather some intelligence through the eyes of an animal without using psionics, without using arcane magic or divine magic in the conventional sense, but using the natural magics of the world that you are more in tune with."

"Of course, Your Majesty. After all, we are bound to the land. You could do it as well, but you haven't the training."

"If I were interested, could you teach me?"

"Oh, aye, we could teach such things. They are simple, not the great spells of the land. You probably do not have the life span to learn those but the small spells, of course. In the meanwhile, I will link your vision to the animal that I send. Now you will be seeing through a bird's eyes, so therefore it is different than seeing with your own eyes."

"Perhaps a raptor would have the right visual perspective for what we need."

"Very well." The Tor lord speaks to the air for a couple of minutes, and then, all of a sudden, Alistair is soaring high about the earth in long lazy spirals looking down, and then the raptor starts to head in the direction he nudged.

Alistair remembers when this village was closed down back in his grandmother's reign. The spring ran dry, and it hasn't been used since. But in the midst of the old buildings, he sees that under a shed roof a stone altar has been built. He also sees an oddly shaped cloud that stays drifting directly above it, which the raptor seems to have no interest in entering, which he presumes is a concealed voller.

He also sees several figures moving around down there. No elf, but five of the translucent beings and a group of things that look like humanoid birds that walk on their rear legs and carry light weapons. A couple of them have leather, but otherwise the are unarmored.

One of them is presently bent over the altar on which you see young Thaddeus strapped down, and he is very slowly drawing a thin knife down in a long cut next to several others. Alistair notes that the iconography on the altar is that of the Blue Sun.

A priest approaches Dame Brionna and quietly murmurs that the Noldor lad calmed down in the chapel. His friends yelled at him not to come when they showed them to him, which was the only thing that let the Council persuade him to leave the matter to them. The Bishop plans to let him sleep in the chapel, which Dame Brionna approves, but asks that he be kept under supervision.

Alistair can see no signs of Gregory on the ground, however. The beating wings of the raptor momentarily part the cloud it is floating above, just enough, so that he can see the deck of a ship. It looks to be made of wood, implying that it is not an Eldar voller. However, there is another altar built on the foredeck, which has a couple of drow guards standing about looking somewhat uncomfortable, and a boy which he surmises is Gregory bound to the altar. He hasn't been cut, but there is an odd blue stone set right at his sternum. Then, of course, the mists of the cloud reclose over him.

"They're going to make him into one of the blue creatures presumably. Or rather, they're not but just because we're going to stop them."

Dame Brionna says, "Your Majesty. I am fully healed. Do I have your permission to go out there?"

"No, you do not."

"They're sacrificing children!"

"And that is why we're sending Lord Davion. You're not capable in the way that the leaders of this operation are, and you're too valuable to send as another simply super elite soldier."

"We do need to send a bunch of outstanding soldiers."

"Oh, we absolutely do. But, for example, those will be the Sixth Daughter's people, and those will be variety of paladins of Glordiadel that Lord Davion will select from among those he knows and trusts, and those will not be highly important imperial officials. And those will not be people whose primary duty is as a commander, not as a soldier."

The Sixth Daughter gently strokes one of Dame Brionna's armored arms. "Do not worry. I will get in a couple of blows for you."

"Please do."

"Heart blows or lung blows? Do you want them to suffer, or just stop?"

"I have no desire for them to suffer, but I do not wish them to be ever able to inflict any more evil upon the world."

"Then I will kill them cleanly with my sword."

Alistair says, "Let's get some information on those bird people and who they are, and what they can do before we send anybody against them. And also I want to clarify that the primary objectives are taking out the leadership of this and freeing the children. But if those can both be accomplished, then prisoners are also useful, for interrogation."

Lord Davion enters. "Your Majesty!"

"Yes, Lord Davion?"

"The honored Farsensor, Lord Silverleaves, said that this was the symbol the Twilight Elf who is working for the abominations sent?"

"Yes, it was the symbol with which the letter was signed."

"He should be dead. I thought he was dead. I thought... He's been dead for thousands of years. I remember my House killed him for betraying them. I do not know what else to tell you, but I thought you should know. I'll be more thorough killing him than my Father was."

"This is one of several occasions on which great Noldor lords specifically have thought definitively that they had killed servants of the Eldritch who then turned up alive. Princess Curinirim also thought she killed Quinliart's sister, then found that she had lived. I suspect there is something else we need to be looking for."

"Forgive my blindness, please your Majesty, what do you mean by something else?"

"We need to be looking for how they survived, and whether there was a deception."

"I attended this man's execution. I know we put him in the ground, and I know where we put it in the ground, in which niche in the Necropolis of the Screaming Skulls he was placed in dishonor! Upon my honor, I swear this!"

"Could it be something like a phylactery sort of process? Something like a lich?"

"It could be. I do not think my Lord Aufaugautharim considered the possibility that such a being could have a phylactery. I do not know much about such things, but one of the great alchemists might be able to reveal something more about it. Still, I think it unlikely."

"What about clones? Would it be possible for him to have been cloned after he died or would he have had to have been cloned while he was still alive? And then the clone would have had to have been restrained."

"Your Majesty. If they did that, then yes, of course. His death would have prevented a clone made after it, but not one while he still lived. But they would have had to have expected him to die."

"Or simply been willing to maintain creches of clones of many of their great servants."

"That is a possibility I do not wish to entertain. No matter how thorough I am, it means he could come back again."

"What of the Noldor traitor?"

"He is the traitor from among the Noldor."

"I had thought that that that one was was buried in a defined niche."

"I am forbidden to speak of this with any other race. But, Your Majesty, I've long not been in favor in the courts, so I will. I am hopeful to always to be in favor in this court. He was buried in the niches of the dishonored, beneath the Great Temple of the Spider in the City of the Screaming Skulls. Thousands of years ago I attended his funeral. I watched the crypt sealed.

"The two possibilities you raise are the only two, and, to be honest, I think a phylactery is extremely unlikely. I think it is more likely that you are correct, and there are clones. There's no other possible explanation. Resurrection would be impossible after those circumstances."

"Among humans, such a thing might be falsified. It might be an impostor. There are claimants to any number of thrones who claim that they are the child, actually deceased, of the former lord or what have you? Could not a Twilight Elf use another elf's sigil?"

"Use another's sigil, perhaps, but there are certain psionic signatures you might say that cannot be forged and that appear with the sigil. I know the signature of that Twilight Elf on that sigil, and this bore those same marks. It is him, of that I have no doubt."

"To our perspective, our enemies often seem deranged. Might that be a result of the clones, and likewise allow them to have clones more easily?"

"Yes. It wouldn't cause the mental disorder that any of us would experience with clones, but they would still need to restrain the clones, because otherwise otherwise they would seek him out, and one of them would die. Yes, yes, as long as they're restrained they can be kept well."

"My people are mortal, so among humans, the standard plan is that you would have the material for a clone collected and then not have the clone actually grown unless and until the original had already perished."

"That is the plan among your people, but your clones grow much faster than ours. It would not work for them, unless they were willing to lose the use of a minion for decades. But now consider Quinliart's sister-- her return was almost immediate. The clone was already grown."

"Possibly more than one. My lord, I hate to ask this, but what other notable deaths have there been who might have clones, and therefore come back?"

"Normally, when one of my people dies, their motive force--their spirit if you would-- passes to either the East or the West. Death is rare except by choice or by execution. Obviously, it is said that in his departure Lord Quinliart killed many of Moriquendarim's loyal servents. They were evidently not cloned. They stood against him when he was seen to be leaving the service of his house. However, there have not been more than a half dozen deaths within noble houses or their Twilight Elf servants in the past 1,000 years. Of course, the one I'm looking at is much older than that, and I cannot speak for those times, for I was young when I attended that funeral."

"It was the First Age, right?"

"Yes. I do not know if there were others. I know of only that one, that one."

"I don't mean to raise other problems or concerns, but we know that there was an impostor of me, that while not exactly a clone was more like me than a simple simulacrum or doppleganger, and we know that there have been other efforts to create other impostors, and some successful. I wonder with cases like the Prince of the House of Gwyr, who was ambushed and captured and then killed, whether they could have begun a clone before killing them, and then sought to corrupt it in a way that that breaking and turning the true one would not be feasible."

The look of horror that passes across his face is impressive, given his blood and his age. "If any would do such a thing, it would be them. That was recently enough for the clone to not yet be grown. But if they were doing such a thing-- he was so young, he was like the boy in the chapel now...",

"If they were to make a clone of one of the great elves, but who is say some couple of centuries old, one of the children. How long would a clone like that take to be ready?"

"Perhaps 20% of the span that they had enjoyed, so that at least we would still have decades."

"Yes, unless there were ones that had been kidnapped or killed a century ago."

Dame Brionna adds, "Such as when they began this plot. Any notable disappearances a century ago?"

"But now we're talking about great elves who disappeared century ago, anywhere in the world, or who were killed a century ago anywhere in the world."

"Disappearances, or sudden changes in personality or activity like reclusives."

"I must consult colleagues in Krashmere. I was not there, since many years ago. It is not impossible."

"We will need to inform Princess Curinirim about this, and we'll also need to inform the lords and ladies of the great Eldar holdings."

"You shall do that. I shall go kill him again." He taps the paper again.

"Please do. And then we'll find whatever clone creches they may have, and wipe out the remainder in one fell blow."

"If I were them, I would not have them anywhere near their islands, because that would make them too susceptible to be caught in a regular attack. They are certainly not in Krashmere."

"Would collections of great elf clones generate magical or psionic effects on the areas once they began to near completion?"

"Yes, and we must presume they have at least one clone of each of them. Almost surely a clone of Quinliart as well as the others."

"That means that we can then look for an effect that they might be having and try to find them that way."

They pause and think for a bit. "Lord Davion, do you know what these bird people might be? They are not aarakocra, I would recognize those."

"Yes, those would be Rappa. Small groups have them occasionally come through the Valley of the Unknown."

"Oh, yes, I've heard of them."

"They are some of the most vicious mercenaries that come through, but they're nowhere near as good fighters as the Chulik. They're not usually evil as such, unless they converted to follow a foul god. Are they simply warriors or are their priests among them?"

"There are priests among them."

"But that's one of the reasons they might convert. Their priests suddenly found themselves embarrassed when they reached here."

"Is that because their gods are not in this planar neighborhood?"

"Yeah, unlike the Chuliks who basically don't care whether there's a god or not, and have no priests, the Rappa actually care."

"No exceptional arcane or psionic power?"

"None that I know of."

"Then they are almost certainly intended as as part of the bait, not as soldiers. The thought is that the young Noldor lord would come in to try to rescue his friend, would see them, would attack, and would wipe them out without much difficulty, because even for a young great elf perhaps accompanied by some soldiers, they would be no match. And then, while he's doing that, the drow and the Twilight Elf attack from above."

"That would make sense. He is as powerful as any of his age but he is untrained and inexperienced in the ways of warcraft."

Alistair suddenly says, "I think I know in very broad brush strokes where the clone creche might be. If I were they, I would have set it up on the Southern Continents, completely undetectable to most humans, and an area where we know that they have a foothold."

The rest of the Council immediately reacts in surprise at the idea of the Southern Continents existing at all, and Alistair quickly explains once again, not that it will help.

"But yes, I was thinking that if they hid the clones there, that would be a way of concealing it very effectively, because even people who are aware of it seem to be unnaturally uninterested in it, which also means we need to send a sending to the ship that we sent down there with an investigation team to help deal with them to specify that they should be looking for this in particular or for weird psionic effects that might indicate the location of the creche."

[End Session 139]
 

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