Aphonion Tales: The Archducal Council -- Unedited notes (posts MWF, most recent 9/21/22)

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 127, cont'd]
<<Counselors. I know what this thing is, and I fear my companions do not. It is concerning. It is perfectly safe—they killed it, which is to their credit.>>

<<If you have information we should know, please come to the Council immediately.>>

Grandmaster Farsensor arrives quickly, having apparently run the whole distance. “That is a servitor, a Chengoth the Insatiable, of the Eighth Order of the One Beside, who is also known as the One who is Never Pleased. It is a slightly higher ranking demon in their hierarchy. They never stop consuming what they can reach, and they are more powerful and harder to summon than seen-unseen. They are expensive to summon, with spears of gold and mithril carved with special runes, and with substantial sacrifices. They may be what are being summoned with the sacrifices of human peasantry. The altars would be what would be used to bind them. The Chengoth must be bound, because they will otherwise consume everything they can reach because they cannot be satiated. They are perhaps the intelligence of a smart boar. Their only scroll of bringing forth the Unthinkable listed this creature as one that should not be invoked except in desperate circumstances.”

“The other question is why they wanted to send them into the arctic sea.”

“Their original plan was to bring in one of the Three, or at least their greater servants. They have been stymied thus far. But these are tied to the One Beside, who is established here as Arthranax. But the cultists of the Goddess of the Pale Bone and One Other might want to summon something tied to him to pursue their goals—it might be easier. The right hand of the One Beside was brought through as the Blue Star. The general of his forces was called Narkanoah. He was the equivalent, perhaps, of the lord of a demonic plane on the Abyss. He controlled at the time of the first war a robust army of insect-demons, though some of those have surely been consumed by the Three. But to summon him would be very difficult. There should be an expedition into the arctic; probably a voller, probably an elven or Noldar voller. It is strange that they did not send them by vollers, though perhaps they cannot. And if the expedition sees black-shelled creatures in any number, it should flee immediately if it is not a Noldar or Eldar voller.”

“Can we learn more from the body?”

“A greater archmagus, of either of the great elven people, could learn more than I can. I am not particularly strong in magic.” He reaches out to the Queen of Singing Leaves and says her envoy will arrive in about two days.

Dame Brionna walks over to talk to the “archon of Glordiadel,” which is a strange title because “archons” are usually only created by Eiru, whereas Glordiadel and other good gods create angels.

“I am one of the forty who were given over to Glordiadel after he emerged and the Founding Powers decided that he was not going to go away; at first, they thought Glordiadel was a dream who would fade. Firstly, we are very fortunate for the Compact among the Gods. I think someone underestimated us; it carries plague, and the sacrifice of those who died of plague would let in its masters. But the Compact of the Gods prevents plague, and that would even hold power against the Abominator himself. This is good. What is not good…” It shifts the body with a stick. “You see that design on its belt? That is the eight interlocking squares. I have not seen that since the first war. It weakens the walls between this place and theirs. One of the reasons Glordiadel sent me was that he also recognized it. I can constrain it, but I cannot destroy it because I am not mortal. You could break that symbol, though you should ask me any questions before you do so, because I will depart when it is destroyed. After it is destroyed, none should touch the dust from the sigil on the belt; it would consume any who touched it. It will destroy the weapon when it shatters. It must be either magical, of the third circle of power, or laen. When it shatters, it will lose the ability to weaken the walls. And he--” points at the Chengoth “—will be irrevocably and utterly destroyed, not just on this plane but on all planes.”

Dame Brionna asks about the stolen hosts of angels, and the archon says that he will try to convert them. "He" meaning “the former Noldar lord, who is no longer truly a Noldar. He has done something I did not know was still possible, but he will need powerful servants if his ploy fails. I do not know why he thinks his ploy can succeed.”

The Archon blesses the two imperial babies. They stop fidgeting and look at him. Then as Kit walks near, he blesses her as well, with golden sparkles of light descending on each of them.

“Do you know what that former Noldar’s ploy is?”

“I know what his original ploy was, 103 years ago. Do you know why he turned originally?”

“That his defeat by the Cities of Crystal changed him, though not how.”

“The one who was soul woven with him, as only elves can, died in the assault. He had been wrongly led to believe that the Cities were weak enough that he could seize their wealth. The Hand, an elven assassin who had turned long ago, then turned him after he went mad because of his beloved’s death. He then started offering sacrifices, in an effort to gain enough power to gain revenge on the Cities of Crystal and to recover his beloved’s body and to restore him to life. Impossible, but he was misled again. Three years ago, his sacrifices were noticed by an auditor in Krashmere and he was removed. What they did not know was that one of the Three was here—even we did not know, and if Lord Eiru or Morgroth knew, they did not tell anyone. And I think they did not, because he has now captured the Lord of the Cities of Pain. Their intent appears to have been to get enough sacrifices in Hanal to allow them through. His intent is different—to reach enough power, knowing that bringing them all through is beyond them, to bring through major forces, focusing on the One Beside’s creatures, which he can then transfer to his own plane once he finishes capturing it from Sytry. It is probably not possible to expel the One Beside. Fortunately, he is alone here, and he does not have the power alone that the three of them do. He wants to bring through enough of his servitors to control most of this plane. The other two want what they always wanted—they want that the one known as Quinliart would be able to bring them through and weaken the gates. Their greatest hope failed when they were defeated in the Spice Lands. There are 36 orders of creatures that serve them. They have preserved enough for an invasion, though that failed when the Seachen did not turn on the legions of the Spice Lands.”

Alistair tells the Archon about the consumption of Berta and asks if the Archon can understand that in the way that Glordiadel and his gods to understand.

“The gods find that hard to understand. Their principal servants, however understand. The consumption of Berta gives him a great advantage—three entire hierarchies, the corrupted temple of Sytry, the entire cult of Arthranax, and the remnants of the followers of Berta, who he has been careful to not reveal the truth to. The gods will understand eventually.”

The Archon believes that Sytry will flee before he is consumed, and then Arthranax would have to settle for being a greater god, not consuming all the gods. If Arthranax can be driven out of Sytry’s realm, then Sytry could remain, and he would descend to being merely a demon lord—which would be a great improvement. If he holds Sytry’s plane—he will take control of Sytry’s entire portfolio, and even when Sytry escaped, he would become like a greater god.

“They will run out of sacrifices in the capital soon. They have 300 blood-driven within the walls. Will they then open the energy walls and let them out? I suppose they will. The blood-driven are not vampires, though they are undead blood drinkers. They are far more violent, but they drink blood. As they age, they grow in both intelligence and power. A one-year old blood drinker is too stupid to move out of the fire without being told to, and would have the skill of a master human warrior [about level 15]. They continue growing in power and intelligence until the tenth year. Then they are sucked back into their principal with all they have gathered. But a tenth year is fearsome—many spells, strength at least as great as a stone giant, ability to cancel magic, immunity to lightning and cold, resistant to fire, only able to be damaged by laen weapons, able to drain hundreds in a day. The oldest currently are three years old. They are generally too stupid at that age to continue breaking into a place that has barred them out, but they do not need to be invited in. They can be killed by a clean decapitation, but staking them does not kill them. They took out the Moriquendarim embassy, although the ambassador and his immediate retinue escaped just before the walls fell.”

[End Session 127]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 128 (April 28, 2021)

6 Ke-Ras
Alistair passes judgment on the Twilight Elf prisoners. The Twilight Elves are led into an audience chamber and positioned before a table. On the table, their swords lie, without scabbards, tips facing towards them and hilts towards the throne, dead flowers surrounding them.

A herald announces, “His Majesty Alistair I, by the Grace of Glordiadel, King of the South Kingdoms, Emperor of Southern Drucien, Archduke of Canberry, Protector of the Light, and so forth.”

Alistair enters, accompanied by Lord Davion, both dressed severely, and sits on the throne. The Twilight Elves immediately kneel on both knees with their eyes cast downward. Through the audience, they never even glance at either Alistair or Lord Davion.

“You stand convicted by your own admission of enslaving subjects of the South Kingdoms. Her Majesty Empress Caitlyn, Queen of the South Kingdoms and my honored wife, has asked that I pass judgment on you in her place, lest her wrath lead to an unfortunate outcome.

“Ordinarily, the only possible sentence for your crimes would be death, with the only question being the manner. However, four things weigh for clemency. First and foremost, our Champion, Lord Davion Aufaulgautharim, has asked for mercy on your behalf. Second, you were obeying the orders of your lawful lord, and while that cannot excuse your crimes, it does mitigate them slightly. Third, when commanded to by the Lord of your House, you stopped fighting, and we are well aware of House Moriquendarim’s contributions to our mutual goals. And finally, Her Majesty has recently been delivered of our first-born children, and that is a traditional occasion of celebration and mercy. Before I pass sentence, I must ask you how many people you personally and through the troops under your command enslaved. You may need to estimate.”

The Twilight Elves quietly and morosely give an estimate.

“Very well. In light of all these factors, we are willing to commute your death sentence and accept your parole provided that you swear by Morgroth, by his Brother, by the Prince of the Cities of Pain, and by the honor of House Moriquendarim to abide by these terms.

“First, you shall forfeit all that you have in your possession except a plain, nonmagical weapon for your defense, the clothes you wear, and such petty money as Lord Davion may give you with which to buy food.

“Second, you shall walk on foot from here to the City of Enclaves, harming none except that you may use the minimum of force necessary to defend yourself from unprovoked attacks.

“Third, that once you have left the Empire of Southern Drucien, you will never reenter its lands without the express permission of the Emperor or Empress nor bear weapons, spell, or ill will against it or its people.“Fourth, that neither you nor any of your descendants shall ever engage in slavery in any form or purport to own any other humans, elves, or other people.

“Fifth, that you will forswear the Argoni and align yourselves and your descendants with the parts of your House that seek to shepherd the younger peoples of the world to a better future.

“Sixth, that you shall offer your services, for appropriate pay, to the Lord of the Enclave of Zorplona-Moriquendarim, as a gesture of respect and good will from the Empire.

“Seventh, that you shall pay a weregild recompense for each and every person whose enslavement you were responsible for, in the amount of twice the average sale price of enslaved persons per person, to be paid to the representatives of the Empress in Enclaves to be distributed to the families of those you harmed if they can be identified and used for the rebuilding of the South Kingdoms if they cannot. This debt shall increase according to standard interest until it is fully repaid. We further provide that you may decrease the amount of the debt for each enslaved person you directly free by sword, magic, or guile, provided that you shall not purchase any enslaved persons nor otherwise encourage and support the vile slave trade.

“If you accept all of these terms, then as an act of grace and through Lord Davion’s intervention, we will commute your sentence and accept your parole. If you do not, you will be put to death cleanly as a mercy as Lord Davion requested.”

Alistair waits to hear their answer and receive their oaths, which they give without hesitation, and then he departs.

* * *
The Ministry of the Mind generates a psionic connection with the Emperor of the North.

They perceive a marble floor with a strange animal skin rug. He is seated directly on the rug. There’s a Glordiadelian probably bishop, but in very plain robes for a bishop, waiting on him, as well as a woman in an elaborate ermine headdress.

Pleasantries.

They discuss the possibility that they can turn some of the cities of the North from client states of Hanal to them during this crisis.

Hanal has powerful ships that look like walnut shells and have energy rods that project a line of disruption or corruption. The Empire of the North has sunk a few, but at great cost. One returned from the ice, heavily laden, but they don’t know with what. Also, they have sent hunters out onto the ice, but none have returned with news. They tell him this is of Arthranax, and that his bishop can give him more information.

A flame heart has landed in their lands, and they have been unable to destroy it though they killed the body. The heart is off-limits now. The creature with the heart survived its ship being sunk, and then walked along the sea floor to shore, and headed directly towards the cathedral of Glordiadel.

They discuss the problems with the Order of the Ram. The Empire of the North has a special order of church knights to hunt them; Canberry asks for an exchange of knowledge. Canberry also suggest establishing an Order of the Stag, which the Emperor of the North is enthusiastic about.

They advise him to secure some orichalcum jewelry and to wear it at all times.

He asks about fostering his second oldest brother (10 years old, bardicly inclined) and a sister (8 years old, with “inappropriate sense of adventure” and a sword), and Alistair agrees that they would be happy to.

They also talk about trade and opening better trade.

Alistair gives him some advice about ruling, and asks if Alistair can consult him about any further issues that arise, then offhandedly extending the same courtesy to him.

The psion is all but collapsing, and Alistair suddenly realizes that he hasn’t made the primary point of the call. He very quickly explains about the interlocking squares symbol, how to destroy it, and what steps to take afterwards. Then the psion falls unconscious and the connection breaks.

* * *
(The infants are doing wonderfully.)

Alistair hunts a stag, then goes to a celebratory, surely raucous and slightly scandalous Order of the Stag party to celebrate his children’s birth.

He then tells the grandmaster to work with the Empire of the North to establish the Order of the Stag there, and to coordinate with the Mouth to make sure they use that order to gain some intelligence (“the Antlers”).
[cont'd]
 

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