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RESPEN'S GAMBIT

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Nelvandra’s Revelation

Nelvandra’s reaction is not quite what Respen expected. Instead of uncontrolled rage, Nel’s reaction is one of tempered disdain, and frustration. Even Laramon is surprised at how measured and calculated Nel’s response is.

Nelvandra says, “Wow, my sister is even more insidious than I gave her credit for. I can see now, quite clearly, that her conditioning was based on my natural disposition; she took my natural tendencies, and heightened them, extended them, re-directed their focus. And in so doing, her manipulation was significantly more effective. Conditioning tends to fail when it attempts to convince someone to act against their nature. Clare worked within the boundaries of my personality, making only slight adjustments. Bravo, sis. Well-played; well-played, indeed.”

Nel explains, “I have always wanted to bear children, and to make House Delzeen a great house again, like it was in centuries past. Clare’s conditioning played upon that desire; she implanted the mental “seed” that her plan was sound, and would result in the achievement of that goal. Thus, she took my desire, and re-directed it; instead of attainment of the goal under my own power, she made it seem as if I should support her instead. Ironically, I already idolized her, and was already planning to enlist her aid in that endeavor.”

A tear comes to Nel’s eye, but she proudly wipes it away, and continues: “I have also always prided myself on my ability to seduce any man I chance to meet. But until now, they had all been dalliances, going no further than kissing, licking, and heavy petting. I had never found a male who didn’t bore me to tears. I guess Clare felt that such ability needed a purpose, a direction; therefore, she re-directed that skill to her own devices, twisting my pride into taking satisfaction not in the seduction itself, but in the fact that the seduction was pleasing to her. In this way, she could choose my mate for me, and I would gladly comply, because doing so would please her. I suppose she felt that my dalliances were a sign of my inability to commit myself to a mate; you see, although the Drow have a very open attitude toward sensuality, that attitude changes once the Heart Mate has been chosen. Drow Females can sew their wild oats indefinitely, with the expectation that promiscuity ENDS COMPLETELY once it is time to see to the formation of one’s family. I think Clare supposed that I might not ever commit to a single mate, given that I had been single almost 30 years longer than the average Drow female. Ironically, I had decided not long ago, only 6 months or so before Ky came to live with us, that I would step up my efforts to find a suitable husband.”

Nelvandra says, "I'm not angry with you, my dear. I know you feel guilty, and ashamed of what you did. And in terms of surface world ethics, you are indeed correct to feel that way. But Drow Society is different; and so are its associated ethics.

The Drow are not as sexually repressed as you surface dwellers; as I just said, the Drow are very open when it comes to sensuality; we exchange sexual favors the way that your kind might exchange pleasantries about the weather. If you pass a friend on the street, you might inquire as to how they're doing, or what kind of day they're having. And you think nothing of this, for it is normal. In Shalistaurimon, as I chance to meet a female friend, I might ask that her brother follow me to my bedchamber for an hour or two. And no one bats an eye, because in Drow society, THAT sort of thing is normal.

Drow females hold all of the political, social, and religious power in Shalistaurimon. So we're used to having the instant gratification of our desires. We are beings of power, but we are also sensual beings. Whereas surface females seek out love, we DEMAND it. Whereas surface females dream of a strong knight on horseback to come and whisk them away, Drow females dream of attractive, weak-willed, and misguided males, who are desperately in need of discipline, from a strong, unswerving, female hand.

I have heard that surface women of surpassing beauty are often placed upon pedestals, metaphorically speaking; in Drow Society, the pedestal is not metaphorical, and the males not only serve us without question, but they also WORSHIP US; they lick our boots shiny clean, and THANK US for the opportunity to do so!

I am not angry with Clare for coercing you into my bed; I might have done the same to you, anyway. And besides that, what’s done is done; I have chosen you, and you are mine now, and it will be a cold day on the Ninth Layer of Hell before I let you go. I’m not in the habit of sharing my favorite toys. And you, my sweet, are definitely one of my favorites. Even without the conditioning, I find your magical skills, your naivete, and your bold recklessness quite appealing; I cannot wait for your blood to mingle with mine at the bloodletting ceremony. You are going to make an excellent husband.

What I AM angry about is that Clare didn't trust me, her own sister, to make the right decisions for our house. As I said, I have always wanted to bear children, and I have always wanted those children to be powerful rulers. But Clare believed that I was too weak to see those ambitions through to fruition. So she took command, and robbed me of my power. She made me her slave. And among The Drow, THAT is a crime of the highest order. Among the Drow, the highest two sacraments are Motherhood and Sisterhood. Nothing is more sacred to us than these two things. And that is Clare’s offense, the crime of a sister betraying a sister.

The only reason that I am not in the middle of plotting her gruesome and slow demise at this very moment is because of one, important factor: she was not acting for herself. She was acting for the house.

As much as it pains me to say it, Clare's plan is brilliant, and will make House Delzeen the supreme power of Shalistaurimon, for all time, for she values family above all, and I truly believe the she shall make us all immortal. If we were merely pawns to her, she would not have gone to such great lengths in her planning; if I were nothing to her, then any old male would have served her purpose to become my husband. And for that matter, she would have dominated me directly, rather than using the soft, indirect conditioning of a Bard.


Besides that, we must remember that as her progeny, the ruling power will still reside in her hand, since we will all be bound to her by the power of the Vampiric Blood; but I know Clare, better than anyone. She has no interest in absolutism. She is not a tyrant. She is a delagator. As her Dark Children, we will all share in the responsibility of rulership, each of us, over a different aspect. And all Drow knees shall bow to our House, and all Drow eyes will look to us for leadership.

Clare is a planner, a thinker. She has a plan for all of us; and she most certainly has a goal in mind for House Delzeen. The ability to plan and prepare is her greatest strength; her weakness is that she is slow to trust. She will wait, until everything else is in place, before she turns us loose to our own devices. But she will do it. And because of that, my anger is already starting to cool. Although it may be a century or two before I truly, and completely, forgive her."
 
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Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Laramon's Analysis

Respen said:
“Nel, do you recall our conversation about her being a vampire? That’s not some legend, or bedtime children’s tale. It is the truth. She is powerful."

Respen said:
"...I am her apprentice. The Orb of Errinder secures it."

Laramon is quiet for a moment, before saying: "If she is indeed a Vampire, and she is in control of The Orb of Errinder, then there is hope. The Orb is an agent of Law. Those who are capable of awakening its powers, and commanding it, must also be law-abiding, and supremely disciplined. Those whose worldviews are connected to Chaos dare not touch it. Sinister though she may be, if she has ethics, and abides by some sort of code, and is possessed of self-discipline, then she is unlike the majority of her kind; most Vampires are sadistic, cruel, and maniacal, driven by a lust for blood. If Clare is an ethical being, then that must mean that she has mastered the blood lust, and is able to exercise some measure of self-control. That makes me inclined to agree with you, child, about your sister's probable intentions. Law-abiding beings, even evil ones, seldom betray their own families. Families represent order, and stability. These things are important to ethical beings."

Respen said:
"...I won’t justify her means, but I can assure you, she cares more for your life, your success, and your happiness, than she does about your opinion of her."

Laramon nods in agreement, "You are wise, my son. I agree with your assessment of Dame Clare's intentions."

Respen said:
"...Therefore, I will not engage with you, no matter how pleasurable it is, as long as it is even mildly coerced."

Nelvandra said:
"...I have chosen you, and you are mine now, and it will be a cold day on the Ninth Layer of Hell before I let you go."

Laramon chuckles, "I think you're off the hook in this regard, my son. Nelvandra here seems QUITE willing, and I can assure you, her mind and her will are now completely her own."

Nelvandra said:
"...What I AM angry about is that Clare didn't trust me, her own sister, to make the right decisions for our house [...] Among the Drow, the highest two sacraments are Motherhood and Sisterhood. Nothing is more sacred to us than these two things. And that is Clare’s offense, the crime of a sister betraying a sister."

Laramon nods in agreement, "It is truly a pity that she could not find it within herself to trust you, my child. I sense that you are not only strong of will, but loyal, and firm of purpose. Such qualities are rare in this world, especially among your kind, no offense. I have dealt with The Drow many times in the past, and I have never seen one who proved as fascinating to me as much as you have, my child. If I may be so bold, Respen here is a good sort. He is less than ethical, and driven by curiosity and self-edification, but underneath his selfishness, beats a heart that is loyal, honest, and well-intentioned. You and he should remain here, on the surface, away from your sister's influence. It would be best for both of you, but especially for you, my child, in your delicate condition."

Nelvandra looks at Laramon quizzically, "Delicate? Are you saying that I am with child? How do you know this?"

Laramon nods, saying, "I can read your aura as plainly as a tavern sign. Your true nature, your desires, your emotions, are an open book to me. The magicks I employ allow me to see the aura of everyone I encounter, and you, my child, have three; your own aura, and the two smaller auras of your newly-formed, unborn children, a male, and a female. Their auras are bright, because of their innocence, and therefore, quite easy to notice, especially in comparison to your aura, which glows with an array of darker colors, including crimson, midnight blue, and purple. The purple, by the way, is very interesting. It has only begun to manifest just now, in the few minutes following your mental restoration. I suspect that you may be developing some sort of magical ability, as the result of your mind's reformation. But I won't know exactly what that ability might be, unless you allow me to study you, through the use of magic."

Nelvandra turns to Respen and exclaims, "Twins!" She wraps her arms around Respen's neck, and kisses him long, and deeply.

Laramon chuckles amiably at Nelvandra's happy display. "Fascinating. I had no idea that The Drow were capable of such blatant displays of sentimentality."

GM:
ROLEPLAYING NOTE: Respen and Nelvandra's children will be born sometime in Goodmonth, of CY 964.


As the happy news is being delivered, Respen receives a mental contact from Dame Clare: ~Respen, my dear, where are you? I have need of you, my apprentice! Serindak has run into a spot of trouble! I need you to assist him! ... Why can't I discern your location? Are you in an area protected from scrying? Is Nel still with you? Answer me at once! I command this as your rightful Mistress! Obey your oath to me, and answer me now!~

RESPEN: What do you do?
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
The Mistress Is Calling!

Respen accepts Nel’s affections with gusto, not flinching in the least about children. His countenance changes with Dame Clare’s communication.

He kisses Nel quickly, then releases her, announcing to Laramon & Nel:

“I am summoned.” He moves to Gus with Nel in tow, looking into the pup’s eyes while placing her hand atop his head. “Protect her.”

To Dame Clare, mentally, speaking the words simultaneously so that Nel and Laramon can hear what he is sending to her:

GM: This isn’t a party line, or a group text. Communication through the telepathic bond is between sender and recipient only.


~Your Grace, we are fine. A moment while we...um...collect ourselves. Kissing her is intoxicating. I have collected the quarry and completed the task. A moment or two.~

He turns to Laramon and again asks for help. “I need you to protect her here, I need another couple of book return scrolls, and I need a succor disk to bring me back here. And then I need you to open your mirror back to Margull’s.”

He kisses Nel again. “...And you, my soon-to-be-betrothed, I need you to calm your sister before she panics. She needs me, but I am fairly sure if you stay here, she’s going to need some assurance you are okay. It’s your choice to stay or go back. However, frankly, I think you would be a capable replacement apprentice in my place for Laramon.”

He looks at his master hopefully. “It’s something I’m okay with, and it’s something that I know Dame Clare would accept, because we have discussed the possibility; and thats something that I can explain later.”

His brow furrows, “I need to go. I sense concern in her voice.”

Nel balks at Respen’s plan. “Protect me? How is a half-starved puppy going to protect me? I am NOT staying here! And for your information, we ARE betrothed; you should have said soon-to-be-married.”

Laramon balks also. “Tell Clare the truth; she’ll figure it out anyway. I know her reputation as an information gatherer; do not give her a reason to be upset with you. What is your quarry? What did she send you to obtain?”

Nel nods in agreement with Laramon, “Yes, my dear, your friend is right, tell my sister the truth, and give her what she wants.”

Respen retorts to Laramon, in a frustrated tone, “She wants Margull’s memoirs on the True Vampires!”

Laramon laughs heartily at the irony of Respen’s statement. “Then you should give them to her,” he snickers. “For all the good it will do her; the information in those books is vague, and unsubstantiated. I ought to know, I’m Margull’s editor and proofreader. I also took the precaution, long ago, of making copies of those books. So give her what she wants, no strings. But wait a moment, allow me to write a note to her, and include that note with what you deliver to her.”

Laramon quickly rushes to his desk, pulls out a blank scroll, and begins putting ink to parchment. It takes him several minutes to write, and when he is done, he seals the scroll with wax, imprinting it with his personal signet ring. As he is doing this, Nel responds mentally to Clare, speaking her words simultaneously, so that Laramon and Respen can hear what is sent:

Nel sends: ~Oh, sister of mine, you and I need to have a long talk, but not today. I'm safe, and comfortable, and I want to stay on the surface for awhile. And I want Respen to stay, too. Whatever task you have set for him, relieve him of it, so that he and I can have some time together. He found the books, papers, and map that you wanted. We are arranging to send them to you as I speak. We are in the inner sanctum of Respen's mentor, Laramon, and he is helping us with the actual logistics. And by the way, I'm pregnant with twins! You're officially an aunt now!~

Laramon claps his hands very softly at Nel's speech, signifying his approval. He then hands the document to Respen, smiling as he does so.

Laramon assures Respen, "I simply told her that she and I need to talk, in private."

Respen: You now have Laramon's scroll in hand, and the other books as well, and both Laramon and Nel are watching you expectantly. What do you do?
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
GM: Posted on behalf of Respen, as per his request via email.


~ Let’s hope she is agreeable. ~

Mentally, Respen contacts Dame Clare again, continuing to speak the words as well so that Laramon & Nel can hear,

~Your Grace, how urgent is Serindak’s plight? I’d like to assemble my comrades. Anything that has Serindak in trouble would likely require more than me alone.~

Respen continues, ~I have the materials. And a message from Laramon, my mentor by proxy, on behalf of Delbin Arcanus. I would like you to trust me, and allow a Mirror of Mental Prowess to transport the books to you. I believe that will require you to allow it, correct? You would need to key your location to Laramon’s mirror, yes?~

Respen stops speaking the words for the remainder of his communication, ~Your Grace, your plan has succeeded. You shall be an Aunt, and the House of Delzeen will have two worthy heirs. At this time, I want my wife-to-be to remain here, with me. And I do not know yet if Laramon is agreeable to it, but I thought that perhaps he would agree to instruct Nel in the deeper magical arts. She is safe here, and she will not be bored, or become stir-crazy. I think it’s a reasonable proposal.~

Respen pulls the book sack from his portable hole and attempts to dismiss the Laramon’s Book Return Spell, cursing to himself in Elvish when he realizes that the spell cannot be undone. He then retrieves his personal effects and currency that he had previously left at Laramon's, and places all of it in the portable hole.

GM: Laramon’s Book Return is not a dismissable spell.


Turning to Laramon, Respen asks, “Master, would you mind terribly taking care of Gus? He has been stuck in Margull’s tower with little food, and almost no water. Vega is nowhere to be found, and Margull is gone as well. For that matter, no guards are posted outside the door, as they were before we left for Skorane. As soon as this is resolved, I’ll share recent events, or you can read my mind if it’s faster. And I need to find the rest of my mates.”
 
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Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Respen said:
~Your Grace, how urgent is Serindak’s plight? I’d like to assemble my comrades. Anything that has Serindak in trouble would likely require more than me alone.~

Dame Clare replies, ~I believe that his predicament is quite serious; I cannot sense him through the blood link, and there are only three possible explanations for that: he is either in a warded, unscryable location, on another plane of existence, or he is dead. If any of these are the case, then what I need from you is not a rescue, but rather, the assumption and completion of his assigned task. Serindak is powerful, and if he still lives, he will find a way back to me. But no matter if he is alive or dead, it’s now up to you to finish what he started. If one as powerful as he has encountered trouble, then you would be wise, indeed, to enlist the aid of your friends. You have my blessing to go find them; get your mentor, Laramon, to help you. He should be able to Gate you directly to them. When you are ready to proceed on Serindak’s errand, contact me through the Orb Link; I will then arrange for your travel.~

Respen said:
~I have the materials. And a message from Laramon, my mentor by proxy…~

Dame Clare: ~Excellent. I look forward to reading it.~

Respen said:
~I would like you to trust me, and allow a Mirror of Mental Prowess to transport the books to you. I believe that will require you to allow it, correct? You would need to key your location to Laramon’s mirror, yes?~

Dame Clare: ~On your word of honor, my dear apprentice, I shall allow it. I shall send one of my servants through the portal to collect the items. Beg Laramon’s pardon for me, at my inability to come through the portal in person.~

Respen said:
~...At this time, I want my wife-to-be to remain here, with me. And I do not know yet if Laramon is agreeable to it, but I thought that perhaps he would agree to instruct Nel in the deeper magical arts. She is safe here, and she will not be bored, or become stir-crazy. I think it’s a reasonable proposal.~

Dame Clare: ~That’s not unreasonable at all; Nelvandra is quite welcome to stay as long as she likes; in fact, I encourage it, because the current political climate in Shalistaurimon is perilous for the likes of her, especially if she were known to be with-child. But when she is 4 or more months along, I want your solemn promise that she will not be allowed out-of-doors. Past 4 months of gestation, she will be quite vulnerable, and will need to be carefully guarded and cared for. Agreed?~

Respen: ~Agreed. Her well-being is of paramount importance to me.~

Respen said:
“Master, would you mind terribly taking care of Gus? He has been stuck in Margull’s tower with little food, and almost no water. Vega is nowhere to be found, and Margull is gone as well. For that matter, no guards are posted outside the door, as they were before we left for Skorane. As soon as this is resolved, I’ll share recent events, or you can read my mind if it’s faster. And I need to find the rest of my mates.”

Laramon mods, “I’d be more than happy to take care of the dog. I have several animals of my own, and three master grooms in my employ to care for them. I shall simply add Gus to the roster. As for the guards, the answer is quite simple. I enchanted Margull’s study to be completely sound-proof; the guards are accustomed to Margull going long periods without emerging from the room. They are under orders to remain on guard outside only so long as they are not needed elsewhere. My guess is that they were called away.”

Respen explains to Laramon what Clare agreed to, and surprisingly, Laramon is very casual in his acceptance. He explains that by keying Clare’s study to his mirror, he can open a portal to Clare’s library, but Clare cannot open a portal to his. After a few moments, a male Svirfneblin steps through the portal that Laramon has opened. He is old, even for a Gnome, but he is still nimble and quick; he is dressed in fine, purple, silk clothes, and possessed of impeccably polite manners. He gathers the four books, multiple pages of notes, the map, and the note from Laramon, and bows gracefully as he steps back through the portal to Clare’s library.

As the portal closes, Laramon claps his hands mockingly. “Bravo! Bravo! What a splendid performance! My boy, your new Mistress is one of a kind. I would not have DARED such a deception, had I been in her place. Dame Clare is truly a creature of extreme audacity.”

Nelvandra chuckles, as she catches on, “That Gnome was really my sister?”

Laramon nods disapprovingly, although he wears the faintest hint of a smile.

Laramon: “Now that she’s seen my library, I guess we’re even. It’s warded against teleportation, but an Arch Magus such as her will circumvent those wards, given enough time. I suppose I should expect an unannounced visit from her, at some point. I see that the mental links that you and Nelvandra carry are permanent, my boy. When you have a chance, tell her something for me: point out that her deception was immediately detected, and that I consider such behavior quite rude. Further rudeness will be met with stringent measures. I am a man of patience, and even of tolerance, but I will not be taken advantage of.”

Laramon then proceeds to use his mirror to scry the location of the party; in under a minute, because he is so familiar with the party members, Laramon is able to bring up the image of the overlook campsite in the mirror’s surface. He tells Respen that it would be wise to contact the party via a Sending and let them know that he is coming. Respen agrees, and sends the following message to Sylvar:

Respen: “Hello, good buddy. I’ve got quite a story to tell you. Don’t move, Laramon is opening a portal with his mirror. Bringing friend with me.”

Laramon: “Be careful, my boy. I won’t be leaving this portal open. When you and your fiance step through, you will be taking a one-way trip. The place where they’re camping looks rough, wild, and harsh. It’s the sort of terrain in which one tends to find Trolls and other Giant-kin.Tread cautiously.”

Respen nods, the warning staying with him, as he and Nelvandra step through the portal…

GM: CONTINUED IN MAIN THREAD!
 
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