Tales of Wyre

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In Trempa

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 05-31-2002

The town of Trempa, three miles from the castle-cum-palace where the Duchess lived, was a small, walled settlement of great age with quaint chapels and narrow cobbled streets. Its five thousand inhabitants were, for the most part, law-abiding and sedate. They paid their taxes, observed their duties, attended mass, and behaved in a generally responsible fashion.

It therefore came as a surprise to most of them that their well-regarded and philanthropic feudal mistress, Soraine, nineteenth Duchess of Trempa, had overnight become public enemy number two – the top position being taken of one of her bannermen, the Baronet of Deorham. The townsfolk – led by the influential Clockmakers’ Guild – had a succession of meetings in order to determine the best course of action. The Duchess had made it clear that no-one who felt that her actions had been wrong was obligated to stay – she would recompense them for their property, and guarantee their safe passage from Trempa.

The Duchess, in her address to the Curia, had been careful to emphasise her abiding loyalty to the crown. Her secession, she maintained, was not a political or territorial act, but a religious one. She was, and would remain, a loyal vassal of the King. She deeply regretted the current situation, but could no longer identify with the label ‘Orthodox’ as long as the current Curia remained in control.

Assuming the styles of "Post-Dogmatist" and "Transaxiomatic Oronthonian," the first thing that the Duchess did upon her return to her fief was to disestablish the Church and eliminate the Temple’s tax-gathering perquisites. She would not confiscate any wealth or property currently held by the Temple, but, henceforth, all donations were to be made on a strictly voluntary basis. Not only were the disproportionate levies exacted upon the Uedii worshippers – around a third of her subjects – to be abolished, but the Oronthonians were also to be exempted if they so chose.
Most of the Goddess devotees lived in the most marginal rural areas, and were delighted at the turn of events.
Her richest subjects, urban Oronthonians, also found that they had ten percent more money than previously. Suddenly, heresy didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Besides, "Transaxiomatic" had a good ring to it.

The Duchess dismissed the aging chaplain Trilgar from her service, and sent him back to Morne with a comfortable pension. Trempa was too small to boast a Bishop, but its Abbot and his staff were politely given the opportunity to join the fledgeling sect. Most decided to leave.
Of the twenty Templars stationed there, nine, after speaking with Tahl, elected to stay.

All were Paladins.

Tahl was enjoined to assume the leadership of the Fane at Trempa, a responsibility which he grudgingly accepted on a temporary basis. One of his first duties, he decided, was to ride to the Abbey of Osfrith – where Nehael had briefly stayed – in order to speak with the Abbess. He felt that he owed her an explanation.
To his astonishment, Tahl discovered that both the Abbess and the nuns were almost completely ignorant of events in the outside world. In a private audience with the Reverend Mother, the former Deputy Inquisitor tried to give as impartial an account as possible of what had transpired, leaving out mention of his personal revelations.
The Abbess sighed. "I suppose that I should tell the sisters, although I try not to worry them needlessly. But with winter approaching, and no funds reaching us from Trempa, it will be difficult."
"I will ensure that you receive adequate monies from the Fane’s coffers," Tahl offered.
"That’s sweet of you dear," the Abbess said, "but you are a heretic now – no offense intended. It would look terribly bad."
"But you accept private donations?" Tahl asked.
"Of course," the Abbess replied.
Tahl removed a gold ring bearing a large ruby from his finger, and placed it on the table.
"There you go," he said. "That should keep you going for a year or two. Don’t worry – it doesn’t belong to the Church."
The Abbess smiled and picked up the ring. "It does now," she said.

On the ride back to Trempa, Tahl brooded. This was only the beginning. Things were going to get much more complicated.



Ortwin Alone - Part 2


The corridor at the base of the tower was narrow and claustrophobic, and Ortwin gained the impression that it hadn’t been used for some time. Whatever method of entry and egress that Troap and his servitors employed to and from the castle, this wasn’t it.
Ortwin’s mind raced with possibilities as he cautiously moved forwards, and he was in a state of high alert. Were Troap’s defenses primarily magical or mechanical? It occurred to the Bard that his perceptions might be fooled at any time – Idro had indicated that Troap was an enchanter and illusionist of no mean ability.
Where had the remaining Ogre Mage disappeared to? Was Troap already alerted to his presence? It seemed likely. Ortwin perceived no magical scrutiny, but he was aware that his own faculties for detecting such observation were limited.
If Mostin were here, this would be over in five minutes, he considered.

He reached the end of the corridor – a small, circular, iron-bound door which bore no handle or lock. A meticulous inspection of the surrounding area revealed no visible mechanism by which it could be opened.
This is ridiculous, the Bard thought. To be foiled by so simple an obstacle.
He suddenly realized his overdependence on his friends’ magic.
After due consideration, Ortwin decided that brute force was the only way past the door, and he slashed at it violently. His magic scimitar bit easily through the metal bars and wood.
It also made a huge amount of noise. By the time that the door gave in, Ortwin felt like a rank novice.

Beyond the ruined door, there was nothing but a small alcove, empty except for another lever, set in an ‘up’ position.
Hmm, the Bard thought. He increasingly disliked this place.
Ortwin looped his rope around the lever, and followed his footsteps back along the corridor, paying out the cord behind him. He exited the tower, stood in the sun to the side of the entranceway, and yanked.
There was a grinding noise, and the stone doorway to the tower promptly closed.
Although thankful that he was on the right side of the door, Ortwin cursed. He flew back up to the roof of the castle to see that the levers there had reset themselves. After repeating the entire process, and retrieving his rope, the Bard found himself in exactly the same dilemma that he faced an hour before.
How exactly did one get into the castle?

Ortwin mused for a while, and decided that the obvious thing to do was to quiz one of Troap’s servants. He lamented the fact that he’d been so ready to kill the Ogres, and wished he’d spared one for questioning. He’d forgotten his most basic lessons, and become complacent and lazy.
And too dependant on magic, he thought again.
The Bard wondered how thick the walls were, and whether sound would penetrate into the interior of the castle. Perhaps some taunts were in order.

So Ortwin flew down to the base of the wall, alighted, and began to walk around the circumference of the castle, looking up and singing. His ditties ranged from subtle satirical jibes at goblins, to vulgar insults directed at Troap, which suggested that the Wizard had Elven blood, and that his pox-covered face ensured that he would never mate with the pigs that he was so attracted to.

On his third circumambulation, whilst passing the north wall of the keep, Ortwin noticed a purple pellet streaking towards him. He quickly ducked aside as a ball of violet fire exploded on the ground next to him, singing his hair but causing no great discomfort.
The Bard looked up to see a small block of stone slide back into place and merge seamlessly with one of the larger sections of the wall.
Ha! He thought, and flew towards the source of the attack at top speed. He struck it with his scimitar as hard as he could, holding the weapon in both hands. A stone brick two feet square cracked slightly, its outline against the larger block revealed. He slashed at it repeatedly, and it slowly began to crumble.

There was a click, more gears moving, a grinding sound below him, and Ortwin glanced down to see a wide section of the wall had opened up. The largest Wyvern that Ortwin had ever seen burst out and took to the air.
Ortwin headed straight towards it. As it lumbered through the air in attempt to orient itself, Ortwin darted past it and into the chamber from which it had issued, even as the section of wall was closing behind it. Its sting, six feet long at least, flicked out and missed the Bard by inches.

Ortwin tumbled in, pulled himself erect, and inspected the chamber – illuminated by his glowing sword. It was heaped with rotting carcasses, offal and faeces, and the Bard suppressed the urge to vomit. Aside from the false wall, there was also an iron door with a barred window. Ortwin dashed over and looked through. Beyond, was a torchlit corridor.
Yes! He thought.
He reached through the bars, groped down and felt for the lock. It felt pretty standard.
The section of the outer wall was opening again, and as he pulled a pick from his belt, Ortwin could hear the thunder of wings approaching from outside. With his right hand frantically and blindly working the lock, the Bard held his scimitar in his left as the huge maw of the Wyvern appeared and lurched towards him, rank and foul. Due to his cloak, it mistook his position and snapped around empty space.
The lock clicked, and Ortwin yanked the handle, rolling through to the opposite side of the corridor. The Wyvern’s tail lashed through the doorway, and struck the wall, knocking a torch from its sconce. The Bard quickly moved out of the way.

Regaining his composure, Ortwin grinned cockily before he was struck full force by an empowered ‘Lightning Bolt’ which made his teeth shudder.
Fifty feet along the corridor, six goblins stood, weaving in and out of each other.
Ortwin sighed. "Not that old chestnut," he said, leaping forwards. He struck one of the images and it promptly disappeared.
PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPON a voice boomed in the Bard’s mind.
Ngahh! Ortwin shook off the attempted spell. "Not bloody likely," he said.

Five ‘Magic Missiles’ appeared instantly from the interweaving illusion and pummeled Ortwin. Undaunted, he struck out again three times. Two more images vanished, but now the remainder all seemed to be bleeding from a cut on their respective left arms.

The Balor Ainhorr appeared behind Ortwin, filling the corridor with flame and darkness. The Demon brought its terrible Will to bear upon the Bard.

Gods, thought Ortwin, that has to be an illusion. But Ainhorr remained, and blood ran from the Bard’s temples and he trembled, before the vision disappeared.
"GET OUT OF MY MIND!" He screamed, lashing out at the cluster of goblins in front of him. Two more figments evaporated under his attack. Now only two remained. Each held up a glass prism.

Motes of light appeared in the air around Ortwin, flashing in brilliant hues and patterns.
Mmm, pretty colours, the Bard thought.
They started to move back down the corridor towards the door through which he’d come.
Mmm, they’re so pretty. I must follow them.
Ortwin shambled off, and then vaguely remembered that there was a Wyvern on the other side of the door.
Ngahh! He shook off the spell.
As Ortwin turned back to face Troap and his illusory twin, another ‘Lightning Bolt’ crackled towards him. This time he ducked in time, and it fizzled past his head.
Ortwin hurled his scimitar and charged down the corridor in pursuit of it. It whistled ahead of him, striking the remaining illusory goblin and causing it to vanish. As the Bard closed on Troap – the real Troap, he thought – the Wizard waved his hand at Ortwin, grinned, and disappeared with a ‘pop.’

Ortwin caught Githla, and seethed.
 

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Cheiromancer

Explorer
Ortwin Charmed

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 06-02-2002

**

Mostin’s chambers at Trempa became cluttered and untidy – a situation which the Alienist, pedantic in the extreme in his desire for cleanliness and organization – found increasingly irritating.

At his request, the Duchess permitted Mostin to erect his portable manse in a seldom visited corner of her pheasant forest, alerting her gamekeepers to the presence of the Alienist and warning them to stay away from him. This situation proved to be to the liking of both the Aristocrat and the Wizard – Mostin could work in relative seclusion, and the Duchess did not have to tolerate his eerie and discomfiting presence at court. Several cartloads of items – oddments accumulated by the Alienist during his stay – were transported along a narrow track into the woods by nervous but well-paid teamsters.

Mostin had engaged the services of a number of the best craftsmen in Trempa to provide him with alembics, crucibles, lenses, strange clockwork devices and a host of other more mysterious items constructed to his specifications. He confined himself to research in his library, and, in time, was all but forgotten by the court. The much anticipated retribution which Mostin feared Feezuu would exact, diminished from a threat upon which he continually brooded, into an ever-present knot in his stomach, and finally subsided. Nonetheless, the Alienist spent much of his time within warded areas, and always had a quickened ‘Dimension Door’ on hand in case things went awry. Sometimes it paid to be paranoid.


Nwm returned to Eadric’s castle of Kyrtill’s Burgh at Deorham, and gently persuaded the Inquisitorial deputy and his staff who had taken up residence there to depart – not a difficult task, as the company were preparing to return to Morne in any case. Nwm’s presence did, however, spare the keep from the Inquisition’s wrath – they had been instructed to burn the castle of the Heretic prior to their departure. The Druid reassembled the former staff, reinstated them at the keep, and recompensed them and their families for their troubles. Nwm then ‘Awakened’ two oak trees of enormous age and girth, and instructed them to guard the keep.

Next, the Druid completed a number of much-needed repairs upon the place. Over six days, and with the judicious use of several ‘Walls of Stone,’ the Druid repaired the curtain wall and underpinned the foundations of The Steeple. Using ‘Transmute Rock to Mud’ and its reverse in carefully selected places, and with the aid of his animated trees, Nwm made the keep unassailable from three directions, and reached by only a narrow bridge of sculpted stone from the fourth. Multiple applications of ‘Stone Shape’ and ‘Wood Shape’ finished most of the detail work on the keep, including a new gate, wooden hoardings on the battlements and a number of much-needed new doors.
Finally, Nwm engaged the services of a team of twenty industrious Rock Gnomes to complete any minor repairs that he might have overlooked. By the time that they had finished, Kyrtill’s Burgh looked as though it had been built yesterday.
Nwm sighed. He missed the ivy. A few spells saw to that.


News from Morne still reached Trempa on a regular basis, and although some tension existed between the more zealous and partisan adherents of Orthodoxy and the Duchess’s nominally heretical subjects, things for the most part proceeded as normal. The movement of people from Tempa to Morne in order to distance themselves from association with the Duchess, was more than matched by an influx of new people eager to enjoy the new tax breaks which life in Trempa offered. Mobile members of the middle classes with no particular religious affiliation looked towards the liberal regime as an enlightened model of rulership, and within the town new faces opened new businesses and injected fresh vigour into a flagging economy.

The Temple was not impressed.

They sent a number of envoys, demanding the reinstatement of their tax benefits, to confer with the Duchess. She entertained them grandly, saw to their every need, and then sent them back to Morne with the answer "No." Veiled threats were issued, but the Duchess was still unmoved.

After her anathematization was officially ratified, the Curia found itself in the difficult position of having banned itself from further discourse with Trempa – consorting with heretics was, after all, a heretical act in itself. No more envoys were dispatched – something which the Duchess regretted. As long as the lines of communication had remained open, the Temple was not pursuing a military solution to the problem. Now, however, it had backed itself into a corner. Whatever liberal elements remained within the Curia, it seemed that their voices had been lost or drowned out.

Until the Marquis of Iald seceded.

The news did not entirely surprise anyone, although its timing did. Iald, the "One Devout Layman" who was represented on the Curia – renowned for his holiness and piety – had voted against the initial impeachment of Eadric. He had failed to appear at the motion which was passed criticizing Cynric, as his carriage-driver had mysteriously disappeared on the journey from Iald to Morne, only to be found in a roadside inn enjoying a selection of expensive wines.

Iald’s snub to the Curia arrived during the inauguration of Lord Rede of Dramore – the Grand Master of the Temple – as the interim protector of the Orthodox Church in the absence of an Archbishop. Motions had been pushed through, supported by Melion, Hethio and a number of others, to allow Rede executive powers, allowing the Temple to act independently of Curial sanction. There were historical precedents for this, although they had not been invoked for several centuries.

Iald, of course, had voted against the motion but, apparently in the interests of unity, had attended the inaugural ceremony in any case. Although a layman, as a member of the Curia he was afforded a conspicuous position during the inauguration, and looked splendid in his white velvet and ermine robes. In an act which was quickly afterwards attributed to an outburst of madness, Iald grabbed the ceremonial greatsword from the altar and attacked Rede with it. Iald was an old man, and was easily divested of the weapon by the Temple Guards. He was escorted forthwith from the premises to confinement whilst he yelled:

"Rintrah commanded me to do this."

The Marquis never reached his cell, however, as his henchmen intercepted his escort, rendered them unconscious, and sped the aging nobleman back to his fief. Apparently his outburst had been better planned than was initially assumed.

Upon his return to Iald, the Marquis promptly denounced the Curia and declared his support for the Duchess of Trempa.

**

Ortwin had been hacked at, frozen, blown up, blasted with lightning, and had ruptured blood vessels in his scalp shaking off the ‘Phantasmal Killer’ invoked by Troap. He patched himself up as best he could with his remaining curative magic, and proceeded into the Goblin’s castle. The Bard considered that Troap was now, in all likelihood, depleted of his major spells, and this cheered him somewhat. He wondered what the staff that Idro had requested was capable of, however.

Ortwin inspected the corridor where Troap had ambushed him. It was well-illuminated by torches, and besides the iron portal which led into the wyvern’s den, boasted several other doors. The Bard carefully searched for other hidden mechanical devices as he progressed systematically, from chamber to chamber. A storeroom, an armory, a pantry in which the freezing temperature ensured the freshness of meats, a room full of broken and disused alchemical equipment. The final door, at the end of the corridor upon the left, was graced by a ‘Magic Mouth’ which spoke to Ortwin as he carefully checked it for booby-traps.

CONGRATULATIONS ON SUCCESSFULLY PENETRATING THE OUTER DEFENSE, it intoned. IF YOU’RE PHYSICALLY CAPABLE, IT’S RECOMMENDED THAT YOU NOW RETREAT, BEFORE YOU DIE PAINFULLY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Quite civil, really, Ortwin thought as he picked the lock. The well-oiled door opened noiselessly, to reveal a short corridor with seamless walls, which terminated in single, square, doorway which was open, and led to a space beyond. Sitting on a cushion, in clear view, was Troap. The Wizard waved in an annoying fashion.

Ortwin ducked back behind the doorway, and considered his options for a moment. This was obviously a trap, but how best to proceed? The bard rummaged at his belt, found a vial, opened it and drank the contents. He quickly became invisible.

Commanding his boots into flight, Ortwin charged through the door at top speed, only to be stopped by an invisible barrier which he struck with considerable momentum. Troap smiled, muttered something from a scroll, and walked calmly over to where the invisible Ortwin hovered. His purple robes and neatly trimmed beard looked somehow out of place on a Goblin. The Bard backed off, but found that his exit from the short corridor had been neatly sealed by another ‘Wall of Force.’
"Before I decide how best to deal with you," Troap said calmly, "perhaps you could enlighten me as to your presence here. What do you want? Who told you of this place? What, exactly, have I done to you that warrants this burglary and the murder of my servants?"

"I have come seeking the fabulous Talisman of Sill," Ortwin lied quickly. "I was told that the Goblin Necromancer Troap, and his wicked giants dwelt here and perpetrated all kinds of vile acts on the surrounding countryside. The Cleric Godfrith, a holy man, told me to rescue the Talisman and put an end to this tyranny – I assume you are Troap, although I have yet to witness any of your necromancy."

Troap considered for a while. "You are either an accomplished liar or very naïve," he said. "I have little time for either. For your information, I am neither vile nor a necromancer. I possess no such talisman, as you may or may not already know. I have never heard of this Godfrith, and, if he exists – which I am sceptical of – I am afraid you have been misinformed. My whereabouts are unknown to most, and I have my suspicions as to who may have sent you here. Have you, perchance, heard of the mage called Idro?"
"The name is unfamiliar," Ortwin lied.
"Hmm," Troap grunted, and waddled out of sight for a moment.
He returned bearing a long staff, more than twice his height.

Sh*t, Ortwin thought. Whatever he plans to do with that, its going to be bad for me.

The Bard pulled his Iron Horn from his belt, and winded it. The Bard became visible again. On the other side of the wall, the outlines of two large, hairy men appeared, bearing swords.

Troap struck the end of his staff upon the ground, and spoke a single word.

Ortwin, who had been prepared to command the shadowy barbarians into battle with Troap, suddenly and inexplicably had a change of heart. Troap was a nice little fellow, after all. He had such a pleasant smile, and Ortwin wondered why he had threatened his friend, old Troap, in such a mean way.

"Be nice to Troap," he instructed the summoned warriors. "Get him a cushion or something."

One of the grizzled barbarians raised an eyebrow, and complied.
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Nwm Loses His Temper

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 06-03-2002

Another alignment crisis looms. Ah, the poor players...


**


Eadric’s assertion that the Temple would not prosecute a military expedition into Trempa before spring proved to be only partially correct.

The first snows already lightly dusted the ground, and the air was chill, when a group of sixty knights and men-at-arms – led by the Templar Brey of Methelhar – entered the bounds of the Duchy, passing along the main road from Trempa to Morne.

They bypassed Deorham which, although guarded by only a small retinue, had been rendered invulnerable by Nwm to anything less than a protracted siege or magical assault. Brey’s entourage lacked both the numbers and expertise to initiate either – they were more of a posse than an army – but they bore a collection of impressive seals and warrants which, they hoped, would cow the townsfolk of Trempa and give the Duchess pause for thought.

The first indication that something was awry was not revealed by magical scrutiny, but by frantic guards who had comprised the border watch at the gatehouse of Hartha Keep – two small towers which guarded a bridge over the River Nund, which marked the borders of the Duchy of Trempa – bearing news back to the Duchess. Brey had dismounted from his destrier and, invoking some divine strength, had grown to a prodigious size and physically ripped the postern gate from its hinges, causing the small border garrison to flee in terror.

Fearing that the wrath of Oronthon had been loosed upon them, the guardsmen consoled themselves in a variety of ways. Some rode hard for Trempa, some fled to be with their families in case they needed to evacuate their steadings, some earnestly prayed in the closest chapels, and some headed for nearby inns in order to forget the disquieting scene that they had just witnessed. At Brey’s command, the lightly armed outriders who supported his knights did not pursue the levies – he preferred to have rumours circulate which would instill a righteous fear into the seething hotbed of heretics and apostates which, in his mind at least, comprised Trempa.

When the exhausted messengers reached the castle of the Duchess, having ridden hard all night, they bore news of Brey’s passage into Trempa. The Aristocrat immediately summoned her council, as well as Nwm, Tahl, Mostin and Nehael. Mostin’s response to the crisis was not well received.

"I can do nothing," the Alienist insisted calmly.
The Duchess was livid. "What do you mean?"
"This has passed into the realm of politics. I am forbidden."
She looked perplexed.
"The Great Injunction applies," Mostin explained regretfully. "I may be one of the most potent spellcasters in the world, but I will not risk the wrath of the Council.*"
"Bah!" The Duchess exclaimed. "I suppose this means that you will not use your power at all in the coming months?"
"Not necessarily," Mostin replied, "but I must be able to reasonably cite self-defense. I may also use auxiliary magics and act in an advisory capacity."
She was flabbergasted. "No blasting?"
"Believe me," Mostin said, sadly, "no-one regrets it more than I."

"We must formulate a plan quickly," Nwm mused. "Who is this Brey?"
"One of Rede’s deputies," Tahl replied. "He is dangerous. The messengers indicate that he is already sending the message of ‘Righteous Wrath’ across the countryside. Retribution is his specialty."
"We should engage him in full public view," Nwm said. "He must not win the propaganda war. If Eadric were here, a debate of Oratory might be possible."
Tahl shook his head. "It is neither necessary nor desirable to debate with heretics," he said.
"But he cannot storm the castle," Nwm said. "What is his purpose?"
"Fear," said Tahl.


Brey sounded his horns outside of the castle. The drawbridge had been raised and the walls thronged with onlookers – guards, knights, courtiers, handmaidens and servants. Nwm stood discreetly to one side of the Duchess, able to watch the proceedings but inconspicuous.

Brey unrolled a long scroll, and his voice carried clearly and forcefully up to those upon the battlements. The announcement was received with horror.


"To Soraine, Duchess of Trempa; Eadric of Deorham and Tahl, formerly of the Inquisition, and to those heretics and blasphemers who have been seduced by their lies; from Rede, Grand Master of the Temple, acting for the Curia of the One True Orthodox Church, a warning.

"Let it be known that in their infallible wisdom, the Curia have passed motions roundly condemning the actions taken by the heretofore mentioned heretics, as well as their followers, servants and subjects. In their merciful and enlightened bounty, the Curia have decreed that they are willing to extend their leniency to those, both great and small, who forthwith depart from Trempa and its adjoining lands, and seek immediate confession and penance with representatives of the True Faith in Morne. If the ringleaders in this affair submit themselves to ecclesiastical law, they will be dealt with in Oronthon’s justice and the misguided masses will be spared."

Mostin made an arcane gesture, and a noise like a loud fart issued across the field. Several people on the walls tittered. Brey fumed before continuing.

"If the Duchess Soraine, Eadric of Deorham and Tahl fail to surrender themselves, those who remain, by their actions will have placed themselves irrevocably beyond the salvation of the Church. As unrepentant apostates, heretics, idolaters and blasphemers, and by the sanction of Royal Decree…"

At this point, Brey held up an impressive sheet of vellum bearing the King’s seal before continuing.

"…I am authorized to inform you that the entire adult population of Trempa will be condemned to burn.** The sentence takes effect one week from today. At that point, the borders will be closed and access to Trempa will be sealed until the righteous fury of the Temple descends upon it, and the rule of law is reestablished."

Even Mostin was staggered. Nwm was furious.
"What of the Uedii worshippers?" The Druid asked. "They are not part of this."
Brey smiled. "The pagan element within Trempa has long been a source of concern to the Temple," he said. "Like lapsed Oronthonians, they may atone and convert. Their catechesis into the True Faith will be warmly received."
"Is this true across Wyre?" Nwm was incredulous.
"It soon will be," replied Brey.
"Then f*ck you!" Shouted the Druid.

And Nwm unleashed a Fire Storm.

Those few who survived the initial fury of the Druid were consumed in further pillars of green flame which rose from the ground to meet them. All, with the exception of Brey, were immolated. Nwm spared the great Templar.

"Give him a horse," Nwm barked at Tatterbrand, who stood nearby. Brey’s own steed had perished in the flames. Eadric’s squire quickly complied.

"You may return to Morne," Nwm’s voice cut like a whip. "Inform the Curia that I will not tolerate this."

Shaking, Brey mounted and fled. Nwm turned and left, and people moved quickly out of his way. The Druid felt sick. He had drawn the first blood in the war that he had longed to avoid.




*Some explanation may be required. The Great Injunction is a time-honoured convention which is defied by mages at their peril. Excepting acts of self-defense, a Wizard may not use his power for political or temporal ends, particularly on the battlefield during war. This prevents the escalation of magical warfare, and the casual employment of wizards to fling ‘fireballs’ around upon the battlefield. The Great Injunction is a magical détente which transcends all considerations of race, gender, power and alignment. It is inviolable. "Grey Areas" – for example, if Mostin were to scry on behalf of the Duchess – certainly exist, but Mages must be cautious lest they push the limits too far.

The "Council" which Mostin refers to, is nothing more (or less) than the sum total of all of the Wizards in Wyre and its dependencies. In fact, no formal body of mages exists.

The Great Injunction is based upon "Murgen’s Edict" – a similar idea appearing in certain novels by Jack Vance.


**Note that there is a real-world precedent for this: during the Renaissance, the entire population of Holland was sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition. The Historical Inquisition were far less lenient than the Oronthonians are.
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Loose Ends

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 06-04-2002

**


The Duchess was not happy.
"What the hell did you think you were doing?" She asked Nwm. "This does NOT aid our cause – especially as I now suspect that those knights you just butchered will be regarded as martyrs to the cause. A peaceable solution now seems impossible."
Nwm spoke coldly. "When I require your advice on how best to protect my religion, I will ask for it. For what it’s worth, I think that the likelihood of a peaceful solution decreased sharply when the Curia sentenced everyone in Trempa to death."
"But a slim chance is better than no chance," she retorted.
Unexpectedly, Tahl came to Nwm’s defense. "They will not parley with us – we are anathema. Nwm’s actions sadden me – there were knights among that group who I knew to be just and honourable. But they made their choice when they closed their eyes and ears to the corruption in the Temple. Many more hard choices lie before us, and we must not waver."
The Duchess groaned. "All of this religious zeal is making me feel queasy," she said. "Did it occur to either of you that Brey and his followers deemed themselves equally justified. That, from their perspective, they were acting in the greater Good?"

"Philosophical sophistry is irrelevant!" Nwm snapped. "They threaten my faith, which I know to be un-dogmatic, peaceful and non-proselytizing. I don’t give a damn what their reasons are for their actions. And the same goes for you, Tahl. Frankly, right now, your whole stinking religion with its schizoid, patriarchal God just makes me puke. The only reason that I regret my actions is because I just killed sixty human beings – whether they are considered ‘just’ or ‘honourable’ in your f*cked-up perspective has no bearing on the matter. The fact that you don’t see it that way only makes it clearer to me just how far off the point you are. This conversation is over. If you need me, I’ll be in the grove at Deorham. Nehael, are you coming?"
"Will you show me the trees?" The Demoness asked gently.
Nwm smiled sadly and nodded. Her question bought him back to the moment. Without judging, it simultaneously comforted him, reminded him of his duty as a teacher, grounded him in his beliefs, and instructed him in the best way to proceed.

Ah, she was wise, this one. Skillful.

After they had departed, the Duchess turned to Mostin. "Where the hell is Ortwin?" She asked.
The Alienist shrugged. "He was dealing with a mage called Idro. Afterwards, he said something about visiting the Elves."
Mostin realized that he hadn’t thought about the Bard for some time. He wondered what Ortwin was doing.

**

After scrying Ortwin’s location, and with a broad smile on his face, Mostin made additional inquiries regarding the wizard Troap. He conferred with a skittish and irascible centaur who dwelt within the forest of Nizkur, and then with a group of sprites who lived nearby. It appeared that Troap was quite well regarded by the local population of Feys, and that Idro’s account of the Goblin was rather biased.
Mostin sighed. He should have made more of an effort to discern the truth before leaving Ortwin to his own devices.

The Alienist stepped through the Looking Glass of Urm-Nahat and appeared in front of Ortwin and Troap.

"Hello, Mostin," Ortwin said.
"You must be Mostin the Metagnostic," Troap said brightly. "Ortwin has mentioned you. It is an honour to meet you. Will you take tea with me?" The Goblin seemed quite unfazed.
"Certainly," Mostin replied.
"More tea please, Ortwin, there’s a good fellow," Troap instructed the Bard.

"That is a potent dweomer that you have laid upon Ortwin," Mostin observed. "He has been missing for three weeks."
"It is a triply extended ‘Charm Monster,’" Troap explained. "One of my staff’s higher powers."
Mostin nodded. "No wonder Idro desired it so much."
"You knew of this treachery?" Troap was aghast.
"I regret that I did," Mostin confessed. "Ortwin required services from Idro, who insisted on the staff and a crystal ball in payment. I put them in contact with each other. But if you have charmed Ortwin, you will have found that out already."
Troap grinned sheepishly, and dropped his expression of faux offense.
"I am thinking of retaining Ortwin’s services indefinitely," he said. "He killed three of my servants, each of whom was tenured for a year. He is a useful fellow to have around, and sings excellently."
"I regret that is not possible," Mostin said. ‘Ortwin is a good friend of mine, and I am obligated to ensure his release."
Troap bristled. "But I have been assaulted and offended by him. I demand recompense."
"And I agree that you are owed it," Mostin said. "Please, Troap. It is a pleasure to meet you, and I hope that we can do business in the future. I also notice that you have not deprived him of his own possessions."
"I asked him, but he was reluctant to render them up. I didn’t press the point as I didn’t wish to risk disrupting the spell. His scimitar is sharp."
"I will convince him to give you adequate payment," Mostin said. "Besides," the Alienist added cunningly, "I don’t think that you want Ortwin around. Have you heard of the Necromancer Feezuu?"
Troap swallowed. "Rumours only," he said.
"You don’t want to be near Ortwin when she finds him," Mostin said.
The Goblin nodded.
Or me, thought Mostin.

**

"You did WHAT?" Ortwin asked Mostin in disbelief.
"Ten thousand gold crowns is a trifling consideration when weighed against indefinite servitude," Mostin replied.
"The spell would have failed soon enough," Ortwin countered. "And then I would have had his staff and ball. Now I’m back to square one. I thought you wanted Troap’s spellbooks. What of Idro? What of my magic pick?"
"You can stuff your pick up your a**," said Mostin. "Troap turns out to be an intriguing little fellow, and I’m glad I met him. Allies of any hue are hard to come by these days, and besides Idro, I don’t know any half-decent enchanters."
"I can’t believe how selfish you are," Ortwin complained.
"We both are, Ortwin," said Mostin. "That’s why we get along so well. But, having rescued you from an embarrassing situation, I think you owe me. And we don’t want this little story to get out, do we? Your reputation would suffer terribly."
Ortwin raged for a while, and then passed a handful of emeralds to Mostin. Sometimes he really hated wizards. They were only ever interested in themselves and each other. There was a lesson here somewhere, but the Bard couldn’t work out what it was for the life of him.

**

"Your revised proposal is rather more modest," Idro scoffed. "I assume that you failed in your attempts to secure the staff and ball, and that Troap still terrorizes the forest?"
"Can you enchant it, or not?" Ortwin spat.
"Of course," Idro said smoothly. "I will consider only fifty percent of the nominal value of the horn, however. As I said, to me, it is little more than a curio, although it may have later use as a trade item."
"Eighty percent," Ortwin haggled.
"Sixty."
"Seventy."
"Sixty-five, and not a copper penny more," insisted Idro.
Ortwin handed over his horn and most of his remaining money.
"I have decided to keep the boots," Ortwin said, sniffing the air. "I am now going to find the Elves. I will return in three months."
And Ortwin flew off.

**

The snows fell early that year, barely a month after the Equinox had passed. Nwm maintained a pocket of more clement weather in the area of Deorham where, with Nehael’s help, he pursued a project which consumed him in his grief and guilt after his actions outside of the gates of the castle at Trempa. He had, and never had had, any confessor or arbiter of his morality to whom he could turn, besides his own conscience and the Green Reality which he conveniently labeled ‘Goddess.’ He decided that keeping a low profile was probably the best course of action.

Nonetheless, news of Nwm’s defiance of the Temple, and his merciless encounter with Brey and his knights spread rapidly amongst the farming communities of the Duchy. Many sought him out, asking for apprenticeship or tutelage, pleading with him to defend them against the threat which would, sooner or later, issue from Morne.
"Teach me to wield the Green Fire," they begged.
"Ask the trees," he snapped.

Midwinter came and passed, and still no sign of Eadric had been seen or heard. Neither Ortwin nor Nwm appeared at the court of the Duchess for the Yule feast, and the affair was lackluster and uninspiring. Mostin contented himself with his researches and, despite his urge to scry and spy, refrained from locating the Paladin. Nehael had warned him in no uncertain terms to leave Eadric alone.
"Or celestials will visit, and remonstrate with you," she had said.
Mostin shuddered at the thought of their feathery wings and decided that the Demoness probably knew best.

Tahl organized the defenses of the castle, instructed his paladins, oversaw the Fane, and made several journeys to visit the Marquis of Iald, five hundred miles distant, on the other side of Wyre. Similar threats had been delivered to Iald, and although, as yet, no action had been taken against either fief, tensions ran high. Both Tahl and the Duchess were determined to keep the lines of communication open, and the Marquis was the only declared ally that they had.

As the days lengthened after midwinter, the cold intensified and the snows piled deeper and deeper. Even at Deorham, a frosty rime settled on the land. Nwm incanted feverishly, day after day, focussed solely upon a thin torc of serpentine which consumed his time and his power. Nehael saw to his needs, and dealt with zealous Goddess worshippers who would otherwise disturb his work.

Ortwin returned to the castle after his spell with the Elves in the forest, bearing the pick that Idro had wrought for him.

Mostin finished one project and moved onto the next, and the next. His Blue and Scarlet Ioun Stone, and his Circlet of Blasting, won only after hard bargaining, he traded away without a second thought to his new friend, Troap for mundane gold and items to pursue his research. He contrived what he felt would be the ultimate defense against the Cambion who haunted his dreams: the permanent ‘Magnificent Mansion’ and an amulet capable of spell absorption. His final project, his ‘Headband of Intellect,’ was finished even as the thaw began. When he placed it upon his head, his consciousness expanded dramatically, and new valences of spell energy were revealed to him.*

Only a few days later, Nwm finally finished his own great work. He was tired beyond any exhaustion he had previously known. Now, at last, he could relax.
After sleeping, bathing and eating, he gingerly placed the torc around his neck, and fastened its golden clasp. He spoke a single word of power.

The Green Embraced him. For miles around, every fold in the landscape, every great tree, every animal, every fey, every human heartbeat, every nuance that he desired to focus upon, was revealed to him.

**

Two weeks passed before Eadric walked into the castle at Trempa. He was filthy, haggard and had grown a long beard.
"Nice beard," said Ortwin.
"Thanks," Eadric replied.
"You’re two months late," said Nehael.
"Er, yes. Sorry about that."






*Someone on these boards, long ago, proposed a quantum theory of magic in order to address the ‘Vancian’ problem. Spell levels are analogous to the quantum shells occupied by electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom, in that they can only have discrete numbers (1,2, etc.). This is a simple, elegant, wonderful idea. Whoever you are, I am indebted to you.

Note: Nwm’s Torc reproduces a ‘Commune with Nature’ spell when activated.
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
A Revelation, A Reconsideration and A Regrettably Drunken Bard.

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 06-06-2002

Unfortunately, my notes on Wyre are about as organized as the rest of my life - which is to say not very. I think publication is unlikely.

Honestly, its a pretty standard campaign world in a lot of ways.

Thanks for the kudos, though



**

"What did Rintrah say to you?" Nehael asked.
The Succubus sat with the Duchess, Tahl, Ortwin, Mostin and Eadric in a small reception room near the great hall. Nwm was absent.
Eadric looked surprised.
"Have you consulted with him?" The Paladin asked.
Nehael smiled. "What did you learn?" she inquired.

"That things are very simple," Eadric said. "I was alone in the mountains for ninety-nine days. I found an abandoned cottage, near a small stream, and decided that it would be sufficient to my needs. I prayed, undertook the repair of the building and erected a small shrine. I ate fish and, for the first few weeks, berries. Later, I gathered nuts. As the snows deepened, I became colder and more tired. Finding dry wood for a fire was difficult, but I did not invoke the protective aspect of the deity."

"He required that you suffer?" Ortwin asked. Typical, he thought.
Eadric shook his head. "I was gathering my strength," he said.

"After six weeks," the Paladin continued, "an old man joined me. He said nothing. He stayed with me for only one day. But during that time, he ate all of the fish that I’d frozen in the ice, consumed all of the nuts that I’d gathered, and burned all of my wood in a large fire. I did not complain – although I was tempted. He smiled, and left me. He had not spoken a word. I guessed that he was a Celestial.

"I went to gather the few remaining nuts that still clung to the trees, although by this time most were rotten. When I returned, the old man had reappeared. He was pulling the stones from the wall of the house. He pulled the whole cottage apart, brick by brick, until there was nothing left except a pile of rubble. Then he departed again."

I’d have smacked him, Ortwin thought, Celestial or no.

"I took the remaining stone that I could, and built a modest shelter," Eadric said. "The few timbers that were left, I laid across the top of the walls. There were still some cracked clay shingles, and I tied these with twine across the timbers to form a rude roof. I made a door of deerskin. There was barely enough room to sit up inside.

"I went to try and catch another fish, but with no success. When I came back, the old man was sleeping in the shelter. He looked well-fed and content. When I tried to enter, he kicked me and rolled over to the door. He wouldn’t let me in. That night I slept in a chimney between two rock faces. I nearly froze.

"The next morning, I returned to the hut. The old man was sitting outside. He had built a fire, and was roasting a suckling boar. I was famished. I sat down and said nothing, but waited patiently. After the meat was cooked, he consumed it all. I was left with skin and bones. I sucked the marrow out, and chewed on the burned hide. He watched me eat in silence."

Mostin thankfully considered the fact that he was not religious.

"Finally," Eadric went on, "the old man spoke to me.
"‘Do you know who I am?’ He asked.
"‘I believe that you are a Celestial,’ I replied.
"‘Is that significant?’ He asked.
"‘I do not understand,’ I said.
"‘Meditate upon the question,’ he instructed, and left.

"He returned a day later, and asked me again.
"‘It is not significant,’ I replied.
"‘Why not?’ He asked.
"‘Because, whoever you were, I should still have given everything to you without complaint,’ I replied.
"‘Why?’ He asked. More questions followed. Day, after day, after day he returned. ‘Why this?’ and ‘Why that?’ and ‘What if?’ Midwinter came and passed. The questions gave way to instruction and tutelage. Finally, one morning, as the days were lengthening, he said to me,

"‘Taking the life of another human being is never, under any circumstances whatever, a justifiable act. It is the ultimate sin. You must take the lives of many, and some of them will be wholly innocent. Do you understand the paradox?’
"‘No,’ I cried.
"‘Nor do I,’ he smiled. ‘Not all things are revealed to me.’ His visage changed, and his form grew tall and statuesque. His pinions unfolded, and his light almost overwhelmed me. It was certainly Rintrah. When he spoke again, it was from his mind to mine.
DEFEND TREMPA, he commanded. DO NOT ALLOW IT TO FALL. BUT INITIATE YET NO WAR BEYOND ITS BORDERS. THIS IS YOUR FIRST TASK. I WILL CONTACT YOU AGAIN. And then he vanished."

Mostin twitched reflexively. Nobody spoke for a moment, until Ortwin piped up.

"That’s all very nice," the Bard said flippantly. "If you’re religious and all. Speaking of which, Ed, I suppose someone ought to tell you about Nwm…"

**

"Sixty?" The Paladin asked Nwm.
"Sixty," Nwm groaned. "The poor bastards never had a chance. Only a handful survived the first few seconds."

The pair sat at Deorham in the newly-refurbished reception room. A gnome, covered in stone dust, sauntered past whistling.
"Are you nearly done?" Nwm asked the diminutive mason.
"All but," the gnome replied.
"What’s the damage?" Nwm asked.
"To you, Nwm, a flat five thousand," the gnome replied.
"That’s a damn good deal," Eadric gasped.
"I did a lot of the big stuff with magic," Nwm explained. "I also agreed to help them out if exorcists from the Temple descended on their warren."
"I hardly think that’s likely," Eadric scoffed.
Nwm shrugged. "Times are changing. People are getting zealous or paranoid, or both. The feys are becoming jittery – they don’t like organized religion. Anything is possible."
"I will protect the rights of the Goddess worshippers in Trempa, Nwm," Eadric said.
"It’s those in the rest of Wyre that concern me," Nwm sighed.
"No persecution has occurred yet, though?"
"Not unless you include another thirty percent tax-hike," Nwm grunted.
"Increasing the incentive to convert?" Eadric asked.
Nwm nodded.
"You need to decide how you’re going to deal with this," Eadric said.
"Yep," the Druid replied., "I know."

**

A vision long before imagined by Eadric came to pass.

Ortwin was drunk.
The Bard leaned heavily on the bar of the "Three Ploughs", the largest inn in the town of Trempa, and recounted his exploits to a rapt audience. The plan had been to have a quiet drink with Nwm, in an attempt to bring a smile back to the Druid’s face. Ortwin had conveniently overlooked Nwm’s tolerance of alcohol, and matched him drink for drink.* Nwm didn’t mind. He had adopted his preferred alter ego – that of a toothless crone – and was content in his anonymity. Besides, watching Ortwin make a fool of himself was usually a cheering distraction.

Mostin sat stiffly next to the Druid – he wasn’t generally one for inns, much less rowdy, semi-rustic ones. He, too was disguised – since his transcendence, his eyelids had fallen away, leaving pupil-less, emerald orbs which unsettled those who looked at him. He sipped daintily at a glass of wine with a sour expression upon his face.

Ortwin was delighted at his reception, and played the crowd like the professional that he was, pausing to sip his firewine at critical moments which made the onlookers wait with baited breath until he resumed his account. His audience was varied and, for Trempa, cosmopolitan. Locals, merchants, entrepreneurs, travelers from the South who defied the ban. The initial hysteria which had followed Brey’s appearance and proclamation had subsided, three months had passed and, although the borders of the Duchy had been sealed, no act of war had been launched by the Temple. Either complacently or, perhaps, realising that the good times would soon end, the townsfolk of Trempa – swelled by many who had entered the fief soon after the Duchess had rebelled – were determined to enjoy themselves while they could.

Ortwin recounted the summoning and imprisonment of Rurunoth, his stirring the citizens from their apathy in Morne before the trial of Eadric, and the assault upon the Necromancer Feezuu (called ‘Glissin’ by Ortwin). In all cases, he effortlessly placed himself in the central role, whilst downplaying or altogether failing to acknowledge the ‘help’ that his companions had given him.

Mostin sighed. At least the Bard had had the good sense to use a pseudonym for the Cambion – not that those gathered here would have ever heard the name anyway. The old hag – Nwm – sitting at the table cracked a toothless smile, more out of pity than amusement, as Ortwin’s stories became more and more improbable and his voice more and more slurred. How could anyone thrive on this, the Druid wondered.

"Tell us another, Ortwin," they said.
"Yes! More! More!" They yelled.

"What would you like to hear?" Ortwin asked in response. "I have a thousand stories at least." He bragged.
"Have you never been outsmarted, Ortwin?" Someone asked.
"Certainly not," Ortwin lied. The crowd laughed approvingly.

"Tell us about your encounter with the wizard, Troap," a single voice carried above the din in the bar room. The inquiry had issued from a young woman with olive skin and clothes which testified to her foreign origins – most likely from the Thalassine far south of Wyre, an area of many islands surrounded by warm, shallow seas.

Ortwin shot an accusing glance towards Mostin, but the Alienist shook his head in denial. He hadn’t told anyone.
"Alas, I know no Troap," he lied, "although I have met many wizards. The conjurer Ephrael, for example…"
"That’s not what I heard," the woman persisted. "I heard that he bound you as his sex-toy, and you had to wear a skirt and make tea for him."
The crowd, including Nwm, laughed uproariously. Mostin cackled despite himself: the part about making tea was true, at least, but how did she know?
Ortwin laughed along with the others, giving the impression of genuine amusement.
"I fear that you must have mistaken me for someone else," the Bard said convincingly. "Sadly, there are many ortwins in the world although, of course, only one Ortwin…"
"For that, at least, let us be thankful," the woman smiled, holding her glass up.
"I do not know your name, madam," Ortwin said smoothly. "You have me at a disadvantage."
"I fear that your knowing my name would not remedy that," she replied with equal ease.
The crowd laughed again.
Ortwin nodded with mock gravity, and looked deeply into his own glass.
"I am afraid that firewine, in fact, renders me insensible," he said. The audience laughed appreciatively, but the simultaneous innuendo which accompanied the statement was: DESIST NOW, OR I WILL KNOCK YOU OUT.
"Firewine has little or no effect on me," she said, "but I will gladly share some tea if you care to make some. Lemon, but no sugar, please."
The crowd went wild, but completely missed the counter-entendre veiled by the biting satire: YOU COULD NOT, IF YOU TRIED. MY BLADE IS SHARP.
Ortwin held out his palm. "Shall we?" He said.
The woman smiled, stood up, and drew her rapier.

As the less brave hearted amongst the audience hastily exited the inn, and others moved back to the walls and placed bets, Mostin looked at Nwm.
"Did I just miss something?" the Alienist asked the Druid.
"It’s a game," Nwm sighed. "Ortwin just upped the stakes. I should have known that he was itching for a fight. He wants to try out his new pick"
"Should I disintegrate her?" Mostin asked.
"No. That’s against the rules."
"Ahh," Mostin nodded. It all seemed very esoteric to him.

Nwm, retaining his crone form, stood up, hobbled over to Ortwin and cast ‘Neutralize Poison’ on the Bard. His drunkenness evaporated immediately, to be replaced with a mild hangover.
The woman held up her hand. "Hey," she said, "what do you think you’re doing? You know the forms, Ortwin."
"I am eliminating the alcohol from his system," Nwm said.
"So you claim," she complained. "How do I know that its not a ward or magical protection."
"You don’t," said Nwm. "But bear in mind that I just dissuaded that man, there," Nwm pointed to Mostin, "from disintegrating you."
The young woman nodded. It seemed like a fair point.
As Nwm sat down, Mostin spoke again.
"It hardly seems reasonable," the Alienist pointed out, "that wards are disallowed. Ortwin bears two potent enchanted weapons – surely that alone constitutes an unfair advantage."
"I agree," Nwm nodded, "but the rules are the rules. Rules are seldom sensible – although I suppose that a ‘Stoneskin’ or ‘Ironguard’ would unfairly tip the scales. These are among the few rules that Ortwin observes."
"Has he done this before, then?" Mostin asked.
Nwm’s expression said everything.

"Either of us can yield and forfeit the match at any time." Ortwin said to his opponent. "Nwm will be second to us both, as death is not a desirable outcome for either of us. If we are rendered unconscious he will use his powers to resuscitate us. You don’t mind, do you Nwm?"
The Druid sighed.
"Nwm?" People in the crowd whispered. "Nwm the Preceptor? Here?"
Oh Sh*t, thought Nwm.
The woman hopped onto a bar stool and, with a slight shift in her weight, effortlessly moved it onto one leg whilst maintaining perfect balance.
Hmm, thought Ortwin.
"Are you ready?" She asked.
Ortwin nodded.
Her speed was breathtaking.




*Druids of sufficiently high level are, of course, immune to all organic toxins.
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Another Post...

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 06-11-2002

As his opponent rapidly closed with him, Ortwin felt the strange sensation of a light breeze which seemingly issued from her. It wafted coolly over him, simultaneously agreeable and disquieting. She had an exotic quality which he could not place.

Ortwin, who rightly considered himself one of the most accomplished swordsmen in Wyre, immediately found himself on the defensive against his opponent’s slender blade. She launched into a series of maneuvers which Ortwin had only read about in the most advanced theoretical textbooks, penetrating his guard three times in her opening flurry and striking with deadly accuracy. Where the point of the rapier penetrated his flesh, a numb feeling remained in his body, as though nerve endings were deadened. The Bard’s acute instinct, honed by years of practice, was shamed by her perfection of form and technique. From the outset, he knew he was outclassed..

Those who observed saw only a flurry of steel, which raced faster than their own thoughts. Mostin, who had indulged himself in learning to use the rapier from an early age – more through whimsy than due to any natural talent – was speechless. He invoked a spell in order to ascertain the extent of her magical armamentarium, in an effort to distinguish her natural ability from any augmentations that she might carry: casual observation was impossible due to the speed of the exchange.

After her initial onslaught, Ortwin recovered somewhat and adopted a defensive stance with his scimitar and pick flashing through the air in a complex dance of warding actions whilst he considered his options. His sword flicked out once during the period and struck her, drawing a long but shallow welt on her forearm, but failed to elicit even a grimace of discomfort.

Noticing his posture, Ortwin’s opponent smiled and assumed a counter-screening position whilst her rapier flicked out in rapid succession – tap-tap-tap-tap-tap – oh Gods, thought Ortwin, that’s too fast she’s trying to – SH*T.
His pick dropped from his left hand and fell to the floor.

"Aaargh!" Ortwin screamed, lurching forwards.

Her weapon flashed, penetrating his shoulder. Holding his scimitar in both hands, the Bard smashed it into her rapier with all of his force. And again. And again. Each time she turned the assault, and sparks flew. But now a look of horror mixed with disgust crossed her face.

"That’s a cheap trick, you bastard," she said, "now I’m going to fill you full of holes." But she eyed the scimitar with a look of renewed caution. It had a reputation almost as notorious as the Bard himself.*

Lunge-thrust-stab-stab-jab. Her rapier was everywhere, stabbing at his hand, his neck, his shoulder, his leg, his face. And it was leeching him, somehow. Ortwin noticed that the wound on his adversary’s forearm had almost closed up. He looked at his own body. He WAS full of holes. Ugh. But he could break that cursed rapier – he knew it. Just one, solid contact – that’s all it would take. Githla could cut through damn near anything.

But she was right. It was a cheap trick, and proved nothing.

Ortwin lowered his weapon and yielded. He bowed with a flourish.

"My gratitude for the instruction," he said smoothly.

"You’re welcome," she said, and walked straight past him towards Mostin.
"Mostin the Metagnostic, I presume?" She asked. Her breeze floated over him.

"Aargh!" Cried Mostin from underneath the floppy, wide-brimmed hat which covered his face. He cast a quickened ‘Dimension Door’ and vanished.

**


"My name is Iua," she explained after the now heavily-buffed Alienist had been located by Nwm and a partially healed Ortwin, and brought back to the Inn. "You have met my mother."

"Ngarrgh!" cried Mostin, and began to cast ‘Disintegrate.’

"Mulissu…" the woman said quickly.

"Aah," said Mostin, interrupting his spell and relaxing a little.

"My mother sends greetings, and congratulates you on your transcendence. She hopes you are well."

"Perfectly fine, thank-you," Mostin said, tightly. He was still nervous.

"I also suspect that she would approve of your caution, although it is rather disturbing to me. She wonders if you have heard of the mages Kothchori and Qiseze?"

"By reputation, although not personally," Mostin replied. Kothchori dwelt on an island three thousand miles to the south, and Qisesze had long since retired to her elemental hideaway.

"Regrettably Qiseze is now deceased," Iua informed him, "desiccated and burned with acid. Kothchori is deranged, and suffers from the effects of a powerful enchantment. He had been due to meet with Mulissu, but never showed. Kothchori had a reputation for excruciating punctiliousness and my mother, who was suspicious after he was five minutes late, made a rare translation to the prime to investigate. She found his stronghold infested with demons who were roasting one of his servants.

"Mulissu drove off the fiends and rescued the servant – an unfortunate sprite by the name of Orolde. He informed her that Feezuu – with whom I believe you are acquainted – had stormed the castle. She stole Kothchori’s spellbooks. The mage himself was finally located in the Western Ocean swimming with a pod of whales – he makes little sense when spoken with. Orolde said that Feezuu first attempted to barter with his master before laying waste to the stronghold. Apparently Kothchori demanded that she leave in no uncertain terms, and this angered the Cambion."

"When did this happen?" Mostin asked.

"Three days ago," Iua replied. "My mother visited me in Fumaril and instructed me to warn you. She procured a number of items in the city before making a translation to the Plane of Air. I have ridden hard to reach you."

"Very hard, apparently," the Bard remarked drily.**

Iua ignored the comment.

"Did Kothchori possess the ‘Discern Location’ dweomer?" Mostin asked, aghast.

"I have no idea," Iua replied. "He was a powerful Transmuter, but I don’t know the details of his auxiliary powers. Mulissu has also speculated that Feezuu may be in pursuit of the spell."

Mostin considered for a while. "I must confer with your mother," the Alienist said.

Iua grimaced. "She will not admit it, but I suspect that she is feeling nervous herself. She has no way to ward herself from sustained magical sight and, although her location is known to only a few, it must have crossed her mind that Feezuu may try to pinpoint her as a candidate for possession of the spell."

A spell which I gave her, Mostin mused. The irony was not lost on him.
"What do you mean, she cannot ward herself?" He asked.

"Neither abjurations nor illusions are within Mulissu’s capabilities," Iua said hesitantly. "I think she herself regrets some of the hastiness of her youth when she made choices about the path she would take."

Mostin shook his head. Something didn’t add up. "When I scried your mother some time ago, she dispelled my sensor – although I admit that I was surprised to find that she was not already warded. How is this possible if abjuration is proscribed to her?"

"At great personal cost," Iua replied. "She can still alter reality to suit her whim. I suspect that she would rather do that than admit to weakness in any area."

A ‘Limited Wish’, probably, Mostin thought. No wonder she had been annoyed with him. "Why was she travelling to the Elemental Plane of Air?" The Alienist asked.

"She was attempting to petition my father, in the hope that he prove less evasive and unforthcoming than usual."

"Er," said Ortwin, "who is your father, if you don’t mind me asking?"

"A djinn, called Ulao," she sighed.

Nwm stroked his beard. Mostin had some rather peculiar acquaintances.


After the Druid and Alienist departed, Ortwin purchased another flagon of firewine and nursed his battered ego.

"You are a most capable swordsman, Ortwin," Iua said condescendingly.

Ortwin grinned venomously.

"I have been keeping abreast of events here in Wyre," she continued. "Tell me, are you committed to the Transaxiomatic cause?"

"Why?" He asked. She was digging, and he didn’t like it.

"I’m merely curious," she said. "I find all restrictive regimes tedious, and although I have no particular vested interest in the way things turn out here, it would be a shame to see this opportunity for libertarianism fail."

The Bard sighed. She was still young, and probably idealistic.

"No," she replied to his thoughts. "I am a thrill-seeking opportunist, like you."

"That is very rude," Ortwin said. "Please get out of my mind."

"Look around, Ortwin. Trempa is normally a sedate, respectable town. Look at all of the other thrill-seeking opportunists who are here. All of these disreputable people, descending on the place. Have you forgotten what it’s like to be in the thick of it?"

Ortwin tried to suppress a grin. If only she knew.

"But of course, I do know," Iua said, causing the Bard to scowl again. "How would you like to strike a blow for the rebel movement which you half-heartedly support, and make a fabulous amount of money at the same time?"

Ortwin raised an eyebrow. "You’ve piqued my interest," he admitted. Denying it would be futile.

"We need a mage. A very powerful one, like Mostin. Can you persuade him?"

Ortwin groaned. This sounded irresistibly dangerous.

"Good," Iua said, raising her glass. Ortwin raised his own, and, for a second wondered why he just couldn’t help himself.
Before grinning and resigning himself to his basic nature. He looked at Iua.

"No," she said, "you may not."

Ortwin shrugged. It was always worth a try.


**

Mostin and Nwm sat in Mulissu’s glass refectory.
"Nice pad," the Druid had remarked.

"She had no right to disclose that kind of information to you," the Witch snapped at Mostin. Minute sparks flew from her head, ionizing the air and causing the two mephits who fluttered nearby to clap their hands gleefully.

"Ooh, she’s angry Mostin," one said.
"Yes, Mostin," the other chimed in. "Be careful."

Mostin ignored them. "How could you be so short-sighted as to eschew abjuration?" He asked her.

Mulissu shrugged. "One cannot master everything," she sighed, her characteristic languor quickly returning, "and I have no interest in making enemies. I just want to be left alone."

"You daughter is intriguing," Mostin tactfully changed the subject. "When I saw her fight, it was the finest example of swordsmanship that I have ever witnessed. Her elemental heritage sits well with her."

Mulissu smiled sadly, and shook her head. "If she’d studied magic, her powers would have surpassed mine by far. But she is too fickle and undisciplined."

Mostin said nothing. Fickleness came in many forms.

Nwm coughed, and looked at the Alienist. Mostin winced, and gritted his teeth. "I haven’t been entirely forthcoming with you, Mulissu," he said.

The Witch stared at him impassively.

"When I made the translation to Limbo in an attempt to eliminate Feezuu, I encountered her master – a demon named Ainhorr."

Mulissu raised an eyebrow.

"I may have angered him. I should remind you that your pocket paradise is not the Prime. It is not forbidden to him."

"My evocations are primarily electrical, Mostin…" she said.

"Yes," he replied. "That may prove unfortunate, under the circumstances."

Mulissu seethed, and for a moment, Mostin thought that she was about to cast a spell on him. He readied himself for what might be an overwhelming magical assault, but did not flee. Although changeable, as a potential ally Mulissu was without peer. He must not show any sign of weakness.
The Witch did not blast Mostin. Instead, she shouted at him.

"You have been selfish and irresponsible, Mostin," she yelled, "and have lacked all foresight in this matter. You capture Rurunoth, and imprison him, thus demonstrating your potency. The point is made. Well done. But you do not stop there. Feezuu. Ainhorr? Even I have heard of this Balor, Mostin, and I am no demonologist. This must cease, or you will be dragged screaming to the Abyss. My own security is now jeopardized, and you make flippant remarks. The time for wit is long past, Mostin."

Even the Mephits ceased their careening to watch their mistress. Mostin spoke carefully.

"I apologize, Mulissu, if my actions have precipitated this series of events. But if circumstances had been kinder, then I would have eliminated Feezuu permanently, curbed her fiendish influence across several worlds, and removed a painful thorn from the collective ass of the magical community. You told me yourself that it was within my power to accomplish this."

"Had I known the byzantine intricacies of your own situation then I might have been more cautious." She snapped.

"What’s done is done," Nwm said softly. "I, too encouraged Mostin to assault Feezuu, and I feel some responsibility in the matter. The question now is ‘how do we proceed?’"

"I think that there is no ‘we’ in this, Druid," Mulissu said sardonically. "I am not being drawn into the political mess that you are in. I certainly have no interest in demons. Or celestials for that matter. I am surprised that you do."

"Then why did you contact me?" Mostin hissed.

"To give you fair warning," Mulissu said. "If Feezuu approaches me for the spell, I may be inclined to trade with her."

"You cannot be serious!" Mostin exclaimed. "You despise her."

"I am wary of her also," Mulissu said. "Ulao will not aid me. Feezuu’s acid evocations combined with a fiendish resistance to my spells make me nervous. If she conjures demons, or is accompanied by them, my power is effectively curtailed. And I cannot resort to Sonics in the same way that you can. In terms of raw power, I am virtually unmatched, but I have few wards."

"A pre-emptive strike by the two of us…" the Alienist began.

"No!" Mulissu exclaimed. "Have you been listening to a word that I’ve been saying, Mostin? I am NOT being drawn into this."

The Alienist thought for a moment. "If you insist on the quiet life, Mulissu, I may be able to help you," he said.

The Witch looked quizzically at Mostin.

"I have not been idle since the failed assault upon Feezuu," he explained. "I have found a means to render ‘Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion’ permanent."

Mulissu’s jaw dropped.

"Are you willing to trade the formula?" The Witch asked.

"I will give it to you," Mostin replied. "I owe you that much, at least."

The Alienist thought of Qiseze and Kothchori, mages whom he had never met, yet the loss of whose unique intellects he nonetheless lamented. In his abstract, cerebral way, he felt something akin to remorse.

**

The Great Hall of the Ducal Palace thronged with armoured warriors, their retainers and servants as the Duchess, Eadric, Tahl, Nwm, Nehael and Mostin took counsel together with the knights, captains and bannermen of Trempa. Foremost amongst them – the handful of Templars who had deserted with Tahl, and the Paladins who had elected to remain when the Fane was taken over – crowded Eadric with a look of religious awe on their faces that made him feel uneasy. Their fervour was not shared by many of those present.

"We must resign ourselves to the inevitability of war, but we may not, ourselves, initiate any action…" the Duchess began. She was immediately interrupted by Ryth, the Thane of Har Kumil.

"Bullsh*t!" He exclaimed. "We should catch them while their pants are down. Tomur is within range and I can lead a mounted sortie to storm the Bishop’s Palace."

Several voices were raised in support.

"Shut up, Ryth," said Nwm. The Thane, an avowed pagan, although loyal to the Duchess, was not renowned for his subtlety. Although Nwm liked the middle-aged nobleman, he found his bloodlust somewhat depressing. As a Uediian, Nwm felt that he should have at least some respect for the Druid’s opinion. Ryth was an iconoclast in all respects, however.

"If you got off of your priestly arse and did something to help us," Ryth retorted, "then we’d have no problem. You could burn them up for us, and we could finish them off."

"Aargh!" Nwm yelled. "Will you SHUT UP. All possibilities will be discussed, but the agenda of this meeting is not going to be dictated by you."

The Duchess waited for the clamour to subside before continuing.

"We must not initiate any act of war beyond Trempa’s borders. That much has been revealed to Eadric in his visitation."

The statement was greeted by assenting murmurs from the Oronthonian knights, scepticism from amongst the more agnostic members of the nobility, and by open disdain from Ryth and others in the Uediian party.

Eadric sighed. It was going to be a long day.




*Ortwin’s blade, Githla, was forged by the Azer smith Jodrumu at the behest of Druhmo of Borchia, one of the precursor states of modern Wyre. Jodrumu was considered one of the greatest smiths of his age, prior to his enslavement by the Fire Giants. When he refused to capitulate to their demands, he was maimed before being released. Unable to create more of his masterpieces, Jodrumu wandered for years before finally going mad and taking his own life.

**Fumaril, also the original home of Mulissu herself, is eight hundred miles from Trempa in the Thalassine.
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Feezuu and Mostin

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 06-13-2002

**

The debate raged all morning, and the Duchess, Soraine, called for a recess for an hour after noon. Her head jostled with half a hundred different views, and scenarios which she had not previously considered made her feel ill and depressed.

"The Temple alone can field a thousand knights. If they can convince the king to fully support them, he will muster all of Wyre against us."

"What if they march on Iald first? Are you saying that we may not act?"

"Will Tyndur remain neutral? Will Jiuhu declare for us? Ecclesiastical influence is less entrenched there, but their nobility are notoriously conservative."

"Whatever you decide, as a Uediian I assert my right to protect my people by whatever means I deem necessary. You can stick your Bright God up your arse. It is my feudal duty, and may not be denied by you or anyone else, Soraine."

"We need more men."

"This is a Holy War. We will prevail."

"We need more weapons and armour. We need Thalassine engineers, artillerymen and light cavalry."

"We need more money."

"The hand of Oronthon guides our actions. We must have faith."

"We need to restore the tax burden."

"Nwm needs to take a lead, and unite the Uediian priesthood."

"We should have had this meeting six months ago, but the ‘Instrument of God’ here decided that he’d have visions in the wilderness instead."

And so on, and so forth. The poisoning of wells, guerilla tactics, the likely powers of the Templars on the battlefield, siege warfare, the disorganized and cellular nature of Uediian priests, grain supplies, finances, mercenaries, levies and fyrdsmen, conscription, training regimens. Money. Money. Money.


Eadric and the Duchess spoke privately during the two hour long recess.

"Ryth is right about Nwm," she said. "If he took a lead, persuaded the other priests to unite, they could make a formidable contribution to the effort."

Eadric merely shook his head. "It’s not going to happen," he said. "Nwm despises organized religion with every atom in his body. And he recognizes the potential for disaster: Uedii worshippers are less bound by political allegiance than by ties of kinship and culture. Any movement that he started in Trempa would soon spill over into the rest of Wyre. He must follow the dictates of his own conscience. But he will act when he decides to act, and when he DOES act, then he will not pull his punches."
The Duchess nodded, and recalled the scene outside of her own gates when Brey had been defeated – seemingly quite casually – by the Druid. And Nwm had been largely unprepared for violent conflict.

"Soraine," Eadric said, "our camp is eclectic, to say the least. Not everyone is interested in the religious agenda. You need to unite them, because I cannot – at least not yet. I am most effective on the battlefield, and when that time comes, Tahl tells me that they will rally to me. Until then, this remains in the realm of politics, at which I have little skill."

"When will the Temple act?" Soraine asked. "You must have some idea."

"The pressure is already building," Eadric replied. "Mostin has scried the precincts of the Great Fane on several occasions. Their debates are now over, even as ours are only beginning, and they are arming. We will know soon enough when they march. And I know where the first blow will fall: it is symbolically apt, from their perspective, and is closer to Morne than Trempa itself."

"Deorham," the Duchess sighed. "I’m sorry, Ed."


**

Mostin, who had said little during the morning’s discourse – simultaneously finding the proceedings boring, and lamenting the fact that he was forbidden to blast people by the Injunction – retired to his manse for luncheon.

His walk through the Duchess’ pheasant woods, agreeable at any time of day, was unusually pleasant. The snows had melted, croci and daffodils were beginning to peek through, and the air was warm – at least in the sun. His reverie was not to last long. As he approached his porch, his magical sight* revealed an invisible quasit sitting on the step pulling the feathers from the wings of a bird that it had captured. The quasit, sitting in plain view but confident in its magical screen, looked at Mostin, quickly twisted the bird’s neck, and vanished.

Mostin’s heart pounded. Where was she? She must be here somewhere. He quickly ‘Dimension Doored’ into his cellar and walked through the magical portal into his extradimensional retreat, sealing it behind him. Removing the Looking Glass of Urm-Nahat from his portable hole, he invoked its power, and began to scry the interior of his own home.

Nothing had been disturbed. No evidence of any intruder. He widened his search.

The quasit was no doubt compacted**, he mused, as his magical sensor roamed. Were there other demons nearby? He grunted. The thought was not appealing. Several minutes passed.

There, on his porch. Feezuu. How beautiful she is, Mostin noticed for the first time. Skin like alabaster, her hair deep indigo, and large, almond eyes. And more eyes. And more. Her robe was covered in them. She bore a compound bow of exquisite design across her back, and a longsword hung from her hip.

Feezuu smiled and looked straight into the sensor.

"I know you’re watching, Mostin." She spoke in Abyssal. "I mean you no harm. I have come to trade with you – I have much to offer. I seek a certain spell. I am generous. Will you speak with me?"

Mostin’s mind boggled. Was this a genuine offer, or some duplicity? She was, after all, looking for two creatures posing as devils, and had no reason to suspect him if she did not already possess the dweomer. He waited.

"I must have the ‘Discern Location’ spell, Mostin. You are a powerful diviner. Do you possess it?"

Mostin swallowed. He had no means of communicating with her, unless he left the extradimensional space. He made a mental note of acquiring the ‘message’ spell as soon as possible.

"I am growing impatient, Mostin," she said. "I know little about you, but have already discovered that you are rather timid. I have no quarrel with you."

Mostin let the mirror go blank, and cast an empowered 'cat's grace,' a ‘stoneskin’ and ‘haste,’ and wished that he’d prepared more wards. He grasped his amulet, prayed that its absorptive abilities would work, and exited the ‘Magnificent Mansion.’ Stepping into his cellar, he could already hear crashing sounds upstairs – demons, most likely, rifling through his possessions. Several sets of explosive runes detonated. The Alienist smiled. This time he had the advantage of being on his home turf.

Mostin teleported himself onto the porch. Feezuu stood in the doorway. Behind her, an uridezu rat-demon, several dretch and a dozen quasits were running and flying around inside causing mayhem.

But this time, the Alienist had the jump

Mostin flung an empowered sonically substituted burst of ‘Chain Lightning’ which almost blew the Cambion off of her feet. Inside the house, quasits dropped like flies from the secondary arcs.

Incanting, the Alienist summoned three bearded devils.

"Kill the woman, then the demons," he instructed. "Try not to smash the house up."

As Feezuu turned to see the devils rushing at her, her face suddenly revealed an expression of understanding. She gaped.

With the merest gesture, Mostin hurled another quickened sonic bolt before she could react. Her resistance held, and Mostin grasped his amulet and braced himself.

Feezuu cast a quickened haste, hit Mostin and the devils with an empowered, maximized acid substituted ‘Fireball’ and then aimed a ‘Finger of Death’ at the Alienist. One of the devils vanished, consumed in acid. The necromantic spell was absorbed harmlessly by the amulet, and Mostin thanked several random deities. He looked down to notice that his skin was dripping off of his arms.

The two bearded devils ploughed into the Cambion in a frenzy with their glaives slashing violently at her, causing her to stagger backwards. Mostin cast a quickened ‘magic missile’ and another sonic.

He arrested his ‘Disintegrate’ when he noticed that Feezuu was already lying on the ground.

The uridezu dashed past one of the barbazu in an attempt to escape, but, already suffering from the effects of ‘Explosive Runes’ and the first Sonic, was felled by the devil’s glaive.


The Alienist walked cautiously over to the Necromancer’s body as the devils chased the one remaining quasit around inside his hallway. She was not dead, but teetered on the edge of unconsciousness.

"You?" She laughed. The Sonics had ruptured her internally, and she coughed blood and bile.

Mostin drew his rapier.

Feezuu smiled. "‘Cloned,’" she said.

He plunged it through her neck.


After he had dismissed the devils, the Alienist limped back down the steps into his cellar, selected a bottle of thirty-year old firewine, took a large crystal goblet from his glassware cabinet, and sat on his porch for a minute to gather his thoughts. He glanced inside: his unseen servants were already tidying up the mess, neatly arranging his papers and sweeping up broken glass and porcelain.

He looked at Feezuu’s body. Even if she had already made a simulacrum of herself, he didn’t care. She probably wouldn’t remember any of what had happened, and would be diminished in both personal potency, and influence amongst the fiends of Graz’zt’s Abyssal court. And without her magical items, it would take years for her to regain her power, if she managed it at all.

Mostin downed a glass of firewine, and hobbled over to the corpse. He stood over it like a vulture, before bending down and pulling the longbow free and unfastening the sword belt. A ‘Robe of Eyes.’ Mostin could barely contain his excitement. She bore a ring on each hand, and wore a belt which sported many pockets. He opened one, and was delighted to see that it was an extradimensional storage space of modest size. Rifling through them systematically, he located her books – 3 slender tomes, with neatly written spells filling them.

Mostin spent the rest of the afternoon sat on his porch, absorbed in the books, locating dweomers which he could add to his collection. Two volumes contained only Necromantic spells – of no use to Mostin, but of immense trade value. The third was filled with her auxiliary spells, including many that Mostin did not possess. He flicked to the back, where the more potent dweomers were scribed: ‘Gate Seal,’ ‘Hardening,’ ‘Contingency,’ ‘Acid Storm,’ ‘Eyebite,’ ‘Energy Immunity,’ ‘Vipergout,’ ‘Delayed Blast Fireball.’

Mostin stroked Mogus, and the hedgehog crooned appreciatively.

When Eadric and Nehael rode up at four o’clock in the afternoon to investigate his absence from the council, they were shocked to find Mostin with several layers of skin burned off, sitting and drinking firewine next to a corpse. The Demoness looked at the body.

"Feezuu?" She asked, aghast.

Mostin raised his glass. "Yes, indeed," he said.



*Mostin has a permanent ‘See Invisibility’ cast upon his person.

**Compacting is a way of getting around the restrictions on the various ‘planar binding’ spells. The Demonist or Diabolist makes peaceful contact with the outsider prior to casting the spell, and they strike an agreement. Payment is usually made in Larvae, the universal currency of the Lower Planes. When the ‘planar binding’ is cast, the conjurer purposely breaks the ‘magic circle’ and allows the outsider to gain its freedom. The demon or devil is now secure upon the Prime Plane and, unlike the various ‘Summon Monster’ spells, can remain for an indefinite period.

Needless to say, compacting is very hazardous, and only very powerful spellcasters employ compacts with the higher demons and devils. Not only does it involve an implicit degree of trust between the fiend and the summoner (a rare thing), but also, if overused, has the danger of attracting the attention of celestials – obviously, something which most diabolists would rather avoid.
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
The Spoils of War, and Nwm's Big Idea

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 06-13-2002

In which Nwm's player, Dave, again demonstrates his ability to create new story arcs out of thin air. Thanks Dave.


**

Ortwin scratched his head. "So, this time, she really is dead, then. Right? I mean, Nehael and Ed saw the body. There is no risk of her coming back?"

Mostin smiled. "She said ‘Cloned’ to me. By this, I assumed she meant that she had a simulacrum prepared for her spirit to inhabit. ‘Discern Location’ revealed this to be the truth."

Ortwin banged his head. Necromancers seemed difficult to kill.

"The question most pertinent to us," Mostin continued "is ‘when was the simulacrum prepared?’ If it was made before we launched our first assault upon her, it will retain no memory of our attack: she has, effectively, never met us. It may also retain no memory of the murder of Cynric – effectively meaning that the Feezuu who now exists is not guilty of it."

Eadric sighed. "Is this likely?" he asked.

Mostin shrugged. "It is possible that the clone was grown during the intervening months, but I feel it is unlikely."

"How do we know," Ortwin asked "that we didn't, in fact, kill Feezuu the first time we met her, and that you just killed another clone."

Mostin shook his head. "That is impossible. If the Feezuu which I just killed was a clone, it would have retained no memory of our original attack. Thus, it would have never met us. Thus, it would not have recognized my Sonics and the devils which I summoned. Nor would acquiring the ‘Discern Location’ dweomer have benefited it, as it can only be used with regard to things which the caster has encountered. We may therefore concur that we simply failed to kill her during our initial encounter."

The Alienist smiled at his own tortuous logic.

"In any case," Mostin continued, "it is likely that ‘Feezuu II,’ if we can call her that, has a duplicate set of spellbooks stashed away somewhere in her hideaway in Limbo. It is also likely that her most potent dweomers are no longer available to her. Unfortunately, the location of the spellbooks she stole from Qiseze and Kothchori may never be revealed – she did not have them on her person, and ‘Feezuu II’ will have no recollection of where the original Feezuu secreted them."

"Unless she hid them on Limbo," Ortwin remarked, "in which case the clone has awakened happily to a cache of spells that it could not previously cast, and wonder where they came from."

The Alienist nodded. He hadn’t considered that possibility.

Mostin drew the attention of the others to the items which he had pilfered from Feezuu’s body.

"This," he gloated, "is a ‘Robe of Eyes.’"

"Really?" Nwm remarked sarcastically. "I’d never have guessed."

Mostin sniffed. "I’m keeping it," he said. "It’s mine now. These other items are also interesting, and I will discern their full abilities in due course. The sword is called ‘Melancholy.’ It is an Anarchic weapon of great potency."

"It is a Slaadi blade," Ortwin said, unexpectedly. "May I?"

The Bard picked up the scabbard, and closed his hand around the slender hilt of the sword.

Insane visions and scenes of entropy filled his mind.

"Ngraahhh!" Ortwin forced his hand to uncurl from around the quillons. "It is sapient. It wants to kill you, Eadric. It quite likes me, though."

"Oh, joy," said the Paladin, "that’s all we need. What do you plan to do with it, Mostin?"

The Alienist lifted his hands in an expression of confusion. "I honestly don’t know. No wizard will want it – most can barely wave a stick in self-defense, much less a longsword. If I trade it, I won’t get anything like its full value. I assume you don’t want it, Ortwin, even at a bargain price?"

The Bard shook his head. "Githla is my blade."

"In which case, I suppose I will just hang onto it until an idea springs to mind. It’s a shame it’s not a rapier, else I could use it myself."

Eadric thanked Oronthon that it wasn’t a rapier.

"The bow is likewise a conundrum," Mostin said. "It possesses a Necromantic aura, although it is not evil."

"I can shoot a bow passably well," Ortwin said. "Furthermore, I won’t give you anything for it – consider it ample payment for putting my neck on the line during that abortive Limbo fiasco. Feezuu was our target, after all. Not to mention all of the other trouble that you’ve gotten us all into." He smiled charmingly.

Mostin started to bluster, but thought better of it.

"Speaking of which," Ortwin continued, "I seem to remember Nwm casting a dozen wards or so on us before we translated to Limbo. Don’t you think you owe him something as well?"

"Don’t push it," said Mostin.

"Don’t worry about it," said Nwm.

"Don’t be so damn selfless, Nwm," said Ortwin. "Come on, Mostin. What’s fair is fair. What will you have, Nwm, of all the things here?"

Mostin looked aghast.

Nwm considered for a while. "The Sword," he said, finally.

Everyone looked at him as though he were mad.

"Not for me," the Druid explained. "But for someone who has the conviction and the strength of will to wield it. A Champion. A Uediian. I would use it against the Temple."

Mostin nodded. "Then let it be noted that all accounts are hereby settled." He handed the weapon to Nwm, and breathed a sigh of relief.

But Eadric swallowed. Hard.


**

Over the next two weeks, Nwm travelled the length and breadth of Wyre, disguised as a crone, or a boy, or a young man, making inquiries without attracting suspicion to himself. He ‘Wind Walked’ over three thousand miles, and ‘Tree Strode’ a hundred more.

The Druid spoke to farmers and cotters in rural Trempa, Tomur, Hethio and Iald. He talked to woodsmen deep within the forest of Nizkur and to mountain-men in the uplands and foothills of the Thrumohars, the nigh-impenetrable range which marched on Northern Wyre. He spoke to trees, and to rocks, and to animals. In the process, he gathered a huge amount of information about the widespread and diverse pagan community. Goddess worshippers, but also those who revered local gods and deities. Animists, pantheists and heathens of every shade. He discovered their needs, their concerns, their fears and their expectations.

His inquiries were subtle. As a crone, he would say:

"Would that we had heroes again, like in the days before the rise of the Temple. My grandmother’s grandmother remembered the time before the taxes. When your beliefs were not threatened."

Or as a boy, appearing wide-eyed and naïve, he would ask:

"Are you a great warrior? Is there a great warrior in this village?"

And whilst his questions were usually met with mirth, occasionally he would be pointed in the direction of one who could wield a sword but, finding them, discovered that they were old, or drunk, or that their reputation was based on hearsay rather than fact.
Until, in the foothills of the mountains, he met a shamaness. She joined him as he was ‘Wind-Walking.’

"I am Mesikämmi, the Honey-Eater," she said in broken common.

"I am called Nwm the Preceptor," he replied. "I am looking for a hero."

"Good luck!" She said, and flew away.

Nwm chased after her. "Wait," he shouted, "you must know of someone, or at least of someone who might know someone."

She laughed. "Over the mountains, onto the plateau," she shouted. "Speak to the Tunthi.*"

So Nwm flew over the Thrumohars, past their vast, ice-covered crags, and passed onto the plain of Tun Hartha.


**

Iua, Mostin and Ortwin sat closeted within the Alienist’s drawing room.

Iua had a large schematic with intricate diagrams, runes and designs written upon it. Her own scrawled notes covered the remaining blank spaces, and sometimes overlapped with the more meticulous writing beneath.

"The Temple vault was designed by the mage Tersimion…" she began.




*Nomadic hunter-gatherers who dwell at an altitude of over 8000 feet, the Tunthi are widely regarded as being crazy.
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Meanwhile...

Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 06-15-2002

**


Enitharmon, tomorrow is the meeting with Enitharmon, was the first thing that she thought.
Before slipping back into unconsciousness.

Only a moment seemed to pass before her eyes opened. She was surrounded by a living, viscous fluid which seemed to penetrate her mouth, and stomach and lungs. She panicked, and struggled wildly before sitting bolt upright, gasping for air. She coughed and vomited for what seemed like an aeon, breathing desperately, trying to empty herself of the foul tasting lavage.

When she finally gained her equilibrium and opened her eyes, a nightmarish scene greeted her. Gross, contorted body parts hung around her, and blood dripped incessantly from a sagging ceiling above her head. A dull, red glow filled the place, and the walls rippled as though they were made of liquid.

Feezuu relaxed. She was home.

As she pulled herself out of the ghoulish bath, she wondered how long she had been dead. She stood for a moment, naked and covered in fetid slime, before walking across the pulsing floor to a tall cabinet, carved from the femur of some terrible beast. Upon it was engraved a rune of death. She spoke a single word.

The door opened. The space beyond was empty.

Feezuu cursed silently. Her robe, gone. Her weapons also. And her belt. The fact that she was not surprised made her no less angry.

Taking a moment to reflect upon her own consciousness, she observed that her highest valences were diminished, and her psyche was empty of magic.
She seethed insanely before finally regaining her composure.

Mustering her will, the Cambion reached down and sank her hands into the floor at the base of the cabinet. Blood, warm and vital, embraced her forearms. She smiled grimly and groped for a moment before her fist closed around a handle. Tugging hard, she pulled a small iron case up through the liquid floor, dragging blood with it which splashed over her. The surface ebbed strangely for a while, before resuming its pseudo-solid state.

Feezuu opened the case, and gazed inside. She pulled a neatly folded robe out, woven from a material that was darker than black, and drew it around herself. At the bottom of the case were several scroll tubes, vials, and a single spellbook which contained her most useful dweomers. Also, there was a glass tube of curious design. Inside it, within tiny cells, motes flickered about restlessly. Larvae that had been morphed for easy transportation.

As she placed the contents within the hidden pockets of her robe, a shadow fell upon her from behind.

She turned to see her cohort, the slaad called Khrgz standing there. His vast, bluish form obscured the doorway. He was flanked by a group of eight of his lesser kin.

Feezuu snarled. "How dare you! Depart at once."

Khrgz smiled, displaying a maw full of sharp teeth. "You are weak, Feezuu," he said.

Not that weak, she thought. Her innate nature still counted for something.

A wave of Necromantic power emanated from her, desiccating three of the red slaadi, but failing to overcome Khrgz.

Another blue slaad materialized. And then two more reds.

As they closed upon her, the Cambion swore. Even if she summoned a demon, she could not stop them from ripping her to shreds. She quickly pulled a scroll from her robe, even as their claws rent her and their teeth sank into her. She spoke four words and vanished.

She aimed for the city of Jashat in the Thalassine, but instead arrived four hundred miles to the south in the deserts of Shûth. The Prime Plane was dull, but safe, she thought. She began to walk northwards across the arid erg.

She stopped before dusk on a platform of rock, in the lee of a tall pinnacle of desert stone, worn into strange shapes by the passage of wind and sand over countless years. She sat, and meditated.

When she emerged from her reverie, the stars had kindled in the sky and the moon was rising in the east. The air was windless. Taking her book from its velvet sheath, Feezuu pored over it, and the moonlight illuminated the dweomers on the pages. So few, so few. And even some of these were denied to her. Word would soon spread of her ousting from her stronghold, and no doubt a Death Slaad would seize its opportunity and take control. They resented her as much as she despised them.
She silently cursed whoever was responsible for her current predicament, and vowed revenge.

Feezuu cleared the area of debris, until a circle perhaps eight feet across was made on the rock shelf, sweeping it with a sprig of gorse pulled from a desert shrub. She carefully inscribed a diagram, and with a spell, anchored it. She began to pace around the periphery, incanting fiercely, until her voice reached a screaming climax.

Fire erupted in the diagram as an equine shape manifested itself. Its hooves and mane kindled, and smoke billowed from its nostrils. It thrashed wildly in an attempt to escape. The Cambion smiled.

"I am Feezuu," she said. "You will serve me. I will show you more death and madness than you dreamed was possible."

**

The next morning, riding the nightmare, she descended on a desert caravan. Before slaying the merchants, she learned that nearly nine months had passed. She loaded a bag full of gold, silks and spices, and continued northwards.

Nine months!
She wondered if Ainhorr had betrayed her after the embassy with the Celestials. Why were they due to parley, she wondered. The Balor had told her little, but had instructed her to prepare to translate to the Prime after the meeting.

Graz’zt had been angry. She shivered. Rurunoth had disappeared – the rumour was that he was slain or ensnared.
Nehael. It all had something to do with Nehael. She had been commanded to seduce a paladin. Something had gone wrong.
 

Cheiromancer

Explorer
Originally posted by Sepulchrave II on 06-18-2002

Last update for a week or so - I'm off into the mountains hiking with my wife.




**

Tersimion, a mage of extraordinary genius, had been an enigma.
Unlike the vast majority of his peers, whose religious sentiments ran the gamut from indifference to disdain, Tersimion had possessed faith in the judgement of a single deity. What had further distinguished him from the other members of the magical community – most of whom regarded him as sadly misguided – was that his conversion and catechesis arrived late in life, well after he had established a reputation as a spellcaster of prodigious power.

His contributions to the Oronthonian cause had been numerous and diverse, but his final gift, the vault beneath the Temple at Morne, was the one for which he was rightly best remembered.

The vault was, in fact, a series of miniature nested demi-planes, impervious to magical travel of any kind and warded against scrying with the most potent of spells. It was known to possess areas of antimagic, it was roamed by golems and axiomatic manticores, and boasted sophisticated mechanical traps to boot. Its single entrance was guarded by four paladins whose sole duty was to prevent unauthorized access – more to protect the innocent, than through any fear that those who did somehow pass them would penetrate the vault’s mysteries. The knights took shifts – two of them guarded the portal for twelve hours at a stretch, whilst the other pair rested and prayed. The Temple Exchequer had maintained this tradition for two hundred years.

Mostin was reticent. "Although I have no objection to larceny," he told Iua, "and I am also intrigued by the intellectual challenge that this poses, I am wary that any involvement by me – especially given Ortwin’s history with the Temple – might be construed as an overtly political act. I do not wish the ire of the council to descend upon me for violating the Injunction."

"I agree," she said cautiously, "that we must tread carefully. But the rewards are staggering. As well as the sheer volume of coinage – over one hundred thousand gold crowns are maintained as a floating balance – every promissory note and record of transaction is kept there. It would send the Temple finances into utter chaos if …"

"Wait!" Ortwin said. "I thought that you said this was about opportunism, not striking some political blow for an abstract cause that I’m not sure I have any time for."

Iua shrugged. "We may as well sound the trumpet for liberty and freedom while we’re there – it’s not as if it’ll be much extra effort. A gallon of oil and a tindertwig will do it. Assuming that Mostin isn’t willing to cast a ‘Fireball.’"

Ortwin eyed the girl suspiciously. "I’d rather not burn the Fane down. I don’t think Ed would be all that impressed." He had the sneaking suspicion that Iua was a closet idealist after all.

Mostin snorted. "If we managed that, it would be the first interplanar conflagration in history. My main problem is that I don’t feel that the reward is ample to the risk involved – money is merely money. Are there magical devices stored in the vault? Artifacts?" His eyes gleamed greedily.

"Not to my knowledge," Iua confessed. She reached into a pocket and produced an ivory tube. "But if you are willing to forego a percentage of your cut, then another kind of remuneration might be agreed upon." Iua uncorked the tube and pulled a bundle of papers out. Unrolling them, she handed the top one to Mostin. It was a spell, which read:

‘Mulissu’s Passage of Lightning.’

The Alienist was about to say something, but Iua handed him another scroll. It read:

‘Mulissu’s Rhapsody of the Clouds.’

Mostin swallowed reflexively. She handed him another scroll:

‘Mulissu’s Quasi-Elemental Transformation.’

And another:

‘Mulissu’s Instantaneous Elemental Tempest.’

And finally:

‘Mulissu’s Ultimate Plasma Evocation.’


Mostin looked at them and hyperventilated for a few moments before he regained his ability to speak. "You stole these from your own mother?" Apparently the young lady was quite unscrupulous.

"They are copies," Iua explained. "Made by her, of course. And I am not entirely unscrupulous."

Mostin was still shaking. The last two dweomers were beyond even his ability to manifest, but he understood the principles. And the Plasma Evocation could be modified into a sonic…
But if Mulissu ever found out…
He couldn’t help himself.

"We have a deal," the Alienist said. "And Iua…"

She looked at him.

"A mage’s mind is his private domain. If you ever try to read my thoughts again, you will suffer the consequences. Do you understand?"

"Noted," she said.


**

Nwm and a young Tunthi shaman sat together near a fire. As neither could speak the language of the other, and neither possessed any spell with which they could be made intelligible to each other, Nwm had taken the logical step of using an eagle to translate. After all, both present COULD speak with animals. And eagles were relatively articulate as far as avians went.

They were waiting for the older shaman, Tietäjä, to return from a dream-quest, in which he was speaking with his deceased ancestors and looking for guidance. The other members of the Tuern – a type of extended family group numbering sixty souls – had retired to their rude skin huts, leaving the Druid alone with the initiate, Sarajoa. He was young, Nwm mused, but already possessed more wisdom than most of the clergy in Oronthon’s church. His closeness to the land was manifested in his speech and mannerisms, and he felt no pressing need to make small talk, or muse on the meaning of life, or engage in pointless philosophical banter. For most of the time, the eagle stood silent.

These people can teach me, Nwm thought.

When Tietäjä finally emerged from his hut, he looked tired but satisfied. He hobbled over to the fire and drew his cloak around himself, before pouring mead into a cup carved from birchwood and drinking deeply.

"I ascended to the fires," he said.* "I spoke with my grandfather. I asked him if my Green was your Green, or whether they were different."

"What did he say?" Nwm asked.

"He said that they are neither the same, nor different, nor both, nor neither," Tietäjä smiled ironically. "Which is another way of telling me not to think with my head, but with my stomach."

"What does your stomach tell you?" Nwm asked.

Tietäjä laughed loudly. "It tells me that I am getting too old to eat this much meat, and I should change my diet. I like you Nwm, but this struggle that you speak of is a long way from here. I cannot FEEL it, it does not move me. Only rarely do my people leave the Linna.** But when they do, they take something of it with them."

Nwm said nothing, but listened.

"There is another Tuern, whose territory lies three days from here towards the sunrise," the Shaman said. "They are not our enemies, nor are they our friends. Five years ago, several of their men – great warriors – left their family to travel to the warm lands. My grandfather told me that you seek one of these men. His name is Hullu."

Nwm nodded. "Where can I find this Hullu?" he asked.

"You must speak to the people in the other Tuern," Tietäjä said. "They will answer your questions. You will need to find a token that belonged to Hullu, and then use your magic to locate him."

Nwm stood and bowed, preparing to leave.

"Beware of their shaman. She is dangerous."

Nwm nodded, and dissolved into mist.


**

"How many?" Eadric asked.

"Eight hundred Templars and around four thousand auxiliaries," Mostin replied. "They left at dawn."

Eadric groaned.

"There’s more. Two smaller forces also marched this morning – one from Tomur and another from Thahan. They are also heading for Trempa, although from the north."

Eadric nodded grimly. "I’ll speak to Soraine. We’ll need to act quickly."



*The Tunthi believe that the polar aurora is the seat of all wisdom.
** Lit., "Enclosure." The Tunthi name for the desolate plateau on which they live, Tun Hartha.
 

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