So, you got some PCs with a connection to Elfaivar as well? Damn, I'd love to read all about it, but for now I'm afraid of spoilers, even if we got a good grasp on the Obscurati plan and Nicodemus' true identity by now. We'll most likely return to Elfaivar to meet Kasverina and Asrabey this sunday.
Oh and [MENTION=63]RangerWickett[/MENTION] I'd love to play that. So many campaigns are focused on stopping the villains from doing evil stuff or ending a reign of terror, but very few plots try to incorporate building and rebuilding and protecting what you're trying to grow.
We then decide to make all necessary preparations for the arrival of new refugees in Sawyer. So back to Sawyer it is. When we arrive at the main hall and ask for governor Roderick, we are told that she's currently in a meeting with Mr. Pemberton, so we'd have to wait a bit to see her. After a while, we see her and another man emerge from her office and hear Roderick call Pemberton a true friend of Sawyer. The two then bid each other farewell and both seem a bit surprised to see the two of us waiting there.
Roderick assumes that we just returned from Pallita, only to be even more surprised when we tell her that we already spoke to King Aodhan and told him about the issues in Sawyer. Pemberton, being a thin and angular man in his late forties, introduces himself as head of Pemberton Industries and claims he's happy to shake hands with the new knights of Risur and heroes of Flint and Sawyer sooner than he'd expected. Still, Carlyle senses that he's a bit uneasy about our presence here as if we're the last people he needs around him right now.
(Let's just hope he doesn't plan anything fishy now that he got the gratitude of Roderick...)
He leaves quickly afterward and we join governor Roderick in her office and tell her about our visit in Slate. She's quite happy about the prospect of working closer together with the mainland. We then tell her that we might just bring new refugees soon. Refugees who are to be officially rescues from King Vardanis' territory despite coming from “elsewhere”.
Roderick gets that the details about the refugees' origin are top secret, so she doesn't dig much deeper, but she seems concerned that there might be troubles ahead. We stress out that while this is top secret indeed, we are in close contact with the King, so no need to worry about betraying risuri interests.
(Walking the thin line between telling too much and raising suspicions...)
As we don't want her to get entangled in the specifics, we simply ask her to prepare shelter for roughly 20 eladrin, most likely only women and children, and to get them a counselor who'll help them get accustomed to life in the Covenant. Seems like Roderick can live with that.
As soon as this is settled, Carlyle uses a teleport spell to get us close to a town near Beaumont where the Avery Coast train stopped for the first time. There we take the guises of Monsieur Pompadour and his less linguistically talented manservant and buy tickets for the slow train that's stopping at all neighboring villages. Once aboard the train, handsome Mr. Pompadour starts chatting and flirting with quite a few elderly danoran women and finds out that the Traverses are a rather rich family of tiefling heritage who live in an estate near a town called Frojmont.
(In case you were asking who's playing who: Auryn clearly has a thing for posing as flamboyant men while Carlyle doesn't object to not talking every now and then)
So we get off the train in Frojmont and rent a room in a local inn, claiming to be on a trip to visit distant relatives of Pompadour who live in the countryside. There, we take quite some time to inconspicuously gather rumors and information about the Traverses and their estate. We then take an elongated stroll through the nearby farms and hamlets where we also pass by the Traverse estate. From outside, we can see a large mansion surrounded by vast lands. There is a well-tended garden in front of the mansion where a family is having a picnic. We also spot a couple of slaves working for said family and another building that appears to be an old castle and decide to take a closer look.
So we continue our stroll, turn invisible and return to said castle. We find a group of eladrin children inside, playing in the courtyard while being watched by female guards and one eunuch. We don't see any of the missing women or signs of imprisoned eladrin men, but we assume that they'd be inside the castle as well.
We withdraw from the Traverse estate to discuss our further proceedings. As the Traverses appear to have many employees, slaves and also kids of their own, we decide against eradicating them all. Which also means that we'd need a scapegoat to cover our strike. Fortunately, we just learned of one crazy individual who's also allegedly in the slave business and who could have even been the one who sold some women to the Traverses a few decades ago.
As our plan has to be flawless, we realize that we first need an authentic letter from King Vardanis. So we travel back to Elfaivar to get the fitting ink and paper and then ask one of the eladrin veterans to write a letter where King Vardanis, the Shining Light of Elfaivar demands to get back the women he gave the Traverse family back in the day or else. We then enhance the forgery by adding the King's historic crest and seal and go back to Beaumont.
When we take the train to Frojmont again, we are quite surprised to come across four well-armed eladrin men who, judging by their uniforms, are part of Danor's Red Tiger company. They appear quite organized and we manage to snatch a message they got from their quartermaster where they are promised “the usual benefits” for their good services. Seems like we just found Isobel's Nightelves.
We discuss taking their visit as an opportunity to cement King Vardanis' involvement in ending the Traverses' business and make the Nightelves pay for their crimes at the same time. So we wait until the four eladrin have entered the estate and sneak into the building later that evening. There, we wait patiently until the guests are brought to separate rooms in the guest wing of the house. We agree that we have to stop them before they can cause any more harm to their suspected unwilling partners, so each of us follows them to a different guest room.
While waiting for a perfect opportunity to strike, we are both quite surprised to see that the Nightelves actually do know common courtesy and that their encounter with the Traverse eladrin would probably be more akin to being respectful customers than to be ravishing beasts. So Auryn is a bit baffled when she sees “her” Nightelf bowing calmly before disrobing and it takes her quite a few moments to finally knock out the unsuspecting eladrin man. She then reveals herself to the woman and asks her to swallow her fear, calm down and stay quiet. She then explains that she's here to rescue her captive sisters which is why they'll have to leave immediately. The woman appears to be both glad and unsure, but she insists that she won't leave without her daughters.
Meanwhile, Carlyle takes no time to knock out his Nightelf, but he fares much worse in calming down the eladrin as he's seen as a human invader. Luckily, he can fetch some alchemical anesthetics before her screams can alert the whole estate to the intruders. We then repeat the process with the other two Nightelves before we wake up the unconscious woman and explain her that we came to get her and her family out of this hell.
We leave through one of the windows and, once we feel safe, discuss how to proceed. The four women can give us directions and describe where their children are being held at night. They also tell us about the guard's routines and we get the expression that these guarding girls (and that eunuch) were treating them poorly and with much force.
“Then they'll deserve their fate” Auryn whispers before Carlyle explains that the servants of King Vardanis would leave no “enemy forces” alive. So we ask the four women to hide in the darkness while the two of us sneak into the old castle and stealthily assassinate all of the guards present. We then free the children and the two remaining women and lead them to the other four. Once the family is reunited, we tell them that they are free now and that we'll bring them to a place where they are actually welcome. We just have to make sure that this Traverse business ends here and now, so we ask them to wait a bit longer until our mission is fulfilled.
We then return to the main estate to find out more about the trafficking business of the Traverses. More precisely, we wish to find out who got their hands dirty and who's to be considered innocent.
“To make one thing crystal clear: I won't help you kill children, no matter how cruel they might have been to the eladrin.” Carlyle says sternly as they both scan through various documents and sales accounts. Auryn looks completely estranged in response just as if someone just claimed she loves torturing puppies.
“You know me. I would never harm a child. And even if they were cruel, they will still have more than enough opportunities to change and mature.”
Carlyle seems satisfied with that response and together we find our that there are currently six members of the Traverse family living in the estate: Lord and Lady Traverse, both tieflings, their juvenile son, their young daughter, the Lord's brother and his wife, being the sole human. Among the adults, this young woman seems to be the only one who never appeared in any sales document, contract or correspondence about the eladrin which is why we consider her to be innocent. This offers a bit of relief as she'll be the one to witness the strike of “Vardanis' men” and might act as caretaker for her niece and nephew afterward.
We then sneak into the private wing of the estate where Carlyle summons a wall of ice to block off any means of escape and muffle all sounds. He then points out that everything else is Auryn's business and her decision. However, when she openly muses whether it would be more humane to kill them in their sleep, Carlyle puts a hand on her shoulder and whispers:
“More humane for whom? It'd be easier for you, of that I am certain. But don't they deserve to know who came here to judge them and why? You're not an assassin, you're passing a sentence.”
Auryn nods silently. “You're right. I shall not tread lightly tonight.”
She then takes on her haunted, dark fey aspect and walks into the Traverses' bedroom with Carlyle following her trail. She then wakes them both, staring at them with glowing, violet eyes. Believing this to be some weird case of robbery, Monsieur Traverse offers the intruders all the money they wish in return for mercy. Seeing the twisted irony, Auryn finally raises her voice which sounds cold as ice.
“You ask for mercy when you gave none yourself. You and your family committed unforgivable crimes and cruelties against my sisters and my people. You bred them like cattle, imprisoned them, sacrificed them to soldiers and sold their children to slavery. Your never ending greed destroyed countless lives. But this ends tonight. Now you shall pay the just price for what you've done.”
She then pieces the man's heart with a swift thrust of her rapier. Madame Traverse faints a mere moment before Auryn's strike pierces hers as well. She then silently leaves the room and moves on to her last target where she first places a sleeping spell on the human woman and then goes on to judge the other Traverse brother.
She then turns to the sleeping woman and whispers “I'm sorry that you'll have to witness all of this.”. She then alters the woman's memory and implants the cruel memory of an eladrin raid on the Traverse estate into her mind where eladrin men in King Vardanis' colors storm into her bedchamber, kill her husband and tell her that this is what happens when you don't heed the one true King's orders.
We then place our forged letter in one of the writing chambers before Carlyle kills the remaining Nightelves. After that, we return to the group of eladrin women and children who are still waiting in the dark. We tell them that their nightmare is finally over and teleport them all to Sawyer. Roderick already expected our arrival and she promises us to take good care of the new arrivals. We make the eladrin swear to never tell anyone where they came from and leave the rest to Roderick and Kaealys.
When we finally return to Flint, Auryn is shaking all over her body and she confesses that she's feeling quite sick right now despite the fact that she's relieved that the Isobel's family is free at last. She says she never expected her judgement to take such a heavy toll on her, especially in a clear case like this.
“That's only natural because you are no assassin, no cold-blooded murderer.” Carlyle says softly.
“What you're feeling right now are two aspects of you who are in conflict with each other. You're shivering because they're struggling to find out which one is right. There is that part of you who knows what you've done was wrong, the part of you who values life and who seeks forgiveness. And then there's the part of you who knows you've simply done what's just and right. The part who wishes to protect and avenge your people at any cost.”
He pauses for a moment before mustering Auryn with quite the curiosity.
“I must admit I'm a bit surprised at your strong reaction though. I originally got the impression that you were actually looking forward to taking this mission. Anyway, I can only give you the advice to take some time to properly process what happened today. I can obviously understand your need to bring criminals to justice that cannot be persecuted officially, but please don't take these deeds too lightly.”
Auryn quietly admits that she was truly looking forward to freeing Isobel's family and bringing an end to the Traverse business was naturally going to be part of it. And after freeing and avenging herself in the arena of Nalaam and killing Elanor with her bare hands, she almost felt as if killing those who'd harm her people was truly satisfying. But striking down the Traverses was no pleasure, not even satisfaction, but a heavy duty instead. A duty that's to be expected from a matriarch judging criminals.
Carlyle reminds her that the Traverses will most likely not have seen themselves as criminals as danoran rights do not outlaw slavery, so, according to danoran law she'd actually be the criminal here.
“Curse that damn danoran law. A system that's encouraging amorality and a lack of empathy, that puts no value in life, and especially not in eladrin life, shouldn't be allowed to be called law.” Auryn hisses before adding that even with such a careless law, people should actually be able to live up to certain moral standards.
Carlyle adds that he doesn't need any explanation as he understands how she's feeling. All he wishes to ask of her is to carefully consider her decisions when she's about to take or spare lives as he had to do the same when he was acting as guardian of the Vantrys family. He then admits that this mission almost pushed him to his limits and that there are thresholds he has to actively avoid crossing lest he'd fall back to old habits.
Auryn tells him not to fear as she reminds him that she'd never take lives lightly. After all, life is most precious for an eladrin like herself.
(Okay, this was most likely the darkest episode so far. At least in terms of PC actions.
First, yeah we tried to delegate the mission to various Vekeshi but ended up doing it anyway. I really don't regret it as it pushed both characters to their limits. Going against the Traverses was a test for both of them for different reasons.
First, there is Carlyle who did similar stuff for the Vantrys family but left that path behind when he joined the RHC. If you remember his first adventures, he was even more uptight and rules-adhering. For example, in our very first mission he suspected Auryn to have an unregistered second job as bar singer and to use some of her plants as narcotics (which she obviously did for relaxation) and totally called her out on that. In reality, this was just his way to distance himself from his own vigilante past.
When he realized that he cared for the eladrin people as well, he allowed his old self to reappear, a process that truly started with Isobel's rescue. And I guess he fears that he might lose himself in returning to a “pro-active way of dealing with injustice” as he'd call it. Which is why I think that he's started to use Auryn as part of his moral compass as well. All while trying to help her navigate in this new territory as he doesn't want her to go through the same troubles he had to on his own.
Then there is Auryn who really wanted to help her people and who totally knows about her duty. But Carlyle hit the nail right on its head here: She's struggling with her perceived duty as strong protector, avenger and judge and her love for life and her need to induce change.
As for why this situation was so completely different from that one in Nalaam where she did indeed feel the heat of combat and even enjoyed killing Elanor? Because this was about herself and ultimately a power struggle. Elanor had rendered her helpless, a situation she could only stand because she had faith in her friends. After having been stripped of her power, she naturally felt that rush of power returning and a direct need to avenge herself and punish that woman who took her power away from her and who tried to sell her like an object.
On the other hand, the Traverses were totally defenseless compared to her. They didn't stand a chance and Auryn executed them while she was in total control of the situation. So even if they truly deserved it, this didn't feel completely right for her.
Also, this seems like a good spot to discuss alignment. Or rather the difficulties one can have in placing a simple measurement like alignment on characters like these. For Auryn, this works okay-ish because she is generally altruistic, has a lot of empathy and is a protector of the weak. Even if she does some morally grey actions and has pretty dark thoughts, especially when she's being disillusioned. She's equally a dutiful traditionalist and neurotic perfectionist as well as unconventional, emotional and creative, adhering to law (and enforcing it) while also being open to interpret it freely. And even if it might very well be her sense of duty towards Elfaivar that may break her eventually, I'd overall consider her neutral good.
For Carlyle, this is way harder and I found myself unable to give that character a concrete alignment. Then I talked to Carlyle's player, who didn't know either, picked up his character sheet and found that he had written no alignment on it at all.
Like Auryn, Carlyle is extremely dutiful and he's following strict rules. He's also utterly loyal to a point where he'd break said rules to serve those he loves or to do “what has to be done”. He's very orderly and follows risuri customs and traditions while also asking others to question their own traditions (hah, also like Auryn). He hates violence, but is the first to strike if he has to. He can be caring and is an empathetic protector of the innocents but can be utterly ruthless while doing so. Especially if he's frustrated or dealing with wannabe-tough guys. He's quite cruel when he calls out people who screwed up on their tasks – he absolutely loathes incompetence. And he tends to stick to what's his job when considering morals.
So all in all I'd place him as more lawful with a touch of good-ish. But I'm keen to hear about your opinions as well )
I'm running a game with four paladin PCs. Alignment stuff comes up surprisingly rarely, because I've striven not to overwhelm the players with moral dilemmas. It's easy to ride forth to defend innocents against clear villains who intend to conquer and slaughter. It's harder to make morality clear when you enter a city with a cruel government and help overthrow it, hoping you'll be reducing people's suffering, only to see the new leadership using extreme violence to stamp out the allies of the old. Did you just abet evil acts? Does it matter how orderly the executions are? A public trial with evidence, or an assassination in bed: both have the same outcome, but the former is harder to pull off, and gives the ne'er-do-well a chance to escape, yet is more morally acceptable.
Auryn did not act unilaterally. She got advice from allies, and considered whether it was feasible to rescue those women through legal pathways. She broke the law, but tried to do it in a way to minimize fall-out and keep from leading to retribution and more suffering. So she's good, but this act was 'chaotic.' Overall, though, is she trying to maintain Risur's system, or at least build a better system? I think yes. She's not simply doing whatever she thinks is right at the moment. She's trying to build something better where the rules protect everyone. I'd honestly peg her as lawful good, with the occasional chaotic act.
Killing the Traverses, though, wasn't a "good" act. It wasn't necessarily an "evil" act, either. There certainly could have been a way to capture those people and arrest them, even if it had to remain secret. Or to make a deal with someone in Danor to arrest them on some other valid charge, and in the meanwhile steal their wealth and discredit their names so they could not rebuild their slave-selling business. That would have been harder, though, and one could reasonably argue that Auryn and Carlyle don't have time to spare for that. But that would have been more of a "good" option.
An "evil" option would have been to torment them before killing them, and then to steal all their wealth and use it for oneself.
So yeah, what Auryn did is, I think, neutral.
As for Carlyle? I've never seen him pursue things for his own desires while ignoring the harm it causes others. But he certainly feels less motivated to mitigate harm than Auryn. I feel he's more Lawful Neutral, doing what society says is proper, having relatively few desires of his own.
If they ditched Aodhan, though, and stopped having anyone to second-guess or guide their paths, they might shift from Lawful Good and Lawful Neutral to Neutral Good and true Neutral.
I would say that Auryn's actions (and carlyles) were largely good. You were acting to bring about the end of a great injustice and bring justice for clear crimes, however the nature of the crimes placed them beyond your legal jurisdiction and in a place were the legal authorities would not act against them, you there fore took the appropriate actions and delivered the punishment you could. It would have been better to bring them before a court and a trial but that was impossible unless you had kidnapped them and delivered them to the government of an Eladrin enclave and even then the consequences for that enclave may have been negative and the sentence would have been the same. Ignoring the slavers activity would have been wrong.
My own players have always tried to take people alive to face trial but particularly during the train journey when they lacked legal authority they found that they could not always find a legal solution. In one case the half orc business man and his mafia deals they reached an agreement which while was not legal was fair and made use of their influence with the family to do so (in general dealing with the family has pushed them into legal grey zones a lot with them accepting somewhat illegal solution to reach a moral result). They did deliberately kill everyone involved in the slaving in Naalam , normally they choose to not kill when a target drops to 0 hp but here they went for death as anything else would let the criminal escape and re-offend, they also had the serial killer gunslinger assassinated they arranged for a Vekeshi Dryad to meet him and when he tried to kill the dryad it planted him under a tree. I will be interested to see how they operate as they operate further from home and reach a higher level which puts them somewhat above the law, the Kobold is somewhat gun and bomb happy which creates some conflict the others being much less bloodthirsty.
Most of them have no ties to the Eladrin or Elfaivar except for a general interest and curiosity. However Nevla the female Eladrin Vekeshi cleric is very interested in her people although she had never been to Elfaivar having been raised as a slave in Danor before escaping somehow leaving all the slavers shredded. She is a cleric of Ssrama she thinks but she has no idea where she manages to draw her power from and instead of channelling positive energy seems to channel some entropic force she and no one else has been able to determine the origins of. She also keeps having visions of Elfaivar from before the death of Ssrama so thinks she may be the reincarnation of an Eladrin who died in the great malice.
The Goblin has a batman obsession and indeed his father tried trying to clean up corruption in one of the Beran cities leaving his son and an elderly butler to flee to Risur.
The Dwarf is a solid military veteran who has a link to the elemental plane of air and is accompanied by a lightning weasel.
The Kobold is a dragon obsessed gun wielding lunatic who really wants to become a dragon
I read a bit about the SMITE EVIL campaign and it does sound really intriguing to have such an unconventional and dynamic team of paladins as PCs. My last attempt at playing a paladin character was several years ago, and she wasn't planned to be come a paladin at start (originally a noble girl who took her family's bard to go find a cure for her brother who had caught a magical illness while traveling abroad), while Carlyle's player has a soft spot for playing them (his only nitpick is that they can be mechanically niche with their smite)
So yeah... made me want to play one again.
Andrew's party sounds incredibly colorful. I guess Nevla and Auryn would get along quite well while the Kobold is absolutely in for a surprise in adventure 6. Also... no human PC? That's quite rare. And yeah, we left a trail of bodies along the Avery Coast as well due to a lack of time and influence on the jurisdiction. Boone and Elanor totally deserved their fates though. Regarding Cippiano and La Familia, we got the okay from Delft to make deals with him as long as it was in Risur's best interest and he stayed true to his words. But this will come up again soon. Cippiano is still one of our favorite NPC and it is quite ironic that the most trustworthy and likeable person from Crisillyir is basically a mafia godfather. But this will have to wait till after the long-awaited Dirge of Vekesh
Regarding alignment, it doesn't really play much of a role in most of our campaigns. But we had quite the discussion on the concept as written as there are often underlying aspects that are hard to judge, like motivation, action, aim and ideals. Before WotBS and Zeitgeist, we played Way of the Wicked, an AP where you play a group of (persecuted) Asmodeans who try to overthrow a LG theocratic government. So naturally you'd all be on the LE end of the spectrum. And it turns out that you can't really march in and say "Now we rule, obey or die!" - the party doesn't have the resorces and it isn't really Asmodeus' favored way of getting done. So we ended up using subterfuge and also "good deeds" to get what we want and sway the populace. What totally helped was the fact that our PCs deeply believed that the Asmodean rule was actually better, more natural and transparent. It was also a great case study on why and how people can turn to evil, or literally start worshipping the devil, as individuals or as society as a whole.
Oddly enough our previous pathfinder campaign was Way of the Wicked, and again no human main pc's (2 Aasimar, Dhampir, Half Elf, Half Orc ) the cohorts included a couple of humans but as they almost all became undead they were not terribly human. Very evil, very subtle had a cookbook guide to sentient species of Talingarde (Following being forced to east lutefisk in book 1 , the Tritons looked tasty and Grumblejack was a bad influence). Bizzarly in that campaign 4 out of 5 pc's had cha 18+ while in this campaign 3 out of 4 pc's have cha 8 , even the high charisma character is no match for the high charisma Aasimar Vampire Sorceress who managed to diplomance a dragon to death
My impression is that Nevla and Auryn would get on well. The Kobold is in for a lot of suprises but he is already very much of the opinion that some dragons must be out there in disguise.
We only make loose use of alignment I tend to be a bit more restrictive that Paladins/Cleric abide by the ethos of their gods but that has never been a problem and the player of the Goblin has a tendency towards chaotic whatever he is playing
We spend the next days writing reports and analyzing our information. One day, Auryn asks Carlyle to give her one of these old suits he's no longer wearing as she'd love to try out something new. When he asks her what she'd do to his clothing, she just winks and says that it'll be an experiment but doesn't go into more detail.
We also tell Isobel that we found her family and brought them all to a safe place. As this safe haven is quite far from Risur, we promise to bring her there whenever she wishes. Isobel is truly happy about this news but says that she still got much to learn in Flint and wants to stay with Auryn even if she'd visit them regularly.
Some days after, the premiere of the Dirge of Vekesh opera is finally on schedule in the Navras Opera house. As the performance team sent out invitations to almost everyone they knew, Auryn also invited King Aodhan and Principal Minister Lee who confirmed that they would come as they do not want to miss this spectacle. (Yay!) She also invited Lya and Han Jierre, as well as other members of the danoran entourage (as the opera was originally set to be performed during the peace talk period), but they, unfortunately, had to decline. Honoring her pact with Fordren, she also sent the businessman an invitation, but he, too, has other plans as he's trying to expand to Ber.
So the colorful troupe of Dockers, opera performers and Auryn perform the fictional tales of Vekesh and a Crisillyiri soldier who gets reborn as deva after the Fall of Srasama:
The opera starts with a magnificent overture that combines traditional elfaivaran music with an ancient crisillyiri opera style and is interwoven with snippets of the original Dirge of Vekesh melody.
Then the first scene begins, set in Alais Primos just before the final march of the Eladrin. A group of crisillyiri soldiers is gathering their armor and weapons, getting ready for what might very well be their last stand. They discuss how things could have come this far and whether they'll see the next sunrise when one of them asks himself whether they've brought this situation upon themselves. He's rebuffed by his comrades however.
On the other side of the city wall, the Eladrin soldiers are performing ritual dances and traditional war prayers to prepare for the grand battle ahead. They swear to take revenge for the events and losses of the First War and the human raids on their territory. And they also swear to bring their grand elfaivaran empire back to its original glory. Vekesh, played by Auryn, is present at the sidelines of these preparations, looking contemplatively.
The scene switches to a peaceful setting, depicting a magic-weaver in her home and workshop. She sings of her hope that this war will end soon and that her family returns to her alive. At the end of her song, she warns her eldest daughter to not do so much mischief with her newly-learned spells as her baby daughter is sleeping and she needs her rest.
The battle for Alais Primos begins. Human and eladrin soldiers clash in massive combat. Still, the walls of the city withhold the ongoing assault. Then, a giant silhouette of a six-armed, fiery woman appears on the battlefield: Srasama has come to join the eladrin forces.
The human side falls to desperation as they fear that their final hour has come at last. One by one they throw themselves at the goddess in a heroic act of sacrifice, hoping to halt her advance. Then, the goddess dies a death of thousand cuts and she sings a heavy song of lamentation as she knows that her death means oblivion for her daughters. The whole stage is wrapped in flames and the scene ends.
One by one, all eladrin women fall to the ground, completely lifeless. The short lament of lost hope is interrupted by fanfares of victory as the human soldiers find their hope renewed. As they charge towards the eladrin, the mourn of the remaining men turns into an angry vow for revenge. Weapons clash again violently, but the eladrin are hopelessly outnumbered and their ranks get devastated.
(I guess this is where one could place a break. Either here, or after Srasama's death)
The wave of Srasama's death reaches the magic-weaver's home. Both the woman and her daughter die in its wake, falling to the ground without sound. But her baby daughter is nowhere to be seen. Only an ominous, hovering rope indicates that there might be more going on than the eye can see.
(Yep, I borrowed this shenanigan from the Book of the Eight Lands ploy of the Ragesians. Rope trick is such a cool spell)
The crisillyiri soldier awakes somewhere in the jungle, appearing completely naked and covered with markings. He's quite disoriented and walks through heavy undergrowth until he reaches the home of the magic-weaver. There, he finds the lifeless bodies of both the woman and her daughter and mourns their death while asking himself what tragedy might have happened here.
After his lament, he finds the mysterious rope and, curious as he is, decides to pull it. Coincidentally, the spell is ending this very same moment and an eladrin baby falls straight into the man's arms. He sings a short song where he asks himself whether this “heaven-sent” child is a sign of hope among all this tragedy and then takes the child with him.
In the next scene, a group of surviving eladrin swears revenge for their fallen female comrades, even if such an endeavor means certain death. Vekesh tries to calm them down and asks them to think before springing to action, but he's ignored by the zealous group. He leaves them with his head held low and wanders off to the jungle.
Vekesh almost bumps into the strangely marked Crisillyiri. They are both cautious in the presence of the other, circling each other as both expect an attack every moment. After a while of musical taxation, none of them shows any sign of aggression and both are about to relax. Then, all of a sudden, the child starts crying which alerts Vekesh to its presence. He asks the Crisillyiri how he came to carry an eladrin baby and the man tells him all about the strange scene he had witnessed. Both enter a short duet where they agree that this baby is indeed a sign of hope.
Vekesh understands that there is still more to this world than death, despair and mindless revenge. He talks about his hope that he might find more survivors of the calamity in time and that there may still be a shimmer of hope for Elfaivar. He then sings the titular Dirge of Vekesh.
The Crisilyiri is impressed by Vekesh's resolve and explains that his own memory is pretty fragmented. He sings a moving piece where he swears to abandon war and conflict as he can agree to Vekesh's statement. Both decide to take care for the baby girl on their journey, even if they don't know where it might lead them.
After a longer while, the unlikely trio encounters another guerrilla band of eladrin warriors. The eladrin see an enemy in the deva and are about to strike at him, but Vekesh intervenes and places himself in front of the Crisillyiri. He tells his people the tale of hope, his idea of renewing Elfaivar and the fortune of finding this baby girl. The eladrin listen to Vekesh, agreeing that this child is a symbol of hope indeed. They swear to protect her with their lives and to teach her the history and culture of Eladrin in her mother's stead. But they demand that their “ancient enemy” keeps distance from her.
The Crisillyiri appears struck with sadness and regret, but he understands that this child will be better off with her own kind. So he says goodbye to her and Vekesh without any sign of anger. After he retreats, he sings of his hope to eventually see her again one day.
Many years later, the deva (who now seems to have come to term with his new identity) comes across an eladrin hunting company. The eladrin are led by a mighty warrior (played by Auryn as well) who recognizes the man as someone from her distant past. She orders her companions to lower their weapons and asks the man to come with her to her home.
She and the deva enter an eladrin enclave where she reveals that she knows what he had done for her when she was a child. She thanks him deeply and then leads him to her own baby daughter. The opera ends with the woman singing about life being always more powerful than death as long as there are people like him and Vekesh who keep an open mind and believe in the right values and who are not afraid to fight for their beliefs.
Before the curtain falls after this last scene, Auryn searches for Carlyle's seat and dedicates these last notes to him.
All in all, the opera seems to be a big success though not everyone in the audience seems to have completely grasped the meaning of the story. Carlyle congratulates Auryn on this perfect premiere, even if she's a bit skeptical herself, finding flaws in her performance where no one else would see them.
She explains that she's still far from the levels of Navras or even Vekesh and even asked herself whether she'd disgraced these two great artists with her mediocre art. After all, Navras managed to have a whole audience in tears before he disappeared, she says. Carlyle tells her that, while in his opinion, this is all pretty much nonsense, she could try to watch the audience's responses more closely next time and try to figure out what works for them and what doesn't. He himself is no tearful man, so crying at a performance is not in his usual repertoire, even if he found her songs touching.
(She's totally projecting the lack of understanding onto herself and her performance. Also she's a bit pricked that this damn Carlyle obviously didn't realize that she took inspiration from his own character and made that big of a statement in front of everyone.
Well... I guess he did realize it indeed but didn't know how to handle it.)
Some time later, we receive an emergency call from Slate where we're asked to come to the capital immediately as they just got more information on Tinker Oddcog's whereabouts. So we take Chief inspector Delft and our luggage and teleport to Slate where we're already expected and brought to Torfield Palace. This time, we partake in a more official council meeting with Price-Hill, Harkover Lee and King Aodhan.
Lee starts the meeting by handing out copies of a newspaper article from Ber, written by reporter Melissa Amarie. She writes that Bruse Shantus recently employed a strange person named Tinker Oddcog as head of his arms development team, a mechanic with dubious reputation. She finds this troubling news indeed as there are rumors that this Oddcog was involved in building the ginormous metal colossus that threatened to devastate Flint a few weeks ago.
We find these news to be pretty surprising and Lee snarkily reminds both Delft and Price-Hill that it is kind of embarrassing to find that some young half-orc is doing a better job at gathering critical information than the RHC. Both men seem embarrassed indeed and admit that they couldn't find any trace of said engineer. Fortunately, it seems as if the Danorans got the memo only recently as well as the Lux Profectusque left for Ber and arrived in Seobriga two days ago.
We guess that this means Lya Jierre will be involved in finding Tinker Oddcog as well and that her presence in Seobriga might complicate things a lot. Especially as we don't know whether she's trying to find Tinker Oddcog for the Danorans or for the Obscurati. So King Aodhan asks us to find out more about Lya's motives, assess the situation in Seobriga and try to question the gnome ourselves. After all, getting more information on Borne and how to stop him is critical.
Regarding Lya, we discuss whether keeping good relations to her and Danor should have priority during this mission or whether it'd be more important to get Tinker's information at any cost. King Aodhan seems to trust our diplomatic instincts in this case, but he's leaning a bit towards getting our hands on Oddcog. He also mentions that we're free to parley with Bruse Shantus and may offer him good deals should he be willing to hand over the gnome. Still we should try to not rub the whole Ob story under his nose right now.
Price-Hill has some older information on Tinker Oddcog as well and it turns out that this guy had originally tried to get a job as chief engineer of the Slate Subway system. He didn't get the appointment though and strange accidents happened afterward, so the whole project got cancelled eventually.
(during all these talks Carlyle pretty much always dryly spoke of “the Oddcog” or “his Oddcog” regarding Shantus which made the situation utterly hilarious. In the end, both Tiz and me ended up laughing loudly whenever he returned the subject to the gnome.)
In terms of Shantus and getting the Bruse's ear, Harkover Lee warns us that the minotaur is kind of eccentric and doesn't like giving audiences. So while he might seem to be accessible while being at his summer court, he prefers watching games to governance. Which is why getting an audience with the Bruse usually includes a long waiting time. What's making matters worse is the fact that the Bruse has come under pressure lately as he's on bad terms with his former companion, Cavallo de Guerra who he might see as a rival to his rightful claim on beran authority. On top of this, the gnolls to the south are (still? Again?) in open rebellion against the government. Oh and did he mention that we may not use our standard diplomatic channels because the official ambassador of Risur died recently and his position is still vacant?
The latter fact is bad news indeed as we have very little knowledge of beran politics (our aliases Amira and Hector Fernandez had no political background at all) and we really need someone to introduce us to the court. So we discuss our options and come up with three names: Pemberton, Brakken Heffanita and Francis Fordren.
Pemberton may be the easy choice as he's basically a Risuri and helped us with the Mad King debacle, plus he has shown interest of expanding to or investing in Ber. Still we barely know him and he's a businessman, so he'll need some incentive to help us.
Heffanita brings the benefits of being from Ber and also being known as a diplomat. We know him quite well and we helped his niece, Wolmi, so he might be easily swayed to help us out. Still, we already used his family's contacts excessively and don't wish to pile on too much debt with a foreign diplomat who may or may not have his very own agenda.
And then there's Fordren, who already established contacts in Ber and may be eccentric enough to help us out simply because a certain Eladrin asks him for help – something that would be very surprising and therefore exciting. Still, he's... Fordren and Auryn would only agree to this plan if he was the best choice.
So we decide that Heffanita might be the best option after all and also agree that the Bruse might be interested in a bunch of colorful newcomers to his court. Newcomers, which include a deva (a rare sight in Ber), an eladrin women (again, rare), and a faerie dragon (cute miniature tyrant?). We also decide to take Margit and Burton with us, as the goblin will stick out very little compared to us and Margit is... well, she's our dear, reliable Margit.
Promising to do our best to get our hands on Oddcog, we say goodbye to the King, Harkover Lee, and Lord Price-Hill (or, “the pleasant round of charming gentlemen”, as Auryn would call them... yep, she's totally casually flirting with her superiors) and teleport Delft and us back to Flint.
We then send messages to our fellow constables about our upcoming trip to Seobriga and use the remaining time to have a chat with Morgan Cippiano. First, we inform him that we'll leave Flint very soon, so should he have anything going on at the moment, he'd have to share his news right now. When he signals that everything is alright, we then carefully tell him that one of his sources, the oracle Ottavia Sacredotte, should be handled carefully regarding to sensitive information as we suspect her to be affiliated with the conspirators who are behind the creation of the Colossus and the attacks on High Skyseer Nevard. We both agree that she's an altruistic person though.
Cippiano senses that we're unusually tight-lipped when it comes to matters of these conspirators and we explain that everything surrounding this topic is filled with very sensitive, classified information, some of which is only shared by the King and ourselves, so we ask him to understand our caution. The Don surely understands, even if he wished that he were able to see the full picture. He then adds that Ottavia isn't his personal contact, merely a acquaintance of a friend's friend or so.
Auryn then surprisingly asks Cippiano whether he knows anything about the attack on the Vantrys estate, as this case had been extremely frustrating for us and as even the RHC wasn't able to solve this mystery after all these years. On the contrary, information about who might be behind the assassination is so scarce that we suspect there might be true professionals behind it.
Cippiano says that he honestly doesn't know much about this incident as the Vantrys are but a name in Flint's ever-growing industrial jungle. Still he offers to keep his eyes and ears open and hand us any kind of info he might get his hands on. Auryn also hints that even Carlyle wasn't able to find out much after pulling all his strings and using his supreme abilities, but said Carlyle prefers to add no comment to her statement.
After saying goodbye to Carlyle, he tells Auryn that, while he does find her engagement for his case really honorable and also thinks that asking Cippiano about information a clever idea, he'd prefer to be informed about such ideas in advance. Especially if her plans involve giving people information about himself, something he'd need to have full control of. Auryn only then realizes that Cippiano might have taken her hints as a sign that Carlyle still has a strong connection to his former employers, which might be interpreted as a vulnerable spot.
“I'm so sorry, I didn't plan to open up your flank like that. It is just... Mr. Cippiano is such a nice guy that you easily forget how potentially dangerous he can be.”
“And that's exactly what makes him dangerous. We should never underestimate a man like him.” Carlyle says and then tries to brush the matter off as nothing bad happened yet and he does plan to stay on good terms with the Don.
(Sooo true. Cippiano is just the guy who's nice and sweet and plays games with your kids but still means deadly business should anyone dare to stand in his way or cross his Family/Familia.
Mr. Carlyle's player recently introduced me to the Blacklist and I see so many parallels between Cippiano and Red in terms of presonality. Even if Morgan usually isn't the action-type of mafia boss. Yet.)
Auryn is very much embarrassed by her obvious mistake, especially as Carlyle seems to be a magnet for her mistakes. She adds that it is very hard for her to read his thoughts, wishes or desires, which is why she keeps making these mistakes.
Carlyle returns the favor as he's usually reading people like an open book, but wrapping his mind around Auryn is a tough feat.
(When two people with high bluffs and sense motives interact... he's a really high-skilled expert at judging people, but she's just a silver-tongued uncanny valley who doesn't like being read)
“Don't judge yourself too harshly” he adds “That's no bad sign at all. I'd actually find it rather concerning if our relationship descended into routine or professional taxation. I prefer hearing your thoughts when you wish to share them.”
Auryn says that she's glad to hear that and then invites Carlyle to her home to share a glass of wine. Once they're in her living room, he's quite surprised when she hands him a bottle of one of his favorite wines and jokes that his partner might actually be a crazy stalker.
She laughs and then says “I'm just paying attention to your daily routines. And I am not too shy to ask your wine dealer for your preferences. Take it as a means of saying 'Thank you' for helping me deal with the task of freeing Isobel's family.”
When he mentions that he's sure that she would have been able to free them on her own as well, Auryn replies that he's quite correct, but she doesn't know whether she would have made decisions she'd have regretted by now. So yes, she's really thankful for his support.
“I hope you don't think that I sound like an obnoxious teacher. I don't wish to instruct you. But I've been in your situation as well and I...”
“You had no one to support you, I know. You had to decide all alone and I guess you do have regrets about some of the decisions you made. See, I'm beginning to understand you.”
Carlyle smiles faintly in response, thus confirming Auryn's hypothesis. Regarding regrets, he adds that it does seem as if she's having regrets as well as she seems kind of disconnected with her weapon. Auryn explains that regrets isn't the right word, she rather betrayed the purpose of von Recklinghausen's rapier, a weapon he had forged for self-defense.
“Oh, you mean the weapon he made to exorcise the demons that may haunt him or those he loves? The weapon that you used to slay the Gidim? These people were demons that threatened your people, so I wouldn't say that you betrayed the Doctor's intentions. Even if the Danorans may have a different point of view on that matter”
“Curse the Danorans and their stupid law that allows them to own other intelligent beings”
“Yeah, curse them.” Carlyle responds and then both agree to toast on their curse.
Auryn then shifts the subject back to where both of them are standing right now as she guesses that both are quite vulnerable to each other which is why dealing with one another is such a tough task compared to other people. She explains that at least she needed a lot of the time to understand that there's quite the sensitive soul behind the professional facade of Mr. Carlyle.
He agrees to her assessment and adds that this doesn't have to be a bad sign at all, as vulnerability is quite normal when it comes to dealing with people you trust.
They then talk about all the things that may or may have not changed over the last months and Carlyle realizes that despite everything that happened, he and his environment didn't really change that much. Sure, he was knighted and that meant much to him, but being given a title doesn't mean that your life has changed forever. At least nowadays, he adds, before explaining that back in the days, being elevated to even a low noble rank had quite the impact on someone's life. Especially as such an honor was and is quite rare.
Compared to what he saw back then, his life hasn't changed at all. And what makes matters even weirder is the fact that his chief inspector Delft is a “simple man” who's now below him in terms of social standing. He explains that such a situation would have been impossible in earlier centuries and that it would have been a necessity to knight Delft as well in order to keep social structures intact and avoid a scandal.
Auryn laughs quietly at Carlyle's little outrage and adds that at least the head of the RHC is a full-fledged Viscount, so there are at least some parts of his precious social structure left. Carlyle agrees that this thought is soothing indeed. He just believes that matters of rank and status mean much less in risuri society today.
As Auryn still got the feeling that belonging to a different social class now that he's a Knight of Risur does mean much for her partner, she asks him whether there's something he always wanted to do but didn't because he felt it wasn't proper or too daring. Carlyle replies that there had been secret wishes of his back in the day when he was still a butler. But this last year kind of made all of these wishes come true, like traveling around the world first class or being invited to a royal banquet. Which is why he cannot spontaneously name one wish he'd like to see fulfilled.
Regarding more personal wishes, he also doesn't know who he'd like to be or what he'd like to change either as he'd always been used to be exactly the person he had to be. When Auryn brings up Hector Fernandez as a man she could imagine Carlyle would like to be were he free of all duties and obligations, he shakes his head in response. Being Hector Fernandez, he explains, had been an interesting experience, but this man lacked purpose or direction and he couldn't imagine himself without a purpose.
Auryn seems a bit surprised, but understands his reasoning. She then adds that he should take some time to think about his wishes. And that she'll help him sort his thoughts should he need her advice. Trying to fulfill your wishes prematurely, she says, might spoil the result anyway as she had to learn when she dared to take on a masterpiece like the “Dirge” on the big stage. Carlyle senses that this topic left quite the impact on her and so he encourages her to keep analyzing reactions and keep practicing without being discouraged by small mistakes.
Before we teleport to Seobriga, Auryn discusses her upcoming mission and corresponding absence with Andrei and Isobel. She encourages both to live according to their own wishes and asks them to look for her botany projects. As Isobel is still learning to fit in and hasn't finished her defense training yet, she also asks Andrei to care for her well-being and safety. Not that she'd needed to ask him though.
After saying goodbye to the pair, we teleport to Seobriga where we suffer quite the culture shock as everyone seems to have jumped the wig craze train. The menfolk is also quite enthusiastic about double-breasted suits which makes Carlyle reminisce about the era when said clothing was hip in Flint.
(“Ah yes, these were the days...” Thinking about it, Eladrin, especially those of secluded enclaves must have another sense of time compared to the shorter-lived races. Carlyle definitely has seen the eras come and go while a man like Thorandil – who's of the same age – will probably not know much about the waxing and waning of fashion trends)
We also realize that many of the buildings in the city must stem from the time of the Dragon Tyrants as they are quite colossal in size compared to its humanoid inhabitants. We keep looking for Brakken Heffanita, but only manage to stumble across a police officer in a strange, old-fashioned uniform who seems to be looking for... us! To our surprise, he kind of walks us off albeit in a very friendly manner. He explains that we're asked to attend Executora Glaucia's court and we agree to follow him without resistance.
Meanwhile, some local protesters take notice of our small procession and they soon begin to encourage us to resist this obvious case of police brutality. We can see no brutality or despotism in this man's actions, so we try to explain that we're following this man freely and that he's also just doing his job.
The police officer leads us to the court of Seobriga where we're informed that Brakken Heffanita has been accused of being a “slave-master” which is why he has to be tried by Glaucia. Said Executora turns out to be a gnoll lady who's currently busy trying other offenders. Most of her sentences include some sort of corporeal punishment and we remember that this is quite the normal process in Ber. The judge's seat is also set upon the old bones of the local dragon tyrant, a fearsome female dragon named Widoreva.
After a couple of trials, Brakken Heffanita is called to enter the circle of truth and asked to tell his version of the story. Brakken then tells Glaucia that he had witnessed how two orcish men got in a fight with each other. He didn't bother until these two got him into the fight as well. As he didn't want to get hurt, he cast a spell to soothe the two rough-heads. Yet he did nothing to make them slave to his will.
“See, told ya! He's a slaver! He controlled our actions! We just wanted to fight!” shouts of the orcs and the crowd seems roused at the accusation. Glaucia demands silence before she asks whether someone would like to speak for the accused.
As we were the ones Brakken originally intended to meet in Seobriga, we offer to be witnesses of the minotaur's good character and speak in his defense. We ask Brakken about the nature of his spell and Auryn, who knows quite a bit about enchantments, explains that such a spell would not have the potential to erase someone's free will. She tries to exemplify Brakken's experiences as she explains that the minotaur is a diplomat, not a fighter. Still he had been put in a situation where he had to defend himself as he didn't want to get hurt. And by calming the two hot-heads, he also managed to avoid further injuries on all sides, including other bystanders.
She adds that, where she comes from, people are sometimes born with magical gifts, which makes it hard to differentiate whether someone is simply using words to calm someone down or whether he's emitting a magical aura. Carlyle realizes that the two orcs seem upset that this trial doesn't take the turn they wish for, so he asks to have them questioned as well. Bit by bit, he realizes that their story of how they “accidentally” got Brakken in a fight sounds pretty fake and so he asks Glaucia to have them questioned inside the circle of truth as well.
Turns out that the circle punishes liars with an eruption of flames and so the two orcs quickly confess that they were hired by a half-orc named Joe Pena to pick up a fight with Brakken Heffanita to make him use his powers against him. They still insist that they'd been mind controlled though.
Glaucia sighs and agrees that Brakken used some sort of mild enchantment, and punishes Brakken with a soft pat on his rear. Then she turns to the orcs and judges that they'd been involved in a conspiracy to ruin Brakken Heffanita's reputation. By taking money for carrying out someone else's plot, they made matters worse and so they're in for a serious beating. Brakken leaves the court as a free minotaur and we wonder whether this ploy might have had something to do with our mission. After all, the timing of this “conspiracy” seems very odd and the orcs don't remember much about this mysterious Senor Pena.
After leaving Glaucia's court, Brakken seems pretty downtrodden despite his victory. He explains that the mere accusation of being a slave-master in combination with his natural-born magic powers might be enough to lower his standing with Bruse Shantus. Which would dampen our chances of getting an audience with the Bruse with his help. We try to cheer him up a bit by saying that we're used to such troubles and then take him to the risuri embassy to get some rest. There, we introduce ourselves as the two announced Knights of Risur and store the baggage we've been dragging along all the time.
We ask the embassy's employees to take good care of Brakken and then go to search for Melissa Amarie as we'd like to ask the clever reporter a few questions. We ask for directions while Carlyle is still astonished by all these old-fashioned fashion trends. We finally arrive at a tall building where a man is trying to sell two bird breasts as he didn't get the memo that the “double-breasted” craze is actually about suits.
(Yeah, that didn't translate too well... the guy was actually trying to sell “zwei Reiher” - two herons – as he didn't know what a “Zweireiher” was)
He can direct us to a small office though where we find said Melissa Amarie, an orcish woman of unparallelled beauty (according to Auryn... Carlyle's tastes seem to differ and he cannot bring himself to refer to anyone of orcish descent as "beautiful") who's busy writing an article. She seems a bit cautious at first as her article led to more attention from foreigners than she had suspected. We ask her about the identity of said foreigners first and she answers that there had been the high ranking Lya Jierre, a member of the sovereign's family, plus an eloquent crisillyiri man who had been asking questions about this Tinker gnome.
We then formally introduce ourselves as knights of Risur and admit that we understand that she might be intimidated by the thought of giving information to seemingly opposing groups of interest. As soon as she hears our names, she seems quite relieved as she already knew our names from her international newspapers and adds that people brave enough to face a giant titan to defend their homeland seem trustworthy enough to talk to.
She reminds us that this Tinker Oddcog will mean nothing but trouble for anyone involved, so we'd better proceed with caution. Melissa Amarie then goes into more detail and describes a strange orb-like object that the gnome is carrying around all the time as if it was his most treasured possession. When we utter the thought that this thing might actually be a bomb in disguise, our interview is suddenly interrupted by gunshots which appear to be fired outside of the building.
As we have no authority to take berans into custody, nor any official authority in Seobriga, we decide to focus on protecting Melissa Amarie. So Auryn hands her her own ring of invisibility and tells her how to use the item to hide herself. We then open the door to the reporter's office to intercept any possible attacker.
It appears as if interception isn't really necessary as we're being greeted by a volley of shots fired at us by a group of men clad in black cloaks. Fortunately, these guys are quite bad at aiming at nimble targets and we're able to bring them down with ease. When we're just about to go look for further wannabe-assassins, a bomb-like object is dropped down on us from somewhere upstairs.
Carlyle takes a quick look at the device and identifies it as a timed bomb which is about to explode any second. As he doesn't have enough time to disarm the explosive, he touches the bomb and teleports both himself and the device far away to the oceanside.
(Proudly presenting Carlyle Maneuver no. 2)
Meanwhile, Auryn rushes upstairs and suddenly finds herself surrounded by a zone of magical darkness. She dispels both the darkness and the invisibility spell on a guy who proceeds to cast volleys of magic missiles at her. As soon as the second spell falls, she's a bit surprised to see a young crisillyiri mage who doesn't stand a chance against the seasoned fencer. Just as the guy drops to the floor, she hears another pair of feet running away at high speed from upstairs. She follows this source of sound as well, but finds no one, not even a trace of magic.
Carlyle returns soon after, soaking wet from his encounter with the ocean. Auryn tells her partner about the missing attacker as soon as she's sure that Carlyle wasn't hurt by the bomb's explosion. But unfortunately, even his fine nose is unable to catch a trace of another person. So we return to Melissa Amarie and make sure that she's fine as well. As soon as she turns visible again and appears unharmed, we tie up the bunch of blackcloaks and their mage companion and go outside to take care of the wounded people who had been shot by the first volley.
Then we turn to the Crisillyiri to interrogate them. They turn out to be quite unwilling to share their reason for attacking us (or Melissa Amarie) and instead call Carlyle a traitor to his nation. Their leader, the missile-throwing mage, tries to intimidate him as he explains that he'd “re-program” his memories after Carlyle's demise and rebirth and mentions that this will be the inevitable fate of every deva whose paths diverge from that of Crisillyir.
Auryn is, of course, quite unamused about this blunt threat to her partner.
“Just try to get close to him and I'll erase all of your memories or worse.” she hisses with slightly glowing eyes.
“Don't you worry. Both my memories and my abilities to defend myself have proven to be quite stable over the last five centuries, so these young lads should be of little concern.” Carlyle states calmly before adding that it is quite uncommon indeed to see crisillyiri agents who do joint missions with the Danorans. He then casually tells them that he's quite aware about the danoran bomb, a design that's clearly to be considered heretic technology in Crisillyir.
“What do you mean... danoran bomb? We didn't have any explosives with us.” says the mage, frowning about his inability to understand what the heck Carlyle could be talking about. Auryn senses that something is odd about the agent's reaction and so she asks him a few questions about what happened prior to their attack on the office.
Turns out that the Crisillyiri had been contacted by a man named Joe Pena, whose appearance they cannot remember, who told them about a group of risuri agents who'd try to get their hands on Melissa Amarie and Tinker Oddcog. They are all pretty shocked about the bomb story, but refuse to tell us more about their own mission. And by the traces of magic on their minds, we assume that said Joe Pena did something to alter their memories. We decide that they will most likely not have any valuable information anyway, so we gather the survivors (who act as witnesss for the attack) and hand them over to Glaucia.
(Great! So it appears that this Joe Pena guy is using our special secret mind altering weapon against us. Totally not fair!
Also regarding the name Joe Pena in case some of you might have wondered what this mexican baseball player could have possibly in common with our campaign... there is this mexican restaurant which is one of Mr. Carlyle's player's and my favorites which is called Joe Pena's. So it is just an insider reference)
The gnoll executora isn't too happy to hear about the terrorist's attack on beran civilians and she immediately demands everyone involved to testify in the ring of truth. But while we and the berans are more than willing to talk about this senseless shooting, the Crisillyiri refuse to answer Glaucia's questions and don't even try to defend themselves. So the fearsome gnoll just shrugs and sentences them to be hung for murder and terrorism.
Carlyle is pretty astonished by the efficiency of the beran judicial system as he had anticipated to spend the next few days in Seobriga waiting to be called as a witness to the trial of the Crisillyiri. He's still not entirely sold on the beran stance on using charms for self-defense, especially as this may mean trouble for Auryn and her fey magic.
After we got rid of the black-cloaked agents, Auryn turns to Carlyle to discuss something that's been going on in her mind for a while. She says that the thought of someone trying to kill and “reprogram” Carlyle is quite troubling, no matter how stable he might be throughout his reincarnations. She then adds that while no one in Elfaivar might understand her doing so, she will most definitely defend this incarnation of his with all she's got, especially against some fanatic Crisillyiri. Carlyle raises his brows in reaction to her fierce determination, but then responds that he's glad to hear that as he really doesn't wish to leave this self behind.
We soon reunite with Brakken in the embassy and ask him to accompany us to the summer court despite what happened earlier. We tell him about this mysterious Joe Pena guy who might be either targeting us specifically or anyone interested in Tinker Oddcog in general. Brakken replies that he hadn't heard of this name before, so he might either be a foreign agent or someone who got added to the Bruse's paycheck only recently.
As the summer court is a few days of travel from Seobriga, we buy some horses and ride. The road leads us through a really beautiful countryside full of vineyards (a truly pleasant sight for Carlyle) and finally to an ancient forest. There, we suddenly hear the distant stomping of multiple hooves. A quick glance through our spyglass reveals that we're being approached by a stampede of giant goats, followed by a flock of (medium sized) flying pterodactyls.
We don't wish to commit senseless slaughter of beran wildlife, so we decide to hide behind one of the massive trees. To prevent parts of the stampede from approaching our tree, Carlyle also places an illusion in front of the tree which makes it seem like it is lit with fire. The plan seem to work smoothly as the goats and pterodactyls avoid the burning tree. We then spot the reason for the two stampedes as two tyrannosaurs appear behind the fleeing animals, seemingly hungry for fresh goat. The carnivorous dinosaurs appear a bit irritated by the burning tree, but decide to ignore it in the end and continue to chase their prey.
As if that all hasn't been weird enough, we then see an equally irritated half-orc following the tyrannosaur's trail. A closer look at this guy reveals that he is none else but one of the two personal bodyguards of Lya Jierre we've met on Axis Island. So we leave or fiery hideout to approach the man and ask him what the heck he might be doing here.
Unfortunately, the guy isn't really here for the talks as we're immediately attacked by swings of his massive shockwave-gavel. During his mad attacks, he throws curses at us and accuses us of burning down an orphanage full of innocent kids. Carlyle dodges his shockwaves while we both try to argue that we don't wish to fight him and wouldn't even think of harming orphans. After all, we just risked our lives to lure a massive adamantine titan out of Flint.
Bit by bit, the still raging Merton Goncala spills out that his mistress, Lya Jierre, just told him a few minutes ago that we are dangerous, heartless criminals who deserve to be killed. Which sounds completely nuts since we're in the middle of a long forest road to the summer court with no Lya Jierre in sight. Merton slowly realizes that something about his perception is quite not right and we use this cognitive dissonance to convince him to lower his weapon. Auryn carefully explains that she's quite sure that someone messed up his memories, something we've seen recently with agents from Crisillyir. She then dispels the strongest of the confusing magics lingering in Merton's mind, but states that someone would have to go deeper to set his memories straight.
(She avoided to mention that this sort of memory-altering is totally in her own repertoire as she didn't wish to open up another can of worms. Sorry, Merton.)
We talk a bit to the now less-confused Merton, who now understands that something wasn't right and still isn't right. He does remember speaking to a shadowy, orcish looking figure named Joe Pena though. Being good allies to Lya, we offer Merton to accompany us to the summer court and back to Lya's tent.
It takes us quite a while to finally arrive at the huge area of the Bruse's summer court. We are surprised to see such a tremendous amount of tents which make the fields looks like one giant fair ground. Brakken leads the way to the secretary of registration who handles all the visitor's issues. The guy seems pretty organized and allocates an uninhabited tent plus a personal servant named Korken to our group.
(We had a good laugh at the puns resulting from the fact that "Korken" simply means "cork" in German.)
After we dropped our baggage in the tent's storage, we escort Merton Goncala to Lya Jierre's tent. Fortunately, the half-orc still remembers the correct path through this jungle of courtiers and petitioners. On our way, we coincidentally come across a tent bearing the Fordren Industries sigil. To our surprise, Francis Fordren is sitting in front of said tent where he's roasting marshmallows with an orcish looking business partner. This whole scene appears totally bizarre, but we're polite enough to exchange a short welcome phrase.
“Well, he's always been quite the eccentric...” Auryn whispers as soon as we're outside of the man's hearing range while Carlyle takes one last turn to signal the gleefully munching industrialist that he's got an eye on him.
We soon arrive at Lya's tent where an annoyed looking half-elf wearing a large tattoo is looking curiously at Merton's entourage. We ask the guy who calls himself Rush Munchhausen to talk to Lya Jierre as we just found her second bodyguard under strange circumstances and would like to return him safely to his employer. Rush seems pretty much amused by Merton's mishap, asks for Lya and leads us inside.
Said Lya Jierre seems quite glad to see Merton returned to her without any scratch when we tell her what happened after we dodged the stampede. We explain that Merton's memories got most likely altered by a powerful spell we cannot dispel without possibly harming his psyche, so we decided to bring him back to her, who might have more resources available. Lya takes Merton to another compartment, exchanges some whispers with another person who appears to cast a silence on their part of the tent.
It takes a while and Lya returns, seemingly relieved that dear Merton is alright. We hint that his attacks at us had been quite forceful and furious which is why Mr. Goncala can call himself lucky to have clashed with people like us who can quickly identify a muddled mind. Other agents might have just taken him for an aggressive opponent and struck him down. We then explain that there have been other agents indeed who had been put under a similar spell as well. So we ask Lya whether someone might have tried to attack her in a similar manner during her supposed search for Tinker Oddcog.
Lya is a bit surprised when we mention the gnome, but confirms that Oddcog is indeed the reason why she's here, too. She hadn't been subject to attacks though and hasn't heard of the name Joe Pena before. We ask her about the status of her audience request as we've heard that getting one is quite the tricky task, but she's unusually hushed about this topic. She agrees that getting an audience with Bruse Shantus isn't easy though.
We then try to convince her that both of our teams are here for the same reason: to get information from this Tinker Oddcog so we might understand more about the construction of this Colossus who's currently walking through the Dreaming. So we'd like to propose joining forces and sharing information with her as both Danor and Risur are surely eager to know whether Borne got any weaknesses or how he could be disassembled. And doing a joint venture mission right now would be a huge step towards a lasting peace on top of that.
Lya gets even more reserved in reaction to our proposal. She states that she's got her orders and that she cannot disobey them. We add that Sovereign Han Jierre will surely be still interested in forging a common future with Risur, so questioning Tinker Oddcog while the other party is present will surely be no problem for two nations growing together, right? That's at least King Aodhan's, her still-fiancee's stance on this subject, we explain. On top of that, we fear that the emergence and threat of Borne has caused and will continue to cause an arms race between the nations, a race which could threaten to ignite a worldwide conflict.
As Lya refuses to open up even the tiniest bits to our proposals, Carlyle sighs and addresses her in all of his bluntest honesty:
“Listen, we're not forced to offer you these obvious signs of our goodwill. We're personally interested in a lasting peace and we respect you as the intelligent person you are. So of course, you don't have to ally with us. But I'd at least take our offer into serious consideration and to do so soon as we've been quite successful in terms of getting crucial information in the past. Fighting on your own won't yield better results.”
We then bid ourselves farewell and leave a note directing to our own tent at court. After leaving Lya's tent, we're both pretty surprised by her buttoned-up demeanor after we got along pretty well in the past and she hadn't been shy about stating her interests either. So we guess that the Sovereign might not be as serious about Lya's plans for peace after all.
(That talk with Lya was quite the bummer and we were pretty sure that she was under some serious pressure to get Tinker exclusively. We just hoped that the reason behind all that was domestic danoran politics and not some Obs mingling for she'd been seriously shocked after witnessing Borne's rampage and learning that the Obs had been behind all this. Oh how little did we know...)
After our not-so successful talks with the Danorans, we take a stroll to the playgrounds of the court to watch a game of archery. The last two contestants are a half-giant and what appears to be a half-dragon (or a dragonborn with a very strong draconic bloodline) who are heavily drunk and quite bad at hitting their mark. The rest of the crowd is busy drinking as well, so we guess the whole “competition” is nothing but an alibi event for binge drinking.
“Not what I'd expected. The competitors in the husband's selections had much more skill and finesse. It was a whole different level.” Auryn says while sounding quite disappointed.
“The...what?” asks Carlyle, his eyes wide open with bewilderment.
“The competitors. Men who competed to be chosen as an esteemed husband. Some of their feats are quite legendary. Did you know that there had been an extraordinary archer who managed to pierce a fish's eye with a ricochet?”
(A cookie for those who get the reference )
“Isn't this... tradition both archaic and... degrading for the participants?”
Now it is Auryn who's looking seemingly confused at Carlyle.
“Why would it? It is like sports. Followed by tests of wits, discipline and performance. And it is a great honor to be chosen.”
“What would you say if they'd let you and your cousins compete for the hand of a legendary warrior like, say, Asrabey?”
“Don't be absurd. Why would there be any reason for doing so?” Auryn answers, totally not seeing any equivalency here. So Carlyle just shrugs it off and adds that he, at least, would never act as a competitor in such an event. Now Auryn grins in response as she finally catches his train of thoughts. She understands that this would be a strange situation indeed and adds that there's really no need for him to be subjected to such a challenge.
We continue our stroll and are soon approached by a gnoll in colorful robes who takes interest in our faerie dragon colleague. He nods his head with a grin and introduces himself as Pardo, the minister of rebellion, who is pleased to be in the presence of the small brethren of the most majestic draco nobilis. He hasn't seen any creature like Flying Spark before, so Auryn takes this as a pretext for explaining the similarities of the ecology of the Faerie Dragon and the Eladrin as a result of being close to or living in the Dreaming.
“...so as you can see, the Dragon Tyrants of old are indeed related to a Faerie Dragon like our colleague Flying Spark.”
“Fascinating. Trrruly fascinating. I hope you pay your master the rrrrespect he deserrrves” says Pardo before he bows to Flying Spark and excuses himself.
Needless to say that Flying Spark is all over the moon while we try to get as much distance between the strange gnoll and the Faerie Dragon. We really don't wish to cause a diplomatic scandal by having our fellow agent taken away and revered as a dragon god or so.
(“Risuri agent taking over rebellious dragon cult” really wouldn't be the best of headlines...)
It is a bit obscure: In the tales of Mahabharata, the skilled archer and prince Arjuna participates in a competition to marry Draupadi who is said to be a princess born from fire. The last test requires the champions to shoot a fish through the eye by only looking at its reflection. So not really a ricochet, but kind of equivalent.
He manages to win the competition (which is totally what she wanted and why she even had that archery test in the first place), but Arjuna's mother royally screws up their relationship so that Draupadi has to marry Arjuna and all of his four brothers in the end.
So pretty suitable for being transferred into an elfaivaran legend
We walk around the court some more and talk to various courtiers only to find out that getting an audience with the Bruse is really pretty much one of the hardest things to achieve in Ber. We also catch the rumor that Bruse Shantus isn't really into this whole governing stuff or keen on managing stately affairs and getting his attention by mentioning political reasons might be futile. One courtier finally gives us the advice to maybe participate in the traditional adulthood challenge as Bruse Shantus really likes watching games – even if this trial might be dangerous for us.
So we apply for the trial and are being told that this includes navigating a labyrinth and tests for both our wits and courage. The clerk also explains that the trials are usually adjusted to be a challenge for each individual participant, so that elderly people might not really risk losing their lives in the process. We agree that navigating a labyrinth is quite in our repertoire – after all, we chased Asrabey through the labyrinth of the fortress on Axis Island a year ago – and decide to participate.
To get even more attention at court, we attend to as many different events as possible in the mean time where we chat with various officials and guests of honor. Auryn takes some time to show off variations of traditional eladrin dances and beran folk songs to grab the courtier's attention. After all, berans aren't really used to eladrin culture, so this might just be an opportunity for them to see something fancy and new. Plus Auryn herself is quite the impressive person, so grabbing the attention of a few berans isn't really that big of a deal for her.
The evening after our formal application for the trial, we are visited by another clerk of the court to sign more paperwork and learn the rules of the trial. He tries to dissuade us from participating though as he says that there have been rumors about someone with quite the influence who paid a good sum to make our trial as difficult as possible. We guess that this “someone” might just be Lya or someone of her entourage or simply a beran official who'd like to gain favors with the Bruse by sparing him the situation of having to deal with two similar requests. Still we won't let the prospect of a difficult trial intimidate us as this means getting even more attention if we manage to succeed anyway.
The clerk just shrugs in response and then explains that we'll have to wear glowing crowns all the time so the audience may easily spot our progress. Losing the crown will count as a failure. We're also discouraged from using magic as this might be seen as cheating. Which makes us wonder whether Ber has some serious problem with magically gifted people.
We use the following night to get some rest and get ready for the upcoming trial which is scheduled for the next evening. This next evening, we are brought to the entrance of the labyrinth and presented to the huge crowd of spectators. Many of the higher ranking attendants are sitting on a massive stand, including Bruse Shantus and his two main advisers, Kenna Vigilante, minister of dragon affairs and grand vizier Zarkava Ssa'litt. Our presenter gives us the last minute advice to use wits and dares instead of simply fighting through the challenges before he announces us as the newly knighted Knights of Risur, champions of the battle of the Avery Isles who even dared to battle a massive colossus.
(Yeah, we didn't really think about telling tales of our victory against Borne or our chase through Cloudwood. Totally forgot about using these facts...)
As we're quite obviously strong contestants, the summer court decided to offer us a true challenge, the man says, by replacing the traditional bear obstacles with B.E.A.R. obstacles, courtesy of Fordren industries. The crowd then cheers for Mr. Fordren, who is seated among the VIPs on the stand, quite close to Lya Jierre. The presenter then adds that Pemberton Industries didn't want to play second fiddle, even if Mr. Pemberton could not attend in person this time. But he sent his newest creation, the Shaggy Mk.2 to offer a proper challenge to his fellow risuri compatriots.
Fortunately, we know quite a bit about the B.E.A.R. and its weaknesses, even if this Shaggy automaton is quite new for us. So we and Flying Spark enter the labyrinth and decide to take it slowly at the beginning. We encounter various moats which we examine by poking a staff into the dark water and find that one of them isn't as deep as the others. We also explain our analytical approach to the audience and add that walking through shallow water could be an option, but we're not here to get wet feet. So we just throw Flying Spart to the other side and jump.
On our way through the labyrinth, we also spot various trap doors which we avoid to the best of our abilities. Then we suddenly encounter one of the patrolling B.E.A.R.s which then immediately runs towards us. We let him chase us for a while before we head to one of the deeper moats, jump it again and watch how the automaton ends up in deep, murky water.
We continue our exploration and encounter more B.E.A.R.s. This time, we let them chase us and have them fall into the trap doors. As these traps include one way out, we get them to a part of the labyrinth where their pathing causes them to fall into the traps again and again, leaving them in a never ending loop.
“So Fordren Industries finally decided to test their product against live opponents? Seems as if they're easily outwitted and fall prone to the most obvious traps!” Carlyle exclaims with a laugh as he presents four B.E.A.R.s which are trapped in the trap-loop.
(A pretty obvious stab at Fordren who might not be that amused to see his creations fail due to bad programming. But we knew the limits of the B.E.A.R.'s logic as Delft had agreed to buy one for the RHC and we spend quite some time to test it.)
Just after he finished his mockery, Carlyle almost runs into what appears to be a massive bear-shaped robot covered in fur. As this automaton is easily four times as big as the B.E.A.R., we get that this thing must be the mysterious Shaggy Mk.2. Unfortunately, the Shaggy is much too big to get him trapped like the B.E.A.R.s, so we let him chase us while we're trying to find yet another B.E.A.R.
Fortunately, we find another one of Fordren's creations and hope that the two automatons detect each other as enemy. We let both Shaggy and B.E.A.R. come close to us and then try to dive through the legs of the huge Shaggy. Said bear-bot has quite the reactions and manages to catch Carlyle with his paw the moment he's sliding underneath it. Auryn stabs its metal paw at a joint which causes it to lose its grip on Carlyle before she follows his path underneath the creature's belly.
(This was quite a lose interpretation of the disarming swashbuckler maneuver. But hey, “dropping everything held” in its paw can easily include a living deva, right?)
The rest of the plan seems to work smoothly, as the Shaggy locks his target on the B.E.A.R. and vice versa. Thankfully, the original place of the Shaggy Mk.2 also marks the last compartment of the labyrinth so that we manage to escape the trial in a timely manner. We got some scratches in the process – almost all due to the sudden appearance of the Shaggy – but our wounds are tended to by a Shaman waiting at the end of the labyrinth.
After getting out in one piece while still wearing our crowns, the presenter declares us to be fully recognized adults by beran standards which earns us a thundering applause. Lya appears less amused while Fordren doesn't seem to mind seeing his B.E.A.R.s fail at all. Bruse Shantus declares that we'll have our wish for an audience granted the next morning, so we might spend the evening feasting and having fun.
If I remember correctly, we used the pun "Ber-darfsgüter" for the railroad construction part later this adventure. Which translates roughly to needs or necessities.
The next morning, we are led to the Bruse's throne room where Shantus immediately asks us about our experiences during our trip along the Avery Coast railroad as he has heard about an epic battle with a giant malice hydra. He sounds a bit envious when we tell him about the sudden attack and our combined effort to bring both beast and bandits down and we remind him that quite a few people lost their lives this day. All in all we get the impression that Bruse Shantus would have preferred to stay a simple warrior instead of ruling Ber. We respond that we're simply doing our job and try to help people as good as we can and are far from seeking glory in battle.
Shantus then asks us for our reason for requesting this audience and we turn the talk to more serious matters. We ask the Bruse for permission to question his master of technology, Tinker Oddcog. We also mention that this gnome is most certainly part of an international conspiracy that had terrorized the innocent citizens of Risur multiple times and we also got hints from his former employers about Tinker being mentally unstable. Both of these attributes would be enough to not wish for the gnome to be in a sensitive position of power. We also add that Risur is a bit irritated about the fact that Ber just named a wanted conspirator and terrorist their new master of war tech, considering the fact that both our nations shared a mutual friendship in the past.
We also know that the Danorans might have quite a similar point of view in this matter, which is why we suspect that Lya Jierre and her diplomats might have brought the same request to the Bruse. And while our King surely wishes to improve our nation's relationship with Danor, he also has to protect his citizens from further terrorism.
Shantus growls a bit and then confirms that the Danorans basically asked the same of him. He's honestly in quite the dilemma right now as he had hoped to circumvent such a situation, but as we managed to succeed in our trial against all odds, he literally has had no choice but to hear us as well. And now he's in the tricky situation to weigh the interests of Danor against those of Risur. Danor, he says, already offered a modern war ship as a sign of their goodwill, in addition to 100 technicians who shall help Ber with its technological advancement. He then quite bluntly asks what Risur could offer his nation that could top this really generous gift.
We agree that the danoran offer is quite valuable, but explain that it is lacking in terms of future viability. Ber, we say, is a nation of resilient builders who value freedom more than anything else. And danoran industrialization, while being effective, will lead to people being oppressed by those who own the factories – much like dragons with their hoards. Risur, on the other hand, wishes to improve the long-term relationship with its neighbor. So we offer to connect our nations via railroad, which would make the exchange of goods much faster and safer. We'd also love to negotiate stronger ties for trade in general, leading to prosperity in both our nations.
Regarding the war ship, we explain that Risur is generally concerned with the growing arms race, so we don't wish to contribute to this nonsense. But helping Ber develop a sustainable and social industry sector by offering our experiences with the latest risuri manufacturing projects would be totally negotiable.
The Bruse growls again and then thanks us for our offer before trying to subtly get rid of us. Before we go, Auryn tries to remind the Bruse that Risur and Ber have had a good relationship ever since King Boyle helped defeat the Dragon Tyrants and that King Aodhan wishes to continue this tradition. But it seems as if the Bruse's attention span is over and we are shoved diplomatically out of his throne room.
We spend the rest of the day trying to form more contacts with the local courtiers before we are called to the fortress again. This time, we meet the minister of dragon affairs and the grand vizier. The minister, Kenna Vigilante, would like to hear more details about the financial side of our offer, so we present her the value of our trade deals, the risuri investments in a possible railway between Ber and Risur and examples of technological developments we'd share with Ber. In addition, we would of course offer to deploy a few engineers and technologists as well to train new workers and specialists.
Kenna seems satisfied with this offer and it also seems as if she's more interested in numbers than in dialogue. The grand vizier, on the other hand, is much more talkative and concerned about the future of her nation. She asks about the details of the risuri offer as well, but then quickly shifts the subject towards establishing a future collaboration between Ber and Risur. We first tell her basically the same we already told Kenna Vigilante, but then realize that she's quite the philosophical and open mind who'd love to discuss various strategies.
So we talk about possible political developments and scenarios, including an outlook on sustainability and viability. We explain that we, the Risuri, don't see Danor as the enemy it had been during the four Yerasol wars. After all, our King just offered to marry Lya Jierre to set the foundation for a lasting peace. Still the issue of Oddcog and Borne has the potential for an international disaster as more and more nations feel the need to arm themselves. Which is also a reason why the Borne problem is such a priority topic for Risur. We also mention that we'd of course share all information regarding Borne with all of Lanjyr as soon as we got the relevant info out of Oddcog and got rid of what remains of this terrorist conspiracy.
We call the danoran offer truly generous but terribly short-sighted. This warship, we explain, might be a short-term improvement for the beran naval forces, but we doubt that it is really built with the most modern of danoran tech. After all, the danorans know about the traditional friendship between Risur and Ber and they'd really not risk having top-notch technology fall into the hands of their rival. Regarding the technicians, we admit that danoran tech is indeed very sophisticated and efficient. But in our opinion, danoran style industry lacks sustainability as the danoran cities are quite polluted and sterile while the danoran citizens are often not much more than oppressed slave-workers. Which isn't really this surprising, if one considers the fact that Danor, unlike Risur, didn't outlaw slavery. All in all we'd call the danoran offer pretty generous but rather short-sighted.
We say that we'd like contrast their obviously military-heavy offer with a holistic plan that could combine technology, tradition and magic – something the Danorans lack completely but the Berans have plenty of – to help Ber progress in a unique way. We also know that Berans are proud and love to stand up to injustice and oppression, so ignoring the need of the populace would be madness and only a sign of a felt foreign superiority. We then talk about the flinter example of the humanist industrialist's society (the guys led by Sechim and Vantrys who also invented the “Made in Flint” label) who might just be the best contact for beran officials when it comes to establishing minimum standards for safety and quality.
In addition, we'd love to invite gifted young Berans to study in our universities of Flint and Slate and hope that the academy of Seobriga would welcome young Risuri as well, so both our cultures could learn from each other and establish long-term exchange programs in the future. The railway that we'd build could be a huge cornerstone for improving trade and travel between our two nations. Last but not least, we shift the conversation to a more philosophical topic when we discuss the different ethics of Danor and Risur. We state our fear that uncontrolled industrialization that is only driven by the interests of a few wealthy industrialists keen on making more and more money might lead a young nation like Ber directly into yet another tyranny – a tyranny of the wealthy. We admit that we had quite the problems with greedy industrialists in Flint, so we know that setting up rules and regulations early in the process is of utmost importance.
All in all we feel that grand vizier Zarkava is quite sympathetic to our offer and we leave her while hoping that her words may fall on fertile ground.
(So, Zarkava seems to have the same general outlook on our nations' future relationship. All in all the grand vizier was the most likeable and visionary of the beran leadership at the summer court and it was quite refreshing to see that the country we sympathize a lot with has at least one voice of reason.
Regarding Shantus, I was a bit reminded of Robert Baratheon... okay he lacks the manipulative twincestual wife, but he's also a war hero who suddenly had to play king without being prepared for the job and with little interest to do actual governing.
To actually see Fordren at court had been quite the surprise and to see him get involved in our trial was even more surprising, even if totally understandable from a business point of view. After all, he'd most likely wished to sell war machines to the Bruse and expand his empire to Ber. Well... we didn't know that he had yet another reason for getting involved and his strange relationship to Mr. Pemberton will be a major part of the next few recaps.
We also had a lot of fun during the trial when Carlyle tried to jab at Fordren and his B.E.A.R.s, even if we both share a love for the bear-shaped automatons. But Permberton had been a crucial part of rescuing the citizens of the Covenant Enclave and we saw this as the perfect opportunity to do him a favor. And the Shaggy Mk.2 was indeed impressive. Tiz admitted that this bear-bot was actually his creation and he simply wanted to up the ante and set the stage for the rivalry of the two businessmen.)