A Game of Thrunes

The Varied Thoughts of Gaian Vespinus 12

So this is what we’ve come to? Rebellion through exploration of legal loopholes. That’s sure to fire the imagination of the common man.

Even you can surely appreciate what a great discovery this is. This is the key to ending Thrune rule. If we can put this Board together and have them ratify an alternate Lord Mayor, Kintargo could be free in days!

Don’t tell me you truly believe that. Even should all that occur, Barzillai is hardly going to just walk away. He may not be able to call in the Chellish army, but what about his Dottari? The Order of the Rack? Plus whatever other allies he may have. Without getting into any further conversation about fine details of law, I don’t know that we can get rid of them so easily.

I think you’re underestimating the impact this can have. I believe we should make finding the Urvis heir a priority, then work on ways to have the other members make a decision in our favour.

No, we should be focusing on continuing to fight, hurting Thrune while building support. Until we weaken his personal hold on the city this legal stuff is pointless. We should be taking down that ship in the harbour, that’s what we were preparing for.

Are you so desperate for another chance to get us killed?

Nearly get us killed. It was a slight lapse of judgement. Fire has been our issue in the past, I didn’t really think ice would prove too big a problem. Regardless, I had it in hand.

In hand? A few seconds more without healing and we’d have been gone! I could literally feel my essence being pulled out of our body. And who knows what would have happened then? If one dies in Hell, does one’s soul stay there?

Philosophy and religion as well as law. This just gets more exciting by the moment!

Mock all you like, I know what I felt. You most certainly did not have it “in hand”! Even now something doesn’t feel quite right, though I can’t describe it.

Oh, I felt it too. But I also know we wouldn’t have been stuck there. I don’t know if it was because of where we were, but I don’t think it was as simple as our soul being whisked away. There was a moment where it felt like I was about to become something other, and fight or flee I was getting us out of there.

Much as I appreciate your optimism, I can’t share it. I’m fairly certain one can’t escape death by sheer force of will.

I didn’t say I was escaping death, I said I was escaping Hell. And why shouldn’t I be able to do so? I’ve spent my life fighting against the Asmodean devils, Hell won’t claim me.

I’m still not buying it. Hatred for Asmodeans doesn’t give you an out.

If not, then likely only because you hold me back with your own lack of dedication.

What, you think you have a monopoly on hatred? I assure you, my distaste for both Hell and Thrune remains equal to your own.

If that’s the case, then surely you cannot be satisfied with their defeat taking the form of a clause in a legal document!

If you mean it would be more satisfying to put them all to the sword, then you’re right. But I’d rather them defeated and gone as soon as possible. My focus is on the end, yours is on the means. I don’t need the bloodbath if we achieve our goals more quickly without it. So you keep dealing with the immediacy and let me plan strategy, okay?

Fine with me. But avoiding death is immediacy, so stop whingeing and deal with your own stuff. I’m not leaving this fight anytime soon.

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The Devil is in the Details

Reaching out with a tremulous hand, Aroldo pours out a large measure of whisky into his favourite glass. He raises it, admiring the colour for a moment, before lowering the glass back to the table and pouring another measure into it.

“Why not?” he asks himself, “I’ve been to Hell and back.”

Sipping at the liquid, he rolls it around in his mouth, letting the flavour and the burn overcome the taste of sulphur which has lingered at the back of his throat since the journey.

Sitting back down at his large mahogany desk, he carefully moves some tomes and miscellaneous objects he uses as components he uses for his spells aside. He draws a sheaf of papers across to the cleared space before searching for a quill.

Once found, the quill scratches furiously along the paper, Aroldo stretching his memory to the best of his ability. The words of Odexidie are etched into his memory and flow without pause onto the page.

After an hour or so, Aroldo places his quill down and he reviews what is written.

Kintargo Contract
Subcontract of the Cheliax Covenant, which grants House Thrune the support of Hell.
However, Kintargo was never officially part of Cheliax, due to a series of clerical errors and oversights through the years.
This allowed Odexidie to craft a hidden clause in the contract: that House Thrune requires the consent of Kintargo’s lord-mayor to deploy an army into the city or its holdings.
The lord-mayor needs to be ratified by a Board of Governors.
The Board must consist of the the heads of the Delronge, Jarvis, Tanessen, Aulorian, Vashnarstill, and Urvis families.
The Board has not been formed for over one hundred years.
Barzillai is not a ratified lord-mayor, so cannot trigger the clause.

Barzillai
He discovered the Contract is missing from the official records, and sought out a copy.
With the aid of Mephistopheles, he seeks to become a genius loci.
As part of the ritual to do so, he must live out a life in the region to which he has bound his soul—in this case, Kintargo.

Genius loci
In effect, Barzillai wants to become an animate landmass, granting the powers of a god.
A few additions are made on those reviews, but eventually the wizard is satisfied.
He rewrites everything once more, so he can present a neater copy of his writings to the rest of the leadership council of the Rebellion.

Sitting back from the compiled document, Aroldo ponders the meaning of the Contract, as well as the devil, Odexidie. The devil appeared agreeable and helpful, but Aroldo is wary still.
It seems likely Odexidie wants the Kintargan clause triggered so the other devils can applaud his genius. The fate of Kintargo itself, and its people, is unlikely to be relevant in the slightest.

This is perhaps the only reassurance the wizard has when it comes to their escape from Hell. The wizard suspects the devil may be hid something in the contract the Children signed to be sent home. Aroldo saw nothing hidden in the writings, but you can never be sure.

Taking the draft document, Aroldo holds a corner to a candle until it begins to burn, leaving just the completed document.

Now, he’s ready to present it the leadership, as soon as it gathers.

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The Varied Thoughts of Gaian Vespinus 11

What’s bothering you? I’d have thought you’d be quite happy with our defense of the Academy.

I am. But I’m also concerned. There’s no way the Barzillai is going to allow this to stand.

Huh. He’s done little enough in response to our other successes. His beiggest response so far has been that ridiculous attempt to claim our actions as his own, and offer us his tainted “rewards”.

This is different though. It’s one thing for us to hit him a few times with surprise attacks, disruptive as they have been. It’s completely another for us to show that we can throw back his own authoritarian actions and protect the people. I fear our victory at the academy will be short-lived; we won’t be able to stop him again if he sends in a larger force.

And what of it? If the academics are foolish enough to hang around they deserve whatever comes to them. We gave them time to get both themselves and any important work out of there. Barzillai taking the Academy now will be obvious for the hollow victory it is. I very much doubt the esteem we have gained with the people of Kintargo will be any less as a result.

Perhaps…

Even those who fail to recognise that will still be impressed by the fact we took out Tiarise.

That too will likely prompt Barzillai to action. His witch’s death will be like a bell announcing the arrival of the Children as a true force within the city.

Ding-dong. They’ll be singing in the streets. And we’ll build further on it, a tornado of rebellion sweeping through the city!

Yes, but I don’t think we’ll be in Kintargo anymore. Not as it was anyway. I suspect our missions will become more fraught from here on in.

Well, what did you expect? That we’d just follow this golden path to our destination with no trials on the way? The more we act, the more he will be compelled to fight back against us. Until he can’t.

We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Last time we were becoming this confident we lost several of our number.

True, but I feel this group are more hardened than the last. Bug is no longer a lone gutter-rat, he has built himself a guild to represent. And Augus seems to have found his nerve and sharpened his claws.

Those things help, it’s true. And having Cato and Bodeen gives us a little more steel than we had before.

Indeed. While fighting encased in tin would hardly be my preferred approach, I do take heart from them being there to deflect some of the nastier blows.

Aroldo’s powers have grown too. He has become more versatile, and he also seems to have a knack for helping others to grow confidence in their own talents.

As long as he doesn’t have some mishap with those floating boots of his and get himself carried away! But let’s not forget your own development.

Oh?

Before all of this started you’d lost me. One could argue that you’ve gained an entire brain throughout this journey!

Hmmph. I think the one I already possessed was probably more than adequate. But you are far more adept than I at frightening Barzillai’s cronies.

Indeed. So you see? I have no doubt we’re all up for this fight.

And what about the citizens of Kintargo?

What about them? You’ve always believed in success based on merit. Those who are deserving have never had such a great opportunity to rise! Kintargo will be a much stronger city by the time this is over.

And if we fail?

Then there will be nothing worthwhile left here, and we’ll be in no state to care. So let’s just enjoy the journey.

I think I’ll let you indulge your hatred by embracing the death and destruction aspect of this. I’ll plan for the future.

As you wish, but I’ll be the one having fun!

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Student Riot
Session 24

Kintargo seemed to have gone quiet, as if the calm before the storm. But there is still an under current of discontent. The news of a silver shortage caused many a wry smile, though short lived once the dottari, facing a freeze in payments, started shaking down businesses for a “bandit tax.”

Each day there is a small line up of people wanting to cross the river with Gaian’s boat, or “take a tour of the river” as he insists. They’re happy to listen to him point out sites if it means avoiding the bridge toll.

Bug assessed the damage done to his followers. He is still eft with an experienced core of street folk. In the meantime, he set up a desk in the Children’s warehouse under the name of Bugnelius’ Import/Export, staffed with a couple of respectable-looking accountants.

Augus had been keeping his head down. He kept thinking of Aluceda, the High Priestess of Zon-Kuthon, and her invitation to visit Shadowsquare. He was also disturbed that she identified he had been touched by Pharasma. Not even his closest companions know of this fact.

Aroldo had been busy “bringing people together” as he puts it, acting as a middle man to facilitate meetings of like minded individuals – the Speakeasies. Unbeknownst to all he sometimes also attends those meetings, suitably disguised with magic.

Meanwhile Bodeen had been busy. Running Belor’s, overseeing the new brewery, and spending time with Leila lefts little time to do much else – even sleep.

Augus
Once the full moon rose, Augus had an overwhelming compulsion to visit Shadowsquare. Upon arriving, he was greeted by the sound of singing and chanting – and the occasional scream – from across the courtyard. However, to his right, casting a dark shadow across the courtyard, was a squat tower. An arm protruded from a thin window, waving and gesturing frantically at him. Augus entered the tower. It was some sort of prison. On the upper level he spoke to a man locked in a cell. “My name is Gelliaso – get word to the embassy that I am here! Aluceda is not as she appears. She must be stopped! Now run from this place, and do not return.” Augus fled.

Bug
Baron Sendi Vashnarstill asked for a meeting. “A man in your position would no doubt know of Anchor’s End.” Bug nodded confidently. “My family’s holdings are located there. As such, I am in a prime position to take advantage of what the New World has to offer: gold, Egorian marble, and slaves. Until recently I had the contract to import these goods into Cheliax. Unfortunately due to a bureaucratic bungle in the capital my contract has been cancelled. So, what I lack is a fleet. That is where you come in, Master Bugnelius. Together, I think we can get very rich.” Bug liked the sound of this, but didn’t completely trust the man. He signed an agreement then ordered the Black Mantis to dig up whatever was available on the noble.

Aroldo
A meeting was arranged with Lieutenant Iofiel Nones, at Lara’s Longroads. Iofiel explained the party planned aboard the Scourge of Belial was still going ahead, and they need supplies – Aroldo had mentioned he could help. “Of course, I could have visited an official government supplier or city outiftter, but I trust you can do it cheaper – plus, this arrangement pleases me. In fact, perhaps I could give you a personal tour of the ship?” Aroldo accepted, and, while only half-listening to her, made mental notes of the ships layout and workings. The tour ended in Iofiel’s quarters – Aroldo sighed, it was tough job at times.

Bodeen
One night, as Leila slept, Bodeen noticed a small box upon her table. Taking a peek inside, he was surprised to find several small snuff boxes filled with pesh – a low grade narcotic. There were also a few small vials of a drug he couldn’t identify. He carefully replaced the lid and ignored the box for now, wondering when – or if – to raise the issue with Leila.

The next day, a fiesty tiefling walked into Belor’s and ordered a brandy. Evalyn Emberstorm, lover of Keldor, an original member of the Children of the Ash. She has been in a few times recently, drinking by herself. Bodeen had left her alone. But this time, Gaian, Augus and Aroldo were present. Evalayn approached them. “I suspected something was up after Keldor’s death. I approached Hetamon Haace for help – do you know how much that galled me – and he hinted that Keldor was involved in something big. Look, I’m sick of the way tieflings are treated, true, but more importantly, I’m sick of being left out. I have something to offer, and if that makes me money in the meantime, all the better. But whatever it is, I want in. If nothing else, I owe it to Keldor.” Without giving her details, Aroldo provided her with a few easy chores to test her resolve – and loyalty.

Gaian
Gaisn was having a quiet drink when a young boy rushed in. “I’m looking for Master Gaian or Master Aroldo!” He said a young actress requested he come to the plaza at once. Bella, the up and coming tiefling actress, was awaiting him. “I don’t have much time, but I have been thinking about what you told me, and have decided I want to change my future. Please, I need help – Lady Sarini won’t let me leave, you must help me somehow!” Gaian assured her they would find some way of helping. She looked up as two chaperones approached, and quickly vanished into the crowd.

Later, at the Alabaster Academy, Alaria was on stage rousing the crowd of students, who were hanging on her every word, eager to take to the streets and bring down the government. Suddenly, the government came to them – Hellknights raided the Speakeasy!

Aroldo managed to escape as the other Children arrived. Together they rescued the arrested students, then ascended the central tower where Tiarise Izoni, the Lord Mayor’s witch, was performing a grisly ritual on sveral professors. The Children attacked her and her guards, and in turn were attacked by an erinyes. The battle was close fought but the Children’s tenacity won out in the end.

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The Great Silver Train Robbery
Session 23

After planning to ambush the caravan bringing the newly mined silver from the southern mines to Kintargo, the Children executed their plan. They hit the four wagons as they traversed a bridge over the river. The battle was swift but brutal.

The Children buried their liberated treasure in a cave in the hills, to be collected bag by bag so as to not arouse suspicions.

Bug expended another of his lives…

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Expanded Education: Part 2

Raiia felt a warm buzz through her as she crept through the shadows back toward the school, the thrill of knowing she was sneaking around after curfew only adding to the heady excitement of attending the Speakeasy. Her one disappointment was that she had been unable to stay until the end of the Little Black Swan’s performance. If only she hadn’t said Pavo had given her the invite.

She had only thrown the name up as she had been thinking about him at the time, but now she had time to wonder on it, perhaps there was more to it. Perhaps subconsciously she had known that it was indeed the bard who had been contacting her. After all, it made the most sense; he was interested in performance, he had had to leave town because he knew the Poison Pen and was worried he’d be caught up in it (she remembered her father telling her that), and who else did she know that would be interested in these things? The more she thought about it, the more certain she became of her deduction. Which added further to her excitement, as surely that meant that Pavo had not only noticed her, but was encouraging her to follow in the footsteps of the Poison Pen and the Little Black Swan.

Of course! She would be an even greater poet than they, and her words would turn the whole city against Thrune. He would be overthrown, the city would be freed ,and Pavo would be able to come back, all because of her! Sure, she had been going to make a career as an actor, but poetry would be close enough. How hard could it be to write a few lines? Why, she could probably do it now.

Lord High and Mighty Barzillai Thrune,
Makes me feel like I’ve eaten too many prunes.

Yes, that was a great start, subtle and clever.

His ego is swollen like a giant baboon. No, balloon. That’s better.
My wit will burst him like a wordy harpoon.

Wow, she was a natural at this! Now to write it down.

Raiia stared at the building looming in front of her. She was definitely back at the school, but where was the open window? All of a sudden she was having trouble thinking straight. She was sure she’d left the window open on the north side. Or was it west? Hmm, and maybe this was actually the south?

Raiia took the hat off her head and shook her hair down, immediately regretting it as the street seemed to tilt under her. She didn’t feel warm and fuzzy anymore, now she felt cold and a bit sick. And quite silly. She sat down in the shadow of the wall to get her bearings, putting her head between her knees and taking a few deep breaths. Looking up she noticed what seemed to be several figures talking a short distance away. Perhaps she should ask them? But it was after curfew, they could be Dottari. Or worse, teachers.

Why had she sneaked out? Why had she drunk that wine? Why did she think her poetry would be any good? Well, the last at least was because it was good. Especially that baboon line. Raiia giggled.

Oh, is that person headed over here? I’ll just stand up and act normal. Nope that’s not working, I think I’m going to fall over. Did she just say my name? How does she know my name? Oh good, she’s reaching out to help me. Hang on, what’s that in her hand? That’s not right…
*
Raiia startled awake and looked around in momentary panic, before realising she was in her bed in her dorm room. There was far too much sun streaming through the window, she thought, both because it should be darker than this when she got up for class, and because looking at it made her head hurt. She realised the other beds were empty, and sat up quickly; tardiness was not well received. She placed her bare feet on the cold stone floor, but still she broke out in a sweat. Giving up she lay back down in bed and curled up in a ball.

Her memories of her adventure were hazy. She couldn’t remember how she got here. She felt terrible. She knew if she couldn’t convince someone that she was genuinely sick she would be in a lot of trouble.

She couldn’t wait to do it again.

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Expanded Education
Part 1

Raiia felt a tingle of excitement as she entered the room and looked around. It was different to the heart-thumping thrill she’d had while sneaking out of the school, or the stomach- clenching feeling as she’d handed her invitation to guards on entering the building. This was more a buzz of anticipation, the sense that she was part of something grand and exciting.

Getting here had been, in the end, much easier than she had anticipated. The invitation she had found in her room had come with instructions on the best way to go, though she liked to think she could have managed sneaking out herself. Perhaps next time she’d try a different way. Entering the building had been the more nervous moment for her; unsure what to expect within, and being greeted by the sight of a giant of a man had left her a little shaken. But confidence was not something she lacked, and so she had strode forward and boldly presented her pass, then made her way into this cellar.

Raiia’s experience of inns, bars and any such similar venues was limited to her visits to Belor’s with her family, and she was thrilled at how different this experience was. There seemed all types here, from street thugs to scholars, although the leaning seemed more toward the educated than the former, to her delight. She liked to think of herself as clever, and this was far more the kind of company she felt she would be at home amongst. And while at Belor’s the general feeling seemed to her one of either quiet relaxation or boisterous debauchery depending on the individual, here it was of a secret shared and a vision to a brighter future. Or so she liked to think.

She noted the variation in how those here had attempted to disguise their identities, from no apparent regard for such at all, to wearing masks, and everything in between. She surreptitiously studied some of those in masks, trying to garner some clue as to what kind of person was wearing it by observing movement, posture and gestures. She felt that wearing a mask really attracted more attention to oneself, which is why she had chosen not to wear the one that had been left by her benefactor. That, and it was designed to represent some kind of beetle or some such, and she hated bugs. Instead, she had decided to make herself appear as plain and unobtrusive as possible; no need to look at her too closely if she appeared to be hiding nothing.

Such mundane disguise was routine for someone with her acting talents, and she had quickly and easily used makeup to not only adjust her skin tone, but alter the shading and highlights to make her face appear rounder and broader. Her hair she had piled under a hat, which also covered the tips of her ears, and coloured the bits left hanging down a short way more darkly. Her eyes she could do little about, and hoped the shadow from her broad hat and the general unobtrusiveness of her appearance would stop people noticing their near-luminous blue-green hue. Perhaps in hindsight she shouldn’t have made herself look human; had she embraced the elven side of her appearance her eyes would not have been incongruous. Ah well, a lesson for next time, but overall she was happy with the result. In fact, she was excited enough about her disguise skills that she was only a little bitter at how easy it had been to make her body appear to be that of a boy with not much more thought than wearing rather shapeless garments.

Raiia continued to observe from a shadowy position, looking closely at those around her, listening in to their conversations. By the time half an hour had passed, that buzz of excitement had well and truly passed, and she was starting to feel foolish for coming here. She wasn’t sure exactly what she had expected, but it wasn’t this. Sure, she heard dissatisfied talk about recent events in the city, but there were no rousing exhortations to action against Thrunes or Asmodeans. Her interest pricked as a man came to the stage and introduced himself as Gruckalus, but when he started juggling she snorted to herself and made for the door.

“Leaving already, lad?” came a deep voice as she passed the makeshift bar that had been set up just near the exit.

Raiia looked over to see the heavyset barman regarding her keenly. It made her feel a little uncomfortable, and she realised that behind his friendly regard there was a hint of suspicion. Deciding she didn’t want whatever trouble might come of continuing to walk past him, she smoothly altered her gait slightly to step to the bar.

“Ah, no.” She replied quickly, trying to lower the pitch of her voice slightly. “Just coming for a drink.” She smiled.

“Really?” The Barman replied, one eyebrow rising slightly as he leaned forward on the counter with brawny forearms. “ Could have sworn you were making for the door. And so early too. Gotta say, seems a bit strange to me when someone comes down here, spends a good deal of time studying the other attendees, then tries to sneak out just as the fun’s starting.”

“If I was sneaking you’d never have seen me!” she replied, tossing her head indignantly, then relaxing a little at The Barman’s responding chuckle. “But I was leaving. This…” she said gesturing dismissively at the jester who was continuing his hijinks on stage “Was not really what I was expecting.”

“The young’ns are always too impatient.’ The man said, his smile widening. “How about we get you that drink, and in a few minutes I’ll be bettin’ you change your mind. What’ll you have?”

“Um, wine please.” Raiia replied, but was then at a loss as The Barman gestured to the various bottles arrayed around him for her to select from. She’d never really paid any attention when her parents had brought the small cup of the stuff she was allowed when they went to Belor’s for dinner. She knew that learning about wines was one of the things she would eventually do at Lady Docur’s, but so far they had only studied tea. She picked one at random, and confirmed confidently when The Barman queried her choice. It was a much darker red than she remembered having in the past, and had a much stronger flavour as she began to sip it (for some reason the stuff she’d had before tasted somewhat more watery), but it wasn’t terrible.

Presently thoughts of wine fled as Grauckalus was replaced on stage by a young woman dressed all in black. Raiia found herself leaning forward eagerly as she listened intently to the Little Black Swan’s voice as she recited her poetry.

“Aye, has the effect, she does.” The Barman says, coming back to Raiia a little later as she continued to stare transfixed at the stage. “Another?”

Raiia looked at her glass, only now realising it was empty. She had been continuing to sip throughout the performance, and had obviously become accustomed to the taste. She absently handed over a few coppers to The Barman as she turned her attention back to the performance.

The only real performer she had ever seen was Pavo, and if she was going to be honest with herself (which she wasn’t), this Little Black Swan was more engaging. Her works seemed more emotional than those of the Poison Pen she had read, though perhaps that was simply the difference between watching a performance and reading the words. Now, if she just had Pavo sitting here with her to watch this, she dreamed.

“So, who did you say gave you the invitation?” The Barman enquired innocently as he refilled her glass.

“Oh, Pavo.” She replied, saying the first name that came to mind. The fact was she had no idea who was providing her with the poetry and the invitation to this Speakeasy, and she felt some kind of answer was expected.

“Really?” The Barman seemed a little taken aback at the response. “Well, in that case I imagine the Little Black Swan will like a word with you when she finishes. I’ll let her know.”

Shit. As The Barman turned his back to speak serve another customer, Raiia quickly downed the rest of her wine and made for the door. For some reason she felt a little wobbly as she first got up, but the feeling quickly passed. Probably too much time sitting, she thought as she made her way out to the street.

“See, told you you wouldn’t see me if I was sneaking.” She muttered to herself in delight as she stepped outside.

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The Soundtrack of the Revolution

Lips pressed together in contemplation, Aroldo studies the canvas stretched over the easel before him. Light streams in behind him from the open study window. Making a decision, his brush dabs at his palette picking up some paint.

“We’ll put a happy little tree right there,” the wizard mutters to himself. His brush moves against the canvas, and soon enough an evergreen appears in the landscape he is slowly crafting.

A figure appears in the doorway, and Aroldo smiles at Alaria. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” replies Alaria, stifling a yawn. “Painting again?” she asks as a slight smile creeps onto her fence. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you pick up a brush.”

“Yes, too long really. I was thinking about a few things… well thinking in circles really. I was hoping changing things up might get my mind back on track.”

“Is it working?”

“Probably not,” grins the wizard. “I was too focused on trying to bring my vision out onto the canvas to think of anything really.”

“Can I see?”

Aroldo steps forward quickly to block her view of his incomplete painting. “When it’s finished” her remarks at her expression.

Alaria pouts in an exaggerated way. “Awww. There’s a beauty in incomplete art, you know. You can appreciate things before they take their final form.”

The wizard stares at Alaria for a few seconds as if struck by a revelation. “Well. that’s an interesting thought,” he mutters.

“What is?” asks the bard, her pout changing to be slightly bewildered expression.

“I’ll explain in the sitting room. Grab your gittern. I’ll get changed and grab a few things and meet you there.” Aroldo bustles post, wiping his hands on his smock.

Alaria stares after the inspired men for a few moments before heading off to her own room.

Minutes later, Aroldo bustles into the sitting room, several pouches containing some spell components held in one hand, a sheaf of papers in the other.

“What’s this then?” asks Alaria, her stringed instrument lying on her lap.

The wizard places the pouches down on a chair, before handing the papers over to his friend.

Curiosity marking her face, Alaria examines the papers, flipping between them repeatedly. “What is this?” she asks, looking up.

“Pieces of song,” replies Aroldo simply watching her carefully.

“No, really?” she replies, her voice dipping with playful sarcasm. “This doesn’t even look complete. Really, I can’t even tell what order these pages are meant to be in.”

“Yes, I’m working on completing it, but there’s still a ways to go. I was wondering if you could attempt to play it for me. Well, play what’s there at least.”

The bard looks down and shuffles the papers around again. “I guess so. But why? And why isn’t it complete? You aren’t composer, surely?”

“No, you know me well enough to know that something like this is beyond me. I’m working on completing it with a few associates of mine, but I wouldn’t ask too many questions.”

“Is this what you’ve been doing when you go missing for days at a time?” Alaria asks, a tinge of incredibility in her voice.

Aroldo shrugs in reply. “It’s best you don’t know what I get up to. Really.”

“You’re one of the Children of the Ash, aren’t you?” she exclaims, bringing a hand up to her mouth. “That would explain everything!

Aroldo does his best not to blush or give anything away, glad Alaria has no way of knowing how quickly his heart is now racing. He can do nothing else but stare at her as he tries to formulate a response.

Suddenly the woman bursts out with a giggle. “By the Gods, the look on your face!” She giggles again and shakes her head. “You, one of those rebels trying to overthrow the Thrunes’. Could you imagine it?”

“Haha, yeah, you got me. I’m a big, bad rebel! The truth of the matter is I’m working with a few others down at the Academy on what could be an entirely new form of magic. It actually uses music as it’s… channel for want of a better term.”

“Okay, but what does that have to do with me?”

“I’d like you to play. what’s there, if you can, I’m just going to be casting a spell or two. Nothing that will interfere with your music, or affect you, just keep playing”, grins Aroldo in what he hopes is a reassuring manner.

The bard frowns at Aroldo as if in doubt, but begins playing from the sheets of music given to her.

Her playing at first seems timid and hesitant, as if she is unsure if she is doing the right thing, but soon finds the rhythm of the music.

Aroldo cannot help but feels some emotions stir within him while listening, but quickly reaches for his components pouch and begins his casting, hoping that his magic will reveal something about the Song of Silver.

Alaria glances at him once while playing, but keeps her focus as Aroldo looks at her with an unfocused gaze, as if he’s looking through her.

Eventually she stops, having reached the end of the incomplete song placed before her. Aroldo blinks several times as his eyes return to focus.

“Well?” she asks expectantly.

“Well, it seems like we’ve got a long way to go. But thank you, very much. What you’re done here has been most helpful,” he replies while another part of his mind still analyses what is detection spell revealed.

There is indeed some form of magic behind the Song of Silver. While hard to be precise, likely due to the piecemeal nature of what he presented to Alaria, strands of abjuration magic had crept into his field of view.

“Is there anything else I can do?” the bard asks the now preoccupied Aroldo.

“No, no, thanks again,” mutters Aroldo, now deep in thought. At that, Alaria rises from her chair, and leaves the wizard to his thoughts, knowing she’s unlikely to hear much from him as he thinks on whatever conundrum her playing has given him.

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Questions of Etiquette

“Thank you for agreeing to meet me, Mialari. It is okay to call you Mialari, is it not?” Gaian began with a smile.

“That,” The woman replied flatly “Would be rather indecorous.”

Gaian took a gulp of his tea, wishing the attendant were still here to give him a distraction from his momentary discomfort. But no, she would be a distraction from the entire conversation; he could watch that girl pour tea all day. Instead, he maintained his focus on the venerable elf sitting immaculately before him.

“Ah, my apologies Lady Docur. I meant no offense.” He had hoped for some acknowledgement of whether he had caused any, but the woman was unreadable to him, so he decided to press on.

“I just wished to inform you that my associates were indeed able to recover the piece of the Song of Silver of which you provided us the whereabouts, and to thank you for your assistance.”

“Well, how very polite of you.” She replied with a slight smile. “It is good to know that it will be put to good use.”

“Quite.” Gaian said, steeling himself. “Strangely, my associates also reported to me that Allendra Sarini seemed to think that they were assassins sent after her by yourself.”

He left the statement hanging, waiting to hear how she would reply.

“Truly? I assume they managed to clear up such a misunderstanding?” Lady Docur queried, arching one eyebrow ever so slightly.

“Ah, well my understanding is they attempted to, but she seemed unwilling to participate in the discussion. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all that.”

“I’m afraid I cannot say I am terribly surprised. In fact I would go so far as to say it is the outcome I would have anticipated.”

The elf took a sip of her tea, and for a moment Gaian wondered if it was to hide the hint of amusement he was sure he had seen curl one corner of her lips.

“Indeed? Then perhaps I am correct in thinking it is time for slightly plainer speech between us.” Gaian paused for a moment, hoping again for some shift from the woman to give him some guidance as how to proceed, but again getting nothing.

“As I suspect you have guessed, my associates and I are not merely historians of this fair city. Indeed, our vision lies more firmly with Kintargo’s future. It seems at least in part that your interests may align somewhat with our own. Unless you were simply engaging my associates for their abilities rather than their vision?”

“Is this your idea of plain speech, Master Vespinus?” Lady Docur chuckled slightly. “If so, perhaps we will get along well.

“I will admit that I am not unhappy to see Allendra meet her end. The woman betrayed me some years ago, and has been a loose thread that has agitated me since. However, if I were the sort to enlist the aid of assassins I could have done so long before now. Does this ease your mind?”

“It does indeed, at least in part.” Gaian replied. “In that case, I suggest a more open working relationship between yourself and my associates. In word at least.” He smiled. “Thus, should you wish either to ask our aid, or impart any further information that you feel would be valuable to our cause, I would implore you to contact me. I tend to fill a role as somewhat of a facilitator between like-minded individuals.”

“I assure you, Master Vespinus, that I am quite aware of how and where I can contact you associates. But the idea of utilising you is not disagreeable given you have reason to attend me here occasionally as is, whether by accident or design. If nothing else, it will save half a dozen men tramping together through my school, which certainly appears…”

“Indecorous?” Gaian interrupted.

“Unseemly.” Lady Docur replied with a frown. “Indecorous would be your interrupting me.”

“Ah, yes.” Gaian said, with the grace to blush slightly. “Well, I’m glad we have had this opportunity to speak, and hope this be the beginning of a wonderful friendship, or other appropriate professional relationship! Now I had best take my leave.” Gaian finished, standing.

“Sit down, Master Vespinus.” Lady Docur ordered quietly but sternly. “We are not done here.”

“Oh?” Gaian replied, sinking back into his chair.

“You stated your mind was eased ‘in part’. Do you wish to tell me of the part that remains ill-at-ease?”

“Oh, it’s nothing really. Simply that I hope that in light of your broader interests, this is still a safe place for Raiia to be.”

“Your daughter’s safety is ‘nothing really’? You disappoint me.” The elf regarded Gaian coolly. “Fortunately, her safety certainly is something to me. I assure you that my ‘broader interests’ predate your machinations, and that never has it brought any trouble upon the girls under my care. Indeed, not only will I keep Raiia safe, but I will keenly foster her talents to help her reach her full potential. As she is a bright girl, that should be quite significant, if she can overcome some of the less desirable traits the Vespinus family seems to have exhibited since its inception.

“Now you may go.” She concluded as Gaian opened his mouth to speak.

Gaian rose and walked to the door, placing his hand on the knob before turning back to Lady Docur.

“Oh, just one more thing. Does fostering her talents include introducing her to the works of the Poison Pen?”

“While the works of that particular poet enjoy popular interest from some sections of our society, I hardly think he- she will stand up over time as a great writer. I would both expect and encourage the study of more complete poets among my students.”

“Ah, that’s what I thought.”

Gaian left, happy with all but the fact that the slightly puzzled look on Lady Docur’s face at his last question was the one expression he had been able to read.

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Rubbing shoulders...
Session 21

Aroldo and Augus returned successfully from their mission to obtain a ship-sinking weapon.

The Children attended a party at Countess Sarini’s estate, at the suggestion of Lady Docur. Lady Docur informed the Children that Sarini has another piece of the Song of Silver stashed away among her trinkets and souvenirs from the civil war.

The Children mingled with the powerful of Kintargo, and eventually made their way into an old temple of Asmodeus below the estate. Here they battled dark powers, and eventually faced off against Allendra Sarini and her undead “grandpapa.” Allendra accused the Children of being sent by Docur to kill her, of which they claimed they had no knowledge. They overcame the grandparent/child combo and recovered the second piece of the Song of Silver.

During the party they learnt that a preening peacock of a man Lucian Thrune commanded the keep at Menador Pass, and that he keeps strange company in an albino Erinyes who collects tattoos and a jinn manservant. They also learnt that young Adorabella, the up and coming performer, has been exploited by the Countess. Finally, they arranged a meeting with the First Mate of the Scourge of Belial under the guise of supplying the ship with a selection of fine alcoholic beverages.

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