A Nation in Peril (IceBob – GM)
With the tales of dragon attacks confirmed reliably, and the Bandit attacks becoming ever more violent, King Denar Telloran could no longer wait to react. He summoned the great lords from all the reaches of his kingdom (except those who must deal directly with the bandits and the dragons) to his court to decide what must be done. Among those summoned, only Reece Murra declined, pleading ill health and sending his brother Stavron in his place.
Final Preparations (Liam Rothspar)
Liam was approached by Ursula herself not long after her birthday bash, her aide having conveniently “overheard” his conversation with the Earl. Irate, she demanded to know why matters of “human sacrifice” were discussed at her events, and with due concern. What could Liam tell her? It occurred to him to try to lie, to say he was speaking of the dignity of nobles and how it was “sacrificed” when one was drunk… but years spent with a nose in the books had left him without much time to practice intricate lie-crafting. He settled on first trying to convince her that what the aide heard was sincerely out of context, but a combination of her stubborn disbelief and Liam’s slow-growing fondness for the girl negated that tactic. Finally, he could only tell her that it was directly a sagely, scholarly matter, something the Earl had bade him research for research’s sake. The specifics he was sworn not to divulge, and that she would have to ask the Earl himself. He wished he could assuage her concerns, but duty was duty and his word was his word.
Not that it would have helped for her to visit the Earl’s estate. Liam found out shortly after that the Earl had been sent to the King’s palace, a good many weeks’ journey, in the Duke’s stead (“ailing health”, the Duke had plead). This complicated matters significantly, particularly when he was supposed to now convey his information through the Earl’s valet, a rather unsettling man he later found out to be of infernal nature.
Matters became even more complex when Maurissen approached him not hours later and conveyed some unsettling twists to his research. The Duke indeed intended to use the lich potion in conjunction with the sacrificial ritual… and the intended victim was none other than the Duke’s daughter. Liam could distance himself from his scholarly research… afterall, many things were wicked and gruesome in the world, and his own moral feelings towards them would not change their nature. But when academic lore became relevant and dangerous, it was more than alright for him to apply his own sense of right and wrong. And since Maurissen seemed to know everything already, there was no harm in discussing it with her.
Realizations (Liam Rothspar)
Some interesting points came up. First, why would the Duke of Blackwash wish to depose the Duke of Deepwell, to the north, if he planned on seizing such potent personal prowess? Well, the answer obviously was that two schemes were necessary for one reason or another. Perhaps Duke Murra wished to use his control over the Caller in secret while gaining political prowess and power publicly, so as not to be called a monster or a tyrant. And perhaps they were entirely independent of each other, needing only one or the other to succeed for the Duke of Blackwash to gain political stance in the kingdom. Subsequently, Liam’s later research brought to light a few interesting facts supporting this theory: if Duke Murra of Blackwash was able to depose the Duke of Deepwell and take his holdings, not only would he control two major cities along the western coast, he would claim the titles of the Duke of Deepwell… including that of Admiral of the King’s Fleet. And there happened to be a navigable river from the coast that led straight to where the King ruled.
Immediately, the tidings of bandits in the east and red dragons to the southeast clicked into place. Distractions or reinforcements, they could have been orchestrated by Duke Murra as an attempt to cover or aid his coup for the throne. Particularly since the only bandits native to those areas were those of the mountains, and were simply incapable of organizing that efficiently and quickly to pose such a threat to the kingdom. At least, without help. Curiouser and curiouser… And red dragons? It was certainly within the scope of the species to be prompted and plied with wealth and libations, in exchange for ravaging a countryside.
Maurissen also highlighted a rather interesting point… that sacrifices and rituals of the nature needed in this matter were more powerful when witnessed by many, and those witnessing didn’t need to know what they watched. Since the Duke had been snubbing many of the posh events, it was logical that the Duke would try such a scheme at an event of his orchestration… such as the upcoming marriage of Ursula’s younger brother to the Earl’s daughter. This gave matters some urgency.
Maurissen announced she was leaving to deal directly with matters concerning the dragon(s?) and the bandits. Liam offered his sagely services and would convey any dire information by arcane means.
Liam had broken contract with the Earl on the technicalities that Maurissen knew all the information already, and with the Earl’s permission. But, more importantly, the Earl was not on hand to speak with, and some things may not wait for the Earl to return.
Private Research (Liam Rothspar)
Liam was fortunate to acquire a new apprentice… a diviner interested in pursuing the path of a Loremaster. Liam respected the mages that actually followed the pursuit of knowledge through arcane means, but it was advantageous that the youth was assigned to Liam to be instructed soundly in the dutiful science of library research. Many of these mages skipped the essentials of the art of information… there was far more involved than simply memorizing the contents of a tome or finding the first book on the topic, and James was sorely in need of instruction in these basic principles. And someday, he’d be a damn fine scholar and loremaster.
But in the meantime, he had his duties, and had to learn first-hand about “active information gathering”. Liam set him with the task to “walk his familiar” on a path that conveniently took him past the palace… with a Locate Object spell active, searching specifically for the Duke’s lich potion. It remained in place, unmoved, day after day in the North Tower of the palace. Curious, that it was finished but unused… lending credit to the theory that Duke Murra was waiting for the right circumstances. Also curious that he didn’t have it hidden from scrying spells, but a gift that Liam would not look in the mouth.
A Few Words (BrieCS)
When Lady Mannpurtz did find the time between making preparations, she went to Liam at the University, demanding an answer for “human sacrifice” being discussed publicly at her own event, and when his response was not to her satisfaction (How on earth can human sacrifice be taken out of context?), she went to his superiors and explained that she expected an inquiry to be made. Whether it was or not, she doesn’t know, but she was incredibly irritated by the ordeal.
On a whim, she went to find Reynard Mallefoot, the only sneaky, questionable person she associates with (to her knowledge at the time), and asked him to find information about the bandit attacks. She has heard no word, and as time progressed with no answer, she spent some time thinking about the events that had occurred. After some thought and research, she came to the conclusion that it did make sense for the Duke to deal with the dragons, but it made even more sense for him to cause conflict in the east with the Tolleks and Ortras to cause turmoil in the kingdom.
Shortly following, she received a letter from her sister, Gräfin Naufin Mannpurtz, stating that her sister would be missing her wedding because she had been summoned to the King’s court to discuss the bandits and dragon attacks. It was bad enough that there were so many odd things occurring, but now without her sister’s attendance, she wouldn’t be able to ask some very important questions regarding the Duke’s odd behavior.
With her suspicions aroused suitably, Ursula made arrangements to teleport to the Capitol City to speak to her sister. She told no one why she was going, and few people that she was going at all. The night of the wedding, however, she was given even more reasons to take the trip and the events that occurred made her even more sure that she needed to address it forcibly.
When Maurisson left to her dangerous dealings with dragons, she left Sarth, her kobold valet, to attend to Ursula, and while Ursula was pleased, she had no idea of the information the valet had until later.
Joined Together (IceBob – GM)
The wedding of Gregory Mannpurtz to the granddaughter of Earl Stavron Murra was complicated from the start by the Earl’s sudden departure from the city (just hours before the ceremony). Having sent his brother away to handle his obligations to the King, the Duke of Blackwash had no recourse but to host the event himself. He did so with obvious distaste, never descending from his chair, and even showing surprise at the gift given to the wedding couple in his name.
Upon the night of the wedding, Ursula was nerve-wracked from the rushing and busy work, but even more anxious about her upcoming teleport – scheduled for the next morning. She had been hoping to be seated next to the Duke to do her best to question him, but his rude action of seating himself away from everyone was an affront, and she observed him actively—especially that he expressed surprise at the gift given to her brother and his new wife. Her reaction was most likely noticed by the observing crowd, but she did the polite thing and went to kneel at his feet to kiss his ring. At his feet, she observed some bizarre things; his eyes and fingernails were yellowing, and his skin was papery thin and instead of the typical white translucence of age, it had a gray tinge. It unnerved her.
As the night progressed, she witnessed Damien Ortra (her intended) and Julian Tollek (a paladin, competitor, and suitor) arguing about the unfettered actions of the bandits, and she stepped in. Julian accused the Ortras of allowing the bandits to hide on their land, while Damien accused the Tolleks of the same. She explained to Damien that it was inappropriate to accuse, and instead explained to Julian that she would never associate with people who wouldn’t take care of their own lands and asked him how he could believe that of her, and at his doubt, she explained that she felt it was a free agent outside of the two families spurring the attacks and making it more difficult to stop them. Her logic eased the argument and Julian apologised, taking his leave of the pair.
At that moment, she realised the true intent of the bandit attacks: to divide the Tolleks and Ortras, to cause a true conflict. She was, at this point, angered beyond her typical means. She would have directly confronted the Duke at this point, but shortly thereafter, another argument broke out—Lady Adalia Murra confronted the elf, Terasian, about rumours suggesting that he had been snubbed by her.
“Active Information Gathering” part 1 (Liam Rothspar)
Ursula’s brother’s wedding seemed a critical moment. The lich potion hadn’t moved, which meant that the Duke wasn’t putting his plans into action just yet. Maurissen and the Earl were still gone, and this might be the only chance for Liam to have access to the palace itself. During the festivities, he tried to gain access to the palace at a later date with an unfortunately feeble excuse of accurately recording the fabulous details of the palace, which would only further the Duke of Blackwash’s fame in the kingdom, but the ruse failed. He was unable to speak directly with the Duke, and more or less, would likely not see the inside of the palace again without some rather illegal trespassing. He had to settle for some more “active information-gathering” while he had the chance.
His apprentice ran off (“discretely, boy, discretely! But with haste!”) to fetch several scrolls from the University itself, and before long, the master sage and apprentice were making their way into the dungeons of the palace, cloaked in twin Invisibility spells. Gods love him, the boy’s talents so far were worth at least something. And due to the festivities above, the dungeons were devoid of prisoners… and guards. What better luck? They could investigate the entire underside of the palace without intrusion or needless waste of more scrolls.
Fate had a different twist to balance things out, however. No Caller in the Dark, no spirit, no protection circles, and no ritual site in the dungeon.
The next logical conclusion? Have the apprentice cast “Locate Object” to detect the nearest stalactite. If the spirit is beneath the palace but not in the building itself, delve deeper.
A cavern, beneath the palace entirely, situated directly beneath the ball room… where the marital festivities were currently proceeding.
Success and its Trappings (jimtheduckie)
All while this was going on, Terasian Goldbraid’s popularity sky-rocketed. All the people getting into the scheme still had plenty of viable targets, and as such were all making money for very little work. He was invited to parties, dances, performances, and the like. During one of these parties he caught the eye of an Adalia Murra. After a very successful wooing of the heart, it was revealed that the plans of the elf and the Duke were on a direct course for collision. After an extensive conversation with Maurissen Blacktooth, it was learned that the duke planned on using him as a scapegoat in publicly executing Adalia. Attempts to thwart off losing his own head only prolonged plans from unraveling the night of Gregory Mannpurtz’ wedding. Sensing no possible alternative to save his own hide than to flee town, he decided to buy a teleport out of the kingdom that night. However he also realized that without some form of legitimate looking justification, he could end up with a rather angry investigation looking into the business. So he assisted Ursula in kidnapping Adalia and took her to the elven lands.
Trying to keep as much peace as was possible for her brother’s ‘special day’, Ursula went to pull the Adalia away from Terasian, noting that the Duke looked overly pleased by this development. It made her even more uncomfortable, and when Terasian alluded that it was not safe for the girl to be involved with him, Ursula informed Terasian that he should leave immediately, and she pulled Adalia out of the party to an alcove in the hall. She tried to convince the girl to separate herself from the elf, knowing the possible consequences for such a union in a family like the Murra family.
The girl resisted and claimed that it was alright, but Ursula knew that it would only lead to a terrible end. They were interrupted by Sarth, who brought news of worse things: The Duke intended, or still does intend, to kill Adalia. Struck by the evidence – the odd aging, the absence from public functions, the attempts to disquiet the kingdom – Ursula took his word without question, feeling further vindicated when they were met by Terasian Goldbraid, who supported the claim. After a somewhat rushed discussion, Ursula tried to convince Adalia to leave and that her father intended harm upon her, but the girl wouldn’t believe her, and began to leave. For Ursula, this left few options, and she took the most instinctive; she hit Adalia in the back of the neck with her beer mug, knocking the girl out. She helped Terasian to gather the girl up, and told him to take the girl from the city, then returned to the party.
She spoke to Damien, telling him that she would be leaving the next morning for the Capitol, and explaining that she couldn’t divulge her true reasons, but that it was a matter of the safety of the kingdom. He offered to come with her, saying he should protect her, and it warmed her heart, but she knew it was an unwise choice. He and her cohort, Maeron the Wild, both are staying behind to keep a watch on her brother, her only worry. When she had finished talking with Damien, she noticed a servant standing by that looked oddly like her trade broker, Valen Tydrom, who had written both her marriage contract and that of her brother. When she realised it was him, she had a moment of bewilderment, wondering what further trouble could be had.
She spoke to him, and at his odd request for climbing equipment and the assistance of his apprentice, Davis, she was confused, but then realised that he intended to break in to the palace. At this point, she was beyond really caring. She hoped only that it would have some added benefit, sent for his equipment, and told him that under no circumstances could he be caught.
“Active Information Gathering” part 2 (Liam Rothspar)
Liam returned to the ball room after their unauthorized tour, determined to find the path down to the caverns where the Caller spirit should be bound. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before his discerning eyes spotted the fluttering wall-hanging on the wall behind the Duke’s throne. But to get down through there and make use of the Sunburst scroll he’d instructed his apprentice to bring along? If the Duke was a mage, there were likely protections, and it was far too risky to try to conceal themselves again in folds of arcane energy and sneak down into the depths. They might, however, be able to do so when the Duke took his leave for the night, but before they were ushered out as guests…
Fate was a cruel mistress, alas, and at such a critical time. The Duke was visited by one of his guards, and urgently had all the guests ushered from the palace while he himself fled into the palace’s lofty heights. Liam and James would have no chance to cast the invisibility spells on the way out… they would just have to wait for a later time and hope Maurissen or Ursula would be willing to forgo property lines, now that they knew where they needed to go.
Torn Apart (Mousetrap)
Maurissen broke the deal she made with Earl Stavron Murra to keep quiet about Duke Blackwash’s insidious plans, setting some of her own schemes into motion. As she travelled south to meet with the gigantic red dragon terrorizing the countryside, her kobold valet Sarth was left behind to help push things in the right direction. With his assistance, Adalia Murra was kidnapped by the elf, Terasian. All the while Maurissen was convincing the dragon that his apparent employer, Duke Blackwash, was more ready to doublecross him than he thought. With Adalia gone(for the moment) and the dragon returned to his true lair, Maurissen set off to deal with the bandits plaguing the countryside. With all luck, Adalia will be made safe while being stolen from the family that spurned Maurissen, the city of Blackwash will remain whole and unchanged by cessation, and the Earl Stavron Murra will realize the mistake he made when he insulted her.
Immediate Action (BrieCS)
As she was leaving, Ursula spoke to Liam Rothspar, and told him she needed him to pass along all of the information he had regarding the Duke’s activities along to her before the morning, when she would be leaving for the Capitol, and that it was incredibly necessary. He agreed, and she had a realisation on her way back to her temporary lodgings that the guard may have been bringing news of the break-in by Valen, and it could mean he had found something significant. If he was not dead, he would hopefully be at his shop – the location of which he had given her to have her valet retrieve his apprentice – and he might have some very valuable things with him. She intends to go there before she even considers sleep, to have him come with her to the Capitol, and she hopes to have notes from Liam to help her.
Her desperation became more real when she again met Sarth after he returned from assisting Terasian with the kidnapping of Adalia. She shook him – quite literally – for information, demanding to know all that had been told to him by Maurissen. He divulged things quickly, particularly information about the Duke’s supposed lich potion and his intent to use Adalia as his pure sacrifice. While she had to ask what on earth a lich potion was, Sarth explained rather well, although his words were punctuated with “oof”’s until she realised she was still shaking him.
Her current greatest goal is to have the Duke removed from his status, and hopefully eliminated fully, and to resolve the beginning conflicts in the surrounding country. Without peace, she may not have her wedding, and therefore will not have her keep, and that would lead to the greatest dissatisfaction.
Distressing Developments (Liam Rothspar)
Ursula was leaving shortly to be teleported to meet with the King directly. Maurissen had not returned, and her valet was nowhere to be found. And when the apprentice, just minutes after being ushered out of the palace gates, “walked his familiar”… the lich potion was no longer in the tower. His best course of action was to inform Ursula of all he’d uncovered, since perhaps informing the King himself was the best course of action. The Earl would understand. He sent word to Maurissen of this as well…
But all those whom he knew could help were leaving, and it was very possible, to the best of his knowledge, that the Duke may be starting the ritual outside of his schedule. Liam would have to do something… but what?