Hafwyn sneaks up to the castle and watches the comings and goings of the people. A line of petitioners have arrived early for King Merridan is holding court today.
To discover the inner layout of the Grand Temple of Grand Temple Lady Anne Mowbry, Quilate, and Keribrar speak with Verulo, a highly regarded Master Stonemason. He is having lunch at Jorut’s Tavern in the market. He has done some work on the temple, but refuses to help them until they have helped him. They settle a dispute between himself and Mastersmith Lasso concerning some missing payment. Verulo says they should speak with Vitorii who he has done work with as well. Anne sighs knowing of whom he speaks and not looking forward to speaking with him again.
Thorne speaks with Seirian about those harmed by the King. She takes him to meet with several people, but it is Elora, an elven weaver, whose story is the most perfect. Her husband was imprisoned by the King on some random act and rumors say he was given to the pit. She knows Captain Savino, the captain of the king’s guard, and believes that he would be willing to help her. It is also possible to speak with Litheria the king’s seneschal. She often comes down to the poor and brings them food and coin.
There is no such thing as Death, though there be a thing called ChangeShe by H. Rider Haggard
Thorne comes to believe that many of the poor would rise up if they had a leader; although Seirian has her doubts. The people of this city fall back into bad habits after just a few minutes of sunshine. A dark humor has settled over the inhabitants of Fountainhead. Somehow the gangs always seem to know when something is happening in the market and quickly snuff it out. That will have to be dealt with before the people will rise up.
Without warning Seirian screams and falls over, a crossbow bolt buried deep in her side. Thorne drags her to cover and then pulls out the iron-headed bolt. After checking around to see if the assassin is still in the vicinity. Throne shoulders Seirian and takes her to the safety of the Watchers’ House.
While Seirian recovers she tells Thorne of what she has been working against. She discovered that Queen Mirasandoral plans to bring her realm into this world. This land is so fraught with power from the Shadow Realms that such a thing is possible – very dangerous, but possible. It would mean the end of all mortal life in this area, but greatly increase her standing among the other Queens.
She knows there are many people that might be willing to stand up and reclaim this city from the constant avarice of the gangs, the destructive pride of the craftsmen, and the wrath of the king – but they lack of leader. She has spoken with them many times, but when she leaves they just return to that endless mind fog. She took Father Karl to a place she found that no spirit could enter. He returned with the Cup Everflowing. She hoped he could save the people, but while he is passionate he lacks focus and direction.
Thorne returns to Elora disguised as a beggar. He talks to her and sets her up as a direct connection between him and those Seirian has been speaking with until she recovers. Throne notices the same change in Elora while he is speaking to her, but when he leaves he notices she does not return to her mind fog. Something has changed within her, but he is unsure exactly what or why. He leaves for the Temple District to meet the others at the Grand Temple.
Verulo takes Quilate, Lady Anne, and Keribrar to the Pestilence Pustule and introduces them to Vitorii, whom they already met but they remain good-natured about his efforts. After speaking with Vitorii in his newly renovated about their options they go to the Grand Temple and petition for an audience. Vitorii gives them his personal recommendation so it is highly likely they will get to see the king today.
Hafwyn sees them entering the brothel, but decides not to meet up with them until they leave. The place does not frighten or deter her, but there is something happening in the public forum that she has not quite been able to determine. There is a pattern to the movement of certain people among the petitioners. Twice she caught a glimpse of a grey robe, but when she went to investigate they were gone.
The petitioner line is long, but it is still early in the day. By mid-afternoon they reach the front of the line and speak with Litheria. She warns them that the king is unlikely to budge from his position, but they are willing to try.
Hafwyn spots the others in line and slips inside the temple to see what is happening. She is started to see the king is a mountain of a man. He easily stands ten feet tall; although he is currently seated so he could be taller. He is broad-shouldered and covered in the scars of battle. She watches him mete out “justice.” He seems mostly fair, but harsher than any human city she has visited. A heavily cloaked figure sits on a tall stool on his right whispering in his ear. He seems to be giving advice or directions, but she cannot get close enough to hear. Possibly some sort of law-leeper or court magician judging by the odds and ends dangling from his belt.
While Lady Anne and Keribrar are waiting they see five guards descend on two ragged men circling the crowd looking for a hand-out. They beat the men bloody and drag them around to the back of the temple. Thorne is also nearby disguised as a beggar, but with a bit of illusion he seems less noticeable. He saw that the man in charge of the guards wore a copper armband – some sort of rank insignia.
Thorne uses his disguise and gets closer to Litheria. She is speaking quietly to a richly dressed and dangerous-looking man. He determines that she does not believe in many of the king’s decisions, but has no choice but to support them. She dismisses the man telling him to take care of things. When the man leaves Thorne lets his disguise slip and speaks with her. He gets her to agree to meet with the troublemakers in the lower markets. He passes this information to Lady Anne.
As Lady Anne and Keribrar, Thorne and Hafwyn both spot a man in a gray cloak in a alley speaking with a laborer. He passes something to him and then disappears into the alley – not even Hafwyn saw him leave clearly. The laborer goes to three different groups in the forum and exchanges one of his packages for a small roll of coin. Hafwyn tries to get close enough to see the object but it is too open. Thorne changes his disguise to one of the copper-banded guards and goes inside the temple.
On the inside Thorne measures the physical prowess of the king and believes it far exceeds his own. Not someone he wants to cross swords. Thorne watches one of the men with the package come inside and pass it off to a serving maid. The maid goes through a small door on the far side of the room. Thorne follows her just as Lady Anne and Keribrar come before the king.
Anne recognizes the man as an ogrekin. Their kind are believed to be from a mating between an ogre and human, but from his size he would kill and human woman during childbirth. Typically ruled by passions an emotions, the king’s advisor seems to keep a check on the king’s anger. Lady Anne takes the cue and avoids an impassioned plea – instead opting for one of self-interest.
The king, and his advisor, is moved enough to free Farther Karl on conditions. One, Father Karl is banished from the shelf and may only return to the Red Temple of Techiuan during holy readings. Two, he may not speak out against the king or any of his laws. Three he may not plan or participate in any rebellion against the king. The deal struck Father Karl is released.
Those inside the temple are very loyal to the king and rejoice upon his proclamation. Tables are brought out and a few musicians play a lively melody. The whole scene is not just macabre, but disjointed and nearly chaotic. At least one person is bleeding on the floor and nobody is helping them. Something is wrong and the court advisor is gone. When Anne and Keribrar leave the “celebration” the king instantly sober’s up and summons a wretched looking man. He tells him to send out the hunters to ensure Father Karl is helped on his way. After hearing this Hafwyn slips out the temple.
Meanwhile Thorne follows the maid and once they are alone he confronts her. She quickly breaks and shows him a small statuette atop of dull blade. Far too short to kill anyone it is very distinctive and forged entirely from bronze. She says she was paid to put the surprise into the king’s chambers. Thorne takes the coins and threatens her into silence. It is clear the guards are used to getting their way.
After the petition, Keribrar leaves Anne to escort Father Karl back to his encampment while he goes to the small elven community on the northeast edge of the market. Alavara, the priestess hunting Hafwyn, is likely to be found at the Shady Tree tavern – a elven tavern. He reports to her that the Dark Elf is not more. Alavara presses for more details, but he offers up only the truth that the Dark Elf is gone. She tells him that three days ago she felt a sharp pain from the Great Tree. This could be a sign of the creature’s passing from this world into the darkness.
She is worried about the number of Sidhe in the city. She tries and recruit Keribrar to work for her, but he refuses. He wishes her no ill will, but he is already behind on several commissioned works. If he does not finish them soon he will have some very angry customers – the kind that come with knives to settle disputes. She offers him one of her guardsmen, but he kindly rejects her offer.
Thorne returns to the encampment set up by the Followers of Techiuan and shows them the bronze knife-shaped thing some people were trying to hide in the King’s chamber. Keribrar turns its over and notices a seam running the length of the “blade” and works to try and pry it apart. It was clearly still semi-molten when pressed together and will take more than a chisel to crack. He takes it outside the encampment to prepare a space.
Hafwyn and Quilate agree to help Thorne with the meeting the next day and wish him a good night. Thorne returns to the Watchers’ Inn and gets seriously drunk. In this relaxed state he tries and commune with the Silver Blade, while Quilate and Hafwyn settle down into rooms they have in the encampment.
Outside of the encampment Keribrar sets up a makeshift stone furnace surrounded by a ward. For several hours he pulls in the heat of the earth to heat the furnace enough to loosen the bronze. He could melt the bronze easily, but this needs a more precise touch. Something goes wrong and the bronze knife cracks. Thick red-black oil leaks out and when it touches the fire explodes.
Hot stones are thrown everywhere tearing apart the furnace, unleashing the heat, and destroying the ward. In the center of the destruction is a deep red creature made of smoke and touched with flames. It immediately sprints towards the encampment, with Keribrar in hot pursuit – both of them leaping over the small palisade wall.
Quilate, seeing Keribrar chasing after a fiery thing, takes flight and speeds over. Keribrar manages to stop the creature from getting towards the main part of the encampment, but it is too quick for him to pin down. Several people have already fallen to the creature and he is hard pressed to keep others away. Luckily he does slow the creature enough for Quilate to dive on top of it. He uses the jade finger he recovered from the sleeping warrior which has unexpected results.
The creature disappears as the jade its it, turning the jade as black as night and cold to the touch. In a short time it becomes too cold for him to touch and so he drops it into his pouch, which starts coating with frost.
Inside of Lady Anne’s room the door moves slightly open – enough for an assassin to fire his crossbow. Lady Anne pitches over and tries to defend herself, but the goblin assassin moves to her and drives his blade into her chest. Hafwyn sees the assassin as he tries to sneak out of Anne’s room. The chase is brief and she brings the assassin down, clubbing him unconscious. After tying him up she runs to Anne’s room to help, but it is already too late.
She calls for help and several of the Followers arrive just in before Benevenuta. She organizes everyone and takes Lady Anne to the healing tent that have near the fountain. Father Karl arrives with the cup and pours the water over the wound. It was clearly poisoned and the water heals the flesh whole again. Next he forces her body to drink the water.
Some color returns to her, but her breathing is shallow and lips turn blue. Father Karl prays over her and says he will hold an all-night vigil. Hafwyn stays to watch over her fallen companion. Quilate and Keribrar hear the news and come inside the healing tent as well. The three of them drag the goblin assassin back to Anne’s house to interrogate him.
Keribrar notices the goblin is wearing a bone charm similar to that given to Lady Anne by Thaogut. Quilate digs through Lady Anne’s belongings until he finds the wand. Upon closer examination he matches it against the bones on the necklace he took off the Empty Eyes gang member being drug off by the Rover Gang kids. When he puts it into place it resembles a hand with long fingers.
The goblin is a highly paid professional refuses to talk. They chain and magically bind him for the morning. Quilate and Keribrar return to their rooms while Hafwyn stands a vigil over Lady Anne.
Thorne is wakened from his drunken stupor by a knock on the door. It is the kind of knock that demands attention. He staggers to the door to find Fae Lady, so he invites her inside. She is an Emissary of Queen Mirasandoral and has questions. She wants to know who is his patron and how many of the Sidhe he brought to this city. She demands the names of the Sidhe he brought to this city, but in his inebriated state Thorne cannot remember any of them.
When the Emissary threatens to send him back to the Fae Lands for decades he remembers the last five names. She grants him a reprieve for five days before she returns. She wants one day each day. The Sidhe he brought to the city are moving against the Queen and unless Thorne wants to be the bug caught between he better remember those names. He will give those names to Ollonni who will pass them along.
With morning in less than an hour Thorne staggers down and has a meal with Seirian. He asks for help with the problem with the Queen, so she gives him advice. It is best to pick a side and stay with it in the short term. When the elephants fight the birds are squashed between. She does give him a boon for saving her. A pixie named Bayberry Twinkleflight who is her vassal. She can preform small tasks for Thorne until the next dark moon.
Before Thorne leaves Ollonni gives him a package that was left on his desk. He has no idea how the package got there or from whom, just that it has his name on it. Thorne cautiously opens it and find a nice pair of black mid-calf boots. There is intricate leather work along with decorative fine silver thread. He did say he was the best cobbler in Fountainhead, but how would he get the shoes here without Ollonni knowing about it?
Thorne joins his companions at the cottage to interrogate the goblin further. He respects the goblin’s sense of professionalism, but a Sidhe simply does not see mortal life in the same way mortal view themselves. It is a difficult session and in the end they get few answers and a dead assassin. The assassin does not work for coin, but trade. He will not tell who hired him or for what job, but the trade delivered three wagons loaded with fine metal tools to his clan.
With at least an answer Thorne, Keribrar, and Hawfyn go to the lower market to speak with Litheria while Quilate watches from a tall building hanging the flag of the Holwen’s Boys. She arrives accompanied by only two secretive guards. She tells them that she does not trust Etrin, the court magician. He is an elf that spends a great deal of time at the Shady Tree meeting with people. He is always accompanied by the same two guards, the only elves in the King’s Guard. Many of the people he meets with are dangerous looking goblins.
She has been haunted by the same dream these past few nights. She is a necklace near a chest with feet. Etrin opens the chest and pulls out a dark wooden box with ivory inlay. He opens the box and pulls out her bloody face. Then the dreams repeats itself until she wakes. The seneschal leaves with her hidden escort just a three different teams of gangers move in towards the group. They scatter into the crowd lead by Quilate who directs them away from the hunting teams.
Thorne is the first to arrive and waits for the others to reach a door he can use. He summons the Watchers’ House and brings them inside. Ollonni welcomes the returning friends and takes their payment for a night’s stay. Hafwyn gives a memory of when she was newly made a dark elf. She notices that Ollonni is crying and realizes that he is also a true dark elf – one who was made a dark elf by Mardac. He knows she has uncovered her secret, but she respects his decision to hide that part of himself.
In the parlor everyone is enjoying some food and wine when Thorne decides to put on the boots. They are extremely well-crafted boots, possibly the best boots in Fountainhead. More importantly he sees a shadow servant standing behind his companions. He is invisible to the others. The shadow offers his services to Thorne in exchange for Thorne’s service to his mistress. An equal exchange of favors.
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