Saturday, August 31, 2013

One Goblet, Carved From a Monoceros Horn.

A gift from the Agri Khan to Lord Assur.  The horn is said to be proof against poisons--further the goblet is laid with precious bezoars that are likewise held to guard against any poisoning attempt. 

For this reason Lord Assur never drank from the goblet, as he felt that the confidence doing so would engender would make a murder attempt easier.

--Note Written by Nisrioch Cthonique.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ghoulish Bonewhistle.

"Small whistle, carved from bone, used by the Ghouls of the Screaming Waste to signal to each other in their hunts.  Popular believed to be made from the remains of people slain in battle, actually carved from crocotta bones, which the Ghouls prize for their lightness."

--Card written by Nisrioch Cthonique.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fragment From a Mikhelite Manuscript...

"...For the Holy Light stands above the Seven, and beyond Them, and from Him, They draw Their strength.  Without Him, They would be as nothing--with Him, They are as all.  We see the Seven and not the Holy Light because the Seven can be seen by us, but the Holy Light cannot, for He is as above the Seven as They are above us, and His image, if seen, would destroy us, utterly, for we are not made to see Him..."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 24

“And it’s no, nay, never, no, nay, never no more,” sang the three Cthonique Guards in rough unison, “Will I play the wild rover, no, no, never no more!”

Nisrioch nodded along to their song, as he glanced out the carriage’s windows. “The Folly seems nice tonight, eh?” he asked quietly.

“I suppose,” said Sacripant quietly. He regarded the Dark Lord for a moment. “You sure you don’t want to join us, sir?”

“We’re decided to turn this into a commemorative pubcrawl for Hagen,” said Palamedes. “He had this route--the Golden Triangle, he used to call it, and we’re walking it tonight.”

“Any particular reason for that?” asked Nisrioch.

The three thought it over. “Not particularly,” said Sacripant.

“I think we all suspect he’d have given us a quick swat to the head once the torches came out,” said Quiet. “So there’s that.”

“Well, you three enjoy yourselves,” said Nisrioch, as the carriage pulled up to a corner. The trio exited, nodding brightly, and walked away. Nisrioch watched them as they headed away, then turned to the driver. “I’ll be getting out here as well. I have mood in me to walk.” The driver gave a curt, professional nod, and Nisrioch stepped out. He walked down the street a ways, then cloaked himself in the night.

He walked down the streets of the Folly anonymously, his charms protecting him not from sight, but from especial notice. It was a quiet night, he noticed, a night where most men and women walked as strangers to one another, all living in their own private world. Or at least, so it seemed to the man who did just that.

He passed by a man speaking on a platform, the tall headgear of a hat perched on his head. “--Troubled times!” he exclaimed. “All is out of balance! This present administration is making our city lose its way! Children turning against fathers! Workers against those who employ them! Is this how the Folly should run? Every family, every business the site of armed camps, preparing for battle? NO! A thousands time no! And we can stop it. With honor--with fortitude--with discipline, we may turn--”

Nisrioch hurried quickly to Armida’s.

Alecto greeted him with a bow as he entered. “Your Excellency! It has been too long!”

Nisrioch gave a sharp quick nod. “Please tell Armida that I’m here.”

“She is busy at the moment,” said Alecto. “Would you like to wait here with Tisiphone or Megarea for now…?”

Nisrioch shook his head. “Just tell her I’m here.” Alecto bowed again, and left the chamber. Shortly thereafter a well-clad man emerged from the back, and left the house, doing his level best to pretend he’d never been in it. Shortly after that, Armida appeared.

“Ah, Lord Nisrioch,” she said, looking as poised and elegant as always. “How I have longed to see you! Do come with me! We have so much to catch up on.”

“Yes, I suppose we do,” he answered with a smile, as she wrapped an arm around his waist.

“Come, I have a Esches game set up for you,” said Armida. “And they are warming some wine.” She smiled brightly at him. “Shall I perhaps have Tisiphone come, and play ‘The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way’?”

“Bit on the nose, isn’t it?” said Nisrioch with a laugh.

“Perhaps,” said Armida. Her left hand darted to the necklace around her neck, briefly playing with the necklace there. Its pendant was tipped with a flawless emerald. “Perhaps.”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 23

Mansemat Cthonique sat down next to his wife as dinner began. “So--Nisrioch’s not joining us?” she asked.

“He’ll be eating down in the Folly,” said Mansemat quietly.

Viviane nodded. “Ahh.”

“Quite,” said Mansemat with a nod of his own.

Viviane looked resolutely at her plate, as if trying to pretend there was something interesting on it, then sighed. “Well, if it makes him happy,” she said.

“I don’t think it really does,” said Mansemat quietly.

Viviane nodded. “Me neither, but… I guess it’s his choice isn’t it?” She smiled at Mansemat. “So what have you been up to? I’ve been plotting disease control with the head chirurgeon.”

“Flying kites,” said Mansemat.

Viviane frowned. “Oh, you get to do all the fun stuff.”

“And plotting the beginning of the Great War,” he quickly added.

“Still fun stuff,” said Viviane.

“I don’t find it fun at all,” said Mansemat. “Not even the kites. Mine wouldn’t fly for a while. And it when it did, it got stuck in a tree.” Viviane stared at him. “Tell you what, how about tomorrow, I spend all day helping you with these health matters.” Viviane nodded slowly. “And then we can fly kites.”

Viviane rested her head on his shoulder. “That sounds like fun.” She turned to regard the table. “You know--this has been one very odd year.”

Mansemat blinked. “How do you mean?”

“Oh, just that it’s been wonderful and terrible all at once,” said Viviane. “You Cthoniques run in some dangerous circles.” Mansemat chuckled at that. “But… I wouldn’t go back to where I was before. Even if I had the choice. I… For so long it was… I was living a… half-life, scuttling from place to place, keeping myself alive because of… obligations as much as anything. It’s nice to have things.” She shut her eyes. “And to have a real home.”

Mansemat smiled gently. “We… like having you here to.”

Viviane cracked her eyes open, and smiled back at him. “You damn well better. I’m not going away any time soon.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 22

“Well, this promises to be amusing,“ said Nisrioch, carrying the kite before him.

“The Kite Festival, or the Great War?” asked Morgaine tartly.

“The Festival,” answered Nisrioch. “War is never amusing.”

Morgaine raised an eyebrow. “What, never?”

“No, never!” said Nisrioch, then paused and scratched his head. “Well, hardly ever.”

“Thank you,” said Morgaine, with a nod. “If you hadn’t added the qualifier I would have had to remind you of the Beer Barrage of White Pine.”

“Assur Cthonique was a mad genius at war,” declared Mansemat.

“And also cooking,” said Nisrioch. “And poetry, and dancing, and…”

Morgaine and Mansemat shared a glance. “Well, it’s better than admiring King Sutekh,” declared Mansemat quietly.

“You sure?” said Morgaine. “Sutekh may have done a lot of things, but he didn’t hire six girls to lick him clean after a bath in onager milk.”

“Yes, still sure,” said Mansemat.

Nisrioch coughed. “Well, as interesting as all this conversation is, I must be off.”

“Why?” asked Morgaine. “Did you leave some experiment running in your lab before you took your little vacation and now you just remembered it?”

Nisrioch blinked. “Yes, but that’s not what I was talking about. I’m sure that’s fine.” He looked around the Castle. “Believe me, we would definitely know if it wasn’t.”

Morgaine frowned. “I don’t find that comforting. Do you find that comforting, Manny?”

“No, I don’t,” said Mansemat. “However, I suspect our brother’s plans are a visit to Marsilion’s Folly.”

Morgaine’s eyes narrowed. “Ohhh. Right.” She sighed. “Ohh, Nissy.”

“I owe her a visit,” said Nisrioch. His siblings continued to stare at him. “You never used to mind.”

“You’re getting older, Nissy,” said Mansemat. “And as it now stands, the only relationships you have that you have not wound up destroying are… whatever it is you have with Alcina, and the one with a woman who you pay to keep you company.”

Nisrioch turned to his sister. “Morgaine, explain to Manny how narrow-minded he’s being.”

Morgaine shut her eyes. “I’d do that, Nissy, but since I got involved in a real relationship, I’ve been forced to acknowledge that, yes, your situation is kind of sad.” She shuddered slightly. “And where Alcina is involved, kind of creepy.”

Nisrioch frowned. “Oh, well, that’s what I get for standing by you these many long years.”

Mansemat crossed his arms. “That was uncalled for, Nissy.” He took a deep breath. “We are not going to tell you what to do. But we also aren’t going to pretend we don’t… worry about you sometimes.”

Nisrioch nodded. “Very well. Concern noted.” He turned. “I shall see you tomorrow. Though if yellow smoke starts billowing from my apartment, thoughtspeak me.”

“--That which flutters and flies! Protect us! Protect us!” came a shout, as Palamedes, Sacripant and Quiet entered the hall, carrying their strange torches.

The Dark Lords turned to regard them. “Okay, what the hell is this about?” asked Morgaine.

Sacripant bowed and stepped forward. “We have grave news, oh Dark Lords, about…” And that was when he saw the kite in Nisrioch’s hands. “That’s one of Pelleas’ things, isn’t it?”

Nisrioch nodded eagerly, and lifted it up. “Quite nice, isn’t it? It looks like a giant moth.”

Sacripant and Quiet turned to glare at Palamedes. “Don’t you two dare put this all on me,” said the chubby Guardsman. “I just told you about what I saw. You guys are the ones who pushed the torch nonsense.”

Sacripant coughed. “True. True.”

Palamedes nodded. “Right. So let’s make it clear--we were all idiots on this one.”

Sacripant nodded. Quiet scratched her chin. “You know, maybe… in a way… our prayers to Mother Night were answered, by having the problem always having been…” She sighed. “Never mind. I can’t even get my mind to accept this, and I was trained to.” She slapped her fellows on the shoulders. “Come on, let’s all pay for each other’s drinks.”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 21

Opal had sat for a long time in the darkness with only her thoughts for company. This was not particularly pleasant, especially when you considered that there was a good chance that whatever they had done to her would be permanent and that her body would simply lie in its hiding place, paralyzed and slowly dying, as she rotted away inside her own head. Or the fact that her present situation reminded Opal of a certain childhood punishment that had quite frequently been visited on her, and left her somewhat… vulnerable to being enclosed in dark spaces for prolonged periods of time. The fact that this dark space didn’t even really exist was surprisingly uncomforting--in fact, Opal found it somehow made things worse.

Curious. She should think about why that was. It’d be a good distraction. Better than wishing horrible things on Jasper, who she was fairly certain was behind this present torture. She was starting to repeat horrible things, which usually was a sign of profound boredom with the activity. Besides, by her reckoning she really hadn’t topped ‘force him to eat his own hands’.

She had a sudden awareness of light. Opal wondered if she was going mad. To be sure, this was something that had occurred to her on and off over the years based on people’s suggestions, but at the moment she was willing to admit it might just be true. “Opal, my dear,” came a calming voice. As the place she was in suddenly became a place, it was suffused with a gentle green light. Opal realized what this meant.

“Emerald? What are you doing here?” said Opal softly.

“Protecting you,” said the Pendant member. “Steps were supposed to be taken when you stripped of your membership that would have… made certain you were no threat. I prevented them.”

Opal stared at the green form in suspicion. “How?”

“Onyx and Pearl may have… taken over things, but all you see around you is my creation,” said Emerald. “There are secrets in it that are known only to me. And I have used one to save you.”

“So it’s like Castle Terribel,” said Opal quietly.

Emerald nodded. “A very apt analogy. It is quite like it.”

“Yeah, the Cthoniques loaded that place with secrets and stuff,” continued Opal, almost not seeming to hear Emerald. “And they forgot about it. There’s all sorts of stuff hidden in places, just sitting there, and they don’t know what it does. But I know. I know because that’s what they did to me, put me in a corner, and forgot about me, and so, I just looked around and found stuff, and figured out how it worked.” She was silent for a moment. “I think a lot of it’s as angry as me.”

“And is that what you were going to tell us about at the meeting?” asked Emerald. Opal nodded. “Then we must talk more. But not now. I will send you on your way, and we will speak of this later.”

“Right,” said Opal. She glanced around the room--which she realized was foolish on some level, as the thing didn’t really exist--and then tossed herself at Emerald’s feet. “Oh, thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou….”

Emerald accepted her thanks with a rather distracted air. “Yes, yes. Now… hurry…” She raised her hand and the figure of Opal vanished in a puff of smoke. A second wave, and the little chamber ceased to exist.

“…is the Emporium’s stance on the new mail service,” droned on Sapphire. The other members of the Pendant were stirring fitfully as the blue-clad member finished a typically detailed report.

“Astounding,” said Jasper. “Your dedication to detail remains… exemplary.”

Sapphire bowed and then sat down. “I strive to be comprehensive as possible.”

“Well, you appear to succeed,” said Emerald.

Sapphire’s eyes narrowed. “Why don’t you tell us your report on the Agate, Emerald?”

Pearl nodded. “I think it is about time,” he noted.

Emerald stood up. “If you all insist.”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 20

The old man was fiddling with one of his kites when they found him.

“Ahh, Dark Lords,” said Pelleas with a nod. “A pleasure to see you all.” He glanced at Nisrioch. “Especially you. We have not spoken much, and the others tell me you’re a man of vision…”

“Quite literally,” said Nisrioch, tapping his eyes. “I see things strange and wonderful. Many of which I’d rather not, but that’s demon blood for you. A blessing and a curse, as they say.”

“Who’s ‘they’?” asked Pelleas, returning to his kite.

“I’ve never quite been sure,” said Nisrioch. “I’ve always assumed ‘they’ are some overarching body in charge of pithy sayings, but that is a crude guess on my part.”

Pelleas nodded to himself. “Perhaps ‘they’ are the same people who’ve granted us with so many meaningless observations on the weather that seem to circulate,” he suggested. “It constantly amazes me how frequently you hear the same meaningless statements, repeated over and over, down through the years. So frequently, as if that person was actually saying… something.”

Morgaine coughed. “Yeah, fascinating, Your Highness. Now, that idea of yours…”

“No, no,” said Nisrioch, waving his hand. “Let him continue. I am finding this surprisingly interesting.”

“Well, then I must end my talk on the subject,” said Pelleas. “All that remains are complaints about the many times men have noted how very wet rain is. Something I fear would be as tedious are their conversation on the subject so often is.”

Nisrioch glanced at the kite. “My goodness. That looks rather like a sparrow. Did you paint it yourself?”

Pelleas nodded. “An old talent that I’ve been indulging these last few months. It feels good to be doing something frivolous again. Of course, it feels good to be doing anything again.” He smiled at the kite. “It was a symbol of the realm, the kite festival of Leonais. A simple little occurrence that let everyone, highborn and commoner, recall what it was that had made our kingdom grand.” He turned to Nisrioch. “The Sacristans have contacts still among the Dukes and Princes and Councils of the Free Cities. They are willing to let it be known that the Cthoniques stand more for the ending of Amfortas’ tyranny than the spreading of pain and death in the service of the Darksome Lady at the moment.”

Nisrioch arched an eyebrow. “And will this help us?”

“It will prepare the ground,” said Pelleas. “Perhaps win you a few allies. I hear that the Eremites are being most cruel. And the Free Cities are ticklish bunch. They will not be lorded over. Not even by their Lord Protector.” He chuckled. “In fact especially not by him. Win them over, and you’ll far smoother passage over the Murkenmere than ever your father did.” He sighed to himself. “You know, I was going to do it all differently, when I followed Lord Shaddad back across the river. This time it would be the last time, because instead of simply terrorizing you Nightfolk, I was going to actually try and hold territory, and rule with kindness, and mercy, winning your people to the ways of the Seven. And that way, all this awful bloodshed was going to end.” The old king stood there in silence.

“So what happened?” asked Mansemat quietly.

Pelleas turned to the Dark Lord of the Plains and shook his head. “I believe you know the answer to your own question.” He shut his eyes. “You are never too old to learn things. One of the many things I learnt in those awful days.” He returned to the kite, dabbing a little paint on it. After a while, he turned to the Dark Lords. “Another was that meaning well is not the same as doing well, much as we wish it were so. So I do hope you people are very, very careful when you cross the river.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 19

“You are not alone in your suspicions, ma’am,” stated Balthazar Subtle. “Frankly, I have been expecting something of this nature for some time. The Folly has always been prone to plagues and outbreaks. Its population swells uncontrollably, especially in times of war, or the rumor of war.”

Viviane nodded. “Right. So you’re getting ready for this too. Excellent.” She slapped her hands together. “We’ll show this plague who’s boss!” She turned to Jean and Elaine excitedly. “Come on! Big House du Lac cheer!”

“Yay,” said Elaine flatly.

Viviane crossed her arms. “I said a big cheer. Not a little whine.”

Elaine coughed awkwardly. “Well, mom, I am sorry, but I find it hard to get enthusiastic about disease control.”

Jean nodded. “Yeah. Likewise, Viv.”

Viviane frowned and turned to Subtle. “Ignore them. They’re young and stupid. How do we nip this thing in the bud?”

Subtle fidgeted slightly. “Nipping it in the bud may be a tall order, but I’m still certain with your assistance we may keep the death toll down to a bare ten thousand or so. Perhaps, if we are truly fortunate, it will stay in the thousands.”

Viviane blinked. Then looked at Elaine and Jean. Then blinked again. “I’m… sorry… but did you say ‘thousands’. Because I’m half certain you said ‘thousands’ even though that is clearly ridi…”

“I said ‘thousands’,” said Subtle.

Viviane stared at him. “But… I’m the Badb. The Queen--”

“--Of Old Magic,” noted Subtle with a nod. “Yes, I know. Well, I must admit, I am basing my estimates as to your efficacy on the performance of your fellow mistresses of the craft. With the assumption that you are a more… potent figure. For example, I assume you may cure… oh, perhaps a hundred people a day if you worked at it without ceasing. Would you rate that as accurate?”

“Ummm… sure,” said Viviane quietly.

“And that--as well as the various other countermeasures you will be able to perform will be of great help,” said Subtle. “But remember, ma’am, the Folly is exceedingly large. Quite possibly the largest city you have ever known. Diseases spread quickly in it, and hide in strange corners. Frankly, keeping the death toll in the thousands would be a miracle…”

Viviane took a deep breath and exhaled. “So… a hundred a day…”

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 18

“…So stand matters in the Mountains of Sorrow,” said Jasper. As he sat down, his remarks were met with determined nods from most of his fellow Pendent members.

Save one.

“This is BORRRING!” said Opal, standing up suddenly. “This meeting is boring! And awful! And not fun!” The other members watched as the form that represented Opal’s mind crossed its arms, and were left with the sensation that if it had a visible face, it’d be pouting.

“Opal,” said Jasper patiently, “we will discuss matters that interest you in due time. If you will simply be patient…”

“You keep saying that,” said Opal, her voice full of resentment. “Just like you always do. Like you did when I was little. Well, I am sick of it! SICK OF IT!” She gave an angry wave of her hand. “None of you want to listen to me! None of you! And you all think I’m too stupid to notice! But I’m not! I know!” There was an angry snort. “I know lots of things.”

There was silence around the table at this. At last, Onyx stood up. “I fear this pushes forward certain matters we have hoped to put off.” He regarded with Opal with an almost magisterial air. “Opal, you were allowed into the Pendant because of the… privileged information on the workings of Castle Terribel. However, since allowing you, there is a growing feeling among the members that you are proving… less than helpful…”

“Yeah, well, you aren’t helping me much either,” muttered Opal. “You don’t give me armies when I want them.”

“And that is why we have decided to bring this relationship to an end,” said Pearl, with quiet force.

Opal froze in place. “No,” she whispered. “No. No. Nononononononononononono!” She fell to her knees, and clasped her hands together pleadingly. “Please. Please no. Don’t… don’t… you know. Just don’t. Please. No…”

The other members of the Pendant glanced at each other awkwardly. “There is no plan to kill you my dear,” said Jasper. “Merely… to remove you from the Pendant.”

Opal fidgeted awkwardly. “Oh. Well… that’s… still not very good. And I really don’t want you to. So… please don’t?”

The Pendant was silent for a while. And then they began to laugh. Opal joined in. And then--from her perspective at least--the room went black, as it ceased to exist.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 17

“So, can it make you fly?” asked Jean.

“Yes, but it prefers not to,” said Elaine. “So, it’d prefer I only do it when necessary.”

Jean quirked an eyebrow. “That thing is incredibly moody for a magical weapon.”

Elaine gave a dismissive wave. “Ehh, that’s pretty normal. It hasn’t enjoyed the last six centuries or so. I figure if I give Caladbolg enough time, it’ll warm up to me.”

“Seems a mite optimistic,” noted Jean.

“Ehh, trust me, it’s very happy to be doing things again,” replied Elaine. “A lot of that lack of enjoyment was boredom. The Leonais stuck it in a vault and only took it out when they felt they really had to.”

Jean regarded the Sword of Light quizzically. “I wonder why…?”

Elaine frowned. “Caladbolg thinks there was some sort of misunderstanding, but it’s not sure what. So far as I can tell, it and Murgleys are both baffled at the direction the world’s taken. I mean--they seem to have been made to… work together for some reason. They do not get what it is we’re all fighting about.”

“Knew I wasn’t alone,” said Jean. Elaine frowned at her. “No--I’m not wondering about bastards like Amfortas. Guys like that… well, you don’t have much choice. But the Great War, and all that… the more I learn the less sense it all makes.” She looked at her niece pointedly. “I mean, you’re good with all this history stuff--you tell me what it’s all about.”

“I really don’t know,” said Elaine with a sigh. “A lot of stupid things, I suppose. The older histories aren’t much help. Most of it’s obvious propaganda, with a lot of contradictory names and dates that don’t make sense. What isn’t is fragments and weird references.” She shrugged. “Pretty much everything before Sutekh is tough to make out. Though a lot of that is because that asshole tried to destroy… well, everything before him. So no one would be able to remember the world that came before him conquering it.”

“Lord Shaddad the First, eh?” said Jean.

“Nisrioch told me he used to read Sutekh’s writings,” said Elaine. “To… get ideas.”

Jean shuddered. “That sounds… creepy.” She shut her eyes. “Wait, it’s your mother… Yeah, I’m on the

Mad Lord’s Stair, Viv. Elaine’s here with me…” Jean nodded. “Sure, I’ll ask her.” She turned to her niece. “Hey, can the Sword of Light cure diseases?”

Elaine looked at the sword for a moment. “Tell her it says, all diseases. Permanently.”

Jean considered that and frowned. “Pretty fancy way of saying ‘no’.”

“Like I said, it’s been bored,” answered Elaine.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 16

“It is maddening,” said Eurydice. “Absolutely maddening!” She glanced at Justinian, eyes clearly anxious for a response.

Fortunately for Justinian, he’d come to know Eurydice well enough to know exactly the response to give. “Yes,” he agreed with a nod. “I suppose it is.”

“I mean, does he understand what he’s doing?” declared the young maid, spreading her hands in despair. “The bad precedent he is instilling in my poor misguided sisters? I have been trying to instill in them the proper Fidelé spirit, despite difficulties…” And here she turned to Justinian again. “And I really have to state your sisters are proving a very bad influence on my sisters.”

“Julia and Theodora are… overwhelming people, in their own, subtle way,” stated Justinian, proud of producing a formulation that appeared to more or less agree with Eurydice without precisely slighting his sisters.

“Yes, well, they are just one more problem in guiding those three on the proper path,” said Eurydice, as she tried to work Justinian’s comments out in her head to see if he was agreeing with her or not. “And now King Pelleas…” She shook her head and gave a little growl that Sigma, despite himself, found rather becoming.

“You shouldn’t worry so much,” said Justinian. “They’re good girls, at heart, and I’m sure they’ll listen to your instruction. Besides, your father and the rest of the staff will help you…”

Eurydice looked at him desperately. “But that’s the thing! I’m going to be the next le Fidelé ! Leadership of the family will rest with me! My father’s… well, he’s not getting any younger, and… when I take his place… it will be chaos! Sheer chaos!” She sniffled. “And then people will say I’ve dishonored the family name! And when I arrive in the halls of my ancestors, they’ll look down their noses on me, and say, ‘oooh, there’s the one who let us all down.”

Justinian took a deep breath, and decided to risk a desperate action. He stepped forward and placed his hands on Eurydice’s shoulders, as gently as he could. “You’ll be fine. Everything will be fine. You will be a great le Fidelé . In fact, I’d say you already are.”

Eurydice smiled at him. “You really think so?”

“Yes,” said Justinian with a nod. “I do.”

“Thank you,” said Eurydice, with a great exhalation. “I… I know I’ve been a bit… on edge lately, but… it’s all these things happening, and mother… hasn’t been too well, and then there’s all this craziness from Pelleas’ kite festival…”

“Oh, Darksome Lady, protect us!” came a shout. Justinian and Eurydice turned to see Sacripant, Pallamedes, and Quiet rushing by waving torches that appeared to have birds painted on the end of them. “Protect us from that which flutters and flies! Protect us! Protect us!”

After the trio had gone by, Eurydice turned to Justinian. “THIS is exactly what I was talking about!”

Justinian nodded. “No argument there from me.”

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 15

Nisrioch looked at the map before him. “So… we are certain about this?”

“Oh, no,” said Morgaine. “We are dealing with reports from our people in Albracca, talking to their people on the ships who are generally talking with their people on the other ships some of whom may in fact have actually been in Tintagel. These are the shadows of echoes of whispers, Nissy. You have to understand that.”

Mansemat coughed. “Well--we know something’s happening.”

Morgaine glared at him. “Oh, come on, Manny. That’s obvious! Something’s always happening. Even when nothing’s happening, something’s happening. But is it a BIG something? That we don’t quite know.”

“It seems likely,” said Mansemat frowning back at his twin. “And there are things we do know. Prince Amfortas went to the islands to wed Queen Yolande.” His green eyes shut. “And we know that something very bad happened to her.”

Morgaine nodded. “Yeah, but what’s kind of foggy. I’ve got stories that run all the way to killed in an assassination attempt that burned down the Senate to a giant snake eating her. Really, it’s…” She turned to see Nisrioch patting their brother’s hand gently. “Oh, right.” She coughed awkwardly, then strolled over to Mansemat and gave him a hug. “Don’t get weepy. Just add Yolande to the list of people you’re doing it for when you end that sick bastard. Okay?”

“I’ll try to remember that,” said Mansemat gently.

“So returning to business,” said Nisrioch. “A giant fleet, being assembled in Tintagel.” He looked over the map again. “The obvious targets are the Marsh… and Albracca. Has Belberith been informed?”

“We’re trying,” said Morgaine. “But you know what he’s like.”

“He seems to feel we’ve brought this on ourselves,” said Mansemat. “And he’s not alone in that. Asterot is likewise proving… difficult.”

“Were we expecting anything else from the Goblin King?” said Nisrioch. “And Regni and Skadi?”

“Both hesitant,” said Morgaine. “We might just be alone on this one.”

Nisrioch scratched his chin idly. “Killing the Council of Shadows in its infancy. Mother wasn’t lying to me. Not that she ever quite does, but she does delight in twisting things to hurt me…”

“I thought she said YOU’d be the one who killed it,” said Morgaine. “Because this is definitely NOT you. It’s Belberith and Asterot being jerks.”

“Good point,” said Nisrioch. “Perhaps we will turn things around after all…”

Mansemat looked at his brother fixedly. “There is something else, Nissy. A… proposal that we have heard… It might net us some allies… It might even change… everything.”

“What do you mean by that?” said Nisrioch.

“Exactly what is sounds like,” answered his brother. “The course of the war. The Lands of Light and Night. Everything.”

The Lord of the Screaming Waste’s eyes went wide. “That does sound promising. What’s the catch?”

“Several,” said Morgaine. “For one, it might not work. And then there’s the fact that the guy who’s proposing it is going to insist you take part in his damned kite festival…”

“That last one doesn’t sound like a catch at all!” said Nisrioch cheerfully. “And I don’t even know what a kite festival is.”

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Weary Wanderer Homeward Wends His Way--Part 14

Eurydice le Fidelé walked through the halls of Castle Terribel in the measured trot she liked to think of as her ‘angry walk’, or on some occasions, her ‘march of justice’. Someone was disrupting the Proper Ways of the Castle, and that meant that this someone now had to deal with Eurydice le Fidelé . The ‘angry walk’ signified that she was very put out, and that certain people had better watch themselves.

In quiet moments, when she was alone in her room, Eurydice acknowledged that the effect of this walk was slightly ruined by Eurydice’s being a rather short girl with a pug nose, but when she was performing it, she did so with the utmost assurance. That was after all half the secret to it--convince yourself that you were intimidating and you were halfway on the way there to being so.

Of course, the ‘angry walk’ needed a target, and in this case Eurydice most assuredly had one, one who she was certain was attempting a dedicated effort to undermine the stability of Castle Terribel, and indeed, her family, apparently out of a deep-rooted malice that she found utterly incomprehensible. Well, she was going to show him.

The voice of her foe came from up ahead. “Of course, numbers may be a problem, but I suspect once we get enough people interested, the whole thing will see to itself…”

Eurydice regarded the stately old man with his long white beard, and frowned to herself. Sigma was with him, which while half-expected, was still a disappointment. As she watched Justinian flinched slightly as she approached. “Your Highness,” she said to Pelleas Pescheour, with a stately curtsy. “I believe we have matters to discuss.”

Pelleas turned to her and smiled gently. “Ahh. Mademoiselle le Fidelé .” He managed a bow. “A pleasure. Are you interested in taking part in this little kite festival I’m planning? Your participation would be most appreciated.”

Eurydice squinted at the King of Leonais fixedly. “No, Your Highness. I am…”

“Please, my dear! Call me Pelleas!” The old man gave an expansive wave of his right hand. “I am among you as a guest and petitioner. Airs will not help me now. What I require is good, solid friendship…”

“I fear I would find that exceedingly awkward,” answered Eurydice. “I have been raised to respect such titles…”

“And I am not asking you to disrespect it,” said Pelleas. “Merely to regard me as a man first, a king second while I am staying here among you.” He leaned forward and gave Eurydice a fond pat on the shoulder. “Now, I am glad we cleared that up. If you excuse me, I have other matters to attend to.”

Eurydice watched him walk away, for some time before she realized that she hadn’t even gotten to discuss matters with him. She blinked and turned to Justinian. “Is he… always like this?”

“I haven’t known him very long,” said Sigma. “But… rather frequently.”