Saturday, July 30, 2016

Meetings and Conferences--Part 6

"Be it the hour?" asked the man in the red cloak who stood in the center of the hall.

"Oh, Uriel's beard, Stefan," muttered another man in a yellow cloak.  "Of course it is!  Would we be here if it wasn't?  No!  It's the hour!  The bloody, blasted hour!"

Stefan glared at his fellow.  "Firstly, I am the Master of the Red during this meeting, Master of the Yellow.  And secondly, we are here to follow the traditions of the Inner Circle of the Ancients!"

"During an emergency meeting?" snapped the Master of the Yellow.  "And by the Gods, just call me 'Willard'! I do not care!"

"And that is your problem!" declared Stefan.  "Respect for the ancient traditions is the sign of a member of the... Ancients."  He fidgeted.  "Especially the Inner Circle."

"Well, we've got the damned Nightfolk who are our allies now, remember, coming here en masse to figure out why one of the men they sent here is dead," said Willard quietly.  "I would say the traditions of our forefathers may, politely, go pitch themselves out the window."

"There are no windows in this chamber!" stated the Master of the Blue.

"It was a metaphor, Alexis," noted Willard, rolling his eyes.  "I mean, if you wish to take it so far, the traditions of our forefathers don't have legs and can't pitch themselves anywhere."

The Master of the White leaned forward.  "Perhaps we can give them legs, so that they can."  He looked around the chamber.  "I move for an immediate committee of the Inner Circle be formed to look into this."

The Master of the Grey nodded.  "I second this motion!"

Willard groaned quietly.  Stefan chuckled.  "And this is what comes of ignoring our ancient and venerable traditions."

The Master of the Purple turned, and hushed them.  "Be quiet you two!  We've a floor vote coming up!"

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Meetings and Conferences--Part 5

Orrill sat at his bench mixing the potions before him.  A steady green flame burned below one beaker.  The wizard attempted as much of a smile as his crocodilian head would allow.  Then a sudden gust of wind rushed through the room, blowing it out.  Orrill grabbed several papers that were blown loose, and glanced to see his employer standing there.  "Thire," he said to Belberith, making a rather curt bow.  "I hope all ith well?"

"That fool Asterot is having second thoughts," muttered the Dev, stalking through the room.  "I should have seen this, I suppose--he is a weak reed at the heart of him."

"Indeed, thire," muttered Orrill quietly, setting his papers back on the desk.  "Thuch a shame we mutht uthe him, but tho it goeth..."

Belberith regarded his lieutenant for a moment.  "Tell me, have you ever...?"  The Dev sighed and shook his head.  "Never mind."

The wizard regarded him with curiosity.  "What, thire?"

"It is immaterial," said Belberith.  "I am tired.  Forget about it."

"Very well, thire," agreed Orrill.  "Tho, did you perthuade Athterot to continue with hith... thupport?"

Belberith stared at Orrill for a moment, and then nodded. "I managed to persuade him."  He glanced over the experiment.  "Your work progresses... well?"

"Oh, very well, thire," stated the wizard.  "Why the progrethion of..."

Belberith raised his hand.  "I do not need specifics.  Simply... understand that we will be moving soon."

Orrill bowed.  "Of courth, thire," he said.  "Do you have anything elth you wish...?"

Belberith's usual frown seemed even deeper than normal.  "Nothing I can think of," he said at last.  "Once you are finished with your work... begin... preparations."  He stared for a moment longer, than apported away.

Orrill sighed and began to straighten his things.  "Tediouth, pompouth old fool."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Meetings and Conferences--Part 4

They laid the bodies in the great tomb that Nisrioch had erected over a decade ago, after all the fighting, and covered them with their black cloaks.  Grizzel looked at his fellows, then shut his eyes.  "Lady, guide them to thee."

The other members of the Guard gave a formal nod, and several of the Ogres began to sing an old chant of theirs in the variation of the Dark Tongue that their sages and priests called their own.   Grizzel let the tones wash over him, and felt old.  Another one dead, who joined in the heady days when the Cthoniques had been recovering from Lord Shaddad's misrule, and Grizzel was still here. 

The Goblin shook his head.  Where else was he going to be?  He had fought for this family, and he was willing to keep on fighting for it--for the family and what it believed in.  And he was needed now.  Even if the Guard was bigger than it had been in years, they were still so few, spread so thin, needed in so many places...

Sacripant walked quietly to his side.  "So... we going back over the river after this?"

Grizzel nodded.  "Yes, but not to Montalban.  Something's happened in Talossa."

The Marsh Erl frowned.  "That's one of the ones without some nobleman in charge, right?"

"A councilar city," noted Grizzel. "They're sort of like Things.  Only... smaller.  And generally they don't have terms."

Sacripant shook his head.  "Milesians are so very weird."

"Just don't mention that to them," said Grizzel.  "I knew them both, you know.  Especially the Ogre."

"You know all the Guard, Serjeant," said Sacripant.  "It's why you're in charge."

"Yes, but, Hymir was... well, not a friend, exactly..."

"You're feeling old," said Sacripant quietly.  He sighed.  "Come on, I'll get Quiet, and we'll head to the Folly for a drink, if you don't mind."

Grizzel considerd things.  "I don't.  I really don't."

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Meetings and Conferences--Part 3

It was a cold night with a heavy wind in Talossa.  The Lamplighter walked down the street, his lantern in one hand, wick in the other.  As he reached the corner of the Goldsmith's Way and the Jeweler's Road, he saw the familiar shine of another lantern.  Taking a deep breath, he prepared the ritual greeting of his guild.  "Ahoy!" he stated. "Be the lanterns lit?"

"By my own light, and faith," said the other.  "And be yours?"

"I have not shirked!" answered the Lamplighter.  Stepping forward, he saw the familiar face of his old friend Grunewald.  "A chill night,  hmm?" he noted.

Grunewald nodded.  "But a quiet one, Nathan.  At least from where I stand."

His fellow glanced around the darkness.  "For people perhaps, but this wind makes up for it."  He sighed.  "I've relit one out of every three lamps tonight."

"One out of every four myself," noted Grunewald. "But then, the wind is less a problem in the Westside."

"Indeed, indeed," muttered Nathan.  "A lucky draw, on a night like this."

"I thank the Seven," said Grunewald.  He looked down at his feet.  "Any news about...?"

"My brother has sent me no word from the Concordat," said Nathan.

Grunewald bit his lip.  "It feels wrong to hold a Metropolitan in gaol..."

"And it feels wrong to let a man who tried to arrest the Ancients roam free," noted Nathan.  "So we remain at an impasse."

"True.  True.  Odd times."  Grunewald coughed.  "Well, a good evening to you, Nathan."

Nathan turned away. "You as well, Grunewald." The Lamplighters went on their designated routes, eyes open in the night.  Nathan shivered and told himself it was the wind, and then told himself that he lied to himself.  Grunewald was right about it being odd times.  Talossa had found itself in a situation where every choice seemed wrong, and had, like all the Free Cities stumbled its way to a choice that seemed to be the least wrong, hoping they'd chosen correctly.

And there was no indication that this would end any time soon. 

The lamp just ahead had been blown out.  Nathan lit his wick, and then carefully guided into the lamp.  As it blinked back to life, he saw the body lying nearby.  At first, he thought it was a drunk.  Then he saw the blood.  Walking towards it, he went to check to see if the man was alive.

And that was when he saw it wasn't a man, but an Erl.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Meetings and Conferences--Part 2

Asterot stared at the mirror before him intently.  "Can you see me now?" he asked.

The wavery image of Belberith on it stared back.  "Very faintly." 

"I'm not surprised," said Asterot, resting his chin on his hand.  "The Sworn used to use it as a billiard table when Shaddad had them here."

His fellow Dark Lord blinked at that.  "Why would they...?"

"Because they could," muttered Asterot.  "Why else?  They couldn't make it work.  Only a Maganza can."

The Dev sighed at that.  "Do you have anything that...?"

"Yes, but nothing I trust," snapped the Erl King of Goblins.  "The Cthoniques are spying on me.  My own subjects are helping them.  My own sister is helping them.  I am surrounded by spies and traitors!  All around me!  All the..."

"Then speak more quietly," said Belberith.  "My putting up with your... fading in and out will do little good if you alert everyone by shouting at the top of your lungs."

"I'm... sorry," muttered Asterot.  "Drank to... steady my nerves.  Don't think it worked."  He licked his lips.  "I just got the news... we have to move soon.  The..."

"Your strange little allies failed, yes," said Belberith with a yawn.  "Honestly, considering how often they have, I'm surprised you expected anything else."  He folded his elegant hands before himself.  "Plots and plans are best kept small.  Otherwise, they tend to get out of control."

Asterot considered that, and wondered what his partner really thought about their plan.  It wasn't a comforting train of thought.  "I barely understood what they were planning myself, half the time," he muttered apologetically. 

"That is obvious," said Belberith.  "Now, as for your wish--we have delayed up until now on your say-so.  So your allies could make their attempt and, apparently fail.  If you wish us to move now, then we may.  It rests entirely on your resolve."  He smiled sharply at Asterot.  "Doesn't that comfort you?"

Asterot felt his stomach turn, and wished he had a few less drinks before starting this conversation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Meetings and Conferences--Part 1

The chubby man across the table gave Justinian a broad simper of a smile.  "Mmmmm," he murmured, "another delay?"

"Matters back in Castle Terribel have been... complicated," answered Justinian, hoping the ambassador didn't question his credentials, as they largely consisted of being the right man in the right place, for a very debatable quantity of 'right'.

"Well, let us hope they uncomplicate themselves," said the ambassador with a nod.  "The Emperor does not like to be kept waiting."

Justinian worked hard to suppress an eyeroll at that.  It was the eternal vanity of Easter Kings that they were the Holy Emperors, even if they did not possess any of the traditional capitals of the Empire, and just under half of the Empire's territory. 

And, as Justinian knew from the experience of growing up in it, it wasn't the good half.  "Of course, and neither does His Magnificence," explained Justinian.  "But alas, sometimes he must, and so he does, with a heavy heart."

"As does his Imperial Majesty," noted the ambassador.  "But still, it does not do well, all these delays.  Over and over again, our two leaders approach one another, and then back away..."

"That is as much the fault of Ilarion Skarvsky as it is His Magnificence," stated Justinian flatly.

"Let us not quibble," said the ambassador.  "Fault is immaterial.  There are great matters to be discussed, and the discussion of them is falling to lesser figures such as you and I.  Figures who can accomplish nothing in these matters."

"We can confirm that the present truce should continue," answered Justinian.

"Ahh, but will we be listened to...?" mused the ambassador.

"I can assure you..." began Justinian.

"And I admire that," said the ambassador.  "Sadly I cannot.  The court of the Emperor is a tangled maze, and I, its least and most humble servant can only guess as to what occurs in its inner sanctums."  He smiled at Justinian.  "Still, I can attempt to inform His Imperial Majesty of his assurance."

Justinian nodded.  He hoped the others came back soon, because if they did not, he might attempt to strangle the man across the table from him, one of these days.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Toil and Struggle

A lengthy work describing the lives of peasants in the Fangs through the fortunes a single family over several generations. 

As the title suggests, it is not a happy story.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Ballad of the Child-Snatcher

Popular ballad of a hideous demon that sneaks into small houses and snatches up children to devour them, leaving their parents to mourn.  Exceptionally popular with many young children for some unfathomable reason.  Especially the verse about bones being ground to powder.  They love that bit.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Black Puma on a Cloudless Night

A painting, all black, by Astarte Cthonique.  Reportedly she produced many such works, though most, like Poppies in a Wave of Blood, are tragically lost to us.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Marble Statue of Our Mother Night, Artist Unknown

A lovely representation of the Darksome Lady, carved by an unknown artist during the age of Lugbanda Cthonique.  Came to Castle Terribel during the rule of his grandson Kambyses, and the first Cthonique-Maganza wars.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: A Collection of Player Handbills

A sizable collection of handbills for a variety of strolling player companies.  Quality varies.  For both handbills and companies.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: A Journey to the Isles of Holly

A lengthy travelogue that purports to tell of a journey from Albracca to the Isles of Holly in the Lands of Light.  Apparently unfinished, it stops with the author a great way from the Isles.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Pages from the Cthonique Library: The Gate of Wisdom

Lengthy collection of the sayings and poems of St. Xenophon of Valse, a prominent, if exceptionally impenetrable, religious philosopher.  While his actual followers are so few as to be essentially extinct, he continues to be a prominent figure in Night Lands' theology.  His most famous work is a lengthy poem claiming that all reality is nothing more than a dream of Mother Night's.