9th World -- The Parting at Rosewall (3 posts)

thread created on 1/27/15 at 08:10

The Parting at Rosewall - The Parting at Rosewall - Re: Next Move

9thdm, 1/27/15 08:10
The Parting at Rosewall

Part I: Smith and Kek

At Rosewall and the wagon, Smith and Kek part ways from Cook and Chocobo, riding with Sir Gustav upon the High Road to Redbush. Gustav is quite amiable on the trip, though he insists on pushing on at a rapid pace, paying for new mounts every day at the various forts and keeps along the road so as to allow 16 hours of travel a day, at the expense of the party's own rest.

So it is they make an early morning arrival in Redbush only one week later, completely exhausted. Gustav states he will have the box opened that night, after a day spent resting, and either man is welcom to join him. Smith immediately heads to the castle to arrange a meeting with Exeter, which is scheduled for that evening as well. It is decided that Kek will accompany Gustav while Smith speaks to the wizard.

Smith and the Wizard

That evening Smith returns to Stormwall Castle and is once again taken to Exeter's chamber. The wizard sits at a sizeable desk strewn with folios, reading a sheaf of paper with eyes of blazing blue-white light, an enchantment Smith recognizes as Arcane Sight. Exeter politely stands at Smith's entrance, then motions for him to have a seat.

"Greetings, Mister Smith, and well done - you've completed your task in a very satisfactory manner. Now, as to your reward."

On Xenophontes, Exeter tells a somewhat different tale than Una.

"He and his twin brother Philokrates were prophesied at birth to both become kings. Xenophontes became a master of the oft-misunderstood Art of Necromancy, and when the Wizard Wars began, he sought to unite all of Terra under a single, peaceful rule. Sadly most wizards were too petty or proud to admit another as their peer, let alone their better, and so the Wars raged until the barriers between worlds were broken and the Second War of Terra began.

"Xenophontes knew that the victory of the Eight would spell the doom of all denizens of our Ninth world, wizards included. He quickly gathered like-minded wizards who put aside their differences and formed an organized resistance to the invaders.

"Meanwhile Philokrates, jealous of the power and success of the wizards and his brother in particular, joined forces with Sadis the Flesh-Eater and betrayed many secrets to the god in exchange for becoming the general of his armies.

"Eventually Xenophontes forged an alliance with the Druids, and he became the main architect of the Great Ritual. Feeding his brother misinformation, he lured the armies of the Eight to the Isle of Martyrs, where the Great Ritual either destroyed them or banished them back to their own worlds, but not before he killed Philokrates by turning his brother's hounds against him.

"After the victory over the Eight, Xenophontes became a founding member of the Arcane Confederacy and served as it's first Arch-Necromancer. After both the Confederacy and Druidic Council were firmly ensconced and well along in recivilizing the races of Terra, he stepped down from his post to become the king of the Asterlands. From the Asterthrone, the only Artifact not condemned by the Confederacy as too dangerous to allow it's use, he lent his knowledge and guidance as the monarch of all the East.

"In his absence, however, the Arch-Diviner Defteromati began to poison the other Archwizards of the Confederacy against Xenophontes. When he began facing unrest in the Asterlands, quite possibly the result of early incursions by infiltrators and spies of the Outer Kingdoms, his enemies within the Confederacy struck. Defteromati had underestimated the necromancer, however, and unable to destroy him they trapped him within his throne room and sealed him in with powerful magics, effectively defeating him at the cost of the Asterthrone.

"Without that Artifact's power, the Asterlands splintered and broke apart despite all efforts of Confederacy and Council to the contrary. Over the Ages, the methods of safely bypassing the magics used to seal away the throne room were lost, and none since have dared risk their lives against them to regain the throne."

On Deca:

"Deca is a rogue ex-wizard of the Seventh Order from the Evocation school who showed a promising knack for both Evocation and Conjuration magic. He also showed a thirst for knowledge beyond his station, however, and apparently fed up with not getting it, he stole several valuable tomes and fled from Wizard's Isle some seventy years ago. He has since eluded capture, and is considered a reckless and highly dangerous practitioner of the arcane arts.

"He is certainly a man I would not mind getting my hands on, as well as on the tomes which he took, some of which are volatile mystic works and others of a historical nature."

On the Orb:

"At first glance it would appear to be a variant of the magical crystal ball, used for remote viewing. I suspect, however, that it has been enchanted to mask the true depth of its powers, a level of sophistication which suggests it was created by a wizard. Whether it was created and subsequently lost by a Confederate wizard or dates back to the Wizard Wars or before, I could not say without further analysis. I can study it further for you, but I would require the Orb itself for several weeks to do so, if not longer."

On the nullers and parcruxicon, he admits ignorance.

Exeter then proposes a lasting partnership with Smith: he will investigate further into any subjects Smith asks him to, in exchange for Smith giving him all information he currently has or acquires regarding Deca; he would also be willing to furnish a handsome reward for the capture of Deca, dead or alive.

"I believe that the free exchange of ideas amongst peers, without bias or judgement, produces superior methods and results."

"I will provide you with all the information I have on Deca, in exchange for all the information on the being known as The Emperor," Smith replies. For three beats of his heart Smith studies Exeter with a hard stare, noting the look of mild surprise on the wizard's face at his request.

"Then we have an agreement," the wizard says with a genuine smile. "I look forward to our mutual enlightenment."

Exeter stands and cordially bids Smith a good evening before returning to his papers. As Smith opens the door to leave, however, he casually asks "Oh, one more thing - Did Captain Clay happen to say anything of interest before he died? Or after?"

Smith turns to face Exeter. Looking him square in the eyes he replies, "Indeed he did," then closes the door softly behind himself as he exits Exeter's chambers.

Kek and the Knight

After a day spent sleeping, Kek and Gustav meet. Sir Gustav is dressed in the plain, well-worn garb of a common traveller, and leads Kek into a Redbush slum. They wend their way through a tangled mess of ramshackle buildings which seem to stay standing only by leaning against one another, until Gustav stops halfway down a narrow alley to knock at an unmarked door.

"Whaddaya want?!" a gruff voice shouts instantly from somewhere inside.

"I need a box looked at," Gustave replies.

"Then go find a looker!" the voice shouts back.

"I already did, but couldn't open her box either," Gustav replies, avoiding eye contact with Kek as his face blushes slightly.

His reply is met with raucous laughter, and a few moments later there are a variety of grinding and clicking noises before the door swings open. Dim light creeps out around a dwarf in the doorway and into the alley, and the short, laughing figure waves the two men inside, squinting up at Kek as he passes.

Once both are inside the dwarf shuts the door and re-engages a complicated array of bolts and locks invisible from the outside. The interior is a single room forty feet to a side, without any doors or windows save the one just used for entry. The room is dimly lit by a low-burning hooded lantern which sits atop a high stool, the room's sole furnishings.

The dwarf, who is notably bow-legged and seems to be missing a finger or two, waddles over to the stool and brightens the lantern. Over a set of shabby burlap clothes he wears a pocketed leather apron, out of which poke an assortment of tools and odds and ends.

"Greetings, Sir Knight; what've you brought me?"

Gustav removes the jewelry box from the folds of his cloak and hands it to the dwarf, who peers closely at it as he turns it over in his hands. He sets the lantern on the floor, wipes off the stool with his hand and sets the box down on top, proceeding to subject it to a variety of taps, pokes, and gentle shakes. He then scratches his beard thoughtfully for a moment before speaking.

"Obviously locked, of course, with a fairly complicated mechanism; I can't say fer sure until I bypass the lock, but it smells like it's got magic on it as well, probably on the interior lid. By the design I'd say it's trapped to destroy its contents if it's opened without a password; by the craftmanship and mindset I'd guess it's either of Infernal or Celestial manufacture.

"Now all that ye get fer free, Sir Knight, just so's ye know what yer in fer. As fer me gettin' it open safe and sound for ye, that's gonna cost ye a pretty penny. Let's say a thousand even. Unless ye want to rethink givin' me a crack at that castle, that is..." The dwarf gives a gap-toothed grin to Sir Gustav and absent-mindedly digs in one ear with one of his intact fingers.

Gustav quickly responds. "Eight hundred, and I'll get you a look at Staeven's latest piece at the next tournament."

"Done!" the dwarf replies with a wink, and turns back to the box, taking out a selection of thin metal tools which he uses to quickly pick the lock. He then takes out a sequence of odder instruments: a small weight on a wire which he holds over various spots on the box lid, a fine powder which gets sprinkled around the container, a stubby, ill-smelling taper which he lights and whose smoke he blows through the keyhole, and finally two slim lengths of carved bone which he inserts into the lock.

"Ye might be wantin' to stand back, in case I'm not as good as I think I am," he says over his shoulder. Seeing that Gustav has no intention of moving, the dwarf shrugs and carefully levers open the lid. A strange pattern of symbols across the box's interior flares bright orange for a split second before disappearing in a harmless puff of smoke.

"An' there ye go," he says, opening and shutting the box a few times in quick succession just for good measure. "Safe as a sailor's supper." He then holds out one hand palm up to Gustav while keeping his other on the box.

Gustav pulls out a large pouch and hands it over after counting out a few dozen coins from it. The dwarf grins again and hands over the box.

"Always a pleasure. Did poor Braxicor finally meet his end saving your sorry backside?" the dwarf asks Gustav, nodding in Kek's direction as he gives the contents of the pouch a cursory inspection.

"Not at all; he is attending to matters elsewhere and Kek here is standing in for him." Gustav gives Kek a wink on the sly.

"You lot are thick as thieves, eh?" the dwarf says to Kek, then begins laughing as if what he said was hilarious. "Alright then, good night, knight, and I'll see that piece at tourney if not before." He then waddles back to the door, waving the two men over with him, and turns a series of knobs and levers to disengage the complicated mechanisms securing the door. "Next time try to bring me something challenging, eh?"

Gustav and Kek take their leave, and once the door has shut behind them, the knight takes out the box and opens it. Inside appear to be several folded parchments.

"Let's get this back to your inn so we can have a proper look," he says, closing the box and returning it to the folds of his cloak. "I'm sure your Mister Smith will want to have a look as well."

Gustav then leads the pair back through the slum and out to the edge of the city where Kek and Smith are staying. Inside, he and Kek take a corner table and peruse their bounty.

The papers are formal documents, signed and stamped, and written in Infernal. They are official progress reports on the work of the Infernalists at Placid Mirror, and detail in brief their recent operation there.

"Reflecting room mechanisms mastered; little use without the Artifact, but can be used to create blinding light down length of main hall for defense of lower compound.

"Staff & Sickle tablets recovered from Winter Grove, set of 16: 8 in High Speech, 8 in Druidic, so unable to translate onsite. Dispatched to Port Somber for oversea transport to Hegemony by guard; dispatched reproduction of Druidic text to Turano by agent to be translated by our third party contact there.

"Druidic oracle also recovered with some difficulty; unfortunately it is less helpful than anticipated due to damage sustained during pacification. Notes will be forwarded once interrogation is complete. All other Grove inhabitants/attendants sent to Competition.

"Search of original Staff & Sickle tomb/safehouse by scouts revealed no additional objects of interest, nor any sign of creature described by Simeon Clay; may warrant a more thorough search by pursuer or clergyman.

"Very difficult now to move through Southwatch without harassment and risk of exposure; last of magical countermeasures deployed with tablets/reproductions to ensure their safe transport through Southwatch borders. Require more supply if operation here is to continue.

"Third party Simeon Clay proving quite cooperative and useful, has admirable adherence to contractual obligations; however, due to prior obligation, refuses to disclose whereabouts of known former associate 'Elysium'. More direct method of interrogation may be required upon the completion of his current contract."

All forms are signed 'Interlocutor Gesh'.

Shortly Smith returns to the inn from his meeting with Exeter, and briefly reviews the documents to the best of his ability. "We must intercept these tablets and these Druidic reproductions," he says. Gustav seems gladdened to hear this.

"I was thinking much the same. I have some influence with the Count of Seaquill; if I hasten there I may be able to find and stop these heathens in port. Meanwhile you could chase down their men headed to Turano; my fame spreads not far from Southwatch, and so I would be at no advantage in DelMostro.

"If this plan is agreeable, I shall be off at once - there'll be time enough to talk to the King once these heathens are dealt with for good. Once I have news from Port Somber I shall find some way to get it to you, wherever you may be.

"May I take these Infernal reports with me? Count Staevin is a well-travelled man, and may find something in them we have missed."
"I'd prefer more time to look them over," Smith replies, shuffling the parchments into order. "We happen to know an expert on foreign cultures and linguistics nearby who should be able to give us full insight into them."
"Very well, but please don't tarry - with haste you may be able to overtake our quarry before they reach Turano." Gustav then bids Kek a hearty farewell, and Smith a semi-reverent one, before hurrying out of the inn.

Edited by: 9thdm on 1/31/15

9thdm, 1/27/15 08:11
The Parting at Rosewall

Part II: Cook and Chocobo

At Rosewall and the wagon, Cook and Chocobo part ways with Smith and Kek, riding with Braxicor on the wagon back to Placid Mirror Temple. Having acquired an extra beast of burden to help pull the wagon, and with the seemingly expert handling of Braxicor at the reins, the trio make good time along the trail to the temple.

Upon arrival it is decided that the quickest way to get Copperwood on the wagon is in fact to roll him down the switchback to the wagon at the bottom. This is accomplished without incident, with the oracle barely seeming cognizant of its surroundings. Once loaded, the trio begin their ride back to Rosewall, making the round trip in just one week.

During that time Cook pores through the records of Copperwood's interrogation and makes some sense of them. They are quite exciting from a military and academic standpoint, describing in detail the most famous yet still mysterious battle in recorded history. Given what Copperwood said about the main focus of their questioning, however - that of an Infernal commander named "Lud" - it seems obvious to him that almost all notes referencing this commander are missing.

The Cook, the Crow, and the Count

At the inn in Rosewall while Braxicor is out purchasing supplies, Cook and Chocobo hear the news that Count Baer is in fact currently in residence at Thorn Keep. They hurry off with the wagon to Thorn Keep to request an audience, leaving Braxicor behind. After some skillful negotiation at the keep's gate, Cook arranges an immediate meeting; leaving the Copperwood-loaded wagon in the courtyard, he and Chocobo are taken directly to the keep's audience chamber.

Convinced by Cook of the immediacy of Count's need to be informed of the "sole survivor of Winter Grove" being delivered, the guard fails to notify anyone prior to their arrival at the chamber, and so he and the pair of adventurers walk in on an argument between the Count and his two advisors, the aristocratic Spall and a man in woodsman's garb. The three stand at a table near the far end of the hall, their backs turned to the doors.

"If we are to have any hope of paying our men, we need to increase taxes by almost double. Again." Spall says in a tired voice.

The Count looks to the third man. "Valgan?"

"They're already owed from Spring. Loyal or no, there'll be desertions if they're not paid," the man says.

Spall sighs. "With the way our harvests are looking, we're guaranteed deaths this winter if we do it. People here and at Thistlebrook are already strained, and Terra knows what the response from the rest of the county will be."

"They'll just have to realize that the protection of Southwatch is for the protection of Lowbriar and Midland," the Count says.

"Maybe if Clay hadn't betrayed us, or if there weren't the delays with rebuilding Thistlebrook, the people would be apt to do so. As it stands, we're on thin ice," Spall replies.

"If they riot, our men won't even be in county to deal with it - he's got us spread so thin we'll be besieged 'til the first snowfall sends them back to their hovels," says the third man, Valgan.

"I dispose of my own troops as I see fit," Count Baer says coldly, turning to look Valgan in the eye. "He has tasked me with defending our borders because he's trying to stop an invasion of ideals."

Valgan holds the Count's gaze. "He's trying to break you."

"THEN HE WILL BREAK ME!" the Count roars as he slams his fist down on the table, his composure spent. "He is our KING, and we will serve him as he sees fit! That is his right!"

Spall flinches back, obviously startled.

"I seek counsel, not treason, and if you cannot provide it I will find people who can."

Valgan turns to leave, his anger plain on his face, and stalks away several steps before he sees the eavesdropping trio.

"The- the- the- Winter Grove-" the guard stammers.

"What now?" Valgan sneers, eyeing up Cook and Chocobo. Now facing him, Cook sees a middle-aged man weathered far beyond his years and realizes he is the half-elf Valganus Brecht, Captain of the Guard to the Baer family for three generations. When Count Baer ordered the Greenmarch set on fire, Valganus Brecht was the man who made sure it burned.

"There's a survivor. The oracle survived," the guard manages, obviously in fear for his job, if not more. All three men now look back across the room at the newcomers.

"Captain Brecht," Cook offers a polite nod to Valganus and then advances a few steps.

"My Lord," he begins in a strong voice, "My apologies for the intrusion, as well as our appearance. We have just returned from our errand -- Simeon Clay is slain, and the Infernalists dispersed from the temple on the mountain. We recovered the Oracle, though I am afraid he is in a bad condition -- possibly near death. At the request of your man Martin, we have brought him to you as quickly as possible."

Count Baer's eyebrows lift slightly. "Martin Adler is alive? We thought him killed at Winter Grove." He walks across the room and motions for the adventurous pair to sit at a nearby table, while Valganus dismisses the guard with curt wave of his hand. "Finally some good news. Tell me what happened," the Count continues as he takes a seat across the table.

Cook continues on to tell the full tale, not contradicting Gustav's version of events but stopping short of glorifying him. He closes with the fact that he suspects a band of Infernalists had left, carrying a relic of some sort, prior to the assault, and indicates that he intends to leave fairly quickly to pursue that band.

"Damned heathen magic," the Count mutters. "If even Martin couldn't see through their tricks, there's no way our men are going to catch it."

"Damned Gustav, more like," Valganus says. "He raids the temple that we don't have the manpower to raid, but lets the Infernalists that our men aren't equipped to detect escape. Yet again he'll take all the credit and we'll be given all the blame."

"Have you these heads and holy symbol? Those of the cleric and the diplomat?" Spall asks. "I'll bet crowns to coppers that it's that bastard Bentali. Having his head on a spike in Thistlebrook would certainly help assuage the peoples' frustrations; an Asmodean priest's head might have much the same effect here."

Cook replies in the affirmative, and offers the grisly trophies to the Count should he so desire them, a gesture that is gratefully accepted. Cook further dismisses any talk of reimbursement; "Think nothing of it."

Seeing that Cook desires to be off after his Infernal quarry as soon as possible, and having matters of his own to attend to, the Count gives him and Mister Chocobo an honest thanks.

"You have performed a valuable service for all of Southwatch, and provided me some slight ease of mind. I shall keep the Oracle safe until the Druids come to claim him. Good luck, and good hunting."

Before leaving, Cook takes a few moments of Spall's time to describe the contents of the mirrored chamber and their probable worth, were one to extract them intact and find the right buyer; when Spall's suggestion that Cook and his associates might be employed to the task is politely refused, he thanks the Asterman for the information but laments the probable lack of manpower to complete such an endeavor.

In short order, Cook and Chocobo are back in a much unburduned wagon on their way to the inn, where they meet Braxicor. The news that they have delivered the oracle without him is met with the same reaction most news seems to evoke from the hobgoblin, that of a disapproving scowl. He says nothing, however, and with the task complete, he rides out alone the next morning towards Redbush, leaving Cook and Chocobo to manage the wagon along the High Road on their own.

Edited by: 9thdm on 1/29/15

cook, 1/30/15 06:50
Re: Next Move

Gustav seems gladdened to hear this.

"I was thinking much the same. I have some influence with the Count of Seaquill; if I hasten there I may even be able to find and stop these heathens in port. Meanwhile you could chase down their men headed to Turano; my fame spreads not far from Southwatch, and so I would be at no advantage in DelMostro.
When he gets there and is filled in, Cook agrees that this seems like a good idea.

I'm concerned that we're quite a bit behind the "agent", who (it sounds like) was traveling by himself, possibly quite quickly. Was there a date on that report? It's also not clear to me what we'll do once we get to Turano, but maybe we'll figure something out.

Cook will fill Smith and Kek in on what happened, and also mention that Baer seemed surprised that the druid Martin was still alive.

Edited by: cook on 1/30/15

The Parting at Rosewall - The Parting at Rosewall - Re: Next Move