Ulthuan

Ulthuan, Home of the Asur
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 2:43 pm 
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Access to the conclave is actually just a symptom of Spires motives. If all goes to plan, at some point in the future, Spires will be financing half the nobles and armies of Ulthuan. There is enough influence in that. It goes deeper then just being part of the conclave and getting a vote. Part can be seen in this comment:
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“It would be very agreeable if we could then make arrangements to the benefits of both our Houses,” she stated a vague pleasantry, hoping to prompt the elder elf. The tone of the statement was careful: she had referred to the City of Spires as a House, even though as a colonial union it was far from being one of the Great Houses of Ulthuan. Far indeed! Especially from the elder line of Irian; a family that accounted many wizard lords from Saphery’s past, and could number two brothers amongst the peerage of Aenarion himself! Within those simple words she uttered were buried both the generosity of treating the servant of Spires as an equal partner, but also the reminder of how much the pleasantry elevated the elf’s station.

For all his wealth and influence Spires doesn't have an official House or any history. He'll always be "that colonial" to the other great houses. And given the long lives and even longer sense of history of the elves, that is unlikely to change in the next 500 - 1000 years.

Unless he manages to create a dynasty and history for the (non-existant) house of Spires. And a mariage with an old and esteemed house will go a long way to achieve that. Though there probably should be a few more here and there, just to be on the safe side. And probably a few financial incentives here and there...

Though of course, if you do make the conclave then there is always the chance of becomming the first colonial phoenix king. (As if Caledor and the others would allow that to come to pass...).

Its all motives hidden inside motives with Spires.

Rod

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:05 am 
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Escaped druchii? How strange, how very strange.
And the temerity of Spires! He knows full well that ruling princess cannot marry out of her House, even if she wanted. So, whom does he really want to impress? :twisted:

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:55 pm 
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Rules are there to be broken. Or at least critically examined to see if they still apply. Thinking outside the box got Spires where he is today after all. Look at all that she would get in return. A kingdom about the size of half the empire (though technically Spires is neither king nor even prince. Kingdom is used loosely here). One that is prosperous, innovative, strengthwise a match for most of the other kingdoms of ulthuan. Access to the most sought after luxury products and spices in ulthuan society. And cookies. Where else can you get chocolate chip cookies in Ulthuan. O, and Spires of course. A dashingly handsome elf, wise, cunning, benevolent. What's not to like.

While socially it would be perhaps a lesser match, that would be counterbalanced with the increase in wealth, agreements and connections. It would definatly help her House in the game of thrones. Spires and the colonies are powerfull allies...

And lovely roselike jewelry. Where else in Ulthuan can you get that? ;) I know ladies like sparkly stuff, it's bound to win her over ;) Just show it to her.

@Ele: see, that's what's I meant. They'll always be the colonies. The conclave is just a symptom. ;)

Rod

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:32 pm 
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Bah! Everyone knows that the maidens of that House have a thing for the Nagarathi! Tall, dark, laconic, and leather-clad. 8)

Though chocolate-chip cookies. Mmmmmmmm….

That's a powerful argument there! :D

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:09 pm 
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Only if you keep em half baked.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:00 am 
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Perhaps I should get a couple of heavens mages to research ice-making. If you can create a full blizzard you should definatly also be able to make some chocolate-chip cookiedough icecream...

So there you have it. A lot of inventive and important research happening in the colonies.

Rod

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:43 pm 
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rdghuizing wrote:
Perhaps I should get a couple of heavens mages to research ice-making. If you can create a full blizzard you should definatly also be able to make some chocolate-chip cookiedough icecream...

So there you have it. A lot of inventive and important research happening in the colonies.

Rod

Still not Saphery. :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 3:04 pm 
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Aicanor wrote:
Still not Saphery. :mrgreen:

Ah, but here is her chance to show how it should be and bring some Sapherian culture to the colonies. Who knows, we might even end up building you a white tower if that's what she wants ;)

And I'm sure our new found ice cream industry can help persuade her. The combination of ice cream and chocolate is very convincing. Come in and try it :P

@Headshot: sorry for taking over the negotiations... ;)

Rod

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 3:48 pm 
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rdghuizing wrote:
And I'm sure our new found ice cream industry can help persuade her. The combination of ice cream and chocolate is very convincing. Come in and try it :P



Rod



You killed it.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:58 pm 
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@rod

no worries! It's a pleasure to see people engage with the plot developments, so passionately. :)

Though judging from the Sapheri's pithy response, I'm thinking the cost-benefit analysis didn't persuade….


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The romance! :wink:

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ps. oh and the next chapter begins….

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 6:06 pm 
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Part 5 – The Starseer


“My lady? My lady Ailana?”

The voice intruded into the tangle of Ailana’s thoughts.

Ailana blinked and tried to focus. Lothello was standing next to her, looking slightly concerned.

“You asked to be brought to my brother’s chambers. And here we are,” the Eatainian continued, glancing about the room. “Should I…? Should I remain silent?”

“Yes, you should,” Ailana said, irritated. “Do not distract me.” Chastised, the Eatainian Sword stepped back and waited. She ignored him, and assumed a posture of careful study of the room’s interior.

Though in truth she hadn’t been using the gaze; she had been lost in her own private musings. She’d been like that most of the morning.

The temerity of Spires! To ask for the hand of the Princess of Tor Irian!! The boldness! The…shocking uncouthness! It was a proposition scarcely to be countenanced.

And yet…. The advantages to her House were rather clear. Though one of the largest of the colonial Tors, the City of Spires was small compared to the great cities of Ulthuan in terms of both population and size. However it was growing; at a remarkable rate. Her mentor at the Tower had told her how he had visited the place a half millennia before and found scarce more than a fort and village. Now, thousands of Asur lived and worked within its walls. And more importantly the City of Spires had access to vast tracts of the interior, unclaimed, or only nominally held by primitive human tribes and princedoms, rich in resources both arcane and mundane. The Dragon Isles alone were worth a fortune in coin, and even more in terms of military and political advantages. They were afterall the second largest nest of the great Drakes known in the world. Only eclipsed by the ancient dragon-home of Caledor…. Why the favors they could curry with the other lords of Saphery through the gifting of eggs and hatchlings….

But a marriage??? Of the ruling princess?! Outside Irian? Outside even Saphery??! Preposterous!!

Or was it? She frowned. It wasn’t entirely unheard of. After the Sundering and the great cataclysm that resulted many disenfranchised Houses who had seen their lands drunk by the sea married into the other Great Houses, combining their blood and heritage with those that remained. Even the ruling lords of the houses had done so. And in modern times, it wasn’t unheard of for a Prince or Princess of one kingdom to marry a noble of equal worth from another: a union between Eataine and Cothique for example. Why some Caledorian prince had even married a wild elf from the continent!

Why her own family could trace part of its genealogy back to the diaspora of ancient Nagarythe…. As embarrassing as that was for her personally to think that savage northern blood ran through her veins…. And even more so in the princess! If the family rumors were true…about Aicanor’s mother….

She could feel the frown creases deepen on her brow. What little she knew of the Prince of Spires was that he came from a family of no great worth – some lesser nobility in the south, with no fortune and no holdings. It was rumored that he had served in the fleet as a common sailor. Not even an officer! While he clearly had advanced his station…still, there was more to being an Asur than wealth!

But…the dragons…. The alchemical herbs and spices….

The ithilmar.

Of course these musings were moot, she chastised herself. The ultimate decision would lie with the princess herself. And she had no knowledge of her cousin’s heart or inclination in this matter. She couldn’t make promises otherwise. Though… though she could bring the matter before others in the House. Her word and opinion as envoy would carry some weight. If she could marshal various members of the House behind the union – say by speaking first with her uncle and then great aunt – then perhaps Aicanor would have to agree to it, fait accompli.

And that… That would mean not only great advantage to the House of Tor Irian, but… What? Aicanor would be gone from Tor Irian. She would have to be, at least part of the year; Ailana couldn’t see the Prince of Spires abandoning his vast holdings and interests to dwell permanently in Saphery, far from the seat of his rule.

Aicanor gone from Tor Irian… she turned that thought over slowly in her head. No more Aicanor. No more comparisons to her perfect cousin. Powerful in magic, mind and beauty, the family always said. Her absence would mean a little more breathing room in the halls of Tor Irian. Perhaps a chance for the advancement for others…?

She shook her head again. There was much to think on. Too much. And she had come to this room for a reason. She worked carefully to discipline her thoughts and focus her attention on the room, using some of the mental exercises she had learned at the White Tower.

First the environment. There was little enough to note. The Eatainian envoy’s chamber was almost identical to her own quarters: a single canopied bed; a divan and matching chairs arranged before a small fireplace. (Would the Prince of Spires insist on building those ridiculously small colonial fireplaces in Tor Irian?)

She bit her lip. Focus. There was the small adjoining chamber that held the bath, sunk into the stone floor, empty now of all water. A balcony that dominated one wall of the main chamber, and a smaller one from the bath. A wardrobe. A small private toilet that the colonials called a privy. (Privies in Tor Irian? Ludicrous!)

The Eatainian’s few outfits were either hanging in the wardrobe, or arranged over the back of one of the chairs. She could see his sword, still sheathed, set at an angle on the same chair.

The bed was unmade, and the delicate cotton fabrics were stained crimson.

Second, the flow of life.

“Who found the body?” she asked.

Lothello stepped forward once more. “I did. I came in an hour after first light. It was our plan to…” his voice tapered off.

“Your plan to…?” Ailana prompted.

“To call upon the Minister that morning. Before the others awoke,” he explained with a flush.

“I see.” Doubtless to make some private offering, she mused. Did the Eataininan know the Prince of Spires’ mind? Did he suspect the colonial’s desire? Perhaps he had intended to offer the hand of a princess from their House? A lesser gain for Spires to be sure, as the House was firmly under the rule of Elithmar. But also a lesser risk for the Eatainian house to take, marrying off some younger sister of the Prince…. If that was the case then Irian would have to move quickly. Or risk some other house offering an advantageous marriage to the colonials. And perhaps those of Tiranoc or Cothique wouldn’t be as concerned with the question of the Prince of Spires bloodline, and only focus on the advantages gained…?

Useless conjecture. She rebuked herself. Not the time nor the place.

“How did you find him? I mean, where did you find him specifically?”

“On the bed…,” Lothello began slowly. “He was laying unclothed. Though that was not unusual; he often slept that way. And uncovered. The bedding had been pulled down, exposing his chest.” His voice stopped.

“What did you do then?” Ailana asked.

“It was obvious he was dead,” Lothello said with a shake of his head. “The wound was…awful. Quite apparent. And the sheets were thick with blood. His eyes were open too; staring above him. I….I went to the hall and shouted for the guard. And then…”

“Then?”

“Then…I returned to the room and searched it. To make sure the killer wasn’t hiding somewhere.”

“Hmmmm….was your brother unaccompanied last night? Perhaps one of the colonial serving girls?” Ailana prompted.

Lothello shook his head. “No. At least he was alone when I left him.”

“When was that?”

“About a half hour after we left the meeting chambers. He wanted to discuss some things that had happened there….”

Ailana nodded. Lothello watched her for a long moment.

“My lady,” he began. “Should I…? Do you… I mean do you need anything to begin your seercraft? To cast the spell I mean.”

Ailana chuckled. “I have already begun, Captain.” Seeing his puzzled expression she added, “The magic of the celestial school is not obvious. No ostentatious displays of power like the Caledorian fire mages love. Nor the crudeness of Chracian totem calling. It is a craft carefully interwoven in time and space. The casting done through word and breath, over the space of many days, in some cases. What I am doing is trying to discern both the time and space of this event. When I do that, more will become clear.”

“Such as?” he frowned.

“Such as the identity of the killer.”

“We already know that. It was the missing Druchii obviously,” he said, a slight irritation in his voice.

“I see nothing obvious about it,” Ailana answered back. Staring hard at him she said,

“Tell me this: when you arrived did you notice anything unusual?”

“Yes. My brother dead,” Lothello responded without humor.

“That was the first thing? Nothing else?”

“I…well yes. Well I did knock on the door to awaken him. When he didn’t come to the door I used my key to open it. But that is not unusual: he is…was…a heavy sleeper. And then I found him like this.”

“Yes. I thought as much,” Ailana mused. “So then answer me this: why would the Druchii escape from prison here in the Tower, isolated in the breadth of the wastes of the Arakis, only to climb up into the guarded portion of the tower where the emissaries were staying…presumably pick the lock of the door…slay your brother…and then lock the door again after he left to make his escape?”

Lothello just stared at her, perplexed.

“The only other possible scenario is equally as unlikely. That he scaled the tower surface some twenty yards from the closest opening to the balcony of this room, and then climbed out the same way. It would be quite the acrobatic feat, though not impossible. But why do it? Why this particular window?”

“Chance,” Lothello said frowning, though he did not seem convinced.

“Exactly. Intention is a powerful part of the celestial magics,” Ailana explained. “And if we wish to understand the event of your brother’s death we must discover what it was that the killer or killers intended. What their desire was….”

Lothello stood, staring at her. After a moment, “What’s next?”

“Next,” Ailana answered, “Is the Mark of Death….”

“Take me to the body,” she said grimly.


***


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:30 pm 
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Ah, she's a detective, this is a murder mystery!

My prediction: Professor Plum, in the library, with the candelabra.

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Last edited by Elessehta of Yvresse on Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:35 pm 
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Clever girl, Ailana. I wonder how long it takes her to come up with next obvious step in her thinking. Not talking about murder mysteries just yet...
Ruling princess can obviously marry second or third son of a Great House and both can consider it a good match. Or a lesser noble, if the situation is right. perhaps even a mysterious stranger - although those matches are seriously frowned upon since Aenarion's time. ;)

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:27 am 
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That's the spirit. Just sell your cousin for personal gain, wealth and influence for your House. :mrgreen:

These negotiations could be going anywhere after all... ;)

Of course, the whole murder mystery is just a minor detail in this story about the cunning and machinations of Spires. About politics and intrigue. The murder is just for setting the scene and that sort of thing.

@Headshot, I already had a feeling you didn't mind too much... Which is why I did it anyway.

Rod

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:21 am 
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More writing on Spires has appeared (yes, I'm shamelessly promoting my own writing here...) => the history of Spires

It has been in the works for a while now, but some unforseen writing about Spires by a certain chronicler caused inspiration to happen, so it's done now.

Rod

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 12:43 pm 
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rdghuizing wrote:
That's the spirit. Just sell your cousin for personal gain, wealth and influence for your House. :mrgreen:
These negotiations could be going anywhere after all... ;)
I was just wondering whether she makes that next step in her political thinking. If she does, ok, we can talk, if not, well, not. :lol:

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 7:54 pm 
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Finally caught up, so sorry for the lack comments. I'm really enjoying the story though; thanks for writing it. :)

However, it seems so obvious why the Eataini lord was murdered - this was just another case of the hate us Eatainii get. Especially Elithmar. So clearly someone thought that as this lord was associated with Elithmar, it would be a good idea to kill him. I bet it was the Sapherians. Just look at my signature to see what horrible things they say about us. :(

;)

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 8:33 pm 
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My bet's on the shadow lord.


Dealing with the traitor spires! Death I say!

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:19 pm 
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Part 5 – continued


Ailana sat alone in her room. It was well past the witching hour and the room was cast in shadow; only the dying flicker of her chamber fire provided the barest of light. It did not matter to her; she had damped the wick of the table lamp herself. She needed the darkness, needed the soothing depravation of sight and sound, in order to think. So she sat upon the divan, wrapped in her dress robes and shawl overwrap and stared into the hearth, and pondered.

Things were moving both too fast, and too slow. She had just returned from the next round of negotiations at the tower’s peak, and the words and glances of that space still lingered. But it had been a conversation sunk in amber; everything moving at a dream-like slowness. No new offers; no new revelations; no threats; no bribes. Just a cautious circling of the matters at hand while gazes, knowing or veiled, were cast about the room. The envoys of the kingdoms had withdrawn within themselves following that first night, and the rush to outbid each other. Confronted both by the greed, and opacity, of the colonials, the envoys of the Ten Kingdoms had grown skittish, wondering what the cost might be to themselves and their Houses in order to acquire the precious starlight metal. And so no new offers had been forthcoming – only the little, tone deaf Caledorian had broached the possibility of mixing some of the elder drake lines of Caledor with those of the Isles (“Though we would have to ask them first,” he had said and looked perplexed.) – for the rest their was an almost shocked silence, and a waiting….

It could be just the aftermath of the death. The diminishment of the embassy from Eataine was so readily apparent in the room. A reminder of how close the specter of death was to those in the room….

Ailana shivered. She had never worked with a warden before. Never engaged in an inquiry of crime or treachery. When Lothello had taken her to that room, deep in the bowels of the tower…. She had thought she was ready; thought she was worldly. But she was unprepared for the sight. The brutal finality of the body, lying stretched upon stone. What had just a day before been so full of life and conversation – the sly winks and mirthful grins – horribly, horribly disfigured…and so still.

The violence done to the body of the Asur was both ferocious and hideously precise. She had seen the gaping wound in the chest; torn and pulled open to expose the bone and muscle within. And she had to wrestle with her own queasiness as the cool room seemed to fill with a steaming heat and the floor seemed to quake and ripple beneath her. But she had advanced. Drawn closer to that terrible violence. And she had found herself marveling at it; the breadth of the cut, so long, so deep. And yet it was singular: a sheer line from sternum to navel, perfectly parallel with the course of the body axis. As if drawn to match the path of the spine below. A single cut, with no tears, no jagged rips. So unusual for the wounds of a battle; that she knew. Where axe and blade hew and turned, delivering bruise as well as cut to torso and limb. This…this was as focused as a chirurgeon’s cut.

And beside that, nothing. Not a mark on the body. No lesser wounds. No bruises. None of the many possible abrasions and marks that would be in the wake of a life and death struggle. It was as if the killing blow had been delivered while the elf slept.

Except the eyes…. The eyes were open. And Ailana was filled with the terrifying thought that the elf had lay awake, supine and unable to move, as the blade was drawn slowly downwards….

That thought was too terrifying to countenance. The cruelty. The evil.

Perhaps this was done by Druchii afterall, Ailana thought. She could not imagine anyone – anything – else, capable of such depravity. But still there was no sign of the missing Druchii, despite the tower’s guardians repeated searches.

And so things had returned to the matters at hand, and so once more that night the envoys had met to discuss and barter. And once more Ailana had to marvel at how reserved the proceedings had become. It was as if the room of representatives from the mightiest nations of the Ever Empire, the Eternal Dominion of Asuryan under Star and Sun, were stunned by the audacity and greed of the colonial representatives. The knowing smiles, and blank faces made following offer after offer. There was nothing but inscrutability within those countenances, and it was a game that the Asur from Ulthuan were uncomfortable playing. There, politics among the Great Houses had a history; a deep one at that. And Asur memories being what they were, everyone knew the enmities and alliances among the players. How Lord So and So had betrayed and insulted the grandmother of Lady Such and That. But here… no here, things were tabula rasa. The colonials were a blank slate of unknown relations and desires.

But that wasn’t true. She knew what they wanted. And she had seen it time and time again in the way the Minister’s gaze fixed upon her, almost predatory in its intensity.

How could Saphery ally itself with that?

She glanced over at the low table nearby and the coffer seated in its center. The glow of the ithilmar rose leaked out, a cold and unwavering light to contrast the motion and shadow of the living flame in the hearth.

What should she do?

She shivered again chilled both by the desert cold and her thoughts, and regretted dismissing Tytus; she could use the companionship. Glancing about the room’s darkened interior she suddenly felt very alone…and exposed, as if the shadows hid something. Something dark, and malicious.

Then she heard the rasp at her door.

Her heart stopped in her chest. Her eyes shot to the closed portal. Her fingers gripped at the hem of her shawl and she stilled her breath.

Her voice caught in her throat. She could call to Tytus; the swordmaster was just yards away in the adjacent room. But…but was there any reason?

Ailana stood slowly, her eyes never moving from the shadows that held the door to her chamber. Her hands sought about her, for something, anything. And she lamented the emissary role and how she had left her blade on the ship in the harbor of the City of Spires. Finally her fingers fell upon the coffer, closed it, and held it awkwardly two handed. It made the worst bludgeon possible, and yet the weight was reassuring in her palms.

She waited. And nothing.

Her breath expelled slowly. A mouse? A servant moving past the door on some late night errand? She suddenly felt foolish at her fear. Some Tower trained mage she was! She mocked in the echoes of her mind.

Then curiosity bloomed within. Coffer still in hand she crossed the chamber and slowly pulled the door open…to nothing. The corridor beyond was darkness, only illuminated ever so faintly by the light of the moon creeping in from a nearby window. Ailana leaned outwards cautiously and glanced about….

And saw something. A shadowy figure garbed in cloak and hood gliding ever so softly down the corridor. The figure paused. And a turn. Ailana quickly ducked back into her room, her breath once more caught in her throat. After a moment, when she leaned outwards again, she saw no sign of the figure.

But the door to the Eatainian envoy’s chamber was open. Just a crack; but she could see the sliver of moonlight escaping from within.

The room was sealed. The Warden Harkonn had ordered it. A guard was on patrol in these corridors. How…?

Curiosity bested caution and Ailana stepped out into the hallway, determined to understand and see. She took one step down the hallway, the cold wind from the open window pulling at her robes, sending new chills down her arms….

When the screaming began.


***


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:46 pm 
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That's one big cliff-hanger. I hope you aren't leave it too long. (Ie. now!) :D
Not that that's possible and all but hey you can but wish!


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:50 am 
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Well played Sir
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Heh, there's no rushing these Daid ^_^

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:08 am 
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Time to stop* thinking of alliances and mesalliances and look at the strange matters at hand. And are those captives really druchii? Well...

*edited

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Last edited by Aicanor on Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:12 am 
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Well played Sir
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Aicanor wrote:
stopař

Autocorrect Aicanor? =P

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:57 am 
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Elessehta of Yvresse wrote:
Aicanor wrote:
stopař

Autocorrect Aicanor? =P

Yes, that is what you get when you forget to switch languages. If you were wondering, the word means "hitchhiker" or "scout". :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:08 am 
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Well played Sir
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I googled it ^_^

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These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:31 am 
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Cookies to you then. =D> :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:16 pm 
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Screaming is always a good sign of more action following. Bring it on!

My money is on the Caledorians by the way. Sending a small criple is just a diversion. Spires is busy indermining the whole economy of Caledor (with access to both dragons and ithilmar), they can't just stand by and let it happen. So they are doing their best to secure what they can and disrupt the rest. If some few elves die in the process, then that is unfortunate. But the greater good of Caledor is more important then some minor elfs' life, especially one from another, "inferior" kingdom...

Rod

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:30 pm 
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Haha! Finally managed to squeeze in a little vacation. Cloud-gazing and coconut oil! Great combination. :D

So where were we…? A lonely tower. Schemes and machinations. A mysterious death. A missing Dark Elf. An untoward proposition….

Oh, and Rod - er, Spires! - up to no good….

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:33 pm 
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Part 6 – Shouts and Screams



Ailana spun about. A door down the hallway flung open. It was Tytus; standing in half robes, with his great sword in hand. He sent a concerned look her way to which she quickly shook her head. The scream sounded again: it was clearly a young maiden’s voice filled with terror! Both Sapheri sprinted down the hall towards the sound.

Down a short flight of steps the cries led them to the closed door of the Yvressi embassy. Leading with his shoulder, the grim Swordmaster forced the door open and leapt inside, Ailana close on his heels. To see…

The young Yvressi envoy, curled atop her bed, hands held over her mouth, eyes wide in horror. Screaming over and over again.

And only a short distance away, sprawled across the floor, the body of the Yvressi guard, in a pool of crimson….

Others were coming now. First to arrive was Lothello; his own captain’s saber held in hand. He took one look at the room’s contents and swore loudly. Behind him a pair of colonial sentries, and the sound of more soon to arrive.

Ailana shifted her attention back to the room’s interior. Focus, focus! She shouted inside her head. Her eyes were fixed on the once handsome Yvressi soldier’s features; now caked in wet blood, eyes gaping in terror.

Ailana shot a quick glance at the puddle on the stone floor.

“The blood is still warm,” she said. She looked to Tytus who nodded and began to search the room’s confines, sword aloft and ready in both hands.

But nothing. No sign of the perpetrator in alcove or hall. The only evidence of his or her passing being the surgically neat cut that ran like a second mouth across the Yvressi’s throat spilling forth crimson gore….

***

First, the environment….

Ailana chanted the mantra of focusing to herself, trying to call the gaze, and feeling a growing sense of frustration. The sun was streaming through the open windows of the Eatainian envoy’s quarters. Tytus stood on guard nearby. And she, after the horrors of last night, had found upon the arrival of the morning sun that her footsteps led her back to this room. The site of the first murder.

First murder! Now there were two Asur nobles lying dead in the tower of Tyr Wadi! The second a trained warrior! How could that be? What terror – Druchii or otherwise – stalked the envoys of the Ever Empire?! It was madness!

But…she needed to think. She needed to calm down. Was she not a Starseer?

So she closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. And recalled her instructors’ sayings and long hours of lessons in the White Tower of Hoeth…. Always, first, the environment.

She opened her eyes and cast them about the room. Nothing. Nothing different from before. The bed, still unmade, still stained with the ambassador’s blood. His few belongings sitting here and there in neat piles about the room. No marks on the floor, and nothing apparent on the balcony. The few wooden furnishings that were nearly identical to her own rooms – divan, tables, desk, wardrobe and chairs – and the nearly identical accouterments scattered about them: paper and inkwells; bottles and brushes; soaps and flasks….

Ailana frowned. There must be something she admonished herself. She felt it, as if a calling at the corner of her vision; a trait of those gifted with the seercraft. But more than that: she had seen that figure last night – cloaked and hooded – come here, to this room, in utmost secrecy, just before the screams. There was something…must be something!...here.

And then, she saw it. Near the desk a small bottle lay broken upon the floor. It was the only evidence in the room of the untoward; the only place besides the bloodstained bed not in order. She drifted closer to it, eyes trying to take in the sight…. It looked as if the bottle had been knocked onto the floor from atop the desk. Not with violence – it had fallen right at the foot of the furnishing – but perhaps by a careless hand or hip passing by.

She stood in front of the desk, frowning and staring. There! A glint of gold! She crouched down and peered at the corner of the single drawer affixed to the underside of the wooden desk. In the corner a lone strand of bright golden hair, matching the hue and shade of the Eatainian envoy’s. It had been affixed across the gap between desk and drawer; held in place by a pair of wax drippings. Nearly invisible to the casual eye, and that was its purpose. It was a practice she had heard of, and one engaged in by some of the student’s of the Tower: to ensure the privacy of one’s belongings, and to ensure that some other careless or malignant hand didn’t tamper with one’s runecraft or alchemy ingredients, students would sometimes place a single hair across their doors. If it was in place when one returned, all was well; if it had been broken though…then you knew that someone had opened the door while you were gone.

This strand was snapped.

Ailana reached downwards and slowly pulled the drawer open. Inside were stacks of parchment, calligraphy brushes, inkstones, and small ivory boxes, doubtlessly containing the ink powder ready to be mixed with water. And, a satchel. A simple folio wrapping of leather and waxcloth, affixed with a brass stud, and the remnants of a wax seal, now broken.

She opened the satchel. It was empty.

What could it…?

There was a sound in the corridor, and then the door flew open. Lothello was standing outside, looking out of breath. Tytus was facing him to one side, hand casually resting on the pommel of his great blade. Yet the Eatainian’s gaze was fixed upon her.

“My lady,” he greeted with a shake of his head. “You had best come. Now. And quickly!”

Ailana sent him a perplexed look, but the Eatainian was already striding down the hall. She and Tytus hurried to follow.

It did not take her long to realize the source of Lothello’s discomfort: a few flights of steps later and Ailana could clearly hear the sounds of yelling and shouted accusations. The three Asur strode down a short corridor towards the broad wooden doors that concealed the Minister’s study. They swung open at a push of Lothello’s hand, and released bedlam.

“This is madness! You cannot keep us here!!” the Tiranoc envoy bellowed.

It seemed that every other embassy from the Ten Kingdoms of Ulthuan were gathered now into the Minister’s cluttered study, eyes glaring and sore. There were several shouts in approval to the Tiranoc representative’s words.

“I did not say I would keep you here,” the colonial minister responded coolly from behind the massive mahogany desk.

“Then…!”

“I merely informed you,” the Minister spoke over the interjection, “that I will continue to carry out my liege Lord’s will, and oversee the negotiations according to tradition and ceremony. That requires the half cycle of the moon to be complete…as you well know.”

Ailana tensed her jaw. The fortnight was one of the customs of Ulthuan embassies. Ancient like the rest. It was long believed that Lileath the moon goddess needed to bless the proceedings of any negotiation, by changing her countenance, and assessing the words spoken. Though Ailana thought that the custom was more about allowing Asur minds and tongues the time to weigh and consider….

“You cannot keep us here…in this place of death!”

The Minister leaned forward, hands steepled over his desk. “You are free to leave at any time. Though you must understand that I do not have the soldiers to spare to guide you back to the City until the negotiations are completed. We are shorthanded as is….” He settled into his chair and sent a penetrating gaze the Tiranoc’s way. “And of course, the negotiations for the ithilmar would continue apace among those that remain…”

“That! That is…unconscionable!”

“You cannot seriously be considering continuing these debates while two of our number lie dead?!” It was the envoy from Ellyrion, head shaking dumbfounded.

“I know my lord’s will. I will carry it out. Until my lord commands me otherwise,” the Minister said simply.

“But our security! The safety of the embassies is the responsibility of the host! You, colonial!!” the Tiranoc lord spoke again. “One that you have failed at miserably!! And do not think there will not be repercussions to this! When word reaches Tiranoc…” he finished threateningly.

Others nodded grimly, eyes fixed with anger and accusations on the shaven headed minister.

Ailana’s eyes drifted across the room. The young princess of Chrace looked uncomfortable, as did the Caledorian cripple. But others displayed anger and fear clearly on their faces. A dangerous combination.

“Yesterday morning I sent word to the City of Spires detailing these events,” the minister continued calmly. “It will take some time for the message to reach there, but I am certain my lord will dispatch more soldiers and wardens to deal with this matter….”

“And,” he continued, “I have ordered another search of Tyr Wadi….”

The representative of Tiranoc scoffed openly. “Your competence is questionable, minister. As are your soldiers.” The colonial flushed. “And I am beginning to wonder,” the Tiranoc lord continued slowly, “at whom stands to benefit the most from these deaths….”

The room went silent at that. The minister went stone still.

“What are you alleging?” he asked.

“That perhaps the killer or killers have not been found…not due to incompetence… but partisanship!” the lord said coldly.

Bedlam erupted once more. Ailana shook her head, scarce believing what she was hearing. Everyone was shouting and talking at once, except for the slender Yvressi envoy, still seeming in shock. (She had rocked to herself so long last night, saying how, “We weren’t even supposed to be here! Just because of my sister’s engagement….” Over and over again.)

“Who stands to benefit from our deaths here? In this Asuryan forsaken wasteland?? Other than you!?!”

“That is nonsense!!”

“You colonial assassins are trying to twist these negotiations to your advantage with blood and terror!!”

More shouting, and then suddenly the sounds of voices was drowned out by metal pounding on stone. It was Lothello’s blade, beating against the wall. At the silence that followed, he said,

“We do not have to trust the Minister’s intent in these investigations, good or ill! I have Right of Inquiry! I will conduct these investigations,” his gaze shot about the room. “Unless any of you dare challenge that? Or do you think that I am complicit in the death of my only brother?!”

There were some frozen faces at that, but then, more than a handful of nods.

“What about the lady from Yvresse?” the Ellyrion envoy asked.

“She has agreed to be as one with me in this matter,” Lothello answered. The maiden nodded at the others’ looks.

“Are we then all in accord on this matter?” the Eatainian captain said and gazed about the room, his eyes finally settling on the Minister, whose face looked as if it had tasted something sour, but who nodded after a long moment.

“Fine. Then my first act as Chief Inquisitor and Seeker….”

“Is to relinquish my role! And appoint Lady Ailana as Investigator and Seeker in my place! And all the powers that that position entails!”

Ailana blinked.

“What?!” she said.


***


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:10 pm 
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Well played Sir
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She was the only one making progress anyway, I hope the interuption won't disrupt her seeking ^_^

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