Chapter 16: Many Blood-Sucking Parasites (IC)

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Talanall
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"I should hope so. I've commissioned him as an officer," agrees Boromil. "He seems to know his business. And anyway, it gets him out of the city. A victory either way, I think."

Meanwhile, Garren is finding that Marta is a competent dance partner. Despite her visible unease with the party itself, the Derenar concludes that the young woman has the benefit of extensive lessons, exceptional natural talent, or both. She keeps step with him as if she can read his mind. After a few moments, she asks, just loudly enough that Garren can hear her, "Is there really going to be war with the goblins?"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Trogar waits patiently for Oskav and Avar to finish up their meal. If he's in anything like a hurry, he doesn't show any sign of it. Rather, he passes the time by finishing off his drink, and then taking a fresh one from a passing servant. Idly, he observes, "Your party has touched off considerable," he pauses, almost imperceptibly, "discussion, in the city. Much of it healthy, I think. People have known the goblins to be a problem for some time now, but your news has galvanized them into looking for solutions. But what is this werewolf business?"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Over in the sitting room, Chuul is vaguely aware of a slim, pale-skinned half-elf seating herself on the same bench as him, albeit on the opposite end. He thinks she's probably meant to be in costume as a scorpion, but he's frankly not sure. She's nursing a goblet of something to drink, and she looks bored.

OOC

Spoiler: Highlight to view
Blue 1 = Alannah
Blue 2 = Chuul
Blue 3 = Avar
Blue 4 = Garren
Blue 5 = Oskav
Green 1 = Earl of Eastrit
Green 2 = "Milkmaid" (Belling)
Green 3 = "Scorpion Lady"
Green 4 = Thario
Green 5 = Carolina
Green 6 = Barefaced Dwarf
Green 7 = Snake Girl
Green 8 = Baron Greenshore
Green 9 = Lord Wæmunding
Green 10 = Trogar
Purple 1 = Raven Lady
Purple 2 = Boromil
Purple 3 = Marta
Gray 1-4 = Musicians
Greened-out squares are crowds. It takes 2 squares of movement to enter a square with crowds. The crowds provide cover for anyone who enters them, enabling a Hide check and providing a bonus to Armor Class and on Reflex saves. If crowds see something obviously dangerous, they’ll move away at 30 feet per round at initiative count 0.
It takes a DC 15 Diplomacy check or DC 20 Intimidate check to convince a crowd to move in a particular direction, and the crowd must be able to hear or see the character making the attempt. It takes a full-round action to make the Diplomacy check, but only a free action to make the Intimidate check.

If two or more characters are trying to direct a crowd in different directions, they make opposed Diplomacy or Intimidate checks to determine whom the crowd listens to. The crowd ignores everyone if none of the characters’ check results beat the DCs given above.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
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Oskav looks up for only the second time since Trogar first introduced himself. "Werewolf business, yes. His name is Cole. It started as a feud between Cole and the leader of the Bastards. But too much innocent blood has been spilled for us to turn back now. The beast must be put down."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

"Then it is not just me," says Chuul vaguely to the half-elf. "This event really is that boring?" His tone is rhetoric, as though he's talking as much to himself as the stranger.

Talanall
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"This individual, Cole. Was he born or made?" asks Trogar, seeming genuinely interested.

Meanwhile, the half-elf woman blinks and looks over at Chuul, "Oh. It's not awful, although I suppose it's more interesting if you're used to high society affairs and already know most of the people, regardless of the silly costumes and pretense of anonymity. Mostly, I needed to think about something, and the other parts of the house are either too noisy or private enough that I should be concerned that I may trip over people in the midst of a clandestine assignation. This area is a happy medium between the two."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
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Oskav stops for a moment. "I don't know. Forgive my ignorance, this isn't my field of study. I can direct you to Master Garren for more information. He hunts and kills those afflicted with moon-madness as a living and as a matter of spiritual obligation."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

deadDMwalking
deadDMwalking's picture

Garren considers for a moment. "War isn't inevitable, but it is likely. If Port Hope is ready, that may delay or discourage an attack - possibly allowing enough time to find and assassinate their leadership. A lot of dominoes need to fall in line to avert war - any one of them falling the wrong way leads to war sooner rather than later. But don't worry or be afraid. Prepare as best you can. Help make sure the harvest comes in - that'll matter more than any other single thing."

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Marta looks curious, and thoughtful, "Do you think they'll besiege the city?"

Trogar, across from Oskav, looks pleased, "Oh, that's right. Baur is with you, isn't he? I know him slightly from the temple of Derena. Yes, he's very knowledgeable. A good man. I'll take it up with him as you suggest, thank you." Curiously, he questions, "What is your area of study, then?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

"Mmm,," says Chuul, just to acknowledge that he's heard her. He doesn't immediately press conversation further, perhaps letting the woman have the relative peace she came here for.

deadDMwalking
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"I think goblins are resourceful and they'll travel light. If the harvest isn't in early, they'll live off the land, and even if they don't lay siege hunger will become an enemy to the people of Port Hope. Rather than lay siege, I would expect them to harass travelers and waylay anyone that attempts to leave the city. That's one reason I hope that the city puts an army in the field - if the goblins don't get close they can't cause nearly as much harm."

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Marta accepts Garren's explanation with a slight nod, executes the next turn in their dance with ease, apparently not even thinking about it, and queries, "Morville was destroyed, but that wasn't goblins, was it? Are they allied with, with whoever that was?"

As she's asking this, Garren can see past the girl to where the foppish-looking young lord, his colleague Trogar's charge, is watching him and Marta. Garren can't see facial expression because of the lord's devil mask, but the way the young man's left hand grips the pommel of his dagger tells him what he needs to know.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

deadDMwalking
deadDMwalking's picture

"I don't know that they're coordinating their activity, but both sides stand to gain from weakness among Port Hope's allies. In war, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Speaking of enemies, it seems I've angered Little Lord Wægmunding by dancing with you. Please know that he can be of no threat to me - I have no interest in titles or lands or the game of politics he plays. The same is not true for him - with his youth and inexperience he must cling to the trappings of respectability. If I embarrass him at this party he will be hurt, but impotent. Is there a history between you, or is he simply unwilling to accept you are free to associate with who you will?" Garren makes no effort to stop dancing as they quietly talk.

MinusInnocence
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"Death, Master Trogar," Oskav replies, wiping his beard and rising to his feet. "I am interested in the ending of all things. Now, let me introduce you to Lady Alannah. We can discuss this Cowardslayer further."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Talanall
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After a moment of silence, Marta tells Garren, "Both, I suppose. I do my best to avoid him, but he managed to catch up to me for all of that. That's how I met Lady Alannah. She . . . dislodged me from a conversation I didn't want to have with him." The young woman follows Garren through the next set of turns, adding, "He can't hurt you, but he certainly can hurt my family. I would prefer to avoid a confrontation unless I'm sure that it would leave him without any means to strike back at them."

In the banqueting hall to the north, Trogar rises to follow Oskav. If Avar doesn't stay with them, the dwarf offers a polite, but quick, farewell.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Board Rider
Board Rider's picture

Avar simply nods at the farewell and decides to stay. It's clear to both dwarves that the aasimar isn't interested in speaking to Alannah about another task listing.

Instead, the paladin removes his mask, wipes his face, and takes a deep cleansing breath.

Taking a sip of his punch wine and passively scans the room for evil.

Avar, if anyone cares to look, is obviously bored.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

It takes Avar approximately twenty seconds to determine that the obese, gluttonous half-orc at the other end of the banquet hall from him is evil. But it's a faint aura, the sort of thing that he's accustomed to finding in association with routinely bad people, rather than with the priests of a dark power or some kind of fiend. So Baron Greenshore, in addition to being a bit of an asshole, is kind of an evil person.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Alannah turns in the break in conversation with her brother to see Oskav and the other dwarf making a beeline toward her. "Oh gods," she mutters under her breath, "there's two of them!"

As Oskav approaches with Trogar Alannah signs and decides she can both make an obligatory introduction and point out how wrong Oskav was in one action. She turns to Bromil, "I believe you've already met Oskav tonight. Oskav, this is my brother," she points Bromil out with emphasis as if she is explaining it to a toddler.

"I see you found a little friend. What are you doing with the cowardslayer's walking armory?"

MinusInnocence
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"I am happy for you, Lady Alannah," Oskav offers sincerely. "It is a good day when a grown woman can recognize her own blood relations." Turning to his new acquaintance, the seer gestures with the tip of his staff, "Master Trogar would ask for our assistance in locating his lord's missing heirloom. You are more interested than I am in trinkets famous people have misplaced, so I thought it best you hear what he has to say."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Darker

"Oh, you mean the Wægmunding's lost family blade, the Cowardslayer. From what I've observed, the new young lord Wægmunding might have traded it for a young lady's favor. He should check all the bedrooms he's pushed his way into lately."

Talanall
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Trogar looks distinctly uncomfortable at Alannah's barb toward his master, but the dwarf doesn't correct her. Or even protest. Instead, he offers a reasonably deep bow. "Good evening, my lady. I hope the evening finds you well. And I would be grateful if you would hear me out—the more so because you seem already to know something about the blade I'm looking for."

Meanwhile, Boromil has blushed so hard that it's visible in spite of his orange face paint and mask. "Master Oskav," he chokes out. "Yes. We, uh, already met in the library."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
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Oskav tilts his head toward Boromil. "Indeed, I remember. I hope you found coitus, at last."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Darker

"Very well," Alannah growls before turning to her brother, her tone shifting to sweetness, "Dear brother, I'll let you return to your... intrigue. Unless, of course, you share my interest in antiquities and wish to hear of the Wægmunding's woes. But if not, we'll continue to catch up soon."

She brings her attention back to the dwarf, "Master Trogar, do speak your mind."

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Boromil stares at Oskav in shock, but quickly shakes it off and tells the strange dwarf, "Er, no. But since Alannah seems distracted, I'm going to try to catch up with the lady you met earlier. There's still hope, if I don't let her get away." He sketches a bow toward Oskav, Trogar, and Alannah, then hurries westward.

Meanwhile, Trogar is replying, "Thank you, Lady Alannah. It's my belief that Nithingsbane was lost during my lord's great-grandfather's service in the Aureshan conquests of this valley. Specifically, he would have been using it during the campaign against the night hags. He died on that campaign, and I don't have any reason to think he wouldn't have carried the blade with him, given the potency of its magic. So either it is interred with his remains, wherever they are, or it has been taken as spoils. Some orc or troll may have it in hand." He shrugs, and adds, "Anyway, I expect that it's somewhere on the northern moors, and rumor has it that you and your associates have ongoing business in that area. You lost a friend in the Morville incident. Ryster Wyther, I believe. I knew him slightly; he was raised in a Derenar orphanage. A good man. Please accept my condolances."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"Yes, he was a good man. Thank you." Alannah pauses for a moment, "I've heard of the sword and its loss, but offhand, I don't know much about it. I assume it has some identifying marks to make it stand out among other magic swords? Or some specific or unique enchantment. That time seemed to one for minor artifacts."

Talanall
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Trogar looks around, not nervously, but circumspectly, and then leans a bit closer to say, "It's a sentient blade. Capable of speech. The references I've consulted claim that it also can communicate mind-to-mind."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Alannah crosses her arms in a defensive posture, "I think some scholars would argue that magic is not capable of creating true sentience. I'd say its more intelligence granted to fulfill a purpose. After all, if magic could impart such esse, what would we need the gods for?"

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Trogar shrugs.

"The blade is anciently associated with the faith of Derena, and some of my references believe it to have been ensorcelled by a cleric of the faith. So I have no quarrel with the proposition that Lady Moon worked through his mortal hands," replies the dwarf, showing a degree of theological nuance exceeding what his appearance as a burly axe-warrior would suggest. Drumming his fingers against the side of his thigh, he adds, "In any event, the blade is an instrument of law and discipline, and it has an unusually strong will. I am not sure that my lord would be able to, ah, resist its arguments."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
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Oskav frowns. "Setting aside how little that has to do with anything he just said: how do you know your own sentience was not granted to fulfill a greater purpose? Or that mortals imbuing objects with the spark of intelligence does not also serve the gods' will?"

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Darker

"Master Trogar, it sounds as if you believe this blade's willful influence might be somewhat of an improvement over his current demeanor." She dismisses the thought with a wave of her hand, "But is the House of Wægmunding offering some sort of compensation for a more purposeful quest or are you merely informing us so that we know where to return this lost sword if we stumble upon it?"

Talanall
Talanall's picture

"I'm in a position to guarantee that its purchase will go forward, if you retrieve it. I'd thought to have it appraised by a mutually agreeable third party—I think you know Elena Markan already, and she'd be my choice as well," answers the dwarf, soberly. "But I'm not comfortable asking you to put aside your other business, which is of existential importance to the city, regardless of the political nonsense that has fermented around you. If you happen to see an opportunity while you are in the general area, then I would be grateful for your attention, and I'd do everything in my considerable power to make sure that the Wægmunding estate purchases Cowardslayer. It's a matter of deep personal interest to me. But personal isn't the same as important."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"A fair and reasonable offer. Other than its historical and possible arcane significance, the blade has no interest to me; however, the proceeds of such a sell may be able to fund our party in its quest to keep the valley safe for some time. Wouldn't you agree, Oskav?"

MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture

"Master Trogar's proposal is very reasonable."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Darker

Alannah smiles through her mask, "See there, if we ever agree, it must be true. Unless one of the others has a significantly dissenting opinion, I believe we have an accord." Alannah considers the paladin for a moment, "Now if you can get any other information on the blade or its last known wielder... books, journals, sketches... anything, have it delivered to my rooms. Anything will help to make it more likely we are able to retrieve it. If you don't already know where we are staying, Markan will."

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Trogar hesitates, then replies, "It may be several days. I will have to have copies transcribed, because the originals aren't mine to disseminate. Is that acceptable?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"It is acceptable as long as I haven't departed the city before you get them to me. Unfortunately, I do not have an exact date for that departure, other than to know it will likely be sooner rather than later. Do rush your scribes if you are able."

Talanall
Talanall's picture

"If you would be so kind as to send word to me when you know the date of your departure, I will undertake to have what I can provide delivered to you ahead of that time, on the basis that a partial collection is better than none. If all of the copies are ready before then, I'll have them delivered to your lodgings. Markan will be able to find me."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"Of course." Alannah nods in agreement. "I'll do that."

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Trogar bows crisply. "Very good. I appreciate your attention to the matter, Lady Alannah." He watches the young woman leave, then bows in turn to Oskav, "And I appreciate your help, Master Hruthsson." The dwarf glances past Oskav at something off in the crowd to the east, and frowns thoughtfully.

Meanwhile, Wæmunding continues to watch Garren and Marta. The young lady's nerves gradually seem to calm, perhaps under the influence of Garren's lack of concern about the lordling's possible ire.

In the banquet hall, Avar can see that the massive half-orc baron is definitely the only person within ready sight who exudes any sense of evil. But for the moment, he's not doing anything particularly offensive, unless you're especially offended by the vice of gluttony.

The half-elf woman sitting near Chuul asks, after a short silence, "You find this party boring? Why are you here, then?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

Chuul doesn't answer immediately, and when he eventually does, it's with a wry tone. "My friends felt we should come. Apparently, we are on many lips in the city."

He sighs heavily. "Perhaps they will be able to... network..." (the word is a question) "...gain an ear or two that might provide help where it is actually needed. Who knows these things?"

Board Rider
Board Rider's picture

After a few moments Avar relieves a servers tray of another goblet of punch wine and takes a sip.

Bored, the paladin decides that wandering around is better than sitting idle. With no particular destination the aasimar is on the move, leaving his mask on the dining table.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

"The fact that everyone here is masked, and almost all of them are strangers, would seem to be a problem with your friends' planning," comments the woman in the scorpion costume, sounding amused at Chuul's exasperation. But she continues, "But I doubt that anyone here is confused about who you are. If you're to gain advantage from this affair, you have to be seen. It at least gives people a chance to size you up, and decide what they think of you. Some of the rumors flying around are pretty unpleasant, but on the whole people have heard good things about you. You're not exactly famous. Yet. But you could be, and tonight is probably a moment where you can decide what kind of fame it'll be."

Back in the ballroom, Oskav can see that Trogar is looking past him, across the room toward the devil-masked fop that he arrived with this evening. The dwarven wizard got a pretty good look at the two of them, since they were just a couple of carriages ahead of the Bastards in line.

As Alannah strolls eastward toward the more crowded parts of the room near the wide, floor-to-ceiling windows that give off onto the estate's east gardens, she and Oskav both notice that the devil-masked Wæmunding is joined by the other woman from the scorpion fight. Belling, the name was. The one dressed as a milk maid. It's not convenient to hear what they're saying to one another over the music, but they're obviously talking. Belling looks relaxed, but Wæmunding's posture is tense.

Avar enters from the banquet hall to the north about this time, bereft of the mask he was using under his helmet. He can see Oskav and Trogar still talking together as Alannah walks eastward away from them. Nobody is bleeding or screaming, so the introduction must have gone well. He also sees Garren dancing with the mousy young woman that Alannah had previously collected from somewhere.

OOC

Spoiler: Highlight to view
Blue 1 = Alannah
Blue 2 = Chuul
Blue 3 = Avar
Blue 4 = Garren
Blue 5 = Oskav
Green 1 = Earl of Eastrit
Green 2 = "Milkmaid" (Belling)
Green 3 = "Scorpion Lady"
Green 4 = Thario
Green 5 = Carolina
Green 6 = Barefaced Dwarf
Green 7 = Snake Girl
Green 8 = Baron Greenshore
Green 9 = Lord Wæmunding
Green 10 = Trogar
Purple 1 = Wolf Lady
Purple 2 = Boromil
Purple 3 = Marta
Gray 1-4 = Musicians

Greened-out squares are crowds. It takes 2 squares of movement to enter a square with crowds. The crowds provide cover for anyone who enters them, enabling a Hide check and providing a bonus to Armor Class and on Reflex saves. If crowds see something obviously dangerous, they’ll move away at 30 feet per round at initiative count 0.

It takes a DC 15 Diplomacy check or DC 20 Intimidate check to convince a crowd to move in a particular direction, and the crowd must be able to hear or see the character making the attempt. It takes a full-round action to make the Diplomacy check, but only a free action to make the Intimidate check.

If two or more characters are trying to direct a crowd in different directions, they make opposed Diplomacy or Intimidate checks to determine whom the crowd listens to. The crowd ignores everyone if none of the characters’ check results beat the DCs given above.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Avar almost immediately senses the presence of evil off to the eastern side of the room. He recalls Garren's warning about Belling, the woman in the milk maid outfit, however, as he sees that she's standing there talking to the slim figure in the devil mask from earlier. Wæmunding, he thinks the name was.

With a little bit more concentration, he could discern if there are other evildoers present besides her, and even pinpoint who they are.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

Chuul waves a hand dismissively. "I do not wish to be famous.," he says. "I have fought vampires and werewolves, I even stood toe-to-toe with a troll once, but this... this social circus? Alannah can have it."

After a moment's silence, Chuul seems to decide to press the girl's willingness to talk. "We know what I am avoiding. Why are you here, away from the crowd with your thoughts?"

Talanall
Talanall's picture

The scorpion takes a swallow of her drink, then smiles slightly, "Part of the social circus. Intrigue and politics. More specifically, I'm considering whether a rival of mine is finally going to do so something stupid enough to ruin himself. And whether I should step in and prevent it. I'd explain a bit more, but I worry that I'll bore you."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

"Mmm," says Chuul, seeming to concede the point. After a moment, he asks "what is in it for you to help out your rival?"

Talanall
Talanall's picture

"It's partly a matter of whether I want to beat him, or merely want him to lose," replies the half-elf, "and partly, I'm considering whether his downfall is likely to cause a longer-term problem for me." She glances sidelong at Chuul, and notes, "My rival is an opponent of reassimilation with the Aureshan Empire, regardless of the form that might take. A hard-liner. He's also a hot-headed boor, and earlier this evening, I saw good evidence that he has suffered what I believe he'll take as an affront to his . . . dignity? Authority?" The woman shrugs, expressively. "Semantics aside, he's a territorial fool and there's a good chance that he'll pick a fight with someone who won't think twice about killing him. I'm overjoyed, but the likely instrument of his death has gained a reputation as a cat's paw for the Empire. It would cause upset."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Alannah wanders closer to Wæmunding, taking a drink off of a nearby waiter.

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

Chuul nods, perhaps in understanding, or maybe a confirmation of her prediction that he would be bored by the politics of the situation. "So you would like to see him fall, but not at the expense of public order, then?"

Talanall
Talanall's picture

As Oskav stumps back toward the library, Alannah gets close enough to somewhat overhear the 'milkmaid' saying to Wæmunding, ". . . just saying you talk big, and you strut around with that rapier and dagger that've never been raised in anger. But nothing ever happens."

Meanwhile, Chuul's conversational partner shrugs, "I'm content to leave public order to the duke, since I can always go and spend some time on my estate if things get disorderly. But I belong to the school of thought that this city and everyone in it would be immensely more prosperous if our goods could go to market in the Empire. If Merenstone bends his knee to the Emperor, then we can have that. And probably autonomous home rule, if morons like my rival are kept locked in the closet while the grownups are talking."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

Chuul looks doubtful. "Imperial politics are a bit beyond me, so please forgive me if this is a dense question, but after so long resisting reclamation, do you really think the Empire would allow autonomy? It seems to me they would be more likely to establish a larger military presence as a show of force and put someone in place to keep his jackboot on local throats for at least an elf's life, lest anyone who remembers independence get ideas."

Talanall
Talanall's picture

"We take the position that the Empire wants tax revenue. And lumber. The Mereflow Valley has both, and although there are druids here, they aren't congregated into the hierarchical schools that have kept the Aureshans hemmed in. That's why they colonized in the first place—the druids here seem like a nuisance from the perspective of a single city-state with a single city-state's resources. But the legions would scour them from the forests in short order!" The scorpion-woman adds, "Taxes and natural resources, and an open frontier with arable land? And without much of a fight from anyone other than the Tallwood zealots? Surely some accommodation could be reached."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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