The dancing and the drinking and the palace belonged to yesterday.
The hour was early, but not indecently so. People were moving about the Parson’s Rest, especially the staff.
Quite loudly, and quite distinctly, Thal heard Lucien bellow his name. There was not the sound to it of fear or desperation but rather of discovery and urgency.
Since early light, just before dawn, Thal had been sitting in silent meditation. Outside, roosters and the clatter of wheels and hooves on cobbles claimed the day and inside one room and then other sounds of movement and the smell of breakfast wafted from the kitchen across the the small court.
Thal heard Lucien call his name and noted the lack of stress.
“Perhaps there is word of Ogham,” he thought. Then he pulled on his travel jacket and quietly made his way to the main hall of the inn, intending that Lucien should speak first and be fully heard.
Some time later, a bedraggled-looking Lucien in his bedclothes, clutching a slightly rumpled and damaged shirt appears at the top of the stairs. Looking relieved, he crazy-waved Thal up the stairs and vanished back toward his room.
In Lucien’s room, Lucien had donned breeches under his night shirt and splashed water haphazardly on his face.
In spite of the hair sticking out in strange directions and the unprepared appearance, there was something different about Lucien: he seemed practically to shine this morning, whereas in the dark hours of last night, even amidst the merriment, there had been something thinned out and exhausted about him far beyond the hour.
“It may not be possible, I know -” Lucien said, thrusting the clean-smelling, but stained shirt at Thal.
“I mean, he may be concealed by the power of a Pagan focus, but your power, you can find the owner of this. Right? Thal?” Lucien said, pointing to what is apparently his own used but laundered shirt.
Thal followed Lucien’s beckoning, heard him out, looked carefully at the shirt, and pondered the situation.
“It should be possible for me to use magick to discover who has owned this shirt in the past. There is only one way to be certain, and that is to try. With your permission I will cast a charm that should reveal to me knowledge of roughly the last four owners during the last forty or so years That surely more than encompasses the lifetime of the garment all the way back to its maker, so it should reveal its entire history, that is unless it has been worn by more people that its modest wear suggests.
Please put the shirt down and step aside while remaining nearby in case something unexpected happens.”
Thal waited for Lucien to put the shirt down and back away, then took a deep breath, centering his consciousness upon it, and began to very slowly and carefully cast the charm to bring his spirit into union with the energy of the shirt with the intent of revealing the secrets of its past. The spell appeared to be cast successfully without incident on the first try, and Thal concentrated as his spirit sank into the energy of the shirt, so to absorb all he could from what his the charm might reveal so that everything could be related as clearly as possible to Lucien in case some subtle details might make a difference.
Lucien moved a chair in front of the door to his room and sat down on it while Thal began weaving his magick.
“You may want to sit down before you finish the spell,” Lucien said quietly.
Thal was gradually able to discern a rough psychic impression of the basic physical descriptions of the owners … He expected to see who had owned the object for long enough to leave an impression – bits and pieces, maybe hair color, maybe eye color, maybe a distinguishing mark, their sex, general complexion (fair, ruddy, olive, etc.), whether they were beauteous, average-looking, or ugly by common standards, a sense of whether taller or shorter, thinner or fatter than Thal himself …
It took Thal what surely must have been an hour to sift through the sea of minutia of various points of information that opened up to his Otherworldly senses before he finally got to read the pertinent information Lucien was looking for.
The immediate, most recent impressions he had were of Lucien, whose strong heart and spirit impressed the object with his psyche after a mere three weeks after having first come into ownership of it.
But he needed to look past Lucien, to the previous owner.
That one’s heart was not nearly so strong and clear, but rather muddled and retiring. The snatches of appearance he was able to glean were remarkably similar to Lucien himself, but here, too there was still a trace of Lucien’s aura. Somehow, the shirt “remembered” them both, felt the touch of both, and at the same time.
“Too confusing,” muttered Thal.
Confronted by the riddle he was determined to solve it.
He willed himself to silence within again, determined to sink deeper into the very fibers of the shirt.
It was elusive at the start, but soon it came into sharp focus.
He could see the two men, Lucien and the one before him, then the tailor before them and the clothmonger, the weaver, the spinner, the carder, the shearman … and then the sheep in the fields ….
It was the image of the two men that fascinated.
Physically built to so similarly, coloration slightly different, like the one who owned the shirt and wore it every day was a duller, rougher image of the one who … held it in his hands everyday, slipping it onto the body of the duller one, and then off again, daily … pressing it, folding it … day after day.
Then the other one was not there anymore, and there was only … Lucien.
Except that in the “memory” of the shirt the vibration of the name Lucien went with the other one …
It had another name for the man sitting in the chair between Thal and the door.
A name that had the feel of the Gaelic which reflected an ancient symbiosis with Thal’s own people … it was on the tip of his tongue …
Lucien’s valet, for there was no feel of the steel of a knight around him.
Had Lucien been knighted, Cawdry would without doubt have been his squire.
And then a powerful image of smoke, fire and screaming, the rush of mortal fear, and as the images from the cloth faded, the soft hands of a beautiful woman whose features favored the dull one, the real Lucien. She was kind and gentle, thrusting the shirt into Cawdry’s hands, eyes fearful and desperate.
Her lips moved, but the actual words were lost in sound, fury and fear …
It had been too long since that fateful night.
Clearly that was the night Erebord had burned.
Slowly, Thal’s senses cleared. Over the course of a mileway, Thal returned to his worldly senses, carrying new knowledge.
Lifting his chin he met Lucien’s … no, NOT Lucien … Cawdry’s eyes.
Cawdry exhaled, and blinked, holding Thal’s gaze, looking elated and sad simultaneously, and possibly luminous.
Thal looked at Cawdry, blinked a couple of times, then looked again. “Uhmmm … Oh, good,” Thal said, “This gives me more to meditate upon. Mm-hmm.”
Then Thal stared into Cawdry’s eyes and gently but earnestly asked, “Does this change anything I should know about? We’re still both primarily concerned with the safety of our mutual friend Ogham and related matters, right?”"
The laugh was born as a deep chuckle, but expanded and rose, growing in infectiousness and volume.
It tipped up toward the edge of hysteria and finally subsided into quiet, with genuine tears running down Cawdry’s face.
When he was at last sober again, he shook his head and wiped his face. He tried to imagine from the way Thal spoke how the half-elf liked to be addressed. He found himself mostly at a loss.
Cawdry pointed at the shirt. “It’s Lucien’s,” as though he knows Thal knows this, but has to say it anyway.
“Lady Dacre appeared to me in the house of Lady Bizarre, arguing against my foolish bargain. I thought that released me from her charge because of what she had said when she still lived ….”
He looked down at his fingers which needed more callouses, “She came to me last night in a dream, and I was lucid … and fearful enough to ask her questions to ascertain she was not the Lady Bizarre impersonating the dead….”
Cawdry looked up at Thal, full of regret, "I assumed since Lucien did not appear at Daldrin Tor, and that Penwyth did not produce him to have me hung for impersonation that he had died. I was wrong. Lady Dacre says that Lucien still lives, but that he is hidden someplace replete with the power of the Old Gods. Lady Dacre is Walks in the Light, and she cannot find him.
“Can you find him, Thal? I witnessed Peregrinus using Ogham’s magic to find him and saying that distance had no bearing. Can you use the shirt to find Lucien?”
Thal lightened the room with a light elfin laugh.
“Assumptions are always dangerous. Perhaps you can take solace in having just outsmarted a wizard. Attempting to locate Lucien using his belongings is without doubt the best next step.”
After a moment of consideration Thal gestured at the shirt.
“This garment will likely be sufficient,” he said, “but if there is anything else which Lucien would have frequently handled such as a favorite sword or shoes then that might also be of use. I will return shortly with ritual supplies and would appreciate if you would watch over me in case something unexpected happens and also so that I can reveal to you what I may find as soon as possible.”
Thal left the room and padded away softly to avoid alerting others or needing to engage in explanation. A short time later he returned with a small bag, then began weaving a magick ritual, moving in circles, softly intoning obscure words, and gesturing this way and that.
Thal stopped and was quiet for a moment, then he sighed. “The ritual is complete,” he said, “but this magick has failed to inform me. But I do not have the materials to attempt this again by Low Magick. If you will be patient, then I will try again by common spellcraft.”
“Two failures in a row is a common enough occurrance,” Thal said. “I will try the spell again.”
“I am not deterred,” Thal stated, and sighed. After a short break concentrating with his eyes shut he began again.
Thal eventually put his hands on his hips and pondered. “Hmmm. I’m not getting anything,” he said, then after a brief, quiet pause he began again.
“Frustrating,” Thal said. “Very frustrating. What is good about this is the practice I am getting should improve my performance in the future.” Once more he began to cast his magick charm.
Cawdry, watching, and waiting, was filled with concern for Thal as he tried again and again, and checked himself to pour a drink of water and to observe in detail the turnings of what passed before him, seeing the wizard burn frankincense and filaments of something that failed to turn when he drops it into a bowl of some strange liquor, instead fizzing black and falling to the bottom.
He thought to himself how grateful he was, in a strange way, to be in the difficulties of his own world, not Thal’s.
Finally Thal’s eyes cleared and he announced, “It is done. Lucien lies roughly east-southeast of us, and at some fair distance. The dweomer ties us together. I can feel him.”
In the morning, Lucien gathered together with his companions and told them he had news that a member of the Dacre family still lived, and they had located him with Thal’s help, somewhere a hundred miles distant back in the direction of Erebord (Dacre’s ruined manor house). With all fortune, they could depart within a day.
As things typically went with Lucien, that was not how things were to work out.
After Ogham returned from a safe but challenging meeting with their majesties, and he and Lucien worked out some mutual points of interest, the group decided to remain at the Parson’s Rest, to prepare, to send messages and to depart with the dawn.
Lucien sent missives to the Lady Bess (the High Priestess of the Pagan religion in Shanria, stationed here in Fallond) on Arthur’s urging to request access to pagan resources to restore Lucinda. Lucien included an appropriate “if ever, by your leave, if you will” sort of air, hoping such a dubious task could be put off for another time. For more information on how Lucien’s plans work out, see above and below.
Lucien sent a message for the Queen with a royal guard (who had come to deliver Ogham to them safely) letting Her Majesty know that he intended to pursue a lead on Dacre survivors and would return with all due haste. Ogham sent his own message begging the Crown’s leave to meet them at the Marchioness’ seat of honor, where the crown prepared to relocate to take care of the affairs of the Marches.
That evening, the first fly in their ointment arrived in the form of Sir Emeric (Dacre’s cousin) and the soon-to-be-golden-spurred Cael Daelin, the new heir of the blighted house Daelin. Emeric suggested Lucien and his retinue attend the knightly proceedings the next day, and that perhaps afterward the newly Sir’d Cael could earn acclaim by joining his cause with Dacre’s and seeking to support their return to justice.
Later, the beautiful and mysterious Lady Bess arrived out of a burst of autumn air. She seemed intrigued or perhaps amused by Lucien’s message. She was gorgeous and polite, and provided details of the fall of Lady Bizarre and her exile from the Lady’s holdings in the ancient Forest of Easton onto the Isle of May where the Dacre party encountered her. She seemed to suggest that the fall of the Marchioness under Bizarre’s spell could best be left to the wizards of the Realm, and that as she had fallen into the ‘protection’ of the Crown, surely the Crown would do what was best. Lucien stared at Arthur as the Lady whisked herself away into auburn shadow, willing the merchant-son to get the message.
As they made their way upstairs for the night at the Parson’s Rest, the poison, biting flies in the ointment arrived. Aware they had been spotted by Arthur and Ogham, the brigands left quickly by the alley gate. Arthur, feeling that following them directly would be deadly, suggested the group take another route. Edred went out the front around to the alley. The rest of the group went out by way of the Kitchen Yard.
They found a single trained Hass’assin in the alley and confronted him in the dark. There, they learned two interesting facts:
- It is less difficult for dwarfs to see in the dark than humans
- Ogham’s sword is very, very, very, I-have-not-enough-ink-to-write-all-the-very sharp
The beadles of the Watch were summoned, and after the party gave the Parson’s Rest employees a gift of weeks of blood-soaked nightmares, the party went to the Palace to lodge a complaint of attempted murder against the house of Penwyth. Thal determined by conjuring the spirit of the dead assassin that he had been hired directly by the Penwyth steward and charged with the deaths of any Dacre and their allies.
The Marshal graaaaciously provided them with guards (at Lucien’s expense… good luck collecting on that one, bitches) and an appointment the next day with the Chancellor just down the hill from the Palace.
In the morning, they went to Fallominster cathedral to witness the elegantly-bedecked Master of the Commandery of the Knights of St. Tarran overseeing the ascension of Cael Daelin. Although there were some small stops along the way, it was evident even to those who could not perceive the energies of magick that holy proceedings were afoot… except to Edred. He thought that the best way to celebrate an ascension of a man to honor was the deflouring of nuns. Seeing Cael see Edred drained Lucien of the sensation of honoring the chapel of the Light. Frankly, it drained him of any hope for enjoying sex ever in his life.
Intercepting Cael on his march across the company of the holy, Lucien took the opportunity to congratulate the new knight on his appointment, and to connect with him in his place of honor so that he did not smear Edred across the marble. Shortly after Lucien had a small, shocked conversation with Edred about the time and place to draw women into his considerable Charisma.
After making an appropriate exit from the lengthy knightly celebration, Lucien led his company to the Chancery on Crown Hill to start the most dangerous legal action of his life: the many writs and nonsense associated with bringing the asshole Earl of Maralad, Sir Penwyth, to justice. The Chancellor in person removed himself from the great Court of Chancery and attended all of Lucien’s excruciatingly lengthy and exhausting proceedings.
Near the end of the interview, some of his companions went to the clear air of the courtyard of the Chancery to stretch their limbs.
There, in view of the Palace, upon the slopes of Crown Hill, inside the grounds of one of the greatest seats of Justice and Good Governance in all the realm, Lucien’s companions were assaulted by the rest of the Ḥashshāshīn sent by the Earl of Maralad, assaulted them with hidden knives. The commoners of Fallond knotted around the conflict, as commoners are wont to do, crying out for the Guard, for the Watch, but pinned in place to watch the brief clash of arms . Ogham, in the hallway outside the interview chamber, heard the commotion and ran out to join in.
Murder – on the streets of Fallond? What other evidence of the intention of the earls Penwyth and Rustin would the Crown require?
When would the Crown recognize the malfeasance in the midst of their own capital city?