Murdocki and Grimble continued to speak with Carric and Caelesti. Carric and Caelesti found out:
-Morgana has been queen for 800 years.
Siobhan and Talon were with Brianna in her quarters.
-Brianna magically produced a great banquet.
In the morning, the ladies had not returned. When Murdocki showed up, Carric voiced his concern. Murdocki led Carric and Caelesti to Brianna's quarters. Murdocki introduced Carric and Caelesti to Brianna. The bards were asleep. Brianna said that the bards would meet them outside the mound an hour after noon. Murdocki led the two back to House Kilran. Carric asked if they could leave the quarters. Murdocki said they could but enjoined them not to get lost and to be back on time.
Carric and Caelesti wandered about inside the Unseelie Court mound. It was much bigger on the inside than it appeared from the outside. The passages were very confusing, and Carric had to employ a fair amount of skill not to get them lost. Although they were inside a mound with no sky visible, there was plenty of ambient light. In various places there were groves with sinister strange twisted trees with sickly lush parasitic flowery growths. It seemed interesting, but also repellently unnatural to Carric.
At the right time, Murdocki led Carric and Caelesti out of the mound. The other ladies were very late.
About the time that everyone was saying their goodbyes, a winged sidhe flew at the group from above. Brianna drew a rapier and, with a command word, sparks started about it. Siobhan looked alarmed and starting singing. The sidhe stabbed Murdocki with a dagger that was coated with a red oil. Brianna struck the winged sidhe five times with her rapier, felling it.
Brianna picked up the dagger, examined it, and said "fey blight". Brianna cast neutralize poison on Murdocki, curing him. Brianna said "one more hit from that dagger, and you'd be dead." Murdocki said he was in her debt. Murdocki disappeared into the mound with the dead sidhe.
Brianna led the party to the crossroads that led back to Tarrastra. She moved through the underbrush even faster than Carric. While they were waiting for the others to catch up she spoke to Carric in Druidic, indicating to him that she was a Druid in addition to being a Bard. Carric was very impressed.
The party stepped through the portal and into wilderness. It seemed to be before noon there. It was also chilly and the leaves had changed color. From this and from the position of the sun, Carric could tell that it was mid-November, although it had been mid-August when the party arrived at the Unseelie Court, 24 days ago. He was initially worried that it might not even be the same year that they left.
The party would pass near "the egg from the sky" on their way back to Rowensmeade, so they sought it out. They passed their old camp and, to Carric's relief, it looked to be only three months old. The egg had badly decayed from when they last saw it.
The party continued on toward Rowansmeade, stopping at a small farming village on the way. The villagers were pleased to see the party. They confirmed Carric's conclusion that it was November of the same year. They'd had an especially good harvest that year and attributed it to the workings of the Ankhegs under the fields - although they agreed that the loss of the cow made this a less than ideal farming technique. They told of an attack by bandits, and how Yoshi had defeated them all, even capturing their leader and taking him to justice. The party spent the night in a barn.
The next morning, they continued on. At the river, they took a ferry across to Rowansmeade. The party checked into an inn. They heard the recent gossip about scandals in the aristocracy (a daughter of a noble left with some unsavory characters and was sold into slavery).
The party headed to the monastery to check in with Yoshi. Yoshi was not in, but they met with Galen. They talked about the "egg from the sky". Carric showed Galen symbols from a panel within the egg. Carric also told of the Unseelie Court and the time shift.
Conversation steered towards Nessey's disappearance. Galen put two and two together and believed that the unsavory characters that were rumored to have sold Nessey into slavery were the party, though didn't believe they actually did that. Caelesti wanted to go and rescue Nessey.
At the monastery, Talon was reunited with her mule Tintin. The party headed back to the inn. Siobhan and Carric reconciled. The party went to sleep early so that they could get an earlier start on finding Nessey.
In the morning, the party headed to the Temple of Nuadu to speak to Father Cahal. Carric told all he knew about Nessey's disappearance. Father Cahal said he was glad the party turned themselves in to justice. The party was escorted to cells to await the parents of Nessey.
The next morning, the party was escorted into a room. Nessey's parents and Father Cahal were already in the room. Nessey's parents said that after Nessey - and her companions - disappeared, they scryed Nessey and spoke to her. She told them that her fellow members of the Weapons of Good had rolled her up in a rug and sold her into slavery to the Barbarians across the river from Meadowbrook.
The party explained all they knew about Nessey's kidnapping, including hypothesizing parts of it: Carric told the inquiry his theory that the kidnappers must disguise themselves to gain the trust of their victims. They had heard of reports of a duplicate Nessey and had gone North to investigate. While there, they had seen a possible kidnap rug-wrapped victim in Meadowbrook. This plus the fact that they had earlier stopped the first attempt against Nessey in Rowansmeade, indicates that there is like a whole kidnapping operation. Caelesti brought up that there are magic ways of disguise such as alter self.
Carric believes now that Nessey was kidnapped, by people disguised as us, her friends, right after the party last returned to Rowansmeade and Nessey stayed the night with her parents. It must have occurred some time after Nessey went to bed and before we arrived at the house in the morning.
Father Cahal asked if the party was willing to have their thoughts probed; they agreed. Father Cahal sent for an associate wizard.
When the wizard arrived he cast detect thoughts and probed Carric first. While the spell was active, Father Cahal asked Carric questions and the wizard listened to his thoughts. The wizard told Father Cahal that he was satisfied that Carric had nothing to do with it. The Father said he and Nessey's parents had things to discuss, and that the party could go free. Caelesti asked them to remember, during their discussion, that the party wanted to help find Nessey too.
The party was escorted out of the temple. Per Father Cahal, they sought out the sage Futhark. The asked the sage to find out what he could about:
-The runes from the "egg from the sky" [close to a script used by
Futhark charged the party 100 gp for each "research" question and 20 gp for the question which didn't require him to consult his books. Carric paid the 220 gp out of "party funds".
I was picking out a new tune on my lute when I heard a knock at the door.
"Damn!" I cursed, my concentration broken. "What now?" I put down my instrument and stood. Straightening my garments, I put on a smile and opened the door. It was Ice.
"Time for the Queen's court," he said.
"Ah." I nodded, and turned to retrieve my lute. I turned back into Ice's frown. I sighed. "What is it this time?"
"I saw you ogling Murdocki's bards last night," he said.
"So, what if I was?" I said. I glared. "So was half the court. They were enchanting! The young fey was beautifully spontaneous, and the two humans..." I smiled and sighed, remembering. "I remember being that young. All three of them gave their heart into the performance. They'll go far."
"Lets hope they already have," said Ice. "Murdocki sent them away. No more distractions for you tonight, I'd wager."
"Oh, bah!" I turned away. With a command, I reshaped my armor into the form of a different dress, lower cut and tighter fitting, as befit the occasion. With a few cantrips, I freshened up and put my hair into order. After applying a dash of scent I tuned back, and found Ice staring at my cleavage.
"Not for you," I said. I stuck out my tongue at him, and flounced away with a laugh. Ice followed me sullenly.
I followed the Queen into the throne room and, after she'd sat, took my place at her feet, on the top step of the dais. The feeling in the room was charged, different, abuzz with excitement. I glanced around the room and immediately saw the cause: Murdocki was holding his House's Orb, lost to him since long before I came to court. And with him were the same mortals he'd had last night, all looking very pleased with themselves. I looked intently at his bards and smiled warmly when the tallest one glanced in my direction and locked gazes with me, lips slightly open, stopped in mid-sentence.
There was dead silence in the room as Murdocki came up and spoke softly to the Queen. I studied his face. He was proud, eager, and expectant. The Queen nodded.
"House Kilran is restored," she said, as Murdocki stood in front of her, facing the crowd and brandishing his Orb. "Let the celebration begin!" She nodded to me and I unslung my lute. Cheers erupted around the room - save from House Fardiq, of course.
I quickly tested the tuning of my instrument and launched into a lively tune. "Eadath sinteris, falti lameris," I said, beginning a traditional Sylvan song of praise. I looked back at the bards and saw them watching me. I smiled and turned all of my attention upon them, commanding in turn their full attention. They watched and listened, rapt. With a further exertion of the pure force of my personality, I directed my magic at them and suggested that they come and spend the night with me tonight - and they were mine. They came and sat at my feet, gazing up at my face, enraptured. I smiled back at them.
When I finished the song, the taller one sighed. "You are so beautiful," she said. "You'd look good as a dragon."
"Interesting," I thought. "I wonder what her story is?"
"You like dragons?" I said.
"I owe the Queen more songs," I said, "but we'll go soon enough."
They both nodded, and I launched into an old fey song about a pseudodragon tricking a nasty green dragon. I'm sure the whole court enjoyed it - I have never yet failed to please - but I was playing for an audience of two.
A half hour later, after several more songs, I stood and stretched. I slung my lute on my back, turned to my liege, and bowed.
"With your leave, Morgana..." I said.
She looked at the two humans and then back to me. She smiled - or smirked.
"Have fun, Brianna," she said. I nodded and turned back to my companions.
"Shall we go?" I asked. They each stood and eagerly took one of my offered hands. Together, we left the court and headed back to my rooms.
I unlocked the door to my suite and gestured for the bards to precede me. I followed them in and locked the door behind us. After I'd placed my lute on my instrument table, I turned around and studied my guests.
One of the women was a few inches shorter than I. Her wavy blonde hair fell to somewhat below her shoulders and was pulled back and secured with a golden clasp. Her green eyes were wide and she looked around my room, apparently astonished. I swept my gaze downwards. She was thin, with perky breasts, nicely dressed. I looked back at her face and took in the shapely sweep of her jaw and her sensual lips. I smiled and turned my attention to my other guest.
This one was a few inches taller than I am. She, too, was blond, but very pale, with pronounced silvery streaks in her hair. Her ice-blue eyes were quite large and had a bemused expression. She was shapely and well proportioned, elegantly dressed.
"One of impulse, one of intellect," I thought. "I like!"
I cleared my throat and instantly had the attention of both bards. "Welcome," I said, smiling. "I don't think we've actually been introduced. I am Brianna."
"I'm Talon Tallera," said the tall silvery one. "I'm part silver dragon."
"I'm Siobhan," said the shorter woman. "All human, no dragons that I can tell," she added, laughing.
"Can I offer you some refreshment?" I offered, as I moved to my dining table.
"Yes, please," said Talon. Siobhan nodded.
I turned to the table, laid my hands on the tablecloth, uttered the command word, and summoned a heroes feast.
"Come. Let's eat, drink, and talk." I sat at the table and my guests quickly joined me.
"Tell me," I said. "How'd you end up here in the Unseelie Court? Where are you from, anyway?"
"We're from around Rowansmeade," said Siobhan.
"Well, I'm from farther north," said Talon. "Skkye, originally. I came south to find my cousin."
"Rowansmeade!" I said. "How interesting. I know it well. I used to spend a lot of time traveling around there during the reign of King Douglas. Did you find your cousin, Talon?"
Siobhan laughed. "That's me. But first she met Carric and Caelesti and Yoshi and joined their group. I tagged along when they decided to go investigate a fallen star, and when the sidhe kidnaped Caelesti, we followed them and ended up here."
"And then we met Murdocki and he helped us get back Caelesti," said Talon. "He sent us off to find the facets of his Orb. And we did it!"
"Tell me all," I said. "You must have seen some fascinating things."
And for the next half an hour, Talon and Siobhan told me all about their quest. They'd been clever and skillful and lucky - and I learned all about their whole adventuring party.
"So, what does Murdocki's Orb do, anyway, Brianna?" asked Talon.
"I don't rightly know," I admitted. "I've only been in the court for six years, but the Orb has been missing for over a hundred, from what I understand."
"How'd you come here, Brianna?" asked Siobhan. "You seem to have done well for yourself."
I laughed. "It's a long story." Which I proceeded to tell them.
Talon sighed. "Don't you miss Tarrastra?"
"I'm not 'missing' anything, Talon," I replied. "I have friends who live there all the time who keep me informed. And if there's something fun or interesting going on, I can drop by for a visit. I'm actually only here at the court about half the time."
We talked more and shared more and the feast eventually came to an end.
"Come," I said. "It's time to swap songs and stories."
Both bards nodded eagerly. Siobhan picked up her harp, Talon her lyre, and I my lute. We moved over to comfortable chairs near the fire and bonded as only bards can.
Eventually, I sighed and put my lute down. I leaned forward, took one hand of each of my new friends in mine, and gazed long at each one's face in turn. From each, I felt affection - and trust.
"I like you," I said. "A lot. I feel close to each of you and I feel like I can trust you. I said I depended on my friends to keep me informed of what happens on Tarrastra. Would you like to help me?"
"Of course," said Talon. "But how? You are here and we'll be whoever knows where."
I got up walked over to a jewelry box. I opened it, extracted two bracelets, and sat down on a couch. I put the bracelets on my lap and patted the cushions next to me. "Come," I said. "I'll show you." Siobhan came and sat on my left. Talon sat on my right.
"These bracelets will allow you to send me a message - to which I can reply - once a day," I said. I picked up one bracelet, touched the raven to my circlet, and uttered a command. It glowed briefly and faded.
I picked up Siobhan's wrist, clasped the bracelet around it, and kissed her. She threw her arms around me and her mouth eagerly sought mine.
"Impulsive," I thought, "and experienced."
Our kiss lingered - and I unwrapped her arms from around me. She leaned on my shoulder and looked up at me with sultry eyes. I squeezed her hand and grinned, and then turned to Talon.
Talon's large eyes met mine. I attuned the second bracelet to my circlet and picked up her hand. I caressed it and she gasped. I fastened the bracelet around her wrist, looked up, intending to kiss her - and got kissed.
"Intellectual," I thought, "and hungry."
This kiss also lingered - and again, I disengaged.
"Perhaps we should continue over there," I said, gesturing to my bed.
I didn't have to ask again.
About two hours after dawn, I got up, freshened up, and dressed. I picked up my lute, and plucked it quietly and contemplatively for a while, clearing my mind for the new day. I looked over at the bed and saw my new lovers, sound asleep. I grinned. "I only need two hours of sleep each night," I thought, "but they'll be taking their beauty sleep until noon." I picked up my diary and started writing.
By and by, Murdocki knocked. He had Carric and Caelesti with him. He introduced them and stepped back.
"Are Talon and Siobhan here?" asked Caelesti. "We got worried when they didn't come back last night."
"They're fine," I said. "They're sleeping."
"Well, can you get them up?" asked Carric, "we need to be going."
"We stayed up until dawn doing bard stuff," I said. "Perhaps you could go later."
Carric sighed. "So much for an early start," he said.
"We'll meet you outside the mound an hour after noon," I suggested.
Carric shrugged. "Fine."
I closed the door.
At noon, I went over to the bed. I crawled onto it and knelt between Siobhan and Talon. I caressed each.
"Wake up, sleepyheads!" I said. "Your companions want to go back to Tarrastra."
Talon looked up and me and smiled. "Surely we don't have to get up right away." She stretched out her arms towards me.
I grinned back at her. "Surely not," I agreed.
We were quite late to our appointment.
When we emerged from the mound, Murdocki was talking to Carric and Caelesti. He caught my eye, shook his head and rolled his eyes, but held his tongue.
"Come on guys," said Carric. "Let's go!"
Siobhan, Talon, and I walked over to him and Murdocki stepped over to the entrance to the mound. He thought for a moment and turned back. As he opened his mouth to speak, I heard a flutter of wings. When I looked up, I saw a sidhe, descending out of the sun, carrying ... something.
"Uh, oh," I thought. Quick as thought, I called Fang into my hand and uttered the command. Blue sparks crackled along his blade and I watched and waited for the sidhe to finish his descent. Behind me, I heard Siobhan's clear voice starting a song of courage and vigor.
Murdocki seemed unaware of the peril; even though he carried his spear, he seemed shocked when the sidhe landed next to him - and stabbed him with what I could now see was a dagger, coated with a brick-red oil. Murdocki gasped and staggered back, but swung the spear around in front of him. The assassin eyed the spear warily, but was determined to get in another stab.
I could hear Carric chanting behind me. The assassin seemed unaware of his danger as I activated a haste and stepped up behind him. I slashed him severely four times and then plunged Fang into his back. He slumped to the ground.
I looked over my shoulder and saw that Carric had a very peculiar expression on his face. Apparently he'd been summoning an ally - which was no longer needed. He threw up his hands and stopped his spell.
Talon looked at me with wide eyes. "You were magnificent!" she said. "I didn't know you could do that!"
I grinned at her. "Thanks!" I said. "I have many skills."
I deactivated Fang, wiped him on the assassin's cloak, and sheathed him. I turned my attention to the dagger. When I picked it up, I could smell the pungent metallic tang of fanchion - liquid cold iron. "Feyblight!" I said. I looked over at Murdocki. He was pale, and was clutching his arm. I stepped up and cast the Druidic spell to neutralize the poison in him. "One more stab and you'd have been dead," I said.
He nodded. "I am in your debt," he said.
"Indeed you are," I said, with a smile.
"Yes!" I thought, "House Kilran owes me a big favor. And you can be sure I'll call it in at just the right time."
I looked down at the assassin and poked at him with my boot. "Better find out who sent him," I said, "although I have my guesses about that."
Murdocki nodded. He leaned over and examined the sidhe and then looked up at me. "He's not going to be easy to question," he said.
I held up my hands, palms facing him. "Hey," I said, "if you'd rather I'd taken my time..."
"No, no!" said Murdocki. "No problem." He grabbed the sidhe's arms and started dragging him into the mound. "I'll deal with it. Thanks again."
"Sure!" I said. Murdocki nodded, entered the mound, and the entrance closed.
I turned back to my friends. "Looks like he's left you," I said. "need a guide to the crossroad?"
"Sure!" said Carric. "Thanks!"
And so I took them there. Unsurprisingly, all of them except Carric had some difficulty picking their way through the undergrowth. On a whim, I spoke to him a bit in Druidic while we waited for them. He was polite and deferential; contrary to what I'd have expected from Talon's warning, he didn't try to hit on me. Fine with me!
We got to the crossroads and said our goodbyes.
I gave each of my new Ravens a final hug and a kiss. "Have fun," I said. "and keep in touch!" I grinned at them, they smiled back at me, and in turn, each stepped through the portal.
I went home.
Prev Top Next
|Copyright © 2009 by Brianna Sollandry <brianna at hambo dot com>||
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu
R'lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn.