July 18th: Late afternoon
We were preparing to go to ground someplace when Amalline was summoned to see her father. Tempest and I went along as we were the only ones around. Glyph and Cu were off waiting for their smelly dwarf to be delivered.
So, off we went to see the Duke. First, he gave Tempest and me some rather stern looks. Whoever suggested we be part of Ama’s “team”, it clearly wasn’t him. In point of fact, it seems that he thinks we’re corrupting his innocent girl. I think he’s been talking to Ama’s Nanny too much.
He did tell us some interesting things, but I’m not sure how or even if some of them fit into our problems.
First off, Ama’s jewels are missing. They were the set she was to wear for the celebration of her birthday and belonged to her mother. She’s upset, but we’ve no idea if this was a crime of opportunity or if the theft is somehow related to this whole mess.
Then, he began a long, fatherly talk with Ama about how her job is to stay out of trouble and safe. Ama disagreed. The Duke has a vein in his forehead that pops out when he’s angry, I’ll have to remember that.
He had been speaking further with Wizard Kyman and Prester Crane about the current Queen of Shadows situation and he believed they had come to a solution to keep her safe.
The plan was that the old wizard and the old cleric (who cannot be in the same room without arguing) would use a ritual to do a warding on Ama’s chambers. Then, he and a group of guardsmen would stay there for the night and protect her. He thinks that would control all the variables.
Tempest disagreed and suggested that protecting him might detract from our and the guards’ protection of Ama.
Ama didn’t like the idea of being confined until the situation is resolved. She also thought that her own chambers were a bit too obvious a location and suggested a room in the servant’s quarters.
The Duke thought that the rest of us should just go somewhere else (I think he might have had a few suggestions, but kept them to himself due to politeness) and let his guards protect Ama. He did, however, agree to the servant’s quarters.
An argument between father and daughter ensued with I and Tempest adding our bits here and there.
When he left, he was under the impression that he and Ama had an agreement that she could keep us with her, but that she would go directly to the servant’s quarters and stay there until further notice. What he didn’t notice was that Ama had agreed to spend the night in the designated room, but had made no agreement whatsoever regarding her conduct until evening.
So, we went to the room in the servant’s wing, dropped off Ama’s things and went to the Smithy.
While we were at our meeting with the Duke, Cu and Glyph took delivery of Fish Breath.
They discovered the following about him:
• Even after being washed up, he’s pretty pungent and dirty (there are layers)
• He has a terrible “allergy” to water, but none to alcohol
• His memory isn’t all that great, and
• Questioning him leads to a terrible headache.
They did, however, discover that he knew nothing of the bones in the cellar, though he did know about the blue creatures down there. It was, he maintained, the blue creatures and his fear of them that made Robillard leave town.
He also said something about sparkly powder on the ground down there, but they couldn’t get any more information about that from him, he moves on quickly from topic to topic.
The other possible reason for his leaving was the crown he found in the basement. It made him paranoid (my word, not Fish Breath’s) and anxious, but also strangely generous, since he paid his bar tab and even bought drinks for others.
A few days later, he and Fish Breath loaded the wagon and left town. On the outskirts of the city, he looked at Fish Breath and told him to leave. He was not, according to Fish Breath really acting normal.
The crown was made of silver and gold and looked like it might be worth a lot, but was probably not Robillard’s. Fish Breath also told them that the alchemist was worried that others might take his money and thus buried his valuables in a series of “catches” (caches) in the area. He even knew where the crown was buried and was eager to take the boys there.
We (the girls) caught up to them on the High Bridge on the way out of town. When we joined them, Fish Breath immediately recognized Amalline. Seems Robillard is obsessed with her and had many images of her, including one of the risqué (and may I add, anatomically unlikely) statues they sell in the marketplace.
As we walked toward the old barn that was our eventual destination, we realized that Fish Breath had latched on to Cu as a new best friend. Cu took it in stride. Glyph doesn’t seem to like or trust Fish Breath, but then, he is an odd one. Actually, both of them are odd, but in very different ways.
Our trip to the barn was uneventful, though I did note some rather sickly looking trees. I think I shall have to look at them again later on to determine if they are sickly due to drought or disease.
The barn was old and rickety and filled with several inches of fairly fresh manure. Fish Breath led us through the manure to a sturdy door with a strong lock. It took us some digging to find it though.
Once we found the door, Cu (at Glyph’s urging) sent Fish Breath to “The Toasted Wife” a nearby inn to wait for us.
While Glyph and Cu began to work on getting through the door, I decided to check the loft. I’ll regret that for a long while since there was a creature up there and it attacked me. Still, I didn’t have all the fun, since another creature attacked the others below at about the same time.
I lost consciousness, probably when my leg broke. When I was next aware, Fish Breath was standing over me, having done something to get me breathing again. I’m going to try not to think too much of it, but he did kill the choker…with his teeth and fists. I thanked him and he carried me to the rest of the group who were looking for me.
In the end, we all survived, though it was a close thing. The creatures were wrong, and did not belong here. When Amalline asked if any of us had ever seen such a thing, I told them that the tentacled thing was a choker and they are native to the Feywild. I told them I didn’t know what the Kenku was.
I’ll have to report this to the council in my next message.
The Kenku had some interesting items with him, including a cloth that seems to keep things cold and a vial of Bloodhound powder, which aids in tracking.
Amalline and Tempest set my leg (which hurt a lot) while Cu went to retrieve Robillard’s cache.
It contained the aforementioned crown, a keg of ale, a potion with a finger in it, and the naughty statuette of Amalline. The statue was quickly broken and disposed of (I don’t know if she realizes how many of those things there are floating around).
The crown is definitely not human made, but other than that, we know nothing of it and it was getting on to evening, so we didn’t stop to examine it too closely.
Back to the palace we went to find the entire town locked down and under martial law due to the kidnapping of Princess Amalline.
Ama told the gate guards that she had left on her own and was perfectly fine, but they frog marched us to the palace anyway and directly to her chambers to await her very angry father. He blamed all of us, of course, for Ama leaving, as if anyone could ever force her to do anything.
With him came Dr. Timeon, Prester Crane, Wizard Kyman, Varin (Ama’s uncle), and the Duke.
While we were out, two servants attempted to kidnap Amalline. They were possibly Maldaran agents. In the end, it was probably good that Ama disobeyed and left the castle, but they won’t admit that.
Timeon seems excessively concerned with Amalline, it is creepy and wrong.
Prester Crane and Wizard Kyman found more information about the Queen of Shadows. It seems that Amalline has some Maldaran blood, via the Lady we’d already discovered…the empress who bathed in blood.
Every ten years someone of her blood line is sacrificed, or was, since the last sacrifice was 50 years ago in Maldar.
There is a way to get her out of the contract. She can be replaced with another of her blood. To me, it seemed like a good way to take care of the problem for now and buy some time for a more permanent solution, but Ama said no and the others acted as if someone had suggested they be sacrificed.
I worry about their ability to make hard decisions when necessary; they are too caught up in sentiment.
The Duke suggested that Ama’s half sister could be sacrificed in her place. She was shocked to discover she has a half sister, but it would buy us some time. Again, she said no.
The other option was to put our heads in the Dragon’s mouth so to speak and travel to Maldar to find the lady and void the contract by her will or her death. If we take this route, we will be on our own in Maldar.
Amalline’s sister is “dangerous” and is 22 years old (same age as William, Ama’s brother). We ran out of time to discuss it, however, since Ama needed to get to the warded room for the attack that was coming.
Prester Crane took me to the temple to heal my leg. This is an expensive ritual, but the Duke took on the expense since it would be useful to him to have a point to use on my father for once.
The Prester asked me if I was ready to receive the blessings of Bahumut. I said yes, of course, and he healed my leg. It confuses me that people think that worshipping one god or goddess precludes revering another. My devotion is to Melora, because of who I am, but Bahumut has long been a comforting presence as well.
I walked down to the room where the others waited, leaving an exhausted Prester Crane to his sleep, and found the Duke there, ready to tell his daughter about her sister.
Soon before William was conceived, healers told Ama’s parents that her mother was barren. The Duke took a mistress, since he needed to have a son to continue his line. Amalline’s mother left for a time over this, but returned later, once she discovered she was with child.
The mistress was a minor noblewoman who died in childbirth. The child she left behind was strange with translucent skin and a death’s head birthmark on her arm. When she was born, she never cried, but opened her eyes and stared at the healer.
She was named Kara.
By age three, she’d memorized every book in her home. By age five, she’d killed for the first time. By age six, she was insane, a creature of rage and magic, wild and raw and had to be confined in the dungeons, where she remains to this day.
The birthmark indicates that she is born of Bane. There are said to be seven such individuals alive at any given moment, though she is the only one they know of at the moment.
The seer said that if any of the D’Anderville’s harm her, they are doomed and so she remains imprisoned.
The Duke left and we went to sleep, all of us exhausted from the two days we’d been without sleep.
July 19th : Just past midnight…
Ama awakened to an empty room with a shadowy figure standing by the door, as she watched the figure resolved into the ethereal image of a man. The man moved closer and introduced himself as Sir Robert. He is a ghost and came to her in her dreams to aid her in finding a solution to her current problem. It was he who awakened her the night the shadows came for her.
She asked why he would choose to help her. His response was that he wants to be free and buried with his wife, Katherine, who has been dead many years. He wants his spirit to find rest with his beloved wife.
First, he will help her, trusting her to be honorable enough to keep her word and put him to rest afterward. He didn’t want to tell her why he was not laid to rest with his wife before this, it would, he said, change her relationship with her family and all she knows of them.
Amalline being stubborn and of a one-track mind, kept asking until the poor spirit told her why he was laid to rest beneath the palace rather than with his wife. He was a man of politics, a Kingmaker, so to speak. He had advised the D’Andervilles throughout his life and when he died, he was buried below the palace to allow him to keep giving advice. For 2,000 years he has given advice to the family and for all this time, the line has remained in power and unbroken.
Once his remains are moved, he will no longer serve the master of this place and will go to his eternal reward, whatever that will be. What will happen to the D’Andervilles after this is unknown and will be what they make of it. The Duchy may very well be lost, but if her father rules wisely, perhaps not.
He knows, he told her, many secrets. One of these is that the shadows found her because some of her blood marks the door of her room and the door of the room she sleeps in this very night. The blood was placed there by Timeon the physician. He uses, the ghost informed her, night leeches to gain access to her blood for spells and rituals.
He can solve the problem of the Queen of Shadows by helping her find the information that will void the contract.
They agreed that Amalline will think on this and he will trust her to do what is right.
He told her something of her sister, Kara, who has been chained for seventeen years now, since the day of Amalline’s birth when she caused her mother’s death. She didn’t mean to kill her, but she was a child and jealous that this new child would have a mother while she, Kara did not.
He also told her that Kara is indeed born of Bane.
As to the contract, she is to send Cu to the dungeon to find a secret panel that when pressed will lead to a long-forgotten place in the castle where the contract can be found in a shelf in a bone case. Once she has the contract, she can decide what to do.
If the contract is destroyed, it will cause the Queen of Shadows to begin aging. She will probably not take that well and she will likely want vengeance.
Then Ama awoke to find us all in the room. She told us what had happened as we ate some breakfast, mercifully well rested at last and all alive and well.
Now, Ama needs to decide what comes next. I hope she chooses wisely.
Next Time….secrets and more secrets…