Webs

In Saj-graf, if you look past the fear of a vulnerable city, you may find opportunity. There are many on the cusp of changing their luck around. With only one decision they will choose their fate, though they may not know it on the day they make that choice. Whether it is to work for a new employer or assist a stranger that needs a hand off the ground. That moment they choose to follow someone or turn down a poorly wrapped gift can make all the difference. It is a dense tapestry of alliances and slights held together by threads each person chooses to weave or cut. The beauty of this would only be seen by few, of which a handful know how to walk the paths that connect the points.

Cerridwen viewed her map of the city looking for weaknesses to bring about its collapse. She looked at her possibilities, briefly considering taking out the Mayor. But the city did need the rally point he provided, without some hope chaos would reign and hinder further activity. The Prince was another possibility, but like Ertle she had uses for them to still exist. She laid out a list of the nobles, and one by one eliminated their roll through unfit or to be used in the future. Zahar from the Ardent Order was an option; he was troublesome and easily bought. But she was uncertain if she had the coin available to use him wisely.

Her pawn had lowered the defenses by damaging the monolith. But no one else in town seemed to understand within the walls was still safe. She laughed to herself thinking of all the people who put their faith in a pillar of beautiful stone and never gave thought to its mechanics. Yet she counted on this, her employer’s goal was the mountains and what slept within. The dormant winged beasts the Lady was after could be woken now. She knew her sister and Saj-graf had nothing to fear from them. The beasts were not to be seen when they left their slumber, another agent in the mountains was to release and guide them. The Lady was quite clear with Cerridwen’s objective, continue with confusion until I give you your final payment.

It was then the idea of Lord Gerard came to her. He did have a thing for her, but not as Cerridwen. He would move a large force out of the city if She gave him reason. That would panic the folk and keep travel to a minimum. All this would be fewer eyes to watch the creatures in flight when the time comes. Soon it would all be done

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Lyrical Legion

The sword song was the first lesson that Crevan had learned from his master and it was now what he tried to teach Kit.  It was a rhythmic chant which accompanied movement of the sword.  The key was to swing with the right exhales, not the one your opponent would expect.  The nuance would take at least a year of daily practice before Kit could move to the next concept.  In five years or so Kit would be able to move beyond a sword to other weapons or something in his off hand.  Crevan had told him Kit his voice needed more work than anything else.  Kit responded laughing saying he just needed a better song to sing.

A mandate from Alvin meant Crevan was free to start teaching at least three new pupils.  This was an unexpected change since the king of Iseb had banned the school from teaching when Saj-graf had come under his domain.  Yet with the monoliths protection gone, Alvin was willing to bring back the fighting style to protect the city and boost moral of his ward.  In addition to the Forest Walker, Crevan had received an inept student named Zahar from the Ardent Order, and  a young teenager by the name of Aryne.  The other two pupils were not as eager as Kit to learn, and had not shown up today for their lesson.  Aryne’s actions were slightly more excusable as his youth was as fault.  Zahar would rely on the pressing needs of the Order as his excuse.  It was a weak one as Crevan knew no such demands existed.
While going through the paces again, Crevan thought back to when he had been a teen. The Lyrical Legion had not been disbanded and the Saj-graf Marshal was more than just a spiritual seer.  Volka’s master had had that privilege for only three years before Iseb had taken control.  Iseb knew the spiritual leadership they provided was a strong symbol for Saj-graf.  They toyed with destroying the Legion all together, but bid their time when the wounds of war were still fresh.   In the end, only the position of Marshal was retained.  Volka’s peers had been sent from the city to preserve the teachings.  A few were still around and Crevan would need to find them to help build the ranks up again.  Crevan only had some much knowledge and experience to pass on

Crevan smiled as he came back to the present.  A young boy by the name of Groth trying to mimic the two of them.  The lad was too young to take in as a proper soldier, but was now an aspiring apprentice under Crevan.  It pleased Groth’s father to see him learn the old ways, and to have a strong interest in skills his ancestors had practiced. For now though Groth contented himself running errands and learning the laws of being in the Lyrical Legion.  Crevan returned his focus to Kit.

 

“Again, and this time try not to butcher the refrain,”  Crevan barked.  He cleared his voice and started with Kit, “I strike when you make fit, but that is not where I hit”

Proposal

Maeve sat and waited.  She watched as a fly made its rounds of the room before making its way outside to freedom.  She was not sure what she would say to Kadin.  He had been out all day and Kaisu was going to be out for a bit longer.  It would be a brief moment of just the two in the small house and it was now time to make her move.  She closed her eyes to collect herself.

Doubt hid in the corners of her mind, festering a little when her thoughts stayed in its direction.  It wanted to be played with, stoked and coaxed out of the shadows and to the forefront, but Maeve knew better.  The doubt would be one more thing for her tongue to stumble over before asking Kadin what was on her mind.  Yet she could not quite completely keep it our of everywhere.

Maeve had been in tougher, trickier situations before.  She had talked her way out of being arrested while departing a house she had broken into.  She had convinced a Lady that her husband was best off without her and to count herself lucky to have found this out in her youth.  Maeve had held up in a closet for a day when an assassination had gone poorly, yet through ineptness of an entire house staff had managed to go undetected.  Yet all this had not had personal, emotional baggage attached to it.  She pondered if this was the right choice again.

Kadin came in, the noise of the door closing waking Maeve to the present. She stood up and walked over to him, welcoming him back.  She paused taking I him in, analyzing everything about him form his tussled hair to the scars that ran across his arms.  She was weighing this as the last moment to back down and do nothing.  She looked at his face again and she could see he could tell something was up.  Best to cut to the chase she thought.

Chasm

Sun light cut through the haze that still rose from the ground.  The chasm had cut the city, running a jagged line from the Saj-graf Monolith to the Chalice Gate.  It swallowed not a soul the day it formed, but left many hurt in its creation.  Nothing came flowing out though the top of a spire fell in. Many a basement now had light.  The Locked Chancery had a new window to the world and lost a large amount of beer to sate the chasm’s thirst.

Hector walked with Corvus along the length of the chasm.  Hector had been asked to evaluate the best places for bridges to cross the gap by Mayor Alvin.  He hit the ground with his staff trying to judge the response.  The two were discussing what the lack of a monolith meant for the city and debated how long it would be till Ogres or a manticore showed up to threaten the city.  Their conversation paused as they watch a couple of teenagers run and jump a narrow point of the chasm.  Corvus shook his head at the foolishness while Hector laughed at the teens’ success.

“I still cannot think of anyone in town that would do such a thing.  Hewing the best protection we have and then no other follows through.”  Spoke Hector.

“It is probably the work of some group of mercenaries looking for work.” Corvus responded.

“Then they should go work for one of the trade houses, or volunteer for the wars in the south.  There is no reason the people of Saj-graf need this burden.”

“I agree, if the city is attacked I am expected to muster at least a hundred men, well ninety-nine if I choose to serve.  I think that would be every person I have working in the fields.

“Do you think it could be an agent of King Vincent?  He has always had his eye on Saj-graf as a port town with access to the Vertrive Sea.  That seems more likely, but why would he not coordinate with his corsairs’ attack on Port Gertrude. It would have made more sense.”

“Lord Corvus, have we taken to admiring the City’s new feature?” A voice spoke up from behind.  It was Gabriel, walking down the street in one of the few times during the day.  Walking alongside him were Martell and Kit.

“Yes, and talk with my brother Hector, he is charged with management of the city’s infrastructure you know.” replied Corvus pondering what Gabriel was after. “Have you taken on a personal guards?”

“Them?  No we are on our way to talk to Ardent Order.  They are interrogating a bandit named Sartow for his motives in the city.  He was roughing up some patrons at a tavern when the guard arrested him. Best of luck with your civil service.”  The trio continued on their way.

“War would alter the power structure in this city,” Hector mused. “Surely a few of the nobles will seek glory in battle in fail, freeing their lands to be distributed.  Corvus, are you the one they call the Prince?”

Corvus burst into laughter. “Hector, if only I had the brain for such planning.  No, I am far too petty for that job.”

Fenshorn Manor

Siwaldh looked out from the balcony of the Fenshorn Manor.  From there he could see the glistening Saj-graf Monolith protecting the city. The marble floors were a nice contrast to the inconsistent wood of the inn he spent his nights at. If Siwaldh had the luxury, he would spend every night in a place with so few drafts, and filled with the aroma of a garden below.  Grabbing an apple from nearby he savored the freshness and lack of bruises on the flesh.

Unfortunately, as an uninvited gust of the Fenshorns, Siwaldh would only have some much time to make preparations and fell the monolith.  He had chosen the manor because this enchantment required a line of sight to work.  With luck the Fenshorn family was residing in their country manor so he only had to deal with a few servants for access to the place.  No doubt the family would miss their loyal maids and butlers, but witnesses were not part of the contract from the Prince.  He needed only two days to complete his task, plenty of time to be out before the neighbors should notice anything amiss.

Siwaldh had seen the monolith from many angles since his arrival and had been able to plot the weakest point.  Research back at the guild of Enchanters, had taught him that this was one of the earliest monoliths and had never received the protection against what he was about to do.  For almost a moment his morals sparked, contemplating the ethics of his action before his mind was awash with details of the preparations.

He knocked everything to the floor from a sturdy desk and started etching into its surface some channels.  Next he poured liquids from various vials he had brought with him. While they sat he dragged over a brazier and started a fire.  It was no Invoker’s Lantern, but it would do the job.

On the second day, Siwaldh was seen leaving the front gate of the Fenshorn Manor by a passing guard.  He stopped him to ask what business he had at the estate.  Before Siwaldh could answer there was a loud cracking noise as stone buckled and sheered. The ground under the city itself shook followed by screams of panic.  Siwaldh waited for the guard to choose his next action, slowly back stepping away.  He then turned and ran, leaving the guard still dazed by what was transpiring.

Forest Walker

Forest Walker, it was never how he would refer to himself.  It was a matter of convenience for him that this is what the people of Saj-graf called him as he is uncertain as to what name he would call himself while in town. His master had always referred to him as Kit.  He always took that as a way of putting him in his place.  For a while he had gone by Eld, and then Erikahn but those days seem distant and the reasons for those names were gone.

Kit reluctantly walked the streets of Saj-graf looking for someone he did not know.  Twenty days earlier his master had a dream of a noble ghost called out for help.  The ghost was guarded by two knights, one made of wood and another unable to speak, and brought together by a third whose face was obscured.  The ghost was in need of help that the three others could not provide. Kit was puzzled by his master requiting him to investigate.  A Forest Walker had little use in the confusion of the city, best he could do was clean a well that had gone awry with taint or disease.

Out in the woods on a calm day, he could mend wounds and ailments as if it were a tailor fixing a shirt.  He needed the calm of the forest or plains, to hear the wind or water direct the flow of life’s energy.  In the city it was all disjointed, a cacophony of noise and a lack of order in the background hindered his focus.  There Kit could not tell if the life force he felt was from a passing horse or any one of the passing people hurrying by.

Kit looked around and realized he had wandered a bit further from the denser portions of the city, closer to the outer walls.  There sat an old house with many unfortunate souls sitting outside.  He heard a hum from inside something; it reminded him of the spirits outside the city, unbound to a body.  It was a pleasant hum; he could see the pull it had on those around the house.  It was as if it was nourishing or healing those around, but lacked a complete understanding of how they worked.  He gave pause to investigate, and then a small bird chirped. The hum now grated on Kit’s nerves.  He sensed a second energy beyond his ken.  Something that was feeding inside the house, but on what he couldn’t tell.  Kit made a quick retreat back to the better populated portions of the city, scared as to what that may have been and thankful to the bird’s passing.

Catching his breath and orientating himself a passing warrior caught his eye, her equipment was adorned with two trees.  Perhaps this was one of the ghost’s guards.

Interrogation

Siwaldh looked around the room.  He saw no windows, no decoration, just himself sitting at small wood table and the two women across from him. One a younger woman, with short brown hair dressed in a loose fitting shirt and pants.  Her hands and feet were hidden in worn leather and a small dagger hanging from her hips.  The second woman looked slightly older than the other.  To Siwaldh they looked related by the green tone of the eye and certain curves in the face.  The older one was lither, with longer darker hair.  The younger one he thought looked familiar, as his eyes focused he realized her as the one called Maeve.  He had failed in his contract on her so far and had a glimmer of hope this may say why.

Siwaldh couldn’t quite recall how he ended up here.  He had been walking back from a conference with Eartle in the afternoon and then was here.  He had several enchantments that they should have not been able to bypass, unless one of them was an enchanter themselves.  Yet neither looked the part nor matched descriptions of those in the higher circles.

“Maeve,” the older one said, “I believe your job pays more so, you can go first.  I do so like when we can work together.”

“Very well Cerridwen,” Maeve responded. “Siwaldh, You are a hard man to locate and track so we are holding you here till we have our information.   It has come to my employer’s attention that you are causing problems for several merchants in town.  I am, at my discretion, to find out whom you work for and what your goals are.  If you provide what I need I will release you to Cerridwen who will settle her business with you.”

“You ask for cooperation when I have no guarantee of safety from your sister.  What if she is paid to kill me, where is my motivation?”

“I will not kill you,” Cerridwen commented not masking her disinterest.

“There you have it.  So answer now or we have to step up motivation to talk.”

“Those who employ me cannot be less powerful than the ones who have hired you.  Once they find out that you have taken me captive…”

Maeve cut in, “Yes, yes I get it.”  She walked over and placed the blade of her dagger on his left thumb and nicked it.

“Point taken,” Siwaldh replied. “However I am bound by oath and enchantment to not talk and cannot talk.”

Cerridwen stood up and walked over to behind him.  She reached in amongst his hair, grabbing a tuft close to the neck and yanked.  As he creamed out, she commented, “There, I think the bond is broken.”  She dropped the pile of hairs to the floor.

“Woman, do you know the first thing about enchantments?”

“I know you should answer questions, when a young lady asks nicely.”

“I said before I cannot say that the Prince and Earlte…”

“I think you fixed his problem,” Maeve smiled.  “Go on, you were saying?”

Siwaldh was flummoxed as she had broken the enchantment.  His protection was gone and he said more than he had ever planned too.  He paused weighing his situation, then responded. “They have odd jobs for me to do.  I don’t ask for their motives as that lowers my pay.  I am here for two weeks of service than gone.  Cerridwen are you an Enchanter?”

“That is all I needed,” Maeve answered.

“I need only one thing from you Siwaldh.” Cerridwen stated. “Where do you keep your enchantments?”

Before he could stop himself, he answered, “Various places, a few on me and others hidden in the room, each a puzzle to open and each with a different puzzle to use.”

All went black for Siwaldh after he spoke.  When his vision came back in focus he stood in the middle of the street on his way back from Eartle.  He tried to recall who he talked to and it faded like a dream on waking.  As he tried to grab details they pulled back faster.

Gerard’s Court

Once a year, Lord Gerard holds court for the nobles to pay their respects.  It is a lavish event with no expense spared.  This year was no different with each of his vassals showed up dressed in their finest their rank would allow.  The long stone hall where they all gathered echoed as they waited for his appearance later in the evening.  At one end of the hall a troupe performed acrobatics. On the other end numerous tables for dining sat elegantly laid out waiting for food.

In the middle a small quartet played setting the mood for the evening.  They played an upbeat tune filling the hall with energy, till Gerard was announced and entered the room from a doorway.  He gave a quick speech welcoming all to his house and other well-crafted pleasantries before he dismissed their attention.  Gerard crossed the room to the dining area where he was assisted into his seat.  A servant then wrung a bell to indicate the other lords may proceed to their respective places.

Each knew where to sit as seating flowed from Gerard by importance of title and size of holdings.  As each made their way to sit Lord Corvus saw someone who he thought should be absent this evening.  Lord Gabriel sat where he had sat last year, three chairs closer to Gerard than Corvus. Corvus could hear as he brushed off concerns for his absence the past serval weeks by saying he had been ill, but was now in better spirits.

The two men locked eyes, in Corvus’s there was confusion and anger.  Gabriel was hiding this if he felt the same.  Instead he smiled politely and said, “You look in good health. Tell Sartow his safety in this city cannot be guaranteed any longer.  There are those who hunt him in the name of justice.”

“Who do you refer to?”  Asked Corvus masking the wrenching he felt in his stomach.

“I must be mistaken,” Gabriel replied politely, before turning to Lord Ully so someone else at the table and asking on about his son.

The Grousing Porcine

The Grousing Porcine is a small tavern just west of Saj-graf.  It has been handed down for three generations now and each has had the privilege of expanding the building to accommodate more people.  It was two days after the tournaments that Einden was starting to hope the crowds would ebb soon.  They had more than broken in the new tables in that time, but he did not care as he had more than made back any damages he would find.

The stories going about how a Forest Walker by the name of Arkith defeated Sir Corvus in the final were the excitement.  Following it in popularity was how Lady Kala had to bow out after Arkith had a word with her.  Einden had missed the fighting, as he was not one for a regulated fight.  Yet in the past two days he could have recreated the whole situation as the town remembered it.

“Another round here for us,” Jaspert called over to Einden. “To the rest of you I have now told you the story of the Incursion of Port Gertrude.  And if you had not all been at the fight yesterday I would entertain you with that. Yet I now need a new story, so let me tell you of the old man in Anjin Col. He lived up in a cave in the mountains east, with few trusted contacts practicing in the forbidden art…”

Eiden did not have time to listen to stories, but Jaspert did seem to have some good ones and patrons kept buying him drinks.  Eiden was waiting for someone else to show up. Crevan was to show up and give him guidance for the future.  Crevan’s advice was not cheap, but the man was accurate.  He could read your future with a few questions and a short consultation of the heavens.  He would show you the path you were on and tell you when to change.  What Eiden wanted to know was if his fortune was tied to Saj-graf or if he should sell the place and move on from here.  Ertle had given him a nice offer that he could live on the rest of his life.

Saj-Graf Tournament

The Saj-graf games are a series of tournaments one might expect from warriors trying to compare there skills with one another.  Though out right killing of one’s opponent is forbidden, mistakes happen and at least one unfortunate person has a brush with death.  That dual is a private fight with the results known by all.  The events culminate with a dual by those that have won the most events.  Usually a fight between three to four of the best, in the past it has had as many as tent men on the field at once.  The city uses this time to celebrate and feast before the start of the planting season.  The weeks following find the city empty as those who were once idle return to the fields. Also this is when merchants deem the roads best for travel and set out with trade to their neighbors.

Sir Corvus looks forward to these times as he once again looks to maintain his reputation.  He has heard a few new challengers are attempting to take the title from him including Lady Kala, his friend Sartow, and Zahar from the Ardent Order.   He would rather dual each of them outside the games, yet laws prevent each of them fighting him without provocation.

Jaspert looks up from his drink to see Sir Corvus stroll by.  He is sitting taking a break from retelling the story of the Incursion of Port Gertrude.  The story makes him a decent number of drinks as people gather around to listen.  Each time he adds his own flourishes to the fights. At times he make it seem as though the pirates had taken more of the city before the Prince’s reinforcements show up to save the Saj-graf forces from humiliation.  He is learning what details people want to here about and draw them in.

Cerridwen sits two tables over finished listening to Jaspert’s fiction.  She likes how Jaspert now refers to her as a spirit of mercy when he retells things.  “Flying past after the bell sounded three, an ancient spirit of Gertrude set out to call others to help.”  She was a whisper on the wind, but not the influence he thought she was.  Cerridwen thought about correcting the young man, but instead tossed a couple coin on his table and the few words, “Thanks for the story.”  Jaspert would realize only later who she was.

Out in the street there was commotion to distract everyone for now, Sir Corvus being slapped by a woman unwelcoming his advances.  “Sir we can settle any grudge you keep with me if you make it far enough in the tournament.”  Martell spoke, not knowing who he was.  She walked on unaware the curses Sir Corvus uttered under his breath.