Tales from Forgotten Europa

Unveiling

Room, I need a room. Dwarven tempers are rising, soon judgments will come to their fruition. This apprehension will soon be broken with flesh macabre. More blood will be spilled, but to what effect? Pawns in someone else’s game. Minds of stone see nothing but revenge. Offer to the counter offer. Death for death, an irrevocable blood thirst veiled in honor. But lives here are mere blips, implements of a grander scheme.

Vasiili regurgitates coin so naturally. Full of bile and acid, it is tainted for nothing but his ego, a selfish need to gain more. This is no offering, it is a bribe for weak hands, unable to carry the weight of its meaning. Make an enemy ruin another enemy. Corrupt those who endanger you with their honor and deal a crippling blow. Disappointing that he even thought this would work. He is irrevocably blinded by his success.

Yet to take him out is to be a puppet of an even larger scheme. With him gone, the state would annex his assets, push its own people into his trading routes. Someone is getting ready for this as we speak, I know it. We’re like puppets dangled by a silken string. A force easily redirected to ones benefit.

He knew. Someone knew… like a knife over my flesh, I slowly cut my past out, pieces I know nothing of, yet which are so dear to me. The momentum is against me. Some remnant of my past, that which they already deem with suspicion and disgust is no match to their thirst for blood of this man. They distrust me, yet I bleed for them more hen they will ever know.

The eye says to follow. Careless and cold, my only real connection, my salvation. Yet, it doesn’t know my loss. To it time never skipped. Now it watches me. What is the intent behind that stare?

Thank you for your concern, I am whole and well recovered.

A hard lie to tell, yet this is not my friend. I am empty, disadvantaged. What I say can harm me.

My journey has been quite fruitful. Gods are playing dice. They are involved now. The city of no name is a city of lies, a city of gods and fools. The architect calls it home.
I am much pleased to read your words. I’ve been disconnected as of late. I follow the group per your request and it leads me to a blood feud, which I’m sure you must by now know. Vasiili, a merchant I know little of, who is housed near the queen’s seat of rule, seems to have garnered too much attention for his own good. Coin will flow like blood. Tell me, of what importance is he, what does he know? His network seems to spread far and wide. A hole which will need to be filled. This takes me to another question. Who is gaining from this directly? If I am to do such service for a man, I’d like to at least see him in person. It is not a small favor after all.
[etching of the fallen mage’s signet ring] has made a mistake and played too close to the fire. Hope it was of not much consequence.
I must bade you farewell, time is short. Please let me know as soon as possible.
[no signature]

Khalid stands up, casts protective spells, puts on his cloak of flame, and flies directly to Vasiilis place. Flight is short and forceful. As he nears the compound, arrows start flying. They are no match to Khalid’s wards and most veer off. With an arrow embedded in his shoulder, Khalid lands in the middle of the henchmen, looks at who seems to be in charge, reaches for the arrow, breaks it off with not even a flinch and says, “Take me to him, he is expecting me.” The men stare at the flaming wizard, his eyes quickly stare them down, giving second thought to any further advances.

Comments

After some moments of chaotic silence, Khalid is led into a chamber that is absolutely DRIPPING in sorcery. Nothing impacts [him] directly, but he can feel sigils in the ether around him, and the presence of wards crawl up and down your skin like static electricity.

Khalid is led to a different room, what might have been a study, bookcases, two fireplaces of prodigious size, low tables and many chairs spread out everywhere.

Vasiili sits in one, rumpled in the same clothes as earlier. His face is no longer animated, but a carefully guarded mask, pale skin and sweat mark his nervousness but his voice is strong, rough and level nonetheless.

“So, you’ve returned already. And you are not here to rethink or to counter-offer, coming as you are. You know I am not alone here, you know this is not a position of strength for either of us. You should also know that we are very busy and have things that need our attention. So out with it, wizard. What do you come like a devil to my door for?”

His glass of vodka sits close to hand but remains untouched.

Unveiling
 

After some moments of chaotic silence, Khalid is led into a chamber that is absolutely DRIPPING in sorcery. Nothing impacts [him] directly, but he can feel sigils in the ether around him, and the presence of wards crawl up and down your skin like static electricity.

Khalid is led to a different room, what might have been a study, bookcases, two fireplaces of prodigious size, low tables and many chairs spread out everywhere.

Vasiili sits in one, rumpled in the same clothes as earlier. His face is no longer animated, but a carefully guarded mask, pale skin and sweat mark his nervousness but his voice is strong, rough and level nonetheless.

“So, you’ve returned already. And you are not here to rethink or to counter-offer, coming as you are. You know I am not alone here, you know this is not a position of strength for either of us. You should also know that we are very busy and have things that need our attention. So out with it, wizard. What do you come like a devil to my door for?”

His glass of vodka sits close to hand but remains untouched.

“Vasiili, you can’t strike deals when you hold no cards. You underestimate the Dwarven nature.”

Khalid tries to disbelieve illusion, sense motive, and such, just so he can discern what direction he should talk to (the wizard).

“But my business is with you isn’t it? You watch us close, as if there were matters you aim to finish. Tell me, what is it that you want? You bate me with words, but it’s too little to have an affect. I think you know this, which makes me believe you must have more to say. This here transaction” He glances at Vassili. “means little to me. This man grows beyond his capabilities and will fall, if not by our hand than by someone else’s the day after. His real home is weakly fortified. Again he underestimates the Dwarves.”

“I am here to hear you. To give a chance for words with some real meaning. This might be brief, but here we are.”

“Good, foundling. You have all the earmarks I would expect from such as you. Who is to say in such confines which is truth and which is but an illusion. Save this, of course.”

As you studied the scene before you, you felt the itch of magic and thought that Vasiili himself was to blame for it, something was altogether not right about him. His change in delivery and mien confirm your doubts that you are talking to the same man any longer. His eyes prove it. He is no more Vasiili now than you yourself are.

As to the magics that would make this so, you immediately rattle off three methods you yourself might employ. What matters most is that the technique is good. Like the wards and sigils, all that bear the same…. flavor to them that, to you, means they sprang all from the same hand. Very potent and well-crafted, imperfect however. You can feel, for instance, that the room has the cold, brittle taste of an area which has been made inimicable to heat and fire. Most potent, but frayed around the edges, as an old glyph might become. Or a hurried one. Yes, hurried sounds more to your liking. Rushed. Most likely as you dealt with your reception outside.

“Very well, Khalid. It is ever so much more satisfying to be open about such things, after all. My man here has but a few simple goals, and he attains them very well indeed with my assistance . He has some manner of business with your pirate friend, most likely on behalf of some other interested party, he isn’t the sort to range far afield, like you might. .

“No, it was fairly ordinary and nothing I would care much to be even involved with until he mentions that the pirate has sorcery, and has cost him dozens of men in fire and destruction. You know, you really ought to branch from your past more. You have always been much too predictable. Ever in love with fire, ever wanting to grasp the very sun itself in your hands. No, it didn’t take me very long to ascertain that you were only one of perhaps seven powers in play that might be so involved. Ironic, don’t you think? The blank slate, the tabula rasa, as commoners would say, and there you are prancing and dancing in the flames with no goading.

“My recent studies have told me that you are in league with a rather adept treasure-hunter. Further, I have long heard whispers of the Lost Road, and it occurs to me that you HAVE found something. You went up North and something happened, and now you walk with changed men. I am afraid I cannot have that. You being….. you . <you>

“You continue to live up to your reputation, though. A brilliant move, pushing your suit here, unannounced and unanticipated. We’ve castled now, and much too early. I cannot possibly be ready for you, and it seems…. you are wonderfully unprepared for me, aren’t you? The one weak link in being a blank slate is that… it is truly, truly blank. Now, I know. I mean it being the only weak link other than the obvious, wouldn’t you say? A pity we are where we are, right now, I would so love rubbing this encounter under your nose, so to speak. But you are far from here and well…. we don’t get along, now do we?

“I’m glad you came, Khalid. I was wondering what shriveled, minuscule little remnant you would be, and I am a mite shocked to see you as you are, and feel your capabilities even from here. I have to wonder if you should have stayed whole. In for a piece, in for a pound, eh?

“I think you should go. My man here is quite wroth with you and undoubtedly has to scheme up a way to do you and your crew in at his earliest convenience. You can return to your own planning. Do remember though, you are awfully good at this sort of thing. <again>

“Farewell, dear one. know that the grand game goes on, even if you should remove a few pieces here and there. And that you are far from your king, his castles, and knights means that you can be neutralized fairly easily yourself. I will have what was found to the North, I assure you of that. My master and I will accept nothing less. We’ll talk again…. soon.”

Unveiling
 

Message from the book of the Seekers:

There is a hawk in the winds of Ruus, and he is Vasiili, son of Ivan, son of Ivan.
The hawk alights on royal walls and views the breadth of his domain, his hunting grounds. He is spry and agile, a veteran hunter. This raptor has fed for many seasons, and is well fed and sleek, and is in the main beyond our eyes and cares. His simple ways and means are like ripples in still water for us and you. His god is burnished metal and his ablutions are many. Tarry not with this merchant, for all know that raptors are fierce but their minds are too small to perceive the truth of anything other than what is before him. His talons are indeed aimed towards the Ice Jewel, but these games of thrones are not our concern.
It occurs to mention that this particular hawk has both hood and glove, he is kept.

[The rest follows in another hand entirely]

There is some concern that your current endeavors will soon fall into marked trouble, brother. There is some significant noise regarding the recent incidents you have been a party to in the Northeast. A power known as Majorie (editor: pronounced May-zwah) is involved somehow with the man you are asking after. Clearly, this name is not new to your eyes at all. As you know, this power has always exists beyond our ken, but is of note and of time. This may or may not have to do with the business with Ameliea and your time in France, but you would do well to be wary, as the power’s current ambition is clear, but his goals and ethics are not. From one friend to another, be wary, Khalid. Majorie is in play, and the winds speak of other powers in concert somehow. This more than signifies enough to draw collective interest and for your personal betterment or worsening, our group will be investigating across a broader scale. Should these unmarked powers gain considerable control over such a platform as the kingdom you are currently within, it will easily grant them entrance onto the Grand Stage, and will need to be either contravened or assimilated in some form.
Lastly, dear brother, with regrets, we inform you that you should NOT attempt to return to Tilea in the recent, as situations and your activities to date have rendered this land most inhospitable to you. Of course, you are to go where the winds and aims take you, and you have means to see to your safe travel, but this courtesy needed to be passed to our brother abroad.

[At this point the first hand picks up, beginning with an ink blot]

Your artwork is being reviewed and critiqued, and it seems that it might be an original from a long ago master, an artist of middling range and capabilities, one thought retired and in reclusion. His return to the world seems out of joint, his work out of date, and it is probably the best that he will create no more. His catalog was deemed closed because of the chaotic way he would infuse color and light without distinction and order of any sort. His work is much to unstructured to be any use to the world anymore. His time is over. That you stumbled over such a piece is somewhat vexing, particularly since that was never his area of work. He did nature scenes and landscapes mostly.
The game of thrones you are playing (ed: this game is a variant of what chess would grow up to be) has evolved into a nasty confusion. Know that your main adversaries appear to be the Hawk and the Spider, and they have been exchanging pieces for quite some time. The Hawk is newer, and playing faster and looser, the Spider, by the design of all spiders, plays patiently, watches, waits and plans and spins webs. As you know, we dance out onto his webs to confer with the Spider regularly, and while he takes measure as much as we, it seems his paradigm has not changed, he guards the realm his web is spun in, and serves it above all. Including all the horrid and distasteful things a spider must do.
Unveiling
JungleJuice

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