Peregrine’s Random Story

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Peregrine’s Random Story

Post by Peregrine »

Title: :?
Rating: M
Reason for Rating: Violence, implied sexual violence, mild language
Genre: Fantasy
Synopsis: A traveller makes the mistake of criticising the local tyrant. He and his ward fall in with the local resistance, and find themselves part of a plan to uncover—and foil—the tyrant’s schemes.
Help Desired: Spelling/grammar corrections are welcome.

Some time (and a couple of iterations of the Tavern) ago, there was a story-writing challenge based on the use of random generators. Specifically, there was a list of Seventh Sanctum random generators to be used; the idea was to take their output (preferably the first result from each), and use each of them in a story.

I can’t now remember the exact list of generators used, but here are the results I had to work with:
  • A character kills someone, but the action turns into something else. During the story, a character makes a slip of the tongue. The story takes place five years into the future.
  • Small Cat's Province
  • Crystal Coleoseum
  • This humorous girl has narrow blue eyes that are like two turquoises. Her silky, straight, gold hair is worn in a style that reminds you of a fluttering flag. She is tall and has a narrow build. Her skin is cream-colored. She has delicate ears and a large mouth. Her wardrobe is classy.
  • Turdualangulia
  • Eramo Bardmaker
  • Lordly Statue of Air
  • Sycthe of Seduce Goblins
  • Desecrated Summoning of the Omen of Blackness
  • Explosive Cascade
  • A Mage's Tome of Important Magic
    • This book is of average clarity due to the good references. A small study will show it has no useful information. The reader can take some comfort in the fact that the contents have a few areas of deep insight.
    • Examining the book, one will find: Some personal notes, in an archaic tongue, unrelated to the book, scattered throughout the book.
  • The Funny Priestess
  • Cursed Transfiguration of the Butter Elemental
The story has not yet been finished, so I’ll start by reposting what’s already in existence. All elements will have been included by the time the story is complete, as verbatim as possible, except that spelling mistakes (like "Sycthe" and "Coleoseum") have been corrected. I may have cheated a little on the "five years in the future" bit, though.

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Prologue: Outlaw

Post by Peregrine »

Five years ago

The village clustered on the slopes of the rocky hill, below the walls of an impressive castle. It was not a large village, existing as it did only to serve the needs of the castle; the stony ground was unsuitable for farming, and the land around the hill was thickly forested. The villagers tended goats and brewed beer, and the village housed travelling merchants and many servants who worked but did not dwell in the castle.

In the village also lived the blacksmith’s son, Riodo. Though a short lad, he had aided his father’s work since he was old enough to not be under foot, and so he had strong arms and deft hands unusual for a boy not yet adolescent. To follow in his father’s work was nearly his whole desire in life.

Among the village children, the one closest in age to Riodo was Erissa, the washerwoman’s daughter. The two children had known one another all their lives, and were nearly as close as family. She was a very gentle soul, so much so that she would flinch if anyone so much as slapped at a midge when she was around. Riodo came to do so rarely, even when she wasn’t near.

As Riodo grew, he found his feelings towards Erissa becoming something else, something closer; and he wondered if she was coming to feel the same about him. When the children of the village went roaming in the fringes of the wood—the Castlewood at the foot of the hill, part of the domain of the lord of the castle—Riodo and Erissa would often walk apart from the others. Ri, as only she called him, and Riss, as only he called her, were indeed falling in love; and though they were now only twelve years old, their parents began making plans for a betrothal and wedding in three or four years’ time.

Upon one afternoon that was fading into evening, the women and girls had been out picking mushrooms in the woods, as they did by leave of their lord, and Riodo sat on his father’s fence watching for Erissa’s return. A full moon rose as the sun was setting, and women wandered back to the village in twos and threes, but Riodo could not see Erissa. It was too soon for the adults to begin to worry, yet still some fear or foresight had gripped Riodo. He fancied he could hear wolves in the distance. He swung down from the fence and picked his way down the slope to the hill’s end and the wood’s edge.

Also that afternoon, the lord’s son and a few footmen had been hunting in the woods, though the hunt was poor and the young lord was soon bored and rode off alone. It was his horse that Riodo saw, and his mutterings that Riodo heard, as the lad came to a certain clearing. Riodo drew breath to ask whether the young lord had seen Erissa, as he had asked the few others he had met in the woods—but then, he saw what was truly going on and froze.

The lordling, a tall youth of seventeen years, held Erissa pinned to the ground with one hand, while his other was methodically tearing at her peasant dress. She was half starved of air by his fierce grip, and perhaps she could not have cried out anyway, for her eyes were wide with paralysing horror and her hands and feet scarcely twitched in strengthless protest.

Shock gave way in Riodo’s mind to blind unveiled violence, and he rushed the lordling, knocking him off Erissa with the first blow. The warrior-bred youth rolled to his feet and clutched at a dagger’s hilt, but the much shorter boy was upon him, throwing hatred and a smith’s son’s muscle into every wild blow.

The lordling kicked the boy away and staggered back, dazed, scrabbling in the leaves for his fallen dagger. Riodo came at him again, knocking him from his feet to slap face-first into a flat stone on the forest floor. Unthinking, methodically, as if pounding on an anvil, Riodo lifted the youth’s head and slammed it down on the stone, and again and again, until blood and worse stained the ground and his hands, and the lord’s son no longer moved, nor ever would again.

The look of horror had not left Erissa’s eyes, and though she stared blankly and mouthed unuttered words, Riodo saw that horror and felt sure it was aimed at him. He feared lest she should turn her gaze upon him and remove any doubt; he fancied he heard the lordling’s retainers searching for their master and his killer. He fled, not hearing or else not heeding the one syllable Erissa voiced at last: ‘Ri?’

Many in the village would guess what had truly happened at dusk in the woods that day, for Erissa and her torn dress gave ample if mute testimony; but Riodo would not return, would not risk retribution falling on the village by asking for shelter or succour. Alone, assuming all blame, he made himself an outlaw even before the lord put seal to parchment and declared it to the world.

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Chapter 1: What the Storm Brought

Post by Peregrine »

On the seas to the west of Suorea, in summer when the storms called ‘westerwinds’ blow, the seafarers of that region know to be careful and to watch for the signs of a westerwind brewing. But it happened on a certain summer day, that a ship sailed into these waters from Doraste in the south, and, as the only Suorean aboard was no mariner, the ship sailed headlong into a westerwind before they ever understood the significance of the changing winds.

The ship soon foundered and was lost; but as the westerwinds calm as quickly as they arise, the longboats of that ship came safely to shore. In the storm, the longboats had become separated; but three longboats full of pale-skinned Dorastin sailors in a land of dark-skinned Suoreans had little trouble locating one another, and within the week they had hired themselves out as a crew on a ship that would take them nearly to home again. They have no further part in this tale.

On one of the longboats, however, were two who were not sailors. One was Suorean, though long absent from his homeland and returned to it only by the intervention of the storm. He was a man of past middle age, whose manner and fine clothes spoke of culture and affluence, but whose callused hands said that affluence had not come to him by chance or inheritance.

The other was Dorastin right enough, but a girl of perhaps twenty years, by no means a sailor. Her clothes showed as much class as the Suorean’s, if not more, though she hid them under a sailor’s oilskin once they reached shore and a fishing village.

She could not, however, hide her appearance. Her skin, the colour of cream, and her hair, long and straight and golden, marked her as an outlander. This hair was worn in a peculiar style, drawn to the back of her head and there clasped by a pair of long combs, such that it flapped in the wind like a fluttering flag. It was absurd, outlandish in every way; the most tactful word the villagers could have put to it was ‘impractical’, and this, they knew, must mark her as highborn.

But she smiled at them. Her mouth, broad and full-lipped and in every way suited to highborn sneering and pouting, did neither of these; it smiled. And for this simple kindness, the fisherfolk were glad to help her, and the Suorean who accompanied her as if her guardian, by telling them where they were and in what direction lay Lero, the capital and nearest city.

The journey, three days of long walking, was simply accepted by this girl who looked as though she had never in her life had to walk for want of a carriage. Nights were spent in steads along the road, where the Suorean man demonstrated the source of his calluses and affluence by strumming a small stringed instrument. Bowl-shaped and bowl-sized, it was the largest he might practically have rescued from the wrack of the storm. He and she sang in harmony, and so they paid for board and passed the time, since the locals seemed unwilling to speak of affairs, even to an expatriate Suorean lately come to his native shores.

Upon the third day, towards evening, tired and footsore, they came to Lero. Two bored but competent-looking guards watched the city gate that they approached, and stopped anyone who looked out of place, which included this pair.

‘State your business,’ the one guard said.

‘I,’ began the Suorean expatriate, ‘am called Eramo Bardmaker, once of this city, lately returned after a long sojourn—’

‘State your business,’ the guard repeated, evidently not in the mood for biographies.

‘I seek an inn, for my ward and myself,’ Eramo replied, gesturing to the girl, ‘for as long as it takes to secure passage northwards, continuing a journey cut short—’

Eramo was again cut short by the guard. ‘Inn’s down this road to the square, then turn right towards the harbour. Sign of the Funny Priestess.’

Touching fingers to his left eye, his mouth, and his shoulder, all while inclining his head, Eramo gave the guard a Suorean valediction out of all proportion to the station of gate guard. The irony never had a chance of being anything but lost, as the guards had both already turned away to inspect the steady stream of evening traffic coming to the gate.

The inn at the sign of the Funny Priestess—a flaky painting of a woman with a lavish headdress, laughing wide-mouthed—was located without much trouble. The common room was slowly filling up with a mix of dockers, traders and travellers. Eramo was unable to secure separate rooms for himself and his ward, and eventually he paid for a space on the common room floor while the girl was to take the room. After inspecting the room, and washing off the worst of the dust of their travels, they returned to the common room for the evening meal.

The building was well kept, the room was certainly adequate, and the food was plain but nourishing. Nonetheless, Eramo was in poor humour. ‘What luck,’ he muttered. ‘Did I mistakenly take all the cheer with me when I left? Not a smile or laugh but the priestess’s, and even she might as likely be yawning for boredom. Not even a pretty and naïve tavern wench for—’ He broke off and looked at the girl, who had raised her eyebrows. ‘Well, what I mean is, they’re all so surly, so… tired,’ he finished, slumping forward on his elbows. ‘And every steader we met on the way here was much the same; not a laugh nor a word of gossip, just a how-do-you-do and a thank-you-for-the-songs.’

‘Perhaps things are not well in this place,’ the girl said in the Dorastin speech.

Eramo nodded, looking over at the barman, then rose and started towards the bar. ‘You ought to stay close,’ he said over his shoulder in the same language.

They took seats at the bar, and Eramo paid for a drink as pretext to speak with the barman. He began in a roundabout manner, speaking of weather and other banalities.

The barman merely grunted and continued wiping tin mugs.

After some two or three attempts, Eramo became more direct. ‘Are affairs not well in the city, good man?’

The barman paused and looked over Eramo and the girl before replying. ‘Things are as they are, stranger, and if you’re here long, you just keep that in mind.’

Eramo spluttered. ‘“Things are as they are”? Naturally, things are as they are; I was hoping that perhaps you might be more informative as to the specifics. And I, a stranger? I may tell you, good man, that I lived and loved and laughed in this city when you were a babe in arms. But today I see no laughter, nor loving, nay, nor any living at all! And by the Lords of the City, I want to know what happened to the cheer of Lero in the years I was away!’

Whispering seemed to ripple out across the common room, and the barman looked at Eramo as if he were mad or dangerous. ‘There’s only one Lord in the City, stranger, so mind your tongue.’

‘One Lord? What madness is this? All the world knows that Lero is—that the Lero of my day was a gem of civilisation, ruled by seven Lords together, not by any sole autocrat. Explain yourself, if you please! What tyrant has changed the rule of the land thus?’

The murmurs increased, several patrons made for the exit, and the barman moved to the end of the bar with forced nonchalance. A hush seemed to follow three of the men moving for the door; shaved men in hoods, with daggers hung on leather baldrics. After they left, the hush settled on all the room; all faces turned away from the pair at the bar; all eyes furtively sought them out.

Eramo counted out money onto the bar. ‘Annice, I think it’s time we retired to our room,’ he said.

The door swung open again, and a man walked in. Though his hood was up, Eramo caught his face as he looked about the room and settled eyes on the two at the bar. His chin was stubbled, and his face was lined; he was short, but powerfully built, and as he reached Eramo, there was a glint of steel in his hand.

He gestured towards the door. ‘Let’s walk outside, stranger.’

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Chapter 2: Loyal Suoreans, All

Post by Peregrine »

Eramo’s mouth moved as if to speak, but his eyes strayed time and again to the knife in the hooded man’s hand. He nodded in defeat, and gestured to Annice to precede them through the door of the inn.

‘Left,’ commanded the ruffian, and left they went, the painted priestess silently laughing at their backs. ‘Left,’ he commanded again after some distance; then ‘right’ and ‘left’ and ‘left’ and on until neither Eramo nor Annice could have retraced even half of their steps. But Eramo knew two things: they had not been quietly knifed in the first alley, and they were not leaving the slums of the docks quarter, were not approaching any kind of outpost or dungeon. And so he grew less afraid and more bewildered.

At last, just as heavy drops of rain began to spatter down into the mud, they halted at a dead end: walls on three sides, no windows, and a cellar door at their feet. Eramo’s fears grew again. But the ruffian flipped his dagger in his hand, sheathed it, and kicked the cellar door with his boot.

‘Sorry about that,’ he said.

Eramo and Annice gaped at him, shared a glance, and continued to gape at him.

‘The secret watch were bound to be on their way. I heard what had happened, so I thought I’d drop in and arrest you myself, as it were, before the real ones showed up.’ He pulled his hood back a little and gave them a half-smile, showing remarkably youthful features beneath the wrinkles and age spots.

The cellar door opened, and a short-haired woman peeked her head out. ‘Who are these, then?’ she asked, taking in the still-gaping pair at a glance.

‘Strangers, visitors. Don’t know what to keep their mouths shut about. They were drawing some of the wrong sort of attention. I thought we’d help them get out of the city in one piece.’

Annice scowled, and began to say something, but Eramo gestured and she hushed. ‘It seems we are obliged,’ he told the ruffian. ‘But perhaps some discussions are called for, before you send us out of the city?’

The ruffian nodded and gestured to the cellar door. As they descended, the woman spoke up again. ‘Are you sure they aren’t spies?’

‘They haven’t seen anything that can hurt us. And we’ll be sure to bundle them out and far away; they won’t be able to get word back to His Lordship for a day or two, too late to be any problem at all.’

Eramo and Annice were led to seats before a fire. In the shadows behind them, they could see people moving about the vaulted cellars; none approached but the man that had escorted them hither.

Eramo cleared his throat. ‘I,’ he began, ‘am Eramo Bardmaker, once of this city, lately returned after a long sojourn, though not by intention. I have long been living in the land of Doraste, and was sailing to the north, to Rhemland, when my ward and I were caught in a storm and brought ashore.’

Unlike the rude and unappreciative gate guard, the ruffian calmly listened to Eramo’s whole introduction. Then, Annice spoke up.

‘I am Lady Annice Parmine of Lessina, daughter of the Baron of Lessina, with whom we were to be reunited at the end of our journey. You spoke of sending us quickly out of the city?’

Eramo held up a hand. ‘Now, not so quickly, Annice. I confess that I am in no hurry to again quit my native city, having discovered that all is not well. And at least I should like to know the name of our rescuer.’

The ruffian stood facing away from them, having pulled back his hood and splashed his face from a basin that stood there. Taking a cloth and wetting it, he turned back to Eramo and Annice, scrubbing at his face. As he did so, not only did the grime come away, but so did the stubble on his chin and the age lines. When he was done, a much younger-looking man stood before them, no more than twenty years old—less, probably.

‘You are guests of some few humble citizens who oppose the Lord of the City. We are loyal Suoreans, all, and we long to return the city to the rule of seven Lords, as it was before. We live in secrecy, by necessity. My name is Riodo, and that is all you need know.’

‘And we are in your debt, Riodo, and will ask no more about you, unless we by some means earn your greater trust. But I must ask, who is this Lord of the City?’

‘His name is Turdualangulia—’

Annice interrupted with a snort. ‘Lord Turd?’

Riodo’s look was questioning. ‘The word turd,’ Eramo explained, ‘is a vulgar one in the Dorastin speech. It means dung.’

‘Then it suits him,’ said Riodo, with a smile. ‘Lord Turd was a mere provincial lord, until by dubious means he became a Lord of the City some four years ago. Through treachery and dark powers, one by one he forced the other Lords to cede their power to him—or else they perished in “accidents” and were replaced by more compliant men. Now, the whole city, and the provincial lords, are under his rule alone.’

‘Foul treason and heresy!’ cried Eramo.

‘He has since doubled the city watch, including many who work in secret and answer only to his lieutenant, Eustihurina. They quell all opposition to him. Oh, he permits any who would to stand in the public squares and denounce him, but their rebellions always fail, abruptly, and they themselves disappear. Many an incensed foreign merchant has met his end in this way. In this way, he has all but broken the spirit of the cityfolk.’

‘And we nearly came to the same end.’


Eramo sat in stunned silence for a long moment. Annice watched him with an air of concern.

‘Well, this simply cannot be borne,’ he said at last. ‘You said you were loyal Suoreans—well, I am one also! You may be reluctant to take me at my word, but I pray you, test me! Send the girl on—’

Annice snorted again. ‘Not happening,’ she said in Dorastin, placing a hand on his forearm.

‘Fine. Test us, and you will see that we are not spies. I am a man of letters and learning, a man of the world and versed in history and politics. I am at your service, and that of Lero and all Suorea.’

Riodo sat pondering for a minute. At last, he rose. ‘Wait here.’

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Re: Peregrine’s Random Story

Post by Lady Moreta »

Whee! more story!

I'm enjoying this more than the first time you posted it I think :)

Seeress made me do it...
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Chapter 3: A Neighbourly Envoy to the Palace

Post by Peregrine »

After several minutes, Riodo returned. Another man followed close behind him. His head was shaven, and his eyes were a blue-grey colour—not blue as Annice’s eyes were blue (clear turquoise blue, a colour unknown among Suoreans), but a blank, milky blue-grey centre, an iris surrounding no pupil. He wore a distinctive ring of polished green stone on one hand.

In spite of his eyes, it was clear that this man could see. He stared at Eramo and Annice, walking around them as if to see them from all sides. He did not blink. Riodo leaned against a wall, shifting restlessly but not speaking, and he made a silencing gesture to Eramo and Annice whenever they began to speak.

At last, the strange-eyed man looked away, sank into a chair, and closed his eyes. ‘It’s true. They were shipwrecked and only just arrived in the city.’ He opened his eyes, which were now ordinary, dark Suorean eyes, and which were blinking furiously as if to make up for lost time.

‘A mage?’ asked Eramo, breathlessly.

‘An adept,’ the man replied. ‘My name is Hemalis. Please forgive the truth-reading spell; it was a precaution.’

‘An excessive one.’

‘The choice was mine, Riodo.’

‘But it’s left you unfit for tonight’s mission.’

Hemalis was indeed breathing heavily, and slumped into the chair as if exhausted. ‘I’ll be fine once I’ve had a chance to rest,’ he said. ‘If you would explain to them?’

Riodo stood straight. ‘Most of what we here do is—well, as you saw yourselves, we try and keep people from falling into the hands of Eustihurina’s secret watch. It isn’t making a great deal of progress towards restoring the proper lordship of the city.

‘But we’re hoping to change that. Turdualangulia is away from the city. He left at dusk and won’t return until tomorrow. We intend to slip into the palace and learn what we can of his schemes.’

Eramo and Annice waited until it became clear that Riodo had said all that he meant to. ‘I see several holes in your description,’ said Annice bluntly. ‘Or have you simply not planned this out well?’

Riodo merely looked at her and folded his arms. Hemalis had closed his eyes again and seemed to be dozing.

‘For one, why do you assume slipping into the palace will be any easier or more profitable with Lord Turd away? For another, what schemes do you assume he has—besides keeping the realm under his thumb, and crushing you like insects? And lastly, that you’ve told us this means you want us to help you, but I am not about to leap over rooftops and scale castle walls for you.’

Riodo leaned against the wall again. ‘O wise lady, truly are we blessed to have your wisdom. Forsooth, we could never have imagined that our plan was so flawed, we who cannot tell our right boots from our left.’

He counted off her objections on his fingers. ‘Firstly, Lord Turd has dark beings under his sway. No Lord Turd in the castle means no hell-hounds sniffing us out. Secondly, he spends his time in secretive pursuits and errands that have no apparent bearing on the rule of the realm; he’s either scheming or eccentric, and I’d like to know which. Thirdly, well, I’d planned to just throw you naked to the guards as a distraction.’

Annice flushed red and stood from her seat, but Eramo also stood and firmly gripped her arm. ‘Children, enough. Master Riodo, please excuse our impatience, but might we know the true details of our purpose in this plan?’

Riodo met Annice’s glare—looking up to do so, as she stood a head taller than him—until her flush faded and she seated herself again. ‘Her Ladyship will pretend to be a Dorastin envoy come to visit Lord Turdualangulia. The harbourmaster is on our side and will vouch that you came to harbour on the evening tide. We’ll come along as servants you hired upon reaching the city. We get in, look around, and get out before Turdualangulia returns tomorrow.’

The woman from the cellar door walked in as Riodo was saying this. She looked at Annice and Eramo with a neutral expression, then gestured to Riodo. ‘We’ll leave within the hour,’ he concluded, as he turned to follow her from the room. ‘If you have any questions, ask Hemalis.’

Hemalis’s eyes snapped open at the sound of his name. Before passing out of earshot, Riodo heard Annice speak again to question Hemalis—but not about the plan.

‘Eramo has told me of the mages of Suorea.’

‘I am not a mage, merely an adept. I can work very few spells—the truth-reading spell is one.’

‘How does it work?’

‘I am able to see in detail, all that you have seen and done within the last few hours, and some memories of the past few days. That is why I asked your forgiveness.’

A pause, then: ‘What?’ Riodo imagined Annice again shooting upright and flushing.

Half an hour later, a carriage rattled through the streets to the palace. After some hasty cleaning, Annice’s clothes had been deemed classy enough to pass for a travelling lady’s, though they had also filled a trunk with rags hidden under a couple of fine dresses, to pass casual inspection as her luggage. Once agreed to the plan and satisfied of its soundness, she had been remarkably nonchalant and unquestioning. Eramo had asked no questions at all; he seemed eager to prove his earnestness to these men.

Upon arriving at the gate, Hemalis helped Annice from the carriage. Eramo followed close behind, while Riodo brought the trunk.

When the gate guards challenged her, Annice drew herself up. ‘I am envoy of Doraste,’ she said, with an accent she did not normally have when speaking Suorean. ‘I am come to treat with Lord Turd… a… langlia, in neighbourly and courteous… courtesy.’

The senior guard bowed, and spoke loudly and slowly. ‘Lord Tur-dua-lan-gul-ia, is not here. He back tomorrow. You stay tonight?’

Annice smiled dazzlingly. ‘Yes, that is great good.’

‘Who are these men?’

‘This,’ she said, pointing to Eramo, ‘is tutor in your language, lives in my country. These are servants I hire when in harbour. They stay for me until I go home.’

The guard nodded curtly, and barked an order back towards the gatehouse. A half-dozen more guards came forth, and when they had been given their instructions, they escorted Annice and the men through the gate and into the palace grounds. The smell of flowers hung strongly over the gardens.

They were led across the grounds and into an entrance hall by the guards. There, almost adjoining the hall, was a spacious suite for the envoy, being hastily put in order by a platoon of servants. Once they left, the guard in charge—who had not imitated his senior’s condescension to the foreign lady—bade them goodnight. ‘We shall remain by this door until morning—for your safety, of course. You should have all you require, and have no need to pass these doors in the night, so we shall lock them—for your safety.’

‘Great good,’ said Annice, smiling.

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Re: Peregrine’s Random Story

Post by Seeress of Kell »

One of these days, we need to actually work out how your generator story ties in with mine... and I'm pretty sure MY story was what started the whole "random generator challenge" thing, because I got "ancient sucking people" and something else equally ridiculous, and someone (probably Moreta) challenged me to use them to actually write a story.

...maybe I should find that and repost it, as well.

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Chapter 4: The Tyrant’s Scheme Unknown

Post by Peregrine »

The moment the doors were closed, Annice dropped the smile and turned to Riodo and Hemalis. ‘What now?’ she mouthed. For the benefit of the door guards, she gave a few orders in Dorastin, loudly.

The four gathered close in the sumptuous sitting room and leaned together. ‘This place is a most comfortable prison, indeed,’ said Eramo, looking around and indicating the windows, which were barred with iron grates overgrown with ivy. ‘They do not suspect us, I think, but nor do they trust us.’

Hemalis winked. ‘It’s all right—we found a way to move about in case something like this happened.’ Leading them through the bedchamber to the privy, he expounded. ‘I know someone who knows someone who used to work in the palace. It seems the Lords of the City allowed themselves a rather unusual luxury.’

The privy seat itself seemed a plain enough wooden box, though polished to a shine. Riodo produced a crowbar, and began prying the wooden panels away from where they were nailed to short posts sunk into the floor. After a short amount of work, the whole seat was able to be lifted away from the hole it covered.

As he worked, Hemalis continued his explanation. ‘Below this humble necessity, there are tunnels large enough for a man to walk through. To keep the gentry from having to smell the noisome air of their own excrement, washermen go through every day and keep the tunnels clean. So, once we’ve lifted the seat away, we should see…’

Once Riodo and Eramo had lifted the seat away, they saw a hole too small for them to fit through.

‘Ah. Well, below that hole, we should find the tunnels. Can we get through?’

Riodo was already looking around the hole, and prodding with his crowbar. ‘It’s just brick, not stone, and it’s not thick.’ He scraped away at the mortar, and began slowly working several bricks loose.

‘Eramo, I think you should stay with Annice,’ said Hemalis.

‘And what makes you think I’m staying here?’ objected Annice.

‘You’re the one who didn’t want to go leaping rooftops or climbing walls with us,’ Riodo pointed out, ‘and this isn’t going to be any better. And you’re hardly dressed for it.’

‘I checked before we came—there’s enough good plain clothes amongst the rags in my luggage for me to change into. I am not staying here to be trapped when my “servants” are found roaming the palace, or while you make good your escape and leave us here.’

‘Fine. Get changed quickly.’ Riodo was halfway through widening the hole enough for them to drop down.

With Eramo’s assistance, Annice loosened her dress; then she shut the three men in the privy so she could change. They passed three uncomfortably confined minutes in a silence broken only by the muted scrapings and thumpings of Riodo’s work.

The door opened to admit Annice and a gust of fresh air. She was now dressed in plain grey woollens, indeed more nondescript than the clothes that the others wore. Thus prepared, and the hole now sufficiently widened, Riodo led the way down into the darkness.

There was a faint splash as he landed. ‘Pass me down the broken bricks,’ he whispered. Hemalis did so, and Riodo used them to construct a small step to ease the descent—and their later ascent, should they return this way.

Once all four were in the tunnel, they chose a direction, mostly at random, and set forth. Faint light filtered down from various privies here and there, and in that light the tunnel walls glistened. The intruders carefully avoided walking in the centre of the tunnel, where the main drainage channel lay.

‘Well, it smells better than most earth closets,’ said Riodo, ‘but it’s not exactly a field of flowers down here.’

‘What did you expect from Lord Turd?’ quipped Annice.

They came to a side tunnel and stopped. ‘It looks like this is an access door for the washermen.’ Gingerly, Riodo tried the doors, and frowned.


‘From the outside, yes. And I don’t want to try prying them open without knowing who might be in earshot.’

‘Let’s move on, then,’ said Hemalis. ‘Another one might be unlocked.’

They were in luck; further on, they came to a broad vertical shaft, no doubt servicing some upper level of the palace. Cleaning this shaft required a stair that wound its way up the side; halfway up this stair, another access door stood unlocked.

On the other side, they found themselves in a work and storage area for cleaners and servants of the palace. By good timing and a hint of luck, they avoided the few working in this area at this time of night, and emerged into a passage that led them to an open-air garden on this upper level. Chest-high hedges snaked around the garden beds in geometric patterns; in each corner, the hedges were higher, secluding a small area with benches, a fountain, and decorative statuary.

Above the roofline to the right of the door by which they had reached the garden, they could see a taller part of the palace—‘Turdualangulia’s private household,’ Hemalis informed them. They left the garden through the broad door on that side, dashed across a passageway and carefully opened another door, one that would bring them back outside. Beyond, they saw a parapet, with a narrow bridge passing between this building and the Lord’s residence. The bridge was guarded and the only other way across was several storeys below.

Fortunately, the pair of sentries on the bridge were paying scant attention to their immediate surroundings; they were watching the yard below, taking for granted that no-one could reach this height undetected. Riodo produced a vial from a pocket and soaked a couple of rags in the red liquid it contained. One rag in each hand, he chose his moment, slipped through the door, and stealthily dashed across the bridge towards the unguarded backs of the guards. Reaching up and around their faces, he clamped the cloths over their mouths.

They struggled for a few moments, seemingly unable to use their voices, and then were still. Riodo’s strong arms caught them and lowered them noiselessly to the stones. The others reached him, and Eramo considered the guards; then, waving his companions on ahead, he sat them upright, leaning on opposite sides of the bridge, laid their spears negligently across their laps, and fished out a bottle—they knew not from where—that he placed in the hand of one guard.

‘Against the possibility of them being found,’ he explained.

By comparison, entering the Lord’s house was trivial. An open window, a short flight of stairs, and they were in a gallery above a grand hall. In the middle of this hall stood a statue, carved of some grey stone with a faintly metallic sheen. It depicted a man of lordly aspect, nude but for his long flowing hair and beard, with one arm outstretched.

‘I know that statue,’ breathed Eramo. He clutched Annice’s elbow and pointed. ‘Mark the waving patterns in the hair, the way he stands upon his toes. It is Air, God of the Winds.’

‘And of Magic,’ said Hemalis.

‘Yes—did this selfsame statue not once stand within the Crystal Colosseum?’

Hemalis nodded. ‘Turdualangulia had it moved here no more than a month ago. It’s said it was out of spite—he was a mage’s aide in his youth, but he was unable to grasp magic and so could never himself become a mage. But until this, he had not antagonised the mages; the Colosseum was the only place in the city that remained sacrosanct.’

By this time they had reached the end of the gallery and descended to the floor. The doors were at the far end of the hall; Eramo frowned at the statue as they drew close to it.

‘Did his hand not once grasp a sceptre?’

The lordly statue of Air did indeed have its upraised hand curved as if clutching something. To one who did not know that the hand was meant to hold a sceptre, the statue looked like nothing so much as a man raising a toast with an invisible goblet.

Hemalis paused. ‘Yes… a sceptre, or a rod. It was the most remarkable thing: a different substance to the rest of the statue, dark blue, incredibly hard. Every novice at the Crystal Colosseum tried to scratch or mark it in some way, I think, but we never could.’

They continued on to the doors, and slowly pushed them ajar. ‘I don’t know if it means anything,’ Hemalis finished when they were sure no guards stood outside, ‘that Turdualangulia removed the rod, but he must have had some reason.’

‘A weapon?’ Annice suggested.

‘He doesn’t need it—has a better one,’ said Riodo.

The corridor they now walked down was lit solely by the starry night sky, which twinkled through windows set into the ceiling, far above. And so the four intruders quite quickly noticed, when the corridor intersected another, that there was a light under a door at the far left end, and only that door.

Every other chamber they had ventured to look into had been dark and uninteresting. A lit room suggested inhabitants, but it also promised some profit to this excursion. Barely breathing, they gathered outside the door. Riodo tried to peer under the door, then shrugged and turned the doorknob.

The room was unoccupied, but not empty. The candlelight that had spilled into the corridor illuminated the scene. ‘Great powers preserve us,’ Eramo muttered.

There, in the middle of the chamber, hovered a black cloud. It appeared amorphous at first, but as one stared at it, it seemed to take on shapes terrible to behold—a skull, a severed hand, a snake, a tormented face.

‘That,’ breathed Hemalis, ‘is the Omen of Blackness. By summoning the Omen, Turdualangulia gained the power to call up dark creatures to serve him.’

‘But did you not say he was no mage?’ asked Eramo.

‘He doesn’t need to be. Anyone can perform the Desecrated Summoning of the Omen of Blackness—if he can discover the ritual, and if he’s willing to pay the price.’

Riodo pulled the door closed. ‘We should go… someone might be along to replace the candles.’ It was plausible; the candles that adorned each wall had once been quite tall, judging by the wax that had pooled and solidified on the floor beneath each one, but they were now nearly burnt out. But all there felt the same desire to be far away from that fearsome shadow, and the same impulse to rationalise it as caution.

‘Can you do anything to get rid of… that?’ Annice asked Hemalis. He shook his head fearfully.

As they reached the intersection, the dread of the Omen had faded—but then there came a sound that chilled their blood again.

Somewhere off to their left, a door opened and voices reached them.

‘…start in this… tidy up and dust… morning, he’ll…’

The voices were women’s, but the sound of footsteps having a metallic clank suggested that they were not unescorted. The intruders bolted, back the way they came, away from the voices.

Too late. ‘Hey!’ came the shout from behind them.

They raced back to the great hall, past the statue of Air and up into the gallery. ‘Did they get much of a look?’ asked Riodo as they ran. ‘No? Back to the rooms then—here, cover your head.’ He removed his short coat and passed it to Annice, who covered her distinctive features with it as best she could.

Two guards burst into the hall before they cleared the gallery. Hemalis started to lag behind, but Riodo urged him on. They leapt out of the window to the parapet and ran back over the bridge, jumping over the still-unconscious guards; their pursuit came out of a door instead, shouting after them.

The commotion drew three more guards on the parapet. They tried to cut off the fugitives, but too slowly; before the guards reached them, they had run straight through the door opposite the bridge, and back into the garden.

Almost upon their heels, a guard entered the garden, nocked an arrow, and fired. The intruders ducked below the hedges and continued to move as fast as they could in a half-crouch. Not so hampered, the guards ran around the periphery of the garden and stood by each of the doors, calling to one another.

‘How many are there?’

‘Five—no, six.’

‘I only saw four.’

‘No, there’s definitely more than four. You, go for help. Sing out if you see them, boys!’

They were cut off. A rush against any one of the guards would likely succeed, but then what? Apparently unrecognised and miscounted, they might return to their rooms and feign innocence—but not with guards close on their tail. Any other door might bring escape or capture amid unfamiliar passageways.

They had made their way to one of the private corner nooks, away from the servants’ door by which they had first come here. Riodo debated plans under his breath, seemingly to himself in spite of Eramo and Annice’s interjections. Hemalis leaned down over the fountain, seemingly to catch his breath—such a run, after tiring himself out earlier in the night with a spell, had left him winded. But in a brief lull, they noticed that he was muttering.

And then he stood, holding an irregular chunk of ice. He took this and sat it on a plinth, tilting the statue over to lean on the ice. Then, he bent double and walked away from the corner garden, waving to the others to follow.

He was noticeably more pale and sweaty, and more deprived of breath, as he explained his plan. ‘Ice will melt… statue, smash… draw them off.’ Urging them on, he led the way back towards the servants’ door.

The fifth guard returned with reinforcements. ‘Spread out!’ barked one. ‘Search in pairs.’

A minute passed in agonised waiting. Then, a loud crash came from behind them as the ice failed at last to hold up the statue. Suddenly every guard was shouting at once.

‘This way!’

‘Surround them! Every side!’

‘Watch the doors!’

‘Everybody cut them off!’

For a terribly long moment, the guard at the servants’ door wavered, torn by conflicting shouts. Then, he left his post and ran to join the search. The intruders made good their escape—slipping hurriedly through the door, through the workrooms, and back into the sewage tunnels. Hearing no pursuit, they nonetheless ran, back to the hole with the brick step beneath it.

Hemalis climbed out first, then hunched over, trying to catch his breath. Riodo and Eramo emerged and pulled Annice up after them, and then replaced the privy seat as it had been before. Only close inspection would discern where it had been pried away from the posts; only by sticking one’s head down the hole could one see where the bricks had been broken up.

‘Quickly, Annice, back into your dress!’ urged Eramo.

‘Do I smell? Should I wash?’

‘No time!’ He grabbed a bottle of scented oil that had been placed so as to sweeten the air in the room, and flicked drops of it over her. Riodo brought her dress in from the bedchamber, and she pulled it over her head and her dull clothes.

Eramo smoothed down her skirts, and Annice fumbled with the laces on the back of the bodice, until Riodo took them from her. ‘Here, let me unlace you—argh—lace you up!’

As he deftly finished the task, she shot him an arch look. Then all four were pushing past one another out of the small room. Riodo and Hemalis took blankets and lay down on the sitting room floor, feigning sleep. Annice stood in the doorway of the bedchamber, Eramo at hand—not a moment too soon, as a key rattled in the door lock. Someone rapped thrice on the door, then entered.

‘Please do come,’ said Annice coldly.

The first man who had entered was dressed simply and not visibly armed, but four guards stood behind him. He sketched a bow while looking around the room. ‘We merely wished to know if there was anything my lady requires.’

‘No, I am well, I thank you. Unless, perhaps, you spare for me the help of a maid? I am not travel so wastefully as some, but I like womanly aid when stopped.’

‘But of course. We would be more than happy to provide my lady with a maid to watch over her.’ The man bowed, and Annice curtseyed. ‘I sincerely hope you will not be disturbed again this night,’ he said by way of farewell.

After the door closed, she turned to the others. ‘I’m going to have a bath—before my new maid arrives and gets close enough to see how I’m really dressed.’

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Re: Peregrine’s Random Story

Post by Lady Moreta »

The plot. It thickens!

I want to know why the sceptre is gone.

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Re: Peregrine’s Random Story

Post by Seeress of Kell »

Lady Moreta wrote:The plot. It thickens!

I want to know why the sceptre is gone.
You should be more concerned about what the sceptre actually is... ;)

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Re: Peregrine’s Random Story

Post by Lady Moreta »

It's not the scythe of seduce goblins is it? :P

With a name like Turd... whatever, it could be a coprolite :P (except that wouldn't be the case, since the statue and it's sceptre have been around for ages... man, what a waste of a perfectly good joke)

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Chapter 5: Erst a Great Sage

Post by Peregrine »

The remainder of their stay in the palace was quite uneventful, relative to that night’s events. This is not to say that extricating themselves from the forthcoming, undesired meeting between Lord Turdualangulia and the ‘Dorastin envoy’ was trivial. Annice’s new maid was, in a word, nosy, and there was little doubt that she had been chosen for precisely that quality. But Annice’s skill at deception soon awed them all, except perhaps Eramo.

Come morning, she had the maid running here and there in the suites, bringing this or that ornament or perfume. This, in addition to skilfully preventing the maid from seeing what lay beneath the dresses in her chest, let Annice steadily work her maid (and herself, or so it seemed) into such a bother that it came as no surprise to the men when they both burst into tears and sobbed on one another’s shoulders.

The dresses were all wrong, and Annice had brought so few, and her hair—oh, how the maid loved her silky golden hair, but she simply could not work out how to make it sit right, for she had no comb or clasp that would match Annice’s colouring or any of her dresses...

And so it was that the maid herself, tear-stained and triumphant, ran to the doors and informed the guards that her Ladyship would be making an excursion into the city.

After that, escape was simple. The guards stayed as close as they could, but they could not follow Annice and her maid into the privacy of the dressmaker’s fitting room. The men found themselves sent on errand after errand; after performing two or three to allay suspicion, they simply did not return. And Annice slipped out the window in her shift when nobody was looking.

The four of them met up nearby; Eramo slipped his cloak over Annice’s shoulders, and they melted away into the alleys and out of the palace quarter of the city.

Back at the hideout, the elation of escape took quite some time to wear off. Even Annice spared little sympathy for the nosy maid she had so neatly gulled. But eventually, they settled down and gathered together with other rebels to discuss what they had found.

‘Which is little enough,’ Eramo pointed out. ‘I fear this whole mad venture has brought us scant profit.’

‘He’s right,’ said Hemalis, gloomily. ‘We don’t really know anything we didn’t already. We saw the Omen of Blackness with our own eyes, but there was evidence enough that he’d summoned it.’ He muttered something else about blaming the Omen for their bad luck.

‘What about that statue?’ said Annice.

‘Oh,’ said Riodo suddenly, ‘that’s right. He’s taken out that sceptre you said it was holding.’

Hemalis nodded. ‘That’s definitely something. I don’t know what, but it’s something.’

He was silent for a few moments, then stood and paced in front of the others as if lecturing. ‘Turdualangulia was once a mage’s aide—more than that, he was aide to Calumis, certainly the greatest sage of our time. And that says a great deal.

‘A mage doesn’t take just anybody under his wing. Taking on an apprentice mage entails certain responsibilities and duties, so only the most promising become apprentices. Meagre adepts, like myself, must make our own way as best we can through our studies at the Colosseum. A mage would rather take an aide who has no magical capability at all, to whom he’ll have fewer obligations, than take on a poor apprentice.

‘But even then, an aide has to be talented—Calumis’s aide most of all. Turdualangulia knows more about magic than any three mages teaching at the Colosseum. That sceptre has always been an enigma. We don’t know what it’s made of or how it was crafted and set into the hand of the statue of Air. If anyone could figure it out, it would be Calumis; and if Calumis figured it out, there’s a good chance Turdualangulia knows too.’

He sat down again. ‘Calumis left the Colosseum years ago. I’m sure he’s still alive, but I don’t know where. But I know someone who will.’

The Crystal Colosseum, the academy of magical arts in Suorea, towered over the south side of the city. It truly earned the name ‘colosseum’, for it was a colossal building. Pale grey stone made up the bulk of its construction; but hexagonal crystal columns, evenly spaced around its circumference, rose from foot to crown. These, and the many glass windows that studded its façade, gave the edifice its name.

Hemalis, adept of the Colosseum, walked openly along the avenue leading to its doors. With him were four attendants, wearing cowled yokes and with their heads and backs bowed under a heavy load. Folk in this part of the city always enjoyed gossiping about what rare wealth or outlandish beast was being brought to the Colosseum this time. But the plain caskets that the attendants bore gave no hint of their contents; only the strain in the bearers’ stances told anything of the weighty cargo.

In truth, the cargo was nothing but air. Once inside and away from prying eyes, the attendants straightened, stacked their empty caskets to one side, and followed Hemalis up a long flight of stairs. The deception had most of all been for Annice, for doubtless the city watch would be eagerly seeking news of any fair-skinned golden-haired young women seen in the city. Though her skin had been darkened by makeup, Annice had been reluctant to dye or cut her hair when a simple hood could hide it well enough; and so she, Eramo, Riodo, and the woman from the cellar door—Tierna—had adopted the garb of common porters.

That flight of stairs ended in a short corridor that led them to another, leading up but back in the other direction. And that too led to another flight of stairs, and another. The ersatz porters were all puffing; for once, it was only Hemalis who was not out of breath. Some quality of the man or of the building, or perhaps simple familiarity with these stairs, allowed him to climb flight after flight without becoming winded.

At last, Hemalis halted at a door. To the others, it was identical to the last several doors they had passed in this corridor; but Hemalis confidently swung the heavy knocker three times, then entered.

‘Ho, Hemalis! Wherever have you been?’ The booming voice belonged to a large man seated at a broad desk covered in papers. Though his bald head shone like polished wood, the man’s thick beard showed no trace of grey.

Hemalis bowed. ‘Master Entoruis. I’ve been out trying to earn some money; materials are getting expensive, and tuition is no better.’

‘Well, do come in, sit down. Eh, what’s with the unladen porters? If you mean to carry me off, you ought to have brought twice as many!’ He slapped his paunch and chuckled.

‘I have a couple of errands later. They’re friends; I’ll vouch for them.’

As Hemalis and Entoruis exchanged polite banter, Riodo looked out of the window. This one faced inwards, rather than out over the city; below, he saw a wide amphitheatre, open to the sky. This room was very near to the top of the Colosseum.

‘I haven’t been around since before Lord Turdualangulia removed the statue of Air from the Colosseum. What was that all about?’

Entoruis’s face fell. ‘You say you vouch for these fellows?’ he asked. Hemalis nodded.

‘Well, in that case. It’s a bad business, this. Didn’t ask, didn’t explain; just took it. Dozens of novices disappointed—they won’t get a chance to try and scratch the sceptre.’

‘And the mages let him take it?’

‘Well, it’s a very complicated situation.’ Entoruis leaned closer. ‘Nobody’s happy about it, but as to whether anything can be done? The timing, you understand, must be right. Nothing precipitous; nothing premature. All diplomatic options must be explored.’

Hemalis nodded, a slight smile playing about one corner of his mouth. ‘Of course. But enough about politics; let’s talk art.’

‘The only conversation worth having!’

‘You’re still the resident expert on Calumis, I’m sure?’

Entoruis blinked. ‘Are you sure we’re changing the subject?’

‘Quite sure. I’m trying to piece together a full account of his travels; I think there might have been a pattern, some method or purpose behind where he travelled and when.’

‘The Loratimis conjecture?’ Entoruis asked, sounding skeptical.

‘Something like that. Humour me? What I need to know is where he started from; so often he departed from his private residence, not from the Colosseum. Where was it that he lived again?’

‘A manor just north of Altyro.’ Entoruis was now frowning.

‘And does the sage still live there?’

‘No; when he retired, he moved elsewhere.’

Hemalis shuffled his chair closer. ‘Would you happen to know where?’

The mage leaned back, his eyes half-closed. ‘Of course I do, but I can’t go telling that. The sage is old, and unwell; he can’t be having every novice and adept beating a path through his garden to sit at his feet in adoration.’

‘Oh, certainly, master—I wouldn’t dream of such a thing! But, you know… if his new residence fits my theory…’

Entoruis sighed, and scribbled something on a piece of paper. ‘I trust you will use this with care,’ he said. ‘You understand me? Matters are… sensitive at present. Volatile. There are rumours about, for example, of some people sneaking into the palace last night—some locals and a Dorastin woman.’ He glanced towards the others; Annice pulled further back into her hood and checked to make sure her hair was not peeking out.

‘Damn near got caught, too. That,’ Entoruis continued, ‘would be an example of someone not taking care. I trust that you will show more prudence in your endeavours, Hemalis.’

The adept bowed deeply to the mage, and took the paper. ‘Of course, master.’

Entoruis’s jovial smile reasserted itself. ‘Come back and see me once you’ve finished wasting your time with the Loratimis conjecture. We’ll be lodging a stern complaint with Turdualangulia; I’m sure you’ll want to have your say in that.’

Hemalis smiled, bowed again, and followed the others from the room.

‘Calumis was a compulsive note-taker,’ Hemalis was saying as they walked through the little village. Tierna, driving the carriage, had left them about a mile down the road and returned to Lero; such vehicles were far too conspicuous in such a setting. ‘His notes, once he’d written them up properly and set them in order, make up half the Colosseum’s library. Every journey he made, every experiment he performed, he took notes constantly.

‘Every journey, that is, but one. Nearly the last he took with Turdualangulia as his aide. Supposed to have been his greatest—and that’s saying something. This is the man who travelled across Kolor when it was still beset with monsters. The man who sailed the length of the Wirrining River—twice! The greatest mind of the age. A magician without peer. And after his supposedly greatest journey? Over a year of his life spent abroad? Not a note, not a scrap. Certainly not another volume to add to the library.’

They were nearing the last house of the row. A border of short stakes divided the dusty road from the neat, flowering garden, hedged with green bushes. And there in the garden knelt an old man, digging out weeds.

‘It’s him,’ said Hemalis, reverently. ‘Looks just like his portrait in Entoruis’s room.’ He took a couple of steps up the path and cleared his throat.

‘Pardon me, sir, but are you the sage Calumis?’

The man looked up, a benign smile on his face. ‘I don’t know; am I?’

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Re: Peregrine’s Random Story

Post by Lady Moreta »

Oooh, is he being deliberately vague and obtuse, or does he have serious memory problems?! :D

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Chapter 6: Stopping to Ask for Directions

Post by Peregrine »

Perhaps it was all a charade. Perhaps this charming old man, puttering around his kitchen, pouring them all a cup of weak tea, was only feigning senility. He was, after all, the greatest sage of his time. Pretending to have lost his marbles could be his way of enjoying a quiet, pleasant retirement.

But if so, it was a very good act. His eyes seemed to be constantly looking far away; his smile was warm, sincere, and vague. He seemed unable to attend to any more than a short sentence before losing interest.

Hemalis was getting frustrated. ‘Do you remember the Colosseum?’ he asked.

‘No,’ said Calumis with a smile. ‘Should I?’

‘Yes, you should!’ Hemalis snapped.

‘Oh.’ The old man looked thoughtful, for a brief moment. ‘Well, I don’t.’ His gaze wandered as he sipped at his tea.

His gaze settled on Annice. ‘You’re very pretty,’ he said. And that, more than anything else, convinced her that this was no act.

Annice had seen the lascivious glances of many men in her time. She knew what it was like to have a man look at her with admiration and desire. Calumis’s look was nothing like that. Nor was it the paternal look of an old man, recalling younger and more virile days with either fondness or bitterness. He saw her as a child sees a pretty thing, a butterfly or a flower; without any need to possess or control, with only fleeting joy in the thing itself.

‘The mage was right,’ she sighed. ‘He is old and unwell.’

Hemalis buried his face in his hands and muttered something that sounded obscene.

Riodo stood. ‘There’s no point wasting more time. We’re going to Altyro to find that manor house.’

‘Are we?’ asked Calumis.

‘No, dear sir,’ said Eramo gently, refilling the old man’s cup of tea. ‘We are going. You are staying here and continuing your gardening.’

‘Oh.’ Calumis looked at his refilled cup. ‘No I’m not.’

‘Yes, you are.’

No, as it turned out, he was not. When they left the house, he simply picked up a tall walking stick and followed them. They tried to outdistance him; he showed that his aged legs still had the strength that had carried him on countless journeys to the far corners of the earth.

They soon became accustomed to his presence. He was good company, in spite of—or perhaps because of—being as serious as a summer shower and half as consistent. His heedless smile was infectious, and he also knew how to find ripe berries and seeds that were good to eat, bringing variety to the dried fare the travellers had brought.

Eramo asked if he could show him how to look for them. ‘No,’ was the simple reply.

‘Well, where do you find them?’

Calumis stopped, paused, and poked his walking stick into a shrub. ‘Right there.’

Sure enough, there was a bunch of berries hidden by the leaves, but Eramo was not particularly enlightened.

‘What exactly are we looking for in this Oltara place?’ Annice was asking Hemalis.

‘It’s Altyro—I’m not sure, to be honest. A book, probably; or a scroll, or a collection of scraps. He must have written down something about that last journey, even if he never published it. Anything at all that we can find could give us a clue about what Turdualangulia is up to.’

The feigned certainty in his voice was not comforting.

Though farmsteads and villages littered the countryside, it was such a pleasant summer’s night that the company was content to sleep out of doors. Exhausted from the walk, Hemalis quickly fell asleep near the fire that Riodo was tending. Eramo and Annice sat on either side of Calumis and engaged him in conversation about whatever came to his wandering mind.

At length, the old man announced that he was going to sleep, and promptly did so. Eramo and his ward came and sat by the fire.

‘His mind is quite gone,’ said Eramo, sadly.

‘He’s a dear old man,’ replied Annice.

‘Oh, indeed he is—but quite gone nonetheless. Talking with him is like chasing a sparrow through the trees.’

‘You think we’re wasting our time?’ asked Riodo.

Eramo was slow in replying. ‘I think Hemalis is guided by wishful thinking, but that does not mean he is wrong. Seeking some direction in the sage’s notes is as good a notion as any I can think of. “When swords fail, words may avail,” a teacher of mine often quipped.’

Riodo prodded the fire. ‘I hope you’re right.’

An early start and a brisk pace brought them to Altyro by early afternoon. Some discreet enquiries soon directed them to the manor where Calumis had formerly dwelt; it seemed that the sage’s reputation had lent the place an air of mystery once it was abandoned, which was gradually compounded in the retelling. Now no-one went there, except adolescent boys desperate to prove their fearlessness.

The iron gates to the grounds were chained shut, but Riodo set to work prying them open rather than asking Annice or Calumis to clamber over the high stone walls. At last, the rusty chain links parted and the gate swung open noisily.

‘Where are we?’ asked the old sage as they passed through.

‘This is your house, dear sir,’ Eramo answered, ‘where you used to live.’

‘Oh.’ Calumis’s brow crinkled in thought for a few moments. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked suddenly, drawing himself up. ‘This is my house. Go away!’

Annice smothered a smile. ‘Dear Calumis, aren’t we your friends? We just want to look around.’

‘Oh,’ he said again. ‘Why?’

‘We’re looking for something,’ Hemalis said—the first time he had spoken directly to the sage since first meeting him. ‘A book, maybe—we’re looking for a very important book.’


‘Because it’s important!’ Hemalis sputtered. ‘It’s an important book!’

Annice frowned at Hemalis and stepped between him and Calumis, turning her brightest smile on the old man. ‘May we come in?’

‘Yes. Yes, if you’re my friends, you’re welcome. Come along, dear girl. I’ll show you my house.’

Annice took his arm, and they led the way down the path. Riodo glanced back once—he thought he had seen movement, beyond the trees that lined the far side of the road.

They came to the portico, a columned construction choked in ivy. Calumis looked back and muttered to himself about needing to tidy up the garden. Then he set his hand to the door handle and turned it. Riodo had kept his crowbar handy, expecting the door, like the gate, to be locked—but it swung open obligingly, creaky but unimpeded, as if remembering its master’s hand.

‘This is my house,’ said Calumis brightly. ‘This is… uh…’ He faltered and looked around the dusty, ill-lit entrance room. ‘This is a mess,’ he concluded, before peering into the adjoining rooms. ‘This is… also a mess. And here is…’

He trailed off and walked through the doorway, drawn by a tarnished copper kettle that still hung over an ash-filled fireplace. On a table to one side stood several small boxes labelled with the names for various kinds of tea. Calumis opened a couple of them and sniffed. ‘Mouldy,’ he said, his face falling.

Hemalis had wandered off alone; now he called to them from another part of the house. When they found him, he was standing in the middle of a large round room with a domed glass ceiling. Bookshelves lined the walls and formed concentric rings about him, and every shelf was piled high.

Eramo licked his suddenly dry lips. ‘This may take some time,’ he said.

They made a game attempt at a systematic search of the room, bringing any book that seemed a possible candidate to Hemalis. But there were too many books with scrawled notes—too many books in unfamiliar languages—too many books with scrawled notes in unfamiliar languages. Hemalis could not keep up with the flood, and even he could not read many of those brought to him. Meanwhile, Calumis circled the room, gazing in wonder at the rows upon rows of books, brushing fingertips across them, here and there pulling one down and flicking through its pages. Annice wondered if this room were stirring some memory in the old sage.

Time passed, and evening drew near. Then a loud creak from elsewhere in the house halted them in their search. Even Calumis was stirred from his reverie. Everyone ducked behind shelves, Annice pulling Calumis with her, and all eyes watched the door.

They passed a tense minute in silence, and no sound came to them but the wind picking up outside. And then a man appeared in the doorway. His clothes were common villagers’ garb, unremarkable, mud-spattered and patched at the knees; but he wore a scabbard on his belt and held the sword in his hand like a man who knew how to use it. His eyes took in the whole of the room, and lingered on the books stacked in the centre. He saw the thick dust that lay on much of the room, how it had been disturbed all about these stacks, and how much of it now drifted down lazily, caught in sunbeams that fell from the glass dome overhead.

He leaned back and gestured to some unseen person in the hallway, then slowly advanced into the library.

Riodo stepped out behind him on silent feet, his crowbar raised high. The intruder’s eyes darted about from shelf to shelf—and he caught a glimpse of Riodo just before his blow fell. The stranger ducked and took the crowbar on his shoulder instead of his skull. Even so, the muscular young man’s blow knocked him from his feet and made him cry out.

But three more men shouted from the doorway and ran at Riodo. Two carried swords; one held a lantern and a dagger. Riodo retreated, kicking the fallen man in the chest and putting him between himself and the onrushing attackers.

The three men shoved past their comrade and spread out to keep Riodo from losing them among the bookshelves. Eramo leapt from hiding, gave the first man a two-handed blow to the back of the head, then took up his sword and gave a yell.

The attackers turned back and hesitated when they saw him. In their moment of indecision, Riodo pushed over a bookshelf, showering one of the men with heavy books. Hemalis and Annice caught on, and together they pushed over another bookshelf on the other side. One of the men was knocked to the floor.

The man with the lantern. It fell from his hand, hard, and smashed. The flame licked at a corner of paper and quickly caught.

Alarmed shouts of ‘Fire! Run!’ came from both the intruders and the companions. Hemalis tried to get to the fire—‘I can put it out!’ he insisted—but Eramo herded him towards the door.

‘They’re trying to kill us, you fool!’

‘But the books…’ He gave one agonised look back, while Annice pushed past him leading Calumis by the hand. Then even he had to admit defeat; the fire was spreading too fast for his poor magic to stop. He turned and fled, with Riodo at his heels.

The other men were not far behind, but one supported the man hit by the bookshelf, and the other dragged the near-unconscious man who had first entered the library. They could not keep up.

Annice and Calumis reached the front door first. ‘Are we leaving now?’ the sage asked.

The fire advanced quickly into other parts of the house. Riodo led the others away from the main gate, for fear that more attackers would be waiting in ambush. Instead, they went over the high stone walls. Annice declined any help from Hemalis and Riodo, instead climbing easily up the thick ropes of ivy. Calumis mourned the loss of his walking stick, but then promptly seemed to forget it. Instead he mumbled softly about the overgrown state of the ivy, even as Hemalis and Riodo were helping him over the wall.

‘I must tidy this garden. Well, I will if I ever come back here. I might not. My house is burning down. I might need another one.’

Beyond the wall was a stretch of cleared ground, then a line of trees separating the estate from a neighbouring pasture. The five kept to the trees as much as possible, for with the setting sun on one side and the light of the blazing house on the other, they would be cast into stark silhouette to an observer in any direction.

Half a mile away, they stopped. Hemalis sank to the ground like a man in shock.

‘Were those Turdualangulia’s men?’ Annice asked.

Riodo nodded. ‘Eustihurina’s secret watch, I think.’ He looked at Hemalis. ‘I can’t think of how they found us here, unless your friend Entoruis told them about us.’

Hemalis looked up. ‘No! Entoruis? He’d never… he isn’t working for… no…’ There was no conviction in his voice, and his protestations trailed off.

Eramo sighed and leaned against a tree. ‘We have been followed from Lero, or else they came here directly and perhaps waited for us. We will continue to be hunted, and we have not found these notes, or this book, or whatever.’

‘I have the book,’ Calumis said unexpectedly. He pulled a small, though thick book from a pocket, and handed it to Eramo.

‘“A Mage’s Tome of Important Magic”,’ he read from the cover, before passing it to Hemalis’s suddenly eager hands.

‘It’s the important book,’ said Calumis, leaning over and pointing to the word ‘Important’ in the title.

The adept flicked the pages open and browsed, pacing back and forth and tilting the book to catch the last rays of the setting sun. His excitement visibly drained from his face as he flicked from page to page.

‘It’s… it’s…’ He gave an inarticulate cry of frustration. ‘Look at this! “A spell to rebuke earthworms”. “Cursed transfiguration of the butter elemental”. What does— what does that even mean?! What by Air and Stone is a “butter elemental”?’

‘Maybe,’ began Annice uncertainly, ‘maybe it’s a—’

‘It’s useless!’ shouted Hemalis, flinging the book aside and stomping away.

Calumis picked up the book, dusted it off, and smiled. ‘It’s important,’ he said again.

Lady Moreta
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Re: Peregrine’s Random Story

Post by Lady Moreta »

You know who Calumis reminds me of? Otto :D

Seeress made me do it...
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Chapter 7: The Tyrant’s Scheme Revealed

Post by Peregrine »

They made a cold and cheerless camp in a steep-sided gully that night, and rose at dawn to make new plans. The general intention was to return to Lero, if they might do so without being caught.

In the event, the planning was almost entirely conducted between Riodo and Eramo. Annice was not at all familiar with the countryside; Calumis was idly tying knots in strands of grass; and Hemalis, in spite of his dismissal of it as useless, was flipping through the ‘Mage’s Tome’ and muttering to himself.

‘Is it significant that these men attacked us at the manor?’ Eramo was asking.

Riodo rubbed his chin. ‘You mean, were they trying to keep us away from something?’ He thought for a few moments. ‘It’s possible, I suppose. But it’s just as likely that it was the first good opportunity they had. Nobody was around to witness it, and we were in one place for a while.’

‘True enough,’ said Eramo. ‘In any case, they seem to have escaped, so we must assume that—Eustihurina?’ Riodo nodded to confirm the name was correct. ‘Eustihurina will know that we live. It is likely that we will be connected to the altercation at the palace.’ He glanced at Annice, who only sighed.

Riodo tilted his head towards Calumis. ‘She’s not the only one who could be recognisable.’

‘Do you think we should separate?’

‘I…’ His shoulders slumped, and suddenly Riodo looked very young. ‘I don’t know where we could go, except Lero. All our contacts and safe places are there.’

A long moment stretched out silently. Then, unexpectedly, Annice spoke. ‘You have provincial lordships, correct? How much control does Lord Turd have outside of the city?’

‘I’m not sure,’ Riodo said. ‘It’s funny that you should ask, though. There have been rumours among us, that our little gathering of loyal Suoreans was established by one of the provincial lords, someone who resented Turd’s power. If that’s true, I have no idea who it could be. If we have a noble patron, he keeps himself concealed.’

‘Or herself,’ said Annice with a smirk.

Riodo smiled back, but wanly. ‘I was actually thinking, when we investigated the palace, that Turd’s secret travels might have something to do with the provincial lords. Perhaps they’re trying to organise against him.’

‘That wouldn’t be surprising, would it? How much power do they have?’

‘The money and the military have always been concentrated in Lero,’ Eramo said. ‘Soldiering is a career here—our lords do not each call upon their people to fight when they so wish, not like Doraste.’ He looked to Riodo. ‘Unless that, too, has changed since I left? No? Well then, even if the provincial lords were inclined to defy Lord Turd, or to aid us, they could not do so openly. He has all the power.’

‘All the military power,’ Hemalis interjected. ‘The Colosseum isn’t under his thumb.’

‘But what if it was Entoruis who told them where we were going?’ Riodo asked.

Hemalis grimaced, still seeming unwilling to accept the notion; but after a moment more, he shrugged. ‘If he did, it’s for his own reasons—political reasons. The Colosseum as a whole would never declare for Turdualangulia… nor against him.’ He turned his attention back to the book in his hands.

Once again, Annice was the first to speak into the silence that followed. ‘Why are you so intent on that book now?’ she asked Hemalis.

He turned the thick little volume over in his hands, showing them the pages. ‘The book itself is nonsense, but I wonder about these notes in the margins. I didn’t recognise the writing at first, but then I realised they’re just simplified Elakian hieroglyphs, written with a pen rather than…’ He paused, seeing the blank looks on the others’ faces. ‘Anyway, the strange thing is, the language definitely isn’t Elakian. I don’t know what it is.’

Eramo went and sat next to Hemalis and looked at the writing. ‘I speak several languages, though I cannot read this. What does it say?’

Hemalis ran a finger under the glyphs as he read them out. ‘Ta-ne, du-a-la-ne, ha, ru-mi-ot…’

Eramo mouthed the words a few times, then shook his head. ‘I do not know the language. Tane dualane ha rumiot—I wonder what it means?’

‘“Dualanis has gone to the village,”’ Calumis answered.

A surprised silence fell over the camp.

Eramo grabbed at Hemalis’s arm. ‘Keep reading!’ he whispered.

Tane dualane ha rumiot,’ Hemalis repeated, ‘se-epa lai se muahe ket.’

‘“Dualanis has gone to the farming village to bargain for food,”’ Calumis translated.

Annice ran over to the old sage and threw her arms around him. ‘You remember!’

‘Remember what?’ he said, fondly patting her hair.

Eramo shook his head, gestured to her, and led her away a short space. ‘I do not think he does remember,’ he said softly. ‘He speaks Suorean—why should he not remember other languages he has known? But that does not mean he recalls writing these words, if indeed they were his writing to begin with.’

Annice looked back at Calumis sadly. ‘I thought maybe his memory was coming back. I—’

She was interrupted by a sudden cry from Hemalis. The adept was waving the book and slapping the pages, suddenly seeming too excited to speak coherently.

‘“Dualanis”!’ he choked out after a moment. ‘Turdualangulia!’

Annice looked confused, but Riodo and Eramo suddenly looked almost as excited as Hemalis. ‘You think that…?’ Riodo said.

‘It has to be!’

‘What?’ Annice asked, crossing her arms irritably.

‘His mage name,’ Eramo explained. ‘When he was Calumis’s aide, Turdualangulia may have had a mage name as a courtesy. “Turdualangulia” is a noble name—he would not have been known by it at the time.’

She slowly nodded. ‘Calumis, Hemalis, Dualanis… Entoruis… Turdualangulia, Eustihurina… So “-is” is for a mage name, and “-a” for a noble name?’

Eramo nodded. Annice glanced at Riodo and back at Eramo. ‘And then “-o” is, well, just a normal name?’ Eramo nodded again.

‘I was named Jemalo when I was younger,’ added Hemalis.

‘Wait,’ Annice objected. ‘What about Tierna?’

‘That is a woman’s name,’ Eramo replied. ‘A woman’s noble name would end in “-er”.’

‘Well, that settles it,’ she replied. ‘You Suoreans have the strangest naming customs in the known world.’

At Hemalis’s insistence, they remained encamped in the gully for the remainder of the morning. Riodo was ill at ease, and urged a departure as soon as possible, but the adept (supported by Eramo) argued that they now had a chance of gleaning the information they sought, and hence a better guide as to where they should go next.

Aided by Calumis’s seemingly boundless patience for translation, Hemalis puzzled out the system of cross-references that gave chronological order to the margin notes. When noon passed and Riodo insisted again that they move on, Hemalis confidently asserted that this was, in fact, a collection of the sage’s notes from his mysterious, so-called greatest journey.

‘He hardly even left Suorea! He spent the whole year travelling in secret, north to south and back again, over and over; taking careful measurements of what he calls “undulations”, trying to pinpoint the location of some powerful magical force.’

‘And what is that?’ Riodo asked.

‘I haven’t gotten to that yet,’ Hemalis answered, not in the least embarrassed. ‘But I know where. It’s east, somewhere in the mountains of Chellipan.’

Eramo and Riodo looked at each other. ‘The near end of the mountains is a few days’ march by the riverside highway,’ the older man said. ‘A week, or ten days, avoiding the roads.’

‘The land is fairly wild that way,’ Riodo said. ‘We’re more sure of losing any pursuit out there.’ He nodded to Hemalis. ‘We’ll start that way,’ he decided. ‘But the sooner you can tell me what we’re heading towards, and whether it’s what Turdualangulia is really after, the better.’

Calumis seemed pleased by their cross-country path and stayed at the head of the company, forcing Hemalis to keep pace as he read passages for the sage to translate. Riodo could thus hear all that was said, but he could understand little of its significance. He noticed, however, that Hemalis’s face became more grave as the day passed.

When they halted in the late afternoon by a clear, swift-flowing stream, the adept shared with them what he had discovered. ‘There’s a cave in the mountains, delved in a seam of a strange mineral. In it there is a phenomenon that the sage called “ha peruske utonafura”.’

‘Which means?’ Eramo asked.

‘The explosive cascade,’ Calumis answered.

‘Even so,’ Hemalis said, nodding. ‘It is… it seems to be a place where pure magic flows like water. It is destructive to anything it touches—hence the name; every grain of sand or speck of dust that enters that flow is obliterated—anything, that is, except the strange matter of which the cave is formed.

‘Calumis discerned its location and visited it, just the once. He went alone, without Dualanis—Turdualangulia, that is. His last note is merely this: “I have seen it.” I believe he determined that it was too dangerous to make known.’

‘And Lord Turd is trying to find it,’ Annice concluded.

‘Has he some way of harnessing such power?’ Eramo asked.

Hemalis was slow in replying. ‘I think he might. The sceptre, from the hand of the statue of Air… I think it might be formed of the same matter as the cave. With it he might be able to— I don’t know, but perhaps he could carry off some of the power from the cave. If he could then turn it loose, it might destroy anything or anyone that stood before him.’

A solemn silence followed. ‘Can you find the cave?’ Annice asked.

‘I believe so. The measurements are all recorded—’ Hemalis gestured with the ‘Mage’s Tome’ ‘—and landmarks are identified. With a little luck, and perhaps an instrument or two borrowed from some country mage or astrologer, I think I can get us to within a mile of the place.’

‘But what then?’ asked Eramo. Riodo nodded in vigorous agreement.

‘I don’t know,’ Annice answered. ‘But the thing is to find this before Turd does. Then we figure out some way to keep him from using it, or—or we push him into the Explosive Cascade, or we use it ourselves and blast Turd back up the arse he fell out of!’

They laughed at this, even Hemalis. After washing and drinking at the stream, they set off again. Riodo now walked beside Annice.

‘I hope you’re right,’ he said softly.

‘So do I,’ she replied.

‘Are you really a noblewoman?’ he asked after a pause.

She lifted her chin and did not look directly at him, though she seemed amused rather than offended. ‘And why do you ask?’

‘Well, I haven’t known very many nobles, and none of them on good terms. Nor have I known any Dorastins. But frankly, you don’t act like a noble, and you certainly don’t talk like one.’

Annice made a soft hmph. ‘If I don’t speak your language as well as I ought, I can hardly be blamed for that,’ she said, glancing over at Eramo.

Riodo looked at him too. ‘Well, Eramo? Is she really a noblewoman?’

Eramo laughed. ‘I should not dare to interfere!’ he answered. ‘You must take the lady at her word, or not.’

Annice smiled at him, then turned back to Riodo and began to speak in the Dorastin tongue. Calumis, apparently in the habit now, translated as she spoke, which it seemed was she had hoped would happen.

‘Boy, you speak with little knowledge and less wit. Truly I tell you, I am Annice Parmine, true-born daughter of the Baron Parmin, the King’s trusted servant and the commander of his armies, sprung of the line of lords who from time immemorial have ruled over the small cat’s province.’

This last caught everyone by surprise—including Annice, who stopped walking and flushed bright red. Riodo and Hemalis burst into laughter; Eramo looked away with one hand pressed to his mouth. Even Calumis laughed, though seemingly only because everyone else was doing so.

‘“Small cat’s province”?’ Riodo gasped between laughs.

‘He wasn’t supposed to translate that!’ she protested. ‘It’s a name, “Lessina”… yes, it’s named for the lessu wildcats that live there—they’re very dangerous...’

‘Now I know you’re making it up!’ Riodo was almost doubled over now. ‘Oh, you almost had me believing it.’

‘It’s true!’ she wailed.

Lady Moreta
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Re: Peregrine’s Random Story

Post by Lady Moreta »

Love it :D

I love how you've managed to take the ridiculous things the generators spat out at you and actually turn them into real, decent story elements. I think the reason I never got very far in my challenge story is because I couldn't come up with a way to make it a serious story with all these ridiculous names to insert in somewhere. I take my hat off to you, sir! (or I would, if I was wearing a hat.)

Seeress made me do it...
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