South East Tolaria

The Magepact
In which it is harder to ratify a treaty than to live a perfect life

For decades, the magical orders of the South East Tolarian City States sought primacy in mystical and mundane might. The country side was often laid waste by armies and battlemages. Cities were regularly besieged, conquered, and often burned, but it was the razing of Harcourt that prompted wizards to look for a way out.

If a pact of nonaggression between one, or even two of the major factions, and the majority of the minor factions could be put in place, then the members of the pact would have the breathing room and freedom to turn their attention to bringing any refusniks to heel.

It took years to build trust between the parties, to negotiate particulars, and to get buy-in from the Order of Crimson, the fire mages of Kokkinopilis, and from Durmstrang, the aloof but powerful sect from the south.

South East Tolarian State College was to be the host of the final convocation to ratify the pact. And, although they did their best, forces were at work which seemed determined to prevent ratification.

It began when Durmstrang arrived, riding their opulent palanquins perched on the back of massive pachyderms. If they were trying to impress the common folk of the Univercity, they succeeded. If they were hoping to intimidate their rivals, the Crimson Order, they failed.

Shortly after, as night fell over the college, the offices of the Panglossian Professor of Applied Chronomancy were burgled. With perfect timing, Professor Balashi interrupted the thief, prompting a campus wide outcry and search.

That night, in the city center, a riot broke out between some students of the college, some of the townsfolk, and several members of the Order of Crimson. It was never conclusively proved who threw the first punch, or who instigated the riot, but the watch had to be called, and a tavern was burned to the ground.

The next day, the convocation was again interrupted by a second burglary of the Panglossian Professor’s office. Another search was called, and Hanuk the Archmage reluctantly was forced to delay the meetings for a day. The evening, an attempt was made on the life of the Panglossian Professor, and when the assassin was captured, it was revealed that she was in the employ of Durmstrang.

Despite Lord Kalos of Durmstrang’s protestations, a deep suspicion was cast over the entire faction.

And when the elephants came stampeding across the College and out through the city, it was too much. Accusations flew left and right, from Durmstrang, of sabotage, from the College of, subversion of the treaty, from the Order of Crimson of, it was never clear. To the dark delight of some and the satisfaction of others, the Archmage Hanuk expelled Durmstrang from the city and the convocation broke up amidst acrimony and contempt.

It would be some time before the Magepact would finally come to fruition.

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The Sign of Good Repute
In which theft, skulduggery, and murder most foul must be avoided or embraced

The House of Good Repute was an ancient manor that had in recent years been converted into an Inn of some renown. With no nearby villages, and no other inns in the area, Madam Olean was able to become, if not wealthy, than comfortable serving the needs of travelers along the High Road through southeast Tolaria. The extra services provided by the almost exclusively female staff were not hidden but positively advertised, at least if you read the right walls.

Almost a village in itself, the House of Good Repute had extensive stables, a small farm, with gardens and an orchard, a meat cooler, a brewery and wine cellar. The staff, led by the sullen Marek, the brewer and barkeep, lived on premise, and passed their days in tending the manor, and its guests.

The day after the summer solstice, custom was light at the House. Most travelers were in the area were heading to the Festival of the Great Crosse, but a few stragglers were in that day – and a few who had already been to the fair.

The rake Malcom had decided to take a vacation from his duties at the Order of the Wise. Sure, there was some talk that the order needed to deal with some prophesied child being born, but it was much more pleasant to drink and whore for a few days at the House of Good Repute.

It would have been more pleasant if an oafish merchant hadn’t barged into the bar, shouting about terrible events at the fair, moaning about the prices, and generally being talkative and boisterously loud.

Basha the Merchant was put out. Events at the festival had forced him to withdraw before the end, losing two or three days to sell his wares. On the road his caravan of 3 carts had been attacked by a wild dog, and although his guardsman had run it through with a spear, the beast had not died before fleeing into the underbrush, taking the spear with it. After 10 minutes of ineffectual poking, they had not recovered the spear and he peevishly ordered the caravan to move on. And now the strong room was not available. Better to set a guard on the wagon than to invite curious eyes to peep at what he might transfer to his very pleasant but hard to secure room.

Still, Madam Olean was generous with the apologies and the food and the beer, and all would have been well if some local nabob hadn’t come running into the inn bleating about his dog which he had just found dead. Too much to hope it was just a coincidence, best to avoid him if at all possible. Maybe lay on the charm, and ask the barman to present Lady Aggra with a small drink by way of sympathy. And it paid off. Lord Bark went to bed early, but Aggra stayed for a time, making small talk with Basha, repaying his small kindness with her own intoxicating company. By the time she left him, the bar was virtually empty, and Madam Olean and Marek had to help Basha to his room.

The rake Malcom had succeed in wheedling his way into the arms of Tamra, and convinced her to throw him a freebie, “in the woods” he said. Although she protested somewhat, she soon gave in to his blandishments. After their frolic, they made their separate ways back to the manor house. Malcom noticed, but didn’t think anything of the lights on the stable, as he was focused on another drink. Raking is thirsty work!

The bar seemed closed, however. Certainly it was empty. Declining to help himself to any of bottles, Malcom climbed the stair to his room. His empty room, devoid of alcohol and women. So much for hospitality.

Some hours into the night, the house of awakened by cries and clamor from Basha’s room! Horrible screams seemed to fill the air as the mistress of the house banged desperately to be admitted. When the door was opened, Basha half fell out, babbling like lunatic about eyes in the night, and being attacked, and stabbing something with his knife, which he brandished about to demonstrate. Madam Olean calmed him, and Marek searched the room, but nothing could be found to suggest that anyone besides Basha had ever been there, nothing except the mysterious ichor on the knife itself. Beside himself, Basha redoubled his efforts to tell the world he had been attacked. Madam Olean ran to her room to fetch some medicine which might calm the troubled soul.

As the medicine reached his lips, Basha started violently. “Too much!” he shouted, “A nightcap should be one fingers full. I’ll show you!” And with that, he made his way back to the bar, towing Marek and Malcom with him.

In the cavernous bar, dimly lit, three men drank as if there would be no tomorrow. Basha drank to forget. Malcom drank to be drunk. And Marek drank because he had been invited to do so by Malcom. They were joined by Lady Aggra who had been roused by the earlier shouting. Perhaps a bit drunk herself, Aggra melted into Basha, allowing him to be close to her, and even put his hand upon her knee. It all seemed too much for the drunken merchant, and with crash, he fell to the ground, stunned. Shocked by this turn of events, Aggra checked him to see if he still lived, and when it was discovered that he did, left quickly, apparently overcome herself. Malcom and Marek wrestled the unconscious merchant up the stairs and to his bed, before retiring themselves, perhaps to sleep in the short time before dawn.

The morning came quickly for some. For others, it was not to come at all. Madam Olean was discovered in her bed, stabbed to death. The unfortunate young woman who found her fled screaming from the scene, rousing the household, except for the merchant Basha, who slept drunk to the world until nearly noon.

By the time Basha was roused, Lord Bark had begun questioning the staff and guests, and had forbidden anyone from leaving the House of Good Repute. As the day progressed, it was revealed that things were awry in the manor, or at least missing. Or maybe only missing for Basha. Gone was his silver knife which he had so proudly used to fend off his late night attacker. Gone was the bolt of silk from his supplies. Gone was the box of jewels from his wagon. Gone, too, was one of the spears he carried in the third wagon. And where were his guards during the night? Gone as well.

Lord Bark took no interest in any of this, except to sniff suspiciously at the 3 spears. He had a murderer to catch, and a fat merchant’s petty troubles over silk and jewels mattered little to him. Irate, Basha decided to conduct his own investigation.

While his guards searched where they could for his trade goods, Basha sought to discover where his knife was. Marek didn’t know at all. “Have you checked under the bed?” he suggested. Malcom remembered the knife was on Basha’s waist when they went down to the bar after the midnight scare, and that it was not there when they dragged Basha to bed after his drunken fall. And Lady Aggra?

Lady Aggra was abed, still. The previous day had been too much for her delicate constitution, and the murder on top of everything else? Well. What can you do? When Lord Bark admitted Basha to their chambers, he was less than pleased by Basha’s attempts to find a knife. “We’re looking for a murderer” he growled. “Someone with a knife!” “What about my things?” inquired Basha, earnestly. “I don’t care about your precious things” snapped Bark. “Its not important. Is that all?”

“I wanted to ask your wife about my knife” said Basha. “Whether she remembers seeing it in the bar last night.”

Lord Bark exploded. His wife cavorting with merchants and rakes and barmen in the middle of the night? It didn’t bear thinking about. So he didn’t, striding angrily out of the room, and slamming the door.

Lady Aggra thought she remembered seeing a knife on the floor of the bar last night, but couldn’t remember much beyond that. It was there when Basha fell to the floor, she was pretty certain. But thank you for stopping by. It was very sweet and thoughtful.

Basha left, no closer to recovering any of his property.

The next morning, Lord Bark announced he had found the killer. He was arresting the maid Tamra for the murder. She had been seen out the night in question, wandering the grounds. And whats more, a bloody knife was discovered in her locker. Too much blood, thought Basha examining the locker in a last ditch attempt to locate his trade goods. But the knife wasn’t his, and Bark had released everyone to leave the inn at last. If he hurried, he might make a loss on the whole trip.

The rake Malcom wasn’t pleased with the solution either. He had been with Tamra that night, but his attempt to alibi her only cast suspicion on himself as a conspirator. Under semi arrest, he watched as Basha’s merchant caravan moved down the drive to the High Road, and with some interest as two new guests arrive – a scholarly looking gentleman and a woman carrying on her back a baby…

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What Child Is This?

Dawn was breaking as Jason, Lily, and Mac (Child of Destiny) rode to the gates of Mollywhill. They became alarmed when it was revealed that the guards were seizing infants, and even small children at the gates, marching them away to a holding area nearby.

Thinking quickly, Jason wrapped Mac tightly in a blanket and then slung him onto the saddle to look like a bag of potatoes. The subterfuge worked, because after a cursory glance, they were waved through. Making their way through the early morning traffic to the place Lily called home, they never realized that Malcolm was on their trail, following them every step of the way.

Letting herself into her basement apartment, Lily immediately set about to create a magic circle in which to contain Mac. Jason began skimming through her small but impressive library for any information which could provide answers about what to do with Mac.

Their activities attracted the attention of Simit, the owner of the house. He had been drinking all morning and was in need to company and sympathy. A one-time courtier of the Prince of Mollywhill, he had been temporarily banished after some ill-timed remarks concerning the Prince’s grandmother. Deprived of his usual targets in the court, he sat and chatted with the fugitives, and chucked the Child of Destiny under the chin.

Jason, plying Simit with more drink, and Lily, plying him with the ghostly presence of Geoff, convinced Simit he needed a lie-down, and he departed, leaving the pair to the task.

Malcolm, meanwhile, had sought out his quarters at the House of the Wise, taking the opportunity to wash off the dust of the road, and change into some fresh clothes. He then reported to the Prince and the head of his order, the prophet Aya.

After debriefing him on what he had seen over the past few days, it was determined that it would be necessary to take a compliment of soldiers along if the Child of Destiny was to be recovered.

With 30 soldiers, and a small compliment from the Order of the Wise including Malcolm and Aya, it was hard to maintain any element of surprise. Simit, seeing the Prince march his forces down the street and into his garden immediately concluded the Prince intended to punish him further. Dashing to the basement, Simit burst in on Lily and Jason once more, this time demanding to be saved from the vengeful sovereign.

Jason grabbed the baby while Lily determined that the only way out of the house unseen was to go through the sewers which opened into the scullery. One by one, Simit, Lily and Jason dropped into the muck, and Jason pulled the cover over afterwards. Groping through shadow, they set off for the Southern Unitarian College where Jason was a scholar.

The Prince’s forces searched the house from top to bottom, but revealed no one. Realizing the house belonged to Simit, his disgraced courtier, the Prince concluded that Simit intended to seize the Child of Destiny for himself. He took his men and set off for Simit’s country estate, reasoning that Simit might have retreated there.

Aya was drawn to the magic circle found in the basement. She thought that the wizards who had the Child of Destiny might have used it to teleport themselves somewhere. Summoning two other seers from the Order of the Wise, they fashioned a spell which would act as a homing device. This was given to Malcolm to use to search the city, in case their quarry was still in Mollywhill.

The device lead Malcolm to the sewer grate, though the sewers, and to a small courtyard near the main market of Mollywhill. It even led him to the walls of the College, but there it ended.

Abandoning magic, Malcolm went to the gates and asked the porter if he had seen a young woman with a baby come through. The porter hadn’t, but allowed Malcolm to search the grounds. While his charm was no longer working, Malcolm was able to reacquire the trail of squishy footprints leading to building used to house professors.

After sneaking onto campus, Lily and Jason ran into Jacob, one of Jason’s colleagues. He agreed to take them to his own quarters, and helped wash them off. He also searched the library, bringing them several books of prophecy which was helpful in their research.

The most significant prophecy discovered spoke of a child with the heart of a warrior, would be born at a crossroads, and who would conquer the world.

During their intense discussion and research, Lily and Jason overheard a conversation in the hallway. Jacob, it seemed, had come upon someone listening to the door. The man, Malcolm, made out as if he was just a city inspector, but as the argument grew more heated, it became evident that, inspector or not, he intended to enter the room.

Forcing his way past the ineffectual mage, Malcolm instinctively ducked as he entered, neatly missing the candlestick being swung as his head by Jason. Lily let out a startled yell as Malcolm skewered Jason with his knife and proceeded to force his way in.

Geoff and Lily now attacked Malcolm, and although wiry and tough, the ectoplasmic blows raining down on this head proved to be too much. He subsided, and Lily stood triumphant for a second or two before Jason’s gurgles brought her back to reality. Sending Simit dashing into the college in search of a medic, Lily bandaged Jason as best she could, getting him wrapped up neatly. Together, they questioned the man who had hunted them since the inn the night before. It was revealed he was from the Order of the Wise, sent to collect the Child of Destiny so that it could grow and become a great warrior.

Jacob and several other wizards and university staff arrived on scene. They secured Malcolm and lead him away. Jason suggested there might be other intruders on campus, and that the grounds be searched. Jacob agreed, and the other wizards left, after admonishing Jason and Lily to lock the door after them.

At this point, knowing a little about the child, knowing the spirit’s only desire was to go home, and knowing that several groups, including the powerful Order of the Wise, wanted control of Mac, it was decided the best thing to do was extract the souls in an exorcism.

As Lily prepared for the ritual, Jason made his own preparations. He suspected Lily did not intend to free the souls, or to allow them home to rest. It was her goal, he realized, to control the spirits. Not the child, just the ghosts. If he could interrupt her ritual, they might be free forever.

As she was deep in concentration, Jason took one final stab at stopping her. His knife found her back and plunged in. Lily continued the ceremony while Geoff grappled with Jason. Suddenly, there was a huge explosion of light and Jason found himself looking into the eyes of a ghostly warrior, seconds before its sword pierced his body. The ghost army was free, and Lily was in complete command.

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