The Legend of the Angelic Dragoness

Session XXIII: "To the victor, the spoils..."
13th Kuthona: second council meeting, treaty signed with Hawk Clan, Isnur becomes a Vassal

13th Kuthona, “Moonday” of the year 4711
Thickwood Estate, North wing, Roderick’s Cove, noon

It has been a morning of surprises. The battle seemed like order itself compared to the chaos which followed. My troops, if a militia of fishermen and farmers may be called that, were filled with the adrenaline of victory for a few hours, and then began to mill about, unsure of what to do. I had expected casualties on our side, but I had not considered the Orc casualties, nor that Orcs might surrender.

Arietta brought me the calculations soon after sunrise. Of the estimated 5500 troops on the battlefield, 1200 fled, along with a full company of worg-mounted (150) and a dragon. Another 950 remain at our mercy – 400 surrendered, 540 crippled in the battle. Over 3000 Orcs died last night. One of our men perished, an Ulfen warrior. A victory indeed, and yet so much death – it cannot be forgotten.

The Hawk clan retreated to the forests beyond the river, a few representatives remaining to parler. They saw my light, Shelyn’s light, they explained, and took it as a rally to battle. They have long hated the Orcs and the desecration they bring to the Hawk Clan’s holy hunting grounds. They swore allegiance to Roderick’s Cove and to me. Olivius, not wishing to be outdone, swore his allegiance for a third time and hailed me as a hero of legend, the most powerful Paladin he had met. But there will be time for diplomacy later.

For now, I have 940 Orc prisoners of war. We have not the resources to feed them but, as Arietta said, it would be foolish to let them go and re-join the war band. To begin with, all the orcs were stripped of their weapons and armour, and there crippled carried to the old Thornbridge manor, where blankets and fuel have been sent. All the spoils from the battlefield are being taken to the town hall for assessment and evaluation before the official dividing of the spoils. The Ulfen and the Hawk clan will want their share, and I will have everything done fairly. I do not wish to offend our new allies.

But the surprises continued. A few hours later, an enormous orc, perhaps seven feet tall, limped towards the gates of the city from the Thornbridge Manor. I intercepted his approach, and landed before him – he was wearing a hooded toga, and towered above even me. He lowered his hood to reveal grey-white skin and sapphire-blue eyes, deep with a wisdom I would not have expected from his kind.

I asked what he needed, and he knelt before me, naming himself “Wumanok Sarfu Lugdum”. He begged forgiveness for his actions, and those of his kindred (though he did not claim to have their allegiance or will), and pledged himself to me. I believe he expected retribution, but instead I asked what he wanted, and how I could help him; he taught me a lesson I shall not soon forget, for the dream he shared with me could have been delivered by Shelyn and Torag themselves.

His eyes have seen too much blood and death. He dreams now of creation, of building a city of orcs led, not by greed and destruction, but by honour. He dreams of swords raised for a noble cause, or else melted down into pitch forks; a place where animals are not slaughtered, but tended, and where the earth is not defiled, but cultivated.

Shelyn has sent me an emissary, a link to the Orcs. There was no evil in this man and his dream was as close to mine as made no difference. After all, he dreams of peace and prosperity for his people. He seeks enlightenment. I reached down, took his arm and praised Shelyn’s name; his wounds closed, and I pulled him to his feet.

I bid Wumanok walk with me as I approached the old Thornbridge Estate, where the Orcs were convalescing or imprisoned. We stepped in silence, for Wumanok was weak, and my mind was whirring like a mine-pump, trying to put together the words I had to say. If I said something wrong, if I offended them, then what I was planning could fail. Hells, it may still fail, for all I know – but I cannot not help but try.

The injured were all huddled together, ignored by the able-bodied, who moved amongst themselves and muttered darkly, or so it seemed to me. Wumanok told me they were discussing what they should do next. I asked him to translate what I had to say. Then I spread my wings and my arms, looked up to the heavens, and called upon Shelyn to heal the injured. Her light bathed the manor for a few seconds, and I heard croaks of astonishment as Orcs flexed their newly-healed limbs. The room fell silent, all eyes were upon me – I believe they expected some kind of retribution. And so I spoke:

“My name is Aurora, Duchess of Roderick’s Cove. I have been the vanquisher of necromancers. It was I who slayed Dic’Yien. I have killed ogres, Duargar, and the undead, and I have heard the voice of Shelyn, who is goodness and light, who is beauty and justice. I have acted in her name. But as Shelyn is merciful and just, so shall I endeavour to be. Any here who wish to leave, may do so – should you be foolish enough to face me in battle, then I pity your fate, for my Earthbreaker’s justice is swift and final, and I walk in fire.
But for any who wish to no longer live in fear, for those who love justice and hate oppression, for those who would live honourably within the law, there will be a place for you in Roderick’s Cove. That is my offer to you. Think well. Choose wisely.”

I have written it here, as well as I can remember it, for there was no one but the Orcs and I there. I turned and left before Wumanok had finished translating, for I did not wish for them to feel threatened into their choice. As the old soldier’s voice finished its litany, there were cries, and the sound of pounding upon the walls. Whether this was assent or madness, only time will tell me. A soul may be brought into the light – Ulden showed me that, and those who enact evil may only do so because they have lain too long in the darkness, without a candle to show them the way.

I walked amongst the Ulfen and healed their wounded. The city hall still stands for now, and Dereck is busy coordinating deployments, food resources, and the battlefield spoils. I stopped in with him, to see if anything needed my direct attention. He barraged me with questions about the Militia, the Orcs, the Ulfen and Isnur and geld and a hundred other things. These are questions which will keep for the afternoon. They do not need answering now, I hope, for I have no answers. I told him of my offer to the Orcs and he blanched. Perhaps my council will not agree with me that the Orcs can be redeemed. Arietta and Morden were there too – Morden is to go and scout around the Mine to see what remains of the Orc forces – I offered my aid, but he told me that he preferred a scouting party of one.

The city is in tatters – the barrages of the war-machines have torn holes, but have not defeated our hearts. We will rebuild. For that we will need lumbar and stone, but I cannot think of these things now. I feel like my skin is hot and cold at the same time. So much of Shelyn’s power has been channelled through me that my eyelids itch on the inside, and my bones feel heavy. For now I have returned to the Thickwood Estate, and Naiya has drawn me a boiling hot bath. Later I will attend to the city and its incessant questions. Later, I will be the Duchess again. Later…


Thickwood Estate, North wing, Roderick’s Cove, late evening

It was already evening when I awoke. Naiya had clearly tried and failed to knock, and was cautiously prodding me with a finger in as reverential a manner as was possible under the circumstances. She apologetically told me that my waiting room was becoming full; it was time to make all those decisions I had put off. Fortunately, at least, she brought me a rare steak before I had to face anybody, or I fear I should have lost my temper several times. Such actions rarely reflect well upon me, and tend to end messily.

Downstairs, around my table, waited almost every single person of importance currently in the city: Derek, Morden, Arietta, Zao, Chief of the Hawk Clan, Wumanok, Lady Mesma, Aasimus, Olivius and his sons. Fortunately Naiya had the foresight to provide them with food and drink and they appeared to be enjoying themselves. I sent first for the council to come up to my private chambers; after all, I would need their guidance in dealing with whatever requests the others may bring.

Instead of trying to deal with each member’s proposals or requests in turn, which last time proved so disastrous, I first asked them all to voice what they had come to say or request. This also gave me time to consider each problem, and how they might conflict.

Arietta: explained that the battlefield spoils had been gathered, and 50 militia had been posted up on the wall. Questions have already been raised about how long the militia may yet stand, and if they may be paid.
In terms of spoils, the Ulfen will require them (and, indeed, I already promised them as much), but the Hawk clan do not – they saw the battle as defending their own home. However the Hawk clan have requested a treaty between our peoples.

Morden: returned with the findings of his scouting mission. The Orc camp is severely depleted, and they seem to be packing up and departing. There has also been some significant internal strife and the Orcs appear to be turning upon one another, now their united foe has proved un-vanquishable. Morden counted around 600 Orcs in total. There remains lot of movement in and out of the mine, particularly the worg riders – although 50 have already left towards Belkzen.
There also remains the issue of 250 enslaved people waiting in the camp. The countryside around the mine is mostly plains, which allows for the fast movement of carts necessary for any rescue attempt.

Derek: has informed us that food remains an issue within the city, and within the next 5 days people will start needing food from the granary – our last acquisitions gives us a good edge, but they won’t last forever.
Having said that, however, the end of the battle and the siege means that, if the spoils are distributed through the soldiers, they will start having gold to spend, thus revitalising the economy. Trade will start up again. Receiving geld from the Ulfen, if they are to be a vassal state, will also fill the city’s coffers.
My own personal assets have suffered no blow, and production in the mine and forge is going well so far; for now there is no problem with my commands to focus on mining rather than building weapons, and training new blacksmiths.

Zao: voiced the warning that, although the city seems to be a stable position and the post-battle jollifications will keep morale up for the next few days, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be organising and planning our next steps in terms of finding a guard from the city.


I decided to start with diplomatic matters.

The Ulfen: have sworn allegiance to me three times. After some deliberation (which also required fetching Elyron, and hearing him explain his tedious new tax system) we have decided to offer them a formalisation of this allegiance into vassal status. This will involve the collection of 20% geld (taxation), and they will be protected as a vassal of the Duchy of Melodie. However, we must request that all slaves are to become serfs beneath their previous masters. I have agreed to settle the financial debts myself. I will not have slaves in my kingdom, for what right has one sentient being to lay claim upon another?

Whether or not they accept vassal-status, they will receive spoil-share as equals, a fifth of the total, which is a larger share than they would expect and does honour to their battle prowess. In addition, Morden has recommended that I offer a gift of a unique, magical item to Olivius, to be presented at a banquet in honour of the battle. We may, of course, be eating the plates themselves by that point, but it does not do to dwell on these matters. Shelyn will provide.

The Hawk clan: have requested a treaty with the Duchy of Melodie. We propose that this involves a non-aggression pact, and a favourable trade agreement. In addition, we will offer them free reign on our lands, so long as they remain within the laws of the Duchy. We will also offer them a unique, magical gift to be presented at the aforementioned banquet.

Morden asked permission, which was authorised, to send envoys to every power in the valley with invitations for the banquet, even to nobles in the Duchy of Ravenmiur and in Riddlesport. He raised the point that diplomatic and trade relations will be necessary to the growth and stability of Roderick’s Cove. I trust his judgement.

Wumanok’s proposal came under review next – he would like to place a settlement within the Duchy of Melodie, exclusively of Orcs, under his rulership. He’s expecting around three hundred and twenty warriors to join him, not including their slaves and families. Elyron suggested that we “keep our friends close, but our enemies closer”, as the Varisian saying goes. If they wish to settle the land, he reasoned, why not evacuate the current settlement of the war band, and allow them to settle there. He raises a good point – it is far enough from the city to give ease to the folk of Roderick’s Cove, who may understandably feel nervous that such a settlement has been authorised. The country is good there – plenty of grassland to work and also the mine if they desire it. Once we open it up again, they can work for us, and generate tax for the city.

Next we discussed the militia, and the guards. It seems clear enough that the Militia should be paid for their service in gold, and stood down. It currently stands at 380, an unsupportable number in the long-term, and all those working men may be considered idle. Zao requests a guard complement of 50-100 men. Whilst I would eventually aim for a hundred, I think it foolish to swell the ranks so quickly, without Zao having a chance to properly vet all the entrants. I have instructed him to offer positions to those of the militia who showed promise. Once a guard of 50 has been trained and established, it can be grown at a more gradual rate, with apprenticeships and a training programme. Hopefully, by that point, the city may even have enough gold to pay them.

I suppose I must now broach Elyron’s taxation system, tedious though it is.
There are to be 3 taxes:
- Trade tax (paid at the city gates or at the harbour – imports and exports, to control import and export of goods). This will require officials to enforce.
- Business tax (paid by businesses in the city) based upon average estimated value of generated income per year, starting with the lowest possible and re-evaluating yearly. This will also require officials to enforce.
- Land tax – separated in bands based on the distance from centres of power and based on the units of the land, considered either residential, commercial, agricultural or industrial.

In other districts of the Duchy, for example in Isnur and in Wulfenor’s new village, the taxation system and percentages remain the same, but it is payable to the local lord. A percentage is then passed to the city. Apparently a standard percentage may range from 0%-30%. For now, I have deemed, in consultation with Elyron and Derek, that Melodie will claim 20% geld from our Lords, in addition to our ability to call to arms and request troops in times of need.

Once our internal matters were laid to rest, I invited our guests before the council individually. The audiences went, on the whole, very smoothly. Both the Ulfen and the Hawk Clan accepted, and indeed were honoured by, our proposals. They are small forces, but I am glad to count them amongst our allies. They would be formidable foe. Olivius particularly touched me, for he announced that he considers himself a Melodian – such a sweet name would please Shelyn herself, I hope.

Unsurprisingly, the negotiations with Wumanok were a little more difficult. Morden presented the terms we had constructed. The abolition of slavery seemed a sticking point amongst his people, and Wumanok mentioned that many of his followers would balk at this decision, though he himself declared that he was happy to work with us, as long as the mines are emptied from the current occupiers. He makes no claims upon the current riches of the mines, by which I assume means the dragon’s horde and the supplies left within the mines.

Wumanok was also able to tell us a little about what we may encounter beneath the ground, and the Orc forces we encountered thus far. They were organised, as far as I can tell, by the red dragon himself, but rallied around four Orc-kin leaders. Wumanok’s own leader was Gulda’an, the very ogre who fell beneath my Earthbreaker.

The mine holds dragon disciples, numbering less than two-score, as well as the dragon himself, and some kind of egg. It radiates immense amounts of heat and light, and is larger than a man – by his account I have reason to hope that it may be the missing piece from the Thassilonion tower in the harbour. It must be returned to its rightful place, for it has been described as a sun; such a beacon must light the town.

The mine goes at least three levels deep, all inhabited, and the mine-shafts themselves can be entered from the second floor. Apparently after a certain point, it becomes difficult for Orc-kin to move because the egg emanates such heat and light. I cannot imagine, however, that Morden or I should be too troubled by it.

At last our audiences are over, and the council has bid me farewell. It is late in the evening now, for we had not begun our discussions until after the sun was already set. I was gratified that Morden decided to remain beside me. I had Naiya run him a bath, for he has not yet washed and rested since the battle, and now I have finished my accounts here, I believe I shall join him..


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Session XXII: The Battle of Roderick's Cove
13th Kuthona (morning) The Battle and the Orcs

13th Kuthona, “Moonday” of the year 4711
The Battlements, Roderick’s Cove, dawn

By the grace of Shelyn, we won! We actually won! The city stands, the armies of the Orcs are retreating. I can scarcely believe it. The siege is broken.

I heard shouts on the wall, and ran out of the guard tower to see the vast army approaching. In a few moments the field was full – legions of orcs screamed and hollered, and brass instruments shook the walls from across the plain. There were more than orcs though – siege engines, vast machines of war, creaked into view. Far off down the road, wheeling inexorably closer, was a battling ram, and up by the river a command group of worgs watched and waited. The Eastern gate was surrounded, and the forces were closing in. They numbered more than five thousand; with militia and our Ulfen comrades all-told, we were scarecely four hundred.

I remember only patches of the battle, for a kind of divine madness came over me. I uttered the words Shelyn had taught me, and a lance of light appeared once more in my hand. I stood on the gate tower and held it high into the air to encourage the men on the walls, and a bright beam shot up into the sky. As I held my arms aloft the light seemed to split the night in two, penetrating the darkness with the splendour of Shelyn for a hundred miles around. I heard a scream, and realised a second later that it was my own multiphonic tones, yelling:
“This is Truth! This is Light. This is the Bastion of Shelyn”.
There may have been a cheer from the men, but little could be heard above the noise of Orc battle horns.

The archers were quick on Arietta’s command to fire on the advancing troops. Some fell, but their uncaring brothers merely walked over their remains, unflinching. I remember thinking that, as long as we could keep the ladders from the walls, we might be in with a chance. Then a wheeled tower appeared suddenly in view – it must have been masked by an enchantment of some kind: it would allow the orcs to walk straight onto the battlements. Our plans – the moat, the pikes against siege ladders – did not account for such a device. Were we lost so soon?

The battering ram was still a real threat, but it was slow moving and, as yet, far off. I yelled for the Ulfen and Shield Maidens to defend the wall. They raced up to follow my orders. Perhaps that would be enough, but the casualties would be vast – if even a single Orc slipped through, they could wreak havoc on the town – all the able fighters were on the walls, there was no one left to defend the town. I launched myself into the air, wheeling over the battlefield, searching for an advantage I had not yet seen. So much evil advancing on my new home moved me to tears, and I called out on the might of Shelyn, on her love of beauty and light, to smite these creatures so determined to destroy the stronghold of peace and civilisation.

She heard my call. I felt a power, Her power, swell like a volcano inside me until I could hold it no longer. It burst forth in one movement, a shock wave spreading out around me, and the battle cries beneath my wings turned into screams of terror. There was madness and confusion, as the Orcs turned and thrashed out at one another, breaking ranks in their hurry to flee. All at once I understood – they had been blinded and burnt by Shelyn’s holy fire. As Morden had told me to, I had broken their morale.

The whole Northern wing of the Orc’s attack force had begun to rout now. The Orcs in the tower were trying to flee, but the Ulfen ripped open the door, and began to descend. I could make out distant screams, mainly Orc, and occasionally the whole structure would rock precariously. To the south, three legions prepared to set their ladders to the wall as the militia rained arrows down on them; it was at that moment that Arietta must have ignited the moat, for the walls began to burn merrily. Faced with unexpected trouble, and afraid of the cloying flames, the Orcs turned tail and ran.

I heard other cries, foreign to me, and to my great shock glanced beneath me to see two formations of Shoanti countering the routing orcs. It fleeted through my mind that they could have been the Hawk clan, or perhaps the Wind clan if we were unlucky, but they seemed to be on our side for now, and this was not the time to be picky about allies.

The volleys from the trebuchets had stopped seconds before, but the battering ram still moved unfalteringly forwards towards the city gate, housed in its wooden protection. As I swooped closer, I realised that it was enclosed within a slowly-moving barn, born aloft by thick-sinewed orcs. I landed upon the front of the battering ram, tipped with a mammoth’s skull – I gave them fair chance to flee, and when they did not I took a deep breath and bathed the barn in fire. Then they fled, screaming in panic and pain, dropping the barn which fell three feet into thick mud. One creature remained, though; a martial, I supposed, who had ordered them to stand fast. It threw itself towards me now, its bald head painted red with blood, its thick neck clattering with skulls.

By the grace of Shelyn I defeated him at last, though his wounds closed incrementally wherever I laid into him, and several of his hits penetrated my armour. As he fell to the ground, I looked quickly about me and saw a dragon – an actual dragon – flying away from the battlefield up near the river. My dear Nilluvian was grounded, wings shorn away, and as I approached I saw “Torag’s Fist” surrounding him, all in a bad way, whilst his beloved head bore a bleeding stump where his horn should be. I laid my hands upon him, calling down on Shelyn’s grace to heal his wounds, but though the skin has closed and he ceases to be in pain, he remains disfigured. I felt sure that Shelyn’s grace could restore him, She who is the defender of beauty and wonder. If She cannot help him, I do not know what can be done. I must find a way to restore him. I must.

Dawn has broken now, and the last Orc troops have fled. The sun finds us surrounded by churned mud and blood-soaked snow where once farmland lay. The walls of the city are scorched, and the air is heavy with death, smoke and the cries of pain. But, by the goddess, the siege is broken. By the goddess, we are alive.


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Session XXI: "Of staunch allies and godsends..."
11th&12th Kuthona: Torag's Fist and the Ulfen arrive

11th Kuthona, “Starday” of the year 4711 – continued
The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove, evening

The rest of our journey was uneventful, and we arrived back at Roderick’s Cove shortly thereafter. I confess myself relieved to see the walls standing, quiet and watchful in the night. At our approach, the guards and Derek were visibly relieved, and immediately began to unpack the supplies we had obtained. I had a quiet word with Fulminus before he left for The Hoist, about discretion regarding the destruction we had seen at Windfall – the people of Roderick’s Cove do not now need to hear tales of destruction beyond the walls, not after I have spent so much time raising their morale for the coming battle. Fulminus does not believe that they are all dead, but that many are in hiding, and will need rescuing in the coming days. My heart breaks for those who are outside the city, hiding from orcs and the elements, and struggling to survive; but until the siege is broken, my place is at the walls, ready to spearhead the attack.

I walked with Nilluvian to his stable, and was eager to hear his news. Princess Loreena was safe and sound in Augustana. Her father was grateful and moved by our situation, and has shown honour in helping the less fortunate. He sends the message that the Lords of Andoria recognise my authority, and have sent a baggage train stocked with food, building materials and exports to help get Roderick’s Cove back on its feet; this caravan is escorted by a legion, which shall be in my command.

Then Nilluvian bestowed upon me the greatest honour I have received since taking the mantle of Shelyn, for he knelt before me and swore allegiance, fealty, friendship towards me. I felt my heart filling up with love, and a strange harmony fell between us, as if we could sense one another for the first time. I believe that we are bonded now, as once he was bonded to his master, Lord Erovian Tilernos, Champion of Ayomidae. These bonds are chosen only with the good and the worthy. I hardly knew what to say, but I hugged him close and wept for joy. Finally, I left him to his rest, wiped away my tears, and walked to the Hoist. I believe the townspeople find my presence reassuring, and I want to be considered accessible. So many people have put their faith in me, but I must appear calm, relaxed, up to the challenge.

I spoke with Morden for a while, over a glass of wine, and he told me quietly what he had seen at the Orc Encampment when he was scouting last night. In addition to six or seven thousand foot soldiers, there are a thousand mounted on horses and worgs, and six ogres in siege bounds. The camp is organised into four posts, one significantly bigger than the others, with a lot more carts. There is also apparently a great deal of movement in and out of the mine, which has been opened up. The whole camp is patrolled in a suspiciously organised fashion; six-ten troops, tightly formational, with precise schedules which cover the whole location. They have no lack of supplies and food, and also a significant number of magical items – probably their supply train is running from Belckzen, Morden says.

Morden suggests that our best chance of defeating them in combat is to destroy their morale. They may be organised by Orc standards, but they are Orc-kin still – uncivilised, and innately uncooperative. Morden already managed to poison the water supply for the animals, and the streamlet he poisoned was also used for the troops to drink from. That should, in addition to decreasing their spirits, quell significant numbers, though how much, we cannot know. As soon as the water is known to be poisoned, they will be able to find another source. All we can do is hope that our plans will be enough.


12th Kuthona, “Sunday” of the year 4711
The Battlements, Roderick’s Cove, evening

Surely it must be a gift from Torag, and from Shelyn. I can not believe that our paths could cross without their interference. But I am starting at the end of the tale – holding the axe by the crosspiece, as Balin used to say – and that is no way to recount a story.

I was awoken in the early afternoon by a knock at my door; Morden had returned with me to the Thickwood Estate and we had not slept until the small hours. A militia runner had brought news of a ship coming into harbour. Morden seemed unfazed, and merely rolled over beneath the sheets, but I pulled on my armour and went to investigate. It could have been a trading ship, or trouble; both would require my attention.

As the ship bore into the harbour, I could see a motley crew of elves, dwarves, humans and some creatures I could not recognise. I flew over the water to greet them, and was hailed in the name of Torag by a fat dwarf bearing the Divine Builder’s symbol upon his chest. A group of four, more confident-looking than the others, introduced themselves as ‘Torag’s Fist’, some kind of adventuring party, ostensibly, but they also had goods to sell – lumber and food. As they came ashore I greeted them properly and led them to The Hoist, whilst surreptitiously scanning the group for any evil or malicious intentions. Morden joined us and led the talking, and I was able to observe them. There was a large, dark-haired warrior woman named Chavali – a native of Varisia, probably with Shoanti blood, from the look of her. She didn’t say much, but listened with grim determination to all which was said, her jaw set and her lips drawn thin.

Krotos, that was the dwarf, did most of the talking. He is a typical lower-class dwarf, more interested in drinking than thinking, but a good, stout soul and with a real dedication to Torag. If all he told me of the exploits of “Torag’s Fist” is true, then he is favoured indeed by the Divine Builder, and they are all warriors of prowess. Krotos is also a Stonecrusher like Dereck, and also of Janderhof – presumably a distant cousin for the family is very large.

The strangest of the party is a girl barely my age, I would tentatively guess, but of very odd and sinister appearance. She has somewhat elfish features and long, dark hair of human texture, which lie at odds with the black-feathered wings which sprout from her back. She spoke eloquently during trade negotiations, during which I was able to purchase for the city 44.8 tonnes of wheat (3.5cp/lb each) and 5 tonnes of lumber (8cp/lb each). There is something dark and unreadable in her expression, though I could detect no evil, and she introduced herself as ‘Shadow’ – a pseudonym if ever I heard one. I wonder what in her past she runs from, for she seemed eager to be on her way.

The last member of the group may be the most useful to me, for he is a magic user – an elf of unusually dark hair and ugly, scarred visage, by the name of Variel. His manner is genteel, his speech delicate and well-formed. The comradery between the group is strong and I do not believe that I could persuade him to stay, but perhaps whilst he remains he may be prevailed upon to help the city, and may even be able to suggest a candidate for court Mage.

After divulging the tale of my Earthbreaker to the curious (and slightly indignant) Krotos, who believed that no image should depict Torag beneath any other deity, I was at last able to hear their story, told with great relish by a – by now – slightly drunken dwarf. They were bade by Torag on a holy mission to end this unnatural winter, and journey to the Land of the Linnorn Kings where they may rout out the source. I told them of the predicament I was in, of the Orc siege laying waste to the prospects of Roderick’s Cove, and they seemed more or less willing to help. I warned them of the risks – after all it is possible that the Orcs may attack any evening, and they could be in grave danger. I told them that I believe that Torag and Shelyn had led them to me for a reason, and the one called Shadow nodded gravely, which I had not expected, whilst Krotos raised his mug and called for more ale. It was not yet four hours past noon, and I must trust that Torag is fully wise and knowing, imbuing such power into a drunkard of so little intelligence.

I had just left “Torag’s Fist” to Thorin’s hospitality when another cry went up of approaching ships, and the fine, scarlet-striped sails of Lord Ironbridge came into view. The warships cut quickly through the waves, and they were mooring a few minutes later. I stood on the pier to welcome them, spreading my wings and holding my Earthbreaker aloft – the Ulfen seem, after all, a people to be impressed with physical prowess, and Sir Elessar taught me how to put on a show of strength. They were ninety in all – men and women both tall and broad, all armoured in hide, fur and scale. Olivius came ashore first, flanked by his two sons, Krieger and Ostog and his wife Lara, a shield-maiden.

Olivius swore fealty to me once again, and greeted me as a friend. It is a good sign. I told them that they should speak to Derek Stonecrusher regarding anything during their stay, and that Princess Arietta would liaise with them directly about battle tactics. I left them to the hospitality of the city, and went to warn Arietta that ninety wolves had just arrived.

Arietta was running drills with the men, but as I approached she sent them back to their duties. I asked her about her plans for the Ulfen – she intends to create a kill-box inside the gates of the city, with archer support from above, in case they become breached. Hopefully the fire and the militia should keep the walls free, and the Ulfen should mop up any who manage to sneak through.

I have grabbed a quick cup of hot tea on the walls whilst I write up my journal – the tavern is full of adventurers, and I daren’t go back to the Thickwood Estate yet, in case I am needed. I suppose in a few minutes, I will have to go and rally some morale, display my Duchess-ly powers, and…

Wait. I hear shouts on the walls. Something is happening…


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Session XX: "Of Crannies, Allies, and the light of Shelyn"
11th Kuthona, Starday, 4711: Aurora visits Isnur and Windfall

11th Kuthona, “Starday” of the year 4711
The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove, evening

Shelyn must have shone serendipity upon this morning, for as I went down to breakfast I was greeted by a “Fulminus of Fellapet”. He is a well-dressed merchant, respectable and blonde-haired, of middle-age and genteel manners. Responding to the criers, who searched for those with knowledge of the crannies, for he had come to tell me that it was he who had been commissioned to build the crannies of the four closest settlements – Lowelock, Fellapet, Isnur, Windfall. I invited him to eat with me as I asked him more questions; his family appears to have been engineers, he has an aura of good about him and claims to support my dream for Roderick’s Cove to become a beacon of goodness and civilisation in this dark expanse of self-serving wilderness.

As we headed to the gate to meet with Zao and Morden (who seemed rather fatigued from his previous night’s mission – I have yet to hear the outcome), the air was crisp and clean, frosty but with no taste of snow. Up in the clouds the birds were flying south, and a wild part of my heart longed to join them. I lived over a decade beneath the ground, without ever seeing the sun – but a few weeks in this town already has me longing to be free.

Crossing the river would have proved too laborious, and so we settled on Isnur as our first port of call. My hope was to continue on to Windfall, although Sojourn would remain outside our jurisdiction. It resists control from both Riddlesport and Roderick’s Cove, and the wealth of the nearby salt mines of Sojourn lake has bolstered this independence. We may wish to welcome it into the fold of Roderick’s Cove one day, but our mission today was for supplies
.
As the men rode on, I took a brief, ariel view. There is still snow patching the country, and doubtless more on its way. The surrounding area spreads for miles around with farmland and Isnur, from above, is like a little wrinkle in the land, a harbour dotted about with huts. I stopped briefly to speak to the only person I saw out in the countryside, a farmer harvesting what was left of his onion crop. Liri, that was his name, spoke of a few hundred surviving in nearby Isnur – apparently the orcs did not seem interested in taking humans, which I find surprising after their behaviour at the Picklewood Farm. I cannot fathom their actions.

Isnur itself is a small place, smaller even than Abken, and looked rather ramshackle and abandoned. Apart from the harbour, which seems mainly to be used for fishing, there is nothing more than a small municipal building, a shrine to Erastil and a merchant’s store. It is led, or possibly owned, by Lord Olivius Ironbridge, a proud Ulfen, determined to rebuild, regrow and survive. At Morden’s suggestion, I invited his three longboats and his 90-strong ‘wolf pack’ to Roderick’s Cove, to help us in the coming battle. The Orcs have been testing our defences, but there can be no doubt that they are rallying for attack. We will need Ironbridge’s strength in the coming battle, and can offer Isnur our friendship in the long-term, with favourable trade agreements and man power for their empty fishing fleet. More importantly, we can offer Olivius and his wolf pack a chance for honour, spoils and glory, and to prove their worth in battle – Morden tells me these are the things which sway an Ulfen’s heart. I prayed briefly at Erastil’s grove for the preservation of this village – he sent a swarm of fireflies to engulf me, and they lightened the dark corner for a moment, a sign that he had heard.

There was no chance to empty Isnur’s cranny whilst a population still remained there, and so we left for Windfall empty handed. Fields of spoilt grain and uncollected harvests gave way to a village in ruins – blood soaked in to the streets, buildings smoked and corpses littered the ground; the only movement was the flies. Windfall must have been a pleasant place once – a small village by the sea with a pier, a few boats, and a collection of thatched houses crowded merrily round the village green. Now, it stinks of death.

Fulminus, though, was good as his word. He led us on a winding journey to the cranny, which was built into a rock formation beneath a tree. I opened up the hatch and found a staircase down to a two-story cold room, filled with barrels of oil, brandy, olives, salt fish, salt and sacks of grain. It isn’t much, but it is rich food, and staples; it will be enough to keep the most desperate of Roderick’s Cove fed for a few days. I started the laborious task of rounding up and loading carts, and by three hours after noon, we were on the road again.

It was slow going; it took four hours to travel as far as Isnur, for the horses were not used to such weight and needed changing frequently. I desired that we press on through the darkness, rather than waiting until morning at Isnur. Perhaps that was foolish, but I fear that any evening Roderick’s Cove could be attacked – the Orcs will certainly take advantage of their night vision – and I will not leave my city undefended.

That said, it was not long before we were ambushed by a party of orcs on the road. The first I knew of this was when Fulminus fell paralysed from his horse, an arrow in neck. We pulled the carts together to use them as cover, and I ordered the others to stay behind as I tried to gauge the forces of our attackers. I could sense the presence of four evil auras, but could not see them hidden in the nearby swamp. I called on Shelyn’s grace and suddenly a great lance appeared in my hand, burning with righteous fire – I was so surprised I almost dropped it! Two of the villains fled immediately from her holy flame and another ran screaming, engulfed in fire, from a tar pit as I set the area ablaze. I cut them down with this holy weapon of Shelyn, and their evil fell quickly before her justice.

There was yet one more, whom I could sense but could not see. I heard the sound of wing-beats approaching from behind and braced for attack, but it was Nilluvian’s fair shape which landed beside me. There was little time for greeting and he told me at once, when I asked him, that one more orc was hiding behind a tree. I approached but could not see him; I attempted to question him but he took his own life, rather than give up any information. I supposed it to be a kind of honour, but Nilluvian was more cynical, and called it fear. With the danger passed, I embraced him and asked him to accompany us back to the city, where he could tell us of his journeys, and of Princess Loreena’s homecoming. I removed any items of value from the orc party, and threw their bodies into the burning tar-swamp, with a prayer to Shelyn for their peace. There was little of value except for a ring of invisibility, but the weapons will go to the Militia…

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Session XIX: "Matters of state are taxing for all..."
10th Kuthona, Fireday, of the year 4711: First council meeting, plans made

10th Kuthona, “Fireday” of the year 4711
Northern Wing of the Thickwood Estate, Roderick’s Cove, mid-morning

I woke early, around 8.30, to find that Morden had gone again. I dressed, and then wandered around a little at a loss as to how I should call one of the servants for breakfast. The predominant thought running through my mind was that I can kill an ogre, but cannot call a servant. Ridiculous.

At length, I meandered down to the undercroft and found Naiya there, chopping vegetables. Perhaps it is not customary for me to be down there, for she seemed extraordinarily surprised to see me. Nevertheless, I ordered breakfast, and for lunch to arrive later today for the counsel members, six in all. Breakfast is plentiful and with considerable choice – cheese, bread, meat, marmalade, honey, fruit, oats and eggs have all been presented. I will take this time to write some notes in preparation for the counsel meeting, to consolidate my thoughts.

Immediate problems
- Food shortage
- Siege situation (orcs)
- Harbour defense (Galayev/Riddlesport)

Plans for development within the city:
- Invite the Pathfinder’s institution to Roderick’s Cove (will we have to build them a lodge?)
- Institute town guard – initially hire the best of the militia
- Get a town hall built (separate from my house – division of legislation and personal estate)
“pro omnes amor incorruptibile, For all incorruptible love;
pro omnes spes inextinguibili.” for all inextinguishable hope
- Build a school
- Build a library
- Write to Abken – get clerics to teach, and man the Cathedral (state religion currently has no religious figures)
- Replenish grain storage (trade until the new growing season)
- Fortify city – long term plans including river guard – transmutation aura in walls?
- Trade agreements & peace treaty with Riddlesport
- Trebuchet vel sim for the tower and man the other harbour towers
- Fix and activate the central tower in the harbour – 4m diametre stone – where and how?
- Institute sub-cityguard division for the harbour – Boats, siege weapons for incoming vessels, ‘the rams’ [a pair of sharp battering rams like pincers, which could piece the hull of a ship beneath the water line]

Plans for development of infrastructure for the wider Realm:
- Once siege is over, inaugural open court and feasting for the local powers, possible with a tournament – Riddlesport, Magnimar, nearby villages, Shoanti tribes?
- Map out territories in the Duchy of Melodie, and create a census book of them (for administration and tax etc.)
- Institute realm-wide guardsmen to patrol the roads, with outposts in small villages – have the guardsmen circulate to prevent corruption
- Visit all the regions and assets – know personally what the land is/ what is going on in
different areas and what the problems are
- Ensure that the ‘local dangers’ (list below) provide no problem.
- Treaties with the Hawk clan (Shoanti clan to the South)
- Create a political understanding (or preferably a treaty) with the Wind clan (Shoanti clan to the North) which may possibly require a show of force

Local dangers which threaten Duchy of Melodie:
- Orcs in the dwarven mine – (abandoned long ago when dwarves left the area)
- Riddlesport
- Churlwood forest, set up a patrol on th edge, and explore and clear the nearest area
- Storval plateau (orc city & giants) – shouldn’t provide an immediate problem
- Shoanti tribes – Skull clan North of Riddlesport (who shouldn’t be a problem for us), plus closer-by Hawk and Wind clans: in the past few years – Wind clan has been aggressive, and villages had
to bribe them in the past. Hawk clan – more interested in trade than aggression.
- Xin Shallat – the source of all evil of Varisia (the ancient city of Thassilonian Lords) – exact location unknown, but if we become the beacon of goodness I am hoping for in the area, then we may provoke them.
- Goblins in the fogscar mountains (to the south, by the coast)
- Galavyev – mainly attacks during the warm months; mostly quite close together raids, about 1/month. His strength lies in surprise and his sea power – if we can be prepared he may give up on us, as not worth the raiding. This will allow us to go on the offensive.

My own personal assets development (not to be brought up at counsel):
- Finish the Manor House (near the temple)
- Build a trade depot for the Forge and mine
- Get a motto/sigil (songbird, wings outstreatched, in front of a dragon, wings outstretched,
with a halo above.
- Buy the quarry and man it, to grow the business and provide more jobs, resources and trade in the area
- hire Andanan onto my personal workforce – his facility with stone reminds me of the Divine Builder himself, and only a fool would let such talent pass by

I hear the first counsel members arriving – I must go.


The Thickwood estate, Dusk

The counsel has finally left, and it is now dusk. I had anticipated that it would take a considerable amount of time, especially with providing a luncheon afterwards, but did not imagine that it would take this long.

Elyron was the first to arrive, carrying serval large tomes and ledgers with him, and Arietta and Derek were not far behind. Father Thorton bustled into the room and some time later Morden finally slipped in.
I led them up to the study, and Elyron dropped me a quiet word as we walked, asking about both renumeration for the counsel members, and what should happen with the gifts. I suppose I should have realised that, even in the difficult situation Rodick’s Cove finds itself in, people would present gifts at the inaugural court. Apparently Derek has them now – I must remember to ask him about them.

The first item on everyone’s agenda was the issue of food. People in the city seem to have their own supplies to a certain extent, but those are now running thin. By the end of this week, most will start needing to dig into the Granary, but that is almost empty after the Orc attack. The fishermen are working hard, but cannot provide close to enough food to feed the whole city. There remains some livestock within the walls, but most were culled by the orcs.

However the situation is by no means hopeless. Even before my appointment to Duchess, I was concerned about the siege and the impending food shortage in Roderick’s Cove, which is why I struck up trade deals with Yolanda, and asked Ackban to spread the word through the trade caravan route that Roderick’s Cove would pay a premium for food, and had work for good men. My hope is that it is only a matter of time before these investments of time and money pay off in trade. I also brought forth the question of the crannies which Nilluvian had suggested, and asked if there might be any from the local villagers who knew where they were. Elyron will put out a proclamation amongst the town criers and tomorrow, Morden, Derek and I will go searching together for crannies and game. It will feel good to get out of the city and stretch my wings, and I confess that I am rather looking forward to it.

Arietta then raised the next point – it is all very well keeping the people fed, but, in the long term, what is the plan to end the siege? I gave the opinion that the Orcs will attack sooner rather than later because, no matter how tactically aware they seem, they are inherently more aggressive than they are patient. Arietta countered this by saying that the company is not being led by an Orc, and that some other force lies at its head. Gradually, with the input of Morden, we laid out a plan to make a raid on the Orc camp, and to steal or ruin their food supply. The idea behind this is that it will either push them to leave or force them to attack. Morden has volunteered to run the mission with the help of some ‘nameless’ associates, probably those who do not fare well in the revealing light of day. A mission under cover of night, armed with poison, smacks of dishonour to me, but as Arietta intimated, there is no honour in such a siege but in saving the lives of our people.

Another item on the agenda was the comment that three men left the city today, heading north for Riddleport. Soon others will know of my ascension to Duchess and it is important that we have a contingency plan. I discussed what I had written earlier with regard to the Duchy’s possible foreign policies, not just regarding Riddlesport but also the various Shoanti tribes and Magnimar. My ideas, on the whole were accepted without comment, although we will need to revisit them once again when the siege is cleared.

In conjunction with this, the defense of the Harbour was raised. I mentioned the opinion of Aldfeun the Shippy, that the best defenders were big warships and war machines. Both Riddlesport and Galayev currently have the advantage in water, and that is something I would like to have more control over. Morden had an amazing suggestion – he told of great iron-wrought chains, which had been used in some other ports to restrict access to coves and harbours for undesirable ships. They work, in effect, like a trip wire or trap – the bottom of the boat is too deep to pass and thus the ships are prohibited from entering. Derek suggested that it would take a great deal of time and a lot of resources to make such a massive chain, but that we could start with a similar device of rope, which would at least give us more advantage than we have now. Thinking on this for a moment, I realised that the Thassilonion towers in the cove and the River Delta were already set up for such a device. I have given the order that it should be placed as soon as possible. With all our strength on the outer walls, we are especially vulnerable to attack from the sea right now.

Derek raised again the problem that we cannot smelt the adamantium we are currently raising from the mine, and that a treaty with Riddlesport might require a clause about negotiation of using the Carboxyte vent there. Derek mentioned that it was controlled by dwarves based in the city. A diplomatic mission may be in order.

Other problems were raised which we had less conclusive solutions for. These included the fact that, as the winter continues and the cold weather moves south, the price of food will continue to rise, and also that, as a city, we are lacking important skilled merchants, craftsmen and other professions – architects/engineers, builders, masons, shipwrights, spellcasters. We also have no official coinage – currently coins from riddleport, magnimar, chelliax empire, and ingots of coinage from Yar all change hands, but we have no distinct financial seal of our own. As treasurer, I put Derek onto devising a financial plan and designing coinage for the city, and asked him to come back with ideas.

I mentioned to Father Thorton that I wish to establish schooling within the Duchy, and also that I intend to write to Abken to secure more clerics and priests for the location. I have asked Father Thorton to come back to me with a proposed curriuclum for such a school.

Lastly, I proposed to the counsel that we invite the Pathfinders association to Roderick’s Cove. If we intend to be anything more than provincial idealists it is necessary to have a Lodge in the city, and perhaps the Lodge will attract people. With no other business brought forward, I announced another meeting next Wealday at noon, in preparation for the Court next Oathday, and we adjourned for lunch.

I was glad to have arranged lunch, for I discovered that much information surfaces in such a seemingly informal event. Morden told me that in the city there is a small thieves guild charter from Magnimar. Though they keep a low profile, the idea of organised crime in my city is unnerving and the sooner we can put pay to it the better. I believe that I somewhat surprised Derek, for when he asked if there is a differentiation of my assets and the city assets, I said that there was. Elyron joined in, all shock and raised eyebrows, asking “does this mean that all businesses will be taxed by the city?”. It turns out that the previous taxation policy was disorganised and chaotic, and that people were or were not taxed depending on what the city knew about them. There was no organised census or income reports. I have commissioned Elyron to begin organising a survey of the city itself, taking a census of who lives here and what they own, and also of the city’s assets. Normally the Lords do not pay tax, but instead give levies. As the Dutchy of Melodie, as we acquire new locations, I can either claim them as my own or award them to other nobles, though for now this is all purely theoretical.

My idea is that there should be a common tax on land ownership (based on value of land); in addition, tax can be levied for using the natural resources of the land, so for example a mine or a quarry. I also plan to introduce a business tax, and register all businesses with the city. The businesses and assets of a lord should taxed based on production – they must now register all mines, farms, mills etc as businesses. I outlined this idea with Elyron and he seemed to understand. I fear it will not be a popular move amongst the gentry, but if we keep taxes low and collect money from those who are earning surplus, we can improve the city for everyone, and make it safe place to live.

I believe that, now they have finally gone, I will go to the library in the temple and explore a little further to see what I can find. Morden told me that he will be away for at least the next few nights, so I do not expect him.


Thickwood Estate, Evening
The temple library was not as useful as I could have hoped. Most of the books were in ancient Azlanti or Thassilonion. Many of them had pictures, although I could not read the text, and seemed to be about farming implements, alchemical processes or brewing. I stayed in there for some time, sorting through the tomes, until I began to feel tired.

Upon returning to my room I bathed and read a little more of the Ancient Azlanti-Draconic grammarian. I am certainly making headway, though it will take considerably more study to provide any sort of fluency in the language. I am now curled up in bed, finishing my diary. Tomorrow brings an adventure beyond the walls and a chance to stretch my wings. I’m almost feeling guilty about looking forward to it so much…
*

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Session XVIII: "An angel ascends..."
9th Kuthona 'Oathday', 4711: Aurora becomes Duchess in court, and some library-diving

9th Kuthona “Oathday”, of the year 4711
Tavern: The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove

I did not wake until 9.30, having slept late. Morden was experiencing a significant reluctance to rise, so I went down to the bathing rooms to wash, and returned with breakfast. I have forsaken my usual armour this morning for plain clothes, which I have altered with the magical cuffs into Shelyn’s dress which Ellesar gave me. I dislike being unprepared for battle in any circumstances, but I thought that turning up fully armed to court could be misconstrued as an aggressive intention. I did, however, sling my Earthbreaker, Shelyn’s Gift on my back. I will need it later today.

Morden slinked off after breakfast, and I am taking advantage of this time to plan what I will say and do in court today.

First is the matter of my manner of rule. It has not been possible to understand what the previous system of rule was, mainly because Baronet Thornbridge has been so vague about his own time in power. Having considered the options, I have decided to opt for constitutional rule – no man or woman should be above the law, and nor should it be different for different people. In addition to this, I will continue to press my agenda to end slavery, and add an edict which abolishes the right for one sentient being to own another. Again, following the work I have already been pursuing within the community here in Roderick’s Cove, I plan to announce an edict of Alms-law, that the poorest and most in need should get a ration of food from the city, as long as the city can support it.

Naturally, our state religion will be the worship of the glorious goddess Shelyn, though in light of my own allegiance and origins, I have chosen that we will also worship the Divine Builder, Torag, as a national deity. Given the lack of necessary infrastructure within Roderick’s Cove, the Divine Builder could definitely be a strategic holy patron.

In addition to our state religion, I have declared other deities who we will openly support – Abadar, for our cities and Erastil for our farmers; Iomidae, Sarenrae and Irori for their goodness and enlightenment, and Apsu – God of all good dragons – to honour my own parents.

On the other hand, if we are to turn away evil from our realm I feel it necessary that we take steps to ban the worship of some of the most reprehensible evil deities. To allow their representation on our land would be a dishonour which would soil all the good work we hope to achieve. We must make our light so bright that the shadows flee in fear. Those deities I will name include Rovagug – the Rough Beast, Droskar – the dark and cheating smith, and Lamashtu – the most fiendish Mother of Monsters.

In addition to these edicts, I must appoint a counsel, and I have honours to bestow. Elyron, if he agrees, I will reconfirm as Seneschal since he seems to be the only one who knows how the city functions financially, and I think that Zao should be honoured with a knighthood for all his work with the guard, for which I will name him Captain. In addition, Derek and Morden must be on the counsel – I never hear better advice than from them; I will name Derek as treasurer, since he has proven himself so adept with my own businesses, and Morden as court diplomat. According to tradition I cannot offer any titles to Arietta at all, since she holds a noble rank above mine. However, I plan to offer her the position of court tactician and I hope she accepts – her knowledge and experience would be a major boon for us all and, if she is in the system, I can leave her in charge whilst I am away. I also must name a court Cleric, to take charge of religious and educational matters in the community. Though Father Ovirus is more experienced as a cleric, naming Father Thorton has obvious advantages both because he is highly educated (a matter I wish to push in this community) , and also because he owes allegiance to Shelyn, the state religion. For now we have no lands to give and no titles, but that does not trouble me too much – I wish to get to know the nobles better before I begin doling out power. From them, I merely wish to hear oaths of fealty.

I believe I will fly early to the cathedral and pray before today’s court session – may the love of Shelyn give me strength.

  • [Here begins session 18.]
    Court was an extraordinary affair – after thanking those present for the trust they were bestowing upon me, I said my piece and blessed those I had appointed in my counsel with Shelyn’s holy light. I confess, as with my choice of venue, my actions were political, intended to display the power with which Shelyn has blessed me. As I finished my speeches, my eye was drawn up to the windows above me by a strange movement – a bright, colourful songbird flew circles in the sunlight, before disappearing I do not know where – a sign, a blessing from Shelyn herself. I confess myself moved and thrilled – I have heard her voice twice, once through the dying body of Edwin and once sundering the sky on Roderick’s Cove, but every sign from her, every glimpse of her wondrous being, is a gift which sustains and renews my faith and my purpose. I felt my confidence grow, knowing that she approved what I am doing here.

The noble quartet – Asimus, Aileyn, Mesma and Guyron – all appeared in their finery, though none could match Guyron for the sheer volume of lace and ruffles, nor for the elegance of his bowing and courting – I finally recognised his accent and manner as being from Absalom – Escadar, to be precise.

I confess I wished that Nilluvian could have been there – I was having mischievous thoughts of naming him Master of Horse, though I can imagine that I would be the only one amused by that circumstance. I wonder where he is, or if he decided in the end to remain in Augustana with Princess Loreena. My final business before I left the cathedral, after having exchanged pleasantries with all who were present, was to announce our first counsel meeting for the following day. Elyron has asked about fees for the counsel members and knights, but I believe that we should address that together, once we are certain what the city can afford to pay these people for the honour of their advice.

Believing that I had done all I needed to in court, I led Derek and Morden to the edge of the cliff where the tower with the mysterious door stood. I had told them about it the night before and they were intruiged. Of course, it was only when I reached the edge of the cliff that I realised they would have no way down. Quite how others get anywhere without wings I never cease to wonder – they seem to manage perfectly well, but for myself I could not imagine life without them. I landed them down one by one (Derek had never seemed happier to be on firm land), and led them up to the mysterious door. Derek was no more able to open it than I had been, though he did observe that, with no visible hinges, it was most likely to be some sort of sliding mechanism rather than a traditional door. Morden noted that if it was magical there were no instructive runes, which is rather unusual – clearly this was a door to be opened only by a select, initiated few. We got no closer to opening it – Derek and Morden both doubt that Azial will be powerful or knowledgeable enough, and there are no other magic users in the city that I know of.

I took Derek back up to the cliff, though Morden lingered with me for a while and, after some teasing, we made love in the tower. I had never experienced such a thing in public before (well, I suppose that, given my inexperience, that is hardly a surprise) – it is extremely invigorating. When we had finished, I promised to Morden that I would show him the other tower, the central one which seems to be ‘activateable’ somehow. I bodily grabbed him and flew him over, not missing the chance to dip his toes in the water and tease him by threatening to drop him in. We arched up high and then landed directly on the roof of the central cove tower. He, like me, was at a loss as to the precise nature of the eggcup-like hollow, but he was less tentative than I, and climbed right in to enjoy the warmth permeating from the glassy surface. When this siege is over, I must search for a court Mage. There are rather too many mysteries I would like to be solved.

Morden did suggest that we might learn more about the ruins in Dic’Yien’s library. With that in mind we flew back to the Cathedral. I stopped in at the underground lake (I still think of it as Iryani’s Lake). I wanted to examine more closely what was in there, and I wondered idly if whatever activated the cove watchtower was in there. It was not, but that did not prevent me from exploring the waters and the cavern. There are stalagmites and stalactites growing there, and tool marks on the walls make it clear that the cavern has been prospected for metals and may have been artificially widened. The water there is clean and clear, and it is strange to swim upon a shore of precious metals and shiny trinkets. I dredged up a few handfuls of coins, jewellery, precious stones and other trinkets. There are also weapons and armour lying down there – I even found a disembodied axe head. Morden pulled out a gold and silver chain with a ruby pendant and hung it around my neck. Finally it was time to move on – I dried off by flying around the cavern, but I used a burst of flame to dry Morden. This means that I incinerated his underwear – how clumsy of me – but I believe he looks better without it.

At length, we headed down to the library. Derek was not in, but his ladies came to greet us. The library itself is spectacular. The books are in diverse languages – Elvish, Draconic, Dwarvish, Undercommon, Celestial, Thassilonion and even Ancient Azlanti. I could see no clear order, search though I might, in the thousands of tomes housed there. There were more surprises when I opened some of the Thassilonion texts and found that the pages seemed to be encrypted, with the letters spread oddly and scattered around the page in a bizarre manner, whilst other pages were completely blank. Morden pointed out some small codes on the top of these pages, and also on some blank pages which apparently may be diagrams or images, and told me about a decryption device, the optiron. Apparently this looks like a strange set of spectacles, fitted with different mirrors and lenses which can be swung around in various combinations to accord with the codes.

A thorough search of the library produced:
- Ink pens, inkwells and ink in rare colours
- Paper
- Mapping tools
- Tools used for architechtural desgins
However no optiron has yet been found. Morden suggested that such a thing might be owned by a Lodge of the Pathfinder’s society – there is certainly one in Magnimar, though there may be one in Riddlesport too which is closer, if more dangerous.

As well as these confusing, coded books, I also made a brief search for any tomes which may aid me in my upcoming endeavours. I have located Dwarven-language books about open field tactics (mass army combat) and about the construction of siege engines, and also a fascinating book in draconic – a survey of the magics of the Thassilonion ruins, which may prove very useful regarding the history and function of both the Roderick’s Cove infrastructure, and other sites of Thassilonion heritage nearby. Finally, and perhaps most useful of all, I discovered a language book, teaching Ancient Azlanti from the mother language of Draconic. This will give me access to a great deal more information in the libraries both up in the cathedral and down in the forge.

Morden and I were drawing to a close with our searching as Derek came back into his apartment. We excused ourselves, not wanting to intrude on Derek’s privacy, and went back up to the surface by the elevator. We stood in front of the inn for a few moments and enjoyed the evening air, and then tried to check in briefly with Nilluvian. He is still not back from Augustana. I know that a celestial unicorn can look after himself, and that he is not my responsibility, but he is my friend and I am slightly worried that something has happened to him. Morden accepted my invitation to dine with me at the Thickwood estate and, after having packed up my things from the inn and returned the key for my room, we walked through the town together companionably, holding hands. Thoren, I am pleased to note, is as jovial and informal as ever – perhaps, having known my master Ellesar as he did, he cannot take my authority to heart as much as others, and I must say I am grateful for it.

The interior of the North wing was much as the rest of the Thickwood estate – heavy, practical to the extreme, and of excellent quality. Collin, the butler in charge of the wing, came running as soon as we entered the building, and we ordered dinner to be ready in an hour. In the mean time, we laid my things up in the master bedroom on the second floor and took the opportunity to explore a little. An undercroft in the basement houses the utility rooms and servants quarters. The ground floor holds a large dining room and a sitting room with some bookshelf space. The first floor holds three small, utilitarian bedrooms and a common area, whilst the second is laid out with a master bedroom and adjoining bathroom, which has a fantastic library area with a map table suitable for planning and counsel meetings. The third floor is the crenelated room, ideal for arial landings. I think I shall enjoy living here a great deal.

Supper came as promised, with aperitifs and wine served by a young girl called Naiya, who seems very modest and decorous (that word again), followed by sumptuous partridges filled with plums. Over dinner I spoke with Morden about his time in the area. He has been in Roderick’s Cove for around 6 years, before which he travelled extensively through the region. We also discussed how we might go about clearing the subterranean lake of its treasures – it occurred to me that we might use buckets with holes in the bottom to speed the process, and Morden agreed that it was a good idea.

After a leisurely dinner, we retired upstairs and settled by the fire for a while. I read a great deal from the “Magics of the Thassilonion ruins” and discovered a number of curious things. The author was a dwarf adventurer, surely now long dead, who went around Varisia about 400 years ago; the book contains accounts of what he found at different Thassilonion locations of interest. I searched first for any mention of Roderick’s Cove – after scanning through much of the text I came across a reference to a fortification on the cove South of Riddleport. At that point, it was nothing more than overgrown fortifications, an entrance to a dungeon from which, according to local livestock herders, no one ever came up. Reading this, one wonders if even then Dic’Yien had established himself in the Forge, or if some other nefarious presence rested there. The Cathedral was purportedly haunted, and the author notes that it was probably repurposed after the fall of the empire for a different religion, though which he did not say. The guard towers in the cove were mentioned to be in perfect condition, though there are no details of the specific fittings. Finally, I made a significant discovery through reading this book – the walls of the city are apparently fortified with some sort of metallic plating within them which, though no details were given, exudes the aura of transmutation magic. I must ask Azial to research this further – I plan to know every detail I can about what we have inherited from the Thassilonions.

Further curious about the area, I read on to the entry regarding Riddleport. The original Thassilonion structure there includes a huge stone arch which spans across the port – it is considered
that the Thassilonion Lord who inhabited the original site may have used this as a way to see into the future, though I know not if Riddlesport has discovered this use for it yet. There is also a natural source of Carboxyte gas at the bottom of the ruins; although highly toxic (exposure to it can be
lethal) and extremely flammable, this gas is valuable, as it is necessary in the smelting of adamantium. Derek has told me that our own forge does not have the capability to smelt the adamantium we have been uncovering, and so knowing this nearby carboxyte source is very valuable to us.

Though the book was fascinating, Morden eventually found a more immediate use of my attention, and at length we went up to bed. He is currently sleeping next to me, and I must say it is wonderfully companionable. I enjoy his company, respect him immensely, and crave the chemistry we share. Though for his part I cannot speak, since he is in all thinks so secretive and closed, I believe myself to be very much in love with him, and I can only hope that Shelyn approves of our union.

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Session XVII: "A good friend is its own reward..."
Kuthona 8th, Fireday

8 Kuthona, Wealday of the year 4711, a few hours after dawn
[Session 16 continued]
Central Harbour-Fortification Tower, Roderick’s Cove

Having slept early, I awoke early, my mood still heavy. I descended to the empty taproom, where Oryanna brought me breakfast. I asked her if she had seen Morden or Arietta the previous night, but she had not. We jested about Morden’s contrived manner of mystery – I, of course, said it was just an act to entice the ladies. Oryanna smiled politely, and was decorous. I hate that word. Ice may be decorous, and carved, and coddled. Fire is wild and passionate, and goes where it will.

My plan for the day involved more tedious interviews with the nobles, but since it was too early to call ‘decorously’ with house calls, I resolved instead to go and investigate the central tower of the harbour. I took flight and landed on the small island – though island is a generous word for the accumulated coral and debris which surround the tower – in the middle of the cove. If the tower had shifted position in some way it must have happened a significant amount of time ago; I do not know exactly how long coral takes to grow, but believe it to a great deal of time.

From the outside, the stone of the tower seems the same as the temple – local stone, I believe, from the nearby mountains. At the back of the tower there is a floating pier, with a wooden stair that leads to a doorway above sea-level with a broken balcony. As I entered, I saw light coming in from several arrow slits built into the walls and the ground is made of regular flagstones. I looked around for some evidence that the tower led lower, but could find none. There was, however, a stone-made spiral staircase upwards along the inner walls, and I followed it to the subsequent levels. Up here, the arrow slits are bigger, and an ‘entrance’ or ballista opening points out to the entrance the cove. The whole structure is eerily clean, and I assume that the winds blow everything out of here. There was evidence that some of the arrow slits must have had a mechanism to close them (shutters or something), though this has long since been destroyed.

A floor higher, I found an empty circular room in the centre with an open doorway – this could have been an armoury or guard post. The most significant discovery was up on highest floor, where a stone crown features columns and arches surrounding it. The masonry is very elegant, leading up to a thick circlet of stone on the top. In the middle of the tower floor there is a hollow – it looks, I suppose, like a very big egg cup, though with a diameter of two men tall, I know not what egg could fit inside it. The area inside is glazed with some strange substance – the closest description I can muster is that it is like marble covered with glass. After some surreptitious examination, I touched the glassy inner surface, which was warm. I wonder if some sort of activation stone fits in here, which might unlock the secrets of the structure? Or perhaps some kind of light emitting device, as in a light house? I do not know. For now, and for me, it is a convenient vantage point from which to view the city and the relentless iron sea, and pontificate over how I may save these people who have placed their trust in me.


It has been a long few hours – I fear that this diary is becoming more of an emotional prop than a mere account of my deeds and dealings. Nevertheless, it may also serve as a reminder and reference for what I learn. It is for this reason that I collate all of my findings of the day, from my various interviews, within the following paragraphs. This knowledge is gleaned from a combination of asking the nobles about each other, and from my various meetings with Baronet Asimus Thornbridge, Baronet Guyron Swordwhite and Lady Mesma Thickwood – it has proved interesting indeed.

When I called to see Asimus Thornbridge again, he seemed in less of a depressed state, and though he looks tried and unhealthy, he appears at least less stressed. I asked him of his plans – he is understandably distressed that he may not have the means to survive – and I told him that I would do my best to take care of him and his wife. He told me that he had many plans to turn the city into a lucrative place of trade and business, but that they had never been enacted. The main problem had always been securing the port, which could be a major trade hub particularly to supply the North of Varisia with goods, especially food and iron. He advised me to go speak further with Seneschal Elyron regarding matters of rule and money – I found it disconcerting that he could tell me so little of the financials of his rule. Lady Mesma believes that Asimus has not been the most competant of Mayors and, seeing his lack of knowledge surround the intimate affairs of the city, I fear I must agree. He is an honourable man, but the task of Mayor seems to have been one too complex for him.

Baronet Guyron Swordwhite, it seems, as well as his two manors which may or may not have fallen to Orc control, has been trying to establish a trading company to trade meat and fish from his estate fisheries, which lie north on the Chavali river. His pursuit of this business opportunity explains why he was in the city when it fell under siege, for usually he keeps mostly to his manors. Asimus believes that Swordwhite’s serfs and reeve have most likely fled to the east and south, to Ravemoor and Wolfseer, though Swordwhite himself does not know where they may be.

Aasmus described Sir Guyron as a man on honour – indeed he was a military man, and used to be a member of the Cheliax Empire; his disagreement with the Empire’s current administration led him to stay when Cheliax withdrew from Varisia. He acquired lands by the slightly dubious method of having enough men and tactical acumen to defend them (though an analogy of glasshouses and stones may be necessary here), and subsequently his settlements grew, though he has had repeated problems with the Shoanti tribes – sometimes with the Hawk tribe, though mainly with the more aggressive, Northern Wind tribe – who contest his claim to the land, and also enact their own intratribal disputes, in which crossfire Sir Guyron’s territories are occasionally caught. As well as his land in the surrounding area, Sir Guyron owns extensive, though currently largely uninhabited, land within the walls of the city.

Sir Guyron seems particular about his outward impressions – his house is lavishly decorated and his clothes make him seem almost part of it, until there was so much brocade and embroidery that one could scarcely tell where the house stopped and he began. His manner is lofty and elegant – he has clearly spent time as a courtier and I wondered how, beneath this purfumed, exterior, a real warrior could hide. He certainly seemed as eager to know about me as I was to learn of him. My history, though, is no closed book – there is no shameful deed which does not become more so with hiding it.

Lady Mesma Thickwood, it seems, does not have any assets outside the city. When her husband died at the hands of vagrants she sold the estate of her husband (her title is now landless) and with that money bought a significant portion of land by the river. She nows holds a sizeable estate up against the city walls by the east gate and extending out to the river, where she breeds horses, birds of prey and hunting dogs. Security seems to be a significant concern for her, and her high walls and fortified house reminded me rather of the many keeps I visited with Ellesar to meet his old paladin friends, along with their Spartan, but good quality, furnishings. Her extensive holdings include a lumber mill and carpentry workshop in the city, the shipwright and various houses. She also holds a fish-right which is manned by her own workers, and a very small island, on which she has a vineyard.

According to Asimus, Lady Mesma has a keen eye for business and her personal wealth has only flourished since she took control of the estate, though she is also known for her charity within the city. Though widowed some decades ago, she has a young son who must be of a different father than her late husband, a boy called Jonathan. She told me herself that he is currently studying in Magnimar to learn arithmetic, economics and business management, despite the fact that he is only four years old. She is middle aged and seems a no-nonsense, practical, energetic sort – when I met her she shook my hand outright, and had come from working with the horses. It makes me glad to meet someone unafraid to get their hands dirty.

She told me herself that she has significant grain reserves and that, as long as the very cold winter does not affect the fishing yields, she will be able to feed her staff on fish alone, should grain become scarce. She clearly holds a great deal of the city’s food supply in her control, and should things get desperate she may be the first one I appeal to. She seems protective of those who work for her, and determined to ensure their comfort and wellbeing through this troubled time – I find her approach admirable.

Lady Mesma also has her own distinct opinions about the way the city should be developing. She was not shy to intimate that she believed she would have been a better choice for Mayor than Baronet Asimus Thornbridge, and there was perhaps some bitterness in her tone as she relayed this. From speaking to her, I believe that she may have a point – her vision, it seems, is rather similar to my own, and she has the best infrastructure within the city. She told me that the city has always had a lot to offer, but the instability of the port has been a major problem; the threat of Riddlesport and Galayev has deterred trade, and the only way to stop this is with big ships.

Riddlesport, she told me, would be open to communication – the city is, after all, in need of new resources and allies to hold its ground and this gives us leverage. She also mentioned that the city has never taken proper advantage of the very fertile surrounding areas, and the navigability of the Chavali River. She proposes that by placing these areas in wise and enterprising hands, Roderick’s Cove will be in a good position to become a major trading power. Finally, she mentioned that the walls of Roderick’s Cove can support significantly more population than they currently do; with careful management she believes that Roderick’s Cove could become a bastion of civilisation for the frontier (her words); after all, that was why she came here, and I’m beginning to suspect why Ellesar decided that this was a good place to leave me.

Lady Mesma Thickwood also offered me the use of the Northern wing of her estate – a significant space with stables, several bedrooms and common areas, and an office – as something ‘more fitting of my status’ than living in the inn. Honestly, I was very comfortable in the Hoist, but she raises a good point – I cannot live in the inn forever, and I must build myself a residence in Roderick’s Cove – it sends a message that I mean business and I mean to stay here. I have accepted her offer for the time being – I wondered at the propriety of it, but no one else has offered me a space, and I can hardly hold court, or counsel meetings, in the taproom of The Hoist.
[_ Here begins session 17_]

I attempted twice already today to see Elyron. His house is a unique spectacle, completely overrun with a vine called ‘Lydia’s Neckcrusher’, which I have encountered before only in the wilderness. Seeing it used in horticulture was something of a surprise, considering its danger, but Yolanda, Elyron’s wife, seemed utterly nonchalant about it. Elyron himself has not been in, but is ever expected back ‘soon’.

Resolved to continue my day productively, I made my way to the shipwright to discover how we might go about protecting the harbour against attacks. With the men guarding the walls and focus turned towards the orcs, I am constantly worried that either Galayev, Riddleport or some other local power may take advantage of our distraction and attack by sea.

The shipwright lies to the south of the cove, and was bustling with industry when I arrived. I finally located Aldfeun the Shippy, as he calls himself, who seemed to be in charge of the day-to-day running of the workshop. He was extremely nervous as I asked him questions about protecting the harbour, though he gradually began to calm down as he got into his topic with relish. His suggestions included civic combat ships, ballistas and canons, although it seems that we do not currently have the expertise within the city to produce these defensive measures.

By the time I was finished it was the middle of the afternoon and I was hungry, but I did put feel like facing Oryanna’s diplomatic politeness at the inn, or another empty table. Yet again, I wondered where on Golarion Morden could have disappeared to. His irreverence is incredibly welcome, and I value it more with each day. So instead, I decided to go explore the other towers, the ones North and South of the cove, and the ones which stretch across the mouth of the Chavali River. I was hoping to find some evidence of defences, and to see if the top of the central tower I had examined earlier was unique or present in all of them; rather optimistically, I also went to see if any sort of mystical keystone was hidden within them. As I explored, the other towers all seemed to have a similar design to one another. Each one had at least one MASSIVE arrowslit, with the lower ledge curved and plated in metal. Aligned with this, in the middle of each tower, was a metallic rod set between two cylindrical stone pillars.I believe a rope may have been passed between the towers through here, perhaps for the shifting of supplies – the metallic lip would have prevented wear on the stone, and could be more easily replaced than bare stone if damage occured. A trapdoor opened up into an empty undercroft and, on the first floor there were more large arrow slits, with four metallic stubs on the floor which may have been wheel jambs for some kind of large weapon of war. In the highest level, within the crenellations walls, there is a kind of thick metallic ring, spanning a man’s length; perhaps something was mounted on there, though what I do not know.

The only unique trait was found in the tower to the south of the cove. This tower is built directly into the rock upon which the Cathedral stands. Leading into that rock, I found a metallic door, though with knocking, pushing and any other method I could not open it. It is possible that the door opens only with magic, though there were no runes or directions which I could find. It is also possible that it opens up into the Thassilonian complex which is now the Forge, though where it connects I do not know. A locked door mystery is exactly the kind of thing to make me nervous right now – usually I enjoy puzzles which I do not have all the pieces to solve, but there could be anything behind that door, and it stands within city walls. If it is dangerous, I must resolve it – if somehow benign, perhaps I can find a way to turn it to my advantage.

I tried one more time to call upon Elyron, but he remains absent. His wife informed me that by now he was probably off drinking somewhere. I checked at The Hoist but, though busy with Militia men, I could not see Elyron. I also stopped in at Arietta’s room, but she was not in – I am beginning to wonder where she spends all her time. I passed through the dark city to other tavern – The Slow Cod. Even from outside it was clearly full, and mainly with a rougher crowd than The Hoist. As I entered, the room fell silent for a moment; someone wearing a terracotta cloak jumped up and ran out the back at the very sight of me – some petty criminal, would be my guess. When I scanned the crowd and found no sight of Elyron, I left and flew up onto the roof. The man in the terracotta cloak was gone, and the noise from the inn below served only to make the city streets seem emptier. From my vantage point I looked around. There was no moon, for it was a cloudy night, and cold. Towards the wall, the fires of the towers winked and twinkled like distant stars. The temple was barely visible, and the sea beyond the cove was endless blackness.

I felt the loneliness descend, and wondered if Nullivuian had returned. Entering the empty stable, I confess I felt a catch in my throat when I realised that he, too, was gone. I could have returned to the tavern but the idea of sitting alone within the crowd there made me sad, so instead I choose to remain here, curled up in a pile of hay in the corner of the empty stables, writing my diary.

  • What a change a few hours can bring! I have gone from feeling alone, to realising that I have made the kindest and most selfless of friends. As I was sitting alone in the stables (feeling, I will admit, rather sorry for myself) Morden appeared from the shadows by the doorway. He seemed even more pleased with himself than normal, and when I asked of his wellbeing he told me that he was tired, having spent the day with Derek and Arietta. My curiosity peaked, he asked me how I felt about killing a cockerel, and led me out into the night with questions on my lips.

We walked together through the town, and up the steep hill towards my ‘estate’ – the area which Asimus Thornbridge had given me after I had defeated Dic’Yen. There was a fire at the top of the hill – Arietta, Derreck, Iryani, Andanan, Elyron, Thoren, Uldern and his family, even some of the miners and smiths – they were all there to greet me. Derek spoke up, and then Andanan, and in pieces everyone told their story bit by bit. They had wanted to thank me for all I had done, to show their support, and (as Thoren said, jokingly I hope) to get me out of the inn. Under Andanan’s careful eye they had laid out the corner stones and foundations for a grand house. My friends – for I had, for the first time since Janderhof, friends – were building me a house. I was so moved, so touched by this, that I don’t think I said all that I wished to on the matter, though I thanked them repeatedly with all my heart.

Apparently in these parts there is a ceremony in which one kills a black cockerel, spreads the blood around the grounds of a house, and buries the body in a chest in the foundations – this is to ensure that the building stands. Thoren explained this to me as Derek handed me a cage. In Janderhof they rely upon superior engineering to hold a house together, rather than superstition, and in Abken there were no buildings except the church and Monestary which were greater than one story high, but I decided to play along. Ripping the head off the cockerel was an easy, if messy, task and I flew around the grounds, spreading the blood. Thoren boggled at me and I think Morden was giggling – it occurred to me only later than people must usually use a knife, and rarely employ flight for this task. Once we had buried over the chest in a large hole they had left in the centre of the foundation, we settled down around the fire to talk aimiably, drink wine, and wait for the fine lamb sizzling on the spit to be cooked through, though honestly at that point I was hungry enough to eat it raw.

I spoke with Derreck about my findings in the towers. He mentioned with awe at Thassilonion ingenuity that the large metallic rings topping the towers must be mounting points for multidirectional crossbows, or some such similar machine. He also told me that to man the towers effectively would require a massive guard force. In all, about 400-500 soldiers to patrol the
walls effectively, and that would be a city guard with a well-trained, armoured reserve. More soldiers, and more food.

I mentioned that I had been to see Lady Mesma and Sir Guyron today, and Derek described the latter as a lavish spender, who prioritises quality above anything else. Apparently he also has a
Daughter, though she is far away and makes no claims to the politics of the city.

Having finally caught up with Elyron, I took the opportunity to ask him a little about the finances of the city and the previous rule, though most of our conversation revolved around the first court session which I have decided to hold tomorrow, at noon, in the Thassilonion cathedral. This was, even beyond convenience, a political decision. The Cathedral has long been considered haunted (previously with good reason, of course – it’ll be a long time before I can get those snake-women from my mind’s eye) and the nobles are afraid of it, which gives me power there. It is also holy ground, and unquestionably my own – all good reasons to hold court there.

Elyron approved my idea to hold court soon – he cited the old adage “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” with the advice that since I have not made any enemies within the city (at least, none which still live) I must endeavour to do all I can for my friends. When I asked about what the court should entail, he described a pledge of fealty, which must be heard from all ordained nobility and gentry. The nobles will also expect a speech regarding my intended mode of governance, as well as annointing and requiring fealty from all present. Members of the clergy should also be invited – that means Father Thorton and Father Ovirus, as well as anyone I wish to honour. I believe that Zao, as Captain of the Guard, should receive a knighthood. I must think carefully on my other appointments, which should include some kind of counsel appointments. Usually emisarries from the surrounding courts and powers would attend the opening court session of a new ruler, but with the siege in place this becomes difficult, and I do not wish to wait any longer before assuming official duties. A vacuum of power, with an innactive Duchess, would be political suicide in this tense situation. Nevertheless, with most of the attendees being my friends, this will be more like a first day of school than a normal court session.

Elyron also informed me that he has comissioned an empty wood and leatherbound book, in order to document my accounts and holdings. I advised that he talk with Derek about the properties and holdings; honestly, I’m doing my best to stay out of the business, since Derek is not entirely happy with my approach to wealth.

I also asked about the nearby villages, prompted by what Lady Mesma had said about the surrounding fertile land. The two villages under the hands of Sir Guyron are, surprisingly, not the closest ones; that title is for Mongrel and Sojourn, fishing villages which seem to currently lie in private hands, though whose, no one seems to know. The first village up the Chavali River is known as the Low Lock, and does indeed lie upon a river loch. Apparently most of the villages are not run by nobles, and there is something of a power void, now more than ever since many of the nobles fled the Orc attacks

From my own lessons with the Heraldmaster I know that, as a Duchess, I can create counts, barons and baronets (hereditary and non-military) and knights. In th fullness of time, I may be able to give the territories outside Roderick’s Cove away to other nobility, or even eventually divide e Duchy into counties, though it will be a long time until we can protect enough territory to make it worth naming counts.

For a while we sang round the fire. The lamb was delicious and the wine was flowing – we sang songs of Shelyn, and with Derek we belted out some of the old hymns to Krotos I had learned in the Janderhof Monestary; the songs of my adopted kin are irresistible – they had everyone tapping their feet by the end.

Eventually, after the wine was gone and we were all somewhat feeling the effects, we crowded down the road to the centre of the town, and the inn. Morden came up to my room without question, and we enjoyed one another’s company for a while. I had been thinking about the next day and the court, and wondering about the other necessity of tomorrow – forming a counsel. I there are few people in Roderick’s Cove I knew well enough to trust and Morden is one of them. He always gives me excellent advice and his wide experience means that he can be helpful in a variety of matters. However, I can’t appoint someone to the counsel if there is a chance that they will embarrass the establishment – for example, if they are caught up in illegal activities. I asked Morden about this – he swore to me that he does nothing illegal when he disappears, but that he must go to do whatever it is; it is something he has to do, and he’s not willing to share whatever it is with me, or anyone else. The mystery is itchingly tantalising, and I’m desperate to know, but I know that I should respect his privacy. Morden is currently sleeping next to me, and it seems like a very good plan indeed.

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Session XVI: "To lead, is to be alone..."
Oathday, Kuthona 7th, 4711

Kuthona 7th “Toilday”, of the Year 4711

Tavern: The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove
I had intended to sleep for just a little, but I underestimated my tiredness. In fact, I fell asleep right in the middle of writing my last diary entry. I would finish the thought now, but at this point I have no memory of what I was thinking.

So, it must have been 3 hours after noon when I rose. I changed my clothes and took my laundry down to Oryanna. Her change in manner alarmed me. Although she has treated me with great respect since I healed her and fought off the demon who attacked her, she now has become in great awe of me, and her manner towards ‘The Duchess’ is impermeable and formal, whilst her attitude before was more friendly. I did note that she seemed in good spirits –the apparent confidence and morale boost that my appointment has brought to the city is, at least, a fine thing. I went straight to the stables to bid Loreena and Nilluvian goodbye. They travel to the city of Augustana in Andoria, and it is doubtful that I will see Loreena again. I made the request, on behalf of the city, for grain or foodstuffs. I hope that Loreena’s father proves a generous man.

My next wish was to go down to Derek and ask him of the nobles and the situation of the town. I intend to hold a court soon; nothing about my ascension to power has been traditional, and I feel it is important to share my willingness to rule and my vision for the future with those who would call themselves noble. Later I must meet the nobles themselves, interview them, and ask them personally to attend, but first I will speak to Derek. I never hear better sense from anyone but him.

On a whim, and perhaps because I was feeling a little lonely, I decided to take the scenic route to Derek’s quarters, and to descend via the temple. The building was more beautiful than I remembered, and the warm light of the late afternoon radiated through the skylights, making the marble glow white. I was taken with some of the fresco panels, and stopped to have a better look. They depict many things; angels with trumpets – some even look a little like me – bending from heaven, though their skin has bubbled and flaked in places where the frescos are in need of restoration.

And there, nonchalantly in a corner, was a picture of the bay of Roderick’s Cove. I almost didn’t recognise it. The crystal-blue waters looked significantly more inviting than the stern, grey waves which I have seen there – perhaps the season makes a difference as to their colour – and rising up within the bay, where the central guard tower now stands, stood a magnificent tower, six times the height of those around it. I stopped short. That structure certainly does not stand there now, and yet the cathedral and those towers are both of Thessalonian construction, probably from around the same time. My next thought was that there must have been some change in water level; after all, the top of the tower, with its strange network of arches and columns, looked identical to the one I had seen in Roderick’s Cove from a distance. Checking with other points along the coast, though, the water seemed to have remained constant all this time. If the tower was the same basic structure, something had happened to shrink it to 1/6 of the size.

I looked at the other frescos, to see if they shed some light on the situation, but though there seemed to be many stories about the city, and practically everything else, painted on the walls, I could make sense of few of them. When I finally get time, I will need to hire a team of historians and craftsmen to document and restore these frescoes – they may provide vital clues to details and history of the Thessalonian structures in this area.

After spending some time praying here – after all, a building this light and beautiful seems an appropriate house for Shelyn – I made my way down to the interim level. I explored briefly, to see that everything was in order there, and continued on to the forge. It was very busy down there – unsurprising, I suppose, since I had sent a large group of people into an unfamiliar environment. I spent a few minutes speaking with Uldern. It seems news travels fast for he, too, greeted me as ‘your grace’. He seems happy in his work and with the mine, though he requested more space for the villagers I had sent. I offered for him to use the upper levels of the complex, and the temple. It remains warm in there and, frankly, I can’t think of anywhere more wondrous to sleep.

I passed through to Derek’s chambers, knocking on the door. When I entered, Derek stood immediately and scraped the ground with his bow. Honestly, one would imagine that the floor was made of gold, the way people keep staring at it in my presence. I had caught him in the middle of working on the books, so I resolved to take up as little of his time as possible. I mentioned first that I was intending to hold court, and his immediate comment was that he desperately wants to see how I’m going to deal with everyone asking me questions. Since that was somewhat my concern as well, I asked him to tell me more about the nobles in the city.

Of Baronet Asimus Thornbridge, Derek told me yet again of his takeover of the city 20 years ago, following the city’s revolt against Riddleport for independence. During this time, Riddleport was also in midst of internal strife (which I gather, at that time, was frequently the case), and Roderick’s Cove made itself trouble enough that to hold on to that it was no longer worthy. It is worth noting that, with the changes I plan to instigate here, Roderick’s Cove may become a more tempting prize for Riddlesport, and I will have to augment the city’s defences, particularly the cove, if we are to hope to hold onto our independence. Interestingly, Asimus held noble status and a title even under Riddleport rule – he is an old noble and is used to being afforded courtesy. I must ensure that he is not offended by my supercedence of his authority. His wife, Baronetess Aileyn Thornbridge, took her title by marriage.

Of Baronet Guyron Swordwhite, I learned that he was the owner of two estates outside the city until recently, though it cannot currently be known whether those estates still stand since the Orc raiding parties were situated extremely close to them.

I learnt less of Lady Mesma Thickwood than of her late husband, Sir Mayden Thickwood. He was a knight of the Cheliax empire, though he remained in Varisia after the Cheliax Empire withdrew. Sir Thickwood was respected by the current overlord of Riddleport, a man called Gaston Cromarcky, and also by his peers.

Of Gaston Cromarcky, the leader of Riddleport, I learned that he used to be a pirate captain; under his 30yrs of leadership he seems to have stabilised Riddleport – according to everything I can discover he is open to diplomacy, and an exceptional gambler.

I further asked Dereck if he had any aspirations to the nobility himself. He told me with a smile that he “wouldn’t mind”. I also informed him about the frescos up in the temple, and the discovery I had made about the central cove tower. Finally, I asked him to add to his list of tasks the removal of the precious items from the lake upstairs. I may give them to the city to restock the civic coffers – they are the remnants of many dead men who entered the forge and, in a way, their presence saddens me, and is a testament to their lost lives. Giving their wealth to the city will, I believe, be a fitting memorial, since I have no way of knowing who they were.

Leaving Derek to his bookkeeping, I headed towards the town hall. It was my intention to have an informal interview with the Mayor, to discuss the city and the method he had ruled it for the past 20 years. The door was opened by a servant who fetched her mistress, Aileyn Thornbridge. There was, again, a significant formalisation of her manner towards me, though she ever observed propriety. After some pleasantries and discussing the state of the weaving initiative – it still remains in a good way, and I saw the women who were working there seemed cheerful and in good spirits – Baronetess Thornbridge informed me that the mayor is ‘indisposed’. Apparently he is depressed and in bad shape – he hasn’t even washed for the past four days. Her manner, however, seemed to be positive and upbeat – it was clear that she is convinced that I am the solution for the problems in the city. I hope she proves correct.

It was early evening, and dark as I left the town hall, making what I am coming to think of as my ‘daily rounds’, and walked towards the guardhouse. Zao was sitting in the guard room – morale seems to be increased; he attributes this to the fact that people now have someone to look up to, but also let slip that Arietta has been walking the wall and ‘raising spirits’ – I would be astonished if her personal charms did not have had more local impact than my political acumen. No cold-weather garments have yet come from the women, but Lady Aileyn reports that the first will be ready shortly.

Heading back to the inn, I ordered something to eat and passed a few minutes with Oryanna. Again, her marked change in manner was disturbing. I can only hope that as time goes on people will become less formal towards me – though they mean it as respect, there is a distance between us now which leaves me cold and lonely. In Abken I was feared and respected – the feeling is not dissimilar to what I experience now. There at least I had a training grounds to flee to, lessons to complete and masters to guide me. Still, I must allow my work to keep me busy. Oryanna informed me that there was a short archery training session this morning – though there are no excellent marksmen in the militia, and few can hold their own, and Arietta’s improvements on the bows are helping.

And thus I am sitting now in the tavern, with my stew, brown bread and beer. It is around 8.30 in the evening and pretty quiet here – just a few old men grumbling and comparing old stories; I’m keeping one eye on the door for Morden, Arietta or anyone else I know, but no one has come in so far. I miss Ellesar. His companionship was quiet, but he was friendly, kind, wise. He was like Thror and Balin in many ways – with them, my mentors, I never felt alone. The time in Abken was not so bad after a while, having known little else – time accustoms one to all things – but now, after Ellesar, this loneliness seems worse. Still, time accustoms one to all things. I believe I will go pray for a while.



Kuthona 7th “Toilday”, of the Year 4711
Tavern: The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove

I had intended to sleep for just a little, but I underestimated my tiredness. In fact, I fell asleep right in the middle of writing my last diary entry. I would finish the thought now, but at this point I have no memory of what I was thinking.

So, it must have been 3 hours after noon when I rose. I changed my clothes and took my laundry down to Oryanna. Her change in manner alarmed me. Although she has treated me with great respect since I healed her and fought off the demon who attacked her, she now has become in great awe of me, and her manner towards ‘The Duchess’ is impermeable and formal, whilst her attitude before was more friendly. I did note that she seemed in good spirits –the apparent confidence and morale boost that my appointment has brought to the city is, at least, a fine thing. I went straight to the stables to bid Loreena and Nilluvian goodbye. They travel to the city of Augustana in Andoria, and it is doubtful that I will see Loreena again. I made the request, on behalf of the city, for grain or foodstuffs. I hope that Loreena’s father proves a generous man.

My next wish was to go down to Derek and ask him of the nobles and the situation of the town. I intend to hold a court soon; nothing about my ascension to power has been traditional, and I feel it is important to share my willingness to rule and my vision for the future with those who would call themselves noble. Later I must meet the nobles themselves, interview them, and ask them personally to attend, but first I will speak to Derek. I never hear better sense from anyone but him.

On a whim, and perhaps because I was feeling a little lonely, I decided to take the scenic route to Derek’s quarters, and to descend via the temple. The building was more beautiful than I remembered, and the warm light of the late afternoon radiated through the skylights, making the marble glow white. I was taken with some of the fresco panels, and stopped to have a better look. They depict many things; angels with trumpets – some even look a little like me – bending from heaven, though their skin has bubbled and flaked in places where the frescos are in need of restoration.

And there, nonchalantly in a corner, was a picture of the bay of Roderick’s Cove. I almost didn’t recognise it. The crystal-blue waters looked significantly more inviting than the stern, grey waves which I have seen there – perhaps the season makes a difference as to their colour – and rising up within the bay, where the central guard tower now stands, stood a magnificent tower, six times the height of those around it. I stopped short. That structure certainly does not stand there now, and yet the cathedral and those towers are both of Thessalonian construction, probably from around the same time. My next thought was that there must have been some change in water level; after all, the top of the tower, with its strange network of arches and columns, looked identical to the one I had seen in Roderick’s Cove from a distance. Checking with other points along the coast, though, the water seemed to have remained constant all this time. If the tower was the same basic structure, something had happened to shrink it to 1/6 of the size.

I looked at the other frescos, to see if they shed some light on the situation, but though there seemed to be many stories about the city, and practically everything else, painted on the walls, I could make sense of few of them. When I finally get time, I will need to hire a team of historians and craftsmen to document and restore these frescoes – they may provide vital clues to details and history of the Thessalonian structures in this area.

After spending some time praying here – after all, a building this light and beautiful seems an appropriate house for Shelyn – I made my way down to the interim level. I explored briefly, to see that everything was in order there, and continued on to the forge. It was very busy down there – unsurprising, I suppose, since I had sent a large group of people into an unfamiliar environment. I spent a few minutes speaking with Uldern. It seems news travels fast for he, too, greeted me as ‘your grace’. He seems happy in his work and with the mine, though he requested more space for the villagers I had sent. I offered for him to use the upper levels of the complex, and the temple. It remains warm in there and, frankly, I can’t think of anywhere more wondrous to sleep.

I passed through to Derek’s chambers, knocking on the door. When I entered, Derek stood immediately and scraped the ground with his bow. Honestly, one would imagine that the floor was made of gold, the way people keep staring at it in my presence. I had caught him in the middle of working on the books, so I resolved to take up as little of his time as possible. I mentioned first that I was intending to hold court, and his immediate comment was that he desperately wants to see how I’m going to deal with everyone asking me questions. Since that was somewhat my concern as well, I asked him to tell me more about the nobles in the city.

Of Baronet Asimus Thornbridge, Derek told me yet again of his takeover of the city 20 years ago, following the city’s revolt against Riddleport for independence. During this time, Riddleport was also in midst of internal strife (which I gather, at that time, was frequently the case), and Roderick’s Cove made itself trouble enough that to hold on to that it was no longer worthy. It is worth noting that, with the changes I plan to instigate here, Roderick’s Cove may become a more tempting prize for Riddlesport, and I will have to augment the city’s defences, particularly the cove, if we are to hope to hold onto our independence. Interestingly, Asimus held noble status and a title even under Riddleport rule – he is an old noble and is used to being afforded courtesy. I must ensure that he is not offended by my supercedence of his authority. His wife, Baronetess Aileyn Thornbridge, took her title by marriage.

Of Baronet Guyron Swordwhite, I learned that he was the owner of two estates outside the city until recently, though it cannot currently be known whether those estates still stand since the Orc raiding parties were situated extremely close to them.

I learnt less of Lady Mesma Thickwood than of her late husband, Sir Mayden Thickwood. He was a knight of the Cheliax empire, though he remained in Varisia after the Cheliax Empire withdrew. Sir Thickwood was respected by the current overlord of Riddleport, a man called Gaston Cromarcky, and also by his peers.

Of Gaston Cromarcky, the leader of Riddleport, I learned that he used to be a pirate captain; under his 30yrs of leadership he seems to have stabilised Riddleport – according to everything I can discover he is open to diplomacy, and an exceptional gambler.

I further asked Dereck if he had any aspirations to the nobility himself. He told me with a smile that he “wouldn’t mind”. I also informed him about the frescos up in the temple, and the discovery I had made about the central cove tower. Finally, I asked him to add to his list of tasks the removal of the precious items from the lake upstairs. I may give them to the city to restock the civic coffers – they are the remnants of many dead men who entered the forge and, in a way, their presence saddens me, and is a testament to their lost lives. Giving their wealth to the city will, I believe, be a fitting memorial, since I have no way of knowing who they were.

Leaving Derek to his bookkeeping, I headed towards the town hall. It was my intention to have an informal interview with the Mayor, to discuss the city and the method he had ruled it for the past 20 years. The door was opened by a servant who fetched her mistress, Aileyn Thornbridge. There was, again, a significant formalisation of her manner towards me, though she ever observed propriety. After some pleasantries and discussing the state of the weaving initiative – it still remains in a good way, and I saw the women who were working there seemed cheerful and in good spirits – Baronetess Thornbridge informed me that the mayor is ‘indisposed’. Apparently he is depressed and in bad shape – he hasn’t even washed for the past four days. Her manner, however, seemed to be positive and upbeat – it was clear that she is convinced that I am the solution for the problems in the city. I hope she proves correct.

It was early evening, and dark as I left the town hall, making what I am coming to think of as my ‘daily rounds’, and walked towards the guardhouse. Zao was sitting in the guard room – morale seems to be increased; he attributes this to the fact that people now have someone to look up to, but also let slip that Arietta has been walking the wall and ‘raising spirits’ – I would be astonished if her personal charms did not have had more local impact than my political acumen. No cold-weather garments have yet come from the women, but Lady Aileyn reports that the first will be ready shortly.

Heading back to the inn, I ordered something to eat and passed a few minutes with Oryanna. Again, her marked change in manner was disturbing. I can only hope that as time goes on people will become less formal towards me – though they mean it as respect, there is a distance between us now which leaves me cold and lonely. In Abken I was feared and respected – the feeling is not dissimilar to what I experience now. There at least I had a training grounds to flee to, lessons to complete and masters to guide me. Still, I must allow my work to keep me busy. Oryanna informed me that there was a short archery training session this morning – though there are no excellent marksmen in the militia, and few can hold their own, and Arietta’s improvements on the bows are helping.

And thus I am sitting now in the tavern, with my stew, brown bread and beer. It is around 8.30 in the evening and pretty quiet here – just a few old men grumbling and comparing old stories; I’m keeping one eye on the door for Morden, Arietta or anyone else I know, but no one has come in so far. I miss Ellesar. His companionship was quiet, but he was friendly, kind, wise. He was like Thror and Balin in many ways – with them, my mentors, I never felt alone. The time in Abken was not so bad after a while, having known little else – time accustoms one to all things – but now, after Ellesar, this loneliness seems worse. Still, time accustoms one to all things. I believe I will go pray for a while.

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Session XV: "...and some have power thrust upon them."
In which Aurora becomes a Duchess (7th Kuthona)

7th Kuthona , Toilday, of the year 4711
Tavern: The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove, an hour before noon

I must have slept finally, though I felt little of the benefit, for this morning I awoke just after dawn as the farmers began to stir. My first thought, after rubbing the life back into my stiff limbs, was to ensure that we were still safe. Outside the abandoned house the air was crisp and still. I flew up high to check the local area. I could see bulky figures, far over to the east by the river, but nothing closer. Eager to get moving, lest they come our way, I hurried the farmers, and soon they were ready to depart. My first duty was to these people, and protecting so many from attack would be a challenge.

I asked Eldman, the very large man seemed to be a sort of ad hoc leader, to get the party moving. He placed his son in front, Oarman, and took up the vanguard himself. For my own part I shifted position, checking out sight lines to the front and rear, and occasionally from above. From there I could also estimate the state of the local game – I saw two deer drinking from the river close by. They will be a vital food source if the siege continues.

With women and children the pace was slow, but after half an hour we had returned to the city. I left the group, promising to return, as I flew up over the wall and went in search of Zao. He had bad news for me – the Mayor had refused to grant asylum for any who approached the gates. Knowing I could not abandon these people – it was only a matter of time before the Orc raiding parties found them – I went in search of the Mayor.

I found him in council with Seneschal Eliron, looking weary and frayed. Eliron graciously left us to private council and I made the request, on behalf of the serfs, that they wished to be beholden to him. I dislike the system that one man must sign his life to another; it smacks of inequality, and the inherent corruption which titles historically seem to bring. And yet, playing along with this system was the only way to bring the villagers into the city, to offer them sanctuary. Certainly times were dire in Rodercik’s Cove, but outside the walls lay certain death for those unable to protect themselves. The Mayor, though, refused point blank to accept the bond of the serfs. In the end I was able to convince him that I could sign their bond and that after the siege they would be free to go, should they choose it. I have space for them – though certainly not the finest accommodation, the mine and the cathedral together could easily shield them from the elements, and it’s warm down there because of the lava network.

Pleased that I finally had a way to bring the serfs into the city, I returned to tell them the plan. They had remained close to the city gate as I had told them, where the militia could protect them and let them in should there be any attack. I informed them of the plan, but their reaction was not what I had hoped. Oarman, who seemed to have more knowledge than the others, was particularly stubborn. He insisted that, since I was not a noble, to sign themselves to me would make them slaves. Theoretically he was right, of course – I’d spent enough tedious, Toilday afternoons in the Herald master’s class to know that – but he couldn’t understand that this was just a loophole to get them into the city and safe. Once the danger was passed they would be free to seek employment, and probably the Mayor would bind them then, if they wished it.

But he would not be dissuaded – if I wasn’t a noble, they wouldn’t bind themselves to me and allow me to provide for them. I asked that, were I to be ennobled, would they consider it? They insisted on hammering out an agreement of taxation and Mandays right there before the city gate. Thus it was decided that, until the siege is over, they will work 6 days/week for food and board (this will be in the mines, for I have no arable land to give them). After the siege, should they wish to remain, they will donate 1 manday/adult/week + tax + tithe. I did not know quite how I would find the land for them to work, since the area around the Cathedral looks too sparse for anything except grazing goats, but at that point I considered it a problem for another day. Perhaps amongst them Dereck will find the next Yorgen Ironwhisperer, and solve all my problems, was my thinking.

So it was that I went back to the Mayor to perform the embarrassing task of asking him to ennoble me. The day, it seemed, had another surprise in store for me. The Mayor looked wryly at me when I petitioned him, and tailed off. I could tell there was something else going on, but when I asked him he simply called the Seneschal back in. The Seneschal told me nothing either, but disappeared for several minutes. When he returned he had brought with him Eileen Thornbridge, Arietta, and two well-dressed, well-fed figures who I hadn’t met before. The mayor looked nervous and the atmosphere was very tense.

Eliron proceeded to explain, at last, that the council of the city had adjourned yesterday in the last hours of the day. They had made two significant decisions. First, the baronet and Lord Mayor Thornbridge was leaving his title “by his own accord”, though the feeling in the room and his expression made it clear that they had done him the honour of allowing him to resign rather than deposing him. Their second decision was that I was to lead the city, as either an independent Marquis or a Duchess of the Tian Empire, “after deep considerations about leadership of the city and deep investigation of the Mandate of Heaven”. I was shocked, though I tried to keep my countenance as I thanked them for the dubious honour. Asking for an hour to consider, and taking Arietta with me, I went to see good, solid, sensible Dereck. If anyone knew what to do, it would be those two.

I tried to keep my head as I walked through the streets with Arietta and descended into Dereck’s dungeon. I was suddenly reminded of all the tricks I was taught after ‘the fire incident’ with Edwin, my first month in Abken; calming thoughts, deep breathing, focussing on the love of Shelyn. When I opened my mouth to explain things to Dereck, I was glad that I didn’t sound hysterical.

Derek took the news in his stride, and I have to say seemed less surprised than I would have imagined. He agreed, like Arietta, that there was no problem with this, that it was a good and desirable circumstance. Arietta voiced the opinion that becoming a Duchy would benefit the city more, lending it more authority. She also mentioned that I need not be always tied here, but that by leaving someone (i.e. her) in my place, I would be free to come and go. Noble blood seems so important to these people, beyond convictions or abilities. They even consider me noble blood, mainly because of my bloodlines, though in my case the confidence which Shelyn has placed in me surely can’t hurt. The whole situation concerns me, but perhaps as Duchess I will have the power to change all this.

Arietta believes that (once the envoy returns in 10 months) Tian will accept us as their Duchy, simply because it will allow them a safe harbour should their ships come this way. She foresees no problems from the Empire.

Feeling tired and rather overwhelmed, I returned to the town hall and gave them my answer. After much prompting, for both a surname (which I never needed before – as the only angelic dragoness I know, Aurora has always been descriptive enough) and a new name for the Duchy, I have been named “Duchess Aurora Iothanon of the Duchy of Melodie, Marquis of Melodie and Baroness of Roderick’s Cove”. Ioth anon, of course, is a nod to the Tian name of Shelyn, Lady of the Chrysanthemum, though my name now means Golden Holy Flower in Draconic. Ellesar would call it bad poetry, but I like it. The Duchy I have named Melodie, in honour of Shelyn’s holy texts.

The ladies and gentlemen all looked thrilled and relieved when I accepted the title of a duchess. It was Arietta who pointed out why – there will be more noble echelons available for them to squabble over now that they are led by a Duchess, rather an a Baronet. I thanked the Mayor for all his hard work, and for all he had done for the city. I do not know what he will choose to do next, but I hope he stays. He was clearly a voice of strength and moral conscience when the city needed it before, and I believe that he has not lost that core of purity.

The first order of business was to let the villagers into the city. I asked Eliron to arrange it, but it was Arietta who proudly went to the gates to have them opened “in the name of the Duchess”. I didn’t realise this until I landed on the wall and saw renewed awe and respect in the eyes of the closest guardsmen. As the villagers filtered in, I landed briefly to give them my greetings. I asked Arietta to take them to Ulden and thanked them for their patience. As they walked away, I looked around at the city with new eyes; it was mine now, in a way. Certainly my responsibility more than ever, if it ever had been before. Before I was a new paladin, trying to make the best of a bad situation, and with a strong case of homesickness for Sir Ellesar. Now everything has changed, and my mission to make Roderick’s Cove strong has now become my duty.

I was longing for bed, but figured that I should speak to Nilluvian first, since we had not checked in for several days. He was reading in the stable, and told me that Princess Loreena was down by the sea. He asked my permission (a celestial unicorn asked my permission?!) to take Princess Loreena back to her father, and then to return. I agreed wholeheartedly that Loreena should leave for her family, especially since the situation is bad here. She’s been through enough already, but this isn’t her fight. I will meet her and Nilluvian later today, after I’ve got some sleep, to say our goodbyes. I have a mind to ask her for grain (which Nilluvian could teleport back with). For myself I wish no reward or honour from her father, but I hope that he will consider a plea to give Roderick’s Cove charity in its time of scarcity.

Nilluvian also proposed a second solution to our famine problem, which is to check the crannies (secret storages of grain etc.) in the local villages and hamlets. Though I dislike the idea of people going beyond the walls, I may lead a capable foraging party for gathering overlooked supplies and for hunting. I also need to investigate how much food is coming in from the sea. All of a sudden, these things become my responsibility.

I must confess I was tempted to hide in the stables, away from the awed looks and congratulation of my friends, though in the end I did brave the walk back to the inn, eating a meagre but public meal before retiring to my room. It’s uncomfortable outstripping those around you – it happened to me again and again, everywhere I have been. My time in Shelyn’s service has taught me to exude security and confidence but the distance, and sometimes the resentment, of those closest to me is always a bitter pill to swallow. One of my greatest fears now is that it will drive Morden away from me. No one likes to be with someone they cannot keep up with, and I have observed that men tend towards a special kind of jealousy towards their women. I had hoped to find him in my room, but I imagine that he must be resting in his own house after his long night’s shift.

I would worry that these thoughts would keep me awake, but that I have never been one to suffer from sleeplessness, and my fatigue is great. Perhaps later I ca… [text stops here].

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Session XIV: "The seed of good deeds pays dividends..."
"The Plan" and the villagers of Asbeth (Kuthona 5th & 6th)

We gathered together in the town hall, in the Mayor’s office, to hear what Arietta had come up with. A small meal had been laid out, and we shared a miraculous bottle of wine which had remained unharmed after the raids. Thornbridge and his wife were there, still mollified and depressed, along with Morden, Derreck, Arietta, Zao, Seneschal Eliron and myself. Arietta, with Zao’s help, showed us a few maps, pointing out weaknesses in the defences of the city I had not seen. She began to detail some fantastic ideas: by filling up the old moat with tar she could create a wall of fire. She suggested several additions to the current militia, such as throwing pikes, a rotation of watchers from the towers, a redesign which would make the bows easier to fire and also an organised system of resupply for the wall.

I myself proposed my own additions to these plans, including the formation of two teams: a magic-using healing team and a crack-squad who, during an assault, could go behind enemy lines and cause maximum dissension and chaos. Also, Arietta had not considered the use of siege ladder-toppling sticks. Finally, I proposed a mandatory training regiment with Thoren and Oriana for the troops on the wall. Even with the simplified bows, their performance at the last attack was so poor that, without training, the whole effort could be futile.

The Plan
- equip the wall with tar, fill the old moat with flammable material to create a wall of fire.
- Added pikes to throw at the staircases and trained Militia for it
- Assigned rotation of watchers from the towers
- Redesigned the bows to make it easier for inexperienced archers
- Organised a workforce as re-suppliers for the wall
My additions to The Plan
- A team of spell casters using healing wands
- A “Commando”-style unit to fly behind enemy lines and attack from the rear, causing chaos: me, Nullvian, Morden, Dereck
- Long sticks for knocking seige ladders down from the walls
- Mandatory additional training with Oriana and Thoren

We discussed amongst ourselves for a while, and I took the opportunity to gauge the Mayor’s state. He protests that he is fine, but his eyes show a broken man. He no longer has the same shine and optimism as when I met him, scarcely more than a week ago. Losing his own private fortune has done much to depress his spirits, and he cannot see beyond this calamity. I reassured him as well as I could, but I fear that he will resign before long.

I raised the point publicly with this trusted core of people that the populace is in danger of starving and freezing to death. I have opened talks between Dereck and Seneschal Eliron to begin supplying the worst-off in the city, the poorest who are most affected by the rising fuel and food prices, with food I bought today and the coal we are expecting from Ulden. Obviously these will have to be rationed, but it becomes a matter of humanitarian necessity to keep people supplied.
(Incidentally why is it always ‘humanitarian’? Why not ‘draconarian’? Or ‘angelatarian’? Dragons are very sympathetic creatures too, after all, and angels are famous for their mercy. It seems very unfair that humans seem to have paragonised their own qualities into their language, and revile dragons with being harsh, as in ‘draconian’.)

As an additional solution to both the lowering temperatures and morale, I’ve also suggested that Eileen Thornbridge lead a weaving and spinning drive in the townhall. Hopefully the lure of a warm room and company will be enough for women to pitch in and weave some warm clothing for our boys on the wall, who are currently freezing cold. For the men to know that warm clothes are coming, and for the women to spend time together rather than sitting cold and alone at home, this will make all the difference. Eileen seemed amenable to the campaign, and hoepfully this will give her a sense of purpose. I will provide them with all the wool I bought from Yolanda, and I’ve asked Dereck to oversee the finances with that.

Before I could wrap up the meeting on a positive note, Seneschal Eliron spoke up rather glumly, to inform everyone (which they already knew) that the city is bankrupt – there is no wheat in the granary (or almost none) and no money in the raided treasury. I told them that sometimes a ship needs a rudder, and sails and a navigator with a good direction, but in a storm it needs a sturdy crew who can trim the sails, batton down the hatches and hang on tight. Of course there are problems, big problems, for the longterm survival of Roderick’s Cove. But in the meantime, it’s important that we hang onto the sails and weather the storm. Shelyn will provide.

When the meeting was done, everyone left slowly until only Arietta was left. I invited her to walk with me back to the inn. Despite my feelings towards her at that point, she was new in Rodercik’s Cove and I could imagine that she felt alone and sad; she certainly seemed a little upset when I thanked her for all her hard work. We sat together with a drink and I tried to get to know her better.

It turns out that Arietta had been on Yolanda’s ship only 12 days. Before that, she had been exploring the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, and Yolanda’s crew had apprehended her in the capital, Kalsgard. Originally she had left Tian because she didn’t like the projected future she could see eeking out in front of her, as a diplomat, emissary and biddable servant to her father, the Emperor. From there she travelled to Absalom, which she too called one of the most wonderous places in the world. She told me that, after Absalom, everything was a bit disappointing for a while, until she had the realisation that beauty lay not only in buildings and manmade artifice. I asked her if she found Roderick’s cove parochial, and her answer did interest me greatly. She described it as an ‘opportunity’. For her, apparently, an opportunity to escape her destiny. But she described it as a beacon of hope of the edge of civilisation, and that gave me cause for hope myself that I may have misjudged her. I do not know how our relationship will blossom, but I have hope that she will prove to be honourable and an advocator of spiritual beauty.

We bid one another good night, and though she still seemed in low spirits she rallied a smile.

Morden and Zao were sat outside enacting an experiment – they were trying out how it is to do a shift on the wall. This was somewhat aided by smoking and drinking. As I bid him goodnight, Morden whispered to me “2 more hours”. I can assume from this that I may expect to see him tonight, which I confess makes me happy.


Morden did come to be 2 hours later, and I was awoken by incredibly cold feet. We joked and embraced for a while, until he made a strange comment about a foxtail. I became serious then, and told him, after some false starts, about what had happened today with Arietta. After speaking to him for a bit, I realised that I am afriad of her, intimitated by her because I couldn’t stop her. In my adult years (few though they’ve been) those who could turn a social situation away from my control and make me feel so impotent have been rare, except for Ellesar. He used to tell me that even my tongue was golden.
Morden told me that I was judging Arietta too harshly, and that my own moral standards were far too high. I protested for a while but, eventually, was forced to concede that he was right. In turn, I asked him why he pretends to be mysterious “like a fart in the night – no one knows who dealt it” (curse that dwarf acolyte humour, it’s hard to shake). He tried to deflect the question and, though I pointed this out, he still gave me no answer. He told me that he’ll be here in the morning. I’m curious to see if he will be. For now, I can just enjoy being close.


6th Kuthona, “Moonday” of the year 4711, Evening
Abandoned Farmhouse, close to Roderick’s Cove

Well, I don’t doubt my choice to be out here in the freezing cold, and I’m glad that Shelyn granted my eyes the strength to see the fire in the abandoned farmhouse so far from the walls of Roderick’s Cove. I could certainly wish it were warmer though, and that soup seems a long, long time ago…

He did stay until morning – Morden, I mean – and I might venture so far as to say that his choice proved extremely rewarding for us both. I hereby rescind the threat of the doggy door. Mysterious though he may wish to remain, that man holds nothing back in bed, and I like it.

We rose late, breakfasted together and discussed our plan for the day. Morden intends to assist Zao with the day’s training. My tasks were more varied, but their aim was the same – with the Mayor absent from public and morale low, my job today was to hit the streets, participate and be seen. First I checked on the food surplus with Seneschal Eliron, who seemed content going over numbers. I stopped in with Ulden to see if the coal was coming up yet. It will be a few days before this happens, but I have switched their priorities from the starmetal to coal. We’ll have plenty of time to excavate adamantium when the city is no longer under seige. Ulden and his family seem well, and he also let me know that Andanan and Iryani have moved to an abandoned house in the North West of the city, close to the river.

Next, I checked in at the open room of the townhall where Eileen was preparing the the weaving drive, and helped her bring her loom downstairs. I have not the first idea about weaving, and it was one of the arts I stayed away from at the monestary – maybe there was something about innately unnerving about all that flammable, oiled wood and wool.

My next stop, just before noon, was to Zao. I wanted to see if there was anything I could assist with, and also see if he had encountered Arietta, since I had not seen her that day. Not, I hasten to add, that she had done anything wrong; I merely wished to ensure that she was settling in, and had everything that she needed. He hadn’t seen Arietta, but Zao put me to work carrying barrels of tar outside the gate, and setting up the fire-wall. It was a nice public assignment, and the men seemed to feel safer outside the wall with me around. I also ferried grain up to one of the guard towers by the sea – probably the safest place to keep it since the granary was ruined. During all this, people would stop me and kiss my hand, call out their thanks to me as I passed. It was very moving, and also an affirmation that I was doing the right things.

As it began to get dark, I flew up into the air to see if I could get a view of Arietta. Oriana had told me that she was dressed in white, and after a few minutes I saw her towards the North of the city.
I landed behind her; she was dressed in long, white trousers and a baggy, white shirt – the clothes looked a little ceremonial. When I inquired after her day, she said that she’d been spending some alone time; apparently she is unused to having so many people in close quarters. We agreed to meet at the inn shortly and, since I was in the area, I headed off to speak to Andanan and Iryani.
It wasn’t hard to find their house and, as I knocked on the door, I was rather worried that the whole structure would cave in. Iyriani’s manner was very sweet – she told me that they wanted a place more private than the inn, and had chosen to squat in the house. Andanan came up, and it seems that he has been putting his powers to good use, hollowing out a room beneath ground. I have no idea even if they eat and drink, or if they require warmth, but I offered them the hospitatlity of the city if they needed it. They seemed to be more interested in working for their money, so I offered them work rebuilding the inn, or in the mines with Ulden. Andanan also showed me a coal seam he’d found, and I offered that Ulden would buy the coal. I left them together, basking in their happiness, and turned towards my temporary home, the inn.

Arietta was already there drinking tea, and I joined her with a bowl of soup. It wasn’t bad, but I sure do miss a good steak. I spoke with Arietta again, and we spoke of the gods, of her father, and of how it is to walk amongst the humans whislt being so very different from them. She also apologised to me for her behaviour of yesterday, though I told her that she needn’t. An easier feeling grew between us, and we chatted idly for a bit. She also passed on a message from Zao – that Morden won’t be coming today as he’s doing a shift up on the wall. With that, she went to bed.

I greatly admire Morden, making a sacrifice in this way. He trained the men all day, and takes yet another shift at night. Knowing how cold it was out there, and feeling like an extra morale-building stunt would be in order, I asked Oriana to pack up some hot soup. I flew up to the wall and distributed the soup, chatting for a few minutes with each man, making them feel good about what they were doing, telling them that warm clothes were on the way. I left Morden until last so I could spend some extra time with him. He looked so chilled that even his markings were pale, and downed the soup in one grateful gulp. As we stood in the cold, both shivering, I caught sight of a light, in a far off, abandoned farmhouse. Morden couldn’t glimpse it at all, and I doubted my eyes for a moment, it seemed so faint. But it was there.

When I told Morden, he tried to dissuade me from going, telling me that it was probably Orcs. But I couldn’t leave it alone. I knew that I couldn’t sleep at night thinking some poor traveller or farmer was out there unprotected. So I flew beyond the wall to have a look; it took a while, but it was well worth it. I landed close enough to the farmhouse to look through a window, and saw a whole crowd of humans inside. Their auras were clear enough to be sure that they weren’t in league with any Orcs, so I stepped up and knocked on the door.

There was an instant silence inside, followed by some steps and hurried whispers. I called in that I was a Paladin of Shelyn and meant them no harm, and at last the door creaked open to reveal a massive man, taller and wider than me. He looked angry and afraid, and both he and his comrades brandished tools. Realising that I must appear threatening, I took a step back and bowed to them; that seemed to do the trick, and they invited me in. There were tens of them, maybe as many as two-score, and all ages, huddled about the fire. They were travelling away from their home – a village called Asbeth which had been raided and burnt by the Orcs. Their lord, a Sir Arronius, had left as soon as trouble looked to be brewing, along with his family and all the goods he could carry. He left his people to fend for themselves. There were a few men there, but more women and plenty of children. This was all that was left of a village of hundreds.

As we talked, it became clear that they were hoping to enter into bonded agreements with the Lord of Rodercik’s Cove or, if not there, with whoever would have them. They had no food, and few enough fighting men. If I had not come along, I fear that they would not have made it to Roderick’s Cove. One by one, they settled back to sleep. I have been writing up this day in my journal, in between dozing and keeping an ear open. I must confess that I am grateful for the fire. I know not how I will feed all of these people, let alone those of Roderick’s Cove, if the seige continues. All I know is that I must do everything in my power to keep these people, and those like them, safe from the darkness and depravation of evil and from the suffering they bring.

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