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.