Gyrfalcon Dawn

Session 28 (5/1/15)
Auditions

On their first full day on the road, the group discusses their plans as they move forward. Trink is full of doubts about how they will be received by different towns and wants to exercise great caution in case people are hostile to the itinerant carnival. The others assure her that at least while they are in friendly territory along the shores of the Zeeva Zee, they should not encounter any problems, although Septimus warns that they might have to pay some graft here and there to be allowed to display their skills. After that, they will just have to take it as it comes.

They then take some time to audition their talents for Septimus, who has taken the role of troupe manager seriously to heart. He has some trouble getting Kibu to accept the idea that he can’t throw knives near Weed until he has demonstrated impeccable consistency of aim. But most of them acquit themselves well, and Septimus is satisfied that their disguise will be plausible.

After a day’s travel they reach a reasonably large town with a fine inn, and Septimus immediately looks to get a game of chance going with Kibu. They eventually get some of the locals involved, but they keep the action light, and Septimus’s winning disposition keeps anyone from getting too put out about losing. Kibu finds an opportunity to lift a purse and earns enough for a soft bed and some sticky buns (probably a bad combination for the cleaning lady).

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Session 27 Recap (4/4/15)
Escape!

The party at Vasta’s is under full swing when there is a knock on the door. Pinborton is standing there with two young socialites, Irmenia and Draina, who are fans of Septimus. Word seems to have gotten around town that the magician is leaving town for a few days. Pinborton bears a gift of expensive champagne and a document, drawn up just that day, confirming Vastavika’s uncontested title to Karadevelia. It is a peace offering from Matreya, who has just had it signed by the whole Council of Governors, and wishes to reset her relationship with Vasta on a new footing of friendship. While not fully trusting Matreya, Vasta is willing to accept the offer in order to keep close tabs on the Countess and report anything noteworthy back to the group via Ginny.

Septimus is quite willing to entertain the young elites, but he has some temporary competition from Kibu, who the girls instantly recognize as the notorious outlaw hero from the posters and from the wild rumors that have been flying through the city in the wake of the overthrow of Inspector Crimner. They attempt to engage the scruffy lad, but Weed is unavailable as a translator and Septimus does not appear to be encouraging the interaction. Kibu manages to use Momo as a distraction to swipe a souvenir broach from one of their jewel encrusted gowns, but his heart seems hardly in it, and he soon disengages.

The wealthy girls are quite disappointed, because they had purposely come laden with some of the gaudier selections from their many jewelry boxes (most of it last year’s fashion), hoping it would prove enough of an enticement to the dashing young bandit that they could parlay it into a dalliance with him later that night in one of the upper bedchambers. This would have given them priceless bragging rights among their friends, for a legitimate story of having been ravished and stripped of all they possessed by the great Keeboo would have secured their preeminent popularity for the entire season. Instead, with but a momentary sigh of regret, they resign themselves to the attentions of the boringly familiar but always amusing Septimus.

Meanwhile, Pinborton has sought out Marina, per his employer’s instructions, and entrusts to her a hand-printed letter from Matreya in Geronimo’s language, which is addressed to the entire group. Weed is recruited to read the lengthy missive to Marina, Trink, Yachak and Vastavika, and we will assume that he is willing to read it at least one more time when the party is fully assembled and underway.

Matreya’s message:

Dear “friends”,

I hope the time may yet come when I can use that word to describe you without irony. I have spoken with my son this morning, and he has indicated his resolve to remain on your side of our dispute. This has given me much to think about, for I place great store by his judgment of character.

I wish we had had more time to discuss Geronimo Kittikov during your visit, because you each have unique insights into the man which I and my superiors would find very valuable. But I fully recognize and concur with the urgency of your mission to find him, and therefore do not wish to detain you further.

My son is quite put out that I will not tell him more of my origins or the nature of the authority to which I answer. Let me assure you that the necessity for secrecy is equally painful to me, and if my instructions or the logic of my position were to change, I would feel most relieved to be able to share with you what information I have. But I will tell you this: The principles that require my silence were developed to protect the people who live in this land. That protection was hard won, and it does not exist in every part of the world. In the places where such knowledge is not restricted, there has been much greater suffering than the people in this region have known, and I offer the example of the upheavals far north of the Zeeva Zee, from which some of you have fled, as a mere hint of the dangers to which I allude.

The time may come when you win your way to the knowledge you seek, and I do not advise you against its pursuit. But for me to fill you in on the larger picture would amount to going rogue against my chain of command and forfeiting what little power of influence I may yet retain in these matters. I am not aware that you need to know more than you already do to achieve your aim. And it lends my resolve to maintain this secrecy a disquieting kind of support when I reflect that your mentor, for reasons of his own, apparently followed a similar policy. I do not pretend complete confidence in my stand on this issue, but there is no question that information without understanding can be a two-edged sword. It is critical that you not be distracted from the task at hand.

The world you call home is a very old place. It has endured the ravages of war and plague for countless generations. It has also known periods of unimaginable prosperity and progress. Contrary to what some of you have experienced in recent years, you have actually lived in a time of relative peace; but that pattern may be about to change quite profoundly. There are dangers out there which even I do not fully comprehend. And I still believe that a greater threat than man has yet faced may soon be brought upon us, whether wittingly or not, by your beloved “Nimmo.” That is why it has become less important to me which one of us finds him first, than that he simply be found.

By your association with this man, you have been drawn into a sequence of events that began long before you existed. I am now probably saying too much, but his reappearance a few years ago was a shock that rocked the powers that be to the core. How he has eluded our detection since then is a mystery to us, and an ominous one. But the revelation that he has been spending at least part of his time cultivating the development of such a talented group of young people has introduced a perspective for which I, personally, was not prepared, one which persuades me to exercise more caution under the present circumstances than my superiors are likely to endorse. To put it more plainly, I may be in big trouble for letting you go.

But by virtue of my own impressions from our brief acquaintance, as well as the important evidence of my son’s clear trust in his companions, I am at least convinced you are all earnest in the desire to do the right thing. That is why I hope for the safety of each one of you as genuinely as I wish it for Yachak. Were I not in such a difficult situation, and gambling so much on this decision, I would be sore tempted to suspend my own disbelief and throw my lot in with yours in the hope of finding him before my people do, just to see what he has to say for himself. But my involvement in your search would bring upon you the attention of forces with which you could not possibly hope to contend.

Instead, my intuition suggests to me that I can better serve the greater good, whichever side of our disagreement that ends up justifying, by staying put for the time being and continuing to work on the project which brought me to Timble-tain in the first place. There are some things going on in this town that I still need to get to the bottom of, and I will do what I can to keep the gaze of those who monitor my progress turned in this direction. But know that this holding status will not last forever. You must pursue your quest quickly and discreetly, and follow your best instincts and conscience as you near your goal.

From what I am piecing together of the local news from the past few days, you all seem to have a knack for disrupting the ordinary current of events, although whether for positive or negative effect is apparently difficult to predict. I cannot help wondering if the assemblage of so formidable a force has not somehow been a deliberate component of Geronimo’s patient scheming all these years.

But whether that comes close to the truth or is simply a paranoid whimsy on my part, his ultimate motives remain disturbingly elusive to us. I can scarcely guess whether unleashing you upon the world at this juncture will serve to expose, and thus either neutralize or redeem, him, or merely play into his nefarious hands. That I choose to do so is more an act of faith than calculation, faith which may amount to nothing more than a mother’s blindness. Poised on the fulcrum of this dilemma, I find it quite plausible to imagine that in the final analysis, it may well come down to the quality of your own insight and character to determine whether your actions lead to the salvation or the destruction of us all.

So, you know, no pressure. By all means, have a fun trip.

From the bottom of my sorely conflicted heart, I remain
Field Agent Deneb Ka’iulani van Epps
Aka : Lady Connetta
Aka : Matreya, Countess in Exile from the (fictional) Kingdom of Vadalia
Aka : Mom

As the party is making its final travel preparations late the next morning, Jarley Buttles shows up at the gate with news of the latest events in town, He reports that just that morning, the foreign soldiers were led to the graves of the ruffians, where the corpses were exhumed and the necklace promptly recovered. The officers went away completely satisfied that their mission had been accomplished, and planned to return directly to their own country.

But that’s not all. On the previous day, the Council of Governors had gathered for their monthly session. While this is normally a strictly sealed affair, it was announced that the Countess Matreya had been invited to this meeting to give a personal report on the recent upheavals in the city. She had apparently been quite persuasive, for in an unprecedented gesture of cooperation, they agreed on the spot to attend an immediate ad-hoc joint session with the Plenum of Burghers.

At this late afternoon proceeding, many issues were brought up, and the impending trial for the rebel burghers was formally arranged. But another issue emerged and gained increasing traction as the day wore into evening. As had been done many times in the past, it was again proposed that the office of Mayor of Timble-tain be established, especially in light of Crimner’s direct subversion of the executive authority of the police, as well as the even more recently demonstrated need for a single public figure to present the face of Timble-tainian sovereignty to visiting dignitaries. To everyone’s shock, the Governors unanimously reversed their traditional opposition to this proposal, and an election date was agreed upon.

Jarley then proudly announces that his own name seems to be high on the list of likely candidates for the new position. He tells Septimus and the others that if he is elected, he’ll need a few good people in his administration, and he hopes that upon their return, they will all consider accepting posts of one sort or another. As they reach the end of the road where they expect to part ways with him, two of his riders meet them and report that there is a rally forming about a half mile north at a public picnic area between the road and the beach. Everyone follows along to hear Jarley speechify and Septimus is also invited to get a few words in.

Someone puts two and two together and wonders if the zebra is the same one that disappeared from the carnival a few days earlier, but Jarley steps in and smoothes the situation over, informing the crowd that he is personally arranging generous restitution to the original owner, and that it is in fact a small compensation to the famous Keeboo for the services he has rendered to the city. People seem to be satisfied with this explanation.

At long, long last, our brave company finally sets hoof to gravel and begins it epic journey. It takes a couple of weeks to wend their way up the picturesque coastal highway, stopping at the villages and towns to perfect their routines and try them out on the locals. Septimus develops a standard schedule of acts, with each member of the troupe assigned a specific performing or supporting role at each stage. The reactions from the townfolk are mixed, but steadily improve. Gradually they work out some of the details of costuming, prop storage, crowd handling, and quick change-ups when the locals don’t seem to be responding well to a particular act. Their musicianship also improves with daily practice, and they often invite the audience to teach them some of the local ditties, which serves to get the people more involved, helps to bulk up the group’s repertoire, and turns out to be quite a crowd-pleaser.

Finally, they reach the peninsula which is the jumping off point for the ferries that ply the archipelago. Before getting that far, however, they investigate another route that had been partially sketched in on Geronimo’s map, one which might have led around the Zeeva Zee and avoided having to use boats to get to the extreme northern shore. Locals discourage them from trying this route, however, claiming that it disappears into dangerous, unknown swamplands and that no travelers ever emerge from that direction.

Instead they island hop to Summer Isle, the sprawling resort town that plays host to the majority of the Timble-tainian elite during the hottest part of the year. There they get a glimpse of the beehive of activity that goes on behind the scenes all spring before the guest barges arrive from the south. Masons are busy repairing sections of cobbled streets and retaining walls, landscapers are laying out new garden mazes up the slopes of the mountains behind the resorts, and everywhere there are stevedores and carters unloading heaps of supplies bound for the inns and mansions that line the coast. There are also drama troupes and choraliers rehearsing their new repertoires out in the plazas, and scattered street performers practicing their routines for each other’s amusement and professional critique. In the evening, everyone swills cheap ale and raucously carouses with the wait staff on the restaurant patios that will soon be the exclusive preserve of their social betters.

Most people are puzzled when our travelers inquire about the north side of the island, but someone is eventually able to direct them to the narrow road that runs around the western end of the mountains and out into the pastoral hills that slope gently northward to the sea. This is the actual breadbasket of the resort town, but many of the crops which will eventually supply the summer tables on the other side are only just being planted. Along the coast are nothing but tiny fishing hamlets, and all passersby shrug at the party’s inquiries and simply point them further north.

Eventually they reach the closest thing to a town that this side of the island has to offer. It has a wharf populated mostly with small skiffs, paddle trawlers and net rafts, and a couple of ramshackle taverns. No one has heard of any sort of ferry service to the northern coast, and all seem dully amused at the notion that anyone would want to go there. But someone sitting at the bar suggests that if anyone knows how to ply that stretch of the sea, it would be one of the, er, fisher folk that tie up in the coves further along the coast, and a couple of the others nod their heads, but only after snickering at the suggestion.

Undeterred, our band forges on, finding mostly barren, grassy beaches and the occasional subsistence farm family. Finally, they catch a glimpse of a loose jumble of sheds perched on a rocky promontory up ahead, and approach it warily. A lone man emerges and walks in their direction, intercepting them on the beach a couple hundred feet from the settlement. They ask about passage north, and he squints out across the waves as he considers what to tell them. There’s nothing like that available around here, he says, but there’s one fellow, old Smitty, who might know something. He’s out at sea with some of the boys at the moment, but come nightfall, they should be putting in. Whether or no he’ll be willing to talk to them, though, is another question. He offers to let them come in for some grub and drink, but they elect to make camp here on the beach. He says he’ll send Smitty out to meet them when the time comes. They thank him, and tell him they’re fine for the time being.

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Session 26 Recap (3/6/15)
In Progress...

Vastavika manages to corner Kibu and Weed on her balcony and tries to pry out the story of their adventures since she had seen them last. She asks Kibu about his capture, and wants to see the interrogation scars, which the boy brushes off as nothing special. Kibu is willing enough to relate how he later dashed across the shoulders of the crowd, launched himself at the retreating Crimner, then scaled the police HQ façade to break through the chief’s windows, watched for an opening, and dropped down on the roof of the carriage he was trying to escape in. By threatening to slit his victim’s throat, he manhandled him through the crowd and into the arms of the Syndicate, thereby actually earning the legendary status which the street mob had already bestowed upon him, which until then had been fueled only by fabricated rumors.

Weed was more difficult to draw out, but in a self-deprecating stammer, he told of melting the bars of Kibu’s cell, helping to release the rest of the prisoners, and escaping into the crowd. From there they were discovered by Syndicate men and shuttled into the meeting place in the Theater. They found Jarley in full command mode and he assigned Weed to help with the bank break-in while he took Kibu with him to work on crowd control, which resulted in the unexpected capture of Crimner. Meanwhile Weed joined a handful of professional thieves breaking into the basement of the bank through a locked sewer gate and an air shaft hatch, both of which Weed alone was able to crack. They knocked out the guard and left him in a pool of liquor next to an empty bottle. Then they found the vault keys in the bank office and began to open the private vaults of the Burghers in league with Crimner, a list of whom had been compiled by the youths whose families had been persecuted by the faux Inspector.

It was here that the thieves got a little carried away, and rather exceeded their instructions to look only for documents that would incriminate the conspirators. They followed up on a suggestion that someone had made to rearrange some of the valuables in the various vaults in hopes of fomenting accusations and strife among them, and if a few choice pieces of jewelry and whatnot accidently found their way in the pockets of the burglars in the confusion, who would be the wiser? Crimner’s vault was empty save for two well-wrapped pieces of odd-looking equipment, and on the way out of the sewers, Weed contrived to win possession of these items as his share of the loot by means of a contest of strength which he won with the help of a small pointy object hidden in his palm.

[Editor’s note: not all of the above details came from Weed, but Vasta was able to fill in the picture in later weeks through Jarley Buttles, who was to become a regular and enthusiastic attendant at her well-lubricated soirees.]

During their conversation, Kibu asks Vasta if there is anything she wants him to tell Gary when he finds him. Vasta tells him she will think about this and tell him before they leave. The next morning, Yachak enters his usual morning trance out on the beach, and returns to find Vasta interested in talking to him. They set off together to visit the apothecaries in the market where she can act as translator, and learn a little more about Nhymeri’s secret remedy. After asking Yachak a few questions about his intentions regarding his mother, she feels satisfied with the plan for him to interview her alone. They return to the townhouse to find the others nearly packed and ready to go up to the Chateau.

They drop by the clearing in the woods to collect Nhymeri while Yachak sets off on his mission to the Countess. Kibu is already there getting to know Spot and learning to ride him. She mentions that she has been studying the notebook from the cave, but still can’t make much sense of them. But she has made a new drawing of the map they found, and presents that to Marina, who is able to recognize her home settlement and the origin city of the Warlord attacks.

A long conversation ensues over whether it is possible to take Spot. Kibu has covered him with mud and believes this disguise will conceal him. Weed is sympathetic but the others stand firm, and it begins to look as if Kibu may not get his way on this one. Vasta proposes to continue up to Karadevelia rather than try to resolve the issue on the spot (no pun intended). They pass the graves of the thugs and note where Marina and Trink had snuck up the previous night and planted the necklace that Kibu stole and the group altered. When they arrive at the Chateau, they are greeted by Mully and the other servants who had returned a day or two earlier to open and clean the place up.

Vasta invites them all to a farewell dinner that evening, and has been ordering new provisions to be delivered, which filter in throughout the day. They discuss the map further, and Marina points out the place she is from and where Nimmo disappeared. Yachak arrives and reports on his meeting with his mother. He has asked her repeatedly why she won’t tell them about her mission and superiors, and she reiterates that she is under orders not to do so. She claims to be a free agent, and not under immediate threat if she disobeys, but believes they are all in danger if they do not find and arrest Geronimo.

Yachak tries to pry into her past, but she will say only that she came from a highly regimented society and was desperate to get away. She paid a great personal price for her freedom, and part of that price was to be on call to serve her people if the need ever arose. She will not say more than she’s already said about her intentions towards Geronimo, but stands firm on her belief that he is a criminal fugitive who must be caught and questioned about his actions. He asks her why she was chosen for this mission, and the response is simply that she was in the right place at the right time, and had been obligated to answer the call in exchange for her release into the wider world.

Yachak explains that while his mother did put emotional pressure on him to choose between his loyalty to her and to his friends, his shaman intuition did not detect a sense of malice or deceit from her. He is concerned, however, that she might try to follow the group and use them to lead her to her quarry, and he is conflicted about whether his presence will somehow present a danger to them. The party assures him that he should come, and points out that he is more likely to be a protection than a danger if they should have any further dealings with Matreya. And he does have his eagle warning system to detect any pursuit, after all.

Vasta wants to know if Matreya still has designs on Karradevelia, and as far as Yachak knows, she has backed off on that intention, perhaps because any evidence of Geronimo’s presence has likely been scrubbed by now anyway. Vasta comes to the conclusion that her own best contribution might be to let Matreya get close to her so that she can keep tabs on her activities. Trink asks if there is some way for Vasta to report back to the group during their travels, and it turns out there actually is somebody at the table who has a proposal to offer on that point.

Mully has been listening intently to the conversation and trying to screw up his courage to address the group, and at this juncture, he can no longer contain himself. He describes how he and Nimmo have trained the gyrfalcon, Ginny, to home in on Karradevelia, and also to go back out and search for Mully when he is miles away. He thinks that if he came along with them and brought Ginny, she is smart enough to keep track of their progress and find them again each time she is sent back from the Chateau, so that without slowing them down much, she could carry messages back and forth. He asks Vasta’s permission to leave her service and she assures him he is free to chart his own course.

Septimus thinks this is a fine idea, and also doubts Matreya’s ability to follow them once they set off. Yachak then raises the question of how they will present themselves as they travel, and Septimus nixes Kibu’s impression that they should be simply marching forth as soldiers. The shaman suggests that they pose as a troupe of entertainers, and Kibu seizes upon the traveling circus disguise as a way he can keep Spot. Ever a performer at heart, Septimus quickly warms to the idea and immediately begins to build the plan around his own obvious role as manager and central attraction. Kibu can help with the prestidigitation and knife throwing, the thought of which automatically makes Weed very nervous. But Septimus jollies Weed along by proposing that he could create pyrotechnic displays and other effects, and also that Trink could perform her scarf twirling and Nhymeri might let them take her body paints.

The group gets more and more excited at the possibilities and Kibu actually gets the confused Weed to stand up against a wall with an apple on his head until the moment when a knife zings up and splits it in two (the apple, not the head). Surviving this ordeal once is enough for Weed, and he insists on finding some other way to contribute. Meanwhile, the party members discuss some of their other talents. Most of them play some sort of instrument, and there are many possibilities for their animal companions to participate as well. The lively chatter proceeds into the evening as the sun begins to set over the valley spread before them, and an overjoyed Mully races out to the barn to discuss his crazy good fortune with Ginny.

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Session 25 Recap (2/6/15)
Riders of the Loo-Vongai

Three riders are coming over the river on the ferry barge, and are met by the local constables. The commander does not speak Timble-tainian, but has an interpreter who proclaims, “My superior officer, Marcion Yavo, commander of the 2nd spear of the Loo-Vongai wishes to confer with the Chief of the arms of this city. It is a matter of importance.” He also adds that they do not intend any threat to the city. The constables begin to lead the newcomers towards the police station, but they pause when the interpreter notices the shuttered up emporium of Edibal Spekso, and inquires as to the merchant’s whereabouts.

No one has an answer to that, but Jarley Buttles shows up about then and takes over the function of town tour guide. He tells them the Chief of Police is on his way to greet them formally, but has been detained. In the meantime, he asks, would they accept the hospitality of one of the finer local restaurants which just happens to be located nearby right on the market square? They are willing to be so entertained at one of the outdoor tables, and Jarley recruits Septimus to help keep them occupied while the rest of the group pull up chairs close by. Yachek does not detect anything duplicitous about the visitors as they make small talk about the dusty 3-day journey they have just completed.

The Chief Constable, Sigil Barlain, shows up in a carriage, heavily under the influence of alcohol, but manages to introduce himself and welcome the visitors to the city. The interpreter stands and unfurls a scroll from which he begins to read:

”From His Excellency, Zovarr the Shrewd, Satrap of Loo-Vongai and Protector of the Western Sector of the Emerald Road,

”To the Chief Inspector of the Trading Center and Depot known Timble-Tain:

”Let it never be said that we are not constant and diligent in upholding our pledge to protect the Emerald Road and preserve the trade which flows through our respective lands and brings life to our peoples. I have heard your summons and have dispatched this Spear of the Guardians of Loo-Vongai to assist in the defeat and capture of the Outlaw, Renegade Band, or Criminal Enterprise with which you have recently become entangled, an enemy and rogue element which as yet is unknown in our own lands, but which you have identified by the name or title of KEE-BOO. We offer our forces to assist your efforts to rid the land of this threat to the prosperity of our respective populations. If you will be so good as to apprise us of the current status of this menace…we will help formulate and execute a plan of action to ensure its absolute elimination.”

The interpreter is somewhat distracted towards the end of this recitation by shouts of “Free Kibu” from the milling onlookers, but no disruption ensues. Kibu pokes Weed for an explanation of why his name came up, and Weed merely tells him that the new people don’t appear to like him very much. Septimus tries to smooth over the confusion and find out who summoned these forces. He takes over the diplomacy role and thanks them for replying to the summons. He tries to allay the sense of urgency, and with Jarley’s help, arranges to have them meet with a contingent of Burghers later in the day. Kibu becomes wary of the attention and tries to make himself inconspicuous.

Marina pulls Septimus aside and suggests that Crimner may have summoned these forces in response to Spekso’s stolen necklace, and wonders if its return would help the situation, reminding him that she still has it on her person. They recall the earlier plans they had of planting the necklace back in Spekso’s wagons, and note the fact that his place of business is standing conveniently abandoned only a few paces away. But no decision about it is made at this time.

As the delegation is led away, the group returns to the subject of provisioning. Marina takes the lead in deciding what to get, and the party pools its resources after a fashion, acknowledging that they will have to rely on the good graces of Vasta to fill out the shopping list. As afternoon turns into evening, Kibu discovers the delirious pleasures of squid on a stick and a mysterious foreign substance called Mint Oreos.

As night descends, everyone returns to Vasta’s townhouse to find the lady herself in good spirits and eager to hear about everything that has gone on in her absence. She is astonished at the audacity of the plot to rouse the people against Crimner, and delighted at the swirling fragments that emerge of the story of Kibu’s rise to fame. Septimus tells her about Countess Matreya’s offer of material support in exchange for access to the Chateau, but Vasta is skeptical. Septimus suggests that Matreya may be willing to be generous to Vasta because she doesn’t see her as a threat, but Vasta is much more focused on the threat that Matreya poses to Nimmo and his secrets. She is very defensive about Karadevelia and still wants to keep it out of the Countess’s hands, and in response to this, Septimus proposes that Nhymeri might be willing to stay with her to lend protection and medical support.

A long discussion ensues about what to do about Matreya. Does the Countess plan to follow the group and use them as a means of finding her quarry? Septimus doesn’t think this is very plausible. Trink is worried about leaving before finding out more about the woman and her plans, but no one can think of any way for them to do this without a protracted delay in their departure, and they agree that the one who really has all the answers is Nimmo himself. Yachak offers to stay behind and talk to his mother some more, and while the group immediately vetoes the notion of his being separated for even a day or two, Marina thinks there might be time before they leave for him to at least have a short meeting with her the next day, to find out what he can. Everyone agrees this is a good idea, so they plan to send a messenger to Matreya requesting a meeting with her son.

Jarley shows up at Vasta’s to fill them in on the meeting with the Burghers, who were appreciative of the way the encounter with the soldiers was handled, and have endorsed the diplomatic approach initiated at the meeting in the market restaurant. Buttles is delighted with the way these events are playing into the advancement of his career, and Vasta finds it very droll to be speaking with the up-jumped leader of the Bloody Knobbers almost as a social equal.

Jarley does ask again about how the whole business with Kibu got started, because the visiting soldiers, while pleased with the cordial reception and gifts, still want to know what’s been done about this outlaw contingent supposedly threatening the trade route, which they were sent to deal with. As they explore the bounty of Vasta’s liquor cabinet, Septimus tells him as much of the real story as he knows, which leads back to the fate of the former leaders of the Syndicate up on the mountain at Karadevelia. This is the same puzzle Jarley had been trying to figure out when he first interrogated the group in the back room of the pub in the poorer quarter of town. Only now, having seen Kibu in action, can Jarley begin to wrap his head around the fact that it really was just the one hellion kid up there, backed up after the fact by this unassuming group of recent friends, who defeated the strong arm of the Syndicate, his former superiors. But Jarley still needs to cook up a story that the soldiers (not to mention the rest of Timble-tain) might actually stand a chance of believing, and Septimus suggests that they take a few of the out-of-towners up to the mountain burial yard, produce the bodies of Droat and his gang, and tell them that that is what became of the notorious Kee-boo gang, which is now no more than a bad memory.

A little later, Marina follows up on this idea, suggesting to Weed that they plant the necklace on Droat when they dig him up.

Distressed at the idea of having to deal with a corpse, Weed philosophizes: “This is pwobably the sort of thing we’ll have to do a lot, isn’t it?”

“We will have many unforeseen adventures along the way,” Marina says, presumably trying to reassure him.

“Alwight.”

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Session 24 Recap (1/30/15)
Tavern discussions, including Yachak's story

The group returns to the police station, where the crowds have now largely dispersed. The place had been ransacked soon after the capture of the Inspector, and there is now no sign of a single constable or city official. They find Crimner’s office and search it for information, but this is apparently not where he kept his personal files, or any incriminating evidence. There is, however, a wooden military statue on the desk which Septimus smashes open, only to find a jumble of small mechanical gears and parts in a compartment at its base, which they turn over to Weed. After they unsuccessfully attempt to discuss what to do next, they end up sacking out for what’s left of the night on the couches and floor of the office while Septimus and James go out carousing.

On his way out, Septimus encounters one constable who is surveying the damage in the police station. The cop is impressed at what he sees, which is a group of citizens (including, notably, some of Jarley’s men) sweeping up, boarding over some of the broken windows, and putting things to right in the downstairs offices. Septimus glad hands the cop and praises him for returning bravely to the scene. The cop explains that he was sent by the higher ups to see what was left of the carnage, half expecting the building to be no longer there. Septimus is happy to take the credit for this peaceful turn of events, and expresses enthusiasm to see the constabulary return to duty and carry on with the task of protecting the city without the influence of Crimner.

The group is awakened in the morning by the returning policemen and eventually repairs to the Dog and Pony Tavern, dragging Septimus and James along who had only rejoined them a couple of hours earlier. Yachak comes up with a very effective herbal remedy for hangovers while Trink lists some of her concerns: What is Vasta’s situation now, and how do they arrange things so she will be alright? Septimus suggests that Nhymeri could stay and care for her, although Kibu is not receptive to this idea. But this triggers the suggestion of sending a messenger to Vasta, letting her know it’s safe to return to the city, which they do.

Then Trink huddles with Marina and Septimus about Countess Matreya. She wants to find out more about the Countess, what her past is, what her intentions are, and why she believes Gary is evil. Marina suggests they talk to Yachak and see what he can (or will) say about her. Yachak is receptive to speaking about her, and says that he understands their concerns about her and shares some of them. He briefly explains that she traveled from the Western lands under the name of Deneb to the steppes where she met his father, a practicing shaman. They fell in love and began to raise a son, and she learned her husband’s language and ways as they led a nomadic life among the far-flung villages and settlements. She told her son many fairy tales and parables in the private language they alone shared, but she never mentioned knowing someone of Gary’s description, and she never explained her childhood or any details about her early life to either her husband or her son.

Yachak does, however, tell them about his own first experience with the person who turned out to be Nimmo (Geronimo). As a boy, he was undergoing his initiation, a vision quest to find his spirit guide, heavily under the influence of the trance-inducing mushrooms used by his father. He discovered an abandoned eagle’s nest high in a tree with two eggs in it, one of which hatched in front of him. He returned to the ground and fell asleep under the tree, but had a vivid dream. In the dream, a white haired man appeared in a nearby field and walked to the tree. Discovering the sleeping boy, he sat next to him for a long while. Finally he set something next to the boy and left the way he had come. When Yachak awoke, there was a small statue of an eagle sitting next to him.

Septimus feels this is further evidence of Nimmo’s benevolence, and wants to know how she went from being his mother to someone wealthy enough to buy her way into Timble-tainian upper society. Yachak has no idea, but he can tell them about her disappearance. Now that he thinks about it, he does recall that his mother had been troubled when she had heard about the vision of the white-haired man, but she had said nothing at the time. When the young eagle had shown up a year later and formed a link with Yachek’s mind, confirming itself as his totem and signaling his inheritance of shamanic powers, his mother had raised no objection. From that time, however, she never seemed quite her former carefree self. Earlier, she had loved to walk with Yachek under the night sky, teaching him the names of the constellations, planets, and stars, but now she seemed haunted by the sight and unwilling to open up about it.

One morning, about two years before the present, Yachak and his father had awakened to find a note. Yachak recites it from memory. “My dears: I am required to leave you for a time. How long I cannot say, but when I am free to return, I will find you. Do what good in the land you can. There are always people in need. I am so very proud of you both, and I love you more than anything else in all the worlds. Deneb.”

The group thinks that the final word “worlds” is an odd turn of phrase, but Yachak is not aware of any particular significance to it. She had always had a sort of mystical bent, very distinctive from her husband’s, and her son had long been used to such utterances. Her fantastical stories had told of many worlds different from the real one, and he assumed she meant it as a general phrase for whatever exists.

Marina asks Trink when she encountered the Countess, which is less than a year ago. She points out that, based on the note she left Yachek, she was not acting on her own authority when she did whatever it was that has made Trink hate her. Trink concedes the point, but still doesn’t like or trust the woman. Septimus agrees with the deduction, and points out that Crimner also seems to be acting as an agent for unknown powers, but that they cannot let these suspicions delay the group’s departure. They should probably do what they can to persuade the town to build up its defenses, and then leave it to carry on as best it can.

James raises an interesting question. As the only one among them who had not had any previous dealings with Nimmo, how do they know they can trust him? Each of the members speaks up for their friend and declares his or her loyalty. Only Marina is willing to observe that because they know so little about him, they can only go on the evidence of his actions while they knew him. All agree, however, that the need to find him is not only to rescue their friend, but to get answers from him.

The conversation turns to the question of where they are going when they leave. Marina believes that the town she came from is on the way to Asterhelm, where they were last aware of Nimmo’s location. But the exact distance is not known. In Timble-tain, the northern lands are considered savage and no trade is conducted in that direction. Provisioning is discussed, and Septimus assures everyone that they will take everything they need, probably with the help of at least one pack horse. With Vasta’s help, money should not be an obstacle.

Jarley shows up with news that the town government is slowly putting itself back together, and expressing appreciation for how he and his men conducted themselves during the crisis. Crimner remains under lock and key and has been turned over to the jail warden until further instructions are received by the Burghers, who are scheduled to meet in session later in the afternoon. Septimus informs Jarley of the suspicious comments from Crimner and other sources hinting at a possible invasion of the city from outside sources, and it wouldn’t hurt to get the Plenum to build up its defenses.

As they leave the Tavern, a horseman comes through crying about riders coming from the south. They ask Yachek for an report on what he’s seen that day through the eagle, and he mentions that he caught glimpses of his mother visiting some of the other estates. Now he goes into his trance again, and confirms that there is indeed a force of about 60 horsemen coming up the south road and assembling along the far riverbank. Since they were on their way to the market anyway, they soon arrive at the docks to see what’s going on for themselves.

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Session 23 Recap (1/23/15)
Exhortation, interrogation, frustration

Kibu and Weed provide a sketchy account of what had happened to them. In the process of rescuing Kibu, Weed had somehow managed to set the whole jail free, and Jarley’s men had brought them back to the theater, and Kibu had somehow captured Crimner, and Weed had helped the Syndicate break into the Bank vaults, and they had all met back in this room for a big meal. The two of them don’t seem very interested in providing details, although the full story may eventually come out if anyone is ever curious enough to ask.

One thing becomes clear, that Crimner is not dead, and they need to talk to Buttles, which Septimus proceeds to do. As he approaches the gazebo through the crowd, the Syndicate leader recognizes him and beckons him up on the stage. Septimus basks in the attention as he regales the town folk with florid accounts of Jarley’s leadership and the Inspector’s perfidy, and adds a grace note for leniency towards the constables, who were only following orders. Grateful for the relief pitching, Buttles again takes over, mentioning that Crimner is under guard at the jailhouse.

They go to the jail and Septimus takes over the interrogation, convincing the others to remain out of sight but within earshot. The Inspector is surly and contemptuous, but claims to have been acting in the town’s best interest, using the conspiracy to wrest power into the hands of those who would govern more responsibly. He hints at vague threats to the safety of the city from forces arrayed beyond its borders, who are just waiting for the opportunity to attack. But he refuses to tell them who he works for and what his exact mission was. He echoes Matreya’s warnings about Nimmo, but is similarly dodgy about what the exact nature of the man’s past crimes may have been. Recognizing the futility of any attempt at talking his way out of his predicament, he falls into silence.

The group returns to the police station, where the crowds have now largely dispersed. The place had been ransacked soon after the capture of the Inspector, and there is now no sign of a single constable or city official. They find Crimner’s office and search it for information, but this is apparently not where he kept his personal files, or any incriminating evidence. There is, however, a wooden military statue on the desk which Septimus smashes open, only to find a jumble of small mechanical gears and parts in a compartment at its base, which they turn over to Weed. They end up sacking out for what’s left of the night on the couches and floor of the office.

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Session 22 Recap (1/17/15)
Kibu's got some splainin' to do...

Before long a messenger arrives at the camp, one of the riders which had previously shown up there and been turned away by James and Nhymeri. He is unable to communicate with the group at first, but turns out to speak one of the languages Marina learned from the people under her protection back home. He tells her that their friends have been found and are at the theater in town. He has a paper to give them, one of the wanted posters all sticky with jam and squirrel fur. On the back is a series of drawings depicting Kibu’s rescue by Weed, concluding with a graphic image of Crimner lying dead of multiple stab wounds.

Not sure whether that last part of the drawing is historic or aspirational, they hurry back into town and enter the theater through a side door. They are led to one of the practice rooms where a meeting is breaking up. Some of the conspirators are standing around some documents on one of the tables, which they tell Septimus are from the bank vaults. Apparently there was some kind of raid by Jarley Buttles’ cohorts, accompanied by Weed. Asleep in a corner of the room they find Weed and Kibu asleep.

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Session 21 Recap (1/10/15)
Abortive mission

The meeting with Countess Matreya is interrupted by a message that there is a disturbance in Timble-tain, namely a public uprising at the police station which sounds like the one the group was trying to plan for, only a day early. The group leaves the estate and hurries into town, picking up James along the way. Upon arrival near the warehouse, they learn that the uprising was more popular than expected, and spontaneously ignited a day sooner than intended by Buttles’ organizers. They hastily make plans to rescue Kibu while the distraction is occurring, and head down into the sewers with a few of the Syndicate members in tow.

But when they finally reach the cell where they had seen Kibu, he is gone and the whole place is deserted. Rather than enter the jail to investigate, they beat a hasty retreat. As they are retracing their steps, however, they encounter a group of approaching police in the tunnels threatening to cut off their escape. Refusing to be herded back towards the jail, Septimus shoots at them and they halt long enough for the group to make it back out to the carriage. They leave town by the west road and head to the clearing in the woods where Nhymeri has been staying.

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Session 20 Recap (12/19/2014)
Those explosions you hear in the distance? Narrative bombshells.

Pinborton collects the group of four (Septimus, Marina, Trink and Yachak) at the appointed time at Romerto’s, and slips them into a private carriage. The ride takes about 20 minutes before they pass through the gates of the Grinborian estate, where guards check the lawyer’s identity before letting them pass. Septimus’ emotions are mixed as they approach the mansion that he had fled so many years before, but there seems nothing threatening about it now. After years of neglect, it appears that Countess has made a sincere effort to restore the property to its former glory.

Inside, they are ushered into a sitting room where other guards inform them they must relinquish their weapons before entering the presence of the Countess. Such security is not always observed at the great estates, where decorative rapiers and jeweled daggers are often considered de rigueur on formal occasions, but given Matreya’s foreign origins and the party’s own assortment of unknown quantities, this precaution does not strike Septimus as unreasonably cautious under the circumstances. The guards efficiently locate every last blade and blunt implement the guests are carrying, including Yachak’s staff and Trink’s collection of kusari weights. Only the silken rope dart itself, wrapped demurely around her waist, escapes their notice as the deadly weapon it is.

Yachak is pensive as they are led into the waiting room outside the Countess’s office. His oracle had been relatively chatty that morning, doling out its typical string of inscrutable hints with more snap and verve than normally filter through its disinterested drone: “Be careful what you wish for. Today is heavy with portent, ripe for the achievement of goals. But some goals, once attained, yield more questions than answers. Choose your loyalties with care; your decisions this day will have great impact.” Yachak has no more idea what this means in a specific sense than usual, but the warnings have made him quietly watchful all day, and it is in this opulent residence that the events of the day seem to be coming to some kind of head. He stays at the back of the group, and tries to observe every detail.

As Pinborton leads them into the lavishly furnished room, the Countess is seated behind a huge, ornate desk, bent over some documents. She is dressed elegantly in a ruffled silk blouse and a brimmed hat with a bit of veiling coming down over the front obscuring her eyes. She is still talking to a young man standing in front of the desk.

“…not what I asked for, but it’s a start. They’re not nearly detailed enough. I want the yield projections broken down by crop with a margin of error that takes weather and pest cycles into account. I’ve already explained to them how to do that. And this expense report. I’m not going to accept a miscellaneous expense figure that’s 40% of the total. Tell Migram that if he doesn’t know how it was spent, make his best guess for this report and keep better records next month. I guess that’s all for now. I have another meeting. I’ll keep making notes and give them to you this afternoon.”

The secretary nods and hustles himself out. Pinborton steps closer to the desk and motions for the others to follow, but he makes no effort to introduce the guests until she speaks to him first, which she eventually does without yet having looked up from the papers. “A minute, Pin.” While they are waiting, two of the guards from the hallway brush past and take up positions a few feet away from her on either side of the desk. She goes on reading and making notes with a quill for a few moments more, then pushes all the papers together and shoves them aside, looking at her lawyer for the first time.

Attentive to his cue, he steps forward. “Countess, allow me to present—“

“The Karradevelia group, yes I know.” Looking past him she favors them with a glance. “I thought there were more of you.”

Septimus steps forward, bows, and says, “Yes indeed, m’lady, but this is all of the group that could be mustered on short notice.”

“I see. Well please have a seat.” She gestures to some armchairs in the center. “Pin, be so kind as to give us the room, will you?” The lawyer bows and hastens out, and the Countess addresses Septimus, having picked him out of the crowd as the obvious spokesman. “Pin tells me the Lady Vastavika has been taken to a secure location. Are you confident that she is safe from this manhunt that seems to be rampant at the moment?”

“I am indeed, as secure as we can be under the circumstances given the lack of precedent to the upheavals in the normal order of things.”

“Good. Had I known her plight, I would of course have offered her the sanctuary of my estate. Consider it an open invitation should her present circumstances require adjustment. I can guarantee you that she would receive the best possible care under my protection.”

“That is most gracious, and I will convey to her your invitation.”

“You’re the magician. You’ve been missed on the social circuit these past few days. Your lady admirers are wondering why you haven’t yet made your big splash performance to launch the season.”

“As I’m sure you’re well aware, other events have overtaken us. But obviously I regret not being able to meet the expectations of my, um, fandom.”

For the first time she flashes him a small grin. “Oh sir, surely the preponderance of regret falls on their empty heads.” Scanning the rest of the group, she adds, “And who else have we here?”

Septimus starts with the meticulously hooded Trink, who casts her eyes down as her name is spoken and merely mumbles, “My Lady.” Realizing how little information he has of her origins with which to embellish Marina’s introduction, he simply refers to her as an envoy from the north, which Marina acknowledges with a nod. He gestures finally towards Yachak, but before he can say the name, the Countess gasps loudly, and interrupts with a breathless statement in a strange language.* Yachak’s jaw drops, and he involuntarily blurts out a single word:

“Mom?”

The stunned silence extends for several moments as Yachak’s friends absorb the fact that he has replied to her in Nimmo’s language. Matreya is attempting to stare more closely at her son, but finds herself hindered by the lace falling from the brim of her hat, and she finally just flicks it from her head, letting it sail to the floor behind her. The others now fully behold her striking face for the first time, with almond eyes and delicately chiseled features, whose beauty is scarcely marred by the years implied by the possession of an adult son. There is one other member of the group besides Yachak, however, for whom that face triggers no sudden spark of admiration, but rather the cold shock of recognition. Trink abruptly breaks her gaze and looks sideways.

“Well, then…” says Matreya quietly, realizing from their expressions that everyone has understood what Yachak blurted. She appears confused, and the air of command has gone out of her voice. “So you know…” Then she rallies her thoughts and continues in Timble-tainian. “I’m sorry, but you have me at a bit of a disadvantage here. Would you all be willing to excuse me for a moment while I have a word with my son? I find myself somewhat speechless at this development.”

Septimus says “Of course” and rises to lead the others out of the room. As he approaches the exit, Trink catches up to him and has an urgent, whispered exchange which the others do not hear. Before they can get all the way out the door, however, Yachak recognizes what’s happening and, remembering what the oracle had said that morning about momentous decisions, speaks out in the one tongue they all hold in common, the one which everyone in the party except he himself learned from Nimmo. “Guys, you don’t have to go. Mother, these are my friends. I trust them. What you have to say to me, you can say to all of us.”

Anger clouds Matreya’s exquisite face. “This is your decision? You’ve cast your lot with them?”

“Yes. We have been travelling and working together with a common goal, and I have no reason not to trust them.”

She takes a few moments to process the situation, and forces her features back into composure. “Very well, I suppose, then…everyone have a seat. I must apologize for the unexpected drama here, but as you have now surmised, I am indeed related to one of your number. Yachak is my son. Do you all understand what I’m saying in this language?” They assure her they do. “I had expected to enter upon this subject more delicately, but here we are. Apparently you are all acquaintances with this gentleman, the one Vastavika knows, I believe, as ‘Nimmo’?”

“He is our good friend,” says Marina.

“May I inquire as to the nature of your relationship with him?”

Septimus says “Well, for my part, he has been friend and mentor to me for some number of years now. I count him as a close friend whom I don’t see but one season a year, but close nevertheless.”

“Here in this city?”

“Yes indeed.”

“For how long, exactly?”

“It would be the better part of a decade now.”

She shakes her head at that information, and mutters, as if to herself, “He’s been here that long, all this time, virtually under our noses.” Nodding at Marina, she says, “How about you?”

“For my part, I come from a land far to the north. I didn’t see him often or for long periods, but he was a great source of knowledge and counsel for me personally and, through me, for my people.”

Matreya takes this in without remark. Trying to meet Trink’s gaze, she says “What about you, girl? What’s your story?”

Still avoiding direct eye contact, Trink responds, “I’m nobody, Ma’am.”

This causes Matreya to look more closely at Trink, until recognition begins to dawn in her face. “I know who you are. I remember now, I know where I’ve seen you…. So you DID get away. I wondered what happened to you. You caused quite a stir down in Surregaard.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Matreya tries to keep her voice soft and sympathetic, but can’t resist pressing the interrogation. “So you knew him at that time. How long?”

“It was several years by then, since the time I discovered him.”

“What I told you then, I still stand by, you know.”

Finally looking her in the eyes, Trink responds, “And I still don’t believe you.”

Matreya stares at her for a few moments and says evenly, “Well, as long as we both know where we stand.” When no one else says anything, she gathers her thoughts and begins addressing them as a group. “Since my son has seen fit to include you all in our personal story, I will reveal what I can. Yachak, you know I never told you much about my life before I met your father. I’m afraid I still am not at liberty to explain myself fully. But suffice it to say that there were obligations I had incurred before you were born which came back to haunt me, and I was called away against every fiber of my being. At first I hoped the absence would be brief, but it has not turned out that way. My…objectives, shall we say, have proved more elusive than I could have imagined.”

“But you were a doctor,” protests Yachak. “You helped a lot of people.”

She sighs. “Yes, that was a simple but fulfilling life. I assumed I had made a clean break with the past, and I was intent on living out my remaining days as a wife and mother, and performing those services for the countryfolk at your father’s side. But fate has commanded otherwise. My greatest regret, and my deepest apologies, my son, are for my unforgivable abandonment. I simply had no choice. I fervently wish that events will allow me to make things right with you in the few years I have left, but the future has yet to be written. May I ask, how were things with your father when you left him?”

“After you left, he seemed to lose interest in life. Within a few months, he started descending into the Madness. I tried to cover for him for a while, but he became so angry and unpredictable that I had to keep him away from people. Finally, some of his old patients in Parufa kindly offered to take him in, and care for him until the end. There wasn’t anything else I could do for him. He wouldn’t even talk to me, as if he blamed me for you going away. I decided the only thing for me to do was to go out and try to find you, maybe get you to come back and do for him what you’ve done for others at the end. You know, that way you have of comforting them, calming them down before they die. I headed west out of our territory. But instead of finding you, I found Nimmo and Marina, and she needed my help. So I stayed with her, became friends with her and with James, and I followed them here. I never knew Nimmo the way these other did, but I feel like I’m connected with him somehow. It’s important that I find him. And anyway, looking for him has brought me back together with you. But as for father, well, it’s been too long. I don’t see how he can possibly still be alive.”

There are tears now in Matreya’s eyes, and she looks lost and vulnerable. “I’m so sorry to hear that. It breaks my heart that I had to do that to you, and I wish I could have been there to nurse him through his final days, as I had always intended. But making it necessary for me to leave you both is just one more little crime that I must lay at the feet of the man you all profess to love so much. We will get to the bottom of this, and I will call him to account if it’s the last thing I do, which as it looks, may not be very far off. I’m younger than your father was, as you know, but not by all that much.”

“Am I going to have this madness too?” Yachak asks her.

“As far as I know, no cure for it exists,” she says with sudden sharpness, “although generations of healers have spent their lives searching for one. Over time, their toils and sacrifices have succeeded in pushing the disease off a few more years, and we have gained the power ease the suffering to some degree. But I only know of one man in this world who has lived beyond this short stretch of time we are given. And that man is the elephant in this room, the overarching topic which we keep avoiding. As Trink here is no doubt eager to tell you, I have a different opinion of this man you call Nimmo. However, I must admit that I am apparently at a disadvantage to each of you in the sense that I have never had the opportunity to meet him in person.”

“Perhaps that would explain the difference of opinion.” puts in Marina.

“No doubt. For the time being, and for the sake of civil discussion, I shall attempt to suspend judgment. But make no mistake, I will not be easily seduced. I am not the only one here whose information is incomplete. His reputation was forged long before any of you were born. I was taught as a child to fear and curse his name.”

Marina answers, “I agree that there’s a lot I don’t know about him, so I will not attempt to persuade you one way or the other. I appreciate your willingness to be neutral in the discussion.”

“Very well, I will restrain my prejudice as well as I can. But it brings up an important question: Just how much of his past did he in fact reveal to you? Has he told you of his childhood, of his early career?” She fixes each of them with her gaze in turn.”

“No,” murmurs Marina. “I hardly knew anything about him.”

“Then how do you know you can trust him?”

Trink rises to the defense. “No! But the judge of a person’s character isn’t from knowing what their childhood was.”

“Just so,” acknowledges Matreya. “But a person can portray any character he wishes when his acquaintances are new. If I’m not mistaken, you were all at a rather impressionable age when he, shall we say, took you under his wing. Would that be a fair statement?”

“Well he helped me escape from captivity,” rejoins Trink. “What do YOU know about him?”

Matreya seems about to snap something back at that, but hesitates. She looks down at the desk for a few moments and carefully thinks out her response. “I’m afraid I am forced to demure on that question for the time being. I am on uncertain ground here. There is a great deal that I am not at liberty to disclose. On that basis, I will withdraw my challenge to your loyalty, and acknowledge your right in turn to reveal only what you wish me to know about your past experiences.”

Marina says, “I know that I don’t want to disclose too much about my dealings with him either, but I will say that with his help, many lives were protected and saved under dangerous circumstances. And that being the case, if he had some sort of dark secret, I would have to weigh both of those things evenly. He’s been a great help.”

Matreya acknowledges this and turns to Septimus. “Am I misinformed, sir, that the Lady Vastavika recently denounced her consort publicly and professes to have been betrayed by him?”

“No, milady. In fact, she did that on my advice and only under the duress of the threat of interrogation by Inspector Crimner.”

“Ah yes, Crimner. We haven’t even spoken about him yet, even though he was the original purpose for this meeting. Well, I hope you will forgive me for having found her declaration to be entirely plausible when I first heard it. But again, I will attempt to remain civil here. So how is it that you have run afoul of this Crimner character?”

Septimus launches into a dramatic account of the persecutions Vastavika has suffered, with special attention to the underhanded nature of her abduction and incarceration by the Inspector.

“But do you know what motivated this?” asks Matreya. “What did he have against her.?”

“He was in fact trying to learn more of Nimmo.”

“Ah,” she says, getting a faraway look. “I might have known…. He’s one of THEM.” Focusing back on Septimus, she continues, “ Very well. It seems that his interference has been a fortuitous development for me. I will in fact assist you in this matter to the extent I hold any sway with the Council, and I hope my good faith in this matter will contribute to a dialog among us.”

“Well, milady, you seem very reasonable. It presents us all with a difficult situation as you may well appreciate, because it’s very hard to reconcile what you’re presenting to us with what we all know of our dealings with Nimmo. We’ve never seen any side of this inhuman monster that you apparently paint him to be.”

“Just so. Perhaps you will be able to paint a better picture of him for me. I will certainly be interested to hear what you have to say. Has he explained anything to you about his motives, what he does, where he goes, outside of the time he has spent with you? For that matter, how is that you have all known him over the same space of time?”

“I don’t know,” says Trink.

With her compulsion for honesty, Marina offers, “Since he was only around for short periods of time, I understood that he travelled extensively and collected both information and artifacts.”

“Artifacts?” prompts the Countess. “I can imagine that. Did he tell you what his interest in these artifacts was?”

“All in the name of knowledge and their usefulness was my understanding. He only ever shared with me what was useful in my circumstances.”

“I see. So it sounds like he did not teach you about ancient history, or offer much of a historical perspective on the items he was seeking. Would that be fair to say?”

“No, he didn’t, and I admit I didn’t press him at the time because I had more urgent things to deal with.”

“Fair enough. So you were under attack?”

“Indeed. My people are the survivors of a series of invasions from Ragrameer.”

“I am aware of the city.”

“Are you aware of the man in charge there?”

“Yes, I have had dealings with Warlord Gravak. You have my sympathies. He was pursuing you to the south?” When Marina nods, she adds, “You were fleeing to the ruins of Mihahk?”

“Yes, that’s where we took refuge. Jeruman, I mean Nimmo, led us there because he knew it would be defensible.”

“When were you last there?”

“About seven months ago. It was a long journey. I traveled with Yachak.”

“Then I can offer you some news of your people, perhaps 2 months old. They were doing very well.”

“News!” cries Marina. “How did you come by this news?”

“I have…friends in the area. I travel a fair amount, and I hear reports. The peace has held so far, and the Warlord has been behaving himself. For a while there was some danger of incursions from Asterhelm, but those seem to have subsided at last report.”

“Asterhelm!? Then no more of my people have been taken there?”

“Had this occurred? I wasn’t aware.”

“Yes, my closest friends were abducted by the knights, the soldiers.”

“I’m afraid I can’t provide any information about your friends, but Asterhelm has been under somewhat of a strain lately. Like Ragrameer to the west, it has not been in a position to make trouble for its neighbors for some months now. It might be that I could inquire of some sources and see what I can find out about them.”

“I would be in your debt.”

“Was the metal monster destroyed?” pipes up Yachak.

Matreya gives him a level look. “You are disconcertingly well informed of events in the area, son. What have you heard of such a…phenomenon?”

“I was attacked by this creature!” exclaims Marina, “or…whatever it is.”

“Hmm. This borders on topics I am not able to discuss. But what you speak of was indeed destroyed. You were not told?”

“I – ” Marina struggles with some of her most difficult memories. “I was not entirely aware. I was close to it when there was a great calamity and I lost consciousness. Yachak was able to look after me, with the help of Nimmo.”

“Dear me. So Nimmo was there at that time?” Matreya interest is sparked.

Marina is flustered as she realizes she may be saying too much, but she can’t help herself. “I’m not sure if I saw him there, exactly, but I think he…might have rescued me. We didn’t see him again until later, near Asterhelm…” she trails off at an alarmed look from Septimus.

“Well,” says Matreya when it’s clear Marina has stopped talking. “this would at least help to explain your devotion to the man.”

Trink says, “Well, I don’t know anything about his background or how he found me or what his motives might have been. I owe him my life. He was instrumental in my escape from my oppressed lifestyle, and I expected that I would be able to find him. I hoped he would be able to teach me more, but of course, since finding his other friends in this group, I have found my path to learning about the world beyond the one I was raised in. I would like to learn more about him.”

“That’s all very touching,” says Matreya. “So do I understand correctly that you do not at present know his whereabouts?”

“We think we know SOMETHING about his whereabouts…” begins Trink.

“Well,” interrupts Septimus, “Only in that we think he’s been captured. He failed to show up this season as he has done for the past decade.”

“When did that customarily occur in this town?”

“Just this past week. He generally timed his arrival at the start of the festival season.”

Matreya nods thoughtfully. “So my recent appearance on the scene and the pressure I put on Vastavika may have been more sensitively timed than I had any idea. Well, I feel like you’ve been very honest with me, so I will attempt to tell you what I can. I am of course in pursuit of this man, and it is my primary mission to find him for purposes of my own. My reason for coming to this city was in response to certain clues we received that he might have some ties to this area. Before I got established here and was able to do some digging, we had no idea how much time he had spent here, or that he had made it one of his bases of operation. I bought this estate in order to insinuate myself into local society in the hopes of picking up his trail, which I have now succeeded in doing beyond my expectations. My sole interest in Karadevelia, once I had heard of Vastavika and the story of her liaison with the mysterious white-haired man, was to gain unrestricted access to the place where he lived, in order to assess whatever clues might be hidden there. Obviously, through your interventions, that scene has now been compromised, more or less, though I would still like to secure it for the sake of whatever evidence it may yet conceal. I wish to reiterate, however, that I have no wish to harm Vastavika or turn her out of her house. If some arrangement could be made to guarantee her comfort at whichever location she prefers in exchange for the unfettered right to examine the Chateau, I would readily pledge my resources to the provision of whatever needs she may have. So,” she adds at the end of her speech, “where does that leave us now?”

Trink says, “Well I still haven’t learned what you think is so harmful in his background.”

“And,” chimes in Septimus, “I have to add to that that we don’t really know anything of who you represent, milady. It’s clear that you don’t operate alone, and I am sensitive to the need for some discretion, but you’re somewhat of an unknown quantity to us in terms of your motives. It sounds almost like you’re a detective, or that you’re law enforcement of some sort.”

Matreya thinks for a moment. “The question that you touch upon is precisely the topic upon which I am least authorized to enlighten you, at least without further instructions from my superiors. But I will tell you that there is an authority that I answer to. I am a field agent for this authority, and under strict obligation to carry out this mission. It is true that I am empowered to exercise some degree of discretion in the pursuit of my objectives, but I can assure you I am already stretching that discretion to the limit in cooperating with you to the extent I am proposing. Whether I am doing this in deference to my son, I’m not quite sure. But I think I can safely say that I am by far the most sympathetic representative of my command structure that you could hope to be dealing with. If it were up to me, I would personally have chosen to retain the life I had won and to have spent the rest of my days looking after my family. I will continue to think about this situation, specifically the extent to which my instructions will allow me work in tandem with you and provide information. There is strong policy in play here which I am already perilously close to violating as we speak. But I will say this: ends are more important than means, and if your judgment of my quarry has any merit, there may well be some justification to my bending the rules.”

“I fully appreciate the candor you’ve expressed so far,” Septimus tells her, “and your need to stay within the strictures of your order.”

“Understand I can make no promises, but I will try to keep an open mind as far as I can. It certainly appears that our cooperation may bring us both closer to our goals, although those goals may not turn out to be compatible in the end.”

Marina has been watching and listening to this exchange very carefully, and her acute intuition about the sincerity of others gives her the strong impression that Matreya, while picking her words very carefully, is essentially telling the truth. Yachak is also getting a clear impression of her forthrightness, although he is conscious that in this case, he may be biased towards trusting her.

Matreya tries to probe a little further into the question of how the group could have trusted someone who was so secretive about his past, and they reiterate how short their time with him was, and how much more important was the good that he was doing. It does come out, however that he was known to each of them by a different name, at which Matreya expresses some amusement. Marina points out that if the name he went by was an alias, that would not have been uncommon or a cause for suspicion where she lived.

“Point taken,” says Matreya. “Perhaps I can offer this much. Would you like to know his real name?” They are of course interested. “He was born ‘Geronimo Kittikov.”

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Session 18a Recap (11/21/2014) Kibu edition
Kibu rides forth

Kibu enters Timble-tain square, supremely confident in the impenetrability of his disguise. James’ helmet is less convenient than he had foreseen, with with its narrow eye slits and the limited ability to turn, but he’s sure it must look cool on him. The bells chime in the Church across the square as he heads south towards the market sector. He scopes out Spekso’s emporium stall which is moderately crowded with customers and guards, though the merchant himself is not in evidence. He decides to hunker down across the plaza and watch the place.

Nothing much happens for a while, but then a group of men arrive at Spekso’s stall and some of them go in. A few minutes later, they come out with the merchant in tow, who seems to be in an agitated state. As he gets on his horse, Edibal seems to be giving orders to his men to pack up the stall, and is then escorted by the riders eastward to the street that leads from the river up to the Legislature buildings. Kibu follows at a distance, getting out on the street in time to see them turn out of sight a block ahead. As he moves forward to keep up, something lands on him from above.

It’s a large fishing net circled with weights that click on the cobblestones and immediately wrap around his horse’s legs. The startled animal prances and makes it difficult for Kibu to hack at the strands, and it’s impossible to remove the helmet because of the weight bearing down on it. Before he can make much progress on a hole, other riders surround him and begin hitting him with clubs. He resists as best he can, but is dragged off the horse and beaten to the ground, noticing only that his assailants are wearing constable blues before losing consciousness.

As he begins to awake, he is aware of great pain in his arms and shoulders. He is hanging by his wrists, which are tied to separate ropes attached to opposite walls. He realizes, however, that his feet are not dangling, but are resting on a cold stone floor. Slowly he opens his eyes but the movement is immediately detected by his closely watching guards, who speak briefly between them and send someone off to report. Understanding that his stealth has been to no avail, he straightens his legs and stands, relieving some of the discomfort in his arms.

He takes stock of his person and the prison cell. He is clothed only in the loin cloth that served him for underwear. Looking frantically around, he sees his scarf sticking out of a pile of his clothes on a table outside the bars of his cell. There is no sign of Momo. His head is throbbing from the blows he received during the capture, but there seems to be nothing broken. His hands are numb, but with the pressure off of his wrists, he soon begins to feel the pins and needles of returning circulation.

Other officers come, look at Kibu, speak to the guards in Timble-tainian, and leave. Finally, Inspector Crimner shows up. He orders most of the others away, save one spear-wielding guard, who lets his boss into the cell, and locks the door behind him. Crimner wears his customary plain black coat with no concession to current fashion; no cravat, lapel pin, or ornamentation of any kind. His straight black hair is combed back from a receding hairline, his sharp features have pinched look, and his shoulders are slightly hunched. [I imagine him looking something like Ben Kingsley in one of his more villainous roles.] His voice is thin and nasal.

“So, at last, to meet the great Kee-boo.”

This is not in Timble-tainian, but in Garry talk. Kibu stares at him defiantly, making no effort to hide the fact that he can understand the speech.

“Not so wily and dangerous after all, it would appear,” Crimner continues. “An easy catch, in that buffoonish get-up. Were you deliberately trying to insult our intelligence? Is this all a game to you? Because I am not playing.” Kibu just sneers insolently at the man as he slowly circles his captive. “What are you, some kind of idiot-savant? You’ve got half my men whispering about the criminal mastermind up on the mountain. Pfft. I see no genius. Without your gang to back you up, you look pretty harmless to me.”

“Let me out of these, and you’ll see,” mutters Kibu.

“Oh, I’m sure you know how to be violent,” breathes the Inspector. “That requires no special talent. But leading men, that takes wit and tact. You have to outthink them, manipulate them, especially if they are stronger than you. You have to convince them that the force of their arms is no match for the power of your intellect and your will. You have to give them something to believe in and fear. Look at you! Dressed in rags that smell like a midden, with vermin crawling out of them! You are no mastermind, admit it! You’re a puppet, aren’t you? How many men do you command? And who is REALLY calling the shots?”

Kibu’s continued silence enrages Crimner, and he threatens to send for men with whips and cudgels to make Kibu talk.

“When you gonna let me go?” Kibu spits back at him.

“When you talk, of course – when you cooperate with me. When you tell me everything you know about HIM, your master. What are your orders? What is he after? When you’ve told me what I need to know, then we’ll talk about letting you go, that is, if there’s anything left of you by then.”

“Like what?”

“Well for a start, how do you know this man you call Nimmo? Where did you meet him?”

“I don’t know anybody named Nemo.”

“I suppose the name Vastavika doesn’t ring a bell with you?”

“Who? I just came in with that fat merchant.”

“Yes, he’s had quite a lot to say about you, you and that scrawny sidekick of yours, the one with the picture. We know the man in that picture has lived here in this city. And now you two arrive from nowhere and suddenly you have a small army of his supporters at your back, using his harlot’s estate as a hideout.”

“I’ve seen lots of pictures of lots of people, people with money,” says Kibu.

“You know the picture we’re talking about, the one you showed Spekso.”

“So, I had a picture. I don’t know the guy.”

“You had a name, didn’t you? He’s told us the whole story. You agreed it was the man he called Nimmo! I know you know him. The question I’m asking is how – from where? Who is he to you?”

Kibu sighs, and says “Fine. I know OF him. I don’t KNOW him – we never met or anything. But two villages over, they told me this guy had a big house and lots of stuff. So I came here looking for him. I thought I’d knock the place off and get rich quick, you know. Spend the rest of my life somewhere nice.”

“By a couple of villages over you mean the city of KallaBalla, a full season’s journey from here?”

“Well, the guy was really rich. Look, you let me go, I’ll leave the city, and you’ll never see me again. You have my word!”

“Hah!” Crimner is visibly stunned by this proposal. “You honestly believe I would be interested in that suggestion even if I was foolish enough to trust your word?”

“I haven’t done anything to you, or the people in this town. I’m just passing through.”

“What?” sputters Crimner. “I have reports that several of my men occupy freshly-dug gravesites up on the mountain. Done nothing?”

“That wasn’t me.”

“There were witnesses! Do you take me for a simpleton? Your lies are laughably transparent.” Crimner steps back and takes a breath. “My friend, the only way you will talk your way out of this situation is to tell me what I wish to know about your master, your leader, whatever he is to you. How many men are in the band up there? Are they mere mercenaries, or are they his disciples like you? What are their instructions?…”

“What is this ‘band’ you keep talking about?” breaks in Kibu. “I don’t know anybody else here.”

Crimner sighs. “Alright. If that’s the way you wish to play it, I guess we will have to get a little rougher here.” He says something to the guard outside, who nods and leaves. He soon returns with a couple other cohorts, none of them wearing blue uniforms. They have lashes and cudgels, and at a gesture from the boss, begin to work Kibu over. After a few lashes and blows to the sides, Kibu’s struggles become violent and he wrenches his left arm so hard it feels as if it’s been broken.

Finally, the Inspector waves them off. “Who is the red-haired girl you were seen with? Do I have reports of some waif of that description winning a horse race at Carnaval? Obviously she’s one of your inner circle.”

Kibu’s voice is now starting to break a little. “She’s my girlfriend, alright?”

“I see. Another disciple. What’s her name?”

“Meri.”

“Where do the two of you come from?”

“I-I don’t know… it’s called…Sol.”

“Sol? This is in the east?” Kibu nods. “This Meri, she is from Sol too?”

Kibu shakes his head. “I don’t know where she’s from.”

“So you used Spekso to find your way here. I get that. But how did you meet up with the rest of this mob? Were you acting under his instructions? Were they?”

“I don’t know them, I didn’t join anybody.”

“Then how did you end up at the estate of Vastavika? Who told you that you could find protection there?”

“Where? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Your lies are futile, don’t you know that? That was where we found you. You can’t deny you were her guest. You were overheard discussing it with your gang. That’s how we knew where to look!”

“I was just staying there. I don’t even know her. She offered me a place to stay, that’s all.”

“So you did know who to contact.” Crimner paces a little. “That picture, it must have been a password. That’s how you linked up with them. This conspiracy network must be more extensive than I thought. He could have agents anywhere…. But how does he recruit? What is his hold on them?” Turning back to Kibu, he says “Why are you indebted to him? What brought you into his service?”

“Service? Service of what?”

“Of Jer— of the one you call Nimmo! You will tell me all you know about him, his capabilities, his plans. Let’s start with the basics. Do you know where he is?”

“No!”

“But you knew enough to come to Timble-tain. Why here, in this misbegotten backwater? What was here that drew him? Probably it was because those elite landowners were so easy to dupe…that fool Ducarte keeps saying they have their heads in the sand, and so far I have to admit he’s been right, not a peep out of them. That trollop of Nimmo’s, Vasty – what’s her name? You people think you put one over on me, getting her out of that cell, but it makes no difference. She obviously didn’t have anything useful to tell me, just a witless wench he was stringing along. But she’s in thick with that upper crust crowd, isn’t she? A real social butterfly, that one, as rumor tells it. Or WAS. Maybe THAT’S why he’s run off – she’s getting old, no more influence with the hoi polloi. He used her up so now he’s gone off to greener pastures.”

He keeps glancing at Kibu, but gets no reaction to confirm his theories, just a sullen stare. A new thought seems to come to him. “Say, you’re as lost as she is, aren’t you kid? Is that why you’re here? He’s abandoned you, and now you’re just a shiftless hoodlum, no orders from the ringleader, just killing time, making trouble? Hmm?”

He stares Kibu in the face and senses the hatred and defiance in those eyes. After a few moments he shrugs and looks out through the bars. “Very well. It doesn’t matter. We have you now and you won’t be going anywhere. Maybe you’ll serve as the bait to bring the rest of them circling around. I’ll catch them all in good time. Right now, I have other things to attend to, but in a few days I’ll have this infernal Burgher nonsense wrapped up and I can devote my energies to the real business at hand. Then, I will be back to continue this discussion and I can guarantee that you will be ready to start giving me some straight answers. Enjoy your stay in our little hotel.”

He gives instructions to the men and they bring in a wooden palette. One by one they untie his arms from the ceiling and reattach the ropes to rings set in the floor. They push him down on the palette with his arms still stretched out to his sides, and manacle his legs. The men treat him roughly and poke at his bruises, jeering at him and laughing at his incomprehension. When they finally leave, a single guard settles down on the stool just outside of Kibu’s cage. He stares at the prisoner for a while, then leans back against the stone wall and before long is snoring contentedly away.

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