Storms over Kelerak, Part II - Myth-Weavers

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Storms over Kelerak, Part II

   
Storms over Kelerak, Part II

"Aidan, sweetheart, darling, light of our lives, heroic champion of the gods. Will you kindly stop that godsawful humming before I have Embla use your hammer to make you a woman?"

The half-elf allowed a wounded expression to escape him. "Isolde, really! A little music is good for the soul, and the elf in me does grant some artistic talent. Besides, as someone who has been here before, I would have thought you`d enjoy a reminder of Kelerak`s more elegant culture."

"Elegant?" Isolde scoffed in disbelief. "What have you been drinking behind our backs? For one thing, you and elegance have never crossed paths, and for another, Below The Spur has nothing to do with culture, elegant or otherwise! Brokk, you`ve forgotten more history than the rest of us could ever learn, tell him that age is not an automatic indication of quality."

Brokk shook his head stoically and with deliberate slowness, turned his chair to one side to get a better view of the impromptu wrestling match that several of the tavern`s more muscular patrons were losing horribly. Two of these, orc-blooded brutes in the black-and-green of the city`s famed Standing Battalion, struggled futilely in the crushing embrace of a massive bronze-skinned arm, much to the hilarity of the others, who wore the royal blue of Osbern`s own Spur Elites. They clearly did not mind defeat nearly so much as they enjoyed the humiliation of their rivals.

Exasperated by the lack of support, Isolde quaffed the rest of her ale - Napier`s Sevenhill, a true Kelerite brew, none of that vile Davenian rubbish - and nearly swung the tankard at Aidan when he cheerily began to sing:

#Morning has come and a new sun shines down
On the homes below the Spur
The fisherman fishes, the bakerman bakes
On the streets below the Spur
From the towers seen piercing the heavens
To the walls that are girding its heart
All gaze up at the soul of our city and feel pride
From their place below the Spur#


Though not the worst rendition that had ever been heard, it did give many of the others a fair run for their money, and even Brokk grimaced. Whatever Aidan`s other talents, a musical voice was not among their number. Fortunately, before he could start on the second verse and either its 'ladies of night' or 'sellers of lotus', depending on which of the more popular versions he knew, he was interrupted by a cacophony of cheers and hoots.

"How upset do they look?" Aidan asked, and Brokk grunted noncommittally in response. "All right, so that`s not dangerously upset. Progress, I suppose. I really did not want to be responsible for a fifth catastrophe. Don`t frown at me Isolde, it would be my fault. I did tell her to go and enjoy herself. I swear, that woman deliberately misunderstands me whenever it suits her. Heshtail`s mercy, her Kelevan is nearly better than my own, and I`ve spoken the language for twenty years. As for her Kingdom Common, I blame your wizardly wiles for everything, Brokk."

The dwarf spluttered in protest, but Aidan overrode him: "Last night she spent an hour with a merchant caravan out of Or City, debating the role of transnational economics in the elective formation of a plutocratic empire and so far as I understood it, she beat them. Are you really going to sit there and tell me you have not been adding to her vocabulary?"

"She broached the subject first", said Brokk defensively. "One of her duties back home was apparently to oversee trade delegations, and she wanted to get an idea of how we did things for future reference."

Isolde rubbed her temples. It was a struggle to reconcile the Embla she knew, a frenzied and terrifying berserker, with the Embla that she apparently was among her own people, a priestess and an upholder of laws. In fact, it was such a struggle that the ever-practical halfling abandoned the effort almost immediately to fetch more ale. Sobriety was no friend when waiting for the wheels of government to turn, and Brokk`s old correspondents were now firmly embedded in its spokes.

It is always a pleasure to read the interactions among the party. And I love the details you're adding to the setting. You realize it will all be canonized, right?

Yes, which is part of why it took me so long to start this. I was scouring the website for whatever tiny details I could possibly use, or at least not tread upon (the standard/uniform colours of the Battalion and the Elites for example), and whilst I'm sure I've missed something, I am quite satisfied with what I've been able to glean from my search. Also took a while because this part of the quartet's adventures will feature encounters far more suited to their level, so to speak - the obscene levels of plot they needed to survive some of their previous battles will not be quite so heavily required this time around!

EDIT: Also yes, I struggled to come up with the snippet of song. I knew I wanted it to the tune of "Bells of Notre Dame", but that was where I got stuck for nearly a week. I, like Aidan, am in no way musical!

Yeah, I can definitely tell you're putting your research in. You're producing great stuff.

The first few days in Dragonspur had been the most trying, as was often the case. Upon their arrival, Isolde had promptly sequestered herself in her room and refused to leave except via the window, darkly citing her prior visit to the city as having left her with several enemies, particularly in the crime-ridden Open Town just outside the city proper, and in the borough of Westcheap that their present finances forced them to stay in. It was only on the sixth day that she was partially mollified, when a note was found pinned to her door that enigmatically read: 'Even he who slew death may die'.

Though Brokk had his suspicions as to who that strange note referred to, he respected Isolde`s need for privacy and did not mention them to her or the others. The recently deceased crime lords of Dragonspur were best forgotten by all who knew them. Instead, he alternated his efforts trying to penetrate the barriers of bureaucracy between him and the people they had come all this way to speak to, and trying to work out what had changed in his relationship with the graven tablet he carried with him. Neither task seemed likely to be resolved soon.

In the latter case, he knew this was because the punishment for his hubris had not yet finished, though perhaps by having willingly offered himself as a sacrifice to save his friends during the encounter at Fisherman`s Solace three weeks earlier, he had taken a significant step towards absolution. This was not a guarantee, but the thought gave Brokk some hope that the end was not quite so far as he had believed.

The former case, however, was infinitely more infuriating to the wizard, as the major obstacles before him were Brokk`s own peers, who he felt should really know better. The responses to his queries were usually curt and dismissive, or even outright rudeness at his last attempt. Looking at the half-sneer of disbelief forming on the clerk`s face, Brokk, who had never had much patience for wilful stupidity, had only just refrained from fixing the expression there permanently - a petty curse if ever there was one, but highly effective as a young Brokk had experienced after talking back to one of his more short-tempered tutors.

What baffled him most was not the layers of protection he had to get through, but that they were almost entirely secular. He had spoken to three true wizards (only one of whom looked sufficiently educated to tell apart a wand from a quill pen), five impossibly smug bards, one particularly overworked sorceress, and a single Kantori cleric obviously of no real influence outside his own congregation.

"Of all faiths, they send a Kantori to delay me!" Brokk had loudly complained to Aidan after that meeting. "Is that an insult? It is, isn`t it? Am I supposed to make a scene at that and get myself thrown out? To give up in disgust? What, exactly? Merciful heavens, I`m trying to speak to one of Heshtail`s faithful, for...for Heshtail`s sake! Isolde, shut up, or I`ll see you laughing on the other side of your face. I don`t mean that, I`m sorry."

"Before you ask, no, they won`t give me an audience either," Aidan said. "The only other paladin in the city is a Sir Kelvin, or Kelphin, or something like that, and unfortunately, he is very, shall we say, enthusiastic about his duties. Since taking the oath, nobody gets through him without express permission from above, which your struggles are closer to getting us than any argument I can make."

Brokk continued to grumble, but persevered. Finally, just over a month after arriving in Dragonspur, he received the letter of invitation that he had been waiting for. More importantly, he also received the seals that proved this letter was no clever forgery - the first, the official sigil of the Dragonspur Church of Mercy; the second, the personal mark of High Potentate Burcan the White.

Love it as always. It is funny that the most enjoyable stuff to read for me is usually not the fights but the interactions and details.

Not like I've done a study on it or anything, but I'm pretty sure combat is one of the most difficult things to write. You either get good at that, or at making convincing characters (especially of the gender you are not, which is a sticking point that I never understood). Or possibly neither.

Speaking of which, more character interactions for you.


>>>>>

To her credit, Isolde took nearly three whole seconds to panic. "I thought you said this was a private reception!" she hissed at Brokk, staring in wide-eyed terror at the milling masses of nobles and merchants (and heavily armed bodyguards). "Everyone who is anyone in the city must be here. I can`t be seen here, don`t you understand? I. Have. History."

"Funny how crime can come back to bite a person when they least expect, isn`t it?" Aidan mused with remorseless glee. "Almost enough to make the most sticky-fingered of halflings wish a decent, law-abiding paladin had arrested her as he had first intended to. Ooh, will you look at the finery on that one, he must be very important. And very wealthy. Isolde, I bet you twenty silvers he would skewer any thief that tried to rob that hideously obvious pouch on his belt."

"Make it thirty-five, and it really is genuine, the dud is stashed in his left breast pocket," she countered instinctively, then glared at him.

Fortunately, before the vitriolic pair managed to escalate this old argument any further, Brokk spotted the man they had come to see, and hustled everyone over with haste. Burcan the White, High Potentate of both the Church of Mercy and the Reeananic Temple of the Undrowned, stood at ease in the centre of the square, smiling contentedly up at the dark clouds scudding by overhead, as if he knew no storm would dare break over this assembly.

True to his name, the priest was dressed entirely in white robes beautifully embroidered with the holy symbols of all the gods - barring, of course, those three left unnamed among decent folk. And if perhaps the mark of Heshtail was just a little larger and more prominent than the others, it was a bias easily forgiven.

He was far younger than many thought him to be, having not yet reached his fiftieth year and with a full head of rich chestnut hair to prove it, and for one of such political and clerical power, his brow was remarkably unlined by worry. Indeed, as Brokk drew closer, he became aware of a palpable aura of optimism and goodwill surrounding the priest. The weight of the world seemed to lift from Brokk`s shoulders when those gentle eyes turned to him and that all-encompassing warmth grew to outright joy upon recognition.

Priest and wizard stood before each other in silence for a few seconds, appraising and fixing each other in their memory. With ceremonial gravity, they bowed and shook the other`s proffered hand with all the respect of two masters meeting for the first time. Burcan was the first to break from this stoicism, a deep laugh bursting free as he knelt down to embrace his friend properly, and Brokk did not hesitate to return the favour.

"Gods forgive me, I should have come long ago," Brokk said, his voice catching in his throat. "This is a meeting twenty years overdue. There is no excuse for that. The fault is mine."

"Gods forgive me," Burcan emphasised. "I did not believe it could be you. That you could still be alive after...what happened. I could not believe the rumours. I never listened to them, followed up on them, looked for you. Brokk, my friend, I am so very sorry I left you alone out there. The fault is mine."

Brokk shook his head vehemently. "Never believe that! Not for a moment, or for half a moment. I forbid it, Burcan. I hid in shame from anyone who might know me, or what I did. If even the gods held back forgiveness, why should my friends and colleagues? I should have known better. The fault is mine."

"It sounds to me like both of you were stupid and wrong and deserved everything you got," Embla broke in sharply. "Good, now we all agree this should have happened long ago, so can we sit down and talk over the food I smell, or is it some strange perfume everyone here is wearing? Would not surprise me. Most of your leaders have already been very disappointing. You seem less bad than most, priest."

Burcan pursed his lips, very nearly frowning as he digested the outburst. Then he shrugged. "As long as we`re all being honest, I`ve heard less accurate criticism from my own congregation. Follow me, I will arrange everything."

Yup, more good stuff. And your combats are good too. The interactions are just especially good.

Just before I forget, this is as good a place to dump these as anywhere. I've been meaning to ask about this for a while, but kept forgetting, so here's what I think makes sense instead.

THE DEITY . . \\\ . . FOLLOWER OF OR BELONGING TO THE DEITY)

Heshtail . . \\\ . . Heshtailean (classical) or Heshtlean (colloquial)

Bestra . . \\\ . . Bestran

Kantor . . \\\ . . Kantori

Neltak . . \\\ . . Neltaclean

Dekk . . \\\ . . Dekkite

Bel . . \\\ . . Belan or Belite

Vornoth . . \\\ . . Vornite (theoretical) or ??? (own name), otherwise left unspoken

Tal-Allustiel . . \\\ . . Tinnullan (Altarian)* or Allustian (common)

Khuldul . . \\\ . . Gabilazdothul (Khazdun)** or Khuldan (common)

Khuckduck . . \\\ . . Khuckeddufinakemminand (Tendenarruk) or Khucker (common)

Bunga . . \\\ . . Bungali

Reannan . . \\\ . . Reeannite (followers) or Reeannic (other)

Calbran . . \\\ . . Calbranite

Thranton . . \\\ . . Thrantean

Aknor . . \\\ . . Aknori

Janora . . \\\ . . Janorian

Flamgart . . \\\ . . Flamgartian

Grlarshh . . \\\ . . Grlarshonite

Dhurli . . \\\ . . Dhurlean

Barlifandorf . . \\\ . . Barlifandorfenakemminand (Tendenarruk) or Barlifandorfian (other)

Bucca . . \\\ . . Buccan

Salystra . . \\\ . . Salystran or Aleshstilla*** (Mordularian)


*From tinnu, "twilight", and allor, "blessing": the blessed of the twilight
**From gabil, "great", and azidum, "excavating tool": children of the great miner
***From the corrupted forms of alu, "god", hath, "holy", and thalan, "to return": the righteous reclamation

I saw the Kantori in the story and liked it. I like all of these except for Vornite. I doubt anyone would discuss "Vornites," as that sort of places the religion on the same category as the others. It's rather a different quality, being that it is against all the others. It would probably be more like "Worshipers of the Dark One" or something similar.







 

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