Kingmaker - As the Ravens Gather

Assassination by the Point of a Verb

Markoa leaned back against the tent pole and sipped the new summer ale that Lucian had dreamed up. The cool drink felt good cooling his throat and Markoa would have downed the whole thing and ordered another if he hadn’t learned that watching Grigori needed sharp wits. He had been studying the orator for the past 3 day and found the portly man more interesting by the hour. When he spoke, which had progressed to two to three demonstrations per day, he filled the venue with people who became agitated for or against his arguments and Markoa learned to stand at the back of the Hay Bales. The Bales themselves were twice the size that they were only a few days before when the Baron and the others had confronted the man. The tent over those closest to the stage was a new feature as well and given that Lucian’s wife, mother and sister had suspiciously been replaced by six young local girls as waitresses Markoa felt sure that while the brewer might not have agreed with Grigori’s proselytizing he most certainly did appreciate the business it had created. Every bale of hay spread beside the Drunken Stag Brewery was occupied by multiple patrons as were the many wagons parked around the circumference of the area from local farms as far away as the Sootscale Caves and Rickety Bridge. It was beginning to look as busy as Festival Day had been and Markoa could see the guard moving about quietly keeping the peace. The guardsmen seemed more reserved and focused doing their job than was usual but then Markoa could only imagine what the Beldame had said to the men with Ismort gone. Regardless, they were doing well and keeping away from the stage the distance they were ordered to.

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Before His Collection of Sin

Regik gripped the haft of Nettles’ ranseur tightly and looked around Grassedge’s town square, such as it was. It was a very small town, a hamlet really, and Regik has already walked around what constituted the town square four times already. He was damnned well not going to let Baron Yorick down. The adventurers had taken a chance on giving him leniency when they, by all rights, could have hung him for a bandit but also he had come to have some respect and position under them. People pointed him out as one of the men in town that seemed always to accompany the council members when they adventured and he had wealth now. Neither of which, Regik was sure, that he would have attained when he followed the Stag Lord. Regik couldn’t forget that he had been a bandit, that he had done a lot of terrible things under the Stag Lord. Davik Nettles wouldn’t let him.

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Sacrifices of the Heart – Bartleby’s Tale

Venture-Captain Myles Theissen placed one of his bright black leather and brass buckled boots upon a stump, leaned forward on his leg and absentmindedly tapped a single low note string on his guitar. Theissen presented a fine cut of a man, if he were to say so himself which he would never do as a man of bearing and lineage. He wore an outfit that could be mistaken for a military uniform with its fresh pressed creases and gleaming brass buckles in the most expensive fine wool and silk that even with wear and weathering had obviously been constructed to be rugged. The thick leather and canvas jacket that he wore was less refined looking but no less cared for with more gleaming clasps, buckles and buttons. In addition the jacket displayed patches, pins and tokens about its pockets and lapels that, if one had the requisite knowledge, could be decoded to reveal a great many impressive and frivolous facts about the Captain. Add to this an assortment of weapons, pouches, tubes, packs, instruments and such and the whole presented a man ready for anything in fact if not in bearing. Myles drew his wide brimmed leather hat off his head, smoothed his curly brown hair back and made sure that his waxed mustache was tight and neat before resting hat and hand upon his brace of pistols to focus. He looked out over the forest ahead of his party from the top of a high ridge that they had just finished ascending. Behind the venture-captain many of the other members of his expedition stole glances of annoyance at the monotone thrumming that seemed to take on an even more intense presence given where they were. The sounds washed over the hilltop like waves before a breakwater buffeting men about and it was discovered that the thrumming sound had also taken on an unpleasant smell that slammed into their noses with each pluck of the string. Venture-Captain Theissen either didn’t notice or wasn’t affected by the note-stench; rather, his senses were busy trying to come to grips with the view before him that the rest of his party hadn’t become aware of yet.

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The Mage Hand

“Concentrate you idiot! the hag scolded.

“Your not helping with your chatter and garlic breath,” snapped the half-elf, who was staring at the arrow on the table. He had a barely worn traveling spell-book open on the table as well. His index finger extended towards the lines of the spell for minor telekinesis.

To this, The Beldame replied: “Well, let’s just see you lift that arrow with your mind on your own then. I’m heading back to the rookery. See if I can figure out where that damn bard went. You keep practicing!” As she leaves the castle room, she turns and flicks her finger towards Markoa, who promptly jumps as his long hair suddenly flaps into his face and he feels like he was just thumped on the head. Just like when Maestro Harmond was trying to teach him that same thing.

“Concentrate boy! I swear, you are completely worthless at this,” scolded the maestro through grit teeth and a neatly trimmed beard. Although Markoa was one of the brightest students at the college, acing his history and theory classes, he showed no talent for bardic magic. In actuality, the boy showed no talent for any kind of bardic performances. Maestro Harmond could not fathom why such a surly boy was sent to the greatest bardic college in all of Taldor. Some nobles son, was all he knew.

“I’m trying, Sir,” complained the young half-elf, but he couldn’t get the emotion into the spell. Nor could he get the tune of the whistle even remotely correct. Where other students whistled a pleasant melody when casting this spell, Markoa sounded like he was calling his dog. Unacceptable.

“Try harder, son. I swear, I don’t know why you are here. You are a bright boy, but not the bardic type. A good wizarding school would be more appropriate. But you are here, in my charge, and I’ll be damned if I don’t make a bard out of you.” Because my father wanted to embarrass me. Probably make me a court fool, Markoa thought. With that, the maestro left the room, pausing only to whistle and telekinetically flick Markoa’s pointy ear.

Markoa smiled at the memory. I must think like a mage, then. Once again, he stared at the arrow. This time, instead of whistling a tune, he whispers the words that he wrote in next to the entry for mage hand. The arrow lifted off the table, and floated into his outstretched palm.

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A Bard’s Tale

The first sensation that he was aware of was aching. It was painted over every inch of his body. Sharp bright colors of pain stabbed at his wrists and ankles from bindings that were a bit too tight while pricking sparks of light colors danced from lacerations all over his body. The breezes from the gaps in the wall caressed his skin. He was covered in a sheen of sweat, seeping blood and other bodily fluids that chilled him sending waves of shivering and goose bumps to rise across his supine body. Topper licked his chapped and split lips and gasped as the faintest taste of lavender and sweetness numbed his tongue and tickled his nose sending a thrill right down his spine into his cock root. Topper felt his heart begin to beat harder in his chest and his young passions stirring but he drew a strong breath and forced his eyes to focus on the soot covered ceiling.
“No,” he whispered with a low growl, “stop.”

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Arodus 4711

Ravenwing Hall echoed with conversation and bursts of laughter. Numerous candle and lamps lent a glow to the room while a handful of young boy and girls stood around the perimeter concentrating on ghostly arcane lights that drifted around the room shedding brighter light upon conversation spots. Food and drink were laid out around the room and many of the guests showed signs of being satiated as they sighed and nibbled at bits of this or that. The entire council was present as well as many notables from the kingdom and some friends of the inquisitor’s adventuring company.

The conversations of the night had drifted from the serious to the amusing and the night had featured presentations and gifts for the Council. The Beldame’s students each presented a magical working to entertain and provided extra light for the night. Topper Red had sung a ballad telling the tale of the destruction of the Company of Masks and the rescue of the hamlet of Grassedge and provided a quiet backdrop of music and comedy throughout the night. It had been mentioned to the Baron that Topper’s demeanor was more subdued than usual and one of his soft fiddling presentations not meant to distract had instead brought silence and melancholy to the room before being swept from the atmosphere by a bawdy Ulfen song. The Baron’s personal guard, the Black Maidens, brought many looks, stares and conversations to the evening. Markoa couldn’t miss the subtle interest that Lt. Commander Katilyne drew from Akiros Ismort that interrupted more than a few friendly arguments between him and General Corbin. The General drank deeply from the fine beer presented to him from The Drunken Stag and danced with his wife Korrah in such a manner that many felt obliged to give them the floor out of fear for their lives. Lily Teskerkin and some of her ladies from The Elf’s Bedroom had accompanied Oleg and Svetlana from Olegton along with a wagon of fresh breads that was distributed to the neediest of Meeroever. Lasus Vrin had bestowed Markoa with a stunning tooled leather quiver filled with his very best arrows wrought in Markoa’s distinctive fletching and were guaranteed by Vrin to fly farther than any lesser arrows. Sammet the blacksmith had sent Inquisitor Slade an Abadaran holy symbol of black iron keys inlaid with gold filigree on a short black chain studded with gold nuggets. Akiros had announced Regik’s promotion to Sergeant and applause was heard even in the guardsman’s absence. The newcomer Estophus talked with Oleg and Jhod Kavken about crops and farming while The Beldame sat in the shadows next to the fire in her shawl whittling or filling with some object in her lap basket, calling her children to her for a quiet word, or having a quaint chat with all the members of the Baron’s Black Maidens at one time or another.

As the night drew on the Baron found himself seated in his chair nursing a stein of beer and absentmindedly stroking the feathers of his cloak. The shadow ravens in the rafters, always a constant presence above, stopped their shifting and rustling to stare down at him and whisper amongst themselves. The Baron was wondering at his awareness that the cloak allowed him greater power and he often went nowhere without it when he was startled by a soft touch upon his arm.

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A delicate matter

With a knock at the door, the guards announce the entrance of Marshal Slade to the Baron’s chambers, despite the late hour. The guards within the guest room escort the Marshal to the table Yorick is already seated at.

Slade pushed his read cloak aside, and takes a seat opposite, then proceeds to stare at the center of the table, avoiding Yorick’s direct gaze.

“Slade, it’s late. Is there something you wanted? If the table is more interesting, you can take it.”

“I’m not here about the damned table, I’m here about you. You have a duty that you are neglecting, and it hurts all of us”

“What? I am as committed to the Barony as anyone, and have better things to do…”

“Dammit, Yorick, you need a wife. It’s how these things are done. I don’t care which one you pick, but pick you must. An heir would give stability to the entire realm, and eliminate the succession question. Surely one of your new “friends” meets your high standards."

“if you stay unmarried, people will talk, and you raise the possibility of bastard children and a succession fight. You’re about to see how much fun that can be. Ask yourself if you want your children treated like Markoa.”

“Slade, you cannot just stomp in here and run my life. Things are far more complicated…”

“No. Things are simple Yorick, you just don’t like it. I’ve said my piece, so good night”

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A Feeling in the Bones

Aethelia Linnormheart settled into the thickly padded seat of the carriage as her assistant called to the driver to take them to the Temple of Pharasma and closed the door sitting next to her in the dimly lit cabin. Aethelia unconsciously played with the tooled leather of her bone satchel as she stared out the small window.

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Lamashan 4711

Where southern winds turned Rova unseasonably warm when they swept over the rippled surface of the Tuskwater and the green grasses of Olegton; the Lake of Mists and Veils became enraged and its winds became fierce and raw as if they had been spurned and betrayed by nature. They rushed south driving the pleasantness before them and the citizens of the Barony of Narlmarch suddenly found themselves bracing for the coming of winter.

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Rova 4711

Rova came to Narlmarch and the people and neighbors within the Kamelands and Narlmarch Forest looked forward to it. Farms all over the kingdom sent wagons full of grains, produce and goods to the cities of the kingdom. The random strange or unfortunate tidings were forgotten amidst the good feelings that arose in the kingdom and whatever difficulties loomed in the future seemed unimportant.

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