Journal of Agni Rafezzi

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Game One

January 26, 2002

Fuck Winthrop. And even as I say it, I know that I mean, partially, fuck myself. The school is the only thing that matters to him, or, as I phrased it less gently at a more emotional time, his head is thrust up the ass of academia. How can he hear me talking about the assassination of a revered professor and a potential security threat to the nation we live in and calmly return to telling me how I can't be cutting class all the time?

Can I even take a poke at everything that's wrong with Winthrop? Suggesting that Geldemar's death came because he lacked dedication to the art was callous, unbelievably callous. I'm not sure he flinched when I unwrapped Geldemar's ashes on his desk, and I don't know what's scarier about that: the implication that Winthrop doesn't give a roc dropping about his faculty or the implication that he was not taken by surprise by this news. If he had been a better spellcaster, or perhaps if I had been one, he might have escaped death... this doesn't hold water with me. The assassin... manslayer?, took us all completely by surprise. There was no time for incantations. Plus, what do they teach us that would protect us in a fight at the Royal Institute? A wizard "dedicated" to Malachite learning will never be a battle-caster. I don't know how effective Geldemar would have been in battle had he time to prepare himself, but I'm sure he's investigated more offensive options than Winthrop ever has. Winthrop did a pretty thin impression of grief when the whole party was in his office, but not a shadow for me alone. He said in no uncertain terms that Geldemar had this coming, like he didn't know how I felt about him. And slapping that outrageous statement on top of his offhanded dismissal of my prognosis that Geldemar had been keeping himself alive beyond his years as the dumb luck of attending Shoenauer's class on the right day, as well as the general condemnation of my academic standing even in the face of my very respectable grade point average. Hey -- I can't help it if my fellow students are mediocre minds. When I come to class on Monday and we're talking about the alchemical qualities of mithril and I come in on Friday and we're reviewing the alchemical properties of mithril, I get fucking bored. And for him to want to discuss this trivial bullshit in the face of the death of my mentor and friend, AND an imminent Theshi invasion -- agh! I keep going over that conversation in my head, thinking about a way I could have ended it without telling Winthrop to fuck off, and I haven't come up with an alternative ending yet.He couldn't have been surprised that I reacted the way I did.

Which brings me to "fuck myself". That boardroom behavior is not a regent's behavior, and I know it, and I knew it thirty seconds after slamming Winthrop's door. If I start negotiating a trade agreement with Irridia in the distant future and I don't like how it's going, am I going to tell their ambassador to fuck off? It won't be the most successful way to run my father's lands, assuming puking up that goose hasn't gotten me disinherited.

Here's what I can't help thinking. Winthrop is not the consummate academic as which I identified him. He's a manipulator... how could he not be? He wanted me in that boardroom, yelling and screaming and not thinking. He did the standard "you could be a great magician" routine, but he doesn't want that. He wants me to drop out, to become a nonentity in his world. It's just like how not sad he was to hear of Geldemar's death. I wouldn't have realized this if I hadn't talked to Professor Artegil, who said, "would it be such a bad thing if Thet did invade?" He slipped. I now perceive that all of the school would prefer for nobody to follow up Geldemar's lead. That's why they want to do this foot-dragging investigation. I'm not getting manipulated again. It's time to explore some other options.

But I do still want to stay enrolled. Not so much for the magical training, but to watch these fuc -- these misguided mages.

I think a lot of people, students mostly, at the Royal Institute would have assumed I was an adventurer. I'd never have done anything to dismiss that allegation. I carry a sword with me pretty much everywhere I go. I leave school for sometimes weeks at a time without so much as a goodbye -- gernerally I'm just living it up, visiting friends or wooing women, which might sometimes count as an adventure. And, of course, a number of Institute students saw me take that Theshi thug down at the Rose that night, which I guess implied that I'm trained to kill at a moment's notice.

Why wouldn't i dismiss the notion of being an adventurer? Overall, I don't think the populace of the Institute that matters really views adventuring as prestigious or even worth doing -- here I'm certainly counting all of my professors. I don't think Geldemar ever believed I was an adventurer. But since the majority of my world doesn't attach any prestige to adventuring, I couldn't have put up that front for their respect. I will admit, though, that from the younger students who do think adventuring is exciting and noble, I like the attention i get. Maybe I nursed the image because it stopped a lot of questions about where i had been over the last three weeks, stuff like that. There would be rumors about me, and I do like the idea that I'm the subject of their conversations when I'm not there. I noticed that Winthrop was very familiar with my identity and academic records, not that that worked in my favor, but I wonder how many students of my year he knows so well?

Well, as I've said before, fuck Winthrop. That pompous asshole does not have a stranglehold on an access to a decent education. And anyway, I am an adventurer now -- if for no other reason than that my stock around the Institute has taken a sharp plunge of late.

No, I take that back. I'm an adventurer now because Geldemar willed it to me. He placed the problems of Valduran in my hands and then died. I respected and loved that man, and I can't just disregard the matter that drove him to his dying day. Yeah, I'm scared, although not as scared as when Manslayer or his servant punched his staff through Geldemar. But I'm scared of going back to my father's castle, and maintaining enrollment at the Institute isn't too promising either.

I don't think I'm being hunted at this moment, at least not by Thesh or its Manslayer, because he could have laid waste to us, or at least some of us, when he killed Geldemar. He waved us off. I guess it's possible that he was scared of Gunter or Maggie, but that doesn't quite seem to be the impression I got. Why do I say, at least not by Thesh? Because I'm really suspicious about the unhelpfulness of the Institute hierarchy, and right now I think I'm higher on their shit list than I am on Thesh's. And I'm not so gullible to believe that Malachites use exclusively political means to neutralize their foes.

Maybe it, my adventuring, doesn't even revolve around Geldemar. What was I doing beforehand? Going to school? Barely. Grooming myself to take control of old Ignatio's patriarchal holdings? That matter never occupied my mind much. It may be foolish of me to say this before I actually see how I fare out in the adventuring world, but I don't think I'm a housecat, pampered though I have always been. i think maybe I was born to roam and delve and maybe do a little good along the way. Adventuring appeals to me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that adventurers, from what I've heard, are always on the move. They don't get tied down and they don't get too attached to anything.

I'm a little confused about Geldemar's talk about prophecy. He never talked much about prognostication in Elements of the Human Mind or MetaSensory Information. I can only assume that prophecy is an Augur discipline and he picked it up with them, and that he discussed it with them. So, if he was acting as an Augur, then we seven are the ones who are fated to fight Thet. ( I wonder if that guarantees none of us will die in the process. And if someone does, can we replace them or must it be the original seven?) If he was thinking like a Regent, then the prophecy was a motivational tool to get us to undertake the task, and may be total bunk. I'm invested in it because Geldemar died fighting for it, not because I think it's inescapable destiny (I can escape a lot).

I was most surprised to find Roxanne out here. I guess she must be the weakest link to this party, since she's a hooker - turned - priestess (i wonder what Dad would think of that?) She's a sharp girl, but I have to wonder what kind of tangible benefits she's going to bring us. I don't think we're going to be doing missionary work. Now, there's no doubt that a whore has her uses, but I'm afriad I'm not able to speculate on what they are in an adventuring context. Road pussy, i guess. I do think she's a very sweet girl -- I certainly don't love her (how could I, given where we both come from?), but right now i'm thinking she is going to need a lot in the way of protection, which i, for one, am certainly going to grant her.

Maggie, on the other hand, won't be needing it. She's a warrior woman, which seems like a decent thing to do if your face is all scarred up and one of your eyes is out. The jewel that sits in her socket is certainly a magic item... I don't feel comfortable enough to ask about it.

I'm very glad Niccolo Morwinyon is with us. He's known to be a brilliant scientist and it will be profitable to have another real brain among us. He's a sureon, also, which I'm sure will come in handy, as somebody's bound to get hurt.

Gunter -- It's funny how the whole point of the lands that are now Valduran being given over to the dwarves was that the Dwarves would protect it against Thesh, but there's only one Dwarf that I know of trying to resist Thesh's incursion. I guess when the armies actually take the field, that's when Gunter's people will show up, probably too late. Anyhow, I know the determination and resilience of the Dwarfish people, and his axe might be the #1 thing I trust about this party. I have affectionately nicknamed him Sleepy the Dwarf, and I wish we had six more stout warriors like him.

Quinn, I don't get. It seems like the major thing he contributes to this party is that he's the guy who brought the orc.

Ted, the orc... I don't know. I *loved* seeing the looks on the faces of all those sissies when I brought him into the school grounds, and he does seem really civilized, what with being named Theodore and all. Still I don't feel entirely comfortable with relying on an orc, because I know that there's some savagery beating in his blue-black heart. To research: does Thet have a large Orcish population?

Alexander: Everything he's said has been generally keeping with a Paladin's behavior, but I have zero trust for this guy. Soon I will put him to a better magical test. If he was part of Geldemar's plan, why didn't we hear about it from Geldemar?

Things to do:

I've got to make contact with an Augur. I'm thinking about just sending one of my companions out wearing the Augur medallion we got off of Geldemar, to attract their attention. I want to make contact, too, with another Malachite wizard, preferably somebody who is actually in a noble's or official's service and doesn't answer to Winthrop, for further training and maybe even some information on the Headmaster. And adventuring means traveling -- I want Maggie to lead us, soon, to the mountain home of Geldemar. Ooh, but that means I might have to miss some appointments for the headmaster's inquiry. I've got your inquiry right here.

Game Two

February 9, 2002

I certainly hope that the Inn at the Crossroads was not Quinn's first time with a woman. I don't know how different my attitude towards the fairer sex would be if my first had been painful, bloody. How close Quinn came to death and what the nature of the creature who maimed him was I may understand, but I'm much sorrier for Quinn's experience than I am over the subsequent loss of my horse, even though it was an expensive horse.

I know now that Roxanne is taking care of him, that the smooth, deliberate hands of the sweet prostitute of the Rose lately turned Betshabite priestess are not solely turning the pages of hymns and ciunting off prayer beads. They are caressing the body of my young companion, soothing with their satin pressure the shock that made him jump, no doubt, at a woman's touch. Her hot red mouth breathes no prayers when they are alone in her vestibule. I am glad also that Quinn is with her because her fires need to be stoked, and it should not be me who tends to them. Not if we're going to be journeying together, making camp together night after night. I know that the nectars in Roxanne's bud are sweet, and I know that if I ever came to need them, some awful fate would befall her.

Therefore I am truly happy that the two of them share a bed, when there's time to sleep. Priests heal -- and so does Roxanne, balming with her breath the wounds that Crossroads creature tore in Quinn's psyche. I am pleased. Truly.

I'm glad of the opportunity to make love to Magnas' maidservant, since apparently now we'll be travelling deep into the mountains. I don't expect a tavern to stay in every night, and I don't expect the Order of the Sword's citadel to put up much hospitality when we get there. I think I'll be lucky to get a decent glass of wine, let alone an approachable female. I'm sure I couldn't fall for a Sword woman, anyhow. What sort of woman joins that order, anyway? She'd have to be aggressive, driven, a real ballbuster. Well, I'm sure they have washerwomen.

Joking aside, the Sword might be better allies than I'm thinking right now. Granted, no mage order is really warm to the mages outside of their order, and I can absolutely see why they'd be hostile to a Regent (we arrange the wars; they die in them) -- but in that, I'm thinking only of myself. As far as our quest -- Geldemar's quest -- goes, the Sword should be much more favorably inclined to fight Thet than the Malachites at school were... as a wise man once said "you live for the fight when that's all that you've got" (RWM -- if you can tell me who said this, you get 500 xp). I guarantee nobody in the Order of the Sword thinks Valduran would be better off under Thetti rule.

We got waylaid in the inn at the foot of the mountains by two people, one of whom was apparently named Rathgafarius. (His/her encounter with Quinn, I've already documented,) and one of whom was some kind of spellcaster... Iron Band would be my guess. Whether they are allied with Thet and particularly against us or whether they just thought we had some pretty horses and equipment, I don't know, and I suppose I won't. I'm thinking the latter; the last time Thet (manslayer) saw us, he didn't seem interested enough to kill us.

Gaila was an interesting character. I wonder if years of seeing unpleasant visions and futures has caused her to become addicted to drugs. Are the drugs an aid to her divinations? If they were cultivated and studied, might they increase the divinatory powers of other mages ... perhas even mundanes? Hard to say. Gaila did seem to be paying a price for whatever effects the stuff had. I don't think that's something for me to worry about now; maybe I'll publish a paper on it someday.

On the subject of mystical prowess, I was able to pry from Maggie's mind the command word for Geldemar's ring. As it stands now, the ring seems to be more of a "word of recall" effect than a teleport spell. Between that and the scrying pool in his tower, it might explain everyone's accounts of how the man got around so quickly. As for me, I'm not in a hurry to use the scrying pool again; it was painful and disorienting. I guess I'll have to, though, because there's equipment in his tower that I must have access to. So far, I've found a book on leadership, which is a pretty appropriate thing for a Malachite to have. I was able to identify his ring as conferring the ability to meld into stone. I guess he was an elementalist, too. (Could this explain why there's no wind on top of his mountain? But why is that even desirable? Did he like to build card houses up there?) I admire the man more every day, even now that he's dead. I wonder how long he had to train to know as much as he did from at least three schools. Of course, his rapid decomposition, unpleasant as it is to recall, reminds me that he had a long, long time in which to do so.

An outsider, and I think even a few of my own party members, might have a tough time reconciling my love and admiration for Geldemar and my willingness to loot his tower. I'm pretty sure I'm doing the right thing. He's not going to be using anymore, for one thing. Second, He wanted us to fight Thet and Manslayer, and I don't know how much my friends excel in their areas of expertise, but I could use a little help with my magic before we storm the Gray Lord's keep. Thirdly, it was my devotion to Geldemar that has raised such difficulties for me continuing my magical training at the academy, so it's only fair that Geldemar give me access to his notes, spellbooks, etc, so I can go forth with said training. How much am I going to miss out on by only being able to read notes, and not hear any more classroom lectures? Not at all. By the time the profs were half an hour into a lecture on a given spell, I was always like, "I get it. Can we start casting already?". And never did they complete their explanation of a spell more complicated than a cantrip in less than three hours. Fourth -- to the best of our knowledge, Geldemar had no associates that we knew of, no family, no friends (except earth elementals, who don't count even if they talk), and no professional associates besides Winthrop and his sycophants. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have wanted Winthrop getting into his magical stuff. That leaves me as his heir apparent. Fifthly, I felt, when I was in his tower, that Geldemar wanted me to use his stuff. As though he looked down on me and approved. He seemed to speak to me while I napped; the pre-dream state, which I'm told leaves one very psychically aware. In fact, the only reason I can see why helping myself to the contents of Geldemar's tower might possibly be wrong is that I've felt the need to go to such a length to explain and justify it.

The last matter I want to talk about before we get moving again is the prophecy. I'm not happy I found it. Yes, it's dated 5826, but I could take a quill to my ass that said "Made in Gundagore" and that wouldn't make it so. Also, it's vague, like every other prophecy I've ever seen. The evidence is there, certainly, that it's about us: Roxanne's reference is pretty clear, and Quinn's the Boy with No Fate, which is interesting to me and when I get the luxury I'm going to turn every divination in the book on that kid. It is furthering my distrust for Crownguard, the "paladin". Cloaked in lies, magic in his mind -- these are two traits pretty incompatible with paladinhood. In the end, it seems to say, he'll make the right choice. Swell. Maybe after he's helped to kill a couple of us, he'll see the light and turn against Thet. Or maybe he's with us now, but will make the "right" choice that will keep his punk ass alive and side with Manslayer. See why I don't like prophecy? It's no mistake that I didn't join the Shrouded Dawn. Here's a problem, too. The part about me: noble born, right, king will he be, um, no.

I'd love to be a king, but my blood is to the Patriarchy of Aeolyn; for a while there it looked like I might, _might_, get a chunk of Phemos, too. But I know well how lineage works and I am not in line for a kingship. The noble houses of Eeridia would have to be totally decimated for it to get down to me. So why is it in there? My gut response: to turn me on. Just maybe somebody thinks that all you have to do is dangle a lordly rank in front of a Malachite and they'll drool and sit up and go on crazy quests and never question the motherfucker.

And it's fucking with my mind, also, that they make this attempt to draw me in, and then also say I'll die. Or "fall", anyway, by th enemy's decree, and I doubt that means slipping on a wet floor. I don't know why they want to lure me and scare me at the same time. And what is this crap? Weak by his rages? That's bullshit and it's pissing me off.

And here's the best part: "There's more. The rest???" Peachy. How good is half a prophecy? What if the other part says, "just kidding." Or, "and this will happen 100 years in the future in the land of Australia" I'd have a little more faith in the document if I knew where Geldemar had gotten his hands on it, why he thought it was accurate, and who wrote it originally. I mean, is this all people did 2,000 years ago, write prophecies that they wouldn't live to see come true, or false? And if so, are people today writing prophecies about the future of their many times great grandchildren? And are they making money off doing so? I'd like to find their employers; I have an ocean to sell them.

It's my counsel at this time not to show the prophecy to the Order of the Sword.

Game Seven

May 18, 2002

I understand I still have some downtime weeks to kill. So here's what I'm doing with them (we can roleplay any of this that needs to be rp'd unless I no-show):1) negotiate a settlement price with the assassin, and pay it through proxies ... l think you said 350 gp in our letters. I (agni) think that should be good to cover not only the business end but sufficient to smooth any slight to her honor... in some cases an honor-price might be more, I think, but I'm becoming pretty certain that the woman in Niccolo's cottage was a criminal of some sort, perhaps an assassin herself, which a) makes me wonder what Niccolo was doing with her in his place anyway, and b) makes me believe that any moneys paid to assuage this woman and her associates is a purely pragmatic, rather than an ethical concern.

My fellow-travelers were pretty burned up about it, which still sort of baffles me. Niccolo just wants to be master of his house, which I can understand; he doesn't want any hanky-panky going on in there that he didn't approve of. Maggie is outraged too, in her way, owing I guess to her lack of understanding of magic, and probably also to her lack of education as to what goes on between men and women. It has been my observation that the woman most likely to cry out that another woman has been somehow violated by a man is the woman least likely to receive any male attention herself. I think one day I will try to use my rank to get Maggie a husband or maybe a concubine. A woman deserves to be loved during her life, even if she isn't soft and dainty and white and smelling of jasmine, and I'm sure Maggie's dour disposition might become more sweet if she were fulfilled in that arena. Roxanne's emnity bothers me for a couple of reasons. I feel myself really wanting to be liked by her -- not love; that is not an option available to me, of course, but she's precious to me. In addition, she's a Betshaban priestess and i'm going to have to have some pretty strongly Betshaban aura when it's my time to rule. Rape is a serious word to a Betshaban, of course, given the mythology of the faith. Now, no court in any land... I doubt even the Children of Saint Clotimer... could make a legal charge against me stick. There was no intercourse, there was no physical contact. But it seems that a faithful Betshaban has a pretty liberal definition of rape. If the girl had succumbed... what then? Would I have taken her? I suppose so. It was an act born simply out of frustration at not being able to seduce her more conventionally. I wanted to see her smile at me, to give me the looks and words of acceptance I'm accustomed to getting. Not entering a woman, I can handle. Not being desired by a woman drove me to distraction. I cast without thinking not only of the rightness of the action, but of its political implications. I'm probably lucky the spell failed.

Thing 2 to do with down time (thought I'd lost that threat, didn't you?). I'm going to Adanar (that's the place that ceded land to the Dwarves, right?) with the help of Geldemar's pool. There, I will start a rumor that one of the wealthiest and most prosperous merchants in the city, Colbar Ginnis, is investing a sizeable sum in the Eeridian shipping business -- my father's, of course, citing that helping the guy who will eventually win the civil war when he needs the help will make him extremely favorable to dealings when he consolidates his power base. I'm not actually going to negotiate to get anyone to trade, I'm just hoping that other merchant clans will believe Ginnis has some sort of inside information and quickly seize on the opportunity to make investments. I will not be using my name, but I will, if it seems like the thing to do, pay good money to start a flurry of pseudo-trade (ie, pay a bunch of wagoners to drive laden wagons around the city and refuse to say what's in them (hay under blankets) or who sent them, but have it coincide with said rumors. What's the game mechanic to start a rumor? Gather Information, I'd think, although I've got Politics as well.

          I'm wondering about Geldemar's translation of the old poem... specifically, if I'm not weak by my rages, but rather, weak by my passions. I think that statement would certainly cover my near miss with Niccolo's "patient". And I'm watching that tendency of mine. For one thing, I'm not going to seek any sort of revenge or disgrace on old Winthrop. He's just a power-monger like the rest of us. Now he knows where the power lies, and to whom he'll have to suck up. Why should I let an old grudge about some bogus hearing interfere in my relationship with a man in a position of power who wants to see me succeed? He's proving he can get over his own ego isues by calling off his quest to ruin Maggie's parents (though for all the thanks I got, I might as well have kicked her dad in the groin); he put me back into the academy and I'm pretty sure I've heard that "you need to attend class to become a great mage" stuff for the last time. He'll award me intermediate rank at finals -- a man of power doesn't need to say "or else". Of course, this is assuming Manslayer doesn't get him. I gave him good warning, and Winthrop does seem to be a hard target.

Gayla wasn't. And I am sad to see her go, poor girl, even if her father's desire for revenge made him the more tractable to donating to the cause. Was it wrong to take his money, knowing that it's not going to result in Eeridian military intervention in the forseeable future? I don't think so. It was a solid investment, intervention or no. If he wanted that money to spill Theshite blood, he probably would have hired some half-assed mercenaries to go get killed in Thet, which would have been a much worse investment and brought the conquest of Thet no closer.

Speaking of which, we're getting no further in our quest to avenge Geldemar. We've got no leads besides an old well poisoning. The circlet that my fellow-travelers think to be the "first piece" is a bit of nonmagical lead, and as such makes me a little skeptical.

The most difficult thing in helping my father fight his battle for kingship hasn't been raising the money -- I got 10 bars of gold in a 10-minute meeting -- but in understanding the war itself. Being fought over me? The present king of Eeridia (whom I don't believe to be a worshiper of Phlegethon, but hey, you've got to prop up your team with a little ganda) might have been a closer relative of that girl I was supposed to marry than I thought, but running out on an engagement party isn't a jailable offense. I wonder if he might actually be involved in Geldemar's life and death, in ways I don't fully understand, and on the opposite side as me. Another thing I'm totally in the dark about is how much of a military chance Dad really has. I've never studied strategy. I think part of my talk about how quickly the "pretender" is going to be dethroned is to convince myself. It seems clear that someday, not long from now, I will have to visit Eeridia. I wonder if I'll take the party, or whether they'll be more trouble than they're worth.

Another thing I think I'd better do soon is to get baptized into the Betshaban faith. I think this will do worlds for me in the way of contrition to anybody who's offended by that Charm Person thing. (I'm not for using the word rape. Rape is an act of bullying violence and I don't condone it.), and also for my political standing at home. So much to think about, it almost takes my mind off my heart, and how Roxanne wouldn't let me share her bed, and just hold her, when everyone else had turned their backs on me. But that was a moment of weakness. It's ridiculous, really, that a crown prince would get at all upset over the fickleness of a hooker, even a hooker-turned-priestess.

A world, or perhaps many worlds, have been opened up to me since I started reading of dimensional travel in Geldemar's study. It is now my belief that it is itself located on another plane, and my preliminary guess is the Plane of Earth... there is a lot of sky, for the plane of Earth, but there's no wind. Plus, I remember hearing about intelligent Earth Elementals. Also dimensional travelers in my estimation: Manslayer. Perhaps Alexander Crownwarden, too; his story never sat right with me truly.

Game Nine

June 15, 2002

The gods sip nectar and dance and war in the heavens. Just as we on Feyworld call out to them only in empty ceremony or in times of direst need, so do they pay attention to us... less, even, since their powere leaves them little need to ask help from us mortal sacks. I'm certain that only the most shining saints and most depraved feinds among mortals ever get acknowledged by the gods. Many are the unscrupulous Eeridian merchants who pray to Betshaba in the hopes of a favorable current and safe sea passage without heeding her body of laws once the light that pours through the stained glass windows of the church no longer colors his face. In fact, I wonder whether the faithful of the gods of darkness or the highest hypocrites who bow before the gods of light are the evilest people on this plane. A question to pose to a cleric one day -- one with some political clout, so that he knows my mind is indeed on heavenly matters.

I have announced my desire to be baptised to the Betshaban faith soon. One uninitiated to my ifestyle would say it's a political move. The unfortunate truth is that when you're a public figure, every move is a political move. Even before I was prince, everything I ever did (case in point, my love life) was scrutinized by those who could observe it as a measure of my personal worth and ability to live up to the station that birth has placed upon me. I merely act, and each act begets political implications. Then, should I continue to act foolishly, without regarding what political ramifications it's going to have? Or should I, when I act, consider the good of a nation, perhaps a couple nations, that sits upon my shoulders? There is no question that baptizing myself in Betshaba's name is a good decision.

Roxanne certainly spends a great deal of time with me now. The so-called rape is, if not forgotten, looked upon by her as a wound upon me to heal, and she is a healer, a nurturer -- see her treatment of Quinn after he was attacked by that Rastafarian doppleganger. In addition, she's on such shaky ground with the group after this allegation that the Rose is a nest of spies, that she must need a friend within this group badly. Even if I hadn't converted, she'd have come back to me.

And this serves best as a lesson that everything is politics, even with the lower classes. Seeing me close again with Roxanne, Niccolo quickly orchestrated a secret meeting -- how droll -- to give me his side of the spies-in-the-Rose story and to try to feel out where I stood on that issue. He also seemed to need me sympathetic to his situation, wherein he brought his sister who admits she still works for Thet, along. Now I wonder why he wanted my sympathy so badly. Have others in the party balked at her presence, as, frankly, they should? The only reason I didn't push for her to get lost or dead was that I have been on shaky ground since that incident with Ayleth. As for her story, that Manslayer twists the ear of the Fell King, it's weak. Both Manslayer and the Fell King are goin to have to fall; that means that Niccolo's sister will have to fall, too. I may blow the proverbial whistle on her if the situation is right. I'll bet Magnus would love it if I delivered a Theshi agent to him... I wonder what that love would boil down to as far as money and political favors go.

In that conversation, Niccolo slipped twice. One, his reaction when I called his houseguest Ayleth told me that he knows her by a different name... not too surprising since she's an assassin. Secondly, he admitted nothing but houseguestship when I asked him about his relationship with the girl, from admitting that he was sleeping with her. Why hide it? What can I get by exploiting his desire for silence on the subject?

So Roxanne plays politics and Niccolo plays politics... it seems only a matter of time before the whole group begins to do so. That's probably our only chance for salvation. If nobody trusts anybody but their private alliances, I'll soon be master of the band... I'm just a more skilled politician than any of them. Seem evil? Nonsense. If I led, I'd lead them against Thet. Otherwise, we'll all dissolve, each pitted against the others. I'm the only chance they have.

I'll admit that the ranger woman is starting to get under my skin. To say out loud and in public, "I don't trust you, Rafezzi" is not playing politics. I'd much rather she try to orchestrate something when she thinks I'm not looking. I should never have patched things up between Winthrop and her. She said, when she came to help Roxanne and me when we were spied upon, that she wasn't coming out of concern for me; that gives me pretty much free reign to ignore any threat to her life, doesn't it?

And here's subtlety at work. Roxanne taught me about the rape of Betshaba and how it begat all the evil gods. She asked me if I understood the seriousness of the crime, pointedly. I replied, "Yes, here we see how one act of brutality and violence gives rise to many", which satisfied her. At the same time, I disavowed any similarity to my "crime", in which there would have been nothing brutal or violent. That's the horror of rape; the helplessness, the terror a woman feels as she's penetrated against her will, which a charmed woman would never feel.

Game Twelve

August 10, 2002

Dad, you're a genius. Using my potential death as a morale builder for your army, you continue the fight against the pretender king of Eeridia. Of course, I'll keep quiet. I do feel bad about a couple things that happened on my brief visit there. I'm not at all sure that Ermani will be kept quiet about my visitation. Detect Thoughts and Dominate Person worked splendidly, yay, spells of the second rank. Hypnotism, though, is a weak-ass parlor trick. You can do some creative things with it, but not with any degree of reliability. I must get access to stronger magics: Erase Thoughts, Suggestion, and maybe a stronger mind probe while I'm at it. So, if my hypnotic command to forget my appearance wears off? Well, firstly, it seemed clear that Ermani was not interested in my presence being revealed. Secondly, nobody really trusts Ermani anyway, which is why I chose to port in on him in the first place. If he felt like telling, who would believe him?

But here's sketchy thing #2. I didn't stay around long enough to ascertain how the war was really going. Ermani's sketchy, weasely answers... you know, if I just popped back in and killed him, I'd probably do the cause some good. The fact is that I'm having some doubts about how well my father's war effort is going. "If the gods are with us," indeed. I'm going to see that wimp in stocks, at least.

Here's what I should do: arrive in Narisia, which is the nation next door to Eeridia, or at least what we refer to it as in the local vernacular. Get a good idea of where the battle lines are met in the north. Raise a bunch of cavalry and attack the pretender-king's home city while he's off to battle. How many cavalry could I really bring. Bragh, that's one. More about him later. My net worth is about 30,000 silver pieces, assuming I don't go back to Eeridia and try to make off with the family jewels, no double entendre intended. Bragh was overjoyed to make twenty silver in a day. But I'd really like some knights, some badasses, and they will be tough to actually hire, particularly if I don't have the approval of at least a regional Narisian lord. Which means I'd have to make it political, which pretty much means I'd have to reveal my identity. Too much to think about now. We're not even at the port which will take us to the Betshabn waters and to Narisia, where waits Mordenkainen who is going to take my ring.

It's mine again; no doubt. All it took was teleporting away and returning in an hour for them to be convinced I could be trusted with it. That's politics, folks, no charm spells, no cheating. Am I pissed off about having the ring taken from me? Yes and no. I don't like that Gunther has built up this head of steam for me (he claimed he was my equal in magic use! Imagine!) and that he seems to be the leader of this merry band... I don't know exactly when I flubbed that opportunity; probably with that assassin broad. And Maggie is as obstinate as always. When we confronted the orge mage, she described his feelings about us as, what I feel about the party, later amending it to what I feel against Theo. I just looked at her like, "What the fuck are you talking about?" rather than dignify it with a response and an argument.

She's so weak under all that hide! She was either hoping to defame me for my perceived superiority in front of the party, which nobody was interested in because of the encounter, or she was trying to give me an opportunity to convince her it wasn't so. "Say it ain't true, Rafezzi" with a longing hope in her eyes. I think she does want to make the party a functioning whole, now that she realizes that she can't boot me out. It seems like she's going to want to make peace before I'm forced to break her will. Good move for her, when she makes it.

Indulge me a moment of fantasy. Eeridia mine, I sit in the Siege Alabaster and watch as Maggie and Gunther are dumped into a gladatorial arena and confronted with a hydra, or twenty seven axe beaks. Just to show 'em who's running the show.

Interestingly, the thing I'm least pissed about is getting clubbed over the head by Niccolo. I made a challenge, and Niccolo was the only one who could rise to it. He is obedient to Gunther and about ten times smarter, which lets me know he's a basically servile personality, a career beta who will bite the heels of whatever buffalo his alpha wolf tells him to, whomever that alpha may be. He is probably most afraid of revenge from me. Going after him instead of Gunther is like punishing the dagger instead of the murderer. I'd like to allay his fears while still letting Gunther think that if anyone's on my hit list, it's Niccolo.

The detail that the lich gave us about previous parties being split by dissent is going to be a powerful help to me. I know sweet little Roxanne is going to want to talk about it, and how we need to trust each other more. I want to advance that agenda, too. Now that Sylvasia is dead, I really do trust everyone in the group. I don't like some of them, but I do think they're working towards a very narrow view of and on an obscure path to goodness and justice. I think that they think that to me, goodness and justice is secondary to my self-advancement agenda. A fair accusation, but think of how much more powerful a force for goodness and justice I'd be if I were King of Eeridia. The resources, the wealth, I could direct in a search for Manslayer. I mean, this fucker has dominated two or more worlds and fifteen gods! And this party thinks they're going to take him out with seven or eight mortals and a tinsel crown? Wake up and smell the villagers burning, kids. I really don't think they'd care to see me king. But our current intelligence suggests that Manslayer has a nation and an army answering to him. Where's ours?

Interesting to learn that Quinn's a semi-immortal magical construct. I'd have liked to pick up some magical tips from Skeletor (who was not a mortal when he brewed Quinn, so he can't be said to have been born from man or mate), but he was just way too creepy. I'm not that keen on learning necromancy anyway. IHNJH,IJLS: "are you a good lich, or a bad lich?"

And my advancement ceremony is tomorrow. pleasedon'tletanythingfuckupmyadvancementceremonypleasedontletanythingfuckupmyadvancementceremony. I'm bringing Roxanne. I think the populace seeing a recognizeable prostitute now serving as a Betshaban nun will reinforce my reputation for wildness and unpredictability, as will my readiness to challenge any mage to magical combat who suggests I'm not ready for the rank of Adept. I think those guys are completely gutless, and will blanch at the face of a duel. I think also that a lot of them don't have a wand of Magic Missiles, which is better in a fight than most Regent spells. I'll gain respect by blasting one of my superiors to chaff, and I'll gain respect ... I guess I mean fear but I think they're closely related.... if I issue the challenge and my accuser steps down. But I don't really think anyone will object. They might whisper, but I think I'm rolling in, shaking a couple hands, with the second rank bestowed upon me, no sweat. They might think I'm unworthy back at the school, but that medallion is going to have a lot of intimidation power everywhere else in the world.

Game Thirteen

August 24, 2002

Now, on board this swift ship headed across the Betshaban waters, I have to ask what tangible good my promotion to the rank of Mage within my order really did for me. I think that when the Sword mage challenged my right to rise in rank, I was forced into a situation wherein I either humbled him or was humbled myself. I went to some extraordinary lengths to gain that rank, and maybe I shouldn't have negotiated with Tam, but then, I need to learn how to dance with various devils... let me back up a bit first.

Agador Winthrop is a paper tiger, a consummate weakling. If anybody ever personified the phrase, "those who can't, teach", it is he. He can't rule. He isn't even master of his own house. Going to him for help showed me how helpless he is. I don't know if there's anything he can do for me. My best political move, I think, would be to feed him to some bigger fish in return for the favors of said hammerhead. To whom could I feed Agador? To the Archmage of Cruzan? i think that shark would love to gobble him up, depose him as head of the Academy (Cruzan wouldn't want to replace Aggie himself, but I'll bet he has a puppet he'd like to stick in that position.) To one of his underlings at the Academy? No, anybody who would obey Agador must be an even more useless pile of crap. That's all of them except that sword mage. I don't know whether honorable and stupid is easier to manipulate than corrupt and clever. Could I feed him to Tam? God... Tam. There's a master. His presence is unsettling, but his power is awesome... I'd say he's greater than Cruzan. To add to that, I'm already Tam's servant in a way, if he wants it. He's holding a great weight over my head. Tam can never have any public life, because despite all precautions some paladin or something would discover that he's a lich. Perhaps a sort of partnership... magical power, political power. It would certainly aid the hunt for Manslayer. What does Tam want out of life? Undeath, I mean. Manslayer dead, granted, so do I, so does everyone. A person of such enormous power can't really be content sitting in his lab brewing up little slime boys. What does he want... what does he want. Another thing he can offer me, if he accepts his role as my master, is schools of all spells. He's a Renegade mage, I'm sure. On this world, anyway. On his own world he was part of an order. What did he say they were called?

This Mordenkainen, whom I am destined to meet before my erstwhile friends do, is a dimension hopper, too. Is he from Tam's dimension? Does he know Tam is here? Does Tam know of Mordenkainen? If they do know of each other, which people of such vast divinatory resources probably do, why don't they have a relationship. Because they are rivals. Who is stronger? Let's assume that each mage is the strongest in the world -- a not unreasonable thought, if they both study a wide scope of magic like Geldemar did, without the limitations of schools and orders. Still, one must be stronger, because all power rests in a head one unit thick. Mordenkainen is known, Tam's existence is a secret. Mordenkainen has friends, Tam has only his underlings, because nobody wants to work with a lich. Mordenkainen is stronger because Mordenkainen has backing. Which answers two of my previous questions.

Tam would like very much to start an order of the Red Wizards of Thay in this world.

Good. Even as I run, I get stronger. I'll let that sit and simmer for a while, since I have business on this side of the world. Tam can contact me if he needs me. If he realizes that he needs me.

Things to do in the port of Narisia.

Meet Mordenkainen. I'd like to be on a handshake basis with all of the world's most powerful wizards. Maybe he'll show me that he'd pay handsomely for knowledge of Tam. Maybe he'll show me a couple of spells. The only problem with staying at Mordenkainen's area for too long is that sooner or later, the party will show up. What will they do with their clumsy grasping. Will they cry out, "don't trust him, Mordenkainen!" ? So unprofessional, to do that in front of a stranger.

I will pay dockworkers to send me word when the party arrives. Maybe I'll avoid them when they come. Their arrival might be a good time to do another thing that I'd really like to do, and that is hire some Narisian warships to attack the Western coast of Eeridia, nearer to the capital. The pretender-king can't fight a two front war. And, that squealing courtesan Rufio seemed to imply that my father's side needed help. Warships are expensive to hire, though. That's going to be tough, tough, tough. My raw gems are still sitting in podunk Valduran. My name is worth something in any port... I'll think more on that.

But in any case, I'm going to have to deal with the damned party again in Narisia. The fates have been most malicious to me by placing them so squarely in our path. I think Benedict's the worst now, though I would certainly still drop hammer on Gunther, Maggie, and him all at once. I don't really think it's worth calling in that assassin broad... I doubt seriously she's as subtle as she would like to imply, and paying to have any one of those three wiped out would almost certainly get discovered, somehow.

I feel much better about the possibility of being discovered for the ruby in my chest now that Niccolo is a silent partner. Sharing a secret with him drives him into my corner. I can't control him fully... not yet. I also know from Tam's threats and Nic's response to them that he has a Thesh family that he'd go to great lengths to protect. Of course, that's not really the sort I am. Roxanne is in my corner, after our tearful goodbye, but she's more a pet than an ally, too meek to speak up in my defense. The only person she ever takes to task for his misdeeds is me, and I'm forced to stomach it... I'm not sure what makes me stomach it. Bragh has true potential as a servitor. *He* certainly didn't mind that I charmed that bouncer. Unfortunately he, too, seems weak. I don't need warriors who can't beat a street thug in a fistfight.

Tam's ring conjures obviously demonic creatures. I wonder if by allying myself with Tam, I would ally myself with a lower plane. I'll bet it's in that book somewhere.

Alleigence is a funny thing. I wonder if Benedict might be working for Manslayer, in trying to keep an obvious leader like me ostracized from the party. I wondered the same thing about Niccolo's sister, who seemed to be with us only to breed dissent.

Nonetheless, I'm better off with that group of fools than with some hired hands. They have some initiative, at least. None of them would raise a hand against me, save Niccolo, which is why I respect him the most. To keep them around in Narisia would at least stave off assassination attempts, unless of course they insist by calling me by my name all the time.

With a little good PR, Mordenkainen will command them to protect me. I've got this feeling that, without having even met him, the jerks will obey Mordenkainen's every whim.

Game Fourteen

September 7, 2002

My, my. How the tables have turned. On one side of the sea, I'm reviled for my evil mind control powers and general unreliability. Take a little boat ride, get a little knock on the head from some thieves, stalk through a dungeon, and all of a sudden I'm the prom queen.

Mordenkainen, I think as I march silently toward his home with my party members, is such an enigmatic figure. He either staged his own death or else he has the entire Strongholm chapter of the Abarisian order in his pocket. If he staged his own death, why would he have used a Rathgafarius look-alike (I don't believe the reoccurrence of the costume would be coincidental), unless it was to spark my attention? But how would he know that my companions and I... how could he know anything about us. The scrying I know of requires you to know the individual you are scrying on.

Another possibility is that he was actually visited by Rathgafarius and the assassin just didn't get the job done. But it's a bad assassin who gets into close contact with a mage and assumes a single knife wound has taken care of the job, and a mage who is capable of surviving such an attack would usually have a more flashy way of defending himself than sinking to the bottom of a river and waiting until the coast was clear. Could Rathgafarius have been in league with Mordenkainen? Would that imply that Rathgafarius is the quintessential opportunist, or that Mordenkainen is working with Manslayer? Once we get into his magnificent mansion, I'll want to hear his assassination story.

If I don't like it? Well, that dumb cow Maggie wanted to gut him, wounded as she was, and with only me, Maggie, and Bragh to back her up. I wonder if the seven of us could take him. I wonder if Tam would like us to. I could really capitalize if the party gets hostile and a confrontation breaks out. If we manage to kill Mordenkainen, his (Geldemar's) ring and his spell book alone would assuage any guilt I might feel. How else is he going to help us? By revealing some more of that crazy old prophecy? I hate that thing. If Father's revolution is going as poorly as that twit Rufio implied, I'll never be a king.

(Although now is the time to strike. We could put together a naval attack and hit the Pretender-King of Eeridia right in his capital city; make him fight a two-front war. Bragh's burnished L -- I know that's a Halgardian coat of arms. That's a couple dozen heavy cavalry at least. If the party is so awed by Mordenkainen's reutation that they follow his counsel, maybe I could get him interested in the Eeridian revolution.)

Mordenkainen will pass himself off as an ally, that he gave us that dungeon crawl as a test or as a lesson. The truth is that all he's done to us is assault us in our sleep, kill two of us, and steal Geldemar's ring.

You know, this is such a good core group, drop Benedict and Gunther off somewhere. Maggie is dumb enough that she could stay. She'll make the occasional embarrassing outburst, but she won't really throw a wrench into anything.

They need to be convinced that the Manslayer problem is a political problem -- that his goal is to militarily control the world. Then they'll know that step one of fighting him has to be a political step, like getting ourselves a nation to support us. Who has a plan for this? Not Gunther.

Gunther showed some definite cracks in his leadership today. After his foolish boast that he was as great a magician as I, he was hopeless in the dungeon of Mordenkainen. And he's a sword mage. His magic didn't do a thing for us down there. And mine, court magic, did. You know why? Because I'm smart. I used my unseen servants to fetch those potions while we sought shelter, I came up with the pop-up spellcasting idea, albeit using Gunther's shield spell. *I* dumped water on the eefreet's head, *I* charmed and dominated the minotaurs and bought our freedom with that fool unseen servant rope trick. Maggie, Bragh, and Roxanne owe their lives for me. As for Gunther's strategy in the same situation... "get em!"... well, look where it got him. Dead, and damn Mordenkainen for resurrecting him. Hopefully at least now he realizes, and the rest of the party does as well, that if our lives are to be trusted to anyone, it should be the most intelligent, the one most worthy to command them.

Game Fifteen

September 21, 2002

Ah, gods. Why did I see the fairy lady in those strange, strange woods? I feel that that must have happened for a reason... to test my resolve? I am committed... I am gung ho about getting involved in my father's war. But there in her house when she embraced me, I really was tempted to just stay there in peace with her, to just cry on her bosom and forget all the bad things I've done, all the bad things that have been done to me, and all the bad things I'm yet going to have to do.

Mordenkainen has my book, my book of dimensions. Swapped it for a few cheap spells -- perhaps that's how he considers it, but the reality is that he stole it. I don't believe for one hot second that he thinks I'm going to open a portal to one of the Hells and let demons across. But now, Manslayer has the ability to stride across dimensions, and we do not. In this, Mordenkainen scored a point for his enemy and ours. I'm not powerful enough yet to strip him of that tome (and maybe a few of his choice belongings by way of reparation, like that staff of resurrection), but that day is going to come, and it's going to come sooner than Mordenkainen thinks. He killed a few of us, stole from us, and provoked us to fight in his hall. He has us all hating Crownwarden, whom we already suspected, without offering an iota of proof. The Zone of Truth would have been the worst, because I'm not certain I could have repented and meant it (people are tools, and they get used). I wonder if he knew that, and sought to sunder all the progress I've been making in making the others trust me. In this, I triumphed. Bragh and Roxanne understand my reasons for not submitting to this spell... the reasons that I gave, anyway. Maggie was left to sulk on her poor, misunderstood own. Who would want to rape Maggie? It boggles the mind. Maybe when she was an adolescent and didn't have that man's body.

I could have been more subtle in entering my father's palace. The body of guards raised to repel a mysterious stranger was a ruckus, but at least they didn't learn my identity. So far, only my father and the Lord Magus have seen my face... or has Rufio? I won't disregard him. Slinking jackals like Rufio have as their main weapon the ability to be overlooked. I'm a little worried about the amount of power that the Lord Magus seems to have in Father's palace. He seems to be a good and faithful servant so far, but the degree of his control is frightening. You know who could give me an honest account of the Lord Magus' rise? Demetrius, former seneschal and current master of the kitchen.

The next trick will be to get both Father and my comrades to approve of my plan for naval attack against Kavalar, the capital city. I'll plead with Gunther that I'll need his elemental magicks for a sea battle. You need to feed people's egos sometimes. If Gunther comes, the rest will follow. Roxanne had wanted to sneak in under the cover of night and snatch the Sword of Koss from the Pretender-king. That's the poorer plan, especially when we have at our fingertips the military might to end this war against the Betshaba-fearing Eeridians. I think I already made a strong case to Father about sailing on Kavalar.

Interestingly, I had always thought this "King of Eeridia is an evil Phlegethon worshiper" was just a ploy for my father to rally troops. It may still be -- he might have never touched the Sword of Koss. But doesn't the information about the sword fit in nicely to the story my father and I have been telling all along?

Once I'm the crown prince, I'm going to want to see Bragh have his status restored in Halan. At least. His story is sad. I sense there's a bit more to it... his father's sudden decision to become a bandit just because he was firstborn just doesn't seem ... complete. Nonetheless, I'm thrilled about traveling with Bragh, since it gives us a legitimate tie to the nobility of another nation, and because he's so easy to deal with.

God, it's chess. Right now, it's the other guy's move. If the Lord Magus doesn't seem to be an obstacle, and if Gunther and Benedict don't move to block me, then I'll be free to start a checkmate strategy against the pretender king.

Game Sixteen

October 19, 2002

Time seems to stand still as I watch the King of Kyroklos’s head roll. The seconds seem to have become weeks. The moment it left his body, it became an insensate thing, bereft of personality. In the course of a minute, he went from being one of the most powerful men in the word to being meat. Was that the sword, a life-draining effect? As violent a life as I’ve had this past year, I haven’t seen many human beings beheaded, and so I don’t know if those blank eyes are typical.

I wonder, too, if he would have begged Ignatio Rafezzi for his life if he weren’t under the effects of my suggestion. One of the instructions I gave him was to spare his own miserable hide. It can’t be pleasant to have your last moments in the world of the living without access to one’s full free will. Still, he was the enemy. Death is an inglorious and undignified thing for almost everyone. I prevented a lot of bloodshed - most importantly from myself and my companions (too late for Quinn, that pile of sludge) with the use of my magic.

If this is victory, where is the rush, the flavor, the jubilation at standing over a defeated opponent? I guess you don’t get that when you’ve been playing for the wrong side.

I never thought Phlegethon had any place in this conflict. Although I was quick to follow my father’s pronouncement and decry the King of Kyroklos as a worshiper of the God of Tyranny, I figured it was just a political maneuver to rally support for Aeolen. But there was a Phlegethonian, and it was Dad. Oh, Dad, you politician, you wolf. Your voice, booming and flat, always the loudest in church. And you started the massacres, didn't you? And every poor sap, every farmhand militiaman who went marching to his death with a spear to the central hills, they were fighting for Phlegethon, under you. The foreign mercenaries should have told me. No... it did tell me. It was an uncharecteristic move, kind of dishonorable in a civil war. I knew you weren't fighting against Phlegethon. I figured you just wanted the throne really, really bad. I never guessed that everything we said about Kyroklos was true of you.

I suspected your allies. The Lord Magus is almost certainly a foe -- Demetrious's instincts were right. This is the same guy who recruited me for the Academy of Eisenstadt. Was he working in the interests of Phlegethon when he did that? Maybe he needed to get me out of the way... maybe he thought I'd be useful to his cause once I got some powers, and in the short term you could say he was right, but he'd better get his chuckles now, cause it's hard to laugh in a noose. And that Narisian pirate -- ooh, I'm killing him so dead. I can't believe he persuaded me not to take the admiral's quarters. I certainly made a great move by bunking with the sailors like I did... a good politician can make a defeat into a PR victory, but he made me sleep in a cot for two fucking weeks. I could take that from a loyal Betshaban warrior under duress to liberate the country. But he was guiling the whole time. Dead dead dead.

Tell me it was just the sword. Tell me it started when you got the sword from Kyroklos. And what did it do, rob you of your faculties? How political is it to declare out loud that you're a follower of Phlegethon. Who's going to voluntarily follow you? I'll bet those merc foreigners will. I hadn't gotten a good look at them yet. In my mind's eye they're dirty barbarians, slavering for tyranny out of a love for pure evil. Will they stay here and bully Eeridians, mingling their uncouth bloodline with ours through a hundred thousand rapes? Not on my fucking watch. And I've got to be careful how I get rid of them, too. If I just cut their head off, they'll pillage the countryside until I can get them all killed.

I say "I" because it's my responsibility. I'm the king of Iridia.*

Kyroklos is dead, of course. And my father cannot be allowed to rule. After having said, publicly, that he dedicated his victory (yo! that was MY victory!) to Phlegethon, no Iridian will follow him. There's a chance that my companions and I will have to kill him to take the sword off him. I don't want that. Somehow, we can hopefully pry that thing out of his hand. I'll even authorize the fighters to cut the hand off with it. There's no need for a fratri-regicide here. But his political career is shot.

I want to rule. I don't want to kill Dad to do it. I'd rather see him dead than worshipping Phlegethon, but I'd much rather see him free from the sword's influence, retired somewhere, maybe in a manor up in the mountains, near the sacred springs. He'd come down for holidays and the important occasions... that's for later. Maybe I should cement my claim to the throne by marrying Isadora the fair. I don't think falling in love with her is going to be a problem, not with Roxanne in my life. Other claimants to the throne might stand up... Kyroklos's relatives, or my sister, but it's mine. I settled the matter of Kyroklos, and I'm going to settle my father's business, nicely or nastily.

I guess that, nicely or nastily, is the real question. Out of the corner of my eye I can see Maggie tensing for the attack. I can hardly fight now... I'm fresh out of offensive spells, so I can't physically stop her. To fight him right now, you'd have to take him, his mage, and a shitload of mercenaries who followed them in. But tomorrow, all the mercenaries outside the gate will be in the city. Maybe, with diplomacy and maneuvering, I can turn this thing around, act all nicey-nicey, have a big victory banquet, and sow the seeds for a fast, clean coup d'etat. I'm sure Maggie and Gunther would rather go, choppy choppy, blaze of glory, gets real gory. I guess they're both expendable. They can get killed by themselves, cause I don't think I have any fight in me right now. In the long term, I'll come out on top. In the short term, I don't know what to do.