Fire from The Well - Session 2GMed by @Nicolas_Bourbaki
- Once the Urd-Blade is hidden, I’ll have some time to plan and prepare. I’ll need a mount if I’m to make good my escape, but a horse costs money I don’t have. It seems I am a man who must multiply his debts…
- Arshidel has grown arrogant and it’s time for him to see how he really measures up. If he wants to see himself as Neravasthor’s sole guardian, he needs to earn that delusion. Time for a “friendly” bout with dulls.
- Arshidel suspects me, I’m sure of it! But if I can goad him into a vendetta of honor, I’ll only have to worry about evading an overzealous apprentice and not the entire city’s Watch.
Honorable Labor, Honest Wages
It was nearing mid-day when Yra’el stepped out of Léminären’s house. The deadline she had given quickened his breath and made his fingers buzz: one day! The city of Haryn transformed, in his eyes, into one immense sundial, and every shadow on the street was a reminder of the time sliding out from under his feet. He strode purposefully back up the Hill, pondering furiously how best to bring the Urd-Blade from its place under the bed in Clyer’s manor to Léminären without drawing attention. On the streets such a package would draw too many eyes, and more than just the guards held an interest in the stolen sword. The solution, as obvious as it seemed clumsy, was to use the rooftops.
Stealthy vs. Untrained Perception: Bring the Urd-blade to Léminären without incident.
Failed: The chase is on!
He made his way into the manor without incident, retrieving the blade and ascending from a balcony to the clay tiles high above. But in the first leap from Clyer’s roof to a neighbor’s, he upset a single clay tile, which skittered down the slope of the roof and out of sight. A crack and shatter was heard a second later, followed by a shout of alarm and, as Yra’el crossed the gap between his current rooftop and the next, the demand to halt could be heard. He sped on, counting on his elevation to make it easier to shake his pursuers.
Speed vs. Speed: Escape all pursuers.
His intuition was right. Although he risked a fall with every new building he traversed, his grace did not fail him and no one was able to ascend quickly enough or to track him from down below. It also helped that his pursuers, infuriated by his chosen avenue of escape, gave loud cries and warnings so that he knew fully well when they faded far behind him that he could descend to the streets and dissolve into the crowds of the commonwealth.
He did not seek Léminären’s presence this time, merely slinking in through the alley-side door of her house and leaving the weapon wrapped and propped just within, before leaving again unannounced. She would know what it was, and no one else would bother with a bundle of soiled cloth by the door. Assured that the weapon would be safe until sunrise, he turned his thoughts to the next problem at hand.
He had no idea how to escape the city. And even if egress was possible, he had no ideas as to the direction he should flee. Worst of all, he’d no horse, little in the way of gear, and no money to avail himself of either.
Circles Ob 4: Get a loan.
Failed: Yra’el already has an outstanding debt! Ob 3 Debt added to character sheet…
The only man in the city who would be willing to lend to him was Cassor. They’d met first on the battlefield, thankfully on the same side of it, and quickly took a liking to each other. This relationship had become stressed after Yra’el had borrowed a beautiful roan on the road to Ce Tydon. The steed had never made it back, and Yra’el had struggled to meet his payments ever since. If he could turn to anyone else, Yra’el would - the Hill contained many who were moneylenders - but he had no collateral, no connections and no real credit to his name.
It was not a good sign that Cassor was already fuming the moment that Yra’el entered his office. He sat at his desk, bearded now but also paler than their last meeting, as if he hadn’t left the room in months. The man grumbled over a ledger, flicked a small scroll aside in irritation, then looked up to see Yra’el awaiting his attention. He straightened in his seat, as if trying to decide what to feel about this unexpected visit, then scowled.
“So the Delinquent finally shows his face!” he barked. Then suddenly a grin brightened his features, and he drew a bottle and two cups from below the desk. “Sit! It’s been too long since I’ve seen you face-to-face!”
Yra’el smiled and sat, leaning into a conspiratorial posture with his old friend, but they both could feel the affectation. Still, this game provided an escape from the dread formality of their business relations, so they played it alike and without acknowledgement. Yra’el inquired as to the success of Cassor’s business, and the latter remarked vaguely on his triumphs and challenges, skirting adroitly the topic of collection. But the issue could not be avoided forever.
“And so what brings you to my door today?” asked Cassor, not daring to hope.
“I’m afraid I’ve come to ask for a favor,” Yra’el shrugged. “I have a journey to make, and little in the way of funds to make it.”
It was obvious that Cassor had been dreading this very request. His face grew hard and sad, and his eyes drifted askance to the cabinet full of ledgers on his right. To put off the inevitable, he rose and ran his fingers over a shelf of ledgers until they’d landed where he already knew Yra’el’s would be. He set it down on his desk, opened it, and played through the pretense of reading what they both already knew.
“I don’t really see what I can do,” Cassor told his friend. “Unless you’ve brought some form of collateral?”
“All I have is all you see, with some meager traveling provisions kept elsewhere,” Yra’el admitted, but then leaned forward. “I would like to speak of one virtue that I have retained as your debtor; you know I have not fallen out of contact, nor fled from visitation. Yes, my payments have generally been late, but I have not stopped paying, and you win greater interest from me as a result.”
Cassor considered this in silence. “You speak of maintaining contact,” he finally mused, “and a thought does occur to me. There is someone I have done business with that lacks such virtue. Lord Patorial. Young fellow, and profligate. He has recently ceased all paper discourse and cannot be reached by conventional means.”
“And you hope I can reach him unconventionally?”
“If you can, I’ll allow you to increase your debt to whatever sum you wish,” Cassor nodded.
Yra’el was upright in the blink of an eye. “Be ready to receive his payment this afternoon.”
The sun had already overflown its zenith when Yra’el reached Patorial Manor. Any typical debt collector would announce himself to the doorman, but Yra’el had neither the social grace nor the patience to be forthcoming. Instead, he skirted the property line, opening his eyes to the glimmer of anima, and sought in the lights of passing souls the kind of man who would borrow without returning.
Aura-Reading Ob 4: Find Lord Patorial by reading the traits of people on the grounds. (Looking for Greedy, Impecunious, Arrogant, etc…)
Success!: Extra success spent to find Patorial alone!
Through the gaps of an arbor, he found him; a man utterly confident of his every whim being answered to, with no interest in those who provided. Perhaps it was a gamble, but the falling sun demanded haste. So he climbed an oak that overhung the hedge, and dropped down just behind his fellow delinquent.
No time for subtlety; Yra’el introduced himself by means of a hard shove from behind. The man embraced the earth with a smothered cry, Yra’el planted a knee upon his back, gripped a shock of his golden hair, and twisted his head aside so that the young lord could see his assailant through the corner of his eye.
“Greetings from Cassor,” Yra’el gloated.
“You thug!” the man seethed. “You villein! Cassor thinks to collect from me like some churl? I’ll have this act proclaimed across the city! He’ll never see another borrower for the rest of his days! I’ll have him run out!”
“You’ve put the hindmost forthways,” replied Yra’el. “Go on, proclaim away! All this city will hear is that a most eminent lord will not pay his dues. It will not be Cassor’s reputation soiled, but yours. Who will you borrow from then? And who will accept your seal, if they suspect no coin behind it?”
Ugly Truth Ob 3: Convince Lord Patorial to pay his dues without a fuss.
“Fine!” cried the noble. “I’ll pay, just don’t bring my father into this!”
The servant-boy who was called froze upon setting eyes on the scene of his master under the knee of an unkempt brigand, but he was ordered to quiet by both. Strict instructions were given; the lord would remain supine as the boy fetched the coin and returned without word with or to anyone. As soon as the coin was in Yra’el’s hands, the lord would be allowed to rise, and his debt collector would be ushered politely out the front gate of the manor.
Lord Patorial did one better; the entire way back to Cassor, Yra’el was flanked and escorted by two finely clad personal guards to ensure the safe transport of dues. Upon arrival, Yra’el not only turned in the cash box, but also procured from Cassor a receipt of payment, which he deposited into the hands of his guards after signing witness to it himself. He wished Patorial good fortune in his writ, then watched the guards leave satisfied with the business conducted.
“Well!” laughed Cassor. “I’ve every good reason to doubt your wherewithal, but never again your word! As promised, name your price and I shall add it to your dues!”
Yra’el left Cassor with a purse full of gold coins, and the sobering recognition that he would be making payments for the next nine seasons.
5D of Cash procured.
Ob 3 Debt increased to Ob 9!
But finally, there was business that Yra’el had longed to attend to since his first visit with Léminären. He’d been joking, at first, when he asked Léminären for her opinion, but when she had exhorted him never to cross paths with Neravasthor’s apprentice, his mind had quickly turned in contradiction: he was going to have a talk with Arshidel. More than that, however; he was going to cross swords with the man, and the sun would not set before both knew which was the better.
So he found himself approaching Neravasthor’s mansion, walking a path he’d trod so many times that each stride was instinct rather than action. He did not take these steps to the door: they took him. He knocked, and the sturdy wood shook his bones like a childhood memory.
The door opened, and there stood a familiar face, but not any that he expected. The boy, the urchin, the tail who he’d held at knifepoint, stood as doorman to Neravasthor’s home. Yra’el looked on in mute astonishment.
“Oh, now you want to see Arshidel?” the child sniped.
But Yra’el threw his head back and laughed. “What would you like, an apology? Let me in!” And the boy did as he was told.
Yra’el was led through a familiar foyer, past a trove of dusty memories, and out into a wide circular courtyard that he’d sparred in for years. On the far side, twin curved staircases, starting at courtyard level and rising to meet on the far side of the second floor, which was open to the courtyard and supported only by twelve columns evenly spaced. Looking down from this storey were a mingling of familiar and unfamiliar faces, and all those who Yra’el recognized he knew to be fellow Horns.
But on ground-level, stooped over a sturdy table with a map of Haryn spread across it, stood a man not much younger that Yra’el himself was, but shaven-crowned and both austere and immaculate of attire.
This man turned as Arshidel’s name was spoken, and Yra’el found himself face-to-face with the one who had replaced him. He wore a tunic of white cloth, marked across the chest with an unadorned circle of red. Yra’el recognized it and frowned, perplexed: This was the Circle of Flame, a holy order devoted to the protection of the Well of Souls. How could Neravasthor, recently resurrected by defilement of the Well, have thrown in her lot with a paladin of Ald Athair? And what warrior of the Circle would debase themselves in becoming an apprentice to a mercenary?
It mattered not. Yra’el had decided upon his course of action. In sending the boy to spy on him, Arshidel had already established himself as a meddler and potential threat. Yra’el stepped forward to shake hands with his newfound foe, and as they gripped forearms, each sized up the other. Yra’el had fought dozens of enemies, and had begun to learn the uncanny ability to read bodies at a glance.
Beginner’s Luck Physique-wise - Perception Ob 4: Discern Arshidel’s best physical stat.
Few would have read it from his build alone, but it was clear by how Arshidel carried himself, by the grip of his hand: he was strong. Yra’el reflected on how this might affect his fighting style. A charge to close the distance and upset Yra’el’s footing, perhaps? Pushes to accomplish the same? Surely his strikes could be dangerous, but would he drive forward like a bull, or flank and pounce like a great cat?
“Greetings,” Arshidel told him, “Although I am surprised as to the tardiness of your arrival. I believe I sent for you this morning, and was rebuffed.”
“I had errands to run, and little patience for spies,” replied Yra’el. “If you’d merely desired my attendance, a simple letter to my current residence would have sufficed.”
“I find I am all the more curious then,” retorted Ashidel. “As to why you have announced yourself at all.”
Yra’el paced a half-circle around his rival before answering. “I confess I am experiencing a great deal of worry at the moment,” he said. “You see, I still possess a great affection and concern for Neravasthor, and I wanted to see proof that her new apprentice would be an able guardian.”
“You needn’t have worried.”
“But I still do,” Yra’el pressed. “Now that I see you, an unwelcome and unpleasant truth comes to the forefront of my thoughts. You bear the raiment of one with a particular set of precepts. I cannot help but feel that it represents of conflict of interest.”
If Arshidel did not know where Yra’el was taking this, he did not let on, nor did he ask for clarification. He would not be goaded.
“You know fully well what I have done,” Yra’el pressed. “You know that Neravasthor lives in violation of a sacred order of the heavens. It seems to me that, for a member of your faction, the simplest solution to Neravasthor’s suffering is to return her from whence she came.”
Ugly Truth Ob 3: Provoke Arshidel into rushing headlong into a fight.
Failed: A Fight will happen, but Arshidel will be well-equipped and prepared.
A murmur of outrage rippled through the audience above, but neither man broke eye contact. The only hint to Arshidel’s feelings was a brief narrowing of the eyes, but he gave away nothing.
“If it helps you to sleep,” the paladin replied, not without a barb of irony: “I’ll clarify my position. Yes, it is grievous, the defilement you have performed. But none of my order would destroy a beautiful and good thing out of spite for an evil deed.”
“Very well,” said Yra’el, feigning a sigh of genuine relief. “Then there is only one matter in which I remain anxious. I should hope that whoever lays claim to the role of Neravasthor’s guardian should have a fitting skill with the blade.”
“That is not under doubt.”
“It is to me,” replied Yra’el, and he could feel, with pleasure, the collective interest of their audience grow. “Perhaps you can lay to rest my last fear? This courtyard has been the scene of many a training session for myself - a friendly bout with dulls is all I ask.”
The silence that followed made the air itself brittle.
“Very well,” said Arshidel, and tables and chairs were quickly rushed aside. Training swords were procured, and Yra’el tested the weight of his borrowed weapon.
“What shall we decide the victor by?” asked Arshidel, hefting a target shield. “First touch? First blood? Or first to yield?”
Yra’el grinned, then delivered his answer: