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 Post subject: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 11:39 pm 
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Melrov and his surviving soldiers roughly bind the surviving members of the Hibernal Knot's soldiers - few even had an opportunity to surrender, and most of the survivors are among the badly wounded. They survive - as do a fair number of the Knot's own soldiers - only as Irulen makes her way to pour life into broken bodies. Gaerlan doesn't even seem to notice until he goes to call for her, and finds her elsewhere.

In those moments Vexor, obeying telepathic commands, vanishes and reappears with more of the Knot's servants, who set about stripping and binding the unconscious members of the Knot Hibernal. As is practice they are stripped to their small clothing to ensure they are hiding no tricks. Any in danger of bleeding out are kept alive by gentle healing touches, and they are bundled off as a whole under a strong guard to the prison of the Knot.

Gaerlan kneels beside Elise, emotion warring on his face. He rolls the bound blind witch onto her side and looks at her for a moment with concern, before laying a hand upon her stomach. He looks for a moment for Puella, then back at Elise. Finally he gathers her up and carries her below, down to the lab, pausing only to collect his sister and gather the opposing Knot's clay tablet for himself.

Down in the lab Elise is bound spread eagle to the table that has seen so many surgeries performed by Irulen. After a brief conference with Gaerlan she sets about examining the bound woman for harm - and for evidence that she is with child. Gaerlan only waits, pacing somewhat unevenly while he awaits the healer's confirmation.

OOC Irulen Takes 10 on "Heal" for a total of 43 here.


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 Post subject: Re: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2015 12:21 am 
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Elise lies on the table, occasionally twitching, seething with impotent rage, throughout the examination. Irulen confirms that the winter witch is indeed pregnant.

*************

Dostan begins struggling to break any bonds upon him as soon as he wakes up, and does not cease until he is free, knocked out, or compelled by magic. Trak merely glares sullenly at his captors.


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 Post subject: Re: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2015 12:58 am 
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Gaerlan prowls before finally casting a spell and closing on the witch in a rush. "Is it mine?" The question seems so mundane, but it is so very important to him. He seems... on the edge of control, fighting with fury and other emotions. Hurt perhaps? None the same, he does remain in control for now.

OOC Zone of Truth, DC 18

**********

Gaerlan ignores Dostan for now. He his thoroughly chained for his own protection, with guards ready to step in and beat him senseless if needed. In time curses will be laid upon him to steal is strength, if he does not find another end first.

Gaerlan is however very interested in Trik, and splits him from the rest of the prisoners for his own interrogation. The battered man is given little time to account himself. Stripped to his undergarments, healed only so far as needed to keep him alive, bound, and thoroughly defeated Gaerlan goes right to the point, dispensing with all pleasantries or pretensions at power. "There is really only one question that matters to me at this moment. You will answer it truthfully, and to the best of your knowledge, or I will start removing fingers. Do not resist this spell. If we wished you harmed, it would be fair easier to arrange." He casts a brief spell.

OOC Zone of Truth

"Who else has Elise lain with, or might she have lain with, since she arrived in Farholde?"


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 Post subject: Re: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:07 am 
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Elise struggles against the spell for just a moment, but her pride is too wounded to resist. "I hope so," she says through gritted teeth. "You are a strong possibility. Even before this, I had hoped so."

Her struggles ease, the fight seeming to go out of her, and some of the bitterness leaves her voice. "It's not too late to fix this, even now, Gaerlan."


**********

Trik kneels, his typical joviality entirely gone. "There's no need for that," he says as the spell takes hold. "I know when I've lost. I'll answer whatever you wish, and submit to any punishment the Cardinal sees fit."

If the priest is surprised by Gaerlan's inquiry, it doesn't show on his face or in his voice. "You and Baron Vandermir are the only ones I know of that she laid with more than once. A few others, servants or pawns, that were lucky if she only threw them out of bed with a slap and a curse; the witch is not easy to please. None who disappointed her got a second chance. I think at least one died afterwards. She seduced a couple of would-be heroes before we killed them, but I don't believe she went all the way with them. Never my brother, despite his desire and her false promises. Never Dostan; she sees him more as an attack dog, I think, despite that body of his."


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 Post subject: Re: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 2:45 pm 
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WarDragon wrote:
Elise struggles against the spell for just a moment, but her pride is too wounded to resist. "I hope so," she says through gritted teeth. "You are a strong possibility. Even before this, I had hoped so."

Her struggles ease, the fight seeming to go out of her, and some of the bitterness leaves her voice. "It's not too late to fix this, even now, Gaerlan."


Gaerlan lays a hand on her stomach, "It is right for you to hope. If not for my will, my priestess would have already broken your seal and brought down the wraith of Thorn. It would take you a very long time indeed to die my dear. I'm certain Tiadora would come up with punishments beyond even Puella's fertile mind." He removes his hand, "And she would not be wrong to do so. Betrayal. Treachery. And reckless at that. You have no idea how complex the ritual here is, how easily it could be disrupted, and at what cost such a failure would come."

He leans over the table, staring into the blind witch's eyes, "I want to understand it Elise. The why of it all? We have the Farholde in our hands, the ritual months in. Why throw it all away? To take ownership of the Horn? You'd rather be stuck in the wilderness in a daemonic temple than in Farholde? Explain your plans, explain who else knew of this treachery." He shakes is head, a motion she hears rather than sees, "Explain it to me Elise. And explain to me how it is not too late. How you would fix this... and how I can or should trust you again?"

Irulen watches from the corner, eyes glittering in the flickering candlelight of the room.

WarDragon wrote:
Trik kneels, his typical joviality entirely gone. "There's no need for that," he says as the spell takes hold. "I know when I've lost. I'll answer whatever you wish, and submit to any punishment the Cardinal sees fit."

If the priest is surprised by Gaerlan's inquiry, it doesn't show on his face or in his voice. "You and Baron Vandermir are the only ones I know of that she laid with more than once. A few others, servants or pawns, that were lucky if she only threw them out of bed with a slap and a curse; the witch is not easy to please. None who disappointed her got a second chance. I think at least one died afterwards. She seduced a couple of would-be heroes before we killed them, but I don't believe she went all the way with them. Never my brother, despite his desire and her false promises. Never Dostan; she sees him more as an attack dog, I think, despite that body of his."


Gaerlan listens to the priest and falls into a long silence. "The Barons part in this? Should I presume he is poisoned against us with the same tales she spun you with, or the same charms with which she enraptured your brother?"


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 Post subject: Re: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 9:37 pm 
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Puella is in the room with Gaerlan and Trik, waiting quietly. She has words to say to the priest once Gaerlan has his answers, but unlike the warrior, the witch is in no hurry.


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 Post subject: Re: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2015 7:06 pm 
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Elise

"Do I really need to? I know you've felt the same as I; the pain of being held back, of knowing that you deserve more. Being left out in that backwater while you carried on the real work, after we succeeded just as greatly as you... a slap in the face, all because I refused to bow to Thorn's god."

"Don't tell me you don't chafe at your role in this, Gaerlan. No matter how lowly our circumstances, you and I were born to lead, to command, to rule. So long as we follow Thorn's plans, we'll never be anything more than his servants."

"I'd hoped you would see that, leave those foolish enough to follow him, and join me. Whatever the ritual is, we could have salvaged it, used the plague, and overthrown Thorn when the time was right. We still can! Set me free from this, and we can both break free of the chains he would put on us."

Irulen glances at Gaerlan sharply as his eyes flare for a moment in anger. After a long moment it fades into something more smoldering. His footsteps withdraw from directly over her, and she can hear his slow pacing.

Moments streach on into minutes, finally a sigh. "You are not completely wrong about our place in this. All of us."

"I know I'm not. And I knew you'd see it as well."

"Why not speak to me of it then, rather than drive a knife into my back?"

"Would you have listened, with the Red witch speaking in your other ear? With the low-hanging fruit of his favor in easy reach? If I came to you as a beggar, asking you to throw away what you had? Besides, I would have spared you, when it came to battle... you, and Irulen, and your man Sebastian. They all knew that was the plan."

Gaerlan reflects on her plainly spoken truth, compelled by his magics. "To what fate?"

"That was up to you, and to them. I'm sure you would have seen things my way... haven't you done that very thing, to some who were your enemies?"

"A generous fate, but then to the ruler can be magnanimous. What was the plan then, when Thorn arrived? To tell of our betrayal of him? To hide like a serpent under his feet? We are not ready Elise. Talingarde stands too tall still."

"We would finish the ritual ourselves, keep him away as long as possible. The others, we could tell any number of stories; perhaps even a true one, had our pawns done their job correctly. There would have been a chance eventually."

"I would use him, as he uses us, until that chance came."

"And now, you would adopt such a position. You would have me murder my priestess and elevate you to my side."

"That is your solution."

"Send her and Trik on a mission elsewhere, far from here, where they can't interfere... until Thorn betrays them, as he must someday."

"Then they'll see we were right."

"And if I were to offer you a counter proposal my dear? The same you would have offered me in your place. Serve me. What would you say to that? Could you ever be comfortable beneath me?"

She is silent for a moment, which is really answer enough. She decides there is no point in lying to him. "Don't be foolish. Equals, I could abide, perhaps... but if one of us were set beneath, the other would never be able to stop watching for the knife. It's part of what keeps it interesting."

"Even as equals we both know I could never stop watching for the knife."

"You can admit it, Gaerlan. Neither could I."

"And as fun as it is, I would not balance all that I would build on the edge of that knife." He sighs, "Rest Elise. Rest easy. If that is my ******* in your belly you have my protection."

He leans in close to her, nearly whispering in her ear, "If not... well. Perhaps we may try again. Perhaps in time you will crawl past my feet back into my lap."

She whispers back. "Another chance? Even knowing that you can never stop watching your back? Are you sure my plan didn't work after all?" Her teeth snap at him... in play or in earnest, he's not entirely certain.

"It shall be... interesting." Gaerlan sweeps out of the room.

* * * * * * * * *

Trik

Gaerlan listens to the priest and falls into a long silence. "The Barons part in this? Should I presume he is poisoned against us with the same tales she spun you with, or the same charms with which she enraptured your brother?"

"Yes to the latter, but I don't believe he needed the former; you know he's out for himself, not for the Cause." He manages the feat of verbal capitalization. "Frankly, the Baron's paranoia has been increasing to the point where he's almost more of a liability than an aid. The lightshows have him rather unnerved."

Gaerlan muses on that, "He did seem quite the coward - and that I can ill abide on its face. A traitor and a coward..." His smile is grim, "Well, be glad you all fought bravely enough."

Trik nods. "My opinion is that the Baron will be loyal precisely as long as it benefits him... though another reminder of just who is above us all may not go amiss with him."

"I don't lightly grant second chances."

"And his usefulness may be coming to an end. Unless you see something I do not? Some reason to keep a snake underfoot?"

"Not particularly, no," he says with a shrug. If Trik is disturbed by Gaerlan's talk of second chances, he does not display it. "But it may be wiser to use the tool to destruction, than to
discard it out of hand. A nobleman's mysterious death could draw more unwanted attention."

"The decision is yours, of course; I merely advise."

"Your decision to let the last bunch run wild already drew unwanted attention. Before their attack they send off a message to the south altering their patrons of events here."

"So they think." Is that a trace of his old grin?

"Their messenger didn't make it an hour out of town."

"Indeed? One less bit of foolishness then to deal with."

"Trik, Trik, Trik. How did you ever let her trick you?"

"I have been asking myself that question non-stop since Puella opened my eyes."

"Elise... got us through some hard times, before we came to Talingarde, but I knew how ruthless she was. I didn't want to abandon my brother. But none of that excuses my failure. My sin."

"I expected better of you."

Trik merely nods, accepting the rebuke.

"What would you have me do now Trik? Loyal servant of the Father Below that you are?"

"Give me your council. How should you be treated?"

"Elise's failing was her pride. We do not condemn it outright as the Mitrans do, but we must all know our place. My counsel may be worth little to you, but I think Puella's is worth more. In your place, I would do what she has spoken of. Yes. I... I wish to formally petition for the judgement of our high priest." He says the last sentence with a resigned finality.

"Thorn is very busy. He expects his children to make their own way, and settle their own affairs." The word are firm. "Besides, it is we you have wronged, not he."

"If I may, by the strictest wording of the Pact, that is not entirely so. However... my sin was one of failure, and not treachery. The typical punishment for such in the faith is demotion. I admit that a rather sizable one seems called for in this case."

"And of your brother, and the rest? Failure is the least of their sins."

"For Elise, you've made it clear that you have a personal interest in her welfare, at least in the short term. I won't presume to speak of her fate. Dostan... as long as he's alive, he'll keep trying to bite you and set her free. He all but worships her."

"Titus..."

He is silent for a moment, in thought.

"He doesn't seem to care for me."

"Her hooks are deep in him, and he's made it clear to me several times that while he accepts my faith, he does not share it. And he purely hates you, Sir Cimo. Do... do whatever you feel is necessary in his case. I cannot say the words about my own brother, but..."

"Your heart then truly lies only with our god then. A faithful man. A loyal servant of the Father Below."

"His church is my true home. All that I do is in His name."

"I would weep for my brother, if... if his death were necessary. But I would lay the blame for it upon the Witch of Winter."

Gaerlan eyes him. "I shall leave you now to make your full confession then to your high priestess - and I for one would welcome you back... Brother.

Trik bows his head.

Gaerlan rises to leave Puella her questions.


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 Post subject: Re: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 9:24 pm 
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For some time after Gaerlan departs, Elise is left to her thoughts. Not much else to keep her company. She occasionally hears movement or senses the presence of another, but these unknown guards neither speak nor respond to her speech.

Perhaps eventually, she falls asleep. If so, that too is uneventful... till, suddenly, she is jolted from her rest.

It is midnight, though Elise may not know it. What she does know is that her empathic link with her familiar is alive with fear. Fire. Burning. Pain.

After what seems like an age - the witching hour, in fact it is - her connection with her familiar erupts in one last burst of terror and flame and then goes dark entirely. But she does not have long to be alone.

"I see you have been hard at work on your spells, Elise. You always were clever."

--------------------

"Is it the high priest of Belial or of Asmodeus whose judgment you wish for, Titus? For you have those two to choose from. And I warn you not to presume about which might be the harsher."


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 Post subject: Re: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2015 1:51 am 
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Elise jerks against her chains when Puella speaks, as if she would strangle the other woman with her bare hands. "And you always were a sanctimonious little *****."

----------------

"And you should not presume that I would choose the easier, sister." Trik gazes back up at her. "The Cardinal is my superior, and I cannot fully atone for my sins without his judgement, if such is possible at all. Nor would I advise keeping this from him longer than necessary. Still, I... shall defer to you, until such time as our master can be consulted. What penance would you place upon me?"


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 Post subject: Re: The Knot Hibernal (Week 18)
PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2015 9:58 am 
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Puella accepts the insult with tranquility. She has been called worse. She lays a hand upon Elise's brow, and the other witch can feel the nausea and pain of Puella's curses invading her body.

"For instance, this spell must have been intended for Gaerlan and Sebastien."

Elise instantly recognizes the dire words of power that Puella incants. She developed them herself, after all.

[dominate person, DC 23. Preceded by Evil Eye, the fell power of the Mask (Intimidate/shaken) Misfortune (dc22), and ill omen - save at -6 and roll twice/thrice take worst.]

-------------

"Then I pronounce a sentence of demotion."

A gentle but firm hand on Trik's shoulder pushes the priest to his knees.

"You are one of the King's Chosen, and in order not to offend against His dignity, you shall not suffer the slave's collar, nor the slave's lash, from any save a higher Chosen of the King. You shall hold your own body inviolate from the degradation of servitude. But in all other respects, I lay you under sentence of indenture to the Nessian Knot. You know the articles of the faith. He who is unworthy to lead, let him be conquered and led."

"When you come before a higher court, you may if you choose petition either to confirm or to alter this sentence. Should it be confirmed, you shall have but one way to regain your honor. Perform nine great deeds in the service of the Nessian Knot - one great deed for each Lord, each of such a nature as to specially please the Lord to whom it is dedicated."

"Understand that when I speak of great deeds, it shall be the unanimous Nessian Knot that determines whether such a deed is great and worthy of recognition. Exempli gratia. For the deed dedicated to the Lord Bael, no mere killing shall suffice. You must think in terms such as razing towns or decimating tribes which defy the King, or by your own hand throwing down mighty enemy generals."

"Accomplish all nine great deeds, and you shall have atoned, and shall be restored to honor and privilege."


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