Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Isle Notes: episode seven

the party
Elana Correze, Ellis Correze, Zoilo Itash, and the Barber Tarlun

the conspiracy (identified by the symbol of a hilt-upwards dagger, sewn on the right breast of their clothing)
Lysander, the False Bastard
Asela Puissant: female, 5'8", short cropped hair, angular features, lean and wiry; a member of the Raseldan family, who have the knack of jumping and staying in the air a fraction longer than other people
Minato: male, 5'4", loose attire, staff-wielding, Oriental-looking
Gabriel 'Gabby' Mansuetude: male, 6'3", muscular, green eyes (very rare on Isle), copper-colored ponytail; does not kill.
Admetus 'Addy' Dusk: Isle's finest Clothier/Tailor

Granny: an elderly woman; apparently Addy's servant
Mateus Rose, a banker of the Isle
the Fabulist: presumably the most powerful of the One and the Five who govern the Isle
an unnamed Herald

fuschia for tracing threads
blue for flying

Part One
Having arrived at the location of the true Bastard's imprisonment, the party is stunned to find Lysander, Puissant, Mansuetude, and Minato already present, though apparently equally taken aback. There is just time for Lysander to order his co-conspirators to attack the party before Mansuetude envelops the entire area in an atmosphere of overwhelming calm, leaving both groups feeling serene and disinclined to take any action, offensive or defensive.

Despite their enforced calm, the party is more surprised than ever when Mansuetude uses this advantage to attack--instead of the party--the false Bastard, literally beating him into unconsciousness. After giving her an opportunity to surrender (which she wordlessly and angrily declines), Mansuetude does the same to Puissant, and is apparently prepared to deal similar treatment to Minato, except that the latter signifies that he will take Mansuetude's side if Mansuetude can "produce a coin". Accordingly, Mansuetude takes a silver coin from a pouch, and, in a manner disconcertingly similar to Elana's power use as a Rich Man, purchases Minato's service for a duration.

His own companions dealt with, Mansuetude asks the party if they and he can converse. Upon their acquiescence, he withdraws his aura of calm and introduces himself as Gabriel ("Call me Gabby") Mansuetude, a member of 'the conspiracy'. In a back-and-forth exchange of questions and answers, he explains that he, the others, and his best friend Admetus are members of a conspiracy dedicated to developing their inborn knacks into abilities of consequence--what the party knows as 'Crafts'. In order to achieve this, the conspirators have for some time been ingesting a mysterious substance exclusively provided by the False Bastard, known to them only as 'ambrosia'.

To the best of Gabriel's knowledge, none of the group aside from Lysander knew what ambrosia consists of, nor were they aware that Lysander was anyone other than the Bastard Roman. He and Admetus had noticed some suspect changes in the Bastard's behavior, however, such that Gabby became convinced that something was well and truly wrong when Lysander had arrived for that evening's meeting wild-eyed and furious, with news of young people from the future with exactly the kind of power level they had been striving to achieve. When the party arrived and Lysander ordered their deaths, Gabriel realized that the Roman he knew was hardly likely to want to kill people who could potentially be of enormous use to the conspiracy in pursuit of their stated goals.

Upon further questioning, Gabby reveals that 'Lysander' is the name of a legendary thief, famous for having successfully stolen "from all seven offices" some 250 years ago. He sheepishly admits that there are seven positions of governance on Isle, not six as is publicly believed. The seventh is the Lover, a hereditary post passed on through the family line of the Widow's paramours.

Naturally appalled at the possibility that Lysander may be a nigh-immortal Thief, Zoilo searches the false Bastard's prone form. (Minato has been keeping both Lysander and Puissant unconscious with periodic strikes of his staff.) As feared and half-expected, Zoilo finds a miniature sap, the traditional tool (what Gabby calls a "focus") of the Thief's Craft. Zoilo tries to query the sap for answers, but it immediately begins trying to subvert him into a paradigm of thievery--clearly a treacherous and dangerous tool even without its master's guidance.

Using his Tinker abilities on less tricky objects, Zoilo discerns that the so-called ambrosia is, in fact, the blood of the true Bastard, who is being both imprisoned and sustained by the gigantic emerald which forms a portion of the wall in the very hallway in which they are standing. He learns from the pendant which Elias lent them that Roman cannot be freed from the huge emerald (which is linked to the emerald in the pendant) without dying, except with the assistance of "that which is greater" than the emerald.

Gabriel and the party are able to deduce that each of the seven offices must have an item such as the pendant, which is likewise linked to a larger gem of power. Tarlun tries to trace the unseen connection to the other items, but finds that they have been severed. As they all try to decide how to proceed with this knowledge, Minato suddenly turns and runs through the portal leading out of the hall.

Perplexed, the five new allies are dismayed to discover that the prone form of Lysander now bears the face and form of Minato--apparently the false Bastard had somehow switched places or identities in order to escape.

Part Two
After a hasty withdrawal (bearing the unconscious forms of Minato and Puissant), the allies travel to the residence of the Hollow, where they gain entrance by showing the Bastard Son on duty Elias' pendant(really the Bastard's symbol of office). However, although the Hollow acknowledges that they speak the truth, and recognizes Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo as people whose help she will enlist in the future, she is unable to offer much assistance, other than the knowledge that the eight tools of Craft associated with the Isle remain in her possession (except for the Rich Man's pouch, the Soldier's dagger, the Tinker's hammer, and the Thief's sap).

On Gabriel's recommendation, the allies then decide to enlist the assistance of Admetus, Gabby’s best friend and a Clothier or Tailor of some ability. Admetus' occupation--as well as his family name, Dark--are a source of some consternation to members of the party, particularly Elana and Tarlun. However, they decide to put their misgivings aside temporarily when the Thief's sap abruptly announces to Zoilo that its master is calling, and vanishes right out of Zoilo's grasp.

Admetus ("Call me Addy") proves to be an enormously fat man of effete and affable disposition. After hearing a brief and very incomplete explanation of the situation, he agrees to help, and is able to trace the threads that connect the Bastard's symbol of office to the other six symbols. All of the six prove to be 'greater' than the emerald; and the allies decide to journey to the location of the most powerful, in hopes of acquiring the aid they need to free the Bastard. Elana and Zoilo make a quick trip to the home of the banker Mateus Rose, in order to withdraw coins for Elana.

Leaving Minato and Puissant in the care of Addy's helper Granny, the six allies ride Admetus' flying carpet through the air to one of the forbidden areas of Isle, an apparently deserted forest. In the forest, they make their way to a rundown shack, which Gabby and Addy correctly guess to be the residence of the Fabulist. Zoilo learns from the door that the Fabulist is sleeping and must never be woken, for then everything that she has dreamed into existence will cease to exist.

Elana, Ellis, Zoilo, and Gabby enter the house cautiously, leaving Tarlun and Addy outside. Unable to find the large gem within the otherwise uninhabited house, they creep into the Fabulist's bedroom, where they find a drab-looking woman asleep under glass, with a ruby mounted in a white-gold tiara upon her forehead. Zoilo attempts to communicate with the gem, but this causes the Fabulist to stir in her sleep, instigating an alarming flickering of many objects in their immediate vicinity, including Zoilo himself.

Hearing Tarlun's voice raised menacingly outside, the four rush outdoors, where Tarlun is threatening Addy, whom he still distrusts. Admetus makes light of the matter, instead volunteering to try and trace the thread leading to the larger ruby from the Fabulist's tiara. Tarlun opens a portal to take the entire group inside. However, even as Addy performs his task, Tarlun takes one look at the Fabulist and panics, hissing, "It's the Dowager!" as he hastily cuts open a portal and flees. Gabby grabs Elana and follows, but Elana struggles free and returns inside the bedroom just as the portal closes behind her.

After more alarming fitfulness from the Fabulist--and corresponding flickering--Zoilo takes the four back outside, where there is no sign of Tarlun or Gabriel. They are searching around the outside of the house to make certain when the false Bastard suddenly appears, laughing disdainfully and rather maniacally. Zoilo instantly moves to subdue him, but the matter is truly resolved when Addy sits on Lysander, knocking the wind out of him.

Lysander appears to be very weak and unwell, and not only from the effects of this confrontation. He has just enough time to smugly inform them that he has passed the Thief's sap to Elana and Ellis' mother before he perishes of unknown causes.

Part Three
Before finding their companions or going to the twins' mother, the four decide to make another try at finding the Fabulist's ruby. They find a cellar door at the back of the house, which refuses to open for them, and which they are afraid to force for fear of waking the Fabulist. Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo are stymied until Admetus uses a thread to simply yank the door open.

Since Addy's girth prevents him from descending into the entrance, Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo go on without him into what, indeed, proves to be the chamber of the ruby of dreaming. From the chamber itself, Zoilo learns that past Fabulists used to pass into the huge ruby, but in recent years their essences have been absorbed by the current Fabulist (lending credence to Tarlun's assertion that she is the Dowager). He tries to communicate with the ruby, but is told by the chamber that the ruby will only speak to women, because men are motivated by desire, whereas the nature of dreaming is truth and reality.

Elana then addresses the ruby, which tests her first before revealing that it has known it would be approached by the eight Craftsmen of Isle, just not when. It asks her to display one of eight related abilities, and Elana calls on Ellis to render the traditional greeting of the Soldier.

The ruby then consents to answer three questions, each of which it answers with one or a combination of the eight Crafts associated with Isle. To the problem of freeing the Bastard Roman, the ruby replies, "Tinker, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Beggar Man." To a question which Nikki doesn't remember, it advises, "Beggar Man, Poor Man." And as to how to keep the Fabulist from awakening, the ruby's answer is, "Thief," which the trio takes to mean that the Fabulist will inevitably wake unless her Craft is stolen from her.

Questions answered, the trio leaves the chamber, only to find that Admetus has been accosted by a Herald, who sharply orders Addy to leave the premises immediately. Addy complies as slowly as possible, clearly not wanting to leave his allies behind. The Herald speaks into an insignia on the left breast of his uniform, through which he is apparently instructed to kill Admetus.

He is able to stab Addy before the trio can intervene; however, Elana is quick to apply some of her Sovereign Balm to instantly heal Addy from the injury. The Herald moves to attack the party with a blast of force that emanates from his body, knocking the heroes back and rattling the windows of the Fabulist's shack. He is able to attack once more before Zoilo knocks him unconscious with his hammer.

By then, it is apparently too late, as the Fabulist's door slams open, revealing someone standing awake in the doorway.
Nikki bit in at 11:49 PM :: ::
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