Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Isle Notes: episode six

If anyone is actually following the continuity, sorry I skipped Episodes 4 and 5. I was just too busy to write them the first week, and too sick the next.

the Widow of Isle: ruler of the Isle
the Bastard Roman (a.k.a. Lysander): second-in-command of the government of the Isle
Asela Puissant: an intimate of the Bastard
Mateus Rose: a banker summoned by Elana on Isle during the Age of Heroes
an unnamed healer
Gretchen Itash: Zoilo's next-younger sister; one of a pair of twins
Theresa Itash: Zoilo's next-older sister
Elias: the deceptively youthful-looking longtime lover of the Bastard Roman
Cravan: an under-city dweller
Elana Correze: a thirtyish version of Elana; Rich Man
Ellis Correze: a thirtyish version of Ellis; Soldier
Zoilo Itash: a thirtyish version of Zoilo; Tinker
Alain: Elana's personal Banker
an unnamed female Candlestickmaker
the Candlestickmaker Thelaia: transported the party back to their past
the Barber Tarlun: friend and official guardian to the party
the Candlestickmaker Sabellia: Thelaia's twin sister

Part One
Still being pursued by a throng of adoring Isle citizens as they drive the accidentally-acquired carriage of the Widow, Ellis and Zoilo come to a halt and dismount as they face an oncoming phalanx of Bastard Sons, led by the Bastard Roman himself. Upon questioning by the Bastard, Zoilo admits that the carriage is occupied by Elana (not knowing that Elana has already discovered another passenger within, a drunken young girl who identifies herself as the coachman's daughter). The Bastard then asks Elana to step out, which she does, closing the door hastily behind her in an effort to protect the coachman's daughter from chastisement.

As the Bastard questions the three more intently as to their unlawful possession of the Widow's carriage, the erstwhile coachman's daughter tumbles out with an anguished cry, claiming responsibility for the whole affair, and apologizing to Roman for "wanting to pretend". It soon becomes clear to the party that the young girl is, in fact, the Widow of the Isle herself, not only drunk but slapped around a bit by Elana as they rode in the carriage. A green-clad young man, who accompanied the Bastard in his carriage, volunteers to escort the Widow back to her Hall, while the Bastard cordially 'invites' the party to his residence.

Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo quickly realize that the Bastard is highly aware of the minutiae of their lives, down to Zoilo's father's profession and the twins' upcoming birthday celebration. They tell him as much as they can of what has happened to them, Elana taking the lead since she was questioned first. As midnight nears, however, Elana remembers that she still has to spend three of her Rich Man's coins, and therefore asks the Bastard for permission to summon a Banker to his home. The Bastard apparently has no idea what 'Crafts' are, much less what a Rich Man is, and it is only with some hesitation-- and the encouragement of his compatriot, Asela-- that he agrees. Elana accordingly summons a Banker, only to wind up, to her chagrin, with Mateus Rose, a banker of the mundane variety, who is evidently so taxed by the summons that his nose begins to bleed. Elana deposits her surplus gold with him and dismisses him as quickly as possible.

Curiosity aroused, the Bastard asks Zoilo to demonstrate his abilities in turn, which he does by cutting the wooden table with a fork and gleaning the Bastard's true name (Lysander) from his ring. Asked to perform similarly, Ellis attempts to demur on the grounds that a Soldier's Craft is difficult to demonstrate without bloodshed. However, Asela turns out to be the very founder of House Puissant, so they engage in an initial skirmish, which Ellis handily wins using the Craft of the Lightfoot-- an ability that only Asela had been thought to possess. This is followed by a prolonged and rather spectacular aerial combat in which Ellis also triumphs-- though not without some difficulty, and, as anticipated, a modicum of bloodshed.

The Bastard then challenges Zoilo to a more explicit display of power-- a battle between the two men. Using a combination of his Tinker and Prophetic abilities, Zoilo manages to evade the Bastard's first two assaults (a chi attack that appears to project a devastating energy form of his body). Impressed, the Bastard informs Zoilo that no one has ever survived three of his attacks, and the Bastard's staff confirms to Zoilo that he has "no chance". Zoilo wisely surrenders; even so, the Bastard brings his staff down on Zoilo's back with such force that Zoilo is unable to rise from the pain and injury.

Using the Tinker's Craft, Zoilo acts to heal himself, and finds himself compelled to answer the mental question, "Higher or lower?" He chooses 'lower'; and it is only because they are in the Age of Heroes that he realizes this means his next-younger sibling will have to take the injury for him. Distraught, knowing that the Craft-less Gretchen cannot survive such physical trauma, Zoilo asks the Bastard to send a healer immediately to the Itash household.

The Bastard refuses, instead challenging Elana to use her last coin to heal Zoilo's sister. Elana hesitates, knowing that spending the last coin in her Rich Man's purse will render her unable to open it again for some time. However, after much agonizing, she decides to make the sacrifice if it is the only way to save the girl's life. It is only after Elana makes this decision-- but before she spends the coin-- that the Bastard dispatches a healer, assuring the trio that the healer will arrive in time, and advising them to retire to their bedrooms as he does so himself.

Part Two
The trio go to their rooms only after Zoilo attempts to leave through the courtyard, where he is politely but firmly detained by the gate guards. As the twins enter their chamber, Zoilo approximates the Craft of the Opener (which is only possible because there is no Opener at this point in time) to open his bedroom door into Gretchen's bedroom at the Itash home. Arriving at his destination, he uses the Tinker's Craft once more to heal his sister, only to be asked again, "Higher or lower?" Despite his attempts to negate it, he is compelled to make the choice, thus dooming his older sister Theresa to the same life-threatening fate. Even as Gretchen's injuries disappear, Zoilo commands the house to protect Theresa, only to learn that it is pointless to try using his power to countermand his own power. An image of Zoilo commands the house to let him through and inflicts the same damage upon Theresa.

Meanwhile, at the Bastard's residence, Elana is elated at the stroke of midnight, when her Rich Man's purse once more fills up with coin, enabling her to help Zoilo's sister. She attempts to summon a Healer, only to encounter the same problem she faced earlier with the banker-- a Craft-less healer is summoned, with obviously deleterious effects to the man's physical and perhaps even mental health. She dismisses him hastily, and decides that she needs to be at the Itash home itself in order to effect healing.

Ellis Lightfoots the two of them over the walls of the residence, then activates the Runner's speed to get them to their destination in time. She miscalculates, however, crossing the waters around Isle and nearly slamming them both into the surrounding Wall. She manages to get them to Zoilo's house, though not before Elana sustains some serious abrasions on her back from an actual brush against the Wall.

Heedless of her own injuries, Elana races upstairs, where she calls for some healing salve to help Theresa. She is transported to a darkened room lined with shelves littered with bottles and jars. She grabs an armful, one of which Zoilo discovers to be Sovereign Balm, a panacea so effective that a small amount begins to heal Theresa's hurts even before it quite touches her body. Zoilo uses the last traces of balm on his fingers for Elana's back and Ellis' trembling legs.

Crisis resolved, the trio returns to the Bastard's residence using Zoilo's Opener trick. As they prepare for bed in their respective rooms, Ellis' Soldier-sharp hearing picks up the sound of the Bastard's carriage leaving the courtyard, and even the Bastard's voice as he tells the driver to drive to the "Widow's Peak" (a very low-class and somewhat disrespectful term for the Hall of the Widow).

Ellis tells Elana, and requests the adjoining wall to inform Zoilo in the next room-- which results in an intriguing scene in which the figures on the fresco of Zoilo's room animate and attempt to deliver the message in pantomime. After some minutes, the three gather in Zoilo's room to discuss what they should do. Using Zoilo's Tinker abilities, they spy on the Bastard for a time via Zoilo's mirror, but he seems to become aware of the scrutiny, turning towards the watching trio.

As Zoilo hurriedly deactivates the mirror, a knock is heard on Elana and Ellis' door. Ellis sneaks through the windows to answer the door from within, and only then learns that the youthful-looking figure who accompanied the Widow back to her Hall is in fact Elias, the supposedly elderly lover of Roman. Elias reveals that the Bastard is not Roman, but rather an impostor who plans to kill the party because they constitute a threat-- among other things, they might find and free the true Bastard.

Ellis rushes to the next room to share the stunning information. They urge Elias to leave them so that his complicity will not be discovered, and he does so after cautioning them once more. As the trio frantically tries to decide what to do, Ellis once more overhears the false Bastard's voice: "Do it now while they're sleeping." Zoilo quickly uses the Craft of the Opener again to transport them to the under-city of the Others, in front of the vacant home of the Wanton.

Yet again, our party tries to figure out what to do, politely declining the aid of passer-by Cravan, apparently a dweller in the under-city. They decide to move their deliberations to the nearest temple of the Widow, where Elana is startled to find a Candlestickmaker's candle forming out of nowhere in her hand. As with Zoilo previously, she finds herself facing the mental question, "Yes or no?" The trio agree on 'yes', and they are plunged into blackness.

Part Three
When they are able to see again, the party finds itself in a bedroom, which, as Zoilo quickly ascertains from the nearby objects, is a room at the Inn of the Unseen Gables. All of them are visibly older than they were, somewhere in their thirties. They also find luggage which clearly belongs to them, including Elana's valise, which contains a checklist. The checklist is water-damaged and illegible, except for the following final items: "Go to the Inn of Unseen Gables," "Wait for our younger selves to arrive from the past," and "Follow the plan." Zoilo also learns from various inanimate sources that the Elana of this time period is 'a bitch' who is hated by Ellis.

As they puzzle over what has happened to them, they are mysteriously transformed back to their original age-- not 18 and 19 as they recently were on Isle, but in their early twenties, as they had been when they first received their tools of Craft. Even as this occurs, Ellis hears their own voices coming towards the room, presumably from the hallway outside. The trio quickly rushes to the balcony, which Zoilo causes to lower them to the ground, then return to its original position.

Although they initially manage to hide from the thirtyish Ellis and Zoilo, the party quickly comes under attack from their older selves. Elana is forced to engage in a Rich Man's bidding war, as her older self tries to summon her using the purse. Ellis barely manages to avoid the physical attacks of her counterpart, while Zoilo wrests control of a nearby cart wheel from his other self, in order to move them far, far away. Unfortunately, the wheel is activated just as Elana runs out of money and is forced to come face to face with her evil-looking other self.

Initially, the older Elana seems sneering and disdainful. However, as they talk, she begins to reveal another personality, one that seems helpless and lost. She tells Elana that the Widow herself paid the Candlestickmaker to give Elana the candle that took the party back into the past, perhaps because she wanted them eliminated. Their disappearance created a void, which was then filled by the older Elana-- who "came back from the Land of Night"-- and her companions. The thirtyish Elana warns that Candlestickmakers are not to be trusted, "not after Alain". She also shows Elana a thread that protrudes from the skin of her back, reminiscent of the work of the Tailor.

Meanwhile, Zoilo and Ellis, discovering Elana's absence, hasten back to the Inn of Unseen Gables. As they agreed, Zoilo makes short work of the older Ellis, sending her spinning away on his very useful wheel. Ellis attempts to Lightfoot her way to the balcony, only to be wrapped in stone in midair by the thirtyish Zoilo. Zoilo and his older self then engage in a Tinker-to-Tinker battle, in which Zoilo gains enough of an upper hand to free Ellis from her rocky prison. Ellis dives down to attack the older one, and Zoilo rushes inside to find Elana.

Struck by her older self's obvious despair, Elana asks why she hasn't used her Craft to free herself from the thread that binds her. The thirtyish Elana responds that she has tried, but to no avail. Finally, Elana uses her own coin to purchase the other woman's death, with her unspoken acquiescence. Thread unravels all around the older Elana's form, revealing that it was wrapped around the form of the unnamed girl from the Isle who was supposed to become a Tailor, but was instead killed by her intended teacher.

Outside, Ellis engages in hand-to-hand combat with the older Tinker, thrashing him freely until the return of her older self. Although Ellis holds her own, she gets the worst of the uneven battle until Elana's purchase unravels the other two as well, showing that they were entirely composed of thread. Ellis limps upstairs to join her compatriots.

Together again, they catch some much-needed sleep, afterwards deciding that the best way to make sense of everything is to return to the past and free the real Bastard. Elana hies off to withdraw money from the Bank, where she meets her personal Banker, Alain, with whom she apparently enjoys a very personal relationship. After declining an invitation to dinner, she withdraws an appropriate amount and returns to the Inn to purchase the services of a Candlestickmaker.

An unknown Candlestickmaker arrives in response to the summons; and Elana, remembering the words of her older self, immediately dismisses her in favor of finding Thelaia, the Candlestickmaker she dealt with previously. Zoilo activates a mirror to scry out Thelaia, and the party discovers to its delight that Thelaia is not only alive, but currently being badgered by their good friend Tarlun, the Barber.

Elana quickly summons Tarlun, and a glad reunion ensues. Tarlun reveals that it has been fifteen years since they disappeared. In that time, the Widow has declared war upon the Vast for not fulfilling her demands; Crafts have become much harder and less effective to use; and the Marchion as well as all the Barbers save Tarlun have died in the conflict.

The trio becomes even more determined to return to the past and repair matters. Thanks to Tarlun's abilities, they journey to the home of the Candlestickmaker Thelaia, who apologizes profusely for the confusion caused by her earlier mistake. She had been engaged by Elana, she explains, to return them to the point in the past when the Days of Blue Salt had occurred, since the death of the Tailor's apprentice had rendered the Hollow's return spell inutile. However, Thelaia mistakenly delivered the candle too early, thus delivering the party to a correspondingly early point in time. As for the older Elana's assertion that Thelaia had been paid by the Widow, Thelaia conjectures that there may have been some confusion between her and her twin sister Sabellia, also a Candlestickmaker.

More confused than ever, the trio prevails upon Thelaia to send them back once more, which she agrees to do for free in reparation for her mistake. Tarlun pleads with them to take him along, and they agree, thinking that his abilities may be useful in locating the Bastard. Thelaia provides Elana with a candle for their return before sending them on their way.

Part Four
Back in the Age of Heroes, the party arrives moments before Elias knocks on the twins' door. Ellis surprises him with her foreknowledge of what he has to say, and asks him if he has some possession of the true Bastard Roman in his keeping. Elias gives her an emerald pendant, and asks her to please find him.

Ellis returns to Zoilo's room with the stone, handing it to Tarlun so that he can use his Barber skills to follow the connection to Roman. Tarlun slashes his hand to spill blood, as he had to do in the future due to the lessening of power. Now in the Age of Heroes, he all but slices his arm off, and is only saved through application of Elana's Sovereign Balm. After some understandable confusion, he then slashes a portal to the green-tinged realm where Roman is being held.

As they spy the dim outline of a person behind a wall of green, the party (now including Tarlun) is confronted by the false Bastard Lysander, who calls upon his colleagues Puissant, Mansuetude, and Minator to join him in the upcoming battle.
Nikki bit in at 2:18 AM :: ::
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