Chapter 13: Subterfuge

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Session Number: 125
Date: Sunday 4 March 2012
Venue: Densial's
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr10 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren Rog11 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Lionel Rgr6/Wiz1/ArcA4 (Ash) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal11 (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz11 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBA

The entourage is escorted deep within Isendor by six Isendor guards, three in the front and three at the rear. Lovar and Arrian lead the sedan that carries Faavulel, Rowaine and Troll. Feren and Lionel flank the sedan. Ershathov, the head Avarriel guard, brings up the rear.

"It looks like they are taking us directly to the tree of Sir Imothell," Faavulel says to Troll and Rowaine, inside the sedan.

"What is he like?" Rowaine asks.

"Sir Imothell has led his fair share of battles against goblins and orcs," Faavulel says. "He is a military man and has a military mind. He doesn't suffer fools and is often gruff. He doesn't like diplomacy when a sword or a spear can do the same job… But he has been a good man. The queen holds him in high regard." Faavulel looks outside. "We are close. It would not be proper for my guards to enter. At best, I can probably justify the presence of my bodyguard and my man."

"OK," Troll says. "Faavulel, deliver the queen's 'message'. Hint at the reason - security. That gives us our reason to be here. Rowaine, check him out. All ready?"

The sedan stops outside a large, ancient endotaa tree. Guards in Larellian house livery stand outside. Words are exchanged between the City and Larellian guards, then one of the City Guard returns and raps on the sedan door - a signal to disembark.

Faavulel, Rowaine and Troll are escorted inside the endotaa by the Larellian guards, through an arched double door. The tree's interior is hollowed out into a massive foyer area. The back third of its circumference is a set of stairs leading up, right to left. The guards lead the group upstairs to the next level and open the door. Inside is an old elf in elaborate armour, sitting at the end of a large, oval table. He stands at Faavulel's entrance. Behind his right shoulder stands a scribe, the pair flanked by two guards in the same Larellian house livery.

The escorting head guard clears his throat. "Sir Imothell, may I present Faavulel, diplomat of Queen Raewyn Katrine Shael Roielle." Faavulel bows deeply.

"Well?" Sir Imothell says. "What is it? Come on! Things to do, things to do!"

Faavulel extends a warm and lengthy greeting which Sir Imothell endures, then delivers the queen's message regarding the postponement of the wedding.

"What?" Sir Imothell exclaims. "On what grounds?"

"Security matters, sir."

"We don't have any security problems here. Haven't had any for many years." He appears more than a little annoyed. Rowaine Detects Evil. "Well," continues Sir Imothell, "I suppose if it is her majesty's decree, I guess we will have to do it. Very well. Are you staying long? I suppose you are here to look us over."

"Nothing of the sort, Sir," Faavulel says, "but will be around here for a little while and we may be talking to a few people. We hope to learn how better to bolster security in the capital."

Imothell's face suggests he doesn't believe a word of it. "I suppose you'll want your quarters again?"

"Yes, if they are available."

"Very well. I'm sure somebody here is competent enough to help you out. Alright, off with you!"

The group are led out, back to their sedan. The six city guard escort the sedan to the diplomatic residence, a redwood that has had similar treatment to the endotaa but is more modest inside as it is a much smaller tree. Troll jumps down, opens the door and starts ordering the guards to start hauling gear inside.

The redwood has three levels: the ground floor, a smaller cellar below and a top floor above. Faavulel and Troll set up in the top level, leaving six to sleep on the ground floor. There are just enough litters to accommodate everyone.

It is about an hour until lunchtime. Lovar takes up duty outside the closed door.

"Rowaine," Arrian says, "did you sense anything about Sir Imothell?"

"It's a little odd," she replies. "He has some menace about him. I wouldn't go all-out and say that he is evil, but there is something about him that is not quite right."

Remember," Arrian says to one and all, "we could be dealing with the possessed."

Arrian talks to Ershathov about duties. There will be some guard duty required from all guards, if they are to maintain their cover identities. All are encouraged to pay respects to elders, family, and the gods while here - in their own time. Faavulel suggests not to stay too long; significantly longer than a week would be seen as unusual.

Rowaine will for the most part stay close to Faavulel, but will get some time off, probably when Faavulel is in his residence and guarded by others. When Faavulel is out, it wouldn't be unreasonable for him to be with both his bodyguard and his servant.

"I am yours to command in this," Faavulel says.

"We want to inspect as many important people as possible," says Troll.

"It is well within my writ to deliver important messages," Faavulel says. "I could visit people under such a premise. I would have to actually give them a message and I have none prepared, so we would have to make something up."

"A message to Adrialus?" Arrian suggests.

"Yes," Feren says, "that would be easily explained."

"I'd like a closer look at Sir Imothell," Troll says, "but doubt whether my cover would be able to set up a meeting."

"Rowaine," Arrian says, "I am keen to examine someone you sense menace from. How would we engineer a meeting between a guard and Sir Imothell?"

Faavulel answers. "Well, Sir Imothell is a reasonably devout man."

"Corellon Larethian?"

"Predominantly."

"I take it there are nightly services to Corellon Larethian here, as in other cities?"

"Yes," Faavulel says. "There is a reasonable chance that Sir Imothell will be at one."

Arrian plans to go to the Tree of Corellon Larethian shortly before the service starts and see if he can find this Ilmiriel, after his shift in the day. He suggests the guards stick together. Faavulel, Rowaine and Troll talk about arranging to see Adrialus, then Sovak, under the premise of passing on messages.

"Hang on," Rowaine says. "Who is going?"

"You, Troll and Faavulel," Arrian says.

"Danger!" Rowaine says. "We have been in the presence of Sovak; he may recognise us, even with my cut and dyed hair. I would hate for our plan to go horribly wrong at such an early stage."

"It would be a little out of the way diplomatically to go and see every son," Faavulel says, "whereas we actually do have business of sorts with Adrialus." The group drop the plan to try and meet Sovak.

While the guards stay at the redwood, Faavulel and his two retainers seek an audience with Adrialus. The city's first son resides in another endotaa. The meeting is accepted and the three are admitted entry.

Adrialus' endotaa is laid out similarly to Sir Imothell's, with a large foyer at ground level. The group are led up one level to a semicircular room and are introduced to Adrialus.

"Greetings from Queen Raewyn and Princess Elowyn," Faavulel says formally.

Adrialus nods. "To what do we owe the pleasure of your company?"

"Have you seen Sir Imothell recently?"

"Not yet today."

"Ah. Then it is with deepest regret that I bring the news that Queen Raewyn has postponed the wedding, due to security concerns."

"Security?" Adrialus says. "Are my family-to-be alright?"

"Yes, but because of the incident's proximity to court, the queen decided to take steps."

"Should I be by Elowyn's side?"

"I think that two people in love should always be by each others' side," Faavulel says. "But in this case obviously it worried your future mother-in-law - as I'm sure you would hope it would - and she has just postponed the wedding while she ensures that security at Avarriel is as it should be."

Rowaine Detects Evil, adjusts her stance and gently bumps into Troll indicating that she has sensed a certain malevolence.

"She has sent me here to reassure you that this is no slight upon you or your family," Faavulel continues. "Nothing in it that should concern you."

Troll Detects Magic, hiding the movements behind the paper and quill he holds.

"The queen has sent me personally to pass on her regrets on postponing the wedding, but that it will take place in the very near future. The Larellians have a reputation for incredibly adept security, and she has sent me here to take back home to Avarriel any hints or tips that your security people could pass to us, so that when the wedding takes place there will be no problems."

"May I ask the nature of this security breach?" Adrialus asks.

"Of course. Unfortunately, it was such a minor breach that the details were not brought to my attention."

"It must have been serious enough that it has postponed the wedding..?"

"Well, even a minor breach would be worrying enough with a royal wedding on the horizon."

Troll sees that Adrialus has discrete magical auras: a ring, a bracelet, a pendant around his neck, the cloak he is wearing. He notes that he was not present at his wedding to Ethalyn.

"At any rate," Faavulel continues, "it was held as unacceptable to ignore."

"Were there any deaths?"

"Oh, I don't think so. I don't think it was anything like that. It was probably just something like a drunk person, I don't know. I wasn't given the details of what occurred."

"A drunk person," Adrialus says. "Hmmm. That is highly unbecoming of the service."

"Don't take what I said as what actually occurred," Faavulel says. "I am just saying that I believe that it was just something as minor as that."

Troll's spell deduces that the bracelet on Adrialus' left arm is the source of the strongest magic.

"You will be able to relay a message to my betrothed?" Adrialus asks.

"Certainly." Troll readies his writing instruments.

"Please tell her that I am deeply distraught by this news," Adrialus says. "I greatly await the day when our two families are united, and whatever I and my family may do to allay your fears, let it be done."

After the requisite pleasantries, the meeting is drawn to a close and the three visitors are escorted out.

"Very weird," Rowaine says. "I have not come across this before - excepting Sir Imothell. It is like there is a shadow of evil about him. It is definitely from him, I cannot sense anything else in the room. It is coming from him in the same sense as a shadow is coming from him."

"How strong is this aura?" Troll asks.

"It is quite subtle."

"I'm heading back to Trina tonight," Troll says. "I'm hoping that elf we raised has been captured. I wouldn't mind knowing whether you get the same reaction to him, Ro. Can you come?"

"Sure. Mind you, he didn't have a shadow of evil before."

The three make their way back to the redwood. Troll verifies that he can Dimension Walk inside, then studies the interior as a Teleport destination.

All the major public places in Isendor are endotaa trees. There is the Tree of Justice, the Tree of Life (which is one of the names of Trina), the Trees of Concord, the Tree of Contrition. There is also the tree of Corellon Larethian, the city's largest and most notable place of worship. In the evening, Arrian leads Feren and Lionel there, about half an hour before the service is due to start. He has been to Isendor before and vaguely knows the way; Lionel lets him take the lead. Faavulel, Troll and Rowaine do not attend.

The three elves enter the Tree of Corellon Larethian. As opposed to the other two endotaa they have been in today, there seems to be a singular hollowed area inside. The space is fairly empty, with a handful of clerics going about the preparation tasks for the impending service. Arrian seeks out a cleric that looks less busy and of lower rank. An elf in cleric robes is busy dusting this and that.

"Hello, I'm Tobias," Arrian says. "Is there a service tonight?"

"Yes," the cleric replies, "as there is every night. I am Ffyl."

"Nice to meet you, Ffyl. I am new to this Corellon Larethian business," Arrian bluffs, "and I'm not sure what I am supposed to be doing."

"Well, if you just sit in the back and do what everyone else is doing, you'll be fine."

"I've never been to Isendor before. Is this the main temple?"

"Yes."

"And there are quite a few clerics here. Are you … sworn in, or whatever you call it?"

"I am, actually. I have been a cleric for three years. Still very young in the faith."

"As am I."

"Would you like a brochure?" Ffyl offers Arrian some literature.

"Why not?" Arrian says, taking the small booklet. "You know, Ffyl, there is someone I met once that might be a cleric here at Isendor. His name is Ilmiriel."

"Ilmiriel? I don't know the name. I could ask around for you if you like..?"

"I just met him. As you can see, I'm from Avarriel."

"Your accent is a little funny."

"I have been all over the place," Arrian explains. "I wasn't raised in Avarriel. It is where I now live and work. I am in Her Majesty's employ."

"Hmmm! Tobias, you say?"

"Yes."

"Good, when I get posted to the temple in Avarriel I will look forward to seeing you there."

"Likewise. So, I will be attending the service, I should just sit in the back and follow the others? That is reassuring. I don't know what to do."

"You have never been to one of these before in your life?"

"I have been to some other services, but they don't seem to be the same."

"Corellon Larethian comes to us in a myriad of ways!" Ffyl says. "Would you like to sit next to me? I'm not doing anything in particular in this service… I can help you, explain what is going on. Although I do see you came in with other people..?"

"I'd appreciate that." Arrian breaks off.

Lionel looks for someone he doesn't know, someone doing basic jobs that he can perhaps assist. An elf is busy lighting candles. He explains that it is his first time here.

"Are you from Isendor?"

"I have been in the city, but not to these services."

"Well, there are many candles to light." He hands Lionel a lit taper. "Work your way along here, down there, then back this way, and I'll meet you again here in about ten minutes." Lionel starts lighting candles.

Feren approaches another cleric. "How is it going?"

"Bit busy. We are expecting a few people here tonight. We are nearing the equinox, of course."

"I was actually looking for a friend of mine," Feren says. "His name is Ilmiriel. He is from Avarriel."

"Is he a cleric here, or does he worship here?"

"I heard he moved here to work in service here at the tree."

"I do not know of anyone of that name, but if you speak to Taigus he might know. He has a lot to do with clerics from other areas. He is up there," he says, pointing. Feren helps him for a while, then finds Taigus. The elf is up the sides of the interior, polishing silver. He looks middle-aged, competent, going about his tasks like he has done it many times before.

"Are you Taigus?" Feren asks.

"Yes."

"I knew a priest from Avarriel where I am posted, called Ilmiriel."

"Ilmiriel? Yes, we have had a priest from Avarriel by that name."

"Is he still in your employ?"

"Well, it is rather strange, actually," Taigus says. "I was briefly introduced to him shortly after he arrived, but he never came to the next ceremony."

"Any idea where he might have gone?"

"None at all. The head priest asked after him, as he tends to do."

"Was he staying anywhere?"

"He was to stay here, as visiting priests do. He was brought to me, I was a little busy at the time. I had a room made up for him."

"So he just up and left?"

"I honestly don't know, sir. I saw him a bit during the day but I never saw him again."

Feren offers to help polish the silver. The elf declines, points him at the elves near the door and suggests he asks them if they can make use of him. Feren thanks Taigus, meets up with Arrian and quietly tells him what he has learned. Lionel sees the two together and excuses himself, joining them. Arrian mentions perhaps shedding his guard identity.

People start to gather outside, singing hymns. Ffyl approaches the three, suggesting that they go outside and join in. They do so. Once in the throng, Arrian casts Detect Thoughts.

The congregation enters the Tree of Corellon Larethian and finds seats. Arrian and the others take their places beside Ffyl. As the hall reaches about half-full, Sir Imothell enters and takes a place at the front. Arrian concentrates on the passing figure for ten seconds. There are two minds in there. He concentrates on Feren, Lionel and Ffyl. All three give a normal reading - yes, they are intelligent, and there is only one source of intelligence within their body.

Arrian concentrates on the priests at the centre of the tree, facilitating the service. Arrian feels a wash of cold dread as he detects two minds within the high priest - the high priest whom Ilmiriel met while undercover, according to Feren's conversation with Taigus. The two underpriests appear normal. Arrian scans others in the congregation, focusing on well-dressed individuals. No others bear the strange phenomenon. Arrian takes a note of what the priests look like.

Arrian finds it hard to fight against muscle memory and appear a newcomer, particularly distracted as he is. The service draws to a close outside the tree. People are invited back inside for tea. Outside, Arrian tells others about Sir Imothell.

"Were there any others?" Feren asks.

"There was someone else," Arrian says, "but I'd like to follow that up for myself for now - something of a sensitive nature. You go on to the taverns, I will catch up."

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