Champions' Bond

Champions of the Kydemones, Episode 7 By Jonathan Lipps Sep 17, 2022 Listen

Previously, we left our champions in a tense moment, debating what to do with the surprise acquisition of one of the magical Tehokivi stones that was now sitting on the floor in our midst, in Fenn's quarters. Fenn began by reiterating the purpose and scope of what we were calling the "blood pact", because of the threat of bloodshed attached to breaking it. First, we were faced with some ambiguity in regards to our current leader, Tarala, the head of the Academy. While Rianne and Orwin trusted her implicitly and would have been happy to take the stone directly to her, Fenn had an instinctual hesitation about her motives, and Evendur had claimed direct knowledge of Tarala's motives to obtain a Tehokivi for herself, secretly.

Second, it was clear that various powerful factions in Nauem were all seeking the stone, for unknown ends. It appears that the stone was already in the hands of the Chemosh cult and that we had stolen it from them. The Cornix and the Peristeri Wing were also reportedly looking for it. We certainly didn't want any of these groups to be in possession of this object of power, otherwise the prospects of the Kydemones in Nauem and beyond would be even darker.

Third, although none of us had asked to be the protectors of the stone, Fenn argued that it had become our responsibility the moment we decided to take it. We could no longer simply wash our hands of it and hope for a good outcome with the stone in someone else's possession. At this point several of the party protested that we were no more likely to be good stewards of the stone than anyone else, not even Fenn. Fenn did not deny this but said again that this fact is why our oath of protection needed to include the promise not to use the stone, so as to protect it from ourselves just as much as any outsiders. And so the clauses that he proposed the party swear to were the following: that, outside of unanimous agreement, we would not tell anyone else of the existence of the stone or our possession of it, that we would not allow it to come into anyone else's possession, and that we would not attempt to use it ourselves. The penalty of breaking the oath, in addition to whatever punishment the gods might inflict, would be the destruction of the oathbreaker by the rest of the party.

Rianne then added her voice in support of the oath, saying that even though she trusted Tarala, it would not hurt to pledge to keep the stone safe until we were all satisfied that we've found a better steward than ourselves. Evendur and Orwin still demurred, not accepting that the stone was our responsibility and not wanting to be tied to it. And so we proposed to adjust the oath in such a way that if one of us wanted to take leave of the responsibility of guarding the stone, we would be allowed to do so, under two conditions. The first condition was that the leaver would still be bound by the oath of secrecy. The second was that the leaver would forsake all interest in responsibility for the stone, and so would have no share in deciding its fate. The consequences of breaking secrecy would be the same as for the others: death.

Evendur considered this carefully, saying cryptically that he wished he could take the option, but eventually sighed and said that he would swear the oath. Orwin, for his part, decided that the only honourable choice he could make given his convictions were to give up his part in the guardianship of the stone, and swear the lesser oath, and leave the party. And so he swore a solemn oath to his god, stood up, and left the room, and our fellowship, for good. Of course, he did this in a way that we had come to see as typical of Orwin, making swishing motions with his fingers as though winning a sword fight and singing a song as he left. Alas, dear readers, it seems we may never ultimately know what made Orwin tick.

The three left in the room then each took turns swearing their own oaths to protect the stone on pain of death. And then, the short-term fate of the Tehokivi decided, we took a much-deserved rest. Not wanting to leave the stone unattended, the party used Fenn's room as a base of operations, but tried to go about our Academy business as usual so as not to arouse suspicion. We knew that we should go and report something to Lady Tarala, but had not yet come to terms with how we wanted to approach that conversation strategically, and so we discussed the point as we took care of our other chores. Rianne went to her friend Lavina who had helped her prepare for Lord Eglon's gala, and dyed her hair purple, in an attempt to keep from being recognized so easily by Eglon's goons who were no doubt on the lookout for her. Evendur retrieved a message at the gate delivered by a boy apparently from the Middle City. Fenn stayed in his quarters while the others ran their errands, and examined one of his old tomes: the Tuvabough, a book of D'Murge cosmogony. He was curious to read the old creation stories again to see if knowledge of the existence of the Tehokivi made any difference to his understanding of them.

Fenn's research bore fruit indeed, as reinterpreting aspects of the story as referring to Tehokivi caused several pieces to come together in another way: first, the D'Murge deities were perhaps not originally bound to Qawz'mahautë, but had come from another plane of existence entirely, and something similar was true of the Stygean pantheon. The Tehokivi were related in some way to this interplanality, each one representing a different plane and bearing a different colour. As Fenn digested this and visually examined the stone in front of him, he came to the realization that if this was all true, then the stone in our possession must be the Grey Tehokivi. Unfortunately, the creation myths were not specific enough to say anything more about the stones, cryptic as they were and speaking in such vagaries that of course Fenn had previously not suspected any connection with the Tehokivi at all.

When the group reconvened, and after Fenn had shared his learnings, attention turned to the topic of Tarala. What were we to do? How could we draw out some kind of statement from her that would give us an indication of her motivations, or catch her in a lie of some kind that would prove Evendur's claims about her secret plans? Whatever we decided, we knew we needed to exercise the utmost care not to be caught in any deception ourselves. Tarala was supremely sharp of wit and insight, and so we had to make sure to only tell her the truth, however partial. We came up with what we felt like was our best plan and went to Tarala's office to put it into motion.

Given that we had set a solid precedent of bypassing the long queue of supplicants at Tarala's door, we had no choice but to brush past them yet again and endure their angry glares as we entered Tarala's office after a brief knock. She looked up with tired eyes and declared that, yes, it was us, and we should really stop doing that. Fenn sought to make up for our customary lack of custom by telling her that we had come with urgent news. In our search for lost Leolin, we had uncovered intelligence that the Tehokivi stones, which we had previously believed to be mythical, were in fact possibly real, and that we had good reason to believe one of them was in Nauem even as we spoke.

Tarala didn't blink, but simply waved a hand in the air, saying that of course the Tehokivi were real, and that in fact she had had two of them in her possession in the last year! This admission shocked the party, and luckily there was no need to dissemble. Tarala continued, saying that the stone rumoured to be in the city was most likely the "Hozazell" stone and that she already had plans in motion to find it. She then reiterated that she needed us to find Leolin, and that the Tehokivi was not our responsibility.

Fenn tried to find a way to push a little deeper into Tarala's motivations, asking why Leolin was still important given the presence of these mythically powerful stones. Surely they were a much higher priority? With these all-powerful stones, could we not use them to help fix the plight of the Kydemones in Nauem? Tarala laughed. The problems with Nauem, she explained, were the people who lived here and their politics. The stones were intended to deal with much bigger problems: threats to the entirety of the human species, like the fact that the Ashoni could easily eliminate humanity entirely if they put their mind to it, or the fact that dangers lurked even beyond our plane. Tarala reiterated that it was Lady Almara who was dealing with these larger problems, and that Tarala's role regarding the stones was merely to try to find them to send them to Lady Almara for these purposes. As for us, she reaffirmed Leolin's importance to our cause, and not just as a motivating factor for Arcus. He was important in his own right, she explained, as a stone sigil signer who could offer some kind of protection for the future school as Arcus oversees the building of it.

In one last attempt, Fenn suggested that Lady Tarala, in her wisdom, could still use one of the stones to help in the process of resettling the Kydemones. Tarala laughed again, declaring that her power was in books and administration, not magic and the mystic arts. The Tehokivi would, moreover, immediately eviscerate anyone who touched it, and she had no desire to end up like so many of Lady Almara's aides had, in experimentation with the stones.

Inwardly deflated by the clarity and reasonableness of Tarala's responses, the party turned to leave. But Tarala was not finished. She told us that she would need to recall Orwin, along with all trained Kydemones physicians, to the Medica, to deal with the increasing number of injuries in the city. In order not to leave us shorthanded, she had assigned us a new party member, someone who had formerly been assigned to the Ramil's Warden. Named Eoin, he had at some point made the journey from the South: again, the direction that we were meant to head to begin the founding of a new Academy. At this, Rianne's ears perked up, for she herself had served on the Ramil's Warden vessel and overlapped with Eoin. And so Fenn and Rianne exited the office, while Evendur stayed behind to execute the second portion of our plan.

Outside, Rianne and Fenn met Eoin, who had been waiting in line. Eoin and Rianne had a happy reunion, Eoin clearly being of the more garrulous persuasion and growing loud in his statements about readjusting to life on land, and so on. Rianne introduced Eoin and Fenn. Fenn, realizing the difficulty that Tarala had just landed us all in by saddling us with a teammate who was not part of our secret oath, had trouble finding any good will for idle chatter, and barely mustered the appropriate courtesy for the introduction.

When Evendur left Tarala, we went back to Fenn's quarters, but first told Eoin that we had some business to take care of and that we would all meet in the Refectory in one hour. Once alone, we asked Evendur for a report of how the conversation had gone with Tarala. The idea was for Evendur to share something with Tarala beyond what we had shared as a party, so as to look on the surface as though he was still acting out Tarala's secret orders, and see if it would draw anything new out of Tarala. Unfortunately, Evendur said there was nothing new, and that Tarala's orders for him were still the same: find the stone and give it to her secretly. But Evendur said there was some news from a different source: he had received a message from Therell Kell, the seedy shop owner in the Middle City who had sent Leolin and his friends to the Black Cornix and sold us information about the Tehokivi. The message conveyed that Therell had important information about the lordlings we had been asking about, which would be valueless very soon, and that we had better come prepared to pay handsomely for it.

Resolving not to pay for information with our personal belongings this time around, we decided to ask for some coin from Tarala to assist in our mission. But before reconvening with Eoin and going on our way, we had to decide what to do with the stone. It was too large to conceal and too dangerous besides. The best we could do was to hide it under the floorboards in Fenn's quarters, under the bed, in a spot where it would hopefully remain safe. After saying our prayers for its safety, we found Eoin and went to Tarala, who sent us off to Lavina for the money we required. With that, we were on our way back out of the Academy.

When we met the guards at the gate between the Inner and Middle City, we were prepared to use one of our usual ploys for convincing them to let us through. Eoin, however, boldly interrupted our explanation and took to shouting jocularly to the guards himself. In the end he did persuade them to let us pass, though not without earning the ire of Fenn and Evendur for shoving into the established party dynamics in such a way, which Evendur made plain to him as soon as we were out of earshot of the guards.

But we did make it to the shop of Mr Kell, who greeted us sternly, declaring that he had to do a lot of work to figure out what kind of information it was we needed. The party's suspicions, already high, were not assuaged by this comment. Mr Kell had ears, it seemed, in many places. We then got down to haggling over the price of the information which he claimed was so valuable. After a few false starts, we settled on a two-part payment: forty gold coins once we had heard the information and decided it was actionable, and then forty more once we found Leolin. So agreed, he proceeded to tell us what he knew.

Therell Kell's news was dire indeed: Leolin and the other lordlings had been stolen away from the Cornix gang by the Peristeri Wing, who were planning to execute the lordlings publicly in the Lower City as a symbolic first official salvo against the aristocracy. The Wing had partnered with the Chemosh cult in this, and Leolin was being held in the palace of the Hetairai in the Inner City–the very place where we had stolen the Tehokivi on the night of Lord Eglon's party! In a mere four hours, Mr Kell said, the lordlings would be secretly transported to the Lower City for their execution, at a place he described to us, and which Evendur indicated he knew.

With that, we gave Therell his forty gold pieces and left to devise an urgent plan. There was not much time, and we had to get it right. We suggested to Evendur that he use his connections with the Cornix to create some kind of disturbance that would cause enough distraction for us to spirit away the lordlings in the crowds watching the event. Evendur agreed, saying only that he needed to do so in a way that would not ruin his reputation with the Cornix, because it needed to stay intact for other reasons. Given that the Cornix and Peristeri Wing were already de facto at war, we thought there must be some way for this to all work out. But we would need to work out the details on the way, because time was of the essence. And so, we headed once again in the direction of Kendler Alley, this time intentionally seeking out the deadly Cornix gang.