The Black Cornix

Champions of the Kydemones, Episode 4 By Jonathan Lipps Jul 9, 2022 Listen

Evendur steps forward out of the mouth of the tunnel into the darkened warehouse, unable to see (or ignoring) the shock and betrayal written on the faces of his party. He addresses the still-wary Black Cornix Syndicate workers whom we surprised on our midnight journey back to the Inner City: "There's no need to fight."

And so began the next chapter of our story. Having confirmed with the gang that he was also a sworn member of the Black Cornix, Evendur managed to extract some news about Syndicate goings-on, news which was particularly germane to our party's business. We learned, for example, that just recently, five of the Syndicate had been massacred, and their intended prey---five unnamed lordlings---stolen out from under the Syndicate's nose. Neither the responsible party nor their motive was identified, but the Cornix suspected either the Belhor Vines (a set of vigilantes out to promote dryadic rights by violent means if necessary), apparently in concert with a mysterious druid named Darfur, or the Peristeri Wing (a rival Nauem gang). After gaining this valuable information, we left the warehouse and were back in the Inner City proper.

The first order of business was to get to a safe place where we could talk freely and, of course, interrogate Evendur. We made it to the Kydemones Academy and posted up at a table in the corner of the Refectory. It was abundantly clear to Evendur that his role in our party depended on his capacity to explain what had happened in our encounter with the Syndicate. He shared with the rest how he had, in fact, worked with the Syndicate in the past, and that this gave him the credibility to pull off the ploy which had saved our lives. He refused to go into more detail, but vowed his present allegiance to the Kydemones. Fenn was satisfied with this statement of faith, but Rianne and Orwin were not. They proposed that we go around the table and share something significant about each of our pasts, so as to elicit more details from Evendur while reciprocating some vulnerability. Fenn had no time for or intention to participate in some kind of forced, cathartic heart-to-heart, and left with his beer.

While he was gone, Rianne shared with the others that before becoming involved with the Academy, she had been working for a group of sailors of less than honourable reputation (yes, dear readers: Rianne was a PIRATE!). She was then reformed by the Academy and served for years aboard one of their vessels, the Ramil's Warden. Evendur ended up disclosing a bit more about his life and how he had been dragged into the Black Cornix as a young man, eventually being rescued by Tarala and sent to the Highbury Monastery in part as a way to escape Nauem and the Syndicate's influence. Orwin, for his part, disclosed that he is 26 years old.

The rest of the day, the party took care of their personal business. Rianne went to have a conversation with Tarala to try to confirm Evendur's trustworthiness. Tarala vouched firmly for Evendur's loyalty, and in further conversation, broke down and revealed how little faith she had in the future of the Academy, given the variety of menacing forces mounting against the Kydemones and the D'Murge way in general.

The next morning, the entire party reconvened for breakfast, at which Fenn apologized for leaving abruptly the day before, but reiterated that what he cared about is our current allegiance to the Kydemones, to our mission, and to each other---he doesn't need to know about all the secrets lurking in everyone's past to get on with our job, just that we can trust one another. We then strategized our next move based on all the information we had. First, we had learned from the kitchen staff we befriended previously that a rager of a masquerade ball was set to happen at Lord Eglon's palace that very night. Second, that 5 lordlings had been kidnapped and were likely being held for ransom. Third, that the Black Cornix were making plans for some kind of incursion. And so, we felt strongly that Lord Eglon's party was not one we should miss. Too many threads seemed to be tied to this symbolic ritual of decadence, unheeding the chaos growing outside the walls of the wealthy Inner City. But we couldn't just walk up to this kind of event on our own. We needed to get someone to invite us as their guests, for one thing. And for another thing, we needed to get our hands on some finery!

Reader, I am not talented enough in the language of vestment to engage in encomium regarding the wardrobe we subsequently acquired. Suffice it to say that we looked pretty badass. And we still had time to kill. Fenn felt like reconnoitering the Golden Chalice, a pub of some repute where Leolin's friends had been rumoured to spend lots of time, and Evendur joined him. Their time at the Chalice nearly ended in disaster, though. Having eavesdropped out a very suggestive lead, Fenn completely failed to act drunk enough to convince a table of men to take him in their confidence, and narrowly escaped being reported to the city guards.

Orwin took on the task of reconnecting with Lord Arcus, whom we supposed to still be at Lord Eglon's where we left him. Alas, the scatter-brained architect had wandered off to who knows where sometime in the last day!

Rianne, for her part, took Arlo, the Kydemones man responsible for tailoring up a storm to outfit us in our party clothes, out for coffee. (Rianne is a very thoughtful pirate).

Reconvening at Lord Eglon's before the party, we learned of Arcus's disappearance from Orwin, and were surprised to find one Matrim of House Dezel accompanying Evendur, and looking rather the worse for wear. A not-quite-Inner-City lordling, Matrim was a promising ticket into the party for us, but he had been (mysteriously?) assaulted and was in need of help. Evendur went back to the Middle City with him to settle his nerves and get ready for the party in hopes of sliding us in on his coattails. Meanwhile, the rest went to Arcus's palace to see if the architect had gone home. We found the palace in total chaos, but thanks to Rianne's running around the place, found Arcus finally in his chambers, getting ready for the party himself (and all the chaos owing merely to his pre-party demands).

Not wanting to broach the topic of Leolin, Rianne banked on Arcus's forgetfulness and bluffed that they had met at a party a year prior. (Arcus was thrilled by Rianne's outfit and gave her several charming accessories.) However, on the way to the party, Arcus was nonplussed by the sudden appearance of Fenn and Orwin, whom Rianne tried unsuccessfully to pass off as her bodyguards. Arcus then recognized Orwin and began to melt down about Leolin, becoming understandably enraged at our party's lack of success therewith. At this point, Fenn snuck away to avoid getting caught up in the consequences, and found Evendur and Matrim at Lord Eglon's gates, ready to enter.

And so we leave our now-more-dashing-than-ever heroes, some having penetrated the gates of high society and entering what promises to be a powder keg of a party, and others still outside, facing down an irascible powder keg of a lord. Whatever happens next is sure to involve dancing, music, and maybe even some hand-to-hand combat.