Monday, October 3, 2016

The Diplomatic Manse of the Unseelie Court

While the rest of the party recuperated from their trip to the doomed village of Eisengraz, Tobias and Tristan consulted the various resources at their disposal--student of the arcane Ivara Olashenko, high-ranking cleric Artem van Hoven, and the semi-deceased wizard Jokanaan--about the nature of the angelic being that has seemingly set Luka Lillithian on the path of murdering a priest. 

They learned that Celestine the Dove's name was formerly an appropriate appellation; in generations past, the Dove would descend from the heavens at times of great strife to make peace among would-be combatants or to convince men and women away from violent courses of action. There are no records of Celestine arriving at Eisengraz to prevent its destruction by inquisitors looking to stamp out heresy in the village, but it may be the case that that part of the church's role in its destruction has been suppressed or left unrecorded. What is evident, however, is that Celestine disappears from the historical record directly after the immolation of Eisengraz--she had not been heard of since, until now. Artem, in particular, was very interested in learning her current whereabouts and made Tristan swear that he would bring him any new information uncovered in that line. And, should the need ever arise, Jokanaan informed Tobias party that the most efficient way to battle against the Dove is to use enchanted weapons and powerful magic.

Their research leading no further, Tristan and Tobias cast about for something to get involved in. Reports have been circulating Chancel for some time now of frequent sightings of the fey in the Umberwell woods just north of the city. Going into the thick forest of Umberwell meant trekking by foot; however, as deep as the woods are, the duo happened upon an unnatural clearing--at the center of which stood a strange manse. The building was not a construction made by mortal hands: instead of wooden planks, the walls were of living wood that grew from the soil itself; the roof was a canopy of greenery; the windows were translucent panes of something like milkweed pod. 

A more conventional door stood at the top of steps crafted from roots and unearthed stone. Malphas the imp was sent to reconnoiter the building, but found no other entrances or even signs of habitation. Tobias could tell from the motif of interwoven ivy, moons, and stars that this was likely an abode of the Unseelie fey. Knocking on the door produced no response, but it proved to be unlocked and easily entered.

The interior of the manse was a satire of a grand human dwelling. Tiles of stone heaved up from the earth comprised the flooring, tangles of roots around which danced will o' wisps made do as chandeliers, and what furniture they saw seemed to grow from the soil as plant-like approximations of man's handicrafts. Doors abounded in the manse's foyer, and so they set to exploring.

In what appeared to be a dining room--it featured a long dining table set for guests--they found a lone red-headed child dressed in a pinafore holding a knife and fork. The somewhat petulant child explained to Tristan and Tobias that she had been taken from her family by the fey, and also that they had stolen her name. Later, when the duo would attempt to take the child with them as they left, she demonstrated the extent to which she is entrapped in the manse: when she tried to step foot across the building's threshold, she was snapped back as if drawn by an invisible rope tied round her waist and dragged through the house, where a door ominously clapped shut as she was pulled into the ballroom.

Listening at the door of another room revealed the sound of male voices in conversation. Knocking on this door silenced the voices, then the door was thrown open, revealing three men in ornate armor chased with blood-red enameling. Tristan recognized the dragon heraldry on their armor, and knew them to be Knights of Lilith--warriors sworn to the service of Countess Alcesta, the vampiric ruler of Lamashtu. The trio of knights offered Tristan and Tobias wine and poetry, but were declined; all the while, Tristan was fighting the urge to attack these willing servants of the undead, but ultimately the knights were left to their drink and their verses.

Other strangeness was unveiled as the pair explored further. Although there were no other apparent entrances into the manse, three doors led "outside." One door led to a frozen arbor of trees coated with a thin layer of ice, another to a pair of blazing bonfires around which cavorted laughing maidens whose hair was tipped with flame, and a third to a pool of dark water whose surface was broken by the appearance of a pale woman's hand before it disappeared back into the depths.

Things found within other rooms hinted at sinister mysteries: a mirror whose surface swirled with black fog, a suit of armor that leaked sand when prodded--which was eventually swallowed up by the pile of sand that formed around it.

Perhaps strangest of all was the ballroom. Upon a series of black and white stones contrived as a dance floor whirled a cohort of the fey: animal-headed men danced with wicked-looking fairies, goblins frolicked with hairy things, all to the tune of discordant music that seemed to require no musicians for its creation. Watching the revelry were three figures seated upon thrones of black briars: a shadow-skinned woman with light-colored hair in a gown that shown with the light of pinprick stars, a gnarled man with slate-gray skin whose head seemed too large to be supported by his bent body, and a sodden woman whose long ebony hair dripped water that pooled at her unshod feet. Tristan and Tobias merely backed away from this sight and closed the door behind them, hoping that their intrusion on the revelry was unseen and unnoticed.

Another room contained naught but two piles of corpses. One pile, which consisted of five women in black lace dresses who had been pulverized by massive force, were recognizable as belonging to the group of witches the adventurers had previously encountered in the tombs beneath the Church of Saint Othric. The other pile consisted of two pale men in velvet finery with stakes driven through their hearts. 

In their second meeting with the Knights of Lilith, who Tobias and Tristan interrupted making their way out the front door of the manse, the purpose of the manse was at least partially explained: the manse was a place created so that the Unseelie fey could meet with those who sought their aid in the coming invasion of Krevborna by the forces of the foreign Master. The Knights of Lilith were there as representatives of Lamashtu, seeking the Queen of the Unseelie Court's help against the coming of the Master. The vampires in the room were likely the Master's agents sent to beseech for the same aid. And the witches had likely been a diplomatic mission of the same sort. The stakes through the hearts of the Master's vampires and the crushed bodies of the witches indicated that some diplomatic efforts had not gone well.

Feeling they had learned all they could by scouting the manse, Tobias and Tristan left and returned to Chancel to regroup and ponder their next move. Oddly, as soon as he left the Manse Tobias had no memory of what had happened within the building. Back in Chancel, the duo met again with Ivara Olashenko to learn what they could about the fey. Pulling down old books of fairy lore from her shelves, Ivara found an entry that described the Lover of Twilight--the fey woman with the gown of twinkling light and luminous darkness. She is a consort and handmaiden of the Queen of the Unseelie fey. If the group wanted to rescue the red-haired child they might win back her name by defeating the Lover's champion in combat.

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The Spoils
XP - 450 each