The Further (Mis)Adventures of Princess Thumperhead started as a "post by email" that I wrote in college. When I moved away from school, the story widened and took on a different role for me, hence the Jester's Chronicles. Quite some time has past now and I find that I am returning to telling this weird little story, or The Trials. I suggest starting from the beginning. Some characters have been around that long...In April 2012, this story will turn 15. ....and Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Trials V: Through Subterfuge.



The airship settled down in the courtyard of Skull Tower.   The General and his retinue disembark and make their way up the stairs.  A runner delivers the most recent dispatches to the General, dozens of them on troop movements, threats, assets, and war preparations.  “Goettch” the General says, handing him a piece of parchment, “It seems some friends of yours have take up residence here in the city.  Go speak with them.  The brothers may be most helpful in the coming days.”

Goettch read the dispatch and turned on heel to find the men known only as the Celestial Monks.  The Monks are a roving band of brothers, who fight for noble causes.  No one knows quite how many there are.  Some reports have said there were forty members of the order, but those closest know that there are only four brothers and a few followers.  Avi Goettch was raised from a boy, as a guard in their monastery.  His education was as diverse and complex as any could be.  He was taught the martial arts of hand to hand combat, the songs of bards, and the diplomacy of statesmen.  The Monks have never been concurred; their monastery is as they have wanted it, free and unmolested.  There have been several attempts for press the Monks into service, but through guile, force, or negotiation they were able to repel the invaders.  Goettch learned well their lessons and much of their teachings are responsible for his quick rise to Commander in Di’Rand’s army.  He was a little leery to learn that the Monks were in Gothex.  They are a powerful ally, and a fearsome enemy.

As he stepped into the practice hall where the Monks were said to be staying, he intuitively snapped his right arm up into a hammer block, catching his attacker’s kick across his armored forearm.  The foot retracted as quickly as it flashed into existence.  From across the room, in a shadowy alcove, sat a man in heavy robes.  “Brother Goettch, welcome back to the fold.  You have been missed, my friend.”

“Your pupil is slow and as loud as a horse, Brother Saul.  It is good to see you.  How are your brothers?”

“They are well.  These are busy times.  Why have you come?” the monk said as he rose from his prayer rug.

“To ask what your intentions here are.  The Celestial Monks are valuable allies, but feared enemies.  Are you here to assist us or are you here for battle?  I think the General suspects my association with the monastery.  Else he would have sent a corps of troops. ” the knight asked stepping into the hall.

“I am here to fulfill an honor debt to the one known as the Fool.  As such his agenda is mine.  My brothers are here because I am.  Are you at cross ways with the Fool?  If so, it is a pity.” The Monk steps closer to Goettch as if to embrace him.

“No, I was just informed the he was here.  I am not aware of any misgiving the Jester may have with me.”

With that, the monk clasped the knight’s forearm firmly in his grip and said, “Good my friend, let us enjoy some fine honeyed nectar and toast to our good fortune to not be set upon each other.  You were always a fierce opponent.  And not someone I would wish to kill.”  The monk and knight made their way to the hall’s common room to find some mugs and mead.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Trials IV: With Integrity.


"Get up, you arrogant bastard!" the jailer said to the resident of the dungeon.  The man in the cell, slowly pulls himself to his feet, being careful to dust off some of the dirt and filth common to his current locality.

"And good morning to you, fair Innkeep.  Does the Queen require my services today?"  the redheaded man said with more grace that one would think possible in the dank bowels of the castle.

"You swine's son, dontcha dare be speaking foully of my queen.  A good and right honororable queen she be." The jailer responded.

"Oh, my good man, the tales I could tell you about your dear Queen would curl your toes, of that I am quite certain.  But you did not rouse me from my rest to share, with you, tales of the past.  How may I be of service to you?" The brash nobleman replied, a small twinkle of mischief in his eye.

"Shackles for you, your grace.  Seems the Queen be wanting your audience today." Pulling out a pair of arm irons, the guard reaches through the bars and secures the prisoner's wrists.  Once done, the jailer opens the cell door and the scruffy nobleman steps out and heads up the stairs to where he used to freely roam.

"My good man, one of these days you will learn to offer your guests a clean tub of water and a decent meal.  Oh the food is dreadful."  The redhead begins his list of observations about the facility and the way it is run.  There are four hundred and forty two steps to the top of the floor that the Queen is on.  There two hundred and twenty one "observations".  This is not the first time in the last six years these two men have had this conversation.

Arriving at the throne room, "And dearest Innkeeper, the other denizens, and by that I do mean the rats you keep, really must be kept on another level.  Their raucous frivolity is more than one can stand, as one must get one's beauty rest.  Ah, I see we've arrived.  You must take down my suggestions, I think". 

"Shut it.  You'll have the same story on the morrow, no need for fancy writings, 'bout got the list memorized now.  Come to collect you 'bout an hour, your Grace." the Jailer turned to leave the anteroom and was taken aback by the change in the normal ending to their almost daily conversation.

"I'm afraid not, my good man.  I fear our time has grown short and this shall be our last conversation."  With that, the disgraced Ambassador strode confidently into the Queen's throne room.
Placed squarely high atop a dais, the Queen held court as the Ambassador glanced over to where his former seat stood, still unoccupied.

On his chair sat a scroll.  A scroll sealed three times.  A blue wax seal, a black wax seal, and a red wax seal.  The Ambassador did not even have to see the Book, the Skull, nor the Dragon pressed into those seals to know who had sent the scroll.  With a deft and practiced movement, the shackles unlocked and slipped from his arms.  At the sound of the shackles hitting the stone floor, all hell broke loose.  The members of the court began to scream at the site of a newly freed prisoner. The guards standing around the perimeter began to move in to apprehend the very dangerous man now standing a few dozen feet from their Queen.

The fugitive, more sensing then seeing the threats, breaks into a run towards the west wall of the room.  Ducking and weaving between pole-arms and pikemen, the nimble young man gracefully slips between the sergeant's legs and is up and running again.
The Queen sees her men surround the former noble, but impossibly he slips through her forces and throws himself through a window.

A moment later, a loud splash is heard from the river below and the guards begin shouting out the newly formed hole in the glass, to arrest that man.

Under her breath, Queen duClarque says "Goodbye Dar Benedict, I hope this works."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trials III: These Men


The loud clamor of gears grinding, soldiers marching, and the land burning was like music to the General’s ears.  As he sat astride a mammoth war machine in his command tent, Di’Rand looked over the maps of the lands he had concurred.  His mandate had been simple.  Increase the borders by four hundred fold.  He had almost doubled that.  The Empire of Gothex now stretched from the mountains in the East to the mighty river in the west and as far north and south as was inhabitable.  He had been at war for almost a decade, when the most curious thing happened.

A black pigeon alighted on the corner of his table.  Di’Rand studied the creature and soon saw a death’s head pattern had been painted onto the wing of the pigeon.  “Saing.  No one else would be so arrogant.  Ten years at war for him and he sends me a bird.”  The warmonger notices the note tied to the bird's leg.

Unrolling the tiny manuscript, Di’Rand reads Saing’s tight script. 

“Return.  Generals Counsel.  The Fool Lives.”

The army’s general calls out to his aide-de-camp to get his horse.  The army proceeds south as its leadership mounts fierce looking horses bred for speed.  Di’Rand and his top three commanders head for home.  “Lord General…why the haste?  Has Gothex fallen?”  Commander Goettch inquires.

The burly general responds with “That damned Fool will get us all killed.”  But the message is lost in the din of horses galloping toward their home fields.

After a day’s hard ride the four men, stop their horses at the top of a hill overlooking a valley.  In the center of the devastation, is a large blasted and broken stone edifice.

“The power well.  So many good men lost to that contraption.  So much blood split to defeat those wizards.” reminisces Goettch.

“True commander, but a hard fought victory brought us many spoils of war.”

“Yes, Lord General.” Geottch responds shifting in his saddle “Sir, how do you plan to arrive in time?  We are still some eight days ride away and we left the war machines to continue the campaign.”

“Ah…Goettch, your loyalty and your skill in battle are your greatest gifts.  But Cristos was made provisions for our timely arrival the will give the horses time to rest.” the tactical genius replied.

A huge shadow moved across the men and their horses, as though a cloud was blocking the sun.  A growling hum burned the air.  The four men turned at once to see a huge air ship slip down from the clouds.  It bristled with guns and cannon decks.  Like a giant dragon floating down to earth, the monstrous contraption settled into a hover just off the hillside.

“General, your chariot awaits!” Sir Cristos calls from the gun rail.  A boarding ramp extends from the main deck to come to rest on the hill top.  The General’s contingent wheel their horses and ride up the ramp onto the main deck of the war ship.  “Make best speed for Gothex, captain!  The General’s aboard.”  The air ship slowly turns and disappears into the clouds.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Trials II: To Serve.


Captain Valis, see to the man.  Your fate and his are now intertwined.  I do not know if that is a blessing or curse.” Saing snarled.

“Yes, my lord and thank you.” Valis turned on heel and almost ran from the room.
Saing turned his attention to the scroll.  Breaking the seals in a specified order, his own last, he begins to read.

“Lords,
Things are not as they seem.  My flight from Gothex has not been in vain.  P’ jai’ us is no more.  Their powers failed and their wizards were smashed by Commander Tintar’s forces.  Just as the sun was rising, word came of a more ominous threat.  Dar Benedict is missing in the south.  His agents report that there are traitors in the Court.  Gregor, Azon, Augustus seek to move against the King.  Lady de’ Gruse hired an assassin to kill the King and Saing.  They are all in league together.

I expect war within the coming months.  I will work to secure Benedict’s safety and root out any other traitors in our midst.  I do not know when I shall return to my beloved Gothex, but I intend to send word.

Your faithful servant,
The Jester”

“Nine years ago, he knew?  Nine years!”  Saing’s rage boiled over.  “That bastard, nine years.  The loss, the betrayals…so much gone now.”  Gripping the edge of the table, Saing flips the massive oak war table onto its face, maps fly everywhere.

Almost yelling, the baron says, “Commander Kreal, take your Gloomwalkers and flank the SouthGate barracks.  No one is to know this man is alive.  As soon as he can travel, bring him to me!”

Kreal, a hulk of a man, steps from the recess that he had been standing in.  The timbers of the room shuttered as he responds “As you wish my lord.”

As Kreal passes through the doorway into the hall, eight massive warriors materialize out of the mists and shadows.  As the nine men march to the SouthGate, denizens go into buildings and pull closed their shutters.  The Gloomwalkers’ reputation precedes them like a faint whiff of death or the fleeting moment of a nightmare.  As they approach the SouthGate barracks, the troopers fan out in a protective barrier.  Assuming their posts, the nine soldiers disappear, in the blink of an eye.

Inside the barracks, Valis paces back and forth while looking at the man lying on the stretcher.  So near to death, Valis thinks Whatever did he do to earn the, what’s the word…admiration, is the Baron capable of admiring someone?  Respect?  Clearly, this man is important to Saing.  What did he mean 'our fates were now tied?'  

The cleric interrupts Valis’ thoughts, “Sergeant, what troubles you?  This traveler has come a very long way and is not yet dead.  He may still be revived.”

“Well the Baron very much wants to speak to him, so it’s in his best interest to live.”     

Monday, December 05, 2011

Trials I: From Hell.

Battle worn sentries stand atop of the blackened wall of the besieged city.  Squinting into the distance, looking for the glimmer of the next attack.  The field spread out before them, is broken with blood, bodies, and machines of war.  A gaunt sergeant cranes to see farther out on to the field where so many of his friends sacrificed themselves.  Movement catches his eye.

A slow shuffling, robed creature makes its way along the trade road.  The call goes up “To arms!”.  The next hour passes tensely as the shambling figure finally draws near enough to the South Gate.  The guardsmen at the gate have their spears ready, but the man, they can see that clearly enough, never makes it to the gate, collapsing a dozen feet from the portcullis.

“Make way, make way…” Sergeant Valis says shoving his way past a dozen battle hardened men.   
Valis approaches the traveler wearily.  A man for sure, but an armed man can still be dangerous.  He is carrying a dagger in his left hand and a scroll is clenched in his right hand.  He looks as though he has walked to hell and back.  Valis kneels and removes the weapon from the man who is barely breathing.  He begins to open the hand with the scroll when a hand clenches the back of his neck and begins pulling him closer to the traveler’s face.  A hoarse whisper, strains to make it to Valis’ ears.

“…too late….too late.   Trap.  Saing must know.  Scroll, Saing...”  With that last, the weary man collapses under the burden of finally delivering the message so badly needed.  The scroll comes free and Valis sees for the first time that the scroll is sealed not once but three times.  All old seals, but Valis has been in this man’s army for long enough to recognize the Seal of Baron Saing, War-Lord of the Blackened Standard and Ar’ D. Jazan, High Wizard of the Eldar Counsel.  Two extremely powerful men have sealed this scroll and therefore it must be important.  Valis calls for a cleric to get this man some water and move him to the barracks until his return.

Valis sets off at best speed to Skull Tower, where Baron Saing keeps his war counsel.  At every challenge Valis is waved through when he presents the scroll.  It acts as a magical key moving him closer and closer to Baron Saing’s viewing room.

Valis is admitted to the viewing room and is immediately overwhelmed by the sight of Saing in his charred skeletal armour.  “Speak boy, I have not the time to be wasted.”

“My lord, a messenger collapsed at South Gate bearing this…”  Valis almost threw the scroll out of fear at the lord of terror.  Saing flickes the scroll out of the soldier’s hand a begins to view the seals.

A fierce hiss, like violent death, forms words “Does this messenger carry with him a dagger?:

“Yes my lord, a funny dagger with a curious pommel.”

“Does he live?”

“Yes my lord, he was to be given water and moved to the South Gate barracks.”

“You are either wise or fated.  For your choices today, you are now a captain in my personal guard.”

“My lord, who can this man be?” Valis asked trembling at his fortune.

“Ten years I’ve waited for this man to return.  Captain, this man, before your time, this man…is the Royal Jester and he has returned.”  

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lost Trials: The Man Who Would Be King.


**Author's Note.
I found this draft recently. I had forgotten that I had even written it, but if the continuity was to remain, this is the style that the Trials would take.  Technically this is a rough draft of Trials I from a few years ago.  I've pulled the title, it's more of a bridge piece as it does imply a timeline, but never fully reveals when exactly this moment should take place.

Let me tell you a tale, of the man who would be King.” the bard sang out.

The last of the patrons settled down into their seats.  Tankards of ale found their homes on potbellies, tables, and bar tops; their owners’ attention shifting to the man who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

“I know my friends that these are frightening times.  The last of the dead have still to be collected from the streets, the word has not reached many as to whether their loved ones are alive.  I assure you that we, you good folks and I, need nothing less then tales of heroes and magic.  I am here to regale you with one such tale.  Many of you know of whom I speak.  A few, may know this person by name and most should know him by reputation.  But my tale begins two decades and ten years ago.

He was born to a commoner’s family.  His father, an honest merchant was once a feared man-at-arms.  Hired by the best and richest, to protect their interests and goods, his father’s only dream was to have a son to pass on his legacy.  Soon after a harsh winter, his dream was fulfilled.  The babe soon grew into a strong young man.  Schooled from an early age in the martial arts, he became a gifted wrestler, besting men much greater in size.  To balance his physical training, he spent many summers with his elder cousin, a young mage’s apprentice.  These two were, at times, closer then bothers.
Their fellows, a small group of six were destined by fate to become great.  These six young men, played as kings, knights, rogues, and wizards.  They also adventured into the woods, onto the lakes, and deep into caves; living life to the fullest.  Four summers passed and the eldest, the mage’s apprentice left to study and compile his wizard’s book.  His younger cousin, our hero, left he next summer for the war college taking the noble’s son with him to study with him at the Weapons School.  Two more of the group left that winter to make their way in the world, one as a member of the town watch, the other to study the ways of civil service.  The youngest member of the group left years later...and just wandered.”  The storyteller paused, took a sip of ale, adjusted his traveling cloak and began again.

“Our young fighter became skilled in many things.  He studied the long sword, the great bow, chivalry, horsemanship, combat tactics, and logistics.  He excelled in his studies and was prepared to be an excellent lieutenant in the army.  On the Day of Blessing, he sat in chapel preparing his weapons to receive words of faith.  The Bishop approached, placed his hand upon the sword hilt and whispered ‘A great and noble king you will make, but faith is needed to fill the emptiness within you.’  These words, they could have been a mighty warhammer, with all the power they struck him with.  He left the college the next day and began a pilgrimage home.  He took nothing with him except a long sword, his field pack, and a holy symbol.  Months later, when he made it home, he was a changed man.  Anyone who might have known him would not have recognized him.  Not knowing what to do for money, he petitioned to become a minor librarian, under an assumed name, at the Unseen Library, a safe harbor in the Black Baron’s realm.”

Ohs and ahs emanated from the crowd at the mention of the mythical stronghold.

“Thar ain’t no such place, just fairy tales for young folk.” barked a drunken roadwarden.

Pulling a whisper thin key from an inner fold the bard responded, “While I for one love a good fairy tale.  Especially, when I am the one being paid to spin the yarn; this key does in fact open the door of which I speak.  I have, many times, read at the foot of a stack of ancient texts.  And I assure you that the Library does exist and is very well hidden from casual observation.”  Without moving, the key vanished from his hand.

 “The Keeper of the Unseen Library was the youngest ever to be appointed to that post.  You’ll remember him from earlier in my tale, it was none other then the young mage’s apprentice, now entitled as the Ar’ D. Jazan.  The Ars, as practice, would make rounds among the new librarians.  He found it useful to meet them in person; so he could get a sense of them and their ambitions.  He was very protective of his charge, the Library, and felt it was his duty to weed out those librarians who were selfish in their designs.  It was Midweek, when the Ars brushed past a new librarian.  Energy arced, like raw power unleashed.  The Ars stepped back and asked the librarian to remove his hood.

‘I’m sorry, mi ‘lord, that’s not possible’ was the reply.  Not used to having his requests rebuked the Ars put words of command to use.

‘Remove your hood and show me your face.’ boomed in the corridor.

As the hood fell, the librarian ‘I’m sorry cousin, I’ve taken refuge here, please do not be upset.’  Shocked, D. Jazan took stock of the young man.

‘Dear cousin, I have missed you these past years, stay as long as you need.  My house is yours; my discretion is at your disposal.  But James what do you plan to do?’

The cosseted warrior replied, ‘Study.  One thing I took to heart was to study.  My strengths are known to me, but I do not know my own flaws.  Nor do I understand all of the consequences of my designs.  I must ask that our relationship remain concealed.  In my travels I have assume the name of an outrider who was slain saving my life.  I carry his name to honor him.’

The Ars paused for a moment pondering then asked, ‘Well then, as I see that you are new here, my name is Ar’ D. Jazan, I am the Keeper here.  By what shall I address you?’

‘Tintar the cloistered, mi ‘lord.  Pleased to make your acquaintance.’  He said as he raised his hood and took leave of the Ars.”

“Mule piss!” spat a guardsman from the back of the room.  “The Supreme Commander twas never a dust rat in a make believe library.  He twas born fully grown, dressed for battle, swinging a horseman’s pike at the bitch midwife’s head.  I served with him in twenty campaigns and I heresay he never did women’s work.”

“And ten thousand women he has bedded, or so you’ve heard.  There is much about the Commander that has been misled.  You, my good fellow, before you stumble home tonight, I want you to think on these words.  ‘No fight is worthy without honor, no honor is worthy without faith.’”

“You bloody bastard!  Anyone who’s done served on the front knows that rally cry.  Twas but two winters ago, Sir Augustus done screamed it in me bloody ear.  Bitch charge that battle was.  Lost me my two elder brothers.  Would have lost more twas not for them Cristos’ Machines.  Never seen a blooming thing like the fire they spit.  Like nasty iron dragons they was.  All pissin’ oils and farting smoke, enough to make you sick it was.”

Setting down his pint, the story weaver leaned forward on his stool.  “Well fought you are, my good sir.  I did not speak to insult you, ney, only to remind to keep the faith.  You say you served with the Scorched Iron Brigade?  I will get to them later in my tale.”  Putting his feet back up on the lowest rung of the stool, the bard continued.  “Where was I?  But of course.  A year or so after his return to Gothex.  Tintar, as he was now calling himself, was tasked to discover a rare coronation ceremony.  A noble had returned to claim a title.  He had a family duchy in Gothex and could trace his lineage back several generations.  The duke felt that a public spectacle would not only secure his title as king, but would rebuff Baron Saing’s attempts to assassinate him.  During the ceremony, Tintar secreted himself in an alcove and cheered on his long time friend, now King Decker.”

“Sorry sir,” piped up a serving wench from the bar, “do you mean to say that Commander Tintar once knew the King?”

“I do indeed.  They were good friends in their youth.  King Decker once kept the company of five good friends.  As a young Duke, he traveled with Tintar to College.  They fenced, jousted, and hunted together.  The two of them were a fearsome pair in mock combat, but as time passed their paths diverged.  Tintar continued his studies in Martial Law and Decker went on to study some of the fairer arts, such as policy and diplomacy.  It was only years later, during his ascension here in Gothex, that the King knew he needed someone that he could trust with his security.  How else is it that a “librarian” could be appointed by Royal Decree that post of Royal Guardsman?”

“Amazing.  Please go on with your tale.” the wench said understandingly. 

“I will, but could you please bring for me a small piece of mutton and a sweet roll?”

“Of course.” was the reply.

“Now, where was I before the history diversion?  Oh yes.  It was almost a year later, after not one but two assassination attempts, that the King, I did mention that he was a slow learner, commissioned the Royal Guard.  This group of warriors was to become the most battle hardened and powerful phalanx of troopers.  It is the members of this group that would lead Gothex to Victory in the War between Empires.”

The room erupts in a raucous mixture of roars, battle cries, and cheers.  Almost every person in the tavern had fought, bled, or lost someone in the three years of the war. 

**I cannot find my notes, so I am not sure where I was planning on taking this story.  I will try to fold some of these plot points into the Trials chapters to bring closure to the Bard's story.
Do you recognize who is who?  I recall that I was going to formalize the story a bit and codify the relationships.  But...as this is a few years later...sadly some of these things have changed for me.**

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The lost Chronicles XXI: Here There Be Dragons.


 It was late on midsummer’s eve, when the Jester and Tintar were stopped on the road.
"Mi' Lord, a dispatch."  Tintar took the letter and read. When he finished he turned to the Jester and said, "Well my friend, it seems that the Minstrel Kahz is playing at the Harlot's Bosom.  Shall we get a pint and hear what he is playing?"
The Jester replied, "Lead on good sir, to good drink, fine music, and excellent women."
Several hours later, the travelers arrived at the infamous tavern.  They found Kahz playing to the best of his ability and the women were swooning.  They made their way to an open table and were soon enjoying pint of stout when an incident occurred.

Midway through an epic ballad, a young woman strode out of the kitchen with a ladle in hand and began to beat Eepir Kahz about the head and shoulders.  The flock of women at his feet scattered into the corners of the bar.  She kept screaming "Get the bloody song right!" until he fell back onto the ground mildly bloodied.  At that point, she turned on a heel and marched right back into the kitchen.

The Jester and Tintar just stared at each other for a moment, until Tintar said "I knew a woman like that once, I had her locked up in the sanitarium.  She kicked like a mule."  With that he shuttered, and the two men got up to see if the minstrel was alright.  As the approached, a young woman was already attending to him.  She had laid his head comfortably upon her chest and was wiping away the blood with the hem of her dress.

After realizing that their care could not compete with the young woman's ample compassion the two men retreated back to their table.

Finishing their pints, the Jester queried his friend.  "Now I have seen you in battle, bloodied, bruised, and beaten down.  I wonder, do you think you would have gotten up more quickly after being healed on the battleground if you were promised a night of 'minstrel care?'"

"I would have gotten up, but not in the way that was meant for fighting" Tintar joked back.

Before too long the minstrel was sitting on a stool singing a love ballad to his endowed caregiver.

"Let us depart before I forsake warfare for a dress and women's work."  Tintar said pulling the Jester out of his seat.

As the tavern’s door closed, the wailing tune drifted out with them.

Several weeks later, a personal note was delivered to Tintar's apartment.

"Dear Comrade,
My precocious cousin has alighted from the family lands and my agents have reported seeing throughout your great city.  She has taken up with a classless man who entertained in my court a number of months ago.  He now performs at a tavern call's the 'Whore's Bossum' or something like that.  Please find her and make sure she is in safe keeping.
Your brother in arms,
Arvais Draconni"

Tintar sent several of his elite trackers to Eepir Kahz boarding house to keep an eye out for her.  Their orders were clear, follow, protect, and do not intrude until ordered to do so.

For months reports came in.  Kahz had definitely taken up with the young woman.  She was a foreigner.  She went by Allyssa.  She had expensive tastes.  She talked about mythical monsters.  She was, by all accounts, not a lady after midnight.

Tintar decided to use some more aggressive tact in getting information.  He sent the Jester to visit the couple and report back his findings.

That evening with a gift in hand the Jester rapped on their door.  Kahz opened the door, his clothes were all asunder.  "Well good evening my wandering friend.  What brings you to my humble abode at this early hour?"

"May I come in?" the Jester asked as he stepped through the doorway. "As the sun is now setting, it seems only unsavory characters are getting on with their days.  Did I wake you?"

"Wake me, by all good heavens no!  Rouse me from my bed then yes!  But what's done is done.  Come in!"

As if on cue, a lovely young lady in a gossamer gown floated down the stairs.  "My love!  Soon to be my bride!  This is the Illustrious Royal Jester!  Are you still royal with it being an empire and all now?  It's all mad rubbish anyhow.  Jester this is Allyssa!  We are to wed next summer!"

"Well then, this may be more appropriately a nuptials gift."  He said as he set the covered gift on the nearest table.

Allyssa rushed forward to open the gift.  As she pulled off the blanket there sat a small iron cage.  In the corner of the cage, no more than a hands breath wide was a small fire dragon.  With its world suddenly brighten the dragon reared back spit out the tiniest fireball, no larger than a candle's flame.  Allyssa squealed with glee and said "How did you know?  It looks just like the one I had as a young child!"

"It thought it was fitting.  I found him last year.  He needed someone to care for him.  If my memory serves me right he is a cave dragon.  It will be another year or two before he is strong enough to use his wings.  I think he would make an excellent addition to your home for a few years at least."

"I name thee Prince Pyrite." said Allyssa as she coaxed him out of the cage and onto her hand. 

"Well thank you old friend, a handsome little devil if I don't say so myself.  Let's drink and talk there is much to catch up on."  Eepir took the Jester's arm and led him to a back room.


<<Author's note:  I did write this for a huge fan and his soon to be wife.  As it turned out...I never actually published it anywhere.  So I just emailed it to the fan (not sure if it will get read as time has dramatically changed the nature of our relationship) and now I feel comfortable posting it here online.  As with all "Lost" episodes, this does not conform to any particular point in the timeline.>>

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Chronicles XX: The End of a Barony.



<<Author's note: I'm really sorry this has been almost three years and alot  has changed, but I have some more of the story to tell. This was just  sitting out there in cyber space having moved with me a few times. This is the end of "Book 2: Chonicles". I have started writing "Book 3: Trials" while editing "Books 1  & 2" adding artwork and tightening up the plot and some of the names. In a  perfect world I would love to get it published one day...oh well. If you  keep in touch with anyone who used to read it please forward this along, I  had to scour through 2 years of emails to dig up more current addresses for  most people. I hope that this finds you safe and well and please write me  and let me know how you are doing. Mike
PS
I am actually starting real story arcs, not just parodies of real events, so  it should be more interesting to read.>>

 “We stand ready.
The Jester set down the scroll and moved to finish packing his things. It  was going to be a long time before he’d see these walls again. Before  leaving for the Castle, he penned a quick note to his bride explaining that  he’d write soon. Setting outside with everything he’d need for the coming  year, he spots a carriage and piles the bags inside. “To the castle.” He says the driver.

General Tintar finished putting on his polished silver armor. Attaching his  purple cloak and sheathing his sword, he pauses “It is time.” Upon entering the hall just outside his chambers, the Commander of the Royal  Guard takes note of a hundred of his finest men standing guard outside of  his door. As he steps into the hallway, one hundred heels strike the ground  as the guardsmen wheel about into marching formation. As the procession  advances through the halls, a resounding noise is heard as though a large  thunder cloud crashed along side of them. Rounding a corner, the mass of steel and muscle is joined by five men, the  Jester, Prefect Brand, Ambassador Benedict, Captain Pahj’lix, and the  minstrel Eepir Kahz. The group comes to a halt just outside of Saing’s chamber.

“Captain.” The General says. The guardsmen rush around the small group of men and into Saing’s sanctum,  moving to cover all available exits.

“Commander?” Saing hisses, as he looks up from his notes.

“The time for apparent weakness is past, my Lord.” Tintar says through the  open door.

“It is time to act, our pawns are already in place.” Added Benedict.

“Come in then.” Saing said as he turned and withdrew some maps. “Here is  what to do.” Laying out the maps of Gothex and its borders. “Here is what  I want.” He moves a map to the top of the pile. It reveals Gothex as major  force in between the Western Empire and the Kingdom to the East. “We must  expand our borders four hundred fold. And do it before winter.”

The seven men looked at the map, taking it all in. This meant war and on  three fronts. To do this before winter would mean blood soaked earth is all  the snows would have to kiss. There were some concerns, of course. Tintar started, “Baron, how are we to succeed against the southern holdings?  Perhaps Commander Gregor could use some of his ancestral lands to stage  the armies needed.”

“Ask the fool…he knows the adversary there.”

 “It must be Di’Rand’s armies then. I know him. Brand and I will see to it  that he understands our position.” The Jester offered. “And the girl?”

Benedict addressed that question, “The court is weak, but strong enough for  our purposes. She trusts me and believes that her family will stay  empowered by this treaty.”

“And P’ jai’us?” the Jester rubbed his neck remembering that late night  attack.

“We have a surprise for them. One of their three power wells is just  outside of a town called San Lieu, the Jester leaves tonight to ‘redirect’ the energy from the well. It seemed only fitting.”

“With them weakened, our eastern push should be made with ease.” assessed  Tintar. As the men rose together, Saing spat “Today we carve out the Empire of  Gothex, to stand for Ten Thousand Years!”

As a cold wind whipped through them and into the hallway, it howled. Somewhere in the distance, something howled back...

The Royal Jester
-Chelle de’ Gruse, Wife of The Jester, Protector of Children
-Baron Saing, War-Lord, Army of the Blackened Standard
-Tintar, The Cloistered, Supreme Commander
--Sir Gregor, The Paladin, Commander of the Eastern Brigade
---Hee A’tor, Lady of the Ol’cohall Lake, Court Noble
--Sir Azon, The Unbreakable, Commander of the Northern Wastes
---Lady Yute, Champion of the Simple, Court Noble
--Sir Augustus, The Pious, Commander of the Central Armies
---Lady Tehtare, Scholar, Lady-in-waiting
--Sir Cristos, The Quiet, Commander of the Western Brigade
---Lady Katz, The Benevolent
--Sir Geottch, The Elder, Diplomat of Arms
-Dar Benedict, Consul-General of Intelligence
--Dane Benedict, Scholar, Lady-in-waiting
--Brand, Prefect of Military Intelligence
-Ramierez, War Wizard of the Northern Wastes
---Annult, Consul to the Wizards
---Murrin the Mad, Senior Siege Engineer
-Kindle, A witch, seer, magician, and prophet
-Irie, Magistrate General
-Eepir Kahz, The Minstrel
--Lady Draconni, Lady of the Draconni Court

Ar’ D. Jazan, Ancient hermit wizard, Keeper of the Unseen Library
-Gef’Rey the Pious, Insane monk and scholar
-Strah ‘her the Mercurial, Captain of the Guard/Library Brigade
-Smitty, Tsar of the Slah-kar
-K’Abe, Retired toy maker and purveyor of fine herbal remedies

Lord Niah Decker
-The Magpie Party
-The Slah-Cars

Di’Rand the Bold, Commander of the Southern Guard


Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Chronicles XIX: Pieces in Motion.

“Send for the fool, now!” The order ripped through the air like a bolt.  Saing’s minions scurried to find the Jester.  Saing continued to read through reports that a party had left the city by way of the Eastern Gates, among those in the party were the Royal Jester, Commander Goettch, and the Minstrel, Eepir Kahz.  Other reports indicated that the Jester had recently met with a gypsy, Sir Gregor, and Dar Benedict.  There was no information about what any of them had discussed.

On horseback, racing along highways that stretched into the Kingdom of Twisting Rain, the three men slowly disappeared into the budding sunrise.  They arrived at the Village Hall of Middletowne, and growing city on the crossroads that led into eastern Gothex.  There they saw a great festival already in progress.  Many people had come to the hall, some dressed as their favorite characters, to celebrate the great story told by the famous minstrel Lucuase.  Kahz, Goettch, and the Jester made their way into the hall and mingled with the locals.  The festival was the perfect place to discuss matters of state.  There were concerns about Saing’s rule and the role of Gothex as a border country between Twisting Rains and the Western Empire.  They lacked the military forces to prevent an all out war between the two giants.  If they ever went to war, Gothex would be crushed in the tidal wave of blood from their armies.  Between Goettch’s military expertise, Kahz’s street gossip, and what the Jester knew about the Royal family and the civil government, they could paint a fairly accurate picture of Gothex’s strengths and weaknesses.  Gothex had more than their share of weakness they all saw.
So they formed a new plan.  The three men took less than a day to develop and map out how to secure Gothex’s holdings.  The only thing missing, a few key players would have to make some unlikely decisions.

Back in Gothex, Lady de’ Gruse made arrangements for her father to be buried.  Sir Gregor and Lady Hee A’tor traveled far to the south to aid and comfort the noblewoman.  The ceremony was a somber one, the court was stunned to learn that de ‘Gruse’s father had actually been in Gothex when he passed.  Many well-wishers spoke quietly in the mourning daughter’s ear as the paid their respects.
In Springville, a letter is dispatched to the Jester in Gothex, it is signed by three men whom the Jester has known for years.  The messenger is instructed to ride until he finds the Jester and to personally hand deliver it.  He is reminded that his family will be well taken care of, should he perish.  Should he fail though….his family may never be seen again.  So much trouble for three words, the rider thought as he set off on his mission.

As the Jester’s carriage passed under the Eastern Gates, it was stopped by the roadwarden.
“Yer wanted.  Follow me to the Baron’s.”
“But of course.” The Jester replied.  He didn’t think it would have taken long for Saing to want to talk to him.

Passing through Saing’s guards, the Jester noticed Tintar leaving the Baron’s chamber.  The General was looking very tired and distressed.  He carried with him a stack of dispatches and maps.
As the Jester entered the Inner Sanctum, a violent looking dagger embedded itself in the edge of the door nearest the Jester’s head.  He stopped for a moment to collect himself when Saing spat “Explain yourself.”

“My Lord, I was verifying rumors of weaknesses in our Ministry of Intelligence.” The Jester eked out.  

“Myself and the others who traveled with me went to celebrate the Minstrel of Middletowne and quietly tell some unreliables a few small tales.  It was our intent to see if the information was picked up by Benedict’s agents.”

“Get out then.”
Not having to be told twice, the Jester turned and left, but not before noticing a map, drawn to show Gothex, not as a border country but as a small empire nestled between two giants.  The Jester caught his breath.

“Fool, do you have something to say?”

“No mi’lord.” And with that, he slipped out into the antechamber.

To a guard standing post the Jester queried, “Where is the General?”

“Always in the war room.” Came the reply.  As soon as the Jester turned the corner, another door opened and a man known only as the son of Lambare entered.

“Was that he?”

“Who?  The Fool?  Yes, that’s him.  He and the General are old friends.”

“Then you have done well.  Here is your reward.”  The man tossed a bag of coins to the guard who missed them.  As he bent over to pick up his earnings, he felt the hot point of a dagger penetrate his back to the left of his spine, burying its point in the rear of his heart.  “Not
that you’ll have the time to spend it.”  The assassin said.
Moving quickly, the wandering clown made it through the maze to the war room.  “My friend? Is it time?”

“The time is now.”

“I will pass along the word.  Go safely my friend.”
That night, as the Jester slept, he had terrible dreams.  He awoke with a fever and needed fresh air.  Crossing over to open the drapes of a window in his bedroom, he noticed wet footprints at the foot of his bed.  Instantly alert, the Jester squinted his eyes to better see into the shadows of his room.
He did not hear the assailant behind him.  It was too late; he felt the garrote go tight around his neck.  Reacting without thinking he slipped his fingers into the strangle hold to try and catch a breath.  At the same time he bent over forward, throwing the attacker off balance and crashing into a low table.  Before he was able to recover, the Fool was knocked to the ground, pinned on his back, under the weight of the killer.  Through the window, moonlight glinted off the killing device, a long thin handled dagger meant for the heart.  Holding the dagger above his head the assassin hissed, “You cannot stop P’jai’us!”

Then everything went wrong.

Lady de ‘Gruse, awakened by the struggle, saw her husband about to be murdered, threw the candlestick holder with inhuman force striking the knife wielder in the back of the head and hands.
As the blade went skating into a darkened corner, the now unarmed attacker fled out the open window, escaping into the damp night.

Twenty-three days later, the messenger fell from his horse in front of a small shop where the Jester was still buying gifts for his bride.

Half dead, he handed a scroll to a man he had never met, but would knew on sight.

The Jester took the parchment.

The three words had arrived.


Thursday, May 02, 2002

Chronicles XVIII: Arisen, from Ash and Dust.

It is nice to see that the Jester has returned...” as the words faded the Jester woke with a start.

It was going to be a bad day.

Shortly before dawn, a messenger arrived with dispatches form the front. The Jester lit some candles and leafed through them. Among them, one written in the tight military script of his brother-in-law, Sir Augustus, it read:

Jester:

I feel I must write this letter and address it to you, because I fear that Forces of this land might confiscate a letter addressed directly to the Commander.

It has been near a month since my dispatch to protect the Western Border. My forces have held strong, with no real activity as of yet. I have recently given Sir Cristos his own command, in charge of Siege and Heavy Weapons, due to his extensive knowledge on the subject. With that in his hands, I have more time to concentrate on our strategy. I have also given him a battalion, in order to build and man his weapons.

I think it important to give you all of the information I have received in the short month I have been in command. In the first few days of my Occupation here, Sir Cristos and I have discovered two of the local militiamen, Richard of Seka, and Jean Michael the Dominant. Richard is a well-respected man with the locals, and is our spokesman to the townspeople. They call him "King", as he commands the respect of the locals. I have many times sought advice from him, as well as help with matters of the local villages.  Jean Michael is a close advisor to Richard, and is more known for his short stature, and his great strength. Many a times he was broken a man's arm for mistaking him for a dwarf. He is the man I think could lead these people to war, if needed.

Because of my dealings with these men, I have learned much about this land. I have learned of a vile Cult that dwells in the province of Chevans. They are commanded by Collen of Letics, a fierce warlord; who suffers from severe vainity. His second in command is a woman, if you can call her that, Sha' Tuk. Rumor has it that she is not completely human, but part ogre, and that she easily stands eight feet in height.

I have never seen this half beast, but pray that these are just legends.

Of course, not everyone in this land is corrupted by their proximity to the Cult. I have met an old man by the name of Gilbor. He is a wise man who lives in the Cave of Life, upon Mount Normal. Sir Cristos goes to him often for his advice. Some say he is a wizard, and his appearance does nothing to dispel it. Cristos has also found Gilbor's young apprentice, Geitra, to be his enchantress. Of course, he tells nothing of this to Gilbor or Geitra, for fear of the repercussions.

Reports have just come in; a skirmish has just begun, I must return to the front, but I will send word soon, as I have more to tell you about the Western Front.

Until we speak again,

Sir Augustus

The Jester set down the correspondence. Interesting, he thought. Perhaps security was not as tight as once thought. Saing should be made aware of this. Or perhaps there are too many loose ends. The Jester put on his traveling cloak and headed for the seedier sections of Gothex.


Baron Saing sat in his wardroom with maps strewn about the table. There sat Gothex, surrounded by greedy nations looking to conquer the Port-City. As he moved some markers around on the map, a heavy rapping came from the anteroom.

“Commander?”

“You summoned, my Liege?” came the reply from the door.

“Yes.” Saing rasped. “I see that young Augustus is doing well on the Western Border and that the Scorched Iron Brigade has smashed opposition north of our Border holdings. Tell Cristos to proceed and secure out to three days ride from our Border. If he needs more Outriders, send them. His heavy machines may be slow, but they demonstrate our power. As soon as he has erected fortifications, he shall return here, to begin making more war machines for Goettch and Gregor. He’ll have the summer, then I want Augustus and him to push further in to the Northern Wastes.”

“As you command, Mi’Lord.” Tintar continued, “As you know, the Eastern incursions are accelerating and Gregor’s time is more consumed with his Lady’s well-being then the tactics at hand. There are reports that an army may be moving close to the Lake in an attempt to overwhelm our defenses. Perhaps we should move another four divisions to the front to repel the attack?”

“Of course. What has Benedict to say for himself?”

Tintar moved opposite of Saing. Tapping the map, he said “He spends his time trying to determine a way to destroy the P’jai’us. Also, I have heard that he is renewing old ties.”

Saing’s gaze darkened, “I thought that nuisance girl had been destroyed? The fool told me as much himself.”

Tintar shifted uneasily, he too had heard the rumors of Princess Thumper Head’s fiery demise. Maybe they were a bit too optimistic. “I will look into it Mi’Lord. I am sure the fool will have some insight. He was quite good at such things. Before his parlor tricks, he once held the respect of many. Now he just makes the Nobles laugh.”

Tintar barely heard the words. They were not much louder than a hiss. He caught himself leaning in to better hear Saing. “Things are not all that they seem. Things may be changing, with the news of Count de’Gruse’s death.”

“When did the Count pass?”

“Some days ago. Lady de’Gruse is just finding out. The Jester left shortly after the clergy arrived to console the noble-lady.”

The Commander was intrigued and asked, “Where do you think he went?”

“Old ties are stronger than new bonds, sometimes. He may have gone to seek help. He may be a fool, but he rarely fails to notice things.”


On the Eastern Front.

“Captain, dispatch a runner! Tell the General the attack has begun! They are 20 fold stronger. Tell the Thunder Brigade to charge! Get those ballistas in place! Archers! Stand to! Prepare to fire.” Gregor steadied his warhorse and prepared for the worst.

He didn’t have to wait long. The horde of beasts ripped through the front lines, rending arms and legs off of soldiers. The archers fired into the ranks, felling dozens if not hundreds of creatures. And yet they surged forward. There seemed no end to the river of half beasts that streamed towards the highways that lead to Gothex.

The ranks looked as though they were about to collapse when a horn rang out above the din of battle. Everyone, man and beast, were stunned to a halt.

Gregor searched the field of battle for the source of the horn. The ground began to tremble, trees toppled, and the battlefield seemed to rise up. Monstrous sized creatures began to appear in the secondary ranks of the attacking horde, they also approched from the Lake. It took Gregor a full minute to recognize the shapes of giants as seaweed, roots and earth chunks of fell from their bodies. There were hundreds. They had buried themselves under the battlefield and hid in the shallows of the water.

It looked hopeless to Gregor.

They began their attack. They marched through the ranks of the horde, destroying whole companies of beasts with each footstep. Then they did a surprising thing. They wheeled about in a coordinated fashion and began to sweep lines of attackers aside as though they were insects. The horde saw this and began to break formations, afraid that they would be next to be destroyed. Gregor’s men stood in stunned silence, watching as their enemies were crushed, trampled, and swatted to death. They rallied around this and rushed forward to press the attack. Man and giant marched shoulder to kneecap to punish the invading army.

Gregor saw one giant head towards his command tent atop the ridge. Gregor urged his mount forward to meet the enormous man. “I am Sir Gregor, Knight of the War Torne Tower. To whom do I owe a great deed of thanks?”

The giant replied, “You know of the wandering Fool? Tell him that Tah’Pal of Xplihor repays his kindness. My tribe will take care of these things for your men. You will send word to the Fool before nightfall, I wish not to be late on our wager.”

With that, Tah’Pal turned and headed off after the retreating battle scene.

Sir Gregor did not wait a second. A dispatch left his hands for Gothex immediately.

In the slums of Gothex.

An urchin bumped into a wandering pilgrim. No one noticed the exchange nor would anyone have cared if they had seen it.

Seated in the back of a dark tavern, the Jester pulled out the scrolls from his pilgrim’s robe and by candlelight read the three messages.

The first from Gregor, described the battle that had taken place 3 days ago with the sudden appearance of the Wolk tribe of Giants and the route that ensued. It was careful to include the exact message from the Chieftain.

The Jester almost laughed.

The next was two pages long and chronicled the reported death and resurrection of two people from the Jester’s past. The first was of a girl named Lynn de’Hor who seemed to be the missing Princess from Edwardoland. The report includes details of her new husband who out of the kindness of his heart married a commoner and recently made her Queen. This did in fact make the Jester chuckle. So, she became a Queen anyway! Life’s little irony. The second page listed the rumors of a Gypsy, who could come and go with the wind. There were more than two dozen sightings listed on the page. This is not a good sign, thought the Jester.

The third scroll was another dispatch from Augustus:

Jester:

I once again write of news of this land.
Before the hot sun of summer rises in this land, Richard of Seka will be leaving. He must return to his land of Seka, far to the South of here, in order to tend to his aging family. He will be a great loss, as he has guided me much in my dealings with the townspeople. While he is still here, I will be sure to learn everything I can from him.

Another blow will be dealt to my forces when Jean Michael the Dominant
leaves town to join the village protection faction, which calls itself the Elite Troopers. I will still keep in contact with him, but I will not have his services to myself.

As you may or may not know, we have been living in tents and other temporary shelters whilst staying on the front. I have just commissioned for a more permanent barracks to be built by summers end, which I will name The Spear House. I have also decided that Sir Cristos and myself must return for the summer months in order to build support and raise funds. I know from my experiences here that the Forces here will be nearly dormant during the hot months, and will cause no major problems for the men I will leave to remain on the border. I will leave many high-ranking officers to do my bidding, as well as give partial control to the Elite Troopers, and Jean Michael the Dominant. I have charged Jean Michael to write me letters, when time comes, in order to keep up on what is going on. However, that is many weeks away, and I will keep you updated on the developments.

With Sir Cristos closer to the border of Chevans, he has started to write me letters telling me the events on the border. Even more surprising is that he decided to write them himself, rather than a muse. I have informed him not to write directly to you, but to write to me, and I would relay anything important. While on the border, he has discovered a new town, with a peoples who call themselves the Cabinos. I have included this letter with mine, so that I will not have to reproduce it.

I do not know when the next letter I write will be, but hopefully soon.

Until we speak again,

Sir Augustus




Sir Augustus:

I must first apologize. I am not accustomed to writing correspondences and this letter may not be of my best. With the newly appointed position I find myself in need of writing you.
I am writing you to give you an update of our present position here. We are camped just outside of Chevans with many new weapons at our disposal. The trebuchet was proven affective against the forces in Chevans and it seems that they have retreated for the spring. We have taken heavy casualties on our main wagon. Earlier some of the horses used to pull it were ill. Luckily they have since healed. Also it seems that one of our axels has taken heavy damage and I fear it will not be able to support the wagon for much longer. I am working closely with locals to help rebuild the axel.

Gilbor has heard wind though of possible movement of the Chevans into their partner province of Statotios sometime soon. I fear that with the mammoth stature of the worriers of this province, my forces may take great casualties. Gilbor is currently working on a spell to make my forces appear invisible to the forces of Statotios thus eliminating any involvement of my forces.
For our successful defense against Collen of Letics, the local people here have decided to have festivals in our honor. They have not given us many details but do assure us that there will be live music by the local townsmen all day with plenty to eat and drink all day. These events are scheduled to last for the next few weeks. The locals, known as the Cabinos, have expressed their concern that the dark forces will make another uprising. I have assured them that myself and my men, while we will be enjoying the festivals, will be ready to fight at a moments notice.
I must warn you though, my forces are anxious to fight. My men have grown restless without the immediate threat of Chevans. While I hope to enjoy the feast, I, as well as my men, are hoping for a small skirmish.
The Cabinos have also expressed their thanks to you for allowing us to stay in our present position. They have said that any of your forces and yourself will be their honored guests. I am anxious for our meeting again in the next few days and will be looking forward to the festival in Ottoin.
Until then I must return to the duties of repairing the siege weapons.

Until we see each other in this world or in the next,
Sir Cristos


The Jester was almost finished reading the letter from Cristos when his candle failed. As he reached to relight it, he caught sight of someone sitting across from him at the table.

“I was wondering when you would appear.” The Jester said.

“I’ve been around, times are changing. Things are not as they once were.” the visitor replied.

“I know. Saing is looking for me, and I fear the war will not go well with spies within our ranks.” the Jester whispered.

“You know what needs to happen. It has always been your destiny” the shadowy figured said.

“I see that you are in good health. Anything else I should be aware of?” the Jester queried.

“The news of my death is greatly exaggerated. You may want your nefarious Dar Benedict take on an Ambassadorial role. I recall the he knows the Queen of De kat-hor. She goes by, Queen duClarque now, but I think you’d recognize her as Princess Thumper Head. Her realm may become important soon.”

The fool, not taken aback by any of this simply stated, “I will advise Saing of that. Thank you Mistress.”

The Mistress of Shadows said as she rose, “My return is not by accident. Loyalties and friendships will weather the coming war. I must return to my work. You know how to reach me or Kindle if we are needed. Be warned though, the good witch is more then busy these days. But she may spare a moment or two to impart wisdom to you and yours. Take care, wandering fool.” And in an instant she was gone.

The Jester rose from his table extinguished his candle, pulled up his hood and headed for the door. There is much to do he thought, oh so much to do.

Monday, March 04, 2002

Chronicles XVII: Darkness Creeping from the East…

There was a hint, just a taste, of something foul on the air. The kind of air, that rises out of the sewers. The kind you find lurking near cemeteries. There was an underlying nervousness in Gothex. Nothing overt, but something slipping just under the skin. The markets were full, but eyes searched left and right.  Feet shifted uneasily as peasants bought breads, meats, and fruits.
A half of a year had passed since Gothex had been happy. The wedding of Lady de’Gruse to the Royal Jester had seen the streets lined with pretty colors and rejoicing faces. The air had been fresh, the sun warm, and the spirits had flown freely at every pub and tavern. But those days were now just a fond memory. A growing darkness was approaching and the people did not want to spend too much time out of doors.

The first reports began to come in, even before the Jester has left on his honeymoon. Dark things were lingering too long on the Eastern Front. Outriders skirmished with creatures that were beyond the intelligence of normal beasts. Dar Benedict and Brand sat in counsel for many hours, debating when to bring this to Saing’s attention. They agreed that shortly after the festivities to report to the War-Lord.
The fireworks had scarcely stopped and eight men entered into private chambers to confer. The man at the head of the table wore blackened ceremonial armor, with a helmet that was both horrifying and beautiful at the same time. He has a black goatee and looked to be so gaunt that he could not possibly wear so heavy a protective layer. To his right sat a much larger man, also goateed, but his armor was well polished, more functional and the silver and purple seemed to be woven in intricate patterns across the breastplate. Embossed in the center, just above the Sword and Shied of the State, was the Royal Crest, awarded to the most loyal of warriors.

“Commander, where are we on this Eastern incursion?” Saing asked.

“My Lord, as you know the Ministry of Intelligence has interrogated some of the beasts captured. Their reports are a bit startling. More information is necessary before action can be taken. As you know the Eastern Brigade stands ready to march at your command.” Tintar replied.

“Excellent. General, do you have anything to add?”
Dar Benedict stopped writing as soon as the question had started and looked around the table. ‘Were these men, these hard fighting men, ready for what he was about to tell them?’ He looked around the table, what he saw told him that they were ready to die if need be. Four men sat in hardened armor, trained soldiers dedicated to the sword. The eldest was from the Southern Plains, a former monk named Sir Goettch who sat across from Tintar, with whom he had done battle against the Eastern Empire. To his left sat Sir Azon, the Unbreakable, who, it was said, had the lives of a cat. Across from him sat his contemporary, Sir Gregor, a Paladin who currently commanded the Western Brigade. To his right, sat one of his captains, Sir Augustus, a young man who seemed to be, by all accounts, a brilliant strategist. Brand slid the most recent reports in front of him.

“Leige, the most troubling is that these beasts appear to have a collective intelligence. If we interrogate one, the others seem to know what was asked. As though their minds are linked.” the Dar responded.

“Their minds are linked?”

“Mi’Lord, as you are versed in some magics, you are aware of the power of P’jai’us? We believe that these things are from It.”

Saing crushed his goblet and hissed, “This does not bode well for Gothex.”

“Baron,” Gregor spoke up. “We must reinforce the Eastern Front, as you know Lord Decker never paid much attention there.”

“Well put. Then do it, you have a fortnight. You leave in two days.” Saing adjusted his gaze, “Augustus you will survey the Western Border and dispatch troops four days hence. I do not want our borders weakened. Welcome to command. Try not to die.”
Gregor, Azon, Goettch lept to their feet and left for their respective commands. Their aides-de-camp were immediately at their sides, taking orders and readying mounts. Augustus, recently promoted, sent word for Sir Cristos, his soon to be aide-de-camp.

Meanwhile, south of the Kingdom of Twisting Rain, the Jester received a scroll, delivered by messenger.  It had the seal of Boones on it. It read:

“Jester,

I have always enjoyed the tales of your travels, again congratulations on your wedding. I wish I could have been in better spirits for the event, alas, a malady hid my joy for the happy couple. I fear that this has once again weakened our alliance. I would sacrifice many a head of heard, if it would once again strengthen our bond. Forever we are sacred. As soon as I rebuild my estates and regain power in my lands, I will begin to repay my debts to you. It is to be soon, my aide, JerRand, tells me.I have heard that you are celebrating the Feast of the All Saints; it is my hope that you send well wishes to all that attend. It is also my hope to once again return to favor with the Court of Gothex.

Peace to you my brother and hope for more good word soon,
Errien”

The Jester took quill and ink and penned a quick note to Errien. He left it to set and dry, while he returned to his new bride and the lovely lake by which she sunbathed.
Upon the Jester’s return, he was summoned to meet at Eeipr Kahz’s abode. When he arrived; drink, games of chance, and good friends set him upon. Kahz had organized a game of chance and many were there to partake. Tintar and Brand made toasts of good fortune to the Jester’s return. They played cards till all hours and discussed, many things, including the affairs of state, personal lives, and the comraderie of men. It was agreed, that such meetings should occur every fortnight; as much was accomplished and the politics of court could be left aside. Even Saing made an appearance, once. Thoughts of war were distanced by thoughts of friends and cards.
These to only be soured, when news arrived, Brand was to be dispatched, to Springville, south of Gothex, to maintain a vigilant eye on southern movements.
And then there was the errant comment, one night, made by a man-at-arms.

“Those damnable gypsies, every time me mates and me go for a pint, we trip over one. Thieving scoundrels. Met one, week back or so, claimed to be a ‘Lady’. ‘A lady in bed’ I said. She thought she’d tell me ‘I know many a lady-in-waiting, I once held the favor of Kings and Fools alike.’ Would’ve showed her my kings and fools, but she disappeared, just like that! Right before my bleedin’ eyes.”

“That’s de’Guile for you. Just when you think she’s gone, she reappears, as if from the Mists.” the Jester murmured.

Friday, October 26, 2001

Chronicles XVI: Whispers of a Return...

And then there was one less.

The days ran hot in the summer. No one there knew of a hotter day. Among those
to comment, the Baron, Tintar, Dar Benedict, and Brand, but it was a special
day, all had turned out to see that which was not foreseen, but occurring none
the less. It was the wedding of the Royal Jester to Lady de’Gruse. None of the
seers could have predicted the return of the Jester with the announcement that
he was engaged. It had been weeks since the announcement, and now the day was
here. So many of the Barony’s finest tailors and entertainers had been
contracted for the celebration.

Among the first to arrive, the Baron, arriving a full day early to make sure all
was in accordance with his edicts. He traveled far and wide with the Jester and
Eepir Kahz, to inspect the frontlines and Gothex’s decorations. Eepir kept them
both entertained as the long day progressed. The Jester made sure that his Lady
would be in good company as she prepared for the coming day as well. Mistress
Kindle, traveled out from the heart of Gothex to protect Lady de’Gruse. The two
made friends easily and became quite close in their short time together.

That evening, a grand feast was prepared and all the major players were there to
partake. From the lowliest lady-in-waiting, Lady Ja Cee-ay all the way up to
Saing’s War council of Tintar and Dar Benedict. Of those unable to attend, Sir
Azon and Lady Yute had just given birth to their daughter and feared to travel,
as it was too much for the beleaguered Lady Yute. So Lady Tehtare, filled in as
an attendant to Lady de’Gruse. The Ladies–in-waiting, spent the evening with
de’Gruse at her country estate in Lower Gothex. While the various soldiers,
guards, and government officials spent the evening with the Jester planning
war-games and partaking of the fine spirits. The day of the ceremony came a bit
too early for some, but all were none-the-less for wear. The beautiful day
passed, despite the heat and the town of Gothex enjoyed a peace, little known in
the recent years. There were but two small disturbances that day. The first
being, when Kindle’s muse sent word that he would be unable to attend the
festivities. This act brought about great concern for the prophet. Her heart
was in great turmoil, but she was soon swept up in the music, atmosphere, and
spirits that flowed forth from the barkeeps. The second incident occurred as a
harlot, flew up from the audience and began to perform what sounded to be the
strangulation of several cats. No one was harmed by the performance, but the
Baron had her sent to the pits of his dungeon for her audacity.

The next morning, the Jester and de’Gruse took flight on a winged chariot and
were not to be seen for several weeks.

Thursday, February 11, 1999

Chronicles XIII: Questions of Faith, Trust, and Travel.

The Festival of First Snow was a success and fun was to be had by all.
After the serious work of reinforcing the Citadel's magicks, music and
spirits were consumed in great quantities.

The Wizards, never ones to be far from their own domain in the Far Nort,
decided that it was wise to return before the sun set. Unfortunately,
Queen Growley Bear had other plans for them and the Wizards spent many
hours in a Maze of the Mind before they combined their strengths to over
come the Maze. Although exhausted from the excursion, they were able to
send a message by carrier inviting the Jester and Ars up to discuss the
future of the realms.

A few days later the Ars began preparing the Citadel on the Cove for the
Festival of Bygone Eras, where a great number of foreign dignitaries
were to arrive and discuss the return of Baron Saing. Among those to
make an appearance were: Marshals Duhnk, Di'Rand, and Brand, Lady
'deGuile, Ars D. Wiles, Terra 'deNarc, Jannas the Martyr, King and
Queen Decker. It was a shock, by way of page, to hear that Lord and
Lady Decker had taken Holiday to the Eastern Border and were under heavy
military guard as they were close to Queen Growley Bear's realm. It was
also sad to hear that Lady 'deGuile, while traveling north to the
Festival, was ambushed and slaughtered by a pack of half humans of
Saing's creation. The scroll was delivered to the Citadel's doors
plunged into her skull. Also sending his regrets, Ars D. Wiles, via
magical means informed Jazan that he was battling a blizzard of
unnatural beginnings, which precluded his arrival at the Festival.
Of those who did arrive, it was a grand time to be had by all. Dar
Benedict, under direct questioning by Jannas, was cleared of all charges
in Boones, and was able to renew ties with Errien, Brand, and Di'Rand.
Errien stated that he may consider moving to Gothex, insiders wonder if
he'll attempt to gain control of the city while it's in its fragile
state. Some consider him to be the best qualified for the job. The
Marshals were treated to a show by Cyndra, an exotic dancer who has been
seen in few weeks the company of the Jester these last. The night ended
with quite a few of the servants having to make accommodations for
several of the partygoers, the Jester was nowhere to be seen and the Ars
was in the grips of the spirits. As morning broke, Dar Benedict had
made good his escape, leaving some to wonder where and why he had fled
in such a hurry. As guests made their way back to their abodes, Errien,
Di'Rand, Duhnk, and the Jester [it was known that K'Abe was still about
the Library, but nowhere to be seen] discussed the past Festivals and
speculated about the future. The Boones delegates left to escort
Brand's lady to her abode on their way back to Boones proper.

Rumors abound that JJ the Red has taken up with a Gypsy and has moved to
Tem'pe in the hopes of winning her affections. No one has been able to
confirm or deny these rumors.

Also Gef'Rey the Pious has been recalled to the Temple of Rains to
rededicate his spirit, some say it is bad for business to have a
doom saying monk proclaiming that all things lead to sin and death, and
that the Temple finally received word and is trying to do some damage
control in the City. Jannas the Martyr has been dispatched to be the
Spiritual Leader of Gothex in its time of need. There are some rumors
that Archbishop Jannas and Marshall Brand have had some differences of
opinion about the role of religion in State politicks and that while
they are civil in person, that there maybe more to this than meets the
eye.

There was talk among the peasants that the Jester had been entranced by
a dancer of skill and grace. It was true that he had been seen in the
company of Cyndra and quietly, in the taverns and walking about the
Cove, the talk spread that the Jester may have found a new patron. The
Jester had also spent time in seedy alleys and wharf side taverns
speaking at length with villains and smugglers. There was concern that
the Jester may be involved in some devious plot, but as usual few people
cared to speculate openly about what that may be.

Many weeks passed and the Jester returned to what appeared to be a usual
routine, all the while maintaining a hidden correspondence with Ramierez
about things morbid and occult. The Ars noticed a rise in the amount of
occult energy in the Citadel. He began to research it and found, much
to his shock and horror, that the Jester was responsible. The Ars was
unsure why or how the Jester had raised these energies nor did he know
how the Jester was controlling it. The Jester realized that some of
these powers were dangerously close to being out of control and needed
to confer with Kindle. She consoled him and whispered the magicks
needed to prevent the Citadel from being destroyed. She also told him,
that her return would coincide with the Summer equinox. The Jester
asked her for protection during a future adventure, with Errien, to the
mythical Isle of the Water Wall. Errien had spoken at length about his
desire to return to the Isle and the Jester having given in to a whim,
suggested that they take time in the coming summer to go on a Holiday.
The Jester had also asked Cyndra to join them, but she had vanished,
having taken a small Amulet of Power with her. Most displeased, the
Jester requested of Jannas that the wench be found and condemned a
heretic (preferably burned publicly), and the Amulet, when found be
locked in the Holy Treasury.
Terra 'deNarc also had returned to Gothex. Her promotion to Minister of
Propaganda, elevated her to a level where she and the Jester had rare
times to talk. As the Magpie party quickly was running Gothex Trade
Commission into the ground, Terra was left with quite a bit to do. Her
elevation was apparently do to her kinship with the King's sister, who
was studying abroad, and practically running the country in her
brother's absence. Although there are some who say the it was magick...

A few of the Slah Kars had been seen of late, but their stuporous state
left them as but entertainment for the masses.

Tintar the Cloistered, having been in a near fatal chariot collision has
been attended by the best healers in Gothex, although he does babble at
length about healers having to be women and that certain parts of his
body that were undamaged needed their immediate attention.

In the Kingdom of Twisting Rain, Queen Growley Bear gives praise and
thanks to her Goddess before having a thousand first born sons
flayed....