“The situation is dire, milord. We’ve lost our king, his eldest wizard and advisor lies dead, and the next in line is missing. Similarly, most of the Royal Guard was found dead on the field, but their champion is nowhere to be found. Thank the Mercies that you are here to safeguard the capital in these troubled times.”
William Marshall, Earl of Chepstow, winced as he turned on his lame leg. He keenly felt the loss of Emyr Llwyd, a wise if somewhat cantankerous man. And Gedrych’s absence was disturbing – his power would be useful to keep peace. But most troubling was the absence of the champion. William would have bet his good leg that the man would die before leaving his king. “Guess this wound was a blessing in disguise then.”
“I’m not one to judge the Mercies’ ways, milord, but I’m grateful you are here instead of…I’m sorry. I forget myself. Let me just say that Ariadh is in good hands while you are on watch.”
The earl smiled, and was interrupted by a knock at the door.
Tristan entered and presented a letter of introduction that he bore important news, and that he would be recommended as someone to help with whatever course of action was taken on his news. He quickly relayed the information on the plot to the earl, who dismissed him for a moment while he consulted with other minds.
Aranphir stepped out from behind a tapestry to discuss the plot, but was soon interrupted by Madoc knocking at the door. The plot was discussed, and a few rumors were hashed out about where to seek the heir.
Common knowledge was that the queen had gone abroad during the troubles to remain in safer lands. Aranphir knew that to be a ruse, and she had actually been dispatched with Wulf and a party of 3 men known to be traitors. Wulf had orders to kill the three after the queen was safely delivered to her destination. He was certain that the destination lay within the main isle. Madoc had a death-bed clue from Emyr that said, “The future of Ariadh lies beyond Arthor’s Wall.” This implied that he was in the wild lands to the north. A little thinking, and they recalled that the king was well-disposed towards one Swein Haelfdan, who had rescued him on one expedition. (Failed History roll.)
Seeing that an expedition was in the offing, Madoc suggested that the other court wizard, Geydrich, may have had some information pertaining to the heir, and it would be helpful if he had a chance to peruse his library for information. (He really wanted to purloin a book on Fire magic that he knew Geydrich owned, and searching for information was a great cover.) The earl gave him a writ allowing him to search Geydrich’s residence in his name. Madoc took the brawny Tristan with him as protection.
They easily found their way across town to Geydrich’s townhome and found it under guard by town guardsmen. The writ got them in and Tristan dealt with a little snideness from the town guard on duty. After a brief time inside, Geydrich’s steward, Alward, greeted them and checked the warrant. He hovered around making sure to keep a sharp eye on whatever they were looking at. Finally, Madoc suggested that perhaps the elusive “information” was in the private library, but Alward did not have the key to it, as it was always kept on Geydrich’s person.
A quick charm (“nimble fingers for thee, you have no need of a key!”) helped Tristan pick the lock — an act he passed off as either or faulty lock, or the door was just not locked. Once inside the private library, they looked around in more detail. The pair conspired to distract Alward and, when his attention was elsewhere, Madoc cloaked the book in a charm to make Alward unable to see it. (“Skin of air, it is not there.”) After spending a long day searching, Madoc declared the search ended and they left with only the ensorcelled book.
In the meantime, Aranphir went to try to find out two things: first, could Wulf’s destination possibly have been north of Arthor’s Wall, and second, was Swein Haelfdan really an ally of the king. He located the young groom who had taken care of Wulf’s horse on his return, and the boy remarked about the poor state of Wulf’s saddle blanket, and how it was full of thistles and burrs. In fact, the last time the lad had seen a horse returned in such a state was when the King had “been saved by that Swein Haelfdan fellow up north.” (Consequence of a Failed Circles on the first item led to a bad confirmation on the second.)(GM Note: I’ve decided that the king tends to be subtle with language and likes to be a bit cryptic. The reason everyone could be confused about his relationship with Swein was a statement that the king made after the trip. “Well, I ran into a bit of trouble up north. But Swein Haelfdan certainly pulled me out of the frying pan.” No one picked up on that latter part of that cliche.)
William was sending for supplies and gear, and sent out men to retrieve the King’s best friend, Cawdell Owain just because the rumors of an heir having been born had apparently begun with him. Luckily, the common folk didn’t appear too trusting of the rumors, but treated them as any other wild rumor – after all, everyone knew the Queen was back on the continent. He was trying to figure out who he could leave in charge of the city. So far there were a couple choices of lesser barons who would be competent and unambitious. Unfortunately, Baron Matthew de Walincourt, arrived back in town.
Baron de Walincourt was a problem on several levels. First, he was by far the highest-ranking noble outside of William who would be coming to the capital any time soon, so command of the city would have to be turned over to him. Second, he was a bitter court rival for the king’s attention, and often clashed with William. And third, he was the man who had inflicted the wound that left William lame.
After a few pointed comments about the battle and William’s lack of attendance, the scene was set for a political problem for William Marshall. The king’s body would soon be back in town, and would lie in state whereupon the formal burial would take place. William’s mission would require him to leave soon which would look bad, and de Walincourt was an astute enough politician to take advantage of it. And, he had to leave the capital in the hands of his rival which would certainly earn him prestige while William was away.
Once de Walincourt left, Aranphir came bearing confirmation that north appeared to be the proper destination. He gave a partial truth that said that he would trust Madoc’s information about Swein Haelfdan, although he did not say why he would do so. He also figured that the groom who could be found so easily with the right questions was a liability. Rather than dispatch the boy, he suggested that he would be handy to take on the trip to attend the horses they would surely need. William agreed.
Finally, after a brief stop to deposit the pilfered book and to check a few records, Madoc and Tristan returned. Madoc had even managed to find a record further confirming the king’s relation with Swein Haelfdan. It was a record of a shipment of 9 casks of wine, sent at great expense to Swein Haelfan about 18 months prior. The shipment bore a special message from the king: “May the flavor of this wine be as fine as your loyalty.”
And that, my friends, is the end of the first session.