Wherein a Strange package arrives for the Speaker.
Rillë hurries up to the Duchess and leans down to whisper urgently in her ear.
Eqximiye frowns for a moment and turns to Celethor saying, “Please excuse me. I will return immediately.” She follows Rillë from the room.
Just outside, an unfamiliar high elf wearing the colors of the Jawarl Avignon garrison stands, looking around curiously.
Rillë gestures importantly at the soldier, saying “Lieutenant Falasdir Korianthil.” The young man straightens as he turns toward the Duchess.
“My Lady,” he says, bowing. “I bear a message from Captain Evendell, Gorgon Battalion.”
“Greetings Lieutenant,” Eqximiye replies. “Will you give me this message?”
“Not an hour ago, a raven flew into our encampment at Jawarl. It flew right up to Sergeant Darkwood, dropped a fragment of paper and a box at her feet, squawked at her and turned into a small silver statue. The box is clearly addressed to Eqximiye Carlack, Speaker of the Eldar. The Captain considered this strange delivery, and deemed it too risky to send an unknown parcel through the arches. She also thought it appeared important, so not wanting to delay its delivery, she sent me to inform you instead.”
Eqximiye’s eyes narrow in thought. She purses her lips slightly to the left, and then nods abruptly.
“Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. I hope you will remain long enough to take some refreshment before you return to your duty.”
He smiles and shakes his head, “Thank you, but no, I am ordered to return immediately. Either I will escort you to the Captain, should you wish to make the journey, or I will return to report to the Captain whatever message you desire.”
“In that case,” says the Duchess, “I will detain you no more than a moment.” She turns and re-enters the council chambers, Rillë at her heels.
As she enters, Morran Tel-Kittoren says to Thangil, “Sadly, only the same that ever we plan for when battling the undead. Release.””
She walks directly up to Celethor. “Forgive me, but I have just had a message arrive from Jawarl Avignon. I must depart at once.” Sarendil steps up on the side opposite Rillë, shooting the other elf an unfathomable look.
“What sort of message?” asks Celethor, holding up a hand to delay her departure.
“A silver raven, probably an enchanted figurine, had dropped a box addressed to me within the fortifications. Captain Evendell thought it too risky to bring it through, so he sent a messenger instead. I must inspect the parcel at once.”
“Very well,” replies the Warlord, “you may go.”
She nods at her cousin, and turns to leave. As Sarendil moves to follow,
Rillë says, “Wait Sarendil, one of us should stay here.”
“I agree,” Sarendil says smoothly, “one of us should stay here.” Rillë’s lips draw back in a snarl, but before he can speak, the Duchess chimes in.
“Good thinking Rillë. One of you must remain and speak for the Eldar in my absence. There will likely be decisions to be made.” Rillë pauses, uncertainty coloring his face.
“I’ll be glad to remain and represent the Eldar,” remarks Sarendil, as Rillë’s expression turns sour.
“Excellent,” says Eqxmiye.
“You’ll leave me the Rod then, right?” he asks slyly.
Eqximiye lifts one delicate eyebrow. “Nice try, Sarendil. Don’t push your luck.”
“You can’t blame me for trying, Speaker,” he adds mockingly. Celethor frowns behind him, as the drama plays out. As Eqximiye walks away, Celethor adds, “Take as many as you need to ensure your safety.”
Immediately, several members of the council rise. Y’Draesk is the first to reach her, blocking the door. Thangil and Faydrie are close on his heels, along with Erenion.
Juniper is sitting by the door, and Eqximiye notices she looks rather bored. She pauses, saying, “Juniper, would you like to come with us to Jawarl Avignon?” She hesitates, but accepts the invitation after a few moments.
The group makes the trek down into the lower levels of the palace. Finally, after passing several guard stations, they enter an empty room with a large arch at one end. Lieutenant Korianthil and a palace guard are waiting just inside the room. As the party approaches, he steps in, kisses her and turns smoothly to bow to the Duchess.
“My Lady, are you ready to leave?”
“Yes, indeed I am,” says Eqximiye, looking curiously at the blushing guard.
“Then follow me this way,” he says and walks directly under the arch, vanishing.
“Oh, by the way,” Eqximiye says to Erenion and Juniper as she trails behind him, “this is a teleportation arch.” Then she also vanishes beneath the structure.
Very shortly, the group appears many long miles to the south, where the salty scent of the ocean assaults their nostrils. The weather is significantly warmer here, but the cries of the sea birds are the same as in the capital. Lieutenant Korianthil loses no time leading them to Captain Evendell.
“Welcome, Lady Eqximiye,” declares Dývenil Evendell, standing as they enter. She extends her hands in a warm greeting that surprises Eqximiye.
“Have we met?” she asks.
“No, Lady, not until this moment have I had the honor,” replies Dývenil. “May I be introduced to your friends?”
Eqximiye makes the introductions, and there is a round of polite conversation. Finally, Dývenil says, “Well, you didn’t come all this way just to make small talk. I have a package for you.“ She pulls out a box slightly more than a foot long, approximately five inches deep and places it in the middle of her desk. Next to it, she places a torn scrap of parchment and a statue of a small, silver raven.
“Earlier today, this raven flew into the compound and dropped the parchment and box next to my Sergeant, squawked at her twice and turned into this little statue. She brought them to me immediately, and I locked them in my desk until your arrival just now. I swear to you, no-one has tampered with these items.”
“Understood, Captain,” replies Eqximiye.
Captain Dývenil leaves the party alone in her office, who immediately begin their investigations. After studying the raven for a few moments, Eqximiye announces it to be a Figurine of Wondrous Power, and sets it carefully aside.
The group turns to the parchment. There is no writing on it, and eventually they decide it has been torn off a larger document.
Finally they inspect the box. Neither the box nor the parchment emanates magic. Faydrie begins to attempt opening the box. On the inside, there is something sticky, holding the box closed. Faydrie determines it to be lead, and decides it would be foolish to force it open without knowing more.
After some debate, the party agrees that Erenion should handle the parchment, and use his abilities to try to see into the item’s past. He is successful.
“I see a shadowy figure. He…or she…is standing on a ledge in an alley of sorts. He, yes definitely he, is writing frantically on the parchment. Now he is giving the parchment and the box to the raven. The raven is flying off as flaming arrows soar past.”
Eqximiye groans, “The parchment must have been torn in flight. Damn.”
Erenion replies, “Well, let me try with the box next. Maybe it will tell us more.”
He places one hand on the box and concentrates. “A male, human, stole this from a desk. He is a rigid and unprincipled man. He is the man who sent it here with the raven.” He pauses, sighing. “Wait, there’s more. Another human male, a good man, he bought it and kept writing equipment in it, I see him clearly. “
The room goes quiet for a moment.
“What are you going to do now?” Rillë asks into the silence.
“It’s from Andros. I know it is,” mutters Y’Draesk.
Eqximiye nods at him. “Yes, I rather think it is. He was in trouble when he sent this. I hope it was worth it.” She glares at the fragment of parchment for a long moment. “I simply must know the contents of this letter.”
Thangil responds, “There is no magic that can recall the ink to the page, even if we mend the parchment itself. I fear it is lost.”
“Actually,” Eqximiye says, contradicting him with a wry smile, “there is.”
She places the paper gently on the desk. She draws breath and speaks the sharp, glittering words of a spell. When she finishes, she places one finger on the parchment and says in a crystalline voice, “I wish this paper would be made whole with the writing intact.”
A moment later, a large piece of parchment lies on the desk. It is water stained, but legible.
“E, I believe this is how they are maintaining such a tight seal on the city and control over the populace. Treat it carefully, and do not open it in an area that is not warded or sealed with lead.”
“Is that it? Is that his writing?”
Eqximiye looks around, but cannot even be sure who asked the question.
“Yes, that’s him!” she says exultantly. “Let’s get this back to the palace. Now.” The party gathers up the three items, and take their leave of Captain Evendell.
Before long, they are in a lead-lined, warded room. Carefully placing the box on the far side of the room, they summon an unseen servant to open it. The servant forces the box open. Inside the box is a severed hand, somewhat moist and stinky, and fairly fresh.
The party stares at the hand in horror and disgust.
“What the hell?” says Y’Draesk.
Erenion sighs and moves towards the hand. The others watch as he slowly reaches out to touch the hand. He closes his eyes as he reads the history of the grisly object.
“I see the good man again; he’s with the other one, the other man. They’re struggling. The other man, he’s hurting the good man.”
Erenion pushes suddenly away from the box. “He cut off the good man’s hand with an axe.” He turns away, breathing harshly. “I watched him do it.”
“Why would he cut off someone’s hand off and send it to us? That makes no sense,” says Rillë with feeling.
“I’m sure he had a reason,” says Eqximiye firmly. “I cannot imagine that he would do such a thing without a good reason.”
Slowly, the group converges on the dreadful appendage. Upon further study, they find that the ball of the hand is swollen. Eventually, this swelling is identified as a necrotic cyst, which allows the person with the ‘mother’ cyst to scry on the person carrying it at will.
“How can we determine if someone is infected?” asks Eqximiye. “Would a spell to detect undead also detect these?”
“No, I think not,” replies Erenion. “The aura of the living being will conceal it.”
“Just imagine,” grumbles Eqximiye, “an entire city under their control.”
“If only we still had our cubic gate,” says Y’Draesk.
“I have a cubic gate. What do you need?” says Erenion.
“Nah, we need our old…wait, what?!?! YOU have a cubic gate???”
“Where does it go?”
Erenion lists off the various destinations, “It goes to The Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus, the Prime Material, the Demi-Plane of Shadow, Layer 1 of the Abyss – Pazunia, the Blessed Fields of Elysium and the Elemental Plane of Air.”
The party stares at Erenion in surprise. Then everyone begins talking at once, making plans to investigate all the destinations.