The Alexandrian

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Ptolus - In the Shadow of the Spire

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE

CHARACTER BACKGROUND: TOR

You grew up in the duchy of Anathor in the kingdom of Barund. Your father was a Royal Equiner, meaning that he possessed a royal license for the “right and true breeding of noble steeds”. The patents of lineage and seals of training which he controlled gave him the right to breed, break, and train horses suitable for the royal orders of knighthood. (He also did considerable business with the major and minor orders within Anathor.)

(Anathor is located in southern Barund, on the border between Barund and Arathia. The orders of knighthood can be roughly divided into three varieties: The royal orders, the major orders, and the minor orders. Similarly, equiners can be divided into three varieties: Royal Equiners, Noble Equiners, and Common Equiners. The only honor your father lacked was a gilted patent, which would have allowed him to breed and train horses for the royal family, the three Orders of the Lion, and other members of the highest nobility.)

While your father lived, you and your brother Ny shared in the work. Ny took to the trade work – the books, negotiation of sales, and the like – and also had a fine understanding of the intracies of royal breeding and patentage. You, on the other hand, came to love working with the horses themselves. Above all, you treasured the work of coraling and breaking and training wild horses – the creation of new lineages.

These new lineages were rarely of the sort that would appeal to your noble clients, but there was no shame in extending the work of your family to include plough-horses, militia mounts, and caravan haulers.

You married at 15 and have three children – first a boy (Jareth) and then twin daughters (Mila and Jaspin). Your wife, Fera, died a year after delivering the girls. Jareth is now 17 and takes after you. Mila was married this year to a silversmith. Jaspin shows no interest in marrying at all, but has a natural head for business. Ny and Jareth now run the family business, and Jaspin keeps the books.

All through your life, tales from across the world have reached your ears: Caravan masters out of Arathia would tell stories gathered from their trade. Nobles would share the pomp and glamour of their tournaments. Knights would speak of their acts of glory. The wanderers trading in wild horses from the Borderlands would tell tall tales from beyond the mountains. Even the farmers would share their myths and legends.

These tales always seemed distant and removed, but with the passing years you began to wonder if that meant they out of reach… or if it simply meant that they needed to be reached for.

Now at the age of 33, with the corners of your life tucked away and the legacy of your father well-secured, anything seems possible. You had often wondered if you might some day achieve knighthood, and a few months ago you decided to pursue some of the tales you’ve heard. You began teaching yourself how to read, and you also reached out to the many friends you’ve made through the years (knights, nobles, caravan masters and the like) to ask them what you should do.

The most likely course that seemed to emerge was the Arathian city-state of Ptolus. It lay on the coast of the Southern Sea, and for a few years now stories had drifted to your ears of fabulous treasures hidden in mammoth caverns and labyrinthine mazes beneath the city. There were even tales of an entire guild specializing in exploring those ancient places. If there was anywhere in the world where adventure and deeds of daring could be had, it seemed to be Ptolus.

You began laying careful plans – the type of careful planning with which you’ve approached everything in your life. But then things started happening very quickly: A letter arrived from a man named Ritharius.

Master Tor—

I recently shared the road with Sir Robilard of the Order of the Chalice, a man I believe to be our mutual acquaintance. He gave me to understand that you have recently become interested in a life of more interesting pursuits, and that you were pursuing inquiries into such matters.

It so happens that I myself have some small connection to these things, and would be honored to extend my introductions – upon Sir Robilar’s good report – for you.

I have a party of associates currently lodging at the Ghostly Minstrel in the Midtown of Ptolus. They have some need of a strong left arm, and if you were to present yourself to them before the end of Amseyl, I have been given to understand that they would have some employment for you in a direction you might find favorable. Their names are Dominic, Agnarr, Elestra, Tee, and Ranthir.

Ritharius

First Day of Amseyl

It seemed impossible not to accept such an invitation. Certainly no clearer path could have been laid for you. You rapidly finished your preparations, finished what little business still required your attention, made your proper farewells to your family, and – finally – selected your favorite mount (a true steed named Blue). On the 15th of Amseyl in the 790th Year of the Seyrunian Dynasty you set out. It took you four days to cross the Aliyan and reach the city-state of Duvei, but from there you made quick time upon the trade roads. You reached the coast of the Southern Sea on the 22nd, and spent a long time gazing out from the sea cliffs there. Then you followed the coast road south along the outskirts of Moonsilver Forest and across the plains south of there, until you saw the famous Spire of Ptolus crest the horizon before you.

On the 24th of Amseyl, you reached Ptolus’ North Gate, passing by the tournament fields that lay just outside the wall. For a long time you could do nothing but stare up at the almost unimaginable and utterly unnatural grandeur of the Spire, but you eventually focused your mind upon your task. Following North Gate Road took you down into Midtown, and from there you made your way by Center Street to Delver’s Square and the Ghostly Minstrel.

A woman named Tellith greeted you as you passed through the front doors of the inn. She said that Dominic, Agnarr, and the others had left early that morning, but were likely to be back soon. She directed you to the common room, and you settled down to wait…

SOME NOTES ON THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD

All the orders of knighthood in Barund follow the Code of Law as laid down in the Book of Athor, adhere to the Martial Code as laid down in the Book of Itor, and honor the Seven Compassions as laid down in the Book of Crissa.

The Code of Law is your bedrock “thou shalt not” stuff: Don’t murder, steal, enslave your brother, and so forth. The Martial Code is your standard chivalric ideal: Face your opponent fairly and honorably.

The Seven Compassions are a bit more philosophically complex, and are also referred to in some commentaries as the Seven Cares. The compassions are of the self, the companion, the stranger, the task, the thought, the memory, and the true. In other words, care for yourself, for your companions, and for strangers. Take care with what you do, what you think, and how it shall be remembered. And if you can do all that, then you will know true compassion. (For most people, the Seven Compassions boil down to “be nice to people” and “think before you act”.)

Within these broad boundaries, the various orders will have their own eccentricities. For example, the Order of the Holy Sword (a minor order in the duchy of Anathor) is marked by a zealous devotion to the Deeds of Honor as described in the Book of Itor. (The Deeds are a collection of legendary tales, but can also be boiled down into a kind of “scorecard” or exemplar of heroic actions. “He lives his life by the deeds of honor” is a common saying in Barund.)

As may be obvious from the fact that their core ethos is drawn from the religious texts of the Church, the orders of knighthood have a strong religious component to their ideology. This prompts a quick discussion about religion in Barund:

The Twenty Year War triggered a religious schism within the Imperial Church. After Seyrun invaded Barund, the king refused to acknowledge the Edicts of the Novarch (as these edicts were closely associated with imperial power in Seyrun). An outright refutation of the Novarch, however, would have put the king on somewhat shaky ground: For six centuries, the Line of Kings has been recognized and legitimized as a divine bloodright dating back to the Holy Coronation performed by the Novarch in 127 YD. So what the king did, while continuing to acknowledge the Novarch as the Living Voice of the Nine Gods, was to declare the Novarch to have no secular or religious authority over the lands controlled by the divine bloodright of the Barundian royal family.

Now, the supreme leader of the Church in Barund has always been the Prelate of Barund. The Prelate of Barund, appointed by the Novarch, has authority over the regional prelates of the Church throughout Barund. The king of Barund, on the authority of his divine bloodline, promptly appointed his own Prelate of Barund. So, even today, there are two Prelates of Barund: One appointed by the King and the other appointed by the Novarch.

NEXT JOURNAL ENTRY

Ptolus - In the Shadow of the Spire

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE

SESSION 8A: WAKING IN CHAINS

October 7th, 2007
The 24th Day of Amseyl in the 790th Year of the Seyrunian Dynasty

Dominic woke to the cold taste of iron on his wrists. His hands had been chained above his head. He could hear people moving around him – the sounds echoed oddly. There was cold stone under him and against his back. He could feel that his wounds had been bound, but there was little strength in his limbs and it seemed as if every muscle and bone ached.

Dominic surreptitiously opened his eyes and looked around, trying not to attract attention to the fact that he had woken up. He saw that his companions had been chained up next to him (although it seemed as if Ranthir remained free). They were all in a damp cave of some sort, half of which appeared to be an underground lake. One of the serpentine creatures was just coming out of the Ptolus - Malkeen Balacazarwater, hauling a wooden crate to join a stack of similar crates. Several human workers were breaking the crates open and inspected small packages inside. He also saw a large adrak (a lizardman) with its back criss-crossed with scars and dozens of bells tied to him in a variety of ways. There were also several exits from the room: Two by way of water, a dry tunnel in one direction, and an iron door set into the wall in the other.

A man and woman were standing nearby, perhaps ten or fifteen feet away. The man was wearing robes of blue and white, with a hood that loosely covered his brown hair. He had handsome features made all the more striking by the star-burst tattoo emblazoned over his right eye. He was saying: “I didn’t want to interfere with it. When I looked at what it was doing… Well, the black tendrils were beautifully woven. I wasn’t sure what it was doing, so I left it and came back up to meet you. I thought for sure that you’d have some insight into it, Gattara. You have such a gift for such things.”

The obese woman next to him giggled, trying too hard to be attractive. “Flattery will win you everything.” She wore make-up an inch deep and gaudy Ptolus - Gattara Vladaamjewelry galore. Intricate curls of thick, red hair fell down across a bloated face of mascara and blush.

The man spoke again: “Hmm… But now she seems to have escaped. Which rather complicates things.”

The woman answered: “I’m sure it’s nothing that can’t be overcome.”

Agnarr groggily awoke just in time to hear the last of this exchange. Like Dominic he did his best to feign sleep, and it seemed to succeed (although Dominic realized his friend had awakened as well).

It made little difference, though, because the man said: “Na’haras, wake them up.”
(more…)

Ptolus - In the Shadow of the Spire

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE

SESSION 7A: THE ARISTOCRAT’S TABLE

May 5th, 2007
The 22nd Day of Amseyl in the 790th Year of the Seyrunian Dynasty

The group woke up late in the morning of the 22nd after a long sleep which eased the pain of aching limbs into a dull reminder of the previous day’s rigors.

Dominic expended himself in channeling the holy energy of Athor to heal as many of their wounds as he could. Elestra’s battered body was restored entirely and Ranthir was left with only a weariness from the blood he had lost. But the painful wounds to either side of Agnarr’s neck refused to close and, after inspecting them, Dominic concluded that Agnarr would need a full day of rest under his ministrations.

So Dominic settled into Agnarr’s room, praying occasionally and generally tending to his wounds. Ranthir retired to his own bed and set to work copying an additional spell from Collus’ spellbook into his own that would allow him to detect the presence of the undead – he wasn’t sure why, but he had a sneaking suspicion it might come in handy.

Elestra walked out into the city, seeking the Breath of the Streets. It seemed as if she could sense it stirring the hairs upon the back of her neck – and there was a lingering familiarity in it… but she couldn’t feel it, yet. Nor could she hear the Voice.

Tee offered to accompany her, but Elestra needed to walk alone. So Tee headed off to do her own shopping. As she turned to go, however, both of them heard a town-crier: Helmut Itlestein had publicly renounced the Republican movement and the Commissar had outlawed all Republican activity in the city.

Out of curiosity, Tee headed back to the Delver’s Guild and discovered the pro-Republican flyers she had seen hanging there previously had all been torn down. While she was there, she kept a promise she had made to Agnarr and asked around about the pits of insanity: The barbarian had wanted to try bottling the primal chaos in order to use its effects on magic as an inhibition against nefarious spellcasters. Unfortunately, Tee quickly learned that primal chaos was simply too dangerous – it would destroy anything it touched.

Tee then headed over to Saches to check on Phon again, only to discover that she wasn’t working that day. Tee took the opportunity to order a few new shirts (as she seemed to be burning through them – often quite literally).

(more…)

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