The Secret of Adensborough

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The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:22 am

A timber bent under the pressure with a loud TSNACKTT! Nathan's head snapped to the right. Motes of wood flew from the squared, span-thick wooden pillar, where it was now half broken at a sharp angle. He dropped his hammer and ran with the other men to the timber, hurrying to repair and reinforce the damage in the mere moments they had before it might spread to adjacent timbers. The narrow cliff track was precarious to work by. Nathan was always aware of exactly how far the edge lay--at the moment probably just under two armspans--while he leaned into the broken timber, his right hand on top of his left, using all his height and weight to keep it from collapsing any further. Birds chirped just off the edge of the cliff, out in the open sky, taunting him, laughing at his pathetic effort, daring him to fail.

But he did not fail. He and his fellows managed to hold the timber long enough for a brace to be set up and the timber repaired, reinforced with two more next to it on either side. Had they failed, one house up above would have fallen off the supported platform and tumbled in ruin down the mountainside below the cliff. Other houses might have followed it--who could tell? Well, it was over for the moment, and Nathan sat at a bench facing the cliff, with one of his fellows, drinking cool water from a cup made of horn. He raked his fingers through his dark brown hair, his palm coming off wet with the sweat from his forehead. He finished the water in the cup, its rim scraping against his straight nose. He rubbed at it with a calloused finger, and sighed.

"Quick work, Nathan. Very well done," said the older, family man named Jorge.
"How long before the timbers break faster than we can replace them?" With a clear voice like his, depression affected everyone. Nathan didn't normally sound so somber. "I'm sorry, Jorge. I don't know why I said that."
"Well, it is true we're having to go farther and farther for trees."
Nathan only nodded. He couldn't think of a way to lift the mood he'd just dragged down, despite their success. The vista before them was as beautiful as it ever was. The late morning sun warmed the skin while the cool mountain breezes cooled it. Nathan's armless, thin wool tunic was loose enough to let in air to cool his wide torso. He wasn't husky, just tall and slightly more heavily built than average.
Jorge patted him on the back, causing Nathan's tunic to stick for a moment. "Ach, you're still young. You'll have plenty to fret over soon enough; best not start now."
Nathan might normally have said You're right. We'll sort it out. But not today. Today he could only nod. He stood up and managed a smile, pointing over to where he'd been working before.
"Yes, best we get back to work." Jorge stood up and walked with him a ways, but then stopped. "Listen, why don't you go up top and check for any damage. The walk'd do you some good. We have plenty of men to handle things here."
"Alright."

Nathan turned around and headed back along the cliffside track, the drop some yards to his left and the reinforced wall of supporting timbers to his right. He looked down at the sawdust on stone as he walked. Before long the track began to rise. Adensborough had been built right into the side of the mountain--Mount Penumbra, a tall, lonely peak that stood apart from the tip of the northeastern range of the darker Dragons' Teeth mountains--long ago. Adensborough had stood safe, isolated, and self-sufficient for many, many generations. Never before had there been so much need of maintenance and repair.

The ground leveled off and Nathan looked up, seeing the distant end of the vaulted mouth of the enormous cave in which Adensborough was set. The smooth stone ceiling, though shadowed high above, was visible in the ambient light. The ancient rune that stood for 'A' was etched, enormously, into the center of the ceiling, with elaborate designs flowing around it, like a stylized sun or flower. The opening faced south. The city flowed north up in tiers toward the back of the cave, with the largest, tower-like building half set into the cave wall. There were other buildings and passages further into the mountain, as well. Some passages led to smaller openings outside the mountain, where there were a few fields and pastures overlooking the cliffs. Other passages went higher into the mountain, and some of these opened onto balconies set high up in many places on the great cave wall, many set higher than the tower.

Nathan turned about and walked along the fringe of the city, this time with the cliff and cave opening to his right. He followed the curve of the stony road, sparsely peopled with neighbors going about their daily lives or running errands. The street was lined on either side with houses, single-storied and low-roofed to avoid obstructing the view. There were grasses, flowers and shrubs growing in trough gardens full of soil. Flowerpots hung from the roofs, bordered the windows, and lined walkways and doors. Most of the buildings were a combination of wood and stone. Further up in the city, especially past the belt of fields beyond the fringe, they became more stone, while out here on the fringe itself they were almost completely made of wood. Nathan couldn't resist looking up at certain spots along some of the tiers of the city. They drooped slightly, frighteningly, as if the stone were sinking. Work was being done to reinforce the buildings with mortar or wood or stone or some combination, depending on the situation. Several houses were still being repaired from when all this had started, catching them unprepared. That was almost three years ago.

Nathan finally came to the spot above where he'd helped brace the timber. The stone the house here had been resting on had been steadily falling. They expected it to give way any time now. Already the stone was an arm's length below the solid wood planks that had, by a feat of engineering, been put in place of the stone. The King of their small city, at the request of the council, had decreed seven months ago that not a single dwelling be lost or left in disrepair, so the house stood there still. Its family had abandoned it for the time being, however, in case worse came to worst. Amazingly, Nathan found nothing damaged as a result of the break. The other timbers had held out until the repairs were complete. If the stone followed the pattern and continued to sink only straight downward, then everything would be fine. Until it started to happen in a new spot, again. Nathan walked cautiously to the edge of the sturdy wood planks, leaned over and signaled down to his fellows that all was well. Backing away from the edge, Nathan started back along the street to continue the work, his mind dwelling on everything and nothing.

"Nathan Eldridge!"

Nathan turned to his right, away from the vista of the cave opening. Someone had come from a cross street that led upward into the city. It was a stern-looking young man in noble's livery. He recognized it. "Yes?" he said, already beginning to guess what was going on.
"His Grace Lord Pelleas wants to speak with you, at once."
So he'd been found out. "Alright, I'll follow you." Nathan knew exactly where the noble's house was, but he followed obediently behind the messenger up many tiers of the city and along several streets. The noble's house was three stories, with a decorated front whose entrance was centered and beautified with flowers and with potted shrubs almost as large as trees. Once inside and past the grand entryway, Nathan was led into the noble's receiving room, a grand affair of rich greens and blues and darkwood lounge chairs.

"Wait here," said the young man. Nathan did, not bothering to sit in one of the chairs. He did look around at the pictures hanging on the walls in gilded frames. He would have liked to take a closer look at the book titles on the shelves, but he thought better of it. He needed to tread softly in this situation. It was going to be embarrassing enough showing up sweaty from work without looking like a snoop. He stood at ease and waited patiently.

Soon enough the door was opened and the noble walked in, waving for the door to be closed behind him. Lord Pelleas Selene was a bit shorter than Nathan--most men in Adensborough were at least a bit shorter than Nathan--lightly built and a little pudgy. He was aging but still handsome enough, with a well kept mustache and beard and a full, combed mass of dark hair that fell outward and then back in on either side, down to his jawline. He was dressed in light blue finery, and he held a straight cane by its decorative knob. He squinted a bit as his eyes raked Nathan over.

"Your Grace--"
"I'll come straight to the point," the noble said. His voice was low but slightly nasal. He paused for several moments, making Nathan start to sweat all over again. "Now that I've seen you, you don't seem so bad, but I'll have you know I don't respect you for all this secrecy."
Nathan was cautious to feel relief. "Your Grace?"
Lord Pelleas's eyes still raked, but he flashed something of a smile. "I've decided to give you a chance. I doubt she'd forgive me if I didn't at least give you that. Come back tonight and we'll have supper. You can see Nyna properly then."
Nathan wanted to shout for joy. He restrained himself from that, at least, but he couldn't hide his excitement. "Oh, thank you, Your Grace. I thought--"
"Thought what? That I'd have you beaten and tell you never to see my daughter again?" His smile shifted to one side. "I'd considered it. And I still might do just that, for all you've been up to with my daughter over the past months. Or is it longer? Hm? As I said, I don't fancy a man who'll get what he wants by sneaking," he jabbed the point of his cane toward Nathan. "But for all that, you don't seem a bad sort. Mistrustful perhaps, or perhaps it was Nyna overworrying, but you have a decent look about you. The question is: which is more true, honest or sneak? So, you've got some character to prove. I'll know better what to make of you soon enough, soon enough."

An awkward silence ensued, which Nathan didn't dare break.
"Right then, run along now," Lord Pelleas finally said, as if he were talking to a youth. "I expect you'll be here this evening."
Lord Pelleas turned back and knocked on the door, which was opened for him. The noble went back to whatever it was nobles did, and Nathan was shown back out. Outside, just beyond the door, Nathan took a long, deep breath. "Whew." He was feeling light-headed, but he ignored that and just started walking. He ought to get back to his place to clean himself up.

Nathan's house--part of it complete, part of it still in planning--he had built almost by himself. He began it when he was sixteen on the edge of the city proper, but since that time more tiers to the city had been added, so that now, eighteen years later, his house now stood on the third tier up from the almost flat, gentle slope. The slope extended almost all the way to the opening and contained a few fields and pastures in a wide belt before it flattened onto several streets and rows of houses--the fringes where he'd just worked, overlooking the cliffside track. More and more of the gardens and flocks were being transferred to other parts of the mountain, as the city gradually expanded by carving tiers into the slope.

On his way through the peopled streets, Nathan had to stop when a large group, parading through, blocked his route. They were chanting something. "Must Act Now! Must Act Now!"
Nathan wondered what was going on. He asked a bystander, who told him the King had postponed the regular meeting of the nobles and the council. Nathan was puzzled. That would have been in two days. Why postpone it? The other people didn't know either, but everyone assumed it had to have something to do with all this mysteriously sinking stone. Troubled, Nathan continued to his house after the group had passed.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Dio the Awesome on Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:16 pm

Mountains of books slid slowly off of shelves and onto the floor, mirroring the current state of the kingdom. This caused dust to descended on the study in thick clouds. The books were accompanied by old scrolls, various charms and the occasional statue, which lay scattered across a large hardwood desk. The finish on the desk was scratched and pocketed by excessive use. There was a large blob of wax on the desk, with half used candles protruding out of it, some at odd angles. The wax had long ago dripped onto the desk and hardened, making the candles a permanent fixture. Only one of the candles was actually lit, casting dim light on a sleeping figure. Her long red hair spilled across the desk in curls. A knock at the door stirred the woman.

She rose her head groggily, rubbing her emerald green eyes. There was a single envelope sitting on the desk which she had fallen asleep on. It bore the royal seal, as well a wet patch of drool. Feeling slightly embarrassed, the woman wiped it on the edge of her cloak; a knee long dark blue piece of fabric with a collar and a large hood. She looked to the envelope in her hand. The royal order felt like a death sentence. Scant progress has been made in the two years since the order was given. She was actually surprised they were still trying. The knock sounded again, louder this time, ringing of urgency.

"Ah! Coming!" She shouted at the door.

She hurried out of her cluttered study and down the hall. The woman paused at the door for a moment to brush some of the wrinkles out of her clothing. She had on burgundy trousers and a pale long sleeve shirt as well as a pair of... muddied boots? She hastily kicked them off, vaguely remembering the trek on the plains she took yesterday. It was not an unusual occurrence for her to fall asleep at her desk in her clothing. She opened the door just as the man rose his fist to knock again.

"Scholar Alicia Hemrose?" The man asked in a voice that could only have been produced in a noble household.

"That's me." Alicia replied, forgetting the usual, 'Your Grace' at the end.

The man opened his mouth to correct her, but decided it was a waste of his time. He handed Alicia another envelope with the same royal seal. "Your are to bring your findings to the council in two days time." And without another word he turned and walked off.

Alicia stood stunned in her door way. If the first envelope was a death sentence, then this one was the guillotine. She stood there, looking down on the city. Her house, which was also her study, was built on the first street of the second tier. From her door way you could see most of the city, sloping down before her. She could see the third tier, most of it housing for the middle class. She could see the market place below that was on the fifth tier. She could see the last line of houses on the very bottom of the mountain where civilization suddenly ended and then gave way to empty air. It would all become empty air, she thought, unless something is done. What that something was though, she hadn't a clue.

Alicia closed the door and trudged back to her study. She tossed the envelope she held beside the one on the desk. She didn't need to read them. The first she had committed to memory long ago. The second was just a sheet of paper so she had no excuse to miss her appointment with the council.

Scholar Alicia Hemrose, the first letter read.

By official order of the council, and high Majesty Augustine Rupert the Second, you are hereby ordered to commit your studies, research, and all academic endeavours to finding, crafting, or creating artifacts or spells of a magical nature. You are not permitted to share or discuss your work with any civilian, save other scholars. The crown with pay you for your efforts every month as a research grant.

Signed,

The Royal Council


Magic. The very concept of magic defies a scholars instincts. Yet that was the task she was charged with. Two years of wasted time looking for something that can't exist. She opened a small wooden box which sat on her desk. It was a nice box, with a rose engraved on the top, representing the family name. She couldn't tell you where the 'Hem' part was supposed to be though. The inside of the box was fir lined and on the fir sat a stone necklace. It was quite simple and unassuming; just a brown rock with a hole in it tied to a string. Alicia thought it was a waste of a box for it to hold this plain necklace. If not for one thing. The stone was always wet. Sometimes it would drip, but for the most part it was just damp. That was why it was in the box. This necklace was the closest thing to 'magic' that Alicia was able to find in two years. But even Alicia wasn't fully convinced of that. It just could be a type of stone with very fine pores that collects condensation. Hardly remarkable.

It was all she has to show, but when she brought to to the council... Perhaps they would think that such a trivial thing was worse than nothing.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:00 am

Nathan was looking out a large window at Lord Pelleas's manor, looking out at the moon- and lamp-lit city/kingdom spread out before him. Through the huge cave opening, stars were visible. Though the moon itself was obscured by the cave ceiling, the rim of the cave mouth glowed in the moonlight, so that it seemed their window to the sky was bounded by a ring of silver. In the far distance, lower hills and mountains could be scarcely made out, bright and unshaded from the light in the sky. The distance hazed the outlines of the hills and their coverings of trees, especially this far into the city. Every once in a while, moments like this impressed upon Nathan their picturesque beauty. Nervous waiting, Nathan mused, tended to open one's eyes to the surroundings.

At last the servant reappeared. "Supper will soon be served," the younger man said. "If you will follow me?" Nathan did. The house was large, though not cavernously so. The rooms were laid out in staggered patterns that made good use of the space. Nathan did his best not to gape around too much. He'd been here before, dallying secretly with Nyna, but he hadn't then had access to the main rooms of the house. Sensible opulence, Nathan thought, as he took it all in. And then he forgot all care about the surroundings, for there in one of the dining chairs sat Nyna. Dark-haired and dainty, but with a spark in her eyes, the sight of her was almost enough to distract Nathan from the presence of Lord Pelleas, seated close by.

This was the smaller dining room. The darkwood table could have accommodated ten people comfortably, but there were only three chairs. Pelleas sat alone on one side, while Nathan's seat was a good arm's length away from Nyna on the other. Nathan sat, risking a glance in Nyna's direction. She had tact enough not to say anything, though she attempted a reassuring smile. It eased some of his tension, but Nathan didn't quite feel reassured.

"So, my dear boy," boomed Pelleas's not-quite-manly voice, so suddenly that Nathan started, "you must tell me a bit about yourself." The lord had rested his chin on half his hand, his forefinger cradling his cheek. He'd emphasized the word 'dear' just enough to seem as if he meant the opposite. His tight-lipped smile gave Nathan the feeling he was enjoying this. Nathan cleared his throat. "Um, anything in particular you would like to know?"
"I would love to know quite a notable number of things." He was apparently going to leave it at that. No easy outs, then. Nathan supposed he couldn't blame him. The more he thought about it, the more guilty he felt at having been so secretive for so long. But Nathan reminded himself he wasn't a boy anymore; he didn't need to feel so inferior or nervous. After all Pelleas seemed reasonable enough, beyond all expectations. Though, to be fair, Nathan and Nyna's expectations had plainly been somehow blown out of proportion.
Nathan felt the silence was dragging too long. He ought to have said something by now. "Well," he began, "you probably know my parents are..." he searched for a way to spare offense and save face at the same time, "...simpler folk? They run a bakery on 6th Tier, but my father also works for the Counters on 4th. My grandsire was a carpenter, so my da had the know to build his house all on his own. Of course we've added on since then." Nathan felt odd, talking openly about his own affairs. He kept on, anyway. "I've got a place of my own on the end of 12th Tier..."
"How did the two of you meet?"
Nathan looked over at Nyna. By her look, clearly he was the one expected to answer.
Pelleas sensed the hesitation and pounced. "Well?"
Nathan, feeling unjustly beleaguered, finally rallied. He had been thinking of delicate ways to relate the events, but now his back straightened in defiance. He spoke boldly, refusing to feel ashamed of his relationship with Nyna. "I followed her at the market four years ago." He paused to revel in how much of a shock it must be to learn the full length of their dalliance. "Nyna was the most beautiful person I'd ever seen, and I told her so. It wasn't so easy as that, but essentially from that time on, we've kept only to each other." Nyna would have told Pelleas that she and Nathan hadn't slept together. They'd kissed many times and embraced more times than could be counted, but it hadn't gone beyond that. "We had wanted to make it known sooner, but the past three years have been... difficult, for everyone. We've been putting it off and putting it off, until a few months ago. We were going to wait until summertime, when the stone seems to shift less, and then take the next steps." Before Pelleas could get a word in, and just to be completely clear, Nathan finished, "I plan to marry Nyna."

After a brief, uncomfortable pause, Pelleas squinted over at his daughter. "I suppose you love him," he asked, tilting his head in Nathan's direction. Nyna nodded. "More than anyone." Then, seeing her father visibly flinch, she said almost through tears, "Da, I didn't mean it like that! I..."
"It's all right," the lord said reassuringly. He turned to Nathan. "I'm sorry to have put the test to you, but it seems to have been worth the discomfort. Your honesty puts me at ease."
"We did have some worry that you would take offense at my station, to tell you the truth, sir. It was the main reason for the secrecy."
Pelleas waved it off. "An old fashioned way of thinking."
Nathan thought he might be shaking. The muscles in his limbs felt weak. "It's a relief to hear you say it."
"But..." Nyna sounded as if she thought it too good to be true, "but don't you always say how much you miss the old ways? How you wish our society could have kept closer to its roots?"
"Well, not all ways of thinking ought to be old fashioned. I feel our king ought to have more say in our little kingdom, for example."
"...Oh." Nyna looked a little sheepish.
The servant chose this moment to enter with the main course. While everyone was distracted, Nathan risked scooting his chair closer to Nyna's. If Pelleas noticed, he didn't let on.

When dinner was over, the three of them stood in a comfortable withdrawing room. Nathan, Nyna and Lord Pelleas hadn't said anything since they entered. For all the comfort of the opulent space, the three had become stuck in an uncomfortable silence, in which staring out the window seemed the only safe thing to do. Outside, the whitish ring of the cave opening proclaimed the moon's brilliance. Nathan noticed, too, a number of moving torch-lights throughout the city.
"So," Lord Pelleas began, "I suppose--"
A heavy tapping sound from behind interrupted him. One of the lord's servants, they saw, had tapped a ceremonial walking stick on the floor. "Messenger for you, milord."
Pelleas grimaced, "Mm," and walked off toward the main entrance, leaving Nathan and Nyna alone for the moment.

Nathan felt Nyna cascade into him, her arms embracing his middle. Nathan put an arm around her shoulders. Her long, lavender dress trailed from where she had stood a moment ago. Its lacy neckline came to just below her collarbone, leaving her shoulders bare, soft, slightly cold. He could feel her dark, silky hair folding over his forearm as she looked up at him. Relief and love combined with the spark in her eye to create an unnamable expression. She said nothing. "I know," Nathan responded, holding her more closely, settling his head over hers.

Nathan didn't notice when Pelleas came back into the room. He and Nyna started at Pelleas's "Ahem." He hadn't cleared his throat; he'd actually said the word aloud. Nyna smiled but didn't move. Nathan half-coughed innocently. "I suppose I ought to get used to it," Pelleas grumbled through a little smile. But then he turned serious.
"Da? What's happened?"
"Lord Harmon has invited me to his manor tonight. He's calling a meeting of the nobles."
"Of house Gedain?" said Nathan. "Can he do that?"
"Not the way he's doing it, no. This might have something to do with the Royal Council, since the King postponed the meeting. People are getting anxious. I can only imagine what Harmon might be up to." He sighed, squinting out the window. "I smell trouble."
Nathan was suddenly concerned, thinking of the people he saw chanting through the streets. "They don't like the King's delay?"
"So it would seem, but I don't know why. Maybe I'll find out when I get to Harmon's manor." There was a pause. "And don't even think about trying anything while I'm gone," he directed at Nathan. "If you two have held on for this long, you can wait 'till you're married this summer."
Nyna gasped in delight and ran over to hug her father, almost knocking him over.
Nathan smiled with joy, even as a nagging worry took root in his mind.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Dio the Awesome on Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:59 am

The rest of the day passed by uneventfully. Alicia paced around the large house, feeling the deadline creep ever closer. The house was owned by her parents, though she supposed that by law it was her house now. Both her mother and her father left the city years ago to map the rest of the world. Everyone advised against it saying to was folly. Saying it was suicide. According to legend and the short history recorded before the city's construction, the land below was inhabited by monsters of many sorts. It was also said that the air was filled with a thick miasma that was poisonous to humans. But after a few short expeditions, Alan and Beth Hemrose discovered that the miasma was nothing more than harmless fog. This encouraged other explorers to travel below the city to see what was there.

Unfortunately the monsters were no legend.

A few days after the first expeditions, a group of seven left to the east to map a neighbouring mountain. They wanted to see if it was possible to erect a second city on that mountain in order to expand the kingdom. The soon went missing. Five days later they were discovered dismembered and partially eaten. The wounds were made by no known animal. More troubling was the fact that it seemed like several different animals were involved in the attack. After that incident, the King ruled it against the law to travel outside of the last tier, under penalty of exile. Alicia's parents defied the law, and of course, were never seen again. That was five years ago, leaving the house empty, save for Alicia and a single house keeper, Cynthia. She was an old crone, but worked for little more than room and board. She kept the house clean and the laundry tidy, but Alicia had one strict rule. Stay out of the study. She couldn't stand it when people moved her papers about. Of course this made the study the only dusty room in the house, but it was worth it.

Alicia made her way to the bathing room, where Cynthia had just poured her a hot bath. She stripped down and slid into the tub. It had taken her a few years, but in the end she accepted her parents decision. She liked to think that there was something to find below. That somewhere in the fog and beyond the monsters there was civilization, and they were still living there. With that final thought Alicia dozed off.

She found herself standing back in the study. Her desk was unusually clear. The only thing on it was the damp necklace. She walked up to it, and touched it gently. Suddenly a torrent of water shot from the stone and filling the study.

---

She awoke suddenly as her head slipped below the water. Alicia pulled herself upright, spitting water on the floor. After brushing the water off of her face, her ears registered a pounding on the door. "Miss Hemrose! Please open up!" An elderly voice called.

Alicia pulled her wrinkled body out of the tub and hastily dawned a robe before answering the door. When she saw Cynthia, she seemed to breath a sigh of relief and placed one hand over her heart. "Thank The Maker." Cynthia prayed, "I was moments away from breaking the door down myself."

"I'm sorry to worry you Cynthia." Alicia apologized, "I must have been sleepier than I thought. I'll take myself up to my room for the night."

Cynthia mutter something to herself and went into the bathing room to drain the water. Only the first three tiers had ready access to water. The city had to rely on cisterns and run off from the mountain, since there was no nearby spring. This house, like most of the houses on the first three tiers was equipped with its own cistern, whereas each other tier relied on communal ones. The lower classes had to draw their own water and carry it back to their houses. In addition, the water needed to be regulated so there was no fear of running out.

Alicia paused as she passed her parents old bedroom. It had gone unused since their departure. Even though it was bigger, Alicia found that she just couldn't get to sleep in it. She elected to stay in her childhood room; it felt much safer. Laying on the bed, she did her best to recall her brief dream. She fiercely hoped there was something more to that stone than meets the eye. The council meeting was soon. With that on her mind, it was unlikely she would get rest no matter where she slept.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:52 am

Before opening the door, Pelleas took one last look around. The city was quiet. He could only see two torchlights moving through the tiers. The cave mouth gleamed in the moonlight. The air was crisp, fresh with early morning dew. It was a little past midnight. Pelleas couldn't be sure he was the last noble to arrive at Harmon's villa, but it certainly seemed that way. With a resigned, fortifying sniff of the cool air, Pelleas turned the unlocked handle and swept himself inside.

The entry was dark, unlit. No servant greeted him, but that was to be expected for this meeting. At any rate, Pelleas knew the way past the receiving room, through the kitchens and past the pantry, into the study and through the secret door. Nobles knew better than to betray one another's secrets. It was one reason kings made nobles and not the other way around. The nobles shared their little secrets with one another, but not with anyone else, and especially not the King. If a noble became King, all those secrets would no longer be safe. That was another thing that greatly troubled Pelleas. If Harmon was planning something... less than loyal...if he were, say, hoping to win himself the crown... Aye, Harmon had his own secrets and might thus be kept in check, but Pelleas didn't like taking the chance, and certainly not with Harmon.

The secret room led to a corridor which was actually a tunnel leading into the mountain. At the other end stood a door guarded by two of Harmon's servants. Recognizing Lord Pelleas, they let him in. Lamplight greeted Pelleas's eyes with a suddenness that made him squint.

"Ah, at last we may begin," said a strongish voice, Harmon's.
Pelleas, adjusting to the relative light, made out the King's cousin standing behind a wide block of wood that looked more like a desk than a podium. Harmon's slick, dark hair and shaven face were easy to recognize, even if he hadn't been the center of attention. Pelleas only nodded and took a seat. The large room was sparsely furnished but felt comfortable enough. The space was large enough to hold plenty of air, but the walls were padded with cloth so as to avoid echoes. Still, with this many people--33 in all--Pelleas had the feeling it was going to get stuffy before long.

Pelleas sat in the last remaining seat of the semicircle before the podium-desk behind which Lord Harmon was resting his mouth and nose on steepled fingers. Pelleas waited patiently for his sure to be dramatic beginning.

"Friends," Harmon exaggerated, not yet lifting his face from his fingers, "the purpose of this," he inhaled, "meeting, is to discuss the grave matter of the King's recent," he inhaled, "misdirection." He paused, almost daring one of them to object. They did not. He went on, finally raising his head. His black eyes exuded concern. "I myself--and I'm sure you all feel the same--find it," he inhaled, "distressing, that the King should choose to postpone the regular meeting of the council. What has he to hide? Ah, but isn't that the question." He gazed soberly at his 'friends.' "My friends, I must confide in you my deepest concerns. I feel the King's," he inhaled, "mistrust--for such it can only be--can spell only doom for all of Adensborough. This crisis cannot be steered to a solution with so," he inhaled, "impulsive, a leader. My friends, what say you? What is to be done?"
Place more trust in our King, you dunderpate, Pelleas thought immediately. He kept that to himself, for now. He wasn't sure where everyone else stood on the matter.
"You are right of course, Lord Harmon," one of the men said. "That the King should choose to postpone the meeting of the council can only mean he wishes to keep important facts from us, the honored supporters of the city. Mistrust is likely the least of our worries."
"Well spoken," said another.
"Aye."
Pelleas remained very still. He did not like where this was going.
Harmon nodded sagely. "The citizens of Adensborough need personages of influence to champion their best interest. If the King has turned against them..."
Turned against the nobles, you mean, thought Pelleas.
"...then it is up to us to protect our people. Are we united in this?"
One by one, the nobles assented--wholeheartedly, by all appearances. When it came Pelleas's turn, self preservation trumped loyalty, at least outwardly. "You indeed have my support, Lord Harmon," he said through a pang of guilt, hoping Lord Harmon believed him.

From there the nobles' talk lengthened for more than a couple hours, making plans, debating plans, and generally voicing complaints or concerns. Pelleas made whatever input he supplied as vaguely positive as possible. He observed everyone, especially Harmon, with as meticulous a scrutiny as he could muster. The kingdom, he knew in his bones, might depend on it.

The nobles took turns exiting the villa. Pelleas left somewhere in the middle. It was still dark, barely showing the first gray dimness of the pre-dawn hours. Pelleas went straight back to his own home; Harmon was certain to have someone--or several someones--watching.

Once he was inside, Pelleas felt his lack of sleep as if someone had dropped a sack of grain on his shoulders. He swiped a hand over his suddenly heavy eyelids, stifled a yawn. He trudged to his dining room, turned past into the kitchen into the pantry, fetched a small loaf of bread and a wrapped round of cheese. Almost sleep-walking, he split open the loaf, cut a slice of the soft cheese, stuffed it into the bread and took a very large, very hungry bite. Instantly the exhaustion was held at bay. He was able to focus his eyes again. He chewed, swallowed, poured himself a small cup of water from a pitcher, and drank. He couldn't sleep yet. He had things to do.

Re-wrapping the cheese, returning it to the pantry, Pelleas munched on his improvised meal as he made his way to his study. He was intending to write a discreet letter to someone about all this and was almost there when he remembered: that young man, Nathan, must still be here! Suddenly awake and suspicious, he wondered what his daughter and he were up to. Then he realized, with a wave of relief, that he wouldn't have to risk writing a letter after all.

Nathan was asleep on a bench outside Nyna's upstairs room. Suddenly his dream was invaded by a menacing Lord Pelleas prodding his shoulder and shouting his name, "Nathan! Nathan!" Nathan subsequently awoke to the sight of Lord Pelleas prodding his shoulder and muttering his name, "Nathan! Nathan!"
Nathan needed a moment to realize he had indeed woken up. "Uh...? Am I dreaming? I mean, wait..." Once he did realize Lord Pelleas really was standing over him, Nathan sat up instantly with a startled gasp.

By this time one of the servants was up and coming down the hallway. Lord Pelleas noticed he was there. "Ah, good. Would you be kind enough to make us a bit of a breakfast?"
"Of course, milord," the servant bowed his way onward toward the kitchens downstairs.
Nathan stood up cautiously, sure that any moment Lord Pelleas would turn back around--
--which of course he did. The devious smile on the lord's face, though, was quite unexpected. Nathan found himself wishing for a more characteristically suspicious squint. Or maybe even an outright frown. Anything. "Uhhhmm... Y-Yes?" Nathan got to look down slightly at Pelleas, but that didn't make him feel any more secure.
What Pelleas said next, if possible, was worse. "You're going to help me save the kingdom."

Breakfast has a way of making everything all better. By the end of his, Nathan was feeling quite a bit less startled and quite a bit more knowledgeable. He even felt a certain numb detachment at the prospect of what he was being roped into. He was going to feel very, very different (very, very afraid) as soon as he was away from breakfast--he just knew it. Probably before lunch, if he even lived to see lunch. And there was still one major problem.
"How am I supposed to get to see the King?"
"There are a few ways we could try." Lord Pelleas had just finished explaining the entire situation in extensive, troubling specificity. As Nathan understood it, Lord Harmon was plotting against the King, and Pelleas's hands were tied, so Nathan had to be the one to get the news to the King as soon as may be. "It would be best if we could find a way that doesn't connect you to me--or me to you. Is there anyone in your family who might have relations with the council?"
"I'm not sure."
"If your father works for the Counters, that might work. Even better though if there were someone more loosely connected. A messenger, perhaps, or a scholar?"
"I have a cousin who is a scholar. Alic--"
"Don't!! Don't tell me her name! That sounds perfect. Make sure of her loyalties--discreetly. If she's a scholar she'll probably be after the truth and not just loyal to the King, which would be even better. You should leave soon, while it's still early. If I'm being watched, they won't suspect I talked to you about this if you leave before proper breakfast-time. They may think you're messing with my daughter again and don't want to meet with me--and so much the better if they do."
Nathan hesitated. "Will Nyna be safe...?"
"Don't worry, I'm not in any danger yet, not if I keep my head down and do what I'm told--or appear to. Even if I were in danger, Nyna wouldn't come to harm herself. You needn't fear--for her, at least."
Nathan took the hint. "I'll be careful."
"I'm putting a lot of faith in you, my lad. Well, a bit more than a lad, I ought to credit you. I wish my faith in you had more foundation than one time sleeping on a bench in the face of who knows how many times sneaking off behind my back. Still, it is what it is, and for all of it I hope you come out of this a wiser, even more devious man."
"I'd settle for all in one piece."
"There is that." Pelleas smiled a nod.

Hours later, after stopping at his own place for a while to keep up appearances, Nathan made his way to his cousin Alicia's house, back up on Second Tier. He stood for a moment at the door apprehensive. After taking a deep breath, he steeped forward to knock. He hoped she remembered him....
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Dio the Awesome on Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:35 am

A knock at the door sounded throughout the house. As usual for the Hemrose household, Cynthia was the only person awake. As she moved from the kitchen to the front door, an audible crack from the woman's knee betrayed her age. Cynthia paused for a moment to rub the aching limb. A second burst of knocking rang out before she placed a wrinkled hand on the knob. She pulled it open to greet the visitor.

"Hemrose residence, may I help you?" Cynthia asked.

A grey haired courier handed Cynthia a sealed envelope. "See that Miss. Hemrose gets this letter."

Without another word the courier walked off. Cynthia looked at the envelope which bore the royal seal. It was unlikely to contain good news. She placed the envelope in her smock and was about to close the door when she saw a young man ascending the front steps.

"Well well, look who has decided to finally make a visit." Cynthia called down to Nathan.

Nathan waved, "Good morning Cynthia. It's important that I speak with Alicia."

Cynthia held the door for him, "The lady is not yet awake. Please come in, I was just making breakfast. You're welcome to some of course."

The maid took Nathan's jacket and boots and placed them in the closet. Then she lead him through the house. For the most part the walls were barren, with the occasional picture or potted plant occupying the halls. These were remnants of Alicia's parents, who of course believed it was important to keep up appearances and therefore, have an expensive looking home. Over the years Alicia had sold or moved into storage a lot of the excess furniture and paintings, keeping only those that held meaning to her. The kitchen however was a busy place. Much like Alicia's study, Cynthia practically lived in the kitchen. It was bustling with aromas and decor. Numerous plants lined the windowsill, which unfortunately had the misfortune of being located at the base of the next tier, giving the kitchen a close up view of the side of the mountain. Still, Cynthia managed to make the kitchen the most lively room in the house, sporting fancy dinning cloths and dishes. An elderly cupboard was positioned in the middle of the wall opposite of the stove, displaying antique dinning ware, which was only used on very special occasions. Cynthia waved Nathan in front of the stove.

"Be a dear and watch the bacon for me? I'll go and rouse Alicia." Cynthia did a tiny bow, and dashed off. Well, as much as an elderly woman is able to dash.

She climbed the steps two at a time, deciding not to trust a single man with cooking for very long. She came to Alicia's room and knocked on the door politely, but with volume. She heard a mumbled order from the other side of the door.

"Nathan is here to see you Miss Hemrose. Oh, and there was a courier here with another letter from the council. I'm going to slide it under the door for you. Please hurry down, Nathan said it was urgent." Cynthia slid the letter under the door and rushed back to her cooking.

The news of the courier had startled Alicia awake. She sat up and practically pounced on the letter as soon as it appeared. She broke the wax seal with a finger nail and ripped the sheets out. Her eyes flitted back and forth as she read frantically.


Scholar Alicia Hemrose,

By official order of the council, and high Majesty Augustine Rupert the Second,
Blah Blah you are hereby ordered to report to the council chambers tonight at moonrise. You are to present your findings, no matter how trivial they may seem, before the council whereupon your efforts will be judged. Failure to appear will be punished by exile.

Signed,

The Royal Council


Alicia felt her stomach drop. They pushed the meeting forward, without warning. Though, she reasoned, one day hardly mattered. It would only have been spent worrying anyways. Nathan was here. He was a timely distraction. Hopefully he would take her mind off of the horrible council meeting which was now just hours away. Alicia shrugged out of her pale pink night gown and into a pair of dark blue trousers. She then donned a green blouse and pulled her blue robe over her shoulders. As she left the room her eye caught her reflection in the mirror on her night stand. It was a mess. She quickly grabbed a brush and pulled it carelessly through her knotted red hair a few times, and then rushed down to join Nathan.

When she entered the kitchen Cynthia was already setting out plates full of bacon, eggs, rye bread and sliced apples. The maid grabbed a pitcher and filled three glasses with water. Alicia sat down opposite of Nathan.

"Morning Nathan. What brings you here? It's not like you ever come to chat without a good reason." She winked at him and bit into a piece of apple.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Wed Apr 06, 2011 12:03 am

"I wish I had come to chat, cousin Alicia," Nathan said, somewhat downcast. "It has been a long time. It's just, ever since your..." he'd been about to say 'parents.' Nathan could see Alicia pause briefly, her hand froze halfway between the plate and her mouth, before she resumed eating as normal. Her parents had died five years ago. Nathan hadn't even seen her in the streets since then; he thought maybe she had become even more reclusive. This was his first real visit to her house in more than five years. "I guess it never felt the same, coming to see you like before." In his adolescence, he'd had a secret sort of crush on his vibrant cousin who knew everything. He'd eventually grown out of that until now it embarrassed him to recall the phase, even though he thought nobody knew about it. But as he got older and their age difference grew less significant, he used to visit her as a fond relative every once in a while, sometimes helping around the house so her parents could concentrate on their catalogues. Those were happy memories.

"What do you need, Nathan?" Alicia asked.

Nathan realized he was playing with his food. He took a bite of the chicken eggs, though he hadn't a mind for food just then. "I was just thinking," he began, without looking up. "Last night people were saying something about the King postponing the council meeting. I'm not really sure what to think about that. You're a scholar. I thought, maybe you'd know something about it? I hate to doubt our King, but, doesn't it seem suspicious?"

When Alicia didn't respond, Nathan went on, his gaze still on the table. "I thought about asking my father, but," he shrugged, "I thought you might have a more objective view. And," he looked up, smiling, "I suppose I wanted to see you again." He wished that were more true. Lately he'd been so focused on Nyna, his studious cousin had all but faded from his mind, along with the rest of the world. Even with that excuse, though, he realized he ought not to have left Alicia alone for so long. Even though it hadn't felt as easy to visit her, it would have been the right thing to do.

Alicia set down her fork, looking down in her turn, her eyes sparking with thought. When she seemed to have worked out her next words, she looked directly at Nathan. "I have just now heard about the irregularities in the council meetings." Her words held an air of formality. Nathan noticed she was responding only to his main question. The spark in her eye, though, told him she also acknowledged the rest of it. "Were I to make a guess, I would say the King must have a good reason for doing so."

That was all Nathan needed to hear. He hadn't doubted Alicia, not really, but from what Pelleas has told him, Nathan thought it best to follow the lord's advice and be certain. Now he was, as much as anyone really could be. "Well," he said, "I may know what that reason is. I'm sure you know Lord Pelleas Selene?"
"Of course." Alicia said around a bit of egg, "Less stiff than most nobles. At least that is what I gather."
"Well, last night, Lord Harmon Gedain held a secret meeting of the nobles. From what Pelleas told me, Harmon is using the King's unexplained behavior to turn the nobles against him. They're planning to remove him. Pelleas is sure Harmon is after the throne, even though nobody says it outright." Nathan paused to let the information sink in. "The real reason I came here is to find a way to see the King," he confessed, "to tell him about Harmon's plot. I can't gain an audience soon enough on my own, and if I had Father do it there might be other dangers... so I thought of you. Pelleas didn't want to know your name, to keep all of us safe, but he thinks someone like you, a scholar, could gain audience with the king on short notice. We don't know how long we have before Harmon and the other nobles make their move."

Alicia had been eating thoughtfully while Nathan explained last night's events. After he had finished, she chewed her last bite thoughtfully. "This is disturbing news," she said at last, "I may or may not be able to get a private audience with the king, but I will be speaking with him soon. If the chance arises, I will inform him. That is really all I can say on the matter."

"You don't understand," said Nathan, "I need to go with you, and we need to see King as soon as possible. Now that you know of this, I think it would be dangerous for the kingdom if either of us we went off on our own. And it will be dangerous for the city if we have to deal with the nobles as well as the repairs." He wasn't sure she grasped the seriousness of this. It was more than disturbing. It was not a question of if, but when. "We can't leave it to chance. The king needs to know now; we don't know how long we have until it will be too late."

Alicia abruptly turned to Cynthia, who was politely clearing the table, "Cynthia, could you be a dear and grab my rose wood box off of my desk. There's also a book on carpentry that I wanted to show Nathan."
Cynthia began to protest. "But Miss Hemrose, I would hate to mess up your study..."
Alicia waved her hand dismissively. "It should be right there in plain sight."
After a pause, Cynthia bowed slightly and exited the kitchen.

Nathan was sure the carpentry book was a cover for something. As soon as Cynthia had gone, he found out what. Alicia suddenly leaned forward hissed quietly, "No, Nathan, it is you who doesn't understand." She prodded the table with a finger. "I'm breaking a royal decree by saying what follows, so listen well. The King postponed the meeting with the nobles so he could meet with the scholars, all of them. For the last two years every scholar in the city has been devoting their studies to looking for magic. Turning lead into gold, flying people kind of magic. Tonight is the night all the scholars are presenting their findings directly to the King, and I daresay I have scant to show for it. Telling anyone what we are working on brings a sentence of exile, so Nathan I can't bring you to the King, not tonight."

Now it was Nathan's turn to falter in silence. This presented a problem. How could Nathan make certain the King was warned if he didn't do it himself? There was only a chance Alicia might be able to tell it to him tonight. But, as Nathan thought about it, another side of things presented itself. "Could the King already have guessed how the nobles would respond to his postponing the council?"

"Now that you mention it, it seems very likely," Alicia conceded. "He would have to be blind if he hasn't already glimpsed the dissent. If he hasn't told the nobles about our work..."
"...then that must be what the King was trying to hide from them," Nathan finished.
Alicia nodded. It made sense.

"That saps some of the urgency," Nathan said, a finger over his mouth in thought, "but we should still take steps. I won't endanger you by telling Lord Pelleas,"--Alicia's lips twitched with mild annoyance at what ought to have been obvious--"but at least I can put his mind at ease and see what else he can figure out, knowing the implications, if not the details, of this new information." He trailed off, then a thought struck him. He looked up again at his cousin. "Do you know why the King is inducing this kind of research? It sounds like just a general pursuit, but might there be a specific goal?"

Alicia turned to the hallway, listening closely for Cynthia, "I can only guess at the Kings motives. I personally believe this assignment to be trivial and fruitless. But hold the necklace that Cynthia brings back, and you tell me why the stone is always wet." Alicia's ears pricked up, and she gestured at him for silence, "Here she comes."

"Here is the box Miss Hemrose." Cynthia placed the box gently in Alicia's hands with a little bow, "I'm afraid I couldn't find the book you asked for."
Alicia shrugged and set the box on the table, "Thank you Cynthia. Don't worry about the book, I must have misplaced it. Nathan, you can come back later to pick it up can't you?"
"I'm sure I could manage something, yes," he said, affecting indifference.
"Excellent." She smiled at him, then flipped open the lid of the red wood box. There sat the stone necklace, small droplets of dew glistened on the fur lining. "Go ahead." Alicia urged, "Pick it up."

Nathan did so, carefully, holding it with his fingertips. The brown stone was wet to the touch, as if it had moments ago been retrieved from a cistern, though it did not drip. It was just small enough to have nested snugly in the hollow if his palm. More flat than spherical, there was a small hole though its slightly tapered top end, threaded with a length of twine as if the stone was meant to be worn as a necklace. Though it had moistened his fingers, the stone's surface remained continuously slick with water. "Incredible," Nathan breathed.

With a certain reverence, Nathan replaced the stone in its box. He noted that there was no puddle of water in the depression where it had rested, and neither was the rest of the box wet. Only what the stone touched had been wet as if with dew. As Nathan withdrew his fingers, rubbing the moisture into his hands, Alicia closed the lid and set it aside on the table. Nathan couldn't think of any natural reason for a stone to behave like that, and if Alicia hadn't either, Nathan supposed he never would be able to. "Can I ask where you found that?"
"I'll tell you about it when I get back. We're already in enough danger as it is."
"Alright. I suppose I ought to leave you to it, then." He started to get up. "It was nice to--"

"Not so fast, young man," Cynthia interjected, in the tone she used for everyone but Miss Hemrose. When Nathan looked up, puzzled, she explained, "You still haven't eaten. Don't your parents teach you to finish the food on your plate?"
Now that she mentioned it, they did. In Adensborough nowadays, the dictates of propriety were just as much encumbent upon the guest to appreciate the hospitality as they were upon the hosts to be hospitable. Nathan had not yet grown past his healthy appetite, even if the grave topic had blunted it, so he concentrated on the meal the housekeeper had prepared for them and made sure to thank her amply when he was done.

At the door, Nathan asked Alicia which time would be best to come back following her meeting with the King.
"Tomorrow morning," she said. "Early."
"Alright, I'll see you then. I hope all goes well for you."
"So do I."
They bade one another farewell, and Nathan departed.

Out in the street, Nathan judged by the light and a glance toward the cave opening that it was just past midday. In case anyone was watching him, Nathan decided he'd best keep up appearances and keep helping with the repairs. He couldn't go back to Pelleas's home yet anyway, and the work would keep him safely occupied. With that, Nathan headed first to his own little house again, to gather tools. The streets were perhaps a little more traveled than usual, and knots of murmured conversation had sprung up here and there. Nathan was insignificant enough not to be noticed.

At the west end of 12th Tier, close to the cave wall, stood the house Nathan had built for himself. It was unassuming, part of it two levels and part only one, but Nathan was proud of it, and there were plenty of places--and plans--to add on. He hadn't washed it with color yet; it was just plain wood and stone, and some brick for appearances. He was still working on adding a garden. A brick-edged patch of soil and a few scattered shrubs in loose order still needed plenty of tending and adjusting, but it was coming along.

Nathan opened his door, and a scrap of paper fell onto the threshold. He bent to pick it up. It read: Meet at our place, just after sunset. It was not signed, but Nathan would have known it was from Nyna even had he not been intimately familiar with her handwriting. Warmth made him smile. He tucked the note in his trouser pocket, then gathered his things and headed down to help with the repairs.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Dio the Awesome on Mon May 16, 2011 1:59 am

After Cynthia had shut the door behind Nathan, Alicia turned to face the aging housekeeper. "Cynthia, I'm hoping you will keep this little meeting to yourself."

The old woman smiled, exposing a number of wrinkles on her face, "Of course Miss Hemrose, though with my age I'm not sure I understood it all anyways."

Alicia bent down to hug her, "Dearest Cynthia, I'm not sure how I would have gotten on without you." She felt Cynthia return the embrace, "Now then, I plan on working in my study until sun down, I don't wish to be disturbed. I'll take my supper there as well please."
Cynthia nodded, "Of course my Lady." Alicia watched her shuffle off, probably to attend to her plants.

When the housekeeper was out of view, Alicia headed into her study and closed the door behind her. The study was the largest room in the house, taking up two floors. The walls were lined with shelves filled to the point of bursting with books. Most of these had been collected by her parents, but over the years Alicia had made many additions to the collection herself. She walked down the last row, briefly pausing to notice a thick layer of accumulated dust. When she came to the last row, she knelt down before the last shelf and pulled on a piece of metal. With the metal bar out of the way the shelf was able to move freely on a concealed track in the floor. Alicia gave the shelf a good hard push, and it slid out of the way to reveal a cubbyhole. Immediately inside the cubbyhole was a small table with an oil lamp sitting on top of it, as well as a piece of flint. She checked the wick, to make sure it was thoroughly soaked with oil, before trying to light it. After a few tries, Alicia managed to light the lamp, which easily filled the tiny space with light. She crawled inside, sliding the shelf back in place behind her.

The small room consisted of the table, two chairs, a small cupboard, and two short book shelves, which were sparsely populated. This was Alicia's private collection. While she couldn't be sure exactly, but Alicia believed that on those shelves contained the oldest recorded histories of her people. She carefully pulled off the last tome on the shelf. The cover was blackened by years of dirt and wear, and even Alicia's skillful cleaning methods had been unable to return the book to it's vibrant red. She set it on the table and eased the cover open. The yellow pages cracked slightly as she turned to the place she wanted. There were periodic smudges or tears which made some of the text unreadable, but for the most part the tome was in remarkably good condition. She read a particular passage of text which she had by now all but memorized.

The gift of the Maker has left us. Since the Great Evacuation could not be stopped, our scholars have (indistinct word) and left our city to crumble. The House of the Maker has promised us it would continue to use their power to keep the city together. I fear for our future, because Church Law forbids the... The rest of the page here is unreadable. Alicia has examined the tear many times, and it appears to have been cut out. The text continues on the next page.

... we all watched in awe as the priest joined their hands in prayed. Since that day no more stone has fallen. It appears that the degradation of the stone work has been halted for now. What the priest have done they would not (dirt obscures the end of the sentence) They say they have guarded all the secrets of Adensborough. What that can mean for us, I can not say.

Alicia closed the book carefully. The rest of the tome goes on to detail crops, politics, and weather. The clergy is only mentioned in passing after that. Alicia had always questioned the validity of this account. It read more like religious hokum than an actual retelling of events. But given recent events she was no longer sure. What caused the Great Evacuation? What power did the church hold, and did they still posses them? That was unlikely, the clergy would have jumped at the chance to save the city. Alicia was torn. If she presented this book with her findings to the King, the book would surely be confiscated. But if she didn't bring it, the lack of solid findings could land her exile, or worse.

Alicia reached into the cupboard. She looked through the cleaning supplies and other various oddities until she produced a quill pen and several vials of ink. Lastly she placed a neat stack of parchment beside her. "It's going to be a long day." Alicia muttered to herself.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:23 am

Nathan arrived at the work site on the cliff-side ledge, where the timber had cracked on the previous day. A perilous scaffold had just been finished, complete with plenty of ropes, and some of the men had started laying brick around the damaged timber. "Ah, Nathan," Jorge called when he saw him, "help with the fetcher, would you? It's tiring work." He pointed with his thumb over his shoulder, where two men were slowly giving slack to a thick rope that went all the way up the cliff, where bricks were being let down from a pulley.

Nathan maneuvered himself along the narrow track, past Jorge and the bricklayers to the rope for the fetcher. "I can take over for someone," he said. One of the men nodded gratefully, and he and Nathan switched places after Nathan got hold of the rope.

Fifteen piles of bricks were fetched while Nathan was on the rope. With the amount of other men laying the bricks, the reinforcing column quickly rose, and Nathan had less and less vertical distance to manage up and down. The men went up the scaffold, securing themselves with the ropes, higher and higher as they raised the column of brick. When they finished, the afternoon was far spent. The house up above was now safe, and another team took over to wedge the house up the last few handbreadths needed make it level again.
"Good work, everyone!" said Jorge.

Nathan walked back up to the city, his arms feeling as if they ought to be pulling something yet would be stubbornly opposed to the prospect. It burned almost as much to let them rest as to lever his forearms as he walked. Somewhere halfway bent seemed to feel least uncomfortable. He bent sideways to reach into his pocket without extending his arm, and pulled out the note. Nyna would be waiting at sunset. "Their place" was a short, very narrow alley a few houses east of the market on 6th Tier. What made it hard to find was that it ran parallel to one of the streets, being situated between two other alleys. The street-side house was a perfumer's shop, and the tier-side house grew herbs for them. The alley in-between, Nathan and Nyna had discovered, bred an intoxicating, unnameable, compound fragrance.

That particular alley was no place for food, though, and Nathan was hungry. The sun was no longer visible from inside the great cave. He hurried straight to a new, unsheltered eatery that had been recently set up to capitalize on the increased worker traffic to the cliff ledge. It only served the evening meal and specialized in exactly what men wanted after a long day's work: hardy foods in large quantities. It didn't have a catchy name yet; everyone including the owner was still just calling it "Dinner." Nathan gave a few coins for a large clay bowl of thick potato stew and a platter of eight or nine irregular slices of deer meat spread with a mushroom sauce, then sat at one of the function-over-form wooden tables. The stew tasted like basil, and he thought there must be chicken in it somewhere. He systematically gobbled it all down in about a quarter of an hour, then headed up toward the city proper.

It was about an hour till sunset when Nathan got to the Place. He didn't mind waiting. He preferred to be more early than he would possibly need to, whenever they met, so that Nyna wouldn't have to worry. At least today she wouldn't have the burden of secrecy from her father on her mind. Nathan sat on the hard ground between the two buildings, with just enough room before the opposite wall that he could stretch his legs out if he kept his knees somewhat bent. The scent of the air was already settling in, something like crushed rose petals, dandelion sap, fermenting bread, strong cloves, oil, and a hundred other things all mixed together until Nathan couldn't decide if it was all one scent or a thousand different ones.

He must have dozed lightly because the sound of soft footsteps brought him to wakefulness. He stood up, deliberately letting his movements make a little noise, so that Nyna would know he was there. Her dark head peeked around the corner first, and then she smiled and came inside, hurrying to embrace him. "Isn't it just wonderful? Father's happy for us!" She talked with her head on his chest, her face toward the alley entrance. "But now he has this plot to worry about. He hasn't heard anything new yet." She looked up at him. "Will you be able to see the King?"
"The person I mentioned to him--he doesn't want me to say the name to him or anyone--might have a way to talk to the King tonight. I'm to meet her again tomorrow morning."
Nyna's brows drew down in puzzled concern. "Her?"
Oops, Nathan thought. "Well, I shouldn't say anything, but she's family... sort of."
"Oh."
"Older than me," he added, just for good measure.
"All right."

They held each other and talked of less important things for a while, reinforcing one another's spirits by their company. "When should I meet you tomorrow?" Nyna asked.
Late morning, a couple hours after breakfast-time."
They bid each other farewell with many words of caution, and exited in opposite directions along different streets, Nathan going back along the mainways and Nyna taking an alternate route behind houses, circuitously making her way back to her home. When Nathan got to his own house, he went straight to bed in order to be up early the following morning.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Dio the Awesome on Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:02 pm

After several hours of pain staking and meticulous work, Alicia finished scrawling out the last few pages of the book. Her hands were stained with ink in several places, as well as the desk. The book and the new copy however, were pristine. She wiped her messy hands on a rag and nodded to herself. The work was good, she now had her own copy of the text, should she ever need it. She was reluctant to give up the original, it was a rare find and probably very expensive, but if it would prevent her exile, what was really worth more? She sat up, a prang of ache spread through her lower back. Alicia silently cursed, she had been hunched over in the chubby hole for some time. She rose, and gathered up the ancient book, leaving the fresh copy on the desk. It took some effort to move the bookshelf back in place and after it was done Alicia suddenly felt a hollowness in her stomach. When she made it back to her desk a plate of food and a tall glass of water sat waiting for her. The meal consisted of stewed vegetables coated in a dark brown sauce, several slices of roasted ham, and rye bread spread with butter. All of it was cold. Hungrily she scarfed down the bread and ham, but she pushed the majority of the vegetables around her plate. Alicia reached for the glass of water but in her haste she tipped it over, spilling its contents across the desks surface. With a yelp she jumped up and began to evacuate various papers and books to the far side of the desk, away from the advancing wave of water. The water however did not follow its natural course. It seemed to curve towards the redwood box which still sat on the desk.

Stunned, Alicia dropped the papers she was holding and bent to watch the water as it pooled around the legs of the box. Eventually the water pooled in a perfect circle, and then fell still. Alicia picked up the box. It only happened for half a second, but she could have sworn that the water lifted into the air to follow, before falling back down. With the box gone the circle broke and water seeped along the natural curves and cracks in the desk, spreading ever outwards. Alicia stared at the desk for several seconds, silent. Convinced that the water would stay were it was, she opened the box and retrieved the necklace. She set the box back on the table, and tied the necklace around her wrist. If she wore it around her neck she found it would always leave a wet patch on her shirt, which would not do tonight. Then she gathered up her book and placed it inside a leather handbag. As an after thought she picked up a slender knife about 5 inches long. It had a small handle that even Alicia's tiny hands engulfed. The knife was little more than a glorified letter opener, but the weight was familiar and made her feel a little more protected. She added the knife and the summons letter to the bag and called Cynthia.

The old woman entered the study moments later. If she wondered where Alicia disappeared to when she brought out supper, it did not show.

“I'm sorry to leave you with such a mess Cynthia, but I'm running behind as is.” She apologized.
Cynthia smiled politely, “It's no trouble for me Miss Hemrose. But you really should eat your vegetables.” She added with a motherly tone.

Alicia suddenly felt a great feeling of respect for the woman. Truthfully she had been just like a mother these past few years. She cupped one of the maids hands with her own. “Cynthia, I am grateful to have had you with me all this time. I know it must have been difficult to remain ignorant of my affairs of late. Tonight I hope to be free of my burden, but if I do not return tonight...”

Alicia paused to open a desk drawer. She turned back and pressed a thick brown envelope into Cynthia's hands. “Open this if you do not see me tomorrow.”

The envelope bore the wax stamp of a rose, the family's personal crest. There were several documents inside. The first was a letter to Cynthia, explaining everything and the consequences she likely faced; imprisonment, banishment, or execution. The second was a will, granting Cynthia the house and split the possessions between the maid and Nathan, as well as a sizable amount of money for him and his future bride to be. (Even if he never visited she made sure to keep an eye on her closest relative.) Lastly, the envelope contained the deed to her house. Law in Adensborough was very clear on home ownership. With both the will and the deed the state could not annex the house, no matter how furious they were. She was determined that Cynthia would not remain a servant if the worst were to happen. Alicia realized that maybe she had been too meticulous, but old paranoia's die hard. Her parents had disappeared without a word and she really had no idea what to expect from the council tonight. It was better to cover all the angles, and she was satisfied she had done that.

“Be safe Miss Hemrose.” Cynthia said, tears standing in her eyes. Alicia nodded and left her to tidy the study, then she went to the kitchen to raid the larder. Once there was wrapped a wedge of cheese and a loaf of bread in a cloth and added that to her bag.

As Alicia left the house a piercing wind blew through her pale blue blouse. She stepped back inside and pulled a heavy, purple over coat off the rack. The heavy woven fabric warmer her almost instantly, that is, until she stepped back outside. The garment was not able to keep the chill off of her hands and face. Alicia took a moment to look out over the city. The daylight was rapidly failing, setting the horizon ablaze with orange fire. The beautiful sun set was spoiled by the rolling wave of black foreboding clouds. Tonight there would be a powerful storm. Down below on the lower tiers, Alicia could see the small forms of people rushing to board up windows and tie down belongings. Up on the two highest tiers, no such preparations were necessary, since the mountain provided ample cover, not to mention the housing conditions were much improved.

Without further thought on the matter, Alicia pulled her coat tighter and began the walk upwards. She tried not to look up at her destination; the palace loomed opposing in the growing darkness. Instead she focused on the tight cobblestones that clicked under her boots with a steady rhythm. A haunting chant joined in with the clicking, and soon filled the city streets. The chants grew in intensity as she walked, and she could tell they were filled with both solemness and veneration. It did not take her long before she passed a marble and granite archway that was the source of the chant. It was the entrance to The Makers Dwelling.

The clergy had built their temple directly into the side of the mountain many hundreds of years ago. In doing so, they discovered precious gems and gold veins coursing throughout the mountain. Once the gems were mined out, stone workers crafted a winding set of stairs leading into a great chamber. The chamber was a massive cavern smoothed to perfection and set with the valuable gems, gold, and silver mined there. When prayers are spoken the sounds reverberate with awesome power, as if The Maker himself were speaking. While she was not a follower of The Maker exactly, she had visited the chamber once out of curiosity. The craftsmanship was breathtaking, the ceremony was hopelessly dull. There must be a ceremony taking place, which was unusual for this time of night. Alicia surmised that the clergy was taking in refugees hiding from the storm.

The road before her suddenly halted. Unlike most of the tier boundaries which were just a set of stairs leading to the next level, this one was guarded and walled, and sealed with a heavy iron portcullis. Two guards in polished grey plate mail watched Alicia as she approached. She could smell the glistening metal polish on them. One man put a hand on his sword belt out of reflex, the other took two steps forward wearing a mischievous grin.

“Alicia, it's been a while. Still playing Miss-Know-It-All?” He joked with a hint of malice.
Her brow furrowed. , “Marek. Seems you've moved up from playing with toy soldiers to being one.”
"Enough." The second guard cut in. His greying beard and wrinkled face showed he was much older than Marek. "State your business."

Alicia reached into her bag and pulled out the summons letter. She passed it to the older man and smirked at Marek. He looked unimpressed.

The guard noted the royal seal. He gave Alicia a curt nod and turned behind him. "Raise the gate!" He bellowed. There was a long pause. The older man gave Marek a hard look. Marek visibly shrank, before he turned to echo the call. Gear grated noisily and chains pulled tight as the heavy iron gate rose. Both guards stepped aside to let Alicia pass. She passed under the gate, and moments later she once again heard the wail of metal on metal as the gate closed behind her.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:17 pm

Nathan woke in the night to the staggering echo of imminent thunder. Nearly falling out of his upstairs bed in alarm, Nathan knew instantly that one of the late-spring storms was upon the city. Another realization followed soon after, when Nathan looked out his window: the storm was uncommonly fierce. Wind was blowing straight into the mouth of the great cave, bringing heavy rain and mountainous cold with it.

Nathan hurriedly pulled his shutters closed, locked them and placed into holders a hard rod of wood inside each window, in case the wind tried to blow the shutters inward against their hinges. He did the same downstairs. Then, rushing to a corner, he gathered a large, folded square of oiled canvas. This he normally used for a tent when he went hunting with some of the other men in the mountains behind the city. Tonight it needed to double as insulation for his roof.

A door in his upstairs room led out onto the first level roof. Fighting the wind, Nathan couldn't spare a glance around, needing all his concentration to keep hold of the canvas without falling off his roof. Four large bricks were waiting just outside the door. Holding all this, he managed to clamber onto the second level roof and unfold the square with his back to the wind. Growing colder by the minute, Nathan stuffed the bricks into matching pockets on each of the corners, then spread the whole thing out on his roof so that the corners dangled over the edge. He waded his way back to the edge of the roof and climbed back down, smoothing the canvas when we was done.

Suddenly he felt a wet chill all over his back and left side, realized it was from rain. Rain must have been pelting him the entire time. He looked out at the city. Then, jaw gaping, he looked again at the mouth of the cave. Great black clouds hugged the high ceiling of the cavern; wind howled through the opening in great gusts, whistling through Adensborough's streets. Nathan squinted as the rain began to fly straight into his face. He had to brace himself in his upper doorway as he looked out. Suddenly lightning struck--inside the cave--causing Nathan to start. He couldn't believe it. One of the houses near the cliff face flared with a flame that was just as quickly put out by the storm.

Out on the streets, many were racing up the tiers to get out of the path of the storm. Rain was falling where it never did, reaching every tier but the 1st and 2nd. Nathan kept staring all around, making out what he could in the darkness, transfixed by the effects of the gale. Roofs lost shingles, plants blew freely through the streets and even up over houses, citizens raced to save what they could--even if all they could save was themselves--and all under the oppression of a violent, horizontal rain. Every time it thundered, it sounded as if the mountain had cracked and would fall to rubble upon their heads. It was the worst storm Nathan had ever experienced.

Wind, rain and thunder came inside the cave all the time during storms, even as far as 8th or 9th Tier, but never so far or so violently as this. Except, that wasn't true. He had heard about storms like this, Nathan realized. One had happened a couple of years before he was born. He remembered now. Unpredictable, they seemed to occur once every few decades.

Lightning struck again, this time a little farther inside the cavern, pulling Nathan back into the fury of the storm and causing him to feel the sting of rain against the right side of his face. His roof was far from the best place to be at the moment, he realized. And yet, he couldn't take his eyes from the storm. The cold wind made him shiver as it chilled the water on his face and clothes, but he found he couldn't even bring himself to rush inside to don a coat. Something about the storm pulled at him to stay.

Nathan couldn't have known it, but in all the city he was the only one looking into the storm, the only one who was not huddled in his house or rushing up to the shelter of higher tiers, the only one who could see, from his viewpoint, what happened next.

It was a subtle thing, and Nathan could scarcely tell in the near darkness whether he'd seen anything at all. But yes, there it was for certain. The storm clouds inhabited much of the cavern ceiling, but there was a soft, pulsing glow behind the mass of blackness. It was not like the pulsating lightning that roiled in the clouds. This was a white-bluish light, like a dimmed and gentler shade of lightning, barely discernible, and it was in the shape of the ancient rune which stood for 'A.' Raindrops whipped in and out beneath that point in a slingshot spiral, as if pulled close around some invisible column. Nathan had to close one eye against the rain striking his cheek and running down his face, but he could still see it, ever so faintly, as the light slowly pulsed.

Mesmerized, scarcely able to believe what he was seeing, Nathan only became aware that time had passed when the pulsing light began to dim and disappear, the wind dying down, the rain at last falling downward, the storm beginning to depart.

The remainder of Nathan's night was spent inside his house, his bedding and thick clothes brought downstairs. He huddled close to the warmth of the fire he'd built in his woodstove, clothes changed, body dried, wrapped in bedding and blankets and coats. As frantic as he had been to remedy his foolishness, and as disturbed and excited as he was by what he'd seen, it was too long before his tiredness pulled him to sleep.

He did not wake early that morning. His eyes hurt when he woke, sluggishly. His throat was sore, he realized when he swallowed, and his nose began to run as he sat up. The smell of iron and woodsmoke filled the house. Nathan kept having to sniff or wipe his nose on his sleeve, trying not to swallow and squinting at the light coming in cracks through the barred windows. Nathan didn't bother opening them; he could wait until later in the morning.

It came on him suddenly that it was indeed morning. Morning! And he was supposed to be at Alicia's house! He stumbled out of the tangle of heavy cloth by the woodstove and dressed himself in whatever he could gather from the pile. He acquired a headache as he walked toward his small kitchen and pantry.
Squinting lest he sneeze, he pulled out part of a loaf of bread and a clove of garlic. Near the counter-top he poured a cup of water from a clay basin and drank, then took alternating bites of the bread and garlic as he hastened out the door.

Right away he could tell that he had slept well into mid morning, hours past his appointment with Alicia. He hurried up the tiers, all but alone on the streets. Most of the people were either still inside their houses or still holed up in the higher tiers. Nathan had to climb over potted trees, step around shingles and roof tiles, window shutters, shards of thick, broken pottery and general debris, and try to avoid looking around at all the light of the morning. Dust got into his nose and made it run more and cause him to sneeze, despite his efforts. He always had to swallow, and that hurt his throat, but the bread helped. He made his way as quickly as he could manage up to Alicia's house. Somewhat ashamed of his condition but afraid of being any more late--and worried what ill or worry his tardiness might already have caused--Nathan knocked on Alicia's door.

Only then did he remember what he had seen during the storm.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Dio the Awesome on Thu Nov 10, 2011 2:30 am

All the buildings on the first tier were massive. They were all reserved for the most wealthy or influential. Most of the residents claimed distance relations to the King, though the most proof any of them had were large coffers. By far the most impressive structure was, of course, the Royal Palace. The palace was build with its rear wall facing the back of the natural cave. There was a mine behind the palace. It produced the rock used for the foundations and walls for the first tier buildings. Rumours, speculation and third hand accounts told of secret passage ways through the cave which lead to the other side of the mountain. O the royal treasury. Or the brothels, or monsters, or the centre of the earth.... There was no shortage of hearsay when it came it the inner workings of the palace.

And who could blame people for the rumours? This was Alicia's first trip to the palace herself. Everyone from the lower tiers wonder what happens among the elite. The cobblestones she walked on were tight and smooth and they lead her to another gate, this one smaller and more ornate however, with thin metal bars that ended in gold tipped spikes. Another pair of guards waved her past when she presented the letter. The gates opened up into the palace gardens. It was sparser than she had expected, but Alicia surmised that it was because not enough light reached the back of the cave to support the more fragile, and more exotic flowers. Instead the grass was cut in intricate patterns and the pathways were lines with hearty trees, twisted and sculpted into unique shapes when they were saplings. Alicia forced herself not to stop and admirer the gardeners handy work. Again a pair of guards watched her approach at the palace doors. This time however, she was forced to wait, while they summoned a courtier to identify her. The same grey haired courtier from before opened the door.

“This Alicia Hemrose?” One of the guards asked.

The courtier looked her up and down, then turned up his nose, “That she is.” Without further word he spun and walked away.

“Go on then.” The guard waved her past, “Follow him close. Do not deviate.”

Alicia hurried on to catch up, the decadence in the halls passed her in a blur. Elaborate paintings, busts of kings past and ceiling frescoes all flowed into each other. The only constant was the seemingly endless gold and red velvet carpet. The hallway throttled her senses. It did not take long for them to reach the throne room.

The first thing Alicia noticed was the massive throne King Augustus sat on. It was made of polished silver and covered with red cushions to make the ridgid thing comfortable. Intricate designs were engraved on the arms and headrest. From her distance Alicia could make out that they had something to do with his divine right to rule. Further study would be needed to get the whole meaning.

The second thing she noticed was the man himself. He seemed to be of average stature, but the throne he sat on dwarfed him. He was dressed in an elaborate robe embroidered with the kingdoms colours of gold and burgundy. The crown was a gaudy thing of interwoven gold and silver and set with every kind of gem imaginable. The centre piece was set with a perfectly round red stone that seemed to smoulder. The king himself looked weathered, as if he were crumbling along with the city. His face was wrinkled and his golden hair and bearded were speckled with grey. The only think that shone with life were his piercing sea green eyes.

The third thing she noticed was that she was the last to arrive. The other seven scholars she was inducted with were present, and aside from a scant honour guard, they were alone with the king. The courtier had already scampered off. A nerve racking silence hung in the air. Alicia fell in line beside a man she did not recognize. He smelled strongly of sulphur.

Finally the king spoke with a weight in his voice, “I'm sure you all know why we brought you before us. Present your findings before us quickly. We will not stand on pomp and dramatics tonight.” Alicia noted the use of the royal 'we'. Rolling thunder announced the coming of the storm. Perhaps you don't want dramatics, but the weather certainly does.

“Pontis Algara, Present your findings.” Augustus commanded.

The smoke smelling man stepped forward. He bowed deeply, “Your Great and Powerful Majesty. Allow me to demonstrate the ancient magicks I have discovered.”

The king idly waved his hand, already expecting little from the demonstration. The performance was laughable at best. Using made up words and amateur slight of hand, Pontis secretly lit a bundle of black powder, which explained the mans reeking clothing. There was a hiss, a bright flash, then the room suddenly filled with smoke. After the spots disappeared from her eyes and the smoke began to dissipate, Alicia opened her mouth to expose the deception, but Augustus was already commanding guards to take him away. Pontius' screams of protest echoed in the throne room as two guards bodily carried him from the room. Two more guards entered to replace the ones who had left.

The king sighed, “Open a few windows to clear the smoke. To think we don't know about black powder... A warning to the rest, failure to produce results will be punished less severely than deceit. Marcus Bellman, step forward.”

The remaining proceedings were very dull. There were many bows and flowery proclamations, but very little concrete findings. One man, Pettlebee Something mentioned a book he found in the church library. The king seemed disinterested, but the name sparked familiarity for Alicia. “The Rise of the Church and The Great Evacuation.” Soon there were three people left.

“Alicia Hemrose.” The king recited from memory, “Please step forward.”

She strode forward, “I have two items to present to his majesty.”

“She does not bow to us, nor speaks of our virtues.” The king mused allowed.

“It's not proper for a woman to bow and I don't have a skirt to curtsy with, and we all know of his majesties virtues. Besides, I believe you asked us to ignore court protocol.” Alicia said politely incline of her head.

Augusts gave her a slight smile, “Well said Scholar Hemrose.” The faint smile vanished. “Hemrose.” He repeated the name to himself, working his lips around the name. “Hemrose. As in Alan and Beth Hemrose. Perhaps the items you intend to give me us are harsh words and a knife in the back. Come no closer. Present your findings there.”

Alicia stopped about twenty feet from the king. She set down her bag and withdrew the book. It was best not to give them a reason to search her, the small knife she carried would be hard to explain now. She cleared her throat, “The first item I wish to present is a book. It is perhaps the oldest surviving book I have ever come across. It details an event in our history similar to the crumbling streets. It also mentions something called The Secret of Adensborough.” She took a deep breath, “The next item I can only present directly to you your majesty, it would have no meaning otherwise.”

The king pondered this for a moment. He must have conceded that a young woman would pose little threat, for finally he agreed, “Very well. Leave your bag.”

Two guards moved closer to the throne, in case they had to intercept her. Alicia pulled out the necklace. She came within a respectable distance, and placed the necklace in the kings waiting hand. She took this moment to analyze the writing on the throne, she also noticed that the king seemed to radiate heat from his head. It was a faint warmth, made noticable due only to the cold air brought in by the storm and the open windows. “Notice, my Lord, that the stone stays wet. Efforts to dry it are useless, and it will become damp again in moments. This is a phenomenon that I can not explain.” Alicia explained.

The kings eyes went wide. He smiled at her as though she just handed him the keys to heaven. “Well done Scholar Alicia. You will be rewarded three fold the grant money you have thus far recieved. Tell me where you found it.”

The kings sudden shift in demeanor made Alicia nervous, “I read in one of my books of a disused irrigation system out in the northern fields. There is a run down building, with all sorts of rusted equipment inside. That is where I found the stone."

Augustus nodded to a guard who ran off immediately. Again he was replaced by a new guard from outside. “You may step down Scholar.” The kings enthusiasm faded.

The last two scholars failed to produce anything note worthy. A guard collected the book from Alicia, which she reluctantly handed over. Luckily for the rest of the men, they were escorted off the grounds without any threats of punishment. Alicia was the last to leave. She turned back at the last moment.

“Your majesty, forgive my impertinence, but I would ask a favour of you.” Alicia approached the throne and bowed.

The king nodded, “You have done me a great service tonight. You may speak.” He said, dropping the royal we.

“A cousin of mine requests an audience with you. I understand he has a message of importance to deliver that may not go through normal channels. He is of the lower tiers, and would not be able to gain admittance otherwise.”

The king paused, “That is a most unusual request. I will think on this. A courtier will send my answer on the morning.” He waved her out of the throne room. "Oh and Alicia..."

Alicia looked back.

The king had a look of regret on his face. "Please forgive what I had to do to your parents. It was not an easy decision, but our laws must be obeyed."

The only responce she could give was a brief nod. She turned and was lead out by the same grey haired man. The palace doors closed behind her just as the clouds opened up, releasing their violent down pour.
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Re: The Secret of Adensborough

Post by Kalon Ordona II on Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:12 pm

Nathan's knock was answered by Miss Cynthia. "Who is it," she was in the middle of saying as the door opened, "oh, young Nathan. Miss Hemrose has been expecting you."
Nathan had to swallow before he felt he could speak through his sore throat. "Sorry I'm late," he managed.
"I'm not the one who's been waiting. Miss Hemrose is in her study. Make yourself at home in the--wipe your feet, please," Nathan was already doing so, "--in the withdrawing room." She added cynically, "I finally dug up that carpentry book. It's on the end table if you like; you can read it while you wait."
"Oh," said Nathan, who had thought Alicia's mention of the book yesterday was a fabrication. "Thank you, I will."
"You'll want a cup of tea for that. There should already be hot water. Well, I suppose I'd better grind a passion stem for you."
"Oh, no, it's all right Miss Cynth--"
"Rubbish," she cut him off, reaching up into a cupboard, dropped a dried blue flower into a small bowl and crushed it with a pestle. Almost as soon as she started, she dusted the finished powder into a tall silver cup. "Honey will help." She said, half to herself, and brought a ceramic jar out from a corner of the counter-top. Nathan met her on her way out of the kitchen, where she told him in passing, "Don't go sparing on the honey, now--fix that throat right up. I'll make you some porridge in a moment. Water's on the stove."
She was gone before he could croak out a thank-you.

Nathan sniffled, dabbed his nose on the inside elbow of his sleeve. A constant exhaling sound came from the iron kettle of water as he entered the kitchen. He lifted the wodden handle of the kettle and poured some of the water into the waiting cup with the passion powder. A spoon made of horn rested next to the honey jar as Nathan turned back from the stove. Inside, the wax-like honey was a purplish gold. He scraped two spoonfuls of it onto the rim of his cup, replaced the lid on the honey jar, and stirred the thick substance into his steeping tea. As he stirred, he brought the cup to his nose and inhaled its warm steam. It smelled of berries and wildflowers.

Too hot yet to drink, he carried the cup into the withdrawing room, still stirring the slowly melting honey. There was indeed a book resting on a small, square table in the corner. Nathan sat on the cushioned bench next to it, brought the large volume onto his lap with one hand and cracked it open at random. The book was full of technical illustrations here and there among the text, and he had just finished the latter half of a section on varnishing when the door to the adjoining hallway opened. "There you are Nathan. I was starting to worry you wouldn't show up."

Nathan turned to see Alicia holding the door handle, standing under the doorframe. Her clothes were rumpled as if she had slept in them, but that was clearly least on her mind. She waved for him to come over. Nathan followed into the looping hallway that led to Alicia's study. (Cynthia must have come and gone from the opposite direction.) Nathan closed the door to the withdrawing room and then walked down do the study, which Alicia had left open for him. Inside, the scent of dust lingered in the air. Alicia had turned a chair sideways and was already sitting herself at her desk, which was cluttered with a fair number of books and papers. A varnished wood plate sat atop some of the papers, empty but for a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. And sure enough, there was also a pillow on the desk surface. She must have been up late into the night.

Alicia turned in the chair and indicated a bench by the wall next to the door. "Just slide some of those over." Her hand almost brushed one of the stacks of papers crowding the bench. Nathan squeezed past her and turned to the bench, set his cup of tea in the narrow slot of free space next to the varnished arm-rest, then carefully aligned the nearest stack of paper with his forearms and slid it gently across the smooth wooden surface, gaining just enough room for him to sit. He lifted his cup out of the way and did so. Again he swallowed before speaking, his throat tense and his mouth a confined frame for his words, but he magaged to keep his tone, if not his voice quality, untainted by the strain. "Good morning. I'm sorry I'm late. The storm..."

Alicia had been sorting through some of the clutter on her desk. She turned a puzzled expression at the thick sound in his voice, noted the cup, put the two together, and her expression cleared as she nodded upward in understanding. Nathan took a warm gulp of the tea, as if in response, while keeping his attention on her. The honey coated his throat and he instantly felt a positive effect. "It's quite alright, as it happens," Alicia was saying. "I would have been more concerned if things had gone poorly with the King, but under the circumstances I think we can rest easier."
"Then it went well?"
"You wouldn't believe it," she began, then recounted the events of the previous night. Alicia's descriptions of things were always captivating, and a note of excitement crept into her voice and manner. "I had assumed my offering would be least of all, and let me tell you, the thought had me worried for the longest time. But then for that one stone to be the single, only answer to the King's command..." she shook her head, obviously pleased, but also quite concerned. "In the moment the implications didn't reach me, but think what this forebodes for the city. That the King's hopes could yield such fruitlessness... I fear for the future."
Nathan was thinking much the same thing. "What of--"
"Oh and I didn't tell you! There is a large red stone in the center of the king's crown, but it was no ordinary jewel: it radiated heat! I'm sure the King must know of it--his forehead would have to be totally insensate not to feel the warmth so near. I felt it from just an arm's length away."
"Do you mean it might be similar to the wet... watery stone?"
"I'm sure there's a connection of some kind, yes."
Nathan's mind went over the implications, then he remembered. "What of--"
Alicia was ahead of him. "That's the best part. The king was so pleased that, when I asked an audience for you, he agreed to consider it! I don't think he will say no. A courtier is supposed to arrive sometime this morning with his answer."
"Oh that is good news," Nathan said with relief, his throat scratching in the process. He made a face and sipped another long, slow mouthful of the honeyed tea, swallowing it a little at a time.

"Better?" Alicia inquired.
Nathan nodded.
"You know, you ought to drink the rest of that before the messenger arrives. If he sees you here he might allow you to see the king even now, and you wouldn't want to speak to the king with your throat bothering you like that."
"I suppose you're right."
"He might even be coming up the street right now!"
Nathan coughed explosively with a sudden mixture of laughter and panic. "Don't say things like that," he said, smiling and mightily resisting the urge to look over his shoulder. He drank another two gulps of the tea, just in case.
A moment's silence forced itself upon the room as they both sat quiet, half expecting at any moment the arrival of the courtier.

Nathan took another sip, found the cup nearly empty, and drained it.

Another moment passed. Then Nathan gasped. "The Maker! how could I have forgotten! The storm!"
Alicia had started at the sudden outburst. "Ah! Nathan, don't do that! Forgotten what?"
"Something happened during the storm last night."
"What do you mean? Something besides the city being blown half to ruins?"
"I saw something. In the rain. It was like a--"
"You weren't outside, were you?" Alicia was incredulous with concern. "No wonder you're sickly this morning! I'm surprised you weren't injured."
"I know I know, but there was something in the storm. Like a column of swirling rain. And up on the--"

"Miss Hemrose!" Cynthia's voice reached them from a distance. Probably from the front door, Nathan realized. Alicia must have, too, even before Cynthia called, "A messenger from the King is here to see you!" Normally Cynthia went into the house to inform Alicia, but one didn't shut the door on anyone relating to the royalty.

Alicia pointed a finger at Nathan's head, "Remember that thought... One moment!" She called to Cynthia, already headed towards the door. A pile of papers tumbled to the floor in her haste. Alicia paused outside of the hallway briefly to smooth some of the wrinkles out of her clothes and pat down her hair.

As she approached the door she could hear Cynthia politely offer the courtier some tea.
"No, that is quite alright miss, I will drop this letter off and then be on my way," the grey haired man replied.
Alicia stepped into view, curtsying politely. "A pleasure to see you again... sir." She paused, forgetting his proper title.
"I suppose that will do." The man said around his teeth, in a poor attempt at concealing his contempt. He handed her the letter. "The King has regarded your request favourably. The man who requested the audience must present himself at the palace gates before sundown. Good day." The courtier was out of ear shot before Alicia could form a thank you.

"An infuriating man." She muttered to herself. "Thank you Cynthia. After Nathan has gone I'd like to have a chat with you."
The maid nodded in response, "What ever you wish Miss Hemrose."
She could barely contain her excitement during the short walk back to the study. Things were finally falling into place.

Nathan was just putting the last piece of paper in order from the stack which had fallen onto the floor. He wedged one hand under the rebuilt stack and put his other hand on top, carefully lifted and set the whole thing on Alicia's desk, in not quite as precarious a location as it had been before.
"We did it!" Ahe shouted as she entered the room, brandishing the envelope. "Or, that is to say, I did it. You're to present yourself to the palace before sundown." She handed him the letter.
His countenance bright, Nathan accepted the envelope, broke the seal, withdrew and unfolded the paper, and read aloud.

"It says: Citizen Nathan Eldridge, --how did they know it was me?"
"Royal Archives, I would guess."
"Ah." Nathan continued. "By word of His Majesty Augustine Rupert the Second, you are hereby permitted to appear privately before His Majesty no later than sundown upon the 8th day of the 3rd month of Spring, according to the 47th year of His Majesty's Count of Days. And it is signed with the royal seal. Amazing..." Nathan had never held a royal missive before, or at least, never one addressed to himself. "It's really happening...."
"Don't waste it," said Alicia. "If there's any truth to what Lord Pelleas has found, the King needs to be told."
"I know."

"So!" Alicia sat again in the chair. "What were yout trying to tell me before?"
"Up on the cave ceiling," said Nathan, picking up where he left off.
"You mean the 'A' rune? How could you have seen that during the storm?"
"That's just it. I did see it. But only because--"

"Porridge...!" Cynthia called. "Don't make me come and get him...!"

"Do you want to finish here or there," Alicia asked.
"Now that I think about it, it might be good for Cynthia to hear as well. She might know something."
Alicia chuckled. "Now I'm even more curious."

They went out through the withdrawing room and into the kitchen, where Cynthia was shepherding spoonfuls of thick porridge into bowls on the kitchen table. "It's not perfect," she said aplogetically. "The courtier came at just the wrong time, wouldn't you know. But it'll do the trick for young Nathan. Come, come," she said to him.

Once they sat--and once Nathan had been obligingly taken a few bites of the porridge (he didn't know what she was talking about, 'not perfect'; it tasted wonderful to him)--Nathan began to recount his experience of the storm, pausing to nod and make assurances while Cynthia fed him her good, common-sense advice about just how foolish it was to stand there getting pelted by the rain, and how he ought to have at least worn a thick coat on the roof and of course he'd gotten sick, silly boy. The porridge was helping as much as the tea had, and Nathan found himself sniffling less, no longer a bitter breath in his throat.

At last Nathan described in detail the elusive, pulsing light of the rune, and when he was done, there was a moment of long, profound silence.
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