PrinceCon 19 : PandoraCon
The Emperor, convinced that immeasurable power lay within his artifact, opened Pandora’s Box, and the Demon Lords scattered to the winds.
The Histories speak of the time of the Houses
The Houses had always existed, long before the Ancien Regime, which was controlled by the benificent hand of those of the bloodline of House Rush for many centuries. However, some 1200 years ago, the Knight Sir Robert ‘ne Rush (the ‘ne is an ancient form for “of the House”), and last of his line, died. No suitable heir to the throne could be found, and the Houses of the Imperium began a centuries long struggle for the Throne, engulfing the land in the flames of civil war. All but one of the Mortal Houses were demolished by the Daemon Houses (which were said to be populated by creatures more than human). For 200 years, the Daemon Houses scarred the land in the quest for the Throne, gaining and losing power as they supported and betrayed each other, with no real progress. Finally House Ashtaroth, House of Malice, made a push for the empire, sweeping weaker Houses aside as its armies marched for the capital. At the time, a young lady named Pfa had risen to leadership of of House Diras. She rallied and united the other Houses against House Ashtaroth, and, after House Ashtaroth was crushed, allied herself with the Warders of Alhazien (an archaic term for “elves”) and the Children of Daglir (an archaic name for “dwarves”), and banished the heads of the other Houses. Dubbing herself Queen the First and Empress of the Lands, she took control of the Empire and her direct descendants have ruled for the past milennium.
In these times the last know descendant-proper of House Diras, Emperor Raynor II, is nearing the completion of his fifth year of rule in the land. However, things bode poorly for his ever reaching a sixth year. Civil unrest plagues the Empire, and the world has not seen such chaos since the War of the Houses a milennium ago. New Feudal Lords have cropped up and appear to be challenging Raynor’s power, and, in mockery of the past, each has taken the name of one of the Daemon Houses of the Ancien Regime.
Normally you would not rise so early during the cool autumn months, preferring instead to remain in the protection of your blankets until ready to face the day; however, that morning the sun shone fiercely through your covers, forcing you awake. Wondering how long it had been since dawn, you heard the cock crow. Perhaps this unnatural lights had even taken him by surprise… Rubbing the sleep out of your eyes, you slid off the left side of the bed and smack into the wall. Grumbling something about getting up on the wrong side, and swinging your legs over the bed, you put on your socks, noting they needed mending (again!), and began to lace your boots when suddenly you spun around and stared at the wall, seeing finally what you had noticed by not paid attention to before. There, written in finely crafted script, lay the following poem:
|Round you the world is spinning,
Ancients are mighty and bold.
Yesterday’s realms are a-winning,
Now the last moon doth unfold.
Order your Hireling Hosts,
Rush to their various posts.
Peace is no more, violence rules the day.
In the woods the sheep to shear,
Tell me, is the world round or flat?
The House of all Houses spreads its mighty hand,
To Catch an Itch was fortune’s way,
The world shall hear the voice of a song that’s new,
Oh! Lock whose key controls the wizard world,
Heroic Yeukuth, entombed, Soul Magic gone.
When Jason and his heroes bold,
I and she are siblings, cause mankind to grieve.
Seek those who beset your wooden walls,
Fleet I am, and strong beyond compare,
Come, hear the silver lyres play,
Ad astra, per aspera! My motto beckons high!
Read the words I give to thee,
At the Palace
Prophecies and riddles are something of a lost art, but something tells you that this sending should be told to the Emperor himself. When you arrive at the capital, a scribe takes down the words politely, and asks you to wait for the Emperor’s pleasure. As you wait, you learn that others have had similar experiences.
You hang around Hireling Hall all day, waiting for word. Suddenly, it comes! “All adventurers, good and true, are summoned to Hireling Hall to serve the Emperor, Raynor II. Come with utmost urgency, and tarry not!” You report to Hireling Hall and over a hundred of you are sworn to serve the Empire in its hour of need. You are then ordered to report to the Imperial Palace, where Raynor shall receive you in the Great Audience Chamber.
A Summons To The Palace
The wardens admit you to the Outer Hall, where you await the emperor’s pleasure. The palace is magnificent, and especially this antechamber. The ceiling is of purest gold, the walls of carved marble. The floor is alabaster, into which precious and semiprecious gems have been set in a mosaic. To the East, an arch of silver leads to the Imperial Gardens, while to the West, smaller arches lead to the chapels of the various gods. The North portal is a massive double door of pure ebony, with hinges of mithril. Assuredly that must lead to the Audience Chamber!
Each of you is impressed in his or her own way. The Dwarves gaze approvingly upon the workmanship, while trying not to be too obvious about computing the value of precious metals and gems. The Elves begin to drift towards the gardens, which are large enough to support a small herd of roe deer. The Perrin begin to play a hopscotch-type game on the tiles, as the humans gaze at them disapprovingly and try to remember their protocol for when they meet the Emperor. Surely this is the Antechamber of Power!
At last, the ebony doors open, and the herald summons you. “Oyez! Oyez! All faithful subjects here present draw nigh before his Serene Excellence, the Most Puissant, Most Wise, and Most Gracious Emperor, Raynor, second of that happy name!”
An Emperor’s Court
The Dwarves stand agape. The Great Hall of Audience causes all the riches you have seen to pale into insignificance. Raynor sits in a throne of pure adamant upon a circular dais, the circumference of which is set with precious gems of every kind in promiscuous disorder. The upper wall is a clerestory; stained glass windows depict famous battles and deeds all around, while a giant Rosette window casts its array of colors precisely around the dais, complementing its gems. On three sides is a balcony, the balustrades bedecked with the arms of great houses, both extant and extinct. Weapons and armor, trophies of wars long forgotten, decorate every niche.
Guards are on the balcony and before the throne. The air is thick with magic. Wards and protections are almost palpable to the mages, while the clerics sense a consecration specially designed for the Imperial Presence. A factotum hastily passes out pieces of parchment. Raynor stands and addresses you:
|Ghildakaquol! Macan Ghe eth ‘qua, Ghen’ne, ure’ne’sa eru
finla gholiol’t Ghe’t. Orla’e Ghe ‘xi ghil ghenna
‘quaquaqua nerd, zhil’sa, ‘on areefnel, ‘on robsax aquo; Epo
menth ‘ri Gher extru’t menthax ‘ri ‘que fina gholee. Ashe:
inre Ghe a ‘queque ver’a inre’a Ghen’ne, ‘quaqua weer fre,
a’sa aquoto ‘on Nerda Ghea.
* * *
Court Speech! Does anyone besides Hermit Clerics ever study Court Speech! And even most of them try to forget it! Fortunately, the parchment in your hand contains a translation, and if you cannot read, a kindly Hermit cleric does so for you.
An Imperial Address
(please follow the instructions marked in parentheses)
Faithful liegemen! We greet you in Our name, and in the name of Our illustrious forbears of happy memory. The emergent occasion that is upon Us leaves Us little time for pleasantries or ceremony, or We would have accepted your service and homage in person and with all due honor before the Chamberlain and Curia. Nevertheless, We accept that which has been given and accepted in Our name as fully and with as right as heart as if it were done in our Own Person.
(The Emperor will pause. Applaud and cheer.)
The Holy Gods above have surely chosen you for the missions before you, for these prophesies that you have brought to Us are assuredly their work, the tendency of which is nought but to Our good. Our Imperial Sages have, though the art of enlightening dark words belongs to the dim past, penetrated much.
(Pause. All shout, “May the Hermit be praised!”)
This poem is in quatrains, each describing a quest, most or all of which must be fulfilled very soon, or the throne shall be taken from Our house. At Hireling Hall, Our sages have posted those that must be undertaken with greatest dispatch. Our sages also tell us that much remains a mystery; perhaps there are clues remaining that only you can unravel.
(As the Emperor points to the crowd, say “Your confidence inspires us, Most Wise One! We shall not let you down!”)
In this Hour of Need, We have had the Imperial Armorer prepare Our Equipage for taking the field with you!
(The armorer appears with armor and sword. Shout “No! No! No! Let the Emperor remain in the Seat of Power. We shall brave the field in Your Puissant Name!” Try to make it sound spontaneous and convincing. The armorer will retire.)
Vox populi, vox dei est! We shall remain. Go forth with bravery, craft and wisdom, for the poem assures Us that Our only hope is in you!
(As the Emperor stands, applaud and cheer. When the herald begins to shout, say “Long live Emperor Raynor! May he lead us to victory!”)
A Mission Begun
Raynor finishes, and you applaud enthusiastically. Three shouts of “Long live Emperor Raynor! May he lead us to victory!” and you exit. Some of the more learned Hermits can be heard muttering, “Didn’t he offer to pledge fealty to the nobles while standing on our dead bodies?” “He should either learn to use the Third Transformational Form correctly, or speak in Common!”
You depart, and return to Hireling Hall to select the mission for which you seem best suited.