16 December, 2016

Mother and Grandfather,

I write to you of a most urgent matter, as it appears that Santa Cora has been blockaded – I am told that there is no way to get a message out of the city. I hope that the way by which I send this message may yet be open.

Edmund of the Council of Four informs us that a massive orc army is some few days away. It seems that our little company for the past few weeks has unknowingly has traveled scant days ahead of it.

To out best information, the orc incursion is based at Proudfort. The army approaching Santa Cora appears to comprise at this point, James puts in the details that he got from Edmund and the commander about the composition of the army – numbers, naval, siege..

Although this information was initially not strongly credited, I was able to confirm to the city commander that Chancer’s Hope was indeed assaulted by a large orc naval fleet and land army, backed by giants. (Reassuring that the names “Mallard” and “Griffinsheart” carry at least some weight). The city now prepares for battle and siege, but I fear that Santa Cora is woefully unsuited to such, having always relied on its magics.

The magics of the city appear to be – well – not working properly, and it’s impossible to be more precise than that at this stage. I fear that the Lich King may be involved in all this, as there have been liches in the city and other phenomena relating to the undead.

It is something of a puzzle to me as to how this very considerable army – if these orcs come from their usual lands to the northwest – was moved to Proudfort. The logistics are challenging. The only feasible route, I suspect, would be along the behemoth path, to the ruins around the Grey Towers, down the coast and through the Koru Straits. This means that Drakenhall must also be involved – Drakenhall controls the straits, and in any case orcs simply don’t have ships as a rule.

Thus the most terrible enemies of the empire – the orcs, the dragons, and the undead – would seem to be in some sort of alliance, one of at least several years standing, which is now moving into open action.

James debated mentioning the very secret fact that the city has a second node, and that it is deactivated, and that activating it would worsen relations with the dwarves and elves. It seems that the nodes used to be more active in the past, and played a role in the old wars.

He is not mentioning it because it’s a military secret, and because it doesn’t directly relate to what the recipients of this letter need to know. If he included it, then grandad Lancet and Ducalis could not show this letter to anyone else, which is something they might need to do.

Irrespective of my speculations about history, obviously major action cannot be taken on my word alone. However, I hope that if indeed no communications are getting into or out of Santa Cora, at least someone has noticed and wondered why that might be the case. The situation is extremely grave.

Oh, mother – in happier news, it appears I am now a Captain.

On Empire

12 December, 2016

This is not a letter to anyone in particular. Maybe James just writes things down to organise his thoughts

The Lich King asked me an important question earlier today.

Yes, truly. I rather foolishly decided to attempt to wear a certain ring, judging that better me than someone else. In the end, perhaps I was right. I seem to have emerged mostly unscathed and un-ringed. (How on earth was Cannis simply able to remove it?)

Neverthleless he asked me: why should it matter who in particular is emperor? Is not the empire its people?

The answer struck me immediately as “no”, although I was at something of a loss to defend it. I answered that my loyalty is given to The Emperor, but the Lich-King’s question was a fair one. There have been other Emperors before the man we have now, and there will be others subsequently. If another man were Emperor, I would serve him as willingly and completely as I do this one. So to what, then, is my loyalty given?

Although, obviously, the possibility of having an empress doesn’t cross his mind. Can I just say, at this point, that Her Maj Elizabeth the Second by Grace of God Queen of Australia does a wonderful job, God blessah?

The notion that The Empire is its people belies itself the moment you start to examine the notion. Let us start with the obvious: there is nothing special about we the inhabitants of the empire. The people are simply people, the same as in other times and places, and nothing more. Nothing less, either: people are quite remarkable. But there is nothing inherently different between a work-gang of farmers and a pack of bandits. They eat and drink, they bleed, they have hopes and virtues and vices. It’s possible for a sailor to be punctual, diligent, and obedient and yet crew a pirate ship.

The difference between bandits and farmers is law. Framers obey the law because they are confident that the law – the emperor – protects them. That is, the substance of empire is its laws, its governance, its traditions. Why do people obey the law? Well, for some it is purely a pragmatic affair. But hopefully, most people obey the law because it is right that they do so.

In a word: the substance of empire is its legitimacy. A nebulous idea, to be sure. And so the need for strong symbols – flags and parades, a crown and a man to wear it. To give one’s loyalty to those symbols is not in itself wrong, even if that loyalty might be understood more deeply.

Nevertheless, we are in danger of a solipsism here, that the empire is legitimate because it is legitimate. As the Lich King points out – if he were Emperor, I would serve him. He may be right about that, but it does not follow from that that I should therefore support his efforts to overturn the current Emperor. To put it another way – it may not matter all that much who the emperor is, but it matters a great deal how he came to become the emperor.

If I travelled to another part of the world, with different laws and a different emperor, should I be obliged to follow the laws there?

I say yes. No – I say maybe. Laws can be unjust and oppressive. If the laws in this hypothetical kingdom were worth honouring, then they would be substantially the same as the laws here. They would outlaw murder and theft and sedition, they would oblige the strong to protect the weak, they would make it possible for a common man to pursue a trade and raise a family in security.

Perhaps I have just changed my mind. No – perhaps I have found a way out of the quandry of legitimacy. The emperor and his laws are right because they do right for the people that they are protected by. So it does come back to the people, but not in the manner the Lich King argues.

What a load of nonsense I have written! Necromancy disgusts me – I shall not serve a fleshless head under any circumstances, it’s as simple as that. Likewise, I shall not forswear my oaths – how could I have forgotten? I will oppose the Lich King, all who serve him, and any other enemy of the Dragon Empire to the limit of my power to do so, now and always.

Suicide bombers (Oooh! Controversial!)

17 October, 2016

Now that James has someone to report to (in-character) and a way to do it, it makes writing these things a bit easier. I’ll see how much I can recall of the last two sesssions.

James will make two copies, I think – one for dad via mum, and one for granddad. James is thinking that Ducalis would be more interested in magical happenings, and grandfather more interested in staying abreast of current events. He may be wrong about that 🙂 .

Events relating to attacks on dwarves in Santa Cora, (insert-date-here)

  1. Information

    1. Yesterday, our unit undertook a mission to kill a lichling in the dwarven tombs of Santa Cora.
      1. The lichling was present, and we sucessfully dealt with her.
      2. The lichling mentioned, I belive, something about “court”, which I take to mean the court of the lich-king.
      3. After the creature was dealt with, we recovered a heavily magical ring. I have it for safekeeping, but I have not worn it and doubt it is safe to do so.
    2. Yesterday evening, Xavier’s Home for Wayward Dwarves was approached by a person wearing a vest of

      1. Our unit intervened
      2. I rendered the explosive inert with a Dispel Magic abjuration.
      3. The attacker was This was game two weeks ago – I forget most of what happened, except what my character did. A don’t know what became of the dude, or if he was human.
    3. Today, the dwarven embassy here in Santa Cora was attacked
      1. The attacks took the from of large missiles, apparently from a heavy siege weapon.
      2. The embassy caught fire. I was not near enough to see if the source of the fire was the missiles themselves, or some other cause.
      3. We identified the source of the fire as being a particular tower at (insert address here).
      4. As there was already a bucket-chain forming to deal with the fire at the embassy, we chose to investigate the tower.
      5. We entered the tower – the door was warded, I believe the cloak I wear disarmed the wards.
      6. We found no-one and nothing at the top of the tower, from which the fire had been coming.
      7. We found a drag-mark on the roof, near the edge and in the direction of the embassy, consistent with something having been pushed off the roof.
      8. After a brief interval, Edmund of the Circle of Four arrived. He stated that:
        1. Nobody had entered this tower for centuries, and that he himself had made failed attempts to do so; and
        2. That a certain magical effect about 15′ above the roof of the tower was the source of the protection from adverse weather which covers Santa Cora.
    4. We have moved into this unoccupied tower and taken it for our base of operations.
  2. Evaluation

    Two attacks on dwarven establishments is most certainly not a coincidence. Quite obviously, some party in the city with considerable resources is attacking dwarves. They are not likely to cease. As it is unlikely that we just happened to be present for the only two attacks this party has made, there have probably been others.

    Whatever party organised these attacks has access to considerable magics. The missiles being fired at the embassy may have been conjurations, and it may be possible that the weather enchantment may have been used to enable or amplify the effect. I am reminded of the Ebony Watch node, where also an attempt was made to “hijack” an existing magical emplacement.

    Likewise, the explosives in the explosive vest was magical rather than alchemical – hence why the abjuration was able to disable it.

    Another odd parallel with the Ebony Watch incident is the presence of undead. There is no direct link, however, it is very suggestive that this lichling should have been active, in the dwarven tombs, immediately before at least two attacks on dwarves. The involvement of some kind of undead nobility would certainly account for the the presence of a mage skilled enough to enter a tower that has withstood every attempt by Edmund do do so.

    Unless, of course, that party had a cloak like mine. The possibility that a party loyal to the empire (the cloaks magics require this) might be responsible for these attacks is gravely disturbing.

    Our unit numbers two dwarves. Mal Shieldglider will most certainly insist on taking some action. He is, after all, a Shieldglider – rank does come with responsibilities. The sympathies of the entire unit, myself included, are rather on his side in this.

  3. Action

    At this stage, the goal of any action would be to keep more dwarves from being killed, both as a goal in itself and to stabilize relations.

    1. Mal will wish to consult with the dwarf temple and community. I am concerned that they are not likely to know who is doing this, why, and may fall back on blaming the usual suspects, whoever they may be.
    2. In general: our unit comprises individuals of diverse skills and backgrounds. Most likely, what will happen next is that people will split up and each investigate in their own way. We will rendezvous here to compare notes.
    3. It might be wise, today at least, to prepare multiple castings of Message.
    4. I intend to investigate the magics of this tower further. I have not yet investigated as to how far (and in what sense) the structure goes underground.

      Examining this tower further will probably not advance our goals.

      Perhaps rather than this I should simply hit the books. There is no shortage of them here in Santa Cora. Why should these attacks be happening now?

      Perhaps I should simply systematically visit each graveyard and look for suspicious activity.

      I should just accompany one of my allies who does have a plan of action and would like a little back-up.

    In summary: at this stage we lack a clear plan of action. Which is to say: I do. My allies will seek information in their own ways.

We will have a talky, role-playing game tonight at the bar. I need to examine the books for some cheese that will permit James to craft some walky-talkies. Not as good as Edmund’s, obviously, but

Reporting In

6 October, 2016

As we have just arrived in Santa Cora, I write to “report in”.

Our group has taken lodging in Xavier’s home for wayward dwarves. The city is full, and so I have prevailed on cousin Buffy to take us in. She seems less than pleased, and it would be best if we found other lodging before long.

Some of us have business here, especially Misthanar, who seeks treatment for his petrified arm. I myself will be seeking some sage to consult about the reactivation of the Ebony Watch node, the change in the Chancer’s Hope node, and my part in it.

Hopefully, we will spend only a few days here before proceeding on.

(Initials J.M.)

Out-of-character, granddad has contacts, granddad knows people, but James is being round-about about asking for help. Perhaps he’s in a “Lancet” frame of mind, not wanting to create a debt. Meta-game, of course, it’s just a way for the DM to pass info to the party in-game. Although James isn’t happy about the drama, ut seems Andy is perfectly happy for us to stay at cousin Buffy’s 🙂 .

James did get some help from granddad, though – it seems the expert on nodes is Aeg Ilsa. The necromancer. I suspect he might be a Professor Snape character – everyone thinks he’s bad, but he’s was secretly good all along.

James doesn’t like necromancy. None of my good characters do, even though it is one of the best schools of magic for sheer hit-point damage 🙂 (the others being transmutation and evocation). Then again, I have always preferred utility casters.

Back to it – James has been a little rude to Aeg in the past, a little cool and distant. But, Aeg had previously said something about the nodes (“Do you think re-igniting the node was a good idea?”) and now granddad is saying that he’s the man to talk to. James is going to suck it up and be civil.

Oh – a fun moment in-game. Speaking of utility casters. Bad guy magically locked a door and split the party. Misthanar belted the thing but not enbough to break it. The DM permitted me to use the Hold Portal utility spell to undo the bad guy’s Hold Portal. Rolled a 20. In game, “The magic was the only thing holding the door together after Mist hit it, so with the magic gone it just [hand gesture]”.

Now that I have level 3 spells, I pack the wizard Utility Spell at third level, giving me access to Levitate, Speak With Item as well as the first-level effects. I even took the feat, so that I get two castings from one slot. James has High Arcana talent, which among other things grants you access to Dispel Maqic, so putting it all together its reasonable he might be able to undo an enemny Hold Portal on a 20.

Nice to see the utility spell come in handy straight away, although the main reason I took it was for Levitate, which will get you out of a number of jams (being thrown in a pit, drowning). At fifth level you can cast it on an ally. Still, seeing how the bad guy so effectively split the party with it was a nice lesson. And Message also has its uses.

We are mid-combat. Andy has permitted us a sort of semi-short-rest, recharging encounter powers, and carrying over over my command points and Nova quick actions. I have plans for the lichlings’s book, which doesn’t seem to be a phylactery but which is nevertheless so, so evil.


13 September, 2016

Damn I hope my message pouch still works. Baisek Toasten is “The Occultist”, from “13 True Ways”.

Dearest Mother,

I write in hope that this message finds you in continued good health, as is mine thanks be to all the gods. (or something like that). This letter concerns certain peculiarities about the magics of one of my companions; which has been something of a mystery to me for some time; and, having become more acquainted with it earlier today, I am at something of a loss as to what might be the import of it. Which is to say, perhaps Father should know.

I travel with a dwarf, one Baisek Toasten. He is a user of magic, but not a wizard, or sorcerer, or necromancer, or divine caster, or – in short – any form of magic that I am familiar with or have ever heard of. He is certainly self-trained, but his magics are not driven by passion in the same way that those of a sorcerer are. On occasion, he would mention “threads” – moving them, manipulating them. It seemed to me that this was as good a metaphor for what we do as any other, and I thought not much more of it.

A recent incident that I was not privy to had put him into some sort of induced insensibility for about two days. Last night, I resolved to take action. Baisek is bonded to a magical item, a stone orb (originally some sort of geode I believe), and so it seemed I might be able to reach him though a Speak With Item ritual thought that orb.

The ritual I believe was a success, although Elsbeth did interfere and credits Baisek’s awakening to her intervention. I suppose we will never know if Baisek awoke from his magical coma because I had managed to make some sort of contact with his soul through an item bonded to him; or if it was because Elsbeth stabbed him to wake him up. It is an enigma, and shall remain forever a mystery.

In any case, Baisek and I “got to talking” as they say. As near as I can make out, the threads that he speaks of are threads of time, or perhaps ‘fate’ is a better word. He assists we his allies in battle by somehow altering the outcome of what would have otherwise happened, or by augmenting a blow by adding to it the blow from another possible reality, so doubling it. I am persuaded that he is being truthful – I have several times noticed the effects of his magics which, while not especially showy or obvious, are indeed visible to the eye.

Recently, I was entrusted by Edmund of the Circle of Four with a certain book; which describes certain aspects of astrology and the overworld; and from which I have been supplementing my studies. “As above, So below”, but that simple formula unpacks into – well – hundreds of pages, and really this book merely scratches the surface. The Gods decide our fates, or orchestrate it, or perhaps argue over it; but nevertheless certainly have something to do with it; and we see this in the motions of the stars above us. There is a resonance between the courses of the stars in the sky and human affairs, and the stars are manifestations of the gods – their thoughts, perhaps, their will.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Now, it’s all very well to credit the gods with great grand designs, but all plans however grand must come down to action, to events “on the ground”. All strategy must be implemented through logistics and tactics. If the gods influence human affairs, then that influence must in the end come down to the outcome of a sword blow, a rogue wave on the sea. “And all for the want of a horseshoe nail”, as the saying goes.

The question then is: what do we make of a dwarf who more-or-less directly – as he puts it – pulls on the strings of fate? Oh, only in a very limited way, of course, in a limited scope. For now. As far as I have seen. But nevertheless, fate – the province of the gods. Is he a servant of the gods? A messenger, a pawn, a priest? Is he an an offence to them, a blasphemy, an abberation? A mere mortal interference to their plans? Does he wrest these “strings” from their hands? Does he merely tug a little on the strings that are already in place?

All I really know is that Baisek himself does not know.

Perhaps I make too much of this. Perhaps there are places where “fate magic’ is quite common. It’s simply that the things that Baisek tries to describe and the things I am reading in this book seem to be – seem to be two different ways of saying the same thing, if that makes sense. It may not be a coincidence that we travel to Santa Cora. If someone is pulling us by the string, I hope they mean well.

I should be grateful for any insight into the matter.

Your most obedient son,

Messages II

12 July, 2016

I actually wrote this post before I wrote part I. The scene at Lancet House suggested itself, and it seemed a shame to not write it down.

The old man (no name yet) is James’ maternal grandfather. His paternal grandfather is deceased. The marriage between Ducalis and Frances is a fairly typical one: his name, her money. Both the Mallards and the Lancets get a fair bit of advantage. The Lancets get access to some of the more usually inaccessible halls of government; and the Mallards get – well – nobody really respects a coat of arms not backed by at least a little money. The more money, the better.

This is what the scene where grandfather pledges his aid to Ducalis’ faction is about: grandfather understands the nature of the deal that he has made with the Mallards. And in any case, his sympathies rather align with theirs. They are all good people, because this is a happy and positive campaign. As to what the big picture is, the war: heck, I don’t know. All I know is something big is going down and our characters will be in the center of it all. 🙂

I see Frances as being quite a bit younger than Ducalis – ten years or so. Again, quite usual for this sort of arrangement. Nevertheless they are – maybe ‘devoted’ is a little strong, but certainly very happy. I had intended for Frances to be a bit more quiet and shrewd, sort of counterbalancing Andy’s idea of what Ducalis is like. Maybe she is, usually. We saw her in an unusual state last post.

A lancet is a medical tool for drawing blood – if you’ve ever had a finger prick to get a blood sample, that’s what the tool that does it is called. The name sounded suitably posh and very appropriate for a family of moneylenders.

The three golden balls I believe originally came from the arms of House Medici. In the real world, it signifies a pawnbrokers.

James wrote for hours. He attended a banquet held in honour of the merry heroes of Griffinsheart, then he returned to his room and resumed writing. It had been only a few months, but he wrote it all. When he ran out of ink and parchment, he called a palace flunky and got some more. His transfer to Griffinsheart. Salty Bob, the Devil of the Sea. Smedley’s taxes and probable land scams. Mal Sheildglider’s ancient mace, that glows underground. Edmund the Marked, the necromancer Aeg Ilsa, the white dragon. The detonation of the Griffinsheart estate, and the uncovering of the ruins beneath it, and their settlement by the dwarves.

He wrote about their strange journey through the Wildwood, which had seemed like days but was probably weeks. The underground cavern in the woods, the phoenix. The grandmother’s cabin. He described Aeg’s gift at his camp in the woods, and his strange words: “The Archmage will be most … displeased”. The re-igniting of the Ebony Watch node and the sad fate of its captain, along with the problematic news that at least one node had been in the process of being claimed by a hostile magic user. He write about the stirring of the Eld, the baby giant, the closing of the southern hellmouth and the strange bleeding stone. (Did we see a Behemoth? He’ll put that down as well.)

He described their return to Chancer’s hope, and the orcish and giantish assault. His re-ignition of the dwarf node, the fight between Aeg and Edmund. Then the second attack, and his inadvertent turning of the node and the political fallout of that, including his own suspension from duty.

He wrote about the complete criminality of Newport, the obliviousness of the duke, the monk festival, the cage of people held to be food of the Chuul, strange portal to the plane of Darakuul – who waited for the end. The plane of ash, remnant of one of The Crusader’s wars. Finally, he described yesterday’s events: the great chuul and the portal.

He concluded:

In the end, I am not really sure what to make of all this. I see I have rambled more than I intended, but it’s probably best to tell you all I could.

Most of all, I am worried that matters between the empire and the dwarves may be turning sour. The empire cannot afford to lose an ally when giants and orcs are attacking cities, nor can we afford to acquire an enemy that can tunnel under our feet from one end of the continent to the other.

We continue west overland, as the ports are blockaded (I have no idea by whom, or why, or even how for that matter). From Santa Cora we should make quicker time. I will be able to head home, and Mal and the rest of my companions will head north to Forge, to whatever awaits them there.

The thick sheaf of parchment was dispatched by skymail next day – the skies over Newport not being blockaded quite yet.

I think we’ll have to agree that Ducalis’ appearance at Newport was some kind of quasi-real sending, or else it makes no sense why he would have left James there.

The duke held a grand ceremony for their departure, throwing open his vault of useful magics. James chose nothing, feeling it would be inappropriate. However, he did refresh his usual complement of three healing potions in case they should run into Edmund again.

Then the party hit the road to Santa Cora with provisions, horses, even a carriage. They made a formidable party and for the first part of their trip, at least, were unmolested. A week into their journey they came to an unnamed roadhouse – an imperial outpost along the trail. There was a package waiting for James.

From his father, two books and a letter. One book was the standard third-circle text with a few useful additions; and the other was a short history of Sir Draper’s disastrous Bitterwood campaign, with commentary. The letter mentioned that aside from anything else, it was clear that James’s studies had progressed to the point where it was safe for him to begin working with these new magics. His father also wrote that Mal Shieldglider’s safety was of great concern, as he held a hereditary position of considerable importance, and that above all James should make every effort to come home to the family estate as quickly as he may.

From his mother, another letter and a small pouch. The pouch’s long drawstring bore a small seal with the Lancet family mark of three golden balls and had a heavy scoreline across the center.

The letter read:


Your father is more worried than he will admit about your letter. We are both greatly concerned about your safety on the road; but the political situation and the state of the empire is more dire than you or your companions know. Your father tells me little of his work, of course, but it is plain that magic is roiling from one end of the empire to the other and beyond. As dearly as we wish you to be here at home, in many ways a road out in the middle of nowhere might be the safest place for you at present, especially considering your current company.

One thing, however, I must deal with. A Lancet does not borrow money – we lend it, and a Lancet most certainly does not haggle with regional nobility for travel expenses! I have had a chat with your grandfather, and he has agreed that one of us should not wander about the wilds on some nag, starving, in rags, and incommunicado. And so I have sent you this pouch. It is a small one, but more easily concealed for that and more than large enough for the purpose. It will manage a few coins, small letters. As you are on the road, grandfather might ask you to act as something of an agent for the family concerns. Discrete, of course. There are not many that will connect you with the Lancet name, and that’s all to the good.

Do be responsible with it dear. Avoid using it regularly or at predictable intervals. Hide it well, and be sure to snap the seal should it look like it might be taken. As to how to operate it, I must leave that as a puzzle for you.

Though you travel as far as Julian, stay safe. Return to us as soon as you may.


“Dire”. Like the rest of her family, James’ mother was inclined to be shrewd and cautious. It wasn’t a word that she would use lightly. But there was nothing for it for now but to continue on to Santa Cora.

Which first? The books or the pouch? Well, the books would take hours just to get started with them. He was going to be spending the next few weeks on the road reading and practising, drawing circles, cajoling sprites, and doing new tongue-twisters. So: the pouch.

Examining it with his magical senses, he could clearly see how the interior was not quite present in this reality, or not entirely, and how the seal was some sort of keystone for the whole. It was activated by some sort of very elaborate ritual, probably, but there was no clue as to what it might be.

So he scanned the letter for clues. And it was obvious: Julian Lancet – his ancestor on the distaff side. Not nearly so ancient as Baron Geofrrey, but still a fair way back. It’s said he went out onto the endless sea to find spices, and then within 8 years parlayed the profits into a fleet and a counting house.

And then he recalled the childhood guessing-game. His mother played it with his brothers, and with him in his turn. You had to say a rhyme and them guess what was in a treasure-box. The game was mainly about getting the rhyme exactly right: it’s rhythm and patterns of emphasis, the secret knock on the box. On getting it exactly, exactly right, his mother would open the box, revealing a sweet, or a toy.

James looked about to confirm that he was in private, and recited the child’s rhyme:

“Julian Lancet sailed on the ocean
Julian Lancet crossed the sea
Julian Lancet rapped on the lock
And lifted the lid to see:

“Ten silver pieces!”, finished James. After a moment the pouch … did something, and inside were ten silver pieces. James left them there. The pouch’s magic was depleted, of course. He put the long drawstring over his head and patted the pouch into place under his shirt. He then broke out his new textbooks and started reading.

That evening, at about the end of first watch, the pouch – well – “ping!”ed in James’ mind. James lit his magelight and wandered off away from camp for a private moment. In the pouch, the ten silver coins had been replaced by several coins of various denomination – even a couple of platinum – and an unsigned note in a neat masculine hand on onionskin paper. It read:

Well done James. You needn’t be quite so cautious in future when drawing minor expenses against the vault. Significant drafts are another matter. It’s best to clear the pouch after use. Now that you are bonded you can send items to other pouches by nominating the recipient, but for now you should communicate only with me or your mother and not mention your bond with the item to the rest of the family. Or indeed, to anyone.

Stay in touch, but do not over-use the item. Inform me when reaching Santa Cora.

Without needing to be told, James burned both letters with a Spark.

As for James’ hopefully cheesy new item, subject to DM approval of course, I’m thinking that the Lancets have several of these connected portals. Thing is, the way they actually work is that sprites carry whatever it is via the Low Way. This means that if you use them too much or too regularly, especially if you are using them to convey valuables, then something will eventually notice and you will find that the transport becomes a little unreliable. Your sprites will get eaten and your stuff stolen, basically. It’s better to send a cheque than coin, but not a lot of inns take cheques.

As for in-game effect, as well as being a handy plot hook and general Deus Ex Sacculum, I’ll ask for an in-game effect of the pouch giving in effect two background points in “Being from a banking family”. It’s the equivalent of a feat. Haggling, appraisal, that sort of thing but large-scale. Tarry might be better at telling you how much, say, a silver cup might be worth (ie: can be fenced for); but with the pouch around his neck James is the person to ask how much a ship might be worth, or a business. And either of them can probably make a decent stab at the gp equivalent of a gem. And of course, he can always ask granddad. Up to a point. Not that we’ll be actually working out the money in detail, because that’s dull. We’ll hand-wave it.

Quirk might be “keeps careful track of money”. James won’t tip out his money and count it obsessively. Well, at least not every day. But he will start tracking purchases and expenses.

I have no idea what work granddad might want James to do in Santa Cora, or elsewhere. If any.

Dammit, I nearly forgot – thanks to John for his notes on dropbox. I had forgotten some cool stuff.

Messages, Pt I

11 July, 2016

Lancet House. A grand old building, on a grand old street, in the heart of the mercantile district of Axis. Its appearance belied the reality: the Lancets were not exactly nouveau riche, but neither were they old money. There’s a difference between a centuries-old coat of arms and a well-respected trademark. Neverthless, well-respected they were.

Let me set the scene – clerks bustling in and around, queues of well-dressed gentlemen and well-dressed gentlemen’s flunkies waiting to manage their quarterly business: paying off loans, taking them out. Out to the side, a cordon of a dozen armed guards manages today’s transfer of specie between Lancet House and the Empire Reserve bank.

Four floors above, in a very masculine and old-school office (oxblood leather and darkwood furniture, books on the shelf, gold pens on the desk, a world globe on a stand, cognac in the cabinet, two pairs of sound-muffling doors leading in and anti-scrying spells carved into sheet lead tastefully concealed behind handsome wood panelling. You get the idea) in this office, Frances was in the middle of very nearly a full rant:

“… wandering about the wilderness with some army people, I ask you – a halfling and a pair of dwarves by every account. No-one knows where he is. Ducalis managed to find him, thank heaven. He was supposed to be in Chancer’s Hope, instead he’s at Newport – Newport, for God’s sake! – haggling with some provincial duke for travel expenses. A Lancet! A Lancet reduced to going cap-in-hand to some regional noble for money to buy food! And of course Ducalis ordered him to come home as soon as possible, and so he has dutifully hit the road again. He’s somewhere between Newport and Santa Cora now, starving and in rags, on some ploughhorse or on foot I shouldn’t wonder, in all sorts of company, and no-one has a clue how to find him or how he might be, I’ve been worried sick …”

The terrible old man behind the desk raised his hand for silence, and Frances simmered down immediately. The histrionics were mostly an act, of course. But not without real concern beneath them.

“Very well, Frances, very well. You win. I will send him a pouch by courier.” He drew out from a draw a small, unremarkable-looking soft leather pouch. It had a long drawstring, intended to be worn around the neck, and a small seal which bore the Lancet mark of three golden balls.

Frances looked at the old man accusingly. “You planned this!” He shook his head, “Not planned, dear. Merely taking advantage of an opportunity.”

“There are so few I can really count on. Your cousin Phillip is a sot. Your niece Emma gambles. Frederick is simply an idiot. Oh, there’s enough of us that are reliable that I can run the business, but never as many as I would like. Young James seems a sensible sort, not too much of his father’s habit of crashing about. And he can go more-or-less incognito if he’s out in the sticks.”

Frances narrowed her eyes. “You are going to use him for business.”

The old man’s expression brooked no further nonsense. “The lad has other concerns at the moment, and I respect that. But a Lancet always draws a little blood. No more than people can afford. It’s that little draw that allowed us to match you with that fine husband of yours – you are still happy? Yes, I see you are. Splendid fellow. This pouch is one of the covert ones. Your son will keep it concealed and will break the seal rather than surrender or lose it. He will also need to work out how to use it. If he’s a Lancet, he will already know.”

Frances nodded. Even here, in this heavily-warded office, in the heart of their empire, the family secret remained unspoken.

“Well, that’s all sorted, then,” finished the old man. “Let Ducalis know that I am doing what I can to keep a lid on the current political business. “Gold is the sinews of war”, as they say, but our consortium is not the only gold around, and some of us are seeing a possibility of profit in backing the conflict. Nevertheless, I fully support your husband’s faction. I am doing what I can, dear.”

The pair finished up, they made their farewells, and Frances began her journey home. Even for the rich and powerful, Horizon to Axis is a fair way to come. Of course she had not come on her own. Of course her husband had sent her on a mission, too. “Politics, politics,” thought the old man. “Ducalis uses my daughter, and I his son. Well, it’s no more than a little draw. Nothing at all compared to the blood that gets spilled in war.”