CruelSummerLord writes "
In just a few short weeks, everything would be in place. Count Fedorik would be dead and Idee would be at South Province’s mercy. The rest of the Iron League states, fractured by the conquest of Idee and the further disruptions of the Naelaxian agents, would fall one by one.
Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword
The next morning, Xavener received a
letter written and signed by Theran, Caradoc’s wizard aide. There was no
question it was from Theran, as Xavener recognized the wizard’s handwriting. It
was delivered by one of Caradoc’s messengers, who would obey Theran without
question. The wax that held the letter closed was stamped with Caradoc’s
In the letter, Theran detailed how he’d
captured the adventurers Xavener sent to try and ruin Caradoc’s plans. He described
them in detail, and Xavener knew they were that Seline woman and her friends. The
letter concluded by telling Xavener that Caradoc and Xeravho were planning a suitable
punishment for his interference.
That disturbed Xavener more than a
little. He knew that Seline and her friends were likely tortured or charmed
into revealing why they’d raided Caradoc’s estate. In that case, Caradoc and
Xeravho would almost certainly retaliate against him immediately…and several of
the other nobles involved in the conspiracy would follow suit. Their plot was
too important to let a loose end like Xavener continue to threaten it.
Xavener knew he could be expecting
visitors soon, and not pleasant ones. It made sense that someone as prideful
and hot-tempered like Caradoc would want to punish Xavener not just for interfering
with his plans, but for humiliating him in front of Herzog Chelor. Xavener
could deny being involved in the plot, and he could likely muster enough
support from other nobles who’d benefited from dealing with him to force
Caradoc and the rest to lay off him. Norreck wouldn’t appreciate the attacks on
his son either, and would muster House Darmen to defend him. The Naelaxians
wouldn’t want a feud with Darmen, not at this point.
Unfortunately, their attacks would still
cause serious trouble for House Darmen and cost Xavener dearly in favors and
prestige. That could be fatal, especially when dealing with his father.
Xavener was about to plan what he’d say
and do to mitigate the damage, when a stray thought crossed his mind. He
wondered if the adventurers had bested Theran and whoever else Caradoc had
guarding his estate, and were trying to trick him into anticipating an attack
from Caradoc or Xeravho. If that was the case, he could punish them
appropriately. He had to admit that he was also increasingly intrigued by the
adventurers’ search for some kind of royal regalia. Whatever this mysterious
crown or sceptre or other artifact was, it was obviously important for them to
be taking the risks they had so far. The gods only knew how valuable such an artifact
could be, not just in wealth, but also in power…
need more information, Xavener
realized. If Caradoc and Xeravho really
are after me , and they kill me…everything I’ve done…everything I’m
seeking…it’ll all come to nothing. And if I’m exposed…
He didn’t want to think about the
consequences that would come from that.
Fortunately, there was one resource he
could consult. Doing so was a dreadful risk, but he was running out of time. He
didn’t dare proceed without ensuring he knew everything he possibly could.
“I should have known!” Caradoc said, his
face red with anger as he slammed the letter down on his desk.
“What is it?” Xeravho asked as he came
into Caradoc’s study.
“Theran bested those adventurers Xavener
sent against us. A couple of them surrendered to him and confessed that Xavener
hired them. He’s bringing them here so we can interrogate them,” Caradoc said,
“And the bodies?” Xeravho said,
reminding Caradoc of the instructions he’d given Theran before they’d left Caradoc’s
manor. He’d ordered Theran to bring him the bodies of any of the adventurers
killed in Theran’s ambush. He planned to interrogate the dead adventurers’
spirits with his magic to learn what they knew and to gather more evidence
“He’s bringing them in tonight, once
he’s had a chance to replenish his spells,” Caradoc said, folding up the letter
The two noblemen were staying at a
small, nondescript keep a few miles east of Zelradton with several of the other
nobles involved in the conspiracy. To the public, the keep was the summer home
of an eccentric merchant from North Province. It actually served as a
convenient place for members of House Naelax to gather when they conducted some
of their most secret operations.
While Xeravho and Caradoc were the
conspiracy’s leading members, the other nobles would contribute to the plan by
smuggling the spies and assassins who would plant the false documents and kill
Count Fedorik into Idee and Sunndi. The other nobles would help surreptitiously
fan the flames between the Iron League states with agents that couldn’t be tied
to the murder of Count Fedorik.
In just a few short weeks, everything
would be in place. Count Fedorik would be dead and Idee would be at South
Province’s mercy. The rest of the Iron League states, fractured by the conquest
of Idee and the further disruptions of the Naelaxian agents, would fall one by
Caradoc smiled wickedly at Xeravho, and
Xeravho returned his smile with a cold, pitiless stare that reflected his
thoughts all too clearly.
Weimar shook his head as he helped
Ma’non’go lift a barrel of oil into the wagon the companions planned to use to
reach the conspiracy’s headquarters. The enchanted Theran told Seline
everything about the layout of the keep the conspirators were staying at,
including its layout and defenses. Theran then told Caradoc’s manor servants,
none of whom dared to question their master’s second in command, that the
companions had gone over to Caradoc’s side. The servants were to help the
companions in any way they could. They’d stayed in the manor during the
previous night’s battle, and hadn’t seen the companions’ actions.
Seline thanked Theran by telling him to
get some rest and to study his spells, since they would need his help later
that evening. She and Luna slept through part of the day and replenished their
own magic. The rest of the companions took turns getting some sleep of their
own in between preparing for what would come later that evening.
“There’s something I don’t get,” Weimar
said as he and Ma’non’go sat down to rest and get some water in a room where
they could speak in private. “Why doesn’t this cabal go back to the Herzog and
tell them about what Xavener’s doing? You’d think our efforts would be evidence
enough. They won’t even adjust their plan because of us or Xavener.”
don’t know Aerdi politics, or you wouldn’t say that, Ma’non’go said. A change now would risk their chance to earn glory and fame. Most Aerdi
aristocrats would rather die than give up such an opportunity.
there’s too much riding on the conspiracy, Ma’non’go reminded Weimar. You recall hearing how angry the Overking is with the Herzog’s failure
to regain the lands of the Iron League? That failure’s cost the Overking’s
coffers a great deal of coin…and another failure, or even a delay, could cost
the Herzog even more than that. If Chelor’s at risk of losing his head, he
wouldn’t have any problem offering Ivid the heads of the conspirators in his
“That makes sense, I guess,” Weimar said
with a shrug. “How do you understand this so well? Did Lord Roas tell you?”
makes you think I needed Lord Roas to tell me? Ma’non’go said, raising an eyebrow.
“Sorry, I-“ Weimar said, clearing his
throat in apology.
said. Suffice to say that I learned a
great deal about this kind of intrigue and betrayal in X’tandelexamenka. Try to
imagine four false friends, men you cherished as brothers, who betrayed you and
left you for dead. I’d have died alone in the jungle if Lord Roas hadn’t found
me. It’s why I can’t bring myself to speak…the shock, the bitterness…it’s not
unlike what Airk’s going through right now.
All Weimar could think to do was pat
Ma’non’go’s arm sympathetically"