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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 3:54 am 
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Location: Portland OR
Friends, Cousins, Comrades and all Gentle Readers,

Traveling in and out of Almeric while navigating the so called Pilgrims Way can be as grim a business as dodging Voie in the Fervidious Hills. Everyone in Almeric, who is anyone, is at war. They are at war with their neighbors. They are at war with their rivals. Many times they are at war with their own brothers and sisters. What a wretched state of affairs.

As best I can guess, they have decimated their population. Literally, not figuratively. Based on my informal survey of abandoned and burned out farmsteads I estimate that over the last twelve years Almeric's population has shrunken by 10%. As institutions fail in Almeric that number can only go up as disease ravages overcrowded walled towns. Also aid from Coryan and Milandir seems less and less likely which will surely lead to famine in the first really hard winter. These terrors kill more than soldiers, and hit the weakest hardest.

So I have begun taking tiny steps toward a new diplomatic initiative while I crisscross the lands. I have hopes of nudging, cajoling or calling into being a Senate or Diet of Princes. And I ask for your help to bring such a thing about as well. Such a deliberative body might become a place where the Princes can coalesce into a national government while immediately solving some of the conflicts. I know many people have pinned their hopes on the creation of a King. But I have come to acknowledge what is true but unspeakable. There is no perceivable path that would unify Almeric under one ruler in our lifetimes. Elorii friends excepted. Possibly.

If you live in Coryan or Milandir, perhaps you think this extreme. Perhaps even radical. However I urge you to remember that the Republic of Altheria has done fine without a throne. While I cannot see a scenario where a King arises I can just barely envision a scenario where many of the Princes are assembled into one room to begin hashing things out. If worse comes to worse and they fight each other, at least then it would just be them shedding blood and not the whole damned country.

Yours in Haste,

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2013 9:40 pm 
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Friends, Cousins, Comrades and all Gentle Readers,

If the letters I have received are any indication, then many of you care far more about the nascent state of Almeric than about the ancient and collective heritage in the Blessed Lands. I admit, I am somewhat surprised. I naturally lean the other way. And usually I do not garner much in the way of replies. Well excepting the replies of academics and other colleagues. You’d be shocked over the things scholars and dilettantes can find to debate. Honestly. I know some scholars connected to the Emerald Society who are still debating what the Khitani Fork Ritual is all about. So far as I know the argument has been running for 42 years. People, just buy some forks already! And find someone from Khitan to teach it to you!

But I digress.

As I was saying, your wider set of comments and critiques has caught me somewhat flat footed. But not displeased. Many messages I have received are passionate, though they were also of widely varying character.

Some of you want to know why they should choose to join an Altherian in meddling. Others appear to be quite taken with the idea of a Chamber of Princes. A few errantly claim that only the consolidation of power in a Throne and King can provide stability.

Let me tackle these thoughts in reverse order.

First, I mean no disrespect to those living under Empires, Kingdoms or Principalities. I am sure you love your nation as much as I love Altheria. History is full of great leaders. Both the legendary First Emperor and the modern King Osric are icons and symbols of heroism! I only mean to point out that other stable governments exist. Look back at the Blessed Land. The First City is effectively ruled by a cabal of Merchants with some foreign military presence. The same is essentially true for the city of Censure. And of course my home, bright Altheria, is an enlightened Republic. All of these governments have been running for hundreds of years.

So while, in theory any stable government is a significant improvement over the anarchy that reigns in Almeric, I see no way to create a Kingdom out of the mess that exists there now. Neither has anyone who has voiced objections put forward a viable path. Unless you count some variation of “Divine Providence,” as a master plan. Personally I would rather take action now rather than wait for thing to get so bad one or more of the Valinor feel compelled intervene.

I submit to you that even some of the Princes and Princesses working together some of the time would be an improvement to what exists now. This potentially highlights one of the strong points of building up a negotiating and legislative body. It has the power to grow from even from a modest start. Rulers will see advantages to joining it. Were we to simply cobble together a league of 10 towns to act in concert we would create a corner of relative calm in Almeric. Fewer crops would be pillaged and burned. Their collective people could trade with each other for mutual benefit. Neighbors would be encouraged to join such a compact for the economic benefits, while outsiders would be discouraged from challenging the combined might of the ten towns.

From a modest seed good things could grow.

I suppose a fair question to ask is, “Are there 10 towns ready to enter into such an arrangement?” And the answer to that at present, as I am sure many of you already surmise, is no.

Almeric needs a nudge.

Now as for why it should be outsiders who provide this nudge, all I can say is that the nudge needs to come from an honest broker every party can trust. No such domestic individual exists. Perhaps Roderick val’Tensen, ruler of Treslau, might fit the bill. At least in some quarters. But Roderick does not seem to be exerting himself in this direction. Further the relative disparity of power between Treslau and smaller towns undermines some of his ability to appeal to fellow val’Tensen who may fear subservience to another more powerful Prince.

I have gone looking for enlightened aides to the various Princes to discuss these views. And to my surprise I have found few to talk to. Suspiciously few. This also cries for outside investigation and perhaps intervention.

Now, the Temple of Hurrian has chosen to do everything possible to keep itself out of the questions of government. And I can see that if you were smart enough to see the horror of anarchy and tyranny coming you might vote with your feet and relocate back to Milandir or Coryan. But still. Where are the rest of the diplomats and wise sages?

I raised this question to one of the few "Princes" who would spend time talking with me. One Walder Gelbachen, who I note is not a val’Tensen, and is scorned by all his neighbors. For all that, there is no denying that he rules the town of Maren. Apologies to my val’Tensen readers, but I judge Walder’s claim to any throne as only slightly more ridiculous than usual.
He countered my questions about the lack of advisers with one of his own, “Have you seen any Battle Mages while traveling in Almeric?”

I had to confess I had not. Which is curious. In a very simple summary of our conversation. Walder noted that in large scale battles it is easier to dedicate a group of archers or slingers to kill off casters of all stripes. The range of missile weapons, even without thinking about flintlocks, is generally much longer than the range of the arcanum. The snipers of the Shining Patrol are in part dedicated to this theory. But with smaller skirmishing groups the balance shifts back, sometimes heavily, to the advantage of casters. In the open you can’t dedicate archers to shooting casters if they are going to be overrun by swordsmen. In the chaos of Almeric a few dedicated casters could have, at least in theory, a disproportionate impact against more mundane troops.

So what is going on? Where are the battle-mages and the sages and the diplomats? Walder suggested I look in to the name of Almeric itself, and then concluded the interview. How irritating! Without I should also note, committing one way or the other to the idea of a parliament. Still, the man was generous with his time.

Researching the name of Almeric is not an arduous a task. Almeric val’Assante was the “second” Emperor of Coryan and is largely credited with forging the nuts and bolts of the Coryani Empire out of the coalition put together by the First Emperor to fight the original Crusade of Light. But for ancient Almeric, it is possible that the First Crusade could have dissolved with death of their leader and everyone might have just returned home." It’s not too hard to see why the val’Tensens might have chosen that name for their fledgling country. But nothing here in the basic version illuminates Walder’s rather cryptic comment.

Fortunately I happen to be one of the most learned scholars on Onara so I had but little trouble digging deeper. Practical Almeric also known with a terrible bargain with a foreign power. It turns out it was also Emperor Almeric val’Assante who first treated with the Sorcerer King of Ymandragore. Almeric granted his Sorcerous Majesty the right to send Harvesters to the Shores of Onara in exchange for defending the continent from further infernal hosts from across the seas. This treaty would hold for roughly 500 years till the ill fated dispute with Empress Shar val’Assante over her twin children Nurion and Gemmalus. Which of course led to the Coryani-Ymandrake War from 536-538 I.C., the sacrifice of Gemmalus to the Isle of Tears and eventually Nurion abdicating the Alabaster Throne to found of the Sanctorum.

Is this what Prince Walder was referring too? I am not entirely sure. But I do know I have encountered very few casters of any stripe in Almeric. Maybe my sample of life in Almeric is too narrow, but I confess I feel a certain guilty relief that Ymandragore usually doesn’t prey upon psions. And I also confess a strong desire to lower my profile while I travel through on the Pilgrims Way. Just in case.

Let’s hope this line of thought proves false. But if true is just one more reason why stability should be reintroduced to this bleeding land. So I ask you, if in your travels you get the chance to bend a Prince's ear, plant this idea. Together we may be enough to provide the nudge I so fervently believe is needed.

I remain as always your obedient scribe,

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:13 pm 
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Gentle Readers,

As I travel through Almeric I worry sometimes about the ideas of permanence, mortality and immortality. This land used to be a stable bastion of civilization. Now it’s much less so. Will it even endure? As I have said elsewhere, I would dearly love to leave some enduring mark on the world, just to prove I have made some kind of difference and have not ghosted through invisibly. But against that I have a deep sense that nothing done by mortals is ever permanent. Permanence is the domain of the gods.

Or is it? Consider the elorii. Four of their gods are no more. So much for the permanence of Gods. Perhaps you wish to quibble. I believe the position of the Mother Church, to which I belong, is that they were great Elemental Lords and not exactly Gods such as the Pantheon of Man. Perhaps. But there are also the hinted stories that the OTHER destroyed the gentlest of the Pantheon of Man as well. So are the Gods themselves permanent? Had I a magical Third Eye to see the truth of that!

Let’s consider the elorii again. As long as they don’t die of violence they have the potential to live forever. I don’t really know what to make of that. As fellow Irregulars I’ve shared drinks with a few at the Rat. I enjoyed talking with them despite the difficulties between Altheria and Seremas. Always I learned interesting things such as why the Kio and the Tir Betoqi don’t talk to each other. But I haven’t yet gotten a good insight into immortality from them. My best guess is that none of them had a deep grasp on their immortality either. But then the Laerestri are all relatively young, so perhaps their situation has not really pressed itself upon their consciousness.

I wish I could question the former Emperor Nurion, whom the Sanctorum insists is still alive. Or his twin brother across the waters, Gemmalus. Each of them has been active in the world for about 500 years. That’s not true immortality but it’s longer than any of us will likely have. My elorii readers object? How often do you get into serious fights my friends? Those who live by the sword eventually die of it. If you keep putting yourself in harm’s way then your lifestyle is only somewhat less dangerous than that of the Malfelens. How many Malfelns do you know who reach 500 years of age? I fear none of us reading this will last for 500 years. Let us hope at east to be remembered. But

I suppose in time Matriarch Elandre will eventually be able to give an interesting lecture on permanence vs. impermanence should she choose. Though to be around to hear it, it we’d have to beat aging somehow too. Improbable.

Institutions have somewhat more permanence. The Mourners of Silence have supposedly been around since the end of the First Imperium putting them at a despicable, but impressive 2,800 years old give or take. Against that I find it depressing that the Mother Church only goes back about 1,000 year to the founding of the Coryani Empire. The Republic of Altheria was born in 805 I.C. Not so impressive in the big scheme of things. But on the other hand we are closing in our 300th Birthday. If I don’t get myself killed in some forgotten tomb reading more cursed hieroglyphics I should live to see that party!

If the histories and legends are true then the Sorcerer King and Deophilus both go back more or less to the fall of the First Imperium. That would again put them both around 2,800 years old and the oldest individuals I can attest to. The Sorcerer King may be older since that is the time he arrived on Arcanis. I wonder, did they ever shared a cup of wine and discuss world events together? Since Leonydas could still be alive somewhere in the cursed Silent Citadel I guess we should mention him too. Though he’s certainly missed most of the intervening time. Still I’d do that interview in a heartbeat if safe passage could be arraigned.

Families apparently last longer than institutions or legendary figures. All the major families, save perhaps for the val’Holryn, go back to when humanity first came to the shores of Onara. That would be just shy of 5,000 years. The val’Emman mentagi presumably has encoded memories going all that way back. To have access to such a device!

Cities may last even longer than families. The First City has been inhabited, more continuously than not, for at least 10,000 years. First by the Isorri and their Eladru allies. Then by the Ssethrics. Then their former slaves the elorii. And finally twice by humanity. So here we are.

And yet! 10,000 years is pushing what I can imagine, but it is surely not the age of the universe is it? When did it all begin? Is our time here a tiny sliver of some much vaster whole? Or is the very idea of linear time suspect?

Sometimes I fear everything we do is an exercise in futility. Still the gods will it don’t they? So what do They really want from us?

I remain your obedient scribe,

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 4:18 am 
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Friends, Cousins, Comrades and all Gentle Readers,

I recently had the pleasure of stopping in the city of Treslau while hurrying back and forth along the Pilgrims Way. Compared to the rest of Almeric it is an Oasis of sanity. I shared an interesting meal with one of Roderick’s councilors. We a little about my proposal for the creation of a Diet of Princes, but we mostly talked intelligently about the greatest unsolved mysteries in living memory. This councilor, who has asked me not to mention her name, contended that the execution of the Moratavian Duke is the greatest unsolved mystery of our age. I demurred pointing instead to the disappearance but not the death of Duke Simon val’Holryn more than 50 years ago. Demonstrably it can be proven that he is still alive. Somewhere. But no one knows where. For completeness we also considered the curious events preceding the wedding of Lazaro val’Assante to his Kion bride in Plexus.

I’ll take the time to lay out the facts from each case for you. The death of Gustav here, and the other two cases in a latter letter. Ultimately you can make you own judgments over which one remains the most mysterious.

So then.

The death of Duke Gustov val’Tensen came of course on the heels of the assassination of his Coryani counterpart Governor Darius val'Tensen who was briefly also the Defender of the Empire. Darius was killed by a poisoned chalice which, given his security, was no mean feat in itself. But Duke Gustov met his death locked in his private study. Alone. With the castle at a heightened state of alert. Well, clearly he wasn't alone all the time since someone garroted him so severely with a wire that he was nearly decapitated. But no one saw anyone enter. And no one saw anyone leave. And no clues were ever found. That scenario makes Darius' poisoned wine look pedestrian.

A sufficiently cynical man might look at Roderick, the Duke’s nephew and current ruler of Tresslau. They won’t tell you this in Treslau now, but any decent historian or aged Milandesian courtier can say how Gustov pushed aside Roderick to seize the title of Duke at one of the courts held by the late King Osric. Roderick’s father and Gustov’s older brother, the late and unmissed Duke Adolphus had inconveniently disappeared at that point, following his attempt to kill his son at the Battle of Enpyben, and was presumed dead. Roderick is possibly the man who has benefited most by the death of his uncle. As the son of the previous Duke and the then Viscount of the City of Treslau he might have know secret ways through its Castle.

On the other hand, anyone who has ever spent time around Roderick attests to the generosity of his spirit and the heroism of his youth. Roderick is someone everyone admires and is acclaimed to embody all the ideals of chivalry. If he really did want revenge I would also say he waited a really bloody long time to get around to it. Overall I find that I am insufficiently cynical to truly suspect him.

Who else does that leave?

Well, I believe we can safely rule out the governments and main institutions of Coryan and Milandir. The chaos in Almeric has been nothing but a headache to both sides so far as I can tell. Perhaps some cult or faction might see advantage in anarchy on the borders of both countries, but such a marginal group would be unlikely to have the resources or infrastructure to assassinate either leader.

That leaves more exotic suspects. It is now well known, at least in some circles, that the val’Tensen have enemies in the Cauldron. Could the Grey Crones have had a hand in it? While they are hateful and vile by all accounts, I do not see any advantage accruing to them. Ymandragore? No doubt the agents of the Sorcerer King have the potential ability to perform such a deed. But I am again doubtful. While the chaos ostensibly makes it easier to Harvest the gifted, there are no other known other instances of Ymandragore assassinating political leaders. At a time when they seem to be trying to engender more good will in some places such as the Hinterlands, this strategy potentially seems counter-productive to me.

I personally like the infernals of Uhxbractit’s court as suspects. The 5th Crusade of Light had wound down and they had seen the might of Milandir and the fighting power of the val’Tensen family. The chaos of Almeric has meant that most of the val’Tensens sat out the last Crusade of Light. Two assassinations seems a perfect way to strike at your enemies indirectly. And i certainly believe Uhxbractit was vile, clever and patient enough to conceive and execute the deed.

Oh, to have a third eye to see the truth of this matter.

Whatever the real culprit, the popular opinion in the streets of Treslau looks closer to home. Overwhelmingly the people in inns to whom I conversed all said that the Coryani branch of the family somehow did it. At least the more reasonable of them also suggest that the services of the val’Borda and the Temple of Cadic were purchased by Darius’ heirs. Such a sad business, assassination. Still, we must all go of something.

I confess that we end with a great deal of speculation and almost no worthy facts. But is this the most inscrutable mystery of our age? Perhaps, but I will give you other contenders to ponder as well.

I remain your obedient scribe,

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 12:19 am 
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Friends, Cousin, Comrades,

I return to the topic of the great crimes of our age. Recently I had the chance to discuss them as something of a party game during a reception I attended in Treslau. In my last letter I discussed the assassination of Gustov val’Tensen. Former Duke of Milandir and potential King of Almeric. It remains the classic sealed room murder mystery.

Today I turn to another former Duke. This time from Tralia. I speak of Sigmund val’Holryn who is, not was, the grandfather of Konrad, the current Duke. Sigmund is more commonly called Simon by the family, an affection that I believe is from his younger days. The mystery of Simon is that over 50 years ago he disappeared from within the Ducal Castle. No one saw him leave. With one possible exception. There was a noted city drunkard who swore he saw the Duke being carried off by two infernals up into the night sky. Most usually discount the witnesses’ testimony. I do not take it at face value either.

Now anyone who knows anything about Tralia knows it’s a city that sits on the border with Canceri. Its walls are substantial and have not been breached in the modern age. The Ducal Castle is the most fortified part of what is arguably Milandir’s most fortified city. That the Duke could disappear without a trace from it strains my imagination.

An important wrinkle in this story is the Duke’s mastiff. As a young man Simon squired and was knighted into the Order of the Phoenix. You may or may not know that the Knights of the Phoenix mystically bond to very large hounds. It is documented to my satisfaction that should a Knight of the Phoenix die, then their bonded hound bursts into flames and the knight is miraculously reborn in its place. While Duke Simon is gone, his mastiff remains in the castle to this day. It’s once black coat now entirely grey. Before she died the Duchess of Tralia, that is to say Simon’s wife, slowly went mad worrying about the safety of the Hound. As the Hound is alive logic dictates that Simon must also be alive. Somewhere. And he could somehow yet return.

That poor dog. I can’t help but digress and note that growing up in Semar we kept a dog called Drummer and I remember how ill and unhappy the animal was in its last year when it was 16 years old. I truly hope the bonding ritual bestows extraordinary vigor and longevity to the animal because it has been well over 50 years since Simon’s disappearance. That Hound is ... really old.
So what really happened that night? And where is the now quite elderly Simon? For a magical third eye to see the truth! Speculation is not generally encouraged by my relations in Tralia.

I believe a big part of their reticence stems from the ugliness that followed immediately at
Brechau. Obviously it was a matter of great concern when Simon disappeared, there was panic in the court, and his oldest son was sought out. His name is now not spoken of by the family, so I will refrain from listing it here out of respect. This heir was nowhere to be found. This caused further consternation until it was discovered that he was seen riding hard out of the city in the middle of the night, with a small entourage, heading ultimately for Brechau. Duke Simon’s second son was thus sent to find his errant missing brother. His orders to bring him back and help restore some order in the Court. This second son was Victor val’Holryn.

Arriving late near Brechau, Victor allegedly sent one of his trusted aides to scout out the city to see if his older brother was actually there. Several different narratives exist for what happened next. But they all end with most of the city of Brechau burned to the ground. All that was recovered of the eldest brother was his signet ring, found on a charred skeleton amid the ashes of a burned out building. He was declared dead.

The official narrative is that there were cultists in Brechau. In the process of rooting them out, combat and fires spread out of control. The elder brother died in the fighting. Most people accept this, even if it does not explain what the eldest brother was doing there.

The next narrative is that the eldest brother resisted going back to Tralia. Victor’s emissary was a Nieirte, who is said to have lost his temper. A fight and a fire started, and before anyone could really react the town was burning. The elder brother died in a tragic accident and any cultists involved were incidental. The angry impulsive Nierite "patsy." I've read this cover up ploy before. I almost reject this line of inquiry on that basis alone.

The third narrative is not commonly spoken of at all for fear of the wrath of the val’Holryn family. Still some quietly maintain that Victor led his troops into a pitched battle against the town after confirming his brother was in it. The assumption no one is willing to explicitly say is that Victor sought the title for Duke for himself and that the cultists were a pretext to make sure his brother never returned to Tralia.

A few insist that the eldest brother did not actually die at all in Brechau at all. The signet ring such people maintain, is thin evidence. Perhaps. But I note that Duke Victor’s testimony should not be lightly discounted either. If the eldest brother survived ... where has he been these long 50 years and more?

Whatever the truth of it is, there is no doubt about the aftermath. Victor became the next Duke. And the people of Tralia never fully warmed to him. By all accounts while Duke Victor val’Holryn was a decent and honorable man, his reign remained tainted by the long shadow cast by his father’s mysterious disappearance and his brother’s mysterious death.

So what really happened? If kidnapping appears improbable perhaps Simon left under his own power? Maybe he got tired of the pressures of being the Duke. Maybe he wanted to escape from his allegedly unstable wife and live in peace with a mistress? Who knows? But if the Duke left under his own volition for some reason it wouldn’t explain the fact that his beloved and bonded Hound was left behind. And it wouldn’t explain the weird, almost simultaneous flight of his eldest son. And it does little to explain the events at Brechau. So I personally reject this line of thought.
Could Sarishian enemies in Canceri be responsible? This is the most popular answer, less from a drunkard testimony than the hatred that exisits between Milandir and Canceri. They would certainly have a potential motive. And Sarishians would also have the ability to summon infernals bound to their dark cause. Yet could or would they hold the Duke captive for more than 50 years? To what purpose? It is not impossible but I find this line of though improbable.

Could a conspiracy in the court coincide with the darker elements of the Temple of Cadic? I am willing to suppose this is possible too. But I have no idea why the court would turn against Simon or how they would find willing assassins. This scenario also leaves open the question of who is holding Simon? In both cases it would have been far easier to kill the Hound and Simon together.

I happen to know one additional fact that may shed light on this otherwise impenetrable conundrum. Two generations back it was well known that Simon val’Holryn, before becoming Duke, was an impulsive knight always looking for adventure. And though popular throughout the Duchy he was also known as a “sorcerous devil” that delighted in stirring up trouble almost as much as he loved challenging injustice. In other words, he had the arcane gift and was very public in using it. I do not know, but suspect that his eldest son shared the gift too.

With these facts an ugly new possibility opens up and things may fall into place. Think about it. I ask you to consider that in the dark of night Harvesters come for Duke Simon and his heir. Duke Simon holds them off while his son escapes, but Simon is captured. The Harvesters fly out with their prisoner on their floating disks. A drunk sees them fleetingly and says they are demons. The eldest son is tracked down not just by Victor but by Ymandragore as well. Fighting breaks out in Brechau. The results are the death of the heir, the death of the Ymandragoran “heretics,” and the destruction of the town. Victor survives and grimly takes up the Ducal seat. Everything is hushed up lest Canceri infer weakness on the border.

Is this what happened? We do not know.

Poor Simon, he is out there somewhere. One assumes, if my conjecture true, that he is a resident on the Isle of Tears. I wonder. Is he a human battery for arcane energy? Or has he been turned to “willingly” serve the Sorcerer King? And which fate of the two would be worse?
As a Coda to this account I note that Duke Konrad is not the eldest son of Duke Victor either. For the val’Holryns of Tralia, history repeated itself in the next generation. Aeorin val’Holryn, who was also a Knight of the Phoenix, disappeared without a trace. Aeorin led the Children’s Crusade against Canceri over 40 years ago and vanished from his tent outside the walls of Ventaka. I wonder what happened to his Hound?

I have probably gone on too long again. So I will end here. There is one mystery from my time in Treslau left. I will conclude with the tale of the Lazalo Wedding in my next letter.
I remain your faithful scribe,

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:00 am 

Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:08 am
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Honored Tukufu,

I find your series of letters equal parts intriguing and enjoyable and have as often finished them smiling or with furrowed brow.

Your latest missive is no exception as I have long been intrigued by the mystery surrounding Duke Simon and the events that cascading due to that singular occurrence. I must say that your explanation on what occurred to the elder duke and the catastrophe at Brechau, are fascinating and are as plausible as anything I myself have theorized.

There is one additional detail that you may find intriguing that your less salacious contacts in Milandir failed to tell you - the events at the Coronation of Duke Victor val'Holryn.

Good King Osric IV's father was king at the time and was had demanded that then Count Victor seek out his wayward brother and force him to resume his duties as Duke of Tralia. The elder brother had, at that time, been elevated to replace his father but within the year had ignored his responsibilities that Victor had to step in and perform said duties whenever possible.

Victor's brother (I will honor your practice of not naming him) from all accounts, was obsessed with his father's, Duke Simon, disappearance. So much so that he even hosted envoys from Nishanpur in hopes of locating him. The fact that Canceri Sarishans were enjoying the hospitality of Tralia raised more than a few eyebrows.

What occurred next you ably recorded, but for the following: After Victor's Coronation a ball was held in celebration. A few hours into the festivities, Victor's sister-in-law, the now Dowager Duchess of Tralia, Evalina val'Holryn, burst into the festivities, utterly drunk and hurling denunciations, obscenities and insults at Duke Victor, among which was the accusation that Victor killed her husband so that he could assume title and control over the Duchy.

This was very much out of character for Evalina, formerly of the House of the val’Ishi, who from all reports was a soft-spoken and demure woman who abstained from imbibing any alcohol. To make matters even more scandalous, she held in her arms her months old son, Castigir, as she whirled about spilling wine, yelling invectives, and spectacularly knocking over a banquet table laden with food.

The Dowager was quickly escorted from the chamber, with Victor apologizing to the King for the spectacle. The king graciously waved the matter away as if it had never happened and the court once again picked up where they left off.

Near dawn, alarms were raised rousing the bleary eyed court who had stumbled to bed only hours before. The Lady Evalina’s body had been found, having evidently thrown herself from the highest ramparts of Castle Tralia. Duke Victor was beside himself and ordered a full inquiry into the matter, but the magistrates eventually found no evidence of foul play and ruled it a suicide.

Victor took in tiny Castigir and raised him alongside his own children, but the boy grew to be a bitter weed within the val’Holryn garden and left without ceremony upon reaching the age of maturity. His fate has never been discovered, as far as I can tell.

I will continue to read your letters with keen interest and delight.

I remain,

Faithfully yours,

The Old Centurion

_________________
Best,

Henry Lopez
President
PCI


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:59 am 
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Sir,

While most Altherians do not look to Centurions for enlightened discourse, your reputation precedes you. It an honor, and a great pleasure, to discover that the Old Centurion finds time to read my collection of open letters. I have some hopes that the mysteries of the val'Holryn will, in an appropriate time and way, eventually yield to investigation. Including the story of Simon.

I thank your for your clarifications and further insights!

With Deepest respect,

Tukufu

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Sat Jan 18, 2014 3:46 am 
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Location: Portland OR
My Gentle Readers,

Following my stay in the court of Treslau I have promised to share with you three great mysteries that remain unsolved to this day. First I have written about the murder of Duke Gustav val’Tensen. Second, I have written about the mysterious disappearance of Duke Simon val’Holryn.
It is time to turn to the last mystery, The Plexan wedding of Lazalo val’Assante; sometimes called the "wedding that almost wasn't". Something important disappeared from the Church during the banquette and the resulting scandal still leaves echoes that can be heard today.

But what happened and what disappeared? Frustratingly, part of the mystery is simply untangling the major events that happened more than a generation ago. What we do know for sure is that lord Adelmo val’Assante had significant trade relations across the Gulf of Coryan in the Shadowed Towns of the League of Princes. And an unmarried son named Adelmo. To further increase his position he sought to marry off this son to a relation of the influential Kio Archon, Ranyhm Mathyhji. We also know that the wedding took place in the St. Meritiricus Church of Plexus and was well attended by various dignitaries. It should be noted that there were some Kio and some val’Assante dignitaries who were said to have been less than happy to see their bloodlines co-mingled.

An inquisitive mind usually has to cajole at least a few reluctant witnesses. However in this instance it has been clear for awhile that the val’Assante family has attempted to cover up this event all together and there are virtually no witnesses who will speak on the record. If their perception is reality we might well assume that Lazalo never got married at all. However many of the guests have privately shared their version of the events over the years and these stories have leaked out second or third hand. The more the val’Assante try to quiet these stories the more popular and embellished they become in the retelling. So it goes for the aspiring scholar of history. To understand what happened one must collect all the stories, look for common threads, and decide what is plausible or implausible.

Something certainly did happen beyond the usual speeches and banquettes. Something was smuggled out of the building by an Undir thief known as the Water Serpent. And as said, a cover up followed almost immediately. But what was taken away? That is the mystery! We do not know. But logic suggests it was either a theft or a kidnapping.

Was it a theft?

The most common version of the stories told is that an artifact was stolen from the Church during the festivities. The Church of St. Meritiricus is best known for housing an artifact known as the Orb of St. Meritiricus. There is at least some evidence that the Orb of St. Meritiricus vanished from the Church and was then sought in the Western Lands by heroes. The Orb, actually an egg shaped object, is considered to be a Holy Artifact that has performed wonders. St. Meritiricus, his Orb and the Church that bears his name are all very popular in Plexus, but also I get the sense that some church authorities are less thrilled with them all when one delves into their collective history.

For starters the Orb is possibly hollow and holds something within. At least some legends point to an object called the Icon of Numeh which may have a pagan origin with the Undir of the Western Lands. Scandalous! St. Meritiricus himself also turns out to be something of a controversial fellow. If one digs deeply enough into his past one finds there are plenty of reports that the good saint was also a practitioner of eldritch magic and perhaps a Discipulus Geometricus. Scandalous again! One can guess how the conservative faction in Grand Coryan must feel about that. So, one tradition in the stories is that the Water Serpent a cat’s paw of the authorities in Grand Coryan to remove an object of tainted legacy. Of course The Mother Church denies vehemently any such thing occurred. If so despite these refutations then their effort resulted in failure. The Orb, if it ever left, is currently back in the Church of St. Meritiricus according to all reliable accounts. Meritiricus himself remains an official Saint.

So, was it a kidnapping?

Scandalously, the actual matrimonial vows were halted and then delayed and “rescheduled” several weeks following the incident, at great inconvenience for all involved. Lord Adelmo suffered at least a temporary black eye in public opinion. What caused the delay? Some have suggested that it this was because the Kio bride was abducted! That’s the kind of scandal I might enjoy being true. What an embarrassment that would be for Lord Adelmo and Archon Ranyhm both! But this seems unlikely to me. For another reason, because the Water Snake was really an Undir woman of slight build named Eyshaan Oukaal. Try saying that name three times fast. No wonder she had a nom de guerre! Regardless, I suspicious of a tale that requires someone who was 5’ 5” and maybe 110 lbs to manhandle a resisting captive through the temple while dodging the wrath of a Kio Archon and Lord Adelmo’s guards.

Either of these tales would be absolutely fascinating, but there is also what I call the “wild theories” surrounding the wedding that almost wasn’t. While I don’t necessarily believe any of them, there is enough repetition from different sources to merit inclusion in this discussion.

The most popular among old courtiers is that the Water Snake and the Kio Bride were secretly lovers and that the Kio bride fled willingly. That last bit gets tossed around with a wink and a smile and I don’t think anyone actually believes it. The Kio woman did ultimately marry Lazalo. But one can immediately see why it would make a popular tale. It also has the advantage of being at least vaguely plausible.

Others tales are less so. Perhaps the craziest story I have yet heard is that a Valinor, or a fallen Valinor, or both were somehow trapped within the Orb of St. Meritiricus. In these tales it is the prisoner or prisoners who summoned the Water Snake across the Gulf of Coryan to grant them freedom. I rather doubt even a Saint can imprison a Valinor against its will so I hope you forgive me for discounting this. Still it is whispered in some quarters that the now lost artifact known as the Flask of Olmas had this power as well, so I am at least trying to suspend judgment. I concede that if there is even a kernel of truth in this story then St. Meritiricus earned his Sainthood with a much better party trick than anything I can pull off.

Only somewhat more plausible are the wild stories that surround the Larissan fortune telling. Perhaps that is fitting. What is known for sure is that Lord Adelmo hired a Larissan dancer for the wedding to tell the fortune of the brides to be. That much we know is true. Some say it was this lady who was abducted instead of the Kio bride. Though it is not clear to me why this would cause a scandal that would rock the val’Assante in itself. Some stories say she was killed, usually for accepting a bribe to deliver hateful prophesies. That story comes out frequently, but without much in the way of details or the prophesies delivered. Some stories suggest that the dancer was actually the Water Serpent. If true then that is an interesting, and scandalous, way to gain entry to the Church. But the final story regarding the dancer is only slightly wilder than imprisoned Valinor. This story goes that after the initial supplication to Larissa a “ghostly animal” came into being and jumped into the wine glass held aloft by the Larissian woman. When she dranks the wine she was possessed by the spirit of Larissa and transformed into a val.

Regardless of the truth of what happened we know some of the outcomes. Despite the wishes of the val'Assante family forty years later, the wedding that almost wasn't is still a topic of gossip. Adelmo’s desires for closer ties to the Western Lands were ultimately frustrated. Shortly after the wedding, unrest against the val’Baucisz shook Dhakavar and Plexus; and ultimately war followed in the League of Princes. In the aftermath much of the wealth of the Shadowed Towns flowed toward the val’Baucisz coffers instead of Lord Adelmo’s. And Lazalo, alas! I hear his marriage, which did eventually happen, was not an especially happy one.

Such are the whims of fate and the designs of men. I wish you all safe travels wherever to are coming from or going to. I remain your obedient scribe,

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Sat Jan 25, 2014 8:26 pm 
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Location: Portland OR
Friends, Cousin, Comrades and all Gentle Readers,

As many of you know there is great general upheaval concerning the expedition to the Vault of Larissa. At least in some circles. As a man with a variety of friends and contacts in both the scholarly and exploratory fields, I find that I am currently besieged with a heavy load of correspondence. Some want advice on what to bring into the Blessed Lands – in case you are among them I say focus on weapons, water, some long lasting food supplies for emergencies, and shelter from extreme weather. You can buy or find everything else. Others want information on obscure writers and their passages.

Regardless, tucked within this large stack of correspondence I found the following:

I would humbly request a letter regarding Valinor, their naming, and what those names mean as far as aspects of their Gods, and what happens when they fall.

It was unsigned. Which given the nature of the request may be understandable. The Mother Church frowns on pointed questions on topics like these. Perhaps for good reason. The Mother Church likes to foster the perception that it is the sole custodian of such knowledge. Still I find that ignorance breeds fear and superstition, which in turn can render men vulnerable to manipulation.

Being a learned scholar from Altheria I also have some small store of knowledge on the topic. I admit the questions interest me too. So in the end, who am I to say no to a request for knowledge? Let us turn from thoughts of the forthcoming dig and harness our minds instead to this inquiry for a brief moment in time.

So.

The naming convention of Valinor is the easiest question to answer. The Mother Church instructs us that each Valinor represents one aspect of the Deity they serve. Valinor are named in the following convention, “the [X] of [God].” Sometimes these qualities are perfectly clear to mortals. No one has trouble envisioning the mission and purpose of the Reluctance of Hurrian or the Cunning of Sarish. Other titles are more obscure. What does the Blade of Nier do? The Shadow of Sarish? I can only assume that it is perfectly clear to the Gods and Their servants. Some Valinor may pick up other names and this may or may not relate to falling from grace. I will write more of that below.

A more difficult question concerns the metaphysical relationship between the Gods and Their Valinor. Most scholars use the metaphor of a wheel. Honestly, I am not sure where this presumably ancient metaphor originally comes from. However I do note that both Umayid val’Abebi and Platiro have used it in their own writings. If the wheel was good enough for them, then I humbly suggest it is good enough for us too. In this metaphor each God is like the hub of a many spoked wheel. Each Valinor equates to one of those spokes that embodies some aspect of their God. For example, the Love of Illiir or the Mercy of Neroth. In the world of Arcanis, we might be thought of as the ground the wheel passes over.

But under extreme conditions Valinor have been imprisoned or even destroyed.

Does the loss of a spoke effect the hub itself? No. The Heroes of Light left us a chronicle from no less an authority than the Love of Illiir. When asked if Illiir would lose his love for humanity if she was destroyed she is reported to have responded with a laugh, “No my children, the ways of the Gods are far more complex than that.” I do not think we are likely to receive a more definitive answer than that.

And for that answer we may be thankful. The Mercy of Neroth is a famous example of a Valinor who has been lost to us, trapped in the belly of Luqun’qun’ovn. Let us be grateful that Neroth retains the quality of Mercy even if we do not experience it as much as we might like.

These I am afraid are the only easy answers I have to give you. Many other aspects of the Valinor are contradictory or simply confusing. Exceptions to naming conventions? What happens when they fall? It is all guesswork.

As I have said the official teachings I have received from the Mother Church states that Valinor do not have proper names as such. They have a descriptive function like the Breath of Neroth. However closer scrutiny suggests a more complicated cosmology. For example just where did Manetas get his name? He is always listed as “Manetas, the most powerful of the Valinor and the Pride of Illiir.” In all cases it seems Manetas has this name even in the earliest accounts of him in the First Imperium. On the other hand, the former Patience of Illiir claims he does not have a name when he first interacts with humans directly. It is the people who he has saved that give him the name Xabal, which I am told roughly means “Shooting Star” in their later day version of Auxunite. These two examples seem contradictory.

Consider also what should be the simple issue of wings. When the Patience of Illiir fell he is described as losing his wings. And I, as well as all irregulars who met with him, can attest that we met a wondrous, but wingless, being. On the other hand all the accounts of the Heroes of Light, Prelate Leola, and Matriarch Elandre agree that Manetas still had his wings in their final confrontation. Certainly Manetas was fallen at that point. Wasn’t he?

Confused yet? What of Skozorantus, the Strength of Saluwe? So far as I know this Valinor is not fallen. Yet he has a name too. Certainly he had wings; at least he did when he was not pretending to be a talking rat. Skozorantus was last seen flying into the sky to do battle with the Hatred of Neroth.

The Word of Illiir may or may not be fallen. His stature in the Temple of Illiir is curiously debated. The Word of Illiir is also known by a name: Numeh. This name may be his, or may instead have been given to him by primitive Undir in the Western Lands. Numeh is reported to have wings. Are you reaching your hands toward your hair yet? Too much of this makes my head hurt.

I know that at least some Fallen Valinor find service under the patronage of Sarish. Uromesh, the Fallen Honor of Cadic, is an example of such a fallen Valinor. Over 40 years ago adventurers reported that he was leading an army of bound infernals against an army of entropy. Uromesh does not have wings according to their reports. All this was compiled by Decius val’Mehan, who sent the heroes into the distant realm Uromesh was fighting for. Others appear to serve their own ends like Manetas.

Can the Gods replace a fallen Valinor by making another? I presume They can do so, if they wish. They are the Gods, are They not? But I know of no cases where they have done so. But maybe on the other hand they cannot? I note that no other divinities, neither ancient nor qualified, have ever manifested a Valinor of their own. Not the primeval gods of Kassegore and Yig. Not the Varn. Not Belisarda. Not the monstrosity Tzizhet. So perhaps there were once unique conditions that led to the Pantheon of Man to manifest Valinors to work Their business? Such information is beyond my ken.

At this point I fear I have exhausted my trove of knowledge. To my anonymous petitioner, I hope you find this information enlightening or at least entertaining. I expect to be somewhat busy in the near future, so if you do not hear from me for awhile, please trust that I remain your obedient scribe.

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Letters from Ambassador Tukufu
PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2014 11:08 pm 
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Location: Portland OR
Friends, Cousins, and Comrades,

I return with a small coda concerning the names of Valinor. One of my correspondents has asked me to clarify, to the extent possible, who or what was the person or being known as Amath. Was he mortal? Or was he something much greater?

As anyone who has had the dubious pleasure of studying Cancereese history knows, Amath was a mysterious individual who created a binding ritual to subdue the Sword of the Heavens. Amath turned it over to the wizards and Sorcerer-Priests of the val’Mehen family who in turn recruited the finest swordsmen of Nishanpur. Collectively they enacted the ritual. This great spell worked, but came at a terrible price in blood and lives; none of the participants are thought to have survived. This event is usually seen as the official beginning of the Shadowed Age. Amath is a name at a central pivot point in our history.

But who or what was Amath? Some say there is more to the story.

I almost resist delving deeper. It may surprise you that there are a few topics I have small desire to to poke at or prod. In most cases this is because these topics deal with such things as infernal cults or information that stains the soul. In other admittedly rare cases, there are questions that have the potential to be hazardous to both the questioner and to any dares to answers.

I believe the name of Amath potentially touches on the actions and history of both the Sorcerer King and of Loshnek. So it should be clear what category of question this falls into. Still I have been asked directly, and I would not have you think me a coward …

So. There are second and third hand stories among the val Holryn. These stories concerns a nexus of events between Loshnek, the court of Duke Victor val’Holryn, the return of the Sword of the Heavens and efforts to retrieve a dangerous tome known as the Black Book of Ymandragore. My cousins are curiously reluctant to talk in detail about what transpired. What I can reveal to you is that Loshnek came and visited the court of Duke Victor, that adventures were pressed into retrieving the Black Book from Nishanpur, that the Sword of the Heaven’s returned to the world during the process of delivered the tome into Loshnek’s hands. I think we can say that those were interesting times. For our purposes though, what is of most consequence is the words of Loshnek himself. Ripping out a single page from the Black Book he is reported to have said, “Ah Amath, it I just as thought. You were always the sly one. Both the Master and I miss you dearly.”

I think if we can trust this source that it is no great leap of logic to conclude that Amath was once, but no longer, a powerful servant of Sarish. I think it is probable that Amath was one of Sarish’s Valinor. And somehow Amath intersects with the Sorcerer King. There are three ways to take it this scintilla of information.

One. It is just a scintilla. Any speculation from such a slight source is unprofessional. This is probably where I should stop; and in a more serious monograph I would end here.

Two. But since we’re all friends; we might indulge in the rampant speculation that Loshnek is actually referring to the Sorcerer-King himself. That is to say, the Sorcerer King is actually a fallen agent of Sarish. This suggestion is grossly unsupported by facts. And yet I can’t stop myself from considering this possibility.

Three. Perhaps somewhat more plausibly, Amath was a powerful servant of Sarish who fell afoul of the Sorcerer King and was captured, corrupted or destroyed; and his fate is described on the page of the Black Book of Ymandragore.

Will we ever know the answer? Perhaps. The page that Loshnek ripped out of the Black Book of Ymandragore may be recoverable. It is known in some circles that Decimus val’Mehan traded the Chalice of Midnight to Loshnek in exchange for this page of information. Eventually the page made its way from Decius through unknown hands to an Ordainer called Lucius Orata. Orata has his own long story, but in short he sought to seize control of Ymandragore only to be foiled and slain by the people who became the val’Sosi family. It seems likely to me that one or more of them knows what happened to that page.

If you should decide to pursue this further I offer you my best wishes, but also a heartfelt warning. I should be very careful to avoid the potentially lethal ire of either Loshnek or the Sorcerer King. I have sent letters to the val’Sosi, but none have as yet answered. I hope they will, but will understand if they do not. There are a few sleeping dogs I am prepared to let lie.

I remain your obedient scribe,

Tukufu, Ambassador of Altheria

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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