An Inconvenience Rightly Considered
Jonathan spotted Tessa Clare in the common room of the Sleeping Steward, but efforts to strike up a friendly conversation with her failed in light of her complete unfriendliness. Yet Jonathan noted what she did not — that she was being watched by two men, one of whom followed her down the street and another of whom paid the stableboy to steal her mare from the stables at the inn. Jonathan intercepted the horse-thief, and with the benefit of a bit of magic, charmed the man into giving him the mare, which he returned to the stables — after learning that the man was supposed to turn the horse over to Hugh Vernon at the Drooping Plank. The stableboy, caught out in his participation in the theft, told Jonathan that Clare had gotten a message to go to Gilford’s offices.
Jonathan waited outside Gilford’s offices, making the League guards who waited outside and engaged in a bit of harassment of anyone who entered through the front door. Gilford’s assistant, a dark-haired young woman, stepped out to scold the guards, distracting them from seeing Tessa Clare exit a door several buildings down. Clare, who was always very careful not to touch anyone or even to brush up against them, was still followed by trackers and Jonathan followed the followers, all the way back to the Sleeping Steward. One stationed himself out front and one stationed himself in the rear. Jonathan confronted the guy in the back, only to have his questioning interrupted by Tessa Clare, who stalked out with a crumpled piece of parchment in her hand, looking for her horse. (In other words, she got a ransom note.) After scaring off the thug he was questioning, Jonathan told Clare that Vernon had her horse and could be found at the Drooping Plank — and that Jonathan would help her, if she agreed to have a conversation with him about Allenel Gilford.
With a bit of disguise and invisibility, Jonathan and Tessa made their way up to Vernon’s room, where she revealed herself and threatened to gut him if he didn’t tell her where his horse was. Jonathan actually came close to gutting him; when Vernon saw them together, he concluded that Jonathan had thrown in with Tessa Clare and that was why Jonathan had not shown up for their appointment to sell the painting to Vernon. With no backbone to speak of, Vernon told Tessa where to collect her horse at the public stables, and she cast sleep on him while she and Jonathan made their way there.
Making good on her deal, Tessa told Jonathan that she had no reason to think Allenel Gilford was anything other than a straight-shooter, whose closet held only the skeletons of other people. She speculated that Jonathan had been hired by someone who wanted to dig up dirt — or more likely, plant it — on behalf of the League, which was breathing down Gilford’s neck something fierce. She also asked about the painting Vernon had mentioned, and told Jonathan that if he helped her retrieve her belongings from the Sleeping Steward, she would take a look at it — if it had to do with the A’nari Keep, she’d know better than Hugh Vernon what it was. With that offer, Jonathan agreed to help and left Tessa waiting in an alley — to avoid being seen by Vernon’s hired thugs — while he fetched her saddle and backpack from her room.
Iminye, Tara, Jonathan
Meanwhile, Iminye and Tara arrived in Darilei and Iminye sent her manservant to Vernon’s inn — only to have the man return with news that Vernon had been attacked, something important to their quest had been stolen, and Vernon hoped that Iminye and her men could intercept the thieves at the Sleeping Steward before they skipped town. Iminye and her guards, with “Willow” in tow, arrived at the Sleeping Steward as Jonathan was leaving. Jonathan failed to recognize Tara, who kept her cover as “Willow.” Never one to pussy-foot around, Iminye demanded that Tessa and Jonathan return whatever they had “stolen” from Hugh Vernon — and when they turned to run, Iminye attacked. Some Web was cast, a few magic missiles were thrown, Tara was repeatedly thwarted by the horse, and eventually Tessa and Jonathan were ready to ride the horse through a teleportation portal when Tara revealed herself and asked Jonathan to hold off.
Shocked to realize who she was, Jonathan gave Tara an opportunity to explain herself. That conversation was cut short by Iminye’s lightning bolt, which Jonathan cast back at her but which hit both Tessa and the horse. Tired of trying to talk things out, Tessa rode the horse through the portal — and Tara threw herself into it before it could close.
Left in Darilei, Iminye healed her guard and herself, and sought out Hugh Vernon the next day. Some not entirely friendly words were exchanged, especially when he confessed that he had stolen Tessa Clare’s horse in an effort to get her to talk to him. He explained that Tessa Clare and he had been in business before, but had a falling out, and with Jonathan having taken a “map,” he had hoped to get Tessa to sign back up. But Tessa had been in Darilei negotiating with her own backers. Iminye declined his suggestion that she help him try to persuade Tessa’s potential partners to join up with them, and said she would be ready to leave in two days with the rest of the expedition.
Iminye sought out a few contacts in Darilei to find out information about the A’nari’s — the last lord, Euricio, and his wife, Lillias (whose own family had died in Bense) — and the two surviving A’nari heirs, Iaondrin (Euricio’s daughter) and Morgan (his nephew), and how they were wanted by the League for aiding Clunne tribesmen in their attacks on League caravans. Before going shopping for useful equipment and magical items, Iminye visited the Vind Hall, and learned that no member of Hugh Vernon’s first three expeditions of the A’nari Keep had ever reported back on their adventures. She also found the “Wanted” poster for Iaondrin and Morgan — and though the sketch of Iaondrin was of a younger woman, she recognize her as Tessa Clare.
As of Message No. 571 in her thread, Iminye is busy equipping herself for her trip to the A’nari Keep.
Jonathan and Tara
Jonathan and Tara emerged from the portal, with Tessa and the dying horse, in the grasslands of Clun. Jonathan managed to talk Tessa down from casting her own lightning bolt at Tara, and the three of them engaged in a bit of back and forth about whether they could talk rather than trying to kill one another. Tara explained that she was working with Iminye in an effort to gain power to help her take revenge on the person responsible for killing someone she loved. Tessa assumed that the Tamasis — whose crest she had recognized on Iminye’s guards — were involved in an effort to seize control of the A’nari lands, and take the A’nari seat on the High Council.
Jonathan eventually pulled out the painting to let everyone take a gander at it, and Tessa identified it as something made by her father, Euricio — a name that both Jonathan and Tessa recognized as the last A’nari lord. Both of them realized that Tessa was Iaondrin Shal A’nari. She told them that the painting showed a diagram of the A’nari mosaic, which powered the wards in the Keep, and that the wards — rather than keeping looters out — instead contained the thing that had killed her family. Lowering the wards would release it, and permit it to finish the job it had started twenty years before, i.e., killing the last of the A’nari heirs. She had no desire to be involved in anything that would lead to the wards being dropped, but did want to know where Jonathan had gotten the painting — because it was the sort of thing her father would never have released to outsiders, and may have been used by someone to call the curse down on her family two decades before.
Tara, however, wanted to continue with the quest to the A’nari Keep — revealing to Jonathan that she needed something to enable her to take on the Sajeem’s daughter because Isabella was a continuing threat against Daris and Theo (because Olerio had told her Isabella was still considering whether to order the death of Aureus’s/Seran’s brother.
The next day, Iaondrin opened another portal to carry Jonathan and Tara back to Darilei. She gave Jonathan money to pay for the casting of some cleric spells on him and Tara, because he had taken her hand and that could mark him as a target for the thing that still hunted her. She then rode towards Halveet.
As of Message No. 316 in Jonathan’s thread, he and Tara are about to make their way back to Darilei and decide what to do next.
Mobley, Hamble, Maren, Petra and Dagobert
With Master Bianchi’s staff, Mobley teleported everyone to the WayStation of Kalle, where they would travel east into the mountains on the Sa’iph/Torei border in search of Kernig ruins that apparently continued to hold the Eye of Hamal. Father Hilaire, the priest of Kalle who tended the WayStation, hosted them for a brief time, showed them the mural in the entry of the WayStation — similar to, though smaller and less detailed, than the floor map in the Libraries of Halveet — and told them that a party of Shal had come through two days before them, also intend on taking the same road east into the mountains. Hilaire stated that they claimed to be League Shal, but he recognized their accents as Sa’iph.
Mobley’s party moved into the mountains, eventually reaching the end of the established road, but seeing the signs of the Shal party moving ahead of them. Dagobert took advantage of his climbing skills to do some scouting above the canopy of threes, with the aid of Petey, Mobley’s parrot familiar. A hawk took a particular interest in Petey, leading them to suspect the Shal party had a mage with his or her own familiar. Dagobert also saw signs of a fire of someone further behind them on the road.
The party took advantage of Hamble’s ability to cast rope trick to give them a place to rest well above the ground, while leaving at least one person awake inside the space and on the ground below. On her watch, Maren realized that someone was watching, and though his invisibility kept him from being seen, she managed to set him on fire and turned him into a beacon. A failed spell against Dagobert ruined his invisibility, and a quick casting of sleep by Mobley prevented the man’s escape.
He was quickly trussed up and revealed to be, though the tatto on the inside of his left wrist, a segnato belonging to the Antazos family. Something about his face seemed very familiar to Mobley and Hamble. A bit of good copy/bad cop by Hamble and Petra/Mobley, and some detect thoughts by Hamble, and Mobley and Hamble learned that the man was, in fact, Theo’s and Aureus’s/Seran’s half-brother. Only half, because although their father was Bianchi’s son, his father was Lord Antazos himself. Damiano (who was not, despite his expectations, in Sa’iph waiting to receive correspondence from Iminye) had been assigned to Fianmetta to assist with her efforts to find and claim a large magical ruby.
As of Message No. 207 in Mobley’s, et al.’s, thread, the party is discussing trying to turn the tables on Fianmetta and attack her before she can attack them.