Roster (Party Level 11th)
Berend - Dwarven Fighter
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard
Finial - Half-elf Paladin
Jonas - Human Rogue/Ranger
Aerallo - Tiefling Warlock
'Elumai Niastai, on warrant of the Court of Stars and by direct order the Summer Queen, you are under arrest.'
-- Lord Hyseth to Elumai upon her arrival in Emerandes
The words hang in the air for a second before Elumai demands to know on what charges she's being arrested, but Lord Hyseth refuses to recount them in public. Jonas's efforts to intercede on her behalf are met with derision, and as the rest of the party step up in defense of their comrade, the tension is palpable. Many citizens crowd around to watch, and conflict seems inevitable.
Nevertheless Hyseth entreats Elumai not to risk an incident in the streets of Emerandes, and when she asks him once again about the case against her, he reveals only that she is accused of "conspiring in the ongoing campaigns against the Summer Queen". Upon hearing this, she agrees to go with him to the Consulate... on condition that she can bring her husband, Finial, with her.
The bluff is risky. A look of despair passes over Hyseth's face, noticed only by Finial, as he hears this apparent news, but after considering it for a moment, he waves his men back and steps forward to face the paladin. "This woman is promised to me," he says. "You have no right of matrimony and you will give her up to me now."
Finial speaks out in support of his friend but Hyseth picks up on a subtle note of discomfort in his carefully chosen words, and demands that whatever the truth of the situation might be, there is a case to answer for one way or another. Either way, Elumai must be returned to the consulate until the problem is resolved.
Finial and the rest of the group again try to intervene but Hyseth's patience is at an end. "Enough talk!" he shouts. "You will accompany me to the consulate, or we will settle this in the street paladin!" Despite the expectant murmurs of the crowd, Finial maintains his cool, and agrees to be escorted, along with Elumai, wherever she is to be taken.
Flanked by the rest of the company, Hyseth troops Elumai and Finial through the streets towards the eladrin consulate. Constructed around a fey portal which locates into the world every few weeks, its bright copper domes are clearly visible above the lush ree-canopies of the Park.
The two of them are taken inside, led past a large pool of water which reflects a starlit sky quite different from the copper roof overhead, and Finial is informed that this is the portal itself, and that the stars above occupy the sky as it would be seen in the Feywild. Beyond, in the western dome, is a small island in a little swathe of marshland, and the adventurers are told to wade the water and wait on the island to be addressed more formally. As they do so, the water saps their strength, muddying thoughts of escape.
While they wait, Elumai explains to Finial that she was once betrothed to Lord Hyseth, but that she ran away before the marriage was to take place. Of this "conspiracy" against the Summer Queen, she has no idea. Finial promises faithfully to defend her in this matter, and Jonas, who has gained entrance to the consulate and is hiding nearby, does the same. In the meantime, he decides to dodge the staff of the consulate and reconnoitre Lord Hyseth's apartments.
Some time later, flanked by guards, Elumai receives a visitor. It's none other than Lady Rhonttha Hyseth, Lord Hyseth's mother, a stately woman of imposing demeanour and advancing years.
'Elumai, still so pretty... what a perfect match you would have made for my Koryl. My dear, you have no idea how much trouble you've caused me.'
'I'm still waiting to find out what these "charges" actually are.'
'Oh, I'm sure I can come up with something.'
-- Lady Hyseth to Elumai
She demands to know of Finial's connection to Elumai, and how he believes his claim over her can in any way exceed that of her son's. Finial, however, is unrepentant, and moves straight to the heart of the matter, stating that these charges of conspiracy are obviously trumped up in order to get Elumai into Fey territory. Lady Hyseth is amused, but doesn't deny it. She makes Elumai an offer: return to the besotted Lord Hyseth, and all charges will be dropped. Elumai is ready to refuse immediately, but Rhonttha gives her one hour to mull over her future.
Meanwhile, for Jonas, the possibilities looks grim, as the residential wing has sturdy oaken doors which resist his efforts to open them. However, help comes in the form of Berend who, having persuaded/tricked the guards outside that Elumai is a member of his clan, has gained entrance and demanded of the flustered clerk an audience with Lord Hyseth. As he impatiently emerges, Jonas slips inside the room.
His apartments are spectacular, wreathed in living flora. Jonas moves quickly past a reception room, looking for something relevant to the proceedings, or which otherwise cataches his eye. In a dressing table he finds a small leather book, containing hand-written pages in elven script, describing diplomatic courtesies required of visitors to Emerandes. Of note, the instructions state that he is to consider himself a guest of the Court of Cloaks, not the Pale King; that his actions are bound by the Third Statute; and on a scrappily-written last page, "the consulate cycle is tied to the third phase of the neraphym". A small clay bowl also stands out, but he doesn't give himself the time to check it.
A few minutes later, Hyseth leaves his room once more, and goes to face Elumai, where, unexpectedly, he simply gives her leave to go.
'Enough of these games. If this is the way you want to play the game, then I shall just let you go. I'm sure I can find another one of your little friends to face these charges.'
-- Lord Hyseth to Elumai.
Elumai asks the consulate staff after her friend Seraiya, but the clerk is apologetic: she hasn't had anyone by that name come through the premises. Elumai hands her a scroll, and asks that the message be passed back to Seraiya in Dyonosis, the enclave from which she hails. Worried and relieved in equal measure, Finial, Elumai, and Jonas exit the consulate.
At last free to explore, the party sets foot into Emerandes. The great emerald spire pierces the clouds above their heads, but red cloth awnings strung across the streets protect city-dwellers and visitors from the worst of the glare, and after the paucity of opportunities available out on the Plain, they hungrily go about the business of buying new equipment from multiple shops well-stocked with a variety of goods.
As they wander around, they're accosted by a short, fat human, with his wife and kids in tow. He stares at Berend -- "You're 'im, aintcha?" -- and finally works up the courage to grab the dwarf's hand and give it a firm shake. "You're that dwarf I've 'eard about! Birin... Brin... Berend, that's it!" Catching sight of Elumai, and Finial, he's almost beside himself. "If I'd known I'd be meeting heroes the likes o' you, I'd o' scrubbed up after getting out of bed this mornin'!"
After this uncomfortable interlude, they decide to visit the "Big Board", a well-known center of opportunity for risk-taking types. Amongst dozens of uninteresting job advertisements ("Dog sitter required, payment optional"), several things stand out:
Elzeeb's Circus of Tooth and Claw: This event is advertised in all the main trade districts of Emerandes and the carnival is due to arrive five days after the adventurers arrive. This is significant, because the fliers claim that the carnival's main attraction is a captured dragon, the very dragon that Corrash, an old companion of the party's, believed might be the creature his clan had venerated for generations.
New Horizons: The Court of Cloaks has recently excavated an ancient portal beneath the city, and will soon be advertising for adventurers to take on exploration commissions. Interested parties are to report to the spire for registration, and will be contacted in due course.
Test Subjects Wanted: Pasted over the bottom corner of the New Horizons poster is a notice from a group of diviners called Uncertain Futures, advertising for volunteers to help them "tap into the divining energies which run through the core of the city."
Wanted: Valedakrun Jenomy: A well-crafted wanted poster -- one of many -- stands out on the noticeboard. "By order of the Court of Cloaks, rogue mage Valedakrun Jenomy has been declared an enemy of the Pale King and is to be brought to justice at all costs. This skilful wizard operates outside of the protections offered to the citizenry by the Court, and is to be considered extremely dangerous." The picture on the poster bears a striking resemblance to Valthrun the Magnificent of Winterhaven.
Planar Symposium: This notice is half-ripped from the wall, and has clearly been up for quite some time, but the remaining piece advertises that noted expert Fennig Darshue will be arriving in Emerandes to give the keynote at an upcoming forum to be held in the Bassilica, where luminaries of the various Courts will be given an opportunity to exchange knowledge on the subject of "the great infinity beyond the dome of the world". The date advertised is in just two days' time.
Pillar to Post: The great cross-Emerandes foot race is now open for registration! To be held as usual on the longest day of the year (coming in two weeks), entrants start at the Pillar of Dawn on the eastern side of the city, and the first to touch one of the posts of the western watch-tower wins a bounty of 2000g and their pick from one of the great treasuries of the Court of Cloaks. (Elumai: "Does it say teleporting is illegal?"; Berend: "Does it say whether killing the other competitors is illegal?")
From here, the companions decide to get a room at a tavern Jonas knows, Franky's Stein, and on the way they notice that they're being followed again, by what appears to be a small monkey made of metal. It leaps from one irritated person to the next, landing on Finial's shoulder-pad, and offers him a scroll from one ratcheted clockwork claw. After delivering the note, it bounds off down the street. Finial reads the following:
To Whomever This Note Is Presented
It is my understanding that you have enjoyed the patronage of that most esteemed Dustboot, Lord Riva Armand.
As a long-time friend of this worthy gentleman, I am concerned at his lack of communication for the last several weeks, an uncommon and worrying development for a man who otherwise enjoys the sound of his own voice above all others.
In respect of this, I ask that you present yourself to my office at your earliest convenience, so that we may discuss the matter further.
Yours in anticipation of new friendships,
Lord Arnold Hottentoat of the Third-Removed.
Elumai knows that "third removed" indicates the sender of the note is only third in succession to the Emerald Magister himself, the highest archmage in the Court of Cloaks. Clearly, some important people have once again taken an interest in them...