(As told by Victor Taur’on)
Well, we get home from our adventures in WestWick, met by a snowball fight from our fully OK little sister and her new best buddy Tori. Mom was impressed by our success, and even more so by the addition of Dr. Fisher and our ghost-aunt Dominique. We moved them into the ghost Albert’s wing; now he has people who like him that can talk to him and help him perhaps move on! With Fisher’s machine that lets us see Dominique, it also lets Aldric learn from a really savvy shaman, and we now have an artificer (Fisher) in the family!
The rest of the winter goes by pretty normal; we give Mom the book about Godmarks that Fess the Bold wrote for scribing and putting in the vault. Aldric flirts with Tori, but very properly and sweetly; he’s a proper gentleman, after all! After a day of training, Grandpa figures out that Tori had been mislabeled all these years; she’s a natural Swordmage, and, stranger still, a type (Assault) that is normally, but not always, Fey-based. She can read his journal in much the same way I can, so while we are all here, I offer to let her study the mystic parts with me, while all of us interested in combat can read the regular notes.
Gift Day comes, and awesome gifts are exchanged. I got everyone new pajamas! Soon after, we all head out, as a family, to the site where the Queen traditionally cuts the first tree of the year. For background, our country is, hands down, sitting on the biggest forest in the Kingdoms. Add into this that our conservationalist logging, combined with elven and human druidic traditions, means our trees grow faster, timber is better, and land is always more beautiful. Every year, the Queen traditionally fells the first tree, and sizable portions of the tree she fells are bid on by various people from around the Kingdoms. Such a sacred event carries weight, and items made from these cuttings tend to be special by nature.
Well, this is the 200th anniversary of the unification of the Viori Kingdoms, an amazingly important event. Representatives from over half the kingdoms have came to bid on this tree. Many of these people have come to bid on the WHOLE TREE (minus the cut of each that we keep every year). What they don’t know is that the entire Winter Court session in Taur’on was Mom brokering a peace between Lion’s Gate and Fario, with lots of timber treaties keeping Fario out of their woods, and sealing the deal with Lion’s Gate buying the WHOLE TREE (minus said cut, plus one extra that Mom wanted) and gifting it to Fario! Since it was done on such notice, we had no time to tell everyone, and probably wouldn’t have anyway; the buying and selling isn’t the point with us, its the spiritual ceremony. Anyone who is coming for the mercantilism can just be disappointed!
Well, we meet lots of dignitaries from around the Kingdoms, including the bastard Princess of Salbatica (her Dad, the king there, loves her, but can’t legitimize her officially), who informs us that the King is in attendance and would like to speak to Mom later, in private. Curious! The crowd is IMMENSE; lots of peeps are gonna leave PISSED!
Ceremony starts, and the sacred axe Mom has for it begins to lead her into the woods. The whole assemblage hoofs through the woods (in the first days of spring, so tons of nobles in the mud. Funny to me!) for FOUR HOURS, not noticing the strangeness that we do; namely that we are passing terrain features (a strange clearing being the weirdest) that shouldn’t be there. But ritual is on, so we keep a-walkin’. We arrive at a VERY strange copse of trees; seventeen in number (same as the number of gods we have), and each a prime example of a different type of tree. The axe leads her to the massive oak in the center, obviously her target du jour.
Well, she winds up, and starts a-chopping. The magic of the axe and ritual means that the tree is gonna go down FAST, despite the MASSIVE size of it. While everyone else watched the oak, we all were drawn to the fact that, with each swing, ALL of the trees were shuddering. After a few swipes, all 16 of the other trees fell and, with a bow to the ancient oak from Mom for the gift, it fell as well. HO-LEE CRAP!
This changes things A LOT! Fario and Lion’s Gate ask to renegotiate their contract; instead of the whole oak, Lion’s Gate buys a single slice of each tree to give to Fario; a MUCH more significant gift! We likewise keep a full set, and after the family helps the loggers clear branches and the like (keeping small pieces of each, leaves, berries, nuts and the like for later), Mom orders three more full sets made for sale, and the rest sold off one piece at a time.
Set one is bid on heavily, finally being sold to the Kingdom of Ostcrag (weird kingdom, lead by dark Ah’ved with a mostly slave population. While every other kingdom hates slavery, every indication shows that the slaves of Ostcrag PREFER their situation, and have it better than most peasants in other kingdoms) for 750,000 gp! WOAH! Second set comes up, and Ostcrag starts the bid war AGAIN, stunning the assembled folks, none of whom have had time to get back in touch with their homes for orders! No one wants to lose, much less lose TWO sets to a kingdom that damn near everyone has pretty extreme distaste for! But it looks to be going that way. King Merlin from ProudPony out bids Ostcrag once when they drop 750k on the bid again, raising it to 780k just to force them to raise again (he likes to phuck with peeps!). Ostcrag raises to 800k, silencing the now somber crowd…
…when a bid of ONE MILLION GOLD rings out from Stasia Almari, the “Adventurer Queen” of the independent city La’kola! Most of these people have NO IDEA who she is on sight (she doesn’t travel much), and the idea that a non-noble just dropped a million gold like it ain’t no thang BLOWS THEIR MINDS. The people from Ostcrag, who obviously have NO IDEA who she is, scramble to make up their minds, but let it slide, one set to Stasia!
The next and final set starts out with Ostcrag just bidding 750k as an opening; they are ready to be done with this! Everyone stays silent; better to get the pieces they want rather than drop all their money on something that is best kept together as a set! Easy win by Ostcrag, going once, twice… ONE MILLION FROM STASIA ALMARI! You gotta be KIDDING ME! Everyone looks SHOCKED, and Ostcrag looks PISSED! They get all defiant, chatter a bit, and come back with 1.1 million; Stasia bids 1,250,000 without batting an eye. Obviously off their game (and probably out of money), Ostcrag drops out, Stasia, a trumped-up commoner, buys TWO sets! Everyone is FREAKED OUT, which goes into DOUBLE SECRET MODE when, upon receipt of her second set, GIVES IT TO MOM! BOGGLE!
Things calm down, with all of the remaining chunks being bid away. At the end of the day, we made 7 MILLION GOLD off of 17 trees; as I mentioned later, if the peasants of most countries knew that happened, they would be honor-bound to rise up and KILL their nobility!
We go back to camp, Mom has her meeting with the King of Salbatica (he wanted to warn her that his son, the crown prince, has decided to play politics and is planning to woo Caroline. Seemed a good guy!). We all get together for dinner, when a VERY WEIRD THING happens. One of our two main guards, Gwen (really my guard throughout childhood, as everyone else had specific teachers), tries to get Conner to have a drink (alcohol). He refuses, but instead of a “naah, I really don’t like it,” he leaves a nebulous air hanging as to the reasoning. As none of us had ever seen him this adamant against drinking, our curiosity was piqued; Gwen kept pushing, earning several dodgy reasons as to why not. She countered with a “if ya don’t drink this ONE SHOT, I’ma go get you a hooker!” Conner, being somewhat flusterable by such things, still stood firm; Gwen rolled out and came back with a hooker! He countered with he wasn’t impressed, he wanted a GLANMORIAN! A good call; Glanmor is one of the kingdoms farthest from us… but Gwen is WILY! She went and got the two representatives of Glanmor (freakin’ NOBLES) to come drink with us!
Things went in their normal, zany way, for the most part, but Conner was getting more and more flustered, and his refusal to give in was uncommonly stubborn, even for him. Finally, pushed to the limit, Connor threw a micro tantrum, getting REALLY mad, and telling Gwen “Never do that to me again!,” storming out of the room (the player literally got up from the table and stormed away, both from good role-play and the emotional drain of the whole thing! Haven’s player thought he was really upset he did it so well!). Gwen got up, turned in her swords to the other guards, and left, going to Mom’s room. The party broke up; Haven went to talk to the Glanmorian peeps as they left, trying to save face. She missed (so we ALL missed) a backhanded comment of “Well, that is the danger of being too close to the help,” which is probably a GOOD THING (Haven HATES classism!).
Mom came in, and we got to the bottom of it; Conner was still spiritually reeling over the idea that he had helped destroy our evil bitch ghost Great Aunt Katherine’s soul. He caught the force of that FULL BLAST, no training (he had just multi-classed to shaman); it was tormenting his mind, and this event brought that to the fore. He’s a lightweight drinker, and fears being out of control. Valid points, for sure; but without some work, a bridge might have been burnt with Gwen, who is literally one of the most dedicated people in our kingdom. Interesting drama!
Well, as part of the deal with Lion’s Gate and Fario, Haven and Aunt Vivian have to deliver the set to Fario after the Spring festival. That is a hell of a trip, and we are all going! Should be fun; last time Aunt Viv took us anywhere, we got jumped by mutant kruthick on an AIRSHIP!
1. Stasia Almari – I failed to cover this before, but Stasia is from La’kola, an independent city in the mountain south of Fario. La’kola is adventurer paradise, and, even more importantly, where an entire island fades into the lake in the city every Summer from the Fey Realms! A HUGE resource, but hard to get to, and from the insane amount of adventurers there, near impossible to invade! Well, Stasia is one of the Councilors of the city and, in the past, she and her family had sent said adventurers to Taur’on to do adventurer stuff. Recently she had done that, uncovering the mutant kruthik menace and absconding with a VERY ancient goblin lich (a good geebalich found in a previous, one-shot game!). She had come down during the winter to formally meet and apologize to Mom, and, during this, we learned that shes a freakin’ DRAGON! She does the faked-death-seat-passed-to-relative thing every so often to keep up appearances in La’Kola. As a dragon, she hoards like any other… but she hoards ADVENTURING PARTIES. Suffice it to say, SHE IS COOL AS ALL GET-OUT! She invited us to stay in La’kola, which I plan to do!
2. Mom is gonna use the money to build a series of schools and a university for the commoners of our kingdom. Lots of other countries ain’t gonna like that!
3. There seem to be a LOT of tense political situations around, but NO ONE is noticing it. Scary stuff…
4. Aldric’s flirtation of Tori is progressing well!
5. Haven is making a list of boys she likes. Sebastian, the King of Mordova (mentioned last time), sent her a cameo to match her dress. We informed her that this is likely just his way of saying hello, and that he’d like to be friends, of a sort. While she is disgusted by Mordovian politics, this is deviant from those games, and more than a bit intriguing…
6. Conner had better make up with Gwen. That’s all I am saying ’bout that.