Week 5, Search for Allies
Last month, we were gathering a posse to pursue the raiders in Tolani livery who dry-gulched several farms in Rhodri's demesne. So this week, the player characters rode off in pursuit, with two dozen knights and yeomen. It was early in the morning.
Later in the morning, we came upon another sacked homestead. Rhodri stopped to heal the most severely wounded -- either with medicine or with clandestine magic, whatever happened to work. After pursuing the rest of the day, we began to feel nervous about leaving the manor house unguarded except for some children and Aphron, so the party turned back, except for David, Bronwyn (a.k.a. Victoria) and the two dozen knights and yeomen. Rhodri gave these instructions to pursue as far as the borders of Gwenedd, but no further.
We returned to the manor, stopping first at the monastery to pick up the family and Lord Jared, the crown inspector. We then waited for a few days to find out what had become of the posse. Tom spent the time pub-crawling, collecting rumors and disseminating PR for Rhodri. Lord Jared went out with him, interviewing and investigating.
Among the rumors Tom unearthed were: Rhodri has enemies (or allies) who have followed him from Tolan to pillage; the disturbances were caused by this great barbarian woman (Bronwyn/Victoria); Rhodri is a startlingly good healer; a great bird, or Deryni witch, or something, was seen flying in the sky that night (Cantrel). Some opined that the proper earl was Harold; others, that it was Aldous' son Michael; others that it was Rhodri.
Five days after the raid, the posse had still not returned, but then we were just barely expecting them. They finally came back on the seventh day, having failed to join battle. The raiders crossed into extreme southern Tolan just as the posse sighted them. After Jared interviewed them all, we sent him off to Harold again, this time with an armed guard.
By the way, Jared is curious and confused about why he is still alive. He thought he was pretty thoroughly dead or done for. Rhodri has merely said blandly that he didn't look that bad when he was brought into the manor house. (This is the literal truth. Rhodri healed him just outside the grounds.)
The grapevine gets more positive in its attitude towards Rhodri after the posse comes back and Rhodri's patients get up and around. But some folk say that he isn't really Rhodri, and Bronwyn is still a scandal and a hissing noise. On the third day after Jared's departure, Tom hears that a Lord Rhydon of Eastmarch disbelieves Rhodri's identity. This is disturbing and significant.
Lord Rhydon, you see, is mentioned in the Catherine Kurtz books on which this world is based, and the party has read those books, back on the pantope. We know that Rhydon is secretly an ally of Wencit of Torrenth, the arch-villain of one book. Even more secretly, Rhydon is a member of the Camberian Council, an organization dedicated to protecting Deryni lore and monitoring the activities of Deryni throughout the Eleven Kingdoms. They are so secret that most Deryni and essentially all humans are ignorant of the Council's existence.
We also know that Rhydon is scheduled to be kicked off the Council some time this year, then die of (at least apparent) heart failure. Stephan Coram, another Council member, will magically assume his appearance and lead his life for eight years, perishing in the act of betraying Wencit, in a duel arcane.
So Rhydon never appears in the books in person, but is intricately implicated in them. He is part of the plot machinery, and therefore likely to be an agent or construct of the worldbenders. And he has NOTICED us. (The same applies to Alaric Morgan, the king's general who sent out Jared, but Morgan has been acting much more neutral.)
We decide that Rhodri and his family should get out into the countryside and campaign. It is now May 23rd. It is natural that the gentry should go a-maying, so we begin planning some working vacations, to go out an press the flesh.
First on our list is Robert, Duke of Eastmarch. He is the father of one of the characters mentioned in the books, a Lord Ian, the betrayer and murderer of King Brion. Robert is old and quiet, and would not want to commit himself in support of anybody. Ian is obnoxious and not likely to support us either (or so Llewella says), but Ian's younger brother might be worth wooing. And it is generally a good idea to go to the ducal seat and get some visibility. So the party, plus Rhodri's half-sister Margaret, heigh themselves to the capital of Eastmarch, to pay their respects. (Not to swear fealty. That would require Robert to acknowledge or deny Rhodri, which would be awkward at this point.) Llewella makes plans to go visiting neighbors in June, once we get back.
We get to the capital without incident and lodge at an inn. We receive an invitation to dine at the ducal palace on the 27th. Meanwhile, Tom and Cantrel are out pub-crawling again, gathering gossip. Tom learns that Rhydon is in town, with a friend named ... Rhodri.
Well, now we know why Rhydon disbelieves our Rhodri's claim.
Cantrel tracks them down to another inn and spots Rhydon at table with some friends. One of them looks very much as if he could be OUR Rhodri's close kinsman. Cantrel gives them the once-over, looking for disflorgers or other world-bender artifacts. Nothing. Since he is conspicuous himself, he slides away and we all start speculating like mad. Who the heck is this other Rhodri? He isn't a clone of our Rhodri, but he looks like kin.
Might he be the original Rhodri (whom we will call Rhodri 0), spirited away by his time-traveling and rejuvenating grandfather, now returned? Might he be the time-traveler, our mysterious benefactor who adopted the Rhodri character in the past, and whom we will call Rhodri 1? Might someone else have decided to have a whirl at being Rhodri, e.g. a worldbender client who is told in all innocence by the world-benders that there is a neat opening in the local peerage? Might he be a construct? a plot-inspector? the Man in the Iron Mask? Jimmy Hoffa? Amelia Erhard? Ambrose Bierce?
Here are some mnemonics for keeping track of Rhodris:
Naught was the babe who vanished away.Alternatively:
Rhodri zero is a missing hero.or:
Naught was the babe who vanished away.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.