Week 18, Fight with the Unseen
It's morning in Maratesh. We may as well call it Sunday morning, because the city is closed up for a religious festival. Prince Shirvan is making a formal procession to the Fire Temple to give thanks to the fire gods for his recent victories. Since it's hopeless to transact any business today, we decide to watch the parade and get us a fairly good location at the edge of a public park.
The procession is very grand and features the prince on a white charger, his father-in-law the High Priest in one litter, and a veiled litter carried opposite the High Priest. We presume this contains a princess. And of course we wonder if she's the one we're looking for. After the prince reaches a certain proximity to the temple, he dismounts to walk the rest of the way. A gust of wind appears to make his cloak flutter awkwardly around him.
But Chris notices an odd crumpling at the corners, and Tom notices something forced about the cloak's action. The prince is being assaulted by someone invisible. Tom cries out and the two of them start plunging through the crowd to reach the prince. Tom shouts a brief word of explanation to Pfusand in Earthron, so she gets down on all fours and starts tunneling through knees. Daewen follows in her wake. Meanwhile, the prince has drawn his sword and deftly dropped it. But once he throws off the cloak he drops into a defensive crouch and draws his knife.
Pfusand comes charging in and dives past the prince with her arms wide. She connects with nothing. Ditto Tom. Chris pulls out that Cloak of Entanglement we won from the bandits and throws it in a likely direction, with a little Dicing to help the aim. It catches on something in the air and briefly outlines a mannish shape. Meanwhile, Wu has thrown a sleep spell from some distance and missed, sleeping a couple of bystanders. Cantrel tries a telekinetic grapple at whatever is holding up the cloak. It staggers.
The prince leapfrogs over the invisible attacker, grabs his sword, and whacks at it, catching nothing but the cloak. Pfusand and Tom try to grapple with it while trying to avoid the sword. Nothing happens. Chris tries and brushes something in passing. Meanwhile, the guards are moving in, with the understandable impression that we are attacking the prince.
While we are all fumbling, Wu has reached the edge of the crowd, with Daewen just behind him. "Coming up!" she announces, climbs the good doctor, and vaults off him into the scrum. Once there, she accidentally karate's the prince and gets a hefty sword-blow in return.
Meanwhile, Chris retrieves his cloak, snaps it clean of dust, and Dices the dust toward the invisible. A very faint shape is outlined. Wu spots it and aims a karate blow at it. Pfusand also attacks and hits it, but not before it has hit the prince.
All this action knocked the dust off, but Chris calmly Dices it back on. More fighting comes its way, including Cantrel and Wu and the prince. The faint dusty outline vanishes entirely, though, and no amount of groping can locate it.
A fellow in robes comes running up and brandishes a wand. A faint glowing outline of a ten-foot man appears, then fades almost at once. Alag launches an arrow at it, but nothing happens. While everyone crouches around in various defensive postures, Tom clears his throat, summons his Chyoxan, and starts explaining.
Since the prince corroborates the explanation, we are believed. He bows to Daewen and says that he misjudged her actions. He sends her off to be patched up by the royal physician. Wu finds the court mage covering him with the wand. He ignores this, warns the fellow that he's going to do a detection spell, and looks for magic in the area. Nothing. (Except that wand.) "What was that thing?" "An Unseen Hunter," the court mage answers, relaxing somewhat with the wand. The two magicians exchange greetings and we learn that the man's name is Cambyses. He gets our address from Wu.
At great length, the guards manage to re-group the procession and the prince goes on to the temple of fire, where we imagine his prayers of gratitude are somewhat muted, or at least rattled. Daewen vanishes into the royal retinue.
We return to the hostel. Alag and Pfusand are bursting with excitement. "The prince is Navrish the Agile!" they say. The others are startled. We haul out the portrait provided by King Smerdis, and there is a definite resemblance, though maybe not a definite identity. After all, the portrait is on a par with a police artist's reconstruction.
Just then, a page sent by Cambyses shows up. He wants to know if we "can be made presentable." If we can, we may be invited to dinner. This tactful invitation ticks off Cantrel, who punches a hole through the nearest wall. Wu calms the page down with a small charm and asks for further explanation. It becomes clear that this invitation is only on account of Daewen and comes from Cambyses, not the prince. Hmph. Well, "tell your master that if we're properly invited, we can be properly prepared." We would need some lessons in the particulars of court etiquette.
While we have the page here, Wu asks him about the prince. He has been on the scene about ten years, but has become secure only within the last year, thanks to the support of Lord Phanobasis, the High Priest, and the support of the Queen Mother. (Navrish the Agile, however, has only retired within the last few months, according to the information we got from Hakim.)
The page leaves. While we are mulling over the implications, four guards and two pages march into the room to present a scroll. "Ever learn to knock at the door?" Wu inquired tartly. "Yes, and which doors to knock at," comes the pert answer. Chris offers to accept the scroll one page is carrying, but both sides are ticked and leave without further exchange.
It is getting on toward late afternoon. Another court troop shows up and leaves a suit of enchanted armor at the door without stopping to say anything. It is accompanied by a note of polite thanks from the prince to Cantrel.
While studying the signature, Pfusand suddenly notices that "Shirvan" is "Navrish" backward. AAUUGH! Double identity? Twins separated at birth? Something of the sort is obviously going on.
Daewen comes back in the wee hours of the morning, wrapped in extravagant quantities of black and white silk, with silver and sapphire jewelry. "The princess never had a cat," she informs us. She also informs us we grossly insulted the court, though Shirvan (or whoever he is) seemed merely irked. Likewise, we're sure.
We have apparently uncovered a tangled web of intrigue, while largely destroying any chance of investigating it.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.