Thinking Epic

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 9:23 PM

Caradoc is a man my dnd group loves to hate, and hates to respect. Given that they are just touching the edges of his level of influence and priority, I thought I might post a little something from his point of view.

When people talked about heroes, they were talking about any one of those rare individuals who refused to be daunted. When people talked about the Archmage, they meant Caradoc. Dour chin resting on one knuckle, he peered at the world map in the war room. It was a mural, created in conjunction with an accomplished seer.

“Show me the armies,” he said, and tiny blots of ink pooled on the map.

“The House of the Sun is massing again,” said Lord Irmin.

“They only do that to remind Jashapur who has the larger army. But they won't move. Pharaoh is too cautious for an assault.” Caradoc scanned the map like a hawk, and then turned to the small group of sages, generals and scholars standing around the council table. “Someone's building an army in the south of Sarrgim. Find out who.”

“Yes, sir,” said one of the soldiers. He saluted briskly, and left immediately.

“Otherwise, looks like business as usual, except for whoever is hiding.” Caradoc dismissed the map blots with a wave, and focused his attention on his lieutenants. “Any other word from Ollamh?”
“Nothing new, sir,” said the broad-shouldered man with the embroidered sepia Academy robe. “They still have eyes on Avissar, looking for residual magic.”

“And watching the insane Prince, no doubt,” murmured a sardonic, greying general.

Caradoc gave the old man a pointed look. “We don't know if Beckhardt is actually insane. He's a good player; don't assume. Right, we've...”

The door opened, and Piers half stepped in. He was Caradoc's new chamberlain; young and efficient, mousy but with an exorbitant tailoring bill. “Apologies, my lord...”

“Someone here to see me?”

“Yes, my lord, and very insistent on it,” replied Piers. “The Balebane Company.”

There was a faint wash of bemusement in the room.

“Very well, we're about done here anyway,” Caradoc announced. “You all know what you should be working on. I want reports on the cult of the Eye and the whereabouts of that rogue binder by tomorrow.” He walked over to his desk, paused as people began to file out. “Lord Irmin, you're attending the masquerade in Purayu?”

“Yes, sir, received the invitation two weeks ago. Should I change my schedule?”

“No, just a reminder; I expect a new Dolnan spy there. Keep an eye out.”

Lord Irmin nodded, and left. Piers hovered by the door, patient, until Caradoc motioned for him to bring the visitors up.

At one time, Caradoc had wandered the world, gathering wealth and power and righting wrongs along the way. He'd been a fiercely moral man, firmly convinced that there were no reasons but greed or sloth to justify squandering one's talents. His morals had gotten worn down a bit as the years passed, and now he had far too many enemies to be an adventurer. He had nothing to prove, and no need for glory; people like the Balebane Company could have it all.

“Balebane Company, my lord,” announced Piers, opening the door again to admit four hard-eyed men and women.

Caradoc studied the four. They'd made an effort to come properly dressed; all wore finery appropriate to meeting the Archmage, though one looked ill at ease in it. He also knew he was not what they expected. Many magicians were scholars foremost, and used to easy living. Caradoc loved easy living, but he would never be soft; he was tall, trim and muscular. Though his hair was white and his face weathered, he was strong and fit. He also made it a point to dress well.

“I have a meeting in ten minutes,” he said. “What business do you have with me?”

“I am Caedwallon,” said one of the four, a lean and tough looking man with long black hair and a distinctly aquiline profile. “I'm the ...”

“I know who you are,” said Caradoc, studying the man without expression. Strong decision maker, but heavy insecurities. Obsessed with making a mark on the world. Lots of personal charisma, probably prone to self-indulgence. “And I know your group's reputation. What business do you have with me?”

The interruption stung a bit, but he saw that at least half the group was flattered he knew them. Of course I know you, thought Caradoc. I know all of the local independent contractors.

“We come to offer our aid to you,” said Caedwallon with a faint hint of irritation.

“Very well,” said Caradoc. He walked around his desk, shuffled through his papers just to make an impression and found a list he'd known the location of from the start. “There's a mine south and east of here, at the border of Maev province. It's an abandoned silver mine, and the local governor will give you any maps you need...this document here...” Caradoc signed and sealed an envelope. “... will see to that. Go to the mine. If there are green-robed fanatics there, find out what they are doing and come back here. Yes, they will likely be dangerous. You can do further investigations when you get there. Be wary of infiltrators in the town, but you can be sure of the governor.”

He handed the envelope to Caedwallon, who accepted it with a puzzled look.

“Ah... what is this about,” ventured the younger man.

Fixing Caedwallon with a falcon-like stare, Caradoc folded his arms. “If you want to aid me, I've just told you how. Off you go. If you need compensation, talk to my chamberlain. I assume you are competent. Any further questions you have are ones you can answer yourself.”

He could tell they wanted to ask anyway, but they eventually filed out. Caradoc shrugged, and started sorting through reports he'd received earlier in the day. There is never any shortage of would-be heroes, he thought. When Balebane Company goes and kills the local necromancer or the resident brute or saves some noble scion from being kidnapped, stories get told. Songs are sung. Everyone knows, and the Company gets to celebrate being heroes. When I do my work right, no one ever knows they were threatened or saved.

Peering critically at a report from the far north, he frowned.

And there is just never enough time, he thought. I'm overdue for a little celebration.

“Piers,” he called. “Send word to... Lady Aeronwyn, I'll be back in Yhelm to meet with the Academy next week.”

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At August 20, 2009 11:51 AM, Blogger Mark said...

I'm particularly amused by the way what must have been - to the players - a fetchquest (amusing, challenging, and engaging, but a fetchquest nonetheless) is so neatly contextualized by the archmages larger concerns.

There's a necromancer in this town. He's below my notice. Go take care of it for me.

And so it begins.

Very clever.


At August 20, 2009 5:23 PM, Blogger Montgomery Mullen said...

Thank you, and thank you also for your excellent Lovecraft related posts recently.

I'm glad you enjoyed this little piece. Caradoc's catchphrase is 'I don't have time to explain things to you'. And when you are a civic-minded magician of that magnitude, it really is true. You -don't- have enough time.

By the way, you posted a story seed about a 'chaos sickness' some time ago... I should let you know I've got something on the backburner for that.



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