Short story: The Hands of the Citadel - Planewalkers Council

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Short story: The Hands of the Citadel - Planewalkers Council

Post by Dungeon Master on Sun Oct 04, 2015 7:08 pm

Short story: The Hands of the Citadel - Planewalkers Council

IT WAS a special day, Darion thought. It had been several months since all of the Planewalker Five had last been assembled, and it was even longer since they had held a proper council. He knew that some of his peers had little interest in the mechanics of running their stronghold, but run it must, and he and Ranefereth could not make all the decisions themselves. The bard and the archmage had worked together to ensure that their fellowship now had a proper place of their own. Although the Citadel was maybe not the grandest among the planes, it was nonetheless a spacious and secure stronghold.

The Planewalkers were sat in the Council Chamber, located high above the ramparts of the Citadel in the Tower of the Phoenix. Though each Lord had their own wing of the Citadel to inhabit and decorate as they pleased, even housing favoured servants or cohorts as well, only their private chambers were all connected with the Tower of the Phoenix. The remaining wings could access the central buildings, such as the Freehall(where the kitchens and common room dining areas were located) and the barracks housing the Keepers of the Song. As each member of the group had made their entrance to the Citadel, Darion had instructed his majordomo, the tiefling Cheriel, to look after their needs while they attended the council of the Planewalker Lords. When all the practicalities of arrival had been dealt with, the old companions and a few cohorts trickled in to the Council Chamber, conversations and excited chatter making it clear that there was a lot to catch up on.

Although a few very trusted individuals were allowed to accompany the Lords into the council session, such as Wulfgar Icehammer, cohort of Darion, the Lords' entourage had to contend themselves with being placed out of earshot in an observatory located to one side of the council chamber. Here they could pass the time with food, drink, games or literature while waiting to be called for any particulars needed by their masters. Cheriel always made an effort to expedite matters, usually matching the intensity of trying to get the Lords and their people sorted with the extent of his master's frown of annoyance. The sessions usually never started on time, and there was always moments of merriment when Ghalean or Calmert would deliberately stall proceedings just to watch the old bard fume and grumble quietly over the delays. When the Lords had finally sat down around the council table, a smooth wheel of granite-like material sat upon a heavy pedestal, Darion lifted a small bell and a clear chime rang out, silencing the last murmuring. Wulfgar and the Lords' other cohorts and attendants made their way to the observatory entrance and the once dusty bookkeeper, who now at times seemed more like a world-weary magister at the court of an unruly king, was relieved to finally be able to open proceedings.

"Friends," he began, "It pleases me that we are once more able to have Council here in the Citadel. Time passes and I know that we each pursue our own affairs here, in Faerûn, and beyond. However, we are still also a group with common interests, and of some renown now, I would wager. So I would hear your tales of your time away from here - but also give thought to what is next. We will get to that." Darion tipped his glasses slightly so they rested precariously on the tip of his nose, and looked around the table with his deep, grey eyes. The crackle of the nearby hearth was all that could be heard, the flickering of the flames faintly moving small shadows here and there. He resumed, "For the first while, let me tell you of happenings in Canton and the Citadel, while you can give us much appreciated news from the Realms beyond. Cheriel will ensure that we will not grow thirsty!" The half-elf smiled and looked at the three others, who responded to the flash of mirth by rapping the table in approval and a few "hear, hear" were uttered as well. Cherielappeared smoothly on cue with a tray of crystal glasses filled with Saerloonian Glowfire, the drink adding to the ambiance with its strange luminescence.

Once the Lords had tasted a few sips of the wine, and Darion noticed that it went down well, he shifted into a more businesslike demeanour and began to list the developments of the settlement since they last met. He proudly described how the Citadel was now more or less complete, and that the town of Canton was growing at a steady pace. The basic needs of the town inhabitants, and a bit more than that, actually, were met; one of the reasons for that was that the town had a fairly brisk trade of exotic goods, arcane items and, as something fairly unique, rare knowledge. Finding it hard to leave the bookkeeping habits completely, Darionalso made sure to emphasize that the coffers of the Citadel were doing well, as long as an astute eye was kept on expenses. He was mindful not to ramble on, having learnt from previous experience that long monologues on the business of the Planewalker Five would end in at least one member walking restlessly around the chamber, while another would begin to interject repeatedly with any question that would break the perceived monotony. He was keen to keep his companions sharp and interested, so with a slight flurish, Darion ended his discourse. "Enough about business here, let us hear of your time in the other planes". Pointing to Ranefereth, he nodded with a friendly smile and bade him start.

The archmage of House Starym had a lot to say, which was not unusual for the intelligent and curious elf, but Darion noted a certain frantic note had crept in to the already fast-paced reflections that his friend would normally employ. The old bard wondered if the appearance of the latest of Rahnefereth's acolytes, the young priest, Okrin, had anything to do with it. There was certainly a lot more mentioned about research that Ranefereth wanted to do in the realms of time and ancient gods. Amaunator - now, there was a name that he had not heard mentioned in a long, long time. It was fascinating, if not a little baffling, to followRahnefereth's thoughts on how to achieve what he called "true immortality", but he could see that Calmert and Galean were interested too. Anything involving the old Netherese would be worth investigating, Darionthought, although he wondered if the cost of trying to bend ancient magic to their will would outstrip the benefits.

The turn came to Calmert, and his stories of missions to Faerûn, Sigil and beyond were undoubtedly interesting for Galean and Rahnefereth, but Darion already knew most of it already. The shadowy assassin went down many paths that served the interests of the Planewalkers, although everyone in the group would not always be aware of what that entailed.

As the afternoon progressed, Darion noted that something was different with the way Galean comported himself. There was a slight reservation in his manner of talking and participating in the conversation. He hazarded a small bet with himself that he probably knew what was making the gnome thoughtful. As Calmert wound up his last tale, an especially tense encounter with a tricky enforcer of a Sembian merchant lord, Darion knew that he would have to make sure to really listen to what his friend and Harper ally had to say. He respected Galean's tough and balanced stance on many subjects, and was in no doubt that he would be in for a real discussion once it was the Harper's turn to brief the group.

Calmert had fallen silent and Darion took the cue. "Friend Galean, we are hoping to hear of many good tales of the Harpers and your other exploits on the Sword Coast", the old bard ventured with a smile. He also made sure that Cheriel filled up their glasses again with a discreet gesture.
"Aye, Darion, I have much to tell," the gnome answered, and gave the odd look that Darion had noticed before. Galean continued and recounted a number of interesting occurrences happening in the Realms, as well as some connections to his work in Sigil, where he was beginning to spend more time after Darion and Ranefereth had set up their arcane store there. As he finished the story about investigating a particularly worrying type of mind-controlling necklaces that seemed to be originating from the wicked area near the Troll Mountains, he paused for a little while. The three other Planewalker lords wondered what was going on with the usually chirpy Galean.

"I am worried, master Bookkeeper," Galean suddenly exclaimed, looking down at the table. "Why have we engaged with that mercenary band, the Silken Hand?" He looked up questioningly at Darion, and glanced at Calmert and Rahnefereth. "I can see that they contribute to keeping the peace here, although the Keepers of the Song are supposedly the official extension of our will. But they are very questionable in their approach to things and I have not heard anything that gives me comfort that they will help keep the balance, as it should be." The Harper paused a bit and his wise eyes narrowed slightly as he continued, "You may think that it is a good idea now, but mark my words, it will not end well to have such men here. They are clearly ruthless," the Gnome finished with a worried look.

Darion sighed slightly and held up his hand in a placating gesture, "I understand your concerns completely, my friend." He looked around the table with a serious expression. "The Silken Hand is a very deadly organization if you are on their wrong side. However, we also have to realize what we have achieved here, and what we need to do to preserve it." Again, he looked around to his fellow lords, and righted his glasses once again. He leaned back a bit and seemed taller all of a sudden, seeming not so much a bookkeeper anymore. "What we have now, here, in Occipitus, is the culmination of our desires. A place to call ours, a secure place that we can trust to keep us when the winds of the Realms and the rest of the multiverse blows against us. Every tenday, I find that we grow in influence and in wealth, and that we are able to use that influence to achieve the things we care about." Darion leaned forward again and smiled as he continued, "Have we not gained much in the understanding of the Weave, Rahnefereth?" The gold elf nodded quietly in response from his side of the council table. "Calmert," the musical voice continued, "Have you not found it easier to do your work and fulfill your calling with the resources at our disposal here? And when the going has been tough, we've kept you going because this is a safe haven to retreat to?" The assassin grumbled and shifted a bit in his seat, but the Planewalkers knew his body language well. The young half-elf did not disagree.

A pause stretched and the other Lords did not meet Darion's eyes. The host turned towards Galean, but before he could speak, the Gnome interjected, "I know what you are going to say, old friend, and yes, the Harpers have been very pleased with my contributions this last while. A lot of my recent achievements have been built on the foundations of the resources and knowledge that we command here." Galean pinched his lips for a moment and continued, "I really do not want to seem ungrateful for the work you have done, and continue to do, to ensure that we are well funded and well equipped," he looked at Darion again with an apologetic face, "I just wish that we didn't need to resort to employing mercenaries of this kind. It sits ill with me." Galean looked away again and stared at nothing in particular, thoughtful.

Again, Darion held his hand up, but this time it was more of an energetic gesture. "There is a lot of merit in your thoughts, my friend, and I don't mean to belittle them. As it happens, I have already foreseen that we would need to have a counterpoint to the current arrangement." He leaned forward again and glanced surreptitiously towards the observatory, where the cohort and entourage of the Lords were busy entertaining themselves. Speaking in a lower voice, he continued, "I propose the creation of our own cells within the Planewalker troop organisation. A group of fresh recruits who start from the bottom and have the opportunity to see everything that goes on in the day-to-day. A group, who, if they are strong and succeed, will have worked for their recognition - and their ability to command respect." Darion could see that he had his fellow Lords' attention. "Go on," Galean said softly. The old bard smiled and did just that, "It is common observance that once one becomes a leader, it will inevitably mean that you cannot know everything that goes on. We will therefore need someone to live the experience of working for the Planewalker Five - and tell us about what they learn. Later, they will challenge the established order and change what needs to be changed, while keeping our gains and strength intact. I am sure that each of you could find one or more such specimens to be your right hand here. Our Hands of the Citadel," he finished with a flourish and sat back. He looked at the others expectantly.

"The Hands of the Citadel, eh?" Calmert exclaimed. "Sure, why not. I may have someone in mind. Or a few someones," he added mysteriously. Galean looked at him with a knowing expression, "Calmert, I think we'll talk about this afterwards - if you are thinking of Westgate?" The assassin glanced over and nodded ever so slightly. Galean continued, "Darion, I am willing to go with this on the condition that it is indeed the intention that this group are earmarked as our potential representatives in council and other matters, if we are not able to be here ourselves. I do not want to create another group which is easily disposed of, if we go to this amount of effort." At this point, Rahnefereth joined in, "I agree - I can see the idea and would like Okrin to join this group, but it must be because there is potential to be our second-in-command, not because we need someone to be a buffer between us and the mercenaries." The gold elf looked away and muttered, "He's too valuable, but he must learn as well..."

Seeing that the atmosphere was one of consensus, Darion clapped his hands together and concluded briskly, "It is decided then, we will assemble our Hands of the Citadel and see them grow into a force for change and control. I have candidates as well, which you have already guessed, of course. But for now, let us break for some refreshments and resume business afterwards". Darion signalled to Cheriel and the majordomo was quick to lead the Lords to the adjoining dinner suite. Before he entered the small private dining room with his peers, the old bard passed a small, sealed note to Cheriel. Below the vax seal bearing Darion's emblem was the name 'Sarin" in tiny, elegant script.

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