Jinx’s Vacation

A 2nd Talk with Cedric
Jim Vassilakos (jim.vassilakos@gmail.com)
In this excerpt, we return to Jinx’s vacation and her plans to take on the dragons of the Isles of Oblivion. Two days following their long talk, Jinx returns to Foundation to meet with Cedric. “I see you come alone this time,” Cedric says, noting that Laertes, Jinx’s steed, is nowhere to be seen. “I hope you didn’t walk all the way here?” “You should know better than to have to ask,” she replies. “Is there a place we may speak privately?” “You already know the way,” he says, walking alongside her to the study. “Have your drow investigators discovered anything?” “Not yet. We’ve had larger fish to fry.” “The dragons?” he murmurs, keeping his voice low so nobody else can hear it. “Best not to talk so openly,” she whispers back. Once they enter his study, Cedric secures the door so they won’t be disturbed. “I pray to all that is holy that Nybotha is uninjured.” “She’s fine. Nothing has happened yet, but things will begin to happen very soon. That’s why it’s important for us to discuss a few matters... matters pertaining to the future of these lands.” “As usual, you speak in riddles.” “Let me speak plainly then. You remember how I asked you to accompany me on the expedition to the Isles of Oblivion?” “How on the gods’ green earth could I ever forget?” “Well,” Jinx finds herself a chair, “I do not mean for you alone to represent these lands. I want Lord Kakaljak of Abject, Lord Mabris of Gormcairn, and the elven Lord Khurdlard of Praetor to accompany us as well. If we can also get the rulers of Merkab and Lanax, then all the better.” Cedric can’t help but snort in response. “You find something about this exceptionally funny?” “If I knew you not, I should think you a great comedian.” “I’m not joking, Cedric. I need this done.” “My father was right,” he replies. “About what?” “About women. He said, ‘Son, I’m only going to tell you this once, so listen up and listen good. Women are a royal pain in the arse. They are completely unreasonable in every respect and quite like children in their sensibilities. Now go out and get yourself one, and choose wisely.’ His words, not mine, and I think he was rather drunk at the time.” Jinx can’t help but smile. “I’m surprised that your mother didn’t cut his nuts off.” “Oh, she tried,” Cedric winces. “Believe me, she tried. But they were very dear to one another. I think it was the strength of their love which kept them from killing each other.” “Besides, who then would take care of the children?” “Precisely,” Cedric nods. “Well, your father never met me.” “Oh, I don’t think you would have changed his mind. You want everyone to join you on your quest. You know not what you ask. Why, Khurdlard didn’t even show up for the summit at Abject. Once he got word that the half-drow were coming, be decided to boycott. And Master Vish of Lanax... he hasn’t shown up for any sort of meeting in all the long years that I’ve known about him. He’s a recluse, and so are his followers.” “Leave Vish out of it, then. The one I want most is Kakaljak of Abject.” “Good luck. He’s sworn an oath of fealty to Prince Dasartros. I doubt that he’ll go on any dragon-hunting expedition without the prince’s authorization, though I could easily be wrong. He’s always been rather adventurous, and as near as I can tell, he doesn’t much like the prince.” “Nor should he. I’ve heard all about this so-called prince from Nybotha. He wasn’t there for your father, he wasn’t there for hers, and he was never there for either of you. Why do you continue to pay a tithe to him each year when he won’t lift a finger to help you against the dangers that surround you?” “That is a complicated question,” Cedric replies, shifting uneasily in his chair. “Let me guess the answer: fear.” “Well...” “Well what? Well, either you truly love your prince and pay him his extortion out of the goodness of your heart, or everyone around here is scared silly that the moment they stop, he’ll send an army and put all of your heads on pikes. Which is it?” “To even have this discussion is unwise, Leana1.” “You locked the door. Nobody can hear us. And even if someone could, what would it matter? Do you really think I would ask these questions if I were unable to back up my words with force?” “In all honesty, I fear that perhaps you are having delusions of grandeur. Killing a few giants doesn’t make you capable of standing against an army of thousands of trained soldiers, which is what the prince would send if he feared he might lose this territory.” “Yet he cannot send even a hundred to defend Foundation against the giants. I find that strangely amusing. Perhaps it is your prince who is a comedian.” “In case you haven’t been following the news, he’s presently engaged in a war.” “A war he started and which he could end any moment. You want to know the real reason he hasn’t sent you troops, Cedric? It’s probably because he fears that the population here is growing too fast and secretly wishes the giants would do a better job to control your numbers so that he needn’t fear a rebellion.”

1

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Leana is the name Jinx uses while in these lands.

“You speak treason,” Cedric states. “Talk like that will get your head severed, or in your case, more likely you would be burnt alive at the stake.” “I would be very much amused to see him try.” Cedric looks at her for a long moment, wondering what gives her such boldness. She comes and goes as she pleases, says whatever she wants, and answers to nobody. In short, she is free; free as he’ll never be. “What is the hurry about these dragons anyway?” Cedric finally asks, hoping to change the topic. “The hurry? Now that is a complicated question,” Jinx replies. “I have obligations of my own which call me away. If this is to get done, it should get done as soon as possible, for I don’t know how soon I’ll be able to return.” “Obligations which you can tell me nothing about. Do they involve my niece?” “In the short term, perhaps. In the long term, I’d like to see her return here to continue my work and perhaps free these lands from Dasartros. You say that Abject pledged its loyalty. Was Nybotha forced to do likewise?” “In a manner of speaking. She inherited the pledge of her grandfather, and by our customs, that’s just as good.” “Your father journeyed to Rallu?” “He signed a document accepting title.” “Nybotha told me he couldn’t read or write.” “He could write his name. And he knew that if he didn’t, the prince would come after him, kill him, and appoint a governor for Foundation. So he accepted the deal. What else was there?” “Honor.” “There is no honor in a meaningless death,” Cedric replies. “Yet another of his drunken pearls of wisdom.” “What about Kakaljak? Not your father, I mean the Lord of Abject. How did Dasartros acquire his oath of fealty? The same way?” “More or less,” Cedric nods. “Abject was once a place of squalor and misery, every wretched scum and beggar from Rallu sent there to try to make something of himself. Dasartros thought it better to let each man try to make his own way against the natural world rather than build prisons to house them.” “The prince was alive back then?” “He has magics to extend his life, though for how long is uncertain. Every decade or so he must drink an elixir which, they say, will either preserve his youth or kill him. I’ve been told that he cherishes these events as his personal moments of truth. In any case, he’s seen Abject grow from just a smudge in the dirt to what it is today, a stronghold of knights bent on taming these lands of all their dangers and supporting Prince Dasartros in all his endeavors.” “I understand the former, but why the latter?” “Their oath. The knights formed, initially, as a band of warriors, thugs really, who wanted to control the population for their own benefit. However, there were good men among them, amidst the cowards and backstabbers, and the good won. They pledged themselves to the gods of justice, purged themselves of those who were unworthy, and, just as Dasartros had done years earlier to their fathers and grandfathers, so they did to their own people, decreeing that if you are unfit for city life, then you shall live outside the city.

Commit a crime there, and the most common punishment is that you’ll be branded with a hot iron, thrown out, and told never to return. My own father had such a brand, and he was none too happy about it.” “And yet their current ruler is named for him.” “The name of Kakaljak spread far and wide. He was a hero among their people, and many petitioned the knights to make an exception, in his case, for his crime was one of vengeance against those who had killed my mother, but to the knights, the law is sacred, and they wouldn’t budge, so he was outcast, and yet dearly loved by those who knew him.” “Nybotha told me that her grandfather moved away from Abject by choice.” “Oh, he did. That city was a pig sty, even with the knights in charge. They were but newly formed back then and didn’t really have a clue what they were doing.” “And today? How do they feel about serving a prince who condones piracy and slavery and the hunting of elves?” “There is no slavery in Abject, nor poaching of the lesser races.” “So I’ve observed. But they still serve a prince who not only condones such activity but even takes part in it. What do their gods of justice say to them about that?” “I don’t know! It never came up in conversation. If you’re so damn interested, you can go ask them yourself, but I’d imagine that they would tell you the same thing I’ve told you.” “Which is?” “They swore an oath of fealty, and part of that oath involves allegiance.” “You forgot about hypocrisy.” “Even if they were to turn against Rallu, they would be crushed. All of us would. Put all of the cities in this region together, and we couldn’t muster enough men to stage a successful revolt. Everyone knows it. Hence, there’s no point in discussing it.” “What if I told you that such a revolt could succeed?” “I would think you mad, which, incidentally, I already do.” “Cedric, you’re just going to have to learn to trust me. When you come to the Isles of Oblivion, and we do battle alongside one another against the dragons, you’ll gain a better understanding of my power, and so too will the other leaders if you can get them to come as well. Use your carrier pigeons, and convince them to at least meet with me. You don’t have to tell them exactly what this is all about. Just get them to come to a meeting, and I’ll do the rest.” “And if they should refuse?” “For those who refuse to even meet with me, I shall no longer involve them in decisions concerning the future of this continent. What’s more, I shall hold them responsible for the piracy of Rallu and the slave-poaching of Cheapside.” “I’m sure they’ll be mortally wounded,” Cedric replies. “Am I to mention your title in this letter? Would you prefer Overlord or Empress?” “I realize that you think this is simply hilarious, but hold your sarcasm until after we do battle with the dragons. That way you’ll know better who it is you denigrate. As for a title, I don’t need any.” “Indeed, then how shall everyone know who’s in charge?”

“They’ll know. But that doesn’t mean I intend to rule as does the prince. No, you shall rule yourselves as a council of rulers. You shall make your own laws for this region, and you shall pay tithe to nobody.” “No tithe?” “I support myself,” Jinx insists. “And what’s more, I will listen to your voice. If I decide one thing and all the council disagrees, or even just a substantial majority, the council wins. Is that not a better deal than what Dasartros has offered you?” “Prince Dasartros commands thousands of soldiers. He is not in a position where he needs to make deals.” “Nor am I, Cedric,” Jinx tells him. “But I choose to do so. If only you could understand that what I am offering is real. Will you arrange this meeting?” “If I do this, it will be for the stated purpose of discussing the half-drow, not for the purpose of rebellion.” “State no purpose, nothing about the half-drow, nor the dragons, nor rebellion. Just tell them that there’s an emergency that we all must discuss immediately, and have them come to Foundation as soon as possible.” “And leave Lanax out of it?” “Right. Vish won’t come anyway, so there’s no point summoning him. It would just make us look stupid.” “How soon do you want this to happen?” “If they can be here in one day, that should suffice. I could even teleport Kakaljak here myself, since he’s the furthest away. If nothing else, that should convince him how important this is.” “Supposing I do this, just who shall I say is calling this meeting?” “Do you think they’d come if I called it?” “You rule no cities. As far as they are concerned you’re an outsider.” “Then you have to call it.”

Spike Jones: Regarding Sapienza’s quote from A&E #88: It’s interesting that A&Ers have been grappling with the issue of how to debate each other for so long. Thanks for sharing. Brian Misiaszek: RAE the description of the Spacewarp fanzines as well as The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum. Also, it’s good to see the monthly picture of Lauren. Brian Rogers: I enjoyed reading the thoughts of your socalled gaming widow, and I have to say that I think you have a wise woman on your hands, you lucky dog. In particular, it somehow filled me with a second-hand sense of gratification to read, “I’ve watched couples where one partner games and the other doesn’t where gaming time diminishes because the non-gamer wants it to…I never want to be that partner.” Regarding Tom, I don’t think it’s selfish for players to want to thoroughly explore the setting in which their characters exist, and I don’t think it’s wrong for them to philosophize on the setting’s internal logic or realism (or rather the lack thereof). That’s all part of what makes the game fun. Likewise, if you do happen to be running a game in some “official universe,” I think you should be free to make it your own insofar as you create whatever the original authors left uncreated. Granted, this opens to the fear of trampling all over somebody else’s garden, perhaps changing particulars that oughtn’t to be changed, or worse still, creating something golden that cannot be shared for fear of violating somebody’s precious copyright. Hence, I think it’s ultimately better to run your own setting, not somebody else’s, because only then do you really have the freedom to fully explore your own creativity as a GM and to share whatever it is that you and your players have created. Granted, I didn’t think all of this through when I started the Jinx campaign. Jerry Stratton: Enjoyed reading your comments on Leveling up as a GM. I’ve done some of what you suggest, and players do appreciate the preparation, however, ultimately they end up making a choice that renders moot an entire segment of what has been prepared. However, like you say, the sheer act of preparing scenes forces the GM to think through the entire scenario in greater depth, allowing him or her to respond to the unexpected that much more easily. Nonetheless, there is always the temptation to railroad the group toward whatever has been pre-planned, and that’s not a good thing in my opinion. Hence, I think there’s a fine line that every GM needs to find. Having said this, I think that there’s also a lot of preparation that a GM can do that isn’t necessarily related to a particular adventure, but is rather of a more generic variety, and which can greatly enhance his or her ability to wing it. Please see the first page of my comments to Lee in A&E #363 for a few ideas. I’ve also seen a few others mentioned in a freely available pdf (downloadable from http://www.dungeonmastering.com/campaignsadventures/instant-campaign-builder-official-release).

Comments on A&E #397:
Ty Beard: Regarding “USan” vs. “American”: As part of yet another near-future RPG project, I’ve begun work on a glossary. Not sure if the definition will end up sticking, but for the time being… American: A term generally used to denote moral decay, vice in all its varying forms, or a person of vice. Synonyms: odious, repulsive, malignant. Usage: “Oh, my…sex in the hallway again, eh? How American! Would you mind swapping fluids someplace else? There are children in the building, you know.” Archaic: A member of the nation state known as the United States of America, or a member of any inhabitant of the Western Duo-Continent. Myles Corcoran: How to Host a Dungeon sounds interesting. I also enjoyed the Wolf Age snippets. Michael Cule: I really love your dialogue. Peter Hildreth: Saw the video. Lots of fear out there, most of it justified. I’d be interested in your opinion of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX2DgN1VYgQ (although, such a discussion would certainly be off-topic and, hence, should probably be conducted outside A&E).

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