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  #91  
Old Sep 30th, 2021, 10:43 PM
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"Ah. I see. I uhh... Suspect that what's really happening here is an engineered opportunity for the handsome chivalrous knight to protect the beautiful maiden's virtue from the ravages of the scary evil drow. All in a calculated attempt to get at that virtue himself."
Morgan sighs. It's kind of pathetic really.
"Caution is good yes, and educating with correct information is how you get people that aren't just cautious, but understand a situation and how to respond to it."
And not a bogeyman created by a wild rumor created to get in some maid's nickers.
"As for the royal guard, all of their weapons and armor are magical as a matter of course, along with the usual other enhancements. The Royal Guard are I actually had a discussion with Makenshi a long long time ago about what the average levels of soldiers, and people in general, in Aheka, since it's a somewhat higher powered setting. While the royal guard wasn't specifically mentioned, assuming they're all a couple levels higher for the same rank than Mak's “professional soldier” ratings, you can probably assume the lowest level you'll see in the Royal Guard is 7th. All the Halvanna city district captains are 16th+, although they are higher level than your average soldier of their rank. As you get further from centers of power and out into the boonies and/or to quiet locales that don't see much fighting the levels go down to more “normal DnD numbers.”the elite of the military after all, and their equipment matches their duty.
That said, I don't give a damn if he comes from money or bears an important family name, and neither will Alta. If he does try to pull the “do you know who I am” crap, boot will be applied firmly to ass."

And Morgan even knew at least three other people who would be happy to help with that, having a particular dislike of those who attempted to misuse their power.
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  #92  
Old Oct 4th, 2021, 01:05 PM
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Nallaul nods along to what Morgan is saying. It's certainly possible the young swain could have been yearning for the girl. He's a little amused by the ruthless way the guard went about it. The smile turns to a frown as he thinks further. "I think someone should to Theodora first. She seemed to be avoiding him afterwards as much as me. It's probably just a case of him making an unwelcome advance, and she being embarrassed. Though someone should probably make sure."
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Old Oct 7th, 2021, 01:11 AM
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"Well, either way, I'll look into it."
When he goes to put another log on the low burning fire, Morgan notices just how much wood they've gone through. They'd actually been talking for quite some time.
"You know, other than having a quiet dinner with Nevh at her home in Quall, I don't think I've had a chance for a simple relaxed conversation like this in a couple of months. Even with Zilira we're always chatting and get together regularly, but we're also always getting distracted. Digging up corpses, turning my sister into a demigod, finding her missing son, dragging each other off to the broom closet."
Morgan yawns, leaning into the leather armchair hard enough to make it creak as he stretches out his back.
"It's actually rather nice nice to have something to do that isn't horrifically dire. So keeping it to subjects of lesser importance, is there anything you want in the immediate future that I might be able to help with or arrange?"
Morgan really does appreciate the chance to have a reason to relax, as though he actually needs that reason rather than relaxing because he needed to relax. That's probably not a healthy way to be, but one rarely has the choice.
"I have some friends who know the city as well as most, and could give you a tour. One could also set you up with some nice clothing in local styles and her man knows about local happenings and the shady side of the coin.
We could go to one of those restaurants I mentioned. Call it paying you back for the mushroom wine if you like.
The offer of a mage duel is still on if you want to stretch your fingers without any real personal risk. I'd have to keep some spells in reserve mind you, since I need to have something on hand if things to south with the whole everything going on out here."

Morgan pauses as he suddenly remembers that there's something else he'd been meaning to ask Nallaul when he had the chance.
"Ah. Quick question. Would you say that you received Zilira's pendant about a month before you popped into Halva with Shade? And does the phrase “Oh Goddess of eight-legged hairy things in the night, may you be broken from your chains” sound familiar to you at all? Zilira started receiving prayers, or at least attempts at communication, from someone in your home city around then, and I'm curious if that was you."
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  #94  
Old Oct 17th, 2021, 09:23 PM
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"I think I'd better introduce myself to your mage guild at some point. Especially if I want to live and work in Halva. Anything I need to know about that?" Nallaul asked, expecting it to be some form of racket. Likely Morgan knew what was up with that organisation. Who to speak to, and possibly bribe.
He shakes his head when Morgan asks his main question. "I can tell you it wasn't me, nor did I have the holy symbol nearly that long. Before you ask, no I don't know who it could be. Zilira is commonly, well was commonly, believed to be dead. It was actually a crime to worship her, well it was crime to worship anyone other than Lolth really. However Zilira worship carried it's own specific penalty. Don't ask, you really don't want to know. Whomever was worshiping Zilira, would have to be powerful in some way, or well connected to know about her position. Probably both. Sorry, I'm not going to be much help in that regard. I've only started praying to Zilira recently, and that was to renew some spells. Just the low level ones really, as that's all I've been using. Like phantom steed, to observe the city from the sky."
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Old Oct 19th, 2021, 11:45 PM
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The drow's comment on guilds gets a tired smile from the mage.
"There is nothing that you would really term a mage's guild in the traditional sense.
Not in Halva, and not in most other places either.
Guild implies that they would have legal oversight over magic use and mages, whatever you term a mage, in the way say a vinter's guild would over the production of wine.
That said there are a number of academies, orders, and associations. Being a member of one isn't required in order for you to seek employment as a mage, but it can certainly help.

For example the Dragonblaze academy, who deals with training natural spell casters in the vein of sorcery. They provide the training, and the mark of having been trained there is very prestigious, but after that you're merely an alumni unless you stay on with the academy as staff.

The church of Tiaan in a lot of ways also works as much like an association as a proper church. It's much more widely distributed, and being religious is less important than being a researcher and scholar, and it works more like an association. They have no specific center or regimented course of training. Nothing like a school. But they do train a number of people as individuals or small groups.

The old fashioned master and apprentice system is still used, especially in less populous areas, but is gradually fading away.

In a few countries countries magical training is considered the domain of the government. If I were born in Nihl and wanted to become a wizard, I'd have to serve with the military for a time unless I found some special circumstances. Elern is the same, but with psionics.

I was originally trained at the Ordo Arcanum here in Halvanna. It's both a college and association mostly for wizards, but includes other arcane types with a scholarly bent.

In the case of the Ordo, the official benefits of maintaining an associate membership after my formal education finished mostly include using Ordo facilities. Their library, which I do still use. Their laboratories, which I have no need of. And relatively inexpensive lodgings when you travel to one of the four cities they have chapters in. They have also created something called a spell pool, which I could theoretically learn to use, but my studies didn't take me in that direction. For people like me or you, who are fairly advanced in our studies and set in our ways, Mage of the Arcane Order prestige class comes from this schoollearning how to do that would be somewhat troublesome. I could also become a teacher at the Ordo. Teaching new students pays a decent wage. Teaching's not really for me though, and I only ever did that once."

Morgan smiles softly, remembering his time with Samantha. He had to admit that he'd been as casual a master as she'd been an apprentice, but she'd managed to become an actual wizard before Gessler had come into the equation.
"So given how little I get out of it, why do I maintain my membership and pay the dues? Well the unofficial benefits of course. Being a trained and accredited member caries a certain amount of prestige and assumption of competence and skill. A stranger is more likely to hire someone who's a member of recognized and respected association than one with no provenance, and he can demand higher pay. It's also a bit of an old boy's club, with members sharing information, giving each other preferential treatment, and protecting our common interests."
Being named an Archmage and having garnered a lot of international attention probably made the whole prestige thing moot, but at this point the monthly due was a pittance. Besides, the social mage liked being a member and getting together to talk shop occasionally.
" One of the old boys started a messenger service in Halvanna with a clan of psudodragons several decades ago. Swiftsure messengers. His granddaughter runs it now, but she's an Ordo wizard too. Ordo members get a small discount with the best messenger service in town, and in return we help with word of mouth advertising and maybe if one of the couriers are in trouble or the company needs help with a special job, they can probably rely on someone from the Ordo to pitch in."
Morgan covers his mouth as he yawns.
"If you're interested in joining, I doubt you'd have much trouble. Initiation is seven hundred and fifty gold, and monthly dues thirty. You could probably get a pass on the fee if you let them pick your brain, figuratively of course, about some drow stuff. There's also a test if you don't come up through the school, but I'm pretty sure you'd breeze through it with minimal coaching."

When Nallaul reveals that the petitioner couldn't be him, Morgan scratches at his chin thoughtfully, eliciting a rasp from his beard.
"I wonder if perhaps it was one of those new gods. They could have been in the city for some time before they ran into you. We really have no idea what they'd been up to before we began encountering them."
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Old Oct 20th, 2021, 09:54 AM
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"I think so too. They're the most likely suspects, given the reference to chains, and Zilira breaking them. Not many would have known that. Is Zilira still receiving the prayers?"
Nallaul bites his lip as he considers another possibility. "Sulion had originally intended me to pray to Zilira, but I hadn't taken her holy symbol with me. It might be they were doing preparation for me. A single prayer out of the dark, would have looked suspicious. Somebody who had been praying to Zilira a while, would have more chance of getting her help." Nallaul isn't entirely convinced by this, given it means he's more important to the plans of the new gods than he realised or wanted.
Nallaul is also appreciative of the information on the various mage orders.
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Old Oct 30th, 2021, 02:45 AM
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"I think I'd like to send for something to eat. I don't technically need to anymore, but I still get peckish and have cravings now and then. I wonder if the ring is defective in some way."
Maybe it's just habit rearing it's head.
Having eaten regularly for his entire life, his body might find it odd to suddenly stop, Ring Of Sustenance or no.

Nallaul hears the rustle of cloth and sees a construct of some sort slip out from behind a drooping tablecloth that had concealed it beneath a side table.
"Would you like anything? There will be someone in the kitchen all night since I keep very odd hours and the night watch needs to eat too."
The construct's shape is strongly canine, but it's appearance is half way between mechanical monstrosity and a work of art. Those versed in the arcane arts recognize this thing as a variant of the Iron Defender, a guardian homunculus used to protect it's creator from physical threats. However this homunculus has as much similarity to a normal Iron Defender as a sleek Arian warhorse does to a fleabitten old donkey. Rather than raw iron, it's made of shining steel, with a streamlined form braced with struts and more finely fitted plates. Socketed joints and cogs replace the more crude pivoting joints and slip plates. An artistic flare has been added as well, given accents of brass and bronze, as well as a scattering of blue crystals that might serve magical purpose, or be mere decorations.
Despite it's refinements, it's no larger than a normal Iron Defender.
"Nallaul, meet Cerberus. Little more than a few years ago, I counted it a powerful and dangerous ally. Sadly, by the standards of the things I face these days, it's little more than a minor stumbling block."
Morgan pulls out a slip of paper and writes a food order on it, before slipping it under a leather belt that is slung around the construct's hips for some reason. Cerberus is then sent out the door and off to fetch their evening snack.
"It still makes a very good guard dog at least. Being a construct means it's utterly loyal, doesn't sleep or eat, get distracted, and can't be bribed, blackmailed, or intimidated."
There are still be ways around it, but less than with actual guard dogs.
"Not as good of a conversationalist as Rhys or Eloise though."

"So anyway, back tracking these new gods is on the agenda. Mask was the most public, being openly active for years, but people have been trying to figure him out, or even find him, for just as long without much success. I might try my hand at looking into Sullion and Tinker, in the hopes that they've been operation in Che'eldelorbben, or at least drow territory, for long enough to leave an imprint."
The others they didn't even have a hint as to where they might have been operating.
"To that end, I'd like to know more about this Exchange. Everything I've been operating off of was learned from Xu'deln. I'd like to get another viewpoint. What do they do? What is their main focus? How large of a group would you say they are, or at least were before everything went crazy and you left the underdark. If I went to them and tried to open up a dialogue, how do you think they would respond? To me specifically, not Halva, or Zilira, or anything, just me. How likely do you think it is that Hal'iara might decide she wants to run the whole show down there and install herself as ruler?"
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  #98  
Old Oct 31st, 2021, 07:13 PM
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"I think I will have something to eat. Surprise with something Halvan." Nallaul surveys Cerberus with some interest. He had something similar until Myr'delith appropriated it. Well stolen it. Not that it ultimately did anything for her in the end. "I would not dismiss the value of having something to deter minor threats. Or something to protect your servants when you aren't here. Granted you probably have other enchantment protecting your house, but you can never have too much protection. I learned that one the hard way."
On the main question, Nallaul doesn't need time to think. He knows Hali'ara well enough to answer Morgan. "I think she would like you, since we're apparently alike. She likes me as since I am not good at lying, I tend to be direct with her. Hali finds that refreshing, given all the doubletalk she normally has to do.
I don't know how big a group they are, but I'm certain they're a significant size. They're mercenaries essentially. To be fair, they do take in many different people, and working for them, is probably better than working for a "great house".
As for Hali'ara and her intentions. I suspect she thinks as I do, the Drow economy is going to fail hard. That's why she's moving operations to the surface. Will she take over? The more interesting question would be, does she really need to?"

Nallaul sits back in his chair. "I like Hali'ara. She's absolutely one of my favourite people, but that comes with the usual caveat. Never completely trust her."
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Old Nov 1st, 2021, 04:21 AM
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"I've survived enough misadventures by the skin of my teeth to know to grab hold of every little advantage and edge you can find. I'm just amused how quickly Cerberus became obsolete. The first version of it I created only..." Morgan pauses, remembering. "Eight years ago now I believe. Even that one was better than a normal Iron Defender. I used it to back of Nevh Rudda, who was threatening to kidnap at the time because I'd stumbled on this spying operation following one of my visions."
Morgan again pauses, trying to think if the Drow before him had ever met her, or even knew who she was.
"Have you actually met Nevh? She's a Ruudan obviously. A mercenary and spy who was hired by the king at the same time as me to be part of his little investigation team. She's likely to become the next Hybrid unless something drastic happens, which does seem to be happening a lot lately." Morgan grunts, his face troubled. "I can't say I'm too enthused by the idea, but I've already made my thoughts known, so unless I want to try to bypass the same decision making process I worked to set up the choice is out of my hands."
Morgan shrugs.
"Anyway, Cerberus has been pushed to the limits that his schema will allow, so any further “modifications” would have to be more along the lines of a totally new construct. Which doesn't matter since I've had some modifications myself recently and no-longer have the ability to work with constructs."
It was sad, and maybe some day he could undo that, but for now survival of the world and stopping Zera was more important than his hobby.

He returns to the subject of Hali'ara.
"Oh you needn't worry about me trusting too easily. I've been accused of being paranoid or overly cautious by a number of people. My adoptive sister complained about that just yesterday."
Morgan makes no comment on being “not good at lying.” It's a little bit funny that unlike the drow before him Morgan is quite adept at social manipulation compared to the vast majority of wizards. He doesn't say anything about it though, since it would sound like bragging. And like everything in life, it had come at a cost. The time Morgan had spent with people had been time away from books. As a result Morgan is noticeably less well studied than a lot of Wizards.
"So you think I'd get an interview with the elf herself right off the bat? Not some underling? It's nice to hear she likes plain speak. I've grown heartily sick of obfuscation myself.

And mercenaries come in many flavors. The Walking Dead number less than a dozen, but are some of the most elite agents you can find in the entire world. Anorde's mercenaries number in the hundreds, but have a variety of skills and levels of competence. Meanwhile the Chathema might be called mercenaries by some, and they do hire out, but they lean heavily towards the sort of activities you'd expect of a group that started out as a thieves guild, meaning spying, assassination, theft, and so on, more than putting spears in people's guts on the battlefield.
Are you able to be more specific about size or capabilities?"
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Old Nov 8th, 2021, 06:39 AM
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"I don't think I've met Nevh. Perhaps I have been in the same room as her, but never spoken. Should I speak with her?" Nallaul asked Morgan. He's curious to what he thinks, given the dagger will change her very significantly.
On Hali'ara he says. "Hali'ara likes me, but not enough to share that information. Probably only her and a couple of her top people know how big they are. I would guess she doesn't have many really high level arcanists, given how many times she brought me in. As to what they do, if you can think of it, they probably did it, as long as they were getting paid for it. Very pragmatic. Men tended to be treated better by them. For example the hexblade Sarajahn is one of her lieutenants, and Hali'ara values his opinion a lot."
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Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 01:54 AM
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"It's unlikely you will get a chance to meet Nevh if you haven't already. Since she's volunteered to be the next hybrid, she has gone into hiding in order to avoid being captured and... altered by Zera."
Morgan waves that away. He'd done what he could to set the pieces up properly. Now just to hope they'd fall in place as he hoped. In all likelihood he wouldn't really know for sure if that had happened for a few years at least. At minimum it'd be once Zera was out of the picture.
"Anyway, have you built any constructs? Knowing Alnei Nelia and his Trueforged and Warforged inspired me to learn about “magic that thinks,” and I learned the craft."
He sighs theatrically.
"That was before I came to really understand just how Experienceessence intensive it is to craft more than the basics, so I only created a few before I lost that ability. The two that survived, Cerberus and Mr. Tock are thankfully the most useful ones. Come to think of it, I don't think I've seen anything resembling a familiar on or around you? I'd imagine familiars would be fairly popular with the drow, since if nothing else, they'd be someone you can trust to watch your back. Do you have one, or did you never bind one? While I've had to endure no end of sass, I have to admit Mortimer, my familiar, has been an incredibly boon companion in more ways than you might think."
Morgan's grin is half-way between rueful and warm.
"He predicted me falling for Zilira well before it actually happened, and the fuzzy little bastard is determined to give me a thousand “I told you so”'s. He is literally keeping track."

A knock arrives at their door, heralding Cerberus' return and the arrival of their snacks. Morgan clears the mostly empty bottle and his wine glass off the side table to let the servant place their platter of food before the young lady withdraws.

One bowl contains a sliced starchy root vegetable with a slightly nutty flavor in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, and lime juice.
There are some sausages of roughly shredded meat and organ tissue flavored with wine and herbs.
A chewy disc of lightly fried bread.
A tiny dish of eye-wateringly hot sauce to dip either the bread or sausage in. If he can stand the fire, he'll find an odd fruity/sweet flavor to it.
And a sweet pudding. Faintly spicy, aromatic, and made of milk and some sort of white grain with reddish brown flecks of seasoning.
The scruffy mage takes a brass ring from his vest, mutters a command word, and touches it to each of the foods, one after another. Nothing apparent happens.
"There, no poisons.
I can tell you what everything is if you'd like, or you can see what your tongue tells you."

Once they'd each filled their plates to taste, Morgan continues.
" Are their any other members of your former house you were close to, or that you would consider something resembling family and worth putting in the That being the ones Nallaul considered worth working with and/or rehabilitatingblue book? For the record, I'm not necessarily looking for archmagisters most high and peerless warriors and such. I'd be perfectly fine seeing the names of bakers, inkeeps, and footmen, so long as they're worth the time and effort of saving and integrating into surfacer society."
Morgan smears a surprisingly large glob of the fiery sauce on the end of a sausage and takes a bite with relish. Hungry or not, good food is good food.
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Old Apr 24th, 2022, 08:19 PM
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"I see. Won't worry about it then, and I'll hopefully make friends with the hybrid. Because making friends with people who can squash you like a bug, pun intended, if they choose, might be a good idea." Nallaul said the last part without any seriousness. He is kind of curious about the transformation, and idly wonders if it's something he should be interested in if another dagger popped up. Extra power is always nice but it's at a cost of him being merged with something else. Would it subsume him? To the point Nallaul would merely be a memory, a recollection? The wizard had learned that sometimes power was not worth the cost. You only had to look at a demonbinder to see that.
Morgan's question roused Nallaul from his dark musings. "I focus more on magical items. The ioun stones for example are my work. Whilst I did look into it, I decided my focus and resources lay elsewhere. Gul was apparently interested in creating constructs at one point. I doubt he would have followed through given how expensive it is though." Nallaul shrugged. "I can create temporary stone spider golem constructs however. Another spell from my Arachnomancer powers. I think I've only used it about twice."
Nallaul tries the food to avoid answering the question. He likes the sausages and veg. Bread gets stuck into. The issue he has with the sauce isn't the heat, but Nallaul finds it a tad too sweet for him. Finally he answers. "I like cats actually. Never had one as it would die quickly in the underdark. A lot of wizards down there often take a small monstrous spider as a familiar. I being Arachnomancer did not get a spider. Instead I got a bat. Fang, was dim and vain, but he was loyal and probably a friend. He was also a good scout." Nallaul paused. This was not a happy ending story, as obviously the bat wasn't here. "Fang was lured away from me, and our connection was abruptly and painfully severed. I got to the last location I sensed him, and I knew before I arrived who done it. I could feel his weight on my tremorsense. The abomination. What's worse was I could see the blood on his face, the bastard ate him." Nallaul goes silent then. It's obvious he needs a little time before he's answering the last question.
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