When he arrived there was a heated argument underway in Tharim’s throne room. Surat’s growling voice could be heard, echoing across the chambers. He had arrived in the middle, and it did not look like it would be a short conversation. All three of them were present.
Skathe, sat to one side in the guise of a delicate, winsome lass. Before her, a pile of magazines spread out across a low table of polished bone. The covers were adorned with pictures of skulls and bones. She did not appear to be reading them, simply studying them, her black eyes unblinking.
Tharim, as always, sat in his throne, manipulating small pieces of jewellery, turning them in his arthritic fingers, glaring at Surat.
The Charred Knight strode back and forth with a gobbet of venison in one hand shouting obscenities at the other two as he did so.
The herald clutched the scrap of paper in his hand, and tried to make him as small as possible. Tharim ignored his entrance.
Surat, however, turned and glared at him. The only thing that made him more afraid than being under the gaze of Surat was the wry smile with which Skathe was favouring him. He collapsed prone before the frozen throne, his eyes closed, thrusting out the piece of paper, an offering to his liege.
Tharim dropped the rings he was examining. They rolled here and there on the stone floor, and one of his broken servants scuttled out from the side of the throne to collect them. He indicated that the herald should hold the letter for him to read. The herald rose, presenting the letter, gritting his teeth as he used every iota of will to keep the parchment steady. His lord read it carefully, a slow, bitter smile spreading across his cold face as he did so.
Without warning, the note was snatched from his hand by a mailed fist. Surat read it aloud, his burnt face a mask of contemt.
"They want another meeting! You are certainly popular at the moment, aren't you? Ha! I see that they wish to take on some of your curse, even! How fortunate are you."
"Skulking in the shadows again?" Skathe swept the magazines from her table onto the floor. "They are happy enough to trade for our winter's blood,and take our gifts when it suits them, spurning us should we be so gauche as to ask for recompense. Never do they think to ask what price we might be for our beneficence! I think it is time for the court to meet with the Empire, to make some things clear to them."
"Good," Surat spat meat across the room as he spoke. It steamed where it lay. "I would like to meet this Empress of Flowers or whoever she sees fit sending to speak to me."
Tharim looked at the two members of his court. He was not going to get away with meeting without them. "Very well, tell them we shall parley if they wish."The herald nodded and then turned away, shuffling backwards down the long corridor, hearing the bitter, mocking, hateful laughter of the three echo in his ears behind him.
The eternals are prominent supernatural beings who inhabit magical realms beyond the reach of the mortal world and whose abilities rival that of the more powerful ritual teams in the Empire as a result of their magical abilities and dominion over their realms. Dealings with them can bring many benefits - but it can also carry some risk... For those who are prepared to deal with them - the first challenge is to make contact - for all eternals are bound by magic to their realm and can never leave it.
The simplest way to make contact is to ask a herald to convey your message to their master - but that is only useful if you can find the right herald. An easier route is to ask a herald to take a message to an eternal they do not serve - but many will refuse to serve as a courier for another power and some will be angered by such a request.
Magic offer other means - there are codified rituals that some Imperial magicians have created that allow them to communicate with a named eternal. Rituals like Missive for Sadogua are part of Imperial lore , where as others are only taught to the most trusted of mages. Few of these rituals guarantee a reply however.
The most certain route is to request the aid of the six Archmagi who represent the Empire to the eternals, and the eternals to the Empire. Each possesses the power of plenipotentiary - the power to send a formal message to one of the eternals of their realm each summit. Such a message is guaranteed to reach the eternal - and almost guaranteed to bring a reply. No eternal who wishes to maintain relations with the Empire will fail to respond to the missive - even if those relations are currently strained.
The nature of the plenipotentiary missive is such that it serves as a powerful invitation making it easier for the eternal to respond. An eternal who is sent a missive by an archmage of the Imperial Conclave is able to enter the Hall of Worlds at the next summit regardless of any state of emnity that may exist. It is not unknown for an eternal to take the opportunity to appear with their entourage in the Hall of Worlds in parlay, though most choose a more low-key response. A peaceful response is not the only option however though it is exceptionally rare for an eternal to respond with force.
During the Spring Equinox, five of the Imperial Archmagi used their power of plenipotentiary to contact eternals. Eternals do not always respond publicly to plenipotentiary messages, but in this case each of the five has chosen to make an open, formal response.
Magicians of the Empire who are politically active have many ways of being appraised of these messages. In cases where the eternal requests a formal parley the civil service plays a role in publicizing and arranging the meeting. In other cases, creatures of the realm about their business in the mortal world will mention the upcoming meeting - or may deliver formal messages to powerful or influential magicians directly.
Rosamund Holt, Archmage of Spring, has contacted The Quiet One, Llofir.
Two months before the Summer Solstice, two heralds of Llofir - small rotting creatures with mushrooms growing out of their flesh - appear in the Hall of Worlds. Eventually a civil servant appears and they are able to pass on their message, that Lofir declines to appear for formal parlay with the Spring Archmage, however, they have agreed to send messenger heralds to the Hall of Worlds to speak to the Archmage around one hour after midday on the Saturday.
Solomon of the Shattered Tower, Archmage of Summer, has contacted the Iron Duke, Barien to speak about the arrangement of a large tournament to see which Eternal shall have the patronage of the Icy Crag of the Eternal Sun.
Castellan has agreed that she will meet personally with Solomon on the Saturday of the Summer Solstice, to discuss the matter over drinks and a light lunch. Barien has sent word that the challenge has been accepted by the Nobles of the Summer Realm but they refuse to partake of such a challenge before the Autumn Equinox - as they must have time to allow each of them to chose their champions and prepare fully for this conflict.
Barien has confirmed that the following Eternals will be sending heralds to find champions. Eleonaris, Queen of the Fields of Glory. Jaheris, Prince of the Shadowed Forest, Cathan Canae, Queen of Ice and Darkness, Meraud, the Golden Magician, Rhianos, Regent of the Eternal sea and Adamant, King of the Golden Deeps. Barien himself is remaining neutral in this matter and there has been no responce from Hayaak or others in the realm.
This is not a formal request for parley - it is advance warning that the Eternals of Summer intends to send representatives to speak to the people of the Empire and to chose or test champions. Castellan will have more details although it is clear that the Summer Realm plan to be proactive over the season in finding and supporting champions.
Unlike the previous muted response, Shakle, a herald of Thalim has come to speak to the civil service personally. The herald has conformed that a full formal parlay with The Three will take place at midnight on the Friday night of the summit.
Tharim, the Bound King has agreed to speak about other things but especially involving the forging of chains to take on part of his curse. Skathe, The Hag Queen has sent a cryptic message that she is interested in speaking about fashion as part of this parlay. Surut, the Charred Prince has requested a representative of the Imperatrix Lisabetta who he would like to speak to in a formal capacity Whatever their real purpose it is clear is that this time the Court wish to address as many of the Empire as will listen.
Any magician of the Empire may attend, but it is at the discretion of the Winter Archmage who may speak during a formal parley.
Gancius Dellamotte di Sarvos, Archamge of Day has contacted the Navigator, Roshanwe and invited her to meet with the Empire.
One month before the Solstice, three thin-lipped humanoids with fish like features enter the Hall of the Worlds to speak to the civil service. Two of them wear long white robes and have their faces cowled, the third wears chainmail and plate under a long white tabard and bares a two handed sword strapped to their back. They bring a simple message, "The Mariner will be arriving to speak to the Mages of the Empire at five o'clock of the Saturday of the Summer Solstice to discuss matters arising from the recently held Symposium."
The Mariner is a common epithet for Roshanwe, so it may be that the eternal intends to appear in person - but identity can be fluid in the realms so it may indicate that some major herald will come forth to discuss matters instead. Whatever happens it seems clear that while this may not be a formal parley, Roshnwe is taking the Archmage's invitation very seriously.
Elyssiathain of Endsmeet, Archmage of Night, has sent a message to the Guardian of the Southern Skies, Lashonar.
One month before the Summer Solstice, flocks of brightly coloured parrots are seen across the Empire, landing nearby large groups and proclaiming in song that the Conscience of Kings will be happy to face the challenge of music and song proposed for the Winter Solstice.
In a more subdued meeting, two almost-human looking heralds in traditional brass coast grab approach the civil service in Anvil. They bring two things from Lashonar. The first is a message that he will arrive in the hall of worlds at around 3 o'clock on the Saturday of the Summer Solstice. The second is a small note, written to Murit that is being returned apparently unopened and unread.
It is clear that Lashonar is taking this challenge very seriously and is sending heralds to the hall of worlds to discuss terms.
|Friday||Midnight||Thrice Cursed Court||Winter||Parley|