In the morning, a runner bring us instructions on how to dress (outing-wear). We report to our assigned location, are given a briefing, and head out to a classic Polish Court Outing. The proceedings formally start with the arrival of the King and Queen to a brief fanfare. All of us are approached by a seeming unending stream of important people, most of them curious to meet a group from Montenegro. The King is middle-aged, of Polish blood (unlike some of the other nobles). As tall as I am, and moderately skilled. The Queen is almost as tall and slim, and I keep thinking she might have Elven blood. Later, Mery points out that the Queen ran interference for the King, to keep him out of very in-depth conversations. Milo notices that he seems to need a high level of focus for many common tasks, like taking a drink.
Mery drags me over to meet King Leopold Mathis. When I mention that Berringer had suggested we stop by, the Queen seems a bit more relaxed. The King invites us to have brand with them that evening.
During some of the outing discussions, a Winged Hussar named Kjorovich and I strike up a conversation. He seemed interesting in swapping war stories and perhaps thoughts about the Summer offensive. We make some loose plans for the next day.
Jared reports that the King, over the past year, has been looking for people to take on some sort of complicated quest for probably an artifact. Some mercenaries were hired and disappeared. Many of the younger men think the Queen has been stepping out on the King, and is sleeping separately.
Milo heads off to see Bishop Harlan Knox for a courtesy visit. Mery, Kell, and I take Bo off for dinner while Tomas keeps some older nobles company.
At brandy, the Queen tells us that many other groups have been engaged or consulted, to no avail. The Queen indicates that the King’s illegitimate son (she is infertile) is sick, in a way that defies common healing. Word reached the King of an artifact that would heal his son. After so many others tried, the King eventually went off on the quest on his own. His most trusted valet, Argyle, has taken the place of the King. At that point the valet resumes his normal shape — much shorter and fairly nondescript — almost featureless.
The valet reveals that he is one of the (Russian word for) Soulless. I mention hearing that soulless were assassins. He tells us that perhaps some fringe religious sects of the soulless might be in that category. Most avoid contact. Mery of course, proceeds to question him extensively. In antiquity, Russian mages created the original soulless, with “lines” of descendants with particular traits. They all look fairly featureless, and can assume the appearance of pretty much anyone. Most of the soulless are kept as slaves. They represent a secret that most Ancient Russian bloodlines want to keep hidden.
The King’s son has been sick for over a year. Somewhat sudden onset. The Queen gives Milo a letter to get him in to see the King’s son. The King’s reign (election) was a little over two years ago.
The Queen gives us a drawing of a rose, that is linked to the artifact we are about to seek, along with a notebook of information gathered by the King. Milo recognizes some of the legend, that the rose can heal anything, and that most scholars think it does not exist.
The Queen asks us to either find her King, or find the rose. For her benefit, the King.
Milo visits the Kings son for a close-up diagnosis. Thin, pale, sunken cheeks, coughing fits yielding blood, generally dying slowly. The caregivers have a journal of prior treatments, which range from the mundane to exotic, including heavy-hitter Sarinae priests.
I drag Mery with me to see Kjorivich, and we swap stories of the big battle where my King was assassinated. The more we talk, the more we validate that there was deliberate sabotage of the battle plan at a key juncture. We bond and promise to reconcile accounts with those responsible.
We start exploring plans, considering how to best use the Wayfinder. One idea is to take multiple readings and somehow use a map to figure out how to get as close as possible with rings or other creative fast travel. Jared heads to the Navigator’s Guild, Milo to get Lynn’s help, and I work to resupply.