Turn 4 Bidding Phase

Casimir delivers a letter to Antioch - 1 point bid.

A slim figure in a neat blue tunic runs through the streets up to the gates of Antioch. The Domain, a fortress in itself, resounds with shouts and clangs at any time of day or night, but now the din redoubled tells of a small army rapidly mustering. As the courier comes to a halt at the massive gates, red-mailed guards stride towards him with casual arrogance.

"What do you want, boy?" says one.

Casimir strives for composure, though inwardly he is quivering with fear at the sight of this tower of armoured muscle - Antiochs are hardly renowned as respecters of the law. "Urgent message for Lord Fleischer from Salomolas of Arbiter."

The guard seems unimpressed, but at least he doesn't beat him up on the spot. "Right ho. Follow me." Casimir steps under the bristling portcullis, nervously smoothing his bright blond hair.

Lord Fleischer stands in the courtyard, an awesome figure in full battle-dress bellowing orders to the subordinates dashing to and fro. He turns as the guard snaps to attention. "Who's this stripling, Gunther? We hardly have time for target practice."

"A courier from Arbiter, sir."

"Casimir Proctor, sir." Trembling only slightly, Casimir proffers the message and courier case.

While Lord Fleischer scans the letter, Casimir looks seawards. Puffs and whirls of cloud are boiling in off the mists with unnatural speed, streaming towards the city. The Gullivers had apparently felt this coming, but now any citizen of Zehazel could see that trouble was at hand.

Fleischer scanned the document, his eyes narrowing occasionally, perhaps over a particularly long or complex word. Eventually, he snorted, and hurled the document and case back at the cringing courier.

"Terms? Conditions? This is war, boy! War!"

Fleischer strode off about his business. Taking his life in his hands, the young courier followed him...

"An answer, sir?"

Fleischer stopped, and turned. A grin spread over his face, much to Casimir's relief.

"Aye boy. No surrender is acceptable either to us, or by us. They will leave, or we will put them to the sword, or we will fall. Those are the only options."

Casimir left, despondent. How was he supposed to phrase that on the Arbiters' official forms?

Diplomatic pouches - 1 point bid.

Salomolas creates magical courier cases. Take heed, if you've tried to pinch one.

"The Apprentice" - 1 point bid.

The liquid formed into a small likeness of a man but with a long tail instead of legs, standing only a few inches high. From out of the darkness came the voice of its summoner: "Let it be known amongst the people of Zehazel that I seek an apprentice. Inform only those who might be suitable. They will know who their master is. It is time for the responsibility to be passed on. In truth I have waited too long."

"Talk and treachery" - 1 point bid.

Salomolas and concerned parties speak face to face with Ismafan. Ismafan strikes dagger to back with Salomolas and co.

Invasion Reactions - 1 point bid.

The Hierophant of Mordecai pontificates on the dangers of letting the war continue. Selmor Farrow makes overtures towards Rawley for an attempted drawing up of an (eventual) peace settlement. Verdigris Dionysian cheerfully requests clarification of whether anyone is going to pledge to defend the unwarlike allegiances from the invaders, or whether he should start digging through the prop cupboards for white flags and red carpets now. As his contribution to the war effort he offers to send troubadours to boost the morale of Zehazel's troops...

Ernest and Elizabeth - 1 point bid.

Just a couple of people running around in a city in turmoil...

Kavan capers - 1 point bid.

Kavan meets the invaders, but they are not what he expected - civilised rather than barbarous. Cue chase scene. Kavan meets Zehazelites who mistake him for an invader. Cue chase scene.

"A Traitor in Revenant" - 3 point bid.

The thief crept back towards the door with her prize. With a hiss like a snake the dark wood twisted into the likeness of a face and a demonic figure stepped from the centre of the door. "You will not take the Eye of Thunn from this place !" the demon stated, with evident satisfaction at the prospect of a kill. For a moment, the thief lost her stooped and timid posture. She drew a small pistol crossbow and fired a bolt of fierce green light into the forehead of the demon. She stepped past it as it fell burning to the floor, slipping the crossbow back into her robes and recovering the manner of a young thief. As she left the Crooked House, she briefly smiled and washed her eyes with her long forked tongue. Another job well done.

Defence of Melmoth - 3 point bid.

"In the interests of survival, Garath Chant will assemble a conclave to form a magical defence of our territory against the 'Million Swords'. All residents will be asked to play their part. Over the next two days each residence will receive a visit. On the third there shall be another gathering in the square to finalise plans.

"By my will, in the name of Melmoth. Garath Chant."

Gathering of Bronze - 3 point bid.

The room looked much more in keeping of a practitioner of the magical arts now, with the wards scribed on walls, floor and ceiling. And after the banishing of the tortured spirit of the unfortunate tramp, Chant simply left the circle inscribed on the doorstep, as much out of exhaustion as from fear of its return. Besides, it amused him to see the great and powerful of the allegiance squeeze past the invisible boundary, carefully lifting long wizard robes so as not to scuff the bonedust.

"Even so, something is still missing." mused Chant to himself. An indefineable quantity that he could not place. "Perhaps it is fluffy."

The "Tattered Lion" was daytime quiet still as the shadows began their slow journeys up the side of the buildings, and Eleria sat by the firepit, clearly asleep. Chant poured himself a flaggon from the bar, leaving a small pile of pennies besides it. The only patron was someone Chant thought was named "Jesse", and seemed not to have moved since last he was in here.

"You wouldn't happen to know where I could lay my hands on about 2 tons of Bronze, would you?"

Crystal Beeches - 3 Point Bid.

Val Tannen proposes to the Bartholomew the planting of a Crystal-Beech sapling. This tree will link roots with other local Crystal-beeches, and allow light to be shone into one tree and be seen in an opposing branch on all others, essentially allowing city-wide emergencies to be broadcast.

High-jinks in the Old Spire - 3 point bid.

Sadut Al-Nastir, high wizard and one of the top dogs in the Qu'raysh army decides that the Old Spire would be a nice place to capture. This is a bad idea and results in the loss of a major djinn, the deaths of an elite squad of Qu'raysh 'adventurers' and of course of Al-Nastir himself.

Death of Li Tsao Tse Tung - 3 point bid.

Davan Mirless, the Melmothian gossip and commentator, has learnt that the household of the Caliban sorceror, Li Tsao Tse Tung, has been wrecked by an apparent intruder. The sorceror himself is believed to be dead, although the news is currently unconfirmed as a number of Vermiform guards have been posted at the site, and resolutely refuse to allow access to the house. Neither will they disclose details of what has occured (possibly because they themselves are unsure). Mirless has heard it said that a Mordecai monk was briefly observed at the scene some hours prior to the discovery of the Caliban's death, but he has not been traced. He has further commented that the city authorities are evidently attempting to hide something from the people, and that it is only a matter of time before some adventurous soul begins to investigate.

Defence of Vervain - 4 point bid.

The great houses of Vervain brace themselves as the Qu'raysh forces seethe across their territory. The de la Quintesse household is currently under siege - defending itself with tried and true fortifications, antique weaponry and old-fashioned aristocratic bloody-mindedness. How long this will serve them against sorcery and superior numbers is unknown. They have briefly opened their gates to allow entry to refugees from another Vervain house, destroyed by the invaders. In doing so, they have inadvertently also allowed in a gaggle of other people who happened to be retreating across Zehazel before the advancing Qu'raysh army.

Defence of Gethsemane - 4 point bid.

The alliance with Jugurtha is activated, and the Garden defended.

Defence of Caliban - 4 point bid.

In the council chamber of the Caliban, the populace met to discuss their concern at the threat outside the walls. Unusually, a representative of the Caliban themselves was there, a young girl of about twelve, wrapped in a long dark cloak. Those who were not familiar with the masters of this poor section of the city imagined her presence to be some kind of insult. The rest knew better, and the protests were more restrained than had been planned. There were, as always, some exceptions.

"We must be defended!" Councilor Hurden screamed, his hands clawing the air above his head. His speech to the assembled was reaching fever pitch. "The enemy has gathered at the gate, and will sweep over us like locusts! They will take our women, eat our children and butcher us in our beds!" His voice, high pitched and turbulent, started to fade. "They will flood the streets, killing, looting burning..." his words dwindled to a whisper, and then faded to nothing. The councilor carried on ranting and shouting in mute silence, until his body too started to fade from sight, grew fainter and fainter, and then was gone.

"Does anyone else here doubt our power?" The girl looked around with a worried frown on her face, absently chewing on the corner of her hood. Her voice was clear and cold. Silence was written into every face. "We can see why you might be frightened. The appearance of the enemy is strong. Antioch will not be able to hold them at the gates." She looked gingerly around the room, as if to see what excitement might happen next.

"The enemy will not take the city. Keep calm, follow directions, and you will be safe. We do not expect you to lay down your lives. However you may wish to make preparations for your own defense. The enemy will be here, and we will defeat them. Those of you who feel they would be safer with our protection than behind closed doors may assist us in our defense."

The girl straightened up and smiled. "We will be grateful." The last words were spoken with a cold and solid assurance that brooked no contradiction. Gathering the heavy cloak carefully so as not to trip, she made her quiet way out of the chamber. The sounds of argument rose like the spring tide as she closed the door behind her.

"You did what?"

"I removed him" Kali still knelt facing the mirror, rubbing hard at the stained glass with a darkened polishing cloth. "It seemed the easiest way."

Barnabus ran a hand through his thinning hair. "But he's an important person in the community. An influential man, a.."

"A liability" She breathed on the mirror and rubbed harder. "Spreading panic and confusion."

A rasping whisper joined them "What did you do with the body?"

Barnabus turned in alarm. There stood a spindly figure wrapped in a tattered cloak. No hands or feet or face was visible, and the cloth bulged and bent in unnatural places. Barnabus shifted in his chair. "Dammit Raphael. How many times have I told you not sneak up on us like that?"

"Six" said Kali, without turning around. "And there is no body, Raph, it's just that he won't be around for the rest of the day." She continued her polishing. "I'll let him come back later on tonight. The attack will have started by then, so he can't do any harm."

"You mean no-one will see him until the end of the day," Barnabus corrected absently. "He hasn't actually gone anywhere, he just isn't visible. There is a difference."

Kali stopped, and her reflection eyed him reproachfully. "No Barnabus, there isn't. You might be the best of us all if only you could understand that."

The reply was cut off by Raphael's choked hiss. "IIIffff you could argue this later on? Your debates are tedious and this is not the time."

"Indeed not. How was my suggestion received at the meeting?"

The polishing paused and then continued slowly. "There wasn't a meeting. Antioch has called the allegiances cowards for not instantly placing all fighting men under their control."

Barnabus breathed in sharply "They asked for that?"

"No, they simply condemned everyone for not doing it. Most of the allegiances have yet to make plans. Some are loudly advertising business as usual, confident that others will protect them. The city .... the city will fall, I fear, because noone will fight for the city. They will fight as Antioch, as Bartholomew as Tatterdemalion. They will fight for glory, for themselves. Not for each other."

"But my plan? Surely they would see sense?"

Kali's shoulders slumped. Her reflected expression was unreadable. "It is already too late to move the city.."

"To appear to move the city! The can't attack us if they can't tell where we are. All it would take would be a little cooperation!"

She shook her head "It would take the coordination of every allegiance in the city, magical or otherwise. It would mean all plans and preparations would have to stop, to give you the silence you would need. It would mean everyone in the city owing us their lives if you succeeded, and everyone cursing your name if you failed. Even if we were trusted, there is only so much people will give."

For a long moment noone spoke.

Raphael's voice rasped across the silence. "All thisss I already know. What are we going to do?"

"It would have been a good plan." Kali said, still rubbing the glass in long lazy circles. "It still might come in useful somehow..."

Barnabus sat up and snapped his fingers. Where the glass has been dull and spotted it now threw and image, sharp and clear, of Kali's startled face.

"Stop messing about and turn around." Barnabus said testily. "If it won't work, it won't work - I don't need you to spare my feelings."

She turned to face them. "Very well. Raphael, how many of your experimentals can we count on?"

The tattered figure bent akwardly. "The Visage are simply not complete, misstresss. We have every hope of sssucesss, but not ssso sssoon."

"And the Seeming?"

Again the figure gave an awkward riddle. "No, missstresss. We have some of the essssences prepared, but nothing is finished."

Barnabus spread his hands apologetically. "Before you ask, my pet project is nothing like finished either. I simply don't have the technical expertise to assemble a full device."

"But you have a prototype?"

"Well yes, but...."

"It will have to do."

She sat down, in a high backed chair that had not been there an eyeblink before. "I would hear your thoughts on how we can resist the intruders."

Barnabus shifted uncomfortably and found the other two staring at him. He cleared his throat "My lady, I don't believe we can. Philosophical differences aside, we have power only over light and semblance. Whatever tricks and deceptions we might play, we can not actually, physically, stop them. Our best hope is to try and render them helpless with carefully chosen images, and hope that whatever half-trained militia we can assemble can take advantage of the confusion to butcher them."

Expressionless she turned to Raphael.

"The enemy will bring their own dessstruction with them, asss do all men."

The harsh whispers warmed to their theme. "We can draw the darknesss out of their heartsss and ussse it to dessstroy them."

She straightened in her chair. "I feel you are both missing the point. We have more than a semblance of power, and can do more than simply exploit their weakness. However, we have had this argument before. We must each use our own outlook to best advantage. Now here is what I propose we do."

The West wall of the city held for a considerable length of time. Two light attacks had been repelled. The first, little more than a foray, had drawn arrows enough to send the attackers scurrying back. The second was a more concerted attack. The invaders gathered beneath walls, and suffered thrown rocks, hot coals, and even a bee's nest thrown down on their heads while two ladders were raised. Once one ladder had been cast down and stones, hot wax and even a wasp nest thrown down on the gathered throng below, the attackers swiftly withdrew. Arrows riddled the dead left on the sandy ground.

In the third attack the defenders didn't stand a chance. A great whirlwind was seen approaching, drawing closer and closer to the walls. At first the defenders crouched low, shielding their eyes as they searched for men advancing, shielded by the whirling winds. The true danger was only realised after the first man was stripped screaming from the wall, the winds whipping him up like discarded chaff into the heart of the maelstrom. Orderly retreat was impossible. As the raging winds drew closer, More and more people were sucked into the maw of the storm, to be scattered across the sands like leaves in a winter gale. To the left and right, soldiers drew away, then rushed, tripping over in their haste. Some even jumped, preferring the surety of broken limb to standing in the face of the storm. Those few left clinging to the wall were beaten senseless by the raging winds and then plucked away. Through the teeth of the gale, a column of attackers, unhindered by the surging winds that cast the dust about them in spouts and torrents, could be seen approaching.

The three mirrors, now clean and clear, had been set up around them. Each was flanked by two broad candles, dancing as if to a breeze. The air in the room was tense and still. All around the three of them, the darkness spread in all directions. All eyes were fixed on the mirrors. On each side, the mirrors reflected not the room in which they stood, but instead the city, spread out beneath them, as if they were in a tower room high above the city, looking through clear panes of glass angled downward at the streets below. The mirror to the front showed a similar view, with one important difference. It looked towards the city wall.

Silence reigned as the three looked out over the city wall, where soldiers swarmed like ants below. Smoke smudged the view is several places, mostly from the siege platforms the invaders had pushed out that morning, which were now burning wrecks at the base of the wall. The great engines of war, which shot stone after heavy stone down on the beleaguered fortifications, were just visible in the distance. Their work was much clearer. Here and there great piles of rubble marked the line where the wall had stood. In some of the gaps has a more immediate cause. Three whirling djinn were clearly visible, towering over the crumbled wall, great clouds of dust masking the havoc their wind swept forms were causing. Near the main gate, a huge spirit of flame leaned over to the gate house windows, and blew a gentle gout of flame inside. Within moments the entire edifice was ablaze.

Barnabus spoke. "We are losing."

A quick glance at Kali showed that she was in no shape to answer. Her sweat soaked body was tense and her eyes tightly shut as she concentrated to keep the images they were seeing intact.

"Kali? " he began but Raphael's rasping whisper cut him off.

"Ssshe knowsss."

They watched in silence for a while longer.

"It will different when night falls." said Barnabus hopefully.

"Yesss. Then we ssshall sssuffer the ressst of their spiritsss - thossse that can not withssstand the light of the sssun."

Barnabus shivered. "I won't want to see that."

"That isss good. For you will not."

At that moment a stone loomed large in their view. A rock, fired from one of the warring engines of destruction, sailed towards them. The view blurred, as the point of their perspective shifted violently to the left to avoid the speeding missle. The image of the mirrors flickered, as a candle in a breeze, and then showed nothing but the blackness of the room, and their island of light within it. There was a soft sound as Kali slithered bonelessly to the floor.

"No matter," said Raphael. "I had ssseen enough."

"Is she going to be all right?"

"A moment ifff you will" He knelt, and extended a bandage wrapped hand to her forehead. The rags were wound tightly around each finger, so that not an inch of flesh was shown. "Ssshe will be fine." He straightened again.

"She's pushing herself too hard. She's collapsed already and we're not even fighting yet."

"What do you think of her plan?"

Barnabus was taken aback. "What do you mean?"

"Willl it work?" Each syllable was bitten off with a savagery he had not heard before.

"Well... I..."

"Ssshe plans to lure not only a few sssoldiers into our clutchessss but the ssstrongessst of the ssspirits as well - and thossse who control them."

"We have to do something! We must not ..."

"Die? What ssshe plansss is sssuicide. We have lesss than a hundred troopsss, mossst of whom have never fought in their livesss. That and our powerssss against creatures a hundred handsss high?"

"I... I think we can make a difference."

"You have the materials for that ritual you made. The one that was meant to ssshield the city. Hasssn't it ssstruck you that we could use it here? Sssso that it sssemed there wassss no Caliban to conquer?"

"Yes." Said Barnabus. "But it would achieve nothing. The city would still be in ashes."

"But we would livvve!"

"We have to help the city. Or else what are we?"

"Alivvve." said Raphael irritably. "You have no doubtsss then?"


"None whatsssoever?"


"Nor me..." Raphael pounced on the words like a snake on a midnight mouse. "Doesssn't that ssstrike you as ssstrange? Doesssn't that seem to you jussst a little unusssual? To court death and have no doubtsss, no doubtsss at all?"

"No Raph." He fixed Raphael's twisted form with a calm and even stare. "It's because we both know its the right thing to do."

There was silence again between them.

"We ssshould put her in her room," Raphael's torso inclined to indicate Kali's slumped form. "And sssend sssomeone to attend to her."

Barnabus frowned "Surely we could..."

"You mussst be busy, to calm our people before she wakessss. I mussst return to my work if I am to finisssh before night comes upon usss. Besssidesss, my appearance does not encourage resssst." Raphael stared down at her. "Sssend someone young, to comfort her when she wakesss. Tend to the flesssh to keep the mind pure."

Martial Law - 6 point bid.

Antioch's recent pressgangings, recruitment and weapons stockpiling has begun to bear fruit. An Antioch guard post has sprung up on every major thoroughfare, the smallest of which is 5 men strong, all fully armed and armoured. Each post is within a hue and cry of at least two others...

Lord Fleisher made this public announcement.

"Many have asked by what right Antioch holds strength in this city, for what reason we exist. A million swords come, and that reason becomes all too clear.

"Antioch will protect you. My men stand, day and night, ready for the aggressor's first move. The streets are guarded.

"I call upon the fighting men of Zehazel. Join with us. We will train you, and arm you. We will make you ready to defend your homes. Join us.

"To those without the steel to join the fight: stay off the streets at night. Stay in your homes, and allow Antioch to defend your families instead.

Meanwhile, while the Antioch reserve guards the streets, the main force is showing the million swords the superiority of a well-placed pike. Pole-arm wielding troops are holding a fortified line around the landward side of the city, while archers test the bravery of any who would approach that line. Mounted skirmishers harry the foreign devils, and disappear back into the redoubt that the pikemen provide. Word has it that the djinn-summoning sorcerers of the enemy have been confounded by the leaders of these skirmishing teams, whose black runic blades seem both armour and devastating weapon against their foul summonings.

Defence of the Harbour - 6 point bid.

A lot goes on here. Fighting, explosions, considerable collateral damage... but the Qu'rayshi stand to lose a lot of men and a few greater djinni out of this. Gulliver don't just sail boats.

"The Grand Vizier" - 6 point bid.

As the war raged in the streets, Master Kalgravex remained locked in the gloom of his study. Two dozen books and twice as many scrolls lay scattered around the room. Soon would come the time when he would face the Grand Vizier. Even if the armies of Zehazel won, if Orhan Ismafan survived then the City of Spires would still fall. The Grand Vizier was not a man to be underestimated and the Master of Revenant was not certain yet whether victory was even possible. However, he had long known this day would come. Now would be the test of the path he had chosen for himself.

"Last Line of Defence" - 6 point bid.

Despite the spells on the gates and walls the noise of the battle could be heard in the quiet palace grounds. Krychael moved quickly towards the throne room. Soon Orhan Ismafan would break the gates and march his troops towards her Emperor. She would then be the last barrier between the Grand Vizier and his goal.