House of Secrets, by Chris Hoekstra

Story name: House of Secrets
Author: Chris Hoekstra

Date: Day 2 of the Summer Festival, 706 CR
Location: Metamor Keep

Overview

Rickkter attempts to learn more about Yonson, and finds himself challenged to a duel against him.

Summary

Rickkter meets Charles, demanding to know why he was sent a message. Charles tells him about the new ambassador from Marzac. Rickkter is very incredulous that Yonson is from Marzac, or that it was exorcised, but agrees to stay away from him. He asks why Charles is taking on a student, and Charles calls it none of his business, and to stay away from Garigan or face his wrath. Rickkter mockingly departs, and Charles gets ready for the joust.

Meanwhile, Misha asks Fox for information about the Ka'ri. Fox is irritated that so many people have been asking about an obscure, warlike but unremarkable desert tribe. Misha knows that Rickkter was involved with the Ka'ri, and knows their tactics and training, and hopes to figure out more. Fox shows him the books, including a faded map of the Bandi Desert where the Ka'ri live, but unfortunately information on them is limited, and Misha learns little that he hadn't already known before.

Against Charles's advice, Rickkter introduces himself to Yonson. Rickkter is interested in Yonson's rank and position, but when Rickkter starts prying into private information, Yonson reveals that he knows that Rickkter is a very strong southern battlelord, and won't reveal his allegiances until Rickkter reveals his. Rickkter can't reveal his membership in the Order of the Ebon Dragon, so instead Yonson challenges Rickkter to a friendly duel, though his countenance suggests otherwise. Rickkter is forced to accept.

Half an hour later, Rickkter meets Yonson in the Keep's mage arena. Yonson is disappointed that Rickkter does not have his war staff, and is about to set aside his own staff when Rickkter produces his Sondeshike, which Yonson subtly recognizes. Their battle commences; Yonson starts with a wall of wind around the perimeter. Rickkter distracts him with a glance to the side, before sending ribbons of fire at him to close the distance. Close combat does not prove an advantage; although Rickkter stuns him with a solid blow, Yonson pushes him back with a wave of air, and uses wind and walls of air to deflect Rickkter's magic. Yonson fires lightning bolts, and Rickkter almost dodges, but his Sondeshike catches the edge of a bolt and electrifies his arm.

Yonson politely stops the match, and after Rickkter assures him that he will be okay, he walks off. Rickkter tries to figure out why Yonson used such a powerful spell, when Garigan approaches and mocks him for being injured. Rickkter bitterly tells Garigan to tell Charles he was right, and to assure him that Yonson's attention will be on him from now on, as repayment for sparing his life.

Rickkter walks away, hoping he can bring his arm back to usable condition for the duels tomorrow.

Characters

Main characters:

  • Rickkter: A former Kankoran battlelord and member of the Order of the Ebon Dragon, a raccoon morph. He wields a Sondeshike. He tries to learn more about Yonson, and instead finds himself in a duel against Rickkter.
    • He had a war staff, but it was destroyed by Madog some time ago.
    • He instead uses a Sondeshike, which extends from six inches of steel to six feet. He keeps it near his left wrist.
    • Rickkter despises facing someone who knows him well.
  • Yonson: A Weathermonger of the purple, and current diplomat to Metamor Keep from the Chateau Marzac.
    • His magic staff was crafted by enchanters, rather than summoners. It has been blackened by lightning and decorated with weather glyphs that glow purple. Its craftsmanship appears designed for a black or a white-level mage. Yonson claims it was given to him by his white, upon his assignment to Marzac.
    • He finishes the duel with a lightning spell powerful enough to kill him; yet after Rickkter grazes it and is left stunned, Yonson decides to end the duel instead of finishing him off. It is not known whether Yonson had intended to "accidentally" kill Rickkter, or whether he knew Rickkter would dodge and only meant to incapacitate him.

Supporting:

  • Misha: Leader of the Long Scouts, Rickkter's friend, a fox morph. He wants to learn more about Rickkter, but he knows Rickkter prefers keeping his secrets, so he has decided to start by learning as much as he can about the Ka'ri. He learns very little, however.

Minor characters:

  • Charles Matthias: Rickkter's enemy, a Sondecki, a rat morph. He does not want Rickkter causing trouble, and begrudgingly warns him about Yonson.
  • Garigan: Charles's student, a ferret morph. He has learned not to like Rickkter. He had just finished running an errand for Charles, and is delighted to find Rickkter in a weakened state. Rickkter gives him a message to tell Charles.
  • Fox Cutter: The Keep librarian, a fox morph. He is irritated that people are asking about the Ka'ri, and learns along with Misha about them.

Important mention:

  • Wanderer: The first person, with Brian Coe, to request info on the Ka'ri, a few weeks ago.
  • Brian Coe: The first person, with Wanderer, to request info on the Ka'ri, a few weeks ago.
  • Jon: The third person to ask for info on the Ka'ri, 3 days after Wanderer and Brian Coe.
  • Oren: The fourth person, with Pascal, to ask for info on the Ka'ri, one week after Jon.
  • Pascal: The fourth person, with Oren, to ask for info on the Ka'ri, one week after Jon.

Referenced:

  • Saulius: Charles's sponsored knight in the joust.
  • Kee: The Keep messenger.
  • Madog: Misha's mechanical fox. He chewed up Rickkter's staff a while ago.
  • Marquis du Tournemire: The ruler of Chateau Marzac. Several years ago, he made a "very persuasive" argument with the Weathermonger clan, and was able to hire Yonson as a result.

World

  • The Ka'ri are a semi-nomadic tribe that move from place to place within an established area of the Bandi Desert. Outsiders are not allowed to enter; their skins are placed at the borders as a warning.
    • They specialize in local shamanistic magic, particularly earth and nature magic flows. With this, warriors can disguise their trail almost completely; only the very best trackers would have a chance to track them.
    • When fighting, they prefer hit and run tactics, at night or in confined spaces, preferring to target the leaders and sentries, and attack the flanks while fleeing.
    • They have no alliances with other tribes, and are greatly feared by the T'Yoga, the Eridanus, and even the Yezidees.
      • This implies the Yezidees are involved in the affairs of several tribes.
    • The name "Ka'ri" means "witnesses of time".
      • To the southwest is another tribe, whose name translates as "Bringers of Chaos".1
  • Shamanistic magic relies heavily on earth and nature magic flows.

Metamor Keep

  • A standard mage arena lies under the Keep's gymnasium, consisting of a circle of stones marked with antimagic runes to contain the energies.

Story Connections

  • Yonson references two incidents in A Place Where There Is No Darkness and Live or Let Die, where Rickkter kills a 50-strong lutin raiding party single-handedly, and summons a powerful fire spell.
    • Rickkter recaps some of his past: that he was trained by a sect of quasi-mercenaries called the Kankoran, specializing in close combat weapons; his julan specialized in the staff.
    • It is mentioned that after the spell casted in Live and Let Die that Rickkter was unable to cast for a week, and only fully recovered in the last few days.
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