An Audacious Gambit, by Tony Antonich

The Epilogue to GHR-KEO19-03, New Customs and Bad Habits, by Tony Antonich

Starday, Readying 8, 619 CY

The humidity was stifling this morning in Gradsul as the robed figure made his way through the crowds toward the keep. The sea blue robe he wore made the heat feel all that more oppressive, and even the shell holy symbol seemed heavy as he made his way. With a package wrapped in simple cloth, he began climbing the winding stone stairway to the main avenue leading to the gate of the citadel. Upon reaching the top, he paused a moment surveying the activity outside the gate, wiping the sweat from his brow. Beyond the entrance were crowds waiting in line to gain access to the personages that they need to see, and guards checking wagons of provisions and goods that are required daily to keep the citadel stocked and in working order.

The sun blazed down on those assembled here, but spying a bit of shade near the outer wall, the priest made his way toward that spot, waiting his turn. It was a little cooler there, but not by much. Patiently waiting for his turn, he ran his fingers over the package he carried, humming softly to himself.

“Father, come forward,” said the guard standing next to a smaller portal in the wall. As the priest was walking forward, the guard asked, “What is your business today, Father?”

“Glorious morning to you, my son, and may Procan bless you and our fine city. I am Father Heggin,” the priest replied, “and I have been sent this morning by my lord Bishop to deliver this package to the Duke.”

The guard looked over the man in front of him and the package he carried. “Father, why not use a messenger to deliver this?” asked the guard.  

“I was wondering the very same thing when my bishop had me woken this morning, requesting that I personally make this delivery. Normally I wouldn’t venture into the city on a sweltering day like today.” he replied.

“What’s in the package?” asked the guard.

“Unfortunately, the Bishop neglected to grant me that information, my son, I am sure you understand that.” he replied, handing the package to the guard.

Leaving the gate, the priest made his way back to the center of the city. He let a wry smile cross his lips as he made for a quiet alley he had found a day before. Once in the alley, he retrieved a bundle that he had stashed there and began removing the robes and trappings of the priest, donned his normal attire. He emerged on the street and was lost in the crowd.

Sometime later that morning, the Duke and Duchess were sitting on a small terrace overlooking the coast outside the city, enjoying a light refreshment and talking. A knock came from the door to the chambers behind them, and a few seconds later a stern looking man appeared and bowed. “Pardon. my Lord and Lady. Lord Willim is here and he requests to see you. He says it is a matter of utmost importance.”

The Duke looked at his wife and raised an eyebrow. “Well, he is your cousin,” the Duke said.

“Please send him in,” she said to the seneschal. He bowed and disappeared back inside.

A few moments later Lord Willim stood before the couple and bowed. “My Lord, my Lady, I’m extremely sorry to interrupt you.”

“No, not at all,” the Lady said, “come join us, and tell us what this is about.”

“How can we help you this fine morning,” the Duke added, motioning for Lord Willim to sit.

Willim sat, reaching inside the robe he wore, and producing a small wooden box with a strange symbol on it.

“What is this, Willim?” asked the Duke.

“I am not sure my lord, it came to my residence here in the city a day ago. It had a note inside, with this.” Willim opened the box, removing a small onyx knight chess piece from inside, placing the note and chess piece upon the table.

The Duke read the note, then handed it to the Duchess. After reading it they looked at each other, then at Willim.

“What is the meaning?” asked the Duke.

“I am not sure, my Lord. I am checking my sources for more information,” replied Willim.

“Good, let’s find out, shall we,” the Duke replied, all the while looking at Maressa.

A moment later, another knock at the chamber door, and again the seneschal appears, this time carrying a package. “Pardon my Lord, a package from the Bishop of Procan has arrived, shall I place it in your study?

“No, let’s have it now, our quiet morning is apparently over,” he replied as he looked at the black knight chess piece on the table.

The seneschal placed the package on the table. “It has already been inspected, my Lord. No magic or traps were found on it.” With a wave of his hand, the Duke dismissed his servant. He began to unwrap the package while Willim and Maressa watched.

Removing the paper, he found a finely crafted wooden box with brass fittings and latch. Maressa leaned closer to inspect the item and after a few seconds, nodded her head. Taking a knife from the table, he flipped the latch and opened the box. Inside were two more boxes like the one that Willim had shown them. Each box had a strange symbol etched in gold on the top, and two cards, one in front of each box, with the Duke’s and Duchess’s names on them. He removed the boxes and placed them on the table. Taking the box that had his name in front, the Duke removed the lid to find an onyx pawn chess piece. Maressa took the box labeled for her and removed the lid. She reached in and removed an onyx queen chess piece and a small note which read “Your move. The Sigil.”

The three looked at the chess pieces sitting on the table and then at each other.

“What does this mean?” asked the Duke. “A joke? A prank? The meaning is lost on me.”

“An insult, my Lord?”  Willim said,

“No, a warning,” said Maressa.

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