Webs of the Endangerment

Book One: The Witching Princess, Chapter Five
In which a Half-Naked Savage does Rude Things to a Horse.

GM: Arpie

Players: Shannon, Z, Scott

Oracle: Heavy Metal – Apocalyptic Fantasy

  • Three of Diamonds: The flying battle-barge of a cruel Empress, raining death & destruction upon her disloyal subjects
  • Ten of Spades: A small metal box, which whispers secrets in a language nearly forgotten
  • Seven of Diamonds: A tireless metal steed, powered by the lightning itself
  • Ace of Clubs: Huge tracks across the dusty plain, each clearly showing three great claws

Once again, we start a chapter with the FALLEN HALLS.

This time, we get a close-up of the halls. Its high, cracked towers that ooze some nameless ichor have a bone motiff. They say Bloody BARNABAS built them with the skeletons of those who fell in battle for him… and those who fell in battle against him.

From the battlements, CHAR-KALE watches with satisfaction as the ENDANGERMENT approaches the FALLEN HALLS, skimming low over the gnarled and shifting trees of the Vale Perilous.

But then, her face turns ashen. She sees the Guillotine (the WITCH QUEEN’s Aerial Battle Barge) looming in the distance.

It’s hard to miss, the Guillotine. It’s as big as a large village. Menacing, solid towers line the sides and it bristles with canon. The severed, moaning heads of those executed by the WITCH QUEEN’s headsman for treason and other high crimes hold the mighty fortress aloft.

Let’s take a moment to consider those heads. Inflated by witchfyre and rarified air, the heads continually swell and shrink, contorting the twisted countenances of the WITCH QUEEN’s enemies as they moan in anguish (and inflation) or shreik in regret (and deflate slightly.)

All-in-all, the Guillotine gives you the impression that you’ve run out of luck. Whoever designed it knew how to get across the idea that you really don’t want to see this thing coming.

It’s coming to the FALLEN HALLS now and it’s too late for the ENDANGERMENT to flee. But CHAR-KALE turns and does a runner into the depths of the FALLEN HALLS.

Meanwhile, the WITCH QUEEN’s support fleet breaks off from the main Guillotine and surrounds the ENDANGERMENT.

Aboard the Guillotine, we finally get to meet the WITCH QUEEN and her chief justice, the MAGISTRATE EQUINE. Created from the Nightmare whom Mr. WOLFBINDER subdued in the first chapter, the MAGISTRATE EQUINE resembles a metallic, one-eyed horse wearing a British high-court-style bench wig.

The MAGISTRATE EQUINE wants to bring CHAR-KALE and ANAIS to trial on various charges of treason and kidnapping and conspiracy and the WITCH QUEEN states she wants to find her missing daughter, TITUBA (which we learn is ‘YUBA’s full name.)

The Guillotine’s bosun tells the WITCH QUEEN the shocking news that the ENDANGERMENT seems to have the young Witching Princess chained to a barrel (from the scars on her arms, the crew assumes ‘YUBA has been tortured, not realizing that it’s really Javovich in a stolen skin.)

Angrily, the WITCH QUEEN projects her image and her voice at the ENDANGERMENT. It commands that Mr. WOLFBINDER and ANAIS give themselves up upon docking with the FALLEN HALLS. It commands that ‘YUBA be left behind, on the battlements of the FALLEN HALLS.

Having no other instructions, ANAIS and Mr. WOLFBINDER keep the Javovich thing chained to the barrel, put it in a sack, put the sack in a wheelbarrow and leave the bodysnatcher on the battlements as instructed. They leave SIR PERCY to guard the thing.

The WITCH QUEEN’s soldiers board the ENDANGERMENT, hold everyone prisoner (except for Mr. WOLFBINDER, ANAIS and SIR PERCY) and impound the craft. They are escorted inside the FALLEN HALLS.

Inside, the WITCH QUEEN has set up a temporary court. Behind her, the Spye Glass, a giant magical scrying mirror, rests (carried to and fro by five elderly fawns with ribbons in their beards.)

She wears fantastic jewelry in her midnight-black hair, offsetting the silver brocade in her tudor gown. The turned-back sleeves of the gown continue a sky-motiff of blues, blacks and brilliant whites as she takes her place on a terrifying ivory-and-turqouise throne.

ANAIS and Mr. WOLFBINDER are lead in through a doorway carved like interlaced skeletal hands to see a large room set up like a British court of law. CHAR-KALE has already been escorted in and is taking her place at the docket.

The MAGISTRATE EQUINE has the charges read against CHAR-KALE and attempts to railroad her, but ANAIS steps in and demands the right to gather evidence in her defense, calling on the ancient rights of the Seneschals Temporae as authority. The MAGISTRATE EQUINE, who seems to be trying to sublimate the rule of the WITCH QUEEN to the rule of law, reluctantly agrees.

The MAGISTRATE EQUINE gives ANAIS 24 hours to gather evidence to support her claims and those of CHAR-KALE and adjourns court.

As CHAR-KALE and ANAIS wearily give false thank-yous and oaths of loyalty to one another, cagily trying to find out what each other one knows, the enraged WITCH QUEEN calls CHAR-KALE to account for her conduct of late. CHAR-KALE graciously explains that she cares for the WITCH QUEEN but that she has discovered that the Witching Princess MUST NOT come to power. She quotes some vague and fearsome prophesy regarding it.

There’s also some business about the CHAR-KALE addressing the WITCH QUEEN personally, rather than formally, but as this chronicaller does not remember the WITCH QUEEN’s real name, we’ll skip it (for now.)

Meanwhile, CAPTAIN HABITROT and her army of Seamstress-Warriors arrive at the remains of the Joyous Rabbit atop magic carpets. CAPTAIN HABITROT witnesses TITUBA II emerging from the wreckage, solidifying from a half-real, half-imagined shadow to a flesh and blood incarnation of history with ‘YUBA’s face. TITUBA the second commands all the grace, majesty and savage ferocity that little ‘YUBA lacked. TITUBA II also holds a wicked-looking spear.

Concerned by the transformation, and horrified by TITUBA II’s newfound powers (over time and space, life and death and even the very flow of nature itself) CAPTAIN HABITROT tries to comfort the girl she once knew, only to find TITUBA, although still possessing ‘YUBA’s innocent consciousness, now finds herself unable to distinguish past events from future visions.

CAPTAIN HABITROT reaches out and gently tries to reinforce the terrified young woman inside the swirling mass of tomorrows and yesterdays that form TITUBA II’s gestalt existence, giving ‘YUBA enough presence of mind to steady herself and decide on a course of action. TITUBA announces she will claim her skin back from the fiend who has stolen it (JAVOVICH, in case you forgot.)

Actually, it this point, we should take a moment to examine how iritated JAVOVICH’s original player, Lance, became, when this twist reached his ears. Lance told Zee that he’d originally intended for JAVOVICH to have no magic at all. So it seemed odd for him to ritually skin someone alive and thus transform into them. However, earlier events, even while Lance was playing, made the rest of the gaming group think that JAVOVICH did, indeed, have quite a bit of magic going for him (even if it was particularly numbing in nature.) Also, Arpie couldn’t help thinking how much JAVOVICH reminded him of Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs and that, combined with the awful Witch Hag Seduction Scene, pretty much clinched the character as a demented psychopath. Perhaps JAVOVICH isn’t magically disguised, since he fools NO ONE except the legality-blinded MAGISTRATE EQUINE, into thinking he really is the Witching Princess. Ugh.

As CAPTAIN HABITROT and her troops take to the skies on their flying carpets, lead by the now-resplendant TITUBA II, the WITCH QUEEN has the wheelbarrow which she beleives contains her daughter brought to her. When the sack gets emptied, however, SIR PERCY looks at them sheepishly from inside. JAVOVICH has escaped, still wearing the skin of ‘YUBA.

Unaware of all this, the crew of the ENDANGERMENT set off down the road, lead by ANAIS and MR. WOLFBINDER. At the ruins of the Joyous Rabbit, they discover a man caught in a perpetual time loop (eating with his family) and a woman so dead her ancestors don’t exist any more (both the results of TITUBA II’s inability to control her primordial magical gestalt.)

Overhead, the fleet of flying carpets zooms away toward the FALLEN HALLS and the crew of the ENDANGERMENT make a mad dash back the way they came.

Somewhere in the FALLEN HALLS, the MAGISTRATE EQUINE encounters JAVOVICH in ‘YUBA’s skin. JAVOVICH explains how a celestial contract was broken and provides the broken contract to the MAGISTRATE. JAVOVICH demands that justice be done about the contract and the MAGISTRATE EQUINE, horrified that anyone would break a cosmic trust, vows to look into the matter.

Outside the FALLEN HALLS, TITUBA II and CAPTAIN HABITROT spot the BATTLE BARGE and see several regiments of the WITCH QUEEN’s personal guard attendant on the battlements. They realize frontal assault is impossible.

CAPTAIN HABITROT helps TITUBA II sort out some visions of the future from events of the past (mostly by using SIR PERCY’s tea sandwiches as a kind of mental landmark.) TITUBA II reveals that she can lead them toward one of two very likely futures, but in both of them, CAPTAIN HABITROT will end up cradling a mortally-wounded SIR PERCY in her arms as he dies. CAPTAIN HABITROT goes pale, but picks the future where TITUBA II destroys SIR PERCY’s murderer, even though, in that future, TITUBA II will also slay her own mother. TITUBA II solemnly agrees to move toward that future, saying now that she realizes it would happen one way or another. ‘YUBA vanishes a little inside herself as the warrior queen side of her new personality gains dominance. She plans a terrible raid on the FALLEN HALLS using her future sight to find an unguarded way into one of the cracked towers. TITUBA II gathers a mist from rarified air to cloak the flying carpet squadron as they prepare to enter the FALLEN HALLS.

(In order to sneak in, they have to kill the Bosun of the BATTLE BARGE, who dies with TITUBA II’s spear in his chest. He falls off the back of the FALLEN HALLS.)

Sometime around here, the WITCH QUEEN and CHAR-KALE catch JAVOVICH and mystically torture him to remove ‘YUBA’s skin, revealing the true man beneath. This chronicaller doesn’t really remember how that happened.

Down below, the MAGISTRATE EQUINE sees the bosun’s body fall to the ground. He notices the mist rolling in and finds it suspicious. He follows its locus to a crumbled section of wall. He sees the flying carpets glide silently in overhead but, as he does, ripples in time cause the broken celestial contract he holds (the contract between ‘YUBA and JAVOVICH) to start to melt.

Panicked and enraged, the MAGISTRATE EQUINE forgets about the silent carpets and pursues the Law above all else. He charges back into the FALLEN HALLS to call his Bailiffs and convene an emergency session of the WITCH QUEEN’s court.

Already weary of the MAGISTRATE EQUINE’s constant attempts to put the force of law before the rights and priveledges of royalty, the WITCH QUEEN barely suffers another court to be called. She attends, however, to find herself charged in surrogate with ‘YUBA’s breaking of the contract. The WITCH QUEEN soon pulls rank, but the MAGISTRATE EQUINE insists that its a vital and magical contract – what’s more, it has begun to melt.

CHAR-KALE becomes alarmed at this news and confeses that ‘YUBA must be found and destroyed. CHAR-KALE explains that nothing should be able to destroy a celestial contract.

JAVOVICH tries to intervene and CHAR-KALE threatens him with the CALENDAR STAFF. The MAGISTRATE EQUINE calls for order. The WITCH QUEEN demands satisfaction. The court falls to squabbling.

CHAR-KALE discovers, to her dismay, that JAVOVICH is so old the CALENDAR STAFF does not affect him. He has some sort of box in his chest that contains his soul. It speaks in an ancient language, which someone in the hall answers.

It is TITUBA II, striding out of the darkness. She tells the WITCH QUEEN that her guards are dead. TITUBA II is holding a spear made of woven thread. She throws it a the MAGISTRATE EQUINE and it magically steals his bench wig.

This instantly transforms the MAGISTRATE EQUINE back into a one-eyed fiery nightmare horse (the very same one beaten into submission by MR. WOLFBINDER in the first chapter.)

The walls of time melt with the contract in the MAGISTRATE’s hand and TITUBA II finds herself in a gladiatorial pit. The court has become the bloodthirsty, cat-calling mob of the TITUBA II’s ancestral childhood. We see now that TITUBA I, ‘YUBA’s savage ancestress, fought her way up from nothing to build the Empire of the Witch Queens.

TITUBA II fights CHAR-KALE in the pit at the command of the now-feral nightmare (the ex-MAGISTRATE) and CHAR-KALE loses. In so doing, the rings of the CALENDAR STAFF get twisted, transforming CHAR-KALE from a sexpot sorceress back into a buck-toothed, red-haired teenage girl (too awkward to wear the outrageous outfits she has been sporting all through the book.) TITUBA II breaks the CALENDAR STAFF over her knee in contempt and CHAR-KALE crawls away in humiliation (a somewhat nice example of literary reversal, Arpie thought.)

But the fight isn’t over yet. The nightmare calls for TITUBA II to kill CHAR-KALE, but ‘YUBA’s heart still beats in the savage pit fighter’s breast and TITUBA II refuses. She is a different woman than the first TITUBA. The WITCH QUEEN, now transformed into some kind of Clan Mother, demands another battle and JAVOVICH enters the pit.

TITUBA II stares at JAVOVICH with rage and contempt. JAVOVICH lets out his infamous “Sigh of Dismissal” and begins to sweep, but TITBUA steals his broom. She keeps taunting JAVOVICH, knowing, from her year of servitude, all the horrible innkeeper’s pet peeves. JAVOVICH breaks and TITUBA knocks him out.

But TITUBA II has no need for her old skin anymore. She has bound the past and the present together. She says “I know what this is for, now” and returns the bench wig to the nightmare’s mane. The present reasserts itself and the nightmare stands before her once again as the MAGISTRATE EQUINE. Everyone but TITUBA II seems confused and ashamed.

Outside, ANAIS and MR. WOLFBINDER arrive at the FALLEN HALLS to find every single one of the WITCH QUEEN’s elite regiments has been slain (brutally.) The savagery of the time collapse has turned a simple invasion into a massacre (presumably led by TITUBA II.)

MR. WOLFBINDER doesn’t think twice. He grabs MIZ MALYCE and leaps aboard the ENDANGERMENT, casting off and leaving ANAIS and DINDRAINE to face what he assumes must be something truly terrible in the FALLEN HALLS (to have killed all those soldiers.)

But ANAIS and DINDRAINE summon up their courage and go to see what has become of ‘YUBA. They open the doors to the FALLEN HALLS and they find that their little friend has become TITUBA II, the next WITCH QUEEN.

ANAIS picks up the remains of the CALENDAR STAFF and begins to realize that CHAR-KALE was right… But it’s too late now.

That book has ended.

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Book One: The Witching Princess, Chapter Four
In which broken contracts lead to a Debased Man eating bark in the woods and the rendering of the Tender Skin of Innocence unto the Perverse Attentions of many a Cruel Master. Also, a Rabbit Explodes.

GM: Arpie

Players: Shannon, Z, Scott, Jeremy

Oracle: The Unquiet Past

  • Six of Diamonds: A youth or maiden, the reincarnation of an ancient sage, remembering uncanny arts but forgetful of safeguards
  • Ace of Clubs: A waystation on a broad road, with a campsite and shrine
  • Nine of Clubs: An unsavory treasure-seeker, with an honest map
  • Queen of Diamonds: The fey and unfriendly guardians of an enchanted glade

And so, some time has passed since our last chapter. But this does not immediately become obvious.

Instead, the looming blackness of the Fallen Halls consumes our attention, rising out of the twisted woods of the Vale Perilous. This pitiless edifice seems to bleed with rust and some kind of unidentified, glistening reddish mold. Cracked and forsaken, these ancient towers make even the haunted forest of Annais’ domain seem like welcoming and verdant fields.

Taking a step back from this scenery-gobbling eyesore, maybe a mile or so away, the traveller can find a small, almost pleasant clearing with a shrine to those who fell in The War of The Tiend under the command of Bloody Barnabas.

Wayfarers who must cross the veil on foot camp there sometimes. They erect their lonely tents, start small fires (evidenced by a series of pleasant-smelling but blackened patches about the clearing) and cook bacon or eggs or the less madness-inducing types of toadstools in sturdy black pans.

In fact, someone had erected such a tent on the night before the morning when Mr. Wolfbinder re-enters our tale. That someone emerged from the tent, stretching, yawning and ready for breakfast. The someone put the black pan on the small fire, broke eggs into it and placed a precious slice of bacon, the last slice of bacon, in fact, among them.

Mr. Wolfbinder smelled the bacon. How could he not, bedraggled as he seemed. His tall hat had long ago fallen to one of the perils of the vale and now he sported a tricorner hat made from a feathered serpent (as well as a fine pair of winged snakeskin boots.)

He also had a map. A map on golden sheepskin, which kept shifting with the unnatural landscape of the veil.

(And from here, I’m just gonna summarize.)

Mr. Wolfbinder and Jerek meet at the shrine to Bloody Barnabas, where Mr. Wolfbinder makes a half-hearted attempt to rid himself of the spirit that’s been bound into his heart. While Jerek and Wolfbinder hit it off well enough, their meeting gets interrupted by the arrival of a quivering old woman, begging alms.

As both men know quite a bit about the vale perilous, they immediately become suspicious of a helpless figure wandering its monster-infested pathways alone. Of course, the beggar woman reveals herself as Char-Kale, the head of the Seneschals Temporae and sworn enemy of the Witching Princess.

Char-Kale expresses her displeasure that Mr. Wolfbinder has failed to deliver young ‘Yuba into her clutches in time. She also points out that things have gone sour between the Duchess and Jerek and he needs powerful protection. Jerek can’t hide forever.

So she enlists both men to bring ‘Yuba to her here, at the shrine, below the Fallen Halls, in exactly two days time (when the moon reaches a certain astrologically significant position that I cannot now recall.)

Mr. Wolfbinder and Jerek reluctantly agree and then discuss how hosed they – er – I mean the delicate position in which they now find themselves. Mr. Wolfbinder uses it as an excuse to drag Jerek into a search for his lost ship, the Endangerment.

Meanwhile, ‘Yuba has grown into a tawny young woman. Doing chores for an emotionless taskmaster and chopping wood – in the rain – every day have honed her muscles and brought out something more of the queenly haughteur she so sadly lacked in earlier chapters. She has become a teenager, resentful, rebellious and weary of back-breaking labor for an employer she can never really please.

She’s quite happy when, dripping wet from the on-schedule afternoon rain, she enters the Joyous Rabbit Inn to see Annais waiting for her. After Javavich, the master of the Inn (to whom she was contracted by Annais last chapter) puts her through his usual insulting OCD rigamarole, Annais and ‘Yuba get to talking. Annais lets on that all is not well in the Witch Queen’s domain and that Char-Kale may be moving against the empire. As her daughter, ‘Yuba wants to go and help the Witch Queen and her empire, but Annais forbids it (well, she stalls, at least).

At this point, Javavich detects Wolfbinder and Jerek trying to sneak up on the enchanted glade which surrounds the Joyous Rabbit Inn. Javavich the Innkeeper says “It will defend the Joyous Rabbit and prevent the filth that landed in the lawn from spreading.” Annais deduces from this that the Endangerment (for which she seems to have been searching as part of dealing with the politics that have kept her away) must have landed nearby.

Annais agrees to help ‘Yuba get rid of the intruders on the condition that the emotionless Innkeeper release ‘Yuba from her contract (which ends in two days time) a day early (tomorrow.) Javavich agrees.

Annais arranges fate so that Jerek and Mr. Wolfbinder stumble onto a clearing of cavorting wood nymphs while ‘Yuba uses the siren song to make Mr. Wolfbinder see one of the beckoning nymphs as Miz Malyce.

In shifting fate, however, Annais has inadvertently freed-up the Endangerment from Javavich’s supression. Two hooded figures sneak aboard and manage to get the stricken ship aloft.

Just before Mr. Wolfbinder forever gets drawn into the ersatz Miz Malyce’s hungry tree, he sees the Endangerment fly above him. His Endangerment. Tottering in the sky, missing sections of its hull and trailing rigging, the Endangerment is still his ship and he is still her captain. That breaks the spell on him, he sees through the illusion enshrouding the wood nymph and chases after the shuddering timbers of his just-barely-airborne vessel.

Jerek doesn’t fare so well, but his inherently seductive qualities make him the darling of several wood nymphs who all vie for his attention. When Mr. Wolfbinder rejects the illusion, however, the siren song ends and Jerek realizes he hasn’t been in a seraglio being fed grapes, but rather lying on wet moss being fed bark. He ends his frolic and bids good-bye to the weeping wood nymphs.

Back at the Inn, ‘Yuba has finished her siren song and retired to her quarters to write a letter to her mother, the Witch Queen. While she does so, pebbles skitter across her window. She looks out to see her old friend, Drindaine Selwyn, also grown into quite an impressive young lady (although of a more Amazonian bent.) For those of you into such things, Drindaine still wears her now-much-too-small sailor-like schoolgirl uniform, as well as long leather boots (handmade) and archery gauntlets. She also sports a woodland cloak, a quiver of arrows and a longbow.

‘Yuba manages to use what she has learned about magic and the control Javavich has over the Joyous Rabbit to get Drindaine inside, but Javavich detects the intruder and alerts Annais. Drindaine barely has time to tell ‘Yuba that she has fallen into deadly peril, that Javavich steals the skins of travellers in order to maintain the sanctity of his Inn and that Annais is a ruthless tyrant who held the other girls from the school as virtual (but well-kept) prisoners since the Endangerment went down. Drindaine has been searching the Vale Perilous for her ever since. But Annais has come to the room and overheard some of the conversation. Drindaine shoots her with an arrow and flees, jumping through the arrow in an impressive somersault.

Annais pretends to receive a grievous injury from the arrow, but her own magics protect her well enough against even Drindaine’s enchanted shafts. It still wins ‘Yuba’s sympathy and Annais once more distracts ‘Yuba from any doubts she may have about Annais as a friend and mentor.

But before Annais can take ‘Yuba to a new hiding place, Javavich appears and seals them in the Inn, saying that they are breaking contract by leaving too soon. The space of the Joyous Rabbit Inn twists so that any route Annais and ‘Yuba try to take to escape simply leads back to the common room of the Inn.

“It serves Javavich as the Inn serves Javavich,” says the emotionless innkeeper, referring to ‘Yuba, as usual, with a genderless pronoun.

Javavich claims ‘Yuba’s skin for his own and touches her forehead, making the Witching Princess collapse onto a prepared table. Annais, her powers inhibited by the bizarre physics of the Joyous Rabbit, barely escapes with her life.

Outside, Jerek has just bid the wood nymphs farewell when Drindaine comes bursting out the window to the Inn. Jerek is impressed by this feral young archeress. He makes a pact with her to destroy Annais and save ‘Yuba, half smirking.

Annais escapes and calls for her lieutenant, Adramalech, only to find Wolfbinder’s shot (in chapter three) confined the horned demon in hell. While Adramelech howls and demands to be summoned again, she dismisses the gem on which he was contacted. She scries out her double agent, Sir Percy, only to accidentally contact Captain Habetrot, commander of the enemy garrison. Captain Habetrot pretends she got the scrying stone off Percy by torture, but she isn’t fooling anyone. Annais asks for Habetrot’s aid in rescuing the Witching Princess and Habetrot points out they’ve been enemies for centuries. When Annais mentions the Witching Princess is ‘Yuba, Habetrot quickly agrees to send help.

Annais runs into Jerek and Drindaine. Drindaine shoots her again, but this time Annais doesn’t even pretend the enchanted arrow has penetrated her defences (although she does bleed a little, after her battle with Javavich.) Annais manages to arrange a temporary truce while they work out a way to save ‘Yuba from Javavich.

They turn to Mr. Wolfbinder, who has found the Endangerment and enslaved various less-harmful fairy creatures (gnomes, pixies, brownies, a fawn with a scarf, etc) to make repairs. The Endangerment is all but airworthy again when he sees Annais, Jerek and Drindaine coming up the path. Mr. Wolfbinder immediately opens fire on the with the Endangerment’s cannons, but Drindaine pins him to the mast with one of her arrows.

Annais, Jerek and Drindaine confront the impaled Wolfbinder, who calls Annais “picklefoot” – the nickname her evil father, Bloody Barnabas, always used. Annais realizes her father has been bound to Wolfbinder’s heart but makes a deal to save ‘Yuba anyway. Drindaine reveals that she had a back-up plan and the two robed figures who originally piloted the Endangerment away reveal themselves to be her brother, Percival and Miz Malyce (who smiles a secret, knowing smile at Wolfbinder, making him jealous.)

Meanwhile, Javovich straps ‘Yuba to a table and uses whips and chains to flay the skin off of her. In her anguish and terror, ‘Yuba reaches out to her ancestress, the original Witch Queen, and the walls between the past and the present begin to bend and break. Char-Kale watches in horror as the adjustment bands of the Calendar staff begin to spin of their own accord.

An image of the original Witch Queen walks out of the past. She looks like a savage version of ‘Yuba, bedecked in an ornate headress and a tapering loincloth held above her tawny hips by a simple chain. This woman united ancient tribes into an empire with blood, seduction and magic. The blood of this woman flows through ‘Yuba’s veins. In many ways, the blood of this woman makes ‘Yuba what she will become. A knife drawn along skin. A savage warrior cries to her troops. A tribe joins the empire. ‘Yuba’s image and that of the original Witch Queen seem to merge in a shower of blood and magic and shattering of the walls between two ages – the current age of refinement and the age of savage passion.

Blood spilling everywhere, Javavich recoils with his first real emotion as he reaches the climax of his terrible skin-stealing ritual. Is it terror or ecstacy? He hasn’t had enough practice to express it properly.

The Endangerment sets sail for the Joyous Rabbit. Knowing that the peculiar properties of the inn would cause the weakened flying ship to crash out of the air, the crew makes preparations. Drindaine mans the trim, showing herself a capable up-and-downsman. Her brother, Sir Percy, prepares the boarding ropes. Jerek strikes a manly pose by the canons.

The Endangerment skims up the road, barely a foot above the ground. She draws broadside along the Inn and unleashes a volley of cannon fire. The tudor-style wayhouse begins to splinter and crack, windows exploding outward and the thatched roof turning into a roaring inferno.

Blackened and stunned, ‘Yuba stumbles out. She says she summoned the power to defeat Javavich. Annais stops time just before a canonball hits her in the face and Jerek swings across to the inn, swashbuckler style. A stray arrow from Drindaine is also caught in Annais’ time-stopping spell and ‘Yuba turns to it, says “Undesireable” and makes it vanish. Jerek sees the stitching on her arms and back, at the same time.

Javavich doesn’t fool anybody. Everyone on the Endangerment knows that Javavich stands before them in ‘Yuba’s skin, not the young Witching Princess. Jerek floors her with one punch, time returns and the canon ball sails through the door of the Joyous Rabbit, destroying it with a kerosene-and-distilled-spirits-fueled explosion. Jerek flies through the air from the force of the blast and bounces off the hull of the Endangerment.

The false ‘Yuba (Yubavich? Javoyuba?) awakens to find her-himself chained over a barrel while the Endangerment sails away from the smoldering remains of the Inn. The crew, rather than extracting vengeance on the horrible thing in ‘Yuba’s skin, instead all express sorrow for the loss of the young Witching Princess in the exploded Inn.

Miz Malyce stands in the prow, steadfastly giving the cold-shoulder to an all-but-weeping Mr. Wolfbinder. Sir Percy comforts his sister Dindraine. Annais seems to brood and even Jerek’s manliness seems dimmed by the loss of the innocent young heir.

They sail on toward their encounter with Char-Kale at the Fallen Halls.

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Book One: The Witching Princess, Chapter Three
In Which the Tranquility of an Exotic Wayhouse is Disturbed by Songs, Sighs, Soldiers, and Scandalous Encounters

GM: Scott

Players: Shannon, Z, Lance, Josh

Oracle: Blood & Sex

  • Three of Clubs: The arrival at a wayhouse of four unusual travelers.
  • Four of Spades: Siren-Ghoul who entices the amorous into deadly peril
  • Three of Spades: Camp Wanton pretty and pliant, prone to drink
  • Jack of Clubs: The death of the primary heir of a local noble woman

It starts with the arrival, on horse, of the dashing JEREK WESTFALL to a wayhouse in the midst of the Vale Perilous. At nearly the same time a harlot in a worn and faded red dress strolls out of the woods and into the inn. Shortly after them, LADY ANNAIS and her ward, ‘YUBA, the Witching Princess, land next to the same building on the back of a flying drake.

Their first attempt to enter the wayhouse is rebuffed by the innkeeper! JAVAVICH, owner and sole proprietor of the Joyous Rabbit, orders them out by saying, “It cleans its boot outside at the boot cleaning station.” The wanton SCARLETT chooses to go barefoot and tosses her boots into the Vale. After inquiring about ale for the approaching army, she takes a tankard and a seat near the window and begins to sing.

When the others have cleaned their boots, the monotone innkeeper still refuses ‘YUBA entry until she bathes. JEREK convinces ANNAIS to come with him to a nearby waterfall. She agrees and with ‘YUBA in tow they depart…unaware that they are under the siren spell of SCARLETT’s song!

At the waterfall they encounter a small army of soldiers, bathing and in various states of undress. The soldiers spot the trio and yell, “Women!” The shirtless, but pants-wearing, ZEDEKIAH TUCKER takes control of his troops (who have grown restless since their camp wanton, SCARLETT, went ahead to inquire about board and lodging at the wayhouse) and greets the visitors. When he realizes the station and need of his guests, he orders his men out of the pool so the women can bathe in private. He attempts to take JEREK away with him, but JEREK and ANNAIS resist. The siren song still holds sway over the smitten pair!

ANNAIS pushes ‘YUBA into the pool (knowing she would not bathe willingly) and rushes off into the woods while ZEDEKIAH drags JEREK away. Once they are at a respectable distance, ZEDEKIAH agrees to release JEREK if he’ll keep ANNAIS away so ZEDEKIAH can return ‘YUBA to the palace.

JEREK and ANNAIS soon find a pool of their own and embrace, heedless of the dangers of the Vale Perilous! As they begin to kiss, seven draconic heads emerge from the pool all around them. Rising from the water is a hydra ridden by a bog hag! In her ecstasy, ANNAIS is oblivious to the danger until it’s too late. One of the heads scoops her up and pins her to the bank.

JEREK strikes a manly pose that makes the bog hag take notice. While foul and ancient, she is still a woman. She agrees to free ANNAIS if JEREK will bed her…and her hydra! He agrees and unspeakable acts occur that, sadly, result in the hydra’s death.

At the Joyous Rabbit, a shadow blots out the sun. The innkeeper knows the weather here as well as he knows his wayhouse. Both he and the Joyous Rabbit sprang forth together at the beginning of time and little has changed in the clearing since. It should be sunshine an warmth until 2pm, so JAVAVICH steps outside to investigate.

A great dirigible, it’s propellers turned by pedaling servants, hovers above and a large wooden box is lowered on cables. When it touches down, THE DUCHESS of Burke, Delilah Burke-Campbell, and her entourage emerge. Their boots are impeccably shined, so they have no problem entering the inn.

After some pleasantries, THE DUCHESS reveals the true purpose of her visit – to purchase the Joyous Rabbit! It is the only waystation in the Vale Perilous and it would give her great clout to possess it. She is the lady of the cloud castles above and she wants the land below as well. But THE DUCHESS quickly learns that JAVAVICH can’t be bought or threatened.

Seeing some fun to be had, SCARLETT begins to sing. THE DUCHESS recently lost her husband and if she married JAVAVICH she would control the inn. Realizing now her powers and the ideas SCARLETT is trying to put into the old woman’s head, JAVAVICH, himself immune to the song, sighs at her dismissively, breaking the spell and causing the harlot to curl up into herself.

Back at the waterfall ‘YUBA is washing her clothes in the pool. With the glasses off and the many normally present items missing from her long, flowing hair, it is plain to see the beauty of the young princess. One recognized it quicker than most, a young soldier named Thomas who hid behind a rock when the other soldiers marched out. When ‘YUBA spots him he lavishes compliments upon her and convinces her not to give him up to COMMANDER ZEDEKIAH TUCKER. She is immediately taken with the strapping young man. Again the siren song is on the air and the two foolhardy youths try to sneak off to see the carcass of a giant snapping turtle Thomas claims to have killed.

But ZEDEKIAH has wisely placed pickets around the pool to protect his prize. As he and his men assemble the emergency hot air balloon to take ‘YUBA skyward, one of the pickets hears the princess trip into the brush. The army searches for the pair and they dive back into the pool to hide. But ZEDEKIAH has ears like a field mouse (at least in the Vale where field mice must hear a shadow snake slithering a mile away in order to survive) and hears the splash. He stands at the edge of the pool until they run out of breath then drags them out.

However, before the balloon is ready ANNAIS and JEREK return to the waterfall and all of them together – princess, sorceress, ladies man, commander, and army – journey to the wayhouse.

They arrive at the same time as the 33rd Mounted Drake Battalion which has come looking for LADY ANNAIS. ZEDEKIAH demands his right to quarter the Witching Queen’s troops inside the Joyous Rabbit. JAVAVICH attempts to recruit SCARLETT’s aide, but her price (a key to the Witching Princess’ room) would violate the timeless Innkeepers’ Code. When JAVAVICH summarily refuses ZEDEKIAH’s demands, the commander punches the ancient one dead in the face. As JAVAVICH recoils in shock, THE DUCHESS sees an opportunity and orders her men to grab JAVAVICH, but they stumble over the carefully arranged furniture of the inn. ANNAIS tries to stop ZEDEKIAH with a twist of fate only to discover that her magic does not work in the inn! Outraged at the treatment he’s received in his own establishment, JAVAVICH beats ZEDEKIAH to death, berating him with each blow of his fists and each step to the woods as he drags the body of the fallen commander into the Vale Perilous.

The weather outside has turned to bitter, afternoon blizzard as ANNAIS goes to take command of ZEDEKIAH’s troops and her own. Meanwhile, SCARLETT helps Thomas and ‘YUBA sneak off together, promising them a safe, dark cave to snuggle in.

THE DUCHESS’ sage heard from a fawn who heard from a dryad who knows a pixie that lives near the bog hag’s hydra pond of the…romantic prowess of JEREKWESTFALL. Fancying younger man anyway, THE DUCHESS sees opportunity and pleasure in JEREK’s companionship. She offers herself to him, promising he will be a well kept man, if he can kill ANNAIS. Long has THE DUCHESS chafed under the yoke of her liege, the tyrannical ruler of the Vale Perilous who cares nothing for the needs of the nobles above and everything for the safety of the fey creatures who live below. Gold coins in his eyes, JEREK agrees.

As SCARLETT reaches the cave she sings to Thomas and ‘YUBA, tempting them inside. ‘YUBA is fascinated by the song and asks SCARLETT to teach it to her. This breaks SCARLETT’s concentration for a moment, but she sings on. Just then ANNAIS and JEREK reach the cave. They are accompanied by JAVAVICH who saw SCARLETT leading off the youth while he was disposing of ZEDEKIAH’s body.

As her composure breaks, JEREK sees SCARLETT’s true, ghoulish form and he flees back to the inn. JAVAVICH warns ‘YUBA that the siren song is dangerous, but he is rebuffed by the sudden, unexpected force of the girl’s desire for power. Thomas flees into the cave and is devoured by the dark horror waiting within as ‘YUBA, with ANNAIS’s guidance, reverses the siren song, steals knowledge of it, and drives SCARLETT off screaming into the Vale Perilous.

Realizing that the Joyous Rabbit would be an ideal place for ‘YUBA to learn about the world and grow into a woman, ANNAIS signs a contract of ancient and arcane binding with JAVAVICH for him to be ‘YUBA’s guardian until ANNAIS return.

Our tale is almost over, save for the fate of JEREK WESTFALL and THE DUCHESS. Few mortal men, ignorant of magic, could withstand the sight of a Siren-Ghoul in her true form. So you, dear reader, should not hold his terror and flight against him. As to JEREK’s apparent betrayal of LADY ANNAIS, he merely wanted what all men desire…and ANNAIS knows how to use her feminine charms to get what she wants. JEREK and ANNAIS reached an accord and both the LADY and THE DUCHESS were satisfied in the end.

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Book One: The Witching Princess, Chapter Two
In Which A Struggle Between Man and Woman Leads to a Series of Unseemly Falls, As Has Been the Case Since Before the Explusion from Paradise

GM: RP

Players: Shannon, Scott, Z

Oracle: The God-Kings of War

  • Six of Clubs: A brutish and tyrannical warlord and her uncouth thugs
  • Two of Clubs: An army’s scrier, commanding six sharp-fanged gaunts
  • Eight of Clubs: A high, many-towered wall on a fierce border, and the soldiers left to hold it
  • King of Hearts: The ghost of a tyrant kind, strangled by his own daughter

It starts with our unlikely crew aboard the Endangerment, well underway to the Fallen Halls.

MIZ MALYCE is instructing a class of girls, all dressed in school uniforms modified to look like sailor suits, about the monsters in the Vale Perilous. ‘YUBA and her friends, DINDRAINE SELWYN and CONSTANCE, keep asking questions about the VALE PERILOUS, revealing its many horrible properties* to you, our gentle reader.

She also expounds upon the Gaunts, a species of flying humanoid undead with more power at night than the day. Six of them are caged on the deck of the Endangerment, part of WOLFBINDER’s slave stock.

MIZ MALYCE (MAURINNIS) also reveals that the ship is heading to the Fallen Halls in the center of the Vale Perilous, said to be the entrance to hell.

At this news, ‘YUBA becomes alarmed and asks about the wards on the Endangerment, but MR. WOLFBINDER, who knows little to nothing about magic, misdirects her with a story about his flight hat, which he claims sigils sewn into the brim. ‘YUBA, DINDRAINE and CONSTANCE later conspire to steal the hat.

The Endangerment approaches the Fierce Wall, which marks the borders of the Vale Perilous and Tyno Helig. The wall is unimaginably high, protruding from the clouds like a stainless steel ribbon covered in corkscrew towers that seem to wrap around themselves and the misty clouds of fairyland below.

ANNAIS insists on diverting to the wall and gets in a fight with MR. WOLFBINDER at the steering wheel. ‘YUBA joins in, giving MR. WOLFBINDER’s leg a good bite. He assumes one of his creatures has gotten loose and kicks ‘YUBA off while his attention is on ANNAIS. In doing so, he accidentally kicks ‘YUBA overboard. She falls, dazed and out of breath, silently into the clouds thousands of feet below. Eventually ANNAIS and MR. WOLFBINDER come to an agreement over the wheel and steer the ship toward the fierce wall.

Neither ANNAIS nor MR. WOLFBINDER nor, it would seem, anyone else on the ship notice that ‘YUBA is gone until MIZ MALYCE calls the girls together for a pre-shore-leave roll call. The Endangerment has docked by this time and ANNAIS and MR. WOLFBINDER have gone to speak with ANNAIS’ soldiers, who man the top of the Fierce Wall.

When MR. WOLFBINDER returns up the gangplank, he is confronted by a frantic MURINNIS (MIZ MALYCE) who back him down the gangplank back onto the wall with her furious accusations. When he realizes that ‘YUBA has fallen off his boat, MR. WOLFBINDER hauls MAURINNIS back up the gangplank while DINDRAINE and CONSTANCE run back down it to look for ‘YUBA on the fierce wall. The rest of the girls see this and swarm the gangplank, running around the battlements of the fierce wall like… well, schoolgirls on holliday.

BLOODY BARNABAS, the spirit which is possessing MR. WOLFBINDER, appears behind MR. WOLFBINDER, reaches into his heart and reveals ‘YUBA falling off the ship. He is gripped by pain and remorse and MIZ MALYCE somehow sees both the spirit and the vision. The ship casts off its morings and, despite a skeleton crew, dives for the clouds far below.

Meanwhile, ANNAIS talks to her chief gaurd, SGT. ADRAMELECH (himself a demonaically-horned fanatic with a little forked beard) who reports that there is still no news from SIR PERCY, the spy. Before she can reply, the girls swarm off the ship, it casts anchor and drops. ANNAIS gets the girls under control while the devilish SEARGANT coralls his own troops in the cafeteria.

SGT. ADRAMELECH soon catches DINDRAINE and CONSTANCE and they reveal that ‘YUBA has fallen off the airship into the fairy mists below. ANNAIS and the SEARGANT saddle up the flying drakes.

Meanwhile, ‘YUBA plunges through the fairy mists. She emerges from the otherside, still falling, to see an upside-down version of the fierce wall. Only this version of the fierce wall is rusted and crumbling. It is also oriented 180 degrees straight down from the other fierce wall, with its own reverse gravity to boot.

That means that ‘YUBA falls out the clouds and up the crumbling inverted fierce wall for some distance before gravity grips her and pulls her back “down” into the mists again. On her second pass through, she begins to fear she will fall past the same towers over and over again, tumbling through the mists that divide both halves of the fierce wall forever. However, SIR PERCIVAL, a knight in shining armour reaches out and pulls ‘YUBA into his crumbling prison cell on her second pass.

SIR PERCIVAL is gallant and brave and attractive. He is very intimate with CAPTAIN HABITROT, a hag with a huge lower lip who seems to run the garrison of Tyno Helig. CAPTAIN HABITROT reveals that ANNAIS is her enemy and that the CAPTAIN does not want to be part of the Witch Queen’s empire (and certainly not part of the Vale Perilous, although Tyno Helig is almost nothing but barren rock.) She also reveals that SIR PERCIVAL is a prisoner of war and has been for hundreds of years. SIR PERCIVAL explains that he is a double agent, albeit an exceedingly honest one. He is also a good cook and makes tea sandwiches for everyone.

The Endangerment descends and finds floating rocks in the mists at the base, or, perhaps I should say mid-point of the two Fierce Walls. The ship comes through with a few close callse before docking in Tyno Helig.

MR. WOLFBINDER and MIZ MALYCE present themselves as traders and CAPTAIN HABITROT welcomes them. She misleads them about the arrival of ‘YUBA when SIR PERCY arrives with a sandwich tray and tells the CAPTAIN that ‘YUBA does not want anything to do with MR. WOLFBINDER or MIZ MALYCE.

While SIR PERCY and the CAPTAIN stall MR. WOLFBINDER, ‘YUBA sneaks aboard the Endangerment and opens all the cages of the mythical animals. MR. WOLFBINDER looks up when the commotion starts and races to his ship, MAURINNIS in tow.

MR. WOLFBINDER and MAURINNIS end up fighting back to back against the freed fantastic beasts, MAURINNIS using terrfying magical effects of the senechals temporae to deafeat the various monsters. They fight their way to the hold where SIR PERCY and HABITROT have already snuck aboard, using HABITROT’s capabilty with the Smell of Magic to track down ‘YUBA. CAPTAIN HABITROT grabs MAURINNIS from the shadows in order to threaten MR. WOLFBINDER. This gives SIR PERCY enough time to carry ‘YUBA to safety.

Back at the crumbling side of the fierce wall, SIR PERCY spots incoming drakes and MR. WOLFBINDER and CAPTAIN HABITROT make a hasty aliance to defend the wall. MAURINNIS goes to her (formerly the captain’s) cabin and scries out ‘YUBA while releasing her six gaunts (which MR. WOLFBINDER had given her earlier as a token of affection.)

ANNAIS leads the attack, breaking off when she spots a gaunt headed for ‘YUBA (not realizing that the gaunt was sent as protection by MIZ MALYCE) and SGT. ADRAMELECH uses a hellfire bullet to eplode the captain’s cabin of the Endangerment and send it spiraling towards its doom. MIZ MALYCE uses her time magic to escape the explosion but gets knocked off the ship anyway due to the horrible nature of a hellfire bullet (it grows demonic claws and drags people away)

SIR PERCY swings by and swashbucklingly saves MIZ MALYCE. ANNAIS scoops up ‘YUBA and heads back to her home while MR. WOLFBINDER blasts ADRAMELECH (whom he thinks has killed MIZ MALYCE) out of the sky with a cannon.

Listing, almost crewless and trailing black smoke, the Endangerment slips its mornings and slowly plunges back into the fairy mists below. MR. WOLFBINDER runs for the wheel only to have a winged serpent rear up before him as the craft vanishes from sight.

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Book One: The Witching Princess, Chapter One
In which an Incident with Cheese and Manticores leads to Untoward, but not Unreciprocated, Advances upon a Matron.

GM: RP

Players: Shannon, Scott, Z

Oracle: A Nest of Vipers

  • Nine of Spades: A band of slavers both bold and incorrigible.
  • Ten of Hearts: A wizard jealously guarding her magical territory.
  • Five of Hearts: The college of a small but prestigious magical order.
  • Queen of Spades: A conjurer possessed by spirits of uncivil character.

It starts with a slave auction in a fantastical city, one which vaguely resembles a fantastical pastiche of the European Enlightenment. The people, mostly humans, wear corsets, big cuffs, tight pants, various collars and fancy boots.

In the midst of this fantastical city is a slave auction. Cages of magical creatures have been arrayed in the town square. The crier announces that Griffons are on sale for courage, Mermaids for seduction, Satyrs for amorous prowess, Harpies for marital security and so forth.

Swarthy men in short coats and tall hats mix with the crowd, hauling cages, cowing unicorns and generally deporting themselves like any other slave traders in the civilized pursuit of their trade.

Into the midst of this spectacle strides a woman, tall and haughty. She wears a severe purple coat of crushed velvet. Not the purple of royalty, but rather the puple of subdued fate, with hidden greys and unexpected seams of light caught in the arrangements. A corset with a double row of fine brass buttons offsets the high collar and explicitly non-laced sleeves of the arrangement.

She is walking a dog, a huge black dog with purple eyes, pure predator and barely restrained, yet completely within her power.

Moving through the crowd, she reaches a small, hideous goblin, all warts and sharp, grinning teeth, who takes her to his master, the man in the tallest hat. The master, Mr. WOLFBINDER, is seated at a lecturn, scratching away at the afternoon’s sales figures with a slightly-glowing amber feather pen.

During a short argument, in which the woman introduces herself as ANNAIS, LADY OF THE VALE PERILOUS, in which, it should be noted, MR. WOLFBINDER falsely denies all knowledge of visiting or even knowing of its noble lady, MR. WOLFBINDER and ANNAIS simultaneously catch sight of a young girl feeding a manticore some cheese.

(Bit where PISS THE GOBLIN brings MR. WOLFBINDER the incriminating Port Documents for the VALE PERILOUS and MR. WOLFBINDER stalls.)

The child wears fine clothing that doesn’t fit, one sleeve of her luxurious gown dragging behind her in the street muck and her practical boots practically filled with wrinkles of fine silk dress. Her hair is, at best, impossible, wavy and ample and done up at random intervals with whatever the child could get her hands upon at the time: quill pens, spindles, hair clips, ribbons.

She resembles nothing so much as an errant bird’s nest dragging a line of laundry behind it in a windstorm.

But there is something else to her as well, something which puts urgency in the steps of ANNAIS and MR. WOLFBINDER as they confront the child about feeding the highly-poisonous manticore.

This interruption also gives MR. WOLFBINDER a chance to produce false documents of procurement for his enslaved fey creatures. MR. WOLFBINDER has PISS sniff the child’s scent to confirm that she is, in fact, the Witching Princess, ‘YUBA, daughter of the Witch Queen and Heir Apperent of the Hour Throne.

The child is sent away abruptly by ANNAIS who follows after to see the child back safe.

Back at the Feigndoor, the College of the Mystical Order which supports the Hour Throne itself, the Seneschals Temporae, ‘YUBA crosses the bridge of doors in the rain. She can see the towering Calendar Tower, which predicts the major events of every Witch Queen’s reign, silouhetted against the gloomy clouds and gathering night.

As she attempts to sneak between the two guardian Sphinxes at the gate, a flash of lightning illuminates the tall, stern figure of the headmistress, MIZ MAURINNIS MALYCE. Dressed all in black with a rock-hard bun of fine auburn hair, she stares with steely black eyes at young ‘YUBA. MIZ MALYCE mentions an upcoming meeting of disciplinary nature with ‘YUBA’s mother, the Witch Queen.

MIZ MALYCE admonishes the child and sends her scurrying away as CHAR-KALE, the mystress of the Seneshals Temporae steps from behind the other sphinx. She has been watching and confronts MIZ MALYCE about ‘YUBA being allowed to go into town unsupervised.

MIZ MALYCE hems and haws, trying to make excuses, but, as she does, ANNAIS arrives over the bridge of doors to put paid to MIZ MALYCE’s weak posturing.

During their discussion, CHAR-KALE uses the Calendar Staff to subtly advance time so that MIZ MALYCE misses her afternoon meeting with the Witch Queen, only noticing when she suddenly sees the Fine Carriage of ‘YUBA’s mother departing.

Other Events:

CHAR-KALE meets with MR. WOLFBINDER in his cabin, acting all seductive and coddling PISS THE GOBLIN. They make a deal that MR. WOLFBINDER should ensnare ‘YUBA and sell the child to CHAR-KALE, that they may be heart-bound for CHAR-KALE’s own nefarious purposes. She expresses some disgust that ‘YUBA should represent “the coming age.” MR. WOLFBINDER loans CHAR-KALE the use of PISS for a day or two. It is also arranged that ‘YUBA should be delivered, enslaved, to CHAR-KALE at the Fallen Halls within a fortnight.

ANNAIS and MR. WOLFBINDER meet in the antechamber of the Hour Throne, both attending court for their own purposes. MR. WOLFBINDER has a nightmare in tow which ANNAIS uses her magic of fate to release. MR. WOLFBINDER brutally beats the nightmare back into submission with his magical riding crop and is made ‘YUBA’s protector by the Witch Queen herself for his valiant efforts. However, since he clearly is not a creature of magic himself, ANNAIS is assigned to go along with MR. WOLFBINDER as his advisor (and ‘YUBA’s tutor, if at all possible, considering ANNAIS’ famous command of the ways of fate.)

In an alleyway behind the main square, PISS THE GOBLIN meets with a spirit-seller who turns out to be MIZ MALYCE. PISS obtains a spirit that will “shatter the heart of a brutal man” and instill that man with fatherly concern for anything or anyone in his charge. PISS offers to tell MIZ MALYCE of a man who will be a danger to her college, Feigndoor, but MR. WOLFBINDER gets there first and makes advances toward MIZ MALYCE. PISS tries frantically to sneak up behind MR. WOLFBINDER and signal MIZ MALYCE, but MR. WOLFBINDER senses “a presence” behind him and lashes out with brutal instinct, snapping PISS almost in half with one blow of the lucky riding crop (used earlier to subdue the nightmare.) As PISS dies, the cannister containing the heart-shattering spirit rolls to MR. WOLFBINDER’s feet and PISS utters a dying curse “Your heart shall be forever shattered, massster…. “

Later, at Feigndoor, ANNAIS and MR. WOLFBINDER go to see the headmistress and he witching princess, where he is shocked to see his new sweetheart, MAURINIS is actually MIZ MALYCE, the headmistress. Of course, he knew that ‘YUBA was the cheese-and-manticore girl already. While ‘YUBA resents MR. WOLFBINDER at first and MIZ MALYCE resists the idea of ‘YUBA leaving Feigndoor, ANNAIS tricks them both into arranging an expedition to The Fallen Halls (where CHAR-KALE plans to pick up the enslaved ‘YUBA within a fortnight.)

While MR. WOLFBINDER tries to seduce MIZ MALYCE in the gardens (and talks her into taking her girls on an expedition in his ship, The Endangerment) ANNAIS and ‘YUBA discuss using both headmistress and head slaver as catspaws in ANNAIS’ plan to free the fairy creatures has has been enslaving.

In the end, MR. WOLFBINDER sweeps MIZ MALYCE into his arms, kissing her passionately. She kisses him back but then whallops him good with her Measuring Device. She concedes to the expedition and leaves him besotted and in pain in the garden-cafeteria of the witching school.

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