Monday, January 16, 2006

Conspiracy of Shadows (Season Finale)

The two Alexanders and Bishop Banuch make it to the Patriarch's palace but the mood is dangerous and volatile on the streets. The Patriarch is alarmed by the news the friars bring and immediately calls for his council to assemble with news from the temples and their surrounding districts.

The temple leaders arrive and the council starts with speeches and discussion about the situtation. The two Alexanders also speak trying to save the Little Kingdom from the mob and instead seizing the situation to try and bring down Bey Calan and the Kharks. There is a lack of consensus until a proposal is put forward to send a command to the Sultan to hand over his troops to the Temple Leaders so that order can be retained (essentially asserting the primarcy of the theocracy in the current crisis). All sides agree and Temple Leader en Behendu volunteers to take the message to the Sultan personally, Quanaid proposes to go with him and to immediately take the troops to the Old City and restore order.

Little Alexander still urges the Patriarch to go directly to the people and stop the riot with his personal authority and the backing of the faith. The temple leaders however feel the risk of an assassination attempt is too great. Little Alexander has overheard en Behendu plotting to contact the Kharks but there is little he can do at the moment.

Behendu and Quanaid march to the palace with their bodyguards but Behendu declares that he would like to commander more troops in case there is trouble at the palace and Quanaid agrees to a detour to obtain more men. Behendu takes him to Bey Calan's house and as soon as the gates to the house are shut Behendu denounces Quanaid and Calan's men attack, killing Quanaid's bodyguard and taking the Temple Leader prisoner. Behendu then informs Calan of his plan and tells him to send more men to the palace so the Patriarch can be removed quickly before the betrayal is revealed.

Behendu then continues on to the palace and gaining an audience with the sultan shows him the letter and claims that it is proof that the Patriarch is trying to overthrow the Sultan's rule in the city and that the current Patriarch must be removed immediately. The Sultan agrees, his court filled with agents of the Khark's he is out of touch with the real situation and is easily swayed. The leaders of his bodyguard already take huge bribes from the Kharks to keep the Sultan a virtual prisoner in his palace so they are swift to follow Behendu's orders when he offers them the chance to loot the Patriarch's palace.

Following Behendu and Quanaid's departure the council continues and the Alexander's and Temple Leader Quelkoria (a radical Amdati) both take the opportunity to denounce Bey Calan and ask the Patriarch to allow them to search Calan's house for proof of his degeneracy and involvement with the Count. Swayed now that there is little dissent the Patriarch agrees and Big Alexander and Quelkoria are sent along with Temple Leader Sur to search Calan's house.

They arrive not long after Behendu has left and Calan tries to bluff the group out. However Quelkoria seems to hate Calan as much as the Alexander's do, if not more and Quelkoria's hardcore Amdati followers tear his house apart finding both the Count's wooden box and the imprisoned Quanaid. Caught red-handed in the act of kidnapping a Temple Leader Quelkoria immediately arrests Calan and the group return to the palace with Quanaid telling them of Behendu's betrayal.

Meanwhile back in the Patriarch's palace Calan's black clad warriors are infilitrating the building and slowly disposing of the Patriarch's bodyguard. Little Alexander raises the alarm when he notices strange scars on the arms of one of the Patriarch's guardsmen. Calan's men try to kill the Patriarch but Alexander fights them off long enough for reinforcements to arrive (using a Doom point in the process). As the remaining loyalists clash with the Khark's mercenaries the Bishop runs for the Little Kingdom. It is clear that enclave will fall and the Bishop orders the Valdorians to flee as best they can to the Patriarch's palace. He also tells Sedziwoj that the palace is under attack and that Alexander needs help.

Big Alexander, Quelkoria, al Sur and Quanaid arrive at the palace first and put the Khark's men to flight. Calan is taken before the Patriarch for questioning and confession of his sins. Calan however proves stubborn and warns that his powerful friends will soon crush the remaining theocrats and free him. He also scorns the Alexanders for being as much a puppet as he is only they are even more foolish for being blind to their true masters. The Count's box turns out to be empty but there is no chance to quiz Calan on its contents.

When Sedziwoj arrives with the Valdorian refuges the situation looks positive but swiftly bad news arrives. Behendu has seized the palace and now the Sultan's bodyguard (barbarians from the West with no faith in either branch of Albinism) are marching on the palace, eager for loot. The palace is made ready for a seige and the prospect of sacking the palace brings the hordes of the Slums, the Sultan's army and the Khark's men together. The place is surrounded and despite fierce fighting the situation seems hopeless. Quelkoria demands that Calan be executed for being part of this conspiracy against the Patriarch and with everyone in agreement the Patriarch agrees and Calan is beheaded. His head is thrown into the mob to discourage his men.

The Patriarch, realising the hopelessness of the situation and finally decides to take Little Alexander's advice. The people must believe in the Patriarch and follow his teaching or else the position is nothing more than a figurehead to be manipulated by ambitious men. He asks for volunteers to join him in confronting the horde but refuses those not of the Amdati faith. He urges the loyal temple leaders and the Valdorians to flee through the tunnels and escape the city. Then the doors of the palace are thrown open and the Patriarch and his volunteers march to meet the rioters. While his display of personal bravery does sway many of the commoners an arrow is fired from the ranks of the barbarian troops and the Patriarch falls as a general melee breaks out.

Inside the temple Quelkoria pauses within the catacombs of the palace and announces that he will stay in the city and fight the betrayer until either the faith prevails or he is dead. He smashes into a nearby wall and removes the foundation stone of the palace. Effectively removing the blessing of the Albin until such a time as a Patriarch worth the title again rules there. He asks the cell to take the stone and to return it only when word reaches them that Behendu has been brought to justice. The stone is placed within the Count's box and the cell, Banuch and the Valdorian refugees leave through the tunnels to hide in the marshes surrounding the city.

Behind them the city burns and there are the sounds of a massacre taking place as the Kharks help their new Patriarch to establish his hold on the city.
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