047. Cranium

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The motley hears from High King David.

"Sometimes, games go bad."

Sophia, Patches, and Braum stand in the King's pantry at Tara Nar, looking at Talus' chimerically-dead body, and that of the High King David. They are interrupted almost immediately by a massive, hulking troll, Lord Skayne, the Captain of the King's Guard. Seeing King David unenchanted, he immediately takes charge of the situation, ordering Talus taken away by members of the Unbroken Circle and David attended to by another guard. Patches is separated from Sophia and Braum due to rank: the nocker representative of the Grand Bes Din leads her off as Skayne and another guard, Clarissa, guide the nobles away from the scene.

Sophia and Braum end up in a large room filled with a swimming pool, its surface shimmering with a million different colours while the ceiling seems to let in light from a blue sky. Clarissa seems very invested in keeping them calm as Lord Skayne approaches to question them. Sophia explains what Talus had done to the High King, and how the fight went down. Lord Skayne admits to his own failure in defending the King from this threat, but berates the motley for not approaching him to help them with the intruder. Skayne explains to them that, naturally, the King's Guard will be disbanded for their failure, and that no one really knows what will happen afterwards, given that the High King never left instructions as to his succession. Skayne believes that the four "frontrunners" for Queen of Concordia will likely vie for power: Mab, the Queen of the Kingdom of Apples; Morwyn, the King's closest advisor; Lenore, David's daughter; and Faerilyth, David's wife and King Meilge's ward. Braum and Sophia realize that, far from being removed from the politics of the court, they will have to ally themselves with one of the contenders.

Braum and Sophia take it upon themselves to reveal to Lord Skayne that King Meilge is dead… or at least the source of his power has been irrevocably destroyed. Lord Skayne asks Braum very carefully whether he knows Meilge to be dead, and the troll, stone-faced, tells him that the mask is indeed destroyed, and that he killed Meilge in self-defense in the Kingdom of Willows. Skayne draws himself up to his full height and formally charges Braum with regicide, but when attempting to retrieve David's sword Caliburn from him, finds himself unable to take it. Clearly, the King's sword has chosen Braum to be its guardian, at least for now. Skayne has Braum swear that he will remain at Tara-Nar until he is able to stand trial with the Regent… whoever that may be.

During this time, Patches finds herself in a different "pool room", as the nocker representative of the Grand Bes Din leans on a pool table and offers her a drink. Patches plays it cool as the other nocker freaks out about the turn of events, but also muses about being able to profit off the coming discord. Patches is intrigued to learn that Zistor has started patenting devices at the Grand Bes Din in her name, and is eventually led away to rejoin her new motley.

Knowing that they cannot run from the situation at Tara-Nar (especially since Braum is now awaiting trial), the motley ask to see the unenchanted David Ardry. They are led back to his antechamber where the young man is waiting, confused, to be seen by a doctor. Patches imbues him with Dream Logic to convince him that she is the doctor in question, and on her orders, convinces him to listen to Sophia's "concert" in order to relax. Sophia's sings the High King to sleep, and the three of them step into his dreams, hoping to bring him back.

Inside David Ardry's mind, the motley find themselves inside a gigantic, ornate clockwork throne room, with two thrones up on a dais. David's crown is sitting idly on one of the seats, and the celebrated regent himself is gazing upon it. He tells the motley that he knows his own Winter to be coming, and begins to age before their eyes, in fits and starts. Sophia is desperate to prevent the High King from being lost to Banality, and Patches demands to know whether he feels it to be fair that his Winter was brought on him by Talus, against his will. David, for his part, is at peace, accepting that he has done his part and that it is time for him to go. He recites some Yeats ("Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths… Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.") and tells the motley that they will be able to find his last instructions outside in the courtyard, beneath the fountain. Patches leaves the High King with a parting gift of her multitool, so that he can create whatever he wishes. "Legends never die," the King intones, and the motley leave his dream. Before their very eyes, David Ardry, the High King of Concordia, transforms into an old man, and expires.

Sophia, Patches, and Braum meet Claude and Kyoko in the courtyard, immediately understanding what has happened. They dig in the yard and eventually happen upon a beaten-up leather duffel bag, which Lord Skayne identifies as a gift he presented to the High King several years ago. As Lord Skayne employs Protocol to declare to the assembled Court that King David has died, Sophia receives another mysterious text from Countess Weyer. "Be the Traveler, don't be a plaque on the leg of Ozymandias." Sophia believes that Weyer wants her to "take charge" of her destiny, but how?

Skayne locks down the tower as the vigil over the King's corpse begins, with parties of interest being summoned for the reveal of the High King's last words. The four candidates for High Queen of Concordia arrive, along with Seven, a Sluagh member of the Unbroken Circle. In the presence of all, Lord Skayne opens the duffel bag, and presents Sophia with a letter emblazoned with David's seal. She opens it, and reads that the new Regent, the one who will also decide the Queen, is "she of whom Mab rides on her shoulder", and suddenly Sophia realizes how she will make a difference….

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