Mission 9: Snakes in the Grass
The weather might have gotten a bit chilly in Aether, but you wouldn’t know that in the castle. All of the servants and soldiers were abuzz, preparing for King Alaric’s return from his meeting with Lord Dracul. In the king’s study, a Shiny Arbok had hidden from the hustle-bustle, instead working on some official documents. Writing with her tail wrapped snug about a quill pen, Tara Nic Nessa scrawled the words as delicately as she could, hoping she wouldn’t splatter any of the ink on her fiancé’s desk.
Suddenly, the study’s door swung open, and King Alaric himself slithered into the room. Spotting the golden cobra coiled at his desk, he cleared his throat, not wanting to spook her, and waited for her to turn before smiling benignly.
: Well… he certainly wasn’t at a loss for words, and, though I fear I’ve not learned all that I wished to from our meeting, I can definitely say that he has opened my eyes to several of the more…pressing matters in Avalon.
: Okay, here goesss - I’d like to know where the two of usss stand. You have been ssso busy lately, I haven’t fully seen you since the Khetmaat mission, and frankly, your blushing bride to be would like to know when the wedding shall take place!
She takes a deep breath, after her long spiel, then blushes, realizing perhaps how far she has overstepped. Quickly, she curtsies, now looking contrite.
: I-I mean, you’re the king, and I’m the almost queen. Still, my point remainsss. I think celebrating our wedding with all of Aether watching is jussst the thing to make the citizensss happy in these trying times -
: A celebration of good tidings is needed about now! We’ve had enough danger and strife in these past few months so I do believe a large wedding banquet would be a wondrous time for everyone in Aether!
: Indeed! Now, there isss much to do, including gathering food, drink, and flowersss, not to mention decorating the cathedral and palace… Ah, perhapsss we should ask the townspeople for help? Offer them a - what do you call it? - “behest”? If we all work together, that will make the wedding preparationsss easier to handle.
: … I wish Father could come. He hasss replied back to the invitation I sent with a ‘nay,’ claiming that he “can’t be bother to trapissse around the whole earth for a party when his life’s in danger.” To think he’d be concerned about a rumour - at his age! - ridiculous!
: I wasn’t sssure myself when his reply came back - but Maeve filled me in. She knowsss more gossip than I do. Apparently, there hasss been talk of a future attempt on the Ard Rí’s life. The instigator of thisss attack is unknown, but it is believed to be someone clossse to him…
: I will have to let the people know, my father isss quite… stubborn. He will need to be convinced of the ‘mons’ trustworthiness before he’ll allow them to fight for him. Of course, actually protecting him from an assassin will do the trick.
: Hopefully this is simply rumour alone and there won’t be any assassin that your father would need be protecting from. Nevertheless, if you have any knowledge or advice you could give those who choose to escort him, then by all means, please share. My citizens are the most upstanding and trustworthy and I promise no harm would come to your father with them guarding him.
: Oh, I know of your subjects’ honor and bravery; I have ssseen enough of that over the past monthsss. I will tell them all about the Ard Rí and how they can escort him ssafely… I guesss it is time to locate Gaius, huh?
: Let him know of the behests you wish for him to make public and ask him to call the harolds to let the citizens know you’ll be addressing them formally, you can explain everything about your father’s escort there.
The golden snake moves closer, pecking a light kiss on Alaric’s cheek before leaving the room. Alaric himself went for the desk, picking up the quill his fiancée left behind… not noticing the cloaked Greninja stuck to the side of the castle wall outside, just beside the study’s window.
: Hello, everyone! It isss quite a pleasure to addresss you after being in the castle for ssso long. And I do apologize in advance for my lisssp; I will make sure that what I ssay here will be transsscribed by my handmaiden and posted throughout the capital.
: Yesss, I know that is very clossse to now, and there isss much to do, but I have ssseen the way you Aetheriansss work, and I believe that we will have no trouble making thisss wedding a grand successss! There will be a number of behestsss for you to complete, all of which are given out by membersss of the castle staff. I spoke to each one of them, telling them exactly what I want, and they will relay the detailsss to you in their job descriptionsss.
: If you are not aware, my father, Ness Mac Conchobar, is the Ard R,í or “High King,” of Ulster, my homeland. He isss… well, perhapsss the best way to describe him is “headstrong.” A wise ruler, in his own right, but old age hasss not made him kind. Because of thisss, there has been talks of betrayal on the wind: rumours, most like, and he does not wish to take chancesss… but I want to see my father on my wedding day and have him walk me down the aisle.
: That is where you come in. I would like you to essscort my father from his fortressss in Ulster to Aether. You will need to go to Ulster to “collect” him; it isss an eight hour horseback journey from Aether, and he is an early riser, so he will want to leave Ulster at dawn. I will send a letter to him ahead of time, so he isss aware of your arrival and doesn’t have you shot by archersss on sight.
: I know thisss is quite a task I am asking of you. Dangerous, even, if these talksss of assassinsss bears fruit… but it would mean a great deal for me to have the Ard Rí at what will be the happiest day of my life.
Tara waves goodbye to the crowd then moves back into the castle at the fanfare of the heralds… who are immediately shushed by a Pancham as she runs to address the crowd.
: “What coul’ go wrong,” she says? Bah! Invitin’ danger, she is! ‘Ello, everyone, if ya haven’t met me yet, I’m Maeve Nic Fitzgerald, Tara’s handmaiden. I’m th’ one she’s havin’ transcribe her talk later - but there’s somethin’ else ya need to know - the identity of the killers!
: I have it from a reliable source tha’ the one tryin’ to off the Ard Rí is none other than Lord Bran Mac Genann, Tara’s cousin! He’s the ruler of one of Ulster’s fiefdoms - his uncle practically gave it to ‘im! - a real powerful Garchomp of unique colours - and he wants more!
: My source tells me Bran will make his move som’where along the path between Ulster and Aether. They said Bran’s planned for it to happen between two hills tha’ are well-covered with trees and hard to navigate through, and tha’ he’ll have his own personal duo of assassins go for Ness themselves, but that’s all they know.
Maeve walks away, trudging back into the castle, and the crowd starts to disperse. But their paths are blocked by a series of impromptu stone walls, suddenly pulled up from the ground as if someone had yanked them out of the ground! In fact, someone HAD: a cloaked Greninja, dropping down from atop one of the walls to greet the crowd.
: Yes, that’s right - I, Scatháth, am one of the assassins who will be taking the Ard Rí’s life. Before you call the guards to arrest me, listen to my words; some of you might find what I have to say interesting.
: Ness deserves to die. He is old, cruel, and unjust, waging endless wars over unneeded territory, only to keep his wartime coffers from going dry. His soldiers are untrained in the way of battle - merely farmers with pitchforks - and as such, they are sent to the slaughter like so many sheep. And Ness doesn’t care! He would simply keep going with this trend the second Tara is married to Alaric; retirement would bore him, and it would only be a matter of time before he went back to war. Lord Bran wants only to stop Ness from his tyranny before he can take advantage of his daughter’s new union… just as he has been taking advantage of Tara for her entire life.
Escort the Ard Rí - Ness Mac Conchobar, Tara’s father - to the wedding! You will need to travel from Ulster to Aether, an eight-hour horseback journey, so plan accordingly. Along the way, you will have to defend the carriage procession from assassins and soldiers owned by one of Ulster’s fiefdoms - and don’t forget to bring back the assassins, and their employer, alive!
You can allow the assassination attempt to go on unchecked, thus killing Ness! Either accompany Ness’ caravan and turn your back on him, or meet up with the assassins at the rendezvous point and work alongside them. You will have to face Ness himself - not to mention Tara when you return to Aether - so choose wisely.
Notes about Both Sides of the Mission:
This is the first majority rules mission! The admins will keep track of which side of the mission each member completes; whichever side has the most members becomes canon to the story. Fair warning: the story will change dramatically depending on which side you choose - a S.NPC’s life is at stake! - and certain S.NPCs will act quite differently based upon the events of this mission.
Because this is a difficult choice, your OC will need to think carefully about which side of the mission to do. According to Scatháth, Ness needs to die… and perhaps she is right, as he truly is a tyrannical ruler who is unfair to his people. But he is Tara’s father, and due to her soon-to-be married status, Ness’ lands would fall to Alaric as soon as the vows are exchanged. The old snake would retire happily to his riches, and he would only be called upon to arrange meetings between Alaric and the Lords of Ulster once every season. So perhaps Bran’s reasoning behind killing Ness has less to do with the old snake and more to do with the new one…
The capital of Ulster is built around a hill, with the villagers’ homes and fields at the foot of the hill and Ness’ fortress/castle at the peak. The fortress, a massive structure of stone and mortar, descends into the hill itself, with cavernous tunnels and rooms. At the lowest point is the Druids’ altar to Danu - but you will unlikely see that since the druids like their solitude.
As you enter the fortress to tell Ness of your arrival, you will pass the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny, in the foyer; from there, the rest of the fortress spirals outward in a circular pattern, with Ness’ throne room just one room away from the stone.
Ness’ caravan includes five carriages, all pulled by Rapidash. The first and last wagons are full of soldiers from Ulster; they are outfitted with swords, long shields, and archers, and they can be called upon to help in case of an attack (but they aren’t very trained, so they likely will not be much help). The second and fourth wagons have all of the wedding gifts for the lucky couple, including uncut gems, furs, silks, and weapons. The middle carriage is Ness’ own carriage where he will be staying until the attack occurs; once it starts, he will come out and fight, so keep close to him in order to protect him (see his app for more details).
The path from Ulster and Aether runs through many valleys and crosses a large river, but the most likely area for an attack is in-between two large hills about two hours away from Aether. Trees cover the hills, perfect for camouflage, and the path cutting through the hills is a “blind corner” for the caravan, so there will be no way for the drivers to see what is on the other side of the hills.
Should you desire to keep Ness safe… Lord Bran Mac Genann, Tara’s cousin, is a Shiny Garchomp of formidable power and charisma. He will signal the beginning of the attack on the caravan by Mega-Evolving (with the help of the Garchompite in his sword), but he will not fight Ness unless his sister assassins are beaten first… and if he does, it will not be an easy battle to face, as he has strong moves at his disposal. He also has the Sword of Nuada: a mystical golden blade that is said to spit fire and lightning with each strike.
Needless to say, Bran cannot truly be stopped physically (unless you have a mystical weapon of your own). Maybe there is a way to trick him with his own power? Or perhaps he can be talked out of murdering his uncle? The love for his cousin Tara could be the key… No matter the case, be sure to bring him back to Aether in one piece, as Tara will want to have a word with him.
The sister assassins - Scatháth and Aoife - are a Greninja and Dragalge respectively, bred by Bran to be ruthless killers. Scatháth is the more passionate and furious of the two, likely to be in your face during the battle, and Aoife is calmer and strategic, preferring to hide and take out Ness from afar. These ladies will not give up without a fight, and they will go straight for Ness’ carriage when the battle begins. You will need to defeat them soundly if you want to bring them back to Aether without a struggle.
Should you desire to side with Bran… Ness will eventually come out and fight, allowing the other members to take on the assassins while he comes for you and his nephew Bran. He may be old, but he is still a tough fighter; if you don’t take him seriously, it will not end well for you. Take him on by yourself if you want, or you can distract him so the sister assassins’ can land the final blow. Either way, you may have signed your own arrest warrant back in Aether (or worse!)
Escaping your fellow Aetherians could prove difficult after Ness is dead - good thing you have Bran, Scatháth and Aoife to watch your back! They will gladly keep the soldiers at bay while you get away, and thanks to Bran’s ally, Chulainn, a Talonflame who is Lord of the southern fiefdom of Ulster where the attack takes place, you will not be stopped throughout the lands of Ulster… It may be a different story once you’ve crossed the border to Alaric’s lands.
Rewards will be given, depending on which side of the mission you complete. You will get a badge from Tara if you keep her father safe, and a badge from Bran’s fiefdom of Emain if you decide to help the assassins.