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Per Multiversum
Chapter 3 — The Dowager Queen
The queen spoke. "I have summoned you to one of the robing rooms, because the words that we shall speak together should not be heard in public. The War Wizards have told me of their conversation with you, and while the matter does concern Cormyr, I am more concerned about the other angle of things.

   "I knew Yunoko. To be more frank with you than wisdom says I probably should be, I was her 'handler', her superior, in the Harpers. I did not know her especially well, but we were close in age, and I respected her and her work. We played chess together once. I won the match, but I had to struggle to do so; she made me think."

   Hakam responded. "We were troubled to learn of her death and the manner of it. We express our condolences to you as her friend."

   "Thank you," said the queen. Then she asked, "How were you yourselves acquainted with Yunoko? The humans among you, at least, seem much too young to have known her in person."

   "We did not know her personally," said Hakam, "but Szordrin here was the ward of her widower."

   Szordrin continued, "Just as your disciple Yunoko passed away unexpectedly, so too did my master also, and I believe now that this is all linked to what Yunoko had discovered was happening in Wa. We are here to discover what befell them both and possibly avenge their deaths."

   The queen nodded. "My War Wizards did inform me of your findings, but would you present the same evidence to me to read?"

   They handed over Yunoko's letters, which Filfaeril read carefully.

   "I remember all of this, yes," she said. "Yunoko put her life in danger to protect a woman that she had only just met, who had come to my husband seeking asylum. Yunoko continued to dig up more and more information about historical matters in Wa. She never was able to solve the mystery and all of its details. She believed that a too-thorough investigation would garner suspicion and put herself at risk, so she bided her time and observed and investigated carefully, trying to learn what she could. Alas, I suspect that she had not been careful enough."

   Hakam said, "We believe that our companion Szordrin here may be a descendant of the woman Yunoko aided."

   Filfaeril seemed fascinated by this information but had nothing to add to it. "I see now why this matter is so important to you." She handed back the letters and then began to provide more information about Yunoko's past. "Yunoko joined the Harpers in the Year of the Marching Moon, the year after I became queen. She had been educated here in Cormyr and must have been noticed by one of the Harpers who worked as a professor at her school. She was assigned to me. The Harpers had few agents in the lands of Kara-Tur, and we thought it wise to take advantage of the fact that she could easily access that part of the world through her father's ministry. Yunoko did not at first have a particular mission from the Harpers; her role was initially that of an observer in a part of the world where we were otherwise blind. In many ways, she acted and made decisions on her own."

   "We only know what is reported in these letters," said Hakam, "and few details about the actual incident of her death, which we know only second-hand from Szordrin's late master. We do not even know where her death occurred or when. We of course suspect that it was this rakshasa mentioned in the letters who killed her. Are the facts that you know about her death consistent with this?"

   "You believe that the rakshasa she mentioned came after her?" the queen queried.

   "Beyond the letters, we also found recent evidence that a rakshasa was in pursuit of Szordrin's master, Onran, and likely Szordrin himself in one of Onran's homes — tiger-like claws and prints with the thumbs in the wrong places."

   "All that I know about her death comes from an official letter that we received from Wa," said Filfaeril, "stating that they regretted to inform us that our ambassador had been killed. At the time, Wa had already expelled all foreigners from their nation. When she died, the only persons permitted to work at the embassy in Uwaji were those of Wanese birth or their spouses. Thus, we did not have many Cormyreans there who could speak more to the circumstances.

   "However, since I knew that I would be speaking with you, in preparation for our meeting, I have summoned a man named Malark Dauntinghorn. He was assistant to Yunoko and took her role upon himself upon her death. Lord Dauntinghorn served Cormyr for over three decades until he was expelled from the country upon my late husband's death three years ago. Mind that you do not make any mention of the Harpers when he joins us; speak only of Yunoko's diplomatic role and her death. I shall not call him in until we have finished discussing what we will as far as the Harper's role in this, but he may know more about the specifics of her death."

   Solisar asked, "Your highness has stated that Yunoko had been collecting evidence, such as about the woman and her situation. Is this evidence to which we might have access?"

   "As for evidence of rakshasa activity, she kept any physical evidence hidden, presumably in Wa, or else simply made mental note of what she found. She believed that a conspiracy went deep into Wanese history. As for the woman, it was Khelben who arranged for a spelljammer to take the woman and her son to safety somewhere off-world, but only Onran and Yunoko knew where the location was."

   "You knew Onran?" asked Szordrin.

   "I remind you that I did not know Yunoko very well; I was technically her superior, but she was very independent in her work. I knew that she was married to a man named Onran whom she met in Wa. Her wedding was actually held in this very court. I did not attend her wedding, though I would have liked to have. My role in the Harpers was greatly secret at that time; even my husband was unaware. It would have been unusual for the nation's queen to attend the wedding of an ambassador to a country most thought only a legend, a sailor's tale."

   "Do you know where Yunoko grew up," asked Szordrin, "and where her surviving family might be?"

   "I know that her mother was named Tsuki, and she became the Minister of Spelljamming in Wa about the same time that Yunoko replaced her father as ambassador."

   "So, Yunoko was born and raised in Wa?"

   "Yes, until she was old enough to attend school. Her father sent her to a boarding school here in Cormyr, where she received her training."

   "Do you know what came of her mother?" asked Hakam.

   "That is all that I know," said the queen, "but Lord Dauntinghorn may know more, as he was the ambassador after Yunoko and would have spent a good deal of time in Wa."

   "Do you know the captain of the spelljamming ship that took the mother and her child to safety?" asked Hakam.

   "No, though I am sure that Khelben would know. I could ask my War Wizards to send a magical message to him if it proves that important for you to know."

   "Does the queen know where Onran and Yunoko might have honeymooned?" asked Jayce.

   Filfaeril had no idea.

   "Did the Harpers ever pursue the rakshasa mentioned in Yunoko's letters?" asked Hakam. "Or did they ever pursue the potential illegitimacy of the imperial dynasty in Wa?"

   "Such were the pursuits of Yunoko herself," replied the queen. "Our plan at the time was, since we had an observer there, to have her continue watching and listening to see what she could learn, monitoring the situation. When Yunoko died and it was so hard to send further agents over there, the rumors were largely forgotten. Wa is so far away that it is not considered a severe threat to Cormyrean security, and the majority of Harpers do not feel that it is a threat to Faerûn as a whole. We were very interested in Yunoko's findings, but we simply did not have the manpower to continue her investigations."

   "Speaking of the great distance from here to Wa," the queen continued, "the gods may have favored your coming to us first rather than attempting to journey to Wa directly, if that is what you next intend to do. Wa is 6,000 miles from here. Traditionally, the only way to reach it is a long journey along the seemingly endless Golden Way, then through the empire of Shou Lung, and finally over the Celestial Sea to one of the few ports of Wa open to trade from Shou Lung.

   "Fortunately for you, five years before I was born, when Davin Blacksilver, Yunoko's father, became our first ambassador, after returning from a ten-year journey to the far east, Vangerdahast, the Court Wizard before Caladnei, of whom I am sure you have heard tell, created a large gate, a portal to the city of Uwaji in Wa. The portal connects Suzail to the embassy in the Wa capital. By such means did our ambassadors have direct access to the capital. Presumably, it still functions."

   "Did Wa know of this portal?" Hakam asked.

   "Yes, they know of it. It goes directly to the Cormyrean embassy, and since, technically, the embassy is Cormyrean property, presumably, if Wa respects that claim, the building and the portal should still be there."

   "Would your highness permit me to examine this portal?" asked Solisar.

   "Certainly," said Filfaeril. "I am further willing to write a letter to the shogun of Wa, requesting that you be allowed to enter Wa as official investigators for the Kingdom of Wa. I, of course, cannot promise that the letter will be acknowledged, but it is worth an attempt."

   Jayce expressed his sincere thanks to the queen for this offer.

   "Shall I summon Lord Dauntinghorn?" asked the queen.

   "We should discuss amongst ourselves what we shall ask him and tell him," said Solisar, "for we cannot give him Yunoko's letters to read." The adventurers discussed briefly what they intended to ask him. Hakam was most interested in the details of her death that the queen mother did not seem to know.

   When they were satisfied with what they would discuss, the queen turned to one of the knights. "Gorstag, you may retrieve Lord Dauntinghorn now."

   It only took a couple minutes for the former ambassador to arrive. He was a brown-haired, bearded man in his 50s, wearing a doublet and a matching half cape. He introduced himself and asked how he might be of service.

   "We are investigating the death of Yunoko Blacksilver," Hakam began, and then he shared information about their evidence of rakshasa involvement. "We received this information from letters that contain other sensitive information, so we cannot share with you the letters themselves or all their details, but we ask if you can share any details about the time, place, or manner of her death, which might aid us in tracking this fiend down."

   "Why do I not simply start at the beginning," said Lord Dauntinghorn. "One never knows what details may be key in such an unfortunate query into the truth.

   "I was very young when I began working for Yunoko, barely past the age of majority. My family made its wealth through shipping in the Inner Sea, but I longed to see the oceans beyond that, so I happily joined the small group of diplomats that Cormyr sent to Wa to work under Davin Blacksilver in the Year of the Leaping Dolphin. I was but an errand boy at first, but I picked up the Wanese language, Wa-an, and customs faster than most, and when Davin's daughter Yunoko became ambassador after him two years later in the Year of the Striking Falcon, I was also promoted to be her assistant."

   "Did her father die?" asked Hakam, "or did he retire?"

   "He retired," replied Lord Dauntinghorn, "but he died a few years after that."

   "Did he die of natural causes in Cormyr?"

   "He died of old age in Wa," replied Malark Dauntinghorn. "He lived in Wa with his wife after he retired.

   Malark continued with his story. "I was intimidated by Yunoko at first, because she was so intelligent and beautiful, with an exotic beauty unlike the women of Cormyr. I admit that I was rivvim for her at the time, but there was this other fellow who also was after her hand, an aasimar, certainly, and I did not stand a chance against him. He was the adopted son of two gnomes who were part of a diplomatic scandal in Wa in that first year that I was working there at the embassy. The man's name was Onran, and his 'father' had been arrested when the Wanese discovered that he had entered their nation on a flying vessel from the Sea of Night. Ambassador Davin fought hard for his release, rescuing him from possible execution.

   "I saw Onran several times at social events after that. At first, Yunoko seemed to resist his advances, perhaps because he was about my age and younger than she was. However, after a couple years, it was clear that he had won her over. He even began staying in one of the guest rooms at the embassy sometimes. In any case, Yunoko married the man, here in this very Court in the Year of the Snow Winds.

   "I was not in Wa when Yunoko died. None of us who were not of Wanese dual citizenship were at that time. The year after Yunoko's wedding, in the Year of the Highmantle, when Azoun IV took the throne, that was also the year that Matasuuri Nagahide became shogun. Nagahide was extremely untrusting of foreigners — he still is — and banned most of us from the country, even those working in the embassy. Only those who were of Wanese nationality or those who had married someone from Wa were permitted to stay. Now, he did reverse his decision in the Year of the Weeping Moon, three years later, but that was the year after Yunoko was murdered.

   "Thus, those of us working from here in Suzail at that time heard about it from Sakura, one of our Wanese diplomats who had married a Cormyte and still worked at the embassy in Uwaji. Sakura explained that Yunoko's body had been found garrotted in a forest somewhere between her home and the embassy. The government of Wa confirmed her death shortly afterward but gave fewer details. Since it was a year until we were all able to return to Wa again, when the shogun had a change of heart about foreigners, I do not think that her death was ever investigated further. She was buried in Wa, but there never was a funeral held among her friends at the embassy."

   "Was her own husband not permitted to see her body?" asked Szordrin.

   "I actually do not know," said the former ambassador. "I do not know what became of Onran. He was not a part of the Cormyrean contingent, so he was not sent back to Faerûn with the rest of us. I know not if he was expelled or no. I never saw the man after I was sent back."

   "Is the garrote a method of assassination common to Wa or to any groups operating in Wa?" asked Hakam.

   "Yes, actually," said Malark. "There are a couple unlawful organizations — organizations in the broad sense, not necessarily related to each other — operating in Wa. There are organized gangs known as yakuza who have been known to assassinate those hindering their businesses, but they are known more as businessmen than assassins, despite the picture that the daimyo and shogun paint. I find it unlikely that they would be the ones to murder her. A group more likely to use assassination would be the ninja, but like the yakuza, to call the ninja a single group is a mistake; there are many ninja 'families', just as there are many yakuza 'families'. The ninja are often hired by various noble parties to do their 'dirty work'. I do not know what Yunoko would have done to anger any ninja or 'dishonor' any nobles. To answer your question though, yes, the garrote is a common method of assassination in Wa."

   Lord Dauntinghorn continued, "I suspect that whoever murdered her must have known where she lived and when she traveled. She was targeted and killed between her home and the embassy.

   "I should note that, in my new role as ambassador, I did obtain a sworn oath from the shogun that the government of Wa had no part in her death. Nagahide is a hard man, but I do not believe that he would order the murder of a Wa-born woman unless she had done something truly dishonorable, and then he would have had her publicly executed, not secretly murdered in a forest."

   "The shogun's government does not include the emperor, correct?" asked Hakam.

   "That is true," replied Malark, "although the emperor is little more than a puppet to the shogun; he really has no separate government at all. The shogun's granddaughter is the favored concubine of the emperor. That is undoubtedly by design, so that he can monitor the activity of the emperor through his granddaughter. She is Nagahide's spy in the imperial house, and everyone knows it. (It is purely coincidence, but her name happens to be Yunoko as well, Kisha Yunoko.)"

   "What is Yunoko's family name on her mother's side?" asked Solisar.

   "Yunoko's mother's name was originally Hirayama Tsuki. She was the daughter of a famous astronomer in Wa named Hirayama Taiyo."

   "Does she have any other family? Siblings?"

   "I am not certain," said Malark, but then he corrected himself. "No, actually, I remember her once telling me that her mother almost died while giving birth to her. Yunoko's mother always told her that a Lady of Compassion, one of the Lesser Immortals, a woman in a white kimono, came and comforted her. Are you familiar with the religions of Kara-Tur?"

   They were not, so he explained. "There are a variety of religions in Wa and in the rest of Kara-Tur, but while the religions and nations hold to different philosophies and practices, most believe in the same pantheon, though they worship its members in different ways. The pantheon is known as the Celestial Bureaucracy, and it is headed by the Celestial Emperor. Beneath him are the Nine Immortals, followed by the Lesser Immortals and then a whole plethora of administrative spirits. Many of these spirits are dragons of the Spirit World, who rule over various aspects of nature or society.

   "Now, the Ladies of Compassion are servants of Kwan Ying, Goddess of Compassion, one of the Nine Immortals serving directly below the Celestial Emperor.

   "In any case, Yunoko's mother believed that her daughter's birth was a miracle from Kwan Ying. Whether true or not, she apparently never risked trying to have another child."

   "It sounds like a very lawful and hierarchical society," noted Hakam.

   "It certainly is," agreed Lord Dauntinghorn.

   "We obtained a list of emperors of Wa from one of the scribes here," said Szordrin, showing the paper upon which they had copied down the names. "Could you help us to understand when the seventh dynasty began?"

   "Wa has only had three imperial dynasties," Dauntinghorn replied, repeating what others had also told them. "The Goshukara have been the emperors for millennia."

   "How did you learn the language of Wa-an?" Solisar asked him. "Did you learn from any particular books?"

   "No, and I do not believe that any such books have ever been written. I learned the language from traveling there and having little option but to figure out how to communicate."

   "Is their number system at least similar to ours?" asked Szordrin.

   "I am not sure that I understand the question," admitted the former ambassador. Szordrin explained how they had traveled to a place where the number system was based on the number 8 instead of the number 10, and once he understood, Lord Dauntinghorn confirmed that Wa used a base-10 system.

   "They use a variety of writing systems in Wa," he then said. "It used to be one unique symbol per word, but now they use what is called a syllabary instead of an alphabet."

   "What about official documents from Wa that were translated into Chondathan?" tried Solisar. "Would any of these exist that I might study?"

   "I could probably acquire some for you, yes, with the queen mother's permission, of course."

   The queen gave her consent.

   The group then explained to Lord Dauntinghorn the information that they had learned about a rakshasa usurper. "We have two theories about her murder," said Hakam. "One, that she was murdered by this same rakshasa himself. Two, she was murdered by some other member of the emperor's line, trying to prevent the information of the usurpation coming out."

   "Whoa, this is out of my league now! This sounds like deep conspiracies and spy stories. I would not know how to confirm or reject either of these theories. It does seem very strange to me that a rakshasa would even be present in Wa. They are told in stories coming from a land far southwest of Wa known as Malantra but do not play into any Wanese tales that I know."

   "How do you anticipate that the emperor's line would react if confronted with this information?" asked Hakam.

   "Oh, the people of Wa would be outraged, to say nothing of the emperor's line itself! The citizens take great pride in the fact that they have such a continuous line of rulers, even if the current ruler has no true power. The emperor is a symbol of their nation to them. In their legends, the Spirit of Wa gave a sacred arrow to the first emperor Kochi of the Peach Tree. Supposedly, that arrow has been passed down through the generations and confirms that the gods have chosen the Wa emperors as the divine rulers of the islands. To learn that the gods' plans had been thwarted by some fiends — it would wreak havoc on the populace!"

   "Would you be able to trace out the lineage of the emperors decending from Kando?" asked Hakam.

   "No, I do not have the imperial line memorized. It means a lot to Wanese people, but the emperor rarely played into the politics between Cormyr and Wa. I can tell you that the list that you have is out of date. The current emperor is relatively young and is not named there."

   "What is your perception of how the shogun would react to learning about a potential imposter in the imperial line?" Hakam asked.

   "Honestly, I could not say," Malark replied. "The shogun is exceptionally legalistic, believing that the nation needs to become more isolated, because outside influences have dirtied the morals of the people. The man wants to ban tea houses! However, he cares about law and order but not spirituality. I do not know whether he would consider such news as favorable, because it lessens a superstitious belief in a divine figurehead in place of the rule of law, or terrible, because it implies an intrusion into Wa life from an outsider. He would want to know about it, in any case."

   "Is the emperor a figurehead only under the current shogun?" asked Szordin, "or has it been this way for a long time?"

   "It has been this way for at least a couple hundred years," said Lord Dauntinghorn. "There was a war among the daimyo of Wa. It was General Matasuuri Shogoro who unified all the daimyo into one nation. Before that, there had been the northern daimyo, the central daimyo, and the southern daimyo. He unified all three factions to become shogun of the entire country. At that point, the emperor ceased to have any true power."

   "Do the shoguns also follow a line of succession, then?" asked Szordrin. "Will this Nagahide's son become the next shogun?"

   "Yes," said Malark, "though the line is much shorter thus far, going back to Shogoro. Before the Matasuuri, there were other families who held the title of shogun, but that was when the emperor had power, and they were only his generals. Some historians claim that Shogoro had the shogun of the previous family assassinated (by ninja) so that he could rise to power, which triggered the start of the war that I mentioned. There is no official law written that says that the shogun's son must be the next shogun, however."

   "What else can you tell us about the legal system of Wa?" asked Hakam.

   "Especially under the current shogun, there are many 'morality' laws. For example, if you have any women in your group, they will need to walk behind the men. Men and women are not supposed to eat in the same rooms or sleep at the same inns, in the minds of the most strict adherents to such a morality. As here in Cormyr, you are expected to bow to the nobles. There are very particular rules about what colors and fabrics peasants are permitted to wear. A farmer can be executed for wearing the wrong-colored scarf, but such rules would not apply to you as foreigners. For the most part, the citizens accept these laws as a part of life ordained by the gods.

   "The daimyo set their own laws for their provinces, provided they do no conflict with any mandates of the shogun."

   "Are the daimyo like a governor or baron?" asked Hakam.

   "They are provincial rulers, but a province in Wa is generally a single city and its surrounding towns. They are not very large."

   "Is there a separate daimyo for the capital? or is it simply run directly by the shogun?"

   "It is run by the shogun, yes."

   "How would the people of Wa look upon the non-human creatures in our group?" Hakam asked.

   "They would generally think of your non-human members as monsters from the Spirit World," said Lord Dauntinghorn, "even your elves. You would not be welcome in many villages, but it would depend on the feelings of the local populace toward denizens of the Spirit Realm."

   "It is my hope that my letter sways the shogun to give you some sort of special protection and license to travel his lands, whatever the locals may feel," interjected Queen Filfaeril.

   "Do you think that Yunoko diseminated any of this information about the imposter to the shogun when she was ambassador?" Hakam asked.

   "If she did, she never let me know about it," said Malark. "This is the first that I have heard of such a rumor."

   "Have either you or the queen mother heard anything about a man named Samber?" asked Leokas.

   Neither of them had.

   They tried some of Samber's common anagrams and then described his appearance.

   Suddenly, the description clicked with Malark's memory. "Wait a minute, now that you describe the man, he may have been the best man at Yunoko's wedding! Onran's best man had red hair and green eyes, just as you describe. He stood out from all of the Cormytes and Wanese. I never learned his name, but perhaps it was he."
Session: 122nd Game Session - Monday, Oct 12 2020 from 9:00 PM to 12:00 AM
Viewable by: Public
Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail