Chronicles of the Graceful Knight

Chapter Fifteen: Murder on Merlin's Chariot

The first leg of the trip to Velisamil goes well for Lady Koralia and her entourage. After several days of travel, when the ship is only a few more days out from the Jumpgate to Velisamil, the captain of the ship, a Duke Avery Hawkwood, calls for a security lockdown of the ship.

After several hours, Duke Avery and his Charioteer pilot, one Captain Alaina Forrester, call Lady Koralia and her entourage into the bridge to speak with them.

It seems as though, a short time ago, a House Hawkwood Noble by the name of Marquessa Valaire Hawkwood was murdered on the ship. This is bad for a variety of reasons, but the most pressing is that the Marquessa was a messenger and operations efficiency expert for Duke Montgomery Hawkwood. Lady Koralia, of course, knows that “operations efficiency expert” usually means “spy.” Captain Forrester tells the group that one of the Engineers, a young Apprentice by the name of Jillian Hollister,

Lady Koralia, Kadan, and Enhenduanna go to speak with Apprentice Hollister, and immediately notices that she has a picture of herself and another girl, who looks identical to her, on her side table. After speaking with her for a time, they realize that she has a massive inferiority complex to her sister, who has risen several ranks in the Engineers ahead of her, despite being the same age, lineage, and enrolling in the Academy simultaneously. Jillian Hollister primarily works on the heating, cooling, and air purification systems on the ship, while her twin sister, Manni, is the second in command to the ship’s chief Engineer, Crafter Landon Barrister.

While they are speaking with Apprentice Hollister, Paxton goes to see the scene of the crime. He realizes fairly rapidly that the Marquessa was murdered right by the Sathra dampers, though he does not have the training, nor Church permissions, to even touch the Sathra dampers safely, much less determine their state.

After regrouping, and sharing information, the group goes to speak with the Captain and the pilot once more. They get a manifest of the entire crew and any passengers. It seems that the entire Charioteer and Engineer staff of the ship is, more or less, regular employees of Captain Forrester. The only new face is Jillian Hollister, who just transferred on. All of the security personnel are loyal Hawkwood men. The only passenger on ship, aside from the group themselves, is a young House Justinian Knight named Morgan Justinian.

They go to look at the body, and determine fairly readily that the woman was murdered with a splinter knife: a very painful way to die, but thankfully quick. Kadan uses his powers of Omen to try and divine what happened to the woman. He sees that she was in the engineering deck, and saw someone doing something he does not understand. She asked the person what they were doing, and was rewarded for her questions with an image of a blindingly bright humanoid form, and then sudden, searing pain. His vision leaves him disturbed. After consulting with Enhenduanna, they are able to determine that the blinding brilliance is typically indicative of a high concentration of occult activity, effectively creating “interference” in the vision.

After speaking to Crafter Barrister, and learning that he runs a tight ship and sticks to protocol, they decide to pay Lady Morgan a visit. She doesn’t seem to be inclined to speak to the group, and makes a number of backhanded comments about Lady Koralia and her loyalties. Paxton looks annoyed, and suddenly, Lady Koralia and his own apprentice pass out. Lady Morgan looks drowsy for a moment, then collapses. Enhenduanna, now confused and curious, reads Paxton’s Soul Mirror, and sees strange compressions throughout his body, primarily focused on his hands and his head. She does not understand the vision, but files it away for future study. Kadan demands to know what happened, suspecting Paxton’s involvement, but knowing he is not psychic. Paxton denies knowing anything about it, but proves to be a poor liar. Despite this, Kadan and Enhenduanna let the matter drop for the time being, and restrain Lady Morgan while they search her room.

They find an empty knife sheath under Lady Morgan’s mattress, which Paxton identifies as being the specially lubricated sheath for a splinter knife. With this evidence, they hastily have Duke Avery escort Lady Morgan to the brig.

A fruitless conversation with Manni Hollister later, they go back to speak with Crafter Barrister again. This time, they manage to convince him to be a little more forthcoming. He admits that he doesn’t doublecheck Manni’s work, and even that he has been a tad lazy, and has been allowing her to do the regular maintenance on the Sathra damper, despite Church, Guild, and Noble law saying that only the ranking Engineer may touch it.

Sensing that Jillian may be in danger, the group rushes to her room, to find that Manni has taken her twin sister hostage. After a brief standoff, with Jillian held at knife point, they manage to confirm that Manni is a Sathraist, and has disabled the Sathra dampers on the ship. She thinks that the entire crew will convert to her heresy if only they knew the beauty and ecstasy that is the Sathra experience. She even reveals that it doesn’t matter if they repair the Sathra dampers, because as a contingency plan, she has hidden Sathra Needles all over the ship. Paxton is able to quickly disable the woman with a shocker, and save Jillian’s life. However, Manni is hit a little hard by the electrical discharge, and will likely be in a coma for some time.

They send Manni to the brig to await execution for her treason, and Crafter Barrister works to repair the Sathra dampers, knowing that he will be in a great deal of trouble with the Guild for his negligence once they reach Velisamil.

After searching the rooms and bodies of Manni Hollister and Lady Morgan more thoroughly, they discover a few pieces of heretical tech: namely, a few Sathra simulators and Sathra needles. After conducting a thorough sweep of the ship, they feel confident that they discovered and destroyed all of the heretical devices that Manni Hollister had secreted around them.

They jump to Velisamil… and nobody whispers “Sathra.”

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