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Cliopher’s POV on the Return of Fitzroy Angursell

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Well first of all, after they waved his Radiancy off they all went back to Cliopher’s chambers and had a drink.

The next day felt almost normal to Cliopher.  After all, it’s not as if he always saw his Radiancy every day, especially lately as his Radiancy retreated from the daily routines of government in favor of preparing the world’s magic for his departure.  And those precious evening visits had always been the exception, not the norm, so there was really no reason, in the moments when he stopped working, for the entire palace to feel so quiet and empty.

In reaction, I think Cliopher threw himself into his work with even more dedication than normal.  And there was plenty of work for him to do, what with holding the entire world of Zunidh in stewardship for his lord’s return.  But that’s probably why, the morning after his Radiancy left, Cliopher was one of the first people in the palace to hear about the burning of the Solamen Fens.

The first report was brief and had very little information beyond the fact of the fire.  There were no casualties reported and no major ecological or property damage, so normally Cliopher wouldn’t be involved any further.  But something about it caught his attention.  Perhaps the recollection of his Radiancy explaining his antipathy for sailing by saying that his magic is naturally attuned to fire.  Perhaps the consideration that the Fens are about a day’s travel from the palace, especially if the traveler in question is inexperienced, or taking an unconventional route to avoid detection.  Regardless of the reason, Cliopher asked to be sent the updated reports on the fire.

The routine reporting on a simple natural phenomenon quickly turned into a rather inconclusive arson investigation when three men returned unharmed from the center of the burning.  They were pretty close-mouthed with the authorities, but said they’d met a strange man in the Fens that night.  It had been dark, and the man had been covered in mud from a fall into the Fens, so the description they gave was rather unspecific, but there was nothing in the description to prevent it from being his Radiancy.  And they said the stranger set the Fens alight by magic and then disappeared inexplicably before the morning.  Which was just the sort of mystery Cliopher thought the inner man behind his Radiancy’s serene mask would enjoy.

I don’t think Cliopher heard anything about Fitzroy’s adventure at the Imperial Necropolis.  Certainly I imagine that Gus told everyone he met the entire story on his next trip to the pub (and I bet it earned him a couple of free drinks), but I think it just became yet another of the many rumors circulating about the Red Company.  Jullanar of the Sea rescued the Red Company from the Wizard of the Labyrinth, Sardeet Avramapul gave birth to a god, and Fitzroy Angursell once broke out of the tomb of Yr the Conqueror.  Nobody ever thought to relay this newest story of the last Terror of Astandalas to the higher levels of government, and so Cliopher didn’t hear about it until much, much later.

Now Shorty and Gus, when they eventually compared notes upon the return of Gus’s bike, might have put more of the story together.  Or maybe not.  I think by that point they were both aware that they were living on the periphery of a legend, and regardless of who exactly the main character was – Fitzroy Angursell of the Red Company, the ghost of Yr the Conqueror, or the trickster god Crow – it was probably best not to ask too many questions.

It was some weeks before the investigation into the burning of the Fens turned up anything else.  This was deliberate on the part of Captain Audmon.  I see her as incredibly loyal and sincere in her love for the Red Company and Fitzroy Angursell, and I don’t think she would willingly betray him.  But on the other hand, it’s clear that she loves her job flying the sky ship and I think she also takes her oaths of office very seriously.  Falsifying a report is not something she would do lightly, and it’s not something that Fitzroy asked of her; indeed, see how careful they both were about plausible deniability.  So I expect that she simply wrote that they picked up a traveler in the Solamen Fens and that he departed the ship before they reached Boloyo City, and submitted the report secure in the knowledge that most likely no-one else would read it before Fitzroy was well away.  And she was right.  It was several weeks later when the Post Service sky ship coordinator read that particular report and pure luck that they managed to connect Captain Audmon‘s passenger to the stranger involved in the Solamen Fens arson case.  By that point, Captain Audmon was able to plausibly claim some fuzziness of recollection and was rather unhelpful to the investigation.  But Cliopher did receive the report and privately surmised that his Radiancy had travelled with the sky forest towards Mount Ousanadh.

I wish I could contrive a reason for Cliopher to meet post officer Aelian.  I think they would get along very well.  Cliopher would respect Aelian‘s insight and experience of the world, while Aelian would be so honored to meet the person responsible for the annual stipend.  And they would each have a commonality of experience in being completely bowled over by the real and human presence of the Last Emperor of Astandalas, the Sun-on-Earth, Artorin Damara.  And oh!  What does Aelian suspect of the full truth?  What does Cliopher know, at the point in time when they meet?  But I just don’t see it happening.  Even if Cliopher did manage to trace His Radiancy’s journey with the sky forest so precisely as to land on Marilda and Daro’s village, I think his sense of discretion would have prevented him from actually sending anyone to the village to investigate further.  Such a pity.  Well, perhaps he does eventually meet Aelian at some far-future point when Masseo returns to visit Journeywoman Kenna and his other friends among the master crafters of the village.

I’m quite sure that Cliopher knows the locations of the passages between the worlds.  Seeing his Radiancy travelling in the direction of a passageway to Alinor – a step closer to Stoneybridge and the residence of Domina Brown – I think Cliopher was quite pleased for his lord.  As a result, he began asking for a bit more detail on current events in Alinor.  (The current events in Alinor were fascinating.  The Lady Jessamine’s son and heir reappearing after almost a decade.  A revolt in Orio City.  Something to do with a unicorn?)

News of the appearance (and Imperial pardon) of Fitzroy Angursell in the small sleepy town of Ragnor Bella of course spread like wildfire.  Jullanar of the Sea posing as an ordinary bookseller!  Fitzroy Angursell, alive and claiming that he’d advised the Last Emperor of Astandalas!  (Mrs. Etaris getting divorced!)  The first thing everyone present did was find someone to share the story with.  Of course it spread.  But it also spread much, much too fast for any kind of accuracy.  Between the incredible unlikelihood of the actual events, the fully justified skepticism on the part of anyone who wasn’t present, and the unreliable nature of time, travel, and the flow of information between Alinor and Zunidh, the story was rather mangled by the time it reached Cliopher.  He heard that the entire Red Company appeared in front of the King of Lind just in time to rescue Jullanar of the Sea from imprisonment.  He heard that Fitzroy Angursell in the form of a dragon had been murdered in south Fiellan.  He heard that in Ghilousette someone had found an authentic Imperial writ pardoning Fitzroy Angursell and the Red Company for all crimes committed in the days of the Empire.  All obviously pure nonsense.  And while rather suggestive of the sort of chaos that Cliopher felt his Radiancy might delight in, there was nothing in the stories that made their way to Zunidh to definitively indicate the presence of either Pali Avramapul or a mysterious dark-skinned man.

Given enough time, I think Cliopher could have unpicked some of the tangled threads of gossip and gotten to, if perhaps not the full truth, at least a reasonable level of confidence that his Radiancy had been seen in south Fiellan.  Or perhaps that Fitzroy Angursell had been seen in south Fiellan.  I’m not sure what conclusion he’d come to.  But that’s about when he received several urgently posted letters from the scholar of Antique Shaian at the university in Mosgul.  As a distraction, the sudden need to establish the Free City of Mae Irión as a self-governing province was very effective.

And that probably kept Cliopher quite busy, at least until he began to receive further word of Fitzroy’s adventures, as detailed in . . . The Redoubtable Pali Avramapul.