'Yes, My Lord of Candleford, our Queen will be most delighted to entertain your offer, once we are able to inform her. She has heard nothing but good of your... picturesque... realm, and desires that we open commerce between the two lands. The distance may be daunting, but the advantages easily outweigh the difficulties.'
Two Gentlemen of Palma
Carvell the Eloquent and his associate, Xaver the Rhetorical, appeared at the Royal Court on a stormy summer evening, clad in exotic robes and with a foreign lilt to their speech. With many an elegant flourish, they presented the Monarch's Senechal with ornately drawn documents, credentials proclaiming that they were Ambassadors for 'Her Most Intrepid Majesty, Queen of Palma and the Princess Royal of the Pashan March'.
Their entourage was nearly as impressive as the two ambassadors were. Bearing gifts of exotic furs and unheard-of jewels, each of the men's assistants was clad in richly-cut robes entirely covered with detailed embroidery and accented with couched golden thread.
Taking residence within one of the city's most elegant inns, the two ambassadors set to work, drafting trade agreements and discussing alliances with the various noblemen of the court, as they enjoy icy sherbet drinks.
Unfortunately, one issue does seem to crop up in the course of negotiations: Just where are they from? While they seem legitimate, nobody seems to have heard of this distant land they claim to be from, the 'Radiant Kingdom of Palma'
1.) The Realm of Ice
These two men are from another land, as they have stated, but they have withheld that their nation is reached only through a magical pathway hidden among the icy seas of the north. Dwellers in an arctic land covered entirely with ice and snow, many of the folk of their small realm live on a massive sheet of ice, many miles across. Their land was long hidden from the rest of the world, but their youthful queen has decided to change that policy, as her kingdom faces imminent devastation: The kingdom's ice shelf has begun to break loose.
The icy land in which these folk dwell is virtually uninhabitable to normal humanity, but the inhabitants are strangely adapted to life in frigid arctic conditions. The entourage's elegant robes are not just impressive; they conceal dozens of small bags of ice to help them remain cool. In a normal climate, they would soon be incapacitated from the heat.
2.) Peace at Any Price
The Radiant Kingdom of Palma is not actually mysterious at all. The ambassadors' queen recently usurped the throne of a small and isolated kingdom and declared that her tiny nation would no longer be known by the name associated with its previous rulers. Ravaged by civil war, her shaky regime's only hope is alliance with a power that can force the various other claimants to capitulate.
The ambassadors desperately hope to seal some sort of agreement with the local ruler before representatives of rival noble houses can appear to interfere.
3. Duty Never Dies
These two are not at all what they appear. Many centuries before, these diplomatic envoys traveled to bring their queen's tribute to distant lands, determined to make alliance. Their ship foundering in a summer storm, they were never seen again.
Despite this, their duty calls to them; every few hundred years, when the summer storms stir their watery graves, they rise from whatever reward awaited them and resume their mission. They have no idea that they are ghosts, or that their homeland is nothing more than a footnote in a history book. All that they know is that they have a duty to their queen and they are going to fulfill it. When the storm passes, they will again fade, returning to their watery rest.
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? Responses (8)
The visitors have arrived.
I like all three plot hooks: the first introduces a strange realm indeed, and number two has a delightful touch of irony ('What? They have renamed their whole kingdom?!'). The third one is just the unexpected plot twist you would love to use. They may not even return anymore, their ship being freed after centuries... with the ghosts vanishing soon after they have fulfiled their duty, the ship falling apart a little later.
The icy realm could be expanded upon. The more I think of it, the more tempted I am to describe that strange land: One where wood is a precious rarity and sea plants are shaped and dried to produce sheets of rigid material, tin, zinc and copper are mined and worked into bronze in distant mountains, and the people walk unclad through icy blasts of arctic wind.
For some reason, I was expecting one of the options to be them being demons of some sort bearing gifts that would cause death, panic, and chaos. I am quite pleased to not find that, and of the three the third option had a very strong poetic/tragic notion to it.
If they were demonic envoys, perhaps they would instead bring gifts that bring comfort, opulence, and decadence. The snares of Hell can be more subtle and cunning than people realize...
*imagines an icy realm*
yep, this is a good one. A touch above the expected. Nice twists!
My favorite of the TOT so far!
Still a bit more on option three: so let's say there have been treaties signed, the ghosts vanished, and after the initial shock people went back to their normal lives of court intrigue.
Until months later, a (living) diplomatic envoy arrives, claiming to be from the successor state, and wants to either declare all the treaties valid for his country that _is_ a direct descendant, or return all the precious gifts that have since circulated around the court as gifts of curiosity, as they rightfully belong to their country. Surprise!