|Nikolai, of House Rogarvia|
The wounded barbarian turn his head and spits - a gesture design more to suppress his vulgar response than to voice his disdain. Verik. Don't let him fool you. He hates me and his woman is my assassin? Tell him a real man would bring the knives himself.
He stares ahead at a point in space for uncomfortable seconds. They won't be rid of me so easily, Jemini. They think me uncivilized, but look at the tools they use so early their game of thrones. Here he touches the thin red line at his throat, healed by magic. I will be no less ruthless when I play their game, my friend. They will not have victory over me or over your town sny more than the trolls will. Mark me.
He turns to face Jemini, his lips tightening. His brown eyes brimming with resolve. He opens his lips slightl as if to speak again, then tightens again. He casts his gaze down at his calloused hands, washed but still pink from his own blood.
Jemini lays her hands upon the sides of the tied-up assassin's face, then turns to the guards. Everyone in the room except for the Founders exit single-file through the small door. The last guardsman shuts the door behind him with a loud click that echoes through the silent room. Jemini turns back to Esmerelda and channels healing magic of her gods - Iomedae, Sarenrae, and Irori - through Nikolai's would-be assassin. Esmerelda's eyes flutter open, and she immediately jerks to free herself without any success. Her eyes slowly examine everyone in the room, barely grazing over Nikolai, her intended target, before settling on Berrin. Her full lips quiver as tears well up in her eyes, but she quickly tamps down any emotions. "It seems that I'm caught. What are you going to do with me?"
Moving to stand between Berrin and his paramoour to make sure he has her full attention, Prefect Marshall Akiros at first stands grim and rigid, fully emboding the power and athority of his position [b"That is not for the General to determine, Esmerelda. You have committed a most henious crime, and your guilt is clear."[/b]
However, at that moment something seems to click in Akiros and he tilts his head slightly, almost as if listening to something. Nodding his head slightly, his demeanour changes, and, squatting down, so his milky blue eyes are on a level with the captives, he continues speaking, yet now in a much softer voice, one filled with compassion and genuine care
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (13) + 7 = 20
"While your crimes, and their punishment, are clear Esmerelda, we very much wish to hear your story. If you are truthful with us, about everything, I think you will find that your words fall on sympathetic ears. You wish to know what will be done with you Esmeralda? Well, at the moment, that is completely up to you. So consider your next words very carefully, for they shall do much to dertermine your fate. Tell us all, do not leave out anything, and I give you my word that your fate shall be merciful."
|Nikolai, of House Rogarvia|
before esmerelda is questioned....
The small fire in Nikolai's quarters threatens to retire to dying embers, but he still radiates with heat. He continues to speak with Jemini while cleaning the blood from his massive blade. They will bring every weapon to bear. They will buy your lands or attack your names. They will send assassins and dowries in the same carriages. They will plan both to murder me, and to inuherit my titles. Every legal, religious or military tool they have will be focused on eliminating me and annexing your lands. If you want to be free of Brevoy, or at least independent, you will have to play their games.
He takes several long strokes of his whetstone against his great blade, a few sparks fly to the ground and linger longer than it seems they should. I say this so you understand my mind. I chose not to kill her. I saw through the hate, though the voices bid me take her head. But I thiught if you, and I thought of the blood shed in this town already. And I thought of the struggle to come.[/]
He stands, walking across the tiny room and placing the sword on its wooden rack. From pommel to blade tip, the weapon seems to occupy the entire wall. He stares at it then turns to look at his paladin saviour.
[b]Do you think she can be turned?
Esmerelda doesn't spill her secrets so easily - not that anyone there believed it would be so easy. "Merciful, Akiros? I'm not going to hand away my only leverage here on the hopes on some ill-defined mercy. Who's to say that you wouldn't kill me and call it mercy? Or that I'll languish in one of your cells like Kressle, waiting for you to find the right time to bear witness? No, I'll need something more unambiguous than that." Her voice no longer has the sultry, intoxicating seductiveness in it, but rather a pragmatic edge. She shakes her head to brush away the dark hair from her beautiful face.
"What has he got on you Emma?" Berrin interjects into Akiros's questioning, he knows he should remain silent but he just can't. Berrin felt betrayed, his worst enemy had been in his bed. Even worse he had entertained notions of settling down with him, having his children. He knew it wasn't so but Berrin had a difficult time seperating Emma from Alexey.
"You were seen with him, you didn't seem happy about it but you were seen together with Alexey."
"Please Emma." Berrin pleads. "Make me understand, why would you do this?"
|Verik of Abadar|
As Berrin speaks to her, Verik takes an impulsive step forward and leans in to urgently whisper in the ear of Akiros. "An obvious point perhaps but she did not start this ruse to murder Nikolai...as you well know before last winter she arrived with other refugees during the time of the failed resurrection at Stagfall, who could have ever guessed of Nikolai's return? This blurting of Kressle is too strange to be happenstance, and makes me think she had some other purpose well before assassination. Perhaps she has more than one master."
Verik takes a step back then, listening intently to their next words.
|Jemini of Lebeda|
Jemini's hands, from the healing she channeled into the would-be assassin, still remain close to Esmerelda's cheeks before departing them. "I'm no stranger to the way of the Houses. While an attempted murder is a heinous crime, there is more to any gambit in this game." She looks seriously at Esmerelda, "I seriously doubt that you're assassination attempt sprang forth from your own mind. If it eases your thoughts: a tool that is deemed dangerous may be sheathed or blunted to prevent more bloodshed, but the hand that wielded that tool cannot go unpunished."
Diplomacy 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (1) + 15 = 16
Esmeralda - Emma now only to Berrin - looks up from her seat, defiance in her eyes. "It wasn't personal." It isn't clear if she is talking to Nikolai or to Berrin. "I'm normally fairly discrete as to my employers, but if there is leniency - true leniency, sworn before Abadar, in which I walk out the gates of the city safely - I could be convinced to tell you what I know. It's the only way to get me to speak. I know all there is to know about truth-telling magic, and how to avoid answering. I know that you won't torture me, considering your collective values and my condition."
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (1) + 9 = 10
He hadn't thought this would be easy, most assassins were trained to be canny and this one had easily seen through him, for he had indeed been thinking that a quick death would be merciful. And more, he could not seem to get a proper read on the woman at all.
Nodding his acknowledgement of Verrik's words, Akiros smiles sadly as he says "Surely you can't possibly think that you shall be able to simply walk away, unscathed and unpunished after an assassination attempt Esmeralda? Why even if we should want such a thing, you have been observed and identified by several of the guardsmen. Should we simply let you go, we'd likely have a riot on our hands. I know you are more intelligent than that. So you know that we hold all the cards here. It is your life that is on the line, not ours. Yes, you may possess some information we want, but we hold your life in our hands. So, let us build trust with something simple. You are obviously much more than you have worked hard to appear Esmerelda, so, let's start at the beginning. Why did you first come to Newhaven? What did you hope to accomplish here? Or what was your mission, if you had one?"
Intimidate (to antagonize Akiros) 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (20) + 2 = 22
Esmerelda drives forward with her point, not giving an inch to Akiros. "You do hold my life, but you also hold my child's life in your hands." She flexes in the chair, obvious that she is trying to touch her stomach in a maternal fashion, but the bindings are too tight. "I'm sure that you don't want the blood of another innocent on your hands." Her voice, with its thick Varisian accent, drips with contempt for him. She pointedly looks away from Berrin after nonchalantly delivering the shocking news that she is pregnant - presumably with his child.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 9 - 2 ⇒ (10) + 9 - 2 = 17
Intimidate on Esmerelda: 1d20 + 8 - 2 ⇒ (6) + 8 - 2 = 12
With a thrust as smooth and precise as any she had ever made with a blade, Esmerelda drives her barbed words deep into her target's heart. Taking a step back as if he had truly been physically struck, Akiros face immediately purples with rage and, taking two quick steps forward he raises his hand as if to strike her powerfully "HOW DARE YOU!"
Yet at the very last moment before his hand begins it's forceful descent, as a stark silence crashes against the room, the Prefect Marshall realizes what he was about to do, to strike a woman, a defenceless woman, a defenceless woman who was possibly pregnant. As the horror and shame that with but a few words she could so unwind him, especially in a part of himself he had truly felt healed, Akiros clutches his raised hand to himself and spins around, stumbling to a window and taking deep breaths.
|Verik of Abadar|
Verik's Sense Motive w/ STH vs DC25: 1d20 + 11 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 11 + 2 = 17
Verik's Sense Motive w/ STH vs DC20: 1d20 + 11 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 11 + 2 = 20
With a slight shaking of his head, he steps forward to redirect the conversation back to Esmerelda, his face in a frown and his brow furrowed in furious thought. Blast blast blast! Does she have information of significance to think she can barter her release and flout the Law? She must be lying or at least padding the truth. The child though...that seems true...she has his child...or a child in her womb. Too tragic now, but she seems to truly care for Berrin...can it be used to rebound upon her?
Verik holds up a hand as if correcting a clerk. "Leniency may be granted to those guilty of crimes but which have mitigating circumstances. It is not a horse trade, Esmerelda Ludovan, if that is even your name. You think you know what we are capable of, but I assure you Abadar's prosperous hand has hardened in these lands as of late. You pretend we have limitations and too much to lose and you have neither, but I know differently."
Speaking to the other Founders, he turns his back upon her and says grimly, "If the Prefect-Marshal charges her with the attempted murder of Nikolai Rogvaria, it is true she is accorded the Rights and Obligations of the Accused. But," Verik holds up a finger for emphasis, "if the Founders agree to declare her actions also that of High Treason, she shall be cast outside of the Law for as long as they deem necessary, the protections of the Law denied to her. Let her secrets be discovered by Taisper Stozs then, and you will know the complete truth from her soon enough."
Verik turns back to Esmerelda and says in an offhand manner, "Have you met my cousin Taisper, Esmerelda Ludovan? I think you would find a personal meeting to be most instructional."
|Nikolai, of House Rogarvia|
Enough posturing. Nikolai's interruption is almost a growl. It's me she attacked and anyone will threaten her life it will be me. No one else needs soil themselves with this business.
The hulk stands and steps toward Esmerelda, but slowly. When he finally towers over her, he hunches down and looks her in the eye. Women lie about their frailty to play men as fools. I don't believe you are with child and I care not. You spilled my blood, all that comes after is on your hands. You were sent here to kill me. You will either tell them all you know and accept my terms, or I will kill you and no one here can stop me. They are going to try me anyway. You forfeited the life of any child when you drew against me. You will submit and live, or you will continue to use words and die. Choose now.
Intimidate 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (4) + 9 = 13
Akiros can hear the sound of a sword re-entering it's scabbard as he catched his breath by the window, looking back he sees a stone faced Berrin staring at him coldly with his hand still clutching the hilt of his blade. The warning is obvious; Lay off, threats are one thing, but touching her another.
sence motive: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (12) - 1 = 11 *snikers* -1 to make a DC 20 *shakes head*
"Emma." Berrin pleads again, the strain in his voice real as he goes from a burning desire to protect her to wanting to cast her out of Newhaven and back again. "Please Emma. Don't do this."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
|Verik of Abadar|
Verik holds his tongue and stands there a moment, enduring the interruption and weighing its chances of success. He almost recoils backward as Nikolai moves in front of him and lowers to threaten Esmerelda, but stands his ground. Berrin's plea resonates with him but he brusquely tries to shut it out and orders his mind, looking for some advantage to yet turn this.
Nikolai's threats seem predictable to what the cleric feels Esmerelda is expecting, but tries to use it to his advantage with the right words and timing. He steps forward then and squats down next to Nikolai, forcing Esmerelda to look at the pair of them.
"Overstated perhaps, but he does have a point." Verik shrugs nonchalantly. "We could just as easily agree to High Treason and put you bound into a locked room with Nikolai here and have him finish what he started." Verik shakes his head to each side with a false sigh and says firmly, "Emma, I do not care what information you think you have, even if it be the signed confession of the would-be king of Surtova himself. I am not the effective slayer as Nikolai here, but do you honestly believe I would ever let you leave Sanctuary alive, placing my friend Berrin here in a state of daily anguish and torment in not knowing where you were or what you were up to, or the fear of you returning one day to cause him further distress? For this unborn child in your womb to be used against him as a weapon?"
Verik shakes his head. "No Emma, you will not leave Sanctuary alive, not for a long time at any rate, but life here is still an option for you, if you agree to all as Nikolai and Akiros have stated. It will be hard for you, and you will no longer be who you once were, and your penances will bring you much more shame and discomfort to your soul than the physical. But Emma," he gestures fervently and his voice becomes more urgent, "you will live if you cooperate here and now, and moreover at least have a chance with us to not be murdered and discarded by your employers for this botched failure. Perhaps with time, even one day this unborn child will look upon you with ungrudging love and call you mother, a future through your bloodline, and you will not die utterly alone, abandoned and ruined. There are no guarantees, but is that not worth to you even the slightest thought of redemption?"
Verik's Diplomacy w/ STH: 1d20 + 11 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 11 + 2 = 24
|Jemini of Lebeda|
Sense Motive 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (12) + 0 = 12
Sense Motive 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (13) + 0 = 13
Even with the ability to see the spirits, Jemini cannot ascertain if Emma carries within her the making of a tiny new spirit. But she has little reason to doubt - a lie of this nature would not buy more than a month or three. She looks to Berrin with a worried glance, Berrin's as calm as warrior of his mettle can be - but this situation stretches anybody beyond their breaking point. Mentally she prepares herself to put a calming hand on him if he threatened to be thrown by the circumstances.
"I'm not sure what you were thinking, Emma," Jemini's words carry a timbre of sadness, "I can only guess that you wanted to ensure your survival and that of your child - as I cannot imagine another reason. By claiming to be with child, Berrin's by Sarenrae's will, you surely understood that you were preparing yourself for detention in Sanctuary?" She speaks quietly, not quite a whisper, an urgency in her voice that probes deep into the heart, "You care for this child... yes? You wish to be a mother? For a legacy not steeped in blood?"
Diplomacy 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (17) + 15 = 32
Esmerlda slumps down, battered by the myriad threats, promises, and guilt from the assembled Founders. She speaks so quietly that only Jemini can hear her. "I do..." A look of fear flashes across her face before she replaces it with the mask of the devil-may-care temptress that seduced Berrin so many months back. "I won't take the offer of a life in captivity. I tried to kill the Stag Lord," she says his name with a contempt that is clearly not faked, "but it was no treason. First, his lineage remains unsettled, else he would be sitting on the throne of Brevoy. If he were, it would be treason against Brevoy, not Newhaven. I was here when you drafted the laws, listening through his ears." She doesn't have to say Berrin's name, and seems quite reluctant to do so. "You can have the child. I will accept imprisonment until the baby's birth, at which point I demand my freedom. He can raise his child while I will go my own way. Otherwise, you can accept that I will not speak a word of the forces arrayed against you. Forces that you cannot begin to suspect. This is just the beginning for Newhaven, and I hold the knowledge of those who plot against you. I make knowledge my greatest weapon. If you want that knowledge, you will ensure my freedom on the day of the child's birth."
Having finally recovered from the rattling given him by the sharp tongued, and minded assassin, Akiros returns Berrin's glare with his typical iron-faced look.
Stepping forward, his face a mask betraying nothing, he remains silent as the others speak. When Esmerelda makes what appears to be her final gambit, Akiros moves to take control of the situation once again. Very clearly not paying any attention to the bound woman, he speaks over her as if she isn't there.
Calling in the guards once again and instructing them to keep most careful watch over the prisoner, yet also giving strict orders not to harm her in any fashion, Akiros then says to the other Founders "I believe it is time for us to discuss this matter in private. And unless any of you have some reason to disagree, it is time for our prisoner to be taken to more secure facilities. For now though, I'd like to keep her identity a secret for as long as possible."
|Verik of Abadar|
Verik rises to his feet and straightens his attire with practiced fastidiousness, quickly glancing at the others and gauging their expressions. Finally to Akiros he nods and replies, "Of course Akiros, I quite agree. I suspect however that "as long as possible" may only hold until midday the way rumors spread from the Castle, but you have my full support with the Bank."
With that he exits the room, looking or listening for any signs of his cousin as he steps to where the hallways cross near the stairwell landing.
Berrin just stares dumbfounded at how easily Emma, Esmeralda, switches from defiance to helpless and to seductress and he just shakes his head at it all. She really had played him, and played him good too, he actually had thought he loved her. The realization seems to lessen the pain in his chest to a dull throb and he just crosses his arms and nods.
"The army stands ready marshal." he says to Akiros, "We are there if you need us my friend."
Turning to Esmeralda he says as they escort her out, "It was all just an act, wasn't it?" his voice is surprisingly calm and his question is voiced with genuine curiosity.
|Nikolai, of House Rogarvia|
Nikolai follows the Founders to their meeting. When he strides in, he doesn't bother to close the door before he begins speaking.
I don't have the words otgers have, nor do I care to waste time convincing you of my desires. But I say this. If this town executes me, it will be doing Brevoy's job for them. I say I forgive the wench and ask her what she knows. She can have her freedom, and if she holds any feelings for Berrin, she can stay if he allows.
He tosses a small bag of coins on the floor, their hefty clink audible as the Founders look on. Better yet, buy her services. If she gives you information, guarantee her safety and turn her loyalties with kindness. If she continues to be a threat, pay her a Berrin's whore and let her go.
Knowing they have their own agenda - knowing he is not one of them - he turns back to the doorway and steps through it. His gaze rises to Jemini before he closes the door behind him.
[ b]If I can forgive her, maybe the people of Newhaven can forgive me.[/b]
The assassin is set in her cell and given the basic comforts allowed a prisoner in her condition. She sits and thinks, her mind whirring with possibilities for escape, or bargaining, or...
She looks up at the sound of the guards leaving their posts, abandoning her alone in the holding cell, with no one else in sight or earshot. Emma is a wise enough operative to understand what is happening here. "Hey!" she calls. "Hey, guard! Hey! This water is filthy, you ass, hey! Come here!" She's trying to get a reaction, trying to see if anyone is around. She can't be alone, that would mean...
Please, Berrin, no...you can't do this... she thinks desperately.
Suddenly there is a shimmering before her, and a golden-haired, golden-eyed young man appears out of thin air as if teleported. He is standing just out of arms' reach, outside her cell. There is something about him that is both achingly familiar and yet completely anonymous, as if he looks like a lot of people she's seen before. He is clad in simple leathers and cloth, though Emma is observant enough to be able to tell he has armor and weapons concealed on his person. The newcomer smiles warmly.
"Hi." Says Taisper. "Wanna hear a joke?"
Okay so this is my real post.
Just as the door is closing, Taisper appears sort of out of nowhere, two guards in tow. "In here, Founder Stozs." One of them says. "Oh hey, okay...thanks, fellas, thanks. Sorry to bother you." the inquisitor responds deferentially. He brushes past Nikolai without a word or a glance and strolls carefully into the meeting room. "Hi everybody. I'm sorry I'm late. I was out of the city when I got the news. Real glad everyone's okay. Real glad." Taisper is wearing that silly disguise that he's taken to affecting of late, the one that just barely adjusts his features, and that all of you can easily see through.
The abadarian says nothing further, but quietly takes a seat, giving his cousin a significant glance as he does so.
|Verik of Abadar|
Verik sits at the table as the other Founders enter the secured meeting chamber, though he occasionally eyes the bag of coins on the floor with a frowning look of disapproval, which is generally not the reaction expected for a cleric of Abadar. At seeing Jemini conversing with Nikolai after his latest words, his frown deepens and he starts intently examining a silver medallion around his neck that is not the symbol of Abadar, but one he seems to wear more openly and frequently nowadays.
At his cousin's entrance he puts the medallion away underneath the hem of his shirt and straightens up in his chair, giving him a relieved smile and nod in greeting, followed by a longer than intended stare and a slighter second nod. Clearing his throat he abruptly turns to Akiros and says, "I suppose this is yours to lead once we are all gathered Akiros. I know you are well acquainted now with matters of Newhaven Law with respect to formal charges, but if you have need I can explain the more obscure...and untested...references of a declaration of treason and what that means should the Founders wish to employ its use." He says that last part somewhat distastefully, and it is clear that Verik is not entirely comfortable with that prospect, but does not shirk from it either.
Smiling slightly, knowing the Banker well enough to know that he would likely be bursting at the seems inside if he didn't get the chance to expound on some obscure aspect of his beloved Law, Akiros waves his arm in a 'the table is yours motion' and sits back a bit to listen.
He had marked the entrance of Inquisitor and had given the very briefest nods of recognition, void of any personal warmth or friendliness. Now, as he listened to Verik, he found his eyes drifting towards the Banker's cousin, his mind voicing the question 'So lad, is there still unfinished business between us? I know there are many secrets that you hold, and my guards whisper the most terrible things about you. I only hope your God and your Kin both can the...darkness...I sense in you at bay. You are a strange one, but, for now at least, I think you are sill on our side. Iomedae grant that it is, and continues to remain true.'
Akiros is staring rather intently at Taisper
His thoughts about the young Inquisitor do not seem to be entirely pleasant ones
As Berrin confronts Esmerelda while she is being handed over to the guards, she refuses to look him in the eye. When his biting words spill out of his lips, she simply looks down. Very, very quietly - so quietly that Berrin nearly misses it - she whispers, "Not all of it." With that, she is gone, led away to the small jail to be kept under lock and key. Akiros quickly manages to get the guards to stay vigilant, while no one is allowed to be alone with her except in the presence of at least two of the Founders. They settle into the barred and sealed Founder's Hall, minus Nikolai and plus Taisper, to decide what to do about this most recent development. Nikolai's advice - if anything can be deemed advice from the rightful heir to the throne and a man capable of physically besting most of them at once - that they turn her into an asset echoes through the room, as does Verik's citation of law.
|Verik of Abadar|
"Ahh. Well all right then, if we are fully assembled..." Verik rises from his seat and steps around the table looks around to make sure all are present and the door firmly closed before continuing, his hands reflexively grasping for papers that are not there for an impromptu council session, so he finally clasps his hands behind his back as he relates the "details" of the assassination attempt to the other Founders that were not present for the initial interrogation.
Relating most of what transpired as straightforward as he can manage, he nevertheless omits the part of Esmerelda's effect upon Akiros, as well as painting Berrin in the most stoic light possible. He finishes with his belief that Esmerelda is set with child, and relates her self-proclaimed terms and offers of knowledge to the threats against them, though insists that none of it has been adequately confirmed.
Going back to Nikolai's abrupt pronouncements yet still avoiding the bag of coins on the floor nearby, Verik attempts to sum up options into three general areas after a flustered sigh. "Esmerelda Ludovan is both right and wrong if we look to charge her with attempted murder of Nikolai...as the matter of his circumstances and heritage makes the matter a murky one. Yet it can be done, and she can be found guilty and sentenced, even to the penance of death though that is an extreme interpretation, with a sentence of lengthy imprisonment more common, and even a precedent for branding and banishment possible."
Verik holds up a second finger. "Yet, she is wrong about the matter of treason, as she admitted of her own free well that she knows and works with conspirators that harbor ill intent to Newhaven and its people. Regardless of the attempt on Nikolai's life, she deceived Berrin Myrdal and used that relationship to gain information, which undoubtedly was given to our enemies. Enemies which, by her own admission, plot and scheme against us. This is grounds for High Treason. Something we have never looked at before. Something that is beyond the normal course of the law."
He takes a shallow breath as if breathing something unpleasant, and then rushes into his next statement. "The Founders can all agree to declaring her for High Treason, for the greater interests of protecting the realm and keeping its people from undue harm. We all must agree to it, though I think the abstention of Tandlara is permissible in this case. If agreed, the rights, protections and obligations of the accused no longer apply...and she may be subject to...to...well any course of action that is necessary to determine the truth of these threats to Newhaven and its people can be employed. Anything. Including the extreme methods of interrogation and confession. Including death. Once agreed, she is cast outside the law. It becomes not about the law at that point! No records, no scribes, no public witnesses. It is about the survival of our realm and the civilization we have brought here. It is...a heavy burden. One that if overused or taken lightly leads to the kind of tyranny that fat swine Grigori always talks about. We would all have to agree on it."
Turning to move back to his place at the table, he holds up a third finger. "Finally we could do what you heard Nikolai Rogvaria stated. Make a deal. Turn her to our needs, or accept her terms as she described. The law then is moved aside for convenience and politics, but like a declaration of treason it could gain us the vital information we believe she possesses. If we believed her knowledge and her intent. To let her free though without consequences...what that would demonstrate as to our convictions..." Verik shakes his head and sits back down, his face a stony mask.
|Warden Zander Orlovsky|
Zander stood in the corner quietly still carrying his stag helm thinking on what more this strange day might hold. This was not his job. If he had tracked Ezma...the assassin down in the woods....an arrow's quick death would be easy enough. But now the city faces more trials, more accusations, more agitators to stir up trouble. Zander found himself almost ready to outright kill her when she boldly admitted to trying to kill Nikolai. But as the treats continued he found himself wavering and beginning to think on what was to be gained.
He silently followed the others to the council room, not eager for these negotiations...for the second time today he direly wished that Tandlara would quickly get better.
When Nikolai strides in and makes his suggestion, Zander nods in silent approval.
With Verik's summation concluded Zander finally has come to grips with his position. In steps from the corner and address Verik and the others. "Guilt or innocence. Law, no law. These matter little to me at this point. Nikolai stayed his hand, and now we have a chance to gain from that. I want her information, as do you others I surmise. If it proves reliable...we will want to release her without any questions asked. And she will be hunted by any co-conspiritors seeking to punish her. So how do we let her go? The answer is simple....we don't. She will die during childbirth...an unfortunate common enough occurrence. We free her with a new look, and new name, a new life...." He concentrates and allows his hold on the magic headband to ebb and and flow. He drops it entirely to reveal his fully scarred face, "What needs to be hidden.. and here the magic shifts to reveal the newcomer Zander in his perfection, ...can be remade...." suddenly the face shifts taking in characteristics of the numerous guards that have been around the founders today, before finally settling in on Zander's accustomed, slightly scarred, appearance, "Seems it can be a simple enough matter. We don't want her found. She doesn't want to be found. You, Virik have the magic in you to see this done.
Thinking himself done, Zander takes a deep breath. He then mutters ....But now please continue about the law on these matters................" Zander goes and resumes standing in the corner.
Berrin is still stinging from Emma's last whispered reply as he sits at the council table looking like he ate something sour.
"Nikolai is right." he says in a rasping voice, not believing the words are coming out of his mouth. "We need to know what she knows."
Staring at the table it appears like Berrin is talking to himself, musing aloud. "Buy her over. Let her stay hidden and give birth and then let her disappear. She's just a messenger, we want her master. Exposing her as an assassin will hurt us more than it will hurt anyone else, she's been hiding in my bed for the past months damn it. A viper at our very table. We need to clamp this down, control it. We need to summon everyone who knows the assassins identity and make sure they keep quiet and then we need to win.. her.. over." Berrin frowns as he finds himself unable to utter her name, still staring at the table.
|Jemini of Lebeda|
|Jemini of Lebeda|
After Emma is wholly escorted away, Jemini looks to the room at large. "What... shall we do now? It'll be half a year at least that she's going to stay under our jurisdiction, and even after that we have to worry for her life if she's released. I... think... that in time she may grow fond of the idea of being a mother."
Taisper doesn't look at Jemini, but nods in agreement. "Family is important," he says quietly. " and can be a transformative force." He then raises his head and looks at the ceiling, still not making eye contact with anyone. "Forgiveness...is not my specialty." he says carefully. "I will gladly bow to the wisdom of those council members who are possessed of an abundance of that virtue, for I know..." he pauses, seems to reconsider, and starts again. "...I...support allowing her to remain here. As you all no doubt realize, news of our mercy may reach certain ears. I say that as both a plaudit and a caution."
|Verik of Abadar|
Verik, looking glum and increasingly irritated after laying out the main options to the Council, does look at his cousin with a degree of surprise upon his face, though he tries to hide it after a moment. When no one else speaks and eyes turn to him, he speaks with an undertone of anger that is somewhat reminiscent to the last formal Council session.
"Of course the Council defers to doing a deal with a woman who lied, betrayed and attempted to murder a man, regardless of his own situation here. Why should I be surprised?" Verik mutters this last part sullenly and looks skyward for a moment, before clearing his throat and looking to Berrin.
"Whatever else you hear from me and choose to not agree with, let me at least make this one point. You have no control over this secret. The guard who came winded to Jemini and I in the market square blurted out 'assassin' and 'Nikolai' in front of damn near everyone, including the scion of Orlovsky and Aylene Varn. It won't take long for this to be public gossip on every set of lips from here to Olegsgrav. Cogs! It probably already is right now! Do you think they won't sort out who is missing, even if half the servants and guards of the Castle do not name her directly at the taverns? Why we can't even have a full Council session without Grigori barging in half the time, so why do you think we can keep something like this quiet? Impossible! Besides, whomever arranged this probably thought about the option of failure and would turn it against us for some ill gain, no doubt publicly. There is no containing this."
Waving his hands in frustration, he takes a deep breath in an attempt to give his next words with less heat to the Council. "Clearly you all have no stomach for treason. Fine. I vote for full charges. Find her guilty, and show we do not tolerate this violation. The sentencing can be lawfully delayed for a time once she is found guilty of the crime, and the Council can demonstrate its mercy for her sentence then. The trial itself can even be legally deferred until after all this Brevian business is over with, and they are all gone. I say let the Law run its due course on this."
After giving time for most to voice their opinions, Akiros finally speaks again. His deep, confidant voice carrying clearly throughout the room he leans forward slightly as he nods once, saying "I agree. While mercy is clearly due, and, I wager, easily accepted by the public, should her pregnancy prove real, the Law must be followed in every measure."
Looking briefly at Verrik, letting the flustered cleric know that he has an ally in this, the Prefect Marshall continues "That being said, all that Verrik has outlined is not only possible, but seems the wisest course as well. Nikolai's undecided status allows this matter to be a strictly internal affair. I care not one whit for the gaggle of nobles descended upon us. Ah, but no offence intended my friend, for clearly there are at least a few notable exceptions among them." he apologizes to Jemini, a genuine, if restrained, smile upon his face
Turning back to face the entire council he continues "We may delay sentencing, and even the trial, for as long as we wish. Yes, within the boundaries of the law of course, Verrik. The point is this is Newhaven's, and thus our, decision to make. The only true issue I see is keeping Esmerela alive indefinitely. Perhaps if we can come to her with a proposal, a 'deal', to her agreement, that still follows the letter of the Law, we can also then impress upon her the great benefit to her to divulge the pertinent information she has to us as soon as possible, so that we may then protect her from those that may wish her secrets to never leave her head."
Suddenly sitting up straight as something occurs to him, he stands, saying "In fact..." and moves briskly to the door. Opening it, he address the guard there, giving strict orders to be passed on immediately regarding Esmerelda's imprisonment. First he lists off specifically by name a sufficient amount of guards, good men, that he trusts, to allow a strong rotating schedule. Then he makes clear, in no uncertain terms, that only those guards so named are to ever be near the prisoner. Further, he then goes on to indicate a certain young cook that he knows, a new girl who has always worked hard and who he got a good impression from. This young cook, and only she, is to be solely responsible for cooking all of Esmerelda's meals and is to bring each meal to her personally. Two guardsmen are to be present at all times with while she is preparing the meals and bringing them the prisoner.
Feeling he has covered all the angles as best he can, at least for the moment, he gives the final command for his orders to be carried out immediately and reenters the room and closes the door, joining the other Founders once more.
|Warden Zander Orlovsky|
"I agree Verik, we are not at odds on this. As you say, it is no secret we have her and what she attempted. That is why I think any attempt to turn her is already lost.
"And I agree to give her a trial. A quick one. She already admitted guilt. And then sentence her away, out of sight. Nine months from now she will likely be forgotten, especially with the fervor that a fight with the trolls will elicit. Now her information is more valuable, the more timely it is received. If delivered soon and it proves correct, her imprisonment can be made lighter, for a women in her condition. The manner of her release can also be altered depending on the value of her intelligence. As I said earlier, we can make her disappear, or leave her to a life on the run. It will all be by the Law. The flexibility will be in the sentence, and that will be up to her, and her cooperation.
|Verik of Abadar|
Verik looks to both Akiros and Zander and nods after a moment, adding somewhat sheepishly, "Perhaps I was too hasty in my preemptive assessment of the Council...thank you. I agree with the leniency and flexibility of her sentence if she provides information that is valuable. Otherwise she can sit and wait for her own doom with us if this supposed intelligence is so severe in her mind but will not offer it on our terms."
Berrin just sits heavy in his chair his mind in turmoil and his emotions as well, he felt it hopeful that they could keep this seacret but his hopes were dashed in short order. He couldn't explain it but he felt a need to protect Emma somehow, or at least lessen her potential suffering.
Listening to the council discuss he opens his mouth several times but always finds no words to say, confused and distressed he just sits and stares at the table.
"Just get it over with already." he fianly says as Zander and Verik, the most unlikely of pairs, find common ground. "We know she's guilty and we know we can't let her go so let's just ask her what she wants and get it over with."
"I suggest we nominate a negotiator, or a pair, to deal with her, someone not swayed easily, and get them to make the deal in our name. We can't all be part of this, it would get to confusing."
|Nikolai, of House Rogarvia|
Unable to take rest, Nikolai throws a fresh tunic over his thick shoulders and changes his breeches, throwing the bloodstained clothes into a corner. He grabs his greatsword and a simple handax.
Moments later he is sitting at a tavern bar lunching on mead, bread and cheese. He volunteers no words, but the thin pink line aling his throat sends a clear message.
15 Sarenith 4709
Despite the best efforts of the Founders, the assassination attempt makes its way into Sanctuary's collective knowledge within hours. There are many theories that the citizens debate, including whether or not it was a faked attempt in order to garner sympathy for Nikolai on the eve of his trial. A common game in the taverns and inns is to guess who sent the assassin, with the two most common arguments being Noleski Surtova, to kill a challenger for the throne, and Berrin, for various theorized reasons from hatred to a desire to free Jemini from the trial. The soirees of the noble villa is a high-stakes version of the same game, with pointedly polite accusations subtly shifting their own power struggles.
The morning of the trial has come far too quickly. The Houses have selected their representatives, the result of jockeying and flattery. Both Archbanker Vinodragov, who had arrived in his carriage the nigh before, and Verik objected to the only possible choices for House Surtova. Verik hated the idea of Alexey sitting in judgment, for reasons he considered obvious and frankly self-evident; Vinodragov refused to allow Elspeth in his place, saying that her relationship with Nikolai's former lieutenant made her judgment even more suspect. Finally, they settle on even odds to determine which of the two choices will represent House Surtova. With both of them under Abadar's seal that the coin toss will be fair, the gold piece lands tails: Alexey Surtova will sit for his house.
The rest of the representatives were nearly as bitter fights, though they come to agreement eventually on them. Ivahn Medyved represents his family's interests, with Zander Orlovsky standing in for his father. Arturo Garess, one of the lesser scions of a cousin of Lord Garess, seems out of place compared to the high station of the others who sit in the judgment. Nadia Lodovka and Ellana Lebeda, long known to be rivals on the social scene, sit as far from each other as possible. The representatives from the six Houses sit in the Founder's Hall in a specially-carved table; in their normal seats, the Founders sit behind them watching over the proceedings. The seats meant for Nikolai and Jemini sit between the audience and the Houses, with their backs to the audience. With the Founders in their usual seats, except for Jemini's open chair, and the representatives from each House present, the trial is set to begin. Every single seat in the gallery is taken, with hundreds - perhaps a thousand - standing in the courtyard where runners are reporting constant updates.
Vinodragov stands in front of the empty chairs, seemingly focusing on them with such intensity that he would see them both hanged by the end of the day. By the rules of the trial agreed upon, a majority - four of six - of the representatives must vote that Nikolai is guilty of the charges against him - murder - and that Jemini shares in his culpability after bringing him back to life. Should four of six vote that he is innocent, so shall he be considered. Should they fall evenly, the matter will come to a more traditional Brevic end, with Nikolai and Jemini both fighting against a chosen champion for their lives.
No one feels the stakes higher than the pair who walk in. Jemini Lebeda and Nikolai Rogarvia, formerly the Stag Lord, enter through the Founder's Hall gateway to the rest of the castle. They are not escorted by guards, but they have no weapons between them (unlike all of the Founders and most of the judges). The pair sit on the chair and await the beginning of the trial.
Archbanker Vinodragov waits almost no time before launching into his opening statement. "Esteemed guests, we stand in the presence of a murderer. This man, who calls himself Nikolai Rogarvia - a name that he has not proven himself worthy to utter - killed dozens of our countrymen. For years, he terrorized the southern frontier of Brevoy, of our houses, killing and pillaging as he willed. Only until the Founders of this great nation met him in battle, aided by your fellow citizens of Brevoy, did his murderous rampage stop. Was he finished? Hell rejected him, and he returned with the help of Jemini Lebeda. Surely she has been blinded by her own goodness to see the evil of this man, to see that the blood of our citizens can never wash off? You will hear their defender wrongly insist that his sins have been wiped clean by death, but you know this to be wrong. Were I to kill your child, your mother, your wife, would you reckon the scales balanced if I were to die and be resurrected? There are many gods who can grant power over life and death, such that the only true punishment must be the final death and judgment. It will be your responsibility to ensure that the Stag Lord does not return to his true self - not through the hope that he will stay tamed, but through a vote for his sentence to be carried out, and to ensure that he never returns to life afterwards." He looks over to Verik, a look that can only be called arrogance, waiting for the younger cleric's opening statement.
|Jemini of Lebeda|
If pressed, Taisper would be forced to admit a certain morbid curiosity in this whole strange affair, but even that is minimal. He is of course annoyed by the continued presence of Vinodograv in their city -- not that he expected the man would be easily put off -- and his annoyance grows with every word the Archbanker utters. He believes in his cousin, though, and is there to support him, having even put in some time helping Verik prepare for the case. He was probably not a huge help, he realizes, but he hopes the moral support counted for something. Taisper is way, way out of his depth in these sorts of affairs of the law. He contents himself by mentally reciting passages from the Order and the Book of the Lawgiver, and looking at the sandals and gloves he was recently given by the Master. Their magic, combined with that of his shield and armor and Stored morningstar -- and of course his own divine gifts -- all give him tremendous comfort and aid his calm as he girds himself to do his damndest to try and not fall asleep during what he feels certain is going to be one long, tedious, boring, grandstanding affair of blowhard vs. blowhard.
He shakes his head. C'mon, Taisper, man; you can do this. Pay attention. Do it for Verik. He needs us behind him. The Law is on our side. GOD is on our side.
Berrin sits quietly of to one side of the hall, the stage had been given to the nobles sitting in judgement and the accused so he now sat down with the crowd. Saying he fell in would be a lie, he was too well known, and the rumors ensuing around the attempt on Nikolais life showed as the seats next to him were empty.
Though he no longer had Emma at hand to make sure he was presentable he nevertheless was, even opting out of doning his full plate and letting the breastplate suffice along with the longsword he had bought of Oleg a year ago.
Meeitng Jem's eye he gives a stiff nod but his hard eyes are on Verik, everything was down to Verik.
|Verik of Abadar|
Verik stands before a small table stand placed for his use in the large Founders Hall, with the full assembly looking down upon him, the Archbanker’s opening flourish still echoing within his mind. As Vinodragov gave his opening remarks, Verik politely but pointedly looked away from him, working intently to keep his hands from shaking and his face from flushing too visibly, forcing an ordering of his mind through recital to prepare himself. An old trick of his father’s came to him, to pretend to peruse a tome at the small table as if to cite or mark some passage for his opening statements, but in truth he had no idea what page he was on or what the words were. A stately way to buy time under scrutiny while he furiously worked out in his mind the most pivotal decision he had yet to face. He knew, however, that he only had mere moments until he had to start, to say something – anything – or else the silence would work against him and he would lose the first volley to his detestable rival.
Standing there, face down as if studying the unknown passage, his mind worked feverishly on the choice. One choice, meticulously prepared for weeks versus the onslaught of charges brought by the petition, predictable and overwrought with the legal countering of every charge laid against Nikolai, would surely amount to a few minor victories amidst an ocean of damning defeat. It was like bailing out a few buckets of water on a sinking galleon. It meant certain failure against the likes of Vinodragov, who knew it was all Verik had been legally left with. The Archbanker would expect every move. Surely he prided himself on it. He would attack Verik with such smug and vicious relish that it would override any chance of reason to prevail. It would mean the death of both Nikolai and Jemini.
The other choice, one borne out of sheer desperation, was bold but certifiably insane. It would amount to a preposterous fiction, a show to give just enough pretext to those Brevians that might seize upon it, and might turn the crowd to his favor for added pressure. A lot of mights and ifs though. The law-abiding cleric, desiring truth in law and in trial, would have to abandon all that he loved for a chance to appeal to what truly mattered to at least some of these Brevian nobles. Of course the foreknowledge that the Law was irrelevant here in this mockery of justice with these Brevians made this choice only slightly more palatable to choke down. Only slightly so.
Verik looked up to the gallery then, his eyes briefly scanning for friendly eyes. There were few, as he well knew before he entered the Hall. Well that answered that question. The choice was really made for him the moment he heard the power of Vinodragov’s opening statement. A fool’s chance over no chance at all. At least the bastard won’t have seen this one coming if I can lay it out right. Right, best get on with it. For a moment Verik envisioned his father and his four older brothers, magistrates, lawyers and political bureaucrats all, looking down upon him. He envisioned them smiling. A knowing set of smiles. Were they smiles of comprehension or mockery? Only time would tell.
He cleared his throat loudly, turned to Vinodragov, and smiled. Then he turned to the Brevians and began this concocted insanity in the grandest yet resigned voice he could muster, shrugging his shoulders for emphasis. ”My Lords and Ladies, this humble cleric is clearly at a loss for words. And as it should be! For how can I counter the most carefully crafted words of my esteemed colleague when it comes to the foul atrocities of the Stag Lord? How could I possibly defend such heinous acts of brutality? To you my Ladies and Lords?” Verik shakes his head no, and then looks up to the assembled gallery. ”To the good and decent people assembled here of the Realm of Newhaven?” He shrugs his shoulders again and throws up his hands. ”How can I do this? The answer is that I cannot do so in good conscience. I cannot defend the murderous and brutal Stag Lord. It is true - that monster deserves to die many times over for his cruel barbarity. Is that not what the people called out for? Is that not what Stagfall stood for? Friends! How can I say otherwise? No, no, I cannot defend the Stag Lord, nor will I ever.”
Verik turns a slow circle then, pretending to gauge reaction and acceptance for that truth, but really counting down in his head on launching his next words, balancing the seconds to impact what would have been a shocking display of betrayal to the defense with a need to grab everyone’s attention, and keep Vinodragov off balance. A near thing. Just a push too far either way and it will all come unraveled.
He turns abruptly back to the Brevian nobility with a flourish to his robes behind him, throwing out both hands as if in sudden discovery. ”But my Lords and Ladies! People of Newhaven! The trial would be at an end if that was the case, and we could all sleep soundly in our beds at night with the peace that we had vanquished the Stag Lord forever, as the Archbanker would have us do. Yet,” says Verik loudly but solemnly, holding up a single finger for all to see, ”we have all failed to understand one critical fact, one circumstance of such momentous weight that we would all weep in shame and guilt for what we would do here in our haste for swift justice. One fact eludes you all, yet fortunately for you I have discovered it.”
Verik points his finger in the air back at Nikolai Rogvaria with grim determination, and declares loudly for all to hear. ”This noble scion of Brevoy who has returned to us, Nikolai Rogvaria of his most noble and royal House Rogvaria, is not…nor has he ever been…the Stag Lord!”
It had been a busy few days for the Prefect Marshall; frustrating ones as well. Between trying to keep the prisoner safe, to trying, futilely, and then giving up entirely, to keep the assassination attempt quiet, to keeping arguments over the former Stag Lord to a minimum of violence, Akiros had rarely, if ever, experienced feeling this ineffective in his entire life. It was a feeling the former Samurai was neither used to, nor enjoyed.
The one bright spot in his life, and of late it seemed the only bright spot, was, of course, Elspeth. Yet even that light of joy became slightly tarnished with anger and frustration when the integrity of his beloved was questioned by that bastard posing as a priest, Vinodragov. To think that the ArchBanker and Verik were cut of the same cloth was preposterous. For despite his flowery words, or what others might think, Akiros saw the hypocrite for what he was, an opportunistic mouthpiece for the brevian nobility. The fact that Vinodragov was still clearly favoured by his God was a little confusing for Akiros, yet on the other hand, even after many conversations with Verik regarding The Keeper of the Vault and his purview, Akiros still did not understand Abadar, nor his clergy, very well. Iomeade was a straightforward Goddess, while Abadar seemed to constantly have wheels with wheels within wheels of spinning plans, purpose. When a flip of the coin placed Alexy on one of the seats of judgement over Elespeth, Akiros could only contain his fury and send a silent prayer to his Goddess that her sharp sword of Truth would see true Justice done this day. For while he and Nikolai had never as yet made proper peace with each other, there was no question whatsoever in Akiros' mind that the former Stag Lord's fate should not decided by this farce of a court. Jemini, of course, should not even be on trial at all.
As the trial begins the Prefect Marshall takes his proper seat, giving a quick but loving glance towards Elspeth in the gallery as he does so. As the accused pair walk in and Vinodragov starts making his opening statements, Akiros' face is it's usual, inscrutable mask of stone. Only tose who sit close or who know him well might recognize the flash in his eyes or the tenseness of his broad shoulders and know the fury within him that they represent. The fact the he himself was fully complicit in most of the crimes being described has, no doubt, much to do with his barely contained emotion as well.
As Verik's turn to speak arrives a slight frown begins to form between Akiros' brows at the Banker's long delay. When Verik finally begins to speak though and seems to give up any chance of defending Nikolai, the frown deepens. When Verik makes his bold and confusing statement, Akiros is as affected as everyone else in the room, his outwardly stoic composure however allows him to refrain from gasping or exclaiming as many in the audience do. Yet despite the strange statement, Akiros knows Verik well enough to trust that the wily Lawkeeper has at least one or two tricks up his sleeve as yet. So, taking a deep yet silent breath in through his nose, Akiros leans back, his senses avidly picking up nearly every nuance of all those participating in the trial.
Sense Motive mainly to determine Vinodragov's true state of mind regarding the trial up until now: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (13) + 9 = 22
|Warden Zander Orlovsky|
Zander sits listening to the posturing, wishing he brought the Helm to hide within. But he clearly saw the folly of bringing the Stag Lord's old helm to the trial, despite his modifications. But....Perhaps there is something of the Stag Lord still within it, from that disaster of a morning earlier in the week. All that seems forgotten in the buzz of the assassination attempt and upcoming trial.
Zander gives himself another pinch to stay focused, as he catches himself once again staring at his imposter namesake across the hall. Focus!...at least for Jemini and Verick's sake.
|Jemini of Lebeda|