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A gentleman regarded Westchannel and the islands beyond from the vantage of a balcony on the western shore. The sunset behind him shone a brilliant orange on the walls of high vira and palaces of Rego Corna, northernmost of the island sectors of Westcrown, laid out for his view. It illuminated the lesser sectors of Laina and Aerum precisely as beautifully, which the man found amusing. The fresh breeze from the Inner Sea blew the short cape from his shoulders and snapped the pennons adorning the mansion where he resided, pennons proclaiming this house the residence of the highest prelate of the Church of Asmodeus.
The pennons were hardly needed, for the man wore the full splendor of the Cardinal’s robes to which he was entitled. Though not of lofty stature nor impressive build nor exquisite face, the man’s impeccable grooming and posture displayed the impressive red and black garments to their full effect. No passers-by could mistake the gentleman for anything other than what he was: Cardinal Goro Altoviti, late of Egorian, newly named high cleric of Westcrown.
Though most nobles and clergy in Egorian regarded Westcrown as a sort of disgraceful exile, Cardinal Altoviti had requested it, if by requested one understood constant petitioning of his superior for a number of months. She was dismayed to have her most promising protege suffer a transfer to such a mean post, for it reflected badly upon her as well as he, she thought. Nonetheless, she had finally granted his request, persuaded by his smooth reasoning and considerable charm, precisely as he knew she would.
Altoviti had eschewed the clerical chambers in the Qatada Nessudidia, the great temple of Asmodeus in Westcrown, much to the relief of their current occupant. Instead, he had used persuasion and wealth to separate an ancient crone of a near-extinct family from her too-large hereditary mansion - as the last of her line, she had no need of it - and sent her to a more fashionable retirement in Egorian, where she could be entertained by parties and opera nightly in that glittering city. Altoviti now had his own headquarters, secure from the prying eyes of his church’s useless priesthood in this city, where he could quarter his own staff and meet with adherents freely.
He had relocated to this new demesne quite recently, receiving the polite, uncertain bows of the Wiscrani with impassive and precise courtesy. Now he could take a few moments to survey the heathen territory of his new priesthood, with the church at his back and his enemies before him, bathed in orange light. He had scarcely relaxed into sunset musings when a knock came upon the door.
“Enter.” A cloaked, hooded, and gloved figure let itself into the room, gliding over to bow profoundly before the Cardinal.
“Well, what news?” the great man asked.
“They are parochial and suspicious,” the man replied, “And it may take some time to gain trust.”
“That is no surprise; it is just as we thought,” replied the Cardinal, “And you cannot complain of being short of money or support to accomplish your goal. I desire results, not excuses.”
“As His Excellency wishes,” replied his companion, coolly, “As I have no cause to complain about support, neither shall you have cause to complain of my results. Gold opens many doors, and this is a poor city; once a few fall, an avalanche will follow. The old noble house are the worst, yet they must do business with tradesmen and craftsmen, each of whom know a little of their habits. I, though, shall know all their habits together, and you shall know what I do, My Lord.”
“Tread prudently in the city, and I will do the same in the church. When we see the tracks of our quarry, or a stray ear or antler behind a tree, well, then I will summon the huntress.”
The hooded man chuckled. “As you say, Excellency.” At a dismissing wave of Altoviti’s hand, he bowed and withdrew.