DM Brainiac's War for the Crown: Table 1

Game Master Brainiac

Current Date: 17 Kuthona, 4718 AR

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Oppara is Taldor's thriving capital—a shining monument to the grandeur and majesty once common to the entire Taldan empire. Seated on the black cliffs of the River Porthmos in Opparos Prefecture, Oppara bears all the gravitas and extravagance that 6,000 years of history have conferred upon it. The roofs and domes of Oppara were once plated with gold, earning it the nickname "the Gilded City," and though past rulers stripped the gold away long ago to pay for the empire's follies, the wealth and decadence of Taldor's capital keep the spirit of that name alive.

Oppara serves as Taldor's primary trade center, with traffic coming both from Taldor's interior via the River Porthmos and from the steady stream of international vessels sailing in from the Inner Sea. It is also the home of Taldor's government, hosting both the Imperial Palace of the grand prince and the polished marble halls of the senate. As the economic and political hub of Taldor, Oppara is the beating heart of the empire and the center of Taldan culture. Twin harbors provide goods to the city’s thriving marketplaces and restaurants, and they're often so crammed with ships that the river cannot be seen. Public fountains and marble statues can be found at many major crossroads and plazas. Columned villas and grandiose temples from every age of Taldor's history line the streets, and even the humbler merchant districts are holdovers from an unparalleled age of glory. Most of Oppara's buildings are made of carved stone, and the roads are paved with either intricate mosaics or well-fitted cobblestones. Much of the city's advanced public works have withstood the test of time, including its labyrinthine sewer system and the network of stone gutters that keep the streets clear of summer rain. The Grand Bridge of the Empire, emerging from the southeastern shore of the city's heart to cross the massive Porthmos, remains one of the most ambitious and impressive engineering marvels in the Inner Sea. Two magically animated lion sculptures stand sentinel atop Oppara's main gate, offering a glimpse into the greatness that currently lies dormant within the empire. At night, the city is lit with tens of thousands of lanterns, causing it to shine like a beacon in the darkness.

Every year, the empire of Taldor celebrates the Grand Day of Exaltation. On this prestigious day, the Grand Prince is empowered to elevate a commoner to the ranks of nobility. The event itself is the embodiment of formality, with the elevated commoner selected months or years in advance. What makes the day truly special is that the preceding week is a holiday throughout the empire. Nobles, senators, and hopeful petitioners fill the capital city of Oppara for galas, performances, and parades. To the nobility, the week before the Grand Day of Exaltation is a time to conduct important business deals, issue noble proclamations, and hold private parties. With so many prominent politicians arriving from across the empire, the Taldan senate uses Exaltation Week to vote on matters of nationwide importance.

Visitors flock to Oppara in the days leading up to the Grand Day of Exaltation. The populace of the city doubles during this time, making Oppara larger than any other city in the Inner Sea region, save Absalom. The self-importance of the already prideful Taldan people swells in equal measure. Street vendors sell traditional Taldan foods—anchovy skewers, anglebobs, canal crossings, clamguards, jubilee pie, honeyflake, long wine, yonder tarts, and more—including regional delicacies from separated provinces such as Andoran mince and Chelish raven cake. Family banners and provincial flags drape the sides of most buildings, with merchants hawking heraldry ranging from replica banners of the old Armies of Exploration to wooden swords and handheld Taldan flags for children. Taverns offer themed drink and food, with varying bars adopting well-known nobles from the long history of the empire as their mascot or self-declared patron.

Alongside all the pomp and circumstance filling Oppara is a noteworthy moment in history: the imperial senate is poised to hold a historic vote to end primogeniture. The potential end of the millennia-standing law of succession is the talk of the town. Streets and taverns are abuzz with conversations; some wish to see the law thrown down to pave a way for Princess Eutropia to ascend to the throne, while hardliners (especially elder nobles) believe the vote to be another wound in the great history of the empire, allowing not only the rabble-rousing Eutropia to inherit family power, but every ill-deserving woman. Regardless of the outcome, both sides of the debate agree that life will go on, and despite the serious ramifications of primogeniture's potential end, the streets of Oppara hold no signs of unrest during the jubilant celebrations of the Grand Day of Exaltation.

Each of you has another reason to be excited for the Grand Day of Exaltation. You have each been contacted by Lady Martella Lotheed, the illegitimate daughter of the prestigious Lotheed noble family and a burgeoning spymaster. She has hired you to serve as her covert agents at the Grand Day of Exaltation festivities at the senate buiding. She has promised each of you 150 gp the next day for completing your missions, in addition to the extraordinary access and prestige granted by attending one of Taldor's most exclusive and high-profile political events. She has also provided each of you a 30-gp line of credit at her favorite tailor shop, Thread Rare.

This is enough to acquire a courtier's outfit at no cost, or you can provide the remaining 45 gp for a noble's outfit for the senate festivities; in either case, Martella also arranges the loan of enough high-quality costume jewelry to complete each outfit.

The Grand Day of Exaltation has finally arrived! Martella has asked that each of you meet with her an hour before the Exaltation Gala to familiarize yourselves with your fellow agents and to answer any remaining questions you may have. The meetup is to take place at a small cafe several blocks from the senate building.

Before you head to the meetup, you can shop or handle any business you wish to. You may make either Diplomacy, Knowledge (local), or Knowledge (nobility) checks to learn more about your employer or the political scene in Oppara. Any given player character may roll only once for each given subject. The available subjects are: the Grand Day of Exaltation, Grand Prince Stavian III, Martella Lotheed, and Princess Eutropia.

You may also each attempt a DC 15 Diplomacy check to gather information and hear a rumor that is currently circling throughout Oppara.


Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

Garbed in a fashion that could be graciously described as "provocative," in a traditional Calistrian yellow-and-black shoulderless corset with a gauzy bustle skirt, stockings, a black choker, opera gloves and an opaque courtly fan, the half-elven priestess on the payroll of Martella is impatiently waiting for her chance to buzz about the social scene. Seated at the cafe with fan closed on the table and a small cup of sweetened coffee in one hand, her arched eyes and rouged cheeks draw the occasional subtle glance, but she remains aloof from the other patrons - for the moment. Instead she simply lounges in one of the comfortable chairs, leaning at a slight angle, slim legs crossed, one of her thick-heeled wedge shoes slowly bouncing up and down as her leg idly does the same. Occasionally a passerby will give her a jaded glance, but they usually move along after spotting the coiled whip(!) hanging on the back of the chair.

Currently unarmored, wearing courtier's outfit themed to her station, with her elegant pack stashed beneath the table.

Diplomacy: Rumors about Grand Prince Stavian III: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (5) + 9 = 14
Diplomacy: Gather information for general rumors: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (19) + 9 = 28


Zileska:
Grand Prince Stavian III is the emperor of Taldor. He has no male heir, and he has refused to have any further children since the tragic death of his only son, Carrius, in a riding accident 20 years ago. With the emperor is getting on in years, some people worry how this will affect succession.

Rumor: 1d10 ⇒ 7

"People claim Duke Centimus is a gentleman, but he gave me the dirtiest look for asking about his accident."


Pre-Marriage Alias

The small woman with dark hair and piercing green eyes moves smoothly through the crowds as she approaches the cafe. She pauses here and there to subtly converse with a street vendor on one corner and a street sweeper on another. Flashes of green can be see under the well-worn cloak she wears.

As she enters the cafe, she seems disappointed that the only remaining seats are at a table occupied by a follower of The Lady in the Room.

How appropriate.

Masking her emotions, she approaches the woman.

In heavily accented common, she says quietly, "Many apologies, kind lady, but may one impose to have a seat at this table?"

Knowledge (local) - Grand Day of Exaltation: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (10) + 6 = 16
Knowledge (local) - Grand Prince Stavian III: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20
Knowledge (local) - Princess Eutropia: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (1) + 6 = 7
Diplomacy - Gather Rumors: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (15) + 6 = 21


Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

Misread the initial post as each player being allowed to roll for one subject of rumors (plus general gather info), instead of each player being allowed to roll once for each topic.

Diplomacy (about Grand Day of Exaltation): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (15) + 9 = 24
Diplomacy (about Marthella Lotheed): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (13) + 9 = 22
Diplomacy (about Eutropia): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (7) + 9 = 16

The wasp-themed woman regards the small Tien woman briefly with her unsettling black eyes - unlike her elvish relatives, she has white sclera, but her pupils are still a forbidding black that just isn't quite human.

She seems to weigh the situation for a few moments, her crossed leg still slowly bouncing up and down, up and down, then suddenly she breaks into a smile.

"Why yes, of course. Please, do make yourself comfortable. Have you had coffee yet? An excellent refreshment."


Mai:
  • Grand Day of Exaltation: The Grand Day of Exaltation is the one day every year when the emperor can elevate a commoner of unusual skill or service to the ranks of nobility. Because people travel from all over the empire to witness the exaltation, many balls and political events take place in the preceding week, and the senate usually votes on matters of national importance immediately beforehand. This year's noble-to-be is a wide-eyed weaver from the village of Breezy Creek, whose beautiful tapestries have adorned the royal palace and many other royal homes for a decade.

  • Grand Prince Stavian III: Grand Prince Stavian III is the emperor of Taldor. He has no male heir, and he has refused to have any further children since the tragic death of his only son, Carrius, in a riding accident 20 years ago. With the emperor is getting on in years, some people worry how this will affect succession. The emperor has made no secret of his disdain for Princess Eutropia's social crusades, especially her efforts to overturn primogeniture so she can inherit the throne, but he has been uncharacteristically quiet about it this past year. Rumors abound that his health is slipping and he has accepted her efforts.

  • Princess Eutropia: Princess Eutropia is the adult daughter of Grand Prince Stavian III and has a scandalous reputation for making trouble and fighting in the streets.

    Rumor: 1d10 ⇒ 5

  • Rumor: "My uncle is in the Lion Blades, and he says the Qadirans are planning to kidnap Princess Eutropia tonight to ransom!"
  • Zileska:
  • Grand Day of Exaltation: The Grand Day of Exaltation is the one day every year when the emperor can elevate a commoner of unusual skill or service to the ranks of nobility. Because people travel from all over the empire to witness the exaltation, many balls and political events take place in the preceding week, and the senate usually votes on matters of national importance immediately beforehand. This year's noble-to-be is a wide-eyed weaver from the village of Breezy Creek, whose beautiful tapestries have adorned the royal palace and many other royal homes for a decade.

  • Martella Lotheed: The wealthy Lotheed family has been a strong supporter of the Stavians for almost 100 years. They have a long family tradition of arcane magic, adding to their wealth and prestige. Martella is the black sheep of the family, being a result of an extramarital dalliance with a Qadiran diplomat. She lacks her family's gift for magic as well, adding to their resentment. Despite her family's disdain, Martella still commands some wealth and has extensive contacts, having attended the Sinora Academia, Taldor's most exclusive girls' school.

  • Princess Eutropia: Princess Eutropia is the adult daughter of Grand Prince Stavian III and has a scandalous reputation for making trouble and fighting in the streets. Eutropia is a social reformer, eager to establish schools and other public resources for the poor, and remove political or family restrictions for women and various minorities. Rumors have circulated for a decade that her ultimate goal is to overturn primogeniture--Taldor's ancient law stating that only male heirs may inherit the Lion Throne--and become the first empress of Taldor.

  • Pre-Marriage Alias

    The small woman bows in thanks and meekly takes a seat opposite the half-elf.

    "No I have not tried this 'coffee'. I am just here to meet someone, she answers quietly.

    Her eyes scan the crowd and the door.


    Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

    "Well you have met someone," says the half-elf with a slight smirk. She uncrosses her legs and lets them angle to one side as she takes a sip from her dangling coffee cup. "Do you have a description of this other person? You wouldn't want to miss an opportunity because of someone appearing on the other side of the room where you can't see."


    Pre-Marriage Alias

    There is a slight pause before the small woman moves a hand to cover the lower part of her face as she laughs quietly and politely.

    "This is correct," she says, "but with great pardons, I am to be meeting one Lady Lotheed."


    Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

    "It's a bit tight," Sara chokes out, as the seamstress continues tightening her black and red silk corset, boned with real whalebone. "And I know that it's supposed to be like this but- oof!" The seamstress places her knee at the small of Sara's back and begins tying off the ribbon.

    The rest of the garment was assembled and Sara looks at herself in the mirror. She so rarely gets to gaze at herself like this. She did her make up in her reflection, but for that she typically makes do with the back of a pot.

    She cut an imposing figure in her new outfit. Her dress is an elaborate red piece, with silver filigree in the panel, black ribbon strung through the center of the panel and along the top of the bodice. She lifts her skirt and smiles. At the very bottom, her new shoes shine, black leather with red soles and four inch stiletto heels, bringing her to a mighty 6'4". She pulls on elbow length black gloves that squeeze tight around her firm arms, hiding an ugly scar on her hand in the shape of a skull or perhaps a moth.

    Her pale face, wide jawed and sharp templed, all the paler for her black hair, piled high upon her head in a tight bun, and the black eyeshadow and bright red lipstick smacked upon her face. She makes her way to the cafe, walking fast.

    Diplomacy: Grand Day of Exaltation: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (13) + 3 = 16
    Diplomacy: Lady Lotheed: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (15) + 3 = 18
    Diplomacy: The Emperor: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (8) + 3 = 11
    Diplomacy: The Princess: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (4) + 3 = 7
    Diplomacy: Rumors: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (11) + 3 = 14

    She strides into the cafe, playing with the fake jewelry graciously provided by her employer, moving rings from finger to finger and, when satisfied, wrapping the chain of her necklace around her first finger as she waits in line. She purchases a coffee and clumsily reaches for a flask at her ankle, hoping to sneak a few drops of whiskey in.

    Sleight of Hand: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (9) + 3 = 12

    Her scar burns as she reaches for her flask, the damage to her wrist hindering what was once so simple and so easy, when suddenly she hears something that catches her interest.

    "...with great pardons, I am to be meeting Lady Lotheed."

    Moving towards the conversation, being held between a Calistrian priestess and a small Tien woman, Sara pulls a chair out from the table, setting her coffee down abruptly. She sits, hiking up her dress and crossing her legs with her ankle atop her knee, mannish and unladylike. "Forgive my intrusion, but I believe we are here with similar purpose. I was also invited by Lady Lotheed. Name's Burke."

    She extends a hand to no one in particular.


    Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

    "Hello, Burke," says the waspy courtesan. "New to the scene?" She gestures with her mug, up at Burke then down at Zhi, as she says, "I see that Lady Lotheed is following the old adage, 'First attack high, then attack low.'"

    She delicately places the cup onto its saucer and extends her gloved hand to Burke. She simply takes Burke's fingers gently, rather than attempting a firm handshake, and smiles again mildly.


    Pre-Marriage Alias

    The small woman rises and bows slightly to the newcomer.

    "So very happy to meet you, I am Hayashi Zhi. You are here to be meeting Lady Lotheed as well?"

    Zhe reaches inside her cloak and produces a folded colorful parasol which she leans against the table as she takes her seat again.


    Sara:
  • Grand Day of Exaltation: The Grand Day of Exaltation is the one day every year when the emperor can elevate a commoner of unusual skill or service to the ranks of nobility. Because people travel from all over the empire to witness the exaltation, many balls and political events take place in the preceding week, and the senate usually votes on matters of national importance immediately beforehand. This year's noble-to-be is a wide-eyed weaver from the village of Breezy Creek, whose beautiful tapestries have adorned the royal palace and many other royal homes for a decade.

  • Martella Lotheed: The wealthy Lotheed family has been a strong supporter of the Stavians for almost 100 years. They have a long family tradition of arcane magic, adding to their wealth and prestige. Martella is the black sheep of the family, being a result of an extramarital dalliance with a Qadiran diplomat. She lacks her family's gift for magic as well, adding to their resentment.

  • Grand Prince Stavian III: Grand Prince Stavian III is the emperor of Taldor!

  • Princess Eutropia: Princess Eutropia is the adult daughter of Grand Prince Stavian III and has a scandalous reputation for making trouble and fighting in the streets.

  • Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

    Sara smirks. "No, not new. Returning. Took a, uh, forced sabbatical." She sips her coffee and squeezes once before releasing the woman's slight hand, nodding at the standing woman.

    "Nice umbrella. Very pretty."


    Pre-Marriage Alias

    Zhi reaches out and places her hand on her parasol.

    "Yes, very pretty," she says with a enigmatic smile. "Perhaps I show you sometime?"

    Her eyes glance around the cafe again.


    Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

    "It's a pleasure to meet you all." The voice is soft and musical and comes from behind 'Burke', showing a slender young woman of medium height with chestnut hair, streaked with white (Think X-men Rogue) and remarkably pale skin. Her veins show clearly on her forearms and she seems to have painted them to enhance the effect, unless she really does have green and purple veins as well as the normal blue and red ones. Her eyes, deep green flecked with gold (or is it blue?), seem somehow too colourful for her face, framed as they are by her pale skin.

    Her outfit is in a medium blue with slashes to show the white silk worn beneath and falls neatly into the 'conservative' and 'understated' classes. She doesn't compete with Zileska, or even with Sara at all - the men's eyes around the tavern pass right over her in search of more attractive sights, but when she speaks every eye comes back - trying to connect with the voice that their ears just heard.

    "I think we must all be here for the same reason." She's speaking quietly, barely above a whisper, "It's good to see you again Sara."

    Diplomacy (Stavian): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (17) + 8 = 25
    Diplomacy (Eutropia): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (5) + 8 = 13
    Diplomacy (The Grand Day): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (5) + 8 = 13
    Diplomacy (Lotheed): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (19) + 8 = 27
    Diplomacy (Rumours): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26


    Melodie:
  • Grand Day of Exaltation: The Grand Day of Exaltation is the one day every year when the emperor can elevate a commoner of unusual skill or service to the ranks of nobility. Because people travel from all over the empire to witness the exaltation, many balls and political events take place in the preceding week, and the senate usually votes on matters of national importance immediately beforehand.

  • Grand Prince Stavian III: Grand Prince Stavian III is the emperor of Taldor. He has no male heir, and he has refused to have any further children since the tragic death of his only son, Carrius, in a riding accident 20 years ago. With the emperor is getting on in years, some people worry how this will affect succession. The emperor has made no secret of his disdain for Princess Eutropia's social crusades, especially her efforts to overturn primogeniture so she can inherit the throne, but he has been uncharacteristically quiet about it this past year. Rumors abound that his health is slipping and he has accepted her efforts.

  • Lady Martella Lotheed: The wealthy Lotheed family has been a strong supporter of the Stavians for almost 100 years. They have a long family tradition of arcane magic, adding to their wealth and prestige. Martella is the black sheep of the family, being a result of an extramarital dalliance with a Qadiran diplomat. She lacks her family's gift for magic as well, adding to their resentment. Despite her family's disdain, Martella still commands some wealth and has extensive contacts, having attended the Sinora Academia, Taldor's most exclusive girls' school.

  • Princess Eutropia: Princess Eutropia is the adult daughter of Grand Prince Stavian III and has a scandalous reputation for making trouble and fighting in the streets.

    Rumor: 1d10 ⇒ 7

  • Rumor: "People claim Duke Centimus is a gentleman, but he gave me the dirtiest look for asking about his accident."

  • Pre-Marriage Alias

    Zhi reaches out and taking her parasol, rests it, unopened, on her shoulder.

    "So, Melodie," she says casually, "You are here to be seeing Lady Lotheed as well? What a wonderful coincidence."


    Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

    "Yes," Melodie responds, quietly. "She is a friend of my families. How do you know her? I don't think I've seen you around before."


    Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

    Maria knew she'd look out of place among the social high-flyers by pure virtue of her fiendish traits, so figured she might as well go whole hog.

    Not to say she was going to turn up looking a shambles, she had too much self-respect for that, but she wasn't going to get overly done up either. Regardless of what Lady Lotheed expected of her, she was also representing the family business so felt she needed to look like a detective.

    As a result, much of the ensemble was the clothing she usually wore while working - leather boots reached up past her knees over a pair of dark trousers, a red sash tied around her waist topped with a navy waistcoat over a white shirt. Over all of this was the black-leather-and-red-cloth coat that reached almost to her ankles and the red half-cape falling from her right shoulder.

    The only major difference from her working attire was that the bracer she usually wore on her left arm that held her throwing darts was absent, replaced with a pair of simple black gloves that disappeared up the sleeves of her coat. She also now proudly wore a black-and-red choker around her throat adorned with a small medallion of a snarling tiger.

    As she entered the cafe, a couple of things caught her by surprise. Firstly; how incongruous her fellow agents looked - each of them dressed to the nines on Lotheed's credit - and that she'd met two of them before. The Tianese woman searching for her father and the Calistrian priestess she and her father had interviewed in the Red League debacle last year.

    "Times like these make me wonder if Desna isn't pulling a few strings for her own amusement," she said, "good to see you again, Zhi."

    Yes, she is basically dressed as a neatened-up version of Evie Frye, just without the gauntlet, hood, that belt around her thigh which I assume is part of a dagger's sheath, and the pocket watch which I doubt have been invented in Golarion yet.

    Know Local, Lotheed: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26
    Know Local, Eutropia: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26
    Know Local, Stavian: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 8 = 23
    Diplomacy, Rumours: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (20) + 6 = 26


    Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

    Sara tilts her head toward Zhi, a crooked smile on her face. "I'm always interested in seeing new things."

    Upon hearing the familiar voice, she turns. "Mel-o-DEE is that you? My word how you've grown!" She gets up and curtsies, wanting to embrace or shake hands, but aware of her station.


    Maria:
    Grand Day of Exaltation: The Grand Day of Exaltation is the one day every year when the emperor can elevate a commoner of unusual skill or service to the ranks of nobility. Because people travel from all over the empire to witness the exaltation, many balls and political events take place in the preceding week, and the senate usually votes on matters of national importance immediately beforehand. This year's noble-to-be is a wide-eyed weaver from the village of Breezy Creek, whose beautiful tapestries have adorned the royal palace and many other royal homes for a decade.
    Martella Lotheed: The wealthy Lotheed family has been a strong supporter of the Stavians for almost 100 years. They have a long family tradition of arcane magic, adding to their wealth and prestige. Martella is the black sheep of the family, being a result of an extramarital dalliance with a Qadiran diplomat. She lacks her family's gift for magic as well, adding to their resentment. Despite her family's disdain, Martella still commands some wealth and has extensive contacts, having attended the Sinora Academia, Taldor's most exclusive girls' school.
    Princess Eutropia: Princess Eutropia is the adult daughter of Grand Prince Stavian III and has a scandalous reputation for making trouble and fighting in the streets. Eutropia is a social reformer, eager to establish schools and other public resources for the poor, and remove political or family restrictions for women and various minorities. Rumors have circulated for a decade that her ultimate goal is to overturn primogeniture--Taldor's ancient law stating that only male heirs may inherit the Lion Throne--and become the first empress of Taldor.

    Grand Prince Stavian III: Grand Prince Stavian III is the emperor of Taldor. He has no male heir, and he has refused to have any further children since the tragic death of his only son, Carrius, in a riding accident 20 years ago. With the emperor is getting on in years, some people worry how this will affect succession. The emperor has made no secret of his disdain for Princess Eutropia's social crusades, especially her efforts to overturn primogeniture so she can inherit the throne, but he has been uncharacteristically quiet about it this past year. Rumors abound that his health is slipping and he has accepted her efforts.

    Rumor: 1d10 ⇒ 3

    Rumor: "My uncle is a merchant. Says he’s getting coins from all over the old colonies this Exaltation week. Maybe some of the colonies are starting to regret leaving the empire."


    Pre-Marriage Alias

    Seeing someone she knows, the small woman relaxes her hold on her parasol.

    "Hello Miss Greyson," she replies. With a glance at the others, she smiles back at the tiefling.

    "So you're in for this hayride as well, eh?"

    Her heavy accent has vanished.

    "Wonder what's holding up our benefactor?"


    Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

    "No doubt having to extricate herself from one or more social events - as much as she's out-of-sorts with her family that does not mean she's outcast from her whole social strata." She shook her head after a moment's thought.

    "Damnit; I'm talking like Dad again."


    Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

    Sara blinks clumsily, taken back by Zhi's dropped accent. Makes sense I suppose. We are spies, aren't we?

    Still standing, and towering almost a foot and a half over the tiefling, she thrusts a hand down at Maria. "Miss Greyson, she said? Name's Burke. A pleasure to make your acquaintance."


    Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

    Melodie offers both hands to Sara with a smile, cautiously accepting the older woman's embrace, "I'm glad things are looking up for you. I put in a good word where I could - it was all I could do I'm afraid."

    Seeing the new woman arrive Melodie examines her, and is clearly impressed by what she seems. Turning to Sara she whispers quietly as the sound of other conversations covers her voice. "Do you know the Tian lady? Her accent has just changed... quite a lot."


    Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

    Maria paused for a moment to shift her cane to her other hand before shaking Sara's. "Maria Greyson," she said, "and likewise." As much as she was used to having to look upwards at most people she dealt with, Miss Burke was one of the few women who towered over her like that. She was starting to regret not wearing the other pair of knee-high boots she owned, the ones with notable heels to them. Given Taldan fashions in regards to footwear, there were no doubt going to be a lot of ladies she'd have to crane her neck to look in the eye.


    Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

    "Mmm," hums the priestess thoughtfully. "Why, I do say, we have a corner on the unconventional side of the ball. I expect there will be gossip as soon as we arrive as an... ensemble."

    "Do any of you cut a rug?" she asks with upraised eyebrows.


    Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

    "Cut a rug?" Melodies quiet voice sounds discordant, confused. "I'm afraid I don't know what you mean..."


    Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

    "Dance," says the half-elf. Then she stands as Maria arrives and says, "Maria, darling, don't be so distant. Come, we're going to have a good time here, do relax and enjoy the show."

    She leans forward and places her hands on Maria's arms, darts in to kiss both cheeks in a familiar Taldan greeting fashion, then fluffs out her skirt bustle and sits again. She gestures with one hand for Maria to sit as well.


    Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

    Maria wasn't sure if Zileska actually meant dance with her original question - one could never always tell with Calistrians - but didn't comment either way. Her reaction to the greeting was also more automatic than friendly - she had nothing against Zileska and the priestess knew it, but the tiefling still had a rather dim view of the goddess she worshipped. There were more than a few cases in her father's archives that, if not directly motivated by faith in Calistria, would certainly have met with her approval. The Red League debacle had been one of them and had been why she and her father had interviewed the people working at the temple.

    Still, she tried to hold none of that against Zileska herself; she knew the half-elf was more in tune with Calistria's positive aspects but Maria had seen too many incidents where the culprits had worn black-and-yellow.

    Regardless, she still took a seat at the table, carefully smoothing her coat out under her to avoid wrinkling it, and hooked the handle of her cane on the table.


    Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

    "Is that your father's cane?" says Zileska as Maria sits. "A wonderful accessory. Perhaps a new fashion trend, if all goes well. I must say, I love your outfit. More daring than last time we met."

    "How have you been? After that awful business with the Red League, of course, I was just furious that things would happen like that, I'm glad to see that you came through the case intact."


    Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

    "No, it's my own cane; got it not long after the Red League thing was dealt with." She decided not to delve into how her father had insisted on it after she'd almost gotten her head smashed in by the half-orc who'd been running the scam. Nor did she think it smart to point out the blade concealed inside it (even if she was sure more than a few canes at any high-society function in Taldor had similar concealed weapons).

    "I've been fine. Feels odd to have the house to myself with Dad off on a trip, and I've been getting the odd consulting job with the city watch. A lot of walk-in business has died off but I get the feeling it'll be picking up again after the festival, even if most of it's going to be the droll 'suspected infidelity' sort that's more likely to kill me with boredom."


    Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

    "Suspected infidelity? Oh, those infidels!" says Zileska with a chuckle. "Of course I completely condone suspected infidelity, which should be good business for you. If you're being paid by Lady Lotheed, and these dames are likewise, then..."

    She leans back in her seat and carefully picks up her fan with one hand, tapping it against her bare thigh just between her stocking and her skirt (what Zhi might call "zettai ryouiki"). She stops suddenly and lifts the closed fan to hold the end with her other hand. "... it seems that Lady Lotheed is employing troubleshooters."


    Pre-Marriage Alias
    Zileska Vestalina wrote:

    "Suspected infidelity? Oh, those infidels!" says Zileska with a chuckle. "Of course I completely condone suspected infidelity, which should be good business for you. If you're being paid by Lady Lotheed, and these dames are likewise, then..."

    She leans back in her seat and carefully picks up her fan with one hand, tapping it against her bare thigh just between her stocking and her skirt (what Zhi might call "zettai ryouiki"). She stops suddenly and lifts the closed fan to hold the end with her other hand. "... it seems that Lady Lotheed is employing troubleshooters."

    "Actually, this isn't my normal game," Zhi adds in a lowered voice. She glances around at the gathered crowd.

    "I usually freelance at second-story work."

    She opens the front of her cloak and looks down at the dress she's wearing. Emerald green silk with flowers patterned through it, the dress extends from her neck to her ankles.

    "These aren't my normal working clothes.

    Zhi's dress


    Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

    "The dress suits you, though," says the half-elf. "Though the legs will have to come up on that if you're going to be doing any climbing, which seems unlikely in this venue."


    Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

    "The business is profitable but I wouldn't call it good; it's the lowest and dullest form of detective work and I'd like to think Greyson Investigative Services has a reputation a little above such things."

    Looking over Zhi's dress, she had to agree with Zileska. "I suspect we're here more to observe and listen than anything else; trying to actually do anything in an event like the one she wants us dressed up for would be difficult."


    Pre-Marriage Alias

    "Oh, you'd be surprised," Zhi counters with a smile.

    She turns in her chair and pulls the cloak back further revealing the side of the dress. It appears that the dress has been opened up to the thigh. The only thing preventing a overabundance of flesh to be shown are loops of green thread holding the side closed.


    Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

    "Yum," says Zileska.

    "So we're all working girls today, are we?"


    Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

    Graciously, Sara took both of Melodie's hands. "I mean evidence was stacked against me, but I appreciate your help. And no, I don't know her, I'm afraid."

    Letting go of Melodie to address Maria, she let that handshake linger. "You're, uh, short."

    Listening to her comments she eventually butts in. "Money is money. You wanna pay me for my time, I'll take it."


    Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

    Maria couldn't help but give Burke a side-long glance at the remark about her height. "So I've noticed," she said, dryly.

    Zileska's crack about them being working girls got a more notable reaction, causing her to slightly choke on a mouthful of coffee.


    After a few minutes, a waiter approaches your table. "My ladies, your patron is ready to receive you in the adjoining chamber." He gestures to a curtain leading into the back half of the cafe.

    Long, golden beams of the setting sun dance through the room's smoky interior, highlighting breads, cheeses, and wine bottles behind the only counter. Martella sips casually from a steaming mug, dressed in an elegant but reserved gown—at least by Taldan standards. A hand-sized brass cricket buzzes quietly on the tabletop beside her.
    "I'm so pleased you could join me this evening," she begins. "Please order whatever you like; the fig jam is particularly lovely here. And feel free to speak candidly. I've taken measures to ensure our privacy."


    Female Human Fighter (Cad) 13, Brawler 2 | HP: 55/185| AC: 19/17 (11 T, 17 F)| CMB: +19/+28, CMD: 28| F: +19, R: +12, W: +7| Init: +7| Perc: +17, SM +12, Dip +45, Intim +39| Speed 35ft| Martial Flexibility 3/4, Serpentine Tattoo 3/3, Beast Form 2 (Lion) 1/1, Terrible Cost 5/5| Active Conditions: N/A

    "Milady," Sara curtsies. "Sara Burke, a pleasure. And a resurrectionist, allegedly." She titters at her joke.

    To the waiter, she orders. "Buttered scones, please, with the, uh, fig jam. And another coffee." She gestures the waiter closer, lowering her voice, trying to not be overheard and judged for her dependency. "Perhaps a little darker than usual? You know, like with whiskey? Is that a thing? Can I get that?"


    Pre-Marriage Alias

    As they enter the interior room, Zhi stows her parasol under her cloak. She also pulls her hood back revealing her long black hair. There's a slender silver chain holding her hair back with a green stone dangling at the rear of it. Matching earrings complete the look.

    "White wine, please."


    Female Half-Elf Cleric 17 | HP 105/105 | AC 21 T 14 FF 19 | Fort +12 Ref +9 Will +17 | Initiative +2 | Perception +8 | Channel Energy 6/6 | Dazing Touch 8/8 | Bit of Luck 8/8 | Good Fortune 2/2

    Zileska enters with her usual swagger, and takes a new seat inside of the private room. It probably occurs to some that she has spent a lot of time in private soundproofed rooms.

    She waves her fan idly in the direction of the servant and says, "Blueberry scone with butter, selection of fruit, and a dram of brandy."

    Turning her attention to their employer, she says casually, "You have assembled quite a collection of talents here."


    Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

    It didn't take a lot of deductive experience to guess that the brass cricket was at least one of the measures their employer had taken. It was her first time meeting Lady Lotheed in person, earlier correspondence having been carried out by letter. It was part of the reason she hadn't worn a dress like the others - if the whole thing had turned out to be a hoax or a trap, she was ready. She could only deduce that she had never come in person because a noble walking into the home of a detective would have gotten more tongues wagging than she would have liked.

    Maria didn't bother ordering anything, she had the coffee she'd ordered when she first arrived and before approaching the others and had had enough to eat beforehand.

    She was a little worried about how many of the ladies were ordering alcohol already, though. This was a cafe, not a tavern.


    The waiter gives Sara a subtle nod. "Of course, madam. We call that 'Cayden's coffee.'" He moves behind the counter to fill everybody's orders.

    Martella smiles at Zileska. "I look forward to seeing all of you ladies put your talents to the test tonight. I believe some of you know each other already. Those who don't will have ample opportunity to get to know the others over the course of the evening. I have something for you." She produces five brooches, each one featuring heraldry depicting a linnorm entwined around a unicorn rampant. "These are senate aide badges, and they're your ticket into the gala. They once belonged to the staff of the long-dead Senator Voritas, whose family line was involved in the senate for nearly a thousand years before dying out about a century ago. Taldan senators have long used these badges to help coordinate with their staff members, especially when business takes them across the city and beyond. While you're wearing them, I'll be able to send you short telepathic messages, and you'll be able to respond simply by concentrating. Senators and other politicians of note traditionally hand out senate aide badges of extinct or exiled family lines to guests they invite to senate events, identifying them at a glance as guests rather than sitting senators or staff. The guards will be more wary of you because of this, though, so be cautious around them."

    Martella hands a badge to each of you, then produces a wrapped parcel from under the table. "I hear that you've been putting your ears to the ground these past few days, gathering information about the political scene. I appreciate agents who demonstrate initiative and resourcefulness. I felt a small reward was in order to show my appreciation. Use these items as you see fit."

    Inside the parcel are two vials of liquid blade, eight smoke pellets, a single dose of soul stimulant, and two vials of dust of illusion.


    Female NG Changeling Mesmerist (Vox) 17 | HP:93/93 | AC: 25 (17 Tch, 21 Fl) | CMB: 11, CMD: 25 | F: +8, R: +17, W: +17 | Init: +8 | Perc/SM +23, Bluff +43(48), Dip +38, I +34, Dis +34, UMD +22, Spcft + 18, KnwA +16| Speed 30ft | Spells: 1: 8/8, 2: 7/7, 3: 7/7, 4: 6/6, 5: 6/6, 6: 3/3 | Tricks: Alac, Curse (M), Free (M), Gift, Visions (M) 18/17+1; Words: 12/12 | Mask: DT (DC20) 9/9, TS 1/1 | Active: See Invisbility, Echolocation

    Melodie follows the older women in and sits quietly at the back of the room. When the waiter turns to her for her order she simply shakes her head quietly. Her original meeting with Martella Lotheed was not entirely cordial and ever since that incident she's been left distrustful of her fellow nobles - making her current compatriots something of a relief.

    It isn't until Martella has finished speaking that she blurts out "What is that?" pointing at the clockwork fly amid its quiet buzzing which itches at her ears.


    Martella laughs gently. "That, my dear, is one of my own clockwork creations. I call it a brass chatterbox. It creates a soft buzz that makes it more difficult to eavesdrop on conversations around them."


    Female Rakshasa-spawn Tiefling Investigator 16 | HP 91/99 | AC 35 T 18 FF 29 | Fort +10 Ref +20 Will +15 | Initiative +5 | Perception +19 (free Insp) | Sense Motive +22 (free Insp)

    "It sounds like these medallions won't allow us to contact you directly unless you contact us first, nor can they be used to contact each other. Or have I misunderstood something?"

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