Martella and Melodie quickly organize the princess's supporters, who escort Eutropia to the Grand Palace. She meets with the leaders of the sentries and the Ulfen Guard, and by the time Carrius awakens, Eutropia has made arrangements for the guards to stand down and put an end to hostilities, once and for all.
Eutropia sobs with joy as she embraces her younger brother. "I cannot express how grateful I am that you were able to save his life," she says between sniffles. "I'll always treasure this precious gift."
Her missing soul fragment leaves Eutropia more sickly than before, and somewhat susceptible to death magic, but the closer bond with her little brother leaves both far more insightful and even-tempered.
Once Carrius recovers from his ordeal, he resumes the personality he always had—that of a gentle and thoughtful young man. He has a knack for politics that he uses to advise his sister, but prefers to remain out of the public eye, especially after his unfortunate episode. Having experienced enough trauma for several lifetimes, he’s content to be as ordinary as possible.
Eutropia’s advisors devise a plan for revealing as much as they deem wise to the people of Taldor. It becomes common knowledge that a plan to assassinate Eutropia was foiled by Taldor’s government and the brave work of the princess’s heroic allies. The announcement of Eutropia’s death and Carrius’s coronation was an unfortunate but necessary ruse to convince the assassins to think they had succeeded, allowing the heroes time to work. Carrius readily confirms this version of events. Eutropia quickly asks that the you keep the truth of the matter to yourselves, to spare her brother the shame and to not disrupt the nation’s faith in its own leadership in an already unstable time.
The Mantle of Kings proves Eutropia’s right to rule, but the path to her coronation is not guaranteed. There remains a strong resistance to her leadership from some of the established noble families in Taldor, and foreign nations take a particular interest in this historic change in Taldor’s inheritance laws. Regardless, with your support and that of senate, and the blessing of the Mantle of Kings, Eutropia eventually proves her claim to the throne, and she is crowned Grand Princess Eutropia, first empress of Taldor.
At the coronation, Eutropia officially knights you all, though she reserves greater titles for the next Grand Day of Exaltation to help wash away the bloody legacy her father left on that day. Indeed, just a month or so after taking the throne, the day arrives and awards you each the title of Countess, granting you the county of Meratt and the Palace of Birdsong as your domain. She also offers positions in her circle of advisors or the senate to the heroes who saved her and brought hope for a brighter future to Taldor. Her financial gifts total 250,000 gp for each you, though she more than likely expresses her gratitude in art objects and magical treasures she knows the you will prize. With the gratitude of an empress, your futures are indeed bright...
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
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Zhi declines both a position on the council and the role as an advisor to the Empress. She accepts the title of Countess with only a minor fuss, knowing that it would be unseemly for her wife - who, unsurprisingly, accepts all offered positions and titles - to be married to someone of a lesser position.
Although she enjoys the gardens surrounding Birdsong Palace, it isn't longer than a week or so before the small woman has purchased an elegant townhouse in Canal Row. She spends the next few months split between the expected nesting behavior in preparation for the arrival of their child and circulating through some of the smaller businesses in various parts of the city.
The fact that many of those businesses change ownership immediately after her visits is something that only well connected individuals would notice.
Three weeks after the Grand Day of Exaltation, Zhi walks with her wife on a small side street on the edge of the Narrows. She's led Melody here without explanation - deferring any questions until they reach their destination.
"As you know, all the businesses that I've been buying," she says finally as their walk slows, "Are all instrumental in their positions throughout the city. They give us the means to hear things that even some of Martella's spy network may miss. There's one, though, that doesn't really have that kind of importance and I really was torn about whether to do something with it or to just leave it in the past." Her eyes wander across the dirt covered cobbles while her hands reach up to rub at her large belly.
"I finally decided that, yes, I wanted it. Perhaps it was foolish or ... or selfish. And maybe I'll decide that it was a mistake, but for now it's mine ... ours."
The rogue stops and gestures across to the other side of the street. Displayed in the windows of the small shop are large glass jars filled with sweets of every sort.
"They make the best caramels. Would you like some?" she asks with a nervous smile.
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Melodie has been working maniacally behind the scenes and, more often than not, in front of them too. Martella is too much the spymistress to ever want to stand at the front of the stage and after her experience in Axis Melodie has decided that her destiny lies at the forefront of the most dangerous arena in Taldor. Politics.
One of the Empresses most important duties is to reappoint members of the senate after the Exaltation Massacre and Melodie spends weeks attending soirees and balls by the score, private dinners by the dozen and an almost infinite number of intimate get-togethers and one to one tea sessions vetting candidates and drawing up exhaustive lists for the Empress to peruse. Only her frenetic activity prevents her from gaining quite a bit of weight. Her hard work pays off however at the Grand Day of Exaltation when Eutropia names over one hundred new senators, and rounds the process off by gifting Melodie with a senate seat - to be inherited by any child of her blood, regardless of gender. Primogeniture is gone for good and, with Harmony due in scant months, Melodie can't help but feel that the future is very bright indeed.
"I'd love some." Melodie replies with a smile, squeezing the hand of her now considerably pregnant wife. "Although I think the sweetest thing in the world is standing right next to me. Nothing in that sweet shop will be able to trump it." She leans in and steals a kiss with a smile.
"Hey Zil." She offers with a smile. "I've got a gift for you, although it might have a string if you'd be willing?" She offers a scroll, ornately sealed with a large fleur de lis. "This is my official deed, gifting you the Tribuneship of Stachys. Your school has done so much good there Zil and I want it to be yours, entirely yours. So here it is." She smiles again and waits for Zil to examine the document.
"I am hoping for something in return though." She says gently. "You have all the right to refuse, I'm taking Stachys back either way. Zhi and I owe you far too much for that. But the Princess is going to be appointing us as Countesses on the next Grand Day of Exaltation, as part of the celebrations. I was hoping I might convince you to decline the title. With Harmony on the way I want something to leave her in the future and a place for our family..." She blushes somewhat, a hint of the old, less confident Melodie peeking through. "I'm not trying to be horrible Zil, I swear."
"Maria, Safina." Melodie says, approaching the two women. "I was hoping I could speak to you both about a business proposition. The Princess is planning on announcing rewards as part of the Exaltation celebrations, and I know from reliable sources that we are to be granted the county of Meratt. I was hoping that I could interest you in an exchange?" She pauses to give either of her friends a chance to object before continuing. "I know I can't offer either of you a county, but I don't think either of you are the kind that are just going to retire to the countryside. You'd both be dead of boredom in a week so I wanted to offer you this." She hands over a small sheaf of documents. "It's Jerroth's manor house in Zimar. I transferred it to Zhi before we left, as Jerroth so it's legally ours to dispose of. We want to offer it to you both in exchange for declining Meratt. I thought that since its where you met, and much closer to Qadira... that it might be something you both wanted?" She pauses, looking from Maria to Safina and back. "I want Meratt for Zhi and I, I admit it. With Harmony on the way I want things I can pass on, to our children. I hope you can both understand. And, regardless of your answer - would you both be godparents? Zhi and I would never have made it this far without you both."
Zileska's return sees her visiting the Baron once more, then retiring to her academy in Stachys. Now well under construction, the school has a well-kept horticultural garden, a large green, and several buildings, including a tiny chapel dedicated to Calistria obscurely hidden away in the hinterlands of the estate's grounds. Zileska herself is just a contributor and sometime visitor - she has picked a headmistress for the school, one Peretta de Chambrun, a minor noblewoman with some skill in swordplay and etiquette who serves as headmistress, public face, and mentor to the youth who attend the school. Of course, behind the scenes, the academy does offer certain inducements for students to pursue unconventional academic goals, and Zileska also puts up the funds to guarantee a mentorship program so that the academy can admit some select students who show talent from among families that otherwise do not have the wealth for such a place. The academy proves to be an egalitarian place for teens to visit from across Taldor to receive a broad education with the chance of learning more than just dancing and history.
The priestess herself becomes something of a reclusive figure - though she still sees petitioners and clients, she spends a great deal of her time pursuing some sort of mysterious higher calling toward communing with her deity. The granting of a miracle is, after all, a display of the highest order of trust, faith, and power, and it has had some kind of revelatory effect upon the cleric - changing the scope of her investigations, perhaps, into how she pursues the abstract concepts of desire and vengeance.
Zileska is seated at a small round tea-table on the back garden. The sound of buzzing bees is a constant background drone as the tiny creatures bumble about the flowers on the trellises.
Sipping at her tea she says, "I have no interest in participating in Imperial politics in the usual fashion of speechmaking and attending Senatorial functions. Honestly the title of Countess would be a burden for me. My mistress exceeds temporal affairs, though she - and I - will meddle in them from time to time. I may be a patriot, but I serve Her first and foremost."
She puts the teacup on a small table and gestures for Melodie to have a seat in one of the fine wicker chairs next to the table. "I presume I am not the only County you are collecting? Collecting enough to form a duchy? Eutropia has no heir, after all, and the country must avoid another succession war in the future. A powerful Duchess with the ear of a childless Empress could be a formidable claimant."
She folds her hands in her lap to await Melodie's reply.
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"That would be quite a goal." She says calmly. "The Empress will be marrying as a matter of course, no doubt heirs will be on the way, and Carrius will inherit should she die. Your situation is theoretical at best. What I want is to provide for my family, to set my child, children hopefully, up to have more than I have had, and I want to change Taldor for the better. Eutropia is appointing me to the Senate." A smile breaks through Melodie's careful demeanor. "I will make this a better place, and if I end up with considerable power, land and influence along the way..." Now her smile turns sly. "Well... I'd like to think that you and your goddess would approve."
She stands to look down at the school and the grounds, nodding in approval. "You'll be a godmother for Harmony I hope? We're asking you, Sara, Maria and Safina. If it ever came to it there's no-one either of us could want watching out for our daughter more than you."
"Please, have some tea, unless you are in a hurry," says the priestess.
"I have a gift for you and Zhi as well, though it is a bit... complicated."
The politicking was a bit beyond Maria. Or, more specifically, bored her. She'd seen first hand what backroom dealing and political machinations could lead to, even before Martella had asked to meet with her in that cafe so long ago.
She helped where she could, but had also started taking cases again while in Oppara which tended to take up a good chunk of her time.
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
A tall slender man stands on the other side of the counter, wiping down a polished granite slab on the other side. He turns and stuffs a towel into his pocket as the small brass bell over the door rings. He glances briefly at Zhi before looking Mel over. His eyes then move back to the rogue with a question in them.
"An' what can I get two beautiful ladies today?" he asks.
"This is the Countess d'Valois, Trent - my wife. She knows," Zhi says with a curt nod. "She'd like some peppermint sticks, please."
The man's demeanor changes slightly and he bows his head towards Zhi and then towards Melodie. "Of course, Your Ladyship," he says. "And the usual for yourself today?" he adds.
"Not today, thank you. I'm not really in the mood right now," she says, rubbing one hand over her belly.
"Of course." The man steps to one of the large jars on display and extracts from it a half-dozen red and white sticks, which he hands over to Melodie.
"Did you prepare the room as I've asked?" she asks. "Yes, Your Ladyship - it's all emptied out and everythin's been disposed at your request."
"Thank you, Trent," Zhi says with a nod. She takes her wife's hand and leads her through the curtained doorway into the back. Past large sacks and a few barrels. "Like the other businesses, I've told Trent that I want no one to know that I ... we ... own the business now."
She continues up a rickety staircase to the upper floor. Along the way, she's managed to avail herself of one of Mel's peppermint sticks. "It settles my stomach," she says defensively. Their path takes them down a tiny hallway and into a small side room that Melodie guesses was once a bedroom. The room is entirely devoid of any furnishings now, with only a small window letting in dim light.
It's enough light, however, to show a dark stain on the floor. It surrounds the spot where a bed would be, outlined by its absence.
Zhi walks over and looks down at the floor where the bed was.
"This is where I made my first kill," she says in a quiet voice. "More specifically, this is where I tortured and murdered Cariem Zote - Papa Sweets." She stares at the floor in silence.
"I still haven't decided how I feel about that. I was twelve and someone that young should never have to deal with something like that. How much did that distort what kind of person I've become? And yet, because of that act, no other child will ever have to suffer at his hands." Her hand rubs over her belly again.
Her eyes finally lift up from the stain on the floor and look about the room.
"I feel that I should do something important here. Something meaningful. Something to counter the horrible thing that I did. But I have no idea what." She looks up at her wife and shrugs her shoulders. "Any ideas?"
"I'm going to take Mel up on her offer, it may just be a bit before we actually move to Zimar. Unless Darius or the Empress can hook us up with a reliable way of teleporting between here and Zimar, at least."
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WooHoo! Bribing the party with property acquired in game :D :D More seriously, thanks everyone. :)
The next day she is as good as her word, returning on time with the paperwork required already drawn up. Once Maria accepts she gets a massive hug from the changeling, before Safina gets one nearly as large.
"I'm sure you'll both be happy there." She says, smiling widely. "If you ever need anything done for the house let me know, my mother knows a lot of decorators."
"Zhi's listening too." She says, accepting a cup of tea with a generous dollop of honey. "I hope its not anything too extravagant, or else you'll be wanting our second child too!" She offers with a hint of levity.
As Zhi reveals the details of her past Melodie says nothing, simply squeezing her wife's hand. "I think that depends my darling. You did something that most people would never do, after provocation that most people never suffer. If you regret it, or you want to forgive him, then this is the place to do it. Otherwise..." She pauses for a long moment, "Perhaps... turn this place into something good. Would Trent take an apprentice or two? Foster some children, get them off the street and give them a trade, a new life. Then instead of horrors this could be a place where children's lives are made better?"
She shrugs. "I don't know if it's a good idea, or what you want, but perhaps it's something...?"
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
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She steps away from the outline of the bed on the floor and stops at another spot that's marred as if by a blade tip.
"I have almost as many nightmares about this room as I do about the Block House," she says in a distant voice. "According to Zileska, I did the right thing - vengeance administered with appropriate viciousness." She frowns. "It didn't make me feel any better. I'll have to think about it."
Four Months Later ...
"There you are," Melodie said softly, stepping around the corner of a large potted tree to find her wife sitting on a stone bench set against the wall in the side hallway.
"I just needed some peace. Too many people," Zhi said in reply as she slipped off her small shoes and spread her feet out on the tiled floor. "My back's killing me. I don't want to stand up. I don't want to sit down. I can't sleep." She looked down at her belly and stroked it with one hand. "I get the idea that you're trying to be fashionably late, but ... damn, girl. Anytime now, ok?"
Melodie stepped closer and reached down to take her wife's hand. "I said I was sorry about this. When we scheduled the party, I thought that Harmony would be here by now." Zhi waved away her apology with a hand. "It is what it is." She grasped the woman's hand tighter to pull herself to her feet. With a grimace she pressed her other hand to her back.
"Wow. Youw fat," a voice piped up next to the couple and two entirely different expressions looked down to see a tiny little girl with bright red hair, no more than three. Melodie's, that of joy at the adorable little child. Zhi's, that of eyes that could kill. Sensing her wife's uncharacteristic animosity, Melodie stepped between the two. "And what is your name, little one?" she asked.
"Contessa Teslyn Steele! There you are!" a woman's voice called out. A moment later the voice's owner and her husband appeared around the elegantly arranged greenery. "Momma, she's fat," the little red-head repeated. Having ascertained that her daughter was in no immediate threat, the woman looked up to see Melodie smiling down at the little girl.
"Oh! Countess! I-I'm so sorry. Contessa, apologize to the Countess. She is not fat," the woman sternly directed. "Not herw, Momma, herw!" Contessa replied, pointing past Melodie to Zhi.
"Contessa that's ... oh. Countess. I didn't see you there."
Zhi glowered at the child and then at the woman. "How is that possible?" she snapped, ignoring the glare from her wife. She grimaced as the pain in her back hit again. "Are you ok, Countess?" the woman asked, noting Zhi's expression of pain. "I'm fine. It's just my back."
"Mama, she peewd!"
Zhi almost snarled at the red-headed little monster, but then she felt the cool air coming in contact with moisture on her legs. She took a half step back so she could see the floor and, sure enough, there was a small puddle there.
"Is this your first, Countess?" the woman asked. "It is," Melodie answered with concern in her voice. Zhi only nodded as the pain in her back increased.
"When did you start getting that pain in your back?"
"On and off all morning," Zhi grumbled. The woman looked at her husband and then back at Zhi. "I think you're in labor, Countess."
To be continued ...
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"After the child comes... we can give her what she wants," says Zileska sibilantly. "What she desires. The body that she feels she should have had, that she was denied by the circumstances of her deprivation and her abusive childhood and her misfortune."
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
Looking closer, it's obvious that she's not wearing anything under the gown and with her hair hanging wet down her back and the water dripping down her legs, it looks like she was in the bath just a moment before.
She takes some deep breaths and slowly gains control over herself. The green color slowly fades and she stumbles forward to look at the two having tea. Her hands attempt to pull the gown closed over her protruding belly.
"Do you mean that? I ... I can beautiful?" she asks, reaching up to brush at her eyes.
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"Many things about ourselves we can change. We can learn. We can practice. We can focus on being better or on discovering new facets to ourselves. But it hardly seems fair that we are, for the most part, trapped in these bodies, even if they don't match what we expect of ourselves. What we need from ourselves."
"If your desire is strong enough... if you want it badly enough... it can be yours."
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
"I want this," she says finally as tears begin brimming in her eyes. "Maybe that makes me vain, but I don't care. I'm tired of people looking at me as if I'm a child. I want to look like a woman; Not some half-grown boy. I'm sorry if that diminishes me in your eyes, but ..." Her voice breaks. "I want this. Please don't try to talk me out of it."
"I love you d'Valois Mai Zhi, and not for your body. Well, not just for your body." Like Zhi her telepathic link is wide open, echoing every word with emotion and power. "What makes you happy makes me happy darling. This is for you and there is nothing you can do that would diminish you in my eyes. Be happy my darling - that is all I ever want from you."
"And maybe I'll be able to get my pet some pretty new outfits afterwards." She adds silently, the thrill of excitement and anticipation plain.
"That also means it's safer after Harmony is born. So you have a little time to think about it."
She gestures for Zhi to have a seat while she stands and takes a teacup from the nearby cupboard, turns it over, and pours some tea for Zhi.
"Would you like some slippers or a robe, Zhi? I can fetch something a bit warmer for you."
She finishes pouring tea, puts down the pot, then snaps her fingers. "Oh! And I have a nursemaid available for when Harmony arrives, if you'd like to meet her."
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
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Without waiting for a response, she pulls her robe open and continues to fan herself with the edges of it.
"Is she a wet nurse because I have a feeling that I'm going to need some help in that regard," Zhi says, gesturing to the small swells of her exposed breasts.
"Mel?" Zhi said, seeking out her wife's eyes. Melodie could read the fear beginning to trickle into the small woman. "I'll contact Zileska right away," she said, stepping in close to take Zhi's arm.
"No need, she's right here," the voice of the priestess spoke up as she rounded the corner of the side hall. Both Zhi and Melodie looked up in surprise. "I've been using divination magic to see when I should be here."
"You didn't think to maybe tell me when it would be?" Zhi said in a voice strained with pain. "That would ruin the surprise," Zileska responded with a smile. "Fine. Can we get on with this?" the rogue snapped.
Five minutes later and the three ladies entered the master chambers of the palace. As they walked through the door, Zileska directed the gathering servants to move the rugs aside, leaving the polished wood floor bare. "This will probably get messy," she said by way of explanation. "And I'm sure you'd rather not have to clean the rugs."
Zhi looked up at her wife again, fear even plainer on her face. "I don't know if I can do this," she said in a small voice. "I'll be right with you the whole time," Melodie replied in a soothing voice. "We'll get through this." She reached out a mental touch to calm the fear, but Zhi reacted instantly. "Do not do that," she said in a voice filled with steel. "Not now! You can't just numb me through this!"
"Zhi!" Zileska barked in a demanding voice and the small woman turned to shoot a glare at her as well. "Now listen to me," she continued, her voice taking on a calming tone. "I know you're afraid. I understand. But I will tell you that I've delivered many babies and I know how much pain is involved. I won't lie; It will hurt. But after what we've been through together, I know for a fact that I've healed you from wounds that hurt far, far worse. The only difference between the pain you've felt before and the pain you're going to feel now is the anticipation and the fear that that anticipation brings."
Zhi's expression of anger faded into pain and fear again.
"There is one other difference," Zileska continued, stepping closer. "Waiting on the other side of this pain is your brand new baby."
"Harmony," Zhi whispered.
"Harmony is waiting on the other side of this pain, Zhi. She's waiting for you. And I know how much you desire to hold her in your arms. I know that you're strong enough to push through this pain for her."
Zileska held out her hand. "Let's go meet her, Zhi," she said. Zhi choked back a sob and nodded. She turned to Melodie. "For Harmony," she said. "For Harmony," Melodie replied, tears glistened in her eyes. Zhi reached out to take Zileska's hand.
Ten Hours Later ...
"Unngggg!!!!" Zhi grunted as she bore down. Her hands gripped the back of the small chair she was standing next to with white knuckles. Melodie stood next to her, the shadows of fatigue and hours of shared pain etched onto her pale skin as she rubbed the small woman's bare back.
"Tell me again, Mel" Zhi managed as the contraction faded. "She's going to be beautiful," Melodie answered. "And she'll be smart, clever, and funny."
"And she'll have lots of friends," Zhi prompted, panting to catch her breath. "She'll have lots of friends," Melodie echoed with a smile.
"But not like that little red-headed monster downstairs," Zhi said, looking at her wife with fire in her eyes. "She'll have nice friends," Mel said with a nod.
"Nice friends ... and ... and ... nnnngggggg!!!!" Zhi's voice trailed off as another contraction began.
"We're almost there, Zhi. Almost there," Zileska stated calmly from her position on the floor behind the straining woman. One hand reached around to touch the tensing belly while the other softly stroked the inside of her thigh. The half-elf's eyes watched with an intensity not evident by her words. A soft prayer flowed from her painted lips.
"You've been ... saying that ... for hours now!" Zhi gasped through clenched teeth.
"And now it's really true," Zileska said with smile. "Mel, come look," she said softly.
Not sure if she wanted to see what Zileska wanted to show her, Melodie lowered herself down to Zilesk's position and looked up. "Is that ...?" she questioned. Zileska nodded. "Zhi, give me your hand," Zileska said. "What? Why?" Zhi questioned, as she panted through the short respite. "Just give me your hand."
The priestess reached up and drew the small woman's hand down between her legs. "What is ...? Is ... Is that the top of her head?" Zhi asked, wonder for the moment replaced exhaustion and pain in her voice. "Yes, it is. Just a few more pushes and you'll be able to hold her in your arms."
"She's ... she's got so much hair," Zhi said as she felt the next wave approaching. Reluctantly, she returned her hand to the back of the chair and tightened down with new determination.
"It's all black, too. Just like yours," Melodie said through her tears.
"Now just a couple more pushes, Zhi, and ..." Zileska began, but her words were overridden by Zhi's strained cry as she bore down with all her remaining strength. She felt the wetness and release as her baby dropped down into Zileska's hands. Her hands struggled to hold up her weight as she realized she was holding the broken pieces of the back of the wooden chair. Melodie was at her side in an instant, supporting her.
She felt herself being lowered down to the pile of blankets that were quickly pushed into place by a waiting maid. A warm and wet shape was placed on her chest.
"Zhi and Melodie d'Valois" Zileska said with mock formality. "I'd like to introduce you to Harmony Mai d'Valois; Your daughter."
Zhi looked down at the wrinkled face below her.
"Hello, little one," Zhi said, the pain now already forgotten. If her wife had something to do with that, she didn't care anymore. The small face turned at the sound of her voice and one dark eye open slightly to look up at her. "I'm your mom."
"It's no trouble at all. The hedge-maze shields us from would-be prying eyes on the academy grounds. I can bring you something cool to drink if that would be preferable," says Zileska.
"The prospective ward is indeed a wet-nurse, but you needn't worry. Volume of milk production is not, strictly speaking, tied to breast size. Also, once Harmony's delivered, if I petition Calistria on your behalf and she grants this miracle, you should have allllll the size you want. This is just to have an extra pair of hands to help take care of Harmony since the two of you tend to be extra-busy with your duties both official and unofficial. That those extra hands also mean that she can save you some time with feeding are an added bonus. I expect you'll want to get as much 'bonding time' with Harmony as you can, regardless."
The priestess remains standing to see if she needs to fetch a cool beverage or associate.
She takes her wife's hand and, with a thought, sends wafts of air across her heated skin.
"She's perfect!" Melodie breathes, reaching out with one gentle finger to stroke her daughter's face. One tiny fist reaches up and clutches at Melodie's long digit and, as the two make contact, Melodie slips gently into her daughter's bright, flickering mind.
Welcome little one. We love you. So much." Inside her daughter's mind Melodie can feel the barrage of sensation, light and sound assaulting her senses. So she eases the pressure, siphoning sound and light away and watching as the tiny bundle relaxes into Zhi's arms.
"We did it my love. You did it!" Her mental voice reflects the awe that Melodie feels. "Our daughter is here..."
"So! Any questions?"
"Congratulations to both of you," says Zileska as she wipes down her hands and starts cleaning up the aftermath of the delivery. "Especially you, Zhi. Some of the hardest work you've done but with the best payoff." The priestess takes a step back to let the happy parents enjoy their new arrival.
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
When the air moves across her, she throws her head back and her eyes close. "Oh, yes. This is better than sex," she says, opening her robe wider to catch as much of the cooling effect as possible. The perspiration glistens on the various curves of her skin. "Keep doing that."
Any more to do for this one, or shall we move to the wetnurse, or the wish? ;)
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
The next day she introduces them to her friend Marci, a wiry woman who is able to work as a wet-nurse. In addition to having her own infant and thus meeting the necessary preconditions, Marci seems to have a startling amount of skill in unarmed combat and very quick reflexes, whether intercepting a thrown toy or catching a climbing baby that's gotten somewhere she shouldn't.
Working up the miracle sequence, then will send to the DM for input/revision, then back to you two.
Marci, the wet-nurse, invites the two ladies in and accepts their traveling cloaks. "She's waiting in her room," says Marci. "She's been making prayers and preparations for a while."
The pair are led to Zileska's private rooms, where the scent of incense just peeks out from the door. Once it's opened, the room seems dim, with a low-hanging fog on the ground and a spicy smell. Dim light emanates from small burning embers on incense sticks placed on a small table with a statuette of Calistria upon it.
Marci bows once, hands folded before her, and retreats.
"Close the door behind you," comes the priestess' husky voice from somewhere in the dimness and fog. The sultry tone seems to tug at the two visitors in a way that she normally does not. Melodie can sense the very subtle strings of enchantment, the curiosity and desire woven in as an undercurrent.
Stirring in the far chamber in the dimness, the priestess pulls away the sheets and the curtain from her bed, and stands, one hand on the rear bed poster. Something seems... different about her. She's a little taller? But that could just be the shoes.
"Come closer," she says again, and while there is no compulsion behind it, it is clearly an instruction and not a suggestion. The priestess steps out from the gauzy curtains of the bed and into view, shrouded by a filmy garment. Her pointed ears seem long and alert, her unkempt curly blonde hair longer, her curves slightly more generous. Everything in the boudoir seems to accentuate the dreamlike quality - a very exotic, erotic dream.
Then they see her black, black eyes - fully black, like an elf's - and the two guests realize that there are more than just the three mortals in the chamber.
The visiting goddess, wearing her priestess' flesh, runs her hands up through her hair and then down her body and says, "You came to get what you want, didn't you? Then come and get it." She beckons for Zhi to come toward her.
Zhi is constantly alert for danger, and while she feels a tingling sensation, it's a feeling like reaching for the gold ring in a carnival game - over a pit of spikes. The great reward is here, what she's wanted, the person she was meant to be, but if she steps wrong... the consequences could be dire. One does not wish to misstep in the presence of divinity.
Zhi glances to Melodie. Her wife sends her a warm feeling of reassurance. Even without words the meaning is clear: She does not need support, or protection; she need only know that she has a partner who will love and cherish her and walk with her in her decisions.
Melodie takes Zhi's hand one last time and then sends her thought-forms weaving to her wife: <Go, my love. Blossom. Leave the cocoon behind.>
Zhi steps forward, determined. The priestess breaks into a pleased smile, and reaches with one hand for Zhi's chin, bringing it up slightly, gazing deep into the rogue's eyes. The black eyes that meet Zhi seem eternal, infinte, endless.
"Disrobe," says the being. Zilistria, for lack of a better name. Her hand drops away from Zhi's face.
Again, Zhi feels no compulsion, no outside force, but she knows that to get what she wants, she must humor the whims of this entity. Even so, being told to do something like this... when it's not with her wife, in the structured setting of their assignations... it brings up difficult feelings. Nevertheless, she steels herself with another gentle reassurance from Melodie, and steadily sets about removing her boots, her belt, her tunic, everything.
Zilistria extends one leg and steps - on her toes, like a dancer - slightly to the side, her hand snaking back out to touch Zhi's shoulder. A tingling sensation follows wherever her fingers touch.
"You have honored me with the pursuit of your revenge," says Zilistria in her smoky, echoing voice. "And in your pursuit of your desire." She moves behind Zhi, continues the circle, her hand tracing from shoulder to shoulder and back around. "My faithful servant has begged a boon of me. A second boon. For you. To intercede directly in your mortal life."
There is a pause before Zilistria continues. "You understand the weight of this, yes?" She leans in as she works the knot at her neck that keeps her gauzy nightgown on, then draws it open and tosses it aside, leaving her naked as well. "For a goddess to step into the mortal world and change it... does not go unmarked."
Zilistria puts her hands on Zhi's shoulders, facing her, woman to woman, and says, "If your desire is strong enough, it can overcome all of the laws of the cosmos." Her hands run down Zhi's arms, still bringing that odd tingling sensation. Her fingers touch Zhi's long, delicate fingers and she says with a smirk, "These are... just perfect. Let's get to work, shall we?"
Zilistria circles again and then draws her hands down Zhi's back. She crouches and brings her hands past Zhi's buttocks and all the way to her heels. As Zilistria rises again, Zhi feels a dizzying sensation, a pitching of vertigo. The room seems to tilt and shift as Zilistria's firm grip makes its way up, her hand sliding in circles around Zhi's legs as she goes. She rises to press against the small of Zhi's back and keeps going, her hands going up, up, pushing Zhi's taut flesh and making her squirm like she's under the lash in the dungeon - a lash where pleasure and pain intersect. Finally Zilistria reaches Zhi's neck and her hands tangle up in the black hair, teasing it out and leaving that same tingling sensation on Zhi's scalp. Her hands close around Zhi's face, blocking out her eyes for a moment before passing away. The rogue exhales forcefully and shudders involuntarily. She can't seem to get her balance - the room is off-kilter; what's happening? Why does it feel like everything is falling away from her?
Melodie's soothing mind-voice touches her for a moment. <It's not falling. You're taller! Zhi, you're... you're looking down at everything, your center of balance has changed, your legs are longer and your body is taller and your lips are fuller and...>
Inside the mind-speech comes that sultry, smoky voice again. <That's enough now. I'm working.>
Zilistria steps again - always with the toes pointed - to circle back in front of Zhi. She takes a half-step back and puts one hand to her chin, like a sculptor examining her work, then she steps close again and grips Zhi by the waist. She makes a wiping motion with her hands, and all of the scars, stretch marks, and sagging skin are gone - vibrant skin left behind.
"And I don't even work out," Zilistria says mirthfully. She continues her work, her hands pushing in on Zhi's waist, then sliding down across her hips. Deep in the throes of change, Zhi's mind reels, clouded, and she hears a buzzing sensation in her head. As Zilistria squeezes, Zhi's hips broaden and curve outward, her slim figure suddenly bursting with curves.
Zilistria's hands come upward, drawing out Zhi's ribs, making her height and balance seamless, and she halts with her hands on Zhi's small breasts. "You've probably already learned that you'll have no shortage of milk for your little one with these, but let's just make sure, shall we?" she says with another smirk. As she gropes and fondles Zhi's breasts, they grow noticeably, filling out and ballooning until they spill out of Zilistria's hands, as big as anything that Zhi ever dreamed. Zhi's nipples can't help but stand at attention, filling out and growing larger as well. Zilistria runs her fingers across Zhi's expanding breasts and the tingling sensation causes a let-down, making Zhi's milk drip from her involuntarily. Zilistria wipes up a thick drop of milk and sucks it from her finger, then declares, "Delicious."
Wrapping her arms around Zhi and stepping into an embrace with her, body to body, she whispers, "Now let's just... put a bow on it." She sinks down again, hands sliding down Zhi's back, until she reaches the rogue's nethers. That sultry laugh issues forth once more before she plunges in to kiss Zhi's wet cleft, her tongue darting out to lick Zhi's clit and lap at her lips. Zilistria's warm breath feels like an arousing breeze in between her explorations as her tongue slides between Zhi's labia and drives ecstatic sparks into her, all while knitting any of the hurts and tears that remain from her recent delivery.
Zilistria keeps at her ministrations, her hands holding Zhi by the small of her back as she tilts her head up to engage Zhi with overwhelming oral pleasure. Even Melodie feels the feedback, catches the wiff of a scent of oranges and feels her own body responding to the emotional currents of Zhi's ecstasy.
Just before climax, Zilistria pulls away and stands again, keeping Zhi close with one arm while her other hand slides around and tilts so that she can slide her fingers into the rogue. Zilistria works her hand furiously, bringing Zhi to a sudden peak that causes the young woman to gasp involuntarily as she shudders and convulses while she is held up by the grace of a goddess. Milk spurts forcefully from Zhi's engorged breasts, showering over Zilistria's body, and Zilistria lets out a peal of laughter at the same time, her head thrown back, before she sighs contentedly, gently pulls away with one last caress, and lets her head fall forward. Her eyes suddenly abate and return to the white-and-colored visage and she seems to... descend suddenly, and the naked Zileska collapses to the floor.
Melodie rushes forward to embrace her wife as an airy voice speaks through their mind-speech as if from a great distance, <Well, that was fun. Let me know if you ever need a third for scissoring.>
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
Zhi tosses aside her old garments and steps in front of a large, full-length mirror to examine her new 'self'. She was initially shocked at the size of her new breasts, but whether it was a residual effect of the magic, or just something to scare her, she notices that the size has reduced to some degree. Her hands move up, tentatively to check and a soft moan issues forth when she finds that the tips are still just as sensitive.
Her hands then move down her sides slowly, seeing and feeling a softness that was never there before. They settle on her hips. She has hips! Her smile broadens as she turns to see curves on herself that she never thought she would see. She turns back to look square at the mirror as her image blurs. Reaching up she wipes the collecting tears from her eyes and then turns to her wife.
Melodie has made it clear many times that she would support her wife no matter what her appearance choices were. But now, with the decision made and the result of that decision standing in front of her, Zhi can't help but feel trepidation that her love may have second thoughts. "So, what do you think?" she asks nervously.
Once the miracle is over, Marci towels off Zileska and helps her back into her bed.
"Feels like I've been worked over in the dungeon - the kind at the Calistrian temple," she mutters as she slides under the covers like an invalid, one hand pressed to her forehead. "That's a heck of a hangover. I don't really remember it. Hope it all worked out all right."
She thrusts her tongue out and champs her mouth a few times, then says, "Well, it tastes like someone had a good time."
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
"Mine!" Melodie hurls the thought across the distance, although there is no response except for a faint echo of amused laughter. She too helps to tuck Zileska in although she does give the woman a mock stern look.
"You'll have to ask beforehand if you want to have another taste." She says, although without any real venom - she knows that the relationship is not like that.
"Thank you Zil, thank you for everything. If you ever need aid from me all you have to do is ask." She says it firmly, her ever-so-expressive voice giving the words a sense of great weight.
Melodie steps up behind her wife and runs her white hands gently down Zhi's newly smoothed skin to rest on her rounded hips.
"I think you're beautiful." She whispers, leaning down to rest her chin on her wife's shoulder. [smaller]"Is it everything you wanted?"
Zileska says, "It's fine. Nothing terrible. I'll just have Marci bring me some tea or water or something." At that, the nurse nods and shuffles off completely silently to fetch a beverage.
Zileska smiles tiredly as Zhi kisses her on the forehead. "You're welcome, Zhi. It seems you've wanted this most of your life and I'm glad that I could help make it happen." She happens to glance down at her goddess' handiwork and then says in a startled tone, "Goddess, Zhi! I'm going to nickname you 'the Juggernaut' now."
Pushing herself up on her elbows, the priestess says, "I'm sure I'll be fine in a minute, I'm just a little disoriented. You two should go home - you'll need to do a lot of clothes-shopping, I think."
|d'Valois Mai Zhi|
Zhi's arms move to awkwardly cover her chest, but a smile creeps onto her face. "Yes, clothes shopping," she agrees. However, her eyes move to look her wife up and down and it looks like clothes are the furthest thing on her mind. "We'll leave you to rest." She kisses the woman's cheek. "Thank you, again," she whispers. "Shall we?" she says turning to her wife.
"You're everything that I've wanted," Zhi says, turning to press her naked form against her wife. Her arms snake around behind Melodie's back to hold her tight. She notes how she doesn't have to stretch up quite as far now to touch her lips to Melodie's and tests that practice out for a moment.
"So far it's been what I've hoped for. Now about clothes shopping ..." She moves a knee between Melodie's and presses her thigh upwards. "Is that what you'd like to do next?"
"Well I am looking forward to taking you shopping. You're going to model lots of things for me to admire you in..." She pauses, "But how could we go shopping without making sure we both know exactly what changes have been made." One of her hands snakes up between them and begins to tease Zhi's hard nipple. "I think we need to make a thorough inspection first!"
With that decided she spins around, twirling Zhi with her and pushes her wife back towards their bed. "So... I think I should start from the feet..."
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About a month after the coronation, Maria's father finally returned to Oppara. It turns out he'd been on his way back when word reached him of the civil war and so he decided to hunker down in Restov until things had finally settled.
It was about then that Desna apparently decided he'd had enough good luck in his life and set about "balancing the scales" - letters he sent to Maria ended up getting lost, redirected or, in one notable instance, snatched out of his hand by a hawk of all things. Of the three people he found able to cast sending spells, two were vastly over-priced and the third was actually terrible at targeting the spell based off a verbal description. Ended up going to a blonde tiefling girl in Cheliax named Mary who was none too pleased at her massage being interrupted by some creepy-sounding old Restovite.
He was very happy to meet Safina, though wasn't too surprised that their first meeting was essentially just "meeting and flirting in a coffee shop". He was quite surprised to hear the stories the two had for their part in the war, particularly the plane-hopping, and was understanding about details that the new Empress had asked them not to share.
There was some trepidation at the news the couple would be moving to Zimar, at least until they mentioned the plan of seeing whether Darius could help set up a teleportation circle between the two residences.
Over time, the Zimar branch of Greyson Investigative Services flourished. Given it had been Pythareus' power base during the war, there were more than a few people who were reluctant to seek the aid of someone who'd helped depose the former military commander. But Maria soon got the local law enforcement to let her help on the occasional case, which slowly grew into more work as the grudges of the war fell away.
After about a year, a letter arrived from Andoran, requesting her presence in Almas to help deal with a vigilante that had been working in the city. Ordinarily Maria would have ignored it, except for the identity the vigilante had taken.
The Tigress. An identity Maria had used once during the war, but that she had chosen because of the original Tigress who'd been active in Oppara over twenty years ago. And Maria was one of only three people in Taldor who knew the original Tigress' true identity.
Quinta Greyson. Maria's mother.
Maria, Safina, and a handful of close associates she'd made in the investigative business set off for Almas only a few days later, to see just who was using the identity of the Tigress.
But that is a tale for another day...
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The senate is packed with people, on a scale that hasn’t been seen for two years, ever since the Exaultation Day Massacre. The floor is thronged with senators, resplendent in their rich robes and garments. The galleries are packed too, but with a much lower class of people than would normally be permitted within the august halls – artisans, labourers and a few even less reputable looking people. Not only is the Empress herself in attendance at this session of the Senate, but today’s business is a great change, one that represents the largest ever shift in Taldan governance.
The Succession Heroes are all in attendance at Melodie’s request, forming the event into an amusing rerun of their first meeting at the Exaultation Gala. Rather than being the bright eyed senatorial aides however, they now represent a significant concentration of skill and power, around which a number of other senators, nobles and hangers on seek to gather. The Countesses d’Valois draw the most attention, but even Zileska garners interest and gossip for more than her current choice of outfit.
”We should head to the box.” Melodie says, having received a significant nod from one of the ushers stationed across the Arcade. ”It looks like the show is about to begin.” It takes nearly ten minutes but the flow of human traffic into the senate hall itself finally slows until the Senate Princeps, Lord Giovanni Merosett, can gavel the session to order.
”The Senate is called to order to vote on motion 26b of the new Justice Bill, allowing for the appointment of People’s Tribunes to sit amongst this august body.” Merosett’s voice is laden with disapproval, a staunch traditionalist who voted against repealing primogeniture he despises the many ‘innovations’ introduced under Eutropia and has wielded his considerable senate influence to delay, dilute or outright block numerous reforms – unfortunately for him, this particular bill had had supporters too powerful for even a man with thirty years’ experience to defeat.
”Does Your Majesty approve of the bill?” He asks formally, turning to the Grand Princess on her throne. Eutropia inclines her head regally, the Primogen Crown flashing under the bright lights of the hall. ”The Throne approves. Therefore the bill will proceed to vote, we begin in ten minutes.”
From their box Zileska and Melodie scan the senate floor together, noting face and demeanors as their friends chat behind them, explaining some of the finer points to Safina.
”There, it’s Vernisant. He’s trying to talk to Duo.” Zileska points out, laying a hand on Melodie’s arm to draw her attention. The changling’s mismatched eyes narrow.
”I though we’d warned him off. Clearly he’s feeling brave today.” She turns to her wife, a smirk forming on her lips.
Feel like doing a job for me sweetheart. Earl Vernisant is downstairs and trying to steal our votes, would you mind ‘talking’ to him for me?
Zhi catches the bent of her wife’s thoughts and grins in response.
”My pleasure, Princessa.” She replies, slipping down the stairs from the senatorial box.
From above the rest of the women watch as Zhi makes her way through the crowds to Earl Vernisant. The conversation between the two is brief and Vernisant appears defensive, until Zhi produces a black feather from somewhere and pushes it into the Earl’s hands. Even from their balcony, Vernisant’s face pales dramatically and he retreats from the senate floor with unseemly speed leaving Zhi standing by herself with a wide grin as her wife applauds her from above.
Zhi has just returned when the votes are called and the entire group watches with delight as Merosett’s face turns redder and redder as the count moves steadily against him. With the Empress here in person even normally traditionalist senators bow to the throne’s will and the vote is unanimous, with Merosett not casting a vote at all, in futile protest.
”By seven hundred and forty three votes to none, motion 26b is now passed. The floor is open to nominations for People’s Tribune.”
”Sara Burke! Sara Burke!”
The call rings out across the hall from somewhere in gallery and is soon filling the auditorium as the tall woman is propelled to the front of the balcony. Merosett hammers his gavel into the podium to restore order, beating the ancient wood with ferocity until silence is restored.
”Order! I will have order!” He bellows, until the gallery subsides. ”Now, while the senate appreciates the… enthusiasm of the people, this is a senatorial vote, not an Andoran election. Unless Miss Burke is able to…”
”Princeps. May I speak?” Melodie calls, her voice cutting cleanly through the hubbub. Merosett frowns at the silence that follows her question but steps back, ”The Senate recognises Senator d’Valois.” He agrees unwillingly.
Melodie pauses for a long moment, casting a stern eye across the gallery to ensure silence for her announcement. ”I hereby nominate Sara Burke as People’s Tribune.” The crowd roars approval and doesn’t stop until Eutropia herself raises a hand. With an official nomination there is no further impediment and, despite the traditionalist faction raising half a dozen objections, the vote proceeds swiftly. Sara is voted by a narrow margin and strides down onto the senate floor to take her seat in the front row, where Bartelby Lotheed cedes his seat to her to much applause.
The Grand Princess leaves and much of the gallery empties now that the main vote has passed. The Princeps finally gavels the session to order once more and launching into the next motion when he sees the new Tribune standing. ”Tribune Burke, this is not the time. The Senate has much pressing business and no time to instruct you in your new duties.” The man snaps. ”Now…”
”Princeps Merosett!” Sara replies sharply, ”I am well aware of my new duties. As Tribune I am accorded the same rights as every Senator and, since the is not a vote in progress, I propose an urgent motion.” Trapped by the laws which he had helped draft, Merosett is forced to yield the podium to the imposing woman.
In the senatorial box Zhi can feel her wife’s tension, and rubs her arm soothingly. ”She’s doing brilliantly isn’t she?” She asks, trying to distract Melodie. ”It’s going to be fine. We’ve planned for this.” Melodie squeezes her wife’s hand but doesn’t speak, uncharacteristically nervous as Sara brings her speech to a close.
”… therefore I declare a motion of Censure against Princeps Merosett, for obstruction of the throne, incompetence and by the will of the people!” Merosett glares ferociously at Sara, but the former-resurrectionist returns his gaze cooly. ”Will anyone second the motion.”
”I will.” A tall brunette calls.
”The motion is seconded by Senator Trant.” Sara responds, flashing a wink at her lover. ”Lord Darvian, will you conduct the vote?”
Darvian, a grey-haired elf who has sat in the senate for more than a century, nods regally and moves smoothly through the motions of the vote, which passes by more than one hundred votes. Merosett’s long time in the senate having made him plenty of enemies who are only too glad of an opportunity to stick the knife in.
”Since the Princeps has been censured I am required to open nominations for a replacement.” Darvian says, over the hubbub. ”Who will make a nomination?”
”I nominate Lord Attrem!” Merosett calls immediately, to calls of approval from the traditionalist faction. Up in the box Melodie’s hand tightens convulsively on her wife’s. [smaller]”This is it.” She murmurs, before nodding significantly to Trant and Sara on the floor.
”I nominate Countess d’Valois.” Bartelby Lotheed announces, a move which Trant immediately seconds. Again the matter is put to a vote as Sara, Malphene and Bartelby move across the floor, speaking quietly with certain people. Above Zhi watches with narrowed eyes, mentally ticking off names as vote after vote is cast.
Merosett was barely restrained from yelling when Melodie was nominated and, as her votes mount into the hundred with even reliable traditionalists casting their votes for her, his face turns scarlet and he nearly foaming at the mouth by the time the votes are counted.
Darvian raises a wrinkled hand for quiet and announces. ”By six hundred and seventy five votes to eighty we have a new Princeps. Countess d’Valois, the senate is yours.”
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What makes a queen is far more than her bloodline, her goals, or her best wishes. A queen is as much her road to power as what she intends to do with the power she gains. Every action taken, every compromise, every new agenda either magnifies or obscures the guiding light that set her on the path to glory. While Eutropia began her long journey to the throne 20 years ago with simple and kindhearted intentions—that no one should feel the sting of losing a loved one too early—she made compromises and employed dubious agents in her quest to obtain the Lion Throne.
Grand Princess Eutropia was directly accountable for the actions you took in pursuit of her goals. She understood on a deeply personal level that she was culpable for every life taken in her road to the throne. Thus, your decisions and victories, your choices and solutions, all influenced the type of ruler that she became...
The PCs befriended Malphene Trant: +1 Compassion
Regarding the nobles trapped beneath the Senate, the PCs brought them out: +1 Compassion
The PCs gained the assistance of the Pathfinder Society: +1 Practicality
The PCs negotiated a surrender from Count Lotheed: +1 Compassion
The PCs built improvements in Stachys worth at least 25,000 gp: +1 Compassion
The PCs allied with the Night Swan: +1 Efficiency
The PCs allied with Baron Okerra: +1 Practicality
The Stachys trials resulted in Lucinia Mag’s banishment, dismemberment, or fine: +1 Practicality
The PCs befriended Lieutenant Gallindra Jonrek in Yanmass: +1 Compassoin
The PCs fought the mercenary group called the Kozan Bravos: +1 Practicality
The PCs worked to reverse the petrification of any of the medusa Aresphena’s victims: +1 Compassion
The PCs usurped control of Milon Jeroth’s spy network: +1 Practicality
The PCs solved Tae Amalon’s murder: +1 Compassion
Prince Stavian was executed: +1 Efficiency
The PCs negotiated a surrender from Maxillar Pythareus: +1 Compassion
The PCs disturbed Taldaris's grave goods: +1 Practicality
The PCs stole from the Crowntop Coup: +1 Practicality
The PCs saved Carrius: +2 Compassion
Final Scores: Compassion 9, Efficiency 2, Practicality 7
Eutropia the Kind
Kind words and extended hands proved more effective than drawn blades in winning Eutropia the throne, and she honored this simple truth through outreach and empathy for her subjects. Eutropia the Kind took from those with much to give—the nobles, the merchants, and the coin generated by Taldor’s many trade routes—and invested it in the common good to provide education, medicine, and a higher standard of living to all Taldans. To ensure that the needs of even the meekest citizens are met, she borrowed from Andoran philosophy and introduced a publicly elected counterpart to the Senate to advise on government policy. While her reforms made Eutropia the Kind wildly popular with the common citizens, her heavy taxes and flouting of Taldan tradition enraged the nobility. Her reign saw a resurgence in aristocratic conspiracies and secret societies dedicated to usurping the throne.
Twenty years passed. The War for the Crown became history, and the details became legend. All grown up, Harmony d'Valois headed south to the Shackles to seek out an adventure of her own...
But that is her story to tell. This story, at long last, has reached its conclusion. May Taldor endure, now and forever!