DM Brainiac's War for the Crown: Table 2

Game Master Brainiac

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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.


Male Human Stalker Vigilante 7 HP 52/52; AC 21/16/17; Saves +5/+10/+7; +3 Init; +16 Per, Active Effects: None

Diplomacy (Day): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (14) + 9 = 23
Diplomacy (Stavian III): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (4) + 9 = 13
Diplomacy (Martella): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (16) + 9 = 25
Diplomacy (Eutropia): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (14) + 9 = 23
Diplomacy (Gather Info, DC 15) (taking 10): 10 + 9 = 19
Knowledge (nobility) (Day): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5
Knowledge (nobility) (Stavian): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (5) + 4 = 9
Knowledge (nobility) (Martella): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5
Knowledge (nobility) (Eutropia): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (18) + 4 = 22
Doritan spends the day putting his semi-celebrity status to good use, trying to get and recall information about his employer, and general info about the situation at large.

Renown makes everyone in the area that would be at least indifferent to me be one category higher, if that matters at all.

He grabs a small snack, savoring the food as he looks around the city.

Before he goes to meet up with his fellow agents, Doritan carefully hides a small dagger on his person, stowing it in a wrist sheath.
It never pays to go somewhere without a weapon. Especially not with nobles involved.
Sleight of Hand (taking 10): 1d20 + 7 + 5 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 7 + 5 + 2 = 28

At the cafe, those that would arrive at least a half hour early see a dashing young man, clad in brown-red finery on par with that of nobles. Curiously, despite his apparent youth, some gray is already peeking through his brown hair. While far from appearing nervous, he's cautious, analyzing the room with care and determination. He takes a seat in the corner as he waits for his coworkers to arrive.


Doritan:
  • 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!

  • 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. The princess's reputation for "fighting in the streets" largely hails from her skill as a fencer, a sport she excelled at during her schooling at the Sinora Academia. Many times in her twenties she matched blades with chauvinistic politicians who would otherwise let her speak or act within political circles, and those early public duels helped her win unexpected support for her later social reforms--as well as a reputation as an impolite, unladylike brute.

    Rumor: 1d10 ⇒ 1

  • Rumor: "I hear tell the emperor's going to exalt another of his Ulfen bodyguards like he did for Baron Vinmark. Last thin we need is another barbarian lording it over us."

  • Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    I’m free, Maya thinks, the words still not fully registering in her head. Could it be possible? Yes, yes it could. Not just possible, but reality. Maya could never hope to fully express her thanks to Lady Lotheed. Agreeing to whatever missions the Lady had in mind seemed like the barest of things Maya could do to repay the woman.

    The halfling is interrupted from her thoughts as the tailor fitting her courtier’s outfit asks her to extend her arms. That’s another thing Maya’s not used to experiencing - having nice clothes. Her plain servant’s garments had been all she had known for her entire life up until a couple days ago.

    If Nerosa could see me now… Maya muses, smiling to herself as the tailor tells her to put her arms down. Maybe she’ll get a chance to run into the Watersby daughter. That would be quite the reunion. Maya prefers that encounter to happen at a much later date. Nerosa is unlikely to be happy to see her.

    And Maya's parents... the halfling's not sure when if ever she'll be ready to face them. They had to be so disappointed in her display in front of the nobles. There's also no telling what Nerosa or the other Watersbys had told them about Maya.

    Once the appropriate sizes are noted for the halfling, Maya waits for an hour or so for the outfit to be adjusted to her specifications. The halfling had convinced the tailor to expedite the fitting. The woman seems unused to fitting such an outfit for a halfling.

    Too bad, Maya thinks. She and everyone else will have to get used to it.

    A little more than an hour later, Maya finds herself walking towards the cafe Lady Martella had chosen for the meeting.

    I wonder who else Martella chose as her agents?

    As she walks, Maya contemplates what she knows about the day, Stavian, Martella, and Eutropia. She also keeps her ears open for any juicy rumors.

    Including Maya’s Pomp and Pageantry bonus for the checks

    Diplomacy (Day): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (4) + 10 = 14
    Diplomacy (Stavian): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (7) + 10 = 17
    Diplomacy (Martella): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (10) + 10 = 20
    Diplomacy (Eutropia): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (1) + 10 = 11
    Diplomacy (Rumors): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (11) + 10 = 21

    Eventually Maya arrives at the cafe and purses her lips a bit to notice a man who, by all appearances, is one of Taldor’s many nobles. She should have expected Lady Martella to select others of her own kind, but a part of Maya had still held hope that no other nobles would be involved.

    After her initial disdain, Maya puts on her best smile and walks straight over to the man before extending her hand in greeting. “Maya Watersby. Aspiring bard and purveyor of satirical remarks. Who I do have the pleasure of meeting?”


    Male Human Swashbuckler (Rondelero swashbuckler) 5 (HP: 44/44) (AC:23 FF:17 T:16) (Fort: +2 Ref: +9 Will: +1) (Init: +7) (Perc: +8) (Panache 3/3)

    I'll pay the extra 45gp for the noble's outfit instead of the courtier's outfit I paid for in character creation.

    Diplomacy (Day of Exaltation): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (4) + 8 = 12
    Diplomacy (Grand Prince Stavian III): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26
    Diplomacy (Lady Martella Lotheed): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (20) + 8 = 28
    Diplomacy (Princess Eutropia): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (9) + 8 = 17
    Diplomacy (gather information for rumours): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (8) + 8 = 16

    A debonair Taldan man walks down the Senate Street, casually grabbing a slice of cake from a nearby baker's stall and munching on it with a smile. The man is wearing a suit of gleaming blue robes, decorated by green and gold embroidery, a necklace of emerald and sapphire, and golden cufflinks each bearing the initials "BI". As he paces down to the café, one would notice that his walk has a certain uneven rhythm to it, somewhat reminiscent of a gigue or sarabande. He enters the café, immediately bowing to the nearest noble (or person of noble bearing), looking for company. The couple happens to be that of a second young man, clad in noble clothes, and what seems to be a joyous halfling woman. Bernal approaches the two, interrupting whatever conversation they might have with a flourish.

    "Sir, milady; Bernal Iacomo", he says with a dazzling smile, "Rondelero dancer and duelist in service of the Empire. With whom do I have the honour?"


    Maya:
  • 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.

  • 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 ⇒ 10

  • Rumor: "Ugh, Eutropia brought that disgusting mutt of hers to the Elbistan Tournament last spring, and the wretched beast drooled on the silk table dressings. She'd never get away with such impropriety if her father weren't pulling strings to protect her."
  • Bernal:
  • 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. 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.

    Rumor: 1d10 ⇒ 8

  • Rumor: "Lady Morilla is back in town from Absalom. I wonder if she's performing at the Exaltation Gala."

  • Male Human Stalker Vigilante 7 HP 52/52; AC 21/16/17; Saves +5/+10/+7; +3 Init; +16 Per, Active Effects: None

    The man relaxes and greets you with a smile and a welcoming and firm hand. Sense Motive DC 11: 1d1d20 + 6 ⇒ (5) + 6 = 11
    Despite appearances, he hasn't let up for a second, and is studying you both with a cautious eye[/spoiler]

    "Pleasure to meet your acquaintances. Doritan Umbreal, at your service. Athletic competitor and, apparently, local celebrity. I'm not entirely sure how that happened, to be honest. I show up, introduce myself to a few people, and it seems like all of a sudden everyone knows who I am. Or something like that, anyway."
    Sorry, couldn't resist poking fun at the Renown ability.


    F Half-Elf Oracle of the Streets 2 | AC 14, T12, FF 12/14* | HP 15/15 (9 NL damage)| F+1, R+3, W+5/+7 | CMB +1, CMD 13 | Init +2, Perc. +7, SM +7; Low-light vision

    Elif, too, paid for a courtier outfit at start of play. Even with the 30gp line of credit, Elif doesn't have enough coin at the moment to purchase a noble's outfit or even start with one. So, she'll make do until she can afford one.

    The courtier clothes she donned before moving onto the streets of Oppara were finer than the ones she wore in Cassomir. Elif even added a few, small pieces of jewellery to give the impression she fit into the higher bred society of the city. Her hair was brushed until it shone and then styled in a neat braid over one shoulder. She placed her cloak over the top of her dress, ensuring to have her kunai hidden in the inside pocket of her cloak for some protection. The Elven branched spear she generally carried would draw too much attention as she moved through the streets at this particular time.

    As Elif proceeded, with sure step, through the streets toward the designated meeting place, she considered what she knew about the celebration day, Stavian, Martella, and Eutropia. It did not hurt to listen to the idle talk of the people of Oppara as she walked; hoping to catch some interesting rumour and/or gossip in the endeavour.

    Diplomacy (Day of Exaltation): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (4) + 8 = 12
    Diplomacy (Stavian): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (3) + 8 = 11
    Diplomacy (Martella): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26
    Diplomacy (Eutropia): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (11) + 8 = 19
    Diplomacy (Rumours): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 8 = 14

    Her contemplation had kept her busy until she arrived at the cafe. Smoothing out the front of her cloak, due to some nervousness, Elif drew back the hood and entered the establishment. She cast her eyes about first, as she was oft to do in unfamiliar places. It was wise to get the feel for a room and those/things within it.

    Perception inside cafe: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20

    Seeing two well dressed men and a female Hobbit sitting at a table, she approached them with a gentle smile on her face; her deep emerald eyes bright, and inclined her head a little before discreetly making her introduction, "Good day, sirs and milady. I am Elif Aylin, divine vessel of the gods, recently arrived from Cassomir." Looking at each person around the table, she found an empty seat and promptly sat down. "I hope you have not been waiting overly long." Again, she flashed a pretty smile around the table, waiting for their own introductions.


    Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (13) + 5 = 18

    “Please,” Maya says to Bernal, “Just call me Maya. I don’t want any of that noble milady this and sir that nonsense. Just my given name will do. Do you dance and duel at the same time?”

    Maya narrows her eyes a bit at Doritan. I’ll have to watch him closely.

    She returns his smile and says, “It’s good to see someone so relaxed on a day like this. I figured a local celebrity would be much more excited and anxious to see the main festivities begin. And I’m sure there’s no logical explanation for your fame. Other than magic, of course.”

    All throughout her remarks, Maya continues smiling, trying to say with her eyes to Doritan, I’m watching you, too.

    When Elif walks in and lowers her hood, Maya breathes a sigh of relief. There is at least one other member of Lady Martella’s chosen operatives who is unlikely to be a noble. Maya has never heard of an elf being a Taldan noble. Or is the woman a half-elf? Probably rude to make that the first question the halfling asks.

    Then Elif speaks and Maya sighs again, but not out of relief this time. “None of that milady to me, please and thank you. Just Maya will do. Nice to meet you, though, Elif. I’ve never met a divine vessel, sounds neat. And we haven’t been waiting long, just an hour or two.” Maya directs grins at Elif as she makes her last statement.

    Deciding she isn’t interested in silence at the moment, Maya tries to keep the conversation going. She’s anxious to hear what Lady Lotheed has planned, so talking will at least keep her a bit distracted in the meantime.

    “Any idea why Lady Martella picked you folks for these missions… operations… tasks… things?”


    F Half-Elf Oracle of the Streets 2 | AC 14, T12, FF 12/14* | HP 15/15 (9 NL damage)| F+1, R+3, W+5/+7 | CMB +1, CMD 13 | Init +2, Perc. +7, SM +7; Low-light vision

    Sorry, work meeting took longer than expected.

    Maya Watersby wrote:

    “None of that milady to me, please and thank you. Just Maya will do. Nice to meet you, though, Elif. I’ve never met a divine vessel, sounds neat. And we haven’t been waiting long, just an hour or two.” Maya directs grins at Elif as she makes her last statement.

    Had that much time really passed as she moved about the city, learning information before making her way, here? I should keep better time in future, Elif mused silently.

    She found the Halfling lass' directness refreshing, especially in such a city as this. She gave a light laugh and responded quietly in the Common tongue, "Alright. I am simply Elif." Then switching to the Halfling tongue, she continued more prudently,

    Halfling part of conversation:
    "Although, if we are among the nobles, I think it wiser to err on the side of the formality when addressing each other. It does make them feel better if we fit in."

    There was a twinkle of amusement shining from her emerald eyes upon the final statement regarding the nobles.

    She then looked over, somewhat apologetically, to the men, for she did not know if they spoke Halfling. "I did not mean to be rude, gentlemen." She did not want to appear ill mannered or unrefined to her new work associates.

    Elif collected herself and then took a moment to politely call over a serving girl and quietly requested, "I would like some tea, please," and then looking at the others, asked, "Would any of you care for some refreshment?"

    Once the girl had left the table, Elif looked to Maya and then the gentlemen and responded to her question; once again lowering her voice, "I am uncertain as to why I was chosen. I have not been in Oppara long and I was not raised here. I wonder if the Lady has agents in Cassomir and through them I was selected." Could Lady Martella know the identity of my noblewoman mother? It is a possibility, of course. If only my own inquiries had proven more frutiful.


    Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    Now that certainly wasn't something I expected, Maya muses after Elif speaks Halfling.

    Maya glances over at the others before looking back at Elif with a smile.

    Halfling:

    "I suppose there is some wisdom in that. But I'd like to at least teach the rest of the people here to abandon their unnecessary formalities. It really is grating how excessively formal they can be sometimes. And don't worry about being rude. That's the first lesson I need to teach them. Sometimes it's better to be rude and right than polite and wrong."

    Maya shakes her head at Elif's mention of refreshments. The halfling is far too concerned with other matters to be bothered with refreshments at the moment.

    Turning to the others, Maya folds her arms, waiting to hear why Lady Lotheed might have picked them. Of course, Maya is purposefully avoiding answering that herself. Did the good Lady simply pick Maya because of her - mediocre at best - performance? The truth of the matter is she's not entirely sure why Lady Martella chose her, or freed her, for that matter. Perhaps that answer will come in time.


    Male Human Swashbuckler (Rondelero swashbuckler) 5 (HP: 44/44) (AC:23 FF:17 T:16) (Fort: +2 Ref: +9 Will: +1) (Init: +7) (Perc: +8) (Panache 3/3)

    Bernal shakes Doritan's hand vigorously as he grins at Maya.

    "Well I'm sorry, Maya. Courtesy and all that, you know; it shan't happen again", he apologizes. "And, of course I dance and duel and the same time! Have you not heard of the art of the Rondelero?"

    Spoiler:

    Perform (dance): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (18) + 6 = 24
    Bluff: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (13) + 7 = 20

    Bernal takes a step back and breaks out in a swift dance, moving his legs around in complicated patterns while making motions similar to sword thrusts with his right hand and keeping rhythm with his left one. After a short minute, he trips over his own leg and falls flat on his bottom, laughing as he gets up.

    Sense Motive DC 20:
    Bernal seems to have intentionally tripped himself, possibly in hopes of entertaining his more anxious compatriots.

    "I'm sorry", he says, "I've eaten much and practised little the last twenty-four hours."

    Once again standing, Bernal takes a moment to take in the visage of each person joining him at the table. The human was of the usual party-goer stock, this much was obvious. The two women, however, were more curious. The first was a halfling, speaking in witty sentences and very assertive. The second was either an elf or a half elf, and she was... a divine vessel? Bernal hasn't seen much of divinity in his childhood home or in Karakuru, this was the Gilded CIty of Oppara, where anything was possible.

    Halfling:

    "Among each other we can speak however we like", Bernal assures the two in sing-songy Halfling, "but with the nobility you'd want to try your best at formalities. That's just how it is."

    With a calm smile, Bernal replied to Maya's question too.

    "I can't say I know for fact, but there's only one reason I can think of. My dance must've caught her attention, and my socialising piqued her interest. I'm not just a face, you know; there's something in there."


    Elif:
    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!

    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. 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. The princess's reputation for "fighting in the streets" largely hails from her skill as a fencer, a sport she excelled at during her schooling at the Sinora Academia. Many times in her twenties she matched blades with chauvinistic politicians who would otherwise let her speak or act within political circles, and those early public duels helped her win unexpected support for her later social reforms--as well as a reputation as an impolite, unladylike brute.

    After a few minutes, a waiter approaches your table. "My lords, 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."


    Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22

    Maya's less than impressed by Bernal, both for his attempt at dancing and his apparent attempt to entertain through trickery. As with Doritan, Maya keeps the information to herself, but gives Bernal a hard look.

    She finds herself once again surprised to learn that Bernal also speaks Halfling.

    I'll have to keep that in mind, she thinks. And I already know far more about interacting with nobles than I'd care to.

    Maya rolls her eyes when the waiter refers to them as lords and ladies. She might be free, but she's hardly a 'Lady.'

    Still, she's relieved to finally see Lady Martella again and find out the noblewoman's plans for them. Once on the other side of the curtain, the halfling sends her best smile in Lady Martella's direction, a real smile. The good Lady is one of, if not the only, noble that Maya's ever been happy to see.

    While the fig jam is tempting, Maya forces herself to ignore it and focus on the matter at hand.

    After hopping up onto a seat, she says to Lady Martella, "Thank you again for everything you've done for me. I could never hope to repay you. Ever. And yet, I'm eager to do what I can for you this evening. What do you have in mind?"

    Maya's purposefully vague about what Lady Martella has done for her. She's not quite sure if she should trust the others yet. And even if she should, she's definitely not ready to entrust them with all the details of her past.


    Martella smiles at Maya. "I'll get to your individual assignments in just a moment. I believe you all have introduced yourselves to one another, and you'll have ample opportunity to get more acquainted over the course of the evening. There is one more who has yet to arrive, but time is of the essence. I will get her up to speed later. In the meantime, I have something for each of you."

    She produces four 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.


    Male Human Stalker Vigilante 7 HP 52/52; AC 21/16/17; Saves +5/+10/+7; +3 Init; +16 Per, Active Effects: None

    Sense Motive DC 20: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
    Doritan graciously accepts the badge, and looks at the package, "Are we able to communicate with each other through the badges?" he asks as he pins it to his collar.

    Anyone mind if I lay claim to a liquid blade and a couple smoke pellets?


    Martella shakes her head. "Your badges are linked to a master badge that I will be wearing. Only I will be able to initiate contact, and I can only do so a few times per day, so I will only do so when it is important."


    F Half-Elf Oracle of the Streets 2 | AC 14, T12, FF 12/14* | HP 15/15 (9 NL damage)| F+1, R+3, W+5/+7 | CMB +1, CMD 13 | Init +2, Perc. +7, SM +7; Low-light vision

    Sense Motive: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (3) + 3 = 6
    Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (17) + 6 = 23

    She watched the one named Bernal dance and then fall, laughing. She looked to Maya and the Halfling's eyes bore down hard on the man. Did I miss something during Bernal's dance? Maya is not impressed.

    The announcement pulled her from her reverie and she grew a little anxious thinking of being in the great Lady Lotheed's presence. Elif followed the others into the adjoining chamber.

    As she entered, she inclined her head to their patroness and smiled before taking the seat next to Maya. Hearing the fifth member of their party would be arriving later, Elif wondered the reason for the lateness. At least it is another female, she privately mused.

    Elif accepted her brooch from the Lady, with a polite "Thank you," and looked down at the insignia. She noted Martella's warning to be cautious around the guards. Pushing open her cape, she secured the brooch to the left side of her dress, just under the collar, so it could be seen by the guards, if necessary, but was not gaudily and clumsily placed.

    When their patroness mentioned a small reward, Elif waited to see if anyone would immediately open the parcel in front of Martella. She was eager and curious to see what was inside.

    Lifting her emerald eyes to Martella, she smiled once again, "You're very kind, Lady Martella. Thank you. You spoke of individual assignments? Will we be working alone during the course of the evening?" She kept her voice steady and her hands lightly clasped in her lap. Whatever self-doubts she was feeling, she pushed down heavily, hoping not to appear a little intimidated by the prospect working alone among so many nobles and senators. An unbidden thought came to mind, I wonder if my mother will be there... and the thought ended as quickly as it came.

    Diplomacy with Lady Martella: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (16) + 8 = 24

    ====

    Doritan Umbreal wrote:

    Anyone mind if I lay claim to a liquid blade and a couple smoke pellets?

    I don't have an issue with it. If it's okay, Elif would like to take one of the smoke pellets and the single dose of soul stimulant (at the very least, she'd like to take the soul stimulant).


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    "You will each have your own tasks to accomplish, but I'm counting on you to support one another to ensure success and discretion. If you need assistance, kindly ask for it. If your assistance is required, give it.

    "Now then, there are several missions that need to be accomplished tonight. I'll leave it to you decide which one you'd like to undertake--whichever ones you don't choose, I'll see to personally.

    "First, in addition to spies, I legitimately need a senatorial aide to provide a cover for the rest of you and to run communications between allied politicians. This is by far the easiest job avaiable, but also the most time-consuming."

    This will require either Escape Artist or combat maneuver checks to navigate the crowded senate building.

    "Secondly, I'm interested in learning how the vote is going to turn out tonight. I need you to uncover the true dedication of two senators: Duke Centimus and Countess Abrielle Pace. Find out what their stance on primogeniture is, and the reasons why each noble holds that position."

    This will require either Perception or Sense Motive checks.

    "Third, I need to discredit a few prominent senators backing primogeniture--not necessarily to sway their votes, but to undercut their influence after the vote. I'll need you to identify one of the major opponents to the repeal, then either spread rumors about or manufacturing damning evidence on the fly."

    This will require Sense Motive and either Bluff or Linguistics checks.

    "Fourth, I need to maintain my web of influence in the high courts. To that end, I would like one of you to make a strong impression on Baron Nicolaus Okerra and remind him of certain debts he owes me. While Baron Okerra isn't a senator, his war record and general popularity make him an influential figure—one whose reputation helped sway a number of otherwise neutral votes tonight."

    This will require socially influencing the baron or browbeating him with Intimidate checks.

    "Fifth, I would like to exact some retribution against my more powerful half-brothers. Some senators are too powerful or stubborn to influence, but that doesn't mean they're beyond some petty revenge. They've contributed a large bottle of rare, 150-year-old red wine from family holdings in the Opparos province, now held in the senate's kitchen. I'd like one of you to use this putrefying agent to render the wine embarrassingly undrinkable. Be careful not to steal the bottle and to conceal any signs of tampering; it must be drunk at dinner and appear to be of terrible quality to achieve maximum humiliation."

    This will require either Appraise or Knowledge (nobility) and Disable Device checks.

    "Sixth, I need someone to keep tabs on my political rivals and update me if they change their tactics, most notably High Strategos Maxillar Pythareus. You'll need to stay close to the military commander, watching for unusual behavior or listening for snippets of conversation, and warn me if he takes any unusual actions, all while remaining unobtrusive."

    This will require either Perception or Sense Motive checks, as well as either Disguise or Stealth checks.

    "Lastly, to further undermine the influence of the recently disgraced Earl Calhadion Vernisant, I would like to see some of the historical artifacts that the earl donated to the senate vanish from the Arcade of Triumphs before they are unveiled prior to the evening's vote. You're free to keep the items--I only wish for their disappearance to further embarrass Vernisant and his allies."

    This will require Sleight of Hand checks.


    Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    Maya sees Elif putting on her brooch just under her collar and decides that's a sensible location to place it. She's a real senatorial aide! Or at least Lady Martella's making her look like one.

    "These are great, Lady Martella. Thank you. If we do need to contact you, is there a place we can find you at the ball or a signal we could give?"

    "And you seem to be putting quite a lot of effort into this. Why is Princess Eutropia worth all the trouble?"


    F Half-Elf Oracle of the Streets 2 | AC 14, T12, FF 12/14* | HP 15/15 (9 NL damage)| F+1, R+3, W+5/+7 | CMB +1, CMD 13 | Init +2, Perc. +7, SM +7; Low-light vision

    Listening as Martella listed all the assignments for the night, Elif simply nodded along, taking note of each and contemplating where she could be useful. When the dialogue came to an end and after the lady finished answering Maya's question, Elif raised her own question. "Lady Maretlla, are any of the missions of greater importance; that you would wish for us to undertake first? If not, I am happy to take the mission pertaining to Duke Centimus and Countess Abrielle Pace and also quietly following and watching High Strategos, Maxillar Pythareus, and listening to his conversations. I am happy to work with one of the others or have them work with me during the course of the evening, depending on how each mission goes."

    GM, would Elif know anything about the following nobles via the checks below?

    Know. Local re Centimus: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (18) + 6 = 24
    Know. Nobility re Centimus: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 5 = 6

    Know. Local re Pace: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (17) + 6 = 23
    Know. Nobility re Pace: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (10) + 5 = 15

    Know. Local re High Strategos, Maxillar Pythareus: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (1) + 6 = 7
    Know. Nobility re High Strategos, Maxillar Pythareus: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 5 = 21


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    "It's not so much the princess herself, but what the end of primogeniture represents for our nation--the end of stagnation, the end of bureaucratic decay, the end of adherence to ancient traditions that stymie our progress in the modern world. We want to see Taldor reclaim some of its glory of old, and that won't happen unless we get a fresh start."

    After answering Maya, Martella turns to Elif. "I wish to accomplish all of my goals tonight, but none hold more import than another. So long as you can complete all of your tasks before the night is through, you can tackle them in any order you wish."

    Elif:
  • An attending duke of Grand Duchess Cisera Tiberan of Tandak prefecture, Leonard Centimus is an intellectual and tinkerer whose head for systems makes him a good administrator, if a little awkward with people. He lost the use of his legs a few years ago in a riding accident.

  • A countess and member of the senate from the western borders of Taldor, Abrielle Pace seeks to advance by any means available.

  • Nearly every Taldan recognizes commander-in-chief Maxillar Pythareus as Grand Prince Stavian III's right hand and a fanatical supporter of the throne. He believes in political might and economic stability through military supremacy, advocating for new wars of conquest against wayward colonies like Andoran and Cheliax, or even Qadira.

  • Male Human Swashbuckler (Rondelero swashbuckler) 5 (HP: 44/44) (AC:23 FF:17 T:16) (Fort: +2 Ref: +9 Will: +1) (Init: +7) (Perc: +8) (Panache 3/3)

    Bernal accepts the senate aide badge with a smile, fumbling with it in his hands before pinning it to his blue robes.

    "I must ask, Lady Lotheed, is the abolition of Primogeniture truly the way to restore Taldor its glory of old? The symbolism of removing an ancient, onerous tradition is inspiring, I agree, but surely there are many among the powerful and rich who'd rather not see the law go away... and fight to prevent its abolition, by any means necessary."


    "If the vote passes tonight, then it will be the new law of the land. Any attempt to fight against that will be a losing battle. There will likely be many who won't like it at first, but they will just have to learn to live with it. Change is coming--they will either adapt or be replaced by those who can."


    Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    Maya considers Lady Martella's answers. They seem reasonable enough. There certainly doesn't seem to be anything wrong with Princess Eutropia occupying the throne, as far as Maya knows.

    Still, Maya can't help but ask more questions. "So is there a way for us to contact you at the ball should we need to? And what does Grand Prince Stavian think about all this? What changes is Princess Eutropia planning to make? She... or you... have to be planning something for after the law is overturned, right?"


    "I'll be spending most of the evening in the senate gallery, should you need to contact me," Martella says. "I'm not certain where the Grand Prince's thoughts lie, though surely we might learn more tonight should he deign to address the issue. I am not privy to what exactly Princess Eutropia might be planning, but it will likely be some time before she inherits the throne at any rate--plenty of time for her to solidify her goals."


    Male Human Stalker Vigilante 7 HP 52/52; AC 21/16/17; Saves +5/+10/+7; +3 Init; +16 Per, Active Effects: None

    "Excellent." Doritan claps his hands together, "Anything else we need to know beforehand? Oh, and how extensive is security? And how likely is it that someone is going to try and stab us in the back? I've been around Taldan nobles before. I know what they can be like."


    "I think you have all the information you'll require. Security is quite extensive, of course, with so many people attending the gala tonight. But the crowd will work to your advantage, making it easier for you to complete your tasks unnoticed. I don't expect any skullduggery--you're relative unknowns, after all, which is part of the reason I chose to hire you. Unless, of course, you've made enemies of your own so early in your careers?"

    Martella smiles slightly. "Overall, tonight promises to be a historic evening, but an evening of work nonetheless. And in the sort of work you're embarking upon, the line that divides success and failure is drawn by the people you know. Complete your tasks, help each other if necessary. And if I'm to be blunt, I would like just once in my adult life to simply enjoy a gala I attend, rather than scamper about with clandestine busywork. If you all complete your work without need of me to clean anything up, I will happily double my promised fee.

    "I trust your activities won't occupy your entire evening, so by all means, enjoy the party and make friends. This is an excellent opportunity for you to begin your own political ambitions, but do be discreet. If there are no other questions, I will see you at the gala."


    Male Human Stalker Vigilante 7 HP 52/52; AC 21/16/17; Saves +5/+10/+7; +3 Init; +16 Per, Active Effects: None

    "I think that's all for me. Have a lovely evening." Doritan reclines on his chair and bites into a fig scone.


    Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    At Lady Martella's mention of making enemies, Maya purses her lips a bit. She has an enemy or two, she's afraid. Any of the nobles at the gathering from a few nights back could have taken a disliking to the halfling. And Nerosa Watersby almost certainly harbors ill feelings toward her. Hopefully none of those people would be at the ball tonight. Or, if they were, hopefully there would be far too many people there to notice one halfling in the crowd. Maya guesses there will be quite a few other halflings there as servants to various nobles.

    When Lady Martella mentions the possibility of doubling their fee, Maya rubs her hands together and smiles widely. Somehow, despite having only been free a few days, she already wants to strike it rich. Being Taldan, even if one is a halfling, comes with certain tendencies.

    Once Lady Martella finishes, Maya nods to her and says, "I think you probably provided as many details as we could hope for. If I had to guess, there will be plenty of unexpected obstacles we'll encounter along the way, but we'll just have to adapt as they come. We shouldn't be your chosen if we can't think for ourselves. We'd be doing you a disservice."

    Hopping up from her chair, Maya says to the others, "I'm ready to go when everyone else is. I'm looking forward to this gala and the opportunity to 'make friends' as Lady Martella said."


    F Half-Elf Oracle of the Streets 2 | AC 14, T12, FF 12/14* | HP 15/15 (9 NL damage)| F+1, R+3, W+5/+7 | CMB +1, CMD 13 | Init +2, Perc. +7, SM +7; Low-light vision
    Martella wrote:

    I don't expect any skullduggery--you're relative unknowns, after all, which is part of the reason I chose to hire you. Unless, of course, you've made enemies of your own so early in your careers?"

    Enemies? I am new to this city, or, newly returned. Only a handful of people know of my birth and then I was hurried away. I don't expect anyone to know my true identity...Even I do not know it.

    "No enemies, I am aware of, Lady Martella."

    Martella wrote:

    "Complete your tasks, help each other if necessary. And if I'm to be blunt, I would like just once in my adult life to simply enjoy a gala I attend, rather than scamper about with clandestine busywork. If you all complete your work without need of me to clean anything up, I will happily double my promised fee."

    Saara had never before attended a grand gala, so she did not know what to expect - not entirely. "We will work together as best as we can. " We still do not know each other's skills and talents to determine how well we will do this night. May the gods bless our endeavours. Double the fee was a nice reward as it helped to have more coin in this city. She had no family to back her endeavours.

    "I have one last question, if you'd be so kind. How discreet should we be in regard to weapons? Will the guard stop us if they see us clad in obvious weapons? Or as aides, do we have a certain right to carry them?"


    Martella gives you a rundown of the senate rules:

  • Breastplates, ceremonial armor, and light armor may be worn inside the senate building, but no other armor is permitted for anyone except guards.
  • Potions, scrolls, spell component pouches, and wands are permitted inside the senate building, and in fact, many senators are themselves spellcasters. However, spellcasting is not permitted within the building without written approval (often issued to entertainers).
  • Only light and one-handed weapons are allowed inside the senate building; ranged weapons and two-handed weapons are not allowed inside the building. All weapons brought into the senate building must be peace-bound—secured in a sheath with a length of decorative cord. Drawing a peace-bound weapon requires a full-round action. Guards do not need to peace-bind their weapons.
  • Animals are generally not permitted inside the senate building, excepting familiars and service animals. Animals larger than an average member of the senate guard are not permitted within the building under any circumstances.
  • While guests are free to roam the senate building when invited, individual senators' offices are off-limits and locked. No one but the senators and a single aide for each is permitted on the senate floor during a vote.


  • Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    Maya is a bit sad to learn she'll have to leave her sling behind. It's her daily reminder that she needs to do a better job of following Erastil. Oh, well. Maybe it's best she doesn't have a reminder today. One less distraction from her mission.

    She notes the rest of the rules and wonders, Does my performance thing count as a spell? She's not really sure seeing as how she's only done it once before, as far as she knows. Better to ask forgiveness than permission, she decides.

    "Thank you for the information, Lady Martella. That could help avoid...unfortunate... incidents."


    If anybody else has questions, you can retroactively ask them. Otherwise, I'll move things along.

    After finishing up at the cafe, you travel a few blocks towards the senate building. The Taldan senate is the seat of the senatorial branch of the Taldan government. The structure has existed in one form or another for millennia, though natural disasters, sabotage, and war have partially leveled it several times in the empire's grand history, leading to many large-scale repairs and revisions. The current senate building is a grandiose, T-shaped edifice constructed from white marble. Ostentatious columns carved with glorious scenes of the nation's history surround the building on all sides, while a pronounced flight of precisely 100 stairs ascends to the main entrance.

    While senators may enter the senate building with a minimum of fuss, the process for aides, staff, and other attendees to enter is long and tedious. The four of you get shuffled into an expansive line dedicated to senatorial aides, minor noble attendants, and various others deemed as "people useful to people of import." The line progresses ponderously, and it will likely take several hours to finally reach the front. During this time, dozens of overeager merchants attempt to sell a variety of wares to you and other staffers—mostly novelty Taldan flags and phony pieces of historical memorabilia. Several others in the line begin to bemoan the wait, touting their respective level of importance based on association with their affiliated nobles and senators.

    The entire affair is quite tiresome.

    You are halfway through the line when a dreary inspector approaches you. "You've been selected for a random inspection," the Vudrani woman says. "Follow me."

    Sense Motive DC 20:
    The woman seems quite interested in your group. You doubt this inspection is random at all.


    Male Human Stalker Vigilante 7 HP 52/52; AC 21/16/17; Saves +5/+10/+7; +3 Init; +16 Per, Active Effects: None

    Doritan would wear a (peacebonded) ceremonial dagger (and ideally, leave his vigilante gear stashed nearby that he could grab with minimal effort should the need arise. In other words, no armor and no short sword.)

    Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (11) + 5 = 16
    Doritan follows along with the random inspection, hoping that at the very least, they let them skip the rest of the line when they're done.


    F Half-Elf Oracle of the Streets 2 | AC 14, T12, FF 12/14* | HP 15/15 (9 NL damage)| F+1, R+3, W+5/+7 | CMB +1, CMD 13 | Init +2, Perc. +7, SM +7; Low-light vision

    Having brought her Elven branched spear and gear/armour with her, Elif followed Doritan's lead and securely stowed the items close by and out of sight until she could bribe a servant to bring them inside and keep them safe for her. Elif's kunai was peace-bound as instructed by Lady Martella and placed discreetly inside the deep pocket of her gown. She had worn some of the jewellery loaned to the group and had dabbed a little perfume to her wrists and neck. The aide's pin was plain to see on the bodice of her gown. Take a deep breath and put a smile on your face, Elif, and she did just that.

    Sense Motive (DC 20): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (15) + 3 = 18

    When the inspector singled them out and requested they follow her, Elif nodded and moved along with her companions. Lady Martella did warn them that the guards would be overly zealous with the aides.


    Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (6) + 5 = 11

    Like Doritan, Maya wears a peace-bound dagger but doesn't bring her sling and sling bullets. She tucks away in her pocket the smoke pellet she took.

    When the inspector comes over and tells them they've been selected for a random inspection, Maya thinks, Figures. Already off to a good start.

    Without saying anything, Maya just nods at the woman and follows her.


    Male Human Swashbuckler (Rondelero swashbuckler) 5 (HP: 44/44) (AC:23 FF:17 T:16) (Fort: +2 Ref: +9 Will: +1) (Init: +7) (Perc: +8) (Panache 3/3)

    Bernal doesn't oppose to having his weapon peacebonded. He wears the same clothes to the occasion, proudly displaying his falcata as his Rondelero status symbol. When the group is called for inspection, Bernal nods and gracefully steps away from the line.

    "Anything to maintain order and peace at the party, milady."


    The woman keeps an impassive face as she escorts you to the base of the steps to the senate building. Once you are away from the crowd, she says softly, "My name is Kathann Zalar. We have a common friend."

    The actual inspection is a short affair, with Kathann quickly glancing over you. Seemingly satisfied, she nods. "Alright. You're free to go on inside." She ushers you forward ahead of the line.

    You ascend the hundred marble steps to the senate of the Taldan empire. Hundreds of nobles, senatorial aides, and visiting dignitaries mingle within and without the grand halls of the senate. You spend a few minutes getting the lay of the land.

    Map of the Senate

    A1. Arcade of Triumphs

    This entry gallery celebrates Taldor's abundant military and political glories. Banners and trophies line the halls of the arcade, some displayed openly while others rest behind intricate glass cases, while armor stands and display cases present countless artifacts belonging to great heroes and soldiers. A score of Taldan Phalanx troops stand at attention, acting as both ceremonial honor guards for the senate and guides to some of the military assets on display.

    High Strategos Maxillar Pythareus is here, a muscular man in his early forties with weathered skin and close-cropped silver hair. He wears a blue-and-green tabard emblazoned with Taldor's official coat-of-arms. Also here are the five items donated by Earl Calhadion Vernisant for the night's ball--an elaborate silk fan, a brass spyglass, a leather journal, a fine buckler, and an ornate silver dagger.

    A2. Courtyard

    Breathtaking gardens surround the senate building. Catered patios segregated by short iron fences, coordinated military displays, and even a makeshift zoo of imported animals and magical beasts fill the few open spaces here, even including a small hive of bees busily pollinating the exotic flowers and making the honey used by the senate kitchens. Many of the senior nobles enjoy the breaks between ceremonies in this open space.

    Lady Gloriana Morilla is here, sporting the finest of Absalom's fashion.

    A3. Emperor's Hall

    This gathering space before the senate chamber is set aside as the property of the emperor, and features countless statues and portraits of previous grand princes. While formally these chambers are for the use of the emperor, no grand prince has ever maintained an office within the senate building, and the space is understood to be public meeting rooms by silent agreement.

    A4. Gallery

    Note that this area doesn't appear on the map.

    The second floor of the senate building acts as an observation deck to the events of the main floor, with offices for various senators lining the outer walls. This area of winding passageways is typically open to noble observers and senatorial aides. Much of the gallery is dedicated to entertaining the children of various nobles, with extravagant performances occurring throughout the upper balconies of the senate building.

    Countess Abrielle Pace is here, dressed in ridiculously gauche noble clothing and fine jewelry. Also here is Wyssilka the Fantabulous, a halfling jester entertaining the children.

    A5. Imperial Archives

    The Imperial Archives could have been Golarion's greatest collection of transcribed knowledge, had any care been invested into its upkeep. Centuries of redirected funding and senate-sanctioned pruning of "sensitive information" has ruined the once immaculate reputation of the archives. This vast library now acts as a repository of haphazardly curated books, senate minutes, and genealogy records left open to the scrutiny of uncaring nobles. During the Grand Day of Exaltation, a host of rising aristocrats and aspiring courtiers here tout their knowledge of Taldan history.

    Duke Leonard Centimus is here, a round-faced half-elf seated in an elaborate wheelchair.

    A6. Senate Floor

    Normally closed to non-senators, the vast, circular senate floor is open to special guests during the Grand Day of Exaltation, and myriad would-be nobles take the opportunity to duck in and live out a few moments of power fantasy, issuing mock legislation or engaging in lively debates.

    Baron Nicolaus Okerra is here, a handsome man standing a head taller than the rest of the crowd. Also here is Kalbio of Breezy Creek, the intended recipient of the noble elevation from Grand Prince Stavian. He uncomfortably wears clothing of noble finery, constantly fidgeting with the cuffs or scratching at his neck.

    A7. Servant Area

    While several hidden corridors crisscross the senate building, allowing servants to come and go without disturbing the assembled politicians, this area houses most of the storerooms, workshops, and kitchens where the building's small army of servants bustle around to maintain the facade of opulence. Even this area, never meant for noble eyes, is of exceptional quality, though the gilt has worn thin on most corners, and here and there cheap repairs mar artistic furniture.

    Each of the people of import are currently predisposed with sycophants and senatorial matters, considering the coming deliberation. You'll have to wait to try to influence them, but in the meantime, you can do your best to work the crowd.

    A PC can attempt an appropriate skill check with a set DC for one of the areas of the senate, hobnobbing and impressing the general crowd in that area. Each area has two thresholds, which represent levels of influence over that area. Every point by which the PC's result on one of these skill checks exceeds the DC is added to a pool of points specific to that area. When the number of points earned by the party as a whole exceeds the threshold of an area, then the GM provides the PCs with the information and story award associated with that area's threshold value.

    You can each make one check now. These are the skills associated with each area:

    A1. Appraise, Knowledge (history) or (nobility), Perception, Spellcraft, or Use Magic Device.
    A2. Handle Animal, Knowledge (engineering, local, or nature), or Perform (keyboard, percussion, sing, string, or wind).
    A4. Acrobatics, Disguise, Perform (act, comedy, or dance), or Sleight of Hand.
    A5. Knowledge (arcana, geography, or history), Linguistics, Profession (librarian or scribe), or Stealth.
    A6. Bluff, Knowledge (local, nobility, or religion), Perform (oratory), Profession (clerk or barrister), or Sense Motive.
    A7. Craft (alchemy, carpentry, jewelry, sculpture, or stonemasonry), Heal, Intimidate, Profession (baker, butcher, cook, innkeeper, or porter), or Sense Motive.


    Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    Maya is pleasantly surprised to learn that Kathann is apparently a friend with Lady Martella.

    Spymaster indeed.

    “Thank you for the efficient search, Kathann,” Maya says to the inspector. “We should do this again sometime… or not.”

    Maya makes her way inside the senate building. She’s seen nobles before, but so many in one place? She’s amazed all their egos can fit into one building, even one as large as the senate building.

    After taking a few minutes to acclimate herself, Maya says to her companions, “Seeing as how our intended tasks require a bit of patience, I think I’ll go practice my bardic skills a bit with some of the people on the senate floor. Never been here before, so might as well do it big, you know?”

    Without another word, Maya strides over to the steps leading down onto the senate floor. She spies Baron Okerra. She’ll have to work on reminding him of his debts to Lady Martella when he’s not indisposed. As for the Kalbio fellow, Maya actually pities the man. Who could be stupid enough to want to be made a noble? Unthinkable.

    Walking down onto the senate floor proper, Maya finds the closest approximation to an open area on the crowded floor and immediately launches into an oratorical performance.

    Perform (oratory): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (10) + 9 = 19

    “So you see, Princess Eutropia is an ideal candidate for the ‘Grand’ position. She cares about Taldor and will ensure its opulence for posterity. If Taldor hopes to continue forward in glory, primogeniture must be overturned. There’s no good reason for it. A ruler should be decided based on their merits, not whether or not they’re a man.

    “It’s quite clear to me that Taldor needs to change this outdated law. Maybe it served a purpose once upon a time for some inscrutable reason, but that time has long since come and gone. I urge all ye senators to vote for an end to primogeniture and all ye senatorial aides to urge your senators to do the same. Taldor deserves better than antiquated laws.”

    Maya keeps her remarks brief. She could expand, if necessary, but wants to see how the audience reacts initially. If she’s honest with herself, it makes her gag to give a speech like that to nobles. She much prefers to berate them or speak satirically of their numerous ‘accomplishments,’ but she has a mission this evening, and one she intends to fulfill if at all halflingly possible.


    Several of the gathered dignitaries applaud as Maya concludes her brief speech. Just as many scoff and shake their heads, though. The two sides begin a lively debate about the pros and cons of primogeniture--it's obvious the halfling has begun to make an impression.


    Male Human Swashbuckler (Rondelero swashbuckler) 5 (HP: 44/44) (AC:23 FF:17 T:16) (Fort: +2 Ref: +9 Will: +1) (Init: +7) (Perc: +8) (Panache 3/3)

    Bernal winks at Zalar as the inspection is over, following the others into the senate building. He breathes in the air of myriad perfumes, noise of countless conversations and profile of various nobles. Finally, he tries to get a grasp of the building's architecture.

    "You practice with words, and I shall practice with deeds," Bernal replies to Maya. He detaches himself from the group, following a group of nobles and their children to the gallery.

    The balcony opens before Bernal's eyes, providing a great view of not only the main floor but of the gallery itself - nobles in pompous outfits chatting, seething with pride and self adoration, while their clueless young enjoy more practical entertainment. A place to begin in, perhaps, and earn my favour with some would-be nobles before they introduce me to their parents.

    Acrobatics: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 8 = 14

    The Rondelero finds himself a relatively clear spot and commences with his display of skill, jumping around with somersaults and spins, though extremely careful of not falling down to the first floor. Perhaps a combination of lack of practice and being a bit too careful, Bernal's performance is less than exciting.


    A few children glance towards Bernal before turning away from his relatively pedestrian performance. They seem to be far more enamored by the antics of the host of halflings who are juggling, tumbling, and performing simple comedy skits. The lead jester is painting a young boy's face to resemble a lion's. She smiles as she applies the finishing touches, showing off immaculate white teeth.

    "There you are, little lion cub! Fantabulous, just like me! Now you're ready for the mane event!" she says cheerfully. The children giggle at the bad pun.


    Male Human Stalker Vigilante 7 HP 52/52; AC 21/16/17; Saves +5/+10/+7; +3 Init; +16 Per, Active Effects: None

    Doritan pays a visit to the library, attempting to impress those studying by going unnoticed and unremarked upon....
    Somehow.

    Stealth: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (16) + 7 = 23


    The courtiers in the archive take notice of Doritan's efforts to remain unnoticed. They comment quietly on how serious he seems to be taking his studies by being silent and unobtrusive.

    Or something like that. ;) Elif is up.


    F Half-Elf Oracle of the Streets 2 | AC 14, T12, FF 12/14* | HP 15/15 (9 NL damage)| F+1, R+3, W+5/+7 | CMB +1, CMD 13 | Init +2, Perc. +7, SM +7; Low-light vision

    Are we meant to spilt up at this point and take one section each? Sorry, just got home and playing catch up before I post.


    F Half-Elf Oracle of the Streets 2 | AC 14, T12, FF 12/14* | HP 15/15 (9 NL damage)| F+1, R+3, W+5/+7 | CMB +1, CMD 13 | Init +2, Perc. +7, SM +7; Low-light vision

    If this is incorrect, please let me know and I will amend it later tonight when I'm home, again. Thanks for your patience. :)

    As the members of their company moved to respective areas of the Senate, Elif remained in the Arcade of Triumphs. She moved through the gallery, keenly looking at the respective banners, trophies and other articles on display. She had heard of the commander-in-chief, or learned of his reputation, but had not seen Maxillar Pythareus in person until this night. His muscular frame gave a fine impression of strength. He did not seem like a man to trifle with.

    Moving closer to the cabinet housing the donated items for the ball, Elif passed a critical eye over each; stopping at the ornate silver dagger, which had caught her eye in particular, and calculating its value with an appraising eye. Perhaps I can remark upon it in passing, just loud enough for the High Strategos Maxillar Pythareus to hear and be impressed with my acuity of mind. Please do not let me fail at my first task! Self-doubt began to creep in, yet Elif pushed it back down, as hard as she could.

    Appraise, ornate silver dagger: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 5 = 21


    Sorry for the delay, had a busy weekend. It's up to you whether to focus on one section at a time or to divide and conquer. Elif's check is high enough to reach the first threshold for the arcade of triumphs!

    The silver dagger looks quite valuable. It's masterwork at least, and may even be magical. A placard beneath it claims that one of General Arnisant's lieutenants used this dagger to slay the vampire Malageur.

    Elif remarks upon it, and while the High Strategos doesn't seem too interested, several of the other nobles nearby nod at her observations, seemingly impressed. "Are you a connoisseur of fine weaponry?" asks one guest. "Perhaps you would be intereseted in Dignity's Barb?"

    She gestures to a nearby case, where a darkwood light crossbow sits. "This is not the original, of course--that was lost long ago. This is merely a reproduction. But Dignity's Barb was a famed weapon used by General Gerefein of the Seventh Army of Exploration. In his most famous act, he turned the tide of a vicious battle with a Kellid warlord. Through a chaotic blizzard, General Gerefein shot practically blind, yet his bolt struck a lethal blow, dashing the warlord from his mammoth mount and breaking the enemy's charge. Glorious!"

    As the woman finishes her story, the crowd begins to swell towards the courtyard. Throughout the senate, people seem to be moving in that direction. Something important is about to happen.

    Assuming you follow the crowd...

    Dozens of nobles and aides have gathered around Princess Eutropia, who slipped into the gala unnoticed and unannounced.

    Lady Gloriana Morilla loudly clinks her glass and declares that Princess Eutropia would like to address the gathering. With the announcement, the crowd gives Eutropia some space, and Gloriana helps the princess climb onto the garden's stone railing to be seen and heard above the throngs.

    "My friends, colleagues, and assorted enemies, it is wonderful to see you all out in your finery beneath the beautiful stars tonight. With any luck, the weather will be the only thing that refuses to change this evening.

    "We have all gathered here tonight to honor Master Kalbio of Breezy Creek, a master artisan and true patriot, for his exquisite skill and service to our glorious empire. Master Kalbio demonstrates so eloquently that a heart may be noble regardless of the stature of one's birth, and while it may be premature, I hope to be the first to congratulate you, sir, on the exaltation you will see tonight and welcome you into the ranks of Taldor's long-lived aristocracy."

    Kalbio blushes at the princess's words.

    "But we gather here to discuss matters of state, as well," Eutropia continues. "And just as the exaltation reminds us that our glorious empire must always look out into the world to refresh the greatness of its leadership, we must all look out into the world around us and see how it has grown. The child-nations our empire birthed—Andoran, Cheliax, Lastwall—have grown strong by examining the great traditions they inherited from our motherland, and embracing those relevant to this new world and discarding those that held them back. So too will we, this very night, examine one of Taldor's oldest traditions— primogeniture—with eyes wide open, to determine whether it has held us back from the glory and stability our wayward states have found.

    "Our obligation tonight is not about one person or one vote in the senate. It is about the nation we love and about ensuring that nation does not fall behind the times. We are the inheritors of mighty Azlant, and I say that we must work together to avoid sharing that old empire's fate. Taldor endures!"

    Eutropia's speech concludes. She hops down from the railing and is suddenly inundated with supporters and critics.

    Perception DC 13:
    During the speech, one of the serving staff breaks off from the group and heads toward the apiary near the edge of the courtyard. The senate apiary consists of three wooden boxes, each housing a small beehive used to pollinate the garden’s various exotic plants and make exquisite honey used in the kitchens.

    Perception DC 18:
    The staff member is holding onto a strangely colored alchemical bar.

    Craft (alchemy) or Knowledge (nature) DC 15 (if you made the previous Perception check):
    The wafer emits a scent that agitates bees.


    Halfling Court Bard 7 | HP 52/52 | AC 21, T 16, FF 18 | CMD 17 | F +6, R +11, W +9* | Init +3 | Perc +10
    Resources:
    BP 18/21 Rounds, Spells - 1st: 6/6, 2nd: 2/4, 3rd: 2/2

    Perception: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (11) + 3 = 14

    Maya finds herself carried along by the rest of the crowd to observe Princess Eutropia's speech. The halfling still hasn't decided whether or not she can come to like the Princess, but Lady Martella likes her, so that's enough for Maya to hear her out.

    The bard notes the servant breaking off during the speech and thinks, That seems quite rude. Maya shakes her head a moment later. A servant should not have to pay attention to a noble if he doesn't want to.

    Once the Princess's speech is over, Maya ducks and squeezes between the legs of various nobles, admirers, and critics of the Princess before she comes close enough to touch the hem of royalty's robe. Maya decides against actually speaking with the woman. She sees it as unlikely that the princess would give a halfling the time of day. What's more, it might blow their cover.

    Instead, she lingers nearby, listening for anything interesting the Princess and those nearby might say.

    Perception (for info from or near the Princess): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (18) + 3 = 21


    Male Human Stalker Vigilante 7 HP 52/52; AC 21/16/17; Saves +5/+10/+7; +3 Init; +16 Per, Active Effects: None

    Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (13) + 5 = 18
    Doritan notices the servant sneaking away from the crowd and, while he didn't know what the servant was carrying, he decided it would be best not to risk it. He slips away into the shadows, trailing the servant to see what he's trying to do.
    Stealth: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (11) + 7 = 18

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