A slight smile belied Alis' amusement at Amhranai's sentiment. Bad enough to be Governor, but Viceroy of Dafar... that should make any sane person run!
"I imagine we shall both have our hands full, although it would be nice to see you in attendance — ceremony or not."
Once the equally diminutive elf had knelt, the Princess lifted her scepter and tapped the priestess gently on one shoulder, then the other, intoning, "As Princess of Silverwake and Vicereine of Dafar, I grant you the right bear heraldry, advance your noble causes at court and without, and to be known as a Dame of the Protectorate!"
She motioned for Amhranai to stand, "Go forth as a Knight in the name of Dafar's people."
With that, Alis passed the scepter to one of her attendants who presented her with a small, darkwood coffer. It was from this that she removed a small, mithril badge in the form of two eagle wings flanking a central blade, the upraised point of which pierced a knight's helm. Encircling the whole of it from hilt to helm was a garland of laurel. Once Amhranai had risen to her feet, Alis pinned the device to her tunic.
When the elf turned to face the chamber, those assembled may have been surprised to find that the dirt and grime that had sullied the elf's countenance was strangely absent. Even the priestess' attempt to straighten her hair seemed particularly efficacious. In a clarion voice, Alis announced, "I present to you, Dame Amhranai, Knight of the Protectorate and all Dafar's people."
Perception DC 32
M 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (14) + 15 = 29
D 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (14) + 15 = 29
Following Sir Hellhammer's lead, Baroness Mondracus, and Baron Dagonius were the first to add their own applause to that of the dwarf, followed soon after by the rest of the room. Not surprisingly Baron Bonati and Lord Gallo were the least enthusiastic, while those elves who were in attendance seemed perfectly satisfied with the appointment.
During those few moments of opportunity, Arion moved swiftly to his Princess' side and whispered a message to her that only Amhranai could overhead amidst the noise.
"Your Highness, Lady Ourson wishes to speak with you regarding a matter of utmost importance without delay."
Although it passed the notice of Amhranai and perhaps everyone else in the room, there was something about the way Alis took drew her next breath, or perhaps a moment of hesitation before she spoke that informed her Frændi that something was amiss.
"My dear friends," the Princess said, raising a slender hand for silence, "it seems that an affair of state now calls me away from your company with some urgency. I bid you stay and enjoy the hospitality of this estate until the hours to which you are accustomed. Perhaps in my absence, you may be inclined to express your suggestions more freely."
Turning to her exedra, she said, "Councilor Eluchil, please preside over our guests' conviviality and carry on with dessert in my absence."
"Lilyana?" The girl's eyes brightened upon hearing the Princess speak her name. "Please look after my dear Jasmine and little Tut until I send for them."
"Sir Hellhammer, Dame Amhranai, please walk with me for a moment..."
With that, the golden-haired Princess departed from the great hall with two knights, her scribe, and a small detachment of honor guards accompanying them.
Shivone... what have you learned, Lureene?
A 1d20 + 25 ⇒ (14) + 25 = 39
Sense Motive Checks:
M 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (8) + 12 = 20
D 1d20 + 20 + 5 ⇒ (19) + 20 + 5 = 44 familiarity
The porticoes surrounding the villa's large peristyle garden were muggy, the afternoon sun swiftly giving rise to a haze now that the raid had subsided. As the three walked past the peristyle garden, it was only their magical enchantments that kept them comfortable, sweat beading on the faces of the guards who were in escort. Up ahead, along the north wall of the portico, a long balcony ran much the length of the study in which she could spy Sasha gesticulating as she related a story of some kind.
Approaching the stairs that ascended to the level of the atrium, the Princess stole a glance at her cousin and the dark-haired elf. Although the two had looked absolutely miserable in the great hall, they seemed to be showing a bit more spirit now, even if they were chiefly silent.
"If I didn't know better," the glimmer of a slight smirk shone in Alis' eyes, "I would say you both look relieved. Such a shame that something urgent came up, you must be terribly disappointed."
It wasn't that much longer before the tromp of the guards' boots grew silent as they ranked-up outside the study, their Highness and her two guests entering without them. Upon spotting Lord Poe, a gaze like the hottest part of a flame fell upon Lureene. "I see all that wine made it difficult to find your way out to the carriage landing, Lureene."
"Giles," she said evenly, "please escort Lord Poe to his carriage on Lady Ourson's behalf. I believe she has some urgent news for me and I wouldn't want to delay its telling."
Although the Princess had somehow managed to keep her voice light with a hint of teasing, making no one present the wiser, inwardly she was seething.
Dammit, what was she talking about with that pompous fop lingering about? The last thing I need– Uugh... This had better be good...
Tipping her head to the Marshal, Alis joked, "Had one of your soldiers pull you out only to return for drinks and dessert, hmm?"
A 1d20 + 25 ⇒ (2) + 25 = 27
Sense Motive Checks:
M 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (7) + 12 = 19
D 1d20 + 20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 20 + 5 = 26 familiarity
I 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (5) + 11 = 16
L 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (1) + 2 = 3
S 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 + 2 = 21 human
Lureene watches the departure of Lord Poe with a confused look on her face. Why did she send him away? Especially since I wanted him to tell Alis what he knew of Shivone. There was no mistaking the look of anger on the Princess' face. Lureene had been the focus of such gazes before, during the time she was being...instructed by her Mother. Although she tried not to think about it too much, she had always chafed at being told what to do.
Well, it looks like 'Lis is starting to remind me of Mother more and more, especially if she cannot forgive him his own mistakes. I mean, I had to deal with that boor Lord Gallo during lunch and I don't hate him...much.
She returns Alis' glare unflinchingly and replies cooly, "Why, yes your Highness I did have some rather urgent news. I was chatting with Lord Poe who told us a fascinating story about what he and his companions experienced before our arrival. It concerned the death of former Governor Taurion and WHO orchestrated the theft of the relic we saw in Arrowhead Citadel." Briefly she recaps what Lord Poe told her. "I believe he was going to expound further on what he knew of Shivone when I felt her Highness would be MOST interested in the details. I bade him to wait until you were able to arrive." She then sits back in her chair awaiting her response, and also resists the urge to rub her temples.
By the GODS, I swear Alis and Poe are perfect for each other!
A short, bemused laugh escaped Alis and she looked up at the high ceiling, shaking her head. "El, Isaac... why didn't you say something?"
Pointing a finger towards the door, she whispered a message spell, "Giles, please return Lord Poe to the study. Have our desserts brought here as well please."
Closing one eye, Alis held the scepter out before her and used the perspective to pretend-bonk Lureene atop the head, making a soft popping sound with her lips as she did so.
Turning to Amhranai and Darvesch she motioned to some of the other couches and seats that the butler had arranged while awaiting your arrival. "Make yourselves comfortable, please."
With that, the Princess took a seat next to her dear, wine-addled retainer and gave her a light kiss on her temple. "There, that should help," she whispered. Instantly, the drunken fog clouding Lureene's senses, and the uneasiness in her stomach vanished, whisked away by Súmalya's grace.
Alis used Restorative Touch
Wow, that was...I mean I can THINK now!
Lureene shakes her wings slightly, amazed the wine is no longer affecting her.
I wish she could have used that when we were at The Silver Hart Inn and Tavern...
"Thank you, ''Lis...I mean your Highness! I apologize for defying you earlier, but I felt this was more important, considering who has been after YOU!"
At Lureene's apology, Alis smiled and gave the succubus beside her a one-armed hug. "It's quite alright. I might have been a bit hasty in asking you to escort Poe out too, but I certainly couldn't begrudge your need for wine after enduring Lord Gallo for two hours. I can forgive a bit of tipsy behavior."
"As for getting called away like this," she shrugged, right hand idly playing with Lureene's curly blonde locks, "at least we can thank Shivone for saving Darv and Amhranai from being bored to death at their hands."
The nod Alis made towards the balcony and the great hall across the gardens below left no doubt as to her meaning.
Flushed embarrassment gave way to cool relief as Amhranai followed in the wake of Alis and Darvesch. She could still feel the eyes of those left behind, but felt a great weight slowly lift from her shoulders the further they moved along. At least that's over, but what's just begun? Offering no more than a faint smile at the other woman's gibe, the elf continued walking without comment. I hope we both survive this appointment. I have a feeling not too many will be happy with the change in direction and may make that feeling known quite physically.
Amhranai wasn't sure what to make of those gathered in the study, but was surprised by the cool exchange between the princess and Lureene and even further shocked by Sasha's sober tone as she interjected on the latter's behalf. Wonders never cease.
Shivone? The name sounds familiar, but I can't quite place it. Amhranai ignored the offered couches and instead stood against the wall and smoothed her clothing once again, settling her cloak to keep her weapons easily accessible. Folding one leg behind the other, she cast one last glance over the others and then trained her eyes on the door the well-appointed dwarf had just exited through, awaiting his and Poe's return.
|Giles von Hearthwick|
The sound of a rising melody from the great hall had just begun to waft across the gardens when into the study strolled a mildly confused Poe and the itinerant butler that had been marching him about. Bowing to the Princess, the old dwarf departed as silently as he had arrived, no doubt intent upon overseeing the delivery of his mistress' dessert personally.
"A tattooed elf, two dwarves, a human, and a woman with dragon wings," Poe mused aloud, stroking his chin all the while, "I must saaay, your Highness keeps almost as eclectic a retinue as I myself. Ha haaa!"
With a faint smile of amusement at what he must have seen as a good-natured ribbing, Lord Poe gave a satisfied "hmm..." seemingly enjoying his anticipated applause. When none was forthcoming, he looked from face to face expectantly before shrugging it off.
A 1d20 + 25 ⇒ (17) + 25 = 42
M 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (17) + 12 = 29
D 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (14) + 20 = 34
I 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (9) + 11 = 20
L 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 2 = 9
S 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 = 19
Lureene chuckles lightly at Alis' comment but her reply is anything but cheerful. "'Lis, I think when you hear what Lord Poe has to say, being bored by your...guests would be FAR preferable!"
Once Poe has arrived again and made his attempt at humor, she nods politely to him. Was he joking?? "Actually Lord Poe, they are angelic wings! I do not have any draconic blood in my veins." She motions for him to take a seat. "If you would please recount your experiences with Shivone?"
I hope he does not embellish TOO much...
Alis stole a momentary glance at Lureene as if to say, "This had better be worth it," before turning back to the young elf lord with a lengthy exhale.
When the young noble cleared his throat and motioned towards Amhranai with a tip of his head, the Princess simply shook her head. "Of course, how rude of me. Everyone, I would like to introduce you to the newest appointee to my court. Amhranai is now a Dame of the Protectorate deserving all the respect and cordiality due any of Dafar's knights."
"Ah!" Upon hearing the news, Poe straightened and gave the older elf a polite nod before giving a short congratulatory clap of his hands.
"I say well done Dame Amhranai. Even a proper nobleman, such as myself, does not enjoy the distinction of knighthood until the hour of their ordination. In that regard, I readily admit you have the better of me, though hopefully not for overly long, hmm?"
Although the youth may have thought himself clever, the way he glanced toward the Princess, bobbing his shoulders as he did so, left no doubt that he was trying to suggest she might knight him as well.
At Poe's suggestion, a light seemed to click on in Sasha's head and she gave a short tug on Lureene's right wing, whispering, "Ellie, can I be a knight too?"
A 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (15) + 16 = 31
M 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (5) + 15 = 20
D 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (5) + 15 = 20
I 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (14) + 13 = 27
"Hmmm..." Upon seeing the Princess nod in agreement, the young lord resigned his overtures for knighthood with a melancholy sigh.
"Yeees, I suppose a retelling is in order no doubt."
Stroking his chin thoughtfully, Poe thought back to what had sparked the conversation in the first place. "I believe it was the mention of two elven sisters, Elvalith, her twin Kai'ell, and their ash-grey complexions, that led to my tale. You see Highness, the fact that there are both grey-skinned elves in the depths of the jungle and at least one diabolically-inclined high elf in Port Eldarion is of great interest to me. And lest I cause any undue clamour, let me assure you that beyond accidentally lodging a few poisoned arrows in the flesh of a certain warden, Elvalith and Kai'ell proved themselves valuable allies and staunch foes of banditry — no devil-summoning of any sort on their account."
Grey-skinned– accidental– what?!
Eyebrow quirked, Alis looked to Lureene, with pursed lips, but found no confusion in either the succubus' eyes nor Sasha's. "At least our distaste for bandits unites us. You did say that these sister, Elvalith and Kai'Ell, they had grey skin, correct? Are you waxing poetic over half-elves of Zuck descent, Lord Poe?"
"While I fancy myself quite the aspiring orator, I am not in fact waxing poetic, at least not on that account. I should describe the pigmentation of someone of half-Dafari heritage as being more of a dark caramel in hue." Lifting his hand and gesturing towards Isaac, he said, "That guardswoman who came for the Marshal earlier. Corporal Echorn is the self-same warrior-priestess who came to my aid in the Coliseum. These elven ladies looked nothing like her. Rather their complexions were more akin to the color of a shadow cast upon a white floor, or perhaps a dull pewter. Quite striking I dare say..."
Suddenly aware of the whimsy in his own voice, Poe cleared his throat, and tugged at his collar. "Yes, now then as to this Shivone woman. My experiences this past month lead me to believe that she and the black-winged angel, Lucretia, are related in some way."
Alis momentarily glanced at Sasha, noting how the vivacious red head grew apprehensive at the very mention of the name.
"I have heard Shivone's name before. Far north of here, in Elsmyr Dale, her twin sister, Chivane, attempted to kidnap me and while inciting a mob to kill my companions." The Princess met Sasha's gaze, hoping to reassure her even as she squeezed Lureene's hand. "We prevailed, and Chivane met her end in the attempt."
"Black hair, blue eyes, tall, and hot... yep, definitely sounds like–" Sasha paused and scrunched her mouth up, brow furrowed in thought as she looked at the two blondes on the divan beside her. "Yeah, definitely sounds like Chivane's sister alright."
Although she was doing her best to avoid letting it slip, it was obvious to everyone save Poe that the huntress was dancing around some secret she did not wish to reveal — a secret that Alis and Lureene at least were already privy to.
S 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (9) + 10 = 19 hard to believe
Sense Motive Checks:
A 1d20 + 25 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 25 + 5 = 44 familiarity
M 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (9) + 12 = 21
D 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (2) + 20 = 22
I 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (13) + 11 = 24
L 1d20 + 2 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 2 + 5 = 24 familiarity
P 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (5) + 0 = 5
"Yes, a most accurate description of our ravishing villainess," Poe said, enthusiasm evident in his tone. "Yet it was not in some insectile guise by which I uncovered her, but in the unassuming garb of a priestess, a priestess of Bälezu in fact."
Quite satisfied with the intrigue his tale was eliciting, Poe gave a smug smile and continued. "You see, following the murderous events of Astrath 1st, Corporal Echorn was called upon to investigate one possible lead into the identities of Governor Taurion's assassins. Whilst in the escort of my wards, Shea and Fahren, the trio engaged in espionaaage, spying on a meeting between O'beilumanji and the 'she-devil' Lucretia, who at that time wore the guise of a Zuckish witch, and those that madman hoped to enlist in his rebellion."
"What ultimately uncovered Lucretia as something more that a mere human were the great black wings and terrible scythe she revealed when she struck down those who refused O'beilumanji's call to rebellion! The other important fact discovered by the good corporal was that while O'beilumanji did have murderous intentions towards the late Governor, neither he nor those under his influence could claim any hand in the slaying of Gwiniel Taurion. It was another group that perpetrated that deed."
Alis mulled over what Poe had revealed so far along with what she recalled of their fight with Lucretia. "We already had reason to suspect Lucretia was working for the Ruby Coil. Lureene banished her temporarily by triggering some sort of contingency that had been cast upon Lucretia by a member of their cabal. But what does that have to do with Shiv–"
Alis sat up wide-eyed as it clicked. "Wait, did you say Shivone was pretending to be a priestess of Bälezu? Isaac, the break-ins..."
"Let me guess, black skull, soporific mist?" Even as Isaac swore beneath his breath, Poe gave a knowing nod. "Yeees, it was I along with my retinue who investigated those crimes at the request of Ms. Echorn's superiors. A naive young half-human woman by the name of Aemalie had been duped into making an attempt upon that very relic, unaware that it had already been made off with by another. I apprehended her, of course, and I believe she now resides in the Lord Marshal's prison."
A short cough escaped the Princess and she did her best to keep a straight face at Poe's not-so-subtle dig at Isaac.
Poor Isaac, if being kidnapped by beautiful women, rescued by princesses, badgered by his sister, and having boulders flung in his general direction weren't enough, now he's got this young pup on his case too.
Doing her best to hide her amusement from Poe at least, Alis winked at Isaac and said, "Well, before I ask the good Marshal for his resignation, do tell me what you learned from this 'half-human' girl you captured."
A 1 + 25 - 10 = 16 taking 1, hard to believe
Sense Motive DC 16:
M 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (15) + 12 = 27
D 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (13) + 20 = 33
L 1d20 + 2 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 2 + 5 = 16 familiarity
S 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (1) + 2 + 2 = 5 human
P 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (9) + 0 = 9
Even as Sasha gasped and put a hand on Isaac's shoulder, Poe gave the man a consolatory shrug and said, "Well it turns out that our woman Shivone, had put Aemalie up to the task. We discovered this by the would-be thief's footsteps back to Gods Save the Keg where the wait staff recalled her having met with a contact matching Shivone's description. Now naturally, being tall and fit with blue eyes and black hair is not at all uncommon among we elves. Why even Auntie might match that description as Ms. Nevah so astutely pointed out before your arrival."
"However," he thrust his finger upward as he said the word, "Ms. Echorn is not so well acquainted with elves as you or I, your Highness. She immediately recalled seeing such a woman in the halls of her temple, and when the Monseigneur led us to her chambers, the ward cast upon the door filled our sight with visions matching the scene everyone has been talking about since our return — a grim angel of death with black wings and a fearsome scythe threatening doom upon us!"
"That's right," he snapped his fingers for effect, "our actions brought us to the attention of the self-same Lucretia you yourselves defeated just a few days ago!"
"As for the girl," he waved a hand while stroking his chin, "Aemelie was intended to be a 'patsy' if you will. She was meant to take the fall for Shivone's theft, and we were meant to locate her body. It was only thru the young woman's ingenuity and remarkable luck that she was not set upon by the magically-enhanced vermin who had been given admittance to the temple's catacombs by way of a breach from the sewers. You see–"
"I–" Poe gave a summary nod, somewhat crestfallen that the blonde beauty had reached the same deduction as himself. Half-heartedly he added, "I was also about to mention the warding-medallion the sneak-thief had obtained, but it proved irrelevant as things were as you have said. The relic could not have affected her because it had already been absconded with... your Highness."
With a heavy sigh, Alis leaned back into the corner of the divan, tapping her lips with her forefinger as she thought about this information, one thing still troubling her. "Why wouldn't Shivone have disguised herself or had Luci– Lucretia meet with this Aemalie instead? She already had what she needed, why bother with staging such a setup?"
The Princess looked up at the rest of you, blue-violet eyes seemingly searching for other clues in your faces.
Lureene is surprised to find once again her favorite lock of hair in her mouth. She just could not seem to break that habit. She glances at Sasha and then turns to face Alis.
"Unless...Shivone wanted her identity known to us! Considering the...run-ins we have had with the Coil already, Shivone must know Princess Alis better than she knows her own sister!" She places a hand on the redhead's own hand. "Sorry, Sash."
She gives the others a look of consternation. "But...WHY?"
"What confuses me," Isaac frowned deeply, "is that all the victims I'd traced back to these 'Wasps' were politically opposed to Governor Taurion. If Lucretia and Shivone were working together, why would Big O have wished that he was the one that had assassinated her? Shouldn't their goals have been aligned?"
Lureene starts to place her favorite lock of hair back in her mouth, but a look form Alis forestalled the movement. Instead she decides to chew on a fingernail.
"I wonder if Governor Taurion had hired the Wasp assassins to deal with her political enemies, and then she decided to double-cross them in some way. It would explain why she was murdered."
"Well, what if they felt Big O would've better served as a distraction from their real goal. Whatever that may be." The dwarf thinks a moment. "So, she has the skull. What can she do with that? And has she stolen anything else?" He speaks, taking moments longer than everyone else in understanding what's going on.