The trappings are different, but...
Alis pursed her lips as she noted the spell Amelia was about to cast — if one could call it a spell anyway. There were a great many divinations, such as her own Tarot readings, that were more akin to ritual than traditional magic. With most spells, the caster generally had some idea of what to expect, an evoker might see their fireball dodged or their lightning resisted, but barring a disruption the results were more or less predictable.
Not so with divinations. If phrased improperly, there was a chance the spirits answering might give an answer to a question the diviner different than what was intended. The Princess recalled a reading of her own she had done for the young Count of Dunwaar a few months ago, contemplating for a moment how much had changed since then.
It seems so long ago...
Putting her own reverie aside, she asked softly, "What are you planning to ask, Amelia?"
The witch smiled and nodded, the young blonde woman was as sharp as she was beautiful.
"Da way I sees it, leettle Lureene knows her momma betta dan anybody. If she says somebody invite da beetch, den I'm thinkin' I'm gunna ask where dat fool lay down dere head to sleep." She flashed Alis a broad grin, "Den meebe some o' deese here goes have a slumba paaty."
The elven scribe noted the intricacies of the divination ritual, merely describing the visible operations in a separate file within the rear cover of his book.
This makes an interesting addendum to this first Chronicle of our new administration in Port Eldarion. He laughed inwardly: Heh, heh; SLUMBA PAATEE. Amusing. Hopefully Sindariel will assign me to that envoy.
Arion considered again how so suddenly these new friends had won over his heart. Far beyond any of his prior hopes, he had begun to realise this could indeed be a family. At the least this seemed to be an excellent place to call Home.
So much so, I find myself already fiercely roused to defend this new family and their place in this world
Hearing the Princess' directive, Arion paused in his writing and looked up towards his new potentate, admiring each new morsel of character she revealed to them. Perhaps even standing near to Amelia and documenting might distract her occult rite. He returned to the notes concerning their debriefing and faced the group, replying, "Yes, Your Highness. Shall we continue in deductions involving who knew of our rendezvous this morning, enough so to make them potential suspects?"
"Slumber party indeed, Alis shook her head in amusement as she caught Lureene looking towards the adjacent feast hall and it's comprehensive collection of interrogation aides. After dismissing the guard captain, she answered Arion. "Yes, Mister Hithraen, that interests me as well. Let's continue, but elsewhere. Where would you suggest, Lady Lammontari?"
The spymaster, who had merely raised an eyebrow at Lureene's excitement, gestured towards a nearby hallway that led back outside. "The arbor is as good a place as any."
As everyone began to file out, she glanced behind to see Amelia kneel before the great stone table, lighting incense and candles before jabbing a finger in Avoreen's ashes and then tasting it.
"Hmm..." The elven woman shrugged at the sight before accompanying her guests, the sound of chanting filling her home. "In between my other preoccupations, I've found gardening to be a marvelous form of relaxation. While the jungle insects and lack of a winter chill can be a challenge," she hopped up and snatched a ripe orange from a low-hanging bough, "a year-round growing season yields its own rewards."
With a grin, she tossed the fruit to Sasha who bit her lip with excitement as her deft fingers got to peeling it. As the redhead broke off plump segments to share with her friends and lovers, the auburn-haired spymaster pondered Arion's question. "While the greater purpose of today's engagement was clandestine, I thought it better cover to boast about the honor of fitting your Highness for your investment gown than to leave the visit up to speculation. When receiving such high-profile guests, it is not uncommon to do so at my estate rather than at my workshop by the bridge."
Lureene accepted the succulent fruit from Sasha, while resisting the urge to ask Arion to feed her more orange slices. Perhaps for later...
In between bites, she looked at the redheaded spymaster and asked, "Baroness, what other parties do you know of that would take an unhealthy interest in what Alis' plans are for her subjects?"
Sindariel nodded in understanding as the two walked off. Right hand folded into the crook of her left elbow, she ran a slender finger back and forth along her lower lip, considering the matter. "To be quite frank, only the disinterested or complacent would fail to see a vested interest in the intentions of their own ruler. I have little doubt that those who believed in O'beilumanji's methods would have something other than Alissariel's best interest at heart — even if the timing of the attack and the flashiness of his defeat could have only improved her public perception..."
Amhranai looked around before speaking, voice pitched low. "This might sound strange coming from me, but are you sure we can trust her? It is almost too late now to stop that anyways, but I don't know where her loyalties ultimately lie-I don't believe anyone does." The elf's black hair swung back and forth as she looked around once again. "I know trust has to be given on faith at times and, with someone of Sin's connections, it can be unavoidable, but I thought you should be aware that this woman could be your greatest ally and the first to turn her back on you. Tread carefully."
Alis cocked her head in surprise at Amhranai's statement and paused for a moment to consider how best to answer. "It doesn't sound strange at all, actually, but such is the nature of espionage..."
"That said," violet eyes twinkled as they met grey, and Alis smiled at paler woman, "I would like to believe that I'm a pretty good judge of character — even when that character is an enigmatic fashionista or a loner who likes to collect keys to places others don't want her to be."
For a moment, Alis caught her breath, as though something had just occurred to her which she had taken for granted. "Amh, you do know that Sindariel is in my employ for more than just couture, right? That's just her cover as the Minister of Intelligence; she's my spymaster."
Amhranai flashed a tight smile. "We shared words yesterday and I may have pieced together Sin's other profession. But I did not know she was your spymaster. And I suppose that someone of your station would be more than well aware of court intrigue; in my past life, those of us who served usually paid the price for those intrigues, either on purpose or with little regard. A fate I did not wish to see repeated here." The elf's smile turned bitter with remembrance. "Anyways, that's all I wanted to say, unnecessary as it's turned out to be." The priestess turned to retake her spot by the aquarium, only to pivot sharply back in the direction of Alis before she had taken a step. "That whole key thing can be kept between us, right? Their use is at your disposal of course, but I think the fewer that know of them, the better. Agreed?"
Just before the two priestess had passed beyond earshot, they could hear Tiniel offer, "Perhaps those who survived O'beilumanji contacted Avoreen following the defeat of the being known as Lucretia?"
Lureene's eyes widen in surprise. "That is an interesting...theory Tiniel, but from what I understand Lucretia and Mo--...ahhh...Avoreen were bitter rivals. I find it hard to believe blood enemies would ally with one another!"
"Why thank you," Alis said pleasantly, "Any insights on likely sources of ill will toward either myself or Súmalya's house?"
Thinking back to the falling chandelier at Valeria's Playhouse in Valehaven, she commented a bit more solemnly, "This wouldn't be the first time others were hurt trying to take advantage of a moment of opportunity..."
Arion nodded knowingly to Tiniel, asking rhetorically, "Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?"
He paced upon the luscious turf, musing out loud, "So, the scheduled rendezvous, and Lady Lammontari's location - pruning her trees - were so well known that it would be difficult to narrow the list of suspects on that basis."
The scribe suddenly remembered something from the battle and flipped through his book, finding where he had written, "'Not to imply that I'm ungrateful for how you redecorated my old friend's island home, but...'" and, further down the page, "'I wonder Grak, what would be the surest way to awaken your old mistress? Should I kill her best friend? Her lovers? What do you think, pet?'"
Arion turned to ask Lureene, "What could the attacker have meant by these statments? To what did they refer? Also, who in Port Eldarion could have been so privy to such information, as to have attempted to use them as verbal weaponry?"
The elf turned and lightly bowed his head while addressing his Princess, "It would seem, from such statements, that the attacker had intimate information about Your entourage, Your past and deemed Grak to be their 'pet.' Moreover, the attacker implied that our Lady Ourson was an intended target, or whoever was Grak's 'old mistress.'"
Lureene looked at the man she had been intimate with the night before, recalling the words her Mother had spoken. Her gaze grew unfocused as she recalled a dream she had where she had been tested by Avoreen. At first she had believed she passed the test...but now she was not so sure of that...
Looking into his eyes, she replied softly "I believe I may know the answer to your first question Arion, but I am not prepared to speak of it openly...yet." She gave Alis a meaningful glance here. "As for your second query, I know a few people were aware of what transpired on the Shiv, Arion." She started ticking off people on her fingers. "There was Priyya...Mal...Gelik...Aerys..." She paused as a look of realization struck her. "...Ieana! By the gods, maybe it was Ieana! But WHY?"
Before Lureene could go on to the point of inflaming Darvesch's wroth, Alis held up a hand motioning for Arion to show her the contents of his journal. She gazed perplexed at the encoded writings before running a hand thru her golden tresses. "Not that I'm not impressed, Arion, but... Do you always record encrypted transcriptions of your enemies' words in the midst of havoc?"
Shaking her head in wonderment, she continued, "At any rate, like I alluded to just a moment ago, when Avoreen corrupted Charelle, she seduced her — for a time they were allies. Given that we destroyed Charelle's temple on Reaver's Shiv, that was what Avoreen meant about 'redecorating her old friend's home'."
"As for the rest, about killing friends or lovers?" She looked to Lureene, and recalled the private conversation in which the woman had recounted her contest of wills against Avoreen, "It sounds like the Queen of Lies was hoping to provoke a reaction from Lady Ourson."
In a somewhat less serious tone, she whispered, loudly enough for all to hear, "I don't think your Mother approves of your friends, El."
"As for Ieana, why would Avoreen need information about what happened on Reaver's Shiv from her or anyone else?" Alis gave Lureene a knowing look, "I'm pretty sure she could have learned about it without anyone telling her."
Although it might have seemed like a simple leap of deduction to anyone else, Lureene alone could tell that Alis was commenting on something deeper, something she had not spoken of to anyone else.
"...even if you were unable to strike at my foe, at least you keep company who can. The look on that harlot's face when she saw you... priceless!"
A Innuendo 1d20 + 25 + 4 ⇒ (20) + 25 + 4 = 49 Tear
Sense Motive Checks:
M 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (3) + 12 = 15
R 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (17) + 14 = 31
D 1d20 + 20 + 5 ⇒ (18) + 20 + 5 = 43 familiarity
S 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 + 2 = 21 human
S 1d20 + 22 ⇒ (12) + 22 = 34
T 1d20 + 19 ⇒ (11) + 19 = 30
In a flash of insight, she realized what Alis was referring to. When she had confided in the Princess the details of her dream-contest with her Mother just before the group's rescue, Lureene had indeed questioned how Avoreen had known of the destruction of Charelle's temple.
"Ahhh of course. It is by the same method I discovered she had an ally during our battle...our telepathic link..." Her hand unconsciously went to her bosom, where an unassuming Pendant hung. "...Or is it something more..."
"The sort of magic used would be enlightening, maybe Elendreth would know. However..." Sindariel looked up with great interest at Lureene's revelation. "A mental link... That is what interests me. Why, you may very well have insights that could shed light on all of our questions. What do you recollect, child?"
Sighing and shaking her head at her own folly, Sindariel quickly amended, "Forgive me, I grow excited. What do you recollect Lady Ourson?"
Lureene gave an inward groan on hearing Sindariel correct herself. A Lady...I hardly think of myself as one, but protocol demands it I suppose...
"Yes, of course Baroness. Let me recall what I was able to glean from her thoughts..." She closed her eyes and ran through the thoughts in her mind...she then repeated the words verbatim for those who requested it.
"So kind of your friend to provide me with concealment from your archers. I shall have to reward her...You should tell your little friend not to get cocky, she's next...Damn that weak fool, and curse these insects!...See how quickly they strike at our very image? Pray to these new 'gods' of yours that you never vex your so-called 'sister', because when they look at you, it is me that they will always see."
As she dwelled on the final thought, she paled slightly. "I think Avoreen may have been trying to strike at my reputation...along with Alis' to try to weaken her rule!"
The following replies should have occurred following the respective posts...
"Not that I'm not impressed, Arion, but... Do you always record encrypted transcriptions of your enemies' words in the midst of havoc?"
Arion received back his book and returned to his awaiting position while bowing his head, saying, "I apologise, I should have merely asked what she meant by 'old friend.' Respectfully, Your Highness, inspired by mnemonic methods utilised by some Bards, I am developing a practice of committing information into lyrical tunes, then quickly writing them down before those melodic memories fade. Immediately following the battle I deemed it important enough to record what my mind had converted to chant, very similar to memorisation of my spells each day, but in reverse."
The elf turned and looked at everyone there and said, "For it seemed to me then, as now, that time was precious for us, each moment passing might be that much nearer to another attack. We have fended off that first attempt. May we soon discover the details necessary to avert other attempts."
"Still. I can't help but think about what kind of magic would be required to summon Avoreen in such a manner."
He nodded to the Inquisitor and added, "Whatever be within our license, and as respective authorities direct us, I hope most swiftly, together, we route out these rats. I value Your abilities to detect evil and sense when someone is lying. If we are near the culprits, You shall be an invaluable investigator."
Book stuff & compliments to Darvesch.
i.e. this also would have been said higher-up
Nodding quickly, as she attempted to follow what Arion was saying, Alis just smiled and place her hands over his, pressing the tome shut so the scribe could look into her eyes rather than lose himself in his scripts. "Mist– Arion, it's alright! We aren't at court so you can be less formal in your speech. I won't be offended, I promise you."
"If time is short then grandiloquent oratory will only slow us down." Smiling gently to reassure him, she added, "Albeit I do appreciate your applications of alliteration."
"See how quickly they strike at our very image? Pray to these new 'gods' of yours that you never vex your so-called 'sister', because when they look at you, it is me that they will always see."
"I think Avoreen may have been trying to strike at my reputation...along with Alis' to try to weaken her rule!"
Conniving, manipulative, heartless...
Alis sighed, face resolute, and clasped her shorter friend by the shoulders, looking her straight in the eyes. "Listen to me, Lureene. You and I are public figures. There will always be people who will gainsay us behind our backs no matter what we do. For those people, it won't matter if your mother is a demon or an angel, they'll see you however they see fit."
"When I look at you, it's not Avoreen I see at all. If anything, I see what she should have been, what I wish she could be for you — a loving friend who can be counted on."
Pulling Lureene into a hug, she whispered into her ear, "She's just trying to make you doubt yourself into thinking we don't love you."
After a strong squeeze, Alis pulled back and lifted Lureene's chin with her finger, violet eyes warm and comforting. "You know I'm right because she is the Queen of Lies, after all. Plus, Wingilmë said we're sisters, and I'm much more inclined to believe her!"
"'Damn that weak fool, and curse these insects...'" Sindariel repeated quietly. "By 'these insects' I can only assume she meant those with the temerity to defy a demon queen, but 'that weak fool', that does suggest someone separate from yourselves, quite possibly the accomplice we suspect she had..."
"Pssh!" Sasha rolled her eyes. "Some help her 'buddy' was! We beat the crap out of that crazy b1tch and I didn't see anybody fool enough to help her out."
"Heh," she brushed a lock of wavy red hair from her face, "maybe he wasn't as dumb as she thought. Probably figured out we'd have taken him out too!"
Grinning like a wolf, the redhead flexed her biceps and nodded at the handsome blonde elf near her.
Sindariel raised an eyebrow at the younger redhead's bravado, but if she found fault it in, her slight chuckle did not reveal it. "That's a fair point, Miss Nevah. He who learns to run away lives to fight another day."
At that bit of wisdom, Sasha's eyes lit up and she took hold of Arion's arm, yet she was too moved by it to speak. Although the huntress' fascination with rhymes was not readily apparent, her reaction still brought a bemused smile to the fashionista's face.
"So if Avoreen's ally was not there to champion her in battle, we must assume they served some other purpose — perhaps to summon her, as you have already surmised, or perhaps to have intercepted the Princess in my guise..."
As Sindariel grew quiet in thought, Tiniel looked to the mages and asked, "Do we know of any illusions that would allow the caster to engage us in conversation from far enough away that we could not perceive their presence?"
Other effects with suitably long durations would be Disguise Self or an item with Alter Self on it (like your hair pins). Coupled with a spell that altered someone's voice could also have done the trick, although that wouldn't explain why the fake Sindariel was illusory at the end.
Another possibility would have been to use a powerful illusion with no time-limit like Permanent Image. While such a spell has a vast range, in order to concentrate upon directing replies to actual conversation, the caster would still need some way to overhear what the others were saying... which would lead back to the use of invisibility and ventriloquism.
A 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (2) + 9 = 11
M 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (20) + 5 = 25
R 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (20) + 11 = 31
D 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (10) + 12 = 22
L 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (15) + 12 = 27
Arion considered his studies and replied, "In my studies I have learned of Wizards and Bards, and those who channel Sorcery, all of greater experience than I, with illusions of various ranges. Even the greatest of such spells, unless the caster were extremely powerful, would still require the person to have been upon this island and would require a great deal of concentration on their part, to control the illusion. The magic user could very well have worn items that enabled them to remain invisible, while they were manipulating their spells.
You do bring up an important question, Ms. Lómelindë. Would any among us have PERCEIVED their presence? The Aura of evil near to some of us would likely have been noticed, I would think. Then, of course, there are the methods of physical and magical disguise. I would be very interested to investigate the major players in Port Eldarion, to discover their levels of wizardry or magical aptitudes. Yet such missions would require much time, as I suspect - from our experiences at the tavern last evening - that many locations are shielded against scrying or other divinations."
Darvesch thinks back to the encounter they had leading up to the appearance of Avoreen. "I don't recall the feeling of an evil aura.."
"I wonder if our witch is, in fact, not a spellcaster at all. Maybe with the aid of magic items, they could have pulled off the ruse. Which tells me it's potentially someone of some wealth," he ponders out loud.
Lureene looked into Alis' comforting violet eyes and brushes a tear glistening in her own eye. "Thank you SOOOooo much 'Lis! You really know how to make me feel...LOVED!" She gives the Princess a long hug, enjoying the warmth of her body.
She then turned her attention to the matter of Avoreen's unseen ally. She nodded quietly in agreement with Arion's recounting of the magic needed to pull off the deception. Sasha's bravado elicited a warm chuckle out of her. "That's right Sash, I KNOW we could have defeated whoever it was aiding her!"
Darvesch's word brought a thoughtful look on her pretty face. "Darv, you may be onto something here. If whoever behind this attack used magical items to help perpetrate it, then the most likely place he would have purchased them or have them crafted would be the Enclave!"
She paused as another thought occurred to her, then looked at the Baroness. "Sindariel, I have heard Lady Elendreth's husband, Glorohir has not been home in some time. Could you shed some more light on this? I think he would be privy to such knowledge, correct?"
"The four Dafari that assassinated Governor Taurion did not strike anyone interviewed as wealthy, yet they still employed powerful magics in their attack. If it was a power-player within the city, then I wonder what they could hope to achieve. Typically it takes some time for a populace to feel-out a new ruler. Even so, your Highness did make quite an impression last night, so I don't want to rule out any possibilities at this stage."
Leaning up against a trellis, she looked up at a hummingbird overhead and said, "Given the privacy that would be presumed for a dress-fitting, whomever spied upon us, Avoreen or otherwise, must have known enough to realize that requesting an invitation would have been poor etiquette, so it's little wonder they would impersonate me as opposed to someone else. Tell me, do you recollect any other instances since the luncheon where an attempt was made to deviate from our established agenda?"
Arion reviewed his notes yet found a heading without an entry.
My decision NOT to detail the bath house
"We had been expecting the Royal Entourage to enjoy the baths this morning. Were Your paths delayed or diverted earlier? Grak transmitted to Lady Ourson that unexpected crowds converged upon You all. Or were You prompted to change Your course?"