Still looking at the guests, Arion replied, "The wish of the divine Kirmoon family is, to me, a command."
He pivoted and bowed to Alis, saying with respect, "May their reign and prosperity be as great as is their justice."
Moving to the opposite side of the room, far from all guests, Arion held his Quill and book ready should there be additional noteworthy topics.
"Welcome, Commodore, Harbormaster, to the business at hand..."
Arion then quickly described the main points of Sir Hellhammer's well formulated plans, the Master Builder's expert advice and their Vicereine's insightful remarks.
"It truly is a pity, your Highness, but given the adverse economic conditions rendered by ongoing civil unrest, several once hale industries have been forced to close their doors. Sadly, Marna Thalasia was one such casualty. Betwixt shortages of lumber and a paucity of contracts, the shipyard could scarcely keep its shipwrights fed, let alone their taxes paid. Lest the presumption of government charity bankrupt our coffers entirely, necessity dictated a precedent be set."
"Please forgive me," Hior said, "in my hasty review I must have overlooked the plethora of commissions for new vessels that our ardent scribe inquired after. Or perhaps it is not my eyes that fail me, but my elven ears. Surely the both of these honorable men just testified before the hand of our King that there was not in fact a 'scarcity of new ships' on order."
In the moments of silence that followed, the Commodore growing red in the face, the Treasurer looked from one man to the next before extending a hand to Arion. "And there you have your answer, young man. There is a crucial gulf between desire and its realization. One must be possessed of sufficient means for the former to become the latter, and wishing otherwise does not make it so."
Arms crossed, nodding, looking far away, Arion stroked his chin with one hand and said, "In my past life, involved daily with accounting and economics, I learned this:
Treasure piled high in a tower,
becomes famine when beseiged by debts;
but gold used with clever power
in sortie more gold ever begets."
Beginning to pace somewhat, Arion explained, "Meaning, without reinforcements, the fortress during a siege does better to utilize its strengths earlier, harrying foes by sallying forth and breaking formations, well before being forced into a purely defensive stance. In economics, clever investments yield far more than hoarded sums...."
Stopping to look at Amhranai, as if she were involved in a predesignated plan with him, Arion continued, "...and when corruption is suspected among the ranks, it must be rooted out, lest it weaken or threaten any attempts at a sortie."
He turned and watched the Treasurer and his attendants, resolving, "When resources are lower, faithful accountants must more closely scrutinize the trail of funds, to see whether waste or bandits intercept funds along their route."
Sense Motive (Hior) 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (14) + 14 = 28
"Your Highness' scribe recites poetry quite well for one who skulks about casting aspersions like cantrips. I particularly enjoy such fanciful imagery as towers piled high with treasure, an enviable fantasy to be sure, almost as droll as constructing mighty vessels without plank or beam."
Now beginning to walk about himself, he looked up toward the ceiling as if imagining something as said, "It strikes me as... ironic, however, that an individual obliged to abandon their past life would deign to lecture one thrice their age on corruption. Given his boasts, I wonder... does the young pup speaks from personal experience?"
1d20 + 16 ⇒ (12) + 16 = 28
Sense Motive Checks:
A 1d20 + 25 + 4 ⇒ (12) + 25 + 4 = 41 Tear
M 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (5) + 12 = 17
R 14 + 14 = 28 Scott's roll
D 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (3) + 20 = 23
Arion turned his back to the Treasurer and faced the Princess, slightly shaking his head and smiling.
No need to waste words on economic debate.
Arion said to Hior, "Pleased that you enjoyed my proverb. Here is another:
'Lay most economists across the world end to end and still they would not reach a conclusion and would point in all directions.'
We all are well aware there are problems with the supply chain of lumber, though not of raw materials. The Vicereine amply supplies more than enough for her staff here. No need for greed among us. I am more than supplied to do my job here, which includes examination of affairs of Protectorate. However, executive decisions are the privilage of Her Royal Highness. Let us leave the direction of this meeting to her."
Nice of him to give me permission...
Shaking her head at the duel of wits in which the two courtiers were engaged, Alis commented, "And here I was curiosity piqued in anticipation of act two. Ah well..."
With a sigh of mock disappointment, the Princess waved her hand at the map, highlighting the first town upriver from the capital, Erylonn. "Two days ago, I had the pleasure to acquaint myself with the barons of Port Eldarion's industry. While the jungle is indeed replete with untapped resources, Lady Sempronius-Eldarion attributed our lumber shortfalls to raids upon her logging camps."
"At least near Erylonn, the problem has been addressed. Lady Elendreth's nephew, Lord Poe, discovered bandits pressing whole families into service, clear-cutting large expanses of forest to fortify themselves with palisades and siege engines. To what purpose we are uncertain, however it is my hope that Dame Amhranai might entreat her contacts within the native populace to aid Warden-Commander Nargothel as liasons to track-down and eliminate this common threat."
"In the meanwhile," she swept her dancing lights to tracts of jungle closer to Port Eldarion, "I have authorized the Countess to establish camps within the reserves near the capital where our soldiers can more easily safeguard them. This should also provide additional, nearby work to those with the back for it."
At Alis' plans, Hior's expression became slightly more pensive and he spoke, "These are noble goals, your Highness, and worthy of your station, yet even the not-inconsiderable influx of capital that accompanied your arrival can salve Dafar's economic woes for overlong. With confidence in trade waning, what demand do you imagine Dafar's markets can generate for ships — beyond naval concerns, of course?"
"In addition to King Aramandil's mandate that I am to accede to suzerainty of Dafar as Vicereine rather than Governor, The Crown has also shouldered me with several other decrees. The first of these is why I summoned you here on a Starsday."
Holding the scrollcase aloft like she might her scepter, Alis said, "Our jungle hardwoods have long intrigued Ilmarond's chiefest shipwright, Lord Halcirtáno. It is the King's desire then that we enterprise upon constructing the Count's newest ship of the line, and that we do so discretely."
She moved the lights one last time to the small island 100-miles south-west of Port Eldarion. "Given the recent taming of Reaver's Shiv, I believe its sheltered tidal pool and guarded waters would prove an ideal location upon which to establish a naval shipyard or at the very least a naval reserve. I have already stationed trusted agents upon the isle and even now we have established a cursory naval patrol there as well."
"Master Petronius? It would please me that you personally should assay Reaver's Shiv to determine the feasibility of such a site. Commodore Gaeros, you shall accompany the Maestro that you may answer as to our requirements. Minister Celadrendir, I suspect a well-connected financier of your acumen can imagine how to best enable these goals — I would appreciate your cooperation. Begin with ceding management and operation of Marna Thalasia to the Port Authority. Harbormaster Corvinus, your department's budget shall be adjusted to account for its added responsibilities. I will entrust you to hire an aide of suitable expertise to oversee the shipyard."
With a snap of her fingers, the Princess dismissed her spell and tapped the scroll case lightly upon her open palm. "Now then, are there any further questions before we adjourn?"
The inquisitor shook his head. "No." After his verbal lashing, this was all he could summon.
She's been quite busy trying to get this whole thing set up. I wonder why she's going through so much trouble just to help me with my own project. Perhaps she sees the merits of having an uncorruptable militant force in this region. He shrugged his shoulders and dismissed his thoughts. "Thank you for everything, Your Highness." He said in earnest to his elven cousin as he bowed to her.
Arion stood beside Darvesch.
"I must follow the terse example of our friend the noble Lightbringer, as he speaks for me also."
After a bow to the Princess, he nodded to the other guests, saying, "Blessings upon your assignments gentlemen."
Her Agent awaited her officiation, well pleased with the plans.
I wonder how our dear Lureene and Sasha fare on their mission, particularly now that the Scarlet Corsair is free of the shackles of courtly requirements. Perhaps she shall find a fair pirate outfit for our winged beauty.
After Lureene had left the chamber escorted by Alis' butler Giles with Sasha close behind her, she paused for a moment trying to decide if her current outfit was sufficient for Lord Gallo to take her request seriously.
I know how he wants to take me...and my choice of outfit will either make it easier for him to do so...or NOT!!
After a moment, she decided while her dress was sufficient (as it was not TOO flattering), she knew her hair and face needed some work. Motioning to Giles, she said "Excuse me for a moment, I wish to make myself more presentable for Lord Gallo. I shall meet you at the garden in an hour."
As the butler acknowledged her request, she pulled Sasha along as they headed back to their room. "Sorry, Sash, I think I will need you to dress up in your armor for this as I may need to fight Gallo off with my bare hands!"
She returned to her room and proceeded to braid her hair up, tying it back with a pair of blue ribbons. She also touched up her makeup, darkening her eyes with black eyeliner and applying a subtle shade of pink lipstick. After fixing up her makeup, she grabbed her pouches and her staff nodding to Sasha, "How do I look?"
Alis smiled and shook her head in mild amusement at everyone's concern. "The town criers shall break the news the same as they should for any other edict or proclamation."
"As for the script they shall deliver," she winked at Arion, "well, it gladdens my heart to know that my scribe is so enthusiastic as to volunteer for the task for which he is employed."
"Take the remainder of today day in rest, and coordinate your supporters tomorrow. If Daegsday find you both ready then I shall commend your preparedness otherwise I shall expect you to set sail on Lakusday."
Looking to Hior and Jaro, she added, "My wish is to have Marna Thalasia restaffed and operational by my Investment on the 1st of Typheth*."
* Although it has been a while for Amhranai, you all realize that this is the date of the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere.
M 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 5 = 21
R 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (17) + 11 = 28
D 1d20 + 12 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 12 + 5 = 20 familiarity
K: Nobility DC 15
M 1d20 + 5 - 5 ⇒ (10) + 5 - 5 = 10 obscure
R 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (11) + 9 = 20
D 1d20 + 3 + 5 ⇒ (8) + 3 + 5 = 16 familiarity
Hior 1d20 ⇒ 7
Jaro 1d20 ⇒ 12
Luca 1d20 ⇒ 17
Thrandel 1d20 ⇒ 10
"And in turn, I thank each of you. Go now and rest for we have much to accomplish."
Once those she had summoned departed with their aides, Alis commented, "So it seems that Darvesch, Lureene, Sasha, Arion, and myself all had interesting dreams last night. I don't suppose it was any different for you, was it Amh?"
As a grumble from someone's belly interrupted, she gave a short laugh and asked, "Shall we discuss them over lunch?"
"Sorry, Sash, I think I will need you to dress up in your armor for this as I may need to fight Gallo off with my bare hands!"
"Uh..." There was some apprehension in the glance the redhead gave Giles, "walking around a villa in all that crap is one thing, but if we're going out on the town I'm wearing Sin's stuff — we'd both be screwed if somebody picked a fight of us and I was gimped like that."
|Giles von Hearthwick|
"It would be inappropriate for a retained to don ceremonial armor for an informal and unofficial engagement such as this, Lady Ourson." With a sniff, he added, "Military formal dress is reserved for official functions, not strolls about the trade quarter. In any event, I shall have a carriage awaiting your leisure at the west entrance of the residence by 1 o'clock sharp."
"How do I look?"
Sasha stopped swishing about in her new cape and vaulted over a wingchair to land with a pleasant bounce next to her bosom buddy. "Well that's a silly question, you always look like a peach!"
Suddenly, the ranger furrowed her brow and bit her lower lip. "Crap, just realized I'm hungry. You really need to get ready faster, even Lissi doesn't take this long to get ready..."
That's easy for YOU to say Giles...you are not the one who has to worry about being groped here!
"Yes, of course Giles, thank you for getting our carriage ready for us." Lureene nodded to the faithful butler. As he took his leave, she turned to Sasha and grimaced, "Well, Sash, you have NOOoo idea how many shades of blush, lipstick and eye-shadow in her War-chest! I can understand why 'Lexis used magic for HER makeup needs!" She patted her friend's hand. "Don't worry, I will make sure Lord Gallo treats us to the finest repast he has to offer!"
I don't ever recall MOTHER having this much trouble looking lurid...it must be a GIFT!
While their lunch was arranged, Arion found a sunny ledge upon which to record the directive to the Bonati estate.
The traditional rest day was no allure for the Agent to pass the time idly. After ensuring the new decree would be proclaimed in due order, Arion was eager to explore the areas of his new apartments and be about other investigations. Searching the maps of that area, he considered several strategies as he made his way to where lunch was ready upon the tables. He sampled some food; enough, he deemed to fortify himself for the afternoon; awaiting a moment when it seemed there was a pause in conversation and the pleasures of the table.
Approaching when Alis, Darvesch and Amhranai were near to one another, Arion said, "The preliminaries of the royal edict, regarding the new Lightbringers' initiative, have been commissioned and shall be announced publicly. I do look forward to your warriors being part of the destiny of Dafar, Darvesch. I am also very interested in the visions granted to the Ladies, to Darvesch and to Amhranai, whenever you would care to share them with us."
"And I look forward to bringing a shining light to fend off the darkness." The Lightbringer smirked, amused by his own comment.
He walked to stand next to his elven ally. "Let that be enough for now. No offense intended, but my dreams are my own. It was an extremely personal experience that showed me I have a lot of introspection to do."
He smiled genuinely and pat Arion's back. "I'm sure we all do."
He looked to his Fraenka, "Lunch sounds like a great idea."
Arion finished a bite of food, listening. Then he replied, "Introspection...yes, now that you mention it. In my visions, Princess Larathiel's interests in events here strengthened my heart. Even more so now, I feel our lives here serve the greater good for Ilmarond."
He began, as if to elaborate and then stopped and shook his head, saying instead, "Well, you are experienced enough to know what information might be useful for us. No wish for your dishonor. I respect your privacy. Of the vision granted to me, I described the major points in a document you all are invited to read as you like. My interests are what aspects would inform our plans here...beneficial facts..."
Arion looked at Amhranai and added, "...and my hopes are that Amhranai finally slept well enough to enjoy a dream. It seems that both rest and the pleasure of a good vision have eluded her for some time."
Alis winked at her cousin from across the table where they sat, legs curled up beside her on the divan she sat upon. "That's my Frændi, boast about having interesting dreams and then leave the rest of us guessing."
"As for you, Arion," she held up the note he had passed her earlier, "while I had no idea my step-sister and you were on such familiar terms, I am thankful for the insights the Princess of Ilmarond shared. You– she actually allayed a few of my private worries."
Looking up, face still thoughtful, she passed the note to King Tut, "Let Darv and Amh have a look, Tut."
- It appeared to be less a dream than some sort of astral jaunt beginning upon the crystal dome of the Royal Palace where he was greeted by Larathiel, the Princess of Ilmarond.
- The two soared high above the firmament to witness a battle between Súmalya, Charelle, and Avoreen. They were flitting about the skies of Brightpool battling near an ivory spire of impossible height.
- Larathiel stated, "They are in a stalemate, The Queen of Hearts, The Queen of Lies, and The Dark Lillend... They have done battle before, but never so close to home, never for the same prize."
- She then asked, "Do you know what it might be?" Yet Arion had no answer.
- Larathiel then went on to describe in detail the nature of a soul and its effects upon existence, ultimately revealing that the tower now rising from Brightpool is a manifestation of Lureene's soul.
- She also revealed that the fact that Lureene is even alive now is because the Princess of Ilmarond personally tested her and found Lureene's soul free of the taint of evil or demonic corruption. (Evidently, she had been concerned that Lureene might be influencing Alis, yet instead she found the reverse to be true.)
- While it was obviously friendship that bound Alis and Lureene together, as an outsider, their meeting should never have even been possible. Larathiel explained, "The implication is that theirs was no chance meeting but engineered. Yet The Fates are Vala, and therefore bound to the circles of this world. The being who contrived their convocation could only have been another outsider... in all likelihood, her Mother. What remains ambiguous is to what end? If [Lureene] is not the prize of their battle, then what does that make her?"
- Lureene did not strike Larathiel so much as a weapon, but as a piece in some gambit — one that Avoreen might have lost control over.
- Larathiel stated, "You see, the reason I know that she is not a puppet is because the Princess of Silverwake severed any such strings. Although her existence may be a danger, so too might the same be said of Alissariel or myself should we fall victim to the wrong conspirators. Furthermore, without knowing what purpose she was to play, who can say that killing her would not simply serve as a sacrifice to the Queen of Lies? In any event, killing an innocent girl would make us no more worthy of honor than the villains we oppose."
- She bade Arion to learn what he could and meditate upon this: "If angels can fall, then in a world that believes in hope, can the reverse occur?"
Once the two had finished reading, Alis gave the recount of the dream she, Lureene, and Sasha had shared...
The Sisters' Dream
- The three were roused to wakefulness by Wingilmë in a white pavilion upon the shores of Oceanus in Elysium.
- Like in Arion's dream, it seemed to be some sort of astral projection.
- From where they stood, they could easily observe the battle near the tower between Súmalya, Avoreen, and Charelle — the evil ones alternately attempting to join forces against the goddess only to strike at one another as opportunity presented itself.
- When asked if the dream was a prophecy, Wingilmë replied, "It is a vision. What you now perceive is your souls' comprehension of a struggle that transcends the void between worlds."
- While the aid of the three is needed in the heavenly war, Wingilmë explained that they must fight on a different 'front' and not in the direct battle of arms.
- Lureene seemed to correctly guess that we must help to win a battle in the hearts and minds of Avoreen and Charelle's supporters, yet the vision ended before Wingilmë could explain any more.
"What about you, Amhranai?" Alis asked. "You look more well-rested today than in our past meetings. Did emissaries of The Dreamer visit you by any chance?"
"Oh, and nicely done keeping the Treasurer guessing, by the way," she said, eyes sparkling with mischief. "I don't think he knew quite what to make of you!"
Indeed, during the course of their carriage ride, Lureene had deduced that her ravenous friend had, in fact, snacked upon some wax fruit. Thankfully, if there was one thing Lord Gallo was wont to splurge upon it was food. So it was that within an opulent, if not gaudy, courtyard within his villa, his scantily dressed servants now plied the two with all the wines, meats, fruits, and confections they could desire.
"Mmm..." Lord Gallo's hum as he licked his fingers had all the seeming of some well-pleased fat cat, his gaze lingering upon Lureene's form as her wine-glass was replenished by an adolescent Zuck girl bedecked in a gilt halter and swirling harem pants. "So, I take it the reputation of my great wealth and generous nature intrigues you, does it not, my breathtaking and beauteous lady?"
Oh this guy is so FULL of himself...I have known DEMONS more humble than this pompous ass!
Lureene sipped the wine slowly while admiring the flavor of this vintage. Whatever his faults were, he was an excellent judge of the finer luxuries in life. Nibbling on a piece of cheese, she turned her smoky gaze upon the Lord. Mentally gritting her teeth in preparation for the protests sure to follow, she waited until he had finished the main course of the lunch, giving the corpulent man a gentle smile.
"Lord Gallo, I have been quite impressed with the generosity you have shown my friend and I with this fine meal. Perhaps my first impression of you may have been in error. Truly you are a caring soul. Now I fear I must impose upon your generosity again." She put on the most winsome smile in her arsenal. "Now, I heard from Princess Kirmoon she was thinking of asking the Concern's ground fleet to assist with the garbage collection as she is unhappy with the priority assigned by the Viamaré Concern for that task." She took another sip of the wine as she let him digest the news. "As a favor for ME, do you think you could help out the Princess here?"
She then waited patiently for a response, hoping it was a positive one. As she waited she was conscious of a warm glow suffusing her body which she realized was spreading from her locket.
Thank you, Father...
Diplomacy 1d20 + 15 + 1 + 20 ⇒ (2) + 15 + 1 + 20 = 38 attractive, mythic
While accounts of the dream visions were being shared, and lunch enjoyed, Arion noticed that Lureene's Eidolon had flown into the area of their company. Grak hissed a message to the Scribe. Nodding in understanding, Arion moved closer to the Princess.
During the pause, as Amhranai contemplated, Arion bowed and noted, "Princess Alissariel, Sasha and Lureene have been treated to a bounteous feast, at the Villa of Lord Gallo. I think you would be proud of our winged friend. Her diplomacy so far promises to be effectual. I also am eager to continue operations afield. After Amhranai's report, I wonder if I might have your leave to begin operations at the Empyrean Arcade?"
Amhranai smiled grimly. "Well, when confronted by a person surrounded by so many sycophants, blunt truth usually works best. It's the last thing they expect to hear. On to more important matters..." The elf paused to take a drink. When she was done, she removed the medallion around her neck and laid it on the table, hand closing over the cloud-wreathed eye.
"For the time-being, I do feel more rested than I have in a long while. About half a century now, I'd say. That was the last time I really had regular dreams. Not from any lack of faith on my part-well, not in Iscandü at least, but more because my dreams kept me from sleeping to the point that I was going mad. Iscandü took note of this and has been shielding my dreaming mind ever since." The priestess looked away for a moment, hand on the medallion tightening. "I think I have been getting better but I will let him be the judge of that. Having said that, I was granted a dream last night."
Amhranai took another drink, swallowing slowly. "He came to me in the guise of a friend I buried this morning, as a reminder of a lesson I struggle with. Afterwards, we were atop the tower you have both described. In addition to seeing the battle, we saw you, Alis, and Lureene and Sasha and Wingilmë. It was there that he told me that we are to be his champions against whatever it is Avoreen and Charelle have in mind. It is a mystery even to him, as those two do not dream and their followers are similarly opaque. Those followers are, I believe, known to you-the Order of the Wasp. They are responsible for the death of your predecessor and will no doubt make it their business to see you, and the rest of us, meet the same fate."
A smile, bright and mischievous, stole across her face. "He also told me, Alis, that I should keep you, a known troublemaker, honest."
Arion's eyes went wide at the revelation, he exclaimed, "Fifty years without decent dreaming! I think I should have slain someone before that long! Sharing your information not only helps us consider our course, but I now begin to understand your complexities."
Pacing slowly, Arion considered the implications of their visions, thinking of what plans should be developed.
"[The Order of the Wasp] are responsible for the death of your predecessor and will no doubt make it their business to see you, and the rest of us, meet the same fate."
Following this statement, the rest of you could hear what sounded like a tiny person coughing, and Amhranai looked down to see her pixie friend waving his hands as if trying to get her to hold up. He then flew up and whispered a clarification in her ear which the priestess promptly conveyed.
- Appearances to the contrary Súmalya does not fight alone and Iscandü is not idly standing by. It seems that empowering as champions was his contribution.
- The tower is Lureene's inner soul (or at least part of it).
- Iscandü confirmed that Avoreen seduced Charelle, but that it was for the purpose of gaining entry to the goddess' realm. When Charelle wept to Avoreen about being cast out, the Queen of Lies turned her anger upon Charelle.
- Unfortunately, rather than seeking to atone, Charelle made a mess of Elysium before running off and falling under the sway of a new master who now exploits her (Homeku perhaps).
- Avoreen disappeared, no doubt trying to gain entry into other realms before finally coming up with her latest scheme: leaving a baby in a basket to see who would pick her up (i.e. Lureene). Thankfully, Alis snipped the 'black thread' trailing from her 'baby blanket'.
- While Iscandü sees no reason to fight fairly (nor do Avoreen or Charelle), the Valar are bound by restrictions that outsiders have ways of circumventing. This is where all of us and our new gifts come into play.
- Because Avoreen and Charelle are both masters of deception, gleaning truths from the dreams of their followers is unreliable. However, Iscandü was able to discern that Avoreen and Charelle have opposing goals.
- The dreams of those across Dafar indicate that a new mystery cult has been forming, and that its appearance coincides with the appears of Lureene's tower.
- Lastly, Governor Taurion had been possessed of unshakable nightmares for several years prior to her assassination. The common theme of those dreams was of being a helpless marionette on invisible strings. She also had developed a deathly fear of wasps.