Lady Martella Lotheed

Martella_ Lotheed's page

25 posts. Alias of FangDragon.


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Martella hands you a bundle of papers filled with beautiful illuminated calligraphy, and says, "These papers establish Lope and Julia as distant cousins of the Late Lady Betony with the rest of you as part of their retinue. With that I think we should get a move on, out carriage awaits."

Any last minute questions?

The Paperwork:
The paperwork Martella provides establishes Lope and Julia as brother and sisters, making them the second cousins, once removed, of the late Lady Allis Betony (implying their great-grandfather was grandfather to Allis). The documents are excellent reproductions, requiring a successful DC 30 Linguistics check to identify as forgeries.

You need not assume false names, given the distant relationship to “dear departed cousin Allis,” nor will you be expected to know many details of the family, and therefore you can slip readily into local society.

Your new “title” also makes you tribunes of the neighboring town of Stachys—essentially investing you with the power and responsibility to act as the community’s mayor and judge. Martella briefly details the Betony family history dating back to the Shining Crusade, and reminds the you that they have rights as stewards to the Lotheeds, most notably the right to request audiences with Bartelby, but that their rule extends solely to their lands; openly taking any action outside their own demesne is dangerous and foolish unless done covertly.

Kn: Geography DC 14:
Meratt County is a pastoral wonderland: olive orchards and vineyards, and hills and ample woods to hunt game. The largest town is Lotheedar, near the Palace of Birdsong. There’s a village the Betony estate is expected to oversee as well: Stachys.

Kn: Nobility DC 14:
Baron Nicolaus Okerra’s lands stand at the edge of the county. You met him during the senate festivities before the... unpleasantness. He’s generally regarded as fair-minded and compassionate man and would be a good ally.

Kn: Diplomacy DC 14 (gather rumours):
News from Meratt County is sparse but there's rumours of some shadowy figure calling themself ‘Night Swan’ who has been stirring up trouble—robbery and vandalism, but also some violence against Lotheed soldiers. Perhaps this Night Swan could be come an ally if they have something grudge against Martella's brother?

"Before you go, here's a little something..." Martella hands you a vial of an odd bluish liquid, "This is something I've been experimenting with, a memory-erasing poison called Styx oil. It might provide you with a second chance to correct a social faux pas or escape notice. However, the drug is expensive and time-consuming to produce, and I can offer them only 3 doses for now."

Styx oil:
Styx oil is a carefully distilled combination of antitoxin, bloodroot, id moss, and various mushrooms. Styx oil renders its target unconscious and floods every sense with erratic hallucinations, overwhelming the mind and essentially wiping away memories. This chaotic mélange wipes away memories of the 5 minutes prior to the poison’s injection; occasionally, though, the drug fails to paralyze its victim, leaving the creature to flail violently and unpredictably in response to the hallucinations. If Styx oil is delivered by a weapon rather than injection or other subtle method, the victim gains a +5 circumstance bonus to resist the memory-erasing properties of the poison.

Note that Styx oil is a unique blend
made available only to agents serving Martella Lotheed and is not available in most markets.

Type poison, injury; Save Fortitude DC 16 Frequency 1/minute for 2 minutes
Initial Effect unconscious for 1d4 minutes; Secondary Effect confusion for 2d6 rounds; Cure 2 saves

I'll post more tomorrow, did't get as much time as I expected tonight.

Martella gives Lope a brave smile, "Just the occasional nightmare nothing to worry about."

Martella nods to Triphylla, "It's more than just money, we need to win the people over to our side. Meratt County is as good a place as any to start, there sentiment swings towards Pythareus but it's far from his heartland. We can win them back."

I'll give you a day to ask any more questions before moving us forwards.

Martella shrugged, "No doubt. Still I think it would be more fitting if you won the social clout to go in though the front door. I'll leave the details up to you but if you make a good impression at The Tanager Jubilee you'll be off to a flying start."

Kn: History or Kn: Local DC 16:
The Tanager Jubilee is an annual sort of founders’ day celebration. Local tradition claims that when Count Markolian Stavian broke ground for the palace some eight centuries ago, a scarlet tanager landed on his shovel and sang his praises. It’s a day off for the lower classes, but the aristocracy celebrates with two days of feasting, games, dancing, tournaments, and a hunt.

Martella nodded, "The original stewards where the Betony family. The last of that line Lady Allis Betony died nearly a decade ago, leaving no heirs. Thorough rather questionable legal skulduggery Stavian gifted the title of steward to my half brother Bartelby. To be blunt I'm not sure what Stavian was smoking when he thought that was a good idea. Bartelby has never been good with money and sure enough he's been squandering the estate’s fortunes."

It's fairly common gossip at court that Martella and her family do not get on.

With a rather vicious grin, she explained, "We were thinking of using powers of eminent domain to repossess the building, but that takes a long time. As fortune would have it, we don't need to. It appears Bartelby lost a lot of money gambling and well he defaulted on a loan and the estate was put up for auction, and guess who bought it. To complicate matters Bartelby refuses to acknowledge the fact he is squatting and refuses to leave."

"While we legally have the authority to demand the estate’s return, we lack the power. If we could weaken Bartelby’s power base and woo some of his subordinates to support us, we could reclaim the Palace of Birdsong. That’s where you come in. I have taken the liberty of drawing up a few documents listing you as Betony family scions. You’ll be arriving just in time to make your debut at the annual Tanager Jubilee. The carriage and horses are yours to keep, as you can’t very well be seen walking to the jubilee; I’ll be riding on to Cassomir once we near the county border."

"Make friends, learn the lay of the land, and afterward do what you can to win the nobles’ and citizens’ loyalty. Undermine Bartelby, and wherever you can, try to improve peoples’ lives and engender loyalty and ultimately secure the palace and the treasury for the crown. For any overt actions you take, you’ll likely want to hide your identity to keep Bartelby from cracking down on you."

Martella nodded, "So a few days ago I was examining Her Highness's family ledgers to see what could be done and it came to our attention that the Stavian family has another estate, the Palace of Birdsong. The estate has a large sealed treasury, one that fortunately the stewards are unable to access."

Martella smiles enigmatically to lope when he asks who she had in mind. Her smile dropped when Julia spoke of the many wild rumours.

Lope wrote:
"What happened with the Grand Prince though... it has no sense at all."

"I have a notion..." replied Martella, "On the night of the Gala, I uh I expect you noticed evidence for some of Stavian's less savoury habits. Pesh, opium, mushrooms, alchemically treated coca leaf, angel dust, certain types of toad, to name but a few. He had the constitution of an Ox and had been indulging heavily for many years, but not without a price. He'd become increasingly paranoid and was convinced his daughter Eutropia was the head of some grand conspiracy to oust him. Problem is this conspiracy existed only in his head, but his response alas did not."

Lope wrote:
"It is clear to me this is Pythareus work."

Martella shook her head, "I'm not so sure about that. Pythareus is that most dangerous of things, a true believer. Except unlike a religious fanatic, his faith is in Taldor itself. To plot against Stavian would have been completely out of character. Now however Taldor is in a parlous situation, while the recently changed law makes the line of succession clear, a traditionalist like Pythareus is going to find that a bitter pill to swallow. No I fear he'll take matters into his own hands, and well among other things I expect we'll find out why revanchism is such a dirty word."

Nodding to Valaria she said brightly, "If you'd like to see a future for men that doesn't involve war and for women that doesn't being chattel, there's an appointment we should attend. Whose coming?"

Several days later a much happier looking freshly coiffured Martella, arrives in a carriage to meet you.

Beaming she says, "I have something for each of you." She hands each of you a heavy purse (containing 500gp each) saying, "For exemplary service. Whether you know it or not, your actions in the senate have undoubtedly had a major influence on the future of Taldor. Its just too bad that future is now in jeopardy thanks to the rash actions of Grand Prince Stavian, may the gods have mercy on his deluded soul."

Once the money has handed out, payment for your services she gives each of you an appraising look before grinning, "Now then, I guess you're wondering what happens next? I know I am! I want find out what will become of our beloved nation! Well as it happens, a good friend of mine has some ideas about that. Thing is she needs some help, there's so much to do... I think you can guess who I'm talking about, she's keen to meet you in private. Assuming you're interested of course..."

Working together you manage to touch the six correct ares to open the fresco's hidden compartment. With a low grating noise the walls of the fresco split open revealing a small bag in a niche.

Inside the bag are thirty odd looking coins of some silvery metal, each bearing the Voritas family crest. The coins look like they'd fit the niche in the bedroom with the phase door.

Spellcraft DC 16:
These coins act as the foci for a conjuration school effect of some sort.

If you rolled 21+

You recognise this magic, these are sigils for a phase door spell.

Appraise DC 12:
As a bonafied relic of the Voritas family, each coin is likely worth 5gp to a collector.

Martella sends you another message which cuts off abruptly, "::I heard a wild rumour that prior to the vote Stavian formally adopted Pythareus! Anyway, made it to the safe house. It’s located at the Dignif—::"

Kn: Nobility DC 14:
Pythareus is older than Eutropia so in theory this would make him the first in line to the throne. The legality of this is dubious at best, suffice it to say it would be somewhat contentious for Pythareus to press his claim on this basis. It would be simpler to eliminate Eutropia.

If you place a coin in the niche:
The coin flashes dully followed by a much brighter flare of radiance on the wall where a glowing portal opens that leads to a rough worked tunnel.

Julia starts leafing through the many books looking for a clue. After an hour and a half of searching, Martella sends another message, "::Out of the senate building. Guiding a dozen or so of the servants to a safe haven, will contact later...::”

Three hours into her search and Julia pulls out a stodgy looking history of the Fourth Army of Exploration and to her surprise a small curved piece of rectangular glass falls out. She did a double take, and discovered a small hole had been cut into the pages...

Curiously enough the bit of glass fits the crystal ball from the other room.

When the piece of glass is inserted into the crystal ball in the cabinet and its used:
You are given a view of the fresco but curiously several potions of it light up...

After ten minutes or so Martella sent another message, "::Maximus Solari didn't attend the gala but assassins killed everyone in his town house. Augustus Eiredor was at the Gala and was one of the first to be hacked to pieces. That means Pythareus is second inline to the throne!::"

There's more than one way to solve this ;) I think only Pelligrina can make the Kn:History check though.

Martella responded "::Er I don't know how you got out. Oppara and the city guard are in chaos, the military is split with units fighting units. Lion Blades and Eutropia’s allies fighting back in the senate. There's an unconfirmed rumour that Stavian was killed.::"

In the bedroom.

DC 18 Perception AND 3 hours of search time:
You find an interesting book...

Martella responded a short while later sending, "::Yes that must be it. We're outside now, Stavian’s soldiers still pursuing. There is fighting throughout the entire senate building. Wherever you are, keep your heads down!::”

While you were searching, Martella sent you several messages via the badges.

::Where did you go?! I just saw you and several others in the senate vanish into thin air!::

Shortly after she sent.

::Gloriana Morilla’s allies from the Pathfinder Societ fought their way in and secured us an exit from the senate building! The attackers are resisting, they are an organised force.::

Let me know if you want to send a reply.

Kalbio gave Triphylla a puzzled look, "But I'd be letting everyone back home down if I did that. I promised my local weaver's circle that I'd get them some better representation. I've been lucky, artisans often get taken advantage of, I think I can do some good!"

Martella smiled to Cyrene, "Go on, have some fun!"

Baron Okerra winked as Pelligrina walked away and looked, back.

Sense Motive DC 15:
He enjoyed talking to you.

To those remaining near Martella, she said, "This has been an amazing evening and a large part of this is down to you. Yes Eutroipia had a groundswell of support, but several of the pillars were wavering - like Countess two-face Pace. She actually voted for Eutroipia, I think what did it for her was the loss of face the opposition suffered from the wine and the missing gifts. Anyway Stavian is up next, I expect he'll sound a defiant tone over Eutropia’s bid for the throne. He made no secret of his opposition to the repeal, and I expect him to show no restraint in lambasting his daughter."

Finally she said, "I notice some of you have been speaking to Kalbio. Poor boy's parents couldn't afford to come but they wrote him a heart felt letter would you mind giving it to him?"

Martella noted Julia's return and she beckoned her over to her table. When Julia explained what had happened, Martella gave her a feral grin, "Excellent! That's one less thing to worry about tonight."

Cyrene and Julia:
Sounds you're both going to report to Martella. It takes you a few minutes to find Martella, you find her in the formal gardens talking to a merchant neither of you recognise. On the way you noticed a detachment of troops filing into the building in unusual garb, about twenty in all.

Kn: Local DC 16

You recognise them as members of the famed Ulfen Guard, who by tradition protect Taldor's Grand Princes.

When you arrive Martella had just finished speaking to the merchant and she smiles at you, saying "Ah good! Did you find what you were looking for Cyrene? How is your assignment going Julia?"

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I'm going to move us forwards a little bit.

Daytime turns into glorious evening and the setting sun bathes Oppara in golden coloured rays which makes the grand senate building appear once more as if it was gilded like it used to be in centuries gone by. The Taldan senate, sometimes referred to as the senate building or simply the 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 levelled 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.

Efficient guards vet the long line of important people and their people queuing up to enter. Martella is welcomed by sight by the guards but even she has to present her badge which is waved near a strange looking metal rod which briefly causes it to glow. After everyone's badges have been verified and the peace bonds on any weapons expertly checked, you are ushered past.

Near the top of the steps, Martella takes you all in and says, "My you all look so smart tonight!" She briefly inspects Triphylla and Cyrene, "Well mostly. Anyway I'm sure you know what you're about. Good luck, we'll meet up after the vote, hopefully for a celebration!"

Martella nodded to Triphylla, "Indeed, unfortunately without a badge you won't be allowed inside the senate."

Speaking to everyone at the table she said, "Oh I nearly forgot, one final piece of business. It might be useful to have a code name for this effort. It needs to be something we could mention in public without raising suspicion, I'm afraid I'm not the most imaginative when it comes to naming and I was thinking of Department Thirteen. For what it's worth there is an actual Department Twelve, they're involved with bridge and mountain trail maintenance. I'm not sure about my name, can anyone suggest a better one?"

To be clear this is where you get to name your little spy agency :)

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Martella smiles as you talk and during a lull in the conversation she says, "As you might imagine Taldan senators require a large and proactive staff to administer their duties, sometimes taking their representatives to all corners of Oppara and beyond. A way is needed to determine who actually is an aide, and for the past two and a half thousand years that's been done via what's known as a senate aid badge."

She passes six badges out, saying "Each families badges look different, and I can't hand out badges for an active family, but as is traditionally done I can hand out senate aide badges of extinct or exiled family lines to guests. These particular badges once belonged to senators of the Voritas family."

Kn: Nobles or Kn: History DC 16:
Senator Voritas's family line was involved in the senate for nearly a thousand years before dying out about a century ago.

Martella explains the badges functions, "The badges have some interesting properties. All senate aide badges are part of a set, attuned to a single master senator badge during their creation. Anyone wearing a pinned brooch can receive telepathic communications sent from the wearer of the master senator badge. Once the wearer of the senate aide badge receives a message, she has 1 minute to send a short telepathic reply. I shall be using this throughout the evening to help coordinate."

Martella's lips pressed into a thin line as she added a note of warning, "The senate guards are familiar with this practice and they're more wary of visitors wearing the badges of extinct lines, given the ease with which a rabble-rouser or assassin could abuse this system. Anyway you'll need suitable clothes, this won't come cheap I'm afraid, I've provided each of you with an advance. I recommend Appius & Decimus, they're a tailoring partnership which is across the square, they know to expect you and will offer a fair price. You have until tomorrow evening to prepare, I shall stay here for a few hours in case you have any questions."

Rumor #1. Diplomacy DC 16:
An ex-military man with a very severe looking handle bar moustache told you, "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."

Rumor #2. Diplomacy DC 16:
An excited young woman, queueing at a market stall told you, "I heard Lady Morilla is back in town from Absalom. I wonder if she’s performing for the Exaltation Gala?"

Rumor #3. Diplomacy DC 16:
You overheard a father talking to his son in an inn. The father had this to say, "I would love to be inside the senate gala. You know the building has been rebuilt five times? They have rooms they didn’t even know they had!"

Rumor #4. Diplomacy DC 16:
While walking the streets you heard a well dressed courter grumbling, "I hear tell the emperor’s going to exalt another of his Ulfen bodyguards like he did for Baron Vinmark. Last thing we need is another barbarian lording it over us."

I'm going to give y'all a little time to read your assignments and ask any questions before it's time to hand out some spy gadgets!

Martella blinked and exclaimed, "Ah Cyrene, there you are! Indeed Earl Vernisant donated five items: A genealogical work by his great grandfather best described as an effort to climb up the social ladder by grasping at straws (there's likely some scandalous tidbits in there); a buckler to go with the aforementioned dagger; a silk fan from Tian Xia and the spyglass."

Winking at Triphylla she added, "Try and get at least three, but heavens sake make sure you don't get caught!"

Then she passed a final envelope to Cyrene.

Your mission tonight is two fold, firstly I need a legitimate senatorial aide. I need you to act as cover for the others and to run communications between allied politicians. Secondly I need you to keep your eyes and ears open, in case there's somebody else with your particular skillset working for the other side... I've heard some disturbing whispers but nothing concrete alas.

Martella hands out envelopes to each of you, saying "These are your assignments. I would encourage you to help each other where possible. Also in general I would ask that you try to influence whatever senators you can, we need to secure every vote. There's more I need to tell you but first lets see if you have any questions."

Miss Aubigni, I need someone reliable to keep tabs on political rivals and update me if they change their tactics, most notably High Strategos Maxillar Pythareus. you must 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 be tricky since it will be easy to get noticed and required to move on.

Darling, Eutropia, Glorianna Morilla, and I have swayed a great number of reluctant senators, but we need a vast web of influence to maintain that. To that end, I would like you to make a strong impression on Baron Nicolaus Okerra and remind him of certain debts he owes me. While Baron Nicolaus 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.

Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to undermine the influence of the recently disgraced Earl Calhadion Vernisant. I would like to see some of the historical artefacts that the earl donated to the senate vanish from the Arcade of Triumphs before it is unveiled prior to the evening’s vote. You are free to keep what you swipe, I wish for its disappearance to further embarrass Earl Vernisant and his allies. The artefacts aren’t secured; the senate naively assumes anyone sophisticated enough to attended this crowded gala would never dream of stealing anything on public display…

Your mission is to discredit a one or more prominent senators backing primogeniture—not necessarily to sway their votes, but to undercut their influence after the vote.
I want you to choose one and create a scandal surrounding them and ideally some of the others. The rumour can be anything you like, but the more embarrassing and salacious the better I expect.

I have quite the challenge for you, if you’re up for it. I do believe this mission will require some aid but it will be well worth it if you can pull it off. You see some senators are too powerful or stubborn to be influenced, but that doesn’t mean they’re beyond some admittedly petty revenge. Some of my nasty half-brothers, have contributed a large bottle of rare, 150-year-old red wine from family holdings in the Opparos province, now held in the senate’s kitchens. You’re probably wondering what the syringe is for, it’s filled with a putrefying agent to render the wine embarrassingly undrinkable. You must be careful not to steal the bottle and you must conceal any signs of tampering. We want it to reach the senatorial table with great fanfare, only to turn out to be of terrible quality or—even more scandalously—a forgery. Good luck!

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@Pelligrina and Cyrene, feel free to introduce yourselves in an earlier spoiler. I think we need to press on however!

Once the introductions had been done and the small talk had died down a bit, Martella cleared here throat before standing up to speak, "I'm sure you're wondering why I've called you here, its because something close to our hearts is broken. Unfortunately I'm talking about Taldor. Please don't get me wrong, I'm a patriot but Taldor is in desperate need of reform. We have over four thousand years of laws on our books, granted most are rarely perhaps rarely capriciously enforced, but as my lawyer's are fond of saying just about everything is technically illegal."

This was a common saying, usually met with a shrug because what could possibly be done?

Martella shook her head sadly and said, "Consider the cheese and bread you're eating, did you give thanks to Erastil first? No? Oh dear you can be fined for that1 Did you bathe this morning? I'm sure most of you did, but did you wear your Taldan blue bathing hat? No? You can be fined or even thrown in prison! Has it been more than forty eight hours since you last bathed? Prison! Do you worship Sarenrae or have Quadrian ancestors? Prison! And get this, two thousand year old beards laws are still on the books, if you're a commoner with a beard? Prison! Male noble without a beard? Also Prison!"

Shaking her head she carried on, "And how about us ladies? Maybe you inherited some money? Want to spend some? Haha no, your family appointed an advisory council who advice you to increase their fees. Want to hold high office? Better join the army, but you can't go higher than Captain and in most cases you'll never make lieutenant. Get married? Congratulations now you're chattel! Slavery is supposed to be illegal unless you're female..."

She took a pause to sip her drink before saying, "And what of the highest echelons of society, can you inherit the crown? Sure but only if you're a man. And what dear friends if there are no male heirs? Better start looking to second and third cousins, too bad many of them are unsuitable!"

Kn: History or Kn: Local DC 16:
Most Taldans are blissfully unaware of the line of succession beyond the Stavian line, however it’s reckoned by legal experts that the current line of succession is as follows:

1. Princess Eutropia (but only if the law changes)
2. Prince Cassius (deceased)
3. Maximus Solari (second cousin)
4. Augustus Eiredor (second cousin by marriage)
5. Maxillar Pythareus (third cousin)
6. Cicero Dalsine (third cousin)

Maximus Solari Kn: Local DC 16


Maximus Solari is a well respected senator in his eighties but he is rumoured to suffering from the early stages of dementia. In any event he doesn't have any male airs and is too old to father any more. He's also sympathetic to Princess Eutropia and wouldn't accept the crown anyway.

Augustus Eiredor Kn: Local DC 16


Augustus Eiredor spends as much time attending business interests in Qadira as he does in Taldor, he's also a practicing Saranreite. In many respects this would make him a very good candidate, since a war with Qadira is the last thing either country needs. The problem is the traditionalist factions in Taldor would be in open revolt should he come to power. While married, Augustus Eiredor doesn't yet have any children.

Maxillar Pythareus Kn: Local DC 16


Beloved by the army the Stategos is a military hero, credited for a series of decisive victories in the peninsular war with Quadira. Said to be charming, Pythareus is one of the most important men in Taldor. Regarded as the patriot’s patriot, Pythareus is a traditionalist who regularly harks back to the golden age of Taldor.

The Pythareus’s family have an illustrious past, tracing their heritage back hundreds of years to the younger brother of Stavian I, Agrippa who was styled the Duke of Pythareus a non-inherited peership.

Pythareus himself is keen to expand Taldor's influence by force and the first item on his agenda is an invasion of Quadira.

Cicero Dalsine Kn: Local DC 16


Cicero is a philanderer, and a wastrel. He's fritted away much of his family wealth and has fathered a string of bastards. Taldor's succession would be mired in scandal and controversy should the crown pass to him.

Getting into her stride, Martella told you, "I'm sure it's not passed your notice that tomorrow is there is a vote in the Senate where Princess Eutropia is hoping to kick start her program of reforms by striking down the millennia old law of agnatic primogeniture, I aim for this vote to pass without a hitch! Tomorrow promises to be a historic evening, but if you're with me, it will be an evening of work nonetheless. And in the sort of work I'm proposing, the line that divides success and failure is drawn by the people you know. You each will 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. 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 proposed fee of 150 gold each.'

“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!”

Grand Prince Stavian III Kn: Local DC 16:
Whispers of late suggest in recent years Stavian has become increasingly obsessed by the thought that his daughter is conspiring to steal his throne. Historically speaking this paranoia isn’t entirely unwarranted because at least five Taldan rulers over the ages have been murdered by their children.

If you pass a DC 20 check:

Stavian has long had the reputation of being eccentric and unpredictable but of late certain very discreet whispers (because if Stavian was aware it would be off with the speaker’s heads) suggest his grip on sanity is tenuous at best, made worse by regularly indulging in a drug habit of heroic proportions.

I haven't passed you assignments yet, I will do so later today.

The noon day sun pours into the cafe’s smoky interior. A mouthwatering aroma of freshly baked bread and coffee fills the room, and the sun highlights an assortment of 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.

Each of you was directed to a large table at the back, where Lady Martella sips casually from a steaming mug, dressed in an elegant but reserved gown—at least by Taldan standards. Once five of you had arrived your host stood up and tapped her glass with a spoon twice to get everyone’s attention. ”I’m so glad you could join me today,” she begins, her voice low and confident. “Please order whatever you like; The café is small and the fare light but of the highest quality. As you can see they have an excellent selection of Taldan breads, cheeses, fruits, wine, and charcuterie; the fig jam is particularly lovely and goes well with the soft cheeses. Please feel free to speak candidly. I’ve taken measures to ensure our privacy.”

Her cricket construct seems to subtly deaden sound, indeed if you go more than a few feet away it becomes surprisingly hard to follow the conversation.

She smiles and nods at each of you in turn before frowning slightly, ”Mmm I was expecting one more, never mind, she has a flair for the dramatic and may already be hiding here somewhere.” Martella gave the waiting staff a sidelong glance before continuing in a louder voice, ”Let’s begin with some introductions. Most of you know me, I’m Martella. One thing you may not know is that I’m lucky enough to count her highness Princess Eutropia as a close friend and confident. That’s partly why I’ve invited you here, but more on that later. Who would like to introduce themselves next?” She gave you all a radiant smile.