The High Cardinal seems very interested in Draegar's story. "Ah, so would it be fair to say you are an exception? And these institutes, hmm..."
He listens to the others touch upon the topic of the war. With a resolute expression he looks to Esdras. "I would also be interested in knowing more about the war, directly from the perspective of those involved."
He looks over the group present. "There are so many things I have grown ignorant of as I sat in a throne across the ocean. I can no longer rely on secondhand accounts of information. I know I have already taken your day from you, but I wish to invite you to my evening supper so we can discuss things in further detail. Draegar you seem to have insight into the darker aspects of Thane in addition to your heritage, and Esdras you have been involved in the war for as long as Almor had been a part of it. I already had another matter that needed to be addressed with Benjamin, so I want to see if I can kill three birds with one stone."
The High Cardinal's brows furrow again, and the flash of dark fury shows. "Child smuggling? And one of the invited nobles is involved? That is dark news. I will have to root out this evil." He moves aside the issue for the moment and gives a soft smile again. "Well, the interrogation of Forg is still ongoing. I am sure we will discover all the information we need in that regard."
He looks down sadly. "I regret to inform you that Sir Ronius, and two other Knights, have died in the line of duty." He pauses, letting the silence stretch out for a moment as he closes his eyes and hangs his head. After a span passes he continues. "My technologists were badly beaten, but the saboteurs only killed those that they couldn't subdue."
"Without your aid, the casualties would have been far worse. I am told that Forg's plan was to overheat most of the ship and cause as many of the Knights to fall from heatstroke as possible, then commander the ship by using fire magic to deal with any that still had endured the heat. We are still ascertaining his reason for doing this, but it sounds like it had to do with slavery, although that makes little sense to me why he would attempt to commandeer the most notorious vessel in the area for what should have been a covert smuggling mission."
The High Cardinal goes to the table on the north section of the room, picking up his wine glass. "Master Ironhide, I hope you will pardon my rudeness and ignorance, but my informants have lead me to believe that the Skive people were hardy but leaned to more primitive interests." The High Cardinal's word choice was careful here, trying to be accurate but not condescending or offensive. "But you seem to know more about the workings of my ship than I do after seeing them once, and you use much of the same verbiage as my technologists. I always find firsthand information to be better, so could you enlighten an old man? I wish to know more of your people so I can better understand them and better foster peace."
The High Cardinal gives a welcoming smile to Draegar. "Please do not feel rushed. We have much more time aboard the ship today so you will have many hours to decide." His presence seems to instill a burst of confidence in Draegar despite the awkward situation. He definitely has the kind of charisma that brings the whole room up with him.
"Topaz, the docker? Yes I remember inviting her aboard. I had not realized she was involved, neither the testimony of the Knights nor Forg has mentioned her." Without any sort of physical or audible call, the doors open and two Knights step in. "Find the woman named Topaz, she deserves recognition as well." They nod, bowing their heads and leaving, closing the door behind them once more.
Next he turns to Benjamin. "I am honored, and glad I could do what little I could for you. I only tried to do what was best for all of us."
Sense Motive DC 20 (hunch):
The High Cardinal seems to have guessed, or even known, that the men would not make an attempt on his life. But he thought no such mercy would have been extended to Benjamin.
The High Cardinal chuckles at Draegar's words. "Well, humble too, and honest. Always good qualities." Another beat of silence and the doors open. "Check the above deck supplies, we appear to have lost some." Another nod, and the doors close. He looks back to Draegar. "I am sure whatever it was could not possibly be worth Benjamin's life. A price I am glad to pay for his safety."
Esdras, you around?
A whirlwind of activity soon ensues. The High Cardinal's cabin is quickly swarmed with Knights, who usher Esdras outside and prevent Draegar's entrance. Benjamin is gathered and escorted downstairs, where he is offered a dry towel and healing magic, and shown to his room where he can change and get a dry set of clothes. The Knights start moving quickly around the ship, detaining nobles (gently) on occasion, and searching through the various rooms and cabins on the ship. The entire atmosphere has shifted, and everyone present is reminded that the Knights are an elite guard unit as opposed to decorative servants, and despite the decadence of the party, the fragile political situation still hangs over them.
Things seem a little less bright after that. Less smiles, voices are quieter, and the day seems to pass slower.
After an hour a pair of Knights comes to Draegar and Esdras, and a pair to Benjamin as well. "The High Cardinal requests your presence." Although they use the word 'request', their stoic stances imply it's not optional.
They are each escorted back to the High Cardinal's cabin, which now has half a dozen Knights stationed in front of it who are standing at the ready. The Knights raise their visors to show each other's faces before they are allowed inside.
Once inside the door is promptly shut, and the High Cardinal looks up from his position at a table, where it looks like he was writing a letter. "Lord Martalen, Lord Abbey, Master Ironhide. Please, come." He pulls a roll of parchment over the letter he was writing, obscuring it from view. He walks up to the Benjamin, lowering his head. "I have failed many people today that were in my safety, but you I have failed most of all." He moves to Draegar and Esdras. "And I owe a great debt to you both as well. I am told of what happened below decks by Forg, who confessed everything." He hard look returns to his eyes for just a brief flash. "And further, Lord Martalen you went above and beyond your diplomatic duties and defended me personally, putting your life on the line. You have done Almor proud, and Brieca will not forget this." He gives a smile that crinkles the skin around his eyes. "And Master Draegar, without your aid we may have lost Lord Abbey to the cold sea, who is a beacon of hope for the Church and his loss would have been a devastating blow. You had no responsibility as a foreign guest, but still risked yourself." He lets this hang for a moment, then steps back.
"I would reward you two for your service, and Benjamin I owe you as well as an apology. Please, let me know what is is I can gift, and I will do so if it is within my power. And if I may be so bold, I was told what transpired below by Forg, and I have strong reason to believe his testimony was true, but I would like to hear what transpired from your own perspective." He stares on intently.
Eventually the men start moving again, although by this time they are manacled and gagged. One of the thugs fights his manacles for a moment before one of the Knights gives him a sharp rap on the back of the head, then they are lead out of the room.
The High Cardinal continues to stare down at the water, as if scrutinizing the waves can tell him where the man went. He turns back and gives a smile; although the fury in his face is now gone, Esdras can't help but still think of that dangerous look on his face despite the friendly look now. "Oh nonsense Esdras, doing the right thing would be telling the Knights and letting them do their job, you went above and beyond the call." He waves a hand dismissively as Esdras offers the key. "I think we are beyond that."
I'll give Draegar and Benjamin a chance to post!
With the final invitee accepting the offer, the High Cardinal gives a warm smile. "Excellent. Now I have something to look forward to on the cruise tomorrow. Marcellun, make sure the proper people are notified of my honored guests, and make arrangements to ensure the proper treatment." The knight inclines his head in acknowledgement, using the moment to express his urgent desire to keep the royal procession moving. The High Cardinal gives him a knowing smile. "But I must be off for now, very busy day. May His glory shine upon you, as it does on all His children." With a final sweep of his robe, the High Cardinal returns to his royal procession and it moves onwards, several of the nobles glancing at the people he spent so much time talking with.
Marcellun hangs around briefly to pass on some information. "I will need your full names. Other than that, show up at the docks an hour after sunrise. I will make all of the other arrangements." He spends a long moment looking at each person as they give their names, eyes flashing in the sun.
Spellcraft DC 26:
Marcellun is lingering on each person long enough to scan them with detect evil, a silent and still version that requires a fraction of the time. Not only is he a high-ranking member of the Knights of Theveste, he must also be a paladin of Azgaar!
The High Cardinal smiles in response to Topaz and Draegar. "Excellent, I look forward to it. Would you be interested as well?" He directs to Cass.
"Please, do not feel rushed." He gestures to the marble buildings of the city. "I am to spend the day here in Caranusca and will not be departing to Theveste until the morning. I will entrust Marcellun with making sure you are allowed on board." As he is mentioned the knight nods, face stoic.
The High Cardinal gives a wry smile. "Take it from someone my age, savor every last time someone calls you 'young' still. It hurts even more when they start calling you 'wise' instead." He chuckles lightly.
When Esdras mentions meeting his family the High Cardinal shakes his head. "I only met them momentarily in passing. Tomorrow on the journey to Theveste we shall dine and have proper introductions." As Esdras explains his absence the old man gives a short belly laugh. "Oh I wouldn't have blamed you anyways! Rather stuffy, isn't it? Having to go through all the formal introductions. That is why I requested wine. I hear that Yundal has some truly unique vintages with their rare assortment of mountain berries."
The High Cardinal goes back to a more serious face. "Indeed, we were fortunate for his quick action..." He takes a moment to look at the people gathered around the now-collapsed DAMAGE INDUSTRIES booth, and glances at the nobles momentarily before smiling at Esdras. "...of course, this is merely a symptom of a larger problem. Indeed I think that more needs to be done about this. Pardon me!.." The High Cardinal raises his voice over the din of the crowd to get Draegar's attention.
"This situation was unacceptable, and I would like to make it up to you. In addition I want to devote some time talking to people with firsthand experience, especially those outside my typical circle within the church. To that end, I invite you and your friends to join my cruise to Theveste." He gestures widely, encompassing all of the people present inside the ring of knights. "You will spend the day as my honored guests, With rooms and meals tailored to your liking. I will handle any vessel transportation costs for your return trips as well." He gives a broad smile as the nobles behind him stare in disbelief. "Yes, this will be excellent. A couple of the local inventors..." He says to indicate Cass and Draegar "...and one of the dockers I have heard so much about." He says, his gaze landing on Topaz. "You do perform, yes? I would love to see what you have to offer."
That's...odd. You're disguised as a servant right now, so it shouldn't be obvious you're a docker. How would the High Cardinal have deduced that so quickly? Is he just that perceptive?
Esdras gains a +5 bonus (for being a noble involved with Briecan relations) and Topaz gains a +10 bonus (for the rumor she heard earlier) to the below sense motive check.
Sense Motive DC 25 (hunch):
Although the High Cardinal does seem want to talk to the people present, the harassment situation is only a small part of that. There seems to be a combination of curiosity about local culture and technology, interest in talking to somebody with Skive blood, irritating the nobles just for the sake of it, and an overall desire to shake things up and keep his traveling time interesting.
"There are many problems that certain members of the church think are beneath the position of High Cardinal to handle. But their inability to handle such issues properly has lead to the Berivian War, as well as other accounts of suffering. I will not sit idly by in an ivory tower across the sea while it is in my power to prevent such acts." As the High Cardinal speaks the noble crowd (as well as certain members of the guard and Knights of Theveste) look more and more uncomfortable. Marcellun steps up and clears his throat. "Pardon my rudeness, your Holiness, but your day is scheduled and we would not wish you to fall behind. In addition the nobles stand idly in the heat."
The High Cardinal waves a hand dismissively. "Yes yes, we shall get to what is important, don't fuss over me." The way he inflects 'what is important' seems to suggest he already tends to deviate from what is planned. "It seems I must be off, but I..." The eyes of the High Cardinal meet with Esdras. "Ah, young Esdras! My we were just talking about where you had gone off to! Ah how unfortunate, were you involved in this debacle as well?" He asks with a curious smile as he settles in for more talking, much to the chagrin of Marcellun and the nobles.
"Distress? Well that hardly sounds good on such a wonderful day as this." The crowd in front of DAMAGE INDUSTRIES shows great excitement even as they are pushed back by a line of Theveste Knights. Behind them stands none other than his Holiness, High Cardinal Theodore Philius.
His Holiness is a man of advanced years, although not so far advanced he would seem frail or airy. He stands at above average height and an average build, wearing heavy and decorative robes of white and gold which depict the Lord aspects of Azgaar. He wears an ornate headpiece that seems as designed for showing off as it does for protecting his head and eyes from the weather. His eyes are a deep blue and he has a white goatee, and he walks with an ornate white and gold cane, although it doesn't look like he needs it. Despite the temperate and heavy clothing, he doesn't appear to be bothered by the heat.
Marcellun bends his head sharply down, speaking as he looks at the ground. "My most sincere apologies your Holiness. It was my own fault. I tried to placate young Caellus here so he would stay with his family. I should have kept him there once he made his presence known."
The High Cardinal gives a kind smile and chuckles, looking down at Caellus. "And are you satisfied? Did Marcellun's gambit pay off?"
Caellus nods with a great big grin on his face. "Yeah, he scared off that mean guard who was bothering him!" He says, pointing at Draegar. "He even gave me this for protecting his stand!" He says, offering the flechette with pride.
The High Cardinal's brows shoot up in surprise, gaze going to find Draegar and sweeping the people near him. "Consider me very impressed. It is no mean feat to get on Caellus's good side." He gestures to the knights, who quickly advance and split, creating a barrier between DAMAGE INDUSTRIES and the rest of the crowd, while leaving the High Cardinal and the few people at the booth isolated. The nobles behind him look a combination of confused, angry, amused, and uneasy.
The High Cardinal walks up to the booth. "City guards were harassing the vendors? I will have to make note of that. I was hoping to spend at least one day enjoying the warmth of the Isles before having to work, but alas. It is evident my presence is indeed needed here." The High Cardinal steps back...and inclines his head. Marcellun looks shocked, and a number of the nobles farther back gasp audibly. "I apologize for the injustice you faced."
Unfortunately for you, your loupe was still over your eye when the High Cardinal arrived. Ignoring the fact that every Knight of Theveste is packing a significant amount of magical equipment, his Holiness shines like a beacon, the colors and scintillating patterns of magic being so radiant that its akin to staring at the sun in broad daylight.