"His Eminence, Count Eliazar Mal, Lord Steward of Xuria, my Lady." Hobor intones, bowing towards Alvega as he holds the door for the Lord Steward. It was mere moments between the announcement of the distinguished caller and the Gorey chamberlain's announcement.
The Lord Steward was not a large man, but as usual his warm, magnetic personality seemed to fill the room when he entered. "Baroness Gorey," he said with an easy smile and a proper, but effortless bow. "but how is it I find you alone this fine afternoon? Surely your companion isn't neglecting her patroness?"
By Gonzagian measures the room was sparsely decorated. A soft carpet in the middle of the room upon which sat a small table, two couches and a couple of extravagantly large armchairs. A small assortment of art, relics and antiques sat on pedestals along the three walls. They were conversation pieces. Each having a story that the baron would tell a visitor to instill the correct vision of what kind of man the he was.
On the wall facing the window the Gorey family battle standard hung on display, still carrying the burns and tears from past battles, presumably fought by the baron's ancestors. Upon his return to Xuria, he had instructed his seamstress to add '571 Coscade' in gold thread to the banner among other battles won by the previous wielders. She detested it, the banner made the whole room a reminder of how and why she had ended up here, and what she had lost in the process.
With both her husband and companion out of the house she had looked forward to a quiet evening of solitary prayer and meditation. But the Lord Steward had arrived without prior warning, and she had been forced to prepare the house and herself in but a couple of moments.
She wore a plain dress of Coscan courtly pattern, figure fitting it seemingly stretched her slender body even taller, it was deep blue in color with a high collar. Her braids had been hurriedly fixed with silver pins into a wreath around her head by her maid. It would have to do, she had decided, better not leave the Lord Steward waiting. Yet her appearance was both regal and beautiful.
The reason for his visit still unsaid she decided to prompt him. "Some tea perhaps?" She offered to pour from the steaming pot that had hurriedly been placed on the table by servants now spirited away, just a moment before he was admitted to the room.
"What brings us the pleasure?"
She nodded at the Lord Steward's reason for visiting, and poured a cup for herself as well.
Did he fear that they were monitored? She didn't think they were, it wasn't the kind of sledgehammer tactic that her husband usually favored. But Gorey would learn about the meeting later, through his chamberlain, and through her, knowing that the chamberlain would speak of it. He wasn't the violently jealous and possessive kind of man she knew some to be, but even he would be able to picture the damage a scandal suggesting that his wife favored the Lord Steward would cause.
Was that his intention? To cause scandal? To undermine his opponent's credibility in the eyes of his peers, or did he wish to provoke Gorey - to give him the casus belli and incite him to act now, before he could build his strength even further?
There were too many pieces missing, she couldn't lay her puzzle. The baron had robbed her of the chance to play the game of politics on Xuria by starving her flow of information.
She decided to continue playing the role of the unwitting wife for now, perhaps the visitor would divulge his true objective if he thought he could speak for her ears only.
Several minutes later, the pair have made their way out of the house and are nearing the gardens. The Lord Steward had offered his arm for the actual procession to the gardens themselves. Along the way her relates some trivial story, told with an engaging wit that seems to frame him as the slightly blundering fool at the root of the issue.
"...and so I'm afraid I am banned from my own kitchens. My cook has laid down the law, as they say, and I'm afraid the Emperor's seal does nothing to dissuade him from that position." His grin is wry. "Ah but here are your gardens, yes, and I do believe you have been too modest in your representation of them, my Lady!" The Count looks around in seemingly genuine delight. "Now where is this flower that comes from so far away?"
They reach a bed of flowers, by its brilliance in color set apart from the more sombre plants that fill the rest of the garden.
"Here, my lord, are the 'Dancing maidens' from Coscade you came to see. The hanging flowers look like women's dresses to some." She spins around in a small pirouette, causing the lower part of her skirt to fan out, in illustration of the name's origin.
"They are the most beautiful thing here, yet at the same time the saddest." From a small box on a table she draws a small white swab. "They are alone, the insects that helped them pollinate can not live here, so we must help them." She gently caresses the insides of a couple of nearby flowers with the swab carrying pollen from one to the next. "Without us they will die, because without us there come none to follow. Precious in their beauty and the frailty of their existence."
She turns to the lord steward, looking down slightly to meet his gaze.
He straightens and looks at Alvega more directly. "The best gardens are those where the gardener has cultivated a deep understanding of the many plants in his or her care, don't you agree? If I were to make an attempt to raise these beauties for example, I think I would need your guidance rather constantly. And aggressive species require even more attention."
Let's try out the DoW rules! So body of the argument. If I win Alvega agrees to be a spy on Gorey for the Lord Steward, as well as to become the Lord Steward's mistress.
If Alvega wins the Lord Steward will give her a security force to guard her clinic, one put under her own command. The Body of her argument is 6 (Her Will) + the successes rolled from her Persuasion (6d), a total of 11. Alvega has no Traits that are relevant to this duel.
Rolled 6d6: [6,4,5,5,4,1] = 25
I had no idea Alvega was such a social powerhouse. This will be interesting. The Lord Steward's body of argument is 8
Rolled 5d6: [4,2,5,6,4] = 21
Alvega plays POINT, rolling for Persuasion (6d) and Seduction as FoRK (1d). For a total of 2 successes.
Rolled 7d6: [2,1,3,4,2,6,1] = 19
Eliazar also plays POINT, rolling for Persuasion(5d) with Seduction as the Fork(1d). Three Successes
Rolled 6d6: [2,6,3,1,4,5] = 21
Alvega's body of argument is reduced from 11 to 8.
Again she plays POINT, rolling for Persuasion (6d) and Seduction as FoRK (1d). For a total of 4 successes.
Rolled 7d6: [4,2,5,1,3,6,6] = 27
"Reputation is a performance." Eliazar says to the woman on his arm, as he looks up at the stars "Ah, my lady, all of us must perform for others at some time or other. There are so very few people with whom we can set that performance aside. Along with discretion, it is a freedom a good friendship offers. And If nothing else, I should like to be your friend, united as a fellow stranger to this world."
Eliazar's body of argument is down to 6
He also plays POINT with Persuation(5d) and FoRK(1d) for seduction. 4 successes
Rolled 6d6: [5,5,6,1,1,4] = 22
Alvega's body of argument is reduced from 8 to 4.
Again she plays POINT, rolling for Persuasion (6d) and Seduction as FoRK (1d). For a total of 3 successes.
Rolled 7d6: [2,5,6,3,1,3,5] = 25
Eliazar's argument is down to 2
Eliazar plays REBUTTAL using Persuasion Forked with Seduction (6d) splitting 4 to defense and 2 to attack. Defense blocks 2, and Attacks succeed in 2
Rolled 4d6: [1,5,3,5] = 14
Rolled 2d6: [4,5] = 9
Alvega's body of argument is reduced from 4 to 2. She devices a new plan.
She starts by playing POINT, rolling for Persuasion (6d) and Seduction as FoRK (1d). For a total of 4 successes.
Rolled 7d6: [5,1,3,3,5,6,4] = 27
Eliazar smiles. "In truth, my Lady, your husband and those who follow him are an increasingly unstable force on this planet. I need consistent insight into him if I am to keep our peace, or at least limit the damage."
He sighs, turns toward Alvega, taking her other hand in his, so he holds them both. "That should be all. You are right, as a maneuver this is... ill-advised. You could destroy me with what I have just said. But I have watched you for a long time, Princess, and I have cultivated a... perhaps foolish... affection for you. " He pauses, holding her gaze. "I do not know if it is our fate or not. The prophet has never graced me with the ability to understand the turning of the Wheel of Fire. But I felt I had to at least open the door, even if it leads to my ruin."
The Steward's Body of Argument is at 1. He also plays Point with Persuasion forked with Seduction for 6d.
”My lord, it might indeed be your ruin.“ With an effortless motion of her hand she frees herself from his grasp, though her eyes are smiling. "You have dawdled and missed your opportunity."
Seeing his confused expression she explains. "We're no longer alone. See, on the parapet; the baron's eyes and reaching hand - Mister Leon - my bodyguard and adjutant during travels outside the palace."
She steps beside him, and slowly pulls him into motion to walk back to the palace, her arm hooked to his.
"See him as a quest or challenge, if you please, my lord. A barrier for your receiving of my lessons, of any kind of lessons."
She is relaxed, walking with calm strides through the gravel that crunches under their feet.
"Ah.... I see. A challenge that will be met, your highness. A challenge that will, most eagerly, be met." His eyes twinkle as he smiles at her.