Prologue 8 [Alvega, Steward Eliazar]

edited July 2018 in burning-empires
"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?"


  • edited September 2018
    The room was large enough to comfortably fit an attack raft, with an arched ceiling high above them. The southern wall was covered with an arched glass window which offered an spectacular view of the wasteland beyond the reach of the atmosphere processor. On a clear and windy day it was possible to watch the sunset from the room, but on this day the condensation hung thick in the air, forming an opaque wall of light on the other side of the window, slowly shifting into a soothing shade of pink.

    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.

    "My lord." she said in greeting and curtsied."What an unexpected pleasure. I'll make sure to not mention to Iberis that you remembered her, or it would go to her head. She's visiting with her family." She gestured in the direction of the armchairs. "But what's worse is that the Baron is out with old friends for the evening." ... laying plans for a coming coup or civil war or ... but she didn't say the last words out loud. She guessed that the Lord Steward at least held suspicions against the reclaimant party, all the more a reason to be the perfect hostess.

    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?"

  • edited August 2018
    As charming and seemingly impromptu as he is, Count Eliazar seems unconcerned that neither Alvega's husband nor her companion is not at home. He takes the proffered chair.

    "Yes, thank you. As for the visit I confess a truant disposition, Lady Gorey." He smiles. "I claim the bureaucrat's ancient right to shirk his appointed duties in favor of something more pleasant. I was nearby and I remembered your enchanting description of your gardens and, as unpardonable as my imposition may be, I was hoping to take you up on your invitation to see them. I believe you mentioned a flower from your homeworld, in particular. Between that and your charming company I hoped to facilitate something of a fortification of the soul before returning to the unforgiving drudgery of my papers."
  • edited August 2018
    A man of the Lord Steward's caliber didn't just drop in unannounced for tea to chit-chat about gardening with the lady of the house on a night when her husband, the leader of the political opposition, just happened to be out. Such coincidences didn't exist, and Alvega knew it, no doubt the Lord Steward knew it as well. Had he gathered that she'd understand and see through his lie as well? Gorey kept her away from politics and for the most part out of the courtly life entirely.

    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.

    "Such is the bureaucrat's right." She smiled at him and sipped at her tea. It was horrid, flavorless and not much more than hot water, a testament of the urgency by which it had been prepared. "Of course, I'd be delighted to show you our garden." And after trying another sip she added. "Perhaps it would be best to go at once, before the setting sun causes the flowers to close their petals for the night?"

  • The Lord Steward smiles warmly at her. "Indeed, Madam, I believe that would be ideal, though I regret the neglect of your fine hospitality," He nods toward the still steaming pot of tea. "I should hate to miss the full glory of a Coscadian bloom." He rises and offers his hand to the Baroness.

    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?"
  • edited August 2018
    The setting sun cast the garden in a warm pink haze as they make their way through the lines of growth beds.
    ”All was lost, the whole ecosystem was eradicated. All those plants with their many dependencies to other plants and creatures for suitable locales. Recreating Xuria as it once was is impossible. We pick and choose plants that may survive here, imported from other worlds. Trying to build a new ecosystem that can sustain itself and spread by natural means.“ With a slender hand she gesticulates gracefully towards the horizon, extending her garden to the whole world. "All the plants we grow here are self-pollinating, or in some other way independent of outside help in order to reproduce. It is necessary for now, just provide water, dirt, air and sun, and they will spread. One day we might come to a point where the air around us would be buzzing with insects and animal life, but where we are now it can't be sustained."

    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.
  • edited August 2018
    The steward smiles in appreciation as he examines the flowers. "Ah, they are most extraordinary, my Lady. Indeed quite beyond your report of them." he says looking up at the Baroness. "Quite out of place I think, and the more lovely for it. I have no doubt they long for their home, though they brighten our hearts. How fortunate that they have an exceptional gardener that understands them so well."

    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."
  • She looked upon him, first surprised, then with an eyebrow half raised mischievously. Was that it? ”My lord would not think that the Baron's garden would miss its keeper then?“
  • The count smiles again. "Now, my dear Baroness, What garden would not miss such a mistress?" He gestures towards Alvega, "But, I propose that two people who share a passion for the subject might enjoy each other's company and delight in the manifold pleasures of trading hard-earned knowledge with a colleague who truly appreciates it. Such friends may be of considerable help to each other in the future."

    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.
  • edited August 2018
    ”We keep the many plants of our garden separated. Each plant is given its own bed lest one might suffocate the other in its struggle to be the closest to the light. I find this warning also applies outside the boundaries of this garden.“

    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
  • Count Eliazar brushes the edge of the one of the dancing ladies with a fingertip. "Indeed my lady, except for those plants that are symbiotic and thrive even more when paired with the appropriate partner."

    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
  • edited August 2018
    ”But what may seem symbiotic is not always so, some cling with such force that they suffocate the other.“

    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
  • edited August 2018
    The Lord Steward smiles at Alvega, he seems to enjoy the metaphor game that has spun out between them. "While that is a risk, it's important for the gardener to trust their instincts in these matters, and I daresay yours are... exquisite." He offers her his elbow.

    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
  • edited August 2018
    Alvega takes the arm, and they wander along the beds of flowers. The sun is sinking and is now but a crimson semi circle on the horizon. The mist grows thinner with the evening wind, the brightest stars appear on the darkening sky. ”You speak with such certainty and fervor of the nature of gardening, my lord. Your reputation precedes you, but I have little desire for such fame.“

    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
  • edited August 2018

    "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
  • edited August 2018
    ”One certainly needs friends on this world.“ She nods and then joins him in watching the stars. A sky so different from the one at home. "We are not alone in being far from home." She considers raising the plight of 99.9% of off-worlders on Xuria more openly, but hesitates, adding politics into the discussion might not be wise at this stage.

    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
  • edited August 2018
    "Indeed we are not." He says softly. Your compassion does you credit, and the fate of our fellow off-worlders is a duty I take most seriously" He studies her profile in the starlight. His fingertips skim delicately across the back of the hand that is holding his other arm. "As the time is right, I would send them all back to their own planets, how much sooner might I do the same for a friend, loathe as I would be to lose such loveliness from my own poor story."

    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
  • edited August 2018
    She casts a quick glance to the side to watch him. His face is straight. Yet she finds his policies are in contradiction to this spoken tenderness for Xuria's many involuntary residents. ”You flatter me.“ Then she turns fully to face him again, towering above him. "But I can't understand why. You are on a fool's errand. But you are no fool, my lord. Something made you come here, what could possibly worth such a risk?"

    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
  • edited September 2018

    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.

  • Rolled 6d6: [5,5,2,5,3,6] = 26
  • edited September 2018
    With both their Bodies of Argument reduced to zero an out of band round of negotiation took place. One that granted neither character what they really wanted. Alvega will become a mistress to the Lord Steward, but in return he'll have to find a way for her to become free of Leon - her bodyguard and handler who follows her every move outside the palace, a man chosen by Baron Gorey for his loyalty ...

    ”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.

  • His face falls at first. He glances up surreptitiously then brightens again as understanding dawns and a smile begins to play upon his lips as they walk back.

    "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.
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