This is the second recombined party, and after defeating the dragon we have met up with Lady Maerwynn, who conducts people through the savage hills. Her animal companion is a Comodo Dragon; there is an elf with her, carrying a lute, and he is *very* excited to meet the bold dragonslayers. Goran Rovenall is his name.
Alexej: "Aleksander 'Alexej' Václav Dvořak Bohatýr-Popovič, Lord Řízek."
Goran: "I'm so pleased to meet you all! I'll be traveling with you back to Vrist, because the queen is throwing a party. It's Athena's birthday!"
Geddy: "Just remember that the songs written by the guy who was there are always better than the ones who weren't."
Lady Maerwynn informs us that Goran is a friend of the queen, and he's gotten us invited to the party.
Goran: "It is my honor to travel alongside you. In fact, I wrote a song in your honor."
He plays a bit of it. It's actually pretty catchy. Geddy is fuming but trying to play it off.
So... we head out. Alexej is in charge of the Death Ward wand, because he's a non-caster with a lot of skill at Use Magic Device. So today will be a travel day, and tomorrow will be a day in town, and the day after that will be the party.
Goran is quite chatty. Alexej implores him to entertain us with a tale of Fanaxia. He tells us of a great battle some seventy-five years ago, and the great hero Kaz who led the king's troops across the river ("in a single stride") and faced off against the king's enemies (in a very dramatic battle full of mighty blows and very narrow escapes).
Alexej: "Who will be at the party?"
Goran: "Who will NOT be at the party? Athena is an old friend of the queen. Rumor is that they were *very* close when they were younger."
Martini: "The queen is wed to the king, who's been missing for ten years now?"
Goran: "Oh, no. There's the True King, Baldrick, who's locked up in his castle; Benedict Montfort, the King of Styre, and Eleanor Durane, Queen of Vrist. The last two were once Duke and Duchess, but the island is so divided that they can make the claim. And Eleanor Durane, for all intents, *is* queen. Styre is still connected, so Montfort's claim depends on his company; Vrist is very isolated, and so nobody can gainsay Eleanor."
The queen is not married, has no king, and probably never will. The nobles have tried to arrange suitors for her, but never with any success; the lack of heirs is a cause of political strain.
Leira immediately vounteers to be the heir. Turns out Goran is a former suitor, and lord Roundtree (another former suitor) will be there. The quality of the clothing is a mark of station, and we're definitely going to need new outfits.
Geddy asks about the current state of the succession; if she suddenly died, who would take over?
Goran: "Well, to understand that you must understand that there are two factions in Vrist. Queen Durane and her supporters, Count Orlock, Count Fayette, and Count Collard. The rival faction is led by Fenric Wellington, a Count; he's the likely candidate to take over if she suddenly died. The queen, on the other hand, is likely to choose someone from the Collard or Fayette families. They are, however, relatively weak houses. Count Collard is sometimes referred to as The Crab Baron.
So who would Goran pick? Leira: "Pick me!"
Elderman Garris of Lydell, is an elf and a solid leader. He's not part of the main political scene; Lydell is pretty distant, and operates fairly independently. Lydell holds to his bond to the queen, and everything stays peaceful.
And we'll need to make sure to get new clothes for the party -- and no weapons and armor.
Goran's cousin happens to run a dress shop. Vinny could take care of us.
The queen herself is very powerful; as was Count Orlock, but he's a recluse now and her other two allies are rather weak; Wellington has been working hard to position himself as the next ruler; his father ruled for a fortnight ("the fortnight duke").
We travel and make camp, and reach the city in the morning. Goran parts ways as we enter the city; he'll see us at the party.
Cousin Vinny has laid some stuff out for us. Leira demands the biggest ball gown available; she gets one, but it's 200 gp. She also needs a suit for her familiar, Scuttle the bird. Vinny alters a pixie suit for Scuttle. Martini purchases an elegant gown for 75 GP; Geddy asked for something sophisticated, yet slutty. Alexej... um... does his best.
Martini smuggles in a dagger, because of course she does.
We get the full introductions as The Dragonslayers, right down to introducing us properly as lords and ladies. There is music and dancing, and tables of food; server carry trays of drink around. Leira grabs a drink and immediately starts dancing. (Scandalous!) Darian Ley'Saunce gets up to dance with her, introducing himself and bowing. His twin brother is also at the table -- that appears to be David Ley'Saunce.
Alexej takes two drinks and pours them into one large drink; Geddy takes a single drink. Martini's eye is drawn by a gothy human girl lurking by one of the pillars; she seems confident enough, just out of keeping with the fashion.
Geddy and Alexej head out into the crowd together, heading straight towards the queen. The queen is very obviously enjoying herself; Goran is stting beside her: "Ah, the dragonslayers! These are the ones I was telling you about."
Geddy bows and does his best courtly impression, impressing everyone. An older man stands up. "Oh, it is so good to meet you. I am Fabian Roundtree, one of the queens good advisors. I want to thank you for slaying the dragon. I have hear a purse of fifty gold..."
Alexej is just standing behind him, mouthing everything that Geddy says.
Geddy refuses the money, nobly; Fabian approves.
Goran nudges the queen: "What's bothering you?"
Queen: "Well, I'm supposed to give Athena my present, but how am I supposed to do that if Letholdus steals her away from me?" Athena is older but still very pretty; Celeste Wallington is younger, but also very pretty and equally elegantly dressed.
Geddy tries to convince Alexej to dance with the queen; the queen refuses graciously (but very definitely). They join the queen's table instead. "Do please join us."
A lady at the queen's table asks Geddy: "What brings you to Vrist?"
Geddy: "May I ask your name?"
"Elspeth Degray," she says. "I am an old friend of the queen's -- nobody important."
Geddy: "Well, we have several tasks that we would like to complete, one of which we have already accomplished."
Alexej: "And we are looking for Sascha. He is old friend."
Elspeth: "Have you perhaps tried the gambling hall? There are many people here at the party."
Elspeth turns to Alexej: "Where is it that you come from?"
Alexej makes out as if he comes from the Forest of the Centaurs, and claims to be the vessel (he means vassal) of Lord Crowe.
Fabian doesn't hear everything, but he seems sharp; Goran is, well, a bard; the queen is a bit tipsy; and a bit further down Cyril and Fantene are batting eyes at each other. Janine Collard is very much running the conversation at that end of the table; she's wearing a nice new gown.
In the center of the room, Darian is spinning Leira around the dance floor and doing his best to be charming and supply Leira with drinks. "My dear, how *could* the most beautiful woman at this ball appear without a date?"
Leira: "Well, my fiance has been kidnapped by evil and is possessed."
"Possessed by his work?"
Leira: "No, possessed by evil spirits."
"Sounds like my adopted parents. My father is the high priest of Urgroth. He lacks lands and income, of course, despite being a Ley'Saunce. He married later, and so he and his wife adopted my brothers and myself."
Leira: "Do you remember anything about your original parents?"
Darian: "Oh, no, I was very young. But my father has raised me to be as kind and generous as he is. Tell me, what brings you here?"
Leira: "Well, my friends told me we had an invitation, and I got a pretty new dress."
"Lovely! Perhaps later I could take you outside to the gardens. I know of a lovely gazebo."
"Oh, let's go, but first I must speak to my best friend Martini."
"Of course!" Darian goes back to his table to wait; Leira heads for Martini.
Martini, meanwhile, has approached Elizabeth Wallington. She sighs theatrically. "I suppose everyone here is pursuing some meaningless goal?"
Elizabeth: "My father certainly does. He's the illustrious Count Wallington, the most powerful man in Vrist."
"I suppose he'd like to become more powerful, then. Powerful people never seem to have any imagination."
"Oh, yes. He'll say he should be King; and my mother is complicit. What brings you here?"
"We seek information about a dead man."
"Well, that's interesting. Who was he?"
"Kroni, a servant of the dark one. This would have been thirty or forty years ago, now. He's some sort of ghost, now."
"Oh, well he wouldn't be one of them, then."
"One of whom?"
"The Dead Clans."
"Well, there used to be three factions here: the queen's faction, my father's faction, and the Dashkov and the Von Stein families, who my father's father killed on the night of a thousand fangs."
"My grandfather, Gerwulf, was an idiot. He believed violence solved everything. My father, on the other hand is cunning. This castle used to be a Von Stein Castle -- a school of some sort. Still is, I believe."
"And the queen? Is she also an idiot?"
"I don't believe so. She's been a fairly good ruler, for forty-two years. The rub is that everyone in my father's clan is a staunch follower of Urgroth. And the queen opposes their ascendancy."
She offers to take Martini over to torment her insufferable brother, but Leira's appearance delays that.
Geddy, meanwhile, is making small-talk about the great vortex a week ago, to see how everybody reacts. Fabian: "It was a cause of great concern. Wallington would insist that it's a sign from Urgroth, that we need change, but then of course they would."
He overhears the queen talking in very harsh tones with Goran; apparently Cardinal Richlieu was in town and visiting with Count Wallington, and apparently they had a long conversation at the estate before the attack, so he did not stay for the ball; Bishop Ley'Saunce was there too.
Fabian: "The attack on Count Wallington today was very strange. He has many guards, so this was strange; apparent his son killed a burglar who tried to enter while the attack was going on. Clifton happened to be in the right place to stop the burglar. Clifton would very likely tell us; he's off in the gambling hall.
Alexej tries to make conversation at the queen's table: "Hello, Janine, do you like porkchop?"
Janine: "Are you asking me to dance, dragonslayer?"
Alexej: "I can dance."
Janine: "You must promise to be very well behaved, or my husband will be angry."
Alexej promises not to get caught being naughty, and they head off to dance.
There are all sorts of people at this party. Three red-headed, energetic sorts; Wallington and his cohort. Geddy makes his excuses to the queen, and moves to circulate; she's looking at Litholdas and Athena again. He offers to play music while the Queen shares her birthday present with Athena... and possibly Litholdas. Geddy plays a sexy chord on his lute; Goran approves. Meanwhile:
"Oh Alexej, I never thought her father would let Fantene marry, but she's engaged to Cyril." Janine continues on in this vein at considerable length. Alexej manages to ask her about Sascha and Kroni, but gets nothing. He learns a bit more about her husband, and her brother and his fiance. Then Alexej gets off on the subject of cooked fish, and manages to be not-insulting.
She explains that her father is mocked as "the crab baron", and then has to explain to Alexej why that's an insult. The implication is that the Queen elevates her favorites, and neither of the two counts who support her really deserve the title. The two Counts in the queen's faction are very careful about the reputations of their families, very cautious about propriety. Janine suggests that if Alexej wants to make someone happy, he should get Marie away from her table.
Leira and Martini grab the two Ley'Saunce boys, tearing them away from two other girls who look very jealous. They walk out into the dark, and Leira immediately casts light, which throws them for a bit of a loop.
They lead us out to the rose garden, where Martini drops Deep Slumber and takes out David. Darian, however, is alarmed; Leira explains about how we secretly both wanted him to ourselves. He believes it. Two tries later, we put him to sleep as well. Leira goes back for David, and... he's a wolf now. And Darian turns into a sleeping wolf as we watch. We arrange them so that they're cuddling with each other.
Geddy walks up to the huge, muscular guy, who is Count Wallington: "Dragonslayer! How come I never heard your name before?"
Geddy: "Well, I like to keep a low profile until it's time to shine."
"Low profile... funny guy. I hope while you're in Vrist, we can talk some business. I will have my steward contact you for that. Tonight, we are out in Society!"
Geddy: "What's up with this whole queenly lineage thing? How is that succession supposed to work out?"
Duke Wallington: "Clearly it should be me. Though I fear that my father's reputation hurts me in this cause. He was a brash man, and what he did was too heavy-handed."
Geddy: "But you maintained your status."
"Improved it," corrects the Duke. "My father set us back. Some thought we should stripped of titles. But I have improved us. And of course, we serve the will of Urgroth. My vassal, the baron Lay'saunce, is a bishop in the church. Cardinal Richlieu himself visited us today, before the attack."
Geddy: "Oh, yeah, the attack. What's up with that?"
"I would appreciate your help in finding out."
Geddy: "I was about to make that offer."
"Ah, you've done your homework."
Boy down the table: "Very vicious! It's a good thing I was there to guard my mother and younger brothers."
Mom: "Yes, very good Fendril."
Fendril wants to become a warrior and a knight to serve his brothers when they become heirs to the throne. He's short his full growth, but he's pretty muscular; he might have a chance.
Geddy offers to hook him up with Alexej for training.
Wallington: "You've made your rounds enough to see where the strength truly lies. But please, do continue. Sit with Count Fayette. Sit with the Queen's favorites. See for yourself if these are men who are fit to lead." He also suggests that Geddy introduce himself to his son Oliver and his wife, the future king and queen.
So Alexej, meanwhile, has thanked Janine for the dance and accepted his challenge. He intercepts a tray of drinks and moves to the table of count Fayette. He sets the drinks down.
Count Fayette greets him politely and very ornately. The man's speech is terminally flowery.
Alexej: "Anyone want a drink?"
Count Fayette: "No thank you, my wife and I are still on our first drinks."
Marie's mum: "She does not need anything."
Alexej asks about them, and passes out drinks anyway. "We share drink! Is custom of my people."
They take tiny sips. Marie sulks. Patrick does his best to stay still and behave.
"This is my beautiful daughter Marie, the apple of my eye. And this is my fearless son Patrick. Patrick, introduce yourself."
Patrick: "I greet you, dragonslayer. I am Patrick."
Alexej maneuvers into offering Patrick the chance to learn tripping-based combat. Patrick is very enthused, but his parents kind of glare at him, and he collapses. "Well, then, perhaps I could at least offer Marie the chance to dance once with a dragonslayer."
"...I think a single dance would do no harm," the Count admits. Marie is already heading for the dance floor.
Martini and Leira return to the party, and the two girls glare at us some more, though they also look a bit confused. Martini rejoins Elizabeth as Leira goes out to dance.
Elizabeth leads Martini to the gambling hall, and greets her brother Clifton. Martini insults him, then flatters him, then wonders idly about who might have attacked his father's estate.
Cardinal Richlieu was visiting to talk about some magic cards that the Cardinal might be interested in. When the alarm went off, his father sent him to watch over his mother, but Clifton realized that perhaps something was going on, and the point of the attack was to empty the study and leave the family's treasures unguarded. Clifton raced back to the study, and discovered the burglar there. They fought, very dramatically, and Clifton finally finished him as his father returned. The burglar had no distinguishing features.
Martini: "I admire a man with a sense of dramatic timing." She's studying him, but she also thinks it's a bad idea to do anything to him here.
Geddy, meanwhile, heads over to the boisterous redheads. "Baron Boris Glamorgan. Call me Boris. This is my wife Ruby. Heard you slayed a dragon."
Geddy: "Hell yes."
Boris: "You're pretty small."
Geddy: "You should see me when I turn into a giant snake."
"You can do that?"
"Only on the full moon."
"So you don't have anything against people that turn into things."
Geddy: "Nope. Coolest people around."
"And you talked to the count? It's gonna be good to have you guys on our side."
Geddy: "Now I know you guys are here, I'm a lot more intrigued."
OOC: Geddy rolls Gather Information and gets a perfectly insane 40.
The Baron hauls him over to a chair and starts talking about how the Queen is running Vrist into the ground. Geddy's just playing along.
Geddy: "I don't mean to pry, but you got really excited when I talked about turning into a snake. Y'all turn into something? Y'all, like, a pack?"
The Baron punches him in the shoulder. "You heard about the Night of a Thousand Fangs? Those were our fangs."
Geddy: "You're sure you got 'em all?"
The Baron is confused: "You think some of them might've lived?"
Geddy: "Naw, just asking. Say, is that your daughter?"
Ginger is definitely the center of attention in her group of friends.
Baron: "Kind of takes after me."
He gets back to talking about how the human's days are numbered and we need to be on the right side. And also, Praise Urgroth.
Alexej is now dancing with Marie.
Marie: "Oh, thank God. Thank you for getting me out of here."
Alexej: "It looked bad. You no have enough freedom."
Marie: "My parents are so obsessed. They're so afraid of being stripped of their lands. Everybody thinks Wallington is going to take over and strip them of their titles."
Marie is pretty sure that Alexej is making up stories of owning lands. (He isn't, but he's very clumsily trying to hide the fact that his lands are in a completely different world.) Marie also thinks the best thing Alexej could do is marry her and get her out of here. Or perhaps he could convince her father to let her go on one of the family caravans to Lydell.
What does Alexej need? He's looking for a friend named Sascha, who may be visiting here. He also sometimes go by Kroni name.
Marie: "Well, we maintain detailed records of people around here."
Who maintains them? Her father. But each of the clans has their own library.
Alexej would be very interested in seeing those books.
"Alexej, how about you talk to your smart friends and they come up with a reason to visit the library. And then you and I could go for a walk."
Alexej likes this idea: "This is good plan, Marie. I will help you get on wagon to Lydell."
Marie: "Tell your friends that they should check the other libraries as well."