Goriel and beyond, part 6

As we play, occasionally we'll close a thread and open a new one to keep the size of threads (and relative complexity) down to a dull roar. Here's where we store the closed posts from the history of Errant Road.

Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Graybeard » October 10th, 2012, 11:27 pm

Sister Rose sucked in her breath involuntarily as three sets of questing eyes turned to her. That wasn't quite the help she'd been hoping for... but it would have to do.

After thinking for what felt like a small eternity, she finally found something to say. "We picked up a report about -- well, about something in the poor part of town that needs to be checked out," she said, then held up a hand as her mother, brother and sister-in-law all simultaneously started to offer their assistance. "I think we'd better do it ourselves. Don't worry, we can handle ourselves in a rough neighborhood, and this outfit --" she indicated her clerical robes, now gathered into an attractive-looking gown shape -- "will mean something there. We'll go over there right after dinner, and let you know what we find out."

<"You are coming with me, right?"> she thought at Argus, not sure whether it was a question or a command.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Drannin » October 11th, 2012, 11:48 am

<"Could it be any other way?"> Argus sent back. Of course he would.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Graybeard » October 11th, 2012, 1:26 pm

[OOC: Gonna fast-forward this a little, since it appears that the other sub-group is more than ready to move on.]

Sister Rose didn't bother replying mentally this time; she just smiled and squeezed Argus' hand, getting a knowing look from her mother. (And provoking a moment of hand-holding between Aron and Gretta too; Rose's earlier assessment of the two, as being as head-over-heels in love as Brad and Lillith, was still accurate.)

The dinner, of course, was excellent, and the conversation was agreeable enough. Everyone at the table was sufficiently graceful in social situations to stick to the "comfortable" topics and delicately steer away from things that might not be so comfortable ... like that little moment concerning Margot. However, a time came when it just couldn't be avoided any more. "If you'll excuse us," Rose said, "we need to go follow that lead before it gets too late." Affectionate farewells were exchanged, and she and Argus set off.

A few minutes later, they were knocking on the door of young Mufiel's flat. Rose had taken the precaution of putting up her Empathy magic on the way, to give a little advance warning if they ran into others out for the evening who wished them ill, but without the need arising; the neighborhood was calm this night. However, when the ragged young man came to the door, the spell instantly told her that all was not well inside the flat.

"I be so sorry, Major Rose, ma'am," Mufiel mumbled apologetically. "It don't be workin'." It didn't take the spell for her to understand that "it," in context, was Margot.

She drew in a long breath to steel herself for what she feared lay ahead. "Is she..." but she couldn't finish the sentence before the former soldier answered. "Come, be seein' for y'self." He motioned the pair inside.

The door to the extra bedroom (almost devoid of furnishings other than the bed, Rose noticed) stood open, and so did the window to the outside. The bed's linens had been taken off, knotted together, and thrown over the window sill, where they reached almost to the street below. The only occupants were the three who now stood in the doorway.

"I be so sorry, ma'am," the young man repeated. "It be lookin' like your sister be climbin' down this here impy-vised climbin' rope. She ain't here any more. Lum'nosity alone be knowin' where she be now. Back on th' street, I reckon."

Rose's shoulders slumped, and she turned to Argus. "What now?" she asked, defeat in her voice.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Drusia » October 11th, 2012, 1:27 pm

[OOC: As far as I'm concerned this part of the thread is basically passing time while Drannin and Greybeard finish their scene; and I can certainly move to summaries and timeslips when that is all done.]
[OOC: OK, edging forward at the dinner, then. Incidentally, Therese might have something to say if things get slow with Pincus, but mainly she's content to listen.]


OOC: Huh. I kind of thought someone would ask me to stop. Either because this is kind of dragging, or because they didn't want any spoilers for the novel. Cause you - all of you - really should read it. Jacqueline Carey is my hero.

Ahem. Anyway... /OOC

"By this time, Phoebe had friends outside just Annifel and Alucin - some were of the royal court, such as the King's Poet, an elderly woman and friend to Annifel who had tutored Phoebe in literature - and others were not. One such was Hyacinth, known as the Prince of Travelers. His mother was a gypsy inn keeper whose inn was near to the great pleasure houses. She'd left her tribe for the love of a city dweller, so the story went, and Hyacinth was the result. He kept the bar, sometimes, and ran a carriage service he'd built up himself. He was the face of his mother's inn, and he was a friend to Phoebe. When she wasn't studying or assigned, they would often talk and drink - and flirt, but never more, for so long as Annifel held her Marque, she was not free to grant her gifts where she would. Mostly, though, they made one another laugh - and they pondered together the mysteries of Annifel's role in the city's politics.

"Annifel seemed to lack a house name, but he was accepted as a noble - and yet, his poetry was in disfavor with the King. And, stranger still, why did a mere poet seek to spy and dabble in politics? Who, truly, was Annifel? Phoebe told Hyacinth of a conversation she'd overheard between Annifel and the King's Poet where the King's Poet had claimed that it was Annifel, not her, who should hold that title. They also discussed the Cuthine, an island nation kept apart from the rest of the Northern Confederacy by a deadly channel. A great Wizard lived there, known as the Master of the Straits, and he could command the waters to rise up and sink any ship attempting to cross. Often he did - but sometimes not. The King's Poet had paid her crossing to the Cuthine lands with a song, it was said, that calmed the raging waters. Annifel had insisted that both she and Alucin learn the Cuthine tongue, but she could think of no worldly reason when she'd be able to use it.

"That is, until the King of the Cuthine his heir crossed the channel unmolested and met with representatives of the Northern Confederacy at Mont Nuit.

"Annifel, being one of the few who knew the Cuthine tongue, was asked to serve as a translator. He took Alucin with him - he had planned to take Phoebe as well, but she had an assignation. Since the attack on Alucin, Annifel had grown wary and hired a new bodyguard to attend Phoebe on her assignations - a member of the Cassiel Brotherhood named Jocelyn. The Cassiel Brotherhood was known for three things - their skill at arms, their unwaivering loyality, and remaining chaste - for Cassiel was the only one of the seven founder gods of Mont Nuit to do so. Like Cassiel, their namesake, the Brotherhood would protect their ward unto death. Furthermore, due to their chaste vows, the Brotherhood looked down upon the rest of Mont Nuit - particularly the pleasure houses. Jocelyn hated his assignment as bodyguard to a cortessan - he showed her nothing but contempt. Phoebe was not particularly pleased herself - she feared that having such a sour guard would offend her patrons, nor did she appreciate his complaints about how she conducted herself.

"On her way to her assignation, which was at the royal palace, Phoebe and Jocelyn encountered Millicent in the halls. Millicent laughed aloud when she learned that Annifel had contracted a member of Cassiel's Brotherhood to guard a Cortessan - the Brotherhood was mostly known for bodyguarding nobles or even members of the royal family. The King himself never went anywhere unless he was attended by two members of Cassiel's Brotherhood. To assign one to a low-born girl - particularly a Cortessan, a profession that the Brotherhood hated - Millicent simply could not contain her mirth. She accused Annifel of having a truly awful sense of humor - one that she very much appreciated.

"This exchanged flustered Phoebe - for she was always flustered and tongue-tied in Millicent's presence - and greatly offended and embarassed Jocelyn. He stalked away, leaving Phoebe temporarily unattended. This did not particularly bother her, for she felt safe enough in the palace, but later, after Jocelyn brought her safely home after the assignation, Jocelyn offered his sword to Annifel and called himself a failure. He'd left his ward unprotected, he claimed, and as such did not deserve to carry his blade. Annifel, nothing Phoebe unharmed and with news of her assignation to present, told Jocelyn that his services - however imperfect - were yet required, and that he should learn from this error rather than giving up. Jocelyn, yet ashamed but now also thoughtful, took back his sword.

"Some weeks passed. The Cuthine returned to their island, and the channel closed once more behind them, battering waves repelling any ship that dared the crossing. An old enemy of Annifel's returned from a long absence from the city, and Annifel offered him a peace settlement - the name of the man who murdered his sister, the very information that Alucin had risked his life to obtain. What part this peace-offering made in the greater scheme, Phoebe and Alucin couldn't say, but the Duke (Annifel's former enemy) did let slip that he was suprised that Annifel was still honoring that 'old promise.' Phoebe and Alucin - and Hyacinth as well, and even Jocelyn - against his better judgement - pondered this new mystery, but none could puzzle out what it meant.

"Not long after, shocking news tore through the city - Prince Baudin had been arrested for treason! The city was awhirl with rumors, and the speculation about Annifel gave way to speculation about Baudin. Alucin and Hyacinth looked to Phoebe, who'd had an assignation with him on his birthday, but she had no new insights. At the trial, they learned that Baudin sought to sieze the throne from the elderly King by allying with a Cuthine rebel. The letter proving his treason was given to the King's hand by none other than Millicent. She testified against him in the court, and her damning evidence brought him to conviction. He was sentenced to death and executed. Although Phoebe was horrified by his treason, she found herself sad for him - he'd been her lover, once, albeit briefly, and she could not find it in herself to celebrate his death as the rest of the city seemed to. She sought comfort in the arms of her almost-brother Alucin, and cried there. Annifel walked in on them and believed them to be involved in something rather more carnal, but Phoebe ascerbicaly dispelled him of this notion. On her way out, she told Annifel that Alucin had eyes for no other than him. Seeing the look of shock on Annifel's face only hurt more, so Phoebe retired to her room to cry.

"Not long thereafter, the King's poet invited Phoebe to a play that was being shown at the royal palace. Excited to attend a play, Phoebe agreed. As always, Jocelyn accompanied her. After the play, she saw Annifel - who wasn't at the play - slipping back stage. Curious, she gave Jocelyn the slip and followed him. She followed him into a large dressing room, hiding behind a large wardrobe to avoid being seen. She was quite surprised, then, when the wardrobe opened up and a woman stepped out. Although she could not see her, Phoebe listened to the conversation and learned, to her great surprise, that the woman was the Princess, the King's grand-daughter, and heir to the throne. The Princess showed Annifel a book - a journal - and asked if it was true. Annifel said it was, and said that he still held true - that he would never betray his promise. The Princess entrusted him with a letter which Annifel took unopened. And then she went back into the wardrobe - a secret passage of somesort - and Annifel left the dressing room.

"Later, over drinks at Hyacinth's tavern, Hyacinth and Phoebe (and Jocelyn, for he was upset with Phoebe for slipping away from and would not keep his customary distance) discussed what this secret meeting with the Princess could mean. Annifel hadn't treated her like a lover - more like a ward. So who was this promise to? Her mother? Hyacinth suggested that perhaps Annifel and her mother were lovers before she married the King's son. Phoebe was entranced by the idea. The Duke, Annifel's enemy, was the former Princess-consort's brother. If they were lovers, then Annifel was also seeking the name of the person who killed his love. But then why not seek revenge himself? And the Princess-consort and Annifel were not known to be on good terms - the bitterness of loss? Phoebe wasn't sure, but it was the best theory she had so far. Jocelyn, still angry with her, said that she'd hurt his head enough for one day and that it was time to go home.

"Phoebe wasn't thrilled to return home. Annifel had taken her at her word and asked Alucin about his feelings. Since then, the two had been lovers. Phoebe tapped down her seething jealousy - at least they were both happy. Alucin still hadn't found a place in the household that fit, while she was happy as a cortessan. If only she had an assignation to take her mind off of Annifel.

"To her surprise and delight, she got one - Millicent. Millicent wished to contract her on the Winter Solstice. For once, Annifel had no covertecy for her to pursue - Phoebe was free to accept or decline as she saw fit. Phoebe couldn't accept fast enough. She'd dreamt of going to Millicent since she'd met her years before - Phoebe was seventeen by now - and now she'd finally have that chance. Hyacinth told her to be careful, for Millicent had sent her last lover, however treasonous, to his death. Annifel just shrugged and told her to have fun - Millicent was one of his oldest friends, after all.

"The assignation specified that Millicent would provide Phoebe's clothes for the evening, so she went in her good travel clothes. After a bath and scented oils, she was given a slip made of silk gauze and diamonds - a king's random of them woven into a veil-like mesh. She asked the servants what such a beautiful garment was meant to go over. They replied 'you'. Thus did Millicent take Phoebe to a party wearing nothing but a transparent slip and a black collar fitted with a single large diamond. The collar was attached to a leash, which Millicent held as she walked about the Solstice eve party socializing. Phoebe was mortified - and yet, she could feel Millicent's every move, her every breath - the party faded to nothing and Phoebe found later that, despite all her training, she couldn't remember a thing that was said there. Just Millicent - every heartbeat.

"After the party, back at Millicent's townhouse, Millicent set aside lesser toys and showed Phoebe her flechettes - small, thin, razor sharp blades. Flechettes were forbidden even in the pleasure houses, but not for a private contract such as this. First Millicent used her flechette to cut through Phoebe's gauze clothes, casually ruining them. And then she began on Phoebe.

"There is a code in the Pleasure houses of Mont Nuit - a word, called a Signale, which ends all play if it is spoken. Phoebe had never uttered her Signale, even when one patrol took a hot pocker and burned her thigh with it. She resisted Millicent's flechettes as they cut a bloody sigil in her left breast. She resisted as Millicent traced the blade down to her thigh. But, when the blade touched her nether lips, Phoebe broke - she gasped it aloud. 'Hyacinth' - the name of her first friend.

"Afterwards, Millicent cleaned her wounds and asked Phoebe if there was anything she wanted.

"'You,' Phoebe replied. It was the first time she'd ever asked that of a patron. Millicent did not refuse her. They continued through the very long Solstice night.

"In the morning, Millicent gave Phoebe her payment, and more - the diamond gauze. It was ruined as a garment, but the diamonds were still worth a great deal - so much so that Phoebe would find her Marque paid in full. Millicent had just given Phoebe her freedom, and she had no idea what to do with it. Millicent gave her one more thing - she told Phoebe where Annifel kept his hidden poems, the ones he was forbidden to publish.

"At home, after getting some sleep and reporting what she remembered of the party - very little - to Annifel, Phoebe went looking for the hidden poems...."

-- Desiree

OOC: Again, pause for reactions, and again, I've attempted to avoid spoilers. I had to include one major one (Baudin's treason) and a couple minor ones. The next part of the story, however, will be almost wall to wall spoilers. If you want to read this book, and don't want it spoiled, let me know before I post again.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Drannin » October 11th, 2012, 8:16 pm

Argus looked out the window silently. "Well," he said slowly, "I can track down Harker and see if he can help- you know how skilled he is at this sort of thing- but beyond that..." he sighed. "Combing the streets might be our best option, assuming she hasn't left town already." He grimaced. "If I was better at divination... but that won't help us. Still, we can't just stay here and do nothing."
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Alberich » October 11th, 2012, 11:11 pm

Father Pincus' mouth turned down just a little (and Tim was positively sweating) as Desiree chose to give details of the gauzy clothes and cutting them away. He had only a few questions - about whether these places existed in the Confederacy, whether monarchies were common there, whether the elves had similar institutions, and about the popularity of this god Cassiel. If a question about the elves derailed the story completely, he would not mind - especially if it kept to politics rather than sexuality - but even now he would not be so crude as to insist she stop the story.

In the ensuing conversation, Anfisa allowed that she was from a country where each family had its own set of gods, and didn't even allow anyone outside the family to worship them. Also that her land no longer had its king, but that the Prime Minister - whose forefathers had once served the king - seemed to have kingly powers there.

Tim despaired at Desiree's lack of tact. No, she couldn't even leave out the damned leashes, transparent clothes, and unnatural copulation. Her lack of tact by this point was either deliberate cruelty or -- as he preferred to think -- simply a tremendous blindness. For which he himself would doubtless take the blame. He hated himself for bringing her here but was consoled with one thought: at least she wasn't displaying her tactlessness in a public venue, endangering public morality and making things even worse.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Graybeard » October 11th, 2012, 11:33 pm

Sister Rose shook her head sadly. "I wish I was better at divination too," she said, "but I'm not. So we're stuck with searching for Margot in a city of half a million people." [OOC: Actually, we have no idea how big Saus is; this is a pure guess, as is Rose's next figure. /OOC:] "It has literally thousands of back alleys for her to disappear into. And above all, she doesn't want to be found. The way she got out of this room leaves no doubt about that."

She turned to Mufiel and asked if she could keep one of the linens Margot had used to construct her makeshift climbing rope, and got a nod. That was good; maybe they could find someone whose divination magic would be good enough to get some use out of it. She made sure he was well (but not insultingly well) compensated for the loss of the sheet and the effort he'd put into getting Margot back on her feet, and then she and Argus left the flat ... but not the topic.

"If you could turn Harker loose on this one, I'd appreciate it," she said as they walked back toward the temple. "The unfortunate reality is that we're probably going to be tied up with that -- panel --" she had started to say "board of inquisitors," but that wouldn't do -- "all day tomorrow, and by the time we're done, Margot will have disappeared back into the slums." She shook her head again. "I'm afraid we're not going to win this one. We'd better head back to the cloister; it's getting late, and tomorrow isn't going to be an easier day than today was."

[OOC: Unless Argus has something more to say, I think that wraps up this introduction to Rose's family -- although they'll be heard from again. So as soon as the telling of tales is complete, I'm good with a fast-forward to morning.]
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Alberich » October 11th, 2012, 11:44 pm

[OOC: I'm fine with a summary for the rest of whatever Desiree cares to tell; and can wrap up the rest of the scene with Father Pincus in jig time after that.]
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Drusia » October 12th, 2012, 10:36 am

Father Pincus' mouth turned down just a little (and Tim was positively sweating) as Desiree chose to give details of the gauzy clothes and cutting them away. He had only a few questions - about whether these places existed in the Confederacy, whether monarchies were common there, whether the elves had similar institutions, and about the popularity of this god Cassiel.

I let the question about elves slip by unanswered - he's given be plenty more to talk about. Anfisa's answer mostly takes care of the one about monarchies - all of the nations in the Confederacy are different. Hence confederacy.

The issue of whether or not these places truly exist is a sticker point. On the other hand, my mother taught me to lie without showing any tells, much as Annifel taught Phoebe. No one ever suspected that Eli wasn't my husband back when we were pretending that, after all. Or that I wasn't a getera when I set my mind to being that. I'm quite good at lying.

"Yes, of course," I say, "I've been to Mont Nuit. It's a beautiful city, although much changed since this tale took place a hundred years ago or more. There's a wonderful library there full of old histories and stranger things still. It's part of the great university - which wasn't founded yet when this story took place, but by the generation that followed. But that is another tale entirely, the story of a young man in love, trying to be good and honorable when the world didn't want to let him. But that tale has it's roots in this one, and in the worship of Elua and Cassiel.

"The Brotherhood of Cassiel was unpopular in Phoebe's day - not many nobles were interested in sending their middle sons to join the order any more, so most of the Brothers were old men. The King's bodyguards were nearly as old as he - but they kept in practice, and could strike like vipers when necessary. Speaking of Cassiel's Brotherhood -

"Alucin was interested in learning swordplay. Since there were often days - sometimes weeks - between Phoebe's assignations, Jocelyn spent a lot of time with little to do aside from practice his forms. Alucin took an interest and Jocelyn proved to be a good teacher. Of course, the Brotherhood starts training it's students at age 10 - Jocelyn was in his early 20s, and was one of the younger members. There was only so much he could teach to Alucin, who was already rising 18, but Jocelyn did his best. Phoebe, who'd gotten used to seeing Jocelyn as a grumpy kill-joy, saw another side in him that day - a patient teacher and a kind man. She watched him 'tell the hours' - the Cassiline term for their sword forms - and teach Alucin to do the same. He was beautiful. Phoebe found that an odd thought, but couldn't deny his beauty, or the beauty of his swordsmanship.

"In any case..."

-- Desiree

OOC: Last chance if anyone wants me to avoid spoilers. Even a summary will spoil major plot events at this point. So do I keep going?

OOC2: Oh, and Tim should be thankful - Desiree IS being tactful. She only included the plot relevant sex, and even that she cut down on the detail. Yes, that was the low detail version.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Alberich » October 12th, 2012, 12:59 pm

[OOC: Let's skip the spoilers then, and assume the rest of the tale has been told. I think we know enough now to know how that story affects this; but if I've skipped too fast and we must backtrack, by all means, let me know.]

Desiree's tale done, it was very late indeed, and time for rest (or at least for bed). Father Pincus and the placid nun were polite and wished everyone good night - and hoped their stay would be peaceful. As the group started to go, he spoke again gently - "Oh, Brother Tim - just a word with you." Tim stayed for it while the ladies left.

The catechism that followed was brief and efficient. Had Tim explained the public mores of Veracia to these foreign ladies? No, he hadn't. Had he actually done anything to ensure they knew how to conduct themselves in this country? No, he hadn't. Since he'd been assigned to escort them, wasn't it his duty to instruct them, and prevent them from unknowingly giving offense? Yes, it was. Could he really blame pagan foreigners for not knowing the local ways, or what good and decent Veracians would find offensive, if he didn't tell them? No, he couldn't.

(How he longed to evade these questions! - but he was fixed with an eye he knew well, from training sergeants and senior priests - the one that would get the simple answer out of him in time. How he longed, also, to blame Rose - but that, too, he would not do.)

At the end, Father Pincus admonished him to report to Brother Fabian half an hour before morning prayers. Tim well knew what that meant - confession and scourging. (A priest who'd gone astray didn't have to wait for Wednesday Smiting, if he needed his soul purged earlier.) Meantime he could try to sleep while anticipating it, and that would be the worst part.

[OOC2: Tim isn't thankful, whether he should be or not.]
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