(1867-08-07) An Audience with the Duke
An Audience with the Duke
Summary: The Duke is briefed on recent encounters and findings.
Date: 1867-08-07
Related: To Chase Down Bandits and Back to the Castle
Players:
Alina  Corvin  Esyld  Gabriel  James  Vorian  

The Grand Study - Highwater Castle - Lonnaire - Lonnaire - Couviere
The study is a large room on the main floor. Part study, part library, part sitting room; a place for the duke or his family to visit informally with guests. The room features a large hearth with chairs and couches set before it. Off to one side there is a single table set with an overlarge chessboard and a pair of chairs for the players to sit.
Beyond the chessboard is a shelf of well-ordered books on a variety of subjects. The remaining walls are hung with rich tapestries of fine make and exotic threads.
This room, like the rest of the castle is immaculate, with no sign of dirt or dust and each tapestry and book put perfectly in place.
1867-08-07

Highwater's Grand Study is not where the Duke does most of his work— he prefer his private study in the tower above. But few that are not his spouse or child have ever seen the inside of his private study, and he intends to keep things that way.

So for meetings with those outside his immediate family, he uses the family's Grand Study, more a province of his brother Enrique than anyone else, to be truthful. Lord Enrique is there, standing behind the desk to the right of Duke James.

Also already present is the heir, Alina, and her husband Gabriel. Lord Sir Gabriel has taken one of the couches to sit on, a half-finished cup of kaf on the table before him. Lady Alina sits beside him, her cup of kaf completely empty. It seems the heir and her consort have alrady been there some time. Alina's expression is a mirror of her father's: cold and stern. Apparently neither are too pleased with what they have been discussing. Gabriel looks slightly more relaxed, but only slightly. Enrique is scribbling on a wax tablet as the rest of the party enters.

Corvin Fremont arrives without ceremony, fanfare, or particular trepidation. He offers a bow towards those assembled, then moves over to stand against one of the nearby walls, waiting for the others to show up. He's not too surprised by the mood of the room, all things considered, though he is indeed a touch curious as to what his father will have to say about the matter.

Esyld can always be relied upon to respond promptly to a summons. Maybe, with her familiarity with the ruling family, she'd been expecting it. This matter with the bandits is a pressing one, after all. Regardless, she needs only cross the distance from the stables to the Main Keep when word reaches her of a meeting, having been diligently oiling her destrier's bridle to keep herself occupied, and she enters the Grand Study at a brisk gait. A respectful bow is offered when the mercenary draws to a halt, intended for all those nobles here present, before her blue eyes flit over the sombre expressions in swift assessment.

"Your Grace." The soft-spoken acknowledgement is uttered toward the Duke, as the highest ranking… but she plainly doesn't expect any reciprocation, a few strides carrying her off to the side of the chamber. Out of the line of fire, perhaps? Politics and mindgames are not her forte. If she's here, it's more likely because some bloodshed is afoot. Corvin's presence lends weight to that assumption. Well, let's see. Folding her arms comfortably across her midsection, the woman settles to wait, unobtrusive and intent.

Summoned into the Grand Study, Lord Sir Vorian t'Maren is in his best clothing — a clean white tunic, a pair of decent black breeches, his sword-belt. His boots are polished, but there is wear on them that reveals long, long, use. In short, the man has done the best he can, but he simply doesn't own the finery appropriate to the occasion. He seems nervous as he enters, glancing around the room for potential allies. Lord Gabriel's presence seems to reassure him slightly, as does Alina's. The lean young knight makes his leg, revealing that at least he is trained in courtly etiquette.

He does not speak, instead preferring — like Esyld — to make himself unobtrusive, keeping his back to a wall. Corvin is given a brief nod of greeting, curt only in the sense that he is trying very hard not to move at all. He clasps his hands behind his back, thumb absently scratching at his own palm.

"So far," the Duke says without preamble, "none of the prisoners have broken. It may be days before they do." The Hawk looks predatory at that.

"Or longer," Alina mutters, idly picking at the gloves on her hands. Duke James seemingly ignores her commentary and continues, "I have a ill feeling about these so-called bandits. If they truly were bandits, at least one or two of them should have broken under our questioning overnight." He scowls.

Gabriel's expression is blank with the not-so-oblique references to torture, but he nods. He's not fond of the idea, but he recognizes the use for it when it's required. He reaches forward for his mug of kaf and takes a sip. "They could be mercenaries," he says. "They are organized enough for it."

"They have the accent of Rivana on their tongues, those that speak at all," Alina says, her tone clipped.

Duke James nods, though this information is not news to him— he knows it important to get it to the others in the room to get their opinions.

"The weapons bore Venderosi maker's marks. Consistent with the armor. Could've been purchased anywhere in the Edge, but unless they waylaid an entire shipment of Prince Lucius' goods, their equipment was too uniform to have been simple plunder." Corvin pipes up, giving a glance towards Esyld when he speaks, but looking back towards his father after a moment. "Also not consistent with what we've seen of Rivanan raiding parties from House Brecan in the past, and the t'Mallen haven't seen anything unwelcome sent across the border since the Battle of Three Crowns."

Chewing gently on her lower lip, Esyld remains almost perfectly still; only that eerie gaze flitting from one face to the next as everyone weighs in. The notion that not only some but all of the captives have thus far endured whatever horrors the Duke has seen inflicted to loosen their tongues? That prompts an arch of her brow, in the wake of James' scowl, and the displeased muttering of his daughter. The brunette has never voiced any concern over the methods employed by the family she serves - they get results and that is what matters. But what will the more 'proper' t'Maren make of the implication? She ventures a look in Vorian's direction, gauging his reaction.

Regardless. There's a fractional twitch of her lips in a smile, when Corvin puts forth further detail. It doesn't matter that he's the one who saw to it - she'll allow herself a flicker of pride for having thought of it, at the very least. She mostly just kills people. She wasn't hired for her brain. As the Wraith continues, though, her expression sobers back to that calm neutrality. "A new enemy, then? Or an old one employing new tactics.."

Neither seems much better than the other. The Captain shifts her weight fractionally from one booted foot to the other.

Vorian seems to be working very hard to unimagine what the prisoners are going through. On the battlefield? Merciless. But there is the red slaughter, and then there is cold-blooded torture, and the man seems uncomfortable with the second. Still, it is a necessity of life, and his features eventually calm themselves into impassivity. Corvin's statement, and Esyld's thoughts, provoke a thought from the man.

"Provocateurs?"

Vorian's question, softly-voiced, lingers in the air. He looks a little uncomfortable, but presses on. "Perhaps someone has hired Rivanan mercenaries in an attempt to spark an incident." Even as he says the words, the knight looks dubious, doubting his own guess. "But then, these men are refusing to buy mercy with information. They're believers in whatever it is they have been sent to do. Hired swords rarely display such loyalty."

"The only thing that is sure is that these men are not the only of their ilk," James says after considering all the words spoken to him. "They showed their faces first in Rovilon, and then came south passed Three Rivers into the heart of Lonnaire?" He frowns.

Alina nods, then looks to her husband. "Gabriel?" Military matters were the province of that man.

The Red Knight sighs and gives her a half smile. "Duty calls, then," he says, reaching over to squeeze her hand. "Corvin, we need to redouble our efforts to find the remainder of these men. Once we do, we'll have to take them out."

"Could be clever misdirection if they realized who it was they raided, but if they are provocateurs, I would look towards Pacitta. They have the most to lose with the Treaty." Corvin opines, then nods to Gabriel, "Would that it were so simple as saying it. These fellows are elusive. But we'll find them." Corvin scratches at his still-bearded chin a moment, "And if they were provocateurs, they're doing a poor job of it. There haven't been many raids, and they haven't been leaving behind evidence that points to Rivana. From what I've gathered from my Blue Cavalier contacts, the raids they have launched almost seem more…subsistence oriented. A wealthy target or two for coin…likely what drew them to us. A merchant train for food and drink. A couple of farms in l'Valdan lands raided. They're selective in their targets, and seem to be trying to avoid attention as much as they can."

<FS3> Vorian rolls Perception: Good Success. (2 8 3 2 4 1 8 3 1 7)
<FS3> Vorian rolls Tactics: Great Success. (4 7 2 6 6 1 8 8 4 8 2 4 6)
<FS3> Esyld rolls Perception: Good Success. (3 1 1 6 5 3 2 5 8 1 8 8 5)
<FS3> Esyld rolls Tactics: Good Success. (5 6 7 7 1 2 1 5 7 2)
<FS3> Gabriel rolls Perception: Good Success. (4 8 5 3 4 5 8 5 6 3 5)
<FS3> Gabriel rolls Tactics: Good Success. (2 6 6 2 2 7 7 7 3 6 4)

More than just a pretty face. Esyld's expression is contemplative as she regards Vorian, following his suggestion, and she slowly dips a nod in his direction speaking in an undertone aside. "True enough. It does imply a shared bond. I would like to know what it is, and what they want. Since it seems to go beyond the far simpler and more widely seen goal of 'coin and trinkets'." Unbidden, her blue eyes flit toward Alina and she pauses. "..I somehow doubt their targets are random. They didn't just happen upon us." No, the group who bested she, and Corvin and the small company of Wraiths accompanying that journey were organised. And they almost won.

The mercenary, aware she has already said more than she would usually, in such company, falls quiet again as Gabriel addresses Corvin. Her expression brightens a touch, admittedly, at the possibility of an attack. Stamping out this threat sooner rather than later seems the best course. Then it won't matter what this enemy stood for. They'll just be crushed under the l'Saigner heel, like all the others before.

Still, something in Corvin' words draws even her notice, and she turns her gaze upon the Wraith Commander, as he easily clears up most of her questions. Was he eavesdropping? Git.

Vorian's features are troubled. He looks at Esyld for a few moments, then clears his throat. "I mentioned, m'lord, that I was surprised these men didn't build a palisade. Or even dig a ditch. And now that I think on it.." The t'Maren noble frowns, clearly seeking the words. "There was something else odd. These men were highly-trained — we all saw that. Individually, better even than the Tirians."

He looks from one person to the other as he speaks, visibly nervous. "It may be nothing. Perhaps they didn't have time to fall in, perhaps.. perhaps a thousand things. But these men formed no shield-wall. They fought as individuals, not as a unit." He dampens his lower lip. "They remind me of.. Scouts? Skirmishers? Professionals, certainly, but of a different type."

"Then if they were women, I'd say they were Huntresses," Alina says with a shrug. It's an off-the-cuff comment, more of a joke than serious.

Gabriel frowns. "You're right," he says. "No offense meant, Corvin, but it felt like fighting Wraiths."

"Huntresses and Wraiths still show more coordination in an open fight, but yes." Corvin notes with no defensiveness in his tone, but certainly clarification. "They fought like people who aren't accustomed to fighting together, but are very much accustomed to fighting." Corvin frowns, "Organized and disciplined and trained but not…a unit. Or if they are, one that's newly formed and hasn't trained together much." Corvin shakes his head, mulling it over, "If they weren't so uniform in what I've seen of their skills, I'd wonder if they were forces loyal to the late Duke and Duchess of Normont fleeing justice in Rivana. Normont is known for having skilled rangers, albeit more suited to mountainous terrain."

There's only one force that Esyld can think of that fights in such a manner. Following a vague smirk toward Alina - having no love lost for Huntresses, herself - the mercenary nods her firm assent with the Lady's husband, then returns her focus to Corvin and his father for their responses. The notion of another company so similar to the l'Saigner's assassins? Is a discomfiting one. Even the former Black Fox is willing to admit that. And perhaps has a different perspective on it than most, having been in enforced competition with them for so long. Belatedly, there's a glance sidelong toward Vorian. She wouldn't want to be in his shoes at this moment, comparing the Duke's elite fighters to 'bandits' defeated in the woods. But she agrees. Or so the look in her eyes suggests. "Well.." she begins, thoughtfully, when Corvin is done, "..that would explain the accents. The bond of loyalty, too.." She doesn't look convinced, though.

"And the raids. Or rather, the lack of raids. As you say, Master Fremont, they've been shockingly circumspect." Committed now, Vorian carries through with his thoughts, absently looping a thumb through his belt as he speaks. "If I were a bandit with a force like that, I would've had a treasure hoard by now. Their raids are almost an afterthought. Just enough to convince us that's what they're up to."

He shakes his head faintly. "This is how I see it — the men we killed were the screen. Whoever's left won't be raiding, I wager. They'll be moving to whatever plan they've come to complete." Vorian spreads his hands slightly. "But what that is? No idea. And — well, frankly, this is all the most dangerous sort of guesswork. I'm no intelligencer."

Alina scowls and daintily straightens her gloves. "I suppose we'll have to be more firm in our questioning, then." She does not look pleased. "We need answers, and sooner rather than later."

James clicks his tongue. "Patience is a virtue," he admonishes his heir. "It is hard to get accurate information when one pushes too far too fast. But I agree, we must turn more attention to our guests."

"I'll set Ivan to it. He's been helping me map patrol routes but would probably enjoy some more hands-on work." Corvin notes quite casually of the "coldest" Wraith. "And I can finish out the patrol routes, and let Lord Gabriel look them over once I'm done." He inclines his head to his good(half)brother. "Then we'll set Foxes and Wraiths on the hunt."

While she's not against the torture of prisoners, in theory, it's not Esyld's area of expertise. Her own skills are less err… graceful, one might say. An iron fist without the velvet glove. Vorian's further commentary, now, she seems less convinced by. Not everyone has a plan, in her opinion. More often than not, people are simply surviving the best way they know how. Maybe you have to be a bastard or a commoner to consider that stance, however. She doesn't argue with his speculation, respectfully. But her gaze has drifted from him as he speaks, observing the Duke once more.

No one is less convinced by his theories than Vorian himself, it seems. The discomfort of even offering them has left the man shifting his weight absently from one foot to another, reaching up to rub at the bandage on his right arm, and otherwise fidgeting. Or perhaps the discomfort is caused by the notion of what Ivan shall be doing to the men they captured. He glances again at Esyld, then over to the Duke, perhaps wisely choosing to keep his mouth shut. For once.

"Map routes and set patrols," the Duke agrees. "Alina, you may assist Ivan as you both feel proper. Gabriel, after you're healed some I want you to begin preparations for another assault… once we find them I intend to remove them." The Duke's attention falls on Esyld and Vorian. "I understand Lord Sir Vorian is seeking a position with the Amethyst guard. That is for Gabriel to decide, not I, so I suggest you see what Lord Gabriel requires your assistance with for now."

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