(1867-10-15) And it begins...
And it begins…
Summary: After the masque, Alina and the Amethyst Guard (and Corvin) talk seriously… until the plague shows its ugly head
Date: 1867-10-15
Related: Plague plot
Alina  Corvin  Esyld  Vorian  

Great Study - Highwater Castle - 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.
IC date of RP

"Maamaaaaaa. Maa." The tow-headed almost-toddler stumbles across the floor of the study, one tiny little fist clenched around a soft toy cat. He reaches out towards his mother, Lady Alina l'Saigner, as she sits on the floor with her purple skirts laying out around her. Little Leonard watches from the couch he is standing beside and clinging to as his twin Eduard makes his toddling steps towards their mother. "Maaa!" he adds his voice to his brother's.

Alina reaches out and catches the younger of the twins as he stumbles forward on the edge of her skirts. He bursts a giggle or two out as he falls forward into her waiting arms, then bashes her arm with his stuffed cat.

It is midday after the masque, and Lord Sir Gabriel is busy with his training, though he is likely to stop by the study afterwards. The twins are given free reign of the study to walk and toddle around in from chair to chair and couch to couch. Lady Alina looks tired (quite tired, in fact… she hasn't put on any make-up today and the dark circles under her eyes are quite visible) but happy to be spending time with her older sons. The baby is up in his room with his nurse, probably napping. Babies do that.

Toddlers, however, like play and noise. Leonard reaches up onto the couch towards a stuffed warhound, not quite able to reach it. His face twists into a determined, annoyed-toddler look. If he doesn't reach his stuffed puppy, he is probably going to start throwing a tantrum.

Corvin Fremont strides into the room as casually as can be, and equally-casually plucks up the stuffed warhound as he passes the couch and deposits it in Leonard's hands as he passes. He moves over to a side table that has a pitcher of cool lemonwater, and pours a cup, but rather than start sipping, he moves across the floor to offer it to Alina, "Long night?" He notes with a glimmer of mirth.

Vorian t'Maren does not look tired. In fact, he has the swagger of a young man this afternoon. He has already been out in the Yard, practicing his swordsmanship until the invitation to attend a meeting in the Study was received. He's just finished cleaning himself up and enters the study with his beard still damp from the wash-basin. At the sight of Leonard with his puppy, the tough young knight's features soften into a smile. He nods amiably to Corvin and Alina, clasping his hands behind his back.

Present - in a manner of speaking - already is the lady's guard. And she looks almost as tired as Alina. But not quite. Perched on the arm of the couch's far end, Esyld offers a quiet smile up toward the Wraith Commander as he sweeps into the study and passes by both she and Leonard, though the latter warrants her attention more pressingly. Her Lady only has one pair of hands, after all… and that's often not enough to manage just one toddler, let alone double the trouble. Keeping one eye on the nearest tearaway, the knight still manages to offer another smile and a nod of greeting toward her fellow t'Maren, too, when he makes his appearance.

"Very long," Alina takes the cup of lemonwater and sips from it. Eduard reaches for the cup and Alina gently lowers it and helps him take a sip from it… only dribbling a little. He scrunches up his face and puckers his lips, only to giggle again. And reach for another sip, with Alina gives him idly. "It was near dawn when Gabriel and I got to bed, and I didn't sleep well this morning. But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves last night, which is the important part."

When Vorian enters, she gives the man a nod from her position on the floor. "Sir Vorian." She smiles at Corvin giving Leonard his puppy— which the toddler has now dropped himself to the floor on his bottom with a loud FLUMP and has started chewing on the ears of said stuffed animal. Toddlers.

"I'm not sure if we'll be going to court for winter season as we did last year," Alina says smoothly. "The Dowager Queen does not exactly need my presence there. But I wonder if Gabriel will find it easier to find knights to serve in the Amethyst Guard there." She glances to the three adults in the room. "What are your thoughts? Corvin? Esyld and Vorian, since we are looking for those that would be your brothers-and-sisters-in-arms? I know Gabriel has been having some difficulties finding suitable candidates in Lonnaire itself."

"We don't want to poach the Knights of the t'Maren too much. Nor the Black Foxes. My suggestion would have been to wrangle in some skilled Hedge Knights from the other mercenaries of Pacitta, but given the rumors there, likely not wise at this time." Corvin opines, moving back over to seat himself on the couch, reaching down to pluck Leonard and Warhound alike up to seat them next to himself, ruffling the toddler's hair a bit before turning his attention back to Alina, "I have heard a rumor of late that may be of interest, though, through the Cavaliers." Of course he doesn't just volunteer it though…of course he's going to make someone ask.

"For my own part, Lady, this is something I've been meaning to bring up." Vorian glances to Esyld with a smile, as though for encouragement, and continues. "We certainly do need knights. And — perhaps — hedge knights are the answer. But we also need a small force of heavy infantry." Clearing his throat, the man says "If the t'Cauthones and others had been trained properly, that skirmish would have gone far better. I'd like permission to recruit and train an anchoring force, to work under the auspices of the Amethyst Guard. At least twenty men. I'd prefer forty."

He glances around, a little warily, and raises his hands palm-up. "I recognize that this is not the l'Saigner way of waging war," he says slowly. "But infantry are cheaper to train than knights are to hire, and we could be more sure of their loyalty if we take them from our own lands."

Raising her eyes from the toddler now happily chewing on dog-ears near her booted feet, Esyld waits, giving Corvin room to speak, first and foremost. She clasps her hands loosely on her knees, attired comfortably today in simple leggings and a creamy-hued longshirt, the sleeves rolled haphazardly to the elbow. A vague curve tugs at the corner of her lips as she regards Fremont and his nephew, settling beside her as the Wraith offers his - likely valuable - opinion.

"I agree. Those loyal to you already, m'Lady, will remain so. The Amethyst Guard might benefit more from casting a wider net." Absently reaching out and squeezing gently at Leonard's toes, the brunette briefly allows her generally calm countenance to slip, grinning at the child. It's an almost universal thing with women, this fascination. Even women like Esyld. Ahem. Almost visibly regathering her infamous composure, she seems about to speak further.. when Vorian speaks up, himself. Politely, she halts and returns a smile his way. And when he's done.. "I also agree with Sir Vorian, on that matter. Though which is the more urgent is not for me to decide." Settling baxk in her seat now, propping an elbow on the arm of the couch, the former mercenary adds, almost as an afterthought, "..further afield, I still think, in the case of Hedge Knights. One knows I encountered more than a few formidable sellswords, back when I was guarding caravans."

Flitting an enquiring glance to Corvin, and his deliberate air of mystery, she nevertheless leaves it for his sister to prod him about it. That'll be more amusing.

"From a political perspective," Alina notes, "I don't want to add too many, if any, other t'Maren knights. Sir Esyld and Sir Vorian will suffice, but I— and Gabriel, of course— cannot show too much favoritism to one vassal in placing people in this new unit." She lifts a brow at Corvin. "Oh?"

To Vorian, she frowns. "I don't think," she says simply, "it was a lack of training the common soldiers of the Blackfens, and the others, had that was the problem. From what Father and I understand from the sources we've questioned about the combat, it was less 'know how' and more a refusal to serve under a knight… thinking knights are idiots. That is a common feeling throughout this duchy, I'm afraid. You've been a bit isolated from it, being a t'Maren, since that household has always served as a knightly arm of Lonnaire. But bluntly? Most of the rest of the duchy looks down on knights. Even I have, myself, though I have in recent years learned better."

She frowns. "The military aspect of this duchy is for Gabriel to decide, for the most part, though with obviously my father's agreement as long as he is Duke. I hear your request, and I disagree with it. We're not l'Corren, even if I married one. And simply put, we don't have the terrain nor the money to field yet another military wing, even if they would be 'under the Amethyst Guard'. Hells, man, the Amethyst guard isn't even built yet. My Father gave permission for six, with Gabriel's ultimate desire being twenty. We have two and they are both in this room. I think adding an additional infantry division is a bit premature." She sighs. "Not only that, but I have the politics of the situation to consider. We had to consider long and hard, and make a couple of concessions to the t'Maren so that they DID NOT feel we were stepping on their toes by pulling together a knightly cohort for Gabriel. If I start adding even more infantry and other military forces, that's basically pissing on my vassals and telling them I don't trust them to fulfill their military service to Lonnaire."

She shakes her head. "I've already dressed down an heir to a house in public. I shamed him, Vorian. Shall I publicly flog them next?" To be honest, Vorian and Esyld are quite lucky they are getting this much explanation from her. She is, after all, the next duchess… she and James could simply have said "No" and offered nothing, and they would have rightfully expected that would be the end of it.

"If the men of the Blackfens fail us again, then we move up in 'handling' them. My vassals have to feel we trust them and rely on them as much as they trust us and rely on us. Nobility is a responsibility. You have obligation to your vassals and smallfolk. And part of that is allowing them to do what they are supposed to do. I will not shame all of my vassals because a few smallfolk are less than pleased that for the first time in all of Lonnaire's history they are being told to answer to a l'Corren. I may not agree with their dislike of my husband, but given the culture of our duchy for generations upon generations… I can understand it. And forgive it."

"Once." And with that, she is clear that if it happens again, she is NOT going to be remotely as forgiving.

Corvin says, "Templars." Corvin begins, "Are apparently in the midst of a bit of a crisis. Between the dishonorable events at Valetta with their Lord Commander, and the difficulties with the church after Cardinal Ramius' machinations were revealed." He shrugs, "They are…disillusioned. Doubting their faith. I would not be surprised if a few of them might find some…common ground with Sir Gabriel. Skilled. Well-Equipped. Trained. The only difficulty may be in finding those that might be amenable to recruitment."

Corvin listens to Vorian's statement, and notes, "The Black Foxes have Heavy Infantry among them. They are an all-purpose company, after all." Corvin shrugs, "In this particular case, those infantry were assigned to some of the other raids, but that wouldn't preclude their availability in the future." As to Alina's words, he offers nothing, beyond a silent nod in her direction.

"With all that in mind then, m'Lady.. I doubt that the waters of the l'Valdan are the right place to cast a net, either." Pissing on vassals is bad. Poaching from royalty is downright silly. "I don't claim any prowess whatsoever when it comes to politics. But might it be worthwhile looking toward Ostvor, to strengthen bonds in that direction?" Bonds.. insiders.. whatever. "They've some impressive knights, as I recall. And replenish the considerable numbers lost from the Black Foxes and other, smaller units.." At this she flicks a pointed look from Alina to Vorian. "..from within your own lands, to ensure they feel trusted." Whether she really trusts certain parties goes unsaid.

Raking a hand back through her dark tresses, still tinged red with whatever dye had been a part of her costume the previous evening, the woman sighs softly. "I agree with Vorian's interest in re-establishing the numbers. There's no need, as you say, to increase them. Besides.. you can't get blood from a stone. We will simply work with what we have." This seems, for the most part, directed toward the other t'Maren; perhaps an attempt to smooth over that talking-to. Esyld, of course, doesn't trouble herself overmuch with 'the smarts'. She's not here for her wits. That point is, maybe deliberately, further made as the formidable knight busies herself scuttling her fingertips across the padded couch toward Leonard.

She's still listening, though. Glancing up at Corvin, following his words, she hmms, low in her throat. "..true enough. Common ground with Lord Gabriel certainly doesn't equate to a willingness to serve House l'Saigner. Not yet, anyway." Hells, she was shocked enough at Alina being wed to a l'Corren.. let alone the man turning out to actually accept the ways of the family, after the fact. Not all men would follow that path.

Vorian looks from Alina to Corvin. To his credit, the young knight bears the dressing-down with a stoic expression. He doesn't offer up arguments, simply nods his head when both are finished. That, it seems, is that — he's too well-trained to argue a decision. But there is a flicker of disappointment in his dark gaze.

He looks to Esyld for a moment, offering her a brief, grateful smile and a nod. And Corvin's idea does spark his interest. He considers, head canting. "I fought with the Templars at Valetta. Most of them performed with the utmost honor." Not, of course, their original commander, but one cannot have everything. "It's a good idea. If we appeal to some of their more respected knights, perhaps one could speak to some of the younger ones, help us win them over."
<FS3> Alina rolls Perception: Great Success. (1 7 1 4 2 8 4 8 2 4 6 5 7 4)

Alina's eyes narrow slightly at Vorian's look of disappointment, but doesn't say anything. She allowed Eduard to pull himself back up using her forearm. The toddler waves his stuffed cat at Esyld and grins a baby-toothed grin at her.

"Templars…" Alina muses. "There might be one or two among their number that would serve. Maybe." She looks lost in thought for a few moments. "Mm. I wasn't so much going to poach from the royals themselves, but see if in the port city of Rovilon there might be hedge knights or a noble knight or two that were disillusioned with the north and wanted a slightly warmer, swampier climate," she says with a laugh. "But I can see where that might be considered poaching from the crown." She gently takes Eduard's stuffed cat and playfully bops him in the nose, to his glee and giggles. Leonard offers his drool-covered puppy to Corvin expectantly. "I'm concerned about 'poaching' from Ostvor with the recent troubles there with the storm. I know the l'Fausts lost several men in the storm as did some of their vassal houses, and I'm concerned that they may be scooped up at home."

"I'll put out some feelers, but Gabriel would likely have better luck." Corvin notes, "Whether from here or Rovilon. I don't know all the details, but Sanctum is by all accounts a frightful mess at the moment, and the Templars have largely been left to their own devices." He takes the puppy, studying it with a smirk before mock "attacking" Leonard with it, accompanied by at least a little bit of growling noises. But he grows serious enough after a moment, "Regardless, we're going to have to poach from somewhere unless we want to train them from scratch." He smiles to Esyld, "And no…there won't be many that want to serve House l'Saigner…but there may well those that are willing to serve Gabriel l'Corren." He looks impish, "And we can work on them after that."

Esyld obligingly golf-claps for Eduard's triumph of achieving the vertical position, smirking across at the child while maintaining a conversation with the adults in the study. "I just think the further from here such blades can be found, the better. They're even less likely to have an established 'opinion' on the local politics.. and it wouldn't seem as though we were treading on toes, unnecessarily." Raising and dropping her shoulders in a light shrug, the brunette offers Alina a thoughtful look and a half-smile. She knows better than to point out the heiress looks anything less than radiant, but privately she's noting the presence of those dark circles. Hangover or not, it's unlike the fastidiously glamorous blonde to appear so.. casual. "That's true enough, in regard to Ostvor.. though I suppose every province has its share of troubles. Wherever you decide to cast your gaze, m'Lady, I'd be more than willing to accompany any recruitment effort." Accompany. Not lead. She's perhaps not the best choice for navigating the treacherous world of the courts on her lonesome, after all. That's more Corvin's forte, or Vorian's.

As for the Templars? Well. It's likely she shares her fellow veteran's thoughts on that. Certainly, they fight with honor. But their leader floundered badly, under pressure. They're no more infallible than any other… just perhaps more easily lured, in this small window of opportunity. A nod of assent is offered toward Vorian, wordless approval from his kinsman.

Leonard's expectant waving of the wolfhound draws her gaze, now that she's fallen quiet, and the blue-eyed woman permits another of those unusually at-ease smiles, watching him quite imperiously demand his Uncle's attention, then grinning at the resulting 'attack'. Shifting her weight, she recrosses her legs at the knee, clasping the uppermost with her hands. "..that's also true, yes. Lord Gabriel certainly has the reputation to draw those keen to find a place and favour in the world." Not her. No. She was here before him. Nyeh.

Considering for a few moments, apparently a touch wary of doing anything but aiding the suggestions of the others, Vorian says "I can think of several men that I could suggest. I've not spoken to them since I returned home, of course, but they were impressive enough." He chews on the inside of his cheek before continuing, a touch more tentatively this time. "I fully understand your reasons for rejecting my request. But as Sir Esyld mentioned, it would be a good step to replace some of our losses." He forces a grin here, his eyes dropping down to the children at play and staying there for a long moment.

"In particular, I lost two men from my small force." There is a brief flicker of pain, even as the children bring his smile back. "May I speak to the Black Foxes, at least, about replacing those men? Perhaps two of their infantry might like to try following me." He asks that question with what seems like real reluctance, though whether at the idea of replacing his friends or at the opening for another rebuke is hard to say. He turns his head toward Esyld again, answering her nod with one of his own, then turns his attention to Alina and straightening his posture to something more firm.

Alina tilts her head at Vorian. "I'm not going to request the Black Foxes un-mercenary some of their forces to have follow you, Sir Vorian." Her shoulders straighten a bit. "Do not take this harshly, but that you have men that follow you at all is a privilege that most other houses would not have allowed you to have when joining the house guard, especially a specialized force. I sympathize for the loss of those men, but I was under the understanding that you were keeping them under your command because they had followed you previously and it would be more effective to keep them with the same commander." She lets out a tired sigh. "As for replacing the forces and recruitment… do you truly think we are not doing so? That the Wraiths that were lost will not have new Wraiths trained and replaced? That the light infantry, that the Black Foxes that were lost in other—" she bites her words off, rubbing her temples. Eduard drops to the ground as his mother releases her grip of him, and his expression goes from pleased to displeased very quickly.

"I know, I'm just a silly blonde girl," she growls, "and Gabriel has his head up his arse, and my Father hasn't been running a duchy for twenty bloody years. Of course we, and our vassals, are not going to recruit to replace the men that were lost until you happened to remind us of it. How foolish of us." She looks pale and wan, and she absently reaches for the toddler in front of her as he begins to fuss. "I don't need you harping on 'Let us replace the men that were lost'. It's not something that happens overnight, but yes, it is being worked on. Smallfolk actually have to breed and be trained, they don't spring from holes in the ground fully formed."

Her tone is quite harsh, and her breathing is a bit… off. As if it's taking a bit more effort to draw a breath than it should be. "Replacing your men? Ask Gabriel, he might be more inclined than I, but for all this talk of poaching, the Black Fox have served this family since the 30 Years War, and I'm not going to approve of constantly raiding their men to replace—" and she coughs, the sound a wracking noise, heavy and wet.

"Sir Vorian, kindly and quickly go inform our master healer that my sister is in need of his services." Corvin is quite calm, but there is a subtle shift in his demeanor that speaks of the concern that underlies his request. He beckons the Nanny that awaits nearby, gesturing for her to do her job and take care of the children while he moves to kneel down beside Alina. "Come on, Sister. You need rest." He watches carefully though…mostly for signs that this is less illness and more the possible onset of a poison. Because yeah, he's used to looking for such signs.

Esyld casts the other t'Maren a faintly warning look as the heiress works herself up, her expression managing to convey nothing of how she feels on the topics raised. Just.. the look says it all. Don't push your luck any further today. "We all tend to focus on different things, in light of recent events." she ventures, slowly. "But perhaps planning ahead, or upon what we already know, in order to aid Lord Gabriel's efforts, is a valuable way to spend our time. For now." Smoothing an invisible wrinkle from the lengths of her shirt, the woman continues calm as you like. "..while it poses, perhaps, certain risks.. it might also strengthen alliances to make offer to your neighbours after all, m'Lady, if you're so inclined. The younger t'Cauthone, for example, is keen to prove himself. A pity t'Tremaine is heir to his lands, or he'd have been high upon my list of recommendations, too."

The brunette pauses as Corvin rises, blue eyes following him as he moves to Alina's side. Hmm. She does look a little 'grey about the gills'. Following suit, she pushes to a stand wearily, scooping Eduard up with her, only to offer him toward the summoned Nanny.. a touch reluctantly.

Vorian, this time, truly does show anger — a flush in his cheeks that he struggles to tame, a flexing of his jaw. Several times, he seems poised to break his usual duty and answer back. But that anger turns to concern as the cough erupts. He opens his mouth several times, then closes it again. It's Esyld's words, and Corvin's 'request', that really bring him back to himself before he says something he will regret. Closing his eyes, just for a moment, he finally manages to speak in a tone that resembles civility. "I obey in all things." Pressing his fist to his chest, he turns on his heel and moves toward the door, his back as straight as a rod, sparing a brief glance toward his kinsman and offering a tight smile in that direction as he ducks out of the Study.
<FS3> Alina rolls Body+body: Failure. (6 1 2 2 4 4)

Alina's breathing comes heavier, her cheeks the sort of flushed that is not from healthiness or exertion. As Corvin kneels beside her, heat radiates off of her. "Focus…" she begins, and then her eyes roll back in her head and she slumps over.

Eduard and Leonard, sensing the tension and anger in the room… both begin crying.

The Nanny moves swiftly to gather up the crying children, soothing them in her own way as they are swiftly removed from the room.

Corvin catches Alina, lowering her carefully to the ground. "Grab the Lemonwater and a cloth. Dampen it. She's burning up." Those words to Esyld as he places fingers at Alina's neck to check her heartbeat. He's no healer, but he knows some basics. "Place it around her neck as best you can. Tie it if you have to, but only tight enough to hold." Meanwhile, Corvin continues to observe Alina carefully, making sure she's not having difficulty breathing.

"Take them out of here." It's rare that Esyld would presume to give orders, within the walls of Highwater. But the words toward the dithering servant are curt enough to get her attention away from the swooning noblewoman and back to her charges. A hand lightly skims across Leonard's head as she ushers the trio from the study. "Hurry." This largely unnecessary aside goes, sotto voce, in Vorian's wake as he siffly departs the room, too. His anger is something she will no doubt deal with later.. but her concern in this moment is for the woman she's tasked with safeguarding.

There's little a bastard sword can do against a raging fever, alas.

Crossing the floor, she reaches the siblings just as Alina slumps over; instinct jerking her hands out as if to catch the 'blonde girl', though Corvin of course beats her to it, being the closer. To the Wraith, she offers a rare look of horrified worry. "..she didn't even touch the lemonwater you gave her." A few beats behind, yes. But her mind races with the worst sorts of imaginings, poison among them. Fortunately, he's there with directions to occupy her. Cloth, cloth.. miraculously, there's a clean one on the table nearby, perhaps having been intended for one of the toddlers. She kneels by Alina's other side, doing as she is bid; dampening the cloth and draping it with all care around the blonde's slender throat, gently lifting her head a touch in order to do so, then resting it back down.

Alina mumbles and thrashes slightly in her unconciousness, her eyes behind her closed lids moving back and forth. The heat is noticable once you're close to her. And for a few minutes, her condition doesn't change.

The healer comes into the study, kneeling beside her and looking worried. "We need to get her to her bed. I'll check her over more thoroughly once she's there, but right now my concern is the fever," he says, after he removes his hand from her forehead. "A fever this high can kill, or addle the mind permanently. I need to get this down." He turns to his assistant who is standing in the door. "Run to fetch the silver willow bark, and we'll need ice from the Truefrost freezer, wrapped in cloth. Hurry, and bring them to the heir's bedchambers." He looks to Corvin. "Can you carry her? I don't know if it's illness or poison, but whichever it is, this fever is what will kill her." He glances to Esyld. "Go ahead of us, you can move faster than we can carrying her. Make sure the windows in her bedchamber are open and the curtains drawn back— if it's illness, she'll need clean air." As Corvin lifts Alina, the healer pricks her finger and squeezes some of the blood into an alchemical vial. "If it's certain poisons, this vial will change color," he explains, shaking the vial as he escorts Corvin.

Abruptly getting herself out of the way when the actual Healer arrives, Esyld looks on with wide, worried eyes; a hand rubbing at her nape beneath the drape of her dark hair. Having something to do actually seems to bring relief to her features - she dips a nod toward the t'Andalucci at his instruction and pivots on a booted heel without further hesitation and strides out of the study. She doesn't outright sprint - causing a panic isn't going to help anything. But the sound of her departing gait is certainly markedly more hurried than her usual as she heads for the Family Tower.

Corvin moves unhesitatingly to scoop Alina up, already moving to carry her towards her chambers with all due haste. "Very few poisons that cause fever." He comments almost offhandledly. But it is the voice of experience. In either case, he'll get Alina to her bed with all due haste.

"Mm," the t'Andalucci healer nods to Corvin as he hurries along beside him, "but both of the two I know of would change the vial from blue to orange…" he holds up the vial. Still blue. "So… at least it's not poison." He frowns. He's heard rumors of the plague in Pacitta….

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