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The Perpetual Ball

Discussion in 'Machiavel: Ambition' started by Ravana, Jun 25, 2011.

  1. Dark Guardian

    Dark Guardian Scribe

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    Maybe it was a mistake to leave Anna behind. She could be attending the Council. She enjoys that kind of thing. But she can't come until the taxes are in, next month.

    I just hope the Duchess and her regents don't get upset about me saying my piece. Thank goodness she isn't part of this horse race. She has enough problems.

    Maybe I can help solve one or two of them. Gratitude is always good for something.

    Task one: take an inventory of unmarried heirs.

    He wanders the ballroom, not wanting to return to the meeting until he has to. That was talking. This is politics.
     
  2. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Lord Ilderich, the new Imperial Astronomer, and Prince Manchovar, make several circuits of the room, heads huddled together. Two things about this astonish those present:

    (1) Ilderich is doing nearly all the talking.
    (2) Prince Manchovar is nodding, and occasionally gesturing, in ways that suggest he actually understands what the other is saying.

    What's being discussed, however, remains a mystery: all that can be gleaned is from the occasional upswing of the astrologer's voice, and then it's only "wolves howling at the second gate of twilight" or "water sleeps"… the usual sort of thing he spouts. This is not due to lack of effort on the part of other guests… but no matter how oblivious the two seem to be to the rest of the world (now, or ever), the silver-headed cane the prince leans on, and the five-and-a-half-foot "wand" the astrologer insists on scuffing the dance floor with, display an uncanny attraction to hose-clad shins or delicately shod feet passing nearby. A few guests along the edges of the room, apparently finding this the most intriguing aspect of the whole performance, appear to be placing bets and keeping score.



    In another part of the room, the Archduchess Manera—not one of the Ball's more frequent attendees, and, to be sure, one who isn't dancing even now—is addressing several lesser nobles: "Ilga is really being quite unreasonable about the whole thing, it seems to me. Yes, I know what the law says, but each line has always handled its own internal affairs. I don't see why they can't appoint whoever they like to cast their vote."



    After a while, Prince Heverik makes his usual entrance—late, loud, and tasteless. You're just about ready to give up and ask someone why he's affixed a couple of bugles to his coronet, when two possibilities occur to you… and you aren't certain you want to know if either is correct. You do note, however, that the balance of his attire might almost be described as subdued. The colors even coordinate.

    A wicked chuckle occurs nearby. One of the younger barons in attendance quips: "Perhaps someone ought to suggest to him that wearing live ferrets has become a fad in some remote part of the empire?"

    His companion, a couple decades his senior, scowls: "Don't even think about it. There's still officially a death warrant out from the last time."

    He sips his wine, then adds: "As well as the times involving falcons and monkeys, if I remember correctly. No, wait: that's not entirely correct. They did finally execute someone for the falcons."

    "But not for the monkeys?"

    "No. Nor for the combination. Which is why I said it wasn't entirely correct."

    The younger man appears to be uncertain whether his elder is being serious… though he has stopped chuckling. "Is there anything that man won't wear?"

    "Title Fifty-Seven."

    "Huh?"

    "The section of imperial law specifically addressing his wardrobe. He won't wear anything that will prevent him from being admitted to the palace. Couldn't show it off if he did."

    The older man scowls again. "Efforts to anticipate all the possibilities have caused it to become the longest damn section on the books, too."

    They walk away.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2011
  3. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    "Oh I agree completely, but what is the real reason for her actions? Perhaps she is hoping they won't get the issue resolved in time. Speaking of which, who do you..." The rest of what Kat said is lost due to a pair of young, drunk nobles breaking out into "song."
     
  4. Silver Pegasus

    Silver Pegasus Scribe

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    "When the singing stops, the dance will begin."
     
  5. Night Terror

    Night Terror Dreamer

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    Wisdom James, the nephew and heir of Baron Lazarus, makes his entrance into the ballroom.

    He is dressed in flamboyant purple garments with a matching wide-brim hat. Layers of gold chains cascade across his neckline, and dark tinted spectacles hide his eyes. As he struts through the crowd he sports a mahogany cane, which is adorned with a sapphire peacock. Large, silver ostrich plumes protrude from his hat, drawing the attention of the guests.

    He approaches a provocatively dressed blonde woman, who turns and gives him a kiss. He whispers something in her ear, and she passes him a small pouch and walks away.
     
  6. Dark Guardian

    Dark Guardian Scribe

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    Lothar slips from the council during a lull. He wonders at the difference between Baron Lazarus and his nephew, who he mistakes momentarily for Prince Heverik from behind. Which didn't matter: he was after a different prince of that Line.

    "Your Highness," he says, bowing low before the elderly Prince Manchovar, "Lothar, Baron of Pfalzengrim at your service. May I have a moment of your time?"
     
  7. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    "Of course, my good baron! Pfalzengrim… that's in, eh… Hochfulga, yes? I always get that one mixed up with Pfaldergrim, for some reason. Though I can't imagine why, since Pfaldergrim is in East Paargau. No, wait: West Paargau. Either way, that's nowhere near your home, and no concern of ours, since it isn't even in the Empire any more. Or at least I think it isn't… have we fought any wars with Lorthegnar recently? I mean, apart from the one that young Evrefritz led… last year, was it? Where he captured the county of Grichfeng? Or was it the viscounty of Grichfeng? No, wait, I remember: the count is the viscount. You'd think he'd have the decency to eliminate one or the other title, seeing as it's the same land. Well, perhaps Evrefritz will, though he seems to like his titles; on second thought, he'll probably keep both of them. But you! You must be Huderic's son. And now you're baron… I'm sorry for your loss. Huderic was a great warrior, you know, renowned for his heavy horse. Though I thought his heir was named Gunther, not Lothar. No, wait: surely Huderic was killed at the Battle of Alsten Fen, when those benighted fools crossed the border from Vedrosani and tried to make poor Emperor Lazidru do… something or other: I never quite understood what they had in mind. But that was, oh, nearly twenty summers gone… oh, dear: that means you must be Gunther's son. Is he dead, too, then? Well, of course he must be, or you wouldn't be baron. I'm sorry for your loss.…"

    The prince never does stop talking–and he displays considerable reserves of stamina, for someone who knew your grandfather when he was a young man–but you find that by inserting the occasional word or two, it isn't difficult to redirect his track along whatever lines you desire.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  8. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    The Dowager Marchioness of Cantrescu, who apparently has had a few too many fortified wines–especially considering her idea of "fortifying" it is to add a few drops of it to her brandy, rather than the other way about–loudly declaims to no one in particular:

    "So that beast thinks he's going to do my son out of two counties, just like that? And with the connivance of that Voydulescan witch, no less. And I suppose you all are just going to let him do it? Ha! Well, wait until your shining young duke comes knocking at your door! 'Pardon me, but you weren't using that viscounty for anything, were you? Can I borrow a barony or two? I'll gladly repay you next festival-day.' Pah! You great Athringen lords have more water on your brains than my aunt has on her knees, and more in your veins than this bottle" (here, she gestures with a nearly-emptied jennie–which she then empties into her cup) "has in its dregs. I can just imagine how well you'd fare against a few companies of Olchak horse riding in from the steppes! Well, we'll just see about that! I still have friends, you know, here and in the Old Country, if your oh-so-royal cousins haven't married them all to death yet.…"
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  9. Silver Pegasus

    Silver Pegasus Scribe

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    "What do you get when you cross a panther with a dragon?"
     
  10. Night Terror

    Night Terror Dreamer

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    Wisdom James approaches Kat, and greets her with a flourish of his cane.

    "For you, dear Baroness." From within his cape he produces a bouquet of pink lilies.
     
  11. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Archduchess Manera seems even more puzzled now: "Well, it looks as though the Maritsas have settled the matter–though it would have been polite to inform us as to how, precisely. Ilga was absolutely incensed by that letter: she's still insisting that Nestreza not be allowed to vote, but now she's even more put out about the way they're handling the whole thing… and I have to admit she does have a point there. Though I think she's also annoyed at her own line, to tell the truth: can't seem to get all her dukes in a row, if you like. Too many candidates splitting support.

    "I do wish Rudimer and Evrefritz would get here. They always seem to have such a way of clarifying issues. Though they don't exactly mix well, if you take my meaning.

    "I can tell you this much, though: if they don't arrive soon, Ilga may find herself a new target. I hear she and Princess Vengrith have been talking privately, which is far from their habit–

    "Oh, dear: you seem to have an admirer. Well, I suppose it was time for me to see what other 'parties desirous of communicating information in the empire's interests' my secretary has lined up for me.…"

    She daintily knocks back the two-thirds-full wine glass she's been sipping at on her way out.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  12. Dark Guardian

    Dark Guardian Scribe

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    I'm pretty sure that was the complete heredity of everyone in the Empire. At least twice, and in different order both times. But I got what I needed.

    Now for the hard part. The baron raises a hand to his ear, to see if it's still attached. Or maybe the easy part. I hope she is desperate.

    "Herald," he says to one of the many on door duty, "Have you seen the Baroness-Apparent of Riverwatch lately?"
     
  13. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    Kat turns to face Wisdom slightly annoyed at his interruption, especially during her meeting with the Archduchess. Putting on a smile she replies, "Why thank you James." She takes the lilies. Before he has a chance to reply he senses that someone is standing behind him, two someones in fact. Alec's twin cousins Izsac and Kristof had just arrived. Kat continues, "I'm sorry James but we have some business to attend to." She strides off with the twins following behind.
     
  14. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    So here we are again. She shook her head as she inventoried the dancers. Most looked to her as if their shoes didn't fit properly. She'd have to remember to bring her farrier along next time.

    "Did Mother send any particular instructions?" She looked to the plainly-dressed, balding man who had come up beside her.

    "For you, or for me?"

    The sound of her eyes rolling was audible. "Alright, apart from the usual ones."

    "Ah. That would be 'no,' then. She expressed the desire that you should marry, and that I should do everything in my power to see that your selection of spouse be suitable."

    "By which she means…?"

    "I believe that, ideally, the Marchioness would prefer that you choose someone with equal numbers of testicles and legs."

    That almost made her laugh—something she preferred not to do in public, as it usually caused people to want to know what was funny. It was far more difficult to spy on people unseen when they're surrounding you and plying you with what they imagine you might find humorous.

    He added: "She also expressed the desire that those numbers be unchanged a twelvemonth later, if at all feasible."

    "Hmph. Tell her that if she insists on setting unreasonable conditions, I'll never get married."

    "I believe she has already performed that calculation herself, and doesn't care for the sum her arithmetic availed her. You are aware she is not growing younger?"

    She glared. "Cheap shots, Hogar? I can't recall you using those since I was… oh, seven, I think. For the Goddess' sake, she's not forty-two yet!"

    "And she could be killed on the morrow."

    "As could I—especially if I married. No one's going to bother trying while I'm still eligible. I'm too… valuable… to all their petty schemes. As it is, I have to strap on armor and grab a sword to get people to try to kill me."

    "I believe the sword would probably suffice in most instances." He met her stare evenly, placidly, without the slightest hint of sarcasm, condescension, or intimidation.

    She shrugged, turned back to people-watching. "Maybe after the sixth one. They'd try to capture me first." She didn't need to look to know he was about to lift an eyebrow marginally—his own version of a shrug. She cocked one corner of her mouth in a passing smirk. "Besides, you can blame that one on Mother. She's the one who insisted on my wearing armor."

    "As well as paying for the clothes you'd ruined in not doing so. I remember it well. You required twenty-six stitches; the dress was beyond hope of any number."

    Ooh, either he's slipping, or I'm getting better. He almost never falls for my traps. Both corners of the mouth cocked up this time. "And do you recall what occasioned that particular melee?"

    The eyebrow crept marginally downward this time. Yep, he remembered… a fraction too late. If she hadn't rallied a pack of cousins and led that charge, they'd've lost the groom and his father to that feud. And they had actually been allowed to wear swords to the wedding. She'd had to borrow one. If she hadn't lucked into someone who didn't realize a skullcap wasn't much protection against a twelve-year-old wielding a wine bottle—not for his face, at least—things might've gotten ugly. So much for marriage.

    "Oh, Hogar, you're probably the second bravest man I've ever met. Why couldn't you be three or four decades younger?" The utter lack of expression on his face told her she'd touched him far more than she intended.

    Prince Heverik walked by, smoking a bagpipe.

    Or maybe the third. An evil thought crossed her mind.

    She turned to face her companion. "He's not married, is he?"

    It was some time before he answered. And she knew damned well it wasn't because he was having difficulty remembering.…
     
  15. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Kyrithanza, Archduchess of Eszerthagn–whose dress somehow manages to combine the purple-and-black of her husband's livery with the green-and-gold of her own lineage, without having them clash–casually crosses paths with Baroness Katerina and her escorts… favoring the latter with an appraising glance before addressing the former: "My dear, I understand you have something you wish to communicate to me?"
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  16. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    The portal-herald confirms to Baron Pfalzengrim that the Lady Sendra is indeed in attendance, and directs his path thither. The young lady in question seems to be lingering near one edge of the room, looking a bit overwhelmed—except when her gaze happens upon her younger brother, who is dancing with great enthusiasm (if little accomplishment) with every unaccompanied heiress he can accost: then she just looks disgusted.
     
  17. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    "Why yes Archduchess Kyrithanza. Allow me to introduce my husband's cousin; Izsac Kovacs, currently second in line for the baronial seat of Ravnitz. Perhaps you might favor a marriage with one of your daughters?"
     
  18. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    "No thanks, I'm already married." She smiles wickedly. "Though I might favor it, come to that. Him with one of my daughters, on the other hand… hmm. Let's go someplace else and talk about it."
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  19. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    Kat smiles at the Archduchess' wit, "Something tells me we will get along splendidly, and of course Izsac and I will follow your lead," she turns to Kristof and continues, "You know what to do." Kristof moves off into the mass of nobles. Sometime later he is seen speaking with the highest ranking pursuivant in the room.
     
  20. Dark Guardian

    Dark Guardian Scribe

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    Lothar does not fail to notice Her Ladyship's disapproval. "Baron Lothar von Hügeleute at your service, my Lady. My wife, Baroness Anna von Felder."

    Is that relief, knowing I'm not chasing her skirt and her lands? Or disappointment? Maybe a touch of happiness, that a baron a decade older talks to her at all?

    He looks at the dance floor long enough for her to find her brother again, keeping the corner of his eye on her reaction. "He acts like he's the one who is going to inherit Riverwatch, doesn't he?"

    He wagers he has her attention now. "I happen to know someone in a similar situation."

    Lothar hopes she doesn't pick up on Anna's sudden mood shift. She keeps it off her face for a change, but he can feel the tensing through her hand. He tries for a sympathetic smile, not his strong suit, and waits to see if Her Ladyship bites on the bait.
     

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