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The Perpetual Ball

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

  1. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    With his request to the pursuivants being placed and Katerina and Izsac still in their meeting with the Archduchess, Kristof decides to roam the dance room. He eventually notices Tirelista standing by herself watching the dancers. He approaches her and bows. "May I have this dance, Princess?"
     
  2. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    "By all means, my lord." Tirelista smiles. "Dancing is what we're all here for, after all, isn't it?"

    Kristof soon discovers that he is in need of more practice. Her Highness, however, seems patient enough in allowing him to develop at his own pace.

    -

    Lady Sendra is clearly in need of more practice, too–in keeping her moods off her face. Though one must admire her ability to display so many in such a short period of time. Baron Lothar isn't quite certain which disturbs her most: that she finds herself in need of a suitor, that her brother is blatantly and crassly pursuing the same objective… or the "proposal" he puts before her. One thing he can be certain of: she is desperate. Anyone who wasn't would have walked away at the mention of the name he suggests.

    -

    Lady Sigrelyn was known to be accomplished in several of the more common noble pursuits–at least by those who noticed her at all: many never did, though anonymity was becoming more difficult to sustain as her list of military escapades lengthened. Still, realizing that the slender, quiet young woman in muted colors was also one of the Order of the Holly's up-and-coming knights wasn't always an easy connection to make.

    Today, her colors were slightly less muted–a rich green gown subtly ornamented with golden holly leaves and, if one looked closely enough, silver wyverns; and she was displaying one of her less well known skills–dancing. And while other accomplished dancers readily recognized her competence in the field, those observers most impressed were other accomplished warriors, who noted the fluidity of her motions, the casual ease of balance, and most of all her ability to circumvent obstructions as if they didn't exist in the first place. Which was a particularly important talent, considering she had to do so every time she and her partner changed position and she had to fit herself once more around lace "wings" linking sleeve to doublet, peacock feathers spreading from waistband, golden tassels hanging from cuffs, any number of puffs and slashes that might catch on anything whatsoever.

    It was an open question which was more astonishing: that Prince Heverik also gave every evidence of being a good dancer, or that anyone was dancing with him at all.

    Hogar sank back into the darkest corner he could locate, trying to blend with the drapes and tapestries, the color of which he had deliberately duplicated in his own wardrobe in anticipation of just such a desire. The marchioness is going to kill me.

    He amended the thought: Or her. Or him. Or all of us.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  3. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    Several songs later, Kristof is in dire need of respite. He manages to convince Tirelista to sit a while and share a drink with him. On the way to the table Kristof thinks to himself, I do hope the meeting is going well.
     
  4. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    "You know, it would probably be easier to agree to the proposal about Duchess Elislet if they would say who they intend her to wed. If it's Prince Sazomir, he's going to need a waiver, too.…"

    "…and no one's mentioned that. Right. So who else—"



    "I heard she's going to marry some duke from Lorthegnar—one on the run from all those recent troubles of theirs."

    "And I heard she's more likely to marry her horse. Care to wager?"

    "Not a chance. Her horse is more likely to marry her."

    "Well, she'd best do something about getting an heir, while she still can, or.…"



    "Ten marks says he'll cave on their conditions, just to get something out of it all."

    "Done."



    "Do you know Gavin—the Assistant Chief Steward for Private Meetings? He told me—"

    "He told you? His lips are tighter than a fifty-thaler whore's—"

    "Ask him the right way, they aren't. Anyway, he's the one handling the refreshments for that Curia meeting no one's talking about. He said the whole thing's about some crazy scroll Duke Rudi brought back from the west that he's trying to get them all to buy into. And that no one knows if they should take him seriously or not, but it's all kinds of big changes. Ask me, all that power went straight to his head."

    "Then why did he pull out of the emperor race?"

    "Subterfuge. He's so full of it, he can sneak up on himself sometimes. One of those times, he's like to end up stabbing himself in the back, too."

    "Wait. How do you ask Gavin 'the right way'?"

    "Start with a fifty-thaler whore.…"



    "Those who wear white should avoid red wine."



    "Damn, I hate that weirdo."

    "Yeah? You should meet the new astrologer.…"
     
  5. Silver Pegasus

    Silver Pegasus Scribe

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    "What separates the scarab from the dung beetle? Dignity."
     
  6. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Late in the evening, the many dancers and more spectators are surprised to see Siguving, Marchioness of Sjaermund, enter, along with her husband, Prince Teszlar, as the couple is rarely known to frequent the Ball. They are talking urgently, in low tones, and have some small hint of concern upon their faces. Many who know the marchioness' tempers interpret this as a propitious time to address pressing business elsewhere; others discover previously unnoticed but engrossing details in the tapestries adorning the walls. Any who believe they can accomplish doing so without being detected surreptitiously glance toward the center of the dance floor. Several wine stewards similarly glance nervously at the breakables on the tables before them.

    To the perplexity of the onlookers, the couple completely ignores their daughter's presence on the dance floor. Neither do she or her dance partner give any indication of noticing them. Instead, the Marchioness and her husband approach Alisa, the Countess of Vargin, with whom they exchange a few words and a nod apiece, after which they retrace their route to the door… which occasions even more perplexity, if no small relief in various quarters.

    Two dances later, Lady Sigrelyn bids Prince Heverik good night, then collects her longtime companion at the door, he having left his place along the wall to meet her there.

    "Well?"

    He scowls. "It's complicated."

    She actually laughs. "I'll just bet. Nothing simple would bring Mother in here at this time of evening. Let me guess: it involves inheritances, right?"

    "Oh, definitely."

    "Bet it ripped her guts out, too."

    "The need to delay your nuptials? I would not doubt it."

    "She'll just have to wait until we get back. There should be time to deal with whatever situation has arisen in Vargin and return before Court is ended."

    He seemed unsure. "Our task may take us a bit farther afield than that."

    She cocked an eyebrow–a habit he could hardly object to, given its origin. "Oh. My. That does have the sound of 'complicated'."

    "She mentions 'taking the bull by the horns'." This appears to justify both eyebrows. "Though it also appears we shall have the opportunity of visiting your sister." Having run out of additional eyebrows, she approximates a salute with those she has. He hands her a note.

    At no time did anyone see the Marchioness pass within twenty feet of Hogar.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  7. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    Negotiations completed Kat returns to the ball room. She begins to search for Kristof but soon notices him with Tirelista. Not wanting to intrude on their budding relationship she alters course to a table out of his eye-line with a good view of the crowd.
     
  8. Dark Guardian

    Dark Guardian Scribe

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    Anna needed to escape from the Council for a while. Though maybe she should have kicked Lothar out instead, before he was challenged to a duel. She needed a drink, and some quiet. A ballroom full of music, dancing and talking was perfect. It all canceled out.

    She was still trying to decide if their match-making was a win or a loss. They managed to get that oaf Odosvalt hitched. As soon as they did, someone tried to disinherit him. She hoped that was a win for the duchy either way. No one on the Regency Council said anything to them about it.

    She needed to find someone to ask what was going on in Bergeheim. Lothar liked to rent out his soldiers, and it was starting to sound like someone there might want some. Considering what he was spending to raise more, it would be nice to get some of that money back.
     
  9. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    "You know, something occurs to me: the plan can't be for the duchess-apparent to marry Prince Sazomir… can it? That'd create another Hofchradel situation."

    "It's the Maritsas: who knows what they're thinking?"

    "Wow. Is Princess Vengrith ever going to explode if that happens.…"



    "Did they really think Tergiv would give evidence against Sebeschar?"

    "I can't imagine they did. If he has one redeeming quality, it's loyalty to his brother. Guess we'll find out soon enough if he has that one or not.…"



    "Looks like Ilga will need to find someone else to vent her spleen on."

    "Assuming this isn't another stalling maneuver on the archduke's part. He'd best not encounter any bad weather."

    "Bad weather? At this time of year? Are you joking?"

    "Well, there is that. How much says he was already en route two days before that message was sent?"

    "Five marks."

    "You're on."

    "Should have made it four days. He also has to dodge a war, you know."

    "Me, or him? I cover my bets; it's his job to cover his own."

    They head off laughing.



    "I hear Princess Ilyena is going to be attending Midwinter Court this year."

    "Uhm… uh-oh. That can't be good. Do you think she knows something?"

    "I think she knows a lot of somethings."

    "I mean about—"

    "That, too."

    "Doesn't she still want to see half the empire executed?"

    "Why? Just because she blames it for the death of one grandfather, one grandmother, both parents, her first husband and her first child? Probably."

    "You know, you would have made me a lot happier if you'd told me her daughter had gotten betrothed, and she was coming to see the wedding."

    "Not my job, making you happier… besides, as far as I know, she hasn't. Oh, I forgot: there was a nephew, too. You remember.…"

    "A neph—oh, crap: that duel? Two years back?"

    "Yep. And I hear she's been getting chummy of late with the other one's daughter."

    "Goddess. Is it too late to arrange for assassins to meet her at the border?"

    "Probably."



    "What I want to know is, how can Curia debate something for three days behind closed doors, then have the doors open four more days, and still nobody knows what the details are?"

    "Only one way I can think of."

    "They're paying boatloads of money to keep everybody's mouth shut?"

    "No, that would never work."

    "What, then?"

    "Only one way," she repeated. "It must really, really be something."

    He looked puzzled. "How would that lead to them not talking about it?"

    She grinned. "Guess that depends on whose face they want to be watching when he finds out."

    "Oh." He considered a moment. "You're right. It really must be something." Then: "Wait. You don't know?"

    "Nope."

    "You have my admiration. I think I'd have to kill him, if I were in your shoes."

    "Not as long as I get to see his face when he breaks the news."

    "?"

    "What can I say? I love to watch him smile."



    Somewhat to Anna's surprise, the wine here is better than in the Council room. Or maybe not so surprising: the stewards here are obliged to present variety; there, only volume.

    Besides, it's quieter here anyway.
     
  10. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    "'The pieces are all in position. Let the game begin.'"

    "What's that?"

    Prince Manchovar looks up. "Eh? Oh, nothing, I suppose. Nothing. Just something the Court Astrologer said to me a bit ago."

    "Does anyone ever understand anything he says?"

    The prince gazed off, distracted… perhaps reviewing seven decades of history stored in the nooks and crannies of his memory. "You know, sometimes I almost think I'm beginning to."

    The notion does not seem especially pleasing to the elderly gentleman. He looks down at the immaculate black of his shoes and hose, fails to find anything requiring attention. "And sometimes it feels as though he's only telling me things I already knew all along."

    His cane ticks accompaniment as he wanders off to his chambers, its rhythm out of step with the dance. As usual.

    He turns back a page offering to light his way.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  11. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    As Kristof and Tirelista stand to rejoin the dancers he notices Kat has returned to the ballroom. He directs his dance partner toward her table., "Tirelista might I introduce my cousin Katerina, the Baroness of Ravnitz. Kat, the Princess Tirelista."

    Kat curtsies, "A pleasure, I'm sure." her tone is pleasant but is oddly considering, "I do hope my cousin has not been a bother?"
     
  12. Dark Guardian

    Dark Guardian Scribe

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    Anna felt better now. The Regency Council was pleased Odosvalt was finally married. It gave them the excuse to move to disinherit him. She hoped the new Baroness of Riverwatch won't be too disappointed with her new husband.

    The message to send the cavalry to Bergeheim was sent. They would be joining the Countess of Vargin's army. Even if they were too late to change things, at least they would be paid.

    Which was going to be important, once she started spending the extra funds Lothar told her to bring with her. Buying votes was something she had no experience with. She didn't even know what the going rate was.

    Oh, well. Only one way to find out. She started looking around for potential takers.
     
  13. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Princess Tirelista's smile is as bright as the sun in Kereszney's sky… or on its arms. "Oh, absolutely not. No bother at all. He's been telling me all about your family, about Ravnitz… sounds much more interesting than my father's province: 'miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles,' as they say. Great for riding, not for much else. Which, I guess, is why Mother and I spend so much time at court… which is great for dancing. If not much else."

    She giggles prettily. So prettily, you're half inclined to ask her what grades she got in Giggle Class, but that would defeat the purpose, and besides, you're pretty sure you already know. You make a mental note to ask the archduchess if she'd be willing to discuss court life in Kereszney with Kristof some day, and let it pass.

    "Do you have much family with you here? I have to admit I haven't had much chance to visit with mine; all my cousins seem to have their heads buried in 'important business' all the time right now. Well, I mean, of course choosing a new emperor is important business and all, but still.…" Okay: maybe it isn't all an act. "Though what I can't understand is what brought Aunt 'Lena all the way out here.

    "Oh, hey: it's getting late, isn't it? I better get back to my room, before one of my relatives sends someone to turn me into a pumpkin or something. See you tomorrow?" She offers her hand to Kristof for a kiss, then half skips, half dances out of the room.

    -

    “I watched Mazosyr’s crew come riding in the other day. And it gave me a sobering thought.”

    “Really? What?”

    “That any of the first five people in that procession is qualified to cast the Maritsa vote.”

    Silence. Then: “You’re right. That is sobering.” More silence. “You know what it makes me think?”

    “What?”

    “That Teover has a hell of a lot of convenient, strategically-placed relatives.”

    “Besides those two dukes…?”

    “Kolving’s father had a brother who was Duke of Delharrow; now his son is… and one of his grandsons, Krudir, just replaced the Duke of Gundershagn. A sister who was the mother-in-law of the Duke of Varaborn. Kolving’s son is married to the daughter of the Duke of Sjaellig. Varaborn’s mother had one brother who was Duke of Harding–the fourth one; another whose daughter married Thanding; a sister whose daughter is countess of lands along the border in Mittelvald. Thanding’s son is married to Teover’s daughter, of course; his daughter is married to that count who helped Duke Rudi cross the northern border and turn the flank; that count’s sister is married to now-Duke Krudir… and they’re also both grandchildren of that fourth Duke of Harding, via the son who didn’t get the duchy.”

    “Is that all? But how many dukes don’t have families like that?”

    “How many of them have families like that that decide to spontaneously pursue connected goals at the same time?”

    “Uhm.” Pause. “Plus Rek, of course… plus Harding, now that its latest duke is dead.”

    “Uh-huh.”

    “But wait: you’re saying they planned on seizing both thrones at once?”

    “Not in the hearing of anyone who might be descended from one of Teover’s aunts, no.”

    “Because…?”

    “His mother was Princess Tesigret.”

    Pause. “Okay. Now I’m all sobered up, too. We should go find more drinks.”

    “Agreed.”

    After a bit: “I still don’t see how something like thld be planned, though… unless.…”

    “Yeah: ‘unless.’”

    “Do you think they’re done?”

    “Are you kidding?”

    “Do you think we should tell anyone?”

    “Not on a bet.”
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  14. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    Kristof turns to Kat and says, "Well I think I am also going to retire, would you like me to escort you to your room?"

    "No, I think I am going to mingle with some of other nobles." From the look in her eyes Kristof deduces by mingle she means getting the dirt on who the electors are leaning towards. Their vassals have to know something... And she could always persuade them to voice a recommendation for a candidate she, and her husband, support.

    He looks back when he reaches the door and sees her already deep in conversations with some vassals of Archduchess Gorendam. He mentally corrects himself, Scratch that, negotiations with the Archduchess' vassals.
     
  15. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    As is no great surprise, the archduchess herself is not present–in fact, none of the Electors are: no doubt they're pursuing the same activities (or being pursued by them) in quieter parts of the palace.

    What's somewhat more surprising is that the powerful Count of Ulfenbuthal is present, along with the three viscounts and viscountesses who answer to him… your experience suggests that most people use Midwinter Court as a time to get away from the people they deal with on a regular basis. The Viscount of Amrenlitz, also from that archduchy, is there as well, as are a couple barons from various parts of the realm. In fact, you're pretty sure it's the largest single collection of nobility from one realm you've seen so far this year, outside of official meetings. On the other hand, they don't seem to be discussing anything private–if anything, they welcome the distraction. Introductions are made all around. After a few pleasantries, the count excuses himself, mentioning that there's someone by the wine table he needs to speak with before she "gets away again." His conspiratorial wink raises chuckles from the others–and then a bit of stifled laughter when, trying to glance surreptitiously after him, you realize he's heading straight for his wife.

    After the initiation's over with, Amrenlitz engages your attention once more. Which isn't difficult for him: you're pretty sure you've seen his picture next to "dashing" in a lexicon somewhere. "Nothing like good news from the front to lift the spirits. Even if one did end up missing all the action oneself." He mugs comic woe. "That ought to finish matters in the west, at least for this year–on second thought, the weather's already too lousy to be out in: let all those wonderful knights we keep about us have the play."

    This, too, elicits a few chuckles, apparently at the viscount this time. "So, Baroness… has your archduke expressed himself yet on Duke Rudi's agreement with our good old neighbor Teover?" You think you may have caught a warning glance directed his way from the Viscount of Schvendt–regarding content or tone, you aren't sure which–but apparently he didn't, as he goes on. "Though he may not have mentioned it just yet: I imagine he's still digesting it all. As if the rest of us aren't."
     
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  16. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    "HE WHAT?!?"

    It may be impossible to reduce the assembled nobles of the Empire to speechlessness… but they do appear to have been cut down to just those two words for the moment.…
     
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  17. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    Kat opens her mouth to reply when someone shouts "He what?!?" She, as with most of the nobles present look around to see who had spoken, when noone near seemed forthcoming she began, "I fear the only news I have on the matter is the Archduke's opinion that Duke Rudimer was acting within his powers, though that is not really news anymore."

    "As for the how he feels about The Deal itself, I am currently unaware but I have not consulted with my husband on the matter in some time. Its possible he may have heard something on the matter, but then again he might not have."

    "It is curious how three thrones opened up in such a short amount of time. And two of the three have been claimed by the same man. I'm not suggesting anything but I wonder how much support his claim to our throne has. Do any of you know who your Archduchess is leaning towards?"
     
  18. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    The Viscountess of Suhlviksgau shrugs. [For those desiring to keep score: the three viscounties which are Ulfenbuthal's vassals are Schvendt, Suhlviksgau, and Oldurmort; the count himself controls a fourth, Metzenried.] "Her Serene Grace, is, as per her custom, of varying minds on the matter." She rolls her eyes. "Or, to put it another way, she changes with each new bit of news." Schvendt gives her a warning look this time, but she seems to have anticipated this. "Which is not a bad thing, necessarily: it is nice to think that at least one of the Electors is willing to consider all the information, rather than acting on ancient prejudices."

    She shrugs again. "On the other hand, what that means in the present context is that she is very impressed with what the Duke of Rek has managed to accomplish. It will also weigh heavily with her that the Duke Palatine has overtly endorsed this accomplishment–even though it would be difficult to see him doing otherwise, so heavily did 'the Deal' favor the Empire. However, the 'coincidence' you mention has not escaped her notice–and I suspect her decisions would be strongly influenced by how much or how little of that was actual coincidence.

    "I can tell you better how she feels on certain issues: for starters, the reconstruction of the Duchy of Malodbord." She nods to the Viscount of Amrenlitz. "Which is what Alagar was referring to earlier: our troops, along with those of Tyrvenhagn and elsewhere, have just finished sweeping up the last of old Duke Gerlach's loyalists in that area, and we expect the formal motion to have Malodbord reinstated to be filed today. The archduchess is definitely in favor of that. As well as making Countess Alisa the new duchess of Bergeheim–she's on board with the Malodbord proposal, as happens: in fact, I believe she's the one who's going to move it.

    "The archduchess has already made her positions on several other issues public, of course"–this time, it's Amrenlitz who rolls his eyes–"which, yes, doesn't mean she might not change her mind"–scowl from Schvendt–"though generally if she hasn't reached a firm decision, she won't express a position. So take those for what they're worth: she's likely to stick with them… barring very good reasons not to."

    Amrenlitz cuts in now: "I'll tell you one thing that's worrying her: the Maritsa bloc." A couple of the others nod agreement. "The positions they're taking right now don't reflect their actual opinions: they're just using them to pressure Vahir-Dascu to accept their conditions. Which means we could see massive swings on some of the legislation… including the votes of two Electors. Which could happen any time: Duke Teshevan knows he's going to have to cave, or else lose his treaty; he's just dragging it out to see if he can obtain any last-minute advantage.

    "I understand your husband has been taking a position of leadership in that 'Council of Barons.' He might wish to look to the potential consequences for it, in light of what I just said." It occurs to you that none of the viscounts present has attended the Council.

    He pauses. "One other thing I know the archduchess would like to see happen: Meinerthagn having its Electorate restored. She isn't quite as thrilled about increasing the number of Electors in order to do it, but she also knows that's the only way it's going to happen. So, as the Viscountess said"–nod to Suhlviksgau–"take that for what it's worth."

    Count Ulfenbuthal returns to the group. "Assignation arranged," he winks. The others give obligatory chuckles: apparently, this is a running joke, not something arranged for your sake. "And I understand we can stop concerning ourselves about several of the candidates." This raises a few eyebrows, though Amrenlitz just nods, as if something he'd been expecting had been confirmed. As does the Viscount of Oldurmort–the first contribution, if one can call it that, he's made to the conversation thus far.

    "Did they clear the field, then?" Amrenlitz asks.

    The count shakes his head. "Not completely."

    "Let me guess: there's one left."

    The count nods. "Now we get to see if she's been left there as a token, or if they're really going to back her."

    "Any word on–?" The count shakes his head again, cutting off whatever Amrenlitz was about to say.

    "No. And that's starting to really worry some people." The count pauses. "You may regard me as part of that group." He bows, and departs… presumably to his "assignation."

    Oldurmort finally speaks. "Your tally is off by one, I think," he says to Amrenlitz. "There are actually two left."

    Amrenlitz considers that for a moment, then: "You're right. She wouldn't have been part of any deal." He pauses. "And she's here… against all logic." Another pause. "I wonder what she brought with her–No: I don't. Or, rather, I have a guess." He slips a gold coin from his pocket, contemplates it briefly, returns it. "What the hell was Nikovar thinking, anyway?"

    This garners scowls all around… though as far as you can tell, they aren't intended for the viscount.
     
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  19. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    "Alec is fully aware of the possible consequences but I believe he is also vocal about his support for the higher nobility, his vision is for the council to be an advisory body. Allowing the Emperor know the opinion of his, or her, power base."

    "If any of you are able to get the Archduchess' ear, I would hope you consider voicing a support for Archduke Eszerthagn. If you need anything, just ask. But if you'll excuse me I really should be off to bed."

    Kat gracefully hurries back to her chambers. When she arrives she tells Alec, "I may have found a way to gain the Archduke an Electoral vote." He considers her information and then quickly writes a letter that is sent a first light the following day.
     
  20. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    The following day Kristof and Tirelista reunite and spend most of the day in each others company. Kat on the other hand seeks an audience with Tirelista's mother.
     

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