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A Matter of Trust

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A Matter of Trust

Post  Wynnsaren on Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:35 am

11th Calistril, 4712


My Dear, Indomitable Rasven,


It has been only just over a week since my last communication, but I find that circumstance dictate the sending of another on the heels of the last.

News trickles down to us from the north and it seems that you have been busy indeed!  I pray fervently that all is well with you and your Charge.  

We are at peace here and growing in that security, though we have been touched by the conflict of our northerly neighbors in more than our hearts and minds.  One month ago, on the eighteenth, there was an assassination attempt upon one of our king's chief advisers by what is believed to be an ifrit.  Though thwarted in the midst of the effort, he was unfortunately not able to be apprehended and escaped with his life firmly in tact.  It was relayed to me that the ifrit, if indeed that is his heritage, was a user of magic and was described as having 'fire in his veins'.

Let me reiterate a previously made statement when I say that I also wish for the politics of the region to remain largely off the table between us, but when there is something afoot that I feel you should be made aware of, I hope you understand that I must speak of it.  

Word came to us about the Army of Fire that attacked New Stetvan.  It has been suggested by some, that this army and the assassin may be linked, which leads these individuals to the thought that perhaps Silverhall has designs against us.  Now, it goes without saying that I do not hold to this belief, not due to bias (though I admit to a powerful predilection which I must set aside when discussing such matters) but due to simple logic.

I must stress that no one is seeking action against your city.  Rumor and baseless supposition are not foundation for the raising of arms and such suggestion has not even been hinted at, but these things have a way of developing into misunderstanding and distrust.  Such misunderstandings work against both of our missions I believe.  Neither of us need the trouble!  Know that I will do all I can to head these vexing assumptions off at the pass.

To apologize for the unfortunate direction this missive has taken, I ask that you accept this humble gift.  It is a collection of Galtan folk stories I bought from a tinker's wagon many years ago.  I looked for it in your library but did not find it among the stacks, so I would very much desire for you to keep this copy.  A strange present you may be thinking. . .   However, it is one that bears significance to a bygone tale that I eagerly desire to share with you.  I believe you will enjoy the telling when next we meet!

That is a day that I greatly anticipate more than can properly be expressed in feeble print.


Humbly and Most Affectionately Yours,

Wynnsaren

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Rasven Winter

Post  Wynnsaren on Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:26 pm

17th Calistril, 4712


My Angel, My Radiance,


One week feels a long winter without your words, Wynnsaren.  In these times of great distress concerning Brevoy and, specifically, Silverhall, I welcome every morsel of sustenance that drips from your honeyed tongue to parchment.  That you might be assured as to my sincerity, I have included with this message two figurines to match the one you already possess.  You need no longer wait the week, if it falls within your desire not to do so.

I will cherish your thoughtful gift and keep it ever close to my most treasured collection.  It has found a hallowed location upon my personal bookcase, and I shall endeavor to read it as opportunity permits.  In my desire to offer full disclosure, however, nothing inside those pages peaks my interest so much as the tale that awaits me from your own precious lips--because I relish your storytelling for one, but more so because it promises your nearness to me once again.  There is a hand to which I have been granted ownership that I desperately long to hold again.

As to the matter of your concern: I would never seek to do you harm, Wynnsaren.  Novastasia is your home and, therefore, an extension of you.  To harm one would be to harm the other, and so both are unequivocally out of the question.  You have my word that no assassin struck at your government by my command, nor by that of House Lebeda.

For purposes of clarity, let it be known by your king that this Army of Fire you have written about attacking New Stetven did so by my order.  My intelligence discovered a Surtovan army of some significance massing within New Stetven's walls with intent to raze Rogarvian lands at the turning of the season.  I could not abide this to occur, and so took measures to prevent it.

Please accept my humble apologies for the shortness of this missive.  I pray by the gods who watch over you that all is well and right with you, Wynnsaren.


Most Devotedly Yours,

Rasven Winter

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:16 am

23rd Calistril, 4712

"He sent ye another one, did he not?"  Brynhilde Olsson eyed her slyly as she slid a piping hot bowl of broth to the aasimar who sat down across from her at the old rickety wooden table.  "I kin always tell, I can, 'cause ye've got that look 'bout ye again, Miss Wynn.  Glowin' a wee bit more brightly than normal methinks."

A thickly-built woman in her upper middling years, the observant Brynhilde had served as the royal cook since before the first stone of the castle had been laid.  Wynnsaren had become quite fond of the woman over her time in Akiros, and frequently took her late evening meals in the kitchens for the company and conversation it provided.  Not to mention, in spite of all efforts, the meals would often arrive at her tower lukewarm due to the travel time from the kitchen, and reconstituted dried eel in broth was decidedly less tasty when not piping hot.  

Glas adored her as well.  Perhaps it had something to do with the aurochs femurs she would save for the akata to crunch on when he came to visit, which was precisely what the big, blue space lion was doing now.

"I do hope ye've brought it. . ."  The cook pressed, after not receiving an immediate response.

Wynnsaren simply smiled and blew the steam from her spoonful of broth before sipping it delicately.

"I thought you would be getting quite bored with these by now."  She looked up at the woman, blinking in innocence.  "This has excellent flavor by the way, my compliments to the chef!"

"Bah, but yer a tease," Brynhilde scowled, "consider the chef complimented.  Now 'bout that --"

Reaching into her bodice, Wynn removed a square of parchment and held it up between two fingers as she took another spoonful of her meal.

The cook let out an embarrassingly porcine squeal of delight and from across the kitchens the aasimar could hear the sounds of scuffling as the scullion, Amalda, picked up her cleaning duties within hearing distance.

Wynnsaren grinned brightly.  The two women were half in love with Rasven after listening to her read parts of the correspondence between them.  She'd never let on his name or where he was from, or even what he did, but they swooned over every word just the same.  It could hardly be helped.

She pushed the bowl a few inches away and unfolded the letter.  Brynhilde had stopped her dough kneading and turned her full attention to Wynn as she read the first two paragraphs aloud, leaving out the points that indicated location.  Even after a half dozen readings, the aasimar herself still flushed at the words.

After ending the reading, Brynhilde sighed loudly and slapped a well-floured hand upon her ample bosom, leaving a rather indelicate print that might have raised questions had it not been a match to her own.  

"Oh, Miss Wynn, if he ain't a poet then I ain't never heard one!  Ye need to tell me who this man is!"

"And let you two take advantage of my weak eyes and try to steal him right out from under my nose?  I think not!"  She smiled and slid the bowl back to it's place before reaching for the spoon once more.

The cook didn't miss the inclusion of a second listener and whipped her head around.  "'Malda!  Git back to work there," she scolded the younger woman who'd polished and repolished the same six inches of counter to a brilliant shine.  Once the scullion ran off, Brynhilde took her own advice and turned back to her kneading as she spoke.

"When'll ye get to see him again?  Or. . .maybe he'll come visit ye here?  You'd introduce me, wouldn't ye?"  The cook grinned and smoothed the stray gray and chestnut hairs back into the tight bun as she looked over at Wynnsaren expectantly.

"Of course I would," Wynn agreed between mouthfuls.  "I do not know when such a thing might occur however, nor do I know when I will have the next opportunity to visit him.  Sooner rather than later I hope. . .  These past months have been inordinately long."

"Well, what's the trouble?  Ye can't jest leave a man like that waitin' forever!"

It was Wynn's turn to sigh as the now familiar dull ache flared painfully in her middle.

"It is a bit complicated. . ."

Brynhilde snorted and pounded a fist into the ball of dough.  "Things are never as complicated as we make 'em, Miss Wynn, and don't ye dare let him go or ye'll have me to answer to!  There ain't many others like him out there, y'know."

"There ain't any others like him out there", Wynn mimicked the woman's jargon in a low whisper, and busied herself with finishing her meal.

She had a matter of importance to discuss with the king yet tonight!


***


Before an hour had passed, Wynnsaren, freshly dressed in a black velvet and blue silk brocade gown with flaring trumpet sleeves and silver trim, pushed open the intricately carved double doors into the library where she knew the king would be at this time in the evening.  Glas accompanied her as usual, loping a few steps behind and carrying a large bone in his jaws.

Wynn loved this room.  There was something about the scent of stacks upon stacks of old books mingled with new, that was comforting.  Soothing really.  Like a conversation with a dear old friend over tea.

By no means old, but a dear friend she had come to see this night.  A dear friend that happened to be king of Novastasia.

King Thaddeus sat as he oft did, at a dark enameled desk, with head in one hand and quill in another as he bent over a stack of parchments.   Behind him, a fire crackled merrily in the hearth, adding to the coziness of the atmosphere.

The aasimar cleared her throat gently as she approached and dipped into a deep, sweeping curtsy.

"Your Majesty. . .   I do hope I am not intruding upon your peace, but might I have a word if you have a few moments to spare?"


Last edited by Wynnsaren on Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:20 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Thaddeus Medvyed

Post  Colin Marcus on Fri Sep 27, 2013 7:40 pm

Thaddeus had been spending this evening the same as many others this winter. Reminiscing and writing his thoughts and memories of the earliest days of Novastasia. Sarala had first suggested writing his memoirs half in jest, but the young king had given it more than a passing thought.

These writings he'd hoped would not only be used by future Medvyeds to know where they came... but also the present generation. As he contemplated the many adventures they'd succeeded on... it was important he realized, to remind himself. What he was thinking, what he was feeling when he made the decisions he had. Decisions that affected so many others Especially now.

The winter had been particularly rough for Thaddeus. Tensions from the north, Varnhold in constant combat to the east. Mivon simply looking for an excuse. Novastasia was the one remaining leaf of peace, clinging desperately to a tree in a windstorm.

Since the attack on New Stetvan the tensions around the castle had only worsened. He found himself lost in his books more then was probably healthy. Except for the few occasions that someone came to distract him. He smiled as one of his favorite distractions entered the room.

"Lady Wynnsarren!" He rose from his chair graciously. "You look lovely tonight! What brings you here at this time!"

Wynn had frequently gone out of her way to drag him from the castle for various winter activities. A fact he was thankful for. Even the paladin admitted he'd spent too much of the cold months inside. "Something about the Leap Day Ball.... or perhaps some new winter fun you've thought up?"
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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:44 pm

"You are a glutton for punishment, my king!" The aasimar laughed brightly at his enthusiasm as she rose to her feet. "Here I am, still nursing a bruised hip from ice skating last week, and I at least can count on one hand the number of times I fell. . ." She arched an eyebrow playfully. "That said, I do happen to be having some snowshoes restrung for you in the hopes that I might be able to talk you into a winter hike tomorrow afternoon.

"Unfortunately that is not why I have come. . . "

Wynnsaren's illuminated features sobered as she considered her purpose, and standing before his desk, she clasped her hands thoughtfully at the small of her back.

"A malignant rumor has reached my ears and I was hoping to discuss the matter, if it please you. It is in regards to a link between the Army of Fire and the assassination attempt."

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Thaddeus Medvyed

Post  Colin Marcus on Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:01 pm

Thaddeus grimaced at the question that wasn't a question. He waved her over to a pair of comfortable chairs, away from the authoritative desk, and closer to the fire.

"It's true," he said with hesitance as he sat down. "Though, I prefer to think of it as a theory more than a rumor..."

"The information we have received from Brevoy is shallow at best. We know that New Stetvan was burned by an army of fire... and we know that Kesten was nearly killed by an assassin with fire in his veins."

He sighed as he spread his hands. "Sadly that is nearly the extent of the knowledge we have.... We debated for hours on who may have been in control of the army of fire... Zaistrun has a particular dislike of the Surtovas, and stood ready to accuse him of burning the capital on spite. Further reports make that... unlikely. It seems that the Lebedas were controlling the army that burned so much of the castle walls and city proper... and waged war from the sea not long after.

"That much of the story we have pieced... but Kesten's attack is still the wild card. Was he paid with the same coin as the 'army of fire'? Why would he attack us? Were the Lebedas afraid we would join the Issians as they wanted in their pincher formation? Was it a warning to stay out of the war? " He clenched his fist in frustration.

"Or was it in retaliation by the Surtovas or even the Medvyeds for refusing their offer? Hells.... it could have even been one side trying to frame the other in the hopes to get us to join them! Though the assassination attempt came first by at least a week or two...

"It.... is tricky. It feels wrong somehow for no one to be held accountable for such a brazen attack.... but at the same time I refuse to fall into such a manipulation when I've sworn to stay neutral.

"Honestly, I don't have enough information right now to give solid weight to either theory..."
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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:20 pm

Wynnsaren sat lightly upon the high-backed chair and Glas too found a place of comfort between them in front of the fire, and he lowered himself onto the rug to gnaw on the aurochs femur as he stared into the flames with those shifting, prismatic eyes.

From the way the monarch's thoughts burst forth in a great rush, it was obvious that she'd prodded him in a particularly tender spot. Since winter had come, his burdens seemed to have doubled. Peace here. . .war everywhere else. It was a strain on the young paladin king that he was not in the midst of it, fighting to right wrongs and help the helpless.

For her small part, the ambassador sought to avoid the topic of politics when she was with him and try instead to ease his frustration by attempting to pull him from those thoughts and help him have a bit of fun from time to time. No good could come from incessant brooding. Worry was part of being king, there was no way around it, but a balance needed to be struck for the health of mind and body, and he would need to be strong and whole, she knew. To face what loomed. That darkness that haunted her dreams and resided ever on the edge of her own thoughts would challenge Matsuro Shi and push them to their limits. They had to be ready, lest the whole land. . .perhaps the whole world fell beneath that suffocating shade.

On the flip side of that greater, all-encompassing purpose, Wynn was his friend. She wished to see him happy. Sometimes that meant to get him outside in the midst of some ill-advised activity that would leave them bruised and laughing, but occasionally, when politics were the topic of discussion, it meant to lift some of that burden from his shoulders. That was precisely what she hoped to do this evening.

As she listened quietly to King Thaddeus' well thought out concerns, she used her left foot to slide the slipper off her right, and proceeded to stroke Glas' flank with her toes as he lay on the floor in front of her.

"Perhaps I might be able to remove a few stones off of one side of the scales," Wynn offered, turning to the king with a warm smile. She reached into the left side of her bodice and removed that small square of parchment. "I received a missive from Master Winter this afternoon.

"A few days ago, upon hearing this theory," she nodded, conceding it a more appropriate word, "I took the liberty of writing him regarding the possibility of a link between the Army of Fire and this ifrit assassin. Now, while such topics have largely been avoided, it seemed necessary to bring it up in hopes of dispelling some of these concerns before they had the opportunity to metastasize."

Wynn unfolded the note, consulting the writing before continuing.

"He wants you to know that the Army of Fire attacked New Stetvan on his orders. He received intelligence that a Surtovan army was gathering within New Stetvan's walls, intending to raze Rogarvian lands as soon as the season turned, which consequently he could not allow to happen.

She gently folded and returned the note to his place of safe keeping. "Master Winter also gave me his word that no assassin attacked Novastasia's government either by his command nor by that of House Lebeda.

"They really would have nothing to gain by striking at us," Wynn reasoned after lending her previous point the weight it deserved. "Silverhall does not need more enemies stacked against them. They have few enough allies! I had spoken to Master Winter in Arodus and assured him of Novastasia's neutrality in the conflict, and then again, in Rova, made him aware of your declination to Lord Medvyed's. . . request in order to further assure him of your stance. Silverhall knew we did not threaten her."

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Thaddeus Medvyed

Post  Colin Marcus on Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:27 pm

Thaddeus' brow furrowed in thought as he absorbed her report. It was true... She had been sent north before the assassination attempt. Winter would have known that he had refused Surtova and Cor...

"Attacking as a warning was unlikely, and foolish." Thad conceded. "Besides the fact that if it was a message, it shouldn't have been as vague as it was.

"If you want to send a message... then there shouldn't be any doubt what the message means." He rubbed his temples as a familiar ache started to settle in.

"That still doesn't rule out a deception... framing the Issians so that we would rally to their side..." He looked up into her familiar eyes and simply asked.

"He gave you his word, that he wasn't involved with this? In the political web that surrounds my homeland... Why does that hold so much weight with you? Why wouldn't he deny such actions?"
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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Sep 29, 2013 8:35 pm

Wynnsaren offered a serene smile, having hardly expected the king to take Rasven Winter at his word. Given his abysmal reputation, why would he? Still, the situation called to mind a vastly more unpleasant one as she stood before the Mivon High Council and gave her king's word as truth. Mayor Sellen had laughed at her then. At least King Thaddeus was more diplomatic about showing his doubt!

She was gathering her thoughts for reply when a knock sounded at the door of the library, and she heard the door being pushed open along with the sound of rattling tea cups.

"Ah! I hope you do not mind, Your Majesty, but I sent ahead for some tea before my arrival."

Two attendants swept into the room. One carrying a small end table that was placed between their chairs, and the other a tray full of tea accessories that was placed upon said table.

Holding the flare of her right sleeve so it might not interfere with the implements, the aasimar lifted the lid off the pot of steaming water. "Would you care for some?" She queried after the obsequious servants had been thanked and left the room.

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Re: A Matter of Trust

Post  Colin Marcus on Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:12 pm

Thaddeus chuffed as a small smirk appeared on his face. The tea had been nicely timed and as he saw Glas scoot out of the way of the new table, he quickly went back to his bone in peace.

"I would love some. What strange variety of tea is it this time?"
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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:15 pm

"It is called matcha," she grinned. "I purchased some from a innkeep friend in Silverhall, who has had occasion to carry exotic teas."

Wynnsaren rested the porcelain top on the tray to the upper left of the pot, and still holding her sleeve, picked up a small square of linen, ceremonially wiping off the rim of each of the bowl-like teacups before turning her attention to the four ladles. As each the implements were cleaned, she gracefully and methodically set them before her in preparation for use.

"You do not understand why I trust Master Winter." She restated the dilemma slowly and smoothly as she worked, her voice as soothing a balm to the mind as the tea promised to be to the body. "I do not fault you for that doubt and I thank you for the trust you have shown in me by stating it so plainly."

Finished with the linen, she placed the square down at the right edge of the tray and used one of the small ladles to lift a heaping spoonful of a powdered green substance, and placed it into the cup on her right with a single ringing tap against the edge. The sheer deliberation of the movement seemed to send the sound echoing through the large library.

"The first time I met with Master Winter," Wynn continued, "I discovered him to be a man who knows the value of truth. Information offered in truth received truth in kind. I will admit also to a having a deeper sense of the man than should have been gained in those two hours; an understanding that cannot be logically explained, but I did not hang my heart on such 'gut feelings', nor would I come to you now if that was all I had to bring to the table, for as I discussed with you on that first ride months ago. . . though I had hope, I also harbored doubts."

She set the small ladle to the left of the jar of green tea powder and picked up a second larger ladle. Smoothly, she dipped the ladle into the pot of water and held it aloft a moment to ensure none would drip, before pouring the spoonful over the mound of tea in the cup. Upon placing that ladle to the left of the pot, she picked up a small whisk and began stirring the water and powder mixture into a fine paste with seven quick turns of her wrist.

"When I returned to Silverhall three months ago, I learned enough about Master Winter to banish any further doubts as to whether he was deserving of trust, and I can say with utmost certainty, that when he gives me his word, he means it, for with my own eyes I have seen him suffer unfathomably, simply in effort to be open and forthright with me on a subject from which he is barred from speaking. More than that, I know he would do so again if I asked it of him.

"He has risked. . .much for my sake."

Wynnsaren's hand shook slightly with emotion as she lifted the pot of hot water to pour into the cup. Frustrated at the misstep, she clenched her jaw and finished the motion, filling the cup as she fought to regain control.

"Master Winter has never raised the topic of an alliance with Novastasia. He has never asked whether I favor one side or the other in the conflict. He has never initiated a discussion on politics. While these things would be enough to at least dissuade the thought that he would attempt to frame the Surtovans and thus gain our support, he also knows of my true mission here. He knows that I would never advise that we involve ourselves in this conflict between our neighbors because he knows that I see a greater conflict on the horizon.

"If he wished to manipulate us into war, than he would not be doing so through me. Nor so sloppily might I add. . ."

The aasimar set the teapot down and used both hands to lift the small bowl to her lips, tasting it and setting it back upon the tray in one fluid motion. She held her sleeve to the side once more as she reached for the linen square and used it to wipe once around the edge of the bowl before it was returned to its place.

"I learned this ritual as a young girl. I am a bit rusty," she allowed herself a soft smile, "and most likely would have cane marks up and down my back by now, but I fall upon your mercy."

Placing her hands upon the mug she'd just wiped clean, Wynn turned it one hundred and eighty degrees to the left, picked it up with both hands and passed it to the king with a bow of her head.

"It is a ceremony that illustrates the trust between the host and her guests. A promise of good faith and honest dealings. A promise I know we already share, Your Majesty, tea or no tea."

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Thaddeus Medvyed

Post  Colin Marcus on Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:27 pm

Thaddeus took the mug gently and sipped from it as he absorbed the whole ritual. Every movement seemed to have both a grace and purpose at the same time. It was marvelous to behold.

"That was beautiful," he said sincerely. "You are constantly surprising me with something new and wonderful.

"I'm glad you know you can speak honestly with me, and trust should go without saying. I do trust you. You have an insight into people and places that I've rarely seen rivaled." He sighed as he considered her words.

"I wish... I could find some way to reconcile my trust in your observations... with my own gut instinct. Master Winter... concerns me." He grimaced in frustration as he tried to find the right words.

"I have heard stories of him from when I was a child, and Rasven has been around since even father was a child. His... reputation, is so sordid... I've heard everything from murder in the streets to deals with devils.

"I know they can't all be true. The rumor of him being the prior Lord Lebeda's cousin seems particularly off... the ages just don't match up. Lebeda refused to speak of him, or even acknowledge his lineage... as happens to so many born outside of 'pure blooded' nobility.

"However his power and influence always seems to grow. People fear him. From the noble houses to the people on the street the rumors say. The nobles I remember to be a truth..."

He sipped his tea and thought back to the little he could remember of the man. It was little indeed as Thad had not been near the student that Cor was expected to be, but he rarely remembered hearing his father afraid. While that may have been a strong word, Thad remembered his name mentioned a few times with... concern after the Rogarvians vanished and civil war started to brew.

"Honestly, the only... 'admirable' things I've ever heard spoken about the man, have come from your lips." It was obvious he didn't want to make the suggestion, but something pushed him onward.

"Is it at all possible that he has somehow enchanted you? There are spells and such that cause people to see them in the best possible light... and anyone who can command an army of fire, could do so much more.

"Even some of the things you report as innocence... ring dangerously in my ears."


Last edited by Elric on Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post  Wynnsaren on Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:26 pm

The aasimar stifled a grin. She had been thoroughly enchanted by the merchant prince, though not in the way the king was inferring.

"The possibility of an enchantment spell had crossed my mind after our first meeting," she admitted. "It was unlikely since the song of the stars seems a powerful protection against such magics and it was evening when I finally met his acquaintance, but nothing is impossible. . . especially where a man the likes of Rasven Winter is concerned.

"It has been over six months since that meeting, however. Three months since the last," Wynn added wistfully. "If I have been Charmed in some way, I have noticed no evidence of it, but if you have some way of detecting such things I will gladly submit myself to your inspection or perhaps I could speak with Traica if it might ease your mind."

Wynnsaren took a moment to see to her own cup of tea, forgoing the ritual this time.

"As to deals with devils. . . That is one I have not yet heard," Wynnsaren smiled, showing not an ounce of concern. "I was told that he collected torture devices and enjoyed flaying the skin from the bodies of those with whom he was displeased. The otyugh, Pitri, told me that I would not live to see the next day and even Kazimir suggested we turn around and go home, but against his wishes and in the face of a stream of curses I went ahead with the meeting.

"Occasionally being as stubborn as a mule works in my favor," she chuckled as she lifted the teacup to her lips. Smooth and warm, the tea fulfilled its promise and eased her tension tongue to toes. Wynn sighed contentedly.

"Much to my disappointment, I have not had the opportunity to speak with Master Winter about all of those tragic rumors surrounding his name and therefore I am not able to tell you which if any of them are true. I cannot speak to who he used to be. I only know who he is now. However, at two hundred and twenty-six years old, I would be shocked if there were not any skeletons in the man's closet."

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Post  Colin Marcus on Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:42 pm

"Two hundre..." Thaddeus muttered in shock. His eyebrow raised incredulous as he simply stated, "That... is quite impressive. Even for someone who is half-elven. Longer than even any rumors I know of...

"If he is still even half as... youthful as I've heard... That would help perpetuate stories of Devil deals. There are a few roads toward Immortality, and none lead down 'bright' paths. I know he hadn't aged since father's time... but two hundred?"

His mind raced with various scenarios. That kind of age put things into new light.. Not all bad, but certainly not all good either. Was he here when Choral conquered two hundred years ago? How long has he been playing this political game?

"Who is this man..." Thaddeus whispered half under his breath.

He glanced up and met her eyes again. "I do have the ability to detect charms.... though I've never used it before. Nor will I do so now.

"Besides, the fact that I don't prepare that spell," he said with a wink. "I agree that this would be a long time for a spell to be active. Not to mention sloppy. Casting a spell on a visitor could easily be detected, resisted, or would wear off. Whatever I may think of Rasven Winter... Sloppy or foolish wouldn't be on the list." Thad made a mental note that even if Winter wouldn't go that route, others might... he should look into some kind of enchantment protection for Wynn or anyone else representing him out amongst potential enemies...

"Manipulation of other sorts?" The kings brow wrinkled as he weighed things in his brain. "That... would be more fitting of someone playing the political game for two centuries... Smooth words, altering what a person sees, rather then the person viewing it...

"Saranrae's teachings taught me that Succubus' can use spells too... but they can be quite charming without them too. Through words alone they can convince a man that up is down, or left is right."

He took another drink of tea and was distracted by the exotic taste for a moment. He shook his head as he debated what to say next.

"History and rumors beside. If I knew nothing more than what I've heard from you, I'd still be inclined to be distrustful of the man."
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Post  Wynnsaren on Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:54 am

"I am relieved to say that succubus is not a title that would well suit," Wynn smirked, "for Master Winter is most decidedly male. I understand the point you are trying to make, though I must say, I would not like to think myself so easily manipulated having had extensive experience with such things in the past."

She took a long swallow of her tea, watching over the rim as the man before her pondered all the possibilities for incrimination.

"Your Majesty. . . If I might ask you a. . . pointed question." Wynnsaren shifted in her seat and stretched out her leg to rest it upon the akata's rubbery skin. "Why do you assume Rasven a devil? Figuratively if not literally.

"History and rumors aside, as you say, is it so implausible that someone like him could be legitimately interested in someone like me? That just maybe. . .to a few, far flung souls, I might appeal in and of myself, aside from the title which you have granted me?"

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Post  Colin Marcus on Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:06 am

Thad blinked at the question.

"Wynn.... of course not." He could see the uncomfortable vulnerability she was trying to hide through the question. "I didn't mean to imply... I never doubted your appeal to him... or anyone else for that matter. Titles are irrelevant. Your worth transcends anything that I ever gave you... You have more... Frankly, I find it more implausible that someone wouldn't be interested in you..." He felt his cheeks start to redden and realized he was starting to ramble.

"Rasven..." he coughed, changing the subject back. "My concerns for Master Winter involve more how you met him... and his involvement in the war.

"You followed a dark path full of leches, death, and assassins that led you straight to his door and purse. I... question anyone who surrounds himself with such sordid company. People who kill, and desecrate bodies to keep their involvement secret.

"I... understand that he has not done such things himself, but his contacts and employment... these are not whispered rumors from the bitter poor against a successful businessman. This is a trail you told me you walked personally. Nor is it a path he dealt with decades ago... Not the man he 'was'... but the man he 'is'. I too have worked to redeem those, many would rather see killed for their crimes. Dark people who others might question. I do so out of hope... not convenience. From what you've told me, these people weren't on the road to redemption... They were more akin to thieves and murderers working the various levels of a thieves guild.

"That alone concerned me greatly when we spoke those months ago. I find it very hard to believe that a good and noble heart lay at the end of 'that' particular trail. But since then... there is more."

He nodded toward the note that she had tucked away.

"Who is this man, and what part does he play in this war? The houses have been at each others throats for years. Surtova finally went too far taking Lander Labeda's sister. Orlovsky finally chose a side and decided to back young Lander Labeda as their 'chosen' king... despite his immaturity of both age and temper.

"This is what we knew for months now. We've been expecting this to boil over and have taken precautions." He looked quizzically at his friend and asked again. "Who is Rasven Winter in this?

"He is not of the noble houses... but you've made special mention to say he has not asked for any alliance with Novastasia. Why would a merchant, regardless of personal wealth, be in a position to 'ask for an alliance with us? How was that even on the table? He seems to speak with an authority that is not publicly his.

"Now.. I hear that he ordered the first strike of the war? You didn't used the word, commanded or led... 'He' received intelligence, and then 'He' gave the order. He controlled the army of fire that devastated New Stetvan? Where is Lander in this? The Lebedas never used to acknowledge the Winter line... now he's calling all the shots and taking personal responsibility... or credit, for the tactical decisions? I could understand his 'funding' the war as we suspected last fall, but this is something different.

"Is he a merchant? A general? Is he going to be sitting on the throne when this is all over? Is this a power grab two hundred years in the planning? I always found it odd that a fifteen year old boy could rally both his own lands and that of the indecisive Orlovskys... Was he just a 'noble cause' to rally the men and give legitimacy to a revolution?

"Their chosen king is too silent all of a sudden... and I know I've made my opinion of 'puppet rulers' fairly clear to any who would listen...

"These... are some of the factors weighing on my mind when it comes to Master Rasven Winter."
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Post  Wynnsaren on Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:48 am

A sickening crack reverberated about the library as the aurochs femur finally gave way under alien jaws. Somehow Glas had managed to split it nearly lengthwise, exposing the channel of dark, red marrow which he proceeded to gouge out with the jagged edge of his maw.

Even Wynnsaren was a little disturbed by the efficiency of her companion's work. . . Times like these reminded her that the beast who slept at the foot of her bed was truly still an unknown! Glas noticed the sudden halt of his flank massage and he lifted his head away from his meal to look at her before snaking one of his tail tentacles around her calf. The aasimar laughed out loud as she got the hint and continued kneading with her toes.

Grinning, she turned her attention back to her king.

"You ask excellent questions, Your Grace," she nodded, "questions I do not have the answers to. I know nothing of Master Winter's dealings in the political theater. I was not sent to him for ambassadorial purposes, and we have mutually agreed to keep away from such conversation. However, I do know that he has spent the last two centuries of his life in service to Silverhall and her prosperity. There is no one who knows and cares about her more. That I can tell you for a certainty."

She swallowed the last mouthful of tea and set the cup back on the tray. Leaning back in the comfortable cushions, Wynnsaren folded her hands in her lap, staring thoughtfully into the crackling fire as she spoke.

"Hypothetically, if we were seeking alliance with Lebeda, as ambassador I would go directly to the family, but even then my dealings with them could be questioned because of my relationship with Master Winter. I would feel it necessary to preclude myself from any negotiations with the House. Do not doubt my ability to be objective, I beg," she turned her head to meet the deep blue eyes of the king. "I have not forgotten my purpose here. If I ever feel that I have been compromised in my duty to you I will tender my resignation, and if you ever feel that I am not acting in your best interest at all times, then I would ask that you relieve me.

"Such an action would not serve to sever our friendship," she smiled warmly. "My true purpose here does not necessarily include Ambassador of Novastasia, and I am not fool enough to believe that it is a title I will hold for many years."

Wynn chuckled and shook her head. "Forgive me, I have gone quite far off course. . .

"Let me just say this about Rasven Winter: You must meet him for yourself. As much as I understand that you trust me, you will not truly be convinced until you sit down with the man on your own."

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Re: A Matter of Trust

Post  Colin Marcus on Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:55 am

"You... may be right." Thaddeus said reluctantly. "Unfortunately, I'm not sure how such a meeting would take place... I can't be seen visiting one side or the other during this conflict.

"You could invite him to the ball of course... Novastasia wouldn't bar any from Brevoy a courteous visit... but I suspect he has his hands full right now."

He smiled a little as he considered her other comments. "Should the day ever come when you seek to resign, the only bright spot would be if you meant to spend more time in the kingdom. Your true purpose ties you to the land as much as I am... but when that threat is ended, I hope you don't wander away. Everyone is entitled to a home, and this is yours.

"I hope... that I do not strain our friendship with these comments. You've seen something in this man and wish to defend him... It's something I understand all too well.

"I am a protector. Some warriors train to attack, to sneak, to strike from a distance. Myself, it was always the shield and armor. To stand between the threat and the ones in danger... It... is not always my place to do so. I'll confess I may have difficulty balancing king and friend.

"I may question his character as a person... but he has shown no overt threat to me, my throne, or my kingdom... I don't know how things will be in the future, but as of now, he is not an enemy of Novastasia.

"As you said... you were not 'sent' to Silverhall under a diplomatic banner... It isn't a matter for the 'king' to have much of an opinion at all. So for now... in the non-political way of things, consider my concerns that of a friend who at least... suspects danger. It's not easy for one such as me to simply stand aside.

"As for objectivity? Objectivity is an illusion. He gazed at a map hanging on the wall showing Novastasia and it's relation with Brevoy.

"Novastasia has chosen to stay neutral in this conflict. Yet every member of the court has their opinions and hopes in this war. Some speak them openly, others harbor them silently... but we all have them.

"Novastasia is my kingdom... but Brevoy was my homeland. It breaks my heart to see this war. I have family on both sides of the conflict, and the protector in me wants to save them all... Had I remained behind, I would have likely fought with my House on Surtova's side...

"Or I may not have. The Lebeda girl was inexcusable, but I still believe it could have been handled without declaring war. If the rumors are to be believed, she's dead now, so Lander's impulsiveness solved nothing.

"Personally, I would love to see a good guy and a bad guy in this battle, but as of now I do not, nor would it be right to drag my people into a battle they chose to escape from.

"The nation is neutral... but that doesn't mean the king is. And it doesn't mean I expect you to have no feelings one way or the other." He chuckled a bit before he added. "Your still better at separating your feelings from your mission better than most around here."

He grinned self mockingly as he spread his hands wide. "And I'm rambling again... I hope that's not the kind of king I'm going to be. Everybody hates those kinds of kings!"
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Post  Wynnsaren on Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:21 pm

Wynnsaren laughed brightly at the comment.

"You have little need to worry about that as of yet," she grinned, whisking water and tea powder together for another cup. "You do not ramble in public and only occasionally in private. You have my word that I will keep such potentially harmful information to myself alone!" Wynn offered him a playful wink.

How fortunate she felt to have had the gods grant her the opportunity to know Thaddeus Medvyed! In a world where allies and enemies all blurred into various shades of gray, the paladin-king represented a bright point of white light. To the oracle, he seemed the sort of man upon whom great dynasties were built and here she was with a front row seat to see how it all began! Maybe one day she would even be able to tell his great grandchildren all about the man he was. . .the king and the friend, beyond what all the books would write about him.

The thought of a home was a very appealing one indeed. He made her feel welcome, but would the next king? Wynn wasn't about to borrow trouble though, and those were concerns for another day that would likely never come to pass. When the gods were done with her here, would they send her elsewhere? Home was a temporary thing in her mind, for she'd had many, but for now, for as long as she could manage, Novastasia would remain thus.

"I most definitely do have bias," the aasimar admitted with a soft smile. "I have had bias since I first came to Brevoy in fact. Perhaps moreso now, it is true. . . Master Winter's character is one that I hope to convince you is contrary to rumor, but I believe the facts themselves speak to Silverhall's innocence in this assassination attempt. While I do wish to defend him on one hand, on the other, I attempt to steer all thoughts away from war on either side of the line.

"You see, with respect, my king, my objectivity does not stem so much from your decree of neutrality as it does from the fact that I feel Matsuro Shi cannot afford to engage themselves in long war when I know something is coming down the line that will threaten to decimate both the Stolen Lands and Brevoy. In this light, battles between rival houses seem a trivial thing. It would be far better if all three nations allied together when this threat steps from the shadows. Maybe they yet will," she considered in a thoughtful whisper.

As Shield of Silverhall, Rasven Winter would seek to protect the House from all threats. . .domestic or alien. Maybe when the time came. . . Wynn let the thought trail off there, promising herself to devote a bit more meditation to it later that evening.

"To accomplish my purpose here I am required to take the long view, and that is to keep you safe and prepare you for what is to come. If that means I need to help defend you against an attacking Surtovan army, I will do so with relish," she offered a self-deprecating smirk. "If that means I need to help defend you against the might of Silverhall, I will do so with all of my strength with all of my regret. It is far easier for me to simply help you avoid unnecessary war, and frankly I am better with dialogue than I am in combat."

Wynnsaren carefully poured the steaming water into her cup.

"The short view is much more murky I understand, Your Majesty, and I hope you do not think me callous for my previous comments. While my mind finds it necessary to dwell upon the big picture, my heart aches for the hurt you must be dealing with over concern for your family on both sides of the struggle. I do not pretend to know what that is like, but I see the burden upon you. . . The worry for their safety. All of their safety."

She turned to regard him directly, leveling her luminous eyes with his.

"Have you received word from any of them since the conflict began?"

As she awaited his reply, Wynn gestured to his teacup.

"Would you care for another? I will spare you the ceremony this time," she grinned.

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Post  Colin Marcus on Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:36 pm

"Yes, thank you," answered as he handed over the cup and watched her refill it in a less stylized fashion. He couldn't help but hope he was able to see the ritual again sometime, though it distract from the conversation a bit. He took a sip and grinned. "Once the trade route is up and running... I'm going to have to see about getting some of this on a regular basis."

He sighed and his eyes dulled a bit as he answered the second part of her question.

"And, no... I have heard no word on my family. Tharali was in Restov when Sarala visited last Neth. I haven't actually seen her since Father's funeral. Sarala claimed she seemed in good spirits, and at last word it sounds as if the war hadn't reached Restov yet. I imagine that she is safe enough, though her husband is a swordlord... in all that entails. I imagine he is only too eager to 'throw off the yoke of tyranny.' It would not surprise me if she were a widow before this ends. Cor and Gustavous?

"Last I heard they were at Stoneclimb. Gus responded cordially to my letter after my... meeting with Cor. I don't think any bridges have been burnt at this point with him. Cor? Well... As we've learned building the tradeway, even broken and burnt bridges can be rebuilt.

"However... If Surtova was assembling an army in New Stetvan... I have no idea if one or both of my brothers were there..."
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Post  Wynnsaren on Wed Oct 02, 2013 9:32 pm

The idea that her king might have lost family in that attack drove the air from Wynnsaren's lungs. The brutality of war became suddenly very real. There would be very many widows and orphans made before this was all over, and many lives would be changed not only in that nation, but in Novastasia as well.

Thaddeus was right. Novastasia was neutral in the conflict perhaps, but every one of her citizens had an opinion and more than a few had a personal stake in it. This was only the beginning, she realized. Neutrality was a fine line and it wouldn't take much of a nudge for the black hole that was the Brevoy civil war to suck them in.

"I will pray that fate favor your siblings and keep them safe through these trials," the oracle offered sincerely as she handed the king his cup of tea. "For your sake and the love that you bear them, I would hate to see harm befall any of the three.

"Perhaps you can send a raven," she suggested hopefully, after taking a sip from her own cup, "at least to Lord Gustavous and Lady Tharali. . . It may help ease your mind to know that they are safe, and I would imagine that your mind is in desperate need of easing these days."

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Post  Colin Marcus on Wed Oct 02, 2013 10:26 pm

"Perhaps..." Thaddeus responded doubtfully. "I sent the last letter to Gustavous just after Coranious had left, with full knowledge that Gustavous would receive it before Cor could poison him against me. Gus had command of Stoneclimb, and Cor was out of the picture. Now? If Coranious is once again Acting Baron of Stoneclimb... I doubt any missive from me would received well. No doubt Cor would either assume conspiracy or Gustav wouldn't even receive it...

"As for Tharali... That has stronger possibilities. Though I wonder if I 'can' communicate good wishes and still appear impartial to the world. Gossip has a way of spreading and my communicating with Lebeda regardless of blood, marriage or legitimate concern could cause only more problems..."

He took another drink of tea as he tried to will the tension away that once again built between his eyes. Every decision he made had to be balanced between what he wanted to do, what would it look like he was doing, and what people would say he had done.

"Perhaps Sarala is the answer here... She visited recently, and as a 'Lady of Novastasia' she's not the 'ruling head' of the nation. She may have the ability to contact Tharali for... reports of her well being... and whatever else those two discuss when I'm not around."
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Post  Wynnsaren on Thu Oct 03, 2013 12:36 am

"It is good that Sarala has a sister to talk to," Wynn smiled warmly as her thoughts turned to the young sylph. "As much as she loves and confides in you, sometimes it is necessary for a woman to enjoy the companionship and conversation of other women. While I do not know your elder sister, I can only imagine that she cherishes those visits from her family. Especially now, with so much uncertainty swirling about Brevoy!"

The aasimar turned her gaze toward the fire, considering whether it prudent to tie up her own desires with that of the king's in a single request, but had been so long!

"Your Majesty. . . " Wynnsaren began in a smooth voice in an attempt to keep out any hints of the desperation she had been beginning to feel over the past few weeks. "If it would please you, I could accompany Sarala to Restov once the business in early Pharast has been accomplished. Certainly there will be trade caravans moving through at that time and I have little doubt that we could join up with one heading there and then through to Silverhall overland. I doubt that they would seek to board ship in New Stetvan what with the troubles. . . Upon my return I could meet with your sister again for the journey back to Akiros."

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Post  Colin Marcus on Thu Oct 03, 2013 3:14 am

Thad's eyebrows raised at the suggestions, and he was quiet for long moment considering how best to respond.

"I... had not intended for Sarala to 'visit' Restov personally. Merely send a message. That's not even a political consideration... As much as I'm concerned for family and friends in the war zone... I don't believe sending more into danger would ease my mind any.

"As for Silverhall... I realize you have personal interests there.. but having the ambassador of Novastasia fight through battlefields to see the heads of the armies... is as bad... if not worse, then my contacting family personally. The implications, regardless of merit, would not be conducive of our neutrality stance... "

He shook his head in annoyance. This war was only getting started, and already it was interfering with so much of their lives.

"Perhaps... perhaps we could revisit the idea in Pharast... If more news comes in from the north, I'll have a better idea what the dangers are. Besides... Silverhall? It wouldn't surprise me if Surtova mounts some kind of offensive himself come the spring thaw... SIlverhall and New Stetvan are the last places I want people I care about right now..."

He grimaced as he considered his words, and spread his hands apologetically. "I suppose that wasn't what you wanted to hear... "
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Post  Wynnsaren on Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:59 am

"No," Wynnsaren answered honestly, waving off any concern that she may have taken offense, "but it was what I expected, and I understand your meaning."

It was the right call. She might not have liked it, but she understood it. Allowing his ambassador to go cavorting about Silverhall would be irresponsible at best. Even Wynn herself had taken some precautions on her last visit to the Winter Estate, but since the trail of the hired mining company led her to the city, she was no longer a complete unknown and stirring the pot of political intrigue would certainly help no one.

Turning her illuminated face toward her monarch and friend, she smiled weakly. "I hope you understand that I would have been remiss not to have at least chanced the asking, for the conflict in Brevoy will not be one expeditiously resolved. Normally I would not have bothered you with such a callous and self-centered request, Your Grace, but as it is, in my position, I cannot very well leave Novastasia without your express permission."

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