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[IRP] And a Toast to Our Victors - Printable Version

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And a Toast to Our Victors - Lavi - 07-06-2014

Four months before the present...

The sun was setting as Cecily's carriage approached the great hall in Castle Ostia. With the last of the formal Etrurian army either crushed or surrendered to the Lycian armies, the nobility saw a celebration of Etruria's annexation to be fitting.

"I wonder if they are far-sighted enough to see that they are actually celebrating the death of the Saint Elimine Church," she mused. Although Saint Elimine survives within the Church of Sanctity, it was easy for someone that is non-religious, like herself, to realize that her name is being used much differently than under the original clergy.

Her butler Charleton opened the door and offered to assist her from the carriage, to which she graciously accepted. Cecily drew and raised her umbrella as she approached the halls, dressed in her brilliant red and white gown.

Usually, Cecily saw the Imperial banquets as a waste of time: a diplomatic meeting in the guise of a party. She was familiar with virtually all of the dignitaries of the different Lycian marches and how they would treat this celebration. However, the annexation of Etruria meant that there were more faces to learn; an entirely new set of variables to solve for and think about. Perhaps she could create an alliance from one of these new marquesses.

Inside was the typical orchestra playing the typical music. A typical receptionist greeted them with the typical formalities related to referencing the guest list (presenting her umbrella for storage in the adjacent guest room in the process). And then the typical announcement of their arrival to the present guests:

"The Lady Cecily Laus, niece of Marquess Laus."

And finally, the typical welcome of the present dignitaries of her arrival. An entire ritualistic procedure: Cecily kept her grumblings hidden underneath a smile as she stepped into the crowd.

The Ambassador of Ostia... The son of Marquess Worde... A dignitary of Khathelet... All of them faces she knew and mannerisms she was acquainted with, even if their names escaped her memory of the time.

She called for one of the waiters, who was offering wine to those who were not carrying a glass, to her side. He seemed to be a relatively new hire, either because the banquette staff lacked the manpower or that he was quite competent at his job and coincidentally on his first real show. But Cecily immediately guessed the former: the waiter's bow tie was crooked.

"Do you know if any of the new marquesses arrived?" Cecily asked him as she took a glass from his tray.

"I believe the Marquess Aquleia is here, ma'am," the waiter answered.

"Thank you. That will be all," she nodded and turned to disappear back into the crowd with her newfound knowledge.

"Umm... Do you need help finding Marquess Aquleia, Miss Laus?" he asked.

"I can find him myself," Cecily waved the waiter off, taking a sip of her wine as the man went on his way.

"Oh, and one more thing."

"What is it, milady?" the waiter quickly turned to face her again, looking concerned.

With her free hand, Cecily straightened his bow tie with a wry smile. She savored the waiter's look of embarrassment at his obvious breech in decorum. Some people will never be good politicians.

"Imagine the number of people who noticed that, if you will," Cecily said him as she disappeared back into the crowd.

She wondered if he'd survive a month or two in his servant role, but dismissed outcomes as inconsequential as she returned in her search for the Marquess Aquleia.

RE: And a Toast to Our Victors - Swift_Assassin - 07-08-2014

Marquess Aquleia. A title with some contention around it. A couple Etrurian lords still hold out in what is now considered the Aquelian March, but none of them are nobles now. They are just spoiled brats who inherited their lands and belongings from their forefathers. And most of all, they are heretics. They perverted the true teachings of St. Elimine, and they shall suffer for their folly. The home of Tower of St. Elimine belongs to a true believer, to a member of the Church of the Preservation of Sanctity.

Urai Zann was such a man. He was Etrurian, part of a long line that was deaf to the perversion known as magic. Marquess Aquleia was a man with a target on his back. His loyalties had been Lycia's for a decade, while he deceived the nobility of Etruria into thinking him a patriot. With his new title, he made enemies. He was a foreigner and a traitor, a trait that bore him no good will with some of his fellow lords. But all can be forgiven in time. During the Lycian League days, the various marchs loyalties lied with varying people.

Urai wasn't alone. On his right was a tall knight, clad in white, battered armor. Most of his skin was obscured, minus the lower half of his face, which was a sickly shade and burnt and scarred. This was the Marquess' White Knight, as he called him. On Urai's left was his advisor and a bishop of the true church, Nader Botz. Surrounding him were a couple representatives of the various marches. He turned to see a woman arrive, a representative of Laus, it would seem.

The Laus family should have something in common with him. Both turned against their country to advance themselves. Perhaps he should extend to them an olive branch. He tossed the idea in his head for a bit before tossing it away. "If you can please excuse us," He said as he nodded to group around him. His White Knight followed, but Nader stayed behind, engrossed in a conversation.

He approached one of the waiters in the place. "Boy, tell me of this Cecily of Laus," he asked as he offered his empty glass. He watched as the man filled his glass, then offered it to his bodyguard. The man took a sip of it without question or complaint and stared into the crowd behind them.

"M-Miss Cecily is the niece of the current Marquess. I-I believe she is third-in-line for Laus," He studdered as he feared the larger man beside them. He feared that he was being accused of trying to poison him.

Urai just twirled his glass around staring at it's content and waiting to see what happens. "Father or mother?"

"I-I'm sorry sir?"

"Which side of her family is related to the Marquess?"

"F-father....sir," he gulped. He returned that with a question of his own. "Sorry, but I...don't think I know who you are."

Urai laughed to himself as he finally determined with wine to be safe. He took a sip and looked down at the servant. "Boy, I am Marquess Aquleia. You may have heard of me. I'm a bit of a big deal, for the moment," he took another sip before handing the glass the white knight. "I'm the reason for this celebration. We'd probably still be fighting without me."

RE: And a Toast to Our Victors - Lavi - 07-08-2014

"A deed worthy of recognition, of course," Cecily seemed to have appeared from nowhere, standing next to the White Knight with a polite smile.

In actuality, she only stumbled across them while passing through the crowds in search for the formerly-Etrurian marquess. During her search, she had concluded that, even though the new marquesses were selected based on their loyalty to the Lycian empire, there would still be a level of distrust (perhaps even resentment) of the new lords. She would not be surprised if she would become the first of the Lycian houses to offer an opening of diplomatic relations to the Etrurian houses. It would only be natural for them to be anxious to find allies, even if one of them is a house with a history of betrayal.

"Marquess Aquleia, I presume? May I know your name? Your real name, of course?" she asked.

Only those who were already familiar with her eccentricities would recognize this as her typical means of introduction; a method of judging new people. However, if Ambassador Silri of Badon got to Urai first, the Etrurian marquess would have been warned of her oddities, including her question. Silri and Cecily had a long history together, dating back to their childhoods. Cecily's mere presence at banquettes is an oddity in itself, after all, though it would be no surprise to the Lycians that she would be intrigued by the new marquesses.

RE: And a Toast to Our Victors - Swift_Assassin - 07-08-2014

Urai closed his eyes and laughed softly. Figures she'd pop up during his questioning. Not that he minded of course. Somehow she arrived in the White Knight's blind spot, which, from the outside looking at him was everywhere. But only Urai, Nader, and the White Knight himself knows that his left eye was blinded. His knight just turned his head at the woman next to him.

"I'll respond in the order of your questioning, if you please. Yes, I am Marquess Aquleia. You can call me Urai Zann-Aquleia or just Urai Zann, whatever you prefer," He continued. He turned towards Lady Laus and waved the waiter off with his other hand. He took a step towards her. "It's refreshing to see a lady with connections and contacts. Before I swore loyalty to Lycia a decade ago, I was Lord Tyber Fen of Arretium. It's a small city north of Aquleia. But after an incident in Arretium, my brother thought himself to be me. I figured it was as good a time as any to become the man you see before you."

"But enough of the man I once was. How about we talk of the future? I may very well be considered a traitor, but with a family history like yours...allies may be hard to come by," He smirked as he made that last comment. "Then again, history is written by the victors...so perhaps your family isn't as untrustworthy as it was made to be."

RE: And a Toast to Our Victors - Lavi - 07-08-2014

"Ah," she responded to Urai's admittance to having other names.

So he had not spoken with Silri after all. Cecily's psyche was squealing with glee at having a chance exploit her favorite pastimes: deduction and manipulation. But her face only showed a veiled smile.

Cecily never heard of a Lord Tyber Fen, though she had heard of Arretium in passing. The thought that he had a former identity, especially one that is still in play by an imposter, would be interesting in the future.

At the mention of Laus' family history, her smile turned tight-lipped and her welcoming eyes steeled. Laus may have betrayed Lycia twice over a century before, but her ancestors worked hard to overcome that tarnished part of history.

"You obviously have not been briefed on Lycian politics in regards to House Laus, Marquess Urai," she told him sternly, intentionally addressing him in a means he did not suggest that she do. She emptied her glass of wine.

"But I'll let it slide this one time only because of the circumstances. House Laus acknowledges that it had traitorous marquesses in the past, but we do not appreciate being treated as though another betrayal is about to occur," Cecily explained, thrusting an accusing finger at Urai.

"Even if history is written by the victors, the defeated also writes theirs; to only be discovered by chroniclers many years after the events transpired," she said, placing her empty glass on a passing waiter's plate.

Cecily clapped her hands together. The air seemed gloomy and serious. She didn't want him to be focused on that: especially since it would make him more acutely aware of her game.

"But we've spoken enough of depressing things. Before I forget: I am the Lady Laus, of course," Cecily curtsied, remembering her manners, "you may also refer to me as Lady Cecily."

"I can tell you're quite eager to step onto the stage of Lycia, like many other of the new marquesses. It's not hard to discern that: your guard is an imposing figure, to say the least, and I'm sure the bishop back in the crowd is from your entourage, representing the Church of Sanctity in the place of the former church. Both represent what you stand for among your peers: power and faith."

"House Thria has faith, but no power," she said, holding out one hand in representation of her words.

"And House Pherae has power, but no faith," she held out her other hand.

"House Ostia may have both, but attaching yourselves to them will make it difficult for you to get what you want for your march, as the Emperor can overrule the rest of us," she clasped her hands.

"Laus has both power and faith, and more. It was the Lausian army, led by my father Lord Reynert, that swept north of Aquleia to stand against the northern Etrurian armies. We have also followed the Sanctity laws against the black mages since their implementation; our proximity to Thria also means that their clerics have a large presence within our borders. We are also among the wealthiest of the marches because of our location in Lycia is attractive to merchants, so money is of no concern to us."

"Laus is a powerful figure to approach for political allies in the Imperial court, but what can you offer me if we extend our hand in friendship, Marquess Aquleia? After all, we have no need for power or faith," she finished.

RE: And a Toast to Our Victors - Swift_Assassin - 07-08-2014

"And I don't expect the same thing. For you, those betrayals were a thing of the past. For me, it was Tuesday. Last Tuesday to be precise. In the minds of some, once a betrayer, always a betrayer. We have that in common. Our families are forever cursed for the sins we commit. My heirs will be better men than I for it, just as I'm sure those your generation are better than those of a century ago," He replied. He took his glass of wine from his White Knight and took another sip. Urai enjoyed how this conversation was playing out. He managed to get a reaction out of her, a test of loyalty. It passed...for now.

"That may also be true. Unfortunately, Etruria's tale of events won't differ much. You'll see my name on both sides, misleading Etruria to it's surrender," He replied, shrugging off that she addressed him improperly. So be it.

She introduced herself, with a curtsy, to which he bowed in reply. "Forgive my manners. You caught me unaware, Lady Cecily."

So, the lady wants to know what sort of alliance we can offer. For all it's past faults, Laus is one of the stronger marches in Lycia. This web I must weave must be an inticing one. He thought to himself as she went through several of the major marches in Lycia. He tried to think of a way to play her game.

"In Etruria, all roads led to Aquleia. Trade is something we command. We are home to the ruins of the old Church, which I personally razed to the ground after I received the king's declaration of surrender. Of course, we have both power, faith, and gold. We also have countless mages, many seized by my own men, waiting reeducation or death," He replied. "But that's not what your looking for. I'm mean, all I can offer...is a fresh point of view. Unless...you have your eye on something in particular?"

Hopefully this bites, Urai thought to himself. "Perhaps Lord Reynert relayed something back to you of interest. Forgive me, but perhaps it's just not coming to mind. The wine's dulled my thinking a bit. What would you...demand of this friendship?" he asked, with an emphasis on you.

RE: And a Toast to Our Victors - Lavi - 07-09-2014

Cecily howled with laughter, drawing in the eyes of those around them. Her guffaw persisted for a while before she could regain her bearings, covering her mouth to suppress the last of her chortling. Marquess Urai was a lot smarter than he made himself out to be, she realized. She half-expected him to buckle into her question, so his response was a welcoming surprise.

He found the flux of her game fairly quickly, so she knew that she won't get away with her hobbies this time around. Although disappointed in that regard, finding someone that could keep up with her banter is equally intriguing.

"I got what I wanted already," she managed to say as her giggling subsided. For her, meeting an interesting marquess was well worth going to a boring banquette.

"I misled you when I said we are not concerned with wealth. We may not be concerned, but no one complains when more gold is placed in the coffers," she admitted. "House Laus would be pleased with a trade agreement, establishment of embassies, etcetera etcetera."

"Establishing new ties is just as essential to empowering our voice in the court as it does yours. Also, the economic pressure from Aquleia and Laus are also very tempting."

"This is all I am allowed to offer by the Marquess Laus. Are these acceptable arrangements?" she asked. "The formalities can be done at a more convenient time, of course."

Cecily could hear the receptionist announce another arrival: the Marquess Caisra. She peeked over towards the entrance to get a glimpse of the marquess, momentarily distracted from hearing what Marquess Urai had to say. She had to see if the Caisran marquess is as interesting as Marquess Aquleia, but after finishing business.

RE: And a Toast to Our Victors - Swift_Assassin - 07-14-2014

Well, that was easier than I thought. The future is looking bright. Urai thought as he listened to his new Lycian ally. He already had the Emperors favor, for the time being, and now he's tied to one of the most powerful houses in Lycia. Sure, it's one with a history of betrayal, but Urai had to take what he could get. Besides, many of the others lacked the backbone he required.

"Waiter, I require two glasses of wine two minutes ago," Tyber called out to a passing waiter. He looked at the unfamiliar man, than up to his imposing bodyguard before running off to fill his request. He was beginning to flaunt his power, and soon he'll impose it on any Etrurian rebels hiding out in his march.

As he handed his glass to the White Knight, he replied to Cecily, "I find those agreements acceptable. I'll have to come up with a way to circumvent our trade to Ostia through Laus, but I'm sure I can arrange it. In this way, Laus should benefit from having Etrurian goods.."Tyber laughed, "I mean Aquleian goods, first."

He turned his head and saw the waiter was back. He grabbed the two glasses and offered one to Cecily. "Aquleia and Laus will finalize this deal later. But first, a toast to our victors...and a toast to our alliance."

RE: And a Toast to Our Victors - Lavi - 07-14-2014

She took the glass and raised it in toast with the marquess. She didn't have anything to say in particular. Toasting was a predictable ceremony, so Cecily presumed that the Aquleian marquess would understand that she appreciated the gesture as much as she did.

After drinking, she gave the marquess a nod.

"It has been a pleasure to meet you, marquess. Excuse me, there are others that I am interested in meeting," Cecily said, giving her a wave of good-bye before disappearing into the crowd in search for the Marquess Caisra.

As she left, another stepped up to the marquess: the Ambassador of Badon, Silri.

"It seems Lady Cecily really likes you, Marquess Aquleia. It's rare for her to be so open, especially at a banquet that she would normally avoid," she commented.

From there, it was a discussion between the two, as Cecily engaged herself with the Marquess Caisra. It was an interesting night for the lady of Laus, but none of the other marquesses piqued her interest as much as the Marquess of Aquleia.

((Fin, unless you have final things to say, Swift))