Seventh Sea

Day 955 (continued)
Party at the Palace

Determined to make the most of my return to the party, I did my best to make a grand entrance. This was met with lackluster results as just as I rejoined the party the Emperor began a turn through our area of the grounds and my appearance went unnoticed. That is, until the Emperor turned in my direction. I breathed in a deep breath, released it, and performed my most glorious curtsy. Mama would be so proud. The Emperor even took note, and paused to comment on it. I was made!!! I could travel and dine on this for months if necessary. Suddenly eyes were on me and I was set upon making the most of it. I was also going to use this to get an audience with the Empress. I still wasn’t sure which side of the pair I intended to lend my efforts to but one way or the other I was going to make sure this bit of gossip was used to my advantage.

Unfortunately the musketeer guarding the empress turned me away as she was otherwise engaged, but he bade me to return later as she might see me then. I accepted this only a little bit miffed (after all I was here to help her – probably) but circled the party once more intent on returning later.

When I did return to gain audience with her, I told her of the gossip that had made it’s way around the party and offered to do my best to assist her in retrieving the jewels. She was horrified to learn that she was the subject of such unpleasant attentions and she explained that the rumors were indeed true. Worse, she had gifted the jewelry to a friend, the ambassador to Avalon, with the name of Cooper, and she refused to lose face in requesting the return of the gems despite her fear of facing the Emperor without them. I suggested she offer an exchange but still she refused. With this I had no answer that she would accept, so I took my leave but I was already devising a plan.

I was lost in thought as I made my way back through the party seeking Ambassador Cooper. I did not know what he looked like but I kept an eye out for a loud, brash Avalonian. I was quite disappointed in my search but I found out he had retired to his suite and I quickly made my way to his rooms. My plan was to trick him into making a wager which he would lose and I would win. My prize would of course be in the form of the Empress’s jewels and I would return them to her and she would be eternally grateful and she would make me one of her ladies in waiting, which would come with a large salary and some rooms here at the palace, and I would go everywhere with her until she found me a suitable royal match to some foreign prince, which I would accept to please her and my Grandmama. It was the perfect plan.

I knocked on the door and entered his room ready to make my first gambit but first I accepted the drink he offered. It was quite tasty so I happily accepted and second and then a third. After that I remembered trying to make a wager that would get me the jewels but I was having a very difficult time getting him to understand. He was getting quite hand-sy and he was plucking at my gown while I explained what I needed. I don’t know how long I had been there when suddenly Wolfie appeared and he seemed quite mad at the Ambassador. I’m not sure what Cooper had done but Wolfie was using his thunder voice which usually isn’t a good thing. I was still trying to explain that it was important for me to get the jewels but Wolfie was taking me away and I was sooo sad. No jewelry, no prince. Noooooo…..

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Day 955

missed content

So since we planned to head to the Versailles palace grounds, I was supportive of the plan where we drop off the children we were now responsible for at the nearest Rose and Cross.
Except seemingly the one urchin from the herd that had spoken out. That one was following us.

The party was in full swing when we arrived. With the Empresses’ guard brushing off those not in the inner circle we were shunted off to mingle with the other guests. No one questioned our presence but I knew my attire was raising eyebrows. Immediately upon our arrival Wolfie noticed his liege was in attendance and both seemed extremely surprised to see the other. Wolfie hied off to question what that was all about while I got the lay of the land. With the urchin tagging along I attended the chess tournament of one of my cousins, and offered him a move or two while I caught up on the latest gossip. It seems the Empress is in hot water with the Emperor and an ultimatum has been issued. If she does not appear at the party wearing some jewelry he bestowed upon her she’s in deep trouble.

Intent on finding out more I realized I would have to clean myself up and I needed a new outfit immediately. Alexis was less than helpful but his friend Sebastian had recognized my plight and found me a serviceable gown. I was quite pleased. He might not be noble but he is quite the gentleman.

Another cousin was also there and he saw to the clean up and clothing of the urchin who had been attracting unwanted attention. He begged me to teach a lesson to a mannerless Vestin that had insulted him. I was more than happy to assist him if in return he had my urchin cleaned up and returned to me. But before I saw to his chore I spoke to Monsieur Rouge whom had been pointed out to me.

As I expected, Monsieur Rouge was happy to see me and his magic was worked upon the gown I had acquired. I thanked him gratefully and I told him I would be happy to ask Grandmama to permit him to traffic his goods with Avalon despite the current restrictions.

I departed his company with a light step. This party was suddenly shaping up. The Empress needed help, a lovely gown was in my possession and I was about to fight a duel. Plus there was gambling, food and drink and better yet, nothing had happened yet that would displease Grandmama. A lovely evening indeed. I decided to keep the gown to change into after the duel and I practically skipped across the grounds in my search for the loud Vesten who had so insulted my cousin. I believe Luigi generally followed around with me enjoying the fine company and drinks provided but I barely noticed him as I sought my prey.

The Vesten was extremely large but I was undaunted. After all it had been a long long time since I had lost a battle. Either the Vesten had an offensive interpreter or he himself was rude. I was not displeased when he refused to apologize and I loudly called out for Wolfie to second me while I taught this oxen a lesson.

Wolfie looked a bit alarmed by my foe but I was prepared to make quick work of him. I was not however happy when the Vesten used magic to emblazen his great axe. I figured it wouldn’t be good. Whatever spells he used must have been to slow me down which left me in dire straights as he landed a very sturdy blow. Had I not entered this duel injured I might not have been in immediate jeopardy.

Sebastian rallied the crowd in support of me and someone from the crowd threw an orange at the oaf and he roared his displeasure. In fact he stepped up to threaten some little serving boy but Wolfie stepped up in defense of the child and the Vesten backed down and returned to our fight. It was not going well but I felt emboldened by my audience’s enthusiasm and so I pushed my luck and while I managed to trim his beard he landed another blow that was clearly a problem for me. Still reluctant to quit the battle I pushed harder. I struck off his braid and another blow but hurt as I was when he still didn’t cede I was forced to surrender. With great reluctance I laid my blade at his feet as gracefully as I could considering the wound in my side and there the battle was done.

I was tired when I limped off to find a healer and don my gown for the rest of the evening’s festivities.

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Day 954 (continued)
*missed content – interrupt Ritual Sacrifice*

There I was, forced to herd the little urchins along, when Stahl appeared. Never have I been happier to see someone and I was quite relieved when he took the lead and bade the grubby beasts to follow him.

I was thrilled to free myself to return to the party but less than happy to find the rumor mill had run wild in my absence. The gossip about Luigi and me had taken an even uglier turn and now there was talk of contagious diseases all spoken with a careless disregard for my reputation. While I have been known in the past to revel well into the night, this had a darker note that I deemed more malicious than most. I was still very determined to find the source and put a stop to it.

It was at this point that Pierre Phillippe du Jour greeted me and apologized for his lack of entertainments. I forgave him at the cost of a dance and he twirled me around the floor respectably. When we had parted company, Wolfie approached and asked me about the fellow. Well, rather asked then mentioned casually that the cad was the source of the vile rumors about me that evening. Wolfie said he would leave retribution in my hands but that he had started a counter rumor that I had rebuffed this louse on a previous acquaintance.

I mused about what I should do while I watched the entertainment that Alexis had decided to provide for the evening.

Politics: Crescent Empire helping Montaigne front against C.
Etiquette: Met Duchess Rachitesse
Mooched: 2nd nephew of the Duchess, Monsieur Le Roux for 15 pistoles

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Day 954

Day 954
The day which had dawned with such a din continued on it’s chaotic path. Breaking fast and arranging our party for travel, and our eventual departure left me quite exhausted and I was quite content to allow the sway of the carriage to hypnotize me into a doze. I was jostled awake only when we reached the border and encountered the Rachitisse guard who demanded I pay duties on my luggage. The audacity! The outrage! While I expressed my displeasure the head of the guard introduced himself as someone I should remember from my childhood. As if that made this better. I refused flat out and was still quite unhappy when Wolfie stepped in to barter down the cost. Until he offered a bet, a bet based on my sword. Wolfie continues to surprise me with his depth of understanding of my character. Happily I accepted the duel and we stepped off the road to a nearby church clearly in a state of disrepair. We climbed a scaffold and faced off. I taunted him with a quick swipe to his coat and he failed in his attempt to return in kind, but then he quickly recovered and struck a couple of blows causing me some serious discomfort. Clearly he had used all the momentum he had and I landed two strong strikes of my own. I was startled by a large statue which fell between us and I barely kept my balance from falling to my doom. Worried he would do me (or my outfit) more damage I decided it best to end this quickly and following up on my last two hits I flurried blows upon him thrice in a row until he eventually fell into Wolfie’s waiting arms preventing him gross bodily harm. Several of the fellows watching offered me applause and I took my bow. Happily we left the border check paying not a single pistole and we proceeded on our journey.

We made it without note to the capital city of this region, Aragon but upon our arrival my companions seemed to be taken up with the sights and some of the locals. Discussion yielded that there was to be a ball in the evening and I was rather excited to hear this.

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Day 953 (yes, still! shut up!)

Wolfie returned from his adventure pursuing our “escaped” prisoner with reports of the Inquisition’s role in the local unrest we’ve been subjected to. Grandmama pulled out some maps which we all studied carefully. Yup. Meant nothing to me but I did notice a nursery rhyme on the side which I asked Grandmama about. “The Black Cat has 9 lives. The Red Cat is an ally.” It was only after I asked about it that I thought I remembered The Red Cat was rumored to be a costumier. A light bulb went off and I wondered aloud if he wasn’t related to my own Monsieur Rouge. And Grandmama thought the Black Cat might be the Duchess of Rachitisse. She bid me to take my friends and search out if the Duchess is in collusion with the Inquisition. As she finished charging us with this task Wolfie plead the case of my brother, to allow him on the family grounds, and it seems she gave some concession.

It was later, as we conversed with the Lady Rhoades before supper, that Wolfie made an entrance with young Carlos in tow. I was stunned until he introduced Carlos as his nephew. To move things along I interceded and introduced, Grandmama, Maman, and my two elder sisters and then led us into dinner even though the servants had yet to call it. Thankfully his manners were unremarkable which was a relief.

Not much happened for the rest of the evening and when I retired to my rooms my ladies were still all atwitter with preparations for our departure on the morrow. It was with great relief I closed the door after sending them to their own beds.

Not long after there was a light tap on my door which I answered. I was relieved it was Luigi and not the pompous ass, Gaston. It was with distress that I heard another tap just a little bit later and discovered it was Grandmama. I set Luigi to hide and only opened the door after he had done it well. Grandmama suggested that I might not be considering Gaston’s with enough sincerity and I countered that while I was prepared for unattractive, under-titled or boring I was not prepared to accept a fool. She gave that no response but did seem to accept it. As she departed she appeared to be giving my answer some thought.

This exchange which Luigi clearly overheard, made for a different interplay between Luigi and I. While not a direct conversation, the implications of our exchanges made our situation more plain than we it been since our meeting. I made it clear that if he were serious about us then he would have to place himself in the esteem of Grandmama and if he was not, that I would soon have to accept the arrangements of my family for a marriage.

I was completely unsure of his intent and it was only in his response to my comments that I thought he might actually wish to pursue such a course. I felt I had to encourage him and I mused on what a team we would make and that if done properly with Grandmama it might not just be my father’s titles and estates up for grabs. He kissed me rather tenderly (especially for him) as he retired for the evening saying he had a lot to think about. Ha! I had so much to think about I hardly slept at all until the early morning hours.

Day 954

It was to a loud pounding on my door that I awakened at an ungodly hour. Alexis burst into my rooms, with the Lady Rhoades on his heels, and he was ranting about a duel being fought in my honor. I quickly wrapped a robe about my night garments and took to my balcony to see what was happening. Clearly Luigi had a good long think last night as here he was in the courtyard facing off against Gaston. Alexis was trying to tell me what he had heard that led up to this but I was most disappointed that I had clearly missed most of the action. Luigi’s flurry of blows was more than Gaston could bear and he was escorted from the field in defeat. Luigi clearly hadn’t seen me before he heard my applause and I urged my ladies to quickly find a favor to grant to the victor. With a smile I tossed him a handkerchief and I returned to my bed with an inner sense of satisfaction.

I was so preoccupied that I was not prepared when Lady Rhoades begged a moment of my time and that of Alexis too. It was then that she spoke again of her brother whom she had misplaced and with whom she had hopes of reuniting. She asked if we would assist her in finding him as the last rumors she heard were that he might have set out for the Crescent Empire. I told her she would be able to count on me only after I had satisfied any mission my Grandmother set me to.

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Day 953 continued (yes, again!)
A mission for Grandmama

Grandmama bid me to question our new captive, the Los Vagos leader, with Wolfie. So I sought him out and he shaped a plan. I would play “bad musketeer” and he would play “good musketeer”. Whatever that means. But I was sure I could convince the prisoner I meant to harm him. As we descended to the prison cells one of the guards told me that Gaston was currently interrogating the prisoner. I was surprised because Grandmama had made it clear she wanted me to question him and I did not think she had sent Gaston. It irked me, so upon entering I dismissed him and sent him to Grandmama to inform her of his findings. I did not think he had anything but silence to report.

Wolfie began his questioning with a query of a name and the promise of a reward for this information. Clearly when I suggested to Grandmama that he would be too nice or gentle for this I was not exaggerating. I remained silent while they played a cute little game about who spoke what languages, blah, blah, blah. When it was clear they had reached an impasse about who he was and why he had come and still he feigned no knowledge of Montaigne I finally stepped in and suggested we go with my plan. Wolfie professed it too severe and said we could do no such thing. We argued briefly while I suggested the guards get started and it was clear during this that our prisoner did indeed understand what process was being discussed. Wolfie told him to take some time to think about his position and we would be back in a couple of hours.

As we left the dungeons we ran into Stahl and also Wolfie’s strange Castillian friend had managed to find us. I left them to their strange exchanges as I went for a dress fitting. I did peep out the window at one point and saw Wolfie in the blue gardens and it looked like he might be rehearsing a dance for the next ball we would attend. After the proposed time I found Wolfie eager to return to the inquisition of the prisoner.

Wolfie convinced me to give him a few minutes alone with him before we began and I hovered outside the door eager to get on with it. Sooner than I expected the door opened and Wolfie tried to sell me a tale of the prisoners escape and I almost believed him but sure enough when I pushed past into the cell I found him still there.

He seemed rather more calm than before and our exchange was rather heated but eventually I convinced him of my sincerity. Wolfie still stood to defend him but eventually the prisoner made a break to escape. I sliced him quite nicely along his side as he went past and Wolfie pursued him out the door of the cells. I shouted that if he lost my prisoner I would be furious, then I cleaned my blade, sheathed it, reassured the guards they should return to their normal duties and went to report to Grandmama.

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Day 953 (continued - again)
Glorying in success

Luigi eagerly offered himself as my second which I quickly accepted. This small thing seemed to make him quite happy. Maybe I was wrong about his intentions?

Dinner was uneventful which was probably the best to be hoped for. I spent the evening basking in the glow of Grandmama’s good will. I was so happy to be home and pleased to show my companions the grandiosity of the Montaigne as hosts. Throughout the evening I was aware the Wolfie seemed incredibly uncomfortable with our impending contest and I spent the meal preoccupied with discovering a solution. Do not mistake me, I was actually looking forward to our exchange and would face it happy if it were not causing Wolfie so much unhappiness.

It was only when I was preparing to retire for the evening that I hatched a brilliant plan. I immediately went to Wolfie’s rooms to put the idea before him. I suggested that Wolfie would be happier were he not fighting me and he admitted this to be true. So I put forth the possibility that were I unwell on the morrow, he would face my second, Luigi in my steed and as such would be able to fight him fairly in all good conscience. I think I caught him by surprise, he actually looked shocked for a few moments before agreeing.

I hurried back to my apartment nearly gleeful. This was perfect! Wolfie could relax as he wouldn’t have to fight me (and lose publicly), instead he would fight Luigi. And Luigi would have the chance to have the spotlight in front of my family and if he truly were interested in my hand he would be thrilled. Perfect!

Grandmama would see through any lie I put forth so I knew any frailness on my part would have to be truth. I might have been a bit overzealous in the dosage of the emetic I took and it was not long before I was cramping and retching. I called for my maid and as one would expect both Mama and Grandmama came to my side. I told my Grandmama while I was not able to fight in the duel that I had a worthy second and she should not postpone as she was inclined to do. Justice should not be delayed.

In the morning there was a commotion that eventually drew my attention, and I donned a robe and stumbled to the nearest balcony where I could see what was going on. It seemed Gaston had returned and with his usually style was trying to quell the peasants with threats and bluster. Wolfie had set out to intervene and Grandmama found me where I leaned against the balustrade. Into my hands she thrust a small potion which she told me to swallow. I did so and quickly felt improved but not quite my old self. Then she told me to prepare myself for the duel. I petitioned against this, explaining that Wolfie would truly have the advantage against me and she said it would rest in Theus’ hands. Again I tried to explain how Wolfie would have an advantage but she would not hear me.

I returned back to my chambers to dress and prepare. It pained me to take the next steps but while I dressed I was sure to include some mistakes and bad choices. Then I swallowed a few more herbs for good measure and stumbled down to stand for justice.

The mob was roiling, Wolfie was expounding and Gaston and Luigi were facing off against each other. I didn’t know what else was going on but Grandmama was determined we proceed. Luigi tried to stand for me but I stood him down and stepped forth to my place upon the field. Another commotion among the peasantry, then before I even understood what was happening I was attacked by men I did not know who were robed in purple.

Gathering my wits quickly, I surveyed the scene, and threw my knife into the side of the villain threatening Wolfie then swept my blades through those before. Two fell to my feet. I glanced off a few blows but my luck did not hold and the earlier nicks I had barely noticed were nothing to the next attack I received. I noticed that Alexis had taken a blow while protecting Grandmama up on the balcony and so I cleared a path to a nearby cart by dropping two more robed figures on my way, and with an assist from Wolfie launched myself to clear the railings. I landed with enough momentum to take a shot at the threat and was sure to twist the blade a little as it sunk home.

Alexis had another exchange with our masked foe and I attempted another blow but missed as he bent backwards to evade my blades. Angered by my miss I redoubled my efforts and landed two solid attacks. It seemed but a moment and he dropped his blade. I stepped on it and called for guards. Not a moment too soon, as I was going to have to vomit again soon and it wasn’t eager to do it in public. A musketeer removed his mask and Wolfie stepped to my side to question him.

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Viv's Journal Day 953 (continued)

Gaston, Luigi and I whiled away the time as we awaited the scout’s return. Conversation was slow and stilted but I was quite preoccupied with how I would solve this so I did little to help things along. I was feeling quite impatient when the church bells rang and Alexis returned. His report was lacking in facts and information. The only thing he could tell me was that they had uncovered a mysterious device he suspected was used to kill the local nobility but he wasn’t sure and that the Lady Rhoades had started some type of altercation in the town.

During our exchange we noticed some pigeons being released from the local manor. Alexis disappeared and I quickly drew my pistol and, as Luigi had taught me, I sighted and shot one down. Rather than reload I snatched the nearest guard’s pistol and shot a second from the sky but a third escaped but I noticed a large owl pursued it.

A minute later, Alexis returned, with all three messages in hand. So we had stopped this sending at least. They all said, “Begin the rebellion!” I had a sinking feeling this was bigger than we had even begun to consider. I was in deep trouble here.

Alexis went off again and I sent a message to Grandmama recommending she send to the neighboring towns and estates for more information. If this has spread we have to know how far.

After some time had passed Gaston noticed that the local militia seemed to be moving off and he urged me to attack. But I kept calm and enforced my instructions from Grandmama. No violence. We still needed information from our inside men. It was with great relief I next saw Wolfie returning to me. He said he thought he might be able to get them to surrender but wondered the terms. I said those who were responsible for executing the nobles must face justice but the rest of the town need not fear violence. He said he thought that would be achievable. He made arrangements for us to make a display of force by firing cannon at the nearby barn in a specified period of time. I gave that task to Gaston and he was happy to have something to do.

I made a great effort to disguise my impatience with a calm countenance but I was nearly ready to jump out of my skin when the cannon finally fired. Shortly after the echoes of sound died down the local militia laid down their arms. I took this as my time to approach. I bade Gaston to remain here, and was escorted by only a few men as we marched to retake the town. Sure enough, Wolfie had achieved the seemingly impossible, and the local militia commander surrendered his sword to me. I had the guards take him in custody, he would not face my blade but my Grandmama’s justice. His problem. Not mine.

Wolfie rather thought the other conspirators were attempting to make their own escape. I thought Gaston would love the opportunity to display his talents for me so I sent a guard to inform him his skills would be needed. I saw him galloping off in the distance.

In the meantime, I made sure to make my presence clearly known. It was imperative they know who was in charge. It occurred to me Grandmama would benefit from a reliable witness account so I suggested he retrieve the local priest so that he could give testimony. It was after this that Gaston appeared at my side to report that one Corbin “Luck” Cabin had letters of marque from the Count of Aur. I asked how he knew this and he confessed he had seen them.

I was at a loss to understand why we were having a conversation about this and I didn’t have a captive at my feet. As I understand it, a rogue that Gaston had pursued had shown to him papers that proved that a noble from a different province had given this rogue permission to commit villainous acts in my Grandmama’s region. And Gaston accepted this because…? This is where I fail to follow. Such a lack of judgement does so make me question him altogether. I sent him off in pursuit of this foe while we returned home to reap the pride and glory and in my Grandmama’s eyes.

When presenting the locals for punishment and testimony Wolfie petitioned Grandmama for leniency. After some philosophical exchanges Grandmama suggested a duel between Wolfie and me. I accepted immediately but Wolfie was quite reluctant until ultimately he was convinced by Grandmama. We scheduled it for the next day.

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Viv's Journal - Day 951
Home again, home again.

Day 951
Pandemonium swirled around Mama wherever she went so it was no surprise when it arrived with her. Her histrionics had forced Alexis from the house but before he left the grounds I saw him attacked by an invisible foe yet again. I ran to his side and asked where to attack but he muttered something about them being all around and gave no other guidance. Once more Alexis was wounded so I tried to get my bearings on his opponent and I attacked but failed to find or wound an enemy. It seemed Alexis was tackled to the ground by a figure that had appeared from nowhere and when I could see him clearly he looked so much like Alexis that there was no doubt he was kin. I suspected that Mama was in for a nasty surprise. I had no idea that I was in for one.

The young man stood and dusted himself off, handed Alexis a toy and called him father. Then he greeted “Uncle Steppie” and threw his arms about me and declared me “Auntie Viv”. My stunned disbelief not withstanding, I was having to accept this was indeed Carlos, Alexis’ son. Mama was going to be more than displeased. Gaston, being quite the gentleman and very courteous, had come to ask after my brother and see if there was anything he could do. Luigi was nowhere to be seen.

Gaston was quite mannerly and agreed that we could keep this from Mama for now and I promised to bring it to Grandmama later. But it was too late for that , and Carlos raised his voice calling for Uncle Steppie which attracted the attention of those still within the house. Grandmama came to the balcony and I scurried to her side in the hopes of quieting things before Mama took notice. I failed as Mama came out bellowing to have the servants remove Alexis only to freeze upon the sight of Carlos. She pivoted on her heel and retreated apparently to find more of father’s finer stock.

I was almost relieved when an emissary arrived and gave Grandmama notice of the uprisings in the lands through which we had just traveled. She answered that she would be sending me to lead a party to bring a peaceful resolution to the area, then she requested Wolfie accompany me to provide insight and guidance. Happy in the faith Grandmama had displayed in me, my mind was a whirl with how I was to achieve this gargantuan task without bloodshed. I missed much of the rest that was discussed as I was already on to plans for our departure on the morrow as I retired to my rooms.

Having given instructions to my ladies on what to pack, I was a little rushed in preparing for dinner and was perhaps not at my best, which was unfortunate. I did remember to check on Wolfie before going down to dinner and was thrilled to see he had at least tried to tie his cravat correctly and remembered his dining gloves. Dinner discussion turned to questions of strategy in dealing the peasants and I tried and tried to understand the positions put forth by Wolfie and the Lady Rhoades but I must say I felt I was pretty much missing some of the finer points. Or maybe the points altogether. Still when Gaston asked my opinion I conceded that if Grandmama had suggested that we follow the guidance of Wolfie than that is what we should do. Luigi’s opinion, which was quite passionate, was that if the peasants were be treated well enough loyalty would not even be a question.

Mama managed to struggle through the meal without making a scene but I had no doubt that she would manage immediately afterwards to undo the sobering effects that the food might provide. Dinner proceeded through the normal courses and after the meal I gave Wolfie a word of advice on how to best present his gift to Grandmama. I believe she is quite enamored with him. We all retired early as we’d be departing in the morning. Upon returning to my rooms I reviewed what my ladies had packed and prepared and I tweaked the accessories to my satisfaction while I got the local gossip from the household staff. It seems I still have not swayed my Grandmama to choose me as her heir and she was very worried about some pirates that had been treading on our normal trade routes. Later still I had to turn Luigi away from my room for the night as it would be inappropriate to bed him in my family home especially with Gaston here if it was indeed true there were negotiations proceeding to see us engaged.

Day 952
In the morning we went down to the courtyard and Gaston brought me a beautiful white steed. I was flattered by his thoughtfulness of coordinating my horse with my outfit for the day. I thanked him graciously and he recommended that I should address the troops despite the fact that I was determined to follow Grandmama’s instructions and see this through to a peaceful resolution. His pleas for me to do this anyway were earnest enough that I took pity on him and spoke to the militia. I told them all that they were to remain ready in case we should fail in our attempts to negotiate for then their force would be gravely needed. I felt I had indeed inspired them and was quite relieved to see that Grandmama had witnessed my success with satisfaction.

We set out, me in the lead with a jaunty tilt to my hat and a lightness of heart despite the circumstances.

Day 953
We made good time and arrived early the next day. At our morning break of fast Wolfie took me aside and expressed his concern about Luigi’s feelings in the matter of my potential engagement to Gaston, but I assured him that Luigi had expressed no intentions toward me, nor had he ever even mentioned marriage. Luigi truly could not be serious about pressing his suit as not only had we never had a discussion but he’d made no effort to sway my mother nor to impress my grandmother on the previous evening. Wolfie felt I was mistaken and seemed surprised I would accept any engagement my family would arrange but I pointed out he had just done that same thing.

Gaston asked me my orders for the morning and if we should prepare to battle but I recommended we send in scouts. He seemed a little put out when I didn’t select him for the task but I felt that Alexis, Wolfie and Lady Rhoades had the edge in these circumstances. See? I could demonstrate strategy. Now I would just wait for the reports to roll in.

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Viv's Journal - Day 949
Our journey home

Day 949
The party from the night before ended in the small hours of this morning and I slept in to be assured I would be my most presentable. We are after all back in the center of culture and presentation is everything.

Alexis woke me to arrange an early meeting for our departure and we set out through the Montaigne countryside to pass through which was strangely absent of nobles. I moved closer to Wolfie and was about to make some remark on my observation when we noticed a representative of the Castilian Los Vagos. Wolfie took the bull by the horns and began questioning some peasants then stepped up to a local shoppe and demanded entrance. I instead mentioned my concerns to Alexis and he took it upon himself to explore a bit. I then whispered in Luigi’s ear but he dismissed me out of hand.

Wolfie returned with food and an insistence that we should move on immediately. Luigi had a brief exchange with Wolfie and now reconsidered my words of concern but I was no longer willing to hear from him on the topic. Just because a man brought it to his attention…honestly! Alexis tried to complicate matters when he returned by saying that he had seen someone who looked remarkably like Najarro. Since I knew him to be dead (ha!) I urged our party to move on. It was clear to me that whatever was going on in this area was well beyond our party’s ability to handle the situation. Luigi and Alexis were prepared to stay and investigate but I still felt it was more important that we move on and make more people aware of whatever had occurred here.

It was with great joy and relief we came to the grounds of my home. Adrienne was the only of my family there to receive us which was probably for the best. I introduced them around then sent my guests to refresh themselves while Alexis and I went to father’s side. I was saddened to see that his conditioned had not only not improved but worsened in my absence. I told him of my travels but he seemed to not even hear me. I continued anyway in the hopes that something was getting through even if he couldn’t demonstrate a response. I told him of the things that I had done to get back into Grandmama’s good graces, I told him of the lands that I had seen and the people that I had met, I told him how Alexis and I were increasing our bond, and lastly I told him about Luigi – well some things about Luigi. We were interrupted by a butler bearing a summons for my presence that evening on Grandmama’s boat which I accepted but returned to my tales of my voyages. I was so engrossed that I was completely unprepared when Alexis suddenly attacked with a blade next to father’s head. I scrambled to my feet and drew my blade prepared to fight Alexis if need be when I noticed that he appeared to be taking damage from some invisible source. I leapt to try to aid him but with nothing visible I was swinging in the dark. I swiped multiple times but only on my fourth thrust did I hit something. My blade glowed red and Alexis cried out that I had killed one and that there were only two more to go. That was great news. Killed one what?

Something clawed across the front of my shoulder, shredding my dress and leaving bloody wounds. I responded in kind with my brilliant blade and felt another hit sink home. Alexis rejoiced again and it was at this time I noticed his eyes were fully black and he now held a different sword in his hands, he screamed out, then thrashed around a bit more. Our companions rushed to our sides and it was the Lady Rhoades who made good in the combat. It was after her entrance that Alexis collapsed and I felt the threat was gone. I would have sworn it was the Blue Flame that Alexis still clutched but that was clearly impossible as it was only a relic from father’s dusty history books or the fairy tales we Martisse grew up on.

It was in the post fight lull that pandemonium broke out as Grandmama and my mother burst in with their escorts. After introductions around I realized that standing before me was Monsieur Rouge and I was quite relieved to see his friendly face, but also present was Gaston Rois et Reines du Rogne, the candidate my Grandmama had chosen for my potential betrothal. Not uncomfortable at all.

Mother was in grand histrionics about the presence of Alexis and demanded he leave the house immediately all while Stahl was trying to staunch the wounds he had acquired while protecting our father. Even after he left she decided to begin soothing herself with father’s good whiskey.

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