PrP Grimhall Sagas, Act 2, Scene 1
July 2, 2020, 5 p.m.
Outside Arx - Mourning Isles near Grihem's Point - The Old Grimhall Keep
Comments and Log
With all kinds of chaos in the Isles, in the city of Arx, and perhaps in all of Arvum in general, it seems like an odd time for a social visit, and yet the Dowager Duchess Anneke has invited her children and a few of their nearest and dearest, as well as Eirene Malvici, an old friend of the late Great Grim Duke and likely one of his wife's as well, on occasion. Widowhood has settled on the woman beautifully, though she never did wear anything particularly different to mourn. The severe cuts and dark colors that proper Isles ladies prefer are created with Anneke Grimhall in mind likely, she moves throughout the Old Keep like a queen overseeing her kingdom, not the widow of a duke and mother to another, but something altogether greater.
"I'm so glad that you could come and join me. Again, on some of your parts, and I did take pleasure in your visit last time, especially when you shared with me all that you'd heard of those old legends..." Here she refers to the stories about Ivan Grimhall, Duke more than a century ago, and the mysterious death of his sister. Great-grandfather and great-aunt to Valdemar and his siblings, and to several cousins as well. A gesture from her has servants leading the family to a large feasting table, though one currently empty of food. Instead pitchers of strongmead and drinking horns and heavy cups make up the place settings, the hour late enough for drink and talk but likely not a meal, unless hospitality should indicate. "If any of you have need of further refreshment, simply let one of the staff know. Your rooms have been prepared in the newer wing, but I recalled you had plans to walk the old one if it was possible, and arrangements have been made. If there are questions you have for /me/ I'd be happy to hear them, but I consider you the experts on this family history now." A smile crosses grim features.
Iseulet's arm has been gently looped around Sirius', taking in the sights as well as the Dowager Duchess, curtseying when introduced. Her expression is pleasantly warm and quite thoughtful. "It's a pity I missed the last trip. A great regret of mine. I should ask to be caught up sometime... But I'm thankful I could make it. Thank you so much for your hospitality - I'm sure everything is going to be perfect."
Matteo is a dashing figure, some would say. Invited to join the Dowager Duchess, when introduced, he bowed over her hand and complimented her unwilting beauty. He isn't even a little bit drunk, as he prefers to be at most times. Now he's settled in with appropriate attention, near enough to his brother-in-law to question with quiet humor: "Want to join me in a raid of-- well, I suppose /your/ cellars? A bottle of really old, fine wine while we're walking around treacherous ruins would be perfect, I think."
Eirene offers a slow salute, hand over her heart in military fashion. "I'm sure they can catch me up on the legends over mead - or wine," she adds as Matteo suggests it. "I appreciate the hospitality and the welcome to join the family. I love old stories," she adds with a grin. "And finding the truth is a hobby of mine, when not being a sawbones."
In contrast to her aunt, Sanya's garb is a little brighter, more reminiscent of the seas in color despite the leafy adornments. She seems a little haggard, tired from the journey, so readily takes a seat at the table to rest. "It's lovely to see you." She says to the dowager duchess. "Nora's back in Arx with Iosif, but hopefully soon enough you'll get the chance to meet her." She smiles, before pouring strongmead into her cup.
"Oh, I cannot wait to show you what we have in the way of old wines." She offers the Pravosi prince. "It's not exactly our go-to in the family, so some are completely untouched."
Latched into Iseulet's side, the Prince of Sanctum beside her is entirely, clearly, outside his apogee. The shoreline salt's taken to his features; they're dry, sunken, hollow in the bagginess of his eyes. He's far from the swift-red fields of the Oathlands, and it shows. Grease's in his hair, a scythe of ozone proceeds him, and he walks with a gait that betrays his hindquarters must be sore from some stagnation of sea salt therein contained. "I'm sure it will be," assures Sirius, indistinctly blithe, but he doesn't forget his manners- he bows and smiles and greets his introductions as need be.
Valdemar is quiet as his mother speaks, allowing her to greet their guests before he speaks up as well. "Not sure how much old wine we have in our cellars, but there might be a bottle or two that are, as my cousin points out, untouched. I am glad, however, that you were able to join us in particular, Lord Matteo. The legends my mother brings up involve the last Grimhall to marry a Pravus before me, my great-aunt Vladlena to one Ludovico Pravus. She died under mysterious circumstances, and he returned to house Pravus after that," the Duke tells Matteo, though the summary of the situation might well be helpful for others at the table. When his strongmead is served, he drinks deeply from his horn before continuing, "Last time we came to look into the matter, we were given, by an old servant whose parents were also servants here, a couple of interesting artifacts...a bloodstained dress that was reputedly my great-aunt's, and the hilt of a sword that we believe might have been my great-grandfather's."
Undoubtedly after doing maidly duties for the Grimhalls arriving at Grimpoint Orchid joins everyone, hovering a little at Sanya's elbow. Since she is, technically, the lady's maid of the Grimhall Voice. She is,unsurprisingly, quiet. Though, she does watch everyone to assure that she can get them what they need.
"Ludovico? I'm afraid there are so many Ludovico's in the Lyceum, that I'm not sure I can remember the name from my lessons," Matteo muses thoughtfully on the name, even as his dark green gaze weighs for a moment Valdemar's words, sliding for a moment to the Dowager Duchess with a crooked smile but the same weighted study. But it is Sanya that receives his attention after, with an exhaled laugh that is bright, careless, as he tells her: "You had me at 'cannot wait', my lady! And I am glad, of course, to be here. Quite the mystery. Bloodstained dresses, death."
Eirene seems to wait until everyone else has drank before she pours herself a cup of mead. "While I'm quite used to getting blood out of my clothes," the leather clad doctor says, "I'm afraid old stains are quite tricky," she jokes. "I'd be happy to take a look. You can figure out a few things like how badly she bled, or if the blood soaked through from the other side. I make a study of these things," she says with a wry grin. "My sense of humor is pretty dark accordingly. One of the things the old man liked about me." She smiles at the Dowager.
Iseulet sees herself to the table for refreshment, offering the Prince a draught of strongmead before she takes her own drink and settles down in her chair, running her hand across the back of her knees so that she might not catch it on the chair beneath her when she stands and drapes one leg over the other. "That does sound terribly interesting - did you discuss the story of how it became bloody?"
"Death?" Asks Sirius askance, to the air and no one else, having heard the term from Matteo just then. A fractile cut dilates the focus of his eyes each, dark lines across the whiteness of his irises. For him, the world's swallowed by a black hole of fear, of which only two words escape: 'Blood' and 'Death'. Skeletal, he assembles poorly on some chair, and into a relatively uneasy palm does Iseulet deliver the mug of spirits. "Superstition, isn't it? Not any true death, here, yes? It is, was, my understanding, that this is mostly conjecture," Sirius says to Matteo, beads of excess moisture gathering at the crinkled flanks of his forehead.
"They said very interesting things about him. About how the Sins are gifted liars but few were as adept as Ludovico." Sanya points out with a sip from her cup, nudging the pitcher to Matteo. "Before you browse the cellar though, you may as well try our family's pride." She turns to Sirius. "My great-great aunt most certainly disappeared. But beyond that, it's just clues we're putting together."
Sirius checked composure at difficulty 50, rolling 40 lower.
"I'm not sure! All I know is what we have just heard, some poor woman stuck with a lord of Pravus and then died," Matteo replies with a wry drawl to Sirius, humor edging the honeyed Southern accent of his words. He accepts Iseulet's mead merrily, giving her a flash of a brilliant grin, since Sirius is too busy sweating to pay it much mind. He slides a thoughtful look towards Eirene's suggest, nodding. It's Sanya who claims his attention again as he offers in turn: "Lying is a sin, certainly, but most of Pravus are loathe to directly lie. Being the best liar is being able to bend the truth with your words." He takes a cup from Sanya as well.
Matteo checked charm + seduction at difficulty 30, rolling 46 higher.
Listening to the conversations going around about old drinks and what not Orchid slides a glance to the dowager Duchess and Valdemar, "Shall I go check the cellar, my Duke?" is the question to the latter. Her head tilts to him in question. She really doesn't seem to expect most to notice her, even when she speaks. She is a pretty forgettable thing.
The Malvici snorts in amusement at Matteo. Is it at his charming grin or his words. "You could say the same for ANY Lycene," she says of lies, smirking over the rim of her mead." She sits on the edge of an armchair as opposed to the chair itself and starts reading over the old journals and scraps of info.
Turning to Orchid, Sanya glances between her and Valdemar. "I can lead you there." She smiles softly at the woman. "You don't have to wander alone." She takes a drink from her cup.
Collapsed within himself, the Valardin Prince loathes existence in silent retirement. A hand's against his length of jawline, fingers threadbare across its length, running a polish across its measle scruff-hairs with gingered highlights. It's Sanya's fault -- the news behind his great-great Aunt have him, immediately, guarded. "And her body was never found?" Sirius inquires, his words led by a cursory glance fraught with apprehension going on a leftward tilt; from Matteo to Sanya, respectively.
"Well, I wouldn't," Matteo counters in a quip of laughter to Eirene. He adds dryly: "I have met some /terrible/ liars, even in the Lyceum." His grin lingers, even as he lifts one of his glasses to his lips.
The Dowager Duchess has gone quiet for a moment, listening to the banter of the younger generation (and Eirene) and their recalling of the tale they first learned here a few months back. Her grim gaze settles on the Valardin prince, who she studies for a moment, proper introductions and bows and all that already dealt with. "Do you mean there is not true death because souls return to the wheel? Ah but for how long have we known that? And if all souls did, always, there would not be ghost stories." She sips from her own flagon of Strongmead, her mug delicately formed from what appears to be bone. "If the stories are true, not every party from /this/ story made it back there. To the wheel, to the future."
Sirius says, "Ghosts don't exist."
Iseulet winks at Matteo and his grin, "I prefer the truth, wielded as bluntly and on the nose as possible... Dressed up is fine, peppered with colourful language even better." Her gaze drfits to Sirius and gently she pats his hand trying to lend him some comfort despite his guardedness. "Ghosts are different than reincarnations, my Lady." She then directs to the Dowager Duchess. "A friend of mine was plagued with his aunt's ghost. Never let him sleep at night. Terrified him..."
"No Mistress Orchid. There are other servants here who can handle that. You were here last time, so I'd rather you remained and joined us, in case I forget anything important," Valdemar tells the maid, smiling slightly before turning to the others at the table, "We're not sure how much truth there is to any of it. The source that says the dress is what Vladlena wore the day of her disappearance is credible. Which suggests that the official story of what happened that day as told by Ludovico, her just falling overboard and drowning to death, might have been...inaccurate." He then turns to Sirius specifically. "Ghosts /do/ exist, your Highness. I have seen one with my own eyes, and not long ago. But that is a story for another time," he adds.
Sirius checked composure at difficulty 30, rolling 22 lower.
Sanya checked charm + empathy at difficulty 30, rolling 15 higher.
Eirene arches her eyebrows at Sirius and shakes her head a little. "Nope, they do. Like the Dowager says, not every soul makes it back to then wheel." She grins at Iseulet's description of the truth. Then Duke is given a nod. "So then she may have been stabbed before drowning, if THAT part is true. May I look at the dress, when daylight permits?"
Keeping her tone of voice gentle as she regards the Valardin prince, Sanya nods at her cousin's words. "It's souls that don't rejoin the Wheel. Those that are restless." She shakes her head. "I imagine they're rare more than anything but with the knowledge we've gathered over the years, it's vital that we don't dismiss matters relating to souls so readily."
"Or stabbed herself," Matteo offers, his gaze sliding to Eirene and then Valdemar. He tips his cup in a salute for the former's request, a sensible one. Though, he adds: "It may be hard to tell that, from a dress. Without the two people who would know-- Well, how will we ever know, really? Truly?" As the only Pravus here, well, there might be a reason for his carelessness.
However mollifying an approach, Iseulet's touch altogether an endeavor destined for failure. The second her digits' head reaches enough closeness to his hand as to instill their shadow, the discomfiting, encroaching sensation's enough for Sirius to instinctually pull away, nearly as if her hand - her palm - is a ghostly appendage itself. He gasps -- a soft, inchoate release of dry air, before he turns, and looks, with eyes wide up to Iseulet's soft veener. "Gods," he mumbles, swallowing mouthwater. Rigidity heightens around his neck. It's made worse, too; something in Valdemar's grim, resolute verification instills a hesitant, burgeoning panic in Sirius. "This is all superstitious belief, promising to only exacerbate a situation easily explained. The Queen never misses her mark," the Prince poignantly says, perhaps naively so.
"Ah, I'll be fine, my lady. I a use to it. I was a thrall then a servant, after all. It really is not.." Her words trail off as Valdemar insists she stay. "Of course, my Duke." says the maid. She steps back slightly so that Sanya can talk to everyone unhindered.
THat is Orchid
Eirene explains, over her mead, that ghosts are echoes, according to the Nox'Alfar, and they have a connection to the world that needs resolving. Or an icky ritual involving possession.
Valdemar calls over his advisor Gustav, and says something quietly to the bald older Islander who then bows and departs the room. The Duke then shakes his head at Sirius's insistence that what they are talking about is just superstition. "I do not know if these particular ghost stories, about Vladlena, Ivan, and Ludovico are true. But the ghost I saw was quite real, and somehow spit out this black dust that was all too real and imbedded itself in our skin. One man present suffered cuts from the stuff," he says in a very matter-of-fact tone. His horn ends up empty when he drinks from it after that, and passes it to a servant to get him more strongmead as he goes on, "Now, there is also a sketch that was found in Duke Ivan's bedchamber. It indicates that there might have been a plan for her to...push her husband overboard. So it stands to reason that he might have figured it out, and acted first." About this time, Gustav returns, carrying an old miniature casket. "This is what the dress and sword hilt were in when given to us, and we were told that this is all that was found from our great-aunt to bury," the Duke says as he reaches to unlock the casket so that those present can look inside.
Valdemar drops ancient blackwood casket.
"I'm not sure if a sketch of a desire constitutes a plan. Which of us hasn't daydreamed about pushing someone into the ocean, after all?" Matteo reasons, some small amount of humor still lingering at his words despite the dire mood of the gathering. He does lean over to peer towards the casket thoughtfully, though, as he sips at his mead.
She shrugs, casually taking a sip of mead, "Or just busting out a crossbow..." Iseulet murmurs into the mead, quaffing a few mouthfulls down and then sighing. "Ah, only if violence solved all problems..." She presses her mouth into a thin line and then looks to the casket, especially the neckline. "Interesting blood pattern. One would think that having your throat slit would produce more of a flood."
Wishing to unleash a simultaneous refusal to Valdemar, Gustav's baleful return silences Sirius soundly, arresting his attention. The sound of the advisor's boots hard against the woodwork of the floor, the thudding of the casket on whichever surface's then laid: a clarion from hell. Matteo's humor isn't shared by the Valardin, whose expression is more tuned to Valdemar's own: doom-laden, and expecting the worst. Unlike many surveying the casket, the pommel, the bloodied dress, Sirius averts his gaze aside, indrawing protectively his mug of alcohol into his buckle-coated chest. "She could've been stooping over something, and most of the blood when that-a-way," opines he for Iseulet, but it's a distracted, somnolent answer. Retired.
Eirene peers, curiously, into the casket and at the gown. "Nice sword- what's there," she comments with a practiced eye. "And normally it does," she says of a throat-slice. "Anyone mind if I look more closely at the dress?" She sets aside her cup, after finishing it. Sirius' comment draws a curious look from her with his aversion of the artifacts. "You remind me of my brother. He -hates- anything to do with blood," she says with a smirk.
"That is why I said 'might', brother-in-law. It is not solid proof of a plan, but the fact that someone decided to draw it out is more evidence of such a plot than one can usually find after this long. A number of journals also indicate that Vladlena's marriage strained her relationship with her twin brother Ivan. And one that we found about Ludovico indicates that killing her, if he'd found out about any such plan, and then lying about what happened, would not have been beneath him," Valdemar says, then looks toward Orchid to add, "That is what we've discovered so far. Unless I am forgetting anything?"
"It does if someone bothered to spend time drawing it." Sanya says with a raised brow. "I may have daydreamed about it but it's never been drawn right before I took a boat trip with said person."
The Dowager Duchess listens and nods at Eirene's explanation about ghosts, and yields the floor to her son when he brings the casket out to share, speaking of seeing ghosts himself and the 'ghosts' that might be in this story. "It wasn't a popular match." Anneke explains to her son and nieces and cousins and assorted guests. "Pravus and Grimhall had already been quarreling, forever getting into each other's way. I have always wondered where and how that whole thing started, but when I asked my husband he said it was all down to greed, and trade, and power, as so many things are." Grim eyes flit towards the casket, and she adds, "There are rumors that another part of that sword is on this Island as well, but if you are trying to find the whole thing, you'll need to go farther, dearest."
"What one presents to others isn't always the truth about their person," Matteo offers with a general gesture of his cup, but he doesn't press. He just covers a frown with a long drink, before he shifts his gaze towards the Dowager Duchess. This is an easier line of question! So he follows up, asking, "Farther, my lady? So one more piece on this island, and then another-- where? Arx, perhaps? Or maybe Ludovico ran away with it and has hidden it in Setarco!"
A small surprised squeak is given by Orchid as she is asked to confirm the details. Around she peers and realizes she likely is the one of the group besides Valdemar that was at the full interactions of the previous visit. She is silent a moment at Valdemar's question and considers all that is said. "I don't believe you have missed anything, my Duke."
Under Eirene's appraisal, some of Sirius' youth resurfaces in the twinkle of an ephemeral smile; a nervous, quick twitch of lips made vertical, but only so much. His spine straightens a midge, and he pretends resilience in the face of such bloodletting adversity if only to save face in the Malvici's eyes. "I do not fear blood, my lady," Sirius, with tact, clarifies. An index finger taps the rim of his mug pensively as he continues ensuingly; "I just feel these things, the dress, ought to be interred into some manner of cenotaph. It is disrespectful of the death, although I realize this is an investigation, and isn't my say."
When his mother speaks of the sword, Valdemar inclines his head. "Yes, I /would/, admittedly, like to find that sword. It is an important part of our history that has been lost. And in doing so, we might find out more about this situation between my great grandfather, great aunt, and her husband," he says, then smiles gratefully at Orchid when she affirms that he did not forget anything Looking at Matteo again, he goes on, "Part could be in Setarco, yes. I am not sure how this part came to be found with Vladlena's dress, so Ludovico might well have kept part of it, too. We also have not yet searched the place where she was reputed to have fallen into the water. It was a small boat, not a ship, that they were in, so it might not have been that deep. Though we might need to do a bit more digging to find out where that was." Nodding at what Sirius says, the Duke rubs at his bearded chin. "Yes, that has occurred to me your Highness Once we have found out all that we can about the situation, I intend to see the dress, at least, sent out to sea in the same way that my father's remains were," he tells him.
Eirene studies the dress with an expert's eye. Carefully, meticulously. She touches it with her gloved hands gingerly. She seems to be walking her fingers, barely, across the blood spray to gage the distance. She motions Orchid over and asks the servant to stand there while she holds the dress up. "I need to measure the sizes to get a better idea of the blood patterning, would you mind holding this or me?"
Matteo exhales a breath, nodding. He agrees, "Perhaps. I was joking, of course, but maybe. Maybe it would be with him if the other was with this dress." His gaze slides to Eirene and the dress, watching the woman work curiously, but mostly he drinks. He questions lightly, "How would we find a place where a woman died, before most of us were born?"
"Prince Sirius is a bit of a skeptic when it comes to some things," Iseulet explains quietly and without judgement. Then appraising Eirene and her methods she tilts her head to the side curiously. "I knew I liked her," she whispers conspiratorily to no one in particular. "Is there a full account from Ludvigo's side perhaps that we could read? What he says happened or a description of who or what killed Vladlena?"
When Eirene motions Orchid over the maid dutifully moves closer to her for the measuring thing she does. "I am pretty sure most Grimhall women are taller than me." she observes quietly. She is not a tall girl, after all. However, she does stand before Eirene, waiting for her to do her thing. "I don't know much of investigating and such but I do know Grimhall lands and the people of it. So, perhaps, I can help narrow down a possible location?" This is spoken in general but she is watching Grimhalls more closely, likely to assure she is not overstepping what she is permitted with them.
"Some of the older servants, such as the woman who gave us this casket, might know something more about where it was supposed to have happened. Ludovico's account, if it was written down anywhere, might also give us some indication of where to look," Valdemar says as he glances from Matteo, whose question he was addressing, to Iseulet. His attention eventually settles on Anneke, though, as he goes on to ask something himself, "Do you know if there /is/ a written account, Mother? Or if there might be somewhere else we might consider looking while we are here?" After making this inquiry, his focus shifts and settles more intently on Orchid and Eirene, waiting to hear what the latter has to say.
Some appeasement's brought unto Sirius Valardin at Valdemar's assurance, and so this polite smile bore of etiquette's moved onto a higher rung of satisfaction. "This is wonderful news," hazards Sirius, "For perhaps, if there's such thing as a moral imperative in the Isles, it is to uphold tradition. And if the matter of her burial's still on hold... well, I'd be certainly raking at my grand-grand-grand nephews' ankles in their sleep if they hadn't yet interred me upon a stone in the March generations after my death." Iseulet's mitigation of his skeptic ways births crinkles across the scarred length of his nose, and he turns, looks, to the Marquessa. "For good reason."
A rustle of silk announces that the Dowager Duchess is rising to her feet, the tall blonde's presence impressive in this ancient hall. "You have such stamina all of you, for finding out truths, for exposing old secrets. I'm too old for it I think...I may become one of these old secrets myself before too long. I'm off to Grimhold to see my boys...and my newest girl. If you need anything, you know who to send for." Various servants and former thralls depending, but certainly not her, not in the middle of the night. "Your own rooms are readied in the east wing here...and if you are interested, Ivan Grimhall's ducal chambers are in what is left of the crumbling wing towards the center." There is one to the east as well, in better shape, but its easy to see why the family has upgraded their quarters. Even if this is the hall with the formorian bones.
Eirene grins at Orchid as she sizes the girl up. "You're right, but it shouldn't matter the height," she reassures her. Sirius is given a smirk in amusement before she addresses Iseulet, "He should walk a mile in my boots. I seen plenty of shit to make a skeptic change their mind..." But she goes back to the dress, making motions around Orchid's head and glancing down again at the blood-flecked gown. "Not enough for a throat slit," she agrees with the earlier assessment. "But enough for trickle-down from a head wound; probably a rock or a club at close range, based on the splatter. So she probably got hit on the head and then dumped into the water.
Matteo doesn't offer that she hit her own head, this time, but there's certainly a thoughtful look that he levels on Eirene as he takes a sip of his next cup of mead. He makes a thoughtful noise, offering to Orchid: "You said that you know the isle well. Any place near the shore that is marked, with a sigil or stone or anything that might indicate a place of mourning or such? If we really wanted to search where it happened, maybe someone marked it, in some way. Or, well, you said that the Duke's chambers had the sketch? Perhaps there was more there?"
Rising from her seat, Sanya looks toward the direction of the crumbling wing her aunt mentioned. "I'd like to take a look in the room." She suggests with a frown. "Perhaps there's more that'd lend credence to what the sketch suggested."
She turns her face toward Sirius and nods. "I fully agree. Very good reason. But I have given up trying to convince you with words. You are the see to believe type. And that's fine. I trust that the truths will reveal themselves to you in time." And Iseulet leans in to whisper to him for a brief moment with a nod before turning her attention back to the room. "Oh I would like to see the rooms personally, myself."
Sirius checked willpower at difficulty 10, rolling 7 higher.
"Yes, there could be more in Ivan's old bedchamber," Valdemar agrees as he moves to stand up himself. Turning to Gustav for a moment, he tells him, "You know where our records are kept. Go and find anything you can about a written version of Ludovico's account. Or anything else there that might indicate where my great aunt might have gone overboard." As he begins to head toward the wing where the old Duke's room was himself, he mentions to Sirius, "Yes, I understand what you mean. But this is a relatively recent discovery, and it occurred to me that, along the way, we might find other items that should be put to rest along with her dress. Better to handle it all at once, after we are reasonably sure that there is nothing else waiting to be discovered."
Looking on and onwards to Eirene's work, her mention in his direction's met with a sardonic gleam of amusement, but it's brief and bland, just like his answer. "I wouldn't fit your boots," he says, with a belated; "My lady," right after. "I recognize the Gods saw fit not to make of me a practitioner of medicine for good reasons, and such things are better left for the learned and experienced." Then, Iseulet leans in, and whatever pelagic curse she's laid upon him in her hexing, hushed words makes the scalene muscle of his throat stiffen, his head to tilt leftwards - into her - and him, make a disgruntled face. He looks at the beldam for Marquesa after and his eyes conjure up an understanding: he admonishes such 'words'. Then, Sirius stands up simultaneously to Valdemar, and after the Duke he deferentially follows, drink in hand. Obviously. "And you'd prefer they're all overlapped in this little casket? Quite good, I think. Simplifies things. Almost as if in an odd way, it's 'justice' to put all the solved evidences in this honoring box of hers."
"I will go see if there's anything I can find in the old, deep forgotten shelves of the cellar," Matteo offers to the ground, as Sirius and Valdemar rise and move to leave. He salutes them with his glass, draining the last of it with one graceful movement, before placing it aside. Then he will go do that. You never know, after all!
Eirene murmurs a 'thank you' to Orchid and carefully lays the dress back into the box as Sirius suggests it. "Yeah, I'm curious to see the old rooms too. Not that I like snooping around others mansions," she jokes to Valdemar. She nods at Sanya as she looks to the old wing of the manor. "May can I go with?"
Instinctively ORchid moves to help the Dowager Duchess with her departure then she gives a pause, remembering what Valdemar said. THen Matteo is speaking with her and to him she turns, "I would need a few moments to think of the land." As Valdemar stands up to go to Ivan's room she moves to follow him, undoubtedly seriously considering the questions from MAtteo. Her expression lights up as she remembers something. Towards the PRavus Prince she looks and says to him, "There is a cove beneath the old keep." She notes, sliding her eyes to Siris then she speaks quieter, likely so MAtteo, Eirene, Sanya, and Valdemar only hear. Considering the expression of ORchid is is clear she is more or less concerned for the other prince and his disbelief. "A less than pleasant spirit of a lady resides there. I haven't explored the cove to closely, with the stories, but I do know the path into it." This last sentence is spoken in her normal voice, though, not the loudest of voices it is not a strain to hear one.
Orchid adds, "Any time, my lady." to Eirene.
"Oh, my lady, there's no need for the assurance." Sanya offers to Eirene with a little smile as she pushes her chair in, preparing to set off. "At this point, snooping through the crumbling wing can only help."
When Sanya expresses interest in seeking out the old Duke's rooms, a servant is quick to hear her and arrive to offer escort. The Old Keep is called The Old Keep for a reason, and though the main reason is that it simply isn't the new one, it is also crumbling old stone and bone that does little to keep out the seasons and the sea. The young man introduces himself as Rolf and with torchlight in hand escorts the group past one long hallway and towards another, where he nods. "This was the wing with the Ducal Suite...I'm not sure that there's much to find there, the rooms were mostly cleaned out ages ago. This one particular hasn't been touched all that much though." He clearly does not know why. When the Ducal Suite itself is located its quite easy to tell, the room is vast with impressive ceilings and large arched windows, chilled sea air coming through where casements have broken. The bed, an armoire, several rugs, and a bookshelf are all left relatively in tact, and appear particularly spartan compared to what one usually imagines of a ducal suite, even an ancient one.
Valdemar laughs a bit. "Nadia, please show my brother-in-law to the cellar. It might take him hours to find it, otherwise," he tells once of the servants in the room before turning to Eirene and saying, "Of course you are welcome to join us, Lady Malvici. Everyone here is...it would be rude to talk of all this, then tell anyone present that they could not follow along. And honestly, as my cousin alluded to, the more eyes we have looking, the better." After listening to what Orchid has to say, he nods slightly. "Yes, that might well be worth checking out as well," he adds before they head up to the former Duke's rooms.
She is quite deadpan and unaffected by Sirius' admonishment and rises, brushing the wrinkles out of her steelsilk dress and looks to Matteo, "The wine celler, Highness? Trying to have all the fun without us." Iseulet sighs and prepares to follow Valdemar to Ivan's room, wrapping her arms around herself feeling the chill in the air. "I love the smell of old buildings..." She muses to herself.
Matteo checked perception + dodge at difficulty 99, rolling 84 lower.
Matteo checked perception + linguistics at difficulty 45, rolling 1 lower.
"I do not," ventures Sirius in addition to Iseulet's opinion, him whose arms in a quick-rising flourish remove that long, draping mantle of differing fur-colors from around his shoulders, it long enough to reach the back rise of his ankles. Afterward, he ambles a step closer to Iseulet and lays it across her much shorter shoulder-length, his fingers tugging its collar around her neck and as to adjust it with that dragon-pin just below her chin. Once her inner temperature's safeguarded, Sirius takes to survey the ampleness of the room. Then, he sneezes.
"I will go with Prince Matteo, my Duke, and escort him to the ducal suite when he as finished his inspecting." Since there is likely more than enough people skilled at finding things going to the room to inspect things. She may as well make sure the prince doesn't get crushed or not able to leave the cellar due to alcohol consumption.
When Orchid offers to join him, Matteo stops to make sure he has a glass that he can give to Orchid with a teasing warmth, suggesting: "I need you to catch up first, then." He smiles crookedly to Orchid, introducing himself as he follows her to the Old Keep's cellars: "Matteo Pravus. Orchid, wasn't it? A pleasure to meet you."
Matteo checked charm + seduction at difficulty 15, rolling 31 higher.
Once in the room, Valdemar looks around and takes in a deep breath. "Here we are. Take care...move stuff around if you feel it necessary, but try not to break anything unless there is reason to suspect that there is something to find and no other way to get to it," he tells everyone before he begins to walk toward the bookshelf to begin his own search there.
"If I were a duke with something to hide..." Eirene muses aloud as she walks the room, letting her gloved fingertips occasionally brush a surface. "Where would I hide it? Bookshelf is a usual go-to," she says with a nod at Valdemar. "Loose floorboard? False bottom in the amoire? Under the bed mattress?" She starts rattling off random locations as she carefully makes her way around the room.
"I'd prefer if no one moved anything," Sirius comments to all involved in checking the room alongside Valdemar. With both of his hands overlapped at the back of his waist, uncloaked, the tall and hawkish Lord releases an air of bookishness and sagely silence as he parades the four corners of the inside chamber. Across escritoires, his gaze then wanders; thorough little nooks and crannies of dark, bug-ridden, spider-bearing holes he then peers. Looking. Sniffing. Trailing for any mark of man upon the morrowless nature of the alcove.
Sirius checked intellect + riddles at difficulty 45, rolling 7 higher.
Orchid checked perception + stewardship at difficulty 45, rolling 21 higher.
Sanya checked wits + investigation at difficulty 45, rolling 14 lower.
The small maid is quick to catch up to Matteo, though, despite being quick she does pant a little from the darting. "Orchid, yes." she confirms after catching her breathe. "My Duchess likely would not be happy if something happened to you." She had likely been watching how Valdemar interacts with the prince and listening to the discussions. "Nice to meet you as well, your highness." At the cellar she lets him proceed her then along behind Matteo ORchid follows. She carefully picks her way around until she finds a bottle of something or another. An inspection of it is given then it is offered over to Matteo once she returns to him, "This seems to be what you want. I know little of alcohol. I spent a good amount of my life as a thrall. Besides, I don't oft see Grimhalls drinking wine. Meads, vodkas, and so forth."
Sanya checked wits + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 2 higher.
Valdemar checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 19 lower.
Eirene checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 45 higher.
Matteo was actually meaning with alcohol! He offers the maid a glass of mead, after all. He doesn't take the bottle until Orchid takes the glass, unwilling to drink alone, perhaps. When he does take the bottle, he reads it's label with a quick smile to Orchid, telling her: "Nice find!" He will continue exploring, though, the cellar.
She gives Sirius a smile and a gracious dip of her head in thanks and turns her complete attention over to the room. Sifting through other people's things didn't seem to bother her at all. Flipping through pages, books, looking for squeaky and loose floorboards. It's all the same to her.
For Sirius, it is as if the whole world darkens, everything else has a thin film of unimportance on it -- and the room, its various facets, its details; its meaningful and not-so-meaningful details, burn in the middle of it to contrasting colors of interest, in a strangely beautiful way. Then, his tongue clucks against the roof of his mouth once, twice, seeking Valdemar's attention. "Duke Grimhall," voices Sirius, soft-spoken; "You ought to check beneath the mattress. There's perhaps hollow space there, within the frame it's built into. Something could be hidden." Then, he turns, and approaches a book particular from the many on a nearby bookshelf, reaching in to take it. Pull it from its slotting, if possible, and address briskly its many pages to get a sense for what's written in it.
A bit of an exasperated look is given by Orchid at Matteo's insisting she take the glass. She does accept it but doesn't take a drink from it. When Matteo turns to continue exploring she does her best to make it seem like she is drinking from the glass. She is not very good at deception. As long as he seems like he wants to explore the cellar ORchid follows along. "Are you looking for something else?" she wonders of him. "Perhaps I can help."
The Duke begins his search at the bookshelf, but is having no luck there by the time that Sirius suggests looking under the mattress. "Sure, I can do that," he tells the Prince, then turns to do just that. The mattress is moved easily enough, and pushed aside on its edge to leave room for people to walk around. He then begins knocking on the frame, listening for the hollow spot that was suggested to be there.
"Just looking. In no hurry to go poke around a Duke's old bedchamber," Matteo answers lightly, humor dry on his words but his shoulder shrugging upwards. He offers, easily: "If you wish to rejoin them, I will be fine here, I promise. I know my way now, and I can find my way back, love."
Sirius checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 5 lower.
Sanya takes the time to study places underneath the remaining furniture in search of anything that may hint at what they're looking for. She's not the world's greatest detective, but her desire to find stuff things relating to family history empowers her.
"Love? Do you call al people that?" she wonders of Matteo, quite curious. ORchid purposefully ignores the invite to return to everyone. "Maybe you'll find something in here that will help with my Duke's goal to learn more of his family." Around the maid glances around, as if expecting something grand to suddenly be noticed.
Finding a parchment pressed into the leather-bound cover of the book, Sirius removes the adhesive vellum from its interred surface and reads, however painfully through the weatherbeaten damage upon the prose, through its musings. His face goes through various stages of alarm, and it's obvious whatever he's read in place is cause for a minimum of distress. Still, the decorous Prince doesn't say a word, and walks up to Valdemar, handing him the note lugubriously.
Eirene's quite clever. And good at this kind of thing, after all, as a forensic scientist or the closest one gets to one in Arx. "Bed is a good choice," she agrees with the prince as he instructs the duke to check there. With that being done, she herself pops off to inspect the armoire and feels around the bottom of the panels until she goes -aha-. She hooks a finger into a small unseen knot and pulls up a loose board. Her blue eyes peer inside, as best she can in the darkness, and there she produces a folded up page. Reading curiously, she scowls and gives a heavy sigh. "Great, there's mention of a ghost again... Signed Svend Grimkin. Hum." She, too, presents it to Valdemar for his perusal.
Underneath a worn couch not far from the bookshelf, Sanya finds a journal, which she begins to flick through. "This looks like Duke Ivan's journal." She says to no one in particular, engrossed in one specific page.
Matteo shrugs up a casual shoulder, exhaling a slow breath as he says lightly: "Sometimes. Sometimes not. Honestly, I should have called you flower, perhaps. But that felt a bit too on the nose." He grins to Orchid, before adding, "You might at least find something from generations old servants, who hid away here to avoid work. Though, I suppose, they are likely to have been thralls in the Mourning Isles, hm?"
Valdemar is not searching the frame for long before he finds and takes out a dusty old journal. Blowing the dust off of it, he begins to page through it, his eyes intent on its content. After a time, he stops, and seems to read the same page several times before looking up in time to see what Sirius wants to show him. That also gets a thorough reading, probably a few times over. "And here I thought we wouldn't find anymore proof of my theory," he remarks in reply before handing Sirius the journal he found.
"What did you find, Lady Malvici?" Inquires Sirius, in his hand the book recently plucked out from the den of tomes behind him. He seems oddly entertained, as if in his element, investigating and looking and addressing the fundamental unknowns of life. There's entertainment in his smile, and a glint of sharp curiosity to the gleam of his eyes when he looks at her. It's at this moment he receives Valdemar's journal in hand, and says, "Thank you," in instinctual politeness before immersing himself through its leather-folded secrets, reading. Reading very quickly at that.
An amused look is given by Orchid at the comment of 'flower' being a pet name, "If it helps, your highness, I was not always called Orchid. I chose the name when I was given my freedom upon repaying my debt to Duke Harald Grimhall. A new life, a new name." Around she peers then says with a laugh, "THose who hid here may have hid notes. Shall we return now? I think we've wandered enough that they are done exploring." In a stage whisper ORchid adds, "I was also not certain on exploring the ducal rooms. Iam not very good at finding clues."
"An accounting of a sighting of what -sounds- like Lady Vladlena's spirit. Seen after she was dead. Beautiful, pale skin, bright red hair-- but dead and empty eyes," Eirene says, glancing at the paper again.
Matteo slides a look of study over Orchid for that bit of explanation, a consideration of her life as a former thrall, but he only tips a nod. "I see. Well, I am sure a choice of a name is a good way to celebrate that," he agrees in musing thought. But he smiles crookedly again to Orchid, gesturing. "Go, return. Figure out what they've learned. I'll make my way back, soon."
She looks through the papers that have been found and the other clues, Iseulet's smooth brow crinkling and creasing. "Sooooo is anyone else getting weird vibes between Vladlena and her brother? Like... I hate to be that person. Maybe I am reading too much into it or maybe they had the Eidolon bond I've heard about before?"
Sirius strokes his jaw's line in ponderous silence, one that's only broken to decide; "I found a note of dangerous information there, on that shelf, behind this book. It is the kind of information I'd prefer not to reveal myself, but have the Duke here tell you personally, my lady. It'd be rude and presumptuous of me to disclose such a thing," on his answer for Eirene. Then, with his right, slit-divided brow made aloft, he eyes Iseulet searchingly. "That sounds like some kind of fish too big for the sea. What's an 'eidolon'?"
Reading out the contents of Ivan's journal, Sanya looks concerned, especially after hearing Eirene's findings. "Oh gods." She shakes her head. "This was on the sea?"
After arranging for someone to help Matteo to his rooms and going along to assure he gets there safely ORchid returns to join the party. She is very thorough with assuring she does her duty and all that. She absolutely does not leave him until he's in his room with his drink or someone is with him. She takes her duties as a maid very seriously. Orchid is quiet as she joins everyone once more, just listening and waiting.
Iseuelt's suggestion about his great grandfather and great aunt elicits a shrug from Valdemar. "That is possible. Twins can also just be very close, I've seen that with my siblings as we grew up. Or it could have been that they were Eidolons," he agrees with her, his brow furrowed deeply as he goes on to keep searching the room. What they've found already might not be all; the sketch had been found here before, and now these written accounts. So he continues to look for signs of anything else that might help them in their search.
Eirene answers Sanya, "It sounds like, yeah. This was recorded by an old admiral, so I'd assume so?" She wears an odd look for a moment as if mentally scanning through something. "What's an Eidolon? I'm afraid I've never heard of one," she says, glancing from Iseulet to Valdemar. As for Sirius, she gives a grunt of understanding, a lift of the chin in acceptance of his reluctance.
Her cerulean gaze wanders up and over to Prince Sirius' and with a sigh she goes to sit on a nearby needlepoint chair delicately. "Well, Eidolons, for lack of a better term? Are soulmates. Not as won-Ow!" Iseulet squeals with discomfort, suddenly shooting up to her feet and turning sharply to face the chair. "There is something in there and I'm fairly certain it's not part of the frame." She scowls at the cushion, rubbing her rearend. "Huh.... poked me through the steelsilk...."
"What?! What happened?!" Sirius' concern then calls out, his body as if possessed summoned to Iseulet's side, not quick enough to aid her to her feet but worried enough to mobilize both arms around her being, shielding her from the demonic furniture with hands that rest from above the cloth of cloak, dresses and whatnot on her hips. With this grip, he very subtly reels her back from her former seating arrangement. "If there's such a thing as divine providence, that's it, there, with what just happened. I now doubt it's 'eidolons'."
"Eidolons are two souls that have been bound together. It has to do with magic and aionic resonance," Valdemar summarizes for Eirene as he continues his search. At least until Iseulet exclaims about something poking her when she sits down. Looking toward her with concern, he waits until Sirius is sure that she is alright before he moves to check the seat of the chair. Carefully.
Pausing in her search to rapidly turn to where Iseulet is sat, Sanya studies the chair with widened eyes. "Are you alright? /Through/ the steelsilk?" She looks startled.
Eirene goes ah. Not the kind of 'ah I had no idea what you just said' but the 'ah I hadn't heard that before' kind. "Interesting. I'll have to look into that some more some time." She does seem a little disturbed that something poked through steelsilk. "Well, needles gotta sew it somehow," she says to Sanya. She wears a steelsilk bodice herself, familiar with the fabric. "What is it," she inquires of Iseulet.
She is pulled away from the demon spawn of a chair. "It bit me!" Iseulet says with her voice heavy with accusation. "Definitely bit me." She gives a crisp nod of affirmation. "Sirius you are good at destroying chairs, I think vengeance is called for." Then to Sanya, "I think I am aright, there's just something pointy in there. Like a tooth." And then she exclaims, "Or something diamondplate! You have to use diamondplate shears to work with steelsillk!"
The twisted ambitions of turpitude; depravity; wickedness, become clear in Sirius' eyes the longer he stares at the chair, as if out and across the surface of his eyes curtains out a red filter of rage and ill-at-ease pain that begets vengeance. Only that it's but a flickering moment, a lapse in concentration to a fundamental truth: "It's an inanimate object, Marquessa," he says, condescending in his voice, yet sweetly so, as if addressing naive, starry-eyed youth. "Things without feelings cannot be 'revenged' on." When he looks at Valdemar, his gaze lightens assuringly, shaping an understanding that yes, it's all good.
Eirene folds her arms over her chest. "Let's yank that sucker out then," she says dryly. "And see what 'bit' you." She offers to do so herself, motioning to the chair as Sirius declines to revenge himself upon it.
She doesn't hesitate. Iseulet nods at Eirene voicing her approval. "I've always wanted to see your skill with a bade my Lady. I've heard you're wonderful." She reaches for Sirius' hip and maybe even half steps behind him. History with chairs you see. She gently tugs him back, protectively, lest he become a pin cushion or receive splinters in the chair's destruction.
Eirene gets a small thin scalpel with an alaricite blade from a black leather belt with a silver falcon buckle.
The Duke is checking the chair, and though he is reluctant to damage anything in the room, he does eventually take out a knife to cut open the upholstery. When Isuelet mentions Eirene's skill with a blade, however, he chuckles and hands his knife to the Lycene, telling her, "Yes, you are probably better suited to this sort of thing than I am. I'm likely to cut into whatever it is that we're looking for if I try it." Valdemar then stands up straight again to step out of the way.
There's a common belief that in times of desperation and crisis, humans will ultimately turn on each other, that they will snatch, and grasp, and care only for their wellbeing at the expense of everyone else. It's not true. There are terrible people, certainly. Greedy people, selfish people, those who will take advantage of others even when the world looks grim. But there will always be individuals that choose to only look out for their own. In times of desperation and crisis, most humans, no matter their differences, choose to pull together.
Food floods into the Lowers, from every source and every direction. It comes from redirected trade routes, from fleets of merchant vessels, from caravans, from smugglers, from the very lowest to the very highest, it comes to Arx, and it comes from Arx. Millions of silver pour into the effort, the contribution of nobles, merchants, and commoners alike. The Crafters Guild opens Crafters Hall to the hungry, and closes their shops to feed and clothe the needy. The Commoners Council works with noble Houses and Lowers Families to provide a network of shops and personal dwellings to ensure the efficient distribution of goods.
The Cullers are there, the Grayhopes, and the Ulbrans. There are smugglers and thieves, drunks and layabouts, the dregs that are usually only recognized as such by those of higher social rank, standing in the open, pitching in, protecting supplies, passing out food, and clothing, and other necessities. A lot of expensive things go missing from expensive homes and heavy purses during the effort, and yet, at the same time, a considerable amount of coin that can't be traced is devoted entirely to helping the poor. Almost no one attempts to take advantage of any of this. Those that do are quickly beaten down. Perhaps this surprises many in the Upper Boroughs and the Wards, but as the saying goes, the Lowers takes care of its own.
Lured back by Iseulet's prompt, Sirius does indeed take that backward step demanded of him by her palms. "I'm not so sure she intended a surgical approach on this one, Duke Grimhall," he says to Valdemar, then turns, to the side, towards Orchid. Narrowing his eyes softly beneath inwardly turning brows, he asks; "Do you handle the sorting of rooms here, Goodwoman? I'll be retreating for rest soon, and I thought to pose a request most important."
The Faith opens its doors, its coffers, and provides comfort. The Crown spares no expense and no effort, although this is about as quiet as anything done by the Sovereign of the Compact can be. Whisper House soothes tensions and encourages more generosity. Merchant guilds bring their influence to bear. Sellsword companies work at cost. Noble Houses send what they can from their domains. The cost of food and other staples returns to normal, despite those few holdouts who put coin above need, who, unable to gouge when so many aren't, are eventually forced to lower their prices as well. Songs are sung. Inspirations are born. Work is provided, and bellies are full.
This unity won't last. Such unity never does. There are always divides, there are always disagreements, there are always conflicting idealogies and desires. There is always need, and it can never be entirely satisfied, not for long. But in this moment, here, the people of Arx stand together.
Today is enough. And maybe that makes Tomorrow a little brighter.
Eirene declines Valdemar's knife; she has a better one. It's a slender glittering thing of pure alaricite with an air-thin blade. A surgeon's perfect tool for delicate work. "This way, I can leave much of the chair intact if you ever wanted to reupholster it and put it downstairs," she offers to the duke. She kneels alongside the chair and gently runs her hand over the cloth surfaces until she can feel the snag, and then she starts to slice in around it to extract the surprise.
"I can escort you to your room, your highness." Orchid doesn't indicate whether it is her job or not.
Sirius says, "I require a room whose lavatory is strictly facing West, when one's seated at its toilet."
Sawing through old (very old) velvet with the alaricite knife is very much like watchin a hot butter knife go through butter. Around the edges she precisely cuts through old stitching and reveals the fluff within. It's been disturbed by age and perhaps a mouse at one time or another but scratching through this mess reveals something that still has a sparkle to it. It's a grip and guard wrought of diamondplate and having an encrustation of red rubies. The leather of the grip has cracked and practically dissoved with time but it stil is a handsome piece of sword.
"I can only bring you to the rooms I was told were prepared and who they are assigned too." Orchid might be a yielding girl but she is not when it comes to 'work.' "If you are not happy with your room I will ask the Dowager Duchess if there is another available. Hopefully she will not be upset to have her rest disturbed." Maybe ORchid is subtly indicating his demands are coming off as unreasonable.
Studying Sirius for a long moment as though to gauge whether he's being serious or not, Sanya eventually turns her attention Iseuelt again. She smiles when the grip and guard are retrieved. "I'd hoped it was something of the like." She turns to the duke with a glimmer in her eyes. "Valdemar, we're close."
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