AoW: Practical Exercise
This event is for members or by special invitation only; if you're interested in coming but not on the roster, please contact Natalia BEFORE the day of the event.
May 26, 2021, 3 p.m.
Arx - Ward of the Crown - Academy of War - Headquarters
Comments and Log
A circle of chairs and tables and couches has been arranged to make discussion easy, and food and drink has been set out on long tables near the courtyard doors. Practice in the courtyard has not stopped for the event, but with the big doors closed the occasional particularly loud clang of a sword isn't too terribly intrusive. Guard are posted at the entrance, their current function being to hold the doors open as people pass through them, and also nodding politely where appropriate. Natalia is hovering behind one of the couches right now, watching folks arrive and settle with a pleasant sort of smile.
Veronica arrives briskly, striding with her usual sense of purpose even if it's just to a round table discussion. She'll offer Natalia a bright smile and wave of greeting as she looks around the room and then settles onto a chair where she can see the door as others arrive.
Kenjay and Bahiya arrive, Kenjay offering the assembly a fluid Eurusi-style bow that doesn't dislodge or even move Bahiya's hand on his right forearm. Clad in scarlet and orange silks of a Eurusi cut, and a few pieces of armour never designed by an Arvani smith, Kenjay looks both at home and out-of-place here at the Academy of War. That done, he escorts Bahiya to where a pair of chairs sit empty, together, and settles Bahiya in the right-hand one before taking the left himself.
Gianna strides in, the banners of fabric on the shoulders of her gown fluttering behind her. It's a very showy, swishy gown, and this is possibly a weird place to model it, but here is Gianna anyway. Gianna, who's never been at one of these meetings before. Who has never been in this building before, and who touches her fingertips to her lower lip as she has a slow look around. Nevermind that the gesture draws attention to her ring. Some people, right?
Alaric arrives into the headquarters with the minimal of fanfare, mouth upturned to adopt a regally gracious smile to accompany the deep bow of his head to Natalia. He makes himself a scarce entity, the Kings' Own in accompaniment dispersing to provide him a modicum of privacy to settle in comfortably at a chair positioned in the periphery of the gathering.
Expression briefly touching with surprise when she registers Alaric's presence, Natalia smiles and bows her head back to him in turn. She's quiet and observant until the big front doors have been closed, at which point she speaks up. "Thank you, everyone, for being here," she says. "First thing to be aware of; the guard will be thumping the front doors prior to opening them; please take care of what you say as people are arriving. Today is an experiment; we have a problem on the table that needs a solution discovered -- opening a line of communication to a distant place that may well prove impossible. If we come up with something today, fantastic. I do not expect this to actually be solved in a single discussion, however. Ambassador Bahiya'al'mathali has been gracious enough to agree to provide us further information regarding our objective, and the particular challenges associated with it. Thank you, Ambassador."
Bahiya tilts her head as Kenjay murmurs something to her, surprise registering on her features as well for the same reason it does Natalia's. She was attentive before but now she is very much so, her hand resting in Kenjay's, finger flexing in a gentle squeeze. When addressed and thanked, the Ambassador bows her head graciously to the Whisper. "It is you I should thank for offering this idea, Whisper Natalia. I am hopeful our problem can be solved, for my homeland's sake, in the present and its future."
Veronica also reacts with some surprise to Alaric's entrance but she simply offers a respectful nod and remains seated as the guards shuffle in and disperse into the room. Then Natalia and Bahiya commence the meeting and she straightens up, looking attentive and curious as to what intractable problem they are going to be investigating today.
Gianna executes a shallow bow in Alaric's direction, though that's about it. She nods to the room in general before making her way toward one of the sofas, seating herself. One leg crosses over the other and she casually smooths her garment so it drapes attractively. So casual. That done, she rests her hands lightly on her exposed knee and listens.
Kenjay rises to his feet to offer Alaric a fluid Eurusi-style bow, then settles back into his seat again. His outfit doesn't get draped attractively, it gets left to wrinkle and crease as it will - although it mostly won't, with how straight his back is.
Alaric raises a goblet of wine in subtle acknowledgement of the differential greetings made his way, shifting his attentions fully upon Natalia as the nature of the discussion is revealed to the gathered group. "Interesting. I look forward to seeing how this will unfold," he comments in hushed optimism, his presence perhaps limited to background support for the time being.
Cassima arrived early and settled herself in an out of the way location, here to listen and learn. She has a small lapdesk with parchment, quill and ink. A bottle of something was left with her before assistant and guards were made to wait outside. She rises to offer respectful curtsies to those who enter, but largely tries to stay quiet and simply watch the proceedings and take her notes.
2 Redrain Guards have been dismissed.
"As am I. Before I cede the floor to you, I would like to note for everyone that I do request participation. If everyone sits here quietly to learn from the group, there will be nothing to learn," Natalia says, sending a look around those assembled. "More will be learned by participation, I assure you all." No one in particular is targeted with the statement, and given the look around, no one is spared it, either. Except Bahiya. There is no Look /that/ way. "And with that said, Ambassador, the floor is yours. Thank you." She slips around the couch to actually sit down on it, folding her hands into her lap.
Gianna has joined the a comfortable ivory leather and mahogany wooden sofa.
With another gentle squeeze to Kenjay's fingers, Bahiya rises from her seat and gives a fluid Eurusi bow.
"Salutations, you of the country that has granted me and mine asylum, and continues to do so," the Ambassador begins, her spine straight and her chin tipped up. "Communication with Eurus, as I am sure most are aware, has proven very difficult. It takes many months and a high price for ships to cross the sea with messages, and that does not guarantee their safe arrival. Skal'daja is led by the Vizier but his control is scattered, his sons in disarray, my sources tell me, due to many factors, and now even more so with the battles so recently won." Another bow. "There have been rumors that Skal'daja is now without a captain to guide it, rebellion and ruin and hope that something better my rise from the chaos that has begun to consume it." She pauses. "But the information is so limited it is difficult to say how deeply such chaos runs, how actively it bubbles to the surface. We need a way to know, truly, what is happening there, and to make contact with those that might effect it for the better."
Veronica listens thoughtfully to all of this, a faint frown touching her features as she begins going over all the logistical difficulties in her mind. The calculation is nearly visible on her face, and while she's no sailor, many hazards of long distance are universal. "Are we still receiving refugees? Do we have any habit of meeting and speaking with them about what they witnessed before departing?" She inquires. The problem of getting a more proper report done is still buzzing at the back of her mind.
"Are there still merchants moving between Eurus and the Compact?" Gianna inquires, brows arching slightly.
Bahiya bows her head in Veronica's direction, following the sound of her voice. "We are." She turns her features to Gianna's direction. "Some. It is my understanding many divert to Setarco and Pieros, as it is less costly to be somewhere between Arx and Eurus."
Gianna is seated on one of the couches. She's speaking, her voice carrying easily. "If there are merchants, there are means of communication. If there is travel, there are innocuous people capable of undertaking the journey. Those same people can carry messages to Setarco and Pieros. Bards travel quite a lot and they are welcome in most places. They have an excuse to be almost anywhere. Contact could be made there. Bards also gather information and swap it when they meet, along with stories and songs. Making contact with bards there could be of use."
"Is the length of the journey the greatest risk on the table, or the potential of running into patrols? Or is there something else?" Natalia asks of Bahiya, her attention turning over towards Gianna for her suggestion, and she nods thoughtfully.
"The cost of the swiftest voyage between Eurus and Arvum is measured in lives," Kenjay offers quietly. "Literally. Lives."
With a murmured apology at his tardiness, a large Lord bearing the insignia of House Greenmarch slides quietly into the Academy of War Headquarters and, spotting his King, gives his sovereign a deep bow before giving similar, if less deferential, courtesies to the others gathered. The Greenmarcher slides into a seat quietly, listening to the conversation flowing around him before he makes any attempt to speak.
"Prince Kenjay is correct. In order to cross by the shortest, and only, known route... one need pay a price of thirteen living souls. Or face the kraken.. though we have yet to see that part actually occur. At least, none of my notes or reports show any that have attempted it..." Cassima glances up from her note-taking, looking around the room, pausing on Natalia with a nod before falling quiet once more.
Gianna's eyebrows arch again; she leans forward, resting an elbow on her exposed knee and cupping her chin in her hand. She looks between Kenjay and Cassima. Kraken?
Bahiya gestures to Kenjay after Gianna speaks, and Kenjay directly relays the true problem. "The delays are secondary to the price. The longer journey does not cost lives in same manner; that way costs time, and time can be very precious."
Veronica's eyes widen a bit at the mention of sacrifice, at the risk of the kraken. Very long and difficult travel, then. Her thoughtful frowning continues. "Speaking to any new arrivals seems of great importance then, but still leaves us several months out of date more than likely. As well as them not being actual agents, but simply souls making a new life."
Alaric has taken the time to listen, measuring and weighing the words of each party present who speaks on the subject matter. "The Crown has a potential ally in the name of Eurusi merchant by the name of Yusathic. He's known for his ability in unique acquisitions," he offers. "He may be willing to be of use in ensuring that a line of communication can be opened, though it does not alleviate the problem of information being dated by the time we've received it here in the capital."
"Receiving news is certainly valuable, even months out of date," Natalia suggests, giving a light shake of her head to go along with the words. There's a quiet aside of thanks to Sis when she's brought a glass of something, and she sips from it before she adds, "I believe it wise that we continue engaging with refugees that arrive. However, what we need is to establish a steady communication route, which means being able to get messages -- and people -- there, and then back again. Reliably." Her attention shifts to Gianna, and she suggests, "What do you think of asking your bards to gather information in Pieros from merchants that make those trips?" Alaric's suggestion draws her attention there, and she nods to that, too.
"Of course," Gianna tells Natalia, inclining her head. "I'll spread some word about being interested in instruments and songs from far-off places. That will provide a bit of cover."
"Could also get us some nice concerts if they pick something up." Veronica offers with a slight smile towards Gianna.
"I received a missive from someone in Skal'daja a few days ago," says Kenjay, "It was dated a year ago, and it had to be based on information from at least nine months before that." And then to Natalia, "There will be a cultural display on the beach in the next few days, I think? You may have much luck there."
Gianna inclines her head to Veronica, the idea seeming to please the Nightingale of the College.
"Perfect. We're looking for tips or guidance, or any myths or the like we can follow up on," Natalia nods to Gianna, her tone satisfied. Kenjay's suggestion has her nodding again. "Vee, do you want to go to that? Can you go to that?" Her next question is for Alaric, and she barely pauses between them. "Your merchant contact, is he here? Would you like to follow up with him, or should we ask for a volunteer?" 'Volunteer' has her Looking Around The Room.
The newly arrived Greenmarcher, a rough-looking man with his longish brown hair pulled into a topknot at the back of his head, his face framed by a well-kept beard, speaks quietly. "Forgive me, I know none of you know me - I am Lord Jamie Greenmarch, by way of introduction. If I may... break down the problem as I understand it?" The big man shifts in his seat. "The first issue is the distance implies a certain slowness of communication. The second is the chaos and disorder currently affecting the area, and the lack of reliable sources of information. The third issue at hand is the cost of getting there - thirteen souls for the shortest journey."
"If I may also put forward a suggestion? For the second issue, as I see it - we need reliable sources of information, and given the current state of affairs... would not a specially formed "mercenary company, composed of men and women whose loyalty to the Compact is not in question. A company of sell-swords does two things - firstly it establishes who has the ability to hire in distant lands, and who the most likely threats are, because they will be the ones with the coin to prosecute an offensive war. It also allows our Company to establish who might actually be trustworthy, because they will be working with them directly. It also solves the third issue - the cost in lives is paid, yes, but only once. That leaves communication, but that might also be solvable."
Wincing lightly, Cassima looks up towards Natalia and lifts her quill, "I can volunteer to speak with merchants and the like. My economic connections tend to give us a common point of contact and better starting position for diplomatic discussions."
"Mercenaries? Oooh. I like that," Gianna says, giving Jamie a thoughtful look. She tilts her head to the side. "I wouldn't recommend the ritual with the thirteen sacrifices, though. In any case. I'm not an expert, however." She pauses, then adds, "I don't do boats."
Bahiya tilts her head to Alaric. "I have heard this name a number of times. Yu'sathic." She frowns gently. "It is my understanding he is Suj'abbati, but the rumor of his actions is that he such acquisitions but his shipments are difficult to trace." She takes a seat, smoothing her hands over her silks as she settles. "Given the nature of his culture, either he is dealing in counterfeits, lying outright, or he is acquiring his goods by some other means. There has been talk from the refugees of extensive pressure to trade the goods they bring with them, be they raw materials or heirlooms. There is nothing wrong with such actions, I am sure many immigrants bring such things to fund their futures as they would sentimentality."
At Jamie's suggestion, Bahiya's be-ribboned visage turns his way. "An armed company will not find the information I seek in good faith, at least not reliably. There are many that would take such questioning and gathering of information as an act of foreign aggression. I am already considered a traitor by my family, and they are esteemed members of the peerage in Skal'daja; this still will not open lines of communication with the rebellion, even with my reputation tarnished by slave-owners."
Tarnished among slave-owners*
The offer from Cassima has Natalia nodding, worrying lightly at her lower lip with her teeth as she considers. Bahiya's caution regarding the man makes her nod some more, and she looks to Alaric. "Would you mind arranging an introduction to be made between Princess Cassima and Ya'sathic?" She smiles big! Jamie's suggestion has her giving him a bit of a curious look, and she makes a 'mmhmm' of agreement for Bahiya's answer.
"Two, perhaps three, of the Vizier's favoured sons - including his heir - have died in Arvum in the last few months," Kenjay explains to Jamie. "And an Arvani man currently rules many - most - of the Dune Kingdoms, while a rebellion headed by Arvani figures wars against him. This is not likely to be a good time to be an Arvani mercenary in Eurus."
Veronica subsides to listening thoughtfully in the background as suggestions, some potential solutions are established. At least there is some possible progress. Kenjay's explanation of current Eurusi affairs gets a more startled blink, and a curious glint in her eye, though she doesn't question it at this time.
"Mmmhmn." Gianna looks thoughtful, but adds no further comment of her own.
"I'll have Zelda draft a letter to Ya'sathic soon," Alaric provides the affirmative to the request Natalia makes of him, though there is a moment's pause where he considers Bahiya critically. "What information do you seek to obtain directly in all of this? And how do you intend to address the issue of agents being among refugees and merchants we'd seek to deal with? Have we a plan in place to discern friend from foe? That loyalties remain unswayed when faced with potential lures from those operating under the Dune Emperor or any other enemy?"
Zelda, the royal messenger have been dismissed.
13 King's Own Guardsmen have been dismissed.
"I have significant personal experience with rooting out spies, cultists, and huntsmen hidden amongst the Eurusi people," Natalia speaks up for Alaric's question of Bahiya, her tone and smile warm. "I will be participating as necessary where it matters if we are dealing with friend or foe, but will also be able to educate those interested in learning how I do such." And then she's asking of Kenjay, "Can you tell me a little more about this upcoming festival? Who is hosting it, when?"
Jamie nods to Bahiya and Kenjay both, thinking for a long moment as others speak. "I see. A difficult problem to solve, for certain. Thank you for that, I was unaware, Highness, Ambassador."
2 Armed Confessors, Fion leave, following Veronica.
Bahiya bows to Alaric, her body shifting to face the source of his voice. "You are right to ask, your highness." Straightening, her voice is clear as she speaks: "Verifying the information from multiple sources is paramount; it is why I have not relied on rumor and information from the refugees alone. More of the same information matched from different angles will ensure a measure of credibility. As to what I see-"
Bahiya takes a deep breath, loosing it slowly before she speaks.
"I seek to place a person to act as a reliable, permanent leader for Skal'daja, one who will not revert back to the ways of chains and slavery the moment the Arvani presence lessens and your attention shifts back to the Compact." Bahiya's voice rings; she's determined to see this through. "It is why," and she gestures to where she recalled Jamie was, "a military envoy will not suffice. There are five candidates I have winnowed from the the vague and the solid. I cannot currently account for all of them, though I have a general location for three. They are all as different from each other as you can imagine, and two of them are leaders two different factions of the rebellion that is allegedly happening in Skal'daja." Her look becomes pained. "It is why verifying all this is so important."
The Ambassador presses a hand to her chest. "I cannot go. I would be marked for death the moment I even attempt to journey back. My own kin would see me dead for what I have done." Her hand lifts to Kenjay, fingers reaching out to brush his arm. "With Prince Kenjay, it is a similar danger." And she leaves it at that, for him to expand on or not as he sees fit.
"I think it important to clarify that the Ambassador and I do not seek precisely the same thing," Natalia speaks up. "Though we are walking together in this. I seek to ensure the Compact has a reliable line of communication to the Dune Kingdoms without her context, for the pursuit of any plans for the Compact's safety all require us to have some way to get intelligence in and out. I intend to fully aid the Ambassador in her goal, but that is not the entire purpose we meet."
Kenjay leans forward when Bahiya's fingertips brush his arm. "In Skal'daja, I had celebrity, enough to win me a place as a trophy rather than be sacrificed to the next rising star. There are those, knowing I have come here, who think I wish to place my own rump on the Vizier's throne. It is known that I came here with Lady Bahiya, in the retinue of Prince Damik'uhl'daja. Many in Skal'daja will know me; none will trust me, and I too would not live long in that pit of chains." He inclines his head to Jamie, then looks to Natalia. "The Rhythms of the World Festival, to be held on the beach. It is to be hosted by Aconite, who is apprenticed to the Whispers," he says.
Gianna snaps her fingers and remarks, "I really do need to come up with a performance for that." It's an absent statement.
Alaric cants his head toward Natalia, appreciative of the assurances she delivers. "It a comforting thought to know one so skilled will be intimately involved with the operation, though I cannot help but be curious to know what methodology you use that promises such results that you speak with an assured confidence on the matter." He readjusts himself, attention gravitating back toward Bahiya. "Finding a reliable solution to ferrying information between the Kingdoms and the Compact is one thing, Bahiya. What you outline is an entirely different matter that is complicated terribly by the fact that Skal'daja is under the Dune Emperor and those who align themselves with him. Even if there were factions in this kingdom that are actively fighting against his influences, how do you know that they'll last long enough to make this endeavor worth it? And why now, when a war-weary Compact must begin preparing for another great enemy? The Academy of War's resources would be better utilized in facing the most iminent threats, would it not? What is so critical, now, that this is a priority?"
Lifting her head once more, brows rising, Cassima asks, "Aside from the Dune Emperor himself.. how do you intend to install a new leader of Eurus with the Prophet still, ah, active? Isn't the Dune Emperor's 'control' over Eurus contingent on his good relations with the Prophet? Or am I misunderstanding that particular correlation?"
"I have no intention of asking the Compact to fight for Skal'daja," the Ambassador says quietly, bowing again to the king. "The rebellion that has been roiling beneath the surface of my homeland has the potential to oust the Dune Emperor from its borders given the right leadership. There are things I can provide my countrymen that seek to serve in this roll, resources harvested both during the Damik'uhl'daja's life and after. It is just one of many reasons to verify my information and make contact with these five potential candidates." She spreads her hands, palms out and facing the table. "There is hope but there is nothing concrete. I can help no one if I do not know the truth of what is happening. I expect no military aid from the Compact." She tilts her head to Natalia's presence, or where last she heard her speak. "It was the gracious Whisper's idea that by seeking solutions to the communication problem, the Academy of War, with your great minds and experience coming together, could aid us and benefit from it, as well as the stability that could potentially occur should a leadership be successfully found and supported by the Arvani ... supported in voice only."
Bahiya's features again turn, this time to the sound of Cassima. "We install no one ourselves. It would be up to the leader to rally those in chains and break them, and unite the classes to overthrow the Dune Emperor from the kingdom themselves. Prophet or no," she adds, her chin lifting, "the strength of generations to endure what the slave of Skal'daja have, when properly motivated, I suspect capable of most anything, including this."
"As the one deciding where the Academy's resources are aimed, I can answer part of that," Natalia speaks up, pausing long enough after that to take a drink from her glass. She does glance towards Cassima, but doesn't say anything there, instead looking back to Alaric to clarify, "The threat the Dune Kingdoms pose remains. Reliable intelligence, if it can be established, will be a significant advantage in our defense against them in the decades to come. I believe that warrants use of our resources, particularly as those resources are not tapped. If you've other projects you would like us to consider, your majesty, I am more than open to suggestions."
"The College's resources are also at the moment untapped. Working toward the communication and information issue is a good fit for us," Gianna comments. "So we may as well."
Jamie leans back in his seat, listening to the myriad of voices that debate this topic - looking interested and thoughtful at times, but seemingly content to be thoughtful for the moment, and not give voice to anything.
Alaric says, "Your transparency is most appreciated, Bahiya. It is imperative that I know the motivations and desires that fuels the intent behind the request for this," Alaric shares with the diplomat. "Creating a pathway for reliable communication between the Compact and Eurus is of dire need. You'll find no disagreement on the matter from me on that front," he goes on to agree with Natalia. "There are parties not present today that would be interested in assisting with this, if you're amenable to the suggestion of a person I trust for you reach out to, should you be willing.""
"We expect no aid," the Ambassador says gently, "but that does not mean we would not welcome any we could have."
"I am willing," Natalia confirms for Alaric, bowing her head to him. "More than. Thank you." She cannot quite help the pleased little smile, she really can't. The Whisper looks thrilled, right now. To Gianna, "If you're already going to be at the Rhythms of the World festival performing, would you keep an ear out? I think...does anyone else here think they might be going, and might be interested in chatting people up about it?" It's a general question.
"I should be," Gianna tells Natalia. "Even if not, a number of College members will be. I'll make an effort to attend."
Kenjay lifts his hand in answer to Natalia's question. "I will be - though I am not sure how long for," he says.
Bahiya adds, "We, too, can offer coin." She spreads her hands again. "Prince Damik's fortune fell to us in his passing. Our limitation is not in money, but in plans and credibility. I would not ask the refugees to go back, even if I thought some might say yes, and there is the concern, as was stated, of agents with malicious intent. I trust your intentions, and would put faith in those that you trusted to aid us." She bows low, her hands pressed together, palm to palm.
"Thank you, both of you," Natalia tells Gianna and Kenjay, still thoroughly pleased. More towards the rest of the group, "I think we have places to start asking questions and looking, and I think we'll all benefit for attending to these tasks, then getting back together. I'll send a note around in a week or two to ask after schedules, and we can meet and talk about anything that's come up or what we've got started. Does anyone else have anything they'd like to bring up?"
Bahiya reclaims her seat, going quiet, her hand moving back to tuck into Kenjay's elbow.
Gianna inclines her head, straightening up in her seat and removing her elbow from her knee (and her chin from her hand). She reclines on the couch, toying with the pearl-adorned ring on her finger.
"Nothing at this time. Thank you for allowing me to sit in on the discussion," Cassima dips a nod towards Natalia before starting to put her supplies away, sliding the notes taken into a folio to be handed to her assistant for later.
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