Feb. 10, 2023, 6 p.m.
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It's an opportunity to change the course of the war. Perhaps even stave off bloodshed. The leaders of House Windfire allow their grand hall to be used as a location for negotiations to commence. Tables are set up with gilded chairs to allow the representatives to feel their importance to the fate of the Mourning Isles. The Voices of Highwater, Seabright, Windsheer, Wesguard, Warwynd and Bloodbrook gather around the benches looking as dour as one would expect given the circumstances.
Zoey arrives with the contingent from Stormward, representing House Kennex and their interests. She has more polite smiles and respectful nods than actual warmth, as seems right with the tension in the air. She finds the seat most appropriate to her role and station, and waits there.
Arriving with a small contingent is the Face of Maelstrom, dressed perhaps appropriately in a dark-toned steelsilk gown. Denica Thrax, standing barely above five feet tall walks like she's tall, confident strides brings her into the room like she was made to be there. Her typical cheerful expressions are replaced with a more subdued and serious look, lips pressed together and hair pulled from her face. The sparkle in her eyes never quite fades, betraying the mix of emotions that's ever at play. The line of representatives has her lips curling into an easy smile, it's diplomatic and rehearsed and still there is something genuine about it. This is an opportunity and it's obvious she still has hope, it carries her forward and she greats the assembly of notable Islanders. "Princess Denica Thrax, Minister of Diplomatic Affairs," she announces herself to the room, with little hesitation. There's something keen in her tone, she's focused and ready to lay it all out.
Cecilia follows Zoey in with the rest of the contingent from Stormward. She smiles at those that have assembled with a smile mixed with warmth and playfulness. Her gait is nonchalant and she takes her place at a seat beside her cousin Zoey waiting for the others to take their seats. Her storm gray eyes taking in the other heads of houses.
Nobody who had known Ian for more than ten minutes would have any reason to assume that he'd go anywhere in any capacity as a diplomat, but on the eve of a battle, an escort who can discourage anything untoward happening to the loyalist diplomats isn't the worst idea, surely. There's nothing openly threatening about the Sword of Stormward's demeanor, and nothing that casts his interests, in this matter, as fixed on House Kennex. If anything, he seems to be trying to make himself as much of a nonentity as possible, although it's hard to ignore the way that he watches the room, his bright blue eyes moving fast, taking in the space and the people within as a constant stream of details.
The only non-Thrax person to arrive to the delegation for negotiations, the Marquessa of Igniseri seems to take special note of House Bloodbrook's appearance during the negotiations. A small smile creeps onto Quenia's lips as she remembers the last time she dealt with the group. She finds her way to a seat at the table, which would be closest to wherever Ian and Zoey are seated, simply because she knows them best of all who are there. She sets a few bottles of wine from Granato atop the table, should any would like to partake. It's best to start these things with gifts. The bottles are from the Igniseri's Peach Blush collection of wines. "Good day, everyone," she remarks once settled. "Marquessa Quenia Igniseri of the Lyceum, here to give aid in support of our allies, in hopes of making some peaceful arrangements."
Teldan, clad in a green doublet with gold embroidery, black trousers and boots and a black silk scarf, isn't apparently with either delegation. He's standing beside an innocent wall instead, holding a glass of wine and generally observing. Denica's arrival and introduction see the woman and her delegation graced with an elegantly-polite bow, one that suggests neither approval nor denial.
The dour faces around the table glance toward each face with barely expressions ranging from barely concealed contempt to pure apathy as the diplomats introduce themselves in turn. "Lord Ingman Seabright." The most congenial of the traditionalists begins by introducing himself with a polite head nod and formality in his tone without a shred of emotion. "Lord Eric Windsheer." Another man introduces himself with a half hearted smile that doesn't reach his eyes.
"That is our hope." Ingman says in response to Quenia's words with a faint smile. "I think everyone in this room hopes that is how this conversation will end. But I won't mince my words. This will go both ways. These are not terms of surrender."
"I like to think it is what we all hope for in coming to this table," Zoey adds in, a slightly warmer smile for Quenia. "Lady Zoey Kennex." She adds her introduction for those on the other side who may not know her.
Denica walks over to a chair, she gives a look in Zoey and Ian's direction, a polite nod to House Kennex and their allies here. When she settles in, she leans back, looking collected and comfortable. The smile on her face remains and her attention sweeps towards Ingman as he makes his comment on terms. Heading tilting to the side, her attention lingering on him, studying the man's features with artists' eye. The princess could easily fill the space with chatter but she elects to be silent and she watches and observes, keeping her lips evenly curved. Then finally she says, "the best negotiations involve a little push and pull.," Denica says with a little shrug of dainty shoulders. "I cannot imagine anyone came here without an idea of how they want to leave with, even if we will try to redefine it a few times. You've currently got a rather captive audience, we are here to listen," she gestures to the others that have arrived here, and then she goes silent looking ready to listen.
While watching the other side of the table, Cecilia's attention is taken by the man on the wall. She flashes him a smile and nod. Her attention moves back to the others. "Lady Cecilia Kennex. I think we can all agree that we want to discuss things in good faith." Cecilia says warmly before moving to get a glass of wine and stand by the man on the wall.
"Isn't that what negotiations are? A bit of give and take until both sides can see some understanding?" Quenia quips lightly in response to Ingman, her words light and without any sting. "This war has been costly for all and is one that both sides I'm certain is eager to see end, particularly with other, much larger troubles on the horizon that will affect all within the Compact, some of the affects which have been recently seen. The troubling dreams most people seem to be sharing." The Marquessa leaves those words on the table, settling for the moment to sit back and listen for now.
Ian's expression remains flat. There's a sense of whatever might be going on behind his eyes being pretty well locked away, but he also carries with him a sense of peace, centered and relaxed, even though he remains alert. He's not here to talk, and knows that well enough to keep his mouth shut. His intense gaze does play over the carriage of each of the traditionalist diplomats in turn, ending with a long study of Teldan.
Teldan watches the two sides, head turning from one to the other as he keeps track of who's speaking. Cecilia's smile and nod are returned, along with a lift of his glass in salute. "Lord Teldan Whitesurf," he introduces himself to the gathering at large. "Representing a, ah, currently-neutral collective of Houses as minor as my own." His body-language shifts elegantly as Cecilia joins him, acknowledging her presence and welcoming her nearby without throwing his lot in with her.
"Lady Sindra Wesguard." A drained looking woman says from her seat, gazing around the room. She's well dressed with an air of elegance but her demeanor shows her absolute displeasure with being in this very room. "I think our concerns, and I'll cut to the chase here, is if the abolition of thralldom is a forgone conclusion and Prince Victus will retain his position, which of our traditions can we say we abide by? I mean, what would distinguish us from the Lyceum..." With that, she pauses and looks at Quenia. "No offence." Her head tilts as she regards Denica for a bit. "How can we be sure there won't be further interference?"
Paint-stained fingers lace together and rest on Denica's lap as she relaxes into her chair, despite the tense situation. While her attention is mostly on those she is speaking with, there's a moment when she glances over at Teldan, his introduction catches her interest but she doesn't quite comment on it, now. Rather, it's Sindra's question that has the bulk of her focus, head tilting to the side and she takes a moment to try to read the woman's expression and tone, as much as she does the words. The young woman takes in a small breath, holding it for a moment before she lets it slowly out. "Lady Wesguard, I have travelled through the Mourning Isles, cultivating the culture of our collected peoples. Whether it is the way we dance, or the art we hang on our walls. What I have seen is a strong surge of Islander culture in these times, I do not have any fear that we will become anyone else but who we choose to be." Knowing this isn't quiet the question she is asking, the princess seeks the woman's gaze and she says, "I cannot speak for our High Lord and what plans he might have for the future, but I have seen no indication there will be further interference. But," she says leveling with the people in the room. "Our ability to influence any future plans, is effected by what happens here today."
"No offense taken. For one, you're not a collection of a hundred cities who could still potentially turn on each other at any moment," Quenia pipes up. "Also, you've a strong naval military. You strive for straightforwardness rather than use manipulation. Moreover, until recently, you were steadfast and loyal; but that doesn't preclude you from recognizing when there is a need for change." There's probably a list of a whole bunch of other differences between the Lyceum and Thrax, but she just leaves those things right there on the table. She nods in response to the words Denica speaks. Teldan gets a curious look when he introduces himself. She makes note of the introduction for later.
Cecilia lifts her glass back in cheer to Teldan. "Neutral huh." She replies taking a sip from her glass and watching the group before her. "What keeps your group neutral?" Cecilia looks up at Teldan as she leans against the wall. Cecilia tilts her head at the tradition question.
Zoey nods along with what Denica says, and presses her lips together to hide the extent of her emotional response to Quenia. It seems she has nothing more to add.
Teldan checks charm and etiquette at hard. Teldan is successful.
Denica checks charm and diplomacy at hard. Botch! Denica fails completely.
Zoey checks charm and diplomacy at hard. Zoey is successful.
Cecilia checks charm and seduction at hard. Cecilia is successful.
Quenia checks charm and etiquette at hard. Quenia marginally fails.
There's a mixture in the expressions among the traditionalists. Some raise a brow curiously, a little encouraged by what they're hearing. Whereas others narrow their eyes. "No more interference." The Lord from Windsheer snaps suddenly. "You loosen our criminals and let them run rampant. We retain the autonomy to deal with them how we wish. They will not be one of us. We will not allow them to merge with civilised folk. All will know them for what they are."
Teldan turns to face Cecilia, smiling as he salutes her with his glass. "Now, now," he says. "I can't make this too easy, you know, it'd spoil all the fun of a diplomatic negotiation. And it's not as though there's just one reason for becoming one with the fence." A gesture of his glass takes in the delegations from the opposing sides. If Teldan can sense the tension in the room there's no sign of it in the way he stands, no hint of it in his urbane baritone.
Ian remains silent, watching. His long study of Teldan ended with no indication in his expression of what conclusions he'd come to, assuming he came to conclusions at all, and now he's engaged in maybe not coming to conclusions about the others in the room who didn't come as part of his delegation.
Quenia turns her attention briefly to Lord Windsheer. She tilts her head to the side a moment, as though studying him for the puzzle he might be. "Perhaps if you would not allow them to join your citizenship, you'd be amenable to allowing them to join some other House in the Compact. After all, it's repayment of a debt you're after, isn't it? What if another House took on that debt, in terms of a favor or resources or monetary value should that person or their family decide to become citizens in their House? That would relieve you of the burden of looking after them, clothing them, and feeding them, while also allowing you the capital you might need to build up your house, hire trust worthy hands to work for you that you wouldn't have to watch all of the time, or to hire on or train new soldiers to replace those you lost during the war?"
"House Kennex has been preparing for some time to help with such rebuilding efforts," Zoey adds after Quenia. "And there are already measures in place to assist with relocation, if it is desired." She watches the Windsheer lord while she speaks, then lets her gaze fall on the others on his side of the table when she is finished.
It's been a long year. It's been longer than that. Like the winter when it seems like it will never end. The snow dirty and packed underfoot. There's been loss. There's been self-discovery. Betrayal. There's been pain. Suffering. Confusion. Chaos. Denica is tired. Her heart has shattered into pieces a couple times over. It shows. Those cracks. Each one is worn like a myriad of jewels around her neck, but they do not sparkle. There was a time Denica would be all smiles and now it hurts to just keep her features neutral. Perhaps it's the reality of the situation, or maybe it's just that moment where she breaks. Maybe she's already broken. The young woman feels it, that wave of emotions that she cannot quite control and then she does something that she probably never planned to do. Tears well up in her eyes as her voice cracks, "I am not the same person I was when this began, I don't know how anyone can be, to have experienced everything...," she closes her eyes, because she cannot seem to keep them from watering. She probably had something rehearsed to say, some important words but they don't quite come. But when the question does surface, it is broken and hard to understand. "What...what...ones are...important...to you?"
The idea of being rid of former thralls has some mixed reception. On one hand they seem to be happy to be rid of 'filthy criminals'. On the other, bye bye free labor. Nonetheless, Sindra chimes in with a smile lighting up her haggard face. "If you are truly willing to take on that burden, we'd be grateful. And it will show the Compact's sincerity to the ideals of... freedom. If they are willing to extend that concept to the worst of society." She pauses before continuing on. "Of course, with no other humane option available anymore, we'll need to dole out harsher punishments. Presenting the worst criminals to the sea, removing the hands of thieves and treasonous tongues. We would like to maintain the tradition of separate roles for men and women. We do not want His Grace..." It pains her to use the title a little. "To extend his reach once again."
As Lady Sindra brings up the sanctity of separate gender roles, Ian's gaze winds up fixing on the only male diplomats in the room: Lord Teldran, and Lord Ingman.
Teldan turns when Ian looks at him again, to offer the Kennex a salute of his wine glass. If he's at all upset or annoyed by the look, it doesn't show in his acknowledgement of it.
"Perhaps, also, some of them might be redeemable enough to shed a favorable light on House Thrax. Wasn't Archscholar Sina Godsworn once a thrall? She went far in her life once she was given her freedom, and she was well beloved as an Archscholar as far as I could tell. I was fortunate to have worked with her a few times on a project here and there." Quenia seems to add to her earlier comments, giving those of the Traditionalists something to think about. "There may be other diamonds in the rough who could bring recognition to the Houses of Thrax, if only they were given the freedom to pursue interests that might align with your own. They might even bring more lucrative prospects to your doors, if given a chance." Quenia says nothing about the traditional roles of men or women; that's not something she can really speak to given that's definitely very Thrax specific.
A hand reaches and rubs under a vivid blue eye, she focuses her gaze back on Sindra. There should be a sheepish expression on the princess's face for making a blunder of that, but she merely takes in a small breath. Denica was use to being different, and part of that is being open and expressive with her emotions. She wears her tears with pride as she gathers her thoughts and looks over those seated there. On the matter of harsher punishments, she pauses and chews on her lip thinking, "so long as nothing contravenes the standards and legal practices of the Compact which we are a part of, I cannot see how that anyone would take issue on the outcomes of your local courts." Sure, most Islander women are good with law, Denica is too, but it's more breaking them, so she provides what she thinks is a reasonable answer. It's the gender rolls that make her teeth clench, her head cants to the side, "is that concern shared by others? On the roles of men and women?," she lets her gaze sweep to Lord Ingram, curious to hear the perspective of a male diplomat. Denica does little to hide her own views, they are nicely peace-tied at her hip.
Cecilia sips her wine and watches Teldan with a hint of a smile on her lips. "Ooo Diplomatic games can be fun." She winks at the man. "Though becoming one with a fence sounds so uncomfortable." She makes a face.
Lord Ingman nods as Denica looks his way. "I am a man of war. I am the Minister of War. All matters of the courts and the laws of the domain fall to my sister. Men are suited to combat and leadership provided it doesn't veer into judiciary or scholarly matters." He waves a hand. "Do not mistake my presence for something it is not, your highness." Sindra's teeth are gritted. "We will agree to a ceasefire as you seem to be amenable to allowing us to handle matters in our domain how we see fit. We will not make any formal acknowledgements until we have an agreement with the High Lord." This she says firmly.
The young woman's lips curl up slightly as she listens to Lord Ingman explain his presence and she just gives him a gracious smile. She says nothing, but her eyes sparkle a little, but it is Sindra's words that are what she is here for and that is something she diverts the entirety of her attention to, immediately. "My Lady, I will send word to the High Lord immediately after my departure and return to you, his final decision," she says simply to her, and she looks at the others to see if this amiable with them. "I do appreciate, truly, your willingness to meet and speak with us today," she says and her voice softens a moment, taking on its more genuine tone. "I know this is not easy for anyone, but that we've come together, at the eleventh hour, thank you," she dips her head respectfully to those that have made the effort to meet.
Denica said that rather.
Teldan's smile turns back to Cecilia. "Ah, but that depends on how you go about it," he says. He looks at the two main groups again, then shrugs to Cecilia. "But we shall see how comfortable this fence remains once the Highlord's decision is made known."
"I would like to know how you would go about it. Would you expect all other houses to do as you do? How would the roles be enforced?" Zoey asks. "I am not arguing against your point, to be clear. Simply seeking a better understanding of what that looks like to you."
"/You/ and the houses like you can do as you wish. The rest of us will continue to do as we have been doing for centuries." Sindra says with a tight smile as she sips from her wine glass, her haggard visage returning. "The houses who want stability know what's good for their domain. The rest of you can experiment as you please."
Cecilia laughs, "one thing I've learned about fences is either you get off of it on your own or you will fall off it." She shrugs. "Then again I like riding things a little more animate."
"I should add that House Igniseri has traditionally re-homed some of the earliest thralls released. We would welcome doing so again for any that wished to relocate. We would be open to negotiations on that matter. I'm aware of other Houses, like Saik, who'd do the same. I'm sure if you ask around, there are others of the Compact who would do the same, not just those from the Lyceum. So for those of you hedging considering this as an option, think if it as less of what you might lose and more of what you might gain. Favors, resources, and silver are all commodities a House might be able to use." Quenia seems in agreement with all other things; she's just ohtere to offer an outside perspective. "House Igniseri and House Kennex have enjoyed a long friendship with each other since we helped them with that initial transition, with each coming to the others aid as necessary."
Ian shifts himself out of his state of neutrality long enough to bow his head deferentially to Quenia. Or maybe just he's agreeing with her. Or acknowledging that she spoke. Point being, she said a thing, and that seems to be what prompted the nod in her direction.
Zoey nods to Sindra when she answers, apparently satisfied. She looks to Quenia again when she speaks, the warm smile growing agian and reflecting in her eyes.
With the negotiations drawing to an end with somewhat of a resolution or at least a path to one, the dourest dinner party guests stand up from their seats, ready to return home. Probably as unhappily as they arrived. "Again, not a surrender." Lord Highwater chimes in at last to add. "This was just a conversation. Not a surrender." This seems to be a sticking point for him. "And the ceasefire is conditional. No more antics by the Liberators of Skald." He practically spits the name as he readies himself to leave.
As the negotiations come to a close, princess Denica stands up and offers an easy smile, she looks over at Lord Highwater, "I will be sure to write ceasefire in my missive," she says diplomatically. Then to the larger group, "you will hear as soon as I do, again I thank you for your time and your willingness to meet with us," the princess hasn't much more to add than that rather she takes in a small breath, because she knows it's going to be a long night. Vivid blues scan the room to see if anyone else has things to add, otherwise, she will gather up those she came with, and go write some letters.
Ian rises as the rest of the group starts to, bracing on the table and pushing to his feet.
Quenia also rises with those about to leave, readying her things. Once the group in general seems to head to the door, she'll do the same, ready to make way for Sungreet for the morrow.
Server Announcement: Server Message of the Day: The game has had a catastrophic data failure requiring a reboot from the last save, which was three weeks ago. All game data since February 4th has been lost. Please see the post on the News bb for more information. Staff is working to restore what we can from logs, but it will likely be a few days so any non-critical requests should be held until we can get that done.
Victory for the loyalists! But not without cost. The events of the second battle at Sungreet are sure to remain ingrained in the participants' brains for eternity, no matter how much they'd wish to scrub the memory. It had seemed an easy victory in the beginning, given the dwindling forces of the traditionalists thanks to the diplomatic efforts that had prompted a ceasefire from many traditionalists houses in the wake of Prince Dagon's death and numerous losses. Houses Dredcall, Nightcove, Lostlan, the Darkwater rebels and some minor baronies seemed willing to keep the fight going. Even if they were to lose, they would lose with honor knowing that they served a righteous cause...
While Waldo's arrival was not a complete surprise given many had expected a confrontation with the so-called 'Anti-Dominus' at some point. Very, very few had expected him to arrive heralded by a storm cloud (which no scholar had predicted) and few hundred ships bearing shavs with their unfamiliar emblems. What had come as even more of a surprise is that the shavs began to fire on their traditionalist 'allies' as well as the loyalists. What had proceeded was a blood bath. Some captains began to drop dead from some malady and/or drown, depending on who tells the tale. Some insist that the malady had caused spontaneous dehydration and that the were drownings due to the expelled bodily fluids but others are pretty sure this madness brought on by shock. Still, they do not seem inclined to rethink what they saw, even after the fact.
The shav ships did not fare much better as an unseen assailant, shrouded by the mist, tore many of their number to shreds in increasingly grotesque ways that many struggle to describe. The assailant seems to have seen the murders as a form of 'artwork' and no one has yet claimed them as their own.
A turning point came when numerous traditionalists, realising their hopes of an honorable victory were lost given their Anti-Dominus was allying with their dreaded enemies, were swayed to side with the loyalists to defeat the shavs and the anti-Faith. All but Nightcove. For while these impassioned pleas were being expressed, Countess Ember Redreef expressed her desire to butcher Admiral Anders Nightcove, followed by the man, along with his soldiers', subsequent drowning. Or as some more imaginative folk would claim, 'dehydration followed by melting into a puddle of goo'. The Nightcove forces, horrified by this turn of events, turned their rage to the Redreef fleet, keen on vengeance for their Admiral's demise. The strange Orazian Loyalists known as the Orazian Sentinels has snuck into battle with Waldo's fleet, only to turn on the man's forces for vengeance for their beloved Dominus.
With a majority of the traditionalists turning their attentions to the shavs and Waldo, Nightcove locked in battle with Redreef and Eswynd, the Orazian Sentinels attacking and overtaking the anti-Faith's fleet, luck seemed to turn around for the loyalists. After an extended and excruciating fight, the Anti-Dominus' ship was overrun and Waldo was brought before High Lord Victus himself. Between calls for justice (in whatever form) from the Orazian loyalists, a fair trial from some of the loyalists and a swift execution from others, Victus had quite a selection of choices. Admonishing Waldo for his acts that had claimed the lives of many, the High Lord swiftly brought his alaricite axe down and freed the man's head from his body, hanging the head on the prow of his ship on his return home.
Traditionalist forces were given the choice of kneeling and swearing to end thralldom in their domains or face a similar justice. Around 30% of their forces had refused to fully submit and were executed to send a message that the High Lord takes abolition very seriously. The surviving Nightcove forces had retreated, presumably to their domain, and seem to be the sole traditionalist house that refuses to submit.
All, in all, it was a successful, albeit costly and very, very confusing endeavor.
Given Arx's location so very near the sea, storms are not unusual, especially during the shift of spring into summer. So, at first, no one seems concerned when dark clouds gather out at sea. As usual, the citizens of the city hunker down and prepare to wait out the storm, which is usually mercifully brief.
Yet as the dark clouds sweep over the city of Arx, the strength of the storm is something of a surprise as heavy rain, strong winds, and rumbling thunder make the city streets almost impassable save for the bravest and most determined of travellers. Even worse, the storm lingers, leaving some ships stranded on the docks and preventing the arrival of other ships. Even worse, there are some ships that are missing and have not been accounted for, along with their crews.
The stormy weather is the most common topic of conversation whether it be lamenting a flooded garden or speculating on when the storm might end. Temples in the city see an increase in activity as some choose to beseech the gods to turn off the rain for a bit so that the city can dry out, particularly as the storm rages on and there seems to be no end in sight...
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