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Salon Discussion: Prospective Shackleholders

The Salon gathers at the Empirical to discuss the offers made by the Compact prospective overlords. The so-called Undying Empire (shouldn't the Queen of Endings have something to say about that?), the Skykingdom of Cardia, and more homegrown heroes have each made offers to the Compact. It warrants some discussion, even if that discussion has no true influence on the choices made by the privileged few who are given leave to make a decision for countless others.

Date

Jan. 23, 2019, 9 p.m.

Hosted By

Hadrian

Participants

Ouida Ysbail Katarina Sabella Peri Cambria Delilah Niklas Orvyn Mirk Alarissa Kieran Carita Willow Brady Rinel Shard Cadern Sina Ashe Thesarin Illisahn

Organizations

Location

Arx - Ward of the Compact - The Empirical - The Salon

Largesse Level

Grand

Comments and Log


Ouida arrives apparently escorting her brother Orvyn, wearing her Harthall livery rather than a gown, though rather than a severe bun as might be her custom, the Oathlander knight wears her hair up in a softer loose chignon, secured with a pair of glittering hairsticks, a little nod to vain beauty there. She guides him amiably towards the couches, and will wait until he is comfortably seated until taking her own.

a massive cat with long black fur arrives, following Willow.

1 Crimson Blades Sergeant arrives, following Mirk.

Ysbail lifts a hand to waive at Kiernan's arrival, and offers Ouida and Orvyn a soft smile as well, quill tapping against a blank page.

The door of the back room opens. Laughter filters in from through the open doorway, though the space beyond is poorly lit and thus difficult to determine details from within. The smell of blueberries follows from the opening, missed with the smell of acrid smoke. Out comes Marquis-Consort Hadrian Mazetti with a prominent grin, a certain swagger to his steps as a hand lifts to rub at his nose. He steps toward a chair and hops, turning sideways as he comes crashing down into a plush seat, both legs thrown over the arm of the couch. Mario is soon there at his side with a delicate glass of red wine hailing from the vineyards of the once-Duke of Southport. He lifts his newly acquired glass to those gathered around and then announces with a smile that smoothly transitions over his sharp features, "The Undying Empire. Cardia. Brass. Ashe. Options all. Each one with their own greater or lesser demands of us, as a people," he pauses a moment to sip from his glass. A small smile forms, clearly satisfied with the taste. Then his attention returns to the gathered collection of Compacters, "Remember as we dance all over this subject - you can attack the idea? But have some courtesy and leave personal insults at home in your beds. Who is the best offer? Give your opinion and show your word, darlings."

Mirk has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

1 Inquisition Confessors, Scribble, a Delicate Social Butterfly, 1 Bisland pride guards arrive, following Delilah.

Willow has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Hadrian has joined the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

While members of the Salon and guests begin to pour in, the not-quite Idle Mind has laid claim to one of the plush couches surrounding a low table. A glass of wine rests upon a knee, her palm balanced over its mouth protectively while golden eyes drift from one new arrival to another. A welcoming smile crests Katarina's lips, eyes brightening at the sight of the Princess Consort of Maelstrom and a few other notables making their way in. "This will be quite the discussion," she opines with a modicum of excitement sidelong to her sister, her fingers of a free hand fluttering in warm reception to the Harthalls and Kieran. As Hadrian makes his striking debut into the proper of the Salon, she turns to look upon him with interest.

"...getting a little harder to walk these days," Sabella us saying to Niklas, on whose ark she is leaning, one hand rubbing at the small of her back, "I feel like a month just flew by in a couple of days!" She glances around for a comfortable place to sit, smiling and waving at those already sitting. "Princess Katarina, I was hoping you'd be here! We missed you at the last one."

Ouida has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Sabella has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Peri does not yet have her city-legs, but she wants to be at a Salon. She arrives and makes her way to an out of the way small table in the back.

Ysbail grins to the Thraxian Princess leaning to murmur something.

"Already gracing us with yet another beautiful little combination of yourselves," Katarina observes in askance toward Sabella and Niklas, a glimmer of warmth in her soft-spoken words for the Grayson pair. "Ah, yes. I'm remiss to have missed the last discussion. There were some patrons who were rather upset about our recent wine crisis that I had to soothe," she says in way of apology.

Delilah has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Niklas has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

5 Redoubt Buccaneers, Bengalo, a sneaky black kitten, Luna, the sweet, studious assistant, Francis arrive, following Carita.

Orvyn has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Cambria has joined the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

Cambria is already within the Salon, seated at one of the small tables, her back to the wall and a good view of the surroundings. With one leg crossed casually over the other, and a glass of wine before her, the Marquessa of House Mazetti offers greetings to those filtering in, if they so happen to pass near enough to her. Otherwise? It is a companionable upnod of acknowledgment.

Perhaps a few moments late to make her arrival, Delilah nonetheless finds her way through the Empirical with a stately sort of purpose, that very sort of carriage indicative of someone with a destination in mind. No one is terribly likely to impose on such a manner, surely. The dusting swirl of stars in her wake as those dusky skirts ripple in motion leaves her a rather memorable presence. Not quite bypassing others, instead she dips in passing to Katarina and Alarissa; both princesses being apparent stars in the firmament. "Good evening," she chimes merrily enough, and soon enough captures a space upon one of the couches still yet open. Fingers curl in greeting to Sabella and Niklas, but whatever more she might say is in a softer tone rife with goodwill.

Niklas rubs Sabella's tummy. Possibly for luck. Then follows her to a seat. To Katarina he says, "A spirited, but never antagonistic, discussion to be sure. This one promises to..." He considers, then finishes, "...either be fairly calm or involve screaming and raised fists. I have a feeling there will be no in between."

Orvyn, distracted with his nose in a book, trusting his sister not to lead him astray, is led to the couches and he settles into them, closing the book finally and looking around, "Ah, the salon, oh and a debate... lovely," he admits while listening to the conversations that are presented.

Kieran has joined the a glossy walnut bar.

Willow has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Ysbail laughs, "Well, If your expecting us to be calm and productive, I need another drink." Getting up to join the bar.

Ysbail has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Ysbail has joined the a glossy walnut bar.

Alarissa has joined the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

Willow has joined the a glossy walnut bar.

Carita has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Mirk arrives in the midst of opening explanations, quietly heading towards the couches to claim a seat for himself. He offers nods to those familiar faces he passes along the way, settling himself in and glancing around the room, eyes flicking from face to face as he seemingly waits for the discussion to begin with a raised eyebrow.

Alarissa sweeps in, entourage departing off to where they won't interrupt, a smile for everyone familiar in attendance and a lift of fingers to those more intimate. She settles near the Mazetti's and listens to what's being bantered about for now.

Kieran takes a seat at the bar and is suddenly surrounded by others from his fealty. It seems Redrain has staked out a spot in the room. "The first order of business and also the most important tiem to discuss...what will I have to drink?" He eyes the bottles around the bar and points at a whiskey. That one! Debate settled."

"Oh, you can be antagonistic," Hadrian offers in reassuring manner to Niklas, "what's life without someone to be contrary for the sake of it? No. Simply leave the antagonism on the topic, not the people who speak on it". Hadrian lifts his chin and with Luigi arriving again at the side of the Marquis with a smoking twig and something rolled, the Marquis accepts it and puffs for a moment at the twig. He nods as the rolled something begins to smoke and comes to life with an ember. He puffs once and then turns his attention back and around to the gathering, "Naturally this will require someone to jumpstart the conversation. Everyone's so, so, so, soooo terrified of putting themselves out there. 'But what if everyone attacks me in their white journals like some wet blankets?!'" He exclaims with a chuckle before he continues, "I am torn. My instincts call for this one called Ashe, it allows us to maintain our freedom, largely under our own terms. However...", there's a pause, then Hadrian continues, "...Cardia's offer seeks to bring greater security, but with greater security comes the cost of freedom. As a Lycene, that seems most definitely unacceptable... but there is something to be said for safety. And if this whole talk of Cardia having not suffered a single enemy at their shores during the Reckoning is true?" His tongue clicks. "That's something noteworthy. But is it worth it?"

Carita makes a few curtsies to those familiar higher-ranking nobles, her smile warm as she greets them and then makes her way to the couches to settle quietly. She smiles as an attendant brings her a drink, sea-blue eyes scanning from face to face as they speak.

Willow murmurs to Delilah as she shuffles to her feet to make her way to the bar, "Your dress is absolutely enchanting." A glance at her own dress betrays a like mind on the topic, if unique in its own right and she flashes Kieran a grin as she settles near him. "If only I'd known you were also attending earlier." She pipes up from the cluster of Northmen, to offer, "I am with Brass."

Brady enters at that moment, casting a slow, appraising glance around before he spots Hadrian. Making his way purposefully towards the man, dusting off his jacket on the way, he stops and bows with a deep flourish. Looking up Hadrian for the first time, appraisingly, he offers a warm smile, "Marquis Mazetti. Thank you for creating this opportunity." He bows to the others occupants of the couch, waiting a polite amount of time for a response before heading for the bar.

Ysbail turns whiskey in hand, boot heels laced over the rung of the stool, grinning at the opener. "Less roasting in the whites, more wanting to hear what other people are saying I think, but Cardia means dragons, dragons who have historically treated humans as chattel and simple-minded tools to serve them. The guide to keeping humans I believe is probably the best example of this attitude."

Brady has joined the a glossy walnut bar.

Kieran looks to Hadrian as the man ventures his opinion and offers with a broad, teasing grin, "Booo! Hissss!" He clears his throat and offers something a bit more substantial, "But what of our Faith under Cardia?"

"How would you mitigate, the fallout from brass that would occur with the Mourning Isles?" Alarissa akss Willow.

"I am still thinking through everything," Sabella says after she has settled and had a drink handed to her, "But I tend to lean towards taking no one's offer and relying on ourselves. Which I suppose it rather what Ashe is proposing. But I think that the Compact had strong leaders and a strong people and we can and have already taken on a lot."

Hadrian turns his attention to Brady, whom he fixes with a sudden grin that blossoms to life and a wink, "No problem at all, goodman. It's my pleasure to host those who wish to stretch their minds and indulge in something more than whining in their whites. Please, join the discussion and enjoy it!" Hadrian's grin persists for a moment, at least until it disappears with his next drink and harlequin eyes merrily dance back to the collective whole of the gathering.

Atreke, a severe-looking scribe arrives, following Rinel.

Ouidas drink of choice seems to be whiskey, though it's a small glass. She seems to be content to listen for now, resting one booted foot on the opposite knee, and leaning back into the couch. As others arrive though, she straightens, to nod and bow her head in amiable respect in turn.

"Choosing Ashe does indeed offer us the option most true to our nature," Cambria says shortly after Hadrian speaks. She leans forward, seemingly arriving from shadow through the smoke of her husband's rolled...whatever. "However, we must accept the very real possibility that not long thereafter, either the Undying Empire or Cardia itself will then conquer us, and whatever bargaining chips we may have once had will no longer be considered." Her piece said, Cambria nods to Brady, who was just then being spoken to by Hadrian himself.

To Kieran, Hadrian offers a light shake of his head, "Pardon. You speak accurate, though I did not. I should have specified that I do not agree with a full acceptance of Cardia's terms - if I were inclined to accept them to begin with - but agree with soft Cardian option. If, for whatever reason, all other options were removed from the table. Never go Full Cardian, I imagine would be the best way to describe my stance". He nods once, though his smile persists after the boo'ing and hissing. Then his focus returns to the gathering again.

Ysbail says, "Perhaps the discussion would benefit from addressing each offer one at a time before moving on to the next."

As she listens to the varied conversation coming back and forth, Delilah casts a look over to the bar. Someone said whiskey? She nods to Scribble, who goes off to find her a suitable glass; in his opinion, a thimbleful. "I suppose it may be worth asking, after the loss of the Copper Mage, why are the Undying Empire or Cardia scrambling over themselves to reach here. And, moreover, Eurus being so eager to observe. It could factor into whatever path that we choose and the consequences certain to ensue from a decision -- or none at all, perhaps."

Willow says softly to Alarissa, "I understand the having Thralls is waning in popularity but understand the economic loss that would cause. Honestly, I want to believe..." She glances around for a long moment, "That there are enough here of good Faith that they might see reason in a tithe to help end it in accord with Skald's crusade for freedom, but it is hard to speak for others, this is true. I would gladly pledge a portion of my own income and wealth."

Kieran nods to Hadrian's clarification, "That is an appealing offer, I must agree, but I am suspicious as they may just use it as a stepping stone to take over more fully." Then he looks to Cambria, "That may be true, but, if we end up being invaded by one, I don't see why we cannot grovel at the other and have them at each other's throats instead."

"Let us pray that the Highlords of our Compact think to what is right, and not what is merely convenient, in making such a decision," Rinel says, as the disgraced ex-scholar limps her way through the door. "Whether to align ourselves with Brass--yes, perhaps there may be some debate there. But there can be no agreement with forces that would debase our Faith, to eliminate its power, to desecrate our Gods."

Brady sips on his warm brandy, served to him after others' orders have been seen to. He listens attentively, gaze studying each speaker, himself quiet.

"I am not certain soft-options on either side will much deter the other from seeking to conquer. Perhaps not even the one we side with, in the name of greater protection," Ouida remarks calmly from her seat. "Nor will it remove either's influence within the realm potentially. In contested territory, there are always those that shall play one more more sides. It is merely a matter of choosing with calculated risk, and acknowledge that there will be harm to people no matter what choice you make."

Alarissa nods to willow. "Only, we know that it cost twenty million and then some, to bring Kennex to a state of stabilization but not significant recovery, and they had only twenty thousand thralls. Unfortunately, there are well over a million, perhaps even a million and a half thralls. So it is a very real possibility, I would imagine, that to choose the brass option would be divesting economically in a manner that could not be supported by the compact as a whole, even if they were to pledge all that they could. It is what, two years later and Kennex still strives to recover. So surely that is something that will be considered. The long term ramifications of Brass's offer and not just the short term. And perhaps, the residual or side effect."

"Trade has risks, as well," Mirk points out in a rumbling voice, raised to carry throughout the room. "If we were to trade with Cardia, it would anger the Undying Empire enough to risk open war, which would force us to capitulate to Cardia outright. Their forces exceed ours, or we wouldn't be entertaining their offer at all. The same might happen if we trade with the Undying Empire. It could be nothing but a slower form of capitulation, with less room to negotiate our own transition, as we would be desperate rather than considered."

Orvyn has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Orvyn has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

"While I don't support Thralldom on principle, I cannot argue with Princess Alarissa's point. Economically on all fronts Brass's offer would be devastating, not to mention what it would cost us in trade with Cardia. Ashe's proposal does not Exclude Brass' aid, however - and if the man is as much a hero as he professes I doubt he would let us go utterly without aid against our enemies."

Hadrian's harlequin eyes dance around the room, the conversation, and those who speak. A faint smile overtakes his features while he does this. One leg shifts to drape over the other, despite the fact that both of his legs continue to rest over the arm of his chair. He settles back, lounging really, to watch and listen. The occasional sip from his glass or puff from his rolled something-or-another. The discussion has found its flow.

To Kieran, Cambria says, "That would entirely depend on if the other forces did not deplete themselves in the scramble to take us over before hand, but I do see your point."

"Kennex has mostly recovered and is now paying back their debts," says Niklas to Alarissa, "But the point stands. Before we simply outlaw the unpaid Thrax workforce, there needs to be a plan in place." He looks to Delilah. "I imagine it's because the Compact, or rather Arx itself, is the hub of the universe. Perhaps telling both Cardia and Jadairal will lead to one or the other attacking us. Or perhaps it will lead to an angry stalemate between the two of them, neither willing to make the first move, nor willing to not make the last. Or we may simply become their battlefield, as much a focus of their attention as the grass under hooves of the horses on either side of a war."

Willow nods at Alarissa and says softly, "If it were implemented overnight... for a certainty, it would be devastating, but is there not a stepped approach that could help mitigate the impacts and minimize them, Princess?" She nods then at Niklas in agreement.

@emit "Technically Prince Niklas, Cardia's the heart of the world." Grinning behind her whiskey glass as Ysbail states this.

"Technically Prince Niklas, Cardia's the heart of the world." Grinning behind her whiskey glass as Ysbail states this.

"But does anyone truly know what that means?" Cambria calls out to Ysbail when she refers to the 'heart of the world.'

"There likely could be." Alarissa replies to willow, looking to Niklas and nodding. "But still Kennex recovers, which is the point." She looks back to Willow. "Do you think that Brass would agree to a staggered? Over how long? A year? Ten? Would he agree to an eventual ending a hundred years from now?" Alarissa looks to Cambria. "A literal heart. It beats at the top of the black spire of Cardia. A singular dragon watches over it. When Copper perished, it stopped. Four beats lost, before it started again. A council was called because of it."

Carita's shoulders lift in a delicate shrug as she listens to the conversation swirl around her, "Does it /have/ to happen the way that Kennex's thrall issue was resolved? During Darkwater's rebuilding, we offered our thralls a chance to better themselves by joining our army for two years, who would then teach them a trade so that when they were freed they would have a skill to work with."

Sebastian, an adorable gray and white tabby, Jacinthe, Arindais, a dour-looking Scholar, 3 Templar Knight guards arrive, following Sina.

Shard enterse the room at a very quiet sort of stalk, her eyes already half narrowed and her mouth set into a small, thin line. She doesn't say anything, and she doesn't offer any non-verbal greetings either. She merely selects a spot next to one wall, and lingers there.

Cadern picks his way in and meanders towards a set of the couches looking curious and intrigued at the topic meandering over and eventually dropping himself over towards Delilah nodding to the various attendants with a faint girn.

"How interesting," Cambria notes to Alarissa. "And very enlightening." She reaches for her wine, and takes a sip.

Hadrian's tongue clicks again and he points toward Carita. He still does not speak. Instead he busies himself with another drag from his rolly-thingy.

Willow nods deeply in considering Alarissa's words, "I should think so, over several years. A century might be a bit much..." She blinks before asking, "Wait, really?" at word on the heart of the world, looking stunned.

Delilah's laugh dips and flows across the range of conversation, though briefly. "It may well be that, Prince Niklas. Though there are other potential considerations to play out." She lapses quiet for long enough to try the whiskey, sipping it. Movement among the later arrivals earns a look of interest from her, and she nods to Cadern. The Archscholar is a familiar sight, too, and for that she inclines her head respectfully in Sina's direction.

"Since we have such practice building roads now, perhaps we ought to have our own way," Sabella says with a smile, taking a sip of her wine, "We are a valuable commodity to, well, just about everyone it seems. And both emissaries seemed to make it clear that they would just wait for us to fail before trying to take us over, which seems odd, doesn't it? Why bother forging an alliance at all? What is our true value to them, do you think?"

"Indeed," Ouida says ever so softly, as if confirming Alarissa's words about the heartbeat stopping.

Kieran adds to the discussion regarding the elimination of thralls, "Brass would be a fool to not allow it to be staggered. A complete economic collapse does not benefit the serfs. They would be hit the hardest of all. A slow transition would allow for less de-stabilization, keeping the serfs' lifestyles stable. In the end, few care what happens in distant Arx. They only care about a roof over their head and food on their table. Start taking that away and you have potential rebellion."

"I was thinking more of the Thinnest Point, where one can go if one feels like ending the world. Seems like the kind of think two major world powers might decide should be under their control." Niklas gives a shrug. "There must be some reason that an Empire as self-assured as Cardia might up and decide they need us beyond that we're conveniently located for conquest."

"Brass has armed uprisings of slaves before," Mirk observes, his head canted. "It's the act of a radical, not a statesman. Are we really convinced that he would see reason and permit slavery for a few more years to do a gradual dissolution of that institution, rather than merely releasing all of the thralls and guaranteeing them fair wages?"

"I do not think a century in truth would be too much to ask. It took far longer than that to get bring thralldom to where it is, nor is it so easily done, Countess. It works for Blackshore and for Darkwater because you both built from nothing. From the devastation wrecked upon your shores. But these are fully fleshed out towns and villages, lands. Where economics have not been wiped but are in play." She looks to Kieran. "But has anyone asked him when he intends by slavery is done away with period, if his offer were to be taken?" She nods when another confirms about the heart. "The answer to the why is easy enough. Resources. We are the bride, and the potential grooms squabble. We were once a people who could do magic, who fought, who protected, but then, through some act, it was removed from us. He who controls the dangerous dog, controls the power."

Kieran points to Niklas and nods once, "I understood your meaning, Niklas. I think both empires would prefer tp hold the 'destroy everything' option under their own, personal lock and key."

Brady speaks up abruptly, "I don't know much, not much at all really. Not Brass, nor Ashe, nor trade." He pauses a beat to include everyone in his roaming gaze. "I know if you really wanna help a drunk by offering him food, you don't tell him he can't drink anymore. My friends don't tell me who to worship, or how to live my life, not when there's a dagger at my throat. No, they help, right when there's a threat. I love the idea of ending thralldom, and foregoing any kind of slavery in Arx. If Brass really thought our lives were at stake, I'd hope he be the kind of person who would save our lives first, -then- tell us how to live. I know we're two steps from the Shining Lands here in Arx. That means we're blessed with the Gods' eyes upon us, and burdened with the weight of the scales of heart. I refuse to spurn those gods, or allow fifty-thousand laws to enslave anyone I know." He takes a sip from his brandy, "For what it's worth, I'd donate seventy-five percent of my income to Thrax, just knowin' how much it'd help."

"Idealists and fools are often one and the same," Hadrian answers to Kieran with a faint wave of his hand, sending smoke scattering about for a moment before it settles back atop his umbra sheathed knee. "The difference tends to be whether their goal ends in success or failure". Again Hadrian settles into silence to allow the discussion to continue rolling right along without further need for prodding or guidance. A small smile remains fixed on his features, much like a parent watching their toddler at play.

Shard's nose visibly wrinkles, and for a moment, the tips of her canines are visible as her lips pull back. Just a moment.

Sina heard there was a discussion about the recent events, so makes her way over to the Empirical. Accompanied by three Templars, the Archscholar does her best to make an unobtrusive entrance, though she doesn't quite succeed. She glances around briefly, silvery eyes studying those present. For a time she hovers uncertainly near the entrance, but eventually she makes her way quietly toward a seat, settling in at a table not far from Hadrian, whom she gives a respectful nod to, and Alarissa, Cambria and Peri. Her Templars take up posts not far from her, watchful and silent guardians.

Sina has joined the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

"As we were told, Brass even intended to sacrifice a child to carry out his vengeance," Cambria notes, though not without a certain amount of skepticism. At Alarissa's comment, though, Cambria suddenly laughs. "Sometimes the beast on its chain turns on its master. Sometimes it goes for the throat, and sometimes it gets there." Her laughter quieting, the Marquessa turns her attention towards Brady, listening thoughtfully.

"Skald is rather foolish at times, so you may have a point," Kieran notes back to Hadrian, before responding to him and Mirk. "It depends, though. Just because you lead a slave rebellion doesn't mean you are a fool. If normal routes aren't accomplishing your goal, you start exploring the alternatives."

Peri has been following the discussion quietly, though she does tend to fidget and shift in her seat. The Archscholar's nod captures her attention, and she nods back, more deferentially. Her eyes glance back around the room and land on Shard with an expression of fierce curiosity before she focuses on the other's who are talking in the group.

"It isn't just Thrax - perhaps commoners who don't have the obligation of feeding entire citys and towns won't understand this, but Brass' proposal would increase landholder costs across the compact. Easy enough to focus on Thralldom, Easy to look at the wealthier houses and say 'oh the noble purses have plenty to cover it' But the truth is the economy is a very delicate balance across the board. I am for improving the lives of my people It's what we have been doing." Ysbail notes cobalt eyes scanning the room, "But as it stands not only will it increase land costs for feeding and aiding our people but we will lose the benefit of trade with Cardia, who produces goods superior to ours."

Carita receives a messenger, sighs softly, and rises gracefully. There are a few words for her fellow couch companions before she turns to go.

Carita has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

5 Redoubt Buccaneers, Bengalo, a sneaky black kitten, Luna, the sweet, studious assistant, Francis leave, following Carita.

Shard says, flat and low, as she crosses her arms over her chest, "Money won't do anyone any good if we're all dead, or conquered."

"Well spoken," Cambria says to Ysbail.

"On the contrary," Hadrian answers of Shard's addition to the discussion, "it will buy us all very, very nice boxes to be stuffed into. Two at a time, sometimes, I'm sure. I want to be buried with Peggy". Hadrian nod sonce before his attention turns lazily toward Cambria and a smile flashes to life on his features, though he eventually turns his focus back to leisurely observe the ongoing discussion.

Brady lifts his glass towards Shard with a nod, wearing a pleasant smile.

Shard's expression doesn't lighten. "And who will actually be alive to do the burying?"

Sina lingers in her seat quietly, simply listening quietly as she catches up on the discussion. She doesn't offer any opinions at the moment, however, listening quietly to what is being said. Her expression is very grave, however, silvery eyes moving from one person to the next, attentive and pensive. She draws her long braid over her shoulder, then folds her slender hands in her lap, dark lashes shadowing her cat-like eyes.

Rinel nods sharply as Shard speaks. "There's more to life than a filthy pursestring. Slavery is an offense to nature and to the Gods."

"His own words are that there is no justification for the evils of slavery," Mirk counters to Keiran with a shrug of one shoulder. "None. I take him at his word, and look to that how he'll approach compromises on that point. That said, I'm not Thraxian, I have no particular stake in thralldom, but I believe in realism about who and what Brass is, rather than pretending we have a variety of options that don't exist. His price is plain. The question is whether it's worth it. I have other reservations about Brass, unrelated to the price he asks of us."

Willow frowns thoughtfully at Brady's words before nodding, after watching the back and forth between Kieran and Niklas. She murmurs down the bar at Brady, "Good point," she offers, before nodding at Ysbail, and looking back to Alarissa. "I would like to publicly pledge half of my income to helping eliminate thralldom if they can be bought out of it, henceforth."

Ysbail says, "Starving people won't do anyone any good either. But then again, didn't you recently inherit a whole kingdom somewhere Prima Shard? Perhaps you can ask them for aid since you seem so keen to provide solutions offered by a blood mage. Who would just assume sacrifice you for whatever scraps of primum lay in your blood.""

"Ahem," Hadrian remarks with a glance toward Ysbail. Then he goes back to sipping from his glass of wine.

"A kingdom does not entail a million people, boundless wealth, resources at the ready. Such a kingdom may not even be reachable from our current location, and not in the time allotted to resolve where the Compact will head," Delilah says mildly from over her glass of whiskey.

Ysbail says, "My apologies for the Outburst Marquis." Ysbail will offer to Hadrian."

"Yes, your majesty," drawls Niklas in Shard's direction. "If we die all sorts of things will be for naught. I do hope we can look forward to this observation every two or three minutes until the event comes to an end."

Shard's gaze shifts toward Ysbail. Her voice remains flat, but there might be something a bit more in it when she responds. "You don't know who he is, or what he's done, or why. I'm not here to defend /Brass/." Her nose wrinkles just a little further. "Should they aid you? They don't know /you/ any more than they know /me/."

Ouida smiles at Cambria's comment, though there is a sadness that reaches her bright blue eyes rather than mirth. "I think it is likely no matter what option is chosen, we will see many innocents die. Or starve. Sometimes on the field, you must weigh just as heavily what you are willing to sacrifice, as much as what you shall gain or what ground you shall hold. And then be prepared to live with the consequences that you have wrought on others."

"Mistress Shard is as proper a member of the Compact as any prodigal--and she has made no claim to a title above her station," Rinel snaps angrily.

Peri speaks up at the mention of Prima Shard's kingdom. "But what of the treaties they have with you, Prima Shard? Can you treat with us?"

"Here is a thought," Cambria says, pitching her voice a bit louder to be heard by all. "Cardia wants Brass, correct? Brass wants slaves and thralls freed, correct? Well..." She lifts her wine glass, to further emphasize her point. "Tell Cardia: You can have Brass, but /you/ foot the bill. If they are such a wealthy, prosperous nation, then surely...what..." She looks to Alarissa. "Four, five million in silver would not be missed."

Kieran looks to Shard and mumbles, "Every party needs a pooper. That's why they invited you. Party pooooper. Party pooooper."

Sina glances toward Ysbail, and quietly clears her throat. Finally, she does speak up. "If you will remember," she says quietly, "our strongest allies, the Nox'alfar, practice blood magic as well. And yet, we accept their aid. The Compact remains strongly tied to the Nox'alfar, and that alliance goes back many generations. Why would accepting Brass's aid be different?" It's a simple question posed, objectively.

Ysbail exhales softly. "And that is the point Prima Shard, Copper had Faith in us, she left us tools to use. I would rather trust in the strength of the compact before signing a deal with someone who - historically I cannot trust on principal. The nox alfar are one thing, they are essentially deathless - but I can't accept human sacrifice on behalf of magic. I'm sorry."

Willow just stares at Cambria and then lets out a low whistle and nods. "That seems exceptionally well reasoned."

Hadrian offers a soft bow of his head toward Ysbail, but does not speak on the matter further. Over and done with, the Marquis seems prepared to move on as his attention returns to the gathering, "Freedom is still a lovely thing, even if we must fight tooth and nail for it. I like freedom. I like being able to say 'no thank you, I prefer my way'. Growing pains... even severe, unimaginable ones... may be suffered, but that is the cost of standing on your own two feet, sometimes."

"Marquessa, try more like three billion, seven hundred and fifty million. Give or take a hundred million." Alarissa gently corrects. "Adult thralls debts are procured at two thousand five hundred a piece. Child thrall debts are procured at one thousand silver a piece. There are, by last counts, anywhere between one point two million thralls to one point five million thralls." Dropping the numbers gently before the mArquess.

Brady glances at Cambria, brow lifted. The keen of hearing might hear him mumble an impressed, or intimidated, "Daaammn," before he covers his mouth with his glass.

'And I assure you, if they were complaining about the cost of three ships loaded to bear to bring to Arvum that cost them a hundred million silver, well..."

Sina murmurs quietly, "Sometimes sacrifice is necessary, for the greater good. What if the sacrifice was willing?" she counters to Ysbail. "Would you think differently then? I am also unclear where the idea came from that the Brass Knight indiscriminately sacrifices people in blood rites. Not that I am advocating one way or another. It's simply a question." She glances briefly toward Cambria as she suggests handing Brass over to Cardia, and states clearly, "Brass is currently enjoying the hospitality and guest right of the Faith, Marquessa. Guest right is sacred."

Willow nods at Sina before pointing out, "That is true, but would he choose to lay his own life on the line to achieve his goals, knowing the cost?"

"While I am no supporter of thralldom, there is the question of what they would do and where they would go," Sabella comments lightly, "Do we have enough housing and jobs to support such an influx? The Brass option wouldn't just unbalance us economically, but in other ways as well. We may see an increase in lawlessness should we not have a system in place to deal with the fallout."

Cambria offers Willow a nod, then turns her attention back to Alarissa. "I am /sure/ those of the Black Spire can spend billions and hardly notice." She offers those around her a feline grin. "I mean, when you have the market on steelsilk, well..." To Sina, Cambria then says, "If Brass chooses to go with Cardia to save those in bondage, that is hardly breaking Guest Right, which I did not suggest we do in the least. I implied great irony, though. As to sacrifice of human lives? Cardia themselves claimed that Brass intended to sacrifice a child. We cannot, of course, know the truth of this, but the claim should not be ignored."

Cadern listens for a time and decides that the heated conversation isn't one he can make headway into and slinks back out.

"Even if Cardia agreed, and even if it would lead to the freeing of slaves, te question is that." Delilah nods to Willow. "Is he prepared to turn himself over? Is his sacrifice going to immediately bring a better quality of life to us, and once they /have/ Brass, are we still in a position of freedom?"

Sina inclines her head to Cambria. "I cannot claim to speak for Brass or what he would or wouldn't do, having never met him. But there is a great deal of difference between 'handing him over to Cardia' and asking him to go willingly."

"Didn't he go above and beyond the call of duty once to prevent his own death?" Hadrian asks with a raised brow and an inquisitive look around.

Brady pipes us, "Brass said he thought about using that kid's blood, but didn't. Aureth said The Mother forgave him. 's all I know about that, the rest is hearsay for me." He shrugs, nonchalant.

Willow suggests, "It sounds like with no need for them as thralls, there is a potential of a million people looking for work. Possibly in an army?"

Ysbail exhales slowly, "It is not my place to say Archscholar Sina, or I would offer very real proof. Mages historically have done what they thought was right or just to achieve their ends. Do you think the Betrayer of the order started with foul intentions? It is a slippery slope, and if the mage is willing to offer their own life that is their choice, but it goes against everything I believe in. Blood magic is like canabalism - you are eating away your essence for what? Something that historically has not always worked."

"You presume they would all leave in droves Princess Sabella?" Alarissa asks. "Many know no other place. They're thralls of war. The overwhelming majority. So they can go back to homes that have long been removed, gone. There was trouble enough with Kennex's population and now they are looking to have some settle back with them, to replace lost workforce. There were not enough boats to bring them away, those who wanted to leave. But what of the Cardia soft option? Or for that matter, the platinum soft. What are the thoughts upon such?"

"The Cardia-Brass option being proposed here sounds nice, if implausible, but do keep in mind that Cardia brings with it a certain amount of change to the culture of the Compact." Niklas shrugs. "Are people prepared for a Governor Alaric? For the Cathedral of the Pantheon to become a museum to something we once worshipped?"

Rinel says, "It is not the place of the laity to question the decisions of Father Aureth. Or the Archscholar Sina. If he says the Mother has forgiven Brass, then it is so."

"He did more than consider it," Mirk says, leaning back. "He kidnapped the child. He had plans in motion already, for that sacrifice. The child was stolen from him in turn, by Cardia, who claims they were preventing him from being used in a magical strike against them. Whether he decided against the sacrifice before or after the child was stolen from him, who can say?"

Ysbail says, "Platinum I do not trust either - for the reason that it would essentially leave us deprived of our best defense.""

Shard's voice has something of a low growl to it when she speaks again. "I am /not/ here to defend Brass. But you want him to sacrifice himself to undo what the Compact has done? Do you think they'll just stick him in a cell? The things he's done are on him, the good /and/ the bad. Why should he be put in a position to take responsibility for centuries upon centuries of thralldom? Even if I believed that money would actually go to free all of them, nothing short of an ironclad agreement by all of Thrax ensures they won't just go out and raid to get more." Her nostrils flare. "I don't know the contents of the treaties, and those were made with a people I will point out, again, I /do not know/. And may never know."

"You are right, my good man," Cambria says to Brady. "Bringing us to another moral crux in a very thorny subject. Brass did /not/ commit the deed, and he /was/ forgiven. What stewards of the Faith would we be not to, in turn, defend his own life? I, for one, do not buy into the concept of 'the common good.' Again, however, we must consider the choice of Brass - which at this point is purely speculation."

"Governor Alaric? No, the Governor would be a Cardian sent to us. I certainly wouldn't leave him in charge, if it was me," Kieran says to Niklas.

Niklas looks back to Kieran. "Lord Marcus has already referred to Alaric as the governor of Arvum."

"For now," Cambria says to Niklas. Partly in jest, but also with a certain amount of seriousness. "They consider us a back water village, after all."

Ysbail eyes Shard, "You were the one who suggested he sacrifice himself for magic, if I recall. Ideally, I would prefer he roam free. If he is so petty as to only offer his aid if his demands are not met instantaneously then he will not provide aid and that says more about his character than anything else."

"No I didn't," Shard says, irritably.

Kieran points to Cambira. "Right, he is the current 'Governor.' Governors can be 'reassigned.' How could they expect the King to enforce cardia's laws when he isn't familiar with those laws."

Sina glances toward Niklas as he seems to be speaking in favor of the Cardia option, and lifts a hand to brush a wisp of hair out of her face. "Obviously, the Faith will have a great deal to say about the Cardia option," she says quietly. Then she falls silent again, glancing about and listening once more. She glances at Alarissa briefly, a sympathetic look, and she leans to murmur something toward her briefly.

"With the demand that of course we would hand over all those that show talent in magic to them to be shipped off elsewhere for an undetermined amount of time, for a binding process we know nothing of the wider implications, for the totality of our association with them, I am not sure that the Undying view us any more charitable than the Cardians. They use more comely words." Ouida pipes up.

"Would Cardia be satisfied by a governor's wife among the Nox'alfar? Or the children of the governor?" Delilah muses aloud, the rising lilt of her voice mingling with the other boices. "We do indeed know something of the binding process," this to Ouida. "It is a binding that prevents someone from doing something they have been told not, for one."

Shard glances toward Ouida. She inhales slowly, before she says, "Writs. The binding process is a writ that binds you to the Emperor's will."

"I am certain that could never be used for alternative purposes," comes the Harthall knight's observation. "But. Perhaps that is a sacrifice people are willing to make."

Delilah nods briefly to Shard. "The definition the Emperor makes of good, or proper or rightful behaviour, is the standard to which anyone bound to him would be held. People are fallible, even those commanding great magical power, centuries of experience, and worse. Considering the outcomes of Platinum's family line, I would not be so quick to say this is an ideal outcome. Does it also not fly in the face of Skald's teachings? When deprived of your ability to choose wrongly -- by Platinum's standard, mind you -- then are you fully and truly living?"

"Everyone is forgetting the Eurusi option! Mindless servitude to the forces of darkness, replacing the Faith with bags of bones and sand and mirrored faces, slavery and horror on a daily basis in the name of the Prophet." Niklas considers, then adds, "Honestly, it's not very appealing. They need a better sales pitch." In response to Ouida's question and the explanations given by Delilah and Shard, Niklas, humor gone from his voice, says, "It is slavery by another name."

Hadrian glances around at the mention of Writs and binding processes, "See, when you say it like that? A 'binding process'? Don't threaten me with a good time". Hadrian huffs out a breath as his eyes roll and he bites at his knuckle. When his hand drops away, he lifts that same hand to forestall any bearing of teeth and such as he remarks, "A jest, I assure you. As stated previously... I like my freedoms. If I could wave a flag for it, I would". Hadrian's gaze shifts around to the gathering again, "SHOW OF HANDS! Who wants to go through a binding process with Jadairal? I do wonder, do you even have a choice over what you'll have for breakfast from day to day?"

"It does strike me as significant that every major victory the Compact has won has required supernatural aid," Mirk mentions, with a nod of his head to Ouida. "By denying us those resources, what hope would we have to oppose anything the Undying Emperor wished?" He gestures with open palms. "I'm rather mistrustful of making the Compact entirely subject to the wishes of one man."

Kieran nods to Niklas, "There's also the Silence option. Just invite Void in and hand over the Thinnest Point. Quick, clean, no muss, no fuss."

Ysbail eyes Niklas, "No We were just trying to pretend that the creepy sand devil didn't exist to make skin crawl."

Alarissa looks at Keiran. "I pray that is a jest...."

Ysbail says, "Prima Shard, I apologize, I think I mistook someone else's comments for yours.""

Kieran is overheard praising Hadrian: The man knows a good time!

Willow nods over at Mirk, huffing out laughter at Hadrian and shaking her head at Kieran.

"Oh, /thrilling,/" Cambria calls out to Niklas. "How could I forget about that wasteland of delight? More seriously," she sips from her wine. "We truly should /not/ forget about the Eurusi. Simply because they have made no 'formal' offer, does not mean they have no intentions for us." She then quickly lowers her wine glass, lest Hadrian think she desired to be part of the 'binding process.'

Kieran looks to Alarissa and shakes his head, "What? Me jest? Never. Absolutely not. The very pillar of stoic seriousness."

Katarina has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Quiet, a Valardin champion have been dismissed.

A dutiful Valardin aide have been dismissed.

Ysbail says, "That is a blatant lie." Ysbail comments lodging an elbow at Kieran's middle gently."

"I do not know I would go that far, Prince Niklas. Unless that binding extends beyond the initial staying away from...evil uses of magic. However. I think it would be not out of line to think that there will be families reluctant to give over their sons and daughters or grandchildren over to bind them to someone else's will, when they do not and cannot know how it works. But. It is not slavery in the same sense that others have suffered," Ouida says quietly. "But it is a conquering to be sure. Some of us are just not used to being used in that manner, but it happens, even here."

Shard grunts toward Ysbail. Acceptance? Who can tell. She doesn't seem to get any more irritable, at least. "As for Brass's character, I don't even know. But saying that offering something at a price is a mark /against/ character is ridiculous. When does the Compact offer anything without strings attached?" She stands up a little straighter. "I'd go that far. At least with physical chains, you have a chance to rebel, however tiny. Writs don't allow that. You cease to be able to resist at all. Writs were the ultimate form of slavery for most if not all of humanity at one point."

Sina doesn't raise her hand or otherwise engage when it comes to the discussion of the Undying Empire and their option. Delilah seems to have that well enough in hand, and she simply nods her head with the Emissary of the Scholars in agreement. A brief glance is given toward Niklas as he speaks of Eurus, and a sour look touches her features. Then she glances toward Alarissa with a surprised look, and then she suddenly grins, before glancing away again, listening more to the conversation at hand.

Ysbail shakes her head, "I'm saying if he lets the shadowy devils run us over regardless, that that is a mark of poor character. It would be the same if I were to slaughter peaceful tribes bending the knee to our household. You don't do it."

Niklas nods in agreement with Shard. "The holder of a writ may never use it, but that just makes you a dog on a slack chain. You can never pretend the chain isn't there or that the person on the other end could tighten it with a thought."

"He spent who knows how long defending humanity /from/ 'shadowy devils'," Shard counters.

Ysbail says, "So not accepting his offer right away won't do us any harm.""

Shard squints. "No? They're out there, right now. Time isn't exactly on our side anymore. Literally. The Compact has had all kinds of forces keeping them away for ages, but they're dwindling and dying or already dead."

Brady starts packing a cheap wood pipe with sweet smelling tobacco, "Gods, does anyone else feel like we're playing cards with half the deck face down. Hasn't half, or more, of our history, our knowledge, been kinda stolen from us? Probably to make decisions like these just as hard as they are." One of the servers offer him a candle for a light, and he continues, "Witth what I've learned thus far, Cardia and the Undying Empire's offers are extortions, so I wouldn't even trade with them. As for the Brass Knight, he can either help us fight a true and concrete evil, or lead a slave rebellion, but it's a waste of his time to try and do both in the same breath. Nothing I've heard here has swayed me on that. That might just be me being hard-headed though."

"It does not," Ouida agrees with Shard's point about the Compact offering something without strings. "Especially to those we perceive as weaker, who worship the wrong gods or in the wrong way, or who do not hold the same traditions we do. It is just for most of us we have never been in that position, unlike those most recently bent the knee. And even with those that are now several generations within the Compact, they are still in danger. Even those who were never Abandoned and have been in the Compact since its formation who worship differently are not accepted by some. Why would we think that those of either kingdom would not look upon us like we do the Abandoned, or those who revere the thirteenth. Or who are too orthodox." She pauses. "I do not know that it is Brass who makes any time demand at all. But others will not wait."

"Mm," Hadrian seems to suddenly recall something as his attention shifts to Shard. Something which she said clearly sparking in his mind as his focus returns to the gathering, "Oh! Yes! Let's not forget our mystery guests. The sudden dwelling that appeared outside of Arx after the death of one of the Metallics.." Hadrian lifts a hand to gesture vaguely at nothing in particular as he asks, "Has anyone determine who resides there? Is there an army in there? A surprise guest emissary of Knowhereington that wishes to offer us the opportunity to harness the destructive power of rainbows, if only we'll send them a cheque to a prince in some distant kingdom?"

Ysbail says, "It has been very strongly suggested that we leave off discussing that particular gift until after these - visitors are off our shores." Ysbail comments, "Though I have every faith that it will aid in the future.""

Willow falls mostly quiet at this point,her own piece seeming more invested in Brass but happy to listen to others assessments of Cardia and the Undying Empire's merits. She lifts a dark glass flask to her lips.

"The empires altogether off what amounts to a pair of chains around our collective wrists and necks, with no guarantees they will hold to whatever promises, laws, or rules they offer. We cannot exactly barter if the only people possessing magical talent are shipped off, keeping the Compact deprived of one of its foremost assets -- even, presuming, they're partly trained. Nor are we particularly in a position to gain by allying to a people known for slavery and callous disregard of humanity," Delilah muses, swirling her glass. "Brass could be questioned, asked such things. He might be reasoned with, prepared to hold back separate from the others. If we choose our own path, then we stand to make alliances elsewhere if we can. We have to find our own route. Ashe herself says it's our very unity that brings us strength, and both proposals on the table from Cardia and the Undying Empire would not seek to bolster that. Perhaps we have to explore those forgotten pieces of our history, following in the path of Prince Cerdic Valardin, or avail ourselves of the other options there. Time isn't on our side, alas. We have to choose for ourselves, and I'm convinced no matter which way we go, it will hurt. But is the cost not worth the price of trying? Suppose we go it alone, what then? Are there not other means out there, resourceful as we are, to find? Who's to say the Abandoned have not come upon a cash or something else?"

"I see. We're going the route to create curiosity then. Very nice. I like it," Hadrian replies with a bob of his head in a fluid nod before he polishes off his glass of wine. One booted foot which hangs over the arm of his chair begins to tap along to some unheard music while his harlequin eyes continue to dance around the discussion.

Ysbail says, "Actually, I heard that largely it would be very bad if our guests knew about it."

Shard doesn't seem to have an answer to this. She quiets for the moment, and when Ysbail speaks she looks that way. In the meanwhile, she resumes leaning against the wall, if not, perhaps, as much as she was leaning before. "...More, I think," she says toward Hadrian, in a more neutral tone than before, "that it's not a good idea to draw attention to some things when you have both Cardia and the Undying Empire breathing down your neck and watching everything they can."

Brady tosses a hand up in the air at Ysbail's comment, then shoots a warning glance around the room, "Those of you sitting on secret knowledge, I implore you to share it your superiors, all the way to His Majesty. I mean, it only affects my life, my freedom, my family, my city, and my pride, so I'm not privy, but show your cards to the movers and shakers, at least." Someone's finished three glasses of brandy already.

Ysbail checked composure + diplomacy at difficulty 30, rolling 15 lower.

Rinel frowns at Brady. "There are secrets that are well-kept for good reason, Master Grayhope. Your kinsman the Legate has made that very clear. As has the Archscholar."

Autumn has joined the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

Somewhere in the background, studiously not drinking and making little show of himself, is an Inquisitorial confessor. And said Confessor makes an excellent effigy of a statue at the moment.

Autumn makes her way quietly over towards a seat, though pauses for a moment when Brady speaks. She glances over with a worried look, seemingly about to say something... but then thinks better of it, and simply settles into the seat she's chosen.

As Hadrian mentions the mysterious castle, Sina clears her throat, but she doesn't say anything, having nothing to say about it. She does listen to the others speak, however, glancing at Ysbail and Shard curiously before she glances toward Delilah then as she speaks of Ashe, and she nods her head slightly. "I believe that the words of Ashe are wise. Any other offer is slavery, in my opinion. Though Brass and Ashe are not mutually exclusive, from what I understand. Has anyone given thought to negotiating with Brass, to see if perhaps he would allow for, you know, a timetable to scale back the thralldom?" she inquires. She looks to Brady then, and gives him a contemplative look. But she says nothing. She dips her head to Alarissa then as she makes to leave.

Ysbail rolls her eyes. "Brady Greyhope, While I appreciate the idea that everyone around you is sitting on heaps of secret knowledge that you just aren't privy to, and that this might be frustrating. I can assure you that anything I know has already been shared with proper authorities, and if you would like to visit sometime to ask proper questions in a lecture setting I can possibly review those notes with you. However implying that no one is saying anything out of a desire simply to lord knowledge over your head is foolish, although I admit right at this moment I'm petty enough to think it would be a satisfying feeling to do so."

"We have seen herald after herald, faced siege and war, and we are still here." Niklas shakes his head. "We may have lost our great ally, but if Copper did not believe we could manage this on our own, she would have left us a note and told us to sign on with the first set of out-of-town assholes that showed up at our door. When the miracle at the Hall happened and a Copper statue appeared out of nowhere every other statue there was cleaned, shined, made new again. Is there any keener sign that in remembering Copper we are to remember the other heroes who made the Compact great? And in remembering that past, should we be ready to cede who we are to a foreign power?" Niklas grimaces. "I speak only for myself, but when I speak it is to say no thank you to Jadairal and Cardia. No thank you and goodbye." He sits back. "But that's just me."

Brady nods agreeably to Rinel, "I've decided to keep my own secrets, so who am I to argue with that? Bitter and nosy I might be, I only ask, implore, -pray- that my King knows everything I cannot

"Two of the youngest Heralds," Shard says, her voice flattening out again. "Don't make that mistake. Don't assume you've seen the worst of what's out there."

Ysbail says, "Three.""

"Perhaps that is a tone and manner of answer that only reinforces a stereotype, my lady," Ouida says to Ysbail with a slight if brief frown at her words to Brady.

Alarissa has left the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

Maxene, the steadfast ladies maid, Elegance, a Velenosian Greyhound, Pellinor, 4 Thrax Guards, Honey Snuggle, a Velenosian Angora cat leave, following Alarissa.

Hadrian's attention drifts around to regard Niklas and there's the soft sound of his tongue clicking before he adds, "Prince Niklas? That was the perfect time to make a dramatic exit to emphasize your point. You really should have done that. I'd have given you a standing ovation". Hadrian sighs quietly at such a missed opportunity. His smile soon returns before he adds, "It was well said, though". He pauses for a moment, as though considering something overheard for a moment before he casually adds, "From what I've heard though? Brass isn't the sort of idealist that would just foolishly wish for thralldom to be evaporated overnight. So there may very well be some hope for negotiation on that front."

"Three, there are at minimum three that have started stirring. Prima Shard."

Brady nods agreeably to Rinel, "I've decided to keep my own secrets, so who am I to argue with that? Bitter and nosy I might be, I only ask, implore, -pray- that my King knows everything I cannot. He's worthy of it." With a glance to Ysbail, he adds, "Not those other countries. I understood your point, just wanted to make mine clearer."

Shard shakes her head toward Ysbail. "I know. I mean those that have actually been destroyed. And one--" Her nose wrinkles again, but only shortly this time. "In any case, it's a mistake to underestimate the threat. But it's also a mistake to start thinking of things primarily in terms of money or trade."

Sabella says quietly, "Some of us have seen worse."

Willow nods emphatically at Niklas. "Yes, I feel the very same. I cannot bring myself to believe alliance with Cardia /or/ The Empire would be beneficial or advisable in the long run. Yes Cardia offers a boon to trade but at what cost?" She glances to the armlets she bears and says, "I cannot abide siding with people who would be against the Faith. I may be a Shaman, but the more you learn about both sides of that coin, the more they reinforce one another."

Ysbail shakes her head, "Come see me sometime soon, we should talk - there are three. And no it is not the ones you are speaking of." She notes softly to shard, before taking a deep breath. "I apologize for losing my temper Ouida, you are of course right. I understand his frustration I just cannot offer my notes at present - though not out of a desire not to do so."

Niklas reaches out and sets a hand on Sabella's knee and gives it a squeeze. To Shard he says, "You are extrapolating more from my words than I put into them. But given that your primary advice consists of what we shouldn't do, I look forward to your eventual contribution beyond 'but you're wrong and then we will die'."

Kieran listens to the conversation going on around him. He finally decides to interject on a more serious note. "Alright, so it sounds like we know what we don't want. What do we want? What is our ideal outcome? All the magic and materials that Cardia can offer, everything that Brass can teach us, and being able to live how we choose?"

Willow nods at Kieran.

Ysbail says, "That sounds really lovely to me Prince." She notes, leaning over to murmur something in his ear. "I thank you all for a stimulating conversation but I need to go cool my head before I really lose my temper."

Ouida nods once, respectfully, to Ysbail. "I understand. But I think in these days, especially should it be chosen that we will stand alone to our collective fate--we must at least try to remember that there is much knowledge being granted to those lowborn, highborn, scholars, soldiers, crafters...and our words to each other about who is worthy to receive education based on whether or not they have jumped through the proper hoops is something we may regret. But yes, I understand. The weight of knowledge is often a burden."

"Please do take care, Lady Ysbail. You are welcome to return for another rousing discussion whenever you'd please," Hadrian lifts a hand to waggle his fingers toward Ysbail, but inevitably lowers it again. He looks to those seated around himself, taking a moment to consider some quiet conversation there.

Shard eyes Ysbail for a moment, but she doesn't seem inclined to press further. Her attention shifts toward Niklas. "Oh you won't like my suggestions at all. I'd be telling you to ditch Thralldom even if that condition wasn't a part of any of this. Ditch Thralldom, take Brass up on his offer, and take Ashe up on hers. No more slavery for /anyone/. Then pay attention and take it seriously when someone starts telling you about the threats. Train. Prepare. Help your people prepare. Learn what has been forgotten. And stop acting like I only walked in here to personally annoy you when I offer warnings."

Brady takes a puff from his pipe, telling Ysbail, "Well met, and fare well, my Lady. You're a boon to your people."

Sina has fallen silent again, quietly listening to the others as they speak. She does not speak further, having already quietly seeded her own thoughts into the conversation. Now, she takes a moment to turn and find a drink from somewhere, and she quietly sips tea while the others speak. She glances toward Ouida then as she speaks of knowledge being granted to others, and lifts an eyebrow. "All are welcome to come and learn at the Academy, and the Archive is open to any who would seek knowledge there," she says quietly. "Sometimes, that knowledge must be sought after, however. Not even I have all the answers. Knowledge is a lifelong pursuit."

Ysbail has left the a glossy walnut bar.

Gruffudd, a ridiculously fluffy large cat, Inka Bramblethorn leave, following Ysbail.

Cambria has chosen to finish her wine and listen to the various speakers, rather than contribute much more to the discussion...for the nonce, anyway.

Hadrian's legs are finally pulled down from the arm of his chair and he sits a little more upright. Serious face. He settles an elbow onto a knee and he tilts his head toward Shard, sending a subtle nod her way, "She makes a good point. She's contrarian... often. But she does present points while doing so. Points that if personal pride and such is briefly tucked away? Are sensible. All of them? No, hardly not. Some? Most? Yes". He speaks as though he weren't currently staring right at Shard. Then his focus turns away and around to the gathering, "That is something that we all must remember when it comes to these discussions. It's all right there in how we begin them. We are not here to attack each other. We are here to speak, to learn, to grow. To hear opinions other than our own, to divorce ourselves from thinking our own mind is *always* right, and to potentially have our minds changed because we leave them partially intellectually open. These discussions aren't about who is right or who is wrong, but how we as a people can grow from them."

"No one has /all/ the answers," Autumn remarks from her seat. "I doubt even Copper did. And even heroes make mistakes -- but all they can do is try to make the best choice in the moments given to them. Maybe it's not the right choice -- sometimes /no/ choice is 'the right choice' -- but you try your best. I think the real question is... what's more important to you? The certainty of safety that the foreign emissaries can bring you, or the freedom to choose your own path?"

Brady lifts his voice, "Knowledge and wisdom are two different things, so do not make the mistake that if you grant the people one, they'll receive the other. Especially me, I vented my anger in the wrong direction, because it wasn't Lady Ysbail who put me, US, in this position. I'm angry at the slavers, and the forces of darkness. Make no mistake, all three emissaries brought us slavery

"Freedom," Delilah says without hesitation, the word dancing into the void. "We have no proof of what the emissaries say is certain. An empire can claim to stand untouched, unbroken, at a time a thousand years ago. We haven't the proof to validate them one way or another. Do we put our future in other's promises, or do we accept the opportunity to embrace our own path as we did in the Reckoning, as we did in the War of Stolen Names? This isn't our first time facing this. And if we make our own heroes, and act as our own beacon in the storm, who is to say that others of like mind won't join us?"

Willow nods her agreement at Delilah's words, the corner of duskstone colored eyes crinkling with her smile.

Orvyn has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Orvyn has joined the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Sina speaks something in addition to Hadrian's words after giving a nod of grave agreement with the last portion. "'When the mind is closed and says "This cannot be", it will never learn.' A little quote, from Vellichor's psalms."

"Do we even know that the foreign powers really can offer safety?" Sabella asks, setting her wine glass to the side, "It's a nice promise to make, but we have no idea if they can follow through. Especially considering we will have already given them a great amount of personal freedom before that is ever tested."

Brady continues, gesturing towards Hadrian, "And as our gracious host reminds us, just because thralldom violates -my- principles, it is in essence different. House Thrax is an important part of this Compact, deserving defference. I think Thralldom should end, but if it doesn't, they shall not be Abandoned by us." Gesturing now to Delilah, he states plainly, "Lady Whitehawk, is it? You've stated all my innermost thoughts with more eloquence than I could muster. Thank you."

"I certainly don't think you walked in here just to annoy me, your majesty. We barely know one another. But you did mostly seem motivated by the sense of superiority one gets through getting to tell everyone at every turn that they are wrong." Niklas pushes himself to his feet and holds out his hand to Sabella. "After all, there is very little you just said with which I disagree. Even if, as a minister of coin for a great house, I cannot ignore the eventual economic fallout of absolute manumission, I still wholly support universal abolition of all forms of slavery. And I agree that we should follow Ashe. And I agree that only worse is to come. And I agree that we should be ready. But I stand by everything I said. If we could not throw back the Gyre, and none should see that as a total victory given how quickly his successor has taken the reigns, then we certainly could not face what is to come." He shrugs. "I am no warrior, but any one of us can make a difference. Under Jadairal there will be no 'any one of us' and under Cardia the definition of 'any one of us' will be made meaningless. So I say we stay us." With a sigh Niklas says, "I sort of went all over the place there, but I do not dislike or disagree with you, Shard. But as we run out of time we have too many 'we shouldn't's and too few 'we should's. And that's how one ends up accepting the last offer on the plate." He turns to his wife, "We should get back to Relara before Elizabetta sells her hair."

Scribble returns with a page in hand that he passes to Delilah while she's busy talking, quietly, to Mirk for a moment. There is none of his usual polite mannerisms there, only an efficiency born of mild dismay. Taking it, she glances over the contents and shows it to the Halfshav lord. "Well. Brass wrote back."

Niklas adds, "I apologize for the 'your majesty'. That was cheap and snide and only undermines any point I hoped to make."

Sina seems to decide to leave her contribution at that quote. She finishes her tea after listening quietly for a while longer, and then she rises to her feet. She gives an inclination of her head toward Hadrian and Cambria. "Thank you for hosting this fine discussion, and indulging my presence. But I'm afraid I have some other matters to see to. Good luck," she murmurs, and she gives a dip of her head to Peri, and then to Autumn as well. She glances toward Delilah, giving her a soft smile, before she finally makes her way out, her Templars following in her wake.

Shard meets Hadrian's gaze for as long as it's on her, before eventually moving it toward Autumn as she speaks. And then Brady. One eye narrows just a little bit further. "I don't really see what being a member of the Compact means as far as differences go. It's /lighter/ slavery. In theory, you can work your way out of it, now that they've put in a few reforms. And not in all fealties either." She looks sharply back to Niklas. "You don't know what motivates me. Find out, next time, before you assume it's somehow all about getting scoring some kind of stupid point."

Gruffudd, a ridiculously fluffy large cat arrives, delivering a message to Kieran before departing.

Rinel sighs. "What firm foundations we provide for our Compact," the woman mutters, before taking a sip of water.

Kieran speaks quietly to a messenger and sends them on their way, then he downs the rest of his whiskey. He rises from his seat and offers a bow to all present, "It has been a fascinating and enlightening discussion. In the future, tohugh, I would really like to hear from more of the commonfolk on their opinion of this matter. They seem to get lost in the shuffle at times and it is quite a big shuffle we are in. I thank you all for your time and indulgence of my presence. Your Highness, My Lord and Ladies." With that, the prince turns and heads for the door.

"You've yet to show me I'm wrong." Niklas gives her a bright smile. "But you're wrong and we're all going to die!" He lifts a hand, "Good evening, all."

Niklas has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Sabella has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

2 Grayson House Guards, Elizabetta, a disapproving lady-in-waiting, Lily, an aloof lady-in-waiting, Clark, an exasperated guard leave, following Sabella.

Sam, who is a boy and definitely not a princess in disguise, Sabella leave, following Niklas.

"Oh, I'm certain they can," Autumn remarks in answer to Sabella's query about whether or not the foreign emissaries can do what they claim. "Both Cardia and Jadairal are exceptionally powerful, and rich in skilled magic-users. They won't eliminate /all/ our threats, but can they make us far safer? Absolutely. If the Compact is willing to pay those high prices."

Shard checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 1 higher.

Willow blinks, before asking, "I thought I heard someone say Brass wrote back?"

Shard stiffens at Niklas's parting shot. Her lips pull against her teeth again, but that and a single twitch in one cheek are the only reaction she shows.

Finding himself with a small drink of sorts, Orvyn sips from the cup before resting it back upon his knee. He looks around the room again, having followed the conversation, but still the man has really said nothing for or against any of the comments offered, merely listening to what is shared. people come and go, and then there's the outburst at the end and a Grayson Prince running for the door. "Well now, that's always an interesting way to make an exit..." he muses, "That was the Prince Niklas, right? Never responds to his messages, but I suppose we can see why," he adds with a slight shrug.

Sina has left the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

Sebastian, an adorable gray and white tabby, Jacinthe, Arindais, a dour-looking Scholar, 3 Templar Knight guards leave, following Sina.

One of those razor-sharp hairpins plucked from her coronet and Delilah twists off the end. Pointy death, is it the hairpin or the pen? The latter, as she shakes it lightly up, follows with turning a page into a quick message. Her handwriting scrolls in gracious undulations, twisted back on itself, and swept clean down the page. "He did. Lord Mirk, if you'd be so kind? I have to respond with thanks for a timely response." A pause. "From Brass, that is. It turns out he does respond to his messages, though Prince Niklas may not in such a way?" The latter sprinkled with a wryness.

Brady tells Shard, brow furrowing in confusion, "Yes. It is /lighter/ slavery. And everyone knows slaves only get two choices, slavery or death. I think lighter slavery is better than the two, should be abolished, is morally wrong, but -I- am just Brady Grayhope. Shady Brady. I have no authority to condemn anyone. If it's accepted by my betters, I feel uh..." He glances around the room, "Obliged to keep my mind open.... And I'll still offer a vast hunk of my meager income to help stop it."

Hadrian's attention turns to Delilah and an eyebrow slips up higher on his forehead. He then mutters quietly, "I've really got to just start writing random letters to all these special names, hoping that they'll become my new pen pal". Hadrian's attention drifts around to consider Cambria for a moment, then back to the discussion as a whole as some farewells are made. He soon leans back into his seat once again and lazily drapes one leg over the other as he settles in like a proper Lycene; in leisure. From there he lifts a hand to roll his wrist and waggle his fingers while doing so, "This sounds like a reasonable time to say that I believe this discussion has reached exhaustion. At least officially. If you choose to stay and discuss? Please don't tear up the furniture or start any brawls. The Iron Guard will be alerted to trouble-makers. Please and thank you". Hadrian think slips up from his seat and casually brushes away at his umbra vest before he remarks, "Thank you all. All of you. For another thrilling round of discussion, free of breathing from the mouth and grunting. I cherish each of you and the thoughts you bring to this chamber."

"It is what we are, Mistress Tern," Ouida says evenly to Rinel. "Perhaps it is time that we stop sneering at each other for not being the best face all of the time, and offer a hand to the imperfect ones that we are. Even at the Compact's founding, and even amongst the gods and heroes, I imagine there is no less pettiness than we hold now." She smiles at Hadrien. "Thank you once more, my lord. And to all those gathered here. Both my heart and my mind grow stronger, as I am privileged to be amongst you and sharing in your words"

Mirk eyes Delilah for a moment, as if suspicious about something, but then he accepts the parchment and turns his attention to the page. His tone is entirely, carefully neutral. "In Brass's own words. 'Why would I not accept that? I don't demand thralldom end in order to throw the Compact into chaos, or doom those poor people, once freed? Do you not all realize that I have actually done this before? I have liberated slaves. I was a slave. A timeline can be negotiated and plans can be made, of course.'" He offers the page to Delilah, signaling the end of his reading.

white-tailed eagle, 2 House Riven Soldiers arrive, following Thesarin.

Shard shakes her head, but she breathes deeply, once, before she answers Brady. "I don't see the point in giving credit to slavery just because other people are nastier with it." She looks toward Mirk, when he reads out the letter.

Willow is no actor. She does nothing to hide the disappointment at Hadrian's words. Almost incredulous, she asks, "Just as someone actually got a response from Brass after all the back and forth earlier?" She looks so /proud/ when she hears Mirk's reading. "I would expect no less." Hero worship is writ large across her features.

"Bondsmen and women are another title, slightly different than slavery. Sometimes debt needs to be worked off. Sometimes people cannot cover their debts alone, and the interest would simply weigh them down, and not allow them to feed their families, or children, but I assume we've all discussed that to some length and back again. Perhaps semantics aren't of interest to some..." Orvyn notes while going back to sipping his drink for a while, though that happens right after raising it to Delilah's comment on what he had previously said.

Kieran offers a aprting shot of "Told you so" in response to Brass' letter before he steps out.

"Quite so, Lady Willow. I made certain to ask him his opinion, and apparently that did the trick. I'll make sure to pass on the word to Princess Alarissa and others who were concerned. Lady Ysbail, whom else?" Delilah tips her head up as Scribble ventures off. And belatedly to Brady, she says, "One of the Ladies Whitehawk. Delilah in my case, unlike my many cousins."

Kieran has left the a glossy walnut bar.

Lyle leaves, following Kieran.

Thesarin steps into the Salon. Late, for certain. And the big man does draw attention to himself, all broad shoulders, heavy stride, and paired guards in blue and white at his flanks. He's far from unobtrusive, but he is--for the time being--silent.

Brady nods at Shard, "I can see what you're saying. I can tell you're braver than I am. I don't expect you to understand, Vice Captain, but I appreciate the attempt."

Cambria stands to her feet when Hadrian does, hands clasped before her as she observes the rest of the room. "Indeed. I should like to have a new pen pal as well." The words of Lord Mirk are listened to and considered, but it would seem, for her, the time for debate was past. To Willow she says, "Everyone who is willing, may remain to continue the discussion, as the Marquis said. Unfortunately, however, he and I must divide our time judiciously. I was quite glad to attend this evening, and participate with you all."

Ouida seems to be content to fall into silence at her brother's side, though as various people move to depart from their area, she will stand in courtly courtesy to offer a bow, before retaking her seat and claiming another swallow of whiskey. "Completely understandable, my lady," she offers to Cambria with a smile. "I hope that you have a lovely evening."

"Yes, tonight has been genuinely enjoyable," Hadrian remarks with a nod in response to Cambria. Then his attention turns back to regard the gathering as he lifts his hands and calls out to the collection of minds, "You're all great. Keep it up!" Then the Marquis-Consort swaggers off to retrieve his cloak once again, with a group of Ducklings in the form of masked Guardians of Ostria, Luigi, and Mario in hot pursuit. He glances back to regard Cambria for a moment. There is a beat that he seems to consider waiting for her. Only for Hadrian to begin a mad dash from the Empirical, soon followed by tromping boots as his entourage works to keep up with the long-legged Marquis.

A messenger arrives, delivering a message to Thesarin before departing.

Autumn nods to Shard's words, her expression approving; clearly, she doesn't think that slavery is graded on a sliding scale.

"I'm inclined to need something harder to drink than this," Delilah states softly, perhaps easily overheard. She caps the pen and slides it back into her halo around the copper braids pierced through by them.

Willow smiles and nods softly at Cambria and Hadrian. "I understand. Meeting you both and my attendance here has been a great pleasure. My dismay is largely that my high views of Brass had no chance to be vindicated during the formal discourse."

Shard takes the opportunity to breathe slowly and evenly for a little while, and it seems to ease her a little. Her expression softens just slightly, and she lets her arms fall to her sides (though she's still making restless half fists). She's not relaxed, far from it. But better. Eventually she turns her head, and spots Thesarin.

"Run, run, run, as fast as you can," Cambria mutters beneath her breath, her own pace much more leisurely as she departs. And, dare we say, predatory?

Hadrian has left the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

Luigi, 5 House Mazetti Guardians, Mario leave, following Hadrian.

Cambria has left the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

5 House Mazetti Guardians, Possum leave, following Cambria.

Brady rises from his spot at the bar to wind his way over to Shard, whom he just stares at inscrutably while nursing his drink.

Rinel just shakes her head as she stumps out of the room, her cane tapping her irritation for... the blind, perhaps. Or terminally oblivious.

Shard stares at Brady in turn, when she catches him at it. "What?"

Peri has left the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

Autumn stands from her seat, moving towards the door once again.

Autumn has left the a collection of small tables and chairs gathered together.

Brady smiles abruptly, that reflexive Grayhope smile, as Shard's gaze finds him. "What did Audric tell you about me?" He waggles his brow up and down, almost comically.

Willow looks around for a long moment before pulling out something rolled in a resin stained paper. Leaning over a candle, she takes a long drag to light what smells distinctly like Haze. "That was a fantastic conversation," she says, tone low to try to hold smoke in.

Peri stands up from one of the small tables and stretches. She's happy to be back on her feet. She wanders towards Shard, but does not interupt the discussion Shard is having with Brady. She lingers a moment.

As the hosts rise and move to leave, Orvyn does as well, rise at least to give a small nod and bow to Cambria and Hadrian, the sort of look that suggests he'll likely be talking to them both later, but for now he retakes his seat, turning to look to Ouida for a moment, and then he watches as people move around and find different positions in the wake of the most recent absences. "Ah, well now, stiffer drinks are always of a mind for evenings like this, though I fear I left our own particular blend back at the Keep," he remarks and debates whether or not to send for someone to fetch a bottle.

Shard eyes him for a longer moment. "That you exist?" She seems to note Peri's proximity, because as the woman draws close, she looks toward her as well.

Thesarin lifts his chin toward Shard, big arms crossed in front of his chest, keeping toward the back while some of the attendees start to make their way off. Another nod toward Delilah, and then toward Peri; otherwise, the big man stands more or less as still as he would if he were carved out of wood, faintly towering over his bodyguards.

Ouida tips her hand from side the side. Of course being a moderately disagreeable little sister. "Just enough to loosen the tongue a little," she agrees in part. "But thankfully not enough to loosen the fists." There's a bit of a smile there, as if she is remembering things past.

Luigi arrives, delivering a message to Ouida before departing.

Willow offers her smoke over to Delilah, Brady, Mirk, and around in general. To the starclad woman, she says, "This is all I have. I like some berry wine, but am no big drinker. You're quite welcome to it though."

Delilah rises up off the sofa, and gives her braids a light shake. That motion spools stars around her and sends the night sky into rippling motion, a place beyond reach and beyond touch. "I shall have to look forward one day for such stiffer options. Nothing like spending time in good company and the glow of such creations. I'm not much of a drinker, otherwise, but something that has a flavour would be welcome." She sweeps her palm down her skirt, an execution of admirable movement transformed into a warm wave for her liege-lord, the count yonder blamed by that smile. Thesarin and Shard hold the curious weight of her gaze for a time, but then those summer-sky eyes dance from Orvyn to Willow. "It sounds a lovely option. Did you enjoy yourself, I hope?"

Brady lets out a huge sigh of he relief, "Oh, thank the Gods. You would have been a tough nut to crack." And with that, he heads back over to the bar. At Willow's offer, he quickly shakes his head, slipping backwards up onto a stool.

"I'm good," Mirk says, reaching for a flask worn on his belt. He holds it up. "I carry a little whiskey, wherever I go, and that's all I need. But thank you for the offer, all the same."

Peri tentatively starts, "I heard about what the emmisaries said to you at the assembly. That you don't have to take a writ." The word 'writ' comes out as almost a question. Peri's bow is creased with thought. "In all this mess, I was wondering... If you led people, would the emmisaries also consider them protected by the same treaties. I don't know. I will go talk to the scholar."

Shard squints after Brady, but not very long. She returns the chin motion that Thesarin gives, and then her attention moves entirely to Peri. "...I don't /think/ the Khati, or the ones they have treaties with, have to submit to the Emperor's writs." But it's clear, and she doesn't try to hide it, that she doesn't actually know. "Although I'm not sure that's what you mean."

Willow nods deeply at Delilah, eyes following the movement of her hair ornaments as she smiles, fingers briefly brushing the moon ornaments in her own hair. "I wish I had thought to write him during the meeting. That was inspired. It's a pleasure to get the chance to talk more intimately as the crowd thins."

"No, that's it. If the Emporer does not force the Khati," It's a new word for Peri, "to submit to writs, does that mean you, as the one they call Prima, would be able to protect people here from being taken by the empire? I am not diplomatic or legal scholar. I do not know what laws would apply." She frowns. "I hope we do not accept any of their agreements. I am for Ashe and Brass. But if something happens, then, might you set up a house?"

Thesarin gives a short, loud snort. And then it's over. Just standing there all stern and implaccable again.

"It may depend on what the Jadairalese or the Cardians consider to be a valid treaty. If we for a day raised you to a lord paramount over all the Compact, and you declared us among the Khati, would it stand? Such notions are not likely to necessarily fly or you'll have the problem of finding a loophole with a man who measures his age in millennia or a dragon." Delilah inclines her head. "I'm fairly certain a dragon here when the world was born in most senses. At the very least, they like to claim they were."

"Ah, drinking loosens the fists? Wait, isn't that a good thing? I mean if they were tightly balled, wouldn't that hurt more when they struck you? I'll take a good..." Orvyn shakes his head and sips his drink, the manners of a proper Oathlander falling into place with a heavy gulp. "These talks of writs are interesting though, what do you make of them?" he asks Ouida, but turns his attentions back to the others, clearly listening, just not yet interupting.

Shard's frown is small, and the irritability of before doesn't seem to be present at the moment. "I don't think I could get away with that," she says slowly. "I'm not really sure how far, or if, they'd let me push my apparent immunity." A glance toward Delilah. "I...highly doubt they would let any of us get away with that. And I...doubt many in the Compact would be willing to go for it in any case."

"Even if it followed the treaty, I doubt it'd be accepted," Mirk says with a shake of his head at Peri. "For all that people like to talk about honoring treaties, there's always ambiguities and wiggle room that people can hide behind. Its words only have as much power as the signatories' desire to enforce those terms. If we flagrantly exploited some loophole to void terms we agreed to in kneeling to the Undying Empire, we'd have betrayed the spirit of the agreement, and I have little doubt they'd do the same. With more power and leverage than we would have, I might add."

"Many in the compact are struggling at the moment to even respect their current oaths, as we see vassals turning against, or from their lieges at a rate that has not been seen since when we formed the compact some time ago..." Orvyn agrees with Shard, sharing some of the darker tidings of their current times for weighted emphasis.

Willow has left the a glossy walnut bar.

A messenger arrives, delivering a message to Brady before departing.

Delilah tips her head gently in Willow's direction. "It was something I rarely do. It's not as though I command the reputation to simply reach out to whomever and hope for a response. Throwing letters at foreign emissaries is the role of the king, a Whisper, or a high lord. Not me. I'm not much."

Peri watches everyone discuss this. She hmmms. "It was a wishful thought. I thank you for your time." She nods at the others and starts to withdraw.

Willow oofs as she pulls to her feet and grins. "I need some time to process all that's happened." Her smile widens for Delilah and she nods a touch, "Often or no, I am very glad you did this time. I hope you don't mind but I definitely intend to call on you in the future, Lady."

"A clever thought, Lady Seliki," Thesarin rumbles out, and gives a slow shrug of his broad shoulders. "But... not an easy one to make action."

"In word or with an actual strike, sometimes what is let loose is not something that can be taken back," Ouida says gently to Orvyn's prodding, laying a hand lightly on his forearm for a moment. Clearly her humor seems to have wavered a bit, for her expression is quite solemn, if peaceful. "There have been wars between us on what seems to be regular basis, if not extremely frequent, though, have their not?" she asks. "I mislike it. Though it is perhaps not that far removed from taking hostages or other methods of ensuring someone's cooperation."

Shard rubs lightly at the bridge of her nose. "That title's largely a joke to most people right now anyway," she adds on to Thesarin's remarks.

Brady unfurls a scroll received at the bar and, after a quick study of it, rises subtly from he seat. Casting a wary glance about, he skulks towards the street and throws his hood up.

Brady has left the a glossy walnut bar.

"I meant no joke by using it," Peri says. She nods and heads out.

Delilah gathers up her gown and dips to the remaining people. "All be well. And Shard, should you like to speak, but send word. I'm interested." A smile then, and she waves to Thesarin on her way out.

Delilah has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Illisahn has joined the line.

Illisahn standing near the door somewhat awkwardly looking around the room. Curiosity seems to be more prevalent then nerves however.

"It's extremely late," Mirk points out, rising to his feet slowly, with a hint of ache in the motion. "And I should be retiring, as well. I have responsibilities, after all. It was a pleasure to speak to you all, and this conversation has been...enlightening."

Thesarin turn to look at Illisahn, giving a short, curt nod. The big man looks exactly like one might expect of a barbarian out of the woods who was given a bath and some fancy clothes, which more or less is what he is. He's standin toward the back, arms crossed, looking very... stern and foreboding. Mirk gets a glance and a short nod.

With more and more people exiting, the room is more sparse. And so the new curiously lingering entrant does not escape the Harthall knight's attention. "Indeed, my lord," she agrees with Mirk. "Be well, and it was a pleasure to have you part of the conversation as well, this evening." The boyish girl lingering at the door is given a gentle smile.

Shard rubs her temples next, as she leans back against the wall she's been shadowing all night. She's quiet for the moment.

Illisahn peers about the room in muted awe. She doesn't look to get out much. He wide eyes take note of Thesarin and she nods in return.

Mirk has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Ouida mutters, "Did ... ... ... dear ... ... is always interesting to see ... others ... to ... Unless you wish to stay a ... ... ... I ... ... ... ... soon."

"'fraid you've missed the most of it," Thesarin rumbled toward Illisahn with a slow nod. He shifts slightly, adjusting his sword belt; the pommel is set with what is either some elaborate forgery or the fang of an impossibly huge bear or wolf. "All right there, Shard?"

"Just a headache," Shard says, before eventually letting her hand drop. She studies Illisahn carefully for a few moments, but offers no actual greeting.

The young girl finally settles her eyes on the bar and begins to approach it. She has a slight stiffness to her walk, and bares a puffy bruise on the left side of her face from some recent fight. Besides her sword, she looks to be wearing little more then handmaid clothing. "Oh, well, as long as they still have some whiskey I think I'll make do." Illisahn grins, a missing tooth revealing a reddish hole inthe effort.

"Things move at the pace of a frozen waterfall, do they not?" Ouida says to Orvyn in sympathy to something he murmurs to her. "Until they don't." Curiously piques her gaze again at the young person that's just entered. "Were you hoping to make the earlier discussion?" She asks Illsahn. Though as her injuries become more obvious, a look of concern clouds Ouida's fair features. "Is anything amiss?"

Illisahn sitting atop a bar stool, her arms folded in front of her on the glossy brown surface.

Illisahn shakes her head. "Just lessons I need to remember." She glances back, "What did I miss?"

Orvyn watches the exchange of the recent arrival and Ouida beside him, "It would appear that she's been practicing with her swordplay, I've seen bruises like that on you when you were learning," he explains to Ouida, but there is something else in his tone that suggests he'll remain out of the conversation so as not to interrupt the exchange. His gaze travels to Shard and Thesarin at the short conversation, and he nods, "More water?" he offers to Shard.

"Can't say I were here for it myself." Thesarin gives another short nod, still standing all straight and squared and tall. That probably gets uncomfortable after a while. He gives a grunt and a short nod. "Had delays."

Ouida seems to accept that with good grace, perhaps because she might have had plenty of those lessons herself not so long ago. "A robust discussion of the many faults of the options we have placed before us," she recounts with a smile. "But though the subject was not merry, it is good perhaps to speak one's fears and hopes amongst others, instead of stewing in it alone. I definitely heard some viewpoints that I'll have to ponder further."

Shard takes another long, slow breath. She shakes her head at Orvyn's offer, and then says toward Thesarin, "Did you still want to talk?"

"I'd probably just get in the way.. I've only just started out on my own. Harlex told me to get some whiskey after I was done training. He said it helps with the bruises." She tries to get the bar tender's attention, placing a few coins on the bar.

"It does," Thesarin says to Illisahn with a nod. "My experience, leastways." He looks back toward Shard, nodding and giving another one of his low grunts. "If you'd care to, aye."

Shard nods in turn. "I have time. Or later. You know how to get into contact with me."

Illisahn tips her head to Thersarin and exchanges coins with the man behind the bar. She doesn't seem to now what to order and ends up with three fingers of whiskey in a smudged glass. She slugs a gulp down and clasps her mouth with her free hand. A hard swallow and a painful wince follow, but she keeps what she already drank down. With sweat beading up on her forehead, she gazes down into the mostly full glass with a look of shock, stifling a few coughs that follow.

Orvyn does fall quiet after Ouida's words, and he clearly is thinking about things, while giving a small nod to Shard at her shake.

"No time like now, if you'd care to." Thesarin gives another nod toward Shard. "My Hall is always open to you, or wherever you'd care to." A glance toward Illisahn, and a slight look of amusement. "...swords and drinks both come easier with practice."

Shard pulls away from the wall. "Yeah, I'm good with now." There's a glance toward the others, but she's clearly prepared to head out.

Trying to keep her composure she turns, "Nothing to it," but her hoarse voice betrays her internal agony. Illisahn narrows her gaze and chokes down another sip however, looking more determined now then ever. Her arms make frosted looking sweat marks on the bar as she fights to look casual.

"Well now." Ouida seems to be familiar with Harlex, and it brings a faint smile to her face. "You'll find few better trainers than Colonel Valtyr," she says. "He will certainly put you through your paces, and make you better for it. I've ended up with a few bruises from him myself." She shakes her head slightly. "Perhap the whiskey will help...but the baths at the Grotto might more. At least tomorrow."

"Let's off, then." Thesarin gives a slow nod toward Ouida and Orvyn, before looking back toward Shard. "Anywhere you'd care to speak?"

Shard shakes her head. "No preference. You pick." She heads off toward the door without a glance back.

"I think Princess Reese did more damage with her mace then Harlex did with his tourney sword." Illisahn smirks, trying to finish the rest of the glass in one gulp, but some of it spills down her cheeks.

"Keep getting back up, 's the trick." And with another nod Thesarin starts out.

white-tailed eagle, 2 House Riven Soldiers, Shard leave, following Thesarin.

Now THAT brings an even bigger grin to Ouida's face, and she actually laughs. Not mockingly, but warmly. "Oh? Oh my, then I daresay whatever you're feeling now is like to be in triplicate tomorrow!" She winks at the girl. "I am impressed!" But rising, she offer her arm to her brother. "Do you wish to linger awhile, my lord? I cannot, but if you do then Niall would be happy to escort you home."

With Ouida rising, Orvyn sets his cup down upon the table in front of him and rises as well, taking the offered arm that Ouida shares for him, "Ah, as much as I would wish to spend my time here, I fear that I too must return, there's still much paperwork that I've avoided to be here in the first place," he admits, but then bows his head to the parting others, "Do keep at it, I am sure you will learn much from that pair," the ones Illisahn had mentioned, but then he will allow himself to be lead out.

Illisahn dips her head respectfully, laughing herself a bit. "Of that I am sure. I must be lucky or blessed to have already found such great company on my first day out." She raises the glass and drinks what remains at the bottom. "I think I'll take my leave as well."

"Be well then, sister-at-arms," Ouida says in farewell to Illisahn. "And I hope we shall cross paths again. Good night, and may the gods keep you hale until then." And with that the lady knight pats her brother's hand atop her arm, and leads Orvyn out into the streets beyond.

Ouida has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Orvyn has left the a cluster of couches around a low table.

Heimlin, the Scholar, 5 Harthall house guards, Kestrel, the Scholar leave, following Orvyn.

2 Harthall house guards, Niall RedTree, adorably awkward squire, Orvyn leave, following Ouida.

Illisahn pushes herself up a bit clumsily, either from the booze or the flash wounds, she looks a bit off center. She quickly finds balance in a rhythmic step however, heading to the street herself. "What a day.. what a day.." She beams a bright smile at nothing in particular as she makes her way out of the bar.



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