Festival of Choices PRP Act 1 Scene 3
This plot is split into three groups, whose actions will serve as 'unseen hands' affecting what the other groups encounter. Each group will have two sessions, one to set up and make a plan, the other to execute. I'm hoping to keep these loose and casual and zippy, and wrap up by 11 pm server time.
I did take signups for this PRP ahead of time. However, schedules and availability always change, so if you're interested in joining, please reach out to Ember! At worst, you'll be waitlisted.
This is Scene 1/2 of the FUNNY CRIME group of the plot.
Oct. 2, 2020, 7 p.m.
Outside Arx - Mourning Isles near Redreef Shores - The Festival of Choices
Comments and Log
The Festival of Choices is now well underway at Redreef Shores, the small Barony on the western edge of Darkwater Isle. For two weeks, the entire domain gets stinking drunk and celebrates their ability to make choices: good choices, bad choices, and in-between choices. The atmosphere in the streets is one of revelry and passionate do-what-you-feel-ism, and the Festival (an outgrowth of Redreef Shores's perhaps unusually high concentration of Skald-faithful) has begun to attract tourists.
Events are also commonplace, such as art exhibits. At a public house called the Kneeling Girl, a name where no one really wants to think too hard about why it's called that, there is drinking and merry to be made, but also paintings to be witnessed. The four artists displaying their new works are in attendance. Four of the most renowned artists in Redreef Shores, in fact... which may not carry very far outside of the Barony. Kalonice Brecheret, Blessing Klee, Kingston Botticelli, and Baldo Kostabi are all in attendance with their works.
Unfortunately, someone in the domain has made the choice to distribute a crude pamphlet called 'The Nobility of Redreef.' Copies of it swarm the Barony during the Festival, suggesting a well-organized effort to embarrass the nobles. The pamphlet's tasteless and mocking cartoons are exactly the sort of thing that would drive Baroness Ember Redreef completely insane and cause her to literally flip over an antique table, shattering it; itself an impressive feat because the table was made of solid wood.
The Baroness has tasked her protege, Miraj, with rounding up whoever she can find -- nobles, Iron Guard, Inquisitors, theologists, ANYONE -- and trying to find who's distributing these pamphlets. The Redreef guard corps are stretched horribly thin by all of the chaos of the Festival, but they at least offer the lead that few in the Barony are illustrators on the skill level of the cartoons in the booklet... and those few are pretty much the four showing off their paintings at the Kneeling Girl tonight.
Miraj has outright broken a sweat, slaving away at the parchment and quill attempting to round up anyone - friends, friends of friends, maybe harassed a public figure or two to just get anyone to show up to help her because - LOOK AT THIS PAMPHLET STOP LAUGHING GET ON THE BOAT. Maybe she even bribed someone with the promise of a break from the winter drearies in Arx. A beautiful cruise perhaps - with strings attached. This is likely how time share events will be invented in the near future.
Korka isn't sure this is really an Inquisition problem considering the pamphlets aren't drawn in blood, but when Miraj mentioned the investigation would be in the middle of a big drinking festival she instantly suggested Archlector Hamish also be brought in on this very important and super serious case and has spent the last few days thoroughly investigating the locals and their customs which of course include getting rip roaring drunk with them. To fit in. It's all just part of the whole...whatever it is the Inquisition does. Process? Yeah, that sounds right. So she's here now in the public house working on her second mug of ale and watching the painting, "Fuck you," she says to Hamish, shaking her head, "Look at history and how many times the bad guy turns out to be a guy whose first or last name starts with Mal. Names are a dead giveaway every time."
Gabriella Pravus has not been to the Redreef Shores; but then, there's also very few places she -has- been in the Mourning Isles. This might go far to explain the bald-faced sense of wonder with which she takes in the sights and the revelry, a look that has possessed the Setarcan knight ever since she arrived on Redreef's shores.
Then again, anyone who knows her likely also knows this is just what Gabriella does: unhindered enthusiasm.
It does wonders to detract from the presence of Gluttony ever-strapped to her back as she leafs through the libelous pamphlet thoughtfully provided to her. She stands among inquisitors, archlectors and courtiers (oh my!) all bound by a single, unified purpose of putting an immediate forceful end to the deceits being perpetrated via this cartoonish propaganda, and so she must study it thoroughly, to get to the heart of it. Her brows furrow. Her lips press into a thoughtful line.
"The resemblance is truly uncanny though," she remarks, tapping a gloved finger on the bawling Ember. "Remarkable."
Verity Locke is not famous.
Okay, so her name gets around. There's all those trade agreements she negotiated. Or the fact that a lot of savvy people are saying that she's half responsible for House Blanchard's recent rise to prominence, being Count Philippe's incredibly unlikely right-hand woman and all. And apparently she's a model of some sort now? It's difficult to imagine this considering the bundle of wool and fur that currently comprises her outfit -- though that coat does look very comfy.
This is to say that when one is running around grabbing useful-looking people for some kind of crime caper, there's definitely worse options than a gently drunk Verity leading a table in some kind of limerick-based drinking game.
"Oh, it's Korka!" Verity gushes as she comes nearer the table. There's already a mug in her hand even though she's been in /this/ public house for about five seconds. (She was found in a completely different public house because she's difficult.)
"Were you pressganged as well?" The courtier elbows Gabriella in the side. "We won't have to lift a finger! She'll do all the inqusitorer...ing."
Verity takes another drink.
Korka positioned this as a fun vacation. C'mon, she said, you're all about Death, this festival is all about choice. Aren't Death and Skald brother and sister or something? It's basically the same! And, no, they're not, but the idea of some time away from the city was certainly appealing. And it was! Lots of drinking and celebrating and some dancing and all sorts of tomfoolery. The fun stuff. And then she said oh yeah, we need to solve a CRIME. Or, well, kind of a crime? A DISRESPECT to BELOVED NOBILITY. Or, well, a disrespect to Baroness Ember, at least. So here he is, a lumbering ox of a priest sitting at a bar with Inquisitor Korka, working on his third Minty Kennex, Blessed Hamish Farmer, Archlector of the Queen of Endings, these days called the Left hand of Death. Working on getting trashed before fucking off to smash some things and scream at people, as one does in an Islands festival. "That's ridiculous," grumbles Hamish. "Have you ever met Duke Malcolm Shepherd? The man is kind of a nitwit, but he's as gormless as it comes."
The four paintings on display are all large works, but they reflect the varied personalities of their creators.
'Washer-Woman at the Crimson Keep' is a perfectly functional title for a painting of just that, a washer-woman out in one of the yards of the Crimson Keep, Redreef Shores's castle, washing a noble's doublet in a large tub of water. The painting shows a certain dignity in their effort, and is the work of Kalonice Brecheret. Kalonice is a short, fair-skinned woman with brown hair and green eyes, and she comes from a heartbreakingly humble background, which is why her works tend to highlight those who toil rather than those who triumph.
This is all stuff anyone could learn by asking around in the pub, of course. The arts crowd is out tonight.
'Woman's Head' is a staggeringly abstracted, almost violent-looking explosion of psychedelic color that does indeed seem to take on the shape of a woman's head the more that it's stared at. This is the work of Blessing Klee, the enfant terrible of the Redreef Shores art world. The youngest of the four artists at around 23, she's tall, tan, willowy, with brown hair and brown eyes, and she's absolutely dusted off her tits. She's not even trying to hide it, and in fact, one of the reasons for her enfant terrible reputation is that her creative process for painting involves getting extremely, grotesquely high, something for which she's gotten in trouble numerous times with the city guards.
'Nude Kahahali Tribespeople Bathing in a Spring' is the work of Baldo Kostabi. It shows exactly what the title claims to show: a detailed and skillfully rendered group of figures, both men and women, stripped down and bathing in a spring. There's something about it that feels weirdly nostalgic, as though there's something powerful that's been lost by people no longer bathing in springs the way that these Kahahali prodigals are. (The Kalahali were a tribe of Abandoned, who a few years ago bent the knee to Redreef.) Baldo Kostabi is a man of resoundingly average height, with dark, dark skin and a bit of a doughy figure. Despite his name, he has hair, but he IS starting to lose it as he eases into his forties.
The last painting is titled 'Baron Landis and Baroness Leticia Redreef,' and it's a portrait of the deceased former rulers of the domain. They look stately and dignified, wearing black and red, as was their custom; Landis a tall and thin man with piercing eyes and dark brows under wavy, curly dark hair, and Leticia a bewitching beauty with black hair and eyes that could be lost in. Kingston Botticelli, the painter, presumably has a good reason to pay tribute: the middle-aged artist, still handsome and strapping, with cream-colored skin and black hair, was not-so-secretly the lover of both of them.
Korka snorts, "That's how he lulls you into a false sense of security. Same with Malvici and Maelspero. Malespiro. You know who I mean," she waves a hand and has a longer pull from her mug then says to Gabriella, "That's why we're here. Whoever did that has talent. Whoever has talent likes to show it off. Hence," she gestures to the painters. Verity gets a wink, "I think everyone knows the Inquisition doesn't so much solve crimes as punish those who are guilty. By the way, that painter on the end clearly hates the new Baroness," she points towards Kingston, "Which means he probably didn't do the pamphlet."
Nearby and stone cold sober, attempting to find /anyone/ with some tea? No - juice? Oh that's got rum in it too huh. What about some hot cocoa with roasted marshmallows? Not even that? Miraj looks crestfallen and slides into a seat nearby, crossing her arms and placing her head atop them. "Rum works at my stomach." It's then that her indigo eyes stray over to the paintings. "Oh my. Some artists..." She lifts her head and chin, peering over to the collection. Spying the psychedelic painting, her brow furrows. "Oh dear so does that. Or maybe it was the boat ride." She touches her stomach as it gurgles in protest as she turns her attention to the others. "I hear Duke Malcolm is a dream boat and the haphazard, effortless charm he has is just part of it. But... I've never met him before. Or any Males-Maels-" oh no, Korka has infected Miraj- "--you know who I mean."
A helpful drunken reveler looks over at Korka. "They all hate the Baroness," this absolute rando says, bleary-eyed and deeply sozzled. "D'you think the Bloody Baroness gives a toss about... art? Hppff. I should think not. The four of them, they've all got their reasons."
Verity purses her lips as she considers Korka's reply. Then: "They should call you the Punishers, instead. Tell Prince Laric he can have that idea for free. I haven't any use for it."
The courtier polishes off her drink, drops it onto the table, and then turns to face the painters with her hands on her hips. She makes a long 'mmmmm' noise as her gaze moves from one to the next.
"I hear that if you do absolutely loads of dust you sometimes get visions of absolutely true things, except for all the times you get visions of completely fake things," she says. "So I'm going to go talk to that one just in case she's full of drugs /and/ wisdom."
Verity starts off to accost Blessing Klee with a terrible and inevitable perkiness.
"Hello!" she says. "I like your exploding head painting. It's enormously violent! What do you think of that pamphlet with all the racism in it and so on?"
Hamish flips through the libelous pamphlet. He stops at the page with Mikani and Edward seeking out new spouses. "Honestly, this bit here is pretty funny." He finishes off his latest Minty Kennex and shakes his head at Korka. "Malespero. There's also Melaeris. Are they also bad guys? They abolished thralldom before the Reckoning. It's probably been longer for them than Kennex has been a house at all." Pushing his empty glass back to the server he says, "More rum, less whatever else is in there. Muddle the mint longer, though." Miraj gets a brief glance. "I'm not sure if you sound more like you are infatuated with Duke Malcolm or if he's just hired you to work his public relations. If neither is true, one or the other should be." Looking to the paintings he makes a face at the psychodelic one. "Is 'Blessing' her actual name or is it something incredibly twee she came up with? I'm not a fan. She probably did it. Go arrest her."
Blessing Klee is facing away from Verity when the courtier approaches. As she turns around, she sniffles lightly and seems to be putting her necklace back together. A hidden compartment. Indicative of secrets, no doubt. Her eyes have the dull, addled smeariness of someone who's just gotten loaded on dust, and she stares at Verity for a moment.
Verity has barely finished speaking when Blessing Klee reaches out and attempts to gently put her palm on the Blanchard right-hoof-woman's forehead. "Oh," Blessing says, with delighted surprise. "You're actually there! Hello. Who's racing whom, now?"
'Blessing' is her actual name.
Nudge, nudge. Gabriella is roused from her deep, critical analysis of the spitting image of Ember Redreef and the paintings on display, by an elbow digging at her ribs. Sky blue eyes swing sidelong, fluttering in a blink -- that becomes instant recognition.
"Ah, Mistress Verity!" greets the knight with that glowing enthusiasm, head dipped in a surefire sign of respect for the Blanchard minister, a show that brings her attentions from Verity towards the very Inquisitor Korka she indicates.
"Truly?" The knight pauses here, considering Korka's rationale. "Mm. Canny observations. Your inquisitorering," she says this without a single solitary hitch, "is just as good as the minister described." She pauses, sharp gaze moving from one painter to the next. "It would be best for us to split our attentions, however--Mistress Verity, is that a mug I spy?" A frown settles over her lips, as she does some very quick, very important mental calculus to determine just how sober she needs to be to solve this dilemma.
"--A moment, my companions. I shall attend to whomever remains untended." And then she goes to flag down a pint. This is deeply important; she has long-standing scores to be settled.
Korka stands up and stretches a bit, pulling some parchment and a bit of charcoal from her satchel, "Why don't you go tell them to confess themselves or else the Queen of Endings will send rats to nibble their toes. That's a thing right?" As Verity goes over to Blessing she says to Miraj, Gabriella, and Hamish, "I'm going to go ask for some autographs." And so she does, heading over to Kalonice and flashing a big smile she is not known for, "Hi! I love your painting, could I get your autograph? My friends will just think I'm amazing if I get the autograph of a famous painter! If you could write 'Thanks for all the ADVENTURE!' that would be just really super duper amazing!"
Flagging down a pint brings Gabriella right next to the tall, handsome, pushing-fifty-with-a-short-stick Kingston Botticelli. The painter eyes Gabriella up and down, taking in the woman's attire, and his lips purse very softly in thought for just a moment. "Setarco," he finally says, "is absolutely lovely this time of year. May I buy you this drink, Your Highness?" A painter who recognizes Pravosi royalty in his midst!
Korka checked wits + investigation at difficulty 15, rolling 126 higher. Korka rolled a critical!
"There's no time for infatuations, crushes, or flings here! Though I can always make time for some coin if he pays well." Miraj's tone of voice is only slightly playful, and she turns to watch Blessing's reaction to being approached. Studying the paintings carefully, however she timidly approaches Baldo and his painting of the Nude Tribespeople. "There's a sense of nostalgia here." She purrs sweetly, with her saccharine setarcan voice full of genuine appreciation.
"I'm three up, /princess,/" Verity asides to Gabriella, before whirling back to Blessing.
Just in time to get forehead-palmed. Foreheld, some might say. The courtier takes it in stride.
"We're all racing time itself!" says Verity Locke, who has absolutely zero judgment about the name Blessing. "Someone made a terrible pamphlet and the baroness is going to flip over every table in the barony or something like that. See? Look."
Verity produces a copy of the pamphlet from a coat pocket and shoves it at Blessing.
"Do you know whose work this looks like or perhaps do you feel on the cusp of entering an expository dream sequence?"
Kalonice, all of five-foot-one and wearing a much more modest and inexpensive gown than anything the other artists have... or, for that matter, any of the art patrons in the room... turns to look at Korka and seems shocked by the request. "M-my autograph?" she asks, and then takes whatever she's offered to do the inscription. "'Thanks for all the... adventure?'" Kalonice stares at Korka for a long moment, and seems like she's trying to figure out exactly how hard she wants to fight this strange request... before some meek part of her overpowers the rest of her, and she scrawls the message and her signature. Her handwriting is, like her background, painfully humble and markedly poor.
Korka's comment gets a look of absolute astonishment from Hamish. As she's walking away he calls out, "The Queen of Endings does _not_ send rats to eat peoples' feet!" Quieter, more to himself, he adds, "Probably. I mean, she could if she wanted, but _why would she_? Rats never ate Brass's feet. I think." He narrows his eyes in thought that just isn't coming, then shrugs. "I should have stopped by the keep and met with the seraph. Let them know that I'm in town so if they need anyone killed I can help. No. Not killed. The other one. Born? Yeah." He watches Korka go and just lets her do her thing while he slurps on another glass of probably not really needed rum.
When Miraj approaches Baldo Kostabi, the painter makes it a point to give her a gentle but respectful bow. "Ah, you see what I sought to show the world. You have keen eyes," the artist says, and a silken-sigh-skilled type like Miraj would be able to immediately pick up on one thing: this guy is a smooth operator. "There have been such changes in the Barony in the past few years, and I saw the plight of the shavs as a way to evoke that in the heart."
Blessing takes the pamphlet from Verity and slips through it. She reacts as if things are jumping up from between the pages to snap at her, and then says, "Oh! Why would the Baroness have such an awful book made?" Her eyes are uncomprehending as she looks up at Verity. "She's always doing stupid things like this, isn't she? First that... war, and now... a book mocking her own family...!"
Korka snatches the paper back from Kalonice as soon as she signs it, folding down one corner and shoving it back in her pouch, "Great. Love how your painting invokes the overthrow of all nobility," with that comment she turns and heads for Landis since no one is talking to him, "Hi! Big fan of the old Redreefs. You've really captured their Redreefian spirit. Could I get your autograph? I have a collection and yours would just top it off!" Another piece of parchment and the charcoal are offered over, "If you could write something that makes us sound like we're good friends like, 'Thanks for all the adventure' that'd just make it so much more personal so I could treasure it forever."
The drunk who was near Hamish and Korka leans over to Hamish. "Y'see him?" he says, pointing at Kingston. "He was in good with the Baron and the Baroness. He was IN the Baron and the Baroness, I heard. After they went, suddenly he's no longer the go-to artist for the noble family's needs. And THAT one," he says, pointing at Kalonice, "her brothers all died in the fight 'tween Tiberius and our current Baroness and her sister. Left her on the streets, just about. I mean, not just about, actually on the streets.'
Hamish pushes away from the bar and wanders over to look at the Washer-Woman of Crimson Keep. To its artist he says, "This is beautiful. Simple lives of simple people, too often forgotten. I was a farmer in the Telmarch, a hundred leagues from any of the great holdfasts. It's amazing how quickly people who claim to look out for their commoners seem to ignore them when push comes to shove. Nothing is easier to brush off than people you assume will support you because they have no option."
Not used to being /bowed/ at Miraj gently returns it with a curtsey. Those, she is good at. "I do love art. Actually I'm searching for some, for my office back in Arx. I'm starting a salon and a matchmaking service. Everything's almost perfect! It will be some time before I'm able to open though." She sighs wistfully, looking at the painting. "I love it when art makes me /feel/ something. Laughter, pain, nostalgia... Tell me, do you have any other work I could look at?" She touches her chest, as if to still her beating heart.
Hamish also thanks the drunk for his information but is definitely getting away before vomiting commences, because thanks to Korka there's been enough of that so far this week!
"Which war?" says Verity, just rolling with Blessing rolling. "I'm from the entire other side of the Compact so I miss out on wars frequently. Nothing over there but wolves and plants!"
She sidles up next to the other woman so that they can both look at the pamphlet together.
"Ohh, wait, she's got on armor and swords in that picture. I bet that's the war."
Miraj checked charm + seduction at difficulty 15, rolling 57 higher.
"/Three/ up. Hmph."
Gloved hands are in the midst of straightening her peacoat when Gabriella feels eyes on her. That sharp gaze of hers tilts the way of one Kingston Botticelli. She considers him, considering her. And her brows lift, fractionally. It's by the next second that her smile graces the corners of her lips, bright as the dawning sun.
"You think so? I am quite partial to it myself, but I find even greater beauty and value in challenging our comforts where we are able." A gloved hand to her chest, Gabriella bows; shallow, but eloquent in its flourish all the same. "You have seen to the heart of me, it seems; Gabriella Pravus. How could I refuse a man with so sharp an eye as to see my blood so clearly? Let us share a drink or three, sir."
"Any time, any time," the drunk tells Hamish. "Oof. Feelin' all the rum. Gonna go have a bit of a lie-down," he says, and then wanders off to go lie down in an alley.
Kalonice greets Hamish with a minor curtsy. "...o-oh," she says, stammering. "Th-thank you! B-because someone just said it was... an invocation of... overthrowing... um! I'm sorry! I'm glad y-you like my painting...!"
Kingston turns toward Korka in only the most cursory way and takes the sheet of paper offered to him. His attention is almost completely on Gabriella, and his eyes return to the Pravosi Princess while he writes down 'Thanks for all of the Princess' and then signs his name and hands it back without a word to the Inquisitor. "You make this dull affair all the more lively already, Your Highness. I gratefully accept~."
Baldo is completely entranced by Miraj. "My dear. I could show you my other work. Or we could return to my studio and I could MAKE you my work. Have you ever sat for a painting? If not, then art itself might as well be given up on, to have so badly missed its calling -- for beauty must be preserved."
Blessing blinks a few times when Verity talks about being from somewhere else. "Oh! When the old Baron and the old Baroness got killed. I heard that they still don't know who did it. Or why! And then... the other guy was in charge for a while... and then the new Baroness and her sister took over the Keep. And they fought a whole war! It did a lot of damage," Blessing says serenely, even happily, "and hurt a lot of people. And now she's... she doesn't like art, and her guards are always messing with me..."
"Invocation of overthrowing...?" Hamish looks back to the painting and shakes his head. "I must admit I don't know much about art. I did some painting a few years back, but I was never this good. So I suppose I may be missing something. What I see is a powerful statement, but I don't know if it's a violent one. I see value. Someone of true worth who provides for those around her and finds genuine satisfaction in what she does. It might be tempting to portray her as beaten down or as resentful, but..." He muses for a moment, then looks back to the artist. "She's someone who knows who she is. Honestly, I'd offer to buy it if it weren't for a show. Is it based on someone you know?"
Verity continues to study the pamphlet alongside Blessing, even through all the peaceful talk of war, until the artist mentions art. Verity pulls away from the other woman to look at her with heavily-emoted shock, though the gesture is modified by her reaching out to put a companionable hand on Blessing's shoulder. It's shock /with/ her, not /at/ her.
And also the clear emoting is probably a courtesy because of the 'dusted off her tits' part of the interaction.
"She doesn't like art? That's unconscionable! Why would the guards ever bother you when all you do is make paintings? Paintings never hurt anyone. Well, there's also the dust, I imagine, but plenty of people do dust and still hold down jobs mostly."
Miraj has rolled 1 4-sided dice: 4
Korka is actually pretty glad for Kingston's distraction su
Miraj practically turns pink all over. It's a flattering color on her, but it's her cheeks that burn the most. "W-what? Really?" She looks to the other investigators, shooting them all an almost helpless look. Each of them are scrutinized, looking for the one that seems the least involved right now, before turning back to Baldo, still aglow. "I'm so honored! I've never sat for a painting at all. But perhaps it would be wise to take a friend to accompany me - you see I am /fresh/ off the boat and don't wish to get lost." Or taken advantage of. Then, she lifts her voice and calls in a melodic voice, "Hamish! Are you free?"
Korka is actually pretty glad for Kingston's distraction since it means that she doesn't have to convince him of anything! Two down, two to go! She moves over to where Verity is talking to Blessing and says, "Sorry to interrupt, can I have your autograph? My wife is a big fan. If you could write, 'Thanks for all the Adventure' I'll just let you get on with your conversation," she flashes a smile to Verity, holding out the paper and charcoal to Blessing.
"Dull?" The word comes almost incredulously through the rich strains of Gabriella Pravus' accented voice; it all the better complements the almost puzzled way she raises a brow and looks back toward the gathering, until her gaze settles upon the works on display. "I am afraid I must disagree with you; this is remarkable, truly. It may simply be because I've no talent with a brush myself - my canvas has always been a thing far bloodier - but I find myself enamored with those who can turn what dwells within their hearts something so concrete. So palpable." Her head tilts, the frown on her lips a thoughtful thing. "For example..."
And with that, Gabriella smoothly plucks her pint, stare for Kingston a thing of great interest as she nods her head in the direction of his work. "It is yours, yes? I confess I know not the subjects, but it is clear you do. There is a story, portrayed in pigment." She lifts her drink to her lips, pausing only to remark: "It makes me yearn to be better acquainted with them, and the story behind them."
Blessing seems startled by Verity's clearly emoted shock, as though that shock had come absolutely out of nowhere. She blinks somewhere around way too many times and then says, "I don't know why they bother me," Blessing whines, even though Verity pretty much just said exactly why. When Korka approaches, she's half-listening. "Oh, this is your wife?" she says, looking from Korka to Verity. "Oh, that's so wonderful! You two are beautiful together." She takes the charcoal and paper and then starts to draw Korka and Verity on it in loose but evocative caricature, rather than writing anything at all. The negative space between them forms a heart!
Baldo looks over to Hamish when Miraj calls to him, and frowns. "...it's the Festival of Choices, my dear. Another... new thing... but at least it's a time to be bold, no?" Baldo is absolutely going to suggest he paint a 'tasteful nude' of Miraj. He doesn't need to say it. It doesn't even need to be alluded to out loud by anyone. It's just something that can be quietly understood by all within earshot of the interaction.
Kalonice is buckling under the pressure of talking to another human being. "W-well. M-my brothers, they worked in the mill, until-- until the, um, trouble, between... between the noble family, and... They... didn't s-survive, so now I try, try to honor the w-way that they lived, a-and my studio has a view of one of the Keep's p-pavilions..."
Verity glances down at Korka's autograph sheet and puts on an indulgent look. "You're so clever, getting all their signatures just in case. Hoping one of them will be made famous soon?"
As Blessing puts a very artistic spin on the concept of autography, Verity gives her space by stepping back to join Korka's side.
"I'm afraid the inquisitor only has eyes for DEATH or death-adjacent peoples, rather, but I'm always interested in what if scenarios."
She looks askance back at Korka.
"Have you a good feeling, yet?"
"Dull," confirms Kingston to Gabriella. "They call our new Baroness 'the Princess of Parties' -- exquisite mockery, if a bit blunt, but I suspect bluntness is the only thing she understands. If that much." Kingston is either very brave, very foolish, or has had his lips loosened up a bit by drink. "Look at this Festival. She didn't organize a thing. Her parents would have taken care and truly made this a FESTIVAL." He drinks from his own pint. "They were remarkable people. They really were." His sadness has a bitterness to it.
Blessing looks up at Verity talking about death-adjacent people. "Oh! Oh, goodness! You're sick? ...how long do you have...?"
Korka takes the sketch and studies it a minute, clicking her tongue, "One more to go," then she leans in and plants a kiss on Verity's cheek, "Oh, you," she says, looking to Blessing seriously, "Not much. That's why she's looking to make such a difference in any way she can, like looking into these pamphlets. I think she's mad but, last wishes and all," and then without much care for her dying reluctant wife, she moves on to the last painter, Baldo, "Can you sign this? I bet all your names will be collectors items someday! Just put 'thanks for all the adventure' so that everyone knows it wasn't forged."
"Does it now? You must see all sorts of things." Hamish offers Kalonice a friendly smile, though he looks over when Miraj calls to him. He's not wearing his priestly robes tonight, lest they get something on them one might not want on their robes. Instead he wears plain black ironwool, with a slim alaricite blade at his hip and a pendant of the Harlequins' sigil on his chest. A grinning skull against a red wheel. Baldo is given the sort of brilliant smile that suggests the smiler might be thinking about how funny it is that the smilee's head would fit perfectly in his hand. "Why, Master Kostabi! Maybe I could model for you! I've been told I have an exotic look." No one has a look less exotic than Hamish Farmer.
Verity shrugs at Blessing. It's terribly nonchalant.
Then Korka kisses her cheek, and she puts on a theatrical show of swooning to the point that it seems like she might fall right off her feet. It's a miracle of balance that she doesn't.
Afterward, Verity straightens her poise and claps her hands together.
"You have a real, honest gift, Blessing. If I send you letters now and then with money in them, would you send me paintings in return?"
"Blessed Hamish! Maybe we'll both model for him. I don't mind. But I was really hoping to get a look at some of his other works at his studio. For purchasing. Your exquisite taste in art will be keenly appreciated. A second opinion on a piece or two to go into my office?" Miraj asks hopefully, rising and falling on her tip toes as she attempts to project her voice /all the way up there/.
"Okay," Blessing says to Verity. "But wouldn't it be less complicated if you just paid me for the paintings? You could put the money in letters."
When Korka approaches Baldo, the man is quickly growing impatient. He doesn't want to talk to Hamish or Korka, he wants to talk to the blonde Setarcan courtier. "What?" he asks Korka when she asks for his autograph. "No."
Baldo's eyes are then caught by Miraj bouncing herself with her heels for a moment, and he seems to lose his train of thought. He picks up his glass from the small table next to him. "...perhaps," he says, and the way he says 'perhaps' accurately conveys that he has zero plans to paint Hamish. He then shoots Korka another irritated glance. "There's not as much to sell at the moment, alas. The abolition has made for... decreased productivity," he says, almost sighing it.
"Please? It's for my good friend right there," Korka nods to Miraj, holding out the parchment and charcoal, "She's a big fan but I know she's too polite to ask you here. In public. But if you sign this she'd treasure it forever. Maybe also write your address on the back just in case she wants to get a more intimate look at what you can do," she winks to Baldo then.
"You're the artist, you'd know best," says Verity, making an empty-handed gesture. She turns her attention to the line of other works on display.
"Do you like any of the other paintings here?"
"Ah! Now /her/ I know," declares Gabriella Pravus, eyes glinting with revelation for her companion's remarks. She drains her pint with remarkable -- inadvisable -- rapidity, mumbling a little "one done" underneath her breath before her attention returns to Kingston. And, Pravus that she is, she decides to win him over the best way she knows how:
"I had the pleasure of Baroness Ember's company once, such as it was. She struck me as one who would take to a party as well as a trout to dry land." Through complete disregard to proper social mores. She flashes Kingston a dazzling, conspiratorial grin. "You must have suffered so, in the absence of your former lords. Would you languish like this, however? You seem like too exemplary a man to simply wallow. Come; we shall drink, and drink, and we will celebrate together in a way that would either make them both smile with pride or turn away in terrible shame. And then we shall drink yet more! I've some rounds left to burn before I have achieved parity, regardless--"
And this observation Gabriella breezes through easily as she hails down another round of pints, wholly intent on rallying Kingston into drinking himself into oblivion - or at least into looser lips.
Hamish is completely obvious to Baldo's subtext. Or at least he seems to be, given that he's already trying out a few poses for the man. "I'm not going to lie, Goodman. I've always wanted a painting of just this sort of thing painted by a master of the form!" It's actually hard to tell if he's looking for information or just enjoying annoying the artist. "I have a tremendous amount of hair on my shoulders. I encourage you to capture it all with as great an eye for detail as possible!"
"I like the one by Messere Brecheret," Blessing says to Verity, pointing to the painting of the washer-woman. "She hurts inside but she has a good soul. You can see it in the way it guides her brush strokes."
"I don't like that one, though," Blessing says, pointing to Kingston's portrait of the deceased Redreef nobles. "He clings to the past too much. What use is that? The present is what we're living in." She's unscrewing her locket while speaking, apparently about to brazenly have another snort without interrupting the conversation. "And that one... that one is just hateful," she says, nodding toward Kostabi's painting of the Kalahali tribesmen. "Snnnnffff. Snf. Ah... look at it. He doesn't even see them as people... To be a good painter you have to be able to walk inside your paintings and live inside them, and love them, and there's no love there, just desire for things to go back to how they were..."
Kingston easily goes drink for drink with Gabriella. So far, anyway. "Would that we were all so lucky to have her do what a trout would on dry land," Kingston snorts toward Gabriella. "She's repellent, isn't she? Her and her sister both. It's astonishing to think that they might have come from such fine people. Even when they were young, they were strange. Always disappointing their parents..."
Hamish checked perception + empathy at difficulty 15, rolling 1 higher.
Baldo gives Hamish a completely exasperated look, and then Korka even more of one. "Yes, well, I suppose this IS a Festival of Choices, so... you can make whatever choices you wish in life..." He snatches away the charcoal and paper from Korka, and writes 'LEAVE ME ALONE YOU HARPY' on it in clear, bold letters before handing it back.
Miraj is quick on the uptake and, hearing her name and enough of Korka's words to blush and fan herself like a school girl. Again, bouncing. And then Hamish is posing. "Oh yes! That one there, just... extend your shoulders, like that - for all that /hair/! And and I could be here, like this." And she strikes a pose - a rather melodramatic thing, back of her wrist to her forehead. "See? Does this look like the shoulder hair /really/ does it for me?" She then changes the pose, landing a hand on Hamish's shoulder and practically bending backwards. "How about this one?" She rights herself and strikes another pose, this time playing coy rather than demure.
Korka takes the scrap of paper back, gives it a look, snaps her fingers and says to Miraj, "You've got good instincts. Cause you got it in one," she might be talking about the poses. But she's probably not talking about the poses, "You should invite him back to your place. I think you know what to do with him."
Verity puts on a look of contemplation as Blessing walks her through the art world. Her gaze moves from one painting to the next as each is indicated in turn. As they go, the courtier's look becomes more genuinely thoughtful.
"You are full of wisdom, aren't you?" she says. Her gaze shifts over to Korka and Miraj. "I think you're escaping to paint another day."
"No, I usually paint people," Blessing says.
Verity abruptly has another drink in her hands.
Hamish is overheard praising Ember.
"Oh thank you Korka! How did it go?" She resumes the first pose, this time purposefully pouting her lips - like a duck. Miraj looks /very/ serious about getting this painting just right. "Think this would make a good patron's day gift? I bet it would." She sounds so confident. Of COURSE the Baroness would love this painting hanging in Redreef's Hall. "How big can you make the painting, Messere Baldo?"
Drink for drink; every time Kingston trades off with her, there's a dazzling look of approval from one Gabriella Pravus. She looks ever-so-delighted, her laughter a rich and infectious thing for Kingston's snorting aside -- one that she encourages him to chase with draining more of that new mug as she works her way rapidly through hers.
"Mm," voices the knight of Pravus in the aftermath of Kingston's observations. "One's legacy is one of the few things we might leave behind on this world. It must be a terrible thing, to have to bear witness as the legacies of those you admire so are dragged through a singularly dreary muck, yes? You've my sympathies. Were it me, I do not think I could let such a thing stand."
She gestures, soon enough, for another round; once it's arrived, she slips a hand into her peacoat to produce that pamphlet, waving it in offering as tantalizingly as a treat. "Though perhaps this might raise your spirits, Master Kingston. Something I have grown swiftly fond of."
Something compels Gabriella to look Verity's way just in time to see her with a fresh drink in hand. Her curse goes unvoiced, but it is -emphatic-.
Hamish considers Miraj's ducky face. "I believe Master Baldo may be correct. It would be inappropriate for me to insert myself into what would otherwise be a truly fantastic painting. You should absolutely model for him, Mistress Miraj. I think the end result will absolutely be satisfactory for your patron."
Baldo stares blankly at Miraj striking the poses against Hamish. "...I..." He seems at a complete loss for words. "...for Patrons' Day? What sort of patron do you have who would want THAT...?"
When Gabriella looks over at Verity, just over Verity's shoulder, Blessing is snorting more drugs.
Kingston eyes the pamphlet and flips through it, like he's checking to see if anything within it has changed from the last one he saw. "Making light of this sad state of affairs. The only thing sadder," he says, with resigned contempt.
"One that likes paintings of naked ladies," Korka helpfully supplies for Baldo, reaching out to pat him on the shoulder a couple of times like this guy. This guy. THIS GUY. "Anyway. I don't need to see what happens next." She turns and heads back for the bar, waving the autograph she got from him over her head, "And that's how it's done, ladies and gentlemen! Time to get drunk. Er."
Verity raises her mug at Gabriella and attempts to pierce the princess' soul with a smug expression. Perish! Drown in woe!
With the pamphlet handed off, and Gabriella's gaze adrift towards Verity, she catches sight of Korka. Patting the man on the shoulder very insistently. She looks at the pamplet. At Baldo. At the her drink.
Her frown is most severe.
"Already??" she laments, about nothing of course, to no one in particular, before draining the rest of her drink and pressing a hand solemnly on Kingston's shoulder.
"A sad thing indeed, Master Kingston," says she. "I see friends I must speak to, but please -- enjoy another drink on my coin. Perhaps we might have time for a proper celebration another time."
And she'll break off with a little, sorry smile, that swiftly turns into a STARE OF FIRE for one Verity Locke once her back is turned. This isn't over...!
Gabriella checked luck at difficulty 15, rolling 2 higher.
Verity checked luck at difficulty 15, rolling 5 lower.
Korka checked luck at difficulty 15, rolling 23 higher. Korka rolled a critical!
Hamish checked luck at difficulty 15, rolling 11 lower.
Hamish checked strength + economics at difficulty 15, rolling 45 higher.
Baldo Kostabi seems really, truly put off by being touched by Korka. "...er... sure. Right." He does give Miraj a last look, but seems put off by the idea after all of the antics. "...my studio isn't far from the Crimson Keep, if you should desire to..."
And just then, someone runs in the front door, screaming, "They just arrested Abel Jarin and Tricia Cashmore! Guard says one of them's been doin' murders! OCCULT murders! Like SACRIFICES!" There's a commotion from this random person shouting something about occult sacrifices or something, and in the commotion, someone bumps into a server carrying a whole try full of full mugs of ale.
The mugs go flying and one of them lands against the head of a hulking bruiser who was just trying to drink his drink in peace. Unfortunately, he's a hulking bruiser, and so when the mug breaks on his head, he turns and accuses the nearest person who might have broken a mug on his head. Alas, that's Kingston Botticelli, and the bruiser's method of accusation is to punch the artist directly in the mouth, so hard that it visibly breaks his jaw.
Chaos then reigns. Korka, for whatever reason, is untouchable in the bar brawl that explodes around her. Not a single punch goes awry in her direction, and people grappling with one another or overturning tables seem to instinctively sidestep her.
Gabriella likewise seems to be given a wide berth, but that may be due to the size of her sword.
No one tries to punch Verity, but someone does knock into Blessing before the artist is able to finish screwing her locket back together, and so the remaining dust in the thing flies out into the open air right in the vicinity of Verity's face.
Poor Hamish, though. There's a loud, shrill scream from behind the Harlequin. It's that of Kalonice, and when Hamish turns to see what's wrong... her painting of the washer-woman has come loose from the wall and tips, falling right down onto Hamish, swiftly enough that his head breaks through the canvas and he's left wearing a work of fine art as a gigantic rectangular necklace. Kalonice screams again, her horror doubled.
And what Korka will notice first, and everyone else if they care to look, is that in this bar fight -- Baldo Kostabi has escaped. He's not in great shape, so he couldn't have gotten far... but the chase is on.
As the crowd breaks out into a crazy fist fight complete with flying chairs and artwork, Korka sits at the bar, leaning an elbow back against it as she sips from her mug, completely casual and relaxed. Is that her Inquisitor badge suddenly out of her shirt for all to see? Surely that's just a coincidence and not why everyone who comes near her quickly changes course to punch the person beside her instead, "You're a work of art, Blessed Hamish!" she calls out.
Hamish looks around the frame at his hand, which is flipping Korka off. "Oh, my. What a scandalous painting!"
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