Return of Stormblood
Nov. 16, 2021, 8:30 p.m.
Arx - Ward of House Pravus - Seraceni Manor - Water Garden
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Already was there a vast array of folk who had filtered in from various places around Arx. Sailors were near the bar already laughing it up between jaunty banter about recent voyages and a few had their feet tapping lightly to a jaunty pick up in music. A collected gaggle of what could only be the studious sort were curious looking over the various types of flora that had sprung up and there were even a few wary glances given to the small disturbances of dirt that might suggest another farfetched vine attack. I mean, who attacks with vines, honestly?
The hostess for the evening could be viewed flitting about like a shadow, Ophira Seraceni was however hard to miss given the simple decadence of the starlight gown that clung to her frame like a reluctant wave, that dark decadence of velvet curls was pinned up given the warmth of the evening by shell addorned pins but a few rebellious curls found themselves bound to pay respects to the pearl crushed cheeks of the vivacious Siren of Setarco whose impish smiles were flashed aplenty in between shots with sailors and purred commentary in praise of Scylla Stormblood before the shoeless wonder was off again to pop up somewhere unexpected next.
Scylla lounges comfortably upon a chair pulled up to a shaded table, one leg crossed over the other beneath a lightweight skirt of seasilk and bare elbow propped against the armrest she's favoring. A dark pool of liquor is held aloft in her right hand, poised for easy consumption should her mouth become unbearably dry. Which appears to be quite often. Sips are common, but then this is a party to celebrate her return and since she's not paying the beverage bill, she's going to utterly drown herself in rum and have a wonderful time doing it. The baroness's long, brunet hair falls to her waist, swept out of her freckled, scarred visage, and her sharp, silver eyes expectantly resting upon the entrance to the Seraceni water gardens converted into a lush paradise reminiscent of her homeland of Tresova. Every so often a comment is murmured into her ear by a passing sailor, presumably one she knows, and so she shares a smiling exchange with him or her, respectively, then lapses back into a tentative repose.
While House Thrax has done a great deal over the past decade to reform some of their image in the eyes of the rest of the Compact, it would be forgivable if the formation of their footmen that march into the piazza of the Seraceni Manor. Mercifully, the unit doesn't tread as far as the water gardens, breaking ranks to reveal the justification for their presence - the royal pairing carries forward at a measured pace, Romulius Thrax apparently unwilling to allow his wife step any further than arm's length. Those even passingly familiar with the Sword of New Hope would be aware of his stifling overprotectiveness, but Natasha's current state would explain readily enough why it's been magnified to an extreme; while the princess isn't quite hobbling, she's visibly gravid. It doesn't preclude her from dressing in the austere fashions of the Mourning Isles she favors, but her husband has exchanged proper attire for gleaming plate armor. There is a fine line between 'caution' and 'paranoia', and the former Blackshore seems to have leapt clear over it.
While the contingent of guards keeps an eye on their charge from afar, Romulius leads into the gardens proper, a quick aside offered under breath to Natasha as they enter. Even dressed for war, he hasn't forgotten the childhood lessons of decorum, and there's an immediate scan of the gardens, cerulean seeking out either the evening's hostess or the guest of honor. They eventually land on the latter, the prince leading in that direction with an immediate warmth that belies his overly serious demeanor. The heavy footfalls of sabatons mark their approach, and there's an amused look at her languid positioning before a dip of head is given in greeting. "Scylla," Familiar enough to disregard titles, apparently, even in a public setting, "You've been away far too long. You couldn't have visited first, without making us march all this way to see you?" Any rebuke the words might carry is entirely absent in tone, unfettered delight at the sight of Blackshore's former admiral banishing away any traces of unpleasantness.
For /once/, Patrizio is not making a stylishly late entrance a la his cousin Sebastian - he's actually on time, the better for him to be perhaps making sure that he can be present for whatever manner of trouble might find them. The faint smile that finds his lips when he's nodding to the others - and while he's studiously avoiding looking at the disturbances of dirt, if only to be not worrying about things hopefully not to spring up on the evening. He grins, when he can hear Romulius' greeting, before he's clucking his tongue teasingly and drawing closer. "Highnesses," he says, with a dip of his head to Romulius and Natasha, before one equally to the guest of honour and the hostess of the event. "My ladies." And then a chuckle to Romulius. "Perhaps it's that good things are worth the trip, and perhaps better to have us roaming abroad throughout the city in these trying times?"
Visible, indeed, though even her present condition isn't enough to keep the Thraxian princess anchored within Skyhold's pristine white walls. The retention of her usual silhouette clings to her today in folds of soft steelsilk dyed a rich jet, though the cut is different today - the high collar remains, and so do her long sleeves, but the fitted bodice she favors has been foregone entirely to make room for an empire waist instead, a band of silver braided ribbons ruching the area under the bust and left in trailing streamers somewhere behind her. It allows her rapidly expanding waist to breathe, though in spite of movements that have become increasingly cumbersome in the last month, Natasha manages to insist on wearing her favorite boots under her ensemble; certainly she'll pay for it later, but she stubbornly clings to the comfort of the well-loved pair. Pale fingers that remain curled into the (over)protective crook of her husband's elbow remain there in the wake of her husband's whisper, for additional support and it's visibly evident to see just why she needs it - her left arm is in a sling, indicative of a grievous injury that has yet to heal in full. "It's good to see you returned," she tells Scylla warmly, dark eyes reflecting the sentiment; whatever else she could say, however, is delayed for now at Patrizio's greeting. "And it's good to see you as well, Your Highness. Bas wrote me a rather interesting letter a week or so back, perhaps I can pick your brain regarding its contents whenever the time allows us?"
Scylla stands fluidly from her reclining position and rests the glass of rum atop the table, thereby freeing it to ball her fist and rap the knuckles lightly against the Thrax prince's plate armor in a familiar manner of greeting. "Rom," she replies in a similarly informal fashion, bearing white teeth in an unfettered, broad grin of delight. "And Nat...and the little prince on the way," she murmurs softly, her eyes listing downward to observe the obvious presence of a baby bump protruding from beneath the empire waistline of her fashionable dress. One eyebrow raises impishly as she shifts her eyes between the two parents-to-be, as though daring them to argue against the prediction she boldly makes. "Thank you for daring to cross the long, weary distance that is the Pravus ward to see me at last; I would have written sooner, but the moment I stepped foot off my ship, my life was ah...well, turned upside-down." Her right hand lifts to idly smooth an errant strand of hair from her vision. "Prince Patrizio, thank you for coming. I certainly feel much safer knowing you're here. And Rom, who will make for a fine metal shield in that armor of his."
Patrizio's approach sees another look of warmth cast in the direction of the Pravosi prince, Romulius a far-more-formal dip of head than the Baroness received. "Your highness." The musings that follow greetings prompt further amusement, the Sword seemingly in a particularly high mood tonight. There's a subtle cant of head followed by a quick nod in agreement before Natasha is commenting on a letter from Sebastian - no curiosity there, gaze shifting back to Patrizio as if to judge his reaction to the subject. "Worth the trip, certainly, but I think I could do without so long a wait." An faux-accusatory look offered to Scylla with the remark, then attention turns back to the General as he appends far less subtly than his wife, "The letter was more than 'interesting', from what I was told of its contents, though I've no doubts you'll find some clarity." When the baroness draws attention to Natasha's physical state, lips purse a moment before giving way to a more subdued smile, "I'm accused of being a 'shield' far too often, I think, but I'll gladly play the part here. Upside-down, hm?"
Slipping into the gathering quietly, Camilla stays to the edge for the moment, seeking out refreshments as they may be lying about. She watches the arrival and greetings studiously, even if she herself is not as yet an active participant.
There is a moment where Ophira reappears, offering a brilliant smile towards Patrizio who is peppered with customary cheek kisses, "Glad you could make it, cousin." Is rumbled before glancing towards Romulius briefly with a sidelong flicker of greeting, "You act as if coming here isn't an absolute delight, quit acting like it isn't." Is teased before attentions lists towards Natasha where lips part, intent on saying one thing before pausing and eyes widen with sincere surprise as gaze drifts with astute detail to the new cut of style and faint protrusion, "Well, now I feel terrible for my prior statement but from what I hear walking is actually good." Another glance towards the once Blackshore now Thrax Prince, "Your letter about news makes more sense."
Peering towards the quiet entrance of another, Camilla is met with a waggle of fingers in greeting from the Seraceni before someone calls her name and she's dashing away to grab a drink or three.
Patrizio smiles easily when Natasha so addresses him, though there's the dip of his head before he murmurs, "I'd be very happy to offer up what I know, what paltry bit there might be. But perhaps not in the midst of a celebration, indeed." He does, briefly, give his soldiers a bit of a look and then a gesture, as if encouraging them to /go be subtle/ somewhere else than in his immediate presence, as much as one's making sure to ferry their commander a drink. Though at Romulius' further clarification of it being 'more than interesting', one of those well-plucked brows rises further, and his lips part as if to give further voice to it... and then a chuckle, and a distinct look. "A matter for soon," he agrees to both. "No business tonight, though. The Compact will endure for a night without my curiosity."
That smile, though, spreads further when he, again, dips his head to Scylla. "I know not that my presence, honestly, portends any greater safety, my lady, but if it helps with assuring such in our ward, then such is my pleasure to have offered it. That, and the Seraceni are notably wonderful hosts." Said, as he's greeting Ophira back with a chuckle. At the wave towards Camilla, he smiles, inclining his head and making a gesture that's certainly a beckoning to come join, rather than lingering as he might be inclined to do himself.
Nomius, a deeply skeptical bloodhound, Siri, an attentive apprentice, Paris, a charming mercenary, Tagalong arrive, following Apollo.
Primus, First of Monique's Assistants, 1 Greenmarch Guards, Tertius, Third of Monique's Assistants, Apollo, Alessia arrive, following Monique.
Nomius, a deeply skeptical bloodhound have been dismissed.
Tagalong have been dismissed.
Paris, a charming mercenary have been dismissed.
"Lady Darkwater..." Azova, she means. "...calculates he's due around November. I'm hoping to spend the last month in Maelstrom before then, but we'll see." The downward cast of those observant pewter eyes prompts a faintly awkward shifting of Natasha's weight from one foot to another, clearly unaccustomed to the burden along with the self-consciousness inherent on growing to nearly twice the size she was. Romulius has yet to bear the brunt of those insecurities, but it is a guaranteed inevitability; certainly the affection embedded upon his sun-bronzed countenance assuages them more than even she knows herself. The visible surprise from the Siren of Setarco ignites that faint flare of embarrassment, but her charm is, as always, effortless and puts her back into some semblance of ease. "I've been walking as often as I can. Whole hikes around the beaches and the woods with a small army, especially if Rom can't join me. I never realized how challenging it is to navigate sand dunes with additional weight, but the physicians tell me that the exercise is good for me...on both fronts." There's a faint grimace cast on the sling keeping her left shoulder in place.
Nothing else is said about whatever conference she wants with Patrizio, though he seems to have some inkling as to what she might mean. Curls brush over her cheeks in acknowledgment as she turns back to Scylla. "How are things in Tresova, my lady? Prospering, I hope - when you left us, you told me that matters needed looking into." Catching Patrizio's wave to Camilla, a curious gaze falls on the Whisper, stubborn, porcelain features shifting to make room for the spectre of an amicable smile.
"Stalking Mo, really." Alessia says with a grin as she loops her arm through the Greenmarch's and follows her and the duke to the party.
Apollo arrives with Monique on his arm - and, it seems, Alessia on the other side of -her-. He looks to be in a good mood, spirit of conviviality, as he offers, "The incentive is there to start. A matter of recognizing it. Oh, look how lovely this is." The shift in conversation comes right as his eyes slip off. "Not much help for the heat, though, is it."
Adopting a position by the lavish tables of food, Camilla enjoys a few of the fine delicacies as friendships are renewed. She retrieves a glass of wine, and for the moment contents herself with drinking that while mingling off to the side, allowing the nobility to engage in their ... nobility.
Romulius, for his part, is hardly inclined towards the regular attendance of the various soirees and galas that are so often thrown in the capital. Words on House Seraceni's qualities on hosting such things must be plenty accurate, however, as he tends to be present when there's such events hosted on these grounds. Ophira's barb prompts thin lips to part into a sickle-white grin, a deferential dip of head offered in her direction - prudence demands a surrender to the hostess, on this subject. "Forgive me, my lady, as I protest far too much. I could not be any more pleased to have made the journey." Only a touch dry. He really *is* happy to be here. At Patrizio's insistence that matters of duty be set aside, there's no complaint or further pressing by the Sword, scrutiny instead turned towards Natasha's calling attention to the still-healing wound. Quicksilver allows for pleasantness to immediately shift into a look of abject contempt, as though the sling that supports her arm has gravely offended him somehow. "I've always thought rest a better medicine - and colder, wetter climes. Maelstrom, perhaps."
The new arrivals draw his attention, then, especially on the realization of the Duke being counted amongst them. There's a pleasant smile offered his way, any aggravation over his wife's physical state set aside in favor of the warmth of familiarity.
Scylla spies the shadow creeping along the fringes of the party, and very deliberately swivels her head to better observe who the person is and why she hasn't joined in the conversation. Ah! An unfamiliar face. The baroness takes note of her features and quiet disposition, then allows her to slip by without being very obviously singled out and potentially embarrassed; Camilla will join when she's ready. That done, she turns back to gift Romulius with a very dead-pan /look/, followed by a dryly delivered, "Our first time in one another's company, and you choose to dig at me? Very well. I did not receive a notice that you're expecting. Aedric had to tell me. So, we are both wronged, and so can now safely move past it." Scylla tilts her chin up, a gesture that falls short of sticking her tongue out like a petulant child in front of royalty. "Indeed, my dear friend Ophira went to great lengths to make me feel incredibly welcome, especially after so trying a period spent back home; she's a very attentive hostess and thoughtful friend," the baroness concurs with Patrizio, and wherever the woman has just flitted off to, silver irises shift to follow after with a warm, favorable glow evident in their squint.
Romulius's question begs her snap her attention back to him, though she does not respond until the discarded glass of rum is plucked up in her right hand. Her eyes shift between the Thrax prince and princess as though to assess how much was shared between them. And then, when realizing that the answer is /nothing/, the baroness leans in to murmur something privately to Romulius. That should go over well. Without seeming to miss a beat, Scylla resumes her conversation with Natasha. "Time passes quickly, doesn't it? If you ever need a walking partner, I'll be pleased to join you so we can catch up. As for Tresova, things are...difficult, but improving." A deep nod and knowing look clearly conveys a hidden meaning. And now, more faces arrive, so the baroness turns to greet them. "Welcome, Duke Apollo, Lady Monique, Lady Alessia. There's a full bar, help yourself. And then come chat with us." Her smile is warm as she gestures to the shaded table. To those who have already gathered, she makes sure to incline her head that way, as well. Just to be sure. Well, no, not Natasha. No alcohol for you!
Monique arrives with two stunning people, one on either arm and her thrilled to be in the middle, an obsidian, pearl and diamond ornament between their darker beauty. "Stalking me? I'll make sure to do something more salacious next time," she teases Alessia before looking back to Apollo. "Do you know, I've heard composing a poem to the hot sultry sway of summer can help..." She gives a suggestive loft of her crimson brows to the Duke before turning to the party, sucking in a breath at the mention of a full bar.
Monique checks composure at normal. Monique is successful.
"You're more than welcome to jump into the waters." Is spoken aloud towards Apollo from somewhere in the throng of various folk, inking her way through is Ophira with a fresh drink in hand and glides past with a shifting smile as glass is deposited into Scylla's unsuspecting grasp. "I'm sure most wouldn't mind as I can spot quite a few already beginning to dip their toes. But, if it's sultry and hot that you're after I believe you'll need to shed more than just hose and boots." A manicured digit snakes to point out a curious trio who had skirts and pants hitched, shoes swinging on the tips of fingers, "I'd be interested in seeing what you concoct." Lilting suggestion is hissed on a mirthy breath as the Siren then slinks away in a glide of silk to attend to another matter that looks as if it might involve potentially scolding a sailor harassing Hank.
Patrizio is quiet for those moments as he's drawing the glass to his lips for a sip, jade eyes drinking in the scene, as he's listening to the conversation's ebb and flow. The excuse of having that glass there might just be to help hide a grin behind it when Natasha and Scylla are taking their turns having fun with one another. "The world moves on around us while we wait, in ways that none of us ever expect," he says with a playful tone that hints he might well know it makes him sound older than he is. Another sip of his drink, and as he's noticing the latecomers, he's offering a dip of his head to Monique as well, before he murmurs, "I'd not know of poetry, my lady, but it's good to see you once again, and so soon."
Although not entirely unfamiliar with the interior of the Seraceni residence, Alessia's likely never been to this specific region of the house, brows rising suddenly as she glances around. "Beautiful, isn't it? I'm always amazed at how well they tend to plants not native to Arx. Reminds me of..." She shakes her head as she trails off, lips curling when she notices the familiar faces. "Baroness Scylla, it's been far too long. Have you been well?" She keeps hold of her friend nonetheless. "Lady Ophira." A simple nod before the pleasant smile remains as she casts the gaze around the room. There's no recognition in her eyes as her gaze rests on the guests but the warmth doesn't fade.
"I would welcome the company," Natasha confirms, stubborn features cast in marble subtly softening at the offerance. "You can listen to me complain about the heat, I've never encountered such humidity until I stayed in Arx during its summers. The first year, I thought I would actually perish moving from one block to the next." True to the leanings of the sea serpents of Maelstrom when they vastly prefer chillier climes. "But I'm heartened to hear that things are improving, the new Baron of New Hope paid me a visit, recently, to ask for my counsel regarding certain matters related to the struggles you have there." A significant look is exchanged with the Baroness at that, sharpening dark eyes. "I hope that he takes my words to heart, though he is well within his rights to discard my counsel at will. The blessing and curse of the legal vocation, I'm afraid - no matter how well-reasoned the attempt, the advisee can still decide to be deaf whenever he or she wants." Mischief colors her intonation there, her Islander's cadence more of a gossamer brushstroke than anything as prominent as her husband's accent. With an absent, but affectionate squeeze against Romulius' supporting arm, her attention turns away from peering at Camilla curiously to the newcomers, expression brightening subtly at seeing the newly-arrived trio. Alessia, she remembers from a brief conversation about templars and the law, and Monique and Apollo are unmistakable; the Minx of the Marshes' glorious fiery mane is a signature in itself. "My lord, my ladies. As always, my lady Seraceni has outdone herself, the gardens are a delight especially in this weather."
Natasha is overheard praising Ophira.
Apollo gives a dip of his head to Romulius when greeted. "Your highness," he says, with a warmth that suggests that such address is likely not needed - but still. "Thank you, we will of course." His eyes slew sideways toward Monique, where he smiles just the brightest smile. "Oh, I'm sure they have /something/ for you. Let's see mm?" He glances up at Natasha. "Princess Natasha. Let me see us in drinks and we'll come say hello." Over to the bar, then. He murmurs something to Monique - sounds like something about /tea/. But he wouldn't. Would he?
Laughter is something heard bountiful in between quiet lush alcoves as if the plants themselves were having a good time of it. Whispers drifted in on the lilting notes of music that was plucked expertly from fingers or trilled on reed pipes to provide an ample suffusion of sound amongst the trickle of water ways. Splashes were indeed heard from from those seeking to try and escape the clinging heat, reclining back to admire the glimmering hang of star shaped lanterns that was a homage to the emblazoned star on the Stormblood crest.
By now with everyone gathering their drinks, a few have ventured towards the buffet table in order to help perhaps with the rush of alcohol running through system. For now? Everything seemed calm, delightful, and without a hiccup. Except for Hank who seemed to really be in the thick of it listening to some old Lycene tradesman talk about his youth.
Having sampled some food and some wine, and waited out the dramatic greetings and salutations from the nobility, Camilla makes her way over in the general direction of Scylla to see about taking her turn at welcoming her back.
Romulius's brows flash in surprise at something the Baroness leans in to deliver in a hushed tone, wonder almost immediately giving way to confusion. "Did he really?" The prince doesn't seem upset, necessarily, but there's little suggestion that he's particularly delighted, either. Whatever may have been offered, though, is set aside to direct attention to discourse on the world's restlessness and the unbearably humid climate of Arx. It's a wonder that he's not dripping sweat, given his 'attire', but paranoia clashes with pragmatism enough to suffer whatever discomfort the plate might create. Further consternation comes when Natasha mentions his uncle, cerulean narrowing with a glance to his wife, much of the current conversation apparently novel information. "Deaf or not, he'd do well to seek *some* counsel." From his nephew, perhaps, if tone is any indication. Even present company can't completely mitigate the sudden turn in his mood, though it's likely the prince might be wishing he had a drink in hand.
He's never been accused of being particularly pleasant.
Something Monique says prompts Alessia to try and fail to stifle a laugh and she effects a scowling expression as she studies her fellow peers. "Sorry, I can be too impressionable sometimes." She admits before her eyes lighten with Natasha's greeting. "Oh, your highness. Voice of Maelstrom." She repeats, as though trying to commit this to memory. "You look dazzling." She says, her voice entirely too perky. "Actually, I could go for some tea." The smile dissipates and turns to something serious as she eyes the bar, whispering something quietly.
Monique watches the alcohol flow around her and starts to sink into despair. Despair turns into irritation quickly enough when Dante whispers something that sounds like 'tea'. But at least there's the distraction of greetings to keep her from stabbing the Duke. "Your Highnesses," to Patrizio, Natasha and Romulius. "Baroness, my lady," to Scylla and Ophira. "This place is beyond even my wildest dreams. I'll be in the waters soon enough, mark my words, if only to drown Duke Apollo."
"Please, no drownings." Patrizio grins about this as he's taking another sip, and there's a breath that slides from him. "I'd have to explain it to the Ivory Shields and all, and that'd be a whole mess and a half, especially when Bella asks why I didn't stop it..." There's a distinct sense of amusement from the Pravusi prince, as if that wouldn't be the worst thing to do, explaining to his archduchess about lax safety and security. Though his attention does stray to Alessia at the change in her tone, his smile fading slightly while he looks concerned... and still, he eases a little bit to the side, to make sure that Camilla can certainly make her way in, and join to give her regards.
He may have threatened tea - and oh, does that get a weird look? If it does, he doesn't notice. But what he asks for appears to have more going on than tea. Three of the drink, a pale color that might in fact be tea, but for a twist of grapefruit rind in the bottom signaling something else. He delivers one to Monique and one to Alessia, and says, "Bitter disappointment," far too cheerfully for the words. "Enjoy." He looks like he will.
Scylla inclines her head politely to Lady Alessia, and, upon raising her glass to a hover near her lips, replies, "I am very well, my lady. And you?" To the entire trio locking arms and murmuring conspiratorially, she adds, "Tonight is supposed to be a night of mischief, or so I'm told, so do not hold back; I welcome the distraction." The glass rim of the tumbler now touches the baroness's lips so that she can sip from the contents pooling within. A waft of spices fills her senses and suffuses the air immediate to her person.
Now, Natasha consumes the whole of her attention, especially as it involves making future plans of almost every kind imaginable. "I appreciate that I've spent the majority of my recent life sailing in warmer climes; it has helped me adapt to Arx much better than if I had stepped off a ship hailing from Tresova. For our walk, we'll wear comfortable attire and shoes, else go barefoot on the sand, since the dunes are a boon to your health. I am sure I could stand to walk more, myself." Scylla inclines her head politely, and then, in the direct aftermath of her mention of counsel and its impact, she shifts her gaze between the Thrax royals. Her lips press into a tight line in a manner that suggests she's stifling a smile. "Yes, he really did," she returns to Romulius's question, and then lets a breath of air escape in a bit of a huff. "I am not privy to the advice you offered, your highness, but I assure you that he treated it with the proper respect it is owed. He respects you immensely." Careful. Her silvery irises flit to the man upon her arm, but then there's a woman approaching. The sneaky one.
"Hello, welcome. I am not certain we've ever met. I am Scylla Stormblood," she says in friendly tones, her head tilting curiously as she observes the comely, if seemingly reticent woman.
"I've actually grown partial to tea in the past few years. It reminds me of my best days." Alessia says with a wistful smile, taking the cup that Apollo hands her, staring into the liquid as she speaks quietly with them. There's a moment where she can't quite help but let out a short laugh. "This is really good. This is a Lycene house so I'd be remiss if I didn't double check that the spice -is- supposed to be in the beverage, yes?" Her brows lift as her gaze shifts to Patrizio. "Oh hello. I don't believe we've been acquainted."
Monique shoots Patrizio an accusatory glance. "It would just be one small drowning. No one would even see, really." Except everyone at the beautiful party. "I'll let you help, Scoundrel-Prince." The Minx resorts to bribery and bites back a laugh at the arrival of the drink and Apollo's naming of it. "Oh gods and spirits, fitting. Your life is spared, simply for the stunning wordplay you know I love. But I'm still holding you to an impromptu poem on the sultry days of summer." Her emerald eyes stray to Scylla, resting there with curiosity. "Stormblood. I know that name from somewhere... some lore..."
She does? Natasha glances back down to her largely spartan affair, black with the occasional braiding of silver, but the compliment earns a lingering of that barely-there smile towards Alessia's direction. "Thank you, my lady, as do you as always. It's been a long time since we spoke, but I'm heartened to see you hale." Monique's greeting, next, the green-eyed minx the focus of her regard and the touch of her curls against cheek and jawline at her bob of acknowledgment, though the threat towards Apollo threatens the spill of open mirth; it lingers around the eyes instead, however. "Please don't, I still need my lord Malespero," she quips to the redhaired Greenmarch gamely, but ever sensitive to the change in her husband's moods, she cranes her head in Romulius' direction, offering a whisper close to his ear. "I still owe him a visit to his workshop, now that I've suddenly found myself collecting more art than I anticipated, or even expected."
Ever attentive, her midnight regard and its amber constellations swing towards Scylla, whatever tension keeping her left shoulder rigidly aloft easing at just the evocative description of comfortable dress and shoes; as is visualizing herself in them already - or is that wishful thinking? "I'm glad to hear it, my lady. You know that I would always support the houses of the Mourning Isles however I possibly can." With Alessia's remarks to Patrizio, she gestures between the two. "Lady Alessia, may I present Prince Patrizio Pravus - a cousin of a cousin."
Ilira steps out from a pathway shaded by flowers and foliage. She observes for a moment from the relative shadow, her eyes bright and wide, her hands clasped at her waist, then flounces her way into the party proper with a little sashay in her hips to the music. The lightless, luxurious umbra of her shift flows and ripples with every move of her body. After a quick scan for familiar faces, she decides just to go for it and approaches the group at the center of the garden. "Good evening!" she greets with a radiant smile, her eyes beaming as much as her lips.
Each greetings is given a polite nod in return, though warmth seems to have faded away with whatever word Scylla passed on. How quickly his moods sour is likely a part of the reason that Romulius is a rare sight at parties, though Monique's quip on drowning the Duke manages to reintroduce *some* levity, the twitch of lips betraying the threat of a smile as he echoes Patrizio, "I've seen the Duke swim, my lady, and you might be hard-pressed to see the job finished." Even the baroness's promise of mischief can't quite turn him back towards the lower mood, spirit apparently waxing just as quickly as it waned. On warmer climes and sandy walks, he lets gaze flit between his wife and Scylla, though the latter's remark on his kin levels his expression. He's no doubt aware of the regard his uncle holds for Natasha, having heard it voiced on plenty of occasions, though the exchange seems to push the Sword into a moment of deeper contemplation. "There's little doubt of that. He isn't the sort to dismiss rationality, especially after seeking it out intentionally." It must be praise, if the gentler tone he adopts is any indication, but the matter is set aside almost immediately. New faces and arrivals demand their due attention, along with a subtle half-step to banish more of what little distance is present between he and Natasha, and then a whispered word from her is given a response.
Patrizio offers up a warm laugh for Monique, when she's commenting that there'd be no notice of such things, with a conspiratorial smile for her about the matter as he's tipping his glass to her. But it's Natasha's introduction of him, when he's just about to be giving over of his name, before he's offering up a playful bow. "I've been made, though I should warn that said cousin between us is my artistic cousin Sebastian, who is far more appealing than I am by a head and shoulders, and perhaps most of his torso." The grin, the twinkle that finds those jade eyes as he's having fun at his own expense.
Though he hears the familiar voice of Ilira, and turns slightly. "Whisper Ilira," he says with warmth. "It's been an age and a half since I've seen you. If I'd known that it would take a welcome-home party for another to draw you out..." Well, but he's not the host, and it's clear from his expression that he's aware of this fact.
"Spice is supposed to be there." Is spoken off from behind a bit of fern, petite curvature of Ophira appearing from the shadows with what looks to be like a large pitcher of fruit infused water and several glasses on a tray. Tawny eyes continue in their assessment of the guests that are flowing in and out, features in a loose tranquility of absolute enjoyment or perhaps it's the lingering of something particularly clove-like in the waft of breath that causes a languid sensuality to thick lashed gaze, "I've brought water." Is called over, settling it down on a table but attention is on Natasha briefly then drifts towards Romulius, "Get her water, you shining beacon of Thraxian pride." Bare feet skim over the ground with dainty ease, picking a path to grace Ilira's cheek with a brief kiss of greeting before once again dipping out into the bubbling throng.
For having not planned to attend, Duke Apollo finds himself in warm company. Only some of which intends to drown him, and only a little, or briefly. He smiles at Alessia. "Why, I'll take that in the spirit offered," he says, and lifts his own glass of disappointment to her. He has a sip, and turns an I-didn't-do-it look on Monique. "I'm sure I can manage that. If you're on your best behavior." Such sympathy for her plight; terrible (delicious) drinks, a date that might not survive the night, and a requirement to behave? Rude. His eyes turn up toward Romulius. "Have you seen me swim?" he wonders. "Mm! After the wedding. I do love those cliffs."
"Bas is one of my dearest friends." Alessia's features soften at this, as she sips from her cup. "For so many years. He's done a lot for me. More than I could have asked." She snaps out of this reverie to smile at Patrizio. "I'm glad to meet you, your highness. You're a Voice of Pravus, right? It's a room of people with much influence it seems." Her head tilts. "Are you also not imbibing, Apollo? For the same reason?" A nod to Monique.
"Quite literally," Natasha quips at Ophira's jabbing of Romulius, her own mischief evident at the turn of coral lips. "I confess that out of all the black and in such shining, almost white plate, I nearly didn't recognize him." There'a a surreptitious wink cast towards her husband, before the surrounding conversations pull at her attention once more. She may be slowly lowering herself to a seat, pride finally giving way to the demands of her body, though she manages to remain within her husband's taller, broader shadow, and almost too comfortable to remain within the eclipse cast by the forms that comprise her current company. Relief that she wouldn't readily admit to flits over her expression once her backside finds a cushion.
"It will have to be a very shallow pool then, so he cannot swim away," Monique tells Romulius with a grateful nod. "Thank you, Your Highness. Valuable intelligence. I can see why the Princess kept you." Her grin surfaces and she even sips from the tea, somewhat placated. "What sort of art are you collecting, Your Highness?" she asks of Natasha, curiosity pricked and then refocused on Patrizio. "Some of his legs too. And the tattoo on his butt cheek," she comments of Sebastian with deep humor before looking back to Apollo. "I'm never on my best behavior and you wouldn't have it any other way. You did say you wanted to dance, didn't you?" She gives him a look loaded with innuendo.
Scylla seems hard-pressed to keep track of all that is taking place, so for a brief moment, she sort of melds into the backdrop of comfortable conversation between family, friends and acquaintances, happy to sip from her rum until the tumbler is completely dry. Well, that is just /not/ okay. She tilts the glass back and forth idly, expression pursing thoughtfully, then discards it to the table. "Whisper Ilira, welcome," she says in an aside to the newcomer, catching her name and affiliation as it rolls off Patrizio's lips. "Make yourself comfortable. Some people are contemplating a swim, maybe an innocent drowning." This is uttered with a degree of nonchalance that belies any attempt at conveying the truth of the matter. Yet if it /does/ happen, she cannot be called a liar, either.
"Your uncle is a good man, Romulius, and with the exception of a few complications that need to be ironed out, I could not find any damning faults in his logic where this proposition is concerned. Which is why I said yes." There's more there. Much more. But she disguises the emotion well behind a sudden, desperate need for a refill. Without waiting for a response, the baroness slips from her position at the table, raising a finger in a gesture intended to soften her immediate departure, then goes to fetch herself a new drink from Hank behind the bar. As she passes, the sling securing Natasha's arm to her side is observed in her peripheral vision. The woman pauses mid-step, eyes it pointedly, then moves on. A topic for later.
Aedric Blackshore arrives to the celebration nearly an hour and a half late. If not for his height, lanky frame and cephalopod-emblazoned breastplate, the man likely could have been confused for a sailor recently returned to the shore from a prolonged expedition at sea. His hair is unruly and beard unkempt. Dark circles have formed beneath either of the baron's eyes and indirectly call attention to a distinctly cerulean gaze. His left gauntlet rests comfortably atop the hilt of a sheathed longsword and the right appears nestled between his breastplate and ribcage, permitting elbow to hang limp against steel plates. He surveys the crowd for any marginally familiar places and, upon spotting his nephew's towering frame, immediately begins to make his way across the gardens. He's quite nimble for being so sickly-appearing and on more than one occasion avoids colliding with imperceptive attendants catering to the party's other guests.
"Mm?" Apollo murmurs in question to Alessia's query. "Oh, no - purely about the company, I keep." His eyes slew aside to Monique, and he smiles. "And a want to enjoy said company. Despite the heat. If I had whiskey in this you'd find me passed out on a sofa somewhere, missing the chance to dance, yes," an answer to Monique embedded in the answer to Alessia with a glance toward her. But his eyes turn back to Alessia. "I hope you're not too very troubled, my lady. It would be nice to see you enjoy yourself as well." That last offered, he smiles, takes a good drink. Doesn't look so bitter going down at all.
Romulius watches the Siren slink back into view, gaze following each of Ophira's steps until their hostess is delivering her commands. A brow lifts, if for no other reason than to draw attention to the outward impropriety of such a thing, but it doesn't prevent him from complying, the pitcher gathered to pour a glass of water for Natasha. "If paint were at all practical, I assure you I'd keep from blinding those in attendance." It's handed off as she takes a seat along with another hushed word, though it's cut short by Patrizio's show of self-deprecation, a proper grin appearing on the addition of Sebastian's torso. When Ilira is named, there's a dip of head in acknowledgment, "Messere Whisper." Further acquainting is delayed by Apollo's recollection of a visit to Nilanza, the memory prompting an immediately warm look. "After our son is born, perhaps we should find time for another venture south - he may not be old enough to remember it, but I should think it a fine place to introduce him to your children." Scylla's assessment is answered shake of head, meant more to dismiss an apparent misunderstanding than to offer any disagreement, "I've never been anything but fond of him, even if I've disagreed with a decision or two. Forgive me for not saying as much, yet, but congratulations."
And then the man in question is striding towards them, the vibrant blue eyes that serve as a signature of their bloodline immediately falling upon the Baron of New Hope. From his position looming over Natasha, there's a half-smile and dip of head offered on his approach. "Uncle. It's good to see you. Congratulations to you as well, apparently." The last only a bit cold, though not enough to banish the whole of familial warmth.
"Could you believe that once upon a time, I was convinced he wanted to be rid of me instead? He *did* try to drown me when I was eight - clearly the most auspicious of beginnings to a beautiful friendship," Natasha tells Monique, the look of her shifting to a more feline bent, the devil in her dancing among her gaze's amber chips. There's nothing but clear affection, though, when she describes the encounter, before further explaining to the infamous Minx, "In grand Thraxian tradition, much of my collection in my private residence seem to depict sea monsters of some manner and stripe; my lord Apollo had a chance to view the in-progress marble fountain we were installing in the baths of the sirens, and Romulius recently gifted me with a reproduction of a painting of a kraken caught in a lightning storm that was damaged in Maelstrom. But there are others, also, to spice up the decor - my Aunt Maren is an accomplished artist and she spent a considerable amount of her life in the Undying Empire, so some of her pieces are on display in the conservatory."
Ilira's arrival brings recognition on her features. "Messere Whisper, how are you?" she wonders, attention shifting over to where the Baron of New Hope has emerged, fingers lifting in a wave to Aedric.
With the glass of water handed to her, Natasha collects it with a quiet murmur towards her husband in gratitude.
Finally finding her way over towards Scylla to try to effect an introduction, Camilla pauses slowly spotting /finally/ one person with whom she is actually acquainted. As Ilira is pulled into conversation, she continues to approach the Baroness. "Welcome back," she offers, a polite curtsey. She did have the presence of mind to drag along a fresh tumbler to present, having noted Scylla's displeasure at hers running empty. "And thank you for the opportunity to attend just a festive occasion."
Ilira tips up her head to brush a kiss against Ophira's cheek and flashes the siren a joyous smile as she once more slips off. She turns to Patrizio, grinning, the dimples in her cheeks aglow with warmth. "Nothing is guaranteed to draw me out, dear Prince, but I welcome you to throw as many parties as you wish in attempt!" She takes a seat at the table, each movement flowing into the next as she reclines in her chair and crosses one slim, shapely leg over the other within her silken skirt. A few gossamer curls brush her cheek, the rest tumbling in a wild mass about her shoulders and back as she turns her head to regard the Stormblood, and beams. "How very Thraxian!" she laughs, a rich and musical ring that lilts warmly off her lips. "And you are Baroness Scylla, I gather?" She dips her chin, a motion as regal as it is respectful. But then she hears Whisper, all around her, and turns to address those who greet her with a brilliant smile and an amused twinkle in her eye. "Prince Romulius, Princess Natasha, it is wondrous to see you! I must make a slight correction, though," she holds up a dainty hand, "I have retired as a Whisper and my name is now Starling. Just...so you aren't calling me by the wrong name," she grins.
"How could I be troubled?" Alessia turns to Apollo with a look of amusement, giving a little laugh which stops abruptly. "You should dance. Monique can dance sober, right?" She nudges the woman before releasing her, her head tilting back as she glances up at the sky, gaze lingering on the moon for a little too long. "It never stops does it." She murmurs before turning to gaze at Natasha. "The Undying Empire? Poor thing. I couldn't imagine a worse place to have lived." All warmth dissipates at mention of the far off land, replaced by simmering disdain.
"Thank you?" is the baron's reply, completely uncertain as to why he had received praise. Either Aedric was hard of hearing or hadn't been in range to catch the tail-end of the younger Blackshore's conversation. He returns Natasha's wave and mirrors Romulius by offering a polite dip of his chin in greeting. "Forgive my interruption, but what was this exciting news you referenced in your missive? I suspect I might already have an idea, but I don't want to embarrass myself in front of polite company."
"I apologize that the gods have subjected you with my cousin," Patrizio says to Alessia, with far too much warmth to be serious. Another sip from his own glass as he's dipping his head. "And likewise, a pleasure to meet you as well, though I know not how much influence I have. Only that which the gods grant." There's the arch of a brow when Monique is speaking of tattoos or the like, and he's speaking nothing to contradict or confirm what has passed her lips, nor is he saying something for or against the drowning at this point. Though he makes a playful sound to Ilira at her jibe about the matter of parties. "I think that we're both aware that I'm not much for throwing them in general, dear Whisper," says he with a laugh, before he's shaking his head, listening to the matter of things swirling about.
Somehow, somewhere, a dagger came to be in Monique's hand. And she's aiming it at Ilira. "I think I owe you something, Ilira Whisper," she calls out to the Whisper, a glinting, dangerous smile crossing her lips. "I'll dance, right after this," she tells Alessia, finally stepping away from Apollo's side to give space to the shining blade.
Monique gets frosted violets and dragonfly wings pair of hairpins from the secret places on Monique's body where weapons hide.
Monique puts frosted violets and dragonfly wings pair of hairpins in the secret places on Monique's body where weapons hide.
Monique gets fiery plummage of flight imperial oathlands steel dagger from the secret places on Monique's body where weapons hide.
"I don't know much about it, truth be told," Natasha confesses to Alessia after a well-placed sip of fruit-infused water, relaxing further when the cold beverage banishes some of the season's pesky humidity; pale skin is luminous with its dew, dark eyes brimming with relief and gratitude cast to Ophira for bringing the pitcher in the first place. "Save for the stories that my aunt has managed to tell me a few months prior. Admittedly, for a long while, Arx was the furthest I've ever ventured from home, I'm afraid everyone here is certainly more well-traveled than I." To Ilira's correction, there's a nod of acknowledgment. "Messere Starling, then. I hadn't known you retired - does my lady Zoey know?"
Apollo's chin lifts, and he nods at Alessia, smiling warmly. "I'm not sure," he says, and turns to Monique - to find her with a dagger. "No stabbing, darling, or you don't get your poetry." He doesn't seem genuinely -worried-, though, drifting vaguely after her. He might like to say hello to Ilira, after all.
Romulius adopts an apologetic expression at Ilira's correction, deference offered in the way of a shallow nod. A frequent gesture for the prince, apparently. "Apologies, then - and I wish you all the best in your retirement." It's almost certain that he doesn't know what retirement from the Whisper House entails, but it's also not something that he will press her on, even if there's a glint of curiosity in cerulean. Natasha's words on their growing collection of art draws attention to that thread of conversation, and interest heightens with Alessia's apparent distaste for the Undying Empire. "She had never expressed anything but fondness for her time, there. I think it was only an interest in showing her daughter her roots that drew her back to Arvum." His uncle's confusion, though, demands a response, and there's a gesture towards his wife in her seat. The answer might be obvious, there, but he voices it all the same, "We're expecting a son, come fall. We'll need a word soon on matters at home, it seems, as the Baroness as explained why she's been too busy to visit." There's undeniable pride as he offers the news -
Until the glint of steel prompts an immediate reaction, calloused hands ripping away the baldric that secures the impossibly dark scabbard at the prince's back, a hand coming to rest on the star-iron hilt as a step carries him between Natasha and Monique. He's not so startled as to *draw* the blade, thankfully, but it doesn't appear as though he'll hesitate on that for long.
"I have no doubts it's a beautiful place- in terms of infrastructure and advancements. I've been to their ward - the building, the gardens. Absolutely stunning. And that ship. It's basically a palace, I couldn't comprehend how it could float when I first took a look at the Ordered Path." Alessia admits with an easy smile as she recalls, swaying a little before finishing a drink. "What is done to the denizens however, is ugly. Those who manage to escape his monstrous grasp. He ruins people." And then suddenly her voice is mellow again when her gaze drifts to Patrizio. "Nothing to apologize for... Skald to thank for..." She trails off, studying Monique with a questioning look.
Scylla is about to pass to the bar when, to her immense gratification, Camilla arrives to save the day. The tumbler is accepted with a murmured, "Thank you," to both gifted words and drink, and then, without much in the way of warning, immediately sweeps her new friend toward the table by a gentle guide of her hand pressed against the center of her back. "I am afraid we've never met, but I'd like to know your name so that I can properly introduce you to everyone, if you're not familiar with them, already." Now that the pair have arrived, with Scylla standing beside her previously claimed chair, Aedric's sudden appearance at the table gives her pause. It is only a brief moment that surprise is given leave to register upon her visage, and then a smile takes its place. "Aedric, welcome. I'm glad you came. I was just telling your nephew about our pending arrangement, as it seems he did not know. He is congratulating us." Her eyebrows adopt an apologetic shift, and then she adjusts her stance so that she can be seated at the table, at long last, and with a fresh glass of rum in her hands. She sips from its edge, then turns to nod appreciatively, again, to Camilla for her excellent taste in alcohol.
Ilira's inquiry captures her attention, now, and so Scylla turns to properly address it. "Guilty," is her choice of word, but delivered with a faint, though no less friendly smile. "And...congratulations on your recent retirement, I think? I am, unfortunately, unfamiliar with Whisper House and what retirement means." It is clear that she is simply taking a cue from Romulius's commentary, the very same Thrax prince who is now reacting in an incredibly predatory fashion. Scylla tenses, nearly spilling her drink in the process. "Rom, what is it?"
"Your Lady Zoey's known for quite a bit! She was one of the first I told." Ilira smiles warmly at Natasha, eyes sparkling, and turns smoothly to Camilla's approach. "Oh you beautiful thing, what a delight to see you here!" She clasps the courtier's hand in her own and brushes her lips across her knuckles. "I'll introduce you to some folks once I handle this, just a moment." Ilira flows to her feet, raven curls tumbling about her face and shoulders. She flashes a broad, impish, lopsided grin at Monique. "Okay, you can have your vengeance, but only if you threaten me with my proper surname!" she laughs brightly and raises a hand to Romulius, giving a gentle shake of her head. "No no, she's joking," she assures everyone, still trying to suppress laughter.
Much like a cat does this woman have a knack for appearing in random places. And now, upon the dais where the musicians pause long enough in their beautiful playing did the Voice of Ischia raise it to one and all, " Welcome! Please, enjoy the evening and bask in the wonderful intricacies of what I was able to provide from Tresova. While perhaps not known to some of you, Baroness Scylla Stormblood is a dear friend and has arrived from her far away isle to grace us with her presence. Go give her your greetings, wishes, and talks of the future!" With that does Ophira collect a glass to raise in a toast, "May we never sicken of the storm!" A pause, absinthe flecks in gaze sparking with mischief, "And may it forever batter New Hope's coastline."
There are various shouts that can be heard in unison both from the Thraxian crowd and a few of the Seraceni who had the distinct pleasure of sailing alongside The Omen. However, as it began to quiet and the hub of conversation returned back to it's singular groups is one loud shout heard, "Wait, who the fuck is Scylla Stormblood?" To which a groan from nearby compatriots quickly seek to educate the inebriated buffoon. Ophira rolls her eyes, before then lush lips curl into a smile, "Also, be mindful that if anyone is going to start stabbing please don't do it in the water. Then I'll have to drain it and it'll be a whole affair that I'd rather not have to deal with." With that there is a wink, all wily and rum fed before once again on the move to Skald knows where!
The music does begin up again and the tempo is one bent for twitchy feet and gliding frames - some more graceful than others. A youthful, slip of a girl with the complexion of a rich molasses approaches the front of the music stand, almond eyes shimmering with joviality as her voice begins to croon out a lively jig for all to hear and take part in.
Patrizio looks for a moment as if he has a thousand questions at Alessia's declaration, but then he's holding them back, as if keeping to that promise of 'no business' he'd stated earlier. A breath then, as he grins about the other part. "To each of us, our own," he says, with a laugh, regarding his cousin. Even the drawing forth of blades by Monique doesn't perhaps dim that smile, even as he does look briefly concerned, and... well, other things, certainly. And a dip of his head to Ilira. "It's going to take me a while to get accustomed to the change, messere," he offers with that slightly re-spreading smile. "Old habits die hard, I fear. Even if perhaps it's to be ended swiftly by the good lady." This comes with a glance to Monique - a concerned one, given the kinds of expressions the prince manages to hold forth, before he's taking a breath and again.... Just stealing himself bit, and reminding himself, little more consciously than most, to relax and enjoy the summer evening.
Bobbing her head and brandishing a small smile, Camilla walks along with Scylla. Not that she fcould have done much otherwise. "I am Camilla Baseborn, late from Setarco, from the House of Silken sighs," she offers in introduction. She trails off as ... things happen.
Scylla checks composure at hard. Scylla is successful.
"Are we just taking out our weapons now? Hands on hilts everyone?" Alessia asks with a wry smile, unable to hide her amusement at this as she looks ahead of her, though doesn't move her hand to any weapon.
Monique's eyes cut aside to Romulius' posturing and the Minx of the Marches seems entirely complimented by the gesture. Her eyes glow with pride, even, and she winks to Romulius, before her gaze swings back to Ilira and she gives her the okay. The dagger is flipped up in the air in a theatrical motion and she catches it by the blade and then tosses it - gently - to Ilira, hilt first. "A debt repaid. Now I can enjoy the party. Tell us a tale of the lady of the evening?" she invites of anyone.
Alessia inches closer to her friend and says a few words quietly, eyeing her surroundings curiously as she does so.
Aedric was in the process of determining the best means of addressing Romulius' revelation when Scylla returned from the bar. He opened his mouth to convey a greeting but was promptly silenced by the pointed inquiry of a distant drunkard and his nephew's abrupt scrambling for sheathed greatsword. Cerulean gaze shifts slowly to Natasha -- that poor, poor Thraxian princess bound to the brute of a man seconds away from resorting to bloodshed in a water garden, of all places -- and lips mouth a quiet, but nonetheless sincere, "Congratulations." A warm smile is presented, too, which was a rare enough thing to observe on the elder Blackshore's gaunt features.
Apollo takes a deep breath at the theatrics from Monique; there's a glance aside at Romulius that might within it contain about six paragraphs of -something-, not apologetic but sympathetic. He takes a good drink and steps in alongside Monique, puts a hand on the small of her back. He murmurs something brief and warm, and then lifts his voice in agreement. "Yes, please. A good story sounds a treat."
A more reasonable man might be embarrassed by such a visceral reaction to Monique's 'joke', but reasonableness isn't a trait that Romulius possesses in any sort of excess. Ilira's ability to assuage the prince's paranoia belie her former life as a Whisper, though, and while he doesn't return his greatsword to its place at his back immediately there's at least a relaxing. No blood to be shed in the water gardens, it seems. Not yet, at least. Ilira is given a look meant to convey deference to her judgment, and the Sword takes a step back to his original spot beside Natasha, rather than carry on as a gleaming wall of diamondplate between her and the Minx. "Best mind our blades when amongst polite company, hm?" The former Blackshore's behavior tonight has given absolute no indication that he is at all fond of theatrics, but when it's clear enough that there's no malicious intent, his baldric is refitted and the weapon returned to his back. Some edge remains - too much for him to properly enjoy the carousing of the sailors and the accompanying clamor. Maybe a story will calm him.
"I fear I've not stories," Patrizio says with a chuckle when Monique invites them, but there's a sketch of a bow, to Romulius and Natasha, to Ophira as hostess, to Scylla as the honouree and then to Aedirc, Apollo, Monique, Camilla, Alessia, and Ilira. "But I should probably return to my offices, given the things that are afoot abroad -as much as I keep claiming to avoid business for the night. But." He smiles warmly. "Thank you for having me."
The news delivered to Romulius' uncle, Natasha finds her attention split between the Blackshores and the further color Alessia details about the Undying Empire, dark eyes lit with interest - always, for the talk of faraway lands she has only glimpsed in her dreams and imagination. Luckily, her fingers don't somehow relinquish her glass of water with surprise when her husband suddenly steps in front of her, having not caught the flash of steel in Monique's grip. For a moment, nothing encompasses her frame of visual reference but a broad expanse of diamondplate and the familiar length and glint of Bainteoir crossed over her husband's back; indicative, perhaps, that she is less wary of her surroundings whenever the big man is near - his protection is never something that she has ever taken for granted, or even doubted. She does, however, say a few soft words: "I think it's all right, Rom." A hand reaches out to brush against his forearm. "You'll discover sooner rather than later that the Minx of the Marshes lives up to and even surpasses her moniker."
With Aedric's soft response, there is a visible gentling of her porcelain mien. "Thank you, uncle. I hope that you'll approve of the name we've chosen once it is revealed to the world."
With Patrizio taking his leave, she lifts her glass in a toast to the departing prince. "Until next time, Highness."
3 First Legion Centurions, 3 Setarcan Royal Shields leave, following Patrizio.
Ilira holds Monique's gaze, eyes fiery and glittering with humor. In a movement made of lightning, her hand snaps up to catch the hilt and she flips the dagger around to kiss its shimmering blade. "Thank you, Lady Minx, it's such an exquisite gift!" She beams at the redhead, tucking the blade away into her own secret place and flashing a wink to the rest. "Storytime! I need to know more about you, Stormblood baroness," she smiles at Scylla.
It's okay, everyone, Monique is just joking. Scylla's tense muscles relax in light of this information, at perhaps the same time that Romulius removes his hand from his weapon. Another sip is imbibed of her rum.
The announcement voiced by Ophira rises over the din of conversation and actually manages to terminate whatever it is that Scylla is saying...and thinking. Her silver irises rest intently upon the Southern beauty as she showers incredibly kind praises upon her - for some reason...or apparently many. There's really nothing evident in her mien to suggest that she is embarrassed by any stretch of the imagination; her posture is unwavering and skin has maintained its usually pale complexion. No blushing to be found, here. However, she /does/ possess enough humility to glance warily around the immediate area, to all the faces now turning their eyes upon her, and suggesting that people tell stories about her. Oh boy.
"Alright, I suppose there's no getting out of it. Admittedly, I'm curious to hear these stories, myself, if only so that I can compare their versions of events to my own memory." Even if her memory is notoriously bad. And with that, Scylla lapses into silence and waits to be dissected further.
"That was spectacular." Alessia can't help but say, as she gestures to the dagger given to Ilira. "Perfect flip. Ten out of ten. It might go off scale actually." She gives a little chuckle before her attention shifts to the lady of the evening. "Do the stories have to be true?"
Scylla shakes her head once at Alessia as her lips twist into a wry smile. "Mischief night."
Ilira bats her luxuriant lashes at Alessia with a rather genuine smile of thanks.
Monique reaches over to wrap one arm around Alessia, in response to something the woman whispered, and gives her a bone-crushing squeeze, whispering something back. But aloud, she says, "I think it's better if they aren't true. Tell us a tale, Alessia, won't you?"
Oooooh. Story time. Camilla moves over to find a perch nearby to adopt a lean at so she can listen in on whatever sinful tale is about to be relayed. Her lips twist with anticipation.
With the call for stories about the guest of honor, Romulius unsurprisingly abstains. There's enough rebuke offered of his posturing that he doesn't press any further on theatrics or else subject the rest of the revelers to his decidedly not-festive demeanor, instead offering another quick aside to his wife before letting gaze shift between his uncle and Alessia. Story time, indeed.
"May I suggest that after the Lady Alessia has finished spinning her yarn that the spindle be passed to the newly-made Baron of New Hope?" Natasha wonders from around her crystalline receptacle of water. Clearly in spite of her fond words earlier, she is not above throwing her uncle-by-marriage under the carriage. After a faint, but unfairly winsome ghost of a smile towards Aedric, whatever other words she could offer are stayed at her husband's lean, her face tilting towards him so she can listen intently.
Scylla does more than sip from her rum. Half of it is gone in a matter of seconds.
The bright shape of amusement lives in Apollo's eyes; he drinks his drink - drains it, as it's hot enough - and sets it aside. Something murmured to Monique makes it flare into a bright wedge of teeth, and he drifts back, moves around to Romulius and Natasha. He tips close, murmurs something quiet to the pair. Wouldn't want to interrupt storytime.
Appearing near the group where tales needed to be told, Ophira settles into a chair with what looks to be a perfectly rolled cigarillo betwixt digits and a tumbler glass in the other, "Scylla and I go way back to stormy nights upon the seas." The rim of glass, already stained with the faint roseate color of her lips, is sampled briefly from before continuing, "But my favorite story is before she became the Baroness of Tresova. I remember when Baron Blackshore here put Scylla in command of her own vessel which she took on with pride and I happened upon her cabin for the first time to get to know the woman more. It was the absolute barest thing you've ever seen, given that it was Aedric who had slept in it prior, it made sense that it was sparse but the look of absolute horror as she watched me inspect the resident spiders, beetles, and broken bottles is perhaps one of the truest bits of herself that I could ever recall. I even think there was a mouse sleeping in the ragged remains of the mattress." The cigarillo is snuffed out given nearby company, "We laughed it off and I promised to help furnish the space. But what I learned about this woman, was how much she truly cared about how others might look upon not her but on the house she served at the time. It was a true testament to her genuine nature and stalwart integrity."
That lingering suggestion of a smile remains when stories are shared, Natasha's attention falling on Ophira when she speaks, though her focus trickles away briefly to Apollo's presence once he slides over their direction. The soft murmur is returned in kind, a brief shake of her head evident from the princess.
"Like many of you here, I too have seen the face of death," the mariner explains, opting to seize the opportunity presented to him. "Near where the Darkwater Deeps receded and shortly before it began to bleed red, my ship sailed upon another in ruin. The hull and mast shattered, the sails ablaze, the surface of the sea littered with cargo and planks and the corpses of drowned men." Aedric draws a chair from the table and climbs onto its seat, likely in an attempt to command the attention of those nearest him. "One such figure was hauled aboard with hopes of determining how much time had passed since disaster struck the unsuspecting vessel. Her skin, burned, was cold and pale beneath the light of the crescent moon. She did not breathe. Water had filled her lungs and she could not be resuscitated. Recognizing that this would be her only opportunity for a proper burial, I assembled the rest of my crew for a makeshift ceremony." The elder Blackshore pauses, surveying the crowd for effect.
"Mid-rites, she stirred. Her torso lifted upwards. She spasmed, like an animal in its death throes, and expelled the salt from her lungs. I stared on not in horror but awe, dumbstruck by the seemingly impossible -- an eye witness to an otherworldly and terrible revelation. And yet I could not look away," he explains, shifting attention to Scylla, "...for I had never seen anything quite so beautiful." Another break. "We gave the Baroness food and shelter. Of course, she was not known as a Baroness then; she was something else. Something intangible. Something touched by the supernatural. An omen."
"Hmmmm. So many wonderful adventures to choose from." Alessia ponders as she settles onto the closest surface she can find, idly brushing her fingers through her hair. "Ah. I think I might have to go with the tales from the North." Her eyes light up as if she's truly bringing a memory to the forefront of her mind. "That time the dear baroness tried to smuggle some fluff balls from the Everwinter back to Arx. Unfortunately a series of mishaps involving a broken carriage, freezing extremities and poor judge of character meant we had to exchange the darling creatures for a night in the inn. We were swindled of course and forced to leave a day earlier than planned so we just stole their horses and set the rest free. True story." She says this with the confidence of someone who had lived this very experience.
She's silent for when the others offer their stories, Aedric especially. Her features lose much of their humor as she stares intently at Scylla, remaining still as he continues the story.
Romulius returns a few words in the hushed exchange with Natasha and Apollo, and then another with Ilira, the last offered a polite enough smile along with the lower words. Attention is paid to the stories being woven, but the prince isn't an entirely rapt audience, an alert gaze scanning the gardens. Given the number of high-profile figures present, there's a small army of guards, but he doesn't seem to trust their presence is enough to ensure security. Ophira's last prompt a smile, at least, along with a look of affection towards Scylla, the baroness offered a look of gratitude. For service to Blackshore, maybe? Aedric's as well ends with an amused look, the prince having been raised looking forward to the mariner's rare visits home to Blackshore Keep - his favorite uncle, always with a new tale or two. Alessia's sees eyes glance between her and Scylla, mind working to ascertain how much of the story was spun from truth, if any. He doesn't seem to come to any sort of definitive answer, there.
Apollo seems reassured - or warmed, perhaps - by whatever response he got from Romulius and Natasha. The smile he offers, a murmur of, "Delighted, I think," almost seems impish. And he almost misses the stories, hand lifting -
- probably to pat Romulius' shoulder, right? Not to tug his hair. Either would be ridiculous, really, with the plate Romulius is wearing, but neither happens. He gets caught up in Aedric's story, see. But that's the effect of a good story. He straightens, eyes turning from Aedric to Alessia for her story, and on to Monique. He drifts back that way.
Scylla inclines her head appreciatively to Ophira from behind a glass held aloft in her right hand. "Lady Ophira is as fine a hostess as she is an interior decorator. And pest exterminator. She comes highly recommended." And with that, the glass is raised in a toast to her friend, paired with a warm look in her eyes for choosing /that/ story among so, so many others. "I had a difficult time adjusting to sleeping in my own cabin when I was accustomed to claiming a cot or hammock belowdecks with the crew. I hadn't really been using it before she arrived to clean it out and remind me that I earned the space."
And then there's Aedric's story, and it has the effect of draining the color from her freckled face, not simply because he recalls that recovery with perfect clarity, as though it happened only yesterday, but that he openly expressed much more about it than she expected. Here, now, the baroness fights the inclination to shrink. Instead, the rest of her alcohol is tossed back, drained in one gulp, and the empty tumbler discarded to the table. "I'll never forget it, either," she confesses, then falls silent.
Alessia's tale seems to, at the very least, return a smile to her lips once more, but it is wan in its presentation and does not touch her eyes. Here, grasping at an opportunity to divert some attention away from her ominous history, she adds, "I seem to recall that we stole the /carriage/, as well, and that it tumbled off the side of a cliff for no rhyme or reason at all."
Drifting up from her post off to the side, Camilla decides to throw out her story, as well. "There I was, roaming about a strange place, filled with strange people." She adopts a spooky lilt to her voice. "There was caterwauling, and all shapes and sizes of fearsome warriors." Camilla steps a bit closer, waving her hand towards Scylla. "And she was attempting to preside over it all. But alas, TRAGEDY STRUCK!" Camilla waits a moment to see if she has caught any drama from her story. "Her cup had done empty!" She waits for the shrieks of fear. "Braving the stormy seas that roiled about her, I seized upon a new cup, and placed it in her hand, earning from her gratitude that has lasted to this very day!' Camilla throws up her hands, as if in triumph, before adding, "Which is not that impressive. Since it was today." She offers an exagerated bow as she concludes the tamest possible story. But - it /DID/ meet the criteria!
Ilira listens to each story with rapt intent, attention only flitting for brief side-conversation or a momentary exchange. She regards this Baroness of Stormblood with new eyes once all are told, and smiles at her, though perhaps as well to herself. Camilla's story evokes a bubbly laugh and a few claps.
Monique's enjoyment of the tales being told is immense, her smile growing. But there's a passing server she gives side eye to, watching the tray of booze circulate with a feline hunger.
Oh, no, the hair! Natasha watches Apollo and Romulius interact with that same smile that only waxes into further relief as the stories continue on. Ophira's final remarks do cause a draw of her midnight regard back to Scylla, but it is Aedric's story that she seems to be waiting for, a certain sense of familiarity lingering on pale, lissome lines - nothing about the details seem surprising, to her, but she is certainly staring raptly at Scylla's reactions at every word that falls from the mariner's lips. The lift of her water glass is most certainly strategic, perhaps to hide a knowing smile.
Alessia next, imagination overtaken by the effort to conjure a 'fluff ball' in her mind, somehow coming up with a creature that may have been crossbred between a cat and a marsupial, and Camilla's own offering threatens to split a surprisingly expressive mouth in a grin that doesn't *quite* get there. Not one to refrain from contributing, her own donation is briefer, compared to the rest: "This woman kidnapped me the week of my wedding," she begins. "And introduced me to the concept of a 'bachelorette party'. I don't recall *too* many of the details of what happened afterwards, but I've been told it's the mark of a good time."
Scylla rises to her feet, if only so that she can step nearer to Camilla when she presents, boldly, and with a brilliant grin, "Everyone, this is Camilla Baseborn. If you have never met her before, you certainly have now. She's a fine lurker - I almost did not catch her slipping past the party to the bar." Now, Scylla turns to speak to the woman directly. "Remind me to buy you a drink next time there's an opportunity to pay for one." And with that, she returns to her seat and listens to what remains of story-time.
Monique checks composure at easy. Monique is successful.
Offering a brief curtsey to Scylla, Camilla beams a smile. "Most assuredly, thank you." She then retreats back to the side, listening to the other stories as they unfold.
Apollo slips right up next to Monique - so sneaky! Or maybe not so sneaky, more of a dance posture as he scoops an arm around her, murmuring before she can go off after a drink.
Story time *was* enough to reintroduce levity to Romulius's demeanor, however improbable. It's Camilla's exclamation on tragedies that finally banishes the last remnants of his earlier edge, grin flashing in the water gardens. Between the tales (some taller than others) and the quality of present company, it's impossible for him to remain surly, whatever grim austerity his name and titles might demand. Even Natasha's mention of a kidnapping doesn't sour it, somehow, that story the source of no small amount of consternation from her husband. However complicit he might have been in its occurence. It's enough to even prompt his own contribution, though he lacks the talent for suspenseful timings or any of the tools that make a storyteller particularly captivating, "My second visit to Tresova - the first involved a bit more blood than I care to speak on, here - saw some brashness, on my part. The Baroness insisted the reefs to be as treacherous as any I'd have ever sailed, and I told her that I'd clear them without a scratch on the hull, even with the lighthouse extinguished." There's a glance towards Scylla, there, an expression that almost approaches sheepishness coloring his mien, "By the time we were through, we were limping back to harbor. Her uncle greeted us, and it was the sharpest I've seen a man look in my life. She won the wager, of course."
Ophira listens quietly, features played by one flicker of emotion to the next in wry amusement as stories are told, all the while eyes shift over the movement of those who come and go as if protectively predatory of who exits or leaves the gardens, "You are most welcome any time, Camilla." At the reminder of the Bachelorette Party does a sweet laugh sound, "That was a really good time." The story that Romulius tells that tugs another smile forth, this one devious in it's curl but there would be no commentary in which to harass the Thrax Prince.
"A pleasure, Camilla." Alessia dips her head to the woman with a warm smile. "I hope to encounter you in due time. Especially if I roam around the Pravus estate." She may or may not be joking.
Scylla recalls that she did, in fact, kidnap a princess of Thrax and subject her to a night of drinking, smoking and...yep, that was it. Nothing else happened that night. A smile blossoms over her countenance, one that is edged with a touch of mischief. "I am glad that you enjoyed that night, or what you can recall of it. There is nothing quite like enlisting a woman's betrothed to help plan a kidnapping scheme. /Also/ highly recommended. At least once in your life." Now, Romulius budges on his reticence and shares a story of his own, which causes her smile to persist - no, it grows even wider. "In the aftermath, he told me he planned to invent a faster, more agile ship. I like to believe that its existence is predicated entirely upon his desire to best those reefs. And he /did/ invent it, so now that I've returned, we must plan a rematch of sorts."
Scylla turns to wave good-bye to Camilla. "Thank you for attending, and very soon I will make good on that promise. We'll share a drink together. Good night!"
The evening begins to wind down with the slow trickle of folk who seep back out into Arx either to their homes or other places of merriment. A few linger, mulling about the gardens in idle enjoyment or having quiet conversations behind the maze of thick floral growth that shields one away from the world.
The food is beginning to be cleared up, packaged away nicely to perhaps be taken elsewhere for others to enjoy for there wasn't ever to be any wasting in House Seraceni despite their motto of taking everything, doesn't mean you can't give it back in other ways.
The music begins to slow, a further signaling to events impending closure.
Ophira is overheard praising Scylla.
Ophira is overheard praising Natasha.
Ophira is overheard praising Romulius.
Ophira is overheard praising Monique.
Rising from her seat, squeezing Monique's arm, Alessia says a few quiet words to Camilla before turning to the others. "I hope to see you all soon. Thank you for the invitation." She nods to Monique, giving her a wink.
Ophira is overheard praising Patrizio.
Ophira is overheard praising Apollo.
Ophira is overheard praising Ilira.
Ophira is overheard praising Camilla.
Ophira is overheard praising Aedric.
Apollo - after consultation with Monique, whose looks at the alcohol circulating only seem to grow more lingering, longing - collects her hand, places it in the crook of his elbow. "So good to see you all," he says, and to Scylla and Ophelia, "A lovely event." He gives a dip of his head, a little brightening of his smile for Romulius and Natasha, another for Alessia. And he turns, like to make his exit with the Minx of the Marches.
"'Kidnapping' makes it sound more malicious than it was, especially if you mean to accuse me of being complicit." The words are accompanied with an innocent look towards Natasha as Romulius offers the princess a hand to help her to her feet, the evening beginning to draw to a somewhat natural close. "Ophira's insistences were prescient, I think - it's been a delightful evening. Thank you for the invitation, and for being an infinitely more talented hostess than the rest of the Baroness's friends could manage." To Scylla once more, then, "Baroness - I could not be more pleased to have you returned to Arx. I hope you know that you needn't be any sort of stranger." To the rest of those gathered, a more generalized nod of gratitude. "And you all have made for excellent company. You'll forgive our departure, I hope - she might not admit it, but she needs her rest." A glance towards Natasha with the last.
Romulius is overheard praising Ophira.
Romulius is overheard praising Scylla.
Scylla is overheard praising Ophira: Your friendship means the world to me.
An elegant hand rests on the rougher sun-bronzed one extended to her, rising with Romulius' assistance. "My husband is absolutely remarkable in expressing his apprehension about people spiriting me off, in wine caskets or otherwise, regardless of whether he was an accomplice," Natasha observes, affection touched with pride as she lifts her brows towards him after his own contribution. "Well told, everyone, I would never tire of hearing more about Baroness Stormblood." A pause as she glances towards where the musicians are slowing their tempo, and the food being cleared away - is that longing in her expression when the crab legs and oysters are carried off? It's almost akin to bone-breaking desire, but she manages to shake her head and mutter quietly - something about sea cows - before she rises slowly from her seat. "Good evening, Lady Alessia, safe travels to wherever the rest of the evening takes you." To Scylla, she allows her smile to blossom a little more fully, immersed within the lowered glow of starlit radiance. "I'm so glad you're back, and I'll hold you to catching up. You as well, my lady," the last to Ophira. "And yes, thank you for the invitation - I've only been to your famous water gardens once before, and it is always a marvel whenever I lay my eyes upon it." Taking a step next to her prince, Apollo's parting earns him her own fond farewell, and it isn't long until she, too, is exiting the premises with her companion.
Monique bows her crimson head to everyone but the distraction of passing trays of alcohol seems to have captured the Minx heart, body and soul. She's still watching them as Apollo pulls her away.
3 Thrax Guards, 1 Thrax Elite Guards, Torsney, an attentive high strung law clerk leave, following Natasha.
Ballard, a grizzled mariner, 4 Thrax Guards, Natasha leave, following Romulius.
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