All questions lead to...

All questions lead to...

Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Sep 18, 2007 6:33 am

Here walks a woman who has conquered her reflexive distaste for such things as Straka and Janeiro and Constabularies -- briefly, mind, but not for the first time this year, or even this month. A small and grey-clad thing, the noonday sun burns the last of the colour from her, but the still she proves significant enough today that those constables at their gate admit her with little argument. That the fellow further within remarks something about Technicalities, as he indicates where she should sign her name -- and the meaning of that elludes her, but the tone certainly doesn't, and there's some tiny smile shared between them.

They don't search the quaint little basket that this swordswoman has brought with her, but it's occured to her that perhaps they ordinarily don't in any case. It is Helstone that she thinks of, when she expects things like this: Coriolanus Helstone, with his shattered optimism and his hundred strange fears.

It's a hell of a thing, the way they've been coming to life lately.

Still, these things proceed smoothly, albeit more because she's accustomed to the ritual of them, than that her face is actually familiar and known here. In their wake, she is content to wait until such time as the High Constable will admit a visitor, and meantime would the Constable at his desk like to try one of these little cakes? For you see, she was just carrying them with her, and there are so many, and Look, It's Got Little Sugary Stars On It ...
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Postby Cinnabar » Tue Sep 18, 2007 7:03 am

The desk-sergeant would indeed like to try one of those little cakes, given that he has been here for some hours already and has some further hours yet before he is relieved. It even might prompt some idle gossip around the Constabulary's offices, word of this quiet, monochrome young lady come calling on the similarly grey-toned High Constable with a little basket of sweet treats and dainties - among those who are unfamiliar with Ariane Emory's name, at least; the rest more likely to merely grin at the rumourmongers' speculations. Those very few who know of the swordswoman and also had some association with the Office of the Governor during Altias Bromn's tenure might grin wider yet, to see her calling on the new Governor now, and their whispered innuendoes might be the most pernicious of the lot.

For the moment, though, there is simply this sergeant for whom middle-age looms close, and the grey-clad woman who is a weapon, and the lobby of the Constabulary. Eventually, some handful of minutes later the young lad who serves as a runner in this place alongside a number of boys like him returns, bobbing a brief bow to the swordswoman.

"Guv'nor'll see you now, miss." He waits for her to stand, to make some move to follow, and then he's hurrying off along corridors and up stairwells, stopping only once he reaches a door at the end of a short hallway. Another quick bow, and a nod for that door.

"Guv'nor's office, miss. Through there." he adds, perhaps superfluously. But then he's hurrying off again, presumably to receive some fresh errand, leaving Ariane outside Calomel's door.
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Sep 18, 2007 7:18 am

It is also possible that the bestowing of pretty cupcakes upon the Constabulary staff must someday lead to the bestowing of terrible beatings upon same. Such rumours would benefit no-one, of course, but their speakers least of all, because in the experience of one Ariane Emory, the best way to prevent future gossip is to thoroughly beat the folks known for spreading it.

But this is nearly inevitable an oversight: the swordswoman is not much accustomed to practicing such small kindnesses, and so inevitably does a flawed job of it when she tries. Quite oblivious to the dangerous potential of the moment, she is a content spreader of pastries, each with their own cunning little decorations, so that when she's standing at last, it's perhaps with a spot of crumbs left upon the table by its other occupant.

Whatever the case, it satisfies to follow this lad until they reach her destination, and to step ahead of him to touch knuckles to that door, before easing it open. And really, what is the youth had said? Governor?

Well. Isn't that uncomfortable.
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Postby Cinnabar » Tue Sep 18, 2007 7:26 am

It's been a day for visitors, it seems, with first one set of knuckles then another applied to his door. Still, those visits have been generally pleasant or even informative - generally - and so it's more with curiosity than irritation that he's looking up as the door opens, then rising to his feet with a grin the moment after.

"Aha, come in." Perhaps a moment's hesitation, here, as he senses that full official courtesy and formality might be misplaced, but it's recovered a moment later as shuffles a few papers out of the way to clear space on his desk, then turns for the tea-set that rests on a side table.

"I do apologise for the, uh, the scene last night. With Glenn." The scene in which one High Constable turned Governor had lifted one cartographer by his lapels and nearly thrown him across the Broken Dagger's taproom. Most embarrassing. Still, no harm done, eh?

"Take a seat, please. How might I help you?" A slightly curious glance for that covered basket, but a fleeting and discreet one. Beware of swordswomen bearing gifts, perhaps.
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Sep 18, 2007 8:08 am

There had been a time, months and months ago, that she had visited then-Governor Helstone in his own home. It was a prison at the time, of course, with General Eriks DeMord Sleipner for the prison's keeper -- and, incidentally, the Governor's as well. What an awkward moment that had been, when she realised the circumstances! It was only the strength of her friendship with the General that had kept her from --

Hasty actions, say.

But the fact remains that she hadn't realised the Governor's plight until she'd seen it with her own eyes, and so complete had the deception been that she'd come bearing gifts: such a basket, such bottles of wine, and Helstone had spurned the lot of them in a fit of understandable outrage. Conspirators, he'd shouted, or something like that, and eight months later, a swordswoman had not forgotten the sound of that word.

Funny how these things effect us, isn't it? So that all this time later, she's repeating the moment, under circumstances much changed, much improved, and yet...


"Ah. I think I might have done the same, mn?" Ah. Poor Glenn Burnie. The cartographer who is her student, and who had fallen victim to her friend's student -- oh, it becomes a bit complicated, really, doesn't it? "I very nearly did, when he told me of this ... thing, this 'plan'."

And she's taking a seat meantime, setting the basket down by her feet and bending there a moment to rummage through it. The two remaining cupcakes are set .. some distance away upon the table; there are other things arranged nearer -- some sliced bread, a bit of cold sausage and simple cheese, and a swatch of cloth to put them on. A bottle is produced, of squat and simple make, and filled with something a little cloudy -- here is a glance towards those teacups, and it is almost apologetic.

"Ah, this mistake I make, you see it? For there is so much yet must be done today, and I had thought to bring a lunch with me, and now -- well, you see they serve it so amply. So you must help me with this, mn?"

Almost apologetic.

"But to your question, ah -- it is what I have meant to ask of you. This matter of Vraal, mn? Of worship."
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Postby Cinnabar » Tue Sep 18, 2007 8:40 am

"To call it a plan is somewhat generous, I think." A wry grin at that, but then he's eyeing that little luncheon curiously, and perhaps a tiny bit warily. A picnic, on his desk. How, uh, charming. He eyes that bottle thoughtfully, but turns back to the tea-things. A little spirit-burner is lit, a small copper kettle filled from a pitcher and set atop it, meanwhile he's setting those cups out on the desk, minus their saucers. They'll have to do.

Once that's done he sits himself down as she speaks of the trivialities of her lunch, and it's a steady and searching gaze that turns upon the swordswoman at this; she is no subtle creature, and has readily admitted to not only scorning deceit but being no good at it either. So he aids her in some small deceit, lets her talk about her lunch without asking her to get to the point; it's something done for her own sake, a mutual pretense that this is not delay, not a procrastination on her part before she comes to the main reason for her visit.

Then she does come to that reason, and he frowns, and is still for a time.

"I... see. What did you have in mind?"
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Sep 18, 2007 9:14 am

That grin is shared, and that is very likely the sole moment of accord that the two will enjoy this evening; drink as they might to Better Times, they very seldom experience them.

Why, even this meal is a little strange, spread across the Constable's desk as if Ariane expected he might actually partake of it. In the midst of assembling sausage and bread into a very humble sort of meal, she glances up and finds herself the focus of a gaze that is not searing, but which she reckons might swiftly become so. Do her features betray a moment's hardness, then? For there'd been some slightly chagrinned smile this whole while, there'd been such easy contours to her, as if this were genuinely a woman at ease -- and perhaps it even is. But something in her refuses to yield to the searching qualities of a Constable's silvered eyes, and he will see this in the line of her jaw, in the set of her lips, which is briefly so grim...

"Ah," she exhales at last, easing back in her seat, stretching long legs at some easy angle; rests her elbows on her own hipbones, as she slouches to take a bite of what she's constructed. "Such simple thing, mn? It is good for more than the stomach," and here's some tilt of the chin, to advise that he may certainly help himself. As if a man would actually want to.

"As for Vraal, who is good for no thing at all save for himself, I have so many things in mind. But I think I am not alone in this. I hope for this. You read the things Glenn Burnie writes for you, mn? These things that the Ashfiend's said? For I wager richly that he did not speak you false, ser, and I -- "

[INDENT]stay my hand[/INDENT]
"-- wonder what you intend. Wonder even to know that you intend any thing at all."
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Postby Cinnabar » Tue Sep 18, 2007 9:42 am

Ah. Well, that's simple enough, and the young man grins genially as the topic is raised, as if some interesting and engaging matter had been broached. Which it has, in some regards.

"What I intend? Well, it's a difficult matter indeed. According to Glenn Burnie, Vraal and the Ashfiend present a linked problem, a thoroughly vexing one." A pause, for a moment, then a bright smile. "Here, it's been a while, let's see what you recall." And then he's turning to rummage in a desk drawer, retrieving a chequered box the length of his hand that rattles as he sets it down on the table, moving aside some of the picnic to do so. The swordswoman surely recognises this thing for what it is even before he opens it up, tipping out carven chessmen and laying the box-turned-board out flat.

"Here we have the two sides - the forces of darkness, the forces of light. Here's Vraal." The black king is set out. "Here's the Ashfiend." A black knight, set some way from the king. "For the purposes of our demonstration, assume that the black knight can take the black king as well as the white pieces; the black king is his true target, but he will not hesitate to destroy any white pieces who come too close to him. And speaking of which, here are our band of doughty heroes, with the white king representing... well, all of Myrken - if the king falls then all is lost, as you know." The white king and a few courtiers are set up near the black pieces.

"Now, here is the thing. Pick Vraal or the Ashfiend - doesn't matter which, for now - and try to topple him with your white pieces." He rests his chin on laced fingers, watching the swordswoman with a small smile. Let's see how she fares with this.
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Sep 18, 2007 11:16 am

In some regards this matter may be handled genially; in others, not, and the swordswoman's sharp features register this. Grey eyes lift to discover a smile, and they harden at the sight of it.

But this is a passing thing, so that the Constable might reckon -- and rightly so -- that she'd mistaken the quality of that smile for something else entirely, and had after a moment's thought realised her error. In some short time, she's able to nod her assent for that first, to recline back in her seat and partake of coarse bread, cold sausage. It says something for Calomel's capacity to surprise that the producing of this playing board has a blink from her, and that very quickly she is left grinning around her mouthful.

"And one of these must be Savoy, mn? And one for Rhaena, and one -- " Ah, but here she pauses a moment, lips slightly pursed; there is a brief touch of fingertips to them, a twist of smile as she shakes her head. Later, for that matter. For now she will face Vraal and Ashfiend, she will move pieces as if they were people as if they were pieces, as they've done so many times over these last months.

Not always on a chessboard.

They work with one today though, and she is regarding the thing carefully for a time before making her first move; before laying fingertips to any playing piece at all, for months of this game will teach even a brute swordswoman that much. Only when satisfied that she has obtained some grasp of the puzzle arrayed here does she begin, and then it proceeds quite swiftly -- for a game of chess, at least.

She is a direct thing, of course: is reckless in these first moments because it is a game at first, so that she has sent the white queen on some stunning gambit towards the piece which is Vraal. It is very much what she'd described so poorly to Glenn this morning, and it's just as well that he's not here to witness this, for that piece's prolonged absence soon sees such a nest of black pieces threatening white Myrken that she must scowl and start over. A combined assault upon the Vraal piece accomplishes much the same, for even lessers amongst the white pieces prove invaluable to the king's defence, and that's the trick -- to hold the one, while murdering the other, and again she's setting those pieces back into their places.

Pauses for a moment, then, to chew at her meal a while, and frown as she reaches blindly for that bottle.
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Postby Cinnabar » Tue Sep 18, 2007 11:42 am

Calomel watches the swordswoman move pieces to and fro, always moving the black in response, showing how any directly aggressive move by the white leaves them open, vulnerable. It's an interesting image, with the players in tones of grey and the pieces and board in stark black and white. Eventually, though, he stops and sets the pieces back as they were.

"You can't attack the pieces you want most to end without being ended yourself. That's the problem." His grin spreads wider, though, as he reaches to move the white pieces himself. "There's a solution, though." Chessmen are moved with a soft clicking of carved bone pieces on the inlaid board. Rather than targeting the black king or the dark knight directly, though, he moves a white piece from the margins of the board, skirting subtly round; the chessman sweeps in from the side, never threatening the central pieces, but picking off the black king's pawns and protectors.

A few turns of that, and the black king stands altogether more open, more exposed, less able to stand before the advance of the white chessmen that now move to steer him, herd him, hem him in. Meanwhile, given the lack of distractions from the other white pieces, the black knight has moved through his dance of treacherous moves sufficient to threaten the black king himself. And swiftly, it is over.

"The power of the king lies in his followers. They are his weapon, and his shield. They must be stripped away before he can be truly threatened." A level gaze for the swordswoman here, though, level and steady and penetrating.

"You tried this before, hm?"
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Sep 18, 2007 12:01 pm

Direct aggression is worthless, as she'd known to begin with -- except that it is her nature, and she had intended to be certain, after all. So too are the more oblique movements, for the black pieces are of particular strength, and arranged with a very careful hand indeed. Hers hovers near that black king for a time, near the end of it, weighty with malicious attempt; fingers slightly stretch, wish very much to topple --

Ah, but with a snorted exhalation of breath she is sunken back in her seat, is sipping from her teacup a small swallow of something that isn't tea at all. A nod assents to the Constable's explanation, some tilt of the chin inviting his solution, for it is certain now that he possesses one: she knows that grin very well indeed.

Some scant handful of minutes pass before she recognises what he's about. The glance shot up towards the man then is bright with a sense for the familiar, and something like delight, as well. Something very much like dread.

"Mm. I did. With such fine success, and I think you do not mean to suggest I begin this again.

I think you do not mean to offer me permission."
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Postby Cinnabar » Tue Sep 18, 2007 12:22 pm

"Success, to a point." To a point, he says, where he might instead mention a woman by the name of Bea Kanaya. His tone and gaze say it clearly enough, but then he's nodding, settling back in his seat even as he nudges his teacup forward for some of that... whatever it is she's drinking.

"And in terms of the general idea, it was quite correct. The king is too strongly-guarded to assault, so instead remove the guards. In the Baie's case, sharp knives and hempen rope seem to have worked to a certain extent, because the cult operated in secrecy, out of the public eye. Finding them was the hard part; after that, ending them was simple thanks to the atrocities they perpetrated. Because they were so feared and hated, one could use straightforward, even ruthless means and perhaps be lauded for it. Or at least pardoned." He leans forward again, eyeing the chessboard thoughtfully.

"Vraal's cult, however, is the opposite. Instead of secrecy, they operate in the open; instead of atrocity, they do good works; rather than murder and terrorise, they break no laws and strive to be loved by the public. Vraal uses that love from the public as his shield. And it's that love which must be stripped away. So." Another look for Ariane, and then he's casually reaching to snag some of that bread, some cheese and sliced sausage to go with it.

"How might we make the citizenry despise the Violet Dawn every bit as much as they despised the Order of the All?"
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Sep 18, 2007 1:00 pm

This is no light allegation. He will read the truth of that in her eyes: she tilts her bottle to his teacup, lifts her gaze in the midst of it, and it is there, cool and edged and very slightly smug.

"'To a point,'" she echoes the Constable, when she's set that bottle down and can rest back in her seat; her own 'cup is lifted in some short and incongruous little toast. "They were made to fear," she itemises, with taps of a forefinger upon that tabletop. "To return what they had stolen. To surrender to me their most principle member -- oh, say what you will of method. But of success, there is no doubting."

Some shift of the shoulder here, and when she sips from that cup it is sparingly yet. With reason, Cinnabar will discover, if he dares sample the stuff: ferment dark cabbage and some raw, ugly grain, and you might produce such liquor. But it is clean upon the throat and the palate, possibly because the first burn of it strips both clean of nerves...

"And this was not -- hah! I do not think it was lauded; I see the look of a girl's face, when she speak of that Cordwainer and his friend, mn? And I buy that pardon, I buy it at considerable cost, so that I think -- " She pauses then, when Calomel begins to explain for true, to describe a very different matter entirely.

Some time passes in silence. She occupies it with a second sip from that cup, with fingertips let to wander freely across the contours of black chesspieces. After a time of this, she selects the bishop of each colour, removes both of these from the board entirely.

"Galacia Tarin-Talus Vraal," she smiles. "Lamai Carver." And sets down her cup and her hand then, for he's posed this sudden question, and that's how it is when you speak of such things with Calomel: everything is a preamble to that question, so that once you've heard it, you have to go over the whole conversation again, finally knowing what he was getting at...

"Mm. You know the easy way. It is not so hard to breed fear in them, it is not so difficult a thing to inspire them to flee his reach." It's not so difficult. But neither is it painless. Oh, not at all..
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Postby Cinnabar » Wed Sep 19, 2007 12:26 am

The High Constable nods, accepting her answer without quite agreeing with it.

"To make them flee from him would be good; to not only keep fresh members from his cult, but to make those already inside turn against it, that would be ideal. To have the Violet Dawn thought responsible for murdered bodies robbed of their eyes, though... well. Such requires the murdered bodies, and actively working to procure those is not acceptable. So, the easy way is closed to us." He sips at that murky liquor, which has him frowning slightly and clearing his throat before he might speak again. "Hm. Not quite brandy." A smirk at that, but then he's leaning forwards to rest his elbows on the table.

"To turn the loving public, which is Vraal's shield, into a weapon against would be satisfying, but would cost us too much. We would become monsters ourselves, and Vraal's quest of corruption would find success in our hearts even as it was defeated in his cult." He sets the cup down, reaching instead for another piece of bread, chewing thoughtfully a moment. "So. More subtle means are required. We need not turn the citizenry against him, but merely give them cause to forsake him; to stand aside, to make no protest as others move to end his works. That is all that is needed." And then, a sudden topic change.

"There is a lot of strength in symbols, you know." Calomel retrieves a piece of scrap paper and a charcoal pencil, and scratches a few lines. A letter. A. "This is the symbol for a sound. It is not the sound itself, but for those who know their letters it is near-impossible to see this mark and not think, "ah!"." This last a clipped vowel, as one unfamiliar with reading might sound it out when reciting their alphabet.

"There are other symbols." He inscribes the mark of the One True Faith; the marks used on market-stall signs to denote shillings and shilling-bits; a simple arrow; a check-mark. "Each one we learn to identify through association. We see it used to indicate something, and it becomes linked to that thing so we know "this building must be a church" or "ah-ha, grocer Harden's wares are well-priced!", or "we should travel this way", or whatever. We make this link faster than it takes to think about it, because the symbol and the thing the symbol represents are so strongly linked. So when we see the symbol on something else - the mark of the One Faith on a grocer's stall, say - first we think of the One Faith, and only then do we wonder why it is scrawled on stout Harden's price-boards."

And so it goes, this pattern; some exposition, some explanation of what is, what could be, and what should be. Drawing a line for the swordswoman to follow, but ending short of its target to let her find the rest of the path for herself. And now, the question to point her in the right direction.

"The Order of the All is rightly feared and reviled by the honest citizens of Myrken, as it is a secretive, murderous group who peddle terror and death. So. What mark, if seen, makes one think immediately of the Baie's cult, and no other thing?" His grin is wolfish as he watches the swordswoman, waiting for her to see the trail of pebbles he has laid.

"And how do we apply that mark to the Violet Dawn?"
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Wed Sep 19, 2007 2:49 am

The remarkable thing is that Calomel has so far met with so little argument.

This is quite an undertaking that he's about, after all: he means to educate a sellsword on matters for which a short and brutal life has not much prepared her. He means to convince her on some matter or another; the deliberate quality of his small motions has convinced Ariane of this very swiftly. She in turn gives him an attentive audience for these explanations, for the recounting of this puzzle. Some half-smile answers his appreciation for the jenever, a coarse brew if ever there was one, but no more than that: she will hear the man speak.

For what he describes is a process of manipulation, and while this sits poorly with the woman, she is willing to make certain small concessions in the matter of Vraal. Not least because the frontal assault which is her preference is clearly useless against this one: Ignas Demonsbane had demonstrated this, however inadvertantly. 'Forsake', says Calomel, and this is a word which appeals. 'Stand aside', he continues, and discovers an audience that is in immediate approval, that understands this need very clearly indeed.

What follows is not nearly so straightforward.

Symbols! And he says this thing to a woman who wears particular colours pierced through her skin, who wears such elaborate patterns carved deep, deep beneath the surface of her flesh. Who in the purse at her hip carries two small rings of hammered silver, so that she is heavy with such symbols, and were anyone at all to inquire Why, she would necessarily answer that she does not know.

Perhaps she, too, must sometimes blindly follow her heart.

Calomel's education continues, and his student attends: frowns over the marks that he has made upon this paper, now-and-then chews absently at her meal. Frowns as if she meant to pierce the page with her gaze, and in some very loose sense this does happen, for there comes a moment in which the world moves very slightly about her. In which it grudgingly gives up this knowledge, and still Ariane is not sure of it, still she's not quite willing -- and still the notion interests her. By the end of this talk, she has seized the page from Calomel entirely, a fingertip tracing the outlines of what he's drawn as if she could coax something from them. As the Constable frames his question, she is drawing that stick of charcoal from him, is sketching some small pattern of her own...

"Did you know," she murmurs meantime, and almost absently so - except that her upwards glance is heavy with some deliberate quality of its own. "Did you know that it was so strange to me, when I first see Vraal's people. They wear those marks, mn? Upon their brows, you have surely seen it. And of course, I had seen it before; all of the Order had."

Ariane pauses then, setting charcoal aside, and offering some trace of a smile instead, as she turns the page around for Cinnabar's inspection. Upon it, she has drawn a single word.

Believe
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