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Path of the Puppetmaster - Tournament of Thorns II

Some are born to dance like puppets on a string. Then there are those who pull the strings. Employ your ability to adjust things to your desires, to empathize when it is needed, to manipulate to your advantage, to use those finer arts of diplomacy and etiquette to further your rise to take hold of the Crown of Aildorich.

The Path of the Puppetmaster is one of three paths that may be chosen for those competing in this year's Tournament of Thorns. Choose your path wisely.


March 18, 2020, 9 p.m.

Hosted By

Monique Anisha


Waldemai Nina Raya Jaenelle Alessia Niklas Silvio Cornelius Juliana Theophania Sabella Lucrezia



Arx - Ward of the Compact - Judgment Green

Largesse Level


Comments and Log

Settled on the shadowed throne is a woman clad in umbra, a clinging dress and a draping half cape. Her stockinged legs crossed at the knee, heeled ankle-boot idly tapping a leisurely rhythm as she awaits the people filing in, her fan depicting a scene of plenty snapped open and moved in simple, repetitive motion. The brocade thread in it - as well as the mirrorsilver on her face - reflects the torch-light, now and again.

Her dark hair is set in an ornate fall, and, once she is satisfied that the people are ready, Anisha rises, and steps into the light.

"Welcome. Welcome to the Tournament of Thorns. I am Softest Whisper Anisha, your judge for the evening." She pauses to sketch a curtsey.

"I thank Lady Monique for allowing me this splendid opportunity, and ask that tonight's contestants step forth - once we get started, you may utilise props and assistants freely."

Her voice is strong and clear, and she's a practiced public speaker. Gesturing for her contenders to form an orderly line by the edge of the clearing, so they may approach one by one.

Silvio has joined the line.

Alessia has joined the line.

Juliana has joined the line.

Waldemai heads over to the food tents to pick up some fried taters and a bucket of ale. He takes his meal up into the nosebleed seats where he joins the other party animals. "Let's have a good show," he calls down. His voice carries.

Isabelle, who is just so tired of everyone's nonsense, Sam, who is a boy and definitely not a princess in disguise, Roland, the worst bard in Arvum arrive, following Niklas.

Niklas has joined the line.

Nina has joined the line.

Theophania has joined the line.

Cornelius has joined the line.

Jaenelle has joined the line.

Monique is standing just to the right and behind Anisha's throne, the smile on her carmine-stained lips beatific as she surveys the stands and the people filing in to watch what is sure to be an epic battle of social skill. She bows her head to Anisha as the beautiful Whisper makes her introduction, but otherwise seems content to claim the shadows this evening.

Lucrezia has joined the Tournament of Thorns - Front Row Bleachers.

Nina arrives at the clearing and gets in line. She's dressed quite finely for this as she wanted to look her best, in a new gown of green velvet. She hopes of course to make the finals, but, even if she does not, she certainly wants to look good competing.

Isabelle, who is just so tired of everyone's nonsense have been dismissed.

Roland, the worst bard in Arvum have been dismissed.

Sister Raya is a vision of unfussy elegance and unfeigned friendliness as she arrives, all warm nose-crinkle smiles that reach the twinkling blue of her eyes. Her clothes are simple -- blue tunic, cream leggings, brown suede boots -- and allow the gilded setouched wool snood around her neck and shoulders to do all the sartorial talking. Lifting a delicate hand, she waves here and there to anyone she might know, offering pleasant greetings. What a charming and well-turned out Godsworn she is! Now, over to the gathering of competitors she gracefully strides, nodding to the hosts all-a-smile as introduction. There she waits for the trial to begin.

Raya has joined the line.

Sometimes one simply has to go out and enjoy the city, especially when that person has a pile of paper work she is avoiding. Jaenelle comes towards the Judgement Green encased in a gown of spidersilk, eyes peering from beneath a veil made of the same material. She dips her head towards those she passes with a soft smile before moving towards where those people who wish to participate have gathered.

Waldemai burns his fingers on the fried potatoes and curses. Being a blacksmith with thumbnails that show he's walloped himself a couple times, he knows all the good curses. "Ratzafraz," he says, dunking his fingers into the cool, soothing ale.

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

With a friendly wave to those she knows, Alessia makes her way to the line, a placid expression on her face as she awaits the challenges and basks in the afternoon warmth.

Niklas shows marginally late, decked out in a seasonally appropriate outfit of brocade in browns and umbra, and sends his assistant to sign him in while he heads over to find a place to sit. When he sees Anisha in her throne he gives a little sniff and says, "Well, if I'd known it was that sort of party I would have brought _my_ throne." He offers a genial nod to the others in competition as he sits back to await his turn.

Silvio arrives with no great entourage, lest anything detract from his entrance. Arms lightly out to the sides, he sways into the gathering in his finest headdress, gown swirling around his feet and his infamous shoes. Long hair streams behind him in large, loopy curls. Fingers wiggle at anyone he knows, and those he doesn't know, get a swift up and down, judging look before a smile and a wink.

Cornelius strides onto the Green with a hand tucked gracefully into the lapels of his longcoat. He approaches the other contestants, while offering charming grins to everyone. His scarred bodyguard Slard does not grin charmingly at all.

Lady Juliana steps in, pausing. If anyone expecting the Lady to be dress to the nines, would be disappointed. In leathers and bronze stamped silk, her dark haired shadow following a step behind. The Igniseri nee Pravus, sweeps the field with a glance before she crosses towards the line. Though there are a few she pauses for.. Silvio, gets a kiss and the Arch Duchess a wink as the lady settles to wait and listen

"Some people will go through life, dancing like a puppet on a string at the will of others. But if you are here today, you are among those who'd rather pull on the strings, and set the tune. I welcome you to the Path of the Puppetmaster." Anisha lifts her hands, wiggling her fingers, and holds them as though manipulating the strings of a marionette.

"You have chosen to employ your ability to adjust things to your desires. Keen-eyed empathy to discern others moods and wants. Fine arts of diplomacy and etiquette to further your rise to take hold of the Crown. And, if needed, to manipulate to your advantage.” The Softest turns her palms face up, one arm going to the left, the other to the right, weighed like scales.

"Which path will you tread?" She looks around. "Will you win the support of the people? Or shall you instead seek instead the support of your peers, the courtiers of the realm?"

Stormy eyes gleam with mischief, as she puts her left hand to her middle, and raises her right to cover the side of her mouth, giving a stage-whispered aside "Of course. you could always take a darker path, coercing the support of those with great power from the shadows."

Anisha lifts her shoulders, and clasps her hands before her waist, palm in palm. "You may only choose one path. Choose wisely."

Theophania is a little nervous about this, and unlike the previous games, she can't rely on her good friend wine to get her through; she'll have to just go for it. This is probably for the best -- some steps of this challenge require one's wits to be squarely present. She's decided to wear her simple commoner's dress rather than the silks and velvet she's come to adore... if only in hopes of getting people to underestimate her. ... just a little bit.

Waldemai puts his hands together to call, "People! Go for the people! We need a show!"

Cornelius sniffs haughtily, and follows with a bright renewal of his charming smile while completely ignoring Waldemai.

Sabella comes in only just after Niklas, hurrying a little to catch up with him and give him a kiss on the cheek, "I left my meeting early to make sure I wished you luck!" she tells her husband brightly, "Not that you need it, of course."

"Some of my favorite people all in one place" Jaenelle says as she notes those who have come to compete. "I hope none of you are too disappointed when I win though" she then says with a heavy sigh, doing her best to keep a straight face though it is betrayed by the lifting of the corner of her lips in amusement.

Nina looks really in awe of Jaenelle - she's never met her before and Nina is super impressed by the make of her gown. But seeing Theophania in line, Nina gives her a little wave and a big grin, mouthing 'good luck' to her.

Raya is momentarily distracted as she admires Silvio's glamorous attire, but then she turns and beams at Waldemai as the man calls out. She lifts one fist in a dainty half-airpunch that somehow still manages to look entirely graceful -- it doesn't rise higher than her shoulder, but it's a genuine gesture of recognition for Waldemai's encouragement. She goes back to looking around the Green in calm curiosity afterwards, though she waves to Sabella upon sighting her. She smiles at the Princess, warm and friendly, before moving into the crowd and vanishing for the moment.

Niklas offers Jaenelle a smile. "Your grace, the the top three get to go to the final evening, so when you come in second you can certainly call it a win." He turns back to Sabella and pulls her in for a quick hug. "A kind word from the loveliest woman in Arvum and beyond cannot be dismissed."

Lucrezia has taken a slouch in the first row of seating, looking avidly upon those who would compete. Her sharp smile holds an air of anticipation, expecting an amusing show.

Sabella has joined the small circular table.

Silvio checked perception + manipulation at difficulty 30, rolling 27 higher.

Monique's eyes stray to Silvio's octopus gown and stay there for a long moment, a slow and amused smile of appreciation growing on her lips. "How fitting for the puppetmaster path," the Minx observes, awaiting his decision with anticipation.

Sabella beams at Niklas, a look so incredibly fond that some of the nobles there probably sniff and mutter about love matches. Jaenelle's comment causes her to laugh, "We shall do our best to power through, but I do think Nik has a better than average chance of taking it all in my completely unbiased opinion!" She turns then to head over to find a table, waving excitedly at Raya and pointing to Niklas to mouth, 'that's my husband!' As she finds a seat Elizabetta runs out to find some refreshments.

Silvio draws in a deep breath, and from where he stands, the NOW-A-PRINCE-AGAIN Silvio Velenosa holds out one arm, dramatically, palm facing down. His expression is somber, elegant, not a feather moves on his head for that moment. But the moment he starts to speak, there is a fiesta of glitters and twitching feathers, like the undulating ocean reflecting moonlight. "I know...that I can count upon the people here to make the right decision. Never has one so embodied the bold and daring and shall I say...witty traits as I, Ssssil-vi-o." He makes a dramatic turn and his face blossoms into a smile. Octopus legs embroidered on his dress spin like the creature itself whirling around and he settles a few steps away, still among the crowd. "For you would have flash!" He steps to another, reading off the crowd who might respond to each trait he mentions, "elegance." Another. "Sensuality..." he brushes under a chin, then to Monique, "Deep adoring friendship..." another, "patronage of the arts..." He does another twirl and strikes a pose with a cocked hip, "And of course the one to wear the crown. I would /love it/, and I promise, so would you." WINK. He makes a little hum sound to finish his petition.

Jaenelle casts a shocked look towards Niklas, then her attention turns in Sabella's direction when she sits and she extends her arms out. Fingers wiggling, "I might need a hug too. Is this a thing that can be requested, like a favor but more physical?" There is a moment's pause when Silvio approaches to do the first task of the competition and her hands move to clap for the Velenosa prince. Nina is caught in the process of her attention shift and the woman is smiled at.

Turn in line: Silvio

Turn in line: Alessia

Startling when she sees Nina, Theophania gives a bright, excited wave back, momentarily distracted from her nerves -- before turning her attention back to the competition itself. If nothing else, she needs to see what she's up against...

Anisha regards Silvio with a ghost of a smile on her lip, her fan still being fluttered at a sedate pace, resting her elbow in her free hand as she watches him, taking in his rather splendid outfit with an appreciative gleam in her stormy eye. "It looks like you're certainly doing a good job to win over the crowds, Prince Silvio. Thank you for your contribution. Please, step aside - you make it to the next round." She offers, with another incline of her head, before gesturing to Alessia to step forward.

Alessia checked perception + manipulation at difficulty 30, rolling 21 higher.

Silvio slips to the side, and though he was absolutely competing, he seems to have no problem clapping and listening to his fellows in that endeavor, with a sense of absolute enjoyment.

Silvio has joined the line.

Alessia has joined the line.

Where did Raya go? Off into the crowd, where she's speaking to an older woman who apparently wishes to bend the listening ear of an approachable Godsworn. Alas, this means she will not be able to compete, but she notifies the appropriate parties that this is the case!

Raya is overheard praising Monique: What a clever tournament! I wish all the competitors good luck.

Raya is overheard praising Anisha: What a clever tournament! I wish all the competitors good luck.

A beaming smile appears on Alessia's lips when Silvio speaks, appraising his garment as he shows it off with approval. Then it's her turn to step forth and make her case. She raises her voice, speaking clearly and confidently. "I consider myself someone who can assimilate well in any environment." She glances around, flashing a charming smile. "To listen to the many delights and woes of my fellow man and to find a way in which I can improve their lives. And to ensure any harm that comes their way will not go unanswered." Her tone becomes firm at this point.

Anisha grins to Alessia, giving her, too, an incline of her head to the noblewoman. "Well, I can't argue with that. Please, join Prince Silvio, and we'll see if you can keep up next round as well, my lady."

Turn in line: Niklas

Niklas checked perception + propaganda at difficulty 30, rolling 2 lower.

Juliana has joined the line.

Ravana the tawny eagle, Good Arn the Badger, 1 Trained Telmarine Armsmen arrive, following Ansel.

Niklas takes a step forward, offering Jaenelle a quick smile as he does, then turns toward the judges. "I would ask those in attendance to keep in mind the qualities that truly matter. To know that..." His words hitch and for a moment he looks lost. Then, "...that... to know..." He glances to the side, looking first to Monique, then his wife, a visible shiver running up his spine. "The most important... that you... no, I was saying..." He coughs and brings his hand up to his mouth, holds it there for a second, jaw clenched hard. "Fuck." He runs fingers through his hair, shakes his head, mutters another profanity, now with tears streaming down his cheeks. After rubbing at his eyes with the heels of his palms he gives Anisha a breaking smile and says, "My apology. This is apparently not my night." and turns to walk stiffly to Sabella.

Niklas checked perception + propaganda at difficulty 15, rolling 39 higher.

Anisha furrows her brow, her mirrorsilver mask refelecting Niklas' uncertain face. She gives a small incline of her head. "Thank you for your attempt, Prince Niklas. It has been a thrill following you in the contest, and we will miss you in the future rounds."

She sketches a curtsey. Giving a small shake of her head. Then clears her throat, and smooths her face, giving a nod to Juliana to go ahead.

Juliana checked composure + diplomacy at difficulty 40, rolling 56 higher. Juliana rolled a critical!

Juliana strikes forwards to speak her peace to the crowd, gazing across them with a kind expression, "I speak for myself as much as the rest of you, you all already know me" meeting each eye to eye in turn. " I have birthed your babies and healed your wounded. I have stood beside you with blade drawn to protect those that have fallen." her hands curl in front of her as she starts to pace slowly watching the courtiers. "I love noble and scoundrel and have been loved by them in return. But mostly, you know that I unlike others of my bloodlines, do not seek acclaim for the sake of. But to lift others up with me, to hold you all to the light and say, look at who we are. Looks what we can do." pausing, turns to face everyone. "I know you, I see you and in turn, you know me, you just need to look at yourself to know that."

From the first time Niklas' words catch in his throat, Sabella is on her feet. She doesn't move towards him, she lets him try to gain his bearings and when that fails she's waiting with open arms to wrap them around him and murmur something into his ear. Then she smiles at him, as brightly as if he had just given the most amazing speech in history, "You're now related to the person that would've granted the boon anyway, so for you it would not have been much of an accomplishment quite honestly."

Monique looks genuinely crestfallen as she catches Niklas' eye, and the Minx of the Marches dips her flame-bright head to him, deeply, holding it for a long moment, and straightening only as Juliana approaches to make her speech.

Cornelius averts his gaze from Niklas's wagon wreck of a speech. He does not seem interested in Juliana, though, however stunning her presentation may be.

Turn in line: Nina

Anisha's soft smile returns, and gives Juliana a nod of approval. "Very well done, my lady. I daresay the courtiers of our realm will be speaking your name for some time. You are welcome to join the others awaiting our next round." She quirks her lips towards more of a grin. "And the combination of skill and breeding is always a winner, I'm told."

She gestures for Juliana to join Silvio and Alessia, then gives a nod to Nina, encouraging the bard to step forward.

Cornelius is overheard praising Niklas: Yes, Slard, he is a brave fellow. Stop looking at him.

Nina checked composure + manipulation at difficulty 40, rolling 26 higher.

Silvio claps for each of them, even Niklas, they've all been there!

Nina looks rather sad for Niklas, who gave what appeared to be a good performance, in a way, though it's clear he's been eliminated. But the contest must go on. "I would choose to speak with my fellow Courtiers in fact," Nina says.

She steps forward, and then she makes her actual entreaty. "And I believe, of course, that you should support me because I am a courtier of most excellent skill. I am new to Arx and somewhat likely to be underestimated. But I am also quite talented in my speech and careful with my words. I am a vocalist, and you might be surprised where a song can move into the heart, where pure words might fail. And ..." Here she smiles. It's almost sinister at first. But then it is quite bright, after all, with teeth and sparkle of her eyes. "I think that sort of talent is what represents the best qualities of a courtier." She puts her hands in front of her heart, steepling them. "But also believe me when I say, that I will be a true friend to you, that I lift up those who need lifting, and will support you with my voice and my heart."

"The novelty of watching the new blood's meteoric rise - or their equally impressive crash and burn - will draw the courtier's attention and support, Messere Nina. And of course, your words do ring with truth, and no-one can deny your talent. Please, join the group of contestants preparing for the next round." Anisha declares, with a simple nod, matching the bard's half-sinister smile.

Turn in line: Theophania

Theophania checked perception + manipulation at difficulty 30, rolling 17 higher.

Theophania is a commoner, first and foremost -- so naturally, she turns her attention to that group when first seeking support. "I would trust my fate to all the people, I should think," she says, taking a moment to compose herself before stepping forward. As she passes Nina to make her way up, she gives a little wave -- but before long, it's time for her to make her play.

"I am a modest woman," Theophania says, with a slightly nervous smile. "I come from little -- and I've resolved not to forget that. I do everything I do -- cut every deal, handle every contract -- with an eye toward what it will do, ultimately, for the common folk of Chevalle." There's a genuine smile on her face now, well outstripping that nervousness, as she says as much.

Waldemai cheers for the commoner appealing to the commoners. "Yeah, tell it!"

Anisha gives an approving nod of Theophania's choice of audience. Giving a gentle little clap. "I'm certain that in your road to the throne, Little Merchant Demarais, you will be helping far more than the common folk of Chevalle. Thank you for your contribution. Please join the contestants awaiting the next round."

Then, she looks to Cornelius, giving an incline of her head. "Lord Blackshore. Now I'm intrigued."

Turn in line: Cornelius

Cornelius checked perception + manipulation at difficulty 30, rolling 28 higher.

"The people need a firm hand, and the necessities provided," declares Cornelius in a smooth, deep voice of strength and confidence. He turns to appraise everyone with a radiantly charming grin, lifting upturned hands in a pleasant gesture of generosity. "But no more, for they are capable of great things! Hard work makes happy hearts! No one knows that better than the people. We must all enjoy our places in life to the best of our ability, and this occurs when we discharge our duties! Hard work." He raises a fist. "Happy hearts." He clamps an open palm to his heart.

"None of us appreciate the lazy, begging scum that lay about and whine for the earnings that ought belong to those honest, brave, and righteous workers! Woe be upon them, woe, I say." Now his hands come out in vivid, grand movements that embody pride and patriotism. "We are those in Arvum who need no charity, who stand on their own strength, and take care of their responsibilities." That pleasant baritone rises in an emotional cheer. Only those very close, and very perceptive, might see the cold in his cerulean eyes. "To your lieges, and to the Gods!"

The Whisper flicks her fan closed, tapping it against the palm of her hand, giving a little nod. "An unusual approach, but one that's certain to win followers in the Commons. Very well, Lord Cornelius. Please join the other contestants for the next round." She points to the small gaggle with her fan, and offers a small smile - before sketching a deep curtsey to Jaenelle.

"Archduchess-Regent. I'm curious what your experience will tell us."

Turn in line: Jaenelle

Jaenelle checked composure + diplomacy at difficulty 40, rolling 38 higher.

At one point in her life, Jaenelle wished to be one of the greatest diplomats within the city, and though her path may have taken her in a somewhat different direction, it is still very much an important thing to find compromises when you are within a leadership role. It is the courtiers she focuses on, for while she could sway the people easily enough, she chooses to deligate that task to others so her influence goes farther and wider than she alone could accomplish. It is a more difficult task to convince others to convince others, but in the end it might be the only way to get everyone on your side. She goes to various courtiers in the audience and slips small pouches of clinky coins, stating, "for you" and nothing else before stepping back. Sometimes less is more.

"Congratulations. For those of you who made it this far, you've secured your support in your bid for the throne where you turned to." Anisha offers an incline of her head in respect, along with a small congratulatory smile to the remaining contestants.

"Now you face the dilemma of every puppetmaster. Will you build, or ruin? Perhaps you'll establish a charity or other philanthropic endeavor to prove your worth. Or maybe it would be easier and more beneficial to discredit the other claimants to the throne. Which road will you walk?" And once more, she raises her hands, as if to weigh the scales.

Monique startles a laugh at Jaenelle's very effective approach, and there's a nod of approval from the Minx, along with the deep look of amusement.

Waldemai shouts, "Start another brewery!"

Anisha offers a bright smile at Jaenelle's effective, quiet measures, and gives an equally quiet wink, and a wiggle of her fingers for her to join the gaggle of courtiers.

Turn in line: Silvio

Silvio checked charm + manipulation at difficulty 50, rolling 7 lower.

As round two begins, the sly Prince Silvio meanders about the place, touching arms, making connections, and trying very much to nurture that popularity amongst the crowd. But, he has also made little interesting nuggets of conversation regarding the competators, "She stepped on my shoe. My sea-lion slippers." he mentions in passing, "/I/ would never do that to my friends..." he comments to another. Bit by bit, he sews in the seeds of doubt, in between almost manic, fast words of praise for whomever he is speaking with. Maybe a little too fast.

Turn in line: Alessia

Anisha quirks her lips, and watches Silvio with keen-eyed interest. "There's no elimination this round, your highness. But the efficiacy of your tactics will impact your score. Thank you for your efforts - I look forward to seeing how you'll conclude them." She declares, then looks to Alessia, giving her a nod.

Alessia checked perception + etiquette at difficulty 30, rolling 5 higher.

On her go, Alessia seems to give her two options a moment of thought. Then she swiftly steps forth once again with a pleasant smile. "I'd like to take this opportunity to plan a series of events with the ultimate goal of raising funds for those who go many nights without food." At which point she details the fundraising 'events' she has in mind for this, with the conviction of someone actually undertaking the endeavor.

The Whisper nods, thoughtfully, looking at the crowd, and back to Alessia. "Well. Charity is always popular, and filling bellies never goes unappreciated. Thank you for your efforts, Lady Alessia." She gestures for her to join Silvio, then snaps open her fan, and looks to Juliana. "You made quite an impression last round, my lady. Let's see how you perform now, mm?"

Turn in line: Niklas

Turn in line: Juliana

Juliana checked charm + manipulation at difficulty 50, rolling 15 lower.

Juliana stands and studies her competitors for a long moment, then turns to study the crowd... for a moment she starts then stops.. mouth closing before the Igniseri woman finally shakes her head with a sigh. "I had every intention of standing here and breaking down each one." she looks back to those behind her then again sighs softly. Then looks to Anisha and bows her head. "My appologies, m'lady but even for you. My heart will not allow it." at which point Juliana simply goes back to the others, sliding her arms around one of Silvio's arms and setting her chin on his shoulder as she watches the next person come forward.

Turn in line: Nina

Nina checked wits + empathy at difficulty 30, rolling 16 higher.

Silvio smiles warmly at Juliana and gives her arm a squeeze. "You are among too many friends." Then he kisses the air in her direction.

Anisha quirks her lips, and gives a little nod, looking over to Juliana and Silvio. "If you do not have the heart to be ruthless, my lady, I worry that the courts of Aildorich may not be to your liking. But of course, there's always the option to build, in the future. Thank you for your earnest attempt. May it serve you well." She concludes, as she returns her attentions to the gaggle, gesturing for Nina to step forward. "Now I'm curious to see how you'll perform, Messere. Shall you bring ruin, or creation?"

Nina has a big smile on her face when she walks up. "Of course I wouldn't have any dream of slandering my fellow competitors. Did I not promise that I would be a good friend?" She looks cheerfully at Anisha. "I will of course not squander the good will that I have been given. Now that I have the support of the courtiers, let us establish a performing arts fund! We'll put on plays, and sing songs, and hold concerts in the square! We'll teach children and adults alike... we'll create song and story, and make the world a much brighter place, all together!" Once again she grips her hands together, putting them to the side of her cheek. "Love conquers all!!"

Monique lofts a brow in surprise at Juliana's words, her carmine lips parting slightly as she settles back a step, allowing the expression to claim her for a moment. And then it's banished as Nina steps forth to make a case for love. That summons a wry smile from the Greenmarch. "It conquers sanity, oftentimes," she teases, in an approving tone.

Turn in line: Theophania

"A woman who keeps her promises. Now that's something evey courtier can appreciate," Anisha declares, with a small smile. "And I'm sure that your efforts to bring culture to the land will not go unappreciated." Inclining her head. Looking to the crowd, to gauge her reactions. Glancing over to the Minx. "That's less catchy, though. And I think we can conclude that sanity falls in under the broader category of 'all', mm?" She looks back to Nina, giving her a final nod, before gesturing to Theophania to step forward.

Theophania checked charm + manipulation at difficulty 50, rolling 39 higher.

"I certainly wish Love would conquer my all tonight." Silvio says somewhat lowly.

After spending several minutes watching her fellow competitors, Theophania's lips curl up into a smile. She has her plan now.

"Well, this is a bit of a cob of a different color," Theophania reflects aloud as she steps up. In truth, this requires her to do something she normally doesn't like doing -- but she's got *something* to draw on, so she doesn't need to feel like she's just lying. (Even if she's not bad at that.) "There've been some pretty tepid efforts here, haven't there? Oh, sure, Lady Alessia has her priorities right, even if she's largely bogged down in details. But Prince Silvio's barbs have been petty, and Juliana..." A beat. "Lacks the courage of her convictions." She sighs, saying, "The only particularly inspiring effort here has been Nina's -- but on the other hand, is entertainment really enough when there are more pressing needs to attend to?" With a glance back toward the queue, she adds, "I have low hopes for our remaining contenders," with a withering stare.

With a quick look at Nina, she mouths, 'sorry' before walking away, hoping her very thorough dressing-down gets paid forward by her supporters.

Alarissa is overheard praising Theophania: Oh guuuuuuurl.

Turn in line: Cornelius

Nina folds her arms, looking a little pouty when Theophania picked on her... but, well, it really is just part of the game, isn't it.

Anisha snaps open her fan, fluttering it before her face to cover her mouth, though the gleam in her eyes does have a certain delight at Theophania's wit and decision to go offensive. "My, my, my... Little Merchant Demarais, I didn't know you had it in you," She notes, lowering her fan, and spreading her hands. "You certainly haven't made many friends this round, but you -have- made an impression. The Throne may be yours yet, Little Merchant." And with that, she offers a small curtsey, gesturing for Theophania to join the others.

Her attention shifts to Cornelius, and her grin is unmistakeable. "A tough act to follow, my lord. Are you up for the challenge?"

Cornelius checked charm + manipulation at difficulty 50, rolling 4 lower.

No, Cornelius is not up to the challenge. "Mm," says he, emptily. He looks about at his fellow contestants, and tucks a hand into his longcoat. There are lengthy stares at anything particularly nice that anyone else has. "Vanities." The haughty sniffling makes it sound as if he has a cold.

"Vanities, indeed." Anisha agrees, though from her tone of voice, she's hardly condemning such. "Succinct. Thank you, my lord."

And, again, she looks to Jaenelle. "Well, your grace. Will it be creation, or will it be ruin?"

Turn in line: Jaenelle

Jaenelle checked charm + manipulation at difficulty 50, rolling 17 higher.

Release the courtiers! Not only are they amazing to boost your own reputation and increase the volume and distance of your ideas, but they are also pretty good with subtly and shrewdly bringing any competitive proposals down a peg or two. "The trick" she explains to the judges, "is to never lie. One should never have to work harder at something and keeping track of lies is far too complicated. The truth is always much better. Never speak first in disparaging tones. Speak of your own works and wait for the other person to introduce the topic of the person you might wish to cast in a different light. And third, always show sympathy. You know they are trying their best, but it is just not good enough is it?" She shakes her head slowly, sighing for the poor hypothetical person.

"A woman after my own heart, your grace." Anisha offes with a bright smile. "In the games of court, lying simply makes things too easy." She muses. Inclining her head. "If there was a judge's bonus, a rousing speech on the nature of truth and how it lives and dies in the courts would certainly be worthy of it. You may ready yourself for the final round, and know that you go with my blessing."

Turn in line: Silvio

"Stand tall. Stand proud. You are victorious, for now. You have come far in your trials for the throne," Anisha declares proudly, making a grand sweeping gesture towards the audience.

"They call your name in the street, they clamour to be at your side. You are lauded and, and frequently receive whispers in your ear declaring loyalty. But who supports you?"

The Softest Whisper regards her contestants with another little coy smile.

"To get the crown, you'll need the people at your back and the courtiers and the Queen on your side. Did you please them? Who will they call as the best candidate to put forth for the Throne of Aildorich?"

She gestures to each person who's made it this far.

"Plead your case, make us believe."

Silvio checked perception + propaganda at difficulty 30, rolling 4 higher.

From his seat way up in the cheap bleachers, Waldemai calls, clamors, lauds, and whispers. "But I ain't supporting no one until the show is over!"

"I believe that I am fully capable of representing the path of the puppeteer. I am, also, truthfully, so happy of late to feel as though I am back where I truly belong, among friends at an event such as this one, able to be fully myself." Silvio spreads his hands, "For this grace, I have but one person to repay, and thank, and I shall spend my life doing it. For my dear Duchess, Her Grace Jaenelle, I have only an outpouring of familial affect for, and I thank you for all you have done for me. You shall find me ever in your corner."

Anisha gives the Prince a slightly dubious look, but nods. "You've made a fine showing, your highness. And I for one am pleased to have you among us - please take a seat, and once the others have finished, we'll let you know if you've made it to the final round." She glances over, to see if the next contestant is ready.

Turn in line: Alessia

Cornelius checked perception + propaganda at difficulty 30, rolling 36 higher.

Cornelius draws himself up and calls in a booming voice, "You know who I am! And you know who you are! And WE ARE ARVUM!!!" He surreptitiously kicks Slard's ankle. Slard raises a loud cheer. "HOOOOOARGH!"

Anisha gives the lord Blackshore a quirk of her lips, and an incline of her head as his enthusiasm is met with applause, gesturing for him to take a seat and looking to lady Alessia next.

Alessia checked perception + propaganda at difficulty 30, rolling 4 higher.

Silvio is overheard praising Cornelius.

Waldemai cheers "HOOOOOARGH!" right back atcha!

Slard ends up looking more pleased than Cornelius, especially at Waldemai's cheer back. The Blackshore lord nods to Anisha and goes to take his seat.

Slard, a whip-scarred bodyguard have been dismissed.

Perhaps it's Theophania's dressing down that has reduced her earlier vigor or perhaps it's the daunting task of competing with those so well skilled. But Alessia steps forth, her demeanor more mellow than the earlier conviction she'd shown. "I am true to my word and do not lack for determination." She says clearly, a warm smile still in place. "But having the opportunity to reach out to you in this way is it's own reward."

Anisha has joined the line.

Turn in line: Juliana

Juliana checked composure + propaganda at difficulty 30, rolling 60 higher.

"Sometimes, a subtle touch and letting your actions speak for yourselves is important," Anisha agrees, with a little smile. "Thank you for your efforts, tonight." Gesturing for her to join the crowd, and looks back to Juliana, gesturing for her to take her spot.

Alessia is overheard praising Anisha: An excellent hostess!

Juliana stands and studies her competitors for a long moment, then turns to study the crowd. "They are impressive, aren't they?" is how she starts. "Shining examples of nobility. It was said at one point in all this that I don't have the courage of my convictions. I would like to thank her for that..." there is a soft smile offered back to Theophania before Jules continues."... because the truth is. Isn't that exactly what I did? I said to you, I am you and you are me. That I see you. Does that stand to reason that I also see them? Of course I do and like you. I love them." again she looks to those she is competing against. "I believe in who they are and I want them to shine and be brilliant. Just like I want you too. So how, does it help them do this if I take the steps to rip them apart? How can I be for you. For them and at the same time take from them and you?" She pauses again, hands folding in front of her. "The Arch Duchess said, never lie. And she is absolutely right, to have stood here and ripped them apart would have been for me to lie to you. I won't do that. I would rather step back and allow others to shine for you. Than to lie to you. I believe in what we stand for and this is not enough to make me put that aside." pausing to tilt her head just a little.. "That is trust. That is what a leader. Your Leader Owes You."

Turn in line: Nina

Anisha once more gives a polite applause among the more raucuous response from the crowd. "You certainly have a gift for oratory, my lady. I strongly suspect we'll be seeing you in the finals, but for now, I shall simply thank you, and ask that you enjoy the refreshments on offer and settle down while our other contestants offer their final words."

Once she's seen Juliana off, she gives a nod to Nina, urging her on.

Nina checked composure + propaganda at difficulty 30, rolling 24 higher.

"My good people." Nina steps up in a spin of skirts and does her best to face everyone at once.

"Never let it be said that a common girl could not rise to the throne."

"For is it not the stuff of fairy tales... that the humble girl of simple birth should rise to power? Is it not the most beautiful of tales, a classic one as old as time for the meek to rise, to take position among the strong? And is it not true that virtue, and a generous heart, should win your love ..."

And here, Nina takes a moment and reaches into her bag, and pulls out... oh no, her fiddle.

Which she begins to play. It's a slow tune, that builds from the back and grows in crescendo.

"All of my life I have waited to see-"
"What kind of person I really might be-"
"And finally now - as I stand, and the crowd cheers and beckons for me...."
"I'll beeee...."


"And I will fill your heart,"
"I'll be Princess!"
"And it's only the start - the beginning!"
"Of my - winning..."

She lowers it there, and takes a little bow, hoping her little song was convincing to the audience. It is no oratory, but it is a different sort of move. And catchy.

The fiddle comes out and Monique's lips quirk at the corner, her green eyes widening as if she can't quite believe this is happening. But the audience? They eat it up. And the Minx can't help but put her hands together to echo their applause.

Turn in line: Theophania

Theophania checked perception + propaganda at difficulty 30, rolling 0 higher.

Anisha watches Nina play with a smile on her lips, a hint of melancholy in her eye. And as the bard sings, and plays, and curtsies, she curtsies in turn. "If nothing else, Messere, I will always enjoy your displays of talent, and I have been impressed by your showing her today. Thank you for your efforts. Please, take a seat and await judgement along with what, for tonight at least, are you peers."

She looks to Theophania, and gives the woman a smile. "Tough act to follow. Which I said last time you were here. I'm eager to see how you'll convince the crowds to back the Little Merchant."

Silvio manages to find somewhere to lounge and drape himself as he watches the finale. How did he get chocolates? He has some in a little box. Maybe he smuggled them in his feathers.

Waldemai calls down, "Now play The Devil Went Down to Southport!"

Juliana steps aside, leaning over Silvio's shoulder and steals a bite of chocolate.... don't make her search under the feathers.

This last challenge... it's not a totally awkward fit for Theophania, but now she's *really* feeling herself after that last lovely round... even if some of the people ahead of her are markedly better orators. She forgets herself a bit, clapping for a couple of her *opponents*. Despite the smear campaign, she's not a nasty person at heart! Really!

Nevertheless, it ends up her turn before long, and she takes a step up. "A commoner's path to the throne is difficult -- our last competitor had that right," Theophania reflects. Her tone is somber, though not quiet. "But I'm drawn to challenge, to be sure -- both the challenge of making it there, and the challenges that come with the throne. If I were to take it... I'd agree with some of my competitors. But a leader owes more than trust -- a leader owes *results*. I am a practical person, at heart, and I'd bring that practicality to the throne, too."

Turn in line: Jaenelle

Jaenelle checked composure + propaganda at difficulty 30, rolling 44 higher.

The Softest whisper shuts her fan and offers a nod to Theophania, and gives her a smile. "You made it through in one piece, Little Merchant Demarais. Now relax, for it is all out of your hands. I have enjoyed watching and listening to you, tonight." A nod, a bow of her head - and she looks over to the Archduchess-Regent. "And now, for the finale of finales. Take it away, your grace."

The Throne of the Lyceum is not one that sits easy. There are always those who want things from you, or whisper things into your ear, or attempts to flatter and fail. Jaenelle stands there without offering much in the way of an insight to her thoughts, expression calm and completely composed as she speaks to the grounds at large, her voice one of command and poise. "As you've just heard, the Softest Whisper and judge Anisha has just stated that I had her blessing and a statement of mutual encouragement is certainly a type of loyalty." A grin is flashed in the woman's direction, breaking that calm for a moment before it once more begins to softly collect once more. She nods towards Silvio as support is then given from him, "even the other competitors wish to show their support and if you shall remember, I was never mentioned during Mistress Theophania's words against those beside her so clearly there must be a silent respect between us for her to omit. I think this evidence clearly speaks for itself." Perception of events is sometimes more important than intentions. Archduchess Out!

The line has been dismissed by Anisha.

Anisha gives polite applause to Jaenelle, and sketches a curtsey to the contestants - returning to settle on her shadowed throne, and cross her legs once again, engaging in eager discussion with Monique, gesturing now and again with her fan towards the group of favoured courtiers. Though it may be tricky to note just who she's pointing at from time to time. Still, she's certainly taking a moment to listen to Monique as well.

Anisha is overheard praising Niklas: A worthy contestant, even if his path was cut short.

Anisha is overheard praising Silvio: Stunning fashion, admirable arguments.

Silvio is overheard praising Anisha.

Monique steps up finally from her position to the right and behind Anisha's throne, her bright head bent to the Whisper's as they converse, the Minx nodding here, shaking her head there, all while the crowd cheers on the competitors in a blaze of clamoring glory. Finally, Monique nods, and steps back, ceding the floor to the lovely Whisper.

Silvio is overheard praising Monique.

Silvio is overheard praising Juliana.

Silvio is overheard praising Jaenelle.

Anisha is overheard praising Alessia: Lady Alessia proves to be more than just a deadly glaive-dancer.

Silvio is overheard praising Alessia.

Silvio is overheard praising Nina.

Anisha is overheard praising Cornelius: Admirable efforts from Lord Blackshore.

Silvio is overheard praising Theophania.

Anisha is overheard praising Theophania: Little Merchant Demarais continues to impress!

Silvio is overheard praising Waldemai.

Anisha is overheard praising Nina: Messere Nina's talents are undeniable, even when used in unconventional ways.

Anisha is overheard praising Jaenelle: The Arch-duchess Regent is no stranger to intrigues - a delight to see her talent turned to entertainment.

Anisha is overheard praising Juliana: Truly, Lady Juliana must make the Lyceum proud as she prowls the path of the Puppetmaster.

Nina is overheard praising Anisha: She did such a lovely job moderating a challenging tournament!

Anisha nods, reaching some final conclusion, and rises from her shadowed seat once more. Gesturing off to one side, and Tamorin steps up, holding a small jewelery box.

"My friends. This has been a tough challenge to judge. We have a number of astounding contestants here tonight," She declares proudly, and loudly. "Know that even if you do not make it to the finals, you have shown a keen insight into human nature, and the dance among the thorns that all courtiers must master. I thank you, once more, for coming here and letting me see your displays of skill and talent."

She exhales, softly. "That said. I will now call the name of the three victors of tonight's challenge, who will proceed to the final contest."

There's a dramatic pause - Anisha does like her dramatic pauses.

"In third place; Messere Nina Autumndale. A splendid showing."

"In scond place, Archduchess-Regent Jaenelle Velenosa. Mistress of Intrigues."

She draws another breath, and beams brightly.

"And tonight's winner - Lady Juliana Igniseri, a true Puppetmaster!"

She waits for the applause to settle, before looking to the three victors.

"Please, my friends. Come gather your prize."

Nina is overheard praising Juliana: Congratulations on winning the Puppetmaster award!

Nina is overheard praising Jaenelle: Congratulations on being a finalist!

Nina is overheard praising Theophania: This was such a close challenge and you did an amazing job!

Juliana is overheard praising Anisha.

Juliana is overheard praising Monique.

Juliana is overheard praising Jaenelle.

Juliana is overheard praising Silvio.

Juliana is overheard praising Niklas.

Juliana is overheard praising Nina.

Juliana is overheard praising Cornelius.

Juliana is overheard praising Theophania.

Juliana is overheard praising Waldemai.

Juliana is overheard praising Alessia.

Nina is overheard praising Monique.

Nina is overheard praising Alessia.

Waldemai is overheard praising Juliana: Da Champeen

Waldemai cheers for the champ, and all the participants. "Great show! Do it again!" By sheer coincidence his pail of ale is nearly empty. Sluuuuuurp. Completely empty.

Monique puts her hands together boisterously for the three finalists, cheering loud enough to match the cheers that erupt from the stands. "Well done, everyone!" the Minx echoes Anisha's sentiment, and if she's close enough to try to steal a chocolate from Silvio, who can blame her, really?

Nina was really holding her breath. She just wasn't sure if her little performance was strong enough to win things over compared to the other amazing speeches people gave. When she hears she's in third place.... she clenches her fists and jumps a little in place, beaming with excitement. She gives Theophania a hug suddenly, as they seem to be friends and she thinks it was a very close competition between them. And then she walks up to get her prize.

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

Juliana is well she is in middle of stealing chocolates from the Prince.. has one between finger and thumb, balanced just before her lips when the names are called and well really she blinks.. then looks straight at her cousin the Arch Duchess as if she is sure for a moment that there wasn't a mistake. "Well Sebastian will never let me live this down." says softly under her breath to Silvio before she straightens then nods her thank you."

Sabella has left the small circular table.

Nina is overheard praising Silvio: Great showing in the tournament and so fashionable!

Maxene, the steadfast ladies maid have been dismissed.

Pellinor have been dismissed.

3 Thrax Guards have been dismissed.

2 Thrax Elite Guards have been dismissed.

Silvio will allow his chocolates to be stolen by his dear friends, a soft smile on his face. He claps for the winners who get to go on! "Will he not? Then we shall not let him live down /missing it/."

Once her duties are attended to, the Softest Whisper returns to her seat in the shade, musing idly to Monique. "You know, Prince Niklas aptly predicted her grace's placing. And he was right - given that we have three finalists, second place -is- in fact winning." She concludes.

Jaenelle collects her brooch and offers a dip towards Monique and Anisha in thanks. "I have enjoyed this a great deal, thank you for allowing me to take a moment to relax from all the other duties I have. It is important to find a balance and sometimes I lack the willpower to do so without encouragement from things outside my office. Which I must return to." She grins a bit and sighs at that declaration.

Lucrezia stretches languorously as she rises then saunters wherever she is off to next.

Lucrezia has left the Tournament of Thorns - Front Row Bleachers.

3 Black Fleet Reavers leaves, following Lucrezia.

Though she claps enthusiastically for the winners, Theophania can't help but feel a little disappointed in herself. She knows she made a good showing, but... even so... Taking a moment to close her eyes, shake her head, and shake out the cobwebs a little, she --

-- ends up hugged! Her eyes open back up and she lets out a tiny squeak, saying, "Ah -- congratulations!" with a small, if very slightly strained, smile.

Anisha offers a nod to the Archduchess and the others making their motions to leave, though for now she's content to lounge in the shadows, like some reverse cat, her job for the night done.

12 House Velenosa Guards, Ibasia, the Velenosa Lady-in-Waiting, Ellani, the palm sized spider leave, following Jaenelle.

"You know, I thought what you said, was very clever, honestly, and I'm not mad about you being a little mean," Nina says to Theophania. "I just have a hard time being mean to people, I guess..."

Juliana goes to get her brooch, smiling to both Anisha and Monique. "Thank you.. truly lovely." takes a bite of the chocolate she was still carrying. "I will be hearing Sebastian saying I told you so for months." wrinkles her nose to them both then turning to look at Silvio. "You, my prince, are going to get me drunk tonight."

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