Isolde Hosts A Dinner: Take Two
((OOC: Scheduling this again))
Jan. 2, 2022, 3 p.m.
Arx - Ward of the Lyceum - Velenosa Estate - Dining Room
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Dolente, a mourning dove, Dolce, a collared dove, Appassionata, a trumpeter swan arrive, following Cesare.
The table is all set in the Dining Room of House Velenosa, with the plates in place for any guests who wish to turn up at whichever time. It's a fairly semi-formal dinner, with the starters and the entree served already. Plates with bread and Lenosian cheese, roast chicken or a fish alternative served with vegetables. And of course wine. Lots of it.
Isolde sits at the head of the table with a faraway expression, sipping from her glass, though offers warm smiles for the guests that filter inside. "Welcome, welcome."
Cesare is perhaps /slightly/ wary of the dining room, considering what happened last time he visited the Velenosa Estate, but it's nothing so severe to keep him away from a good dinner party. He slips in all gleaming in gold and jingling faintly, with a smile for the hostess and a polite bow. "Princess Isolde, it's wonderful to see you. Oh, this looks delightful. And fish, I love fish!" He's from Setarco, of course he loves fish. "How have you been since the - er, eventful evening last time I saw you?"
There do not appear to be any ghosts /yet/ at the very least, though even the wait staff is on high alert the moment Cesare mentions the eventful evening. Their eyes widen a little, as if remembering that they ought to be on high alert. Isolde's brows furrow as she studies him for a long moment before straightening in her seat and offering a melodic life. "Oh, I'm fine. I wasn't, then, I'll admit. But it offered me a sense of closure, even if it took me a while to fully appreciate that." She piles some soft cheese onto her plate. "How have you been? You seemed to have more insight into the situation than some of the other guests?"
Cesare nods slowly to Isolde's assessment, a little frown momentarily marring the smooth canvas of his expression. "It's wise of you to say so," he acknowledges. "It often does take time, and allowing ourselves the grace to not immediately be perfectly well again after something shakes us up, to truly find closure. Not everyone realizes that, or is willing to give themself such grace." He takes a sip of presumably un-poisoned wine, and continues, "I have been well enough. And you are correct in saying that I - had insight. It became clear as events transpired that having insight alone was not enough to influence any of the events of that evening, however, and nor has it been enough to influence the events since, I'm afraid. With Malrico gone, I hope someone equally powerful takes his place to stand between the Traitor and the rest of those stones."
There is little hesitation, even as Isolde focuses on spreading the soft cheese over her bread, after Cesare speaks of someone taking the Herald's place. "My sister." She pauses, before clarifying, "Not that she's a Herald of Avarice or anything. However, she truly has the Lyceum's best interests in heart. In a manner Malrico never did, no matter how often he tried to convince us otherwise." Her voice lowers at this. "You saw what she was able to do. I can assure you that we are in good hands. And as for the diamonds..." Her eyes look down again. "He took one already, didn't he? I didn't expect it'd be with an Oathlander."
"Yes, but there /will/ be another Herald of Avarice, if Malrico has truly been done away with," Cesare answers softly. "And we will only have to hope whoever that is might side with humanity as Malrico might have done." He nods to the assurance that the Lyceum is in good hands, however. "Please give Princess Esera my warmest regards and congratulate her on her impressive feat. Whisper House is, of course, here to support the Lyceum with anything it may desire or require for its goals."
A pause. "He took one. With that one, he may manipulate the writs of those bound to Diamond - the Fractals. They have - been warned, I am told. But he still seeks the rest, in order to resurrect Diamond himself, and to manipulate the King."
13 King's Own Guardsmen, Zelda, the royal messenger arrive, following Alaric.
12 House Velenosa Guards, Ibasia, the Velenosa Lady-in-Waiting, Ellani, the palm sized spider arrive, following Jaenelle.
There's a shudder at mention of the fractals, as if an instinctive thing. "No, we cannot have that." Isolde says in rapid agreement. "I should hope that the remainder are kept safe in any event." She studies him for a moment. "If you ever need help in looking into these things, you need only to let me know." She smiles softly as she takes a bite of her food. "I had considered reaching out to find out how to become one of the noble-courtiers associated with the House. I understand with Princess Berenice that there may not be demand for /another/ Velenosan princess."
Cesare smiles faintly - though there's no lacking in warmth - at Isolde's offer. "Your Highness, we are always happy to have further association and assistance with the House. If you would like to join the Courtiers' Guild, I can make that happen quite easily." He sips his wine again. "I have heard from several different sources that we will need all the assistance we can muster to defeat the Traitor. And as such, that will necessitate some of the Facets and Fractals who would align against him, I think. It is in no way a comfortable thing to think about, but comfort does not factor anywhere into this battle. In any case he must /not/ be allowed to manipulate the Fractals and their servants, though he now has the means." Just - normal parlor talk, you know.
It turns out that Jaenelle's office is next to the dining room. It often saves the staff steps when she finds herself holed up in one meeting after the next without coming up for air, or food, that they can easily make sure she doesn't wilt away. "There is always room for Velenosa princesses anywhere they wish to go," Jaenelle states without actually hearing where Isolde wishes to go. She squeezes Isolde's shoulder as she passes to go sit at the table that has been prepared. Cesare is given a smile from her place at the table, "it is a difficult thing to pick and choose lesser evils, when none of them are lesser at all."
Alaric doesn't have the privilege of an office right next door to the dining room, so his reason for being late is a legitimate one. Meetings, and the like. "And just where are our Velenosa princesses going? Are we planning a vacation?" he invites himself into future affairs, sweeping in and dropping himself gracefully into a seat - any seat, they're all comfortable to him. "I find picking what's most effective to deal with in the current climate a great process of elimination for big problems."
"I hear it's a bad time for a vacation. Chances are the minute who spirit away somewhere else, our walls will spontaneously get knocked down." Isolde attempts some dark humor for these trying times, but even that makes her smile fade a little. "Thank you, Softest. I will be most appreciative." As far as the subject of lesser evils, she nods Jaenelle's way. "Ultimately, we end up requiring the help of malevolent beings who don't wish to destroy the world... yet. But they have their own ways of destroying lives." Even with her smile, the hatred in her eyes isn't concealed and it can probably be deduced who she refers to.
"Your majesty, thank you for joining. Cousin." Isolde naturally greets them politely, raising her glass.
Dark humor or not, it draws a warm chuckle out of Cesare. "You must come by Whisper House sometime, your highness. It would be my pleasure to show you our improvements and host you for a private tete-a-tete, if you like. It is then, of course, that Alaric enters as if, you know, no big deal at all. Cesare rises immediately, sweeping a low bow to the King. "Your Majesty, what an honor. No, no, Princess Isolde had only expressed an interest in joining the Courtiers' Guild. We met briefly some time ago, I think - I am Softest Whisper Cesare. Everyone else here most certainly needs no introduction."
Sliding back into his seat, he takes another long drink of wine. "It does always seem to be a 'cross that bridge when we come to it' sort of situation, doesn't it? But a friend of mine is fond of reassuring me of the sovereignty of choice over all. I do not know to what extent that applies to writ-bound beings. But the rest of us - it is a hopeful thought."
His smile a rueful thing at Isolde's dark humor, Alaric helps himself to a goblet of wine poured by a servant and pre-tested, twice, before indulging himself a sip. "Whether we spirit ourselves away or not, tragedies continue to befall us even under the most astute of eyes, it seems. Fortunately, we are forearmed with knowledge and wisdom from recent experiences to act more quickly and resolutely to combat these forces effectively." His gaze shifts to Cesare, the introduction received with a charming grin and affable cant of his wine goblet toward the Softest Whisper. "No introduction needed, Softest. Though our personal interactions may be scarce, I am nevertheless a fan of your work in partnership under Radiant Anisha. I'll be making a call upon your House's services soon enough for several of your most experienced diplomats to assist the Crown in a delicate matter."
He melts back within his seat, his smile now turned upon Isolde yet again. How could I resist an opportunity to catch up with Lycene relations? It really is an honor any time I can be the guest and drink someone else's stock -- especially when it's Jaenelle's."
Jaenelle leans forward as Alaric enters, brows arching as if she is personally offended by his presence. "Alaric," she greets, once the King settles across from her. She turns towards Isolde and Cesare again, "that is definitely the goal, deal with those that don't want you dead just yet, but also don't give them reason to kill you after. A delicate dance. Nothing is ever black and white, and even then we never know what our decisions will bring." She toasts her own glass when Alaric's is tested twice, concurring that she does have the best wine.
Resolved to perk up, Isolde continues on her starter, food easily improving her mood. "I'm glad you did, your majesty. And I'll add that I am terribly sorry for what happened in Bastion, but you are probably assured with the knowledge that many, many of your people are doing the best they can to ready it for reoccupation and rebuilding." Her smile is warm at this, truly hopeful about the situation. "I'm happy to take you up on that tour. I really enjoyed the event you held at the House. I learned a lot about my companion." And then her attention turns to the Archduchess, her voice warmly affectionate, "How have you been?"
Cesare's expression remains placid but it's obvious enough he is quietly pleased at the praise from the King himself. "We will be happy to assist, of course, Your Majesty, with anything you need. Please feel free to call on me directly if your need is urgent." Jaenelle's musings on shades of gray receives a lift of Cesare's glass in her direction, and a nod of approval. "I hope your little daughter is well, your highness? I should have sent a gift. You know how it has been. Perhaps I'll have one sent over yet, yes?"
And another soft smile to Isolde. "I believe it was Lady Monique who stole you away that evening. She is a very engaging conversationalist. I'll be holding more events soon. A fashion show, perhaps another sort of mystery event in the same vein. I am so glad to hear you enjoyed yourself."
"The reclamation and recovery of Bastion will be well underway under the direct care of Highlady Liara and others in leadership," Alaric replies to Isolde. "The Crown and its ministers are already mobilizing to make preparations to support those displaced in the disaster, and help survivors reconnect with their families without fear of how to maintain their livelihood in the interim." Diplomatic responses out of the way, he allows himself to take his turn in offering Jaenelle his own well wishes. "I am pleased for the new addition to House Velenosa. That doesn't mean you can off my cousin yet now that he's given you a new baby, so do try to keep him around a little longer. I rather like the way you two look together."
"Your mother did not kill me," Jaenelle tells Isolde, though there is a smile as she says this. It is affection for Carlotta, while her tone also showcases the respect she has for her deceased first mother in law. "This far, at least. We'll see if she changes her mind later. I am well though," comes the answer to the original question. "Mourning all over again," she says with a small nod of her head as if it's the correct way to explain it. "My daughter is very healthy, and thankfully my son has been raised along side his cousins so he has practice being an older brother already. There is no need for a gift, Cesare, your words are welcome enough. They mean a great deal to me, after all of the recent things I've been called lately." Alaric's words cause a shift, the corners of her lips twitching in a smile, "I told Noah he at least has to live two years. I have never gotten to celebrate a two year wedding anniversary, and would atleast like the chance. After that who knows what will befall him."
The Velenosa Dining Room suddenly starts to feel cold. Really cold. But no windows are open.
Cesare blinks and shivers slightly at the sudden chill in the room. "Perhaps I will /always/ bring a dagger with me when I come to this estate," he says pleasantly enough. "I thought the name you chose for her was lovely, and with the graces of her parents I am certain she will grow to be a stunning and clever thing." He coughs. "Your Majesty, Prince Noah is often courting his own demise with a certain panache that rather defies both logic and description. He seems to truly enjoy seeing how far he can test the limits of patience, and more power to him for it. The Compact needs a bit of excitement that is /not/ liable to cause anyone's actual death. That is to say I don't think anyone is actually going to murder him; he is too entertaining."
"Indeed it was her." Isolde confirms when Cesare comments on the Greenmarch, the smile on her lips indicating that she did enjoy the conversation. "I look forward to it. It's always difficult in these events to get people to really /meet/ new people." A nod as Alaric mentions those displaced. "I will try to find a way to contribute to their safety and comfort." A fond smile the Archduchess' way. "It may be a trying time to bring up a child but I think there's a silver lining, seeing people come together..." She shivers as she looks around the room for the source of the cold. "In times of turmoil. Bernie, shut the door, will you?" She asks of a retainer.
Alaric glances up furtively toward the windows when a sudden chill settles in, a subtle frown tugging at his lips at the lack of an open one. "I recommend reaching out to Liara or Lou for a suggestion on how best to contribute meaningfully in that regard," he proposes to Isolde, slowly sitting down his goblet of wine. "Two years and six months, at least. You have to lure him into a false sense of confidence that he's outlived any terrible bets against him." He continues his fond jest with the Archduchess, his humor only growing at Cesare's remarks about his cousin. "It seems to be a trait among my family, alas. A deep desire to explore one's limits in all manner of ways; some less reasonable than--" He looks upon the sudden addition to dinner in the form of Gerard, brows raised.
"The hardest part is not knowing what people are aware of or not when you have always been aware of it," Jaenelle says as the chill touches the dining room more noticeable than before. "Sometimes you take it for granted because you have gone through the phase of acceptance that you are witness to something others can not, that when suddenly the veil is lifted and others can finally witness things you have to live through all of that all over. That perhaps everything you knew of yourself was not exactly correct and you are once again thrown into the unknown. Hello
"Hello Gersard, I haven't seen you in a lifetime, I was always surprised that you never returned to visit me, but we were only married for such a short time and you didn't like me."
Cesare - does not see anyone, and blink-blinks, sipping politely at his wine. Apparently hauntings at the Velenosa manor are just a regular thing now, but it is far from the weirdest thing Cesare has been through lately. "Hello, Gerard," he echoes.
If there's anything that can cause Isolde's demeanor to falter entirely, it's that name. Her hand shakes as it releases the glass she was reaching for though there is no spillage. "Gesard is here?" Her voice is choked as she looks at Jaenelle for confirmation.
Alaric leans back within his chair, goblet drawn up in hand for a long drought. "These dinners never cease to entertain," he relays toward Isolde, perhaps a compliment, eyes on the ghost of the Archduchess' first husband. "One should not begrudge how a young man consoles himself in his grief. To what do we owe such a visit? Are you at long last going to answer life's greatest mysteries surrounding my late wife?"
"We can thank Esera for many things," Jaenelle tells her first husband even as she continues to sip her wine. Apparently the act of seeing a ghost is no longer something that causes alarm, though perhaps this ghost is someone she did not except. "Forgive our rudeness," she says towards Cesare, "Prince Gersard never took to his etiquette lessons in life, and death did not offer any changes. You remembered our bedroom," she then says to the ghost with a smile that is more polite than anything. Apparently that is all she took from his words, their suite name. Her eyes shift between the men, but she does not say anything of her cousin and the King's late wife.
Is there anything more awkward than being privy to a personal airing of grievances between living people and a ghost you cannot see? Maybe. Probably. But Cesare is certainly feeling plenty awkward at the moment, although he's doing his best not to show it, and mostly taking Jaenelle and Alaric's word for the fact that there is, in fact, a dead person here. He takes the time to eat some of the dinner Isolde had so thoughtfully prepared.
"Is he okay?" Isolde can't help but ask, looking around the room with concern. Though she fiddles with the food in front of her, as though that'll calm her down.
As soon as Isolde poses that question, the room seems to grow even colder. Is that frost lining the walls and windows? Maybe that answers the question on how he is.
Alaric finds no humor in Gersard's saltiness toward his inquiry. "It seems he has not made his peace with a number of things in the afterlife," he relays toward Isolde as the temperature within the room continues to plummet, eyeing a thin sheeting of frost coalescing on a distant wall. "We chased every lead that we could. And while many answers were unearthed, there were just as many questions," he replies evenly to the deceased prince, gaze passing over Jaenelle's countenace briefly before settling on Cesare and Isolde anew. "Velenosa's chefs are the best at their craft, as usual, Princess Isolde. But I imagine it's you we have to thank for the menu itself?"
"Would it help if we enlisted the services of the Deathspeakers?" Cesare asks, in response to Alaric's declaration that Jaenelle's late husband has not found peace. "Or is this more a matter of - wrongs which can only be righted by - how shall we say. Surmounting what the deceased perceives as existing injustices but which perhaps the more level-headed would acknowledge as unfortunate turns of circumstance?"
"He is fine," Jaenelle assures Isolde with another smile, warmer than the one she showed Gersard even as the roo grows colder. "He is dead, though I have never met a ghost that was not angry. They are usually left behind when they die unexpectedly. In an accident or in battle with unfinished business lingering. Once that business is finished they can return to the wheel. Hopefully. I don't know why there have been so many returned. I don't know why ore can see them." There is worry in her eyes now, "if they remain, if they don't return, they may go mad. I don't know why any of this is happening," she finally admits with a shake of her head. Jaenelle casts a look towards Alaric, the smile soft. "People mourn in different ways, Garsard. You do not get to come in here and demand answers for how someone does or doesn't." When Cesare speaks she offers a smile, and a small finger wave.
The windows covered in frost suddenly break, the glass shattering outward. This causes gasps among the staff who had /no/ idea what was up with the temperature change. "DAMN robbers, I bet!" One of the maids shouts as she looks outward. And then the room returns to its normal temperature.
Isolde glances between the people in the room, a look of concern in her eyes as she tries to look at where the ghost may be lingering. "Gersard, let me help you..." And then the glass is shattering outward and she's jumping up from her seat. It takes her many moments of heavy breathing and staring at the broken window before she settles back in her seat. "Yes, I thought it'd be good to have two meat options. I wish I had put more effort into the starters but the Lyceum have the best selection of cheeses. Don't let the Oathlands tell you otherwise?" She says quickly, hoping to bring the mood of the room up again, though the fear in her eyes can't entirely be concealed.
Jaenelle looks towards Gersard with empathy, her words soft and gentle. "You never got to grieve as you should have," Jaenelle then agrees with him. "Duty pulled you away from your happiness, and others dragged you further when death claimed her. You never got your chance to make peace with what happened. You and I never got to make peace with our new lives together. I am sorry," she says, eyes meeting what others can not see. "I am so very sorry that you never got your chance to find that good life you were hoping for because others made those choices for you. I am sorry that those you lived failed you in so many ways. I am sorry those that could have loved you failed you." Even as food is discussed and the room warms while glass is swept, her focus is on the ghost with them. "Perhaps you were the better of them all, the purity of your emotion your only sin."
Pyx arrives, delivering a message to Cesare before departing.
Alaric cuts a sharp glance toward the now shattered windows, then the shards scattered across the floor and nearby surfaces. "The abrupt end of your life was unfortunate, Gersard. Will vengance so many years after the fact really bring you the peace you need?" His words are quiet, retrospective, and delivered once Jaenelle has found an opportunity to speak.
Jaenelle checks mana and occult at daunting. Jaenelle fails.
Cesare peers into the broken glass as if hoping to catch some reflection of the ghost. "It will not," he says. "I do not need to know the situation to know that vengeance in itself rarely solves anything. It is allowing oneself to accept the grief, the anger, the despair, and in turn, to eventually make steps toward forgiveness. There are some things which cannot be forgiven, and some people I would never ask anyone to forgive. But it isn't until we move on from our preoccupations that we can /continue./"
Jaenelle checks mana and empathy at daunting. Jaenelle marginally fails.
"I remember your words on vengeance in that debate in the Salon." Isolde says to Cesare, a thoughtful look on her expression, trying her hardest to get over what had just happened. She doesn't even look in the direction of where her brother's ghost is assumed to be, even if she could never actually see him. She takes a bite from her chicken. "I used to think vengeance rarely brought on peace but I can't help but wonder... what if it /is/ a form of justice? When official methods aren't possible?"
Jaenelle sits back in her chair, eyes closing as if she is gathering herself. Then her eyes reopen and she looks towards Isolde, "he wishes you to know he is around, and to say hello. I think has many things to think over and is lost. When all you do is focus on one thing, and suddenly you consider other things, it can create chaos. Your brother is gone now though." She reaches across the table and squeezes Alaric's hand. It is brief, and her hand is pulled back. "I have been on that side before. In the feeling deep within your soul that if only you can balance the scales, if only you can take back even a piece of what was lost, you'd be better for it. You never are."
Cesare nods in acknowledgement to Isolde. "I think it is a form of justice," he agrees. "Perhaps - the Sentinel and Gloria, of course, are not the deities on which I am most educated, I will readily admit. But I think that much as the worship of one god to the exclusion of the others serves us poorly, so does the pursuit of vengeance to the exclusion of all others attempts at healing what is inside oneself." He nods to Jaenelle. "As she says. When it is accomplished, the lack of that goal leaves behind only a yawning chasm."
Pyx arrives, delivering a message to Cesare before departing.
Pyx arrives, delivering a message to Cesare before departing.
Alaric enfolds Jaenelle's hand within his own briefly, grateful for the subtle comfort. "There is a time and place for vengeance; for seeking retribution for slights that cannot go unanswered. In that, there is a beauty and admiration for it being achieved honorably. But in terms of the dead who come demanding justice for perceived slights, it is a twisted and terrible thing; being driven mad by the obsession of a moment, and robbed of one's full conscience of reason and logic renders it a blind fury with no regard to whom gets hurt by it."
"I suspect the Faith would say that justice needs to go through the proper channels." Isolde admits after a moment. Whatever she thinks of this, she stops herself from commenting further. Glancing down at her food with a pensive look. "I'm sorry, I think I might need to lie down. It..." She looks at Jaenelle with a long look. "Thank you for telling me." And then to the king and Cesare. "And thank you. For all of your kindness today. I hope you enjoy the rest of your meal."
Jaxon, Champion of the Reflection, Bruiser, a merle teacup chihuahua wearing a diamond collar, Slaine, a wallflower, Rex, a large blue cane corso mastiff leave, following Isolde.
Jaxon, Champion of the Reflection, Bruiser, a merle teacup chihuahua wearing a diamond collar, Slaine, a wallflower, Rex, a large blue cane corso mastiff arrive, following Isolde.
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