1227.3 What Happens Next

Alexei looks at her quizzically. "I...I haven't...I mean what could they..." he straightens up a bit. "What have they seen?" Helmut looks a bit pensive as Alexei looks to him for confirmation. Helmut seems quite discomfitted by this, he had assumed Fiona had come regarding a potion.

Alexei casts back to his memories of recent events, mostly at the Tribunal. The majority involved half remembered boasts and bravado, especially after winning the tournament and being elected Chief Hoplite. Was he as boorish as that? A sudden drunken memory of him saying something rather vulgar about Philipus Niger and his mother giving birth to a basilisk comes to mind and he winces at the thought.

"Have others spoken of it? Outsiders? Am I dragging the reputation of Mons Electi down with this behavior?"

[color=blue]"I haven't heard anyone speak ill of you or of the covenant. But I have been rather distracted the last few days by...by everything that's happened." Fiona manages to bravely hide the pain she feels from the memories that surface ((Com 2 + Guile (Hiding true feelings) 3 + (die roll of 1, followed by a die roll of 6) 12 = 17.))

[color=blue]"Maybe I'm over-reacting, my friend. But I have seen, on more than one occasion, you bleary-eyed and a little uncertain after drinking several glasses of wine. And I worry.

[color=blue]"If I'm wrong, or if it doesn't concern me, let me know and I'll not bring it up again. But just think about what I've said?"

Alexei is unaware of any turmoil Fiona might be going through ((no need to roll, he's a bit too wrapped up right now to notice, selfish, I know)) as he thinks upon his recent antics.

"I...well truth be told one of the reasons I wanted to come to France was the wine. I suppose I have been drinking more than I should, I don't wish to become lax or slovenly in my duties or give others a weapon against me. I'll strive to imbibe less. But my judgment and actions have always been sound enough."

Helmut drops a piece of crockery at that.

"Helmut? Something wrong?"

He looks down at the broken cup and looks over at them both. "No...nothing's...nothing is wrong...master 'Lexi." he finally states.

(( Per 1 + Folk Ken 4 + roll of 5=10. Now that's just not nice, gerg. Dangling hidden conflict in front of a Tytalus is practically an invitation for him to poke Tranquillina just to see the resulting explosion. :smiley: ))

Stultus nods. "I do. I, um, seem to be able to understand and speak just about any language you'd care to name. I'm told that's not an unknown ability... some Redcaps seem to exhibit it. God alone knows how I wound up with it, though." He doesn't show any sign of noticing Tranquillina's genteel and subtle flinch away from his familiar. Rahere, however, stops in his tracks, pouts even harder, and reverses course, slouching off down the hallway with every line of his body expressing indignation at the vast unfairness of the universe.

"As far as the food goes, it's been wonderful." Stultus pats his stomach. "A few more meals and I'll be in serious danger of starting to grow again. Horizontally. That, or just plain keel over from overeating." He mimes something falling over with his hands. "Whee-ack-gasp-THUMP. Finita la commedia."
Timing is everything. One... two... NOW.
He blinks up at Tranquillina with a small smile on his face. "Wouldn't shed too many tears if that happened, would you." His voice is cheerful, mild and not accusatory in the least -- it's like he's discussing the weather, or inviting Tranquillina to share an amused chuckle at a mutual friend's minor foibles.

Stultus shakes his head in negation. "It's not a flaw. You're..." He pauses and trails off as Jacques arrives and the conversation takes a different turn.

The dwarf quirks his head to one side. "Please clarify, Alexei. A show of force against Montverte specifically, or against some other, neutral target? Something like, say, a well-publicized dragon slaying?"

(( :wink: And thus verifying her opinion of Tytali! :astonished: - anyway, not that he couldn't've guessed what was on her mind ))

Tranquillina blinks for a bit at this information. "Um. Any language? - They ... the Mercere, they call it the Gift of Tongues, don't they." (( Int 3 + Order of Hermes Lore 1 + stress die 7 = 11.)) She peers at him, not knowing whether to rate his revelation as a jest. "Any language?! Let's see, what was it...." She searches for one of the very few phrases she managed to pick up from Elizabeth during her brief stay at Le Maison. "讗谞讬 诇讗 诪讚讘专转 注讘专讬转" she pronounces carefully, raising an eyebrow at Stultus. By now, with the ape out of sight, her shoulders have relaxed to a state of less tension.

Tranquillina opens her mouth as she detected her turn in the conversation arriving; but once she hears Stultus's final phrase, she stops, having no idea what to say. She regards his face carefully as it pivots around the long axis of its nose. An echo of understanding from last night's dinner washes over her, and she is able to see that his speaking about the emotional elephant in the room is an attempt to make things less awkward, not an attack on her. ((Per 2 + Folk Ken (opinion of her) 4 + stress die 9 = 15.)) Unfortunately, her surprise is complete enough that she fails to make any but a token attempt to mask her feelings. ((Prs 2 + Guile 3 + stress die 0 (no botch) = 5.))

Finally Tranquillina throws up her hands, shaking her head at herself. "Stultus, I can't change what I think about my first trainer, and about those of her House," she confesses. "Not like that. But I am working on ... not acting like it." The situation as a whole seems to sadden her somewhat, although it's unclear whether the deflation stems more from Stultus's presence or from recognizing her own biases.

If they are talking like this then perhaps we can bait a trap for them. Perhaps a false shipment of goods. I shall ask my friends to scout for them on the roads. I want to know where they like to strike.

Stultus chuckles, shaking his head. "It doesn't quite work like that. It depends on the people I'm talking to. So because you are not fluent in Hebrew, ani lo medaber ivrit* either. I understood you, but that's as far as it goes. Now if, say, Gabrielle -- a Jewish friend of mine -- was standing there I could chatter in Hebrew all day long."

(( * "I don't speak Hebrew" in Hebrew -- exactly what Tranquillina said, except for a masculine verb ending.))

(( WIN!!!! :smiley: ))

Stultus nods at Tranquillina, smiling gently. "Mmm-hmm. You are working on not acting like it. You're working hard. I can see that. I respect that. But the thing is... you really don't have to. I know exactly where I stand with you, and you know that I know, so there's really very little point. You're turning yourself inside out, trying be polite to me -- for what? To spare my feelings? Please." He smirks mockingly. "Everyone Knows we Tytali haven't got any. Yep. Completely heartless, that's us. Well-known fact. Ask anybody."

He grows serious for a moment. "I want us to be able to work together when needed. For example, once you're back from your sabbatical, I'll need to talk to you while you're wearing your Diocetes hat. As long as your distrust of me and my House doesn't get in the way of that... I'm good. You don't have to plaster a forced smile on your face and pretend to be someone you aren't. Not for my benefit."

Stultus shakes his head emphatically. He's a complete dolt when it comes to fighting, but when it comes to being sneaky and underhanded that's not the case. Not by a long shot. "Scouting is a good idea... but not a single false shipment. Multiple small shipments, real ones, with real goods. Not valuable goods, so we don't lose too much money, but we'll vastly overstate their value when talking about them, so as to make them a tempting target." He looks from Jacques to Alexei and back. "We make a big production of sending them out 'in secret', and keep very careful track of which covenfolk know about which route. If one of the shipments gets hit, we know which group of covenfolk might be passing information to Montverte... and Montverte doesn't know we're on to them, which is equally important."

"I'd also caution against a preemptive strike of any sort. We don't know for certain, after all, that Montverte is actually going to do anything. They were sniffing around for a target, but we don't know what they decided."

Alexei taps his nose and looks over to Jacques.

"This was why I wanted Stultus to join us. Divergent thinking. I'm too straightforward, I'd go out there with a large shipment to a hill, plant a flag and yell out 'Take it if you can!'. Jacques I think the modifications to your plan that Stultus just suggested should be considered. Let us draw them out. Their reward if they should succeed would be little, while we might uncover spies in our midst. I still want you and Roberto beating the bushes and laying ambush, because there are those out there, and if we stopped our patrols whover is watching will get suspicious. Plus..." he looks to Stultus. "If there are spies amongst us, that could also tip them off. If they somehow had knowledge of our routes and acted upon them.'

The dwarf is nodding vigorously. "Yes, exactly. Keep our patrols as they were, or beef them up some."

He rubs his nose absently, deep in thought, murmuring "I have got to figure out a way to get a message to Gabrielle." He glances up at the two Flambeau, and brightens. "For that matter, you might be able to help me out with ideas! I've got a friend, Gabrielle. Bright young woman, really pretty... anyway, not important. What is important is that she owes me from way back -- I did a rather large favor for her family when she was a child -- and she's currently employed as a scribe and librarian. For Montverte, as it happens."

"Now, we do exchange letters on a fairly regular basis. How are you, how's your dad, have you met any cute guys lately, that sort of thing. Problem is, I'm not sure if Montverte reads their covenfolk's mail. As long as it's just personal stuff, I don't really care. But if I'm going to ask her to gather information for us, and that letter gets read by someone besides her... you see the problem."

Fiona jumps and utters a startled squeak at the unexpected noise, then looks at Helmut in surprise.

She looks at Helmut curiously, then turns back to Alexei. [color=blue]"Thank you for listening, Alexei," she says with a friendly squeeze of the leg before she gets up and kisses the top of his head.

As she turns to go, she pauses and looks at him thoughtfully. [color=blue]"Have you considered working out a way to remove the intoxicating properties of the wine?"

Alexei looks shocked at the suggestion. "Undo the first miracle that Lord Jesu did as an adult?" a moment later it's obvious he's joking. "Yes I have, but in all honesty I dislike such a tactic. Avoiding consequences is not...honourable to me. If I'm acting like a drunken oaf, then I should accept the consequences and strive to change it." he settles deeper into the cushions of the chair and his blanket.

Helmut leads Fiona to the door and once outside of it he closes it quietly. "M'lady...I can tell you care about Master 'Lexi. I...promised I would never speak of this again...but he has done something in the past, when he'd been drinking." Helmut seems truly afraid of what he's speaking.

[color=blue]"Very well. Get some sleep, then, and I'll see you later."

[color=blue]"As do you," Fiona replies. [color=blue]"And you know that I am the very soul of discretion. No secrets pass my lips."

She caresses Helmut's arm as she speaks with a hint of a smile. [color=blue]"Do you have someplace we can be alone to...discuss these things, or would you like to bide a while at my cottage?"

Helmut seems very uncertain, looking back between Alexei's door and up at Fiona. Finally he slumps his shoulders. "Perhaps somewhere else to speak. He is...very ashamed of what had happened...of what he did. He doesn't speak of this, but I know it troubles him in his sleep, he cries out about it and does not know. I think also that...thing that has been hunting him knows of it and tries to use it to its advantage, but I don't really know of such things." he wipes his eyes. "Your cottage would be fine." Helmut allows Fiona to lead the way.

Fiona walks with Helmut back to her cottage, through the foyer and dining room into her bedroom. The bedroom is sparsely furnished: the bed, a tub, a chair, a washbasin, a "small" table, and a couple of wardrobes (almost all of which are much larger than normal), as well as a few planters in the windows.

[color=blue]"Where would you like to sit?" Fiona asks as she hops on the side of the bed.

Gerulf leans his cane against the table and stands next to Fiona, looking at the lab text. After examining it for a few moments, he points to one area. "Could you not restrict the number of magnitudes here, in the Greenhouse effect itself, thus reducing the size of the construct and the area? Of course, that would also reduce the amount of space you have to work with for... whatever you're planting. But you could at least fit it into your lab." He pauses, then creases his brow. "And now I wonder if the proper application of Rego could expand the construct as well as the enchantment after it has been opened. That would require you to find a way to 'overcharge' the enchantment, perhaps..."

((Ick. I need to make a habit of reading through all the threads. I would have missed this entirely if not for curiosity.))

((Looking at what i posted with the greenhouse enchantments, it looks like I had assumed that the enchantment would be on the structure itself. But nothing is "R: Personal", not even the enchantment that turns the structure clear one-way, and I had brought up enchanting an item to hang on the wall to do all this magic. So...it would still be something she would like to discuss with Gerulf, just to have something to talk about, but the concern I had about "How the froo do you enchant a large shed if it doesn't fit in your lab?" doesn't really apply...at least not here.))

So...um...nevermind? But they can still chat.

((Heh. Good thing you're dealing with a complete Ars Novice-a. I didn't even think of that. Still so much learn. :unamused: ))

Helmut looks around before taking a stool that seems not too big and sits down. He looks worn out and haggard by now, unlike his usual self. After running his hand though his hair he begins.

"This happened in Germany, three maybe four years before we came to France. Master Lexi often posed as a mercenary captain or sergeant. He kept his magics secret, no one ever knew he was a wizard, they came to call him 'Lucky Lexi' because things seemed to always go well with him. His magic was always either subtle or...well he simply made sure no one survived to tell the tale. That did not happen often. The few men that came to know would actually join him and stay in his services perhaps dying later on campaign. Michel and Brionne are the only surviving fighting men that know what he can do from that time.

"I was basically a camp follower and messenger and helped Alexei with written correspondences. He was hired by a village, I can't even remember the name of it now. He was to clear out some bandits that were plaguing the village and travellers. Easy work for him right? Their main defense was hiding from him, he was getting frustrated I could tell. He was drinking more as well, part of the deal he had was being supplied with their excellent local vintages. Alexei thinks he's charming when he's in his cups, and mostly he is, but he can be roused to anger and it will surprise you. One day I was heading from our camp back into town on an errand, something I had done a few times. The bandits knew this and captured me, thinking to ransom me. I wrote my own ransom note and all the vile things they'd do to me if he didn't pay. I also wrote where I was, they weren't able to see the secret codes I used that Alexei was prudent enough to share with me." he pauses and takes a shuddering breath.

"I won't say the bandits were good to me, but they were not really evil men, I've seen evil men, these were mainly fools. I believe they might have let me go if Alexei paid or if they thought Alexei was going to find them. I don't think they had the stomach to go through with the threats they made. Alexei...believed otherwise." Helmut red eyes begin to water at the memory. "The first warning the men received that Alexei was coming was the severed head that was pitched into their camp, it was the head of the one that had drawn lots and was sent to deliver their message. I swear at that moment, every single one of them messed their trousers." he makes a slight laugh but then grows quiet. "I did as well..."

"Then he was among them. He appeared out of nowhere. I'd seen him use that trick, it was so amazing when I first saw him do it, but now he seemed a devil sent from Hell. He appeared among them and roared and then grew, grew even larger than you m'lady. And then it was wrath and violence as I've never seen. I said he looked like a devil. No, more like a titan, a furious pagan god of war. He was shouting in Latin at them, cursing them, condemning them as he rent them. He broke their bodies, split them, severed them. This was no fight...just as a babe can't fight a bear they could not fight Alexei. Alexei's magic is always subtle, but that night there was nothing subtle. And..." he pauses and a sob wrenches out of him. "You've been near him when he casts a spell yes? It produces a smell, it's different to all that smell it, but it's always pleasant, it brings back good memories. To me his magic smells like the beeswax candles that were burned at the monastery where I learned letters. All the while he was...slaughtering the men, this overpouring, cloying candle scent was filling the campsite, stronger than the spilt blood and burning bodies. To this day I can't bear that smell for long, my memories that day are forever bloodied by it."

Helmut dabs at his eyes. "When it was done he was covered in blood, and this was when he was still giant sized. He turned to me finally in a rage, I honestly don't think he recognized me initially. It was only after I begged and pleaded that he recognized me and started to come to his senses. Brione arrived after that, finally catching up with Alexei and he lead me away. He and Michel would dispose of the bodies that night. The village never had to worry about them again. Alexei swore off drinking after that, he had been in his cups when the messenger arrived and he drank some more as he made council with his men. They told me that he read the message one more time...and I can only assume at that point he saw the secret codes I had put in. It was then that he went...that he went mad I guess. He became more religious after that, he's very concerned about what he's done and that he could do it again. I don't know if he's confessed yet.

"He's proud you see. And proud men think their sins are so grand that only someone very important can hear them. But...and this is what I feel holds him back, if he confesses to someone worthy; a Bishop or maybe Archbishop, he is worried that he shall make the church even more afraid of the Order and what it can do. Or they will try to use him as the Bishop recently did and had him go on Crusade. But that is something else. He's drinking again, drinking more and I worry that he could be set off. Valerian, Lucius, that creature. I would hate to see them awaken this rage in him again." he wipes his eyes and his nose and sits quietly.