Dark Conspiracy Afoot

-Dalen Capital, Valade Estate. Evening, 2 DSTR

“Please welcome Her Majesty's advisor.....Count Chiren Soldor.”

“Your Grace!” Kalena exclaimed, delighted. “You're late, but as they say: 'better late than never'.”

“I planned to arrive earlier Ms. Valade, but sadly work interfered. It seems some nobles are making back door dealings with some unsavory characters as of late. However by the lovely smell in the air it seems I am just in time for a fabulous dinner. So do tell what did I miss?”

Nobles making backroom deals with unsavoury characters of late? What was this? Had it any possible connection to the attack on Kline? Kalena's gray-green eyes instantly grew intent, her features taut. But then she quickly schooled her face back to a charming mask of warmth and hospitality.

“All in good time, Chiren, but first allow me to introduce a few of my guests.” She gestured elegantly to a rather tall man in a red velvet jacket who came forward. “This is His Excellency Baron Kline Lowson. You likely have drank some of the fine vintages from his prestigious winery. And this is Lafayette Le Renard, a representative of the world renowned Dubois Trading Company, and Gularzob Nugbu, whose name you may have heard spoken of around the capital.” Kalena indicated the red-haired foreign man and the towering green orc respectively. “You know Eliza of course,” she finished, lastly nodding to the popular young noblewoman. “As for what you sorely missed out on, the baron showed us a new card game called Ransom. Gular took to the game well and almost cleaned us out. Who would have thought a blacksmith could be such a cardshark!” She let out a charming laugh. “And Lafayette and I just enjoyed quite an invigorating fencing match, which worked up my appetite. Come, let us reconvene in the dining hall to partake of the feast my dear and immensely talented cook has prepared for us.”

Kalena happily led the way, her leather heels tapping on the polished mosaic tiles. The dining hall was a huge room with carved and lavishly decorated walls and diamond chandeliers hung from the high vaulted ceiling. At the front of the hall was an elevated floor area where stood a long wooden table of exquisite workmanship. There were plenty of comfortable high-backed chairs for everyone around it, and she took the chair at the head of the table. When everyone was seated, a parade of house slaves entered bearing covered trays, whilst others hefted larger trays in both hands. As each was brought to the table in a perfectly choreographed and executed manner, the slaves stepped back and removed the lids to show the delicious food that lay beneath.

The pristinely white clad cook standing at Kalena's side then formally and proudly recited each gourmet dish as it was unveiled. “Stuffed sausage and potato boats. Grilled vegetable couscous with mascarpone and almonds. Roasted halibut steak with smoked tomato and caper dressing. Baked salmon with dill sauce and lemon rice...” On the journey that morning Kalena had whisperingly enquired to Laffy about what Kline's favourite meal was, and as it was named she looked over at Kline hoping to see his pleased reaction as the cook continued to cite several more dishes concocted for their culinary pleasure.

“And just for you, Chiren, and Eliza,” Kalena said, looking to them with a beneficent smile, “We will be having chocolate baklava for dessert.” She well knew just how much Chiren loved anything and all things chocolate, and Eliza was much the same in that respect, once telling her how baklava was a favourite.

As they began to eat, with Kline's permission, Kalena, recounted to Chiren the escapade of the previous day's deadly bandit attack in the Langford forest, gesturing with her solid gold fork as she told the tale in grisly detail. She however deliberately left out any mention of Glumly and the faeries, as well as the mild bout of amnesia she sustained. “And so, among the bandit's possessions found in their encampment we came across a rather suspicious letter with a wax seal, written on fine paper. It named the road the wine shipment would be travelling on, and how many men would be protecting it. It offered a warning that Baron Lowson might be accompanying the shipment and said something to the effect of 'Stop the shipment and bring the spoils to me. I will see you paid handsomely for the wine, and any heads you deliver.' The letter was unsigned, but the wax was pressed with a distinctive seal. Some of it was frayed a little, but I still was able to easily recognize it as the Cartagan coat of arms.”

At this shocking revelation, Kalena looked pointedly at Chiren and Eliza. “What do you two make of it? You both know Tyreth Cartagan quite well. Do you think he's capable of colluding with bandits and masterminding the cold blooded murder of a noble?” She caught an odd glint in the Count's eyes for a moment; she thought it might have been slight amusement at her appalled tone, reminding her that Chiren was one of a rare few in the Kingdom who knew that she had worked in the past as an assassin for Thalia. But it was the Queen's prerogative to eliminate anyone Her Majesty saw fit. This on the other hand was a murder entirely unsanctioned, and by a commoner against a noble. To make use of the despicable forest bandits-who not even the various rebels factions deigned to consort with- made the treacherous attack on Kline all the more outrageous.

“The letter is a damning piece of evidence, and enough to make an arrest I should think, Your Grace, wouldn't you?” Kalena prompted the Count.

<Tag – Kline, Lafayette, Gularzob, Eliza, and Chiren/Jack.>

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