The meeting seemed simple enough. The café was fairly empty so early in the morning; nearly everyone in Oppara had important errands to be running before the Exaltation Gala itself began. Lady Lotheed and her new crew gathered at a corner table as far away as possible from what patronage there was. A small mechanical cricket buzzed on the table, obscuring their conversations from being overheard. Introductions were brief, and the gathering turned almost immediately to business.
Lotheed produced a small handful of envelopes, and handed one to each of the four mercenaries before her. “Now, I’ve brought each of you here for your various individual skills and talents,” she began. “But for this evening’s work, consider yourselves a team.” Each envelope contained a task assigned to the individual she’d handed it to, but she offered to double her pay to all of them should they complete all four of the tasks.
Laying his paper on the table for all to see, the Osirian man spoke first. “I am Dara Rostam (Joe/Xivrix),” he introduced. “I have nothing to hide.” He looked around the table at his new allies before continuing, “There is little to introduce from me. I was in the military most of my life, as my father before me, and his father before him.”(edited)
“It is due to your work on behalf of the Taldan military, and your legacy there, that I have brought you her,” Lotheed replied. “A lot of the senators that will be present at the gala tonight are military themselves, and even those who are not surely see the value of having someone like you on their side. Speaking of senators, Sir Lanliss, you were brought here for your own political ambitions. If you would like to introduce yourself as well, feel free.”
The aging half-elf nodded. “Belor Lanliss (ManCha). Somewhat of a scholar, taken a recent interest in politics, and trying to make a name for myself.” Lotheed grinned. “I’m sure that opportunity tonight will be much more rewarding to you than the gold you’ve been promised. Now, Lady Dentho, do you wish to have introductions.”(edited)
“Name’s Inori Dentho (SHENMUE36). I’m a bounty hunter. I don’t really have a lot more to say. Not much of a team player, I’m not used to this sort of thing.” The Chelaxian woman looked it, clearly at least somewhat out of her element. “I should definitely get at least double for this, I got two missions here,” she joked. Lotheed chuckles politely, “Your task should be relatively simple. I do, in fact, need a more traditional senatorial aide. You should encounter no difficulties, if your physically prowess is to be believed. I believe that leaves us with Sir Stalwart here?”
“I’m Nelogenus Stalwart (Derptato), feel free to call me Nell.” The armored man laid his paper on the table, next to Rostam’s. “I am not particularly opposed to this, but I will say this will be hard to do on my own.” As the group leaned in to look over his missive, the planning began. Lotheed helped her agents, prodding as needed, while they began to prepare their schemes for the night. After a few minutes, she gave them each a small stack of three platinum coins. “Consider this an investment,” she said, adding that they would need proper outfits to blend in to tonight’s gala. Without much further discourse, the group went their separate ways to prepare for the night.
The line to enter the gala was long and exhausting. The party stood amongst aides, artisans and lesser nobles for nearly two hours, making progress by feet and inches. Merchants and guards passed them by, up and down the queue, adding frustration on top of the endless tedium. It was almost a relief when a guard officer pulled the four of them from the line, citing a “random inspection”. She led them forward, past the rest of the line and past the security checkpoint, and into one of several tents pitched in a small camp on the grounds surrounding Oppara’s Senate building.
“I am officer Kathann Zalar. We have a… common friend,” she said plainly. Officer Zalar briefly explained the rules of the Senate hall to the party before giving them lengths of decorative cord to secure their weapons in their sheathes. She went on to further explain the situation in the building: During the Gala, the Senate Hall is open for all to explore. Senators, high end nobles, and anyone of sufficient fame is gathered inside to mingle, enjoy themselves, and of course to scramble their way up the political ladder.
Shortly afterward, the party joined into the fray themselves. The building itself was glorious, truly impressive in size, and packed with nobility from all corners of the massive Taldan empire. They each had their own tasks to accomplish, and they split their individual ways nearly immediately to begin hunting their various targets or making headway where they needed. They only had a short while to explore the area before the event was disrupted by the sudden arrival of Princess Eutropia.
Daughter of the Grand Emperor himself, Eutropia’s arrival brought a near halt to the festivities. Everyone gathered in the gardens in the center of the building, hoping to catch so much as an errant word of acknowledgement from the princess. Surrounded, the princess worked her way toward a stone railing to climb above the audience. A nearby senator clinked her glass for silence, as Eutropia addressed the newly formed crowd.
As Eutropia spoke of unity, exaltation, and of course, primogeniture, Lanliss and Stalwart noticed something peculiar. A lone servant broke away from the crowd, making his way toward an apiary set up at the other end of the gardens with a strange bar in his hand. He seemed nervous, and clearly distressed. As he placed the bar atop one of the bee boxes, Stalwart moved to to intercept the man while Lanliss checked the bar. It glowed a fluorescent green, giving off a faint bitter smell. Lanliss was able to identify the compound quickly. He knew if it was left here, the bees would become enraged. As Stalwart questioned the man, Lanliss quickly removed the bar and tucked it away in his scroll case. Joining his partner, the two learned little from the servant save that one of the other senators present had instructed him to leave the bar there.
As Eutropia finished her speech, and the applause of the nobles gathered in the gardens died down and eventually scattered, the party resumed their tasks. Lady Dentho delivered a missive for one Count Zespire, and as she dashed through the halls Sir Rostam began to learn about both Countess Pace and Duke Centimus, two more senators present. Sir Lanliss floated around the main hall, helping Sir Stalwart to identify the curator of the small museum displayed in the Senate’s entryway. Demonstrating an interest in history, the two managed to get her attention.(edited)
Stalwart’s task this evening was simple: embarrass Earl Vernisant by stealing a few artifacts he had donated to the museum, set to be revealed tonight. Stalwart was far from a subtle man, and pulled not only the entire party, but a senator they had begun to befriend named Marquess Starborne into his schemes. While the Marquess distracted the Earl himself, Lanliss and Stalwart accepted a guided tour of the facilities from the curator. Using this cover, Dentho and Rostam were able to pilfer three of the artifacts donated by the Earl: a dagger, ceremonial fan, and spyglass. With their plot successful, they group had accomplished one of their four assigned tasks.
With several hours left before them, completing Lady Lotheed’s agenda so far seemed so very simple.
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