24 Arodus, 4718 (cont)

I wouldn’t say that we made our way up the stairs quickly by any means. The steps were large, designed so horses could ascend and descend them if need be. I’m sure some Grand Prince or group of Senators had it in their heads that they needed to ride into the building at one point or another. Though if the capitol is ever attacked-gods’ forbid-the stairs would make it far easier for an enemy calvary to charge the Senate. I would say that it would allow for Taldor’s calvary to charge to the defense as well, but while the building is impressive, I doubt the thought of them needing to use it as a base for the cavalry has every really entered anyone’s mind. 

Many of our fellow nobles making their way to the palace would stop and take breaks, chit-chatting with friends that they’ll chit chat about with other friends once they are inside the gala. I haven’t even made it though one party back among the nobility and I’m already finding myself exhausted by the whole game. 

As we crested the final step and made our way towards the building entrance, another small queue had formed. There stood a crier, announcing everyone in the same party as they entered the building. Several members of the senate guard were present here, looking rather bored. My eyes were drawn to the pair of the Ulfen Guard that were flanking the doorway. If there was ever any doubt that Grand Prince Stavian was in attendance, this quickly dashed it. Perhaps it was being in the company of my old friends, but I couldn’t help but think of that summer, and how kind the Grand Prince had been to us then. Reconciling those memories with the reality of how he was now was going to be far harder than I had anticipated. I realized I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing him.

In a few short moments we made our way to the front doors. The crier took one look and began to shuffle the order we were standing in, with those of the greatest station in front. Then one by one he announced us as we made our way through the doors of the senate building. Oliver first, then Felyx, Verity, and Cornelius. I was last.  Lady Gwenhwyfar Sigrun of House Kastner, Viscountess of Gildeen, Lady of Goldenflame Manor, lay priestess of Ragathiel, the General’s Diva.

Cornelius was at the bottom of the steps as I made my way in, and he turned and raised an eyebrow at me, mouthing “the General’s Diva?” I just smiled and gave him a wink. I suppose it sounds much more important than it really is, a “made up” title my brother gave me within the church. It has however caught on with the members of the faith here in Taldor and it has grown on me. 

There was a small mob at the bottom of the stairs with more of the chit-chatting that had been going on outside. The staff were doing their best to mention all the other sites to see in the building while handing out the evening itinerary in an attempt to clear the jam. Some nobles were taking the hint, others were not. My friends and I all made our way forward quickly, standing together and glancing over the plans for that evening. We would have until ten o’clock to accomplish our goals, and thankfully the itinerary included a map of the massive building we all found ourselves in. I decided that finding Earl Calhadion Vernisant, and figuring out where the book he was to present was being held, would be my first order of business. We would have a limited amount of time to look over it before it was moved to the Senate floor for the unveiling before the vote. Oliver took up the charge of spying on the Grand Strategos. This meant we would both be staying in the first grand area, the Arcade of Triumphs. Felyx and Verity decided to find Countess Abriella and Count Okerra, and Cornelius decided to make his way to the Senate Floor to see if there was any information to be learned. 

Oliver and I split off from each other, and I spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes hovering around the area the Earl was in, attempting to learn something of use, and failing. The Arcade of Triumphs was similar to a museum, housing relics both magical and mundane from Taldor’s history. Many of the cases were glowing faintly, a sure sign they were guarded with magic. While I didn’t hear anything of interest about the Earl, I did hear a rumor that General Arnisant’s armor was on display. 

As I was readying myself to go and simply attempt to charm the Earl himself, a great amount of commotion began coming from the courtyard, and I heard several people announce that Princess Eutropia had arrived and was going to give a speech. Of course many people surged towards the courtyard, and while I wanted to join them, I stayed closer to my target. Martella had told us the Earl was no fan of Princess Eurtopia, and I wanted to keep an eye on him and see how he reacted to her speech. 

Earl Calhadion stayed in the Arcade of Triumph for the speech, though he did make his way closer to the doors leading out to the courtyard. More people were whispering this far away from where the Princess was standing, and I couldn’t make out everything she was saying. She congratulated Kalbio of Breezy Creek on his Exaltation and his skills as a weaver, before transitioning into how Taldor needed to move forward. She made mention of our country’s roots in the last of the Azlanti Empire, and how many of our laws stemmed from their now fallen empire, not to be changed in nearly eight thousand years. Princess Eutropia reminded those in the crowd of the progress that the nations that were once our vassal states have made, many of them by moving away from old, antiquated laws such as primogeniture. She claimed that if Taldor wished to remain relevant, and avoid the fate of the Azlanti, it was time for us to cast off such laws ourselves. I was comforted when it seemed like a majority of those in the crowd cheered for her. I, of course, wholeheartedly agreed, and to be honest primogeniture isn’t the only law that needs revising if we don’t want Taldor to collapse in upon itself. To listen to Verity and Felyx, the whole of the country’s infrastructure is on the brink of collapse, and our laws aren’t far behind. Though I did note that while many were cheering, and I was wearing a wide smile on my face, Earl Calhadion was not. In fact he almost looked angry. When Martella said that the Earl disliked Princess Eutropia I do believe she was understating his opinion. First that old man in line and now this moron. Lord Ragatheil is certainly testing my patience tonight. 

After a few moments, the crowd gathered in the courtyard began to disperse. I caught sight of Oliver out of the corner of my eye as I made my way over to the Earl. A rather sizable group had gathered around him and a case holding a sword. He seemed to be telling them about the blade, keeping his listeners rather enthralled as he talked. 

The Earl recognized my house crest as I approached, though he didn’t know my name, just that I was Senator Ramilliard’s little sister. He was wearing a suit of parade armor with the Eye or Aroden on the pauldrons. It was an odd choice, and I used it in conversation, which quickly had him telling me that he was a descendant of General Arnisant, and he wore the Eye of Aroden to “show his respect to his ancestor and his bloodline.” How I kept my eyes from rolling all the way back into my skull at that statement I’ll never know. I had my way in though, mentioning that my family also battled in the Shining Crusade. As I talked, skills I had perfected at the Kith quickly came to the surface. I found it easy to keep a smile on my face as he talked about how ridiculous it was that Lastwall wouldn’t return the shards of Arnisant’s shield to their rightful owners. He confirmed that Arnisant’s armor was on display in the Arcade, and then told me that he’d tried it on. The utter audacity of such an act… 

When I asked him where the book was on display, he said that it was in the restoration room. I turned on the charm, flirting a bit and asking for a sneak peek. He told me that he didn’t know where the artifact room was, but there was an important servant, some kind of curator named Vau in charge of it all. He said she should be somewhere in the Arcade, and that I should speak with her. I suppose if I phrase it right to her once I find her, I can claim the Earl “gave me permission” to see the book before the unveiling. I hate to throw my title around as much as others seem to enjoy it, but if push comes to shove I suppose I can always scare the poor woman into showing me the book. Hopefully it won’t come to that. 

Oliver and I seem to be gaining ground here in the Arcade. I can only hope the others are making progress as well.