24 Arodus, 4718 (cont)

Finding one woman in a sea of people, especially the curator that the Earl seemed to think so little of, was not an easy task. I knew asking the nobility would get me nowhere. I was sure the amount of staff present for the gala meant that many had been brought in to assist those who normally worked the Senate. There was a good chance that none of them would know who Vau was at all. 

I decided to take a closer look at the exhibits, hoping that some of the staff who were there to talk about the items might point me toward Vau. As I was looking at a rather large case filled with items from the Seventh Army of Exploration, a woman approached me. She began telling me about the items on display, pointing out a very fine darkwood crossbow inlaid with gold. It was called Dignity’s Barb, and had been used by General Gerafein during a war with the Qadirans. She had used it to shoot their commander off the back of his mount, causing him to be trampled by the very troops he was leading in the charge. This turned the tide of the battle, allowing the Taldane forces to win. She told me, with a large amount of chagrin, that this was a replica. The real crossbow had been “misplaced.” When I asked how such a relic could have gone missing, she told me that below the Senate building is a huge network of chambers and catacombs that various senators and Grand Princes have expanded upon over the years. 

Records had been lost or not kept at all, and a great many of important items from Taldor’s long history were lost below. It was obvious that she was greatly upset by this, and with her knowledge of the artifacts, I was hoping she was one of the members of the staff. I introduced myself, and to my surprise she introduced herself as Copernica Vau. By the grace of Ragathiel, I had managed to find the woman I was looking for. Even after such a brief conversation, I could tell that she had a vast amount of knowledge about both Taldor’s history and the items here in the Arcade.

After telling her my name, Copernica led me over to another display case, and showed me a saddle that was on display. It was made with exceptional quality, embroidered with designs of flames and wings. It was beautiful. She told me it was used by one of my own ancestors in the Even-Tongued Rebellion. 

I took this as my opening to express my interest in the relics that were lended to the Arcade by Earl Vernisant. I expressed interest in my own family’s history, and how I hoped that the book the Earl was planning on presenting may mention the Kastners’ efforts in the Shining Crusade. I explained that I had spoken with the Earl, and he had told me that the book was in the restoration room. With our previous conversations about the artifacts, Copernica was quite excited to show me. I didn’t even have to “imply” that Vernisant had given me permission.

Oliver had been hovering nearby while all of this was going on. He’d accidentally committed quite the faux pas while discussing history with a group of nobles, and I think he decided to see if he could help me in my endeavors. I introduced them and she kindly asked if he wanted to join us in the restoration room.

The room was in the center of the Arcade, and I was surprised that a fine silk rope was all that barred entry. No guards were even posted. Then I remembered that the last thing on the mind of the attendees of the gala was investigating our nation’s history. Quite a pity. The room was full of items, but it was obvious that some of it was nothing more than junk. Copernica explained that a great many of the items at the Arcade were donated. 

As I looked over a random assortment of items piled on a table pushed off to the side, I was again reminded how much of the nobility of Taldor thought far too much of themselves. My eyes fell onto a rather ornate goblet. Well made, and very expensive, but I’m sure no one really cared that so-and-so’s great uncle drank from it while doing something not so important, despite so-and-so’s insistence of the historical value it would bring while on display.

Copernica led us to a desk where a large tome and a dagger were placed. She told us that the dagger was a magical one that Vernisant claimed was used to slay a vampire in service to the Whispering Tyrant. She doubted the claim, and doubted the blade had ever even seen combat. Again, she lamented the lack of a proper catalog of the times in the Arcade, and that they were severely understaffed. She was sure a great many magical items, armor, and weapons that held no real historical significance were housed in the catacombs, and she would rather see them helping the people of Taldor rather than gathering dust. I agreed wholeheartedly with her. I decided then and there that once Princess Eutropia became Grand Princess, I would suggest that she hire a great many scholars and archeologists to go through the catacombs and the Arcade. It seemed to me it was long past due to discover what relics were really hidden beneath our feet. 

Copernica then showed me the book, flipping through the delicate pages with a pair of tongs. With her hovering over me, I knew it would be hard to find the information that I sought. I glanced over at Oliver, and he seemed to get my meaning, and asked Copernica about a rather impressive looking shield that was hanging on one the walls. I will say that Copernica is a perfect fit for her job. She seemed quite happy that anyone was actually interested in the items, and began to explain the history of the shield to Oliver.

I took my chance, paging through the book. Vernisant is indeed descended from the great General Arnistant, but as I followed the family line, I came across something very interesting. The Vernisants have always said that their ancestors came to Taldor from Lastwall of their own free will, but as I continued to read, I realized that this wasn’t the case. Far from it. This particular ancestor was a Knight of Ozem, but it seems he was entangled in the… situation that led to the Red Crusader’s body being stolen from her tomb by the forces of Geb. That ended with Arazni being raised as a lich and thus becoming known as the Harlot Queen, ruler of that undead nation. 

His ancestor was court-martialed, stripped of his rank and all holdings, disowned and exiled. He then came to Taldor, and continued to claim his family name and his standing as a Knight of Ozem. I smiled. “Those proven guilty must be punished for their crimes. I will not turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.” Lord Ragathiel’s tenant sprang to my mind. It was time for the Taldane Vernisants to recognize their ancestor’s crimes.

Oliver could tell by the wide smile on my face that I found what we needed. We both thanked Copernica for her time, and I asked her if she only worked for the Senate or if she took outside commissions as well. She had asked me about what sort of crafts I pursued – the good part of the Kastner reputation presented itself for once – and I told her I was a painter. Unfortunately, Copernica told me no. With how few staff the Arcade had she was far too busy to take on outside commissions for restorative work. It was a pity really. I had told her of a few family paintings that needed some work done. 

As Oliver and I were getting ready to depart, she asked if she could give me a gift. I told her only if she wished, she was under no obligation to give me anything based on my title alone. Copernica insisted on giving me a beautifully made set of tools for restoration work. Inside the kit were two magical items: a universal solvent that she said works wonders on removing grime, and an oil of timelessness. I shook her hand and thanked her for her time. Again, I made a mental note to mention the state of the Arcade to Martella or Princess Eutropia herself. This place could be a national wonder, full of relics of our nation’s long history. Copernia needs more staff, a promotion for herself, and a dedicated team to search the archives. That, however, will need to wait. The smile remained on my face as Oliver and I re-entered the main hall of the Arcade. It was time for me to “let slip” what I had discovered.