Day -- Fontan
Ehrendill Eyolf Serpentis
A Tavern by the Sea
Ehrendill took advantage of his days in Fontan at the expenses of the first installment of Ecthelion's gold - and he could conjecture and openly say, that was his gold, for that was the gold his father had continually sent to the old Duke. He had chosen the Smugglers Den as his refuge, just as Erik used to do. In the main hall he had accommodated his Stormwalkers, letting them celebrate freely after their sacrifice in Viseu. They were scattered around the tables, playing dice or cards, intoxicated by the scents of wine and food that never seemed to stop being prepared in the kitchen. Only partially distracted by the music and laughter, they also served as bodyguards, controlling who entered and left at the invitation of the young dragon. Beyond them, in a more elegant and private room, the young elf was sitting in a comfortable armchair beneath the bones of a blue marlin, next to a fireplace, surrounded by his most intimate servants. He eagerly awaited his more informal meeting with Princess Sigrid and Lady Ayden, whose family name had been mentioned countless times in recent months.
The table before him was always abundantly served with grapes and blackberries, game meat, his favorite pheasants stuffed with bacon and from the coast, fresh prawns, crayfish and crabs; a beautiful surf and turf before it became something centuries later on reality shows. An incense burned slowly in a typically sultanesque night while Rusul played slow, melodic notes in his Qanun and a Sword Dancer rhythmically shook her hips; her tanned skin covered with colorful silk veils and an albino python snaking along her body. Like every Serpentis who had achieved fame and wealth, in Sirion they liked to boast all that luxury brought from conquered realms and cultures that would not even exist if they were not imported by Avamar. While waiting for the maidens, he smoked the finest Rollbarian weed in a long red oak pipe, the smoke spiraling like vipers dancing around the silver circlet in his head. In victory or defeat, there was no reason to ignore the little delights of Fontan. Who knows, maybe even Lady Brigdha would hear about a young Serpentis and join them.
Evening -- Fontan
"Oh, don't try and teach me the virtues of Democracy," Brigdha wielded her exasperation skilfully, letting the well-known history of her House do what reasoned debate could never have achieved - stopping a zealot in his tracks.
"I'm sorry Ambassador, I... I didn't mean... I mean...," Tormald's face lost its composure, the well-reasoned argument he'd just passionately delivered in favour of a new Caligan constitution modelled after that of Vix Tiramora forgotten amidst blushing cheeks as he realised he was on dangerous ground.
"I know Tormald, and I apologise for being curt," she reached for a flagon of wine and refilled his goblet, eyes softening as she held his gaze," Democracy is indeed a fine institution my friend... in the hands of honest men. King Rowan is an honest man and if he chose such a path for Caligus it would serve your people well."
The implied but hung there, something each of her dinner companions could savour in the privacy of their own thoughts as they pondered the danger of dishonest men to their comfortable and lucrative positions.
Brigdha's party were seated in the private lounge of the Smugglers' Den, a favourite haunt from her blockade runner days when she'd sneak south with her caravans to bid on cargoes from Hamadan and Isadril and the lands of the deep south. Whilst her visits were no longer frowned on by the Royal Court, still there were those amongst her companions who valued discretion if they were to speak their minds freely and the theatre of the clandestine appealed to their vanity.
The private lounge was a large dining room bounded on one side by a gallery overlooking the common rooms below and on two others by a covered balcony with views across the bay to the old Dubhaine estate lands in Negev. The fourth wall was shared with the kitchen where the afternoon's meal had been prepared by Brigdha's personal kitchen staff, sparing nothing in cost or quality. Even the pages and serving maids had been laid on by her, impeccably presented as would befit a royal banquet.
Some of their number were doubtless agents of The Ghost Watch and others were surely operating throughout the inn and overlooking its approaches, indistinguishable to even a trained eye if the rumours were to be believed. Only Anagridh made her presence known, the saturnine bodyguard sat at Brighda's left hand, rarely speaking, keen elven senses observing every detail.
They shared the food-laden trestles with a group of stolid burghers, dressed in the overwrought upholstery of merchant captains and minor nobility. Such ranks were considered far beneath the dignity of King Rowan's court and Brigdha doubted that if the King had heard their names he'd have recognised even one or two, yet these were a key link between the Aristocracy and the Commons, ambitious fixers and dealers with their fingers on the pulse of public opinion. These were the men and women who staffed the royal bureaucracy and who dreamed themselves the founders of Great Houses to one day sit alongside the Dubhaines of this world in fame and honour and dignity. And most importantly power.
And if this discussion were anything to go by they saw opportunity in the Democratic revolutions which had rocked so much of EC in recent years.
In one sense this was to be expected in the very birthplace of Democracy, the Capital first of Fontan and later of the Confederacy. It was that link which had drawn Brigdha's sister to settle in Negev all those years ago and the friendships forged in those far-off days still carried weight. Indeed there were still veterans of those wars living in the city, including no doubt the parents or grandparents of some of those at this very table. Perhaps even some who'd fought alongside Moira or Brigdha or Rhidhana...
But at the same time Fontan was a point in lesson on the weakness of Democracy in its purest, undiluted form. For it was here that the banner of Civil War was first unfurled and with it the madness unleashed which would consume all that was Moira's ideal. And it was that very fervour expressed in this city which had lead to the death of her niece Rhidhana and to the self-imposed exile of Moira beyond the ocean.
Nor had the city fared badly under Caligan rule, alien though that must at first have been. It lacked the imposing might of Oligarch or the elegant splendour of the Elven cities, a cosmopolis on a human scale, fuelled by its deepwater harbour and heavy with the merchandise of diverse ports. When a man's main grumble are the taxes he pays you know he has an honest government and trustworthy courts who rule justly, for otherwise money would be the least of his concerns.
As the discussion went backwards and forwards around the table, and the wine flowed and course after course were cleared, Brigdha planted all these points and more, allowing her companions to mouth the opinions she herself questioned until it was clear to all present that no matter their views on Caligan government, the dangerous revolutionary ideas being imported from the South must be resisted at all costs.