rowyn: (Smoke)
"Not yet," Smoke admitted with a smile of her own. She liked the aura about him, a kind of gentleness at odds with his great size"What bill were they working on?"

"A bit of legal arcana, as I recall," Corydalis answered. "They're trying to create a legal definition of a person."

"... isn't there one already?"

"Not as such. If I understand correctly -- realize this is not my field of expertise -- it's a matter of common law. Everyone knows what a person is when you see one, so you don't need to define one. It's surprisingly hard to define 'person' in a way that encapsulates everyone you'd want to define as a person without including things that you don't. A senile shapechanger trapped in their feline form, for instance, is clearly still a person. But a cat who can't shapeshift is just as clearly not. A mute elf is a person and a parrot isn't. You can say 'anyone born to members of the four races', but would that mean that if I don't know my parentage, I'm not a person? What if my parents don't know their parentage? Does the government issue documents at birth that certify personhood and do you stop qualifying as a person if you don't have one?"

Smoke blanched. "That sounds nightmarish. Why don't they just leave it as a matter of common law? Then the courts can decide on a case-by-case basis where they have all the specifics before them, right? Did a court rule that some person oughtn't have the rights of a person and they're trying to make sure it doesn't happen again?"

"No, not so far as I am aware. But some legislators, Lord Sky among them, believe that the absence of a consistent legal standard of 'person' opens a path to corruption and people registering their dogs to vote or somesuch." Corydalis's lips twitched as he tried not to smile. "I am inclined to agree with you that the matter is best left to individual judges to interpret as needful, and perhaps not the best to present Lord Sky's position that the legislature must weigh in upon the subject. But the matter is outside of my bailiwick."

"Mm. Mine too, I suppose." Smoke contemplated the subject. "Why would anyone want to make their notes disappear? Is it a very controversial subject?"

Corydalis waggled the fingers of one hand. "It has the potential to be. Several legislators are strongly opposed to Lord Sky or anyone else working on the subject. But it's not even a bill in committee yet, just a topic that he's thinking about presenting a bill upon. It is a long, long way from becoming law. I don't even know what his group's working definition is, but judging by the volume of their notes, they are putting a lot of thought into it beforehand."

"So you don't know what incident motivated them to start work on this bill?"

Corydalis shook his head. "Or if there was an incident, for that matter. Sometimes legislators look for things that could become problems in the future and address them now."

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 12


Conversational gambits

View Answers

"Not yet. Did Hawthorne say how things had been rearranged?"
1 (8.3%)

Try to get conversation back to whether he usually meets everyone who works at Courthall
3 (25.0%)

Ask if there've been any other odd events like this one.
7 (58.3%)

Stop talking shop and get personal
1 (8.3%)



Author's note: I have a document of the Dreamwidth installments of PollRPG to date, if you've lost track of the story or want a more convenient place to look things up then the DW page.
rowyn: (Smoke)
"Isn't that a job for Security?" Smoke took a sip from her drink, a beverage of carbonated water and unsweetened yogurt, flavored by salt. Corydalis had tried it before and found it to sour, but Smoke gave every sign of enjoying it.

Corydalis leaned back in his chair, half-smiling. "Ultimately, yes. But the nobility is accustomed to attention from the top of the chain of command. If they're upset about some problem, they come to me first."

"You don't discourage that?" She watched him over the rim of her glass, head tilted in curiosity.

He waggled the fingers of one hand and reached for his own glass. His was a fruity concoction adorned by a trio of grapes impaled on a wooden skewer. "It's complicated. I dislike it when a lord pressures my people to appease him with immediate results, or delivers an angry diatribe accusing them of incompetence. If a noble has some minor inconvenience, I trust them to tell it to the nearest flunky, if only because a flunky will be close at hand. But if the noble is truly upset, enough to find 'whomever's in charge', I'd rather they complained to me than my head of security. I'm not going to spend the rest of the day rattled because Lord Sky called me the head monkey at a zoo in the care of thieving pigeons and lackwit squirrels."

Smoke laughed. "Did he really call you that?"

Corydalis grinned back. "I regret to say he was rather more vulgar and rather less inventive than that."

"But someone did?" she asked. "Or have you had occasion to deploy that one yourself?"

"Ook ook," he said, with calm aplomb, and Smoke chuckled again. He liked the way she looked laughing, unselfconscious, the fine grey fur around her blue eyes crinkling with her amusement. Corydalis glanced away, pretending to admire a colorful gold-framed landscape on the restaurant wall.

"I suppose mysterious disappearing and reappearing papers are not likely to be connected to your ant problem," Smoke conceded.

"Probably not. Although the ants could have gotten into a locked room, granted. Do carpenter ants eat paper?"

She shook her head, smiling. "They don't actually eat wood, even. They dig homes and tunnels in it to hollow out living spaces."

"So much for that possibility. I know the fleas definitely don't eat paper. Not that it would explain the reappearance of the pages in any case. Security assures me that an enchanter would have to have broken the door, or at least the lock, to get inside. They haven't given up on the puzzle yet, but I don't believe they've made any progress on it. I don't suppose you've any insights?" Corydalis returned his gaze to her face, careful to remain leaning back and his posture casual. He was well aware of how easy it was for an individual of his size and position to intimidate others.

Poll #18476 Strange Happenings
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Insights

View Answers

"Perhaps..." (leave a comment with what, or support someone else's comment)
1 (12.5%)

"Not yet. What bill were they working on?"
2 (25.0%)

"Not yet. Did Hawthorne say how things had been rearranged?"
2 (25.0%)

Try to get conversation back to whether he usually meets everyone who works at Courthall
1 (12.5%)

Ask if there've been any other odd events like this one.
2 (25.0%)

Ask more about his own work.
0 (0.0%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
Corydalis studied the menu in front of him, conscious that he'd already spent an inordinate amount of time studying his fascinating new enchanter. And it bothered him that he didn't recognize Licorice by name: he made a point of knowing and meeting everyone who worked for Courthall. Yes, that was over a thousand people and it was unreasonable to assume he could remember them all, but it still niggled at him. Perhaps I should ask her what Licorice looks like; that might jog my memory.

Before he said anything, Smoke asked, "Has there been anything else strange going on at Courthall, apart from the influx of vermin?"

Corydalis chuckled. "I imagine that depends on what counts as 'strange'." At the tilt of her head, he added, "Most people find the machinations of representatives and nobles are often a little ... arcane. Perhaps even more arcane than actual arcana."

Smoke giggled. "Enchanting is a straightforward matter of applying the correct forces in the correct fashion. It is not easy, mind you. But when you know the art, it's perfectly logical."

"I daresay the same might be said for the art of politics. But the motivations of the players and their causes are always changing, and that means the nature of the game changes as well." He paused to consider her question in more detail. The cause of Rep. Meadowlark's complaints of this morning might qualify as a strange event, but discussing that struck him as too much like gossip. Another event did come to mind, however. "We did have something of a locked-room mystery."

"A locked-room mystery?" Smoke blinked at him.

"Nothing serious, mind," Corydalis added. "Just strange." He paused as the waiter returned to take their order. This story was a trifle gossipy too, but it was also common knowledge at Courthall. When the waiter had left again, the draka continued, "Several days ago, Lord Sky met with two representatives in the morning to discuss a proposed bill. They took a break at lunch, and Lord Sky locked the meeting room with their notes inside. When they returned, their notes were gone. Lord Sky locked the door again, and all three of them, with Sky's secretary in tow, came to cry murder and thievery at me. I accompanied them back to the meeting room. Lord Sky unlocked it -- and all their notes were on the table."

"What? Where they'd left them in the first place?" Smoke asked.

"To all appearances," Corydalis said. "Although Lord Sky's secretary, Mr. Hawthorne, thought they'd been rearranged from where he'd left them before lunch. Mr. Hawthorne was the one who'd been taking notes. But all four thought nothing was missing."

Smoke frowned. "Could they have returned to the wrong room the first time?"

"No, and that's one of the interesting parts. Lord Sky is more paranoid than most, and this was a private meeting room adjacent to his office. He has a special style of lock on it, with a clever arrangement where the keyhole is never visible," Corydalis said. At Smoke's perplexed look, he waved a hand. "You kind of have to see it to understand, but there's a cylinder that holds the key. You socket in the cylinder, then you can twist the mechanism so that it lines up with the key in the cylinder. Then you depress a button on the cylinder that puts the key in the lock, and turn that. I'm not convinced this mechanism is actually unpickable, but it's not pickable in the ordinary way.  Lord Sky has the only key, and it's the only room in Courthall with that particular key. And the room has no windows or other entrances."

"Well, if you've not a master key, why did they come crying to you about it?"

Corydalis chuckled. "Because I am the master of ceremonies, and it's my job to hear complaints if things disappear mysteriously."

Poll #18464 Strange Happenings
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 11


Mysterious!

View Answers

"Isn't that a job for Security?"
2 (18.2%)

"What bill were they working on?"
4 (36.4%)

"Did Hawthorne say how things had been rearranged?"
1 (9.1%)

Try to get conversation back to whether he usually meets everyone who works at Courthall
0 (0.0%)

Ask if there've been any other odd events like this one.
4 (36.4%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
Curry This smelled delicious even before they stepped inside, the scent of cumin, coriander, pepper and other spices hanging in the air. Smoke breathed it in, with a growing confidence that the food here would not be bland. Corydalis and she were overdressed for the atmosphere here. The staff wore simple off-shoulder dresses, or tunics with trousers, and the other patrons were dressed either as if they'd come from work, or in similarly casual attire. Heads turned their way as they waited to be seated. Smoke couldn't help thinking that Corydalis would draw eyes no matter what he was wearing, though.

If the draka noticed, he showed no sign of discomfort with the attention. His eyes were on her. "You look like you've come home."

"I love curry," she admitted. "My father made curries all the time when I was growing up. Coconut milk and chicken curry is my first comfort food."


"I hope Courthall is not driving you to comfort eating already."

Smoke laughed. "No, not at all. The exact nature of the problem is a conundrum, but I like puzzles. And all the people have been helpful and solicitous. Especially Blackwood and Licorice." The maitre'd led them to one of the tables near the center of the room. The restaurant was busy enough that the ones along the walls were all full.

"Ah, I am glad to hear it." He gave a slight shake of his head, smiling again. "I admit, I have had a private and rather irrational fear that you might find Courthall as difficult as your predecessor."

"Not at all! Blackwood not only flew me all the way back to Courthall himself, but he offered to guide me around on arrival. He showed me where the old gatherer was, and took me to the top of the House of Chambers so I could plant my own. Licorice was kind enough to show me about the rest of the building. She's the one who showed me the kitchen, where I discovered you had carpenter ants."

"Excellent! Ah, excellent that they took good care of you, that is. I remain unenthusiastic about the carpenter ants." He gave her another wry smile, and Smoke giggled. Corydalis hesitated a moment, then asked, "What department is Licorice in?"

"Maintenance."

Blond eyebrows drew together over gold eyes. "Hmm. Did she say what division?"

"No. She was fixing a problem with the hatch at the top of the Four's globe when we met," Smoke offered. "Why?"

"No reason. It's a large campus; I fear I don't know every employee." He said it apologetically, with the air of someone who thought he ought to know everyone. Or perhaps someone who had thought he did know everyone. Corydalis glanced down at his menu.

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That's interesting ...

View Answers

Ask Corydalis if he usually meets everyone who works at Courthall.
6 (46.2%)

Find out why he remembers Blackwood
2 (15.4%)

Ask more about Corydalis's family and interests outside of work
0 (0.0%)

Ask about Corydalis's work
0 (0.0%)

Ask if there are any other strange going-ons in Courthall
5 (38.5%)

rowyn: (Default)
"I would like to see the palace," Smoke admitted, even if she did expect to be in Hallston for a while and there was no urgency.

With an unselfconscious ease, Corydalis slid open the panel at the front of the floater and requested the driver detour to circle the palace. "To the left, if you please," he added, before sitting back. To Smoke, he continued, "There are tours of the public areas of the palace interior a few times a week, if you decide you'd like a closer look. But the exterior is worth seeing too."

The Hallston palace encompassed a full city block, and had a grandeur unlike the houses of the nobility around it. It was a feat of combined architecture and enchantment. It was all in alabaster white, faintly iridescent and illuminated by bright rows of light globes along its trim. Its wings rose to either side of the main building, in smooth arcs over private gardens. The glass bottoms of the wings cast light into the gardens. The grounds were a fanciful menagerie of plants, bushes, and flowers sculpted into the shapes of mythical animals, as well as suggesting the mysterious cliffs and exotic locales where such creatures might be found. Smoke pressed against the glass of her window to take it in: Corydalis's request to the driver meant the palace was on her side of the floater, rather than his. "Oh, it's marvelous! Is the Ruler in residence now? Is it as improbable on the inside as the out, or does it look like a place where people live?"

"The Ruler is not in residence at this time. I believe they are due next in a few weeks. The private quarters look like a place where people live. The public tours of the inside are just as unlikely as the exterior. It's a work of art."

Smoke glanced over her shoulder at him. "Have you seen the private quarters, Master Corydalis?"

"A couple of times. As assistant, not guest; I helped with the preparations for one of their majesty's private events."

Smoke raised her eyebrows. "You must have an interesting employment history, sir." She sat back in her seat as the floater completed the circuit of the palace and continued on its way to the restaurant.

The black draka shrugged. "No more so than anyone else, I should think. Did you train as an enchanter at a young age, Master Smoke?"

"At fourteen, yes. That was a normal age of apprenticeship when I was young." The normal age had been twelve, actually, though by law apprenticeships didn't start until sixteen now. Autumn was eighteen and Walnut seventeen. "I've never held a job out of the field." Smoke changed the subject quickly, before he could ask for more details. "Do you have family in Hallston?"

"My youngest daughter is an adjunct at Hallston University, and so busy that I only see her a little more often than her two older siblings," he said, with a wry smile. "I didn't grow up in the area, but I've lived here for the last thirty years."

"No spouses...?" Smoke asked, both curious and cautious of prying.

A shake of his head made a stray lock of gold hair fall across one eye. "My former wife and I divorced eight years ago. You?"

"My wife passed away two years ago," Smoke answered, wistful.

"Ah, my apologies. I am sorry for your loss."

"It's fine. I raised the subject." She smiled at him. "I have two grown children, too. A master goldsmith and a bookbinder. I still miss my wife, but I've no regrets."

"As it should be." The floater arrived at the Curry This, and Corydalis helped her out with a natural grace. He offered his arm, and they walked in together.

This poll is closed.
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Dinner conversation

View Answers

Ask about Corydalis's work
1 (7.7%)

Discuss who he thinks might be behind the sabotage
0 (0.0%)

Tell him about how helpful Licorice and Blackwood were yesterday
8 (61.5%)

Ask more about Corydalis's family and interests outside of work
1 (7.7%)

Ask if there are any other strange going-ons in Courthall
3 (23.1%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
"Mmm." Smoke curled one arm up to touch Master Corydalis's forearm. She hadn't meant to mock-faint into his lap: she'd been aiming for his shoulder and missed. Now that she was here, she hadn't quite figured out how to leave. He had a very comfortable lap. Lying in it was probably taking too much advantage of the casual atmosphere. "No, you sound like you have everything under control. Although, wait, I am a concerned about my apprentices, who will be arriving tomorrow. I normally have them run errands for me and do independent work, but I'm not sure that's advisable given the atmosphere. Could I -- I don't know -- get a local assistant? Someone who know their way around and could keep my boys from stepping into any hornets' nests?"

"Certainly that can be arranged." Master Corydalis was still smiling at her, with that devastating smile he'd employed at their first meeting. His legs shifted under her. He had a very  comfortable lap. Those long legs and strong arms provided plenty of support.

"Thank you, sir. You're very kind." I can't get up now, Smoke told herself. That'd make it look like I flopped against him just to extract a promise or something. I need to make getting up look natural. "How far is it from Courthall to the Trade District, do you know? I've not gotten my bearings in Hallston yet."

"Not far. Two miles or so, perhaps. The address you gave for Curry This might be two and a half. We're in the Crown District now."

"Oh, are we?" Smoke straightened; the draka gracefully assisted her, as if strange people fell into his lap all the time. Maybe they did. She gazed out the floater window on her left, away from him, and watched the Crown District. It had a lot of ancient mansions and manor houses. To Smoke's eye, they were over-ornamented and sprawling. She liked the height and grandeur and cleaner lines of Crescent Bay's skyline better. As residences for a single family, they were imposing. She couldn't imagine the army of maids needed just for dusting. "Are we going to pass the Palace?"

"Not exactly. You'll be able to glimpse it on the right, when we reach Candid Street. But we'll be several blocks shy of it. We could ask the driver to detour, if you like."

Smoke turned to look past him. He'd obligingly leaned back so she could see out his window.

Poll #18413 Sight-seeing
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Detour?

View Answers

"No, that's fine." Lean over him to look at it at Candid Street, though.
7 (53.8%)

"Yes, please, I'd like to see it."
6 (46.2%)

Next topic?

View Answers

Comment on how exciting it is to work in the nation's capitol, ask how long he's worked at Courthall.
1 (7.7%)

Ask if he has family in Hallston.
3 (23.1%)

Ask who he does think would be behind the sabotage, if it's not Pouring Magic.
3 (23.1%)

Tell him about how helpful Licorice was yesterday.
2 (15.4%)

Tell him about how helpful Blackwood was yesterday.
4 (30.8%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
The master enchanter gave Corydalis another of her wide-eyed looks, ears canted downwards in dismay. "No! Not at all; I need to know these things to do my job. How are you going to keep my work from being sabotaged, or me from being run off by your partisan legislators?" She put a hand to her forehead dramatically. "This is extremely alarming!" With a little twist of her torso, she swooned backwards towards him.

Startled, Corydalis caught her in his lap, one arm behind her shoulders. His other hand crossed over her chest catch her arm against her side and ensure she didn't slide off. "Er. Master Smoke?"

She cracked open one eye, as if spying surreptitiously. "My hero! You'll protect me, won't you?" Smoke gave him a little mischevious smile and added, "All right, maybe not that alarming. But I admit it is disconcerting. How do I keep out of all these machinations?"

He chuckled. "In fairness, until you came into my office this morning, actual sabotage or circumvention of the wards had not struck me as at all probable. If Pouring Magic was willing to to conduct sabotage, the wards would have been the place to start, not something they'd attempt two years after the accusation. Moreover, nothing in the investigation indicated P.M. had engaged in any wrongdoing. There wasn't just insufficient proof: there was no evidence. The two companies have an acrimonious rivalry, but that's a far cry from criminal conduct or tortious interference," he answered, gazing down at her. Her slight frame felt beguilingly comfortable against his lap. This is not professional behavior,he told himself. Laugh at her joke and help her sit up. Instead, he found himself shifting his legs to provide better support for her back.

"So you don't think they've done anything unethical." As Smoke started to sit up, the floater turned up a steep slope and gravity tipped her against his chest. She paused, her cheek snuggled against his lapel.

"Eh." Corydalis raised one hand enough to waggle the fingers. "Unethical is a much broader term." Encompassing things like cuddling up to one's contractors, he reminded himself, and then countered with, oh, lighten up. Holding her for thirty seconds is nothing like sexual intercourse, and it's not like she's throwing herself at me to get the contract. She already has the contract. He cleared his throat and continued, "I judged W. E. guilty of avoiding work, a tendency exacerbated by a bad personal relationship with Courthall employees. And P.M. guilty of nothing worse than pursuing the contract with uncommon vigor, exacerbated by a vindictive streak. Neither company has stirred up rumors of bad behavior outside of their conflict with one another, and nothing within the conflict has any evidence. It felt more like the situation when the wind knocks over a vase, and two siblings hear the crash and immediately point to the other. "He did it, Dad!"" He smiled at Smoke again. "As an unrelated party, I did not anticipate any trouble for you from them. And I still think sabotage by Pouring Magic is unlikely. But Courthall security is investigating the sabotage given your information. And I did position a lookout to keep an eye on your new gatherers. We'll be increasing overall security in the buildings starting tomorrow to watch for saboteurs. Are there any other particular measures you'd like me to take to assure your safety, or that of your work?"

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Additional measures?

View Answers

No, that sounds good
12 (85.7%)

Yes, I'd like a bodyguard
1 (7.1%)

Yes (leave a comment with what)
1 (7.1%)

How long do you plan to stay in his lap?

View Answers

Ack ack UNPROFESSIONAL whose idea* was this SIT LIKE A PROPER ADULT SMOKE
4 (28.6%)

Just a few more minutes and then I'll behave. When it seems politic.
8 (57.1%)

How long is this floater going to take to get to Curry This?
2 (14.3%)

We don't really NEED dinner, do we?
0 (0.0%)



* It was archangelbeth's idea, and yes I rolled it. :D
rowyn: (Smoke)
Smoke watched him, ears tilted in a listening pose. "What are the details, if I may ask?"

Next to her in the floater, Corydalis grimaced. On the one hand, gossip did not become a person in his position, and on the other, the details might be relevant to Smoke's work. "It's hard to decide where to begin. You know the stereotype of corruption, where lawmakers hire their friends and relatives to do work instead of hiring the person best suited to the job?" At her nod, he continued, "It is rarely so simple as that stereotype. Sometimes one befriends people because one admires how well they do their job. Or one's relation offers the best rate for a contract. Or some other objective measure shows them the most qualified."

He gestured with one hand to wave that aside. "But you get the idea. It is difficult to pick apart relationships or be assured of true objectivity.

"Windbreak Enchantments was first hired by the government .fifty-seven years ago. Their work was, at the time, considered good. When Courthall's were the only buildings in that part of the city to survive the Hallston Inferno forty years ago, Windbreak's reputation improved to impeccable. They started trying to convince us to switch to a new style of wards -- more costly upfront, but cheaper to maintain -- thirty-five years ago. Twenty-eight years ago, when my predecessor and the general opinion of the day concluded the new method well-established and sound, we made the switch. Around that time, the company accepted an apprentice, Rain. Rain's older brother is now Representative Kite. He was mayor of Hallston at the time. One of W.E.'s masters, Berry, married Ash, the brother of the Duchess of Deeplakes.

"Since then, Windbreak Enchantment's founder has retired. Four partners, including now-Master Rain and Master Berry, ran the firm for several years. Then Rain left under acrimonious circumstances, the details of which do not reflect well on either side. Rain founded her own enchantment firm, Pouring Magic. Representative Kite has tried, several times, by various means, to place the contract for Courthall with Pouring Magic. The Duchess of Deeplakes was adamant about maintaining the contract with W.E. The manuevering between the two has become the source of its own feud."

Corydalis took a deep breath. "Two years ago, the maintenance department started having communication issues with W. E. Our department claimed they weren't keeping agreed appointments, their department claimed the appointments didn't exist or were at another time. They said Courthall wasn't taking necessary steps, our side said we'd never been told to do so, etcetera. We changed the contacts on both sides, things settled for a couple of months, then got worse. Pouring Magic has been courting my people in maintenance, to convince them we should switch. The Duchess of Deeplakes found out and accused Pouring Magic of sabotage. Not of the wards, mind you -- at the time we didn't have any problems with the wards themselves." Corydalis spread his hands. "But of the ruining the professional relationship, by stealing or forging correspondence between us. Courthall security conducted an investigation and found no evidence of this. But by the time we did start having issues with the wards, the atmosphere was thoroughly poisoned. Windbreak Enchantments is convinced of bad faith on our part, and most of my subordinates are convinced of bad faith on theirs. I went to Crescent Bay to find you, Master Smoke, because the local situation is simply impossible. And I didn't ask you to report to maintenance because they are justifiably embittered by months of dealing with fleas, rats, ants, and enchanters who insist all three are directly or indirectly their fault. Moreover, I don't want to bring the weight of the duchess's disapproval down on them, and likely you, in addition to everything else. So. That is how I end up with you as my direct report." He smiled wryly. "Are you sorry you asked yet?"

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Well ...

View Answers

... yes. Let's talk about something else. What do you do for fun in Hallston?
1 (7.7%)

Wait, is this duchess going to hate me anyway? For displacing her sister? Or was that one the brother-in-law? What about Pouring Magic, do I need to watch out for them?
5 (38.5%)

What did *you* believe was going on -- was Pouring Magic or Windbreak Enchantments doing something unethical or illegal?
7 (53.8%)

Did any of you think maybe you should've warned me about this before I took the job?
0 (0.0%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
"I told you I could help, Master Corydalis." Master Smoke gave him a playful smile. Corydalis smiled back, and then ducked his head quickly as one horn caught on a tree branch along the path to the street. Watch where you're going, not just her, he reminded himself. What are you, besotted? You shouldn't be staring like that at a contractor in any event. He schooled his eyes forward as Smoke said, "I feel silly for not knowing, but, um, what exactly does a master of ceremonies do? I mean, here at Courthall. I gather it's not like the theatrical equivalent."

Corydalis chuckled. "Not exactly, no, although sometimes the job does feel like directing a three-ring circus. I am the head of those functions of Courthall that are not directly related to governance. So, for example, maintenance, catering, scribe and messenger services, Courthall security, groundskeeping, entertainment, events planning -- these departments all ultimately answer to me. The representatives and nobility have some personal staff, and they organize the committee and general assembly meetings and other affairs of governance."

Smoke's blue eyes rounded, her ears canted to the side as she gazed up at him. "Oh. That sounds like a lot of work."

"It is," he said, ruefully. "But I have a great deal of help. When I have too much to do, it is almost always my own fault."

"How is that?"

By now they had reached the street, and Corydalis spread his wings and held out a hand to flag down one of the patrolling floaters. He handed Smoke into its cab, then followed behind her. "Because it means that I have chosen to do work myself that I ought to delegate to someone else. Or I have chosen the wrong delegate for a job and I need to hire the right one. There are some fires one cannot avoid having to put out oneself, of course. But the art lies in getting the right people pointed in the right directions, and then loosing them to their tasks. If I do that properly, there's nothing left for me to do."

Smoke leaned back in the floater seat, her grey features thoughtful. "That still sounds like a lot of work. So if you're in charge of all the non-governing stuff, who do you report to?"

"The prime minister," he told her.

She gave him a sidelong look so alarmed that Corydalis laughed. "You report to the prime minister?!"

"Don't worry, it's not contagious."

"I don't mean -- that is -- what are you doing managing a replacement enchanter personally?"

"My job." He gave her another rueful smile, and added, "Badly. The details comprise a complicated political equation."

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Complicated political equation?

View Answers

Ask for the details! They might be important!
10 (71.4%)

Don't pry for details. Ask about his personal life.
0 (0.0%)

Ask what he likes about his work
4 (28.6%)

Ask about life in Hallston, the capital city.
0 (0.0%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
Master Corydalis looked, if anything, more astonishing than he had at their morning meeting. He'd changed as well, into a jacket with a long, swishing train and a high front: considered a feminine cut in Lightshel, though it looked good on every gender. Corydalis, with his broad shoulders and narrow hips, wore it very well indeed. As she stood beside him, she thought he was even taller than she'd thought, until she realized from his stride that he was wearing high-heeled boots:. Heels were masculine choice, for the extra height they gave and the elegance they lent a man's walk.

Absorbed by the look of him, the striking contrast between gold hair and black skin, the feel of his muscular arm beneath her hand, Smoke almost missed his question. Her words tripped over themselves to make up for the pause. "I had a great day! The supply store was out of treated oakleaf, which is my usual durability reagent for gatherer spells. But I'd heard titanium-gold wire was superior, and they had that. So I got it, and a book on techniques, and it was amazing! There are so many applications for the stuff, and it has a lot of properties that will make information spells much better. For instance, I have an analysis spell that I use on all my gatherers, and with this wire, I was able to make it a much more detailed spell. It's much better at pinpointing the source of anomalous reports, whether it's interference through the Wall, or a physical event, and even what kind of physical event: weather, water, fire, physical disruption by living or nonliving material. Also, it'll make the gatherer itself more resilient against that kind of interference."

Smoke beamed up at him as she babbled on, "and that's not even all! I haven't finished the book yet, because I needed to get all those gatherers set up. Which I did! Five of them. But I'm looking forward to rest of the monograph because my work is so dependent on good information, and this is a treasure mine. I do hope it's not overstating the matter." She ground to a halt, abruptly realizing she'd been burbling technicalities at a non-practitioner. Her ears tilted back. "My apologies, Master Corydalis, I didn't intend to ramble on. I hope your day went well?"

He smiled, setting Smoke at ease. "My day was fine, if not so engrossing as yours. When will your work of today bear fruit?"

"I'll check them tomorrow. They'll have records of any activity that happens between setup and then. There's some overlap with the new ones and the one I set up yesterday, so I'm curious to see if they give different results. The new ones will indicate ant activity inside the wards even if the ants don't cross the barriers -- that's a feature of the new wire! -- so I can find where your carpenter ant nests are, since they're likely to be inside the buildings."

Corydalis's eyes lit. "Now that is excellent news."

This poll is closed.
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What to talk about next?

View Answers

Ask if he's got anyone investigating who might be sabotaging Courthall.
0 (0.0%)

Ask about his personal life: "I hope I'm not keeping you from your family."
2 (16.7%)

Talk about Smoke's plans for tomorrow
1 (8.3%)

Ask about his job: what does a 'master of ceremonies' do?
9 (75.0%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
Smoke had only brought one change of clothes to Hallston. They were expecting their wardrobe to catch up with them when the apprentices did, tomorrow. But they didn't want to wear the same clothes to dinner when they'd been tromping around dusty rooftops in it all day. Not that they'd changed for dinner yesterday, but Master Corydalis's day suit had been more formal than what Licorice or Blackwood were wearing. So they stopped at a ready-made clothing store instead of going back to the hotel.

They browsed through the sorts of things they usually wore: long jackets in rich colors or dark ones, silk scarves, crisp shirts, and the like. None of felt right, and Smoke found themselves drifting towards fancy, frilly clothing.

An evening gown like the sun rising caught their eye, dyed firey red at the ankle-length hem to pale yellow at the high collar. It had a matched short jacket with lace cuffs, lending it an air of professionalism despite the long, draping skirt. It didn't have the beading or jewels of the most formal gowns.

Smoke didn't own anything like it.

They tried it on, and stood before the dressing room mirror, staring at a feminine reflection. Slowly, Smoke exchanged enby earrings and put on a pair of female ones she had in her jacket pocket. She was surprised to find how much she liked the drape and swish of the dress, the hidden girdle that slimmed her waist, the way the jacket sugested more bust than she possessed, the cheerful pastel colors, everything womanly about it. She wanted it at once, and second-guessed that desire almost as quickly. Is this the right kind of dress to wear to a dinner with my new employer? Why did I ask my new employer to dinner anyway? Do I want to be female because Master Corydalis is so very imposingly male? Am I afraid that being enby is too much like competing with him, and I can't? Am I trying to conform to some ancient stereotype of little female paired with larger male? That sterotype doesn't even work for draka, their females are taller. Smoke's train of thought derailed as she tried to imagine a person bigger than Corydalis. ... usually taller. Maybe not taller than him. Would Master Corydalis find a smaller male more appealing? Do I care this much about what he thinks? Is  this about him?

Or do I just want to wear a pretty dress and be female for a few hours?


Smoke rolled her eyes. The whole thing felt like a debate that ought to have been settled a century ago, when gender-signal earrings fell into fashion and people stopped policing the gender identities of others. But here she was.

She made sure the expense form fit in one of the gown's pockets, then strode out of the dressing room with the skirt swishing pleasingly about her ankles. "I'll take this, please." She let the clerk talk her into matching slippers, but held the line when he tried to persuade her to add costume jewelry or a flashier pair of female earrings. She didn't want her outfit to be too fanciful.

When she returned to Courthall, she found Corydalis already in the House of Chambers' lobby. "Oh! I hope I've not kept you waiting long, sir."

Corydalis half-turned at the sound of her voice. His motion froze, arrested, wings raised slightly for balance. Then he completed the move and delivered a courteous bow. "Not at all, master enchanter. I came down from my office only a moment ago."

Smoke relaxed, returning a curtsey. "Good timing, then. Did you have any place in particular in mind? Someone recommended I try Curry This and it sounded good."

"I've not been there, madame, but I am game to try." He offered his arm. "Please, lead on." As she took his arm and they glided out of the giant lobby, he asked, "So, how did your first full day at Courthall go?"

Poll #18383 How did it?
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How did it?

View Answers

Burble excitedly about uncovering new applications for titanium-gold wire
4 (40.0%)

Recap work on gatherers concisely, ask him about his day.
5 (50.0%)

"Great! I met you! Oh, adding new gatherers went fine too. How was your day?"
0 (0.0%)

Comment on how exciting it is to work in the nation's capitol, ask how long he's been at Courthall.
1 (10.0%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
After a few moments of dithering, Smoke asked the clerk, "Have you any good references on substitutions, or titanium-gold wire? I've heard good things about it, but I've not worked with it personally."

At the question, the kith clerk's blue eyes lit. "Oh, yes! We have a new monograph on metal wires, by Clover of Darkwrit City -- have you heard of him? He's very good, you'll love it." She led them to the shelves, sable-pointed tail flirting behind her. "We have three different alloys, but you'll want the 7:2, Clover says it's the best for information magic." It was also the cheapest, giving Smoke more confidence in the recommendation. "Are you an enchanter?" they asked the clerk.

"I want to be! I haven't found a master taking apprentices, and the colleges of magic are all too expensive for me." She sighed, wistful, then flashed a smile. "That's why I like working here! When it's slow, I can read through all the books."

Smoke felt a moment of regret that they didn't need a new apprentice. They purchased the book and the other supplies, and remembered they were having dinner with Master Corydalis tonight and they hardly knew any restaurant in town. "Do you have any recommendations for places to eat?" they asked the clerk.

Her ears perked. "Sure! Do you want fancy or homey or what? Do you like spicy?"

"Who doesn't like spicy?" Smoke asked, honestly bewildered. "Uhh ... one of each?"

The clerk grinned. "A kith after my own heart! My favorite fancy restaurant is Sunflare, which is all fondue and will make the broth and sauces as spicy as you like. For more casual, there's Curry This, which has like a million different curries and they're all great."

"Thank you!"

On the return ride to Courthall, Smoke skimmed through the book. It made for fascinating reading; Smoke didn't want to put it down to work on the gatherers. But after making sure they had a solid understanding of how to use their new reagent, they started putting up gatherers around Courthall.

They added five new ones, total, each on top of one of the tall buildings surrounding the complex's park. By the time they finished the last, it was near dinner time. Smoke returned to their hotel room to change.

Poll #18377 Dressing for Dinner
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What gender does Smoke want to present tonight?

View Answers

Femme (she)
2 (13.3%)

Tomgirl (they)
8 (53.3%)

Equally male & female (they)
5 (33.3%)

Feminine male (he)
0 (0.0%)

Where should they eat?

View Answers

The Big Cheese (which Licorice recommended).
0 (0.0%)

The Quarry (they went their last night).
0 (0.0%)

Curry This
10 (66.7%)

Sunflare
3 (20.0%)

Ask Corydalis to pick somewhere
2 (13.3%)

How shall they dress?

View Answers

Fancy (which Licorice recommended).
9 (60.0%)

Sexy (they went their last night).
1 (6.7%)

Professional
6 (40.0%)

Casual
3 (20.0%)



(The last question will be graduated, so a bit of everything based on how many votes each gets. And I was rushed trying to get this poll to work, so I duplicated some stuff from the previous question by accident. Oops. Just ignore the stuff in parenthesis in the last question.).
rowyn: (Smoke)
Smoke dropped their eyes, hesitant. "As it happens, I normally only need one gatherer for a job like this. So I did not bring enough supplies to create several. It's too late now to have my apprentices bring the supplies when they come, so I should buy components on site. Would you direct me to whatever forms I need to complete for an advance?"

The master of ceremonies gave another of his quirky smiles. "Of course. Allow me to expedite the process. How much do you need today?"

Their eyes eyes rolled up, trying to do some quick calculations. They named a conservative figure. "It'll be at least that, but I can cover any excess out of my own funds for now."

Corydalis walked to a wall safe in his office and opened it, then extracted a sheaf of shek from a cash box. He counted out the sum Smoke had named, then increased it by 20%. "Let's not take any chances. I'll need a receipt from you." He wrote out two on a pad of paper, then had them sign it. "The budget office has expense on hand ... " He rummaged through a desk drawer to produce one with a flourish. "I'll direct this amount to be repaid to petty cash for my office ... " He filled in a box on the second page, then handed it to them. "There. It takes them a few weeks to reimburse, and I do not want you delayed."

"Thank you." Smoke smiled at him, then glanced at the page and gave a daunted laugh. "These are very ... thorough, I see. I'd better consult them for directions. Unless perhaps you could give me pointers? Over dinner?" Smoke canted their ears to the sides, caught between optimism and the desire to cringe at their own forwardness. They were afraid to look up from the form.

But when they did, Corydalis smiled at them as if it were any ordinary request. "Of course. It would be my pleasure."

Smoke was pretty sure they responded with something normal, like "Thank you, master of ceremonies. Good day," before they left. And probably no actual squealing. But they would not have wanted to swear to that in a court of law.

In any case, they recalled themselves to their job when Corydalis's secretary gave them a pocket map of the complex, with directions to an unused office and a key. "You can work out of there, if you need some space to review blueprints or store your equipment or whatever."

Smoke stopped by to make sure the key worked: it was a little windowless cube in the interior of the Hall of Bureaucracies. They dropped off the blueprint case, but took the folder with them to review while they took a floater to the nearest arcane supply store.

The folder told a grim story of the history between Windbreak Enchantments and Courthall. It began with the usual fare: negotiations between the two, a commitment list from Windbreak, followed by invoices and then maintenance correspondence. But over the last couple of years, Windbreak had become increasingly unresponsive. A half-dozen copies of letters from Courthall were answered by curt notes: "Will discuss in person at meeting." It wasn't clear if there were always notes from these meetings, or if the meetings even happened. But what notes did exist were unproductive. No wonder Corydalis had wanted to be quit of these people. The folder didn't contain the maintenance logs for Courthall. Smoke made a mental note to ask after those when they visited Windbreak Enchantments.

When they reached the enchanter's supply store, Smoke found the prices there lower than the same supplies in Crescent Bay. But they were completely out of stressed oakleaf ivy. Other kinds of stressed ivies could be substituted, and they had grenache which would be adequate for a gatherer. But oakleaf made for more durable, long-lasting enchantments. Smoke knew of a technique for using titanium-gold wire that was supposed to make even better gatherers than oakleaf, and the store did have titanium-gold wire. But they'd never actually tried using it because the wire was so much pricier. They asked out the counter, and the clerk recommended a couple of other stores in the area, but didn't know if they'd have it in stock either.

Poll #18367 Substitutions or Not
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Should Smoke keep looking?

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No, it might take an hour or two and they want results NOW. The gatherers are going to be redundant, they don't need to last years. Weeks is probably enough. Grenache will do fine.
1 (10.0%)

Check the other stores for oakleaf; durable might be important if they're being sabotaged. Although their initial gatherer did use oakleaf.
2 (20.0%)

Everything else is cheaper than expected: get the titanium-gold wire and a book on the technique for using it to bone up.
6 (60.0%)

Get a couple of new books on substitutions and look through them to see if there's anything else Smoke could use that they don't already know about.
1 (10.0%)

rowyn: (Default)
Smoke bit their lip, considering Corydalis's question. "Install more gatherers first. You'd normally only need one for a job like this, but multiple gatherers will have overlapping reports and be harder to tamper with. You can't really lock up a gatherer; it needs to be exposed to collect data. But if you can spare some people you trust to keep an eye on them and make sure no one tampers with them, that would be good.

"After that, my next priority would be to speak with Windbreak Enchantments. That shouldn't take long. Then work on mitigation. Once the gatherers have had some time to work, I'll have a better idea of where the current wards are weak and can reinforce appropriately. It'll give my apprentices time to arrive from Crescent Bay with my equipment, too."

The tall dark draka nodded, his gold gaze thoughtful on her. "I endorse your plan, master enchanter. I'll ask Security about guards to watch the new gatherers; if you want to designate one a priority, that will be more feasible than all of them. Windbreak Enchantment's address is in here with our all other documents on them and Courthall's wards." Corydalis offered a blueprint case along with a folder. "Courthall will cover your expenses. If you've never worked with the bureaucracy before: be sure to keep receipts and itemize everything. Document everything. It will make your life much easier in the long run." The corner of his mouth twitched up with an apologetic quirk.

He rose and came around the desk. Smoke stood as well, which did not make them feel any less dwarfed as Corydalis took their hand. "Thank you for your advice, Master Smoke. This is already the most productive conversation I've had with an enchanter in years. Is there anything else I can do to make your work easier?" he asked, the expression on his face sincere and considerate. For a dizzying moment, Smoke felt as if the full power of Courthall might be at their disposal, just for the asking.

Poll #18356 Assistance
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How may he?

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"An advance would be good. The components for gatherers are expensive and I came too quickly to pack."
2 (18.2%)

"Um, how about dinner? I mean, I could tell you about my progress tomorrow night. Over dinner. Yes. A business dinner. Very common in Crescent Bay."
6 (54.5%)

"No, thank you. I'll let you know if I need anything."
2 (18.2%)

Something the author forgot (leave a comment)
1 (9.1%)

Anything else Smoke wants to mention?

View Answers

Blackwood knew where they put the new gatherer.
0 (0.0%)

Licorice knew too.
0 (0.0%)

Name both.
3 (27.3%)

Don't say anything. It was the obvious place to put a gatherer. Anyone who knew enough about enchantments to tamper with one would expect it to be there, so there's no reason to cast suspicions on bystanders that Smoke drafted to help.
8 (72.7%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
Don't stare, Smoke told themselves. Do not stare at the giant sexy draka. He is your boss. Remember this. They tilted their head back to meet his gold eyes. Smoke was not a short person: they were of a height with an average draka. But their head didn't even reach Master Corydalis's shoulders. "I, um, I'm your new enchanter, and would you be able to tell me where maintenance is? I need to ask them a quick question and then I'll be right back. Sorry. It's related to the job." They canted their ears back, making their earrings chime.

Master Corydalis raised his eyebrows, bemused. "Certainly. Their main office is on the second floor, at the far end of the Green Hall. There's a sign on the door."

"Great." Smoke backpedaled to the door. "I'll be right back. Thank you. Sorry." They fled down the hall, thinking I am not prepared for this.

The maintenance office did log animal corpse removal, thankfully, and verified that they'd removed a dead rat from the west side of the building, on the outside. Smoke's gatherer had reported three rats as passing through through the wards, and no deaths. So ... it still didn't add up.

Frowning, they started back to their employer's office. A draka enby emerged from the office to call after them: "Excuse me, master enchanter?" Smoke paused, letting the other enby catch up. "You were asking about the rat corpse from this morning?"

"Yes?"

"I found it, and it was ... strange. I did cleanup yesterday today, and didn't see it then. But when I found it this morning, it looked like it'd been dead for days, to be honest. I'd've thought a dog or cat had dragged it there and left it, but it was only crow-pecked."

Smoke's frown deepened. "Thank you." That ... didn't make any of this more sensible. They dashed back up the steps to the fourth floor. The kith secretary waved them into the inner office this time.

Master Corydalis sat at a massive desk, reading a report when Smoke stepped inside, but rose with a smile at their arrival. "Good morning, master enchanter. I am Corydalis, master of ceremonies for Courthall." He came around the desk to offer his hand.

His grip was warm and firm but considerate; Smoke hadn't felt this small next to someone since they were a child. It was different with a dragon-form draka: one expected them to be huge. "I'm Smoke. Master enchanter. From Crescent Bay. And you already knew all that. Um. Sorry about running off on you." And this must be the worst first impression I've made on any one since my apprenticeship.

Corydalis's smile widened. "It's a pleasure to meet you, honored. I'm glad to see you are already hard at work on our troubles here. I'd not expected you for a few days, at least. Much less to be already too busy for a meeting. Please, have a seat. Have you uncovered anything already that you wished to share?"

They sank into the chair opposite the draka's. At least he didn't loom so large sitting down. His coloration was still gorgeous, though. Smoke fixed their eyes on the desktop. Focus. "A few things, master of ceremonies. The existing wards at Courthall are a sloppy affair, as I expect you've already surmised."

The draka grimaced. "I hope you're not going to follow that with 'and they need to be replaced entirely.'"

"No." Smoke took a deep breath and raised their eyes to meet Corydalis's. "To be fair, I'm not sure the wards are the cause of your vermin problem. They might be a component, but part of Courthall's problems look like sabotage."

Corydalis sat back in his chair, blonde eyebrows lifted, as he returned Smoke's attention. "I see. What leads you to this conclusion, master enchanter?"

Poll #18327 So Many Things
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What will Smoke give as their reasons? What do they suspect? (Feel free to leave comments instead of using poll box)



This poll is a little different! I will use all the responses that are sensible and based on things Smoke has observed so far. (They don't have to be specific, it can be 'X happened and made me suspicious'). For responses that seem implausible to me based on Smoke's experiences, I'll roll to see if they gets included anyway, with the roll weighted based on how far-fetched the suggestion is.

I'm on vacation in Seattle for the next four days, so this poll will be open until Tuesday morning.
rowyn: (Default)



Pic inspired by the way they've interacted thus far in the Twitter version. :)
rowyn: (Smoke)
Breakfast at the commissary was starch-laden, bland, and unfathomably sweet. Most of the foods were baked or pan-fried concotions of fine-ground grains, milk, and eggs. The commissary then offered to top these already-sweet goods with a variety of sauces, all of which were so syrupy-sweet that the fruits scattered within seemed tart by comparison. There was no spice in any of it, unless one counted the one set of pastries that had a filling of butter and sugar with a hint of cinnamon. Even the sausages were unspiced, in addition to being of unidentifiable provenance.

Smoke did not linger over their platter of various-textured sugars. They were almost surprised there weren't kitchen ants in the commissary, with all these sweets to lure them.

But a quick check revealed signs of carpenter ants in the commissary, and none of kitchen ants.

Smoke did a quick round of the wards on the outsides of the buildings in the complex: they all looked much the same as the ones at the House of Chambers. Adequate, undamaged braided wards. They went to the roof of the House of Chambers to check on their gatherer.

Their gatherer reported incursions, one of rats and a different one for fleas, through two different spots on the outside of the existing wards.

Smoke would have found this report of normal, predictable problems much more heartening if the gatherer-analysis spell they'd left on it had not reported that there were problems with the gatherer.

The analysis spell couldn't tell Smoke what had caused the problems, only that it was reporting false positives on penetrations. Meaning attacks that had been repelled might show as successful. That bias would be particularly pronounced for ones connected to rats or fleas.

It was conceivable that Smoke had made a mistake in setting up the gatherer, or that some accident had caused the gatherer to have issues with its data. But Smoke found both the timing and the problem suspicious.

Smoke re-adjusted the gatherer, then went to the sites of the reports. They couldn't find any signs of bodies. Flea corpses, they could've overlooked. Rats, not so much. They went inside to find maintenance to ask if any rat corpses had been cleaned up overnight. But once inside, they realized it was only a few minutes until their meeting with Master Corydalis.

One of the guards escorted Smoke up four flights of stairs in the east wing of the House of Chambers, and down a marble hall. The building was beautifully crafted, the carved moldings and frescoed ceilings that depicted famous places from across the nation. Paintings and sculptures gifted by foreign dignitaries adorned the walls and stood on pedestals. It felt almost palatial.
Most of the doors in the hall were closed, though lights through frosted glass panes showed they were occupied. The office of the master of ceremonies had an open door to an antechamber occupied by a young kith man. The inner office door was closed.

Smoke introduced themselves to the kith, who assured them the master of ceremonies would be with them momentarily.

Behind the inner door, Smoke heard muffled voices, a deep bass rumble and a vibrant alto. The alto had begun with aggrieved, angry tones that mellowed as the conversation continued. Smoke debated asking the secretary where maintenance was and telling him they'd be right back.

Before they'd made up their mind to do so, the door opened. An elf woman with the kind of beauty elves were famed for stepped out: she moved with a fluid, natural grace, delicate features, full lips, skin warm brown and thick black hair woven into box braids and secured by golden clasps.  She wore a flowing red overrobe over cream trousers.

Behind her was the largest humanlike-form draka Smoke had ever seen. He was so tall that he had to duck to keep his gold horns from scraping the door frame, and his shoulder broad enough that he seemed to fill it. He had gorgeous features and striking coloration: skin midnight-black, mane a burnished gold a few shades paler than his horns and eyes.

"Thank you so for your help, Master Corydalis." The elf had her head tilted back to watch him with fond eyes as he escorted her to the door.

"Of course, Representative Meadowlark. You know I am glad to be of service." He smiled as she stepped into the hall. After she left, his smile lapsed into a fleeting, pained expression, then he rallied and turned his smile upon Smoke.

It was a powerful smile.

"Good morning, honored. How may I be of assistance?"

Poll #18322 Assistance
This poll is closed.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 11


How may he?

View Answers

"I'm the new enchanter and actually can you tell me where maintenance is? I need to ask them a quick question and I'll be right back, sorry."
3 (27.3%)

Tell Corydalis that the vermin problem is probably sabotage.
1 (9.1%)

Tell him the wards are sloppy and Smoke will fix them.
0 (0.0%)

"These are sloppy wards but they're not your only problem."
7 (63.6%)

Smoke's demeanor?

View Answers

I am Professional. So Professional.
2 (18.2%)

Trying not to stare.
2 (18.2%)

So out of my depth and also league.
4 (36.4%)

I would totally flirt if I only knew how.
3 (27.3%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
"I thought I told you to call me Smoke," the enchanter told Blackwood with mock sterness. Smoke stepped in to slip their arms around the dragon's neck and hug him. Heartened, Blackwood returned the hug by tucking his chin against their back, then they took their leave.

As he carried Licorice to her building, they chatted idly for a minute or two. In a lull, Blackwood asked hesitantly, "Am I beling paranoid, or did I make a terrible mistake in asking them how they became an enchanter?"

"Terrible mistake," Licorice confirmed, bluntly. Blackwood winced, and the human leaned down in the harness to pat his shoulder consolingly. "It'll be all right. I think they forgave you."

*

They were very nice people, Smoke thought, waving as Licorice and Blackwood flew off. But I'm not getting into that whole sordid story with people I've only just met. Still, I could've handled that more gracefully.

With a sigh, they checked into their room at the hotel and prepared for bed.

The next morning, they rose early, with plenty of time to consider their approach.

Poll #18312 New day
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 15


Work to do!

View Answers

Go to the Courthall commissary for breakfast and poke around investigating wards before meeting with Corydalis
8 (53.3%)

Find an enchanter supply store in Hallston and try to get supplies to tackle ant problem
2 (13.3%)

Write apprentices to make sure they bring the right supplies when they arrive in next few days, then meet Master Corydalis at Courthall
5 (33.3%)

rowyn: (Smoke)
By this time, even Blackwood had finished eating, and the waitstaff had surreptitiously placed a ticket on the table. Smoke splayed their ears at the question, the insides reddening. "Oh, um, well." They picked up the ticket; it only tallied their meal and Licorice's, since Blackwood had an account. "I didn't realize it had gotten so late! I didn't mean to make you fly back in the dark, Blackwood. I should let you go." They scooted out of their seat and headed for the counter to pay.

Blackwood exchanged a glance with Licorice, who gave an exaggerated shrug. The two headed after Smoke. "I apologize for my impertinent question, Smoke," Blackwood said. "I did not mean to presume."

Smoke turned and gave him a dazzling smile. "What? Oh, no, not at all." They touched his hand in reassurance. "I just know how early you had to rise this morning, and of course I have that meeting with Master Corydalis. And I've already made both of you work so hard today -- "

Licorice licked sauce from the corner of her mouth. "I've worked a lot harder, believe me."

The kith enby smiled at both of them. "You're very kind. But I should get checked in to my hotel." Smoke turned back to pay for the ticket, stifling a yawn.

Blackwood offered them a ride, which both accepted. Smoke's hotel was closest, so he dropped them off first. Licorice claimed a good-night hug from the enchanter. Blackwood felt too self-conscious to shift to humanlike form when he still had to drop Licorice off, and envied her that hug. "Good night, master enchanter," he said, subdued, long neck snaked to bring his draconic head level with them.

This poll is closed.
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oh no sad dragon

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"Didn't I tell you to call me Smoke?" *hug dragon neck*
14 (93.3%)

Ask Blackwood to change shape for a proper hug.
0 (0.0%)

Oblivious to sad dragon, wave g'night and leave
1 (6.7%)

Must be professional, professionals are not huggy. Give Licorice stern look, go to bed.
0 (0.0%)


[Yes, this is the outcome only one person voted for. Die roll came up with their number anyway. Sigh.]
rowyn: (Default)
Blackwood watched as the master enchanter glanced from him to Licorice and back again, their feline ears splayed, startled. They ran a hand through thick auburn curls and wrapped one lock around a finger. "Ah, well, yes, I love my work, but -- you don't really want to hear about it, do you?"

"Of course we do!" Licorice motioned encouragingly with one hand. "C'mon, tell!"

"Please, Smoke." Blackwood felt self-conscious calling them by only their given name, but he liked the intimacy of it.

Smoke's ears canted further, their enby earrings chiming with the motion. "It's a great job; I hardly know where to start. There's this quality about channeling magic: it's both fussy and exacting, and very rewarding when you get it right. Like playing a delicate instrument, one that you have to tune after every song because it's so precise. But then you get it right and play and the notes are more than pitch-perfect: they're rich and full, and the song fills the room and it's amazing." They ducked their head and covered their face with one hand. "Ugh, that sounds ridiculous."

"Not at all," Licorice said. "It's just like the way you described enchantsight."

"What's enchantsight like?" Blackwood asked, fascinated and hoping to set them more at ease. Although their flustered demeanor was endearing, at odds with the brisk professional image he'd had of them from earlier in the day.

"Like seeing a different kind of light, colorful and tangible to the touch, that overlays the ordinary world. When you're crafting an enchantment, it's like sculpting with light. You pull it out of the Wall and position it just so."

"The Wall?" Blackwood asked.

"Sorry, enchanter jargon. The Wall is where magic comes from; it's a kind of barrier around the physical world that constrains material action. You manipulate the Wall to change the way things interact in the physical world; that's what makes magic. And it's the way you pull on it, the way you sculpt it, that gives enchanted items their power. If you sculpt it wrong, it makes a blobby mess and you just have to smooth it back into the Wall. But if you do it right, it's magic." Smoke laughed, self-consciously. "I guess that's obvious. But it feels like magic, too. You can feel it click into place, like puzzle pieces fitted together. You develop an instinct for it; you just know that this time, it'll do what you meant for it to do. I can't feel it the same way on enchantments once they're complete. I'm much more attuned with them while I'm casting. So examining an enchantment to see if it's working isn't the same connection. But there's still a beauty to it. The Wall itself is hard to see at all, just a faint haze, like an aura, around everything."

"Wow," Licorice said. "Now I'm sorry I slept through it."

Smoke ducked their head again. "I'm sure if you asked my apprentices, they'd have a different take on it." They smiled wryly. "It's not for everyone."

"How did you get an apprenticeship in the field?" Blackwood asked.

This poll is closed.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 10


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It's a great story!
6 (60.0%)

It's a boring story
1 (10.0%)

Enough about me, let's talk about you
2 (20.0%)

Oh look at the time I better let you get some sleep
1 (10.0%)

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