charlequin Their individual interrogations concluded, the Solars wait again in the ballroom as others are called by the Arbiter.
Zahara "I imagine it would be taken amiss if we were to launch our own investigation; still, this sort of thing can not be tolerated, especially while we are attempting to establish our relationship with the Plane.
Thirteen "Indeed. The arrogance necessary to commit such a crime under our noses merits, at the very least, a meeting."
Zahara "I believe it was planned. Did you note the area around the ones who were stricken was clear before it happened? I was informed that this is not usually so."
Cerin "Whilst I am not disputing that it is planned, the plan was made with some rapidity if it was not one that we simply slotted into. We arrived very recently."
Birds "I would not be surprised to find that the people of this world are very patient."
Zahara "Or that they were perhaps warned we would come. We are not the first from Meru to come here, I'd wager."
Cerin "No, I do not think we were."
Zahara toys with the ring on her finger, the one Cerin had given her. "We need a plan."
Thirteen "Give me a minute."
Zahara paces, unconsciously forming the symbol for 'thought' with her steps.
Thirteen turns quietly to the center table of the buffet, where an enormous platter contains the cooling centerpiece of the banquet, a large extraplanar ungulate, roasted whole.
Thirteen runs a finger along the bulging stomach of the creature, which parts. Reaching elbow-deep into the carcass, he pulls forth the stuffed and stewed entrails, flinging them onto the table. Muttering to himself in his home tongue, he pokes and prods the various organs, divining hidden truths from each tasty morsel.
Lucent crosses his arms in a corner, watching everyone else Apparently, not too happy about the situation or his interrogation!
Thirteen brushes back the agitated servants as they attempt to prevent him from destroying the main course. Finally completing his ritual, he selects a particularly ominous sweetbread and eats it with relish as he returns to the party, absently shaking gore and marinade from his hands.
Thirteen "Our suspects can be reduced, for the moment, to the dozen diplomats that the victims dealt with during the arabesque."
Zahara frowns thoughtfully. "Unless they are smarter than we give them credit for."
Thirteen "This is a small enough number that I suspect a few short conversations, with Cerin's participation, should start us off handily."
Thirteen "Fortunately, they are not."
Cerin ::Or perhaps the ones that shared drinks with them before the dance.::
Thirteen "The exactitude in the timing of the deaths indicates that the effect was actively triggered. Even a timed or reactive effect, such as that which might be delivered by a drink, would be far too approximate."
Zahara paces, "Unless something was in the drinks, that could then be triggered from afar."
Birds "Which indicates physical contact or Essence mechanisms in play..."
Thirteen "Anybody willing to go to those lengths to create a dramatic effect would not risk the possibility of accidental detonation. An intentional, directed action would be required."
Birds allows herself to float at odd angles as she contemplates.
Zahara "I wonder if it truly was intended to be triggered at the beginning of the eight movement.. and if so, what is significant about that timing?"
Cerin ::An intentional, directed action I would have noticed. Such an effect could not be overly subtle, to provide such virulent results. In addtion, be careful what you say, we are being observed with essence.::
Birds ::Do you know the observer?::
Thirteen ::It is not necessary for the trigger to result in immediate detonation. It may have primed the effect to activate at the next appropriate moment. We can merely narrow down the time during which the murder was set in motion to the dance immediately preceding it. One can safely assume that factors would not significantly change at that time.::
Cerin ::There are three, two bin-al-zen, one of them of the same caste as the deceased and a scion::
Zahara ::What if it was set off by a specific pitch, or tone, to the song?::
Cerin draws from his pocket an acacia bloom, investing each of the white petals with essence before carefully tearing the bloom appart, the resulting essential ripples disrupting the surveiling magics focused on the group.
Zahara ::We should continue to speak verbally as well, so as not to appear to be colluding behind their backs, by the way.:: "Cerin, could you lead me through the dance again?"
Thirteen ::Possible, but again, too risky. The dance in question varies in procession depending on non-predictable events.::
Cerin ::An interesting suggestion, my love.:: "Of course." he smiles at her, holding out his hands as he mentally reviews the song, wondering if the tone that preceeded their death was heard before::
Birds oohs and aahs at their moves.
Birds ::What else was going on during the dance?::
Zahara originally tries to hum along with the moves, but shortly finds them too complicated to split her attention, and with a fierce look of concentration on her face, focuses on duplicating the steps precisely.
charlequin Cerin runs through the tune in his mind. The entire sequence of tones immediately preceding the deaths, counting back at least sixteen measures, is a reprise of a previous theme, played slightly higher than its first appearance but well within the range of other previous tones.
charlequin Dancing as he remembers the tune, however, Cerin does note that of all the couples dancing on the floor area, each of them had passed the lineages' location several times during the number -- except one, who passed it only once, perhaps ten seconds beforehand.
Cerin ::That is curious. I suspect the poison we are looking for could be crystal in nature, with resonant sensitivity to a specific tonal sequence, one that had to be tuned with incrediable precision. I think the lethal tone was created by simply one couple dancing 'out of turn'::
Birds murmurs something about an odd puppet play to Thirteen. ::Mhmmm?::
Lucent ::Did they make this to be artistic intentionally? It seems so elaborate..::
Lucent ::Or is it just the way things are done here?::
Thirteen ::I suspect they wanted to impress us.::
Thirteen ::It did not work.::
Birds ::Directness is not the virtue here that it is on Meru. I learned this talking with the Arbiter.::
Thirteen ::Can you identify the couple, Cerin?::
Cerin ::The same sixteen measure sequence had been repeated earlier, but a few demi-tones lower. And speak for yourself Thirteen ... the artistry of this is something that I can most definately appreciate. The method emplyed would never work on Meru of course, but still, interesting. I can, and they are still within the room.::
Lucent ::Not work? 13, you have no soul.::
Thirteen ::It is a facile plan at best. These people were not killed for any purpose intrinsic to them, but merely to attempt to control our behavior. Since it has not, and will not, be effective, they were slaughtered to attempt to make a point that has not been made.::
Thirteen ::Execution and intention are not divorced elements.::
Thirteen ::Let us proceed to discuss the events with the couple in question.::
Zahara ::If their intention was to sow distrust, and delay us, then it DID work.::
Thirteen ::That could have been accomplished with a sharply worded note. Conversation of resources is also a virtue::
Lucent ::Yeah, but it is... how! It is so elaborate. Artistic if it was not, um, murderous. Really beats beating people with a spear.:: He shakes his head, ::Even when this is over, it'll take quite a speech to win them again...::
Zahara looks at the other guests, "Well I think it is time to mingle."
Birds nods. "Yes, exactly." She selects a couple who were recently dancing around the couple in question and makes small talk.
Zahara mingles in their direction as well.
Cerin "As you wish, my love." Cerin is dragged in their direction, quite against his will.
charlequin The couple Cerin identified are sharing a plate of small, faintly glowing red fruits and discussing an upcoming art opening. There is what one might refer to as "visible" sexual tension between the two.
charlequin They are a young, attractive human couple.
Zahara insinuates herself into the conversation, slicing the sexual tension and neatly diverting the male's attention to herself. She proceeds to drop hints and flirtatious gestures, so as to inspire jealousy in the other woman, distraction in the man, and break up the solidarity of the couple.
charlequin A carefully chosen moment allows Zahara to interject herself in a very... suggestive fashion. The gentleman takes his leave to join her for a trip to the food tables, leaving the woman to fume slightly at his departure.
Zahara ::Cerin, my love,:: she sends with evident amusement at the ease with which she destroyed the little relationship, ::Now would be a good time to question the woman::
Zahara meanwhile engages the man with small talk, discussing Xara, the party, the terrible tragedy, and his hopes and dreams for the future. Every word draws him further into her web, every movement leaves him desperately wanting to impress her, and a simple touch has him willing to sell her his soul - at a price which she now knows well.
Lucent steps foward, closer to the woman, the symbols of sun, venus, and inverted secrets about him, his smile to melt hearts, an invisible anima that fills all the void left by her partner and fills it with a sense of trust and idilic happyness... friendly, trustworthy, as always. "What a rude man, to leave such a lady out in the cold like this, don't you think? At least I hope that leaves you free so I can steal a moment of yo
Lucent At least I hope that leaves you free so I can steal a moment of your time?"
charlequin The lady seems a little put out at her date's departure and doesn't seem to connect that Luc and Zahara came in together. She thinks for a moment and when she looks into Luc's face directly her decision is easy. "Oh... yes, certainly."
Lucent "Well, I was admiring your dance earlier... it was quite engaging! You really are an awesome dancer!" He says with the eyes of a little boy watching some great athlete, "It was more... unique, than the rest of the dancers, or so it seemed, to me... What is your secret?"
charlequin The young lady giggles at the attention Luc blatantly pays her.
Birds tries to steer her dance partner about in such a way as to remain between Luc and Zahara at all times.
charlequin "Oh, we were just doing our part! I'd been practicing the routine for three weeks before the party... it's a shame we didn't get to the end."
Thirteen casually leans against a nearby pillar, listening intently for anything unexpected.
Lucent "A real shame..."
Lucent lets out a long, disappointed, dreamful sigh "So, it was all rehearsed? No improvisation?"
charlequin Cerin looks over the couple as his two compatriots separately chat them up. Their outfits are quite elegant and carefully matched with one another. Even their jewelry -- asymmetrically distributed wristbands of gold, single ear chains, and foot bangles match carefully with one another.
charlequin The girl giggles again. "Oh, well...." she looks around at the room, as if harboring a delightful secret. "We did try something a little unorthodox..." She whispers conspiratorially. "We reversed the triple underpass maneuver. We knew the dance well enough, we were pretty sure no one else would be thrown off... and we wanted to swing over by the barques... I wanted to show off my jewelry...."
Cerin , while still jealously regarding the man of the couple, compares the jewellery of the couple to that worn by the murdered royals, looking for jarring similarities or differences between the two sets.
Lucent looks sideways at the direction the not-deserving-of-her man had went to, showing his displeasure, "Jewelry? *His* gift?"
charlequin The woman snorts a little. "Oh, no. I presented my work to the Lineages some cycles ago; these were a gift for my impressive showing." She beams proudly for a moment before sliding into a jealous leer again. "HE is only BORROWING them."
Thirteen walks over to the woman and shakes her.
charlequin She reacts with vehement disgust. "How dare you? Who are you anyway? GET AWAY FROM ME!" She pulls a shawl around herself and starts to back away.
Lucent nods and smiles happilly with her tone, "Wow, it must have been impressive, then! The full act of what you've shown toni --... DAMNIT, Thirteen!"
Lucent covers his face on his hands. "Don't mind him, he is a just a rude buffoon..."
charlequin The bangles jingle in a pleasant, pure tone.
Thirteen "I'm afraid I must ask you to turn over your jewelry. Do not be concerned. Murder weapons rarely make a positive fashion statement."
Lucent crosses his arms wit an angry face. "I could have done that without a scene."
charlequin "You BASTARD!" The woman is starting to be a little loud now. "I never killed anyone!" She starts looking around, hoping for someone -- Luc or even her old boyfriend -- to rescue her from this cad.
Thirteen "When you think of it first, Lucent, you can do it the way you want to."
Lucent speaks up, and Luna flies closer to the woman, invisible pieces of her coming out, making her feel comforted by something immaterial and sweet, ambrosia like cotton candy. "Look... he is just paranoid. But he is not too much of a bad guy. Just hand them over, and if he is wrong, you will get them back. If he is right, we will get the guy who put you in this role, alright? I promise."
Thirteen "Obviously she is not intentionally guilty. The person or persons responsible for giving her the jewelry are our concern."
Lucent "That is exactly why we use *tact*. Ever even *heard* of that?"
Lucent "We want them to think we are the good guys. Scaring people will get us nowhere here."
charlequin Luc's efforts quiet the accidental murderer's hysterical outburst a little. She still seems suspicious -- she did win this jewelry fair and square, after all -- but she seems willing to take the opportunity provided when it is clear it may help, rather than hinder, her chances of not being seen as a murderer.
charlequin She slips the jewelry off silently, passing it to Luc before grabbing onto him for comfort in a remarkably forward fashion.
Thirteen "They will know who the good guys are when we deliver them their criminals."
Thirteen "Feel free to use tact in locating the members of the prize committee for this lady's presentation."
Lucent gathers it all in one hand and moves it to Thirteen... and then he lets Venus, above him, shine... filling her whole body with a serene light. He says a word, "Relax." it is a word, it is an order, and her spirit knows that is what she should do.
Zahara looks over her shoulder at Thirteen, then back at the man. "Might I have your jewelry as well?" she asks politely.
charlequin The gentleman is a little confused about the situation but does not seem to be tremendously resistant to Zahara's requests.
Zahara "Thank you kindly, handsome." she smiles brilliantly, taking the various pieces, testing their tone as well.
Thirteen "Now I am impressed with the plan. But this is still just a game being played with lives. We have more important business to conduct. Let us proceed with alacrity."
Lucent waits until she feels at ease, moving her chin up with the lightest of touches... "Well, now we know, we are the good guys. After the murderers... and they used your beautiful dance. Can you tell me which lineage gave you the jewelry?"
charlequin "It wasn't any in particular, that I knew of, anyway. I crafted my show for all five and they were free to visit it over the course of the show. I received the jewelry just shortly after it ended...."
Thirteen "I suspect it will be necessary to call upon the Arbiter's assistance."
Lucent has his orbs spinning around their faces like a crown... "And who handed it to you...?"
Thirteen "Fortunately, since his agents have been surveilling us, and can easily see that, once again, I have already accomplished more than his entire security force, I doubt such assistance will be too long in forthcoming."
Zahara steers the boy back towards the others, and flashes a smoky glance at Cerin
charlequin "One of the hrak servitors. No one of any importance."
Thirteen "I note for their benefit that I prefer my inquisitorial sash to be of gabardine rather than velvet."
Lucent "He knows the person of importance. The one who tried to use you as a weapon for murder. You do not remember anything about his features? Anything at all?"
charlequin The woman stares with blank incomprehension. "He was a /servitor/."
Lucent ::If she does not, what do we do? Round up all of the servants and interrogate them one by one? As absurd as it might seem, it might be easier to do than interrogate all of the lineage...::
Lucent ::And SEE, 13? This is why you take note of people who are not Exalted or powerful. They can be the key!::
Lucent nods sagely
Thirteen ::I notice them. I shook the girl.::
Zahara walks over to summon the Arbiter
Cerin ::The servitor is, as she knows, of little consequence. I would not be overly surprised if they were no longer alive::
Lucent ::If we go to the lineage, however... then we will be harassing all the important figures that are not guilty... so much for diplomacy and being seeing as nice people then.::
charlequin As if on cue, the front doors of the ballroom open up and the Arbiter, guarded by a sizeable entourage of black-and-red clad security warriors, bursts through. The room turns as one to look in his direction.
Zahara maintains her poise admirably as she is nearly run over by security. "Ah, how good of you to come." she smiles serenely.
Thirteen "You are almost forty-five seconds late. What unmanagable derangement of your procedures has occurred?"
Lucent ::Oh joy.. you know how angry he got when I told him it might be his own people? If he hear anyone saying it was the lineages...::
Zahara ::He'll have to learn to live with that, if it is truly them, won't he?:: she replies archly
charlequin The Arbiter does not immediately seem amused. "To those present!" the Arbiter announces, his voice amplified with Essence so that everyone can clearly hear him. "You need not panic! The situation is well under control."
Zahara "You are quite correct." she says drily.
charlequin The Arbiter gestures widely to the Solars, the human couple they are investigating, and perhaps five other nearby individuals. "Come with me."
Tags: (:tags Arbiter of Stones, Xara, Meru, Bin-al-Zen, Hrak :)