CruelSummerLord writes "“That nothing would happen at tonight’s ball?” Xavener said, his beaming smile turning to an unpleasant leer. “Under normal circumstances, yes. Those Naelax idiots your Olman friend humiliated just now will deserve everything that’s coming to them. But circumstances change…especially when the organizer of the ball is involved,” he finished, his eyes gleaming again.
curtsied elegantly to the military officer she was dancing with as the waltz
ended, admiring how his handsome, refined features contrasted with his
confident, determined military poise.
you fight as well as you dance, it’s no wonder you’ve fared so well against the
Nyrondese,” she said as she stood up.
could tell you a hundred more tales, if you like,” the officer said. “Would you
care for another dance?”
perhaps,” Seline said. “I’d like some more wine first.”
you wish,” the officer said, offering a chivalrous bow before turning away to
find another partner.
night was everything Seline hoped it would be. She felt like herself again, playing
her part to perfection in a world that was all a stage. She loved to listen to
the military officers’ war stories, finding them as fascinating as the Fables
of Burdock or Heward’s plays. She missed this life more than she realized,
missed the opportunity to participate and perform.
tried to find her next dance partner, but her next partner found her instead.
Before Seline realized it, no less than Prince Xavener himself appeared before
her, beaming with pleasure. Seline briefly tugged at her choker, smiling in
admiration at the younger man’s charming smile and handsome face.
“I take it you’re enjoying yourself, my dear?” Xavener
said, his eyes gleaming.
“Yes, of course,” Seline said, offering a curtsy. “This is
by far the grandest ball I’ve ever attended-“
“Yes, it’s been a few years since you participated in one,
wasn’t it?” Xavener interrupted her.
“Certainly…but why do you…” Seline said, blinking in
“And yet you and your sister return, despite the
outstanding debts Cranden owes to Garasteth,” Xavener said, the look in his
eyes becoming cold and hard.
Seline felt a chill run down her spine as she tried to
think of what to say next.
“I-I was led to believe…” she stammered.
“That nothing would happen at tonight’s ball?” Xavener
said, his beaming smile turning to an unpleasant leer. “Under normal
circumstances, yes. Those Naelax idiots your Olman friend humiliated just now
will deserve everything that’s coming to them. But circumstances
change…especially when the organizer of the ball is involved,” he finished, his
eyes gleaming again.
Seline began to tremble, her good mood gone in an instant.
“What…what do you…” she said, swallowing hard.
“Your company in my private quarters,” Xavener said,
holding out his hand to Seline. “And no, I wouldn’t be so gauche as to do what
you might be worrying about. I merely want to chat, perhaps over some Celenese
claret. Would you care to join me?”
Seline realized that it would be extremely unwise to refuse
Wordlessly, she took his hand and accompanied him to the
“I take it you’re comfortable?” Xavener said with a smile
once he and Seline were seated in some comfortable chairs in a private sitting
“What do you want?” Seline asked him, her expression cold
“I just thought I could help you with what you’re looking
for. I understand you’re searching for some sort of treasure on behalf of a
collector from Greyhawk, something along the lines of a crown, an orb, some
kind of royal trappings. I suppose this fellow has more money than he knows
what to do with…not that I’m one to talk, of course,” Xavener said, before
taking a sip of his claret.
“Yes, that’s right,” Seline said. “Do you have any suitable
pieces that match what we’re looking for?”
“I have to say, that’s a very strange reason for taking
such a risk in coming back to South Province and possibly being claimed by
House Garasteth. That debt is still owed, and can be legitimately claimed. What
do you and Luna owe this Greyhawk collector, may I ask?”
Seline tried to keep her breathing under control as she
thought of what to say.
“Not that it matters,” Xavener continued. “Aerdi honor
debts like the ones House Cranden owes House Garasteth can be transferred. A
new buyer can claim the debt by compensating the original creditor, and then
have full rights to what they’re owed.”
Seline did a masterful job of keeping her emotions under
control at that.
“You and your sister would both make such fine brides,”
Xavener mused, looking into his wine glass as he swirled it. “Beautiful,
talented, refined…what queens either of you would make!” he continued, before
looking up at Seline again.
Seline stared at him in astonishment.
“…Who do you think you are?” she asked in amazement. “The
Xavener just smiled and took another sip of his wine.
Seline set down her wine glass and stood up, her fingers
and lips twitching all at once.
Xavener’s smile grew wider, as she realized the consequences
of what she was about to do. She forced herself to stand still, pressing her
lips together and clenching her fists. Casting a spell, any kind of spell, at
Xavener would be a catastrophe, not just for Seline and her companions but for
all of House Cranden.
“Very wise,” Xavener said, repressing a chuckle. “There are
other ways to pay off a debt, as I’m sure you know. Ways to guarantee your
safety and that of your friends, so you could search for your little treasure,
whatever it is, without looking over your shoulders.”
“What do you mean?” Seline asked as she sat back down,
taking a long hard drink of her wine.
“Let me tell you a little story, one that involves a plan
to break the Iron League,” Xavener said, “a story that involves the murder of Idee’s
Count Fedorik in a failed attempt to kill some Aerdi double agents. If you and
your merry band put an end to what Caradoc and Xeravho are planning, your debt
will be amply paid. You won’t have anything to fear from House Garasteth ever
Seline stared at Xavener in shock as he recounted all the
details of the South Province plot. When he was done, she stared at him again
for several minutes, struggling to understand what he was saying.
“Why on Oerth would you want a war with the Iron League to
fail?” Seline asked in amazement.
“Caradoc, Xeravho and especially Herzog Chelor would all gain
amazing prestige and wealth from such a conquest,” Xavener said. “Suffice to
say it wouldn’t be…advantageous at the current time. And besides, as a Cranden
do-gooder, isn’t it incumbent on you to thwart the ambitions of evil?”
Seline leaned back in her chair, her mind whirling at what
Xavener told her.
“I’m sure you realize that you can’t tell anyone except
your companions,” Xavener said, finishing his wine. “If you do, I’ll just deny
everything. After all, who would the rest of South Province society believe?
The golden child of House Darmen, or a woman who disgraced her Celestial House
by reneging on a debt of honor?”
Seline finished her own wine, her mind abuzz with emotion.
Anger, humiliation and shame competed for her mental attention. She wished she
could say something else-anything else-but she knew there was only one thing
she even could say.
“I’ll speak to my friends in the morning.”
“Very wise,” Xavener said again, his smile as warm and
inviting as a crocodile’s. "