Topics

Never Backed Down #Sanya #Killick

Steph
 

Who: Sanya, Lord Oskar Von Essen
With: Killick, an audience of bystanders
Where: The Queen's College, Great Lecture Hall
When: Friday, March 7th, 872 RoK

Sanya had a special place in her heart for Lord Oskar Von Essen--one she wouldn't dare speak of to anyone. Here was a noble who refused be seen as anything other than who he felt he was. Who, when he refused to continue wearing dresses and get married to to the man he'd been betrothed to since birth, was ostracized and still refused to bend or break. He made a name for himself, made his way through the Queen's College on his own merit and hard work, spent his coin wisely, and built himself a fortune before the Von Essen family stopped acting like they were in mourning over the death of their precious daughter and welcomed back their successful son.
 
He'd been headmaster of the School of Economics for half a decade now, and although Sanya only took as many economics and political policy courses as she needed to supply additional perspectives beyond her family's private tutoring in such matters of rulership, she enjoyed them most when Von Essen was teaching.
 
He cut a striking figure in his suit where he stood at the podium, a study of a purposefully-constructed outward image. Short-shorn masculine hair, baby-soft naked cheeks, clothes cut in a style that squared his shoulders and narrowed his hips. Masculine, confident, wholly himself.
 
She could never do that. She was quite comfortable in her femininity. But, being herself, constructing herself so obviously? Who she loved and what she felt, worn out on her sleeve like that? No.
 
Even if Sanya hadn't arrived early in the lecture hall, she would have had a reserved seat, given her noble heritage. But she sat in the student's section next to Killick, leaning forward in a way that was slightly less than noble, more bad posture she'd learned and embraced as a student. The lecture hall seats were packed full, and standing spectators were crammed in tighter than shoulder-to-shoulder.
 
"The headmaster certainly draws an audience," she said. "Or, maybe the city is bored and decided to take this as an excuse to get out of the rain?"
 
But Sanya knew it was the former. The king, mysteriously dead. The storm that raged on. The Royal General and Royal Scholar still sequestered. People wanted to hear something that made some kind of sense--and Von Essen's ideas about the possible economic advantage of de-centralizing and allowing regions to rule themselves had a certain power.
 
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Silvy
 

Who: Killick

With: Sanya, Lord Oskar von Essen, an audience of bystanders

Where: the Queen's College, Great Lecture Hall

When: Friday, March 7th, 872 RoK


They were contradictions in so many ways - Sanya leant into the lecture, while Killick sat at attention as though his spine were a steel sword and the bend impossible. The learned behavior was yet another tic added to the repertoire of parts and pieces that made up the man he wanted to be: Someone who belonged here, more even than had simply earned his place.


He almost shushed her.


Almost, the curl present on his lips as they made to bare teeth, but the tsssch! never came. Instead, his gaze was drawn away from the headmaster's speech, brows furrowing as his attention caught on movement in the wings. Guards.


There were plenty of reasons guards could have been coming to a hall this tightly packed. The rain wasn't one of them.


"What's that?" He hissed to her with a jut of his chin, a habit harder to break than so many others he'd worked to beat out of himself. "Royal guards? Why would they be here...?" Maybe to make an announcement? The king had died and so much was still up in the air - some sliver of hope dug into Killick that there would be news to deliver... but even with as many people were packed into the lecture hall, surely a public address was more appropriate?

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Steph
 

Sanya looked over in the direction that Killick had indicated. For her, Royal Guards or any of the sort of security that tended to accompany nobility wasn't always something that drew questions so much as it faded into the background. They hadn't quite stood out to her the way they must have to Killick. But now that she saw them, she did have to wonder what they were doing at the Queen's College, and why they were filtering the way they were up through the aisles and toward the presenter's stage. 

"Nothing small," she decided, sitting up straighter, brow furrowed. Something was about to happen. Good or bad, now, that depended entirely on what came next.

Headmaster von Essen stood tall at the podium, seeing his audience more or less settled in, and tapped it twice to signal for silence, and silence immediately fell--even among the standing commoners packed into the back.

"In the time of war, after the werewolves massacred the Fairisle line and left the nation adrift without clear leadership or lines of communication, it only made sense for the next king to be determined by a pair of individuals who best understood the facts surrounding the war--the Royal General and the Royal Scholar," Oskar said, launching into his preamble with ease, relaxed, even if he noticed the Royal Guards making their approach. "This was a time before the Belmonts established so much of our land's current infrastructure and its learning institutions, like this college. Hundreds of years have passed since that time, and we have learned and grown as a nation. We have more than empty larders and traditions and fears of wolves in the night.

"We have knowledge to assess, as a whole people, the wisest course of action," he continued. "Instead of two men who are today admittedly still among the most well-informed making the decision for our nation, instead of blood lines leaving our nation's future to the whims of whatever individual happens to be conveniently born of the right parents at the right time, we could have a committee of voices, each expressing the needs of their regions, all working together to make this vital decision.

"Our options should not be limited to a child prince, a child bride, an unborn baby, a lost princess who could very well be dead."

This was about when the Royal Guards came up to the edge of the stage and their leader said something more or less inaudible from where Sanya and Killick were seated. Lord von Essen stepped away from the podium and turned to the guards to offer a reply, also too soft to be heard, only to step back and audibly project across the auditorium, using no apparent aid beyond its natural amplifying architecture.

"It seems, my good people, that I am being arrested for treason!" he declared with a broad sweep of his arm toward the guards, who began to scramble up onto the stage after him.

Sanya sat up straight now, eyebrows furrowing for a flash before she smoothed out her expression and put on her best mask of nobility. "But, who exactly would order this arrest, when there's no king? One of the dukes and duchesses? This doesn't make sense..."

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Silvy
 

She wasn't wrong - and neither was his gut when it said this was. As the Headmaster went on, Killick found the creeping, crawling sensation rumbling right beneath his skin getting worse. Maybe it was what he was talking about, building his way toward outright treason as the crowd looked on and the guard drew nearer. Killick's hands itched even as he found them gripping the sides of his desk, all hope for respectable posture abandoned as he leaned in to try and see better what was happening next. What was going on?


And then, Lord von Essen went ahead and spelled it out for them all, and Killick's eyes went wide.


Could he have expected anything else, though? If someone were to question Zaire's claim to his ship, they would be met with swift counter. This didn't seem any different a situation - someone trying to keep power by silencing those who would take it from them.


But Killick had come here to escape that kind of tyranny, hadn't he? And Sanya was right... wasn't she? "Maybe they've done it themselves. The guard," He murmured out of the side of his mouth, a haphazard tilt of his hand indicating the arrest ongoing before them. "Or the General. In a --" He pulled his lower lip briefly between his teeth, brows furrowing for a moment as he sought the word that wasn't mutiny, "In a coup, you have to take out the ones who will make the takeover difficult." Throw them overboard or worse to make a point. To make sure that whoever gets installed next, there's no question that they rule.


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Steph
 

For Sanya, everything about this situation felt distant and hypothetical more than it felt really, truly real. She didn't personally have to worry about her status being affected by anything that happened at the King's College. She had the wealth and status to get through pretty much any circumstance that came upon her. She felt cool, calm, faced with a puzzle more than anything else.


Arresting Von Essen risked making enemies of the merchants he dealt with, the guilds, the students, the bankers. Von Essen wasn't the headmaster of the School of Economics for nothing. He had too many connections to just lock into a box, and that meant whoever was making this move either understood the risk and had the power to counter it or didn't really understand the risk at all.


Killick's tension, though, did have a way of transposing itself over into Sanya's calm. He had a different perspective on this, a reasonable perspective for that matter. He had more familiarity with the way that people without a noble safety net might see what was going on right here and now. And he was right. It could be a power grab from lower down the totem pole.


"Gentlemen, gentlemen, and lady knights," Lord Von Essen said, still keeping one step ahead, voice carrying loud across the auditorium. "You misunderstand the nature of this thought exercise. I mean only the greatest honor to the royal crown of Eventyr. It behooves us as a people to be open, reflective thinkers, weighing out the many possibilities before us. Our Queen's College exists in part to study all things and bring new insights to our rulers and to our people. Improving yourself is not treason."


Two guards flanked him and grabbed hold of him, lifting him bodily from the ground to drag him toward the edge of the stage.


"But... if it is, it's still worthwhile," he added. His voice was less clear once he was off the stage. The auditorium had been designed to amplify voices specifically from the stage, not from the area around it.


"If we can figure out where they're taking our headmaster, we can figure out who's behind it," Sanya said, hopping to her feet. She wasn't the only one starting to stand up. Many people around them, students and faculty alike, were rising to their feet and shouting out in protest, confusion, uncertainty, words blended together. "Do you feel up for it? If you're with me, it's an inquiry, not a challenge."


She'd understand if Killick didn't want to go running out of the auditorium onto the streets, searching after their arrested headmaster. With so much uncertainty in the air, and the storm besides, it wasn't exactly the most wise or comfortable thing to do.


Silvy
 

In a way, Killick almost couldn't blame the guard. Whoever was driving them to this. Because Lord von Essen's words were a drug, a coy idea presented in such inoffensive words that it was easy to let it crawl up under your skin. Even Killick himself had to wonder if the Headmaster was right...


Of course, the way he was manhandled off the stage didn't help. If someone was that determined to keep the Headmaster's mouth shut - there had to be a good reason.


And yet again, Sanya was right. His nose crinkled, a thoughtful expression as he watched the fear rise across the room - if they stayed here any longer, they'd get swept up into the panic as well, here. They wouldn't learn anything more than they already knew... So he nodded, pushing himself slowly to his feet: "Got to be quiet about it. So no one follows us, either."


Because at least the guard were a known danger - if anyone in this crowd got the bright idea they knew what they were doing, they'd be a liability.


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Steph
 

Who: Sanya -- Lord Oskar Von Essen
With: Killick -- an audience of bystanders
Where: The Queen's College, Great Lecture Hall --> The Streets of the Noble Quarter
When: Friday, March 7th, 872 RoK

Sanya part-wished she had her cat with her, but where Moswen was excellent at sneaking about unseen, she lacked in complex logic and reasoning. Killick was right, clever, seeing the potential danger in the situation. If they moved too quickly, drew attention to themselves, they could get arrested or start a panic (or both). Neither would get them any closer to answers.
The obvious why of the arrest echoed in the murmurs and shouts of objection that rippled through the audience. A couple of the teachers from the School of Economics made their way up onto the stage in order to try to take control of the moment and calm the audience down. Controversial words were dangerous in times of uncertainty.

Sanya noted another of Van Essen's colleagues trying to follow the guards and being turned roughly aside, but then she turned away from the show. It was a distraction.

Like Killick, she got to her feet, slow and easy. It wasn't too hard to blend in--almost everyone was standing, turning, trying to decide to stay still or go somewhere. But most people more or less stayed where they were. The storm outside was less than inviting.

She waited to say anything more until they'd left the lecture hall behind them and stood in the lobby. Most people were still pressing to get into the hall and see what was going on. They weren't thinking of leaving yet. Still, Sanya hesitated to step outside of the lobby and onto the street before they made a plan. All throughout her childhood, rain had been a rare blessing in the desert. This rain was anything but a blessing. It was unnerving.

"If it came from the Royals, they'd be taking Von Essen almost due east, straight to the castle dungeon. We can scratch the Southern Duke's palace off the list of possibilities. My parents are still recovering from their illness," Sanya said. Whether that was true or a cover story didn't matter--either way, her parents wouldn't have ordered it. "I would think both Duke James and Duchess Francesca too... absorbed in the matters of their own duchy to care to protect the royal line from philosophers. If it was upstart soldiers, they might be taking him north toward the Soldier's Quarter to be presented before a captain or general... "

She looked over to Killick, open to his thoughts. There had to be a cleverer way to figure out where Von Essen was being taken than running blind through the rain and hoping to spot the entourage of arresting soldiers out there.

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Silvy
 

Back in the lobby, he could hear the rain coming hard and unyielding - it reminded him of the storm from his childhood, and he shifted his weight off the offended leg as Sanya sketched out her thoughts between them. His gaze followed the routes she spoke, and his tongue traced over his lower lip in thought. He didn't want to admit to not knowing the particulars of courtly politics as well as she, even if it was natural.


But he knew people. "Who's next in line?" A hand went to his brow as it twisted in frustration - he remembered this, or at least he knew that once upon a time, he'd known it. Some class he'd had to take in order to familiarize himself with the workings of the city, with... "The consort? If the King is dead, she stands to lose the most if people believe the headmaster." But would she? Do something like this?


He didn't know her, couldn't say. "But every royal would." Still, the look in his eyes settling on Sanya's said that even he knew now wasn't the time for needling - and that he would trust her to be right about her own house, at least.


His hand slid down over his face, then, as though he could smush some understanding into it. "But..." His instinct still said coup. "North. Even if they aren't acting on their own, they might take him there to hold him."


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Steph
 

Who: Sanya

With: Killick, an audience of bystanders

Where: The Streets of the Noble Quarter, headed toward points north

When: Friday, March 7th, 872 RoK


If only succession was as simple as one person being clearly next in line, Sanya thought as she followed Killick's line of logic. Then they wouldn't be waiting in a storm for the Royal Scholar and the Royal General to make a decision.


"The consort is only next in line if her child is confirmed the king's at birth and she becomes the queen," Sanya pointed out. She took Killick's cue and started to walk northward through the downpour, wishing for only the tiniest fleeting second that she had her grandmother's propensity for weather magic. "Or, if the Royal Scholar and Royal General name her the queen even before the birth and confirmation because they deem her the best choice, of course."


She spent enough time exploring the city to know the best course to the gated checkpoints between the Noble Quarter and the Soldier's Quarter. But they had their feet, where the soldiers likely had horses. She doubted they'd be stupid enough to use a fairy circle to transport a prisoner. Fairy circles used the heart's desires as a compass, and Von Essen would not desire to go to the same location as the soldiers wanted to take him. Since she couldn't see any obvious sign of the soldiers' passing, Sanya concluded they'd had horses ready and were well on their way.


"But... Altansarnai seems unlikely. For one, she'd have to want to flex her political muscles--something she hasn't done much of up to this point. For two, she'd need information sources that would tell her about a headmaster like Von Essen. With Consort, West, East, and South eliminated, that really leaves the Duchess of the North, if it comes from the top. It could be a lesser noble trying to pay for the next ruler's favor in advance by defending the throne, though. Have you heard much about her?"


Sanya wasn't sure how much time Killick spent listening to the noble rumor mills, but even so, she was interested in his perspective. Malia was a challenge to pin down.


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Silvy
 

He hoped he was right. It felt right, but as the rain soaked into their bones, Killick understood that there was a great deal more riding on him being right than he was wholly comfortable with.


Did his father feel that sick turn in his gut when he risked lives with his choices? Lost lives on them?


He sucked his lip between his teeth for a moment, tasting the rain and faint, salty remnants of sweat, and Sanya's words rolled round in his head. She was right, maybe - the girl could be playing a long game, waiting until the right opportunity... And was it that unlikely that word of the Headmaster's curious thought exercises could have reached somewhere sensitive?


But as much as he didn't want to admit it, his brows furrowed, and he shook his head. "Which one is she?" Obviously, the North, but who and what all that meant... One of these days it might have served him to have Sanya sit down with him to explain who and where was what. Until then, he'd have to suck up the uneasy feeling of being off balance here.


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Steph
 

Who: Sanya
With: Killick, an audience of bystanders
Where: The Streets of the Noble Quarter, headed toward points north
When: Friday, March 7th, 872 RoK

If her familiar Moswen didn't absolutely hate the rain, Sanya would have wished for those added eyes, fleet little feet rushing around every curve, catching sights and scents that her human senses couldn't quite pick up. But, although Killick didn't strike her as the completely superstitious type, it would still be a huge gesture of trust to do something so outrightly, well, witchy. Plus it would mean a delay, going home to pick up Moswen. Better to use the skills they had around them.

"The Duchess of the North is the widow, Malia Von Oehsen. She married the late duke six years ago, give or take," Sanya said. "She comes across as much more attentive to matters of state than either Duke East or Duchess West. You know Duchess Francesca's story, I'm sure." She'd be surprised if anyone in the Western Plains or the Coast didn't know of their duchess whose epic conquests and key deals were primarily conducted in bedchambers. "Even while Duke North was alive, Malia was involved in the decision making process. She positioned herself as an intelligent adviser at his side. When the heart attack took him, she moves smoothly into control. There are some nasty rumors that she bathes in the blood of sacrificed young maidens to maintain her beauty, though."

This was about when the mob came barreling out into the streets, voices loud, many bearing enchanted lights that glowed fiercely even against the pounding rain. Maybe a few other people who had witnessed the Headmaster's arrest had hit the streets to spread the news and drum up support for Von Essen. Maybe something else. The fact remained that from behind them, the direction they'd come from, Sanya could now hear loud chanting voices:
"No King, No Treason! Set Free Von Essen!"

It wasn't a perfect rhyme, but it caught the spirit of the message. Sanya's heart sank deeper with worry, eyebrows furrowing as she turned to try and gauge just how big this crowd was.

"Well, this is trouble," she murmured.

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