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Re: Search for the Black Sheep; Continuation of re: rumours of dissent
Topic Started: May 31 2017, 12:03 AM (564 Views)
Volker Faust
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Location: Ponomy City Residence (House of Amedea)
Time: Five (5) days after Rumors of Dissent

The upper residential district was no place for commoners. It was frequently patrolled by city guards to keep out the beggars and the riff raff. However, today Volker was able to walk right through, acting as the escort to Jason Montgomery, the son of the Lady Caithe Arbore. What a week it had been. Volker was currently investigating a plot to assassinate the stand-in head of the Amedea household; Ileana’s Uncle Ciro Arbore.

Volker had already spoken with Lord Ciro’s daughter, the Lady Caithe, regarding the rumors of dissent over Ciro’s appointment as the stand-in head. Many rival branches of the Amedea family were not pleased with Ileana’s choice, and the Lady Caithe made it sound as though someone wanted Ciro out of the way. Internal power struggles were always so complicated. To think that you’re most dangerous enemy could be someone from your own family! For once, Volker was almost glad he was an orphan. Still, it was good to be back in Ponomy City, albeit an unfamiliar part of it.

Speaking of which, Volker himself looked rather unfamiliar. So that he may play the role of Jason’s assistant, Volker had taken it upon himself to craft a disguise. He had done something similar quite a few times back in the day. Using Charcoal ash, ink, vinnegar, and lye soap, Volker had temporarily dyed his otherwise brilliant green hair. His hair was now jet black, as was the scruffy facial hair he had managed to grow over the last week or so.

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Compared to how he looked during the graduation ball, Volker was almost completely unrecognizable to anyone who didn’t know him intimately. Volker had even practiced elevating the pitch of his voice slightly, as well as slouching slightly so as to appear shorter. Volker kept behind Jason and to his right, clutching a ledger to his chest. The ledger held information regarding Jason’s schedule, errands and such, which Volker had to keep track of as his assistant, but Volker had also been using it to keep coded notes of his investigation.

Finally, the two of them had arrived at the gates to the Amedea main residence. Volker leaned in a bit to whisper into Jason’s ear as the estate guards slowly opened the gates.

”Remember sir, to only refer to me as Johann Goethe, your temporary personal assistant.” Volker whispered, ”I worked for your mother and came back with you from your recent trip to Villa Sol. I doubt we’ll need more detail than that, but if someone asks a question about me that you can’t answer do your best to casually defer to me. Oh! And describe that women to me you saw one more time...”

Volker went over the rest of the plan in his head. He recalled his visit to the Villa Sol, when Jason had burst into the Lady Caithe’s office to deliver news of a suspicious worker[1]. A women, if Volker remembered correctly, who was wandering in the private gardens but was unfamiliar to Jason. The woman had told Jason that she was a new servant, but Jason later learned from the housekeeper that no new servants had been hired recently. Oh dear Jason... Why did he let the Servant girl out of his sight before validating her story? And why did he leave his grandfather Ciro for several days to go tell his mummy? Volker sighed, this whole ordeal could have been made a lot easier if Jason had been slightly more competent. Alas, the past was in the past, and Jason had already gotten a good tongue lashing from his mother.

As Volker followed Jason onto the Amedea estate, he contemplated their first course of action.

”Alright then Sir, where should we begin?”

[1]During Re: Rumors of Dissent

Edited by Volker Faust, May 31 2017, 06:30 AM.
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Jason was nervous. He had volunteered to help when his mother had explained how Ileana had decided to investigate in-depth the rumors of his grandfather’s assassination. It was a hasty decision on his part, he had to admit. He had only wanted to help as well as to impress his mother and Ileana.

But now that he was actually here, leading this man into the main estate, he was starting to have doubts.

Is he really cut out for this task?

What if he messes things up?

What if his grandfather was successfully assassinated because he let something slip or messed up the investigation somehow?

“Oh goddesses...” He muttered under his breath.

He was so wrapped up in his thoughts he almost missed when the soldier started to speak. He jolted and nodded in acquiescence. “O-okay. Johann Goethe, got it.” Jason murmured. “As for the woman I saw, she was pale, tall and slender, almost 6 feet...” He trailed off as he tried to recall her features. “Her eyes were purple and she had a wavy green hair down to the middle of her back. She told me she was a servant be honest, she didn’t feel like one. Her demeanor I meant. That’s why I asked the housekeeper about her.”

Jason nodded at the guards as they passed while gesturing to Volker, “this is Johann Goethe, a new assistant assigned by my mother to me.” He explained simply. The guards nodded and closed the gate behind them.

They walked in silence for a while until Volker spoke again, asking where they should begin the investigation.

“Uh…” Jason shifted uncertainly from foot to foot as they stopped outside the mansion. “Where to begin? Um...” He sweated, “maybe we should greet my grandfather first? Or no...maybe my Aunt Florianne...she was the one who told mother about the rumors. Ah, but she should be staying in one of the summer houses farther into the estate...”

He paused, then, “I don’t know..” He admitted, “where do you think we should begin? I...I’ll just lead you to wherever.” He shrugged.
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Volker Faust
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Tall, Purple eyes, Wavy green hair? Volker blinked. Why did that sound so familiar? Something stirred in Volker's gut, something he couldn't quite place. It had been bugging him ever since the first time Jason gave him the description. Volker kept asking Jason to repeat himself, in hopes that it might bring on some revelation, alas, nothing. Still, something nagged at the back of Volker's mind. How awkward would it be if Volker actually knew the person or people trying to assassinate Ciro Arbore.

At least the description was unique enough that such a woman would be easy enough to spot. Unless she was wearing a wig or disguise like Volker was now. Volker sighed, this was going to be a troublesome mission, to say the least. He could have just given his report to General Amedea, but like a dog with a bone, he couldn't let this mystery go. Despite still being weary from traveling, Volker had insisted on continuing his investigation. He wanted to see this thing through to the end.

Jason and Volker passed through the gates and walked onto resplendent grounds of the house of Amedea. While many of the noble households and estates were fancy and well kept, the Amedea house was unmatched in the beauty of its garden. As expected of the house that ran the agriculture of Altrus, the estate grounds and front garden were awe-inspiring. Rather than the sterile, immaculate gardens that some of the other noble houses had, the Amedea gardens had been cultivated to show off nature's natural beauty. So many colors and varieties of plants and flowers, and yet everything seems to have its place. If any other family had tried to recreate such a garden, it would have looked messy and chaotic. The Amedea house really were the best green thumbs in all of Altrus.

Once they were out of view of the guards, Volker placed a hand on Jason's shoulder.

"Sir, I know you're nervous and no doubt worried about your grandfather, Lord Ciro..." Volker said quietly, "But if you act too nervous or suspicious, you might alert the conspirators that we are on to them. We must behave as though we suspect nothing, this will provide us with the best chance of catching our would-be assassins. We must lure them into a false sense of security and confidence, we must maintain the element of surprise. "

Volker squeezed Jason's shoulder reassuringly.

"Why don't you take me to your grandfather first?" Volker suggested, "It might put you at ease to see him safe and sound, but do not mention anything about these rumors of dissent or assassination unless he brings it up. I want him to continue to act as normal for now as well. He'll be safest when he doesn't even know he is being protected. If he doesn't know I'm guarding him, then the assassins won't know either. "
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“Oh. Oh Gods. I’m too obvious, aren’t I?” Jason muttered, rubbing his sweaty palms on his sides. He stiffened when he felt the other man’s hand on his shoulder before relaxing marginally. He took a deep breath and exhaled. “Okay. Okay. I’m calm. Nothing’s amiss. I’m just going to visit grandpa...again.” He said, more to himself than to his companion.

He approached the doors and grabbed the elegant door knocker shaped in the visage of the Goddess Aerethe who was the Altrusian Goddess of Peace. Jason thought it was ironic especially these days. Their House was far from peaceful, even in the past. If they were, it was shaky at best.

As soon as he knocked, the door opened to reveal one of the many valets working in the main house alone. He recognized him as William.

“Sir Jason, it’s nice to see you again.” William greeted with a bow. “And your companion?”

“This is Johann Goethe, my new assistant.” Jason introduced, “I just came back to introduce him to my grandfather.”

A small giggle drifted from within the house before a small boy around 8 years old stepped out from behind William. “Jason the Useless is back!”

Jason’s eye twitched. “Shut up brat!” He snapped and attempted to grab the boy. But the kid had already run away with his high pitched giggling. “Stupid brat.” Jason muttered.

“That was Thorne Wilkins, my Aunt Florianne’s only child.” He said to Volker, “say, William, is Aunt Florianne here?

“Yes sir. She is in the Eastern Sunroom, having her afternoon tea with Madame Noelle, Madame Verona, Madame Seraphina, Madame Elissa, Miss Rosalia and Miss Lora.” William answered without missing a beat.

Jason blinked, “wait. Lora. Who was that again?” He asked.

“Your cousin Victor’s fiancee from Comos, sir.”

“Ah! The peasant!?” Jason exclaimed before clearing his throat. “I see. I’m surprised Madame Noelle...and also Madame Seraphina and Madame Elissa? Together?” He coughed, “uh...never mind. Thank you, William. Come, Johann.” He beckoned and entered into the sparkling vestibule of the main house, being immediately greeted by the words engraved atop the large and elaborate inner doors leading to the grand hallway.

Terris Venisti In Terram Ibis
From earth you have come, to earth you shall return.

“Wait one moment, Sir!” William called from one of the smaller doors on the other side of the vestibule, “my apologies for being remiss but, Sir Jason, your grandfather has traveled to Kantik a few days ago to discuss matters with your cousin over there. Madame Verona has once again declined to return to the estate in Pomah and your grandfather was hoping to talk one of your other cousins into assuming it instead. I assume he’d be back just in time for the Annual Amedea Ball, along with the rest of your relatives.”

“Oh. Oh, I see!” Jason responded, trying not to let his disappointment and nervousness show ”uh, well then I guess I should greet the ladies. Thank you, William. Please have a room prepared for my assistant. We might be staying for a while.”

He watched as William slipped out of sight and then turned to Volker with wide eyes. “My grandfather isn’t here...” He hissed, did his grandfather bring enough security with him? A person they could trust? Confound it! He should have asked William. “What do we do? I forgot it would be the Annual Ball next week and all of our relatives would be coming here! The grand matrons are here! They’d be able to sniff my lies from a mile away."

It was fine if it was just Madame Sophia...but with three more? Impossible.

He really wasn’t cut out for this life of subterfuge.
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Volker Faust
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Volker had a talent for judging a person's character. Growing up as he did, being able to read people was the difference between life and death.

Which food vendor would beat you if he caught you stealing, and which one would kill or cripple you.

Which lesser noble would hand over his purse if you mugged him, and which one would put up a fight.

Which man could you trust in a heist, and what man would betray you to the guards.

Suffice it to say, Volker didn't trust Jason at all. He was, what Volker liked to call, a cherry boy. Naive, gullible, and so insecure that he was upset by a child's mocking, as Volker witnessed first hand. Unfortunately, Volker was stuck with Jason so he would have to make do.

Volker wanted to scold Jason. Why had he left his grandfather to go warn the Lady Caithe, would not a messenger have sufficed? And if he insisted on going in person, why did he not leave instruction for word to be sent to him if his Grandfather did anything of note like LEAVE THE CITY! Volker desperately wanted to berate Jason for his incompetence, but instead took a moment to collect his feelings and flush them. Volker took a deep breath and exhaled. He would make do, he always did. So, instead of chewing out his only ally, Volker moved to comfort Jason instead.

"I'm sure your grandfather will be fine for now," Volker sighed, "We are a kingdom at war remember? I'm sure whatever security your father brings to protect against demons, will be enough to protect against an assassin. Kantik is several days away, even if we left now we would probably only run into him on his way back.

Let's make the most of the time we have until he gets back and continue our investigation. You mentioned that something called the Annual Amedea Ball is coming up? If this is indeed a plot from within your own family, that sounds like a likely target for any would-be assassins. Plenty of other family members to suspect, a crowd of guests to hide amongst, and not to mention the political statement it would make to kill the head of the Amedea house while he hosts the Annual Amedea ball. "

Volker blinked. The head of the Amedea house hosting the Annual Amedea ball... Now that was a tounge twister if he ever heard one.

"For now, let us do as you say and greet the ladies. Noble women are a great source of gossip and information after all" Volker said as he slicked back his hair, "Besides, I'm curious to meet these grand matrons~ I have a thing for powerful women. Haha"

Volker winked at Jason as a sign that he was kidding. Although he wasn't.

"You say they are good at sniffing out lies? Jason sir, you don't need to lie if you're charming. Lead the way sir, and remember, if you're asked something you don't know how to answer, you can always differ to your humble assistant."

Volker bowed as he said that last part. He smiled. This would be fun.

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Jason shot Volker a skeptical look but nodded nonetheless. He wondered if Volker had noticed but here in Western parts, things like the demons are only passing thoughts for the civilians. Even he would sometimes forget their existence despite the fact that Ileana, the Head of their House, had gone away for years in order to fight them and avenge her-- their, family.

They’d only remember when news of an attack that required a General’s presence would sweep into their peaceful city.

The realization made him guilty and a little bit uncomfortable.

“Alright.” Jason answered in a small voice and started walking again, pushing the large inner doors open to reveal a wide carpeted hallway. “I guess I should give you a quick overview of the ladies. First, Madame Noelle Hawkins. She was born in the Desrochers branch but married a cousin from the Maressa Branch. You know about the branches of our House right? Terra, Cielo and Maressa. Maressa is our Founder’s youngest child.

Madame Noelle only have one son, my cousin Victor. As you’ve heard earlier, Vic got engaged to a peasant woman from Comos, Miss Lora. His mother wasn’t very happy so I was surprised when I heard that she’s now having tea with the woman. I guess she very much wanted her son to come home since he’d moved with the woman to Comos.

Next is Madame Verona Desrochers-Stroms, she isn’t really old. She’s quite young in fact, only 31 years old if I remember correctly. She used to be the Head of our Pomah Estate but refused to go back since she lost her husband there when the demons first attacked. She also didn't want her children to live so close to danger, nor did she want to leave them here.

Madame Seraphina is Madame Noelle and Monsieur Antoine’s first cousin while Madame Elissa is her bastard half-sister, the only illegitimate member of the Amedea or at least...the only known one. They had a bad sibling rivalry in the past that caused Gadik and Kantik to separate from each other. It got better as they got older but sometimes they dig up old issues and become hostile with each other. If they seem hostile with each other’s pretty much normal.

Oh yeah! Madame Elissa is weird. She always brings this weird doll with her which was supposedly from her mother and she say it tells her things. Weird right? You’ll see when we get there I guess. People say her mother was a witch who bewitched Madame Seraphina’s father and that was also why he didn’t hesitate to take her in when she was left on his doorsteps.

And last but not the least is Miss Rosalia Neilson. She’s Madame Verona’s young niece and the only survivor of her family. Her parents used to run our Estate in Dadilis.” Jason exhaled as he finished, continuing to lead Volker through several hallways. He really wasn’t looking forward to seeing them.

Just as he was about to turn the final corner to the Eastern Sunroom, a man suddenly appeared in his way, causing him to stop abruptly. The man halted as well and Jason realized that it was none other than Arthur Desrochers, his favorite cousin. Not.

The man took one look at him and smirked. “Well, if it isn’t my beloved cousin, Jason! Back again so soon?” He drawled, “you seem to have left in a hurry last time. I thought you missed your mommy or something.” He snickered to himself before catching sight of Volker. “Who’s your friend?”

“Hilarious, Arthur.” Jason muttered then stiffened slightly when Arthur noticed Volker, “uh, this is my new assistant, Johann Goethe! He’s the reason why I left in such a hurry last time. Um, Johann, this is Arthur Desrochers, uh...Monsieur Antoine’s only grandchild.”

“And future Head of the Amedea House, mind you.” Arthur said with a smirk. “It’s only a matter of time before Ileana caves in and marries me. She still cares for our House after all.”

“You wish.” Jason responded with a glare.

“Who did she take to that fancy military graduation ball again? That’s right, me. Not you.” Arthur gloated with an insufferable smirk Jason wanted so badly to wipe off. With his fist. “Besides, her marrying me would solve all your...problems with your grandpapa. Shouldn’t you be happy?”

“I seem to recall talks of her ditching you not even an hour later at the ball. For a lowly peasant.” Jason answered with a satisfied smirk, ignoring Arthur's jab about his grandfather and the assassination scares.

That wiped the smirk on Arthur’s face. “Tsk. Talks are just that. Talks.” He hedged, shifting his attention to Volker with a wondering look on his face. “Hmm...You seem familiar. It’s strange, it feels like I’ve seen you from somewhere though this is the first time I’ve heard of you.” His eyes narrowed in suspicion as he mentally checked his memories for any wanted criminals this man might resemble. After all, he does take the time to look through wanted criminal posters unlike this stupid cousin of his who might have possibly allowed a criminal into their House.
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Madame Noelle Hawkin and her son Victor. Victor is engaged to a commoner, Miss Lora. They were off the Desrocher Branch and the Maressa Branch. Madame Verona Desrochers-Stroms, former head of the Pmah Estate. Madame Seraphina, firs cousin to Madame Noelle and Monsieur Antoine. Madame Elissa is Madame Seraphina's half-sister. Madame Elissa was crazy and had a doll. The Miss Rosalia Neilson, Madame Verona's young niece...

Volker wrote all this down in the ledger he was carrying. He was using his own form of shorthand that was almost illegible to anyone else who would try to read it. You could never be too careful after all, especially since he was undercover. He quickly reviewed the names and notes he had written down to make sure it all made sense.

Hmmm... Wait, Jason mentioned a Monsieur Antoine? Who the hell is that?

Volker thought to ask Jason, but they were interrupted by the arrival of another member of the Amedea house. He was a young man, around Jason's age perhaps? They knew each other, but more than that there seemed to be some tension between them. Were they rivals? Enemies?
Jason then made the introductions and Volker learned that the man was Arthur Desrochers, Monsieur Antoine's only grandchild. Ah, another Desrochers. Another suspect. Volker would be sure to add his name to the ledger later, but for now, he greeted Arthur with a bow.

Arthur barely acknowledged Voker at first. Typical noble. Instead, he prattled on about how he would be the next head of house after he married Ileana. Volker smirked. The General Amedea was far too much woman for a spoiled little noble brat like Arthur. She would tear him apart. To think that there were people who thought of her as just another fragile noble lady was hilarious. They clearly had never seen the General in combat.

As loathsome as Arthur was, Volker didn't see him as a strong suspect. While Arthur was indeed ambitious, he didn't seem like he had the stomach for plotting an assassination. He seemed like a spoiled brat, so he would probably just wait and do nothing, expecting power to simply be handed to him as his birthright. The fool. Then again, as the Lady Caithe had said, the Desrochers were a craft bunch. They couldn't be dismissed out of hand so soon. Volker was drawn out of his stream of thought as Arthur's focus shifted on to him.
“Hmm...You seem familiar. It’s strange, it feels like I’ve seen you from somewhere though this is the first time I’ve heard of you.”

Drag me to hell... Volker thought. Volker recognized Arthur as Ileana's escort to the graduation ball! Damn, he had been there that night! Volker simply smiled and bowed again. It was fine, enough time had passed and he was also in disguise. Arthur would not be able to place him without context. Regardless, Volker had to change the subject. He figured he would direct the conversation towards Arthur's favourite topic: which was no doubt himself.

"Good morning my lord," Volker replied, speaking with an elavated, lofty pitch in his voice, "While I would be flattered if you remembered me, I have not had the unique pleasure of making your acquaintance before today, my lord. Once again, I am Johann Goethe, at your service. I've been tasked by the Lady Caithe to assist her son with the preparations for the Amedea Annual Ball as his chaperone and assistant. Unfortunately, my Lord Jason has yet to procure an escort for the ball. The Lady Caithe worries about her son. "

Volker was painting Jason in a slightly pitiable light. He hoped that Arthur would find this embarrassing little tidbit from Jason's mummy to be amusing enough to stop from wondering where he had seen Volker before.

"But I am most impressed to hear that my lord Arthur was the Lady Ileana Amedea's escort. Will she be accompanying you to the Amedea Ball as well? If not, I'm sure there are many fine ladies that are simply lining up to be chosen by you, my lord arthur."

Volker gave a dramatic sigh.

"The Lady Caithe wishes that the same could be said for my lord Jason. Sadly, finding him an escort has proved challenging. Please, My lord Arthur, perhaps you could put in a good word for my lord Jason. I am sure the Lady Caithe would be ever so grateful, to speak nothing of my own gratitude."

It was a classic re-direction technique. By praising Arthur and subtly belittling Jason, Volker hoped to stroke Arthur's ego. People tended to ask fewer questions when they were being flattered. Volker also framed the flattery as a part of his duty, which made it seem more genuine and less like brown nosing. This was not the first time Volker had to talk his way out of a conviction, and at this rate it wouldn't be his last.

"For now however, I'm afraid My lord Jason is on a very tight schedual." Added briskly as he discreetly nudged Jason forward, "My lord Jason wishes to greet the grand matrons and perhaps ask for their advice regarding the ball. Isn't that right my lord Jason? So we really must be off. However, once again, it was a pleasure to meet you my lord Arthur."

Wrap it up, Volker thought. Don't give them a chance to contradict or question you. Smile, be polite, but be insistent and push on. Don't stop moving. Don't let them get a good look. Stay still too long and people start to notice things, their minds start to wander. Always be planning your next move. This is how the game was played.

Volker felt a real rush. He had forgotten what it was like, the thrill of the heist. While he wasn't actually here to do anything criminal, being undercover still had the same kind of thrill that being a criminal had. The best part was, Volker was completely justified in his actions, and was in fact doing a service to the kingdom. What a laugh, Volker should have become a dog of the military years ago. He was still a thug, only now he was a thug for the King and his Generals.

Volker would apologise to Jason later. For now, he hoped that Jason would get the hint and keep moving. Volker secretly nudged Jason in the back one more time for good measure.
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Jason froze when Arthur started looking at Volker as though he might recognize him. Arthur might be an insufferable bastard but his mind was as sharp as an Altrusian Blade. Loathe as he was to admit, but it was the reason why Arthur was the top choice to be Ileana’s husband by most of the members of their House, including Ileana’s parents themselves.

He was dependable. He was smart and he knows everything there is to know about managing their House.

Jason pursed his lips as Volker tried to redirect Arthur’s attention by subtly putting him down. But it was something Jason was used to hearing so it wasn’t much of an issue. It was just annoying to hear a stranger say such things about him.

Arthur let out a laugh. “Ahhh, did Lady Caithe finally admit defeat and accepted that her son is...” Arthur glanced at Jason and then cleared his throat, “never mind. Don’t worry, Jason! I will be sure to put in a good word for you to my lady friends.” He snickered, “after all, you are still a part of this House and it would be mighty embarrassing if you show up without a partner in a party our very own House is hosting!

As for me, I would have loved to escort Lady Ileana but I fear she would once again be declining to attend this year’s ball. This would make it the fourth year since she last attended.” Arthur looked at Voker for a moment longer then shook his head. “Very well then. Don’t let me keep you, the ladies are about to finish their tea so you better hurry.”

Jason nodded, mindful of the nudges Volker was giving him. He stepped aside and let Arthur pass, watching until the man turned around the corner and was out of sight.

“Well,” Jason paused and cleared his throat, “that went well...” He finished. “Let’s get going.” He continued to walk towards the sunroom and sighed in relief when he saw figures within through the crystal glass doors. “They’re still in.” He alerted and then knocked on the door before opening it.

Jason blinked, all the ladies he expected were present but there was an additional person he was surprised to see. “Val?” He called out but caught himself, bowing low, “apologies for interrupting your afternoon. I’ve just arrived and I was told the Madames are here.”

“Jason!” His Aunt Florianne greeted, “we were just finishing up actually, but tell me, is your mother with you? And who’s this?” She asked, flicking her gaze to Volker curiously.

“A man shrouded with darkness.” A smooth old voice answered. “That is what my Delphina tells me.” Jason froze as his eyes fell on an old woman stroking the thick black hair of a beautiful porcelain doll. They say that the doll’s hair actually belonged to the Madame’s mother.

All eyes fell on him and Volker and Jason let out a strangled laugh. “E-everyone, meet my new assistant, Joann---Johann! Johann Goethe!” He stuttered, coughing slightly and then smiled apologetically. “My mother got him for me...”

“A new assistant? A new person. A stranger here in our home?” A clipped and unimpressed voice piped up. It was Madame Seraphina. “Caithe thought it was a good idea? Now of all times? When we have all these talks about assassination and the ball coming up? What was your mother thinking?” She clicked her tongue.

“Bah! Pipe down you old coots!” Madame Noelle said, waving a hand. “Sit down, gentlemen.” Jason hurriedly sat down, gesturing for Volker to do the same. “Now,” Noelle stared at Volker, “who are you and where did you come from? What made you...qualified to be young Jason’s assistant, hm?”
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As Jason bowed to greet the ladies, so did Volker. Left leg extended, right hand flat against his breast, head down, chin to chest. Confident, graceful, with just a touch of flourish. Volker was starting to get the hang of high society. It was only natural that the ladies would be curious as to who Volker was, he was prepared for the scrutiny. He only wished that Jason would relax a little, the poor boy was so worried that Volker was likely to become nervous by proxy. For now, however, he kept his composure, even as Madame Elissa spoke.

Or at least, Volker assumed it was Madame Elissa. She was stroking the hair of a creepy looking doll, that pretty much matched Jason's description of her. As for the other ladies who spoke, they didn't give their names so Volker wasn't quite sure who was who yet. They were suspicious of him, which again was understandable given their current situation. Perhaps the rumors that the Lady Caithe spoke of were stronger now than Volker had been led to believe. Of course, skepticism and scrutiny were old friends of Volker. This wasn't the first time he had to win over a room full of strangers[1].

Volker took a seat next to Jason as instructed. Poor Jason seemed terrified of these women, no doubt these Grand Matrons held great influence within the Amedea Family. Volker was doing just fine on the other hand. Whenever someone was trying to be intimidating, Volker would just picture them naked. Volker imagined what the ladies looked liked beneath their frocks; some of them looked rather nice, but the older women looked weak and pathetic. Especially the creepy one with the doll, Volker would be sure to keep her clothes on in his mind.

"As my lord Jason said, I am Johann Goethe, at your service~" Volker replied, "And may I say what an honor it is to be received by the grand matrons. I am more than happy to answer your questions, madame.

As to who I am, I am a relation of the Cotterill family who is under the employ of Lady Caithe. That said, I grew up in the Sun Village for a time, before pursuing studies here in Ponomy."

Volker knew that his comrade Rylen and his family worked for Ileana, and as he could recall Rylen's family was huge. Who would suspect a distant cousin to a family of farmers? Also what noble would possibly know or care to keep track of the family tree of such a common family? Volker had also set his back story in Ponomy, which he was most familiar with. The best lies contained some part of the truth afterall.

"My studies were mostly in music and poetry. I learned how to sing and how to play the piano. To help pay for my studies I would often perform at dinner parties and the like. I was hired by the Lady Caithe as an assistant to my Lord Jason, in part to also act as a tutor to instruct him in the fine arts of high society. Music, Dance, Poetry. Her ladyship hopes that such talents will help him to land a most suitable bride. Since he is already so handsome, imagine what a catch he would be with such talents as well~"

Volker winked at Jason. He figured he owed him that last part after their run in with Arthur. Volker was all smiles and pleasantries on the outside, but all he saw before him was a room full of suspects. Just what did these ladies know? Who among them had a motive? Did any of them have a connection to the tall women, with wavy green hair and purple eyes???

[1] = A Thug in Ponomy City
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Jason’s eyes widened a fraction and he had to stop himself from whirling towards Volker. Of all the blazing covers to choose it had to be the damn Cotterills!

Perhaps he should have asked him about his background story earlier…

He took a cookie from the platter meekly and started nibbling on it to hide his reaction.

“Oh really now?” Seraphina asked, raising an eyebrow. “You’re related to the Cotterills. The family of that...boy Ileana seems to be so fond of?” The old woman pursed her lips and she glanced at Jason suspiciously. Jason did his best to look unruffled though he was shaking on the inside.

A dainty giggle sounded off beside Jason. “I certainly can’t blame her.” Rosalia said with a titter, “I saw him at the ball. He has a certain appeal. Though it was a shame he had a mar on his face. There were other better looking men though, I wonder what she saw in him?”

“Whether they are in a relation is neither confirmed nor denied.” Valerio spoke up, sipping on his tea.

“I suppose you’d say that, Val.” Rosalia answered with a small laugh, “you’re still hoping to win Lady Ileana’s hand, aren’t you?” She smiled sweetly at his grimace.

“It makes me wonder...why did Sylvana and Melchiorre sponsor the boy and sent him to school?” Verona said. “Did they actually mean to betroth him to Ileana? Was he the man the gossiping nobles were talking about years ago? About young Ileana already having an illicit affair with a peasant?” She pursed her lips in distaste.

“Bah! A lowly peasant?” Noelle grumbled before shooting her future daughter-in-law a wan smile, “no offense my dear, but really...our Head of House...!” Lora smiled back just as wanly, her hands curled into fists at her lap. “I could accept the fact that Sylvana married a commoner, at least Melchiorre was rich coming from a family of high ranking merchants! But this? A lowly peasant boy? Our very own serf? I see no advantage to it whatsoever! Ileana is going too far this time!”

“I didn’t have problems with my husband.” Florianne muttered. Her husband had been the son of one of their own fisherman.

“And that’s why you weren’t given your own estate to manage, m’dear.” Seraphina bit back wryly. “Still, you’re right, Verona. Why did they went through the trouble of sending a peasant to such a privileged school no less? Peasants don’t need to go to school, they only need to know how to plant and harvest, fish or hunt. Nothing else.” She looked at Volker with a glint in her eyes.

“Because of this development, we had the Cotterills...investigated down to the very last fruit of their branch. Who knows, they might have had distant relations to the other noble houses? Perhaps that was why our previous Head invested so much on this boy.” Seraphina clicked her tongue, “but alas! The family and their relatives are dirt poor through and through.” She smirked, “and I feel I must inform you, Mr. Johann, the Cotterills work for my dearest sister Elissa here, not Caithe...and,” she paused, “...this is also the first time I have heard of a Goethe being related to them.”
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From the look on Jason's face, it seemed as though Volker had made a mistake in associating himself with the Cotterills. Confound it all, he had been over-confident. He should have prepared better. Jason had not been exaggerating when he was worried about meeting the Grand Matrons. Volker thought he would be pulling the wool over the eyes of a few dull nobles, but these old bags were as sharp as they came, and they were about to put the screws to Volker...

As Jason took a cookie from the platter, Volker poured them both a cup of tea. He smiled and gently stirred his brew as the woman prattled on about the history between the Cotterills and the Amedea house. While this information wasn't exactly helpful with regards to his investigation, it did give him some insight into Rylen's relationship with the General. Volker wondered if Rylen was indeed the boy Ileana seems to be so fond of. Volker smiled again, imagine if Rylen could have heard that for himself. He'd be a pink, blushing mess no doubt.

The women took turns talking, interrupting one another, and so forth. So far none of them had introduced themselves as Volker had. Rather rude, but perhaps they just assumed that the help would already be familiar with them. Rather self-important, but then again such a thing was to be expected of nobles.

One of them mentioned seeing Rylen at the ball. Damn. So some of them had been there too? Hopefully, they did not recognize him. Volker resisted the urge to suck his teeth at the mar on his face comment though. Volker had covered his scars up today with makeup to appear less recognizable, but he still took offense. He had even more scars than Rylen did. He had always thought them to be a badge of honor, a symbol of his hardships and how tough he was. Apparently, these dainty nobles were of a different mid.

But who was this Val character? Jason had called out his name when they had first arrived, but had failed to mention him when he was giving Volker a run down of all the ladies. One of the ladies mentioned something about Val hoping to win the General Amedea's hand, was he another Amedea bachelor like Arthur? If he was hoping to take over as head of the Amedea's house, then he could very well be a suspect. Volker made a mental note to ask Jason about him later.

The ladies continued to talk amongst themselves. One said something about lowly peasants and Volker raised an eyebrow. It seemed that the ladies all had different opinions on the matter of keeping marriages within the nobility. Volker felt as though this was all building up to something, but couldn't quite figure it out yet. Then, one of the crueler looking ladies shifted her gaze back onto Volker, a sinister gleam in her eye.

[Uh oh... she looks like she could be trouble./b] Volker thought to himself. Something was coming, he'd have to think on his feet if he wanted to keep up the ruse. Die with the lie, that was always the first rule of a good con. Never give up if there is even a chance you can snake your way out of the truth again.

“but alas! The family and their relatives are dirt poor through and through.” She smirked, “and I feel I must inform you, Mr. Johann, the Cotterills work for my dearest sister Elissa here, not Caithe...and,” she paused, “...this is also the first time I have heard of a Goethe being related to them.”

Elissa was her sister... So then this must be Madame Seraphina addressing him them. Volker had thought the Cotterill's family tapestry to be a confusion mess that no one cared about, but apparently, it had been the subject of a thorough investigation. Bad luck, but then again these things happened. He took the risk, and it didn't pan out. He wasn't burned yet. There was still room to finesse his way out. Volkers heart was a flutter. This really was a thrill. Volker had to keep his wits about him, he'd get careless again if he started having too much fun.

"Oh my apologies Seraphina, you are quite right. I'm afraid I misspoke." Volker smiled, setting his teacup down,"It was the Lady Caithe that hired me, and I was referring to her personal maid Marlene Cotterill. The rest of the family is of course in Gadik."

Volker paused to sip his tea.

"Pardon my blunder your ladyship. Also with regards to the name Goethe, I fully understand your confusion. You see Goethe is actually a name I took on self as a musician. Not to much benefit it would seem, I guess I still have a ways to go as an artist if Madame Seraphina has never heard of me, haha~"

A subtle compliment, couldn't hurt. However it looked as though Madame Seraphina would be a tough customer. He couldn't rely on the same old tricks he'd use to befuddle most people. He had to up his game. Volker looked to Jason. Relying on Jason would be a risk, but Volker would have to take that chance.

"Ah but, don't take my word for it. Just ask My lord Jason." Volker smiled as he gestured to Jason with his free hand, "He knows all about my family~"

Volker prayed that Jason had some insider knowledge that might drudge up an appropriate family name to use. If not?... well Volker always had plan B.

Either way. Things were getting off track. Volker was here to investigate rumors of assassination. Not to cluck with a bunch of hens. Volker hoped Jason realized this too. If the matrons didn't have any information, then they were wasting their time here.

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Edited by Volker Faust, Jun 9 2017, 08:52 AM.
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“H--! Oh. Y-yes, that’s right.” Jason smiled tremulously towards Seraphina, taking a sip of his tea. He really didn’t want to make known to anyone within this room that his mother had been harboring a Cotterill, one who had run away from home at that, but it seems that it was out of the bag now. “Johann here, Marlene’s husband.”

“What?” Seraphina leaned back, a frown marring her face and making her wrinkles more pronounced despite the heavy layers of makeup caked on her face. “YOU were hiding her? And this man is the father of her child? Elissa! Did you know about this?”

The younger sister merely smiled secretively, “I Marlene has been staying with you.” She looked over to Jason and then to Volker and then back to Jason, “her family has been quite worried, worried enough to come to me. So that was what my Delphina meant when she told me that you are shrouded in darkness. You were the man Marlene had been keeping a secret.” Elissa shot Jason a secretive smile again, stroking her doll’s hair. Jason resisted the urge to loosen his tie in nervousness. Madame Elissa always had this air about her that made him feel she knew all about his deepest darkest secrets. He wondered if others felt the same way.

“I don’t care about your weird divining-with-your-doll-hullabaloo-thing!” Seraphina snapped, “you knew about this, didn’t you? And you!” She turned to Jason again, “what were you hoping to accomplish by harboring her? Hmm? Were you and your mother hoping to gain approval from Ileana by keeping her lover’s only sister?”

Jason spluttered, “no! That doesn’t make sense!” just as Valerio grumbled, “he isn’t her lover.”

Rosalia giggled and Florianne rubbed her temple.

“Hmm, so that’s why we could never find out what happened to this woman.” Noelle spoke. “Someone else had been covering her tracks for her. Why go that far?”

“Because. Caithe wants Jason to win Ileana’s hand that bad.” Seraphina said coldly, shooting Jason a glare.

“You keep saying that, Madame Seraphina, but aren’t you interested in marrying one of your grandsons to Ileana as well?” Florianne said, raising an eyebrow.

“Indeed. Among us here, you seem to be the most interested in Ileana’s love life.” Valerio added. “Even going as far as to have this Rylen boy’s entire family tree investigated. You seem to want your branch to posses the seat of power that bad...”

Seraphina narrowed her eyes. “What are you implying boy? And don’t pretend none of you haven’t looked into this Cotterill boy as well.”

“Shouldn’t it be fine now? That boy seems to be doing well in the Training Order. He’d become a rich and powerful man in no time. That is, if he didn’t die. But that would solve your problems then wouldn’t it?” Florianne said, trying to soothe the sudden tension her brother had knowingly kindled. She glared at Valerio who glared back at her.

“, where is Madame Sophia? Why didn’t she join you?” Jason asked, trying to change the topic’s direction. He wasn’t sure how a soldier from Training Order would feel upon hearing nobles talking about their deaths like it was nothing but a weather forecast. “And does anyone know if my grandfather brought a retinue of trusted guards with him?”

“He did. My husband went with him as well so don’t worry Jason.” Florianne answered with a smile.

“I did invite Sophia, but she had important matters to discuss with her husband.” Seraphina answered, “I wonder what was so important that it had to be discussed right now?”

“They are...wary.” Elissa commented, “that is what my Delphina says.” She turned to look at Jason. “Don’t you have anything else more important to ask? A woman who brought death. So close to death. She isn’t here anymore. My Delphina told me.”

Jason’s blood almost curdled in his veins. His breath hitched and he immediately stood up, ignoring the questions the others around the table threw at him. “Well, it was good seeing all of you! I should go and see Monsieur Antoine and Madame Sophia to let them know I’d brought a new assistant! Goodbye!” He said hurriedly and walked towards the door. “Come Johann!”

“What was that supposed to mean?” He heard Valerio ask, he presumed to Elissa just as he went out the door and walked a few paces. Then he turned and waited for Volker, praying that none of the others had come after him. But only Volker had come out of the door and he sighed in relief.

“So that woman was really an assassin!” He said in panic. “But why does Madame Elissa know? Do you think she was the one who...” He shook his head, fearing that the old woman would hear him. He couldn’t decide whether to believe she had some sort of divining powers or was simply very good with espionage.
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"I don't know how much faith we can put into the ramblings of a mad woman talking to a doll~"Volker shrugged, "I can't say I believe in such a thing a clairvoyance or divination, but it could simply be the way her delusions process information. Madame Elissa may indeed know something. Whether it is just more rumours or something sinister I cannot say."

Volker stroked his new beard thoughtfully. The general's family was indeed filled with more than its fair share of drama. It made Volker's job all the more complicated.

"As it stands, Madame Elissa is a suspect... but I am interested in Madame Seraphina and that other man that was in there. What was his name again?" Volker asked, he was referring to Valerio.

They both seemed to have a motive for wanting the Lord Ciro Arbore killed, and they both seemed fully capable of committing such crime. Maybe not personally, but Volker figured one of them could be behind the hired assassin that Madame Elissa's doll had alluded to. Was it the green haired woman Jason had mentioned?

"A woman who brought death... So close to death... meh~" Volker shrugged again, "That could be the assassin, but then again Madame Elissa could maybe have just been talking about a sick old lady or something. That's the problem with fortune telling, they are often vague and left open to interpretation. It's a great scam, but not super helpful in an investigation."

Volker then reached out and placed a hand on Jason's shoulder.

"You did pretty well in there, but I sense that I've made some trouble for you and your mother..." Volker said apologetically, "I'm sorry if I've upset things. From now on I'll confer with you before saying anything risky. If anyone asks after our whispering, say that I'm just a lowly peasant asking you for permission to speak."

Volker stopped to fix Jason's collar and to brush some fluff from his shoulder.

"I'll try and make things up to you. I promise to do my best to protect your grandfather, but beyond that let's say I owe you one. A big one. Feel free to call it in anytime, but for now, let's get going. Didn't you say something about meeting with Monsieur Antoine and Madame Sophia? Shall we?"

Volker bowed slightly, gesturing with his hands as if to say 'after you, my lord'.
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Jason started walking as he pondered Volker’s words until he calmed himself. “Er...don’t worry about me and mother.” He said dismissively. “My mother can hold herself against whatever our relatives throws at her. Besides...I’m sure stuff about this Rylen and Ileana will turn out to be nothing...” He trailed off and his brows furrowed. Jason had forgotten but this man should be familiar, perhaps even good friends with Rylen Cotterill…

He wanted to ask what Volker knew about Ileana and that man’s relationship but...he wasn’t quite ready to hear...if it turned out the rumors were true...

Instead, Jason cleared his throat. “Erm...Well, do you really think so? About Madame Elisa I mean. I...guess you could be right. She has always been an oddball with weird things to least, that’s the general consensus.... As far as I’ve heard, she doesn’t really do much when it comes to getting wealth or power. She even married a farmer and she let her only son marry another commoner...

As for Madame Seraphina...she’s a really good suspect aside from Monsieur Antoine and his wife. At 68 years old, she’s actually the oldest member of Terra-Desrochers branch but she just got pushed aside as the head of their branch because Monsieur Antoine’s father had been the eldest while her father was the youngest. And she’s a woman.” Never mind the fact that their house had been ruled by women ever since after the second Head because of the weird circumstance that plagued the Main Branch’s genes. For some reason, the first two children born were always female. Always.

Jason shook his head slightly to clear his thought.

“...And what else? Oh right...I already told you but Madame Seraphina is Madame Elisa’s older half-sister and they had a bad sibling rivalry in the past that caused Gadik to be divided and created Kantik. I don’t know why but for some reason, despite being an illegitimate, their father seemed to have preferred Madame Elisa over Madame Seraphina. Being the only legitimate daughter, Madame Seraphina should have had gotten everything their father had but instead their father divided his wealth and the land he was given between her and her bastard half-sister.

Naturally, they couldn’t see eye to eye and Madame Seraphina, who married the brother of Ileana’s grandfather, petitioned to separate from her sister and create a village of her own, which is now known as Kantik.” Jason sighed. “Madame Seraphina also has a couple grandsons of marriageable age left. It’s no secret that she wants one of them to be married to Ileana. Pretty much all bachelor within our House wants to win her hand, even me.” Jason admitted. “It’s just something we nobles tend to do in order to preserve our wealth and to ensure that no undeserving man could destroy our House and everything we’ve worked for, whether intentional or not.” He explained, though he knew he didn't have to. It was none of Volker's business.

Jason paused, of course some of his cousins probably had other reasons why they wanted to win her hand. To immediately get to the highest rank in the continent barring royalty, or they actually had feelings for her. Like him. But Volker didn’t need to know that.

Coughing, Jason continued, “as for that man? He’s Valerio Arbore II and he’s my uncle...despite the fact we’re the same age. He’s Aunt Florianne’s brother who’s a decade younger than her.” He frowned and turned his head to look at Volker, “you don’t think he’s a suspect right? He doesn’t really have a reason to kill grandfather. We’re the same branch!” He felt a bit insulted at the thought.

He and Val had been close since they were children and while Val had never voiced it out loud, Jason knew he also had genuine feelings for Ileana. If Ileana were to choose anyone else aside from him in their House, he’d rather she chose Val instead of that arrogant prick Arthur.

“It’s just impossible. It can’t be him.” Jason said firmly. “Madame Seraphina on the other well as Monsieur Antoine, maybe even Arthur...they have clear motives. Monsieur Antoine especially. He got pushed aside in favor of my grandfather after all.”

They turned around a corner. Jason hoped to see a servant to inquire where Antoine or Sophia might be but no such luck.

“---mercenary even good?!” A voice hissed from within a room with an ajar door. Jason stopped suddenly. He recognized that voice to be Madame Sophia’s! He was lucky after all. He glanced at Volker with wide eyes before tiptoeing closer to the door. “The ball is next week and---!!!”

“Pipe down!” That was Monsieur Antoine…

Jason’s eyes widened and he immediately backed away when hurried footsteps approached the door. A second later, the door opened wide and Monsieur Antoine appeared, followed by his wife who suddenly looked nervous upon seeing him.

“Jason.” The elder man greeted, “you’re back?” Then his eyes landed on Volker and his eyes darkened, “who are you?”
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