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Old Apr 19th, 2015, 08:15 PM
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1. Catch As Catch Can

- Act I -


Scene 1. The Funeral.
(Sunday, 23 MarchPharast, 4689)

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Spring's early arrival has painted the barrow downs in a riot of color, flowers erupting from lush grass like the dreams of the dead. A gentle breeze stirs the air; birds flit from monument to tree and back again, chirping with a cheeriness entirely inappropriate to the occasion.

Niccolo Ungliano is being laid to rest this day, and mourners in black press in around his mausoleum, a black blot of blight on the idyllic landscape. Westcrown's dramatis personae are all represented; even there, across the downs, in a gilt carriage, the newly appointed mayor has put in an appearance. Niccolo was hardly beloved, but his life's work touched many deeply. He was a powerhouse among the city's cultural elite. Even now, his charred remains interred in this baroque monstrosity of a crypt, the man can command an audience.

Swathed in black, the city's society struggles to absorb its loss. Within the gathered elite of Westcrown's high society, influence waxes and wanes. New players emerge. Existing masters unfurl fresh gambits. All vie for the audiences that Ungliano must now relinquish.

To a canny eye, the disposition of the crowd reflects this grand game like pieces on a game board. There, the soprano Maria Ungliano, a widow now at the scandalous age of 23, is surrounded by a bevy of sympathetic souls, all offering comfort. Their efforts are apparently quite fruitful; the widow appears engaged, even entertained by their conversation. No tears have smeared her impeccable makeup today.

Giancarlo d'Aurora stands beside her, flush with drink even before noon. He is heir apparent to the d'Aurora estate and a well-established rake. His fondness for opera is exceeded on.y by his love of wine. And gambling. And women. A stake in Ungliano's empire might well underwrite his lifestyle, especially if, as has been rumored, his family may be cutting him off.

On her other side, Alphonse du Repree leans in to offer commentary. A paralictor with the Order of the Rack out of Citadel Rivad, du Repree's interest in Westcrown's arts community has been met with some suspicion. After all, it was not so long ago that the Order shut down a performance of Arodus Heat. The paralictor's sense of fashion is impeccable, though, rich textiles with fitted cuts and a touch of embellishing lace. His presence at the widow's elbow suggests earnestness, or at least determination.

On the opposite side of Pharasma's priest, Horace Blumenfeld has his own entourage. A one-time business partner to Niccolo, Blumenfeld has more recently been a friendly competitor. Arguing with him now, Yvette Lombardo, a known factor for the Council of Thieves and a figure on the art scene herself. Yvette's works on canvas and in clay are prized for their aesthetic brutality.

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The hearse arrives. Pall bearers remove the coffin from the coach and begin the processional. The crowd parts; at the far end, the Pharasmin priest begins intoning her rites, her voice rising, sibilant and strong above the MarchPharast breeze.

The gathering's cacophony fades to a susurrus, and in a sea of unbelievers, the proper forms are observed. Mostly. Messages are passed on pointed glances, even as Niccolo's remains are deposited into the crypt. Whole statements are written in the way the crowd gives Dimitri Drovenge a wide berth.

And then the affair is over, and the crowd begins to melt away. Coachmen stand with doors held open; socialites hold their skirts clear of the wet spring soil.

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Then, a ploy that draws all eyes. Vincent Rambaudi, a captain of dottari, lately famous for his role in the capture of the necromancer and mass murderer Stephanos the Black, approaches Drovenge.

"You have nerve, Drovenge. I give you that. Why do you befoul this occasion with your presence? What do you think you are doing here?" The cop's long slender index finger pokes at the singer's chest. "I should bring you in. Bring you in and let the inquisitors have a run at you."

From a different direction, Piotr Lansdowne approaches, his pace quickening as the dottori's words carry forth. Lansdowne runs The Hedge and Roses, a theatre on the southern end of Rego Pena. He's also the man paying Darcy Wren's retainer.

"Now just you hold on, captain!" Whether Lansdowne deliberately uses the wrong rank or not is hard to know, but it certainly hits Rambaudi like a slap. "Just because it looks bad, doesn't mean it is. You dottari, always taking the easy answer. Get your hands off the man. He works for me, and I believe him innocent!"

Silence descends upon the cemetery at last, not even a circumspect murmur issuing from the gathered mourners. Each of you, for your own reasons, have found your way to this funeral today. Now aren't you glad you did?
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Old Apr 19th, 2015, 10:23 PM
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Should I lift one eyebrow? Yes...that would be the proper affect. Probably ought to throw in a faint disapproving curve of a frown too. Yes that's just about right. Of course all of those thoughts went through Tryste's head in a flicker of a moment as he waited his turn to offer his condolences to the widow. And equally "of course", the faint frown and raised eyebrow were not aimed at the Widow Ungliano. Instead they were pointed obliquely at the boorish civil servant who had broken the panorama with his own pedestrian dramatics. My deepest regrets and sincere sympathies for your loss dearest Madame Ungliano. I am sure the loss of all here pales by comparison to your own despair. It is good that you have strong supporters about you! And very insightful to keep Masters Aurora and Dupree nearby for security. It would be an unbearable blow to our drab little community of artists to lose such a lovely patroness after this recent devastation.

Perhaps one or two of those nearest the conversation winced at the socially awkward phrasing of the vapid and vacuous thespian Trystienne. After all in just a few seconds he had trodden all over any open wounds of half a dozen people as well as voicing thoughts better left unsaid. If anything his oblivious commentary generated some headshaking in most rather than a great deal of admiration. Still seemingly unaware of the result of those words, the acteur strolled over towards the newest action and watched keenly as the dottori and Piotr exchanged barbed commentary with and about Dimitir Drovenge. With his eyes locked on the spectacle, Tryste seemed to not even notice who he had leaned near to whisper in a voice just barely too loud and audible for several feet around. Oh this is awkward! I mean whether Drovenge did the deed or not is this truly the place to bring it up? How perfectly dreadful for the widow and friends of poor scorched Niccolo! I wonder if Dimitri DID off the old boy and if not...who did?? Yes a pretty situation indeed...hmm...there might be a play in this story eh? But which part the meatier?? The victim, the killer, or the dutiful if loutish lawman?
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Old Apr 20th, 2015, 01:15 PM
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The crowd parts like...well, not entirely unlike...a curtain before the first scene of a play, to reveal Jakob Wikke. But this simile, if it may be so dignified as such (for curtains, it must be admitted, generally do not curse as much as the people Jakob has shoved aside), would be entirely lost upon Master Wikke, whose rage is focuses upon one Dimitri Drovenge.

"Is this the bastard, then? Is this the murderer?" Jakob's fists are clenched, trembling, knuckles white with tension. He takes a step forward, raising one of the aforementioned fists. "There a reason, then, he's not dancing at the end of a rope?" Another step, and his second fist rises to join its brother. "She burned, you piece of filth, and she had nothing to do with you or your damned vendetta. Nothing!"

A third step. Jakob is all but snarling. "You're going to pray for flames yourself, before I'm through with you!"
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Old Apr 21st, 2015, 02:55 AM
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Darcy spends the service propped up against a tree, her dark eyes wandering from one notable face to another. Not a wet eye in the house. Lucky for Niccolo, this show played better with an obstructed view. She remembers most of the words, bows her head a half-second or so after everyone else, and only thumbs the flask in her pocket two times. Okay, three.

Like everything else in this town, it goes alright until the law falls headfirst into it. Darcy rubs at an eye with the heel of her hand and sighs into her forearm. It had to be Rambaudi. She shoves off the tree and ambles forward, patting Trystienne on the back as she passes. "Please, stop helping so much."

Stepping into the middle of the unhappy quartet -- bruiser, benefactor, suspect and flatfoot -- she digs into her pockets and gives Rambaudi the kind of smile that doesn't keep the company of other, more seemly smiles. "Knuckles here brings up an interesting point, Vince. To the casual observer, that sounded an awful lot like an accusation." She scratches at her temple and cranes her neck, looking around.

"But the rest of your pack's missing, and if you were going to formally charge someone with a crime you'd bring them along, wouldn't you? And if you were going to do that, you would be sure and I mean real sure that person'd committed the crime. Why, it breaks my heart that someone might think you're posturing just to keep the shine on your apple." One hand settles on her chest, and she squeezes it into a fist for emphasis.

"Course, we're all feeling a bit emotional after the service. No one'd blame you if you got overwhelmed and said some things you didn't mean."
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Old Apr 22nd, 2015, 12:14 AM
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The ritual, he knew enough to fake it, but his skin itches beneath his tunic where the symbol of Shelyn presses against it. Don't go out, they'd said. Don't go to the funeral. There was no way in all the hells that Dimitri was going to live his life as a recluse. To not make a showing at the service would be admitting something far worse than murder. It would be admitting that he could be shamed into silence. If there was one thing people knew about Dimitri Drovenge it was that he has no shame.

Why do you befoul this occasion with your presence? There were the words he'd expected. He'd never found a friend among the dottari but now there was more suspicion than neutral glances. Dimitri had always been the center of attention, he knew how to live in the spotlight. Now, with the attention so twisted and perverse, he only wanted to be alone. It was an uncomfortable feeling to not want eyes on him. The other voices were less expected.

She burned, you piece of filth, and she had nothing to do with you or your damned vendetta. Nothing! This man was a stranger, just a face in the crowd, but the hate was plenty familiar. Had he not felt that same hatred when Niccolo pulled the rug out from under him? He felt his hands turn to fists, his face hot.

To the casual observer, that sounded an awful lot like an accusation. The shamus, a shadow he couldn't shake. Hiring an investigator had gone against his instincts but Piotr was insistent. Reaching up, he brushes three fingers across the spot on his tunic that Vincent had touched. A dismissive removal of something that didn't belong. Pulling his lips into a thin smile, he turns his eyes up to the captain.

"Come now, we all know Vincent isn't the type to let a little thing like 'lack of evidence' stand in the way of a good bluster." His hands uncurl, thumbs hook into his belt and he lets his weight fall onto his right leg. "Questions have already been asked, and by more important people than you. Still, to help you along in your posturing I will confess to everything." He eases back onto his heels, then forward onto the balls of his feet. A slow sway to accompany the words. "I confess that Niccolo was a cheat and a lair, and I confess to calling him those things loudly and with vitrol on several occasions." His hand slips back to the estoc strapped to his belt, brushing along the pommel long enough to pluck a stray thread from the metal, the same color as his clothing. "But you'll have to earn your pay this time, Vincent, cause I did not kill the man."

He turns, leveling his eyes on Jakob while putting his side towards the man. Give your opponent a narrow target, a fencer's tactic. "And you..." He tries to put a name to the face but nothing registers. "...that sounds like a serious threat, and in front of such an esteemed member of the constabulary." He motions towards Vincent with one hand, the other still so close to his sword. "I don't often take threats to my person lightly, even from those who have legitimate cause to dislike me. Given the emotional nature of today's proceedings I am inclined to let it go. I don't know who you lost but I'll not be taking the blame for that one either. You have my condolences as much as lady Ungliano but you'll get no further satisfaction here." He lets his shoulders roll, loosening the joints and keeping his arms ready. "If you're insistent on violence, though, you can find me tomorrow and we'll make it all official."
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Old Apr 22nd, 2015, 08:28 AM
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A mountain with legs turns on Trystienne. Furrowed brow, face like a nettle patch, the look being thrown would cause some men to combust on the spot most days. Effortlessly intimidating.... Today, though, the fancy, black clothes that aren't quite constructed to handle his considerable width and a color in his eyes that speak of ample amounts of tears having fallen in his likewise ample amounts of ale, the look is more along the lines of miserable and pathetic, like a giant toddler that's way past his nap time.

The man attached to the face, Conbar, is a simple man. His boss was dead and he was sad. Beyond that he hadn't really considered the implication. Or that there were implications beyond that. And his current state of mind wasn't one for considering things, anyway. So he holds his unintentionally withering glance on the other man for a long, long moment of intense concentration as he works through the deluge of words before giving up with a "Huh?"
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Old May 5th, 2015, 04:54 PM
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Lansdowne says to Jakob, "No guilt has been demonstrated; don't jump to the same conclusion as the dottari. They want this case closed more than they want justice."

Rambaudi, the cop, shoots back, "I have him on motive. It's just a matter of time before I can put him at the scene of the crime. Most murder is simple: look for the guy with the axe to grind, and he probably swung it."

"Not everything is simple, Rambaudi. I am certain this is anything but. Drovenge is many things, but a murderer is not among them." Why Lansdowne has such confidence presents a second mystery; a mystery within the mystery.

* * *

Meanwhile, the crowd reacts to the scene of conflict not as a crowd, but as a disparate gathering of individuals. Some small parties break off, malingering, pretending not to watch. Others frown their disdain and move off. The widow is one of these; with a moue of distaste and a turn that aspires to flounce, she stalks off to her awaiting coach. The fop, d'Aurora, weaves along with her, patting at her arm.

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Du Repree, the Hellknight paralictor, takes a different tack. One fist gripping the pommel of his sword, he strides over toward the argument. "What, then, a man cannot so much as be laid to rest without someone picking a fight? Come now, let us show the dead some respect."

The dottari captain scowls at the Hellknight, then looks back at Dimitri. "I caught the necromancer. I will catch you, too. Every murderer makes a mistake."

The Hellknight draws up to the conversation, then, pursing his lips. "Rambaudi, I am certain that you mean well, but I must insist that you put a civil face on." The imperious soldier sweeps his gaze across the assembled citizens. He clearly recognizes Lansdowne and Darcy, and their presence does not relieve his scowl.

But Jakob, he hangs on, and his scowl becomes puzzlement. "Hammerhand? Is that ... I used to watch you fight! Oh, that matchup with Two-Ton." He frowns again. "What is your interest here? You aren't with the dottari, are you?"

* * *

Farther out, another man detaches himself from the crowd, walking over to stand just slightly shy of where Trystienne and Conbar stare at each other. This man is Damien Albright, attorney-at-law, and by all accounts, Niccolo's personal lawyer. "The thing I wonder," he says, as if unaware of who is listening, "is why the will I prepared for Niccolo has not come to light, if in fact Drovenge is responsible. Perhaps Westcrown is simply overfull with bad actors?" He chuckles at his little pun. "I suppose that is in evidence, at least." With his pointed comment delivered, he turns to leave.

So, this is a little more jumbled than I would like, but hopefully it gives everyone enough of a hook into the storyline that you can, within a round or two, solidify yourselves as a group of interested individuals? Please feel free to coordinate in the OOC thread if there are ways that you might envision forming some kind of investigatory alliance. Short of being completely hamfisted and contrived, I'm not sure if I can do better than this.OOC

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Old May 6th, 2015, 12:43 AM
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Ah...the worthy wordster and scribbler of other peoples' fortunes is it? What a fascinating observation esquire Albright. I'm sure you're keen to have someone notice your handiwork! I imagine a will of such a part of our theatrical tradition was a challenge and a stepping stone! At this rate perhaps you can leave behind tawdry divorce cases and find a better clientele. Still wide-eyed and almost fawning over the barrister, Trystienne's tone was completely at odds with the possible offenses caused by his enthusiasm. It was ever so good of you to join this somber occasion too. Why I'd hazard to say you've brought a downright depressing and sepulcheral note to the day. At least you aren't accusing anyone of anything unlike others today. But since you mentioned it...what happened to the will and why haven't you presented a legal duplicate for the authorities? Surely a man of your quick and forthright sensibilities would have kept documentation of your transaction? If nothing else it keeps the widow from suspecting chicanery.
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Old May 7th, 2015, 09:34 AM
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Jakob, clearly off balance now, scowls. "No, not the dottari, not me. I just...I had a friend, she burned along with Niccolo. Not that anyone seems to give a damn, seeing as how she wasn't anyone of importance."

He meets Du Repree's eyes. "I give a damn. I want answers. Aevelyn is owed as much, and more besides. I want some bloody justice, dammit." He turns slightly, letting his gaze sweep the crowd, and his eyes narrow. "Doubt there's anyone else here who can say the same."
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Old May 10th, 2015, 05:54 AM
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Fairly sure that "sepulcheral" and "chicanery" were elven words, and finding himself to just generally be half a dictionary short of understanding a single word coming out of Trystienne's mouth, Conbar opts for what he thinks will be the most appropriate response given the situation. "Mister Ungliano was a good man, and they should catch the guy what did this to him."

He immediately gets the sense that that was indeed not the most appropriate response.

The giant shrinks a good foot in embarrassment and tries again with, "So who do you think was the guy what did the thing, mister?"
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Old May 10th, 2015, 01:46 PM
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The hellknight and the dottari are a juxtaposition. While Dimitri is happy to bait the later with barbed words, his respect for the former prevents a glib response. He and Du Repree had dined at the same table on multiple occasions. They'd even had the same tutors growing up, before Du Repree went into law. Memories of those days didn't come upon him often but when they did, they always culminated in Amelia, the hellknight's sister. Sour, disjointed memories they were. He pulls his hand away from his blade, relaxing his posture.

"My apologies, paralictor. I came here to see a dead man put to rest, not protest my innocence." As Rambaudi keeps at him, he gives the cop a narrow-eyed glare and spits to his right. "I will be moving along now. Some of us have a murder to solve." With a glance towards Jakob, he levels his gaze and clenches his jaw. A twitch of his hand indicates Darcy with his thumb. "This woman's livelihood is directly related to finding the killer. My life..." He hisses those words, his teeth clenched. "...depends on it. Do not think you are alone in wanting this done."

Moving away from the gathering, he looks towards the investigator. "Listening to idiocy always makes me hungry. Lunch? We can talk about your plan to keep my head attached to my neck." He considers it for a moment; the downward arc of the axe, the solid thump of a falling head. Does he pale a bit or is it all in his head? Looking past Darcy, he lifts his voice slightly. "Piotr, join us at my usual spot when you're free of all this. And you, big man..." He jabs a finger in Jakob's direction. "...can find us at Almato Pianni in Rego Pena if you want to help solve this whole thing. You'll love it. Open air seating, a wine selection as long as your arm and they don't skimp on the portions. My treat." He catches sight of Trystienne on the far side of the dwindling crowd, a nod and quickly pantomimed 'you, me, drinks, this way' motion given before he turns back to Darcy.

"So, you ever prove anyone innocent of murder before?"
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Old May 10th, 2015, 09:17 PM
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The blunt string of monosyllables from his new pugilistic acquaintance was almost too much to pass up.Then again Tryste had a keen appreciation for what kind of damage those massive fists might due to his face and thus his income. Hammerhand was it? I must say I have no idea what or whom brought about the demise of Niccolo Ungliano. But I can tell you this much. Today is just the opening act for what should prove to be a very entertaining time.

From a mimed gesture and the comments made to others, Tryste gathered that he was expected to be social with Drovenge and some of the other members of todays audience..Come my dear brother of the stage...we shall off to remember our departed brethren with wine and song until the pain has dulled in our dark and rendt breast! Tryste pushed his way negligently through the parting mourners, oblivious to the glares and stares he was accumulating. At least he was oblivious to the glares. Stares and adulation were something that the silk swathed entertainer apparently considered his due. In a matter of moments he had reached the other member of the theater he had seen so far. I don't know Dmitri...do you think it might ruin my chances for the lead I auditioned for? I was really hoping for a larger role in the orc-inspired Hamlip and Jowliet. I'm not sure if dinner and wine with an accused murderer would tarnish my reputation or bring me some inspired notoriety..

Despite his apparent concerns and self-interest, Tryste managed to get close enough to lock an arm around Dmitri's elbow. Ah well it's much too deep a consideration for me. Where shall we grab a glass of wine and consider the effects of your presence on my career? Then we can get to mourning our dearly departed Niccolo.
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Old May 16th, 2015, 07:55 AM
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"Uh, no. It's Conbar." The towering bolder corrects, extending one of his massive mitts as means of greeting. Of course by the time he had extended his hand, Tryste had already taken off to meet with the accused because of... something about plays? Which made sense, given that Mister Ungliano owned a theatre, he supposed.

With both men who had been speaking with him... or at least towards him and his vicinity... with both gone, Conbar suddenly feels oddly naked, among the crowd, and so decides to follow after the man who had been speaking some odd mix of elvish and draconic instead of the common tongue. He passes through the crowd much more sheepishly than his predecessor had, and the crowd in turn gives him a much wider berth.

Arriving to the first words he had heard the man say which made any semblance of sense, namely "wine" "mourning" and "Niccolo", Conbar wholeheartedly agrees, oblivious to the fact that he, himself, had not necessarily been invited to share drinks, "Aye! Let's raise a cup to Mister Ungliano. Then another. And not stop 'til the cellar's dry! It's how he'd want to be mourned, I think... That or a play, anyways. But I can't write plays."
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Old May 23rd, 2015, 11:15 AM
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"Entertaining," Jakob repeated dully, his rage seeming to have abated somewhat. "Not what I'd call it," he mutters. "Not a damned play, is it? No one's getting back up again, are they?"

Nevertheless, perhaps drawn by the invocation of wine, he follows in Dmitri's wake.
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Old May 24th, 2015, 04:53 PM
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Darcy shrugs at Dmitri's suggestion to grab a drink; she wasn't one to turn down the opportunity to bend an elbow. Besides, she had to make sure he didn't skewer anyone. The conversations drifted around her, bits flying into her ear and filed away for consideration at a later, quieter time. A cool look at Du Repree and she falls into step with Dmitri and the others.

"None of my clients have ever been found guilty of anything they didn't do," she says, before turning her attention to Jakob. "This Aevelyn and you were close, then. How long'd you know her?"
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