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The Narrator

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The Titled and Entitled

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Winter 1.png

Date.png8th Firstfall, 951

Location.pngVal Royeaux, Grande Royeaux Theatre

Characters.pngGrand Duke Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC), Mathieu

Players.png@Claire, @Skorge

Requirements.png1x1

Notes.pngFrancoise and Mathieu have many things to discuss.

Winter Divider 1.png

Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpgThe best seat in the house was always reserved for the Emperor, but there were times when his grand dukes were allowed the use of the box. Tonight was such a night. Only two people would be using it during the matinee of "Wicked Eyes, Wicked Hearts" and the first had arrived early.

Grand Duke Françoise Renaud Savoie was seated and looking over the empty theatre. People would begin drifting in soon, the play was due to begin in at least the next half an hour, but for the moment it was only the actors milling around and getting ready for the curtain to go up.

Francoise was thinking about why he was meeting a lowly Marquis and smiled when he thought about the advantages of being friendly with this particular Marquis. This was an ambitious Marquis and one who'd been cleverly forced to throw an expensive party for a man who was basically a prisoner of the Emperor. The Grand Cleric who had forced the matter was taken ill in Arlesans but Mathieu was making waves in Val Royeaux just by being present. It was intriguing but also potentially alarming. Francoise needed to figure out what it was that Mathieu was up to.

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The seat next to the grand Duke creaked as Mathieu settled into it. The marquis's face was stern, as it ever was, and focused forward and down upon the stage. His beard, tinged grey along with his long black hair, had been trimmed short. Beards of any kind were rare in the upper classes of Orlais, but rarely was Mathieu seen without a shade of stubble. It, along with his long hair, gave him the kind of rugged look his peers liked to admire and sneer at in equal measure.

For tonight he wore a fine if functional shirt and pants, with little decoration aside from those of a chevalier. He was not, but the affectation spoke to him.

"Grand Duke." he greeted, watching the actors perform. He too had come to perform, and he best do so well. That particular Grand Cleric had set things in motion that could either spell his doom, or grave oppertunity.

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Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpg"Let's not be so formal, Mathieu. It is only us, after all." They were also familiar, Francoise had lived close to Arlesans for many years and because of Eléonore he had been a close friend of Tiberius and spent many a casual evening in the company of Tiberius and his eldest son. It had been less so since the passing of the great Tiberius Durand but Francoise was eager to renew this connection to the Durand's, and not just because of Matthew's beautiful sister.

"I want to help plan this party you had shoved on you, especially since Flavienne seems to have abandoned you." Having the Chantry less influential was a boon, he thought, but he did not want to assume that the old Grand Cleric was going to keep things that way.

"Let's start with Valentin Pentaghast..." Francoise smirked and arched an eyebrow at the Marquis. This was going to be fun.

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Mathieu smiled. As much as he sought Francoise for his value as a political ally, the fact also was that Mathieu liked the man. He was indeed a family friend, held in trust by Tiberius and respect by his son. And they had an equal distaste for the Grand Cleric.

"Forgive me, Francoise. This grand place, it inspires such things." He made a casual wave to encompass the theatre.

"And yes, let's. While I would tell you that I am honored to host a personal guest of the beloved Emperor, I admit my taxation as well, for it brings with it certain...complications you might not be aware of."

Here it came. The critical moment had come. Mathieu had begun this scheme when he was still a man in his prime. Now, a decade later, all hinged on a few words to come. For years his men had raided the border between Orlais and Nevarra, making the brutal attacks look like the assaults of bandits or rogue soldiers. It had left Orlais in the dark and Nevarra riled up, and it would not be long before the situation boiled over. Either Orlais would react when they saw Nevarran forces gather at the border in strength to patrol, or Nevarra would react when Orlais seemingly did nothing about the attacks clearly coming from across the border.

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Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpgIt truly was a beautiful place and Francoise reflected on his many good memories there. He was still listening to Mathieu, he was just enjoying reminiscing as well. However, at mention of complications he was drawn from his reverie and focused his gaze upon the Marquis of Arlesans. Truly, he had expected Mathieu to have mentioned the title of Protecteur first, to ask why the Emperor had not chosen a successor to Tiberius but instead the man remained focused on the party. Admirable indeed.

"What am I not aware of?" He asked, more intrigued than angry at seemingly being kept out of the loop.

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"My men tell me there is activity along the Nevarran border, and has been for some time. Armed horsemen moving to and fro where their land touches my marquidom."

He of course did not reveal that these were most likely soldiers sent to watch for his men.

"I am concerned, my friend. I do not know how much they know of the princeäs situation, or if he has even been in contact with someone back home. But it seems too coinicidental to me that these forces should be gathering just as their prince plays guest at my estate. Never before has he been so close to home, after all."

Now Mathieu fully looked to Francoise.

"I think something is, or at least might, be happening we are not aware of, and it is due to the Emperor's actions, along with a select few others. I fear something more might come of this, and thus while it might seem trite, I must again raise the issue of the position of Protectour. We might need it soon, and my men and I would be well placed if a problem arose. But I need help. Yours."

Mathieu knew what he would have said if their positions were reversed. 'It might come to nothing. You are overly worried.'

But that was not the point, and he hoped the Grand Duke understood that.

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Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpg"Due to the Emperor's actions?" The Grand Duke asked, raising an eyebrow at the Marquis. "What actions do you speak of?" Francoise knew of many things regarding His Radiance and Nevarra but he was curious as to what Mathieu apparently knew. The Marquis of Arlesans was not in Just's inner circle, not yet at least. As Protecteur he would be, which was why the position was not one that went from father to son.

"The Emperor will announce the next Protecteur of Val Royeaux in due time, this is not something we should discuss here." Just was very clear about what Francoise could speculate over with the Duke's and Marquis of Orlais and the Protecteur position was not one of them.

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"No offense to his Radiance, not ever." Mathieu was quick to assure, as was proper."But his handling of the Nevarran prince has not gone off as flawlessly as one might wish. The man is clearly aware of his position as hostage rather than guest, and this will make him jumpy, reactive."

He looked to the Duke.

"I know it taxes tradition, but I fear I must press for that very discussion, my lord, for it will soon be needed. Orlais needs a singular voice in terms of our defense, lest every duke, marquis and comte look to his own needs when the time comes."

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Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpgFrancoise himself had been guilty of mismanaging the Nevarran, his absence at his own Summerday event earlier in the year still had ramifications playing out. It had been unavoidable, he had needed to deal with Régente, to get rid of her and free himself up for another marriage and potential heirs. Of course if he had a choice he would marry Mathieu's sister in a heartbeat, he had given thought to getting rid of the Jader Comte she was married to as well.

"You speak as if Orlais has no defences at all." The Grand Duke pointed out, looking at the man who was in every way his equal except in title. They were even of the same age, having grown up together, yet Francoise had risen through the ranks of nobility faster, his own father having passed when he was one and twenty. So whereas Mathieu had to wait until only recently to have the title of Marquis Francoise had been a Grand Duke for all of thirty years.

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Mathieu accepted this truth with a nod of acknowledgement.

"Of course it does, my friend." He said. He did wish to be respectful towards Francoise, holding the man in esteem. While inheritance had certainly played a part in the other man rising higher or faster than Mathiue, it would be infair to say that was all. The man knew the Game better, or at least took part in it more willingly than Mathieu.

That was what the Marquis was trying to drive home.

"But that defense is only stolid when presented as such, which it must be. But the reality is different. You know me, Francoise. You know I place little stock in the games of our peerage and I admit that I have suffered for it. But in this matter I have the wider perspective. Just look at this way; The Vallaeu are too concerned about their bridge and restored wealth and position to think about the larger empire. The Nouvrai are in a better state but their concerns are all too similar to the Vallaeu. I admit that even my own family has suffered from the Game, leading to internal strife."

Mathieu pulled himself short of including the Grand Duke on the list. He could have mentioned his marriage issues, to make a point, but decided that might not be wise. Francoise was clever and would see the pattern himself.

"When the lance is lowered, my lord, consider this: How much of a toll will the Game take on us? I think only one who has stood outside of it can be Protectour."

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Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpgAnd there it was, the Marquis' ambitions revealed. Francoise listened to every word but what he focused on was the mention of internal strife within the family of Durand. This did not surprise him, but he was curious from which quarter this strife came.

"If the Durand have internal strife why would His Radiance trust such a family?" The Grand Duke asked, meaning for the question to be provocative.

"Already you have the taint of a maleficar attached to your House. Can you expect the people to trust you to protect them when under your nose was a serial killer? A killer mage?" Vincent Durand had been linked to several murders in the capital and some believed he was active in Montsimmard too, the proof found by Templars when they discovered his body.

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Their eyes were locked, upon this crucial moment, and Mathieu had to forcefully rein in his temper. Francoise had struck true and sure, of course.

But when Mathieu spoke, he did so calmly, slowly.

"When the Emperor granted the title of Protectour to my father, he did so because my father deserved it, not because he was a Durand. The title is not entrusted to family, but is held by a single person. I do not ask this because of my father's merits, nor do I wish my sister's ambitions to reflect upon me. I want it because I believe myself the best choice." In that moment, fierce truth shone in Mathieu's eye.

"And trust me, family would be no safety or issue in my duty. My sister would not effect me, and if I had Vincent before me I would the first in line to hold his execution, had the chance not been taken from me."

This, too, was truth.

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Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpg"Your sister's ambitions?" Francoise asked, leaning forward with interest. "To which sister do you refer? They wish to be considered Protecteur?" If Just had been approached by a Durand female for the title he had not shared it with Francoise.

"And how do you know of such ambition?" Then he added to clarify his earlier concerns, "And your family reflect the stability of your rule. If you cannot control them then how are we the nobility and the average Orlesian supposed to have confidence in your as a Protecteur? Such could also call into question your title as Marquis." He suggested. It was no idle threat either, since Just had gotten rid of the title of baron, taking all of their lands and wealth, he could easily remove Mathieu as Marquis.

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Mathieu hesitated, for how could he explain a hunch? He had no proof that Eleonore wished the title, other than the fact that he knew her.

More than any other, Mathieu and Eleonore were Tiberius's progeny, driven and strong of will. Not for the first time Mathieu regretted their poor relationship, for it had been good as children. But it had been inevitable, this schism, for their tempers would allow nothing else, both ambitious and rare to admit defeat.

Had we but been united, both our aims would surely have been achieved by now.

Eleonore had challenged him fiercely for the title of Marquis, and he had no reason to doubt she would not do the same for Protectour, another slice of their father's legacy, and potentially even more glorious and prestigious. Eleonore would fight him for it.

"We are of a like mind." he said, as an answer to both of Francoise's statements.

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Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpg"You and Eléonore... of course." Francoise muttered and sat back in his chair. He had slipped, just a little, showing familiarity with the eldest daughter of Tiberius, more so than one might have expected. The Grand Duke did not see the slip and continued to ponder such an outcome. With Eléonore as Protecteur she would be in Val Royeaux and she would be working with him... closely.

"Do you not think holding two titles will be too much?" Francoise countered. "Your own father all but gave your the Marquidom and focused solely on his title in Val Royeaux. You have no heir capable as you were, Mathieu." He was not discounting the Marquis yet, but he did prefer the idea of his sister gaining the title instead and he already thought to recommend her instead of Mathieu, unless the Marquis changed his mind.

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For a moment, Mathieu's world tilted, alien, dizzy.

How had this turn happened? Now the Grand Duke was speaking of his sister with interest?

That was just as curious as it was horrifying, for why would the Duke consider Eleonore such a promising prospect. She was no military woman. Granted, depending on the person holding it, the title could be diplomatic as much as military, but never just one or the other.

Francoise had, or wanted, some tie to her.

"I consider myself more than capable, and unlike Eleonore I am tested in the necessary arenas. What can I do to make you see this?"

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Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpg"Mathieu, this is not a contest between you and your sister. Until today I had no idea she was even throwing her hat in the ring." Was Mathieu just being paranoid or was there substance to his suspicions? Francoise would have to find out some other way. Via bard or doing it himself, probably at the party.

"Your military prowess is not in question. Yet protecting the border requires different tactics to protecting this capital. At least one Protecteur must be a skilled diplomat so that they might have the support of other cities and towns close by, to ensure the best contracts and building, the infrastructure. These are things not needed for the Marquis of Arlesans and they are things your father learned during the mage and templar war, on the heels of the civil war..."

Francoise did not want to get bogged down on this subject so he switched their focus suddenly. "Now tell me, how do the preparations go for this party and how might I help?"

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Mathieu gritted his teeth. Francoice had no idea, truly, or he was being willfully dismissive.

But he decided that no more would be voiced on the matter today, lest he make a truly dire mistake.

"They go well. We shall be ready to host you and the prince soon, and you are welcome to arrive at any time. Seeing as you express a certain...interest, you will be pleased to know Eleonore will be present. I am sure you two have much to discuss."

Mathieu did allow a bit of bitterness into his words at that last sentence. Then he abruptly stood, silent anger in him now.

"This has been most pleasant and illuminating, Your Grace, but my leave must be taken now. I bid you a good show." he said, waving at the stage.

And maybe it was time to have a more open talk with his sister as well.

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Françoise Renaud Savoie (SPC) avatar.jpgThough he was a little surprised at the abruptness of Mathieu's departure he turned back to the stage where the play was now in full swing. Though he did not focus on the players at all - all Francoise could think about was Eleonore. The beautiful girl he had fallen in love with was now a powerful, strong woman and someone he desired even more. If only there was a way to get rid of Patrice? Then he could have everything he wanted...

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