Episode 4: The Wine of Wrath - part 3
It was afternoon, and Hurst and Gregore were now refreshed and dressed in attire more fitting for the court of the Earl of Grymaldi. Together with Darcey, her father Dardarni, Darcey's two brothers Vyctori and Vydori, Brother Eckert, and a number of the house guard, Hurst and Gregore rode on horse back into the woods, heading north. While the others were far better hunters with rifles and guns, Gregore had instead chosen to stay with the camp and play cards with Vydori.
The hunt was a success, and boar and deer were killed. Obviously the hunt could not go too far north, as Eckert finally got a sense of the strange ethereal feeling, something that was undoubtedly due to their closeness to the mysterious Elven kingdom of Ios. In talking with the brother Eckert learnt more about the state of the Llaelese army and their need to hire mercenaries to protect the border of the kingdom from the incursions of Khador. In the privacy of the hunt the Earl, Dardarni explain that much of the current funding problems for the army were down to the politics of the Prime Minister, Glabryn.
The troupe returned back to the manor for dinner, with the boar they had killed being the main meal. In the opulent hall of the Dardarni manor house the troupe were treated to a example of what life was like for a noble like Darcey and her family. The table, laid out and tended to in an immaculate manner, was covered in succulent dishes, and they were served dish after dish of food. Spring vegetable that had been preserved using alchemical salts, fish brought all the way from Ord, fine cordials and wine, fruits in jelly, steamed clams and sweet pastries. But in all of this Hurst was watching, paying attention, taking in all the details of the meals and the servants. One of the servants was out of place. His gait was wrong, he held himself wrong. To a less perceptive person this may have been missed, but this servant just seemed - relatively speaking - clumsy.
Intrigued, Hurst excused himself, and as he went forth to relive himself, he instead sought to follow the servant. He waited just near the kitchen, hiding behind a curtain, listening for any sign of conspiracy. But there was nothing, just talk of more wine being opened.
Hurst waited for the servant to return to the hall and then went to follow him back. But he was stopped as he heard someone behind him. He turned and was faced with the madam of the household, Madam Rosaline. She was dressed in a black dress, that by Cygnaran standards might be considered fine attire, but for the Llaelese was just work clothes. She enquired why Hurst was at the kitchens, and he replied he was a bit lost. She then directed him and asked if he wished for coffee to be served.
Hurst returned to the table and the meal was finished, and the dinner party moved to the salon where they could smoke and enjoy some wine, whiskey and coffee. On the way Hurst spoke to the Madam once more, and enquired about the servant. She confirmed he was new, and had only been hired three months ago. Gregore also tried to talk to one of the servants, a young girl, but he was brushed off, with her explaining she is already betrothed.
In the salon there was some more conversation, with Eckert explaining to Dardarni that they feared that there may be Khadoran agents in the town or in the wedding party. Dardarni brushed off the threat, but Eckert could tell there was more going on.
After the others had retired for the evening, Darcey, Vydori, and their youngest brother, the groom, Vyhn, and Gregore sat in salon playing cards, and Hurst took the chance to ask about the servants. Vydori was not very aware of the coming and goings of the house, but the young Vyhn, a more bookish and shy man, did not the new arrivals within the house staff, and they surely had not been in the house for more than 2 or 3 weeks. Now that had Hurst worried. Was Rosaline also a suspect? Hurst asked Darcey who on the house staff had been in the house longer than the Madam, as it turned out the Madam had joined the house staff 3 years ago. But the house gardener, Fargus, had been there since Darcey could remember. A brief walk through the house gardens in the misty night, and a gift of cake and wine made Fargus warm to the Hurst and Eckert, and the gardener confirmed that the new faces in the household had only been there in the last couple of days.
Unsure how to act, or even who to suspect, Hurst and Eckert returned to their rooms for the night, as the wedding was tomorrow. But Hurst, still curious, wanted to look around, and so sneaked to the servant's quarters to see if he could find something out, anything. He was sure he had been quiet. But then so was his attacker. He turned to witness a figure in black lunge at him, only to dive past and wrap a garotte about his throat. Hurst gasped, the wire cutting into his windpipe and blocking the circulation. He struggled for his dagger, but seeing as he had only moments to act he dropped the knockout grenade he had brought with him. The fumes almost dropped both himself and his attacker, and in the confusion he drew his dagger and lashed out. It was the same one he had taken from the Orgoth tomb in Widower's Wood. The blade cut and the blood caused this dagger to now glow faintly, the Orgoth runes giving off an unearthly green glow. The attacker, seeing his opportunity gone, and that Hurst was about to cry out, dove through the window, shattering glass everywhere. Hurst looked out and watched the black cloaked figure disappear into the night.