Caroban: Visitor's Suite Office
A sumptuously decorated suite of rooms, featuring the finest of traditional Rephidim-style furnishings, but lacking the magical touches that pervade much of Caroban, as a way of making mundane visitors more comfortable. This office has a large marble-topped desk with one comfortable, high-backed chair positioned behind it, and a similar one at the corner before it. A divan rests along one wall, while the opposite side is lined by bookshelves that bracket the fireplace.
Ambassador Dunbarre leans back in the big chair behind the desk, studying a scroll unrolled in his hands with his nose tilted up to peer through reading glasses perched on the end. A knock on the door is greeted by a "Yes?" without setting the scroll down.
A collie's head peeks through the door. "Lt. de Bellefeuille here to see you, sir," she says, submissively.
"Very good. Show her in." The poodle wrinkles his nose, still examining the scroll, as the secretary opens the door wider to admit the visitor.
Moments later, a poodle in blue robes and armor makes her entrance. A few steps in, she stops and issues a Star and Anchor salute to her superior before standing at attention. "Sir," she greets the poodle with the scroll.
Dipping his head to look at her above the rim of his glasses, Dunbarre gazes at her for a moment, then nods. "At ease, Lieutenant," he says, rolling up the scroll and waving one lace-framed hand to the chair opposite his. "Have a seat. Care for anything to drink? I was going to have Connie bring in tea."
"Yes sir." With the at-ease order given and a seat indicated, the poodle drops from her state of attention and makes her way over to the directed chair. "Thank you sir. If you would, I would have some tea." Carefully she lowers herself into the chair, shifting her sword sheath to the side, and once down tilts her head. "Are you aware of my request, sir?"
Dunbarre rings a bell, and the collie peeks in. "Tea, dear," he calls to her. After she nods and ducks back out, he says to the poodle. "I believe Connie garbled your message, Lieutenant. Do go over it again for me all I could gather was that there's something else you wanted to do to help out our good mage friends."
"Of course. Sir, in time, the College Esoterica will be looking in to the actions of the Royal Mages of Babel, as well as the pressing matters of their embassy in Ashdod. They intend to establish a team that will conduct this investigation within Ashdod itself. Sir, I formally request to be submitted to be a part of that team," explains Elise.
The poodle ambassador tilts his head as he listens, then sets the rolled scroll on to the table. "I see. May I ask why?" he inquires pleasantly, removing his reading glasses from his nose and folding them.
The poodle woman inclines her head in the affirmative, even though she is well aware answering is likely not optional. "At one time I did not believe this was a matter I should concern myself with. It was a construction of obscure magic, involving people and concerns I knew little of. But much has changed in these long years, sir, no longer does this matter not concern me. It will haunt me if I act or not. To be quite honest, I worry about the people involved. I am deeply concerned with what goal this ritual moves towards, and I believe this is an even better chance to improve Rephidim relations with the College Esoterica," she answers. A frown, and she glances off towards a dark corner of the room as if taxed by a sudden ill thought. "I could not forgive myself if something ill should befall people, and I though having had my chance, was not present to do what I am able."
"I see." Dunbarre folds his hands together, steepling his index fingers on the desk before him as he regards the other poodle. The collie slips back into the room with a porcelain tea service on a platter, and he nods to her as she approaches the desk. "Leave it, Connie, thank you." He waits until the secretary has exited again, then continues. "Very noble of you. Have you broached any members of the College on this matter?" he inquires.
"I have discussed it informally with several College mages, most notably Dean Fyiara of Chaos. From what I was able to gather, there is a definite interest in my joining this expedition, but for political concerns, it would be best if I formally requested to join the team rather than let the College make a request for my presence," answers the lady Gallee.
Dunbarre smirks. "I can only imagine. They wouldn't want it to look like they needed our help, after all." He pours the tea into two small cups, offering one to Elise, then liberally dousing the other with cream and sugar. "You probably weren't supposed to mention that bit to me, but as long as it's not official, well, there shouldn't be trouble." He frowns, thoughtful. "Truth be told, I really cannot authorize you for any kind of trip to Babel in an official capacity, with relations the way they are between our two countries."
"I am assuming they are aware that you would discover this, or at least that I would be truthful to my country. Between you sir, myself, even Rephidim and the College … it is a matter of appearances, no? Appearances can be maintained so long as something is accomplished. I understand the important part of the matter is the objective at hand. I would not doubt the intelligence of yourself or the College to see and know what is really needed, and what needs be shown. I believe you understand?" The tea is accepted during her short explanation, and is shortly mixed with some milk and a small sprinkling of sugar. She takes a sip and continues, holding the cup off in her right hand. "I understand the intent is that I am present unofficially, invisibly if such is possible. It has been suggested significant disguise is in order that I not be recognized."
Stirring his tea, Dunbarre nods to the woman. "Indeed. That may suffice, if it's a sufficiently convincing disguise. You realize that, should anything untoward befall you or the group you are with, it is highly unlikely that the Temple will be able to aid you in any way?"
"I expected as much. And, I do not think I would like to create a further relations problem from a rescue effort. The relations between Rephidim and Babel are strained enough without such," responds Elise. She taps a nail against her cup thoughtfully, takes another sip, and adds something to her previous statement. "In the event I do not return, I would have my sister know what I was trying to do."
The diplomat inclines his head again, considering, then nods. "Fair enough." He clears his throat. "Well, Lt. de Bellefeuille. I believe you have served well in your duties as honor guard, and are entitled, after all you've been through, to a vacation," he says, formally. "You may consider yourself at leisure from now until, shall we say, Unity Day? In the meantime, what you do with yourself is of no concern to myself or the Temple. You are your own person, my lady." He rises, and salutes her with the Star and Anchor.
"As the senior officer, I would also have you inspect my disguise, and I would ask Lieutenant Jaskar inspect it as well. Preferably without any knowledge of who I actually am. As such, I can see if it is sufficient to fool even those who work with me," whispers Elise even as she returns the salute. Louder, she responds, "Thank you sir, I am pleased my duty has been satisfactory enough to warrant such."
A nod from the Ambassador. "Indeed. We'll make an official show of this before the rest of the guard this evening. Enjoy your leisure time, my lady. And good luck to you," he adds, his voice warm and sincere.
Elise looks rather relieved now that everything has been approved. She offers the high ambassador a small smile in gratitude. "I thank you for this. First Ones bless you," she tells him. The cup, since placed on the table is considered for a moment before the poodle glances to the door and finally gives the high ambassador a military curtsey. "Another time for tea, perhaps. I wish you luck." She then turns and makes her way for the door.
"Another time," the ambassador agrees, sinking back into his chair and watching, thoughtful, as the lady poodle exits.
Caroban: Enchanting Appearances
A small parlor near the Palace of Spheres, dominated by a magic circle inset in tiles on an otherwise bare plain section of floor, as well as a large sunken tub with a similar runic circle surrounding it. The walls are hung with tapestries, and piles of pillows tucked into various corners soften the appearance. A large chest full of different-sized drawers resides near the door.
A woman in rainbow-colored robes opens the door, smiling to the poodle standing in the waiting room. "Hello, Elise," she says, her voice gentle. "Do come in."
"Greetings … Mage … ?" greets Elise questioningly, for she finds that she lacks a name to add to the title. Nonetheless, she steps fully into the chamber and takes a moment to regard it more fully.
"Rosetta," the Rath'ani woman replies. "I understand you're looking for quite a different sort of makeover from my usual," she continues, circling around the poodle, considering.
As the woman walks, Elise tries to keep her eyes on her, turning her head when she circles more than half way. "That is indeed correct, Mage Rosetta," she replies.
"Mmm-hmm. Now, contrary to the name on this place, I've mundane as well as magical skills I can employ. If we want to make you unrecognizable, I'd recommend… " She hesitates, then continues, "Well, I'd recommend cutting your hair, to start with. Actually, all of your fur. It's the most distinctively 'poodle' thing about you. That and the color. The cutting is best done with plain ol' ordinary scissors, by the way, hardly worth the time chanting to do anything else. Do you know how fast your fur grows, by chance?" she inquires.
The suggestion Elise considered, which leaves her with a bewildered expression. Her mouth opens as if she were to say something, closes, and after a moment more of apparent consideration she answers, "I … I do not know, actually. I would … estimate … roughly a month and a half for the overall, and … much longer for the full length of my hair. Several years."
"Sorry, dear," the raccoon says, apologetically. "If it's any consolation, I can make it grow back again faster once … you don't need the disguise any more. A sphere and a half … that's probably quicker than you'll want it to come back," she says, considering. "I understand you'll be needing this disguise for quite some time, potentially. Now, here's the thing. We can do this one of two ways with or without magic. If I use mundane means, you'll have to retouch your own disguise. That means carrying around dye, clipping your fur short again, et cetera. But if I use magic means, a good mage will be able to tell if they're looking for magical effects on you."
"It is understandable. My work is often unpleasant, but this is the first time it has required such a … unique approach," says the poodle. She sets her eyes on one of the tapestries and considers the options, then nods. "I believe I will sustain the illusion personally, though I would request a detailed review of how to do so once you are done here."
She frowns at Elise thoughtfully. "I do want to clarify something when I say 'Another mage can detect it,' I mean, 'if they cast a spell on you designed to find out if you've been effected by magic.' You may be aware that mages have a 'passive' sense of magic I can tell, for example, that there's a mage at work in the building next door, even though I can't see or hear him. I can just feel it. But if I cast a spell on you that changes your fur color, it won't hang around like that. It'll change it, then be gone. There will be a trace that an active scan can detect, but nothing I could tell just by standing around you."
"What is your best opinion, faced with the potential for a group of powerful and potentially suspicious magi?" inquires Elise. She continues the appear to study the painting, though if any closer inspection were taken of her it'd be easy to see she's simply staring at it as she considers the matter.
"Well, if you're going into a den of magi and hoping to fool them with your disguise, then you'd be best of using a mundane one," Rosetta answers. "If you're just figuring on wandering the countryside and hoping no passersby will recognize you, I'd vote for magical, hands down. Truth is, if a bunch of mages scrutinized you closely, they could smell the dye or notice the clipped ends on your fur, too."
"Thank you," Elise says. After turning around and folding her arms she glances to the woman in front of her, then to her left hand which she holds up to look at, and smiles briefly. "Very well then. Use your enchantments."
The mage nods, satisfied. "Disrobe, please, and stand in the circle on the floor," she instructs, turning to the cabinet and pulling certain items from various drawers.
The poodle looks up and nods. "Of … course, yes." She does as instructed, which in fact takes some time to accomplish, saying something as to her daily preparation routine and inclination to remain in uniform. Once finished she walks over to the center of the circle, and waits.
The mage returns to her client's side, bringing a rolling stool, and holding a gleaming pair of shears in one hand. "Brace yourself, dear," she says, not without sympathy. "This will take a while." The raccoon steps onto the stool, then lifts the scissors to the poodle's hair. Snip.
Elise shifts herself uncomfortably at the first snip, the unpleasantness of losing her fairly long hair made worse by her current condition. The effect makes her look much abashed, a look though rare for her, is typically dulled by her impressive robes and armor. Not at the moment, however. She tries her best to smile hopefully anyway.
Mirrors, set periodically into the walls between tapestries, only serve to exacerbate Elise's unease as the Rath'ani methodically and systematically shears the canine of her hair and fur, clipping it to a uniform length of about a quarter of inch over her entire body. The process is quite time consuming, and when she is done, the floor around her feet is carpeted in fur clippings. "Phew," the raccoon says, kneeling to trim the last fur to an even length around her toes. "let's take a beak, shall we? You'll need to stand for the ritual, too, and I'm sure you must be getting tired, too."
The raccoon walks to the cabinet and pulls a robe from a drawer, offering it to the poodle silently.
The robe is accepted before Elise speaks, and even after she puts it on it takes her a moment. She pulls the robe close, wrapping her arms around herself and looking a bit cold. "Is … the … effect convincing?" she asks hesitantly.
"What do you think?" She gestures to a mirror. With her fur shorn, her ears look naked, as floppy and bare as a beagle's. The formation of her skull, smooth save for the dimples around the ears and base of the spine, is plainly visible with only the thin layer of hair and skin over it the effect makes it look as if she were furred all over, rather than having head hair. Only her muzzle and eyes look the same.
Elise wrinkles her nose, and is only able to stare at the mirror for a few seconds before she turns from it and walks towards a corner of the room where pillows lay arranged. "Pitiful," she comments. A frown crosses her face and she nods. "And thus, appropriately convincing. I praise your skill, Mage Rosetta."
"Thank you. It's not that bad a look, really," Rosetta comments, looking at her while taking a sip from a flask. "Brings out your eyes. Would you like a drink?"
Soft laughter can be heard from the trimmed poodle. "I should have time enough to discover all the merits of my new appearance. And," she shakes her head as she lowers herself to sit between a few of the arrayed cushions, "perhaps I shall have a drink. It would seem that fate appears inclined to have me discover the merits of such things as well."
The mage carries a flask to the Gallee and presents her with it ceremoniously. "Next, I thought I'd do a ritual to make sure that your fur doesn't grow back to its normal length. Incidentally, that effect will be permanent well, nearly permanent until you have a life mage fix you back to normal. After that, we can pick your new color. Black and white, or brown and white spotted would be least conspicuous," she suggests.
"Permanent you say?" The bottle is accepted, and Elise holds it as she looks up to the mage. "I shall have to remind myself to remain on good terms with the College Esoterica, then, lest I be doomed to … spots, did you say?" She looks unenthusiastic at the whole idea, and takes a drink for it. "Well … I suppose, hm, … I am really not sure. Though … not black. It matches too closely my typical color choice for my armor."
"Brown and white is pretty common, too," Rosetta offers, taking another small sip herself.
Elise shifts herself into the pillows, and looks rather comfortable now despite having been sheered near hairless. Her right hand holds the bottle somewhat loosely, draped as it is over a close pile of pillows. "Then so be it. Brown and white it shall be," she says.
Several hours later, with a flask empty on the floor, a weary canine stands in the tiled circle, while a quietly chanting raccoon touches a brush tip to her face, "painting" without color or dye, and yet brown color blossoms where it touches. The canine, with brown fur so close-cropped the curl is only just visible, and white patches here and there part of one ear, her throat, one cheek looks like a Gallah, a common dog of no identifiable breed, though she has pretty blue eyes and a long, elegant muzzle. At last, the raccoon drops her brush to her side, ceasing her chant, and stands back. "Done," she pronounces, in a voice hoarse from overuse.
Like the mage beside her, Elise takes the indication of completion with tired words. "Even the High Ambassador has never required I stand so very long … " she admits, tiredly. After reaches up to run her hand back through her head hair, and realizing she no longer has any again, she turns towards the mirror.
The raccoon turns to lift the discarded robe and offers it to the poodle, following the canine's gaze to the mirror and smiling briefly. "What do you think?"
"Utterly disgraceful … " The Gallee, or perhaps it's Gallah now, just shakes her head in disbelief. "I cannot believe my eyes, that I could possibly appear so convincingly … Gallah." She shudders lightly at the idea, and accepts the robe, putting it on. Again, once covered, she takes another look and tilts her head. "Quite amazing, really. I do not recognize myself. It is … rather humbling."