Caroban: Lawn and Gardens
This landscaped section of the gardens near the center of the island is comparatively normal and simple a wide expanse of green grass trimmed by flowerbeds, with a few more beds interspersed on the lawn for additional color. A pavilion at the center, with a tented canopy, provides shade for a long U-shaped table, surrounded by padded outdoor chairs.
An outdoor feast graces the pavilion, celebrating Ambassador Dunbarre's final days on Caroban, and in tribute to his successful visit. Uniformed waiters carry dishes and pitchers around the perimeter, offering refills to guests as their plates and cups run low. At the table's head, Dunbarre and Lt. Jaskar of his guard hold places among several of the deans and other important figures of the College. The remainder of the ambassador's honor guard is stationed at various discreet places around the area, with two standing behind and just to either side of their master.
A servant, a Gallah possessed of short brown fur and white spots, approaches a mage of Earth. "Would monsieur care for for more?" she asks, referring to his near empty glass.
The earth mage holds his glass in her general direction, without even looking at her. "Yes," he replies, then continues his conversation with the man on his right. "Did you hear who they'll be reassigning to Rephidim?"
With her head bowed slightly, submissively, and without a word the young Gallah servant carefully brings her bottle to bear. Quietly and unobtrusively she refills his glass, though as she does so, she is certain to remain just in range enough to overhear his conversation.
"Not a clue, I'm afraid. I hear they're looking for at least one shadow mage, not sure what for," the other replies. A few chairs away, a finely dressed Kattha, though not in the fashion of a mage, talks to or rather, at a Kujaku in the rainbow robes of the sphere of Life. The feline gestures expansively with a glass of wine, soon empty as he takes frequent quick sips from it quick, lest the life mage get a word in edgewise, apparently. The Kujaku has the look to him of a man besieged.
After the glass is filled, the servant woman returns the bottle to her serving tray, and then deferentially backs away a step. Shortly after, the animated Kattha speaker finds the brown and white spotted Gallah beside him. She does not interrupt, merely makes her presence visible to him as well as the bottle of wine she holds, ready for his assumed silent response.
"I believe transformation is simply the most exciting branch of your sphere, wouldn't you agree, Mage?" The Kujaku starts to shake his head, but before he can reply, the feline is rushing onwards. "To reshape things into a newer, superior image! Not the simple, declasse 'repairs' of a bandager or lay healer, but actually creating something wholly new and improved, a body more suited to its owners needs and desires!" He waves the glass importantly at the life mage, though he doesn't appear to notice the servant just yet.
Regardless, the servant remains for a moment more, subtly shifting herself so that she might be even more visible to the feline without making it unduly obvious that is her intent. She also looks to the target of the verbal cascade questioningly that he might see her, least he have a request.
The Kujaku parts his beak in a small smile to the Gallah, offering his own glass to be refilled, while the feline continues with scarcely a pause for breath, "The possibilities are endless! With properly-researched spells, life magic could provide their clients with whatever they desired wings for the flightless, or enhanced strength, greater beauty, dexterity, agility the mind boggles at what we might create! For the right price, of course," the Kattha adds. He goes to take another sip, and frowns at finding the glass empty. "You!" he mewls at the servant, thrusting out the cup.
The servant returns the smile meekly, and refills the Kujaku's cup. She then shifts the bottle over to the cup the Kattha holds out and begins filling that as well, reaching another hand out in case the cup need be steadied should the feline break into another animated barrage of ideas at his associate.
Taking advantage of the pause while the feline focuses on the Gallah, the life mage pushes back his chair. "Excuse me. Need to use the lavatory," he chirps quickly, then bustles away.
The Kattha wrinkles his nose as the girl steadies his cup, then turns his attention from the glass to begin, "As I was saying " only to find himself addressing an empty chair.
After the cup is filled, the servant girl steps back and bows out, seeing as she is no longer needed. Once far enough away that she can observe the party without rudely turning her back to a guest, she scans the area for who next may need a cup refilled.
After taking a brief moment to watch the party and its happenings, the Gallah notices that it is she that needs a refill, her bottle nearly empty. To this end she begins on a course to take her back to where she might get another, careful to avoid any large groups of party goers who might require a number of refills.
"Deuce it," the Kattha mutters, leaning his elbows against the table as the canine girl moves away. Near the head of the table, Ambassador Dunbarre appears to be engrossed in conversation with the Dean of Chaos. The feline mage seemsto be doing most of the talking, while the poodle listens with an intent expression on his face.
A bar set up on the lawn provides a station for the servants to refill from, with a grill for preparation of food behind it. Another uniformed servant sets two full bottles on the canine's tray, and adds a few more glasses, emptying the contents of her current bottle into it. "You're doing fine, Missy," the man adds as he works, offering a brief, encouraging smile to the girl.
"You are kind to say so, monsieur," says Missy quietly. She smiles to the man and his words, and once her tray is ready, she steps from the station and proceeds back into the thick of the celebration. The lead table is chosen as her eventual destination, and she takes an indirect path towards it checking glasses and faces as she walks along.
Snippets of different conversations, none of them making a lot of sense out of context, drift past her. "… terrible, that poor girl … " "… Heard they went to Ashdod … " "… Such a fuss, but I'm sure you understand." When she reaches the lead table, she notes that Lt. Jaskar's glass is empty. He is seated on one side of Fyiara, the Dean of Chaos, while Dunbarre sits on the other. Fyiara's glass is clean and turned upside-down on the table before her, indicating that she's not drinking. Dunbarre's is half full still.
Showing deference in the form of a lowered gaze and eyes averted so that they do not look to the face, the young Gallah servant approaches the head table and steps where Lt. Jaskar might see her, though off far enough off to one side where she wouldn't be easily noticed by the two conversing. She watches the lieutenant questioningly, though with patience, allowing him to take his time in answering however he chooses.
Fyiara seems to be speaking, at some length, about "focal points" and "enchantment repellents" and some terms even less familiar to the wine-girl. Lt. Jaskar pokes at his food with the fork, looking somewhat melancholy, while the human woman on the right of him talks to the person on her right. After a moment, he glances around, then beckons to Missy, pointing to his empty glass.
On request, the girl steps forward and unobtrusively maneuvers herself behind Fyiara, where she takes up a bottle and leans forward to fill the glass with it. She does not allow her eyes to meet Lt. Jaskar's or anyone else's for that matter and instead keeps herself to the task at hand, tail low and submissive.
Dunbarre appears absorbed by the dean's description, inserting questions here and there that sound interested and even knowledgeable at times. He reaches for his glass, bringing it to about a quarter full, as Fyiara expounds on a facet of statistical probability. There's a slight glint in his eye that the serving girl has come to think of as meaning his mind is not really on the subject at hand, no matter how convincingly he may otherwise be portraying interest.
Though curious, the young Missy does not allow her interest to bring her attention away from what she is doing. It would not do for her to focus too greatly on the ambassador's eyes, she believes. Once the wine again occupies a significant portion of the lieutenant's glass, the serving girl steps back and away, moving to where she can be seen by the ambassador and, by extension, the dean.
"You know, this might be easier to show than explain," Fyiara remarks, pausing in her exposition. She waves to the wine-girl, beckoning to her. "Be a dear and get me a set of dice, would you, ah … " She frowns, puzzling over the unfamiliar face. "What's your name, girl?"
"Missy, Madame," responds the girl in her most practiced Gallisian accent. She then curtseys as best she can holding a serving tray and backs off, apparently moving to attend to the dean's request for dice.
Fyiara watches her back away with a slight frown on her face. "Missy," she repeats. "All right, hurry back with some dice, please. Ten should do. Thanks, sugar."
The serving inclines her head all the more to the repeated request, and once far enough away, makes her way as quickly as possible towards the nearest unloaded servant she is able to find. Failing that, she decides to pass on the request to the man at the bar.
The bartender shakes his head at the query. "Deuced chaos mages. She should magick up her own dice if she wants some. There's some boxes behind the grill with lawn games. Maybe there'll be some in there. Go check," he suggests, jerking his thumb over his shoulder to indicate direction.
"Merci," says the Gallah girl. After setting the serving tray upon the bar, she quickly moves off to the boxes and lowers herself down to search them, careful to hold the edges of her uniform away from the lawn, lest she dirty it.
After several minutes of scouring through different games, she at last comes upon several bags of "airship" dice.
Missy selects several dice, making sure to get fifteen five extra, should the chaos mage desire more. She returns the rest of the materials to their respective boxes and walks back over to pick up her tray, placing ten dice in an empty low rimmed glass, and putting five in a pocket of her dress. Once ready, she makes her way on back to the head table, careful to avoid any potential distractions on the way.
By the time she returns, Dunbarre has finished his drink, and other servants have begun clearing away the empty dishes from the main course, while dessert plates are distributed in their place. Spying Missy's approach, Fyiara beams. "There you are, sugar." She reaches out to scoop the dice from the cup, mewing as she sorts a couple of black ones from the white. "Could you get two more white, sweetie?" she asks, then turns to Dunbarre.
"Now, here's the thing, sugar," she says to Dunbarre, holding up one white die. "What would you say the odds are of me rolling a V on this?"
"One in six," the poodle says, "before you magick it, and one in one afterwards." He gives her an infectious grin.
Abandoning her attempt to reach for the ambassador's glass to get the dice that were requested instead, the wine-girl places the bottle back on her tray and fishes out the extra five dice. She places these all on the tray and selects two white dice which she offers to the dean, head bowed respectfully.
Fyiara grins back at him, not noticing the server at the moment. "Chaos magic is never quite that predictable, but that's still about right. Let's say I'm not magicking any for now." She adds a second die to the one in her hand. "What's the odds that, if I roll both, they'll both come up V?"
"One in … thirty-six?" Dunbarre offers.
The dice are placed on the table quietly where Fyiara might notice them. The Gallah then reaches over for the ambassador's cup that she might take it up and refill while not being any more in his way than need be.
The chaos dean bobs her head encouragingly. "What about for three?" she says, picking up another from the two just added. The ambassador's eyes cross briefly, and Fyiara hurries on, "That'd be six times six times six, or one in two hundred and sixteen, sweetie; you can just trust me on that. And it keeps going like that." She picks up all ten dice in her hands. "Let's say I want to make all ten of these turn up V."
Quietly, the serving girl refills the ambassador's glass and, as inconspicuously as it was picked up, places it back down on the table where the ambassador might easily notice and take it up. She then takes a step back and waits there patiently should the table desire anything else, her hands kept folded neatly under her serving tray.
"The odds against that are, oh, it's about one in sixty million," Fyiara says. "One in sixty million four hundred sixty-six thousand one hundred seventy-six, but who's counting? You're a gambling man, right, Ambassador?"
Dunbarre picks up his glass, shaking his head at the woman. "I know better than to bet against you," he says, smiling ruefully.
Another grin from the mage. "Even at those odds? Truth is, it'd take a pretty potent spell to buck that at least if I wanted exactly that result. If I just work one for "good luck" I might get it anyway. But if I try to make them turn up exactly that number that's really hard." She sets the dice down again. "On the other hand … let's do this differently."
Meanwhile, Missy inspects the glasses of others at the table, to see if her presence is needed even if it is not directly requested. The banter between the ambassador and the dean causes her to grin briefly, which she quickly hides from the two by lifting her tray up some.
Dean Fyiara picks up one die, and chants a handful of words, causing a glow to form around the die. Several of the others at the table have stopped their conversations to watch the mage. One of the Deans three chairs down has an empty wineglass, though he doesn't seem to care at the moment.
The feline mage rolls the glowing die. It bounces a few times, then turns up V. She lifts a second die as Dunbarre claps lightly, and she inclines her head to his. Holding it out to him, she asks, "Now: what's the odds that when I roll this die, it'll also be a V?"
"One in thirty six," the poodle answers simply.
Rather than stand where she is and observe, the servant makes her way to the empty glass, walking well out of the way of anyone's line of sight to the happenings least she be in their way. When she arrives at the glass, she steps forward and picks it up, then backs away so that its owner can see while she refills it.
Fyiara shakes her head. "Nope!" she says brightly. "One in six. This die doesn't care what the last die came up with. And see, here's the important thing about Chaos magic and gambling. See, the odds of all those dice coming up V are pretty terrible, all right. But the odds of any given combination are terrible. It doesn't matter whether I'm looking for all V or all X or the first die to be a 1, the next to be 3, and the last two to be X or whatever. Each individual combination is equally unlikely."
The wine glass is filled half an inch from the brim while Fyiara continues to captivate most of the table with her explanation. Quickly, though careful to be quiet about it, the Gallah girl sets the cup back down on the table and begins on her way back to where she had been standing by the ambassador before.
The Temple poodle's eyes start to cross again. The Khatta bites her lip, then mews, "They're all equally unlikely, see. But that one of them will happen is inevitable. When I roll all these dice," she scoops them into her hands, "They'll turn up some number, unless they fall into the soup or spontaneously combust or do something even more unlikely. That's why one in ten million isn't always 'Something that never happens'. Things that are one in a million happen every day constantly. It's just predicting in advance which one-in-a-million that's hard or manipulating probability so that it gets me the one-in-a-million that I want."
While the other servants begin preparation for dessert, young Missy remains attentive to the wine needs of the table she is currently watching over. She looks from glass to glass at this most important of tables, maintaining a constant vigil as to the needs of the guests, without being so very obvious about it. While she waits, she listens to the conversation near her.
Dunbarre rubs his muzzle, watching the dice in her hands, while Fyiara continues. "So what if I just take it one die at a time? Just a one in six chance. That's not that surprising." She chants, and drops a die, which lands with the "V" up, then does it again. One by one, glowing dice drop, in between chanted phrases, each one landing with the "V" face shown. "Because they have to land as something. So why not this?" She drops the last one, and the rack of ten is complete, each one showing the same face. "And that is probability."
Mild applause erupts from the people around her at the head of the table, and Fyiara giggles, batting at Dunbarre's hands as he claps. "Quit it!"
The wine-girl claps her free hand quietly to the tray holding hand, though slowly so as not to jar the tray too greatly. She also grins a little but tries to keep it to herself.
Still grinning, Fyiara ushers the dice to one side of the table, while Dunbarre shakes his head. "Remarkable. I think even I followed that," he tells her, while she giggles.
The Khatta waves to the wine-girl. "I think I'm done with these, um … "
While Fyiara scratches her head, Dunbarre supplies, "Missy."
"Right. Missy. You can put them back now, sugar."
When the applause has died down, so too does that of the serving girl who again folds her hands neatly under her tray. She returns to her attentive yet inconspicuously submissive observation until called upon by the dean. Again she steps forward, this time to collect the dice into the glass she carried them here in, and then she puts the glass on her tray.
Ambassador Dunbarre watches the girl move, curiously. "Missy, where are you from?" he asks.
The wine-girl pauses as she moves to step away once again. She looks surprised that she is being inquired of personally and she fidgets with the placement of her bottles and glasses in apparent nervousness. "Gallis, Monsieur Ambassador," she answers timidly.
He tilts his head, watching her. "What part of Gallis? You look familiar."
"Fauxpas," replies the serving girl. In Gallisian she adds, "I fear that mine is a common appearance, Ambassador." The second statement seems to cause some sadness in the eyes of the girl, though it is hard for the ambassador to determine given she never looks at him directly.
"Is that so?" Dunbarre replies, also in Gallisian. "Have you been to the Temple's Embassy in Fauxpas?"
"No m'lord, I have not," responds the serving girl, still speaking in Gallisian.
"Well … perhaps I have just … " Dunbarre pauses, blinking several times, then glances to Fyiara, and then back to the wine girl, his mouth hanging open for a moment. "Indeed," he recovers at last, rubbing his muzzle with one hand. "Sorry to keep you from your duties, ah, Missy." He turns back to his dessert, pushing his work into it.
Missy bows her head deeply to the ambassador, then continues on her way, backing from the table. She departs from the vicinity of the ambassador and moves to return the dice to their respective game pouches.
As she disappears, the ambassador jabs Fyiara lightly with his elbow and whispers something to her. A brief exchange of hissed comments follows, punctuated by a startled mew from the feline, then both turn to watch the serving girl walk to the grill. "No way!" Fyiara mews, and Dunbarre just smiles and shakes his head at her.
With her back to both the ambassador and dean, the serving girl reaches up to cover her muzzle as she giggles quietly to herself. "I shall have to have a word with Jaskar, I think," she whispers to herself as she walks. Regardless of the reactions she has gotten, she continues with her task and, after placing the tray on the bar again, takes the dice holding cup over to the box.
A few hours later, with the party dispersed to various games, Dunbarre hails the wine girl again. "Missy, would you show me where the nearest facility is, dear?" he asks politely, setting his drink on the table as he stands to follow her.
"This way, monsieur," responds the Gallah girl. She waits for the ambassador to draw near her, setting down the tray she was using to clean up with, then begins leading him off towards where she knows the facilities to be. "Has monsieur enjoyed himself?" she inquires as she walks.
"Oh, greatly," the male replies, pleasantly. As they disappear out of sight from the party down one of the garden paths, the Dean of Chaos strides casually out from one of the cul de sacs to join them. The feline nods to both of them, circumspect, then glances over their shoulders to see if anyone else is in sight. Seeing no one, she promptly doubles over in laughter.
A controlled smirk spreads over Dunbarre's face, as he watches the feline. "You're going to have to do better than that if you really plan to go on this covert operation of yours," he tells her.
The 'Gallah' girl tilts her head, eyeing the Dean of Chaos. "Come now, it is not that amusing," she protests. Shaking her head, she casts her gaze skyward. "Lieutenant Jaskar need be more observant. Were I an assassin … " Despite her words, her face turns red with embarrassment.
"Were you an assassin, one of my other guards would have caught you. He was there as guest, not officer, Elise," Dunbarre chides mildly. "But truly Missy? Dear First Ones, what have they done to you?" He looks somewhere between amusement and horror as he looks at the erstwhile poodle.
Fyiara, meanwhile, struggles to straighten from her convulsion. "Oh my stars," she wheezes, breathlessly. "I never would have recognized you, Elise. I wouldn't even have believed Jean if he hadn't been so adamant about it. I did think you looked a little familiar, maybe, but… " She shakes her head, giggling again.
"I … I should hope so. I know so, actually … I … " The embarrassed Missy's face darkens all the more red, and gazes off where she can't look at her fellow's expressions as her words fail her. "'Missy'," she starts to explain after a moment to regain her self-esteem, "is the name I chose for myself. My appearance is … the result of several very long hours of clipping and magical workings, which I see were … worth the investment … "
The Khatta nods. "I really expected you to reek of magic, as different as you look. But there's hardly anything there. Rosetta did good work on you. I guess just trimming the fur and changing the color was really all it took. Wow." She shakes her head, studying Elise's face.
"It's not perfect, obviously," Dunbarre remarks. "After all, I spotted you. But I doubt that anyone you'll meet in Babel will know you even as well as I do. It will do perfectly. And is, ah, quite reversible, I hope?" he adds with a note of concern.
Elise, a.k.a. Missy, wrinkles her nose as she is studied. After a moment, she seems to need to look away from the dean and over to the ambassador, an apparent attempt to avoid the inspection, or at least avoid the idea of it. "Perhaps I should inquire as to further modifications, though such may increase my magical 'signature'. As for how reversible it is, it is merely magically held dye and fur growth. Though without a life mage it would take a significantly long time for my fur to return … if it does at all."
Looking sympathetic, Fyiara steps towards the canine and pats her shoulder. "Don't worry about that, sugar. We'll get you back to normal, right as rain. In a pinch, even I might be able to fix your fur back to normal if we had to. But it won't come to that, sweetie any life mage in the Guild will be willing to put you right again, when the time comes. You're doing it for us, after all."
Elise inclines her head to the mage's words. "For you, for Rephidim, and for those who even now are in danger but know it not," says the now Gallah woman. She takes in a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "I will endure this … lesson in humility. I am, as always, happy to serve."
"Now if you will excuse me, I … Missy has tables to clean," adds the ex-poodle.