27 Oct. There's a murder at the operahouse!
(New Character Arrival) (Necropolis) (Ophelia) (Rephidim) (Turtle) (Zoltan)

Alysin's Auction House, once an opera house, is now one yet again, thanks to the extravagant tastes of Avi Kromo, patron of the arts, and a fairly typical Kujaku. The opera house has been redecorated, but only approaches its previous grandeur.

The guest list tonight reads a who's who of the regions that Rephidim is currently passing over – particularly of Sylvania. There is much hushed talk about the biggest name of all – Justinian VIII, son of the Czar of Sylvania, though he looks a fair deal too eccentric to be the heir to the throne of a nation.

The opera will not be starting for some time. The forward rows of seats have been moved to the side, leaving a wide open floor for guests to mill about in a pre-opera party. (After all, Avi Kromo simply loves any event that involves hors' d'ouerves.)

Ophelia, Countess of the Northern Shore, tries to sort through the hors' d'ouerves, while not appearing to do so. Her several centuries of experience at such parties stands her in good stead – she manages to find somehting that looks appetizing, without seeming to play with the food. She moves away from the refreshments table, nibbling delicately, looking for acquaintances.

Off to one side, near a buffet line of finger foods, a self-important-looking poodle samples everything down the line. Eustace do Varr is his name, son of an Arch-Inquisitor, and thus the equivalent of a noble in local business. He pauses, giving a flirting smile at Lady Marionette – wife of the Marquis of Fleaufille (a major city of Gallis). The powdered peacock smiles back … until cut off by a frown from her nearby husband, who is just as powdered, complete with a beauty mark on his beak.

Zoltan wanders in; he's uncomfortable in fancy clothes but knows that going casual would probably cause him to be mistaken for one of the help. So instead he comes dressed in his finest, a deep blue robe delicately embroidered with red and silver threads. Glass beads have been delicately braided into the freshly brushed hairs of his tail (thanks to Jezebel) and a copper necklace polished to a mirrorlike finish graces his neck. Even the metal gauntlets on his wrists have been polished, and he wears them openly. The black tattoos on his arms also show, but in his regalia they only seem to add to the decoration.

Another poodle walks along, this one much older than Eustace, and looking a great deal more dignified, with a Gallisian cut to his garb. To anyone who asks, he is Doctor Louis Magritte, one of the personal physicians of the Marquis of Fleaufille, and well-regarded for a number of articles read well beyond the borders of his country … quite controversial ones, in fact, causing much debate in medical and scientific circles.

Across the room, a large black horse-like Rhian in an elaborately trimmed uniform glares daggers at the poodle doctor. General Torg is his name, leader of the Czar's military forces – or what there are of them. He has led many successful campaigns, but all of his defeats have been at the hands of incursions by the Gallisians, eager to pick apart Sylvania's southern border.

Zoltan looks around anxiously. He tries his best not to fidget or itch in front of all the important looking people. The Vartan strides past the hors d'ouerves table and quickly snatches up a goblet, then wanders off to an unoccupied corner and quietly sips his drink.

In the band pit, musicians play in the background, with a melodious voice provided by Anastazhia do Romano – Despite her noblesque stage name, it is no secret that she is of humble beginnings, her only claim to nobility being as a "Gypsy Queen". The silken-haired black Khatta purrs a traditional Sylvanian tune that has been reset to the orchestral tastes of the day. She attracts several ogles from various party-goers, but maintains a disdainful air about her.

A tall, white bat walks right up to the pitch-black Vartan. His eyes glow faintly in the soft lighting of the room, and he smiles, showing off sharp-tipped canines. "Greetings," he says to the Vartan, with just a touch of an exotic accent. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Count Karstein of Sylvania. I understand that you are the Baron of Paradys? I have not been there."

Near Ophelia, another bat, this one a female, snorts at Karstein's introduction. (He's nowhere nearby, but that never stops an Eeee from listening in.) Countess Draco turns away, sipping at a blood-red drink held in her hand.

"Baron?" the hippogryph replies, absently clicking a talon against the side of his glass. "Yes, suppose that what I am." he smiles a little. "Not many go there, is very hostile. Cannibals, traps, my people there is still… hrr… cleaning up."

Count Karstein smiles grimly. "I can sympathize. There is much … cleaning up … to do in my land." He glances sideways as a third bat strolls by – Abednego bar Abbas, an Eeee hailing from Babel rather than Sylvania, and a world-travelling operatic star who will be playing the prized role of the Necromancer King this night. Abednego is oblivious to the glare, as he walks along, politely smiling and greeting the couples and singles along his path to the buffet line.

Zoltan smiles inwardly even more than outwardly, he'll only give his name here if asked for it. The Baron of Paradys is a good a title as any, especially if it keeps his presence here from being too widely known. He has too many friends who would probably never let him live this down.

Turtle strides in, fashionably late, eyeing the room with her usual disapproving stare. She is swathed in an opalecent dress, which shimmers different pastel colors depending on how the light hits it. It purposely wrinkles over her figure, sleeveless with a short train playing with the carpet behind her as she walks. In one hand, she holds a dainty pair of white opera glasses and in the other, she pulls on the white stole wrapped around her shoulders. She casually makes her way to the refreshment table.

The Countess takes note of Count Karstein, her nostrils flaring ever so slightly. She doesn't look as though she were terribly eager to catch his eye. She turns away, the heavy velvet of her gown swishing, just in time to notice the horn of another Aeonian moving above the crowd. Intrigued, she starts across the room, murmuring casual greeting left and right as she adroitly manages to avoid entanglement in any conversations.

Yet another poodle slips out of the crowd to make his presence known, also with a french cut to his apparel. He steps up next to Turtle, and quickly takes her hand to kiss it. "Good evening, mademoiselle! I am Pierre duBois, world-reknowned singer and actor, and shall be playing the part of Czar Justinian the Fifth this evening. Many hearts have I broken, but not yours, I promise!"

A golden-furred vixen in an elaborate dress with many silken drapes swishes her way through the crowd, her luxuriously-furred tail training behind her. She smiles at the attentions she gets, and giggles when the only reaction she gets from Justinian's butler (Justinian the Eight, that is) is a snort. The old Rhian butler, Morstav, does nothing to conceal his disdain for the vixen, and has a put-upon look in attending this event at all.

The Vartan follows Count Karstein's glare, and then his eyes fall upon the Countess who seemed to be glaring daggers at someone. He begins to feel just a little bit more uncomfortable. "There seem to be trouble all over," he scrawks to his companion, speaking slowly so his accent doesn't show itself as much. "Not even Rephidim is safe."

Turtle leans back from her hand. "How amusing," she says, with no tone of humor. She turns away, continuing to survey the room.

Pierre gives a positively hurt look … and then quickly moves on to an intercept course with the vixen. "… but not yours, I promise!" can be overheard through the chatter.

Zoltan takes another quiet sip from his drink.

Turtle snorts and rolls her eyes as discreetly as possible.

Count Karstein smiles grimly again. In fact, that seems to be the only expression he is fond of using when not talking. "Quite so, Baron. Now, if you'll excuse me, I see Countess Draco off the way. It is never a full night until we have managed to exchange insults and make veiled threats of going to war that we are both incapable of carrying out. Take care." He nearly glides away, as his feet are concealed by his robes, cloak and wings.

The Vartan nods to the Count as he departs and then chuckles quietly to himself. ( Baron Zoltan. If only Father could see me now. )

Lady Marionette, the Kujaku lady who has managed to slip away from her jealous husband, sashays over to the buffet line, near Turtle. "Why, hello again, dearest!" she twitters. "I had thought I might never see you again. I DO hope life is treating you well?"

Barely visible in a part of the crowd, a female feline in shiny white armor (marked with stylized roses and thorns) stands, her magenta cape flaring behind her. She holds a glass filled with wine that some well-meaning server must have offered her, though there's no way she could drink it, what with that armored mask she always wears … and drinking alcoholic beverages is probably against the code of the Knights Templar regardless, as the Champion of Roses is.

Turtle nods politely, "As well as can be expected, considering my current orders. They have me following along to the most dreadful places. Fortunately, I managed to escape for tonight back to the atmosphere Ibelong in. I see you are well."

Ophelia stands discreetly to one side and slightly behind Turtle, examining her. She adjusts her maroon-coloured gown, and seems to make up her mind.

Zoltan smiles, seeing a face not entirely friendly, but at least familiar. He makes his way toward the Champion.

Lady Marionette smiles, only briefly looking up as the black Vartan passes on his way to see the Champion. She twitters back to Turtle, "Well, yes, I'm sure this is much better than any dreadful places you might have to visit. Oh! Look! Is that the Countess Ophelia? Why, she's another one of your kind, isn't she?"

Ophelia approaches Turtle, deftly working herself between the Lady Marionette and the other Aeonian. She smiles, and quarter-curtsies. "Good evening – I'm the Countess Ophelia, of the Northern Shore. I don't beleive that I've had the pleasure of your acquaintance… "

The Champion of Roses doesn't hint at any notice of Zoltan until he's practically within reach. At that point, she turns her masked face to regard him with shadowed eyes, and inclines her head in silent greeting.

The Kujaku lady smiles, twittering back, "I am Lady Marionette, wife of the Marquis of Fleaufille, the finest city in Gallis, if not the capitol. We have, after all, the much-celebrated Revolution Park, and countless tyrants and monarchs and despots have lost their precious little heads there! Why, the place is simply RICH with history! And the art museums are simply to die for! And then, you'll never see more mimes… "

Turtle looks startled a moment but quickly re-maintains her composure, as stiff and valiant as a statue. "Inquistrix Turtle of Rephidim Temple," she says, narrowing her eyes a bit as she studies Ophelia better, "Charmed."

The Vartan returns the Champion's nod with a much deeper bow. "May I join you?" he scrawks as he rises up. "Is good to see someone I know here."

A human with a generally dishevelled look about his otherwise fine (if color-mismatched) clothes walks up, silently regarding the two Aeonians and the Kujaku, holding an empty glass in one hand, and having a silly grin on his face. His skin is tanned, his hair a very dark, ruddy color, making his racial background quite indefinite indeed.

The Champion nods again in response to the Vartan's question, and returns to looking out across the room, at the various guests.

The Kujaku lets out an "OH!" as she sees a servant walk by with a tray filled with snacks, and puts out a wing to stop the Korv servant. "Oh! You must try these! Pickled kyootcumber slices, wrapped with thin cuts of Bromthen, with the BEST … well, just try for yourself! Watch out for the toothpicks."

As the Korv is abruptly stopped by the twittering Kujaku, a bat – Abednego, the operatic star – bumps into the servant, spilling his drink. "EEEEEE!" he squeaks!

Ophelia's smile dims only for the space of a heartbeat at the mention of Revolution Park. "Lady Marionette, Inquisitrix Turtle – such a pleasure to meet the both of you. I've heard much of Fleauville, Lady Marionette, although I've never been there. I must say that you quite fit the picture I've carried in my mind of a Gallisian Lady… " She takes a kyottcumber snack, and nibbles at it.

"Pouncer doing well in Scouts." Zoltan says quietly, his eyes set forward at the guests as well. "Taliamelle no seem to like Scouts as much, but she also doing well." His voice is slightly wistful, much the same as that of any proud father speaking of his child's accomplishments.

Lady Marionette twitters. "Oh dear! Oh dear oh dear! … Oh DEAR oh dear, oh dear!" She goes on like this for several more twitters, as the Korv just looks ashamed for being in the middle of this.

Turtle cringes slightly and moves back a few steps from the scene, lest it attract attention to her.

Ophelia lowers her ears slightly, uncomfortable with the fuss being made over a spilled drink.

At least the crow didn't drop his tray. The bat, quickly recovering, acts as if nothing happened. "Ahem! Yes, I overheard you. These ARE simply delicious. Mind if I take one?" He does so, without waiting for an answer. "Mmmmmm!" His ears perk up a bit.

The Champion simply nods again as Zoltan speaks proudly of his adopted children, her gaze still scanning the crowd.

Zoltan grimaces. "You as uncomfortable as I am here?" he whispers to the Champion, and then smiles a little, adding, "At least you no have to dress in itchy clothes like me."

Near the stage, the exchange between Countess Draco and Count Karstein has gotten progressively louder, a particularly odd exchange amongst bats, since the two Sylvanian Eeees seem not to have quite the high-pitched voices of those hailing from Babel. Snippets of their conversations involve accusations of banditry against Karstein, and witchcraft against Draco.

The Champion just turns to gaze at Zoltan for a brief moment, then returns to staring silently at the crowd. Never much of a talker is she.

Turtle finally attempts a snack, shifting her wrap. She nibbles with criticism on her face, but finds it pleasing.

Ophelia looks mildly uncertain of what to do – She stands in place for a few seconds, as though mentally weighing the information to be gained from Turtle against the annoyance of the Lady Marionette's company…

Abednego walks along. As he walks away, Eustace can be heard to mutter, "Babelite spy. The nerve of him, to show up here!"

Zoltan takes another small sip from his goblet. ( One would think this is the show, except there's no singing. )

The Lady Kujaku walks along. "Oh! Please excuse me. I see Avi Kromo. I simply MUST speak with him about the LOVELY job he did with this old building." She fusses with her wig a bit, then saunters over toward the other Kujaku, the latter wearing a perpetually silly grin on his beak as he nods at everyone who walks past.

The bemused and possibly colorblind human takes this time to walk away as well, this time spying the Vartan standing next to the Knight Templar … and makes a beeline toward them. He is closely followed behind by the grumpy-looking Rhian butler.

Turtle waves her hand slightly in a cultured way. "Farewell, Madame." She crosses her arms after the Kujaku is gone and shakes her head.

The Vartan straightens up his posture as the human approaches.

Ophelia looks slightly nervous, and draws a bit closer to Turtle, speaking a bit more quietly than before. "Tell me, Inquisitrix Turtle – have you lived here long?"

The human walks up to the Vartan, and makes a bow. "Greetings! I heard that you are a lord of some distant land called Paradys. I beg your pardon that I do not know your proper title." The human is speaking in Vartan.

Turtle lifts her eyebrows in surprise, and slowly unfolds her arms. "I am afraid not, dear. I have been here on a month or two between my assignments. Before that, the assignment I was on lasted an unfortunate three hundred years at a deserted outpost." She snorts softly, almost inaudibly.

Turtle gazes off to an unknown point in front of her and raises her chin, as if she were gallantly bearing a burden. "Tonight is a rare occurance for me, I am afraid."

Zoltan raises an eyebrow. "Baron. I'm referred to as the Baron of Paradys," he squawks back in Vartan. "And you are?"

Ophelia is somewhat taken aback at Turtle's lack of warmth. She grabs the narrative hook, a life preserver in a sinking conversation. "A rare occurrence? An opera, do you mean?"

The human bows to Zoltan. "I am Justinian the Eighth, son of the Czar of Sylvania. That might make me a prince, I think, though I'm not sure. In any case, it means I get to dress very nicely and go to stuffy functions."

Turtle says, "A social event such as this," she sighs and relaxes, "But my duty comes first."

"So you are Sylvanian then? I did not know there were many humans there, but I also am not entirely familiar with Sylvania in general." Zoltan smiles and raises his goblet. "But that is one of my reasons for being here. How is it that you speak my language?"

The human shrugs. "I pick up new languages easily," he squawks. "At least, that's what I'm told. I guess it's because I read a lot. And I travel a lot, too, when Father lets me. I haven't seen Father for such a long time, though, since he got sick. General Torg tends to let me do more of what I want."

Ophelia brightens slightly. "One might be forgiven for beleiving that the duties of an Inquisitrix would be rather more interesting than attending a night at the opera. I'm sure you must travel widely, and see many sights."

Zoltan regards the human for a moment, trying to guess his age. "I hope your father gets better. I lost my own father when I was very young, it still hurts me to this day sometimes. Did you come here on one of your travels?"

Abednego walks past the arguing Count and Countess, giving them a sneer as he saunters past. They both stop in their arguing briefly, following him coldly with their gazes until he's gone … and then they turn right back to verbally tearing each other to shreds.

Turtle says, "It depends on how you view it, I suppose."

Justinian smiles faintly, and says, "Yes. I suppose coming here would count as a travel. Airships can't get to Sylvania very often … but when Rephidim passes over, it changes the weather. It wasn't that hard to send some Korvs to make arrangements to catch a ride up to the city. Many others had the same idea, I see. Over there is the Countess Ophelia, of the Northern Shore. And there is Countess Draco and Count Karstein. Of course, General Torg insisted on coming along, to see that I don't get into any trouble. I'm pleased to get a chance to listen to Anatazhia do Romano. I've heard about her, but never actually heard her voice before. Isn't it lovely?"

"Will she be singing in the Opera?" Zoltan asks. "I must admit I know very little about the subject of the opera. I was drawn here because the name… er… interested me."

"The name? Ah yes. The Avatar of Necropolis. A bit of history of my land," Justinian adds, sipping at his empty glass.

Ophelia says, "Well, yes, most things really do depend on one's perspective. For me, stuck in my little county in the wilderness, travel, even if only a short trip such as this, counts as an adventure. It's an undertaking inherently fraught with surprise – I'd not guessed, for instance, that I'd meet another Aeonian here."

The Vartan looks at each of the people the human indicated in turn, and then looks for someone that might resemble a 'general'. "Necropolis, yes. I'm interested in learning more about her. History you say? So this opera is based on fact?"

Justinian shrugs. "Fact, and a lot of filling in of the blanks. After all, nobody really witnessed all the events … and lived to tell about it. Sylvania was once as powerful as, oh, Gallis. But throughout its history, it has had an inordinate number of necromancers practicing in its lands."

Zoltan looks away for a moment, frowning. He shakes his head briefly and looks back to Justinian, "The General you mentioned… is he your guardian?"

As nonchalantly as he can, the Vartan glances down at the Champion to see where her attention is focused, and then quickly looks back to the human.

Ophelia notices the Czarevich nearby, and starts guiltily. "I should really go and pay my respects to Justinian – I've pretty well glued myself to you, I fear, but it's such a novelty to meet another Aeonian."

The Champion seems to be watching the human for now. So is General Torg, the large Rhian off to one side. Justinian replies, "Well, that's not his official duty, but … Well, yes, I suppose you could call him that. He's especially … concerned … because of the number of Gallisians here. We're not on very friendly terms with them, especially as they keep taking land from us. If not for the swamps and the monsters, they'd have reached the sea by now."

Turtle looks slightly flustered. "Yes, neither would I," she makes several steps towards breaking away, "Would you excuse me now? I wish to go mingle a bit morebefore the play starts"

Ophelia takes leave of Turtle, and strides across the room toward the Czarevich, her expression still somewhat bemused.

Zoltan nods to the Rhian before replying to Justinian. "I fear I know about as much of Gallis as I do of Sylvania. Are you at war?"

Justinian grins. "I suppose it's ironic. The Necromancers destroyed our land … but their legacy is also the reason we haven't been overrun by now. No, no, not at WAR, per se. It's just that they keep moving in and taking our land. We simply haven't the resources to stop them."

Turtle glides off in her own direction like a gilded boat down a river. She nods respects to those who take time to look in her direction.

The Champion seems to lose interest, and has returned to watching the loudly-arguing bats.

Zoltan nods to Ophelia as she approaches. ( So much for avoiding people, oh well. ) "This may sound like an odd question, Prince Justinian… but do you know anything about Aeztepia? You claim to be well read, and I'm trying to learn more about that strange land."

The musicians stop playing, and Anastazhia steps down from the stage. She meets up with Pierre and Abednego. Abednego says something that makes both Pierre and Anastazhia glare at him, but then shrugs as they all head off to one side of the stage.

"Aeztepa?" Justinian says, going back to Rephidim Standard. He then starts talking in some exotic-sounding tongue … one which Zoltan somehow understands.

Ophelia draws near Justinian and his circle. She catches General Torg's eye from some distance, and nods a greeting. She smiles warmly to the strange Gryphon, her diplomatic smile, the one that proclaims its recipient to be just the person she came to see. She pauses at the periphery of the Czarevich's group, visibly respectful of Justinian.

Turtle's ears perk up, and she turns to join the party growing arund the Vartan. She calls out something in similar tongue to Justinian.

Justinian smiles at Turtle, and bows to her. He reverts back to Rephidim Standard as he answers, "I suppose you might call me that. I suppose it would be more useful if Sylvanians didn't already use the same tongue."

Zoltan takes a step back, bumping into the Champion. He recovers himself and asks, "And the book you speak of? What do you know of it?"

The Champion stands her ground, despite being bumped. Well, after she gets knocked over a step or two, that is. Zoltan IS fairly large, after all, certainly taller than she.

Turtle gives a knowing smile to Justinian, but the smile fades as her eyes catch on the other unicorn. She stands and listens.

Justinian says, in Rephidim Standard still, despite the Vartan's question in Vartanspeak, "Nothing, really. There are so many tales of 'Books of Lost Secrets', and such. It's a popular element in ghost stories and the like. There is far more fiction than fact."

Ophelia clasps her hands in front of her, and listens attentively, with the attitude of someone favoured to overhear a learned discourse.

A few murmurings go through the crowd. It would seem that the 'party' phase is folding up, and that the partygoers are slowly finding their places for the actual opera.

Zoltan nods. He keeps speaking in Vartan, even if the human choses to speak otherwise. "Do you know anything about this Queen? Forgive me for not using Standard; my grasp of it isn't all that strong."

( Oh Dagh… how was I able to understand that? Is the witch in my head as well? ) The Vartan nervously flexes his fingers and fidgets with his empty glass.

Justinian adds, "Many of the tales of the Necromancers involve their discovery of some great tome from distance Aeztepa, containing secrets of raising armies of the dead. But as for the Queen … Well, no one can truly agree on just WHAT or WHO she was, but most of the tales name her as Amenlichtli – or, at least, those tales that I consider to be the most accurate, corroborated with other legends I've heard in other lands. Her attempts at immortality destroyed her, of course, and her land as well, according to the tales. Just goes to show you what trouble magic will bring you."

Turtle chuckles quietly, "I have seen that all too well."

Turtle moves along at that statement, not particularly interested in any conversation turning to magic. She furrows her brows as she moves on into the opera room.

Justinian hmms at Turtle, then says, "In any case, perhaps we should find our seats. Would you care to join me? I think I probably have the best view in the auditorium."

"More trouble than anyone usually ever imagines." the hippogryph murmurs to himself. He looks up and notices the crowd filtering out. "Champion, will you be watching the Opera as well? There's no other I would rather be with in this house than yourself." He makes an 'after you' sweeping of his hands towards the auditorium.

Turtle nods and smiles. "Certainly." She offers her arm out to the human.

Ophelia follows the little group into the auditorium, hands still folded, conspicuously alone amongst the various couples.

The human takes Turtle's arm, and begins to walk to the stairs leading up to the other level. "Oh? Countess Ophelia? You're certainly welcome as well. And I certainly wouldn't mind the Baron of Paradys and the Champion of Roses."

Turtle flattens her ears slightly and frowns. The Countess?

Ophelia brightens perceptibly, and ignores (or does she notice?) Turtle's reaction. "I'd be greatly honoured, Your Majesty." She glides serenely along in Justinian's wake.

The Champion of Roses nods, and moves along with the rest of the group, as they go up the stairs that lead to the balconies, and to the Czarevich's box overlooking the stage. Already below, the tables have been moved way, the floor quickly cleaned, and the band pit rearranged. The curtains are still closed, but sounds can be faintly heard of more work going on backstage.

Zoltan looks around for a seat that won't be too much of a discomfort on his wings and then settles down. He looks out at the curtained stage, grateful for his keen eyesight.

The lights are put out or dimmed, except for a torchlight focused on the stage. The curtains draw open, revealing a representation of the Sylvania wilderness, by means of tall wooden silhouettes cut to resemble that of trees. The music has an ominous tone to it, and the stage setting suggests a night full of ill portents.

Anastazhia do Romano, the black Khatta, comes out in the garb of one of Sylvania's Wanderers, singing a narrative of how her land is the place of forests, where the trees hold their mysteries forever, but where men with wicked hearts are not content to leave such mysteries be, intent upon ripping them from the land for their own gain.

As the song continues, several richly-dressed men appear, singing about the mysteries of the universe in a completely different light – Criticizing the cruel reality of nature, and the ultimate failure of death, although the stars and earth go on, jealously guarding their own immortality, denying it to mortals. They sing of the search for the mysteries of the stars and timeless worlds, the yearning to break the bonds of mortality and become like unto the gods. In their songs, they boldly proclaim their ability to do just this, and their worthiness to attain thrones over the stars themselves.

( Even if I don't learn anything from this play… perhaps the human told me enough to stop Necropolis – or at least more useful information to go on. I wish I could borrow some of his books, ) Zoltan quietly thinks to himself as he watches.

As the play unfolds, it largely documents the struggles between these Necromancers, as, at first, they work together to create an army of the undead, and then somehow happen upon a coffin brought by a traveller from a distant land. They believe it to hold the body of a powerful queen of Aeztepa, once a mighty sorceress … and they plot together to raise her as they did their zombie soldiers, theirs to command, her powers subject to theirs.

Zoltan feels the feathers on his neck raise at the sight of the coffin. ( I should have burned you to the ground when I first got the chance. )

The Necromancers are successful in their endeavor, and the Queen – played again by Anastazhia, but in another costume, this one bedecked with stage jewelry, and combined with mummy-like bandage swathes – serves them, joining them as they conquer the territories of Sylvania, bending all the counties to their will, or slaughtering those who disagree. They call disease and pestilence and cataclysms upon the land, further weakening the populace and adding to their armies.

At last, the Czar Justinian – the Fifth – confronts these wicked Necromancers. Never mind that the real Justinian was a human (unless Justinian the Eighth has a most bizarre heritage). Here a poodle gets the role. Justinian the Eighth, up in the balcony, smiles as the actor playing his ancestor "fights" the Necromancers in a duel of words and song.

The raised queen – referred to as the Avatar – suddenly joins in, heretofore silent amongst the Necromancers. She argues as well, seeming to side with one, and then the other. Soon, the Necromancers are fighting amongst themselves. … and then the Avatar takes Justinian the Fifth aside, and sings promises to him of power untold, if he will free her and join her.

Justinian the Eighth's countenance immediately drops at this. He looks as if this is a part of the story he was not expecting. His face quickly shifts to an expression of anger … especially as, in a scene of "transformation", the "Czar" re-emerges, now played by Abednego bar Abbas … as the "Necromancer King".

Zoltan looks curiously to the human. He feels tempted to speak to him about this particular scene, but decides not to interrupt the play. Perhaps there will be time afterwards.

Ophelia flicks her ears, and snorts to herself. To anyone watching her rather than the opera, it would be obvious that the scene unfolding is one with which she has little comfort.

The Necromancer King and the Avatar do battle against the Necromancers, defeating them … and then the Czar's son, Justinian the Sixth (played again by the poodle … amazing likeness to his father, don't you think?) shows up with a mysterious, holy blade, to do battle with the one who was once his father. The Avatar once again turns the traitor, turning against the Necromancer King when he is at his weakest, but the Czar's son is not sold on any promises of immortality, and strikes down both of the undead monsters with the glitter-covered "blade". In the fashion of Sylvanian opera, rather than simply falling over and dying, they sing a fairly angstful melody while lying half-collapsed on the stage (a rather remarkable feat, really, to still make one's voice carry so far).

Turtle is hardly comfortable herself. Her recent experiences with Boschher make feel anything but enjoyment.

There are more songs, though the son of the Czar, up in the balcony, storms out of his box. His butler, Morstav, seems to have headed out a bit earlier, while no one was looking.

Ophelia looks appreciative of the well-played death scenes, despite any misgivings she may have regarding the theme.

Once the play has finished, the curtains close, and the actors come out to make their bows, starting with the lesser parts first. When it comes time for the major actors and actresses – That is, Anastazhia, Pierre and Abednego – they don't come forward. The applause begins to quiet, as it's evident that something isn't quite right.

Turtle looks rather bored. She furrows her brow, quite ready to leave and then some.

A Korv hops out, cawing loudly, "A doctor! Is there a doctor in the house? *KAW*"

Zoltan rises from his seat and looks about the auditorium.

There's a murmuring that rushes through the audience, and a poodle – Doctor Magritte, stumbles from his seat on the main floor, rushing up toward the stage.

Ophelia pricks her ears, and looks mildly concerned.

Turtle perks up her ears, then sits up. This might be interesting.

For some reason, someone has chosen to open the curtains again. Anastazhia can be seen, still in her "Avatar" costume, kneeling over a fallen bat, Abednego, sobbing. "He's dead!" she mews, almost sounding like a kitten. This prompts even more murmurs to rush through the crowd.

Zoltan looks around confusedly. "Is this part of the Opera?" he whispers to the Champion.

Ophelia gasps, and half-rises from her seat. She sits down again almost immediately, and spares a cautious glance at the other occupants of the box, perhaps fearing to be thought a gawker at disaster.

The Champion gets up from her seat, shaking her head … and quickly moves to the stairs, rushing down to the main floor.

Zoltan follows quickly behind the Champion, just in case there's need for muscle here.

The doctor kneels beside the fallen bat, examining him, then looks up. "He's been poisoned!" the doctor exclaims, prompting, again, more murmurs and gasps.

Turtle flickers her ears a few times, then reluctantly rises and follows. Somehow, it looks she'll be on Temple buisiness tonight after all.

"How dreadful!", Ophelia remarks under her breath, to no-one in particular. Seeing that the Czarevich's box is rapidly emptying, she rises, smooths out the wrinkles in her maroon velvet gown, and trails discreetly after Turtle.

Much of the audience has gotten up from their seats and is milling about at the base of the stage. The Champion of Roses has gotten to pushing back anyone who might be inclined to get too close to the "crime scene".

Pierre, Abednego's co-star yaps, "Why, he didn't eat a thing all night! Nothing … except for those tidbits he took off that tray that he shared with the two Aeonians!" He gasps at his own remark, along with the further murmurs this produces. (Actually, at this point, anytime anybody says ANYTHING, it prompts murmurings.)

"Need any help?" the Vartan scrawks to the Champion. He looks around at the crowd, searching for Justinian.

Turtle flicks her ears curiously at the poodle. She watches Ophelia suspiciously out of the corner of her eye.

There's no sign of Justinian in the crowd, nor of his butler, the Rhian named Morstav. The General is visible, standing against one wall, his eyes scanning the room.

Ophelia, perhaps a bit slow on the uptake, simply looks mildly scandalized by the whole unseemly affair.

The doctor looks up, adjusting his spectacles. "I've heard that Aeonians are immune to poison. Is that true?"

(More murmuring.)

Ophelia perks her ears slightly, unsure as to whether she or Turtle is expected to answer.

Countess Draco walks right up to Ophelia, baring her sharp canines. "Why don't you answer the good doctor, hmm? A simple 'yes' or 'no' should suffice."

Zoltan looks at the dead bat, then to the two Aeonians. He frowns and starts shoving his way through the crowd again, working his way towards the General.

Turtle answers in cool working manner as she steps forward, "It is true, doctor."

Count Karstein turns on Draco, shouting, "Keep out of this! If it weren't for you, nothing like this would have ever happened!"

Ophelia regards the Eeee countess cooly, with the look one reserves for someone who has comitted a breach of manners which probably lies beyond their ability to understand.

Without a word to Draco, Ophelia makes her way over to where the doctor stands by the body. "As she said, it is true. We don't suffer from the same poisons as most creatures."

"If you don't mind," Turtle continues, looking around, "I would like to question a few of the people present here. After all, I am an Inquisitrix. That's what I do. Namely, the servant carrying the tray, the Marquis' wife, and… the Countess Ophelia." She narrows her eyes at the other unicron.

Lady Marionette twitter-gasps … then swoons and faints. The Marquis makes a pass at catching her, but fails. *THUD*

Ophelia looks attentive, beginning to grasp how the situation seems to be developing. "I am at your service, of course."

There is much murmuring and muttering and a confused buzz. A few of those present – none of those introduced to Zoltan, Turtle or Ophelia, however – seem to decide that it's time to leave. At about this same time, a few lupine guards come in, some of them asking questions of those departing and getting nervous answers.

Turtle nods to the ones to be interrogated and crosses her arms. "If you'll please come with me… "

Ophelia stands rather stiff-spined, obviously offended by the suggestion that she might be under suspicion. "Am I to be included in this matter?"

The poodle actor, Pierre duBois, sniffs a bit at Ophelia's comment. "Really. I do not know HOW to express my disappointment! Such lack of appreciation for the arts … It has never been HEARD of!"

Ophelia looks disdainfully at the poodle, and turns with a grand swish of her gown to follow Turtle.

Turtle strides out with a proud frown, looking every bit like a priestess off to perform her duties.

Zoltan watches the exiting unicorns, and then heads toward another doorway in search of Justinian. ( He's got to be able to tell me more about Necropolis, how I can stop her… and how I know her language. )


GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 6 days before Midsummer's Day, Year 28 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6127)