Over the next week or so, I attend a number of social and other events, getting introduced to a dizzying number of people around the city. My Mother takes the estate staff in hand and makes a big difference in helping things get set up. Tomas helps her with a few things. My Father makes inroads with the local village pub and fishing holes.
In the local district, I collect a number of friendly Knights, all veterans of the war, and all relatively poor. We bond over some arms practice and a great deal of bashing of shields. I take advantage of some of the time to sharpen my longsword skills.
Mery gets a paper crane message from Alexei letting her know he’ll be in town for one of my soirees.
My party is on the 12th. The preparation process tries my patience multiple times, and that is before my valet corrals me to get dressed. A full two hours before anyone will be arriving! The guest list has grown to include a fairly wide cross-section of Warsaw society.
Colonel (ret.) Inar Kragaren is one of my invitees, and announced on his arrival with his wife.
Captain Lynn Nix of Swiss Sky Galleon Arcana is also announced — well-known to Milo. Milo quickly delivers her favorite drink, to the dismay of the growing crowd of young and single men.
Mery also start receiving a fair amount of attention. Mery takes on a drink matchmaking role — matching each converser with a drink. I find out later that Mery strings a number of them along.
Tomas and Milo notice that Sebastian is circulating in the crowd of attendees.
Then I hear words that freeze my blood… Announcing The Queen of Montenegro". Gulp. Feeling a cool breeze on my unarmored neck, I make my way over to greet.
Heinrich watches the proceedings from the gallery. Later Captain Sebastian Petrov joins him to watch for Mery. Mery, having ducked through the crowd upon hearing of the Queen’s arrival, heads to the gallery for safety and finds Sebastian. She quickly enlists his assistance to deal with the Queen, and promises to follow his lead.
I escort the Queen around my party. We help each other with introductions — I have new contacts at the local level, she knows most of the highest ranking ones.
Alexi and a number of varied Russians, namely all of the possible candidates for Czar (all six of them).
At some point, the Queen inquires if I might be able to provide her and her party with accommodations. I allow that such a task should be possible, and hand off the task through my new butler. Later I learn just how big an effort the house staff put forward to make this possible.
I meet Colonel (ret.) Inar Kragaren and his wife. I get the impression the wife comes from a noble heritage. In our initial chat, he confesses to being confused why I’d be considering running for King, and we agree to a longer conversation over brandy.
A late arrival announcement comes after dinner, with Duke Valentine Krevenchev. The Russians all look over and start quietly taking preparatory positions, scattered about the area. I head over to receive Valentine. He congratulates us on our accomplishments. He leaves me a housewarming gift, a mid-size box that he pulls from his obviously-magical sleeve. He promptly turns and vanishes into a shadow.
After Valentine leaves, I turn and immediately acquire a very stiff drink. Fortified, I find the Queen, now in Garrick and Polarion’s company. I inform the Queen about my latest guest. We ponder the gift as Mery, Milo, and Tomas arrive and start investigating it. Mery calls over Alexei. We end up determining there is something magical in the box, not obviously evil, and otherwise undetermined. I decide to hold off on opening the gift immediately.
Eventually the party winds down and very small cadre of us adjourn to the sitting room. Alexei and the other Russians guide us through a bunch of preparations to mitigate the possible negative effects of opening the box. The Russian mages enclose Mery, Milo, and I in a bunch of force walls, with Mery and Milo prepared to provide up close and personal assistance if needed. In the box is some kind of strange scepter, without any obvious identifying markings. Milo surmises that the scepter is probably old and Russian. After waiting a short time to make sure we don’t die an explosive death in our force wall cage, the force walls are dismissed. None of the Russians immediately recognize the scepter.
The Queen’s suite is in the same wing, with a balcony that ends about six feet away from mine. We end up out there and chat for a bit. She mentions having met Duke Zaranova and hearing his desire to represent Poland to the upcoming Guild-formation negotiations. She is meeting the King in a couple of days, who seems favorable to this approach. She is also planning to attend a Gnomish demonstration in Zurich, for which Captain Lynn is providing transportation.
I get up a bit early and go gather some flowers for Cate, then arrange to escort her to breakfast. We have a nice quiet breakfast. Afterwards Cate and Mery have a quiet conversation — no blood drawn.
Lynn mentions she is authorized to invite us to a demonstration of Gnomish technology, in Zurich on February 15th.
I check in with Chambers, and learn that Valentine was on one of the invitation lists. I also check with the house staff to both thank them and ensure they have enough support and equipment to host similar events.