A Question of What's it to Me - RPLOG
It was a warn afternoon in Firmanent with a rather nasty thunderstorm nearby. The academy district was less busy than usual as a result, making it easier to traverse the area.
Inside the academy, all interested beings are pointed towards the library where one of its sections has been transformed into an impromptu lecture hall. Standing in front of a small desk is an extremely old squirrel being of the growing folk, an oddity in itsel, who looks like he is waiting until the beginning of the lecture to start talking.
The chairs in the room are half-full by now, most of those who came seem to either be nobles, foreign diplomats in Sweetwater, and some of the more enterprising merchants. There is also the odd curious commoner, and once can swear some of those beings sitting in the darker corners are high ranking members criminal syndicates. All in all a varied bunch, but most importantly there is still empty chair and some time before the lecture begins.
Bernard Bernard ambles into the lecture hall, removing his flat, straw hat as he comes out of the sun. The old hound dog is well dressed in his white linen suit, silk scarf and his silver fox headed cane. He wanders down the aisle, looking for a vacant seat.
The heat and humidity seem to be taking their toll on the overstuffed Nobleskunk, who looks positively miserable (and smells cloyingly sweet and flowery) as he shuffles through the aisles, leaning heavily upon his cane. Nevertheless, he does manage to look finely dressed--though the layers of fancy attire probably aren't helping him with this heat--and immaculately groomed, with his long hair tied back in a neat braid. Behind him clomps Hartford, the skunk-striped Reindeer in Blackback servant livery, looking absolutely unbothered by the heat and proud of himself as he guides Brutus to a few open chairs by the front-center, prompting other beings to move without a hint of self-consciousness.
A small salamander moves from one group of beings to another, listening in to the various conversations going on among the attendees. Zuri perks up as he recognizes Bernard across the room and starts weaving his way towards him, disappearing into a mass of mingling beings and reappearing on the other side after having slowly made his way through the group. He waves at the Saint Bernard in greeting as he approaches. "Mister Bernanrd! Nice to see you here!"
The beings continue to arrive to the library turned lecture hall for quite sometime before finally the old squirrel being lets out a meek cough, "Greetings ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the lecture 'Of Cliffs and Exposed Backs'." The ageing being declares as he lets out another, more sickly cough.
By now the hall is almost full and most beings have turned their attention to the lecturer as he began to speak. "My name is Dengar Onetail. And I am a scholar and lecturer in Sweetwater-Cliffside relationships and has been so for the last twenty years. All of you are gathered here today no doubt because of the recent events in the city of spires. So without further chitchat, any questions before we begin?"
"Little Master Zuri!" Bernard says with a smile, "What a surprise! I thought it would be a bunch of scholars and nobles wanting to hear about the old city! Not young men like you! Come sit with me." The old hound casts about for a place to sit, spotting a pair of seats near Brutus, recently vacated by less worthy backsides. He leads the way, tap tap tapping with his cane. "Beg pardon, Lord Blackback," he says with a stiff little bow, "Mind if me and the young man join ye, yer Lordship?" The portly hound's Cliffside accent is quite evident, and he hardly waits for an answer as he takes his seat and pats the chair beside him for Zuri before resting his thick hand on the cane between his knees, leaning forward a bit in interest.
Brutus hardly has time to look up as old Bernard pushes his way by. "Hmm? Oh--" he manages to get out before the hound has sat down beside him. The accent doesn't escape his attention, and he gives an indignant sort of snort--it figures that someone makes an academic lecture on Cliffsiders and they think they're royalty because someone talks about them. Hartford, for his part, gives the interloper a wary glare--until the connection clicks. "'zat you, Bernie? I didn't expect to see you here! Most of the time it's just Mister Brutus's friends from the Academy at these kindsa things."
Zuri giggles. "I couldn't pass up a chance to learn more about Cliffside..." He pauses to listen to the lecturer, nibbling on his lip before continuing. "..even if the circumstances for this lecture aren't the happiest." He follows the canine over to the seats he has picked out and plops down on the chair next to him. His tail flits excitedly as peers up over another being's shoulder to watch the lecturer.
"Well then!" The squirrel says with a bit more cheer to his voice, "As most of you have heard, a Cliffside elder has been found dead in his home, and all evidence suggests that it has been an assassination." That comment leads to some hushed whispers in the room before the scholar coughs to regain the beings attention, "But the true question is why would one assassination lead to such amount of trouble, don't they do it all the time?" A comment that earns a few chuckles from some of the Sweetwaters in the crowd, "The honest answer is that assassination between elders while not unheard of is a pretty rare occurrence, and in this case, a completely different situation to what usually happens." The squirrel adds before grabbing a glass of water and gulping the liquid down as he allowed his cohort to mill on what he had said.
"Truth is," Bernard whispers to Zuri and Hartford, with Brutus stuck in the conversation by default, "I don't get much news from the Old City, seein' as they burnt down me old inn and me bein' dead and all." The old hound dog winks and puts a finger to his lips. The lecturer's words bring a frown to the old dog's face. "True enough, Lad," he says, "By the time ye're on the Council of Elders, gettin' yerself assassinated is pretty much the easy way out!" The idea of Elders simply KILLING each other seems rather ridiculous. "What about the old boy's family?" he asks.
Zuri avoids chuckling at the joke, despite himself being a Sweetwater local who's heard those ever since he was a boy. He bites his lip and turns to Bernard as he speaks up at the lecturer. He nods at Bernard's question. "Haven't heard much 'bout the family.." He remarks on a low voice. "Or about.. um.. what else it triggered. Nothing's ever that simple."
Brutus glowers side to side. Here he is trying to learning something worthwhile about those backstabbing Cliffside bastards, and he's stuck in the middle of a pair of gossiping barflies!...But he can't stay mad at Hartford (not that he's ever tried), so it mostly turns into a mildly peeved look at his companion and double the glare at Bernard's codespeak. The poor Reindeer takes it personally though, and after an "Oh! Sorry Mister Brutus!" that was more indiscreet than his initial question, he gives a cheerful wave to Zuri and Bernard and furrows his brow, ostensibly trying to focus on the proceedings.
"I did not come here to learn about Sweetwater national stereotypes. Iam doubting that this lecture will be unbiased it seems, but at least you will get to the important sections soon?" A deep voice says, originating from the centre of the room, the culprit a Shralestan priest wearing a face covering. "ah, of course just a little joke." The squirrel being answers with a chuckle, "Yes, Cliffsiders don't actually do a lot of assassinations, at leas not any more or less than any other nation." He adds before coughing again. "However, back to the subject at hand. Elder assassinations in Cliffside tend to be both rare and done mostly by prospective elders as a last desperate measure. That is for two main reasons, first it is illegal and thus if discovered the pay will be dear, and second it is quite hard to secure the elder's position even if he is out of the way. Thus one would do it only if they have prepared every single detail and have ensured that they will be elected next elder." The old being says with a cough, "We will be getting to the current elder soon enough." He answers the two eager beings.
Bernard nods contemplatively. This is all things he already knows. He leans forward to listen closely to the speaker.
Zuri sighs. He recalls some of the conversations he had with Rokarion, and a few other Cliffsiders. Though the small salamander is utterly fascinated by the place, some of its.. stranger aspects are downright frightening. He waits for a pause in the conversation to lean towards Bernard and ask. "It almost sounds casual, the way he's discussing it.. do you think he intends to turn this into some kind of investigation, Mister Bernard?"
Deep in thought at the lecturer's explanation, the great Skunk spares a glare at Zuri too. Beings these days! Arguing with the lecturer is one thing, but idle side-chatter? He thumps his staghorn staff against the floor for attention, pulling himself forward a bit. "If that is the only possible conclusion, then what prevents you from prosecuting the next elected Elder once they assume office?" Brutus booms, with an undertone that not-so-subtly indicates he'd like to see the whole lot of them hanged.
The beings in the room have already started whispered conversations as they listened to the scholar explain the events, each being eager to hear what Onetail has to add.
"So the point that when an elder assassination happens as rare as it is, it would be planned from step one to the final step. Thus the transition period from the dead elder to the newly elected elder is a relatively smooth and fast process that would take a week or even less and will sometimes not affect the nation's stability or power structure at all!" Dengar adds before letting out a wheezing sound and crumbling on a chair next to his desk, the fragile being is sure way past his prime. Looking at Brutus, he chuckles, "Whoever said that the newly elected elder assassinated the old one? It had happened in the past and the family dead elder would sometimes manage to successfully prosecute the new elder, but that is not always the case as sometimes there is either no sufficient evidence or simply it wasn't the newly elected elder who did it. May I remind you that this is all just speculation and educated guesses on our part. As far as we know for a fact is: Rarely, twice or thrice a century or something similar, a council elder is killed and is replaced by a newly elected elder in an orderly fashion, why? Might as well just be coincidence." The squirrel adds with another chuckle as the new revelation illicit some objections and other comments on Cliffsiders from the crowd.
"But! This is not the case this time. As far as we know the assassination was either not political in nature or by someone who had fumbled his plans. " The squirrel says before going silent for a bit to let this sink in.
Bernard shakes his head. "Don't know, Mister Zuri. The Old Boy's aren't usually killed like that," he says, "It kind of muddies the waters fer everyone if ye get me meaning. See, killing a rival is considered weak. Ye can't out perform or outwit the dead, y'see." He listens to the speaker for a bit. "Then there's what he's sayin'," he says quietly to Zuri, "Nobody'll trust a new Elder comin' in after a killing. Nobody's been stupid enough to try it for ages!"
Zuri nods, listening to the two. He has no further questions for now, but instead listens to the reaction of the crowd. If the most likely suspect is the least likely suspect then... well, anyone could have done this. But why?
Brutus's muzzle is halfway between a pensive frown and a scowl as he mutters to himself. No worrying about that with a nice and proper monarchy, as it should be. Very few assassinated leaders--and word was that one Good recently was hanging with the wrong type. By the Creators if you're a royal and you can't get someone to do your dirty work for you, you were asking for it. Somehow, Hartford's gaze is still fixed where the speaker had been, and he seems stock-still, save that his mouth is opened slightly, as if on the verge of saying something. For the past five minutes.
With a grunt, the old squirrel pushes himself off his chair, "Of course the question on your minds on why is this difference important?" The ageing being says with a chuckle as some of the more mystified of the crowd eye him for an answer, "Simple, a planned transition of power using assassination is already a cause of displeasure and annoyance for the populace due to its 'Un-Cliffside' nature, betraying the values of their meritocracy." He adds with a cough, "But an unplanned power vacuum, and with a lack of any obvious candidate? That would cause a lot more instability as each eligible member tries to outwit the others and prove himself or herself the most worthy candidate." The crowd goes silent as they listen to Dengar continue his explanation as if waiting for something specific to be said.
"Now why is this important to anyone outside Cliffside? I am sure that you already know the answer. There is an unattended cake and everyone is scampering to get it, and it is not only Cliffsiders who are trying to get the biggest piece of the cake, any idle check in any of the mercenary guilds would make that apparent. Why or who is the killer? I doubt any of you ladies and gentlemen truly care." The squirrel says with a final grin to his crowd of mostly nobles, merchants, and undesirables, "Any questions?"
"Are ye sayin' there's no one already pushing for the position then?" Bernard asks, "No proper candidate? There are supposed to be provisions for this kind of thing!" Maybe it's not the best idea to be a vocal Cliffsider in this particular hall, but Bernie is too lod to care. "I mean, it seems obvious to me that no Cliffsider would do a botch job like a political assassination. Why the infighting?"
Zuri looks between the two. "Well, maybe because it's too obvious? I mean, even if you're not the being who did it, it would look mighty suspicious if you immediately stepped in and tried to take the place. So there's a lot of tension and not a lot of stuff actually happening. I guess they'd now be trying to make themselves the ideal candidate by popular opinion, proving themselves the natural choice rather than stepping forward to try and take it." He nibbles on his lip thoughtfully. "And in the meantime you have everyone else taking advantage of the confusion to try and get anything they can out of it, while the going's good."
The interruptions had worked his nerves, but the implications of this latest outburst were too far. Scooting himself forward, Brutus slams the butt of the staff into the floor again with a mighty thump. "And just WHAT are you implying by 'no Cliffsider would' botch that?" Brutus booms in his broad baritone. "Sweetwater is content with her hard-won peace and prosperity! WE have moved past the bad blood of the past, despite how much you may try to reopen those old wounds!"
"The youngling has the right gist of it. There are already likely candidates for the office but most of them are waiting until the investigation into the murder is finished, Using the time to increase their popularity. Among both elders and the populace." He says before shaking his head, "This is not a place to fight you two. Also as far as we know the Spyguard are most likely not behind this." The scholar's last sentence causes an uproar among the crowd as the implication settles in, some of the crowd members even began a hasty retreat, no one wants to be caught discussing the Good King's Spyguards actions in such a setting, the implication alone can be justification enough for treason against the crown after all.
"No offense, Lord Blackback, no offense," Bernard says, holding up his hand, "Just an old dog thinkin' out loud. Not accusing anybody." The portly canine sits still in his chair, eyes on the angry skunk. "Just sayin' it doesn't sound like somethin' the Old Boys would do, is all."
Zuri nods at the lecturer's words, but blinks as he mentions the spyguard. "W-what?" He looks around the room at all the various beings that stand up in both outrage and fear of the implication. He shrinks into his chair. Just like all the native Sweetwaters in the room, he knows that's not the thing to say, discuss, or even be near to. Best pipe down and see where this goes.
Hartford seems to jerk from his catatonic state at the sound of his ward getting angry--though having spaced for the initial outrage, it was now impossible to tell where it had started amidst the rising tide of outrage and objections. "Huh? Er--um..." the Cervine stammers. "Did I miss something?" Brutus seems placated by Bernard's apology, and turns to join the buzz of complaints until Hartford's words reach his ears. He opens his mouth as if to speak...and shuts it...and opens it...and shuts it again.
The squirrel shakes his head and looks around before letting out a tired sigh, "And the lecture is officially finished. I hope you find it helpful, the exit is where you came from." the squirrel says as he takes a seat once more as the beings begin to leave the hall.
Bernard nods, and rises carefully with a grunt. "I had hoped for more news, to be truthful," he says as he ambles off, fix headed cane tap tap tapping as he walks.
Zuri hops out of his chair to follow alongside Bernard, peering back ove rhis shoulder at the other beings, and at the squirrel especially. He nibbles on his lip thoughtfully. After they leave halls of the Academy, he gives the old Saint Bernard his farewells and rushes off home as quickly as possible.
With a bit of help from his guard, Brutus is on his feet and a little bit behind Bernard. "I hate to admit it, but I must agree with you," he replies to the canine's grumbling. "Rumors and insinuations! Surely all this will do is rekindle the old mistrust--and after we had come so far in stamping it out!" Back in a role more comfortable for him, Hartford's enthusiasm seems undimmed by his master's smoldering outrage. "Nice seeing you, Bernie! We should catch up some time!" the Buck calls cheerfully as the duo begin their trek back to the Blackback villa.
And with that the being disperse, each going back to their work and plots.