A Talk With The Lady - RPLOG

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It's a warm, sunny afternoon, and Terry... Well... He finds himself waking up somewhere completely different from where he went to bed. And he's tied to the chair he's apparently been placed in, although his body is left free enough to reach his plate.

Across from him, at the opposite of the table, another feline is seated... Black fur, expensive clothes, and deep, crimson eyes, piercing from beyond a mask, looking far more expensive than the masks Katrina tends to wear. Behind her, another panther stands. Black fur, male, and dressed in expensive clothes.

Finally, several other beings of various species are running around, setting the table.

Hugo saunters along the table, taking a seat rather nearer to Terry than to Sylvio and the masked feline at the far end of the table. "Honestly, Sylvio," he says, "Are the theatrics really necessary? The boy would have worn a blindfold if you had asked." The huge, white lion leans his ornate cane against his chair and strokes his luxurious mane.

Terry wakes up with a soft yawn, shaking his head briefly as he regains his consciousness. His sleepy eyes and dazed look quickly give way to a panicked glance around, followed by a brief struggle against his bonds, and finally a soft sigh as he resigns himself to his fate... again. It's not the first time he's been in this situation, and it certainly won't be his last. He looks up at the two felines across from them, offering them a shy smile. He stays quiet for now, simply watching the other beings - the servants, presumably - as they set the table. He looks up at the familiar form of Hugo on hearing his voice, offering the great white lion a nod of agreement, before returning his attention to 'Sylvio'.

"Standard procedure, Hugo, you know that," the male panther offers, smiling as he watches Terry wake up. "Ah, it seems our guest of honor is awake. Welcome. It's a pity Lady Katrina was unable to join us, but she is... Otherwise occupied. In either case, allow me to introduce... The Lady," he offers, gesturing at the feline femme-fatale besides him.

"The -true- Lady," he adds with a small sneer, before seating himself.

"It is not everyday one is granted an audience with The Lady, mister Terry..."

Hugo carefully lays his over long tail over the arm of his plush chair and lounges as only a lion can. "I confess," the lion says, "I am surprised that the Lady required this audience so soon. It is usually years before a new family member is brought to the table." He looks sidelong at Terry. "Unless he is not here as a family member?" The lion does not sound especially concerned, either way.

Terry pins his ears back a bit as the panther speaks, the small feline feeling even smaller as he's introduced to 'The Lady'. He refocuses his eyes on the female form in front of him, only managing very brief eye contact with the masked being before he looks down at his plate. Unwilling to offend, he simply listens to the other felines until Hugo's last sentence. He does look concerned, his mind quickly making the connection he is implying. He ponders leading with an apology, apologizing profusely for whichever slight he might have commited, but instead he looks up at 'The Lady' once more, awaiting what is likely to be her judgment.

"Not yet, Hugo. Not yet," Sylvio offers, a small smile towards Terry, as the lady reaches for a piece of meat and takes it onto her plate.

{Please. Eat}, a strange, yet familiar voice sounds out... A very strange sensation, indeed. The voice is calm, yet incredibly threatening... Dark, controlled... The kind of calm one would associate with an assassin, a serial killer, or something worse.

{Mister Terry is here to be educated about the family. And, of course, to be congratulated on the heist that delivered us something very valuable, several months ago}, she offers, holding up her hand, to show the signet-ring that Terry stole from Longtail Manor a good while ago...

Hugo does not frown at the revelation. He quite deliberately does not frown. "Very impressive," the lion says, "I am sure that congratulations are in order." He shakes his snowy mane and picks up his wine glass, swirling it around before sipping. "And why am I here?" he asks, "Is this a reprimand, Lady?"

Terry shows a startle of surprise as the seemingly disembodied voice is heard, though he looks up at the feline that clearly spoke at him in the shadowy tongue. He's been taught to understand it, and has become somewhat able to speak it, but doesn't trust his ability enough to reply in kind. "Y-yes 'maam. Thank you." He says as he's offered the meal. He smiles briefly on seeing the signet ring. He's quite proud of that particular heist. "It was my pleasure, 'maam." His brief relaxation wanes as the Hugo speaks out. He'd not been much of a fan of Terry's.. methods. He follows the Lady's lead and picks out a small cut of meat for himself, placing it on his plate and aking a smaller cut into his mouth to chew on.

{Of course not, Hugo. You've been as valuable an ally as always}, the she-cat notes, a small smile hidden behind her mask. {However, I've been informed you've been questioning my... Grandfather's decissions, and the actions of the previous Hand? Or has my Hand misinformed me?} the Lady questions, her tail flitting behind her, before her gaze settles upon Sylvio, who pulls an old, tattered book from an inner pocket.

{A copy of what records we have. Redacted with regards to irrelevant and information, of course}, she notes, as the booklet is offered to Hugo. {Perhaps it will shed some light on Reginald's reasoning, as well as Mother's, and the reasons we remain in the shadows}

{As for you... I'm sure you've figured out our last name, by now}

Hugo does not seem particularly ruffled by the Lady's or perhaps Sylvio's accusations. "I admired your Grandfather," the lion says, "And you know that Sylvio's predecessor was my mentor and like a brother to me. Still, I appreciate the gesture. It will be a privilege to read Reginald's own words." The Lion remains seated, sipping at his wine, meaning that Sylvio must either hold the book awkwardly, or bring the book to Hugo. It seems there is no love lost between the two felines.

Terry watches the exchange with apprehension, secluding himself in his food, lest he risk angering any of the other beings in the room with him. He'd he hard pressed to pick which one he's more fearful of. He's in mid chew as the Lady poses her last comment, directed at him. He looks at her briefly, then nods slowly. The signet ring was a good clue, and so were a few of the other tidbits he's caught while listening to his trainers, handlers and contacts during official 'assignments'. "Yes' maam." He replies, plainly, unsure if speaking the name is some breach of confidence, or taboo. He eyes the book, the center of tension in the current exchange.

{There isn't much, of course. Many of the records were lost during the exodus}

{Now, have either of you heard the story of Lady Alessa?} the she-cat notes, gesturing at the old, carefully maintained painting above the fireplace, depicting a cheetah-lady, already past her youth, but not quite having reached old age yet.

{The first Longtail, and the first Spymaster}

Hugo gives a little half nod. "I have heard stories," the lion says, "Why do you mention her? What exactly is this little meeting for?" He rubs his thumb along the silver dragon on the head of his cane, moving it away from his seat, just a little bit, holding it casually.

Terry takes another small bite of his meal. His eyes pan up to the cheetah, his eyes widening as he hears her two claims to fame. He shakes his head at the Lady before him. "N-no, 'maam, I have not." Truth be told there's a lot the little ocelot doesn't know, given his lack of education and youth spent on the streets, but that's neither here nor there to bring up. He subconsciously nods at Hugo's question, also eager to figure out why this meeting was called, and why he in particular was brought here.

{Understandable. She has long since passed from public knowledge, and what little most know is shrouded in myth. We, of course, have a bit of an edge}

{While we know only a little more, we also know some of the myths are true. And we know a few that are false}

{As for why you are here... Mister Terry is here to learn a little about the family's history, and what we stand for. As for you, Hugo... I figure you'd be the kind to be extra interested in the facts and fiction of the past, no? If not, you are free to leave}

Hugo says nothing, only raising an eyebrow at the silent communication. He leans forward a little, thumb running along the shining silver head of his cane.

Terry looks up at Hugo. That one had become his rock in the turmoil of life within this family, even if the great white did not realize, or recognize it. He returns his attention to the masked feline, his meal now forgotten as he focuses on listening to what she has to say.

{Now... Bear in mind most of this is legend mixed with fact}, the Lady's 'Voice' continues, as she takes another piece of food, and pushes it under her mask. {As the story goes, Lady Alessa came from a part of the city much like Shanty Town is now. We don't quite know where it lies, because the walls have been moved repeatedly in the past... It was outside the walls at the time, in any case. Humble beginnings, in other words}

Hugo listens with quiet interest, finishing his wine and setting his wineglass aside to be refilled. "Yes," Hugo says, his eyes flickering to the journal still in Sylvio's hand, "Why bring it up now?" He asks.

Terry almost mimics the action as he clips a cut of his own piece of meat and chews it down. He watches intently, and silently. He's still unsure about all this, especially given the Lady's secretive nature and somewhat unsettling voice. No way to tell where this is going...

{Because, Hugo, if Terry here is going to be involved with the Sanguine Hand, as he has been in the past, he should know -why- we work in the shadows, and to what end}, the cat notes, and even though she only slightly turns her head, it's clear her crimson eyes are focused upon the lion for a short moment.

{In either case... We do not know what happened, exactly, but she left to join the army at a young age, and quickly rose through the ranks. A gifted archer and air-mage, and showing enough strategic ability to catch the eyes of her superiors}

{Hugo, you may recall the Needlers we use? Lady Alessa created the original. An original that is, once again, in our possession}

Hugo frowns deeply. "Impossible," the lion says, "Alessa's weapon has been lost for more than two hundred years, gone long before the family fell from grace." He strokes his mane and sips from his refilled drink. "Along with most of the founder's relics," he says, "Only the signet rings remained in the family vaults."

Terry smiles briefly. He almost feels a sort of kinship for this Lady Alessa, given their shared origin as Firmament natives of humble, perhaps even impoverished beginnings. The thought that someone could have the lowest of birth and still ascend to this sort of riches and influence, to still be remembered decades or centuries later.. that's fairytale material for a street urchin.

{You forget the sword, Hugo. We have the sword, too}, the lady notes as she holds up her cane, looking remarkably similar to Katrina's own. {Katrina holds a replica, of course. After all, her actions are my own. But I assure you, this is the original. As is... This} she adds, gesturing for another Longtail, whom returns soon after with a small, wooden box. The lid lifted just a tad, a slender, decorated and runed tube. {Creator steel, worked with tools lost to beings in their entirety. Still functional, although the runes have degraded, and the device is simply too valuable to use. However, Mister Terry may recognize the design}

"I did say, the family vaults," Hugo says, eyes alight at the presentation of the box, "I know what you are doing, my Lady. You know my weakness for. . . antiquities." His thumb runs along the silver head of his cane. The lion does not rise from his seat, but waves at the servant. "May I?" he asks, a hungry edge in his voice.

Terry nods in faint recognition of the device. He looks over at the great white lion as he speaks, the small ocelot tailflicking curiously in his direction.

{Of course. But treat it with the respect it deserves. It is a relic, after all}, The Lady notes, as she gestures the Longtail over, before turning back to Terry.{Now, of course, that doesn't mean much. Officers come and go, and if that was all of Lady Alessa's claim to fame, well... That wouldn't be much of a claim at all, would it?} she offers, her tail flicking lightly behind her, sweeping across the floor.

{Lady Alessa uncovered a plot against the King of the time, even though the records are murky on when she realized it went all the way to the top}, she continues. {Our, or rather, my records, of course. Considering another House may've been involved, there are no official records}

Hugo waits for the servant to draw near and indicates that they should set it on the table. The lion leans over the open box and his fingers hover over the strange object. He produces a little jeweler's loup and starts to examine the cuff. "Elegant," he says, "like most of Alessa's relics. One can see how the current designs, both Longtail and Spyguard have descended from it." The white lion looks up at the Lady. "A brilliant discovery, Lady," he admits, "Why are you showing it to me?"

Terry meets the Lady's eyes as she looks at him, the little ocelot shrinking a bit on his chair. He perks up at the mention of the 'other house', and finally speaks up. "There was an attempt on the Good King's life, sponsored by a noble house?" A repetition, perhaps, but the young ocelot's incredulity speaks of the depth of his lack of understanding of high court and noble politics. To him that just seems.. out of place.

{Like you said, Hugo. You've an eye for the family-relics}, the she-cat notes, before turning to Terry again. {Not sponsored. Planned, and would've been enacted with this very blade. If the stories are to be believed, of course. Much of the records I have are hearsay, second hand stories from later generations. The Lady's memoirs are, unfortunately, lost to time. What little we do have suggests that the King in question was well-loved, and the coup was concocted for selfish reasons}

{According to what we know, Lady Alessa spent most of her remaining life uprooting the House in question, to ensure no further betrayal would take place. The Spyguard were likely founded to aid in that endeavor}

Hugo sighs and closes the box gently. "Exquisite," he says, "Where did you find it? Rumors are that Alessa hid it herself, or that one of her daughters hid it." The Lion shakes his mane and comes back to the present. "It is not so strange, young man," he says to Terry, "Our own Reginald Longtail lead a violent coup de tat against the Good Queen of his time, though his motives are nearly as unknowable as that house of old." His eyes flick back to the book in Sylvio's hands. "We are only fortunate that the current leader of the Spyguard is not so tenacious as Alessa was."

Terry scratches the back of his neck. This was quite the revelation for the naive ocelot. "Wow..." He looks up at the Lady. "So.. Lady Alessa was more or less responsible for the Spyguard? Directly or indirectly..."

{Directly. The Longtails have stood for the good of Sweetwater since the start of the bloodline}, The Lady notes, before leaning back in her seat. {Since their inception, the Spyguard have cracked down on those who would do the nation harm}

{Why then, would my Grandfather perform the same act that Lady Alessa prevented, almost two hundred years earlier? And further, why did so many of our family follow him in that decission? So many of the spyguard?}

{Well?} she offers, looking at Hugo, then to Terry, as if expecting them to hazard a guess.

Hugo is too familiar with the current situation of the Longtail family to assume especially altruistic motives on the part of the Lady, but it would be a salve to his burdened concience to know that Reginald had seen himself a hero, rather than a usurper. "Please," Hugo says, "Enlighten us."

Terry scratches the back of his neck. "Lesser of two evils?" Is the only suggestion he can present, the only one that might make sense he thinks.

{Allow me to recite you Reginald's Last words. I know them by heart at this point}, The Lady notes, even as the voice changes pitch, changes feeling. A tough thing to do with a Shadow Voice, considering it takes on the nature of the 'speaker'...

{As I have said before, Albert, I will take full responsibility for my actions, as will my companions. We am fully aware that each of us will go into the history-books as criminals, as traitors. But know this! For as long as tyrants reside upon the throne of Sweetwater, the Longtails will remain a constant thorn in their side}

{My Grandfather, Reginald Longtail, staged a coup for much the same reasons as Lady Alessa created the Spyguard. For us, any of us, to denounce him or his actions, is an affront to -everything- the Longtails have stood for during the house's two-hundred and fifty years of history}

Hugo sits in contemplative silence. That certainly sounded like the Reginald that he had idolized as a child. The great lion licks his black lips and his eyes flick back to the journal Sylvio holds. "I look forward to reading Reginald's words," he finally says.

Terry nods slowly. The lesser of two evils indeed. He smiles softly at Hugo's words, and finds himself nodding in agreement.

{That is why we don't simply accept the King's pardon. Because it implies Reginald acted in any way wrong. The Queen of his time was steering Sweetwater towards a war it couldn't afford. And her heir was in no way better, if his diary is to be believed. Mother had to put in a lot of effort to retrieve his journal from the Goods}

{Now, don't get me wrong. I have no bad blood with House Good. But the Longtails do not need to get back into their graces, and what... /She/ is making of the House... It is a farce, nothing more.)

Hugo's face has returned to a mask of gentle indifference. "I have said no different, Lady," he says, still gently thumbing the silver dragon that is the handle of his cane, "And I serve you as I did your mother before you. You called me back to Firmament and here I am."

Terry returns to his food as he considers what is being said. All of this still feels way over his head, and he's not sure why he was brought here, but for now he simply listens to the other two, stealing furtive glances at the other beings in the room.

The Lady smiles faintly behind her mask, tail flicking behind her, and gesturing Sylvio to pass the book to Hugo. {That, Mister Terry, is why we continue to be who we are. And that is what you are now a part of, whether you like it or not. Katrina expects great things from you. All of you, and I trust her judgement in that. I suggest you don't disappoint}, she notes, as she takes another bite of her food. {Any further questions from either of you?}

Hugo takes the book reverently. "My thanks," he says, a touch of a northern accent bleeding into his voice with his excitement over the journal, "I will take good care of it." The lion takes a cloth napkin from the table and wraps the little book carefully before slipping it into his coat.

Terry nods at the Lady's words. No choice for the little ocelot, as usual... although he does feel a bit -better- about this organization that he seems to have unwittingly joined. "Yes 'maam." Is his only reply, his eyes following the book as it changes hands.

The Lady smiles, before she stands, leaning a little on the pommel of her canesword. {Good, now, if you'll excuse me, I will be retreating to my quarters. Hugo, please escort Mister Terry home, once the food kicks in}, she adds with a small smile. {And Mister Terry, Lady Katrina will be expecting you for training early in the morning, I imagine}, she adds, as she saunters off towards her personal quarters, with Sylvio in tow.

"A waste of excellent food," Hugo says, sipping the last of his wine and rising, "I will see that the boy gets home." He leans on his staff and turns to watch Terry. "Sorry, boy," he says, "I don't care for it, but it is how it has been done for years now."

Terry blinks. "Once the food kicks in?" He asks innocently, looking down at his nearly-finished cut of meat. "Oh.." Not again... That explains why he's been feeling a bit.. He's quite unable to finish his thought as he slumps to the side, falling onto Hugo's side, but luckily held in place by the ropes binding him to the chair.