...And Then the Earth Shook...
…And Then the Earth Shook…
Location: The west colonnade of Mandrake Manor and the sky over Amber
Date: September 4th, 14 (OOC Year 2017)
Summary: Veronica visits Celeste at Mandrake manor to make a request of the Lady-Dragon. Then an earthquake rocks the city and she briefly accompanies the former duchess on a flyover of Amber.
Characters: Celeste and Veronica
NPCs: Mandrake guards and servants

Veronica is greeted at the heavily guarded gate of Mandrake. She is asked about her name, her business, etc. She is asked then to wait for five or so minutes before two of the several armed guards detach and lead her across the sprawling lawn of the townhouse, up the porch and then along the colonnade to where Celeste sits at a settee by herself with a tea service and a platter that's hastily been covered with a linen napkin for some reason. She rises with a soft grunt, tall and lanky which just exaggerates the swell of very advanced pregnancy as the guards announce her.

A pair of Mandrake guards, escorting Veronica onto the porch. One of them says, "Veronica Nayelenor of House Chantris and Montevalno to see you, Lady Celeste," as the Mon steps into view. The duo step back and fade into the woodwork without departing.

Veronica steps forward and curtsies. "Lady Celeste," she says inclining her head to the Mandrake as she rises from the curtsy. Unable to miss the other woman's gravid condition she quickly says, "You needn't stand on my behalf," in her clearly understood but Montevalnan accented Thari. "I appreciate your seeing me, I had hope to speak to someone from your house and I heard you were often available for meetings," she adds.

Celeste looks bemused, "Fith child. Too late for anyone to buy my pretending the condition makes me feeble. You're welcome to have a seat if you like." She gestures and remains standing while a gloved hand discretely plucks that covered plate and hands it off to one of the servants who looks confused and then understanding dawns and they whisk it away, "What can I do for you, Lady Veronica?"

Editor's Note: Celeste shared an IC award that Veronica would be aware of, as shown below.

Veronica lowers herself into a chair next to Celeste's. "I have a quandary, Generalissimo, and I think that you - - well, someone in House Mandrake at least - - may be able to help me come to a quick solution," she says before adding, "Although, asking may be extremely forward of me, I'm quite willing to be forward."

Celeste winces at the title and mutters softly under her breath gaze turning skyward briefly before she shakes it off and refocuses on Veronica. It's more a toothless grumble from a notoriously dour general than any true rebuttal to the use of the title, "Well I appreciate getting to the point particularly from a Mons. Depending on what you're after quick solution may or may not be possible but generally once things come to ME rather than my kin…it tends not to be an option. anyway, let's hear it?

Veronica nods and disposes of the title from her home Shadow, returning to the simpler one as she belies the 'getting to the point' part at the same time. "Well, firstly Lady Celeste, you should be aware that my family background is more than just a little complicated - - as I'm sure you already deduced from my introduction although it is less than fully clear in the totality of the complexity of my family tree," she starts out. "My father was, indeed, a member of Chantris while my mother was raised as a serving woman, herself the daughter of one of the same," she continues showing complexity number one with the entanglement of a nobleman and a servant. "But that, as I've already implied, is just the beginning of the situation, for you see… my mother was also the daughter of Mordred, who himself you may know to be the son of Princess Deirdre," she explains further, punctuating this statement with an expression of inquiry, seemingly asking if the complexity of her situation has been clearly explained at this time.

Veronica watches as the comprehension is drawn across the dragon-in-human-form's features. She nods to the question about her grandfather - - almost successfully hiding her disgust over Mordred a second time, having succeeded at doing so when she mentioned him herself - - and then again on the question about Deirdre as well. "Yes, you comprehend my presence here completely," she says regarding the third question and then, more directly, on the fourth she says, "Oh yes, please."

Celeste tilts her head and studies Veronica, "Suppose you can't help who sired you. You're Chantris so I suspect my Duchess would expect you to help if I could. What do you need me for? If it's me and not her grace you need it can't be good."

One of the nearby servants pours the tea offered by the former Duchess and hands it to Veronica who accepts it and politely asks for two lumps of sugar. Once the servant has dropped them into the liquid he steps back and the Chantris returns her attention fully to Celeste as she uses a spoon to stir the tea.

"I have heard that Mandrakes have life magic. I do not know if your current Duchess has this power - - what with her mixed ancestry that I am somewhat familiar with as the unofficial genealogist of House Chantris - - I figured that someone more directly tied to the Mandrake line would be better to discuss this with." She pauses to sip the tea and says, "Pleasant blend," in commentary about it before resuming her answer. "My mother is dead. My grandfather… is not one I would approach with questions like this… I wish to know if I bear that je ne sais quoi that makes my great-great-grandfather's descendants able to traverse the family heirloom located in the bowls of the palace." She pauses and then says, "In other words, am I only off the Blood of Oberon or do I bear it myself?" and then asks, "Would it be possible for you or others of your house to divine this by use of your family's unique magical abilities?"

Celeste murmurs over her tea, "I'm sorry to hear about your mother. Avoiding Mordred is wise. You are of two bloods. IT's a common thing amongst nobles and Royals alike. You retain features of both lines." She looks bemused, "Oberon's blood isn't like blond hair where it's recessive. Some bloodlines, Royal, Dragon, and some others tend to be such that even a drop of blood is a potent thing." She peers at Veronica, "Divine what exactly?"

"I want to know if I have any chance of surviving an attempt to walk the Pattern or - - like those not bearing that quality of the former King's children - - is my survival best served by never touching heel or toe to the thing." Veronica returns to her cup of tea after voicing this clarification.

Editor's Note: The following were broadcast announcements to Amber City by Zephyr (one of the game's GMs).

The skies darken and clouds roll in. There is an eerie quiet reminiscent of several past events.

Flocks of birds startle and take to the air. The earth starts to shake.

The shaking lasts for a minute, maybe two. It dislodges small items from their positions, knocks a few portraits off the walls. It's not huge enough to cause serious damage but it is big enough that it likely will be noticed by everyone within range.

Celeste blink-blink-blinks and then growls softly, "Unicorn's hairy balls…" Her nostrils flare and she rises to her feet as there's calls and activity, "Check for structural damage, Move women and children to the safety zones…" The guards bow and abandon where they'd been waiting to escort Veronica back, "So help me if Corwin or Deirdre have anything to do with this." She looks more Supremely Grumpy than strictly alarmed. She mutters, "Let me see what idiot thing your grandfather's family has done and I'll get back to you. I…well. You are safest here at Mandrake until we sort out what's going on."

Veronica stands after the ground shaking ceases, tea soaking into her vest after the earthquake upset the stability of her chair and caused her to tumble to the ground. While she may seem to be nothing but a dilettante, this is belied by the natural way she rolled out of the fall into a crouch from where she stabilized herself with a hand to the floor of the porch. She makes no verbal comment on Celeste's choice of words but her mild grin illustrates her amusement at them. "Safe but bored," she says in response to the offer. "I'll return to the manor and check on the library or… I could accompany you if you wish?" she counters.

Celeste lifts an eyebrow, "How you feel about heights?" She steps off the porch, not waiting for a response as she instructs, "Turn your back." She waits giving the woman a Pointed look and waiting for her to comply before she begins to shift, there's crunching of bone and popping of sinew followed by a furnace like blast of heat as she adopts her winged form.

Ever seeking new knowledge, Veronica chooses not to comply with Celeste's request and watches the transformation instead. Although she answered the question initially, she repeats her answer once the transformation is completed: "I have no aversion to them, Generalissimo," she says as she remembers staring down on the city from the top of the palace just the night before. "Am I to ride you then?" she asks.

Celeste nods and hunkers down and unfolds her wings, "One rule. well. Two. One, Hold on tight. Two: Never. Ever. Touch the crest." She lifts the membrane that runs from just onto of her angular head along her long neck and stops shy of her shoulder blades, "Never. Better you fall, than grab that."

Veronica, blinking at the rules' bluntness, responds with a simple statement of fact: "I'm not that good a rider, Generalissimo," as she is obviously considering begging off accompanying Celeste in favor of attending to the needs of House Chantris over those of the city in general.

Celeste adds, "IF you fall I will catch you if you grab this we BOTH fall." A stable hand trots out with a saddle which comes with a harness for the rider, "You tell anyone I have a saddle for myself you'll have to regenerate your tongue, we clear?" Those starburst pupils bore into the woman though the way the dragon looks like it's working peanut butter from the roof of its mouth and between its lips as she speaks mindful of all those teeth does far more to undermine seriousness than her gaze lends to reinforce it. The stable hand swiftly secures the saddle to Celeste and gestures for Veronica to mount and remains to secure Veronica to the saddle.

Veronica deftly climbs up onto Celeste's back, mounting the saddle. With the senses and dexterity of a crafter, she quickly catches onto the functionality of the harness and thus helps the servant secure her in place. To Celeste, she says, "I understand. Your secret is safe with me, Generalissimo," even as she is considering if there is a way to make this process easier on the noble dragon.

Celeste turns and begins to sprint towards the garden, it is more like riding a cheetah than a horse as her entire frame is involved in the run and then as she launches herself into the air her wings begin to beat and it causes Veronica's rump to smack against the saddle with teeth-rattling force but they are slowly making progress up into the air.

Veronica clings to the saddle though the run and grunts in surprise at the launch as she thought she was stable. She shifts her weight in such a way that she inventories the concealed knives beneath her shirt and skirt - - an action that Celeste cannot miss for what it is but that an observer might mistake as her simply wriggling to find a comfortable position on the unfamiliar saddle. "Does that happen frequently?" she speaks at a normal volume, using Chantris magic to make the coursing air carry to Celeste's ears.

Celeste continues to climb up into the air and the ground is rapidly receding as she does. She has no such Chantris knack but she has others to make sure her voice carries, "Does what happen often?"

Veronica, pleased that they can continue conversing, continues to use her magical trick to reply. "The earthquake. The darkening sky. The problem we are looking into I assume," she says.

Celeste mutters, "Similar have happened before. Destroyed patterns, death of a prince, and changing of arcane anchors can all can cause earthquakes.

"Oh," Veronica replies initially as she absorbs the information, obviously having been of the belief that Amber was the center of stability in Shadow and being more shaken by this simple reply than she was by the moving of the earth. After a few moments she asks, "What are we looking for?" as she tries to look downward around Celeste's body and wings to see if she can find anything of interest herself.

Celeste rumbles, "I don't know. Anything out of the ordinary…though from up here I suspect it'd be hard for you to tell if it's your first time seeing Amber from this angle. Armies, smoke, damage, swarms…" Below is a breathtaking view though the air has grown very chilly as she circles around the palace-well out of range of the anti-dragon battlements.

Veronica nods. She smiles broadly as they pass the palace with its tower observatory - - the location of her picnic date the night before - - and then she asks, "Do you really think an army could have caused what we felt a few minutes ago?"

Celeste rumbles, "No, but one of the first times I experienced this it was the beginning of a siege by the black road and the Portafada so I make certain to do a fly about to be certain. With Benedict gone Mandrake is the first line of defense and we can't afford to be caught with our pants down."

Veronica starts to say something else when one of Celeste's maneuvers makes her feel like her stomach was left behind a few dozen feet or so and she fights the urge to vomit all over the back of Celeste's sinuous neck. Once she composes herself again, although still green around the gills, she asks, "How frequently do you end up having to do one of these fly abouts?"

Celeste rumbles, "Normally my son, The Dragon General, sees to it. I suppose I've been on two dozen fly abouts like this one over the years, many more if you count for other reasons."

Editor's Note: The scene fades at this point with Celeste returning Veronica to Mandrake manor, having her saddle removed and taking back to the sky as her guest departs the grounds.

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