Before getting into the post for this week, I just wanted to take a quick moment and remind everyone that backed the Companion’s Kickstarter to please make sure you fill out your surveys and double check your accounts to verify the transactions have all gone through properly. We’ve had good results on both points so far, so please keep that going. The less time we have to spend tracking people down for needed info means more time we can put into development.

“The absolute arrogance.” The large troll man grumbled as he fumbled with his top hat. As if he didn’t already have enough to be perturbed by, despite being in a coach built large enough contain one of his stature, he was still quite cramped. Formal wear was restrictive enough on its own, but compound confining clothing and a confining space on a person that was at least twice as large as most people around you, and it’s enough to make anyone claustrophobic. To top it all off, quite literally, he still couldn’t get the hat to sit properly on his head despite the milliner’s best efforts to compensate for his horns.

“Never mind, never mind.” The young dwarven woman seated across from him replied, reaching across to pat his knee. If her blazing red hair and green eyes didn’t give away her Irish heritage, the accent thick enough that made it questionable how she could breathe most certainly did. “Aye, the setback is a wee bit frustrating, but the man was a pawn, nothing more. Donnae concern yourself with it, Warren.”

“As you say, my lady.” The troll man replied, and gave a sigh that made the entire coach heave as he gave up on getting the hat straight for now.

They didn’t have much longer to wait as the coach made its way through the line of other guests arriving and up to the entrance hall of the large manor. “Are you still certain you want to attend?” The troll man asked as he waited for the footman to approach and open the door for them. “This is a charity event directly opposed to our aims, after all.”

“Of course I’m certain. One must keep appearances.” She replied with a smile and a wink. She waited for him to exit first before stepping out and taking his offered hand – well, finger, in this case, given their difference in stature – to step down the considerable distance to the ground that was needed for a coach designed to carry a troll’s weight. With only a pause for the troll man to grab his walking cane and make one last ditch but futile attempt to straighten his hat, they sauntered in.

Much as anticipated, the charity ball for the iron workers of Ebbw Vale Steel was less about actually benefiting the workers injured by the still mysterious event and more about simply giving those in the social elite an excuse to hold yet another ball. In many ways, for those of wealth and power, it’s really more out of expectation than actual desire that they attend such an event. Almost like filling a quota in order to avoid the social scandal of not being seen for too long. The attendees seemed to float in and out of the various circles that formed up naturally, speaking for a few moments before finding an excuse to move on to the next group, simply going through the motions to make sure people saw them. Perfectly suited to the needs of one who only needed to make a show in order to keep up a guise. What’s more, if you just so happened to be one keeping up such an appearance while also being involved in perpetuating such an event, well, who would suspect such a deception?

Of course, if you were someone that did suspect the person behind this disaster would utilize this deception, this type of event also made it the perfect opportunity to do some snooping around for such a person.

Lord Easton made no attempts to hide himself, dressed in his full formal military regalia as he wound his way through those in attendance. It was no secret that the military was involved with the Knights of the Grail in investigating the incident, nor that he was involved in the investigation, though his exact role and suspicions he kept closely guarded. Though no one that he spoke with openly questioned his goals as he spoke with the guests, rumors did fly, as they will among gossiping socialites, that his plan seemed to be to use his appearance as a show of intimidation to try and root out a culprit.

This suited Lord Easton just fine; let them gossip and cover his plan further.

“Lord Easton! So glad to be making your acquaintance.” He heard behind him at one moment in a thick Irish accent. The officer turned and had to look down to meet the gaze of the young woman addressing him now; a red haired dwarven woman who had decided to meet this kind of brash investigating manner head on. “Terrible fate what befell those poor workers at the mill. Good fortune that they’ve men such as yerself to look out for them.”

“Ah, yes, thank you.” He replied, seeming a big caught off guard by the sudden approach, not to mention the rather large troll fellow looming behind her. He used the appearance of befuddlement to take a moment to glance back and forth between the two, trying to judge if they were who he was looking for. “I do hope to bring the matter to rest soon. There are so many others that require attention.”

“Oh?” She replied, feigning more interest than she actually had, though she did have to admit she was a bit curious as to how much he knew. “Do tell, please, what other poor souls will have you to thank?”

“Well, most recently there was the fellow at Doncaster.” He offered, pausing just a moment for a sip of port as he watched for her reaction. “Engineer that was working on a new engine being test fired, when the boiler exploded. Unfortunate man lost his life, and now the whole production is on hold while they inspect both the facility and the other engines for foul play.”

“Oh, that’s just awful!” She gave the expected reaction, though not trying that hard to fake the sincerity, not unsurprising for a socialite. “You donnae suppose the two are connected at all, do you?”

“The only certain connection between them seems to be the Rabbit Hole.” he offered, eyes narrowing just the slightest bit at the line of inquiry. “Though that seems to be enough for the papers to look for a way to rest the blame upon the radicals that want to close it down.”

She canted her head every so slightly as he offered this. “It sounds as if you donnae believe that to be the case. You have another theory then?” Now she was interested. Not so much in what his actual thoughts on the matter were, but in how much he might give away.

“None that I can reveal, of course. Even though they do seem to have a motive.” He replied, but with a tone that implied he had more to say as he paused to take another draw on his drink. “One has to wonder, however, if it the first event was magical in nature, why would a group opposed to the influence of magic on the world be behind it?”

“Hmm, yes indeed. But as you say, who else would have a motive?” She offered, the tone of the question indicating it was more rhetorical. Neither offered a possible answer to it, simply took a moment that seemed to stretch on extensively to simply study each other, looking for the other to give any sort of slip up.

“Well, unfortunately, I believe ’tis time for me to be off.” She finally added, breaking the silence. “Matters to attend in the morning will require this to be an early evening. Good luck to you in your search.” With the necessary pleasantries given, she made a turn with a wave to the troll man behind her to follow.

“Just a moment, my good lady.” Lord Easton interjected, to which she stopped and turned, curious. “My apologies,” He added as he extended a hand to take hers, bending low to be able to reach. “But in the interest of our conversation, I neglected to ask for your name.”

She glared slightly at this, but knew she needed to keep up the proper appearance until they were gone. “You may call me Alette.” She responded, turning and offering up her hand as expected for the gesture.

“Well then, Lady Alette.” Lord Easton replied, placing a gentle kiss at her hand. “Safe travels to you.”

As the withdrew her hand and turned to walk away, she found herself quite surprised to be walking into one of the serving staff attempting to return an empty platter. Thankfully there was nothing there to cause a mess, though the serving man did lose control of the platter, which managed to land with the curved edge across Lady Alette’s neck before clattering to the floor. The lady let out a terrific yelp and clutched at the spot where the platter had hit her. The serving man kept stammering out an apology, but she simply waved him off.

“Nevermind, nevermind.” She repeated, finally catching her breath. “It was… just a shock. No harm done. Come, Warren, we must be off.” Without further delay, the pair quickly rushed out to their coach.

“Are you alright, my lady?” The troll man said once they were away.

The dwarf woman finally pulled her hand away from her neck, revealing what appeared to be a burn mark at the place where the tray had touched her. The mark was slowly fading away, and she finally seemed to start breathing a bit easier as it did.

“That one…” She said through teeth that were gritted both in pain and anger, her accent dropped. “… Is going to be a problem.”

“Well done, Wesley.” Lord Easton commented to the serving man, or at least the man who was dressed as a server, once the commotion had died down. He bent down to pick up the metal serving tray, must more dull in appearance than the shining silver ones of the manor, and took a moment to admire the runic markings hidden in the filigree before handing it back over. “Do you suppose our message was received?”

“Oh most definitely, Sir.” the disguised batman replied as he took the tray. “This will most certainly have shown them you know who they are. The question is, what will they do about it?”

“Well, there are limited options there. They’ve been put in check, my good man.” Lord Easton replied. “The only options are either to dodge… or to counter.”