Sep 29, 2022 3:32 AM
Lila has failed at Villarosa
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Once upon a time there was a princess who had been turned out of her kingdom by an evil sorcerer...

 

But that was another story, now.

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The travelers have more to tell than usual about the constant jockeying between the nobles of the Iron Confederacy.  It's been rather eventful recently:  the young Duke Achard has married Lady Liliana - after some scandal involving Lady Rosalyn, the daughter of another Duke, who was actually reduced to slavery as punishment for her crimes.

But then, further tales tell of Duke Achard himself being indicted on charges of sorcery (a grave crime throughout the Iron Confederacy) and stripped of his throne and imprisoned.  It's whispered that Lady Rosalyn's parents may be behind this... but if so, there's no mention of Rosalyn herself being restored.

And the whispers don't say anything about Lady Liliana either, even though she would've been expected to either be indicted herself or to testify against Achard.

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Beyond the hills to the north of the Iron Confederacy, there's a scrub valley with a shallow rivulet.  A few campfires dot it in the evening.

"Refugees," murmurs a young woman in a dress that looks like it was once fancy.

She steps forward toward one of the campfires, and then frowns, turns back, and offers a hand to her companion.

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The refugees here are still timid, suspicious - ready to pick up and run at signs of danger. Trying to roast some tubers they've dug up to restore their depleted provisions.

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She pauses again somewhere around the edge of the firelight.  "Hello?" she says softly.  "Can I - can we join you for tonight?"

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A couple of the refugees look up warily.

A lady smiles and gestures them closer. "I'm afraid we don't have any food to spare, but the nights do get cold here," she says.

A couple of people who seem to be considering themselves guards look at them, checking for weapons or any sign of obvious threat.

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"Thank you."

They sit a little ways back from the fire.  She frowns momentarily at the lumpy ground, and brushes back some blonde hair that's escaped her hairscarf.

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There is a whispered altercation happening over the other side of the makeshift encampment.

Someone is pointing at her.

One of the people involved strides over. She looks a bit more well fed, and has a sword at her hip.

"Nice dress you have there," she says. "Where'd you get it?"

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"My - family."

(There's a hint of choked-back tears.)

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"Quite a... significant family, would you say?" continues the armed woman.

The whispered argument that she came from starts to rise in volume and urgency. "No, I'm sure, it's.." can vaguely be heard.

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She nods nervously.  "But - not anymore."

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"How sad," opines the armed woman, not sounding at all like she finds this sad in the slightest.

The girl who was pointing her out is now talking to some of the perimeter guards, who start moving not so subtly to cut off any route away from the campfire.

"I don't suppose you brought anything interesting with you?" the armed woman continues. "Perhaps something that might constitute... an apology?"

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"Just - I don't think gloves would do any good here.  We've got some bread -"

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"Good start, lots of people are hungry."

The girl is getting increasingly strident. "But she's _Lady Liliana_, we can't just let her _get away with it_..."

One of the guards is staring out into the darkness, like there might be movement out there he's not sure of, but most of them have turned inwards.

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The older woman reaches in her mostly-empty-looking bag and takes out half a loaf of bread - the coarse bread that's baked every day in peasant villages across the Iron Confederacy.

(She gives a start at the strident girl's insistence.)

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"We might take a look at those gloves, too. Nights get cold round here..."

An older man sidles up to Selma, takes the bread, and whispers, "if she's forcing you to be with her, just step away, we've got this."

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"Er - they wouldn't help by now."

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Selma gives a small smile but shakes her head.  "No, she wanted to head north, and I'm glad to come with her."

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"Fancy lace gloves, are they, for a fancy..."

The armed woman suddenly stops, looks out, takes a step back.

"Idiots! They've got us surrounded! Scatter!"

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"That won't be necessary," calls out a confident voice from the darkness. "We're Freeborn, coming round to check for bandits and trouble. We'd normally come for a chat in the morning, but you seemed to be having some trouble?"

There is a loose ring of corsairs - lightly armoured fighters, mostly with bhuj axe-polearms - around the encampment. Nobody seems extremely inclined to scatter at the moment, although tension is still rather high.

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Liliana jumps up.  "Hello!" she calls, waving her hand in the air.

She isn't sure what the corsairs will want to do with her, but she's pretty sure it'll be better than staying here.

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"No! Don't listen to her!" yells the girl. She has a knife - it looks more suited to the kitchen than the battlefield, but she has it out and is brandishing it threateningly, as if she is trying to get up the nerve to use it.

The previous guards have mostly put their assorted, mostly simple or poorly maintained weapons away and are trying to blend in, but two of them seem to be considering backing the girl up.

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"There doesn't need to be any trouble, I'm sure we can help you with this internal dispute and take it to a magistrate if necessary..."

The corsairs close in a bit, but attempting to not be too excessively threatening; one woman, not obviously armed, does bolt out of the campsite, and they let her go into the night. 

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Liliana winces at the mention of magistrates.

"We'd rather leave, if you'll let us stay with you tonight?"

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"No! I won't let you!" shrieks the girl, and comes at Liliana with the knife - not with much grace or style, but also without much heed of her own personal safety.

The nearest corsairs start closing quickly, but the two guards that were backing the girl get in their way - not really directly engaging them, these two are reasonably concerned with not getting injured, but enough to slow them down.

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"Please drop your weapons, we don't want to hurt any of you!" calls the confident voice again.

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