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A Gift of Folly

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Sherina Silkenvox – her stage name – was an actress in the Guilded Theater in Rhohannus. She was supremely gifted at her trade, and was strikingly lovely in her waning youth, and while she yet remained single she had many a gentleman caller who vied for her attention at the end of every show, and whose arms she adorned at all the social engagements of that City-State’s most affluent district.

The reason, it was widely known, for her continued status as a single woman – so late into her mature years as she was – was because she was, beneath her unparalleled talents as an actress and beside her incomparable soprano tones (not to mention her obvious though fading beauty), utterly vapid.

The intellectual patrons of the Guilded Theater – the well-heeled social elite of Rhohannus – were accustomed to the flighty, capricious persona that was the hallmark of actors and actresses, but Sherina was another level of vacuous altogether.

Except…she wasn’t. Not even remotely. In fact, as soon as Cameran had come to the Guilded Theater, he recognized that Sherina was not only not stupid, she was probably one of the smartest people he would ever come to know. The fact that for so many years – over two decades, in fact – she had led the entire elite of the City-State of Rhohannus to believe that she was an empty-headed ninny was testament as much to her acting talents as to her towering mental facilities.

Sherina recognized in Cameran a kindred spirit, apparently, and she spent years teaching him one powerful lesson after another, and the most powerful of them all was that it is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish. (~ Aeschylus).

And profit she did. And she brought Cameran along the way, teaching him the ways of the true actor…the performance, the schemes, the plots, the ploys, the twists and intricacies, and how to protect oneself in the company of what were often little more than human monsters. How to remain essentially anonymous in a City-State teeming with people who prided themselves on assessing and exploiting…owning, if one must state it factually…other people.

Be wiser than other people, if you can, but do not tell them so (~ Lord Chesterfield). This was the boiled-down essence of Sherina’s most oft-iterated cautions to Cameran. It was this lesson above all others that Cameran took to heart, as he had taken Sherina’s friendship and maternal love.

It was this lesson that Cameran took with him when his father had informed him that Cameran would be journeying to Kurr, to live there with one of Cameran’s father’s long-time business acquaintances (they weren’t truly friends, afterall…men like them didn’t typically have friends, just business acquaintances that one might leverage for the betterment of their own positions), one Friedrick Fitzsimmons.

Friedrick Fitzsimmons was the Master of Scribes in Kurr, though he referred to himself as the “Headmaster”. Cameran’s initial assessment of Fitzsimmons was that the Headmaster was disingenuous, to say the least. With all due elegance and grace he welcomed Cameran into his home, but his eyes belied his wide smile. It was immediately clear to Cameran that he was an inconvenience to Fitzsimmons, to say the least.

In the way of getting to know Cameran, Fitzsimmons entertained his houseguest a bit over-lavishly during Cameran’s first month or so in Kurr. Cameran became a focal point for many a pointed conversation – fishing expeditions, actually – among Fitzsimmons and his associates. At dinner parties, lunches, and other social engagements (all attended by Fitzsimmons’ business associates) the questions were routinely the same: ‘What does your father do?’ ‘Is that old money, or is he a self-made man?’ ‘Whatever will Prince Ravenwood do with those insubordinate, treasonous Barons turning their backs to him and allying with the savages?’ Spearson, they reckoned almost to a one, was the primary thorn in the Prince’s side, and to deal with him would be to deal with Jalgraxa and K’Aviak. Then, they supposed, the savages would be a non-issue and come to heel to the civilized nation.

Cameran, for his part, played Sherina’s part. ‘Oh, Father buys and sells…I don’t pay overmuch attention to his business…I haven’t the head for it.’ ‘He’s had his money longer than he’s had me!’ ‘Can you imagine the sorts of theater there must be in the savage lands?’ ‘That Prince Ravenwood must be a busy man indeed…do you know that he never once has stepped foot into the Rhohannus’ Theater! Imagine!’ ‘Gads, man! Your cravat is impeccable! However do you tie that so perfectly?!?!’ ‘Oh, a reel! I love a reel! Might I borrow your niece for this dance?’ ‘Remind me: Spearson is an Earl, is he not?’

Within a month, it seemed clear that Fitzsimmons and his associates had decided that Cameran was completely useless to them. Gone were the interviews, the prodding conversations, the smiles that were at odds with the glares and leers. Now, though they still showed their teeth, their eyes were condescending and their invitations were for Cameran to entertain their daughters and nieces – sometimes their wives – and keep them distracted so that the men could conduct their business.

Cameran engaged himself during the days with the Northguild Theater, where he was surprised to hear that he was expected…Sherina had sent word to them that Cameran would be in the city, and that he would doubtless end up there. He therefore had work immediately.

As a guest in Fitzsimmons’ home, though, we was expected to accompany the Headmaster to the social engagements at Vallensun Keep or at other well-appointed estates in the city. Of late, though, Cameran was left more or less to the attention of the ladies of the society. He had been gaining a name for the few parts in the plays that he had taken, and at such social engagements he had become known for his command of the dance floor and his telling of tales from his native Rhohannus.

Such as it was, Cameran was all but invisible to the leadership of Kurr, while yet being in their frequent company. Simultaneously, his growing social circle was in similar circumstances, being largely the daughters of that leadership, each of them hearing a snippet here or there. These snippets, taken singly or even doubly, didn’t mean much of anything. But taken in their aggregate, knitted together over time, they told Cameran that Fitzsimons was very much other than what he seemed: a devoted and loyal member of Arch-Duke Corwynn Vallensun’s royal staff.

The Northguild Theather was nearly as much a home to Cameran as the Guilded Theather in Rhohannus was. But like many other things in life: your first is always your fondest. Still, in Kurr Cameran had made a great friend out of the Northguild Theather’s owner, one Perith Corrina.

Perith was a dear friend of Sherina, and she took over Cameran’s education as a favor to Sherina. And both Cameran and Perith delighted in it. Two years of working in the Northguild Theater with Perith – and occasionally Sherina when she visited – had taught Cameran much about the art of acting. About leading people to believe what they might or might not want to believe and about understanding which was which, even if your audience didn’t themselves know.

Two years of entertaining noble daughters, nieces, and wives (in one way or another) had enabled him to piece together many schemes that permeated the upper crust of Kurr, some benign and merry, some foolish, and some nefarious, if not outright treasonous.

Most of these schemes he simply watched. Some he manipulated through to realization and others he manipulated to failure, but carefully: always in such a way that he could not be implicated in the final results.

Two years of living as a member of Friedrick Fitzsimmons’ household fairly turned Cameran’s stomach. It had taken rather a long time to piece together Fitzsimmons’ persona, but the Headmaster’s schemes were more often than not outright treasonous. In a few cases Cameran took measures to ensure those schemes failed, but he needed to do so judiciously, lest Fitzsimmons or his associates deduce that the empty-headed thespian was connected with those failures.

At the beginning of Venric, Valley Year 237 Cameran became aware of Fitzsimmons’ most bone-chilling plot yet.

This plot included kidnapping, blackmail, possible murder, and agents from Xanthakos. Black tidings indeed. Good thing for Cameran that he was so stupid…

Duthash Gyth Arkus (May 28) VY 237

One of Cameran's favorite people in Kurr was a beautiful honey-blonde brown-eyed Herald of Vallensun Keep. Cameran never considered Sabine a source of information, though every now and then a seemingly meaningless tidbit of information escaped from her that Cameran found interesting indeed.

Over a post-rendezvous breakfast just a few days before Qwydeon, just such an interesting tidbit made itself known: after a brief absence, a longtime member of Vallensun’s court and personal friend of Sabine’s – Sayer – had returned to Kurr the previous night and had brought with him a small contingent of comrades.

Sayer was one person in Kurr that Cameran avoided whenever possible. It was Camerans’ belief that the odd, enigmatic, silken advisor to the Arch-Duke saw through people as an owl sees through the night, and Cameran fretted that his otherwise  formidable façade would not survive even the most casual encounters with the advisor. Sayer was altogether too shrewd, too intelligent for Cameran to be comfortable around.

But Sayer was also loyal to the Arch-Duke, and utterly trustworthy, according to Sabine, and Cameran had come to similarly trust Sabine and her loyalty to Corwynn Vallensun and his sister, the Duchess Nicola.

Despite Cameran's acquired aversion to Sayer, his coming just then was  fortuitous timing indeed. With a little finesse, Cameran thought he must be able to get Sayer to unravel Fitzsimmons’      black scheme.

Only how…

Duthash Gyth Aryor VY. 237 (May 30)

After a night of pacing his rooms, Camaran set out for Vallensun Keep, hopeful that he might be able to spot Sayre and his companions when they might emerge from that keep on their investigation.

He still hadn't figured out how to help without actually interacting with the counselor, but he was optimistic that an opportunity would present.

Sayre emerged from the keep soon enough, with an odd and rough-looking outlander in tow, and Camaran followed the pair to the Courier's Post.

Although it was yet early in the day, there were always a number of youths near the Courier's Post...youths with no home, for the most part, looking for a running task from the Courier Master that might earn them a breakfast. By way of camouflage Camaran set himself to telling the children a story which, combined with a little slight-of-hand to make a stone disappear from a hand and reappear behind an ear, allowed the actor to hide in plain sight while watching the interactions between Sayre and the Courier Master.

This brief observation made another thing clear to Camaran: Sayre's companion was a wary fellow, indeed. By the looks of his dress, the outlander was a trailmaster, and by the looks of his bulbous eyes this trailmaster was very uncomfortable.

The two investigators weren't at the Courier's Post long, but they were there long enough for Camaran to see that they were being watched by one of the older youths in the square.

When Sayre and the outlander left the square, apparently headed back to the Keep, this youth slithered off, eyeing the pair with a look of disgust and pride in his young eyes. What he did not notice was that Sayre's odd outlander companion had made note of the youth, much as Camaran had.

Camaran hurried his story along to the children, trying to keep an eye on both Sayre and the suspicious youth. The youth disappeared around a corner in short order, and Camaran headed to the Keep, hoping to arrive there to see Sayre and his companion arrive there such that Camaran might not appear to be following them.

Although he still didn't have a plan, and that bothered him.

The only thing that bothered him more than not having a plan was that a half of a hand later, as he neared Vallensun Keep, Camaran spotted Sayre and his companion in a carriage that rattled past and rolled down the broad avenue towards the city gates.

This sort of frustration would only be assuaged by a breakfast with Sabine...Camaran plodded on towards the keep.


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