"...It is simply," finished the stately young woman, "that I am not certain he is a wholesome influence on our children."
Duke Gurnemanz Graharz peered over his tea at her with his long-perfected appearance of kindly interest, one that he had over the course of three marriages progressed from a mere tool into the realm of a sublime art. It had served him well with each of those three wives, and their mothers, and the various wives of his sons and their female relations. (Male relations were handled with his related look of manful interest, which was similar, but involved scrunching up one's brow more.) He was not certain which of the latter he was dealing with at this moment--he believed it was his second son' Lascoyt's wife, but it might have been his third son Gurzgi's sister-in-law. As he did not dare reveal his ignorance by asking, he was left with no choice, as he saw it, but to nod sagaciously, and say, "Well, that is a shame." He gave a formal cough. "Personally, I find the Dark Lord to be a perfectly amiable individual."
"But he is so... startling!" said the woman. "After all, cousin Agrivain and his dame were one thing. But this Nesriach..."
"Nisrioch," corrected Gurnemanz. "It is pronounced 'Nisrioch'."
"Oh, you know what I meant," said the woman. "Listen--just this morning he was hard at work at some most ungodly spell! While my children watched!" She leaned forward. "And they found it... intriguing!"
Gurnemanz was torn. On the one hand, he did have the occasional worry if this alliance was with the Cthoniques was truly in the Free Cities best interest--though these worries tended to decline with each new bit of news out of Prince Amfortas' territory in Leonais. On the other, it struck him that this woman's children would have been exceedingly odd if Nisrioch's spells had NOT intrigued them. And on yet another hand, there was the ongoing difficulty of trying to remember the lady's name, and just who her children were to him. He was on the verge of attempting a cunning strategem to fish her name out from her, when Nisrioch entered the tea chamber.
"Ahh, salutations all," he declared. "Duke Gurnemanz, so excellent to see you on this fine evening." He smiled at the woman. "And you as well, madame." The woman looked away at this, while Gurnemanz felt a sinking feeling as he realized that he would not be able to have the woman introduce herself to the Dark Lord after all, meaning that the awkward situation of the present would continue indefinitely.
Nisrioch was however, keeping his attention firmly on the Duke. "Gurnemanz, I do hope you would not mind me using some of that hot water. For alas, a purpose other than tea." Nisrioch gave a wistful sigh.
"Not at all," began Gurnemanz, to which Nisrioch gave a polite nod, took the kettle and pour some of its contents onto a plate. As the Duke and the woman watched, he began to chant quietly. The water quickly turned brackish, and then black, causing the Dark Lord to click his tongue in irritation.
"As I thought," he muttered. "Active interference."
The woman sputtered. "Lord Nasirauch," she muttered, "what is the meaning of this?"
"Nothing much, Rosamund. One of my enemies is working a dark spell to keep things hidden from me," said Nisrioch, biting his lips.
"The Stylites?" asked Gurnemanz, as he stared at the black water, and wondered if it would stain the plate.
"Oh, no," said Nisrioch. "One of my other enemies. I have many."
"Ahh." Gurnemanz sipped his tea and sought dubious comfort in the fact that he now knew the name of the woman he was talking to. Assuming Nisrioch had it correct. Which was by no mean certain.