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Submitted By: Cithra
All Characters Involved: Cithra and Karen

Submitted Log

The day was newly started as the Pink Lady steps down the street. She was seemingly unarmed, and squinted to keep the rising sun out of her eyes. Although it was still early in the morning, the world was unnaturally warm all the time these days. The streets were slowly becoming more busy as people left for their morning work. Karen looked to her side to the Questioner next to her as she strolled through the poorly made streets. "Couldn't have asked for a better day to do an investigation, unless we could get a cool breeze. Have you nearly ready for our excursion out of the city?" [Karen]


Cithra tried to set a casual pace, but she kept finding herself speeding up and needing to rein herself in to avoid looking rushed. She wore a black riding skirt with simply gold embroidery along the hem and waist. A tight-fitting, high-collared white shirt was neatly tucked into the skirt, and while the shirt itself lacked much decor, she paired it with a white swallowtail jacket with gold trim. As she walked with Karen, the two were closely tailed by Ren and Svecha, both in unmarked armor. "A breeze would be nice, if only to carry away some of the smells." Cithra wrinkled her nose slightly and moved a gloved hand to cover her mouth and nose as they passed by an alley. "I have spoken to Bannerman Gaskan, and I believe we are both prepared. We will be ready to depart as soon as we receive word." As they made their way towards the school, Cithra turned her attention to Ren for a moment; in addition to his own sword, the young Inquisitor also carried Cithra's sword on his hip. She examined him with a bit of nervousness for a moment, her hand instinctively going towards where the sword would normally sit on her own hip.  After a moment though, her attention slipped back to Karen and she visibly relaxed, "I must admit, I am happy you're accompanying me. Unknown situations have proved a bit concerning lately, but I also have to worry about how my interaction with this place is perceived. It wouldn't be good for an armed inquisitor to march into a school..." She trailed off. [Cithra]


Karen raised an eyebrow and folded her arms over her chest as she walked. "Oh and it would be so much more acceptable if I ran into a school armed?" She laughed and shook her head. "I am just teasing, I understand what you mean. Hopefully, it doesn't come to a brawl, our intent isn't as such.  But if the worst case scenario happens and it does come to it.. then I will do what I can in your aid." There was a casualness to her tone. "I am happy to accompany you. I know that as a young leader that these situations might be a little intimidating. It is the least I can do to help you out."


Cithra blushed slightly, "You are right of course. I sometimes get so caught up in how people perceive me as a Questioner, that I forget such carrying weapons would be taboo to most people." She shakes her head slightly and frowns, "Though, perhaps that is simply because I am so used to Gaskan treating his armor as if it were his small clothes." As they continued to walk, Cithra took the time to look at the people who were beginning to emerge for their day, she painted on a smile and tried to acknowledge anyone who caught her eye, even as her attention remained primarily with the conversation. "And yes, I am hoping this can easily be explained and quickly resolved. Though I know that hope might be fleeting currently. From what I can tell, someone is either spreading false rumors about me or impersonating me. Both of which are fairly concerning, though I can't decide which is preferable at the moment." [Cithra]


"I had not considered the latter, but I suppose that would be a situation that could go south really quick. I imagine that impersonating someone would be difficult to do, and for what purpose? Couldn't be just to teach some kids." She is seemingly moved to deep thought as she considers the possibilities that Cithra has laid out. "I can't really comment on Gaskan refusing to not wear civil clothes; I am not exactly the blending in type myself. I do need to gather some plain clothes for the journey still. Do you have any ideas of what exactly you are going to ask these people at the school?" [Karen]


Cithra pursed her lips looked skyward for a moment, "That is difficult to say. You see, I originally attended on visiting the school to learn about it's goals and purposes, as well as see if I could take a glance at their lesson plan." She pulled her vision back earthward and frowned, "I had wanted to invest in it and see about investing in future scholars for the Order and House Saighan. But now, I also need to discover what is really happening here." She touched her purse, feeling the thick metal cord within it. "Have you considered the fact that women are going missing, including children? While unlikely, this could be a connection to those." She pulled her hand away and focused her attention back on Karen, "I hope my mere presence will tell us something. I don't intend on being immediately confrontational, so I may play along as the sponsor if that is the hand we are dealt. It was my intention to fund this place, and if things go well, perhaps I will merely make those rumors reality." [Cithra]


The school building, if it could be called a building, stands just on the outside of the city where the mud becomes grass. The building is built from what appears to be scrap wood, perhaps salvaged from collapsed buildings during the war. The craftsmanship appears to be of high quality despite this but there is only so much one can do with poor materials. A large section of land is cordoned off with a waist high fence made from planks, straw ropes, and piles of stones, to make what appears to be a play area. The building lacks any kind of real roof, planks stretched across over top and piles of debris stacked. It is, otherwise, a very large structure and could house easily fifty individuals... perhaps more if they were packed well. There are no windows to speak of and outside the front door, there is a heavy set man sitting on a crate, a dagger on his belt, wearing links of chain in an almost mocking facsimile of mail. He has thick brows, a pudgy round nose, and a thick messy head of air and seems to be in his late thirties. He is remarkably clean and clean shaven though sweating profusely in the heat, eating a heel of bread while watching anybody who wanders too close for his liking.


As the pair came upon the school Karen took in the sight in front of her. She was a little surprised to see that the craftsmanship looked so well put together considering she only recently heard about them. She shoved her hands in her pockets as she slowed her steps. She approached the wall of the play ground and peered into the enclosure and looked at the man sitting on the stoop. "Good morning good sir. How goes the good fight around here? Looks like a pretty good set up you got here." She kept her cool and casual tone, as she had been using with Cithra. "I'm Karen." She looked the man in the eye while she was speaking.  [Karen]


Cithra's frown deepens as the catch sight of the school for the first time, "This is certainly not what I expected, but I suppose it is what I should have realistically predicted." As they approach, the young noble does her best to present a friendly expression. She comes to a stop a little over a yard away from the man and makes a show of examining the building with a careful eye. Despite the lack of materials, this seems like a reasonably well-constructed building. Imagine what could be done with real supplies." She turns her gaze onto the man sitting on the crate, "As my companion said, it is a good morning to meet you. I am Cithra Saighan." [Cithra]


The pair of women approaching attract the attention of the blonde and he pulls his hair back with his stubby fingers to get a good look at the two. He sweeps from one to the other and back again, suspicion to his face, and while Karen's self introduction does nothing to change his expression, Cithra's certainly does. He launches himself up to his feet with surprising nimbleness and gives a deep bow at the waist, as deep as his gut allows, "There ain't been none of that here, ma'ams. No trouble at all. Got nothing but chil'ren here and nobody got the time to be giv'n then any trouble whatsoever. The name is Gillian McCoutre." He mops at the sweat on his head with his thin woolen sleeve, "The building was done as best could be by the carpenters. Good ones, they were, but we were strangers up from nowhere and had no coin and little trust. We're from down in Altara you see."


Karen looked back at the building for a few moments and back at the man. She seemed to be a little stunned by his frantic reassurance that nothing bad was happening. She squinted at him for a moment and took in his image for a moment and then relaxed her face. "All the way from Altara you say? You came with little coin to build a school in the foregate, how noble of you. This area has suffered some terrible losses over the past little while. I am sure the education is appreciated by the locals. What noble cause lead you to Cairhein from Altara?" She raised an eyebrow as she peered at Cithra for a moment before returning her eyes to the man. "Gillian, are you the headmaster here?"


"That is good to hear Mr. McCoutre, it would be troubling if people were resorting towards causing problems with children." Cithra looked over the man again and nodded approvingly, "And yes, I would love to hear about the journey you had here and what motivated it. Altara is a long journey for anyone to make, and I hear so many nations are having troubles these days, I hope the journey was uneventful." [Cithra]


Grunting slightly, he eases up slowly to make sure he does not offend Lady Saighan by rising up without any sort of affirmation to his bow. Towards Karen, with a grimace of annoyance that is hardly masked, he answers her question, "Sure thing, sure thing at that, all the way from Altara Miss Karen, Lady Saighan. Some number of women came to visit us one day, a whole herd of them-" He hesitates when he calls them a herd and looks between the two to make sure nobody is bothered, "- calling themselves Aes Sedai. They sure looked it if they were not, a whole flock of them come in and says to us that they appreciate our work and says we should come up here where the poor are not doing too well. Gave us the coin for travel but we spent a bit more than we were expecting to get here, ma'ams. Miss. Lady Saighan." He sniffs as he mops at his forehead again. Standing up, Gillian falls just shy of Karen's height, "Not one of the teacher's no, just a bit of muscle, they feed you and give you drink and a place to sleep, ain't much more a man like me needs than that, so it's been a good gig for me."


Karen seemed to consider the scenario he had laid out and was a little confused. "Did the aes sedai come with you? There are aes sedai here who previously sheltered the entire foregate in their grounds, it strikes me out of character to go out of their way to search for such people. I know that Lord Mantear is personally involved in the tower, and he would have helped with the arrangements I am sure." She stroked her chin. "Not to say that you are wrong here, I am sure they did appear to be aes sedai. So what type of work makes this institution special, Master Gillian?" She seemed to have a more relaxed and understanding look at this point.


"I had heard rumors that there was a surprising number of Aes Sedai in Altara of late. It seems odd that they would send you so far, but with Aes Sedai, I suppose you never know." Cithra shakes her head slightly, as she thinks matters over. "These women, did they have strange accents or anything about them that stands out? I would like to send word in thanks for sending aid to Cairhien, and there are not so many Aes Sedai that I couldn't use some distinguishing marks to make sure they receive my appreciation." As the topic changes to discuss the educators, Cithra's expression brightens. "I would very much like to meet with the instructors here. I fancy myself a bit of a scholar, y'see. Or at least learn about them if they are occupied." [Cithra]


"No, Miss Karen, not at all, they just saw the good work we were doing and gave us good coin to move. Not all of us you see, just a few of us, so we could educate new teachers to educate new students, spread our wealth of knowledge. Says there are hardly enough schools like ours in the world so it was a good deal. We take in anybody who's willing to learn and is good with kids." He dry washes his hands and lifts his puffy cheeks into a smile, a warm smile, but one still nervous knowing that he's speaking with a patron, "No, there was no Lord Mantear involved in this, Andor has nothing to do with our little academy..." He blinks at the question regarding what makes the place special and he glances at the building over his shoulder, "I'm not sure what you mean, Miss Karen? Any place willing to teach and for basically free has to have its charm, if nothing else, we keep the little ones out of mischief while their parents toil so."


Now looking to Cithra, he bows his head again slightly and clears his throat before he answers, "They've all had their accents, calling them strange ain't a bit polite and I wouldn't go about saying that their accents are strange, not me m'Lady, Gillian is respectful to Aes Sedai and nobles alike." He brushes the crumbs off of his mail as he looks he shrugs uncomfortably, "I didn't question them, didn't really speak with them, but there were a few, a dozen at least... but if you want to meet with the teachers, that can be done. They'd been expecting a representative ever since the coin came."


"No, Miss Karen, not at all, they just saw the good work we were doing and gave us good coin to move. Not all of us you see, just a few of us, so we could educate new teachers to educate new students, spread our wealth of knowledge. Says there are hardly enough schools like ours in the world so it was a good deal. We take in anybody who's willing to learn and is good with kids." He dry washes his hands and lifts his puffy cheeks into a smile, a warm smile, but one still nervous knowing that he's speaking with a patron, "No, there was no Lord Mantear involved in this, Andor has nothing to do with our little academy..." He blinks at the question regarding what makes the place special and he glances at the building over his shoulder, "I'm not sure what you mean, Miss Karen? Any place willing to teach and for basically free has to have its charm, if nothing else, we keep the little ones out of mischief while their parents toil so."


Now looking to Cithra, he bows his head again slightly and clears his throat before he answers, "They've all had their accents, calling them strange ain't a bit polite and I wouldn't go about saying that their accents are strange, not me m'Lady, Gillian is respectful to Aes Sedai and nobles alike." He brushes the crumbs off of his mail as he looks he shrugs uncomfortably, "I didn't question them, didn't really speak with them, but there were a few, a dozen at least... but if you want to meet with the teachers, that can be done. They'd been expecting a representative ever since the coin came."


Karen nodded as he nervously rambled on. She looked around the area again while he was prosing to the pair and returned her gaze back to him. "Lord Mantear is a noble of the city of Cairhien, as well as a Prince of Andor. He was involved deeply in the rebuilding of the foregate after the war. He is a close personal friend of ours, so I was just expressing my surprise, that is all." She took a hearty breath in and let out a deep sigh and put her hands on her hips. "Hmm I suppose that would make sense that you were waiting for her, the coin and everything. Do you know who directly received the donation? Are they one of the teachers?"


"That is a fair point Mr. McCoutre. It isn't our place to judge the accents of others. I appreciate you being polite even when others are not present. It speaks of a high character." As the conversation goes to funding, Cithra's eyebrows raised a bit in mock confusion, "I had hoped to visit the school and meet with you all to work out how much you'd need to improve conditions here, but I have been very busy of late. I hadn't realized payment had already been sent, so I hope the amount my aide allocated was sufficient." She chuckled slightly and put on a reassuring smile, "I am glad that it happened so quickly, as from the sound of it, you all are doing good work and in need of a patron. The Foregate has always been close to my heart." She smiled and seemed amused, "Well, I would still like to have that discussion to ensure that you all are receiving the right amount of funding." [Cithra]


"That would be Master Mammon." He replies almost too quickly, placing his heel of bread onto the top of the crate, and walking up to the door giving a solid knock, "Open up. Lady Saighan and her entourage are here." He says loudly. Despite the appearance of the door's fragility, something heavy scrapes against the door, and the door swings open. On the other side is a thin man, almost unnaturally thin, with a face that seems squished to the center and thick scraggly brown brows. He squints at the pair of them and it only narrows when Gillian replies, "The Foregate close to your heart, Lady Saighan? Why, that's awfully generous of you, very generous indeed. The money hasn't been spent quite yet, no sirree, but the first thing we plan to do is get some of those carpenters back and put on a proper roof and whatever else they can do. Then books, of course, always need a good book." The lanky man pulls his lips back in what might pass for a smile, revealing his buck teeth. With his wide ears, he looks nearly like a rat. Gillian looks to the thin man before gesturing towards the door, "Let them in, let them in. They're wanting to see the place, give them a tour."


Karen watched as the door swung open to reveal the lanky man. She seemed to wait a moment before responding. She let out a chuckle at being called the entourage and folded her arms. "Good day Master Mammon. I am Miss Fortune. We would love to have a tour while we ask you some questions. I know I have a few about the curriculum offered here, and the targeted student demographic. It is surprising that without a roof or books you can offer an education plan here."


"More practical than generous I'm afraid. As much as I care for the people here, I can't pretend as if I don't benefit from the Foregate's successes. Keeping people safe and educated leads to a better society for all of us after all." Cithra looked over the new addition with a discerning eye, "Lady Fortune is a dear friend and ally. I encourage you to treat her with the same respect you'd treat me." She gave a slight smile and moved towards the now open door. "I would imagine any education would be a boon to the people here, and by having children out of the house, it would allow their parents to focus on being productive. That said, I am curious about what the intended curriculum is. Most of the students here would be looking towards apprenticeships to gain practical skills, so does this seek to replace that or are the studies more scholarly in nature?" [Cithra]



With a voice that borders on squeaky and a jittery movement to the way he walks and holds himself, the thin individual with the thick mats of streaky gray and black hair replies smoothly, "Of course, Lady Saighan, of course she is."


He looks at Karen and looks her up and down with his dark beady eyes and smiles at her as well, his thin whiskers twitching with his upper lip. He gestures for them to come inside and as he does, Gillian all but collapses back onto his box, clearly glad to be done speaking with the group. "They are divided into two groups, the younger being taught history, maths, letters while the other are taught a general selection of life skills."


His eyes twitch slightly as he lets them step inside. He takes a deep breath before following after. The inside of the school looks much better than the outside. It's quite clear that the better building materials were used for the people who would be sitting in here rather than for those who would be staring at the eyesore. "So you could say that we try to do both."


Karen was holding back a snicker as Cithra insisted that they called her Lady. Even though it was a title she often called herself, it was funny that she instructed them to do it. As she stepped into the building she looked around and was a little more impressed than she was standing outside. "Quite the undertaking to teach two sets of kids. I am interested to hear what kinds of history, and the life skills that you mention. Should we assume it is Altarian history? Or more general? I suppose it would be practical to be teaching them about the game of houses as well."


"I see. That is a very ambitious endeavor, but it is certainly a necessary one. A master can only take on so many apprentices, and it leaves many destined to rely on hard labor as they age. Not a sustainable position for a growing city to take." Cithra seemed pleased as she looked about the interior of the building. "How many students are you capable of teaching? Is there any shortage of students or are capacity and educators the primary limitation currently?" She examined the opening where the ceiling would be, if it had existed. [Cithra]


The first room is fairly wide though not terribly deep, stretching the length of the entire building in one direction but only about twelve feet or so the other way. Clearly meant to be some kind of antechamber that doubles as a speech room, there are chairs all along one half of the room while the other room has something of a makeshift podium. Sniffing at Karen's question, the lanky man answers it if a bit reluctantly, "It's general world history. Who the Aes Sedai are, the various wars, the relationships between some of the nations, the maps. We have high hopes for some of these children. You never know what a clever boy or girl might do if they have the right kind of start."


"There is a shortage of both teachers and students. Not every instructor is fit to teach children, you understand, some do very poorly with the kids. Others disagree with our curriculum and disappear without a trace. And of course, parents. Not all of them trust their kids with a bunch of strangers." He answers Cithra, baring his teeth, "But we can hold maybe twenty of the young ones and more of the big ones. The big ones are more behaved so they need less room..."


He looks down the hall where several doors can be seen on both halves and one door at the far end. The building is hot, the sun passing through what debris there is, causing the floor to warp where the sun clearly sits exposed for multiple hours of the day. Looking up at the roof, it looks rather precarious, one bad jolt and a large stone or piece of lumber might slip out of equilibrium and onto an unsuspecting pedestrian.


Karen watched the man as he reacted to her questions and responded. "Hmm, interesting. I know you only recently came, but I was telling Gillian that during the rebuilding of the foregate, the White Embassy here in the city took in the displaced locals. Have you made an attempt to get instruction directly from them? If not an aes sedai, surely an Accepted would be qualified to teach history lessons on the topic." She pressed her foot onto the warped places in the floor. "I am interested to hear more of your resume, Master Mammon."


"That makes sense. Finding capable instructors and earning the trust of the parents could be very time consuming I'd imagine. Once this place is in better condition, I will see about looking for instructors and more publicly endorsing the school in the foregate. It may not cause everyone to trust you, but it might lend a bit more legitimacy to a new school." Cithra carefully picked her steps as they made their way through the building. "That said, it would seem a lot of work is left to do here. How much money did my aide send you and have you already spoken to your carpenters about the price of fully constructing this place?" She continued to follow along on the tour, checking doors and looking for anything out of the ordinary as she did. "Also, while we are on the topic, what is it you tell them about Aes Sedai? That can be a controversial topic at the best of times, and in a city like Cairhien, it could become political very quickly, especially as my name is associated with it." As Karen brought up the Embassy for instructors Cithra frowned slightly, "Yes, but given the current situation, I doubt the tower would be eager to send many of their own this far out of the relative safety of the walls." [Cithra]


Blinking in confusion, the man quickly shakes his head in an earnest effort to remove the notion that Karen has and quickly throws out, "Louse. My name is Louse Snitch, Miss Karen. Lady Fortune. Master Mammon takes his office at the far back..."


"We try to stay independent where we can. Not speaking poorly of the Aes Sedai, of course, but they have a way they present things that can be problematic to the free thinker. Not everybody enjoys being told how to think or what to think or even if they are allowed to think at all..."


Bobbing his head up and down almost excitedly, he responds to Cithra, "Oh yes. Trustable, dependable, reliable instructors are at a premium. Especially since we do not give paychecks here. The people donate food, clothes, and other supplies and we in turn pay our instructors, guards, and labourers the same. Food is very expensive these days but you can't buy everything with food."


He continues walking down the hallway and gestures towards the rooms to the left and right. There seem to be four doors on either side but a quick study shows that each door has a pair to the same room. Four rooms in total, ten students each, and a teacher for that set, easy enough to see when the doors have a slot for windows but no glass pane to fill it. He pauses when she asks about the money and furrows his brows, "I have not seen it myself, Lady Saighan, the dean... Master Mammon that is... he keeps his hands on all the money and does all the counting. He's the most brilliant of us you see... you are not... regretting your decision?"


He scratches his arms thoughtfully, thinking about how best to answer the other question. Eventually the wiry man, speaking slowly as if carefully weighing every word, replies, "Just the truth, Lady Saighan, just the truth. That they keep a hand on the shoulder of every king, a whisper to guide every noble, trying to keep the peace, and make sure nobody gets into any trouble..."


Karen looked a little taken aback that the man was not who she had named. "I am sorry, Gillian told us we would speak to Master Mammon, I had made the assumption that was you." She continues to poke the walls and other spots where the construction seemed a little less solid. "You have gotten a lot of donations it would seem. So Mister Snitch, what is your occupation here? A teacher, I would assume? Is there a communication back and forth from Altara to keep the course work up-to-date?"


"I am quite pleased with the concept. A year ago? A school in the foregate would be more than I could have dreamed of, and yet now I'm walking through one. I've worked at creating marketplaces and keeping the peace, but this? This has the potential to make a real difference to the next generation. That said, it is hardly a building at the moment. There is much to do."Cithra furrowed her brow a bit for a moment and frowned, her gaze growing a bit distant as she got distracted from the investigation. "It would be better if we could pay the instructors. It would attract people from further out. Perhaps we could bring people on and I could assist in funding their research as a form of payment? Especially anything concerning agriculture. I do not like how reliant Cairhien is on imports for food. I could potentially sell the idea to King Laman, but that might also be seen as populist again." As her frown deepened, Cithra continued to mutter to herself before finally startling out of her trance. "Oh, sorry. I get a little carried away when it comes to logistics sometimes...It would be best if I could speak to Master Mammon." [Cithra]


"Well... we were... kept in regular contact until recently. Now nobody knows what's going on down there." He admits hesitantly. He bites down as he finishes his sentence as if he regretted saying that almost as it left his mouth, "It really is not my place to be discussing these things... that kind of talk should be up to Master Mammon. He's the public face and all."


Shrugging his shoulders with a slight bit of discomfort, he answers her other question, "I'm the disciplinarian. When a child misbehaves, it's my responsibility to sit them down, talk to them, figure out why they're misbehaving, and then take measures to try and correct it. Sometimes it means talking to the parents, other times a simple bribe does it."


"The place started off as an amphitheatre but it was heavily damaged during the war. The owner of the lot sold it to us relatively cheap. A playwright that wanted done with the City." He strokes his straggly, curly thin moustache with his knuckles and shrugs, "That would be another discussion with Master Mammon... but we do try to stay independent. With your ah... well... your affiliations and friends... it might prove difficult if we were to grow dependent."


Karen folded her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow. "You came to the city of Daes Dae'mar, accepted the donation of a noble, and now you are concerned about..." She trailed off and shook her head. "Yes I believe it would be best to take us to see him. What do you bribe the children with? Surely food that was provided by their own parents could not suffice as a bribe." She seemed to be uncertain of this man's intentions as a disciplinarian. "Does this school use physical reprimands?"


"That is fair. I can certainly get a little carried away with new ideas, but I will respect the desires of this school." Cithra laughed slightly, pleasantly amused by their desire for independence, despite it being the very rumors about her own involvement with the school that brought her here. "I am content with simply getting this building up to a reasonable standard and then serving as the occasional patron when something is needed. I trust the headmaster will be able to give me a better understanding on what capacity I can best serve the children and faculty of this school in." [Cithra]


"As I said, perhaps you should speak with Master Mammon after all. Please, this way." He begins walking down the hallway when the questions come one after one, scooting particularly quickly once Karen inquires about whether or not they physically discipline their students. Perhaps he feels he has been trapped by his own words, in particular when Karen mocks him about their independence. The Altaran, one way or another, is clearly uncomfortable as he clears his throat and rushes them to the doorway where he gently knocks on the door, "Master Mammon, Lady Saighan to see you."


He glances back to Cithra and his nose twitches when she laughs, "The dean, yes. We try not to use 'headmaster' here, the students seem uncomfortable with the title."


A heavy thud followed by a rather egregious click precedes a baritone voice, "Please. Send them in."


The man pushes the door open leading into an office of sorts, bookshelves on two of the walls, a small table in the corner with an empty bottle of unlabeled booze - clearly there for appearances sake - and a few glasses here and there, and a rather fancy, if damaged, desk covered in paperwork. Most notably, this appears to be the only room with a roof and the air inside of here is rather cool compared to the warmness that the rest of the school, indeed the city, is met with. A very tall man with black hair with streaks of white and clothes divided down the center in black and white stands behind the desk and bows deeply to the group and gestures towards the number of chairs throughout the room, "Please. Come in. Make yourselves comfortable."


The cool sensation that hit Karen upon entering the room was a welcomed surprise from the sun beaten rest of the building. Wandering towards a chair against the wall, she spoke while still standing. "Good day Dean Mammon, charmed to meet you. I am Lady Karen Fortune." She seemed a little petty about not being introduced. "We hear that you are the man with the answers to the questions we have been asking. So happy to finally have made it into your office." She plopped herself down on the chair and had a very satisfied look at her.  [Karen]


"Dean Mammon, it is a pleasure to meet you. I believe we have a few things to discuss." Cithra smiled warmly at the taller man as she entered the room. She looked around the room carefully before settling on a seat, folding her hands neatly in her lap. "I must say, I was surprised to learn of how you all arrived here. That sounds like quite a unique journey." As Ren and Svecha enter the room, they take posts near the door, each one keeping an eye and ear out for trouble. [Cithra]


"Lady Fortune, Lady Saighan." He smiles warmly and speaks soothingly to the pair before sitting himself back down into his seat, "Journey? From Altara, you mean? Unique circumstances, perhaps, but the journey itself was without event. Not much to say there."


"We are very glad to receive your patronage, Lady Saighan, it will do wonders for the future of the school. Perhaps even allow us to spread further west to Andor next." The man is svelte in build with narrow shoulders and narrower hips, dark eyes that seem to glisten like browned oil, and hair that falls to his shoulders but are evenly cut and kept, bangs that fall just shy of his eyebrows. He wears a fairly tall hat that has seen better days but the same could be said of his entire attire. Clothes that were peak fashion at some point but have dulled and repaired with patchwork sewing, "Please, questions and answers are to be exchanged freely here, do not be shy."


Karen leaned back in her chair and seemed to appreciate that he was willing to answer some questions. "Well one of the topics that has my interest is the choice of the course work that is taught here. Mister Snitch mentioned teachings about Aes Sedai, but then he said that they didn't ask them to come from the Embassy to stay politically neutral. I would like to hear about that, in your own words. He said you would be the best one to ask." She kept her arms folded over her chest.


"I would also like more detail about how this place is funded. Being candid, I know relatively little about how much money was sent to this school in my name. While it was my intention to fund this project when I first heard of it, I hadn't had the opportunity to visit or arrange such payment. I do not even know which of my aides arranged this payment. Seeing the condition of the school, I would like to assess how much more will be needed to fully repair this place against how much was provided." Cithra chewed on the inside of her cheek as she thought for a moment, eventually letting out a sigh.  Inside, Cithra's head was still spinning, 'How could this school fit into Daes Dae'mar?' "In addition, there seems to be a great deal of effort in appearing independent, but my name is already being attached to this school in the eyes of many. I fear that it will be difficult to appear independent, especially in Cairhien." [Cithra]


"You'll have to be quite a bit more specific, young lady, if you want an answer to a question. We certainly teach about Aes Sedai. What an education would it be if it lacked any lessons about one of the largest influences in the political world? We, of course, also teach of the Children of the Light." He chuckles quietly and leans back, awaiting the woman to clarify about what exactly she wished to know.


"For the most part, we receive donations in exchange for helping rear people's children. It frees time for them, their children receive an education, and we get to spread the name of our school. Many of us are aids, assistants, or instructors that have since fallen out of favour and are more than happy to be teaching again." A simple twitch of his thin, plucked brow as he leans forward and places his hands onto the table, fingers crisscrossing amongst each other, "We were not aware that the donation we received was a mystery. We received quite a generous donation in the form of a bag. It seems to hold about a hundred silver coins or so of mixed denomination..."


At the mention of the school's attachment to her name, he simply shrugs as if it were no concern, "One noble will lead to others and we will accept them all, of course. We are not playing favorites among the nobility. As long as it is seen that way. It is taking favours from those who's politics far exceed the City walls that are problematic. The Aes Sedai and the Children of the Light do not speak for Cairhien but the world. As far as repairs go, in current conditions? Quite the penny. We have settled for what we have until things normalize. If I am proud of nothing else, I am proud of how thrifty I can be."


Karen didn't seem too impressed with the gentlemen's response. She leans forwards a little bit, unfolding her arms to brace her hands against her knees. "The Aes Sedai came to you in Altara and asked you to come here and your employees specifically mentioned that history courses concerning the Aes Sedai were taught. Every battle is told differently depending on which side you stand on, and I guess I am asking from which perspective is the history being taught here." She seemed oddly articulate for the typically easy go lucky blademaster. She raised a finger. "Additionally, Master Snitch seemed to purposely dodge my question about physical discipline, and I would like to know what the school's stance is on that. Hopefully you don't require me to be more specific on that topic."


"That is a fair point. Provided other nobles follow suit, you all could just become another game piece on the board." Cithra considered the amount for a moment and seemed a bit at ease. "I would like this idea to flourish, but I also want you all to have the chance at your independence. So I hope other nobles take the bait and get involved." She leaned back in her chair, "And of course, if they don't, we can try to come to an arrangement with more permanent funding." She shook her head gently, muttering a bit, "I can't believe one of my people would just drop off money like that..." [Cithra]


"Well that he does keep his words in check, Master Snitch is not what you would call an elegant man, though he is quite capable at what he does." The man replies smoothly to Karen, "We apply a firm hand to those who cause trouble but not without the parents' permission. Some children require more than others. Indeed, some adults could use the very same, I am sure that you have employed such tactics if not more so on those who misbehave. Certainly, Lady Saighan would agree, wouldn't you?"


He looks over to the Inquisitor, his smile never fading and nods matter of factly, "As far as the Aes Sedai go, we were approached, yes. Our school originates in Altara. Down there, it sees much success and those of us who traveled to Cairhien were not all prepared to live in squalor. I freely admit that I lived a much comfier life down south and that I miss it."


He gestures throughout the room and the way that it is decorated, clearly in the stylings of a man who believes himself to be of a higher station, "But sacrifices must be made to better the future of man, yes? Your aid, he was a pale faced man, very pale indeed, with black hair and bloodless lips. You really should let your servants get more sunlight. He looked as though if the sun fell upon him the wrong way, he might burst into flames."


Karen took a small sigh of a breath. "Actually I don't have an issue with people misbehaving in my company, doesn't come up." She spoke with confidence and continued. "Do you have a written message from the Aes Sedai asking you to come here? I simply do not understand why a group of at least a dozen aes sedai decided that only your school could come to Cairhien and fulfill this purpose. What Ajah were they? What mission do you serve that is unique to that of the tutors here in this city? Surely it would be significantly less trouble for the Aes Sedai that reside IN this city, to find people here to work IN this city. And I understand that you feel it is for the greater good, but what beliefs, morals, skills, etc lead YOU to be brought here?" She seemed to be not speaking in a confrontational tone, but clearly this man liked to pick and choose his words, much like the Aes Sedai themselves.


"Sometimes the occasional force does need to be used. And provided it doesn't leave lasting damage, and the child has a firm understanding of exactly what they did that led to it, I can see it being necessary when trying to keep children in line."  She paused to consider her statement for a few moments before completing the thought, "I'd expect it to be the last resort personally. We should all strive to reach an understanding without resorting to violence." Cithra considered the surroundings again, but snapped out of it when Karen suddenly started being far more aggressive with her questions. Rather than add her own, Cithra merely sat and waited for an answer. [Cithra]


Maintaining his composure under the heavy assault of questions, Mammon patiently waits for Karen to finish her line of thought before finally responding, "No. I do not have a written letter from the Aes Sedai. Truthfully, before you asked for one, I did not see why one would be necessary. Why would I need to prove that anybody sent us here when we could very well have come here on our own? If you are asking why the Aes Sedai do what they do, you would have better luck asking why the sun rises, the stars twinkle, and the moon chooses to reveal itself some nights and not others. The Aes Sedai are an enigma that explains little to anyone. Their Ajahs? I am afraid I could not tell one from another though I see now that you are better acquainted with the White Tower and their policies than myself. I could speculate for you, if that would make you feel better, Lady Karen. Perhaps it is because we choose to work with the poor, the destitute, and the coinless even in Altara... but all that brought me here is the opportunity to teach and extend the reputation of our school. I have no allusions to being a philanthropist, I want our school to succeed wherever we go."


With that line of questioning completed and a twinkle to his eye, ever the gentleman, he turns to Cithra and nods, "Of course. It is only to discipline the children, we have no desire to see them crippled, that would go against our wish of seeing them succeed and grow. There is much for these children to live up to. Much we want them to do. A special message for all the world to hear. Our way is best and our program is without comparison."


Karen lifts up a finger but she seems a little stunned and slack jawed. "Why would you be anywhere close to crippling a child over school work? Also you entered another country under the guise of working for the Aes Sedai and you did not get it in writing or think to do so? You had to have known they work out of this city, if the Aes Sedai wasn't accompanying you here, surely it would make the entire process a lot smoother." Karen was trying to back off a little of the pressure but she wasn't entirely pleased with the answer she had been given. "What exactly is this special message? If I sent my little sister to school here, what would she learn here that she wouldn't learn at any other school in the city?"


"Tying themselves more to the tower might hurt their reputation more than help it. I doubt many people would be keen on sending their children to schools run by Aes Sedai. It isn't as if they have a flawless reputation. That said, without knowing more about the Aes Sedai that funded this, you may wish to avoid mentioning them at all." Cithra frowned a bit as Karen continued, "You likely wouldn't send your sister here Karen. This isn't a school for us, it is a school for the hundreds of people who don't have the money to pay for their own schools. From my understanding, that is what makes this place unique, it isn't as if schools are typically free. Unless there is something else unique about your methods?" [Cithra]


"You are hearing words that are not being spoken, Lady Karen. Do you need a moment to collect yourself? We have a rather large yard you could pace yourself and get some of this... energy out of your system... and continue polite, adult conversation." The dean asks, his voice dripping with concern, "We never claimed to be working for the Aes Sedai nor did we assume any sort of guise, nor did we know the political state of Cairhien before we arrived. We are an unfunded school from a foreign state that received praise and suggestive guidance by the Aes Sedai and nothing more. We have not had to answer to anybody until now and quite frankly, I am not certain why you are so... worked up over this."


He patiently listens to Cithra and nods his head at key points of her own explanation. When she finishes, Dean Mammon quietly claps his hand in praise and pride, "You have been paying attention. Our students are almost exclusively parents who cannot afford to send their children, either due to time or money, to a properly funded school. Would they be better off if they could afford something more in line with the nobility? Certainly. We teach the bare basics to survive. Our message? No matter how trampled upon you are, no matter how unlucky your lot has been, regardless of your station, with the right... education, the right... patron, and enough... ambition, you can still rise up in defiance of your fortune and become something more. Is it not glorious? Is that not noble?"


Karen continued to be totally slack jawed. She looked at Cithra for a moment and then back at him. "I do not appreciate your tone, sir. I am no less passionate than any other of my equals who would expect answers to these types of questions. And I do not appreciate that you are trying to manipulate the conversation to suggest I am acting childish to invalidate my concerns. Your employees told me that the group of aes sedai paid you to come here. I could hardly believe that you didn't know that the Aes Sedai were in the city. The embassy was built some time ago." She seemed to slowly become less surprised and regained her confident look again. "Which patron is the correct one, Master Mannon?"


"Well, it is certainly a bold statement." Cithra touched her hand to her lips and gave one last look around the room. "One which encourages people to take their futures into their own hands." She considered the implications of such a statement in association with her and began to chew on her cheek for a moment. "It would seem to be a populist notion, which is not very popular in Cairhien. Though one I've been chastised for sharing in the past. The success of the common people reflects the success of the nobility after all." She listened to Karen and was pleased when she calmed down some. "I am interested. Is there a particular patron you'd endorse? Here in Cairhien or even an example abroad?" [Cithra]


"Correction. They paid for the trip. They do not continue to fund our presence here nor do they fund the school back in Altara. Not unless things have changed quite dramatically since I was there, last. Which it very well could have but I do not pretend to be precognitive." He slowly raises his shoulders in an apologetic fashion, "I can hardly be held accountable for what you believe, Lady Karen. I do see that you are passionate, that much is clear from our very short and rather charming conversation. Very passionate."


"That is the idea, Lady Cithra. The poor and downtrodden are especially vulnerable to the brainwashing. Vulnerable to the inculcations. From the gentry. With a little direction and guidance, they learn that they can rise up. Not to rebel, of course, Cairhien has been through that more than once and it has proven destructive and unconstructive for all parties involved. With an education, it is possible to maneuver in more subtle manners. And it all begins with the children. A slow process but one that guarantees the right future." He explains his thoughts in depth, partially to answer Karen and her inquiries to his moral gumption, partially to follow up on Cithra's questions, "There are patrons I might personally endorse were I not associated with the school, yes. In Andor, it is not uncommon for royalty and nobility to marry the common man. For the common man to ascend directly into the royal line. Anybody who is willing to give a person who has suffered great misfortune at the hand of others a second opportunity is worth having as a true patron. And this is the view we try to pass onto our students."



Karen tooks a slow deep breath in, and then exhaled through her mouth. She rubbed at her temples for a moment before sitting back up. She held out her hand expectantly. "Very well then. I would like to see the lesson plans then." She seemed to have actually reigned herself in, and was speaking in a normal tone again. "I'll wait if you need to gather them from your teachers. I understand that materials are limited here so you may not have multiple copies." The tall woman leaned towards the man's desk as he continued to hold her hand outstretched. 


"It is my understanding that this is certainly a novel idea in Cairhien." Cithra's face becomes thoughtful as she studies Master Mammon. "But I am sure it will be a popular notion among some. Obviously caution would need to be exercised with such a unique goal. It is a delicate balance to teach people about their power without inciting them to make violent use of it." 


As Karen requested a lesson plan, Cithra nodded, "I do imagine that the lesson plans would be an interesting read. Assuming that is possible of course." [Cithra]


Upon Karen's request, his smile fades ever so slightly before returning. It could have been imagined if he did not start drumming the surface of his desk with his fingers, "Unless you intend to start teaching at this school and have the credentials and the like mindedness we require of our teachers, I am not certain why our syllabus needs to be reviewed by an outsider. Just because we are Altaran does not mean we are less educated than the Cairhienin. We know what we are doing."


His smile widens but it does not touch his eyes as he replies to Cithra, "I can see why one of the gentry might be concerned with what those who are less fortunate might do with an education but it really is not our job to decide what people do with their futures. We are not the guardsmen, we merely facilitate the ability to have some freedom over one's life."


Karen licked her teeth as she listened to the man's excuses. She nodded her head to herself before she looked back at her empty hand and then back to him. "Well seeing as a few moments ago you were telling me that I do not act like an adult, I must be a child. And as a child, shouldn't I know what is being taught to me?" She didn't raise her voice, but she was clearly not impressed. "I am not trying to suggest you are any less educated than the Cairhienin. However, since the rebuilding of the Foregate, myself and Cithra have been involved heavily in keeping the peace in these parts. So as active members of this community, and with the privileges that come with being influential people in the city, we would like to review the material you are intending on giving out to the public here. Do you not think it is reasonable for two people who fought in the war, and stand by the people in the foregate, should know what education they are being given?" 


Cithra turned her attention to Karen, "It would be for the best if we didn't push this issue too much Lady Karen." She put on her most diplomatic tone and tried to come off as understanding. "While our intentions may be genuine, we can't force him to reveal his lessons. We'll merely need to reconsider our future sponsoring of this institution until we can see some of the tangible results of their lessons. I'm sure we'll be able to gauge the quality of the education soon enough." 


Cithra frowned slightly as she looked back at Master Mammon. "That said, it is a shame that I cannot read over your plans. I looked forward to seeing how you would execute such an ambitious lesson plan, but I will do my best to understand your desire for privacy." Although seemingly disappointed, Cithra did her best to suppress the feeling. "Is there anything you'd like to share with us while we are here? I've enjoyed hearing about your ambition and goals for the residents of the foregate. It is nice to meet someone else who believes that the common man needs to be empowered, even if you may doubt that given my status." [Cithra]


"Privileges? Are you claiming that killing men and women makes you superior to the efforts of the school? Or is it a threat? That you have privileges because you CAN kill? Or is it your status as gentry, Lady Fortune? Whatever you seem to think, I will not be cowed by anyone who thinks they may walk in and have the right to someone else's property, intellectual or otherwise. We are free men." Dean Mammon's smile fades entirely the more Karen had spoken and by now, he holds a certain disdainful look to the woman. His look holds as he turns to face Cithra, though she hasn't done anything to quite earn the ire, it is clear he lumps her in with her fellow, whether or not she donated to the school. "Yes. Well. We can always use more funding. If you must know, every child that passes through and becomes an adult is very successful at what they aim to do. Sometimes those are less than pleasant things, becoming criminals, other times they go on to become accountants or assistants to the nobility. But whatever their vocation, they do it well. Not unlike your friend, the killer here."


Karen gives Cithra an unpleasant look as she mentions that she shouldn't push things. She raised an eyebrow at the man and gave an audible chuckle. 


"I find it interesting that you came to the conclusion that I was a killer, just from me saying that I participated in the war. If I am a killer for protecting this city, I think you will find blood on more hands than not. These people fought hard to keep their homes from being destroyed, and to have a place to keep their families safe."


Leaning back in her chair now she retracted her hand from being outstretched. She folded her arms across her chest with a grin. 


"I am not threatening you. However isn't it interesting that most of the building doesn't have a roof and somehow this room is cool in the middle of a heatwave?" 


She looked at Cithra with a sly look. 


"Sure I think it would be a good idea for us to stick around. Why not, is there no barrier for entry right?"


Cithra frowned as things continued to escalate. "Enough." A cool look passed over her eyes and she looked over both Master Mammon and Karen. "Master Mammon, regardless of whether you think it matters, you will watch your implications and statements in my presence. I will remind you, that in addition to my status as a member of the gentry in the nation you now reside in, I have also been tasked by the crown to keep the peace in the foregate." She narrowed her eyes, "I have not deemed this place to be a threat to the public safety, so I am not invoking my right to investigate it as such. However, I request that you do not give me reason to believe something is amiss here."


Cithra turned her attention to Karen, "In that same vein, I am not about to use force, implied or otherwise, to extort information from Master Mammon. I will not stop you from loitering here, but if you choose to go that route, you will do so without my support or company."


Cithra shook her head slowly and sighed heavily, "By the Light, you are both my elders and these barbs and jabs are unbecoming of both a hero of Cairhien and a scholar." Shooting a quick chastising glance between the two of them, "Are we capable of continuing like adults? Or should I go and fetch the disciplinarian on my way out?" 


"I would like this school to prosper, and I believe both in statement and action I have made that much clear. While a great deal of what is happening here does seem odd to me, I want to avoid jumping at shadows." She frowned slightly and considered the room for a moment, "For instance, I am curious about how this room remains so comfortable. That could be a profitable invention to get more of the nobility on board." [Cithra]


"Are you saying you didn't kill anybody in the war?" He cradles his hand with the other and begins clenching them, his jaw matching the tenseness of his hands. "I am not belittling people who defended their homeland. I am questioning someone who thinks killing anybody for any reason is justification for a stranger to trust them."


"Interesting? Certainly not. I spend more time in this building than any number of the students or teachers put together. I, essentially, live here. It only seems right to have a space to call my own." He pauses as Cithra reprimands him and for a moment, he looks as though he will burst but whatever he was going to say or do, it vanishes back into that collected smile, "Of course. My apologies. Where I am from, many women possess the right to kill a man unquestioned, and many used it. I am a little... tense around women with power. And reputation."


Seemingly surprised at her question regarding the coolness of the room, even if Karen was the originator of the question, he gestures at the floor, "Water beneath the boards. A large enough barrel or enough barrels of salted water. It is not an uncommon thing to do in Ebou Dar where we sit next to the ocean. The water is slow to heat and slow to cool providing a moderate temperature and when kept outside of the sun."


He shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly but his tone is perhaps a bit quicker than it had been. "Well, if you explain what you find odd, perhaps we can find an explanation for it. I had assumed that you stood behind our image and our message but now that I know someone did it on your behalf, it really does leave us at a crossroads."


Karen was a little taken aback by Cithra's direction. She knew that the young Questioner wouldn't actually be able to stop her, but she seemed a little bit impressed by her courage. Letting out a short sigh, she tried to gather herself in a calm manner. Leaning down and knocking on the floor, and looked back up at him. "Barrels of water keep your room at this temperature? I have not heard of such a technique, and I am Atha'an mier."


She gives a pause again to her speech and seems to ponder. "Did I kill people in the war? Ultimately I did. But that isn't why it is significant. I lead an army of 100 people; including some of the greatest blade masters in the entire world. Anyone who died to my blade, was trying to hurt my brother and sisters directly. My brother and sisters died for the people of this city, and for you to come and disrespect the work that MY people did is not accepted."


Her tone shifted to annoyance as this man kept side stepping their questions. "I am not saying outsiders are bad people. I am not saying that I don't like you. But this is a public school, where the people of this town donate to help you survive. Cithra was given the responsibility by the KING to protect these people. She, more than anyone, should be allowed to see what you are teaching these children."


Cithra glanced down at the floorboards with a wide-eyed expression, "Water? That is fascinating." When her gaze returned, it was clear she was impressed. "Most of my academic pursuits are in the biological sciences, so I find my experience with the physical sciences to be lacking at times." She sighed wistfully for a moment before returning to the conversation, "If you find yourself hosting nobles in the future, you may be able to make progress towards your funding by sharing that such cultural exchanges of foreign innovations would benefit them in the future." 


Cithra shook her head and held up her hand in deferment as the headmaster offered to explain oddities, "You've already offered explanations, but I can't say my curiosity is completely sated on the matter. The circumstances of your arrival are curious, I have never heard of a group of Aes Sedai convincing a school to open a branch across the country, even if it seems mundane to you. I will take it up with the Tower Embassy to see if they can enlighten me on the actions of these Altaran Sisters. I am unlikely to get a clear answer, but I hate mysteries."


As she approached her second point, the young lady seemed uncomfortable finding the words, "In addition, while an admirable goal, educating the disenfranchised for free is a radical idea in Cairhien. I was publicly chastised by the crown by even proposing that foregaters be allowed a hand in their own policing. I suppose it would be more clear to say I am curious about how this will pan out. I worry that if some of the nobility get the wrong impression, it may result in common people being drawn into a conflict." She shook her head slowly and looked at the man across from her, "You've already been drawn into the Game of Houses Master Mammon. I am only here because people likely seek to use my reputation...as a populist against this institution. I want to be certain that your lessons and my reputation aren't going to result in the death of children, but I won't force the issue." As Cithra's facade came down, she suddenly looked very worried. "I want to trust that this is going to help the foregate..., but the politics of Cairhien are...deadly. Especially to the uninitiated. Please, be careful." [Cithra]


"It is surprising to hear that you are one of the Sea Folk, so far away from the ocean that you are, but is it any surprise that ocean dwellers know little of how people of the land keep their homes cool? As far as the deaths of your people, while a tragedy, has nothing to do with me or my school." He looks to Cithra and a pleading expression replaces his visage, "I am not trying to offend the lady but she sees offense in everything. I never insulted her actions. She mentioned that her involvement in the war warranted her permission to our property. No one else did. And when I tried to say that it did not, she decided this was a mockery of her actions. You must see that she is looking to be confrontational. Unless, of course, this is a 'good guard, bad guard' routine?"


He returns his focus to Karen and sniffs, "The only people who should be concerned by what we teach are those that are taught and their guardians. If you want to question anybody about results, question the parents. We will not allow anybody to bully us out of the city just because we are foreign. If you were not so aggressive about it, perhaps we may have been more willing to share but as is it, I believe you are behaving in bad faith and that anything we share will be turned against us. As Lady Cithra says, politics are dangerous, and you seem more dangerous than most."


"... Yes. I can understand your concerns, Lady Cithra. This is why it is important to us to get the nobility involved where possible but without showing any particular favoritism to any house. You with your connections and your desire to see learning spread, I am certain you could help. If you could just pass the word to a noble or two that we are not trouble and worth the investment, they may find themselves in ten years, they may find themselves with powerful people for hire. Strategists of war, architects, mediators, the list goes on." He relaxes visibly but it is clear that he forces himself to do this, still on edge from his conversation with Karen, "No children will be killed by us. We would never. There is too much potential to exploit. It would be a loss to the world."


"You are correct, I am an aggressive person. I come from a very different walk of life, and I am trying to settle things with words and negotiation rather than violence. However as you can tell, it isn't my strongest suit." She paused and let out a slow breath. "However I do not think that you would have given us your lesson plans if we had been any nicer. I think you don't have any lesson plans, and you may be just taking peoples resources as a scam. No one has been trying to bully you out of the city. We have asked you for your intentions and your lesson plans, and that is it. While I have called into question your actions, no one was trying to bully you." 


Sounding disappointed she shook her head. "You honestly expect Lady Siaghan to go to other noble houses and tell them that you are not trouble and worth investing in without providing details of your exact lesson plan, let alone your business model. Do you have any plan for how the money will be spent? These are extremely reasonable questions for any venture to have for a patron, or potential patron."


Folding her arms she squinted at the man. "If you can show me a real lesson plan to show that this school isn't a scam to take resources from the parents, I will give you a gold crown. I'll eat my words."  [Karen]


Cithra smiled weakly, "I'm not worried about your school killing them...I'm worried about your ideas getting them killed by a world that isn't ready for this kind of thinking." She pressed the tips of her fingers to her forehead. "I will consider discussing your school with other nobles, but...my position is tenuous at best, and this is dangerous ground for me already. And, you may not understand this, but I am not a significant member of the nobility here. More a curiosity that is barely tolerated at times." 


As Karen brought up the notion of this being a scam, Cithra pales slightly, clearly she'd been so caught up in the politics that she'd never considered that possibility. [Cithra]


"We have already explained our intent. To give opportunity to those without opportunity. As we have explained to you where the money would go. First, into making sure that we have a sound structure, and then into ensuring our scholars are properly paid. What do we plan to do after that? We are not certain. Even in Altara, we primarily made our way with the donations of food that were given us. Many of us teach because we wish to not for any sort of reward." He frowns as Karen accuses him and his institution of being liars and grifters. He shakes his head and stands before giving a slight bow to Cithra, much less than when she first came in, "While we appreciate the patronage, intended or otherwise, I have said again and again that I will not stand for persecution. If you wish to drag the City into this and make this a matter of Law, feel free. We do nothing illegal here and I tire of this abusive banter. Good day to both of you."


Karen watches the man carefully as he becomes more and more defensive. She crossed her legs, and leaned back in her chair. "So Cithra, who was ordered to keep the peace in the Foregate by the King himself, she doesn't count as the law? Interesting." She makes no movement to stand and seems to still be continuing as if he had not come to stand and ask them to leave. 


"Mr. Mammon I would like you to understand the path you have taken here. I am offering you a gold crown just to see your lesson plans. If we go out that door, and come back with the warrant to fulfil a full investigation, every single piece of wood and stone will be unturned. The education of the children will be impeded, and you will likely get dragged into an unwelcome scandal. I am not saying you have to like me, but I am saying that there is a deal to be made here and it will likely be your best option." She adjusted her belt to let loud clinking noises of coins.


Cithra rose from her seat, "I am sorry things ended this way. It was not my intention to make you feel persecuted." She bowed her head and motioned for her guards to join her. 


"Karen, I have no evidence to suggest that this place is disreputable. While I have genuine concerns about some of the intended lessons they plan on teaching, I will not use my position to tear apart a school as long as I can avoid it." She looked at the other woman, clearly pleading with her, "Please, understand that how we behave here reflects on me, and I do not have the clout of some others you normally work with. Someone is already trying to manipulate me."


She turned back to the headmaster yet again, "Master Mammon, I assure you that even if I return here to investigate a complaint, it will not be personal, and I will do my best to avoid disrupting the service more than is necessary."


Any excitement Cithra had when entering this school is long gone as she goes towards the door. "It is heartbreaking to leave like this." She ran her hand along the wall of the building, "I am choosing to trust you..." [Cithra]


"If you shut down this school, that's on your head, not mine. Don't accuse the victim or what the actor does. Same should you choose to withhold patronage." Mammon frowns at Karen's continued 'not threats'. His eyes do fall to the coin bag as it clinks and while he licks his lips as if reconsidering, he only continues in a deadly quiet tone, now to Cithra, "Should you ever want to return without this... crude creature... perhaps we could speak over tea and biscuits."


He gestures towards the door and walks with the grace of a man trained to be delicate, perhaps a butler of some kind, "Yes. It is rather unfortunate, Lady Saighan, I hate to have you leave like this, especially since there is so much to show and discuss. You claim your clout is not great but I am certain that it is greater than you believe. And the students will know it. Should you return with courteous and courtly company, perhaps we could do this again."


Karen smirks as she sees that he seems tempted by the sound of the coin. She looked at the man gesturing towards the door. "You say that as an insult Master Mammon but honestly, that is an upgrade from the way I used to act." She gave out a hearty laugh and rose to her feet. Bending over slightly to meet him eye to eye she had her hands on her waist. 


"I have no plans on hurting anybody. This guy, he is our friend, he is cut from the same cloth as the people I used to hire." She gave him a smug look. "Five crowns, and I'll even buy you a drink at the pub."


"E-excuse me?" Mammon blinks in surprise before making a balled fist. Dressed in his half white and half black uniform, his fists ball up tightly and he furrows his brows, "Assuming this is not some kind of insultful ploy after you have been behaving... your patronage would be more than welcome. Five crowns...?"


He glances down at the coin again, a beggar with no space to argue, he clears his throat and shrugs slightly. It is unclear if he takes offense to being considered like her or anybody she might associate with but whatever it is, he seems willing to ignore it in favour of the coin, "Your House, Lady Fortune, I am afraid I have not heard of it but we would be proud to say that House Fortune is the reason we can afford to finish the place. When we spread to the next city, we will take your name with us."


Karen grinned at the man's acceptance. She held her hands out and looked at Cithra. "Aha, coin is a common language. I am not technically of a noble house, although I am closely associated with Prince Lord Mantear. My claim to fame is my work as a mercenary, and as a heron wielding blademaster." She stands a little taller while talking about her blades. 


"I assure you that this is not some insultful play. Being that I am not directly tied to a house, I am likely the best person to sponsor the school without getting the nobles wrapped up in it like Cithra was concerned about. If you can provide your paperwork to me, then we can discuss perhaps other investments as well." She started to pull coins from her pocket, one by one, a gold crown each time. 


"That is a very generous offer Karen." Cithra considered the pair of them for a moment, but seemed happy to be removed from the situation, "And I suppose having the school funded independently will help keep politics out of the education of deserving children. Perhaps this is for the best." She waited near the door with her pair of guards, slowly letting the previous tension bleed away from her. [Cithra]


Looking between Cithra and Karen, he clears his throat again before walking over to his desk and drawing out some sheets of paper. Some of them have yellowed with age... or perhaps damaged by fire or dirtied by mistreatment. Regardless, they curl at the corners. He places it onto the desk and slides it over to Karen before searching out a second set of documents and pulls them out as well. "The first is just an agreement on your part claiming that you are granting the school the funding. How much, your name, so forth... just in case the guards come knocking and attempting to claim we robbed the good Lady Fortune."


"This one is, of course, a handful of the courses that we teach. For now. When we can start properly paying for scholars, I am certain we can increase the breadth of the program but alas we are not in Altara and we are not yet properly stationed." He gestures at the second sheet, "You cannot keep the copy, of course, we do not have a printing press here and these all have to be hand written."


He studies Cithra quietly before sitting himself down into his seat. That clear look of victory on his face cannot be missed, a man who believes he's won some asinine game of chicken, perhaps? Or is there some other reason.


"Oh buddy, I do not think you need to worry about anyone coming round here with concerns that someone robbed me." She clearly thought this was a very funny idea. "But sure, paperwork likely would be handy for you. Let me take a look over these documents, tell me where to sign." 


Karen lifted up the paperwork and started to read over it, mumbling to herself. She hooked the leg of the chair she had been sitting on, and pulled it underneath her. She raised an eyebrow and looked up at him. "Mammon, dear, this document is so vague that it cannot possibly be useful for any purpose. How would this provide any value to give your teachers directions? I am confused."  [Karen]


Cithra raised an eyebrow at Mammon's expression and as Karen studied the document, Cithra approached the table and leaned over Karen's shoulder to try and get a look at the document. "This is hardly what I would call a lesson plan. In fact, I would expect better notation from a novice scribe, much less a professional academic." She sighed, suddenly growing very tired of this entire situation. "Why is it so rudimentary? Or damaged for that matter...I could replicate this document in a handful of minutes on fresh paper, but you haven't even bothered with that?"


Cithra bit her lip, as she studied the condition further, "What sort of scholar mistreats their notes like this? Much less the only copy of the lesson plan they intend to start a school with?" [Cithra]


"Regardless, the paperwork keeps those who would attempt to abuse their position from doing so. With all the warnings the two of you have given me, I can only assume it is a hundredfold as important here in Cairhien." At the inquiry at the scarceness of the lesson plan, he looks at the paper, and then at the two again, "We made the trip with what we could carry but we had limited funds as it were. What was brought with us is primarily the scholars who would be doing the lessons. If you would not forget, many of us work almost exclusively for food and guest rights in the homes of the students."


When Cithra also mentions the condition of the paperwork, he seems momentarily nervous but quickly attempts to take control of the situation, "Many of the scholars, myself included, have hardly had time to teach between what students we have and little in place of shelter. The politics in just having this place established without having people looking over your shoulder is time consuming as it is. This situation is just one example of it being so. After all, it is not only yourselves who are curious what the children are taught but their many parents and conferences are such a large part of the day. Our teachers, what few we have, are specialists in their field and hardly need me to stand over them to explain how to do their jobs."


Karen seemed to be taken aback by his current view points. "You could have written... more on this singular sheet of parchment, could you not? I was a nomadic mercenary for years, it would be unreasonable to suggest that the difference between a dozen sheets of paper versus a single one would be significant. I was told that you have a large student base. You don't have time to teach them? Also excuse me for pointing out flaws, but I find it hard to believe that the paperwork would have gotten this ruffed up. You have had time to get this nice desk, and some book shelves. Is paper not an easy enough resource to buy? Cithra's aide gave you a significant amount of money. If I had no paper at a school I would have ran to the store with the money in hand." She sounded confused and looked between him and Cithra.


"I hate mysteries, and you and this school are beginning to become one." Cithra's eyes grew dark as she looked from the paper to the man across the table from her. "You lack educators, you lack a building, you lack books, and now you lack even a lesson plan." Cithra placed a palm on the table and locked eyes with the man, "You asked before if this was a game of good guard, bad guard." She leaned forward across the table, "Do you have any idea who the 'bad guard' in this room even is Headmaster Mammon? Did you think it Karen?" Cithra slowly shook her head, leaning in closer towards him. "A Questioner with a passion for anatomy and biology. Can you even fathom the things I will do to you if you're lying to me right now? The things I will do if I find out this was a ruse? Or Light forbid, what I will do if an innocent is harmed because of your lies?" She wore a concerning smile that didn't touch her vacant eyes at all and stood back upright, "I'll have a great deal to add to my next anatomy book."


"Of course, right now you've broken no laws. I understand that sometimes people panic and say...half-truths. Everyone makes mistakes, and you'll find I am extremely forgiving, the first time." She licked her lips slightly while looking him over, " Not so much the second time. So, if I were to find out exactly what is happening here, I would be content with leaving that at that and consider the money my aide gave you to have been well spent." [Cithra]


"We have educators. We have one for each class. We have four classes..." He says slowly, assessing the threat that is suddenly Cithra. "There is no ruse... we have only recently arrived and until a week ago, short on any kind of currency. With your donation... and now Lady Fortune's... we can do more than afford this hovel."


He places his hands firmly onto the desk as if to steady himself, sweat breaking out on his forehead under Cithra's gaze and Karen's questions, "We have many students, yes. And limited teachers. We already explained that we work for donations. That's hardly conducive to hiring more than who were willing to come from Altara with me. We have to be careful with where we spend what little we have and most of it goes towards the construction of the school. Which as you can see is not going particularly quickly."


Karen leaned back in her chair as she gave Cithra the lead physically. "Oh you have goofed up now Mammon. If I were you, I would quickly and briefly answer the questions of; why did you not write more down on the paper, and what exactly occurred to make this singular piece of paper, the whole foundation of this operation, to be in such a sorry state." She held the 5 gold crowns in her hand and gave the man a look. "It takes a lot to make a good girl break Master Mammon." She smirked as she looked at the Questioner. 


"Something more happened than you're letting on, and I will find out what that hidden truth is Headmaster Mammon. Perhaps this is a real school, but there is more to this than you're letting on." Cithra made a motion to Ren, who quickly stepped in front of the door. Cithra then picked up the writing quill Karen had been offered and began to slowly make her way to Mammon's side of the table, whispering in a sweet voice, "Do you really think I came here without having my men start an investigation? I have been very patient because I wasn't sure the intelligence we gathered was accurate. I had hoped this would be resolved without making enemies." 


As she got close to Mammon, her smile only widened. "I like scholars. Kindred spirits you see. But I don't like them more than I like taking things apart I'm afraid." She looks down at the quill and frowns, "This quill will hardly do your body, your brain, justice but I'm sure I can get started with it...just a taste you see. A lesson for disrespecting my friend earlier." Cithra hopped up on the table, kicking her feet idly as she leaned in as close as she could. "Did you really think I'd let that slide? I told you all to treat her like you'd treat me. Because she is my friend. What did you call her again? A crude creature?" [Cithra]


Karen rubs at her temples, while stifling a chuckle. "Who would have thought I was the level headed one." She started to stand and pulled Cithra back a little bit. "Now I don't want to sound intimidating but if she gets her hands on you, dying quickly will be your best choice. How about you come to the Children of the Light's compound, you will be held and questioned, but your quarters will likely be much nicer than they are here in these ruins. If you satisfy Lady Cithra's questioning and concerns, then we will fully fund the school, your teachers; everything. Don't you want to take a pay cheque at some point? This is a win-win offer."


Cithra allowed herself to be man-handled by Karen, though she kept looking at Headmaster Mammon with a hungry expression. "Whatever gave you the impression I was going to kill you Headmaster Mammon?  I just want to know your truth." She smiled and giggled slightly, "So I showed you mine. No need for two scholars to have secrets right? Tell me everything, explain it to me so I'm sated. Let your school prosper, regardless of the circumstances that brought you to this place." [Cithra]


"GET OUT!" He shrieks and repeats in his newly volatile fashion, every facade of calmness broken, his stoicness shattered, "GET OUT! I am a law abiding man doing a good service to this world! You can't do this to me!"


Outside the room, the all too familiar voice, squeaky as it is, comes through, "Dean? Are you okay? The students said they thought they heard something?"


The man, visibly shaken to his core, looks around the room. Clearly he wishes that he had put a window into this place, now. He looks as though he might try to break through the door, gauging just how tough those two at Cithra's wing are. He swallows hard and slowly walks over to his seat and sits down, trying to regain his composure, "I-if you... i-i-f.. i-f-f you have a p-problem with how I run my school... y-you can open one of your own. Now please. Leave."


Karen looks at the man and shrugs. She pulled back even further on Cithra's shoulders. "Perhaps that is indeed our best course of action. Is to open up our own school." She put the coins back into her pocket and shook her head at him, sighing. 


"Oh this could have been good Mammon, and you just didn't have the right answers. I suggest that you keep this visit between the three of us. If you start claiming that we came and ruffed you up, people are going to start looking for reasons why. Don't need to bring attention to an operation built on a half crumpled piece of paper."


Cithra takes a deep breath and begins to regain her senses, "I'm not actually going to hurt you." She drops down off of the desk and sets the quill on the table. "People tend to reveal their true natures when they're frightened." After a moment, Cithra seemed to have completely calmed down. "I like your true self. Devoted to your school to the very end. That is truly admirable. Even more so as you managed to regain your composure for the sake of your students." Cithra smiled, this one touching her eyes. "You've earned my respect. I hope you'll never see that side of me again." She shook her head, a bit solemnly, "I wish you hadn't needed to see it at all honestly..., but when the future of the foregate is on the line, my wishes are secondary." 


Her hands trembled slightly as she bowed respectfully to the headmaster. "I hope your school prospers, and with it your students. Take care Mammon. Do not hesitate to call upon me if anything troubling happens. I am glad we are at least aligned on the goal of educating the disenfranchised."


Cithra carefully made her way towards the door, "I think we can close this investigation for now Karen. I'm glad no one was hurt." [Cithra]


He says nothing as he sinks into his chair, sweat dripping down his face, watching the four of them leave. Opposite the door is Louse, ears twitching as he watches the troupe leave the room, and peers inside beyond them to see the dean. When the man weaves him away, Louse furrows his scraggly brows together before nodding his head and closing the door behind them.


"This way..." He says slowly, clearly concerned with whatever happened in the room. As the troupe heads towards the exit, a glance towards either side at the teenagers or the children show them less enthusiastic, less excited, and less engaged in their class. Indeed, all of the youths sit straight backed, hand one over the other in a polite manner on their 'desks' and the teachers standing idly, watching the group leave.


Karen peered at the children as they were being 'escorted out'. Once they were outside she gave Cithra an odd glance. "I have never seen children sit quiet like that, have you? I know you have patrolled this area much more than I have... is this normal for this area?" She shoved her hands in her pockets and looked back at the playground. "Perhaps if we are still bothered, we can go ask some of the parents of these students what exactly their kids are being taught, or ask the kids themselves. You ok with that Cithra?" 


"Well, these walls are hardly sound proof Karen. I'm sure that...episode didn't exactly go over well with the students." Cithra shook her head slowly and sighed, "I didn't want any of this to happen. I just wanted to make sure the kids were taken care off and safe." She glanced at the taller woman, as they left the building her confidence all draining away. "I'm not cut out for politics...or even helping people...am I?" She asked no one and instead just focused on wiping away the occasional tear. [Cithra]


"No worse than me. Listen, this was a relatively low stakes negotiation in terms of your political standing... at least I hope so... And we got to start somewhere right? Normally we have Emberlite with us, and this is more his thing. But as we climb the ranks of society, this will land more and more on our plates. Now, I'll buy you a drink. You are great at helping people, and you will go on to help many more." She put her arm around Cithra and started to walk her off to the nearest bar. [Karen]


"Alright..." Cithra walked with Karen, feeling more her age with each step. After a few more moments of quietly crying, she seemed to have regained a small bit of composure, "I'll...I'll do better next time." Then, a few moments later, "A drink sounds nice...thank you." [Cithra]