The Censuring of the Jakovians

The imperial throne room is smaller than you'd expect. A polished interior of worn Second Republic furnishings seems to serve primarily as a staging area for several holo cameras and hundreds of monitors. Important but nonessential dignitaries literally seem to phone it in on most occasions, transmitting their images from private suites on the diplomatic estates throughout the Imperial City. Attending court is eerily spectral; around you, more than half the attendees are holographic images.

Real enough are you four, Salandra Decados, a small contingent of Decados questing knights, and at least two Phoenix Guards for each of you. Needless to say, you were thoroughly searched and vetted for weapons on the way in, and a couple of the Guards have a look that says they were hired more for their facility with defensive psychic arts than for their combat prowess.

Finally, the Emperor arrives to hold a special court on the matter you have brought forth. He's older than you'd assume emotionally; even with access to age-reducing treatments, the stress lines have worn themselves deeply into his face, and the graying temples are more than just an affectation. Especially today, he seems ground down by the pressure of finally risking turning a large cold war between his house and the Decados into a potentially disastrous conflict.

And then the speeches begin. By the first hour, you're having trouble following the thread, and are becoming increasingly grateful that the seating for those physically present is at least comfortable, if not plush. It is obvious that two dozen important dignitaries each have seen a tiny fraction of your evidence, just heard a rumor, or invented their own conjectures based on past history, and each of them intends to say something intended to be memorable for the historical record on this momentous day.

Finally, Alexius is allowed to speak, and is able to give the floor to Chamon Mazerin, his elderly liaison to the Imperial Eye, who shows a hard-won ability to bull through the docket without letting the other diplomats begin talking again until he is finished. Presented in this staccato and experienced barrage, your collection of evidence is impressive. Several of the Decados knights present wince from time to time, and one of the Decados diplomats logs off of his holo terminal (an action that is followed by a very significant look from Alexius and a Phoenix Guard exiting the room).

Then, the floor is opened to questioning and cross examination. You're each called on to corroborate the origin of this information and present your professional impressions of the details, justifying your involvement. Despite the scrutiny, each of you manages to avoid divulging anything you'd all decided to keep quiet; though this is probably helped by subtle but deft question management by Chamon.

Towards the end, Salandra gives an impassioned speech about the glory of her house, and needing to excise cancerous tissue to allow it to remain part of the fellowship of houses; one of the questing knights even weeps, though you all suspect that it was as calculated as anything else the Decados do. In particular, she commends An for his role in leading the group in a way that helped the Known Worlds even though he was theoretically looking out for only Eduardo interests, and the subtleness of her speech means that you might not have even noticed her checking off a list of questing knight virtues unless you expected it in advance.

Finally, Alexius makes his ruling. It is long, and quietly forceful, and carefully builds a precision war against the Jakovians. By the end of the speech there is no doubt that the diplomats in the room are expected to instruct their people to freeze Jakovian assets on all worlds, and submit troops for a direct strike on tactical locations throughout Decados space: a strike that had already been put into motion awaiting the outcome of the day. Further, there is a call for allies in the guilds and Church to pursue the new enemies of the state.

Then it is over, and a few days pass while your roles are worked out. An receives word from Vasili that he plans to join this strike against his tormentors, but the rest of you put off your involvement until you have finished dealing with matters in Hazat space. There is no putting off the Church, however; Martel is expected to report immediately to Pyre to give his report, and you're all strongly encouraged to join him for corroboration. You do receive similarly strong assurances that no harm will come to you on Pyre.

The night before you leave for Pyre, An is quietly knighted by the Emperor after a day of reflection, and you are all instated with Phoenix badges as his cohorts. As you came to Byzantium Secondus, it was as a collection of friends collected through Eduardo patronage and strange circumstance. As you leave, it is as the entourage of a Questing Knight, given leave by the Emperor to investigate and fight injustice throughout the empire