My first official diplomatic ball, and it’s being hosted by the Italians of all folks. I do hope that I don’t cause any incidents. I made sure to visit one of the more renowned tailors in Paris to get my official officers uniform refit as well as ask for a ball costume in the style of an exaggerated naval uniform, I plan to wear a standard Barca mask but with my CDR naval hat.
Of my own contingent, the Ambassador is <u>Lord Richard Lyons, Baron of Lyons</u>. Does exactly what he's told by Her Majesty, even if he disagrees, and does it well. This doesn't prevent him from hoping the French Emperor stays in power (he doesn't think the French can maintain a less authoritarian system), nor, given his distaste for slavery, including slavery by any another name, prevent him from allowing Bertie's faction to operate in Paris due to benign neglect. I have spent some time in private discussion the situation within the Prussian alliance as well as the situation with France, Bayern and Austria. Both he and his fiancé are deliberately wearing non-Venetian style costumes, as a subtle rebuke of Italian tactics, though he will of course be friendly to the Italians, as per instructions from Her Majesty's Government, who wants to drive a wedge between France and "Italy". He wears an American-style dinner jacket (proto-Tuxedo), matching and somber in the American style, with a mask designed to look like a beautiful angel, complete with a clockwork halo.
I have been warned by one of “Berties” folks (I guess that is how I will term them anyways) about the Ambassador’s fiancé; <u>Katherine Howard</u>. Richard's fiance. Vivacious, brown-haired, short, and mildly stout. She's extremely pro-business, and therefore pro Steam Lord, and honestly thinks the poor in factories are getting a good deal. Her father is a minor industrialist, specializing in large-scale springs and clockwork. She is wearing a beautiful crimson and black satin gown and a half mask designed to look somewhat like a devil. She and the other two members of the military attaché contingent; <u>Captain David Burgoyne</u> of the 16th Regiment of the Queen's Dragoons and <u>Second Lieutenant William Burgoyne</u>, David's younger brother are probably working together. David is tall, thin, dark-haired, handsome, well-meaning, flamboyant, and dumb as a rock. At Katherine Howard's insistence, he's wearing his red uniform with a red mask designed to make him look like a goblin. Treats his brother William like a slave. William’s mask and uniform are identical to his brother, but his fair hair and short stature make it easy to distinguish the two, even in costume. He is smarter, more sensible, and more earnest than his brother, who he loves dearly.
The ball is being hosted by <u>Lady Filumena Maria Elianora Gabrielle, Countess of Tortoli</u>. About five-six, somewhat lush figure, chestnut brown hair, bright blue eyes, full, wry mouth; and her husband, <u>Lord Baleri Giovanni Gabrielle, Baron of Vercelli,</u> Ambassador to the court of Emperor Napoleon III of France. About five-eight, somewhat heavyset, thinning dark brown hair, sparkling brown eyes, warm smile. Lord Baleri, or Vanni as his many friends call him (a nickname for Giovanni), is a minor nobleman from the Piedmont who, by virtue of his good nature and good marriage, has landed an important diplomatic position. While he is technically the Ambassador and responsible for pursuing Italy’s agenda, in society he is far outshone by his brilliant, charming, and politically connected wife, who is a niece of King Victor-Emmanuel of Italy, and a cousin to half of the Austrian nobility. It seems to me that she runs the show and he is merely a good natured dilettante, although in actuality (as I had been briefed by my own ambassador) the pair are very well matched, and use their respective strengths in tandem. His good nature and casual warmth makes people confide in him and helps him establish strong, lasting friendships which Filumena uses to their mutual political advantage. Her salons attract the parts of the set that his hunts and lakeside excursions do not, which makes them a formidable pairing. They also are fond of each other, although it was not a love match and both have taken lovers from time to time. From my understanding, the rest of the court is as follows:
The French Court
<u>Anne Debelle, Princesse d’Essling, Grand-Maitresse to Empress Eugenie of France</u>. Princesse Anne is a tall, thin woman with light brown, wavy hair and serious blue eyes. She is the most important of the Empress’s ladies in waiting, and sometimes serves as a proxy for her when attending an event would be awkward or undesirable. This is such an occasion. The “Italians” have invited the Emperor’s lowborn mistress Marguerite Bellenger to their ball. The Empress, of course, cannot be in a room with that woman, but she is still hoping to convince the Sardinian upstarts to give up on their futile quest to conquer the holy city, so Princesse Anne will go in her stead. Anne is a very intelligent, capable woman, but also rather reserved, which means many people find her standoffish. Princess Anne will be wearing a gown in the style of Empress Maria-Theresa of Austria in pale blue and white with a simple blue and white silk domino mask.
<u>Arlecchino</u>. Everyone knows that the Emperor loves to attend these events in “disguise”. On this particular occasion, he’ll be wearing an elaborately patterned black and gold doublet with particolor black and gold pants, boots with long black toes tipped in gold, and a Arlecchino mask. It is well understood in society that when he is in disguise, the Emperor is not there, and that people are expected to behave as such. In practice, this confers all of the dangers of his presence (you still don’t want to offend him, and God forfend he’s injured) but few of its advantages (he takes poorly to attempts to influence him at these times)
<u>Princess Pauline Claudine von Metternich</u>. Ambassadress from the Austrian Empire to the Court of Emperor Napoleon III of France. Around 5’2”, with straight brown hair and sardonic brown eyes. Brilliant, charming, and fearless, Princess Pauline is one of the great forces in Parisian society, and also one of the key threads that binds the Austrio-French alliance together. She is not especially beautiful, but has a great force of personality, and is known for her wit, her taste in art and music, and her awareness of social nuance. Her salons and balls are among the city’s most fashionable (always excepting the Empress’s), and a great deal of diplomacy is accomplished in the elegantly decorated parlors and corridors of her 7th arrondissement town house. Pauline is also more than willing to flout convention, and more able than most to get away with it. She travels frequently, when she is able to get away, and is particularly fond of visiting distant locals. She once challenged another woman to a duel over a music arrangement. She has close relationships with a number of artists, men and women both, and there are rumors that not all of them are platonic. However, whatever is whispered behind closed doors, in the salons of Paris and the halls of the court, Pauline is alway Comme Il Faut. Pauline married at seventeen to a distant relative, but was widowed by the age of twenty-nine, after her husband fell from his horse. – I do say she lives up to her billing, between the few opportunities I had to talk with her she was stunning. She was smart and very quick to catch onto what needed to be done. I also hope we did not draw too much attention, given the delicate political situation.
Other Important Guests
<u>Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace</u> – A solidly built woman in her fifties with intelligent brown eyes that convey a great degree of focus. She’s wearing a volto (full face mask) with precise fibonacci spirals in the place of eyes, and a fine mesh of geometric shapes painted in silver decorating the cheeks and forehead. Her costume is an academic gown from Oxford, worn over a black ballgown. Countess Lovelace is the lead programmer on the analytical engines that control the Verne Cannons. She came here from England when Louis-Napoleon convinced Babbage and Verne to bring him their expertise. Babbage had already been greatly frustrated with England’s lack of interest in his research, so he was more than willing to go, and after separating from her husband after she nearly died of cancer in 1852, Ada had no strong ties to keep her in the country. Upon arriving in France, with the support of the Empress Eugenie, she began the Women Inventor’s League (WIL) an organization to encourage women to engage in scientific and technical fields of study, and particularly to support women in the new field of programming. Her organization now has hundreds of active members spread across Europe, and even a few in the wilds of the United States!
<u>Mistress Marguerite Bellenger</u> – A beautiful, shapely woman in her early thirties with curly brown hair and warm green eyes. She is attending alone. Her costume is a (somewhat) Grecian style white gown with more standard underpinnings in cloth of gold, a Columbina mask in white and gold, and a crown of gold laurel leaves with a stylized golden apple at the front, identifying her as either Helen or Aphrodite. Mistress Bellenger is, in fact, a mistress. Specifically, she is Louis-Napoleon’s mistress. As such, she has significant access to him, and more than a little influence in his court, although of course the Empress’s faction loathes her. She is not especially religious, which is why she has been invited tonight. Since the King of Italy needs to conquer or otherwise claim Rome, thus wresting it away from the Pope, in order to unify his country, he cannot expect a great deal of support from the extremely Catholic Empress. However Bellenger might be more amenable to their cause
One of my missions from the Bertie folks was to keep an eye out for a female Prussian defector; she was a scientists or engineer who wanted out of Prussia and I was to see if I could help her get to Bayern or maybe Austria. I figured out who she was among the Prussian contingent (perception); Dr. Jutte Ludwig; Prussian scientist of applied dimensional studies…requested to escape to Prussia. I spoke with her (courage) and generally figured out where she might want to go. But I would need help. Not too surprisingly, I encountered Mrs. Wharton, an engineer I had the pleasure of meeting at the last Analytic Engine Conference I went to; I knew she at least shared some of my same viewpoints on the modern political situation…what I didn’t know was that she had also talked with Dr. Ludwig and had come to the same conclusion. She knew of a young lady named Fleur who was also gifted in magic and able to open a portal; so a plan was hatched…over dinner and via engineering terms and formulas (education, tinkering, perception, courage). The plan is to during the waltz (social graces) exchange Dr. Ludwig with Mrs. Wharton and a rather interesting dwarf gentleman named Rho. While dancing with Dr. Ludwig and passing her onto Rho in the exchange, with her and Mrs. Wharton trading masks and cloaks; Fleur would open a gate in the library to help Dr. Ludwig escape to the Austrian Embassy. Unbeknown to us dancing, the gate Fleur opens also had the nasty side effect of attracting a swarm of ghost which pours out and proceeds to cause havoc in the library. Of course, no plan ever survives contact and while we thought we were clever, one of the Prussian guards, a nice female had followed Rho and Dr. Ludwig to the library. She saw the gate and the ghosts and Dr. Ludwig step into the gate and she proceeded to fire a round from a derringer which wounded the dwarf. Hearing this commotion and the gunshot, with all pretense dropped, some of us headed to the library to see what happened and to render assistance. Being one of the first there, I saw one of the costumed partygoers helping the dwarf. Fleur looked distracted by all that was happening and the dimensional gate closed as ghosts swarmed about. I saw the Prussian guard regaining consciousness, and I pulled out my new reservoir pen (having both a reservoir of ink and of air) with a twist and a pull of the cap I shot a sopforic needle (marksmanship) into the Prussian guard right in her carotid artery. She quickly collapsed and I took her into my arms to get her into the garden and out of sight. Fleur came with me and rubbed her hands, she mentioned she had an idea and proceeded to cast a spell that wiped the guard’s memory. I was fairly amazed at her abilities and told her so…I also pointed out she may want to go back and assist with the ghosts…I stayed with the Prussian and will try to suggest that she helped foil an anarchist plot. The night is still young and I’m not sure what else is in store.