Even for Varlyrio it was an unseasonably warm winter's day, and it seemed as if half of Illaryian was in the stands to watch the races. With the queen's call for entertainment, the Supano Amancio had asked all of the finest horse breeders in Varlyrio to prepare their steeds to compete in the largest horse racing event in a generation. Outside the capital in an area of flat land the nobles had put up stands from which to watch the entertainment, which had turned into a competition to show of their wealth and status. Staffen had paid for a grand timber frame to be made in a style celebrating Varlyrian's ancient past, and once the labourers had made the structure safe he arranged for plasterers to come and cover it in stucco and paint it white. Finally, a few artists had come and added some detail to it to help make it stand out. It hadn't been cheap, but there was no mistaking that the Conzaga's had arrived.
Staffen knew that he had to. After the recent attempt to poison his son Bernaldo he had to show his enemies that the Conzaga's would not be bowed by the threats. Bernaldo was his son and, at least nominally, his heir. Staffen had situated him pride of place in the front row of the stand guarded by his own minotaur bodyguard.
"But father, no-one would dare attack us in public like you think! Minos can take the day off and enjoy the races.", said Bernaldo when he was told of the plan. This was typical of his naivety - he had underestimated the ruthlessness of his family's enemies - a mistake Staffen would not make twice. Staffen insisted it was Minos or he stayed inside the manor and Bernaldo reluctantly agreed. After being cooped up for weeks for his own safety Staffen knew his son would leap at the opportunity to get his freedom for the day.
Around the grandiose Conzaga display was simpler timber stands for the ordinary folks. The crowds chattered loudly enjoying the day away from their trades. At the opening ceremony, they cheered for the riders; when they thundered passed they whooped and groaned and money changed hands and back again. But Staffen was not even listening, he had more important matters on his mind.
As part of the queen's push to impress her subjects the Conzaga's had been approached to freely give out their wine to the common folks. When Staffen had objected to this, the envoy had opened a chest and the sparkling contents made him reconsider. There was a queen's ransom in diamonds inside! It was easily enough to pay for every man, woman and child in Historica to forget their woes for the day. While the diamonds were a welcome boost to the Conzaga treasury Staffen's head spun at what to use it for. He could raise an army to muscle out his competitors, bribe spies to find Bernaldo's attacker or build an impressive architectural feat to make him remembered down the ages.
Whatever he decided Staffen knew - this was a good day for the Conzagas.