Lord Starlequin's eyes darkened momentarily at the growing mound of accusations levelled against him, but his expression remained convivial as ever. He drew away from Lady Josietta, looking her over lasciviously and paying her a wink before clearing his throat to garner the rest of the nobility's attention. He finished his wine and gave his most charming smile, then started to speak.
"Honored Ladies and honorable Gentlemen, by all means allow me to put to rest these childish doubts and slanderous speculations against my character. I do not deny my habit of keeping late hours; on the contrary, I admit it proudly, and shall tell you why. The reasons for my seeming disdain for diurnal activity of late are two-fold. Firstly, as I've no doubt at least a few of you are aware, there is a great deal of work involved in running an estate in the service of our venerable king, even one so small and generally inconsequential as that which I have the happy privilege of overseeing. Due to the nature of some of my correspondences with various merchants, farm owners and land-holding officials, I'm afraid several of my requisite conferences demand later hours for the sake of maximized mutual convenience. I'm sure many here can bring yourselves to understand my position.
"The rest of you, perhaps, lack such ardous experience with matters of commerce and adjudication as I have accrued in my humble career; no doubt you have busied yourselves with equally important matters of state instead. For example, I understand Lady Weber occupies her time tending to the, er, 'morale' of the many stablehands and their charges which reside upon her extensive property, while rumors abound that Lady rottenaim has recently been witnessed personally assuming custody of several hundred gallons of bull seed in varying degrees of freshness, reportedly destined for her kitchens, which of course leads one to wonder what other manners of...unusual cuisine in which she might happen to partake. However, while I have every faith that such activities are of critical importance to the operation of those most esteemed properties, I cannot help but wonder if their patrons might not be using their considerable resources and time to less than their best effects.
"And secondly, like many of you I had heard these troubling whispers of vicious beasts and foul nightstalkers for some time now, and have of late taken it upon myself to investigate said rumors on their own ground -- naturally at great personal risk, of course. Perhaps some might think it unwise, even foolhardy or suicidal, but I have spent several long nights searching for evidence of these murderous curs among the wilds surrounding my own estate, and have taken the liberty of investigating some few acres of some of each of your properties as well, my beloved colleagues. Regretfully I have found not a trace of our unnatural enemies, I confess. But thankfully, I understand the king has summoned hunters of these miserable nightmares, and I have every confidence that they will soon root out and dispatch the source of our sorrows."
As Lord Starlequin spoke he wandered through the room, meeting eyes with those who had had grace enough to not yet accuse him unjustly. He could tell there were still a few who doubted his sincerity, and supposed he could hardly blame them. Obviously fear was beginning to take hold in their hearts, but he hoped there was a chance his words might yet sway them back to the side of reason. And if not, he still had one last argument to make.
"I can see there are still a couple among you who don't trust me, and I want you to know I understand your reasoning. 'Why should we trust anyone who spends so much time wandering about after hours,' you're probably wondering. Well, let me ask you this. If I were really in league with these depraved monsters, why would I engage in what could only be considered blatantly suspect behaviors and draw unwarranted attention to myself? Surely these creatures' bloodthirsty designs must command an undeniable need for secrecy, one that would only be compromised by my actions if indeed I were a part of their infernal plot! No my friends, I tell you with all the honesty within my heart, I am as innocent in my humanity as any of you. On this, I give you my word."