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V.1.26 (House of Caecilius Iucundus); 4091: Whoever loves, let him flourish. Let him perish who knows not love. Let him perish twice over whoever forbids love.


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"Most Respected Father," began Vyarin, before scratching the address out with his quill. "Mightiest Father" was similarly dismissed, as was "Most Honourable Father." Everything he wanted to say to him was wrong. Everything he could say would draw his ire. He had gone to Annalise, the woman he had intended to court, mewling like a child for her to teach him the ways of the land he was already supposed to know everything about. He still hadn't settled the matter of the match, and he had no more than five days before his uncle would make his presence known here, at a most generous estimate. The eldest princess must have already dismissed him as a candidate for her hand. As he sat on his plush guest bed, his breaths became short as he thought of all the weight of his failures crash upon his shoulders, bringing him to his knees. He collapsed on the ground, not daring to cry, as if his father were standing over him right there in that room.

He didn't even know exactly how he managed to get up onto his feet again. How he managed to get the water heated and poured into the empty bathhouse, washing himself as he would do week after week. It was discipline that was keeping him alive; the routine that had been beaten into his bones like iron ingots. He immersed himself in the searing water, and then his soiled clothes, and scrubbed them both furiously until the water had taken on a slight opacity from the fatty soaps and the grime. He emerged almost restored, if a little damp, ambling half-alive through the halls in a new and more respectable set of clothing, following the noise to where he knew he needed to be; the ballroom.

Colours and patterns whirled around him, on the cloth they wore, on the banners adorning the walls, even upon the tablesheets and hanging from the ceiling. The contents of the room could purchase a city; they spared not a single dusting of gold and grain. It was like a fire of textiles, bursting like Gilthan 'stars-of-light', the marvel of the north immortalized and frozen in place here in the southlands of Astalia. He could not spot the princesses nor their illustrious father among the crowds and the ranks. Though the food upon the table looked tempting, Vyarin doubted it would have been appropriate to sample some. Nobody around him seemed much interested in it; it could have been made of wax and nobody could tell. He shifted uncomfortably in his traditional jacket and boots of his homeland, now appearing downright drab in comparison to his surroundings. He was underdressed, he realized, with a growing horror. He was awkward. They were ogling his height.
Hello all, is there still room in the rp for one more player?
Vyarin nodded along as the Princess Annalise spoke. It seems, to him at least, that the Clan Altera has something of an inborn habit of speaking to themselves aloud. This was no object to him, of course. It was as his grandfather, the late Zarrir the Elder, had said to him once; that who listens has everything to gain from who speaks. Besides, it was far better this way. The less he said, the less he could embarrass himself further with his choppy Astalian. However, a concern tickled at the back of his mind. If the two of them were to marry, as his father desires, would this be their fate forever? For one of them to speak only to themselves, while the other can only play pretend at listening? He shook his head at the thoughts within; this was simply more sign that he needed to master the language, and quickly.

Tangentially, it seems that he was beginning to piece together the sprawling palace in his head now. Certain halls and chambres were even beginning to look familiar. There, that one would lead down to the Court of Roses. There, the adjoining hall that it shares with the Princess Jinayah's armoury. It was amazing how daunting it all seemed in the days before. The more he looked, the smaller the world became. Princess Annalise continued to lead him, or at least he hoped she was, toward a balcony overlooking the sea. The morning sun glittered magnificently over the rolling waves, amid the distant thunder of their striking the earth. Despite the constant struggle of land against water, the scene was peaceful, harmonious even. Nature and fate has a way of piecing together everything and setting them in their rightful place. Vyarin hoped that by following his instinct, he shall arrive there as well.

"Oh." She had asked him a question. He reached up and touched the rag, feeling the ever-present wetness of it. As to what fluid had decided to invade it today, that was perhaps beyond the consideration of even the wisest shamans. "It . . . the hair . . . knife?" No, that sounded wrong. There was simply no way that phrase would translate cleanly from Prozdy or Ellion to Astalian, so he switched to his native language. "In our way, it is not to be spoken of. There was a disagreement between my father and the Prince of Geriozdy, and I settled it for him. In our tongue we call it a 'country haircut,' when speaking between equals." He trusted Annalise was familiar with the euphemism, with how many books she had in front of her when they met. "It is good luck, to settle differences. It is better they be buried forever, instead of left to grow. Clans have and will war against each other, and kill to the last son and daughter if an agreement is not reached. Sometimes the price is an eye." He paused, thinking about his own words. He was not truly ready to say them yet.

"If . . . you like . . ." he began, switching back to Astalian. "You . . . to help me. To teach. I learn your way. The talking Astalian, the . . ." he gestured vaguely around himself. "The all." It was somewhat awkward, and possibly, he conceded, a conflict of interest. He knew as well as she that both daughters and suitors would be under heavy scrutiny, most of all from each other. Though he was loathe to admit, he could not be blind to the truth; all seven of them were looking for ways to undermine him, to limit Prozdy's prestige and thus the balance of power forged by a marriage. Could he truly rely on Annalise's sympathy? He mulled it over, but finally nodded just slight enough that he could feel the weight on his neck shift. Yes, perhaps he could. It was his instinct speaking to him, that pulled him along the path of fate like everything else. He could trust her, at least for now.
Vyarin gave the princess a nod, seemingly calm, but his mind was quickly turning. He didn't want to tell her that he had simply stumbled on her by chance; that simply sounded like a lie. Surely she must have been chased into many a room by some ambitious young prince "in a mere turn of fate." Quickly, he did what he did best and assessed his surroundings. He was beginning to become very skilled at this; who knows, a few more months here in this court and he shall be the greatest observer in the world.

"I am of apologies . . . again. You and me did not the talk very in the night, yes. It is good to meet, though I to know name-you." Slowly, Vyarin was becoming accustomed to the fluid cadence of Astalian. Though it still twisted his tongue in knots, there was no denying that the reputation Astalia had for a land of grace and beauty in all things was not in the slightest unfounded. He pointed at the table. "This is . . . painting? Painting of 'Glila Tharr' land. Land of 'krebo odzar.'" He recalled the letter from his father. Zarrir 'Usurper' did not secure preeminence for their bloodline by making idle accusations. If he says that the Gilthans were threatening an invasion, it was because he knew with near certainty. "Is good. To learn many of the enemy. We men of the Zpina have many story of the krebo odzar. You wish I to say to you? It to assist, possible."
First on the checklist; the letter from his father. Ducking out of the breakfast hall, Vyarin was greeted with the familiar disorientation imposed upon him by the majestic palace of Astalia. Rooms upon rooms, hallways upon hallways, as to what led where he could only guess. Absentmindedly, Vyarin fished a bite of bread from his pockets and took a bite. He hoped this wouldn't be a long morning. The first challenge, he realized, was where exactly he would find a suitable fire. He had no place in a kitchen; that was the domain of skinners and stewards. No doubt he would get chased out like a boy before he could place his vellum message anywhere near where they made their meals. No, that would not do at all. For a guest to intrude upon their host in such a manner, for that is what they were, even the lowly Krebos, is beyond undignified.

His luck finally turned, however, when he stumbled into a common room, with a growing fire as tended to by a muttering servant. When he approached, she took one glance up at him before scurrying away, muttering apologies in Astalian. Vyarin felt a little demoralized that the mere sight of him, or the breadth between their status, had banished her away like an evil spirit against a fetish, but for his purposes it served him well. He fished out the parchment, now covered in crumbs, and tossed it gingerly in the fire. The corners blackened, then curled, crumbling back into insignificant dust. There, his little conspiracy might escape his fool mind or his fool mouth, but never via his father's hand.

It then occurred to him that he heard a noise, the shuffling of documents and the dragging of wood against wood. Was someone planning a campaign? His mind immediately leapt to paranoia, but his reason won out quickly. Nobody knew of the coming armies of Logon. Nonetheless, doubt crept back into his mind and bit down. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to check, just to make absolutely sure. Carefulness, after all, is the highest of duties, among others.

The neighbouring room was much different from its adjacent; it was covered in racks, but rather than holding weapons or shaman's herbs, it was dedicated entirely to scrolls and arranged stacks of parchment so thick it resembled blocks. Immediately a stern aide wearing the colours of Astalia approached him and began either instructing or insulting him, he could not say for certain. When the aide gestured to the scrolls with purpose, he glared up at Vyarin, almost totally unafraid of the difference in their statures. Vyarin admired that; in another life, in another world, this diminutive scrawny man could have been a mighty berserker.

Vyarin's luck was truly with him today, for the source of the noise was none other than Annalise, daughter of Harold. She read quickly, arranging the pages before her with the vigour that came with worry. He almost didn't want to interrupt her.
While the others sitting at the table were occupied in their own conversations, Vyarin began shoving dry little lumps of bread into his pockets. It was a bad habit that he had never quite outgrown; his younger self did at times get into trouble for it. There was nothing that stirred the blood in his hands quite like the backs of them being rapped fiercely by a thin strand of willow, its fibres pulled taut. However, that never seemed to stop him; just make him a better sneak. Besides, one gets used to the sensation. He never regretted not having the occasional nibble of something when he had time to himself, usually sometime between the noon and evening meals. The Astalian bread was so light and airy, it hardly felt like biting into any substance at all. Best to take a few more rolls, just in case.

However, his dastardly heist was cut short by the sudden arrival of one of the absent princes, the well-built figure of greenish hue. Vyarin had no way of telling whether the sudden interloper had seen him, and was simply pretending not to say anything to avoid a scene. He dropped the lump in his hand, it landing with a soft pat on the tablecloth. The other prince ambled to the table and joined the diners there, making sudden conversation. Yes, the ball. Just one more battle in this grand campaign. Vyarin nodded along, slowly getting to his feet and hoping his pockets didn't protrude too much that the others thought something off.

"Excusing, please," Vyarin said, quiet as he could while still feeling like he could be heard. "I am worrying; I come to here with men. They are of me; I not see all of the night. I go to look; they are not to go away." In his mind, he irked at the half-lie. It was true, he was worried about how his loyal men were faring, but there was far more than that. He made a mental checklist of the tasks ahead. He had to destroy the letter from his father, before any of the local eyes and ears made note of it. He had to find a way to dress up in Astalian manner, to appear at the coming gathering. Most importantly, he had to talk with Annalise the eldest, at least to make his name known in person. He left the dining hall, making proper obeisance to their host the king, but not quite knowing if he appreciated the gesture. There was much to be done indeed.
The morning came to greet his fellow heirs as they entered the dining hall in the minutes following. Vyarin watched them, warily, having realized with his father's most recent letter an unfortunate truth. No matter how amiable their spirits, these other princes were to a certain understanding his enemies. They shared a goal with himself, no doubt at the behest of their own fathers. His visit here has become a game he was in no position to win, where the winner was the most articulate, the most charming, the most able to mask their anger and animosity under a veil of smiles and dancing steps. Vyarin was hardly a shaman; he would no nothing about divination of the future via those esoteric methods, of scattering dust in the air or cutting the guts from livestock. Yet, in his future he could see a very real possibility of returning home in disappointment, of suffering a judgement from his father as cruel as those the elder prince-of-princes was known to inflict upon those who failed him sorely. Vyarin was not ready to lose his other eye.

A sigh, his own, broke him out of his thoughts. How irrational he was sometimes. His own father carving out his eye? It boggles the mind. He is scaring himself with mere stories. Relieved, he broke open the bread laid before him and shoved a sizeable portion of it in his mouth. There seemed to be a lack of meats on the table today. Perhaps the people of this land didn't take meat in the mornings. His eyes met those of the man he suddenly realized was sitting before him. Vyarin gave him a nod in kind, but then felt it was insufficient. He should at least speak a little; if nothing else, than for practice.

"Was much joyous, in the night," he said, low and quiet so as not to disturb the rest of the table. "You was great champion, I think. Many cups to drink." He gave the other prince a nervous smile, perhaps a few molars too wide. "A hunter also? I cannot to drink the . . . the grape-water. Err- the 'wine'. Animal I can defeat many. Animal you have in your homeland? Penguin, bear, coatl also?" Alas, Vyarin only knew the Prozdy names for the creatures of the earth.
Dawn broke, and Vyarin lay awake watching the square of sun descend upon his wall. His eye darted about, catching the corners of the chamber, and in his mind he took stock of the matters ahead of him. Yes, the letter from his father. He had just about forgotten, addled as he was by the early morning. Vyarin scrambled to his feet, and winced as he struck the bedside table with his foot. Would the noise have woken anyone? He can apologize to them later. Carefully, he cracked the seal and unfolded the message. It read as follows.

"War threatens to return to the League," the message begins, without introduction or address. "Vyatka Prince of Vadai holds in his dungeon three spies resistant to torture. Suspicions say they come from Gilthan. Grazodon Prince of Perozord also reports raids coming from bandits of particular discipline and equipment. Your marriage has become more important than even before, as our retaliation would require an overwhelming force we do not possess. The heir to Astalia is Annalise of the clan Altera, distinct in her pale face and hair." By sun and moon, what a fool Vyarin had been! He nearly crushed the letter in his hand how frustrated with himself he was. She was the one princess he could not recall conversing with, not through the course of the entire night previous. He read on.

"To ensure our will is made known, I have sent your uncle Tellos Prince of Logon in command of his entire retinue to follow in your travelling path. I trust him to arrange everything goes to our favour. He will arrive in three days." Oh no. This was bad. Vyarin threw the letter on the table and sat down on the bed to think. Though Prozdy held the power, there was no denying Logon's near-comparable might. The two worked closely in their youth, his father and his uncle, expanding the sphere of the clan Kremazov; violently and remorselessly until near half the principalities in the League had some tie of blood to that name. If Tellos was being sent to Astalia, it could only mean that his father meant to declare an ultimatum. Few paths forward now will not end in blood. Quickly, Vyarin had to destroy the message! He crumpled up the letter and stuffed it in a pocket. There must be one firepit in this palace somewhere. Truly, this has become a predicament, having to keep this secret from a host who has thus far been nothing but generous. Vyarin stood up, before awkwardly sitting back down and opening up his phrasebook to review his studies. He can't be making a mistake that could cost Prozdy with his tongue.

Eventually, he made it out of the room and through the labyrinthine halls to arrive in the dining hall, where platters had been laid out for the morning. The princesses were present, as was their father, but he was the first of the suitors. He gave each of them a nod.

"I-Is good day," he said, in thickly accented Astalian. "Is my pleasure . . . to join in this morning."
I applied to this rp 8 months ago. My life has changed too much to join this rp now. Apologies.
"I understand now," Vyarin said, nodding his head. This one had a wit about her, he thought, that she could tell what he needed to know even without him having to ask. Perhaps she was the eldest? Were it so, he would have to get into her good graces now. Continue to nod along now, and be agreeable. Although, now that he considered it, perhaps it said more of his habit than hers. Although he appeared to stroke his chin, it was more like he was touching his face. He was an open book, no doubt about it. She could read his thoughts like a malevolent forest witch from the bard's tales. Though perhaps if he took her to wife, she could teach him how it is done? How delightful it would be to tell one's thoughts from their visage alone! Yet, all was not well, he considered. It was the battle instinct that tugged at the back of his eye in a sharp report. This woman had no interest in his benefit. Yet, he wondered, once the alliance is formed, did that truly matter so much?

So lost in thought was he that he barely caught the tail end of her question. She had a way of speaking, they all did here in Astalia. Bard's speech, it was known at home. It was well of them to accommodate for his language, true, but their perception of Prozdy was simply woefully out of date. He paused, searching his mind. Yes, the question. He remembered now. The truth was, he had grown strangely quickly to adapt. The ebb and flow of the pain was unpredictable, almost as the flow of a conversation. However, he was not about to reveal his suspicions to her.

". . . It is mostly gone," he answered, looking anywhere but in her eyes. "I feel as healthy as before I lost it."

Over time, the revelry wound down. Many cups of rotted grape were eagerly devoured by the seven strangers, so much so that nobody particularly cared to decide between them a 'winner'. Vyarin suspected that was the point. They enjoy it so that any excuse may be made to imbibe. What a peculiar habit of these far-easterners, that what in one hand paralyzes the living mind of a warrior is on the other to their delight. Excuses were made in the late night, and Vyarin was eventually escorted under watchful eye of the castle guardsmen to a chamber set aside for him. His own men were nowhere to be seen, which worried him greatly. Should they not have objected to their prince of princes being escorted by any other than them? His mind instantly went to the worst possibilities. There had to be trouble afoot, he was certain of it. His men knew better than to quarrel; perhaps it was the fault of a local? He wondered this, as his shaman meekly entered his room bearing another missive from his father. He accepted it without a word, and she disappeared as she came. Vyarin set the letter aside; he could just as easily read it tomorrow. Today, there was work to be done. Serious work.

From his satchel, he pulled his phrasebook of all the known realms of Sahas. He had thought he had studied it thoroughly when he had left home. Frustrated, he flipped through the book, sullenly repeating the lines again and again.

"I know this!" he groaned, finding only familiar pages. "I know this for certain!" Tired, he set the book down, and stumbled into the bed, peeling back the old bandages and tossing them on the ground. He dare not think what lie beneath it, as he wrapped a fresh coat of linen about his head. At last, done with the day as far as he was concerned, he lay back and dreamed dreams in Astalian.
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