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2 yrs ago
Current It's a Chuck Palahniuk quotes kinda night.
2 yrs ago
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3 yrs ago
... Something new
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Ahhrrggghhhhh! Can't find a decent game to get immersed in! This place is just making me more grumpy lately...
4 yrs ago
I'm so Fuckin' broken...


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16th day of Anais
Location: Harrows keep townstead.

That stupid fucking child!” Drakus snarled with a pure condescending disgust painted deeply across his face. “I’ll see to it that her misdeeds here sully her houses name forever.

Drakus had been in his fair share of crisis situations and it was only for his knowledge that any conflict with this inexperienced brat would likely only lead to further hinderance than what she was already causing, that prevented him from putting her in her place. He would deal with her later, for now she could play her games and waste their resources.

For bards would soon be singing songs, and story-men spinning their tails of how the brat of house Harlow tried to play adult but only got good men killed. It would stick too because those with a lesson always did and this lesson was why little arrogant children should obey their elders, a story many parents would happily retell.

It didn’t really matter anyway if she was ordering people about since the guards loyalty would likely sway as soon as commands came from someone with the faintest hint of authority and who wasn’t a visiting child. And if for some odd reason they didn’t, Drakus would ensure they were properly punished for it.

He watched as one of her guards already stopped and wasted his time on some menial frivolity and conversation. A growl of frustration resonated deep in his throat as he put every face present in a permanent position in his mind.

Then those of proper training and stature approached him.
Drakus took a moment longer to coordinate the group of guards that heeded him, but in that time he rebuilt their composure, assessed their skillsets, ascertained the location of the hospice, (right under that stupid brats nose) and as he made his way there, formulated and carried out a plan.

If the lord of Solaris cared for the lives of the dead and suffering or not was unclear, but this was a moment of peril and crises. It was a situation requiring leaders and lords to take control and make decisions. It was his responsibility, a puzzle or challenge with action the only path.

Firstly four guards, the most confident riders were sent to locate horses in the near vicinity, two guards who had a light gate got to work assisting around the hospice, guarding it and sending up a pulsing, welcoming beacon above the clearing market place.
Inside the building of science and healing Drakus found it to be in reasonable condition. Lucky for them so too were the two nurses and doctor.
Introductions were kept quick and short, the situation made clear and actions put in place right away.

More than once Drakus’s eyes lingered on one of the nurses who worked with a resilient focus and determination. The other, Drakus sent to the market place to assist and overlook the growing number of injured arriving in the clearing and make the final call on who would be allowed past the light creating guards to be treated in the hospice.

It was then when they left the building that the four horsemen returned, followed by three horses. They were a little spooked and slightly injured but would do.

Drakus found the guard with the largest and most calm horse and clasped his hand on his shoulder before giving his order.
With consultation from our nurse take that beast and ride quickly into the markets and where ever else she advises, your goal is not to stop and help any one individual but help all, by getting and bringing back the supplies that she needs. Make mental note if you wish of any suffering you see but DO NOT stop or delay, the lives of the many rely on you. Others will be on their way to aid behind you and you can always go back with the horse after. I’m counting on you.” And with that he sent him off with a willing aider from the markets.

That left two horses and seven guardsmen. Most of which just had weak force gates, except for one older man with greasy black hair and a crooked smile.

I’m leaving you here to look over things. Use your gate to create what water you can and watch that child, if she interrupts or tries to overrule me again, kill her pony.” the man only nodded and smiled and Drakus realised why he liked him.

You!” Drakus pointed to and singled out one of his young guardsmen, a thin agile looking man who had started to clear some debris. “Take the swiftest horse, you are the messenger. Once again don’t delay. Spread the message of what is happing here. Rally every guardsmen you can find. Seek out any known healers. You go east and I will take the West. Rendezvous with me at the north gate.

That left five men and a horse Drakus had now claimed. A stray guard just happened to pass by while completing tasks set out by young Abigail Harlow. Drakus lashed out and grabbed the man by the arm dragging him into his little circle. In a cold harsh whisper he said.

Listen carefully soldier. I will personally have you demoted and publicly humiliated if you follow one more order from that brat child girl. You are a bloody grown man and this is a crisis! Now go with your brothers, split into two equal groups. Travel in each direction.

He calmed a bit as he spoke to the whole group.

Aid the able so they may assist others, do not waste your time on the damned. Keep moving. Unite others to your cause. Take the paths of noble houses, they are more likely to survive this mana storm and offer further aid to others. Once you have hit the northern gate leave one man behind and return back the way you came, assisting those you could not before.

With that last command, all the men had duties and were off to work. This left only himself. He mounted the horse and looked back, Abigail Harlow was doing an alright job clearing the market place and making temporary accommodation and space for the injured. Pending the state of the other districts, it just might prove useful. Did, did she just smile at him? He gave her a fierce scowl, kicked his horse and galloped off on his way, heading along the west route. While he was looking at the carnage around him as he travelled, something caught his eye in the north. It propelled from the tower and plummeted towards the ground. A human sized bird noticeable against the swirling distraught background that Drakus had deliberately avoided acknowledging or considering. Rendyl.

16th day of Anais
Location: Escaping Harrows Tower, Basement.

‘Well, that wasn’t very exciting.’ Drakus thought to himself after a short moment of staring expectantly at the darkness that had engulfed the monk.
he called out casually as he awaited a reply. Nothing. He shrugged with a dismissive ‘oh well’ and wondered off away from the devouring darkness back towards the pantry.

He was crunching down on a juicy warm apple when two things hit him, the growing stench of the two dead bodies and the realisation that this place needed a fresh air supply. Suddenly and quickly Drakus began searching the walls and roof. It was there just near where he found Jerome that he saw it, near the top corner of the far wall, an air ventilation shaft.

It was subtly disguised by a large stone block filled with many drill holes. In the dark corner you could barely notice it, but Drakus found it. He knew it was there and that behind that holey rock there had to be a larger and clearer path for the air to flow. Just how big, he couldn’t be sure until the cover was out the way. A smirking grin took his face as he welcomed the challenge.

* * *

It was a short time later and Drakus’s blood buzzed with the thrill of spent mana burning through his veins, sweat dripped down his forehead and his body heaved with the weight of his heavy breaths. There was a ringing in his ears that muffled the rest of the world, but it was quickly fading. But oh how he felt alive.
Above him a smoke cloud snaked across the ceiling, dark puffy tendrils reaching out from the now exposed ventilation shaft. Soot and char marks stained the walls around it, shrapnel of cleaning containers lay scattered across the floor and the centre table smouldered in patches around the dead monks. Small embers glowed on their robes, teetering on the swords edge, threatening to either grow and engulf their clothing entirely or simply fade away from existence and die like the monks it danced upon.
Either way Drakus did not care, he had his goal clear before him.

Wiping his brow with a kerchief from his vest, he took the last bite of his apple before casually discarding the core over his shoulder and raising his hand towards the open stone vent.
A wide and proud gate appeared before the shaft. Drakus mused and his grin widened, his mana already fully replenished. Maybe he didn’t want to escape this place after all, what ever was going on it made him feel near invincible.

A strong heavy gust of blazing hot air washed through the vents, clearing the dust and cobwebs, killing all the insects or creepy-crawlers that called it home, and sucked up all the smoke.
Drakus stared proudly and curiously at the now clean empty tunnel.
The mana high he was on made him too enthralled with action that he didn’t really stop to consider the possible consequences of the path that lie ahead, what had transpired here or what he might find. He just moved.

A move he might later regret.

The stone ventilation duct was tight, made for fresh air not men, lucky for Drakus he was not claustrophobic. Even still it proved to test his nerves.
For a start the round tunnel did not favour his rectangular frame. He had to roll his shoulders in and squeeze them together just to fit. Once his arms had a position either in front or behind him there were few opportunities to change that. From every direction the walls pressed in on him.
His body blocked nearly all light, and that tiniest bit that was left did not follow him around the first bend.
He wondered if maybe this was how Jerome felt right now.
The air around him felt thin and tasted stale. The stones in the wall ever so often sat jutting out grabbing at his soft body and he had to twist, wriggle or just drag himself over it.

And then it happened, he threw his arm forward as he had been for the last five minutes, to grab blindly at the floor in the pure darkness that had swallowed him whole. To get some small amount of purchase as he pulled himself forward as he wriggled and kicked his legs.
The five minutes of monotony seemed like forever and it all came to an abrupt end when so to did his path.

Panic hit him as he struck the dead end, again and again. His fingers bruised and his nail folded back and bled. He strained his eyes to try and see but it it made no difference in the pure black. He couldn’t go

But then a sound reached him, ever so faint but unmistakable. A horse. The panic receded on focused breaths and Drakus felt around. Above him, there was an opening above him, but his back did not bend that way.
It took a small amount of painfully slow backtracking before Drakus found the space to roll over. Once on his back, reinvigorated with hope he released a wave of mana into the tunnel around him before he wriggled on with renewed enthusiasm.

Still the bend was tight but after defying some of the bones in his body it felt damn good to be nearly standing. The slight incline and tight space made for a possible if not awkward climb. It was only a short one though. Then he could see it. The reflection of light.

As he manoeuvred around a small bend to a more verticals tunnel, suddenly the air tasted fresher and he could once again see. He was nearly out. Only one thing stood in his way, a heavy grate and old padlock. He made quick work of the lock, eagerly deforming it’s shape till it no longer served its purpose. Then, after getting purchase on the tight walls, he mustered his strength to push off the heavy grating.


As he flopped to the dirt floor Drakus found himself in the shadow of the grand keep. If that’s what it still was, it presented itself as more of an abomination than the portals now did. It was twisted and disjointed, defying gravity in ways no craftsmanship ever could. He looked around confused. The buildings were familiar but all wrong. Broken and misplaced like the stones of the cellar walls, but these were entire houses.

And the death!!!!

It filled the streets. Bodies were strewn everywhere where he looked. Some stumbling around or crying, others not moving.

It. It was just too much to take in. Drakus shook his head confused. None of this made any sense, where was the tower, where did he just come from. What happened to these buildings, what happened to these people. Just what in Anais’s name was going on!
All hell broke lose right after he teleported to the basement...
Did it have something to do with that swirling vortex?

Nearby a young girl on a small horse tried to rally some wayward and lost guardsmen. Drakus stood up and dusted himself off. His fine attire now disheveled, marred with dirt and small tears. He felt like words would not reach these people and considered opting for a display of power, but then again, under these circumstances maybe now was not the time to be opening gates, despite how badly he wanted too.

I command all of you to fall into formation and report before me.” Drakus boomed in his most authoritative voice. This was not his first time taking command of local guards. Perk of the Immolis house.

He started with a simple command. One the guards would have completed a million times before, one their bodies could complete without their minds.

little girl on the horse, you too! I have an important mission for you.

Oooh quite interested in this!

Also for powers thinking he can absorb things into his body and store/manipulate them and later produce them from anywhere else in his body.
Drakus meandered behind most others after the talks. He had brought much paperwork and taken many notes. What ever changes came from today he wanted to be prepared to make the most of them, to be sure Solaris could capitalise on it.

As he came to the teleportation device he mused upon it. Something had been bugging him about the relic, more than just the fact he couldn’t have one.


16th day of Anais
Location: Harrows Tower, Basement?


Drakus awoke suddenly with a sharp groan, disoriented and confused he shot up to his feet as he rapidly blinked away the blinding effects of a bright light still staining his vision. Unbalanced he stumbled for a bit before finding purchase on the nearby wall.

What happened? Where was he?

As the room slowly came into focus, a corridor maybe two meters wide, Drakus realised it was not one he was familiar with. He began to process the odd site when his memory came back and he recalled the last word he had said while standing on the teleportation stone. His own voice echoed in his head.


Despite what had just happened or was still happening, Drakus felt... Great! Heat rose from his body as he burned off excess mana and the room was already starting to warm. He rode the exhilarating feeling that came with it. It just didn’t seem to end. With a clear mind and proper thought, still he didn’t feel balanced, and soon he understood why.

It was not him but the room, the long corridor before him lay on an odd slight incline. It seemed a bizarre design and he couldn’t fathom the reasoning behind it. But that was not all that was out of place. The more he looked upon it the more surreal the room became. Almost dream like. He began to pace up the stone corridor, the soft rug beneath his feet vanishing halfway into the floor. Part of the wall ran parallel to the incline while another part ran at what Drakus believed to be level. The shape and angle of the stone bricks were not consistent either, some shot out with jagged edges reaching for him menacingly.

Iron doors that once ran down the corridor now no longer fit their frames. The first door he passed was no longer a door at all but an oblong hole in the stone, the bottom of the used-to-be doorframe ran through the middle of it while the iron door itself jutted out of the floor in the middle of the room like an iron tombstone.

Worse than the doors or the floor was the teleportation pad he walked away from. Now no longer runes and sigils painted onto a solid surface it was instead an empty black void calling to him. An endless hole of darkness to and from nowhere, a mesmerising powerful vortex both impressive and equally terrifying.

Cautiously Drakus threw a stone into its swirling deep depths but with no sight or sound from it he could only imagine what happened after the darkness consumed it. One thing was for sure, Drakus was not stepping into it. He watched it for a little longer, entranced by the abomination before him, it seemed to suck the very thoughts from his mind.
Shaking free from its grasp he moved on, still ever weary and curious of those pads. Hopefully they were not ruined forever.

While some of the doors were in disarray or non existent others still managed to hold in place just enough to bar the lords entrance into what ever lay behind them.
Those that barred his path quickly became pools of molten iron, the constant flow of mana quickly replenishing his reserves.

So far the contents of the rooms were consistent with what one might expect to find in a basement. Cleaning equipment and tools. Old sheets and spare quilts. After having to climb to enter one such rooms Drakus’s efforts were rewarded with an array of good foods, albeit half of them lay scattered across the floor. He helped himself as he searched the room, sampling the wares as he took some of the well stored salted meats and a satchel of vegetables.

A greater find than that was what must be the guards supply room. It was filled with enough weapons to arm a battalion of men to the teeth they seem to be standard issue sabers, crossbows, and sets of armor.

The last door at the end of the corridor was still perfectly in place, even the sign hanging from it was unaffected. It read.

’Monk Residencies’

He could have opened it normally but with the abundance of mana in the air there was little reason not to do things the fun way. Armed with a loaded crossbow and a small shield, Drakus heated the door to melting point before sending it exploding in and then stepping easily through the hole.

As he enters the residencies, a grim sight confronts him.
Beyond the entry hallway, in a barebone stone gemlit room,
three monks lie lifelessly draped over a wooden table and chairs, all dead. Having either drowned in their own vomit or been overloaded with mana. He checked the bodies but there was nothing he could do.

Beside the dead monks there were multiple doors. Through the contorted doors Drakus could see what must have been the communal sleeping quarters, not that they could be used for that any more.

A soft muttering could be heard nearby, it held a familiar chorus to it. A prayer to Anais. It came from one of the distorted quarters. Drakus, following the sound, quickly made his way to investigate. There on the floor was a monk leaning against the wall. He was maybe thirty five years of age. His dark hair that hung over his face and lack of a pin mark him as one of the newer additions to the Brotherhood.
He rocked ever so slightly as he recited the prayer again and again, seemingly unaware of Drakus’s growing presence. Drakus had seen this behaviour before, in men overwhelmed in combat by loss or injury. He knelt besides the man and joined him in preyer.

When they came to an appropriate ending Drakus interjected with his most calming voice.
Monk, can you tell me what is going on?

"I... I don't know... Colt and Ren were just discussing, and I... I just felt a tremor..."
"And then Dev came in and..."
"I woke up... and they were all..."

The monk muttered never raising his head. Drakus grabs the man by the chin and lifts his face forcing eye contact.
Yes they are dead now, may they find Anais. We on the other hand are not, now I believe you survived to help me, so pull yourself together and let’s find a way out of here. Your duty is not done yet.

Drakus spoke with such confidence his words were a matter-of-fact and he sought to give the monk purpose and importance.

Now what do you know of these teleporters? Is this one still safe?” He asks leading the man back to the only entrance and exit he had soon to this place.
The monk slowly got up and followed Drakus.

"I... I've never seen them like this before."

He again muttered, staring down into the deep portal.

Well what do you know of them!?

"Not much."
"Just how to operate them."

The monk was appearing a little less shaken, but he still refused to meet Drakus's eyes by his own will.
Drakus was growing frustrated and impatient by the monks slow recovery and lack of useful help.
He let an eerie silence fill the room as he stood still staring at the top of the man’s head waiting for his gaze.




Drakus finally spoke, placing a hand on the broken mans shoulder.

Good sir, servant of Anais. What is your name?

“Je, J Jerome.” He softly stuttered under his breath, still never looking up.

Drakus looked down at the poor man, 10 years his better but quivering like a useless weak fool.

There there.” He said leaning in close. Then in a short sharp whisper he spoke directly into his ear.

Jerome, if it’s safe, come back and get me ok, now go with Anais.

With that he pushed the monk into the broken teleportation device.
Now, now the monk looked Drakus dead in the eyes. His own were wide and his face pale, the look of betrayal told all as he disappeared into the darkness.

Leras stood and watched as Elise and Drakus walked away. She had something of a wistful expression on her face, though it was mixed with disapproval. “I never liked him. I didn’t like any of those brats from that house. But it isn’t my place to choose my lady’s friends.” She grimaced. “That’s that. Hopefully I can collect her in one piece, if at all. To the ampitheatre it is, then.”

"Do not call him a brat." Rendyl retorted, stepping up behind Eliona's right shoulder.
"He is more mature than his siblings, and it shows through his actions."

“Yeah, and I’ll bet that you’ve never met either of the other two. Ruel’s mostly lovely, but a complete idiot. Drakus is an arrogant bastard, as you know. Cedric is… I’d prefer it if my lady were to give up on him. They’re all the same if you boil it down a bit.” Leras grumbled. She gestured in the direction of the amphitheatre, taking a few steps towards it. “Come on, then. Let’s go.”

Rendyl used a hand to gently guide Eliona forward to follow Leras, taking care never to touch the woman "Little Ruel was curious about my wings, and Lord Cedric looked ready to tear Lord Drakus apart."

She flicked her wingtips lightly with the memory of the confrontation making her shiver. It was rare to find someone that attempted to put Lord Drakus on the back foot, and even rarer that Drakus allowed them to continue breathing afterward.

“Oh, Ruel’s never seen one of your kind before. Probably wanted to take a good look before he votes not to give you rights. Don’t blame him. Though I’m supposed to be calling him Lord Immolis now, aren’t I?” Leras clicked her tongue. “I’ll never get used to these new names. Solaris, too. What’s that supposed to mean? Oh, I hope Elise never gets married.” She continued, though much quieter, to herself. “Well, if it’s him, she’ll still be Dalris. There’s already a house for that… two more years, isn’t it?”

Abbi listened and bit her tongue. The woman was clearly trying to start a fight. Abbi could see the tension in Rendyls arm and how she stood trying to look non-combative but hand ready to draw her sword. The third participant, Eliona treated this as a non-event. She had told Abbi, “In the art of being a Lady, one must hear others words, listen to what they say and think about why they are saying them, and if they invoke a strong reaction, act like nothing happened.” Abbi’s father would tell her, “Who cares what they say, jerks are jerks.” The problem was that Abbi wanted to like everyone, including the “jerks” and mostly wanted them to like her. She watched with awe as Eliona worked her grace taking everything going on around her. She continued to stand there wanting to defend Rendyl. A caty thought came rushing to her mind about how sad it was that servants these days seem to see themselves as Nobility, expressing their opinions about things that were above their station. The problem was in the proper order of things the guards of the Lords were effectively above her, being their masters fist. She on the other hand was the daughter of a working parents living in a different province. She was under the protection of Lord Drakus. She thought she was a “Miss” and no longer “girl”, The funny thing was that most people just called her Abbi. From the serving girls all the way to Lord Drakus, when he called anything. She did her best to defend Lord Drakus’ honor by not starting a fight even though she thought it would feel good to do so.

Rendyl shook her head slowly at Leras's comments. Of course a human guard would be more interested in politics. All Rendyl really cared about was making sure the select few individuals of House Solaris kept on breathing. However, today she had an opportunity…

"Eliona, I'll be back. Leras, may I impose upon you to take her to see the amphitheater? I don't want my presence to make others uncomfortable…"

Eliona nodded and reached out an arm with a loose hand towards Leras. She spoke with a Lords confidence and command but her words held such a delicate gentle diplomacy that she could probably tell you to go to hell and somehow you would end up looking forward to the trip.

“Perfect, we have much to discuss anyway, and the sooner we all stop squabbling over our own perceived flaws and biases of others we can truly get to the heart of things. Wouldn’t you agree? Now let us be on our way. That ‘arrogant bastard’ as you call him has given me coin enough that all shall enter the amphitheater for free tonight and I have permission to grant scholarship for two of my favoured performers. I would be honoured if you helped me pick.”

Leras took Eliona’s hand a little roughly, but not on purpose. “Right,” she said. “Yeah, sure. I don’t know much about music and the like, so don’t expect too much from me.” With unusual gentleness, she began to lead Eliona down to the amphitheatre. It made her uneasy to spend the rest of the evening away from Elise, but it was too late to go back and find her. So she resigned herself to looking after Eliona, and did what she could to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Abbi did speak before Eliona and Leras left for the amphitheatre, “Miss Eliona, there are a couple errands I need to run, if I may take your leave.”

Abbi shopping

After being dismissed and watching the tension between the armed women, Abbi set her mind on a miniature rebellion of her own. It was a working rebellion that would benefit Solaris in the longer run, but it did show some independence and initiative. So she took the instructions with a big dose of sugar. In her thinking she really did not think that Lord Drakus really cared where they went as long as it was away.
She looked at the maid and the guard then said, “Time to go do a little shopping!” She waited to see if Rendyl was going to come with her. But she was not going to press. She really was trying to play by the rules. But her rule book had a few coffee spills and water stains that made a couple of the pages run.
Abbi looked at them and said, [color=FF007F “First thing, clothes.”[/color] Her maid was excited thinking they were heading towards the high fashion shops that were stocked from around the kingdom waiting for the nobles and their caravans. Her maid’s enthusiasm ran high thinking that Abbi was embracing her position and was going to dress the part. As they turned away from the fine shops to the working part of town where the smelters, miners, and blacksmiths worked and lived. Her maid’s joy changed to concern. She wanted clothing that was going to be sturdy and could be used when she worked on things. Something that could resist acids and bases, take the heat, padded, and strong enough to climb on rock piles. Leather aprons, rubber and leather gloves, as well as padded leather pants and coats. Ugly clothing as her maid called it, but Abbi was worried about function and not fashion. She slid a pair of leather pants and boots on under her dress. She would have changed completely, but decorum being required, she stopped and did not put on a show.
“Next, comes the important stuff,” she said with a smile from ear-to-ear. Geological samples of stones, minerals, and ores for the university. If she could find a geologist that worked with the mines, she might’ve even been able to get a recommendation for good books to use at the university. As she went from stall to stall she examined things closely, always on the look for things of interest or tools. She broke down and bought a couple beautiful imported lace ribbons for her maid’s hair and spices for cooking.
From one of the mining caravans, she also ordered a couple barrels of saltpeter for fertilizers for some gardens she had planned in her mind. She also ordered a couple barrels sulfur to help keep the bugs down in the gardens and to dust her pigeons to keep the mites away. She also checked into getting some larger quartz crystals, they would need to be shipped to her.
When she was looking in the metal merchants stalls, an old man with dark hair that was slightly balding and combed over, called out to her. His ears with slightly round and his eyes were emerald green that were clear. His smile was genuine, though his teeth looked a little sharp. Unlike the other stalls, his stall was a large tent with walls that offered some privacy and was placed near the poorer part of the keep. She did not realize that she had just found a part of the black market.
“Come, come, My lady. Come, Honest John can get what you need and no one will beat my prices,” he called to her and opened the flap to his tent. The servants tried to keep her from entering the tent. But she did, she could not stop herself as curiosity, being one of her downfalls.
“Peppermint tea?” he offered, “Exotic Peppermint, Mentha Ipus from the Beastman’s lands, much richer flavor and smell than what grows here. If you like, I can send some with you.”
She sat down at a small table with exotic rugs on the ground; chests were open showing different items for sale. After some small talk about the weather and where she was from. A servant brought a beautiful tea set with tea cups which he washed in a bowl and dried. Tea was poured, and the steam came from the cups in the chill of the evening air. Honest John said, “I have been told you're looking for tools and metal. Yes?”
“Yes, I am,” she said and took a sip of tea. It was strong and rich. The aroma filled the space.
“Well, I am an agent mind you. I believe I can help locate some equipment from Kothlin, though it may take a few weeks for it to be delivered though, lathes and milling machines. You will need electricity, probably a couple power generators from young.. and different refined metal blanks from Balaur.” He smiled, his spies had been working and he could see he was on the right track as her cheeks flushed.
He pulled out a piece of paper and wrote in a beautiful script, everything was beautiful, the items and then an amount after each. He rolled it and placed it in a scroll tube and then sealed it with wax. “If the hopeful, new Lord, is interested in the deal, reply to me by looking for a messenger runner wearing a red and green tassel on his belt and the message will get to me,” he said.
Abbi finished her tea and set the cup down.
He turned and pulled another bag of tea from the box and handed it to. “You should get back to the keep before it gets dark,” Honest John said in a very paternal tone and showed the party to the door.
When they got back to the keep proper, Abbi’s face was flushed and she felt a little giddy. To put it mildly, she was buzzed like blue bird’s eating late fall Choke Cherries and flying into the window. Her maid got her to her room to sleep it off, but Abbi wanted to go to the ballroom and dance. As the maid was helping her change she commented, “It is amazing how that the dress had managed to stay in place without falling down. That would have been Hooorrrrriiiiffic.” She said giggling as she was placed in the bed and covered with enough quilts to keep her there. Rebecca her maid, kept saying “Yes, Abbi.” like there was nothing going on. Her guard would deliver the tube to Rendyl to give to Lord Drakus. He would whisper an update on what they had done, bought, and the condition of Abbi to Rendyl so she could pass it on. He suspected that Abbi would be having a headache in the morning would get the “you were not safe” talk with her in the morning. He figured that Rendyl would be the one delegated to that task.
Drakus & Elise

15th day of Anais
Late afternoon
Location: Harrows Keep, Markets

A reunion of old friends

Harrow’s Keep was even more beautiful in the evening. The streets were faintly illuminated by the golden light of the dying sun, with the fires from lamps and candles casting a warm glow over the area. Even at this time, many people were still out and about. The atmosphere was more relaxed than it had been in the morning, however, crowded streets and rabid bartering replaced with gentle chit-chat and laughter.

Not everyone spent the evening pleased. No longer having to worry about shoving people out of the way, Leras Grant was dragging her lady through the streets, her sharp voice cutting through the ambient noise.

“You’re more trouble than you’re worth, Eli- my lady! It isn’t difficult to just stay with me. If you wanted to talk to people, just let me be with you,” she snapped. “See, it was fine when we were with the Aureolin boy. There really isn’t any need to run off. What if something had happened to you?”

“I can take care of myself,” Elise whined back.

“And if you couldn’t? The amount of luck that brought you into this world, and you’d let yourself leave it just like that?”

“Oh, Leras. I’ve heard this so many times before. Spare me, will you?”

“You’re nothing short of a miracle, my lady. The first daughter of a lord with a useless gate and a woman with no magic whatsoever - and look at you. Lady Cassandra can’t have more children and Lord Alfonse refuses to have any other women. The second you leave my sight, House Dalris is as good as fallen.”

“I know, I know, I just-”

“Bad people don’t care about what you know.”

Elise pulled Leras to a stop. She huffed. “Is there not anyone else that can babysit me?”

“Do you despise me that much, my lady?”


“You’d do better to treat me well. Stay with me or go back to the tower,” Leras said. Elise just whined.

“If we must.”

It was at this moment someone bumped into Elise, the pair nearly falling over onto each other. Yet even as gravity pulled them down, a gust of wind passed through Elise's hair and across her body in that direction, and the someone that had collided with her was holding on tight.

For Leras, it was a more obvious picture. An avian beastman hadn't been looking where she was going and nearly toppled her Lady over. But they were saved the misfortune of actually hitting the ground by a strong flapping of the Avian's wings, pulling the two back to a standing position. The woman was dressed in a set of armor that looked ready for a play, it was so unique.

"A thousand apologies, miss. Are you alright?" The avian asked as she let go of Elise, though was still ready to catch her if the woman was still unsteady.

“I- Well, I’m quite-” Elise started, eyes darting to Leras as her guard reached for her sword.

A sharp and sudden blow to the back of the leg would crumble Rendyl to her knees, eliciting a high pitched yelp of pain.
Do it properly!
A righteous voice warned, monotone and cold, filled with a silent disappointment and anger for having to correct his servants actions.

The slave nodded and touched her head to the ground, folded over her still stinging knees. "Please forgive this stupid slave, Miss."

It is not a servant’s place to touch a lady without request.
Drakus stood tall and imposing behind the kneeling avian, garbed in his finest noble clothing fit for an appearance of a lord, brandishing an ornate sabre prominently sheathed at his side. While he spoke to Rendyl, his steely eyes were affixed to Leras.

Don't you agree Miss Grant?

Along with Rendyl kneeling before them, Drakus was surrounded by a small entourage of people. Women dressed finely, servants clearly distinguished and another armed guard.

Abbi watched near her maid and guard near the back of the train. She kept her body language still as Rendyl had been teaching her to do. It was not easy as her temper moved almost as quick as her tongue. But her face showed her disgust and anger in its color. The use of pain wasn’t needed, Rendyl would have humiliated herself willingly for her master. Abbi had already been told by Rendyl that Lord Drakus had to treat her rough and that she should not be overly kind to her. She was trying but, like some of the martial combat games, she found them to be plainly barbaric. Abbi’s maid put a hand on her mouth and pulled Abbi’s arm up locking hers with her hand covering the fist Abbi was making. Her guard also aware moved the pair off to the side so they were out of the way since a weapon was drawn.

Leras sheathed her sword once more, blowing a strand of ashy brown hair from her face. She regarded Rendyl with a strange mix of disgust and pity. After a few seconds she had noticed the wings - the mark of an inferior race, yet to see someone of the same position her be treated in such a way was aggravating. She didn’t care to hide her displeasure. “I would think that one of you Immolis brats would-”

Elise cut in as soon as the name of Drakus’s former house came out. “Oh, Drakus, Drakus! What a pleasure!” She stepped in front of Leras, clasping her hands together and looking delighted. Her smile slipped as she glanced down at Rendyl, but quickly reformed as she looked back up at her childhood friend. “Oh, you mustn’t worry about your little birdie, no harm done. No, there are much more important things to think about! Drakus, Drakus. It’s been so long, hasn’t it?” Behind her, Leras stood uneasily. She looked ever so slightly less hostile, though her hand still rested on the hilt of her blade.

Along with the armor, Rendyl also had her shield strapped to her back, though at that moment on her knees with her forehead against the ground, her wings weren't hiding underneath the highly decorated shield.

Drakus smiled and bowed deeply, breathing in and savouring the familiar voice. As he lifted from his bow, he shot a malicious challenging glare at Leras before creating a near inaudible click.
” It truly has my lady, it truly has.

The avian heard the click and quickly got to her feet, sparing a second to wipe her forehead before straightening, ignoring the pains in both her legs and pride. Her eyes remained downcast, and Rendyl stepped backward to fall in behind her Master.

There was a pause and a slow exhale as Drakus stood admiring his old friend, seeing her again for the first time in a long time, features slightly different, adorned in a new dress, yet still the same girl beneath. No woman.
It caused a secret and silent fight against the zone of nostalgic familiarity and comfort that surrounded her. It was one perhaps exclusive to him, that only he experienced, it came from knowing her for many years. Truly knowing her, and knowing that she too knew him, or at least the truest version of himself.
Almost growing up together, they shared much between themselves.
From grand ambitions to dirty little secrets, they shared it all, and not just their own.
Back then things were simple, she was simple. And honest. With him at least anyway. In ways, she was closer to him than his brothers ever were. Sister like, she seemed to understand him better than most.
For this they had an odd sense of honesty. Brutal with their deep truths but not afraid to shy away from superficial lies if it benefitted themselves, but they were also honest about that.

Around her Drakus didn’t have to pretend to be someone he wasn’t. He didn’t have to act or hide. She bore no weight or expectations on him like the rest of the world. They had openly shared their ambitions and pride before each other without judgment. For this, Drakus could let down his guard, relax his towering walls that encased him and remove the many heavy burdensome masks he layered upon his face throughout the day. Finally, for the first time in a long time, he might be able to breathe easily in the presence of another.
Just in the act of nearing her the world became lighter.

And for that his first mask began to slip away, the one that refused to let him have a true smile, the one that limited his expressions to those either serious or spiteful. There were muscles on his face that had been tensed or forced for so long that they forgot how to be in any other state, until now.

Feeling it coming on, yearning for it, Drakus caught the mask and held it in place for one moment more, waving a hand he spoke. “Now leave us!” He commanded, looking around to all that were not lords... even Rendyl.

Miss Grant needs an escort back to the tower and Lady Eliona could use some company to the amphitheater.” he commanded, almost letting his servants and followers decide their own fates, almost, all whilst his eyes never left Elise.

“Oh, you’re dramatic as ever,” Elise said. She waved her hand at Leras. “Very well, then! Off you go, Leras.”

Leras pulled out her blade ever so slightly, gritting her teeth. She released the hilt and walked up to Elise, staring at Drakus with narrowed eyes. “I won’t allow it, Elise,” she muttered to the taller woman. “I don’t like the look of this one.”

“Drakus is perfectly trustworthy! Honestly, you’re so stiff. Why don’t you go and enjoy yourself? If I recall… you wanted to go to that amphitheatre, didn’t you? The markets, too.” Elise replied, at full volume.

Leras flushed. “How did you-”

“Oh, you mentioned it on the way here,” Elise said, smiling angelically. “Run along now. I’ll even pay you back for anything you buy along the way if you’re quick.” Leras grimaced, though there was a hint of a smile too. As insufferable as her airheaded lady could be, she didn’t dislike Elise at all. They argued frequently, but it was all in good spirit. That was just how their relationship was. Underneath all of that was a mutual understanding and respect. Well, that was how she felt about it at the very least.

“Well, then,” Leras said, clearing her throat. “I’ll be going. I will accompany your Lady… Eliona, if you would like me to. Of course, Lord Immolis, if you’d rather I didn’t, I would happily go on my own.”

"Lord Solaris. Of House Solaris." Rendyl spoke up firmly, seemingly defying her station once again. This did not seem to trouble her lord, instead a slight proud smirk tugged at the corner of his lips. Rendyl was stationed right behind him, That is, up until the moment he stepped away towards his old friend. It clearly didn’t sit well with her to be without a shoulder to stand at, and so she moved over to attend Lady Eliona.

Lady Eliona graciously accepted all aid with a pleasant soft smile and thankful nod. Her murky eyes moving emptily to the direction of the body behind each voice or touch.

The streets are no place for nobility to mingle. We should find some place more suited to continue our conversation.” he suggested. Eyeing off a young dirty child hugging and peering around a corner wall.

“They’re quite pleasant if you ignore all of the dirt, you’ll find,” Elise laughed. “But very well. I’ve heard there’s a wonderful cafe near here. My treat, of course. I take it you’re hungry? I have eaten already, but I’d fancy a little more.”

A cafe?” He questioned. “How… quaint, I guess I could sample some of the local delicacies. Very well, please allow me to escort you my lady.

Drakus offered Elise the crook of his elbow. Upon her touch, her close proximity, her presence and aroma he felt his second mask begin to tremble, threatening to fall away. It was the mask of walls, the one that held his constant rigid posture and cold demeanour, the one that scoffed at affection and held compassion at bay always screaming ‘weakness’ at it. This ghost from his past was causing cracks in his armour, and he wasn’t yet sure how he felt about it.

Elise gave one last wave to Leras before she took Drakus’s arm. “It’s just a few minutes from here. Thank the goddess, I couldn’t bear these shoes any longer.” Indeed, her heels that only added to her height looked very uncomfortable. She sounded less enthusiastic, but really, she was just feeling more relaxed. “Ah, it doesn’t matter. I trust you’ve been well?”

Well?” Drakus let out a half chuckle half scoff at the notion. At only a few steps with this woman he was already starting to relax.
He looked to the sky as he contemplated his words. Preparing for an old game they used to play of truths and lies.

I have made a living free creature into a slave and kept them against their will.

I publicly executed a religious man under the guise of a fair competition when their was none. I simply wished to silence him.

I not only knew that a man was plotting against my wishes but I aided him to do so and he still lives.

I have in my employ a servant who’s parents death was by my own fault, a fact they are not aware of.

There has been two attempts on my life and I am still unsure of by whom.

His words lacked the usual ployful and playful tones of trickery he used to use. It was flat and empty, each statement sounding the same as the one before it. His new strategy making it sound more like a confession.

“Oh, none of those are particularly pleasant,” Elise whined. “Still, that’s what makes it more fun, isn’t it? Nothing has ever been both bland and interesting. Anyway, where were we? Attempts on your life, that’s plausible, isn’t it? Happens much more than one would think. That’s why I have Leras around. So yes, I’d say that was true. If not, then just give it a few years.”

Was that a threat?” He asked with a smile as he gave her a playful nudge, shaking off the seriousness of the matter. Elise hit his shoulder lightly.

Go on.

Elise hummed in contemplation. “A servant, hmm? You do seem to have all sorts around you. Ah, I’d call that one true as well. You don’t seem the murderous type, though. An indirect cause, I’ll say.” She smirked. “Unless there’s a part of you I have yet to see. My, my! How rude, hiding from your dear Elise.”

Had it been anyone else to assume him ‘not the murderous type’ Drakus would be tempted to prove them wrong on the spot, but coming from Elise, it made him feel. Good. He simply gave her a soft musing “Mhmm” and allowed her to continue.
His steady steps perfectly timed with hers, his eyes appreciating what they could of the streets they passed.

“A plot against you… also likely. Ah, I don’t know enough about this one. Maybe if I had gotten the chance to look through the archives beforehand. I’ll call it false, simply because I’d rather there be no one to oppose you.” She rolled her eyes. “Then the execution.” Elise paused for a minute. “False,” she decided, though she sounded unsure.

Drakus only sighed as his eyes fell to the floor. In a whisper he spoke.

I grow so tired of fighting for that which should already be mine. his voice took a dark turn as a tired anger and frustration infiltrated his final words.

There was something liberating in sharing with this old friend of his. Something almost magical in releasing words and thoughts that had been bound for so long to only him. The realisation swept over him on his next inhale and the mask that covered all his insecurities, worries and need for companionship nearly crumbled to the floor, untill…. he remembered something.

Elise, it truly has been too long.
He said formally, his body shifting as he stood taller, retaking his firm posture and beginning again to move with rigid proper steps.
I do believe it was at my fathers funeral, and even then it was only in passing.

Why, even during your more visit to Immolis you couldn’t find the time to visit. If I at all thought I could still read through your lies I might question where your loyalties lay.

Elise flinched, her posture stiffening. “Loyalties… those are to House Dalris, Drakus. The people who I associate myself with have nothing to do with that, nor our relationship. Ced-Cedric and Ruel are as much my friends as you are. I hope you can find it in you to respect that.” She looked down at the floor. “Though I do confess, I haven’t been making much time for you. Maybe you could come around next week for… nevermind. I will try and clear my schedule sometime soon for you.”

Drakus simply frowned, not content with her answer. It was a logical response. Elise did not have to choose one or the other, especially when doing so would potentially alienate her house from the other. Still, reason aside it left him uncomfortable, although nothing else she could have said would have turned out any better.
“[/color=goldenrod]You can’t toe the line for ever.[/color]”
He grumbled, relaxing slightly but not as much as before.

“[/color=goldenrod]So then, how have you been? What plots for power will your house be bringing to the table tomorrow? [/color]” he asked.

“Dalris may not have too much to show militarily, but we are still a very powerful house. We have no one to please. Why, it’s others that should be trying to get in our good books. So, we’ll be voting in our own self interest. As you may expect.”

As they continued to walk and talk they soon turned a corner. Drakus lead the way despite not knowing the path. Once around the wall Drakus quickly moved towards it as he released Elise’s hand and lifted a finger up to his lips, giving her the universal ‘shh’ motion.

There was a moment of silence and then as if on cue the sound of soft hurried footsteps approaching.

“Hmm? Drakus, what is it?” Elise asked. She didn’t whisper, speaking at the same volume she normally did. Sometimes it wasn’t clear whether she knew how to.

The goat who thinks he’s at the top stops climbing.” Drakus said in a single exhale as he lept around the corner. Elise’s voice had caused the coming footsteps to pause but Drakus wasn’t about to let them get away. His hands found purchase on a ragged dirty collar, with ease he lifted the thin dirty child off the floor as the child squirmed around mid air, wide eyed and with panic.

So what should we do with this rat sneaking around after us?” Drakus asked Elise, never taking his eyes off the frail street rat. She took a look at the child.

“Oh, you can’t expect much from the rabble. For every child that steals, there are ten more in hiding. Ah, Leras tells me often that I need to be nicer to common folk. In that case… well, it would do us no harm to let it run away.” She gave a pointed look to where Drakus was holding the child. “You’d better put it down too, lest you get some filthy disease.”

Stemia’s heart must have fallen from the stars and stuck you in the chest. Drakus said with lighthearted sarcasm to Elise. He pulled the child in close and whispered something in his ear that caused his eyes to grow wide. After that he placed him on the floor and shoved him on his way before dusting his now free hands in slight disgust.

Drakus had a hundred quotes on lawlessness at the ready, stored within the back of his mind, deeply ingrained into his very being through repetitious chants, mantras and house brainwashing, but that was not him anymore and he pushed the thoughts away.

Sorry for the disturbance M’lady. Shall we?
He offered his arm once again so they could continue their journey.

Elise took it. “Oh, sometimes I forget how repulsive commoners can be. I had spent so much time inside that it had slipped my mind. Well, I… ah, nevermind.”

Come on, don’t be so secretive with me. You have told me little of how you have been and what you have been up to.

“Just the usual,” she groaned. “You know how House Dalris is. It’s work, work, work. I’m sorry I haven’t been to see you, Drakus. I haven’t left the estate in months. I’m glad I can get some fresh air now.” She paused to take a deep breath in. “I don’t even remember the last time my father said anything to me that wasn’t an order. But I’m being looked after, so it’s alright. I’m here now, at the very least.” She turned to look at Drakus with a smile. “Let’s see if I can get out of paperwork to pay you a proper visit sometime.”

Drakus slightly tensed at the mention of fathers but nodded approvingly at her offer. “I’ll have someone fetch you by wyvern, or I suppose I could come myself. ” He said with a smile.
Solaris has become an amazing place, I really would love for you to come see it.
What he really wanted her to see and understand was his vision for integrated magic and technology, for her to understand his plan and realise his brothers and father were all wrong.
But now was not the time for such heavy topics.

“Before the end of the year, I’ll come, okay? Oh, I’ll make sure I check the archives before I go. Plenty of juicy stuff in there to talk about.”

What rumours have you heard as of late?

“Oh, people have been saying that Pachel’s got a mistress on the side. Honestly, I don’t know why it’s worth talking about. Of course he does! Why, it’s just a matter of who. There’s that one general who he’s close with, but I don’t see it…”

Is that all you have? Old news and loose ends? Unless you can give me something better my dear, I may fear you’re falling out of touch.

Elise frowned. “Well, if you want to know why Eric Granis broke up with Hallie on Lover’s Day, I can tell you that. There’s also a very particular member of the Holy Knights who they’ve been trying to sweep under the rug as of late. Oh, what else… I heard Idella’s sister got a boyfriend.”

Now Drakus seemed more impressed, impressed yes but not surprised. This lead to a moment he had been steering towards. He reached into his coat and drew out an unmarked envelope sealed with unmarked wax and handed it over to Elise.

Once you open it read quick and ignore the first paragraph. There are certain ‘benefits’ to having a guild or group of bards in most towns.” He smiled proudly.

Elise slipped her arm out of Drakus’s, daintily taking the envelope. She looked at it with a furrowed brow, opening it with care. “Hmm? What is this, anyway?” She quickly scanned over it, her eyes soon widening as she went through it over and over. Soon, she was done, and passed it back to Drakus. She may as well have handed him a blank piece of paper, because the ink had soon faded.

“Oh my, oh my. How interesting,” she muttered. “We used to have such things in Dalris. I’m not quite sure what happened to them.”

Drakus took the paper and folded it until it fit in the palm of his hand, when he released his fingers it was gone and replaced with ash that fluttered away in the breeze.

Even with all the ears and eyes out there I still can’t learn why father chose Ruel.

Drakus paused and looked to Elise, waiting.
“The late Lord Immolis was… a character, I will say,” she sighed. “However, we must accept his decision and move on. Drakus… I know how you must feel, but little Ruel is doing as fine a job as he can. You have House Solaris now. Isn’t it time to move past this petty conflict?”

I don’t have it yet.” He reminded her. Tomorrow would be the first time he presented himself as head of a new house before all the other Lords and the queen.

And If I’m to accept his wishes then the only options left to acquire more land and control is through conquest or marriage…
Drakus mused playfully for a moment.
Do you suppose the queen is looking for a new suitor?

Elise laughed. [color=d8cfbe]“Oh, older women are more to your taste? House Dalris shall treasure this fact, Drakus. Though it’s not as if the queen does much these days. She’s a figurehead of the church, nothing more. Marrying for power - Verity Seler would be quite a good choice on that front, wouldn’t she? A few years older than you, but we’ve established that isn’t a problem.”[color] She grinned wickedly. “If only she were less bland.”

Oh!” Drakus fake gasped, bringing a hand to his chest and wearing a shocked expression. “I’m insulted that you’d even suggest that I’d marry for anything other than love.
Then a wicked smile slowly crawled across his face, “I just so happen to be in love with power.

He pondered for a moment.
Verity Seler.” he tasted the name and looked to the sky for memories and information.
Met her brother once, still owe him for that black eye.
All I did was raise the correlation between his hair colour and that of the northern whores and he got quite upset and quite quickly.

But yes, I do believe she posses an appropriate favour and gate type to compliment my own gifts. For Solaris to last into the future and truly be my legacy I need to think carefully about heirs. And soon.

“Heirs, heirs,” Elise hummed. “I’m one myself, yet now I have to think of my own. Father was lucky to have me, but I can’t go around picking up a partner with no gate whatsoever like he did. Oh, I wonder if a weak one would be alright. Truly, it is a hassle.”[/color]

She winked at Drakus. “But if you’d like me to set you up with Miss Seler, I’ll do what I can. She doesn’t have the same temper as her brother. Plenty of other women in the sea, too! Why, you could go for dinner with whoever you please. There’s the other Seler girls, though some of them are a bit too young I would say, Pri… Prina Granis, lovely girl - though Eric can be rather overbearing - then the Teglo one. Oh, Rie is simply awful to be around. Such a diva, really. You could do so much better. Croan has some ladies as well, but they’re so stuck up! They think that they’re superior to everyone else, even when it was very, very obvious that poor Rae is just wearing hand me downs. You see, the dress she had on the last time I saw her was the very same one that Katarina had worn the year before! You know, it’s a disgrace-”

Elise coughed, flushing slightly. “You understand what I mean.”

She was speaking and had his interest with every word, but emotions and thoughts tugged on his attention. He held an honest smile as he watched her gossip, it was… it was so normal. It had been so long since he had spoken with anyone like this, it felt like a taste of what could have been, conversing on small frivolities like the old days. He reminded himself it was only because she did not know of the things he had done, of what he had become. Such simple pleasantries, planning of heirs and happiness were not for his type, it was not for monsters in masks.

I hope you get free of your fathers influence and find a good man.” Drakus interrupted with a sudden strange open honesty.
Although just make sure he’s got more brain than looks, we both know you have it the other way. he teased with a playful smile, giving her an underhanded compliment.

But of course this meeting is not all about pleasantries or that Croan has more children than money, there is business to discuss.

Drakus handed her a second envelope.

I know every house wants favour with Immolis but I can be a powerful ally too. Consider these two notes gifts in good faith of what we can offer.

The second letter was not sealed but it bore the variation of an Immolis seal on it, the Solaris emblem.
It was detailed instructions to all bard guilds of new songs to sing, stories to tell, what variations to make and what focus to put where.
Curiously it revolved around seafood.
It’s presence and appearance became a focus in plays, mention of hero’s snacking on it and good fruit-of-the-earth people eating it for health while nobles gorged on it’s delicacy.

Furthermore it was dated from eight months ago. There was a hint of proud excited confidence in his eyes. The fruition of their games so many years ago played out on the grandest scale of all. He knew of the recent and unexpected increase of demand and profit in seafood. Stonge, he was responsible for it.

“House Solaris, hmm,” Elise murmured. She glanced over the letter before putting it away - well, trying to. She didn’t have any pockets so she opted to hold onto it for the time being. “I do like seafood… why, I had some earlier. I’ll pass this along to my father, if you’d like that.”

Drakus paused and looked at her for a moment of confused disbelief. He expected her to be more elated than this. The numbers may not have been huge but it was noticeable and his guilds were still forming, besides, any advantage was an advantage.

This new tactic was not one he wanted to reveal to too many people, his power to influence public opinion and spending, now he feared that he had shared it with the wrong one. Had his friendship with her overrides reason.

I was hoping to deal with you directly but if you are not interested, I can find another house to ally with.

“Well, it’s not as if I’m not interested. I just… is there not anything else we could discuss?”

Elise, I’m going to need help tomorrow. My entire future falls on that meeting. I have no one at my side. I would love nothing more than to talk to you of those rumours and the latest fashion but it will all mean nothing if…

Drakus sighed, realising the intensity he was speaking to her with. It was pathetic. He was only happy his father was dead and could never hear of it. He broke the deep eye contact he had created and lifted his chin to the air and regained his composure.

He was of the blessed mage queens blood. Fear and insecurity held no place in such people’s heart. He was destined for greatness. He could not hold doubt or show weakness like that, not to Elise, not to anyone. He pulled his emotions back in with a deep inhale and continued speaking.

Never mind, oh look, isn’t that the cafe over there? Oh speaking of seafood I heard that a single prawn nearly killed lady Oxsollus last month. She couldn’t breath and became overcome by a rash.

Elise’s eyes went through a few emotions, all of them unclear, while her face maintained her bright smile. Eventually, her eyes settled to be happy too. “Oh, that woman! Yes, they had a murder investigation because they believed she had been poisoned, but eventually they concluded that she was just that much of a fool. I haven’t told you about the knight, have I? The entirety of House Croan must be as stupid as their daughters are, because they…”

Elise continued chattering, rolling off pointless gossip effortlessly. She accentuated her stories with wild hand gestures. She looked genuinely excited about it - to be talking about such useless things with her dear friend. Politics just weren’t for everyone.

Drakus used all the skills of every method actor he had ever met and did his best to summon the essence and enthusiasm of his younger self. The conversations were exciting as they were long. The two swapped stories and laughs deep into the night forcing the owner to stay open longer than usual. All was joyous but hidden deep down inside the Immolis child felt empty and hollow.

He gave her that night, he gave her the best of himself, of who he used to be. He gave her a night that he should have been using to do something productive. He gave her all he could give her, for childhood sake, he gave her his last ounce of generosity,
Drakus & Rendyl

15th day of Anais
1 day before the talks
Location: Reason - Harrows Tower, Gardens

A meeting of siblings

In the light of the afternoon, Cedric and Ruel Immolis were in the garden. A little strange, since it would be expected that the two wouldn’t waste any time in preparing for the talks. The garden itself was massive. It was well maintained by those who lived in the tower, and it contained beautiful plants from all around the world in all different colours. There were even some plants that for some reason, could only grow there. It was a breathtaking sight. The two of them had been slowly making their way around, stopping every so often to chat. At that time, Cedric was kneeling on the ground as his brother listened attentively.

“...And then these are mementatoes. You can tell because of the colour, and then the leaves are-” Cedric was saying.

"That’s a really stupid name,”Ruel cut in.

“You can call them fauxracics if you want.”

“That’s an even stupider name. If there’s fauxracics, where’s real-racics?”

Cedric swatted at his brother. “Shut up, Ruel. You’d know this if your ever paid attention in tutoring.”

“You didn’t either!”

“Yes, but I paid attention to mementatoes and used them on my exams. I was deaf for a week straight, though...”

“No dignity, Ced. Isn’t that... illegal?”

“Well, yeah, but-”

“You broke the law! You’re a criminal! I’m telling Dad!” Ruel jeered.

“Shut the fuck up, Ruel. He’s dead,” Cedric said, standing up with a scowl.

The beauty of the gardens lent to its own aura of soft tranquillity and serenity, even the wind only dare whisper gently in this space. There was however those who did not respect or observe its natural magic and charm.

The flower in Cedric’s hand began to wilt and shrivel. In an instant it’s once proud flourishing beauty faded away. One after another it’s petals fell gently to the floor. Drained of all life and color there was nothing left for it. Having been bombarded and violently assaulted by an invisible heat source it simply curled up, all dried out, and died.

“The leaves are bipartite with a fine tooth edge, and unique persistent bud-scale stipules.” An arrogant voice affirmed, detailing how to identify the fauxracics.

It was only after the callous condescending words did the nearing footsteps become apparent, clacking repetitively across the cobblestone path that paved its way through the majestic garden. Each echoing step a force contending with the magical peace of the garden. Threatening and fighting the soft aura of tranquility.

“And they really don’t like the heat.” He added smugly.

With Rendyl in tow close behind him, Drakus strode with heavy steps towards his brothers, spite strewn across his smirking face and malice filling the air around him.
While his little trick was executed with a seemingly effortless ease, for those less accustomed or gifted in the art, it had been compared as the magical equivalent to pushing a potato through a strainer with your face. To keep the gate invisible, he had opened multiple weak and faint connections. This therefore required A LOT more force and flow to produce the same heat. To top it all off and do so without any motion or concentration was just a blatant display of his aptitude and mastery, something he often liked to remind Cedric of.

“And I didn’t even have to encourage illegal trade, consort with a peddler or cheat to know this.” He added slyly with his wide, taunting, smug smile. Continuing the conversation and bating his older brother.

He created a tense pause, prolonging the gap between words as his eyes ran over those he had not seen in many months. He did little to hide the myriad of emotions they caused, but mostly he just looked down upon them like they were a mere inconvenience.

“Father was a senile old fool.” He eventually added. His focus fell completely and disapprovingly over Ruel.
“Clearly evident by his later choices.”

Drakus turned to admire the flower patch beside him, sifting a hand through the many flourishing buds, he spoke back without turning.
“But Cedric is right. He is dead. It’s up to you now to make the decisions, ‘little brother’. Let’s start with the confession of guilt you just received, a liar and cheat stands beside you. A ‘criminal’ in your own words. What do you do? What is the just and final decision of the lord of Immolis?”

The look on Cedric’s face was sour. That was all there was to it. There was no other way to describe the sheer displeasure he gave to Drakus the instant he had opened his mouth. His hand instinctively reached for the whip at his side - one that cut through virtually anything, a gift from a foolish father to the weakest son. The jerk made the Akeshan perk up slightly, but little else. Ruel also didn’t seem too happy, but there was more to it. His laughing faded almost instantly.

“Don’t talk to my brother like that,” Cedric hissed, dropping the wilted flower and then stamping on it. “Besides, I still failed, so it doesn’t matter, does it? No, I think the real criminal is the bastard who can’t stand being worse than anyone else. You narcissistic bastard, I had better-”

Drakus hated that whip, he hated its touch, he hated the way his brother could wield it but most of all, he hated how it was a gift from his father. Quickly blinking the gate from his eyes he just chuckled, “My my, so full of confessions today, so you’re a cheat and an idiot.”

Ruel tugged on Cedric’s arm. “Ced, don’t.” His voice was soft. “Let’s just go, an’ find Ellie or something…” His eyes drifted to one of the many entrances, very much wanting to leave.

Cedric shrugged him off. “Two years,” he continued. “Two years since you’ve left. And everything is fine. We don’t need you. Fuck, we don’t even want you anymore. You’ve had your shot. You should just give up while you’re ahead.” He walked up to Drakus, staring him right in the eye. He wasn’t the tallest but he was still in full armour. “There isn’t room for a fifteenth house here. Try Ashket, and come back later.” Ruel slowly walked up to where the two were, but still stood a little further back.

Rendyl bristled slightly at the insult, but her blank expression was now lost, replaced by a similar expression of contempt for this man.

Drakus only leaned further in to meet his brothers stare, matching him eye to eye, looking down at his older sibling, unflinching, unwavering. “Anymore?” He questioned with a dirty scowl. It was well known amongst them that Drakus hadn’t felt like a ‘wanted’ part of the family for a long time, if ever.
“You may not want or need me but your precious Immolis does, Croania does.” His smile screamed with all the self belief he held for that idea. It was clear that to Drakus it was more than just an ideal, it was part of who he was.

“But you are right.” He said calmly, stepping back. “15 houses is too many.” And with that, everything seemed to de-escalate even though, somehow, in a way only he could, Drakus made those cold words sound like a final threat. His Askeshan bodyguard felt the tension decrease, yet she took a very slow step to the right out of his shadow.

“Immolis doesn’t give a shit about you playing house,” Cedric said. “You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who does. But that’ll just go in one ear and out the other, won’t it?” Ruel stood ever so slightly behind Cedric, just watching. It seemed that he had noticed Rendyl once she had moved and was regarding her with curiosity. He knew what beastmen were, and had been told all about their inferiority, but he’d never seen one in real life.

Actually, her wings were pretty cool, weren’t they?

Cedric continued. “Don’t you dare lay a finger on Ruel, you hear me? I couldn’t care less about what your pathetic lot get up to, but you even think about threatening my brother again and I’ll have your head, laws be damned.”

The wings Ruel noticed were unfurling slowly, stretching out above and behind her almost lazily while Rendyl held her ground, standing with a semi-relaxed posture. Those feathery appendages came back down to rest close together behind her shoulders.

“Ruel!” Drakus snapped, drawing his attention away from Rendyl. “Remember Bower, and what happened when he bit the blacksmith’s boy?.. keep your pets on a leash less you want to have to put them down.
And should you wish to discuss relinquishing your title to lordship prior tomorrow’s meeting, I think I’ll be exploring the town.”

Drakus was about to turn away when he stopped to stare at Cedric once again,
“Oh and I would never personally hurt my younger brother.” He hissed at him through a daring smile.

Rendyl had yet to make any sort of sound throughout the exchange between Lords, and the mention of controlling pets, she flicked her wingtips and pulled them in slightly, but didn't step back into Drakus's shadow. It was plain she meant for her presence to be known despite her species.

Cedric blinked. His scowl deepened. “Alright then, I’m killing the bastard,” he muttered to Ruel, taking a step forward, and Rendyl mirrored the action aggressively.

“That’s it!” Drakus said egging him on.

“Ruel, let him do it! Right here, right now, in this garden.” Drakus dramatically announced evoking all the flair and loud boisterous confidence of his many stage actors from the theatre. As he flung his arms out wide he continued “Let him open up his connection to Anais, let him bare his gifted gate before me, it’s what I deserve, a light refreshing sprinkle!”

Unable to keep up the overdramatic charade any longer, Drakus folded over in laughter. Clearly amused by his own antics and clearly putting it on a little for extra effect. His slave guard stopped beside Drakus, eyes locked onto the pair of Lords threatening her Master.

“No, no, no,” Ruel whined, desperately trying to pull him back. It wasn’t his strength that won out in the end, but Cedric still stopped. “C’mon, let him do what he wants. Ced, I wanna look at the flowers again.“

“Not anymore, Rue,” Cedric replied, his voice considerably softer than before. “You’ve got to prepare for the talks. And finish up the paperwork from… last month, was it? On Anais, I swear you’re useless.”

Ruel spared a worried glance up at Drakus. “Not useless.”

“No little brother.” Drakus agreed. Still wearing the grin at his brothers expense. “Everyone and thing has a use, no one is useless, you’re just not ‘suited’.” he said assuredly.

“You and even Cedric would have a place under my lordship, one where you would have far less paperwork and could play as much as you like. Think about it.
But if you wish to carry on with this charade, if the vote comes, do not invite war onto ‘our’ people. Bad things happen to good people during war.”

And with that warning he turned his head to walk away, Rendyl keeping her Lord's brothers in sight as she slowly turned to follow.

Ruel and Cedric were silent. The latter looked as if he wanted to say something, but he restrained himself. Ruel stared at the floor, screwing something into the ground with his foot.

“I’m Lord Immolis,” he mumbled, mainly to himself. He dropped something onto the floor - more crushed up and frozen flower petals to join the others, stamping and shattering them. “I’m Lord Immolis. Not Ced, not Drakus. It’s me. So…”

Cedric patted him on the back, turning him away from Drakus with a dark look on his face. “While House Immolis still stands, I swear to you that father made the right choice,” he said, but he didn’t sound entirely convinced. Not a single Immolis had come out of the succession announcement feeling pleased. Even two years later, it still seemed that way.

At least Cedric had the decency to pretend he was fine with it.

Drakus caught Rendyl’s eyes as he turned and began to walk away, and she would see what no one else could see. For all that sly, cocky, smugness, the abrasive, cruel, confidence and sheer condescending, arrogance, there was a slither of pain hidden deep down inside.
It was there hidden with in his pupils, that crack in his soul, that ache… Having evolved into an unsated rage and malevolence, they both knew that there was only one person here in the entire keep he could safely take it out on and get away with it.
So after that tense engagement, having seemingly gained nothing, they went back to his private, empty, quarters.
So joining the group seemed to be an issue last time so I’m happy to start off ‘with’ anybody if they are keen!?
Traveling companion ect;

15th day of Anais
1 day before the talks
Location: Reason - Harrows Tower
(outline: Drakus, Rendyl & Abbi meet Eric

“How has your swordplay been?” Drakus asked with a daring smile. “You appear to still have all your fingers and eyes, you must be practicing with servants, if practicing at all.” He taunted and teased the older man in good jest.

“I still await for you to honour my people and take on a real challenge in my grand arena. Think of all the people that will see you then. The ladies of Solaris just love a good swordshow.”
Drakus bated the man's ego, deliberately and obviously layering his final words with innuendo. He turned to the three women surrounding him and looked to them for final confirmation.

Rendyl had been keeping a posture that lent itself to her slim frame, her feathery limbs tucked firmly into their grooves. She looked up demurely and nodded "Yes, Master. A good sword fight between two skilled opponents is a marvel."

Eric smiled amicably, not seeming to catch on immediately. Then, his expression turned to a pensive frown before he burst out laughing. ”Oh, Lord Solaris! Why, you sly devil, you." His hoard of servants had paused, but he gestured for them to continue inside without him. Even though he was in the presence of so many powerful people, Eric seemed very much at ease. “I’ve been doing my best to stay- well, sharp. Indeed, I have had many opponents from all over Croania, though you’ll you'll find that it is my superior swordsmanship that leaves me in one piece. As for your arena? I may just have to take you up on that.”

Eric patted the sword at his waist. The guards had given up on confiscating weapons almost instantly. Dealing with lords was quite the hassle. “So, how about you? You’ve had quite a hectic time as of late. Not to mention…” Eric trailed off, eventually continuing in a hushed voice. They’re here as well, are they not?”

Drakus’s frustrated sigh and knitted brows was answer enough. “Sadly it’s true, the duties required to forge and defend a new house do not afford me much time for the endeavour of such a noble art.” he instead replied with what Rendyl knew to be a lie. Despite the heavy burden of his contested Lordship Drakus always made time to practice his sword play, but should he duel Eric again any time soon, he’d rather him think his form was lacking.

He twisted his neck, and shrugged his shoulders, trying to relieve the tension thoughts of them brought to him. “Thank you for the information.” He said softly on a side note. “I know it did not come from your hand directly,” he began but then let the rest trail off unsaid. Drakus’s homework of the talks had come from Eric’s people, at a fair cost of course. “This will be a momentous event for house Solaris.” Drakus added to no one in particular, musing on his own thoughts and concerns, despite his best acting, he did not share in Eric’s nonchalant ease towards the upcoming events. Rendyl slowly maneuvered herself to Drakus's right side and one step behind, listening intently and looking attentively at her Lord.

“Miss smith, please tell Lord Eric of our self playing music box. Eric, we will have to send you one.” He said, changing tone as the long steps came to an eventual end.

Rose gave a bowing curtsy that she had been practicing with Rendyl, whom had been helping her perfect for most of the trip. She had been doing her best to be seen as a decoration as her maid had informed her that Lord Drakus preferred in these types of situations. “My Lord,” she said blushing from being around nobles. She reached into her messenger bag and pulled out a book. She flipped open to a page with her design notes and drawings to show him. “As you can see there is a mechanical drive that is propelled by a spring that has a catch when the latch is closed. This moves the gearing that drives the cylinder that has pins that deflect the tines on the comb that sound the notes. When I am able to access to some better metal and milling equipment. I will be able to produce a much higher quality music box.” She paused, “I think you will like the portable pipe organ we brought as a gift,” she said not sure if that was to be a secret or not.

Fearing Abby’s excitement and detailed information was beyond Eric’s interest, Drakus gave Rendyl a slight subtle sidewards look that she would instantly understand. The Avian slave nodded slightly back and stepped forward, reaching up and gently resting a hand on Abbi's bicep. She leaned close and whispered "A lady must be precise and never babble."

The words would echo back to parts of her lessons Rendyl had been teaching to Abbi, as they were similar to her own rules of conduct. With the bit of advice given, she stepped back into her place at her Lord's shoulder.

Eliona, exceptional in the games of nobles, hid the exchange by drawing Eric’s attention to herself. Being mostly blind led to its own array of accepted social norms. With the stairs having ended she placed a hand around the Granis heirs forearm as she moved close for support and spoke gently.
“I hear there is a nice amphitheater here, will you be visiting, I have never see… visited it before” she corrected.

“Self playing? Why, how wonderfully Northern,” Eric beamed. He didn’t seem to be saying it like it was a bad thing. “You know, our Quan back home would adore one of those. He’s always been rather into music, but it is such an inconvenience to get decent musicians to come over. I keep telling father we should sponsor some, but they- oh, never mind.” He cut himself off mid-way through his rambling. “As for the amphitheatre? I’ve been before, it’s quite wonderful. The benefits of your house being right next to here, I suppose. While you’re here, you really should go down to see it. A beautiful place, it is.”

Abbi’s smile shined the the sun and her cheeks glowed like rose buds in the morning dew, as she bowed again. That was the problem of being a pale skinned redhead, she wore her emotions on her skin. She was pleased enough that she didn’t even think about how much entertainment she was providing with this dress. She was also grateful that Eliona, helped her save face and she thought that Eliona might be a good ally and tutor on the art of the court.

She also felt a little awkward and annoyed. Lord Drakus had asked her to explain about the music box and she had kept it simple. She could have gone into detail about the gearing ratios and how she dealt with the power lost in the drive mechanism. It gave Abbi the feeling that this was going to be a very painful learning process.

Abbi was also delighted she had her first opening at upgrading the university, Lord Drakus had said the northern provinces, but she understood what he said as he wanted the best university. Atleast, that was what she was telling herself. Abbi would work to make arrangements for sending a music box for Quan, with a few different cylinders. It might be a way to get a couple people sent to teach at and students for the University and maybe something for her the lab space. If she could work it out, send some entertainers out on tour as a goodwill gesture. But that part was up to Lord Drakus to decide.

Eric continued speaking. “Introduce me to these lovely ladies, will you? Such a… colourful entourage, I’d have to assume there’s more to them than eye candy - that isn’t to say they aren’t beautiful, of course! Why, that dress is simply bewitching.” He smiled at Abbi, though he gave her and Rendyl an odd look too. “Quite the combination, especially knowing your brother’s… opinions of some kinds of people.”

“I am not my family.” Drakus sharply reminded all. He knew there would be those who attacked him for his company, and even though Eric was not one of them, the notion still set him on guard. The great lengths he had been through to change the people's opinion of Rendyl meant very little here.
“I would not have a lessor guard or inferior item for the sake of old frivolities and out of date customs.” He announced. The condescension and disdain towards his families ways evident in his voice.
“It is in both the Antecedent and the Contemporary, written by the mage Queen herself, we all have a part and a place. There is no reason this wouldn’t include the akeshan or technologists.” He argued, his voice filled with the same vigor and conviction of an argument that had been had a hundred times before.
Still through it all he managed to maintain a smile as he studied Eric’s reaction.

“I truly hope you don’t share my brothers views.” Lightening the mood back up he daringly added “From your reputation I can’t imagine you wield a discriminating sword.” He chuckled in jest patting the man on the back playfully, leaving it all unclear as to if he was being at all serious or not. Eric blinked, but he didn’t say anything.

Moving on, he turned to his companions one at a time as he introduced them. Rolling down the hierarchy.
“This is Lady Elonia, one of the greatest songbirds in all Croania.” She curtsied on time and with more prim and proper grace than most others of the court ever could muster. Every move elegant and smooth, despite her dresses restrictive nature. Even though part of her face was permanently scarred and her eyes of a milky hue, the blind bard held her head up high and proud. Owning her obvious flaws in such a way it leant to her overall appearance and who she was, reflecting them in a much more softer and accepting way.
“She manages many of Sols affairs and is head of the bards college.

“And this beautiful creature is Miss Abbi Rose Smith. Hailing from Young I’m still inclined to believe she may have even more brains than she does endless beauty, so you can understand why I had to appoint her as my technological advisor. She now oversees much of my bookkeeping and production. She has brought great improvements and efficiencies to my city.”

Abbi bowed like an engineer, happy that the dress stayed up, her shoe stayed on, and she did not fall over. Her bag swung around her though shifting her balance. Nerves can do that to a girl.

“Lastly the winged one is Rendyl, captain of my personal guard. She has proved her loyalty and worth more than enough times. There are songs sung of her achievements in the arena. No magi could ever be as suited to her tasks as she.” Drakus made an odd hand gesture, a small seemingly meaningless flourish that at first none would understand.

Rendyl did however, and she obeyed dutifully. She bowed at the waist low, fluffing her wings a bit to make them noticeable, then raised with her fist pressed against the center of her chest. On the back of her hand was a brand in the shape of the Solaris emblem.

Eric quirked a brow. To brand your own servants… even though she was a beastman, it wasn’t something he had the highest respect for. “A capable group, I’m sure. House Granis doesn’t have anything of the sort, though that may have to change.” He frowned, an unusual expression for him. “It all rests on these talks, doesn’t it? We just have to hope the results are favourable.”

He checked behind him. “Ah, I’d better catch up with the rest of my servants. A pleasure meeting you, as well as your ladies.” Eric gave them all a short wave. “Thank you for your time. Oh, and,” he looked Drakus in the eye. “Let’s all work hard to maintain order in Croania, shall we? Infighting does naught but hinder, as my father would say. I’ll be off, then.” He twirled on his heel, walking proudly into the tower. His cape fluttered in his artificial breeze. Eric looked like a bit of a fool, but he really didn’t seem to care. Soon, he vanished into the doorway.

”Peace comes at a price.” Drakus mumbled to himself under his breath as he and lord Eric went their separate ways. It was a lesson all Immolis heirs knew.
Then, giving Abbi and the servants orderly commands he sent them on their way leaving just Rendyl to follow him as he took a casual stroll around the tower, to acquaint himself with their new temporary residence.
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