Claus sat and took a hearty gulp out of his goblet as Alasdair held his speech, he applauded when he felt it was fitting and gestured for a servant to fill his cup some more.
Clearly enjoying the whole spiel, acting all high and noble for Claus had gotten a seat at the honour table as befit his status of royal advisor… or imperial advisor as it seemed after that one.
He’d even dressed up a bit and the only armour he was wearing was his black cuirass with the emblazoned white gauntleted fist of his company. A nice new black gambeson with red lining and a broad dark blue hat with red trim and silver bands with a white feather on top.
After Alasdair had finished Claus let out a voiced thought which could be heard by some of those near him.
-”Empire? That has a nice ring to it, let’s hope it works out.” He took another pair of hearty gulps of wine.
Mmmm, Orog wine he thought.
Patrick threw Claus a disapproving glare as he took yet another gulp of wine as he continued to make a fool of himself. Patrick was sat next to Claus and had watched him drink more than the rest of the high council combined, gulping wine as if it were water. Before Claus could take another swig Patrick grabbed the goblet from his hands and slammed it on the table.
“You are now a member of the high council now and you will act as such” Patrick growled under his breath “Whether you wish to drink yourself under the table during your private hours is your own concern but while you are here you will keep yourself presentable, at least in my presents, otherwise people will think me a fool for electing you to the high council”
With a shocked expression, Claus was cast from his good mood and into the angry remarks of a stern man.
He eyed Patrick for a moment before voicing his response.
-”It’s lucky you’re the kings… emperors brother, since otherwise what you just did is probably illegal somehow.” He finished off with a serious stare completely bereft of even an ounce of drunkenness straight into Patrick's eyes. Which quickly turned into a smirk.
-”But luckily I don’t care nor do I want to get on your bad sides. This is also far less than I can drink and still hold my manners about. It wouldn’t even be hard to drink all of these wimps under the table.” He finished by gesturing towards everyone present at tables.
Making another spiel of it, Claus gestured for a servant to wipe up the spilled wine from the table.
Patrick’s face remained unchanged. He was about to protest, though as he looked at the nobles that surrounded him he knew he needn’t bother; after the speech, the drinking had only intensified and a couple of nobles had already passed out, carried away by their servants under the commands of their disapproving family. Who would notice one more drunk fool? Still, the sight made Patrick angry; these were the elite of Formaroth, those who were responsible for keeping order and ruling throughout the concord. Yet they acted like drunkards and spoilt children. Until Alasdair had taken the throne many of them would have openly declared the De Reimer’s unworthy of their title and secretly many still did. At least he had earned their title and proved to be deserving of it, unlike the fools that now surrounded him, that only had their titles because of their birth. As he looked back at Claus his face, though still stern, softened.
“Very well, though I ask that you hold off on your drink until you have heard what I wish to say”
-”I am all ears when you have something to say, after all, your ideas have worked out wonderfully so far.” A massive grin was on his face while taking a sip of wine, but as a gesture, Claus put some water in his goblet as well.
“From what I gather you are still having trouble replenishing the steels fists forces and that most of the new recruits quit the moment training became challenging. I have the means to solve this problem, tell me to have you heard of Cawaport’s ‘Darktown’”?
Thinking for a moment Claus answered.
-”Not much, it’s a shithole, what of it?”
A shithole was an understatement, Darktown was not only the poorest area of Cawaport but the worst slum in all of Formaroth. Under the De Reimer’s rule, Cawaport’s wealth had increased greatly improving the lives of the cities majority. The same could not be said for Darktown. In improving the cities wealth the De Reimer’s also ended up increasing the wealth gap between the rich and the poor and both the population and squalor of Darktown had grown exponentially. Now the once poor yet safe slum was a crime infested pit of despair, segregated from the rest of the city by a stone wall to keep the rest of Cawaport safe.
“As you know, Darktown is the worst place someone could find themselves, with almost all of Cawaport’s crimes originating within it,” Patrick said “We are trying to find a way to deal with the problem and one such solution that has met with some success is conscripting these vagabonds into the military. Either they remain in the army where they are of some use or they are put to death for whatever crime they committed. If you wish I can send some of them your way, I can guarantee you no matter how hard your training the fear of what awaits for them back in Cawanor will ensure they will not quit”.
Claus answer was quick.
-”I am skeptical, the Steel Fist is built upon discipline, and many a common crook lack even the slightest sense of it. But if you want I can turn them into a decent militia force and cherry pick the ones I like.”
“Good, they will be far more useful as a militia than they will be plaguing the streets of Cawaport” Patrick said. Patrick’s attention was broken as a figure amongst the crowd caught his eye “I was unaware we had invited elves to this party” Patrick said with mild contempt.
Seeing what Patrick had spotted, Claus immediately recognized Dyril looking rather out of place at the right table.
-”That’s not just any elf, it’s a friend,” Claus said with happiness since he realized that he now had time to catch up with lost time with her.
He stood up with his goblet and boomed out with his usual disregard for proper etiquette.
-”Dyril! Still on your first cup?” He grinned and walked over and simply sat down opposite her on a stool he brought along, pushing some drunk person out of the way.
Dyril’s head turned to the sounds of Claus calling her. She shook it a little, clearly amused and unsurprised by his antics. Her eyes followed his figure lifting from his seat then plopping right across from her. Small delicate fingers twisted the goblet in place as she had been lightly sipping it. The taste wasn’t quite sweet enough for her compared to Elven wine.
“Yes, I am. Grandfather ensured I was not exposed to too much so I’m a lightweight. However, it’s nice to see things haven’t changed with you,” she said with a hint of enjoyment to it, “It’s interesting to see as someone of authority now. How did that happen?”
With one of his telltale smirks, Claus answered after a short thought.
-”Barely any idea honestly, but it has to do with that sour fella.” He motioned for Patrick with his goblet as he said it. Waving in a silly way with his fingers to the serious king.
Dyril expression had a subtle change, edging into disbelief, before evaporating altogether. Her head tilted into Patrick’s direction. Observing him for a moment, she then returned to her conversationalist, “He obviously didn't know you very well or made a hasty decision.”
A booming laugh was the answer which Claus stopped with a sip of wine.
-”Damn right you are, I have little to no idea what a military advisor does, but as the old saying goes, fake it ‘til you make it.”
-”So, what in the world are you actually doing here and not in a boring castle in Beilokias?”
“That’s complicated. I was hoping to reconnect with some family while trying to establish a trade agreement that would benefit both sides, but it appears war happened. My father never arrived leading me to believe they were no longer interested or didn’t have the time,” Dyril paused for a breath then continued, “Naturally grandfather wasn’t pleased, but several relatives were eager to get rid of their unsightly blight on the family name. So my uncle decided to allow me to take over his role within our family.”
Kiseo leaned in around Dyril, allowing Claus to catch sight of her as she removed her mistress’ partly empty goblet. She flashed the mercenary a gentle smile in a respectful manner then retracted back to dispose of the cup onto a nearby passing tray.
-”Hey there!” Claus said with a wave to Kiseo before returning to Dyril.
-”Long time since I saw a mao, nice to see one without scars as well. That was… Kisso? The men mentioned her and I know you did as well.”
Dyril fought hard not to roll her eyes at his mispronunciation of Kiseo’s name. Kiseo, on the other hand, stifled a giggle under her well-placed paw. Her eyes looked to Dyril for permission to speak before receiving a nod from the blue-skinned woman.
“Key-so,” the mao kindly corrected, careful to word her name in two easy to say words. As she let the soak into Claus’ drunken thoughts, she continued.
“Much pleasure to meet you, Claus. And yes. Very taken care of well by mistress I am. Formaroth is still getting… better?” At the last word, Kiseo looked to Dyril for guidance if she was using the correct word in its proper form.
“Yes, you’re getting better. Still needs a lot more improvement,” Dyril confirmed, “Yes, her mother served me before she did. Sadly, Shinx, her mother, was… disposed of during an errand for me.”
Both fell a bit silent at the memory.
Claus picked up on the gloomy thoughts and instinctively raised his goblet.
-”For a fine mao, a memory toast for Shinx.” He moved to let the goblets clink into Dyril's.
“And what is it that you are toasting for,” Patrick said; while Dyril and Claus had been talking Patrick had made his way from the honor table over to them. He would have remained at his seat, however, he had grown suspicious of Dyril; an elven woman making casual conversation with the new advisor of war. Perhaps she was an ambassador, hoping to gain valuable information for the Imperium.
Kiseo’s eyes lowered instinctively when Patrick arrived, glancing away from his direction. Dyril acknowledged him as frowned slightly, but said nothing.
-”We are toasting for a lost friend and a missed mother,” Claus responded to Patrick as he dragged out another stool for him to sit on.
“Yes,” Dyril said as she sized Patrick up, before she spoke, “I’ve not had the chance to meet you. I’m Híril Dyril Elian.”
“I see, I am Patrick De Reimer; ruler of Cawanor and brother to the High King” Patrick said as he slowly sat down on the stool Claus had offered, keeping his back straight so to remain taller than those who sat at the table “So Dyril, I assume your origins are from Beilokias? Tell me what business do you have here in Formaroth”?
“Yes, I was conceived, born and raised there. As I mentioned earlier to Claus, I was here originally to establish a trade with the human side of my family. Since they didn’t turn up, I assume they no longer held any interest and are no longer important,” she cleared her throat, trying to keep the distaste out of her voice, “I managed to get an audience with the High King then showed him some premade magical items. It ended up leading to a better trade negotiation.”
“Your human family?” Patrick said as he raised an eyebrow, he had heard that humans and elves were able to produce hybrids, though he imagined such pairings were rare, looking down on Dyril’s hands confirmed her claim. Patrick was always perturbed by the three claw-like fingers that most elves had, Dyril’s hands, however, were far more human-like “Who was your human family, do they share a name I may have heard of”? Patrick continued as he looked back at Dyril
“I only know a name, but it’s not important. Personally, they are no better than the family that raised me now,” Dyril stated bluntly, her words held a slight ice to it when thinking of her Elven side, “Hybrids aren’t… viewed fondly on. I was considered the very shame of my family that needed to often be reminded of her place. I prefer not to be reminded of it.”
“You still didn’t answer my question,” Patrick said bluntly, he did not like people avoiding his questions “What was their name”?
-”Now, let’s not dwell on unimportant things. Why not instead ask what kind of interesting things Alasdair is buying from her?” Claus interjected not wanting the mood to be ruined.
Patrick remained silent for a short while as he considered whether to pursue his question. Eventually, he decided against it, if he continued asking Dyril about her family he would be viewed as overly forward at best and desperate at worst. “Very well, what items have taken my brother’s interest”?
“Mandrakes and their unique ability to lengthen a natural lifespan,” Dyril said calmly, relieved he was dropping the subject.
Patrick’s interest peaked upon hearing this “Now that does sound interesting” he said as his stern expression softened slightly “Do say more, how long can these mandrakes increase one’s lifespan”?
“Without magical assistance, at the most tests have shown it to be one or two years at least,” Dyril truthfully repeated the same information as she did the High King, seeing the same strange interest.
“Interesting” Patrick said as he remained silent for a short while, contemplating what he had just been told, “You say without magical assistance if a magic specialist were to work alongside you, along with sufficient funding, would it make a difference”?
“It would. The increase would be about five at least, through additional research could improve it. However, I need to make arrangements to locate a suitable place to grow them and harvest a crop.”
Dyril thought a moment then continued, “It is difficult to tell without attempting it first. I do recall reading up on the theory, but for most Elves, that’s just a drop in the bucket for a natural lifespan.”
“I see,” Patrick said as he stood up from the table “This has been most...informative, I shall certainly remember to keep an eye on your work. For now, I must return to the honour table, gooday” Patrick said as he walked away, he had ascertained that Dyril was not working for the Imperium and any information that Claus may drunkenly share would not be reported back to them (though Patrick doubted he had anything of significant importance). But more importantly, it appeared this ‘half-blood’ may have the potential to increase one’s lifespan. It was certainly something he planned to inform Alice about.
As Patrick moved off, Claus leaned in towards Dyril and whispered in brutally broken elvish.
-”He has such a stick up his arse, just watch him waddle off.” To which he took a hearty gulp of wine.
Dyril fought not to snicker as she raised her hand to her face, her lips curled briefly into an amused smile at Claus’ comment. Her fixed expression softened slightly. She gently placed her hand back underneath the table while she replied in fluent Elven. “He seems to wear that stick proudly. Are all De Reimer like that?”
Her eyes spied his path heading back to the table, relieved there would be no more poking for her lineage.
Keeping in elven and now grinning like a fool.
-”Nah, Alasdair and the others aren’t as fat as him.” To which he snickered and drank some wine. He then stopped and returned to Formarothian.
-”It’s good to have a nice chat without your nasty relatives and old Doroka looming over, much more relaxed don’t ya think?”
Dyril paused for a moment, considering what Claus pointed out. “It’s freeing almost, but I’m still waiting for Grandfather or one of my Aunts to suddenly appear. Then just sweep me away under the rug,”
Dyril said with worry in her tone, remains of her less than ideal home life. “Now, I’m just worried about things crumbling here and I being forced to return. Also, you do realize… I know you have better language skills than that, right?”
She said with her head tilted in his direction, noting how he rarely changed since her childhood. Then again she didn’t expect him to because a few years were like days in an Elf’s lifetime.
Looking suspiciously guilty, Claus smiled and responded in fluent elven.
-”I know.” Followed with a wink, Claus had learned two phrases fluently in elve, one was that and the other was ‘i’d like some wine.’
He kept on in Formarothian.
-”You know I’m always ready to punch that old geezer if you want to. Never liked the old guy anyway.” Just realizing, Claus waved to a servant to come over before turning back to Dyril.
Her hand twirled with the fresh goblet, now replaced with water, on the table. Kiseo had left briefly to retrieve it since Dyril doubted any of the servants would actually offer anything other than wine, ale or other exquisite drinks. “Punching him wouldn’t do anything. We both know that. In his eyes, I should’ve never been born. In my mother’s, I was merely a tool for manipulation and gaining some human connections to make our family’s life easier,”
Dyril said with distaste while she sipped the better tasting water. She noted him getting more wine causing her to ask, “How can you stand that… bitter stuff? Especially after having the better quality drink at Beikolas?”
Her nose scrunched up in distaste at the rate he was consuming it.
With a wondering expression, bordering on poetic, he gazed into the bottom of his cup and thought of this deep question.
-”Good question, I guess it’s an acquired taste. Like that Keller root wine from the province south of where you grew up. I love the stuff, while all my men gag at the thought of it.”
-”Also I’m a bit of a party person, if there is booze, I drink it.” One of his smirks snuck into his face, revealing his easygoing attitude to all of this.
Flipping to the native language, she sighed softly, “Don’t drink too much or I might have to send Kiseo along to ensure your cups are watered down. I rather there wasn’t another incident. Your predecessor had to do some quick thinking in order to smooth things out with grandfather.”
-”Ah, but these ARE watered down, lord grumpy over there made sure of that.” Claus pointed casually towards Patrick without turning, making the gesture a bit less obvious.
Here the servant Claus had waved to arrived and made a polite bow.
-”Great, you, make sure to write an overly pompous and impressive letter to my father, Adolf Rotstein from Scassia that I have become royal advisor…. IMPERIAL advisor. Make it extra jolly as well, he’ll hate that.” The servant made a barely noticeable raising of an eyebrow, before bowing and beginning the task, or getting the proper people to do it.
-”It’s great to be an advisor, I’m practically nobility!” Claus raised his arms and was genuinely happy and leaned back on the table. A massive grin on his face.
-”Want some cider? I’m tired of this wine anyway, they probably have some weaker stuff.” He asked Dyril.
“And how many did you have before they were watered down?” Dyril asked accusingly.
She meant no harm by it as her lips curled into a small smile, showing her amusement at Claus’ disgruntled behavior. A subtle hint of surprise crossed her face at Claus’ statement over his father. It made her eyes tighten in thought before dismissing until later. Dyril shook her head at her friend’s reaction before reminding him of true facts.
“True, but what the High King gives, he can take away. You have to remember you only have power due to a title. Lose that and you might end up worse off than when you started. You’re also in a position of importance after all,” Dyril gently reminded him, then nodded at the offer of cider. It had to be better than what she was currently drinking.
A moment of contemplation came from Claus, with him stroking his chin in thought, followed with ignoring the tough question altogether.
-”Honest to Jykher, two cups. Sure it’s a goblet…” he stared into his goblet” I’m just surprised these fellows can’t handle their drinks better than this.” Almost on queue as he said it, a man passed out next to him and sort of slid off his right side. A pair of servants began to drag him off after apologizing to Claus.
With a loud shout, Claus ordered a servant over and asked her to bring some quality light cider.
-”Always preferred the taste of cider and beer to wine anyway,” Claus said as he turned towards Dyril once more, suddenly he had his rare darker tone to him, shadow over his face and a slight tilt of the head.
-”As for titles, my power comes from the fist, my connection to Timtos and my blade. If I want more…. I get hold of more.” His smirk wicked.
Dyril rarely saw him like this, but it had happened once or twice before.
Before she had time to answer, the cider arrived and Claus was back to his usual jolly mood, pouring drinks and smiling.
Dyril fell silent. She wouldn’t deny the expression on his face caused her to shiver in fear slightly. It felt like a different individual was holding the reins within his body whenever it happened, drawing out an instinctive need to recoil for protection. Quietly sizing him up, her attention was distracted by the servant’s arrival as she placed their drinks down.
Letting the uneasy feeling go, Dyril and Claus began to reminisce over their past. A long, enjoyable conversation that turned to their future too.