Fable - Ask New Blood

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Elise Virak

The Baronness
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Virak Winter Estate - Foyer

"Of course he has." Elise said as she reached up and pinched the bridge of her nose.

She sat in a large plush chair that might have been mistaken for a throne. Her back was straight, and around her were arrayed a dozen different men and women loyal to House Virak. Some of them were Dreadlords, a few were once loyal servants of her father, and some were Governors of Anirian cities that had only Virak to thank for their fortunes.

All of them had come to attend to her after her fathers death, and one had come with news of her cousin.

A sigh escaped her as she gently rubbed her cheek. Glancing down at her nails to find a spot of blood still lingering upon one of them. She frowned for a moment, remembering the night now two days passed when she had slit her fathers throat. Fingers tightened, drawing away from her face before she slowly returned her attention to those ahead of her. "Cousin Isaac always thought more of himself than he was worth."

"Yes...well it seems that after your fathers death Several Dreadlords have decided that House Lorel would be better to take Virak's seat in the Government. They feel tha-"

Elise waved a dismissive hand. "I don't care what they feel."

Slowly she stood from her throne like chair.

"House Lorel has always been filled with fools and upstarts. My father should have taken care of them years ago." She looked around the room for a moment. "Gather what HouseGuard we have here, I'll take them with."

"Madam I highly suggest..."

"Do trust me, Chancellor. My cousin will see the error in his ways." One way or another.
 
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Merosh Devathor

Dreadlords
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Virak Winter Estate - Foyer

Merosh stood still. Not as still and motionless as Barrin would, one could still see him breathing and blinking, but otherwise he was motionless. His back was straight as always and his hands were folded behind his back. He seemed unconcerned, but he listened very carefully. The recent events had come as something of a surprise and as soon as the news had reached Merosh, he had left his mansion and come here.
The sudden death of the master of the house had certainly caused some chaos and it was up to his daughter now, to put everything back in order. Even though he had some doubts that she could do it just as well, it wasn't up to him to judge. In the end it made no difference to him, his position or his loyalty towards the Virak in general.

But it seemed that it did made a difference for others, as he could infer from the conversation. House Lorel to be better to take Virak's seat in the Government? Merosh understood that they wanted to use the favor of the opportunity to expand their influence, but it sounded just like a joke to him, replacing House Virak. Without moving his head, he glanced at Elise, interested in her reaction.

"I don't care what they feel."
"House Lorel has always been filled with fools and upstarts. My father should have taken care of them years ago."

Ah, yes, that felt just right. He was satisfied with her answer. Their eyes met for a moment as she looked around, whereby she possibly focused no one in particular. Merosh listened contentedly to the further exchange of words between the two and he gave Chancellor a thin smirk as he was cut off by Elise. He then took a brief glance at everyone. Most of the people here were very loyal to House Virak, Elise certainly was in need of them in this time of upheaval. At least it was better for her safety, gathering people whom she could trust. He felt honored to be a part of it as well. After his inspection he finally moved. His steps led him directly to Elise Virak. He bowed in front of her.
"Lady Virak, may I accompany you right away?", he asked. Perhaps it was a bit inappropriate to address her unasked. But if he wanted to be in the front line, he had to do something for it.
 
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Elise Virak

The Baronness
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Elise looked the man up and down for a moment.

House Virak had many Dreadlords in it's web. All of them were capable, all of them were deadly. Some had defected once they'd heard of her fathers death, either because they despised Elise or because they thought her incapable of leading.

The latter were wrong, and the former would be made to pay. "Of course."

Now more than ever she needed them on her side. The Baroness was not fool enough to think herself so powerful that she could go without support. Each and every Dreadlord in her service would be valuable in their own way.

She could not contend without them if she wanted to survive what was to come.

"Collect what you need and meet me at my Carriage, Merosh." She had made it a point to learn all of their names. Read every file that her father had kept on them.

Some she knew better than they knew themselves. "We leave at once."

There would be no waiting, no hesitation.
 
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Merosh Devathor

Dreadlords
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Merosh tooked her inspecting glance willingly. Nothing that bothered him and merely a normal reaction. He too would probably do so, if approached by a random person. So patiently he waited for her decision, neither looking away nor even blinking and still half-way remaining in his inclined posture.

"Of course."

She answered finally and Merosh straightened his back again. Well now that was an answer he had wanted to hear.

"Collect what you need and meet me at my Carriage, Merosh."

Subtle surprise sparkled in his eyes. He had not necessarily encountered her often during her father's regency that he would have expected being memorized by her, not only in appearance, but also in name. He wasn't quite sure if he just belonged to one of those she could recognize, he was neither the youngest nor the newest, or if she really remembered everyone. Maybe that was part of her job, Merosh left it at that, but nodded at her command.

"I'll be there.", he answered. He didn't came unprepared, he had everything needed alreay with him, but he saved his breath to mention it. All that was important, was said. He lowered his head with the intent a bow, as he took one step back before turning around.
 
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Elise Virak

The Baronness
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It was not much later that Elise, Merosh, and two others found themselves within the confines of a carriage that would be out of place on any battlefield.

Surrounding them on either side were a dozen retainers, all of them dressed in full plate and carrying the livery of her family. They were loyal, she had made sure of that, but most would likely be marching to their death soon.

Thus was the way of the commons.

Elise watched them out the window for a few moments, musing before she drew her attention away from the outside and towards her companions. "What an exciting day."

She said with a smile.

"Tell me, Merosh." The Baroness said as she gazed at the Dreadlord. "How long have you served my family?"

The answer was one she already knew of course, but the game was an important one to play. Kindness, care, affection. That was what ordinary folk cared about, and as much as they liked to pretend they were not; Dreadlords were still ordinary.
 
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Merosh Devathor

Dreadlords
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Merosh wasn't very fond of carriages, no matter how luxurious and comfortable they were. He preferred to sit on the back of a horse when traveling. In here, he felt caged. His scope of action was limited, his senses were restricted. No wind, no sounds, no smells. And the gaze out of the window gave only a limited view. But as usual, he didn't complain. And there was something about sitting in the same carriage with the baroness.

What an exciting day, her words echoed in his head.
"Indeed", Merosh agreed in a deep voice, but no excitment swung within it's acoustic at all. He seemed to agree simply for the sake of agreeing. Whether he was or not was secondary. But a reaction had been needed, because one did not ignore a baroness. Even less did anyone contradict her.

Still, he had to admit that he had felt excitement just at the moment he had realized what the Baroness was up to do when she had spoken to the Chancellor. Just at the moment when he had smirked. He was not necessarily keen on whatever would have to be done, but on the opportunity to prove his worth. And maybe it was as well a bit of satisfaction to show the House Lorel how stupid the idea of trying to replace House Virak was and how wrong the Dreadlords were to run over.

"Tell me, Merosh."

Her voice once again filled the carriage. This time, Merosh turned his eyes away from the window and looked at Elise. She was sitting across from him.
"Yes, Madame?", he replied, just as automatically and stoic as his answer before, but this time with more attention, after being addressed directly.

"How long have you served my family?"

Merosh had to do some quick math. The duration wasn't important to him, so he hadn't an exact number in mind without calculating, but he knew well the year of his swearing.

"Seventeen years, Madame. Ninteen, including the time as an apprentice.", he answered. How old was he again...?

Merosh wasn't quite sure what the aim of her question was. Was she interested or just wanted to chat a bit to pass the time? Eitherway, he didn't mind that she were informed. How else could he climb the ladder if he were unknown to important people. After all, she now represented House Virak.
 
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Elise Virak

The Baronness
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She smiled. "My, that is quite a long time."

Elise looked at the Dreadlord for a moment.

"What about you, Verin?" She glanced towards the woman who sat next to Merosh. The other Dreadlord seemed to stiffen slightly, the strange violet eyes she had turning towards the Baroness. Her face was a mask of an expression, showing no emotion one way or another.

"Only ten years, My Lady."

The woman gave the barest wisp of a smile, but it was still there. Elise watched her for a moment, reaching up a hand and trailing her fingers down her own jaw as if she had to think for a moment.

"Ten years?" She mused. "That's still quite some time."

The Baroness watched the woman.

"Yes, nearly half my life spent in loyal service to Your father."

Elise smiled, glad that the woman had said it. Sometimes these things were almost too easy. Sometimes people liked to trap themselves, and it made things just that much more simple. She looked at Merosh for a moment, then back to Verin. "Yes, ten years. Loyal to my father."

"Isn't that interesting, Merosh?"
The woman seemed to tense. Her eyes flickered back and forth.

She seemed to think for a moment, and then all of a sudden she lurched forward towards Elise.
 
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Merosh Devathor

Dreadlords
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Merosh really didn't cared about the amount of years he served House Virak now. It mattered that he did, not how long. But just as Elise emphazised it this way, his feeling differed a bit, as if her words would give it meaning. However, the appreciative undertone wasn't as effectiv, as it would hearing it from someone like her father or Barrin.

Merosh did not respond further, it didn't seemed to need an answer. And the way she looked at him shifted his focus anyway. There was something behind her eyes. He wasn't sure what made him think that - the subtle intense with which she looked at him, the movement of her pupils within her violet iris or her slightly tightening eyelid. It was too inconspicuous to be an indication and he knew her too little to be sure. But for the moment of their glancing there was something he could almost feel, but not grasp.

As her attention shifted, his feeling vanished within. But whereas Merosh had been looking out of the window till now, paying barely attention to what happened where he was sitting, he was now fully present. His senses sharpened, as he would try to revive the trace he had sensed just a moment ago.


His gaze remained on Elise, whilst hers was directed at Verin. He listened closely as he did it in the winter estate, but he failed to perceive what could be strange about her answer. Words were not his best profession. Even if he didn't believed in it anymore, there was a chance, that this could still be only some chit-chatting.

As Elise recited the facts expressed, however, a bad feeling overcame him. There was a weight in her words, a warning like. It was the second hint, she even addressed him again. Merosh still could not grasp the full picture of the situation, but he didn't need to. He was warned enough that the sudden movement next to him triggered him like a starting shot - and it would probably do so, even if he wouldn't be warned. His reflexes kicked in, he leaped up, instinctively pushing both his channel of endurance and strength, speeding up his movement and increasing his impact, as he throw himself against the woman to interrupt whatever she was up to. He couldn't draw his swords here, the space was too small and it would have taken to much time anyway.

The other Dreadlord hissed, unaffected by the fact that he had banged her head hard against the carriage door and caused the glass to shatter.

Merosh pushed her to the ground, not only with his own body weight and a choking hand on her throat, but also with magnetism. The wood beneath them creaked under the pressure, as did the ceiling against which he physically leaned for more counterpressure. The woman wriggled and writhed under the invisible force. She was struggling to resist, but was still able to accumulate mana. Merosh could feel it and saw the explosion coming. He happened to know her ability, she had helped him fight the undead weeks ago. A direct contact where needed first and the only one here she where in direct skin contact was him.

Merosh bent over her in an attempt to cover as much of her as possible with his body to limit the explosion radius. At the same time he infused his channel of strength with magic to harden his skin and to be prepared for whatever came. However, he didn't just waited for it to happen but acted. Letting go of her neck, he grabbed her by the chin and the back of the head and with one jerk he twisted her neck.

He felt searing heat burning into his chest where she had pawed at him with her hand. He hadn't really caught fire, although the ember slowly devoured his first layer of cloth, where she had touched him, before glowing out. Hot air suddenly ignited in the carriage and dissipated. But there were no explosion.
"Geez.", he growled. After making sure the Dreadlord was really dead now, he turned around, glancing at Elise.
"Are you alright, Lady Virak?", he asked now back in his typical tone. However, he gave the other dreadlord a quick, grim look. What was he, another assassin or a sleeper?
 
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Elise Virak

The Baronness
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Elise smiled down at Merosh, a fan having slipped from her sleeve. It unfolded itself and slowly tipped back and forth as the Baroness thrust some of the heat from her face and out the shattered window. "Oh yes."

She said calmly.

"I'm quite alright." Elise said with a broad smile.

The young woman seemed entirely too pleased with herself, like a cat that had just happened upon a fisherman's catch. She leaned back in her seat, glancing down at the Dreadlord before motioning towards the carriage door. "You can dispose of her remains."

The side of the road would be enough.

"Verin always did have a temper." The words flowed from her lips, and obvious implication. She had known of the woman's intent. She'd known that she was a traitor. That she would strike out sooner rather than later. It had been a test. "So lucky you were here, Merosh."

Elise said with a smile.
 
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Merosh Devathor

Dreadlords
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The carriage stopped, whilst Elise smiled, answering him in a somewhat amused tone. She didn't appear to be the slightest bit concerned and thus made him think.

A worried voice was heard from outside and as if they had heard what Elise had said, one of the guards quickly opened the door. Not for Merosh, of course, but to look after what was going on. Merosh ignored the guard and missed his startled look.

"Of course.", he instead answered Elise to get rid of the corpse. He grabbed the body and dragged it out of the carriage, there he threw her to the side of the road, some of the guards watched him wondering. How stupid to attack the Baroness in a carriage with two other Dreadlords. He didn't felt sorry for Verin, loosing her nerves just like that.

When he turned around, he stopped at the guard who had opened the door and were still holding it.
"Ride on.", he commanded in an insistent voice, then he got back in. Stepping on shattered glas, it cracked under his feet - he didn't cared. Instead of waiting for the stunned guard to move again, Merosh closed the carriage door himself. A few of the sherpen still hanging in the window tumbled down. He sat down again.

"Verin always did have a temper."

Merosh looked at Elise. She was so calm and unsurprised as if she had expected to be attacked. Gradually he even had the impression that she had planned it this way. But since when? From the moment he approached her in the winter estate offering to accompany her right away?
It must have been a test. Was that why the third dreadlord in this round had not reacted? Probably a backup, had Merosh also misbehaved. Now he understood. He had wanted a chance to prove himself, but it had definitely come sooner than expected.

"So lucky you were here, Merosh."

Merosh smiled. It was neither joy nor gratitude, it was more of a smile just like Elise's. Just a movement of his lips, not actually changing his expression. Yeah, "lucky". The carriage started moving again.

"I'm glad I could help.", he answered, playing her game, as if it were really just luck. He was actually indeed glad of this opportunity, he had no problem being tested, for he had nothing to hide. "And I would highly appreciate it if the successor does'nt follow her father right away", he added.

Merosh stopped pushing his channels. He seemed to sink a little heavier into the seat. But he had only used his channels so briefly and not intensively that the backlash was not noticable.
 
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Elise Virak

The Baronness
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"Oh I can assure you." Elise said with a smile as she fluttered her fan back and forth. "That won't be happening."

Her father had met his end at the end of her knife.

The blade had been one of magic, of blood and ancient rites. The fate that had been bestowed upon him was an impossibility for her, and anything else? Well, she had a plan for that too. She eased herself back in her seat, glancing around at the two Dreadlords before she took a deep breath.

A contented sigh escaped her. "I think today will be very successful."

The rest of the journey was uneventful.

She dropped the pretense of conversation and let the party travel in silence. Eventually the scenery around them began to change. The forest thinned into wide grasslands, the sky up above drew gray and drab with dark clouds, and the road they traveled upon became more worn.

Hours later the estate they were headed to came into view. Elise leaned slightly out the window, watching the outer walls of the estate. Even from miles out she could spot the figures moving atop their guard posts, dozens of men and women teeming around as though they were expecting an invasion.

"Be watchful." She told the two Dreadlords. "My Cousin has always been smart, careful."

Elise frowned. "A plotter, more than anything else."