Quest The Battle of The Blades: The Parade

Discussion in 'The Chronicles' started by Duresh, Jul 7, 2019.

  1. Duresh

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    Duresh The Asset

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    [​IMG]

    "Can't sleep?"

    "Not a wink," Duresh said. A lie.

    "What is it?"

    "Big." A glance across the light of the candle. "Something big."

    Elan sat opposite to him at the table. The small hours of the morning, when all the taverngoers had gone home or to their rooms. Day had yet to break outside. The darkness, awaiting dawn.

    Just them in the main room of the Silver and Steel inn/tavern. Even the husband and wife innkeeper and barkeep had gone to bed. The tables and chairs all empty. The bar abandoned. The quiet. The single light of the candle between them.

    She was a good friend. An independent sellsword. Duresh hadn't worked with her before. But they often met and shared drinks with one another. Each telling the other of their own exploits. Some details pruned, in Duresh's case. Likely in her case too, but he'd no way to know. Not without being...impolite. And he liked her company. And she his. For a native Vel Anirian, she wasn't very judgmental. Yes, a good friend, and an early riser. He woke himself earlier to meet her here. To give her a chance. To maybe save her from what was coming.

    Elan propped her elbows up on the table. She had a small and demure smile. Hard to notice. But he saw it there. Now. "Lots of coin?" she asked.

    "Yes." Another lie. "Quite a lot."

    "Important contractor, eh?"

    "Naturally."

    Her fingers entwined. Drumming them gently against the backs of her hands. "Be a sweetheart and send me a tip first, yeah? I've finished my last job seven days ago. Keeping an eye out."

    Duresh stared across the candlelight. His gaze unbroken. He said, "I urge you not to take any jobs in Vel Anir for a while."

    A slight narrowing of her eye. "Why's that?"

    The flame of the candle danced softly. A bead of wax slowly running down the side.

    "A variety of things I've heard," Duresh said. Bending the truth. "All of it more substantial than mere rumors. Something will happen, and it will happen soon. And I will tell you here and now: you do not want any part of it."

    Elan wasn't very much swayed by his warning. "I'm a sellsword for a reason."

    "Of course." Duresh stood and placed his chair properly under the table. "But still I urge you, as a friend. And I should hope that you take my words into consideration. Farewell, Elan."

    And Duresh turned and walked to the door of the Silver and Steel and stepped outside into the gloom of the night's dying hour. Unsure if he would see his friend Elan again.

    * * * * *​

    Today was the day of the Homeland Parade.

    A day for the extolling of the Anirian Guard and for the further instillment of an esprit de corps among the citizenry. And for those non-humans in the city during the festivities, perhaps a tacit show of intimidation. Though still a new event, a rare occurrence happening once every few years, it had proven massively popular within Vel Anir the first and subsequent times. Merchants and traders and showmen of all stripes flocked to the city and Anir Square was bursting at the seams with activity. Goods from all across Arethil were bought and sold, wonderful shows put on throughout the city in addition to the main parade, and coin flowed with all the vigor of the Baal-Asha River. Even recruitment from non-native humans into the Anirian Guard spiked, as well as retention among those already serving.

    Perhaps it brought hope to those who believed in a future of continued peace for Vel Anir. Perhaps they hoped it was an attempt for Vel Anir to forge itself anew, into a city focused moreso on trade, much like Alliria or Elbion. A hope that the Anirian Guard might live up to their namesake and 'guard' rather than conquer.

    They hoped in vain.

    And Duresh knew it. Though the Homeland Parade was ostensibly about the whole of Vel Anir and the supposed peace enjoyed through the tireless efforts of the brave fighting men and women of the Guard, and that it was one of the few days in which the Seven Houses would put aside their differences to partake in the spirit of togetherness of the festival, it was a thin veneer. Eventually, one House would use the day to make a daring political move.

    Yes. And today was that day. The House in question? Banick.

    * * * * *​

    Clear skies above. Sunlight gracing the whole of Vel Anir.

    Duresh walked through Anir Square. The open market areas were all packed with people, foreign and domestic. Plenty of humans, of course, but elves and dwarves and orcs and others too in smaller numbers. They all gathered around on the flats of the open plazas and hung out from windows of inns and taverns and some even were allowed to sit on the edges of rooftops, their feet dangling. The constant din of talking and laughing and singing and merriment. Displays of the arcane from magicians and merchants pushing their carts loaded with food and water and ale through and matches of bareknuckle brawling and other fights upon which people placed their bets and cheered and there were live demonstrations of art and performances from bards and sword-swallowers and bold shows of non-magical fire-breathing and all manner of entertainment one could imagine.

    The parade proper had yet to reach this portion of the Square. But it was due soon enough, as it marched through the main thoroughfares of Vel Anir. Guardsmen and women stood at distanced intervals alongside the wide road through, keeping it clear and indeed it was the only stretch of space not packed with people.

    Duresh walked to and stood beside the door of a particular shop, out of the way of the majority of the revelers in the open plaza. Grayson's Tapestries. He held his hands behind his back and waited, his right palm open and ready, his left shoulder leaning lightly against the building. As per his orders from his handler, which had come from the Crentor family, and which in turn had come ultimately from House Banick.

    He knew the signal. The placing of a single Elbion zoldo into his palm. If it didn't happen, the Banicks had decided against their ploy, and nothing would come of this day. But if it did, then all the pieces would be in place, and he would then need to move into position.

    And Duresh would capture the darling daughter of a rival House. Kristen Pirian.

    And she would be delivered right into the hands of a growing threat to Vel Anir itself.

    The self-styled 'Master of The Blades'.
     
  2. Selene Avar

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    Selene hated parades.

    She had absolutely no idea what she was doing here or why House Virak had requested her presence upon their observers balcony. It seemed to be an utter waste of her time and energy, both of which could have been better expended in a number of different areas.

    It wasn't like she was just some Captain of the Guard or a lowly third level. No, she was of the second. Meant to lead battalions into battle, hunt down errant apprentices, and conduct the...darker of the House's political machinations. She wasn't of the First Rank, not yet, but a parade?

    She felt practically insulted.

    Still, one did not refuse a direct request from their Patron. Especially when they sent their daughter to deliver it. Sitting mere feet from where she stood on the balcony were Elise Virak and her father Sarkus. Both of them radiated power, their backs straight, eyes fixed, and expressions hard enough to cut stone.

    Selene couldn't help but feel envy.

    She knew their strength of course, knew the secret that many did not, but it wasn't the reason for her envy.

    No, the reason for that was more obvious. Those two were free, more so than anyone else in this city. They controlled House Virak, not within the leading Alliance, but a House that controlled a substantial bulk of Vel Anir's military force. With a single word they could start a Civil War.

    They could do as they pleased, whenever, however.

    Selene envied that to her core.

    If she had her say she would not be standing on this balcony. She would not be watching and waiting for lines of guardsmen. She would most certainly not be attending a parade.
     
  3. Richard Henry the Eighth

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    #3 Richard Henry the Eighth, Jul 7, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
    Ahh, the Homeland Parade a time of celebration and joy a time where humans and non-humans of Vel Anir (mostly) set aside their differences and focus on what matters most to Vel Anir: War and Destruction! Richard Henry the Eighth adjusted his shield that was strapped to his back watching the festivities transpire in the Human Fortress of Vel Anir. The city was quite dreary really, the so-called greatest human city's architecture is nothing more than just bland as crackers.

    Cities such as Falwood or Elbion were a marvel to gaze upon. The Dwarves too were master craftsmen with the breathtaking landscapes such as Kal Palthras. Of course, the citizens of Vel Anir would sneer at those structures especially Elbion for committing the horrible crime of allowing Non-humans to integrate. Richard Henry frowned witnessing the Vel Anir guard march past him, he was on the road for about two years now. The runaway knight from Elbion that who Richard was, a man whose family has been placed in the wrong city something Richard was thankful for.

    Elbion had no standing army relying heavily on sellswords and sell sails and city guard. There were nobility with their own standing army but their numbers were small. However, the Henries possesses the largest and most disciplined army in Elbion. They were famed for their martial prowess along with their cunning intellect though now and days it's martial prowess. Richard's father: Richard Henry the Seventh or The Dragonknight for allegedly slaying an Ancient Red Dragon (he was rather dodgy when Richard questioned him on that) wanted Richard to be the best knight in the land. While he eventually became a knight and one a few jousting tourneys, Richard had other ambitions.

    Richard was more interested in song and art attending the College of Elbion before moving to the Bard's College to become a bard and travel the world. This was a point of contention between him and his father that eventually accumulated with Richard leaving when he found out that he was put in a forced marriage. Richard didn't see the woman he wanted to marry and he didn't care despite receiving letters from his sister that his wife is eager to meet. Richard ignored his sister as much as it pained him he missed everyone in his family even his father but the Bard Knight has pleasures that he wants to pursue.

    He began walking through the crowd smiling a bit as he bought out his oak Lute and began to play a song. "Time for the Bard Knight to stop brooding and start making coin yes?" he mumbled.

     
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  4. Xyrdithas

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    Whatever had drawn him to Vel Anir, he was quite certain it was anything but this. The bustle of the city was far more encroaching than he had ever remembered it being, and there was talk in the air of festivity and delight.

    A parade? That’s new. Well, to someone his age perhaps even something that had carried on for a half a century or more could be considered new.

    He waded through the crowds for what seemed like forever, finally making his way to the square without incident. He wanted to find himself a suitable inn, but at this rate it looked like he’d be out of luck – at least for now. He found a clear in the crowd and allowed himself a moment to think, concluding it best to wait until later given how busy apparently everything was. As he stood and pondered, swinging gently overhead hung a sign which read The Journey's Respite. He cast a glance inside as the door swung open with someone’s departure and saw he would be hard pressed to find his way through. Perhaps he would return there later.

    He carried on, again swallowed up into the crowd while he his way forward. Contrary to his norm he found that with all the music and brilliant displays of skill he was actually enjoying himself, at least somewhat – a feat he never imagined Vel Anir accomplishing.

    As Erën drew near to the parade's cordoned path, he lifted his hood from his head and craned his neck above the crowd. He may as well see what all this carrying on was about while he's here.
     
  5. Duresh

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    Duresh The Asset

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    Elan navigated through the crowds. Bumped into a younger man, likely the son of a merchant, with a big basket of grapes in his hands. She smiled, apologized, and bought a handful. Munched on them as she continued on. In places walking freely, in other places having to slip past people.

    She passed some drunks spilling out of the open door of a nearby tavern. Made her way more into the open plaza. A ring of people formed around ten or so pairs of men and women dancing, the crowd clapping along with the beat of a musician's tune. She stopped for a moment to watch a particularly showy mage make a spectacle of cooking venison and steak with his fire magic. And she continued.

    Walked past a collection of mothers and fathers hoisting their children up onto their shoulders and facing the open street in preparation for the coming of the Guard parade. Walked past a bard striking up a tune, singing, "He rode through the streets of the city, down from his hill on high..."

    Elan had been living in Vel Anir all her life. And through mishaps of timing and circumstance, she always missed the days of the Homeland Parade. A new event, certainly, but one she had never managed to actually see with her own eyes before. Anir Square normally had a lively air about it, but today was different. Not an air of simple liveliness, but one of celebration and joy.

    A thick slam. Impact on wood, and a rattling of metal.

    Elan glanced to her right, away from the open street. A small, raucous gathering around a table. And there sat a recently defeated man, his arm pinned down, and a woman whose arms looked as thick as Elan's own legs. Her manner of hairstyle and dress evocative of the far north, from the tales of the Norden Elan had heard.

    The defeated man cursed and stood and walked off, leaving an empty chair across from the huge woman. And the Norden woman grinned and made an inviting gesture with her arms. "Who's next? Come, come! If you men of Vel Anir think yourselves strong!"

    Nervous laughter and glances among those gathered around the table. Seemed the recently defeated man was one of many.

    So Elan stepped forward. Approached the table. Said, "I'll have a go."

    Cheers and playful whistling from the crowd, now that none of them need worry about being the next challenger. The Norden woman grinned as Elan sat down. Took a drink from her tankard and set it back down on the table. Said, "Now that's the spirit! What's your name?"

    "Elan."

    "Agatha."

    And Agatha readied her right arm. Elbow on the table. Elan leaned forward and gripped Agatha's hand, her own elbow on the table. Gods, the woman had a bloody grip on her, didn't she?

    "Ready?" said Agatha.

    "Ready."

    And they arm wrestled. Elan immediately on the losing end. Gritting her teeth and struggling to keep her arm up and in the fight.

    * * * * *​

    Duresh felt something in the palm of his hand. And he clasped his fingers over it. Brought his hand in front of him. Looked.

    An Elbion zoldo. Today was the day.

    Whoever had placed the coin in his hand had casually slipped away. The movements of him and Duresh hardly worth any note. It was how Banick, and likely the other Houses, operated. Degrees of separation. Plans untraceable, ultimately deniable. Tiny actions like the placing of a coin into someone's hand; things so ordinary and routine that no significance could be ascribed to them by those who were not aware.

    But Duresh was aware. He knew what the coin in his hand represented. Banick's move to humiliate a rival. A vendetta to be settled. Vengeance to be enacted.

    And Duresh walked. Moved through the crowds of the revelers and the merchants and the merrymakers and the onlookers and all else. He would need to cross the open street, to reach the Square Embassy on the other side.

    It was where many an outsider, diplomat and guild liaison and high-tier merchant and others, all went if they so had business with one of the Houses of Vel Anir. The first stop, usually, before they would be invited back into the more secluded and secure confines of the appropriate House in the central city.

    A massive building, imposing even from his current distance from it across the open street and across the crowded plaza. A miniature Vel Aerelos, in some respects. But of course, the Embassy paled in comparison. The mere entree to a feast. But it was here that some members of the Houses liked to watch the parade, up above on one of the observer's balconies. And it was there that he could faintly make out some members of House Pirian on one such balcony.

    Kristen Pirian would be among them.

    Duresh continued through the crowds. He already knew the spot in which he would covertly fade into Invisibility.

    * * * * *​

    Three members of House Pirian on the balcony adjacent to House Virak's own balcony.

    Kristen Pirian, a girl of nine years. Her mother, and her older brother. A retinue of six elite guards on the wide balcony with them.

    The sounds of marching in the distance. Around the corners of the building and the open street below.

    thump - THUMP - thump - THUMP - thump - THUMP

    The parade approaching, but not yet visible.

    And Kristen Pirian squirmed in her seat and got up and went to her mother's seat and tugged on her dress and her mother leaned in to hear what she had to say over the varied sounds of celebration below. And Kristen shifted her weight from one leg to the other, looking uncomfortable.
     
  6. Selene Avar

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    The parade began, much to her dismay. Lips thinned at the thunderous sound of marching and Selene did her best to block out all the noise.

    Arms crossed beneath her breasts, fingers tightening slightly as her discomfort grew. She truly did not like being here, neither did she understand why they had wanted her. Still, she could at the very least do her job while she remained on the balcony.

    Thus her eyes began to scan the crowd.

    Bright red iris' shifted from place to place, moving across balconies, roof-tops, and of course the parade ground itself. There were more people than she would have thought, most of them human of course but more than a few other species. Selene herself had never clung to the xenophobia of most Anirians, at least not in the same way.

    She believed in her superiority of her nation, rather than that of her species. After all most of Elbion was Human, and that city was a specter of Vel Anir's greatness.

    Still, she knew that most of the Guard captains considered other races a particular security threat. Their treatment inside the walls of the city and general distaste meant they were often vilified before they even opened their mouths. That sort of treatment tended to raise ire.

    The Dreadlord frowned, glancing down onto the parade ground before catching sight of movement out of the corner of her eye.

    She looked over towards the Balcony of House Pirian, noting the guards and lack of a Dreadlord at their side. Curious.

    Not to mention annoying. Was she the only one who had been summoned?
     
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  7. Xyrdithas

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    His eyes peered down the way through the crowd. Where he stood, he was among the taller persons, but there were still many on par with him and taller to obscure his view. He could not see the parade, but he heard it’s coming and strained to catch a glimpse. While failing to lay eyes on that, he did notice a strange individual make his way across the street. He watched him go, but before he could look at him more carefully his attention was stolen by a loud crash nearby and resolving that the parade would arrive soon enough, he turned to see its cause, forgetting about the shadowy character he’d briefly witnessed.

    Unable to see yet again, he frustratingly squeezed himself away from the street back into the pedestrian traffic and moved toward the sound. He joined with a gathering set around a table, where the Nordenfiir woman had claimed territory for today’s event. He arrived in time see Elan take the challengers seat and was surprised to see her exhibit the strength she did – he would have imagined a much swifter end to this match.

    He watched with enthusiasm, finding himself enthralled by the friendly competition. He looked around and caught in his eye a bard man, toting his lute and singing out over the incoherent noise of the festival.

    “You there!” Erën shouted pleasantly - forgoing his usual reservation in places like this - and flashed one of his few remaining gold coins, “perhaps a song of beauty and honor!”
     
  8. Duresh

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    Lienhard Mason hurried up a street leading to Anir Square.

    He'd only just arrived in Vel Anir. And damn if it wasn't a sight. He'd left his small village of Ared'luin years back. Tried his hand at the adventuring life. Found it to his liking. The travel and the danger. It was in his blood.

    And he'd seen Elbion. Alliria. Impressive cities both. But Vel Anir, even with just his short time here now, something about it struck him more. Some measure of grandeur that the other two big cities of the Triangle lacked.

    He wanted to see the Homeland Parade. See all the fighting men marching. Hell, likely was that many Ared'luin's worth of people only made up some portion of the Anirian Guard. And many more would be here watching. Several guards had given him directions to the Square, and to the first plaza the Parade would be marching through.

    Follow the sound of magic and thunder, they said. Lienhard didn't know what to make of their words.

    Until he did.

    * * * * *​

    Elan lost.

    Put up a good fight. But lost.

    The back of her hand hitting the table as a loud bursting sound came from above. Flashes of brilliant light in the sky.

    Elan looked up. Gasped with wonder along with most of the crowd of the open plaza.

    Streaks of magic zoomed up into the air high above the plaza and the buildings surrounding it. Launched from several different locations about the plaza. Crackling designs made from arcane lightning, forming the crests of certain Vel Anirian Houses. Bursts of fire, forming yet more crests. Sparks of mana scattering above and coming together and dissipating like a flock of ephemeral birds. Explosions of light and energy swirling about in a whimsical dance and coalescing into intricate patterns before fading and disappearing.

    And still more streaks of magic. The show above heralding the arrival of the marching Guard.

    thump - THUMP - thump - THUMP - thump - THUMP

    Elan stood up on top of the chair she had been sitting in; Agatha merely standing and looking over the heads of others, such was the Norden woman's height.

    And Elan couldn't help but to grin as she saw the lead company of Guard coming into view.

    * * * * *​

    Duresh was invisible. The shopkeeper of the butcher shop close the open street holding the door open for him. And Duresh stepped outside and weaved between two of the guards lining the street.

    The display of magic above was well-timed. A new addition this year. Good for the show, yes, but also to flood the plaza with dozens of arcane signatures. Those with a keen sense for detecting the presence of magic always proved to be a problem for Duresh in the past. The gaudy display above would serve to at least dilute his Invisibility amidst all else going on. Ideally leaving him only to worry about those with keen eyes.

    Duresh walked invisible across the open street. The parade distant to his left but marching his way.

    He walked and he moved between two other guards on the opposite side of the street and he approached the entrance to the Square Embassy. Two more guards standing on either side of the double doors.

    And, right on time, a Banick man came out from inside the Embassy. Standing with the door open and his arms crossed and gazing off toward the oncoming parade. His impressed expression may have actually been honest.

    Duresh stepped up the few stairs and slipped past the Banick man and into the Embassy proper. The same amount of guards would be present inside, concentrated up by balconies naturally, but normal business would not be conducted today on account of the festivities. No chance of being bothered by wandering merchants and the like.

    And he moved to the ambush spot. Waited. The strain of his Invisibility eating away at the edges of his vision.

    * * * * *​

    Kristen's mother gestured up toward the display of magic in the air above. Said something to her daughter.

    Kristen shook her head. Still rocking side-to-side on her heels. Her lips pursed.

    And her mother motioned to two of her elite guards and said something and they nodded and Kristen hurried back into the Embassy from the balcony and the elites followed after her.
     
  9. Selene Avar

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    Out of the corner of her eye Selene watched as the sion of House Pirian left the neighboring balcony along with two guards.

    A small frown touched her lips.

    Neither House Pirian nor House Virak were part of the ruling Alliance that currently guided Vel Anir's path. In theory both of the Houses opposed this Parade, calling it a waste of time and resources. The fact of it was there were politics afoot, there always was in Vel Anir.

    It didn't make much sense though for Kirsten to just up and leave the celebration, especially in full view of every single other House. They were watched, they were always watched, and rumor of this would quickly fly through the other Houses.

    This might turn into a minor scandal.

    Selene thinned her lips, considering for a second before she took a tentative step forward and whispered into Elise Virak's ear. "Mistress, Kirsten Pirian just left the Balcony."

    There was a moment of silence as the woman glanced over, her own expression completely unreadable.

    "I suggest I follow." It was a gambit to get the hell out of this parade. She preferred politics to mindless chattel running through the streets, and as she waited for an answer she held her breath. Eventually Elise nodded curtly, waving the Dreadlord away.

    Letting out a sigh of relief Selene turned on her heel and headed into the building.
     
  10. Xyrdithas

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    A frown came across his lips, and he tucked his gold back away. Whether the bard hadn’t heard him, or ignored him, he felt he'd been snubbed. He glared for a moment, and turned back to the match. He’d waited too long, and barely managed to catch the finish. But at least he did, and as he watched the clasped hands fall a great sound came forth and with brilliant light his eyes were drawn to the display above.

    It was remarkable.

    He pushed his way almost anxiously back to the forefront, or rather as close to it as he was able. He was impressed with these people today, their celebration was certainly as sight to behold, and so he watched on. But his mind still rolled around the frustration of having been ignored. It was not that he really expected anything else – more that he had allowed himself that opportunity. He felt it foolish to think he’d receive unbiased consideration here. Even in something so small.

    Perhaps the ears were a little much. They were a bit… long.

    With a grunt he removed it from his mind, and did his best to enjoy the show which for the most part - he did. Their magics and their control reminded him of the worship that would take place in the temple at Sharyrdaes. True, his people had never paraded about the holy city in a manner quite like this or with these exuberant festivities, but he felt that in some ways their celebration was not unlike the devotion his people offered to their gods. Only, he did see great difference in praising the divine as opposed to the mortal. But after all, they are only human.

    He glanced over to Elan and the Norden woman to see if any trouble had come from their match, but kept his attention primarily on the parade.

    He forgot his earlier frustration surprisingly quick.

    Did he actually like this festival?

    No, of course not. Right?
     
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