"Stop the carriage."
Walter's bannerman banged on the driver's side wall of the carriage's interior. The driver slowed the horses and the carriage came to a slow stop, the rest of the mounted entourage stopping as well. Horses milled, tapping their hooves against the clean cobbles of one of Ostia Anir's main thoroughfares, and the House Banick bannermen and soldiers atop their steeds remained dutifully in their saddles, vigilant and stoic.
Walter pushed open the door of the carriage and stepped out into the bright afternoon. He glanced back down the avenue, spotting what he had seen from the carriage window: two young boys, one human, one elf. Arguing. Pushing one another. He started in their direction, waving off his bannermen who made to follow him.
The two boys didn't notice him until he was right beside them, crouching down to their level. When they finally did, both of them flinched, each standing with a rigid posture and nervous gaze, as if they were about to be punished.
"What's going on here?"
"N-Nothing, Count Banick," said the human boy.
"We were only playing, my Lord," mumbled the elven boy.
Walter eyed the elven boy. Such a rare thing, to see them in their formative years. "It did not look nor sound like you were merely playing."
The human boy swallowed. Then, in the way children do under the relentless gaze of an inquiring adult, he admitted to what had happened. "Ylleryl borrowed my ball and he gave it back to me and it was ruined."
Walter looked to the elven boy, Ylleryl, and asked him simply, "Is this true?"
The elven boy hesitated, then seemed to crumble, his eyes downcast, as he said, "Y-Yes, my Lord."
"What happened? How did the ball get ruined?"
"It was an accident. I-I didn't mean to! I'm sorry!"
Walter looked back to the human boy. "And you were angry at him because of this?"
"Yes, my Lord."
Walter reached out and touched the human boy's shoulder. "It is alright to be upset. But keep in mind what you have, boy. Ylleryl told you the truth, and he did this because he is a good friend, and good friends are to be cherished. Don't you think you ought to forgive him?"
Their argument and their fight was quelled with heartfelt apologies from both boys, and they made to go scampering off, their cheer renewed with their conflict resolved and with their fears of punishment assuaged. Before Ylleryl left, Walter asked him his family name, which was Avastarylline. He thought about it briefly whilst walking back to his carriage. As he sat down inside, he remembered where he'd heard it before. They were a family that had immigrated to Ostia Anir from Alys Seranine, an elven city to the south.
Topical. The strings of fate wove themselves in the most intricate patterns.
It was to be a massive project. Simply referred to as "The Canal," the goal of the project was to provide Ostia Anir with better access to the wide open Cortosi Coast. Walter was counting on this to make Ostia Anir more competitive with Vel Luin, the much larger port city to the north that was better positioned as the primary destination for trading ships coming in from the waters of the Coast. Ostia Anir's current advantage was its close proximity to the Falwood Portal Stone, which enabled individual adventurers and merchants, or small bands of them, to come from or go to the far flung corners of Arethil with ease.
However, construction of the Canal would see it cleave right through three elven settlements: two towns, and one city.
Elyr'Adith, situated on the coast just south of Ostia Anir, something of a resort and relaxation town.
Elyr'Morath, situated inland on the peninsula, which lay within dense forests and had many of its buildings built into the thick trees themselves.
And, as it so happened, Alys Seranine, the largest of the three, near the southernmost edge of the proposed Canal.
The residents of these settlements were to be evicted from their homes. Yes, it was true that all of them were outside of the county of Ostia Anir, and that Walter had no proper jurisdiction over them, but he and House Banick stood as the most powerful force in the region. He would be firm, but he would not be cruel: the evicted elves would be offered new lives and residences within the collection of "Canal Tenements" (construction of which was nearly complete), within Ostia Anir itself if they so wanted.
That being said, Walter did expect resistance the further south he went. Elyr'Adith he knew from personal experience would be friendly, agreeable. Elyr'Morath, more insular and with fewer human residents, was estimated by his Spymaster to be less so. And in Alys Seranine, where the primary spoken language was Elvish and the Fellowship--a group of fervent human-slaying elves--was known to operate, resistance was all but guaranteed.
So. In light of expected resistance, force might be necessitated. To that end, Walter would assemble a few companies from his personal army. And, as well, he'd sent a missive off to the Academy to request a loan of some Initiates for this task. The Proctors had need of training their Initiates on missions like these, and Walter had just such a mission to provide.
Presently, Walter sat alone in his tent near the construction site of the Canal Tenements in Ostia Anir, writing summons to his bannermen and finalizing plans for the eviction stage of the Canal project. A House Banick messenger poked his head into the tent.
"The Initiates sent by the Academy have arrived, my Lord."
Walter turned in his chair. "Good. I should like to meet with them."
The messenger hesitated slightly. "My Lord...you might not be pleased."