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ZONE - Veritshire

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#1 Lord_Capulet

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Posted 12 October 2015 - 10:12 PM

Map:  

Spoiler

 

 

Veritshire: the hub of commerce and travel in the Southern Empire, the haven on the horizon for those traveling into or out of Achaean borders.  The residents, the merchants, and even the guards all exude welcome and hospitality, though the scars on the walls and some of the people show that their peacable hostmanship is not weakness.

 

The sounds of merriment and contented rest have only been slightly muffled by the sense of foreboding in the city.  Citizens continue to happily ply their wares and greet their guests, unable to shake the feeling that something bad is about to happen yet hiding those fears behind practiced expressions.

 

While there may no longer be enough occupants to qualify for full city status, Veritshire’s economic and strategic significance make it an important local landmark.  Each of its five main gates corresponds with a well-used imperial road, and instead of modifying those roads, the original town was simply built around them.  Shops line each of the primary streets, leading to the main market square and The Old Outpost inn at the center, where the roads meet.  The merchants and shopkeepers had houses built over or around their stalls or shops, while the garrison live either in one of the barracks or in a private home with their families, usually closer to the walls.  Any remaining space within the walls was distributed sensibly for the town’s needs.  

 

No formal districts have been named, so the roads, gates, and well-known shops are used for reference.  Each road is named for its outward destination, i.e. Lake Rd. for Lake Demon, Raven Rd. for Ravenstone, Fort Rd. for Fort Fire, and so on.  The smaller streets that lead through the town were designed to be easily held by a group of soldiers in close formation, so that the guard or a legion could make a stand even if the walls fell.  As for the gates, they were aptly named based on what normally or most notably passes through them.

 

Points of Interest:

 

The Old Outpost Inn: One of many inns and taverns throughout the city, but certainly the largest and busiest, and thus one of the more prestigious.  

 

The Manors of the Founding Families:  Each of these manors started as a simple house at a cornerstone of the original town.  The merchant clans and former Legionaries who banded together to found the town pledged to support and protect each other as they made their home into a safe haven for all friends of the Empire.  

 

The Baron’s Keep: This imposing fortification houses the city’s court and dungeon, along with an additional barracks and armory for the Veritshire Guard.  It is the heart of the city’s justice and governmental systems, though currently unoccupied by a Baron after the death of the previous ruling family.  The current Steward prefers to reside in his family’s manor, and reserves the keep for visiting royals or nobles until a new Baron is named for the city.

 

The Red Tower: The rallying point for the townsfolk and the primary belltower for alarm, celebration, etc.  It is also the highest point in the city.

 

The Temple compound:  The temple of Athena is highlighted by shrines to gods and goddesses from all the known pantheons, so visitors may ask for any blessings or protection they need before continuing on their journey.

 

The Unfinished Library: While the foundation and exterior are complete and the building is safe for occupancy, the interior is not fully shelved or decorated since not enough books have been collected.  Still, the Founding Families will contribute funding or manpower from time to time, and visitors and residents alike are welcome to delve into what knowledge has been collected here.

 

The Tower of the Inquisition:  The newest addition to the city of Veritshire, the only building made of imported black stone instead of the usual red mud bricks.  This compound acts as a staging ground for Inquisitors moving throughout the South, and a garrison of Ebonguards is stationed here for rapid response wherever they are needed.

 

 

 

- - - - - - -

 

 

Some time passed before the group made its way back into the Empire proper, and many of them were glad to leave the harsh desert behind them.  Grass and trees became a more common sight, as did streams and people clad in something other than robes and turbans.  The climate was significantly more pleasant, though still noticeably warmer than the north had been.  


Upon seeing a marker that said Veritshire was less than fifty miles away, Marcus began to grow visibly apprehensive.  He had looked refreshingly nostalgic up to that point, like he was truly going home, but now something was clearly bothering him.  Tom or Evvy could infer that it was the column of armed riders in the distance, though it would take a while for everyone else to catch up to their augmented senses of sight.  As the riders drew up, the party noticed that Marcus had fallen slightly behind, once again lost in thought.  He barely perked up in time to notice that the riders were drawing within bowshot.


Most of the fifty-or-so riders were clad in light grey gambesons and steel helmets, though a few had chain hauberks or bits of plate.  A few were even clad in full plate, with their own coats of arms, obviously knights of some lower standing.  However, as they formed up in front of the group it could be seen that all wore the same burnished pauldrons, engraved with the image of a legionary scutum,or tower shield, itself emblazoned with a set of balanced scales.  The cavalry wielded an array of lances, bows, and crossbows, except for their leader, a barrel-chested warrior who looked like he could give his horse a turn on his own back.


While not much taller than his followers, the figure under the greathelm and burnished plate was no less imposing.  His right hand firmly gripped a long-handled flanged mace, an arming sword hung from a simple scabbard on his left hip, and an oval cavalry-style scutum was slung across his back.  The rider let his mace dangle from a loop on his wrist as he removed his helm, revealing an eager grin...and a face that resembled a younger, happier, and slightly chubbier version of Marcus.  He even had a similar mustache, though his was a bit bushier and less orderly.


Greetings, travelers!  We are the Guardians of Veritshire, protectors of these lands and servants of the Count of Ravenstone.  What brings you to our borders?”


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#2 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 13 October 2015 - 07:02 AM

Realizing all that really hurt Saffron, and she quickly shrank. “Sorry…” She murmured, oddly quiet compared to her mood just a second or two ago. Percula settled down in the pit of the demon-kin’s stomach, just listening to what was happening outside, now. Kye didn't say anything, but he frowned, putting a hand over his stomach again and - frankly - feeling awful for her.

 

"It's okay," he said quietly.

 
Both of them listened in silence as Agethar got in Caiden's face. Caiden said nothing the entire time, his face a disciplined mask. His thick arms tensed and his fists clenched, his single eye full of fire and fury, but he refused to react. Even as Agethar left, the Venator simply stood there, breathing slowly and clearly determined to stay calm.
 
Kye shivered violently when he felt some of Percula's cold leak out from her anger. It was good Agethar was already gone, as several of Kye's demonic features reappeared for longer than a second. By the time Percula started moving around again, Kye had gotten a grip, though he kept shifting his weight around at how odd it felt when she paced.
 
“Kye… can you lie down, again?” The pixie called up, her voice still slightly strained with suppressed anger at Agethar’s tirade. “Please?”
 
"Yeah - sure," he replied quickly. "Um... hold onto something." He paused. "Not that there's anything to hold onto, I guess..."
 
Carefully, the demon-kin lowered himself to the ground again, lying on his chest and waiting. Within a few moments, Percula had made her way up to the point of Kye gagging. He coughed violently and went rigid, clearly trying not to panic. Thankfully, Percula didn't end up getting hurt, and she suddenly shot out - past some long and sharp fangs, she noticed, so he didn't entirely have a grip on his disguise right now - and landed square in Kye's hand.
 
The demon-kin grimaced in embarrassment at how covered in gunk she was. He tried to very gently wipe her wings off with one finger, but it wasn't very effective.
 
"Sorry," he said, right before he glanced at Caiden. He then looked at Percula again, seeming worried. "I... think he needs you," he murmured.
 
He said this because Caiden didn't pay either one of them any attention. He crossed his arms and kept standing there, his back turned to the two of them. It was anyone's best guess that he wasn't moving simply because he was afraid that, if he did, his rage would manifest itself somehow.
 
---
 
The following morning, Caiden remained even more silent than usual, which was an impressive feat for the Venator. He had Kye ride double with him - probably by way of apology for his behavior the night before. Drake hadn't spoken much, either, probably still in self-conflict about his entire situation, even if Marcus's words had brought him some small measure of peace.
 
The knight couldn't help but be reminded of Illikon as they drew nearer to Veritshire. True, this city had nothing on Illikon's splendor - even if Drake's eyes were considerably biased - but he could almost feel Marcus's same emotions as they drew nearer to the city. Tom admired it from afar, impressed with the stonework. He caught a scent on the wind before the riders even showed up, hearing the thunder of the horses' hooves. Drake turned his attention to the riders, Kye shifted a bit uncomfortably in his seat behind Caiden, and the Venator remained stoic as ever.
 
The lead rider halted and removed his helm, speaking. “Greetings, travelers!  We are the Guardians of Veritshire, protectors of these lands and servants of the Count of Ravenstone.  What brings you to our borders?”
 
"We're bringing someone back home," Drake replied promptly in a friendly tone, cocking a slight grin. "Judging from the look of you," and to some degree the smell of him, but he wasn't going to add that part, "I think you know him already. We ride with Marcus Capulet, Inquisitor and son of your fair city. I'm Sir Tom Drake, the Demon Slayer of Illikon. My companions are Caiden Voros of Redfield, veteran Venator; Kye Vakurseth of Parsanshar; Evvorhact; Neitha; and Agethar, Venator."
 
Probably everybody else wasn't used to being introduced, but Drake knew it was best to inform riders such as these of everyone present, before any complications arose. Mentally, he added, Oh yeah, and Percula the adorable pixie, who's probably in Caiden's stomach.
 
"Marcus has heard of some, ah... troubles back home," Drake finished. "We're his friends and traveling companions, and we came to help him set things right."
 
At least, some of us did, Drake thought disdainfully. Why the hell Agethar had to still be hanging around, he had no idea. But, as peppered as Tom's words were with mental commentary, he maintained a laid-back and friendly behavior on the outside, and he kept his attention on the rider from Veritshire.
 
 
((The beginning of my post is just to finish up some interactions with Burgs. Once we're done, I'll no longer have the break and keep my entire posts in the present.))

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#3 Dalton Westmoore

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Posted 13 October 2015 - 08:46 AM

If anyone could see Agethar's face at this moment, it would have looked like a cold mask, his face set in a deep frown. Maugrimm looked depressed, and his tail dragged between his legs, as he followed his Master, who was riding on a Camel. From time to time, the grumpy creature would spit at the dog with deadly accuracy, causing the dog to jump back with a yelp, before shaking himself off.

 

The Venator was angry at himself: he shouldn't have let his anger get out of control like it had. Caiden had given a simple, if rude, answer to his question, Evvy had tried to defuse the situation, but he had just made it worst, and had most likely made enemies with the rest of the group. It didn't help that he felt extremely guilty about Alvar giving him his camel as a parting gift, and felt like he did not deserve it.

 

All he wanted to do was apologize to the group, face the consequences, and then go and bury himself in a sandune, he felt so terrible.

 

But just as the Northrim Venator was about to spur his camel forward, a group of riders rode up to them.

 

Greetings, travelers!  We are the Guardians of Veritshire, protectors of these lands and servants of the Count of Ravenstone.  What brings you to our borders?”

 

"We're bringing someone back home,  Judging from the look of you, I think you know him already. We ride with Marcus Capulet, Inquisitor and son of your fair city. I'm Sir Tom Drake, the Demon Slayer of Illikon. My companions are Caiden Voros of Redfield, veteran Venator; Kye Vakurseth of Parsanshar; Evvorhact; Neitha; and Agethar, Venator."

 

"Agethar Twin-Axe, at yer service." Agethar said with a false cheerfulness that even the Camel saw through, as he tried to bow while sitting on the humped beast's back. 



#4 Lord_Capulet

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Posted 13 October 2015 - 10:28 PM

"We're bringing someone back home," Drake replied promptly in a friendly tone, cocking a slight grin. "Judging from the look of you, I think you know him already. We ride with Marcus Capulet, Inquisitor and son of your fair city. I'm Sir Tom Drake, the Demon Slayer of Illikon. My companions are Caiden Voros of Redfield, veteran Venator; Kye Vakurseth of Parsanshar; Evvorhact; Neitha; and Agethar, Venator."

 

The armored man grinned widely, but politely let Tom finish.

 

"Marcus has heard of some, ah... troubles back home," Drake finished. "We're his friends and traveling companions, and we came to help him set things right."

 

At this, the rider began to laugh boisterously, leaning back in his saddle as he did so.  “HAHAHAHAH!  Of course old fussy-britches would show up when we need him!”  He gleefully addressed his comrades, “Didn’t I tell you lads?  Never around for the party, but always ready to help clean up afterward.  That’s my second brother for you!”   

 

He then turned back to Tom and the rest of the party with arms stretched wide.  “I am Alfonso Capulet, youngest brother to your friend.  Now tell him to stop hiding and greet me properly, before he makes me cry.”

 

Marcus rode forward, a slight smirk on his face.  “Oh, we can’t have that, can we?  You’d rust that pretty breastplate of yours, then beg me to get it polished again.”  Scarcely a second passed once they were in reach before Alfonso embraced Marcus with a loud clank of their armored chests.  “It’s good to see you, little brother” was a surprisingly ironic statement to make, since the burly cavalryman sat almost a full head higher than the Inquisitor.

 

After a moment of laughing and backslapping, Alfonso gave the rest of the party his attention once more.  “If my brother considers you friends, then you are friends to all of Veritshire!”  Some of the other Guardians had ridden up to join in the handshaking and backslapping, though Marcus was clearly embarrassed by all the attention.  “As for the trouble you mentioned...best not to discuss it in the open.  The city is getting ready for a festival, and it wouldn’t do to have them start walking in fear again.”

 

Alfonso raised a fist, then extended his fingers outward as he rotated his hand in a circle.  With well-drilled precision, the Guardians began to form up on either side of the party, as an honor guard.  “If you will allow us the privilege, we will escort you into the city itself before returning to our duties.  His lordship the steward will be pleased to have such honored guests at our humble festival!”

 

After almost an hour of riding, everyone could see the crimson walls of Veritshire more clearly.  A smaller fortification, probably a keep of some kind, as well as a tower made entirely of black stone peeked above the walls, though a single red belltower outdistanced them both.  Shapes of men and pack animals bustled into, out of, and around the city.  

 

As the group drew closer to the city, they noticed a cemetery on a hill beside the road.  A temple to Hades adorned the crest like a watchtower over the fallen, a bearded and helmeted image of the god watching the grounds and the city solemnly.  A high brick wall enclosing the gravesites looked like it had been built relatively recently, and was ringed with some kind of blue flowers.    Alfonso’s smile dropped as he looked at his older brother, whose expression was dour, at best.  The sturdy guardsman placed a hand on the Inquisitor’s shoulder, who tried his best to smile in response, but failed rather miserably.

 

“I can take your friends into town for you, brother.  I know it’s been awhile since you paid your respects here.”

 

Marcus gave a brief nod and thank-you, then addressed the others.  “I won’t be long.  Alfonso can get you all situated at our parents’ manor.”  The Inquisitor turned his horse to slowly take the detour toward the cemetery.  He did not specifically tell them to leave him alone, though anyone close to him could sense that he might appreciate some company, but did not want to impose whatever issues he was dealing with on anyone.

 

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#5 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 13 October 2015 - 10:50 PM

Drake nodded to Marcus before he turned his horse and headed toward the cemetery. The knight watched him go, remaining silent. It crossed his mind to follow him, but Drake figured his relationship with Marcus was strained enough. A monster wasn't what he needed trying to offer him comfort.

 

With that in mind, Tom turned his attention to Alfonso instead. "Lead on," he said, trying to maintain a cheerful demeanor.

 

Caiden, on the other hand, helped Kye down from his stallion. "Ride with Tom," he said. Kye simply shrugged and turned to Drake, who offered him a hand up to haul him into the saddle behind him. The demon-kin's gaze had lingered on the temple of Hades for more than a little while, and he couldn't help but feel a wave of relief that they weren't all going over there.

 

With Kye in Tom's hands, Caiden directed his steed toward the temple, quietly following after Marcus. He left his horse as they neared the cemetery, going on foot, as he didn't want to be disrespectful.


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#6 Burger Warrior

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Posted 14 October 2015 - 12:06 PM

"It's okay," Kye said quietly, when he noticed Percula’s mood fall.

 

She blinked, before smiling weakly. Before she could thank him, though, Agethar got loud, and by the time that was done… well… she just wanted out, by that point.

 

"Yeah - sure," he replied quickly, when she asked to be let out. "Um... hold onto something." He paused. "Not that there's anything to hold onto, I guess..."

 

“I have my ways…” Percula said, trying to force a smirk as she leaned up against one of the walls of his gut. That always helped minimize the falling feeling-

 

Wait, there’s still food in here!

 

Kye might have heard the pixie yelp as a torrent of slimy goop slid down on top of her. He could definitely feel her dig herself out, though, and crawl back up his throat, grumbling the whole way. Fortunately she wasn’t quite furious enough to start tapping into her magic incidentally, and most of the goop was lost on the way up.

 

Either way, by the time the pixie was coughed up into the demon-kin’s hand, she was still rather pissed off. Especially when Kye reached down to touch her wings, of all things, which Percula quickly moved away from his fingers, giving him a little petulant glare.

 

"Sorry," he said, right before he glanced at Caiden. He then looked at Percula again, seeming worried. "I... think he needs you," he murmured.

 

He said this because Caiden didn't pay either one of them any attention. He crossed his arms and kept standing there, his back turned to the two of them. Percula was wondering if he wasn't moving simply because he was afraid that, if he did, his rage would manifest itself somehow. Sort of like how my magic explodes…

 

Either way, the pixie turned to face Kye so she could shake the gunk off of her wings with a few rapid beats, before brushing her human-made dress off. She still wondered at how Caiden managed to make such a nice little dress for her, at times… and couldn’t help but wondering when this one would need permanent changing.

 

She shook her head clear, though. “Right, yeah, I should go check on him…” She sighed. The pixie turned again, before pausing and glancing up at Kye over her shoulder. “Uh, thanks…” Percula added, giving one of his fingers a brief hug before taking off and buzzing on over to Caiden.

 

She stuck to hovering a little behind and above his shoulder, biting her lip. “Hey… you okay?” Percula asked, tilting her head. “I heard what happened…”

 

-----

 

The following morning, the pixie had somehow contrived an excuse to ride in one of Caiden’s pouches again (whether or not she ended up confessing it was so she could protect him from Agethar and his filthy mutt), slumbering on a bandage-bed while he rode with Kye. As the familiar motion of the horse moving stopped suddenly, though, Percula awoke. Her yawning and stretching were largely muted by the general sounds of conversation around her and the horse she was riding on, which gave her some freedom of yawning. As everything began moving again, Saffron pushed the pouch open ever-so-slightly to see if it was clear, before squeezing her top half out.

 

Caiden was a riding by himself now, and Perky could see a strange place ahead of them, with Mister Moustache between herself and it. She blinked, wondering if maybe it was safe to come out, but she decided against it for the moment. Instead, she just turned to look up at her human friend.

 

“Uh… where’s everyone else?” She asked, glancing around again. “And where are we going?”


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#7 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 14 October 2015 - 12:29 PM

She shook her head clear, though. “Right, yeah, I should go check on him…” She sighed. The pixie turned again, before pausing and glancing up at Kye over her shoulder. “Uh, thanks…” Percula added, giving one of his fingers a brief hug before taking off and buzzing on over to Caiden.

 

Kye colored slightly when she hugged one of his fingers. "You're welcome... if I even did anything worth thanking," she hear him mutter just before she left.

She stuck to hovering a little behind and above his shoulder, biting her lip. “Hey… you okay?” Percula asked, tilting her head. “I heard what happened…”

 

Caiden glanced back at her over his shoulder, but that only lasted half a second before he looked away again. She could practically see the anger in his eye.

 

But, predictably, he said in a slow and quiet voice that very much indicated the opposite, "I'm fine." For a moment, she thought he might actually say more, but the breath he took came out as a slow sigh.

 

"Looks like we're spending the night," he went on after a long pause, blatantly trying to change the subject. "I don't have a tent, so you'll have to hide somewhere again. Just tell me where."

 

---

 

Caiden glanced down at Percula when she peeked out of the pouch on his belt. There was no one else around for the time being, though he did glance around just to double-check as he kept walking toward the cemetery after Marcus.

“Uh… where’s everyone else?” She asked, glancing around again. “And where are we going?”

 

"The others are following Marcus's brother," Caiden replied, looking down at her. "I'm following Marcus. I don't know for sure, but I feel like he could use a friend."


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#8 Burger Warrior

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Posted 14 October 2015 - 01:06 PM

Caiden glanced back at Percula over his shoulder, but that only lasted half a second before he looked away again. She could practically see the anger in his eye. Ohhh boy… The pixie thought, biting her lip.

 

But, predictably, he said in a slow and quiet voice that very much indicated the opposite, "I'm fine." For a moment, she thought he might actually say more, but the breath he took came out as a slow sigh. Percula relaxed a little at that, though, and finally landed on his shoulder.

 

"Looks like we're spending the night," he went on after a long pause, blatantly trying to change the subject. "I don't have a tent, so you'll have to hide somewhere again. Just tell me where."

 

Saffron idly made her way toward his neck to lean against that. “You sure you don’t want to choose?” She hummed, smiling up at him. “There are too many spots for me to pick just one…” Percula teased, trying to lift his mood and keep his mind off of what had happened. That seemed to be how he dealt with things, and… well, it’d work for now.

 

Agethar was going to get more than his fair share of pranking sometime to make up for this, though. A lot more.

 

-----

 

"The others are following Marcus's brother," Caiden replied, looking down at Percula. "I'm following Marcus. I don't know for sure, but I feel like he could use a friend."

 

“Oh.” She blinked. “...Weeell, I guess I’ll wait in here, then. Don’t mind me!” She offered up cheerfully, before vanishing back inside the pouch. She vaguely wondered if she should’ve asked if she could stay somewhere else, but given most any other place would probably distract Caiden… after he’s done giving Moustache some buddy-buddy time. Then maybe I can take him up on that trouser offer… Percula smirked, lounging on her makeshift bed.


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#9 Dalton Westmoore

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Posted 15 October 2015 - 10:21 AM

As the Collum moved towards Vertishire, Agethar moved his Camel up towards Alfonso, Capulet's brother, and asked "This may not be th' best place ta ask this, but...I be out of money at th' moment. Do ye have any places were I could earn a day's wages at? Need anythin' hunted?"

 

He would apologize to Caiden, later, maybe after a day or two; he thought that if he tried now, the Venator would probably rip his head of with his bare hands.


Edited by Dalton the Defiler, 15 October 2015 - 01:33 PM.


#10 Sareth

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Posted 15 October 2015 - 08:19 PM

"We're bringing someone back home. Judging from the look of you, I think you know him already. We ride with Marcus Capulet, Inquisitor and son of your fair city. I'm Sir Tom Drake, the Demon Slayer of Illikon. My companions are Caiden Voros of Redfield, veteran Venator; Kye Vakurseth of Parsanshar; Evvorhact; Neitha; and Agethar, Venator."

 

Unlike probably most of the others, Neitha was used to being announced —it came with being a famous gladiator; and, before that, at the few social functions that she had attended with her father.

 

Still, if Tom was going to go to the trouble, he should have used her title of 'Princess' —not that he, or any of them, actually knew about that... Still, he at least could have gone with 'Lady' —it was only polite—, she thought to herself in a form of lighthearted grumbling.

 

She didn't say much, save a brief greeting to Marcus' brother, who seemed... rather boisterous —especially compared to Marcus.

 

“As for the trouble you mentioned...best not to discuss it in the open. The city is getting ready for a festival, and it wouldn’t do to have them start walking in fear again.”

 

She raised an eyebrow at that. 'Better than having them not walking 'cause someone shot them full of arrows' she thought to herself sardonically, questioning the wisdom of holding a festival when people were getting knocked off left and right, but didn't say anything for the moment.

 

 

“I can take your friends into town for you, brother. I know it’s been awhile since you paid your respects here.”

 

I won’t be long. Alfonso can get you all situated at our parents’ manor.”

 

Neitha followed the others' gazes, noting the cemetery —walled, was that normal?—, and the temple to the Imperials' death god that stood beside it. It seemed to affect Marcus quite a bit, and she watched with curiosity as he separated from the group and headed up towards the graveyard. He hadn't said no one should follow, and that, plus something about his bearing, seemed to say to her that he did want company, just was too embarrassed or proud to ask for it.

 

An opinion Caiden seemed to have as well, as, after switching Kye to Tom's horse, he followed after the inquisitor. She almost followed as well, but was frozen by a moment of indecision. Was it really her place? She barely knew him, at least Caiden seemed to have been traveling with him for some time, but she'd only met him a couple days before.

 

How much did she care about Marcus? she wondered to herself. She'd spent more time with him, socially, than probably any man since she'd been sold into the arena. But what was he to her? He seemed like a good comrade to fight alongside; he was certainly fun to tease; he'd likely be quite fun to sleep with.... Why did she spend so much time on him? Was it simply the challenge of getting him to break out of his blushing shell, or did she actually care? 

 

She wasn't sure, but she figured there was only one way to find out: spend more time with him, learn more about him. Besides, she thought —justifying her decision to herself—, she'd navigated a trap- and monster- filled temple with him, the least she could do was give him a bit of support if he needed it.

 

Without saying a word, she fell to the back of the group, and then slipped off after Marcus and Caiden...


"This means I will not have to regret sending back their envoy short a few limbs."

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#11 Lord_Capulet

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 11:03 AM

Agethar moved his Camel up towards Alfonso and asked "This may not be th' best place ta ask this, but...I be out of money at th' moment. Do ye have any places were I could earn a day's wages at? Need anythin' hunted?"

 

With a shrug, Alfonso responded, “Not much game around here, and no monsters have been spotted in years.  My first brother, the Sheriff, might be able to hire you as auxiliary security for the festival, but I doubt he’ll be willing to pay the extra expense.  The trouble you heard of has actually quieted down recently, hence why I didn’t want to bring it up.  We found the scum that murdered our old sheriff and a bunch of other people.  The cowards have been hanging from the Red Tower for almost a week now.”

 

Stroking his moustache thoughtfully, Alfonso asked, “Do you have any skill in trading or metalwork?  My uncle pays by the hour, especially for boring jobs like grindstone work or stocking shelves.  Marcus used to do that before he left, but now our family uses it as a way to teach the trade to others, see if they want to apprentice there.”

 

---

 

Upon reaching the cemetery, they came across an aging priestess who was watering some of the blue flowers around the fence.  Caiden recognized the vaguely sword-shaped flora as Gladioli, mostly useless for potions but grown aesthetically as a symbol of strength of character.  An odd choice of decoration for a cemetery, and Marcus seemed just as confused.  The priestess turned to see the Inquisitor dismount and smiled in recognition.  “Marcus!  It’s been too long, young man.  Blessings on you in this place of final rest.”

 

Marcus bowed respectfully.  “Thank you, priestess.  If you don’t mind me asking, what are these flowers doing all around the fence?  I only planted them at the mausoleum.”

 

The priestess’ smile did not waver.  “The gods favored your gift to the fallen and the way you honored her...their legacy. The day you left to become an Inquisitor, more of these flowers sprouted all along the fence, like a company of guards.  They have bloomed ever since, even in drought, as a testament to those buried here.  ‘tis an honor to tend the effects of such a sign from above.”

 

Capulet said nothing further, though he was clearly awed.  The priestess cut a few of the fresher flowers and pressed them into Marcus’ hand before leading him to the nearest gate.  She stopped the Inquisitor with a hand on his arm, motioning with her head toward Caiden and Neitha, who had apparently followed him to the cemetery.  Marcus nodded in their direction, but did not meet their eyes, then muttered to the priestess, “It’s alright, they’re with me.”

 

The priestess nodded, then let the Inquisitor enter before beckoning his friends forward.  “Welcome to the cemetery of Veritshire, travelers.  I am Lucretia, priestess of Hades and keeper of these grounds.”  Motioning at their weapons, she continued, “It is well that you are armed.  These graves were once defiled by a necromancer, who robbed our ancestors of their rightful rest and turned them against us.  This temple and the walls were placed to prevent such sacrilege from being repeated.  Should any of their spirits or bodies seek to harm you while you pay your respects, feel free to ask the nearest guard or priest for assistance.”

 

A few squads of guards and various priests roamed the grounds, but otherwise the adventurers were alone.  Marcus led the way to a mausoleum in a corner of the enclosure, set apart from all the other graves.  Five statues stood outside the tiny building, gilt in gold and polished to reflect the sun.  Two were of a lord and his lady, looking noble in both posture and demeanor.  The other three were of much younger figures, but no less stately.  One was a gorgeous young lady in a flowing dress, while the other two were depicted armed and armored.  One was a young man with a claymore and cocky grin, the other was a beautiful girl...with a halberd and short sword.  While her weapons’ designs did not exactly match Marcus’ own, only a fool would miss the similarities.  The inscriptions on each wall of the mausoleum read:

 

The Noble House

Onesta

Gone, but never forgotten.

Let he who wishes to rule first learn to serve.  

 

This was the final resting place of Veritshire’s previous ruling house.  

 

Marcus’ eyes were moist as he approached each statue.  He bowed before the images of the lord, lady, and their older children, with fond memories showing on his face, like visiting old friends long gone.  But it was before the statue of the young girl where he seemed the least comfortable, the least in control of his emotions.  He tried to lean on his halberd for support, quivering as he struggled to keep from sobbing.  The mourning pains made the man look decades older, scarcely a shade of the confident veteran they all knew.  He could not meet the golden statue’s eyes, as if guilty of some shame.  Eventually, he let his halberd slide gently and pitifully to the ground, leaning with both hands on the white marble base, like he was begging for forgiveness.  The golden sculpture looked onward with the expression of a gallant defender and seemed to reach reassuringly to onlookers, but Marcus took no refuge in her gaze.  He remained silent, but could only hold in so much in this vulnerable state.  Tears began to run down his face, ignoring his efforts to hide them.  The Inquisitor looked like he wanted to be anywhere else, but seemed rooted to the spot.

 

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#12 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 03:52 PM

Saffron idly made her way toward his neck to lean against that. “You sure you don’t want to choose?” She hummed, smiling up at him. “There are too many spots for me to pick just one…” Percula teased.

The Venator finally showed a hint of a smile, though he seemed almost reluctant to even let it through. "Well, you know my favorite one..." he replied.

 

---

 

“Oh.” She blinked. “...Weeell, I guess I’ll wait in here, then. Don’t mind me!” She offered up cheerfully, before vanishing back inside the pouch.

 

Caiden couldn't help but give an incredibly brief half-smile, but it faded fast as he approached the cemetery and the priestess.

 

The priestess nodded, then let the Inquisitor enter before beckoning his friends forward.  “Welcome to the cemetery of Veritshire, travelers.  I am Lucretia, priestess of Hades and keeper of these grounds.”  Motioning at their weapons, she continued, “It is well that you are armed.  These graves were once defiled by a necromancer, who robbed our ancestors of their rightful rest and turned them against us.  This temple and the walls were placed to prevent such sacrilege from being repeated.  Should any of their spirits or bodies seek to harm you while you pay your respects, feel free to ask the nearest guard or priest for assistance.”

"If that does happen, help won't be necessary," Caiden said, but he nodded. "Thank you."

With that, he quietly went to follow Marcus. He hesitated as he saw the Inquisitor's emotion, standing his ground, at least until Marcus had all but collapsed in front of the one statue that mattered to him most. Caiden strode forward and stopped by Marcus's side, resting a strong hand on his friend's shoulder. He didn't say a word.


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#13 Sareth

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 06:37 PM

“Welcome to the cemetery of Veritshire, travelers.  I am Lucretia, priestess of Hades and keeper of these grounds. It is well that you are armed.  These graves were once defiled by a necromancer, who robbed our ancestors of their rightful rest and turned them against us.  This temple and the walls were placed to prevent such sacrilege from being repeated.  Should any of their spirits or bodies seek to harm you while you pay your respects, feel free to ask the nearest guard or priest for assistance.”

 

Neitha felt tempted to ask the priestess if she thought that was particularly likely to happen, but restrained herself —such levity wasn't really appropriate at this time and place. She simply gave a nod of acknowledgement before continuing after Marcus, though as she passed the temple with its statue of Hades she paused for a moment and touched her forehead in a brief sign of respect before continuing on; as a result of some of the turns her life had taken, she understandably made it a point never to snub the Gods of death.

 

She stopped a few steps behind Marcus as they arrived at a rather elegant mausoleum. She couldn't read the plaque, but from the visages of the statues, and the fanciness of the tomb in general, reasoned that they were probably nobility of some sort. The similarity between the weapons of the girl's statue and Marcus' own niggled at her, but it wasn't until she saw his reaction that the implications fully set in. Oh.... Damn.

 

It bothered her to see him like this, so different from his normal stolid disposition, and she almost immediately kneeled down beside him, gently reaching one arm around his midsection —not playfully or seductively as she had previous times— and pulling his shoulder to hers in a sort of sideways hug, saying nothing. A quick glance showed her Caiden had rested a comforting hand on Marcus' other shoulder.

 

As she sat there trying to comfort the inquisitor, an unexpected and unfamiliar wave of melancholy came over her as she looked at the fancy tomb once more. She couldn't help but wonder: was there a tomb like this for her father, back in her homeland? Would her treacherous uncle have even bothered with such a thing? Probably, she reasoned after a moment, if only to help sell whatever story he'd concocted to explain his brother's death... Was there a tomb like this for her? An empty grave beside her father's, waiting.... She shook off the disquieting thoughts —she was here for Marcus, not herself.

 

"She was your friend?" she said, softly and un-insistently, after some moments had passed —the question coming out half-sounding like a statement, for it was clear that Marcus had had some emotional connection to the girl—, her arm still around Marcus despite the discomfort of hugging an armored man for so long. She knew it helped some people to talk about such things, at least among friends; she hoped that it could help him....


"This means I will not have to regret sending back their envoy short a few limbs."

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#14 Burger Warrior

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Posted 16 October 2015 - 10:19 PM

 The Venator finally showed a hint of a smile, though he seemed almost reluctant to even let it through. "Well, you know my favorite one..." he replied.


Percula smirked. “Would that be your belly, or your trousers?” She teased, giving him a little nudge. “Not that I mind either, terribly…” Even if I’d rather be more accessible… She thought to herself, wondering if maybe she could delay that until morning.


-----


Percula kept a sharp ear out after vanishing inside Caiden’s pouch, listening to some old woman go on about possible bad things and stuff, and she felt grateful she’d decided to not stick around in the Venator’s stomach. Sure, he could handle himself in a pinch, but he was still a little hurt and Saffron wasn’t about to take any chances with his health…


At any rate, as Caiden moved away from the old lady, Percula peeked back out of the pouch, subtly looking around. There were some other humans milling all over the place in groups, though they weren’t eyeing the Venator too hard, or Marcus, who walked ahead of them. The pixie noticed the Inquisitor’s reactions to the graves he approached, though, and she felt really bad for him when he pretty much collapsed in front of one of them. Caiden evidently did, too, as he came up to rest a reassuring hand on Moustache’s shoulder.


Percula hesitated, not sure if she should join in the silent sharing of grief. All of this was starting to bring memories of Virgo… memories she really wanted to forget.


Maybe… if I’m just out there for a little bit… it’ll make both of us feel better…


She paused for a moment longer, wondering if she’d give Caiden a heart attack with the other humans wandering around… but Saffron was sure it’d turn out alright. That is, until Neitha of all people stepped into her field of view, kneeling down beside Marcus. Percula sighed, feeling her shoulders fall. It felt like she’d missed an opportunity.

 

She sighed, shifting around the small space she had to herself. She was really tempted to move to another spot right now, but that would just hurt the mood and distract Caiden in a bad way. So Percula finally plopped down on her makeshift bed, waiting for something outside to change.


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#15 Lord_Capulet

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 10:32 AM

Caiden and Netha’s gestures of support returned by a display of weak, if sincere gratitude.  Each of his hands gently clasped over theirs while the broken man struggled to piece himself together.

 

"She was your friend?" Neitha said, softly and un-insistently, after some moments had passed.

 

Marcus sniffled before replying, “Worse.  She was like the sister I never had.  My mother was nurse to all the Baron’s children, and was granted permission to raise her sons alongside them.” He removed his right hand, which had been clasping Caiden’s above his shoulder, to rest it once more on the statue’s base.  “Her name was Victoria.  She was only three days older than me, and stronger in every way.  She inspired this shy bookworm to train body as well as mind.  She kept our people united and resolute in our darkest hour. Even when she was the last living member of her family, she still thought of us and our safety above her own.”

 

A fresh wave of sobbing welled up before Marcus could continue.  “The day we took a gambit to save our city, she was leading the charge. We were attacked on all sides by the corpses of our friends, but we had to hold so reinforcements could be called.  None of us expected to survive that day, but she made us believe we still had a chance.”

 

I had her back...I always did.”  The veteran quivered, as if the horrors of that time were still fresh in his memory.  “I lost count of how many shamblers I killed that day, protecting her and my comrades.  I even tore one apart with my bare hands after it snapped my halberd in two.  She tossed me her own, taking my sword in exchange.  Said she needed me to keep holding the formation.  It...would be her undoing.

 

Fresh tears rolled down the Inquisitor’s face as he relived his darkest hour.  “I heard screams and saw lights behind me, and saw that the guards on her side of the formation were burning.  The wizard had seen our desperate assault, and was counterattacking.  He knew Victoria was the last Onesta that still drew breath...and he had been saving her family’s corpses for this final blow.  She wept as what was left of her noble father threw me aside like a rag doll.  She wept as she tried to ward off her own mother’s attacks.  She wept when her brother’s corpse cut her down without a shred of remorse or recognition.  And the wizard...he smiled.  Gods help me, his evil smile still haunts my nightmares.

 

Marcus sank to his knees, unable to bear the weight of his emotions.  “Her plan worked, though.  I rallied what remained of her men and held the line.  We fought on until I saw a break in their lines near Victoria’s body.  I told my brothers we would not let the wizard have her, and we charged.  I carried her myself back to the Red Tower, and heard that all the messengers had gotten through thanks to us.  Every single one of them! But there was no celebration that day.  We were leaderless, broken, just waiting for someone to rescue us.

 

The Inquisitor wiped his eyes with a corner of his hood.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to burden you with all this.  Thank you both for...your support.  It seems not even twenty-five years can heal some wounds.”  He finally rose and looked up at the statue, her brave, golden eyes meeting his own, filled with tears.  “She had just turned fifteen.  She’d been Baroness for only a week.”  

 

He saluted slowly, bowing his head as he did so.  “She would be turning forty today.  Heh, she’d probably be arguing right now with some poor noble who’d been forced to marry her.”  He smiled bitterly, shaking his head.  “Gods, was it fortune or your displeasure that brought me back, on this very day?”

 

Marcus paused, before concluding, "I...loved her.  But I was too young to know what to do, and too cowardly to tell her.  I never would have had a chance, anyway.  I'm lowborn, just being able to call her family 'friends' was a shock to some.  She trusted me...and I thought that would be enough."

 

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#16 Dalton Westmoore

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 03:22 PM

Not much game around here, and no monsters have been spotted in years.  My first brother, the Sheriff, might be able to hire you as auxiliary security for the festival, but I doubt he’ll be willing to pay the extra expense.  The trouble you heard of has actually quieted down recently, hence why I didn’t want to bring it up.  We found the scum that murdered our old sheriff and a bunch of other people.  The cowards have been hanging from the Red Tower for almost a week now.

 

"Good," Agethar said "Cowards who murder carelessly deserve nae less." 

 

"Do you have any skill in trading or metalwork?  My uncle pays by the hour, especially for boring jobs like grindstone work or stocking shelves.  Marcus used to do that before he left, but now our family uses it as a way to teach the trade to others, see if they want to apprentice there.

 

"I know a little," Agethar said "but not enough to make me own weapons. Could ye help me find the smithy?



#17 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 17 October 2015 - 10:16 PM

Percula smirked. “Would that be your belly, or your trousers?” She teased, giving him a little nudge. “Not that I mind either, terribly…”

 

Caiden's face went rather red. "You haven't ever tried the latter," he commented factually. He quickly added, "But I meant my stomach."

 

---

 

Caiden remained silent through Marcus's explanation, quietly removing his hand from the Inquisitor's shoulder once Marcus's grip left his arm. He stood by, saying nothing, but a strange, painfully reminiscent look passed over his face at the mention of shambling dead and necromancers invading Marcus's home. The look didn't last long, and no one was paying him any attention. He was glad for that, at least.

 

Marcus paused, before concluding, "I...loved her.  But I was too young to know what to do, and too cowardly to tell her.  I never would have had a chance, anyway.  I'm lowborn, just being able to call her family 'friends' was a shock to some.  She trusted me...and I thought that would be enough."

 

The Venator felt like someone dropped a lead weight in his stomach. He swallowed hard and said nothing for several seconds, turning his face away on the off-chance that anyone looked at him and keeping his eye on the ground. Only a moment after Marcus had spoken these words, Caiden rested one hand on the pouch on his belt that contained Percula. Subtly, he slid one finger into it, gently brushing the pixie with it. He left it there, his fingertip finding her face and very lightly brushing her cheek.

 

Taking a breath, he turned to regard Marcus again and said in a low voice, "I almost wish you knew how much I can sympathize, Marcus." He glanced away again for half a second before finishing, "I can sympathize with all of it... far too well."

 

He wasn't about to turn this around and talk about himself, so he left it at that for a moment before he finally finished.

 

"She died fighting for what she believed - and fighting to protect her people. No matter how tragic her death, there's no better way to die than to be a hero. And if you hadn't rallied those men, her heroism would've been for nothing."


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#18 Burger Warrior

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Posted 19 October 2015 - 01:40 AM

Caiden's face went rather red. "You haven't ever tried the latter," he commented factually. He quickly added, "But I meant my stomach."

 

Percula snickered loudly, before hopping up and hovering by the Venator’s cheek to plant a kiss there. “Okay… maybe we can try the ‘other’ spot tomorrow.” She smirked, moving around toward the front of his face. “Buuut whenever you’re ready, big guy.” The pixie said, spreading her arms out in a ‘take me’ sort of gesture. It’d probably be better if he just stuffed me in there, so I don’t poke anything else…

 

-----

 

Percula chewed her lip hard as Marcus explained his sorry. It was just… awful, really. The tale of undead hordes besieging this - from what she could see - nice-looking town, and then the whole thing about the love of his life getting killed, people getting burned… it made the pixie outright shudder at the thought of how horrific that was. No wonder he doesn’t like magic… though no one at home was into that sort of stuff, really…

 

However, Percula’s thoughts were broken when she noticed Caiden reaching into the pouch. She wondered if he was going to pull her out, or something, but instead he managed to just get a finger in and gently brush her face with it. She smiled sadly, before hugging the finger, giving it a squeeze back. Thanks… she thought.

 

Taking a breath, he turned to regard Marcus again and said in a low voice, "I almost wish you knew how much I can sympathize, Marcus." He glanced away again for half a second before finishing, "I can sympathize with all of it... far too well."

 

Percula bit her lip, remembering what little Caiden had said about his former partner. Yeah… that… I can’t. Not that much...

 

"She died fighting for what she believed - and fighting to protect her people. No matter how tragic her death, there's no better way to die than to be a hero. And if you hadn't rallied those men, her heroism would've been for nothing."

 

With the memory of Virgo so fresh in her mind, that made Percula wince. He had died in vain. The pixie had left him to that… that damn troll just to get… She shuddered, forcing herself out of the memory with an effort and almost not noticing she was squeezing Caiden’s finger in a far tighter hug than before, and she quickly eased her grip. She could feel her temperature falling, too, and the pixie struggled to control her breathing and emotions. Get a grip!

 

I can’t change the past… I just… I have to accept that… somehow… and I need to not hurt Caid while I’m at it. Percula added, mentally, placing a tiny peck on her friend’s finger. “Sorry…” She offered up, trying to both be loud enough so Caiden could hear her, and quiet enough so she didn’t ruin Moustache’s moment. The last time the two had interacted, they hadn’t been on the best of terms, and… he didn’t need her crap right now, frankly. The pixie felt a little pride in knowing she could stop her antics for moments like these.

 

Yeah, as if it isn’t because I’m going through a moment like theirs right now...


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#19 Sareth

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Posted 19 October 2015 - 09:29 AM

Sorry, I didn’t mean to burden you with all this. Thank you both for...your support.  It seems not even twenty-five years can heal some wounds. She had just turned fifteen. She’d been Baroness for only a week. She would be turning forty today. Heh, she’d probably be arguing right now with some poor noble who’d been forced to marry her. Gods, was it fortune or your displeasure that brought me back, on this very day?”

 

Neitha said nothing as Marcus finished his story —what was there to say?—, a little lost in thought herself; unable to prevent herself from wondering what her life would have been like if it hadn't taken the horrific turn it had.

 

"I...loved her. But I was too young to know what to do, and too cowardly to tell her. I never would have had a chance, anyway.  I'm lowborn, just being able to call her family 'friends' was a shock to some. She trusted me...and I thought that would be enough."

 

"Maybe it would have been" she said softly, after a moment. "Stranger things have happened. But you can't torture yourself with might-have-beens, from what you told us... you did everything you could —you did what she wanted—, I'd imagine she'd be proud of you."

 

"She died fighting for what she believed - and fighting to protect her people. No matter how tragic her death, there's no better way to die than to be a hero. And if you hadn't rallied those men, her heroism would've been for nothing."

 

Neitha glanced up at Caiden for a moment as he spoke, before turning back to Marcus. Having seen so much death, she wasn't sure if there really was such a thing as 'a better way to die', hero or not, but it did strike some chords in her —besides, it was what Marcus needed to hear.

 

"He's right" she said. "The end comes for everyone, sooner or later, what matters is how you face it. And, for her to not give up —even facing that—, to keep fighting in those circumstances... No one can do better than that."

 

She paused for a few moments, at a loss for words, until: "You asked if it was the Gods' fortune or displeasure that brought you here today; maybe it was neither. Maybe it was a sign that your city now needs you to be as strong for them as she once was —to show that same determination and leadership." An encouraging thought, she hoped, though it could also be a rather dark one depending on how you looked at it...

 

But it was all she had, and she fell silent once more, her arm still resting gently across Marcus' back in a comforting gesture....


"This means I will not have to regret sending back their envoy short a few limbs."

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#20 Lord_Capulet

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Posted 19 October 2015 - 01:51 PM

"I almost wish you knew how much I can sympathize, Marcus." Caiden glanced away again for half a second before finishing, "I can sympathize with all of it... far too well."

 

Marcus turned in Caiden’s direction, remarking, “You can?...ah, right.  I promised not to pry.  Apologies.”

 

 

"Maybe it would have been" Neitha said softly, after a moment. "Stranger things have happened. But you can't torture yourself with might-have-beens, from what you told us... you did everything you could —you did what she wanted—, I'd imagine she'd be proud of you."

 

The Inquisitor’s eyes were drying now, and his gloved finger removed one last straggling tear.  “Thank you.  She always told me to look forward, not back.  To focus on what I can change, not on what I can’t.  In the aftermath, I kept thinking I could have saved more of our people, even her, if I’d been smarter or better equipped.  Perhaps losing her, and not wanting anyone else to suffer like my people did...like I did...made me the man I am today.  I suppose she’s still inspiring me...even from the grave.”

 

"She died fighting for what she believed - and fighting to protect her people. No matter how tragic her death, there's no better way to die than to be a hero. And if you hadn't rallied those men, her heroism would've been for nothing."

 

Marcus shrugged, smiling bitterly.  “Ah, I’m sure someone else would have done a better job.  I was just standing where everyone else was looking, and figured someone had to do something.”

 

"He's right" Neitha said. "The end comes for everyone, sooner or later, what matters is how you face it. And, for her to not give up —even facing that—, to keep fighting in those circumstances... No one can do better than that."

 

She paused for a few moments, at a loss for words, until: "You asked if it was the Gods’ fortune or displeasure that brought you here today; maybe it was neither. Maybe it was a sign that your city now needs you to be as strong for them as she once was —to show that same determination and leadership."

 

Marcus nodded resolutely, his face no longer stricken with grief.  “If that is the sign you see, Neitha, then I shall accept it.”   He thanked Neitha with a hand on her shoulder before stooping to retrieve his halberd.  The Veteran then held the weapon aloft, slowly giving his fallen lords and ladies a final salute.   “Lady Victoria and her family gave their lives to protect this city.  I will not see their work undone, not even from within, while I can still grasp a weapon.”  Coming back to attention, he vowed, “So I swear.  For honor.  For the Red Tower.  For Veritshire.”

 

He stepped back with his free hand clasped over his heart and his head bowed, then looked at the statue of Victoria in the eyes.  His resolve was bolstered, his feelings aired, and his will to stand and fight was more solid than ever.  Addressing Neitha and Caiden, he said uttered, “Thank you both.  This time to remember and...refocus...was just what I needed.  No matter what dangers I am about to lead you into, know that I will endure them along with you, until we find a way out together.  I owe you that much.”

 

A half-smile returned to the Inquisitor’s face.  He took a deep breath, then declared.  “It’s time I went home.”

 

---------------

 

In a small shop purveying sturdy, practical clothing near Veritshire’s Steel Gate, someone was loudly snapping his fingers.

 

Snap, snap, snap!  El Aurens looked up from his thoughts to see the shopkeeper behind the counter, impatience starting to leak through his friendly smile.  “Sorry friend, you seem to have drifted off there.  Were you planning to purchase that, or were you just looking?  I believe there are a few more people who’d like to try on that cloak, if you’re done staring at it.

 

---

 

Meanwhile, Arryn Beck was leaning on a rack of trousers just out of the merchant’s view.  Coming to this district was risky, especially since the new Sheriff’s family lived just a few streets away.  Still, this clothing merchant had been doing well today.  He wouldn’t miss whatever Arryn took.  Now, would he wait for the man with the bow and arrows to buy something, or just take whatever was in the shopkeeper’s purse right now?

 

---

 

A few paces outside the shop, Salonya Scato was considering her options for leaving town as she walked.  She’d heard that even clothing would be put to the test on the road, and wanted to see what she could afford if she needed to acquire some.  Unfortunately, most of the shopkeepers around her father’s inn already knew of her reputation, and would either glare at her until she left or simply leer whether she was coming or going.  She had heard good things about this shop, though, and it was in the district near the Steel Gate, on the opposite side of the city.  Hopefully she’d be less likely to be recognized here.   

 

---

 

Finally, on the outside of the gate, Alfonso Capulet was leading his party into the Steel Gate itself.  True to its name, the arch and doors themselves were adorned with all manner of weapons, shining proudly in the sun like a fat knight in his first set of scale mail.  Granted, the gate was substantially more elegant than that, especially with the gilded statues flanking the entrance.  One was an Imperial legionary, strong and resolute.  The other was a robed and smiling merchant, holding out a welcoming hand.  

 

The mounted Guardians flanked the travelers, chatting amicably as they escorted them into the city.  Above the gate and along the walls, guardsmen with spears or crossbows paused their patrols to shout and wave in greeting.  Alfonso grinned at Agethar and exulted, “You wanted to find the smithy?  My family has owned it since this gate was built, centuries ago!  Our manor and ironworks are right behind it.”

 

He then addressed the party as a whole, in one voice with his men.  “Welcome to Veritshire!  May your rest be pleasant, your meals nourishing, and your stay as long as you please!”  It was clear they had rehearsed this line, probably using it whenever they escorted guests into the city.  The gates were already open, and Alfonso beckoned to the travellers, leading them under the arch in the direction of his home.


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