Chapter 15: The Ties That Bind (IC)

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Talanall
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Chapter 15: The Ties That Bind (IC)

Morning, 11 Verdil, 973 IR
Common Room, the Copper Crosier
Port Hope, Mereflow Valley

Upon his return from meeting with Elena Markan to dispatch her to find out what's happening in the Church of Agon, Avar passes through the common room on his way toward his room to fetch some personal item, but he's interrupted by a one of the breakfast patrons, a slim man who looks like he's in his late twenties. He's clearly well-to-do; his complexion is pale in a way that suggests that he has leisure time to spend indoors, rather than out earning a living in the sun and wind, and his glossy black hair is coiffed into a mane of ringlets that cascades to his shoulders. His garments are finely cut from brilliant red and blue velvet, he wears close-fitted boots of supple black leather, and a rapier is belted at his waist. A pair of shrewd-looking hazel eyes glitters at the aasimar as the man queries, "Sir Avar? Pardon my interruption, and do allow me to introduce myself. I'm Boromil Zaidah, of House Alastar. You are Sir Avar Sentalial, are you not?"

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The aasimar considers the man and squares up to him, "Yes, I am. How may I assist you Master Zaidah?"

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"I'm in search of my errant sister. She appeared at court with you a few days ago, I believe. Would you happen to know where I might find Alannah? It's been some time since I've seen her, and I think I'd like to take an opportunity to speak with her before I write my next letter home to our father." He offers a twisted little smile, and adds, "From what I've been able to gather, she's been very busy lately."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Board Rider
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Avar nods at the response and offers, "I would imagine that she is buried in a book somewhere in a library."

"Are you in town for awhile? I can tell her where you can be found. Otherwise, I am sure she will show up here eventually."

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"I live here," replies Boromil, "And I suppose that unless you know which library she's visiting, I'll have to wait for her. She knows where to find me, but has been avoiding me. Perhaps she's worried that I'll try to drag her back to the estate, or that I'm interested in lecturing her. Neither is the case, despite how she probably talks about our family to strangers."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Board Rider
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"She hasn't spoken to me much about it."

Avar shrugs, "Although, she views me as an Imperial intruder to these lands."

The paladin perks up as if suddenly struck by inspiration from Agon himself.

"Seeing that you have a few moments I would love to hear more about her and your family. If you don't mind of course?"

Avar finishes the sentence with a flash of the pearly whites and a wink of camaraderie.

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Boromil sits back down at his table, and gestures permissively towards the vacant seats. Urbanely, the young aristocrat replies, "Well, you are an Imperial intruder to these lands. No offense, but that's certainly what you are. Alannah isn't always wrong." He picks up a teacup and takes a sip of its contents—the same kaf that Markan was peddling to the owner of the Crosier yesterday morning—and frowns into the beverage.

Before Avar can get a word in edgewise, though, Boromil has already continued, "Anyway, I'd be amenable to telling you more about Alannah and our family, but I'll have questions of my own. For starters, is it true that she's taken an orcish lover?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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Boromil's comment is taken passively by the aasimar as he looks to flag down a waitress.

Ass barely in his seat when the question is asked, Avar steadies himself as a quiet chuckle escapes his lips. Checking himself quickly, the paladin shakes his head.

Pausing a moment Avar makes an 'ahhh' noise as another small ripple of a chuckle rolls out.

The paladin stares evenly at Boromil, "I have not shared a bed with your sister nor do I know of her partners. However," Avar pauses to order a tea, "However, I am confident in saying that she hasn't taken an orcish lover."

Leaning back in his chair and adjusting his armor Avar finishes, "If I had to guess I would think your sister is a prude or, perhaps, favors those of the same sex. She has never mentioned any lover, or even an inclination to bed anyone, to me Master Boromil."

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Boromil makes a "hmm" noise that doesn't do much to communicate any meaning beyond sending a general sort of, yes, I'm listening signal, and makes another attempt with his kaf. As before, he frowns into murky depths of his beverage. But this time, he follows it by using a spoon to sift in a few grains of sugar from a dish near his cup.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Board Rider
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Avar, in turn, takes his tea and sips sparingly, testing it's heat.

Spurring the conversation Avar offers,"It is an interesting query though. While in Court I heard whispers about the same curiosity."

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"You don't say," replies Boromil, keeping his face so expressionless that it's clear he's doing it on purpose to convey sarcasm. "What a coincidence that I'm here, asking an eyewitness!" Throwing his head back, the young man demands of the ceiling—or perhaps of the Celestial Court itself, "Could it be that I've already heard the rumors that are sweeping the court like wildfire and am feverishly attempting to ascertain whether they're truthful? Could it?!"

Somewhat unexpectedly, a voice from the rafters answers him, somewhat reproachfully, "It could be. But you don't have to be snippy about it."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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Avar glances up to the ceiling while simultaneously taking another sip of his tea.

Swallowing, the paladin places the cup on the table. "Neat trick. Familiar? Friend?"

Before Boromil can reply Avar asks, "Why the need to confirm rumors and gossip? What if she is bedding an orc? It's my understanding she has distanced herself from the family."

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Boromil looks surprised, and replies, "What? No, she just ran off. At the time we were afraid she'd been kidnapped or murdered. Father was beside himself, especially after—" the young aristocrat hesitates, and then goes on, "She was kidnapped when she was a babe. Our older brother—much older brother—tracked her down and rescued her, but the . . . responsible parties are still at large. By the we managed to ascertain more than that she was alive and unharmed, it was clear that she had become as able to fend for herself as anyone we could set to watch over her. So we've been waiting for her to finish whatever it is that she's been doing. She's been living incognito as one of these so-called Bastards, true enough, but once she made an appearance at court with them, the rumormongers did their sums pretty quickly."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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"Well," Avar pauses a few heartbeats considering what to say. "I was not aware of that. She certainly still seems to be independent."

Changing gears the paladin continues, "When I heard the whispers in the court I grabbed your sisters hand. It was my intent to possibly quell the talk or, at minimum, keep them guessing. But,"

The aasimar inhales deeply,"But, I didn't plan for the meeting with the duke to play out the way that it did. I certainly didn't know Alannah felt the way she did about Imperials."

Avar looks thoughtful, "I would think that would be the pressing talk. Not some sorid thoughts on a long lost scion. I mean, it impacted my church to the point of being mobbed. I am sure you have heard of that?"

Reaching for his tea Avar finishes his sentence by breaking eye contact with Boromil and glancing at the ceiling.

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The source of the voice isn't immediately apparent as Alannah's brother takes a bigger drink of his coffee, apparently finds it to his liking, and agrees, "Oh, yes. I heard. I most certainly heard. You picked an especially bad time to go to court and say the things you said, Sir Avar. The city's received news that the Imperial navy boarded and seized two of its mercantile vessels in the the last month, you see. I don't suppose you knew that, but it has emotions running high, especially with the Council of Guildmasters." He shrugs. "I won't pretend that I'm entirely happy that she was at your side for that debacle, or that my father and brother will be. We were already somewhat out of favor at court, and her presence made it look like we support you. That isn't going to help matters." He shrugs, and adds, "But on the bright side, our possessions in Port Hope are relatively small. We don't offer the prominent, highly symbolic target that your church does."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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Avar nods, processing the information.
"You're correct, I didn't know about the issue with the navy."

Jerking with a slight grunt, "I would imagine that what your sister said about Imperials, and urged the citizens to rise up on their own, would certainly quell any thoughts of supporting me. That just doesn't make sense."

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"People may think that her argument with you was just a ruse," replies Boromil, giving a little shrug. "They'll be watching House Alastar now, waiting to see what else we do, where we put our money. Where we put our men-at-arms." He grimaces, "Who do we sue at court? Who do we marry. Gods. They'll want to figure out whether she was really intriguing with the Aureshan Empire, or used as a dupe. And whether the intrigue was treason in earnest, or a mere flirtation to remind the Duke that Alastar can seek its own advantage if he keeps us away from his court." He toys with his coffee cup, finishing, "The greater part of political life is speculation of this kind. Everyone strives for advantage by trying to guess others' intentions while hiding their own."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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Avar eyes Boromil levelly and asks easily, "Is that what we're doing here? Now?

The paladin finishes his tea and places the cup on the table waiting on, and studying, the young man.

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"No," replies Boromil, in thoughtful tones, "I don't think it is, actually."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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Avar considers Boromil's response for a few seconds and responds,"Well, if she wasn't being truthful in her testimony and she was presenting a lie both would be a surprise to me."

Avar adopts a face of genuine concern and finishes, "It is a sad thing to have to be troubled by politics. For my part in that I do apologize. However, you can tell those who will listen that there is a lot of unrest outside of the walls. There is no telling when it may arrive here. I just hope that there are enough people and enough sense to stop it."

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Boromil doesn't seem to know exactly what to say to this. After a moment, he changes the subject, "My sister and her other associates have become the topic of a play. I think that must be the source of the rumor I asked you about. The protagonist is an orc, you see. One of the other characters is intended to represent Alannah, I think. There isn't one to represent you, so I suppose it must have been penned before you joined them. Or perhaps the playwright didn't think you were interesting enough. I don't really know how those scribblers think."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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"I would guess that the playwright who penned that play would be none other than one of those persons rescued after the destruction of Moreville."

Avar pauses momentarily after his response. Continuing the paladin offers freely, "If that is the case then it would make sense I am not part of the story. My alliance with the so-called Bastards is a new one and came after they left Moreville."

The assimar taps the table lightly lost in thought and then leads forward, "Boromil, have you heard anything else about this play?"

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Boromil shrugs. "It premieres tomorrow night, I know that much."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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At Boromil's response Avars eyebrows raise. Clearly, the young aristocrat has the aasimars curiosity piqued.

"Really. Where is the premier? I would like to see that show. I think your sister and the rest of the group would too. I can relay that if you think you could get us into where the show is being held. It may be easier to to see your sister there than to wait here all day, Master Boromil."

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"There is a theater on the west side of the city, several streets in from the waterfront," answers Boromil, easily. "I don't think it's actually got a name, but people call it the Waterfront Stage. It's the only theater in that part of town, so it should be easy to find." Shrugging a little, he adds, "I shouldn't think it'll be hard to get in, if that's what you want, even at a premiere. Anyone with a ha'penny can watch from the rushes in the pit, but the doorkeepers cram people in like potted fish. If you'd like to sit in one of the boxes, then I should hope you've some connection who pays for the use of one and is willing to have you as guests, or else that you're prepared to lay down the money to acquire a box yourself. The last time I attended, I think a box cost me half a gold for the entire afternoon. But that wasn't a premiere, and it was during their summer season, which is the least costly."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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"Would you like for me to tell Alannah that you may see her there? Or are you willing to wait here?"

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"I wish to speak to her as soon as I can," replies Boromil, "So I'll wait for her unless you know which library she's visiting today."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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"I don't." Avar offers sincerely. "Garren and Chuul may but I believe they are running errands as well."

The paladin stands and straightens his armor.

"It was my pleasure speaking with you Master Boromil. I planned to be in the wards* today helping where I can so I must be off."

Avar offers a slight bow and prepares to leave.

*or whatever the appropriate term is for where Avar wants to help.

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Boromil inclines his head. "Farewell, Sir Avar."

He settles into his chair, looking bored but resolute.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
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Late Afternoon, 11 Verdil, 973 IR
Common Room, the Copper Crosier
Port Hope, Mereflow Valley

When Alannah passes through the Crosier's common area on her way to her room, she can't help but notice her brother—Boromil has chosen a seat, probably deliberately, that makes him one of the first things you see when you enter the room. Passing it off as if she didn't notice him is unlikely to work; her younger half-brother locks eyes with her.

On the bright side, he's alone. No House Alastar guards are in evidence. So unless he's really stepped up his own capabilities with sword and spell, it's unlikely that he can compel her to go home even if he wants to.

Rather than speak, he makes a gesture of invitation toward the chair across the table from him.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Alannah sighs, knowing this moment had been coming ever since the disaster that had occurred at court. She approaches his table and flops into the offered chair, "Good to see you, Boromil. What brings you by?"

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"I thought maybe you'd rather talk to me than to Father or Vitus. They're both at the estate, but I'd be surprised if they stayed there for long once word gets to them about your reappearance," replies Boromil, genially. Gesturing toward a flagon and an empty cup on the table, he offers, "Wine? It's a red. Help yourself if you want some. Do you want to eat something while we chat?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"I'm not a charity case," Alannah replies, turning down the food. Despite this, she pours a cup of the wine. Taking a sip, she states, "I plan to be long gone before Father or Vitus can make an appearance. I knew you'd be lurking around... actually surprised you weren't at court for that disaster. I assume you've already sent word home about my... appearance?"

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"No, I haven't sent anything to them yet. But that doesn't mean they haven't heard already, so I shan't be surprised if there's a letter waiting for me when I get back to the townhouse," replies Boromil. "If you're sure you're not hungry, well enough. I was thinking about ordering for myself anyway, though. I've been encamped in this common room all day."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Alannah waves her hand dismissively, "I'm sure they have heard. I'm sure everyone has. "

"So, Boromil, what has gotten you so wound up that you've waited around here all day for me? You've never been patient or enjoyed staying still, so I know you've got more motivation than to catch me for a spontaneous dinner surprise dinner."

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Boromil shrugs, "I wanted to know you're safe, all still in one piece, and so forth. If I'd left you a note inviting you to visit with me, would you have come?" It's clear that this is rhetorical, and the answer, at least as far as he believes, is no; he continues without waiting for Alannah, "I'm not especially interested in forcing you to do Father's or Vitus's bidding, but I think they genuinely care that you're safe. Both of them were genuinely worried about you when you disappeared. If they asked, I wanted to at least be able to tell them that you seemed healthy and happy."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Alannah looks healthy and annoyed.

"I am safe." She reconsiders for a moment, "Well, not exactly safe, but healthy. Other than the werewolf bite and a goblin spear, I've come out of most encounters unscathed."

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"And I don't see any scarring. Or fur. So well done, I suppose. But I'd like to invite you to imagine how things would go if you uttered that last sentence in the presence of Father or Vitus." Boromil tosses his head, shifting his black ringlets so that they hang down his back instead of crowding around his face, and adds, "From a practical standpoint, I think I'd also like to know what in all the gods' names you were doing at court, with an orc and an imperialist Agonite in tow. For that matter, I'm frankly curious about that anyway."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"Oh, that circus was not supposed to go that way. The Agonite got us the appointment through his church, but we were supposed to be introducing Hope I's long-lost half-elven bastard to the court. And I know *that* sounds almost as insane as what actually ended up happening. Instead, he declares that we should welcome Imperial control -- I'm sure you were aware of the nonsense he was spouting. Put on the spot, I tried to do as much damage control as possible, but you know how that goes... there was little hope of fixing anything." She relaxing somewhat while telling her story, letting some of her guard down.

"But you know, maybe it's fortuitous that you did stop by. I was planning on writing a letter to father while I was here to ask a... a favor. But it might be better received coming from you."

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"What kind of favor?" asks Alannah's brother, a little cagily.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Alannah rolls her eyes at her half-brother, "The easy kind. I wasn't kidding about Hope I's half-elf bastard. He needs a noble sponsor at court and someone to keep him out of trouble... well, more trouble. Besides, I'm sure father could find a way to use him in his machinations unless our family has decided to become sycophants of the current Duke. Even then he could be useful. And before it comes up, no, I will not marry him to give us claim to the throne. If father is interested in that, he can marry him."

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Very quietly, Boromil asks, seeking clarification, "Hope the First? And he had a bastard who's still alive?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"Yes, that's right. Well, first of all, he's a half-elf, so he ages a bit slower. And elven gestation periods are likely long, even when carrying a half-breed. And while that accounts for some of the oddness, the truth of the matter is even is even more strange and intriguing. I'll save the history lecturer for later, but let's just say that everything our tutors taught us wasn't quite right when concerning the disappearance and the supposed death of Hope I and his companions. If you agree to take him to father, you'll be privy to the entire tale."

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Boromil grouses, "He's not going to be much use if he's a bastard unless a freak accident wipes out most of the ducal line. And Father wouldn't marry you to a bastard, as I think you know very well. If he were legitimate, that'd be entirely another story, though. I guess you could duck that arrow if someone put a bug in his ear about Vitus's oldest, though. She's about to make her debut." Shrugging, he adds, "But again, I don't suppose it matters if he's a bastard."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"Eh, it's complicated. There are special circumstances involved, but now that you mention it, he did talk as if he was legitimate. Maybe Hope married later?" She tosses her head dismissively, "Oh, I don't know. Point is, I told him I'd send him with a letter to father. But since you are here, you could take him under your tutelage and such. The guy needs to loosen up."

"Speaking of marriage, has father made a match for you yet? Perhaps from one of the branches of the Howe's?"

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Boromil replies, "Not so far, thank goodness. I'm still enjoying my freedom, although I guess he's probably going to start making noises about it soon enough." His brows knit, and he adds, "Why, have you heard something? I didn't even know the Howes had a daughter. Are they looking for a match?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"No, no... calm down. I haven't heard anything. I've been tromping around in the wilderness and ruins of the valley. Unless the goblins and hermits know about it, my information isn't going to be any good." Getting back to the subject at hand she says, "So you'll take Jalen in and eventually introduce him to father or Vitus? That's Hope I's son's name. Not sure if I said his name before. He's might be around here somewhere now."

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"That depends. Is he here to try and usurp the coronet, or something of like foolishness? Because I won't be a party to that. I don't want to drag the family's name through the mud," says Boromil, "and if this associate of yours is involved in some kind of intrigue against the duke, it'll reflect poorly on us when it becomes evident we've helped him." Before Alannah can show signs of boiling over, he adds, "I'm not saying no, but we were out of favor even before that mess at court. Father's going to be upset about that anyway, and it'll be worse if we get him and the rest of the House wrapped up in something sketchy."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

"No, no. I wouldn't ask that. He just wants to become more active in the politics of the area. I don't think he'd ever go against the duke. He's partial to the people who live in the outskirts of the valley and wants to see them properly taken care of or something like that. I've been there and agree with him for the most part. Orcs, kobolds, goblins and worse are running rampant and organizing to kill off most that live out there. Nasty business."

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"The rumors are true, then?" asks Alannah's brother, suddenly very serious. "It's going to come down to a war?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Alannah nods and leans back, "For certain. We've fought several groups of humanoids and it's more than random raiding parties. We captured several in different fights and compelled them to speak. There's a new goblin king who is uniting the tribes or clans or whatever and likely enslaving the weaker races. They intend to raise an army and push us out into the sea."

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