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    1. #1
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      .rosilin's Avatar
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      [Non-Earth] Blood & Intrigue: The Fall of Duras

      Vaelyn was not in a particularly good mood, causing her to frown at nothing in particular. After glancing back over her shoulder at the stables, she reaches to untie her stallion from the hitching post. The stallion makes an uneasy noise as she mounts, letting her know that he has noticed her sour mood. Hearing the noise she pauses to stroke the muscled neck lightly, being forced to smile when a certain spot twitches under her hand. She obliges the request by itching the spot gently with her nails, as she takes a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. With a little leg they start off into a trot, heading back towards the walled city of Litvad, capital of Duras.

      "You know what? I think that damned man is determined to drive me mad. He asks for my help, yet insists on trying to humiliate me whenever he can."

      A quizzical ear swivels back to listen to her words as the stallion keeps a steady trot going down the road. Vaelyn gives her head a shake, in an attempt to clear the emotions from her irritated brain.

      "I swear part of the reason he's so bitter, is that you are by far the best horse to come out of there in the last decade, and he let you slip from his grasp."

      Vaelyn begins chuckles to herself, but a cold shiver travels up her spine, stopping her. She straightens in the saddle, turning her head to scan the surrounding area in the hopes of finding what had made her feel so cold. There is something off in the air, and she knows that it isn't just be her imagination. The strange weather of late is part of the reason that the Royal Breeder, Samuel Cooke, had asked for her assistance. For as much as he hated to ask, when horses were behaving strangely, Lyn usually could find the answer when he couldn't. His health had been failing in the last year or so, and he had increasingly needed her help. As if to reinforce her belief that things were not as they should be, the wind changes directions suddenly and blows straight at her, beating her skirts against the flanks of the stallion. Her brown eyes scan the treeline again, still finding nothing.

      "Come on, let's get home."

      She asks with a nudge of her heels, and the stallion delivers, increasing his speed to just less then a gallop. Bare hooves pound a rhythmic thudding on the dirt road that leads back to the city, and the massive wall that surrounds it. She passes fields full of crops soon to be harvested, and the small cottages that belong to the farmers and their families who tend them. Occasionally she passes a traveller, but doesn't slow down to greet them, as her gut keeps urging her to get home before dark.

      Soon enough, so comes within hailing distance of the eastern gate into the city. A cry from a sentry on the wall top lets her know that they've seen her coming.

      "Rider at the gate!"

      Her eyes moves to the top of the approaching wall, and she raises a hand in greeting to the sentry on duty. She slows Arcus to a collected canter as she passes through the gate and under the wall. A soldier waves at her, his ginger hair peeking out from under his helmet.

      "Oy! Lady Gieger, I was told that you need to head straight to your father's forge as soon as you've returned!"


      Lyn gives him a nod and a wave, the lookout nods in return and turns back to his duty, missing her muttered "damn" as she urges her horse to continue towards home. She would normally let him walk once they were inside the walls, but if there was a message left at the wall, it means whatever she is needed for is not something that can wait.

      The city is a maze of cobbled and stone roads, crowded with houses, and businesses, an occasional garden or park scattered amid the buildings. Arcus needs little direction, as he knows the way home almost better then Lyn does. They're forced to slow to a trot the closer they get to the center of the city, as the streets rise up towards the castle at the top of the hill.

      Unshod hooves clatter to a stop outside Allyn Gieger's forge, the blacksmith looks up to see his daughter dismount in a swirl of skirts and leather, before handing the reins of her horse to his young apprentice. Watching her he can't help but see her mother in her. Reddish brown hair fills the doorway, the late afternoon sun making it look redder then usual, as she enters the forge. He meets her gaze and makes a significant glance towards the back of the forge. She nods and slips past, hands on her skirts to keep them from catching on anything.

      Lyn could tell from her father's face that something had happened, and that doesn't help to lessen her unease at all. She walks to the back of the forge, turning around the corner to the area her father uses as an office as sorts. Bookshelves line the walls, a cot is nestled in the corner, a table who's top is covered with sketches of the blacksmith's projects is in the center of the room surrounded by some chairs. And on one of those chairs sits a small boy, no older then eight. He looks up at Lyn with big eyes full of fear. Lyn stops in front of him, and drops to one knee, her hands clasp the boy's tightly as she looks him in the eyes.

      "Here now Adam, what brings you here? Why do you look so afraid?"

      The boy takes a breath, and raises his chin, putting up a brave front, but a tear streaks down his face, betraying him.

      "They're all dead, m'lady."

      Lyn's gut clenches, but she keeps her face calm, not wanting to frighten the boy further.

      "The King, the Queen, the prince, and me aunt, the cook. It was that woman! She didn't see me, I was there visiting me cousin, bringing her one of ma's remedies. And then the woman, the mean one, she said that it was all Sir Brent's fault, and Mister Kale's! I knew it was a lie, and I had to tell you!"

      The boy's words end in sobs, and Lyn wraps the child in her arms in an attempt to comfort him, as her brain tries to absorb all that he had said. Anyone would know who he was talking about when he said "the woman" the majority of the upper class adores her, the Lady Anora, but Lyn had never liked her after seeing her ride. The blond woman had been harsh and cruel with her mount, and you usually could tell a great deal about a person by how they treated animals. Gods be merciful, if this woman was trying to gain control, the lower classes will be doomed to a life of even deeper misery.

      "I don't want anything bad to happen to Mister Kale or his father, they has always been nice to me and my ma. You can help them, can't you Lady Lyn?"

      The boy's voice comes out between muffled sobs into her breast, and she murmurs comforting words in response. Adam's father had been one of Sir Brent's captains, slain when the boy was a babe in a skirmish with raiders from across the sea. Sir Brent had taken the widow and her babe into his care, making sure they always had a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. As she rocks the boy gently, calming him, Lyn tries to figure out what should be done next. What should you do when the world has been turned upside down?
      Last edited by .rosilin; 12-24-2011 at 07:19 AM.
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    2. #2
      O_o
       
      Bitey
       

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      Re: Blood & Intrigue: The Fall of Duras

      Dice rattling against hard, scarred wood was to Kale as soothing as a soft-sung lullaby is to a newborn babe. Couple that with a full tankard of good ale, the writhing trails of pipe smoke fleeing to the rafters, and the swish of skirts and petticoats as serving women brushed past you, and it was as close to peace a man could come this side of the Halls. The sounds of men talking, of mugs being plopped onto tabletops, empty ones rattling together as they were taken away, and a few drunk singers completed the atmosphere of the Jolly Good Woman, a tavern near the King’s docks, different from the city docks by way of more than half of its buildings still standing.

      Kale leaned forward, arms crossed in front of him and resting on the rough oak of the table. Splinters pricked him slightly, for his sleeves were rolled up to discourage anyone from claiming he was hiding dice up them if his luck was with him and he won more than he lost. In this instant he was not the thrower, another man was, but he still had five gold crowns wagered against the outcome. The dice spun across the table, hit a greasy plate with half a turkey leg on it, bounced back and came to rest in the center, amid mugs and gold.

      A five and a four, totaling nine. It was a losing toss for the thrower, evidenced by his groan, but for Kale it had just won him twenty gold crowns, the richest pot of the night. The loser, Frid his name was, shot Kale a look that was murder incarnate. No doubt the man’s mind was racing for a way to accuse him of cheating, even though they were using the tavern’s dice and Kale had been nowhere near the luckless fool during his toss, or any toss for that matter.

      “You’re too damn lucky, I say,” the man muttered, slightly under his breath, but just loud enough for those around them to hear. A hush fell among those closest, and Kale quirked an eyebrow, lips lifting in a small smile. His hands never ceased the gathering of his winnings though, for with these he planned to woo several of the court’s ladies-in-waiting.

      “Am I now, Furd?” He said politely, even as he took a crown from the pile in front of him and bit it, grimacing at the taste. “Ugh, tastes like this one was yours.”

      “It’s Frid, and yeah, you are now.” His face had reddened at the insult, however subtle Kale had tried to make it. Well, perhaps not that subtle.

      “Just want are you trying to imply, friend?” Kale asked while dropping coins in an empty pouch, black mail, heavier than cloth of course, but also impervious to pickpockets.

      Frid glared at him, red rimmed eyes swollen, nose large and pocked from years of heavy drinking. He pointed a beefy finger at Kale. “I want to win my money back, you dog humping son of a goat!”

      Before the last t in goat had been crossed, Kale was out of his chair. Two daggers, throwing knives normally reserved for resting up his sleeves, lay on the table in front of him. One of the ten-inch blades came into his hand almost as though it were summoned, and before Frid could squeak out a cry Kale’s empty hand was in his hair, lifting him up from the chair while his body pressed him back against the wall, the tip of his knife dimpling the fat man’s throat. A good knife made for throwing, its edges were not too sharp, but its tip was crafted for piercing leather.

      “You see, Furd, saying things like that will get a man hurt these days,” Kale said softly, too low for anyone but the sweating, red-faced man to hear. “I’m going to take it for granted that you apologized, and then that you bet me one-hundred gold crowns for a new wager, your choice.” Kale grinned, his white teeth standing out against his tanned flesh, made even more pronounced by his black, well-trimmed goatee. “But if you ever insult my mother again, I’ll bloody well skewer your large, portly ass. Are we clear?”

      The man nodded and kale stepped back and released his grip on his hair. He hadn’t realized he’d been holding Frid up, but the man’s height fell a good two inches.

      “So, one last bet, is it Frid? Name it, your hundred marks to my winnings for the night!”

      The big man fixed his clothes, mopped his face, and looked around. He surveyed the crowd with his black, beady little eyes, trying to figure out a way to save face and still get his gold back. He knew that if he picked something easy, simple, then it would look as though he was giving in to Kale, not to mention giving up a hundred marks. His eyes went from the knife still held in Kale’s hand to the dice sitting in the center of the table. He smiled.

      “People say you’re pretty good with those,” Frid said, nodding at the slender blade in Kale’s hand. The one he held, as well as the other still resting on the table, were designed differently than the others he wore about his person. They were all shaped like elongated tear drops, but the two he wore at his wrists had small humps at their rear, to be caught between his fingers if they were flung outwards from their sheaths into his hands.

      “Do they now?” Kale replied, cocking an eyebrow. He half hoped the man would challenge him to a throwing duel.

      “Here’s the wager,” Frid said, his voice lifting so all those around them could hear. He walked to the table and scooped up the dice, bouncing them on his open palm. “I’ll throw these into the air, and you stick one of them with your knife.” Men around them erupted in laughter, some patting Frid on the back and already thinking how they would drink away from of the man’s newly won coin. Kale eyed the cubes, his mind measuring, weighing, and calculating his chances of hitting them.

      “Sure,” Kale said, flipping the knife in his hand so that the handle lay on his first three fingers, then closed his hand around the short hilt. “Whenever you’re ready,” Kale said, watching Frid.

      The man grinned, pulled back his arm, and threw with all his might toward the back of the tavern, into the oil lamps and candle light that caused the rear of the place to blaze. Kale followed suit, spreading his legs, pulling his arm back just behind his head, and letting fly. Even as it left his hand he was reaching for the other, flipping it as he did the other. He whipped his arm back and then slung it forward, releasing the blade so that it passed a foot or so above the various patrons’ heads. He half feared one would stand up and block his shot.

      The men and women, most staring at him, some realizing the actual action was already over and looked to the back of the tavern to see what had become of the knives, let out a collective breath. Together those that had been playing dice made their way between men, women, and tables. A laugh split the air and Frid pulled one of Kale’s knives from the wall, after some trouble. He stopped laughing when another man, beside him, stooped and picked up two halves of a die, split cleanly down the center.

      “The wager was to stick! It didn’t stick!” Frid yelled, pointing. Kale nodded, but waited, a small smile on his face.

      “What do you have there, Carla darling?” He said, looking to a serving girl in the back, her face pale, lips trembling. She looked up at him, the trembling turning to anger. She huffed, plucked something off her tray, and threw it at Kale. It fell short, landing in a tankard of dark ale at the table of a passed out man. He jerked awake, squinted bleary eyed at the drink, and plucked a knife out of it. Stuck fast to its tip, dissecting three pips, was the other die.

      Ten minutes later, amid cursing, spluttering, and much counting of coins, found Kale outside the tavern and on his way back to the Keep, the sound of raucous singing behind him as the tavern drank on the five gold crowns he left for just that purpose.

    3. #3
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      Re: Blood & Intrigue: The Fall of Duras

      Things were deathly quiet in the barracks, which caused General Swiftsword to raise his head from the mountain of a ledger in front of him. The desk he sat before had been worn to a smoothness that could only be achieved with lots of time and repetition. A glance towards the nearest window showed him it was still early for the men to have broken for the midday meal. He finishes his entry in the accounts before rising from his chair, his sword catches against the edge of the desk as he turns away, causing him to mutter with annoyance underneath his breath. The bright sunlight of the afternoon sun blinds him as he steps out into the courtyard where the men usually spar. The place is devoid of life, and an uneasy feeling creeps it's way up from the stones under his feet and coils in his gut like an icy serpent. Unconsciously his hand goes to rest on the hilt of his sword as he walks away from the courtyard and deeper into the castle grounds. He is relieved to see the guards still at their posts high up on the wall, their eyes focused on the city below.

      Relief is quickly replaced by dread as suddenly his way is barred by a large group of unfamiliar looking soldiers at the archway leading to the castle courtyard. Before he can question the soldier closest to him, they part as a golden haired woman sweeps through their ranks. The dread in the General's stomach only intensifies as she approaches him.

      "Ah General, I'm afraid that I have horrible news..."

      ---

      Anora dealt with the General swiftly, her men disarming him and removing him to the dungeons easily. The man's shock had helped her greatly, but he would still be a threat as long as he still breathed. That problem would be fixed all too soon, now it was time for her to address the masses, then she would tend to the last of the loose threads.
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