In Dreams He Came

A settlement east of Rynmere across a stretch of water called 'the eastern trench' broken into three regions: Welles, Oakleigh, and Berwick.
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Alistair
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In Dreams He Came

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Kieran Riley
3rd of Ashan, Arc 718

The night was young, though perhaps not young enough for the bustling Venoran Duke. He was - very likely - returning from an art display, or a theatrical muse, or a dalliance in the up-and-coming musical scene of Oakleigh's crown city. Kian knew his cousin, perhaps better than he'd liked to. Before, back when he was the coordinator for much of his family and always worrying about what each and every member was doing. Of course, back then, Tristan was dallying with charlatans, whores and thieves, painting and sculpting and watching all the greatest performances. He despised it, worried so greatly about scandal... but now as the greatest bringer of scandal the house had seen in centuries, he could no longer complain.

Tristan did right for the family. His respect for his cousin had grown. But now, he was no longer the Duke regnant-to-be; he was the peon, the inadequate, the one not so highly valued by their house. The tables had turned to an extreme - the boy who was once among the least qualified to take the reigns of their House was now a leading member, ruling his own Duchy . . . without incident.

And Kian... he wanted that to continue. He was tired of fighting against his family. He wanted to fight with them, to help them. Even though Ebony betrayed him, and his parents had done him nothing but disservice... Tristan wasn't responsible for that. Andras wasn't either. They were innocent, and Alistair still loved them. That was right - Alistair. So for this one moment, he would speak as Alistair, not this faux identity he'd forged over the last few cycles. This was the real him, just with a darker shade of hair.

He waited in Tristan's room. Getting there was not actually very difficult, as with his acrobatic talent he easily scaled the initial walls, and with view of the room it was but a flicker of ether to appear within. He suppressed the sound as well as he could, relying on the shortness of the blink and the barking of the hounds to muffle his approach. Once inside of the room, the mage removed his zirconium mask, placing it above his forehead onto his hair and presenting his face. Fully dressed in a sleek, stealthy ensemble, he sat upon the bed of the Duke like an assassin would. But despite everything else... his face, his form, his build... it was all Alistair. Tristan would recognize him the moment he allowed himself to actually look.

He prepared himself on what to say. The first thing was rather obvious: I'm not here to kill you. No more Venora should have to die.
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Tristan Venora
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In Dreams He Came

Tristan wasn’t returning from an art display. Neither was he returning from the theatre or a musical performance. He had been at a tavern with most of his bodyguards, celebrating his 23rd birth trial, which was the reason why nobody had noticed Alistair scaling the walls and sneaking into his room. It had only been the first of many parties. There would be another party taking place the following trial to which he would invite a few of his poorest subjects and give them gifts because Faith had taught him that helping the poor was important, but for now he was stumbling through the hallways of his estate, tired as well as slightly drunk.

Normally the young duke dressed after the newest fashion, but he really didn’t want to wear Pyre Light Red – it was inspired by the burning of the mages – and thus he wore all black. It was his way of protesting again King Cassander’s stupid law. Having checked on his daughter – the little girl was sleeping peacefully – he walked across the hallway to his own bedroom, fumbled with the key and unlocked the door. Stiffling a yawn, he kicked his shoes off and shuffled over to his bed, intent on simply dropping into it (he was too tired to take his clothes off) only to stop dead in his tracks and stare.

He was suddenly wide awake again.

The man that sat on his bed, like an assassin waiting for his victim, was bigger and more muscular, and his hair was different as well, but he was pretty sure that it was him. It was Alistair, Alistair who would likely be Duke now if things had gone differently, Alistair who he had always suspected of secretly being in love with Peake Andaris, Alistair who had told him to free his beloved Faith who had then run away with her tutor, Alistair who had been outed as a mage and lost his name as well as his title. He had hoped that he would never see him again.

He opened his mouth to scream only to realize that Alistair would likely kill him before the guards arrived (he didn’t quite believe his assurances that he wouldn’t harm him). So he straightened himself instead, hid his hands behind his back so that his cousin wouldn’t notice how badly they were shaking, smiled at him as if he were quite excited to see him again and remarked, “Good evening, cousin. Have you come to wish me a happy birth trial as well and bring me a gift? That really isn’t necessary. I already have all the gifts I need!”
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Alistair
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In Dreams He Came

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Kieran Riley
Tristan immediately stopped, and Kian immediately noticed. He turned his head, raised it slightly, and stared the man up and down. He looked appropriate enough, though he could smell the stench of drink on him already. Being an Uthaldrian Jeger, he'd had the opportunity to refine his senses, to catch onto things he hadn't noticed so easily before. Now, it was as if he could determine the exact vintage. He could see the sudden pause, the locking of the body. The anxiety. Kian had always been observational... but now it was far different. He knew.

Uthaldria taught him the beginnings of that skill, and constantly fleeing for his life afterwards had fully honed it. Now, he could see the falseness. The lies. Tristan's demeanor, as it was now, was a lie.

"Huh. I didn't remember that it was your birth trial, sorry," he answered frankly. He'd never been the most affectionate cousin, but before he'd laced his words. He'd claim remembrance. In reality, he was poor at caring for the others around him. He'd always been so focused on his own goals, his own life. No one else mattered. He'd drop them like they were compost, useless, invalid. In many ways, his interactions with Tristan before had been representations of such; the letters started coming in when he mattered. That was when he offered him advisers, protection. Alistair had always been a selfish man.

He was trying to change that, now. He stayed in Oakleigh to protect Tristan - to serve a duty, and right his wrongs. But the Duke wouldn't know that. All he ever knew of Alistair was scandal, secrecy, and danger.

"I have no gift to offer you," the man's lips parted into words, as he stood from the bed, stepping thrice in the direction of the Venoran Duke. "I'd say your life, just to be scary, but I had no intentions of taking it. I sit here under the veil of darkness, with a spear strapped to my back, not to kill you. Just to protect myself," he stated, with truth in his words. He did not intend on hurting Tristan - that much he could promise. "I'm here because I wanted to see you, and know what you believed. Do you believe I deserved to be stripped of everything, of my whole life, just because of my magic... something that had always been legal until the King spontaneously judged us all as criminals? Ebony certainly believes so. My parents do. Andraska might even feel that way - he still serves the King, the one who ruined his brother and prevented his parents from seeing a just end. But what about you, Tristan?" he asked.

"No matter how you answer, I won't harm you, I won't cause you trouble or difficulty. So don't be afraid. Just tell me - is Venora loyal to the whims of a King who never even belonged on the throne, or is it loyal to itself? Because I believe... more than anything... that I could've brought peace to this Kingdom. I brought our parents to trial to show the world - the commoners and the highest Kings - that no man was without the potential for judgment. And in exchange, I was forced to be humbled, and hunted. Is this the world that our ancestors would like to see? A world of slaves, liars, false Kings? Corruption bleeding from out of our own house? If this is how Venora shall be, I cast off the name willingly. We do not deserve nobility if we are not noble of our own breath."
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Tristan Venora
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In Dreams He Came

“Nevermind“, Tristan replied as Alistair admitted to not remembering that it was his birth trial. “I don’t enjoy my birth trial as much as I used to anyway since all those bad things started to happen in the kingdom and Ilaren betrayed me. Did you know that I loved her and wanted to ask her to marry me?” he asked in a somewhat bitter tone, figuring that it didn’t matter what he said now. If Alistair wanted to kill him, he’d do so anyway, and he would at least be able to get a few things off his chest that had been bothering him forever, and if his cousins meant what he said, then he’d likely keep his secrets. There was something quite liberating about not having anything left to lose.

Since he didn’t want to spend what might be the last bits of his life standing there and trembling, but be at least somewhat comfortable, he sat down on the chair that stood next to his bed. Now that he was so close to Alistair he could notice that there was something strange about his eyes as well. Was it one of those mutations he had heard about? He wondered what had been going through Alistair’s mind when he had realized that he was going to change. For him the mutations had always been the main reason not to learn any magic. He had been worried that he would turn into somebody else – or something else.

“I believe that the king’s an idiot”, he replied in a somewhat dry tone and smirked because Alistair probably hadn’t expected to hear that. “You and all those other mages were initiated when magic was still legal. It isn’t right to suddenly declare you criminals and take your rights away, and it isn’t right to burn hundreds of mages because one of them tried to kill the king either. I have just as much reason to hate your kind as Cassander – I was almost raped by a Becomer – but I don’t want all mages to die. I just want her to die”, he said. He didn’t normally talk about what that woman had tried to do to him so openly, but it didn’t really matter anymore, did it?

“I think the other nobles – including our dear grandmother and Aunt Willow – are just too afraid that the king will take their land and their titles away to speak their mind – or idiots. A lot of people in Rynmere are idiots, did you know that? They fear what they don’t know, they can’t tell alchemy, blessings and magic apart, and they have no interested in learning about those things either. I’m an alchemist, and a Blessed of Zanik by the way, in case you don’t know that yet”, he said, in case Alistair wondered which category he fell into. He’d finally stopped trembling and was almost unnaturally calm now, and there was a strange smile on his face.

“I also think that your parents should have been punished for what they did. I don’t know why they weren’t. Their crime is despicable”, he said and let out a bitter laughter. “I once thought that Cassander was my friend, but now I’m not sure anymore. He gave me Oakleigh, knowing that my new subjects might try to kill me. But if he doesn’t belong on the throne, who belongs on the throne then? Celeste Andaris? Me? You?”

“You claim that you would have brought peace to the kingdom, but how would you have done that? By starting a rebellion and fighting a war? Veljorn Burhan tried to do that, and you know how it ended. He lost his head. I don’t want this world either Alistair, and I want to change it, more than you can even begin to imagine, but I don’t want any more blood to be spilt. So many people that I cared about are dead. What do you think we should do, Alistair? What do you want to do?”

“You said that no more Venoras should have to die”,
he continued. Alistair still hadn’t stabbed him which irritated him – because he had no idea what else his cousin wanted from him. “And you claim that you haven’t come to kill me. I don’t believe that you just wanted to see me and talk about old times. What do you really want, Alistair? Why do you suddenly show up after all that time and in the middle of the night? Do you want to offer me your protection and help me change things for the better? Do you want me to help you get Venora back? I’d be willing to give it a try. I don’t want somebody that abused their children to rule the duchy. I’d very much prefer you – even if you are the reason that Faith is gone.”
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In Dreams He Came

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Ilaren betrayed him? The mage couldn't really be surprised. The Immortals were vile things - they acted only in their own self interest, always, as they had all of the moral justification they needed to act selfishly; they were morality. Any inconsiderate or dangerous thing they did was always the right thing to do. That was why Kian no longer trusted them. Syroa acted as his deity, now, only because she was predictably evil. He could watch his back, and be aware that she might be lingering with her claws bore. There was a comfort in working with a known enemy, much like Ellasin.

It seemed he and Tristan agreed on a lot, truthfully. He found Cassander's actions foolish, and described to the mage that he'd had poor experiences with a mage too, but not all of them. Alistair had done bad things with magic before... but nobles did bad things, too. So many were cruel, hedonistic and spiteful. They abused their power over others for evil. In the same vein, good nobles could perform great acts of change and heroism for their subjects. Mages had that same power - good and evil. But due to their inability to present themselves openly in public, and the fear that people held towards them, the only mages that ever operated were the evil ones. And why not? They were oppressed by their societies, shamed by others. They were already lawbreakers just by virtue of being free mages. So why not commit crime?

This hatred, this bigotry, only bred more and more people like those within the Coven. Alistair had already seen how people flocked to them in times of great tribulation. Cults preyed on outsiders.

"All of this is based on a lie, anyway. The King wasn't targeted by a mage. I was in a relationship with the mage who allegedly threw a door violently at the King. In truth, he threw it at someone else he'd had a long standing grudge with, and the King happened to be standing nearby. But the reason it missed is because it wasn't thrown at Cassander anyway. His own arrogance would like to suspect that he was the target all along, but the man that threw the door was far too powerful and skillful to miss by that much of a margin. I know him - better than anyone," he explained. And that was the truth. But of course, he couldn't come forward about that truth. Why? Because it was an absolute monarchy, led by an absolute buffoon. If Alistair had come out with this knowledge, he'd have been executed for harboring a fugitive, or a would-be Kingslayer. Even though it was all a lie from the start.

Cassander needed to die. Nothing was more evident in this world; Ellasin, the Immortals, all of them could wait.

"I'm blessed as well," the mage stated in response to Tristan's confession of Elithem. Of course, specifying the Immortal was a bit more tricky than with Tristan's confession. But he would admit it regardless: "By Syroa," he added. "And yes, I know she's the reason our beloved Zvezdana has gone from this world. But I did not choose to be marked by her. It was forced on me, and I've learned to adapt," he stated, sighing.

"Which leads me into your question," he started, already intrinsically knowing the answer to Tristan's question. "I wouldn't have to start a revolution. I wouldn't launch a war on the Kingdom. I am one of the greatest warriors this world knows, Tristan. I know I am. And I'm a very, very powerful mage. I could kill the King easily... slaughter the whole palace if I had to. It's not just me - I have allies, and magical servants, and the powers that Syroa gave me. I can disguise myself, become another, seduce the body and the mind. I think I could kill him," he told him, eyes stern and serious.

"I don't know if I would be a good King. But I want to save the mages. They deserve freedom, and they deserve love like anyone else. We are the family that represents charity, beauty and love. So we need to be the family that defies this maddened King, and takes in mage-kind. To do that, we need to depose Ebony, Willow and Kaleb," he said boldly. "I am the heir to Venora. It belongs to me, not because I was born to it... but because I love that land. Because it is all that has ever mattered to me, and all that will ever matter to me. Making Venora kind, making Venora fair - these things are what I want to be known for when I pass on. So... yes. I want to take Venora back. This time, not by court schemes. The people of our Duchy already know what my parents are. I'm going to kill them both, and I want your spies. I want them to help ensure that they are not heavily protected, and I want to make our transition into the Duchy smooth. We'll root out the King's agents, take over Venora, and then rally whatever allies we can to make our demands: peel back the corruption and cruelty, or step down as King. That is what I ask, and it is great. I know."
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Tristan Venora
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In Dreams He Came

“But … but what about Peake?!” Tristan blurted out before he could stop himself. “I thought that you loved him!” It was only then that it dawned on him just what Alistair had said, and his eyes widened. In fact, they grew so big that they seemed to be the size of saucers and threatened to drop out of their sockets. Alistair had been in a relationship with Fridgar, the most wanted criminal in Rynmere … only that Fridgar had never meant to attack the king, if one could trust Alistair’s words. Instead he had …

“Wait!” he said and raised a hand, a signal that Alistair ought to stop speaking and listen to him for a moment. “What kind of man is capable of throwing a feking door? Was your boyfriend a giant? We really seem to end up with the strangest people!” he remarked. He didn’t fear for his life any longer. Instead he was shocked and surprised and amused, and he couldn’t help but think about how Alistair was lying under a giant and nearly being crushed by him while he attempted to make love to him.

“Oh”, he made as Alistair admitted to having been marked by Syroa. “You know, that doesn’t surprise me. Syroa seems to be obsessed with us Venoras. She either loves us or hates us.” That was all he said on that matter. Even if he was slowly beginning to realize that Alistair wasn’t going to murder him, at least not now, he didn’t trust him enough to reveal that he had a daughter and that his daughter was either a Mortalborn of Syroa or a Mortalborn of Lisirra. People tended to react strangely when they heard that.

“And I’m one of the greatest artists the world knows”, he remarked as Alistair bragged about his combat prowess. He had never seen his cousin fight, so he wasn’t sure how good he really was, but he wasn’t going to feel inferior! “My art has attracted the attention of Immortals and Immortal-haters alike. Zanik liked one of my plays so much that he blessed me, and Etzos owns one of my sculptures. I can make sculptures that move now! What do you say to that?”

He didn’t like all that talk about killing the king, even if he disapproved of Cassander’s newest law. He knew that the fact that not all of Cassander’s decisions had been bad was no excuse for what he had done, but they had been friends once. Maybe they still were, in a way. Besides … “You know, King Cassander probably has wards around his palace”, he pointed out. “And then there’s the Order of the Mantis, the anti-mage faction. You’d have to slaughter them as well. How would you do that?”

While he disapproved of killing the king, he agreed that the mages hadn’t done anything to deserve that fate. “I wouldn’t mind offering the mages political asylum and hiding them in Oakleigh. Half my duchy is made up of forests. The Order of the Mantis wouldn’t be able to find them there. As for killing your parents …” He made a face. Did Alistair think that murder was the answer to everything? It would only lead to more murder! But then again, he had never suffered their abuse. Who was he to judge him? With a sigh he said, “Do what you have to do and take what you need. But you are not going to kill Granny Ebony! She made a few bad decisions, but she’s my grandmother as well, and I don’t want to be responsible for her death!”

He wondered if Alistair was really being truthful, and he desperately wished that he had a truth serum somewhere. Maybe his cousin was only using him because he thought he was the most naïve Venora and the easiest to manipulate. He wondered if he should send Willow and Kaleb a message and warn them that their son would try and kill him, but no, it was none of his business. They had made their children’s lives hell!

They deserved to die!

He also wasn’t at all sure if Alistair had thought this through. He had never thought he would see the trial when Alistair was the passionate and spontaneous one while he pointed out flaws in his cousin’s plans! That night was really getting stranger and stranger!

“I doubt that people would be okay with you taking over after you killed your parents, no matter how despicable their crime was. You’d have to do it in secret and make sure that nothing will point back to you. And magic would obviously have to become legal again first – and we’d have to convince people that mages can be trusted. Changing the laws doesn’t automatically change what people think! People were already suspicious of mages before the new law was implemented!”

“Oh”,
he made as Alistair suddenly spoke about making demands and asking Cassander to step down rather than killing him. “Oh”, he made again. He had been sure that Alistair would teleport into the palace somehow and kill everybody inside with his magic, and he’d been wondering how he would be able to prevent a bloodbath. Was Alistair actually going to be reasonable?

“I can live with that”, he remarked dryly. It occurred to him that he ought to have a guilty conscience and be at least slightly afraid because they were discussing treason, and there would be dire consequences for both of them if anybody found out, but he was tired of it all. He was tired of Ilaren, he was tired of Aelig, Lisirra and Syroa, he was tired of his subjects, and he wasn’t particularly interested in upholding the status quo anymore either. It was possible that he would start to worry after he had had a good night’s sleep, but for now he was quite eager to talk about all those things with Alistair – and even disagree with him from time to time even though his cousin was probably one of the most dangerous men in the kingdom.

“Cassander gets to keep his life, and we get the kingdom. We need to decide who will replace him though and make sure they have enough support. If there is no successor, there’ll be a civil war, and all the nobles will fight for the throne! I don’t want another civil war. I want everybody to get along. I want a kingdom where people can live in peace regardless of who or what they are and don’t have to fear for their life!”
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In Dreams He Came

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"Peake?!" he started, quite literally jumping from the bed onto his feet, as he stared Tristan directly in the eye. "Peake - I would, I would never--" he attempted to control himself, a sudden rush of shame and embarrassment filling his mind. He felt flustered, frustrated, almost angered. His reaction was spontaneous and severe, very unlike the typically calculating - albeit murderous - Venora.

Why was he so infuriated? Because... it was bloody true. He had always hoped that the marriage laws between nobles would change, and if they did, full courting of Peake would have begun. ...If he was receptive. Peake was manly, and strong, and he came from good blood. There was a point in time where all Alistair ever wanted was that. All he wanted in his life was a noble man from a powerful family to court him, to help legitimize sexual relationships between two men of nobility.

Unfortunately, this never occurred, and he was left pursuing the peasantry. Not that he particularly minded now, but it explained why he remained a virgin until nearly twenty eight arcs.

"Fine," he admitted it. "It's true. I... certainly had more than friendly feelings for Lord Andaris," he sighed. "Peake was masculine, rugged, sexy. Violent in a way that I found familiar," he rolled his eyes, referring to his parents. "He would've been the perfect match, had I been born with a different pair of genitals. Alas, I am a man, so unfortunately I had to settle for prickly little flowers like Celeste. Thank the Lord our engagement didn't last," he said, putting his hands together in a playful prayer as he bowed his head several times.

As the conversation continued, Tristan became exceptionally fired up over Alistair's self-indulgent compliment, where he claimed to be one of Idalos' greatest warriors. For some reason, the Duke simply could not let this go, and he went on a rant for at least a minute - in Alistair's mind - detailing just how wondrous an artist he was.

"To that I say... okay," he replied, nodding once. "Great, you're the world's best artist. You're doing Venora proud. I'm glad that your statues... can move. That's kind of creepy, by the way," he added, laughing. He was surprised Tristan hadn't been executed for 'magery' yet, considering the current climate. Immediately though, he moved on from that. Tristan was probably just trying to feel less shown up. Alistair didn't mean to disrespect him, however. He was a skillful man, and a good man. He was eccentric and unique, but so was every Venora. After all of his failings, he couldn't judge Tristan for anything, any longer.

"The King very well may have wards. But ensorcelled protection is exceptionally expensive, limited in quantity, and difficult to procure when you're hunting every mage in Rynmere. There are going to be a lot of weak spots in the royal infrastructure, not just at the crown level, but religiously as well. Even if every place in the Kingdom had wards, which is quite literally impossible, they would have specific wards. Rupturing is not going to be blanketly obscured by any ward. It needs to be... specific. I don't know much more than that, but what I'm getting at is: the palace won't be the worry. It will be the Mantis, as you've stated," he nodded.

"But even they... might not be a threat. They're specifically trained to hunt mages. I don't fight like a mage, nor do I need magic. My magic is typically subtle, supplementary. I'll make your armor no longer a part of the space that we understand around us, so my spear will go right through it. Or your blade will no longer cut, because the same thing has been done to it. Or, I'll quickly flash out in a blink. Do you see what I mean, Tristan? These are not things that mage-hunters will be trained to deal with. Even if they are, I don't depend on magic. Expecting to fight a 'mage' will be the downfall of anyone delegated to hunt me. Before I am a mage, I am a warrior. There's nothing saying that these Mantis will be any better foot soldiers, on the ground, than Knights. They're a specialized force, not a supreme one," he said.

As for the rest, well. He didn't know what the fate of Ebony would be. He didn't want to hurt her, as for a long time he truly respected and admired her. She was family, and too many Venora had gone unto their death beds of late. With Willow, that would only be one more. He wanted her to retire and legally give up all rights to ever speak in politics. That was a generous offer considering how dangerous she evidently was, but... she was elderly. He didn't really have the heart to slay his dying old hag of a Duchess. She'd raised him.

"I won't kill Ebony," he said quietly. "I know her reasons. It probably wasn't easy for her to do what she did - she always chooses the family first, even against a member of the family. I am the heir, but Willow was the Duchess regnant. We have Andraska still - I was replaceable."

He didn't want to discuss that any more, as of now. It was an open wound.

Instead, he determined that he would answer Tristan's last question. It was important. Who would rule? Obviously that mattered, and Tristan was very correct in his assertion: pretenders would rise, civil wars would break out. The many Duchies would fracture. In all honesty, it would likely become Venora and Warrick in combat against Andaris, with Krome seeking a dissolution of the Kingdom's structure, and the three northern realms profiteering or falling partial to each or either side. Burhan was already a split house as it was - they could fracture, divide, break even more. It would be worse than the rise of the Qe'Dreki.

No matter how it occurred, hundreds of thousands would die, if not millions. That was not worth it to save the few remaining mages that were left.

Tristan was right.

"Why don't you succeed the King?" he asked. "You rose from a noble peddler to a noble Duke in a short amount of time, and you're doing rather well here in Oakleigh, despite the different atmosphere and inferior climate and infrastructure. If I led Venora, and perhaps 'advised' Warrick, I could act as your wealth and your weapon. I could advise you, and manage your network of informants. You could rule, determine policy, bring in an era of art for the Kingdom; revitalize the culture of Rynmere by bringing in painters, musicians, innovators, sculptors and worldly people. We need someone who believes in peace and prosperity, not control and power. Unfortunately, if I led Rynmere, I would destroy it with my ambition. A Rynmere ruled by Alistair Venora looks much like this -- at war with Rharne, settling upon their coasts, establishing colonies across both the Western and Eastern continents... channeling militarized mages into its ranks... I have imagined all of these things. I am a conqueror, a warlord at heart. You would bring goodness to our fallen Kingdom, though. What say you to that, cousin?"
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In Dreams He Came

As Alistair jumped up, Tristan jumped up as well and stared at his cousin wide-eyed, worried that he might be wrong, and that the other man would lash out at him for assuming something like that because he thought Peake was absolutely disgusting, and he hated him. When Alistair admitted that he had had feelings for Lord Andaris just a moment later, Tristan’s eyes widened even more, and then he laughed out loud and exclaimed triumphantly, “I knew it!”

At least he would have exclaimed that if it weren’t late, people were sleeping nearby, and it would have dire consequences if Alistair were discovered (probably for the people who discovered him rather than Alistair himself). As it was, he abruptly lowered his voice so that nobody would be able to hear them. “You know, Celeste and I are allies now”, he remarked thoughtfully. “We trade as well. She’s married, by the way – to Xander Krome. He gave up his title in order to be with her. From what I heard, she recently gave birth. I don’t remember how many babies exactly she had. Probably three or four.”

“When I last saw her, her belly was huge!”

“I like being creepy”,
he remarked, smiled and shrugged his shoulders as Alistair called his newest invention creepy. “I recently made a monster head. It can roll around on the floor and scream!” he proclaimed proudly, fondly remembering when it had been exhibited at a gallery. Caius Gawyne had been quite intimidated! It had been awesome!

Alistair hadn’t climbed into his bedroom to hear stories about Celeste Andaris’ gigantic belly and his monster heads though, so he didn’t say more on that matter. They were talking about the future of the kingdom, which was more important than his personal interests.

“I’m not sure how exactly Ensorcelling works”, Tristan admitted as Alistair pointed out that there were going to be a lot of weak spots in the royal infrastructure. “But it makes sense, I guess. As for you not needing magic …” he continued and looked at his cousin, confused. “Why did you get initiated if you don’t need magic, and can you do the opposite as well? Can you make it so that my enemies’ weapons are no longer a part of this world? That would be great!” he remarked. It would make him practically impossible to kill!

“They really don’t sound like they’ll be much of a threat”, he remarked and shook his head.

“Thank you”, he said as Alistair assured him that he wouldn’t kill their grandmother. He had the feeling that it was a bit of sore subject for his cousin, and thus he didn’t say more.

And then Alistair surprised him again. As he asked him why he didn’t succeed the king, he just stared at him incredulously. He opened his mouth, but no words came out. He had never thought that what he did was particularly impressive – he’d mostly tried not to get killed – but Alistair made it sound like quite an accomplishment. There had been a time when he had wanted to be king. When he had been younger, he had put a crown on his head and pretended to be king because he had been so very jealous of Cassander …

… and then he’d realized that kings had a lot of enemies and very few real friends and were quite lonely.

As king he wouldn’t be able to visit his friends at the Houses of Roses anymore. He wouldn’t be able to make weird sculptures and write weird plays anymore. He probably wouldn’t have any time for his hobbies because he’d have to take care of millions of people.

He was about to tell Alistair that he was mad for even thinking of such a thing, and there was no way he was going to replace Cassander because he wasn’t suicidal, and if anybody found out what they had been talking about, they would both lose their heads.

But then something else occurred to him, and he remarked, “Sure, why not? If I were king, there would at least be somebody who has Rynmere’s best interests at heart sitting on the throne. I wouldn’t kill innocents. You’d really have to return to Rynmere and help me though. I can’t do it without you. I’m not power-hungry, Alistair. I never wanted any kind of power. In fact, I was happiest when I was still a struggling artist in Andaris and only had to take care of myself and my cat, but I can’t stand to see Rynmere like this. I considered running away because it was bothering me so much, but running away isn’t a solution, is it?”

Maybe, he thought, he should hand the duchy over to Hart after all and ask him to impersonate him while he grabbed his daughter and his cat, run to the other side of Idalos and forget everything that had happened that night, but the way that Alistair put it just sounded so good and so right … or maybe it was just that special atmosphere, that strange, strange night that had started with a birth trial party and a few drinks and ended like that …

King Tristan … he couldn’t help but shake his head because it sounded so weird!
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Alistair
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In Dreams He Came

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Kieran Riley
Three or four babies? Lord. Alistair couldn't imagine that -- did she actually had triplets? Or quinteplets? Was that even what four children at once was called? He felt for those poor children; Xander was a bit of an odd one, and while he was rather attractive - even moreso than Peake - he wasn't quite the charmer either. Alistair could only wonder how Celeste had been so... taken by him. Perhaps she liked the ambitious, potentially psychopathic type. She did at one point seem keen on marrying Alistair, after all.

The next admission by Tristan could only send Alistair into a fit of laughter. He liked being creepy, and said so triumphantly. He'd even made a bloody monster head that rolled around and screamed. The mage was going to wake everyone up at this rate; he laughed as much as his heart could allow for, imagining a bloody Feron head rolling around on the floor and screaming at all of the sheltered noble Ladies. Tristan's court would not ever require a jester -- he alone provided more than enough entertainment.

The question of magic followed, Tristan curious as to why he'd allowed himself to be initiated if he didn't need it. That wasn't the right way to look at it, and he knew. Magic wasn't all about power, though it was difficult to explain.

"I needed it at the time," he said. "I was young, I'd been abused by Kaleb for... a long time. I felt lonely, and had few friends. Then, the Seekers reached out to me. They recognized that I was the sort of person that would go to any length to extend my reach. I wanted to have power over my father, my mother, even the Duchess Ebony... and they promised me that power. I studied with them, learned. But they were too cautious, slow, methodical. I was not satisfied by the magic, or the men. So the Coven came into view - and I adored them at the time. They brought me such fulfillment; they made me feel valued. I thought they were the only good people in the world. Cults so often enthrall their members before they show you their true nature," he whispered, frowning.

"Essentially, I needed magic because I wanted more control over my life. And, I was lonely. Really, really lonely. The Coven were my friends - there were so many people there who had suffered as I had. And I could be honest with them, emotional, with what little undisturbed emotions I had. I hope that makes sense, cousin," Alistair curled his lips, seemingly dissatisfied by his own explanation. It was honest, but it felt wrong. He was so naive back then, to think the dark arts could cure his emotional wrongness. Now, things were different. Magic was no longer a source of emotional fulfillment, but a tool to sate worldly desires. He merely advocated for it because he knew that so many other mages were merely lost people, misunderstood.

But Cassander's answer was to burn them, flay them, anything to prevent them from achieving freedom and peace with their own mind. It was cruel, it was wrong. Some mages were evil, but so many merely wanted to be known.

But that was enough of that. He didn't want to think of all of it too much - it only made him angry.

"I would help you," he nodded. "And I wouldn't try to take your throne, Tristan. All I want is to watch Rynmere become a good Kingdom again. There was a time where our people were truly happy - where we grew so immensely, coming to rival the greatest Empires of this world. I want to lead Venora to being the Duchy of Love, not of maintaining tradition or enforcing gentrification. I want the people of Krome to feel valued again; I want all of the Duchies and their hearts to be mended. But I could never do that. You could. So I would help you - more than gladly. But first, we need our own reach to grow. I have a plan to gain international authority; I'm going to try to become one of the leaders of Ne'haer. If I can do that, I can provide a navy capable of holding back the armada of the King. We can then consolidate the Eastern Settlements, and as we seek allies within the Duchies, we can force the King to abdicate once he acknowledges our strength. We need to put pressure on him, and we need to show the people another way. The Venora way -- the way of goodness, the way of love."

It all sounded so ridiculous when he spoke it out like that, but these things meant something to so many people. The mages, the slaves, the Duchies that felt unrepresented and the people who lived in dredges under folds of dirt. They could appeal to them all. It was possible, he knew it was.

But he had been here for far too long, and already he knew the absurdity of their conversation and the depth of his laughter would draw curious eyes to this room. Alistair needed to leave, needed to go.

He stepped forward to place a hand on his cousin's shoulder, before bringing him in for a firm embrace.

"I live on a ranch named Cappola, in southwest Oakleigh. The official owner is Kieran Riley - that's me... when I'm trying not to get hunted by the Crown. When you've weighed out the logistics of all of this, come find me there. I'll try to devise a plan for us - though in all likelihood we'll probably have to gain control of Welles, Pyke and Berwick to levy even a trivial threat. I don't know how we'll do that, but we will. The people of these lands are no lovers of the Crown. We can gain their loyalty."

He stepped back and turned around, raising a hand to wave goodbye as he drew closer to the window. A Sohr Khal approached from the skies, its wings flapping with small gusts as it attempted to approach in silence.

"Goodbye, cousin. Be well."

The mage climbed onto the back of the beast as it flapped and fluttered at the windowsill, and flew off into the darkness consuming the city.

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Nightshade Eld
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In Dreams He Came

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Alistair
Points: 15/15

These point CAN NOT be spent on magic.

Knowledge:
Negotiation: Maintaining a partnership despite losses
Negotiation: Telling your ally the truth for the sake of trust
Negotiation: Agreeing to try a nonviolent approach
Persuasion: Convincing someone to rule
Persuasion: Accepting and playing into someone's quirks
Stealth: Sneaking into an open building via blinking
Stealth: Wearing the right attire to camouflage with darkness
Stealth: Reducing sound
Stealth: Not scaring your target
Stealth: Escaping stealthily via flight

Loot: N/A

Loss: N/A

Injury: N/A

Renown: N/A


Tristan
Points: 15/15

These point CAN NOT be spent on magic.

Knowledge:
Acting: Pretending to be excited to see somebody
Discipline: Being calm in the face of death
Politics: Some people are just too afraid to speak their mind
Politics: Somebody who abused their children shouldn't rule a duchy
Politics: Political asylum in Oakleigh for mages?
Politics: Changing the law doesn't automatically change what people think
Politics: Cassander needs to change or step down
Politics: If the king has no successor, there might be a civil war
Politics: I should be king

Loot: N/A

Loss: N/A

Injury: N/A

Renown: N/A



Comments: I've always loved the Venoras because they've got such an interesting dynamic. You two especially, after everything that's happened, all of the plots. Your characters are just both so interesting, and their interactions even more so! The thread was quite beautifully written and ranges from touching to hilarious depending on the portion I was reading. Tristan's reactions at some points were extremely amusing as much as some of Alistair's statement were heartbreaking. I hope to see more from the two of you again!
word count: 288
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