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Alaric

The seven Duchies of Central Rynmere and their respective baronies, cities, towns, villages, and landmarks each overseen by a Duke of one of the seven noble families and ultimately controlled by the King of Rynmere.
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Tristan Venora
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[Venora] Curiosity does - not - kill the cat!

13th of Ashan, Arc 716

Tristan awoke with a start. His heart was pounding madly. He had just had the most fantastic dream. Aunt Willow had turned into a dragon and chased him across all of Idalos, breathing fire as she did so. There had been a few undead monsters as well and some sort of shapeshifting assassin that constantly shot poisonous arrows at him. For a moment he still believed himself to be in this nightmarish hell – he absolutely loved nightmares! – but then the events of the last trial slowly came back to him again, and he sighed.

He was in the family residence in Venora. He had decided to sleep in his old room that was full of memories he didn’t care about because he didn’t want to begin the trip back home in the middle of the night after that family gathering and had business to do in the village on top of it. He sat up and rubbed his eyes for a moment as he couldn’t see clearly yet before he abruptly jumped out of bed – a four poster bed, much nicer than the one he had in Andaris – and walked over to the window to pull back the curtains. It was already light outside, and the sun stood high in the sky.

Slaves and servants were moving about in the yard, doing whatever it was that such people did. It had to be close to noon. That meant … he frantically got dressed as he realized what that meant. He had work to do and the trial was already half over. He needed to deliver letters, talk to a man in the village about a commission and and and …

He briefly checked himself in the mirror to make sure that he was presentable – of course he was, he always looked great – before he grabbed his bag and hurried outside. He needed to find a slave to help him with all the work and run some errands for him, and as luck would have it he spotted just the man for it. The Biqaj didn’t look as if he was currently doing anything important. Slaves should never just stand around!

“You over there!” he called out to Alaric and snapped his fingers. If the slave turned around and looked at him he would beckon him to come closer. “I have a job for you.” He raised his bag so that the man could see just what it was that would be demanded of him before he narrowed his eyes. There was something familiar about him. He had seen him before, but where? Of course!

“You are Alistair’s slave aren’t you?” he asked the man, a purely rhetorical question since he was quite certain of the man’s identity now. “What exactly is it that you do for him? What is he up to when he’s not playing the part of the heir of House Venora?”

He had always had the suspicion that there was more to his cousin than met the eye. Nobody could just stand around and be all cool and dignified all the time. He forgot that he was pressed for time for a moment as he thought about what kind of deep, dark secrets his cousin could possibly be harboring. A scandalous affair or two? Maybe he had a drug addiction!
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Alaric
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[Venora] Curiosity does - not - kill the cat!

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A terrible itch was forming near his groin and Alaric desperately wanted to scratch at it. It was because of this silly outfit he was supposed to wear whenever near the Venora family. Black pants stitched with gold thread, fitted to make him look like an ass apparently. There was a constant bunching of the material between his legs that left an ever present and awkward bulge. With as many people present in the family home of the Venora it was nearly impossible to fix it without someone noticing. So instead, he stood there and did his best to avoid the gaze of any passerby. It had been literal hours since his master Alistair, heir to the head of the household, told him to stay here while he attended personal business. Since then Alaric had counted the number of stones that made up the walls in his immediate area, the number of tapestries depicting the house emblem in sight, and all the potted flowers decorating the area. In short, he was more bored than he had been in a month.

And so it was just as Alaric thought he was finally alone and able to relieve himself of that itch that someone called out towards him. He flinched and quickly removed his hand from his crotch. Turning rapidly he beheld one of the nobles, Tristan. Automatically his etiquette training kicked in. Alaric bent at the waist a bit and dipped his head down in a bow before straightening up and providing his full attention to the speaker. A job? He felt a sudden wariness develop inside him but kept it from showing. Was he about to have to scrub up some mess Tristan made in another room? A wave of relief washed over him when he saw the bag being held up. The slave started over to the lordling when recognition passed over the handsome young man's face. A perfunctory nod was given in response, though it was not really needed. "My name is Alaric." He said politely in an attempt to not be addressed as slave again.

Alistair had never once displayed any sort of dislike towards Tristan. Even so, he knew better than to just divulge his master's secrets to anyone regardless of their affiliation to the family. So instead he smiled faintly and offered to take the bag for Tristan. "I do whatever it is my master needs me to do. Mainly, I keep him safe from any harm that may come his way." Normally there was actually no danger that the two of them faced. Most people were too scared to act against a noble. Unfortunately the heir had a secret that could very well put him in mortal peril. Alaric was probably the only person here who knew of it, which put him in one of the strangest of positions. In one sense he had a power over Alistair. Should he let that secret out to the wrong ears it would forever alter the man's life. Rather what little life he would have left. The art that was practiced behind closed doors in the dead of night was forbidden to most. The scandal alone would ruin him, potentially even taint the very name of Venora. On the other hand, Alaric could possible be seen just as guilty for the treachery. He knew of it for awhile now and never spoke of it. With him being merely a slave who would fight for him if it came to it? Alaric had to keep this secret, for now at least.

"Where will we be going, my lord?" Alaric's words were painted over with an exotic accent. Despite having spoken common for so long he never lost it. It suited him though, and he had always made a conscious effort to never let it disappear. The Biqaj could be a poster boy for his race. Tanned skin that spoke of generations under the sun and on the sea coupled with trademark eyes. Right now they were varying shades of yellows and gold, shimmering when hit with the sunlight. His shaggy hair was pulled back and held together with a band, a much easier method of taming that wild mess of hair atop his head. He averted his gaze for a moment and looked toward the room that Alistair was in. He had been told to stay there and wait for his return but that could take more hours. Surely he would not be missed.
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Tristan Venora
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[Venora] Curiosity does - not - kill the cat!

“Well, that was a rather nice bow, Alaric”, Tristan remarked and grinned, secretly wondering why the slave’s hand had been at his crotch and whether he should bow as well, to compare who of them was better at bowing, the noble or the slave. Alaric, he thought, looked as if he had been rather expensive, with his tanned skin, golden eyes and exquisite manners. By the Seven, he wished he had a slave like that that he could force to do all those things that he did not want to do himself! He was very jealous of Alistair right now!

“I’m Tristan, your master’s cousin, but you probably already know that”, he remarked and thrust the bag at him without a warning. It was rather heavy as it didn’t only contain letters and such, but also a whole stone sculpture that he had promised a man that lived in the village. He was glad to be rid of the weight. “We’ll be going into the village as I have work to do there. I unfortunately slept in today. If I don’t want to be stuck here for another night, I need somebody to help me, and you are just the man for it.”

He gave Alaric a sign to start walking besides him, not caring how he would handle the heavy bag as he thought about the slave’s rather unsatisfactory answer. “What kind of harm could possibly come Alistair’s way?” he wanted to know. Tristan often spent his time drunk in taverns, getting into arguments with random strangers or flirting with people that had a very jealous lover or spouse somewhere (he always flirted with the wrong people and had fun doing so), but he didn’t think that his cousin would do that. Did the man even have a lover?

“You can tell me”, he said in that very charming and persuasive tone that he also used when he wanted to convince Rufus, the owner of the Blacksmith Arms to give him another drink even though he had already had one too many – which didn’t always work. “I’m family, so a part of you belongs to me as well, as far as I am concerned. It will the both of us take a while to reach our destination, and I don’t want to get bored, so entertain me please! Slaves are supposed to obey their masters, aren’t they?”

He looked directly at the slave as he said that, but the smile on his face and the twinkle in his eyes softened his words somewhat. If Alaric was a poster boy for the Biqaj race, then Tristan with his brilliant blue eyes, dark hair and pale skin was definitely a poster boy for the human race, at least in his own opinion. There were even a few people who agreed with him.

“Anyway”,
he said after a few moments of silence because he could never bear silence for long. “Why does Alistair make you wear these pants?” He glanced at the garment in question which had a bulge in a certain place. “Not that they aren’t nice pants, but they look rather uncomfortable. Can you even work when you are wearing such clothes?”
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Alaric
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[Venora] Curiosity does - not - kill the cat!

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It seemed Tristan was more curious than most people ever seemed to be in Alistair. It put the slave in a strange position at best. He should be careful about what he said, but the idea of making it believed that his master had some sort of secret problem was all too tantalizing. Slinging the bag over his shoulder and holding it with one hand Alaric lengthened his strides until he matched pace with the lordling. What should he say that would not get him in trouble? He cleared his throat briefly and spoke in between Tristan's words. "Why, I protect the master from all sorts of danger. Be it from rabid squirrels, lurking shadows, or spirit-possessed furniture." He was sure to keep his tone completely serious and facial features devoid of any giveaways. Maybe Tristan would think Alistair an eccentric! In truth there were all sorts of obstacles that had come in between Alaric and Alistair. A lot of them were due to the master's shady dealings with the dark arts. Other times it was actually just simple ruffians trying to rob them. Little did they know that the two of them were actually dirt poor. That brought a faint smile to his lips. Take away his fancy name and things he'll inherit and Alistair really was no better off than he was in the world.

All he could do was smile politely and nod his head back to Tristan. Of course he would think owning a slave was the same as owning a pair of pants. "Indeed, slaves are to obey their masters." A beat of silence left Alaric wondering who this guy really was. He seemed, so far at least, to always want to be on the move and experiencing something new and fun. An inkling of a notion washed through him and made him shiver. Were they going to be getting in to some sort of trouble today? Alaric suddenly felt silly for not having grabbed some weapon or another to fight with.

The sudden change in conversation direction made him once again self-conscious. He took a large step to fix the pants again, but to no avail. Alaric shrugged his shoulders in response before speaking. "I am not entirely sure why, other than that they are much cleaner than the pants I usually wear. When we go out I am expected to look presentable, to the best of my abilities. So far, the only things these pants get in the way of me doing is standing comfortably." For a moment he wondered if that was the entire point of them. Maybe his master got a kick out of knowing that no matter which way he positioned himself there was no defeating the bulge. That would be down right dastardly. Feeling the bag bump constantly against his back had him shifting it around to a more bearable location. Now cradling it like one would a child he found himself growing interested in what the sack held. At first he tried to feel through the material with his hands in hopes of figuring out a shape or something familiar. When he could not determine it he turned his head to Tristan. "What's in here anyway?" Hopefully the slave did not come off as impudent with his inquiry. Tristan merely stated he had business to attend to and did not attest to its nature. A sudden flashback to a time when Alaric had to lug a man's body parts from a graveyard to their humble abode in the dead of night made him wary. No way something like that ran in the family.
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Tristan Venora
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[Venora] Curiosity does - not - kill the cat!

Rabid squirrels? Lurking shadows? Spirit-possessed furniture? Tristan’s eyes widened a bit more with each word that Alaric said, and then a smile slowly spread across his entire face. He had thought that Alistair had the usual vices of a nobleman - affairs, alcohol and drugs – and was pleased to find out that it was not the case after all. It seemed as if there was more to his cousin than met the eye, he thought, much, much more.

“Tell me”, he demanded. It sounded as if it would be a wonderfully entertaining story that would make the time pass quickly. “What did the possessed furniture do to Alistair and how did you make it …” He paused for a moment as wondered what the correct antonym to “possessed” was and finally continued, somewhat lamely as his memory had decided to fail him at that very crucial moment, “… unpossessed? And what about the squirrels and the shadows? Did they try to hurt him? Did they try to kill him?”

He put a noticeable emphasis on the word “kill”. As he spoke he tried to picture Alistair, dressed in silk and velvet and looking all dignified, being chased through all of Venora by a gigantic rabid squirrel, with bloodshot eyes and saliva dripping from its mouth. The image was so comical that he couldn’t keep himself from laughing out loud which would likely make poor Alaric start to question his sanity, if he hadn’t already been doing so.

He wanted to say more, to remark how very exciting life as Alistair’s slave must be, but it was just then that Alaric finally decided to answer the question about the strange pants he was wearing. “Well, they don’t seem to fit quite right”, he remarked casually, as if he hadn’t noticed how self-conscious the other man had suddenly become. – or just didn’t care. “If you want to, I can ask Alistair to get you new ones and maybe even a second pair of pants. He’d probably listen to me. Although you could always just sit if they keep you from standing comfortably, I suppose.”

He shrugged his shoulders and observed how Alaric was struggling with the bag. “It’s heavy, isn’t it?” he asked, feigning compassion and then continued in a strangely indifferent and emotionless tone, as if he were talking about the weather or some other trivial matter, “That’s because there is a whole severed head in it, fresh from the morgue. Sculpting barely pays the bills, so I occasionally have to do other jobs. There’s a man in the village that collects parts of dead people, but has too many scruples to procure them himself. I want you to deliver the head to him while I take care of a few other, more honorable things.”

“Feel free to open the bag and take a look by the way”, he offered as he noticed how Alaric tried to inspect the bag from the outside. The slave would be able to feel something round, something ominously head-shaped, although it was a bit harder than a human head should be, as hard as stone. “It’s a really nice head. There’s barely any blood on it, and it hasn’t started rotting yet either.”

He tried very hard to remain serious, as he imagined somebody that mutilated dead bodies at the morgue and sold them would be, but despite his best efforts he couldn’t control himself entirely. He tried not to grin, but the corners of his mouth started twitching nevertheless.
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Alaric
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[Venora] Curiosity does - not - kill the cat!

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Alaric had to try and keep himself from cracking up at this conversation. He cleared his throat and nodded his head as if to reaffirm what he said. With sincerity clear across his face he listened to Tristan's growing interest in the matter. He had to be careful what he said. On one hand it would be absolutely hilarious to continue the charade, even deepen it and make it more intricate. On the other there was a limit to what Tristan could accept. If the story became too grandiose in its nature than it would be unbelievable. Alaric had to aim for just right.

"Well you see, the chair never seemed quite comfortable. One day Master Alistair developed a terrible cramp on his...well you know. So he had me smash it to pieces. I guess without a proper containment vessel whatever spirit made the chair its home had nowhere to stay so it just..."

A vague wave and fizzle gesture was made with his hands, coupled with a look of wonder and confusion. He shrugged his shoulders and adjusted the bag once again.

"Well the shadows, you see, they are always following him. Often I walk nearby with a candle so that I cast an even bigger shadow to scare the first one off. The squirrels are the trickiest of them all. Fast little buggers."

Alaric shook his head and sighed as if remembering a particularly grueling time with them. Luckily he had to go on no longer. Tristan laughed heartily and it took all the Biqaj had to keep from joining in himself. Instead he turned his head as if taking in the scenery to hide his smile.

The talk turning back to his attire had him shaking his head in refusal of the offer. Even if Tristan asked Alistair to outfit his slaves in proper clothing there was a small chance he would. At this moment in time the gold flowing to the heir of House Venora was light. So light in fact that it almost did not exist. He would rather have a decent meal to eat for the night in the place of a comfortable pair of pants.

"I'd rather not bother the master with something so trifling. It's not often I have to wear these, my other pants fit just fine. A few hours here and there, its bearable."

He found himself nodding once more in agreement. Not only was this bag heavy it was cumbersome. It was like every way he held it mattered not, it was still unwieldy. With the next words out of the Venora Alaric stopped instantly on the spot. Eyes wide with shock he felt a tremor run through his body. In that instant he almost dropped the bag and all its content. On instinct he recaptured it and then recalling what Tristan just said was in it almost dropped it again. Alaric stammered in his surprise and fumbled with the sculpture, looking left and right to make sure there was no one else around that heard what Tristan had said. He regained his composure and looked up to the man, suddenly sure that he should not have turned his head and accepted this task.

There was no way this was actually happening to him. What were the chances that the Venora family hid the meanest kind of streak any could hide not just in one of its offspring, but two? This was absolutely the worst bout of bad luck he had ever had. Discounting that one time he was once sold in to slavery of course. Yet a morbid curiosity had taken over him. With caution in his eyes he backed in to an alcove and felt the bag once more. Yes! There it was, a nose! A bubble of disgust built up inside of him. Why was this severed head so solid and stiff already? Had it already - what was that word Alistair used before - calcified? No, there would be no use for it then save for some macabre decoration. Still, he had to really know what he was dealing with. What would Tristan do if they went to one of these shady dealers and Alaric was recognized by someone? He gripped the mouth of the bag in between his fingers and slowly peeled it apart to peer inside. Molten hues of golds swirled in his eyes as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. There was that nose he felt, but what was wrong with the eyes? Alaric turned his head to look at the back of Tristan's head.

"Stone? Wait...sculpting. It's a sculpture!"

Alaric exclaimed rather dumbly. With great and visible relief the man let out a massive sigh and placed a hand on his heart. That was almost way too close.
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Tristan Venora
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[Venora] Curiosity does - not - kill the cat!

“Did he really?” Tristan asked as Alaric told him about the cramp his cousin had supposedly developed, on his behind most likely, unless he didn’t sit like a normal person. He wondered whether the slave was telling him the truth or not for a moment before he decided that it might very well be the case. Stranger things had happened in Andaris before. But there was one part of the story that didn’t make any sense to him. “How did you find out that the chair was possessed? The carpenter in question could just have done a bad job. Did you … did you actually see the spirit when it left the chair?”

If he had been in Alaric’s place, Tristan thought, he would have brought a container to capture the spirit, and then he would have put it on his nightstand or a shelf and used it as some sort of decoration rather than letting it vanish in thin air. And he would have bragged about how he had defeated it to everybody that visited him at home and embellished his story with a lot of gruesome and exciting as well as completely made up details. He was about to tell Alaric that when it occurred to him that he was unlikely to encounter another spirit anytime soon. He’d likely passed a once in a lifetime chance.

“Now you are just trying to pull my leg!” Tristan remarked as Alaric proceeded to talk about the shadows that had supposedly bothered Alistair so much. From the tone of his voice the slave could quite possibly get the impression that he was offended, but his eyes twinkled with amusement. “Honestly, you just cast a bigger shadow? The story would have been much more exciting if you had made the shadows do something evil, such as trying to kill Alistair and drink his blood. Unless they actually did that?”

He almost rubbed his hands together in glee like some sort of annoying and stereotypical villain as he noticed the way Alaric treated the bag after his revelation. Up until that point he had not been sure if it would work. “Relax”, he said, as if he were trying to calm the slave down. “Nobody besides the two of us knows that there is a severed head in it. Just act as you normally would, and people will be none the wiser.” As he had expected, Alaric did no such thing though, but started to inspect the bag more closely. Tristan hoped that he wouldn’t actually dare to open it and that he would be able to play this game a while longer, but apparently the slave was braver than he had given him credit for.

As Alaric stared into the bag, Tristan quietly inched a bit closer as he really wanted to see the look on his face. It was of course priceless. The noble savored the sight in front of him for a moment before he decided to answer. „Of course it’s a sculpture!“ He laughed and shook his head as if he had never heard such a stupid statement before. “What made you think I would really cut up dead bodies and sell them? I have yet to meet somebody who does that!"

“As I told you”, he continued after Alaric had answered (or not), realizing that they had gotten a bit closer to their destination. “I need you to deliver the head to a man in the village while I take care of my other business so that I can leave for Andaris before the sun sets. I really don’t want to have to put up with aunt Willow for another night.”
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[Venora] Curiosity does - not - kill the cat!

Overview

I see weird naked dood templates carry back all the way to 2016. Enjoy your rewards.
@Venora

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XP: 15

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Leadership: Giving a slave orders
Persuasion: You can tell me, I'm family!
Deception: There is a severed head in that bag!
Sculpting: A sculpture that looks like a severed head
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