[Venora] If I May

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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Alistair
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[Venora] If I May

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18th of Cylus, Arc 717

Coming back into town, Alistair and Jericho were escorted by two Moseke Knights, men that Alistair knew growing up - Vincent and Gaston, from Masienne. These two individuals had delegated the task of arresting the four men to their squires, who would then bring them to the guards. Their escort was for the purpose of ensuring the Lord's safety, though Alistair declined their offer, which was apparently not enough to get them to go away. In reality, he knew exactly why they had continued to escort him - it was because his father asked them to, especially considering there had likely already been word of the Venora heir returning home with a curiously unrefined boy with red hair and bare equipment. Of course, thing was, it was bloody cold. He would've preferred they allowed his horse to gallop at least a little more quickly.

"Ser Vincent," the Lord called to the Knight. The man raised a brow and looked towards Alistair, nodding his head curiously. "You realize the shattered windows of the orphanage mean the children will be freezing, correct? Perhaps instead of escorting me, you could fulfill your civil duty and help with the installation of a new set to keep out the cold." Alistair spoke coldly, firmly - he was letting the man know of his displeasure at being escorted, and of course, his displeasure in his father's arbitrary will super-imposing over the safety of the children within the Little Garden.

"Escorting you is my civil duty, My Lord," he said. Alistair rolled his eyes, disagreeing entirely with that assertion - but alas. One of the Knights looked to Jericho, questioning him, though indirectly. "Who's this lad?" he asked, pointing at the half-Aukari. Alistair shrugged. "Ask him yourself, Ser Gaston," he said. The man turned his head, making clear that he wasn't going to. I don't care enough, he muttered under his breath. By this point, the men finally made it through the brunt of Sabaissant, and were soon to cross the bridge over to the palace. Alistair took a breath - he could already see his father staring down from atop the hill. The man always had a way of implying that he was carefully watching, from any vantage point he could crawl atop.

When they'd passed the bridge, the two escorting Knights returned to their posts, and Alistair and Jericho were allowed to roam freely towards Sabaissant's palace. The Venora was relieved, though still bitterly cold, and hoping desperately to get back inside. "This is your new home," he said. From here, they couldn't see the entirety of the palace, but they would have at least seen the beginnings of it - it was massive, with many buildings and businesses orbiting it. It had likely around a hundred rooms, a large courtyard, garden, fountain and festival area - and more than that, a place alongside the top of the hill and hedge where ceremonies would take place. Going up further, the palace came fully into view, with a gate of steel greeting them, an onyx rose in the center. With a gesture, the gate opened, and the two were met by Lord Kaleb Venora, Count of Lamonte, and Alistair's father.

"Welcome back, Alistair," he said. The man's voice was surprisingly deep, though his tone was familiar, and welcoming. He held a wry smile upon his lips at all times, and a face that spoke for his deadliness. The man was exceptionally attractive for his age, appearing barely past his mid-thirties, with notable musculature and smooth skin. This was the real Lord Venora, the man who called much of the shots, when Duchess Ebony wasn't.

"Hello, father," the younger man replied, his expression dull. "This is Jericho Bouclier," he pointed out, glancing to his 'squire'. The older man eyed him down, nodding his head slowly. "He's to be a personal guard of mine. May I give him lodging in the servant's quarters?" the heir asked.

"Absolutely," Kaleb said, grinning coyly at the young man. "Hell, you can keep him on your bed, if that's what you want. You're a man now - don't need my permission for everything." The man turned around, heading back towards the palace, beckoning for the two to follow. Alistair gestured for Jericho to listen, as his father was essentially the reigning Lord for the time being. "Alistair," he began to speak, "what happened with the orphanage?"

"It was attacked by some thugs," he replied.

"I see," returned his father, shrugging his shoulders. "It happens. There's been an influx of crime, lately. I don't think it's stopping any time soon. It's a good thing you're recruiting personal guards, though I'd personally recommend you take them from historically loyal families. The proletarian class is . . . not known for its loyalty in the face of adversity. Not saying this boy won't be, but, you can never be sure."

The man looking at his son's "guard", Kaleb decided to ask him a simple question. "Jericho, eh?" he smirked. "What makes you think you're good enough to be a soldier? Look scrawny to me."
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[Venora] If I May

Behind the Lord Venora on the same horse, Jericho could feel every slight and subtle movement the Lord made. He could sense the indignation that Alistair felt at being patrolled by his father, and though he could understand the sentiment, he could not identify with it. Instead, he appreciated the fact that the Lord Venora became irritable much as he did, at the inclination of others.

The horse clopped along, and Jericho felt that it would be a long ride, especially if the knights spoke about him if he weren't even there. Luckily, the Lord Venora made sure the knights would address him directly, and the boy swelled with pride. Though he were not the smartest, he understood that the knights spoke to Alistair about him to show him his place. The Lord Venora leveled that field. He supposed he expected that Ser Gaston would not speak to him.

Some knight. The boy thought, sneering slightly at Gaston while he wasn't looking. Knights were supposed to be noble defenders of the weak, not snobbish men who thought themselves better than everyone. That was what the nobility was for. Knights were supposed to show them how to remain grounded. Some knight... He repeated it in his head, making note of Gaston's unwillingness to treat him even as a slave.

But all that was soon forgotten when they encountered the massive gate to the city-fortress. The onyx rose was exquisitely wrought, but the true beauty lied behind the gate. As it glided open on well-oiled hinges, the Lord of Sabaissant greeted them, every bit as gorgeous as the Venoras were known for. However, there was something there to unsettle Jericho, as though Alistair's father was a demon masked behind the facade of an Immortal. It was something to behold, as if there were an ethereal quality behind Kaleb's face that Jericho couldn't place.

At the introduction, Jericho bowed to the Lord Venora, much more obediently than he had Alistair. He kept his eyes on the Lord Venora's shoes, even through the discussion the two men seemed to be having. Trudging slightly behind Alistair, Jericho listened intently, showing no emotion as though the Lord Venora would change his mind were he to see how excited Jericho was. The lad was surprised at Alistair's tone, though, when asked about the orphanage. Alistair seemed cold, emotionless, as if the attack on his home was nothing more than a nuisance to be quelled without so much as a thought.

His gaze rose, momentarily, when Lord Venora insulted the lower class, claiming them to be disloyal. Though he could not argue with the man, openly in any case, he would not stand to be insulted in such a way. His eyes burned, and he could feel the temperature rising on his skin. As quickly as the fire started, though, it suffocated, put down by Jericho's common sense. When the Lord Venora finally spoke to him, he had returned his gaze to the floor.

What makes you think you're good enough to be a soldier? The words hit him like a hammer, jarring him quickly to reality. The surrealistic feeling drained from his body, and he looked brazenly into Lord Venora's eyes. The youth held his gaze confidently before answering.

"My lord, I've been a lot of things in my few short arcs in this world. I was an orphan, a victim, a child, a laborer... In all the time I've been all those things, the one thing I dreamed of was being a soldier, fighting for a cause I could rally behind, like the heroes of old. I may be scrawny, as you say. I may not be the smartest, or the strongest, or even the luckiest, but I can guarantee you, my lord, that I am the most loyal man you'll meet. Bouclier is not my true name, my lord, but it is one that I believe describes me better than any name I've been called in my life. 'Shield', 'Bulwark'... That is I, my lord. Though I am not highborn, nor am I privileged enough to have been trained by a true knight, I will far surpass any of the knights in your service, given my opportunity. This is swear, my lord."

With that, the squire boy bowed his head again, secure in his answer.
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Alistair
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[Venora] If I May

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While Alistair was quite impressed by Jericho's speech, his father showed little emotion whatsoever, merely blowing a bit of air through a gap in his lips as if dismissing everything he'd said. "Hm," he replied. "We'll have to see about that, young one. Every man likes to think they're better than all the rest, until they die to one better than they." With those words, his eyes quickly turned from Jericho, as if he had no more interest in him. That was how Count Kaleb was, always -- dismissive, and humbling, always sure to remind others of their faults in the face of their successes. Perhaps Jericho was a good soldier for his age, and considering his life as an orphan, but he would remind the boy that he was a penniless orphan regardless.

Still, Alistair was no such man, and made an effort to show Jericho his faith in him. "You must confess the young man speaks well for his age," he said, smiling quaintly at his father. The older man nodded his head slightly, as if concurring. "Besides, all highborn families came from lowborn, once. It is through valor, commitment, honor and service that one obtains nobility. I fully believe these tenets to be possessed by Jericho, and genuinely - as if welded into him. Trust me, father, this boy is an excellent pick for our retinue." Again, the older man nodded, but said nothing more. He'd already decided that he was done speaking of Jericho. There were more pressing matters at hand.

"Alistair," the man commanded, "speak to me in my chambers, later. I must discuss with you the ongoing violence against nobility. This is becoming a pressing issue, particularly in the proletarian-dominated areas of Venora, such as Lamonte. We must be sure to punish these actions accordingly." Stepping away, the man returned to the interior of the palace, offering the two only a single risen hand as his goodbye. Cold as ever, though Alistair had gotten used to it, and cared very little for Kaleb's negative demeanor. This day was Jericho's to have, rather than his father.

Turning to look at the young man, Alistair beckoned for him to follow, opening a small door near the entrance of the palace. Going through the hallway to the first right, he was led to a longer hallway with many doors and people shuffling about. He was leading him through the servant's quarters, Jericho might realize, with the eyes of many of the handmaidens, valets and other assistants upon him, as well as his new charge. Some offered Jericho smiles, some offered scowls, but all of them offered at least a "hello" to he and Lord Alistair as they passed. Stretching near the end of the servant's living environment, he brought Jericho to an unoccupied room, with a notably positive environment and appearance for a servant. Venora was a rich family, and they prided themselves on the standards of living among their citizenry, even servants. Jericho would quickly learn that being a valet or a squire in this house was something sought after. It was a privilege he'd been granted.

Leading the young man into the room, the Lord closed the door, so that no others could hear their conversation. Stepping directly before the young man, Alistair decided to get to the point, as there was something he'd wanted to speak about previously, denied the opportunity due to their present company.

"Jericho," he began, "I must be completely frank -- are you an Aukari?" he asked. "I'd noticed that you were... very warm upon our ride to the castle. I've had an Aukari bedmate, at one point, and the heat from him did not feel all too different from yours." He bit his lip. This was unlikely to pose any significant trouble, though he realized that there was still a great level of bigotry within the citizenry of Rynmere, particularly against Faldrun's... fire-starters.

"Let me be clear: I have nothing against Aukari in the slightest, but I am one of the few with this outlook in Rynmere. If you wish to prevent yourself from being bullied and harassed, I'd suggest not allowing others to know of your ancestry, and if they do discover it, remind them that you were specifically chosen by Lord Venora for his protection. I will punish any servants who continue to act to your dismay after that point." He knew this would pose exceptional difficulty for Jericho later down the line, though he did have some ideas, and he imagined they would align well with the boy's interests. The Moseke Knights had been known to hold more Aukari than any other military position, and some of their largest bases were in Venora. This meant an opportunity for Jericho to... congregate, essentially, if he needed it.

The biggest issue would be Willow, in all likelihood, who liked to embarrass and humiliate others, quite publicly. Alistair would have to warn Jericho to avoid his mother entirely, though he wasn't sure if he wanted to overload the young man with such fearful rhetoric, so early on.
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[Venora] If I May

Jericho could feel the appraising glare of the Count of Lamonte, penetrating him to his core. As the Count dismissed him, though, he could feel something inside himself: disappointment. It had been arcs since he'd allowed the feeling to hurt him, but under the sharp scrutiny of someone as important as Kaleb Venora, he could feel how lowly his birth truly was. The coldness was familiar to him, though he didn't place it immediately.

Instead, it wasn't until Alistair defended him that he realized why it was so familiar: he'd seen it in Alistair. On their journey to the fortress, he'd witnessed Alistair speak to the knights escorting them exactly as the Count had just spoken to him. In stark contrast to his earlier demeanor, Alistair's defense of him proved that the man felt more than he had let on, and it gave Jericho hope that he would not be treated the same by Alistair as he had his father.

At the Count's departure, Jericho raised his eyes back to Alistair, watching closely the man's reaction. His visage was steely, something that Jericho was sure was a mask, but he decided not to push it. Instead, he allowed Alistair to lead him through a side passage, through a door and into the servant's quarters. It caused him a significant moment of pause as they stepped through the door.

Initially, the splendor and warmth of the area shocked him. For a servant's quarters, it was far more posh and modern than he'd anticipated. In his mind, the quarters were dark and dank, filled with miserable peasants squabbling in the mud and shit over a few morsels of food. Not that he had any reason to believe it, but all the servants in the stories were treated poorly. Not the Venoran servants. Instead, they were garbed in a myriad of colors, cheaply but cleanly. They wore smiles, and shoes, and murmured among themselves as they congregated. It brought a smile to Jericho's face.

As they were greeted, Jericho offered a genuine smile or a sincere response to each and every one, leaving none behind. He did not expect Lord Venora to do the same, but was pleasantly surprised when he did. The more he saw of Alistair, the more inspired he became. Which was likely a boon for Alistair, who'd just espoused Jericho as a member of his personal retinue.

When the door shut behind them, Jericho turned to examine the contents of the room he was provided. It was not large, nor particularly lavish, but it was more than he'd ever had to call his own. He sat on the edge of the bed, sinking in slightly, listening as Alistair explained of the anti-Aukari sentiment in Rynmere. He knew all too well that there was an abundance of bigotry, especially among the commonfolk, and did not need to be told to hide his heritage. Still, it was endearing for the Lord to look out for him.

"Of course, my lord. I've spent many arcs hiding what I am, this should be no different. Though I have gotten somewhat proficient at hiding the warmth of my skin, I can't always control that. Instead, I'd need to limit my physical contact. Which has not been a problem thus far." His smile was wry, but carried a hint of sadness behind it. Instead, he continued on, not allowing himself to be pitied.

"Thank you, my lord... For everything. For choosing me, for defending me to your father. I will not disappoint you." His tone was even and solid, and he believed every word of it. He appreciated Alistair's sacrifice, especially considering his father could have easily told Alistair no, and had them both punished. It meant a lot to Jericho, and would prove it to the man beside him.

"I am yours to command."
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Alistair
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[Venora] If I May

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Jericho, he could tell, was genuinely grateful - he expressed a loyalty and commitment that the nobleman had found quite admirable. It was a shame that some would act against him if they discovered his Aukari lineage, though at least Alistair had realized it quite early on. There were certain precautions he could put into place to prevent any sort of calamity within the household, and furthermore, he determined he would request for Jericho to meet firsthand the Aukari of the Moseke Knights. If he could work among his own kind, he would not be derailed intentionally by the masses of bigoted men and women within other sectors of the military, who would utilize anything to place themselves above their brothers and sisters in arms. He'd seen that reality occur far too many times.

"Sometimes, all excellence requires is attention, Jericho. A long time ago, I had a childhood friend named William Grayson who wished - more than anything - to join the Knights. He came from a troubled background and was plagued by illness, an issue he never quite mustered the influence to evade, always trapped by treatments of basic doctors and infantile nurses. As he grew older, I became a doctor, and he continued on the path of the Knight, overcoming his illnesses by sheer force of will. His sickness eventually was cured by my hand, jumpstarting me to the reputation of a skilled doctor in Sabaissant, and fostering an even greater friendship than in the days of yore. Grayson did become a great Knight indeed, by determination, and by the caring of others around him. I imagine that, for you, it will be quite the same. I have faith." He nodded his head, looking upon the walls of the room. It wasn't too terrible here, in terms of accommodations. At least the boy had a great deal of company around him - he'd learn quickly the norms of urban Sabaissant.

Being given command of Jericho, the Venora decided he would utilize this quite quickly, and already drafted over several possibilities as to where they could begin. Facing the young man, Alistair spoke, determined not to waste either of their time.

"Today is to be a long day. My command is this - do what you will, settle in, seek any accommodations you need. Learn of your neighbors. Then, when next I come here, be prepared for a day of combat. I'll be your sparring partner to prepare you to join the Knights - I am as qualified as any Knight in terms of combat, so we should do quite well together. Get good rest every night - the beds here are quite comfortable, I've heard, and not crowded by hordes of raving children. I imagine you'll find sleep easy now."

Nodding his head at the young man, he gestured a salute, before stepping through the door and past the hallway, waving 'goodbye' at each servant he passed, as they all paused in place, bowed and curtsied before the Lord. Alistair would have to speak to the Knights about Jericho's entry. The only question was - would this make Ser Bouclier an enemy of his, if Alistair were ever to war with the Crown?
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Varthakh
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[Venora] If I May

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Fame: +1 General Good Deed (Taking Jericho in), +1 General Good Deed (Looking out for him), +2 Give a Gift - Shelter
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Comment: Sabby town sucks, so does Jericho! *dab*
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Whenever one finds oneself inclined to bitterness, it is a sign of emotional failure.
-- Bertrand Russell
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