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Correa Castle

Fishman

Broseidon
Benefactor

Lined with gilded windows and great parapets of stone, Correa Castle is a bastion of light and holiness. Upon entering the great hall, one is greeted by the intricate paintings along the walls and the domed ceiling, depicting a great battle being won by the Order as evil is sealed away by their long-dead Emperor. Further down in the paintings, a warrior is seen threading through the evil creatures as though they were paper before finally succumbing to his wounds and being laid to rest within the Red Coffin, clutching a shining sword to his chest.

A table is laid out in the middle of the great hall, oblong, with a dozen polished chairs around it. Marquess Augusti Correa and his two grandchildren are seated there, waiting for their guests to arrive, lead by one of the servants.

The path to the castle is covered in trimmed hedges and a walloping variety of flowers, most of which are new and very much insisted upon by Mariona to make the castle look a little less like an "old man's fort."
 
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Astoria

Member
Just before the appointed meeting time came the call and the gates to the Correa castle rumbled open to permit a carriage to pass through the gates. Not nearly as ornate as those typically driven by the nobility, this carriage had a simple functionality to it- prioritizing the safety of its occupants rather than decor or design. Its plain design was by far enough for anyone to understand just who was held inside if the subtle emblem of the winged wolf on its doors was lost on the observer. And anyone who did catch sight of that door knew better than to approach as the carriage ambled to a stop. The particular occupants this morning had a rather particular way of dismounting. Just as the carriage eeked to a stop in front of the grand doors, the footman hurried to the door to undo the latch and swing open the door just as a silvery wolf leaped from inside landing on the cobblestones with the sound of steel striking stone. The creature let out a rough sounding huff as it shook its mane- the sound not unlike many silver coins jostling together in a leather purse. Another sigh this one very much human echoed the wolf's as a woman stepped out- with eyes as cold and hard as the silver that the wolf's mane was comprised of. She was without armor for once, only wearing silver bracers around her forearms that led into the white solider's uniform that had somehow remained pressed despite the long journey. The detailing of the uniform was done in silver conveying her rank and status to any who gazed upon it, but the dress was done for functionality as always. Her hair had been pulled back into two plaits with two strands cupping either side of her face bringing further attention to her cold eyes. The red cape she wore over her shoulder fluttered a bit as she stepped down to the stone and held her hand up for the other occupant.

"Gundulf, I have told you time and time again, there is no need to make such an entrance. I won't let you ride in the carriage if you continue to do that."The woman said as the wolf huffed before ambling over to her, his ears pressed to his skull in apology.

"You can't be too upset with him Deidra. It was a long carriage ride, he needed to stretch his legs." Came a gentle yet amused voice from within the darkened carriage as a pale hand slid into her tanned one as a far more classic beauty stepped out, her skirts in one hand and her blonde ringlets catching the sun as she turned her hazel eyes to her roughed cousin. She wore a simple dress, modest as always. It was a rich forest green that brought out the color in her eyes, her shoulders covered by the bow knot cape elegantly springing from the top. Her cousins' influence was apparent in the laced boots she wore that while also polished and elegant were made to be run in if the occasion called for it. Pinned to her cape was the family's crest as well as if it even needed to be said with her two 'chaperones' at her side.

"Lorrie, don't encourage him. He'll never learn that way." Deidra-for it could be none other than Deidra Nofalo, the current heir and head of the Nofalo family- chided as she helped Loralyn down onto the cobblestone ground and guided her hand to rest in the crook of her arm as she took her up the steps to the door. She gave the servant there who eyed the smug-looking wolf- could a metal wolf look smug?- a nod to guide them to their destination just as Gundulf snapped up the leather rucksack the footman tried to hand off to Deidra.

"I think at his age, it may just be impossible to teach him anything but what he knows Deidra." Loralyn said with a small laugh taking the rucksack from him as they walked within the castle walls looking up at paintings they passed with an inquisitive eye.

"I'm willing to challenge that. He learns quite well when it is of importance to him." The other woman mused with a shake of her head as they drew closer to the hall and her face changed the closer they came. "...Remember... If at any point you'd like to leave, just give me the signal. And more importantly... remember what we discussed. If it does not feel right- I promise you we will figure-"

"Let's worry about that if it becomes a problem Dei." She said softly, her eyes shining with a message only the two of them could truly decipher as the servant paused at the door. Deidra watched her cousin for a moment longer before sighing and nodding to the servant to open the doors so they could enter. As they came into the large room, Deidra stood at attention before bowing straight at the waist to her hosts as Loralyn released her skirts to sweeping into a graceful curtsy inclining her head to them.

"Good morrow, House of Correa. Thank you for having us." Deidra said simply, before straightening. Loralyn followed suit, gifting them with a soft smile only to meet Karlos's eyes. Or least the man she assumed him to be. She couldn't help the delicate blush that stole across her cheeks, losing her voice for the time as she instead followed her cousin, going to sit at the seat Deidra pulled for her by their names. Gundulf took his place at Deidra's right, resting his massive head in her lap when she sat.
 
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Sharkyshark

Just chillin'
The Book of Night GM
The carriage rolled through the gate and ground to a halt, its white dove-emblazoned banners denoting it as belonging to the Fletcher family. It was clear from the elaborate design and exquisite embellishments that the carriage had been extremely finely made at an exorbitant price, although the style had been out of fashion for several years. The driver hopped down from the seat and stepped around to the door, giving it a sharp tap before speaking.

"We've arrived, ma'am."

The door opened and a young woman stepped out, the sun shining on her platinum-white hair and reflecting off her armor. In truth, Roxanne had always disliked travelling by carriage, but Robert had insisted that she do so to "make a good impression." Besides, it was better to spare her beloved horse until the actual journey. Heavens knew it would be a long one. She thought back to when she'd first heard the news of the Book of Night's release and shuddered. What a horrible night that had been. Pigeons and beetles had kept coming in all night long, each bringing a more horrific report as pages of the book scattered across the land and spread their corruption to everything they touched. They'd been lucky in that no pages had fallen near any of their villages, although a couple had landed in forests within their lands. The reports of the creatures that had emerged from those forests had plagued Roxanne's sleep for days. She'd been trained to fight people and hunt foxes, not the cursed abominations created by the Book...but the family had needed a champion, and so here she was.

"Thank you, Perkins," she said. "Have them bring Dahlia around to the stables. I'll be inside."

Following the Correa servants that had come out to greet her, Roxanne headed down the path towards the castle. She marveled at how neatly manicured the gardens were, wondering briefly if they'd just been touched up to impress the guests. They probably had been, but she supposed she couldn't fault them for putting on appearances. Wasn't she doing the same thing, arriving in the family's finest carriage? Make nice to the Correas, Robert had said. We need them on our side. She'd always found the shadowy dance of interhouse politics to be distasteful, but even she knew how important it was to have allies in such troubled times. They all had their duties, even if it meant sucking up to the more powerful families for a little while. At least they weren't looking to the Vespidas for help.

Stepping into the grand hall, Roxanne bowed to the old man and nodded to the others. It seemed that she was not the first to arrive, which was no surprise considering how far she'd had to travel. They were all familiar faces, although she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen Lord Correa in person.

"Lord Correa," she said. "I trust that you're well? The castle is magnificent. Mariona, Deidra, it's good to see you again. Karlos, Loralyn, congratulations on your engagement."

She knew the Correa heirs well enough, having met them on multiple occasions before. Mariona had been at her family's estate just a week prior, right as the news of the Book had reached them. Roxanne had been impressed with how calm the young woman had seemed throughout the chaos that ensued, and wondered if she'd been impressed by the cold efficiency with which Robert had dispatched the troops to secure the forests and guard the villages. He'd always been good about that sort of thing. She was less familiar with the Nofalos, always thinking them to be snobby and uptight. The Emperor's little lapdogs always had to be perfect, after all.
 
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N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM

Hildegard would never forget the look in the Admiral's eyes as he returned from the wreckage of the voyage. Eyes wide, cast down, staring a hole in the ground, as silent as the abyss... there were only rumors as to what he had seen, as the surviving men's unintelligible rants could hardly be deciphered. All that could be understood as the word kraken. It gave them all pause. Indeed, rumors and news of monsters plaguing the sea and disrupting trade routes began to spread. As the eldest of House Gavilan, and heir to the royal fleet, it would have been the Admiral's duty to rise up as Champion. But it was also his duty to protect the people from the new threats arising from the abyss, no thanks to this Book of Night. A mere suggestion was all it took to begin the challenges which would make her Champion instead. With the look of gratitude in his haunted eyes ingrained in her mind, she rode, bright red hair whipping in the wind like the restless, burning embers of her soul.

Hilda unmounted her palomino stallion, wearing a fine blue tunic with golden trim, which celebrated her sun-kissed skin. Not far behind was her carriage with a troupe of men bearing the banners of the house; a mighty sparrowhawk flying forth conveying a trident with both its talons. It was not quite as fancy as the Fletchers or the Nofalo, but stylish nonetheless as it was built more for practicality and comfort than for show. The fact that House Gavilan charted the seas and all watercraft transport paid them tribute, was already common knowledge. They were careful to not trample on their freshly manicured lawn, at the very least.

Lady Gavilan entered the hall with a manicured smile, ducking away from the gloom which burdened her heart and bowed to the Lords and Ladies present as the servant announced her arrival. "My Lords," she began, her thick alto and well-traveled accent as smooth as nectar, "My ladies. It is a pleasure to finally witness the marvel that is Castle Correa. I had only heard tales from my father, and brothers, but now I can see for myself that they were hardly exaggerating." Hilda gestured to the entrance where her men were carrying a chest, and the servant ushered it to be taken. "Gifts of silk as a token of good faith from House Gavilan." Undoubtedly a gift for the soon to be newlyweds.

She considered those present with her one uncovered eye, the other hidden underneath a patch, a permanent reminder of her time served in the navy. There were only rumors as to the Champions chosen for the other houses, but Hildegarde could hardly be impressed by the youthful faces in front of her. Even so, she would not express such disappointment in the faces of her host.
 
Carriage after carriage were pulling into the Correan estate, each carrying someone of great importance to… someone somewhere. At least, that much could be assumed by the fancy cress, well bred horses, and fancy carriages. There is one, however, that seems to outshine the others’, one larger, painted a fine rich blue with golden accents and adorned with wonderfully carved decorations along its trim. The vardo, often seen in camps along the roads, trundles into the estate’s grounds unimpeded.

The cart isn’t pulled by a brilliant white horse or a strong mule of any sort, but instead a creature that most would have never seen before, with a hulking muscular mass and hundreds of javelin-like quills spread over its back. The beast plods forth, sniffing and huffing at the air around it as guards throughout the courtyard begin to whisper to one another, trying to identify it. To the rider the beast is known only as Bah’Sehl.

The rider is far from the humans that made this land their home, and from the large hood, strangely bowed legs, and thin tail, it can only be assumed that this rider is one of the Av’rae nomads that made their home along the roads between the citied lands. What was a nomad doing here? They rarely came close to the family grounds, let alone stride directly in through the front door, especially not anywhere near a Correan stronghold. Its said they still have a deep seated resentment to the former Emperor for stealing their magic but… perhaps this hatred is lost to time, or the newer generations simply don’t care.

The Av’ peers out from under her hood, surveying the courtyard, taking note of the fancy carriages, horses, and armed guards that patrolled, then her golden eyes look up to the banners that coated the huge building before her. The crest is indeed the one that had called on her. She pulls a lever by her side, which is followed by a dull thump as the back wheels of the vardo are locked in place, then with one swift movement, she slides down from the vardo and lands on her booted feet, one hand clutching her poleaxe bardiche and the other a half eaten green apple.

Her outfit doesn’t seem to hold any indication of allegiance, no family crests or tell-tale fashions, but instead it’s one common among her people. A purple shawl wraps over her shoulders and down her back, held in place with a golden broach adorned with an Av’ rune, and under it she wears a set of chain and leather armour that hugs her athletic body. To the layman, her armour doesn’t seem to be all that impressive, the steel chain had lost its shine, and the leather looked cracked and worn, but to the trained eye they could see how well crafted the armour seemed to be.

She leans the weapon against her beast for a moment as the guards watch intently, but her attention is one one of the packs that hang from the beast's side. The beast didn’t seem to mind carrying the extra weight at all, even with its task of pulling the rider’s home. Anyone who makes their home on the roads, man or beast, understands that they must carry their weight. The Av’ grins as she pulls an envelope from the pack, the broken wax seal obviously stamped with the Correan stamp. She takes a bite from her apple as she approaches the guards, then tosses the mostly eaten core towards one of the lesser-looking ones, who fumbles with it for a moment before catching it, bringing an amused smirk to her purple lips.

The nomad pulls down her hood to reveal an impressive set of horns that curl back and under from just behind her temples, one side adorned with a golden chain that attaches to the matching cap at her horn’s tip, and the other horn wearing a matching bracer half way down its length. Finally, a shiny hoop pierced her septum, bringing some brightness to her otherwise unenthused expression. She looks between the guards, then spots a man in a much more elegant costume. He’s the one she’s looking for. “I have been summoned,” she says, offering the letter to him. Though her free hand rests on her bardiche, the other remains by her side, away from the much more dangerous knives that remain sheathed across her waist and shin. There was no need to make the humans jumpy, as they often got when a poor person with a weapon entered their estate.

The servant looks over the note, then double checks the seal before nodding. “Very well, Miss Shyv’Ahna,” he says in the annoyingly snooty way these building-dwellers often adopted. “Please, follow me.” The man turns on his heel, nose stuck up in the air, and heads towards the main doors.

The nomad gives a small sigh, then follows mr. fancy-pants, but not before looking over her shoulder. “Do not stray too close, boys,” the nomad says with a smirk as one of the guards creeps forwards to get a better look at the beast. There’s a low growl as the porcupine-like beast bristles its hundreds of quills slightly. “There is a reason he is my friend.” That got the guards to step back a little. Best to observe from afar…

Ahna would be lying if she said she had been in such a building before. The ceilings were higher than she had expected, and the walls covered in fine arts and murals, some of which she’d seen lesser depictions of, but nothing quite as opulent. She lets out a low whistle of admiration, reluctantly admiring the beauty while also thinking of how much she could sell such things if she got the chance. That chance may never come, but that didn’t stop the nomad.

Finally, she’s lead into the grand hall, and to say she looked out of place would be an understatement. The nomad, who’s life was spent on the dusty trails, standing in a room full of rich humans, with their fancy armours and titles, mumbling about the peasantry and such, no doubt, and it didn’t help that she stood much taller than anyone in the room. She would even go as far as to bet that they bathe every day too. Bastards.

“Stay here, Miss Shyv’Ahna,” the servant says without looking up at the Av’. She knew to do as she was asked, especially in such a place. Besides, she didn’t care to get involved with the politics they were likely discussing. Instead, she is here for one very important reason; money.

The servant skirts the room and slinks up beside the patriarch at the head of the table and whispers in his ear, his dull eyes cast towards the nomad, who stands at the other end of the room with her arms crossed, looking over the fancy room.

“The nomad, as requested, my lord,” he whispers. “If I may be so bold… we have our own pathfinders, all of more noble blood than her… ilk…” Good thing she didn’t hear that, or her fist would be anxious to meet the servant’s nose.
 
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Fishman

Broseidon
Benefactor
Marquess Augusti Correa III stood when the Nofalos arrived, putting a hand to his heart in a deep bow. He was dressed in his blouse and tabard, depicting the blanched phoenix covered in golden flames, his house seal. A long cape draped over his shoulders in the same colors; this one adorned with a golden sun that was the crest of The Order of Radiant Light. The star-shaped gem holding the cape together, melded into a bend of metals depicting a sword, a shield, and a spear, revealed his rank of Knight Commander. He was old, and it showed in his snowy hair and his sun-baked wrinkles, but not a bit in his eyes, full of life and hope and fight.

"Acting Duchess Deidra Nofalo and Lady Loralyn Nofalo! The pleasure is mine, even in such grim times. Your presence eases this man's heart," he replied in a voice so deep and full that it shook their bones. He gave them a kind smile, the ones grandfathers often showed their grandchildren. It made the sides of his eyes wrinkle so much more, crevasses lined with scars that told more stories than he remembered. He stole a glance at Gundulf. Ah, so they meet again, said his eyes. It had been thirty years since their last meeting, and the Marquess did not forget. He regarded the living artifact with the same steely respect.

"And mine. I am happy to see you both again without the Elders stealing your voice," declared Lady Mariona, who stood up behind her grandfather. She was a slender woman, but not at all fragile or small. She carried a commanding air about her, betraying the youthfulness of her face. Her voice was silk but revealed by the brashness of her words. A tiny, mischievous smile played on her lips. Was it in jest? "Such capable women keep this country shining brightly."

As she walked around the table, a dress that matched the Marquess' tabard in color and cloth tickled the ground, with golden, laced strings at the back patterned to represent the wings of the phoenix. A white band tied her thick curls into a braid, tightly woven into two buns at the end of her hairline. She also had a gem, this one purple and hanging from the band, deligating her as the next Marchioness of House Correa, her current title now Viscountess. She, too, held her hand to her heart and bowed. "Welcome."

The third of them was Karlos Correa, who was stood next to Augusti and opened his mouth directly after his grandfather finished, but was interrupted by his swift, silver-tongued sister. Masking a mild annoyance, the young man mimicked their bow, hand to his chest and over his tunic, which of course, was exactly like his grandfather's. There was a time where both men could have been twins; early paintings of the Marquess showed a man with flowing golden hair and a princely smile, not a spot of hair on his chin. Those days were long gone and reserved for Karlos now, a strapping warrior that shined like the light he worshipped so devotedly. "So long have I waited. Pleasure is but a meager word for how I feel," spoke the holy knight so eagerly, but with a measure of restraint. He looked to Deidra for permission to walk forward and take Loralyn's hand. One glance at Gundulf and the guests that were right behind the Nofalos, and he lost his nerve for the moment, though he beamed over at the heavenly seraphim that would soon be his wife. If someone were looking, they would see the slightest twitch of Mariona's lips. Trying not to smile? Or perhaps in annoyance. It was not apparent.

"Lady Roxanne Fletcher, I am elated to see that you have arrived. Your strength will be needed in future battles," said the Knight Commander. There was something in his voice there, whispering something unsaid- that he acknowledged this strength even if the Emperor did not.

Mariona came forth to greet Roxanne with the same bow. "I am happy to see the forest's chill did not draw from you the same as it did me on the way back." She could tell that the warrior had taken the shorter route instead of a wide berth around the forest. Here she was, early as the rest. "Your bravery speaks volumes of your character. You give me hope."

Karlos did little more than nod deeply in her direction. A small, pink blush lined his cheeks.

Then came the both rumored and decorated warrior of House Gavilan. Many stories had reached the old knight's ears of the woman, none of which he doubted as he watched her stride through the door... and with a gift!

"Herzogin Hildegard Gavilan of Maldek! You honor us with your words and your gifts," boomed the Marquess. "I am relieved to see with my own eyes that the fierce Pirateslayer of the Great Seas has graced our home with her presence."

Mariona came forth, greeting her the same. "I have heard every story, every rumor, every bard's tale. Your name alone inspires strength and vigor, and your presence bleeds it. Taciturn and prudent and in war daring should a warrior's children be."

And, silently again, Karlos greeted her quietly and nodded in agreement.

Last, and in the eyes of some, least, was the bizarre, otherworldly Av'rae, seen only by some peasants and fewer nobles. She drew the eyes of them all, especially Mariona. The servant's comment drew her eyes to him, lacing poison through his blood with a blade propelled with her glare. He fell silent, knowing he spoke too loudly. After all, the whispers about the Viscountess, with her dark olive skin and thick, dark hair, could be true. If they were, of course, she would not think so lowly foreign, freakish peasants.

Gulping, the servant retreated, allowing Augusti and Mariona to step up in greeting, Karlos right behind.

"Hail, Dame Shyv'Ahna Tes'Laya! Traveler of these lands and those beyond. None have an eye for it quite as keen as yours. It is with great relief and honor to see that you have accepted my hasty request."

"Truly, you have blessed us," added Mariona, smiling.

A moment passed, and Augusti looked around, a small frown on his face.

"It seems as though the Deepwinters could not arrive this day. Let us pray their trip is not cut short due to the spreading plague. Now, let us sit." Augusti gestured to the chairs and settled into one at the narrow side of the table, Mariona to his right, Karlos to his left. Suddenly, a weight fell across the room, and though it was morning, the room seemed to dim. The Knight Commander's forehead wrinkled twice over and hooded his eyes.

"You are all aware that the Book of Night has been opened and corrupted our lands. Magic has been released, no longer confined to the control of our Great Emperor and her Royal Houses. It has been decreed that every house elects a champion to seek out the pages and bind them once more to the Book of Night."

A great sigh filled the old man's lungs, shuddering just a bit from his age.

"I would go, myself, but my title confines me to the corners of our cities and townships to defend our people. That weight falls upon your shoulders. I will offer council, however, once you journey outside of our civilizations, I can lend you no further aid. You will have to rely on your own strength, your wits, and Dame Tes'Laya's guidance. May the Golden Sun light your path, and the Ashen Phoenix gives you the strength to vanquish your enemies."

He gestured to the ceiling, at the paintings of the warrior with a brilliant sword crawling into a casket.

"I see that many of the Noble Artifacts have been brought, brilliant as they are. We, too, have an artifact, as many of you know. The Red Coffin. Inside, it is thought to be the twin sword to Herzogin Hildegard's Anaklusmos, clutched in the arms of the Old Hero that fought against the Mad Matron of our early House Correa. Unfortunately, we have had no luck attempting to open it-" A tiny smile appeared on his face. It had to of been where Marion got it from, that little secretive grin, that shine in his eye. "Until now. Lady Loralyn Nofalo, I hear that you might have gleaned something from an old scripture that might help us."
 
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Astoria

Member
The Nofalo's largely kept to themselves, acknowledging the greetings cast their way, but Deidra never was one of many words. Especially in times such as these. Loralyn, the shy soul she was, readily took the opportunity to delve into her notes that were carefully packed within the leather rucksack that Gundulf had so kindly presented her with as they entered. Her cheeks remained ever rosy as she worked, constantly stealing glances to her betrothed but unable to muster up the courage yet to actually address him. Her focus on her task only hastened, however, as those gathered began to sit at the table and the Knight Commander began his speech. When addressed suddenly, she nearly jumped in her seat, still feeling rather flighty, immediately glancing at her cousin who had been keeping a careful eye on her progress as they sat and waited.

Deidra gave her a small smile, of course catching onto the panicked look knowing enough that she needed to give her some room to breathe at the moment. She stood carefully, Gundulf removing his head from her lap to instead walk over with clipped steps to the younger woman and nestle his head in her lap instead. "Thank you for your words, Knight Commander. As the sword and shield of our country, it is my honor and pleasure to take up the mantle to protect us from the evil on the horizon. I joined by Gundulf will carry out your will as it has been stated to maintain the peace of this country as is my duty. As such I do ask that you and all of you at this table call me not by my title but by my given name Deidra. We are brothers and sisters in arms united by our cause and I'd rather not keep pretenses between us." She said simply, her voice ever respectful yet unwavering. She waited a moment longer before glancing at Loralyn who seemed to have stabilized herself enough and was taking slow breaths to calm herself, her hand resting atop Gundulf's head. It seemed that she had stalled for enough time. "That aside, as you have said, my cousin in her endless studies has indeed found something that may be of use to us in our quest. But I will let her speak to that." She concluded and went to sit. She subtly patted her lap once in encouragement and Loralyn took a final bolstering breath before rising slowly.

She tucked a loose strand of her hair behind her ear giving those in the room a soft smile before clearing her throat. "Ah... Y-Yes. Thank you." She took another breath before glancing down at her notes. Her voice was soft so those hard of hearing would likely have trouble understanding her but as she turned to matters she alone understood she seemed to gain confidence. "....I will not bore you with all the details of my work decoding the language of the ancients, but I thank you Lord Augusti for permitting me to delve into your family's history. What I've found is quite illuminating. The method is not wrong but rather your timing." Loralyn began as she pulled out a worn sheet of parchment that had a sheet of her own writing clipped to it along the sides. It showcased an artists rendering of the coffin with scrawled symbols covering it. " 'On the day of ever light, the blood of my blood shall take thine right.' I believe... it is the night of summer solstice that one of the line of Correa must go to open the coffin. Then and only then is when the coffin will be open to you." She said before trailing off and gave a small bow to Augusti before going to sit back in her seat, worrying at the bit of parchment with her notes.
 
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Sharkyshark

Just chillin'
The Book of Night GM
Roxanne eyed the other guests, not entirely sure what to make of the lot of them. She'd had few dealings with the Gavilans, as her family had mostly stayed away from them. No good could come of working with them, Robert had said. They'd lost their artifact through their own foolishness, which made them almost worse off than the Fletchers themselves. A conglomeration of weak families would go nowhere, and so Robert had always focused his efforts on the more well-to-do houses. The horned nomad, on the other hand...Roxanne was more than a little familiar with them. Travelling entertainers moving through their lands always made a stop at their estate. Robert favored them, and had on more than one occasion invited one or two of them to spend the night in his quarters after the night's show. Roxanne hated the way that they smirked at her as the guards searched them for weapons, couldn't stand the way her cousin fell so easily for their wiles. Couldn't he see that he was just another rich rube to them? That they were likely casing the estate for valuables? Roxanne didn't trust them, and was always glad to see them leave. Besides, their strange spiny beasts frightened the horses.

When Mariona commended her for her bravery, Roxanne smiled and nodded.

"I'm here to do what I can," she said. "For the empire and its people."

Despite her words, she cringed inwardly. Bravery? She'd been terrified the whole ride through. Every sound in the woods had made her jump, every shadow had seemed to contain unseen horrors. She'd served in battles before, led troops to resolve territorial disputes at the borders, but those had been against people. The mere idea of unearthly monsters frightened her more than she cared to admit. As a child, she'd frequently worried about creatures lurking under her bed or hiding within her wardrobe, and something about the current situation made her feel like a scared little girl again. Of course, it wouldn't do to look weak in front of the other heirs, especially if she wanted to bring glory to her family. At least she'd come out to help, unlike the Vespidas. She remembered the letter, could still see the disgust in Robert's face as he read that the Vespidas had declined to send a champion. Neither of them had been particularly surprised, but it simply cemented the fact that that shadowy family simply could not be trusted.

As Loralyn began to detail the results of her studies, Roxanne found her eye drawn to Gundulf. This wasn't the first time she'd seen the metal wolf, of course. Every time she'd ever seen Deidra Nofalo, the creature had never been far away. In truth, she'd always been a bit nervous around the ancient artifact, as though it would bite her if she got too close. Part of her unease stemmed from jealousy at not having a family artifact, but the majority of it came from simply not being used to seeing magic in her day-to-day life. Did the Nofalos just get used to it? She supposed that they had to, considering that the family had two artifacts (that the Fletchers were aware of.) The thought of artifacts brought her back to the current topic, and she managed to catch the last of what Loralyn had discovered. Who knew the prim little princess had actual talents aside from looking sweet and innocent?
 

N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
“The honor is mine, Marquess Augusti, Viscountess Mariona,” Hilda placed a palm to her breast, “and lo, the sunrise and sunset do not compare to your legendary beauty, my lady,” eyes closed, Hilda gave a gentle bow with a smile before the Av’rae entered the room. Though not before she could give the stunning lady a wink.



Hilda turned to observe the colorful creature with her arms crossed and a thoughtful hand on her chin. She knew of the nomadic race, having come across them in the past; she vaguely recalled losing to one in an arm wrestling contest at a pub in Iskandar.



Roxanne’s judgmental stare did not go unnoticed by the redhead, and it was met with a small yet charming smile; it mattered not to her what the self righteous Fletchers thought of her or of her family. Countless attempts have been made by their forefathers to form an alliance with House Fletcher, to Hilda’s own shock. Luckily, the pompous House took little to no interest. In her own opinion as well as those of their subjects, it would dishonor House Gavilan to associate with their likes, as they had an actual reputation to maintain.



Hilda followed Roxanne’s gaze to the silver wolf, which she hadn’t taken much notice until now, and vaguely wondered how Anaklusmos would fare against such a beast. Would Deidra agree to a spar?



“Let us pray they do not stifle this room with their frigid visages, instead,” Hilda jested about the Deepwinters after Augusti with a cheeky grin.



“Apologies, Duchess, but is it not due to the very privileged afforded to us by our names and titles that we are gather here, today?” Hilda chuckled at the childish notions of the Duchess. Surely, she was aware of why common pissants were not the ones chosen as champions of their Kingdom? “Do you think your title has nothing to do with you being bestowed with the great and honorable quest of gathering the pages of the Black Book for the Enperor?” Deidra was free to join the people if she so despised her own title. Hilda very much doubted she would.



The Nofalo girl began to speak, or in this case, squeak, as though she were a mouse in a room full of hungry cats. If she had not been announced Hilda hardly would have noticed, for hers was the voice which was so soft and faint that it could scarcely be heard, even in the great hall that so easily reverberated sound off its walls. Hilda’s squinted at the girl and tilted her head, as though that would help her hear better.



“Marvelous,” Hilda’s naturally strong and sultry voice carried easily and effortlessly. When one was so accustomed to shouting across a ship over the tumultuous winds of a storm at sea, it could make regular conversation seem too timid. “Yet another artifact for the glory of the Empire.”
 
Titles, lords, ladies, all of these people were as important as Ahna had assumed, though none mattered in the slightest for her. At least, not outside the requirements of her supposed contract, that is. Her narrowed eyes scan every one of them, trying to figure them out. Warriors some, that is true, and something that gave her a little confidence in their abilities, especially the one she assumed to be a sea-roamer, judging by her crest. She seemed the only one who was not still a child among them.

Her attention snaps to the old man as his voice carried in her direction. Dame? “Your flattery is appreciated, castle-dweller,” she says, standing tall with pride. “But the title you have given me rings hollow, I am no dame, nor am I a lady of the land. I will not take offense if you refer to me simply as Ahna, but please, do not waste your breath on fancy titles.” Then there’s a smile across her purple lips. “The promise of gold will hasten anyone’s feet Lord Augusti.” Is lord the right term? She hoped she had the right person, the one from the letter. Just because she found titles pointless didn’t mean others thought that of their own. With Mariona’s words, she offers but a simple nod. “It is not a blessing I bestow, Lady… Correa?” She isn’t entirely certain, but hopefully they’d forgive her ignorance on such things. “But instead a service, as a blacksmith would smith a sword for your armoury.”

As the others are greeted, her eyes wonder once more, admiring the craftsmanship of the stone and marble that adorned the hall. Perhaps living in castles isn’t as bad as she thought, but she wouldn’t give up her Vardo for anything. She looks back when the others speak, but finds their greetings rather… pretentious. Yes yes, glory to you and you, praise be to whatever, for the empire and stuff. Bah. Empires. Its their fault the world is in this mess. Most in the outside world would spit at the name… except the Dwarves, funnily enough. Most of the ones she knows praise the empire for ridding the world of magic. Ignorant, yes, but damn good fun to drink with.

Though the others are soon seated, Ahna remains standing in her spot, now leaning against a pillar. She isn’t here for ceremonies, only for orders and her pay, but once the servent sheepishly pulls a chair out and gestures for her to sit, she catches wise and approaches the table. Once seated, its evident just how tall she is, the odd one out at the table, regardless of her race. She didn’t seem to care though, instead getting comfortable and admiring the work put into the chairs and table before her. She knocks on the chair’s arm once, then gives an impressed look. “Ash-wood…” she mutters to herself, then reaches under the feel for the fittings. Completely encased by the wood, oh this carpenter is good. “Impressive…”

Even though she may seem distracted, her pointed ears are perked and listening intently to everyone’s conversations. The older Av’ would find quarrel with just about every word the elder spoke, but Ahna instead just listened. She does speak up for but a moment. “Ahna.” A reminder of her lack of title that she held with pride.

Artefacts. The cursed items, filled with magics stolen from the world at large, all in once place. What a dreadful idea, if anyone knew they were there, they’d surely be in trouble. She’s no rat, there’s no doubt about that, but the servants and guards? Could they be trusted?

As the one named Deirdra speaks, Ahna rolls her eyes for most of her words to begin with, all shameless flattery about brotherhood and shields, bah. Real brotherhood comes from those you fight with, side by side, not who’s armies you send your armies to assist. The brotherhood is forged by the soldiers, not their masters.

Curiously, though, the whelp begins to speak, the one guarded by the impressive wolf. Perhaps she wouldn’t be defenseless after all, which is generally good news for Ahna. Her words, in the end, are largely lost to Ahna’s ability to care, however. More artefacts, more chaos, more annoyances. Yes, this Loralyn had proved she had brains, that is to be commended, but her words are still lost.

Finally, Ahna speaks. “Though my people consider the Empire’s theft of magic an affront to the balance of the universe,” she begins. “It did bring balance. That balance has been destroyed by the release of your book, and must be contained until every artefact is ready. This is part of the reason I am here.” Other than the money, of course. Her attention shifts to the elder, solely. “Your assistance is appreciated, I am sure, but worry not of the world ahead. Your titles may lose meaning and wear thin the further we go, but friendly faces to me do not. There are many far beyond your walls that will come to our aid should I request it.” Travelling the world does have a nice bonus of meeting new people, after all.

She sits back in her chair for a moment. “One thing does trouble me, however,” she says. “If an artefact has been released, causing the imbalance in the winds of magic, and bringing chaos to the world, is opening another going to help us?” she asks, referring to the coffin. “A grand weapon is always a bonus, but this presents two problems. One, finding one who’s worthy and able to wield it, and secondly, what of the magic stored within? Will releasing it bring further imbalance?”

Ahna looks at the group. “Forgive my ignorance on the subject, I have only the perspective of my elders on the subject of magic and the hell brought forth from releasing it before the world is ready. We do not even dare to use our own until then.” Which, to some, is still the D’neir artefact. Does anyone still hold a candle for the extinct bloodline? Deep down, Ahna secretly hopes so, because with that candle comes the knowledge that the Av’rae are not as weak as some once assumed.
 

Fishman

Broseidon
Benefactor
Augusti considered Deidra's request briefly before Hilda voiced her opinions on the matter. He was about to open his mouth to speak, but the information that Loralyn had to give took precedent. He and the rest of House Correa listened to her intently, as their own family heirloom and artifact was involved. Mariona nearly rose out of her seat when Loralyn revealed the true nature of the box, lips parting. Before she, too, could speak, their guests had a few of their own words.

"The Red Coffin contains the remains of the greatest ancestor of House Correa. The sword that was entombed with him could be nothing but a boon to our cause. He used it to defeat the Dark Matron that enslaved our family a thousand years ago," said the Viscountess. "Every piece of magic is half miracle and half curse, but we nobles were entrusted wit hit for a reason. We will use it responsibly."

Augusti held up a hand. "And because we recognize this, we ask that the rest of the champions be present outside the tomb in the event that opening the Red Coffin goes... less than fortunately. My grandson, Karlos, is our Shining Star. He shall be the one present to open the coffin since only our blood is available to do so."

"And that will have to happen soon," remarked Mariona. "The summer solstice is today."
 

Astoria

Member
The exchange after Loralyn had said her piece was echoed by a dull grinding noise. It was reminiscent of the sound of a sword being drawn slowly from its scabbard, the steel scraping slowly against the inner workings of what contained the weapon. As time went on, the sound grew and it slowly became apparent the source. Gundulf had risen from his position again at Loralyn's side and was pacing slowly back over to Deidra's, tail flicking back and forth dangerously. He seemed to be scanning the room- eerily human eyes bouncing from player to player but focusing primarily on Hilda, his hackles raising slowly the longer he watched. The low grinding sound would then be recognized as a growl as he finally sat at Deidra's side once more, his lips pulled back to show teeth that looked more like knives and could readily tear through skin and pulverize bones. Loralyn's eyes strayed from the table to watch nervously, also affronted by the other woman's lack of tact addressing her cousin but more concerned with Gundulf's boiling reaction. She knew how sensitive he was to the environment he was in and the deposition of others towards them both. She couldn't imagine that this entire situation was blowing over well. Especially not as she took in her cousins' eyes as well- the silvery pupils swirling ominously, but her face betrayed no other emotion. She bit her lip about to reach out to her but Deidra cast a glance to her first, gesturing slightly with her chin as she reached out a hand and set it upon Gundulf's head gently stroking him in an attempt to calm him.

"Herzogin Hilda. You have my deepest apologies if I have offended you by asking to be called by my given name." Deidra began and it felt as if the room dropped a few degrees as she spoke. Her face still betrayed no emotion as she took in the woman across the table still slowly stroking Gundulf's head but his snarl did not abate. "I assure you though you are my senior, I know well the meaning of the title that I carry. The title that I have earned. It is not something I see the need to continue to establish in words but rather in the actions that I take. If you need to continue to assert your position in how we refer to you I understand. But as Ahna has so kindly put, titles fade and thin in meaning in practical scenarios. If you or anyone else would like to continue this discourse at a later date I would be happy to explain my position again, but there are more pressing matters at hand. I was merely stating how I would prefer to be addressed." Deidra concluded finally as Gundulf finally seemed to relax a touch, exhaling roughly a small puff of smoke smelling of sulfur being released from his nostrils before Deidra rested her arms back on the table and he rose to sit at his full height at her side coming up to her shoulder, the eerie steely blue hazel eyes still watching them all closely.

Loralyn took this as her time to speak again, though she did twist her hands anxiously as she did. "Y-Your concerns are valid ones Ahna." She said addressing the woman as she had asked without question. "But as the Viscountess and the Lord Augusti have said... it is the duty of the nobles to wield the artifacts for our country. This has been said in all the readings I've encountered. And in fact, it may be... more dangerous to let them alone. The sword was an artifact meant to be used, much like Gundulf was. To be left in hibernation for so long... the readings suggest the power may build to a dangerous degree. Especially coupled with the Red Coffin as the exact purpose of the vessel is unknown. The combination and length of time..."She pressed her lips together looking anxious as her hand lifted to the middle of her chest feeling for the outline of the crystal there. "It is dangerously short notice, but it must be done today. A-And I would ask that... I be allowed to accompany Lord Karlos into the tomb. N-Not only in the case that there is further scripture that needs decoding within the area. But also as I am the host of the Star's Teardrop. In the case that there is a backlash, I will be able to protect him from any consequent danger." She continued before glancing down again, tucking a loose strand of hair back behind her ear once more.
 

Sharkyshark

Just chillin'
The Book of Night GM
Hilda's little smirk irked Roxanne, but she bit her tongue. What did she care about what the Gavilan woman thought of her? If anything, Roxanne thought, she ought to be pleased that the Gavilans were part of this party. After all, if they'd been careless enough to lose their own artifact, there was no way that they'd ever be entrusted with another one. The fact that they'd managed to scrounge one up off some pirates didn't count. That was just less competition for her own family, and she knew that the Fletchers needed to take every advantage that they could get. She needed to prove herself, prove to the emperor and the world that she and her family were worthy of keeping an artifact of their own.

The woman's outburst at Deidra made her chuckle, although she stifled it quickly. Of course Hilda would cling to her titles. It wasn't as though her family had anything else left. Gundulf's growl cut her amusement short, however, and she found herself leaning away from the silver monstrosity. Even if the creature's ire wasn't directed at her, it still worried her. How much control did Deidra have over the thing? She seemed to have a pretty good grasp on it, but a wolf was a wolf, metal or not. More than once, she'd watched "tamed" wolves break from their handlers and chase after rabbits. What assurance did she have that this creature wouldn't do the same? She missed the fox-hunting dogs that populated the kennels behind the family estate. Those were well-trained beasts, far friendlier than the wild-looking magical artifact sitting before her.

At Ahna's words, however, Roxanne found herself unable to hold her tongue any longer. She turned to the nomad, face flushed as she glared at the purple woman. What did she know about worthiness? What did she mean by theft?

"Watch your tongue when you speak of the empire," she snapped. "You're hardly one to talk when it comes to balance and theft. Your people slaughtered a noble house to steal their artifact. If it hadn't been for the Vesp- ahem, outside support, your little uprising would have been brought to heel in a matter of days."

She scolded herself for her slip, having barely caught herself in time. Even though everyone suspected that the Vespidas had played a part in the downfall of the D'neir family, it would still be highly improper to accuse them of it in front of the other houses. Despite the Vespidas not even showing up, proper protocol and manners still had to be followed. Taking a deep breath, she unclenched her fists and turned to the timid Nofalo girl. Poor thing seemed so nervous. What did she have to be worried about? She was part of one of the most powerful houses in the empire and was betrothed to the heir of the other.

"Retrieving the sword sounds like an excellent idea," she said. "And I agree, all precautions should be taken. The two of you going together sounds like the safest option...unless you feel that bringing a chaperone would be more appropriate."
 
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N0X

Well-Known Member
No Man's Land GM
Hilda’s barrow eyes remained steady on Deidra, lazy, yet focused ferocity, a calm and controlled inferno, a veteran bored by the antics of the ignorant youth. Gundulf was a living weapon, and when he growled, it was as though a sword were being held against her throat. Something she was very familiar with. A hand went around the hilt of her celestial blade; it was clear that Hilda did not take kindly to such threats. She considered drawing it, if only to see that silver creature retreat in fear of the celestial light, as all other beasts did. It would have been satisfying, indeed.


When Deidra was quite finished with the passionate performance, Hilda threw her head back and howled. It was a full, hearty, belly laugh that could be heard many halls away. Hilda’s own men chuckled behind her, although one, in particular, did not, choosing to shift uncomfortably in his position instead. When she silenced the laugh with a hearty sigh, her eyes were replaced with bloody steel. At that moment, she vaguely wondered what Lady Deidra’s body count was.



“With all due respect, Lady Deidra, The next time you disrespect me through your little beast, it will be the last,” Hilda promised with that infamous, careless grin. It seemed like a most interesting and rather convenient excuse to condemn the untamable wolf if something should happen, but Hilda was more aware of the facts of their artifacts, as did all the other Houses. They were fully aware that their souls were connected, thus the action of one was that of the other, as well.


Perhaps the Knight Commander was content with allowing that kind of behavior underneath his roof, but there would have been severe consequences under hers. Perhaps it was due to the differences between their families and their cultures. During her time as a Naval officer, such threats would have been met with immediate retaliation. Such was the nature of war.



"As you know, My Lord, I was a Naval Officer for the Imperial Fleet. I took the Imperial Oath of office and took it quite seriously. Just as I know you do, as well, Knight Commander," Hilda addressed the Head of House Correa, head lifting with pride at being in his mere presence, "Why have you invited these dishonorable children unto this Holy quest?" By the warmth that was suddenly in her voice, she spoke in more earnest, genuine curiosity, and respect than anyone else in the room, and her admiration was clear. He was the only one who had earned that right.



The hostility left her almost as soon as it had come, and she addressed Roxanne. For nobles who supposedly cared not for titles, they certainly fancied pushing the weight of them around. How ironic. Lady Fletcher should take it easy on the Av’rae. If Roxanne had studied her history, she would know it belonged to them, first. The slaughter was justified, in a sense.



“Nonsense,” she began, “we will all be going down to see this treasure. If my adventures have taught me anything, you can never expect what manner of creature might come out of a coffer for a taste of your pretty neck.” Hilda glances at Loralyn, the most fragile of them all. If all the lass had was their lot for protection, she was surely doomed. Families had fallen for less.
 
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Ahna doesn’t look impressed by either Lord Augusti or Loralyn, not in the slightest. Perhaps it’s because of her stature in the land that gives her a different, and some would say clearer, perspective on the situation at hand. Pomp and circumstance don’t cloud her vision, nor is she deluded by power. She does nod a thanks to Loralyn for verifying her concerns, but as soon as nobles are mentioned again, she can’t help but roll her golden eyes. “This build up is why my people believe all artefacts should be released at the same moment, to rebuild the lost balance. We believe it to be the only way to safely use magic once more.” She quirks her head a little at the younger woman “I know not to underestimate anyone, but if you speak of magic, I hope you understand how to use it properly.” Otherwise Lord Karl or whatever won’t be the only one in need of protecting.

Then she sits back, letting her jewelry jingle slightly as she does. “Now, if I understand you and the Knight Commander correctly,” Ahna begins. “The choice to trust magic is based solely on the wealth and influence of the family it is given to?” she asks, then raises an eyebrow.

She is about to continue before Roxanne’s outburst, which garners little physical reaction from the Av’. She’s used to people getting angry with her, usually based on what she was born as, it didn’t garner much patience with most. Usually her knife taught that particular lesson. “Are you finished, little girl?” she asks, finally turning her head to Roxanne and raising an eyebrow at the younger woman. “Sit down, child, you are embarrassing yourself. Imagine showing a court of nobles how little you know of history. Perhaps your family cannot afford proper teachers?”

With that, she looks back to the Knight Commander. “She is only half right, Lord. A noble family was given my people’s magic, and with it they made the mistake of declaring war on us. Do you think I will ever believe that the wealthy and those with influence should be given responsibility over such artefacts? I will believe your peoples’ claims to the artefacts based on the actions of the individual, not of the name.” She peers out from under her hood as she speaks once more. “Considering the D’neir name is no longer spoken in their own overgrown halls, I am yet to be convinced.”

She looks around the table once more, noting the bickering that had occurred while she… was bickering, really. “If we are done going for each other’s throats, perhaps we should act?” she asks, then looks back to the Knight Commander. “If I am to lead these people where you wish me to lead them, I expect my pay up front as it may be my duty to keep them safe on the road, but I cannot guarantee they will be safe from each other.”
 
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