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IC Boards => IC - General => Topic started by: Aliel on March 23, 2009, 08:08:34 pm

Title: Of Hunts and Houses
Post by: Aliel on March 23, 2009, 08:08:34 pm
[[OOC: Quick note about locations - with the exception of one scene, all of the following takes place on a continent east of Tharel. I don't know how long I'll keep posting this here, since if I were to tell it properly it would become quite lengthy, but I'll continue to post for the time being. Anyways, without further ado, back to IC affairs.  :) ]]

         The House of Izzu'ri had stood for many long years, longer than even its founders had ever dreamed it would. It was built upon a foundation of lies and greed, pride and malice, and, above all other things, devotion. All of these, but especially the last, had nurtured it from a house of humble origins to possessor of a power so heady that only the highest among the Izzu'ri echelons truly understood just how deep the currents ran. It was in these few that the devotion flowed strongest of all, and one or two thanked their own piety for all that the house had become. But such notions did not last long. Most knew full well where the source of all their fortunes lay, and it was to this, to Darkness and its Lord that they dedicated their lives, their deaths, and their triumphs - for they had known nothing but triumph. Theirs was a Lord of Destruction, but he had not destroyed them. Instead, he had raised them on high, and after one look at the vast, seething expanses below they knew, beyond all doubt, that they could not be content with anything less than the power they had been offered, that sweet, frissioned air that so few others had breathed. They held on to what had been offered with hungry, clever hands, and none among their faithful would ever think - ever dream - of letting go.

         The Izzu'ri had been playing the game for a very, very long time.
         Some might even say that they had won.


         Hanol was a small, snowy town about a week?s travel north of Terrason, which, cold and isolated as it was, saw little excitement most of the year save the odd traveler passing though. The travelers were good news for a number of reasons, but namely because they brought with them two things: gold and gossip. The colorful merchant caravans that stopped by now and then were especially well-received, because they always had both in ample supply. One relatively quiet evening, late, but not so late that the shops were closed, just such a caravan came riding into town.
         Koric, the aging but cheerful master of Hanol?s only inn, saw the young woman come in with the other merchants and rushed over with a smile and a tankard when she took a seat at the bar. But when she shook her head and asked politely for ?just water,? his face fell. Occasionally the caravans would take on passengers, for reasons that varied ? all Koric knew was that passengers usually had smaller purses than the merchants, and that the woman was definitely one of them. Still, a customer was a customer. He fetched her some water and hurried off to see to the rest of the travelers, most of whom had settled down at the tables, laughing and chatting amongst themselves. Koric took pride in being a fine host, and that night he did himself proud. He swapped greetings with each of the merchants, learned all of their names, served drinks without spilling a drop, told his best jokes without stumbling on a single line, and kept up a polite smile even when the table by the stairs called for their twelfth round, at which point he usually offered to escort patrons to their rooms.
         The woman at the bar went mostly unnoticed, busy as he was tending to the others. It was not until he went to fetch the requested round twelve that he heard her ask, ?Begging your pardon, but how long do you think it would take to reach Tobias? place from here??
         Koric?s ample eyebrows shot up, his automatic smile replaced by a look of disbelief. ?All the way to Old Toby?s place in weather like this?? Surely you jest, lass! Unless?are you the friend he?s been expecting??
         She nodded. He noticed with a small start that she wore the mark of Barbades, and when he spoke again his tone was kinder. ?I hear your folk do a great deal of traveling, but even so ? it?s risky in this weather, take my word for it.?
         ?It would hardly be any less so were the weather different,? said the woman with a faint smile.
         Koric had to agree that this was true.
         He supposed he must have told her the way there, though later he could remember nothing else of their conversation no matter how hard he tried. And try he did in the months to come, for after paying for a room and retiring, she left the next morning without a trace, until word eventually came from the next town that she had never made it there. Lost in the snowstorm, they said, when the search party, as was all too often the case, failed to find anything. Koric supposed he had been the last person to see her alive. It was a morbid thought, but not an uncommon one amidst the northern snows. The winter took many with it each year, and that was simply the way of things. Sometimes he wondered what her name had been ? but that memory, too, escaped him.

Title: Re: Of Hunts and Houses
Post by: Aliel on March 23, 2009, 08:11:56 pm
         Gateo Izzu?ri was pacing through the gardens. If anyone had been watching him (and they were not, for they had never found it necessary), they would have seen nothing out of the ordinary. Only Gateo, walking in silence, as was his habit, awaiting a summons ? which was not only ordinary, but expected.
         The expression on his stark, angular features was utterly neutral. Even when the wind gusted about him, whipping up the flower petals and tousling his dark hair, it did not change for an instant. He merely pulled his cloak more closely around his shoulders and continued walking. The expression was a habit, something he no longer even thought about, and at that moment, waiting amongst the flowers from a dozen different climes, all of them gleaming and shuddering in the wind, he had never been more grateful for it.
         Inwardly, his nerves were screaming.
         The interview was a routine one, nothing more, and he knew there would be no reason for suspicion or doubt in any of their minds. But the fear was still there, bubbling up inside of him. Not a fear of punishment, only a fear of failure, a fear that now, when he was so close, everything would fall away beneath him. It was a wrenching fear, but ? and this he knew ? it was also a foolish one. What, after all, was there to suspect?
         Nothing, if he played his part. And he always had.
         Absolutely nothing.
         The blossoms nodded and whispered to each other amidst the breeze, in the strange, gentle tongues of flowers. He finished another circuit of the outermost pathway, which he had walked many times before. His feet kept up the same steady, rhythmic pace, neither hurried nor relaxed, and slowly his thoughts began to calm, the fear drifting away like a memory.
         He even wondered, just for a moment, what their reactions would be when they eventually found out his intentions (as sooner or later they would). And then the corner of his mouth twitched. Only for an instant, and then the motion ceased. But it was the closest thing he would allow himself to a smile.
         ?Milord?? said a wavering voice from behind him.
         It was one of the servants ? a newcomer, he supposed, for he did not know the man?s name. A thin, reedy human, almost Gateo?s own height, and properly attired in the colors of the house, his surcoat a field of sable bearing their emblem in silver. He nearly quivered from head to toe when Gateo met his eyes and raised one eyebrow silently.
         ?M-milord, the high priest will speak with you now,? he stammered. Gateo nodded in acknowledgement, and fell in step behind the man, who hurried to lead the way, though his guidance was only a formality. They left the wide courtyard of the gardens behind, stepping into the cool shade of a covered walkway, which ended in a pair of large double doors. They were carved from deep rosewood and inlaid with rivets of bright steel, and both, as the pair approached, were shut. The servant took a few steps forward, then paused, struggling to recall whether he was meant to open them or knock or?
         Gateo spared him any further indecision by reaching the doors in one last, long stride and pulling them open. His mind was calm, his breathing even. Without pause, he stepped into the darkened room that lay beyond.
Title: Re: Of Hunts and Houses
Post by: Aliel on March 23, 2009, 08:12:50 pm
         Opposite the entrance, at the far end of the chamber, a fire crackled and sputtered, its flames reflected in the onyx of the hearth. But in spite of the fire, the room was covered in shadow, swallowing up the meager glow; only the desk and armchair standing before it were brightly lit. Two other chairs were just visible, placed at angles in front the desk, and a figure lounged in the one on the right. Another figure, little more than a black silhouette before the flames, stood immobile beside the fireplace, arms crossed.
         Gateo crossed the floor silently, and as he approached he could hear the man in the chair speaking, his tone one of amusement. The other did not reply, though he seemed to be listening intently. The first man broke out into hearty laughter just as Gateo reached the desk and bowed low.
         ?Ezt?fiel,? he said in greeting to the drow at the fireside, whose skin gleamed darkly in the light. ?Misen,? he added, with a nod to the lean man in the chair. Misen, clad in the habitual leathers and mail of a soldier, was still chuckling to himself, and gave a wave with the wine glass in his hand. Gateo turned back to the silhouetted figure, waiting.
         ?Report,? said the quiet voice of Dveqyr, Ezt?fiel of Ytrewtsu and High Priest of the Izzu?ri.
         Gateo bowed once more, then began.
         He was surprised that he had ever been worried. The reports were so much a part of him that as soon as he spoke, the words simply flowed out with the ease of long years of practice. His account of the tasks he had been assigned was accurate and precise, with enough detail to answer all questions that might be asked, but sparse enough that it was only a matter of minutes before he finished. In the past week he had dealt with five matters pertaining to the family?s various alliances, three of them crucial, and all of them favorably concluded. He did not take pride in his work; he merely completed it, as was his duty. But one way or another, he always completed it successfully. Over the years, this had earned him a reputation.
         Once all the facts had been laid out, he clasped his hands behind his back.
         Dveqyr took a seat in the armchair at the desk and laced his thin fingers together. He was ancient, even for a drow, but did not look it, save for the whiteness of his hair. His skin was unwrinkled, his brow free of the care lines of age. He had the strong, sharp features of a much younger man, but the set of his jaw told of older convictions, ones that Gateo knew had been forged over centuries. When he finally spoke, his eyes glowing like coals in the firelight, the words were as flat and hard as steel. ?You leave tomorrow for your estate.?
         ?As is customary, Ezt?fiel,? replied Gateo with a nod. A spark of worry flickered to life inside of him, but he ignored it.
         ?Yes. Then,? the high priest glanced at Misen, ?that will be all.?
         As quickly as it had appeared, the spark died away. The audience was over. And Gateo bowed once more, then strode back out into the sunlight.
         He was just entering the manor proper through another set of double doors when he heard someone shout his name and nearly froze, but caught himself. Turning, he saw Misen jogging up behind him, and held the door to let the older man pass through. Misen grinned and clapped him on the shoulder.
         ?Gateo! It?s been a while. How fares Dveqyr?s favorite?? He still had the wine glass in his hand, though it was nearly empty. His other hand rested easily on the sheathed dagger at his hip.
         ?Well enough.?
         Misen nodded and took a final sip, handing the glass off to a nearby servant. They strode through the shadows of the main hall, which was brimming with family, servants, and slaves alike. The hall?s ceiling arched over their heads in a complex dance of masonry and wooden beams, each carved with names and tales from the house?s history. They were too far up for passersby to make out, but they did not have to be read. Everyone within the manor?s walls knew they were there and knew the stories they contained. It was merely a reminder, as was everything in the house, in its own way. Misen rubbed his short beard thoughtfully as they walked beneath the beams, glancing up at them. He did not look a day over thirty, though he was, like most of the family, many years older than he appeared.
         ?Hm. And how about your pretty cousin? Any news of her lately??
         Gateo raised an eyebrow at Misen, who grinned at him with the usual roguish laughter on the surface of his eyes. Other things ? truer things ? gnashed their teeth from beneath it. Gateo?s stomach tensed, but he did not so much as blink. He simply said, ?Nothing of note,? and shrugged.
         Misen sighed. ?Ah well.? He ran a hand through his close-cropped hair, still dusted slightly from travel. ?Speaking of pretty little things, I don?t suppose you?ve seen the Sileni girl anywhere? She?s probably expecting me ? I?ll blame my lateness on our most holy uncle for asking so many questions.?
         Gateo shook his head. He had not seen her in several days, and even if he had, he would not have been in a hurry to mention her whereabouts.
         ?No? Pity. You have met her, though, haven?t you? Lovely girl. I think the parents expect me to produce a ring this week.?
         ?How unwise of them,? he said, which, unfortunately, was true.
         A light chuckle escaped Misen, and he grinned. ?Quite. Well, I must be off ? haven?t been out of this armor for a few days, and I have business to attend to. What should I say this time, do you think??
         ?That you are sorry??
         ?Oh, for shame, I won?t lie to the girl. Perhaps I?ll tell her I?ve taken to her sister ? not entirely a lie.? The grin became a wolfish baring of teeth, and all traces of mirth vanished, swallowed up by a yawning hunger. ?Well, I?ll think about it. Have a good trip.? With a wave, he turned down a separate hallway, singing a lovelorn minstrel tune under his breath. Gateo did not turn to watch him go, but the jaunty notes still echoed in his ears even as he headed for his own chambers.
         A good trip? Nodding to himself, Gateo hoped that it would be.

Title: Re: Of Hunts and Houses
Post by: Aliel on March 26, 2009, 07:05:07 pm
         He left just after sunrise, on a fall morning little different than any other, riding slowly down the long road that led towards his estate. He had spoken to no one; the guards stood at attention as he passed through the gates, dawn?s light glinting on their spears and mail. The sun climbed higher in the sky as he rode, out of the city at the base of the hills and into the acres of woodland that swallowed the road whole.
         It was almost a full day?s travel to his house, and as the hours fled, the shadows amongst the trees gradually paused and then began to stretch, readying themselves for sleep as the afternoon slipped into evening. Through the slowly darkening leaves, he once saw a hawk circling high above him, and wondered what it was after. He wondered if its prey knew that it was being watched. A few travelers rode by him on the road, most of them going in the other direction. Those heading the same way cantered past, in a hurry to reach a warm fire and a safe haven before dark.
         Night fell. The first stars began to appear, and on the now-deserted way to Cambre, not too many leagues from his destination, Gateo Izzu?ri stopped.
         Moments later, a lone horse trotted nervously down the road. A tall figure, visible only for an instant at the fringe of the woods, ducked off the path and into the shadows.
         Giving himself no time for thought, he simply moved, driven by instinct and memory, his mind focusing only each step as it came. He made his way quickly through the underbrush, feeling the darkness like a physical presence all around him. But it was a kind one, the sort that he knew would cover his tracks, and he bowed his head in a grateful nod to the night.
         He struck out in one direction, then in another, then doubled back to cross his own trail, looping and threading his way north. A stream chattered somewhere nearby, and following its voice he waded in, forcing his shocked limbs into motion as the icy water gripped them. The night sky spun and danced wildly across its frothing surface. For as long as he could, Gateo strove upstream against the current, until he felt a numbness creeping in behind the cold. He climbed out onto the far bank, and stopping only to replace his boots, he forged on through the woods.
         It was nearing midnight when he came at last to one of the small hills that dotted the forest, their crests like so many islands floating just above the leaves that teemed below. There, for a time, he paused, breathing evenly and gazing up its slope.
         Things had begun in earnest when he had left the manor, but only now, standing there amongst the wind and the birches and the moonlight, did he truly feel as if he were on the border of something larger than himself. Vertigo welled up inside of him as he stared over its edge, into a fall so long and far that stars glistened in its depths. More thoughts drifted in, followed, as always, by doubts, but at last he had come to the point where there was no longer any room for them. With a shake of his head, he began to walk again. Up the hill he went, climbing steadily, all too aware of the silence among the trees, a silence that did not lessen as he climbed. His feet kept moving, but inside of him something caught and stumbled, and he strained to see through the brush. Finally, he heard a rustle, and then she was swinging down from a tree beside him, a few strands of moonlight flitting across her face. She was smiling. As he took the pack that she handed him, shouldering it with ease, he found that he was, too. Out of habit, he stifled the expression, but Aliel Izzu?ri laughed gently and shook her head.
          ?Go on, coz ? you?ve every right to.?
         He nodded just once, the quiet smile slipping back onto his features.
          ?Well, then?shall we??
         Gateo glanced over his shoulder, back towards the road that lay behind him and the House that, he knew, lay somewhere beyond it. She was gazing southwards with him, and they stood immobile for several long moments in the silence of the night. Then he turned. Without a word, they headed north, losing themselves in the forested dark, with only the boughs and the sky watching as they passed.


[[OOC: End of intro.]]
Title: Re: Of Hunts and Houses
Post by: Aliel on September 07, 2009, 08:47:23 pm
         The darkness huddled closely around Dveqyr, gathering in many-fingered shadows at the edges of his robe. The robe, too, was dark, a deep enough blood-red that it almost rivaled the shadows, and seemed to pulse faintly in the gloom. On the desk before him lay several papers in a neat stack, lit by an orange glow from the fireplace that was utterly devoid of comfort. Beside the papers lay a stick of wax, half-used, the same violent red as his robe. It drank in the light greedily. With his back to the fire, Dveqyr sat motionless, lean hands resting on the arms of his chair. His eyes stared straight ahead of him, at nothing in particular, or, at least, nothing that could be seen.
         Flames muttered hoarsely in the hearth. Winds stirred outside.
         And Dveqyr thought.
         The tendrils of his mind arched over cities and towns, ports and roads, men and women, temples and Houses, and he stared down at them all from above, eyes tracing the hairline connections that tied each one to the others. In his thoughts, he watched a village fall to a rival House, saw sparks of possibility die out even as new ones burst into light. With all the surety of a king directing an army, he nudged one spark aside, snuffed out another, called three more into being with a flick of his hand, all the while watching the bright lines of potential as they crackled and danced beneath his fingers. They were like so many ever-changing constellations, and he the ancient night sky, the fabric between them, enveloping them all.
         There came a knock at the door.
         In an instant, all of his attention snapped down into a single, narrow point, aimed at the sound that now echoed through his study.
         ?Enter.? His voice, though flat and quiet, carried easily to the door.
         A drow messenger, one of his most trusted, stepped inside, cloak and boots stained with the day?s travel. He strode in measured steps to the desk, placed an envelope upon it, and bowed low. Then the messenger left, just as silently as he had come.
         Dveqyr reached for the envelope with his left hand, and with his right produced a long dagger from within the shifting folds of his robe. One easy draw of the blade split the envelope?s seal, which bore the Izzu?ri crest in deep red wax. Returning the blade to its hidden sheathe, he unfolded the letter before him.
         The flames whispered in rasping voices. The two high windows of the chamber, flanking the hearth, their curtains pulled back now that the night had set in, revealed a sallow moon.
         Clouds scuttled hungrily across its face.
         Dveqyr did not move.
         Minutes passed, then finally he set the parchment down in one slow motion. Something seemed to tighten ever so faintly at the corners of his eyes.
         He clapped his hands twice, and a steward hurried in.