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Kaleb Salazar Erskine

None are immune to the twists of fate. Take nothing for granted.

0 · 365 views · located in Domhanda

a character in “Chronicles of Domhanda”, as played by Aftershock

Description

THE SIMPLE SERVANT
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N a m e s a k e:
Kaleb Erskine

A l i a s:
Salazar | White Viper

N u m e r i c a l:
Age: Twenty-Two | Birth: 9th July

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S o c i o l o g i c a l :
Profession: Servant of the Queen | Martial Status: Single | Homeland: Beth-horn | Allegiance: Kirharesh | Status: Commoner

B i o l o g i c a l :
Height: 6'2 | Weight: 92 kg | Ethnicity: Crosaire

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P s y c h o l o g i c a l:
Kaleb is a difficult man to sum up, full of his own idiosyncrasies and seeming incongruities. He possesses a flamboyance and cheek that was nurtured by the egoistic Hashashins, and goes hand in hand with a sharp tongue and quick mind. Years of servitude and abuse have taught him how to be meek and remain overlooked. Principles instill in him by his father, and the old Furusiyya teachings have taught him respect and the value of life, while the Hashashin have taught him to kill and be ruthless. The Hashashin preached independence and freedom, and the power to take what one wanted, but slavery showed him responsibility and loyalty.

But one rule has held true for him. His father taught him, from a young age, to cherish and hold onto happiness. Anger and misery come of their own accord, and life will dish them out indiscriminately. Happiness though, true happiness, that which is removed from the pleasures so many mistake for it, comes from within. It is easy to be sink into darkness. It takes a strong man to let go of regret, anger, sadness, and the malaise's of the heart. Kaleb does not know if he is such a man. He has had his share of misery in life. Forgiveness is difficult, and forgetting impossible. But still, he clings to his fathers lesson. In honor of a man far wiser than he will ever be, he always seeks the strength to be happy.


P r o f i l e :
Kaleb is a handsome man, with a body built and hardened by a life of hardship. Although tanned by years in the Kirharesh sun, his features and bright blue eyes are unmistakably Crosairian. His hair is long and dark, roughly cut to fall just above his shoulders. His body is riddled with the scars of his profession, but well taken care of. His days as a pleasure slave ingrained in him a care for presentation. His face is highly emotive. Mirth and kindness often brighten his otherwise intense eyes, a playful smile or grin dancing upon his lips. However, he was well taught the art of intimidation, and can match the icy glare of even Azzurra. Well, almost.

K i n d r e d:
Kalebs' father is dead, and he never knew his mother. His father would occasionally tell him vague stories of her, but was mostly silent on the matter, and could not be pressed into detail no matter how hard Kaleb tried. And he tried many times. Kaleb never found out why his mother remained in Crosaire when his father moved with him. As a child he was close friends with Princess Suhayla, but the gap in their social station drove a wedge between them. Before it could be resolved he disappeared, Suhayla and many others thinking him dead. He is now her servant, his life owned by the crown.

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F e a t s: Note that these feats will likely make more sense after reading Kaleb's Archive
The Hashashin were once a sect of elite nobles, and retain many marks of their original mindset. The training is derived from the philosophy and martial exercise of Furusiyya. The four pillars of this art are horsemanship, archery, swordsmanship, and the honing of the mind. Horsemanship comprised of proper care and riding, so that one may not only fight on horseback but carry out long journeys if needs be. Archery taught both precision and speed, the ability to kill from a distance or to kill many, even from horseback, and the Hashashin are fine hunters. Swordsmanship focused on Scimitars and Khanjar, and taught honor and respect. Several exercises were used in the training of the mind, chess one of the favored, and this discipline focused on reflection, concentration, linguistics and the tactics and strategy applicable in battle of any scale.

The modern Hashashin play a slightly different role however, and have greatly expanded their arsenal to fit. The Hashashin were masters of disguise, coercion, and both infiltration and escape. They were notoriously difficult to apprehend, often carrying out public assassinations then both outrunning and outmaneuvering guards. The Hashashin believed in the notion of being able to use anything at hand as a weapon to deadly effect. They had their own martial art, adapted from a mixture of eastern arts, and had varying levels of proficiency with whips, shields, hooks, chains, cloth, ropes, scythes, staves, throwing knives, crossbows and a variety of staffs and pole-arms. They were infamous for their use of poison, and had an intricate knowledge in both the workings, mixing, and curing of a broad swath of poisons and toxins.

As a child, Kaleb educated alongside princess Suhayla by his father, and he took well to the trainings of Furusiyya, holding the original mindset more dear than the modern Hashashin. He proved to be highly skilled across the disciplines, rising to become their most prominent student. Although never a master, Kaleb was chosen for initiation. This involved the public assassination of a target of ones own choosing. As the top student, Kaleb's only restriction was that it be a fairly notable political assassination. He chose Nizam al-Mulk, a powerful member of the merchants guild, reviled by the commons for his vehement push for political policies and taxes which weighted heavily on the poorest, while freeing the rich and powerful to further abuse their workers and slip their profits past the tax-mans purse. He was also one of the key proponents for legalizing slavery, and re-instating the once prosperous markets. Many suspected him of black-market and under-the-table dealings, but his considerable influence batted away the little proof that could be found. Such a man was deserving of his death, and so Kaleb would give it to him. The murder was very public, but well prepared and swiftly done. Kaleb's escape was quick, and left no trace of his identity behind. When questioned as to the activities of the Hashashin however, Kaleb claimed a more senior member carried out the murder, and accepted responsibility for a lesser assassination.

He is skilled, and his life was dedicated to battle and murder, but he is no fool. He can recognize that there are many combatants still greater than him, and when it would be wiser to flee than fight.

A r s e n a l:
[i]Kaleb carries himself as a simple servant, but his equipment proves otherwise. Kaleb wears light, leather armor beneath his cloaks, as well as an arsenal of weapons. He is never without his twin scimitars. Though hidden from sight, they are always on his person. The only exception is when bathing or sleeping, and even then they are not far. He often carries a whip clipped to his belt, particularly when riding. He is dearly fond of his longbow, but that is a more difficult item to conceal, and must oft be left behind. There is a plethora of daggers, hooks, throwing knives, poisons, and other such subtle weapons hidden within his apparel. His prize weapons though are not ones that can be so easily taken from him. So long as he has his lean body, quick mind and sharp tongue, Kaleb is not to be discounted as a threat.


A r c h i v e:
Kaleb Salazar Erskine was the son of a Crosaire scholar, a man who had long ago moved to the Beth-horn, the crown jewel of Kirharesh. Here he eventually rose to be employed by the royal family as one of their tutors, a controversial position for a mere man and, worst of all, an outsider. Nonetheless, the head tutor was adamant that the man was brilliant beyond measure, and humble enough that he could pose no threat to the order of things.

He served faithfully for a number of years, but due to being a man, was never considered to rise to head tutor, and was often questioned for being allowed to rise to where he was. He was content however, proud just for the chance to educate the royal children, the future of Kirharesh. His son was permitted to live and study with him, performing minor servant roles at times. As such the boy came in contact with the royal children, who were around his own age, and even sat in to take lessons from his father with them. He became somewhat of a friend to Suhayla, one of the very few commoners she was exposed to at such a young age. When her father disappeared though, she became colder around him. At the time he did not know whether it was the burden of what had happened, or if her fathers abandonment had given her the contempt and dismissal of men so common in Kirharesh. Whatever it was things became more rigid between them, and he was reminded that even if they had been friends, she was to be Queen, and he was merely a common, foreign boy.

Not long after this, Kaleb's father was murdered a group of fundamentalists. They took the boy as a slave to be traded on the black market. His compliance was bought not only through fear, but through the promise that his father was still alive, and that any disobedience would be met with punishment for his father. He was sold to an illicit group of hashashin (assassins). Originally intended to be a pleasure slave, they noticed the boy was quick, strong, and cunning for his age. As a man and foreigner he would be looked down upon by Kirharesh society, and could move below the notice of most people. It was decided he would join the hashashin. He took to the training quickly, and soon outshone the other trainees. This was met by indignant cruelty by the trainees, who were mostly women and local, but he progressed nonetheless. Eventually the city guards cracked down on the operation. Several members were killed, and the guard claimed the groups property as well as capturing several members and trainees. Kaleb, effectively being a slave bound to the hashashin by a forced oath, had no sense of honor or duty to the group and happily co-operated with the guards to hunt down the rest of them.

Because of this his sentencing was given more thought than the other hashashin, who were executed. Suhayla, the young queen, happened to overhear the name of her once-thought-dead childhood friend. She summoned him before her court to pass her own judgement. Because he was a slave forced into his actions, and showed his loyalty to the royal family when given the chance, he was not sentenced to death. However, Suhayla was well aware that he must face some kind of punishment for his role as hashashin. Her decree is that although his life belongs to the crown for his crimes as an assassin, rather than take it with an executioners axe it will be taken in servitude. Although the profession is viewed with considerable distaste in Kirharesh, which has a long and unfortunate history with hashashins, the young Queen decides that in these delicate political times it may prove useful to have one loyal to her. Due to the loathing of the trade in Kirharesh, his role is strictly unofficial. However, as a man and a foreigner it would be highly inappropriate for him to be any kind of personal guard to the queen, he is officially a mere servant. He takes his unofficial position to include being a less notable guard to the queen than the Moon Guard.

It was only after the court proceedings that he was informed that his father had been murdered in the attack all those years ago, his body already laid to rest. He remained obedient to the Hashashin for years, all for naught.


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So begins...

Kaleb Salazar Erskine's Story

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nadia Ferrer Character Portrait: Kaleb Salazar Erskine

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K A L E B

Twin motes of dust drifted gently through the warm summer sun, their brilliant sparkle diminishing to invisibility as they slipped below the beam. Unflinching sky-blue eyes replaced them. Piercing through the otherwise gloomy, cramped corridor, they meticulously noted any points of interest. Branching passageways and exits measured against a steady rhythm of footsteps, forming a mental map. Kaleb indulged in a narrow smile. He took some pride in his skill. It would not take long to learn his way around. This narrow passage was no doubt a far cry from the grand hall in which the royal party would be presented, but such spaces had their uses.

Kaleb had arrived to the rear of the royal procession, travelling with the rest of the attendants. They had all assiduously groomed themselves, and strode with an almost regal grace and pride in their positions. A whiff of subtle perfumes and crushed spices graced their presence, complimenting the modest, yet rich silks and colors they were adorned in. Though they were servants, they had the pride and refinement of the Queen's personal court, ready for presentation. It was tradition that even the Queen's lowly servants be presented before their host, hanging back behind the honored Moon Guard. He, however, had not been told any such thing. His clothes, though clean, were well worn. His cloak was truly modest, a simple black that carried none of the subtle refinement of the sable or plum of those around him. The other servants certainly took note, occasionally sparing him raised eyebrows and upturned noses. Kaleb felt he was simply in the way there, and as he had not received any implicit instructions on where to be, decided to make himself useful.

An elderly man had presented himself as Degal, steward of Castle Casiel, and bid them enter the keep. As the procession filed in, Kaleb silently detached himself, slipping casually to the side. He approached a young cupbearer warmly, speaking without any trace of the Kirhareshi accent on his tongue. The startled young man stammeringly gave him the directions he needed, pointing out main corridors as much as possible.

"My thanks. And the servants passages?"

"Pardon?"

"The smaller paths, and behind-the-walls walkways with which the nobles need not concern themselves. Where is the nearest entrance to them?"

"Oh no sera, the Queen's contingent are honored guests. You need not concern yourself with remaining out of sight."

Ah, but such is precisely the concern of my profession. Kaleb had not allowed his amusement to reach his eyes, smiling cordially at the youth.

"I thank you, but it would simply be more appropriate to serve my Queen as you would your King. The back-routes are the domain of servants, and I am such. Now, the entrance?"

"If you insist," the boy hesitated, then pointed to small entryway semi-hidden by a hanging tapestry, "but they are tight, and easy to get lost in. Perhaps I should accomp-"

"No need. I have a remarkable sense of direction. I shall find my way." Kaleb tilted his head graciously, then took his leave. Although that was true, he'd had no real intention of going to the Queen's quarters. He meant to explore. If they were to be here awhile, it would be worth learning the lay of the land. The entrance was not exactly hidden, but it would escape one's notice if they did not know what to look for.

Such was how he had found himself stalking through dimly lit dust. The servants passages were meant simply for quick access for the house-staff, and did not require presentability. This suited Kaleb just fine. He was used to far worse. He grimaced wryly. Far, far worse. He was unsurprised that this castle had these hidden walkways, many of them do. The more interesting ones were those unknown by any but the Duke himself. In some cases not even he would be aware of all the castles nooks and crannies. Plenty of time to find those.... hmm? The corridor ends. I wonder where. Kaleb stepped out, finding himself in an impressive hallway. The carpet here was rich, the air clean of must and the walls tastefully decorated with murals and torch sconces. There were several heavy, intricate walnut and iron doors which held firmly closed. One pair hung slightly ajar, and it was here Kaleb decided to investigate his whereabouts.

Mute feet carried him in, appearing in the room with neither noise nor the distinctly suspicious air of one who is skulking around. Which, of course, he was not. He would never skulk. Perhaps he would snoop, or sneak, but never skulk. Not to say he was doing either of those presently, goodness no, he was simply lost. Entirely lost. Entirely not on purpose either. Quite the innocent mistake.

The room itself, though it held nothing to the splendor found in the Royal Palace of Beth-horn, had a certain rich refinement. A bedchamber of some high member of court no doubt. A slim, chestnut haired maid stood within. Linens lay seemingly forgotten, as she gazed out beyond the windows. Kaleb's eyes twinkled in amusement, and he stood there a moment, to see if she would notice him. But no, her reverie was unbroken.

"Not to interrupt your thoughts milady..." he purred, allowing the exoticisms of Kirharesh to spice his tongue, "but I appear to have lost my way. I was seeking Queen Suhayla's quarters and.. well, these do not appear to be them. Might I ask where I am?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hakon Far-Killer Character Portrait: Cyra Character Portrait: Nadia Ferrer Character Portrait: Kaleb Salazar Erskine

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#, as written by Layla
CYRA.
1409, Third of June | Morning.

Slithers of crimson light slipped through the gaps between the planks of worn wood, talons trembling and charged to consume. This was not the light of a rising sun, but that of a raging, desecrating fire. The wolf girl flinched back from the ship's walls, tucking herself between two looming stacks of boxes. She clutched her shield to her chest as if its steel body could stop the fury of heat with sheer willpower. Years she had spent with the humans and still the stench of ash and smoke repulsed her, the inferno no axe could sever frightening her. She darted her head around to peek through the rifts when she heard the trickle of roars and laughter.

Cyra forced herself to loosen her white-knuckled grip on her shield and axe. The two-legged fools were at it again with their "contained fires," because "don't worry, little wolf, we've done this a million times before." Yes, and her wolves had escaped captivity and death a million times before, but sometimes they were captured and sometimes they did not come back. As if sniffing her thoughts from the stale air, Odin nudged his furry white head against his companion's thigh. She sighed and cursed at having sighed, there was another wretched habit the Wolf Tribe had abandoned her with. Cyra shoved her heavy axe into the sheath at her hip and wrapped her wiry muscled arms around her large friend. She felt Din Din's low rumble against her chest and nuzzled her nose into his neck. "Indeed, wolves are better than people," she said. "People will curse you, cheat you and beat you, but not you, Din Din. Not you."

The wood whined beneath her feet as Cyra stood to move to the heavy wooden doors of the storage room. She flinched inwardly at the disruptive noise but continued her tentative tread to the entrance. She was surrounded by boxes containing enough food and supplies - most of which were of the weapon variety - to clear a tribe. Perhaps that was what they were doing, but why travel by sea to do so? Cyra had snuck in unnoticed moments before the ship set sail. Getting herself here had not been hard, but disguising a hundred and seventy pound wolf as a bag of food had been much harder. Still, here she was, unnoticed and on the same boat as Thorvaald.

If he'd truly believed she'd allow him to leave her for an undetermined length of time to some remote land far away and that she would neglect the chance to, finally, see a world that was not simply white, he was more deluded than she'd originally suspected and most likely required his elders' medicine to be well. She was also immensely curious to see if all people truly were as haggard and ugly as those on this ship.

Cyra grunted with strain as she tried and failed to open the doors. They seemed to have been locked from the outside in, which would make sense, she supposed, since they would not expect their goods to grow legs and seek escape. She gripped her axe and spun it around, bringing the butt end of her weapon onto the lock with the stretch to decapitate a man. Let them hear. It was not as if Thorvaald would toss her overboard now or turn around. At least, not the latter. She was here now, and there was nothing anyone could do about it if they did not want to have to search for their sunken limbs at the bottom of the ocean.

Thump. Thump. Thump. THUMP.

SNAP!


Her lips parted in a wide grin as the door swung gently open. She slipped between the wide gap and rushed out of the sheltered room, breathing in the fragrance of freedom, even if it was tarnished by the wretched musk of burning wood. Din Din prowled close behind, stretching out his large body and flexing his thick paws in contentment. "Aye, I know," Cyra whispered. "That room was horrid."


NADIA.
1409, Third of June | Morning.

Light bled through sheets of colour as the butterfly perched on a stunning blue clematis, its wings outstretched in prayer for the sun. Its bones, frail like veins bleeding from its soft body to give it flight, fractured the soft golden light of early morning and gave it the conflicting appearance of being both fragile and enduring. Surely such bones were sturdy to be capable of holding the weight of its body. Nadia was thoroughly mesmerised by the creature and its wings of stained glass, so much so that she smacked her hip on the window ledge when she spun around to face the source of the sound.

"Not to interrupt your thoughts milady..." She stared, stunned like a deer caught in the direct light of a torch, her fingers grasping the hard ledge behind her for dear life. "But I appear to have lost my way. I was seeking Queen Suhayla's quarters and.. Well, these do not appear to be them. Might I ask where I am?"

Nadia! She heard the scolding voice of her mother when she'd been well and quickly dropped into a low bow, stammering apologies, excuses and thoughts as if she'd swallowed a Witch's brew that made her speak uncontrollably. So often had others condemned her for her unfiltered speech, but no bars or beatings were capable of imprisoning her words.

"I am deeply sorry for neglecting my duties, sir. My sincerest apologies for being an inconvenience and a nuisance, sir. I understand that I shall be punished, sir. I will atone for my sins, sir. Please consider giving your pitiful servant another chance, sir. I will do better, sir. Forgive me for your confusion, sir. You will never lose your way again, sir. What am I saying, sir. Sorry, sir. Lord. Master. I will cease speaking now." Nadia inhaled deeply for the first time since she'd been made aware of the man's presence. The words had poured from her tongue and were now trapped behind her tightly sealed lips. The servant girl bowed lower, surprising any who might've believed she could not, in fact, lower herself any more than she had initially.

Avoiding the unfamiliar man's gaze, she straightened her stiff body and marched, stone-faced and tight-lipped, to the linens at the corner of the bed. She stripped Duke Anerin's sheets with the precision and speed of one well accustomed to the duties of a maidservant. Being a servants' servant, she often found herself with the most undesirable duties, which included linen changes because no one wished to wrestle a bed seemingly able to fit half a dozen men. Nadia froze almost comically in the middle of peeling the navy bottom covers from the bed, her lips parted in surprise, eyes stationary and impossibly large with realisation.

"Oh!" she gasped, allowing her duties to fall from her hands so she could spin around and bow frantically once again, this time bobbing up and down. "I am deeply, truly, utterly, wholly, entirely, absolutely..." She continued rambling words synonymous to 'really,' before continuing, "Sorry."

Nadia inched her upper body upwards, lifting her soft brown eyes reluctantly to something other than the stranger's feet. Only instead of looking mildly shy or apologetic, she was gawking relentlessly. Nadia watched a storm fracture the earth and the crack be filled by a roaring tide that devoured the golden sand. She saw as the river stilled, the blue skies turn dark and be scattered by beads of light. Sapphires peered at her through strands of dark hair that curled softly over a hard jaw. Oh. jaws. She had those. Nadia shut her mouth and shuffled from one foot to another, her fingers tugging and twirling the material of her skirts. She suddenly felt horribly underdressed and ridiculous. Her dress was a plain thing, long sleeves pushed up at the elbow, the neckline an uninteresting square and the material, a hideous olive, patched in places with cloths of all assortments. She was an underfed, frail thing with dreary auburn hair and a fringe that had been braided away from her face to reveal an extraordinarily fair face, and here she stood, shuffling, in front of possibly the most handsome man she'd seen in her life.

Wonderful.

"I, umm..." she muttered. "Do not believe I have the authority to tell you but... You should turn when you see this pot and then you follow this wall till you reach a certain door. They should be in one of the rooms with the windows." Nadia shrugged and gave a tentative smile that revealed dimples in her cheeks. "I am not too good at giving directions. Perhaps I could show you instead. After I change these linens, if you are not in any haste." She turned to fuss over the sheets, wrestling the burgundy silk from one corner of the bed to another to no avail. "Queen Suhayla... Queen, Queen... Feast... Carrots..." Nadia pondered to herself. Her eyes wandered to the corner of the ceiling as she pulled her full lower lip into her mouth by her teeth, sucking and thinking whilst balancing on the edge of the bed. "Oh! The Queen! The guests. You must be the prince." Nadia nodded, accepting her intelligent guess to be the truth. "The prince. The prince!" Nadia slipped from the bed with a yelp and fell hard onto the floor. "My sincerest apologies for my incompetence, my lord!"

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nadia Ferrer Character Portrait: Kaleb Salazar Erskine

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K A L E B
1409, Third of June | Morning

Kaleb could not help but grin, bemused by this poor girl. The moment she was done gawking at him in shock, she had dropped into a low bow, apologizing profusely. What for, he was quite unsure. It seemed the poor thing was sorry simply for being. She bowed again, lowering herself so close to the ground that he feared she would disappear into it were she embarrassed any further.

She was, he decided, a rather pretty girl, if not particularly outstanding. Chestnut hair framed warm brown eyes, which were lit up by panic, fascination, and self-abasement interchangeably. Creamy smooth skin and a slight figure gave her a youthful appearance, and Kaleb reckoned she could not be far past her 17th year. Her soft full lips seemed unsure of what to do with themselves. One moment they were parted slightly in wonder, the next they danced and tumbled as words came spilling out, and then she chewed the lower one in thought.

The directions given were not of particular use, but then Kaleb didn't really know them. The cup-bearer earlier had given him excellent directions, and he was sure he could retrace his steps enough to find his way there. What he was really interested in was where he found himself now. He noted that the girl seemed eager to please. That could be of use.

"Oh! The Queen! The guests. You must be the prince." The girl nodded to herself, sure of his royalty. "The prince. The prince!" she exclaimed, before slipping and falling hard on the floor. Immediately Kaleb was down besides her. He helped her up, hands gently but firmly on her arm and waist. "My sincerest apologies for for my incompetence, my lord!"

"Nonsense, you have nothing to be so penitent for, and I am no prince. I am merely a servant of the Queen, fair maiden, as you are your King. Forgive my lapse in manners, I should have introduced myself. I am Kaleb, and I would be more than happy to wait for you to finish here... where is here by the way? The room of some noble, or dignitary of court?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sauska "Azzurra" Condwiramur Character Portrait: Suhayla Character Portrait: Nadia Ferrer Character Portrait: Kaleb Salazar Erskine

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#, as written by Layla
NADIA.
1409, Third of June | Morning.

"Nonsense, you have nothing to be so penitent for, and I am no prince. I am merely a servant of the Queen, fair maiden, as you are your King." Fair maiden. Fair maiden. He thinks I am a fair maiden. Fair maiden, Nadia thought, her lips parted slightly in surprise. He, a mere servant? Surely not. He seemed much too well spoken and confident to be a servant. Perhaps he was the Queen's steward, as Degal was. Were all of the Queen's underlings as handsome as he? Were the Kirhareshi simply an attractive people? She'd heard rumours of them being golden skinned and dark haired with eerie, shadowed eyes of obsidian. With eyes of bright azure, he was a living paradox to the rumours. The servants had whispered that in the desert lands, women ruled the kingdom and enslaved the men. Perhaps that was why such a stunning and seemingly intelligent man was a mere servant. Perhaps it was only the women who had the eyes of darkness.

"Forgive my lapse in manners, I should have introduced myself. I am Kaleb, and I would be more than happy to wait for you to finish here... where is here by the way? The room of some noble, or dignitary of court?" Kaleb... What a lovely name.

"We should not be here," she said quickly, turning to hastily replace the linens with fresh burgundy silk, her slim but calloused fingers moving deftly. "We are in the Grand Duke's chambers. You should not be here. We must go." The servant girl patted down the sheets and fluffed the pillows. She skittered across the room to the door, quiet as the mice that ran rampant in the servants' rooms, and opened the door slightly ajar. She peeked her head out and checked the hallways. "You must not let them see you. The wars, you see... The Grand Duke... They are all anxious and weary." With one last glance, she slipped out the door and waved for Kaleb to come through.

Without another glance backwards, Nadia walked hastily down the dimly lit halls. They turned the last corner and faced heavy walnut doors guarded by two men and a veiled woman with eyes like shattered ice, cold and sharp. She was clothed entirely in black, her hair hidden beneath an obsidian cloak, hands beneath dark leather gloves, pants tucked in black boots tipped with metal and the lower half of her face obscured by black chiffon. What was more frightening, however, was not how Nadia had nearly missed the figure, so congregated the shadows were around her, but the weapons she bore. Two long, fearsome spears, the surface of which was embedded in runes and patterns a maid had no hope of understanding, were pressed tightly against her spine. Daggers and swords of all lengths hung at her hips and knives were strapped to her thighs. Yet not even her being armed to take on the whole of Baile's army could detract from her steely gaze, unmoving, mesmerising and fear igniting all at once.


AZZURRA.
1409, Third of June | Morning.

Shortly after the Captain of Baile's Guard's departure, Azzurra took stance outside the door after she'd divided her Spearmaidens between scouring the castle and standing in the Queen's room. She'd seen the empty, pale spaces where maps had been removed, and she'd not been fooled. There was only one thing they could be, and why they'd been removed. She found it rather amusing, that they would attempt to mask their past with Kirharesh.

All was well, the two guards stood with rigid spines pressed against the doors as if they couldn't get far enough away from her, which was just good enough for her. She did not like them or care for their existence, anyway. She was relatively confident that they would die, run or faint should true danger come. The Captain of the Moon Guard would not leave the life of her liege in their incapable hands. Males were good for little more than reproduction and entertainment. They were weak and foolish.

Azzurra had been pondering the source of the fire that she'd seen raging in the distance when she heard hasty footsteps approach. She'd tensed lightly but the two Croasarian guards seemed oblivious to the faint tapping of feet and her minuscule shift in her stance. When the slight figure of a servant girl approached, followed by another she still, sometimes, failed to recognise for the first few moments, she was not so much surprised as irritated. There he was, making a nuisance of himself again. She would not allow him in Queen Suhayla's rooms. He did not have the authority as far as she was concerned, only the Queen's command would allow him pass.

The thin girl stared unabashedly at Azzurra and although they were of a similar height, the servant seemed to look up at the Captain rather than levelly. The Moon Guard was half tempted to raise her eyebrows and tip the young girl's mouth closed. Alas, she did not, instead choosing to remain absolutely still.

"I, um, ah, I am sorry to disturb you... Honoured... Lady," the maidservant mumbled so softly she would not have been heard by anyone without an assassin's or musician's training, bowing so low Azzurra expected her to disappear into the ground. She seemed to struggle for the words to express herself. "This is Kaleb," she said with a nervous and vague gesture towards him. Yes, Azzurra thought wryly. I realise. "He is the Queen's servant. The Queen is in there?" she squeaked, clearly frightened by the armed Kirhareshi guard. Azzurra remained impassive and silent. Where and when in Arunah's world would the Captain of the Moon Guard willingly offer the location of the Queen to a Croasarian maid? Nowhere and never.

"Welcome to Baile!" the slight girl said abruptly with tortured cheer. She was trying her damnedest, Azzurra would give her that.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sauska "Azzurra" Condwiramur Character Portrait: Nadia Ferrer Character Portrait: Kaleb Salazar Erskine

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K A L E B
1409, Third of June | Morning

The Grand Duke's bedchamber. Interesting. It was not as decadent as he expected. He knew Glasluigh could not come close to the prosperity and grandeur of Beth-horn, but he had grown used to the lavishness of nobility within the Imperial Palace. He was glad to see that this Duke was not so fascinated by pomp and frill. Though the girl was right. He certainly should not be there. He could easily have talked his way out, but if they decided to search beneath his cloak for weapons... well, it would be a rather awkward situation.

It did not take them long to find the guest wing. Heavy, intricate walnut doors barred entry, blocked by rigidly anxious guards. These were minor impedances compared to the source of their discomfort. A shadowy, steely-eyed statue impaled them upon her gaze, glacial eyes registering a mere flicker of annoyance at his presence. Nice to know she still cares.

Kaleb rested a gentle hand upon the anxious girls shoulder, halting her babbling. "Do not take it personally. She is here to guard, not to chat. There are very few words which would faze one of The Moon Guards. They are among the best in the world..." A soft dip of admiration slipped into his voice, hardly noticeable. "You should see their captain. There are none quite like her. Anyway, you have my thanks. You have been most helpful.... you know, I do not believe you've mentioned your name. Might I know it...?



"Nadia? A very pretty name. Again, thank you for your help, but I must get back to my Queen now. I am sure you have your own duties to attend to as well."

A sincere smile turned up the corners of Kaleb's lips, and he paused till Nadia saw herself off. He turned back to the immovable figure before him. He still could not get used to the Ebony apparel of the Moon Guard, but the harsh azure eyes within were familiar. "My lady, about the ferrying of Her Majesty's possessions to her room..." He stepped close, voice dropping to a whisper. A seriousness had solidified in his eyes and posture, making clear the officiality of his message for the Queen's guard. The doormen glanced curiously at him for a moment, then stared ahead again. The scurrying of the Queen's porters was of little more interest than the wall on which they fixed their gaze.

"Sauska, may I see Suhayla? I cannot serve particularly well if I cannot attend her. The other servants seem to enjoy my presence even less than you clearly do, and I'm afraid I shall surely make a menace of myself if I cannot find a better purpose."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sauska "Azzurra" Condwiramur Character Portrait: Kaleb Salazar Erskine

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#, as written by Layla
AZZURRA.
1409, Third of June | Morning.

"My lady, about the ferrying of Her Majesty's possessions to her room..." Kaleb began shortly after the departure of the young servant girl. She'd watched her dart across the hall with great amusement, her legs and arms pumping furiously whilst simultaneously forcing herself not to run. Clearly, the Moon Guard terrified her. Just as well. They terrified everyone. Azzurra showed no sign of having heard the boy before her speak, remaining as still as the great pillars that stretched from the floor to ceiling in Beth-horn's palace. However, her chest froze in its gentle and controlled rise and fall when he inched closer.

Her pupils pushed aside the pale coldness of her irises to accommodate for the abrupt loss of light. Kaleb's shadow fell over her and she cursed both her slight stature and the sun for shining in an undesirable direction. She did not remember giving the star permission to shine, and cursed her lack of magic. If he pressed himself any nearer to her, she felt her dark lashes would brush against his cheek when she blinked. The memory of resting, curled against his body, her head tucked in the crook of his neck came unbidden and unwanted into her mind. The light from the fireplace had danced across their small bodies. She felt the faint memory of her mother pulling her family's warmest blanket over their entwined bodies moments before a young Azzurra drifted into peaceful unconsciousness. Her gaze hardened the moment she pushed aside the memory, the colour bleeding from her eyes - or what little of colour she had, anyway. It made it seem as if her irises were colourless. If he ever came so close, he would find himself buried to her sword's hilt.

"Sauska, may I see Suhayla?" he asked, although his tone implored a threat and a command. But it was not that that made her normally unflinching gaze narrow however, it was that he'd called her Sauska. Sauska. No one called her Sauska but her mother and grandmother and now they were dead. She loathed the name, condemned her father for naming her at all and her mother for accepting that that was to be what she would be addressed as for the rest of her life. It was cruel to be called something that reminded one so much of the parent who abandoned them to poverty, who left his family to be plundered and raped and murdered. He was the only one who knew, the only one she'd trusted with her deepest secrets, her true name, and he was torturing her with that knowledge. It was her fault, her own foolish, misplaced trust. It was her fault for believing in anyone at all. Her thick lashes grazed her cheeks when she shut her eyes for but a moment, erasing the war between anger and pain that had plagued her light, frozen eyes. Trust no one, for even your shadow leaves you behind when you are in darkness, she reminded herself. When she opened her eyes, they were once again, impenetrable.

"I cannot serve particularly well if I cannot attend her. The other servants seem to enjoy my presence even less than you clearly do, and I'm afraid I shall surely make a menace of myself if I cannot find a better purpose," he continued, seemingly oblivious or uncaring. Or both.

She did not reply, yet her hostile glare said it all, that he did not truly serve Queen Suhayla, she did. Her safety was the duty of the Moon Guard and she would not leave the life of her liege to a lowly male slave. Slave. Slave. Slave. The word echoed relentlessly in her mind. All those years she'd searched for him; all the nights and days she'd spent interrogating every person in Kirharesh, and he'd been... All along. Eleven years was a long time to be a prisoner. Her gaze softened a fraction and she felt the horrible sensation of absence in her arms and mind that had plagued her when he'd gone. Many a person had insisted he'd run away, escaped, but she hadn't believed them. He would not abandon her so, she'd reasoned, and he hadn't. She had. The pain of his suffering and the hatred towards herself for allowing him to be tormented fought to overrun each other and erode herself. The pressure in her tightly grasped hands increased until she felt the sting of pain she'd had sixteen years to learn to ignore. When had her hands even been intwined? The familiar ache was welcome, for it distracted her from the pain in her heart. Azzurra was the Captain of the Moon Guard, one of the most revered warriors in all of history with the greatest responsibility in all of Kirharesh and now, Baile, and any future colonies King Caederyn might hope to conquer. She did not have the luxury of feeling. If she allowed herself to, it would grow and devour her like nature might an abandoned castle. So she dug a well in the world, piled the bricks high and allowed the ocean to drench it.

Each individual finger lifted from her flesh, revealing deep crescent marks from her nails.

Gripping the hilt of the longsword at her belt, she pulled it free and aimed the point of it at Kaleb's throat before her weapon swivelled between her fingers and slapped the walnut doors with a deafening blast that shook the heavy wood in its frame. It happened without a blink and two Moon Guards seemed to appear from absolutely nowhere. They eyed Kaleb wearily, their hands wrapped tight around their spears. Menace with this, she thought as the Spearmaidens fixed themselves behind her. Azzurra punched the flat of her palm with a fist and swept her arm outwards, tossing a glance at Kaleb and then the Queen's door to ask them to make sure he, especially, did not enter without the Queen's own spoken command. They nodded and fixed themselves in front of the door.

As Azzurra marched away, she did not turn to look at Kaleb a last time.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sauska "Azzurra" Condwiramur Character Portrait: Suhayla Character Portrait: Kaleb Salazar Erskine

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K A L E B
1409, Third of June | Morning

"Azzura wai-..." he trailed off, a single hand outstretched towards her. But he was met only with a retreating backside, her stony stoicism unaltered as she stormed off.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant choice of words. Well, he'd finally managed to elicit a reaction from her, and she'd made her feelings perfectly clear. Nothing like a sword to one's throat to let them know their unwanted. He hadn't flinched. Enough blades had been swung his way over the past eleven years. Somehow this one still managed to cut deeper than most though.

The slap of steel on wood had been deafening, and in it's wake the silence formed a void that was quickly filled by baleful admonition. What had he expected? That she would finally open up to him, and greet him with the open arms that he'd hoped for when he returned to the castle? Hah. He had been dead to them all for eleven years, and their world moved on without him. The twilit escapades driven by their mischievousness were phantoms found in memory only. Innocent, childish affection amounted to nothing now. She was the Captain of the Moon Guard. Elite, respected, honored. He was an assassin and a slave. Even now.

His strong jaw ground its teeth together, and crystalline eyes steeled themselves. Frustration, anguish, and a host of emotions he could not begin to name swarmed his throat, threatening to choke him. How could years of mental hardening be so easily forgotten? The Hashashin had well schooled him in the art of detachment. Attachment created vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and instability. The heart was a fickle beast, unfit to rule mind and action. So long as ones emotions are removed from the situation, their face may be a veneer for whatever they wished to portray, even when their hand reaches for the dagger. The Moon Guard clearly knew the value of this skill. Eleven years he'd been gone, and now that he was back? Until now, Azzurra had hardly so much as looked at him. All he received was suspicion or irritation. For the assassin and the slave. He laughed to himself, bitterly. She knew his worth too well.

It was time he remembered to hide his heart deep within. He'd mastered the art, ever further than any of his fellow Hashashins. That's why each of them now lay dead or rotting in a cell. He was better than any of them. So why now, after eleven years of masking himself, was he so unable to rise beyond two women he'd known as children?

Frustration exhaled gently through his nose as he reinstated a steady calmness. He was a simple servant. A slave still. Play the role. This was no different.

He turned back to the two Moon Guard now at the door, pondering asking one of them if they'd at least pass a message to the Queen. Glancing at the hostile obsidian orbs that lurked within their veils, he realized there was no point. Their captain did not want him inside, and they would give their lives fighting to prevent him so much as approaching the room unauthorized. Surely Queen Suhayla would have heard her doors being struck so powerfully. Perhaps she would investigate out of curiosity, and unease about her new surroundings. Likely not Kaleb sighed.

He turned to walk away, in search of someway to make himself useful.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anerin Character Portrait: Sauska "Azzurra" Condwiramur Character Portrait: Suhayla Character Portrait: Trenton Brentson Character Portrait: Kaleb Salazar Erskine

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S U H A Y L A


Suhayla was playing her part well, she had been polite and courteous thus far, mindful of being somewhat respectful to her host, men weren’t necessarily revered in her own country, but in these Northern Lands their word was law. Even if Anerin had been respectful himself, she saw in his eyes the glint of amusement, like he was playing a game, taunting her with faux authority, dangling just enough in front of her so she wouldn’t deny him so suddenly. Never before had Suhayla felt so out of her depth, even if she did hide it well. When the Duke had reached for her hand, her eyes had narrowed becoming hardened; it was his subtle way of showing his power over her, for no man in her own country would have dared made such a blunt move. Then again, this wasn’t her country, here she had only her title and she doubted even that was enough to keep her truly safe.

Withdrawing her hand quickly, Suhayla made her own silent declaration, she was still the Queen of a vast empire and if Anerin wanted any treaty with her then she would still be treated with honour and respect. “Captain, please see the Queen to the Guest Wing and double the Castle guard.” The Duke ordered to a man who stepped forward upon being spoken to by his leader; at least these people did know some portions of respect and authority. Under her veil Suhayla’s lips twitched into a quick smirk, it was a arrogant confidence and slight stubbornness which had summoned the smirk to her countenance. He was showing off, or at least trying too, had he found it fathomable that she would be impressed by this show of man power? Or perhaps it was more for intimidation; yes that was the more likely culprit. After all her own Moon Guard was revered around the globe, their numbers may be small in comparison but their will and ability matched none other. They were the wonders, not these Croasarian exiles and horse lords. “The Castle is yours to roam – I only ask that you do not leave it.” Suhayla wanted to object to that, it took all of her resolve not too, although it was spoken for her own safety, the Queen saw it as a further slight to her title and just how little it meant to him. Regardless, for the moment she swallowed her pride and agreed to his words. “Very well, I shall not leave the castle, though I was hoping for a tour of your lands, perhaps this could be arranged?”

There was no time for an answer, for as quickly as she uttered the words, the Captain of his guard had stepped forward, “Please follow me, your highness.” Suhayla inclined her head towards the Duke as she past him, following the guard along the corridors, at least this man showed her the respect she deserved and that made her warm to him immediately. Their steps fell in silence as they manoeuvred the labyrinth of corridors, that was until the guard spoke, addressing her directly. “You highness…could you tell me about your honour guard, they seem quite impressive,” Instinctively Suhayla looked over her shoulder at her guard, he was right, they were impressive. She opened her mouth to answer his questions, only for Fara to step forward interrupting her. “We require a map of the Castle Casiel…we wish to help, as allies, your shortage in…men.

One could not blame her guard for cutting straight to the task in hand, her warriors did what they must to keep her safe and protect their people and she would not stand in the way of their duties. Instead she made a mental note to answer the captain’s questions at the banquet this evening.

Moments later they reached the stay rooms and with one swift movement, the captain pushed the heavy oak doors open, revealing quite a spectacular room. Granted it held not nearly as much elegance as her rooms back in Kirharesh, but it was beautiful, everything from the tapestries to the stained glass window. In which something had caught the Captains attention, as he quickly dismissed himself Suhayla spoke her gratitude before quickly moving to the spot which had enticed him so. She fathomed it had been the steady plume of smoke rising from the horizon, her gaze transfixed on it for a moment or two, hoping it wasn’t anything too serious. She had heard raids on villages were common in these parts, tribesmen from neighbouring countries taking advantage of those small fishing villages and their seclusion for raids.

Turing away from the window, Suhayla released a heavy sigh as she perched upon the edge of the large four-poster bed in the centre of the room, the most domineering feature present. Her hand slid over the furs and exquisitely embroidered blankets which lined the bed, whilst her other hand came up to remove the veil which shielded others from her visage. It had always been a burden to the Queen to cover her features, she liked to be seen, liked her subjects to see the face which ruled over them, protected them, yet it was such an ancient tradition Suhayla doubted it could have been rid of so easily. Perhaps here, in this country she could make the change, perhaps it would even make them warm to her a little more, after all she would need all the support she could muster to survive the Duke’s intentions.

Outside of her room Suhayla was quickly alerted to a ruckus, it was hard to miss. With a slight frown she placed the veil down on the bed and rose from her seat, walking towards the doors and listened carefully to what was occurring. Azzura’s sharp tongue hissed out words with some malice, which only deepened the Queen’s frown, she hoped that her guard’s words were not directed towards one of the Dukes guards, but then again she knew for a fact that Azzura would not be that unprofessional. She listened closer still, her hearing straining against the thickness of the door; the second voice became clear to her then. It was Kaleb, her friend…no, servant. Suhayla had held a deep sadness towards the man, they had been childhood friends and for a long time she had thought him dead, which she had mourned and moved on. Things were different now, she had spared his life when he had faced the executioner and she wished whole heartily that she could believe his innocence, however he had spent far too long in their service. Alas he was but now a servant to Suhayla, although she knew deep down he was a lot more. “Azzura, let him enter” she called to her guard through the closed doors and moved to sit back down on the edge of her bed, her long raven black hair framing a countenance trying its best to look impartial, but the truth was it was anything but.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Suhayla Character Portrait: Kaleb Salazar Erskine

0.00 INK

K A L E B
1409, Third of June | Morning

Image

"Azzurra, let him enter."

The imperial call rang out from beyond the double doors. Her voice was lyrical yet unquestionable, her tone holding no room for disobedience despite its serenity.

Kaleb glanced towards the two Moon Guards who stood, still as statues. They did not so much as acknowledge him, yet their hostility was almost palpable. Their captains clearly expressed opinion of him held with them. And she's not exactly thrilled at my return. He stepped forwards, reaching out to open one of the dense wooden doors. The guards did not accost him, and so he entered the Queen's chamber.

The room was certainly the most luxurious within the castle, rivaling the Duke's own chambers. Light filtered through the stained glass windows to endow the room with a myriad of wondrous hues, enriching the intricate tapestries and decadent four-poster bed. Spiced wine, no doubt the finest the Duke could provide, mingled with a selection of honeyed figs, cherries and grapes to waft a slightly intoxicating aroma through the room. Despite all this, the room itself paled in comparison to it's inhabitant. Suhayla sat regally upon the bed, raven locks cascading either side of flawless sun-kissed skin. Chocolate pools regarded him through almond shaped lids, though they were well enough guarded that he could not yet say what they held within. He did not yet know her thoughts on his return. As the Queen, she had for the most part remained far above him. It was the first time since his return that he had seen her face unveiled, and he might have gasped had he not been composed.

"Your Majesty," he murmured, bowing deeply. "I'm afraid that in the tumult of this diplomatic envoy, there was little time to designate me after the trials. As it stands, I am simply your servant, with no duties assigned to me. And so I am here, to serve at your pleasure. What would you have me do?"

He paused a moment, before continuing. "And, though it is not my place to say, your grace..." A sincere smile had crept upon his face, and he even dared to raise his eyes to hers. "You've grown to be a beautiful woman, Ayla. The crowning jewel of Kirharesh, just as they say. Your mother would have been proud of her little girl."