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Mundus alter || Remake

Amstra

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a part of Mundus alter || Remake, by umademeink96.

The largest region and also the most urban. Amstra is home to the largest amount of the population, the largest city, and uses its vast amounts of flat land to farm and produce most of the food for the continent's population

umademeink96 holds sovereignty over Amstra, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

271 readers have been here.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

https://www.roleplaygateway.com/roleplay/mundus-alter

Setting

TBA
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Amstra

The largest region and also the most urban. Amstra is home to the largest amount of the population, the largest city, and uses its vast amounts of flat land to farm and produce most of the food for the continent's population

Minimap

Amstra is a part of Mundus alter.

3 Characters Here

Amir Taheri [24] Rex ardenti collibus
Mordred Morrela [23] "A New dies elucescat "
Trytheus Morrela [4] "Misericordia Elegit Sapientes"

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amir Taheri Character Portrait: Trytheus Morrela Character Portrait: Enyo Custos Character Portrait: Jilpryis Isaara Character Portrait: Skyla Bauru Character Portrait: Dae Valen Character Portrait: Meg & May
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#, as written by claw
It was with some grim smugness that Trytheus was ready to receive the boy that had elected to leap for him from his chair. He had to wonder if that was the base emotional state that the desert rat often felt, when he wasn't being oblivious to the plights of the common man that was. In fact he was more than willing to engage in a fight here and now, even in this most dangerous of places, more than confident that his superior size, strength and experience would provide him with the obvious advantage not to mention the fact he was clad from head to toe in his signature armour. None had ever been able to pierce the steel he had forged using the Amstrian technique of folding the metal many times over, indeed it was that technique that inlaid the stars and diamonds into the armours metal itself.

And yet the fight drained out of suddenly as like a broken dam to replaced with a block of cold dread as the boy was caught in midair and violently wrenched back to his seat. He had no doubt that the force of the pull had done some form of damage to the boy. But that wasn't what had caused him to feel the pull of dread in his gut, rather it was the speed of it. Once again, despite this time being looking directly at the Ladies Gemini he saw neither of them actually move, to his eye it was as if they were in one place one second and another the other. He had the distinct feeling that any further transgressions would bring their wrath upon himself and not unwisely he managed to reign himself in to prevent such actions being needed.

"All of our-"
"riders are finally here." Trytheus looked up as the door opened, once more a stranger stood there, yet again another false Rider. He felt little need to educate this one of her place here, after all the others could inform her well enough and besides he was all too aware that any further outburst, especially now that the meeting had begun in earnest, would likely cost him dearly.

"Gather Riders, there is a matter of urgency that must be addressed. Huitzilopochtli has awoken."
"Huitzilopochtli has awoken."

"And it is your jobs to find a way to put it back to sleep. This ancient monster-"
"-whose very presence brings chaos and destruction, is a power no human is capable of stopping."

"If it is left undisturbed-"
"-Mundus alter will surely cease to exist."

The ancient progenitor of the cycle had returned? After thousands of years and countless cycles? What could have caused such a thing and why now? It seemed clear enough to him now at least what had attempted to rip his soul into the Beyond now, but what didn't make much sense was simply the why. What could posses the ancient creature to simply desire the destruction of the world after all this time? Certainly he felt that he had kept to the cycle as best as his vows would allow. He only half listened to the Ladies Gemini as they assigned the other Riders, though he knew they would know how to best combat the beast he couldn't help but notice they had yet to direct himself. And then...

"Lady Sahira."
"Master Trytheus."

"You both are forbidden from aiding your fellow riders-"
"-until you can make amends."

"Darling Sahira, you are to accompany the Griffin Rider to his home region to learn-"
"Of Amstrian culture. Both may only return once you have a mutual understanding of one another."

He could feel his mind screaming, of course there would have been some repercussions for his actions, but this? The very world was threatened and he was forced to play nursemaid, to the desert rat of all people?! He could feel his grip on the arms of the throne grow increasingly tight as his rage built and built. He was the eldest living Rider, he was the most experienced and the best fighter out of all them without a doubt and they were denying him his place with the others? Even favouring those false Riders over him?! It was as thought two plates of metal were grating over each other in his mind, such was the red haze of anger. He barely registered hearing the Ladies Gemini- damn them- dismiss the Riders before he pushed himself violently to his feet and stormed from the house, resolving to be the first one out the door and the first to be gone from this place, he didn't even deign to cast a single glance at the others.

Outside in the heat- the damn desert heat- he saw Mavegen laying waiting for him, half asleep in the shade. The great beast quickly got up upon seeing Trytheus emerge, especially considering the mood he was in. A look of concerned question was in her eyes and her questions were quickly answered as she looked over Trytheus's shoulder to see Amir behind him. Trytheus didn't even turn to look as he mounted the Griffon once again, all too glad that the saddle had remained on her back this time. Still not looking at the boy, all but ignoring his presence and not even looking to ensure the rat was even paying the slightest attention.
"We shall head north east, through Wolfsbane. We shall go over the mountain,, not around unless we want to arrive after the world has ended. Do not slow me down boy." Almost hesitantly Mavegen launched into the air, and for once she tried not to kick too much sand into the air.















A month.

A entire ancestor forsaken month it had taken them to get even close to Amstra City!

That damned boy had decided that rather than take the sensible route and buy a horse that he would walk the entire way, even though Trytheus had offered to pay for him considering he still carried a healthy sum of gold from the Grand Tour, the boy still refused. It was beyond all reasoning that anyone, even one as foolish as Amir, could desire to simply walk half the continent rather than take the simple option of a horse. He could only presume that it was done with nothing else but the intention to spite him. And more fool him. The boy didn't have the sense to wear anything other than that pathetic robe and the gaudy jewellery and had more than certainly felt the ill effects. Though Trytheus had tried to lead them through the most direct routes and paths through the mountains he could not prevent those from sometimes reaching high altitudes or snow drift ridden peaks. Long years being assailed to the cold had done much to acclimatise him to the chill of the mountain air, and the armour that had in that desert heat done so thorough a job of attempting to roast him, now acted perfectly to keep his own warmth tightly bound around himself. To him the chill of the frozen air was as welcoming as the plains of home.

He had spent almost all of the long and tiresome journey in the air in fact, trying to spend as little as possible near the boy. In part because the speed that he was being forced to go at which would have been reasonable had he been accompanying an army on the march, not a single loan figure. But it was mostly the fact the boy did nothing but complain and whine the entire way. A fact that did little to improve on the experience in the slightest. Trytheus even tried to make camp as far away from the boy as he could whilst still keeping him in sight, it wouldn't do for them to have come half the way across and for a sudden snowdrift to suddenly pile up and roll the boy off the edge of a mountain.

Yet still somehow they had made it. It was no small amount of relief when the mountains ended and the vast, endless plains of Amstra revealed itself once more. The gently rolling hills and the odd forest were a bright and rich green, evidently the work of heavy presence of both sun and rain in the region. And even though it was starting to make a good way though the season of summer the air in Amstra was only barely that much warmer than the air in the mountains. From then on it would be a direct line over calm sloping hills of green, dim blue-grey skies and cool and refreshing air and if they were lucky they might even get a few rain showers too. Trytheus had always enjoyed listening to the sound of raindrops pattering against his armour.

As they continued to make their painfully slow trek north, though it had sped up considerably now Amir no long had to ascend mountains constantly, they came across a few people. Usually merchants heading from one village to another, or a pair of guardsmen patrolling along old stone walkways. They always seemed happy to speak to their king and often were curios and even wary of the young blond boy that was often the cause of some insult or trying no doubt to start a fight with his people. Even in Amstra, the most populated of all the Riders domains, Amir could manage not run out of ways to annoy people. Time and time again he hated having to guide the boy into his lands. With luck he could just send to boy to be educated with some of his knights, perhaps even make an apprentice of him whilst he sent secret aid to the other Riders where ever they were. Even though most of them were not true Riders they were still the ones doing the important work whilst he was trapped with the incarnation of human annoyance.

It was on what was to be their final days journey, with only a few hours to go until they finally reached Amstra City and with the first of the great rings of walls that surrounded and divided the city just beyond the edge of the horizon Trytheus saw, out of corner of his eye light shining from the road below. Flying lower he could see a small troupe of mounted knights swiftly riding their way down the road to where Amir was still making his slow way up the cobbled roadway. Though at first he was all too glad to finally be reunited with his knights, he saw in their midst one of the few individuals he did not want to have to encounter any time soon. With his good spirits once more quenched Mavegen turned about and flew back to Amir, landing a short distance ahead of him.
"Amir. There is an honour guard of Knights of the Order of the Forge riding this way to receive us. For once at least try to have a sense of decency." He turned his head as he could hear the distant sound of iron-shod hoof on stone and not long after that he could see the first of the knights riding up the road towards them.

He urged Mavegen onwards as the knights pulled up a short distance away and approached at a canter. He could see that the leader carried a lance with pennant that had the crest of the Kingdom of Amstra sewn into it, the front half of a rearing griffon clad in armour. The cloth itself was a rich sea blue whilst the griffon was made out of yellow and the armour was white. Upon the shields that the men carried he could see the crest of the Reach of Amstra, a torc with a downwards pointed hammer with the hammers head sat in the perfect centre of the ring whilst the haft of it cut through the ring at the top. The Amstrian forged steel shone brightly and proudly and Trytheus felt the warmth of pride in his heart as he looked at the knights, like he each of them had forged their armour and weapons themselves after learning the craft from their masters, who had been knights themselves and thus the Order continued as it always had. In the vaults under the Smiths Keep there were rows upon rows of stands containing arms and armour that stretched back to the founding of the Order, each piece stood watch over the tombs of the knights that had worn it.

"Hail, sir knight. What brings you and this contingent of proud knights out this day, under the kings banner?" Called Trytheus, which was the standard greeting a knight from a smaller group would call to a knight of a larger group.
"Hail, sir knight. We ride forth from the capital to receive the king and bring him to his home safely once more." Which was also, a fairly standard response. No two knights were to reveal their name or identities until they were sure of what the other was doing. It would sometimes lead to tiresome exchanges that lasted for some time with neither side entirely willing to tell the other their reason for being on the road if they did not trust the other.
"Then hearken to me sir knight, for I am King Trytheus, three hundred and thirty second to bear that name. King of Amstra of Grand Master of the Order of the Forge. I have in my company Mavegen the Griffon, King Amir Taheri of Gnaji and Hassan the Phoenix. I declare your search for me over."
"Indeed it is, Your Grace. I am Sir Arstlan. With your permission we shall escort you back to the capital." With the traditional greetings out of the way the honour guard moved forwards again to take up positions around the two Riders. It was always the way of Amstra that it would be the smaller party to declare how many was in their company, not the larger, though where that rite had come from and why was a mystery.

Trytheus kept his eyes steadily forward as the men rearranged themselves as best they could, and in particular made great effort to avoid looking at one of the men in particular. He stood out from the other knights painfully obviously. Where the others had shining steel armour and some wore short clocks of red and gold this man in particular was wearing jet black armour, even though it was still of Amstrian design, and instead of wearing a clock he instead worse a set of robes that were a deep, rich blue inlaid with fine silver and despite having the capacity to cover his armoured chest rode with the robes open, so that they only covered his arms and back. His helm too was different from the others, whilst none were uniform and seemed to fit the wearers personal taste all had some form of face plate that could be pulled back to reveal the knights face inside, instead this black knights seemed to have no such addition. Instead it was made of a one complete piece, without a crest, and bearing a single long slit for a visor and a number of randomly placed holes over the mouth so the man could breath. He also carried no lance, no shield and oddly enough no war hammer as all the others did, instead he carried at his hip a longsword that judging by the scabbard only had a single sharp edge on it. The man rode close Amir, on a horse that was smaller than the others, with black hair and a long black mane too, yet it had kept up with the other larger brown or grey horses so its smaller stature clearly didn't affect it poorly. With practised ease that only really came from knowing the animal under you, the man managed to direct the horse around on the spot with surprising quickness and when he was facing forwards once more turned to look at Amir on the ground below.

"Hello there." Came the voice from inside the armour. Where Trytheus's voice was a deep commanding bass, this black armoured mans voice was light and gentle, by its nature soothing and pleasant to the ear and very recognisable as the voice of a natural singer. The man reached up to his helm undid the metal clasp at the base of the skull, just another difference between the man and Trytheus, who simply placed his helm on his head and presumably through force of will forced it stay atop his skull. The man removed his helmet to reveal a man not too much older than Amir. An untidy mess of black hair matched the black armour that he wore. He had managed to retain his youthful good looks, and indeed he certainly was good looking, even if his hair was a little unkempt. His face was clean-shaven, which by the people they had passed before on the road wasn't exactly the fashion in Amstra and even though Trytheus too usually went clean shaven, the months long trip had worn him down enough to give up the practice until he returned home, so now it was that he had grown out a thick stubble that was starting to take shape into a beard. When the boy opened his eyes once more to look down at Amir, for he had closed them when taking his helm off, it revealed startlingly intense and piercing ice blue eyes. The young man smiled at Amir, giving him a look of genuine friendship, before extending an armoured hand downwards. "You look like you could use a lift. And seeing as nobody else seems to have the decency to offer I thought I might as well try. I am the Prince Proles, officially anyway. But you may know me as Mordred Morrela."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mordred Morrela Character Portrait: Amir Taheri Character Portrait: Trytheus Morrela
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Amir found himself raising a surprised eyebrow as Trytheus stormed out the moment the twins dismissed all of them. He felt himself sigh in exasperation, now who was acting like a child? As much as Amir hated the situation they the twins were putting them into he wasn’t willing to test the twins’ patience once again. He looked at them, and they’re grins bore down on him as ravenous threats. He pushed himself up from his position, Hassan jumping from its perch and gliding towards the exit, and he half heartedly saluted the remaining riders. “Catch ya on the flip side motherfuckers.”

He moved unhurriedly after Hassan and Trytheus, though nothing would have pleased him more than getting as far as possible from the twins. Everything around the base of his neck throbbed painfully and it limited the mobility of his neck, no doubt a series of torn muscle tissue from the halted attack. He massaged into his sore flesh as he approached the Griffin Rider, rolling his shoulders even as the muscle screamed against it. “We shall head north east, through Wolfsbane. We shall go over the mountain,, not around unless we want to arrive after the world has ended. Do not slow me down boy.”

If it was even possible Trytheus was being more of a dick than ever before, though Amir couldn’t blame him. The last thing the boy wanted to do was have to spend even more time with the Griffon Rider. He had gotten more than his fair share of the man whilst on the mission to eradicate Serafina, he didn’t need what might be months of Trytheus in his life. Do not slow me down boy. He mocked as the man took off into the sky. The boy positioned his head scarf so it completely shielded his face from the sun, beginning to trek in the direction the griffon was headed. This was going to be absolutely miserable.














A month.

That’s how long they spent in the godforsaken mountains of Wolfbane. The entire trip since leaving the desert had been absolutely miserable to the boy. With the path they took it brought them dangerously close to The Colosseum, but the fact was barely the worst of his problems. The deeper they got into the mountains the colder it got, the boy had never seen snow before, and he had never wanted to. When the first flakes started making themselves present he hadn’t known what to make of them. When it first started, he hadn’t been too concerned, it had been better than rain. Hassan had made a home draped over his shoulders like a scarf, keeping the boy warm for the most part, but as their altitude increased the temperature only continued to plummet and the snow became overwhelming for the boy who had never experienced it before.

Snow was much harder to maneuver then sand was. Snow wasn’t consistent, one step you were fine, the next, half your leg was sunk in some sort of sadistic freezer trap. It didn’t help that this was nearly an entirely uphill battle, but he refused to get a horse, no matter how much Trytheus prodded at him for being too slow. Horses, undoubtedly, were worse than snow. They were unpredictable, and large, and he didn’t know how to ride them so it was pointless. Not that he’d tell Trytheus that, it was much more satisfying for the man to think he was solely rejecting a faster form of transportation to spite him. Truly though, he wanted nothing more than to be back in his desert. His robes were not suitable for the snow, his jewelry was ice cold against his skin and it was a miracle that he didn’t have frostbite.

Three weeks into the trek through the mountains they finally landed in Wolfbane City, and it seemed the town was in the process of rebuilding after the earthquake. They needed to stop for supplies though, both the riders had been low on essentials, but as they made their way into the city Try and himself stuck out like a sore thumb. People accompanied by magical beasts were rare, but the riders were an attraction where ever they went. If not in their home towns and regions the people that they were around would have never seen a griffon or a phoenix before.

Amir could feel the eyes of the city on them, probably mostly on Trytheus because the man was a beacon of attention grabbing, as they maneuvered the layout of the city, picking up various wares they would need and Amir even invested in a coat. It was the smallest size they had in adult clothing, but even still the coat was too big on him, the sleeves of the brown clothing reaching all the way to his fingertips, though he supposed it would be better for Hassan if the bird wished to seek refuge from the winter. Even though the bird literally gave off fire, the constant cold and precipitation was wearing down on the phoenix. The bird was visibly exhausted, the flames that licked at its body weaker than normal, more dim. Hassan had spent the last three weeks keeping Amir warm in the mountains, and it was no surprise the bird was so tired.

As he exited the shop the boy had convinced Trytheus to stop at what looked like a small restaurant before they continued, wanting to eat something over than dried meat and bread and have a real meal. As they ate the two were constantly approached by curious Wolfbane residents, asking to get a closer look at Hassan or Mavegen. Amir tried to be polite… ish, allowing them to coo over and fawn Hassan with attention, but most of his attention was on the meal he inhaled. The experience in Wolfbane made him hope the people of Amstra wouldn’t be nearly as interested in Hassan as these people were.

After passing through Wolfbane the trip into Amstra was much easier and less physically demanding. It was nearly all a downhill decent out of the mountains and into Amstra. and the boy never thought he’d actually be happy to be in Amstra, but Wolfbane was decidedly his least favorite region and snow was the worst weather condition to grace their continent.

Free of the snow and mountains Hassan took full advantage in the change of climate to stretch its wings and fly around and near the griffon, leaving Amir alone for short periods of time. He didn’t mind it too much, but it left him alone with the throbbing beat of Huitzilpochtli’s heart in the base of his skull. Amstra was much easier to traverse than Wolfbane had been, and their travel speed increased tenfold without Amir having to climb a mountain.

Trytheus’s mood had failed to raise above anything other than mild bitterness for the entirety of their trip. He hardly spoken to Amir at all, not that the boy minded that much, and spent as little time near him as possible. It had actually made their trip much more enjoyable spending most it away from the other. Even as the two can across a wayward civilian of Amstra every once in awhile the most Amir amounted to was talking the person’s ear off until they looked for a way to escape conversation. That kind of passive aggressive annoyance wasn’t one that could be labelled unequivocally rude and rather it was more likely a merchant would spread a story of the boy being too overly friendly for his own good. At least the people they came across were nothing like Trytheus, they were normal, no misplaced justice complex, no rants of his poor vocabulary and presentation, just people.

Amir had been humming to himself when Trytheus landed next to him with news of an approach. He had been walking alone for awhile, keeping an eye on the griffon in the air, and his small companion as it darted playfully around the griffon in the sky. Even if the two riders didn’t get along at least the beasts didn’t seem to have a problem with one another. “Amir. There is an honour guard of Knights of the Order of the Forge riding this way to receive us. For once at least try to have a sense of decency.”

“An honor what?” He questioned skeptically. This sounded like what he had feared from coming to Amstra. Clone upon clone of honor-toting, Trytheus-like, knights parading around like they were so much better than everyone else. What ever this Honor-whatever was it was approaching quickly, already he could hear the echoing of hooves against the cobbled roadway. The boy watched as a group of knights approached them, all of them armored up similarly to Trytheus, but each had unique differences. He had no idea what to except from the exchange, but he should have known it would have been a long-winded, pointless exchange, everything Trytheus did was long-winded and Amir should have known greetings would be just the same. Still, at least Trytheus introduced with an actual title instead of, ‘degenerate human’, he could at least hold his tongue for the exchange. The boy gave a simple bow of his head to the knights as he was introduced, but glanced over at Try. He made sure the man was looking as he made a show of sending an eye roll in the man’s direction.

He couldn’t help but notice that Trytheus seemed a little stiff, as these knights maneuvered so that they created a blockade of sorts around the two riders it seemed as if Try was avoiding looking in one particular direction. Amir felt his eyebrow quirk in interest, as one of the knights appeared to stand out, if only for the smaller stature of the knight’s horse and the dark color scheme. The knight maneuvered the other knights until their horse was walking right next to him. Amir cast a sideways glance at the knight, unsure what to make of the approach. He didn’t make any move to greet the knight until the man clad in black made the first move.

“Hello there.” Amir was surprised as the knight began talking to him that he sounded younger, probably around his own age. Amir’s eyebrows quirked up as his suspicions were confirmed, and a young man was hidden beneath the black colored armor the knight wore. Even more surprising was the fact that the knight was incredibly handsome, and although he had nothing on the siren rider and the siren itself, Amir could appreciate a good looking person. “You look like you could use a lift. And seeing as nobody else seems to have the decency to offer I thought I might as well try. I am the Prince Proles, officially anyway. But you may know me as Mordred Morrela.”

Amir felt his head immediately whip in Try’s direction when the knight introduced himself. The same last name, surely that meant they were connected somehow, but it also meant the two had a history if Trytheus made an active effort to avoid interaction with the boy. He barely restrained a jab in Trytheus’s direction over the revelation, his current situation was like being in enemy territory, he had to play his social game carefully if he didn’t want to be ostracized. Being an outcast in this city would only serve to make his life harder, and Trytheus’s life easier. He instead brushed aside the new information for the moment, he could question Try about it later when there weren’t so many people around. Instead he looked back at the boy, offering a smile and a handshake.

“Phoenix Rider, you can call me Amir.” He released Mordred’s hand when he heard Hassan screech from the sky, and the boy boy held up his left forearm so it parallel to the ground. The phoenix loved to mak an entrance, that much he knew. The bird rocketed past the group in a ball of fire, it shot forward a large distance before turning back towards them. His beast screeched again, dissipaiting the large flames as it aimed for Amir’s raised arm, and with precise agility maneuvered itself between the horses surrounding them and perching on his arm. Hassan had lessened the amount of fire usually used when making its entrance, probably keep the horses from spooking around them, but fire still snaked its way across the boy’s body, warming his skin as it danced around him. “And this is my beast Hassan.”

At the mention of his name the phoenix perked up, fluffing up his feathers and brightening the flames that resided in its tail feathers with pride. Amir laughed, patting the bird’s head affectionately. Friendly, down-to-earth, generally sold. It got people to like you, “He’s a bit of a show off, but he means well. And, thanks for the offer, but I’m shit with horses, prefer walking. It’s nice to meet you Mordred.”

He hoped acting friendly like this got under Try’s skin. He would love nothing more than to piss the armor-clad rider off so much his stupid helmet blew off.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Mordred Morrela Character Portrait: Amir Taheri Character Portrait: Trytheus Morrela
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#, as written by claw
Trytheus grimaced as he heard Mordred talking just out of his view. He was glad to be wearing his helm because he frankly didn't wish to look at the boy, to him he was little more than a disrespectful failure. Though he had never been able to decide if the blame laid with him, or the men who had taught Mordred in his stead the fact of the matter remained that instead of honing Mordred into a fine warrior and crafting him into a peerless commander as one would expect of both the name and rank that the boy held, they had managed to build someone with far more interest in listen to bards playing music and singing silly songs. He had to wonder what sort of effect that would have in later years, especially seeing as Mordred was sworn to The Black as well, the fool.

His grip on the reigns tightened in frustration as Amir decided to talk back to Mordred. It seemed fate was once more testing his abilities to maintain a straight face. Naturally he couldn't just command the two to be separated, Mordred wasn't a knight and even though a Marshal was of a lower rank than himself, he wasn't exactly sure Mordred would even obey that order. And besides in the presence of his knights he couldn't just allow himself to act like a child unless he wanted to seem a fool.

The returning presence of Hassan certainly made an effect on the small company of knights. Though he had become used to the birds presence and in truth had enjoyed the fact that at times he would have company in the air that wasn't attempting to swear at him, it was a pleasant twist on the norm to be able to fly with another. The other knights however were not so used to seeing the bird. The arrival of the bird came with a burst of flame that Trytheus had come to expect, but the knights, not exactly aware of the presence of a giant flying ball of fire were far more startled. A few cried out in surprise and then had to struggle with their horses to get them back into position. Even when they had managed that it was clear that the animals under them were anything but calm. Trytheus knew that getting away from the spot would calm the horses down, even if the creature that caused them to be afraid was still in their midst.

"Onwards!" Declared Trytheus, calling the party to advance once more. With luck they would arrive at the gates to the city around an hour or so before noon, perhaps earlier if the presence of the other knights helped to speed things along.




Mordred chuckled as the boy before him, King Amir if he had heard Trytheus declare right, look at first himself then over at Trytheus then back again. Unsurprisingly it seemed the man had elected to neglect informing Amir of his existence, still if this was the reaction it caused perhaps it was worth it. It was certainly entertaining. Still, he could see that Amir wasn't exactly comfortable here, perhaps it was the knights? Or maybe it was Trytheus that made him uneasy, he did tend to have that air of intimidation that tended to permeate the air surrounding an angry bull.

"I'll explain it all later." Mordred promised, hoping to help both calm Amir as well as perhaps build a rapport of some kind.
"Phoenix Rider, you can call me Amir." He smiled again as Amir took his hand, though he was a little surprised when he released it again at the sound of a screech in the air. It sounded almost like an eagle on the hunt actually. Looking up he caught, just in time, the sight of a ball of fire streaking across the sky just above their heads. The knights around him were clearly not expecting it to happen as some of them clearly jumped at the sudden arrival of whatever caused the flame. There were calls of surprise and shock from both men and beast alike and some clearly didn't have control of their horses as the animals skittered away from the flying fire and had to be forced back in with strength alone. Mordred didn't allow his own horse to panic like that. He quickly leaned over and patted the side of the horses neck, muttering a gentle 'woah there' to calm the animal. It seemed to work at least as it only eyed up the ball of flame as it returned.

Only now the ball had shrunk to reveal what must have been at the heart of it. Surprisingly it was a bird, wreathed in flame and yet untouched by it. It was fascinating to look at and as it alighted upon Amirs arm he had to wonder just how exactly it was capable of not only controlling the fire, but also directing it in such a fashion as to not burn Amir to cinders in a moment. "And this is my beast Hassan."

Mordred smiled at the bird this time. Hassan... That could a be a male name, though he didn't exactly want to look to make sure.
"He's beautiful. Anyone who claims that the eagle is the king of bird clearly did not consult him first."
"He’s a bit of a show off, but he means well. And, thanks for the offer, but I’m shit with horses, prefer walking. It’s nice to meet you Mordred." Mordreds smile briefly melted into a look of mild disappointment as Amir turned down his offer, but it was quickly back on his face again.
"Onwards!" He heard Trytheus declare. He had to sigh at the sound, not five minutes back witht he presence of his oh so precious knights and he was already making commands. He hadn't wanted to ride out with the honour guard initially, in fact he had been planning on locating a tavern somewhere in the city to spend the next few days if he could avoid Trytheus at all. But once he had heard that the man was travelling with someone else, his curiosity got the better of him and he just had to come and see. Now he was glad he did.

Rather than ride alongside Amir and having to spend the whole journey looking down at him, Mordred instead swung himself out of the horses saddle and stepped down next to Amir. Judging by looking at him, he had to assume that Amir was probably not even a full year younger than himself, and surprisingly not much shorter either.
"I wouldn't want you to feel left out down here." He said by way of explanation of his reason for dismounting. He was aware of the knights behind him waiting for them to get moving and quickly he began to walk onwards.

He kept quiet for a while, simply enjoying the exercise instead, though he probably would have preferred it more if he didn't have to wear the stupid armour he had on. But the Forge Knights and their rules meant that even though he wasn't one of them he still had to dress up for them to seem worthy of being seen with them. He had to wonder at times just where they got their vainglorious attitude from. Perhaps it had come from one of the past incarnations of Trytheus and it had just sort of stuck around without going away any. Though he knew full well not every single knight was like those that seemed to worship Trytheus as a living god, it was just that particular core of fanatics that grated on him.

As he walked a few questions began to form in Mordreds mind. It was clear that Amir and Trytheus didn't like each other and though Trytheus never really trusted anyone he didn't know this wasn't simple mistrust between the two. There was a clear animosity there between one-another and he had to wonder what could have caused that to happen. Though Trytheus was generally fairly unpleasant and as blunt as his beloved war hammer, he usually had reasons to dislike someone. Even if they weren't always good reasons. But if the two clearly had no like the each other, why were they both travelling together? It didn't make sense that they would do so out of choice so perhaps something else was causing them to work together. As far as he was aware, no other worldly issue was plaguing Amstra and certainly there was nothing around that would require two Riders to resolve it. So clearly something else was forcing the two together.

Though Mordred wanted to ask these questions, to get to the base issue of the matter at hand. He knew that with Trytheus present that just asking about such things was an open invitation that would allow the man to admonish him without repercussion. No, he would have to wait until later to discover the reason for their both being here. Instead he could ask other things, perhaps he could learn more about Amir either way.
"You hail from Gnaji right? I am saying that correctly aren't I? Guh-nah-j-eye, or is it said naa-gee? I hear it has vast plains of nothing but sand and is so empty that you can walk for days and not even see a bird. It sounds like an amazing place, I've never been there myself but I've often wanted to visit. Interesting people, warm weather and not to mention, no knights riding around all the time, it certainly sounds like an interesting place. Then again I also heard that if a man goes too long without going for a piss it boils away inside his bladder and it kills him so perhaps it's not all great."

He looked around them at the landscape. The everywhere he looked he could see green grass for as far as the eye could see. He wished that the main road at least went past some grain farmers fields at some point, for nothing else but a change of colours. Sadly instead these areas were owned by cattle farmers and every now and then a small herd of cows would be seen grazing lazily in the distance. He had to wonder if they knew they were simply being fattened up to be slaughtered. It wan't a pleasant life, being a cow.

"I suppose Amstra must be the opposite for you. The air here feels pretty warm to us, but I always here southerners saying that it's too cold for them so who know who's right? And the green everywhere? A man can only look at so much green every day before he starts to dream green too. It's one of the reasons I don't like coming to the heartlands very often. Lucky where I live borders the Unclaimed Territories so there are a lot of trees. You'd be surprised the difference some brown makes in the palette of the world." He paused for a moment before shaking his head. "Sorry, I know you don't want to listen to me talking about how dull Amstra can be, you can see it for yourself after all. But knights generally aren't known for their conversational skills. Besides, you seem like an interesting person. Certainly in poor supply around here." With that he lapsed back into quietness as he looked at the terrain around them. They were almost at the city.



It didn't take much longer for them to arrive. Cresting a hill that afforded them a good view of the city, it was clear that it was a massive metropolis. The city was surrounded by a vast bastion wall that encircled the entirety of it, inside that wall was a second ring, though it was much further in and a lot of buildings separated the two. Most of these buildings were squat and low, with grey stone and flat roofs. Between the two walls long stretches of wall divided the city into different sectors, which would do wonders for defending the city or preventing the entire thing for burning down it didn't do much for helping the flow of traffic inside the city. Behind the second ring were more buildings. They were generally brightly coloured, each one different from the next the next. From dull blues to fading yellows to bright freshly painted reds, this inner tier was a rainbow of colour and seemed incredibly out place with the rest of the city. Once more this tier was divided up by walls on the inside, though these walls did not line up with the ones on the first tier. Beyond the garish buildings was yet another wall, hiding behind it disorganised rows of buildings. These buildings were built with off white stone and unlike the other buildings had sloping rooftops of orange clay, presumably to allow rain to slope off of them into the street below. Again the walls sectioned off the city and again a wall was at the far end of this tier, though it was so far away that it was all but impossible to get a good look at. Rather than being a single ring however, this wall had a few bubbles of other walls coming off of it, inside these small rings one could just make out large complexes and mansions tucked away from it all. But in the very centre of the city, was the vast Smiths Keep. It stretched high into the sky as towers and spires jutted off of seemingly endlessly. It seemed so tall it almost touched the clouds and beggared belief that this man made mountain could even sustain its own weight. And was indeed also a very old structure, scattered across the colossal castle were small clusters of scaffolding as small teams of masons went about repairing any natural damage the time laid upon the vast edifice. And despite being more than large enough to likely be able to hold most of the cities population comfortably within its walls there were still men building more onto it. Two towers were being build, one far far larger than the other and was only missing a pointed roof, the other was only half way done being built. And that was only on the side the view from the hill afforded, the simple size of the enormous building entirely blocked out sight of the far side of the city. Even outside the city walls wasn't free and open land. Along the outer walls were other buildings of varying sizes and designs that seemed almost mashed together chaotically as they spiralled out randomly. And by the gates a huge collection of bright tents were set up on both sides of the roads, creating small tent cities. Even at this distance one could just about make out the trails of people going in and out of the city in droves. It was certainly evidence enough why Amstra had developed the nickname of 'The Kingdom of Man'

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"Amstra City, in the Reach of of Amstra, capital of the Kingdom of Amstra. What an imaginative people we are." Mordred mused as the enormous spectacle came into sight. He had seen it enough times that the sense of wonder he had first felt as a young boy, far away from home, had long since worn off. Though the vast city was indeed impressive it was now just a normal sight to him. He turned to Amir again "I hope you like crowds because Amstra City can be a bit... Well you'll see."

It only took a short while from there to reach one of the city gates itself and the vast tent city sat outside it. The tent city was a a swarming hive of noise and people. Travelling merchants tried shouting over each other, dogs barked loudly, horses could be heard walking up and down the stone road and donkeys brayed loudly. The sound of voices was over whelming and the cacophony didn't die down much the closer they got. As they finally made their way onto the main road Sir Arstlan who was riding at the head of the group called out.
"Make way! Make way for the king!" Modred rolled his eyes at the pompousness that was having to declare their presence, personally he much preferred to enter the city unannounced and not cause the fuss that this was going to cause.

The group passed through the giant hole in the wall that was the gate. A couple of knights stood watch alongside the interior wall and the wall was certainly large enough for ten men to stand abreast either way. On the inside, things only got louder.

Word of their coming had reached the city long before they had, the speed of news always managed to amaze Mordred, and a huge crowd had gathered to see them arrive. They were kept back by two long lines of armoured soldiers. The men wore simple helms that had a lip at the back which protected the back of the neck whilst the front had a visor that when dropped covered the mouth and nose but left a wide gap at the eyes and left the neck and jaw exposed. On their bodies they worse simple cuirasses and had sleeves of chainmail over leather. Their legs were covered in brown woollen trousers and metal knee pads. In their right hands were plain spears, at their hips were short swords and in their left hands were kite shields with the crest of the kingdom emblazoned on it. Though the men were wearing armour that had been forged in Amstra it didn't have the signature stars and diamonds that the knights did. The reason for this was simply that the technique was time consuming and to perform it for every single one of the countless soldiers in the Amstrian army would take far longer than the Forge Knights could afford. Instead it was usually apprentices who made the simple armour for the soldiers. Mordred had to admire their efficiency at clearing a path for them though, that was one advantage of arriving announced.

At either side of the tunnel the crowd of men and women stood cheering the arrival of their king. Though Mordred was wondering if it were really necessary considering they had seen him plenty of times. Still, every time a knight returned from the Grand Tour they were cheered so it stood to reason that even Trytheus would be cheered at on his return.

Both men and women in the crowd worse generally the same clothing, hard leather boots, trousers and long sleeved shirts made of linen or wool, depending on the persons preference or how much they could afford naturally. The only real difference between mens and womens fashion were the colours and the styles of dress. Men tended to wear more earthy colours- reds, browns and greens, whilst the women wore lighter colours- yellows, blues and white. Women also tended to wear looser cut shirts than the men or else had puffier sleeves. It was clear that Amstrian people favoured practicality over eccentricity.

Mordred smiled as he heard a few people call out his name as well as Trytheus's. He even heard a few call to Amir, which he hadn't expected. And even caught the sound of a short argument break out as they passed by.
"King Armin!" Called out one man.
"No you idiot. He's called Armiss!" A woman shouted over the man, presumably his wife berating him.
"I thought he was called Hameer or something." Called another dumbly, trying to make himself heard over the crowd. Mordred didn't catch the rest of the debate as it swiftly passed by.

The section of the city they were passing through, the outer tier, was home to the majority of the cities military assets, to better defend the city from any danger. And it was also home to the cities slums, where they could be far enough away from the eyes of Trytheus that he didn't have to think it existed. Eventually they made it through that tier to come to the second, and the garish buildings. Once again the crowds were gathered, though this time they wore clothing that seemed all over the place. The second tier was home to the cities markets, shops, taverns and all other manor of entertainment, honourable or otherwise, which was the reason for the brightly coloured buildings. Asides from the people who had left their place of work to see the passing of the king there was not much difference between this tier and the last. And once more the group passed through the gate at the far wall again. This time they passed into the housing areas of the city and the noise was tremendous. Now the crowds were not simply on the streets but leaning out of windows too. Old grandparents sat with their grandchildren watching the passing of the knights and young children threw small cakes at the knights as a joke which they seemed to take with good humour. Mordred managed to snatch a small cake out of the air and took a bite of it. There was a rich taste of honey in the centre and it was still moist and warm, presumably having just been baked in preparation for just this moment. He had to laugh however when one of the cakes had the misfortune to strike Trytheus in his armoured head, which caused him to glare up at the house from which it had originated. The windows quickly emptied with the sound of children laughing as they fled from sight. He had to admit that he enjoyed this part a fair amount.

Eventually they came to outer walls of the Smiths Keep itself. Passing through the imposing gate, the sound of the city beyond quickly dampened and was then finally replaced with a resounding boom as he gates were shut behind them. They emerged to a giant courtyard, that was easily big enough for the hundreds of men that had lined the street on their way through the city, and then some hundred more. Mordred knew full well it could hold thousands of men and women before it began to feel crowded. Sir Arstlan and his knights broke away to try to find some stables for their horses and at his request, they took his own horse away with them too. Leaving him with the two Riders, even though Trytheus had still yet to dismount from the back of his Griffon. Trytheus guided them over to the far side of the courtyard to where a short flight of stairs led them up the surprisingly small main doors to the Keep- at least small compared to the rest of the building.

Inside these doors revealed a vastly oversized entrance hall. It was like a huge cave on the inside on the building and it echoed terribly. At the walls were a number of different corridors leading to other parts of the Keep, and the room was so large it even had stairs leading up three floors each with corridors leading elsewhere too. It would not be difficult to get lost in this place if one wasn't keeping their wits about them. The hall was currently bustling with life as men brought in chairs and long tables and were busy trying to arrange them and then rearrange them. And they certainly weren't trying to be quiet about it either.
"They're setting up the room for the feast to celebrate the end of the last Grand Tour." Mordred explained. "It's due to happen in evening, three days from now. It's always an entertaining one, having a feast with thousands of lords and knights each trying to prove their manhood is bigger than everyone elses." Trytheus, who had finally dismounted, shot Mordred a baleful look. "I mean no disrespect of course, Trytheus. Simply pointing out fact."
"I do not care if you mean disrespect or not. You are not a knight and are not in a position to pass any judgement over the Order."
"Ancestors forgive I not be a knight." Mordred muttered under his breath as Trytheus's turned his attention elsewhere.
"Serfs!" He called, drawing two men over to him. "Ensure Amir here is directed to his quarters for the duration of his stay in Amstra. However long we must endure that." With that he once more headed off, heading deeper into the Keep whilst Mavegen headed elsewhere. Presumably to her nest. Mordred himself was approached by an elderly man wearing deep purple robes, walking with an aid of gnarled walking stick and bearing a long white wispy beard that almost touched the floor.
"Marshal Mordred. A moment of your time?" Came the wiry voice from the old man.
"Apothecary Casius. A pleasure to see you up and about. Are you well?" He asked happily.
"Oh yes thank you, quite well. My knees haven't given me much grief lately and I think my hands aren't shaking as much either. But if I could speak with you in private for a moment?"
"Of course old friend, you hardly need to even ask." Mordred turned back to Amir. "I shall have to catch up with you soon Amir and you can tell me more about Gnaji. I hope you enjoy your stay in the Smiths Keep. If that's even possible anyway." With that he turned and accompanied the old man to parts unknown.

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Character Portrait: Mordred Morrela Character Portrait: Amir Taheri Character Portrait: Trytheus Morrela
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“Onwards!” When Mordred sighed in sync with himself Amir couldn’t help but be surprised. It seemed that someone in Amstra was just as unimpressed by Try’s overbearing personality as Amir was. And for it to be is family of some sort was even more surprising, he hoped to have answers to that soon. Whether it be from the man that introduced himself or Trytheus himself didn’t matter, so long as he got caught up to date. Hassan had shimmied its way so that it sat perched on his shoulder, and the bird fluffed up at the compliment from the black armored knight.

He was surprised though, when Mordred went as far as to dismount and walk up next to him for the rest of their trip. He eyed the man carefully for a moment, but relaxed when all he did was walk next to him. Mordred may have shared the same last name as the Griffon Rider, but he seemed completely different from Trytheus, more like himself and less like these ‘Knights of the Order of the Forge.’ Not that he was complaining, Amir wasn’t sure he’d be able to deal with any interaction if everyone that surrounded themselves around Try was as humorless and dull as the man himself was. He gave a small head nod and a grateful smile. “That’s pretty damn considerate of you.”

“You hail from Gnaji right?..” Amir looked to Mordred as the boy began talking to him about Amir’s home. He couldn’t keep the laugh from bubbling between his lips as he heard the rumors of his home from someone that had never been there. Amir had spent nearly his whole life in the desert, barely ever travelling outside of the region he had little idea of how outsiders viewed his home. But it was especially funny when Mordred took a jab at his own home, Amir knew first hand the luxury of being freed from just one knight, and couldn’t imagine having to constantly put up with thousands of them.

“Naa-gee, that’s how you say it. We are in the middle of the dry-heat season, but you are right when you say it is warm, though I’ve heard of someone dying due to boiled piss. The rumors are a bit extreme, it’s not quite that empty, though she’s cruel to people that don’t dress appropriately.” His eyes darted to Trytheus, who was still making a point not to look in their direction, and he felt a smirk snake its way over his lips. “I suppose Amstra must be the opposite for you.”

Amir turned his head towards the sky so he was looking at the empty blue expanse. It had been little over a month now, but he missed his desert. As Mordred had said the temperature was too cool for him, the brown coat he had bought helped ebb the discomfort, but he missed the warmth of his desert. He was sick and tired of being covered in never-receding goosebumps, and missed the heat he had grown up in. The boy tilted his head down as he thought of his home, a softer smile than the smirk he had been wearing settled his expression.

“The desert can be monotonous, but it’s a goddamn beautiful place. Many people travel in the middle of the night to avoid the heat of midday, but as dawn comes and the sun begins to breach the horizon the sand is painted with this soft pink color and its as if you are standing in the middle of a rose colored sea. It’s fucking amazing.” He could see it in his mind as he described the scene, a sunrise he had experienced so many times, something he missed dearly after being away for so long. He allowed the silence to fall between the two of them as the band of knights continued their journey back to the city of Amstra.

When the city first came into view Amir felt his stomach drop. It was huge, probably five times bigger than Gnaji Town. He could feel his eyebrows raise in awe, his mouth dropping open slightly. Even from a distance he could tell that the city was a population hub, probably filled to the very brim with people, all packed into those large walls like sardines. The blond wasn’t sure if he was claustrophobic, but the idea of willingly walking into a cage like that had his heart hammering in his chest and his gut clenching. The last thing he wanted was to be trapped within the walls of Try’s home city, but he shouldn’t have been surprised that Amstra was a city of building walls. Why spend the time to know thy neighbor when you could just put up a literal wall between those you didn’t agree with? As Mordred made an offhand comment about the lack of creativity it had the boy smiling again, “After spending so much time with Trytheus I would except nothing less.”

Entering the city was far worse, the outer wall looked so much bigger when they were right in front of it. There was a plethora of activity outside the walls, something Amir found he didn’t mind, the merchant tents actually reminded him of his home, it was the giant gaping hole in the wall he wasn’t a fan of. If tragedy struck within the city the fleeing population would bottleneck at the different exits of the wall, effectively trapping everyone else inside. Hassan wasn’t strong enough to carry him in the air, meaning Amir would effectively be trapped if something were to happen.

As they entered some pompous asshole began screaming, ‘Make way for the king!’ over, and over, and over again. On either side lines of soldiers cleared a path for the band to move their way through the city, and much to Amir’s dismay the citizens of the city cheered at their entrance. He had to wonder if they were being paid to show up and inflate their King’s ego, or if they genuinely felt enthralled at the return of Trytheus. He was taken back when the crowded even hollered his own name at him, or at least tried to, he waved and smiled in the directions he thought he heard his name, hoping to show he had heard the few that knew who he was. These sorts of things were all about keeping up a certain image. Even if some guy went into the city had paid some citizens to scream his name, giving those people recognition, or showing that he appreciated it, could only aid in bettering his reputation to these people.

It wasn’t until they went into the third ring, the next section of this cage, did something significant happen. The strangest event he had ever experienced, cake being hurled at the group, yet no one seem concerned. The citizens didn’t look as if they were planning anarchists, and Amir soon realized that this must have been a custom of the city. A weird custom, but it wasn’t harmful, he found he actually liked it. He may have hated everything about Trytheus and this city, but that was not the fault of children, all children deserved that happiness. His steps faltered as cake soared in front of him and it the ground, his eyes darted up to a window where a few kids were looking on in disappoint that their cake had missed a mark as the band made their way through. The blond found himself smirking as he picked the cake up off the ground and hurled it at the window they were looking through. The could hear shrieks of laughter as the kids ducked as the cake smashed next to the window instead of going through it. When they peaked back out the boy gave them a wave, turning just in time to see Trytheus get nailed right in the face with cake. It was that followed by the slow motion turn of the man’s head as he glared up at a window of children that had Amir buckled over in laughter.

The scene struck him so hard that he had to grip onto Mordred’s shoulder to keep from falling over, his laughter rang out loudly, tears pricking at the corner of his eyes. His breathing turned to wheezing gasps as he tried to reign himself in with little success. “Did you… Did you see his face!?! Oh my god… Oh my fucking god… Fucking priceless.”

He barely managed to wheeze the sentence out, the entire thing had struck something deep inside him and he couldn’t remember the last time he laughed that hard at anything. The approach of the final gate sobered him up quite a bit. The gate for this particular wall seemed even more opposing than the rest, as if they were really going to lock him away again. As he was led through the gate the boy was relieved that it was an open courtyard with little people, it didn’t really give off the impression of a cage. He was directed towards an obnoxiously large tower. This thing was massive, the biggest manmade architecture Amir had ever seen in his life. It was actually intimidating, and begrudgingly, impressive.

Amir walked in after Mordred, watching some people poorly move furniture around the opening room. He glanced questioning at Mordred, who then provided him with an explanation. The boy watched the exchange between Trytheus and Mordred. It seemed Trytheus was incapable of being polite to anyone that wasn’t one of his clone knights, and he couldn’t help the sigh of exasperation when he began commanding the servants without a thought. At least the man didn’t miss an opportunity to be petty, it relieved him, Trytheus hadn’t said anything rude about him in over an hour. The boy thought the Griffon Rider was beginning to lose his touch.

“’However long we must endure that’ my ass.” He grumbled, the boy turned to say goodbye to Mordred, the only decent person in this whole godforsaken city, but the man was already catching up with an elderly looking man. He waved as Mordred addressed him and allowed the servants to guide him with little resistance.

It felt like he had been climbing for hours, it had probably been only ten minutes really, but the stairs never seemed to end. The blond boy was unsure how far he had ascended, but no doubt the room Trytheus had given him was high enough that he had no chance of being able to escape the hold via anything but the stairs. No window jumping for him. As he was led to a door the two men that had accompanied him stood on either side of it and he nodded at both of them before entering.

The room was surprisingly large and well decorated. A large bed pressed up against the far wall and an open doorway that led out to a balcony. He ignored the balcony for the bed, hurling himself onto the expensive looking sheets and taking in the luxurious feel of expensive bedding. Gnaji did not invest the little revenue it had into luxurious like this. The Gnaji economy was extremely fragile, the small government they had didn’t impose heavy taxing and so most revenue into vital irrigation maintenance and food purchase. The bed felt like a cloud though, and stayed face down on it for several minutes before Hassan broke the silence between them.

“You seem to be enjoying yourself.” Amir rolled over, Hassan was perched on what looked like a desk on the other side of the room, a line of assorted books were pressed against each other tightly on a built in shelf. The boy felt himself sigh as he sat up, slipping off the annoying brown coat and tossing it on the ground next to the bed. His white robes still weren’t sufficient with the weather in Amstra, unless maybe the sun was out. The boy examined his forearms, barely a hint of the deep bruising that had been left by the twins had left behind.

It served to remind why he was here in the first place, to make peace with a man he had no interest in understanding or making peace with. He looked at Hassan, the bird jumped from its spot on the desk and maneuvered itself to settled in the boy’s lap. “If you were more open minded Amir, maybe you could find yourself to understand the Griffon Rider.”

“Alright Hassan, that’s easier said then done.”

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Character Portrait: Mordred Morrela Character Portrait: Amir Taheri
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There was a brief sound of three voices from beyond the door which quickly petered off into silence. And then after a moment the door was opened and through it stepped Mordred. In the brief time that he had been gone he had managed to ditch the armour somewhere and was now wearing a black linen shirt, black boots, black leather gloves and a short black cloak with golden finery. The only thing that wasn't black were his trousers which were a dark brown instead. Even the belt and scabbard for the sword that remained at his hip were made of black leather inlaid with gold.

"Ah, Amir. I was hoping you were here. I'm sorry for just barging in unannounced, I hope I'm not interrupting something." He closed the door behind him then stepped deeper into the room. He looked around the room slightly disappointedly. "I apologise if the room is a bit sparse, most of these rooms have been empty for years, there's that many of the bloody things. If you want I can try to find some things to help liven it up a little?" He was about to continue talking when he sharply remembered reading that the Riders beasts are as smart if not smarter than men. "And Hassan too, I will ensure that some form of proper accommodation is made for you too. I suspect the serfs thought you as nothing more than a simple bird and thought a table would be enough for you. Actually whilst it is on my mind, I would like to say that your plumage is rather remarkable. It is certainly unlikely to be found naturally on any beasts around here. With your permission I would like to have an artist come to draw you, I feel as though everyone should be able to see so wonderful a sight, even if it just in a painting."

Mordred lent up against the wall and stifled a sigh. "But at least our great and powerful benefactor is in such a wondrous mood today. You know when he said 'for the duration of your stay' he meant for you to stay in this room permanently? I even had to pay off the serfs outside the bloody door to get them to leave. Honestly what is the issue between you and him? I know he has all the social graces of a damp rock but when he dislikes something so much he tends to resolve that issue by hitting it very hard. I don't escape much more lightly." Mordred pushed himself off the wall and stood up very straight, then adopted a facial expression as if he were very stupid and being confronted with a very difficult riddle. "You're not a knight, but if you want to be anywhere near us you have to pretend to be one. And no I will not be nice to you just this once, you utter utter failure. Now where is my hammer?" He spoke in a very dumb sounding, emotionless deep voice then broke into a laugh at the end. It wasn't often he got to openly mock Trytheus without someone telling him he shouldn't speak so openly so loudly. He sighed once more and rubbed his face with one gloved hand. "Ancestors, I hate wearing that stupid metal shell. How do they manage it all day? And Trytheus? The man almost never takes the fucking thing off, surely it can't be healthy for the body."

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Amir was surprised to see Mordred had come to pay him a visit. He been prepared to sit in the room until he got bored and then taken it upon himself to escape, but he hadn’t got past the relaxing on what was no doubt the best bed he had ever sat on to really do anything else. The boy seemed to really enjoy the color black, his entire ensemble was a mixture of dark brooding color with a slight gold accent. Before the man could get a word out Amir was already speaking, “You dress like a villain from children stories.”

The boy felt his eyebrow quirk up curiously as the first Mordred did was begin apologizing to him about the sat of the room. The only thing the boy could see wrong with the room was how high up it was, no doubt he’d be in even better shape than he already was by the end of all this if Amir was constantly ascending and descending that amount of stairs. He was even more off put when the boy started throwing compliments at Hassan. People generally weren’t nice to him unless they were trying to get something out of it. The sudden onslaught of overbearing friendliness set alarms up in the back of his mind. “It’s really not that bad, Gnaji town has nothing like these luxuaries.”

Hassan perked up at the mention of its appearance. The bird cooed, the flames around his body flared up slightly and the phoenix abandoned its place in his lap in favor of circling Mordred a few times before perching the man’s shoulder. Amir briefly noted that the fiery red of Hassan’s feathers stood out nicely against the all-black clothing. “Amir, you should travel more often. I do enjoy being fawned over.”

The boy felt himself sigh, “You are the most vain creature I’ve ever met Hassan.” Hassan clucked, flaring again before leaving Mordred’s shoulder and returning to Amir’s side. He subconsciously reached up to run his fingers over the warm plumage of his beast and looked up as Mordred continued to speak, now changing the topic to Trytheus. Well, more like mocking Trytheus. Amir had never been more happy to hear someone that shared his distaste for the armored rider. He even found himself laughing as Mordred gave a spot on impression of the Griffon Rider. The boy pushed himself off the bed and motioned for Mordred to follow to the simple balcony. Before the awesome impression was the question to why they didn’t get along. He leaned against the wooden guardrail and looked at the expanse of city before them.

“Trytheus doesn’t like me because I’m not willing to sacrifice myself for a lost cause, because I left captured people to the hands of some criminals.” Even as he spoke the words he could see the image of the slaughtered nomads that had been at the bank of the mid river. “I don’t like him because I don’t believe in fighting for that shitty justice that he is so adamant about pushing on me. His views are too black and white, and the minute he had to question himself, he left me to fucking die.” He spat the words, the frustration building up, the heartbeat of Huitzilopochtli suddenly pounding at the forefront of his mind, and in frustration he kicked the guardrail. The wood splintered under the force, but didn’t completely break away, leaving a dent in the protective fencing as he stalked back into the room. Talking about that moment in Tempress Cape always boiled his blood, and he wanted to punch something, or beat the shit out of Trytheus.

“Fuck him. Fuck him and his stupid fucking justice hard on. You’re a disgrace Amir, you’re fucking shitty Amir. You left those people to die? Fuck you we are going to avenge them no matter what you say. You want to save that innocent person? We fuck you anyways let me have a mental breakdown in the middle of Tempress Cape instead. Really how is that man even a rider? He’s the worst, the absolute fucking worst.” He could have continued if not for Hassan yanking his ear. The bird clucked at him disapprovingly and Amir turned to see Mordred standing there, he had forgotten he wasn’t alone, that someone was there to witness his tantrum.

“Please Amir, must I constantly remind you to control your emotions.”

“Right, fuck, sorry Hassan… It’s kinda a sore subject still.”

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Mordred had to admit he had felt a certain amount of pride when the Phoenix chose to alight upon his shoulder. He hadn't been lying when he said he admired the birds fiery plumage and he had to admit getting to see it up close was far more impressive. Though if he did have a complaint it was the heat the bird have off. It was as though a torch was being held up against his shoulder and he could feel the heat prickling his skin uncomfortably. Mordred had to wonder if Amirs native home have him some form of immunity to heat? It was certainly something to find out some time.

Mordred followed Amir out to the balcony, his hands clasped behind his back for lack of anywhere else to put them. He has to admire the view from up here, though he quickly panned his eyes out across the city. Everything around them was the result of thousands of years of hard work by uncountable numbers of men and women working towards a single goal. He had to wonder just how they had even managed to gather enough rescources to even begin to undertake such an endeavour. It must certainly have been an entertaining exchange to witness.

He listened calmly to Amir explaining where the animosity between the two Riders originated from. Though it was indeed a terrible thing to happen and he couldn't fault Trytheus for being angry for that. But to blame Amir for it? Once again the man demonstrated his philosophy that a man who does nothing is as bad as the man who raises the sword in violence. It was a dangerous self destructive ideal that only served to further alienate Trytheus from those under him.

Yet he was taken aback when Amir lashed out in anger. His hand drifted down to the hilt of his sword without him noticing. But once he realised where it was he quickly retracted it once again. He remained silent as Amir continues his angry tirade. It was clear that there was absolutely no love between the two, it was less of a case of a wedge being driven between them than a whole damned tree. It wasn't until Amir seemed to remember him again that his expression of surprises concern shifted to a sad smile.

"You shouldn't have to apologize." He mused. "Trytheus is insufferable to the extreme. Still, try bearing the same name as him. The bastard acts like all the faults in Amstra somehow come about as if they were my doing. You saw how he was out there, he refused to even look in my direction until I insulted him. Some family love right there." He sighed and shook his head "To be honest I'm not sure if he counts as family really. I'm not his son of that's what you thought, rather his great-grandson. It gets confusing when the incarnations all have to have the same name." He turned his head to look out into the city below. "I honestly have to pity him sometimes. He's so utterly caught up in what is right and what is wrong that if you do not fall entirely into the first you must be the second." He paused and chuckled at the memory of years ago. "Believe me, I've been on the receiving and of his oh so righteous fury before. You should have seen him when I said I didn't wish to become a Forge Knight. He certainly found new and interesting ways to call me a failure and a stain on his name. His! Or when he found out I had sworn to The Black, or story take villainy as you so nicely put it. He put it in pretty much the same vein actually, just with different words and with far more shouting. I suppose he was more concerned about another Morrela line dying out rather than the fact it was my choice to make."

Mordred returned his attention inside and stepped back into the room proper. "I guess we both have more than our fair shares of grumbles to complain about when it comes to that particularly shiny excrement. But still, it's gone noon and I don't know about you but I'm bloody hungry." He stepped around Amir to stand by the door. "Now I know Trytheus didn't want you leaving the Keep if at all possible, but if you eat here it's going to be cold leftovers from last evenings meal. So instead I suggest heading out into the city for some real food, and we can try to find someone that isn't wearing armor." Mordred smiled pleasantly at Amir once more has he stood with one hand on the door handle.

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Amir couldn’t help but smile as Mordred began talking to him after the outburst. Who would have thought a mutual hatred for Trytheus would bring two suffering souls together. Though Amir had to conclude that Trytheus was pretty fucked up, all that talk about doing the right thing and being a good person and he blatantly ignored his own family because the boy didn’t meet Try’s ridiculously high standards. The man must have been aware that his standards were so high they touched the clouds, he couldn’t be that dense. “I'm not his son”

Amir wasn’t too surprised, though he had been curious if Mordred was some sort of bastard son, but he doubted Trytheus would ever allow something like that to happen. He gave a short laugh, with a sarcastic retort to follow. “I didn’t really think you were his son. I can’t imagine Trytheus getting aroused by anything other than his own heroic actions.”

As interesting as it was listening to someone talk shit about Trytheus, parts of Mordred’s story Amir found he wasn’t able to follow too well. “What exactly does it mean to be ‘sworn to The Black’? Like, is that some sort of secret society, a legion of assassins, a fetish club?” All viable options for this The Black to be. He sighed and tipped his head back, “Believe me I am no stranger to the shouting… Do you know when he sent us on a suicide mission the dumb ass thought he was about to die and willingly made his last words screaming his region"s name excessively loud? He’s so embarrassing to be around.”

“I guess we both have more than our fair shares of grumbles to complain about when it comes to that particularly shiny excrement. But still, it's gone noon and I don't know about you but I'm bloody hungry.” Amir perked up at the mention of food, and getting away from these knights who all seemed to have sticks jammed up their assholes. He hadn’t eaten since the day before, and besides that he hadn’t eaten a real meal since the stop in Wolfbane. Amir was sick of dried meat stews and travelling foods. He wanted a real meal, something heavy with a lot of fat and meat in it. The thought had him salivating just picturing it. He felt a genuine grin spread across his features, not something he used around the public when they had travelled, or the smirks he often wore when belittling Trytheus. A real smile.

“Now you’re talking. Let’s hit this goddamn town up Sweet Cheeks.” The blonde started towards the door, glancing at the ugly brown coat and debating on whether to bring it or not. Without being on the open plains of Amstra and in a condensed city the wind would be much less burdensome, plus he’d have Hassan as a personal heater. The coat could be discarded for now. “After you Mo.”

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Sweet cheeks? Mordred felt a flush of colour rush across his cheeks and he quickly turned his head to hide it from view. Had Amir figured it out? It wasn't as though it was forbidden in Amstra, just that for a high born the duty of marrying and and furthering the line came before a persons actual desires. At least that was his experience of it. He had to resolve though that Amir was just being forward in some fashion, there was no way he could have just figured it out. After all, he hadn't even known he had existed until earlier that day. He quickly made his way out the door to cover up his flustered expression, which he brought quickly under control.

"I'm glad you agree to go look for some actual food. I know of a few good bakeries in the commerce tier which make some wonderful meals. Or there are some taverns if you would like to hear some Amstrian music, we aren't all as cultureless as the Forge Knights I assure you." He turned down the hall and began to walk in the opposite direction of the stairwell Amir had taken on his way up. Mordred turned back to look at Amir. "They didn't make you climb the whole way did they? Come, some genius of the past long figured out a way to get up and down the Keep that didn't take it out on your legs so much. Before then people would have had to climb the entire things stairs. I can only imagine how strong their legs must have been after just a week." He paused before a door and opened it to reveal an empty room with a rope running through the floor and the ceiling next to the door frame. On the inside of the door LXXXII was carved into the wood, though there was no explanation of what that meant. Mordred stepped inside and pulled on the rope twice, after a moments wait there was a lurch and it felt as though ones gut was trying to escape upwards out of the body. Mordred let go of the rope as it slid upwards. "Essentially what we are standing in is one giant dumbwaiter, designed to carry people up to any of the floors of the Keep. In the underground sections of the Keep there are teams working to make sure we don't just drop straight down to our deaths. The rope I pulled is attached to a bell down there, pull on it to go, then pull on it again to stop, twice for down and five times for up. It's a pretty interesting system, lots and lots of ropes and pulleys. Though whoever repairs these things must surely get paid a lot."

He paused for a moment, watching doors slowly rise past them then vanish into the ceiling. "In regards to your questions about The Black. The Black is the name of the vow we swear to. It's... Pretty much a secret society, as because of some stupid law there can only be one knightly order in Amstra, if we started calling ourselves the Order of the Black we would have our heads cut off. I rather like my head where it is. In short we swear to dedicate our lives to the completion of a single goal, so that means we will not marry or sire children. Which was a nice bonus because you would be surprised at just how many old men wanted to marry off their pretty young daughters." He shuddered at the thought. "If you actually manage to achieve whatever this goal is, you no longer are known as 'the Black', as I am, but instead are known as 'the Golden'. Which means spending a lot of money on trying to replace all the black you have to wear with yellow and gold. That's one thing I'm not looking forward to if I actually succeed. But right now, there are six of us sworn to The Black, and only one Golden. In fact, we are due to meet tomorrow evening. You are welcome to come along if you wish, I think you would enjoy them. They share many similar views to ourselves it would seem." He had to wonder at the chances that all these events were occurring at the same small point in time. It was all rather convenient actually.

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“They didn't make you climb the whole way did they?” Amir felt his eye twitch. He was finally calming down from one of his not-so-uncommon Trytheus rages when irritation began to boil in the pit of his stomach once again. This had to be Try’s doing, no doubt subtly hinting at his serfs to make Amir as uncomfortable as possible. He could hear the man in his deep, dumbass, voice making some lame comment at him about needing to build up muscle like, “You’re all skin and bone Amir. Put some meat on your bones Amir. Maybe then you’ll start acting with some small shred of dignity.” Even though it was just an imaginary Trytheus in his head the words spoken by the tiny Trytheus in his head still got under his skin.

“Are you fucking serious? I climbed all those fucking stairs and there was a… a thing that wasn’t stairs to get me up this godforsaken tower!” Despite his annoyed outburst Amir still hesitated stepping into the strange empty room. He had seen the room shift ever so slightly when Mordred had stepped him, and the boy didn’t do moving that wasn’t walking on his own two feet. He gave Mordred a hesitant look before stepping in, Hassan sat perched on his shoulder, examining the room with interest. He didn’t like it, but he would endure it for the sake of not looking like a complete fool in front of the only person in all of Amstra that wasn’t completely insufferable. The blonde looked on curiously as the boy tugged the rope twice. The curiosity turned to out right panic as his entire body lurched as his his insides were trying to escape his body and Amir immediately retreated so he was pressed up against the wall.

“What the goddamn motherfucking shit fucking hell is motherfucking happening.” Even as Mordred explained what was going on it did little to ease Amir’s anxiety of an entire room being moved through the building. His own heart was beating four times for every pound of Huitzilopochtli’s own heart in his skull. Hassan remained perched on his shoulder, combing out the knots of his hair with its beak in attempt to calm the boy. “Mordred assures us this is safe, please calm yourself Amir.”

“Shut up you stupid fucking bird. I’m so goddamn calm. Motherfucking serene up in this shit.” He was looked up as Mordred explained to him what ‘The Black’ was exactly. He was grateful for such a long explanation, it gave him something to focus on other then the many different ways to die in this moving death trap. His attention to the story would have injected half assed comments every once in awhile for no reason other than being unable to control his obnoxious impulses, but Amir found himself sitting quietly waiting for this trip to be over.

It definitely took less time than taking the stairs, but the moment the moving room lurched to a stop Amir sprung to his feet and vaulted himself out the doors. Even though they were still in the keep, being in a part of the building that didn’t move was so much more comforting. He would rather climb those stairs for the rest of his life then get in that box again. He turned to face Mordred, his heartrate finally back at a normal speed.

“Your magic box thing is cool or whatever, but it’s not for me.”

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Mordred couldn't help but notice Amirs growing anxiety about being in the lift. Of course it helped to confirm this when Amir had several outbursts about the nature of the lift, in fact one of these outbursts was directed to Hassan directly, and it dawned on him that Amir and Hassan must have some form of link that allows Hassan to communicate directly to Amir without speaking. It was strange to him that the beasts could communicate to their Riders such but a Rider couldn't respond in kind. And it also felt strange to him that Trytheus and Mavegen didn't seem to have this link, how did they communicate then? Were they both capable of speaking silently as the Phoenix was before him?

He had to laugh however when Amir bolted from the lift after he pulled the rope to signal a halt, like a hare from a cage.
"Your magic box thing is cool or whatever, but it’s not for me." He nodded cheerfully, still chuckling before he calmed himself down.
"Yes that is a common enough response, but most get used to the sense of controlled falling. I remember the first time I rode down on one of those things, I practically plastered myself to the floor in fear. I don't think I could have been happier when the entire thing stopped." He motioned for Amir to follow him once more.

After a brief walk down the stone corridors the pair exited out into the massive entrance hall, where the workers were still hard at work going nowhere. It hardly looked like they had made any progress and in fact in some areas had perhaps gone backwards, as one table lay on its side and one chair was broken in half and another was missing a leg. A small group of men stood around the site with mixed look of confusion and despair, probably at how this could have possibly happened."This feast happens usually twice a year, you'd have thought they would have gotten better at it by now." He tried to make their passing through the hall as quick as possible, mostly to get away from the awful amounts of noise that was filling the room and echoing off of every surface.

The vast courtyard was practically the opposite of the entrance hall. Aside from the few stable hands going back and forth from stables to stores, and a small contingent of knights and soldiers doing combat drills off to one side it was relevantly empty. Presumably most people had had the same idea and had decided to head off in search of their midday meal. The great iron gates leading out of the Keep were closed until they got closer, five knights standing on either side of the interior wall keeping a close vigil on the entrance. The gates opened just wide enough to allow them through then slammed shut behind them once more.

Out in the streets the sound returned once more. Though the street was loud, busy and cluttered with people it was nowhere near the crowds that had gathered to see them arrive. People were heading back and fro to whatever their days destination was. Men and women of all ages filled the streets, middle aged women walking along with baskets of washing, young couples walking with their arms intertwined, fathers and sons walking outwards on inwards either heading to or from work, small groups of children running by screaming with laughter at whatever games they were playing, pairs of soldiers patrolling the streets talking happily to each other as they passed their shifts away. It was a city obviously bustling with life like no other.

"So then. Food. As I said earlier I know of a food good places in city which do some pretty good food, or we could just strike out in a random direction and see what we come across." He paused for a moment considering if he should say it. "It also occurs to me that though your robes will suit you fine in Gnaji they won't help you much if it rains or when the sun goes down. And though they may not be as thick as the clothes you would find in the mountains, our clothing does a good job of keeping one warm in the low lands. And besides, I hardly think an oversized brown coat does much to accentuate your features." Mordred felt his heart do a single heavy thump as he finished talking, part of him instantly regretting it Stop it Mordred, remember your place. He was just teasing you earlier, do not get your hopes up here. He is a Rider and wouldn't be interested in you anyway. He quickly tried to cover up what he had just said. "But the day is only halfway through and there is plenty of time to explore the city. It is up to you where to begin."

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Amir followed Mordred as the boy led them out of The Keep. It gave the blonde boy great pleasure to watch knights struggle with the basic task of moving furniture. Though he doubted that he himself would be able to carry one of the heavy looking pieces of furniture, the fact that the knights could not come together to get the task done was satisfying. He was even more pleased when Mordred voiced his own opinion about the scene, it was so relieving that Trytheus hadn’t been able convince all his subjects that justice was the only action you should ever take.

“They’re heads are shoved so far up their asses they can’t see where they’re going. That’s why it’s always so hard.”
Amir eagerly followed Mordred into the courtyard, the boy preferred spacious and open areas to the close confines of The Keep. He allowed his head to tip back as they moved and he took in the clear expanse of sky. It was the same sky as in Gnaji yet it was different. The air of Amstra had been clear for most of their journey, but in the city it tasted different. He supposed such a large gathering of people would effect the environment more greatly, each house burning their own fires, the closeness of all the people, the waste being disposed of, all these things made the air feel dirty.

Amir watched as they approached the gate, it was heavy and large, and he was suddenly reminded that this courtyard was just a giant cage. The boy was eager to escape, bounding ahead of Mordred to squeeze through the gap in the gate that had opened up. He was greeted by the city they had paraded through earlier that day, but the atmosphere seemed completely different from before. It felt normal, nothing like the crowds that had appeared to greet Trytheus upon his return. It was also extremely active, everyone seemed as if they had somewhere to be and knew where and when to go. It was actually impressive to watch the large waves of citizens maneuver the streets without getting in the way of each other.

“And besides, I hardly think an oversized brown coat does much to accentuate your features.” Amir felt an eyebrow quirk in surprise, it seemed Mordred was full of surprises apparently. He felt his surprised features morph as a smirk and he clapped his hand on the boy’s shoulder letting out an amused laugh.

“I’ll have you know I look fucking great in oversized clothing, and my features look great in anything.” He grinning, but the idea of getting into clothing that would be better suited to the colder climate Amstra had was very appealing. With Hassan draped over his shoulders in the moment he was fine, but the bird wasn’t always going to be acting like a scarf for him. Plus the boy didn’t want to over exert his beast again, even if this climate wasn’t nearly as extreme as Wolfbane. “Though, getting clothes better suited to this environment doesn’t sound half bad. You seem like the type of person to be good at clothes shopping. Make me looking absolutely fucking ravishing, eh?”

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Mordred felt that strange involuntary spread of goosebumps that shot through he shoulder when he felt Amirs hand touch him. It was rare that anyone even tried to lay a hand on him, in friendship, in anger or in lust, and the result of the unusual feeling caused his body to react in a strange cold shock and surprise as it didn't know exactly how to react. Mordred tried very hard to not make it seem like his body was currently breaking out in tiny bumps and he could feel an involuntary shudder try to run up his spine as his body tried to figure out if it should fight or flee.

"Though, getting clothes better suited to this environment doesn’t sound half bad. You seem like the type of person to be good at clothes shopping. Make me looking absolutely fucking ravishing, eh?" He had to raise a quizzical eyebrow at that. Surely Amir jested with him?
"Need I remind you I wear primarily all black? Unless you are planning on swearing The Black I hardly think that I am such an expert on what fashion would suit you well." He made sure to avoid commenting on 'making Amir' ravishing as he had put it. He felt he had already overstepped his mark with his comment earlier as it was and to say any more would risk a great deal. "Come then, lets see what we can find you that doesn't look like it is attempting to somether you. And then after we shall have to seek out a meal." He lead Amir down into the streets once more.

It was pleasant to him, being able to walk the streets without having cheering and people fawning over him. Though of course it was loud and bustling, the noise was nothing compared to that of a cheering mass and for the most part people moved of their way, though usually it was with a look of surprise at the presence of the two with a flaming bird perched upon the blond boys shoulder. Of course some people murmured their greetings to Mordred he was slightly disappointed none addressed Amir. He felt that the Rider was far more note worthy and should be recognised far sooner than he, especially considering that his near all black wardrobe barely made him stand out against the dull colours of the men around them.

Once again they passed through the cities vast walls, though this time not guarded by knights but the soldiers in their uniform appearance, and far more of them besides. They kept a fairly loose vigilance over the gateway which stood open allowing all to pass freely. In truth this far into the interior there was little to worry about, there were frequent patrols all throughout the city yet most of the gangs resided further out from the Keep, though it was the more organised the cunning criminal elements that eluded the cities guards this far in. It was much harder to route out those hiding behind masks of nobility compared to those who wore their hostility open for all to see and fear.

The second tier of the city was as lively as the one before, though the age difference was far smaller. No longer did bands of children run through the streets or old men and women pass by on their way to old friends. Now young men and women walked with their young children from shop to shop as they sold their wares from behind long windows. He felt a familiar pang in his chest as he saw fathers buying their young children small wooden toys or their mothers looking at their child with such a fierce pride burning in their eyes that they would do anything for their young son. He always walked quickly past these sights lest the feelings of remorse over what he had never had, perhaps never would give, caused him to miss a step. He resolved to distract himself by trying to pick out individual songs that played from the music halls, whore houses and taverns that dotted the way. There was always too many playing from too many directions for him to figure out which was which. The second tier was always a bustle of light and colour and sound and wonder. "I enjoy walking the streets here sometimes. The bards play sweet songs from the far Reaches and there are always interesting tales to be heard here. This is the beating heart of the Amstrian people, not that great edifice in its centre." He breathed in deeply, enjoying the rich smell of food all around him, bread just finished baking and beef being slowly roasted, the heady scent of ale in the taverns and the strange mixture of earthy smells that came from many stews being cooked. Oh yes, he enjoyed it here.

"Through here, it should bring us closer to the nearest clothing district." Mordred gestured down an alleyway that cut between the long row of buildings. The alleyway had a long and gentle curve that arched with the natural curve of the city, it was frequently crossed throughout by other alleyways allowing one to go towards other sections if they wished. It was at one of these crossroads they were intercepted.

It was not a particularly dark place and the sounds of the city around them were not vanished, though they were faded. And yet out of the dark ahead of them, a fat man detached himself from the shadows. He had a mean scowl locked into his face and deep set eyes that looked down on the two boys with a look of natural malcontent. As if by some silent signal other figures detached themselves to surround the pair, coming from all sides of the crossroad, even behind them. Mordred subtly raised a hand to Amir, hoping he would let him do the talking here. One wrong action here could get them both killed.

"Well well well. What do we have here then lads?" The fat man stepped closer to the pair and leaned down to Mordred. He could smell the stench of far too much ale and onions on his putrid breath. "Well I'll be fucking blessed. If it isn't Mordred the fucking Black." He flashed an unpleasant grin of black and rotten teeth, before turning his attention to Amir. "And who's this little strumpet eh? Looks like the famous Prince Prol-eeeeees has finally found himself a friend." The men around them laughed cruel hearted barks. "What you doing down here little Mordred? Come here to suck my cock have you? Certainly heard you like to. Or are you planning on sucking his first so my men know they're in for a good time?" Most of the men laughed again, hardly seeming to care if they were going to rob the pair, rape them, or both. Though a few didn't laugh as hard as the others, if at all. No doubt the idea of raping two boys didn't really stir anything in them, though the robbing perhaps. Had it been two girls however, no doubt it would have already begun.

Mordred throughout had managed to keep and expression of steely calm, weathering the insults with silence. As the laughter was beginning to die down again he spoke. His voice carrying a gentle, almost genuine friendship in its tone.
"Be that as it may, and whilst I'm sure that you would all enjoy my... Company lets put it. I'm a firm believer of being on first names basis of those who would bed me. Though I suppose introductions are not needed are they, Killian?" The mans look of vile malcontent quickly melted into stumped confusion. He had been certain that Mordred did not know who he was. "Oh I know all about you." Mordred continued, as if he could read the larger mans mind. "And while I'm certain your company would enjoy my presence I'm not entirely sure they enjoy yours. Especially considering you kindly helped yourself to half of Amidaus's pay last week." He inclined his head towards one of the men standing behind them.
"What? You did what boss?"
"No. I fucking didn't, don't listen to this fucker. He's trying to play you for a fucking idiot." The expression of shocked confusion contorted into the anger of a wild beast. "You. I'll fucking bash your fucking head in and take your money now."
"Oh I'm sure you will. And then, in the middle of the night when you are sound asleep. They'll come for you." The pretence of friendship melted from his voice with every word until there was nothing but icy cold left. "When you are sound asleep and tucked up in bed, they'll come for you. And I don't think your daughter will be treated very well now will she? Little Mellisant I believe?" Killians eyes widened in shock as he reeled backwards, Mordred was pleased to see the colour drain from his face, though he didn't allow himself a smile. His face remained a black slate of indifference throughout.
"How the fuck did you-"
"You've got a daughter boss?" Interrupted one voice.
"I thought you never shagged anyone these days."
"Yeah, certainly not by their choice anyway."
"Have you been swindling us to pay for your fucking sprog?"
"What? You think he's holding out on us?" Killian quickly saw the tide was turning on him and knew it was time to cut his losses.
"Fucking shut it. The lot of you. We'll discuss this back at house. Is that fucking understood? Now come on." The group quickly followed Killian as he all but ran further into the alley. Amidaus hesitated for a moment, offering Mordred a grim nod before following. Mordred didn't offer anything in return.

When he was sure the outlaws had all vanished Mordred released a pent up breath in a sudden sigh and slumped against the nearest wall his balance faltering him in his relief. He hadn't been sure that would have even worked. He covered his face with his gloved hand in attempt to compose himself once more and then suddenly remembered Amir was there. And Amir had heard the bastard casually announce his preference for the company of men. His cheeks shot through with scarlet and he could feel his mouth go dry, he couldn't even bring himself to lower his hand and look at the blond boy.
"Please, forget what you heard them say about who I prefer to bed. Such things are not exactly forbidden in Amstra. But the higher born one is, and the higher in the line of succession the greater the disgrace if it is discovered. It is one of the reasons I am seen as a failing by many, not just Trytheus. There are none other in this country that could be more disgraced for it... And I am... A failing." His voice stammered off into silence. It seemed fate way playing him a cruel hand, as he waiting for Amir to denounce him, cast him aside and declare him a betrayer of his duty to continue his line, to help the kingdom grow in the most simple way. As his childhood friends had.

As some of his mentors had.

As the man who should have been his surrogate father had.

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“Need I remind you I wear primarily all black?”

“Yeah, but you seem to dress well regardless of the damn color. Unless someone picked out all of your clothing you’d be better than I would.” Amir followed contently behind Mordred as the man decided the route that would best take them to some sort of fashion district. They walked in silence for the most part as they made their way through the large city of Amstra. The sheer amount of people was staggering as Amir’s home of Gnaji Town only housed a permanent residency of about two thousand with another two thousand, give or take, of nomadic tribes and merchants migrating through everyday to sell wares or replenish supplies. He watched as every once in awhile a citizen would give their regards to Mordred and Amir took note that he seemed to be well known in the city.

As they passed a second gate the atmosphere of the city once again gave way to something completely different to that of the other side of the wall. It was as if each section of the city housed a different ecosystem, carefully separated by large walls and heavy gates. This side was much less residential and much more artistic. The color, the mood, the people were lighter than that of the previous. The most significant change was the sudden wafting smell of cooking food. It made the emptiness of his stomach suddenly apparent and the boy found himself wishing he had picked food first over clothing, but he wasn’t about to change his mind now.

“Through here, it should bring us closer to the nearest clothing district.” Amir nodded, assured by Mordred of their route even as it turned off the main roads. It wasn’t until they got deeper into the alley, and farther from the main road, did the mood change. Amir could feel the eyes on them as they continued, bearing down on them like they were prey. He felt Hassan bristle against the back of his neck, the fire surrounding them brightening ever slightly. The boy felt his hand rest against the hilt of his sword that rested at his hip, but was stopped from taking action by Mordred’s hand.

The man with an unflattering smile and a portly stature reminded him distinctly of a farm pig, and he couldn’t keep his upper lip from curling in disgust. The pig man did himself no favors as he approached them, he must have felt brave surrounded by his lackeys, and if not for Mordred already waving him down the boy would have showed the pig the sharp end of his blade. He couldn’t help as his hand grasped the hilt of his blade so tightly his necks turned white as Pig addressed him as strumpet. It was a blast from the past he didn’t need and it took Hassan’s calming whispers to keep him grounded in place. The Pig reminded him of the low tier gangs in The Cape that thought themselves so high and mighty because Amir hadn’t found them yet when in actuality they weren’t important enough for Amir to turn his attention to them.

The actual comments were nasty enough, and though the boy had been putting together Mordred leaned towards the company of men, for some stranger to throw it in their faces was revolting. He was getting ready to discard Mordred’s original gesture to stand down in favor of crippling the lot of them when they boy began a verbal counter attack.

Amir felt his grip on the sword lessen as his glare morphed to a confident smirk as Mordred turned the tides of the confrontation with his words alone. As the thugs retreated at command of Pig Man, Amir flipped the bird at their backs as they left. He turned with a huge smile and was going to congratulate the boy on his total annihilation of the pig man when Mordred seemed to completely deflate once they were alone.

“Ah, fuck, Mor you good? That was fucking sick, but are you feeling right?”

“Please, forget what you heard them say about who I prefer to bed. Such things are not exactly forbidden in Amstra. But the higher born one is, and the higher in the line of succession the greater the disgrace if it is discovered. It is one of the reasons I am seen as a failing by many, not just Trytheus. There are none other in this country that could be more disgraced for it... And I am... A failing.” Amir felt his fists clench at his side. Trytheus was constantly voicing his opinions of good and ‘doing the right thing’, but he always seemed to conveniently forget these long and drawn out lectures when situations became more complex, as they always did. “Gentle Amir, be gentle.”

He reached up and grabbed the boy’s hand that was covering his face. Amir dragged it down so they were making eye contact, his brown eyes meeting the other’s icy blue ones. Amstra’s culture had driven the boy into this spiral of self hatred, and Trytheus seemed personally responsible for a lot of the boy’s turmoil. Yet another reason to dislike the hulking hunk of armor.

“Fuck all that shit Mor. Firstly, it shouldn’t matter which genitals get you going. Does it affect your personality? No. Your job performance, or skill set? No. So how are you failing, because you won’t have a fucking small thing full of your blood? Because you are Morrela? The Rider reincarnation is fucking random, human bloodlines play no part in it so you shouldn’t have to feel a responsibility, that’s fucking stupid. Did you even witness how you fucking just used your words to fucking ruin Pig Man? I was getting ready to fucking cripple the lot of ‘em, no way I could have done what you did. Plus, I know I don’t give a damn if you like dick, and neither does Hassan, so don’t worry about what we fucking think.”

“Now come on, let’s go fucking shopping.”


“Amir, that was not gentle.”

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It wasn't a pleasant feeling that gripped him when Mordred felt Amir grab his hand, his body tensed as it anticipated for Amir to strike him in some form. And yet, nothing came. He desperately wanted to look away from Amir, to avoid the depths of those brown eyes, yet found he couldn't bring himself to break eye contact. He was reminded once again of Trytheus, those eyes too were brown and filled with stern determination. But this was a different look entirely. It was... Caring perhaps?

He listened to Amir with an almost confused silence. Usually it was that men spoke with such conviction and anger in their voice was because someone had wronged them, or someone they were connected to. But then the realisation struck him, that Amir wasn't carrying the tone of annoyance in some form of false friendship, the anger wasn't directed at him, but at Amstra itself? Or perhaps it was directed at one far more specific individual.

It still felt strange though, for Amir to be so adamant about trying to support him, most either rejected it or accepted it as some small part of his personality that didn't need referring to. Even the few he had ever managed to convince to spend the night with had hardly made any allusions to it being a prominent part of either of their lives. He had to wonder that when two young lovers courted each other they spoke of each other with support and care to simply acknowledged their presence? But this seemed something all together different to him, all together alien.

And then he realised, that of course it would. Gnaji was not Amstra, it stood to reason that Amir would view it all differently. He had no idea how the social politics of the distant desert even worked. It could be that any there were free to act as they wished, or perhaps that none dared question the Riders personal tastes, as they did in Amstra. Either way it was one of the things he desperately wanted to change in Amstra.

"Now come on, let’s go fucking shopping." He didn't know how to properly react to this entire thing now. Amir spoke harshly but with a kindness at the same time, and seemed only to want to support Mordred in his entirety. Part of him wanted to break all sense of composure and wrap his arms around Amir, gushing his thanks for his words. Another part of him wanted to up and run, hardly willing to allow himself to trust that this was not some cruel joke on Amirs part. Yet another part wanted to ask Amir what his... Take on the whole thing was, what really was the norm in Gnaji. But with all these conflicting emotions all he could manage was a meek nod, and throughout it all he hadn't been able pull his eyes away from those brown pools.

He slowly pushed himself up from the wall stepped away from Amir. Only then could he pull his gaze away from the blond boy beside him. What was happening to him? Had a little bit of friendship turned him into a moonstruck fool? He tried to steel his resolve once more and step further into alleyway. Yet he was aware that he couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't give away just how jumbled his thoughts were right now. He led them both out of the alleyway as soon as possible, trying to get back to the light and sound of the street once more. Perhaps there he could focus on something for long enough for him to be able to recollect himself.

It didn't take them all that long to return to the business of the street once more. Everything was exactly as if they had never nearly brushed with their untimely deaths in the dark. Though this part of the city had far less music leaking from the buildings, nor were there the smells of fresh food permeating the air, instead there was now the faint and peculiar smell of fresh dyes underlining the air ever so subtly. Mordred picked his way through the bustling crowd of well dressed people, mostly nobles and their servants, and finally managed to make his way to a corner shop which had a single door, which had only recently been painted a fresh and shiny brown.

Inside the sounds of the outside faded away, only to be replaced with the sound of pleasant conversation and every now and then the snipping of scissors. Bolts of cloth were stacked up by the door and rows of well dressed mannequins stood besides rails where different assorted clothes could be found, coats and shirts of every colour and design were juxtaposed by the piles of simple trousers nearby. It didn't take long at all for someone to come up to them.

It was a short women who had only recently gone past middle age and the touch of time was only starting to show on her face. The first hints of wrinkles touched just under her eyes and the short hair about her temple was starting to show small streaks of grey, yet despite that her eyes themselves held the look of one used to finding faults and her mouth was drawn in a constant frown, though it didn't help much she was holding a pair of pins in one corner of her mouth. Upon seeing Mordred though, her expression quickly brightened up.
"Oh Mordred, it's good to see!"
"It's always good to see you Cas. You've hardly aged a day." The two embraced, though Mordred had to twist slightly to avoid being stabbed by the pins that somehow failed to fall from her mouth. Mordred turned to Amir, though he made sure that he didn't let himself look into Amirs eyes again.
"Amir, this is Cassandra, the genius behind my clothes." Cassandra laughed at the compliment.
"Oh please boy, you'll give me an ego. Mordred is always the one to decide what he thinks is going to look good on him and I just make sure he's right." Here the short woman leaned closer to Amir. "I think he secretly always wanted to work here but duty calls as they say. Keep it between us eh?" Mordred felt a hint of a smile trying to pull at the side of his mouth as he shook his head.
"You always know how to wound me Cas. Amir, why don't you look around, see if there's anything you like here, I think Cas and I are going to have to see if we can whip up something between us to surprise you." The short woman rubbed her hands as she gave Amir a devilish grin, somehow sizing him up in a single look before grabbing Mordred by the sleeve and dragging him to one side of the store. He managed to flash Amir an apologetic half smile to Amir before letting himself be carried away. He hoped Amir wouldn't find his being dragged away by a woman shorter than both of them to be too rude. Though as he thought about it, it was likely that Amir would just see the comedic value of it.

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The silence that followed after Amir finished wasn’t that comforting. Maybe Hassan was right, he should have tried to tone it down a little bit, maybe not have been as vulgar, or gone about it a differently than he had. He wasn’t good with sensitive situations or being gentle as Hassan had put it. He watched as Mordred slowly seemed to pull himself together, though the entire time the boy was staring at him, making direct eye contact. It was when Mordred finally did look away did the silence feel that much more awkward. They walked in silence as the boy continued to lead them to their destination and Amir tried going over how he could have gone about the situation in a better way.

It was then he found that they were in front of a small looking clothing boutique. It was small, but homely looking, as if he was excepting someone close to him to be inside waiting for his arrival. The inside was just the same, the sounds of the street damped by the walls and clothing that surrounded them, but the layout was organized in such a way that he could tell the tailor was skilled. Talented people had a knack for making even simple things look extremely eye pleasing.

Amir turned when a small, older, woman greeted Mordred. He allowed them their reunion, clearly the two were close friends. It was nice to see that the boy did have friends in the city, after his mini breakdown it seemed that Mordred had very few people that he could call a friend. Mordred could prove to actually be a good friend, something Amir himself didn’t have a lot either, something he wouldn’t mind too much. He straightened a little bit as started to be addressed by Mordred.

“Amir, this is Cassandra, the genius behind my clothes.”
Amir gave a polite nod to the older woman, but as she addressed him he leaned forward as she in faux secret passed him some more information on Mordred. Amir felt himself smile as he looked up at Mordred, he didn’t miss as the boy purposely avoided eye contact, but didn’t verbally note it for now. If it kept up he’d apologize for what he had said earlier as he hadn’t actually meant to offend the boy. “I knew you had an eye clothing Mor, trying to hold out on me you fucker.”

“You always know how to wound me Cas. Amir, why don't you look around, see if there's anything you like here, I think Cas and I are going to have to see if we can whip up something between us to surprise you.” Amir quirked an eyebrow as the old woman sized him up like a piece of meat, the second time today someone had looked at him as if he were a prey animal, but this time he found he didn’t mind it too much. [b][color=#b03f02]“You kids go have a blast, I’ll be here.”

He found himself laughing as the small woman eagerly dragged the boy off some where to hopefully make some magic. Amir himself turned to actually examine the interior of the store. There was clothing stacked everywhere. It was chaotic, yet organized clothing stacked everywhere, and when Amir ran his fingers over the fabric he could tell they were made out of quality materials. He examined a mannequin, taking in the elaborate design of the clothing and the complexity of it all. In Gnaji clothing was stylized in the town and you could find one or two higher end clothing retails, but almost all clothing was variation of the white robes he wore. It was simply because the clothing design was best suited for the desert, light weight, but thick enough to keep the sun off your skin. Most diversity came from the accessories people wore, in Amir’s case he kept it to the simple and cheap golden bangles. They didn’t get in his way and when throwing a kick or blocking a sword proved an asset in battle.

The clothing in Amstra, was all in sets of multiple parts. There were trousers, simple enough, but the mannequin in front of him was decorated with belts, one functional, the rest decorative he supposed. The mannequin wore a deep purple dress shirt, and a long white white that reached just below the knees of the black trousers. The mannequin was donned with a few metal necklaces and finally a black top hat and with a purple feather sticking out of it. Everything about it seemed restrictive and Amir suddenly felt apprehensive about changing from the comfort of his robes to anything that even looked vaguely like the mannequin.

“Amir, this would look good on you.” Amir turned to where Hassan was perched on a piece of wooden table with no fabric on it and a bright red garment pinched in its beak. He walked over and snatched it from the bird and held it before himself. It was the color of Hassan, but maybe an even more saturated red if possible with impossibly puffy sleeves and ruffles going all the way down the front. He shot a look at his beast, but pulled it on over his robes anyways. It was a size too big and even without looking in a mirror he could tell he looked ridiculous, so he might as well go all the way. He began skimming the store for random articles to fit his vision, Hassan chirping at him every once in awhile to add something.

When he was done Amir was sure he looked a right mess. He had slipped a floor length plaidweave skirt on that’s main color was a sickly yellow, he had the red puffy skirt still on with a bright green scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. Amir had just happened to spot a collection of accessories and was sporting the most handsome of monocles and had finished the look with the black top hat that he had seen on the first mannequin with the white coat.

“What do you think Hassan, am I to die for?”

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It didn't take Cassandra very long to drag Mordred to where small stacks of paper sat next to a shelf. Finally letting go of the poor boy Cassandra knelt down and quickly began leafing through the sheets, handing a few choice ones to Mordred. Drawn on them were pictures of different kinds of clothing, drawn as though being worn by a person in a number of different poses. As Mordred sifted through these, trying to find some he felt would suit Amirs frame, when he realised that a few of these were actually his own drawings. He felt a pull of pride at his chest that he had perhaps helped to make Amstra perhaps a bit more bright and lively. Cassandra hadn't been wrong that part of him had wanted to work here as a child.

Cassandra stopped handing up the sheets once Mordred started placing the rejected ideas on the floor. The short woman stood up and tried to peer round Mordred as he placed the designs he felt would work on the table. She looked up at Mordred as his eyes drifted from the sheets of paper over to Amir as he was practically throwing anything he encountered onto himself.
"That boy means something to you, doesn't he?" Cassandra commented. Mordred couldn't help jumping slightly at that.
"What? I... Cas, I only met him a few hours ago. It's hardly like some fairy tale here."
"Hmmm, perhaps not. But I know how your mind works, boy. Your head always goes at a million miles an hour and your heart isn't far behind." Mordred snorted out a laugh.
"Don't be ridiculous. Even if I had thought anything like that it wouldn't come of anything. You know all about why such things just wouldn't be allowed. Besides, he's a Rider, they're far more important than you or I, he wouldn't be the least bit interested. No, all I'm doing is showing him that not everyone in Amstra is like the king." Cassandra gave Mordred a dubious look as she picked up the sheets he had chosen so that should go find the clothes themselves.
"If that's the case why can't you look him in the eye?"

Mordred had to admit to himself he didn't have an answer to that one. As Cassandra hurried off to elsewhere in the shop in her hunt for the different items of clothing, he was left alone to mull that one over. Was he afraid that some part of him would try to become attached to the blond boy? Or that Amir thought he was developing feelings? Both of these would be nonsense, Amir would certainly want no part of it, that much was without a doubt. So why couldn't he look at him? It was possible his body just didn't know how to react to someone being actually supportive of him, considering he had only just met Amir earlier that day.

It didn't take Cassandra long to return with the clothes and all but pushed them into Mordreds hands, insisting that he be the one to carry them over to Amir. He was reluctant at first, but if he didn't do it now then it would never get done and he would just fall into the well of self doubt that lurked just at the fringes of his mind. Steeling himself and hopefully looking like he had never lost his composure he returned to where he had last seen Amir.

"What do you think Hassan, am I to die for?" Mordred had to bite the inside of his mouth to stop himself from laughing. Amir looked like he had grabbed anything within reach and then stuck it to just about any part of his body he could manage. The mix match of colours and different styles was such an abomination to art that he could only hope that Cassandra didn't happen to walk by. He could only begin to imagine how quickly she would try to scold Amir on the spot, and he didn't exactly doubt it wouldn't work either.

"And you said I was the fashionable one?" He spoke, trying very hard to try to sound as if the disaster before him was the most normal thing in the world. He managed to look into Amirs eyes for just a second before looking down at the bundle of clothing he held in his hands, it was something at least. He held out the bundle to Amir, trying to look as though he was making sure none of it fell on the floor. "Here, I think these will look good on you. Please do let me know if I'm mistaken."

The bundle itself wasn't exactly in line with Amstrian fashion but Mordred had instead decided to model it more along the lines of the clothing Amir seemed to prefer to wear. Trying to cut any larger bulkier items down to a minimum but not skimping out on warmth. The bundle contained a black leather waistcoat, which would hopefully work well at insulating along with providing some resistance to both wet and cold. A long crimson set of robes, with trimmings of gold running cross the frames and edging the hood in flames. Though these robes were different from the ones that Mordred had worn over his armour, where those had been one full piece that could just be thrown on and then tied together. These robes instead required the wearer to step into them to put them on, as they had a belt built in, which the top half slopped down towards leaving the centre of the chest bare, whilst underneath it had a long strip of cloth to cover the groin downwards whilst it left the front of the legs exposed. Mordred had also had the sense to include some brown linen breaches, so that Amir wasn't just walking around with his undercarriage exposed for the entire world to see in the event of a light breeze. Though they wouldn't do much to keep his legs warm from the knees down, he just had to hope that the robes would do that job instead. He had considered getting some boots for Amir too, but considering he didn't know what size to look for and the fact that would have taken time for them to be broken in, he opted against that option.

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“And you said I was the fashionable one?” Amir spun to face Mordred with a grin on his lips. He was squinting his features to keep the monocle on, and as he turned his foot caught the end of the skirt that nearly caused him to topple over. Amir caught himself, barely, and when he looked to Mordred their eyes met for just a moment before the other boy went to looking at the outfit Amir had crafted for himself. Maybe he hadn’t offended the boy as much as previously suspected. “Here, I think these will look good on you. Please do let me know if I'm mistaken.”

He took the bundle of clothing from the boy, what stood out was the red of one of the pieces, it was a deep crimson that was beautifully accented by golden trimming. The boy nodded at Mo’s comment and briefly looked around for some sort of changing area. There were none in his immediate sight, and not being one to investigate further Amir began to disrobe in the middle of the store. As he saw it there weren’t that many people in the store, he’d be fine. He was in the middle of slipping his white robes off his shoulders, the other pieces discard next to him, when Hassan yanked at his hair. “Amir please, I shouldn’t have to tell you not to undress in public. There is a room further back.”

He sighed as Hassan switched its hold from his hair to his sleeve and began leading the boy in the direction of the changing room. He turned his head to give a lazy salute to Mordred, rolling his eyes and jabbing his thumb in the direction of his beast. “Hassan likes to take charge in our relationship, I’ll be back when we’re done.”

He laughed as Hassan gave a sharp tug on his sleeve that had him stumbling after the bird. Hassan directed them to an area of the boutique that looked like it was made for people to try attire on. A few stalls with swinging doors and Hassan pulled them into the the closest one. His bird landed in the corner and peered up at him disapprovingly, but didn’t make any comment. Amir rolled his eyes again and began to shimmy out of the white robes. “I wasn’t really going to change out there Hassan.”

“Yes you were.”

“Shut up.” Amir examine the pants first. They seemed the easiest to maneuver. They were a deep brown trouser made of what felt like starched cotton. They were stiff, but nothing that couldn’t be worn down and hit right below his knees. The second piece he picked up was a leather vest looking article the same color as the trousers, but after careful consideration he decided that would have to go on last. The boy turned his attention to the red colored robe. He ran his fingers over the fabric and it felt like the expensive silk that the bed in the keep was made of. Holding it up he tried to decide the best way to go about wearing it. The hood and sleeves made it easy to see which way went forward. In the end he decided stepping into the garment would be easiest. Once his arms were through and the robe rested correctly on his body Amir found he could better understand its design. The hood was currently draped over his head and the seamed cutout traveled down to a deep v that exposed almost all his chest. He could see the large scar over his heart that marked him the Phoenix Rider and curled his lip at it. It was the only scar the rider bore since Phoenix tears healed the rest of his injuries in their entirety. He looked at the rest of the robe, the belt cinched his waist and gave him a more refined silhouette instead of a straight cut that clothing lacking a belt offered. The robe stretched all the way down to his ankles, the front cut so that both his legs were free and given their full range and the back was one block covering his back with a slit going done the middle to offer the most freedom. He finally grabbed the dark brown waistcoat. It was made of leather and looked very form fitting. It was all leather with two buckling latches off-center on the left side. As he clipped the buckles into place the boy gave a final tug to the piece making sure it was secure. He finished by retying the sheath for his sword to his hip and Hassan clucked at him as he gathering up his white robes.

“Don’t objectify me Hassan, I’m not some plaything.” He liked it though, he had been afraid the clothing he’d be given would be stuffy and stiff like the mannequins had been, but was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. He especially liked that with the robes, even though his wrists were covered the golden accessories he always sported seemed to stand out greatly now against his darker color scheme. Pushing the door open he set out to find Mordred in the store.

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Mordred couldn't help blinking three times in quick succession at the spectacle unfolding before him. Was Amir teasing him? Trying to pass along some subtle signs? Did he just have no sense of decency? The blond boy just brought up as many questions as he answered.

He nodded belatedly at Amir as he was taken away to the changing stalls. He had to wonder just how the relationship between beast and Rider worked. Neither one not the other appeared to be in charge of the pair, yet they didn't seem to argue over it either. It could be possible that as their souls were bound that seemed to have some form of tandem mind which made cooperation much simpler for the two. Or perhaps it was the simple fact that has known each other for years that have each other their familiarity. It was a shame he could never find out for himself the truth of the matter and he wasn't particularly sure Amir would indulge him the truth of the matter either. Besides, that was hardly the most pressing question he wanted to ask.

He was starting to wonder if Amir had managed to get lost in the small store when he remurged. It was with no small relief to see that the clothing not only fitted Amirs frame perfectly, but also seemed to suit him well too. Of course it likely helped matters that the designs weren't the typical Amstrian fashion. He gave a slow, pleased applause as Amir approached.
"Amir, you look incredible. I hope you find it to your liking too because I think you just added a flare of fashion to the city." He held a pleased look as he cast an approving gaze up and down Amirs form, but then quickly diverted his eyes to the coinpouch on his hip as he took out some gold coins. He didn't want Amir to think he was looking at him for the wrong reasons. After all, he didn't want to offend with any unwelcome advances.

He counted out some of the coins and placed them in the table next to him when he both heard and felt his gut grumbling, clearly annoyed at being ignored. "Now that that is out of the way, what do you say to finally finding ourselves some food? And perhaps we should avoid the alleyways this time " He managed a weak smile and just hoped his voice didnt sound as wavering out loud as it did in his head.

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Amir beamed and took a deep bow as Mordred applauded his return. There was nothing Amir liked more than compliments, and he ate up the words Mor gave to him. When he looked at Mor he did notice that the boy seemed to purposely be avoiding eye contact, and found he wanted to say something, but held his tongue for the time being. If he brought it up and the conversation turned sour they probably wouldn’t be going to get food. Amir was starving.

"Now that that is out of the way, what do you say to finally finding ourselves some food? And perhaps we should avoid the alleyways this time "
Amir felt his eyes light up when Mor finally mentioned getting food. He wanted a meal, something heavy and warm, like a stew or a pot roast. He voiced his opinion to Mordred as well.

“Oh hell fuckin yeah. I’m so hungry I could eat a sand worm, the whole motherfucking thing. Let’s go somewhere we can sit down and eat some good ass food.” Mordred seemed to ponder the statement for a moment before they left the store, clearly the boy had a place in mind. Mordred led them back through the streets of Amstra, sticking strictly to well populated roads this time, as he said he would, and Amir was able to get a better idea of the city life of civilians. It was very fast paced, everyone moving constantly, but even so it didn’t appear like many of them were actually in a rush. Most of the groups walking were either couples or families window shopping at the vast amount of colorfully decorated shops. It was quaint, a good place to raise a family.

“You know, this place isn’t too bad when Trytheus isn’t around to annoy the shit out of you.” He could almost hear the exasperated comment from Hassan as the bird tightened its grip on his shoulder. He smirked, but didn’t say anything to match his beast’s silence. Instead he chose to watch Mordred as they walked, examining the finer points of the boy’s features. He had a sharp jawline, it cut his features cleanly and articulated his face shape well. But that was overshadowed by the bright blue of his eyes. In Gnaji blue eyes were rare, and in many tribes celebrated, so to see such a brilliant shade stirred something in him. Even if he couldn’t hold a flame to Dae, there was no doubt that anyone would label Mordred as handsome. He also remembered that while in Wolfbane slave traders would buy and sell blue-eyed people for a higher price and they were seemingly more valuable.

“Has anyone tried to kidnap you before?” He blurted it out without thinking, and wondered if it was a bit too inappropriate thing to say to someone you barely knew. Hassan gave his shoulder another tight squeeze which probably indicated that it was. Amir looked away from the boy after, suddenly self-conscious and up at the building they had stopped in front of. A stone building as in front of them, it wasn’t too large, but like the looks of it, and the smells coming out of it, the building was a restaurant. It had the boy’s stomach gurgling and at the forefront of his mind. Food, he wanted food.

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"Oh hell fuckin yeah. I’m so hungry I could eat a sand worm, the whole motherfucking thing. Let’s go somewhere we can sit down and eat some good ass food." Mordred raised a quizzical eyebrow as he led Amir out of the door and into the street once more.
"Those truly exist? I always thought they were nothing more than a myth. Surely there can't be enough sand for them to burrow well." After all, he reasoned, even the dirt gives way to stone if one digs deep enough.

The streets had calmed down a slight amount in their absence. It was just about the first hour past noon, judging on the sun as it peeked behind the clouds, which was the usual time most ate their midday meal. It made sense though that most would chose to either wait a little bit or eat a bit earlier, so as to avoid the crowding that sometimes happened around the more popular food business's. Still, he walked quickly through the crowd, focusing on picking his path in between the small clumps of people when the gaps formed. Most were too preoccupied with the shops around them to really notice the pair walking by.

"You know, this place isn’t too bad when Trytheus isn’t around to annoy the shit out of you." Mordred had to chuckle at that. Trytheus did have a certain way to rub people the wrong way with an almost unnatural skill. He had to wonder if it was the mans personality that caused it or he just held the kind of aura that made people feel generally uneasy and angry. It was like the man was angry bear, unpredictable and dangerous and not just a little irritating to try to placate.
"Us mortal folk do tend to be a little more amenable compared to the Riders, present company excluded of course. Its just that... Well, we've grown used to our own Rider being as he is that any others are viewed with a bit of suspicion when it turns out they don't act the same."

It didn't take much longer for the smells of gently cooking food to return pleasantly. Though it had taken them longer than if they had decided to go through the alleyways again, Mordred was reluctant to going through there again right now. He wasn't exactly sure if more fiends were lurking the shadows, nor would he be sure that he could simply deflect them this time. And though he didn't doubt Amirs fighting skill he wasn't exactly willing to risk a sword fight in such enclosed quarters if at all possible. He was however now at a crossroads at where to go to find food. It would be possible to find a good tavern, but he wasn't exactly in the mood for the stuffy air and overpowering smell of ale that followed every meal there. Instead that left him to decide which shop would work well enough, some places knew him and some didn't. Either group would work, but perhaps it would be good to demonstrate some proper wholesome Amstrian food to Amir that came from the simple folk rather than the cooks in the Keep. With his destination set he set his quick pace off once more, trusting Amir to be able to follow in good step.

They came up to the stone buildings where Mordred was sure he could find something good to eat. Customers usually tended to buy their food and then leave to eat elsewhere so he was fairly confident that they could get something to eat without waiting in a long line when he heard Amir behind.
"Has anyone tried to kidnap you before?"
He stopped dead in his tracks. Had anyone tried to kidnap him? No, of course not, that would be ridiculous wouldn't it?

He couldn't help but remembering his childhood. The last day of his childhood. His father had left earlier to go on a boar hunt, his father loved to hunt, the hall was lined with the heads of his kills that he loudly liked to boast about. Though Mordred couldn't remember the tales of the hunt his father had told him as a child, he remembered he always felt happy at his fathers happiness.

Ancestors he remembered it all.




"Mordred? Are you in here?" The young boy stilled a giggle as his nursemaid walked past his hiding spot behind a wicker basket. He had managed to slip away from her whilst she was looking out of a window and had spent the last ten minutes hiding from her. "Well if you're not in here I suppose I'll just have to have afternoon tea without you." His ears pricked up at the thought of not being able to have his beloved lemon cakes. That just wouldn't do!

"I'm here!" He cried, jumping out from behind the basket. The four year old boy had done a surprisingly good job of curling up into a ball so that he couldn't be seen. His nursemaid jumped back in mock surprise, a hand flying to her heart.
"My Mordred, you frightened me. I would never have found you there!" She moved quickly to pick the young boy up before he could scurry off again, eliciting a fit of giggles as he was lifted into the air. "Come on then. Lets find you some cakes then shall we?" The young boy bounced happily against the nursemaids chest at the sound of finally getting his cakes.

She carried him through the stone halls, spring light bleeding through the open castle windows that light up the stone in a wondrous yellow light. The young boy made a game of trying to grab the antlers of the heads that lined across the hall, actually managing to just about grasp the tip of one before his nursemaid caught what he was up to and stopped to see what exactly he was trying to grab over his shoulder. "Oh? What have you found there?" Turning to see the animals head mounted on the wall she smiled down at the boy in her arms. "What animal is that Mordred?"
"Is elk!" Mordred declared happily. The nursemaid looked down sternly at him.
"It is an elk, Mordred. Proper pronunciation is always important." The young boy nodded solemnly as he mouthed 'it is an' over and over.

The nursemaid carried the boy over to one of the wide window frames an sat against the stone sill. The castle that was the boys home sat atop a hill, in the middle of a huge woods, where trees sometimes reached as high as the castle walls themselves. If one looked very hard they could see the plains just beyond the edge of the treeline. Or they could look down where the trees were cut back from the walls and the huge track that was the main road up the gates of the castle and lose themselves in trying to watch the swaying of the branches. "Where do elk come from Mordred?"
"Out there! With the deer in the woods." The boy beamed up at his teacher.
"Very good, but you also find them out in the plains too. Deer are like us, they are happy wherever they are, as long as they are with their families." Mordred didn't really seem to take in the lesson as he looked out into the treeline, as though he was looking very hard to see if a herd of deer were looking back at him.
"Will I hunt deer one day?"
"I suppose you will, yes."
"I'm going to be the best hunter in the world!" Mordred declared happily. The nursemaid chuckled happily at the boys enthusiasm.
"I think your father may have to have words with you about that." The young boy didn't really know what to make of that so he returned to looking out of the window into the trees.

His eyes were suddenly drawn by a group of men riding fast towards the castle, with a wagon being pulled behind them. He recognised the pennon being flown by one of them as the banner of Mulasice, the banner of his home. The burning tree on a field of green was hoisted all around the castle that was home. He could see that the men didn't wear the shiny armour of the knights and instead wore simple browns and greens that could only mean it was his father, returning from the hunt he had departed on some day earlier
"Papa!" He called out, wriggling out of the nursemaids grip and speeding off down the halls, with the woman trying to give chase to young boy. Down the stone hall and down flights of twisting stairs until he came to a small door that opened out into the courtyard beyond.

The first thing he noticed as he exploded excitedly out was that he couldn't see his father. The men had arrived in the courtyard but everyone was clustered around the cart that had been following behind the party. He could see the group hurrying around then began to move towards the main doors of the castle, whilst he stood next to the door to one of the towers. He could see that in their midst that they were carrying someone. And as they got closer he could see that they were carrying his father. He didn't understand, he just looked like he was sleeping. But his face was pale and he was breathing fast and hard. Before he could hurry over to find out what was going on he felt his nursemaid snatch him up from behind, having finally caught up with him.
"Come away now Mordred, its time for your afternoon tea."
"Whats happened to papa? Is he alright?"
"He'll be fine. Come on now." She carried him inside once more.

The rest of the day passed with a sense like the air was holding its breath. Everyone moved with a nervous energy and people were often passing back and forth about the place with an uncertain look in their eye and quickness in their step. Mordred ate his evening meal alone that night, that never happened. The large seat at the table that was his fathers sat empty, whilst the smaller seat next to it was always empty. He had heard that that was his mothers seat, but he had never met his mother and didn't know exactly where she was. He had overheard some people whispering that she had passed away trying to give him to the world, but he didn't know what that meant either. Even some of the men who often wore shiny armour didn't eat with him.

That night he couldn't sleep. The way people were acting had left him restless and counting sheep was doing nothing to help him, so he decided to take a walk though the castle to try to tire himself out a bit. The castle was practically deserted and when he eventually did hear voices it was only two of them. He recognised one as Sir Mallisent, the man his father had called a 'master-at-arms' and Devon, the man who would sit on his fathers throne when his father was off hunting. He could just about make out what they were saying as he approached.

"-ou saw him in there. Don't tell me you think it's all going to go fine and dandy." The voice of Sir Mallisent. It sounded angry for some reason.
"I don't know! He has the kings blood in him, that must count for something." Devon sounded scared and confused.
"What good is that going to do him? How many men have you seen walk off being gored through the gut, Devon?"
"No many. But you don't know. It might be alright. We can't start to panic right now. After all, apothecary Casius said..."
"Never mind what the apothecary said, we still have to take precautions just in case. I have already sent a raven to the king. A contingent of knights will be here shortly."
"You've done what?! Sullest is still alive and you're already scheming up some plot?" It was here that Mordred, who had been leaning around the door frame of the room that the two men had been arguing in when Mallisent spotted his little face peering in.
"Mordred! What are you doing up? You should be abed!" He made a gesture and a guard who had been standing just out of sight emerged. The man smiled kindly to the little boy and made to pick up him.
"Come on now little one, Sir Mallisent is right. Lets get you back to bed."

The nervous air hung around for the next few days when it was broken suddenly by the arrival of strangers in the castle. The strange men rode in wearing shiney armour and held shields with a circle and a hammer painted on. Behind the men a covered carriage followed shortly behind. Mordred was brought not long after they had arrived. One of the men was talking to Sir Mallisent, who quickly concluded their conversation and strode over to the boy. He armoured man knelt down and smiled at the boy, but the boy couldn't help but notice the smile didn't really each the mans eyes.
"Hello there, Mordred. I am Lord Kalice, and I am here to take you to the capital. You're going to be the ward of the king, it's a very high honour thats only afforded to you because he is your spiritual ancestor. Did you know that?" The young boy gave a confused nod. He didn't like the man, he just felt... Wrong. All together alien to him, in the way he talked to the way his voice just held the underline sound of someone who gets whatever he wants no matter what he must do for it. Kalice stood up and placed a hand on the back of Mordreds head, guiding him over to the carriage. He looked back to the castle to see if he was doing the right thing. He would have bolted back there if he didn't see his nursemaid stood by the steps to the doors nodding him onwards. It looked like she was fighting back tears and he could feel them welling up inside himself. He didn't understand what was going on.

He was urged, fairly roughly inside the carriage. Thankfully Kalice didn't try to follow him inside and instead shut the door behind him, locking the latch so he could escape. He almost fell over as the carriage lurched forwards and he tried desperately to look out of the window as the castle fell away. As he was forced to leave his home behind.

He didn't understand why this was happening. And it wouldn't be for another ten years until he had the chance to return to his home.




Mordred felt a shuddering breath leave his lips. He quickly blinked away the sting in his eyes as tears threatened to form. His gaze slowly dropped to the sword at his hip, the last and only piece of his father that he had to remember him by. His father had died whilst he had been on the road to city. He hadn't even been able to return to say goodbye as his father was entombed. It took him ten years until he could finally say his farewells. Ten long years too late. But surely the men had taken him away for his own good. They had taken him to learn with the best, to be moulded into a steadfast knight and a protector of the people. They had taken him so that he could fulfil his duty to his name, his people, his eternal ancestor. Could anyone really call that kidnapping if it were done with such good intentions in mind?

"Yes." He answered weakly, he couldn't fail to hear just how pathetic and soft his voice was. He stepped inside the stone building quickly, trying to get away from the spot so the feelings of sorrow welling up in chest couldn't follow him. Luckily inside there were few people and it was light and airy, the smell of food thick and appealing. There were a few tables that sat next to the open windows and most of them sat empty. Nor was there a cue so Mordred could quickly place the order. He ordered a pair of pastries for himself and Amir, they were semi-circles of thick pastries with even thicker crusts around the curved edge. He knew from experience that they held thick cuts of choice beef ass well as cubes of turnips, potatoes and diced onion, somehow they even managed to contain a thick and rich gravy. Thankfully two such pastries were sitting waiting to be ordered so they were handed over to him on a pewter platter. Mordred made his way over to one of the table and placed the platter down on the side. On the walk from counter to table he had kept his eyes downcast, to the casual observer it would look like he was just making sure they didn't slide off the platter but if one paid close attention they could see his eyes were unfocused as he wrestled on the inner conflict in himself, trying to cast away the long held sadness that festered in his heart. He sat down at the table and looked down at the pastries, watching the steam rising off of them. "Careful." He muttered, his voice still not returned to its normal joyful tones. "They're hot. Best to let them cool a bit."

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Mordred’s abrupt stop at the question had Amir’s guilt spiking. He had been hoping that the questioned would have been brushed off as Amir being an idiot, but he seemed to strike a chord within in Mordred. The boy stood frozen for a moment, his eyes distant as the replaying of an undoubtedly unpleasant memory was suddenly at the forefront of his mind. He watched as the boy came back from the memory an how he glanced down at the thin sword attached to his side. Mordred looked as though he was ready to cry.

“Yes.”
Mor didn’t look at him as he entered the building and Amir shuffled in quietly behind him. He wasn’t good with sensitive situations, he didn’t know how to deal with deal, or how to say the right things to make someone feel better, or say anything at all. His voice had been soft, and shaky, and anything but ok. Clearly Amir had overstepped a red lined boundary that should not have been crossed. Even as they sat Mordred made no attempt to mask his inner turmoil. His words were void of the soft, comforting tone that he had used since meeting Amir. Despite how hungry he had been on their walk over, the boy suddenly found he had no appetite. The wasn’t sure what exactly to do, or how to go about trying to comfort Mordred.

“Amir, you can’t just stare at him like a half-witted moron. Please, do something other than look uncomfortable and try to fix this.” Hassan didn’t normally take up a tone of annoyance with him. Amir was used to being bossed around and being mother-henned by his beast, but rarely did the bird ever take a tone of agitation with him. The bird was probably angry that one of his stupid, half thought, comments finally had repercussions. He glanced up at Mordred, watching the boy as he stared blankly at the steam, he really had no idea how to break the tension. Hesitantly, the boy reached over a grabbed Mordred’s hand, squeezing it and meeting the boy’s eyes.

“Mor, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories. I’m just a fucking idiot. It's your eyes, blue eyes are the most valuable in the slave trade, and yours are the brightest I've ever seen. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?” He didn’t know if Mordred would even want Amir to do anything. The boy knew from personal experience that he himself preferred locking away the unpleasant memories and pretending they never happened, but that wasn’t the case for everyone. Others needed to confide in others when something troubled them, and hell, Amir probably should have done that with his own issues, but it was too late for that now. Instead, he held Mordred’s gaze with steely determination, if Mor did have a request for him he’d definitely do it.

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Idiot. Compose yourself. Mordred berated himself as he sat across from Amir Acting sorry for yourself will not achieve anything. Worse you may drive him away. Get a grip. He blinked, holding his eyes shut for a moment, trying to bring himself back to his normal self. Nobody ever got anything done by being resentful of their childhood, and on top of that continuing as such would only sour the air between himself and Amir. So why was he acting like this? It could be possible that just the presence of a foreign entity was affecting him in unusual ways, or it could be a part of Amirs nature. He was more direct, more blunt and to the point than Mordred was used to. He held none of ulterior motives of the nobility. He was... Simpler than Amstra, he admired that.

His eyes shot open when he felt a gentle pressure on his hand. His heart gave an unusual flutter as he looked down to see Amir was holding his hand. Part of him wanted to just tear off his glove and actually feel the warmth of an others skin for the first time in far too many moons. It was like a craving in him to just reach out with his other hand and cusp Amirs in a similar gesture. And yet, at the same time part of him wanted to recoil, to hide himself away again and avoid the blond boys touch as best he could, he wasn't deserving of that tanned flesh anywhere near his. But he didn't do either, he wrestled away the desires of his heart and just let his hand stay there, held for just this brief moment underneath the black leather of his glove. His eyes were drawn back up to Amirs, where that same look of openness sat behind the veil of savagery. The same look he had seen in those brown pools back in the alleyway.

"Mor, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories. I’m just a fucking idiot. It's your eyes, blue eyes are the most valuable in the slave trade, and yours are the brightest I've ever seen. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?"
"Don't." Mordred smiled sadly, shaking his head. His voice had regained some of its familiar light again, he had to wonder how much was from his own attempt at recollecting himself and how much had been the sudden contact. "You couldn't have known, doubtless some would not consider it kidnap when the Order of the Forge comes to take you to learn at the heels of the king. No matter how unwilling you are to leave." He knew Amir wouldn't know exactly what he was talking about and he didn't much care, perhaps he would figure some parts out of his own initiative. But it was that part of the slave trade that caught his attention, such things had long been outlawed in Amstra, with great force at that. But Amir spoke of it as if he knew it personally. But he didn't have the air of the common bandit or merchant so it couldn't have been on the buyers side of the ordeal and he spoke with such familiarity of it that it seemed almost as if... It was a horrific idea to contemplate and he was afraid to ask about it. Some things were better left in the minds of long dead childhoods.
"There is one thing though. Tell me something, you speak with a... Fondness, a familiarity almost and a kindness that is rare found in Amstra. It is not often a person tells me that... Who I bed does not affect who I am, even the few who I have managed to convince to spend a night were not as kind with their words to say as such. But you, speak with conviction, pride almost, about the importance of its unimportant. Surely things cannot be so different in Gnaji that it is commonplace there for people to be allowed to pursue whoever they wish" He paused a moment, already regretting what he was about to say next. "Please, forgive me for assuming such things. But it sounds to me like you speak of such matters from the heart, out of experience of such things." It was the most tactile way he could think of asking after Amirs preference. And though he had to admit he admired Amirs looks, and they certainly were something unlike that in Amstra- blond hair and rich bronze skin was rare against the browns and blacks and light tans of summer especially compared to his own paler than normal skin, Amirs personality too was admirable in its plain and simple nature. But the fact he knew and understood so little about the blond boy intrigued him to no end that it seemed almost a drive to learn everything he could.

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“Don’t. You couldn't have known, doubtless some would not consider it kidnap when the Order of the Forge comes to take you to learn at the heels of the king. No matter how unwilling you are to leave.” Amir felt the tension in his gut ebb slightly as Mordred assured him that he held no will will towards him because of the question. The statement did have him cocking his head to the side slightly in confusion, curious to what he could mean by it, but the boy didn’t push the subject further. There was no need to test the waters any farther then he already had, least he oversteps his boundaries once again.

Happy, he turned his attention to the meat pie that say before him. The smell was decadent, the steam rising from the filling had him drooling and he didn’t hesitate to start his decimation of the meal. As Mordred started speaking again Amir didn’t stop eating, but he did take the time to look up between bites to acknowledge he was listening. He felt himself raise an eyebrow as Mor questioned the differences in their cultures, and even Amir’s own preferences. He shoveled the last bite of the food into his mouth before he sat back, chewing in contemplation of the questions and how to answer them.

“So, this your round-a-bout way of asking if you have a chance of getting in my pants?” The boy gave a light, humorful laugh before continuing, “If you must know, I don’t have a preference, I’ll go to bed with anyone I fucking please, man or woman. That’s not the reason I’m was so adamant, it’s mostly Try… He is such a loud-mouth about being a good person or what not, but he personally saw to driving you into that self-hatred.” He sighed in frustration dipping his head for a moment and rubbing his temples in frustration.

“And your preference for men, it is unimportant. Gnaji as a region is the polar fucking opposite of Amstra. This region is large, but it is one central culture as a whole. Gnaji Town is one of two population hubs, but the permanent population is only around 2,000. The rest is the nomadic tribes and clans and Gnaji hosts hundreds, maybe even fucking thousands of unique cultures each with their own rules and customs. Many don’t condemn homosexuality, but uplift it, sometimes worship it. The same goes for tribes that honor those who believe they were born the wrong gender, and give them special titles and roles within a community. So, actually, yes, homosexuality is commonplace. Gnaji is absolutely different from Amstra socially and economically, you’d surprised. I think all the regions are though.”


Amir thought back to his time in Gnaji Town, he was a figure head as well as their strongest military force. His teachers had only focused on the skills they were supposed to be teaching, his social life and habits were never condemned or questioned. As long as he continued to go and manage The Cape properly he’d be allowed to do as he pleased. Which he had, and as customary of the Phoenix Rider when he turned ten he went into The Cape for the first time and took down a crime ring. Sure it might have been a lower level, small-time gang of thugs, but it had been the start of actually being the Phoenix Rider rather than just holding the name. It might have been a memory of battle, but image of Hassan healing him for the first time had the boy taking on a look of nostalgia, a soft smile on his lips.

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"So, this your round-a-bout way of asking if you have a chance of getting in my pants?" Mordred tried a stammer out a denial but it was as though he mouth was gummed up and the words caught in his throat. That hadn't been his intention at all, surely Amir didn't think that was his entire intentions in the here and now surely? Had he soured it all with one stupid question? And yet, he almost missed noticing it, that Amir didn't say either way if Mordred did in indeed have any chance for anything. Was Amir playing with him? Trying to flounder him in some fashion?

It was his turn to eat now though as Amir talked. Unlike Amir who had simply torn through the entire pastry, Mordred held it at thickened crust around the curve and made very sure not to eat any of it, not that isn't bad or anything it was simply an odd tradition that the people tended to follow when eating such things. Hearing that Amir bedded both man and woman intrigued him, especially considering he seemed to do so of his own desires. Naturally there were men like himself who were forced to marry and father children but they never did so of their volition. It was a fascinating thought that Amirs simpler nature also affected his sexual life at that. But was he right about Trytheus? Had he drawn him down a path of self hatred? It was true that he was one of the more prominent figures in decrying him but he certainly wasn't the only one. Though perhaps he was right somewhere there, after all Trytheus was supposed to be the embodiment of justice and yet was angered when something that did not fall into his view of justice but was not in the realm of injustice sprung into view.

He listened intently to Amir talk about some of the culture in Gnaji. It seemed mind boggling that such a prominent population centre could only house such a small number of people. Even the smallest city in Amstra far exceeded that number. It was starting to put into perspective why exactly Amstra was called the kingdom of man, and he had to wonder just how many people lived outside of the kingdoms borders. It was certainly a frightening thought that so many could live in so small a land compared to how much was out there in the wider word.

Mordreds eyes widened when he heard that those like him were not just accepted, and could be considered commonplace but in places were revered by those around them. All his life this thing that had contributed to his being an outcast could have been the reverse in another place all together. To think, that in another life his skin could have been a rich tan instead of pale as milk. His clothing could have been loose robes of white instead of thick clothes and black. He could have been free to feel the touch of anothers skin against his, the warmth of another flesh under his hand without it being a secret and a hurried disgrace in the shadows. He could have been happy.

"I wish I could have born there." He admitted softly. He realised that whatever had caused his mouth to jam shut as it awkwardly tried to excuse itself had for the moment passed he knew he had to take the initiative before it returned. "I wasn't just trying to find out if I could bed you... I mean..." His eyes fell back down to where his hand rested on the side of the table, now that he had finished eating. He couldn't find the right words to express what he wanted to say without seeming a fool about it. His attention was drawn to the outside as he tried to say what was on his mind. "I did not want to cause any offence. It would be inappropriate of me to try to pursue a Rider anyway, we mortals are not meant for such things. It's just that..." He paused before looking back at Amir, back into those brown eyes that seemed so caring yet tried so very hard to hide it away, even from themselves. "You seem a better sort than many in this city. And I would very much like not to lose that."