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Wired*Nun
18th of March, 2009, 03:28
Rodric the King looks out over his palace balcony at the Aerean Sea. Thlassa the Sea Mother is calm and placid today, but Rodric is not.

His kingship has begun to seem more and more hollow when compared to the glory of the Real - Amber and the Golden Circle. He could bring Phirah into the Golden Circle with a year or two of solid statecraft, he suspects, but while Phirah may be ready, he does not feel himself to be. He lacks existential knowledge of Amber, and the thought of opening negotiations with King Random makes his stomach twist in a decidedly unfamiliar and distressing manner. In his home, or even the surrounds, he feels himself the match of anyone...but he has read the Chronicles and wisely respects his father's family, and the thousands of years of intrigue they represent. Not to mention the fact that, in the worst of cases, some of them could snuff his homeland out with their sheer power.

Still, he was not without abilities of his own...and he shared that power. The power the Pattern grants, to shape reality.

Time to start using it.

Vortigern
18th of March, 2009, 04:31
Rodric watches the ever present vagaries of Thlassa for the better part of an hour, hesitating on his moment of decision and leaning against the balcony railing. The sleek ships of Melderyn swept gracefully in and out of the large islands harbor, plying the trade of the great city-states constantly. Former city-states. Now the kingdom of Melderyn. The kingdom of Rodric.

Once that had seemed a vast and lofty goal to the young amberite. No longer. There was so much more before him than he could ever have imagined then. So much to learn if he was to make his way without proceeding as if into the dark.

As Issa the second sun sets into the northern waters of the Aerean he leaves his balcony and retreats into the palace to seek out the Lady Sophia, his mother. There he takes comfort and counsel, kneeling and asking her blessing to seek out his father.

When that matter is finished he sets a council of stewards, generals and admirals from throughout the city-states, to oversee the wellbeing of the kingdom in his absence. The document was long drafted, but unused. For months it had sat on his desk awaiting his seal.

He was tired of fearing calamity and waiting on his fathers next visit. He would seek him out.

In the morning he orders his personal vessel prepared for a long voyage. Achos, his most trusted captain, to command and a full complement of Melderyni Hoplites aboard. These orders given he retreats back to his office, sitting alone.

There he removes one of his more treasured possessions from a small bronze case. A small chill white card, a Trump of his father. Benedict.

Silently he begins to focus, his thoughts and mind seeking to delve deeper into the card. To make the man and scenery there 'real'.

Wired*Nun
18th of March, 2009, 05:41
The card grows colder, smooth and slippery in his hands. The picture of Prince Benedict, leaning upon his staff entwined with flowers, twists and morphs, becoming a view of his father on horseback, at a canter through dry hills with scrubby trees. He lowers a strange, long, asymmetrical bow, denocking an arrow and slowing his mount to a walk.

"Rodric." The word is enough of a greeting from his taciturn father. His eyes focus on his son, shadows of the Void flickering in them. Rodric recognizes that his father was out for killing, though of man or beast, he is unsure, and has been interrupted.

Vortigern
18th of March, 2009, 05:51
The King is a boy again in an instant.

He raises, bowing crisply and then sinking to one knee and lowering his own gaze. Both hands rest on his raised knee. "Yes, Father." he says before looking back up. "Forgive my interruption. I have finished all preparations here in Phirah that I deemed sufficient or prudent. I, ah." The glib words of the young king falter, an uncommon occurence for him. Always he has been in awe of Benedict. Will that ever change? Does he want it to?

"I seek your blessing Father. I intend to set out for Amber. To offer my service to the Crown as you do. To bring Phirah into the Golden Circle. I think I am ready." he says, growing more firm and confident as he speaks further. He does not however stand.

Wired*Nun
18th of March, 2009, 07:04
The horse on which his father sits stops. Benedict's eyes grow thoughtful. "You still intend to do this? And without my patronage? Even absent my active participation, there will be those who believe it's there." He leans forward, hands resting on the pommel of the saddle. The bow has disappeared, somehow.

"And offering your service to the Crown may directly conflict with your desire to arrange Phirah's acceptance. Random will have tasks for you. Are you really willing to serve Amber, King and Crown? Or is your loyalty still to Phirah and Melderyn?" He holds up a forestalling hand.

"I do not expect an answer...but I want you to think."

Vortigern
18th of March, 2009, 08:15
Rodric looks down once again, concern crossing his features for a moment. When he looks up it is with an unguarded honesty in his eyes. "My loyalty is to you Father. I wish to serve the Crown because, ..., because you do. If it is your purpose I would help you in it. If you would have me do something else, you have only to let me know your wish. Have no doubt I will follow you. I owe you so much and you have ever been an honorable Father. I will always be a dutiful Son. I wanted to come to Amber and my Royal Uncle Random with Phirah already mine because I did not wish to appear just another useless nephew as you have described to me. Or a faltering Son." he says, passion betraying in his voice.

Wired*Nun
18th of March, 2009, 09:25
Benedict's eyes grow deeper, steadier even, were such possible. "It is just such loyalty that makes you dangerous, Rodric. To others, to yourself, and even to me. It can be used against you, should you follow it too blindly." He pauses for a moment, then dismounts.

"Come to me. It is clear we need to speak at length."

[Having declared his undying obedience, I am going to assume that Rodrik complies.]

Rodrik finds himself walking on stony ground and dry grass. The climate is hot, and the sun beats down. The trees are some form of olive, and something else he is unsure of. Large bushes with smooth auburn bark are also scattered among the small trees.

They walk up a stony road, Benedict leading his horse. The bow in the saddle-scabbard waves high in the air, a bannerless standard.

"I know what you wish, but you do not yet know this in your belly, as they say. Shadows are just that. No matter how magnificent and welcoming - and useful - they are dispensable. Bringing Phirah into the Golden Circle is not a gift for the Crown, it's another burden and responsibility. There are at least ten worlds that are even now vying to be the next to be granted membership. Adding another to that list will not endear you to Random."

Vortigern
19th of March, 2009, 00:11
Rodric falls in to his fathers left, giving him the honored position on the right. Moving slowly in step with the other man he absently pulls his gray cloak up over his head to ward against the unfamiliarly and harsh single sun. His expression is still full of passion yet restrained. Frustration plays through his mind for a moment before the younger man sighs. "Then it would not make the impression I had desired. Yet what would you have me do? And... I hate the notion that someone could use our connection against either of us. Do you think it best I keep it concealed then?"

Wired*Nun
19th of March, 2009, 00:25
"No, not concealed. Two together - or more - are always stronger than one." He stops, drops the reins. His horse stops and stands, well-trained.

Benedict walks five steps beyond, to a level spot in the hilly road. He turns and draws his blade, raising it to salute Rodric. "En garde," he says, just as he has many times in weapons practice back at home.

Vortigern
19th of March, 2009, 00:40
Rodric bows crisply, one hand across his chest, then dives into a roll on the bare ground without hesitation, using the roll to circle inward toward his father, at a hopefully awkward angle opposite his sword arm, and to draw his daggers as his back is on the ground and he comes back to his feet.

As he comes back up to his feet he does not stop at the 'guard' or resting position many would as they gained stable purchase again... instead he moves directly forward with the daggers held blade down/pommel up, resting flat against his wrists to block and used in wide sweeping slashes to guard against Benedicts longer blade.

This however lasts only a moment as Rodric does not expect success. Instead the speedy charge is halted within the first few meetings of the blades and in a motion that might seem like the beginnings of running away he turns his torso and hips away from his opponent and in his first pair of steps kicks dust and dirt up towards Benedict. This, he hopes, will be the distraction he needs to take the fight to his more familiar and comfortable ground... letting his cloak fall more heavily as he lowers his hands underneath it and willing the camouflaging powers it has gained swirling into effect. Then he moves to circle where he feels he may be least expected, back towards his opponents swordarm with slow and cautiously stealthy steps. In this he wills himself to a forced calm. The exertion demands breath, but he demands of himself a measured and quiet pace, despite the pounding of his heart.

Wired*Nun
19th of March, 2009, 01:24
As Rodric rolls off the ground, Benedict sidesteps and turns, extending his blade to tap, sharply, one-two, at his daggers. The metal rings on metal, and Rodric feels the sting in his forearms as the blades are forced back on him.

Rodric maneuvers to cloak himself and spray dust from his feet. Once the dust clears and he is in position to strike, he finds no one there. Extending his combat perceptions outward, he finds no danger nearby. Looking around, he sees Benedict fifteen paces away, standing on a large, flat rock, sword back in its scabbard.

"Look at your wounds," he says.

Combat over - or suspended, for the nonce - Rodric looks at his forearms. There are shallow gashes caused by the reverse edge of his daggers, driven into his flesh by the precise impacts of his father's blade.

"What can you learn from this?"

Vortigern
19th of March, 2009, 01:31
Rodric draws a deep breath, sliding the daggers back into their sheaths slowly. Flipping his cloak up and over his shoulders he makes a show of examining his forearms once again though really it is a ploy to gain him a moment to think before he speaks.

Not to get in a fight with my father? I already knew that one though.

Looking back up towards his teacher he speaks after a moment. "Either keep one held straithand for solid defense or wear some light armor on my forearms. Or both." he offers at first.

"And precision and timing is more important than gusto."

Wired*Nun
19th of March, 2009, 03:48
Benedict shakes his head slowly. "True, as far as it goes...but you already know these things. What about the deeper lesson? In light of what we were speaking of before." He steps off the rock, to retrieve the reins of his horse, and begin walking up the road again.

Vortigern
19th of March, 2009, 05:07
The frustration he feels simmers, levelling off after a moment. He ignores his physical wounds, they are minor, instead concentrating on what his father was trying to say as he moves to assume his former position to the left.

"One of sufficient skill or power can turn your own strength against you." he says. "You think that one of your enemies could make use of our connection in an attempt to ... motivate one of us. Or both of us. To make us a tool to their ends."

Wired*Nun
19th of March, 2009, 06:06
"Yes. Every strength has its backsided weakness. Every blade has two edges. I did not need to strike you directly to cause you damage - your blades cut you." He smiles, very faintly.

"Another level of insight is that, a minor cut with your own blade is better than a major wound from mine. Thus, your blades did what they were intended."

He slaps away a buzzing horsefly with the reins he holds. "I know you have learned well how to divide and conquer...how to intrigue among your allied enemies, to set them against each other by various means. This will be done to you, if you let it. To us. The lie will be slipped in among truths, a razor blade in the food, the faintest of poisons in the drink."

"There are, generally, two ways to deal with these...politicks. One, stay as far removed from them as possible. I refuse to participate, except at dire need, and when I do, I deal from a position of strength, and I dictate the terms of the battlefield and thus control its outcome. Or two, enter the game willingly, and endeavor to play it better than others." He stops, turning directly to Rodric.

"You are of age to decide these things for youself. But you wish my counsel, and this is it. Emulate me. Do not be drawn into the game. Keep your eye and mind ever on higher things." He draws his shoulders backward, folding his hands over his sword pommel, the stance of awaiting an answer, no matter how long it takes.

Vortigern
19th of March, 2009, 22:47
The answer is not long in coming, Rodrics own stance remarkably similar with each hand settling on his belt over each of his long knives. Taking a deep breath he then nods affirmatively. "I understand. The continual conflicts you have described to me can only be wearing upon ones soul. I had thought to try and take some of that burden from you myself, if I was able. I have no desire to contribute to it." he says. "I just feel that there is so much I don't know, that I do not know how to proceed into such a vast unknown. And I thought going to Amber would change that."

Wired*Nun
20th of March, 2009, 01:36
"It will, but will also steal your soul, if you let it. The ideal of Amber is eternal, but in practice, people are people. Power corrupts. I endeavor to remain uncorrupted, thus I hold only enough power to do what has to be done. I am the conscience of Amber, because I am the only one fit to be so." He says this so certainly that it doesn't even occur to Rodric to deem it hubris.

He pauses a moment, as if thinking. "Do not mistake me. Every one of us has to play, from time to time. My strategy has always been to choose the places and circumstances...and if that is not possible, to move in, strike hard, get out. My tactics have always been to maintain equilibrium, not to commit until certain, and to operate ruthlessly when I must. But I never let the game become the objective, as some do. Your aunt Forimel, for example, lives for the game. The game is the reason, rather than any accomplishments it brings forth. I would hate to see you be seduced to that view."

Vortigern
20th of March, 2009, 01:56
Rodric nods in a slow repetitive fashion, his expression in agreement. "Phirah is better now because there is no longer a struggle among all of the cities. People are happier, though they still mistrust the people of even the next island. Yet if I were no longer there I can imagine it would only be a matter of time before that grew into something larger and just as unfortunate. A tyranny that they could not have imagined before, over the whole of the sea. Or it would fall apart and become as it was, only with a more hate filled fighting over the idea that each was the wronged one from days of this brief alliance. And in the end I'm not sure if it isn't hubris to think I can stop it myself either. But I know that as King at least I can try." he says.

"Is Amber so different? We can not know that our ends will be as intended, only hope that our actions are made in the spirit of the justice we hold dear. I know that I am young Father. I have come to see the changes in myself, even, as I have grown older and moved on to larger things. And realized that they were small as well, later. I understand that I am likely to go through that more than a few times hence. But it will never come until I can understand each thing in turn. If I can do that somewhere other than Amber, somewhere safer, then tell me and I will go there?"

Wired*Nun
21st of March, 2009, 06:47
"Were you to bring Phirah into the Golden Circle, you would be opening it up to outside influences. You would not be able to manipulate its time flow with impunity, for who would want to have their shipments delayed on your whim?" He shakes his head, long straight hair brushing his shoulders. "There is time for all of that later, if you need. There is no hurry. No pressure of aging, as there would be with shadows."

If I can do that somewhere other than Amber, somewhere safer, then tell me and I will go there?"

A kind of anger, passion perhaps, comes over Benedict then, such as he has seldom seen on the man. "Safer...for who you are. I tell you true, I would fain see you dead than corrupted. I am not coddling you from danger of the body, but no son of mine will be made into a plaything." With blinding speed, he draws his long sword, whirling it in an overhand moulinet to lop off a tree-branch of thigh-thickness. The limb crashes down in front of him, and he hacks through it as if with a machete - chop, chop, chop.

He steps through the bits of resulting wood wreck and ruin, to turn and face Rodric, naked blade still in hand, neck standing out in cords. His voice is harsh.

"There are many places where you can learn and grow and become what you will become, places of challenge and missions of worth. But our family in Amber is a flame, providing warmth, but burning, consuming all who get too near."

Vortigern
21st of March, 2009, 07:27
Rodric kneels, his knee in the dirt and one hand over his chest as he lowers his eyes. "I, ah, I did not mean to anger you Father." he says softly. After a moment, hoping for calm, he looks up as he continues. "I want nothing more than to be worthy in your eyes. I understand, I hope better than most, what you have done for me. I want you to know I was not a waste of your time."

Wired*Nun
22nd of March, 2009, 01:07
"It is not you that angers me, Rodric. It is them." He slams his blade back into its scabbard, reaching forward to pull Rodric to his feet. "You have not displeased me."

Walking again, he continues, "You rule in Phirah, but you will never rule in Amber. It's a game you cannot win. Some men never rule anything. Be content with your domain, and be a good king to its people."

"There are better things to aspire to than the ruling of men. Other ways to serve Amber, and in fact, greater things than even Amber. You must be content with the one, to free you to do the other."

Vortigern
22nd of March, 2009, 01:47
Rodric nods after a moment, clasping his hands over his abdomen in a more contemplative moment. "How could I with the oldest of our kin to be compared to? It is not conquest that I seek. Rather... as you say, the game goes onward regardless. And Phirah is close enough that I do not think I could have hoped to remain unnoticed. So instead I sought to have a position of strength. To be prepared, as much as I might, for what might come from the others." After this he is given pause, taking a breath and looking back at Benedict with a more perplexed expression.

"But what is greater than Amber Father? And what would you have me do?"

Wired*Nun
26th of March, 2009, 06:24
"You have a position of strength. To tie Phirah's fortunes to Amber's limits your flexibility. What does it get you? Status? Your status as my son and a scion of Amber is greater than that of any shadow King. Were Phirah facing some existential threat, perhaps...but I say to you, take my example in this. Avalon bows to no one save me. Were I to divide its loyalties by tying it to Amber, how do I know that Random will forever rule? Or retain his sanity? I have no evidence that L - the Unicorn takes more than a passing interest in who should rule, so I consider her no guarantor."


"But what is greater than Amber Father? And what would you have me do?"


"The balance is greater even than Amber. The balance that is threatened even now."

Vortigern
26th of March, 2009, 22:31
Rodric is quick to react to the change in the direction of the conversation. His contemplative pose is changed to one surety and an energized eagerness. "I remember. Chaos. I have never been there, but I remember your lessons. The Houses and their demon armies. Like but unlike Phirah." he says.

Wired*Nun
31st of March, 2009, 05:32
"Hmmmgh." This noise is almost a grunt, almost a sigh. "As housecats are like unto tigers." He paces a bit further.

"One of the kingdoms in your empire thought itself a democracy for a time, correct? Do you remember what happened when two factions were evenly balanced? What power the few independent representatives had? They could tip the balance one way or the other, effectively deciding many questions, because the two blocs in essence cancelled each other out."

"Amber and Chaos are somewhat similar...and are kept this way by the implicit actions of the rulers of both. An uneasy peace, a cold war...and the independent actors in between wielding inordinate influence."

Vortigern
2nd of April, 2009, 00:11
Rodric appears eager still, his understanding and acceptance obvious in his features. "Why be another pawn on either side when you can have a greater role in deciding the game from an apparently weaker position. Is that the role you seek for yourself Father? And now for me?"

Wired*Nun
2nd of April, 2009, 02:16
"Not for myself. I am always of Amber. I will always put its interests first."

"But sometimes its interests are served best, by not serving its interests first." He slaps his hands together. "A Zen koan, for certain." He looks keenly at Rodric, that look that waits for Rodric to understand, or at least claim he does...which is a mistake he only made the once.

Vortigern
2nd of April, 2009, 02:22
"The Balance means that Amber may neither over suffer nor over prosper. So for the sake of Amber, at times, one must undermine the strength that it holds. Or that of Chaos, alternately." he says, more in a questioning tone... though in the manner of a statement. "Which is out of balance now Father?"

Wired*Nun
2nd of April, 2009, 02:34
"A reasonable enough simplification, for now." He seems imperfectly satisfied, but disinclined to pursue the matter at the moment.

"The Powers of Order, by their very existence, threaten this balance. The one Pattern that stood on the defensive for so long - and thereby retained the moral high ground - has been joined by another, of my brother Corwin's making...that you read about in some of the books I brought you. What was defensive now gives offense to Chaos. And some of our family would take advantage of this circumstance to reorder things once and for all...to permanently establish Amber's primacy above Chaos."

He looks sidelong at Rodric as they walk, awaiting his answer.

Vortigern
2nd of April, 2009, 02:46
Rodric tugs gently on one ear, contemplatively. "You fear the worst then? I understand you feel only ill can come of such an imbalance... but... do we really know what would happen if they succeeded? It seems like the very best scenario that could come of it would completely reshape the very nature of Shadow. Or perhaps far worse. If Shadow is a reflection of what exists between the poles of Order and Chaos, if there was no Chaos... could there even be a Shadow? Or would all the possibilities that exist in Shadow simply... cease? And be 'Ordered'?"

Wired*Nun
2nd of April, 2009, 06:51
"I do not think any mad enough to want to destroy Chaos physically or metaphysically...as you say, the worlds as we know them would cease to exist. But as Chaos' power over the intervening shadows wanes, so wanes their political power. And there are certainly some of our family that would emasculate them politically, militarily...make them subordinate to Amber. And while I wish them afraid of us...I do not want them on their knees. They would become pressured, perhaps desperate."

Vortigern
4th of April, 2009, 01:26
Pausing he turns his head aside as he considers, thumbs in his belt. "If they were in such straits 'they' may become of a mind to do something more drastic... something that might actually affect this balance of polarities?" he says.

Taking a deep breath, he moves a few steps closer to Benedict nodding to himself. "So you would have me do something that restores a balance between the two? But how?"

Wired*Nun
7th of April, 2009, 11:33
...something that might actually affect this balance of polarities?" he says.


"Affect the balance...or cause another war."


Taking a deep breath, he moves a few steps closer to Benedict nodding to himself. "So you would have me do something that restores a balance between the two? But how?"


"I would not make a servant of you, my son, or even an officer in my employ. I have sufficient of both. You are your own man, and you will make your own way. I simply want you to have your eyes open to the current situation, and make appropriate decisions. Later, I may have suggestions."

He reaches up to the saddle-horn, and smoothly mounts the horse. Looking down at Rodric, hands on his thighs, he says, "I'd like you to go to Amber, truly. It is time. I'd like you to meet someone, who will help you to...round out your education. His name is Loric. You will find him in the palace, for the next few days."

Vortigern
7th of April, 2009, 11:39
Rodric doesn't seem quite satisfied with things as they have progressed, looking down at his feet for a moment before nodding his acceptance. "He is your friend Father? How will I know him? And he me?"

Wired*Nun
8th of April, 2009, 00:08
"I am honored to count Loric a friend...and I think he thinks the same of me. I hope you will be friends to each other, in defiance of the conventions of your elders." He looks grave for a moment, pensive, before his face smooths.

"Just ask after him at the palace. He is well-known. I will tell him you are coming."

Benedict reaches down with his right hand to clasp Rodric's.

"Go to Amber, my son. It is time to grow."

He releases Rodric's hand, then turns to ride away slowly. He doesn't look back.

Vortigern
8th of April, 2009, 01:43
Whatever he feels it is subsumed from his features as his father walks away. Rodric pulls his hood up, letting the garment fall about him as he turns on his own and begins to Walk. Back to Phirah. He moves swiftly.

What he feels however he can not help showing up in the landscapes as he passes through, at first. Fire, brimstone, battlefields... places of tragedy or mishap. All of which aggravate his mood. He however moves onward, heedless and still storming inside, intent on returning to home and the waiting ship therein.

Wired*Nun
8th of April, 2009, 11:23
The almost-hellride goes swiftly, as he crushes shadows aside, bludgeoning them into shape, dragging his surroundings into the form of Phirah as quickly as he can.

Hours later, he arrives, or near enough as no matter.

Vortigern
8th of April, 2009, 11:47
Once home he makes his way back to the palace, to finish his preparations for his departure. Again he visits his lady mother and his council of lords before going to the docks and boarding his vessel. Perhaps with more haste than usual he has made all ready, standing and looking now up at the city heights from the deck of the ship. As the slender vessel, Thlassas Grace, slides out into the deeper water of the harbor Rodric reflects on the advice of his father, frustration plain on his features.

With a thought he slows the time of Phirah, holding it ready for his return. His father was right. Phirah, and He himself, were not ready for such immersion in the games of Amber. But he would go himself and learn more.

With that Thlassas Grace began to travel toward Amber. It was a journey filled with strange colored seas and skies, the calls of stranger winged sea creatures, and the sight of innumerable unknown shorelines. A constant of change in which Rodric appears to find calm, frequently gazing out at Shadow and keeping his own counsel.

Wired*Nun
10th of April, 2009, 23:19
Preparations go smoothly, as they must; in fact, as they ever have since he walked the Pattern. While he remembers his lessons on probability manipulation, it is only recently that he has thought much about his unconscious use of it, as well as the control over this shadow that his father taught him. Once on the sea, he has ample time to ponder.

How much of my path to power has been smoothed by this ability? Have I cheated my way to the top, because I have this gift? Or is that cheating at all?

Captain Achos is a good man, with a stout crew, but on the third day he comes to Rodric.

"My Lord Admiral," he begins formally - by tradition on the sea even the King is instead an Admiral - "The men would follow you to Hedessos itself, but they grow restless at the stranging seas and the wierding creatures upon it. Perhaps you could address them yourself, to reassure them of your confidence." He purses his lips, shakes his head. "Sailors are ever a superstitious lot."

Vortigern
11th of April, 2009, 02:24
Rodric nods after a moment, taking his hands from the railing and turning to face the fore of the quarterdeck. Taking a long breath he considers his words. "You are right, Captain Achos. We no longer sail the seas of fair Phirah. Yet nor are we on a course to dark Hedessos and the Pyre of Knaton. The Gifts of my lord father guide us instead to a more fair shore still. We sail to Amber. But not by the trade lanes, direct. I go to meet my Kin, in the golden court there. My lord father has said it is time. And I have chosen you, my finest, to accompany me on the voyage."

Wired*Nun
21st of April, 2009, 03:44
The ship's sailors gather around to hear their sovereign's words, and seem somewhat mollified, if yet uncertain. The warriors nod, or stand stoically, by birth and temperment unwilling or unlikely to show fear or complain.

Both parts of the complement show relief when they turn steady westward and other ships are sighted making for the Port of Amber. When the mountains of Kolvir are sighted breaking the horizon, they let out a cheer. The seas of Phirah do not allow for any ship to be out of sight of land for more than a day or two, and Thlassa's Grace is not a deep-keeled, long-haul vessel.

Its banks of oars becomes quite useful, and its ramming prow displays the pride of the Phiran sailors and hoplites as it speeds past the deepwater ships under minimum sail, creeping carefully into the port via the marked channels. The larger of those are drawn by galley tugs, poor cousins to the sleek bireme warship. It seems unique in Amber at the moment, set against the galleons and men-o-war.

Rodric knows what the shuttered gun ports are, from books his father has brought, but his men have no idea. He hopes that the prohibitions on explosives of war, both legal and mystic, still hold. He would set his warriors against any in hand to hand combat; their spears and armor were of finest steel, light and strong and nearly rustproof from the addition of nickel to the alloys, their bows of horn and sinew, their shafts feathered with river-goose. But of guns, he only knew from books.

A constabulary boat throwing off a peculiar column of steamy smoke - some kind of propulsion engine? - directs them to a pier at the end of the docks, a bit away from the great trading ships and their cranes and crews of stevedores. This one instead contains a block of armed men, swordsmen with shields, and a pair of heavy ballistae. From the look of them their metal-shod darts could penetrate his hull easily enough.

Vortigern
21st of April, 2009, 13:21
Rodric turns from admiring the larger deep sea vessels in the port as Thlassa's Grace glides toward the pier. In unison, on the call of Miklos the bosun, the oars are retracted. The trim vessel slides up along the assigned mooring position under momentum, the sailors already tossing lines to and from.

As a gangway is placed against the ship he immediately begins to walk down it, shadowed by Achos. The captain moves surely, already preparing the ritual greeting of Phirans coming ashore. And the papers usually filed in a Phiran port. Rodric quietly assuages him from proceeding. "See to the men, and have an honor guard prepared. They do not know or likely care about our customs. We can honor Thlassa and Illorn for our voyage later, in our own time."

Achos nods, eyes drawing a bit tighter and more wary towards the strangers who do not honor the gods. But he says nothing until he turns back to vessel, bawling out orders to sailors and soldiers alike. Moments later there are ten hoplites, in the bright blue and white of Rodric, speeding to be just behind him when he steps ashore.

Stepping off onto the pier he raises a hand toward the men assembled there before. When he speaks it is the language of Amber, though perhaps less colloquial and more textbook and posh than a native. "Greetings. I am Rodric, son of Benedict. I seek one Loric, whom I am told is present here. Also I would send word to properly announce myself to the King and his chamberlain."

Wired*Nun
25th of April, 2009, 02:51
A man steps from the shadow of the block of swordsmen. He is not tall, and has dark hair, a slightly olive cast to his skin, and faintly almond-shaped eyes. Rodric has never seen anyone with quite these characteristics.

His manner of dress is even stranger, for he wears a grey tunic wide-shouldered with stiff padding of some kind, which extends outward, making his delta shape almost a caricature. The front of the tunic drops down in a V to his waist, revealing the undertunic in the opening. The whole is held together with a wide black belt, wrapped several times abut his waist and tied in a peculiar knot in front. Through this belt are thrust two swords, a long and a short one. The trousers match the style, but are black, billowing and skirtlike, hiding the feet underneath.

The man walks to meet Rodric, his steps precise, balanced, like a dancer's, unlike his own more leonine stride.

Rodric had seen men like this before. Deadly men.

Men like himself.

Beyond arm's reach - or swords reach - the man stops, and bows slightly at the waist. "I am Loric." He takes a long look at Rodric before stepping closer. A slight smile seems to rest upon is lips as he reaches out his arm to be clasped in more familiar fashion.

"The king can wait." The man's grip tightens, a strength beyond that of ordinary men...testing, perhaps, or demonstrating.

"Indeed, though some deny it, our father has a sense of humor."

Vortigern
25th of April, 2009, 19:28
Rodric disguises his ignorance well, how well he will never know, but he tries. A brother? From some other distant shadow he assumes. And how long has he had other family and not known it? Truly there was much for him to learn.

Rodric clasps the hand of Loric with no less enthusiasm, a smile coming to his own features. "I should say so. Not that I would ever call him jovial, but neither would I dare to say he is witless by any means. Most pleased to meet you."

As the two men converse and shake hands the hoplites catch up from the ship, forming up behind Rodric into a five by two. Though a formal guard in appearance, they are not chosen for such. Rather these are men from the veteran units that helped Rodric unite the isles of Phirah. And they look that part as well.

Rodric releases Lorics hand and crosses his own over his chest. "And my thanks for coming to meet me, if in fact that is what has transpired?"

Wired*Nun
28th of April, 2009, 07:57
"And I you." He drops the clasp, and something makes Rodric believe Loric stifled another bow.

"You have no need of guard, honor or otherwise," says Loric, looking the men over with a professional eye. "And they will not be allowed into the Palace. But if you would have them enjoy the pleasures of the harbor, I suggest they be quartered either aboard your own ship, or in the Barracks. Even for seasoned men, a strange city demands caution. Bide a moment."

He steps away to speak with the captain of the block of swordsmen, who passes orders to a lieutenant. In short order nine-tenths of them march away, leaving a squad of ten and the guard captain himself standing. The ballista crews stand down as well, taking seats and untensioning their engines.

Loric steps back closer, and speaks quietly. "Captain Kletous will liase with your ship's captain. I will have gold provided if you allow - things are expensive here, inflated by comparison with shadow. This should keep your crew assuaged." He smiles, faintly. "I will attribute it to you."

Vortigern
28th of April, 2009, 14:28
Rodric considers a moment, sniffing and quirking his nose before nodding and smiling more broadly than before. "Your hospitality is gratefully accepted. Brother." he breathes in a bit, not quite stumbling on that world. "I hope one day to be able to repay you in kind. And I should like them to have access to the facilities in the barracks then, as you suggest." Waiting for an answer he then makes his excuses to convey his instructions to his men.

Walking over to speak to Captain Achos, the bosun, and his guard he speaks softly though without any subterfuge. "Arrangements will be made for all of you in the local barracks. Keep a guard on the ship at all times, of course, and on any facilities that are assigned to you. Otherwise, reprovision and outfit for our departure, and then shore leave in shifts. No incidents. I need to make a good impression with my kin, and anything untowards would damage that. But have a good time. Get to know the people and their ways, even though they are different from ours. We in all likelyhood will be spending a fair ammount of time in this port off and on in the future. Make some friends."

Rodric comes back forward to Loric, bowing slightly before speaking. "Not to be over forward... yet... now that I know I have a brother, I should like to know him better. Would you honor me with your company in a more private manner? If I had known I would have brought you a gift more suitable for a brother. As it is, I brought you something instead selected for an honored friend of our father. It may do well enough however."

With that he produces a small silver ring, ornately made in the image of a flower. The body of the ring is made to appear to be the growing body of the flower and the surface of the face is the blossom. The blossom has six petals, three red and three white, with a bright diamond center. "This ring is for the highest order of honor amongst the warriors of my home shadow. They are called the Chrysanthemum Order. It stands for our seven chief virtues. The red petals are for Courage, Justice, and Prowess. The white for Generosity, Humility, and Nobility. The Center is Loyalty. It would honor me if you would accept it."

Wired*Nun
6th of May, 2009, 01:36
Achos acknowledges Rodric's instructions, "It shall be done, my Lord King. I am sure Centenos [Major] Aghelon will keep the hoplites in line, and I will see to the sailors personally." He looks like he would say something more, but restrains himself. Probably thinking about his idea to professionalize the common sailor corps...possibly a good idea, but against tradition and of a lesser priority than the thousand other things of late...

The two captains confer, and make arrangements for crew and complement to enjoy the hospitality of the city. It appears they will have access to all ordinary facilities, such as training grounds, gymnasia, food, bathing, and billeting.


Loric accepts the ring in both hands, bowing deeply as he does so. He examines it in the sunlight before trying it on the fingers of his left hand, finding the fit on the middle finger. His hands are slimmer, his bones finer than Rodric's, as the ring had been fit by default for Rodric's left ring finger.

Out in shadow it would have been the work of a moment to adjust its sizing, but until then...

"I thank you deeply and sincerely, brother. My own upbringing taught similar virtues, as did our father. I would be very interested to hear of your own shadow, and of your life until now." He raises his gaze to stare directly into Rodric's eyes for a moment.

"We are aliens here, you and I, and I will never assimiliate. Yet as the wife of old age*, it has its charms and attractions. It stirs the passions."

He breaks the gaze, turning to walk slowly up the dock, amid the now-bustling men beginning the business of resupply, shore leave and bureaucracy. He walks with his hands behind his back, his eyes cast down in a pose reminiscent of their father when deep in thought. "I get the impression that the Lord Protector has kept you innocent of certain things, preferring that you learn by experience...as did I. Yet, he asked me to meet you and set no limits on our discourse. This implies that you are to have the benefits of my experience, as much as you wish to take."


* "The wife of old age" is a common idiom in middle eastern polygamous cultures, referring to the young wife a man marries in his older age that reinvigorates him, but will never replace the "wife of his youth," his first wife of similar age and experience to himself.

Vortigern
9th of May, 2009, 02:01
Rodric smiles, broad and warm and almost unguarded for a moment, before he nods decisively. "I shall tell you anything you like. Indeed, if you wish I would be most pleased to take you on a tour of all of the isles and their shrines and temples. The Pilgrimage is a sacred rite. Not that it has always been available to be completed in the warring of the cities. But that is not a concern now. My own city is named Melderyn. I should be most pleased to take you there. Ah, but enough of home. I suppose one more adjusted to Amber would easily tire of tales of shadows. Though... I know her heart and I would extend a warm invitation on behalf of my lady mother."

Rodric pauses here, seeming to collect himself and attempt a more serious manner. "Indeed. You assess our father correctly I think. Yet also he seemed to have another greater concern that I would discuss with you in private."

Wired*Nun
12th of May, 2009, 05:46
"I look forward to hearing of your shadow, and of this matter, truly, as soon as we can obtain some privacy. But forgive me if we put that aside for a time, at least while we walk. There are other matters, not the least of which is to establish your legitimacy at the Palace. It is quite inconvenient to need to constantly introduce oneself to the staff as one of the Blood. The best way to achieve this, I have found, is to brace the tiger in its den. Once that is done, all else will fall into place."

He lengthens his stride a bit, raising his head to watch where they are going as they make their way through the crowded docklands.

"You have been briefed on the Elders? Our aunt Florimel, for example?"

Vortigern
12th of May, 2009, 11:07
Rodric sniffs a bit, falling in step alongside Loric and matching his pace. "I have read a great deal. Yet that is hardly what I would call 'prepared', as I am sure you would think as well. I understand she, ah, likes to be informed?"

Wired*Nun
12th of May, 2009, 23:34
"She is the tiger. If one avoids her ill graces, one avoids trouble. If she likes you, it can work to your advantage in many things. I have settled for the former, by staying out of the social and political swirl. She would also take it as insult if you did not see her first, and allow her to inform the King. Of course, she may already know. She has informants everywhere."

Vortigern
12th of May, 2009, 23:52
Rodric smiles slowly as the two progress further into the city. "Good advice. Would you suggest a gift for her then? It never hurts to make a good impression. I brought something for the King and Queen, and yourself. But that is all. Perhaps you could assist me in selecting something available here that she might like?"

Wired*Nun
13th of May, 2009, 02:12
"As a gesture, it would be of value. She is vain. She is not impressed by wealth, as she swims in it, but something of special quality. Unfortunately there is little here that would impress...let me think for a moment."

They continue in silence for a couple of blocks, then he goes on. "I think it is the uniqueness of the gift that would matter to her - the exclusivity of it. When she values a thing, it is because it is unique, or nearly so. For example, to have the only Trump of something or someone is a joy to her. So I do not think there is anything we can quickly obtain would suffice."

"Better perhaps that you would find something later, of such quality, rather than straining and falling short too soon. After all, you could not have been expected to bring gifts for the King's spymaster...at least until you meet her and are overwhelmed by her beauty." He says with last with a sidelong glance and a raised eyebrow, to make the tongue-in-cheek clear.

Vortigern
13th of May, 2009, 04:04
Rodric wrinkles his nose is some slight amusement, nodding his agreement to Loric. "Mmm. Good, good. I shall have to put some thought to the matter." he says. "Now, for the moment, where to then? To see her?"

He moves with an easy manner by appearances however his eyes scan the city around them and the architecture that is so different from 'home'. He stays towards the center of the road, giving himself plenty of time to sight and evaluate any strangers that might come along. In all his manner is not 'paranoid' so much as a natural and practiced cautioun.

Wired*Nun
13th of May, 2009, 04:40
"Yes, to see her. I would say to prepare yourself, but that is both redundant and pointless. You will have to develop your own immunity. I hope for your sake you had a strong mother, or perhaps a fiery lover or wife or two. I will give you this one advice: do not seek to best her on her home ground. If you win, you earn her undying hatred, and therefore you lose. Better that you lose slightly, and gracefully, while still giving good account of yourself - as a swordmaster might lose to a petulant King who could have him executed. Do not win the battle to lose the war."

He walks alongside Rodric with a perfectly balanced stride, navigating the crowds much as Rodric does, senses alert while watching nothing.

Vortigern
14th of May, 2009, 01:39
Rodric lets the other man lead, matching his pace and direction. He merely nods, seeming to turn his thoughts inward for a time until he speaks again after some minutes have passed. "Our father told me, not so very long ago, to be wary of the consequences of each application of force. Of your own, your those of your enemies... that each can come back to cut you in turn if you are not anticipating them properly. I'm sure you have heard the like from him then. And perhaps just such a meeting as this one is what he was speaking of."

Wired*Nun
14th of May, 2009, 05:42
"Thus the value of principles, and their ambiguity. All seem wise in the abstract, but how to apply them? Experience is the primary teacher."

It isn't long before before they pass through the gates of the Palace of Amber. It is a modest edifice compared with some on Phirah; it is large but not huge, impressive but not awe-inspiring. It does not even look particularly defensible, with only cursory nods to fortification. He supposed that anything that would threaten Castle Amber would not be stopped by thicker walls.

A functionary politely writes down Rodric's name and titles, but it is clear that he is being passed thorugh without difficulty primarily because he is in Loric's company. Once they pass the portals into the courtyards, Loric remarks, "You will soon be on the permanent access list. Of course, for us it is largely a formality, as we have mystical means of comings and going. It is more a deterrent against the unauthorized."

They are passed without comment through the main entrance to the building proper, a large foyer with doors left, right and center. The center doors lead them into a grand hall, adorned with protraiture, statuary, weaponry and armor relating to the grand history of Amber. Rodric's hard leather sandals are almost silent on the polished parquet floor, while Loric's stride is quieter still, apparently by nature. While Rodric is certain he could move even more stealthily should he need to, he wonders what kind of footgear Loric wears beneath the billowing trousers.

They cross the floor diagonally to the left, passing clumps of courtiers, servants, and functionaries performing - well, functions, not so different from palaces on Phirah - recording, translating, messaging, gossiping, accounting, directing, musing. Some in the sparse crowd eye the two men speculatively. One foppish-looking fellow titters behind an open palm, and Loric alters direction without missing stride. His face is impassive, relaxed as he steps directly in front of the man. His associates back up slightly, perhaps sensing the danger lurking behind Loric's controlled exterior.

"How big a fool are you?" asks Loric softly.

The man's mouth purses, trying to maintain a bored and superior affectation, almost succeeding. "Not as big a fool as to interfere with a member of the delegation of Kashfa...of which I am."

A faint smile ghosts across Loric's face as he reaches for his belt. The man flinches as Loric's hand passes his swords to draw out a deck of cards. Without dropping his eyes, he shuffles out one of them, holding it up near his own face, back toward the man. It shows a red-haired man, leaning forward in an overstuffed chair, a book edge-on in his hand.

"That is the only reason your head is not rolling on this floor." A moment later, Loric speaks onward. "Pardon me for the interruption, cousin. I have a repatriation for you. He has insulted a member of the Family, and represents you poorly."

At these words, Loric uses his free hand to seize the man by the collar. Despite being larger than Loric, the man is shifted like a scarecrow, limbs flailing, pulled first forward then shoved suddenly backward and off his feet.

A rainbow swallows him into thin air as Loric releases him, followed by stunned silence from the onlookers.

"Sic semper fatuus. Begone." This last is aimed at the clique surrounding the now-absent fool. They stumble away, looking for a place to be, anywhere but near Loric.

Loric turns to Rodric, showing no other emotion but a mild contempt. He speaks slightly louder than necessary; perhaps desiring to be overheard. "In my home, they would all be dead. Amber is merciful, but not to be trifled with."

He turns again, to walk a few steps to a nondescript door in the west wall. He raps with the back of his knuckles.

Vortigern
14th of May, 2009, 06:11
Rodric admires the differing architecture of Amber with no effort at concealing his interest, or the deeper analysis that lies therein. But he does not speak any further as they go... content to think and examine on his own, and with the company of his brother.

When Loric confronts the offending dignitary Rodric takes a few smooth steps away and to one side. Not to distance himself from the fight, but to be at a different angle both to the buffoon and his entourage. As he does so he casually flips his cloak over his shoulder, clearing way for his hands which settle on his belt an easy distance from his daggers.

His expression remains cool, perhaps even amused. Duels are not uncommon on Phirah, a place where honor is taken seriously. Rodric is quite ready to be a second for his brother... though a perceptive person may notice that he doesn't truly grasp the import of the laugh, or exactly who was insulted by it.

When Loric sends the 'fool' through the trump, he quirks a brow but still remains silent. As the pair make begin to make their way however, going onward and being less in view of others, he speaks in a soft tone. "Who was insulted? I? Or you? Am I not in the fashion of the court or some other drivel?"

Wired*Nun
18th of May, 2009, 04:50
"Both of us, probably, our manner of dress. I've wanted to do that for some time; I've suspected Jivers of gossips and slander about any number of things. We've grown entirely too tolerant of slights to Amber and her sovereign, even if he doesn't think his honor needs defending."

The door opens then, revealing an outer office with several exceptionally handsome young men writing by hand, tapping on writing machines, and working with other arcane files and papers. The one opening the door greets them, "Lord Loric, and Lord..."

"Rodric," supplies Loric. "For our Aunt."

"Of course. I am Sean. Won't you come this way?" He leads them to another door, taps discreetly, then opens it and announces them.

Behind this door lies an office as large as the outer, containing a dozen large filing cabinets along one wall, a small conference table, a large desk, and the most stunning woman Rodric has ever, ever seen. She looks to be about thirty years old in Shadow terms, with pure golden blonde hair tinged with the faintest of red highlights. Her beauty strikes him in the gut, and lower, causing a surge of desire the likes of which he hasn't felt since he was just learning the ways of women. His eyes tear up involuntarily.

"Loric," Flora purrs, rising from behind the desk. "And this is..."

"Rodric. My brother."

She smiles, like sunlight breaking through the rain. He's heard of the face that launched a thousand ships. Never had he expected to see it himself.

"So Benedict isn't as priggish as we all thought...of course, but we knew that...assuming Corwin told the truth. I'm pleased to meet you, Rodric. Your mother must be an exceptionally beautiful woman. We must have a talk, sometime soon. Get to know one another." She extends a hand, palm down, to be shaken, or kissed, or perhaps merely to be marveled at in its perfection.

Rodric's better judgment is screaming somewhere deep in the dungeon of his psyche, overwhelmed by the drumbeat cacaphony of aesthetic chemistry, and he finds himself reaching for her hand without even willing it.

Vortigern
20th of May, 2009, 02:54
Rodric is quiet, contemplating the altercation en route, until they arrive at the office. He nods a passing greeting to Sean the functionary without really giving him much attention. Stepping into the office he is stunned.

As a king in Phirah he was accustomed to being surrounded with beauty, and women. In his quest to unite all of the isles and cities he had in turn ended up with a large number of royal wives, affirming his claim to the royalty of the entire archipelago. Many were staggeringly beautiful. Yet Flora stunned him all the same.

Beauty, Rodric learned in an instant, was a power all of its own. Anything powerful could be weapon. He was accustomed to beauty being an ornament kept for the amusement of the powerful. Here it was the power itself.

He does not stop himself from taking her hand. He clasps it softly, bowing crisply, with his eyes down, over her hand before straitening and releasing. An excuse to look away, to focus himself, but he finds himself lingering over the perfection of her hand as he looks up.

Before he really intends to he finds himself smiling slightly. Moments later: "A definate pleasure to meet you." he says. "And I shall convey your compliments unto my mother, they are well deserved and I shall hazard well received. Still, my thanks for your hospitality." he says, though towards the end he finds his vision lingering over Flora in ... ungentlemanly ways. Rodric has a habit of observing the details of a person, especially in a first meeting. Here this has proven an undoing, for it has habitually drawn his eyes back to the only too perfect details of Flora.

His eyes come up to her face once again, his smile broadening slightly. Powerful and dangerous beauty or not, he is accustomed to a world and culture where men rule, and though he is stunned and wary of her undoubted power to manipulate... he is not intimidated as some others might be. Probably foolish, he thinks to himself in the back of his mind. Instead he is positively enraptured. "And the pleasure of your company. I regret I did not anticipate meeting you on this journey, or I should have brought a suitable gift by way of introduction. I shall have to remedy that in our next meeting."

Wired*Nun
3rd of June, 2009, 04:25
Rodric gets the impression Flora is reading his licentious thoughts, and is encouraging them, preening even. Certainly that little wiggle and shudder that ripples though her body, that causes all sorts of tinglings in the back of his scalp and lower spine, couldn't have been accidental. If he'd had imbibed anything recently he'd have suspected being drugged with coqat.

"I look forward to any gifts you might bring me, Rodric." His name on her lips is a promise. "But for now, let me gift you with...whatever is is you need?" She turns her eyes, but not her face, toward Loric, raising one eyebrow, still holding his hand in her electric gentle grip.

"Nothing but your continued favor, Mistress," responds Loric evenly. "I just thought you'd like to be the first to know of Rodric's arrival, in case it affects the interests of the Crown. I will be making him familiar with Amber."

"Thank you, dear boy." Rodric is not sure if this is a term of endearment, affection or diminuition. Maybe all three. "You are wise."

Loric's face remains carefully bland.

Flora finally extracts her hand from Rodric's. Turning her smoldering green eyes back onto him full force, she goes on, "I will put out the word to my people. One thing I would like, if you will consent, is that you sit for a Trump as soon as possible."

Vortigern
3rd of June, 2009, 13:32
Rodric draws a breath, hands settling on his hips for a moment as if he were to consider, then a smile returns to his features. "If you would make a similar gift unto me, Lady, I should have no objection." he says, coming a step or two forward. "Indeed. I find I have an interest in the entire affair of trumps. It would be intriguing to see a pair made."

Wired*Nun
3rd of June, 2009, 23:47
A step forward puts them nose to nose.

"You would like another of yours...or mine?" Her eyes twinkle. "Perhaps one of each?"

Her beath is sweet in his nostrils, and he could imagine seizing her and ravishing her right then. She knows it, too, as she backs up slightly, just enough to avoid touching. It's a fine line between control and capitulation, a nuance where the will and desire blend.

Vortigern
4th of June, 2009, 06:15
Rodric does not at first answer Flora, for he is occupied in his innermost. Would he not launch his own thousand ships over such a woman? In an intoxicating breath of her perfume, the underlying scent that was simply her... and a keen awareness of not just her seeming perfection but how well she seems to know how to use it, he is filled with desire. Even an awareness of illusion does not always dispel it. A pleasant fiction is still pleasant, and still hard to put down.

So despite the certainty, somewhere, that he was in actuality terribly uninteresting to her in fact... the illusion she presented to the contrary made him wonder even still what the consummation might in fact be like. Wonder for overlong perhaps.

He felt, at that moment, like he might be willing to risk almost anything to find out. And that this was what she wanted, was without any doubt. Loric is almost forgotten. A dim figure on the periphery.

"Each. Yes." he says, softly. Soft enough perhaps to lure her ear, and the rest of her, nearer. "I should like that very much." If she is drawn in by his soft voice, he takes a slight step forward into her at the same moment as if to adjust his weight more than anything. She will know it was purposeful, he is certain, by then... who knows.

Wired*Nun
13th of June, 2009, 04:53
As if in a bubble, Flora adjusts herself to keeping her distance from him, never quite allowing any contact other than the tantalizing olfactory.

"Good...I shall make it happen. Here is one of myself." She reaches, almost without looking, into a drawer, to flip a card to her fingertips, sliding it into Rodric's tunic at the neckline, to lodge there like a frozen caress. "Call me if you need me, any time."

She steps deliberately backward, breaking the moment like a child's balloon. Briskly, then, she goes on."Tomorrow, on the royal terrace, after luncheon? Is that satisfactory? I believe I have an artist I can rely on." Her eyes twinkly with promise still, but clearly, it is the beginning of dismissal...for now. "But I believe I have to take a call, so...I am sorry." She makes fluttering motions with her fingers, as if shooing away a butterfly, and bats her eyelashes to match. "Ta-ta," she says, a phrase Rodric has never encountered, but he intuits its meaning even so.

"Thank you both for coming in," she says as they withdraw, Loric giving a short, sharp bow then turning on his heel.

Outside in the Great Hall, he raises his eyebrows at Rodric, as if to say, what did you think? Or perhaps, what can you do?

Vortigern
13th of June, 2009, 05:57
He is met with a look almost exactly the same in every way, causing Rodric to chuckle softly to himself. Then he pulls the slim trump from within his neckline and examines it. A slim grin comes back to his features as he looks at it, then stowing it away in his trump-case.

Turning back to Loric he smiles more broadly now. "And what new adventure now? You would be hard pressed to find something more perilous than the last!"

Wired*Nun
13th of June, 2009, 14:46
Loric lets out a long hiss. "I prefer physical danger, with my enemies where I can see them. Or at least strike them. But I do her bidding as long as it is the Crown's." He blinks.

"I shall arrange an audience with the King. You must be presented. Flora gave no instructions in this regard, so I believe she does not see you as a pawn to be immediately put in play. Rather, perhaps a toy to be bent to her future will, by womanly wiles. Thus, once your Trump is made, we should solicit an assignment to get us out of Amber, the better to remain...unentangled. Do you agree?"

Vortigern
13th of June, 2009, 17:07
Rodric pauses, looking down and letting his thumbs hook through his belt. He nods after a moment. "Wise counsel. Though I am not sure I want to follow it. Yet... that most likely is the best reason I should." he says, his inner mirth showing through once again. "And I while I share your sentiment for enemies foolish enough to line up before me, on Phirah one must grow accustomed to intrigues. Though I admit most are not so pleasant, or plainly dangerous, as here. Is there anything I should know about being presented?"

Wired*Nun
14th of June, 2009, 04:39
Answering Rodric's first concern first, Loric replies, "I will not press you if you wish to play at cloaks and daggers..." The way he says this makes it plain that "daggers" has at least two meanings. "If my sense of things is right, we have at least a few days before circumstances force us to take some actions."

"As for being presented...it's becoming common enough these days that the tradition has become a short and public meeting at the Throne before luncheon, a family luncheon to give Random an opportunity to size up the new."

Vortigern
14th of June, 2009, 05:11
Rodric nods, stepping forward with a gesture that they should continue. "I shall consider it. I think you are right however. And besides. Getting out of town for a bit may be the best opening move I can make anyway. Now... I'm certain the King is not exactly waiting for me. Though if there is an opening right away I'll certainly take it, just to get things done with. If not, I'd like to check on my men and then... I would be at your disposal."

Wired*Nun
24th of June, 2009, 23:25
"Let's find out." Loric leads Rodric down corridors of the palace, providing short commentary on some salient features as they go, but clearly going somewhere and not taking a tour. They end up at a desk of a functionary, who stands when they walk up. The man is properly respectful as he tells them that the King has cancelled holding court today.

"Well, I suppose that settles that." They leave a request to be given an appointment at the earliest opportunity.

"So, we are at loose ends. We can check on your men, if you like. Perhaps take a meal with them. After that..." He looks up at the sun for a moment. "I believe the Master at Arms will be dispensing his usual painful lessons on the pitch. It's an interesting spectacle."

Vortigern
24th of June, 2009, 23:42
Rodric smiles, his amusement plain on his features. He speaks as they go. "A splendid suggestion. I should like to see it. The men and then the practice yard. Now, architecture being something of an interest to me, I'm curious. The large guns of your ships here I think would alter the nature of your fortifications rather significantly. Though I have noted that ... while generally sound, there is not an over abundance of wariness or caution in the building here as I might expect of the seat of such a large empire with so many enemies. It implies either an abundance of confidence or a lack of fear. Or both I suppose."

Wired*Nun
24th of June, 2009, 23:59
"The guns on the ships are for use away from Amber. Explosives of any kind cannot function here, without direct intervention of some Power. Even Corwin's powder does not work anymore, the rules have been changed, I am told. I wish it could be made so thrughout Shadow," he comments, running a hand along his cord-wrapped sword hilt. "As it is, the Pax extends throughout the Golden Circle and beyond. As for a lack of fear...the threats to the realm do not come from shadow empires. They come from relatives. To over-arm is to seem fearful. There is risk in doing too little, or too much. The Family does not wish to live in a militarized state."

He says this with a hint of disapproval, as if unhappy with this consensus. Rodric is reminded of the attitude of the Skartans and their monomaniacal warrior ethos.

"And there is much more power here that meets the eye...most of it resident in the Lords and Ladies of Amber. The Pattern. The Jewel. Dworkin, and Father...no, guns are the least of our worries."

Vortigern
25th of June, 2009, 01:02
This sparks another bout of silent consideration from Rodric as they move, his eyes still moving about the architecture but now with a renewed look of appraisal. Eventually however he speaks. "Mmm. Think on this brother. Is it more useful to be perceived as both strong as well as alert and prepared, or simply strong? There are arguments for both, yet to deny the strategem of either is to close your mind to options. I do not think it is a lack of forethought that engenders the stance that they choose to hold. Like you I am more accustomed to a state of constant preparedness, yet... there is a strategy to being prepared without seeming overly so."

Wired*Nun
25th of June, 2009, 02:58
The architecture reveals nothing or secret defenses or hidden reinforcements.

"My mind hears that truth. My belly and my upbringing tells me that we are safer if they fear us. Safer if they were to bow the knee to Amber." Loric looks sidelong at Rodric.

"I know your taste for the clandestine. Father briefed me...minimally. I do not share it. But..." he goes on, grudgingly, "I suspect he wishes us both to learn something from the other. So I shall learn. I do not have to like these methods."

Vortigern
25th of June, 2009, 03:21
Rodric pauses, much like their father, to consider his words... even halting his steps. When he speaks it is with gravity. "There is something I learned the hard way on Phirah. A new vassal is new responsibilities. A new border that represents you, new gains yes... yet also many new weaknesses, and ... not always as much new support as you might hope for. When your enemy bends their knee, brother, be aware that they are only waiting to stand and stab at you once again in the same motion. Instead I learned to make them serve my purpose while keeping them seperate. A protectorate or client state can prove amazingly more useful than a new vassal. Especially if you know that the new vassal would be less than loyal. Make them expend their own resources for you, rather than have them claiming upon your obligations to them. And instead of you suddenly needing to worry about what was on their far borders, they still must deal with that for you as well."

Wired*Nun
25th of June, 2009, 23:13
"I accept all of that. But that's why there are people like you, and people like me. I appreciate Sun Tzu and Musashi and von Clausewitz more than Machiavelli, no matter that I accept the necessity for the cleverness of rulers." He gives a short, almost mocking bow.

"You are a King. I am not and shall never be. I would make a superb Shogun, but a bad Emperor. Perhaps that is what Father knows about himself as well. If your talents are more fit for politics and intrigue, I sincerely approve. We need men of honor with those abilities. But my thoughts become cluttered and my focus weakens when I contemplate such things too deeply. The blade I am begins to rust."

Vortigern
27th of June, 2009, 00:05
Rodric looks at Loric with a new appraisal in his eyes, his own betraying a sudden deeper feeling of connection with his brother. He reaches out and clasps his brother's shoulder with one hand in an earnest and affectionate way. "We have the makings of a whole and complete empire between us then." he says, half-jokingly. The other half obviously... not. His smile betrays both his jest and the ambition of a young man. A young King. "I thought it would take a long time to get to know you brother, that... I may never really. Yet I find we are so much alike in so many ways that I grow over comfortable and find myself assuming more and more, and am surprised instead at the occasional difference that rises."

Wired*Nun
29th of June, 2009, 23:17
Loric stares into his brother's eyes.

"I find that with men of true honor, all is simple, and becomes transparent, no matter how complex the situation. Absolute trust is a foundation of granite. I choose to trust you as I do no one except Father."

He does not speak the corollary. Perhaps he does not even think it, but Rodric does, on his behalf...But if you ever betray that trust, one of us is a dead man. Understood.

"I choose this because no one else here does. I choose this because so much around us is corrupt. I choose this in hope that you are truly my father's son."

Rodric suddenly realizes the lonely desperation underlying Loric's resolve - the desperate hope of finding one pearl among the gravel, one phileo among his disappointing peers.

Vortigern
30th of June, 2009, 15:07
Rodric is stricken by the revelation into the soul of his brother. By comparison Rodric is somehow both easier and more difficult to 'read' in the same breath. His manner generally is more expressive and one would think revealing... yet, he has become trained of necessity it that being often a false facade. A facade which fades away for a brief moment.

His eyes reveal a depth of concern and caring that, for one feeling 'exiled' in Amber, is all too rare. The hand on Loric's shoulder squeezes and indeed brings the other man in for a brief embrace. He does not notice if Loric is unaccustomed to such contact, likely he is not, but... Rodric simply brings him close and claps him on the back a time or two. "By all Gods and all Stars, let me never fail you. I will ever be your Brother. And you ever mine." he says.

Then he draws away, adjusting his own tunic and the set of his cloak as he turns away to give both men a chance at composing themselves. During this time he speaks. "I spoke to Father about just such a matter. The wearing of this place on the soul of a good man. I pledged that I would do my utmost to take some of that burden from him, whether I am genuinely ready or not. I will always do the same, and could do no less, for you."

Wired*Nun
29th of October, 2009, 06:39
"We bear one another's burdens, like fingers on a hand," Loric replies when once again they are at arm's length. "And two fingers are much stronger than one alone." He shrugs, as if to say, sorry for stating the obvious.

They exit the main building and round a garden wall to see a large stable-cum-carriage-house, with cunningly-cobbled pathways leading about the palace grounds. "The pitch and pells are behind the grooms' castle. It keeps the horses used to the sounds and smells of battle, and keeps those same out of sight of the palace." Loric raises a greeting hand to a groom leading a brace of horses toward a corral to their right.

He points to their left front, where a roofline can be seen over some low trees. "That's the barracks. Excess Palace Guardsmen of lower rank, transient forces of Family and allies - that's your men -, mercenaries with whom Amber has solid contracts, military retinues of diplomatic missions, and anyone else they can't figure where else to put, stays there. Conveniently near the practice fields."

They round the stables to see beyond them, a complex of fields and devices of war and its practices, with perhaps two hundred men and a few women visible. Some fire arrows into targeted bales, backed by a high wooden wall to catch the strays. A few tilt at quaintains, their destriers throwing clods as they gallop. Most are engaged in practice afoot, two-a-time. Rodric picks a squad of his men from the carvival without effort, their hoplite gear making them stand out among those of different styles and armors. They seem to have generated some interest, as a fair smattering of others watches their technique. One-handed spear use is an unnatural act, and only through long practice and great strength of wrist can men master its properties.

The two cause a minor stir as they approach, as nearby duellers break to look at them. Rodric's men salute him in unison, then go back to their practicing, making a point of their superior discipline...or flaunting their nonchalance in the face of their officers. Good men, and true, for all their superstitions of the sea.

A nearby marshall barks, hammering the quarterstaff of his office into the ground, urging his men back to their exercises. "Wot, you nevver seen a Lord o' Amber before, me pussies? Lay on, you dogs, or I'll lay one across your backs!" By their colors and equipage, they are probably mercenaries; tough, non-nonsense fellows with sword and shield and much-patched mail.

A couple of fencers in arming doublets and baskets salute each other and pause as the two approach. One is a woman, but her identity remains hidden as she does not dishelm. The other one draws off his basket with his off hand, flipping it into the hands of a waiting armsman, following it with his fencing sabre. His hair and beard are neatly trimmed red, his eyes blue and sparkling, his stride crackling with energy. Rodric recognizes him from his Trump. It is Bleys.

Loric bows to the man, a short, sharp thing unlike the courtly genuflections of Rodric's homeland.

Vortigern
31st of October, 2009, 01:06
Rodric lets the moment pass, allowing the two men to continue on with the business of the day. The journey to the training grounds passes with him silent once again, contemplative, once again. As they near however Rodric voices his appreciation for the layout of the grounds in a mild yet earnest way.

Rodric makes his bow in greeting, of the flowery manner of his homeland. Coming to his full height once again his eyes are bright as he surveys the practice field, and then returns his attentions to Bleys. ( I presume an introduction is made? ) "A pleasure to meet you, my Lord Uncle." he says.

Centenos Aghelon approaches deferentially with a pair of the Phiran warriors behind him. Plainly his intent is to attend on Rodric. The men behind him bear Rodric's own heavier weaponry, that he does not 'often' carry himself save in plain preparation for battle. This, his shield, spear, and helm, are offered and accepted.

Meanwhile, as he fastens the chin strap of his helm, he gives a more serious examination to the Amberite warriors. "They seem well enough." he says mildly. "I've seen some of the like before, though these are better it is plain. I must admit I have more of an appreciation for the close knit formations of home. Though perhaps I am biased."

His expression betrays some amusement, and sporting nature, building in his eyes.

Wired*Nun
3rd of November, 2009, 05:03
Bleys bows in return, a smooth one with one hand flung to the side, a toe outstretched, his eyes upward under laughing brows. "And you, Sir Rodric. Loric, you are indeed in my good graces, for introducing me to another of the Family. There simply are never enough of us to go around, hmm?"

If not for his reputation and his swordsman's callouses, Rodric would have thought the slim, medium-height man something of a fop, or at least a lightweight. His head - and memories of his own father's advice - told him that Bleys was, perhaps, second only to Benedict himself in skill with the blade. His ascent up Kolvir was a thing of story and legend, despite being only some few years ago.

But Rodric's heart laughs at his head, longing to take up his weapons and test himself.

Clearly, Bleys sees this too...he must see it often, with almost every fighting man to visit the field. As Rodric puts on his gear, Bleys says, "I am at your service, sir, whenever you are warmed and ready."

A page has delivered Loric's practice gear as well, and he puts it on, a rather different-looking suit of armor from any of the ones Rodric sees about - plate-mails, lacquered in colors, a helmet with a neck-guard so broad it almost covers the man's shoulders...and a pair of practice blades, one straight and made of split reeds of some sort, lightweight and hardly suitable to more than slap a dog, the other of tough-looking lacquered wood, of the same proportion as Loric's own larger sword.

Rodric sees that Bleys is putting on practice armor similar to Loric's and has the same set of reed and wooden blades.

Vortigern
13th of November, 2009, 00:28
Rodric pauses, suddenly curious and watching Loric and Bleys rather curiously. His men had already begun to gather around him... forming up for the expected drills and practicing. That however seems to be instantly put on hold by the sight of the other two amberites suiting up for their nonlethal engagement. The young man paces over to the unknown feminine fencer and leans on the shaft of his spear as he observes. "This looks like something they have done a few times before at least." he says, his amusement building.

The hoplites, forming up fully, proceed under the direction of Centenos Aghelon to begin their full formation drills. As things progress they make a series of drill movements that warm them up and display advancement, retreat, and flanking motions... all with their formation staying tight and solid. They begin to practice their shield techniques as the Centenos paces up and down the line, striking now and then with the butt end of his spear... critiqueing the technique as he goes. Each attack, from a given area or angle, has a particular man that is responsible for it in the formation. That isn't always the man who is being attacked. Teamwork and trust and paramount, and it is plain that they are very much present.

Wired*Nun
26th of November, 2009, 02:27
The woman doffs her basket, revealing a shock of red hair, cut to the line of her jawbone. Her slightly pug pointed nose and elfin features are familiar to him, her face young but her eyes wise and aged, assessing him...surely this is the Fiona of the card, come to life. Her gaze is cool, amused, her words, dry.

"Yes...many times. Loric is...determined. Singleminded, even. You will see." She tucks the basket under her arm, hangs her blade from a fingertip to dangle, its tip brushing the grass. The other hand she holds out, man-fashion, to clasp with him. "You must be Rodric." Her head cocks slightly. "Word travels fast, among the Family. You already know who I am...relax, I won't turn you to stone with my gaze. Not this time."

Vortigern
21st of August, 2010, 02:46
Rodric allows himself to be distracted from the match between Bleys and Loric, and it is plain he finds the prospect interesting, by Fiona and her introduction. The 'manliness' of her handshake doesn't appear to be noticed by him as he takes her hand and gently turns it to bow over it with his usual formality. As opposed however to when he did so with Flora and kept his gaze lowered, this time he keeps his eyes up. Up and fixed on hers. Seeking? Inquiring. Appraising.

Appreciating what they see.

"Your generosity will never be forgotten Lady." he says softly, as he bows over her hand close enough that she would feel his breath. As he straitens he smiles, his confidence seeming to soar. "Though I would hope I can always be more interesting and amusing as I am rather than as some inanimate decoration. Of course that presumes, slightly I suppose, as to your 'interests' and 'amusements'."

His flirtation is, in this instance, obvious. Plain and uncomplicated by trappings of 'intrigue'. Perhaps. Or all of that 'is' the intrigue. His smile is equally broad and generous with it's cheer. "I come to think my brother and I are more and more alike." he says, his gaze still relatively fixed on the woman.

Wired*Nun
21st of August, 2010, 03:47
"Blood calls to blood," Fiona responds, drawing her hand back smoothly after a slight friendly squeeze. "Brothers love and hate, and often know not which and whether when." She reaches behind her without looking, extending the basket and blade to a female page. Her gaze then turns to the two men making their last fittings and swinging their practice blades about, her elbows resting on the fence that only comes up to Rodric's navel. Only then does he notice how short she really is - about an hundred and fifty Kenteniers...he tried to remember the conversion to Amber feet and inches...five one or two? And the boots might account for a bit of that.

Rodric is too tall to be comfortable in the same position, so he rests his hands on the rail instead. He is aware of Fiona's atteractiveness in a completely different way as Flora's. Where his other Aunt's presence reached down through his spine to somewhere below the waist, this one's crawls up his backbone to somewhere at the base of his skull, an itch and a will to...power? Something more complex than that, but he can feel it. Remember father's warnings, how the women of the family bend others to their will.

The two men take their positions, with the light blades first. The swords are reeds in the men's hands, toys almost. He cannot see the point.

The men sift position subtly, toy-swords over their heads, two-handed. He tries to open his mind to the contest, rather than judging it critically by comparison to the styles he understands.

Loric moves first, as Rodric expected he would. His brother is patient, but Rodric instinctively understands that Loric's wish is to take action.

Other than that, he can tell little about what happens. It is over in a fraction of a second, several blows and parries from both sides, yells and a reversal of position. He tries to run it back in his mind, but it is too unfamiliar. Bleys nods fractionally; perhaps that is an acknowledgment of a telling strike, perhaps something else.

Two more exchanges on this sort follow. The first results in a nod from Loric, the second a larger one from Bleys. The men bow to each other, then hand their reed swords back to the pages while the gallery of watching men and women applaud.

A kind of formalized match, then, with rules and procedures. And Loric appears to have won. Playing to his strengths. I have no doubt that he has devoted much more time to this form than Bleys, and despite his youth, has the edge.

"It's called Ken-Do. An ancient Earth form, recreated in shadow by our favorite martialist. Fencing, not fighting..." She says this without the disdain that some of his acquaintance would. "This next is more properly called ken-jutsu. The outcome will be less...conventional."

Vortigern
21st of August, 2010, 04:38
Rodric leans his shield against the fence, both hands grasping the thick shaft of his spear as he watches the swordsmen and their contest. A brief smile crosses his lips as he observes. He nods in a friendly manner to Fiona as she speaks. "It is interesting. Much more of an individual fighting art than the styles of fighting at home." he says.

"For 'genuine' contest however I think I still prefer the spear. Though perhaps I will let Loric persuade me to try the sword in his manner some time in the future. I see you prefer a lighter blade still?"

Wired*Nun
21st of August, 2010, 13:47
She shifts on her elbows, rolling slightly away from him to face toward him. "Against family, of course. I can only hope to hold my own with a lighter blade, where strength does not tell. I used something a bit heavier the last time I had to swing somthing in battle...not by preference, I assure you."

She turns back toward the contest.

The two men bring their laquered wooden blades up similarly. This time Rodric is able to follow the action, as the greater mass of the wood slows the blows.

Bleys moves first this time, sooner than Rodric expected, deliberately out of synch with his own breathing. It's a high-level duellist's tactic, designed to break the natural rhythm of the contest.

His blade extends in a lunge, foot coming down at the same moment, very fast. Loric shifts slightly, fractionally late, but enough to let the blade slide by his neck instead of punching its tip into his throat. His own sword comes down, striking at Bleys' left wrist.

Bleys releases his grip with his left hand, throwing the arm backward and out of the way while recovering forward, simultaneously lifting the blade and striking with its tip over his own right shoulder. The move is a bit slow and awkward, but almost succeeds by its unexpectedness. Loric ducks and spins on flat feet, coming back up to guard position facing Bleys, who has stepped smoothly forward and out of range,resting his own weapon jauntily on his shoulder like a huntsman's spear, then turning with a flourish.

"You're getting better, Loric. Better." He brings his blade up to guard once more, then lays on with a flurry of fast blows that gets faster...then faster still. Loric retreats in the round, parrying furiously, a wall of defense designed to wear down an attacker.

It won't work. The man who fought his way up Kolvir will not tire soon enough.

Loric seems to realize this too, as he shifts back to the offense. One complex combination later, a loud bang signals the shattering of a greave. Loric steps back, looking down at his leg, shaking it a bit in pain and annoyance, then he bows in defeat.

Bleys claps Loric on his shoulder cheerfully. "Good match, as usual. You always bring out my best." Loric nods, obviously not pleased but graceful nonethless. Bleys takes off the helmet and walks to a water-bucket for a drink, leaving Loric free to stalk over to his brother at the fence. He lifts one corner of his mouth in a wry smile.

"More practice, I suppose."

Vortigern
22nd of August, 2010, 02:56
Rodric nods after a moment, in understanding it would seem. A look of consideration crosses his features before he speaks again. "You may consider training in my own weapon then. A slightly lighter version of it is very much a finesse weapon as well. While retaining a considerable ability to defeat armor. And the reach may allow you to avoid entanglements with those of greater strength. Not that it can not be used with strength either, mind you. I favor it for that flexibility, personally. With proper training, used with agility and finesse, it is a deceptively complex weapon." he says, proferring his spear to the woman so that she might have a closer look.

As Loric approaches he smiles at his brother, his laughter a warm thing. "Indeed. Should I embarass myself with a bout and be the lesser of you both?" he says, his grin only broadening. "I didn't bring training spears with me I'm afraid. Though if some are at hand I should not be averse?"

Wired*Nun
25th of August, 2010, 03:24
"A pole is a pole," replies Loric flatly. Fiona chokes a chuckle, raising an eyebrow. Loric colors slightly, turning away from his Aunt and walking down the fenceline toward an opening. A flick of his eye indicates he wants Rodric to follow. "Later," he puts off the what was that all about question. He leads Rodric into the practice yard and over to a rack of blunt weapons.

"Let's see what they have here..." He pulls out a short spear of about seven foot length. "Shield? Or two-handed? My experience is that one-handed spear work is only for massed combat. I normally use two."

Vortigern
25th of August, 2010, 16:36
Rodric enjoys the byplay between Fiona and Loric, his grin growing even wider. Flashing bright eyes towards Fiona and Loric in turn his amusement is plainly great. Holding his spear and shield in his left hand he walks with Loric to the practice weapons with an easy comfort and obvious growing affection for his brother as he claps him on the back. "Well it depends a bit, but in general formation fighting is what I am more accustomed to." he says mildly. "Are you trained with a shield? You may be surprised at the utility of it? A sheild made with a spearman in mind can also be quite helpful in assisting in the use of a spear. Not as much as a second hand mind you, but... better than completely one-handed use."

Rodric passes his own spear back without really looking or thinking of the matter. Centenos Aghelon is there and accepts the weapon as a matter of course. Taking the training spear Loric has selected, which is slightly larger in size as compared to his own weapon, he nods his readiness to Loric afterward. "Are there 'rules' to your sparring here? Or shall we simply go at it?" he says.

As he speaks he walks out into an open part of the field, a bit apart from his brother, and stops. Leaning his sheild against his leg then makes a more detailed inspection of the training spear in his hands. He looks down its length, examining the straightness. Flexes the weapon by propping it on the ground and pushing with a knee. Then he measures it, in proportion to his arms, by holding it along the length of one arm then bending the elbow of the other and placing his thumb at the spot where his elbow ends. The spear is perhaps five inches longer than desired in proportion to his limbs. He draws one of his daggers makes a deft chop, cutting the pole to desired length.

Returning the knife to its sheath he holds the spear in both hands for a moment, giving it a few twirling and twisting motions to test it once again. Seemingly satisfied he holds it roughly in the middle of the shaft, wavering it a bit in feeling its balance, then his grip becomes genuine and he raises his sheild. A quick salute of smacking the shaft of the spear against the body of his sheild is followed by his settling into a 'ready' position.

His stance is somewhat lower than his full height could bring him to. The round body of his sheild thus can nearly fully cover his body, as he is nearly crouching behind the broadness of its form. The spear is held low, it's point hidden behind the sheild and wavering a bit as he shifts his feet and advances in a slow measured pace. The angle of the sheild places the bottom edge forward, and upward slant leading to where his eyes and helm peer over the top edge.

His advance is methodical, seeking to crowd Loric's room to swing his 'blade' with the sheild. On closing he seeks to take any opening strikes on the sheild with a hard press forward and downward sheild strike at his brother's legs while in the same moment making a thrust directly forward with the spear toward the region of the neck/upper torso.

Expecting a rebuff the intended counter is to sidestep, ducking under the sheild while pressing forward under it ( raising it over his head as he moves in his rush ) and swings rear of the shaft of the spear backhand in a sweeping motion, in a move intended to sweep the legs of the opponent out from under them. The motion of this strike turns his body to the side to generate more force and afterward leaves his spear arm forward. Recovery will involve stepping forward into another sheild strike ( which, if the tripping manuever is successful would be a downward strike as the sheild comes down from overhead with another step forward to finish pushing his opponent down ) and 'resetting' his defence while attempting to thrust at an opponent that is intended to be prone at that point. ( Unlikely I know. )

Wired*Nun
3rd of September, 2010, 04:03
"A shield is very useful in a large battle, as a passive deflection mechanism. One can't always keep up with all the attacks." Loric recites this almost is if quoting a textbook. "In a duel it also can be quite useful, depending on its durability. What would protect an ordinary man, you or I could cleave in half or punch through in one blow, if not of compensating strength."

He solicits a matching shield from Rodric's Centenos, then examines it. "Adequate for war, or practice. The brass facing...ah, I see. It's plated steel. Clever. Maintain the traditions while improving its effectiveness. Good enough." He slides his right arm into the loop and seizes the grip.

A lefthander...or perhaps ambidextrous...this will prove...interesting.

Taking up his practice spear, he replies, "Rules? Whatever we agree on. I suggest avoiding the maiming blow, to eyes or groin. Anything else is a warrior's part. Pause when a blow would have been decisive, were the weapons sharp. Agreed?"

Loric takes a similar ready position as Rodric does, leopard to his tiger. After watching him, Rodric is sure Loric is faster, but he suspects himself to be stronger, and not as slow as all that...and more familiar with this style.

Loric retreats as his brother advances, sliding leftward in rotation, skipping backward or deflecting Rodric's thrusts and swings with his shield in a way much different from his. Loric keeps the shield vertical and facing rightward, covering only the right side of his own body while opening the left. His fist, grasping the shield's grip, is pointed at Rodric's nose, and he moves it minimally left and right, up and down, almost as if using a blade.

In a fight with real weapons the shield edge would be rapidly torn by repeated blows to a small area...for Loric to use it as he does, it would best be triple-reinforced along the front edge...

Loric's first counter is lightning-fast, as he shifts to offense by striking with a straight overhand thrust. Rodric barely ducks in time, feeling the tip of the practice weapon glance off his crest. Several more jabs like this presage a period of back-and-forth, where they two enter a kind of rhythm that ends only when Loric breaks it suddenly as he reaches out with the edge of his shield, batting Rodric's open and thrusting underhanded to strike him in the belly, almost but not quite solidly. Had it been real, it might or might not have torn his armor and wounded him.

Loric's eyes smile inside his helm.

Damn, but he's good! If he weren't my father's son I might be jealous...and other than Father, I haven't had a peer to train against. And now I have several!

Vortigern
3rd of September, 2010, 04:26
Rodric gives pause, a quick salute again given by slapping the shaft of his spear against the body of his shield. He laughs aloud, his cheer undaunted by his 'loss'. At first his instinct is to surge forward and renew in another bout, but he restrains his enthusiasm waiting to see if his brother is likewise still interested in the exercise. He seems heedless of the arrival of new amberites, given his absorption in the match with Loric, and his silent 'offer' for another.

Wired*Nun
3rd of September, 2010, 11:47
When Rodric pauses and concedes the blow, Loric relaxes for a moment. Apparently he had considered it indecisive.

"A bit awkward. Not what I would choose for a duel. But it is interesting, and I'm sure quite effective in tight formation. And I adapted your shield to my own style, which isn't quite fair...though as our elders have always said, the point is to win, not fence. It expands my repertoire." He salutes and readies again.

"Lay on."

He waits.

Vortigern
3rd of September, 2010, 12:14
Rodric nods, his own consideration of the match clearly in his thoughts. His eyes are bright, but not with cheer. As he approaches he seems to have taken some inspiration from his brother's quicker movements and tries to emulate them, but it is a ploy. Inside of the first couple of exchanges he suddenly changes, coming forward in an abrupt press, and places as firm a kick as he can manage against Loric's shield. This follows in quick succession with sheild strikes and firm strikes with the butt end of his training spear. In all he puts Loric's words about the durability of the sheilds to the test.

This was not a tactic that really had occured to him before he had faced another amberite. But the words rung true. His aim is for the surface of the shield that Loric seems to habitually use to block with, as it was so consistent. Also the harder strikes perhaps will unbalance his lighter opponent. Normally Rodric favors finesse, balance, and poise in his fighting. However in these, it is plain, he is outclassed by his brother. So he plays to something else, leaving aside some of his usual caution. Perhaps his suspicion as to his greater strength will tell...

Wired*Nun
3rd of September, 2010, 23:42
Benedicts' instruction comes back to him as it often does in such moments.

"Strength is a weapon and tool. It enhances all you do. It enables your full speed, it batters the enemy, and if it comes to the grapple, it is critical to victory. But it is only decisive when it is overwhelming. You could hack your way through any number of shadow-dwellers without skill; when facing our own, your strength advantage will not be significant, or you may be at a disadvantage. So do not rely on it, only use it to fuel your skills of warfare. The tiniest cut is often more significant then the strongest buffet."

Rodric's whirlwind attack finds only Loric's oblique counters, as he moves sideways, constantly redirecting the attacks. With nearly unlimited room to maneuver, Loric is an elusive target; if Rodric were a man given to frustration, he would be so right now. In a smaller space, with somewhere to trap him, he could bring his blows to bear. And with blunt weapons, he cannot damage Loric's shield as he would like, to batter the area near the hand holding it as he would like. As it is, Loric traps him when he overextends slightly, driving his spear-tip into Rodric's armpit where the armor is negligible. There is pain and shock, to the body and mind; no one but Father had ever beaten him in a fair fight.

"The King is not his own Champion or Hero," Father had said. "He cannot be, for to be so is to pin his legitimacy on his own prowess - and if he is once beaten, what then? Shall his throne fall?" And another time: "It is a trap to think that you must be better than anyone at everything. It is a mark of greatness to allow others their triumphs."

Loric steps back, saluting.

There is a round of cheering from the watching crowd, which includes all of his men. The Centenos apparently allowed them to observe the match; he can hardly blame them.

Vortigern
4th of September, 2010, 08:06
The shock of a more clear and genuine loss is quickly overcome. Rodric is, in a moment, in full cheer once again. His smile and laughter are genuine, bright, and loud. He claps Loric on the shoulder once again, his affection plain and unguarded.

"Well done! A clearer victory this time. As I said to begin with, the lesser of you both it seems. Your skill is both well honed and hard won I imagine. I should benefit from such a skilled training partner on a more regular basis." he says, chuckling and shaking his head a moment.

Wringing and stretching his arm for a moment he seeks to work out lingering effects of the strike as he speaks. "Perhaps on another day you can show me the weapons of 'your' homeland?"