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  1. #1

    EXP: 21,787, Level: 6
    Level completed: 26%, EXP required for next Level: 5,213
    Level completed: 26%,
    EXP required for next Level: 5,213

    Leopold's Avatar


    Leopold Rook

    In The Cold Grip of Grief

    Some Time Ago...

    Time marched on wherever or not you marched with it. Minutes turned into hours into days into lifetimes if you were not careful. Leopold Winchester, who by all reckoning had lived two hundred and twelve lifetimes turned to his wife of many of those and smiled.

    “This is the right decision.”

    “Is it?”

    Ruby looked up from her book, somehow managing to read at her lightning pace despite the trundling rumbustious of their carriage on the high road to Radasanth. Not even the hardships of the open road of a war-ravaged land could keep the spell singer from rehearsing her lines.

    “Upping sticks and starting over has become what we do. We have spent so much, money, soul, and sobriety protecting Corone.” Leopold sighed. “We have had nothing in return.”

    “I thought heroism was its own reward?”

    “Too many dead men left in our wake to believe that now.”

    “You’re still sore about Syrian.”

    “About the man I got killed because of my own-“

    “Do not dare try anachronisms with me today, Leopold.”

    Leopold whispered hubris under his breath, the adage calming to his growing, turbulent stomach. He was not sure if it was motion sickness or guilt, but it made him wish he had brought a bottle for the road.

    “If you disagree with my decision, why did you come?”

    Ruby had spent the better part of the last three years building her life, her reputation, and her repertoire from the ground up. She had become distant, by her own admission, and found the offer an agreeable penance for her selfishness. Though she secretly liked the idea, Leopold would have to work for her acknowledgement.

    “We have been married for more years than any alive can count. Marriage is about-“

    “Do not dare try anachronisms with me either.”

    The couple fell into silence, broken only by the rumble of the carriage over shale and dirt. Ruby kept her gaze on her book and Leopold remained gaze fixed on the distant shoreline that marked they approach to Radasanth proper. It took a while, but Leopold found the strength to make the first move.

    “It’s hard, without Scara Brae.”

    “Is that what this is all about?” Ruby closed her book sharply, which made Leopold tense so hard he put his back out.

    “I want us to have a home. Free of guilt. Free of debt. Free of the ever-weighty presence of dead gods and forgotten ones.”

    “Why dress it up in parlour tricks and long goodbyes?” Ruby glanced at Leopold.

    “I wanted a fresh start and mean it, without getting dragged back into the same old circles over, and over, and over again…”

    The troupe had sundered time and space to break free of the chains of history, never quite succeeding because they were intrinsically tied to the fabric of Scara Brae. When the island sank beneath the waves the troupe had trodden water for a decade, only now afloat because they had sworn to be truthful with one another.

    “Then this is a proper goodbye?” Ruby looked out of her window at the island of Corona, suddenly nostalgic for all the war and wanderlust that had brought her to these shores.

    “We have nothing here to bring us back. The others will meet us in Salvar by month’s end, or whenever they sever their own familial ties. Our troupe, in the hearth of the ancient gods once again.”

    Ruby nodded. With a new perspective on their circumstances she started to come around to the idea as something they both wanted, and not just pandering to her husband’s whims. She took a deep breath of the faintly sea breeze and relinquished the last of her resentment.

    “Let's hope Mr Osiris is a man of his word."
    Last edited by Leopold; 05-23-2020 at 09:23 AM.

  2. #2

    EXP: 21,787, Level: 6
    Level completed: 26%, EXP required for next Level: 5,213
    Level completed: 26%,
    EXP required for next Level: 5,213

    Leopold's Avatar


    Leopold Rook
    Three Days Before Lammastide, Salvar

    The third winter since the arrival of the Winchester Trading Company proper. For three years its proprietor had kept his distance, entrusting operations to his right-hand man Mr Sylvers. Though the Church of the Sway’s grip was loosened, and the orcs in steady peace with the other races of the frozen wild’s danger found its way into the once safe streets. The reports regarding Mr Sylvers demise, along with three other patrons of the Steadfast Mountain were conflicting. Some said a bottle to the back of the head. Others spoke of knives drawn too hastily over a perceived slight. All that mattered, according to Leopold Winchester, was that he was responsible for his friend’s death. The sorry situation it had left his company in was his doing, and his mess to clean up. He had left his life in Corone behind to right a grievous wrong.

    “Hand me the ledgers from spring, would you?”

    Sat at his desk, the merchant poured over countless papers of the company’s transactions since it had relocated its entire operations to Salvar. He had learnt over the years that spreading oneself too thinly in uncertain times led to ruin and focussed his efforts entirely in the still ravaged lands he had once called home. His company had run caravans between the capital and Berevar’s tundra for almost a century, until the church collapsed and their efforts were needed to bring construction supplies south from the icy peaks – granite, pine, and coal from the once bustling mines.

    “We only have the outgoings for spring, we made no purchases in that period.”

    Leopold looed up from his work with a raised eyebrow.

    “None at all?”

    Mrs Whittler rested a hand on her hip and held the papers at arm’s length.

    “Look for yourself.”

    Leopold took them and gave them a cursive glance.

    “Fair enough. Why did purchases freeze?”

    “I wasn’t here so I couldn’t comment. Sometimes it happens, depending on the harshness of winter. Companies build up stock in the darker months and have an influx of orders with the first thaw. Your caravans aren’t what they used to be, Mr Winchester.”

    “Less armed, I think you’re inferring.”

    “A gatling gun on a wagon is quite the deterrent to raiders and con artists.”

    Leopold chuckled and cast the papers to one side.

    “Perhaps one day we’ll see the glorious Belinda in action again, but I’d rather not antagonise the orc tribes more than I have.”

    “Speaking of which,” Mrs Whittier moved to the exit as she spoke, “the appointment with the envoy from the Silver Crag tribe is in one hour.”

    “Oh. Of course it is, don’t worry I’ll be there.” Leopold waved, though his manners were lost on Mrs Whittier’s behind as she closed the door in her wake.

    Alone with his thoughts, Leopold looked around his new office with disdain. As ever, he had crammed a lifetime’s worth of books, ledgers, and lexicons into a space ill suited for a library. His desk at the centre sucked all space from the room leaving only a metre around the edge to claw hopelessly through the unorganised tomes. Given enough luck, and if he kept his wits about him, he hoped to move into the merchant’s quarters by autumn and be shot of the docks.

    “To do that will require a miracle…” he whispered.

    Resolved to spending another night on his audit, he pushed himself from his rickety chair and adjusted his waistcoat. In the journey west he had spent so much of his energy on the move he had lost ample weight and his clothes, for the first time in centuries, hung loosely over his drawn frame. He remembered his days as a soldier in the civil war, a haggard, sunken eyed wraith lost in his own misery.

    “Thank god the orcs always do business over a banquet.”

    It was far from the banquets in more civilised climes, but the thought of roast boar, mead, and shouting insults in leu of niceties fuelled his empty stomach enough for him to make the effort to attend. He picked up his top hat from the arm of his chair, set it on his head, and sauntered out into the dusty corridor beyond.

    “Are you still here Mrs Whittier?” he shouted in the gloom. Soot mottled oil lanterns gave him just enough light to make it to the pantry without hitting his head on the rafters, though he practically walked into the door doing so.

    “Are you alright?”

    “Ouch…” Leopold rubbed his forehead. “I take it that means you are…”


    Leopold fumbled for the doorknob and stumbled into the small kitchen to the rear of the property. Red brickwork sealed in the torrid heat of Mrs Whittier’s stove and the smell of soot and disappointment lingered here too. Leopold made a note to hire a decorator when they had the time.

    “That smells tantalising as ever.”

    “And tantalised is how you’ll stay; this is for the meeting between your wife and the wives of the city’s wealthiest investors.” She waved her spoon at him as a warning.

    “Oh, don’t worry, I’ve had enough appetisers for a thousand lifetimes. I’ve no stomach for fine foods.” Lying through his teeth, Leopold tried to hide the sound of his stomach rumbling with a hum.

    “You want something all the same.” Mrs Whittier turned back to the stove. “Mrs Winchester informs me you only ever come to the kitchen for two reasons; too eat everything or to add more lines to my already furrowed brow.”

    “Oh, come now. I only came to ask if you would be working on Lammastide?” Leopold had mastered the art of diplomacy with countless cultures, able to silver tongue people from all walks of life. Mrs Whittier, however, still run him out of town.

    “Am I needed, given you’ll be in Berevar?”

    “There will be nobody in the office for that week, I was going to offer you reprieve and give you use of the house for your family to stay rather than waste coin on those ramshackle hotels in the eastern quarter.”

    Mrs Whittier turned sharply, half shocked, half angry, and extricating too dense for Leopold to read.

    “That’s…very kind of you, Mr Winchester.”

    “Please, call me Leopold, I’m done with pleasantries in the workplace. Think of this company as a family.”

    “I have plans to leave the city for my grandfather’s farmstead, Mr Winchester. Though it pleases me knowing I can leave a few days earlier.”

    Leopold rolled his eyes.

    “If I leave two days, hence, make your needs known to see you through to the weekend and I’ll have Gertrude set out meals and baths.” The matter of fact tone told Leopold the conversation was over.

    “Have a pleasant Lammastide, Mrs Whittier.” Leopold tipped his hat and made a swift exit.

    Back in the gloom of the corridor, his thoughts returned to his third favourite pastime, business. He began reciting the names of the orc chieftains as he ploughed through the corridor and made his way to the staircase and climb to the cleaner, more respectable part of the house. His feet once again on marble, he made short work of the journey to the great hall and the grandiose, rose motif doors that lead out into the bitter cold.

    “If you go out without a coat again Leopold, I’m not responsible for dredging your frozen corpse out of the river.”

    Leopold froze, perhaps ironically at the sound of wife’s voice from above.

    “I thought you were getting ready dear.” Feeling the weight of her gaze on his nape, he sauntered to the coat stand and picked up the thick woollen overcoat she had already set out for him.

    “I’m ready. They’ll be here in a half hour, so do be off to meet Mr Osiris and see this matter put to bed.”

    Leopold turned and set his sights on his wife, resplendent in a ruby red dress with leather bodice as low cut as you could afford in the frigid cold of Salvar. He raised an eyebrow approvingly.

    “You look radiant as ever.”

    Ruby rolled her eyes and leant against the banister.

    “I’d come down there and wipe that smirk off your face myself but not in these heels.”

    “You’re wearing heels?” Leopold dropped his jaw.

    He managed to get out of the door before the gout of flame scorched the flagstones where he had, seconds before, been digging his own grave. In minutes, he was knee deep in snow and regret and on the way to meet his new business partner in the ruins of the Church of the Eternal Sway.
    Last edited by Leopold; 05-23-2020 at 09:40 AM.

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