Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 27/1/13)

This is a dark age, a bloody age, an age of daemons and of sorcery.

Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 27/1/13)

Postby Athelassan » Fri Jan 06, 2012 8:19 pm

Right, here goes. This is an old story (probably five or six years old) that I'm now going to attempt to finish and I think having people read it is the best way of giving myself an incentive to do so. Apologies therefore to those of you who remember reading this before. This is kind of cheating, but I'm trying to get back into writing and I think this is the existing story I have the best chance of finishing to ease myself into it.

Edit: This policy has worked very well and the story is now well on its way to completion.

This is in fact part of a whole series and saga of (variously complete) stories about Weyrother and chums (and several about his family). Once this is finished I'm planning on going through the rest of my work and revising some of it. I've tried here to make it so that you don't need to know anything about the characters in advance, but if you're finding anything unnecessarily obtuse then let me know and I'll address it.

Comments and criticism on the whole story or any of its constituent parts are welcomed. It's the only way I'll learn!


Lothar Wenzel von Weyrother was terrified.

He might have found it amusing under other circumstances. He had watched his father die in front of him at the age of twelve. At fourteen he had experienced his first battle, against no less a foe than Morglum Necksnapper’s greenskins. Yet here he was, and he was scared almost witless.

It was partly the fault of the building, a prime example of the principle of dominance by architecture. Unnecessarily ostentatious, it served the purpose of housing its resident family a thousand times over; its real mission was to astound and intimidate, a mission it achieved magnificently. Even for those who had been inside the Imperial palace before, it preyed heavily upon the mind. For virgins, it was simply terrifying.

He walked alone down the gloriously furnished corridor, his only companions the silent stewards who bowed as he passed, and the equally silent portraits staring down at him admonishingly. Everything was so opulent as to beggar belief. The carpet was a lush, rich, deep red weave from Araby, and to stretch the length of the corridor it must have been one of the longest in the world. Interspersed with the stewards were various items of antique furniture; a Ludwig II commode, which Weyrother only recognised because of the stupefyingly unnecessary gold leaf that was so garish and typical of the period. A cabinet, lacquered in some Lustrian wood or other, stood opposite. Even the wooden floor visible on either side of the carpet was finished in parquet; an ensemble of differently coloured woods that would have taken an age to identify.

But it was the portraits that really set the whole thing off. Most noble families dedicated a reception room to host the family, so that the living could welcome a stranger into their abode before inflicting their relatives upon them. Here, two thousand years of unsmiling faces stared down at any interloper. Hardly any of the portraits from before the millennium were original; that was neither surprising nor reassuring. Instead it lent them an awful consistency, as the same style was relentlessly echoed all down the corridor.

Most of the portraits were in the style of Gist, Weyrother noted, although only a mere handful, the earliest, could have been original. Nor were the pictures unflattering. The earliest denizens of the wall could have been little better than barbarians, like Sigmar himself, but they stood there not with wild beards and ragged chain shirts but with trimmed hair, rustic circlets of gold and iron, and a dignified bearing.

Only one portrait stood apart, but that was not a surprise either, since the sitter was the only one not of the family. Not that the family seemed to begrudge him that- the picture was larger than any of the others, full length, and more detailed. Weyrother stopped for a moment and gazed up at it. Magnus von Bildhofen stood, eight feet tall, in full battle regalia, his face turned away from the viewer, gazing imperiously towards the far end of the corridor. Was there meant to be symbolism there? The great hero of the Empire looking towards the future? Weyrother had never been any good at that.

The sounds from the ballroom at the far end of the corridor were now audible, and a further twenty paces brought Weyrother to the last of the portraits, although there was still ample space left on the wall. These he recognised. From his right, the Countess Emmanuelle, almost as large as Magnus, beamed down on the visitor, the first friendly face that he had witnessed. He had only met the Countess once, but from what he remembered the artist had done a fine job. Feeling an uncomfortable crawling on the back of his neck, he turned to see Leos glowering down from the other wall. Even in paint the man was jealous of his sister’s admirers.

Weyrother groaned inwardly as he realised his last excuse for procrastination had been stripped from him. He quickened his pace and headed for the ballroom, meeting the herald’s eye as he did so. Even as he opened his mouth to tell the man his name, the herald shook his head slightly- clearly he was already known here.

“If you will permit me, my Lord?” the herald asked, with a low bow, and signalled the guards behind him to open the double doors. Weyrother swallowed once, then stepped forward into the riot of colour and noise.

“The Baron von Weyrother!” the herald announced, and Weyrother saw a handful of faces turn in his direction as he began to descend the steps. Frantically he cast his eye around the room looking for those he recognised, although the gulf between recognition and acquaintance seemed to grow with every step he took.

Emmanuelle was, as ever, thronged with company, both male and female, and the high-pitched laughter of their gaggle rose even above the music for the dancers. Her warlord Bruno Pfeifraucher, looking enormously out of place in court dress rather than battle armour, stood with arms folded at one side of the room, towering over those who stood around him. Mirroring him on the other wall was Leos, the only man in the room wearing a sword, his handsome face scowling at a somewhat foppish man loitering just outside Emmanuelle’s circle.

Before he could spot anyone else, he found himself at the bottom of the steps. A steward leaned in to him and muttered something about drinks on the terrace if he would care to help himself, although he had already spotted the servants moving delicately among the revellers with platters of food and drink. He glanced up to see Leos wave one away, his gaze never leaving the fop.

“Lothar von Weyrother!” a voice roared to his left, and he spun, half-alarmed, to find himself face to face with a red-faced, middle-aged man. A spark of recognition dawned in his brain, what would have been a second too late were the man sober.

“Duke Henrik, of course,” he said, extending a hand, which the man took and pumped vigorously. “How good to see you again.”

“How are you doing down in Solland, then?” Henrik said, almost cutting him off. “A bad business with your father, so I heard.”

Weyrother smiled grimly. His father’s friends had been few and far between. “It was a long time ago,” he replied. “In fact, things have picked up a fair bit since then.”

“Delighted to hear it, delighted,” Henrik continued, as if he had barely heard. “Don’t suppose you’ve met my wife, Isabella, have you?” Weyrother turned his attention to the red-headed girl on Henrik’s arm, who was smiling broadly, but only with her mouth.

Seeing the warning look in her eyes, Weyrother managed to turn his instinctive grin into a cheery greeting smile. She had certainly not wasted any time; not a year earlier she had been the “grieving” widow of the war hero Lucius von Kattel, attending a ball at Averheim, after which she had spent the night in Weyrother’s bed. He owed her nothing, but neither was there any bitterness between them, and if anything he was pleased she had found another man. There was no need to cause a scene.

“Delighted to meet you, my lady,” he said, taking her hand and lowering his lips to it for the briefest of moments. As he straightened and their eyes met she nodded in thanks, almost imperceptibly.

He remembered Ludenhof’s words in his letter of advice, which had been his chief guide through these precarious social situations for the last five years. Ludenhof had claimed small talk was a vital tool for establishing political connections, but Weyrother knew enough to know that he was awful at it. Besides, Henrik was sufficiently far gone that he wouldn’t recall anything he said now in the morning anyway.

“If you’ll excuse me, your grace?” he asked, and slipped away even as the duke blustered his way through a goodbye. He needed a drink.

A steward accosted him with a plate of rather bewildering food. Weyrother picked one at random out of courtesy, and, for want of anything better to do, put the morsel in his mouth. The flavours were certainly strong, but not entirely pleasant. Not, he supposed, that that was the point- the quantity of spice was there to demonstrate how expensive the morsel was, not to enhance the eating experience. As he swallowed he passed Emmanuelle’s crowd, who barely noticed him, although the Countess herself did glance up and give him one of her illuminating smiles. He returned it with a half-smile and stalked out onto the terrace.

Weyrother knew full well the dangers of drink; his father had succumbed to the stuff before his twentieth summer, but Lothar had always led a life of moderation and he saw no danger in getting blindly drunk now, if that was what it would take to enjoy this evening. Two whiskies slipped down his throat almost immediately, then he paused for a moment to let the drink sink in. He knew that would not be enough; for a young man he had an iron constitution.

“Don’t drink it like that,” a distinctly feminine voice came from behind him, and he turned to see the Countess in all her glory. He had to admit that this evening she looked stunning- whoever had designed her dress had done so to perfection, displaying all her curves- all her curves, he noted, without appearing too tight. The overall effect was one of green, but so many hues were blended in that it must have taken days to complete. The colour also served the purpose of drawing attention to her eyes- deep pools of emerald that a man could lose himself in… He brushed the thoughts away as a distraction. Maybe the whisky had gone to his head more than he had realised.

“It’s a twenty-four year-old malt,” the Countess admonished, a wry smile playing on her lips. “It’s like a fine wine. You have to savour the bouquet, like so.” She lifted the glass deftly from his hand and swirled it under her nose, before taking a delicate sip.

All her poise and posture disappeared in an instant as she found herself coughing almost uncontrollably, and Weyrother laughed out loud. When her fit had subsided, so did she, although it was really more of a giggle.

“I don’t know how you can drink that stuff,” she said, between splutters.

“It’s an acquired taste.”

“One I think I shall not bother acquiring. To think I spent… oh, Sigmar only knows how much on this stuff. And just because Bruno said it was the best.” She handed him the glass back, and he drained it effortlessly.

Weyrother found himself more relaxed than he had been since first stepping through the gates of the palace. He had forgotten this about Emmanuelle; she had a perfect talent for putting people at their ease. There was no need for awkward small talk- her face radiated honesty and friendliness, the expression on her face looking with such benign intensity that one could feel they were all that really mattered to her in the world at that moment.

“I understand I am to congratulate you on what I am sure is an excellent party,” he said, in a tone that verged on the sardonic. She giggled again.

“And how would you know?” she chided gently. “How many parties have you ever attended?”

“At least three,” he said, grandly, and she grinned again.

“Come, walk with me.” She extended her arm, and he took it, then she led him off along the terrace. The lights of Nuln glowed off to his right, while the glare of the party illuminated his surroundings. Someone somewhere closed a door, and the sounds of within dimmed slightly.

“You remind me of Bruno,” she said suddenly.

“A comparison by which I am sure I am more flattered than he would be. Unless of course you refer to my age, in which case shame on you.”

“He likes you more than he would let on, I think,” she smirked. “He sees in you a younger version of himself. And no, before you ask, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to grow one of those beastly moustaches.”

“The fear of that had kept me awake at night, I must admit.”

She ignored his sarcasm. “You’re both so… uncomplicated.” She sighed and seemed to deflate slightly, a melancholy taking her. “All day I’m surrounded with mindless fops. All they know how to do is dress well and make witty quips at each others’ expense. There’s so much politics. I feel like I know exactly where I stand with you. You don’t pretend to be anything other than you are.”

“And yet Bruno and I seem to be less welcome at parties.”

“Of course! It’s because parties are run by the same intolerable idiots that I despise, that envy you your simplicity.”


“You know what I mean. I can tell just by looking at you that you’re not stupid, but you’re blunt. Unsophisticated. Honest. If it weren’t for people like you the world wouldn’t turn, but not everyone’s brave enough, or good enough, to be like you. So they hide behind masques and charades and make out that they’re better than you, but you mustn’t let them.”

The fug that seemed to have settled over Weyrother’s mind after the whiskies cleared for a moment. “You seem awfully sure about all of this considering we’ve only been talking for five minutes.”

She elbowed him gently in the ribs. “I know who you are. You may crave obscurity but you’re not going to get it, I’m afraid. Your exploits are common knowledge as far as Altdorf, and, as your provincial ruler-” she lilted the words as if they were distasteful- “it would be remiss of me not to take an interest. Besides, I don’t have to talk to you for long to know what sort of man you are. It’s written all over you, in your bearing, on your face.”

Weyrother was about to reply when a third voice cut across him. He, and Emmanuelle, turned to see a well-dressed man emerging from the ballroom.

“So this is your new playboy, is it?” he said, sauntering closer. His skin was pale, although whether from powder or lack of daylight it was impossible to tell in the dark. Red wine stained his lips and his cheeks were flushed with anger, making him look almost like a courtesan.

“Not now, Klaus,” Emmanuelle groaned, and released Weyrother’s arm to try to walk past the man into the ballroom. As she passed he made a grab for her, but Weyrother slapped him away.

“How dare you touch her?” he said, before he even realised he had opened his mouth. Emmanuelle disappeared into the door behind Klaus as quickly as was dignified.

“How dare I?” Klaus said, slurring slightly. “How dare you? I demand satisfaction for this!” So saying, he fumbled with his glove for a moment. There was a pause of almost comic length as he struggled to get it off his hand, then finally released it and slapped Weyrother across the face. The blow was far from painful, but Lothar found himself stretched to new heights of incredulity.

“You are seriously challenging me to a duel?”

“Damned right I am. Steal my woman, then manhandle me like that? Outrageous. Outside. Tomorrow. Dawn. Swords,” he snapped, before he had a chance to realise that may not have been the best of plans in his current condition.

“First blood?” Weyrother was pretty sure he should have had choice of weapons, but he favoured swords in any case, and it would be much easier to inflict an accidentally fatal wound with pistols. Perhaps this farce could still be salvaged.

“To the death, my friend,” Klaus replied, pulling himself up to his full height. It was not impressive; he was still several inches shorter than Weyrother. Evidently feeling his point was made, he spun on his heel, almost overbalanced, and staggered back into the ballroom, past the figure casually leaning by the door. Weyrother watched him go, bafflement etched on his face.

“Want me to stand in for you?” the figure asked, unmoving, and as he moved closer Weyrother saw it was Leos. “You’re entitled to a champion, and I’d be happy to.”

“Thank you for the offer, but I think I had best deal with this myself.,” he replied, his raised eyebrow invisible in the darkness. A thought occurred to him. “I could do with a second though, if you’d be willing.”

“Suit yourself. He’s quick, but unskilled, and weak on the parry. Oh, and you’ll no doubt have realised that by dawn tomorrow he’ll have a hangover the size of Middenland, so try and start facing west, it’ll give you an advantage. I‘ll second for you if there’s no-one else.”

“Thank you,” Weyrother replied, still slightly puzzled as to why Leos was giving him this advice.

“Don’t mention it.” The swordsman nodded, then slipped back inside. Weyrother followed, hoping to find out what was going on, but could see neither Leos nor his sister inside. He cursed softly.
Last edited by Athelassan on Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:10 am, edited 19 times in total.
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Re: Friends in High Places

Postby Radioactive Hamster » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:52 am

This was a very good start to a longer story. I enjoyed reading it. Here are some thoughts, to take or leave at your whim:

I thought the interaction between Weyrother and Emmanuelle was very well done. The dialogue was smooth and natural, and the ending scene between Klaus and Weyrother left just enough tension to keep the reader interested about what would happen next (especially with Leos entering the picture). I enjoyed the "high society" view of the Warhammer world, away from the battlefields and forests that are the usual settings.

The beginning of the story seemed a little on the slow side. Although the scene was set that Weyrother was in the palace, it seems to me that most of the pertinent information can be grasped by the reader when Weyrother enters the ballroom...and that (to me, at least) seems to be where the real story starts. At least, that was when I started getting really interested. ;)

Some characters seem to be introduced without much explanation as to who they are or what connection they have to Weyrother, but then you did say this was part of a longer series, so perhaps that is explained in earlier chapters or stories. Still, if this is a stand-alone story it would be nice to know who people like Klaus and Leos are, and how Weyrother (seemingly) knows them already.

Thanks for posting this story. I heartily enjoyed it, and look forward to more. :D
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Re: Friends in High Places

Postby Athelassan » Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:28 pm

]Thanks for the feedback. More of the story will follow as soon as I've got some tedious work out of the way and can edit what I have into something workable.

The lack of introduction of the characters you note is partially intentional - Emmanuelle is already an established background character as is Leos to a lesser extent, and Klaus is unknown to Weyrother (though clearly not to Emmanuelle) at the point he appears. Moreover this is, although not the first time our hero has met Emmanuelle and Leos, the first time he's had anything approaching a proper conversation with them. But I am possibly assuming an over-familiarity with the established characters, which I will look at.

(Incidentally, if you're not already familiar with Emmanuelle and Leos, please do check out Jack Yeovil's Beasts in Velvet (in the Genevieve omnibus) as it is truly excellent).

The start of the story - you're probably right. I just liked the passage too much to cut it, and it does still contain most of the stuff I was trying to get across - the opulence of the surroundings, the apparent self-importance of the von Liebewitzes, etc. which I haven't yet found a better way to convey without disrupting the story unnecessarily later.

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Re: Friends in High Places

Postby Athelassan » Sun Feb 12, 2012 2:38 am

After a truly unconscionable delay, here's the next part. I thought this was ready to post, but on review I realised that I wasn't really happy putting it up as is and that I needed to add quite a lot. Still, here it is, much later than planned.

As always, C&C welcomed.


Weyrother was awake and dressed before dawn; he had hardly slept well, but had managed a couple of hours before the knock came at his door. For a moment he dared to hope it was a messenger from Klaus, calling the duel off, but he settled himself with the thought it was probably Leos. It was neither.

“Don't look so pleased to see me,” Kurt Heger said, shouldering past Weyrother and into the room. “Have you got any water? I'm sick of wine.”

“Come in, by all means,” Weyrother muttered, just loudly enough to be heard, shutting the door as Heger found a vessel and took a swig from it. Kurt was a childhood friend from Hochland, and, despite the intrusion, Weyrother was glad of the company.

“Ye gods!” Kurt peered suspiciously into the depths. “I know the sewers empty into the river, but it tastes like they cut out the middle man and piss straight into the jug.”

“Are you sure that's not the chamber pot?” That was enough to give Heger pause for a moment. Then he grinned.

“Good to see you've still got your sense of humour.” He clapped Weyrother on the shoulder. “What passes for it, anyway.”

“Maybe they can engrave that on my headstone. 'Here lies Lothar Wenzel von Weyrother. Last of his line. Made a joke once.'”

“There'll be time for a few more jokes yet. Your opponent didn't get to bed, and I saw him emptying his stomach into a stable bucket about ten minutes ago.”

“When did you get here? I didn't see you last night.”

“I arrived about half an hour after you left, by all accounts. It's typical, really. I leave you alone at a party for ten minutes and you end up in a fight.”

“I didn't even know you were supposed to be coming.”

“Well, I'm glad to know you don't just save these performances for when I'm around, at least. Truth be told, I'm here for more than the party. I'm moving to Solland.”

“You're serious?”

“Someone has to keep an eye on you, and it might as well be me.” He winked. “Besides, why would I stay in Hochland, with beautiful mountains and sweeping forests and legendary hunting? It's just far too exciting when I consider I could be sitting in a Pfeildorf marsh with you drinking that rats' piss you try to tell me is brandy.”

“My father valued quantity over quality in his drinking habits. What does Ludenhof make of it?”

“Your father's brandy? I don't think he's ever been unfortunate enough to try it. But he's thrilled to see the back of me. It's reward enough in itself, and it means there's someone to keep an eye on you. He's worried you've been spending too long with Leitdorf.”

“There are worse mentors.”

“Orcs, maybe, or particularly recalcitrant dwarfs. Still, you've managed to pick up some of his social skills, so let's hope the same goes for your swordsmanship.” Heger picked up Weyrother's rapier and tossed it to him; he caught it in mid-air.

“We'd better be going.”

Heger nodded. “Do you need a second?”

“I have one, and a better one than you, for what it's worth.”

“That's not possible, but I'm wounded all the same. Are you ready?”

“No, but I'll have to manage as I am.”

“You've fought before, haven't you?”

“Only battles, no duels.”

“Strange, isn't it? The more enemies there are, the less intimidating it seems. I guess that when there are more of them, they get in each other's way.”

“That, and there's nobody watching to see you make a fool of yourself.”

As they emerged into the courtyard, Weyrother saw that quite a crowd had indeed gathered outside to witness proceedings. Most of them were the normal courtiers and toadies: other than his opponent, he could see nobody he recognised. That included Emmanuelle, but that did not surprise him. From what he had heard, she never watched duels over her honour.

Leos appeared at Kurt’s shoulder. “Are you ready, Lothar?”

“As I’ll ever be.” He remembered the social niceties. “I don’t believe you have met my friend, Sir Kurt Heger. Kurt, Lord Leos von Liebwitz.”

“Charmed,” Leos nodded brusquely, before turning back to Weyrother. “Have you ever fought a duel before?”

“No, not as such.”

“It’s not difficult. You’ll each be offered a chance to apologise, but that’s largely a waste of time, no-one ever does. You draw your sword, advance until the points are touching, take a step back each, then start on my signal. From there it’s up to you. I would recommend you attack him on the right, but fight your own way. If he tries anything illegal, that’s what I’m there for.”

Weyrother tried to absorb the information, and a question popped unbidden into his mind. “Why are you helping me, Leos?”

A ghost of a smile crossed the swordsman’s face. “Your father was Maximilian von Weyrother, and you were taught swordplay by Marius Leitdorf. Anyone fool enough to challenge you deserves everything they get.” With that he turned and marched back over towards where Klaus and his second were waiting.

Weyrother advanced and offered Klaus a low bow. From the shadows he realised he was facing south- he would have to turn Klaus to his right to get the full advantage of the sun.

Klaus’s second, a marginally less insipid man than the duellist, addressed Weyrother. “Are you prepared to apologise for the insult?”

“I have done nothing for which I need to apologise,” Weyrother replied, glaring at Klaus. The nobleman’s eyes were desperately bloodshot, and there were grey bags under his eyes. It was a wonder the man was fit enough to fight.

“Do you still demand satisfaction?” Leos growled at Klaus. The man looked as if he wanted to decline, but there was quite an audience and to pull out at this stage would be the worst form of cowardice. The man was actually prepared to die over the misunderstanding, although Weyrother had to admit to himself he would probably do the same if the situations were reversed.

He shook his head slightly to clear the thoughts and extended his sword. Klaus did likewise, and their eyes locked. Each nodded, almost imperceptibly, then Leos cried out and Klaus leapt into the attack.

Weyrother was almost taken by surprise. Leos had not lied; the man was fast, and in his first half-dozen blows it was all he could do to block, deflecting the thin blade that came whipping in on his left. The strikes were imprecise, though, more like a frantic farmer trying to gather his harvest before the rain than true swordsmanship.

Weyrother backed off, absorbing the blows, letting Klaus exhaust his initial spurt of energy. The longer the fight went on, the more advantage Weyrother gained; Klaus was clearly tired and still suffering from the excesses of the previous night. Weyrother blocked a wide haymaker aimed at his neck, and riposted with a sudden flick towards Klaus’s left, as Leos had suggested. Klaus stepped into the cut and swept it aside, but the blow had never been intended to hit. As Weyrother shifted position, Klaus turned to face him and found himself staring straight into the rising sun.

The rapier came up instinctively as Klaus tried to cover his eyes, but Weyrother had anticipated the move and cut back inside, slicing open his opponent’s forearm. As blood started to seep from the wound, Weyrother smiled grimly to himself and began the process of taking his opponent apart. It was not pretty swordplay, but then fine duelling technique was no longer necessary. He exaggerated each blow, pulling Klaus's weapon further and further away from his body, but the speed of the assault was such that Klaus still had to parry each of them with no opportunity to counter. The blood from the slash on his arm had leaked onto his hand by now, and Weyrother could tell it was affecting his grip- the sword seemed less secure in his grasp.

One final blow, and the sword wrenched out of Klaus’s hand to clatter on the courtyard cobbles. Weyrother reversed the stroke and brought it back into his opponent’s face, the base of the blade skimming Klaus’s cheek before the hilt caught him full in the jaw. Klaus spun backwards with a cry, and Weyrother followed up to place the blade at his throat.

“Do you yield?” he asked, flatly. Klaus stared back at him.

“I have no quarrel with you save that which you have created today,” he continued. “I would not kill an unarmed man. Do you yield?”

Klaus stared at him for a moment more, then relief swept across his features. “Yes. Yes, I yield.”

“Good.” Weyrother turned and stalked away to a polite smattering of applause, leaving his opponent sprawled on the ground.

Leos frowned as Weyrother passed. “You should have killed him.”

Weyrother shook his head. “There was no need.”

“Dashed honourable of you, old chap!” Kurt cried sardonically, taking two steps over and clouting him on the back. “No time to rest, though- I hear that while you were fighting a fair maid from the castle was kidnapped by a cruel dragon. His tower lies thataway!” He gestured grandly, but Weyrother scowled.

“That’s not funny, Kurt.”

“Not that you'd know if it was. Still, we have a victory to celebrate, don't we? Where's that man with the drinks?”
Last edited by Athelassan on Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:26 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Friends in High Places

Postby Gaius Marius » Sun Feb 12, 2012 6:48 am

Staggeringly well written Ath.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 12/2/12)

Postby Athelassan » Tue Feb 14, 2012 1:38 am

Next bit.


Once the congratulations were done with, Weyrother slipped away and headed back for his own rooms. He was in no mood to celebrate; apart from anything else he was becoming increasingly tired from lack of sleep. He felt as though he needed a drink, but brushed the thought aside angrily. Drinking was no way to solve his problems.

He had come so close. A mite less self control and he would have killed the man. Had he not been so confident of victory he probably would have- better safe than dead. But even then it would have been a senseless deed- Klaus may have been a fool but he had done nothing to offend him. He had quashed the bloodlust having barely noticed it, but he knew that it was his own pride that had led him to the duel as much as Klaus’s. He had been so close to being just another killer, another Leos.

He shivered with the recollection. Leos had never been anything but civil, even friendly, to him, but there was something about the man that did not ring quite right in his mind. Possibly he was just not used to being around killers.

“I see you survived.” The voice was low and mellifluous, but unmistakeably feminine. He stopped.

“Hello, my Lady.”

“So formal?” Emmanuelle smiled. “I was hoping to find you.”

“I didn’t kill him.”

“I know, I was watching.”

Weyrother raised an eyebrow. “I thought you didn’t take much of an interest in your lovers’ tiffs?”

“Most of them are fighting Leos, not you. It’s a foregone conclusion. So nice to have a brother so devoted to my interests.” There was nothing insincere in her voice, but he thought he could hear an undercurrent of sadness.

Weyrother was not in the mood for sympathy. “A brother to take care of the problems you create for yourself? Surely that’s nothing to complain about.”

“I don’t ask him to deal with them,” she sighed. “Besides, Klaus was never even a lover, just someone who got too close. He’s an idiot, but I’m glad you spared him. Leos would have fought him otherwise, and filleted him.”

Weyrother nodded. “That would be why he was so eager to help.”

“Probably. I suppose that after this you’ll be going home to Pfeildorf?”

“Is there any reason I should stay?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Because I want you to? I’m leaving for Altdorf in few weeks, but in the meantime I would really appreciate it if you stayed. There’s the debutantes’ ball, and everything.”

Weyrother was touched, more than he let on. “Why me? I’m a barbarian- I can’t conduct myself properly, I don’t know anyone or anything about culture. I can barely even ride a horse!”

“You can’t ride?” She actually seemed surprised.

He smiled slightly. “Well, I can, obviously, just not well.”

“I thought you were in the Pistoliers?”

“I was, but not for as long as I should have been, what with my father. I can shoot fine, but I don’t think I’m one of life’s natural horsemen.”

She grinned suddenly. “Show me.”

“You’re joking.”

“Not at all. We shall go hunting this afternoon, and I shan’t take no for an answer. You can show me your brilliant aim, and your incompetent horsemanship. It’ll be fun!”

“You have a strange idea of fun, Emmanuelle, and a strange idea of what’s going to persuade me to stay. This sort of public humiliation…” He began to fashion a conclusion, but the look in her eyes momentarily disarmed him.

“Oh, all right then,” he snarled, although not entirely ill-humouredly.

“You won’t regret it, I promise.” She grinned, and he was momentarily mesmerised by her smile. “I’ll make the necessary arrangements.”


Weyrother had to admit that staying had been the right thing to do. Had he left he would have been back in Pfeildorf within a few days, but the place held little appeal. Solland was in his blood, his bones, but not his heart, and there was not a day he did not resent the burden his father had heaped upon him, both in terms of his debts and the age at which he had had to come to terms with them. Had he left Nuln in the black mood of that morning, he knew he would have glowered for days. Better to ride it off, and inflict his frustration on some poor mindless beast.

Needless to say, the casual afternoon expedition had been blown out of all proportion, partly by Emmanuelle’s natural extravagance and partly by Pfeifraucher’s snorted assertion that there was no quarry worth chasing so close to the city. The hunt was postponed till the morrow, and the intervening period taken up by travelling to Emmanuelle’s closest hunting lodge, a journey of some six hours.

There were to be five in the hunting party: Weyrother himself, Emmanuelle, Pfeifraucher, Duke Henrik, and a corpulent young Solland noble who Weyrother vaguely recognised as Severin von Bugenhagen. On top of the hunters themselves were a small handful of Emmanuelle’s trappers, gamekeepers and beaters, a party of servants and maids who had travelled on ahead to help prepare the lodge, and an assorted medley of personal valets, menservants, chambermaids and bodyguards. After that came the stable hands and a large proportion of the kitchen staff, themselves accompanied by food wagons so that even if the hunt was unsuccessful, the noble guests would not starve. In all it was less a small group of companions and more a small army that ground its way out of Nuln for the lodge.

Emmanuelle, of course, was as oblivious of all the logistics, or at least pretended to be, as she was allegedly thoughtless of the hearts of her lovers. By the time they arrived at the lodge, which in truth was not noticeably smaller than Weyrother’s home in Pfeildorf, he was boggling at the scale of the operation. He was beginning to wonder whether the entire expedition had really been fabricated for his benefit. Politics moved in ways he did not yet really understand.

There was a feast that evening at the lodge, somewhat premature, he felt, since they had not yet caught anything, but Emmanuelle did nothing by halves, especially entertaining. The Countess herself looked little the worse for wear for the journey, which was more than could be said for Henrik and Bugenhagen, each of them carrying the air of a man who wished he had thought better of the trip. Weyrother doubted they would be any happier back in Nuln. Leos was currently in charge of the remaining guests, and Weyrother chuckled to think of that man of ice entertaining anybody.

Although he had weathered the trip better than some of his companions, Weyrother was glad of his bed by the time he was finally allowed to it. And, despite the scandalous leer with which Heger had seen him off, there was nothing to disturb his rest until the party was assembled for the hunt the following morning.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 14/2/12)

Postby Athelassan » Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:51 am

“Are you sure there’s anything in this forest?” Weyrother growled in irritation as he brushed another branch away from his face. He had now been sitting in the saddle for over two hours, not counting the gruelling journey the day before, and his backside and inner thighs felt like they had been walked on the whole way. His natural inadequacy as a horseman had not persuaded him to spend much time in the saddle since he had left the Pistoliers, and this was something he sorely regretted now.

What made it worse was that where his clothes were torn and his skin scratched in many places from the excessive attentions of vegetation, Emmanuelle, riding just ahead of him, seemed completely unscathed.

“There won’t be any if you make so much noise,” Pfeifraucher snapped from behind.

“He does have a point, though,” Emmanuelle commented from ahead. “It would be a shame if we didn’t find anything. Perhaps we should split up. We could cover more ground that way.”

“Not a bad idea, I suppose,” Pfeifraucher shrugged. “Splitting into two groups would seem logical.”

“I’ll go with Lothar,” Bugenhagen suggested eagerly. The man had been bending Weyrother’s ear about his proposed land and military reforms since they had left Nuln. Not that he minded, although he suspected Emmanuelle had other plans.

“Oh, I’m sure he must be tired of talking about those damned reforms by now,” the Countess said, more airily than was necessary. “I know I’m certainly tired of hearing about them. I’ll go with Lothar, you three boys head off by yourselves.” Pfeifraucher’s raised eyebrow was all that needed to be said, although it appeared neither Henrik nor Bugenhagen had picked up on the subtext. Still, nobody objected, and it was readily agreed to meet back at the lodge by sundown if they could not find each other before that.

They rode on in silence for a moment, until Emmanuelle raised a hand to signal a stop.

“What is it?” Weyrother hissed.

“I thought I heard something in the undergrowth ahead. May I borrow one of your pistols?”

Weyrother unholstered one and handed it to her. She appraised it with a glance.

“Very elegant. Dwarf-made?”

“Indeed. A gift from Leitdorf for my sixteenth birthday.”

“Very generous of him,” she said, hefting the weapon, then grinned and touched her heels to the horse’s flanks.

“Emmanuelle!” Weyrother cried as she disappeared through the trees, then he swore loudly. He had no choice but to go after her, and without thinking he too spurred his steed and sped after her, leaving a couple of startled-looking men-at-arms in his wake.

He had not lied when he had told Emmanuelle he was a bad horseman. It was all he could do to stay in the saddle as the horse raced between the trees over the broken ground, clinging to the reins so tightly that he could feel his fingernails digging into his palms through his gloves. The horse seemed to know what it was doing, which was merciful since there was no way he could have controlled it as well as remaining seated.

He could hear the confused voices of the retinue behind him, but they were on foot and would take several minutes to catch up. There was no option of slowing down or stopping, as he would dearly have loved to do, since he had to keep the countess in sight and she seemed intent on riding like a madwoman. Even now he could only see flashes of her clothing through the dense brush.

His heart soared as he saw that she seemed to have stopped, but only for a moment. As the horse, almost as mad as its mistress, he had decided, burst into the clearing, a low branch caught him a glancing blow to the side. It was not a graceful fall. The bulk of his body was knocked sideways, out of the saddle, but his foot caught in the right stirrup. It took his hands a moment to register that the rest of him was no longer seated, and he was dragged halfway across the clearing by the errant horse before he was able to extricate himself. He fell, cursing, rolled twice in the dirt, and was about to haul himself to his feet when he realised why Emmanuelle had stopped.

On the other side of the clearing was a huge boar, larger than any he could recall seeing. He had heard the stories, of course, of the warping influence of Old Night; men with animal heads, boars the height of a man, with tusks a foot long. He did not think that this was one of those beasts, but it was nonetheless a monster. A stupid, hulking, hairy pig, and it was staring straight at him. As he returned its stare, it lowered its head, grunting ,and pawed at the ground.

Trying not to make any hasty movements, he extended his left hand in what he hoped was a placatory gesture, while reaching for his pistol with the other. The holster was empty, and he noted with a rising sense of panic that the weapon had fallen some six feet away. That only left his sword, but he knew he had scant chance of besting the animal with that. Emmanuelle watched the scene wide-eyed, fascination and fear rivalling each other in her expression.

There was nothing else for it; he went for his sword. In that moment, the boar charged, a horrible mass of sweat and hair and spittle. For a second, a second too long, he stood riveted, then dived to his right, trying to reach the pistol. It was not enough- the boar turned to face him and he knew there was no good way for this to end. At best he could expect to be crippled by the impact of several hundred pounds of hog-meat, and at worst he awaited a horrific death on the ends of its tusks. He bunched himself up, trying to protect his head, knowing what little good that would do, and closed his eyes.

A crack and a scream from the pig brought him back to his senses, and he saw the animal careering off through the forest to his left. He stared after it in astonishment for a second, then the foul, distinctive smell of rotten eggs caused him to turn his head. Emmanuelle stared at the pistol in her hand with disgust.

“What a horrible, crude, foul-smelling weapon! Almost broke my wrist!” She let it drop from her hand and dismounted. “Lothar! I’m so, so, sorry!”

“No harm done,” he said, still marvelling that he was alive. “You saved my life.”

“The least I could do after endangering it in the first place.” She offered her hand to him, but he shook his head and pushed himself upright. Save for the bruises, he was none the worse for wear.

“Did you hit it?” he asked, after a moment.

“With that thing? I missed by a mile!”

“It does pull slightly to the left,” he said, still light-headed. The adrenaline rush was incredible; he could not remember the last time he had felt so alive. He could feel the blood pounding through his chest and head, the cool breeze on his face, the rays of the sun filtering through the leaf canopy- all of them much more vivid, much more real, than they had ever seemed before.

As for Emmanuelle, he had never seen a woman of such beauty. He stared into her eyes for want of anything to say. A distant voice screamed at him, but he couldn't make out what it was saying. His head was a fog of confusion. He had no more than opened his mouth when more men burst into the clearing – men-at-arms at first, and Bruno Pfeifraucher following close behind on horseback.

“My lady? We heard a gunshot.” Emmanuelle spun to address the newcomers.

“There was a boar, a… huge beast, as high as my shoulder! The mark of Chaos on it, no doubt.”

“Are you hurt, my lady?” An expression of concern crossed Pfeifraucher’s grizzled face.

“Not at all. Lothar shot it, although it will take more than that to bring it down. He saved my life.”

“Are you happy to remain here?”

“We shall return to the lodge, I think.”

“Very well, my lady. After this beast that dared to assault her!” Pfeifraucher roared, and spurred his horse, racing off through the trees, closely followed by his attendants.

Weyrother turned back to Emmanuelle. His heart rate was already slowing, normality starting to return.

“Why did you lie?”

She thought about it for a moment, then shrugged lightly.

“Damned if I know,” she said after a moment.

They made little more than polite conversation on the way back to the lodge, and spend most of the journey in silence. To Weyrother, everything now seemed slightly flat. He supposed the feeling would pass, as had the euphoria after his escape from the boar. He could not make his mind up whether to be angry with Pfeifraucher or not. Had they not interrupted him then…

He could have made a fool of himself, that he knew, but he also knew it was an opportunity missed. He knew also that all he had to do was speak and he could likely recreate such a chance, but that was beyond him. Safer, then, to rein in his reason and settle on resenting Pfeifraucher’s intrusion. In truth, he was glad of returning to the lodge. Perhaps, after he had changed, he could seek out Emmanuelle and set things right.

He was to get no such chance. Even before he had dismounted, he saw two figures running from the front doors, seemingly trying to outdo each other in who reached the nobles first. The better-dressed of the two arrived first and performed a hasty bow, much to the irritation of the other.

“My Lord Weyrother, this man arrived not an hour ago. He says he must speak with you.”

Weyrother glanced up and saw that he recognised the man; an Iron Guardsman of Solland. How hard the man must have ridden to reach Nuln, and then the lodge, he did not dare to think. The toil of the road showed in his clothes and in his face. The messenger shoved the valet out of the way with a scowl, and presented a scroll to his lord.

“A message from Albrecht Schneider, my Lord. Orcs have crossed the border. Solland is under attack.”
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 11/3/12)

Postby Athelassan » Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:24 am

And the next bit:


It rarely rained in Solland. The rain clouds dashed themselves against more formidable obstacles further north, for the most part, leaving only the most persistent to attempt to scale the Grey Mountains or the World’s Edge, fail, and dump their contents on the province.

Kurt Heger had commented that it was appropriate that in weather, as in everything else, Solland was the Empire’s chamber pot. Weyrother had yet to think of a reply.

It was raining now, in typical monotonous, relentless, fashion. It was tolerable, but after a while it seemed to eat its way into a man’s bones and sap his soul. It was bad for morale, bad for the men’s boots and feet, and bad for making any sort of progress. Two hours was about all they could take, and while Weyrother wanted to press on, he was wary of pushing the men too hard. He wanted this to be a success, for himself as much as for them.

He spurred his horse forward slightly and located the knot of senior officers. They barely looked up at his approach- even Konrad Brecht, the only Sudenlander among the cadre, seemed to have drained by the weather.

“Marshal Brecht!” Weyrother called, slightly more loudly than necessary, but it got the man’s attention. Brecht was his senior officer; the man who cynics would say was in charge of this expedition. The look in his eyes as he looked over to the nobleman said it all. He was never quite short of respectful, as he should be, but it was clear what he thought: this was Weyrother’s first command, and he could run things better.

Weyrother was glad to have experienced officers surrounding him, but resented slightly the unspoken accusation that he was too young and callow. If he was to be a soldier- and that was not an option – he had to learn to command troops sooner or later. As far as he was concerned he had already waited long enough. Brecht had had plenty of time to bed in as commander, but challenging the officer’s authority would be pivotal to imposing his own vision on Solland.

“Yes, my Lord?” Brecht asked, the model of courtesy as ever.

“We’ve been out in this damnable weather for far too long. Where is the nearest shelter?”

It was Otto Drescher who replied. “A farmstead little more than a mile. We should be able to take shelter in the farmer’s barn and stables.” He hesitated for a moment. “That is of course assuming the orcs have not already reached there.”

Weyrother felt the skin on his neck crawl slightly. Fighting orcs in this weather was not on the agenda- the men were tired and wet through, and he dreaded to think of the effect the rain would have had on their powder supplies.

Fortunately the orcs had not yet reached the dwelling, and the farmer was more than happy to put up the three hundred- odd men Weyrother had assembled. Weyrother himself and his senior officers were given rooms within the farmhouse itself, as befitted their status. He suspected, in fact, that the farmer was more than a little awestruck.

The farmhouse itself was comfortable enough but homely at best, a description which Weyrother suspected would apply equally to the farmer’s daughter who brought them their supper. Once the farmer had left them alone, they were free to talk war.

Three companies of Iron Guardsmen were present, each comprising roughly seventy spearmen and thirty hand gunners, and Weyrother’s Greatswords on top of that. It was a force that, he hoped, would be more than sufficient to deal with the small warband of orcs- larger than the village militias, but not so large as to empty Pfeildorf, and more importantly its treasury.

The officers stood around the map, brows furrowed in concentration. Even Heger, commanding what was nominally Weyrother’s personal company, was serious for once.

“The best place to meet them is surely here.” Albrecht Schneider, the Greatsword captain and Weyrother’s champion, indicated the place on the map. The location made sense- there was a tributary of the Sol which could protect their flank, while allowing the men to use their superior ranged weaponry to full effect.

“If the rain doesn’t let up, it doesn’t matter where we fight them,” Brecht mused. “But with any luck that will have cleared up tomorrow.” He stood back. “The location is a good one- I would be happy to face them there.”

Drescher nodded his agreement and Weyrother found them all staring at him, awaiting his response. Heger nodded slightly, while there was a look of mild concern in Schneider’s eyes.

“I concur,” he said at last, and, feeling he should elaborate, drew their attention to the second chart, where he sketched a rough order of battle.

“The warband is only small, so I see no need to risk more lives with unconventional tactics. We shall form a line of spears, interspersed with hand gunners, and provoke them into an attack.” Three rough blocks took form on the paper as he indicated the deployment. “As they approach, we shall thin their ranks with our guns, and they shall break on our spears like water on a rock.”

“Where will we take our station, my Lord?” Schneider enquired politely. Weyrother nodded.

“In the centre. Marshal Brecht will take position with a strategic reserve to plug any gaps in the line.” He indicated a station a short distance back from the main battle lines, and noted Brecht’s raised eyebrow.

“Do you think that wise, my Lord? Taking your station in the rear might -” Brecht tailed off. It appeared the temperature in the room had dropped considerably, and he was suddenly aware he was the only Wissenlander in a room full of Hochlanders. Nonetheless, he was the ranking officer, save Weyrother himself, and he was no coward. He soldiered on. “The presence of a more seasoned commander in the front line might serve to improve morale, and avoid exposing your lordship to unnecessary danger.”

Weyrother nodded again, levelly. “The Greatswords represent our best troops; it seems foolish to risk lives by keeping them out of the fight.”

Brecht proceeded carefully. “It seems foolish to risk your lordship's life by placing you in the front rank when you could take your position with the reserve.”

“Does anyone else have an opinion?” Weyrother asked, grimly.

Schneider broke the silence. “The companies of spears and handgunners should prove sufficient for victory even without the intervention of the Greatswords. Considering the value of your own person, it would seem wise not to expose you to risk.”

“Fine then, I shall take my position in the reserve, and Marshal Brecht shall take the front line. Will that do?”

They spoke for a further half hour, then Weyrother dismissed them and made for bed, followed by Schneider. Even in this farm, the champion insisted, one could never be too careful. Heger meanwhile caught Brecht’s arm as they left the room, and held him there until everyone else had departed.

“You have a problem with the plan?” he asked softly, eyes sympathetically wide.

Brecht shrugged. “The plan is sound, but then the same is said of any unimaginative strategy prior to its execution.”

Heger smiled. “Had he proposed we attacked you would have called him mad.”

“I fought with Leitdorf, and better a madman than a fool.” He seemed to realise what he had said and tried to rephrase. “Not, of course, to say that he is, but it could appear that way if one were so minded…” Heger’s expression did not alter, and Brecht relaxed slightly. “I mean, he is inexperienced, one cannot deny that.”

“He is young, yes, but so were many of our great leaders when they began their careers. As to inexperienced- it is his first command, but he saw battle first at the age of fourteen. He served in the pistoliers; he has put a great deal of study into the theory of warfare. All he lacks is direct experience of combat, and that has to start somewhere.”

“That is true, I suppose,” Brecht conceded, “but I feel we should keep an eye on him. You have his ear, after all. He trusts you.”

“And not you?” Heger smiled. “Has he reason not to?”

“Only in that I’m not one of his men. Half his officers, probably more, are Hochlanders, his countrymen. Friends of his father, friends of his-” he indicated Heger. “I stand out like an orc at a tea party.”

Heger shrugged as if to indicate he accepted the point. “We should leave before anyone thinks we’re plotting.”

“No sense in adding to the distrust, eh?”

“Absolutely not.”

Brecht opened the door and held it for Heger, who grasped the older man’s arm as he passed.

“Fear not, I will watch his lordship for both of us.”


The troops were ready to march less than an hour after dawn. Weyrother had to admire Brecht’s efficiency in getting them organised, even if he was not all that fond of the man himself. The general was occupied at the head of the column, giving out marching orders to his lieutenants and the regimental commanders. Everything looked to be in order, save for the absence of one man.

Cursing under his breath, Weyrother strode back into the farmhouse, but the farmer was off supervising the chicken coops and trying to make sure none of Weyrother’s men pilfered any eggs, and the house was totally deserted. He exited the house again and made his way across the barnyard, away from the troops. The gods know what he might be doing over here, but Heger knew his place. Perhaps he needed to relieve himself and had ventured behind the barn.

He rounded the corner and cursed. There was a gasp of surprise, and a girl he recognised as the farmer’s daughter ran past him, her clothes in disarray, pursued by a throaty laugh from her companion. Heger grinned at him.

“I love Solland.”

“Dare I ask why?” Weyrother growled.

“Because the money’s easy, and the women are easier.” He grinned again.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? We’ve to face the orcs later today!”

“Precisely,” Heger replied, lightly. “Eat, drink, and, most particularly, make merry, for tomorrow we die?”


“Never mind,” Heger sighed. “Are the men ready?”

“We’ve been waiting for you.”

“Damn. Sorry, it won’t happen again. But…” he took a look at Weyrother’s face, and thought better of it.

“Come on,” Weyrother said, his anger subsided. “Let’s get out of here before the farmer finds you and fillets you.”
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 25/3/12)

Postby Ghurlag » Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:29 pm

A nice piece, Ath. I don't think there's a problem with the way you managed the characters, it's interesting in a gentle, absorbing way, and I enjoy picking out the bits of information. That said, it is obviously the sequel to something else, so I read it as if I'd picked up the second book in a series and just plunged on.

Items of critique:

A minor point in the first entry: you say he picked 'one' off a plate of food, where it would be better to say 'an item' or something similar. I'm sure you'll see what I mean when you look at the spot.

More importantly, I find the way the duel breaks out to be rather hasty. I'm not exactly sure why Weyrother stopped Klaus reaching out a hand (Seeing as Emmanuelle doesn't seem to care so much), and Klaus' boorish insistence on the duel could do with a little more buildup (more exchanges of ire, demands unsatisfied, etc). This is especially true of the insistence on 'to the death' - maybe some social circumstance should force Klaus' hand on that matter, as we see in the duel itself with him not withdrawing, though he looks like he feels he should.

The interaction between Weyrother and Emmanuelle is well-written, and your dialogue specifically on that matter is superb, as others mention. I would enjoy a bit more reaction around the main court action (from the flunkies and other suitors affected by what is discussed or done), but that might just be my personal style.

The hunting expedition felt a bit unfinished rather than dramatically interrupted. Are you alluding to an event outside the text of this story, I wonder? I was curious as to what was the political motive for the expedition. At any rate, I would suggest either making the portion prior to the boar incident a bit more eventful (I do like the 'no game' approach, though) or having a 'leaving scene' after the notification.

I am terrible with names, so I'm afraid I lost track of who Weyrother's 'second man' (I mean the friend from home, not Leos) was in the later passages about the first command. That's more my fault as a reader, though, and I'm sure it'll settle in my head as the story progresses. The drama about the command is pitched at a nice level. Respectful worry, not histrionic near-mutiny. Good.

I look forward to reading more.

As the misty veil of Albion is cast aside, we turn our gaze to the war-torn island of Albany, where the Red King vies with his former master for the control of a realm in dire threat.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 25/3/12)

Postby Athelassan » Mon Jul 02, 2012 8:00 pm

Thanks, Ghurlag :)
A minor point in the first entry: you say he picked 'one' off a plate of food, where it would be better to say 'an item' or something similar. I'm sure you'll see what I mean when you look at the spot.

I see where you mean: I'll fix that.
More importantly, I find the way the duel breaks out to be rather hasty. I'm not exactly sure why Weyrother stopped Klaus reaching out a hand (Seeing as Emmanuelle doesn't seem to care so much), and Klaus' boorish insistence on the duel could do with a little more buildup (more exchanges of ire, demands unsatisfied, etc). This is especially true of the insistence on 'to the death' - maybe some social circumstance should force Klaus' hand on that matter, as we see in the duel itself with him not withdrawing, though he looks like he feels he should.

I'm inclined to agree with you on a re-read. I might change that a bit to give it some more build-up. I do have a tendency when writing to invest all my time and effort in the passages I enjoy and treat those sections which are only there to advance the plot with less attention. I try to come back to those and edit them, but I suspect I missed some of the Klaus dialogue.
The interaction between Weyrother and Emmanuelle is well-written, and your dialogue specifically on that matter is superb, as others mention. I would enjoy a bit more reaction around the main court action (from the flunkies and other suitors affected by what is discussed or done), but that might just be my personal style.

This is something else I seem to have made an unwelcome habit of: I do tend to focus on the central characters in a sequence almost exclusively without giving much information about what else is going on. Partly it's because I find it difficult to work in without disrupting the rhythm of the dialogue; partly it's because I forget there even are other characters around since they're fundamentally unimportant, and part of it is probably just laziness. Thanks for pointing it out - it obviously does show through in the finished article.
The hunting expedition felt a bit unfinished rather than dramatically interrupted. Are you alluding to an event outside the text of this story, I wonder? I was curious as to what was the political motive for the expedition. At any rate, I would suggest either making the portion prior to the boar incident a bit more eventful (I do like the 'no game' approach, though) or having a 'leaving scene' after the notification.

When I edited this for "re-release" (although I'm not sure I got as far as posting the hunting scene the first time round) I actually cut out quite a bit of the section towards the end of the hunt, because I thought things were happening too quickly in respect of the overall shape of the plot, and I wanted to introduce it later, and more subtly, rather than openly at this point. Unfortunately, I didn't really get round to replacing it with anything, and then forgot about it till now, which I suspect is why it seems unfinished! I will see what I can do there to fix things.
I am terrible with names, so I'm afraid I lost track of who Weyrother's 'second man' (I mean the friend from home, not Leos) was in the later passages about the first command. That's more my fault as a reader, though, and I'm sure it'll settle in my head as the story progresses. The drama about the command is pitched at a nice level. Respectful worry, not histrionic near-mutiny. Good.

I rather like Kurt. Originally he was just a random captain who was bumped off to increase a casualty count in one of my very first stories, but as my writing developed a bit and became more reflective he achieved a lot of retrospective importance. So I'm trying to give him the page-time he deserves here.

I've had revision and exams and other torture so haven't been able to work on this for a while, but I am back now and will try to get some more posted (and revised) soon.

My main worry, and one of the other reasons I didn't touch this for so long, is that I'm not entirely sure where it's going. I have the ending/denouement, but I'm missing what I guess would be the fourth fifth. I expect it'll come to me; either that or I'll cut it and move the essential material that would have to go in that section to earlier in the story.

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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 31/8/12)

Postby Athelassan » Sat Sep 01, 2012 2:11 am

Another update. This is where the story has got stalled before so I'm posting this as a means of drawing a line under it. I'm not totally happy with it, but I can't quite work out why. Feedback welcomed.


The troops were ready to march less than an hour after dawn. Weyrother had to admire Brecht’s efficiency in getting them organised, even if he was not all that fond of the man himself. The general was occupied at the head of the column, giving out marching orders to his lieutenants and the regimental commanders. Everything looked to be in order, save for the absence of one man.

Cursing under his breath, Weyrother strode back into the farmhouse, but the farmer was off supervising the chicken coops and trying to make sure none of Weyrother’s men pilfered any eggs, and the house was totally deserted. He exited the house again and made his way across the barnyard, away from the troops. The gods know what he might be doing over here, but Heger knew his place. Perhaps he needed to relieve himself and had ventured behind the barn.

He rounded the corner and cursed. There was a gasp of surprise, and a girl he recognised as the farmer’s daughter ran past him, her clothes in disarray, pursued by a throaty laugh from her companion. Heger grinned at him.

“I love Solland.”

“Dare I ask why?” Weyrother growled.

“Because the money’s easy, and the women are easier.” He grinned again.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? We’ve to face the orcs later today!”

“Precisely,” Heger replied, lightly. “Eat, drink, and, most particularly, make merry, for tomorrow we die?”


“Never mind,” Heger sighed. “Are the men ready?”

“We’ve been waiting for you.”

“Damn. Sorry, it won’t happen again. But…” he took a look at Weyrother’s face, and thought better of it.

“Come on,” Weyrother said, his anger subsided. “Let’s get out of here before the farmer finds you and fillets you.”


Two hours later, Weyrother would have given anything to have been back at the barn with Heger. He had seen combat before, many times, but he had never got used to the full horror of an orc attack. Mentally, he tended to picture them as large, tough, green men, but they were so much more. The amount of muscle and sheer aggression packed into one greenskin was almost unbelievable. Nearly two hundred of these were presently smashing their way through the Iron Guard.

Weyrother panned his eyeglass along the line. The lines of spearmen were holding, just, but in the centre in particular, Brecht’s regiment was taking a beating. On the Imperial right, Otto Drescher’s men had done their job well and were in good order, but a wedge of orcs was starting to drive between them and Brecht’s forces. If Brecht could not steady his troops, the orcs would have cut the line in two, and then the Iron Guard were really in trouble.

Weyrother paused, focussing on the leading orc, a monster that seemed larger than life, and who was presently engaged in beating one of Brecht’s spearmen into the mud. That was surely the leader of this warband; if he fell, and the gap could be plugged, victory was almost assured. He nodded to himself and snapped the glass shut.


The Greatsword captain turned. “Lord?”

“We need to reinforce that gap. Let’s go forward, at the double.”

“Aye, sir.” There was a grim satisfaction on the soldier’s face.

As soon as the regiment began to advance, Weyrother felt a light-headedness overtake him. This was what it felt like to lead troops into battle, to direct their every move, to go knowing in confidence that they would follow. The rush of power was sensational. What were these orcs but insects to be brushed aside? With these men at his back, he was all but invincible.

He hurled himself into the fray with a yell, pushing past one startled spearman to engage the orc front line. The first that came at him was a young bull orc, with tusks the length of fingers and an axe the size of his head. Weyrother bellowed and slammed his shield into the orc’s chest, forcing the beast back, then planted his feet and awaited the inevitable counter-charge. The orc roared and sprung forward, but Weyrother was ready, and dropped to one knee, thrusting out the bottom of his shield into the orc’s ankles. The warrior howled as it tumbled over his shield, and he did not give it a chance to rise before dispatching it with a sword strike.

He turned only just quickly enough for the second orc, whose blow nearly knocked his shield from his hand. As he struggled to recover, the orc struck him a second blow which glanced off his helmet, knocking him two feet and flat in the mud.

It took him a moment to gather his senses, and when he rolled over, he saw his sword lying just out of reach, even as the orc advanced on him with his weapon raised for a killing blow. His hand fumbled for the pistol at his belt, even as he knew it was too late to stop the thing.

A boot stamped scant inches from his head, and a length of steel several feet long nearly took the orc’s head off. The Greatsword whirled the blade again, taking the orc’s head clean off, and then spun to face another before burying the sword in its chest. More of the swordsmen piled in around the first, consolidating the position and pressing forward into the main body of the orcs.

Weyrother’s saviour turned to look down at him and he saw it was Albrecht Schneider. His ears were still ringing as the man shouted at him, but he got the message. He climbed to his feet, recovered his sword, and took a step back.

The intervention of the Greatswords had turned the tide of the battle. Where the orcs had previously driven almost entirely through the line of spearmen, now their own force had been turned back on itself. Weyrother could see no sign of the war boss, and assumed he must have perished in the Greatsword charge. The remainder of the conflict lasted only minutes, as the orcs’ morale plummeted as they saw their advantage melt away.

“Run them down! Let none survive!” Weyrother heard a voice shout. It was Brecht, to his left, who did not appear to have noticed his lord. The battered spearmen of his regiment, pink sashes flying, surged forward to take the retreating orcs in the rear. The sound of butchery, of spears and swords striking into green flesh, echoed around the battlefield.

Weyrother’s ears were still ringing, although the bulk of his hearing had returned, when Kurt Heger appeared, concern etched on his face.

“Are you alright?” he asked. Weyrother nodded.

“Help me get this thing off.” Heger reached up to help him with the chin-strap on his helmet.

“I saw you charge in there. Damned brave, but bloody stupid, if you don’t mind my saying so. You could have been killed.”

“I know; I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“I’m just glad you’re alright. Are you hurt?”

“Only a little. One of them caught me round the head.”

Heger glanced over to where the orcs were being cut down. “I dare say Brecht can handle this. Come on, sit down over here.”

He led Weyrother back to where the baggage had been piled up and seated him on a trunk, before taking a closer look at his head.

“It doesn’t look like serious damage; you’ll be alright, I daresay. But then I’m no surgeon.”

“I’m fine, Kurt, really.” He stood, ignoring the slight dizziness as he did so.

“You don’t look it,” his friend muttered, as Schneider approached.

Weyrother stepped forward to greet his Greatsword captain.

“Albrecht… Thank you. You saved my life back there.”

The Greatsword looked at him blankly.

“Lord, I serve you as I served your father; loyally and unto death. I do not request or require thanks for doing my duty and saving your life in such situations, because it is what I live for. However, I would request that in future, when you intend to endanger your life in such a reckless fashion, you give me some warning so that I can adequately prepare.”

“I’m sorry, Albrecht, it was stupid of me.”

“Yes, Lord, it was,” he said bluntly. “But you are alive and largely unhurt, which is the important thing. Perhaps we can all learn from this experience.”

Weyrother nodded.

“Now, Lord, if you will excuse me, one of my men is badly wounded. I need to find a stretcher and something to ease his pain.”

“Of course.” Weyrother stood aside, and Schneider continued on his way.

“Are you going to let him speak to you like that?” Heger seemed genuinely surprised.

“On this occasion, yes. I deserved that. What I did was idiotic, and I’m glad he was honest with me.” He surveyed the battlefield. The orcs had all been caught and killed, and those of his men that remained unhurt were now entertaining themselves by dismembering them and mounting their heads on spears.

“At least we won,” Weyrother said, almost to himself. “An undefeated general, that’s got to count for something.”

“That’s the spirit,” Heger chuckled, clapping him on the shoulder.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 25/3/12)

Postby Ghurlag » Mon Sep 03, 2012 2:17 pm

Hmm. It's been a while, so I had to skim back over the rest of the story to get the proper context.

I think the issue with stopping the story here is that nothing very important has happened. The orc invasion seemed a good plot device to get Weyrother away from court so that machinations there could move on in his absence, but if Weyrother doesn't return to court, the incursion itself becomes the peak of the story, and the victory becomes the conclusion. For that to work, I think you need a lot more working-up of the tension around the incusion, perhaps building on Weyrother's inexperience and self-doubt in command, or else bringing some human impact of the strife into more focus. Of course, this story is presumably just one in a larger narrative about Weyrother, but I don't think that as it stands it advances his story enough.

There are only a couple of bits I can comment on specific to this new segment. First, I found that Albrecht seemed a little robotic as a character, which may or may not be your intention. Looking at it, I think that I got this impression because of the way his rebuke to Weyrother was contained in that one piece of slightly long dialogue - if the delivery of that was slightly more broken up, I think it would be different.

Second, I enjoyed the way you portrayed Weyrother in battle - it fits with the earlier section where Weyrother faces the boar. Despite being a well-advantaged and reasonably deadly young warrior, Weyrother would be dead without the help of his peers and underlings. I like the realism in that.

In fact, taking them individually, your scenes are all really well-written. I think you struggle most with the underlying direction that ties them together - the hastiness in establishment of the duel which I mentioned before, the way Weyrother is called to a hunting party, then called away to battle - all these could be seen as symptoms of that. I'm not really sure I can offer a solution, but perhaps this speculation is useful to you.

As the misty veil of Albion is cast aside, we turn our gaze to the war-torn island of Albany, where the Red King vies with his former master for the control of a realm in dire threat.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 25/3/12)

Postby Athelassan » Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:54 pm

Thanks, Ghurlag. To answer your first point, this isn't (supposed to be) the end and there is (in theory) much more to come. I also appreciate that the long gaps between updates probably aren't helping at all. As you suggest, the story here is all about Weyrother's character and relationship development. But it turns out that this is quite hard to portray (funny that) and in the absence of any other plot it's difficult to link the key scenes together.

In fact, I have quite a lot of the remaining scenes already written, I'm just finding it hard to string them together into a consistent story, which is really what's taking the time. This has always been my major concern with this story and one of the reasons I keep leaving it for a week at a time in the hope that inspiration will strike for a linking passage: eventually I get frustrated and just put it up regardless. My concern with this story has always been that it doesn't hang together holistically as well as it should, and although it's slightly annoying that this is showing through to the reader, I appreciate the honest feedback that it is apparent.

What I should probably have done is introduce a secondary POV character with a related subplot so that they can fill in the gaps between scenes where Weyrother isn't doing anything interesting, which probably means going back to the beginning and inserting them a lot earlier. Given how long it's taking me to post this up as it is, I probably won't do that... yet, although it might be an interesting exercise to go back and do a bit of a rewrite once it's complete.

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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 25/3/12)

Postby Ghurlag » Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:30 pm

I intended to respond earlier but it slipped my mind, I'm afraid. I guess I mistook your 'draw a line' comment as you saying this was a provisional ending, rather than, as is now clear, you saying this was your offering for the next segment.

The secondary character angle to joining-up the story could certainly work well. As an alternative suggestion (and by this I don't mean to brush off the aforementioned) you could view Weyrother as a pawn in some delicate political manoeuvring, with a clear intended goal. If you then cast all that has already happened as moves or counter-moves in that game, it might help you identify the way 'the game' is going, and thus give you direction for the further scenes (even if the manoeuvring is not revealed until much later) and a binding plot to tie it together.

I make the suggestion because the story so far seems to accomodate such an overtone, and I imagine your knowledge of the Empire's political situation would let you do such a plot justice. It might also avoid a rewrite. Of course, as a reader I don't want to be unduly influencing the direction of the story, so do feel free to dismiss the idea.

As the misty veil of Albion is cast aside, we turn our gaze to the war-torn island of Albany, where the Red King vies with his former master for the control of a realm in dire threat.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 25/3/12)

Postby Athelassan » Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:30 am

Here is our next section; the subsequent one should follow fairly shortly.


“You’re late, my Lord,” the steward said, as he opened the door of Weyrother’s carriage to allow him egress. Two weeks later and he was back in Nuln, for the debutantes’ ball that Emmanuelle had mentioned, as much to get away from Solland as to experience the delights of the ‘swinging city’. He had to admit, though, that he had enjoyed Emmanuelle’s company on his last visit, much as he hated to acknowledge it, and the thought of seeing her again caused a slight lightness in his chest.

The servant should not be admonishing him, but he was late, so he let it go and ignored the man as he jumped down to the cobbles of the courtyard. He did not bother to ask the steward for directions; he remembered the route to the ballroom from before. Kurt Heger followed him, nodding to the steward as he went. By the time Albrecht Schneider, who had been standing on the footboard all the way from Wissenburg, dismounted and approached the steward with instructions for the luggage, Weyrother was already inside the palace.

“We’re in unseemly haste to get there, are we not, my Lord?” Heger asked as they walked.

“Shut up, Kurt,” he muttered, but only as a reflex. “You know I hate being late for anything.”

“That was out of your hands. It wasn’t your fault that the carriage threw a wheel.”

Perhaps not, Weyrother thought, but he would have bet that it was a problem that never afflicted Boris Todbringer, or Wilhelm von Saponatheim. Deep down, he knew what the problem was. He was a second-rate nobleman, from a provincial backwater and a laughing stock of a family. He wasn’t one of the great and the good; life’s problems did not just pass him by.

“Have fun,” Kurt said, with a lascivious smile, as they entered the ballroom. The debutantes’ procession was already in full swing so few turned to look in their direction. The herald swivelled with a raised eyebrow, but Weyrother shook his head and instead made his way around the side of the room to the raised dais where the highest tier of nobility stood to survey the young ladies. Kurt had already disappeared, no doubt already with some blue-blooded trollop in his sights.

Two grim-looking, shaven-headed men stood at the steps to the dais, clad in a particularly fine cut of the black Nuln livery, with zweihanders strapped across their backs. Instinctively they moved to block his approach to the Countess’s presence, and for a second Weyrother thought he was actually going to have to argue his way past them.

He was fortunate. The movement of the guards had attracted the attention of an unlikely saviour. Leos von Liebewitz appeared from nowhere at the shoulder of the Greatsword to the right. He nodded to Weyrother in greeting, though there was no trace of a smile.

“It’s fine, he can pass,” he said, curtly, and the soldiers immediately moved from Lothar’s path to give him a clear route onto the platform.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” Weyrother said, as they climbed.

“Don’t apologise. We were wondering where you’d got to, that’s all.” Leos gestured to indicate where Weyrother should stand: just to the left of the Countess herself. Masking his surprise, he walked over to take his place beside her. There was a frantic whispering from behind as a dozen gossips immediately dissected the politics of the standing pattern. He had no doubt that many were casting aspersions on the nature of his relationship with the Countess, or resenting that their own position had been usurped by this parvenu from Solland. He found he did not care.

“Lothar!” She smiled broadly at him as he arrived, and far more genuinely than she had at any of the debutantes so far. “I was starting to wonder if you were coming!”

“I was unavoidably delayed.”

“Not that you’ve missed much.” Leos had resumed his position to his sister’s right. Emmanuelle rolled her eyes.

“Sigmar preserve me! I forgot that I’d be sharing this evening with the two least sociable men this side of Karak Norn.”

“That’s not fair,” Weyother protested. “What about Leitdorf?”

“You two could give him a run for his money, in any case.”

“Sorry, I just don’t see the point.” Leos’s expression was still completely blank. “If I wanted to see young women parading their bodies up and down all evening, I could do it at the docks eight nights a week. And I wouldn’t have to put up with these idiots, either.” His eyes flickered towards the nobility behind him.

Weyrother had always mentally dismissed these events as a meat market, a phrase he’d picked up from Leitdorf, but now that he was here he thought he preferred Leos’s analogy . The young women paraded up to the dais, where they were announced by some court flunky or other, curtseyed, and moved on. They had been doing this constantly since he had entered the room, and that the Countess had been chatting away amiably and paying them only scant attention seemed not to dissuade them.

It really was rather like watching a parade of harlots. The pedigree of the girls’ names decided their price; the gentlemen behind him were the intended customers. For those unfortunate enough not to find a potential husband there- and few did- they had to console themselves with the rest of the room. Seen from that perspective, the spectacle became rather more amusing. He sensed he had an ally in Leos. The Countess’s brother might be a notoriously cold fish, but tonight he seemed a man after Weyrother’s own heart.

Emmanuelle was still affecting outrage at Leos’s previous comment. “This is nothing like that. I had hoped that you might actually find the evening useful, Lothar. I know Leos is a lost cause, but don't you at least have an eye for the ladies? Where else are you going to get such a selection?”

An icicle of terror plunged down Weyrother’s spine. He responded flippantly and automatically with the instinct of young men everywhere.

“I’m only twenty-one. Far too young to marry.” As he turned to deliver the comment, he noticed the glare of sheer venom that Leos shot his sister. It was there for only a moment, but he caught it, though Leos seemed not to have realised.

Weyrother’s head span. He had heard the rumours about the young nobleman’s tastes, of course - everyone had -but they couldn’t be true, could they? And if not, what was that look about? A weight settled itself into the bottom of his stomach; he was suddenly profoundly uncomfortable. Until now, he had not appreciated how much he had previously been enjoying himself.

“Nonsense.” Emmanuelle seemed either not to have noticed or to have ignored her brother’s look. “The girls out there are only seventeen, and they’re not too young, are they?”

“That’s a matter of opinion,” he returned. “Some of them look… rather less young than others.” The young ladies- for such they were- did indeed run a wide gamut of appearance. Some of them were barely mature, shy and demure. Many of them were probably provincials, unused to social events such as this, especially as they were nowhere near ready to be looking for a husband. Others breezed about the room as if it were a second home. There could have been only a few months in age between them, but it might as well have been years.

“What about her?” Emmanuelle nodded to the girl who was now presenting herself to the Countess. A pretty enough young thing, but there was a sluttish cast to her face. Besides, Weyrother knew that he was never going to find a potential wife here tonight, no matter how much Emmanuelle pestered him. He also knew that she knew that. He was only grateful he was able to keep pace with her games.

He looked critically at the girl. “Could she be showing any more cleavage?”

“Only if she was wearing Emmanuelle’s dress.” There it was, a slight smirk, fleeting, but nonetheless present, on the lips of Leos. The Deadly Blade had a sense of humour after all.

“She’s one of yours, you know, Lothar. Her name’s Spalatin, if you want to take a note.”

“I know that name. Heiress to the barony of Agbeiten?”

“Very good. She has a brother, so she’s not sole heiress. Nonetheless, you could do worse if you’re trying to shore up your position in Solland.”

“My position doesn’t need shoring up, thank you. I’m perfectly happy how I am, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t try to interfere.”

“Well, I’m sorry. I've always thought the politics of the bedchamber are just as important as the strategy of the battlefield, but that's just my opinion, after all. Gods forbid I should take an interest in my own province.”

“You hate Wissenland,” Leos put in, drily.

“Poor dreary Wissenland,” she sighed.

“What do you mean?” Weyrother wasn't going to let that go. “That I'm a stupid soldier and I need your expert help to spot a girl who's good for more than a quick tumble?” That had been foolish, and ill-mannered, he knew as soon as the words left his mouth, but he had been tired, and annoyed, and momentarily forgotten himself.

“No.” Emmanuelle was immediately contrite, seeming not to have noticed, or at least not to care about, his lapse. Leos ignored it too. “Forget I spoke.” She surveyed the last of the debutantes, to whom Weyrother might have actually found it worth his while to pay attention had it not been focussed elsewhere, and turned to the herald.

“Is that the last of them?”

“Yes, Lady.”

“Then let’s have some music! A dance, a dance!” There was something enforcedly frenetic about her actions, as if trying to distract Weyrother himself. Somewhere at the back of the chamber, the string quartet, startled, readjusted themselves and struck up a jaunty waltz tune.

“Shall we lead the dance, sister mine?” Leos asked, turning to the Countess with arm outstretched. She nodded, distractedly, but turned back to Weyrother quickly.

“You’ve had a ghastly evening, Lothar, and I'm sorry. You must be tired after your journey, and I've been horrid.” She brushed aside his attempted protests. “You deserve better. Stay in Nuln, as my guest.”

“I'm honoured, but...”

“Good. I'm leaving tomorrow for Altdorf, but I'll leave instructions that you can stay as long as you like.”

“As long as I like?”

“Until I get back and can make it up to you. Please?”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Thank you.” She turned from him and took Leos’s arm. As they descended the dais he caught a fragment of their conversation.

“I’m sorry, Leos. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s fine.”


“But nothing. It was a mistake. Everyone makes them. Forget it happened.”

They moved out of earshot and into the centre of the ballroom. Weyrother watched them for a few minutes. They were so alike, physically, and yet so very different. Emmanuelle glided effortlessly across the floor, while Leos moved with the fluid, controlled elegance of a natural swordsman. They were both strikingly good-looking, but not in a classical sense. Emmanuelle’s beauty was built on energy and vivacity rather than bone structure, while there was something too rounded and effeminate about Leos’s eyes and chin for him to be considered a truly handsome man. Together, though, and in the flesh, there could truly not be a more beautiful pair of people anywhere in the Old World.

All eyes were fixed on their dance. No-one noticed Weyrother slip away through a side door.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 25/3/12)

Postby Ghurlag » Wed Sep 12, 2012 7:11 pm

Me again, I'm afraid. I hope I'm not scaring off others.

Some sparse textual commentry here:

“You’re late, my Lord,” the steward said, as he opened the door of Weyrother’s carriage to allow him egress. Two weeks later and he was back in Nuln,

Slightly picky of me, but that 'two weeks later' is a bit misplaced. It reads as if it's referring to two weeks after the steward's rebuke, rather than the previous segment. Perhaps 'It had been two weeks' would suit better?

. There was a frantic whispering from behind as a dozen gossips immediately dissected the politics of the standing pattern.
I actually smiled on reading this. Very nice.

There was something enforcedly frenetic about her actions, as if trying to distract Weyrother himself.

The combination 'Weyrother himself' strikes my ear (or rather, eye) wrong. Consider rephrasing it.

The return to court works well as an ebb on the heels of the victory (though, thinking on it, it's slightly odd that nobody mentioned the warfare he'd been engaged in). I can see that you've put extra effort into chronicling the goings-on of the court around the main cast, and I think that really pays off in terms of the richness of the scene. Details like the delay due to throwing of the wheel are also good to see, and you make good use of them to subtly reveal more aspects of Weyrother's character.

The dialogue with Emannuelle and Leos was particularly skillfully done, and I'm a little jealous of how you're so gently but persuasively tying in details of those characters from the canon into this work. I'm interested to see how this moves on.

As the misty veil of Albion is cast aside, we turn our gaze to the war-torn island of Albany, where the Red King vies with his former master for the control of a realm in dire threat.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 13/9/12)

Postby Athelassan » Thu Sep 13, 2012 12:34 am

Thanks again, Ghurlag. I'll try to fix a couple of the bits you mentioned. There's also another update, uncharacteristically quickly.

As you'll see, it seems we share at least some of the same ideas on what the themes of the story should be, which strikes me as a good thing.

Something I considered when polishing this for posting is whether a Dramatis Personae would be a good idea. I'm not normally in favour of them, but they can be useful as a quick memory jog to a character's identity, especially when updates come irregularly and at long intervals. Moreover, some of the characters are established background entities who are familiar to me but not necessarily to the reader; I might have forgotten to introduce them because I'll forget or assume the reader already knows who they are... If you think one would be helpful I'll put one together.

C&C (from everyone, not just Ghurlag! ;) ) welcomed as always.



Weyrother rose early in the hope of seeing Emmanuelle, but soon discovered she had departed at first light. Whether this was to hasten her arrival in Altdorf, or just to put as much distance between the two of them as possible, he couldn't say. In truth, he had not found the choice offered him a difficult one, despite his earlier protestations. Between Nuln and Pfeildorf, between the gorgeous Imperial palace and his own sunken shell of a house, there was simply no comparison.

Overcome by a strange feeling of ecclesiastical guilt on realising it was Festag, he summoned Albrecht Schneider, a rather sullen and hungover Kurt Heger, and a coachman to take him to the cathedral of Sigmar for the morning service. The journey from the palace to the temple district was short, but on seeing the platz before the cathedral thronged with people, Weyrother was glad he had not tried to make his way on foot.

A group of people immediately in front of the doors caught his eye in particular: about twenty young men, likely students from the university, waving placards about the Thumb Tax and handing out pamphlets. Some of them were waving crude caricatures of the Imperial court. It seemed the reputation of Mornan Tybalt's infamous tax had spread even further than the tax itself. Weyrother had not heard of any plans to introduce the tax in Nuln; as far as he was aware, it was only imposed in Altdorf, but here they were over a hundred miles away all the same. For once he was glad that his clothes were not quite as sumptuous as would be expected from Nuln nobility, as it attracted less attention from the protesters as he approached. Nevertheless, they jeered him as he tried to enter the church, and Schneider was forced to push past them, with some assistance from the temple guards. As he passed, one picture in particular caught his eye, depicting Emmanuelle and Mikael Hasselstein, the Emperor's Confessor, cavorting together, but he suppressed a swell of anger and continued into the church.

Away from the protesters, it was impossible to suppress a slight feeling of excitement as he entered the cathedral for the first time: this was the place, according to legend, that Johann Helstrum had first proclaimed Sigmar's divinity, even if the building itself was considerably more modern. Making his way up the nave, he noted the private boxes set aside for the great and the good of the city at the far end of the aisle.

All the great families of Nuln were represented, a reward for a generous donation to the cult. Weyrother passed the plaques denoting Toppenheimers, Pfeifrauchers, Wallensteins, Eyckes, Richtofens – needless to say, the Weyrothers had nothing. He was determined to make the most of Emmanuelle's hospitality, however, and brazenly took his place in the Liebewitz box. The design was such that nobody was supposed to be able to see inside, but even so it was clear that few of the city's aristocracy had turned out this morning. Perhaps they had been intimidated by the mob at the door, or perhaps they had just stayed up too late at the ball the previous evening.

Arch-Lector Krugar was absent, so the sermon was delivered by Capitular Esmer, an unremarkable-looking man, but one with a powerful speaking voice that managed to hold Weyrother's attention despite Kurt's sardonic comments whispered in his ear throughout. It was a slight disappointment that the cathedral was so empty: most of the pews were half-deserted, and many of the hymns sounded rather thin as a consequence, but Esmer appeared not to let that bother him, even if, Weyrother spotted, he made his way out of a side door at the end of the service rather than going back out into the square to contend with the protesters.

“Do you feel spiritually cleansed enough yet?” Kurt asked, when the last strains of music had died down.

“For another week or so, I suppose.”

“You're not going to drag me back here again next week, are you?”

“I'm not going to force you to come, although maybe your conscience should.”

Kurt snorted. “I'm happy to honour the gods, but I think the gods would rather I lived my life rather than spending two hours on my backside listening to a fat priest lecture me on the importance of asceticism”.

“Maybe if you actually listened to what he was saying, rather than just trying to spot set-ups for your punchlines, you'd get more out of it. Then again, I suppose that's devout in its own way. I'm sure I've seen some of your jokes in the Life of Sigmar. They're certainly of that vintage, anyway.”

“Liturgical comedy. Maybe it'll catch on. I bloody well hope so; it can't be any worse than liturgical seriousness.”

As they exited the box, Schneider bowed, and presented a card, neatly printed, to Weyrother.

“I was given this for you, Lord,” he said, by way of explanation. “You need a valet.”

“He can't even afford a decent drinks cabinet; what makes you think he can afford a valet?” Kurt said, trying to peer at the card.

“You're as good a valet as I could ask for, Albrecht,” Weyrother said, looking down to examine the card.

“I'm flattered, Lord, but I'm the captain of your bodyguard, not a manservant. It's just embarrassing.”

“It's an embarrassment we'll have to put up with for a while longer, I'm afraid.” He looked up, flicking the card against his knuckles. “I've been invited to dinner.”

A meaty hand snatched the card from his grip, and Weyrother was startled by the large moustache of Bruno Pfeifraucher, regarding him with what seemed to be amusement.

“A dinner invitation, eh?” He glanced at the card. “By Molly Toppenheimer, no less. Sorry, Etelka. She doesn't like it when people call her Molly, so make sure you do that repeatedly. You're in for a treat, it seems.”

Weyrother was privately glad for Pfeifraucher's interruption, since otherwise he would have had to ask one of Emmanuelle's staff to identify the card's crest for him. Standing this close to Pfeifraucher, he realised he was actually of a height with him, but there was something about the looming marshal that made everyone in his vicinity seem smaller.

“Baroness Toppenheimer?” Kurt said. “I've heard of her. Is she the one with eighteen children?”

“Twelve,” Pfeifraucher said with a straight face. “Six of them died.” His moustache twitched.

“Wore her husband out, from what I hear. There's a thought, Lothar. Maybe she thinks you could be the new Baron Toppenheimer.”

“Not for all the money in the world, lad,” Pfeifracher said, before Weyrother could reply. “Save yourself the trip, boy. The food at the palace is better, and so's the company.”

“You've dined with Baroness Toppenheimer before, then?”

“I've never been fool enough to take her up on the invitation. Take another look at the card, boy. It doesn't say who's dinner you're being invited to. She's going to eat you alive.” He handed the card back, clapped Weyrother on the shoulder and walked off, chuckling to himself.

“Friendly chap,” Heger remarked.

“Emmanuelle says I remind her of him.”

“You've never been as friendly as that. I haven't seen you smile as much in fifteen years as he just did in five minutes. Although -” he turned to peer at Weyrother - “maybe one of those moustaches would suit you. If nothing else it would hide part of your face.”

“Do you plan to accept the invitation, Lord? Shall I assemble the guard?” Schneider asked, giving no impression that he'd heard the previous exchange.

“I'll go. Alone,” he added, with a pointed glare at Kurt. “Let's see what Etelka Toppenheimer wants with me.”
He grinned. “If I don't come back, Albrecht, check her food bins.”


The Toppenheimer residence was so close to the palace gates that Weyrother left the guard at home and proceeded alone. The door to the house opened as he approached, and a valet stood ready to usher him inside.

“Good evening, milord,” the man said, eyes pointed firmly downwards. “If you would care to step to your left, lord, her Ladyship is expecting you.”

Weyrother duly took the door to the left, entering a dim room lit only by a handful of candles. It was difficult to tell how many occupants the room had, and he paused for a moment to allow his eyes to adjust. He cleared his throat in preparation to introduce himself.

“I know who you are, boy. Come in, and stand in the light,” a voice snapped from the darkness beyond.

“I'm sorry?” Momentarily caught off guard, he froze.

“I want to get a look at you, boy. See who's pulling your strings.”

“Of course, my Lady.” He remembered his manners and took another couple of steps inside as requested. Surely the old harpy barking instructions at him so peremptorily could only be Lady Toppenheimer.

“Hm.” It was a statement of decision rather than a pause for thought, but it was impossible to determine what the decision had been.

“Time for dinner,” she announced, pushing herself out of the chair and beckoning him onward with a long finger. She had the slightly gaunt look of someone who has lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time; a process which seemed to have aged her beyond her years. The light made it difficult to tell, but it appeared her hair was grey.

She marched through to a room where a table was laid for dinner, and a number of children of various ages were already seated towards the foot, all silent and facing forwards. Without waiting, she took the chair at the head, waving away the servant who approached to assist. Weyrother waited a second to make sure he was not going to be invited to take his seat, and took his place at the remaining setting, to the left of his hostess.

The light in here was slightly better, and Weyrother saw that the lady's hair was not grey after all, but a sort of ash blonde; even his uneducated eye could tell that not much effort had been put into its preparation. Like her clothes, the hairstyle was practical rather than showy.

“My lady,” he began, pausing for a moment to allow her to request him to dispense with the formality. She did not. He pressed on regardless. “What did you mean about wanting to see who's pulling my strings?”

“Well, is it Leitdorf? Ludenhof? Emmanuelle?” She gave him another appraising look. “No, you're not one of hers. Not yet at least.”

“I am no man's puppet, my lady.” He tried to put some edge in his voice, but he worried it just made him sound nervous. “I'm my own man.”

She sniffed. “So they all say.”

A valet presented the first dish for her consideration; she barely glanced at it before nodding, and the servant began the process of decanting it for consumption.

“Sit up straight, girl!” she barked suddenly, and one of the children whose shoulders had started to droop shot bolt upright.

“You have to watch them at all times. Look away for a moment and they think they can get away with anything.”

“I wouldn't know, my lady.”

“Men never do. No wild oats of yours to grow to fruition, though? No dirty little secrets back in Pfeildorf?” His eyes widened in embarrassment, and she took that for an answer. “Shame. Good-looking boy like you, you should get that nonsense out of your system before you're married. If your wife has any sense, she won't tolerate any of that once she gets her claws into you. I suppose your father's example was instructive there.”

Weyrother fought down a reply. If there was one subject guaranteed to set his teeth on edge it was his father. Lady Toppenheimer seemed almost to smirk as she saw the mention had affected him. There was food on all the plates now and he covered his annoyance by taking a bite. He had eaten better, but it was superior to the usual efforts of his own kitchen. There was a momentary pause as they both ate.

“Do you know how many claimants there are to the crown of Sudenland?”

Before Weyrother could fashion a response, she continued. “I don't. I don't think anybody does. It's been so long that half the sheep in Averland probably have a claim. Toppenheimers; Mecklenburgs; Goetzes; Kalbs, if they decided they wanted it; Weyrothers; and let's not forget the Liebewitzes, who actually own the place. Those are just the easy ones.” She leaned in closer. “What do you have that they don't?”

“A better claim.”

She snorted with derision. “Just because your great-granddaddy diddled some Heugenloeuwd girl a thousand years ago you think that gives you a claim? Do you think anyone really cares about that? Possession and presence is everything, boy.”

“I'm here, aren't I, my lady?”

“In name, perhaps. Knock off that 'milady' nonsense, too, it just makes everything more tiresome to listen to.” She glared at him. “You weren't born in the province. You don't even hold a provincial title, do you?”

“Brockau and Ahresdorf.” Hochland titles, both of them.

“As I thought. I suspect you think you're desperately original, too, trying to win the province via the bed of the Countess. Don't think that hasn't been tried.” She glanced up, and snapped at another of her children. “Chew properly, Karl!” A pasty-looking boy looked momentarily startled, as she chuckled to herself.

“Poor old Katia Herbart. She let the old Count have his way with her for six years in hope of a title and all she got to show for it was a handful of whelps. Have you met Friedrich Herbart? Absolute spit of Leos von Liebewitz, not that her husband ever said anything.”

Weyrother felt a response was required, but could think of nothing to say. He settled for a polite but vaguely conspiratorial raise of the eyebrow.

“Now, your father, he could have got somewhere. Had a good eye for what needed to be done, and wasn't bad to look at, either. I'd have taken him myself, but he'd never have agreed to it. Too proud to be used as a stud, and too attached to your mother, too, for all the good that ever did him. Max von Weyrother, a prig. Who'd have thought it?”

Weyrother wondered if she was drunk, though no wine had been served.

“The point is, boy,” and he bristled at her reuse of that term, “your fancy name and history won't get you anywhere. Down here, you need to find the right people. Whether you kill them, you buy them or you screw them, that's up to you, but you need to know who they are, and you need to know what you want from them.”

“I know what I want.”

“No you don't, not really. Do you want Sudenland, or do you want Emmanuelle? You can't have both.” She smiled coldly at his silence. “I thought so. You can use Emmanuelle to get Sudenland, if you think you can use her, which you can't. Her brain is the best-kept secret the Liebewiztes have. But if you want her, even if you get her, you'll get her. Not a title, not a crown. She couldn't give you Sudenland even if she wanted to.”

“And if I want Solland?”

“Then you need to start making enemies as well as friends. Stop reigning over your imaginary province and start ruling it.” She prodded at a chunk of meat on her plate. “This horsemeat is overcooked,” she announced to the room at large.

Weyrother, who retained his Hochland tastebuds, felt his stomach turn slightly to discover what he'd been eating, although he realised that he wouldn't put it past her to say something like that just to discomfit him. He decided to try the direct approach.

“What's it to you? You said the Toppenheimers have a claim, so why aren't you petitioning Emmanuelle for the title?”

“Who's to say I'm not? Not just Sudenland, either, but the whole of dreary Wissenland.” She captured perfectly the inflection that Emmanuelle used when describing the province.

“So why are you giving me this advice, if you want the place for yourself?”

“The game doesn't work unless everyone knows the rules. Besides, if I can't get the province for one of mine -” she waved a hand at the children towards the foot of the table, “I need to know who to support.”

It seemed they were talking plainly now. “Your support, then,” Weyrother replied, flatly. “Could I count on it, in such an eventuality?”

“I can't answer that until you answer my question earlier. And don't bother to answer now, because I know you'll just say whatever it is you think I want to hear.”

“And when I know the answer?”

“I'll know.” He had a feeling she would.

“One more thing,” she said, placing her cutlery down with an air of finality. “I absolutely will not deliver Sudenland out of the hands of Nuln and into the hands of Averheim.”

“As I said, I'm not Leitdorf's puppet.”

She sounded almost sympathetic in her reply. “My dear boy, with the state you're in, you wouldn't even know if you were.”
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 13/9/12)

Postby Athelassan » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:06 am

I'm glad I took this story back up, because it's actually got me back into the writing habit. I've written nearly 10,000 words in the last week - and that's not counting work on the Almanack. A shame I couldn't get this discipline earlier in the holiday. Oh well, such is life.

Anyway, here's the next section. Of all the sections I've written so far, this is the one with which I'm least happy, but I think that's because it's an important scene and I've got so close to it I can't see what's wrong any more. So I'll get this one out of the way, and then on with the rest of the story.


As he lounged in bed late in the morning two days later, following another night of drinking with Kurt Heger, Weyrother found himself profoundly grateful to Emmanuelle for insisting that he stay in her absence. For the first time he could remember he was able to relax, free from the dreary surroundings and constant demands of Pfeildorf and Solland. It was delightful, for a change, to stay in a palace that was not still under construction, to have access to art, music, food and drink of the highest quality, and to be able to forget his responsibilities and duties.

He reached over to where a bottle of last night’s wine stood plugged on the nightstand. For a second - only a second - a flash of guilt crossed his mind, but it was gone as quickly as it had arrived. He was, after all, a nobleman of the Empire. This was the lifestyle that the lower orders presumed all his class pursued, one that was rightfully his but had been denied him by his father’s ineptitude. Now that he had a rare chance to indulge, he saw no reason to restrain himself.

The wine was sour, only slightly, but enough to mar the taste. He cursed and cast about for some water, but, this being Nuln, there was none. No-one drank the water here. For a moment, he collapsed back on the pillows, the effort of rising seeming in itself too much. Thirst eventually overcame him and he dragged himself from the bed and walked naked across the room with the wine bottle in hand, in search of a robe.

Clad in a pastel blue silk gown- the minimum that modesty would allow- he opened his door and wandered along the corridor. Perhaps Kurt would have some fresher wine remaining from their binge. He was surprised at how fresh he felt this morning, with scarcely any trace of a headache. He suspected that part of the reason was that it was almost noon.

He heard a tread on the carpet behind him and spun, to see Albrecht Schneider advancing towards him in full uniform. The Greatsword captain nodded respectfully.

“Good morning, Lord.”

“Morning, Albrecht.” The soldier was regarding him with a studied neutral expression, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to discover one’s liege lord wandering the halls of a Nuln palace half-naked and possibly drunk in the middle of the day.

He gestured stupidly with the bottle. “I don’t suppose you have any more of this, do you? I’m damnedly thirsty.”

“No wine, I’m afraid, Lord. Only this.” Schneider took a flask from his belt and passed it over. Weyrother took one swig, then recoiled, though not in disgust.

“This isn’t Nuln water.”

“No, sir, it’s from the Sol. I brought it with us; the water up here isn’t fit to drink.”

“You can say that again.” His thirst momentarily quenched, Weyrother suddenly began to feel self-conscious. What must the soldier think of him?

“Where are you off to?” he asked, to cover the silence.

“Training, Lord.”

“Training?” he replied, stupidly.

“With the rest of the Greatswords, Lord. We need to train regularly to keep our eye in.”

“Hmm.. That’s not a bad idea. Mind if I join you?”

Schneider’s eyes flickered, taking in the whole of his lord’s appearance: his red-rimmed eyes; his tousled, uncombed hair; his strange choice of attire. An eyebrow twitched, but the man’s face remained impressively deadpan.

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, Lord.”

Weyrother looked offended. “You don’t think I’m up to it? I can fight!”

“With respect, sir, I’m not sure you can. You can fence. There’s a difference.”

“Oh, really?”

“Indeed yes, Lord.”

Weyrother was suddenly annoyed. “Show me.” He turned and stalked back into his bedchamber. Schneider stood, watching him go, for a second, before a barked command that he should follow.

The wine bottle had been discarded, and the Baron of Brockau and Ahresdorf now stood with rapier in hand. The blue gown remained. Weyrother made a couple of passes in the air with the sword.

“Lord, I’m not sure I understand?”

“Fight me. Prove to me that I don’t have what it takes.”

“You’re serious, Lord?”

“Of course I’m bloody serious. Get your sword and fight me.”

Schneider unstrapped his Zweihander but did not unsheathe it. “A proper fight?”

“Well, obviously don’t kill me. That would be ridiculous. But other than that, yes.”

“If you wish, Lord.” Schneider drew the massive blade and discarded the scabbard before assuming a guard position.

Weyrother stepped forward to within the reach of his rapier, and lunged. It was a fine strike, which Schneider deflected at the last second with his broader sword. Weyrother took a step back, then forward and swung again.

Schneider stepped into the stroke, batting it aside effortlessly with the blade of his sword, and saw Weyrother’s eyes flicker towards the point of contact. As the nobleman glanced aside, the Greatsword swung the hilt of the sword viciously inwards. The fehlscharfe, immediately above the guard, hit Weyrother squarely in the chest and sent him flailing.

Weyrother tripped on a pouf and sprawled helplessly back on the floor, his sword knocked from his grasp and skittering away across the carpet. Without breaking stride, Schneider took a step forward and whirled the sword above his head by the blade before bringing it down next to his lord’s head in a murder-stroke. The hilt crashed into the floor only inches from Weyrother’s ear.

The two men stared at each other in shock for a moment before Schneider let go of his sword and let it fall with a clatter. Weyrother’s eyes followed it as it came to rest. He continued to stare as the Greatsword collapsed heavily next to him, his head in his hands.

“I suppose you were right, then,” Weyrother said after a moment, but there was no real humour in it. Silence reigned for a moment longer.

“Do you want to be a warrior, Lord?” Schneider said, softly.


“It doesn’t matter if you don’t, but do you want to be a warrior? Do you want to lead your troops from the front, fight in our battles, do as we do?”


Schneider sighed. “Lord, I am your Greatsword captain. I am sworn to protect you, and I will do so. I would die for you, if it were necessary, and so would all of my men. That is your right as your father’s son. But with that right come responsibilities. I cannot protect you if you are not capable of protecting yourself.

“You can fence; I know that. You were trained by Leitdorf, and he’s the greatest bladesman I’ve ever seen, save perhaps your father. You have the talent to be a superb swordsman, but at the moment you don’t have the training, or the discipline, or the experience. Every time you go into battle without these things, you make our task harder.”

“How do I get better?”

“You train. You practise. You learn. I can’t teach you everything, but I can teach you a lot.”

“Then teach me. I’ll train with you. Every day until I get better, if I have to.”

“Lord, that’s not…”

Weyrother looked at him seriously. “I do not want to be beaten like that ever again. If you can help me, and I know you can, then do.”

They stared at each other, until eventually Schneider nodded. “Yes, Lord.”

“Where are you training this morning?”

“In the courtyard by the stables. Do you know the way?”

“I think so. I’ll ask a servant if I get lost. I’ll join you as soon as…” he gestured at his attire, “as soon as I’m dressed.”

Schneider hauled himself to his feet. “I’ll see you soon then, Lord. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

Weyrother shook his head with a smile. Schneider turned to leave, when Weyrother called to him again.


“Yes, Lord?”

“Don’t tell anyone about this, all right?”

“You didn’t have to ask, Lord.”
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 14/9/12)

Postby Ghurlag » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:37 pm

Once again I haunt your thread, I'm afraid. Interesting developments.

The section with Molly Toppenheimer seems to be laying down some grounds to tie the story together around the question of Solland and Emmanuelle, nicely bringing together some of the threads hanging over Weyrother and the story. I liked that section - the inclusion of religious observation which would be par for the course for a well-brought up chap like Weyrother, the nods to ongoing unrest in Altdorf, and the slightly-spooky atmosphere around that dinner engagement - all very enjoyable.

Turning to the section that troubled you, I might first comment that I found Albrecht's handling of his sword by the blade a little odd. It's not at all unexplainable - he wanted not to kill his lord, and I see the Zweihander being a weapon which doesn't require too keen an edge - but I think a little more reflection on it from Weyrother might be in order, as at the moment it's a very matter-of-fact part of the description of the sparring, making the bizarre method lend a little surrealism to the scene.

Anyway, that detail is hardly key. There are two possible problems with the section. The first is that Weyrother is acting a little differently to how I'm used to, a little more confrontational. Obviously I've only seen him in certain situations, and there's not been a large amount of interaction between him and Albrecht, so I'm not very sure on this point, but I wonder if, as you say this scene is important, you've written or envisaged it previously with a slightly different Weyrother in mind? It could also be that this is just your way of showing us Weyrother as he is while hungover, or illustrating some tension between him and his Greatsword captain (which I suppose would build on the events of the battle and the question of Albrecht-as-valet from the previous section).

The second is that this section seems very isolated from the other sections. The drinking session with Kurt which led to the scene could've happened at any point (my point being that it wasn't, for example, provoked by him wanting to forget the suggestions of Frau Toppenheimer). Weyrother does reflect on the fact that he has been able to stay in Nuln, but that only loosely places the scene. It would be possible for this section to swap places with the previous one with only minor alterations. Perhaps this lack of temporal necessity points to what you dislike about the section?

It's good to hear you're forging ahead with the writing, keep it coming.

As the misty veil of Albion is cast aside, we turn our gaze to the war-torn island of Albany, where the Red King vies with his former master for the control of a realm in dire threat.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 14/9/12)

Postby Athelassan » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:53 pm

Part the next.


For the next week Weyrother kept to the same schedule. He trained in the morning with his Greatswords, ran in the afternoon, and drank with Kurt Heger in the evening. His bodyguards had initially been perplexed when he arrived at their training sessions, but they had come to accept him. Always he bore in mind what Schneider had said. He was to be fighting alongside these men, as they were sworn to protect them. He had to be able to protect himself. He had to know how to fight in a unit with them.

He was improving, too. They could all still best him, especially in grapples, but he had a broad frame that would eventually fill out into a powerful one, his fitness would surely improve, and he was young enough to learn. It had come as a surprise that he relished the opportunity as well as recognising its necessity. It was in this, it seemed, that his true vocation lay.

Returning from a run around the gardens on the fifth day, he took a different route through the main doors rather than straight back to his chambers, hoping to find the sommelier and order more wine for that evening, Kurt having drunk him dry the previous day. He regretted his decision quickly, realising he had no idea how to reach the servants' quarters and that it would probably be inappropriate for him to try. Instead, he tried to find the way back to his rooms within the building, soon finding himself on a long corridor on the upper floor. Passing a side-table bearing a silver candelabra, he heard the sound of voices from an adjacent room and turned without thinking to see a door ajar.

Leos sprawled at a desk within, legs cocked over the arm of his chair, while another man read to him from a ledger. The nobleman was turning pages with a silver letter-opener with one hand and nodding absently, while his right hand selected cherries from a nearby bowl. As Weyrother watched, Leos finished one fruit, then tossed the stone in the direction of a goblet some fifteen feet distant. It pinged off the rim and settled in the cup.

Leos saw Weyrother outside the door and waved at him to come in, as he reached for a second cherry.

“I'll bet you a crown you can't do that again,” Weyrother said.

“Pfeildorf would be bankrupt before I missed,” Leos replied, flicking his new stone into the goblet to prove his point, before gesturing to the servant to leave them.

“I didn't know you were still here.”

“I'm only here to do some paperwork.” The disdain in his voice was palpable. “Emmanuelle hasn't appointed a replacement for von Halstadt yet, and of course she doesn't have the time to deal with anything this dull, so it falls on me. I'll be back in Altdorf with her in a few days, with any luck.” He uncoiled from his chair, stood upright, and stretched like a cat.

“The idea of you left to do administrative work does seem a little incongruous.”

“When you get a reputation for one thing then it does tend to limit perceptions. Of course the truth is if I duelled all day I'd run out of opponents within a year.”

“You're really that good?”

“Do you really doubt it?”

Weyrother shrugged. “I've never seen you fight.”

“Well, we can remedy that now if you like.” He paused at the momentary look of shock on Weyrother's face. “A friendly fight, with training weapons, obviously. I'm not about to kill one of Emmanuelle's guests – it wouldn't be worth the nagging.”

He beckoned Weyrother to follow him and they proceeded a few doors down to a room with a fencing piste and a number of weapon racks. Weyrother stood back as Leos selected a blade and glove.

“This is something of a novelty for me; I don't normally get to play with my sister's toys until she's finished with them.” He smiled and placed a hand on Weyrother's shoulder. “Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you, seriously.”

He was not quite correct: although blunt and springy, the blade still stung with each impact, but at least the weapons weren't capable of inflicting more than a bruise. At fifteen points to one – the one a very fortunate riposte – Leos stepped back and raised his blade to signal a halt.

“Interesting. You were trained by Leitdorf?”

“From the age of twelve, yes.”

“Did you have any tuition before that?”

“None to speak of.”

“Leitdorf is an exceptional bladesman. He's fast, with impeccable technique, and I've heard he's ambidextrous. Correct?”

“On all counts.”

“It shows in the way you fight. Your bladework is good – better than good – but he has neglected your footwork. Your strides are too long, and that affects everything. Your balance, your reach, your defence...”

“Your footwork, on the other hand -”

“Is superlative.” It was far from an untruth, and Leos waved a hand. “I don't believe in false modesty, and I've been fencing, and dancing, since I could walk.” He discarded his blade and walked over to fetch a cloth to mop his brow.

“You seem disappointed.”

“I am perpetually disappointed, but you are not to blame.” He shook his head. “Do you know how many men I have killed?”


“Neither do I. I don't keep count, there's no point. After a while, each duel becomes the same. There are precious few great swordsmen in the Empire: Helborg; Schwartzhelm; Steiner; Leitdorf.” He reeled them off like the names of gods.

“Von Liebewitz,” Weyrother added, firmly.

“Hardly,” Leos snorted. “Killing braggarts and flunkies establishes a reputation for ruthlessness but not for skill. In order to be a great swordsman you must face one. I wonder if any man will ever offer me such a challenge.”

“I hope it is not Leitdorf. I should not like to see either of you killed.”

“Sometimes great art requires sacrifice, don't you think?”

“You call this art?”

“Dancing is art, is it not, and fencing is nothing more than dancing with a sword.”

“A dance in which people die! This is not a recreation, Leos. We are privileged to fight when we want to, but fighting should be about necessity, not whim or desire.”

“You don't think this is a necessity for me? This isn't a pastime, Lothar, this is a compulsion. I fight, I kill, because I have to, because I need to. I have spent my whole life turning myself, or being turned, into this – this perfect instrument of death, and -” he pointed at Weyrother “- it is neither pride nor vanity that makes me say that. I know what I am. I kill because it is what is required of me, by my Countess, by my sister, by myself. Without it... without it I am nothing.”

“Then why so dissatisfied? There can be few better swordsmen in the Empire.”

“Because I am wasted. You, Lothar, you will never be a great duellist, and I say that out of compassion, so that you do not overreach yourself, not to be unkind. Your footwork is too sluggish, and you started your training too late. You are good, better than good, perhaps, and you might improve yet, but you will never be great. But I – I am-”


“Exactly.” He sighed. “I should rather be killed within a year by some rough soldier of exceptional talent than live unchallenged until my eyesight fades and my hands shake.” Leos suddenly looked very young and vulnerable. Weyrother walked over and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“I fear there are challenges enough in store for all of us, my friend. Do not wish your life away cheaply.”

Leos smiled, and for a moment his countenance lightened, before his face became serious again.

“Nor should you, my friend. Do not trifle with my sister.”

“I -” Weyrother had been mentally preparing himself for this challenge for weeks, but when confronted he still found himself speechless. Leos cut him off before he could say anything he would regret.

“That's not what I mean. I tell you this as a warning, not as a threat. Emmanuelle has many weapons, of which I am just one, and by no means the most deadly. She plays the game better than anyone, and she is more ruthless even than me. Do not offer her even a glimpse of anything you are not prepared to lose.”

“Thank you,” Weyrother muttered, out of instinct more than anything. He wanted to ask more, but there was a dark look in Leos's eyes that told him further questioning was unwelcome. The young nobleman nodded, then stalked out of the room without a further word, forcefully replacing his weapon in its rack as he left.

By the next morning, Leos was gone.
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