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

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

Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 15/1/13)

Postby Athelassan » Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:01 am

With the possible exception of the wrestling, the sword and shield was the least glamorous of the Tournament events, and one of the more gruelling. Where the rapier was contested over fifteen points, the sword and shield had only five, since fighting any longer would bring even the strongest competitors to their knees. The bouts were struggles of endurance as much as skill, and few nobles and dignitaries turned up to watch the competitors pummel each other into the mud.

Weyrother had no particular objection to this state of affairs, since it afforded him the opportunity to compete without the eyes of the Empire upon him. After three bouts on the first afternoon, he reached the end of the day undefeated, albeit suffering some heavy bruising from the sword of one of the Hummelaur brothers – Frederick, he thought. Kurt Heger and Leopold Leitdorf, two of the few nobles to have attended, greeted him at the bout's conclusion.

“That looked painful,” Kurt said, as he and Schneider helped Weyrother remove his armour.

“I doubt it looked nearly painful as it was,” he replied, as Schneider took his helmet. “I can't really feel the extent of it just yet, but I've no doubt I'll be fully aware by morning.”

“At least you're not jousting.”

“Thank the gods for small mercies.”

“Do you want to see the rapier final?” Leopold asked. “Or would you rather just go home and collapse?”

Weyrother nodded. “Seeing someone else get beaten up might help to take my mind off things.”

The rapier event had not been seriously contested. Marius Leitdorf, who Weyrother suspected had only agreed to compete in the hope that Kurt Helborg would also be present, had withdrawn, leaving the event without a first-rate swordsman. Or so the spectators had believed, for by the time of the rapier final in the early evening, Gustav von Krieglitz had destroyed the field and had only one opponent to face before taking the title. The Emperor and Emmanuelle absented themselves, but the Talabeclanders thronged to see one of their own in action, and Marius Leitdorf and a couple of his small entourage were also in attendance, out of what Weyrother assumed was professional interest.

By the time Weyrother and his companions reached the arena, the match was all but won. Krieglitz needed only two points over Steffan von Brunswick to take the title, and it seemed that Brunswick had already given up to all intents and purposes. Taking his eyes off the action as a foregone conclusion, Weyrother looked across the arena to the royal box where Leitdorf and Feuerbach sat with their companions. Feuerbach was grinning openly, while Ludwig Schwarzhelm had refused a seat and loomed in the rear, his expression stoic as ever. Elise von Krieglitz-Untern, though, was leaning over in her seat, talking intently in Leitdorf's ear. The Averland Count was drumming his fingers in a manner Weyrother found all too familiar, and he groaned inwardly.

“Is there any particular animosity between your father and Duchess Elise?” he asked Leopold.

Leopold looked over and frowned. “Her mother was an Alptraum.”

“Oh hell,” Weyrother said, with feeling.

Krieglitz took the final point and bowed to his opponent, the crowd rising in applause. Leitdorf applauded distractedly, as Elise withdrew from him with what looked to be a smirk creasing the corners of her mouth.

He was too distant to hear the conversation, but Weyrother could well imagine what was being said, while Leopold seethed beside him. Feuerbach turned to Leitdorf with an expression of wide-eyed innocence, while, in the arena below, Krieglitz bowed to the royal box, then stood and spread his arms invitingly.

“There's nothing we can do to stop this, is there?” Weyrother said, his voice flat.

“Not when he's wearing that expression, no,” Leopold replied, biting his lip.

Leitdorf looked around, as if searching for someone to forbid him, then nodded, and to the applause of his companions in the box, made his way down the steps and onto the arena floor. The rest of the crowd roared their approval as they realised what was happening.

“Why does he do this to himself?”

“They must have got to him somehow.” Leopold shook his head. “He should know better than this.”

Krieglitz had withdrawn to his mark while Leitdorf was fitted with a protective leather jacket, and seemed to be sizing the Averlander up. Once Leitdorf was fully equipped, he advanced and flourished his rapier in salute. Krieglitz returned the gesture.

The herald announced the unscheduled exhibition bout, but the tension was greater than it had been for the event final. The two combatants bowed to the box and acknowledged the crowd with a flick of their swords, but once upright they had eyes only for each other. They took guard, there was a brief pause as the spectators fell silent, then the word from the umpire rang out.

“Fight!”

Leitdorf attacked immediately, advancing on the younger man with the obvious intention of scoring quick, early hits. Krieglitz backed off, apparently cautiously, but then Leitdorf took a step forward, the blades flashed, and it was the Averlander who backed away tapping his jacket to indicate a hit. The same pattern held for the next two points. Krieglitz backed away, then struck on the counter-attack.

Weyrother remembered Leos's dissection of his technique in their fencing bout, and the importance he had placed on footwork. Watching the two duellists now, Weyrother realised that Leitdorf had not just neglected to train him in correct footwork, but that Leitdorf's own movement was flawed. Of the two combatants, Leitdorf's bladesmanship was superior, and Weyrother had no doubt that with two weapons he would win every point. Here, though, his talent was proving insufficient. Krieglitz's positioning was inch-perfect for every stroke, luring Leitdorf into lunge after lunge that fell consistently short. The Talabeclander, by contrast with Leitdorf, was no artist, moving his sword only in efficient, decisive strokes, to ward off a lunge that came too close for comfort, or for a scoring hit.

Moreover, Weyrother realised, to his increasing discontent, the age gap between the participants was showing. Krieglitz had been duelling all afternoon, but looked as fresh as he had at the morning court audience. Leitforf, though, near twenty years older, was looking increasingly ragged, moreso since his aggressive approach was costing him more energy in the early evening heat.

At seven points to two, Weyrother realised, it didn't matter if Leitdorf was the better swordsman. Krieglitz was going to win.

After the eleventh point, Leitdorf stormed back to his mark, slashing the air with his rapier and peering at it to make sure it was straight. After the thirteenth, Weyrother saw him snarl openly at Krieglitz before returning to his point. Weyrother turned to Leopold, only to realise the young man had already left and was standing by the edge of the arena, waiting for a chance to reach his father.

Leitdorf took the fourteenth and the fifteenth, although Weyrother was not entirely sure that Krieglitz hadn't deliberately thrown them. On the sixteenth, the two swordsmen edged together and paused for a moment, before Leitdorf leapt forward. Krieglitz was already sliding backwards, his rapier tip catching Leitdorf in the shoulder even as he swayed slightly so that Leitdorf's own blade missed his chest by less than an inch. In any other context it would have been eye-catching swordsmanship, but the bout itself was no longer Weyrother's concern.

Krieglitz turned to walk back to his mark, but Leitdorf had had enough. With a yell of outrage he snapped his blade across his knee and turned to hurl a tirade of abuse at his opponent. Fortunately, the acoustics of the arena were so poor that little of the inarticulate diatribe could travel to the ears of the audience, but the gist was clear enough, and his waving and jabbing finger did little to add to Leitdorf's dignity.

Weyrother caught a glimpse of movement from the otherwise stunned royal box and saw that Schwarzhelm had moved his hand to rest on his sword-pommel. Horrified at the prospects of that confrontation, Weyrother tried to push his way through the crowd to get to the arena, but immediately saw that Leopold had got there first, having either evaded the guards or simply been allowed to pass on the basis he could not possibly make things any worse.

Krieglitz was standing stock still as Leitdorf screamed at him; Weyrother wasn't sure if that was a calculated display of reserve or whether he was just rooted to the spot with shock. Not a moment too soon, Leopold reached his father's side, and, with a gently restraining arm placed on Leitdorf's shoulder, began imploring him to stop.

His words seemed to have some effect, and Leitdorf fell silent, apparently agreeing to leave with his son. He turned for one last spiteful moment, hurling the half of the rapier still attached to the hilt at the feet of his opponent, then Leopold led him away. There was no applause.

The herald hesitated for a moment even after he disappeared from sight, as if to make sure the Averland Count was really gone, before announcing the result.

“The winner by forfeit, Duke Gustav von Krieglitz of Talabecland!”

They cheered for him. Feuerbach was on his feet, bellowing in approval and applauding wildly. Gustav's cousin Elise stood next to him, smiling and clapping politely. Krieglitz saluted the crowd, before approaching the box to receive the tourney prize.

“Do you want to go and find Leitdorf?” Heger asked, Weyrother's sour expression apparently giving him away.

He shook his head. “Not now.”
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 15/1/13)

Postby Gaius Marius » Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:59 am

This is such a well characterized story. One of the few and probably the best domestic warhammer story.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 22/1/13)

Postby Athelassan » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:09 am

This is a long one, for which I apologise. I need to fix three lines in the next update, then that's ready too. I will finish this story if it kills me.

Ath


“Well,” Fuhrmann said, once all the officers were assembled. “That was a bloody disgrace.”

“It was Lutzen's fault, sir,” Karsteren said. “He shouldn't have killed the prisoner.”

“Shut up, captain,” Fuhrmann snapped. “I don't care who did what, or who started it. What happened was a shambles.”

“With respect, sir,” Sonderman said, “we had it well under control. Lutzen just turned up to make a nuisance of himself.”

“So Lutzen's an interfering tosser. We know that. We should know better than to play into his hands by starting a fight. It's a miracle no-one was killed.”

Hardly any of the Guardsmen had made it out of the warehouse without some bruising or in some cases a flesh wound, the officers included. Karsteren was sporting a prize black eye, and Sonderman looked as if he'd been run over by a carriage, but at least none of them had died.

“We are soldiers,” Fuhrmann said, “not street thugs. “If Morden hadn't been there we could have lost all the prisoners over some stupid grudge. We should be thankful that he's not talking about having us arrested.”

“I'm sorry, sir,” Sonderman said, eventually. “It was stupid.”

“Yes, it was.” Fuhrmann sighed. “If the Marshal were here, heads would be rolling. As it is, everyone involved can consider themselves on a warning. Any further disciplinary incidents and there will be consequences, understand? Just because we're at peace right now and the senior officers are out of town doesn't mean we can let everything go to hell. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes sir,” they muttered.

“Good. And make that message clear to your men, too. No brawling in taverns, no street fights with the militia, nothing. This stops now. Dismissed.”

They filed out. Fuhrmann sighed and sat back down in his chair. If he were honest with himself, there was a part of him that had relished the chance to fight, and settling a score with Lutzen appealed to him greatly. He found it difficult to be sorry that the browncoat captain would be spending the next few weeks in the infirmary. Still, he was the commanding officer, and he had to set an example.

He needed some fresh air. He locked the office door behind him, and strolled out across the courtyard towards the gatehouse. The night was hardly peaceful, as the excitement of the battle the night before seemed to have infected the general mood. There was a palpable energy in the air, and, although the cries of the prisoners in the cells were not audible above ground, the simple knowledge that the cells were occupied seemed to lend the building a different texture.

Fuhrmann hadn't been entirely happy about taking the most dangerous prisoners off the hands of the watch, but their cells were overloaded, and the compound had twenty to spare. So in addition to the best part of a thousand fractious soldiers, there were now ten dangerous enemies of the Empire locked up here, together with a further five young men who he suspected were just idiots who had fallen in with the wrong crowd. Morden assured him it was only a temporary measure, but Fuhrmann was familiar with the prisoners who had disappeared into the bowels of Munsden Keep or the Stahlfort on a “temporary” basis, and who never saw the light of day again.

A particular strain of conversation drifted to him as he passed the barracks. A group of soldiers were talking loudly, apparently boasting to their companions about their exploits the previous night. Despite his dislike of eavesdroppers, Fuhrmann found himself listening, and stopped so that he could catch more of the conversation.

“Sounds like that bastard Lutzen got what was coming to him, anyway,” one of them said.

“Aye, the captain took him down good and proper..”

“Wish I could have been there, see the look on his stupid face.”

“I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw him turn up. I've been looking to clock him one half my life. Smug git.”

“You see, the Hochers just don't get that. When I was a kid, Lutzen gave my dad a kicking for looking at him funny. Used to run this place, he did, before the old Lord showed up.”

“You can't blame the Hochers, they're here for the money, same as us.”

“You, maybe.” There was the sound of something being thrown. “For some of us, it's personal like. It's a chance to stick one to them Toppenheimer Wisser lot.”

“Hochers can't tell the difference. We're all Wissers to them, old chap.” The voice had changed, and adopted an execrable Altdorf accent; Fuhrmann assumed it was meant to be a Hochland one. The two were similar enough, but a trained ear could distinguish them.

Although it was futile to try to explain it to the men, Fuhrmann found the culture divide between Hochlanders and Sudenlanders inordinately frustrating. The Sudenlanders signed up for personal reasons or because they had nowhere else to go. The Hochlanders, for the most part, were here for the same reason. Names like Schneider, Drescher, and Mauser had been a part of the Iron Guard for generations. Only he, Fuhrmann, could honestly say he was really here by choice.

“Alright, boys, that's enough,” came a new voice, and Fuhrmann was slightly startled to recognise it as Sonderman. “You don't have to like the Hochers, but they wear our uniform, they're Guardsmen same as us.”

“Absolutely, good sir. Same as us, ain't it,” said the man who fancied himself an impressionist.

“Watch your tongue, soldier, if you don't want to lose it. Lord Weyrother's a Hocher himself, don't forget. You try that voice at the wrong time and you're finished.”

“Sorry, sir.”

“You all watch yourselves, alright. I know last night was a laugh, but if I hear any more reports of any of you brawling, you'll end up flogged. I want you all good as gold, or I'll know the reason why. You don't hit your bunkmate, you don't hit your woman, and you sure as hell don't go hitting any militiamen. Understand?”

“Sir,” they chorused.

“Good boys.”

“Sir?” a further voice said. “What was it like to hit Lutzen, sir?”

“I can't tell you that, or you'll all go and do it. The bastard's in bad enough shape as it is.”

They laughed.

“Lights out at usual time, sergeant,” Sonderman said, then Fuhrmann assumed he had left the room.

Not wanting to take the risk of the captain leaving the barracks immediately and finding him standing there, Fuhrmann made his way to the gatehouse and climbed the steps to look out from the top of the walls over the town. Pfeildorf was more attractive by night; only the lights of the dwellings and taverns were visible, leaving the grime and squalor mercifully obscured by darkness. The river seemed to shiver in the moonlight. Even the scent of fish guts that occasionally wafted off the docks smelt less rank; the cooler air seemed to minimise the stench.

He heard another man coming up the steps, and turned to see Sonderman climbing.

“How are you feeling, Sevar?”

“I could do without these steps, to tell the truth. I feel like I've been stuffed in a barrel and rolled down Nulnstrasse.”

“Did you speak to the men?”

“Yes. Look, I'm sorry, Einhardt. It's just, well, you don't like Lutzen any more than I do. Then when he pushed Johannes, I just lost it. I shouldn't have drawn my sword, either. That just made things worse. I saw him go for his, and thought he was going to gut you.” He sighed. “We haven't seen any proper action in months. We didn't even get to fight the orcs. We've got eight hundred men sitting around on edge, doing nothing, bored out of their minds, waiting for something to go wrong so they can take out their frustration on something.”

“Then Lutzen shows up and gives them the opportunity.”

“Exactly. I can't say I'm sorry for how he ended up, mind. I'm just sorry I let the Guard down in putting him there.”

“I can sympathise with that.”

“I asked you once why you left the Reiksguard, and you said it was because it made your life too complicated. Are things any better for you now?”

“Things are different here. But not necessarily simpler, and not necessarily better either.” He sighed. “I had an idea of what it would be like out here. I can't explain to you what court is like, Sevar. So many people, all trying to get ahead however they can.”

“Sounds like the officers' mess.”

“Near enough, but ten times, a hundred times worse. These are people who can end dozens of lives with a flick of their fingers, and think nothing of doing that. I started in Carroburg, and I thought I had the measure of them, and then I went to Altdorf, which was twice the size and ten times worse. Then, when I had the measure of Altdorf, I went to Averheim, which was a tenth the size and a hundred times worse. I thought if I came here, things would be simple. I'm a straightforward man; I want things to be plain, and honest, and simple.”

“People here don't speak plainly?”

“Oh, they do, I just don't like what they say.”

Sonderman laughed, then regretted it as his body rebelled.

“You didn't really come to Pfeildorf, did you? You left Altdorf and this was where you ended up.”

“I followed Max – sorry, the old lord – and this was where he led me.. After he died, I didn't have anywhere else to go, so I stayed.”

“I remember when you first arrived. I was just a junior lieutenant, of course, young and starry-eyed and all that. Then you turned up, this big Reiksguard hero, everyone was so excited. You came into that mess and you just looked exhausted. You looked as bad as I probably do right now.”

“I don't think I ever looked as bad as that.”

“You're starting to look that way again. Oh, you still fight as well as ever, but you don't take any pleasure in any of this any more, do you? It's just what you've ended up doing.”

“Isn't that the same for all of us?”

“Some of us, maybe. But I doubt you went to sleep back when you were nineteen, in your room in an Altdorf quad, dreaming of a free Sudenland and your very own berth in this place, did you?”

“I can't honestly say I did.”

“I did,” Sonderman said, softly. “This is my home, which is why I'll fight and die for it. But it's not yours.”

“Don't you think so?”

“It doesn't matter what I think, does it? Do you think of this as home?

“It's as close as anywhere.”

“What a depressing thought.” Sonderman rested his elbows on the parapet and looked out over the town. “If you don't have a home, and you don't have a family to speak of, what would you say is most important to you, then?”

Fuhrmann thought on that for a moment, and came up with an old answer. “Duty.”

“Ah, I see. Which, right now, is your duty to Lord Weyrother.”

“Yes.”

“Well, I can't argue with that.” He straightened. “Me, I have a duty to my wife. A duty which she seems to think involves not coming home after dark in summertime, and not coming home covered in bruises.”

“You're in fairly serious breach of that duty right now, then.”

“She doesn't really have a good idea about marriage to a soldier and what it entails, does she?”

“It seems to me like you're putting it off deliberately.”

“You're probably right. Ah, I should get back to her, but I wanted to make sure you were all right.”

“I'll live.”

“Make sure you do.”Sonderman turned to the steps and groaned. “I'm not sure I can face these again.”

“Well, you've only got yourself to blame.”

“True enough. Until the morning, sir.” Sonderman saluted, then made his way back down the steps.

Fuhrmann looked back out over Pfeildorf. No, this wasn't home. But it would have to do for now.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 22/1/13)

Postby Gaius Marius » Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:05 am

You definetly are raising the tension on this one. And I knew I'd recognized Fuhrman from somewhere esle.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 22/1/13)

Postby Athelassan » Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:06 am

Weyrother's hopes that the Leitdorf issue would blow over by the evening were dashed when the Count failed to appear for that evening's banquet. The chairs that should have been occupied by Marius and Leopold were distinctly vacant, leaving a notable gulf in the arrangements of the high table between Feuerbach and Graf Falken Reiklander.

Had it not been for Leitdorf's absence, which cast a brooding shadow over proceedings, Weyrother suspected he would have enjoyed this evening much more than the feast on the night of the Talabeclanders' arrival. He was seated next to Severin von Bugenhagen, and the fat young nobleman proved an entertaining companion, educated, and knowledgeable about more than food. With discerning eye, he identified the choicest morsels on any passing plate of food with unerring precision and quickly reserved them for private consumption. Weyrother supposed if he enjoyed his food as much as Bugenhagen clearly did, he would find it difficult to maintain his figure too.

“I don't suppose you saw me in the joust,” Bugenhagen asked, distributing a handful of tarts between them. “Probably just as well – I didn't stand a chance. One knock and off I went – plop! They all laughed, of course, but they didn't count on my extra armour.” He patted his belly. “I barely felt a thing.”

Bugenhagen had predictably ended up with the lion's share of the pastries. “I wouldn't have had you down as a jouster, Severin,” Weyrother said.

“Oh, I'm not. Hopeless! But I thought I should get into the spirit of the thing, you know.” He poured – and drained – another goblet of wine. The man had an heroic capacity for drink.

“Well, you can scarcely be a worse horseman than me, at any rate.”

“Don't joke! I saw you riding in the forest and you managed to stay on the horse. That's more than I could manage today.”

The entertainments were more lavish this evening, and the guests were treated to a performance of what Weyrother gathered was a new version of the life of Magnus the Pious, set to music.

“Clever move, that,” Bugenhagen muttered, mouth half-full of chicken. Weyrother hadn't even noticed a plate of chicken.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the Holswig-Schliesteins like to call themselves successors to Magnus, but always worth reminding them where he came from. A celebration of our shared heritage, of course, but a nice bit of point-scoring from Emmanuelle against old Karl-Franz. Ah, and what's the contribution of our Reikland friends to the state of the Empire? A great big fish!”

As an enormous Reik eel was wheeled out to applause from the diners, the wooden eel Weyrother had previously observed emerged from the shrubberies surrounding the pond and belched fire into the sky. Somewhat disappointingly, it failed to ignite anything unexpected, although the guests who hadn't seen its previous performance seemed to be impressed.

The eel turned out to be the last dish, and there was still no sign of Leitdorf. As the dignitaries from the high table retreated and the rest of the guests made to follow, Weyrother located Kurt Heger.

“I'm leaving. Make my apologies, would you?”

“Where are you off to this time?”

“I'm going to find Leitdorf.”

“The hell with your apologies. If it gets me out of here, I'm coming with you.”

The stewards located Albrecht Schneider, who in turn summoned the four Greatwsords who had escorted them to the palace, and they made their way off into the city together.

“Do you have any idea where we're looking?” Kurt asked, as they walked off down the hill into the fast-fading light.

“I thought we'd start at his hostelry and work outwards from there.”

“So we're just wandering off into the Neuestadt with no idea where we're headed. Marvellous.”

“I didn't ask you to come, Kurt. If you don't have the stomach with it, you can go back to the palace.”

Heger looked hurt. “I was just joking, Lothar.”

The staff of the Deliverance did not know where Leitdorf was. From what they could report, Marius and Leopold had returned briefly but departed in the early evening. Leitdorf's valet, Alstern, who was obviously concerned, offered to come with them, but Weyrother waved him away.

“So what now? We go trawling every public house and night spot in Nuln?” Heger growled. “Leitdorf can take care of himself.”

Weyrother ignored him and turned to Schneider. “What's the nearest tavern that serves wine?”

“The Burning Lion, I think. Or perhaps the Troll's Belly, I'm not sure if that serves wine, but it caters for an upmarket crowd. For this area, anyway.”

“Right, we'll start at the Belly and see if anyone's seen him.”

They made their way through the increasingly narrow streets of the Handelbezirk until they found the tavern. It was large, and seemed to be doing a roaring trade this evening, to judge from the volume of noise. As they drew closer, the sound of singing was clearly audible.

“Me first, I think, Lord,” Schneider suggested. “Just in case.”

Albrecht had to stoop to enter the tavern, and Weyrother followed closely behind. Schneider need not have worried – the atmosphere within was thoroughly convivial, with most of the bar singing along to a ditty played by a long-haired minstrel. Weyrother glanced over at the man, then boggled.

The Elector of Averland was perched on a stool, strumming expertly at a lute, and leading the bar in a rendition of what soon became apparent as The Ballad of Twenty-Four. It was a popular song south of the Stir, and even Weyrother knew most of the words.

The Dwarfs called for assistance then
Fatty said he'd send his men.
The Dwarfs they stood and Dwarfs they died.
Fatty promised, Fatty lied.


Through the throng, he spotted Leopold, moving his lips along with the rest, but with a slightly strained expression and no obvious enthusiasm. Gesturing to Albrecht to follow him, Weyrother began to elbow his way through the crowd to where the younger Leitdorf was sitting.

Leopold rolled his eyes when he saw Weyrother approaching. “Lothar! Thank the gods!”

“How long have you been here?”

“All evening.”

“Has he been singing all that time?”

“Not just singing.” Leopold indicated the two empty bottles of wine next to Marius's stool, and two more at his own table.

The Paunch bore down with flag held high
Fatty saw it, Fatty cried.
Fatty fled Nuln on his own
And left the Paunch to sack the town


“He's got a good voice, at least.” Weyrother had to shout to make himself heard over the singing.

“I think he's running out of songs about the villainy of Talabecland and Krieglitzes, though.” Weyrother suddenly realised the relevance of Leitdorf's current ballad.

“Do you want us to get him out of here at the end of this one?” Weyrother indicated the men he had brought with him.

Leopold nodded. “Just two of us. He told the Greatswords to stay back at barracks.” He shrugged helplessly.

Moved by greed and not by pity
Fatty returned to the shining city
About the sack he didn't care
But sat back on his golden chair


Albrecht and his Greatswords pushed their way to the front of the crowd, while Kurt stayed back next to the door. Weyrother and Leopold moved to the side of the stage, ready to move as soon as the song finished.

We were loud and we were many
Fatty paid with every penny
Five years passed, one more crime
Billy helped us one more time

As the song reached its raucous conclusion and the tavern erupted with applause, Weyrother and Leopold stepped with purpose onto the platform. Before they could reach him, though, Leitdorf had got to his feet.

“Any Krieglitzes come back to Nuln with sword drawn, you call on Averland and I'll send them packing!” He brandished his sword. “Gustav von Krieglitz! Jumped up northern swine! Make it a fair fight – give me my proper sword and I'll carve him to pieces.”

Weyrother noted in horrified fascination that the sword he was waving about was the Runefang. The crowd were cheering – the Krieglitzes were not popular in Nuln, after all, and even those who couldn't care less must have been amused to see a member of the aristocracy embarrassing himself to such an extent. Besides, most of them were probably further gone than Leitdorf.

Leitdorf turned and saw Weyrother. “Max! Good to see you!” He frowned slightly. “No, not Max, the other one. Lothar. You look just like him, you know. Wine? Another song?”

“I think it's time we left, Lord Leitdorf,” Weyrother said, as gently as he could manage and still be heard.

“I'm not joking about that Krieglitz bastard, you know,” Leitdorf slurred, waving the Runefang under Weyrother's nose. Weyrother took a slight and involuntary step back. “Next time, I'll use this, and I'll cut his balls off.”

“No more than he deserves, father,” Leopold said, taking Marius's hand and guiding the sword back into its scabbard. “But he's not here now. If you're going to fight him, we need to get back and sleep.”

Weyrother and Leopold each slung one of Marius's arms over their shoulders and half-dragged, half-carried, him down from the platform and towards the door, the Greatswords clearing a path for them. The bar patrons stamped and whistled as they passed, as much, it seemed, in disappointment that their entertainment was over as in appreciation for the former performance.

Once out in the fresh air and clear streets their task was easier, and they made swift progress to the Deliverance. Other than a couple of stray beggars, the streets were largely deserted, much to Weyrother's relief. At least, he supposed, relations between the delegations had not deteriorated to the extent that Feuerbach's men were combing the city looking to stick a knife in Leitdorf, or Weyrother, for that matter. Whether that would change if news of this evening's escapades reached Talabeclander ears, he decided he'd rather not know.

Alstern leapt up as they entered the Deliverance, and pried Marius away from Weyrother.

“I'll take him from here, Lords.” Marius was by now almost completely unconscious, but Alstern managed the weight well and led him through the rear door to the boarding-rooms.

“I'd better give him a hand with the stairs,” Leopold said, and moved to follow him. He paused as he passed through the door, and turned back momentarily. “Thank you, Lothar.”

“Don't mention it.”

The proprietor watched proceedings silently, but with a beady-eyed expression that Weyrother didn't like. He took a crown from his purse – a crown he could scarcely afford – and placed it firmly on the counter. There was a limit to what it would accomplish, but it couldn't hurt. He met the proprietor's eye.

“For your silence,” he said, firmly.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 27/1/13)

Postby Athelassan » Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:11 pm

Weyrother arrived at the arena early in the morning, grateful that Leitdorf's antics had stopped him from over-indulging the previous evening. He suspected that the Elector must be nursing a colossal hangover. Then again, Leitdorf didn't have to face a man twice his size in the sword and shield event.

“You've got nothing to worry about,” Kurt told him as he worked his arm through a few practice swings. “He's big and strong, but he's not the brightest, is he?”

Weyrother's first opponent was one of his own: Jurgen Drescher, a junior officer in the Guard.

“Last time I fought him he won.”

“Last time you fought, you were seven years old. You've grown a bit since then.”

In Brockau, Weyrother had mingled relatively freely with children of officers and servants, but since moving to Pfeildorf, the difference in station and rank had asserted itself, and he couldn't remember the last time he had spoken with Jurgen. It could have been months or years, but he doubted it had been about anything meaningful. Titles did that to a man. As Young Lothar, he was just another boy, but as Lord Weyrother, it seemed impossible to maintain any relationship with any commoner, no matter what his intentions. Even Konrad Brecht seemed uneasy around him.

Drescher was wearing his full military white uniform under the protective armour, and carried a shield with the distinctive black eagle of the Guard infantry. Weyrother was also wearing an approximate uniform, and carried a white-and-purple shield, albeit rather battered from the exertions of the previous day.

Weyrother took a firm grip on his shield and marched out to the centre of the arena, where the umpire greeted him. A moment later, Drescher hurried out, apparently not wishing to keep his lord waiting.

Weyrother saluted. Drescher bowed. Weyrother opened his mouth to tell the man that due deference could be suspended for the occasion, but before he could do so, the umpire called out.

En guard.” Both men presented their shields, and braced themselves.

“Fight!”

Both men advanced quickly and locked shields. Much of the early part of any of these bouts was about strength and power, trying to force an opponent backwards. Thrusts were not explicitly disallowed, but frowned upon in this context, and the points of the swords were so blunted that it would take a serious lunge to make any real impression. Weyrother had no doubt that the larger Drescher could beat him in a contest of endurance, and his best chance of victory was to take at least the first two points.

Drescher's superior strength initially won through, though, and he pushed Weyrother back violently, boots scrabbling for purchase in the sand. Weyrother raised his shield to ward off the inevitable blow, knowing even as he did so he would likely be too late, but Drescher's following attack came in slightly late, and he took the full force of it on the shield.

In stepping forward to strike, Drescher had let his shield fall to one side, and Weyrother sprang forward, striking out to catch his opponent on the arm. The umpire called the point, and the two men trudged back to their marks.

En guard. Fight!”

Weyrother stood firm this time, pushing out his shield to resist the incoming assault, but keeping his feet rooted. They shoved at each other, their balances shifting slightly as they tried to gain any advantage, then their eyes locked and Drescher seemed to slip, taking a step backwards. Weyrother leapt at him, whirling his sword in a blow that Drescher did well to deflect. Even as his sword clanged off Drescher's shield, Weyrother realised he had again left himself open, and desperately tried to raise his shield. Drescher's sword was up, but there was a moment's hesitation, and then the blow came down full in the middle of the shield. Both men recovered themselves and circled, more warily now.

Drescher stepped forward with a massive overhand blow that was easy to block but still forced Weyrother almost to his knees, taking both shield and sword to ward off. Rather than press his advantage, though, Drescher stepped back and allowed him to regain his feet before attacking again. This blow was even heavier, and slower, and Weyrother stepped slightly to one side, allowing it to glance off his shield. Drescher overbalanced as his sword met less resistance than expected, and Weyrother sprang sideways, his sword lashing out to tap Drescher's helm and take the second point.

Drescher hoisted his shield meaningfully and made his way back to his mark, but Weyrother remained where he stood. The umpire turned to him with a quizzical expression.

“If you would care to return to your mark, my Lord?”

Weyrother shook his head. “No. I forfeit.”

“I beg your utmost pardon, Lord?”

“I forfeit,” Weyrother said more loudly, and threw his sword at Drescher's feet. A wondrous expression of gratitude, mingled with a little guilt, seemed to cross the officer's face.

The umpire, nonplussed, shrugged and announced the winner.

“The victor by forfeit, Ensign Jurgen Drescher of Pfeildorf.”

“Of Brockau,” Weyrother muttered under his breath, but the umpire didn't seem to hear him.

“What the hell was that?” Kurt exclaimed, as Weyrother left the arena, unbuckling his shield. The next two competitors were already entering the field.

“He was better than me,” Weyrother said.

“The hell he was. You were two points to the good.”

Weyrother shook his head. “Only because he let me. He should have taken both of those points, but he was holding back.”

“That's his decision.”

“Not where it matters. He was afraid, Kurt. Afraid to fight me properly. I don't want to win because my opponent doesn't have his heart in it. Now he's free to go on and do as well as he deserves.”

“If you say so,” Kurt said, looking thoroughly unconvinced.

Konrad Brecht seemed to share Kurt's opinion, when Weyrother returned to his temporary quarters to change into a fresh set of clothing.

“You can't expect men under your command to fight you properly, Lord,” he said, as Weyrother pulled on his green waistcoat.

“Then I have no business fighting them. It's not fair.”

“Few things in life are, Lord. Do you think that Kurt Helborg, or Marius Leitdorf, are really as good as their legends claim? It's good for morale for the men to believe their commanders are invincible.”

“It's worse for morale, surely, for men to be denied opportunities because their commanders are competing directly against them.”

“It's worse for morale for their commanders to make fools of themselves by forfeiting matches and exposing the sham,” Kurt muttered.

“Whatever the situation, it's no longer important. It's done and that's what counts.”

“I still say you're crazy,” Kurt said.

“Enough!” Weyrother snapped, rounding on them. “It is not your place to question my decisions. Marshal, I pay you for your opinion on military matters, not for comment on my social conduct.”

“Sir.” Brecht's impassive expression at that moment would have done credit to any sergeant.

“You can have my advice free of charge,” Kurt said, and Weyrother turned to him, eyes blazing.

“And how often do I ask for it? How I conduct myself in Nuln is my affair and if you two don't like it, then get back to Pfeildorf.”

“We were hoping, Lord,” Brecht said, slowly, “that when we returned to Pfeildorf you might accompany us.”

“I will return to Pfeildorf when my business in Nuln is complete.”

“What business is that, exactly,?” Kurt asked.

“As I said, that is my affair.” They stared at each other.

“Marshal, dismissed,” Weyrother said, after a moment.

“Lord.” Brecht left the room and closed the door behind him.

“Lothar-”

“Shut up, Kurt. I've tolerated your supposed wit and your constant criticism of me this long because we've been friends a long time, but my patience is wearing thin. I didn't ask you to come south, and I can't force you to leave, but don't you ever question or criticise me in front of one of my officers again, do you understand?”

Kurt glared, then, after a moment, dropped his gaze, and nodded with apparent reluctance. “Why are we still in Nuln, Lothar? Why aren't we leaving after the tournament?”

“I have unfinished business. But if you want to leave, then leave.”

“You won't get rid of me that easily. I'm here as long as you are. You need friends, now more than ever.”

“Then be a friend! Support me, agree with me! Stop challenging me at every turn!”

Kurt shook his head. “Friends aren't people who tell you you're always right, Lothar. They're the people who tell you when you're wrong.”

“Get out.”

There was a long pause, then Kurt nodded.

“If you say so.” He closed the door behind him.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 27/1/13)

Postby Gaius Marius » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:03 am

The irony of course being that Helborg and Leitdorf really are that good.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 27/1/13)

Postby Ghurlag » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:59 pm

Just dropping a line to mention that I've had chance to catch back up on this, and it's still as good as I remember. The Fuhrmann counterpoint is developing nicely, I'm starting to get interested in what's going to happen there. The events in Nuln are also starting to tie themselves together more cohesively, and that old 'snippets' feeling has almost completely dissipated.

I could raise a criticism around the Altdorf fog events. From the position of someone who's read the Yeovil work but a long time ago, it felt rather like you were avoiding giving details on those events. The 'confused reports' approach works well for introducing what happened (also a nice method for introducing some references), but I think you need a bit where it becomes a clearer regarding what actually happened (with respect to the relevant elements, that is).

I'll try and give you some useful comments on the chapters you were uncertain about when I have time to review them. Keep the stuff 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 27/1/13)

Postby Athelassan » Mon Mar 04, 2013 7:07 pm

Ghurlag wrote:I could raise a criticism around the Altdorf fog events. From the position of someone who's read the Yeovil work but a long time ago, it felt rather like you were avoiding giving details on those events. The 'confused reports' approach works well for introducing what happened (also a nice method for introducing some references), but I think you need a bit where it becomes a clearer regarding what actually happened (with respect to the relevant elements, that is).

I see what you mean. I wasn't entirely sure how to play things there; on the one hand I didn't want to include any major spoilers for Beasts in Velvet for those who hadn't read it, but at the same time I needed to get enough in for the story to continue with those events - or, at least, Leos's death - having happened. On the other hand, I wonder whether the Yeovil stuff is now so far vanished into the mists of time that it's no longer worth worrying about spoilers?

My attention has been elsewhere recently (exams, and Marching Time) but I haven't forgotten about this and will be finishing it off soon - it's just finding the time...

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