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 14/9/12)

Postby Athelassan » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:20 pm

Ghurlag wrote:Once again I haunt your thread, I'm afraid.

Haunt away!
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.

This was something I put a bit of thought into. If you'll believe it, I was trying to lend the scene a bit of realism! I'd been looking at medieval fighting techniques and, in the Talhoffer manual, large swords are used almost as improvised polearms. Holding the weapon with one hand on the pommel and one on the lower portion of the blade (which was often protected somehow) features a number of times, as does swinging the sword around and using the hilt as an improvised poleaxe. Part of the idea in using it here was to contrast the slightly "grubby" fighting style of an experienced warrior like Schneider with the slightly stilted fencing of the aristocracy (as in the latest section).

However, it seems to have backfired rather, whether because reality is unrealistic or because there's inadequate preamble. Especially combined with the other problems with that scene that you mention, it probably doesn't help.

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?

I think you're right. I'm tempted in fact to swap the order of the latest two sections, because other than needing to find another pretext for Weyrother to be wandering about at the start of this one, there's no reason they couldn't happen the other way round, and they might actually work rather better... although perhaps in that case I might need another linking scene to break up the mysterious intrigue.

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).

I read you. I think I need to do a bit more work on Albrecht's character in the earlier sections, as at the moment you're right, and he's coming across a bit flat. There's supposed to be a kind of conflict between duty and affection, but with his limited appearances, the dynamic of the master-servant relationship and the POV focus on Weyrother as a protagonist it's difficult to get across.

A secondary POV character we discussed earlier might help to address this and I think the case for one is increasingly strong. My main concern now is whether to repurpose an existing secondary character, or create a new one and a matching narrative. I worry the second option might derail the story entirely, but with the first option there aren't many to choose from - Albrecht himself, perhaps? Another would be to reintroduce a character I've previously used as a POV elsewhere, who would fit within fine the context of the story but I worry would be too close to Weyrother. There's also the question of whether the secondary POV would give us a different perspective on what we're already seeing (i.e. Nuln) or whether it'd be along the lines of "meanwhile, back in Pfeildorf". I'm still thinking on that one.

Ath
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 14/9/12)

Postby Ghurlag » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:20 pm

Athelassan wrote:This was something I put a bit of thought into. If you'll believe it, I was trying to lend the scene a bit of realism! I'd been looking at medieval fighting techniques and, in the Talhoffer manual, large swords are used almost as improvised polearms. Holding the weapon with one hand on the pommel and one on the lower portion of the blade (which was often protected somehow) features a number of times, as does swinging the sword around and using the hilt as an improvised poleaxe. Part of the idea in using it here was to contrast the slightly "grubby" fighting style of an experienced warrior like Schneider with the slightly stilted fencing of the aristocracy (as in the latest section).

However, it seems to have backfired rather, whether because reality is unrealistic or because there's inadequate preamble. Especially combined with the other problems with that scene that you mention, it probably doesn't help.


I certainly see the angle there, and the distinction between fighting and fencing that Albrecht alludes to sets up the scene well for what he does. I think perhaps rather than a lack of preamble, there's inadequate reflection from Weyrother on what Albrecht does. His shock seems to be shock at defeat in general, rather than at how Albrecht did it. If that was remedied, I think the oddness of the tactic (to me as a reader) would be dealt with just fine. I can see there's a lot to handle there, as you've also got to maintain that stunned, slightly strained atmosphere after the pole-axing, so this is perhaps a tricky thing to tackle.

There's supposed to be a kind of conflict between duty and affection, but with his limited appearances, the dynamic of the master-servant relationship and the POV focus on Weyrother as a protagonist it's difficult to get across.


I certainly sympathise with the difficulties there. The demands of the plot and development of other secondary characters will make it hard to find space to elaborate on the character of someone whom Weyrother has presumably grown used to.

A secondary POV character we discussed earlier might help to address this and I think the case for one is increasingly strong. My main concern now is whether to repurpose an existing secondary character, or create a new one and a matching narrative. I worry the second option might derail the story entirely, but with the first option there aren't many to choose from - Albrecht himself, perhaps? Another would be to reintroduce a character I've previously used as a POV elsewhere, who would fit within fine the context of the story but I worry would be too close to Weyrother. There's also the question of whether the secondary POV would give us a different perspective on what we're already seeing (i.e. Nuln) or whether it'd be along the lines of "meanwhile, back in Pfeildorf". I'm still thinking on that one.

Hmm, something of a dilemma. Kurt's story would be too close to Weyrother's, and I fear Albrecht's would be too uneventful (though it would provide plenty of opportunity for character development). Others like Emmanuelle would be too revealing. Maybe a character from outside the current cast would be best, or one from the periphery.

Ah, another section. I shall read 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 14/9/12)

Postby Ghurlag » Tue Sep 18, 2012 3:31 pm

Righto, I'm back up to date. There's just one thing I think might need correcting in the latest section

“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.”


The problem is the word 'nagging' - it seems a poor choice. Nagging, to my mind, when the nagger wants the naggee to do something. In this case Emmanuelle would be displeased that he has killed Weyrother. Perhaps 'earache' would be a better substitute?

We see Leos being quite approachable in this scene, which, combined with the warning, shows he has some affection for Weyrother. Weyrother's now been warned at least twice about Emmanuelle, but all of his direct interactions with her so far leave the reader (and I would guess Weyrother) with a pleasant impression, so it will be interesting to see what he makes of that (and if it affects their next meeting.).

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 17/9/12)

Postby Athelassan » Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:43 am

Here's the next bit, which finally introduces that secondary protagonist I think the story needs. There are a whole pile of new characters introduced along with him, so please bear with it. When the story's complete I might come back on a re-edit and start this process earlier so it's less jarring, but at the moment I think it's more important to get on with it.

A quick note on chronology, because I realised I cocked it up (not that anyone else would notice). Weyrother mentioned a couple of chapters ago that he was twenty-one; in fact, he's twenty-two. I'm using the revised dates where available rather than those in the WHN timeline, so the events of Skavenslayer took place in 2514, not 2499 (and have already transpired at the start of this story). In essence, ignore the timeline (even the dates relative to each other) in the front of the old WHN books: it's not applicable here. There is more than one good reason for this but here's not the place to explain it.

Ath


***


“Look out!”

Einhardt Fuhrmann didn't have much time to react to the warning, but stopped just in time to avoid being splattered with effluent as a woman hurled the contents of a bucket from her window. To his left, Otto Drescher took a smart step to the side, and the splash missed him by inches.

“Ah, what a lovely warm Pfeildorf welcome home.”

They walked on, the column of troops behind them tramping through the stinking refuse without pause.

“I've had worse thrown at me in Altdorf.”

“I thought Altdorf had a proper sewer system.”

“It does. In Altdorf they just didn't like me.”

“Well, that's the High Helms for you.”

Fuhrmann chuckled. The rivalry between the Emperor's new Knights of the High Helm and his own former Reiksguard order was famous.

They proceeded across the town square and turned north up Eldredstrasse. Drescher grunted as the Weyrother complex appeared in view.

“There are some things I never get tired of about Pfeildorf. The smell of the fisheries, the taste of old mutton, and the sight of that house.”

“I think it gets uglier every time I see it.”

“I don't know much about building, but it's got to take real talent to build something that deadens the soul like that place.”

“I saw the original plans once. They didn't look too bad. Maybe when it's finished Lord Weyrother won't have the best view in Pfeildorf any more.” It was an old joke; the house had the best view in Pfeildorf, because it was the only place in the town where you could guarantee not catching a glimpse of the house.

It was true that the unfinished nature of the buildings did nothing to add to their charm. In the plans, the house had been finished in white limestone and marble and garnished with colonnades, lending it a light, airy feel. As the family's fortune was squandered, however, construction had slowed, then drawn almost to a complete stop, leaving the walls largely unfinished, and the third storey had never even begun construction. Where the walls were nominally complete, they had been finished with a cheaper, dark Wissenland stone, intended to be temporary, which, together with its low height in proportion to its floorplan, lent the building the feel of nothing so much as a dark creature squatting at the edge of town, trying to lure travellers into its maw.

The cluster of smaller buildings in the complex, the barrack-rooms and coach-houses which had never been designed to the same standard as the house, served only to break up the skyline with further protrusions of dark functionality. Most of the Pfeildorf population would never see the gardens, but, unless there had been amazing progress in Fuhrmann's absence, they were if anything even less impressive than the house itself. Kurt Heger called it the mudlake, and Fuhrmann was forced to acknowledge the truth of that.

“To be honest, I don't think the house is really that out of place here,” Drescher continued. “Pfeildorf is a damn ugly town.”

“Was Bergsburg really any better?”

Drescher looked around. “Maybe not. I think it was prettier for the most part. But it never killed my spirits like this place. Arriving in Bergsburg always cheered me up.”

“That's just because it was home.”

“True enough, I suppose. It's strange. I haven't been back to Hochland in more than twenty years, but I still think of it as home. Where's home for you?”

“I don't think I have one.” Fuhrmann's birthplace, a Middenland village, had been destroyed by beastmen many years previously. “I never really felt at home in Altdorf.”

“Not Pfeildorf, then.”

“Not yet.” He shook his head. “Not in a hundred lifetimes, unless something changes dramatically.”

Pfeildorf was a difficult town to like and an even harder one to love, Fuhrmann reflected as they approached the house. Decades of laissez-faire management at the hands of the Mecklenburgs and Toppenheimers had not been kind to it, and nor had the horde of Tamurkhan that had razed the town only a few years previously. The destruction had put paid to any prospect that the Weyrother pile would be completed at any imminent point, and the scorch marks left it uglier than ever.

They arrived in the courtyard, where a young officer emerged from the mess and marched over to them. They called the column to a halt and stopped, as he threw a salute.

“Captain Fuhrmann, Captain Drescher, sirs.”

“At ease, Lieutenant Staufen,” said Drescher.

“It's good to see you back, sirs.”

“It's good to be back, Markus,” Drescher lied.

“The Marshal has called a general council of senior officers upon your return, sirs.”

“Now, lieutenant?”

“At your convenience, sirs.”

“Very good, Staufen.” Fuhrmann nodded to his sergeant to dismiss the men, and indicated for Staufen to lead the way.

Marshal Brecht had comandeered a disused state room in the west wing of the palace as his headquarters some years previously, and as the three officers walked over towards it, they were joined by a fourth.

“Otto, Sir Einhardt!” the new captain called, any pretence of formality abandoned, and sporting a grin. “How was your journey?”

“Much as expected,” Fuhrmann said, shaking the newcomer's hand. Johannes Karsteren was the most junior of the Guard's captains, but he had started his career as one of Fuhrmann's ensigns, and they had fought together more times than he cared to remember. Now Karsteren had taken Otto's son Jurgen under his wing as one of his lieutenants.

“The others are already inside,” Karsteren said, waving Staufen off and beckoning the two captains onwards with the same languid gesture. “We're pleased to see you back; it's been too long since we've all been back together.”

“All of us?” Drescher asked. “I thought Schneider and Heger were with Lord Weyrother in Nuln?”

“Like I said, it's been too long since we've all been back together,” Karsteren said, spreading his hands.

Drescher grunted in response as they entered Brecht's office. The other officers present, like Karsteren, were all Sudenlanders, some of them survivors from the days of Weyrother's father, the others new promotions from new families, part of the long-term plan to replace the Iron Guards' ageing officer corps with locals rather than imported Hochlanders.

Captain Sevar Sonderman, one of the old guard, greeted the new arrivals with a wave, while Schwarzenburg, the taciturn jaegercaptain, settled for a nod. Markstein, the artillery captain, engrossed in some diagrams, failed even to notice them. Marshal Brecht himself stood behind his table, apparently examining Markstein's charts, and glanced up as the three captains entered.

“Good, you're all here. Close the door.” Karsteren complied.

“Any news?” Brecht turned his eyes onto Fuhrmann.

“Nothing, sir. It seems you and Lord Weyrother extinguished the orc warband when you faced them in battle. We ran into a few problems with bandits raiding across the border from Averland, but nothing we couldn't handle.”

“Are the garrisons in the south secure?”

“We eliminated all the bandit hideouts we could locate, and handed over operational control to the browncoats.”

“Good. Write up a full report.”

“Any news from Nuln, sir?” Drescher asked.

“Nothing decisive. Lord Weyrother has not indicated any imminent plans to return and those officers with him will likely remain there as long as he does. Now that you've returned, Sir Einhardt, you'll take over command of the remaining Greatswords.”

“Very good, sir.”

“There is one further piece that that might interest some of you. Those of you with good memories might recall the Great Nuln Tournament a couple of years ago, held by the Countess and the Knights of the Blazing Sun. It seems that the Countess decided to make it an annual fixture. We're only hearing about this now because, well, this is the first time anyone has bothered to tell us. It's open to anybody of any station, and those who perform well can earn promotion to the Blazing Suns or that diplomatic bodyguard lot.”

“The Knights Crusader, sir,” Markstein supplied.

“Perhaps Sir Einhardt would like to compete,” Sonderman said. “I hear he's always wanted to join the Blazing Suns.”

“In all seriousness, this is a good opportunity,” Brecht said, once the laughter had died down. “If any of you have any good juniors, or file troops, even, put their names forward. We could always do with more representation at the capital. Otto, your boy Jurgen should compete.”

“That'll be for his captain to decide, sir. Johannes, do you want him out from under your feet for a bit?”

Karsteren grinned. “I could do without him looking over my shoulder for a change. He's making me feel useless. I swear, one day I'll fall down a flight of stairs and the men won't even notice I'm gone.”

“That's pretty much all, then,” Brecht said, with a clap of his hands. “Things are quiet at the moment, and until we get word from Nuln we can't accomplish much, so make sure any leave gets taken now. Sir Einhardt, get that report to me tomorrow. Gentlemen, dismissed.”
Last edited by Athelassan on Sun Sep 30, 2012 10:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 30/9/12)

Postby J D Dunsany » Sun Sep 30, 2012 12:10 pm

Just a quick note to say that I've started reading this and am hugely impressed with it. No errors that I can see and your evocation of court life in the Empire is nicely done. I like your portrayal of Emmanuelle and, in Lothar, you've given us a believable and very sympathetic viewpoint character. Your writing is assured and to the point - no out of place flourishes, no trying too hard. You just tell a good story effectively.

I'll be carrying on with this. :)

All the best!

JDD
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 30/9/12)

Postby Athelassan » Sun Sep 30, 2012 9:01 pm

Thanks, JDD. I hope you enjoy the rest of it as much!

Here's some more. I had thought of putting another Weyrother POV section in between these two, but I didn't really have anything of significance to put in one and I wanted to take the opportunity to build on the secondary POV, so here we are.

Ath




The Setting Sun was a popular drinking establishment for what an optimist might call the emerging bourgeoisie of Pfeildorf, as far from the butchers and smell of fish guts on the waterfront as it was possible to get within the town walls. With typical Sudenland perversity, that meant it was at the south-eastern end of town. Fuhrmann hadn't dared to point out the error, assuming it even was one.

The walls were laden with various pieces of antiquarian kitsch that, if they had half the history attached to them that the landlord claimed, should be in a museum or private collection rather than hanging precariously on the walls of a second-rate tavern. Again, Fuhrmann had held his tongue.

As he pushed open the doors, he found himself briefly face-to-face with a man he recognised as Konrad Lutzen, the captain of Baroness Toppenheimer's Greatswords. There was no love lost between Weyrother's Iron Guard and the Toppenheimer troops, and both men stopped as they saw each other. After a moment, Lutzen nodded slightly and the two managed to pass each other without further incident. Fuhrmann wasn't sure if that was thanks to his reputation or whether Lutzen simply hadn't wanted to start a fight; either way, he was grateful.

Sonderman was sitting under a corroded old shield that claimed to be a relic from the county of Lichtenberg, a short-lived province of the Empire established in the Border Princes two thousand years previously. Fuhmrann rather thought there was a decidedly twenty-fifth-century look to its styling as he took a seat at the table.

“Did you run into Lutzen on your way out?” Sonderman asked.

“What was he doing here?”

“He's been coming in here for a while. I think he's trying to prove a point. Drink?”

“Please.”

“Beer?”

“Obviously.” It was a curious feature of their drinking habits, and one which still amused them ten years after it had first come to their attention. Sonderman, the common country soldier, drank only Averland wine, while Fuhrmann, the aristocrat who spent most of his life in Altdorf, preferred ale.

“You must be glad to be back,” Sonderman said, once the drinks were delivered. “How did you find the south?”

“It was an experience.”

Sonderman laughed. “It's alright, you can talk plainly. Look, you know me. I'm a proper Sudenlander; born and raised here; you cut me, I'll bleed gold. Even I think that that lot down south are bloody weird.”

“Thank you!” Fuhrmann raised a glass in salute. “Strange gods, strange language-”

“You can't get a proper drink to save your life.”

“They don't even make decent beer! If you're from anywhere north of Pfeildorf they look at you like there's something wrong with you.”

“To be fair, they've got a point there.” Sonderman grinned. “But don't worry, they still look at Pfeildorfers like they've come from one of the moons.”

“I'll be glad if I don't have to go back there for a while.”

“I don't disagree.” Sonderman sipped his wine. “Have you heard about the marshal?”

“That he's going to Nuln? Yes, but no details yet.”

“He'll be going for the tournament, I reckon, with whatever officers and troops sign up.”

“That gives us a couple of weeks, I suppose.”

“Counting down the days until you're in charge?”

Fuhrmann hadn't thought about that. With most of the senior officers gone, command would probably fall to him. He replied carefully.

“I suppose it'll have to be one of us.”

“One of us? Come on, Einhardt! You're a knight; your grandfather fought with Siegfried von Bildhofen, and mine wrestled pigs for the entertainment of Stir fishermen.”

“Seriously?”

“You never met my grandmother.” He pushed his nose up and made a grunting noise. “I'm half pig, didn't you know?”

“Quarter-pig, you mean?”

“Whatever.” He took another drink. “Does this whole business worry you at all?”

“Your porcine ancestry? No, I've had my suspicions about that for a while.”

Sonderman shook his head. “No, I mean the way that everyone's leaving for Nuln. It's like we're – what's the word?”

“Haemorrhaging officers?”

“That's a good word. Where did you learn that?”

“University.”

“Ah, of course. Yes. We're haemorrhaging officers. First Lord Weyrother goes, then Schneider and Heger. Now Brecht is going. They all leave, and they're not coming back.”

“You think we might become a Nuln-based operation?”

“It's crossed my mind. I don't want that. Like I say, I'm a Sudenlander; I joined up with old Lord Weyrother because he promised us a free Sudenland. I don't want to live in Wissenland. I hate the bloody Wissers!” He kept his voice down at that last part, in case there were any native Wissenlanders within earshot.

“For what it's worth, I hear the Nulners aren't too fond of them either.”

“Nuln's not much better. I don't want to die on foreign soil.”

“For what it's worth, Sevar, I'll make sure you're buried in Pfeildorf.”

“Oh really? What makes you so sure you'll be there to make sure of that, old man?”

“Don't you doubt it. As soon as Brecht leaves and I'm in charge I'll have the troops knock you on the head.”

“My wife will thank you. Speaking of which, I should get home if I don't want her to do that for you with a rolling pin.” He raised his glass.

“To a free Sudenland.”

“A free Sudenland.” They drained the remainder of their drinks.

“Keep an eye out for Lutzen on your way home,” Einhardt said, as Sonderman stood up and put on his hat and coat. “I wouldn't put it past him to get a couple of his mates to grab you as you leave.”

“Nothing I can't handle. I'll walk you home if you don't think you can handle it, though.”

“I've been clobbering street thugs since you still had your baby teeth.”

“That's what I'm worried about. There's a bit of mist in the air, I don't want your joints to seize up.”

“Go on, get out of here. And order me another drink while you're at it, boy.”

Sonderman grinned and waved the barmaid over, then, with a tip of his hat, strode out into the night.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 30/9/12)

Postby Athelassan » Wed Oct 03, 2012 11:49 pm

Here's the next part.

For those who are worried about spoilers for twenty-year old Warhammer novels and for some reason haven't yet got round to reading the Jack Yeovil material, now would be a good time to read The Vampire Genevieve or its constituent parts. In fact, it's always a good time to read Genevieve. Go ahead; I'll wait.

I should also note that I'm indebted to David Perry's article in Warpstone, issue 29, for the idea of the Great Nuln Tournament; a couple of his characters also make cameos.

C&C etc. welcomed as always.

Ath



The news from Altdorf arrived piecemeal. First came the news of the riots, and reports were garbled. The Imperial Palace had been stormed and the inhabitants dragged out and strung up from the lamps. The Reiksguard had ridden down the rioters and killed hundreds. Mornan Tybalt's hands had been cut off in vengeance for the Thumb Tax. Mikael Hasselstein had been beaten half to death and thrown in the Reik. Some sort of monster had stalked the streets of the capital, tearing noblemen open. Prince Kloszowski of Inkodeyna had duelled the Emperor and wounded him, then disappeared into the night.

The message was on the streets, in the taverns, in the mutterings of servants below stairs, in the gossip of travellers. Nobody dared to talk openly at court, but there were whisperings everywhere among those who remained. Weyrother overheard Amelia Herbart telling Count von Sangster how the Sudenland hero Johann von Mecklenburg had led the rioters to the gates of the palace and broken into Countess Emmanuelle's chambers, only to be overcome by her beauty and spend the rest of the night fighting off her attackers, including his own brother. He also overheard Count von Sangster telling Amelia Herbart that she was an idiot.

“It's a bloody mess, Lothar,” Bruno Pfeifraucher told him. “We don't know what's going on; we haven't had any official reports from the capital, and half of Neuerstadt's ready to riot. The student population's up in arms about the Thumb Tax. The gods only know why; it's not like they have to pay it, or they've ever done a day's honest work in their lives.”

He shook his head, making his moustache wobble. “You know, I never liked Fritz von Halstadt, but at least he'd have known what to do. He had files and records, he knew who the troublemakers were, but they all went up in that fire, and now Ostwald's groping around in the dark trying to react to what's going on when we don't even bloody know.”

“Do you have a plan?” Weyrother asked.

“If you can call it that. We've put a curfew in place and called in all the soldiery we can spare. If there's going to be a riot, at least we'll be ready. But we've heard nothing from the Countess or from the court in Altdorf. They must not be able to get messages through.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Stay out of the way, and don't get yourself lynched. That's about the best we can hope for.”

When the message arrived it was terse, but it included what they had been waiting to hear. The Countess was returning to Nuln, which was enough to make Pfeifraucher at least breathe a sigh of relief. It was the rest of the message that was the problem. Somehow, despite its being true, it was even more unbelievable than the rumours.

Emmanuelle arrived back a few days after her message, with unusually little ceremony, the streets still being too volatile for any pageantry. The mere fact of her presence, though, had a calming effect. In spite of her lifestyle, she was still popular in Nuln. Within two weeks, the Altdorf Fog Riots, or whatever they were supposed to be called, would fade into the popular memory as quickly as the fog.

The second returnee from Altdorf arrived three days later with a small escort, and was taken straight to the palace.

Emmanuelle held court each day. Weyrother had expected her to withdraw from society to recover, but he was reminded of how little he actually knew her. The day after her return from Altdorf she was seated in her electoral chair beside the Imperial throne between the ornamental gold lion and golden scales that represented the rule of the Liebewitzes in Nuln, receiving courtiers as normal. To even the most discerning eye, it was as if the riots had never happened; as if she had never left the city; as if there were no conspicuous absentees from those arranged before her. A number of nobles, Weyrother included, requested individual audiences but were casually rebuffed.

Emmanuelle had been in Nuln a full week before he was able to speak to her privately. As he was strolling in the gardens one afternoon, she happened upon him. Only later did it occur to him that perhaps this was not as accidental as it had seemed.

“Lothar,” she said with a smile, her use of his first name thankfully absolving him of the need to mangle his way through the courtly formalities as he had done in his recent dealings with her. “Would you care to accompany me?”

“Of course.” He was still unsure what to make of the Countess, especially in light of what Leos had told him what seemed a lifetime ago, but he had to know the truth, and this was his best chance to discover it. They walked in silence for several minutes, apparently investigating the shrubberies. They reached an ornamental carp pond and stopped for a moment. Initially the pond was being tended by a gardener, who gathered his tools quickly and retreated somewhere less obvious upon catching sight of the nobles. Weyrother waited until the man was well out of earshot.

“What happened?” he asked, eventually.

“You must have heard by now.” She spoke softly, still looking at the carp.

“I've heard so many stories I don't know what to believe. I had hoped you could tell me.”

“A watch sergeant. A commoner, although apparently a very skilled one. They fought. He lost.”

“Is that legal?”

“I've been assured that it is.”

“Why did he fight this man? What in the world possessed him?” He had a feeling he already knew the answer.

“His nature,” Emmanuelle sighed.

“What, that is, will there be...” He seemed to have trouble expressing himself appropriately. “Where-?”

“There won't be a state funeral. He'll be interred in the crypts with the rest of the family.”

“Would it be possible for me to... see him?”

She glanced up at him. “I can have somebody take you to the crypt. Why?”

“I'd like to pay my respects.”

She smiled. “He'd appreciate that. He liked you, you know.”

“He had a strange way of showing it.” The bruises had faded weeks ago, but for one moment they seemed to flare anew.

“It runs in the family.”

“He was a good man.”

She shook her head sadly. “No, he wasn't.” She turned and took a couple of steps away before speaking again. “But he was mine.”

She left him alone with the fish.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 30/9/12)

Postby Athelassan » Wed Oct 03, 2012 11:54 pm

This is a shorter linking part roughly half the length of a normal chapter that I'll post now rather than delay for the sake of stringing updates out. I don't think it needs to be any longer than it is in order to get the contents across, but its length is annoying and if anyone has any suggestions for further material it could include, or whether it would be better to try to incorporate it into another chapter, I'm all ears.

Ath


The shock of the events in Altdorf receded surprisingly quickly. Even in the palace, life returned to relative normality in only a few weeks, and life in the rest of the city had barely paused. It was universally agreed that such a thing could never happen in Nuln. With the exception of a few obvious malcontents, the people of Nuln were happy, they loved their Countess, and the atmosphere on the streets had never been as febrile as in the Imperial capital. With these repeated reassurances to themselves, the Nuln aristocracy allowed themselves to overlook the Fog Riots, as they were generally now deemed, and continue their lives of luxury unabated.

Emmanuelle had been, if anything, more distant since her return from the Imperial capital. His brief encountr with her in the gardens aside, there had been no parties or balls where Weyrother could bend her ear informally, and she had devoted more of the rest of her time to court business. In particular, despite her best attempts to delegate, her time was increasingly taken up with preparations for the Great Nuln Tournament. To make things more complicated, the palace had received news that various guests from foreign provinces would be attending this year, including, in a move presumably calculated to remove his person from the capital in the aftermath of the riots, the Elector of Reikland himself: Emperor Karl Franz.

That put a stop to any vague notion Weyrother had had of leaving Nuln. The opportunity to meet with the Emperor could not be passed up. Besides, it was not as if he was desperate to get back to Pfeildorf. The thought of confronting his horrible house, or Konrad Brecht's surly expression, was enough to make him shiver.

A servant eventually found him and escorted him to the Liebewitz crypt as he had requested. Venturing into the dark, stately space, he was struck by how many Liebewitzes there were. This was just the Nuln branch: there were more of them in Meissen and Ambosstein, as far as he knew, possibly even more elsewhere. This was an old family, with an ancient history. It put the Weyrother crypt with its two lonely tombs to shame. He stopped when he reached the newest tomb, and reflected on the occupant, who he had known so briefly.

Even the supremely gifted had to die one day, and Weyrother was hardly that. How long did he have? If he had no children of his own, the two tombs in Pfeildorf would be joined by a third, and those three would have to endure the ages alone. Perhaps his body would not even make it that far; he could die on some battlefield for his remains to be lost and forgotten. That put Schneider's exasperation after the battle with the orcs in a new light.

As Weyrother and Kurt Heger had stood one afternoon watching Emmanuelle's chief steward, Hidemar Kalb, with assistance from a gunnery engineer, supervise the construction of some ridiculous showpiece – a gigantic fire-breathing wooden eel that was supposed to emerge from the largest duckpond – he had even allowed himself to consider taking part. His horsemanship precluded the joust, and probably the melee, and despite his training with the Greatswords, his wrestling still left a lot to be desired, but with the sword events he had a prospect of acquitting himself well. He agreed to sleep on it just at the point the eel erupted with flame, setting fire to many of the ornamental birds and more than one bush. In the aftermath he spotted the gunnery engineer grinning, while Kalb, newly stripped of his eyebrows, and who looked on the verge of tears, desperately tried to arrange the salvaging of the garden.

“If the actual entertainment is half as good as this,” Kurt said, “we're in for a treat.”
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 8/10/12)

Postby Athelassan » Mon Oct 08, 2012 2:05 am

Here is the next part. This is a long chapter - the longest in the entire story, I think - but I thought it needed to be in one piece. I've swapped the order of this and the next Fuhrmann chapter for chronological reasons, but I'm concerned about cementing the Pfeildorf cast in the readers' minds rather than leaving them to be forgotten. So the next one after this will be Pfeildorf, I think.

Particularly interested in comments on this chapter because it's been in my head right from the beginning of the story planning and I'd like to know how it comes across.

Ath



Weyrother was startled into wakefulness by a somewhat apologetic knocking. Shaking his head to clear it of the fug of sleep, he clambered out of the bed and into a gown.

“Yes, yes, I’m coming.” He caught a glimpse of the sky through a gap in the curtains; it was early, the sun not yet risen. Who the hell was here for him at this hour?

“I’m sorry, my Lord,” the man at the door said, when he opened it. He vaguely recognised him as one of Emmanuelle’s courtiers. “The Countess requests your presence in the courtyard.”

“At this hour?” He scrubbed at his eyes. “Very well. Give me a few minutes to get dressed. Tell the Countess I will meet her outside.”

Emmanuelle was waiting for him along with a small party of servants on horses, a soldierly figure he recognised as the Countess’s champion, and a carriage.

“Lothar!” she called, as he approached. “We’re going for a trip; come on.”

“Where are you going at this time in the morning?”

“Somewhere that’ll take all day to get to, of course. We’re already late; would you rather come with me in the carriage, or take one of the spare horses?”

“I’m not sure I can face a horse at this time in the morning. Let me go and get Albrecht- I’ll be with you in a minute.”

“Don’t worry about that; we’re not going to eat you. We need to leave.”

“Shouldn’t I at least bring some more clothes, if we’re going for more than a day?”

“Nonsense. I’ve hardly got anything with me.” Weyrother noted the chest mounted on the back of the carriage. “Come on.” She practically dragged him across to the carriage and pushed him inside. She followed him in, and no sooner was the door shut than it had lurched into motion.

“Albrecht’s going to think I’ve been abducted.”

“Don’t worry about that; my people know where we’ve gone.”

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going, then?”

“Not yet. It’ll be a surprise.”

He gave up on trying to work out the location. “Can you tell me why you're dragging me out of bed at this hour?”

“I haven't seen enough of you lately, so I thought we could spend some time together.”

He rubbed his eyes. “Why today? It's not as if I've been particularly busy of late.”

“If we're going to spend the day together, it might as well be today.”

He thought on that for a moment, trying to work out the dates in his head. “Is is Sonnstill today?”

“Very good! That might count as a clue, if you were so inclined.” She leaned forward conspiratorially. “I hear you're thinking of entering my little tournament.”

“Is it your tournament? I thought it was the knights who organised it.”

She rolled her eyes. “They might organise the event itself, but I have to pay for it and accommodate and entertain as many guests as decide to turn up. It's as much mine as anybody's.”

“I haven't given it much thought,” he confessed. “I doubt I'd put on much of a show in some of the events.”

“I don't know about that. I'm sure I could stand to watch you fall off another horse or two.” She laughed at his expression. “The look on your face!”

“Then, or now?”

“Either. I don't know how you manage to look so outraged and disapproving all the time. You should fight in the tournament, you know. It would do you good.”

“Maybe the rapier, or the sword and shield, but nothing involving horses.”

“Spoilsport.”

For the rest of the journey Weyrother attempted to prise details about their eventual location from Emmanuelle, but with no luck. When she fell asleep shortly after lunch he mounted a horse and attempted to strike up a conversation with her champion, but he proved equally tight-lipped. All he could ascertain, from the approaching outline of the mountains and the direction of the sun, was that they were riding roughly south-west.

It was sunset by the time they reached a village and the party drew to a stop. The village itself appeared deserted apart from a couple of old codgers who hurried over to them. Weyrother dismounted and went to help Emmanuelle leave the carriage.

“I don't want to question you,” he said.

“But you will anyway,” she replied, with a smirk.

“You said you wanted to spend some time together, and today's the longest day of the year. So why in the name of Sigmar's hammer have you spent the whole day shut up in a coach?”

“So that we could arrive here by nightfall, obviously.” Her expression was of wide-eyed innocence.

“This is the Reikwald.”

“The Grissen forest, actually, but close enough. We’re not far from Rohrhausen, if you must know. It won't hurt for you to know now.”

The old men were in conversation with Emmanuelle's coachmen, who had removed her clothes chest from the carriage and were carrying it in the direction of a nearby house.

“I need to change, Lothar. I won't be long.” Emmanuelle made to follow the coachmen into the house, leaving him alone with the villagers.

“Do I need to change?” He paused. “Do I have anything to change into?”

She looked him up and down quickly. “No, you're fine as you are.”

“Will his Highness be joining us this evening, my Lord?” one of the vilagers asked him, looking around hesitantly, and apparently in vain.

“His Highness? The Countess's brother, you mean?” The man nodded. “Not tonight.” Nor ever. News must travel slowly out here. He didn't want to tell the man the truth for fear the shock might kill him.

The man looked troubled, but said nothing more, moving back to confer with his friend.

Emmanuelle emerged a few minutes later, clad in a green silk dress and her hair unbound. The dress had fewer frills than her usual efforts, and the overall shape was more plain and straightforward than her usual attire, but it was still not what Weyrother would have called robust. The most remarkable feature, however, was the skirt, which was slit almost to the waist and exposed an altogether indecent amount of flesh. No respectable lady would dream of wearing such a garment at court. Then again, he supposed, Emmanuelle had never worried excessively about being considered respectable.

The villagers bowed. “Your crown, Highness,” one of them said, and presented her with an elaborate headdress that seemed to be woven from leaves. She accepted it with a smile and placed it on her head.

“His Highness your brother, madam – we are given to understand he will not be attending?”

“Lord Weyrother will take his place,” she said, turning to smile at him.

The villagers beamed, and bowed to him in turn, then presented him with another item of headgear. “Your crown, Highness.”

“'Milord' will be fine,” Weyrother corrected him.

“Not tonight, Lothar. Tonight you're a king.”

He took the headgear from the villager – as far as he could tell, it was some sort of ornamental masked helmet, surmounted by a large pair of antlers. At least the night could not get any stranger, he thought, and put it on. It was heavy, but comfortable enough, and he could see well enough, although he had no idea how ridiculous he looked.

“Our blessings, Highnesses.” The villagers retreated.

Emmanuelle beckoned him over, so he took her arm and she led him away from the carriage. It seemed the rest of the party was to remain behind.

“Where are we going?”

“Into the woods, of course.” As they left the torches of the travelling party behind, it indeed became clear that a path had been cut into the woods, lined with just enough torches to provide light to see. As he stepped into the foliage, he was worried his antlers would catch on overhanging branches, but it seemed that whoever had created the path had thought of that. As they walked further into the forest, eventually they came to a clearing, where a small fire burned. The clearing was full of people: he assumed these were the inhabitants of the village they had just left.

As they entered the clearing, the people bowed, many of them falling to their knees and abasing themselves before the two nobles. Emmanuelle led him to where two wicker chairs stood, overlooking the clearing, and gestured for the people to rise. Weyrother saw that most of the men were wearing primitive animal masks. A pleasant smell emanated from the fire; he assumed they must have added some herbs to the wood.

A man clad in furs stepped to the front of the group and made an announcement in a dialect so thick Weyrother had trouble interpreting it. It seemed to be an imprecation for the evening's festivities to begin, for as soon as he was finished, a drumbeat sounded. Once the beat was established, it was joined by a flute, and a fiddle, and, one by one, the villagers approached the fire and began to dance.

“What language was that?” Weyrother asked, quietly. Something about this made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.

“Old Reikspiel. Old Old Reikspiel, really; the old tongue of the Unberogens.”

A young woman danced over to where the two of them were seated, and curtseyed, before making her way back to the fire. She was followed by another, and another. Each of the young women presented herself to the couple in turn, before rejoining the dancers. It was like a rustic, primitive version of the debutantes' ball. The dance was wild and unformed, very different from the stilted ballroom fare of Nuln. The older villagers, those too old to dance, manned a large vat of what he assumed to be wine, and distributed it to the dancers as they requested it. It took him a few minutes to realise that he had a goblet of it himself next to his chair. Upon sampling, it was revealed to be a warm spiced mead.

As he watched, one of the young men charged into the group of dancing girls and lifted one off her feet. After he set her down, they danced together for a few minutes, then pulled away from the group and moved back over to where Emmanuelle and Weyrother sat. The man bowed, and the girl curtseyed. Emmanuelle placed her hands together and inclined her head, then the two of them bowed and curtseyed again before moving on, but into the trees this time, rather than back to the fire.

“Where are they going?” Weyrother asked.

“Where do you think? This is a fertility festival.”

He stared at her, although his expression of incredulity was probably invisible through his mask. “I don't know if I like this, Emmanuelle. It feels... wrong.”

“Oh, stop being such a Sigmarite!” She punched him playfully. “It's a sacred ritual of Taal and Rhya. For these young men and women, our blessing tonight is as good as a wedding. But if, in the morning, they change their minds, he was wearing a mask, so they can recant if they like. It's not wrong, Lothar, it's just old. Old, and joyful.”

“I didn't know...”

“That there was any place in the south where this sort of thing still happens? There aren't many. This must be one of the last bastions of the Old Faith in Wissenland.”

“So, for this evening, I am Taal, and you Rhya. That's what you meant about my being a king.” Weyrother's knowledge of the old gods was limited, but he knew enough about the sibling consorts and monarchs of the natural world for this to begin to make a sort of sense.

“Exactly.” She blessed another couple.

“You come here every year.”

“Every year since I discovered it.”

“And Leos was usually your Taal?”

“Always.” She turned her head to him, as if daring him to ask another question. Absently, she blessed another couple.

Weyrother tried to shake his head to clear it, but the mask made that difficult. The combination of the thirst-inducing day's ride, the spiced mead, which was proving to be stronger than he had thought, the scented smoke from the fire, and the heavy headgear was making his head spin. He could see where this conversation should lead, but he couldn't see a way forward. Another two couples presented themselves for a blessing, which they duly received.

“Emmanuelle -”

“Rhya,” she said, slightly more sharply than previously. “Tonight, I'm Rhya, remember.”

“And I'm Taal.”

She looked at him as if wondering if he were a simpleton. “Tonight, you are Taal.”

“I -” The befurred man threw something into the fire, and a gigantic pair of fiery antlers seemed to emerge, to shouted acclaim from the villagers who had not already absconded into the trees. Weyrother wasn't sure the mead was not making him hallucinate.

Emmanuelle stood, and turned to him, leaning in close to ensure he heard even through the music and the mask. “I'm going to dance. I know you don't, but if you do work it out, or if you change your mind about dancing -” her voice dripped heavy with sarcasm - “come and let me know.”

She made her way to the fire and began whirling and throwing her arms in the wild fashion of the other young women present. Weyrother slumped back in his chair, mind still fogged with confusion. It took him a moment to notice the young couple presenting themselves to him, whom he blessed in the fashion Emmanuelle had demonstrated.

The music was strangely infectious, but, although he was never able to determine exactly why, he never left his wicker throne for the rest of the night. He sat and watched Emmanuelle dance until the fire burned to embers and the music died and the first sunbeams of a shorter day appeared through the trees.

When they set out on the return journey to Nuln shortly after dawn, he took a horse, and rode it all the way back to the city. Emmanuelle never left her carriage.
Last edited by Athelassan on Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 8/10/12)

Postby Athelassan » Sat Oct 13, 2012 10:40 pm

Here is the promised Pfeildorf chapter.

Ath




After a day of procrastination, Fuhrmann felt he had better get started on the paperwork Brecht had left behind, and locked himself in the office in an attempt to get started. It proved futile, however, and when a knock came on the door only half an hour later, he was all too pleased to answer it.

His adjutant, lieutenant Lehrer of his company, saluted and introduced his visitor, Captain Morden of the Pfeildorf town watch. Morden was probably no older than Fuhrmann, but grey-haired and running to fat. He did not look like the sort of man who took great pleasure in his job.

“Is Marshal Brecht available, Sir Einhardt?” he asked.

“The Marshal left for Nuln two days ago; I command in his absence.” He stepped back from the door and gestured for the captain to take a seat in his office. “What can we do for you?”

“It's a bit delicate, actually, sir. You heard about this business in Altdorf with the riots, I suppose.”

Fuhrmann doubted there was anyone in the Empire who had not yet heard about the Fog Riots. He nodded.

“Well, couple of months ago, some studenty types turned up and bought up a couple of old storehouses down by the waterfront. We reckon they've set up some kind of printing press down there, there's been a couple of them pamphlets that they've been putting out on the streets. Here-” he handed one to Fuhrmann.

Fuhrmann flicked through it. Even by the standards of the gutter press, it was poor stuff. Pfeildorf, it seemed, couldn't even do sedition properly.

“It's badly written, captain, but abuse of Reikspiel isn't a crime.” Yet.

“Well, that's what we thought too, sir. We was happy enough to let them alone, keep an eye on them, you know, but then two weeks back some more of them showed up and since then we've not seen anything out of those warehouses. We think they're planning something big.”

“You don't think they packed up and left?”

“I hoped so, but no, there's still noises coming from inside, like they're running the machines.”

“Can't you just take a posse in to investigate?”

“Could do, sir, could do,” he said, drawing the words out to suggest that in fact he could do nothing of the sort. “Thing is, we're stretched pretty thin right now. We couldn't get more than twenty boys together, and I don't know if that's enough. What's else, we think even if the old lot were above board, this new lot might be some of Yeffemovicky's boys.”

“Yefimovich,” Einhardt corrected him, without even thinking.

“Oh, that's how you say it.” Morden nodded, as if making a note. “Well, he turned out to be a right nasty piece of work, didn't he? Cutting all those people open, and there's talk says he's possessed. We don't want to run into anything of that sort with twenty boys.”

“Let me get this straight, captain,” Fuhrmann said. “Are you seriously suggesting that Yefgeny Yefimovich, the most wanted man in the Old World, is in hiding in Pfeildorf?”

“Well, it don't seem likely, but the way I see it, it's not really worth taking the risk.”

“So you've come to me to ask for military assistance.”

“That's right, sir.”

“Well, in that case we'd be happy to help, captain.” There was no reason to refuse, and even if it proved to be nothing, it would give the troops something to do. “What is your current plan?”

“Well, if it works for you, we were planning to surround the place at nightfall in four days, then break down the door and drag them out, find out what's going on.” He handed Fuhrmann a slip of paper which seemed to have the address of the property written on it.

“An admirably straightforward plan, captain.”

“Simple's usually best with stuff like this, sir.”

“Very well, captain.” Fuhrmann stood and shook the man's hand. “We'll be there. You just keep an eye on them in the meantime and make sure none of them get away.”

“Right you are, sir.”

“Good to see you, captain. Could you ask Lehrer to come in here on your way out?”

Lehrer summoned the other captains at Fuhrmann's request, and within a quarter of an hour they were all assembled in Fuhrmann's office.

“I need some volunteers,” he told them, with a smile.

“Sounds ominous,” Sonderman said.

“The town watch want our help breaking some student heads.”

“I'm in,” Sonderman said, with a straight face.

“Me too,” Karsteren said, without pause.

“I thought this might prove popular,” Fuhrmann grinned. “What it looks like is some leftovers from that business up in Altdorf. A group of them have set up by the river and the watch want us to support them in taking them on.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“Hopefully it will be. I think four platoons should do it. Sevar, Johannes, you take one each. I'll take one more, and one jaeger platoon to round things out. Joachim, can you spare Steffan Benedek for an evening? This sounds like his sort of operation.”

Schwarzenburg nodded. “I think he's getting bored sitting around here all day, sir.”

“Just make sure you tell him that as far as we know this is a nonviolent operation. We don't want to kill them unless we have to. I don't want to get in there and find Steffan's already chopped half of them apart.”

“I'll tell him just to take a cudgel, sir.”

Fuhrmann was fairly sure that Steffan Benedek could propel a cudgel through solid bone if necessary, but getting the man to put down his falchion for the occasion was probably about the best he could manage. Still, Benedek was just about the best brawler in the whole Guard, and to leave him behind would be foolish.

“Four days, nightfall. Get the men to draw lots if necessary. Just make sure we're ready, and, please, just one platoon each. I don't want the whole Guard turning out for this.”

“Did you say you'd be leading a platoon, sir?” Sonderman asked.

“I'll take overall command; I'll let Lehrer take the platoon.”

“Is this really your scene, sir? Students, intellectuals, upper-class kids? Aren't they your sort of people?” His face was still a perfect picture of innocence.

“Think about it, Sevar. This far south, any students among this lot most likely went to Nuln.”

“You went to Altdorf, didn't you, sir?” Sonderman said. Karsteren and Drescher chuckled.

“Exactly.” Fuhrmann stood up, feeling for a moment like he was nineteen again. “So if any of you want to hit them, you can just join the queue.”
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 13/10/12)

Postby Mossy Toes » Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:13 am

Just posting to say I do mean to (re)read this, but have just been looking for the time to do so.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 13/10/12)

Postby VictorK » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:54 pm

Well I've made my way through it.

Things I like:

Setting. I've long been interested myself in the balance of power in the south of the Empire, and you've done a good job of setting up all the pieces against each other. I look forward to seeing more machinations.

Good characters. A lot of the characters are very interesting, some are more well rounded than others but a story can definitely benefit from the savvy use of stock characters and I think you have them all in the right places.

Dialogue. By far the strongest part of your writing. The dialogue is easy and natural, and there are more than a few neat turns of phrase that you manage to get in. This is really where your story lives.

Things I wasn't so hot on:

Pacing. This story moves way too fast for me. Which, perversely, can make it seem too long. I feel like I'm just skimming the surface of something interesting, which makes it hard to be drawn in.

Weyrother. It feels like every character in the story is more interesting than the main character. JD said early that he was very sympathetic, maybe even too sympathetic. I don't feel like there's anything to discover about him. What you see is what you get and there's almost a Mary Sueish quality to how likable and in the right and innocent he is. I don't feel invested in Weyrother's story, even though I'm interested in tracking the characters around him.

Why'd you kill Leos? He was one of the most interesting characters and I thought he had a lot of upside. Killing him off screen is criminal. Yes yes I know that's what happened in some book but who cares? This is your story, do whatever you want with him. I almost reconsidered this when it seemed like Weyrother might actually take some interesting introspection from Leos' death, but I've yet to see that pay off in the character, and, tying in with the pacing issue above, I didn't feel enough of a connection between them for the moment to feel genuine.

I'll give more writing critiques for the next installment, having just gone through the whole thing I can only give a broad overview.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 13/10/12)

Postby Athelassan » Mon Oct 15, 2012 3:40 pm

Thanks for the feedback, VictorK.

I hear you on the pacing, especially in the earlier parts of the story (the older parts that were already written when I came to finish it). Unfortunately, I can't think of a great way to fix it without an extensive re-write, which I want to leave off until I've at least finished the first draft. Hopefully it will sort itself out as time goes on.

Re: Weyrother, I can see where you're coming from. I would hope he's not an actual Sue - I've been careful to try to make sure that, at least at this point in his career, he's not actually all that amazing at anything. There are a number of things he's pretty good at, but none in which he's exceptional. His naievete is a little contrived, but I felt it was necessary in order to have a convincing way in which to introduce the setting. Any complexity to his character, perhaps you're right, but then one of his defining features is that he's fairly plain and straightforward (as noted by Emmanuelle in the first scene, in fact) so if you feel that way I'm probably getting the character across as I intended - it's just that you don't find the intended character all that interesting. I'll see what I can do about that.

Regarding Leos, well, I had to kill him, for a variety of reasons, both in respect to Beasts in Velvet (on which I've drawn too heavily to ignore) and the story here. He was always intended to die, and when I found myself wanting to try to fudge it in order to write more of him I became even more determined to get rid of him. Killing him off-screen, well, again, the circumstances of his death made it all but impossible to kill him on-screen, and I also rather liked the idea that, well, people do just die at inconvenient times. In the first plan, Leos only appeared in the first couple of scenes at Nuln, but I was worried that he was too minor for people to notice (unless they'd read BiV) which would mute the significance of his death, plus I enjoyed writing him, so the fencing scene was added. Perhaps I've fallen between two stools.

Some minor fiddling to do with the next two chapters, but they should be up imminently.

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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 13/10/12)

Postby VictorK » Mon Oct 15, 2012 10:42 pm

Athelassan wrote:Re: Weyrother, I can see where you're coming from. I would hope he's not an actual Sue - I've been careful to try to make sure that, at least at this point in his career, he's not actually all that amazing at anything.


It's a weird feeling. I don't think that Weyrother is a Mary Sue, but I still get that vibe. It's like he's that proto-hero just waiting to burst forth into awesomeness. And that's ok. I'll need to think about it some more in how I want to articulate this criticism.

But for what it's worth, I'm glad he's on the more subtle end of the spectrum. There's lots of room to grow and flesh out the character. And I think you're on the way to doing that, the festival scene was a good idea, and his reflection upon Leos' death did hint at a depth of character which had not been altogether apparent before that point. I think he needs a few more trials to really expose who he is. There are two potential flashpoints in the story that I wanted to see more of. The first is the skirmish with the greenskins. Weyrother showed us some of his nature there, but I don't think we learned much more than that he's eager to prove himself, a bit impetuous, and the character came away with a very straightforward and sensible lesson. That's good, but I'm left wanting a little bit more...does he beat himself up over it? Is he indignant? He's learned about where he needs to go, what did he learn about where he has been, or who is was at that moment? The second opportunity was during the Toppenheimer dinner. That was a very necessary scene, but it said more about Emmanuelle than it did about Weyrother. And that's good, Emmanuelle is one of the most interesting characters in the piece and one of the more interesting characters in Warhammer Fantasy, period. But I want more Weyrother! If I have to inhabit the story through him I'd like to get a bit more cozy.

And that ultimately comes back to pacing. You've got a real knack for dialogue, so don't think I want you to bog everything down with huge paragraphs of description. I wouldn't mind people talking more. The scenes in Pfeildorf (is it Pfeil or Pfeif?) show how you've progressed, I like the secondary protagonist there more than I do Weyrother.

In the first plan, Leos only appeared in the first couple of scenes at Nuln, but I was worried that he was too minor for people to notice (unless they'd read BiV) which would mute the significance of his death, plus I enjoyed writing him, so the fencing scene was added. Perhaps I've fallen between two stools.


I thought you handled Leos well up until he was summarily killed off. I even agree that, at some point, you had to kill him. The character was building towards that. The moment just didn't get the payoff that I think it deserved. It's funny about Leos as a minor character, I'd been aware of Emmanuelle for some time (I'm not sure where she ultimately came from) even before she appeared as the elector count of Wissenland in the 7th Edition Empire Book, but I didn't learn about Leos until I was doing some digging this summer while mulling my own Wissenland tales. There's some good stories there. You obviously can't replace him, and I don't recommend his resurrection unless you've got a /really/ terrific idea and want Emmanuelle to be some master schemer.
"The gods are not all powerful, they cannot erase the past." -Agathon
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 13/10/12)

Postby Athelassan » Tue Oct 16, 2012 2:09 am

Here is the next section. The one after this follows on directly and will be up shortly, but I'll post them separately.

Ath



The Talabecland delegation was the first to arrive in Nuln, despite having the furthest to travel. Once the ambassador made clear the size of the party that the Talabeclanders were bringing, the palace was thrown into even more of a fluster with the struggle to accommodate them. Weyrother did what he could by offering to vacate his own apartments so the Talabeclanders could take them over: it was a measure of the stress Emmanuelle was under that she didn't argue.

That presented a new host of problems, since, as he soon discovered, most of the premier inns in Nuln had been booked up in advance by members of the Imperial party or other travelling nobles. Once he took account of the list of junior officers who Brecht was planning on bringing with him to the capital for the tournament, he was left with having to book out an entire house. He quickly gave up on the Altestadt, for reasons of cost as much as availability, and sent Kurt and Albrecht to investigate the Neuestadt. At first, they drew a blank even there, leaving him facing relocating across the river either to the grimy military-industrial district in the Halbinsel, or the stinking shantytown of Faulestadt, but before he had fully steeled himself to that prospect, Kurt finally returned with news of a merchant in the Handelbezirk who was prepared to lease a townhouse near the inner wall.

When he visited the property to decamp his belongings, Weyrother noticed a suspicious quantity of velvet fabric, and red silk window-hangings, as well as a lingering musk of perfume, which cast a degree of doubt over the salubriousness of the dwelling. He made the decision not to investigate. The place was large enough to accommodate all his party, for a short while at least, and the price was reasonable enough. So long as the business that had formerly operated here remained closed for the duration of his stay, he was prepared to put up with it.

Being so close to the waterfront, the house offered the added advantage that he did not have far to travel to join the Talabeclanders' welcome party at the wharf, and was able to stroll over at a leisurely pace rather than tramping down the hill from the palace with the rest of the courtiers. The Elector had left his great ship anchored in the Reik and came ashore in one of Emmanuelle's gilt barges, accompanied by a small group of courtiers.

As the barge reached the wharf, Feuerbach didn't even wait for it to come to a full stop before leaping ashore. He was a big man, with a full reddish-brown beard, and despite his gorgeous clothes of crimson and cloth-of-gold there was still something of the pirate about his gait as he swaggered forward, grinning at the assembled crowd.

“Emmanuelle!” he roared, flinging his arms wide. The protocol for these occasions was always awkward. As Electors, the two were equals in the Diet, but as Imperial noblemen Feuerbach strictly ranked higher. Emmanuelle gave a slight curtsey, which Feuerbach responded to with a deep bow, then followed with a thoroughly unorthodox bear-hug.

The rest of Feuerbach's initial party were now coming ashore. Weyrother didn't know any of them by sight, but the principals were easy enough to make out. The Krieglitz cousins, Feuerbach's young wards and titular heirs, disembarked first. Gustav, clad in an outfit only marginally less expensive than his lord's, was an elegant youth only a couple of years younger than Weyrother. His cousin Elise, the current head of the main line of the legendary house of Untern, had been less fortunate. Despite the obviously careful attentions of her handmaidens, no quantity of cosmetics or flatteringly-cut petticoats could disguise her slightly dumpy figure or generally homely features.

Weyrother didn't understand the operation of the arcane succession laws in Talabecland, or the exact relationship between Feuerbach and the cousins, despite an attempt to research it that had made his head ache after five minutes. Whatever the situation, the two were still clearly attired and feted, and for that matter still carried themselves, as if they were Electors in their own right.

The next man ashore had a more military bearing, and Weyrother guessed him to be General Schultz, while the more soberly-dressed soldiers accompanying him were presumably members of the Elector's personal guard. The remainder of the nobles were harder to identify; Weyrother didn't doubt that introductions would be made later.

Emmanuelle and Feuerbach were engrossed in a private conversation conducted at a volume that did not carry to Weyrother's ears. It appeared to be at an end when she gestured to the litter she had provided to take Feuerbach up to the palace, but he shook his head and resumed his former volume.

“We might as well walk. I haven't had a chance to stretch my legs since Kemperbad. We can walk, can't we, Gustav?”

“The fresh air will no doubt do us good, your Grace,” Krieglitz said, with a slight bow.

“There we are, then. Onwards to the palace!” Feuerbach flung an arm in the direction of the hill, then seemed to remember that the majority of his entourage were still on board his passenger ship. He waved noncommitally in their direction.

“They'll catch us up.” He took Emmanuelle's arm and led those courtiers already ashore back in the direction of the palace, leaving his remaining companions to arrive to a reception party no larger than a couple of river watch officials and a handful of ceremonial soldiers. Weyrother thought he spotted a slight look of chagrin cross Duchess Elise's face as she realised she would have to walk with the rest.

They proceeded up the hill through the Kaufman district, Feuerbach passing loud comment on what seemed like each building they passed.

“They could do with a couple of trees in that yard; it's as empty as Ar-Ulric's dance card.”

“They call that a bank? I've seen bigger chicken-sheds, and that was in Ostermark.”

After putting up with this for a couple of minutes, Weyrother slowed his pace to put more distance between them, but Feuerbach's rustic Talabecland voice was still perfectly audible even above the hubbub.

“Is the Golden Hammer still any good? Have they put any venison on the menu yet? What's a dining hall without venison?”

“He likes the sound of his own voice, doesn't he?” Kurt said, falling into step beside Weyrother. Weyrother just turned and gave him a blank stare.

Kurt shrugged innocently. “I didn't say it was a bad thing. Sign of character, if you ask me.”

With the eastern wing of the palace reserved for the forthcoming Imperial party, the Talabeclanders were left to take the south and west, spilling over into the central state rooms. No reception was being held until the evening, Weyrother didn't bother to stay to witness the inevitably long-winded unpacking of baggage, and headed back to his own accommodation. He would be seeing the Talabeclanders again that evening at the welcome banquet, and he had the impression there would only be so much of Helmut Feuerbach he could take for one day.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 13/10/12)

Postby Athelassan » Tue Oct 16, 2012 2:26 am

VictorK wrote:I thought you handled Leos well up until he was summarily killed off. I even agree that, at some point, you had to kill him. The character was building towards that. The moment just didn't get the payoff that I think it deserved. It's funny about Leos as a minor character, I'd been aware of Emmanuelle for some time (I'm not sure where she ultimately came from) even before she appeared as the elector count of Wissenland in the 7th Edition Empire Book, but I didn't learn about Leos until I was doing some digging this summer while mulling my own Wissenland tales.

Emmanuelle's one of the old The Enemy Within characters, named in the very first outlining of the provincial structure of the Empire. At that point, though, she was Countess just of Nuln (the electoral province) and Pfeifraucher was Count of Wissenland (the non-electoral province attached to it). Since then the provincial structure has been simplified, and she's now Countess of the whole lot. She's one of the few to survive - of that cohort of fifteen provincial rulers only she, KF, Alberich Haupt-Anderssen, Hisme Stoutheart and Boris Todbringer have survived into modern WFB background (most of the others are mentioned in WFRP2 material, though). Ironically, of that surviving quintet, two of them were killed in the campaign that introduced them, and Alberich was badly mangled. Good to know that the Studio has been disregarding WFRP material since day one. That said, there was an inexplicable reversion to the WFRP1 names for the Arch-Lectors in the latest Empire army book, so maybe I should give Mr Cruddace some credit.

Leos was added by either William King or Kim Newman (almost certainly the latter) in the original Warhammer novels, although he hasn't been mentioned since their reprinting, even, I think, in Forges of Nuln (although he'd have been dead by the time that happened at any rate). He seems to exist in the same sort of quasi-canonical state as people like Detlef Sierck and Luitpold Holswig-Schliestein. They're not talked about enough to be sure that they're still official (although I treat all of them as if they are, and try to reconcile the various versions as best as possible) but, especially with Detlef, they haven't quite disappeared fully either.

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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 16/10/12)

Postby Athelassan » Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:09 am

And here's the next chapter. Another long one, I'm afraid.

Ath


The evening banquet, when it arrived, was held in the gardens to take advantage of the balmy weather, and for a moment Weyrother thought they were about to witness the culmination of the exploding eel display, but, rather to his disappointment, it seemed that was to be reserved for an Imperial audience.

Feuerbach was seated with Emmanuelle in the centre of the high table, the Krieglitzes immediately to his right, while Wolfhart von Liebewitz, a cousin of Emmanuelle's recently arrived from Meissen, sat to her left, followed by Pfeifraucher, High Chancellor Rohrig, and a host of minor Liebewitz cousins. There was no sign of the high steward, Kalb: Weyrother asssumed he was busy aranging further entertainments. Weyrother noticed that Feuerbach had not brought his wife, although he couldn't remember whether the man was actually married.

Weyrother found himself seated between Anelie von Behring, the younger daughter of the Count of Bek, and Ferdinand von Hummelaur, a friendly but slightly overbearing nobleman a couple of years older than Weyrother himself, who it turned out would be one of his opponents in the Tournament in the coming week. Even by the end of the evening, Weyrother had trouble distinguishing him from his near-identical brother Frederick, seated opposite.

The Hummelaurs had a rather tiresome habit of turning everything into a competition. There was a scuffle over who got to pass the salt cellar to Maria von Eigenhof; an argument over who should have the first goblet of wine resulted in the jug being confiscated by a sharp-eyed prelate of Sigmar – who subsequently drank the lot himself – and at around the point Frederick took it upon himself to down the contents of the gravy boat after a supposed challenge from his brother, Weyrother turned his attention as politely as he could away from them and to the young lady on his left. Anelie was a pretty girl of around seventeen, but he knew nothing else about her.

“Is this your first time in Nuln, milady?” he asked, by way of a conversation starter.

She turned her wide eyes upon him and nodded. “Yes, sir. In point of fact I have barely travelled at all.”

“What do you make of the city?”

“It seems awfully large and crowded, but probably no more so than Talabheim. I don't even know Talabheim well, I'm afraid. I have spent most of my time in Bek and Kusel.”

“I have heard Talabheim is a fine city,” he lied. In his youth, Weyrother had put up with various diatribes from his father, Ludenhof and any number of Heger family members about the wretchedness of the place. He had never visited the city himself, but from the descriptions, he had always imagined a squalid hole in the ground in which various fur-clad savages argued over the technicalities of tax law.

“I am sure Nuln is equally fine.” They were running out of pleasantries. “Forgive me, Lord Weyrother, but you do not sound like a Nulner.”

That at least gave him an avenue of conversation to pursue, and quickly he sketched out his life story:

“You are observant, milady. I was raised in Hochland, though I have lived in Wissenland now for a number of years.”

“Are you in Nuln for the Tournament?”

“The Tournament is incidental, actually. I have been here a few months as a guest of the Countess.”

Her eyes grew still wider. “You must be very familiar with the palace by now, sir.”

“I have become familiar with all parts of it.” He glanced around, trying to identify the rest of her family. “Forgive me, milady, but it seems remiss of your father to allow a young lady such as yourself to attend this feast unescorted.”

“Oh no, he made sure I have an escort.” She indicated a junior priest of Ulric passed out on the table to her left in a pool of wine. “Brother Fuscher is my chaperone.”

“Your father obviously places great faith in him, to trust him with your virtue.”

She giggled. “Father does. Such faith in fact that he's not paying the slightest bit of attention.” She waved to her left, and Weyrother made out Josef von Behring a few tables away, engaged in what looked like a polite but heated argument with Count von Sangster. Sangster had a gift for winding people up and was clearly enjoying himself this evening.

“Perhaps your lordship would like to invite me to dance later this evening?” she asked with an expression of utmost innocence.

He was about to reply when a silver candlestick crashed into his plate, apparently knocked over by an impromptu arm-wresting contest between the Hummelaur brothers. Narrowly avoiding setting his clothes or the tablecloth on fire, Weyrother retrieved the candlestick and put it well out of Hummelaur-reach, just as Ferdinand forced his brother's hand to the tabletop, and for that matter into the platter of bread sauce.

When the gong was struck to signal the end of the feast, those that could still stand ventured back to the ballroom. Ferdinand von Hummelaur threw his arm around Weyrother's shoulder and regaled him with a series of stories describing various historic victories over his brother, most of them, in all likelihood, imagined or at least heavily exaggerated. By the time Weyrother had extricated himself, and made his way into the hall, the senior nobles were gathered in a small knot while Helmut Feuerbach regaled them with what seemed to be a joke.

“So then the Dwarf says, that's not my beard!”

That failed to get the anticipated reaction, and he paused for a moment in puzzlement. “Oh no, I got it the wrong way round. It was the Orc who had the axe, not the Dwarf!” He beamed in satisfaction.

Gustav von Krieglitz was the first to laugh, then a moment later Emmanuelle joined in with the high-pitched titter that Weyrother was now sure denoted polite laughter. She glanced up to see Weyrother observing them, and he could have sworn he saw relief cross her face.

“Lothar! Stop loitering and come and join us. Helmut, this is Lord Weyrother of Brockau and Ahresdorf.”

“Honoured, your Grace.” Weyrother bowed, then acknowledged the rest of the group. “Your Graces, my Lords.” Pfeifraucher and Duchess Elise nodded at him in perfunctory greeting; Krieglitz and Wolfhart von Liebewitz ignored him.

Feuerbach was frowning at him, in a way that Weyrother had long since identified as the look a senior nobleman gives a lesser one when they haven't heard of them, but is either too proud, or mistakenly believes themselves too polite, to ask for clarification.

“Of the Solland and Hochland Weyrothers, your Grace?” Weyrother tried to prompt him.

“Oh, I know,” Gustav von Krieglitz drawled. “You've heard of the Weyrothers, your Grace. They're the ones with that amusing curse. You know, exploding handguns and riding off cliffs in thunderstorms, that sort of thing.”

“Oh yes, the ones with the curse!” Weyrother was sure that Feuerbach still had no idea who he was.

“Yes, that's right,” Krieglitz continued. “Hochland family, your Grace. Quite a funny story, in its way. Lord Weyrother's father drank himself to death, his grandfather was murdered by a common thief.” He seemed to be warming to his theme. “His grandfather's grandfather went mad and killed his own son, and then before that there was a witch hunter they found drained of blood in his own home.”

Weyrother smiled as much as he could manage. “Your Grace's knowledge of my family rivals my own.”

“Gustav always has had a good memory for that sort of thing,” Feuerbach said, clapping his charge on the back, and turned his eye to the musicians as they struck up a tune.

“Time for a dance!” he declared. “Try not to fall victim to any curses while we're gone, Weyrother. Come on, Yelle.”

Emmanuelle took his arm with a smile and they moved in the direction of the floor; Weyrother was sure that in that moment, Feuerbach had once again completely forgotten his existence. Pfeifraucher led Duchess Elise to the dance floor, and by the time Weyrother turned back to him, Krieglitz had slunk off to oil his way into another conversation, leaving Weyrother alone.

Rather than stand like a fool on the edge of the floor, he backed away towards the wall. Following the example of their lords, more couples were now joining the dance; Weyrother saw Kurt Heger leading Amelia Herbart to the floor, while Josef von Behring had co-opted Gravin Maria-Ulrike von Liebewitz into a dance with him.

Emmanuelle and Feuerbach were in the middle of the floor, their feet and arms following the prescribed patterns, but he had pulled her tightly to him, and the bristles of his beard scraped against her powdered and rouged face. Weyrother watched them for a moment, feeling anger at this clodhopping Talabeclander rising within him the longer they danced.

He leaned against the wall, keeping his eye on Feuerbach, and found his hand drifting unconsciously towards where his sword would normally be. As it reached empty air, he remembered himself and forced himself out of the reverie. He marched away from the floor, cutting around various groups of chatting courtiers until he located Anelie von Behring. She spotted him approaching, and her features lit up with mischief.

“Lord Weyrother, how nice to see you again.”

“Indeed, milady.” He lowered his voice and leaned forward slightly. “I wondered if milady would be interested in a private tour of the palace, since I have come to know it so well.”

“Why, I should like nothing more.”

They slipped away from the dancing and into the corridor beyond. Once of Emmanuelle's valets stood there, and gave a perfect impression of not seeing them, his face remaining perfectly deadpan. Weyrother nodded to the man, trying to suppress a smirk.

“Is there any particular part of the palace milady would be interested in seeing?”

“I have to say, Lord Weyrother, I find the palace rather formal and public. Not like Bek at all. Is there anywhere private and secluded that you know of?”

“I know just the place, milady.”

In truth, he was not entirely sure he could remember how to find it, but as he led her up a flight of stairs his memory returned, and his feet led him back towards the room with the fencing piste and then past it, to where the door to Leos's old office stood closed.

He tried the latch, hoping it was not locked, and the door opened soundlessly to a darkened room within. He took one of the candlesticks from a stand in the corridor and ventured inside.

The room was largely untouched since he had last been in here, and he glanced around as Anelie walked over to the desk and lifted herself to sit on its edge, casting her eye over the contents.

“Yes,” she said decisively. “This is my sort of room.”

Weyrother made to join her, but something caught his eye and he moved over to the mantelpiece instead, where the silver goblet still stood. Unable to help himself, he looked inside to see if the cherry stones were still there, but some diligent servant must have removed them, even if the rest of the room's contents remained. Beside the goblet was a small book he hadn't noticed before, and he flipped it open to glance at the frontispiece.

It was a book of poetry by Mergelowe, a recent printing no more than a few years old, but obviously read a number of times. Weyrother was passingly familiar with Mergelowe's work, but it was not part of the literary canon, whatever its quality, nor was this a distinguished printing edition. This was not the sort of book that a collector would feel obliged to own, nor a book that would be left on display to impress a visitor. This was personal.

He straightened and turned back to Anelie.

“We should leave.”

“What's the matter?”

“I'm sorry. I – I've changed my mind. I need to go. It would probably be best if you came with me.”

“I don't understand.” She looked hurt.

“I can't explain.” He gestured impotently with the candlestick in a controlled display of exasperation.

“Very well, then, if that's how it is.” She stood, and rearranged her face into an expression of haughty dignity. “Thank you for the tour, Lord Weyrother. I am sorry I have proven so much of a disappointment.”

Before he could reply, she had swept out of the room. He sighed, and followed her, making sure to close the door behind him and replace the candlestick on its stand. That had gone well. Perhaps he should go and find Count von Behring. Excuse me, my Lord, but I just turned down the opportunity to seduce your daughter. Don't worry about thanking me, but you owe me a favour. Oh, and next time, maybe think about choosing a better chaperone than some drunken old priest. That would no doubt be received well.

On the other hand, he could go back to the townhouse and drink himself into a stupor in the hope that, when the morning came, he wouldn't remember any of this. On balance, that sounded preferable.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 22/10/12)

Postby Athelassan » Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:12 pm

Next part.

Ath


Weyrother awoke early to the sound of the gulls, who seemed much noisier this close to the waterfront. After a token attempt to bury his head in the pillows, he succumbed to the inevitable and dragged himself out of bed. He had no particular desire to visit the palace and run the risk of encountering any of the Talabecland entourage, but sitting around his boudoir of a room wasn't terribly appealing either.

He left the house in search of a bakery, but encountered the Deliverance first, a swanky boarding house that also served coffee. He'd investigated the Deliverance for his own accommodation, and had found it fully-booked, but this was as good an opportunity as ever to experience the service, he supposed, and try some of the coffee.

In Weyrother's childhood, coffee had been available in every sizeable town in the Empire, thanks to the Moral Crusade, but that unlamented movement had been forgotten with suspicious haste and coffee had fallen out of favour just as quickly among the majority. For ten years it had been nearly impossible to find, but it was starting to regain some of its former fashionable status. Weyrother thought he might as well give it a try, and, once he'd been served, took a seat by the window and stared out at the street, lost in his own thoughts.

“Well, I'll be damned,” a familiar voice said from behind him, and Weyrother turned, a smile already forming on his face.

The speaker was a tall man with shoulder-length brown hair and a lazy smile, familiar to Weyrother as his 'uncle Marius'. He had to stop himself from addressing the man by that childhood greeting. That would not be an appropriate way to speak to the Elector of Averland.

“Lord Leitdorf,” he said, standing and extending a hand, which Leitdorf shook.

“You're looking well,” Leitdorf said, looking him up and down. “Very well indeed. Life in Nuln obviously agrees with you.”

“When did you arrive? I had no idea you were here.”

“I arrived late last night, quietly. I can never be bothered with all that pageantry if I can avoid it. I hear Feuerbach's brought half of Kusel with him.”

“The whole of Kusel, and half of Talabheim as well,” Weyrother said with a scowl. “I had the pleasure of their company last night.”

“Hence the coffee, I see. I prefer wine, to be honest, but I've heard the coffee here is good.” He clicked his fingers and indicated for two more coffees to be brought, then swung round a chair and sat down.

“They didn't tell you I was coming, did they?” He seemed to find the idea amusing.

“I think they got so consumed with preparations for the Emperor and Feuerbach that they forgot all about you.”

“That sounds familiar. I suppose I can't blame them too heavily; I'm not staying in the palace, after all, so I won't be at the forefront of their minds.”

“Are you competing?”

“I've thrown my name in the ring for the rapier, but I'm not taking it seriously. I'm just here for the atmosphere.”

“How are the boys?”

“Rufus is back in Averheim. Leopold is – here.” He gestured towards the rear of the coffee bar, to the door where his son Leopold had just arrived.

“Lothar!” Leopold said, with a broad smile, and the two of them embraced. Weyrother hadn't seen him in over a year, and Leopold was still three years his junior, but they had been close friends in their youth, just as their fathers had.

“I've just been filling Lothar in on our situation,” Marius said, once they were all seated. The proprietor brought three mugs of coffee over and retreated as far towards the rear of the bar as possible.

“Any juicy gossip?” Leopold asked, taking a sip.

“Feuerbach is all over Emmanuelle. Gustav von Krieglitz is all over Feuerbach. Duchess Elise is all over the canapes, and Kurt's all over any woman unlucky enough to catch his eye.”

“Business as usual, then,” Marius grunted. “There aren't any Alptraums here, are there?”

“None that I'm aware of.” There had never been any love lost between the Leitdorfs and Alptraums, and Marius's deposition of the Alptraums thirteen years earlier had done nothing to improve relations.

“Keep an eye out. They're slippery creatures. You can't turn round in Averland without tripping over one of them or their schemes.”

“I'll let you know if I spot anything untoward.” He had another sip of coffee. He was sure this mug was stronger than the one they had brought him when he had been sitting alone. Marius tapped his foot on the floor, staring out of the window, as if the Elector of Averheim sitting in a Nuln coffee house was the most natural thing in the world.

“How about you, Leopold?” Weyrother asked. “Are you here for the Tournament?”

Leopold glanced at his father. “Not this year. Father thinks I'm still too young.”

That was strange, Weyrother thought. At fifteen, Marius Leitdorf had procured him a commission in the pistoliers so that he could get some battlefield experience. Leos von Liebewitz had earned his name of the Deadly Blade before the age of seventeen. Leopold was nineteen, so for Marius to tell him he was too young to compete made little sense.

Weyrother looked at his friend as critically as he thought he could get away with under the circumstances. Leopold closely resembled a younger version of his father; slim and tall, with little spare fat, he had an ideal fencer's build. With Marius as his father, he should not have wanted for tuition, either. There was a warmth about Leopold's eyes, though, that suggested he would never be as ruthless as Marius, or Leos, or, from what Weyrother could dimly recall, his own father. Perhaps Marius was worried his son was too soft for the competition. Or perhaps he was just worried about the risk of losing him.

“That's a shame,” he said, eventually. “Maybe next year.”

“Are you competing, Lothar?”

He nodded. “Sword and shield. Not rapier.”

“Are you sure?” Marius asked. “You're a capable swordsman, and the field should be thin. No Leos, and Steiner won't fight again. Unless you run into me or Helborg, you could do well.”

Weyrother stretched, feeling again for a moment those months-old bruises. “I had a lesson in swordsmanship from an expert fencer a while ago, which made me reassess my rapier capabilities.”

“Ah yes, those can be painful,” Marius said, with the supreme confidence of a man who had never experienced such a lesson.

“A few of my men are taking part, too. They should be arriving later today, unless they've been held up.”

“We travelled light,” Leopold said. “A handful of guards, none of them planning to compete. Father even left Natassja behind.”

Weyrother had heard of Leitdorf's apparently beautiful new mistress, Natassja Heiss, but had never met her. He was curious to find out more, but now was not the time to ask.

“Father,” Leopold said, gently. “Your coffee.”

Marius, who had seemed to drift off into a trance, staring out of the window, looked round suddenly.

“Oh yes, it'll be getting cold.” He stirred it and took another sip, then made a face. “You know, I really do prefer wine. Leopold, why did we book accommodation in this shrine to the gods of boredom?”

“I'm sure they have wine, if you want some, father.”

“At this time in the morning? Don't be ridiculous. I'm not Max.” He glanced at Weyrother. “Nothing personal, Lothar.”

“My father was a drunk; there's no point denying it.”

“True enough.” He stood up. “I think it's about time we headed to the palace, Leopold. I've been trying to catch Emmanuelle off-guard for years, and I think we've got our best chance before she finishes applying her makeup.” He reached to his belt to pat his sword-pommel, then seemed to notice it wasn't there.

“It's with the guard captain, father, remember?”

“Oh yes, of course.” He looked over at Weyrother. “I'll tell you, Lothar, no matter what you might think, you don't want a Runefang. You just end up worrying about where you've left it.”

As he strolled off, apparently in search of his sword, Weyrother lowered his voice.

“How is he?”

Leopold sighed. “It's difficult to tell. Most of the time he's fine, but sometimes he just drifts off for no reason, or loses his temper over something trivial.”

“That's nothing new.”

“I know, but I'm sure he wasn't always like this. I don't know whether it's mother's death, or what happened at Hochleben...”

“Hochleben was painful for everyone,” Weyrother said. That had been his first battle, although, aged only fourteen, he had just witnessed the combat, rather than participated in any. That gruesome and shocking defeat would live long in the Imperial memory even after the subsequent victories.

“Does Natassja help?” he asked.

Leopold shrugged. “I don't think she hurts. I thought maybe having her around would help him forget about mother, but it doesn't seem to have made a difference. I don't think he's getting worse, but he's not getting any better. He's become obsessed with the Alptraums.”

“With good cause, from what I hear.”

“Oh, of course they hate him, but that's always been the case. He used to put up with them well enough. He even had one of them at court for a while, but last year he decided he didn't want them around any more and sent them all away. Even Otto, and they were all but friends.”

“Did anything prompt that?”

“Well, yes,” Leopold conceded. “One of them stabbed my cousin.”

“That seems like good cause.”

Leopold shook his head. “It sounds bad, but really, it's nothing that unexpected. There are hundreds of Alptraums – seriously, I have no idea where they all come from – and, frankly, if one of them goes off his rocker and tries to kill one of us every ten years or so, that's actually a pretty good return.”

“Why doesn't he just round them up and have done with it?” Weyrother was almost shocked by the brutality of his own suggestion. “It's been done before.”

Leopold looked uncomfortable. “There are too many of them, and they're still too powerful. He doesn't have a good enough pretext. After the murder, they disowned Mathias and he went into hiding, so they can say he's nothing to do with them any more. Besides, I think he's put so much energy into hating the Alptraums that he wouldn't know what to do with himself if they weren't around any more.”

“Do you think he'll snap out of it?”

“Given time, maybe.”

“Here's to hoping.” They lifted their mugs and drank an informal toast.

“Not the same with coffee, is it?” Leopold said.

“Not even a little.”
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 24/10/12)

Postby Athelassan » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:45 pm

Back to Pfeildorf for Part The Next.

Ath




Captain Morden was waiting outside the warehouse with a group of his men when Fuhrmann's detachment arrived. The town watch were clad in their leather jerkins and armed with cudgels and staves; Fuhrmann's men wore full military uniform, but most of them had left their principal weapons behind and carried a variety of blunt instruments. Many of them still carried their swords, although Fuhrmann had been relieved to see Benedek seemed to have nothing sharp on his person, even if he was carrying two cudgels.

“Good to see you, captain,” Morden said, as they approached. “How many do you have?”

“The best part of a company,” Fuhrmann said, indicating the troops following behind him; around a hundred men all told. “If this isn't enough, I think we've got bigger things to worry about.”

“You're right there,” Morden said, with a nod.

“Is there a rear entrance?”

Morden pointed the way, and Fuhrmann indicated for Benedek to take his platoon to cut it off.

“We'll give them a minute, captain, then it's your call.”

Morden rubbed his hands; he'd clearly been looking forward to this. Then something caught his eye and he peered to his right, where another group of men were emerging through the early evening mist.

“More of yours, captain?” he asked Fuhrmann.

“No,” he said, then groaned as the approaching men became clearer. There were around seventy of them, they wore the brown and off-white of the Toppenheimer troops, and he recognised Lutzen at their head.

“Did you invite them?” he asked Morden. The watch captain shook his head

“What are you doing here, Lutzen?”

“I could ask you the same question, Fuhrmann.”

“We're here to assist the watch in making some arrests. It's no concern of yours.”

“We're the militia. Military operations inside the town walls are our job, not some bunch of mercenaries.”

“Mercenaries?” Sonderman stepped forward. “We're state troops, which is more than can be said for that gang of thugs at your back. Half of them should be in gaol.”

There was a growl from Lutzen's men, and Fuhrmann put a hand on Sonderman's arm.

“Stand down, Sevar.” He raised his voice. “There's no need for this to get ugly. Just don't get in our way, Lutzen.”

“You're already in ours.”

“Oh, for the love of Sigmar.” The man made mules look pliant, and Fuhrmann turned back to Morden, looking exasperated. “Just give the signal when you're ready, captain.”

“Right.” Morden looked disconcerted rather than reassured by the extra manpower, but there was no point letting this opportunity go to waste.

“Follow me, boys!” He waved his watchmen forward, and they dragged open the main doors. Morden stepped inside, followed by Fuhrmann, with Lutzen hurrying to keep up.

“In the name of the Countess Emmanuelle,” Morden called, holding up his warrant, “we are here to conduct a search. Desist your activities and line up against the far wall!”

The interior was dim, but Fuhrmann could see plenty of people scurrying about between what he assumed were giant printing presses. They paid the newcomers no attention.

“In the name of Baroness Toppenheimer,” Lutzen said, “desist your illegal operation this moment!” They ignored him, too.

“Let me show you how it's done, Lutzen,” Fuhrmann said, and fired his pistol into the ceiling. That got their attention.

“In the name of the Emperor, the Countess Emmanuelle, and any other authority you care to mention, stop moving, shut up and get on the ground, now!” Fuhrmann roared.

There was a moment's silence, then a reedy voice protested from amongst the machinery.

“This is a legitimate centre of protest and we reject your assumption of arbitrary authority. Withdraw your troops and call off your illegal search!”

“This is the part I've been looking forward to,” Sonderman said, moving up to stand beside Fuhrmann and slipping a knuckleduster over the fingers of his right hand. Fuhrmann flexed his own hand, which was heavy enough with rings to have a similar effect.

“Is that your final answer?” he called.

“Go to hell, Imperial aristo lackey!”

Fuhrmann gestured to Morden. “They're all yours, captain.”

The watch captain needed little further encouragement. “Get them, boys!”

There was an answering yell from the darkness beyond, and a number of figures charged out of the gloom, waving whatever tools they had to hand. The watchmen surged forward, closely followed by the Iron Guard and Lutzen's militia. There was a distant crash as Benedek broke down the rear door.

“Imperialist bourgeois swine!” shouted one of the oncoming mob, waving a spanner it looked like he could barely lift. Fuhrmann idly wondered if the boy had any idea what he was talking about, then stepped forward and broke the man's jaw with a right hook. The protestor dropped like a stone.

A swirling melee developed around the machinery. It looked like there were about fifty people involved in the printing operation, and hardly any of them had anything approaching a weapon. They were badly outnumbered, and didn't stand a chance against the soldiers.

“Look out!” Lehrer called, as an older man sprang at Fuhrmann with a knife. The knight barely moved out of the way in time; complacency had nearly cost him dearly. The man raised the weapon to strike again, but one of Fuhrmann's platoon hit him in the back with the butt of a staff, and as he sprawled to the floor, Fuhrmann kicked the knife from his hand, then kicked him in the head.

As the howling agitators were dragged out one by one by the watchmen and troopers, it became apparent that among the inexperienced boys were a core of men who had armed themselves with actual weapons, and fought both more fiercely and more competently. One of them had climbed onto one of the presses and was slashing about him with a sword. Two of Lutzen's men went down to him, before Benedek swung up to his level, smashed the man's knee and sent him howling to the ground. Another one was backed into a corner by five of Sonderman's men and bludgeoned to the ground with the staves of their halberds.

A final man, clad in a purple silk shirt, held off four attackers before Lutzen got behind him and knocked him to the ground. Before he could rise, the Greatsword captain had grabbed him and cut his throat.

“We need them alive, you damned idiot!” Karsteren yelled, running over to pull Lutzen away.

“I don't take orders from you!” Lutzen shoved Karsteren in the chest. As the Guard captain staggered backwards, he tripped over the body and fell, sprawling.

That did it. An outraged Guard sergeant vaulted over a table and charged at Lutzen. He was intercepted by two more of the militia before he could reach the captain, but his men piled in around him. As soon as they realised what was going on, the militia turned their attention to the Guardsmen and ran to meet them.

Benedek leapt down from his perch, to lay about him with his cudgels. Sonderman punched Lutzen in the stomach with his knuckleduster, and was borne to the ground in turn by two of Lutzen's men. Morden and Fuhrmann looked on in disbelief.

“Captain, you see to the prisoners,” Fuhrmann said. “I'll deal with this.”

Morden nodded, eyes wide, and called to his men to line up the agitators before any of them could escape in the confusion. Fuhrmann cast around for his lieutenant and found him wrestling with a militiaman.

“Lehrer!” Two of his platoon dragged the militiaman off him, and Fuhrmann pulled his junior to his feet.

“We need to put a stop to this. Get your men, and let's break this up.”

Fuhrmann marched into the melee, pulling men apart where he could, while Lehrer followed, barking orders. Karsteren had regained his feet and was shouting something barely audible over the noise of the riot. Fuhrmann pulled two of his men back from the militiamen they had been struggling with, only for the browncoats to turn their attention to him.

“Get off me, for Ranald's sake. I'm trying to -”

One of them swung a fist at his face and he blocked instinctively, then responded with two punches of his own. His men joined him in beating the man to the ground. Behind him he could hear Lehrer still shouting. Lutzen was ahead of him, and he saw him headbutt a Guardsman. Sonderman's men dragged the victim out of the way before Lutzen could follow up.

“Lutzen!” Fuhrmann yelled. “This is madness! Help me stop this!”

Lutzen looked over, saw Fuhrmann, and drew his sword.

“Put that down, you damn fool!”

Seeing Lutzen draw his sword, Sonderman drew his own.

Then the bleeding started in earnest.
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Re: Friends in High Places (WIP, updated 24/10/12)

Postby Athelassan » Sat Nov 17, 2012 5:24 am

I've fallen behind a bit on updates for this, for which I apologise. Essentially, it's because the next update should have been a rather boring one, covering the arrival of Brecht and his cohorts in Nuln, and I couldn't bring myself to spin it out to chapter-length, so I've left it out and carried on. Hopefully this shouldn't bother anyone too much. Let me know if so!

Ath



It was nearly a hundred years since Nuln had been the Imperial capital, and Dieter von Krieglitz had been driven from the town in disgrace. Weyrother had no idea how long it had been since the Imperial throne itself had last been occupied, but Karl Franz looked as much at home in it as Emmanuelle did in her own chair to its right. Only the Electors were seated: all theoretically of equal rank, and the Emperor himself a guest in Emmauelle's city, they were accorded the same privileges, even if all knew that that was in many ways a fiction.

The rest of the dais was filled out by their attendants, many of whom had impressive credentials in their own right. Arch-Lector Krugar had appeared for the occasion, as had the Emperor's Champion, his brooding presence visible behind the Emperor's throne. The Krieglitz cousins were not with Feuerbach, relegated to the floor to stand at the pleasure of the Electors, although Gustav had made sure he had positioned himself so that he was still visible to all in the room. In all, it was as great a gathering of authority in the Empire as Weyrother was ever likely to see.

Feuerbach, as the next most senior Elector present after the Emperor and his hostess, was entitled to take his seat to the Emperor's left, but had chosen instead to sit to the right of Emmanuelle, leaving the position of the Emperor's left hand to be filled by Marius Leitdorf. They made a curious quartet. There was something of the sprawl about the Emperor's posture, while Leitdorf fidgeted by his side. Feuerbach looked thoroughly pleased with himself, while Emmanuelle maintained a slightly fixed smile, trying to ignore the fact that, since she was by far the shortest person on the dais, all those around her were able to sneak glances at her chest – an opportunity which Feuerbach in particular seemed unable to resist. It was just as well that none of the Electors was accompanied by a spouse. Then again, Weyrother supposed, if Emmanuelle were really that concerned about it, she would have worn a higher-cut dress.

With the addition of so many courtiers from the visiting parties, the room was almost full, but it had served adequately as a reception room under the Unfahiger Emperors and proved sufficient again here. The presence of the Emperor was such a rarity, though, that many Nuln nobles who would not normally attend had appeared for the occasion. Even Etelka Toppenheimer, who studiously ignored Weyrother every time he tried to catch her eye, was here.

The presence of so many nobles resulted in turn in a prolonged series of introductions to the Imperial dignity, a process which seemed to bore Karl Franz thoroughly. A handful of nobles received a warm greeting, including Bruno Pfeifraucher, but he spent much of the time muttering instructions to his chamberlain over his shoulder. The chamberlain, a thin Reikland duke named Arne Darmstadt, seemed to be taking a dutiful and extensive note of all the Emperor said, but Weyrother could see the slight telltale shake of the hands that suggested one in the early stages of a drink dependency. He wondered if it was as obvious to everyone, or whether he had a particular sensibility given his father's weakness for the stuff. In any case, he did not envy Darmstadt his future.

Eventually it was his turn to approach the throne, the last of all the nobles present. That in itself said something about the way the Weyrothers were perceived by the authorities. Nevertheless, he strode forward and bowed as well and deeply as he could manage. Emmanuelle and Leitdorf smiled in encouragement.

“Lord Weyrother,” the Emperor said, surveying him coolly. “I remember your father. He came to my coronation and started a fight.”

“It runs in the family, clearly,” Emmanuelle said with a slight giggle, and Feuerbach erupted with laughter, setting the courtiers off again.

Weyrother was unsure whether the Emperor had been joking. Leitdorf nodded very slightly, with something of a wry smile.

“My father never spoke of that to me, your Highness.”

“He never spoke to me of Solland, either, although Countess Emmanuelle has told me all about you. I hear you wish to be Count of the place.”

“Just Solland, Weyrother, or Lichtenberg as well?” Feuerbach said, provoking a gale of laughter with which he heartily joined in. Gustav von Krieglitz applauded.

Weyrother smiled through gritted teeth. “Just Solland, your Grace.”

“Well, that's alright then. Let's recall Helborg toodly-pip and get him to hand the Runefang over. What do you say, Yelle?” He nudged her, and the courtiers laughed again.

“Don't be silly, Helmut. The Emperor asked him what he wanted, he's only being honest.”

Weyrother fought down a rising sense of anger. He was sure that he was blushing, which only made it worse. As much as the mockery, it was the name – Yelle - that stung him. Get your paws off her, you great northern oaf. She's mine.

The Emperor had neither smiled, nor taken his eyes off Weyrother throughout. “Indeed. Your honesty is to be lauded, Lord Weyrother. Nevertheless, the Elector of Talabecland raises a good point. The Runefang is otherwise occupied, and it is not possible to hand it over to you today.”

“Maybe he should challenge Helborg for it?” Feuerbach said. Gustav von Krieglitz laughed again, prompting another wave of chuckles. “What a rousing finale for the tournament that would be.”

“Enough.” The Emperor stood, abruptly terminating the audience. The other three Electors leapt hurriedly to their feet, as the courtiers bowed to allow them passage out of the room. Karl-Franz took Emmanuelle's arm and they swept out of the chamber together, Leitdorf following on their heels. Feuerbach paused as he passed Weyrother.

“Come back when you've grown up, boy. I'm surprised you can handle a normal sword, let alone a magic one.”

He left to pursue the others, Gustav von Krieglitz scurrying after them. The rest of the court followed apace.

“That went about as well as could be expected,” Kurt said, once the room had largely cleared.

“I hadn't been planning to speak about Solland to him today,” Weyrother replied. “So much for that.”

“Would you like us to go to war with Talabecland?” Leopold Leitdorf asked. “I'm sure I could get father to insult his beard in some injudicious manner.”

“I don't know,” Heger said. “I rather like his beard.”

“Thank you for the offer, boys, but not today.” Weyrother shook his head. “I just want to hit something. I'd better get over to the tourney ground; the afternoon events will be starting soon.”

“Shame I'm not competing,” Leopold said, “We'd double our chances of skewering someone annoying. Next year I'll be old enough. We could do a clean sweep – you, me and father.”

“Don't count on it. If you'd asked me two months ago who the best swordsman in Nuln was...” Weyrother sighed. “Never mind.”

“An excellent, and instructive attitude, I have no doubt,” Kurt said, regarding him critically, “but if you're going to be fighting this afternoon, perhaps we should be thinking in slightly more positive terms.”

“You're right.” Weyrother resisted the urge to ask for a drink. “Let's go and kill something.”

“Friendly fight, remember? Killing people is generally frowned upon here.”

Leopold chuckled. “All right,” Weyrother said. “Let's go and wave a sword about and hope somebody runs onto the pointy end.”
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