Code of the Highwayman.   Posted by Guildmaster.Group: 0
 GM, 25 posts
Sun 14 Sep 2008
at 01:49
Code of the Highwayman
This thread belongs to Brax.

Not much is known about the life of a Highwayman, known only as Brax to some who have had the opportunity to learn his "name". Recognized by his signature coal black steed, a dark scarf that covers most of his features except the eyes and a weathered cloak, Brax the Highwayman is a figure that most travelers, especially those with purses' whose weight is slightly substantial, fear. With his claws and knife, one could lose one's fortune in a flash. But whether he has ever used those deadly weapons of his on flesh and bone, that's something we'll leave Brax to tell us...

This message was last edited by the GM at 02:12, Sun 14 Sept 2008.

 player, 21 posts
 A bold highwayman
Sun 14 Sep 2008
at 14:12
The Fountain of Virgins
”Whoreson bastard!” the young popinjay had hissed, as he dropped his hand to the hilt of his rapier.

Even though it had been more than a year since those words had been spoken, they sprang to Brax’s mind as he and Scuddersby walked past the Fountain of Virgins – so called, somewhat tongue in cheek, because all the high-class young women who went there to see and be seen, flirting with the dashing young men who had come to the fountain for the express purpose of flirting with them, were given the benefit of the doubt (with the exception of sometimes o'erloud whispers and knowing glances directed towards one of their number by the young ladies themselves).

”Them o’er there don’t know as wot they’re missin’! No siree, they don’t!” Scuddersby muttered under his breath when the breeze brought them the tittering of simpering young women dressed in the latest fashions for the benefit of their feminine rivals, spoken as if he were willing accept the fountain’s name at face value.

It had been the last bit of mercenary work that Brax had taken on before leaving the city for the countryside, and the regret that he had felt after earning his coin had directly influenced his decision.

The youngster – an up and coming, beribboned courtier at the Duke’s court, a conceited pretty-boy who was convinced of nothing so much as his own importance – had earned the displeasure of the Marvaks, a powerful family whose mercantile interests he had chosen to thwart on several different occasions. Eventually Rostarr Marvak had grown weary of the courtier’s being a thorn in his family’s side and had engaged Brax – with Scuddersby to cover his back – to simplify things.

Unlike many other hired bravos, Brax had never knifed a man in the back. It was true that he might not have allowed all of his victims to assume the ideal stance and announce themselves entirely ready and well-disposed to receive his efforts, but he had never moved in on a man who was not facing him with his weapon unsheathed.

And so it had been with the young, beflounced Edelbert Tywin, who had barely been twenty years of age at the time. The youngster’s eyes had blazed with fury at the rough-looking commoner -- who, first of all, should known better than to dare to be seen in a place frequented by his betters, and secondly had been so unforgivably clumsy as to brush against his arm when walking past -- as he made the fatal error of slapping a hand to his sword.

”Oh my!” the young lady who was the object of Edelbert’s attention on that particular day had gasped, hiding her face – except for her excited eyes – behind her silk fan, and the male and female attendants of the pair had smiled knowingly in anticipation of seeing the commoner well and truly put in his place.

Brax showed great skill when swords were drawn, and even more so when wielding the long, narrow dagger that many called the cat’s claw -- a weapon long favored by sailors from the Windward Bay, and one sometimes used by professionals to help their cause along. “If a knife won’t get it done, chances are a cat’s claw will,” was a common saying among those who earned their pay with cold steel. One’s opponent would be concentrating on parrying the deadly threat of the sword-blade, when suddenly, as unexpectedly as a lightning flash from out of a clear blue sky, he would be dropped by a cunning left-handed thrust.

And so it had been that day. Tywin had confidently drawn his rapier and assumed the position taught to him by his fencing-master. Brax’s own sword had cleared his scabbard with a sibilant, rasping hiss, and the flash and clang of steel on steel filled the area around the fountain. A few lazy thrusts and parries had been all that was necessary to concentrate the courtier’s attention on Brax’s long-blade, and soon enough Tywin was flat on his back, bleeding to death from a slashed throat that stained the silk of his scarf a bright red.

Before anyone could react, Brax and Scuddersby had vanished, leaving young Tywin dying before the horrified eyes of the young woman and their attendants.

The matter had caused a bit of a stir at the time, but the Marvaks’ influence had provided protection for their two hired swordsmen. Nonetheless, Brax had never forgotten the youngster’s startled expression as the cat’s claw slashed deep, and long afterwards the self-loathing had bubbled up within him during the cool stillness of the night, as he sat and drank alone . . .

OOC: The “cat’s claw” is modeled after the Spanish vizcaina. Unlike a knife, which boasts a variety of other uses, a cat’s claw – a narrow dagger that is longer than a knife, and yet lighter and quicker than a short-sword – is seemingly only used for the purpose of killing people.

This message was last edited by the player at 10:40, Tue 16 Sept 2008.

 player, 27 posts
 A bold highwayman
Sat 20 Sep 2008
at 01:19
In The Wee, Small Hours Of The Morning
”You ever seen Tobias again?” Scuddersby asked.

Brax scratched at the beard-stubble on his chin and shot the other man an enquiring look. After a moment he decided, Ah, why the hell not. ‘Tis the wee small hours of the morning and I’m in my cups, so why not bring out a few old skeletons to make things interesting?

And so he answered, ”Nay, neither hide nor hair,” then took another swig from the bottle that he held by its neck.

”Not since that night when he cursed me for the biggest fool this side of the Great Rift and stormed out of the house.”

”Meanin’ in all the known world – the biggest fool, that is,” Scuddersby interjected.

Brax grimaced and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Before answering he shifted his weight, trying to get comfortable in a chair that had obviously been made with a smaller man in mind. Scuddersby was loyal to a fault, and Brax trusted him with his life – indeed, it had come down to that a time or two – but the older man had a penchant for restating the obvious that rarely failed to get under Brax’s skin.

”Aye. I've no doubt that’s what he meant,” he replied after a moment, the sarcasm heavy in his tone of voice.

Oblivious, Scuddersby cut a generous slice of meat off the chicken and stuffed it into his mouth, licking his fingers so as not to miss any morsels. ”Do you mean to get it back, then -- all of it?” he asked with his mouth full.

Brax took another long swallow from the bottle before shaking his head irritably and replying. ”It can’t be done – not back to the way things were. You know that as well as anybody.”

Scuddersby nodded and belched loudly. ”Aye. I reckon that’s true enough, seein’ as how Tobias is nowhere to be found an’ Sir Jord is . . . gone too.”

Brax gave the other man a sharp glance, but decided to let it pass.

”Was they both in on it, you think – the two of ‘em workin’ together?”

”’Tis no question in my mind that they were, considering the way that things turned out, there at the end.”

Scuddersby flung a chicken-bone into the fire, pausing to watch and listen to the sizzle as the flames flared up and hungrily consumed the meat and grease that was still on the bone.

”Wot’s that leave for us, then?” he asked after a moment, turning to face Brax again.

”Oh, I have my plans. I can assure you of that.”

This message was last edited by the player at 17:09, Sun 21 Sept 2008.

 player, 40 posts
 A bold highwayman
Sun 28 Sep 2008
at 00:13
Foxes And Hounds
”Ahhhhh! Bloody hell!” the coachman yowled, clutching at the fleshy part of his arm where a crossbow bolt protruded.

”What’d ye expect, ye stupid, sodding bastard? Didn’t I warn ye not to be reachin’ for that damned harquebus?” Scuddersby muttered as he leaned over and spat into the dirt.

The gun’s booming report echoed against the surrounding hills and was answered by a cavalry trumpet from not overly far away.

”Them’ll be comin’ hell for leather,” warned Scuddersby, as he dismounted to work the winch on his crossbow.

”Damn your eyes, you scoundrel! I’ll have your head on a pike before the evening’s done!”

“Admittedly, ‘tis a hazard of the trade these days,” Brax answered mildly. ”But I’ll lead that patrol on a merry chase, first.”

“Now, sir, please do me the service of tossing out your coin-purse – unless, of course, you suffer from the same deficiency in judgment as your coachman, and don’t mind sharing the interior of your coach with a bolt.”

Brax aimed his own crossbow through the window of the coach.

The cavalry trumpet sounded again, closer this time.

”My patience runs thin, sir. I am not above looting your dead body, if you persist in your stubbornness.”

With a loud ”Harrumph!” the displeased nobleman tossed his purse out the window and Brax snatched it out of the air, one-handed.

”I thank you, sir, and I shall endeavor to keep your threat limited to exactly that.”

”I’ll see you sent to hell!”

”Mayhaps, some fine eve. But the hounds won’t be catching this fox tonight, I’ll wager,”  Brax retorted with a grin, as he wheeled his mount around and touched the stallion’s flanks with his spurs . . .


”That lot must not be locals. They don’t know the area worth a damn,” muttered Scuddersby under his breath and he and Brax stood behind the farm’s chest-high hedge and watched the cavalry patrol thunder past them on the roadway.

”Ah, they were sent out from Aberhaven to clean up rabble like us. They’re fine for leading parades down city streets, all spit-and-polish, but they have grown lazy. As long as we don’t do anything stupid, we’ll be fine.”

“That was a good shot back there, by the way.”

”I could’ve put it in his eye from that range – the sodding lackwit.”

Scuddersby cut his glance over to where Brax stood.

”Ye counted out tonight’s haul? We gettin’ close to what ye’re needin’?”

Brax gave a little shake of his head that was faintly visible in the starlight. ”Not for what I have in mind. “

This message was last edited by the player at 20:09, Sun 28 Sept 2008.

 player, 42 posts
 A bold highwayman
Sun 28 Sep 2008
at 18:39
What Goes Around, Comes Around
”Wot’d ye go an’ do that for?”

Brax knew what Scuddersby was talking about, of course. He had left a gold piece lying atop a tree-stump that was hard by the front door of the little thatched-roof farmhouse.

”Didn’t you hear those lads talking in the tavern last week? That was Almarik’s farm back there. He’s behind in his rents, and times are hard -- with the crops suffering from the blight this year, there’s no way he’d be able to save his farm. The landlord’ll have him and his family thrown off their land by the end of the month, if we didn’t do something.”

Scuddersby shrugged. ”That’d be bad for him, sure enough. But that’s his problem, an’ not ours.”

”Ah, Scuddersby. Don’t you think that it is at least possible that we are judged by the good and evil that we do in this world? Or, to put it differently, that we ultimately reap what we sow?”

The gray-haired man considered the question for a moment, then idly scratched at an armpit and noisily broke wind.

”I’ll take that as a ‘No’,”  Brax said, laughing.

”Think of it this way, then,” he suggested as they walked across the field of dead and dying corn, leading their mounts by the reins.

 ”The next time a patrol knocks on Almarik’s door and asks after us, it just might be that the good, salt-of-the-earth fellow will get confused and send them galloping off in the wrong direction.”

Scuddersby shook his head. ”I don’t buy it. It just ain’t gonna happen. Why, that farmer back there ain’t even got no way of knowin’ who left that golder for him.”

Brax laughed again. ”I might have agreed with you, if I hadn’t carved a ‘B’ into the top of the tree-stump and set the gold-piece down on top of it.”
 player, 43 posts
 A bold highwayman
Sun 28 Sep 2008
at 23:17
What Goes Around, Comes Around: Part Two
”I hear that you had some excitement hereabouts last week.”

The speaker was a large man who was sitting in a corner, wrapped in a dark cloak. He spoke quietly, and the three young men who were in the tavern had to strain to hear him over the driving rain that lashed at the shuttered windows. The peat fire that burned in the fireplace seemed to give off more smoke than warmth or light.

The local lads, who looked to be in their late teens -- and, from their rough clothing appeared to be farm laborers – glanced at each other, but said nothing.

”I don’t blame you,” the stranger said after a moment, nodding approvingly. ”’Tis easy for a lad to say too much these days. Especially when it comes to someone like Brax.”

The largest of the young men turned and gave the stranger a long look. ”An’ just wot have ye heard 'bout Brax?”

The man sitting in the corner shrugged. ”Just things, here and there. My trade keeps me on the roads quite a bit myself, and a traveling man hears things, you know?”

”An’ just what is it that ye do, stranger?” asked a red-haired, pimply-faced lad.

”Oh, I travel about, hoping to find well-heeled nobles who can afford to pay in exchange for what I offer them.”

”A travelin’ merchant, then? Is that it?” guessed the third lad.

”Close enough,” agreed the stranger with a smile.

”And since I sometimes spend time in Aberhaven, I just so happen to have a flask of the finest city-bought whiskey with me this eve. Will you three lads do me the honour of raising a glass with me?”

The scraping of chairs was his answer, and all three of the locals rushed over to his table.

”Whiskey? Ye got real whiskey? Hell-fire, I ain’t tasted none o’ that since the Duke’s last birthday.”

The three lads all dumped their ale – which tasted strongly of peat – on the dirt floor, and the stranger poured each of them a generous portion in their now-empty tankards.

”May you all bed a willing lass,” he toasted, raising his own glass, ”and suffer nary an itch anywhere that you shouldn’t, afterwards.”

”Hear!” ”Hear!” came the laughing response from two of the lads, the third having already commenced drinking.

After things quieted down a little, the dark-cloaked man remarked, ”So, as I was saying earlier, I hear that one of the Duke’s patrols very nearly caught this highwayman – Brax – last week.”

The lad who had drunk down his whiskey in one go and clanged his empty tankard down on the tabletop nodded his head. ”They damned sure did! They, ummm . . .”

The stranger poured more whisky into the lad’s tankard and suggested, ”From what I heard, they surprised him one evening after he had bedded down – caught him with his breeches down, so to speak.”

The lad who had just spoken shook off a restraining hand of one of his companions, saying heatedly,”Leave off, Stevron! It won’t do no harm – he’s already heard all about it, any ways.”

After taking another deep drink of whiskey, he continued, ”Ye heard aright, stranger. If one o' the troopers' mares hadn’t neighed out a greetin’ to that big stallion o’ Brax’s, they would’ve damnsure caught him by the bollocks!”

“As it was, him an’ that one who rides with him only got away by the hair on their chinney-chin-chins, purely 'cause their horses was better’n them that the patrol was ridin’. I heard all about it from the sergeant who was on the patrol – he stopped in here the next mornin’ to wet his whistle.”

”But how did the patrol know where to find this Brax? From everything I hear, most of the people hereabouts bear him no ill will.”

”That’s true enough,” agreed one of the other lads, who had decided that there was no harm in speaking with the friendly stranger. ”He’s helped some as have fallen on hard times, an’ most folks hereabouts wouldn’t wish to see no harm come to him.”

”’Twas that damned Fenrick,” muttered the third lad.

”Oh?” asked the stranger, as he poured another round of drinks.

”Aye! He’s a heartless bastard. Instead of a heart, he’s got a jug of sour, curdled, stinkin' milk in his chest.”

”Instead o’ aidin’ his neighbors who’ve fallen on hard times, he buys up their stock an’ land for coppers on the golder. An’ he was heard boastin’ beforehand that Duke Dorian would pay him good coin for his help, an’ that he wasn’t worried none ‘bout Brax.”

”This Fenrick sounds like a bold fellow.”

”He’s a heartless, snivelin’ coward. But he allowed as how Brax an’ the one wot rides with him is only two men, an’ wot can the likes o’ them do against all the patrols that the Duke has in the field lookin' for them?”

The stranger shrugged, and took a sip of whiskey himself. ”Sounds like Fenrick has it all figured out.”

”He surely thinks so. He’s been goin’ ‘round braggin’ ‘bout it, sayin’ that he’s sure he’ll be gettin’ a big reward from the Duke, once word gets back to Aberhaven.”

”It could be that he’s right.”


As it so happened, however, Master Fenrick’s luck took a turn for the worse. One dark, moonless evening soon afterwards, his barn burned to the ground. The next morning he discovered that there were gaps in his fences, and that all of his stock had been driven off. To make matters worse, he also found that someone had fouled his well by dumping the rotting carcass of a pig into it, and that his fields had been salted – albeit somewhat haphazardly, as if done in haste from horseback.

Those responsible have not yet been apprehended.

This message was last edited by the player at 21:57, Mon 29 Sept 2008.

 player, 45 posts
 A bold highwayman
Wed 1 Oct 2008
at 23:50
The Education Of A Gentleman: Part One
”Master Derek, you will please step away from that window. You cannot properly attend to your lessons if your attention is directed elsewhere.”

Derek grimaced and replied over his shoulder to his tutor, ”But Tobey’s out there, practicin' his archery. Why can’t I be doin' somethin' useful like that, instead of bein' stuck in here, wastin' my time . . .”

”Now, now, Master Derek, we have talked this through before, you and I. You know good and well that your father has hired me to give you a gentleman’s education. He is bound and determined that you shall not end up being, in his words, ‘a churlish rustic.' I applaud his eminent good sense in the matter. And I presume that you do not wish me to tell him that you are being inattentive to your lessons – again.”

Derek most certainly did not wish that. With a heavy sigh of resignation he admitted defeat and turned away from the window. ”All right. What was it that you was askin’ me again?”

”. . . you were asking me, again,” corrected Master Fredarik, with a hint of asperity in his tone.

"Ahem. Now, then – you will please tell me what is the product of two times two.”

Derek started counting on his fingers.

”Stop that! Multiplication does not work the same way as addition and subtraction  -- and, in any event, a gentleman may not use his fingers to aid in his mathematical computations!”

”Four!” Derek announced triumphantly. ”An’ countin’ on my fingers sure as hell did help!”

The long-suffering Master Fredarik rolled his eyes. ”’Four’ is indeed the correct answer, young Master Derek. But, methinks we have been studying mathematics mayhaps o'erlong this morn -- and your mind, while never fully applied, has become even more muddled than 'twas at the outset. In short, let us leave off that subject, which clearly does not not engage your full attention, and turn now to a matter that I suspect shall be much more likely to pique your interest."

"Let us, then, suppose that you are out for a walk one fine day, when you happen upon an attractive young lady whose acquaintance you have heretofore made.”

”Meanin’ that I know her?”

”Precisely, Master Derek, precisely. Now – how do you greet her?”

”How about, ‘You sure are lookin’ fine this mornin’, darlin'. An’ there sure as hell ain’t nothin’ better’n a hot-lookin’ lass to get a lad’s . . . Ouch! Derek screeched as the tutor’s ruler bruised his knuckles.

”You are incorrigible, young sir! Such an onerous task I have before me! I despair that I shall ever be able to educate you sufficiently in the ways of polite society . . .”

This message was last edited by the player at 02:27, Tue 14 Oct 2008.

 player, 49 posts
 A bold highwayman
Fri 10 Oct 2008
at 01:10
The Education Of A Gentleman: Part Two
”I’m out,” muttered the heavy-set, dark-bearded man, grimacing in disgust as he tossed his cards into the middle of the table with an annoyed shake of his head.

”’Tis too rich for my blood also, I fear,” piped up the slope-shouldered, mousy-looking fellow whom Derek had marked as a clerk in one of the city’s better-known mercantile houses. He set his cards on the table in a neat little stack in front of him, face-down.

”How about you, Braxton?” Lord Montague queried. Lord Wesley Montague was a well-proportioned blonde-haired gentleman with the face of an angel, but the heart of a devil. He leaned back in his chair and puffed on his two-gold-piece cigar, blowing the smoke across the table into Derek’s face.

A scantily-clad young woman stood behind Montague's chair, bending forward so that little was left to the imagination regarding some of her charms, as she worked at massaging the gentleman's shoulders. ”Aren’t you done yet, sweetie?” she pouted. “How much longer?” came the husky whisper as she nibbled at one of Montague’s ears.

”When are you going to come play with me?”

”Soon enough my dear, soon enough,” replied Montague, reaching behind him to caress what she was freely offering. After a moment he disengaged and lifted a glass from the table in front of him, taking a deep swallow of his brandy.

”Come on Braxton! Either piss or get off the pot, won’t you!” he urged. ”Some time this year, if you please.”

Derek knew that he should fold. He already had three markers  -- IOUs -- in the pot, and would need another to cover the raise that Montague had just made. If he lost this hand, there was no way that he could cover his debts. Yet Montague had been goading him all night, questioning his manhood whenever he folded before the hand was finished. He was sick of the blond bastard and his comments about “low-born, no-bollocks rustics.”

The men were gambling in “The Gentlemens’ Fancy” – a rakehells' den deep in the bowels of Aberhaven that catered to the smart set of young bloods. The only women who were allowed within its walls were the so-called “serving wenches” – fancy pieces who catered to a wide variety of wants.

I've got a flush. The only way that bastard wins is if he has a straight – which he won’t if he doesn’t have the Ace o’ Spades. An’ based on the way the cards’ve been played thus far, he won’t have it.

“I’ll cover your raise,”
Derek said confidently, dropping another marker into the pot, ”an’ raise you again,” tossing in a fifth marker.

”Very well,” intoned Montague as he casually pushed another stack of gold coins into the middle of the table to cover Derek's final raise, then laid out his cards to show that the last one that he had drawn had indeed been the Ace of Spades.

”I believe this is all mine,” he said, smirking across the table as he raked in the pot.

For his part Derek stared down at Montague's cards, his face as white as a corpse, wondering how he could have been so wrong – where could that Ace have come from -- and how in the world was he was going to cover his markers?

This message was last edited by the player at 21:25, Fri 10 Oct 2008.

 player, 51 posts
 A bold highwayman
Fri 10 Oct 2008
at 22:53
A Mere Formality
”We’ve heard from Montague,” muttered Sir Jord Braxton, who paced back and forth in front of the fireplace, his hands clasped behind him.

”He’s made his demand, then?”

”In his damned o’er-polite, smarmy way – aye, he has.” The old knight cleared his throat and spoke in a mocking tone of voice, ”'I beg to inform you, Sir Jord, that I have in hand the personal markers of one Derek Braxton, in the amount of . . .'” Sir Jord hesitated, not wishing to divulge sensitive family matters even to one such as Petyr Oakshotte, a man who was a long-time personal friend.

He waved his hand diffidently, ”. . . a lot. Much more than Derek can cover, of course.”

“'. . . and I await your payment in full of the amounts due and owing. I remain, your servant, et cetera, et cetera . . .'”

Sir Jord stopped his pacing and turned to face his friend who sat in a leather wing-chair, warming his feet before the fire, and his voice sank down to a near-whisper, ”It’s more than I can cover either, Petyr – at least not without sufficient time to sell off some . . . some things. And we both know that Montague is not the sort of man to charitably extend the luxury of time to me.”

”Oh, gods – no, he wouldn’t – not Montague!”

Petyr Oakshotte stared into the dancing flames for a moment, then said gently, ”Jord . . . I know your stiff-necked Braxton pride, so please don’t take this the wrong way – but mayhaps I can help. My trading with the Dharmalese has been especially profitable as of late . . . will you allow me to make you a loan?”

Sir Jord stared, thunderstruck. ”You would do that for me, Petyr? You would lend money to me, so that I can pay off that devil Montague?”

The other man nodded. ”Aye – Watcher’s truth, ‘twould be my pleasure, Jord.”

The knight breathed a deep sigh of relief. ”Gods, Petyr. You don’t know what a weight that takes off my shoulders. If we were forced to default on Derek’s obligations to Montague and the Braxton name were dragged through the mud . . . as you can well imagine, I can scarce bear the thought.”

”I understand perfectly, Jord. And as your friend, I am pleased that I am in a position to offer you this – and to hold that wolf Montague at bay.”

Sir Jord strode across the room and uncorked a decanter. ”By the gods, then, Petyr! Let us seal this bargain in the manner that men such as we should – let’s drink to it!”

After pouring a deep amber-red liquid into two glasses, he turned and offered one to Oakshotte. ”Amberhaven Red – I keep it on hand for special occasions.”

Clinking glasses with the other man, Sir Jord chuckled and toasted, ”Here’s to good friends! And here’s mud in Montague’s eye!”

”Aye, mud in Montague’s eye!” echoed Petyr Oakshotte, laughing.

After taking a sip of the fiery liquid, Oakshotte cleared his throat and said, ”There is one thing, though – a mere formality between us two, Jord . . . but as consideration for the loan – to make it, you know, legal and binding – I shall need for you to pledge Braxton’s Hold as collateral.”

Sir Jord considered this for a moment. ”A formality, you say?”

”Exactly that, Jord,” said the other with a smile.

”For I know that you are good for it, given time. I’ll have my clerk draw up the necessary papers, and you can sign them this very afternoon.”

“You’ll have your loan before the day’s out, and you can pay off Montague and be rid of that blood-sucking fiend.”

”I’d love to see his face when he realizes that his plan has come to naught! Why, he’ll be beside himself with rage!”

”I can only imagine his expression when he hears what has happened.”

OOC: For Lucie. ;-)

This message was last edited by the player at 20:58, Sat 11 Oct 2008.

 player, 52 posts
 A bold highwayman
Sat 11 Oct 2008
at 13:18
A History Lesson: Part One
”Today, young sir, is a fine day for a history lesson,” intoned Master Fredarik.

”History?” Derek replied, mouthing the word carefully and cautiously, as if it were an iron-teethed bear-trap ready to spring shut and hold him fast, as well as inflicting much pain and suffering.

”Indeed, Master Derek, indeed. Now, then -- can you tell me the name of that peak over there to your left?”

”That one? Why, that’s Blood Mountain. Everybody ‘round here knows that.”

”And, pray tell, do you know how it came to be known thusly?”

”Ummmm . . . ‘cause there used to be lots of fightin’ hereabouts.”

”Very good. Indeed, ‘lots and lots,’ one might say – and that very mountain has been soaked with the blood of many men down through the ages. Now, why don’t you take a seat on that rock right there, and I shall tell you of your own family’s history -- and how Braxton’s Hold came to be. ‘Tis high time you knew of such things.”

Fredarik took a seat himself, taking care to smooth out the back-flaps of his threadbare coat, cut overly long in a style that had not been in fashion for many a year.

”You must let your mind travel back through time with me, young sir. Things were very different in that day and age – oh yes, very much so! The times were much darker than those of our present day, and many of the things that we take for granted these days were much different, then. The Dharmalese, for example, were warlike nomads, and not the trading partners that we think of when their name is mentioned.”

“Ah, and the Sauks – fierce warriors all, barbarians who lived deep within the reaches of their Black Forest. The Dukes of those days sent several expeditions into the trackless, dark hell of their domain – and all were lost without a trace, never to be heard from again.”

“And as it so happened, a great war-chief rose up amongst the Sauks – Abraxas the Cruel.”

”I’ve heard of him!” Derek interjected excitedly, now entranced in spite of himself. ”He used to roast prisoners alive and feast on their hearts!”

”Well, no doubt ‘twas something along those lines,” agreed Master Fredarik, dryly.

”Any way, your ancestor – Joffrey Braxton – was, at the time we join his story, naught but an unheralded officer in service to his Duke. Word had come to the Duke that the Sauks – under the leadership of Abraxas - had ventured forth from their forests and were sweeping towards the Duchy like a relentless tide, the wail of their war-horns sending a chill down the spines of even the bravest of men.”

“Joffrey was tasked with taking command of an unruly hodge-podge of men – a thrown-together mixture of professional soldiers, hard-bitten mercenaries, and local militia - and slowing down Abraxas’s onslaught long enough for the Duke to raise an army sufficiently large to hold off the barbarians. The histories tell us that Joffrey was advised to make certain that his last will and testament was up-to-date before he marched out of Aberhaven.”

“Like all great captains, Joffrey Braxton had an eye for terrain. And after he had force-marched his men to this very place, he knew.”

”Knew what?”

Fredarik gestured with his cane. ”That this place, this strategic pass through the mountains, was the route that Abraxas would choose as he swept towards Aberhaven. And that this was where he and his troops would make their stand -- for 'twas a natural choke-point, a narrow spot where determined men, if sufficiently stout of heart, could hold back many times their own numbers.”

”And so it was that he told his men, ‘Here we hold. Or here we die.’”

”What happened?” Derek asked, enraptured.

”Joffrey Braxton was no fool. He realized that he did not have a sufficient number of men to defeat Abraxas if they met in the style of battle that was common in those long-gone days – namely, for both forces to march to a relatively level field and go at each other, hammer and tongs, until one was victorious and the other vanquished.”

“Instead, he did something that was unheard of in that day and time – he told his men to dig trenches and build up earthen walls, right in the middle of the pass. And once that was done, he waited for Abraxas to come to him.”

”And he did?”

”That he did, young Master Derek. Oh yes, that he did. Joffrey Braxton’s scouts could mark the barbarians' progress – if you wish to call it that – by the plumes of smoke from burnt-out homesteads on the far side of the pass. But when Abraxas reached this place, he pulled up short, surprised. For he had not expected to find a fortified redoubt blocking his path.”

Master Fredarik fell silent, gazing off into the middle distance and marshalling Braxton's and Abraxas's forces in his mind’s eye, seeing them as they would have been during those fateful days.

”And then? What happened?” urged Derek excitedly, bouncing up and down on his rock.

The tutor turned and gave the lad an inquisitive look, then smiled. ”What’s this, young sir? Do my eyes and ears deceive me, or do you suddenly admit to having an interest in history?”

This message was last edited by the player at 02:31, Tue 14 Oct 2008.

 player, 56 posts
 A bold highwayman
Tue 14 Oct 2008
at 01:50
A History Lesson: Part Two (The Wall)
”Just tell me, won’t you!” Derek urged, looking annoyed at having been caught evidencing an interest in his studies. But what with being outside where he could gaze upon the places where the long-ago battles had been fought, and the manner in which Master Fredarik had made it all seem so real, even if it had happened years and years ago,  he could feel his pulse racing . . .

”Very well, Master Derek,” the tutor replied, smiling. ”And you needn’t worry -- I shan’t ruin your reputation as a young hellion.”

”Now then, where were we? Ah, yes – Abraxas the Cruel and his Sauks had just made their appearance. As you might expect, after taking a short while to consider the situation, Abraxas drew up his forces in battle formation out on the plains on the far side of the pass, and waited for the Aberhavenian commander to march his men out to face them.”

“Well, the hours dragged on and on, and eventually the shadows of the afternoon lengthened into early evening. Abraxas pitched camp and resolved to deal with the upstarts the next day. He might have reasoned that the Aberhavenian troops were green and disorganized, and that it accordingly took them an overly long while to ready themselves for battle – or, he might have deemed them to be cowardly, and afraid to venture forth and meet their doom.”

“There was much drinking and revelry in the Sauks’ camp that eve, for they reckoned that on the morrow they would sweep aside the force that was blocking them and gain entry into the soft underbelly of the Duchy -- where there would be much loot for the taking, as well as women who had never yet had the pleasure of being taken by a real man.”

”O’er-confident bastards!” muttered Derek.

”Confident? Yes, most certainly they were. But you have to remember, the Sauks had never yet faced Aberhavenian warriors who could stand against them – thus, perhaps not without reason, they viewed the Aberhavenians as soft and unmanly.”

“Well, then – on the next day Abraxas drew his forces into battle formation once more, and waited . . . and waited. All was quiet behind the Aberhavenian entrenchments, and no troops sallied forth to do battle.”

“After a half-day of this, Abraxas grew impatient and sent forward a messenger under a white flag of truce, with instructions to urge his foes to ‘come out and fight like men.’”

“The histories recount that Joffrey Braxton’s answer was, ‘Come and get us, if you deem yourself man enough.’”

“Well! Suffice it to say that Abraxas was at the end of his patience, so he threw his forces forward, closing the distance at an easy lope that would keep them fresh for the slaughter that would ensue once they had breached the defenders’ wall. It must have been a daunting sight to see them sweep forward, wave upon wave of howling barbarians.”

”What then? Did they breach the wall?” asked Derek.

Instead of answering directly, Master Fredarik replied, ”Your ancestor and his troops were sheltered behind a stout earthen wall, and each and every man of them was armed with a bow of some sort – the local militia all knew how to use the deadly longbow, as did a number of the professional soldiers and mercenaries. Those who had not the training to use a longbow were armed with crossbows."

"Now, young sir, I have set the stage for you. What do you suppose happened?”

Derek knew how deadly bows could be, especially when shot at men on foot, who could not close the distance as quickly as mounted troops. ”I reckon they held off that first attack.”

”Very good! Their arrows slaughtered a goodly portion of the first wave before they could reach the wall. Those Sauks who did reach the entrenchment milled around at the bottom of the wall, with no way to breach it – there was no gate on the front side, and they had not prepared any ladders, you see -- for they had expected the Aberhavenians to march out and meet them on the field of battle.”

”Did Abraxas try again?”

”Not in nearly so direct a fashion as a frontal assault. For it seems that he was no fool, either. No, Abraxas next threw out flanking parties and attempted to scale the peaks along the side of the entrenchments, and thus get men around behind the Aberhavenians so he could come at them from different directions -- if nothing else, surely there would be a gate along the rear wall of the redoubt that could be forced.”

“But Joffrey Braxton had anticipated such a maneuver, and had sent out local militia who knew every rock, gully, and game-trail to take position at the top of the peaks that were situated on his flanks – and these were the men, you will remember, who were the expert long-bowmen amongst the Aberhavenian forces. The Sauks were slowed by the difficult terrain as they struggled to climb upwards to reach their foes, and once again they were repulsed with great slaughter.”

”So, what then? Did Abraxas realize that he had been bested?”

”For the moment. But he was a stout foe who was unwilling to admit defeat – for even with all his losses, his forces still substantially outnumbered the Aberhavenians. And so he sent out foraging parties to cut down trees, and the Sauks set about making ladders to enable them to scale the walls of the redoubt.”

This was most troubling, Derek decided. For if the Sauks had built ladders, they could get in amongst the defenders and take advantage of their superiority in numbers. As he thought over the situation in his mind, it seemed quite possible to him that the Aberhavenians might be overwhelmed by the barbarians’ next assault.

”Did the wall hold?”

”The Aberhavenian arrows came whistling in again and again, striking the ranks of the Sauks like so much deadly hail as the barbarians surged forward. Those amongst the Sauks who carried shields held them overhead in an attempt to give themselves cover, but many perished nonetheless. The histories tell us that after the battle one could walk many hundreds of feet outwards from the Aberhavenian entrenchments and never touch the ground, so numerous were the Sauk dead and wounded.”

“But Sauks were bold and courageous warriors themselves, and they pressed on in spite of their heavy losses. And it so happened that numerous ladders went up against the front wall in close proximity to each other -- and when the defenders were unable to slay all of the men swarming up them, the Sauks won their way over the top.”

”And a great shout went up from the barbarians, for they now knew victory to be close at hand.”

Derek swallowed hard. ”But . . . I don’t understand. Abraxas can’t have won!” His eyes swept over his family's lands. ”This is Braxton’s Hold, after all,” he said pridefully.

"Might I recall to your recollection, young sir, the fact that Joffrey Braxton was not expected to hold indefinitely," Master Fredarik gently reminded the lad.

"His charge was to delay the invaders and to buy sufficient time for his Duke to see to the defense of the Realm. Mortal flesh and blood can, after all, withstand only so much."

This message was last edited by the player at 22:47, Sat 18 Oct 2008.

 player, 64 posts
 A bold highwayman
Tue 21 Oct 2008
at 23:33
The Education Of A Gentleman: Part Three
”Where are you going, Tobey?”

Tobias Braxton – “Tobey” to his family – turned his attention from the cinch-strap that he was tightening on his horse’s saddle and glared at his older brother.


”What have you heard?”

”Scuddersby’s back from the city – nearabout killed his mount getting here.”

”And? Any word from the debtor’s prison?”

Tobias led his stallion out of the stall, then put a foot in the stirrup and swung up into the saddle with the grace of an accomplished horseman. He stared down at Derek for a moment, then said in a flat, toneless voice, ”He’s dead.”

Derek reached out and steadied himself against a timber. ”How . . .” he whispered, uncomprehending.

The younger man’s voice took on a hard edge. ”Scuddersby said that Sir Jord refused all sustenance once he was put in irons and hauled away to prison. Does that surprise you? You know his stiff-necked pride. Between getting duped by Oakshotte – a man whom he considered a close personal friend -- and then having the family name become a laughingstock throughout the whole realm . . .”

"Still . . . I can’t believe he’s gone . . .”

Tobias chuckled, but there was no humor in it. ”Congratulations. You are now officially the head of the family . . . Sir Derek Braxton, Knight of the Realm.”

Now Derek’s temper flared up. ”Damn your eyes, Tobey! You make it sound like 'tis something I should be pleased with.”

”Pleased? I think mayhaps not, Sir Derek. For know ye that the new owner of Braxton’s Hold sent the Under-Sheriff around earlier this evening to post a writ putting us on notice that he shall take possession tomorrow at high noon, and that he expects us to all have 'vacated the premises' before then.”

”Damn Oakshotte to the deepest pit of hell!”

”The notice didn’t come from Oakshotte.”

”Who, then?” Derek asked, puzzlement writ large on his face.

”It was delivered and posted at the request of Lord Wesley Montague.”

All of the colour drained from Derek’s face.

Tobey kicked his mount in the ribs and would have ridden his brother down if Derek had not stepped aside at the last moment.

The younger man yanked savagely at the reins and turned the horse for a moment. ”May all the devils of hell torture you as their plaything and thusly hold you accountable for the ruination and death you have visited upon us, Derek! Back there in the house I named you the greatest lackwit this side of the Great Rift, but I think that entirely too tame to account for the full magnitude of your sins against your own flesh and blood.”

Then he was gone.

This message was last edited by the player at 02:05, Wed 22 Oct 2008.

 player, 93 posts
 A bold highwayman
Sun 21 Dec 2008
at 18:01
A History Lesson: Part Three (The Battle Is Decided)
”But . . .” Derek sputtered, "but Joffrey Braxton survived the battle – no, he won the battle, and was known ever after as a great hero. Even I know that much!”

”Do you now, young sir? So you do know at least a little of your family’s history. Very good! Yes, very good indeed!”

Master Fredarik took a moment to light his long-stemmed pipe and draw the smoke into his lungs. He might have been stalling for time in order to allow the suspense to build in his young charge’s mind. ”So, then . . .” he continued after puffing contentedly on his pipe for a short while, ”would you like to hear how Joffrey Braxton prevailed in that desperately-fought battle?”

Drawn into the story-telling and interested in spite of himself, Derek nodded his head.

”Very well, then. You will recall that the Sauks had just surged up and over the front wall of the earthen redoubt, and the fervor of their shouts told that they thought that the day was theirs. Now that they had finally closed with the Aberhavenians, they were certain-sure that the slaughter would begin, and that in short order the way would be opened to the riches - and women - of the Duchy!”

”What . . . what did Joffrey Braxton do?” Derek asked, curious as to how his great-grandfather had turned the tide of battle in his favour.

”Well, as most good commanders will do, Joffrey had personally chosen a band of his toughest, most disciplined troops – mercenaries and professional soldiers who would not shy away from going toe-to-toe with the fiercest woad-painted barbarians – and made them his reserves. Joffrey instinctively knew that the crisis of the battle was upon him – if the Sauks could hold the wall and swarm down into the interior of the redoubt, victory would indeed be theirs . . .”

Derek held his breath. This did not sound good at all!

”. . . and so, sounding three great blasts on his war-horn, Joffrey personally lead these hand-picked reserve troops in a fierce counter-attack, and they became locked in mortal combat with the Sauks atop the front wall of the redoubt.”

Master Fredarik paused, and glared down at the bowl of his pipe. ”Well, drat and botherment! It has gone out . . .”

”I don’t care about your silly pipe!” Derek exclaimed. ”Tell me what happened! Did Joffrey Braxton drive the Sauks from the wall and win the day?”

”Not exactly . . .” Master Fredarik muttered, grinning impishly as he paused to re-light his pipe.

”What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?!?” Derek nearly shouted as he squirmed atop the rock where he was sitting, clearly wishing to goad his tutor into a quicker telling of the tale.

”Patience, young sir, is ever counted one of the primary virtues,” Fredarik said gently, still smiling as he puffed out a smoke ring and followed it with another. And because he had no choice if he wished to hear the rest of the story, Derek sat upon his hands and became quiet.

When he judged the time was right, Master Fredarik recommenced his telling of the tale. ”In addition to setting his counter-attack in motion, Joffrey’s war-horn was the signal to begin another attack.”

Derek’s eyes widened. Another attack?” It was clear that this turn of events was as unexpected to the young man as it must have been to the Sauk warriors, all those many years ago.

”Indeed, young sir, indeed!” Fredarik’s voice became deeper and more forceful as he began telling of the crisis of the battle, and its resolution.

”For Joffrey Braxton had sent messengers back to the city of Aberhaven, telling the Duke of his plans to hold the mountain gap – the very one that you see before you – against Abraxas and his Sauks, and pleading with his sovereign to send him whatever reinforcements he could spare.”

“As I have told you, Joffrey was charged with the task of delaying Abraxas long enough for the Duke to raise an army that was capable of meeting the Sauks in open battle. Clearly, Duke Aberhaven had not yet had enough time to accomplish his task. And yet he trusted sufficiently in Joffrey Braxton’s judgment to send him the only professional troops who had any chance of reaching this place in time to take part in the battle – four squadrons of his personal Household Cavalry.”

“Now, this was elite heavy cavalry, well-trained in the ways of war and superbly disciplined. Each man was mounted on a heavy charger and equipped with gleaming cuirass, shield and helmet -- and armed with a lance and long-sword. Whilst the Sauks were felling timber and making ladders, Joffrey Braxton took advantage of the respite to send this cavalry around the far side of Blood Mountain. They were forced to dismount and walk their horses single-file over the rough terrain, but local foresters and guides led them around the mountain on game-trails that were known only to them.”

“And so it was that they were in position on the Sauks’ far left flank, out of sight and awaiting Joffrey’s signal. When they heard his war-horn, they came thundering ‘round the base of the mountain at a full gallop, lances lowered, and they tore into the surprised Sauks like a lightning-bolt launched from a cloudless sky.”

Derek stared in open-mouthed entrancement.

“Met with staunch resistance on the crest of the wall and with their left flank collapsing before the onslaught of the Aberhavenian cavalry, the Sauks wavered. The Histories tell us that Abraxas himself was atop the wall at that point in the battle, and he bellowed out orders, attempting to rally his men.”

Derek was unwittingly holding his breath, so interested had he become in his tutor’s tale.

Fredarik shook his head. ”But Abraxas’s efforts were doomed. A few sub-chiefs over on the far flank desperately attempted to form their men into a line of battle in the face of the onrushing Aberhavenian cavalry -- but the horsemen were moving too swiftly, and they swept away all who came within reach of their horses’ hooves and their own lances and swords. It was soon apparent that the Sauks could not hold, and they broke and ran – as even brave warriors will sometimes do when a battle they thought to have won has suddenly and unexpectedly turned against them.”

Sucking in a deep breath, Derek began breathing again, a little awed by the epic tale that he had just heard.

”Joffrey Braxton was hailed as a hero of the realm, and rightly so,” Master Fredarik continued.

”So important was his victory – and so unexpected, in the face of the daunting odds that he faced – that Duke Aberhaven did him the great honour of journeying to this very place with his entourage and personally dubbing him a Knight of the Realm. And not only that, the mountain pass and miles of land on each side were ceded to Sir Joffrey. These lands subsequently became known as ‘Braxton’s Hold’, of course.”

“As you could perhaps tell, Joffrey Braxton was a very shrewd man, and it so happened that he was also very ambitious. In a short matter of time he had parlayed his renown and the high regard in which Duke Aberhaven held him into a seat on the Duke’s Privy Council. The Histories tell us that in the years after the battle, Sir Joffrey came to spend nearly all his time in the city of Aberhaven, where he became a darling of the high society of his day.”

”And what of Abraxas, the Sauks’ fierce chieftain? Was he slain on the field of battle?”

”’Tis very interesting that you should ask, young sir. Yes, very interesting indeed -- for now we begin to delve into matters that are not addressed in any of the written Histories.”

“As a matter of fact, all of the Histories are silent as to Abraxas’s fate. They mention only the glory won by Joffrey Braxton on that fateful day, and the path that he chose to tread in later years. I will add, however, that certain tales have . . . ah . . . have come down through the years by word-of-mouth telling amongst the Braxton family retainers.”

”Well, what are you waiting for? I want to know!” Derek demanded insistently.

The elderly tutor paused and gave thought to how much of the remainder of the tale he should tell to his young charge . . .

This message was last edited by the player at 01:10, Sat 27 Dec 2008.

 player, 98 posts
 A bold highwayman
Thu 1 Jan 2009
at 16:21
Re: A History Lesson: Part Four (All is fair . . .)
”I suppose that ‘tis something that you, of all people, deserve to hear,” Master Fredarik replied quietly.

Why me, of all people? Derek wondered.

The lad was not yet adept in the adult skill of keeping his emotions from showing on his face, and the tutor smiled knowingly – and not unkindly -- at him. ”So be it,” he said after a moment’s hesitation.

”You have asked after Abraxas’s fate, and hear it you shall.” Master Fredarik rose to his feet, clasped his hands behind his back, and began pacing back and forth in front of the rock where Derek perched.

”As you could probably tell from the tale I have told thus far, your great-grandfather was a man who could accomplish much when he set his mind to a task. And he took it upon himself to build an estate at Braxton’s Hold – as the land ceded to him by Duke Aberhaven was now known – that was worthy of his own ambitions, and of the lofty place in society to which he aspired, now that his name was on everyone’s tongue.”

”What’s wrong with that? He earned it, didn’t he?” Derek demanded, perhaps a trifle defensively. ”He won great glory for himself and the Braxton family, and mayhaps even saved the Duchy.”

”Indeed, young sir, indeed!” Master Fredarik nodded, continuing his pacing as if he were a schoolmaster lecturing to a room full of students.

”And 'tis appropriate that you just now spoke of ‘the Braxton family,’ for Joffrey Braxton’s young wife flew to his side as soon as ever she could, notwithstanding that the construction of the manor house had only just begun, and that the living conditions that she found upon her arrival here at Braxton’s Hold were still quite primitive.”

Master Fredarik halted, then found himself a comfortable seat on a grass-covered rise. He primly pushed the flaps of his long-tailed coat out behind him as he sat, and set about coaxing more smoke from his long-stemmed pipe.

”But . . .” Derek began, his impatience getting the better of him again.

Holding up his hand for silence, Master Fredarik quieted his young charge. When all was to his satisfaction, he continued his tale. ”The first Lady Braxton – for your great-grandmother was now a titled lady by reason of her husband’s ascension to the knghthood – was by all accounts quite a woman.”

“She was a dark-haired beauty, strong-willed and surpassingly intelligent. And it seems that she also had a kind heart, for notwithstanding that upon her arrival she was living in a tent and eating the same rations as the soldiers, rather than pouting and thinking only of her own comfort, she took it upon herself to nurse the grievously-wounded Abraxas – and more than a few of his Sauk warriors who had been wounded in battle and captured – back to health.”

Derek stared. He had become so wrapped up in Master Fredarik’s telling of his family’s fortunes in those long-ago days that he had momentarily forgotten his interest in Abraxas’s fate.

”Oh, yes,” the elderly tutor continued, now smiling. ”Abraxas had been atop the front wall of the redoubt when the Aberhavenian cavalry charge had broken the back of his army. Braxton family lore tells that the Sauk chieftain became so wroth when he realized that the battle was lost that he fought with the strength of ten men, and any of the Aberhavenians who were bold enough to attempt to face him in melee were soon struck down by his flashing blade.”

“And so it was that Joffrey Braxton ordered up some archers, and soon enough Abraxas sank to his knees, brought low by Aberhavenian arrows.”

”Arrows? Abraxas was felled by arrows shot from afar? That doesn’t seem the  . . . the right way to defeat a brave foe!” Derek  exclaimed.

Master Fredarik shrugged. ”’Tis sometimes said, Master Derek, that all is fair in love and war.”

Derek grimaced. He still didn’t approve of how Abraxas had been struck down.

”Now in those days,” Master Fredarik continued, ”there was nothing improper with enslaving any of your foes whom you captured in battle – the spoils of war, and all that. And I suppose that it was preferable to slaying them outright.”

”Abraxas and some of his warriors were enslaved by my great-grandfather, then?

The tutor nodded. "Yes, they were – those who survived. For more than a few perished from their battle-wounds. But Abraxas and those others who recovered were soon put to work constructing the manor house, out-buildings, and other improvements here at Braxton’s Hold.”

"So . . . the once-feared Abraxas lived out the remainder of his days a lowly slave?”

Master Fredarik fell silent for a moment and stared off into the middle distance, as if his mind's eye was watching scenes being played out on a stage. At length he turned his attention back to his young charge and once again took up the telling of the tale.

”I have told you, I believe, of how Sir Joffrey Braxton’s ambitions came to consume him, and that soon after his remarkable victory he began to spend nearly all of his time in the city of Aberhaven, ultimately rising to a position of great power and influence in the society of his day?”

Derek nodded, remembering those points having been mentioned.

”Lady Braxton was left here alone at Braxton’s Hold, often for months upon months at a time. She might see her husband twice or thrice over the course of a full year. It was said . . . “ Master Fredarik paused and pursed his lips.

After clearing his throat he began again. ”Your family retainers – descendants of those original Sauk warriors . . . “

Now Derek’s jaw dropped in surprise. He had not made that connection, and it was a great revelation to him.

”Oh, yes,” the older man continued, ”those tall, flaxen-haired, blue-eyed men and women who serve your family today are all descended from Sauks. Pure-blooded Aberhavenians are darker-haired and complexioned – not to mention being generally smaller in stature.”

”B-but . . . but . . . “ Derek stuttered.

”And it is whispered by those same retainers that Lady Braxton’s great heart was broken by the fact that her husband saw fit to place his own ambitions before attending to her and her needs as a woman  – ‘twas as if his own heart became unfeeling with respect to her, at least when measured in comparison to those things that he deemed more important to him.”

“And 'tis said that at long last, after literally years of neglect, she found solace -- and love -- in the arms of Abraxas . . . the very man whom she had nursed back to full health and vigor with her own hands.”

"I . . . I am blue-eyed, fair-haired . . . and quite tall for my age,” Derek muttered, sotto voce, a look of amazement upon his face.

Master Fredarik reached over and and gently placed a hand on the young man’s shoulder.

”All is fair . . .”

This message was last edited by the player at 19:48, Fri 02 Jan 2009.