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(Archive) A waning strength

Tags: Barlin,  Bernar

Short Summary: Barlin tells his nephew Bernar of the depletion of the King's Men's strength, and warns against politics.
Date (real-life): 2013-01-22
Scene Location: Esgaroth: Karath Manor
Date (in-game): January 3058
Karath Manor: Planning Room(#23046R)

The first thing you notice when you enter this room is that the far wall is entirely covered with shelves overflowing with books and scrolls. A simple desk and chair sit to the right and a large table surrounded by chairs and covered with a large map is on the left. The colors in the room reflect the forest, a mixture of greens, browns, and greys. Light streams in through a window in the north wall.


[Bernar]

Paperwork. Always more paperwork.

It is a cold, crisp January day. The sun is out, though its warmth is lacking, and the views in every cardinal direction are beautiful. You can see your breath steam the air. Being outside on a day like today is excellent training and good for your circulation.

But Bernar is inside with the paperwork. He looks over the sums worked by one of the House's treasurers of Karath's expenses, his lips moving soundlessly. Reaching the end of the page, he rubs his temple with his right hand. Then he grabs the snifter that still has half a finger of whiskey in it, and drains the rest of it.

[Barlin(#26904)]

The sound of a wooden stick meeting hard floorboard can be heard from the other side of the door; it is at first muffled but grows louder and louder, until it draws to a halt and three sharp raps ring out. Without waiting for any summons, whoever is behind the door opens it and pushes it wide.

It is, of course, Barlin Karath. Gone are the days when the old dog would roam the halls of Karath Manor, flushed in the red and blue of his house, ordering servants and pageboys and accountants around with a bark here and a growl there. Now, he is drabbed in the black furs and fine leather of the Knights of the Black Arrow, the silver pin of his order gleaming on his lepel. Where once there was a finely-trimmed beard that hinted at sophistication and order, now there is a fierce, unkempt thing sprawling across his jaw line and neck. And, if it is possible, the dark look in his eyes has deepened.

He casts an eye around the room, sniffing the air like a hound catching a scent, and then looks at his nephew. " My old office. I hope it serves you well, Lord Karath."

[Bernar]

"Uncle." Bernar nods and rises to his feet, moving aside the sums and figures for now - with perhaps too much enthusiasm. "It serves me better as a meeting place, but sometimes one needs a change of scenery to help refocus. I prefer father's old study in the Lord's chambers, though-" He shakes his head. "-sometimes I still feel out of place there." He grabs the decanter containing more whiskey, and raises it so Barlin's sniffing may detect its aroma. "Would you like some? For I have a feeling you have come with a purpose... though you always did walk like that." He reaches for another glass without waiting for a response.

"And please, Uncle. Lord Karath? It's always Bernar to you."

[Barlin(#26904)]

A wry half-smile creases the knight's weather-beaten features. " Good news, nephew, has never been my forte. A whisky is need, my thanks." He approaches the desk with deliberate movements that, perhaps, betray a weakness of limb that creeps over the bodies of all those who have already had their fair share of both sunrises and sunsets. Settling into the chair, he leans the stick against the desk. " Bernar, of course, you have always been to me and are still. And yet I feel I must call you Lord Karath for it is this man I address. I also hoped it to serve as a reminder of responsibility which all of us, in these dark days, must reckon with."

He falls silent for a moment, his eyes moving over the room as if drinking it in, every hushed conversation, every moment of intrigue, every battle planned on the aged desks. " And never feel unworthy to sit in your father's chair, nephew. Your father never approved of coyness."

[Bernar]

Pouring a few fingers into the new snifter, the Lord of Karath places it on the table before Barlin. He pours the same amount into his own before reseating himself. "Good news is hard to come by in the best of times. In days when the Steward allows Roskar to rot and be murdered in prison rather than face a public airing of his crimes, I expect the worst." He looks down into his glass. "I have toasted to justice with two unusual Arathmors, but I do not know whether to toast the King or justice, now. For there is a matter in which I require your counsel, once I hear your news." And he raises his glass. "And today I will follow your toast, for you may know what we need at this moment more than I."

[Barlin(#26904)]

" True, we are not ruined; only faded." Barlin continues grimly, " We have many veterans who bear the scars of countless wars, and their knowledge is invaluable. But the old defenders of this land are dying away. Gelbard fell long ago, now your father is no longer with us. And I fear that I may not see the next war, or meet it with the strength I once had. The young men of the noble classes, Bernar, seem as if they have been caught up in this game of folly we all play at some time: the rat race of the political world, with its intrigue and its vintage wines and its soft cushions. A generation of rabble rousers and merchants cannot defend a kingdom."

The old man takes another drink of whisky, this time a swig rather than a sip. " To distract the watch from their chief business would be a mistake, I think, especially now when justice is the word on the lips of the people. Drawing in young men from the outlying towns would be ideal and would do much to replenish our stock of fresh blood. But finally, to awaken the young nobility to the responsibility their fathers have left behind will take more effort. On this endeavour, perhaps, both our objectives shall come together."

He leaves a moment of silence, sipping his whisky, before asking: " And so tell me of the politics of Lake-town, and the advise that you seek. For if it is of Roskar and the Arathmor, then words are worth being exchanged on both sides of this conversation."

[Bernar]

"The Karaths have ever been at the forefront of the fighting nobility, serving with the Girion. I know of one soldier among the Taurdain; there is even a King's Man among the Arathmor, who seems to disapprove of her kin's ways." Bernar looks into his drink for a moment. "There is Lord Gerik - I elevated him to the nobility following his courage bringing Oriana off the battlefield at Londaroth. Our ranks have truly shrunk, though; that I cannot deny."

He takes a measured sip and looks back into Barlin's eyes. "I know nothing of the manner of Roskar's death, save that it happened while he was imprisoned. Poison, a knife in the dark - it little matters, save that justice was not done, and the full count of his crimes and victims may never now be enumerated. Among whom I number- Father."

Tonelessly he continues, "And I have been approached by the Taurdains and some apparently-renegade Arathmors, both of whom favor pushing the King to remove the Steward from his position. His negligence is apparent, bordering on malice, and his cowardice is evident from his failure to bring Roskar to trial."

Lord Karath tilts his head to the side. "I have heard proposals that the Steward should be chosen by the Houses again. This move is against a royal prerogative, yet it may be best for the city. My loyalty to our people and our King stand at odds, here, unless House Girion choose to allow an alteration of government voluntarily."

[Barlin(#26904)]

" Roskar's death troubled me," Barlin's brow furrows, and his face darkens as if a cloud has passed over it, " And it troubles me still. The man was a disloyal ponce, a liar and a snake. But one can always trust a serpent to act in his nature; Roskar's treachery was forever suspected. A chaotic house of Arathmor, though, and a shift in the balance of power will bring change, instability. And as for who it was that murdered him in his hole..." The old man's voice quietens, "... I have pursued murderers through these streets before, Bernar, and it led me down an ominous path. It is true, though, that he should not have rotted in that cell so long; he should have been brought before the King's Justice."

He swigs the whisky, swills it around in his mouth and swallows. " This does, of course, bring us to the matter of our presiding Steward. It is true that another man must take the role; a spineless man with a will of warm butter is not who we need in a time like this. But you must be careful in the way that you go about it, nephew. Now, more than ever, the people and the great houses must be reminded of their loyalty to the king and the authority vested in his crown. It would not do to defy the house of Girion, or even incur its displeasure. Have you spoken with Lorthrain? He is a dear friend of mine and has the ear of the prince. Perhaps he could shed some wisdom on how this particularly rocky passage may be navigated."

[Bernar]

"In truth, I have seen little of Lord Lorthrain; he keeps his own counsel, and goes through his duties as though followed by a cloud, though a man with a healthy young child ought to rejoice in it." Bernar shakes his head. "I have taken it upon myself, with his permission, to train his former squire, whose training he himself knew he had neglected."

"I hope to avoid any confrontation by quietly suggesting that the King himself propose a new steward, and that their terms henceforth be limited to one year." He looks doubtful, his forehead wrinkling. "But politics has never been my strength, and I fear my suggestion may be taken amiss."

[Barlin(#26904)]

" Let that be to your credit, Bernar," Barlin says darkly, " Those men who enjoy this game too much have the serpent in them, somewhere. When I had to do as you do now, I thought of it as war: it requires you to be just as ruthless, just as appreciating of subtlety and the shifting of tides." Barlin finishes his glass and places it back on the table. " In this instance, I would advise you to be open and honest. You are a man of integrity, like your father, and you do our name justice: let all see that and know it. They will follow you on this venture, if you lead them well. If the houses were to come together, to write a letter to the king proposing the removal of our dear steward and suggesting a worthy replacement that all can agree on, then perhaps he can be appeased. Not threatened, but begged by his people and his noble houses to change the state of affairs. I am sure that if the case is made passionately, he will see the wisdom in it."

[Bernar]

"So it is to be hoped," Bernar agrees. "I shall consult with Lady Isobel of Taurdain in this; as a scholar, she may perhaps be able to put our intent in writing better than most."

"But the replacement is the key. I do not know what worthy to propose, but it must be someone who is prepared to act decisively and fairly." He gives his uncle a look. "There are some who would suggest you for the task, I imagine, though you are not of Girion blood," he says with a slight smile.

[Barlin(#26904)]

" I escaped from this web not so long ago, Bernar," Barlin says, picking up his stick, " I do not wish to get caught in it again. Alas, I serve my king as I am asked to serve him; and for now, that means my residence in Thrush-Hill Tower and the training of blood much fresher than mine."

He pushes himself to his feet and bows his head. " Now, I must rest. There was a time when your father, Lorthrain and I would sit long into the night discussing these matters over a bottle of whisky, but alas I have not the strength for it these days. My bones begin to ache. But I am glad I have come and that these words have passed between us; I am also glad to see that your father's torch did not fall into incapable hands. Goodnight, Lord Karath."

After whatever reply, he turns and makes his way towards the door where he stops and looks back. " And please, remember what I said about the King's Men, nephew. Whatever else, the first duty of a king is to defend his people; right now, I am not sure if he can."

And with that, he limps on out.


Date added: 2014-11-28 09:53:56    Hits: 69
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