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Author Topic: Manon's Journal  (Read 1593 times)

Fiverine

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Manon's Journal
« on: April 01, 2024, 07:53:00 am »
Mother gave me this book years ago.  She said it would be good to record my thoughts and experiences here at the Laurent Estate so I could look back upon them when I eventually returned home.  This is the first time Iíve opened it.  My parents sent me here to straighten me up.  According to them, I was lazy, reckless, overweight, easily distracted, liked to wander, enjoyed luxury too much and associated with the wrong people.  They'd never tolerate even one of those things in my siblings but time and again I was able to dodge any consequences.  At first I thought I was pretty clever, but once I hit my teens I realised I could do just about anything and my parents wouldn't do much about it. 

I was a nuisance to my family, and I didn't think much of them either.  My parents are Lord Leon and Lady Apolline Sadardiel, first generation nobles.  They insisted we all introduce ourselves as 'lord' or 'lady', even little Valentin.  This makes me Lady Manon Sadardiel, fourth in line to the Sadardiel estate.  It's pretentious rubbish, but I happily exploit being a noble at every opportunity.  My father's nickname is "the Lion", at least he calls himself that.  Just to drive the point home he's covered the estate in lion statues and paintings.  Mother's a tireless worker and bookkeeper and that's about all there is to say about her.  She has no life at all outside of the estate and family.  I have her hair but little else.  My oldest brother Nael might just be the worst of the lot... intelligent, handsome, powerful, charming... ugh.  How is that fair?  Then there's the twins Anais and Yanis who think nothing matters but competing with each other.  Gods, we're doomed if either of those idiots inherit the estate.  Valentin's all right I suppose, but he's going to grow up just like the others.   

Anyway I finally crossed my parents' invisible line of tolerance when I was 15.  They found out (thanks to Anais and Yanis shadowing me and snitching)  I'd been hanging out with cultists camping by Lake Vyctoria.  They called themselves the Order of the Ascended Lady and worshipped some dead woman the lake is named after.  To me they were silly and harmless but my parents decided I'd gone too far and needed a firm hand to guide me.  They sent me east to the estate of Lord Druon Laurent, an Imperial army comrade of my father.    I was told Laurent was a fierce and strict father with equally spartan sons.  He was a mighty ranger and would teach me the hard life of fieldcraft and survival.  My parents told me if I didn't knuckle down I was in for a nightmare.  Instead, these have been the best years of my life. 

Druon (he insisted I not address him as 'Lord') reframed everything I'd believed and been told about myself.  I was bored, not lazy.  Bold, not reckless.  Robust, not fat.  Perceptive, not easily distracted.  He took me under his wing and trained me personally.  Accepting that I'm heavy and a little clumsy, he trained me in trapping and surveillance rather than sneaking and concealment.  He introduced me to his faith, that of Kozah, and said unlike his sons I had the right frame of mind to follow it.  His boys were tough warriors though, and I learned I could rely on them in a scrap.  Druon trusted me completely, and allowed me to read all the correspondence my family sent him.  I was rarely mentioned in it and my father spent most of the letters complaining about ogres.  Taking note of this, Druon trained me in how to deal with large opponents.  I came of age here at the Laurent estate, and spent the night with Druon's sons getting drunk and roaming the town.  Truly, I finally felt I belonged somewhere.

I should have known my parents couldn't allow that.  Today Druon received a letter from my mother.  For the first time he refused to allow me to read what they sent.  Instead he insisted I immediately pack my things and prepare to travel back "home" to the Sardardiel estate.  I was furious, this is my home now!  But whatever he read had unnerved him.  He mouthed the name "Nael" as he read.  I suspect my magnificent, good at everything and loved by all oldest brother has convinced my parents to take me back.  I'll give him a piece of my mind about this.  Maybe some bruises too!

My things are packed and I've boarded the carriage.  Druon gave me a fine cloak to take with me.  While I wait for the driver I've written all this down.  I'm going to take mother's advice and look back on it some day and get all pissed off at my family all over again.  Kozah take them, I was happy.  And now I'm back to their haven of judgemental and pretentious fools.  What the hell could have been so important for them to forget how much they hate me and drag me back home to them?
« Last Edit: April 02, 2024, 11:02:22 pm by Fiverine »
"I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."

Fiverine

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Re: Manon's Journal
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2024, 02:35:54 am »
The carriage journey was uneventful.  I arrived on the outskirts of the city of Conch which has grown remarkably in my years of exile.  I spent some time sneaking away from the estate and rowing there as a teenager so I am looking forward to exploring the city again.  It will be much easier to get into the taverns now.  The driver told me that a merchant guild, the university and one of the gangs mostly run Conch now.  From the farmland near Conch I took a barge to the family estate. 

The barge trip was nothing like the one by carriage.  When I left the Sadardiel lands, the Lake Vyctoria region was lush and fertile and several other noble families had prosperous estates near us.  But now those plantations are abandoned and overgrown and the manors are just burnt ruins.  "Ogres," grunted the captain when he saw me surveying the destruction.  "They call this place the Lake of Tears now, for so many have died and been wept for."   He told me my kin are the only noble family left in the region, and his tone made it clear he didn't think it would be the case for much longer.  I thought my father had been exaggerating in his letters to Druon...

It was past nightfall when I arrived at the village near the estate.  In the gloom I could tell that our own family holdings were intact and patrolled by a handful of heavily armed retainers.  Some were limping from old injuries.  My arrival had been expected and I was briskly escorted by one of the guards to the manor.  As I stepped inside I mentally prepared myself for the lecture of expectations and instructions I was about to be hammered with.  Mother would be waiting just inside the door like she always used to, ready to throw up her hands in despair about me sneaking off instead of doing my schooling and chores. 

But the manor was almost deserted, apart from the family servants who seemed almost amused to see me again.  They told me mother was exhausted and had retired early.  Father was in his study and had ordered he absolutely not be disturbed by anyone.  Valentin was asleep.  The twins were out patrolling with retainers.  The only direction left for me was to go to the armoury and tailor for fittings ahead of officially meeting my parents tomorrow.  "I demand to speak to Nael," I snapped at the servants.  Their quiet amusement evaporated immediately.  When they stammered I pushed past them and stormed up to Nael's chambers.   

I flinched when I reached his door.  It was locked and planks had been nailed over it.  Pinned to one of the planks was a tattered sign reading "Do not open by order of Lord Leon!" I must have stared numbly at the door for half a minute.  Where the hell was Nael?  Kye the steward placed a hand on my shoulder and waved away the other servants.   He spoke quietly to me. 
"Lady Manon, the house is broken.  Your brother is lost and we fear he may be dead.  Your father is shattered with grief, your mother by exhaustion.  Your elder siblings care only whom shall now be heir.  Your younger one is just a boy.  You must do something, milady.  It is time for you to grow up and serve your family properly.  Imagine how desperate your mother must be to see you of all people as an asset right now."

He almost had me until that last little jab.  I grunted and shouldered him aside on my way to the armoury.  My mood did not improve when they tried to cram me into a suit of armour that seemed to have a built in corset.  At least the evening dress is comfortable.  I am wearing it now as I perch here on my dusty bed in my familiar old room.  Tomorrow I will officially present myself to my parents and receive my orders.  I'm not worried.  Nothing they throw at me, be it an order or punishment, ever sticks.  I just have to ride this out until they send me away in disgust again.  They'll find Nael, or the twins will pull themselves together and take their roles seriously.  It's just a matter of time. 

« Last Edit: April 02, 2024, 11:02:50 pm by Fiverine »
"I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."

Fiverine

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Re: Manon's Journal
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2024, 10:31:47 pm »
Today was my formal presentation back to the family.  We did the ceremony before breakfast.  It wasn't bad so much as creepy and strange.  These aren't quite the people I left behind those years ago.  I immediately caused a problem by refusing to wear the body-crushing armour and surcoat I'd been provided with.  The armourer and tailor both had to improvise.  I was quite happy with the result but my father's dropped jaw when I entered the hall indicated he was not.  I bowed, as is expected.  Even after my absence I'm still quite adept at going through these motions without feeling a thing.

Father hugged me with a manic intensity that frightened me.  He welcomed me back, then spluttered into loud outrage about my weight and "disgraceful" custom livery.  Mother's hug was stiff, but warm.  I could tell the poor woman actually was glad to have me back.  Valentin was the happiest to see me, however.  He began rattling off everything he'd learned in numismatics while I was away, at least until father barked at him to shut up.  The twins just watched the whole scene without saying a word.  Merely nodding at my greeting, they both perched in their chairs with their arms folded.  To me they looked like a pair of praying mantises waiting to strike.  The only words I heard them speak was a quiet argument between them about who has slain the most ogres this week.  Father continued to grumble about my appearance and twitch nervously throughout breakfast. 

Then mother took over and and updated me on the situation.  House Sadardiel was indeed the only remaining noble estate at Lake Vyctoria.  The increasing frequency and intensity of ogre raids drove everyone else away.  With no other holdings my parents have agreed to stay here to the bitter end.  Many of our retainers have been killed or wounded over the years of my absence, including a few of my cousins.  But the heaviest blow was the recent loss of Nael.  He was leading the defence against an ogre raid and became separated from his lifeguard.  He was overpowered and subdued.  Rather than continue the battle, the ogres then unusually withdrew with their prize.  Father is convinced that Nael is still alive and that any day we will receive a ransom demand.  Mother did not disagree but I could tell from her grief-lined face she suspects he is dead.  Ogres generally carry people away only to eat them later so she is probably right. 

Though I've barely arrived, I was then given weighty tasks.  Using the skills that Druon taught me I am to investigate a labyrinth near our estate.  Some of our plantation workers disappeared in there recently and I am expected to venture there and learn of their fate.  I was given no information about what I might face and the retainers are refusing to go in there.  Unless I get some other help I will be delving in there alone.  Assuming I don't die "or just make a complete arse of things like you usually do" as father put it, they want me to join the search for Nael. 

Meanwhile I must make some plans of my own.  This place is going to the dogs and I need to do something.  The most we are likely to find of Nael will be his marrow-sucked bones, and who knows what dangers await me in this labyrinth the retainers are so deathly afraid of?  I fear father will completely lose his mind if Nael is confirmed dead.  Yanis or Anais are going to be made heir eventually, and I don't want to be around for that.  Mother is going to work herself to death.  But I'm bound by law and honour to my oaths to my family and this land, however I feel about that.  There aren't any nearby noble families left with a witless son I could marry myself off to.  If I just walk out I lose all the privileges that come with our title and I am certainly not giving those up.  Will finding Nael fix all this?  What if that is not possible?

I'm going patrolling for ogres with father, the twins and some retainers tonight.  After breakfast, mother quietly warned me to watch my back saying "Leon loses his wits and discipline at the sight of an ogre now, and your brother and sister care only for their headhunting."  If I am going to do anything fun or constructive around here I will need people at my side I can trust.  Nael used to have his own personal retinue, and I can understand why right now.  Odd too that mother called father "Leon" rather than "your father" when she spoke with me today.  I'd forgotten that the servants used to gossip that she'd had an affair before I was born.  Was she making a reference to that, or am I reading too much into this I wonder?
"I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."

Fiverine

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Re: Manon's Journal
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2024, 10:12:49 am »
I did something a little reckless.  Not wanting to accompany my father and the twins on their ogre patrol, I found out from a retainer named Kashia where they planned to go.  Then I went there alone ahead of the others, thinking they'd arrive to find me sitting atop a pile of ogre corpses.  I'd never fought an ogre before but imagined I was more than a match for any of them.  I wasn't exactly wrong.  One on one or even one on two I could dispatch the brutes fairly easily, but once they were aware of my presence and charged me en masse I had to beat a hasty retreat.  I expected them to be heavy hitters but underestimated how difficult they would be to injure, let alone put down.  Naturally, father's party then conveniently came riding over the crest to rescue me.  At least they didn't find me roasting on a spit, I suppose.

I know I should be grateful.  And I would have been if father hadn't launched straight into one of his "Manon you have disappointed me!" lectures, with the twins sneering and rolling their eyes at me in unison (which never stops being creepy).  They also entirely overlooked that I'd slain nearly a dozen ogres entirely on my own.  Father turned it into a big triumph for Yanis and Anais and told me and the slightly embarrassed retainers at length how amazing they are.  Nearly as good as Nael, he said.  The twins lapped it up, but once the accolades were over they began accounting for how many ogres each had slain, how effective their orders to the retainers had been and so forth.  I'm sick of them already.  They'll seize every opportunity to remind each other who should be heir now and remind me that I'm the black sheep who can't do anything right.  I decided right then that I would deny them their next opportunity for either.

The next morning, fate gave me my chance.  Whether intentionally or by mistake, Kye the steward left a letter to father on my desk.  The plantation farmers are having trouble with boulders being hurled at their defences and begged for father to send someone to do something.  I sent a reply to this Farmer Jason assuring him I'd investigate personally.  A few boulders thrown at a farmyard without a major assault following sounds like a few stray ogres, not a warband like the one I encountered on my solo patrol.  I can handle this, and I'll grab all the rewards and praise.  Not because I really want them, but because I don't want father or my siblings to get them. 

"I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."

Fiverine

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Re: Manon's Journal
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2024, 08:57:13 am »
I stayed in Laketown Hamlet a few days waiting for the next ogre movements.  It started with another rain of boulders from the hills upon the farmlands, and an ominous shaking of the earth.  Hastily I donned my armour and rushed to the scene.  None of the Laketown guards followed me, insisting they needed to protect the town.  The farmers were both relieved and surprised to see Lord Sadardiel had apparently sent one of his own children to the scene. 

Then it was my turn to be surprised when two saurian creatures arrived behind me.  For one awful moment I thought they were part of the attack but in fact they had heard the ruckus and come to aid the farmers.  One was clearly draconic in origin, and called himself Zephor.  I had never met such a being before and had in fact thought them to be legendary.  He seemed cultured and friendly, though had the greedy gleam in his eyes I had been told the draconic possess.  His companion was Lezkin, a sadly addled lizardfolk who was adamant that he is a half-dragon too.  Lezkin was a less comforting ally, being crude and incapable of being silent for any length of time.  But without them I would be venturing alone, so I accompanied them into the farmlands. 

The ogres were atop the hill as expected and quickly fell bloodily to our assault.  I spotted the mine entrance they had used to reach the hilltop and we followed their trail in and confronted a much larger band of ogres.  This battle was much closer fought and we were separated on a few occasions, but once again we broke the ogres.  Their leader was a shaman who in his grunting speech swore retribution upon us as he fled.  His spells were far more impressive than his nerve.  I allowed my saurian allies to keep the bulk of the creatures' plunder, only taking those things for myself that obviously belonged to my family. 

There were two such things- a sword and a shield.  Both were magnificent items of war and bore the heraldry of the Sadardiel family.  A hidden compartment on the shield contained a letter written to my brother Nael.  They were his!  This did not bode well for his fate, and I wondered if his bodily remains were in one of the piles of ogre dung in the mine.  Intriguingly, the letter and some other paperwork in the shield detailed the requirements and construction of an artifact of Valstiir.  The Lake of Tears was originally named after Archmage Vyctoria Valstiir so surely anything bearing her name must be powerful.  Indeed, the lakeside cultists I used to fraternise with worshipped her as a goddess.  I don't have the required apparatus to build it yet but it is certainly something worth pursuing. 

There is only one complication.  Nael.  I already suspected he was dead, but finding his personal sword and shield amongst ogre loot is all but proof of his death.  I suppose I will have to tell my parents about it.  I'm keeping the sword and shield whatever they say.  But I shudder to think how father will react.  The letter hidden in the shield indicated that Nael was searching for the items to build Valstiir's  artifact on behalf of someone else.  Was he working outside the family?  I suppose he always did seem just too perfect.  Perhaps before I inform my parents I should do a quick search of his chambers, assuming I can get in at all...

"I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."

Fiverine

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Re: Manon's Journal
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2024, 09:39:01 am »
Zephor contacted me to let me know he and his group were assembling in Laketown and I could meet them there for an outing.  I had lots of family matters I had been directed to attend to, so naturally I skipped those and went to Laketown.  I was expecting just him and Lezkin but was a little alarmed when he had two other companions.  A mage of few words who kept his helmet on at all times, and a kobold who proudly said he was "Zephor's first disciple".  They were seeking a tree by Lake Vyctoria and wanted me to come along for reasons that still escape me.  My initial thought was they wanted a human along to negotiate but it became quickly apparent they weren't terribly interested in much I had to offer.  Oddly enough the addled lizardman Lezkin was the only one who had anything resembling a normal conversation with me.  He's a bit witless but easily the nicest one of the lot and even asked if I'd had any luck finding Nael yet.  I thought Zephor seemed a decent leader until later events showed him to be disturbingly unstable. 

I accompanied this motley group on a rowboat trip across the lake where we arrived at a neighbouring estate owned by commoners.  I didn't know them, and the guards had barricaded our path and ignored our hails.  We found a cave opening hidden nearby and entered.  My thought was we were bypassing the estate though Zephor told us he expected danger, so we all went in fully armed and prepared.  We emerged in the basement of a building and were attacked by human guards.  In the chaos we slew them all but one, and in the interrogation I learned that this estate belonged to another half-dragon, a silver. one.  Our party seemed surprised at this development, but Zephor's comrades were also delighted by the possibility of their leader meeting a lady half-dragon. 

We fought our way through more rooms.  Diplomacy was of little use for we were invaders.  Eventually we confronted the lady of the estate, a silver half-dragon named Argentia.  Things seemed calm if a little strained at first.  Zephor said the entire matter was a misunderstanding and he merely wanted information.  Some gibberish about apotheosis for his friends.  Lezkin then accused her of committing some massacre.  Things turned even darker when someone mentioned the word "hoard".  This changed Zephor's mood completely.  He seemed consumed by greed and rage and a fight broke out.  I wasn't sure what to do at first but Argentia was powerful and I feared what might happen if she was victorious.  So I stepped in and joined my scaly allies and Kozah willed that it was my blow that felled the woman. 

The rest of them lost all control then.  They began frantically searching the manor for this hoard of Argentia's, even as more guards stumbled upon us.  In the chaos I was separated and forced to fight some of the guards alone.  They were not impressive warriors but there were a lot of them.  Fortunately I stumbled out of the estate alive and joined the rest of them.  They were ecstatic.  They'd found treasure and even more they'd claimed the estate for their own.  The wizard paid me an insultingly small share of the coins of their plunder, but they did allow me to keep a nice pair of boots from the hoard.  Then the group then split up and departed.  I headed home, confused and a little worried. 

Zephor and his friends, assuming they are able to retain control Argentia's estate, are now my family's neighbours.  It is fortunate that I seem to be on good terms with them, but I highly doubt my parents will be pleased by this development.  I fear too that I was manipulated into being a part of their raid on the estate.  Was it all a misunderstanding or did they go in there intent on murdering that creature and stealing its home?  I honestly didn't want to kill that half-dragon woman, but my newfound allies are unpredictable and don't listen to me.  First though I must find a way to tell father about this that doesn't make me sound gullible or incompetent.  I'd rather let him assume (as usual) that I am those things than have it immediately obvious from my words. 
« Last Edit: April 21, 2024, 08:17:30 pm by Fiverine »
"I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."