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Old May 8, 2019, 10:22 PM   #1
Justinian
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[Caronis Keep] Quasi nanos, gigantium humeris insidentes (Veleraen)

Just before Spring, Era XXVI PF

Two and a half brightenings ago...

"Fetch the kid."

A moment later, and Constable Antigone returned to the Captain's Office with Justinian in tow. Captain Lucius Andronicus of the Rynshaven Parish barracks was a quiet, unassuming man. Grey at his temples was the only real indication of his middle age; he was still healthy and fit, and his clean shaven face was creased only by wrinkles on his brow and very faint frown lines, as if a lifetime's worth of hard thinking and contemplation had left an echo of their toll. His shoulder length reddish-brown hair was tied into a tail and hung down his back, and he wore a small pair of spectacles on the bridge of his nose. The Captain glanced up as Antigone swung his door open and ushered the youth inside before her, but Lucius raised a hand to bid her stop.

"Thank you, Antigone. Please, enjoy the rest of your evening. Oh, and check for mice on your way out, if you wouldn't mind."

The scarred guardswoman nodded with a grin, saluted her Captain, and went to go 'check for mice'; a phrase the City Guard had adopted to mean 'ensure no one is listening to our conversation'. Justinian glanced around the office in silence as Lucius continued to write at his large oak desk. The Captain's decor was minimalistic but tasteful, with small trinkets upon his desk made by his children, a display mount on the wall that housed his personal longsword, and most prominently, a banner on the far wall that displayed the proud Lion of Prime against it's field of black and gold. Justinian wasn't regularly called into the Captain's personal office, his duties usually assigned by his Watch Commander, and so the young guard waited patiently for what he could only assume was to be an unorthodox request or command. After another moment of scribbling on his parchment, the Captain returned his quill to it's inkwell and looked up at the youth before him, sliding his spectacles back up the bridge of his nose before speaking.

"Justinian." He paused, and the youth, slightly confused, just nodded once in response. "Yes, sir." The Captain looked at him quietly for a moment, his dark blue eyes contemplative and his expression difficult to read, then he leaned back in his seat.

"You've been a member of the Guard for a little while now, correct?" Justinian nodded again, "Not as long as most others here at Rynshaven sir, but a little while now, yes." The Captain nodded slowly, "Yes, and you've had an interesting tenure here. Displayed admirable bravery in that fire, you did. No infractions of policy, no violations of city or provincial law, and even no citizen complaints. In fact, a few store owners from the Merchant District have come forward personally to thank me for having your patrols assigned in their neighborhoods." Justinian felt warmth and appreciation for the generous actions of the Aelyria Prime citizenry, but he didn't allow himself to feel prideful about his record. It was his honor to serve the people of the capital, and he owed it to them to give everything of himself.

Captain Lucious, as if seeing some of this in Justinian's eyes, mused to himself. "The others in the barracks... I've heard they call you 'Lionheart'? Is this true?" The youth immediately flushed red and his shoulders slumped slightly. "Yes, sir." The Captain cracked a small grin, "Why?" Justinian sighed and somehow managed to blush an even brighter shade of red. "The night of my acceptance into the guard... some of the other fellows gave me Jaedaxian Brandy for the first time as a welcome. I was... unaccustomed to such strong spirits. In my exuberance and excitement, I may have... umm... gotten a tattoo of the Lion of Prime Province. Here." Justinian pointed on his chest where his heart was located. "After that, I believe the others made it a moniker of jest in regards to what they perceived as my enthusiasm to do the best job I could of being a city guardsman, sir."

The Captain chuckled to himself, "Well, at least your honest. I already knew that story, by the way." Lucius' blue eyes glittered with amusement. "Nothing happens in my barracks that I am unaware of, but I wanted to see how forthright you would be if I asked." Captain Lucius fell silent for a moment, then cleared his throat and leaned forward. "To the real reason I called you in here then. I have been approached by certain parties that shall remain nameless; you are not to ask who they are, and you are not to inquire as to the details of their request. They bade me choose a trustworthy member of the guard to deliver a missive to a very important individual in the province. If," Here Lucius paused, emphasizing the word, "I choose you, would you follow my orders to the utmost, guardsman Justinian?"

The youth stood taller and held his chin up, "Of course, sir. I would never betray your trust."

"Good. Then I want you to leave at first light. You will be delivering this missive," The Captain reached into a drawer in his desk and pulled out a very fine scroll of vellum parchment, bound with silk and sealed in wax with an emblem that Justinian did not recognize, "to the master of Caronis Keep. You are to deliver it into the hands of Count Veleraen de Aslan and no others. It should go without saying that the contents of this missive are for the Count's eyes alone, and that it should arrive undamaged and un-tampered with, correct?"

Justinian nodded, "Of course, sir. I understand."

"Good. You will find Caronis Keep overlooking Lake Rynum; there are markers from the King's Highway that you can follow to reach the keep itself, although it is a difficult monument to miss. I want you to head straight for the keep, deliver the missive to the Count, and return as soon as you are able. Do you understand everything I expect of you, Justinian?"

"Yes sir."

"Good, travel safe."

------------------------------------

This brightening

After retrieving his fiery tempered Juanerro, Fiasco, at first light, Justinian had set out along the King's Highway bound for Lake Rynum within the Loremark Forest. He was on familiar roads and the weather was just starting to shed the last of it's chill, so the youth had made good time on his journey. His spirits were high and he whistled to himself as he rode comfortably along, chainmail jingling beneath his black and gold tabard that announced him as an Aelyria Prime guardsman. His leather satchel was tied securely to his saddle, and within was contained the missive he was delivering. While others might have chafed at the thought of being utilized as a simple courier, Justinian did not mind. He was flattered that his Captain trusted him to deliver the missive to this reclusive Count, and the lad had kept his word to his senior officer. The missive was wrapped protectively in Justinian's own cloak to keep it safe from moisture and abrasion, and the silk binding and wax seal on the parchment were as pristine and untouched as the moment he had accepted it.

It did not take Justinian long to find the modest dirt road that led off from the King's Highway and toward Caronis Keep itself. The young man glanced around at the expanse of acreage that greeted travelers on the way to the keep; mostly uncultivated and undeveloped, though pockets of utilization could be seen here or there. The boy inside him that had grown up on Carmelya's blessed Agrarian Fields and known four full harvests each year could only wonder why the land wasn't being tilled and sewn with seed, but he chided himself on his presumptuousness and figured that a man as powerful as a Count would have his reasoning for how his land was being maintained. Finally, Justinian reached the threshold of Caronis Keep itself, and the breath whistled between his teeth. The structure was enormous! The lad craned his head back to look up toward the top of the keep, and though it looked about five stories high, there also appeared to be something slightly... off... about it's proportions. Everything seemed built or designed too big, or with too much height in mind, or so at least it appeared to Justinian's amateur eyes. The front entryway was gargantuan, easily over twenty feet tall and wide enough for a team of healthy oxen to pass through. Shaking his head at the enormity of the keep, the guard rode Fiasco up into the roundabout that marked the fortress' entrance and dismounted from the Juanerro. The youth glanced at the small garden centerpiece within the roundabout and smiled at it's subdued, modest beauty, then turned his attention to the keep's doorway.

He patted his horse on the nose and stared up at the enormous door before him. "Well, I suppose we're here." The lad muttered to himself. He looked over at the rope that hung beside the doorway, shared a glance and a shrug with Fiasco, then reached out and gave the rope a solid pull with his right hand.

"DONG!" The sound filled the air, and Justinian waited patiently for a response from within.
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Old May 9, 2019, 11:51 AM   #2
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Caronis proper was slowly recovering from the winter's chill. As Justinian rode along the dirt road, most fields lay fallow, some for grazing, some waiting for the right time to be planted. Like many other corners of the kingdom, it was a quaint, quiet place, hidden away slightly in the Loremark Forest near Lake Rynum. This was the place that the Count had chosen when he received his title and he had never regretted it. It was a small piece of Aetheria away from it all.

As Justinian approached closer to the village around the Keep, the main dirt road turned more into a gravel and stone mix. Around the main road, he could see that the buildings in many places were grown from trees, not made by hand. There were certainly pieces that had been man-made during the early stages of growth at Caronis but with the assistance of Aydyn and his Castellan, Lady Birch, homes had been almost woven from nature itself. The druids had certainly left their mark upon this place and travelers did not tend to forget it.

The keep itself appeared quite large to those who did not know the Count personally. It seemed out of proportion and oddly configured but unknown to the young man from Prime, it was quite suited to the person inside.

A resounding echo passed through the keep as Justinian ran the bell and it was not long before he saw a small door that was inset inside the large double doors open and a young woman step out. She was dressed in a tabard coloured in blue, white and gold, sporting the symbol of Verus Fides upon her chest; a golden shield, inset with a deeper gold and two battle axes intersecting it and a half sun rising just behind. This was Carah Ashondotter, one of the faithful knights of Verus Fides, who guarded the keep. She was mostly blonde, braided tightly in one large braid that went down past her shoulders, fairly lean but conditioned and wore chain armour and carried a short sword at her hip and a shield on her back. A small smile broached her lips but nothing more as she looked at the young man who had rung the bell.

"Welcome to Caronis Keep. May I ask what business brings you to the keep?" While there were some people who came and went from Caronis on a regular basis, they could be trusted. Justinian however was a fresher face and standard procedure here now applied.

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Old May 9, 2019, 10:37 PM   #3
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A single eyebrow raised very slightly as a young blonde woman clad in chainmail, tabard and armed with a sword opened a smaller inset door that led into the keep itself. Justinian hadn't known what to expect, but an armed and armored figure wasn't the first thing that he thought to find. He also did not recognize the distinctive and fierce looking sigil that adorned her tabard, nor did he recognize the livery of color and pattern represented upon it. Perhaps it was the Count's personal heraldic coat of arms, he reasoned to himself, and this woman was a member of his private armed force. Having little to no experience with the upper echelon of nobility, this seemed rational enough to Justinian, and the young man gave a small bow from the hip at the woman's greeting.

"Greetings," He began in what he hoped was his most official sounding voice; a tone undermined by his youthful features and perpetually mussed and disobedient brown hair, "My name is Justinian, guardsman of Aelyria Prime's Rynshaven District. I come on behalf of Guard Captain Lucius Andronicus, bearing a message for Count Veleraen de Aslan of Caronis Keep." Here the lad placed a protective hand on the satchel that he'd removed from his saddle and hung around his torso, "I was instructed to deliver the document to the Count personally, and I apologize for the inconvenience if this is an uncommon practice, but I am afraid that I must insist on fulfilling my task as ordered."

The young guard gave the blond woman a small, crooked smile to try and take any perceived edge from his words, hoping that she understood that he considered himself honor bound to complete his duties.

The lad stood straight and tall, trying to appear as official as possible, and awaited the woman's response.
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Old May 10, 2019, 10:51 AM   #4
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Carah Ashondotter looked the young man up and down very briefly and gave very slight nod of the head as Justinian explained his business at Caronis. "Very well, please, follow me." She stepped back through the portal in the door and motioned for him to follow her.

As Justinian walked into the keep, the lit from outside dimmed at the edge of his eyes to reveal the main entryway. The ceiling reached a good twenty feet high and solid stone encompassed them on both sides. Three sets of two squared off pillars, spaced out a good twenty feet or so in-between sets were placed all the way up to where they see another set of steel doors just like the ones behind them. To the left and right of that other set of doors were hallways that were illuminated by torches, their depths unknown.

In the flicker of the torch light in the front entryway were banners that kicked up now and then as a slight breeze blew through them. At least ten feet long, several of them were hung down each side of the entryway, a few of them bearing the similar crest that they saw on the front doors except the primary colour of gold illuminated the earthen shield and grey steel. Other banners bearing the crest of a lion and shield could be seen, a golden mane and red and black opposing one another vertically divided. Another crest bared the crest of a stag's head with two spears behind it, a dark green background behind it.

The young Dame Ashondotter walked a normal pace down the front entryway towards the steel doors at the end and stopped for a moment. "If you would please wait here a moment, I must check to see if the Count is available. Thank you." With that, she opened the doors a crack and slipped into the main hall beyond. Justinian could hear a deeper voice talking to the woman and a few moments later, the young guardsman saw the woman re-appear. "The Count will see you now. Please, this way."

Dame Ashondotter opened the double doors even more to reveal a grand hall. It stretched what seemed like over a hundred or perhaps almost two hundred feet back, solid stone lining the floor to the back where a roaring fireplace sat against the back wall. In the middle of the room, an intricately carved circular table sat that had a bronze inlay of the crest of the knighthood in the middle of it. It could have easily sat fifty men and in one section of the table, it was elevated slightly to accommodate a larger person. Heavy ashen chairs with padded arms lined the table as it went around, the tops and ends of the chair arms were carved into lion's heads.

Off to the side was a pair of Verus Fides banners and off in the corner on either side of the hall were two doors, one lead into a kitchen, and the other down a hallway towards the barracks.

The air was somewhat brisk that brightening as the coat of winter was beginning to shed itself all around them. To the left wall of the hall was a large stone hearth that bore a fire as equally as exuberant for the brightening's affairs. In front of that fire however was the man, or Giant, Justinian was looking for.

Standing over fifteen feet tall, the Count Veleraen was standing watching the fire, minding his own thoughts. With a chest almost four or five men across and limbs like trees, he wore a uniform very similar to that of the other knights that tended the keep with a few exceptions. Upon his frame, the young guardsman could see a set of crystalline chains that looked like they belonged attached to a ship's anchor. Their linkages cascaded in radiant hues of blue, green and gold and wrapped around his waist, up around his torso and shoulders and down his arms. Ending at his wrist, on his right side, Justinian noticed the Count's hand looked metallic in nature with a golden hue.

As Justinian approached, Veleraen turned to look at the young man who had come to deliver a message to him and the messenger could see now the Count's full visage. Scarred beyond reason, Veleraen was truly a sight to behold as his face, down his neck and disappearing down beyond his clothing were intricate lines of scarring that looked hand-carved in nature. Runes and symbols of faith carved into his skin in patterns marred him like the text of a book. Veleraen was mostly bald with a skull-locked reddish ponytail at the back that was braided and went down past his shoulders. Hardened eyes that shifted halcyon colours like the motion of the waves in an ocean looked upon Justinian accompanied by a pleasant smile. Justinian could feel a wave of energy flow through him, a pleasant feeling of warmth, instilling his heart with a fervor of sorts. It was almost as if he could feel Aslan himself emanating from the Titan, a feeling that the Honour Bound was here in this room with them both.

"Serale, young Justinian. I hear you have a letter for me." His voice was deep but calm as he spoke to the young guardsman and knelt down slightly next to the fire so that Justinian did not feel like he was being towered over. The Titan knew all too well over the eras that people did not like the feeling of being loomed over by someone of his size. It tended to make them feel a bit uncomfortable.

"I guess with the Lylles ceasing mail operations, unorthodox methods of delivery of parcels must now be common place. I must say, I have yet to have a guardsman from Aelyria Prime deliver such documents for me." The Titan let out of a belly chuckle and put out his hand to receive the delivery.

"Tell me, was your journey here without issue? Do you require a meal or a bed for the darkening ahead?"
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Old May 10, 2019, 10:19 PM   #5
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Breathing a quiet sigh of relief at the woman's confident acquiescence to his request, Justinian gladly followed her into Caronis Keep proper. As he trailed a few paces behind her, the young guard's eyes were drawn to various points of the magnificent construction that was evident in the keep's structure, from the smallest of details to the overwhelming enormity of the scale in general. The sensation that things felt just slightly overly large, though proportioned correctly to fit the enlarged scale, did not change as one walked through Caronis' halls. Justinian's eyes were then drawn toward the banners as the pair walked by, and he felt the corners of his mouth curl into an uncontrollable grin as he admired the intricate artwork that depicted the various heraldry. It seemed like a sight from the stories of his boyhood come to life before his eyes, and it filled the youth with no small sense of awe.

Upon reaching the steel doors and hearing the woman's request that he wait a moment, Justinian gave an easy nod and stood patiently, disregarding the sound of the voices that quietly floated through the air. It was not his place to eavesdrop on the conversation between a noble and his household guard. The woman reappeared moments later however, beckoning her young charge to follow into the chamber beyond.

The sight that greeted Justinian caused the lad's verdant eyes to widen with undisguised admiration. If the banners seemed to him like something from story and song, the grand hall was a place of dreams made manifest before him. How many times while laying in the warm sunlight of the Agrarian Fields had he fantasized about the austere halls of the valorous lords and ladies of the Empire? One might as well try and count the grains of sand that comprised the white beaches of Ieffreon. This immense chamber emanated a reverent and hallowed quality to the guard, somber and subtle at the moment, but with an undeniable quiet solemnity that bespoke of it's proud history and tradition. Justinian's eyes quickly darted from one point of interest to another, but they quickly alighted on the flickering hearth fire that burned at the end of the grand hall, illuminating the figure that stood before it. The figure...

Justinian blinked, momentarily not trusting his eyes. Was that a... the Count was... a Giant?

He had to be; the enormous silhouette of the man was over twice Justinian's own height and as broad as more than two human men combined. The young man paused in stunned surprise for only a moment however, quickly gathering his faculties. It would be a reprehensible breach of decorum to show any outward sign of shock at the Count's appearance; he was a man of high station after all, and Justinian would never want to embarrass himself or his Guard Captain by daring to insult this powerful figure. Drawing himself up with all of the dignity and augustness he could summon to present himself and his parcel to this Count Veleraen de Aslan, the lad began striding toward the Giant and began preparing his most courtly bow in acknowledgement of the man's rank.

It was just about when he was close enough for the details of the Count's appearance to become clearly seen that it struck.

It was like a palpable wave that suddenly rippled through Justinian's entire body, causing the young man to falter in his steps and nearly topple over. He could hear the Giant greeting him cordially and politely inquiring as to his journey and any potential needs he may have after the trip, but Justinian was momentarily stricken speechless and disoriented by the overwhelming sensation that assailed him. No... this sensation was not an assault of any kind... though it's effect was astonishing. It was... unexplainable, but extraordinarily warm and comforting and it immediately evoked thoughts and memories within Justinian's conscious mind. He was reminded of the first time as a child he had chosen to be honest and face the consequences of a mistake, rather than attempt to deceive his parents. He remembered standing up to local bullies that lived in Candaceburg proper to defend the other rural farm children like himself, an act that earned him his first bloody lip, and his first grateful smile from a stranger. These images, as well as countless others, flashed through the young guard's mind in a dizzyingly rapid succession, filling him with the sensations that accompanied any honest or honorable moment of his brief life. The sensation wasn't pride... for pride smacked of self-importance. It was... satisfaction, contentment, a rightfulness between body and spirit. Harmony.

Justinian reached a shaky hand out to one of the nearby chairs to steady himself, his eyes fixed on the now close figure of the large Count. His wide green eyes glittered in the firelight as they roamed over the Giant's various physical attributes, but notably lingering on the shifting and near hypnotic beauty of the crystalline chains that bound the Count's upper body. The guard tried desperately to answer Veleraen's words of greeting, but his own words came out stammering and indecipherable. Taking a quick breath to try and compose himself, the youth looked up into the Giant's face with a desperately apologetic expression across his own countenance.

"I... I am so sorry, my lord! I... I don't know what... what came over me. Please, your lordship, forgive my manners. I... I don't know... what..." Suddenly seeing Veleraen's extended hand and remembering the entire reason for his visit, Justinian whirled into his satchel and fumbled around inside for a moment, pulling out his bundled threadbare and worn roughspun cloak and removing the missive from within. The carefully rolled parchment was still pristine, despite the lad's current state, and the wax seal that encased the message's binding was untouched and undisturbed. The youth exhaled deeply and quickly took another few steps toward the Count, reaching out to place the missive in the other man's enormous hand.

"Here you are, my lord. I swear on my honor that the contents of the missive are secure." Even referring to the concept of honor caused the youth's head to swim again for a moment, but the overwhelming nature of the strange sensation was softening, leaving instead a comforting and engaging feeling that drew Justinian's consciousness toward it like a moth to a flame. Realizing that he still hadn't answered Veleraen's kind inquiries, Justinian tried to gather the shards of what dignity remained to him and stammered another response.

"Very kind of you to ask after my journey, my lord. It was without issue, and it was... it is... an honor to be of service to you." What in the world was wrong with him, the lad wondered desperately? He couldn't stop referring to honor! Impossible though it seemed, the very air itself seemed inundated with an aura of virtue. "I couldn't begin to impose upon your generosity, my lord. I appreciate your most gracious offer, but my needs are few and I would not want to trouble you or your household."

Justinian's expression indicated that he wanted to say more, but the young guard stopped himself from speaking further. He simply smiled at the remarkable figure before him; a warm and genuine smile, stirred by the radiance that Veleraen emanated to those in his proximity, and he hoped that he hadn't made too great a fool of himself before this incredibly notable individual.
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Old May 13, 2019, 03:23 PM   #6
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Veleraen was not exactly expecting Justinian's stumbling and stammering as he approached the Titan. Perhaps it was because he was now used to everyone in the village and keep knowing exactly who he was and what he looked like. It had not been like that before, as when he ventured across the empire, he got more than his fair share of glances. Now that he had sequestered himself at Caronis for a few eras, those memories had faded and Justinian's arrival had seemingly carried forward the past to the present once more.

A small smile cracked his lips and a chuckle to follow as he found the man's features and words to be a little humourous. Upon first glance, the young guardsman from Aelyria Prime seemed well put together and filled with a bit of youthful vigor. The inexperience of dealing with nobility shining through greatly however, using Lord instead of Glory. However, Veleraen was not a real stickler for protocol as his titles were more thrust upon him than pursued. The Titan was not a typical noble nor was he one to let a man stumble on his words and let embarrassment wash over him without a word of reassurance.

"It is quite alright. I can assume that whoever sent you here did not warn you of what or who to expect to receive said letter, except for my name. Yes?" Veleraen chuckled again as he took the sealed letter and tucked it safely inside his uniform. "Well, thank you for delivering it safely to me. These are important documents that I will require not too far down the road..." Thoughts weighed upon him at that instant as he thought of how Igrainne was going to react when he told her the news.

Veleraen walked over to the enormous table that was in the centre of the hall they were standing in. There was a pitcher of some sort of liquid in it and a couple of tankards next to it. The Giant poured the frothy contents of it into one mug, then the other. "It is of no trouble, please, accept our hospitality. Rest for but a moment if you wish but you are our guest." His deep voice washing over the crackling of the hearth. He walked back with a few large thumps of his feet and reached down and offered a drink to the young Justinian. The drink itself carried a light scent of honey and if tasted had a somewhat oak-like aftertaste that was smooth.

"And please, call me Veleraen. No need to say 'My Lord'. Honestly, I hate using those stupid titles. I do it whenever required for proper decorum, but here, we are men and we can speak simply as men." He offered a smile and raised his tankard to take a sip of the ale that he had poured for them both.

"So, Justinian, it is rather odd they send a guardsman of Prime to deliver a message instead of a courier. Did they say why they sent you specifically?" He tried to shake the young man's nerves out of him by gracing him with a little more conversation instead of awkward silence. The Titan was probably the king of awkward silences, especially at social gatherings. Half the time no one wanted to engage in conversation with a being as large as he was or intimidating as he appeared. The other half of the time, Veleraen's reluctance to engage ended kind words rather quickly as he retreated.
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Old May 13, 2019, 11:29 PM   #7
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Justinian nodded in visible relief at the Count's understanding and charitable reception of his faux pas. The youth still didn't understand what in the world had overwhelmed him as he neared the Giant, and though the sensation remained, it had become a gentle ebb of inspiring luminosity that filled Justinian's heart like the light from a torch filled a dim chamber. He watched as Veleraen poured two mugs of some sumptuous looking ale, and the lad was immediately aware of how dry his mouth had become during the last few moments. He nodded gratefully as Veleraen handed him a mug and took a healthy sip, relishing the cool and flavorful beverage, but he did not imbibe further. It wouldn't do to let the drink go to his head and cause him to have an unfortunate repeat of his earlier blunder.

"Very kind of you, my... ahem, Veleraen. Thank you very much for your kindness. It would be an honor to accept your hospitality."

The Count's smile and easy, comfortable manner began to allow Justinian to feel more at ease in the impressive figure's presence. Though the towering man was still a walking tapestry of fascinating visual focuses, experience with the vast multitude of Aelyria Prime's denizens had acclimated the youth somewhat to new and unfamiliar social interactions. Besides this, the lad could feel questions boiling inside him at the sheer staggering number of compelling things he had felt and seen upon entering Caronis Keep. He would be remiss to burden the Count with such a juvenile display of excitement though, and instead he kept his eager curiosity in check. Veleraen had asked a question of his own however, and Justinian paused a moment in thought before answering.

"I believe, though I can't be certain of course, that whomever needed the delivery sent to you thought that a guardsman might prove more reliable than a courier, m-Veleraen." Damn, almost did it again, Justinian thought and took another small sip of his ale, hoping it would loosen him up just a little bit. "I couldn't say for sure though. I've known guards I wouldn't trust with an empty sack, and I've seen couriers who would deliver a chest of gold across three provinces for a handful of copper. I suppose it all comes down to the person in question. As for why my Captain chose me..." The youth paused, drawing his brow together in thought. "I can't begin to guess his reasoning; although it is widely known that Captain Andronicus doesn't even visit the privy without an ulterior motive of some kind." Justinian's eyes opened wide in surprise at his lack of decorum. "Gods above, apologies for that! It's just something we repeat to one another in my barracks."

"Anyway," The young guard pressed on, trying to move forward from the comment, "it wouldn't surprise me if the Captain had a purpose in mind for sending me particularly to meet with you. Perhaps he, or even you, would be better able to discern that purpose than I. Oh!" Justinian immediately perked up, smiling broadly. "Perhaps there is a service I can perform for you? Is that it? A task that you need done? I would be absolutely honored to be of service to someone like yourself, Veleraen." The lad suddenly realized that his last statements had come out in an energetic rush of enthusiasm, and he gave a small, self-conscious smile. "Apologies again for my presumption, I can get carried away at times with my exuberance. I've something of a reputation among my fellows; always too eager to rush to someone's aid, too ready to give of myself to help another. I don't see these as faults though... but many of my fellows would disagree with me."

Realizing he was rambling to subvert the lingering vestiges of his discomfort, Justinian made himself pause and take a deep breath. He turned his youthful smile back up toward Veleraen again and waited for the Count to get another word or two in edgewise before speaking further.
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Old May 14, 2019, 04:27 PM   #8
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Ah, youthful exuberance. He could see a bit of himself in Justinian as he listened to the young man explain his suspicions for his being sent here instead of a regular courier. The remark about Captain Adronicus made Veleraen let out a loud belly laugh as he could imagine him in his mind's eye right now. The Titan had met many personalities over the years that fit that exact profile and could relate to Justinian on that front.

"My ears have heard far worse..." His chuckle faded as he continued. "I served in the Veldar Elite in Zerdargia for many eras and then the Order of the Black Rose. The dwarves said things in their sleep worse than that." The Titan grinned as he took a sip of his mug and let Justinian finish his piece.

While many might have found Justinian's excitement and eagerness to be annoying, it was a bit of fresh air for Veleraen. Granted, he had been exposed to the likes of Duncan Sythe, Tiyribi Andares and Alexis Sapientia. Anyone like Justinian would be a sight for sore eyes compared to those rigid souls. Youth might have been wasted on the young but Justinian clearly had some purpose held within his heart. The Titan had started out exactly the same way when he had first left home for a different walk of life.

The mention of a task brought Veleraen out of his own thoughts and back to reality as he considered the question with some deliberation. "I cannot say that there is anything I could have you do around here. Most of my knights and other staff here do what is needed to be done but I do appreciate the offer. Caronis is a quiet place I am afraid but perhaps, you can stay with me a bit longer and speak. It has been a while since I have had company." He dragged his large chair over to the fire and another smaller one that one of the knights would have used. The chairs themselves were wooden with steel reinforcements. Lion heads adorned the end pommels of the chair arms and the backs had the same familiar insignia carved into them that Veleraen wore upon his uniform.

The large frame of the Titan descended into his seat with a heavy sigh as he took a load off, so to speak. "I can only assume that my barristers wished to employ a reliable delivery to myself and employed the assistance of the guard, only to receive you as their deliveryman." He raised a mug to cheers the successful delivery and took another sip.

A peering, hazy eye scanned Justinian's features once more and a small smirk crept across his lips as he took one final sip. "Your friends are wrong about such qualities being faults..." His statement was someone ominous in nature but truth was easy to spot among lies. "The world needs more people who show such character. Especially after the devastation of the war with the Xet and the internal strife of the kingdom itself. The guard is lucky to have you Master Justinian."
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Old May 15, 2019, 05:37 AM   #9
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The lad's smile widened as Veleraen laughed heartily, and Justinian felt his sense of ease growing more comfortable around the large man. It was of course beyond presumptuous to assume anything about this noble figure that he had just met barely minutes ago, but for some reason, the young guard, with his naturally empathetic nature, felt as though the Giant carried some intangible burden upon his mighty shoulders. It was the eyes; they were clear and sharp, yet tinged with an emotion that the youth could not identify, as if those eyes had seen much and resounded with an echo of the trials they had witnessed. Perhaps is was no more than the burden of nobility and authority, perhaps something more esoteric, or perhaps it was nothing but Justinian's imagination. Never the less, it made the young man happy to see the Count smile so genuinely.

At Veleraen's mention of his past service record, Justinian's eyes widened considerably, but he, thankfully, was able to contain most of his outward display of excitement. His breath escaped in a low exhale however, and he felt a growing sense of awe for the figure before him. The Veldar Elite were a heavily decorated unit, noted for their peerless valor and tenacity in battle, and anyone who considered themselves a student of the Empire's military history would have heard of them. However... the Order of the Black Rose? That was an entirely different catagory of service. Men and women so singularly distinguished and field tested, so unquestioningly loyal to the rulers of the nation, that they were given the honor of protecting the safety of the standing soverign with their own lives. Even the most humble of milkmaids or most uneducated of fishermen had heard of the heroes of the Black Rose; the pinnacle of chivalric service to the Kingdom and the Empire it would grow into. Justinian felt a shiver run down his spine, his thoughts flashing back to silly boyhood dreams while clutching an old plow blade cold hammered by his loving father until it vaugely resembled a sword and running across the Agrarian Fields shouting his fierce boyish cries. To share a drink with one of these legends...

No, Justinian refused to do him the disservice of treating him in any manner besides that which he had indicated he desired. The Count had been gracious and comfortable with the lad, and Justinian would not repay that kindness with awkward or overwhelming adulation.

"I'm certain the Dwarves said many interesting things in their sleep, Veleraen. With their size, lying in bedrolls and with a man of your stature walking about, I'd be making all the noise I could as well. Survival mechanism." Justinian gave a crooked smile and an easy wink up at the Giant, hoping to continue to bring a small bit of mirth into his brightening.

The young man then nodded his understanding as Veleraen politely explained that he had all of the resources he required for any needs he may have easily at hand. Of course, what with the heraldry in the halls, it stood to reason that the Count would have a retinue of knights and aides to assist him in his duties. At the mention of remaining to speak further, Justinian immediately nodded his assent, perhaps displaying a bit of his youthful excitement again. He lifted his mug, "It would be an honor and a privilege to speak more with you, Veleraen. I am grateful for the opportunity." The young guard wondered if this had been Captain Andronicus' intention; that the two should meet and speak. Perhaps he wanted to show the young guardsman a true example of an Aeylrian hero. Regardless, be it design or fortuitous happenstance, Justinian was in no hurry to conclude his visit.

When Veleraen spoke again about the values of the aforementioned traits Justinian was often mocked for displaying, the youth blushed with pleasure at the compliment that came from such a prestigious source. He took another small sip of his ale and formulated his thoughts, trying to find the best way to articulate his feelings.

"You are very kind to say such things about me, Veleraen, but I believe myself to be the lucky one. You are of course correct about the problems that face our Empire during this period of uncertainty and recovery, but I have found, in my limited experience, that for the most humble and meek among us, their immediate worries take precedence over the larger issues that loom over our land as a whole." The youth's face grew thoughtful and serious, "That is why I consider myself lucky. I am in a position to serve and protect the unrepresented masses that struggle beyond the light of the raging fires, lost and forgotten in their shadows. I am blessed to be allowed to show kindness to a child that knows nothing of the Xetan menace, but only cares for being reunited with her mother in a crowded marketplace. I am blessed to be allowed to help an elderly man with his burdensome groceries, or protect a drunkard on his way home so that his escape from his woes does not cost him any more than he has already lost. Though some would say that I give too much weight to these benign acts, I personally believe that each act of kindness, each time we are given an opportunity to give of ourselves, contributes to bettering our world as a whole."

The young man took another small sip of ale before continuing, an almost guilty expression crossing his features. "Though... I would be lying if I said I was, in my heart of hearts, entirely fulfilled. Unlike those who see only their own world directly before them, I can not help but look at the larger picture. I sometimes wish I could expand what small influence I have tasted, that I could extend my shield to protect more and greater people and causes. Though I consider myself lucky for the opportunity to make my neighborhood a better place, I pray to the Gods that they one day see me fit to help make the Empire a better place as well."
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Old May 16, 2019, 04:39 PM   #10
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Justinian surely had a noble cause ahead of him. Extending one's shield to protect others was quite selfless in itself but to consider this in addition to the greater picture...well, he surely had some work in front of him. Veleraen knew this all too well. He had for the longest time, tried to be the immovable wall in front of that which would seek to swallow the Light. It had broken him too many times and too many times did he falter. The realm of mortals was something to be reckoned with and there was simply too many shadows out there to expose to the light.

The first lesson was recognizing that one could only do so much and that had to be enough. Trying to cross that line meant dire consequences, as Veleraen had once learned trying to over-extend that reach to protect that which he coveted. In the end, it had caused irreparable harm to his Lord's home and had helped a Meephosian insurgence into Aetheria itself.

"You carry quite lofty aspirations for such a young man, it is quite admirable to see such motivation in soul." His eyes flashed very briefly to Justinian and then to his ale which he drank out of once more and licked his lips. It was never too early to drink in the brightening, earlier the better these days.

"Showing kindness and protecting those who cannot defend themselves is a stepping stone to a better life for not only yourself but for others as well. Committing to a community betters others and in turn the world around you." Veleraen nodded as he admired the young man's wisdom. If only more of his age understood more intricacies like these. He could see the hints of naivety but could not blame Justinian's lack of experience. The man was as young as he was and nothing but Kalendryas herself could change that.

"I admire your ambition, Master Justinian. There is no denying what the soul desires. How you speak of such things, makes me believe that you can succeed at anything you put your mind to." There were many parallels being drawn in his own mind between the young guardsman and his own past. Lines that connected, point by point; something which he could not rightly ignore.

"If it is your intention to expand your actions on a grander scale, what goals did you have in mind? Tell me, what do you foresee in your future? You clearly have bigger things in mind..." The Titan's curiousity got the better of him again. He could not help but prod slightly into the man's mind. He could peer into his soul with his eyes if he wanted to judge the guardman's character but did not wish to violate such a private thing. No, he wanted to hear it himself from the mouths of babes.
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Old May 16, 2019, 10:15 PM   #11
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The young guard smiled warmly as Veleraen spoke, but he did not allow himself to become prideful at the Giant's words. Rather, he simply took comfort in the fact that there were others who shared his goals and his beliefs and had clung to those values as they ascended the social hierarchy. It felt validating to the youth, for though he had never questioned his conviction, it could be daunting to hold fast to one's ideals when so many other people around told you that you were a fool.

It was nice to know he wasn't alone.

"Your words are very kind Veleraen, and they mean more to me than you may know. I am glad that we are of a like mind on this. It truly is heart warming to meet another who shares my values."

The Count then began to steer the conversation toward what Justinian's goals might be, and the youth adopted his thoughtful expression again. Did he even have a plan, per say, or was it more of an amorphous idea of shifting notions and directions? He was aware that his knowledge of what was out in the wide world was quite limited; one did not exactly hear about everything being raised on a rural farm. Still, his mother had done her best to educate her son with the means available to her, and Justinian was blessed with a sharp mind that eagerly absorbed information as it crossed his path. He thought about his answer for a moment, and decided to be as honest and forthright as possible. The intangible aura that permeated the space around Veleraen seemed to inspire and encourage undiluted truth from the young man.

"I suppose that I have always been ambitious, after a fashion." Justinian said, smiling softly. "My mother had a saying she was fond of; 'Aim high, aim for Aetheria itself, for if you miss, you still land amongst the stars'. I always loved that notion, that idea that even failure, on a grand scale, is better than succeeding at mediocrity. If ever my story was told once my life comes to an end, I would want it to be known that, win or lose, I tried to make the world a better place than I found it by protecting those that could not protect themselves. I suppose that is where my greatest ambition lies. I want to somehow earn the right to prove myself worthy of the responsibility of protecting the people of this Empire, and the Empire itself as a whole. The tumult of this time chills me deeply, and the idea of our Empire battered and reeling from it's last assault and now facing the erosion of disillusionment truly inspires me to want to protect it as surely as if it were a vulnerable man or woman unable to defend themselves."

"My greatest dream would be to find a way to inspire the people of our Empire to rally behind the common good once again. To band together, with pride in themselves, their leaders and their land, so that never again could any external threat drive us to doubt ourselves and allow that which we have built to crumble into chaos. Those that might believe themselves altruistically championing the cause of individual liberty and provincial expatriation in the wake of our struggles with the Xet, whether they know it or not, fuel the designs of Jorel and his Aeternian host, for though the individuals might have noble intentions, their methods will surely create a storm of chaos and anarchy that will shake the foundations of order as we know it. If this can be mitigated by a rallying symbol, something that the great and the meek can look to from an equal platform and feel equally proud of, then perhaps this chaotic tide may be stemmed. Something like the ancient Knights of Aelyria maybe, who served as a tangible reminder of the virtue that men were capable of when driven to a common good, and whose efforts ushered in an Age of Chivalry such as we have never seen since."

Realizing that he was simply articulating his stream of consciousness, Justinian abruptly pulled himself out of his deep musings and smiled back at his companion.

"Of course, who would listen to a simple city guardsman regarding such notions? I'm no great general to command the ear of the aristocracy, nor am I a wealthy business mogul, nor a famous adventurer whose name rings loudly in taverns across the land. But maybe... if I keep fighting the good fight, the Gods will bless me with an opportunity to become more than I am, and that will be when I can use whatever influence gifted to me to try and unify the people of our Empire behind our common greatness. To lead such a cause requires commitment and visible demonstration however, and thus my desire and eagerness to serve, to protect, and to expand my ability to do so to whomever I can reach. I would ask no man or woman to do that which I was unwilling to do myself, so when I speak of dreams of rallying even the lowest of us and offering protection wherever it is needed, Gods witness the truth of this, you will find my shield among the very first offered."
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