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    The Silver Wolf-For Crown Or Country: Castles And Dreams
    Posted on Mon, March 25, 2019 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "

    “Besides, you never know what the future might hold,” Xavener said, still smiling.

    Norreck stopped smiling as he looked curiously at his son.

    “Do you remember our last chess game, father?” Xavener said, his smile widening.

    Norreck nodded as Xavener laughed again.

    Chapter Two

    Castles And Dreams

    Zelradton was the capital of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy’s South Province. It was a military fortress of a city, a behemoth of stone and steel that stood out all the more from the beautiful, lightly forested grasslands around it and the majestic Iron Hills some miles to the south. It was home to several of Aerdy’s great Celestial Houses, those noble families that formed the country’s aristocracy. The city had representatives from the militaristic House Naelax, the compassionate House Cranden, and the wealthy House Darmen, among others. Most of the members of the Celestial Houses gathered in Zelradton itself to meet on affairs of state and resolve disputes between them, but they preferred to live on their own estates outside the city.

    These estates were often ostentatiously and grandly decorated, a testament to the Celestial Houses’ wealth and influence. The estates were also smaller fortresses unto themselves, places where the nobles could defend themselves against external threats…and from each other, as they often had good reason to.

    Xavener Norreck Del Darmen stood in the main parkland of his family’s estate, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine and the faint sound of singing birds as he worked on his latest painting. He was a fresh-faced youth of sixteen, with the tanned skin and brown hair that so personified the Oeridian race. His kindly expression and lean, athletic build spoke of a young man who was perfectly at ease with the world around him. He was dressed in the blue and gold clothes of a young man of fashion. His jewelry reflected his stature as a prince of one of the Great Kingdom’s richest noble families, from the ruby pendant around his neck to the rings of coral and hematite and gold and sapphire on his hands to the belt of diamonds around his waist.

    Xavener applied a few more brushstrokes before he stood back to admire his work so far. He took a sip of the Celenese claret he’d poured, smiling at his success. The painting was of the beautiful landscape around the Cranden estate. Everything from the clouds of the sky above him to the woodlands surrounding the estate to the stark beauty of the Iron Hills in the distance was perfectly captured, almost seeming to come to life under Xavener’s brush. The only thing that stood out was the large, majestic castle that occupied the centre of the painting. Unlike the ugly brutish appearance of Zelradton, the castle in Xavener’s painting was breathtakingly beautiful, a palace fit for Overking Ivid V himself.

    Xavener was distracted from his admiration by the angry footsteps he heard coming up from behind him. Turning around, he greeted his father Norreck Locan Del Darmen, master of the estate. Norreck shared his son’s tanned skin and brown hair, but his flashing eyes and narrow profile made him look like a fierce old bird of prey. His hair was silver and brown and his face heavily lined, reflecting his years navigating the intrigues of Aerdy high society. He was dressed similarly to his son, only less flamboyantly. While his son wore several pieces of glittering jewelry, he only wore an emerald and platinum ring on his right hand.

    Norreck scowled at Xavener, who merely smiled and bowed in greeting.

    “How nice to see you, Father,” Xavener said, a polite, welcoming smile crossing his face. “Would you care for some claret?”

    “What I’d care for is to know why you went into my wine cellar without permission,” Norreck said with a scowl, looking at the bottle and glass on the table next to Xavener’s easel. “That Celenese claret doesn’t come cheap, you know.”

    “I’m your heir, Father,” Xavener said, the smile never leaving his face. “As such, I should be learning to use our house’s facilities as a proper head of household ought to, so that I will be ready to fulfill my duties when the time comes. After all, wouldn’t you expect me to live up to the fine example you set for me?”

    Norreck didn’t reply, instead puffing out his chest a bit. He looked past Xavener to see his son’s painting, and raised an eyebrow.

    “What a grand castle,” he said. “Pity it’s little more than a dream.”

    “What do you mean?” Xavener asked.

    “Herzog Chelor would never allow such a castle to be built in South Province,” he said, referring to the overall ruler of South Province, second only in power to Overking Ivid V himself. “Neither would Ivid, for that matter. It outshines even their palaces.”

    Xavener laughed at that.

    “Even the Herzog and the Overking, for all their tyranny, have made no laws against dreaming,” he said with a smile.

    Norreck smiled back at Xavener despite himself.

    “Besides, you never know what the future might hold,” Xavener said, still smiling.

    Norreck stopped smiling as he looked curiously at his son.

    “Do you remember our last chess game, father?” Xavener said, his smile widening.

    Norreck nodded as Xavener laughed again.

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