CruelSummerLord writes "Standing several feet back and to the side of his father, Xavener glanced over at Herzog Chelor, who was watching the proceedings. At first glance, Chelor seemed like a greasy, overweight, pompous slob, his oily black hair never seeming to be properly washed and several days of beard stubble on his chin. Xavener noticed several faint stains on his clothes as well, stains that not even the most vigorous washing could remove, from previous debaucheries. His general behavior confirmed most peoples' initial impressions of him, but the seething look in his eyes reminded Xavener of his infamously short temper.
Chelor Loren Del Naelax, the Herzog of South Province, had been given his title and position by his cousin Overking Ivid Naelax V. His noble title stated that he was the proper ruler of the territories of Onnwal, Idee, Sunndi, but that declaration was more of an embarrassment than an honor these days. All three of those territories, along with the Free City of Irongate and the Lordship of the Isles, had broken away from South Province nearly a hundred and thirty years ago and were now independent countries. They'd formed the alliance of the Iron League to defend themselves against Aerdy aggression. The Great Kingdom had good reason to want to rule the Iron League states again, since their lands were very rich. Aerdy was also eager to avenge the humiliation of their loss.
South Province's previous ruling lines were never able to break the Iron League, and so they had all been purged by the Ivid line of Overkings. Ivid V was the latest one to do this, having Chelor's predecessor disgraced and executed before appointing Chelor as his replacement. Over the next four years, Chelor pursued his task with vigor, if not with much success. The current gathering in his court spoke to the failure of the latest scheme to undermine the Iron League.
"You're scarcely better than a traitor, Norreck," Caradoc Golias Del Naelax said with a sneer at Norreck, who only glared back at him. "I'd never have thought you'd bring this much disgrace on House Darmen or Herzog Chelor with your failure!" Caradoc was a fine figure of an Aerdi soldier, broad-shouldered and well-muscled, with the manner of someone who not only knew his skills at fighting and tactics but was proud of them both. His golden hair and bright brown eyes, to say nothing of the broadsword strapped to his back, made him stand out all the more compared to the restrained, withdrawn Norreck.
Norreck did well to keep up a brave face, but he was trembling inside. His plan to subvert the County of Idee seemed like a good one, using a double agent to arrange the murders of many Ideean aristocrats and replace them with agents of House Darmen. Unfortunately, a band of Ideean adventurers had unmasked his agent and ruined his plot.
"I salvaged many of the resources put into the plan once it was exposed," Norreck said, swallowing hard once before he spoke again. "I also caused enough disruption in the Ideean court that they'll be vulnerable to anyone else who wants to strike."
"That's all you can offer as a defense?" Caradoc said, his sneer turning into a wide, mocking smile. "That things aren't as bad as they otherwise could have been?"
Standing several feet back and to the side of his father, Xavener glanced over at Herzog Chelor, who was watching the proceedings. At first glance, Chelor seemed like a greasy, overweight, pompous slob, his oily black hair never seeming to be properly washed and several days of beard stubble on his chin. Xavener noticed several faint stains on his clothes as well, stains that not even the most vigorous washing could remove, from previous debaucheries. His general behavior confirmed most peoples' initial impressions of him, but the seething look in his eyes reminded Xavener of his infamously short temper.
Xavener suddenly realized he'd best intervene, particularly as he watched his father stammer to reply to Caradoc's accusations, before he found himself without father or fortune.
"You're one to talk, Caradoc," he suddenly spoke up, coming to stand at Norreck's side. "Whatever the results of my father's schemes, at least he's tried to act against the enemies of our country and our Overking! What have you striven for lately? You brag about being a great leader of men, but all you've done is live off your noble father's reputation and join in your older brother's campaigns! You're not a leader, you're just a sergeant!"
Caradoc's triumphant grin was replaced with a look of shock and embarrassment, which was in its turn replaced with a glare of rage. A murderous light flared up in his eyes as his glance focused on the impudent young Xavener.
"You dare to insult me, you little whelp?" Caradoc said, his hand going to the large sword strapped to his back. "Let's see if you can speak so grandly after I cut your tongue out!"
"You want satisfaction?" Xavener said, raising an eyebrow. "A strange thing for a brave, strong knight to demand from a boy who's only seen sixteen of Ivid's glorious years on the throne, and who only carries a dagger to court!" he continued, reminding everyone present of the Aerdi tradition that prevented younger men from carrying larger weapons in the Herzog's presence.
Glancing around once he'd finished speaking, Xavener smiled inwardly at the reactions his words had on the other courtiers and nobles. Herzog Chelor appeared indifferent, still scowling angrily, but most of the court now glared or frowned disapprovingly at Caradoc. There was little glory for an Aerdi knight in threatening a defenseless youth half his age.
Caradoc suddenly felt humiliation as he too glanced around and noted the disgust on the other nobles' faces. He flushed as he realized what he was doing, and realized what he'd have to do.
"…Perhaps I don't need to seek satisfaction," he said, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath as he realized his embarrassment. The rest of the nobles continued to glare disapprovingly at him, and he realized that he'd lost face with them.
Then, for a brief moment, he locked eyes with Xavener.
For a moment, Caradoc swore he could see a nearly invisible smile on the younger man's face."