It was a good day. Clear blue skies, mild temperatures across the board and a fresh breeze. Devereux Abelard Vouverne was heading towards an old Imperial town where he knew that a band of famed veterans lived. The Imperial army was famous across the world and with their nobility often possessing the gift of the myst, their troops wouldn't be unfamiliar with working along side these magicians. Being famed for their discipline, prowess on the field of battle and unit cohesion, the Sovereign knew that these people were precisely who he needed to bring home to serve as instructors at the academy.
Way before Devereux Abelard Vouverne arrived at the city, his favourite Hawk made it's way high up above it. A menacing shriek could be heard from the skies just a few moments before the elder reached the destination. His horse had been active for a long while, almost causing the lord to pity her. He hopped off the animal's back, planting both his feet firmly in the ground and patted her neck for a few moments. A slight sense of annoyance started to build within him as the subordinate he brought along with him seemed to occupy himself with unpacking something from his bag. "Don't just stand there, you witless fool - bring Croissant to the stables where she'll be tended to." his voice was calm, but barely controlled as frustration bubbled underneath the surface.
He was, however, going to receive assistance from someone who had stuck him as competent. In fact, Sir Hansel Strauss was a man which the Sovereign held in relatively high regard as he often found a greater sense of respect for those skilled with the sword. His face was locked in what seemed like a permanent frown as he scanned the area around the gates for his companion for the day. The elder looked up at his hawk, far up in the skies "He's by the stables, isn't he?" he mumbled as if communicating with the bird. Without any better leads, the man started making his way towards the nearest stable, just ten to fifteen meters behind Croissant and the subordinate.
Hansel had to admit he was caught by surprise when one day he was summoned and a sovereign of Bellestuaire asked him to come teach at this new fighting academy he was opening. Numerous questions flooded him. What about his duties in Leore? Will Eleonore be there? What is he offering in return. For his duties he worked out a plan to teach one month and return to Leore the next. Eleonore would certainly be there much to his delight...and the pay was not bad at all.
With all his things set he was off, dressed in his travelling armour and his proper combat armour in a backpack on his pack horse. Sun's Kiss was on his hip along with his arming sword and on his pack horse he had a few extra items, including a claymore reaching up to his chest, a poleaxe and a kite shield. He also had supplies, gold and camping gear packed in...along with a couple sparring swords just in case. He always came prepared.
It appeared he was a little ahead of schedule when he arrived at the town Devereux told him about. The old man was nowhere to be found when he arrived so he figured the man was still on his way. How he arrived before him was a mystery that needed solving. A screech caught his attention as he was busy unpacking his gear and getting ready to carry them into the inn he booked a room for. It was a pretty decent one as far as inns go. The hawk soared overhead, and he knew the old man arrived. There weren't a lot of people with hawks like that.
A few minutes later the man's horse came waltzing into the stables with the man a few meters behind. It was an amusing sight to say the least. "Lord Vouverne. Good to see you. What happened? The horse throw you off?" he asked as calm as ever, but the humour in his voice was quite clear.
"Sir Hansel Strauss" The Sovereign of Bellestuaire responded with a commanding voice. Anyone in the area who weren't deaf would clearly hear him call for the younger man. He listened to the knight speak and didn't know what he found the most annoying - the joke or the standardised phrases of pleasantry. There were extremely few people in the world who considered it 'good to see Devereux Abelard Vouverne', and there didn't seem to be any reason for Strauss to be any different. The man sighed and moved on to the question which could be genuine, but somehow he very much doubted that it would be the case. "No." he said, from a distance whilst walking.
Finally arriving at a speaking distance, Devereux Abelard Vouverne continued "My horse would never throw me off. Croissant is more disciplined than most soldiers. He's certainly more disciplined than the sorry lot they have guarding this town." His open-hearted bashing of the local security force did not go unnoticed as the man earned the evil eye from a couple of guards who happened to be passing by. The elder was, however, quite used to being disliked and didn't seem to mind it one bit.
"Regardless, we're here to make friends, aren't we?" he said with a new breath. He sounded quite skeptical when uttering the word 'friends' but sounded relatively enthusiastic to get to work otherwise. Stretching out his right arm horizontally, the man continued "Many from the company I'm looking for have perished over the years, but there are three well respected lieutenants whom I want to bring into the fold. They will in turn bring their closest friends and allies. I suggest we begin with a certain Etrius Voscanti, he's supposedly often in the inn over there."
Suddenly, another screech from the hawk could be heard, but this time, it was much closer and coming towards them. The bird landed at the Sovereigns outstretched arm at a high speed before screeching again. He brought out some fodder from a bag to feed the bird which greedily ate it up "And you will be locating the other two."
If the phrase "You'll find more cheer in a graveyard" needed a live embodiment, then Devereux Abelard Vouverne was it. He didn't take too kindly to the joke and decided to insult the local military force in the process as well. Hansel caught the eye of some of the guards walking past and gave them an apologetic glance before looking back at the old soldier, his expression as calm as always.
The man digressed, sounding quite enthusiastic. "Enthusiastic" being used quite loosely in this situation. He held his right arm out as he explained the situation. An odd gesture to make. It didn't take long before he realised what it was for. He looked at the bird as it came down and screeched at him. His face remained as neutral as ever but inside he was cringing. If that bird was tagging along the whole time he would put it on a spit.
"And how am I supposed to find these people? Some names would certainly help to track them down." Hansel spoke as he looked back at Devereux. He could track them down easily enough, but looking for two retired soldiers in a town full of retired soldiers won't exactly be easy.
Disappointment. The feeling was very familiar to the older man, fellow soldiers, nobles and family members - they often fell short on one point or the other. A frown grew on his face as Hansel gave the two insulted guards an apologetic glance. The knight being so soft on the soldiers took him by surprise and personally, the Sovereign preferred a much harsher approach himself. Nevertheless, his companion would have his way and Devereux Abelard Vouverne wouldn't complain, at least not out loud.
Where the knight had disappointed earlier, he regained a few favourable points by remaining calm in the presence of the hawk. The elder looked proud as he brushed the unusually large bird's wings. His eyes shot up at Hansel upon hearing the question. "Don't sell yourself short! I didn't ask you to come here to find these lieutenants." he said rather loudly before looking at the bird. His eyes revealed a gentleness which he rarely afforded humans "You will find them for me" he muttered softly before the hawk took off, producing another shriek as it flew away.
The gentleness in his eyes quickly dissipated as the bird departed. "Now, let's see if we can't convince these veterans to move to the provinces. An area in which your skills should be much better utilized." he said and started walking towards the inn without much of a warning at all. The Vouverne subordinate who had just finished his work with the horses approached Hansel with a short whisper "You might not've noticed it sir, bu' I think the Sovereign likes you better than most" the man had a heavy Bellestuaire accent and had very soft tone. Soon, he scurried along to buy wares for the trip home.
A loud noise could be heard as Devereux Abelard Vouverne entered the inn, flinging the door open and letting it smash against a wall. The current occupants in the lobby quickly paused their conversations to see what was happening, only to be met with a rather indifferent elder, scanning the room for Etrius Voscanti. He took one step with each foot, planting them both firmly inside the building before he pointed at a man by the dart-board with his entire arm "There he is" he said, turning to the Knight. At first, the veteran looked a little nervous, but that soon faded away as he noticed that the newcomers neither looked like guards nor thugs.
Hansel blinked at the man's response, a visibly confused look spread across his face as the old man spoke to the bird with a bizarre kindness. The man ordered the bird to track the others down and it set off with a shriek.
Devereux moved on, thankfully not noticing the look on Hansel's face. One of the servants whispered a quick word into the knight's ear, which prompted a scoff. "I did notice. I just figured that he hated me less than everybody else...though that's not saying much." he muttered back to the man and left him to catch up to the old soldier.
Devereux's entrance was a little unnecessary. Hansel preferred to do things subtly...of course his fighting could not exactly be regarded as subtle but that was the exception to the Rainbow Knight. It didn't take long before they found the retired soldier, who looked quite nervous. Hansel couldn't blame him, with an entrance like that they looked like a mafia rather than two men hiring an old soldier. Hansel took off his helmet with a shake of his head and approached the veteran. "Pardon the interruption, good sir, but my colleague and I would like to have a word with you. Do you have a moment?" Hansel asked with a polite tone, gesturing to his companion.
Initiative! It was becoming increasingly rare for those working with him to take action on their own initiative - something which was often bothering the Sovereign. He was glad to see Strauss push on ahead to speak to the veteran. Devereux Abelard Vouverne walked at a slow, leisurely pace with heavy footsteps making a rather clear noise as his boots stepped on the wooden floor.
Clearly, the two men had wildly different ways of handling themselves in social situations. The knight spoke softly and his companion silently stood by with both hands resting on his waist. Devereux Abelard Vouverne's eyes narrowed slightly, but he remained passive to let his partner finish. The veteran spoke up, his voice was weathered from years of yelling on the battlefield and in the tavern but his hoarse voice had an underlying strength and worthiness that was hard to miss "I do have a mom-" The man wasn't able to finish before the elder spoke, with a noticeably more powerful voice than the veteran "Good!" he said, apparently not feeling like waiting for the veteran to finish his sentence. He then looked to Strauss "Your colleague happens to be the Sovereign of Bellestuaire"
The booming voice put a large part of the patrons to silence - he spoke loudly and the words carried weight. A few rougher looking fellows seemed to have picked up an interest for the older man as they each took turns trying to peek at him without anyone else noticing. They wore blades of different kinds and would easily be mistaken for either thugs, mercenaries or both.
At first, the veteran went silent - he was a highly respected man and would not often be challenged like he was by the Sovereign. A sly smirk formed on his lips "And your colleague happens to be the rainbow knight" he said, obviously not afraid to fire back at the old man. He gave Strauss a respectful nod. If Devereux Abelard Vouverne was a man for jokes, he would have produced a hearty smile. He was not. His utterly unamused face was tense and he barely opened his mouth as he spoke "How very observant of you." Awkwardly, the veteran looked on the elder for both one and two moments, realizing that his joke had fallen flat before turning to Strauss "I've heard of your skill with the sword. I'm Etrius Voscanti, what can I do for you?"
The man tried to speak, but he didn't even get the chance to finish his sentence when Devereux cut him off. Hansel looked at him with his blank expression, not batting an eye at the Sovereign's correction. He wanted to give a reply simply out of respect when the veteran spoke up in his defence. A small smile formed in the corner of his mouth when he turned to look at the man. "Thank you, my lord. I'm flattered." he said politely before getting more serious.
"Sovereign Devereux and I were looking for you, my lord. We have a business proposition for you. Is there somewhere private where we might be able to talk?" Hansel asked calmly, though he did put somewhat more emphasis on Devereux's title than was necessary. The old man really needed to relax.
Once they were in a private room where they could speak, Hansel started. "Lord Devereux has decided to open a fighting academy. We need teachers who know how to handle a sword that is willing to train new recruits." he explained, holding his helmet with both hands. He nodded towards Devereux. "Lord Devereux can provide you with finer details." he said and took a step back.
A shiver struck through the old man as his companion spoke. He didn't mind being referred to as Sovereign or lord, but simply being called Devereux: It made him cringe. At first, he simply closed his eyes whilst his forehead unconsciously furrowed in annoyance. He exhaled loudly whilst doing his utmost to remain calm and simply looked upon the veteran sternly until they moved on to a more secluded room.
Then, Hansel did it again, causing the Sovereign to cringe in frustration and just as he had managed to calm his temper again, the knight struck again - calling him by only his first name for a third time. Sure, he liked the man relatively much in comparison to others, and he was helping him recruit the veterans - but the way Hansel was currently addressing him made him fume in anger. The veteran was quite oblivious to what was happening but threw a couple of odd glances at the elder, curious about what it was that caused him to act so strangely.
Devereux Abelard Vouverne nodded, once Hansel gave him the prompt to talk about the academy. "I, Devereux Abelard Vouverne" he begun, putting extra emphasis on his own name whilst looking intently at his companion before continuing. "I'm going to create a top of the line military academy. It will be able to produce elite troops. Disciplined and skilled warriors of class. I'm looking for people from all across the world to train them and I want you. One of the most skilled companies of the Empire, now retired - I want you to work again, work in the military again." The veteran didn't seem to have the best of poker faces as it was clear as day that he wanted the job. He wanted to go back to a military life.
"I have a stable life here. There's good beer in the Inn and the people respect me." the veteran said. Devereux Abelard Vouverne looked to his companion, hoping that he would seal the deal for them.
Hansel wasn't sure what the old man's issue was that he had to rub his name in. Was the man that formal, even in calmer occasions such as this, that Hansel had to refer to him by his last name? It's easy to see that Devereux and Hansel are from two completely different generations.
Devereux went on to explain precisely how it's all going to work, even complimenting the man on his skills from back in the day. But the veteran was still hesitant to agree, not wanting to give up his life here. The Sovereign looked to Hansel for help to convince the man. Hansel looked to him with his calm expression then to the veteran. "Lord Etrius, this is a good position. A solid position. The pay is good and the quality won't be lacking. I shall be teaching there as well right alongside you and the other potential teachers." he explained but figured that it wouldn't be enough.
He looked the man in the eyes. "I can tell you that the pay will be excellent...enticing even for the likes of me. If it's beer you want, I can promise from personal experience that Bellestauire has a talent for making spectacular beverages. From wines, to beers, to mead, everything." he spoke calmly in his confident tone, pouring enthusiasm into every word despite not raising his voice all that much. He raised an eyebrow as he looked at the man. "And respect? With a reputation as prestigious as yours I doubt people will even look funnily at you. I have even heard of some of your achievements and I live about as far as one can get from the Empire. Believe me, my lord, this position will be all you could hope for...and you'll be helping to shape the new generation of legends first hand. he finished with a proud smile.
"So what say you, lord Etrius? Will you join us?" he asked proudly, holding a hand out for the man to shake.
An incredibly accomplished swordsman, an artist, and apparently a salesman too. It was obvious to the old man that Hansel was well on his way to convincing the veteran to work at the academy. Devereux Abelard Vouverne crossed his arms and fixed his eyes on the retired warrior as his comrade spoke - it was clear as day, this man would work at the academy. And without much hesitation, he nodded and agreed to come work at the academy. "I expect to see you in Bellestuaire at the beginning of the month." The Sovereign spoke with authority and the veteran responded as any good soldier would before thanking both his new employer and his future colleague.
With that, the elder turned to walk out, but this time, he'd wait for his ally before leaving the building - they were working together now. Once outside, he stretched out his arm in a horizontal position "Now, we will find the other two." he said, looking to Hansel. Another shriek could be heard echoing between the walls and soon, the hawk landed on the Sovereign's outstretched arm. The bird kept shrieking as the elder petted it before he finally sent it off again. "Our next two targets seem to be together in a courtyard in the poorer areas of town." his words were spoken with certainty.
Before long, the Sovereign pointed at a narrow alleyway with his entire arm "Into that alley, a few hundred meters and we'll be at the entrance." With that, he started walking into the narrow path which was crooked and serpentine in nature. Clothing lines were hanging between the buildings, creating the occasional obstacle for them to dodge under. "Sir Hansel Strauss - I recognize the Strauss name, certainly." he grumbled for a bit, searching his memory banks and noticed a fair amount of gaps "Who are your parents?" As he finished asking his question, the reached a particularly narrow point of the alley. Devereux Abelard Vouverne slowed down to let his ally walk at the front.
The bargain was struck, hands were shaken and they left the man to go find the other two. Outside the hawk returned and somehow Devereux...understood it? Either Hansel was going crazy or this man could somehow understand what the bird was shrieking.
Either way, they had a heading and Devereux led the way. They moved into a poorer district of the town, and soon found themselves into a narrow hallway. They walked side by side, and Hansel slipped his helmet back on as his eyes scanned the roofs and the rest of the alley. Devereux seemed to want to initiate some small talk. Hansel was surprised by this, but he decided to go along with it. "My parents were Luke and Martha Strauss. We might not be the richest or noblest family in Leore but we are an old one." he explained to the man calmly.
The alley narrowed and Hansel took point. He didn't like it at all. His left hand curled around the hilt of his longsword while his right reached for a dagger, in case someone wanted to try something. Thankfully he was wearing armour as well.
Searching his memory banks once again, Devereux Abelard Vouverne got closer to remembering the family and finally nodded behind his companion "Luke Strauss and Martha Strauss. You..." he repeated their names but stopped talking mid sentence - few who knew him would think much of the man suddenly going silent, it was not uncommon for him to neglect the social side of things. The hawk flew above them and shrieked as they walked through the narrow alley. Suddenly, the Sovereign drew his sword "Strauss, something is awry." he noted in a silent murmur before turning around. Faint footsteps could be heard from both sides of the crooked alley.
The hawk kept shrieking while the elder took a defensive stance, which proved to be more difficult than expected considering the very limited amount of space which they had to move around in. "It's the lowlifes from the inn." he said with a relatively quiet voice. The footsteps grew more noticeable and clothes being pushed aside from their lines could be heard fluttering in as the rapidly approaching people passed them by.
Before long, there were three people on both sides of them, all armed with either sticks or clubs of varying sizes along with boards acting as shields. "Drop your weapons" one of the foes on the elder's side said, pointing at the old man with his club "When we heard the Sovereign of Bellestuaire was in town, we wanted to invite him to our humble home. So please, Lord Devereux, will you come with us please?" The Sovereign slowly allowed his free hand to meet his face whilst letting out a sigh. The thug was obviously trying to sound more sophisticated than he really was and Devereux Abelard Vouverne was quite annoyed that the man skipped over his middle name and family name.
"I have been captain of the City Guard for longer than I care to remember, and I've imprisoned more lowlifes like yourself than I care to count." he said with a harsh voice whilst preparing for a battle.
Devereux started to talk when he suddenly fell silent. He wouldn't have thought anything of it, but something told him that this situation was wrong. Devereux confirmed it when his hawk gave a shriek above them. Hansel drew his Tonoyanan longsword despite the limited space. Alongside it he drew his dagger.
Devereux explained who they were and Hansel's calm face turned cold as his ice blue eyes bore through the three thugs in front of him. "Three on my side." he muttered back just before the man started speaking to them. He heard the frustrated sigh escape Devereux behind him. He gave a quiet chuckle. "They forgot the rest, I think." he made an ironic quip before his stone cold expression came forth again.
He took on a high guard with his longsword while holding his dagger ready by his side. He was severely limited in this space, but he was most likely one of the few people who knew how to use his weapon even in this situation.
One of the men decided to try his luck and he marched forth, holding his flimsy shield rather loosely whilst preparing to swing his club. Hansel took a step forward and blocked the club with his sword, deflecting it to close the man off then he stabbed the man in the side of the ribcage with his dagger. He quickly kicked the dying man back to his comrades before standing ready once again.
The old man knew that he was past his prime. Fighting, outnumbered and in close quarters was far from ideal. Still, he was confident as his years serving as the City Guard captain had both strengthened his constitution and taught him many valuable lessons. In this case, he also had a trick up his sleeve.
The foe's in front of him advanced slowly in a line, one behind the other. They were timing their attack together with the ones at the other side. Hansel, however, took a step forth, resulting in his engagement happening before that of the Sovereign. Devereux Abelard Vouverne watched his foes as their eyes quickly bounced from himself to the knight and then back again. He had made short work of their friend. The thugs quickly identified the elder as the weaker of the two, resulting in the first one rushing towards him. Raising his blade, Devereux Abelard Vouverne blocked an incoming attack and quickly had to lower it again to block another one. He was only defending himself, not at all caring too much about going on the offence.
As the battle commenced, the hawk suddenly dove towards the thug at the back of the Sovereign's line. Without knowing what had just struck him, the victim flailed wildly with his shield arm, most likely thinking that it must've been a plank falling from above or a bunch of clothes. The supposed plank or cloth mass was a fair bit larger than a normal hawk and proceeded to rip the poor man's throat apart before quickly taking off with a shriek. Terror was clearly visible in the two men facing Hansel who could clearly see it all take place whilst the two men facing Devereux Abelard Vouverne was still oblivious to what had just happened.