CHAPTER I: AN UNCOMFORTABLE RETURN

A NYBELMARIAN NARRATION

 
An Inconvenient Nephew   
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Introduction. Decipher Ziron, and his bodyguard Mila Metariel, arrive in Marmarra after receiving a letter from his nephew Aristo. Meeting the Venraius Housemaster, Karias, he endeavours to purchase the freedom of his Nephew.
 

avens lined the tall, ominous railings of the small mansion as the two approached it, their black, beady eyes locked in theirs in a perplexing, foreboding stare. As the heels of their shoes simultaneously clicked against the dry, stone path leading to the centre of the courtyard, a solitary cloud drifted over Injera, enveloping the aggressive, uninviting house in a cooling shade. Making their way past the reds and oranges of the autumnal, deciduous trees, the two stopped at a fountain that seemed to sprout straight out of the stonework, with a number of gracefully-arranged, marble Mer spitting water from their mouths with a debonair disgust.

Decipher looked at the water feature.

‘How Marmarran of Karias to turn the beauty of the Mer into something distasteful’

It had been sometime since Decipher had returned to Marmarra, and his visits since Lord Coren had bought his freedom from the Venraius Housemaster had been infrequent. He stood somewhat detached, as he often did, lost in feelings of nostalgia and aversion for his ‘home’ city, which translated into an observable apathy in the way he held himself. The tall, thin man, somewhat toned by the physicality of his profession, ran his fingers through his dull-black hair. His warm, brown complexion, still bright in the shade, brought out the engaging colour of his hazel eyes as they turned to the woman next to him as she spoke.

‘You seem to have forgotten, Decipher. All beauty in Marmarra is rooted in something abhorrent. Distaste is inherent’

Mila’s thin; dark lips appeared crueller than usual as she spoke. The woman, just under the height of her companion and athletically built, exuded vigilance as the two waited in centre of the garden, which was befitting for her role as the academic’s bodyguard. Also a Marmarran, and so sharing a similar Zhunite skin, Mila was an accomplished Sanrier and a fiery young woman, a trait mirrored in the bold, red hue she had dyed her hair. Holding her almost boyish figure in an instinctively seductive yet overtly impatient way, the two waited, scanning the area for the remaining member of the rendezvous.

‘Admiring the statue?’

The distant voice belonged to the approaching figure, Karias Venraius. A vile, unfriendly man, even by Marmarran standards, Karias was a learned mage, and his dabbling with dark spirits was reflected in his appearance. With a paled, near ghostly face, the man, dressed in light grey robes that did little to alleviate the ghostliness of his image, approached the duo with a similar clacking of shoes. As he made his way within a reasonable speaking distance with the two, he let down his hood to reveal his sharp, cruel features and his cold, calculating eyes. Raising a thin bony hand in salutation, which did little to mask the feelings of hate he and Decipher had for each other, he initiated conversation.

‘So you are here to mimic what that great sorcerer did for you, are you?’ Karias asked with a hostile sharpness.

‘It is my intent to relieve Aristo from your possession, yes.’ Decipher retorted, overlooking the remark against his master, Coren.

‘Does the Enkyklopadië intend to purchase all members of our Branch House! It seems such a shame for us to lose so many servants. You had promise, Decipher, and yet you insisted on abandoning us. But ah, Aristo is not that much of a loss. As long as his origins are kept a secret, being a part of your ridiculous entourage should present the Venraius house with no problems’

Mila, offended by the description of her position as ridiculous, quickly unsheathed a small dagger from one of her various hiding places, readying to threaten the Marmarran Noble before her. Anticipating this, Decipher raised a hand, without even looking at the woman, to grasp her wrist and prevent any violence.

‘Not now, Mila’ he said in a soft, soothing tone.

‘This man will do well to remember that meddling with the spirits of those entrapped after death does not convey him some form of Eludian immortality, and his sphere of influence does not extend to those of a Pyrunite persuasion.’ quoth Mila, with an aggressive tone as she relinquished her brutality and re-sheathed the blade.

Karias smiled somewhat triumphantly.

‘Relying on Sanriers to fight your battles for you? I thought you were-‘

‘Enough!’ interrupted Decipher

‘You are beginning to try my patience Karias. You are aware of why we have met and I understand you have agreed the terms. Now here is the deed for the sum of silver agreed, it is deposited in the Family Bank near Alla’garam, and I would now like to know where I can acquire my nephew’ the bitter impatience of the scholar’s voice shocking the aged mage before him.

‘Very well, Ziron. I will take my leave’ Karias muttered as he turned to depart

‘Wait, where is he?’ demanded Decipher

Karias simply turned back, and pointed.

‘He has been watching you since before I came’.

Standing by the large doors of the house, which were definitely closed upon entering the courtyard, was a youthful, flamboyant figure. Looking somewhat similar to Decipher, probably due to the family resemblance, the soft yet masculine face of the extravagantly dressed teenager let out a half smile equal in warmth as it was arrogance.

‘Good Morrow Uncle! I take it you got my letter!’ the youth exclaimed as he walked down to the dull, grey steps, his shimmering black ponytail fluttering from either side of his shoulders as he traversed them.

As he approached the fountain where the two were left standing, as Karias was swiftly making an exit, the cloud that had obscured the light of the sky passed, bathing Aristo in light as he made his way to his new custodian, revealing the silk-detailing of his red, velvet coat and giving his black leather gloves and shoes a noticeable glimmer.

‘Who do you live here with, Aristo?’ asked Decipher in bemusement

‘Based on your unusual parentage and your lack of any profession, how do you keep such expensive lodgings?’

‘Both houses contribute to my living costs, though they like to place me conveniently out of the way. Its not always fun being the dirty little secret’ Aristo chuckled in response

‘Who is this?’ Aristo inquired, gesturing towards Mila, who had just recently regained her cool after Karias’s offence.

‘Mila Metariel, Aristo. She is enlisted as my bodyguard. Where I go, she goes.’

‘Oooh’ he responded with a smile ‘Permanently associating yourself with such beautiful women, Uncle. I had no idea such fruits were to be held in academia’

Tutting once, and unimpressed by the 'compliment', Mila turned on her heels and began her way back out of the uninviting setting, with Decipher and Aristo quickly ending their conversation and following in turn. As they left the gates the ravens, still stationary atop the tall railings, continued to stare down on them, as though waiting for some misfortune to unfold against them.

Reaching the cobbled street outside, the two Enkyklopadiëcs immediately made their way towards three exotic creatures: proud, silver-skinned Swiftfoot Deer. Lean, powerful creatures, each one stood with a readiness and refinement that seemed incongruous in the aloof, apathetic Marmarran surroundings.

‘I assume you know how to ride, Aristo’ remarked the scholar as he and Mila rose to their saddles of their steeds, each one shaking their antlers in excitement at the prospect of riding.

‘Could we not just have taken a carriage of sorts?’ asked Aristo, with an unwilling difficultness.

‘As I’m sure you will soon find, my nephew, not everywhere you need to go is paved by an obliging road.’
 


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