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[Short Story - House Raine Prologue: Part1] Tiberius Raine

AlmarkAlmark Member
edited August 2023 in Role-Playing Tavern
Author's Note: This chapter occurs approximately 20 years prior to the current roleplay timeline, which brings us up to year or so prior to the reopening of the Divine gateways.


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Chapter One: The Beginning

Part One: Almark Raine

Sitting up from his bed, Almark lets the covers rest over his waistline while his brow came to rest in his palms. In no hurry, he gives his eyes a good rub before looking to his left and seeing he's alone in his bed. What twenty-something son of a noble Lord enjoys waking up alone? Before he could decide on how to feel about that, the morning sun obstinately shone threw his window, causing him to shield his eyes out of instinct. Taking a moment to stifle the inevitable yawn, he orients himself to the side of the bed before rising to draw the curtains closed.

Unfortunately, nobody installed a curtain at his chamber door, and the poor serf girl that entered to serve his morning tea got more of a view than she was prepared for. Almark hadn't seen her expression when the poor woman walked in and saw the new heir to the House in the nude, but he'd certainly heard the wooden tray crash to the floor. Along with it was a cup of tea and some sort of letter. Of course, the serf woman was already halfway down the hall, face redder than the ass of the woman Almark woke up without.

Breathing out a somewhat exasperated sigh, Almark plucks up a purple robe with golden accents from the foot of the bed, tossing it around his shoulders and tying the sash. Stooping down, he gives the letter a couple shakes before looking it over. He even vocalizes the first few words in a dreary boredom before he tapers off, every word garnering more attention than the previous.

"Long have I been fortunate to have ..."

After reading his father's enlarged name at the bottom, Almark gave the letter another read, as if expecting some barely-perceptible meaning to become apparent. Folding it neatly in two, he sets the letter on the bed before himself sitting down beside it. He almost didn't hear the third or fourth knock on his door until the he heard the hinges finally turn.

"Master Almark?"

Starting from his thoughts, Almark looks to the door, seeing an elderly woman that had been tending to him since he'd been in diapers. Noémie.

"Al, did you get frisky with the new girl? You know your mystery sweetheart could be a little ... volatile, if she found out." She playfully chides after the door is shut behind her. Leaning down, she collects the mess left by the new girl. "She left a couple hours ago, half way back to Thorne lands. I don't think she wanted to be too close during something like this," She added, motioning to the letter at Almark's side.

Servant or not, Noémie had a point. There was something universally understood about how successions were handled in House Raine. By the end of it, someone was being buried in an unmarked grave. Countless centuries ago, House Raine had been a major controller of land on a world called Verra, though most people on Sanctus believed Verra to be nothing more than old legend. Legend or not, in their ancient lifespan, the House Raine had probably never experienced a peaceful transition of power.

Why? Well ...

"Al?"

Shaking out of his thoughts, Almark looks to Noémie. "I'm sorry?"

"Master Almark, you're going to have to make yourself presentable. Your father is expecting you, and I'm sure it has to do with the letter. How about I get this tea replaced, you get properly dressed, and we shake off that old wives' tale about the Raine family?"

Anyone else would have lost a tongue, for that, but Noémie had been more of a mother to him than his own mother had. He was self-aware enough to know that any threat he uttered to the woman would be unmistakably hollow. Besides, the wives tale Noémie was referring to was what he'd been daydreaming about, before.

Why had there never been a peaceful transition of power in the Raine family history? Because when a Raine tastes power, they change. Once they taste it, they'll steal it, hoard it and kill for it.

"Tell Father I'm up ... and ready."
Almark Leontine Raine, Patriarch of House Raine
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Comments

  • AlmarkAlmark Member
    edited August 2023
    Part Two: Tiberius Raine

    Tiberius Raine was a far more fitting patriarch then Almark for House Raine, at least in appearance and temperament. Every minute of sixty years old, Tiberius wore six decades of strife on his face and beard. While Sanctus had been a sanctuary from the Others and the Ancients, it was still packed full of mortal creatures. Being such fallible things, covetous thoughts turned to violence in any manner of expression. Those conflicts ranged from bar-tavern brawls to outright skirmishes between neighboring Houses who tested the Raine patriarch just a little too much.

    The main foyer of the manor was separated from the common area by two large wooden doors. At Almark's approach, the attending serfs at either door pressed them open, clearing Almark's path. Inside, two long tables, each capable of seating thirty people, stretched down the long room to a slightly raised platform. On it were two chairs holding up Tiberius Raine and Coralie Raine, both seeming prepared for Almark's visit. Despite the unusual circcumstances, Tiberius hadn't adopted a look of warmth or familiarity. After over twenty years of being Tiberius' son, Almark would have been honestly stunned to discover the man had the capacity for it. Conversely, Coralie offered a faint smile, warm but fatigued in a way that her son couldn't quite place.

    "Father. Your announcement came as a surprise," Almark began as he came to a stop at the base of the platform, hands folded in front of him in a gesture of passiveness. His father had never been one to respond well to perceived threats, as a neighboring House had learned not too long prior.

    "You had a benefactor, I assure you,"Tiberius dryly remarked, his gaze sliding over toward Coralie for a moment before regarding Almark, again.* "Though there are some matters which would need to be settled before we risk my falling over dead and your taking over the family."

    Lofting a brow, Almark didn't voice the obvious question of why this hadn't been addressed before Tiberius went through the trouble of making the announcement. "Of course."

    "The Thorne girl you've been trotting around the village. Sindonie. Prior to today, I'd have had no argument with your marrying her and establishing our link to House Thorne, but now we must consider alternatives."

    There was simply no way for Tiberius to make that sound appealing. "I'm afraid I don't understand, Father. What alternatives?"

    "Your being the heir to the House elevates your worth. Marrying you off to a member of House Thorne who has so little prospects of assuming leadership of her house would be a waste. Still, the connection would be nice to have ... so your mother and I have agreed it would be a fair bargain that you succeed me, but Dalus will take Sindonie's hand in marriage."

    Dalus was Tiberius' eldest son by his first marriage. In total, Almark was of seven siblings. Dalus was the eldest, the next youngest being Alos, both of marriage one. There'd been two children from Tiberius' second marriage, but they'd both been killed in a hunting accident, along with their mother. At least, that had been the public story. Almark was the eldest by Coralie, the current wife, who then had Archibald and Bellamie.

    When Tiberius said he was taking Sindonie from Almark to marry Dalus, Almark went straight for the throat. Sort of. His eyes slid to Coralie, and his simple, calm question cut deeper than a knife. "Did you learn nothing over the Bellamie affair?" Bellamie, the youngest of the Raines, had been betrothed to ... someone Almark could not recall to memory, but the arrangement had badly frightened his little sister. Ever a free spirit, Bellamie had fled the House to avoid the marriage. Given how brazenly she disobeyed Tiberius, the old man had never even bothered to go find her. To him, she was dead.

    Coralie’s lips pulled into a thin line, her expression withering a bit under the weight of Almark’s attention. That boy was more like his father than he’d ever admit, publicly.

    Looking back to Tiberius, Almark makes his play, knowing that persuading his father with an emotional argument would be like trying to hunt a bear with a fishing pole.

    “Sindonie is very recently pregnant. With our wedding so soon, there was no chance anyone would know the timing of the conception. The child’s heritage will be used as a weapon against Dalus if you postpone and reset the date for him.”

    “Reset the date?” Tiberius asks, a soft huff of air escaping his nose in the closest thing to amusement the old man could imitate. When Almark’s brow betrays a quizzical tilt, Tiberius clarifies. “Dalus was already going to be at the wedding. He’s just not going to be wearing what he thought he’d be wearing.”

    Almark tried for a moment not to convey the rising mixture of panic and anger in his chest, but the faint shadow of it crosses his expression before he gets it under control. It hadn’t mattered. Tiberius saw that flicker of weakness as if Almark had all but sobbed in his presence. “That will be all, Almark.”

    Several impulses went through his mind, but Almark nods slightly. “Yes … Father.”

    Turning toward the heavy doors, Almark began his thoughtful retreat from the room. Seeing Noemie in the hallway, he leaned his head to the side, saying the two words that set so much in motion.

    “Get Archie.”
    Almark Leontine Raine, Patriarch of House Raine
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  • AlmarkAlmark Member
    edited August 2023
    Part Three: Archibald Raine

    "It's hard to believe this blindsided you."

    Archibald always had a way of expressing disappointment in Almark, normally without meaning to. Perhaps it was that Archibald thought the world of Almark and had trouble imagining anyone getting the better of him, or perhaps being the second son made him naturally critical.

    After a glance back at the closed door to Archibald's room, Almark let go of a soft sigh as he regarded his younger brother, who's sitting in a wooden chair in the corner of the room. Archibald, largely relieved of familial duties, had taken to music many years ago. Neighboring Houses looked for seemingly any excuse to invite the Raines over for social gatherings because his talent was so well-known. For years, Almark had believed that any noble family willing to invite Tiberius into their home as an excuse to hear any musician must be near death.

    "I thought being his successor might happen, but I still can't see why this marriage business is worth him alienating me. He knows Sindonie and I ... get along, well."

    It came as no surprise to Almark that even while speaking about such a sensitive matter, Archibald was still plucking at his lute, trying to tune one of the lower cords. Some might consider it annoying, but anyone who noticed there wasn't some musical racket coming from Archibald's room would surely investigate.

    "You really like this girl. Don't you?" Archibald asked, glancing up through curlier hair than his older brother possessed. The look reminded Almark that the most dangerous thing about Archibald was how disarming his could be. He had a way of talking to people that led to unbelievable secrets being spoken. Just one of those personalities, Almark always presumed.

    "She's ... yes," Almark returned in what he thought was a prompt reply, but Archibald knew how to read someone. At his elder brother's reply, Archibald accidentally pops that low cord, but is now staring at Almark.

    "By the Seven, you're in love with this girl. I mean, she's got that stern look to her sometimes, so maybe that's what you always needed. And she's pregnant .... What was that even like with yo--"

    "Alright," Almark says, exasperated as he lifts a hand for a moment.

    Once again having gotten under his elder brother's skin, Archibald sits back and works to replace the busted cord. "Well ... what are we gonna do about it?"

    "We?"

    "Think I'm gonna let you go up against the old man on your own? My little sister is running around in the world somewhere, no support from her family because Tiberius decided to be himself. What's worse is he didn't learn his lesson then, and now he's doing it again. You think I want to be next?"

    "Archie ..." Almark never called him by his nickname. That alone caused the younger brother's expression to sober. "I'm not looking for a peaceful resolution, here. What I'm going to do will change the face of the family ... and probably change how you see me."

    "Good, because it's the only way you're gonna get prettier than me."
    Almark Leontine Raine, Patriarch of House Raine
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  • AlmarkAlmark Member
    edited August 2023
    Author's Warning: Violence

    Part Four: Coralie Raine

    Tiberius and Coralie's chambers were near the center of the manor. In his characteristic paranoia, Tiberius had insisted his personal chambers not be constructed against the side of the house. It brought him some sacrificial comfort to know that any threat to him had to first butcher their way through his kitchen staff or servants, Almark always supposed. Unfortunately, Tiberius had not constructed a room between himself and his offspring.

    In the corner of his chambers was sturdy wooden chair with armrests and old but comfortable cushions. Across the back was the fur of some predator he'd killed when he enjoyed hunting as a young man. To his right was a chalice of his usual wine, resting on one of the wooden armrests. By the lit fireplace to his right, Tiberius was deep in thought, reading through an old tome with an iron-back spine. Whatever this literature was, it was meant to survive the test of time. Occasionally, the Raine patriarch lifted his hand, rubbing a sore spot on his chest and clearing his throat.

    Also reading a book of her own, Coralie is propped up in their bed, and after about third clearing of Tiberius' throat, she regards him over her reading spectacles. "Was dinner disagreeable, dear?"

    Lifting a hand, Tiberius waved off her concern as a knock sounded through the door.

    "Enter," Tiberius spoke, glancing at Coralie so as to dissuade her from bringing up his health, again. Just as he did, Almark and Archibald stepped into the room, drawing their father's attention. "A visit at this time of night is rarely welcome news," Tiberius remarked as he closed his coveted iron-bound book, setting it in his lap.

    "Apologies, Father, but there is a complication that Archibald and I felt should be addressed before too much time passes," Almark answered, Archibald softly shutting the door behind them. "It concerns the image of the House, going forward. We both have serious misgivings about the family image, should the change of wedding plans proceed."

    Tiberius lifted a cloth to his mouth, coughing into it a couple more times, which was enough to draw Coralie's attention to him, again. This time, however, she didn’t address it. Instead, Tiberius spoke. “What--" He clears his throat. "Part of my position was unclear? You made your case, Almark. Dalus will proceed with taking Sindonie's hand."

    By now, Archibald had a drawn expression on his face. Tiberius' confirmation of Dalus' betrothal had caused that drawn expression, and the old man recognized it as some sort of grim resolve. As the seconds ticked by, Tiberius was having trouble suppressing the coughing fits that were assailing him. That's when the sense of danger hit him, but the elder man couldn't summon up the air to call for someone.

    Two people approached, or tried to approach Tiberius. The first was Coralie, who tried to crawl across the bed to him, but was impeded by Archibald. The curly-haired bard, with an apology written on his face, stepped just close enough to hold out a hand in front of her. It was a way of telling her to stop without touching her, and thankfully the old woman did not test him.

    Almark was the other to approach Tiberius, taking a knee at the old man's side. Gathering his father's right hand in his own, he held his father's gaze. "I won't leave, Father. I know you might be ... frightened. That's not an emotion you've ever shown, to me, but I know it's in there. I'll stay until it's over."

    Watching the scene, Archibald recalled a few things about his family. Almark, being the eldest, had many of the responsibilities and pressures thrust upon him. That reality gave Archibald the freedom to engage in his beloved music, though it also afforded him the chance to engage in family dealings without being in the spotlight. Coralie had always had a soft spot for Archibald, her dearest son, and while Almark and Tiberius' relationship had been adversarial, there was a strange love there. Archibald had yet to work it into a song, but it was like watching two vipers in a pit. Both loved each other, but knew that showing weakness to the other would be disrespectful. That kind of relationship was always going to end this way.

    Tiberius coughed into his cloth a few times, blood beginning to stain it at the poison in his wine settled deeper into his veins. Knowing the end was certain, he gathered all his strength to raise his opposite hand ... and set it over Almark's. The man's anger and sense of betrayal was entirely overshadowed by the primal fear of what would happen when his heart stopped. Powerful and ruthless as he was, even the formidable Tiberius Raine didn't want to be alone, at the end. True to his word, his eldest son stayed with him for several long minutes, holding his hands.

    The room grew quiet over that time, Coralie stunned into near shock beside Archibald, whose expression had remained largely unchanged. At last, Almark stood, lifting a hand to his face for a moment while mostly turned away from Coralie and his brother. He could have been wiping away a tear or nursing a headache. With Almark, it could be tough to tell. In his other hand, Almark has collected that iron-bound book and turned to face the living occupants of the room.

    "What ... how could ..." Coralie started, but couldn't finish. She knew damn good and well what had set Almark on such a murderous path. She and her now-late husband had badly underestimated how strongly Almark felt for the woman, it seemed. The Thorne woman.

    "And now you have a problem, Mother," Archibald starts, knowing he has to fulfill his end of the agreement he made with Almark. The time for a change in the family had come. "Father dying this way ... will surely be pinned on Almark and I. There are no other suspects, and you know as well as I that we will face the gallows."

    Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small vial, offering it to Coralie. "You will live to see your sons hang ... unless you intervene to save us."

    That was part of Archibald's charm, for Almark. The eldest brother might be the politician in the room, the pragmatic patriarch in waiting, but Archibald's best instrument wasn't his lute. It was the heart. He knew, even if he told his mother exactly what the plan was, she loved him enough to sacrifice herself, anyway. You couldn't teach that kind of instinct.

    Coralie's expression did turn bitter, and she directed the angriest glare toward Almark that he'd ever seen from her. Sensing his presence was detracting from the goal, he turns and departs the room, leaving Archibald and their mother alone. He knew the younger brother had the situation well in hand.

    Stepping out of the room and shutting the door, Almark softly walked the halls, coming across a scruffy serf with a shaggy beard and offbalanced disposition. This was Tiberius' wine tester, which well explained why he was always so unsure of his footing. Tiberius had been known to drink a lot.

    Almark lifts his hand, resting it on the man's shoulder. "I have ... unsettling news, Teqo. Father's wine was poisoned. He's ... gone."

    Teqo's eyes narrowed at first, then widened as he began to understand the possible consequences. "M-my Lord, I tasted all his wine! I promise! I--"

    "Oh, no no ... I know it wasn't your fault," Almark assured him with a soft smile and a gentle pat on the chest. "It was mine. I ... poisoned his wine and stored it beside his seat. You're certainly not to blame."

    That did momentarily put Teqo at more ease, but why would Almark be telling him that?

    "Right now, Archibald is watching our mother write her suicide note, and she will join Father in Resna's embrace. I will take my place at the head of the family, and with any luck, restore our sense of unity and inter-dependence." He explains, just before a soft sigh escaped the Raine heir. "Unfortunately, Teqo .... as a son who has lost both of his parents to poison, certain behaviors are expected of me."

    Teqo almost got his question out when Almark introduced a knife to the conversation.
    Almark Leontine Raine, Patriarch of House Raine
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  • If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading Chapter One of the House Raine guild prologue! Chapter Two is on our Discord server, and we are always accepting of new members!
    Almark Leontine Raine, Patriarch of House Raine
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  • Wait ... ... ... he "also" killed the poor Wine-Food Taster ? ^.^;" Oooffff. x'D

    A very stunning and well-written Story. Also as dark as it comes. Surely a Family i would keep my Distance from, no Offense.

    I am curious about to see, what Stories you would write with your Character ingame. I assume it's Almark ?

    What for an amazing Character.
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  • No offense taken, but I assure you we’re good people! Except to the wine tasters, apparently.

    As it is, the six other Raines do everything they can to make Almark pull his hair out. Thanks for reading the story and I’m glad you liked it!
    Almark Leontine Raine, Patriarch of House Raine
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