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Author Topic: Glass House  (Read 141 times)

Glass Cannon

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Glass House
« on: February 08, 2020, 06:28:49 AM »
Martira Bay, over a dozen years ago...

To understand the city of Martira Bay, one had to know that it is a city of immigrants and refugees.  No city in the Core since the fall of Il Aluk matched its diversity. Growing from a small fishing village to a thriving port city in the span of a dozen years, its chaotic sprawl was built with the newfound zeal and urgency of disaster escapees. The majority of the city’s inhabitants were human, but a surprisingly (perhaps to the more xenophobic-minded, even shockingly) large minority were not: halfling apartment-burrows built next to urbanised elf-villages grown besides gnome ghettos bordering dwarf homes testified to a variety of life and peoples you would be hard-pressed to match anywhere else in Darkon, let alone the rest of the known world.

It was a city of a dozen cultures, all living atop one another; some embraced this cosmopolitan nature, while others became insular in reaction to it.  Yet most of Martira Bay’s inhabitants shared at least one characteristic: they had all been running from something, be it as cataclysmic as the Requiem, or for more personal reasons…

Ludwig Glaese lay on his deathbed,  but still had the strength to throw his bedpan at the Overseer Witness as the priest attempted to administer last rites. The Witness retreated from the room with an indignant protest, the faint odour of urine wafting after him; Carina pressed herself to the side as he pushed past, her father’s arm protectively around her head.

“Julius, is that you?” croaked the dying patriarch, laying on cotton sheets.  “Come in… come closer. Hmm, good.  You’ve brought the little ones.  It’s right that they be here.”

The rest of the Glaese clan were already in attendance, filling the large bedroom.  It was some Lamordian or Darkonese tradition that warranted that all the patriarch’s family be in attendance when he died.  Part of this was mere practicality: to witness (and possibly contest) any last-minute change of the will that was uttered.  The more cynical wags would say it was to make sure the old bastard was truly dead at the end of it.

One by one, Carina’s siblings were presented to her grandfather, to say their good-byes.  The childrens’ manner was solemn: Lamordian stoicism was ingrained into them early.  Carina was twelve, and an early growth spurt meant she was taller than some of her brothers, though they would end up surpassing her height eventually in a few years.  As she came forward, her grandfather looked at her with pale blue eyes.

“Ah, Carina!  You remind me of your great-grandmother.  You’ll make a beautiful wife, some day.”

Carina rankled.  “I will be much more than someone’s wife.  I want to be a great mage like you someday, Papi,” she said.  The other adults gasped in shock at this effrontery, but a coughing chuckle from the old man put them to pause.

“That’s the spirit, girl.  A true Glaese, that one.  But remember: no man stands tall without a house; and no house stands without a solid foundation.”

With this, Carina was shuffled away. It was the last time she spoke to her grandfather.  He passed during the night.  His will stipulated that he be buried next to his parents, in the Martira Bay cemetery. That they were, in point of fact, buried back in Lamordia was rapidly glossed over by the Darkonese lawyer in charge of executing the will; this sort of factual contradiction was hardly uncommon in Darkon, and besides, the Glaese name was not so welcome back in Lamordia.  A few days later, Ludwig Glaese was buried in Martira Bay, besides the graves of his “adopted” parents.

It would be many years before Carina understood the wisdom of her grandfather’s deathbed aphorism.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2020, 06:37:30 AM by Glass Cannon »

Glass Cannon

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Re: Glass House
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2020, 12:08:05 AM »
Martira Bay, under a dozen years ago…

It was a beautiful summer day, and while other children were playing, Carina was reading under the shade of the apple tree in the courtyard. The Glaese home was a large townhouse, well situated above the bay; her grandfather had bought it when most of the surrounding land was still fields.  Much of Carina’s childhood had involved watching architects, stonemasons, carpenters, and labourers toil around her home as the Requiem’s refugees grew the sparse fishing hamlet into a sprawling urban metropolis.

But the winds of Fortune blow one way and then the other; as his children made the most of that bright summer day, Julius and his three brothers sat at the conference table on the upper floor.  Though Claud was the eldest, the others looked to Julius for leadership -- he had always been the smartest and most charismatic. This fact was at the core of the frictions within the family; but of late, there were more pressing matters to address.  The numbers for the past two quarters were simply grim: for a while, the glass made by their factory had been in high demand, especially as it had been the best in the region; but the high influx of elves had brought with it elven glassmakers, and the simple truth was their Lamordian glassmaking techniques were not as sophisticated.  The Glaese factory had lost their market dominance; and at this rate, would be pushed out entirely.

“The way I see it, we have three choices,” said Saul, the youngest brother. “Our first option is to cut our costs, go for the cheaper end of the market.  The elves won’t compete with us there, they’re too proud for that.  It will mean losing out on the big guild and church contracts, but we’ll survive.  There’s always a demand for cheap glass.”

The silence that greeted him in response was testament to the lack of enthusiasm for this proposal.  It wasn’t merely pride, Julius knew.  Cheap glass would not maintain the family in the standard to which it had become accustomed.  Belts would have to be tightened; sparing a glance at his brother Porthos, he reflected that this might not entirely be a bad thing. He gestured for Saul to continue.

“Our second choice: spy on the elves, learn their techniques.  This is risky and potentially costly; even assuming we succeed, we don’t know to what extent we’d hav--”

He was interrupted by Claud’s snort: “Glaeses learning how to make glass.  What next?!  Would you teach your grandmother to suck eggs? Father would have never stood for this!”

His three brothers bickered amongst themselves for a while.  Asking what their father would have done was fruitless, he knew.  When their father had moved here, virtually all the elves in the area were of the woodland variety.  Now Martira Bay boasted a sizeable community of their urban cousins.  That was then, this is now, he mused, mirthlessly.

He interrupted the argument with a wave of his hand and looked to his brother Saul.  “Tell me about the last option.”

Glass Cannon

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Re: Glass House
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2020, 01:30:24 AM »
Martira Bay, ten years ago

“I will not marry him!  He’s ugly, he has bad breath, and worst of all, he’s as dumb as a dwarf brick!”

Carina’s younger sisters, Marguerite and Lavina, crouched behind a dresser, listening as the sound of the argument carried through the house; their mother, pleading, entreating; their father, stern, unrelenting; and Carina, furious, strident.

“No!” came a yell.

The two sisters listened in mute awe; it had always been implied that, when they were older, the sisters would be married to husbands of prominent families, their matches chosen and arranged.  Carina had always said she would not marry; their father had told her that it was not her choice.  Without a true test, those debates had fizzled fruitlessly, but now, at last, their elder sister’s defiance was being put to the fire.

The family had not done so well in the past year.  Ever since the mysterious inferno had raged through the elven warehouse district, misfortune had stalked the Glaeses.  It had all come to a head six weeks ago, when uncle Porthos had been attacked by a gang of thugs while out drinking with uncle Saul.  Uncle Porthos had been bed-bound and infirm ever since; and uncle Saul had gone back to Lamordia permanently.  Their father had not smiled in six weeks.  To the girls, this litany of tragedy was senseless, devoid of meaning.  They suspected their elder sister knew something, parsed some pattern to these events, but she never told them what insights she might have gleaned.

“I won’t become a baker’s wife!  I won’t be able to study--”

“Baker guildmaster’s wife--” interjected the voice of their mother.

“Whatever!”

“I don’t see why she should have to marry him,” murmured Lavinia to her younger sister.

“If she doesn’t, then papa will ask you to marry him,” replied the youngest sister, Marguerite, astutely.  Lavinia’s expression contorted into a grimace of disgust.

“That’s not fair!”

Their debate was interrupted as the door to their father’s study was thrown open, Carina storming out.

“I will not marry him!” she cried out as she retreated.  Julius Glaese was an even-tempered man, practiced in the art of patient discourse; rarely did he ever raise his voice, or feel the need to.  Yet now he shouted, face red with anger:

“While you live under my roof, you will obey me!”

“I won’t sacrifice my ambition to correct your mistakes!” she yelled back, spinning around.  Yet even as the words were spoken, her expression turned to dismay.  Unseen to the younger sisters, she had inflicted a telling wound; an immediate apology may yet have offered a salve, but Lamordian stubbornness and youthful pride stayed it.

“If you will not obey me as your father,” said Julius Glaese after a long, empty pause, his voice now calm and low again, but with an edge of coldness he had never before deployed against his own children. “Then you will not live under my roof.  Go.  Leave.”

With that, the argument was over, much as her mother might try to entreat her father for calmness and mercy as he returned to his study.

Lavinia and Marguerite, shocked, went to hug their sister, crying in disbelief and grief.  Carina hugged them as reassuringly as she could.  “It’ll be alright,” she told them, but her expression betrayed the superficiality of that sentiment.