(1874-08-21) Farewell to Paras
Farewell to Paras
Summary: Alia encounters Thomas as the Viscount prepares to depart Paras.
Date: 2018-08-23 (scene backdated to the 21st)
Related: An Unexpected Arrival, references A Trip Down the Salt?
NPCs: None
Alia  Thomas  

City of Paras
A street, full of hustle and bustle.

It was nearly the last day of the games. Many of the visitors had already departed, as well most of the merchants. For some, the City had proved a revelation. For others, a disappointment. Perhaps, in the end, it could be said that for most, they had at least come away with some new way of seeing the Empire that was different than what they had known before.

For Alia, the games had been a time spent more at work than at rest, and she had been as often in Candeo as she had been in Paras. Just now, she was returning to the City, her horse having been dropped off at the stables, and she was making her way along the road leading towards the city center, wending her way through the departing masses, towards one of the inns which had let rooms for the duration of the games.

Fortunately for Viscount Thomas Chandus, this has been a week spent in observation, in contemplation of what the Empire has become and in an effort, a frustrated one, to find an Imperial book.

While the last had failed, he had certainly had an interesting week. He strolls through the city itself, wearing naught but an off-white long sleeved tunic decorated with geometric patterns (but not with the same beauty as his court attire) and trousers, his heavy belt housing a roundel dagger and nothing else. As Alia moves down the road in an opposite direction, the Galenthian dips his head. “Good even, my lady.” He greets politely in Common.

Alia, hearing herself addressed, turned her attention away from the merchants she was watching carrying their loads on horses now much less ladened than they had been when they arrived a week ago, and some more. She wore, for her part, a pair of riding leathers and a leather lorrica, both in dark hue, nearly black. Unlike the Viscount, she bore a gladius in a scabbard, the leather a simple design, though the weapon was less so. The hilt lightsilver, inlaid with rose gold.

As they approached close enough to speak, and seeming having had no great errands to draw her on, Alia offered a polite bow, lacking the skirts for a proper curtsy, “Viscount Chandus. I hope the evening finds you well. And Alia, please. Titles are…strange things here in Paras. The empire does not use them, and so I have forgone them as they do, unless circumstances require.” Alia shifted the small satchel she carried, so that it would not strike him as she fell into step with him.

Thomas observes Alia rather carefully - how she carries herself, what she wears and how she addresses him. “Hmm. Leather lorrica. To tell you the truth, we’ve never thought of that. My longbows still wear leather, though we’ve found that modern gambesons provide about as much protection and are generally more comfortable. My militia wear those. But the bowmen are called Leatherbacks, and I suppose old habits die hard.” He muses in a scattershot manner. “I suppose one day, when we are rich enough to buy Four Corners, we’ll outfit them in mail shirts. But they’ll have to keep leather strips on their back. For tradition.”

“If you insist, although you are a woman of noble blood and birth, as well as manner. I feel it oddly dismissive of you to refer to you by your One given name, given that we are mere acquaintances. But I shall acquiesce, for the sake of custom.” He smiles. “For a woman with no military background, I was very impressed by how well you ran the keep at Candeo. Ably assisted by Centurions, no doubt, but many officers so assisted still manage to mangle it. You do not.”

Alia glanced down at the armor she was wearing. Certainly no great protection, “It is not as protective, perhaps, as I would like, but I cannot manage anything heavier.” She was not a tall woman, and slender, but she was by no means frail. So…an odd turn of phrase, perhaps. “Though, I will admit, I have not yet had a chance to test it in battle. I had nothing during the taking of the Keep.” She took a moment, her expression thoughtful, “But then I had not intended to wade out into the field until it was so ordered. Perhaps it will be something to consider, when you return to your own lands.”

“I think it must seem so, to those who were raised in the West. I will admit I had to be broken of the habit when I first arrived. But, in truth, there is no nobility, such as exists in the West here in the Empire. Position is earned on merit and through right action.” Alia’s expression brightened, amusement in her voice, “That was a surprise as well. I will confess that I had quite a lot of help from the Centurions who were retained by the garrison. But in many ways, it seems to me, it is not so very different from running a very militant household. Each to their duties and stations, much as any noblewoman would run a House. Only the tasks and the priorities seem different to me.”

“I suppose I should qualify that. We had not thought to make leather lorrica because lorrica is typically complicated to do, not because it isn’t protective. In your case, it might be superior and much easier to repair. A broken band is replaceable.” Thomas nods as Alia recounts her story of the taking of the keep. “You know, Alia, the titles of the West did not arise in a vacuum. I am very well read in our histories. They were granted by the Empire long before it retreated into its isolation. That they innovated and pretend to be somehow equal for their lack of them now means only that they deceive themselves. Their noble families may not have titles, but they have status and money. Much like the non-nobility of Four Corners, which is anyway controlled by Aequorians.” He smiles. “Such as Duchess Myrana’s family.”

“Ah, so you ARE a noble lady!” Teases the Viscount.

Alia dipped her head, accepting the words offered in jest with an easy grace, “Sometimes, yes, I do show a glimmering.” Her lips crooked into a smile, as she sidestepped a citizen moving more swiftly along the road than they were themselves, “I would not say that they pretend to be equal. In truth there is a very distinct class structure here. Fairer to say that it is much easier to rise and fall from power than perhaps it is in the West. But from what I have been reading of the Empire, much has changed, since the days when they were more well known to us.” She continued along the road, attention rising towards the cluster of buildings they were approaching, “In the case of the armor, I would say that it is a necessity, and so, the armorers have become more proficient over time.” Her attention returned to the Viscount as they walked, “And how have you enjoyed your time in Paras, Your Excellency?” Though she had asked him to address her by name, he was still a man of the West, and she clearly had chosen to address him as was proper for his position there.

Thomas does not seem to notice her using his proper form of address. He’s grown inured to it, no matter that he was born far away from the succession to a Lordship only 30 years ago. He considers the question for a moment, before venturing, “It’s been illuminating. Of course, the citizens here are Aequorian in culture, and I suspect that they might remain so. Or at least form an interesting hybrid, in the years to come. But people generally appear to be pleased with the Princeps’s foray into the West. He’s done well for them. I wonder, then, what Aequor is to do about this. You must of course realise what a bind this puts King Maris in. While he is locked in mortal struggle on his west coast, his east has already been nibbled by people who may or may not be allies.”

“What the King will decide, I cannot say. All that I know, is that for the moment, the question of whether or not an attempt to reclaim these lands has been set aside in the face of the Qatunax who are, I have no doubt as dangerous a foe as the enemy that is rattling the gates of the West. for the now, I imagine he sees the Empire as a barrier between the rest of Aequor and the Qatunax. And while they remain an enemy of both Empire and Kingdom, he will tolerate the Empire’s presence.” On the matter of Darius, “The Princeps is a man of the Empire, and I think many from the West would see him as harsh, perhaps even cruel. And perhaps he is all of those things, when he has to be, as any commander of men must be, when placed into such circumstances as these. But he has done right by those who have come under his banner, whether by choice, or through their emancipation from the Qatunax.”

“Oh, I do not think that he is especially evil, particularly given the enemy he faces. I have to admit that I am grateful that the Church in our lands has rid us of those bloody games, though. The chariot races I found engaging and enjoyable until he deigned to have the rider killed at the lust of the crowd. A sordid affair, one which the masses perhaps cheer for but one that is neither good, nor right.” Thomas shrugs. For all his words, he doesn’t look particularly concerned. “But these are not my lands, nor my people. As for Aequor, it puts Galenthia into a position as well, of course. We are firm allies. That being said, I am happy that relations are unfreezing, and I hope we can all pursue something amenable in the future. God being good, we can actually have relations with our cousins across the mountains now. No more of the isolationist nonsense.”

“The masses, alas, cannot often be trusted to do what is right or good. I spent many years in Four Corners realizing exactly that. There were many parts of the city where decorum and civility were prized. But in most others, it was a bare veneer. And games such as these, i think, tap into that darker part of ourselves, the part of us that whispers that we are somehow better for seeing someone else fall, even if they have done nothing to us. With luck, we will have more fruitful tasks to set out minds to.” Alia nodded, lifting a hand to wrap around the strap of the bag she carried with her. “From your mouth to the ears of the One, Your Excellency. We simply cannot afford to allow disagreements and trivialities stop us from taking advantage of the resources our allies can provide.” She considered for a moment, before she glances back to Thomas, “And what else has interested you, if I might ask, in the city besides the Games?”

“I looked for a book. I would like nothing more than to find a history of the Empire from the reign of Emperor Anastasius on.” Anastasius, of course, was the Emperor who withdrew from the West, ensuring that only traders could pass over the mountains - and those at a trickle. A few decades ago, they further restricted trade to only the pass near Rhone. Thomas continues. “I would dreadfully like to know how our lands diverged. But no one is selling books. It has been fruitless. I brought the Princeps two books, one on our history and one on the Thirty Years War and the First Succession War. A part of me does hope that I can learn about the Empire.”

Alia offered a thoughtful sound, as she listened to his words, pausing for a moment on the street, moving off to stand close to a wall of one of the buildings, which, from the sound of it, was some sort of livery. There was no subterfuge in the act, only an attempt to move out of the direct step of traffic. A hand beckoned Thomas to join her, as she pulled the satchel over to her front, unfastening the clasp and removing a leatherbound volume. It was neither ornate or adorned, but seemed the sort of copy that was used for study and instruction. “Well, I cannot provide you a full history, Your Excellency, but perhaps you might find this of interest to you.” She offered him the book. Within was a series of biographies of notable figures in the Empire, ‘noble’ and common. “I am, as you have probably guessed, only new to the Empire myself, and one of my tasks has been learning about the history, the laws, and the peoples of empire. It is not much.”

“I could not take this from you, Alia.” Thomas answers as he too presses himself against the wall. “This is crucial to your education. But, if you would, I will accept it when you are finished with it. Perhaps in some months?”

“You are not taking it from me, Your Excellency. I am offering it to you. I have other books which I can use for my instruction, and I have already finished this one. I have only been rereading it. And if you prefer, you may return it to me when you are finished with it. So far, it is not difficult to send missives and packages yet, between the Western lands and the Empire. Should that change in the future, well, I will simply trust that you will return it when you can.” She took a moment, before she considered, “I have often had cause to believe that much of the distrust that exists between the Empire and the Kingdoms is borne of lack of knowledge and misinformation. It is only a small thing, but perhaps it might give you some insight into the empire and its people. We are not, as you say, enemies, but the truth of the matter and what people believe to be the truth of the matter are quite different things.”

“Well, Aequor and Galenthia know each other a great deal and yet, we’ve fought to the death more than once.” Thomas notes, but, with a smile, accepts the book graciously. “If you insist, I shan’t refuse you, my lady.” Yes, it came out again - it’s hard to control instincts. “I think you’ll find me a voice of friendship to the Empire. I hope I made that impression on His Highness.” While he has nowhere to put the book, he tucks it under his arm comfortably.

Alia laughed, the sound a friendly thing, as she glanced out at the road, and then back again, “I am afraid, on that point, we can only hope. I have had the fortune to train with the Princeps in my time since I came to the Empire, and while he has always been kind to me, in his way, I do not think there are many that could claim to know his mind. He is something of a force of nature, and I think most would have as much luck in knowing him as in learning the language of beasts, or the whisperings of the wind. I will say that he has sought always to see to my protection and training.” She offered a light touch to the armor, to the sword, “And I must judge him on those actions, as he did not have to be as welcoming to a woman of Aequor as he has been.” Alia paused, as though some thought had occurred to her, “Have I kept you from other tasks, Your Excellency? It is nearly the dinner hour. And those were often times of going about the business of the day after the work was done, at least in my time at the College.”

“I must be off to pack, I’m afraid. I leave exceedingly early, as my party needs to be back in our lands before anything… untoward happens.” Thomas frowns. “I swear, I’ve scarcely ever hoped for an invasion as I do. But, on the other hand, our enemies are foolish. They ought to have crossed months ago. Now our harvest is safe.” He shrugs. “I will cherish this book - I thank you. Please, if you do find more, I am happy to exchange with you. Books are the currency of those who decide the course of actions in the world.”

Alia nodded, at Thomas’ words, “Of course. This was only a brief respite from the business of war. However some of the events at the games played out. And I have no doubt that your lands and your people have need of your leadership. If you will allow me, perhaps I might see you safely to your lodgings. And if you find that you have need of the Spear to escort you from Paras through to Hellmouth, I will make the arrangements for you.” As she had done when Thomas and his party had first arrived at Candeo.

“Thank you, that would be appreciated. Who knows what kind of savages lurk in the hinterlands? I’m well acquainted with mountains, and I know the knavery that those in them can produce.” Thomas admits with a laugh. They take off down the road.

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