Kingmaker: Reborn by Jaywaii | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

Chapter 4

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12 years ago

City of Foycomté

"It's a lovely garden, if a little… rustic," Cyrano Varano observed. He stood at the balcony's railing, looking over the gardens of the Biancardi estate. He swirled the wine in his glass before taking another sip. Even the wine was rustic to his tastes, being a local halfling brand.

"It does me no surprise to hear you say that, Cyro," Giovanni Biancardi said with mirth. The chief executor of the Biancardi Trade League joined his guest on the balcony, a glass of wine in his hand as well. Both were enjoying a moment of peace and quiet after a long day of fierce negotiation between their two trade houses. "They may be simple folk with simple pleasure, but sometimes we need a bit of simplicity in our high-stress, hectic lives, wouldn't you say?"

Cyrano scoffed. "Men of our stature and lineage should have no issues dealing with the day-to-day concerns of wielding power. I hope for your sake that your indulgences don't make you soft." He looked pointedly at the man.

Biancardi shrugged. It was true, since becoming the overseer of Foycomté, he had gained a few extra pounds. And his manor had come to have the scent of halfling weed as a common odour. "I believe today's talks more than adequately demonstrated that my business remains more than sharp enough."

Varano had to admit that he spoke truthfully. Giovanni had lost none of his edge, and Varano had to think hard on certain concessions to conclude their latest business deal. "Still, imagine what you could accomplish if you fully embraced nobilism. You have the talent and resources to firmly establish your aristocracy."

Nobilism was a new movement that had emerged among the Lurindor elite some fifty years prior. It embraced a romantic view of nobility in the past. The philosophy espoused that the natural order for a prosperous society was to have certain people elevated above others due to their breeding, education, and manners. This group of people should be given the resources and privileges in order for them to lead the rest of society into a brighter future. Proponents of the movement claim the philosophy will help elevate society as a whole. Its critics accuse it as just another excuse for the rich to keep staying rich off the backs of the less fortunate.

Biancardi waved the notion away. "Those ideas went away with the Rastolis, my friend, and are outdated in this day and age. No, Cyrano, these days you need to be flexible, and open to new ideas if you want to seize every opportunity that comes your way."

"Trust me, Gio, the teachings of nobilism are what is needed to push Lurindor even further."

"If you think your noble ideals are so great, then you should be able to take some halfling off the street, and raise them into a successful aristocrat!"

"Perhaps I should, if that is what it will take."

"Ha! Cyrano, I like these halflings well enough, but be realistic, they are a simple folk meant for simple lives."

"A wager then? Find a halfling child of your choice, and I will take them into my own house, and raise them to be a true aristocrat!"

A twinkle appeared in Biancardi's eye. He was always eager for some gambling. "Done!"

Varano and Biancardi finalized the details of the bet, and placed their wagers. At the end of the night, a plan was hatched that would affect the lives of more than just one halfling.

Present day

Dante Varano was not always called so. Once, he was just an orphan boy named Anatole. All that changed when Lord-Executor Cyrano Varano himself selected him after examining all of the other children in their poor orphanage. "You. With me." were the first word the man spoke to him.

The next decade or so of Dante's life was hard. He never knew why the man had adopted him into his house. Apparently, it was fairly controversial within his social circles. It was not as if the man cared for the boy; Varano always treated him coldly and harshly, employing painful punishments for his mistakes. And yet, at the same time, Varano provided him with the very best education, training, and resources, raising him to be a gentleman among his peers. He even gave the boy his household's name, although it seems more like a symbol of ownership than paternal kindness. His "father"'s true children did not make life easy for him for that.

It was a harsh upbringing, but Dante was determined not to give up, if only to spite his "family". He took in everything he was taught, and worked hard to excel at everything. But he needed to escape. His life in the Varano household, as their "halfling show pet", was suffocating him. He did not know how long he could last in this life.

Dante's chance came when a friend reached out to him. They told him of the Chêteaufoy's attempt to colonize the Viridian Marches, told him that one of the parties was significantly understrength, and that they could use someone of his skills. It was a chance to escape the grip of the Varano's, to use his skills to make something of his own instead of his owners. And so one night, Dante Varano slipped out of the Varano's estate, and traveled all the way south.

In Rochefort, he got the details of the Evergreen party's task. At Onestrio's Trading Post, he caught up on the party's accomplishments and last direction. Thankfully, the party were spending a lot of time exploring, allowing Dante to catch up to them. He finally caught up to them at the moon radish patch he was told about back at the trading post. There, he saw the party about to confront four kobold warriors. Seeing his chance to make a good impression, Dante rushed in to join the fight.

Evergreen Plains

Starday, Asmolan 12th, 108 6A

The scene in the moon radish patch was actually quite laughable. Five well armed adventurers faced off four small kobolds who appeared to be too full of delicious radishes. Arina and Davona readied their blades. Jupus nocked an arrow in his bow. Cethin loaded his crossbow. And Minchdoya…

Minchdoya suddenly heard laughter. His own laughter.

It was distant and faint, but recognizable. It came from the east. From the… forest?

It was impossible, but he knew his own laughter. It completely captured his attention. Ignoring everything, the terranefblin started walking towards the east, as if entranced.

His companions were puzzled, but before they could deal with him, their battle with the kobolds had already begun. Suddenly, a well-dressed halfling swordsman came out of nowhere to engage the kobolds from another angle.

Davona charged in, and delivered a devastating overhead chop at one of the kobolds. Arina followed in, and dodged a spear jab. "Ho there!" she called out of the halfling. "Have you come to assist us?"

"Indeed, my lady!" the halfling replied. "My name is Dante Varano, and I-urk!" Dante's introduction was interrupted as one of the kobolds charged and jabbed his spear into the halfling's gut. So much for the dashing entrance!

Cethin tried to fire his crossbow, but as he pulled the trigger, he tripped. The bolt flew, and instead hit his fox. The witch's familiar yip in pain, and gives his master a glare. "Sorry!" the kitsune says sheepishly.

Jupus fired his bow. His aim was true, but his small arrow bounced harmlessly off the kobold's rusty scale mail. Jupus rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath. Of course his tiny arrows would do nothing.

Arina concentrated, and Mr. Angelcakes shared her pain onto several of her opponents. The kobold struck by Davona wailed and dropped his spear. He began groveling into the ground, whimpering in pain and fright. Davona passed over him to deliver another devastating blow to another kobold. Cethin followed with an ear-piercing scream, audible only to his target, causing the kobold to flinch in pain and become dazed.

Arina then executed a left-hand strike, and two swords flashed together, with the one real strike skewering the kobold. On the other side of the fight, Dante twirled with panache to narrowly dodge a spear thrust to his face. He then countered by executing several devastating feints, intimidating his opponent.

One by one, the kobolds dropped the spears from pain and fear. Arina's dark forces continued to inflict pain on them, knocking several of them out. Finally, all but one kobold was unconscious, and the last surrendered in a particularly groveling fashion.

Satisfied with the outcome, and not desiring anymore bloodshed, the Evergreen Company proceeded to stabilize the unconscious kobolds while keeping an eye on the last conscious one. Fortunately, that kobold remained groveling, weeping in fear. As they did so, they also turned their attention to the newcomer. He, too, received some of Cethin's healing.

"Thanks for aid, sir, but who might you be, and what brings you all the way out here?" Arina asked the halfling.

"Ahem. Yes, please allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Dante Varano at your service," the halfling replied with a courtly bow. Despite the wound being healed, he still winced. "Quite literally, actually. I wish to join your expedition, and become part of the effort to establish a new colony here."

The Evegreen Company members did not seem to know what to make of Dante's request. They were a bit skeptical. "We just need to make sure you're not some crazed bandit or anything," Arina told him.

"Oh I assure, I'm certainly not!"

Oddly enough, Cethin had heard about a story about the Varano family adopting a halfling child. He had heard it while the Nine-tail Coven traveled through Lurindor. Apparently, it was a pretty scandalous story for a while. "Hey, Arina, this guy seems legit," he said.

"Well, if you are willing to help clear the Evergreen of its bandit problem, you're more than welcome to join us," Arina told him.

"Perfect! Thank you, I shall not be a burden for the group," Dante replied with a fancy bow.

"Hey, at least he ain't as weird like Minchdoya over there," Cethin remarked, pointing his thumb at the returning deep gnome, who looked more morose than usual.

The party then turned their attention to the groveling kobold at their feet. "It's too bad none of us can speak kobold," Cethin remarked.

Dante cleared his throat. "Actually… I might be able to speak with them. I can speak a few dragon tongues that they may understand," he told them. The Draconic tongues were ancient languages used heavily as the basis of arcane writings, so it was part of his intense education. He still felt the stings on his body when he made mistakes.

"Just joined and already contributing to the party! I'm starting to like the new guy!" Cethin quipped.

Using Dante as an interpreter, the party consoled the kobold, and told him that they were not going to kill him or his fellows. In fact, they demonstrated their good will by healing them. The kobold was very relieved, and proceeded to kiss their feet. They learned that the kobold, named Rikrak, belonged to the Sootscale tribe, and he and his companions were ordered to bring back some moon radishes for their tribe, but they stayed to gorge on them for a while.

The Company assured Rikrak that they did not want to have troubles with the kobolds, and that they would like to speak with the Sootscale leader. Rikrak took some convincing, but after seeing the party heal his companions (named Zorzik, Rurik, and Drazdik), and believing them when they said to let them go with their baskets of radishes, Rikrak told them that their tribe lived in a cave among the hills near the centre of the Evergreen Plains. He told them to speak to Chief Sootscale. Rirak then proceeded to kiss their feet once again. The Company assured Rikrak that they also want to help the kobolds deal with the bandits.

While Rikrak went to tend to his friends, the party discussed among themselves. They decided that the kobolds might make useful allies, and that a diplomatic approach might be the way to go. They then proceeded to collect their own share of radishes.

"You gotta teach me how to speak draconic," Cethin eagerly asked Dante.

"Certainly!" replied the hafling.

"Yes, more learning!"

They finished healing up the remaining kobolds to full health. Rikrak explained to them the mercy the Evergreen Company had given them. They collected their baskets of radishes, and said their goodbyes. Rikrak in particular said he looked forward to their visit to their tribe in the future.

After collecting their moon radishes, the Evergreen Company made camp. The next day, they continued their exploration of the Evergreen plain.

Two days after their encounter with the kobolds at the moon radish patch, the party discover an abnormally large pack of thylacines chasing a human woman in leather. What was even more odd, noticed by Cethin, was that thylacines were nocturnal hunters, and it was the middle of the day.

"This way!" Davona called out. "We'll provide you cover!"

The woman whipped her head towards the party. She changed direction to them, waving at them. The thylacines were nipping at her heels, and the party could see that she was already sporting several bite marks.

The party charged toward the oncoming thylacines, getting between the woman and the pack. Dismounting from their horses and ponies, the Evergreen Company engaged the thylacines and diverted their aggression from the woman to themselves. Cethin remained on his horse, but reached out to the woman. 

"Get on, hurry!" he called out to her, and the woman grabbed his arm, and climbed up onto his horse.

While Cethin pulled his horse away, Minchdoya rolled off his pony right into the middle of the pack. He put up his guard and tried to draw the thylacines' aggression towards himself, allowing the others to attack from the sides. Davona waded into the pack, slashing away at the beasts, followed by Arina and Dante with their rapiers. Jupus stayed back, picking off the beasts with his bow. He was particularly pleased to see his small arrows draw blood from his targets ("Finally," he muttered).

Cethin quickly incanted a cure wounds spell on the woman. She thanked him. The kitsune dismounted and passed the woman his crossbow and bolts. "Here, take these."

"Thank you, I'll do what I can," the woman replied, loading the crossbow.

Several thylacines became badly wounded, and ran off yipping in pain. Minchdoya tried to keep up his defence, but there were too many of the beasts around him, and one of them clamped down hard on his forearm. Its teeth sank deep into the deep gnome's flesh. The pain was too much for Minchdoya, and the gnome fell unconscious.

The rest of the party doubled their efforts in the fight. Fortunately, the remaining thylacines were few enough for the Company to make quick work of them. The beasts were killed or driven off before they could pile onto the fallen gnome. The Evergreen Company breathed a sigh of relief, and proceeded to heal their wounds.

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