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Posted: Jan 1 2018, 01:17 AM
Yᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ʙᴏʀɴ somewhere in Southgate under no particular stars, favorable or unfavorable, to no one in particular – or so the Clerics told you. You are raised in a place so remote that even now you struggle to point it out on a map. Nestled in foothills dotted white with chickweed and evening primrose, it is a small keep that was handed over to the Clerics after it fell into disuse, and the winds that topple down from the peaks are bold and bracing. You’ll spend years here dreaming of warmer places and what your life could have been, if you’d had a family; at this point, though, you can barely remember your mother’s face, much less Southgate. You certainly can’t imagine anywhere outside of the Blue Mountains.
Your world is here, with the brothers and sisters. Still, you know some things; you know that the Grand Cleric knows best, and that it is the greatest work of all to be in the service of Ithir and Aer (and those alone). You know your letters and basic geography. Most importantly, you know that you are lucky: lucky that you were born where you were. That the Clerics found you. That you were not born a mage. That you have a quick mind, and have had the privilege of wasting your quick mind with malapert inquisitiveness and excessive questions. That your back does not trouble you more than it does.
(Your spine has been bent from birth, and no amount of Sister Bedelia whacking you and telling you to straighten up will fix it. Nor will a brace. You stand stooped, and your back often gives you pain, and the jeers of some of your less polite peers will never quite cease to bother you. But you’ll learn how you should and shouldn’t move, and how to treat and allay the pain – and to understand that pettiness and foolish comments have little bearing on your future.)
Eventually, you start to know better. At fourteen, you get into an argument with Sister Aisling and it doesn’t end well; you part ways with the Clerics, but you’re unprepared for what you will find when you make the journey out of the keep and down to Southgate. The fevered march of city life nearly tramples you underfoot until you have the dubious pleasure of failing to pickpocket a man named Addison Dubois. Seeing your nimble fingers and your hungry belly, he will make you an offer you can’t refuse.
This is how you come to be a bard.
Eɪɢʜᴛ ʏᴇᴀʀs ᴄᴀʀʀʏ with them a great deal of experiences. You’re taught to play the lute by an old man named Hugh, whom you begin to think of as a father; you also learn to correct the mistake that got you your place in Addison’s troupe, and you become quite good at thieving and making friends in low places. Soon enough, you’re fairly good at telling stories, too, and though you might not have the best voice in the world, you don’t have to. You can hit most of the notes you need to hit, and with the accompaniment of your lute, you can sell nearly any story to an audience desperate enough for entertainment. And given some of the remote backwaters you and your troupe hit on your winding journeys around Eldur, that’s a lot of audiences.
When you’re twenty-two, you meet a young woman in Summerfield – a flautist with pretty eyes and a scar on her lip. You think you’ve fallen in love almost immediately, and you’re fairly sure she likes you, too. While your troupe is still in Summerfield, the two of you get awfully friendly; at first, you’re having a drink or two, trying to get her to come along with you and Addison, then you’re telling stupid jokes and stories of the places you’ve been. You finally sleep together on the last day that your troupe is in Summerfield, when you think you know her like the back of your hand. She’s the first person around whom you’ve ever allowed yourself to be vulnerable, and it feels good to know someone.
The next morning, she places one finger on your lip and makes you an offer. And her offer isn’t just to travel with a troupe – she knows someone who knows someone, and that someone knows a certain person in House Morcant. She wants you to loop yourself into this chain.
(This, you will learn, is how you go about getting informants. Intimacy of that nature is sometimes optional, but spying is the business of making friends – and then making those friends offers.)
You say yes, and you become a spy.
Yᴏᴜ'ʀᴇ ᴍᴜᴄʜ ᴏʟᴅᴇʀ when you meet the prince (now the king, of course). You’ve seen a lot of things you wish you hadn’t, and (conversely) had a lot of experiences you wouldn’t trade for the world. But it’s been hard. Your work during the war put you in positions you thought you’d never get out of, and lately you’ve been thinking about how you might slip off to some remote location, shedding the person you are now like a selkie’s coat and swimming into anonymity and some semblance of security. Maybe you could go to some place in Mücevher, you think. Somewhere warmer than most of Eldur, and with a sea view. You know a little Mücevek, thanks to Şirin. (You miss her achingly, and that’s one of the reasons you want to get out of this business before it swallows you too.)
You’re not sure if that’s possible. You know a lot of things you shouldn’t, and a lot of people whom you’d rather not know you.
You’re tired from riding for days when you meet him; your back aches like the devil and you’re counting each second before you can sleep. You’re not expecting him in more than one way: you’re not expecting him, firstly, and once you get over that surprise, you’re not expecting him to be the person that he is. This isn’t a feckless royal; this is a soldier. And he’s not dismissive to you like most nobles.
He’s had an eye on you, apparently. In a small way, he’s rewarding you for your service (the service, of course, that you’d secretly rather not be doing). When he becomes king, you’ll find yourself favored.
At least you feel marginally safer – and, perhaps more importantly, at least you have the honor of knowing exactly for whom it is you’re working. You’re not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse. You suppose you’ve earned it. And frankly, you can’t think of anyone for whom you’d rather be working.
Yᴏᴜ ʟɪᴋᴇ ɪᴛ in Windemere, although you’d prefer it a bit warmer. You’ve learned to like knowing a little bit of everything about a little bit of everyone – and conveying this information, of course, to the king himself. You keep up with the informants you’ve recruited (just like you were recruited yourself, so many years ago). You play your lute and sing almost every day, an occupation which you didn’t have to learn to love, and have never really stopped loving: privately, in your mind, you’ve named the lute Şirin, after the woman who gave it to you. You take immaculate care of it.
Of course, you have to do some things you’d rather not be doing, but it beats the work you were doing during the war by a long-shot. And it’s for the good of Eldur, you imagine. You have strong feelings about things, which you keep mostly quiet unless it’s to the king (and even then, you’re careful). You’re working toward something, you tell yourself, and that makes all the underhandedness and paranoia and watching and using people worth it.
You’re still dreaming of a little house somewhere in Mücevher, far away from any of the cities, buffeted by coastal breezes. There’s a woman living in that house – an older woman with nothing to do (unlike you), doing all of her therapeutic exercises whenever she can (unlike you), who doesn’t know or give a damn about anyone in Eldur, and doesn’t have to be friendly with anyone, either (unlike you). She doesn’t have your name, of course. But she looks a lot like you, and she’s got a past a lot like yours, and one day, you might be her.
Bᴏsᴄʜ – ꜰᴏʀ ɪᴛ's ᴀ rare person who calls her “Marin” – cuts an odd figure. Officially, she’s a beloved bard of House Morcant; she can be found at the keep in Windemere more often than not, never without her precious lute. She’s an excellent lutenist to boot, and her calloused, scarred fingers can attest to her experience. She’s a somewhat diminutive figure, tending toward dull, neutral colors (she favors an embroidered black coat) and a quiet but friendly demeanor, though she might ask a bit too many questions. If you’re observant, you’ll notice that she keeps tabs on everyone who enters the keep, and on meeting her for the first time, you might find that she knows a little more about you than she should.
While unofficial, her purpose at court is – wink-wink, nudge-nudge – fairly well-known colloquially. She's a competent spy, and very little goes on among the nobility that doesn't reach her. Conversely, other than her rumored occupation, very few people know much at all about her: only enemies and very close friends will ever poke through her veneer of bland friendliness (or put-on joviality), and though she’s served as a spy for nearly two decades, it’s hard to say much about her past.
Wɪᴛʜ Bᴏsᴄʜ, relationships can be complex.
Bosch has many friends. If you have access to a circle that is relevant to her interests, chances are she knows you – or has tried to get to know you. She also has contacts among minstrels, whom she’s known throughout her time as a bard (especially traveling around with troupes). Between her two occupations, you'll be hard-pressed to find a place in Eldur that she hasn't at least briefly visited.
Of course, a contact does not necessarily equal a friend. She has a sharp tongue and a lot of disdain for most people, and aside from superficially and/or on the job, she isn’t terribly easy to get along with (or “know” in any genuine sense). If she’s not trying to get on your good side, she can do “backhanded” and “ill-tempered” with the best of them. After all, it’s hard to be a good friend when your job requires you to have dirt on nearly everyone – and what competent agent can share their true feelings on anything?
Contact also isn’t far from enemy. Relationships can sour quickly when someone feels they’ve been used, or when allegiances shift, or when players or the balance of power changes. And while she’s never been open about it, it’s not exactly a secret that she doesn’t have favorable feelings toward the Clerics, and will (privately) do what she can to support mages. Naturally, an enemy of the king is also almost always an enemy of hers. She’s been serving the Morcants for nearly two decades, too, and that includes during the war, when her position was a great deal less cushy; if you're ever lucky enough to see her scars, don't ask about them, or why (despite her "official" stance) she's wary of Volubisians.
As for lovers, real intimacy is difficult for all the reasons that friendship is (and more!). Bosch isn’t terribly keen on love anymore, though deep-down she’s always had a sentimental heart. She’s had a few “long-term” lovers in her lifetime, but not a lot of good experiences: her job isn’t easy, and relationships don’t last long in it.
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Posted: Jan 3 2018, 06:57 AM
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