Last Breath of Winter:Characters:Mask:History

From RPGnet
Revision as of 06:55, 12 June 2008 by (talk)
Jump to: navigation, search

(Go Back to Main Page)
(Go Back to Characters)

Life 1- Ionus Paktrichter

Father was never a terribly well-liked man. Not that he was hated or found distasteful, mind you. He just suffered the stigma of man who brought with him unpleasant facts. The people of Whitewall seemed to be of a split mind on Father. One group seemed to think that if they could stay in his presence and become a friend or resource of sorts that it would keep them protected from his choices. The other, undoubtedly the larger faction, sought to remain invisible to my father, that he might not know their names or faces. In truth, the was no difference, for it was not my father's choice to be made- it was the duty of his station. You see, my father was Judge Hahnis Paktrichter, the Judge of Contracts, and the selector of those who were to be sacrificed for the sake of the city and the good of all.

Of course, as the son of a twelfth generation Judge, the same cloud seemed to follow me. My mother's death during childbirth only helped spread the rumors of our family (Indeed, my father's refusal to tell even me about my mother has stirred my curiosity at times.). I can remember hearing children and wives whispering as I passed- that my ancestors were actually the children of man and ghost, that food turned to ash in our mouths, that women could be rendered barren by drinking from our cups... the sort of drivel that is passed in the cold evenings when no other form of idiocy will stir the heart to sufficient warmth. In my earliest years, I must admit I carried the stories with almost a measure of pride. As I grew up, however, the cost of such an aloof distance made itself more clear.

Not that it was all bad, mind you. My father's position, while carrying a dark shadow, also made him the source of interest to the local merchants. He was the Judge of Contracts, after all, which meant that he also handled most major business disputes that arose in the city. As such, It became a business imperative for many of the wealthy to at least muster up a friendly face. For the foreign merchants, they rarely regarded him as any different than a stoic, solemn man, which, to be fair, he was. Still, within the confines of ethics, we enjoyed the benefits of the family station. Much of the focus was on my education, focused on history, business, and etiquette. At the time I did not see the relevance of the esoterica of ceremony I was taught, but since I have thanked my father a thousand times over for this gift.

By the most wise forethought of my father, I spent much of my youth traveling. Each spring I left for other corners of Creation- the Blessed Isle, the Haslanti League, Halta, Sijan, Lookshy... It was exciting, of course, but the greatest boon was the comfort that anonymity brought to my interactions with foreigners. I suppose it was that factor above all that created my love for travel. Travel also allowed me to become comfortable with goodbyes and conclusions, cradled in the knowledge of new beginnings over the horizon.

While most of the year was open to adventure, Winter was always spent at home with Father. Each winter I studied the peculiarities of Whitewall law, the procedures that the Judge used for selections, and any other lessons my father found appropriate. Looking back on it, I suppose the Judge was rather blunt about the darker forces of the world, given the many open discussions on corruption and abuse of power we had, both as a moral hypothetical and its current state in the city and the Realm. For good or for ill, the dark underbelly was shown to me (or as much as my father understood it), and I was trained to wage war against it.

A Lesson

"Time to choose, son."

Judge Hahnis Paktrichter looked, to his son with cool resolution. The grey cut stone of the city prisons seemed to suck in the fluttering illumination of the oil lamps that casted splotches of light about the room. To his right was young Ionus, a boy around fourteen in age, his gawky mid-pubescent body giving little more than a hanging frame for his dark robes. Across the room, two prisoners kneeled, their legs shackled to walls. A pair of guards stood watch silently at the door.

Ionus' brow was furrowed as he looked down at the ground. He stroked his chin thoughtfully, but with the slightly more rapid pace that gave away his nervousness.

"Are you -sure- this is the entirety of their records?"

"Quite sure."

"Maybe something was lost or overlooked. Perhaps we should review."

"The records are complete, and there is no time for further investigation. You know this."

"Hmm..." Ionus turned in thought. His eyes followed the path of some in indeterminate trickle of water along the back wall. The soft echoes of motion from the halls punctuated the otherwise still silence of the room.

"There must be something missing."

"There is. A decision. This has to be done, Ionus."

The boy gave a soft snort over his shoulder. "I know. I just..."

"Son, look at me."

The boy turned and met his father's gaze. Though his gaze had a practiced firmness, his crossed arms and the echo in the back of his eyes showed his fear.

"Now, look at them."

A silent plea screamed from the eyes of Ionus, but crashed against the walls of his father's. With a deep breath, he slowly turned his gaze on the two men for the first time since they entered the room. The fear was evident. Their limbs trembled, their eyes glistened with the moisture of repressed tears and shock. Yet, they did not raise their heads to meet the face of this small boy, for they knew today he would decide which of them would meet a face worse than death. They did not see the trembling of his own jaw and the tears creeping to his eyes, and he did not dare give sound to draw their attention. Countless moments passed as the scene remained near motionless, as if a still painting made real. Finally, the boy lift his hand.


For the first time the two looked up to find Ionus pointing at the dark bearded man on the right. No cries were given. The other man slumped over as he fell into a faint. The chosen one just stared blankly out into space. With a nod from Judge Hahnis, the guards removed the prisoners, leaving the father and son alone. Hahnis approached and placed a hand on Ionus' shoulder. "You did what must be done."

"I sent a man to his doom."

"You helped save Whitewall for another year. The cost of survival is steep, but it must be paid. Son," Hahnis turned the boy to face him. "We must perform our duty. It is not glamorous or easy, but it must be done for the good of all. It hurts now, I know, but you will come to understand. You must."

The boy nodded to his shoes, a small teardrop shaking loose of his cheek in the motion. Hahnis kissed his son on the head. "Go now, we are done for today. I must finish some matters here."

With another nod to his feet, the boy moved to the exit. Hahnis turned to the guards,"Escort him out, please. I will be fine here."

The footsteps trailed off in the distance as Hahnis finished the final sections of the selection warrant, marking the bearded man, a criminal known as Razor Wraith, for the yearly peace pact offering to the Deathlords. At the bottom of the paper was the seal and signature of Judge Hahnis Paktrichter, but just beneath that was the faint trace of another fallen tear.

Life 2- Judge Paktrichter

I took up the mantle of Judge of Contracts on the second Saturnday of Ascending Wood after my 16th birthday. Given the general perception of the position, it was understandably a fairly private swearing ceremony. Beyond my father and Nestor, the only other people there of their own choice were a number of the top city merchants, no doubt present to jockey position and to see if I might be made of softer resolve than my father. Still, it was an honor to take up the duty of my line.

The work was never-ending, and time flew by because of it. Every day was another con, another dispute, another conspiracy, not to mention the yearly duty. I'm sure some ploys slipped past me, but it was not from a lack of dedication nor, to risk vanity, from a lack of skill. However, unlike my father, I had learned new ways to handle the constant defilers. Where my father had stood stoic and unapproachable, I used a more... approachable demeanor. Given my youth, I was already underestimated by most of these men, the bulk many years my senior. By reducing the prominence of myself in their mind, I was able to dig much further than otherwise would have been possible. In fact, I attribute my methodology for allowing the city to finally route the underground drug trade cartel run by the Guildsman Cord Tearing Bat. In a different life, I'm sure that the two of us would have had many more meetings, but that was not to be the case.

To have been five years, it all seems so brief and distant now. I can only imagine it was the steady flow of work that made the time seem brief. Still, despite the work, there was always solace and seeing my City running smoothly. In many ways, it was much like gardening: you trimmed away the sick and the parasitic to better nurture the growth of the pure and strong. Though sometimes it would hurt a part of the City, it was always for the greater good.

Though, looking back, I do remember a desire for something more. Whether that was a sense of Destiny or just a natural desire of all people is a question better left to the philosophers. But, there were so many nights I dreamed of years prior, when I was able to explore the world. I loved my city, and upheld my duty, but I always felt like a visitor.

A Day at Work

"I'm terribly sorry, sir." Ionus offered a sympathetic smile. "But the matter is simply out of my hands. However, you could still manage to regain your caravan..."

Bat whipped around, grabbing Ionus by the shoulders,"What? How? Tell me!" He paused and regained himself. "This solution involves a tidy sum of money, I imagine, hmm?"

A grin crept across Ionus' face. "Yes, it most definitely does."

Bat gave a coy grin and stepped reached for his ledger. "Very well, my sagacious young judge, how much are we talking? A thousand? Five thousand? Five thousand could remove quite a few troubles, I wager..."

Ionus looked up from straightening his robes with a look of apologetic confusion,"I'm sure it could, sir, but I am unsure what the cost will be. You see, I've never been good at estimating auctions."

Bats face swelled with red fury,"What do you mean 'auctions?'"

"Well, illegal goods of course must be destroyed or contained, but the other items, such as transportation equipment, are typically sold at auction. The price rate varies sale to sale, but Sapphire Shrike- He is a competitor of yours, yes?- seemed particularly interested in the sale, so it really is anyone's guess. However," Ionus casually glanced out the window, "I hope you will forgive me, but I really must see to some additional affairs. I hope you have a lovely day, Master Cord Tearing Bat."

The young judge turned a deaf ear to the sounds of rage behind him as he left. As he stepped out onto the street, a young boy tripped across his feet, landing a sprawl before him, his bundle of goods going everywhere. "Geez, you oaf, why don't you learn how to walk! Do you know how much that... " The boy's face lost all color as he turned around. "J-J-Judge Paktricht-t-ter, I-I'm sorry! I didn't know! Honest!" He scrambled to his feet.

"Nothing to worry about, young man. My fault entirely." Ionus surveyed the now trampled goods. He gathered a few coins from his purse. "Here, this should cover it, I would think."

The boy began backing away,"No, i-it's fine! I'll find more! Really!"

"Nonsense, here..." The motion of Ionus toward the boy was all it took to send him scampering down a side alley. Ionus gave a heavy sigh. You can't do it for the glory. That's for sure.

Life 3- Reckoner Boundless Aphelion, Chosen of Endings

A Day at Work

Through the doors of the Violet Bier of Sorrows, down 13 stories, along the main corridor, three lefts, straight past the next crosswalk, at the end of the hall, there is a door of black jade and amethyst. Behind that door is an foyer of an office. A series of braziers light this main room, illuminating the frames along the walls. Some are paintings of past heroes, some are the founding constitutions of nations and federations long since past, a few even show characters from legends of star-crossed lovers and tragic affairs. In the center is a large triangular desk, behind which usually sits three gods: Sephai, the goddess of joyful farewells, Messanim, the goddess of misplaced papers, and Quoletz, the goddess of conversations cut short.

"Good morning, Reckoner Aphelion," Messanim gave a wave. The other two gave a nod of recognition.

"Good morning, everyone. Another busy day, I'm sure. What's on the menu today?"

"I have it right here. Let me see..." Messanim shuffled through the papers on her desk. "Aha! Here we are! Looks like a hiccup in the South. Some odd love affair with a Varang warlord, Red Wind..."

Aphelion nodded. "Okay, Anything else?"

Messanim slipped from behind the desk,"Well, there's the normal stuff... another racial split forming in the Haslanti, a Ledaal falling in love with an air nymph, oh here's one about..."

"Don't you think you should mention the joint operation, Messa?" Quoletz's words cut like a knife.

Aphelion raised an eyebrow,"What's this?"

Sephai chimed in,"Yes, looks like you'll be working on an away mission with a Chosen of Serenity." Her face puckered in a bittersweet smile,"Oh, but we will miss you terribly while you're away!"

Aphelion returned the smile politely,"And I you, of course," The smile faded to a look of fatigue as he turned back to Messanim,"Are you serious? Another of Venus' lot? What this time?"

"Well, on the surface the project doesn't seem to really merit much coordinated effort, but," Messanim leaned in closer,"I noticed in a few slipped papers that she is a Bronze Faction advocate. I think she might be attached to watch after you."

Aphelion rolled his eyes."As if some courtesan is going to outwit me if I have any intentions, honestly... So, who's my babysitter, then?"

"Akemi, Chosen of Venus. What I have found on her says she..."

Quoletz butted in with a curt gesture toward the door,"Why don't you let her say for herself?"

And then there was Blackness.

Life 4- Mask Rent Asunder, Moonshadow Abyssal, Avenger of the Betrayed

Blackness. I remember Blackness. At first it was an oppressive inky depth that swelled and churned around me. I felt as if I was falling without descending; dark torrents whipping around, clawing at me, smothering me, blocking out everything except me and my confusion and fear. I have no idea how long I fought- as long as I had the strength, for sure. I just -knew- if I held on long enough, I could figure out an escape. I -knew- I was smarter than death. And then, it happened. I gave up. No, I did not give up. I realized that life was simply no longer an option. It was in that moment I found that peace that I had always tried to impart to those whose stories I had to end. It was oddly blissful, in truth. It was so comforting to just let go...

When I came to, I saw blackness again, but clearly different. It was the dark canopy of a starless sky, rocking softly back and forth. My ears could hear the soft, slow movement of the water that I had found myself floating in. Everything was so quiet and empty. I remembering wondering, "Is this it? Is this the afterlife?" It was serene, but not quite what I would expect. I don't know how long I spent pondering my state before the fishing boat passed by.

One of the fishermen greeted me with a probing jab from his oar. "Another through the shadowland, I suppose. What do you think, Win- Whoa!" The spectral fellow gave a start as I began climbing up the oar. A moment later I was aboard the small craft with what I resolved were the ghosts of some of the local fisherman tribe. Oddly enough, the reaction you get as a stranded living person in the sea is rather similar to what you receive in the Underworld. After a few moments, I finally croaked out,"Where am I?"

"Uuuuy, we're a bit west of the Isle of Shadows, or thereabouts." Yep, these were definitely fisherman of the Nisbloa tribes- I recognized the accent. An intriguing society... they have often been called Sharkskins due to their reverence for the creatures. The choice to move them to that totemic ideal over squids was definitely a wise choice from the Bureau. It made them far less, well, odd.

"Ah, alright then. I need to get back a port then. If you would be so kind as to give me a lift, it would definitely be appreciated." As the words left my lips, I was already preparing for a demonstration of strength. While the change of gods had given them more social graces, it has also left them with a strong predator streak. It was graceless to approach with a physical strongarm, but I did not have the time or energy to waste. As I saw the toothy grin of the oarsman cross his face as he prepared his own witty remark, I rose to take a tactical position. I assumed the Air form, though it certainly felt different at the time. I remember feeling an itch about my head and the trickle of blood down the side of my nose- a wound from before, no doubt. I was already prepared for their standard tactic. The Nisbloa fight like sharks, circling to disorient and surround their prey. I waited for them to begin the already planned dance, when they provided a unique experience, a surprise.

"Yes, my lord. Right away!"

The faces of the two had gone slack with awe as they fixated up toward me. It's amazing what being murdered and stranded in the ocean will do to wear your temper, and my head was throbbing. I snapped,"What are you looking at?!" My words hit them like a whiplash and they began scrambling to get the boat in motion. It was not a time to question when things went in your favor, so I contented myself to look out over the water for a possible destination. It was only then, when I caught my reflection against the slick inky surface of the water that I saw what these two had seen. On my head was a new caste mark, the one of an Eclipse! Only, rather than gleaming gold, it was dark and bleeding around the edges. The realization that followed buckled my knees under me. I was a monster. I was one of them.

Figures of Note

Nestor- Whitewall undertaker and childhood friend of Ionus
Cord Tearing Bat- Prominent Guild merchant who suffered a large economic loss at the hands of Ionus.
Akemi- Bronze Faction Chosen of Serenity and love interest of Aphelion
Iron Masked Ivory- Aphelion's sifu
Sephai- the goddess of joyful farewells
Messanim- the goddess of misplaced papers
Quoletz- the goddess of conversations cut short