《The House of Wolves》[The House of Wolves] - Birth of the Golden Lion

Following the discussion, Ardos strutted around Bayronds square and even some of the surrounding areas of the city, attempting to observe it more closely.

He noted the elaborate bridges stretching across the canal, the geese which fluffed their feathers and chatted in their strange tongues as they drifted across the waters surface, and even a couple boats cutting through the man-made river. The boats carried a variety of spices and artifacts from distant lands, catching the eyes of many.

It was a much needed distraction for these people, who often found themselves looking at Ardos. He simply had a presence, one which shone through each from amidst his cloak. It was quite frustrating indeed.

Funnily enough however, the boats, despite their size and grandeur, never actually left the city…nor even the square for that matter. They were created solely for the purpose of showcasing the variety of materials merchants often collected from distant lands through means of smaller boats and carriages.

Despite its wealth of merchants and businessmen, Corvachia was not a port town, and flourished primarily because of the mining system and rich earth, however from an aquatic perspective, its fronts were rather limited.

Flanking both the boats and the canal were magnificent buildings. Hall houses meant for discussions of trade and political parties, banks for trades and exchanges of money, shops and stalls all around the square.

Every residence in sight was looming and gorgeously crafted of stone or wood, though beyond those general classifications there were a variety of nuances distinguishing each type of material used in the houses architecture.

Corvachia was truly a bustling town, one which seemingly was undeserving of the moniker: The City of Thieves.

But below the surface, there was most certainly corruption. Today especially, lots of murders were happening and past the central market Ardos heard whispers of an underground market, where the square had been recreated in a far more sinister and cutthroat environment. There seemed to be quite a bit of disdain for the area amongst the knights and merchants who he saw talking about the area, though some praised it.

On the other hand, the people seemed to love it, especially the adults who gossiped openly about the happenings that transpired there or whom showed gratitude to how it provided them money.

So thats where Aurelia works, Ardos told himself. How intriguing…

Despite thinking that, he didn legitimately feel that way. He couldn . The more he wandered the city streets the more he came to feel isolated. The little spark he had found whilst talking to Aurelia became swallowed in an emptiness which only magnified in the bustle of the city.

It was an emptiness that went beyond the fact that he was simply born to be different from all of the people who inhabited this city, as the higher merchants had that status as well. The head councilor of the city, Lord Mandelous, had been elected to noble status in the past several months, so he was hardly any different from Ardos.

Most of those in power here were also bred and biologically selected in some form or another to be superior to the rabble, their expression of their peculiarities through the masks was mere politics as well. They were not truly free to express themselves like Ardos had so contempt-fully believed earlier. As his eavesdropping and observations had taught him, the masks and the jewelry and the dresses were all part of a calculated play to display the style of their families. To put on display their superficial wealth and power.

It really was no different from the nobility, so then why? Why did he feel so lost amongst them. And why, why did he feel such a lack of sociability when he interacted with the common people, whom his very ideals compelled him to hold in high regard.

When an apple seller had attempted to make small talk with him earlier, the altercation felt bland and uninteresting.

It had taken place in the middle of the streets, while Ardos was scanning and scrutinizing the shops around him, making note of all the carriages and counting the cobblestones. A calloused hand tapped his shoulder, startling him a bit, though that fear lasted only for a moment.

Before him was a stout, ginger-headed man tossing an apple with one hand and resting his other on Ardoss shoulder.

”Great weather today ain it milord? ”

”Milord? Im no lord, can you see? ”

The seller scoffed in response, not buying Ardoss deceptions for a second.

”I think I can recognize my own kind when I see em, and you are certainly not one of my kind. ” His eyes flickered and became more analytical, more businesslike.

”So…may I interest you in an apple today, or are you just standing here to observe our glorious carriages. ”

In that moment a weak kneed little donkey pulled one of the so-called glorious carriages before the twos eyes.

What timing. Ardos thought to himself with a chuckle. Perhaps I shall engage this man in conversation.

Unfortunately, nothing of interest happened after that. Ardos simply bought a few apples and went on his way. The exchange devolved into mere business.

As Ardos sunk his teeth in the apples flesh, he felt the wind rustle through his hair and remarked how nice it felt, all the while lamenting about the lost interaction.

I should have shown more interest in the conversation. Prodded him a bit more…but instead I just went along like a bloody fool and left none the wiser.

But it had simply felt so dull, so tedious. That was not how Ardos intended it to sound, he was meant to be a different noble after all, one who ENGAGED with the people, not dismissed them.

Not much use grumbling about it now. I might as well start heading back if this is how my mood is.

And so he did, as soon as he finished the apples. They weren as delicious as those in Altravia, but they would do.

After they were properly digested, he snuck his way back to the courtyard of the mansion, avoiding any more merchants nor people. The cobblestones and his boots did not go very well together, so he drew attention to himself all the same on the way back. He also had a rather poor sense of direction, making what would normally have been a five minute walk take triple the length.

Once he got there though, he carefully avoided being caught in any of the windows whilst he slowly made his way up through sheer grip strength and ingenuity.

He was not provided much rest however, for as soon as he reached the top he was greeted to the knocking off doors and a shout. It was Gareth, shouting frantically for Ardos to open the door.

How troublesome. Rather like the bustle of the city below. He thought to himself as he dusted himself off and hid his robe. He proceeded to do the door locks as slowly as possible, just to draw out the servants desperation.

The moment he opened the door, Gareth practically stumbled into him, knocking the both of them back onto the bed.

”Apologies Gareth, but Im not really interested in men. ”

As soon as the knight realized his position, he threw his hands up defensively and backed away.

”Please forgive me my lord, I know you requested that I do not disturb you, but it was urgent. ”

Ardos stretched out horizontally on the bed, relishing the comfort of the blankets silky material before he resumed conversation. In the meanwhile, he caught sight of the vast blue sight, comforting in its infinite expanse.

He liked the way the clouds floated with such carefree abandon, how the breeze seemed to whistle as it shot above the chaos down below, how the-

”Sir! Sir! ” It was a female servant this time, her voice soaking with concern. Ardos growled, he did not like being interrupted.

”What is it? ” He snapped, causing the woman to recoil. Gareth placed a hand in front of her in an oh so dignified manner, causing Ardoss attention and aggravation to be drawn onto him.

”Well…you have the meeting with the nobles at the Western Hall House this evening Milord. You cannot afford to miss it if you wish to make your proposal successfully. ”

Ardos sighed and raked his fingers through his flowing blonde hair in response. Maybe it would be more exciting than the city had proven to be, but he wasn looking forward to it. Nevertheless…

”Hmph, as tedious as it sounds, I suppose I have no choice then. Can afford to be lacking in allies after all. ”

”I-Indeed ” Gareth said. His face was hidden by steel but he sounded rather happy, perhaps that Ardos had finally listened to something he had to say.

”Well then, be off, I will accompany you in ten minutes, after a bit of rest and an exchange of jewelry. ”

”Rest, milord? You haven come out of your room in the past several hours though…? ”

Ardos shot him a glare, which instantly shut him up and sent him out the door. Upon closing it and re-isolating himself in the room, Ardos slid down onto the floor, back against the doorway. On the wall above his bed was a mirror, in which Ardos could see his pristine reflection.

Well, currently it was not so pristine. His hair was all over the place, his makeup slightly runny, and his eyes droopy. That could not stand. He could not go anywhere in this state, meaning he had much work to do. So, without affording himself a single moment more of rest, he got to work. Polishing his makeup, washing his eyes, doing his hair, and putting on the most distinct jewelry he could find.

This included an elegant golden necklace with an emerald pendant, one which perfectly complimented his piercing eyes. He admired the way it glittered, it was certainly the most beautiful sight he had seen today.

He immediately regretted that thought.

How could I think such a thing? Wh-what is wrong with me today? That is not who I promised myself I would be goddamit! He slammed his fist again the marble counter of the dressing room. He was certainly losing his edge. He absolutely needed to hurry up before he thought any more awful things.

On the way to the hall, Ardos pondered the emptiness he had been feeling throughout the day. Perhaps it was…the curse of nobility. Yes that had to be it. He was only feeling this way because of his status and the way in which it was clouding his judgement. He was getting desperate now, desperate for a reason to explain this.

But no…I can let that show. Just act normal Ardos, compose yourself, let these thoughts consume you after whatever happens here.

Ardos steeled himself, and just as he did, the grinding of wheels on the cobblestones rang out in his ears. They had arrived, and with perfect timing as well. The sun was setting and Ardos could see outside his chariot window that droves of masked fellows were cramming their way into the narrow oaken doorway of the house.

At surface level, it was not particularly impressive. It was a rather plain fusion of wood and stone surrounded by far more exciting and well decorated dwellings. However, it held this energy to it with drew Ardos in immediately. Perhaps it was the commotion already transpiring inside, or just the comforting design of the place, Ardos didn particularly give the matter much thought.

He just made his way in, cutting through swathes of merchant crowds in his path. But even the gaggle of traders could not prevent him from catching a glimpse of a cold, lifeless body whose arm had been crushed by the wheels of the chariot. She had most certainly been dead before then however.

Slit in the throat, by the looks of it, rather painfully a well. Liters of dried blood dyed the cobblestones, all originating from that one spot. That unnerving sight seemed to go practically unnoticed however, which set Ardos off more than anything. The callousness and general lack of care for the corpse before them bothered nobody, and he even saw a few people spitting on the womans face in what could only be called raw contempt.

Focus on the inside Ardos, don get carried away.

He averted his gaze from the sight and redirected it to the packed sea off heads which filled the hall. A variety of sights and sounds caught his eyes, but the one that drew his attention first, were the discussions of murders.

”Did you hear about how Mister Forested was murdered in his home? By one of those underground scum to by the look of it. ” Said one voice in disgust. That one was shrill, squeaky, polished…like how he had always expected a harpy to sound.

Another voice cut in, with a completely different stance on the matter. ”Im glad too. The man was constantly challenging me, he was such a pain in the arse, yknow? ”

A third voice sliced its way into the discussion with the ease that a guillotine severs a neck from a mans head.

”I am the one who killed the man, yknow? Had one of those underground scum you seem to detest so much perform the assassination. It was done exactly as I requested it too, isn that delightful? ”

”Wait, you went to the underground? What if you got bit by rats? You know how repulsive that place is, don you? ”

”Times are changing, Lord Gerdyst. You would be wise to take note of these changes and adapt to them as we merchants are intended to do. Tell me…what is so different between them and us? We
e all just people are we not. ”

”Don make me laugh. The difference between our kind and theirs is like night and day! We are the neo-nobility, they are a cluster of street rats pretending they
e worth something. ”

”How narrow minded of you. All that differentiates us is the barriers between our classes. The market they have created, as crude as it is, is quite reminiscent of our own. They are fully capable of the same hierarchies and ways of organization as us, they simply stand below us because of the overarching systems! ”

”And so what would you have us do..interact with them! ” laughed Lord Gerdyst hollowly, but the chuckles died quickly upon the realization that the third man was serious. At this point, the second fellow was completely quiet, as he was, just like Ardos taking a backseat in order to observe the ensuing discussion.

”Indeed I would. Times are changing after all. I have removed many troublesome rivals thanks to these folk, perhaps the future of our city is not through persecution and the forcing of our citizens to engage in mining and what not, but through collaboration with them. We can reinvigorate our economy, and all we have to do is overcome our preconceptions. ”

”Quite a headache of a man you are, Sir Alisten. With all these polarizing views of yours. ”

”Is there a problem with that? ” growled Sir Alisten.

”Not at all, not at all. This is just a tiff is it not, no need to um, sour our relationship because of it! In fact, speaking of the mining, apparently theres some big headed noble giving a proposal about them in the next few days! ”

”Indeed, I am aware of that. Which is why so many murders have been happening lately, didn you know? ”

”Whatever do you mean, Sir Alisten? ”

Sir Allisten gave a hollow laugh and put his hand on Ser Gerdysts shoulders. Sir Allisten was a rather young fellow, with raven black hair and glassy eyes, whilst Ser Gerdyst was a bald headed, splotchy skinned individual with a curly mustache and a sniveling demeanor.

”You see, whilst that…
oble is here and whilst everyone is talking about him, that gives us, who have greater insight and intellect, the ability to capitalize on that attention and quietly get rid of our less educated rivals. ”

The discussions regarding Ardos indicated to him that it was time to pull his ears away from the conversation and move on. All around him, similar discussions were happening. Gradually, the city seemed to be moving to coexistence with the underground market and some very radical views as well. He heard all sorts of words and topics being thrown around, from the meaning of life to envisionings of a world in which the people and nobles were of equal status.

There were some views which Ardos agreed with, some which he didn , but it was all very fascinating.

He raised a silver goblet to his lips, savoring the taste of the crystalline white wine inside. Not even a moment after he did, he cursed his own hedonism for allowing him to be any sort of savoring. He wasn meant to enjoy wine. That was the behavior of the gluttons from back home, that was the opposite of what he was striving for.

Almost as soon as he put the cup down, he tripped on a mans leg and hit the wooden floor rather uncomfortably with a thud.

A few eyes turned to stare at him, but here there was so much going on that for once, he did not garner much attention. He was rather angry though, and got up in fury to see who had tripped him.

It was another blonde haired man, just like him, but with blue eyes and his hair cut short. He had rather graceful features, but nevertheless very distinct masculine attributes. He was reading what seemed to be the Holy Attestation, one of the nations most ancient books.

”Why did you trip me? ” Ardos said with great anger. The man responded softly, without negative intent, nor really any intent at all.

”I apologize sir, it was a complete accident. I suppose I got too carried away in reading and my legs lost control. ” He followed with a girlish giggle.