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【Story】 A House Divided


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"Welcome back, my Lord Theron."


It was a grand hall, illuminated by an auspicious, jewelled chandelier upon a brilliant white marbled floor. A line of Ishgardian knights, their azure shields proudly emblazoned with the insignia of House Theron's kingfisher, stood at rapt attention with polished blades at their sides. Retainers and adventurers alike stood behind the line of knights, nodding their heads in near reverence. Gold lined the rosewood walls, portraits of his forefathers valiantly displayed with impeccable taste that compelled the eye to grant respect. The Azure Dragoon stood atop one of the ambitiously sized banisters, his stern stance nonetheless one of approval, drachen armour gleaming with hidden admiration. At the head of the hall were his visitors: the members of the Heavens' Ward, no, the Archbishop himself, come to honour true nobility!


If only.


Constantin gave a polite, if somewhat curt nod to the maid and the manservant both. The former provided a modest curtsy, the latter a low bow. The nobleman withheld his sigh--never let the subordinates see the doubt of the leader. of course--but the expression escaped his features in the form of his tired eyes glancing low towards his feet.


The marbled floor was present, but was noticeably aged and lacked in brilliant lustre, made only more apparent by the dull grey hue that the marble utilized. The only knight present was a suit of elaborate and clean but well-worn armour attached to an equally antediluvian mannequin that audibly creaked with protest when the breeze from the front door intruded upon its person. The gold leaf that had once patterned the rosewood walls had been sold off, leaving naught but a pattern of pockmarks to signify the once affluent existence of opulence.


The Azure Dragoon was unsurprisingly absent, likely busy sticking pointy ends into Dravanians.


He did not deign to give thought to what the Archbishop could be doing instead of entertaining him.


The nobleman let forth an exhausted exhalation, removing his heavy winter coat and passing off to his manservant, who dutifully took the cumbersome garment with stiff, well-practised civility. The Elezen maid gave a low nod of her head in deference. Platinum coloured hair poked out from beneath the lace headpiece in a neat bob cut, and her eyes were demurely and pointedly cast upon the floor. "Was milord successful in making his petitions?"


Constantin exhaled and rubbed his brown, pulling off his feathered cap before running a hand through his neatly trimmed mane of ash grey hair. Though he'd only just returned back to the modest estate, he began pacing in a circle nonetheless, idly placing the cap on the small bust of Saint Reinette that had been carved out of the top of the newel. "Durendaire has no interest in diluting their standing by accepting a vassal house, Haillenarte is unsubtly suspicious of our intentions, Fortemps lacks the adequate resources to properly sustain us in any meaningful capacity, and Dzemael simply denied me entrance." A frown crossed the Hyur's worn face. "No. We cannot rely on the High Houses to buoy us in this storm."


A haze of equal parts indignation and resentment crept across the nobleman's countenance. Their palatial estate, high amongst the Pillars, had been gutted and sold in order to settle the high costs of war and ambition, and so the House of Theron had moved to their ancestral home on a much lower level, closer to the Foundation, the dwelling not being nearly as noble or dignified as the label "ancestral home" would imply. It was actually generously large and rather extravagant by the standards of the commoners who had resided in it, but it was not nearly as grandiose or flamboyant as a typical Ishgardian noble would be used to.


The manservant, another Elezen, proffered a low bow, the heavy coat folded neatly in his arms. "Sers Alasdair and Ismay have taken the young master for practise in the Proving Grounds, as you requested."


"Am I correct in assuming that Astidien did not particularly agree with my choice of activities?" Constantin said glumly, before waving a hand. "Actually, do not answer that, Al. I believe I know his attitude to such things well enough."


The manservant, Alamenain simply bowed again. "To his credit, Master Astidien did not outwardly protest." His tone was as dry as it was respectful.


"And my daughter?" Constantin shot a weary glance to the maid this time. "I suspected that my arrival was too quiet for a reason. What say you, Amianne?"


Another stiff curtsy, her platinum. "I brought milady Leila the musical material, as you requested. She flew into a fury worthy of Halone herself and has locked herself in her room. I estimate that her current demeanour has lowered from acrimonious and violent to merely resentful and brooding." Amianne's tone matched Alamenain's in an almost robotic fashion. The twins were less like individuals and more like a single person who happened to be split into two bodies.


Another sigh as the aged Hyur pinched the bridge of his nose. He knew that he shouldn't try to control his children in such a way, but what else was he to do? This had nothing to do with his ambitions or the house name or anything so lofty--as much as Leila would disagree--but it was growing increasingly difficult to secure a promising future considering the state of things. The advent of the Gates of Judgment opening meant that outside influence had upset the careful ecosystem of the aristocracy. The High Houses may have no worries about their place in such turbulent waters, but smaller houses like those of Constantin Theron had been forced to make concessions to adapt to the drastic changes that had occurred.


Constantin felt a certain kind of reprehensible fear grip his stomach.


The fear of becoming middle class.


He could hardly think the phrase without visibly shuddering.


Another sigh. "Thank you for your services. Amianne, Alamenain, please rest. I will attend to my children."


The manservant bowed. "Ser Ismay claimed that the young master would not be out for more than three bells."


Constantin provided a wry grin, mostly to himself than to his servants, as he strode up the staircase, ever aware of his daughter's fiery temper. "Then I suppose that provides me with ample time to recover from any injuries I may suffer."




To Be Continued


((I'll, uh...finish my other writing works eventually. Probably.))

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