The irony is enough to pain me, but I can’t dispute, either, the fact that I made better friends at war than I ever made in Haute-Ondes in times of peace. I owe them at least an introduction. As to my enemies: they are here as well, for neither should escape the record.
Vincent Sterling of Haute-Ondes
Adrien of Sous-Champs
I came upon Adrien by accident, when he was only a boy who thought war would be fun. A mouthy brat, he only earned more than the back of my hand thanks to his hair; it was unkempt and unwashed, and he’d cut it disgracefully short, but it was unexpectedly blond. He could hardly be the son of some serf, but I kept my suspicions to myself, for I did not have the resources or certainty to act on them at the time. I pressured him instead, until he swore to find me in Ringreef.
I can’t say I was impressed when he arrived. Untrained, unfit, poor and too bold-mouthed, his application was laughable. He was barely a man, then, with a ridiculous longsword and only one hand to wield it. I couldn’t send him away for fear of losing him, but it took some effort to convince Belden – and myself – of his worth.
Adrien’s skills on the battlefield were unmatched in their utter ineffectiveness. He was therefore tasked to help with my logistical work – mapping, trap-laying and documentation. Eventually he would learn magic, though the result was only that he had more brushes with death than most soldiers can count. He was lucky to have us keep him safe – though the task fell mostly to Belden.
Belden of Sous-Champs
Nothing more than a farmboy in his youth, Belden was a talented fighter and a decent tactician – but mostly he was a good leader. He served our squadron as Lancepesade – basically my right hand – and handled the field work while I handled the politics. He attributed his skills and knowledge to his work as a Watcher in Sous-Champs, though I think it probably had more to do with the fact that he had countless siblings in his one-room family home. I had only three and it was a chore to avoid them.
How we met, interestingly, is thanks to his siblings. At least one of them had learned to write – a talent that Belden never mastered – and so it was that I knew every detail of his eldest sister’s marriage, his father’s work, his mother’s worry and his youngest brother’s tumble into Underland River. The letters were trite but Belden adored them, and while he swore loyalty to the King, it could hardly be argued that he was really in Ringreef to ensure the safety of his home and family. Of course, my readings often lead to conversation and therefore to questions about my own family, which I was forced to endure.
Speaking of siblings, however…
Dahl & Dorian of Ends
Dahl and Dorian were perhaps the most irritating people I ever met. If Belden was disappointed when I hired Adrien, it is nothing compared to how I felt after every interaction with these two. Brother and sister, respectively, they were both proud, nearly-identical Endines with the usual and unnecessarily graceful mannerisms. They shared not only a bond as twins but also as âmé – a life-bond understood by very few outside of Ends – and as such they often acted, to the chagrin of many, as one. They weren’t, however, without their differences.
Dahl was slightly taller, slightly quieter and vastly less interested in battle than his sister. While he always claimed to be the eldest, I never had reason to believe it was the truth – as with most things that came out of his mouth. He made it through difficult times by joking, and the war in Ringreef was no exception. He laughed more often than anyone and made it is his duty to make others laugh – I suspect this is why we rarely got along. I had a similar relationship with his sister, though for different reasons.
Dorian was hot-blooded, fearless and annoyingly opinionated. Endine through and through, she had traded much of her childhood for her skills in battle, and while I was loathe to bestow upon her any praise, I was glad to have her as my friend rather than my enemy. That was probably true for most people, though there were some who dared to cross her…
Jarek was the third and final commoner promoted to an officer’s rank. While many felt it was largely thanks to his father’s pull, I imagine that such people never met Jarek. He was young, surely, and too prideful, but he was talented and ambitious; he took his position seriously and he worked hard. I cannot say nearly as much for many of the King’s Commissioned Officers.
Rumoured to be a gambler and of inauspicious birth, Jarek made the most of what he was granted and of what he could take for himself. He had a temper, but his wrath was always earned. To my recollection, Adrien earned it more than once, and probably caused even more trouble than Jarek found out about. As is the case with many young men, the two of them were fiercely competitive, though Adrien was rarely a match for Jarek’s strength or his charisma. Though there is at least one who preferred his company over Jarek’s…
Corlette had a powerful effect on everyone she met – for good or ill would depend on her mood. A dark-haired lowborn of Haute-Ondes, she was a miniscule woman who nonetheless proved her worth and her mettle by quickly rising through the Bloodletters’ ranks, from acolyte to Interrogator in only a few short years. She was devoted and wildly clever for her age, and I am sure that most people can’t imagine what happened to her to make her that way. I had my own theories about her heritage and her intentions, but sharing them hardly earned me any friends.
Despite Corlette’s rank and her work, she and Adrien got along well – though it’s possible this was only because she didn’t know his more magical secrets. He told us what he thought were most of hers, but I can’t imagine he knew anything Corlette didn’t want him to. To me, she was stoic, laconic and flawlessly dutiful, though I was always waiting for her Bloodletter zeal to shine through.