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Registered: 12-2005
Location: Ottawa, Canada
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Lord Brandon Drake


Hate. It can get under your skin, into your heart. It can define you.

Hate curled around in Brandon Drake's heart as he walked into his family's home for the first time in years...

A happy day in the vinyards, a young boy walking with his parents. The bright sunlight hurt his sensitive eyes, but his mother's smile made him happy. His father's firm hand gave him strength and pride. Then, they came.

The youth walked like a ghost through the old manor hall, pale eyes taking in the old place. A portrait at the stairs showed his mother and father on their wedding day. Sir Byron Drake, wed to Lady Heather Renard, whom he had rescued from the immortal peril of her father turned monster. A happily ever after moment looked down with smiling faces at the cursed offspring of their lie.

Dirty men in dark armour emerged from the rows of plump, black grapes. Swords and axes were at the ready. "You've made enemies, m'lord" one of them said before the rush of bodies swept toward them. His parents' hands swept from his. His mother screamed for him to run just before a blade pierced her breastbone. His father had his sword in hand, but without his armour, without any of the supplies of his adventuring days, he was dead on his feet before his young son could even make it to the edge of the field. Little Brandon took one look back, and saw his father bleeding from many wounds, still staggering about as the men circled him, laughing at the lord's demise.

"This is a private estate!"

The young lord recognized the voice from his childhood. He closed his eyes and forced the hate that burned in his chest to quiet, so that he could speak in a civil tone.

"Hello Marcus. You have kept the house well while I was away. I have questions."

The servant gasped in disbelief. This wildly dressed, pale stranger... was the boy he had once knew. In from the wilderness, dressed in rags and furs, and the kind of primitive arm-rings worn by firbolg and carnival performers.

"Lord Brandon? How... are you even still alive?"

The boy didn't know who to turn to. His father had enemies, which meant they might kill him too. Fear had not yet had time to become shame, and shame would yet become the seed of hate. To a boy of six years who had just seen his parents butchered like cattle, the world was a frightening place. The forest offered him no comforts, for he knew not how to survive. Cold and hungry, he fled Avendel for what felt like weeks.

It was the traveling show that found him, nursed him back to health. Simple folk entertainers, they would put on puppet shows, displays of acrobatic prowess or feats of strength, or small plays. They would also pick the pockets of people who came to their shows, or sometimes break into the houses of the wealthier patrons. With them he learned, survived for a time. But fear turned into shame, and shame was compounded by their criminal lifestyle. He learned stealth, breaking and entering, and the movements of an acrobat. But he also started to hate himself.


The servant dangled by one shin, held upside down over the railing of the main entry hall. The hand that held him was pale, and one would have mistaken it for weak.

"Tell me you had nothing to do with it, Marcus. Swear to me."

Sweat dripped up the butler's face and got into his eyes to mingle with his tears.

"Young master, I had nothing to do with it, I swear! We... we all thought you were kidnapped, but we had no word!"

The youth closed his eyes, listening to the terrified pitter-patter of an old man's heart. He had stopped marveling at this sort of thing long ago. Long ago...

The taste of blood on his lips filled him with longing and a feeling of strength, even as he was filled with terror and revulsion at what he had done. He was in the mountains now, in sparsely settled country. Just the odd band of firbolg hunters, or those who fancied themselves such. The man had not been much older than he... a teenager who saw his cheap, circus trinkets and tried to rob him. Hunger. Strength. He had torn out the man's throat without even thinking about it. After weeks spent wandering these stinking hills filled with stinking savages, he had almost outrun his self-loathing. But now this...

Lady Heather's father had succumbed to some strange malady, so Sir Byron had said. It had made him a monster, and he had nearly infected her as well. Lord Renard's allies had fallen quiet after his death... The family had lived in peace, never knowing the taint carried in Heather's womb...


"No.. you were always loyal..." The young lord pulled his aged manservant back up over the railing and put him on his feet. "I am... sorry Marcus. What happened? Does anyone know?"

The servant reached up to touch his young master's face, still not quite believing what he was seeing. "Mercenaries, my lord... We barricaded the house... they only raided a couple of rooms before they left... Your father... he made enemies when he was an adventurer..."

"Yes... they knew who to look for later, when he was weak, vulnerable. They will not know to look for me."

Life in the hills was hard, but the boy persevered. The simple hill people taught him things, showed him how to survive, how to fight. But as the years passed, he was drawn ever back towards his home. Towards Avendel, and civilization.

His hunger stayed with him, though he could control it for a time. He knew he was cursed, a thing of shadows. They seemed to draw him in, the night called to his blood. Perhaps he dreamed that a voice was talking to him, the day he took shelter in an old tuatha barrow high in the mountains. "Dark thing," it said to him, "what do you hunger for most?"

"Justice" was his reply.

"Then it is time you go back, to fulfil a son's duty... dark son of Andrune. You shall be watched."


---


The coming home fete for the young lord was as extravagant as it could be. High society layabouts aplenty filled the old house with joy and laughter. The old winery had still been in production all these years, and a surplus was spent entertaining the snobs of the aristocratic class to which the returned young lord belonged. Distant relatives vouched that he had stayed with them in the country, easily convinced to say such things by his charming smile, and mesmerizing eyes.

Brandon played the fop well, for he had learned from the traveling show how to put on another face. The face he would wear to his so-called peers, was not the one they would suspect was the dagger in the dark who cut the sickness from the city.

Last edited by ExplodingRunes, 2/23/2013, 7:18 pm


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Creator of A Tale of Bone and Steel.

Cloak and Dagger
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