Everto de Ivalice Redux
Chapter 1 Lord Sebastian Michael Bunanza
Youngest Son of Annalise Kenderick Bunanza, Heir to House Bunanza
Lifepaths: Born Noble, Page, Squire, Knight, Lord, Baron
Traits: Mark of Privilege, Your Lordship, Ambidextrous, Strong willed, Sworn Homage, Handsome, Noblesse Oblige
Technology must always serve to better mankind.
I am the arrow true. Once loosed, I cannot be recalled.
Good deeds sometimes require evil acts. Exitus Acta Probat
If you deceive your people to lead or oppress them, I will end you.
I will not sacrifice the innocent wantonly to get the job done, but collateral damage happens.
I will give no quarter if you attack me.
Ivalician court 1D
What is it that defines nobility? Is it the measure of one’s character? In the philosophical sense, it would be hard to argue any case that speaks to the contrary. But in the truly pragmatic sense, the sense that defines reality and rules the day to day with an iron fist, nobility is but an accident of birth.
Where one’s crib stands defines many things. Will the child be hungry? Will it be warm? Oddly enough in that sense the more pragmatic, namely if the child is comfortable, takes a back seat. A pauper can aspire to greatness even when born in the lowliest of hovels, but a child born in a great house with rambling rooms and swathes of retainers can only be one thing.
Let it be noted then that Sebastian Michael Bunanza, third and youngest child of Analise Kenderick Bunanza, was born without incident and welcomed to the world in the height of summer, the first of the name to be born into nobility. A blessing and a burden…
Of the blood, by the blood, for the blood
Growing up, many things were expected of Sebastian. As his older brothers would often remark, they had gotten off easy. Nobody expected them to know how to behave, to fit in with high society… but for the accident of his birth, young Sebastian could have studied the arcane arts, become an engineer, a sailor, a cobbler, a merchant or a myriad other things… but the name was to carry weight, so what the family needed was a Lord.
“You must understand, my boy, that the family needs you be like the others. You are of the blood, and indeed let nobody dispute it, but there are those will name us merchants with pretentions.” His father had remarked one day, when young Sebastian had had enough of tutors teaching him manners, letters, numbers and all manner of things his brothers were seemingly not required to study. Why him? Why was it always him that had to keep up pretenses?
“Father, why not Xaxier? He’s a lot older than I am, and Gabriel is stronger. They’re both smarter already, why do I have to go to balls and hang around all those old people?”
“Because, my boy, you are… my boy, that is, and that’s why you’re tarnished with my shame.”
“Your mother, your uncles on her side, your cousins…”
“Father, most of those bore me to death.”
“So I would expect, but as I was trying to say, they all have one thing in common. A name, my son, and a legacy going back longer than ours. We’re starting our legacy now, our family is joining them, and as smart, as strong, as quick witted as they might be, your brothers… your brothers were born to long before our name meant something. I cannot give you titles, or land, or quite frankly a lot of guidance on the topic, but this family my son, this family needs you. We need you to be the lord this family requires to set our name next to the others. Will you do this for me, for us?”
He knew the topic had been discussed quite hotly at the dinner table for months, but he had never once suspected that his silence on the subject, nay, his ignorance of the topic would mean he would be the unlucky one. His brothers had already decided, and he was left to do what they would not do. All nine years of him. He’d looked into his father’s eyes then, and seen the immeasurable sadness of a burden placed on young shoulders, a burden that could not be shouldered by someone not of noble birth. A low-born… they would name his father a commoner, and condemn his family with it. The houses, the money, the name, it would all mean nothing if he would not…
“I will be the Lord you need me to be father. I promise.”
What light through yon window breaks
The hall had been ringing with the sound of steel on steel for some time, and a small throng had gathered. Of course all the loyal retainers had found time to observe, and even the young master’s master was discreetly finding things to do within sight of the spectacle. As a page, and now as a squire, young Sebastian was expected to learn the ways of the sword. It was his duty to protect his liege lord after all, and as soon as he was deemed ready, thanks to quite a few informal training sessions with the household guards and his older siblings, training would be conducted with steel on steel. It was, Sebastian often remarked, interesting how the noble and wealthy would gladly put their offspring at extreme risk to keep them safe. So once a day the hall would ring with the sound of steel on steel, muffled by the thick red drapes adorning the stone walls.
Ser Radonne, the knight currently testing the squire for his mettle to consider him for employ was beginning to take on the crimson aspect of the drapes quite rapidly, his face flushing with rage. Granted, the boy had been competent with the blade, but there had been some good openings showing a technique that still needed improving. Indeed, so the Knight had declared, improve it must! How else would the squire keep him safe from the rabble?
“Perhaps if you would give freely to this rabble of your enormous wealth rather than wring them for every ha’penny in rents, they would not be so keen to strike you down, Ser.” was the insolent oaf’s answer, at which point the screaming had started, and everyone with even some chance to observe was making sure they were nearby.
“What did you… How dare you, boy?!” the man had raged, eyes wide with nigh uncontrolled fury.
“I dare, Ser, because I speak truth. You are a vile creature, unworthy of your title and slovenly with your steel. Had you spent half as much time exercising as calculating the rents of your fief, why, I am certain I would have been gutted like a fish by now.”
“Insolent brat. I should have expected no less from the son of a low born oaf. You can polish up dung all you like, the smell will always surface.”
It would have taken a trained observer a few moments to figure out what happened in the crowd at that particular statement. Without trying, without seeming to even doing anything as crass as moving, Gabriel Bunanza was suddenly standing in the front row of the spectators, behind Ser Radonne, and raising an amused eyebrow at his brother. Emboldened by this tacit display of loyalty, Sebastian spoke his mind.
“You have the measure of me, Ser. The son of a low born, indeed, no lands or titles to my name and a bloodline that dangles but from a single branch. A high branch, mind you, but all apples fall back to the soil they were spawned in, do they not? Well I will tell you, Ser, that I am proud of the fact. I was not born to the weight of centuries of ancestors upon my shoulders, or a title I did not earn. Call me the son of a low born, it is nothing but fact. Call me brat if you must, but remember one thing, Ser, one thing clearly and never forget. For you, it will still always… always… be Lord brat. I would not polish your boots, let alone safeguard your life. Begone!”
“I will teach you to respect your betters!”
In his defense, Ser Radonne was probably no more wicked than any other of his generation. But he did not know many things which would soon become very important in that highly specialised personal future that only exists when blades clash. For one, he did not know that he was not the first knight to test Sebastian. Indeed the day he turned fifteen the young Lord had held his first practice bout with a potential bannerman. Many of them misunderstood the intent, that this young Squire was not looking for a knight to curry favour or improve his social standing through allegiance with a better placed noble. Those that did understand were usually unwilling to follow the young Lord, to have the Squire lead the Knight, for fear of what it would do to their own reputation. As mentioned, Ser Radonne did not know this.
Furthermore, Ser Radonne was also not aware that a few months hence House Bunanza had developed a new method of casting steel, learned from the Nihonese, which was fractionally denser than traditional Ivalician steel, and certainly both lighter and less susceptible to brittle casting that so often typified older but more venerated blades dating back to the war. So it was understandable that the good Ser, certain to teach the brat a lesson with the flat of his blade, was keenly surprised to find himself suddenly in the middle of a closing ring of household guards, a sword tip at his throat, holding only the pommel and crossguard of his blade, most of which lay broken on the floor a few feet away, sheared through with but a single cross stroke of his opponent’s blade… the tip of which currently held such fascination due to its proximity to his carotid artery. He’d barely seen the blade move…
“Respect, Ser? You would teach me of respect? Indeed, see how many here are rushing to your aid, your valiant retainers leaping out to take the thrust of a sword for you. Do you see them? Do you? I see my guards ready to lop your head off at but a single gesture. Did you think to teach me anything of respect? Of nobility? Perhaps you would teach me the same lessons you were taught by the Orlandu, bring me into the fold. Leave this house Ser, and do not return, for next time we cross blades I will not break your sword, I will take your hand.”
“What are you all looking at? Back to your duties!” Gabriel bellowed, breaking the spell of horrible fascination keeping the onlookers in thrall. In the sudden flurry of activity, the master’s master slipped away, with a new report for the Gentlemen. The young Lord was getting more interesting to watch every day…
The same evening, after a particularly strained dinner exacerbated by Xaxier’s recent departure to take up the life of a sailor, Sebastian retreated to the safe refuge that was the reading room. Surrounded by the many tomes on philosophy, natural science, art and mathematics, it was almost possible to believe that the world could be structured in some sensible way. But reality was baffling, a myriad of endless possibilities, and yet everyone still seemed to believe that their fates were as fixed as the narratives on those very pages. It was, Lord Bunanza often thought, almost depressing how easy it was to keep people in their place. All it required was for them to think that there was no alternative.
It was in this black mood that Gabriel found him, seated in front of the roaring fire in the grate, a small stack of books on the reading table next to him. Wordlessly the older Bunanza took his seat in the chair next to his sibling and waited. It did not good to try to talk to Sebastian in this frame of mind, he knew, but conversation would always come.
“How bad is it?” For all the world, Sebastian looked like he was twenty years older, a teenager trying to keep up with the politics and backstabbing of the court while trying to secure the future of his own family. Even his own father had never seen him like this, he didn’t have the heart to disappoint him.
“Could have been worse. Nobody died. How’d you know that was an Orlandu plot?” That had been nagging at Gabriel for some time now, it wasn’t like him to miss something obvious like that. Even now it was still nebulous, but his brother hadn’t even hesitated.
“Ser Radonne was a Squire for the Orlandu and fought for their banner in the war. He was given a fief for his service and retired his own banner shortly after that. He hasn’t been active in any conflict for years, if he’s looking for a Squire it was on someone else’s behalf.” A vague gesture at one of the open books was all the explanation Sebastian seemed to give, until he caught Gabriel’s puzzled expression. “Chronicles of the Lucavi war, third volume. Everything else is in the genealogy records and the book of heraldry.”
“Hah! All that reading is doing some good after all. Tell me, do any of these books mention anything about upstart lords getting a horse whipping from their own father for being stubborn mules?”
“Ah. That bad, is it?”
“Aye, but he’s gone to bed with a bottle of wine so I doubt he’ll make good on the threat. But you’ll need to choose a knight…”
“Must I? I sometimes think, brother, that we cling so hard to the past that we can’t ride the river of progress for fear of drowning. A Squire does not need to be employed by a knight, just like I was not sent to another house as a page. But pages being educated in their own houses is the norm now, while we dare not extend that to Squires. Why not? If I can defy one convention, I will happily defy another.”
“Must you be contrary? It seems to me like you are determined to change the whole of Ivalica by yourself, just to stamp your mark on history.”
“And what of it, brother?”
“Then, My Lord, I would remind you that a Squire normally apprenticed to a Knight because eventually a Squire would have to learn things nobody else could teach him. Only a warrior of great skill and renown… Oh no, no, put that thought out of your mind right now.”
“Brother, you are the best blade I have seen. If anyone can teach me, it’s you. Let me be your Squire.”
“Sebastian…” as was often the case, Gabriel found himself exasperated and sighed, standing up. Sometimes it was better to bow to the inevitable. “I don’t need anyone to polish my boots for me. And I don’t have time to teach you, but come by the barracks when you can… I won’t teach you, but I’ll let you learn.”
As the fire slowly burned down to ashes, and the servants came in to renew the firewood, Sebastian finally noticed that a letter was laying on top of the open book next to him. Aside from the servants who had not approached him, nobody but his brother had entered which raised some disturbing questions. Curious and apprehensive, the young Lord picked up the letter and broke the wax seal emblazoned with a stylised ‘B’.
Better the Devil you know
As years passed and Sebastian was dragged between the houses, the court and other formal occasions, it became harder to keep in touch with his brothers. Father was perfectly content to stay in the principal manor all year round, but the young Lord was often forced to travel. Not all this travel was due to the strictures of nobility, and for the past few years he had travelled quite extensively within Ivalica and even Omdalia, never telling anyone the reason if pressed.
In truth, ever since finding that his goals aligned with that of the Bart Company, he had been happy to lend first his blade and later his expertise to the enterprise. Surprisingly, he found that he saw his brothers far more often on these clandestine outings than during formal travel. The Squire had grown into a strong Knight, and by now it was well known throughout the lands that he was the designated Lord Bunanza, over his older brothers who were on the whole quite happy to remain in his shadow. The boy had grown into a man, and that man was growing into the Lord he needed to be.
But sometimes even Lords can act like boys…
The sound rolled across the waves, a pressure front of thunder accompanying a splash several hundred yards off the port bow of a lonely ship. This ship, a curious hybrid of sail and steam, was known to any who beheld her as ‘The Lusty Devil’. And on deck, laughing rauciously with the rest of the sailors, the young Lord Bunanza lay flat on his back, surrounded by a cloud of grey smoke and holding that looked like a miniature cannon.
“Bloody ‘ell sir, got a bitta kick that thing, don’t it?” The man, not a sailor by the cut of his clothes, reached out a hand and Sebastian took it gratefully, hoisting himself back onto his feet.
“Hah, that it does Mikos. But it’ll break a door in right enough, with enough smoke to cause quite a bit of confusion.”
“Reckon it would sir, an’ that big steel ball coming at you is likely as not to ruin yer day.”
“Day, evening, night and the next morning too.” Sebastian laughed, handing the hand cannon over to the other man and giving his own clothes a perfunctory dusting off.
From the quarterdeck Xaxier had been watching the entertainment. So typical of his brother, always looking for a new edge. But he’d never expected him to actually try to ridiculous toy his own gunner was so fond of playing with. Soon both Sebastian, Mikos his right hand man and the ship’s gunner were poring over the portable cannon. It was probably time then. His clear voice, used to commanding his vessel, called out. “My Lord.”
“Yes, Captain?” Sebastian smiled back, in a good mood for being out at sea, where the chance of yet another assassin coming at him were remote at best. He always enjoyed travelling on his brother’s ship when he was out on ‘other’ business.
Returning the smile, the eldest of the Bunanza siblings turned on his heel and strode off towards the aft hatch. “Once you’re done making that racket, meet me in my quarters.”
“Aye Captain.” Taking it as his queue not to keep Xaxier waiting, Sebastian patted Mikos on the shoulder. “Teach the others to use the cannon, get them used to it. I suspect we’ll be using it a lot.” Not waiting for the response, he hurried to the hatch amidships and made his way through the gangway towards the captain’s quarters. As was the custom by now, he entered without knocking.
It was the only warning Sebastian got as he entered, and just barely caught the slender stick coming at him in a shallow arc. Slightly heavier than he expected, he nevertheless comfortably held it in one hand, marvelling at its construction. Three quarters the length of a man, it was a slender tube with a wheellock mechanism bonded to a frame of carved rosewood. “Impressive workmanship, brother. What is it?”
“That, Sebastian, is the future of warfare. It’s called a musket, it’s a more sensible version of that hand cannon you were firing off on deck earlier. Or they will be, when they no longer cost a king’s ransom to build.” Xaxier remarked, opening a box on his desk with an even smaller version of the musket contained within, alongside an assortment of smoothly cast balls and ramrods.
“Happened to have a king handy then?” Sebastian’s eye fell on the pistol in its case, and the similar cases stacked along the walls, along with the racks of muskets hanging row on row like soldiers in a rank. “Several kings, maybe? What’s going on here, brother?”
“Zulta” the captain remarked, sitting down and motioning for his brother to do the same. “It’s always about Zulta these days. We’re delivering these to the Sons of Omdalia. By we, I mean you. And by you, I mean you and your men. Three crates, courtesy of our family’s smiths, of these new weapons, paid for by you know who.”
“Really? Very direct approach, that.”
“A dozen muskets and pistols to the crate.” Xaxier continues, as if he had not just been interrupted. “You’ll go ashore and deliver two dozen to the Sons, they’ll be expecting them.”
“And the remaining dozen?” Sebastian inquired, suspicion starting to form. The smile returned as an answer was all the confirmation he needed. “That bad?”
“Nothing you can’t handle. But he wants you to be well equipped for this. Time to step it up a notch, turn those weapons into something your enemies will fear.”
As he held the musket in his hands, weighing it, looking over the brutal beauty of its construction, Sebastian knew that he was looking at the future. “Fear, my brother, is a tool I know how to use well.”
Where evil lurks
Sunlight streamed in through the suddenly opened curtains, invading the peaceful sanctity of dreams that had served as Sebastian’s refuge from reality for the last six hours. As expected, the footman was arranging the breakfast tray, and dutifully handed over the newspaper. Sitting up and reading while tea was being poured, Lord Bunanza read the article on the battle of Fogg Hill twice. The thought of so much evil so close to Gaug city was disturbing to say the least, especially because until now the only real threats he had identified there were the bored nobles of the Age of Honour and the belligerent Patriots. To think that something had gone unnoticed for so long…
“Foul business this, Harmon, what if these people hadn’t been there? I daresay we’d be much the worse off.”
Impeccable as always, the footman placed the tea on the tray and placed it over his master’s lap without disturbing even a single slice of the immaculately sliced toast. “If you say so, My Lord.”
“You disagree then?” Sebastian smiled, always encouraging independent thought in his staff. This did not always work out well, and turnover in his household was notoriously high.
“I venture no opinion on the matter, My Lord, but I must stress that my lord has several urgent appointments and invitations to work through today..” The letter with the stylised B seal was placed at the bottom of the pile, but long habit made Sebastian look through all his mail before choosing which to open first. The footman sighed when the Bart Company letter was opened first. This could only mean one thing.
“Get my horse ready and assemble my special luggage, Harmon. I will be leaving within the hour.”
A tiny flicker of defiance burned in the core of the Footman’s offended sensibilities “And what of your guests sir? You are expecting the Lord…”
“They’ll keep Harmon, they’ll keep.”
An hour later Sebastian Michael Bunanza, Lord Bunanza, rode off into the unknown, leaving messages for his men with specific instructions. He had a long trek ahead of him if he was going to make it to the great furnace in time…