Chapter 1: Aron de Eramont
The Quay Square of Rigtal is always a lively one on the weekends. You have nobles walking around who are always wanting to buy something new to add to some collection they’ve been preoccupied with and soon get bored. Then you have Pryias running around fulfilling any errands their noble masters have assigned for them, and finally, you have the facilitators of the running and walking, the traders, the people who sell things that nobody needs, but everyone thinks they want.
But this isn’t a weekend; it’s the last of the four weekdays in an eight day week. So why is it so bloody busy? Well, there’s only one reason other than traders and weekends that could cause such excitement in the Quay Square; Cullings.
Cullings are killings of Pryias, Pryia is a Calerian servant, but I’d really call them slaves or prisoners with jobs of noble Houses. The process of Cullings is simple; they drain the blood out of Pryias’ bodies so they can purify the blood. Once purified, the blood is used by bloodmages for their magic, it’s sick stuff indeed. It always attracts a crowd because nobles tend to have a fetish for watching poor people killed in mass.
“So can you explain why you dragged me out here, Aron?” my father, the head of the de Eramont House asked me in an annoyed tone.
You would find it difficult to spot a difference between my father and me; we’re both tall men who are neither bulky nor skinny just something in between, with brunette hair and naturally fair skin, however, mine is a little more tanned and darkened from my time in the sun. He always has a scornful face when inside and outside of home, and will still once he has died. He wears the typical dress code for the head of a noble House, an elegant dark brown leather hide suit ready to have plate armour of choice added for battle. Draped over his shoulders is a black wolf fur coat, with bright red trimmings.
I am wearing similar leather suits except it’s black coloured and I’m wearing a grey wolf fur coat around me to keep me warm in this year’s winter. My House sword and present for my 16th birthday, Ignite, is on my left side on my hip, the pommel on it is in the shape of the de Eramont flame sigil.
I dragged my father here because I needed some proof that I am a noble if I were to get questioned by the Rachkers. Why would they ask me, well because I intend on doing some investigating into the Cullings? Especially the recent increase in how many there are, used to be two a year, but lately, it’s been two each quarter of a year. That doesn’t sit right with me, and I intend on learning why it’s being done, from there who knows what I’ll do, but at least I’ll know.
I’ve always been curious about why things happen the way they do. My father always says to me “it’s just the way things are, it’s how it used to be done and will continue to be so”, but I don’t listen to my father much, so I go find out for myself instead. This trait of mine had caused me trouble in the past, like when I snuck into the council after hours to read the legislation that instructs the regulations involved with farming. Did it serve me any benefit to know? No, of course, it bloody didn’t, but it was the truth I was after.
“Because I thought we could have a father-son bonding moment,” I sarcastically replied.
He stares me down with disapproval.
The large group of Pryias accumulates many more as they’re herded together in the very middle of the Quay Square. Not all Pryias get Culled, that would be outrageous, even for nobles. I mean who else is going to pick oranges or tend to cattle.
The smell of dirty sweat is active in the air emanating from the crowd of Pryias, most likely because they’ve all been summoned here while they had been working.
I stare at a wooden stage in front of the crowd where three individuals are standing, General Tull Ricker, Bloodmage Caisen and Religitie Emgland.
General Tull Ricker is the General of the city’s army and representative for its military to the King. He has a hard stance against unruliness and is hugely pro-Monarch, loves the noble-Pryia system and intends on doing whatever it takes to keep it how it is. He’s a tall, bulky, sturdy man, has a light tan as evidence for all the time in the sun when he was once a Rachker, his golden blonde hair matches his golden armour that he’s always wearing to “protect” himself.
Tull is standing right next to Caisen, a bloodmage. Bloodmages are people who use purified blood to use blood magic. Caisen is wearing a robe like all bloodmages; however, this one is coloured grey and covers most of his tall, skinny body except his bald dark head, making it easy to identify him.
Standing separately from Caisen and Tull is Emgland, a Religitie, who is someone highly crucial in the religious ranks of the church. The importance of Religities is that only they can do the ritual before a Culling. Emgland is a small, frail man in comparison to Tull and Caisen, and he always wears the same ripped black robes.
I personally have no patience for the religious and the Religities in particular. I think they’re just conning people out of money and telling Pryias that they have to be slaves for that is what the gods wanted for them. If that’s what the gods wanted, then I don’t want to believe in those gods.
I’m a unique case of a noble, one who is sympathetic towards the plight of Pryias and wouldn’t mind seeing the fall of the Monarch and particularly King Salisera.
“Don’t you think these Cullings have been occurring more often than usual lately?”
“I don’t know nor do I care, haven’t I told you not to ask questions about things that you shouldn’t be asking questions about”.
“Was just asking.”
“Exactly. Don’t. Do. That.”
Father looks away from me with a look of disgust on his old disgruntled face. He’s always been this way towards me since I’m the type to ask about things and try to learn about how everything works, my father and I tend to butt heads often because he’s the complete opposite to that.
I listen to the crowd again, I said excitement, but really it’s anxiousness that you can hear. The Pryias who get Culled in a Culling is chosen right there on the spot, no preparation before the event, so no one knows until we all do. It’s always nerve-wracking for Pryias waiting to hear their name to be called out, I can’t imagine a more horrid way to die. They have an executor, or “Culler” cut their throat, but only a small cut and not very deep so that they don’t lose too much blood for purification. They’re then placed on a stretcher, dead, and taken to some location unknown to the populace to have their blood drained. Beautiful ain’t it.
I hear some crying amongst the crowd, sounds like a child, maybe a mother is preparing their child for the possibility of them having no mother in half an hour.
I scan the crowd from left to right when I notice a group of noble girls to the right standing near the banking building. I recognise Rose Drutteous, a skinny, average height, fair-haired and even fairer skinned girl who’s my age. I’ve known Rose since we were born because our mother’s had known each other before our births.
“Hey, Rose is over there, I’m just gonna say hey, okay father,” I say to my discomforted father who is just standing tall and facing forward towards the crowd with a stern look on him.
“Yeah alright then, but don’t leave me here for too long.”
“Shouldn’t be long, just remember if I’m not back before the Culling starts, don’t tell me what I missed out on, I want to read it in the paper,” I say with a massive grin stretching my face wide as I walk off towards Rose and her friends.
I get the impression that father wants me to court Rose since she’s the only girl I’ve ever really had time for, who’s also my age, and she has many of the qualities that most searching noble young men are looking for in a woman. Unfortunately for him, I have no intention of risking losing my best friend if something were to go wrong in a more intimate relationship.
I walk over to the group of girls, singing a tune in my head “the winds blow an echo, the moon glows in deco, the sun blares a blazing day, but there’s nothing that’ll keep me away.”
As I get closer I reduce the singing in its volume, and I’m reduced down to a mere whistle, so not to be heard singing. I prefer to keep my more creative side quiet and unknown to the public.
Rose is wearing a blue dress that well suits her hair and skin colour, and her skinny body frame has very little explanation for her large bust other than the gods put some extra time on her. Her face’s skin has a soft, smooth look to it and is prettier than an art piece by Ralio Rarcarcho. Her hair has been tied up to make a spiralled bun placed delicately up behind her head; I find it quite funny that it looks like a multi-layered cone.
At school, Rose was always seen as one of the more beautiful and talented girls of our particular age group.
The other girls with Rose in Quay Square are just as beautiful as her, wearing dresses of the most premium materials, and in different styles and forms. Blue must be the new favourite colour as six out of the seven girls are in blue.
I place my left hand on top of my sword as I approach them.
I give a quiet cough under my breath to prepare my voice to sound more mature and attractive.
“Why hello ladies, isn’t it a beautiful day today and I must say you all only add to its great beauty,” I say as I politely bow myself to them.
Some of the girls giggle to themselves, and others blush at my remarks.
Some have said I’m a waste of charisma, my charms almost always affect others, except I don’t use it to attract women. That’s because I use my charismatic ways for more devilish goals, like finding out information on specific questions that puzzle my mind. Those questions tend to be forbidden for most to know, so I mostly need my charismatic ways to persuade a guard or another noble.
I’ve recently decided that I ought to start searching for a particular young woman to court so that I am more experienced in the future. Also, it’s about time I deal with that whole virginity at 18 issue, so I’ve decided to expand who my charismatic ways effect.
I can tell Rose is chuckling to herself behind one of the girls blushing.
“May I please speak with your dear miss Rose Drutteous, who I believe is among you beauties,” I say with a twirl of my right hand.
Again more blushing and it seems I have brought some of the less interested ones under my spell. I enjoy toying with hearts and minds, I really do.
“Callos Aron, how do you do?” Rose says to me in between her giggling as she walks over to me.
She waves her friends off and follows me as I walk us over to another wall of the hexagon shaped building that houses our very kind and not at all scrupulous banking sector.
I eventually reply once we’ve made some distance from her friends “I am doing fine, thank you, Rose. How about yourself?”
“Feeling much better after you just called me beautiful.”
Rose smiles as she giggles once again. She has always laughed at the things I say, but not mockingly, merely appreciative.
“Was just wondering if you were up to anything tomorrow morning?”
“I don’t believe I’ve got anything planned, if I do then it’s not important enough for me to remember so I think I’d rather spend time with you, Aron.”
“Well how about we meet at mine tomorrow morning, and we could go for a walk for a bit, it’s just that I haven’t seen you for a while. Thought you might’ve been missing me.”
She laughs loudly again to show her appreciation.
“Oh yeah, I haven’t gotten my much-needed fix of Aron de Eramont,” she again laughs, but not as loud. “Yeah well that sounds good to me, I’ll come over when I’m ready, okay.”
I smile and reply “great, can’t wait. Well, I’m gonna get back to my father and leave you to your friends.”
She smiles back and says “okay good-bye Aron and see you tomorrow.”
She takes off to reunite herself with her group of friends, who are all staring at me and then looking back to Rose with hands pointing at me saying something I can’t make out. I watch her until she slows down once she’s arrived at her destination.
I turn around to walk back to my father. As I walk back I hear Emgland loudly start announcing the beginnings of the ritual; the Culling is about to begin.