The House of Wolves

The Assassin and the Politician

Seven days. That was how long Ardos had spent cooped in that god awful chariot. Now….the chariot was exquisitely designed and very classy, and on top of that it had its own quarters built in just for him. The chariot was more like a miniature room in all honesty. And on top of that the servants and bodyguards most certainly had it worse, though they were still sleeping comfortably.

He had requested to travel alone, but his father had adamantly denied his wishes and sent him on his way.

”If you die…the family shall be greatly impacted. After all, you are my only heir, so if you were to die the repercussions would be grave. Additionally…you are to be wed in a month! How could you even think of going alone? ”

”But father ” pleaded Ardos, before he was cut off once again.

”Don push your luck boy! The fact that Im allowing you to even travel to that vile city is extremely generous. Now pack your things and get out of my sight. ”

Ardos had been given no choice but to comply and as a result, had suffered the boredom of spending seven days drudging along in a chariot with people too afraid to even engage in basic conversation with him.

Yet again…Im being chained down, thought Ardos to himself solemnly. This thought was accompanied by a long sigh. He was about to fall asleep when a servant charged into Ardos quarters.

”Sire…weve arrived! These are the gates of Corvachia! ”

Ardos got up with excitement, relieved that at long last he had arrived at his desired destination. He almost didn believe it for a second, which was why he practically swung open the door separating the inside of the chariot from where the driver sat.

He was immediately greeted by looming stone walls, the last and final barrier for those who had managed to traverse the rocky, mountainous pathways that led up to the city. The mountains themselves were not particularly that treacherous, as they were rather small in nature, perfect for mining to further bolster the citys bustling economy.

Ardos had been to many family parties, where nobles from different houses and cities would praise the ingenuity of the mining system that had been established in Corvachia. But seeing it in person as he had throughout the trip, Ardos hardly felt impressed by it.

It felt rather rudimentary, and unrefined. Perhaps it was suitable for the small minded little hearts of the nobles from those parties, people who were content with the minimal level of progress the mining system had established within the kingdom. But their standards were minimal indeed.

After all, to them everything in this kingdom was like a plaything, and everyone like little toys…running around in their greasy palms. They approached their duties as nobles like an audience did to an exciting play. They were sorely lacking in perspective, because to them any worldview that wasn there one was unnecessary. They were content to sit back and slurp the enamoring wine known as power that was always readily at their disposal, letting themselves waste away behind the countrys powerful military as well as their own positions.

The lack of any sort of profundity or depth in perspective was embarrassing. And the fact that Ardos was associated with these people in any way was even more embarrassing!

But still…despite the disappointing nature of the mines surrounding the city, he couldn help but admire the atmosphere it created when going into the city.

Suddenly, a servant tapped Ardoss shoulder, robe in hand. His face flushed red and he realized that he wasn wearing a shirt, meaning he looked quite ridiculous to not only the guards standing outside the gates but also to his own men.

Thankfully he was still wearing pants, loose ones yes, but pants all the same. Still though, it was rather unbecoming of a man with the title of
oble to be casually standing, half naked before the walls of a great city.

After slipping on his robe, Ardos retreated back to his quarters, not even daring to look into the eyes of the servants there in the cabin with him. Though they were most likely faces of amusement, in fact, he even heard a few snickers in the back…which did nothing to soothe Ardoss shame.

After opening and subsequently slamming shut the oaken door to his quarters, Ardos crashed onto his bed and pulled up a mirror from his nightstand so that he could examine his features.

Ardos was a rather attractive young lad whom had garnered the attention of many young noblewomen throughout his brief lifetime. All of which were drawn to a different characteristic of his. Whether it be his long and luscious blond hair, or his sharp green irises. Some had found themselves drawn to his well toned body, some to his stout jawline, there were even women who had found his pale skin attractive.

But Ardos wasn looking in the mirror to admire his features, but instead to make sure the makeup the female servants had applied earlier was in perfect condition. He couldn afford to look indecent amongst the elite businessman of Corvachia. He outranked them yes, but in a city like this they had so much power, that if he had made a fool of himself before them it could risk his familys reputation.

The fact that he was even here, and the matters he intended to discuss with them was position threatening enough, he couldn afford any other mishaps in case the discussion with the businessmen went awry.

After ensuring that the carefully applied makeup was fine, Ardos took off the robe the maid had given him and changed into something more formal. He wore a black surcoat with an elegantly patterned doubtlet underneath, as well as a leather belt and boots. The surcoat was embroidered with a golden threaded crest, specifically the crest of the Calastres.

Every noble family and city in Volicheus had its own signature animal to set itself apart. Altravia, where Ardos lived, had the emblem of the fox whilst the Calastres logo was a majestic stag. The only notable animal which had yet to be assigned to any location or family as of yet was the wolf.

The stag was one of the few things Ardos liked about his family. His reasoning was purely aesthetic but he simply couldn help but admire the intricacy of the crests design. The way the stag had been sown as if it were leaping, the golden hue of the stag…it was nothing short of genius.

As Ardos was admiring the design a shrill voice interrupted him from across the door. ”Sire…we have arrived at the mansion ”, said the voice. Ardos immediately fixed his doublet and strode out of the chariot.

Around his own lay two beautiful mansions, one made of oak and the other out of some form of brick or stone.

While the process had many noticeable flaws, the amount of natural resources yielded as a result of the mining were definitely a positive. Practically every house in this part of the city incorporated the fruits of the mining in some form of another.

Ardoss mansion was built upon a seamless combination of polished wood and stone, like most of the homes in the area. It had three stories and a gate fashioned out of pure silver, making it rather magnificent in appearance.

But Ardos had known all of these details beforehand, being as he was the one to purchase the house.

”Shall we go in sire…. ” asked one of Ardoss bodyguards. In response Ardos merely gave a curt nod and proceeded to enter his would be home for the next several days.

The house…was most certainly worth the purchase. Neither the floor nor the elegant red carpet had even a speck of dirt on it, and the house looked as if it had just been made….despite having been booked several months in advance. Gorgeous paintings adorned the mansions walls, and on the second floor there was even a bronze harp to further enhance the artistic mood of the place. The differently shaped balusters on each staircase did nothing but bolster that atmosphere.

Ardos couldn help but to admire the interior decorating. His room especially, had been designed exquisitely. The carpet that outstretched from under the bed pleased Ardos especially. But the view of the city was even nicer. He wanted to gaze at it undisturbed…and so he commanded the guards outside to not enter under any circumstances unless Ardos called for them.

But sure enough, just as his eyes began to rake over the bridges stretching across the citys canal… a guard burst in, frightening Ardos.

”Sir Ardos, there has been a report of suspicious activity around the general area…I advise you not to step out for the time being and be on the lookout. ”

Ardos sighed and turned towards the bodyguard. His expression signified a clear disinterest, but he quickly adjusted it into the form of a smile.

”Say…Gareth ”

”Its actually Roger sir, Gareth is my older brother. ”

”Yes yes, Roger, Gareth, whatever. Tell me….have you ever been pestered by an insect, one which you find exceedingly difficult to swat? ”

”Sir…? ”

Ardos sighed impatiently, before once again contorting his face into the falsely sweet expression he had used to engage the man in conversation.

”I asked you ” spat Ardos, ”if you have ever found yourself irritated by an insect. ”

The guard gulped before answering nervously.

”Yes sire, I- ” the man stopped to straighten his back; ”I have. Is there an insect around you currently which you would like me to dispose of? ”

”Why yes there is Reagan! Unfortunately this insect takes a rather troublesome form. He is wearing dull, heavy chainmail and his voice sounds like a strangled dog. ”

”Thats a rather strange- ”

”AND ” said Ardos, determined not to be interrupted. ”He, not even a minute after I announced that I would not like to be disturbed, decided to come barging into my quarters with some dull report. Do I not look like the kind of man who has the time to be aggravated by monotonous report? ”

The guards face was hidden by a suffocating helmet, but Ardos was sure he had a rather uncomfortable expression under there. Eventually, he bowed and took his leave without saying a word.

”And DO NOT come back again, under any circumstances, unless I SPECIFICALLY request for you to do so. ”

The man did not respond, Ardos suspected he was too frightened to do so. This made Ardos feel bad, but instead of apologizing he simply collapsed onto his bed. He actually had known the guards name, he knew the names of everyone who served him.

After all it would be simply hypocritical to not do so. After all Ardos strove to be the kind of noble who actually cared about the people around him. Nevertheless, it was certainly much easier to get a point across when he wore the guise of one of those shallow, conservative bastards who had become practically synonymous with the idea of a noble. He had pretended to be one of them for most of his life after all.

And that was the attitude he had shown to the people whose duty was to care for him. He didn like it, but it was painfully easy to slip into. Especially when he was angry or emotional, like he had been for the majority of the trip.

For the majority of his life he had put up the front as a means to conceal his true thoughts from the other noblemen, but now he feared it was becoming a part of his identity….and that scared him.

He needed a break. It was difficult to cloak oneself under a persona as toxic as this one, even if it was for a short while.

The city looks nice Ardos thought to himself. And before he could even think about what he was doing, he grabbed a cloak from amongst his things and impulsively leapt from his window on the third floor. Thankfully, he landed safely, even though he shook a little bit. But that wasn the main issue. The issue was the recklessness of the decision he had made.

As Roger had reported, this area, despite being the safest section of the city…was still prone to an abundance of thieving and murders. But yet, Ardos felt compelled to leave the mansion and any traces of himself which he could identify with nobility.

He himself didn understand why now of all times he felt so bothered, but he decided to follow his instincts and leave the mansion.

As Ardos wandered around the city, he noticed an abundance of intriguing sights. Stalls and caravans selling some of the most exotic products Ardos had ever seen, men and women with profoundly abstract and absurd fashion, the place truly felt alive. There were so many little interactions happening all around Ardos, so much movement and commotion. Scantily clad thieves jumping across rooftops, trinkets clearly visible in their hands, men smoking puffy rings from preposterously ornate tobacco pipes; even the underhanded actions taking place around him only served to fascinate Ardos.

Its so entertaining thought Ardos to himself blissfully.

It was so enchanting down there, but yet…Ardos was still unsatisfied. He was hardly even conscious of it but a nagging sensation within him made him feel uncomfortable. The way he thought about what was happening here, was almost like the other nobles. It was like he wasn even present witnessing it.

The reason Ardos had come here was to escape the burden of his status, but now, the more he thought about it all Ardos could see was the distance in between him and the people around him.

Even the men in masks, who were closest to Ardos still felt so distant. Because they still had the freedom to express themselves in whatever peculiar ways they desired. Ardos had features just as unique as they did, but his were biological.

He had been born and bred to be just as attention drawing as the men in masks, and was able to achieve that and more without even needing to decorate himself. But at the same time, those people were free to do what they liked with the abnormality they flaunted.

Ardos wished to do that desperately. He wished to have a choice in how he used his body and in how he applied himself, but if he did that he would be be unfitting of nobility, and his dreams would become impossible to attain.

And in that case, Ardos would have nothing to live for.

But yet the alienation Ardos was feeling now had seemed to go beyond the nature of his nobility and the restrictions it placed on him. It went beyond just Ardoss rank. It was as if even if all of Ardoss titles and riches were stripped away…he would still feel this cold, empty feeling that spread throughout his body and gripped his very soul.

And it kept expanding. It was as if the more he thought about it the stronger it grew.

Recognizing this, Ardos fervently should his head and pulled the cloak on tighter in an attempt to immerse himself further in his surroundings.

What is this that I am thinking about? I should just enjoy my surroundings instead of being a buffoon and letting it go to waste.

After cleansing his mind with that mentality, Ardos attempted to approach one of the market stalls and pull himself away from his self deprecating spiral of a thought process.

But suddenly he felt a tight clench on his shoulder and a sharp poke in his back. He tried to jerk his head around and see who was holding him, but a steely voice prevented him from doing so.

”I would advise against moving dangerously….you might push the blade in deeper than it already it is. Now…where is your mask? ”

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