Log:Bloodlines and Duty
Today's court business had gone on much as it ever did, with minor matters of judgement, protocol, and resolution passing before the Ducal thrones. Yet today, court was better attended than such relatively trivial matters would deserve, and an undercurrent of anticipation permeated the assembly. Rumor always flourished in the halls of nobility, and by now it was well known that a dignitary's shuttle had arrived from the Outer Rim, ostensibly to discuss a trade agreement, but speculation ran rampant beyond that fact.
While the mayor of a small town in the Cole Duchy was reading a proclamation, declaring his people's gratitude for the benevolence of their liege, requesting leave to name a firstborn granddaughter after Her Grace, Alys (and discreetly requesting a season's remittance from taxes, in between), whispers between courtiers ranged from the ridiculous (a Hutt emissary come to demand tribute) to the droll (probably just some businessman with an entourage of protocol droids, it will probably be very tedious).
When the mayor had bowed and withdrawn, the court herald rapped a ceremonial staff on the resonant stones underfoot and announced the next supplicant: "Now before the Ducal thrones comes the delegate of Belleau-a-Kiirium, the Lord Ban Iskender, Captain of the Vice-royal Lir Dragoons."
Concurrent with the grand announcement, a fair gentleman in the younger half of his twenties appears and begins walking down the great hall's central corridor. He moves with a polished precision, in the smooth manner familiar to those whose every step has been trained. Dressed in tall polished boots and a pale grey militaristic uniform, trimmed in green and gold, liberally ornamented with gold braid. While he carries no pistol, the officer has been permitted to retain an archaic gold-hilted saber.
Green eyed and clean shaven, head carried high, back straight and shoulders squared, Lord Ban pauses his steps at the polite distance and offers a deep bow from the waist. One hand steadying the lie of the saber, the other composed across the abdomen without turning his head to either side. He waits to be acknowledged before rising.
Ban almost manages to make the clearly rehearsed greeting sound natural when he intones, "Your Graces of New Alderaan, Duke Torin and Duchess Alys: I bring you the high regards of my mother, the Viscountess Temira Iskender, who has entrusted me to treat with you, Her regal cousins of D'qar on matters of trade. I am at your Graces' service, whenever it please the throne to undertake such negotiations."
Trade: the formal excuse for his visit.
"Lord Ban," The Duke says, his voice deep and spoken in a way that it stretches to the corner of the hall. "New Alderaan welcomes you." Torin, old enough to have a healthy supply of gray in his hair stands from his throne and descends the dais. In Torin's younger days, he had served in similar capacity as Ban. Seeing the uniform again, and in such prestigious condition, brings an easy smile to the man's face. Tired blue eyes find the younger Ban's greens when he steps near to share a handshake. Firm, strong, and brief is this interaction. "Make yourself at home, son." Son is said in a manner to denote the contrast of age between them.
Alys remains seated upon her throne, her beautiful blonde hair groomed appropriately and braided back to accentuate a face that still clung to youth. Her impression of the young man summed up by the smile that has formed while her husband greets House Iskender's scion. "Was your trip well, Lord Ban?" Alys asks, her voice accented to favor her own line (think Scottish).
Torin steps back and returns to his throne, content to settle upon it with a renewed sense of vigor, perhaps rekindled by the sight of an old uniform.
Lady Aryn Cole is near her cousins, standing at the back of the family section and watching with a neutral expression. Her gaze had followed the advance of the fair young lordly soldier, and the reactions from her parents seemed telling enough. She could feel her heart beating now and was convinced those around her could too. Was this man the one? Kara, the closest cousin, gently takes Aryn's hand and softly giggles. "You look as if you've seen the dead rise. Relax. Breath, cousin." Aryn glances over at her and manages a modest smile, red finding her cheeks in acknowledgement of the obvious.
"My thanks, sire," Ban return to Torin's welcome, along with the firm handclasp. Though still composed, the familiar warmth of the Duke and Duchess at his arrival allow the hint of a smile to soften his austerity. The question from Alys draws the young soldier's eye and a short dip of his head and shoulders. "It was, your Ladyship. Though the journey would need to be dire indeed to foul my first visit to New Alderaan. I am pleased to find that the renown of your world is not exaggerated." The gentleman's smile deepens for a moment in giving the compliment, composing one hand at the small of his back, the other at his side.
Drawing a fresh breath and looking between the Duke and Duchess, Ban voices further, "Before I withdraw and this court resumes its business, I bring a small token of my House's esteem for your own. To whom may I present this gift?"
"It may be presented to our daughter, Lady Aryn." There's an audible shift as everyone turns their gaze toward the Lady in question. Funny how quickly color can drain from one's cheeks at the snap of a finger. A supportive hand goes to Aryn's back as her cousin Kara urges her forward without endangering her balance in the process.
The Coles in the section part to allow the smaller framed woman out. Dressed in an easy tunic of white and grays, she wears a cape that's similar to the honor guards, but trimmed in silver. Her broach, an ornate thing with her family's sigil, catches the light as she steps out carefully with some practiced grace.
Alys, from her throne, lifts her chin in an inspecting manner while her father leans into one hand, hiding his smile. He could see the blue of her eyes from his seat and it melted his heart the way Aryn had to look up at the young Lord. Alys allows a smile too, reaching over to touch her husbands arm.
Aryn dips appropriately to address the Lord. "Lord Ban, I am Lady Aryn..." She says, sharing a slight accent that's similar to her mother's.
The young Iskender turns to face Aryn as the white cloaked lady emerges and introduces herself. He repeats the deep bow from the waist, but this time does not lower his eyes as he did when bowing to the Duke and Duchess. “Captain Ban Iskender, at your service Lady Aryn,” he returns, holding a hand out to one side in a mute summons, which brings a retainer to his side, placing an ornate, flat box atop the gentleman’s open hand.
Ban opens the box, hinges toward himself to reveal an aurodium headpiece, inset with twenty-two luminous pearls, finely-wrought in a feminine fashion. “An heirloom of my family, from the days of Belleau-a-Lir on Old Alderaan. It is crafted with twenty-two pearls, one for each great House of the ancestral homeworld Cole and Iskender share. With my utmost regards, lady,” he offers, while extending the box and its contents to Aryn.
Her breath catches as the light shines upon the head piece perfectly. It glitters, casting sharp glows in each direction. Aryn's expression conveys her awe of this item and she gently takes it from his grasp. "It shall be cherished forever, my Lord."
Aryn shuts it gently, taking it within her right arm. Her left arm remains concealed by her cloak, but if the young Lord was observant enough, he may have seen a hint of the strap that belonged to her sling.
Aryn looks back to Ban and smiles a beautiful smile, then bows respectfully. She leaves his side with a decisive turn and approaches her parents with no fear of the guards stopping her. She goes to her mother and places the item within her hand, before turning to regard the court.
Ban is left with a view of the Coles, the mother and father each upon their throne, and Aryn standing beside her mother.
Torin stands then, his arms going wide. "This concludes our session of court. You're dismissed to the great hall where we have refreshment and entertainment. Please, enjoy yourselves. Alys and I thank you all for your service."
The court rises and bows, Torin waves, and the chatter begins to pick up. Alys opens the box and places a hand over her mouth; she too is floored by the beauty of this item's design. Aryn leaves her parents, and slowly descends down the stair.
Ban gives a second smile and bow to Aryn as the lady accepts the gift and steps to join her parents. Turning again to face the thrones as Torin closes the audience, the young man gives a subtle exhale, green attention holding on Aryn as the Cole heir descends the dais. He glances aside only long enough to dismiss the retainer who had brought forth the gift.
Aryn wonders if Ban prefers his military title over Lord; he had made it a point to introduce himself as a Captain. An attentive gaze goes to his uniform and she immediately finds it too posh. Having been around a lot of soldiers who often saw a great deal of combat, she knew that uniforms like this would not hold up to the strain and stress. She conceded that it was a dress uniform, too, but so were many of the Resistance uniforms.
She extends her good hand to him, offering a kind smile when she was within range to speak and be heard over all the hustle. "You know how to wear a uniform well, Captain."
It was to the refreshments everyone was heading to, and Aryn did not have a different mind. Kiko, Aryn's closest guardian, keeps a respectful distance from the pair, watching quietly with a dark, observant gaze. When it becomes necessary, she steps out and follows behind, her hands hooked to her gun belt.
"Thank you, my lady," the Captain in his too-posh uniform returns, accepting her extended hand, discreetly stepping to the side of her healthy hand and offering his arm as they move toward the great hall with its waiting refreshment.
"If I may ask, does my lady prefer her noble title, or that of doctor?"
Her cheeks turn a little red when he sticks to the niceties and pomp of aristocracy. "Aryn will be fine, sir. There's no need for us to re-establish what we are, constantly. I presume you've the judgement to know when it's time to be official, and otherwise." She turns to look up at him, taking note that he went to her good side.
She takes his arm and matches his pace, an easy gait that leads them into the great hall where the noise grows louder.
Gathering refreshment is as easy as taking a glass flute of wine from a passing servant's tray. She has to release the Captain's arm to do so, but she remains at his side. After a quick look around the room, Aryn looks toward the exit to the court yard. "Do you wish to remain inside? Or would the quiet of the court yard be amenable?"
The gentleman allows an almost rueful smile. "I thought to err on the side of propriety, at first," he admits. "New world, new court.. better to accept correction than offer insult. But as you wish, Aryn and Ban it will be." Following the lady's lead, he too plucks a flute off the same passing tray and decides, "I would rather like the courtyard. Shall we?"
"Please." Aryn follows after him, allowing him to escort her. A knowing glance is paid to their tail, and she gives Kiko an 'it's okay' gesture signaling her guardian to let their privacy be. Another decisive turn, and they are both outside.
It's nearing evening time, and from the courtyard they have a great view of the southern mountains and forest. Jaqall is setting in the west, setting streams of bright gold, purple, and orange haze high up in the dusky sky. The air is cooler than inside, and almost to a point where one might consider a slightly thicker coat.
The gardens are magnificent, and there's fountains and stone walkways going in a number of directions. The noise out here only consists of what avians are nearby, and the soft rustle of a chilly wind. Aryn steps up to match Ban's pace and she looks his way thoughtfully. "Tell me about your world. I've never been," she admits, looking slightly sheepish.
Ban Iskender draws a long, unhurried breath through the nose and passes a slow look around the grandees and sky, admiring it aloud as, "Magnificent."
Taking an idle sip of the wine, he looks back to Aryn at her question, answering readily, "It is home, and I love it. Yet even I must admit the natural charms of Belleau-a-Kiirium pale against this lush planet of yours." A gesture with his free hand at the splendor around them.
"It was fission bombed into ash a thousand generations ago. The radiation has long since faded, but the only flora and fauna living upon it now are those my people have planted, or which stowed away aboard some freighter or another. It had been lifeless for millennia until the death of Alderaan." He reflects, simply. "There is yet a certain.. austere beauty to the desolation. Serene jade skies, and emerald sunrises over the ash fields." A short exhale. And a nearly apologetic smile. "It is no surprise you have never been, Aryn. The world's remoteness is why it stood empty when my people needed a home."
Aryn listens intently, coming up to a small railing where she could lean and regard him. She tried to imagine what he explained of his world, but her thoughts came to Rori. Similar shade of green perhaps, but maybe not as muggy or swampy. She nods along, smiling when their eyes meet. A sip of wine and she looks toward the fountain. "There's beauty to be found in all things, Ban. Even deserts, desolate and hot, have a particular kindness to them at night when silence reigns and the wind reminds you that you aren't alone."
Aryn was thinking of Tatooine, when she and Rey had visited the world for parts and found Nomi, a small slave girl running from gangsters. "How does your world fair now? Are there more people moving in? Trade increasing?" She turns more to face him, studying his handsome expressions.
"Since the last Imperial attack, some.. twenty-six years ago, now?" A moment of calculation to verify and he nods. "The world has thrived. Our numbers grow, though in recent years it is for prosperity rather than immigration. Agriculture has developed well, though for now the shorter lived harvests and root crops continue to thrive best." For all the polish and pomp of his manner, and the grandiose dress uniform, nobles are apparently still well grounded in agriculture. "As for trade, it is a.. point of recent emphasis, for us. Until lately, existing apart from the rest of the galaxy and growing a bit more each cycle was enough."
A shadow passes over his smile with the admission. "Of course.. with the fall of the Republic, slow and steady growth in isolation may not be enough, any longer."
"I believe that was delivered in my father's address several months ago. With the absence of a Republic to represent the interests of our people, it's up to us to create the growth and expansion between our worlds." Aryn replied back, nodding. "I knew then what my father intended to do." Her gaze goes outward and she releases a breath.
"You're here for more than trade." She turned her head to look at him. Her expression wasn't stone cold or harsh. She was analyzing though, watching his eyes and body language.
When Aryn mentions her father's address, the Iskender adds, with a bemused sniff, "My mother made a similar speech." At being here for more than trade, Ban admits plainly, "I am." In the next instant, he visibly realizes, "They didn't tell you I was coming." He falls silent a moment, organizing his thoughts. For the first time since arriving, he is uncertain what to say.
Aryn shakes her head. "Though, my father enjoys it when I figure these things out on my own. He isn't exactly the best at hiding his plans." Aryn says, showing some amusement. "I suspected that this was a route he would go. We had a conversation about arrangements being made, but nothing beyond that. I had no idea who was coming, or when."
She looks away again. "I presume this was my mother's idea. She knows more than anyone that I'm a researcher. Maybe they thought I would arrive at some sort of misconception before you arrived.." Aryn looks back. "..no offense, of course."-- "But it's now my situation. Our.. situation. Meanwhile, you were permitted to know details about me."
An amused look crosses her expression and she turns to face him again. "Go on then. What is it you learned?"
Aryn’s amusement is met with an unseen relief from the Iskender. As she puzzles out her theory aloud, the young soldier’s own amusement flashes. “Of course, no offense is taken. I’m curious what sort of research your mother worries you would uncover,” he admits before agreeing, “Our situation, as you say.”
The latter question seems to spark some sense of a merry competition, as the gentleman regards the doctor and inclines his head and shoulders. “Very well. There are of course the surface facts.. Only child and heir to your parents, graduated at age 20 with a doctorate in medicine from the University of Novania, on Arkanis- a doubly notable accomplishment, given the Arkanian reputation for.. Intellectualism,” it sounds much nicer than ‘arrogance and racism’. “You spend little time at court, and travel extensively. You are also more intelligent than I am,” he admits, plainly.
Letting his eyes narrow in feigned scrutiny and legitimate good humor, he speaks on: “Then there are the deductions. You’ve not been dogged by any rumors of scandal, nor seen in any of the typical.. Idly rich places, so your travel isn’t for the common pleasure. Some is academic, but not all, or even most, from what I could find. And at least one recent travel has resulted in a not insignificant injury. Which reminds me-” A brief glance toward the lady’s immobilized arm. “I notice that quite dashing cloak is of a similar cut to that of the Cole Honor Guard, apart from the trim. Is it simply a means of concealing an afflicted arm, or is there a more lasting significance to wearing that garment?”
Back on topic.. “Then there are the plain guesses. You are either highly dedicated to some pursuit other than governance, or you are disinterested in affairs of state, based on the paucity of your appearance, and role in the Ducal court. Yet your parents have neither adopted nor groomed any other heir, and their affection for you is clear, so I cannot conclude you are disinterested in rule or governance. At a guess… I wager you have a pet project. Perhaps curing some hitherto incurable blight?”
"My mother thinks.. that I .. think too much. Or imagine things, or whatever it is that young ladies do when they research. For instance, modern medicine articles. You're healthy when you start reading one, but by the end of it.. you're convinced you have Bloodburn." She angles a thumb back at herself. "She thinks that is me."
She shakes her head to the first fact. "I'm actually not an only child. I have a brother. My parents, and the court for that matter, elect to avoid that topic.-- He had a gambling problem and tried to extort my parents for money. Why? I have no idea. But, my brother is an idiot." She shook her head. "When I called him on his plot, he almost killed me. Blasted me, three times.."
"I'd show you, but.. it wouldn't be the most lady-like thing to do." She sighs and looks away. "So he's in prison for the rest of his life."-- How's that for scandal. At the mention of her injury, then cloak, she moves the cloak aside to show her slung arm but to also display her garment.
"The cloak is a symbol of service to our house. The trim represents the type of service. Gold is reserved for the guard and retainers. Silver is humanitarian or ..in my case, I'm a doctor. There are others." She says, implying it might be too many to mention. "Normally, there's one specifically for our family to wear, but I elect to be recognized for my service, not my birthright." "My travels are dedicated to learning my trade. I'm a traveling physician, and often volunteer for humanitarian efforts in regions and systems where people need help. More recently, I've been assembling small teams to help people in conflict areas. Sometimes it's a direct result of the war, and others it's something domestic."
“My own mother believes I don’t think enough. If you invent a medical process to balance out parental expectations, I should be very interested in the project,” Ban jests, deadpan. Then the subject of siblings is corrected. “Clearly my own research skills could use more refinement,” he notes with a wince. More somberly on the subject of Aryn’s brother and his fate, “I am sorry to hear of it. To have trust betrayed by blood must be an awful thing."
As she elaborates upon the cloak and its significance, his smile returns, with a briefly knowing bend. “I see. And may I ask how you came by this injury, Aryn? Or ought I give you a turn to make deductions and have questions answered before I press further?”
He's funny. She's lost count of the number of times she's laughed so far. His earlier joke about her being smarter than him, and now a medical process to alter parental expectations. "That should be worthwhile research. I'll have to look into that." She smiles and shifts a bit. "It was painful, not just the betrayal, but also being shot. I would not recommend it."
Her own taste of dead pan humor at her own expense. When the conversation shifts to her injury, she holds up the arm. "Well, through my own deductive reasoning and field tests, I determined that I'm terrible at punching things; and by things, I mean people. This is the result of a poorly executed lead hand punch that collided with the torso of a colleague of mine."
To tag onto the end there, her cheeks red. "I've taken an interest in martial arts."
He doesn't laugh outright, but a sharp sniff of good humor slips past Ban's composure when she recommends not getting shot. "Sage advice. Your professional recommendation is duly noted, doctor," he notes, with affected gravity.
When her deductive reasoning and field tests reveal she is terrible at punching things, Aryn does win a small laugh. "Terribly uncouth, punching. I find dueling to be much more civilized."
Her last admission pushes one of the soldier's eyebrows higher, interest piqued. "Have you indeed? Which forms are you studying?
"Unfortunately, the nature of being prepared for the unexpected is that it's the unexpected. If we could choose our conflicts the way we'd prefer, I'd choose to have none at all. Sadly, that is not the way of the galaxy, as I've been taught by my own brother. Having wrestled with death once, it is not an experience I want to relive. Civilized or no, I intend to walk away from my conflicts."
There's an air of confidence behind that statement, but it's soon countered by her admission. "Style? I suppose the style of not being hit and properly throwing a punch, for starters. When I grasp the most basics of fighting, then maybe I'll look to style. To be honest, I've paid that no mind. I looked for contract mercenaries, people who have fought, lost, and survived. If I hope to learn anything from anyone, it's how to lose and still have the fortitude to survive. Those are the people you must worry about."
“You’ve a keen wit, Aryn,” the young Captain commends with amusement at her quip regarding the unexpected. Her clarification on the nature of her rudimentary brawling instruction draws an “Ah,” of understanding. “Practical application. A wise starting point. Learning from mercenaries is a bold choice, though I see the point.”
Keeping his green eyes on the doctor throughout a sip of the forgotten wine flute, Ban asks in the next breath, “What drew your interest to archaeology? Your speaking at the recent.. academic conference came up in my research. I was sorely tempted to attend,” he admits, with a smile bordering on mischief. “But, alas..” A shake of his head follows.
His compliments make her smile and she looks away, staring out over the darkening valley and vineyard. Others were beginning to meander about, but for the most part, none interrupted the pair. Aryn perked up at the question of archaeology, and she was surprised (and showed it) when he referenced her visit to Karideph, the University of Thought. She clears her throat before speaking, using the pause to regain some bearing.
"The past speaks to me. I've... we've.." She gestured between the two of them, ".. grown up in a society that lost its home. Yet it survives through us, and around us. We stand in a court yard of an estate that was built to mirror what structures looked like on Alderaan. Why show pride in something if you don't know its origins? Life is full of these little historical ironies, and I wanted to understand them all."
"I once believed that exploring and archaeology were my true calling. It's silly to admit, but when I did excavations, and I could focus.. I imagined being there with those people. I would touch walls and tools, every day trinkets I found, and its purpose would just come to me.. like a vision." She shakes her head. "My father thought that I was crazy; a.. healthy imagination, at best. I wanted to believe him, but it drove my passion and led to one of my areas of study."
"The university requested that I come out to speak. The deans and professors had read my studies on native encounters and immersion, and thought my insights would inspire other explorers to.. leap through the stars." She gestures with a dreamy look. "Sadly, they were only interested in my trauma, and trinkets. I should have known it was to be an affair for the curious and collectors. I did come away with something special though.."
“I looked into attending. The allure of seeing you and hearing you speak before formally meeting was quite tempting, but.. It felt a bit like cheating. Besides, my duties with the Dragoons and at home were pressing.” He pauses a beat, before adding, “And I was unable to secure an invitation.”
“History is something of a fascination of mine, as well.. Though I tend toward literature rather than ruins,” Ban muses aloud, with his expression settling into a contented neutrality with the subject. “The stories speak more clearly to me than the physical remains. Gives more of a..” a moment’s pause while he searches for the way to phrase his thought. “As you said: a connection to a homeworld we’ve never really known. So many only remember the end and the Graveyard. I much prefer to read and hear of the triumphs and glories, before it.”
When Aryn mentions that she did come away from her seminar with something special, the gentleman invites, “And what was that?”
His admitting that she had some influence over his decision making brought a small smile to her face. She turns her blues to meet the greens. "Eloquently spoken, Captain." Her wine is finished off and a gesture made to a wandering servant. They draw near and she places the glass atop their tray. "Thank you, Rob." The one whom she addressed bowed very slightly to them both before promptly walking away. "I met a nobleman from Coruscant, I believe. He had a curiosity, a Ramishi crystal sword. I used to have one myself, but I sold it to a museum that required such a sword to complete their set." Her good arm goes to the small of her back and she begins to walk toward the fountains.
"It was curious that he thought I the most appropriate buyer, but he prefaced his choice by saying he wanted someone who would appreciate the history behind the sword because this particular item carried some sentimental value for him."
"We agreed upon a modest price, and I came home with it." She glances down while she walks. "It reminds me of my last expedition, the time I spent stranded with the natives."
A second wine glass is added to Rob’s tray when Aryn does.
Ban turns to move in leisurely step alongside Aryn toward the nearest fountains when they resume walking. “Ramishi crystal?” he echoes, curiously. “I’m not familiar with that type of artifact. Tell me of it, if you wish?” he voices, before guessing on her suitability as a buyer, “Perhaps this nobleman approved of your speech. Or perhaps he approved of the speaker.”
He looks to the fountain looming ahead of them, before glancing back to Aryn in an amused aside as she speaks of being stranded with natives. “It sounds like there is a story in that.”
"Ramishi crystal swords were crafted to be a symbol of mastery, of respect. They believed that when a warrior carried a blade like that, they are marked for greatness. The design of the crystal blade was so that it never required service. It stays sharp, forever, and does not break. When enemies saw it glittering in the light, it inspired fear. The sword was a message to those who opposed its wielder. Respect me, fear me, or be slain."
When she told this story, it was done in a way that her gaze lifted from him and was directed outward. She walked to the furthest point of the courtyard, where the wind whipped the flames of the deep bowled braizers and whispered in the darkness. Stars sparkled above as clouds drifted by in the moonlight.
"I suppose he could have. He was a bit too mysterious, and a bit too well-spoken. I found him more intimidating than charming." She recalled the way Oran had held the sword, the way his eyes traveled the length of the blade as he recalled some sort of nostalgic scene. "I suppose he isn't that important." She offers Ban a small smile.
"There's a story there. A long story at that. Maybe for another time." Her attention stays locked on him for now. "I feel like I know little about you, Ban. Tell me about your Dragoons. What's it like to wear the uniform where you are from?"
The artful description of the crystal swords draws a curious frown to Ban's face. "Truly? Unbreakable and never dulling. Not simply folklore?"
When Aryn deflects discussion of her being stranded, the officer accepts the new direction with a short dip of his head, "Another time, then." His pride is clear when she asks after his Dragoons. "The finest regiment in Kiirium, with a lineage dating back to Old Alderaan. The only unit to oppose both Imperial invasions of my world." Enthusiasm for the subject is restrained, but still plain.
"Though Belleau-a-Kiirium numbers some few light hovertanks and artillery, with a goodly number of fortified infantry, the Lir regiment are dragoons in the classical sense: fast moving scouts, which can remain mounted to assault enemy infantry, or take an advanced position and dismount to fire shoulder mounted anti vehicle weaponry in the case of a heavy armored assault."
He confides further, "There is a movement among the ranks to refer to our mounts as 'hover horses,' or 'repulsor-steeds' but that's.." A smiling wince. "They're simply highly modified Mobquet Overracers, moved aboard an assault shuttle, when needed."
With a dry smile, he wonders, "Am I boring you, yet?"
Aryn nods, validating what he's asked about the sword. "That is the nature of true crystal. It may be shaped, but once they hardened it with some sort of resin, it will not break. Every study has turned up negative effects. When we've more time, remind me and I will bring the sword out for your inspection. I'd be interested to know what an expert in swordsmanship has to say about its design and craftsmanship."
When he begins to speak about the Dragoons, she could feel that he took a great amount of pride in what he did. The reputation they had seemed important to him, or so she suspected. She could also sense he was being genuine about his explanations, but there was an instinct that told her he was holding back; perhaps he was testing the waters with her.
"I'm trying to imagine what an enemy trooper might see as the Dragoons ride out to meet them on the field. An intimidating sight to behold. -- You are not boring me. I wish to know more, please. Tell me about your training, and the things that mean a lot to you all."
"I would enjoy that," Ban notes with interest to the possible future inspection of such a sword.
As for enemy troopers.. "They would see very little, if we do our work correctly. A waste of such dashing uniforms, I know," he adds in another deadpan piece of dry humor.
When she assures interest, the young officer is pleased to speak on. "We are trained in all manner of arms, both practical and ceremonial. For tradition's sake, we drill the lance and sword, though swords are only ever used in duels, nowadays. Our primary battle weapons are pistol, carbine, and for one rider in every five, a shoulder-fired javelin missile. Handling of the Overracers, of course. Skill as a rider is paramount."
A slowly drawn breath, and Ban muses on, "A further tradition is that each dragoon ought learn an art of some sort. Various soldiers treat the requirements with varied gravity, but the Old World culture is still regarded highly enough that most are sincere in their efforts. If.. not always talented." A wry smile accompanies the admission.
"The Lir Dragoons are the foremost point of the sword that defends my home. The Viscountess-" his mother, "Has always been adamant that the quality of our people be worth defending, so.. the arts. Song, dance, verse. The elders claim we waste too much on duels and dalliances, but I've read enough to know that their elders said the same of them, once."
Aryn chuckles at his uniform joke, but it led her to believe they had more practical uniforms to do battle with. Her expressions change as he explains further, and the most common seems to be that of surprise. "So you're saying that you can sing, dance, and write songs?" A slow smile forms as her eyes dart skyward a moment with a thoughtful bite to her lip.
"The elders would change nothing given time reversed itself and placed them back where you stand now, I'm sure of it. My father's expression and tone changed the moment you marched across that throne room, and for a moment he recalled his own service. Their complaints are noise, disguised to prod at tradition when all they really want is to be young again." She laughs and looks back to him.
"I had considered military service, believe it or not. It does not take a medical doctor to determine that I'm no soldier though. Suffice it to say, I settled for cartography and understanding nature and my environment. Dueling interested me as a sport during university, but the thrill of exploring and mapping a new world kept me from pursuing it. I wanted to be the tip of the sword for exploration and expansion. I had hoped, foolishly, that another Alderaan awaited us somewhere out there."
A gesture indicates the stars they can now see. Aryn sighs gently and watches the small torch bugs in the distant field.
"With some degree of practice, yes," Ban answers her surprise. "I don't claim mastery of such arts, but I can compose some of the worst poetry you'll ever hear,"
Her commentary on age and youth draws a warm laugh. "I daresay you are correct, Aryn. They want nothing more than to stand where we now do."
His eye lingers on the lady a moment when her regard turns to the stars, before gradually he follows her look skyward. "That doesn't sound foolish, at all. We both sought the same thing in different ways: restoring what was lost before we were born, but moving ahead, rather than falling backward."
Epaulettes rise with his shoulders as a slow breath is drawn. "What is the finest thing you've ever seen in your travels out there, Aryn?"
Aryn nods her head to his sentiment, feeling her face grow a little warm when he said it wasn't foolish. His question made her think, and for a long time she didn't answer. "I've been to many beautiful places, scary places, and even dead places. I've seen violence in many raw and unforgiving forms, but I've seen kindness and goodness too. I suppose the finest thing I've seen is when people help other people. The feeling it inspires in the heart is far greater than any one scene of nature or modern curiosity."
She could have spoken about the Force, and had she been comfortable enough to say it in front of him it might have slipped out. Her answer was truthful, but it was the first time she'd withheld something about herself from him. "It's a silly thing; kindness. But it spreads like fire. It's why I have chosen to heal people. That hope, that kindness.. I see it each time I help someone find their feet again."
"Hearing you say that, I am struck with the thought of an entire nation finding its feet again," Ban muses, quietly. Bringing his green eyes back to the lady beside him, the gentleman asks her, "How much have you guessed of your parents' plans, and why I was invited here, Aryn?"
Aryn turns toward him, then glances toward the estate as if picturing her parents in form. A thoughtful expression forms over Aryn's beautiful features, then she looks up at Ban. "I suspect that they hope we find love, and through that, bridge the best of both of our worlds. Just so;.. one nation again." Her lips tip upward a bit, the hint of a smile as Aryn imagined her father speaking those words.
"I think you're right," the Iskender agrees with a small nod. "One nation. The Coles are the foremost family of our people's foremost holdfast. With Kiriium's support, your father can give Alderaanians everywhere a true monarch, as we've never seen in our lifetimes. I suspect that is my mother's object in sending me, at any rate. With me finding love a distant second hope," he adds, dryly.
"Forgive me, my Lord, but you make it sound as if you are at odds with your mother. " Aryn shifts her body to face him, and she leans upon the stone wall slightly. "I suppose it begs to question your drive then. Is it duty that compels you to stay? Or me?"-- She pushed off the wall slightly, not expecting an answer. It was the question of the hour now though. She turns slightly, sweeping her cape gently aside to bow properly. "My Lord." She smiles, then turns to walk away.
A keen smile sharpens his expression and small laugh stirs in Ban's chest at her banter. "I make it a point not to fall in love with a lady- no matter how beautiful or intelligent- until our third meeting, at the earliest. I eagerly look forward to when next we speak, my Lady," the gentleman intones, bending at the waist in a deep bow, but once again keeping green eyes fixed on Aryn as she turns and takes her leave.
Rising from the held bow, his head turns in a small, admiring shake. Murmuring to himself, "Oh, this is going to be good."