An Inscrutable Conceit
Father to Aurilia, Former Lord of Avery Creek
Christor, a carpenter’s son, and his childhood friend Bracks grew up together in the town of Granton where, armed with his father’s timber offcuts, they would play barons and bandits, chasing each other through the cobbled streets and dreaming of adventure and glory.
It was a modest existence, but his belly was filled each evening, his bed was padded with down and a coat warmed his back. He wanted for nothing. And yet, like so many youths, he was enamoured with the prospect of Knighthood, of securing a better future for himself and his heirs. To this end Christor and Bracks enlisted in the army under Count Toyne when they came of age and together joined the Great Game, that centuries long tug of war between the nobility for power and glory.
After fifteen years of blood spilled over field and mud and snow, under summer sun and winter deluge, with sword and hammer and axe and all manner of devices men employ to tear flesh and shatter bone, it was finally enough. Count Sarrac Toyne was victorious over his arch-rival Baron Kell, who conceded defeat. Terms were negotiated and accepted and Kell, now demoted to Count, retreated with what remained of his dignity to Fallholt, while the Barony of Bredon was awarded to Toyne with great fanfare.
For their part in the war, Christor and Bracks, then officers in Toyne’s army, were Knighted for exemplary service and each given an estate from the newly acquired spoils to oversee and manage. For Christor, that estate was Avery Creek.
Set atop forty eight acres of vineyard-clad rolling green hills and verdant valleys in the Kingdom’s west, Avery Creek was the culmination of Christor’s toil and sacrifice over a decade and a half, the entirety of his adult life. Knowing nothing other than warfare, he employed a young steward, Portar Marsh to administer the estate’s affairs, and settled in.
Of his new responsibilities, it was his obligation to attend court that troubled him most. He was, after all, a simple carpenter’s son and a man of war. What did he know about the intricacies of court? He quickly discovered however, that he held little power in Baron Toyne’s court and that he was not expected to participate, but simply attend. So long as he did not meddle in the politics of the Game, which terrified him, he was safe to sit with Bracks and other like-minded Knights drinking ale and engaging in bawdy stories.
It was at court that he met his future wife, Clara. Daughter of Count Hammell, she was a young woman of such poise and grace that Christor took immediate notice and he set about to woo. Unlike Christor, however, she was a keen observer of the Game and had little interest in a newly knighted ruffian. But Christor was persistent and eventually his genuine warmth, good nature and sometimes raucous humour won her over.
They were wed and before long fell pregnant with their only child, Aurilia.
The decades were kind to House Lentalus. Christor watched his daughter blossom into a young woman who matched her mother for beauty, saw her married to a young officer in ‘Uncle’ Bracks retinue and welcomed two grandchildren into the world.
But things took a turn one day at court. Sir Brannen Dragen, a charismatic young knight known well for his gambits in the Great Game, was talking intimately with Clara who seemed enamoured, her laughter tinkling from across the Baron’s court. Christor, wit impaired by ale, was watching closely, and when Dragen’s hand moved abruptly to her posterior he exploded, launching himself across the expansive hall and sending a balled fist into the younger knight’s nose, breaking it.
Clara was aghast. A porter had jostled the knight in his haste and Dragen’s seemingly immoral act turned out to be innocuous. Sir Dragen was outraged and demanded satisfaction by way of duel to first blood. With a dozen nobles as witness and with his honour at stake, Christor could hardly refuse, and so by Rhorian custom the tables were pulled to the side of the hall, rugs were rolled into tight cylinders and swords retrieved as blood was to be shed yet again in the court of Bredon.
Christor proved to be overmatched. Age had slowed his reflexes and sapped his strength. Even in his prime, however, he may not have been equal to the task, for Dragen was a skilled duelist and his long sword eventually found purchase in Christor’s shoulder.
With the duel lost, to his shame, he returned home to Avery Creek where Bracks, now a Knight Preceptor of the church and adept in healing, bound his wound and treated it with an anti-septic poultice. But unbeknownst to either, the tip of Dragen’s sword had shattered on Christor’s collar bone and the fragments caused the flesh within to fester, giving rise to a fever and infection that claimed his life in under a fortnight, despite his friend’s desperate ministrations.
Only months later, Clara too was lost when she fell ill with pneumonia, forcing Aurilia to take her place as Lady Lentalus, while her husband Tobias took the the family name and passed the Baron’s test of arms and honour, succeeding Christor and becoming Knight Tobias Lentalus of Avery Creek.