This short story is based off the backstories of Dolphus Gorov and Ari Wohlford, both characters in the Boards RP Tales of Glory and Valour . I would highly recommend joining if you like to write.
“‘You’re too kind, Mister Gorov.’ ‘We’re forever grateful, Mister Gorov, sir.’” Gregor Gorov curled his lip up in a sneer as he raised the glass to his mouth, and pausing briefly to add, “It’s almost disgusting.”
“The real joy in this is knowing you’ve selflessly helped those in serious need.” His wife replied with a soft smile. “The Wohlfords will cherish your caring heart for the rest of time, and into the beyond as well.”
“I hope.” Gregor spoke in between sips. “You realize just how much they did for that Thelnir fellow? They practically completely rebuilt the cabin of his one ship, and almost instantly bought his excuse that a Thauin attacked it. A Thauin!” His knuckles tensed around the glass, but instantly backed off at the fear of breaking it. “If it had been a Thauin there would not be a ship left to repair. And they had the fool sense to agree to a ‘postponed term of lease’ which means he’ll never have to pay one coin for their services.” He jabbed a finger towards his wife, who raised her eyebrows in reply. “These gullible fools were in so much trouble before, but now-”
“Now a kind and caring Gregor Gorov has alleviated their worry and provided a substantial loan, with no interest, not due to be collected for years to come.” She smiled, resting a hand on his shoulder. “It’ll give them a chance to get back on their feet, and you a chance to do some good in the world which they’ll never forget.”
“Hmph.” He downed the rest of his drink. “What good will their sympathies do me with the Armada bearing down as they have been? Pyotr’s role in that expedition almost landed him in the same prison as the rest of those traitors, and the Homeguard is threatening to stop any exports I intend to ship out. It’s almost impossible to run this company with some of these sharks bearing down.”
“They’re ship builders.” She politely answered. “Your whole business is shipping. Every good deed is eventually rewarded, and I’m sure the universe will give them the opportunity to repay you in more than just money one day.”
Resting her hand on his shoulder, she walked out of the room, leaving Gregor to his ledgers and his empty glass. A slow smile crept over his face, and slowly crossing the room, he descended into the chair at his desk, staring at a blank sheet of paper.
“Dear… let’s see… Members of the Banking Guild…”
“Dear, let’s see how he does. If only for a moment.”
Gregor’s jaw locked as he offered the most artificial smile in reply. Pyotr had retained the good sense to never marry, but that had not prevented him from passing himself off as quite the ladies’ man, always forcing his way into lavish parties and high social circles through his connections with the rest of the Gorovs and his artificially generated charisma.
To each his own, was the usual reply Gregor had for his brother’s antics. But his patience got tried at every time his dear brother decided to physically use him as leverage, requiring his hosting of some of the stuffy social events which Gregor avoided like the plague unless serious money was involved.
This, however, was Pyotr dragging every lady friend and acquaintance he could get his hooks into to Gregor’s estate to mooch off the glamor it presented. Dolphus in particular had always been a main attraction; so talented, how adorable, what a handsome young man, he looks just like his mother, and other such fluff which dominated his appearing could deflect off of his heir’s deadened spirit, but having Dolphus praised for attributes which Gregor did not directly create wounded the ego of the elder Gorov, and it happened time after time with no end in sight.
So with great reluctance did he open the heavy wooden door on its silent hinges to reveal the scene within, much to the amazement of Pyotr’s numerous guests, as inside Dolphus stood, facing the window the blazing fire basking his artwork in orange, as he replicated the city outside his window with the dexterous movements of his brush. It wasn’t much to look at, but for an eleven year old boy it was impressive enough.
Giggles and applause from his secret observers tore Dolphus from his work in shock, looking at his father with wounded eyes. Gregor smiled coldly at everyone present, made some empty comments about how Pyotr most definitely had a few secrets of his own hidden up his sleeves, and the rabble disappeared in glee to discover what secrets the most likely very drunk younger Gorov was hiding. Stepping inside, he closed the door, and strode across the room to lift the canvas Dolphus had created.
“Good.” He smiled, his beady eyes taking in all the little details. “Very good, boy. I suspected your cartigophragy skills will spill over into other aspects of life.”
Before Dolphus could correct the mispronunciation, the canvas was gently slid into the blaze. His face betrayed his attachment to the artwork, prompting Gregor to lean towards his ear as the pair watched it burn. “They know you by what you show them. They can never see you at your best, your brightest, your most cunning. Always keep them guessing at less. Always keep your true talents, your true skill, your true feelings and emotions hidden.”
Dolphus’ face smoothed out into cold acceptance at the hand he had been dealt. “And if anyone sees your real handiwork… Burn it. Give them nothing to substantiate their claims, and leave them as liars in the market, whose profits turn not a dime but for the poor and foolish.”
Gregor ascended, turned, and left the room, leaving Dolphus to ponder how his father perceived himself, knowing that definition fit his trade almost too well.
Dolphus peeked out from behind one of the abandoned crates as the cart slowly rolled off, staring at the wooden boxes of waste dumped at the pier in the hopes it would drift out to sea and be conveniently forgotten. After being rudely interrupted from his sifting through trash in the past by numerous small mammals, the worst of which was an admittedly tolerable cat, he had taken up intercepting its arrival in the hopes he would not have to wait his turn, or get bitten by some rabid creature and die horribly.
No one was visibly present. Darting across the stone path, Dolphus crouched down and hurriedly ripped the top off one of the crates, which had been casually pressed into place and was now slowly floating towards the massive pile of rubbish at the end of the pier. He tossed the top aside and gazed at the contents beneath it.
Only after his violent coughing fit had ended did he take his hand off his watering eyes. Onions were one of the only things that could grow practically anywhere on the Summer Isles, and due to it being relatively easy to grow almost everywhere else, it made them practically impossible to trade, motivating those who grew it for sale at home to dump stock when the markets were poor, in old, ruined crates, like the one he had just uncovered. And as he used his cane to push himself up off the ground, Dolphus had to question if this was really the deepest depth he as allowing himself to stoop to just to get something to eat.
“Scamp!” A growling voice bellowed from down the road. “Those are ours! Don’t let him run off this time!”
The interjection into his pitiable state of being came from the ringleader of a trio of ruffians, who, like most of the poor of the Summer Isles, were shunned by the few rich who remained into even greater poverty, leading them to fight viciously for whatever resources were up for grabs. This particular band had come prepared, as one of the men quickly chugged a potion while the other two drew knives from their sleeves.
Dolphus stoically stood, quickly flipping his cane around with one motion to grip it by the base. It’s so convenient of them to come be disposed of here, like the trash they are.
The trio rushed him equally, the fellow who drank the potion a bit faster than the others, bellowing out in fury as he neared, revealing the potion he had consumed was one of fire breathing. He seemed to forget how that worked, however, as his bellow was more noise than air, and the flames flickered and danced around his mouth. Dolphus replied with a jab at the base of his sternum, then a duck and a swing at his right jaw - it felt as though a molar came loose. The fellow, staggered, wasn’t even given the courtesy of being looked at as Dolphus smashed the head of his cane into the back of his head, leaving the fellow on the ground coughing flames away from his body, trying to feel his loose tooth.
The other two struck at once, diving forward with their knives. Dolphus tried to deflect each as they came, but there were too many to contend with, and he was forced to abandon his cane, jumping back and unsheathing his sword. One of the pair pocketed his knives and prepared to use the cane like a club; Dolphus would handle him last.
The fighting style was incessantly vicious, trying to trap his blade with one knife and gut him with the second. Dolphus could feel he was rapidly losing ground, and his suspicious were soon confirmed, as his heel hugged the edge of the street long enough for him to ignore the kick to his stomach which sent him into the water.
“Brat took a tooth!” The fire-breathing fellow snapped, standing up and bumbling over, causing the ringleader to duck the flames which poured out. “Let’s tag him so we can carve him up a little, teach him to stop comin’ back here.”
“Company!” The one with the cane said, as the sound of military boots clicking against the walk became apparent. Dropping the cane, the gang hurriedly skirted along the edge of the road and down the closest alleyway as Armada troops slowly and despondently made their usual rounds.
After the sounds had died away, Dolphus gripped the edge of the road and hauled himself upwards, slipping and hitting his chin as he crashed back into the filthy water. His second attempt proved more successful, and he laid on his side for a moment, his breathing sharp and emotional, as he tried his best not to cry. The foul skin on the water coated every surface of his attire, and was tangled in his unkempt hair.
Unsheathing his sword to allow the water to spill out, Dolphus slowly stood, collected his cane, and looked back at the trash heap, which seemed to blend with all the other trash heaps throughout the Isles in his mind. I’ve resorted to picking through garbage and filth in order to survive. I don’t care what this next job is, I’m taking it. No questions asked. I’m never doing this again.
He slowly dragged himself away, his anger directed more at the universe than the men who attacked him. What on earth could I have done to deserve all this?
“You earn what you sow.” Gregor replied, tipping the candle holder about for emphasis as the flame continued pointing upwards. “If you’re done complaining, I’m going back inside. It’s terribly cold out.”
“Sir!” The man stepped forward, his face hard and muscles stinging from the wind, which swept the hood off of his head. “Sir, please, I beg of you!”
Gregor looked back and feigned surprise at the man’s hair and beard, which had lost most of the vibrant red hues and dulled into an orangeish mix of greys and browns. “Give me just one more year, just one! I promise I’ll repay you everything in full. You have my word!”
“I had your word years ago.” Gregor calmly sneered. “My loving wife insisted I take up your cause, and with her ill I will not be swayed by any sympathetic opinions. You created this mess of yours, I will not solve it a second time.”
“Is it our fault that no bank in the Isles would do business with us?” The Wohlford patriarch began to grow angry. “Is it our fault that we seemingly became a pox within a week of your loan, that no business could be found anywhere, that the money you lent us bled from taxes and fines appearing out of the blue?”
“After so much work making your bed, why all the fuss over it?” Gregor replied with amusement. “Go lie in it and get it over with. I’m going to end up as sick as my wife if I stand out here listening to you yap any longer.”
Filled with rage, the rest of the Wohlford family quickly held the master Wohlford back from lunging at the Gregor and tearing his throat out. All except the youngest, who watched her relatives trying to restrain her desperate father with frightened eyes hiding behind the hood of a worn cloak. Hearing such awful things as threats to kill this bloated man on the staircase, promises to bring his whole family down around him, and things far worse that her young mind instinctively smothered.
“I’ve had enough of your retorts. Promises, all promises, but what good are those?” Gregor leaned over the railing with arms swung apart. “Coming from you, not very much. I feel sorry for your family, I truly do, but not for you, bringing them down so pathetically. Weren’t you once great ship builders?”
With a snarl the Wohlford father turned and stalked away, his skin growing redder and redder from his fury. The rest of his family turned to go, all trying to make some good from the situation, leaving only the youngest daughter alone in the street to stare up in concern at the wicked weaver of political webs in the once great city. He had almost gotten to the door before he noticed her presence, and after a moment decided to double down.
“Your father must truly hate you. See what he’s done to you?” He swung one arm out as he slowly descended the stairs, his cruel eyes staring into the frightened ones which locked with his. “He’s taken you from your home, your wealth, your comfort. Your things, your toys, they’ll all be gone soon. And instead you’ll have hunger.” He leaned forwards as he approached, to silhouette his balding head and obese chin against his dark attire. “You’ll have calluses to protect you, bitterness to be your comfort.”
“And.” He caught her by the shoulder as she tried to turn away, locking eyes with her once more. “One day I’m going to have a son. He’ll live in the most extravagant room in my house, eat the finest delicacies, learn the greatest skills, and inherit a position of wealth and power unlike anything your near-sighted father could ever dream of. And when he does, and when you see him walking on the highest pillars in the Summer Armada, remember this day and what you earned.”
“We all get what we deserve.” Gregor rose to full height, towering over the youngest Wohlford with no smile on his face. “Remember that.”
As the child turned and ran into the darkened street to reunite with her family, Gregor blew out the candle, his eyes reflecting the limited light of the stars, confident that he would only ever receive that which he was owed.