The aged man sat alone in his chamber by the fire as usual. The years had passed since his body could fight the cold that now nipped and bit at his old bones. It had been quite some time since Marius was able to walk properly - the cold had gotten into his joints and could not be shifted, despite his best efforts. His mind was as sharp as the sword he once wielded, though his body was beginning to fail him. A fact that he had struggled to accept and had hidden from his family as best he could. As he sat in his chair, his hands outstretched towards the fire to try and warm them further, he thought for a few hours of the life he had lived - the good and the bad.
A portrait of Marius in his youth
He went back to his youth in Markev. He remembered it well. A time where he had his whole life ahead of him - a life he had now lived. His long dark hair used to blow gently in the wind as he rode into the city atop his steed. All that was left of that now was a few strands that tangled in with the silver shaggy mop that now sat atop his wrinkled head. It was in these days that he had met his wife, Julia, and his a man who would become a life-long friend, then Count of Metterden, Rhys Ruthern; the best days of his life. Their wedding had been the best day of his life. His father, Aldrik, had walked Julia down the aisle in place of her absent father, but it had never felt as though people were missing. The food had been brought from the small bakery on the outside of Markev to cater for the guests and every bit of it had been consumed. It was during this time that he decided to grow out the thick facial hair that came to be his signature. Almost everyone who had met him throughout his life after that point had commented on it; it had often amused him that people he had not even met had approached him knowing his identity purely as a result of his thick mustache.
Then came his children; three of them in total. They had been the apple of his eye: the future of the Baruch line. Andrik, quick and calculated; Sigmar, bold and handsome; and Kamilla, who was sweet and gentle. Throughout their youth he had spent a lot of time with his family in Greyguard Hold, the Baruch seat, and the family had formed an exceptionally strong bond. While Andrik was destined to become the Count after Marius, Sigmar dreamed of building a fleet to become Master of Ships within the kingdom. Kamilla had always been unsure of what to do with her future; one minute she wished to enlist in the Royal Army and contribute to the kingdom as a medical assistant, while another day she wished she could teach the youth of Haense the history of the Kingdom and the great families that support it. It is a parents worst nightmare to outlive even one of their children, but Marius had outlived all three. His sons being butchered by the Arberrang dogs alongside their mother, and his daughter passing in childbirth delivering his seventh grandchild, Ser Ulric Vyronov.
After becoming a father, the next step was to become a grandfather. He had seven grandchildren in total, with some of them going on to make significant contributions to the Kingdom. It was after the birth of Sigmar’s children that had marked the start of the atrocities that befell the Baruch family. The children after their birth were sent to Marius’ Ruthern nephews to be taught in the way of war. This guardianship is what had saved their lives. When the Arberrang dogs had attacked his home and family, kidnapped him and his second born, Sigmar, and killed his wife and eldest son, he had found great strength in knowing that the children had not come to any harm. During the escape attempt Sigmar was killed, leaving Marius’ eldest grandchild, Aldrik Voron Baruch, as the next in line for the County of Ayr, though it was later discovered that Aldrik had forfeited his claim to Ayr in favour of taking the cloth, leaving the succession of Ayr to his brother, Jan.
When Marius had returned to Markev to announce the news of the fate that had befallen him and his family, he was met by his old friend Rhys Ruthern, who had been elevated to the Duke of Vidaus and was made Marshal of the Kingdom, and was advised to speak to Rhys’ granddaughter and Marius’ niece, Queen Elizavita of Vidaus. Marius had petitioned for months for the Kingdom to move against the Arberrang scum, gathering men to help retake his seat, but it had not come to fruition. It was only when the Arberrang leaders moved against the Kingdom that Marius got the chance to retake his home and ancestral seat; a fact that annoyed him greatly for a number of years. Marius made sure to work closely with the commanders of Haense and the Empire, giving an insight into the weak points in the keep and assisting in the siege planning. He stood with the fellow commanders of the Empire when the Arberrang dogs were either slaughtered or routed. It was another of the great days in his life as he knew he could now return home.
After returning home and repairing the damage caused by the siege, Marius summoned to the Imperial Parliament; he had been selected as a Lord Temporal to sit in the chamber. It was through this journey that Marius had formed a healthy friendship with Fabius Bracchus, the then leader of the CCP. He worked alongside Fabius within the CCP, eventually being named as the leader of the Judicial Committee within the Imperial Parliament until he decided to step down in the spring of 1702. It was during this time that he and Ser Henrik Ludovar had started their bickering that was still present to this very day. They were never able to see eye to eye, and constantly bickered whenever they had seen each other. It was petty really; Marius had never really disliked Henrik it was just a matter of different perspectives.
A portrait of Marius in his Imperial Parliament robes
Marius turned in his chair towards his desk. It had seldom been used in recent years; his great-grandsons had taken over everything in the administrative running of the Baruch lands, a fact that had brought conflicting emotions: pride and sadness. He reached across the desk, picking up some parchment and a quill. He did not know when his time would come, but it was certain in his mind that he must inform his family of their impact on his life. He began to write letters to the remainder of his family.
To my first born great-grandson, Sigmar Joren Baruch, Count of Ayr:
Sigmar you are an excellent young man and will be a fine lord, of that I am certain. In your short reign you have shown great strength, courage, and potential and you have made a great impact on my life and I suspect the lives of others as well. I hope you, your brother, and your cousin, Joren, can work together to make our home and land into something great. Your Vyronov cousins will always be around to offer advice also, don’t forget about them.
To you I leave the blueprints for the Barque I had never quite got around to having commissioned. Get yourself a good crew together and sail her well. I also leave the Bundinn longsword, a weapon recovered in Greyguard Hold after the victory over the Arberrang rebels. A token of our strength and victory. My Lorraine cross will also be left to you to remind you of our family’s piety. As well as this I leave you half of my personal finances to add to the County treasury. Spend it well, lad.
To my second born great-grandson, Eirik Sigismund Baruch:
Eirik you have done me exceptionally proud, lad. Your support to your brother and sister during their difficulties with your mother left me in envy of your ability to deal with difficult personal situations. I know, had been in your position, I would not have shown your tenacity. My respect for you increased ten-fold when I had found out how you had dealt with that situation.
To you I leave the blueprints my father had made for an old galley that I sailed upon in my youth. As I have told your brother, get a good crew together and sail her well. I also leave the second Bundinn longsword that was recovered in Greyguard Hold after the victory over the Arberrang rebels. I suspect, with your ability to stay emotionally unattached, you will enter a career involving coin. With that I leave a Skatten Silver Coin. It is just a small trinket I picked up from a trader in Markev. I have kept it with me through my life; a stupid thing I understand, but I had grown exceptionally fond of the little thing.
To my third born great-grandson, Joren Aldrik Baruch, Baron of Gant:
I expect you are probably in the middle of doing something important for Sigmar, so I will keep this short. I see much of my father in you, lad. He was sharp and commanding, just as you are. He also knew how to support a strong leader, just as you will with your cousin. I hope he listens to your advice, as I suspect you will be ranked top in those that will advise him. I regret sending you away to be educated as it meant I had missed out on spending precious time with you, though I am glad I have lived to see the man you've become. It has filled me with immense pride.
To you I leave the blueprints to my elder brothers Brig. Lady Lin he called her, after our grandmother. I also leave my Highland Yew-wood Warhammer. I carried it into battle with me during the siege of Greyguard. I hope it serves you as well as it served me. As well as this, I leave the second half of my personal finances to help aid the construction of your new home. Eirik will probably be good to speak to about how to spend it wisely.
To my granddaughter, Ingrid Linnea Windsor:
Your ability to remain sane in this last few years has astounded me. It must be difficult to have your family torn apart by war, fighting each other with intent to kill. You have always been like that, I suppose. Strong willed I mean. You get that from your mother, Klara. You have turned into a wonderful young woman, and I am very proud of you.
To you I leave your mothers jewelry: An emerald and diamond twisted silver ring; a whalebone tiara; a gold bangle, and a necklace made from pearls.
To my great-granddaughter, Kamilla Julya Stafyr:
Your support for your brothers is inspiring to me, Kamilla. It is an insight into how you will be as a mother, and I am proud of what I’ve seen. You were always a sweet girl, Kam, but also a formidable one. Your marriage to Konrad was well made, and I expect you will make history with him. You have great diplomatic and political potential, please reach that potential.
To you I leave your great-grandmother’s, my wife’s, jewelry: A diamond and sapphire necklace, a ruby ring, a pair of amethyst earrings, and a whalebone tiara identical to the one left to your aunt Ingrid from her mother.
To my grandson, Lerald Vyronov, Count of Graiswald and Lord Regent:
Your progress has made me immensely proud, Lerald. Your elevation to the Count of Graiswald was one of my proudest days in my recent memory. You have held your Baruch kin in the highest regard; your guardianship of Sigmar has been the making of him. You have my respect and admiration for that always. I cannot express in words how proud you have made me. Every challenge that has come your way you have handled with exceptional skill and decorum. At the beginning of your reign, who would have thought we would’ve seen a Vyronov queen? You are destined for further greatness, lad. Well done.
To you I leave my collection of books. Most of them are on legal and administrative matters, though there is one, “Tears on the battlements” that does not match the genre of the rest. It has been my favourite book throughout my life, and I hope you can enjoy it as much as I have.
To my great-nephew, Andrik Barbanov, King of Hansetti-Ruska:
In your youth you never failed to amuse me, Andrik. I remember watching you shouting and swearing with your betrothed in Reza and running rings around poor Ser Gerard. I laughed for days at that. To see you go from that to the man you are now becoming is heart-warming; knowing the Kingdom will be in the hands of a King with great potential brings peace to my mind. Though you are young, you are skilled in the arts of diplomacy and that will do you very well throughout your reign. You are fortunate that you have already amassed a successful range of advisors. Listen to them well, they are all good men and I believe none of them would ever do you wrong. Ave Haense, Ave Andrik.
To you I leave the knowledge that I have left the House of Baruch in the best possible hands. Sigmar is a smart lad, he can be used well should you need him, and he is backed by advisors and friends that will help him to lead as good as I hope you will.
Signed, Lord Marius Karl Baruch
Marius then stands from his chair, shuffling over to his bed. He pulled the covers and furs back to get underneath them, the weight of which had taken his breath away and required most of his remaining strength. He laid in his bed sighing at what had become of his body. He laid there for a few moments, allowing the warmth from the covers to re-enter his body. He laid motionless for a few moments, thinking once more of the life he had lived.
He recalled the trial of Prince Jakob Ludovar and the lead up to it. Marius had spent months assembling evidence from the disgruntled nobility and common folk of Haense against Lord Jakob. He had spent hours with Lord Justicar Swithun compiling a case to take to trial. When the trial had been announced, it was discovered that Marius’ old friend, Fabius Bracchus was to stand as Lord Jakob’s defence. He believed that this would be his greatest challenge so far; it was common knowledge to even the most lowly man that Fabius Bracchus was arguably the greatest legal mind of his generation, and perhaps even of all time. He remembered how nervous he had felt entering the court to begin his prosecution of Lord Jakob. As the hearing was drawn to a close and the presiding judges took their time to deliver their verdict, it took all he had to remain upright. The surprise and relief that ran over his body when Lord Justicar Swithun had announced that the trial had gone in Marius’ favour had almost knocked him to the ground. He remembered standing for a moment taking in his victory. He had just defeated a man that he had been in awe of for so long as a result of extensive contributions to the Imperial judicial system. He could not believe it. Marius had saw that as the greatest achievement of his life; one he often thought about.
He then thought of his grandson, Jan, the man he had abdicated in favour of, and the path that he had chosen to destruction. He had been a sweet boy in his childhood and teenage years. When the Baruchs made the move to Arcas with the rest of the Hansetti people, he had remembered how Jan had assembled a formidable following and at the behest of King Marius II had joined them with the Royal Army in return for the position of Kommandant. He recalled the pride he had felt when Jan had returned home to inform his grandfather of his new position, and he had commended Jan’s ambition and success. Though he soon lived to eat his words; Jan’s ambition became too potent. He had craved further recognition but it was never earned, and the young Lord became agitated with his treatment from the King.
Upon the declaration of the War of the Two Emperors Jan, armed with the promise of sought after titles, intended to launch the House of Baruch into open rebellion against the Kingdom of Haense and so Marius had to act quickly to avoid catastrophe for his family. He recalled the immense guilt he felt as he condemned his grandson and the actions he had taken before King Marius, but he knew that the loyalty of House Baruch should never falter, especially in times of war. He had never forgiven himself for what he had done to his grandson, but he was also aware that had he not, his family would never have survived. His guilt turned to anger and he had always blamed Jan’s Savoyard mother for his excessive ambition and compulsion - a trait common in her kin. When the news of Jan’s death reached him in Ayr the old man had been struck down with grief. He stayed in his room for days refusing food and drink. This, he believed, is what had brought about the start of his body’s slow decline into the state that it was in now.
In the next few years the Baruch family had started to prosper once more under the regency council of his great-grandson, Sigmar Joren. His other great-grandson, Joren Aldrik, had returned from his tutelage under Prince Georg Stanimar and Lord Justicar Swithun and had adopted an advisory role to his cousin and the family had begun to work together as a single entity - something that had not happened since the reign of Marius’ father, Aldrik. Even Swithun had decided to come and offer himself as an advisor to Sigmar at Joren’s request, after he had stepped down as the Lord Justicar.. His great-granddaughter, Kamilla Julya, was wed to Ser Konrad Stafyr in the chapel within Saints Rest with even the King and Imperial Regent in attendance. It was a marvelous occasion. He was glad to finally see his family in a place of true happiness. They had deserved it after many years of hurt, he felt.
He thought of the wedding and feast he had attended almost a saints week ago. The wedding of his baseborn relative, Marcella Vander to Ser Wilheim Barclay. It was a joyous occasion watching the two be wed; he had only managed to attend as a result of a cart that his recently deceased grandson, Ulric, had provided for him for transportation. He had sat in a small box with the King and the Princess; he could no longer handle sitting in the thick of a celebration; his old bones rattled when he sneezed, let alone if he had been sat amongst giddy well-wishers shuffling and bouncing on the pews. After the wedding, he had made his way to Graiswald in his cart to attend his grandson, Lerald’s welcome feast. He had made sure to arrive early to avoid the embarrassment of being seen moving by horse and cart. He enjoyed himself greatly, eating and drinking as much as he could. The Vyronov children had brought about many laughing fits as a result of their inability to get on with one another. The young Robert Vyronov throwing food his sister and future queen had made him chuckle for quite some time. That had been the last time he had seen Ser Ulric. He was glad it had been such a joyous occasion.
His most recent memory had been spending some time with his great-grandson, Erich Stafyr the young Count of Nenzing, his elder sister, the Lady Katherine, and Ser Konrad Stafyr, just the last saints day ago. He had been promising to spend some time with the boy for a while and Erich was even more keen to come to Ayr when Marius had mentioned a falcon being involved. They had spent the day together, laughing and joking; he had felt exceptionally blessed that he had such a large family that still cared about his existence. Throughout his long life he had seen many old men left to rot alone by their families and he was glad the same fate had not befell him. They ate and joked and Marius even began to teach the young Stafyrs some of the Baruch family history. At the end of the day, Ser Konrad came to return the children to Reza to reaffirm their oaths to King Andrik II, and Marius had given the lad a small pouch of mina so that he may purchase his own falcon when his advisors deem him old enough. It was a tiring day for Marius, but he was pleased that he had, had the opportunity to spend some quality time with his great-grandson.
Marius laid in his bed, smiling pointlessly at the ceiling. He had, had a good life he thought. The good overshadows the bad and he was pleased at how his life had gone. He let the good feeling ponder a moment, before closing his eyes to sleep. As he closed his eyes, he wondered what other memories he might make before his time came and decided that the next morning he would write a letter to his great-nephew, the King, to offer him some quality time with his great-uncle in Ayr. He smiled at the thought, eager to meet the next day. As his body fell into a peaceful slumber, so did his old heart. Though Marius had a difficult life, he died a very happy man.
Marius “the Old” Baruch