Storm of Ascendance
Merris Ibrael Dulfin
Factotum hailing from Castan
Second son of a second son, born into the noble Dulfin household. His uncle is the current Dulfin, and his cousin is the future successor. He is 9th in line for head of household. He and his family are not exceedingly rich, but his greater household has money, and Dulfin is a very prestigious name.
Merris is dark-haired and dark-eyed, standing average height for a man. He has a noble bearing, and noble looks to match. His tutoring, paid through family coin, has given him extensive knowledge of natural sciences as well as the etiquette befitting a politician.
Merris is somewhat of a wunderkind, and though he won’t realistically inherit, every member of the family is seen as a valuable asset. It is hoped that Merris will finish his education and put his skills to use as an adviser and diplomat for the Dulfin. To that end, he has been granted extensive contact with key members of the main branch, so that a relationship of trust might be established early.
Merris himself is not overly interested in politics, seeing it mostly as tedium. Instead, he pursues a relentless self-perfection. He will continue to allow his elders to “groom” him, as long as it contributes to his own growth.
He was adamant about being allowed to pursue his philosophically minded sword school. His parents are not thrilled about it, but Master Yim’s school is well-respected in the city and martial training isn’t out of the question for a young nobleman, if only as a side venture.
Merris struggles between his duty to his family and his own goals of enlightenment. Morally, he knows that he should serve the family if possible, but if his schooling should cause conflict, it’s not certain how he would resolve it.
For now, he is journeying to Aldor to master himself and his weapon, regardless of how his family feels on the matter.
Merris was born with supreme talent, a fact that his family members noticed early on. Any member of the family, no matter how distant, can serve the greater good. The heir would be the heir, but his councilors and advisers, his most trusted companions, could be anyone. Thus, Merris’ gifts were cultivated, and a role was envisioned for him as key component for the future.
The human noble houses of the city are as old as the city itself. Many of them proudly trace their lineage to the city’s founders, and they are quite well-adapted to their role in politics. However, despite their pretense of venerability, even the oldest human family in the city pales in comparison to their elvish counterparts. The elves are a race of longevity, and their tradition stretches back further than human memory. Certain elves in the city are as old as entire human households. This gives Elvish families a long-term view of events. They remember the details of the past, and they do not forget slights.
Even so, humans remain canny, and while the elves consider them short-sighted, they are still capable policy-makers. With a bond of trust formed between the current heir and their anointed prodigy, they could compete with Elves for the first time on a long-term scale. That is the hope of the Dulfin family.
Merris understands these expectations, but he is not a puppet. The day-to-day tedium of court life doesn’t suit him, and pointless pursuit of favor is vulgar. He is grateful to his family for all that they have given to him, but he is not a mere tool. They would make of him a weapon, an instrument of their will to wield against the elves in a battle for some nebulous future, but even as a child, he began to grasp this fate that awaited him. His elders tried to shepherd him along, even as his interest in formal education began to wane. The initial challenge of academics wore away, and his patience for the court evaporated. Instead, he sought wilder, more worldly pursuits. He was given more and more opportunity to stretch his legs: hunting and woods-craft, sailing and fishing, fencing. His parents tried to quench his thirst, but the drops of knowledge heralded a flood. He voraciously sought new and novel experience. Even as he continued his lessons, he prowled the streets alone, meeting the common people and seeing sights most nobles would blanch at.
During this time, he did not forget what he owed his house. He was determined to be more than they had envisioned, but he understood duty as well. To appease them, he continued to associate with all of the right people, building the right rapport, and setting the correct image. His cousins knew him as a friend, and his elders saw him as a servant to their cause. Of course, his side-ventures would remain, and they contributed to his formidable worldliness. Indeed, the heir to a noble house could never possess such a perspective, and he was given their full blessing. Merris now had the freedom he sought, while maintaining ties with his house. He was free to meander.
Having explored a diverse range of options, as Merris grew into adolescence he recognized his own vulnerability. While his time on the street had seen him through some fights, they had never set him against a truly prepared opponent. As his boyhood peers became men, likewise were the stakes of a real fight raised. With this in mind, he visited many schools of fighting in pursuit of martial arts. He saw fencing, archey, wrestling and many things inbetween. He attended tournaments and public games, looking for a way to learn. He was met only with disappointed. Even the trained fighters always seemed so limited. Whether they relied on barbarism and brute strength, careful cunning and wits, or stiff formalism and technique, he was never satisfied with what he saw. It was as though they could fight, but they did not understand it.
It was during these forays that he met his future master. While attending a tournament with friends, a stranger overheard him speaking about the competitors. The man seemed piqued and challenged him to a bet. This stranger from the crowd had a seemingly preternatural sense for the fighters on the field, and he continued to offer his insight as they competed.
Merris was surprised by his ability to read them from mere action. Though he considered himself a good judge of character(having spent time with many a conniving nobleman), he had never understood people like this stranger did. This was a man who seemed aware of the deeper nature of combat. The man, of course, was Son Yim, teacher of the Son Yim Blade School. They began a discussion on the nature of people and life that lasted long after the tournament. On that day, Son YIm convinced Merris to join the school.
The training of the school was bizarre beyond his reckoning. There was no endless drilling, no constant sparring. Instead, students were given odd tasks to complete, forced to think in ways they had never thought before, while honing their bodies to the limits of their exhaustion. The idiosyncratic approach only heightened his passion. Other students only vaguely grasped the purpose of such exercises. Many grumbled about wasted time. Merris remained unflustered. He could see the links drawing closed. This was the sort of teacher he had sought. Unblind, a man who did not fight, but instead knew fighting. Merris could see the philosophy informing his actions and his techniques. He, and slowly the other students, began to understand.
The Complete Sword Style, a sword technique based on the larger view of the whole. Every swing is part of the same movement, every movement part of the fight, every fight part of life; it is completed from beginning to end. The training calls for refinement of technique without either frivolous trappings or needless austerity. It is at once a holistic approach to fighting, and a path through life.
Months into his training, an exhibition was held with another school. They were a strange, strict group of half-elven fighters. Merris was familiar with them: a half-elven family headed the school, descended from an elven house. An off-shoot, part-way disgraced by their mixed blood. The graduates became bodyguards to their elven cousins. They were taught a dangerous blend of magic and spear-work. They were not a threat to his house, but they were an aspect of the enemy. As a swordsman, though, it was not his concern.
As customary, to start the annual exhibition between schools, each master was to send their best fighter to the ring. The half-elf sent his own daughter, training since birth to succeed him as the master of the family’s technique. Son Yim sent Merris, a novice.
The fight was one-sided, as the elf dismantled his defenses. Pushed to the brink of defeat by the elf, Merris began to truly use his training. His fighting unconventionally, shamelessly retreating and pushing the stamina of his opponent, swining wildly and unpredictably. He took advantage of the shifting footing of the sand, as well as it’s irritating properties. He abandoned all preconceived notions, and fought as if to survive. It seemed he might even turn the fight. As he pressed himself to the limit however, his bid for victory flat-lined as the enemy deigned to cast a single spell. Merris lost the fight, but by now he understood what Master Yim had taught him. He also understood that the closed practice technique of a school was limited.
As the rest of the exhibition commenced, Merris was left to reflect on his present failure. However, he was given no time to brood. Instead, the girl who had bested him approached, and they struck up a conversation that led to a fast friendship. Though she was elven, she was also just another young kid his age, trying to do right by her family. He gained a skill sparring partner, and rapidly increased his skill in battle. They maintained daily contact for the rest of his training days.
Now, he must embark on a pilgrimage that Master Yim requires of all of his students. He must travel to Aldorand there achieve something of note. The task before him is open-ended; it is up to the student to decide when the pilgrimage is satisfied. He must also maintain the principles of the school in refinement and reservation. This quest will force him to learn restraint in the face of the aggression from the Aldoori culture, as well as face real world threats that press the previously theoretical nature of a student’s learning.
It is this real world perspective that a student must come to accept and incorporate into their style. Merris looks to accomplish this task while finally finding true enlightenment into how to live his life, and what he wants to accomplish in the wider world.