Ariadne, Anastasia, and Athenais, Wardens of the Plains (respectively: Druid 12 (Pack Lord)//Oracle 12, Ranger 11/Cavalier 11 (beast rider), Barbarian (totem warrior) 11//Druid 11 (lion shaman)
Shining golden triplets born to once proud, now entirely haunted parents of a distaff branch of the family, the fate of the Feral Sisters was sealed on their father’s visit to the lion preserves, in an attempt to increase his standing in the house by taming or bonding with a lion. He had given in to demands to bring the family along out of a demanding curiosity to meet the half mythical and now quite aged Branas druid that stood guard over them. The parents were aggressive and abusive to such animals as they came across. It was as if the land itself could sense the grasping insecurity behind the visit, and it turned against them in their trip, inflicting storms and animal attacks, sometimes together, in the last of which Ariadne was lost. Distraught, they found the old druid, who promised he would marshal the force allotted to him for game wardens to comb the area for her and bring his own magics to bear, but they could do nothing by remaining.
Years passed, and the family would try to move on, but the constant claims by the remaining sisters of seeing their lost kin in their dreams each night made that impossible. Finally, one night, their father was woken by terrified servants, who brought him hesitantly to the courtyard where his daughters were padding out wordlessly towards a presence in bound rough hides, features obscured by a matted mane of golden hair, the figure surrounded by an entire pride of the creatures he had sought in vain, dire and otherwise. Their father cried out in protest, his voice then dying in his throat as Ariadne parted hair away to look to him directly and smile a white toothy smile that he would swear was fanged. “You wanted to be known for a tie to the lions. Now you will be.”
With that she left with her sisters, and in the years to come, with the last of the teachings of the old druid, and the experience of life with the lions themselves, the sisters were simply acknowledged as the new masters of the preserve lands, as is the way of the house.
They are admittedly a stranger set of masters than the house usually produces, far more tied to the land and its creatures than any have been for generations. On the other hand, such as come to reinforce their ties find the experience far more spiritual, and if their heart is true, less dangerous. Companions need not be subdued and tamed so much as they find their way to those of a worthy match.
Anastasia generally serves as liaison to the rest of the house, riding out to keep them up to date on the state of the lands, and to check up on the care being given to “what Branas has them hold in trust”, as she refers to the lions of the house. She remembers enough of her courtly lessons to even not come off as feral at court or parties. Otherwise she also marshals and leads the human game wardens of the area.
Ariadne spends most of her own time in communion with the land and its creatures, surrounded at all times by an entire pride she is spiritually linked to, rousing herself only for issues of caretaking, to respond to threats, or to receive guests.
Athenais is of the sisters, almost completely feral, spending her time at hunt, near or entirely naked, directed by her siblings as a force of destruction at poachers or interlopers.
They remain notable to Taldan society at large for that said distaff branch of the house was quite wealthy, and shell shocked parents have not managed any other issue. The man that could marry one of them would become rich indeed. Invariably some son of the upper crust sets out to “tame these feral beauties” and inevitably they come back to the civilized world with a fairly extensive collection of new and exciting scars, and a deep aversion to speaking of their experiences (yet the occasional disturbingly wistful look towards those lands).
Knight Captain Valens Branas and Lord Stylian “Mad Jack” Branas (Bard 11//Cavalier 11 (beast rider archtype), Ranger 11 (trapper archetype)/Rogue 11 respectively)
Helena’s sons are as shocking as their mother, but each in his own special way. Stylian has for his part embraced her path of vengeance and brutality, but has taken it several steps beyond. At first he simply snuck across the border into the portion of the Verduran that rests in Andoran to engage in guerilla mayhem. As he would do so, he found himself in common cause with the local fey being killed and driven from their homes by Andoren woodsmen. Common cause became joined battles. Battles became friendship, as is the Branas way with those they fight beside. But then, friendship became love. Said to have nymphs for paramours and spriggans for soldiers, Stylian is much loved by the fey, and he has felt their touch in return. It has made him wild, and, well, fey, in a certain sense of the word. The laughing warrior puck is the scourge of the lumber camps of Andoran, and those who pursue him into green depths returned maimed, if at all.
He splits his time between Taldor proper and the woodlands, largely to keep in touch with his mother, recruit the occasional follower, and replenish resources (and sometimes lie low), finding a peace in the gardens of Bardanes that sometimes stills his laughter. Officially, he denies all his doings, with the return of that laugh to his voice.
Valens is shocking by contrast, for seeming to be an entirely well adjusted, kind, dutiful and caring young man. A warrior of valor and musician of aching skill. A morale officer in high demand across the Taldan military for his ability to take a despairing unit and restore it to courage and purpose. Even more shocking is that he is entirely who he seems to be. It is as though he simply decided he would be a different man than the rest of his immediate family, and somehow that was enough, despite a hellish youth, and relentless training. He looks to love the legions as the family he never had, and soldiers find themselves naturally reciprocating with him. It is perhaps that as a young man he held to the example of a dead father and brother too dearly, and could not allow himself to live any other way, vengeance or no.
Strengths of House Branas
Sheer Military Might: Of Taldor’s royal houses, the Branas stand nearly alone for sheer martial puissance and force (the Durahan equal them in individual skill, and the Eiredor in quality of troops, as far as it goes). Were the family to gather up their personal guards, their border garrisons, and overall house forces, they would likely end up with an elite force of some 40,000 troops. Most houses are at least wary of the family for knowing that if it came to force, they’d get run over roughshod.
On the other hand, were the family to gather forces like that, considering how invested they are in the border defense of Taldor on every front, it would likely cause catastrophic collapses of security in the face of multiple external enemies. “Calling the Branas Banners” or “When the Branas Banners are Called” are called is something of a byword thereby for “never”. Still, the importance the Branas have in guarding Taldan borders is likely part of why Maxentian was simply sent into exile, and the family itself going on without censure.
Military Connections: The Branas, even if increasing their presence within Taldor’s armed forces is not favoured these days, are well regarded as a champion of the military all the same. Championing the rights and concerns of veterans besides sometimes places them at odds with other families intent on gobbling up land, or reducing warriors to penury enough to exploit them. Maxentian’s books on tactics, though heavily edited to have his name removed, are yet in use besides.
Wealth: While nowhere as rich as the Varian (but who is?), the Branas are ancient, and have managed their holdings responsibly. They have money to burn thereby, even for a royal family, usually using it to try and keep tottering ancient lines propped up, issuing loans on favourable terms, and keeping their holdings and fortifications maintained. The incorporation of Aurelian’s trading coster has bolstered that wealth besides.
The Lions: A many members of the house will take from the Tandak Plains a lion or dire lion companion of some sort (ooc: i.e. either by being a beast riding cavalier, or taking them as a cohort, or being a druid). Needless to say, a group of mounted warriors on dire lions have scattered forces many times their size on sheer simple terror.
Fecund: The family is numerous and widespread across Taldor across several branches, with more Branas children spawned yet, and wealth enough to support them for some time. It is joked that if they were all gathered in one place, they would be their own army. Given the lion riders, and the family martial capacity, this is perhaps only a half joke.
Loyalty: There is certainly internal strain in the house. Andronicus and Demetrius advocate for wars in completely different directions. Helena’s monomaniacal hatred of Andoran leads her to eye rumours of Alexia’s sympathies suspiciously. Theodora finds her son so righteous it makes her teethe ache and wary of his influence on the house. Valens probably deep down thinks his mother and brother are psychopathically insane. Julian is on the verge of an apoplectic fit at Alexia simply existing. Yet all would note (if they somehow had to), that these are /internal/ problems, and barring the Grand Prince himself, no one but a Branas get a say in them. This is not simply the usual “I and my brother against..” mentality that can be found commonly enough. The house bolster each other, to the point that while they might otherwise one day fight between themselves, Alexia has personally bodily thrown a man off her ship for disparaging remarks about “the steel harpy’s rusted cunt full of madness”. Julian has had his house scrubbed by crewmen disparaging Alexia’s accomplishments (only /he/ gets to do that). Demetrius is rumoured to have quietly ruined men that had been plotting the discrediting of Andronicus.
Conservationism: The house has a conservationist streak, owning to their own history. And while this can get them into trouble when they oppose some potential violation of the land, it has made them much appreciated by the Verduran forest pact.
Weaknesses of House Branas
Loyalty: Halcyon is (to the Branas anyway), a walking incarnated embarrassment whose addiction to dueling has landed them in the occasional blood vendetta. Helena has a spectacularly violent grudge against an entire country, and expresses it in ways atypical to the house. Yet neither will be abandoned to the vagaries of their obsessions or degeneracies, or the wrath of the enemies they basically make for themselves. The Branas stand by their own. Even when that is an absolutely terrible idea.
Enmity with the Senate: Military men and bureaucrats are generally not friends. An entire military house and a caste of bureaucrats get along poorly, at best. And of course the Senate, thousands of years past it may have been, has not forgotten the deeds of Arcadius. The Branas are something of the centerpoint of the rivalries between the senatorial and royal castes, and there are certain senators who will gleefully leap onto opportunities to pursue such when they present themselves.
Arcane Deficiency and Suspicion: Most families will have some arcane advisor and conjuror, even if a half assed one at best. The Branas have no such thing, and give the entire field of the arcane a wary eye. The family goes out of its way to seek ways to bolster will and resistance, the tale of Arcadius II being an almost permanent trauma. The strongest arcane casters the house manages to produce are bards, and even then, they downplay the spellcasting. This is not to say the house doesn’t purchase magic when needed, has spells cast for security (though they then have them quadruple checked), and that careers and campaign have not brought them a share of strange and potent relics. But as far as any kind of regular access to the singular capacities of a sorcerer, wizard, or even alchemist, the family has no such thing. Nor do they want it. They also tend to hold the most arcane obsessed families of Taldor at a bit of arm’s length.
Traditionalism: Do you know what a the especially jaded and degenerate nobles in Taldor don’t like being reminded of? That they could live differently than they are. Oh, the Branas aren’t offensively righteous, as far as it goes (well, Photius), and are a courtly and careful enough family to fit seamlessly into court life. In many real ways, they are much admired. But how often do you see a Branas besides Halcyon at the /really/ good parties (you know the ones I mean). How often do you see a Branas strike an uppity commoner in the street? And how annoying is that quietly disapproving hint you can catch just in the corner of their eyes sometimes? You know who could use having it just stuck to? Yeah, those fuckers.
National Relations of Note
Lastwall: The Branas do not approve of Lastwall’s independence from Taldor (yes, that was centuries ago. And?) But Lastwall’s mission to watch the tomb of Tar Baphon and hold the line against Belkzen remains of critical importance. And after all, the house was at the forefront of the ancient Shining Crusade that founded that nation in the first place. The country is deeply useful besides to see members of the house properly blooded in war when Taldor is otherwise too much at peace. The family’s contributions to Lastwall remain much appreciated, in the form of materiel, men, and sons and daughters of the house sent to serve a tour of duty there and get a “Lastwall education.” The house has arranged various marriages with the worthies of that land at that. There is even an every so often effort to convince the house to entirely relocate there that is gently and politely refused.
Every Single Nation That Has A Border With Taldor: Soldiers of these lands have learned to curse the Branas name early and often.