The rest of the Eiredor stuff. Coming up next, asshole mages! No, no, they're more just mildly dickish.
Notable Current Eiredor
Bayard V, Lord Marshall in Winter (Cavalier 13/Bard 13)
In Bayardís youth, he was held to be one of the finest jousters in the Inner Sea region, a tournament champion so many times over as to make contemporaries groan for even seeing his name amidst a list of entrants. He was besides so ardent a follower of the arts of courtly love as to have queens and courtesans dreaming of his attentions. Those days are well behind him now, though he has managed to age gracefully, features distinguished in age framed by a mane of silver hair. He can still play a beautiful tune on any stringed instrument, though his fingers may ache and swell afterwards, and can still sing in rich timbre and artistry aching enough to make the hard hearted weep, though he may be hoarse for hours from the strain to focus for it. Though no Halcyon Branas, he can besides take hold of a blade long enough to challenge and strike down all sorts of deadly foes, though afterwards his hands may shake for some time.
Yet to Bayard, that is all as it should be. He has lived a long, good life and done well by his name, and his family. Spending its twilight in oversight of them is his due and theirs, and a pleasant capstone to all things. But it is contentment that is Bayardís biggest problem. His family flourish, they are able to make their generous gestures, win their tournaments, be the wonder of those they behold. How much more than they do, then, do they need to do? In Fallen Taldor, some would argue that it should be a family like the Eiredor on the forefront of efforts towards reform, towards restoration. Yet it is the Eiredor who can, rightfully enough one must grant to an extent, point out the peace of the interior in which lives are lived, that monsters and their ilk are issues of borders where they can be held, that the people of Taldor live their lives nowhere in the miseries known in the likes of Cheliax or Galt, and that Taldorís borders have held their current shape against all foes for centuries. Tut, there are unpleasant things to be sure, but no society is perfect, and in the progress of time they will no doubt be dealt with of course.
It is worth noting that this perspective is not uniform across the entire house (just most of it), making it something of a curiosity why some reform minded firebrand has not already put the challenge of the lists to the old man. But the idea has its answer within it. The man is old, and respected, even loved by all his family. There are none that can bring themselves to subject him to the humiliation, after so much accomplishment, of spending his last years in defeat, in one embarrassing last run in the lists. So they wait, and feel the guilt and anguish of hoping that Bayardís time of gentle dominion will end soon.
Lady Acrasia Eiredor, the hand on the reins (Bard 12 (court bard)/Alchemist 12)
Acrasia was born with the curse and gift of a towering intellect, in a house that would not offer her very many channels for it. Oh she certainly devoured and mastered schooling in politics, in the managing of an estate, she even, for lack of ways to otherwise distract the racing fire of her mind, took to the practice and polish of courtly ways down to the finest detail. All her frustrations chained below the surface, she seemed on the face of things an ideal Eiredor bride and was married off to a worthy royal in short enough order.
Worthy of marriage in this case reflected that royalís martial dedication, which had the unforeseen grace of leaving Acrasia largely to her own devices for vast stretches of time, her husband off seeking conflict. It gave her the freedom to indulge a previously stifled mind, using the slightest portions of profits her careful management brought in to obtain libraries worth of books, laboratory equipment, and bridging from explorations of natural philosophy into the blissfully rewarding pursuit of alchemy. Were she not keeping her explorations of medicine, chemistry and mathematics largely to herself, she might otherwise be renowned as some sort of staggering polymath, the kind that revolutionizes fields just for studying them.
But all good things come to an end, and in her case that came in the form of her husbandís death in a Qadiran border skirmish. His commander, one Andronicus Branas, personally returned her slain lordís body to her (along with, some say, the heads of those who slew him). There are some who like to say that her heart was captured by the gallantry of the act and comfort the Branas lord offered, that over time a quiet romance maintained over distance has blossomed between them. But then again, for some baffling reason, Andronicus Branas is the source of much romanticized and fanciful fiction, and this is likely one more.
Acrasia in the interim was taken back by her family, into Bayard Vís personal household at that, where she soon made herself indispensable as an advisor to the old lord, his ladywife having passed some years ago. This would normally be the cue to note something sinister about Acrasia ruling the family through him, on some dark design she has, on foul experiments. Certainly she does at least rule the family through him in various ways, at least as far as management of land and directing investments. And certainly she has managed to have moved her library and laboratory to her new home, though she keeps them fairly out of sight to avoid scandalizing the family. But it would seem as if the largest crime that might be put on her was continuing to siphon surplus into maintaining alchemical studies that at this point go deeper than most others in Taldor might otherwise be managing. Her personal enhancements have even aided her in keeping a prominent place in Taldorís sometimes ruthlessly biting courts. She seems kind in all the ways most of her family are, making donations of wealth particularly to efforts in education.
Yet she has not even tried to shift her houseís attitude towards women, nor attempt any other change that might be expected of her by those that have some knowing of her. Perhaps, able to chase her own pursuits and having had the time to make herself capable of pursuing them in the first place, that is her way of expressing Eiredor complacency. Or perhaps if she is up to something sinister, she is simply that good at concealing it.
Lady Florimell Eiredor, matron and minder (Aristocrat 12)
Women who marry into the Eiredor are usually the height of genteel grace, and have to be, to have succeeded in earning the notice of the house, but nothing about that means they are on par with an Eiredor raised daughter herself. Yet letting such a state of affairs continue would bring a measure of shame to the house reputation. Fortunately every Eiredor generation has a lady to see to any such problem. To the at least mild terror of a new bride, this generationís lady (and really, also that of the last one) is Florimell.
It would not be polite to call the dowager lady abusive to her charges. On the other hand, it would be accurate. In Florimelís mind, these walking bits of costume jewelry thinking they can be placed over her familyís golden radiance is a notion both monstrous and in need of sharp disabusing. What are on the face of it pleasant meetings for tea or trips to the countryside are instead venues for torrents of cruel verbal abuse, harsh lessons in posture and refinement and all of it as a sort of crash course to compensate for clearly lacking an upbringing in proper courtliness. The Eiredor matron is also personally frightening enough in the fury of her smallest glance to easily convince these ladies to keep all such things to themselves, her family only see the marvelous results she gets. In another life, she would have been a spectacular drill sergeant.
Being fair, Florimell is only one woman, taking the attitude of the women of the house of being the quiet force maintaining it to extremes, and there are only so many women marrying into the house she has time to foist her attentions on. Being less fair, as a widower in her late middle age, Florimell has a great deal of that time all the same.
It is perhaps the deaths of her family in a storm at sea that has left her to see them as an impossible ideal all others can only fail to live up to. Or perhaps that trauma resulted instead in viewing the entire house at large as a family she must do her utmost to maintain the state and station thereof.
Lord Commander Triamond Eiredor, Master of the Taldan Horse (Cavalier 13/Paladin 13)
It is far from uncommon for an Eiredor to find themselves as commander of the Taldan Horse, working under the High Strategos himself. For that Master of Horse to be a cavalier of distinction and sacred devotee of the Empyreals, again, far from infrequent. What marks out Triamond Eiredor then is a self awareness beyond that of most of his family, or even a great many Taldans. A devotee of the Empyreal Olheon, Triamondís faith has never been an easy thing for him, despite heritage and holy ability alike. Yet the feeling even from youth of having been given a soul that can never seem to rest easy from gnawing introspection and self doubt, even a childhood awkwardness he has had to work to overcome, has become his truest strength. Nobility, deservedness, are notions he has viewed as a constant struggle, for all that he views them as worthy. In knowing the struggles in his heart and trying to face them, he comes to know himself. In struggling, he looks beyond himself for succor, to higher powers and examples in the world alike (one of his most treasured possessions is a mystically preserved early printing of Bayard Iís collection of journals). In looking to the world with that need, he looks to understand it, to find what it in it he can better himself by. And in looking for understanding, he comes to awareness.
Though awareness does not mean peace. It means instead an understanding of Taldor, her strengths and flaws alike. Of the tactics and strategy needed when bringing to bear the might of an underfunded force. Of the limits of his men, and how far past them they can be pushed. Of the glory that once was, and could again be. The world after Arodenís death is deeply wounded, yet the world on the edge of peril was once saved by his people. If he could but save Taldor, or at least keep her whole until another might, perhaps it is Taldor that could save the world again.
It is not an easy task, even for a man with a highly mobile force. He moves his men with the uncanny precision of a watchmaker, picking the right moments for riding them out to pacify disputes between nobles before they can grow aggravated, and cost blood. Keeping bandits held within the territories they have seized. Holding monsters at bay long enough for a Durahan or some other hero to be found and settle the matter. Riders bring him reports, and he has cultivated what ties he can with groups like the Lion Blades and his own network of contacts besides, constantly reviewing information to decide where and how he can best apply limited resources, accepting the pain in his heart that comes in knowing that facing one problem allows another to fester. Nor is the Master of Horse some backroom master planner, for Triamond knows that he himself is sometimes the most valuable resource to his agenda, riding out at the head of a column of his own men time and again, doing his part to slow Taldorís long fall, that it could someday rise.
The coup caught him by surprise all the same, bothering him as much for that he missed it as for the loss of Maxentian, for knowing that the Branas kept dutifully bleeding on the borders allowed him a measure of leeway in his work. Aurelian is an unknown quantity by contrast.
None of this strain shows on the surface of course, and it almost never has. The Master of Horse well understands the disaster it could be for a man in his position to blink in even a single momentís weakness. On the face of things Triamond looks to be the gallant Eiredor knight typical of his line, dashing and erudite, winning distinction in the lists and maintaining the honour of the Taldan Horse as a military force. The private wars of Triamond Eiredor, for his own soul, and for that of his nation, may never be known.
Strengths of House Eiredor
Knights. Knights! KNIGHTS! The Eiredor, both in vassals and family members, have the largest concentration of knights to their name in Taldor. The distinction of their name has made them avidly sought as patrons by knights seeking that shared glory. It has also made for the Eiredor shock charge feared for power and devastation throughout much of Taldan history. Though their emphasis on knighthood and cavalry make their forces more than a touch overly specialized, it is a specialization they have applied with an undeniable skill. Tournament champions of staggering frequency either belong to the house directly or owe it fealty, increasing wealth and prestige for it in such accomplishment.
Actually beloved in Taldor: A house like the Branas are respected. A house like the Varian are hated. And many other families royal and senatorial alike fall somewhere in the middle of that, with some share of either. It is only the Eiredor who are so enthusiastically embraced by the common man and aristocrat alike. Those who fiercely seek places as Eiredor retainers and squires know that a life with their knight in the lists and the courts of love is one they can return home from, enriched and alive, instead of a Branas battlefield death, or rent in snapping monster fangs alongside a Durahan adventurer. The family embodies Taldan generosity besides, building hospitals, having bread distributed on holidays, even having a yearly practice of taking up a handful of orphans to become squires, ladies in waiting and valets. The other nobles may roll their eyes at such things, but the people can seem to sense the sincerity of the Eiredor, and love them for it. Those same sneering nobles often besides in another breath glowingly praise the Eiredor for a presence that adds to a courtís resplendent beauty. Eiredor on parade are at that a sight of sheer enthralling pageantry, without somehow coming off as excessive or opulent.
Breeders of Horses: At first simply to more directly maintain a personal supply, the Eiredor are one of the most prominent horse breeders in all of Taldor, maintaining wealth and influence both through those always seeking quality horseflesh
Chivalry: The Eiredor really do believe in their ideals, and there is a strength of spirit that comes with that, that is hard to shake or suborn, and infectious to those who serve them.
Weaknesses of House Eiredor
Complacency: The Eiredor hold land in Taldorís generally peaceful heartlands. Championed by noble knights and backed by savvy (and sometimes ruthless) ladies, they have no real rivals or opposition. They are able to grace the people with their good deeds. Their own house structure of challenge and regular presence in the lists keep them fit and skilled. Their thorough in house education produces figures of quality and admiration time and again. Who could ask for anything more? So, they donít ask for anything at all. Taldor is what it is, and the Eiredor do not much of anything about it in any sweeping sense. On the other hand, it could be argued that all those that tolerate so sterling a family in so tarnished a society would lose that tolerance right quick if the Eiredor ever decided to try and flex their influence. The house might not survive such a backlash.
Chauvinism: The argument some make about the Eiredor being truly ruled by its ladies is an amusing and lively one in private circles. But it does not change the very narrow opportunities the women of their house have as far as careers and interests, and in several cases has lead to squandered opportunity and wasted potential. An attitude the house sometimes carries with it into the wider world at that, affecting policies they back, and allegiances they make. Making it curious as to if the Eiredor women truly wield such power, why do they allow this state of affairs to continue? But there are many potential answers there, including that in a more diverse house, without the specialized hold they have, they would not have the power they have. Making the system one in their best interests to perpetuate. More distressing might be that they have simply and completely internalized these attitudes into themselves as the proper order of things.
Chivalry: You can ask Maxentian Branas how much having a code of honour can have the potential to get you into a lot of trouble in Taldor, no matter how long it has seemed until then that you can pull it off. Oh, no wait, you canít ask him a damn thing. Heís exiled.
Foreign Relations of Note
None really. This is not to say that any country that holds tournaments of knightly skill donít know from the Eiredor, and have seen them at triumph, but with that as their main interest in anything abroad, they donít really develop much else.