The LeBlanc Family need not toil in the bogs, nor hack at trees in the depths of the woods. Our business lies in finer things; in keeping up a noble household, and the secrets whispered at holiday celebrations. The whisper of silver against linen at the great table in the Owl’s Nest and the satisfied smile of our lord and lady are the outer marks of our work, and the inner…well, what ambition there is to be had in Luisant belongs to the LeBlancs.
Perhaps two hundred years have passed since the arrival of the first of our ancestors, servitors and guardsmen accompanying Lord Hugo Beauchene. They carried with them precious heirlooms from the world beyond the endless forest, silken clothes and shining jewels, which we still cherish as a reminder of where we came from. They were the most dedicated of our House’s retinue, willing to accompany a second son- for Hugo sought his own lands after losing station to his elder sister- to the uttermost reaches of the wilderness, and stay at his side as they built a home together and established a household which, we believe, any courtier could be proud of.
Nothing comes easily here. The very ground beneath our feet longs to return to its natural state; vines creep up houses faster than seems right, and the earth spits out the seeds that we plant in it. Yet long, patient years of work and cultivation have created a home and hearth; a place of safety, carved out little by little, where we can do our work. As the years pass, we ourselves grow ever more and more like this wild land; and just as we did once before, we prune and tame our wild new impulses, holding on with practiced fingers to the gifts of refinement and beauty that the first retinue of House Beauchene brought to Lorassaint. The heirlooms of our family shine as brightly as they did 200 years ago, thanks to our constant memory and care.
Although few now remember it, the progenitors of our family did not bear the name LeBlanc. Their names came from proud distant houses, now forgotten, lost with the other buried things that we could not carry with us.
Our ancestors, you see, faced many difficulties when they first came to Luisant. Deaths from the plague and the harsh winters were common, and as time went by many of us began to mutter that the peasants and locals had not lost half as much as we.
Here is how the old tale goes:
In the dead of winter, when the waves of plague were at their worst and more than half our children lay sick or dying, the servants of House Beauchene met in secret to discuss our plight. The meeting was frantic, particularly as suspicion of Hugo Beauchene’s contraction of the plague was substantiated by the tales of his personal servants. With no true leader, no guidance, deep in the winter-locked depths of Lorassaint, no help could be expected until far too late. As our voices rose high in terror and anger, only one stood forward calmly. The old chaplain, Father Bernart, made his way to the midst of the throng, clutching his cane with one withered hand, the other resting comfortingly on the shoulder of a young girl. The sight of fear and mourning in the eyes of the Beachene heir, Ginevra Beauchene bid sudden silence from us all.
His frail voice rang out with conviction as he spoke, and his words shamed us.
It was no wonder that the spirits of disease and the fickle wights of winter had chosen us, our leaders and our children to afflict; it was no wonder that the land had turned against us. Since our arrival to Luisant, we had turned our backs on the people House Beauchene had come to guide and support. We had acted out of fear and avoided, even been disgusted by the customs and nature of the simple peasants of Luisant, rather than embracing them as fellow members of Humanity itself. We had brought this upon ourselves.
The old priest spoke in terms that were familiar to us. We were rational men, raised in enclaves of humanity where the horrors of the Night were a distant legend; here, on the borders of the known world, they had become all too real. The superstitious of our group whispered among themselves and named it a curse, and Father Bernart did not gainsay them. Rather, he offered a penance for our great sin, and the bad fortune it had brought upon us.
One of our number, it seemed, had dallied with a peasant girl of the Mervaille family. He had bedded her with meaningless promises and left her afterwards. She was heavy with child now, a child that would have no father.
Father Bernart commanded their wedding take place as symbol of the union between the peasants and ourselves. He oversaw it before the month was out.
The girl’s family did not want to give up their family name for an outsider, and the servitor marrying her was reluctant in his turn to take the name of the Mervaille. A compromise was reached between them by Father Bernart. He agreed to pass on his own name to the young couple; the name of LeBlanc. Bernart, you see, had no living relatives. He had travelled here knowing this place would take the last years of his life, and his name would not be passed on.
The couple who took his name promised to consider him as their own father, and to honor the name that had been given them. So the name of LeBlanc was given to our line, and the tradition was continued throughout the years that followed; more marriages between newcomers and locals took place and were overseen by Father Bernart, and almost every single one took on the name LeBlanc.
As the marriages took place and the community intermingled more and more, the plague receded and the deaths decreased; our children grew and thrived and found their own spouses, and the curse that had afflicted us seemed banished by the penance prescribed by our great ancestor and chaplain, Father Bernart LeBlanc.
Every individual whose fortunes had improved due to the marriages he performed gathered in the great hall of the Owl’s Nest, where he was buried, the day he passed to show their respects. Survived by no family of his own, Ginevra Beauchene delivered his last sentiments in the form of this speech, still preserved in the Beauchene library in his original handwriting, faint stains of her tears still upon it.
“My Dear Family,
It warms my heart to know in my final days that you, my friends, will be gathered around my body following my passing. Dutiful in your affections, as you always have been throughout my life. I’ve married most of you together, held your children, buried our friends, and now I lay on the other side of the funeral. I bid you go on and live your lives fully, but with a gift that I hope will offer you all opportunity and reprieve.
With me the name LeBlanc dies. But for those who have accepted it as their own, it can be renewed, as both a name of Luisant and a name of our distant home, but most of all as a name that is wholly new, beholden to neither. This name is yours, in service of our lord together, a sign of loyalty and service and solidarity with all those who believe in the great dream that we came here to build.
The only price I ask to carry this tired old name is to live on for me, in honor of my hard earned legacy. Serve our lord with respect to your peers. Remember the fear and tragedy of the plague, and do not test it for your own vanity. This day we all recall the bloodshed and pain that our own folly had brought, and may this gift also carry that fear forward to caution any who enter this place unknowing of the misfortunes that may befall them.
With Everlasting Affection,
HOUSE BEAUCHENE- The House of Owls
House Beauchene is unique in being the only noble house to have successfully established itself in Luisant for more than a single generation. Luisant at one time represented the tempting prospect of expanding trade between the Kreuzmoor lands on the border of Gotha and the rich resources of Lorassaint. Building up the town into a more significant power was once an enticing opportunity for adventurous nobles, but interest waned as family after family was taken by plague, insanity, or unfortunate accidents.
Hugo Beauchene, the ‘Burnished Owl’, the first of his name to come to Luisant, studied these attempts carefully before making the journey. He noted that these nobles were mostly desperate or impoverished, traveling alone or almost alone, viewing a position in Luisant as a last ditch effort to regain whatever wealth or reputation they had once had. Hugo vowed that he would not fall prey to what he jokingly termed the ‘Fool’s Curse’, and used his family’s considerable coffers to outfit himself and hand-pick a retinue of loyal men-at-arms, servitors, and even some survivalists to help navigate the long, treacherous road.
Few reliable accounts of this journey exist, but many must have died or been lost, for their number was less by a full quarter when they arrived, but those who made it were healthy and hearty. Beauchene’s leadership and quick thinking had brought them safely to their destination.
In return, our ancestors wholeheartedly gave their love to the man who had led them through the darkness and his dream of progress. The people who Hugo chose to follow him to Luisant gathered around him through the following years, protecting and often saving him from the threat of various horrific fates, preventing Hugo and, as time passed, the Beauchene line that followed from meeting the same doom as the unfortunate nobles who preceded them. This is a duty that we still consider to be ours today; the line of Beauchene continuing ensures all of our survival, and perhaps one day our ascension to the ranks of true nobility. Thus, out of admiration and sometimes secret ambition, we take the role of advisor and protector to the House of Owls.
Our family LeBlanc are transplants in many ways, without the long history and tradition of other lineages of Luisant. As we became more accepted by the community, other patriarchs and matriarchs of their respective lineages kindly insisted that we allow them to pray for one of the highly venerated Saints of the town to give their patronage to our lineage. This sign of favor from their local pantheon was considered the final step in becoming a truly accepted lineage. For seven days and nights they prayed in shifts with members of our family, burning incense and calling on the names of the Saints. On the morning of the eighth day, a grey pigeon carrying a quill in its beak alighted among the circle of supplicants and cried out a single time. This was interpreted by the priest of the town as a symbol of St. Mael Judoc, the strategist and leader of the force that killed the Witchking Chiropoler. Few written accounts of her life have survived, but it seemed appropriate to inhabitants of Luisant that a Saint known to be calm, collected, and strategically minded would take an interest in the patronage of our family.
There are four traditional attributes of the LeBlanc family. To allow a generation to pass that does not uphold each of these pillars of our identity is to betray our histories, both together in this community and beyond to the individual roots of our noble heritage. To forget our history is to concede to the influence of this place and break our ties to our homes and our dream of the future here.
Etiquette– Etiquette is the knowledge and practice of how to appeal to others, to appear favorable in any situation, to uphold poise in times of trouble, and show expertise when challenged. Our place in this community is not inherited, it is earned by each individual that dons our legacy. Any LeBlanc failing to conduct themselves flawlessly should be assisted by their peers and elders, and if unable to conduct themselves to a courtly standard even with instruction, they should be corrected most firmly, even to the removal of our family name.
A common expression of this attribute is a subtle game of the LeBlanc’s creation. “The Best Wit.” A pin with an acorn, or detail of red and gold is worn by the most recent “Best Wit.” Upon hearing a comment or jab with particular wit the Best Wit will remove the pin and pass it along to the new Best Wit with gracious conceit or feigned begrudging murmurs. Only LeBlanc are acceptable recipients of the pin and title. On an average day of high spirits the pin will adorn upwards of a half dozen LeBlanc.
Marriage– The practice of ministering marriages with certain customs has been passed down unbroken through every generation of LeBlanc since the death of our founder, the blessed Father Bernart. It is of utmost importance we leave this method untouched and clearly remembered. Thus when the time comes for more pilgrims of our faith to arrive from beyond the border we can prevent them from committing the sin of our forefathers that led to such misery and death.When one of our dear Beauchene lords or ladies, or one of our own marries, it is customary for members of the LeBlanc family alone to plan the wedding and instruct the priest attending on our customs, to ensure that they are followed correctly.
The colors of the wedding are to always be purple and white, white for the Faith and purple to represent nobility, charity, and etiquette, the values by which we live.
The priest is to wear a stole sewn by either the bride, or the mother of one of the participants. The stole is to be golden, embroidered with any pattern as long as it is done in purple and white, and must have a purple heart embroidered on either end.
The heart symbolizes the union being created between two loves and two different souls.
Finally, while the couple and the priest may choose the vows, a certain line must always be added. This line symbolizes our loyalty and our dedication to the dreams of our ancestors.
Hand in hand we stand before the altar, ready to begin a new life joined as one.
With you, my spouse, I vow to serve and honor the Lord who watches over us, dedicating our lives, work, and souls to him before any other.
Ascension– We honor the memory of those who died in the process of establishing our home and creating a court for us by never shying from social promotion.
We may have been stripped from the social hierarchy of the wider world, but together we will foster the lingering memory of civilization within our blood, and keep the light of civilized knowledge alive. With these positions we teach what we can, and protect and guide the community that God has given us to cherish.
Cultivation– We must remember that the forest, and even our own community still harbors darkness that threatens us all. We, before any other duty, must remain vigilant to our neighbors, and our home. We must listen to the soil, as well as the trees, and the voices of our lord and outcast alike. Every conversation is a clue to protecting the community.
In the practice of this last, but essential attribute of our family we have come to understand many dark truths. We understand something our ancestors that moved here could not – among the first to die in the Lorassaint forest are the rigid and righteous. Sin inevitably infects those who live here in our home, and to a degree we must accept this, or death. An unfair ultimatum we all live with every day of our lives. A truth we ensure to impart upon our youth as they reach adulthood.
We see the corruption that surrounds us, and recognize it as a means of survival. These families that had the misfortune of being born alone and naked in these lands, before the church’s light, had to find their own sinful ways to survive. Their practices are gruesome and uncouth. Their temperaments are often unfit for civil relations, but they are this way because of the darkness the forest has threatened them and their ancestors with. We cannot rule them and deny them their safety. Piece by piece we must build an alternative, a better path, and encourage them along it. Stripping them of their old ways could expose us all to the greater darkness. Carefully we must understand them, so that we may learn the ways they have found to leash the darkness. We must modify their methods to wield our community like a weapon against the darkness.
Likewise, we must study and collect all knowledge from all societies we can. From the forest, the Throne, and beyond. Only with complete knowledge of the world’s people can we do our part to build a community of thriving human spirit. For this reason many of us are scholars of the world’s cultures, or develop hobbies that provide us knowledge of the darkness that would feed upon the human soul. With courage and acceptance we must face heretic knowledge, and extract it with flawless poise and politeness. For the darkness knows that hatred is fueled by fear, and once they smell fear the darkness will not teach us but eradicate us instead. As in all things we must wear the unthreatening skin of unassuming servitude while orchestrating our steps in the war against darkness, and leading our neighbours into the light. We cultivate the community around us, and our own noble Lord and Lady, carefully ensuring that they hear nothing that could harm their eternal souls or disturb the peace of their rule.
OTHER FAMILIES AND THEIR KNOWLEDGE
It is vital that we record the secrets and knowledge that comes to us from other families, in our quest to preserve Beauchene rule and peace in Luisant.
Beauchene – A lineage caught in an endless struggle between obligation to the throne, and the looming curse from the forest’s depths. A precarious balancing force maintained largely by our own lineage. And, though the curse prevents claims to this relationship, we know and the Beauchene know that our support goes far beyond our service. Many of us have Beauchene blood in our veins; when the time arrives for young nobles to marry, it is exceedingly rare that union is not with a LeBlanc. We are family, a buffer to the wild blood of the other lineages, and cohorts in the quest to uphold nobility in a feral land that would cleave us from the origin of civilization.
Our own forced secrets are not the only ones we hold, however. There’s a whispered acknowledgement from those of us who keep records and stories of the past. We’re aware of misdeeds, most minor, from the noble family. But the greatest shame we harbour in silence is that there have been heretic Beauchene in the past, traveling among the forest folk, conducting unspeakable rituals in enchanted groves under blood red moons.
Rocheaux – There was a terrible tragedy in the family’s past that they would like to keep buried, quite literally. A cave-in trapped a group of miners to slowly die together under the unyielding earth. Their bodies were never recovered and the entrance to that mine was turned into a memorial.
Dubois – Don’t look too closely. It’s not worth the price.
Mervaille – The Mervaille are said to have access to a map leading to a destroyed monastery nearby Luisant that holds ancient schematics and treasure. How selfish of them to withhold such valuable knowledge!
Veneaux – These strange folk have a very odd custom after marriage. During the feast, the newly joined member of the family is sent off into the woods, only to be chased by the Veneaux guests carrying weapons and shouting threats. It is not known what the purpose of this is, or if they truly mean harm- although early deaths in the Veneaux lineage are not uncommon.
Jovienne – The Jovienne are close allies of ours, and always have been. They are talented and gracious folk, and what secrets they have they hold close to their chests.
Only a fool could claim to lead and also be blind to the presence of the forest folk within our community. Long we’ve known of their presence, and to a degree depended upon their insight into the forest’s darkest elements. On occasion even LeBlanc have strayed off the paths into the deeper woods. Historically we’ve maintained wary neutrality with these rebels against sophistication, and even valued them, assuming of course that they are willing to share their unique insights with the rest of the family.
In extension to our awareness of our own community, we also remain aware of our own church. The church eradicates darkness, and fosters light. However, this cursed forest is not yet ready for the inquisition. Our forebears have always maintained hope that someday we will understand the origins of darkness in this place well enough to implore our siblings in faith to travel here and do away with all that causes us suffering. If they came now, however, our lines from the moment we entered this place to now would be eradicated from history. Hope for our community to grow to become something better, remembered for ending the darkness, would be lost entirely. No past, no future. And in the process there is no telling the bloodshed that would come to our own dedicated inquisitors if they arrived uninformed.
We must use our church here to persevere as we find a way for them to help in earnest. And, until we do someday find the solution we must hold the many secrets of our neighbours close. We must record the darkness’ weakness in silence, often keeping what we know from our own lords while protecting them from the same threats we study.