Peat, Cork, and Coin
Leon "Cylus" Bellerose
"Actors! They're all a company of actors!"
The Bellerose family, once a premier and respected noble house in the courts of Llael, was renowned for its lavish balls and its support of theatre in all its forms. Many of the largest, most prominent theatres of the day can trace at least a small portion of their finances to the esteemed Bellerose house, which has flourished in its role as a “patron of the arts” for decades beyond counting. Renowned for their luck, wit, and civility as well as their sense of generosity and poise, the sons and daughters of the Bellerose bloodline seemed to be untouchable as their good fortune grew alongside their holdings and wealth.
Under the wise and elegant leadership of Vivian Bellerose the family’s favor grew. She gained favor in the courts through savvy negotiation and stunning acts of decisive politics crushing her political rivals one by one, all the while hosting the luxurious balls and decadent shows that her family was known for. In the year 572 AR she met her match not in some ambitious nobleman, but in a young actor named Vincent DuPont, an up and coming master of theatre and poetry. They wed only month later and in so doing Vincent was brought into the Bellerose family. Rumors spread and in hushed whispers the court spoke of the scandal of the marriage, of how the two met and of their late night séances before they were bound by oath.
Only short months after the wedding Vivian showed signs of being with child and celebrations were had all across the kingdom as the Bellerose house spent copious amounts of wealth and favors on festivals across the lands. In 573 AR the first child was born – a boy named Luke, and couple years later another followed – a girl named Jezebel, and lastly in the winter of 580 they had another boy named Leon. Yet by the time Leon was old enough to walk the wealth of house Bellerose had dwindled, its influence in the courts atrophied, as Vivian struggled to hold onto a husband who no longer cared for the lavish life of nobility. Vincent wanted nothing more than to return to the stage, to act out challenging roles to the cheers of the adoring masses, and he found the bitter taste of court to be unappetizing at best. Yet Vivian pushed and pulled, yelled and pleaded, focusing all her attention on the man who was her husband and not on the gradual decline of her estates, of her summons to court, or of the whispers that enshrouded her and her household.
Leon spent the earliest days of his life listening to his father’s wistful stories of the stage, of his longing for the old days, the better days, the simpler days. He would spend hours with his father, listening to him recount his roles and even act several out for the child’s amusement. Meanwhile his siblings were being groomed for greater things, his brother trained with the sword and read the tomes required to become the patriarch of a noble house, and his sister looked to the subtle art of politics and saw suitors on a daily basis. Yet Leon was enraptured in the world of song and dance, of epic stories and subtle fables, he played out roles when alone in his room, poured over the library of theatrical works locked away in the heart of the family manor, and dreamed of the glories the world had to offer.As he grew up Leon was oblivious to the world around him, he never noticed the sorrow of his mother, the detachment of his father, or the rage in his brother. Nor did he notice the deterioration of the manor or the lack of guests or balls or celebrations, he was lost in his own world of heroes and victims, of mighty wars and subtle romance and it concerned his mother to no end. What once were just whispers of misfortune became words spoken aloud; the members of court marked the Bellerose house as cursed to an inevitable decline into oblivion. Many blamed Vivian’s poor choice in marrying a commoner; others simply said that it was the frivolity of their spending habits that did them in. But the decline of the house was only a small dot in the ocean of tragedy that would befall the Bellerose name.
On his seventh birthday Leon watched as his families manor burned, a house built by his forebears and a symbol of joy, prosperity, and luxury all across the Iron Kingdoms. He watched as his father’s agonizing screams echoed from inside the raging inferno, his face emotionless to the cries of his mother and the screams of his siblings or the horrified expressions on the servant’s faces. He held the same expression a few years later when his mother tragically fell from her balcony to her death. Many claimed she could not bear the loss of both her beloved husband and the wealth of her family name, others believed she was simply drunk and lost her footing, and others still find the whole ordeal rather unexplainable.
Years passed as Leon’s older brother took the helm, attempting to guide his family back into prominence. But his temper and his reliance on his sword arm created blockades in court as he dueled many of the children of the noble houses that had once been called friends, leaving a trail of old friends and ex-allies in his wake. His anger was only amplified when his sister was beaten and poisoned while being safely at rest within the roomy confines of the family’s new manor. There were no witnesses to anything out of the ordinary, only that Jezebel had went for a stroll through the estates gardens and never returned. Her body found in the center of the hedge maze with no sign of struggle and no reports of screaming. She was to be wed to a family that would have helped stabilize the Bellerose house both politically and financially.
By this time the courts viewed the Bellerose name as cursed because, not only did the family hemorrhage coin and lack any political edge to keep them afloat in a kingdom where contacts and courtly affairs influenced every facet of noble life, but they also appeared to be losing key family members in terribly tragic fashions. Some of the enemies of the Bellerose family took to remarking on how their rival family appeared to be suffering from a series of rather “theatric” tragedies. Naturally these words, so boldly spoken in the public eye, only lent more anger to Luke – who had become a violent, embittered drunk that saw nothing but failure in his past and future.
Fortunately for Luke his life would not stretch out for much longer. Only days after the tragic death of King Rynnard in 595 AR, Luke met his end – a tragedy lost in the tumult of a dead monarch. One night in a drunken stupor he stumbled down into the families kennels, where he had been starving the hunting dogs in preparation for an upcoming hunt he was to partake in to clear his head of his anguish and distract him from the affairs of state. Investigators claim he must have unlocked the cages in his stupor and the dogs, being ravenous, attacked and tore their master asunder. The report claims pieces of him were found scattered throughout the kennels and that he was only identifiable due to his family ring.
Leon, now sixteen, became the last of his family and the head of a cursed lineage in a kingdom where he had no friends, no allies, and very little wealth. Yet Leon had developed a head for logistics and planning and, using his creativity coupled with his knack for strategy, he took the remaining wealth of his family’s holdings and rekindled the now dilapidated theatres and festival grounds that his mother had built decades earlier. He created an advertisement campaign for the common folk, and he himself attended court to regale his peers with the wonders that his new shows would bring to Llael. He attempted to distract the nobility from the political tension surrounding the death of the king, to bring the masses to theatre and, using the tragedy of the King’s passing with eloquence and tact, he convinced many of his peers that the shows were the best way to ease the kingdom into a new era.
Leon spent the next decade hoisting his family back to its previous glory. Forging new alliances in court and even beyond Llael, founding new theatres and troupes across the Iron Kingdoms, and even writing his own plays, Leon was looked upon as a saint of the arts. Yet the Bellerose family was never purely cleansed of its dark past. Tragedy still struck as Leon’s fiancée died only days after declaring herself pregnant, as some of his business partners were lost in spectacular fashion from decapitation to being trampled to death by a horse & cart, or even how Leon himself was wounded in the streets by a gang of thugs and bandits who were never apprehended.
The trends of both success and tragedy would follow him until Khador’s invasion of Llael in 604 AR, when Leon was forced to relinquish his estates to Khadoran occupation before being captured and held for leverage. Using all of his charm and wit he managed to gradually ingratiate himself with his captors so they’d lower their guard. Once the opportunity presented itself he made his escape, fleeing to Ord where he had established an elaborate network of connections of all kinds and, using his talents, he created an alter-ego for himself to evade any pursuit from Llael as well as any questions from the locals. He became a man of information brokering and the fencing of goods, a man with connections in every echelon of the Ordic stage, a man named “Cylus.”