The Rebirth of a Nation
Cheeky Valroux duellist from Montaigne
Valroux Apprentice — Montaigne
Rapier and Main-gauche (ironically wielded in main-droit)
Appearance: Not remarkably handsome, but the young man does have a way about him. A certain je ne sais pas. Roland is slightly above average in height and lean. Long ashen hair frames an opal face. Hazel eyes twinkle naughtily, as if he knows something inappropriate and might just tell. This would also explain the almost perpetual, cheeky smirk that his thin lips form.
Dress: His garments were once barely passable in court society, but are now a bit frayed and a full step out of fashion. This is common among bourgeois merchant families trying vainly to emulate nobility. Moreover Roland’s garments imply a shopkeeper family who has recently undergone hardship. Somehow, despite his threadbare outmoded dress, a sort of playful charm of his pretty much pulls off the look, lending him a sympathetic, bohemian charm and devil-may-care air. His buckles and boot leather are polished with great care. A military background of some sort?
Birthplace: Paix, Montaigne
Swordsman School: Valroux
Current residence: Villa de los Guardos, Castille
Les Souvenirs d’Enfance
The heart wants what the heart wants. In the town of Valcourt just outside the embassy city of Paix in Montaigne, a beautiful Castillian dancer named Leonora caught the eye of a true bon vivant Armande Valcourt. Armande ran a small, but respected fencing academy teaching the art of fencing in the Valroux tradition. He was a widower with three teenage sons who were preparing to enlist in the Montaigne army to join the war. When Armande took Leonora as his wife, the sons disapproved vociferously . . . . due in equal measures to patriotism and a reluctance to share what they deemed their rightful inheritance. Into this volatile family situation, Leonora bore Armande another son who they called Roland.
Roland’s life was awash in contrast. His jealous, older half-brothers often tormented him. They would bully him physically and emotionally. Whether a result of trying to amuse his brothers and distract them from beating him, or as a result of the nurturing affection showered on him from his mother and father, Roland developed an entertaining personality. There was a brightness within him that his brothers’ gloom could not overshadow. Roland celebrated the little things in life with great style, making everything a charming game.
“Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but being in, Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.”
- Armande Valcourt’s fatherly advice (quoting a certain Avalonian playwright)
Armande began Roland’s education in swordsmanship at an early age. Although he tried to treat Roland with the severity and discipline he would any of his other academy students, Armande was constantly swayed by the young boy’s charm. The boy demonstrated a gift for fencing, and whereas his technical execution was strong, it was the charming smile, cheeky comments, and sometimes outrageous flourishes that Roland brought to his Valroux studies that delighted his aging father. The panache with which Roland fenced left no doubt to Armande that Roland was a son of Montaigne.
Leonora always claimed her son’s affinity for showmanship was naturally her doing. After all, was she not a performer whose dancing thrilled the hearts of the men in Paix. Was she not so celebrated that she had been called for from Castille to dance in Montaigne? Leonora used the more Castillian Orlando as her pet name for Roland and ensured that her son had an upbringing and education that befit a young gentleman. She encouraged him to socialize with students at the academy who were generally wealthier and much bettered connected than the Valcourts themselves. Again, social exceptions were made for the charming Valcourt boy and social doors opened for him that might not ordinarily be opened. Though he was himself not a noble, he had a place on the fringe of courtly life . . . even if it was mostly on the outside looking in.
Qui se resemble, s’assemble
Nearly all of the students at his father’s school were sons and daughters of nobility, but there was one other commoner . . . a boy named Cloche, who had won an illustrious regional fencing competition that awarded a prize of tuition at the Valcourt Ecole de Fence. The two “poor kids” in class forged a fast friendship, together suffering the snide remarks and indignities handed down to them by some of the spoiled young nobles. This disdainful treatment sharpened both of their tongues and encouraged them to outfence the snobby twits as well. In fact, it created a friendly rivalry whereby Roland and Cloche would constantly try to outdo each other with witty insults against the rich kids and of course besting them in feats of steel.
Although both jibed and mocked, Cloche never knew when to stop and often got himself in over his head. Roland, loyal to a fault, would always back his overconfident confidant up.
The two parted company when Roland won a military academy spot, where he gained only rudimentary skill in firearms, horses, and formal pugilism. He was a very mediocre student overall, and his sarcastic tongue got him into trouble more than once with instructors and his fellow cadets. His skills with his blade usually helped him prevail in touch duels with classmates, but he caught an occasional defeat as well. Recently, Roland choose to leave the academy (a mutual decision in all truth) and therefore gained no formal commission. Roland Valcourt was lucky to survive the academy as long as he did with that sharp tongue of his.
C’est la Guerre!
As tensions between Montaigne and the Church flared, the domestic life of the Valcourt family had also became strained. Armande’s health was failing him and Leonora remained devoted to him. Roland’s elder brothers, however, exploited the troubles to make Leonora uncomfortable. Even though she’d resided in Montaigne for over twenty years before the war, she was undoubtedly a Castillian at heart. Her contact with her family had been limited. Such is the life of a dancer who expatriates. A devote Vaticine, she was deeply troubled by recent events. When Armande passed away just prior to Montaigne’s invasion of Castille, Leonora decided it was best to move back to home to the Villa de los Guardos rather than live at the mercy of Armande’s sons who now ran the fencing academy.
Although he loves his mother dearly, Roland proudly considers himself to be Montaigne. He sees the war as an unfortunate accident between two great nations. His loyalties are torn somewhat, even though he is a proud Montaigne, he sees the abuses of l’Empereur and the nobles and the suffering of the common people. He sees the arrogance displayed against the Church.
Mon Heritage Castillan
Having recently installed his elderly mother in a Castillian convent, and hardly welcome by his Montaigne family outside Paix, Roland/Orlando has opted to spend some time exploring his Castillian heritage and making a name for himself.