NATION

PASSWORD

In hoc signo vinces [PT; Astyria][IC][Semi-open]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Trellin
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Founded: Jun 05, 2012
Capitalist Paradise

In hoc signo vinces [PT; Astyria][IC][Semi-open]

Postby Trellin » Sun Feb 21, 2016 9:08 pm

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the saga of the Azmiri Crusade

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[ OOC & signups ]


Tyarz the impregnable. Tyarz of the mighty walls. Gold-roofed Tyarz. The richest city in the west, the marvel of Azmir. Tyarz, the pride of the republic and the pride of the Knights of Saint Misrav who so boastfully called it their home and headquarters. Tyarz, whose great circuit had held the heathens at bay for nigh a century with just the knowledge that it could not be taken by any strength of arms.

Tyarz, a city on fire.

In the streets of the city, behind the walls five metres thick, under the catapult-topped turrets which now threatened to crumble as great boulders hurtled into them from the encircling camps, the once-proud warriors of the Misravic Order milled about, uncertain of their impending fate. The stronghold which for so long had guaranteed not just their safety but their strength and their status was crashing down all around them. The citadel, so vast and so potent, had been breached even before the town's wall was scaled. All that now guarded the great port of Tyarz was its garrison. No great wall, no outward-facing trebuchet now staved off the waves of foes that assailed the city. The walls had been abandoned. Not lightly - many a richly-clad Knight had met his death on those high buttresses. Rivers of blood flowed over the rim of the fortress; there was no more room for the invaders to pick their way through the piles of the dead.

If the battle were over the soldiers of both sides would be weeping bitterly for the unnumbered dead, but the hue and slaughter was without end. All about was the ring of steel, the heavy tread of weary armies surging in the streets, the baying of heathen and Crusader alike. No mindless slaughter of innocents here - the townfolk and merchants and monks had fled by ship as the siege wore on and help failed to come, day after day. All that were left were the wearily determined Knights. Misravic Brethren of the Sword fought side by side with the professional soldiers of the Cadenzan Republic, and even the foreign Order of the Dragon valiantly contested the narrow streets with the Azmiri horde that in serried ranks poured through the gaps they had torn in the walls.

Despite the heroic defence the Crusaders mounted here in the streets, Tyarz's doom had already befallen it. No matter how many defenders met their deaths here, the walls were down and the attackers were simply too many to be repulsed. Defeat was a certainty. All that was left to decide was how many of the heathen Azmiri met their deaths today on the ends of Cadenzan swords.

Few were more bitter at this upset than Saleb Resis, Order Master of the Knights of Saint Misrav in Azmir. From his citadel he had drafted plans of conquest and conversion; expeditions to subdue Marzisa or to return Laeryt to the fold would now all have to be shelved. The evangelisation of Azmir could not proceed while his order lacked a proper home in the province. As he forced his way through the melee, Resis plotted his revenge. Tyarz was lost for now, that much was clear. He could stand and do battle, and in the confines of the city the streets would run crimson with the blood of these heathens. Resis was not so short-sighted as to throw away his vengeance here, however. His time would come. If he had to bide his time for a year, so be it. If he had to move all his soldiers to Meqn, so be it. If he had to call on all of Christendom...

So be it. The Azmiri would get their Crusade.




Outside the walls of Tyarz, sat atop his bay horse, Periax II surveyed the ongoing siege with a critical gaze. Perhaps he was being reckless, sending so many fine men to their deaths, but the Crusader presence here had posed a mortal danger to his Azmir for years untold. Sorrow clutched at his heart to see so much blood spilled, but he steeled himself with the knowledge that victory at Tyarz would at last free his country of the poisonous influence of Cadenza and its missionaries.

Pillars of smoke climbed to the heavens as the Azmiri catapults continued to bombard the fortified city. A steady stream of fresh troops moved in through the ruptured circuit to replace those who had fallen in the attack. Arrows still flew from windows high in the citadel, but the ten thousand men all about the city promised Periax his victory today. If he could break Tyarz - and he would certainly break Tyarz - the other fortresses of the Cadenzan-held coast would fall one by one, and then only Meqn would be left, just as it had been over a century before. To think that all this success was owed to the Kur'zheti governor down at Savrit. That territory was another obstacle to be overcome, but for now let Governor Hriek think he had deceived Periax into removing his rival. The Marquises of Azmir were puppets to no man.

Behind the former walls of the great port city, a sail moved on its way out of the harbour. It would be one of the last to flee the burning city. Periax smiled to himself. His victory was at hand. Tyarz would be his.
Last edited by Trellin on Sun Feb 28, 2016 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Tarsas
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Tarsas » Wed Apr 06, 2016 10:20 am

Meqn, Misravic Order
March, 1301 AD


Romulus Caius Agrippa stood atop the walls of the great fortress of Meqn staring out upon the desert. The warm winds whipped his cloak around him in a frenzy, proudly displaying the cross of his order, Knights of Saint Misrav. He was an officer in the order and served proudly. The position had been earned in the battle for Tyarz and now he was responsible for a section of the eastern wall. He manned his post with excellence, supervising the men under him. The Knights in Meqn had assigned him a post surprisingly quickly.

The city itself was a fortress, almost as great as Tyarz had been herself. There were enough supplies and arms here to hold out for months before she fell. Some would say her fall was only a matter of time, though. The fall of the main fortress of the Crusaders had been hard on morale, with more than a few of the regular ranking soldiers attempting to desert. Periax II was merciless in his march against the Order and her cities. The banner that flew above Tyarz still flew above Meqn and he knew many men would die so that it would remain there.

His mind took him back to a happier time, to a time when he had been a young man living in the village of Venderus. Life had been peaceful there, the warm weather and farms that dotted the countryside a pleasing view from his father’s estate. He had made the trek to this far away land to bring his family glory. Great wealth and power was promised for those that made the trek to this God forsaken place. He had joined the order solely on the basis of the prestige that came with it. When Tyarz was attacked, he was truly never ready for war.

He had been set to quietly marry a young maiden from a neighboring family and move into the countryside in his own estate where he would live out the rest of his days managing his family holdings. To this day, he still wasn’t sure if it was his father pressuring him or the urging of a local priest that had convinced him to give that away to join the Order. Of course, it would all be there for him when he returned. He certainly hoped he returned and didn’t end up a corpse on the city streets like so many of his comrades.

A young soldier approached him. “My liege, the fifth watch reports no disturbances.”

Agrippa nodded. “Very well, they may switch out for the sixth watch. Be vigilant, Resis and his forces could be on the horizon at any time.”

The soldier saluted and marched off down the wall. These walls were vast, thick enough for three men to walk side by side on top of them. They had been strengthened significantly when the city had been captured.

Agrippa continued to stare out across the desert. He hoped that the city could hold when it inevitably was attacked and that reinforcements would come soon. The few that came from Tyarz were exhausted and too few in number to be beneficial. None of the city's vast armament and food supplies came with the survivors and that could end up costing them even Meqn in the future.
Last edited by Tarsas on Thu Apr 07, 2016 4:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Romberg
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Romberg » Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:54 pm

Prince-Bishop Ansgar Haakonsson

Another day, another mass, another bunch of documents. It was not easy running a diocese as both its religious and secular leader, but somehow he managed to do it - just. Taxes were raised - the burghers were sinful with gluttony anyway- and the defenses of his principality was strengthened. Operating on unexplored frontier, he could not afford to be complacent. God was on his side, but he could still be on an express trip to heaven instead of continuing to serve his role in the living if he was not careful. Pagan raids were a real threat. He'd always wanted to be a soldier instead like his older brother, as his place as third eldest all but excluded him from succession of his parents' territories, but he was a sickly child and a clerical career was selected for him. Abstinence was an issue though he was getting old now. In younger days he'd sneaked out and fathered several bastards. That, and perhaps the other time he was drunk on communion wine, was perhaps why he was never considered to be cardinal. He was approaching middle age, and with his family's power he should have advanced in the church hierarchy now. But no, he was still stuck as a bishop. Though, he'd grown into his role as a fisher of men. By the time he had control over this principality he'd mostly shed his vices - and hopefully God would forgive him for his younger misdeeds.

And to be fair, life was good. He was rich, he was powerful - way more than he could ever have had he stayed at home or became a soldier. It couldn't hurt for him to be able to read as well. Speaking Latin was in the vogue, and he did prove to be an educated man. Now, the nobility and other more junior clergy would look to him for advice. Even peasants, but only if he could bother to have the time to educate them. It was lucky he was of noble birth after all. Even in third place. It gave him access to a privileged form of life. If only he were cardinal or of the Emperor had asked him for advice. Still, there wasn't much to complain. He'd even managed to get his children a good education, and they were serving various feudal lords. And by and large the populace, or all those whom he cared about, were placated. It seemed like as long as nobody dared to invade the territory of our good Father, things would go well for him.

Then the reports came. Of a pagan threat far away. Of good Christians slaughtered. Of looting and pillaging. Of death and destruction in the Ethlorek lands - the taking the jewel of Christendom, Tyarz, home to some of the most valuable relics there were. There was a standing indulgence too; being a knowledgeable theologian, he knew that going on crusade would absolve him of sin - which he still felt loomed heavily over his head - and win immense prestige. Maybe that cardinalship was in reach after all. And he would have the opportunity to be a soldier. Besides, while he was on crusade, nobody would want to invade his territories unless they wanted to be excommunicated and bear the wrath of Christiandom on them. It seemed like too good an opportunity to resist. And so after saying his goodbyes to his trusted advisors and his congregation, as well as appointing a regent in his place, the good shepherd went to war, sailing towards Meqn bringing with him several hundred foot soldiers and knights, fighting under the banner of Christendom for salvation of the lands. Because God wills it. Deus Vult.
Last edited by Romberg on Tue May 10, 2016 9:32 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Trellin
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Capitalist Paradise

Postby Trellin » Tue May 10, 2016 6:45 pm

September 13th, 1301
Caput Unum — the grapes of wrath.


“By the rivers of Babylon —
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.”

— Psalm 137

Meqn in mid-September; a beautiful sight, its copper rooftops glinting in the evening sun, its mighty walls a reassurance against any foe, but no replacement for the Tyarz Saleb Resis was leaving behind. Even afire, Tyarz held a place in his heart hardly less dear than Christ did. Was there ever any metaphor more apt for the Church Militant than Tyarz, boldly defying the follies of the heathens guided by error and Satan himself?

But now Tyarz was in the hands of the pagans, its gates flung open, its holy places defiled by the blood of its defenders. Resis would need a new metaphor, and here was Meqn arrayed before him as he stood at the prow of a ship that had wended its way the few short miles down the coast from Tyarz. Behind him, the ship slouched in the water, a dismal vessel for its sullen cargo of vanquished warriors. He could scarcely bring himself to turn around and see the survivors aboard his ship. Even knowing most of Tyarz's garrison had safely escaped the city in its downfall, mere hours earlier, did not lessen his sense of shame. So much more could have, should have been done. More men, sturdier gates, more provisions, more sallies forth — yes, more could have been done. It was no use dwelling on the past, Resis knew, as he gazed ahead to his future: Meqn, hardly a substitute for Tyarz but a good place from which to crusade nevertheless. A brief respite here and the Knights of Saint Misrav would regroup and retake their prized city.

Meqn would do for now.

Ahead, on the city walls, the watchmen looked out over the plain with its dry grass and the dusty, empty road. They would see no stragglers from the fallen bastion to the north. The last wave of survivors had fled by ship or not at all. Half a dozen stout cogs followed Resis' own, each flying the Misravic pennant with none of the shame and humiliation Resis felt. Neither would he show it, certainly not to the bishop in Meqn. Better to feign and thus instill confidence, in oneself and in the meek. The bishop of Meqn was a popular preacher, and in a matter of days the numbers of willing crusaders would have swollen. Meqn's armouries would be hard-pressed to furnish such an army, but no doubt word of Tyarz's downfall was already spreading through Kur'zhet and Cadenza and willing hands would fill ships for the cause. Right now, however, Resis' immediate concern was the emptying of ships, as they pulled up to the quays of the oldest Cadenzan fortress in Azmir.

"So Tyarz really has fallen, then?" a voice called up from the wharfside. The voice of Tariq Lemithri. The voice of the bishop. Not even enough time to rehearse. Resis turned from looking over the ship, now a hive of activity, to face Tariq.

"Though it pains me to say it, yes, your excellency, my city is lost. We were forced to withdraw against numbers I had not imagined them capable of amassing, but naturally we shall now account for such multitudes."

Despite Resis' exuding confidence — a confidence he did not entirely feel — the bishop did not look at all relieved. "So the greatest fortress on the Sea of Jajich is fallen, garrisoned by ten thousands of the pagans, and here we stand scarcely fifteen miles to the south with not half the defences of its conquered neighbour. General, I am not reassured. Here your numbers are diminished, your walls thinner, your position less defensible. How am I to believe that Meqn will withstand what Tyarz could not?"

Resis knew the truth in what Tariq was saying. He did not expect Meqn to survive a siege, let alone a full assault, from the hordes that had assailed Tyarz. "Tyarz fell because we did not make use of our advantages in the open field. Each Knight is worth five and each Swordbrother two of their levy. Cowering behind a wall is not the way to win a war."

"You intend to march out of this city and meet them on the plain? You have a mere fifty hundreds here under you, Resis, even if you take the Hesperidesians and other visitors under your banner; scarcely enough for victory against the thousands away north."

Resis disembarked, striding smoothly from the shifting timbers of his vessel to the solid planks of the quay. "Periax will hardly bring ten thousand men to Meqn. He is too proud of his triumph to empty Tyarz and too cautious to empty Azmir. I doubt more than eight thousand will come, but they will come and they will come by sunset tomorrow. As I see it," Resis continued, in his element; for he truly did see it. Filling his vision was not the face of Bishop Tariq, nor the warehouses of the Meqni quays. Vast armies were arrayed before his mind's eye, drawing up in perfect order, preparing to engage one another on the broad flats outside the city. "As I see it our road forks in two. We can remain behind our walls, defending them for perhaps six, perhaps two months until the might of Cadenza is mustered and landing in our port. That is one path. If we go down the other path, I lead the entire garrison out to meet the foe in battle, a battle from which we surely emerge victorious. Of that I have no doubt."

Tariq still looked sceptical, but his stern demeanour had softened. Resis had swayed him. "You're certain of this? I do not mean to suggest I lack confidence in your military skills, General, but the morale of the men must be down and your numbers are by no means close to the enemy's. It will be no easy campaign, no matter how many Masses we offer."

Resis smiled confidently. "The Lord will be with us, your excellency, as He always is. We will win this battle, and then reinforcements too will come. The loss of Tyarz is but a temporary setback. Why, I expect I should be resident once more in its citadel within two months."
Last edited by Trellin on Sat Dec 24, 2016 1:21 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Lexmark
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Ex-Nation

Postby Lexmark » Tue May 10, 2016 8:08 pm

"It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it."
Robert E. Lee


Viridi Fields, Pagus of Carolin, Valle Crucis — October 1st, 1301 CE
In the rare moments of solitude, Severus Decimus found his mind wandering.

There was a foul wind stirring in the south, bearing aloft the promise of a bitter Autumn storm. Though Severus had long tended to the matters of his estate—his wheat harvested, his winter crops sown, the food stores prepared—he had yet to take his customary hunt in the Vale. His responsibilities to the local basilica had rendered his usual regimen untenable, forcing him to discontinue with the typical frivolities bequeathed by the coming winter. He wouldn't suffer a man to relieve him of his station, of course; perish the thought. He rather enjoyed the privileges of his new rank and title among the city fathers and the church elders. Still, Severus had cut his teeth in the mountains in his youth, hunting game that was both exotic and plentiful. The intense pleasure of the mountains, lost in one's own thoughts with nothing but his wits and his skill to survive... it was the true spoils of service to His Kingdom here on Earth. Were it not for his solemn oaths, he would have rather shuttered his estate and retired to the hills surrounding the city quay, nestled alone in the high country with only the empyrean soils to tend to...

The alpine forests of his youth were now lost to him; there was far too much to keep his interest rooted in the lowlands these days. Besides, his years of service to the basilica and the Church had begun to take their toll on him. Though he had yet to see his thirty-fifth winter, the days were growing longer, more difficult. The trek into the hills wasn't the most amenable of paths to begin with, and Severus's energy was but a pittance of what it once was upon his first odyssey into the mountains. Perhaps the stress of his new station was more draining than he had bargained for; the somber duties of the Order had made his lording over one of the city's most productive estates more a luxury by the week, and though his wife had proven a worthy helpmeet by assisting his steward in the affairs of his household, he had still felt remiss in not tending to some of the repairs to his livery. As it was, he would be lucky to complete the new stables before Christmas, rendering the entire Autumn a waste. Such thoughts of delay brought him great discomfort, though he attempted to endure with humility. The Lord's service was firm, but fair.

Was it fair to watch your only child be taken from you, so soon after birth?

Severus had to resist the urge to strike himself for such blasphemous thoughts. The wounds were still painful, still raw, and though he knew that he was making a mistake to dwell upon them, there was little that could be done to stop his grief from manifesting again, no matter how hard he'd tried to avoid it. Decimus looked backward to the narrow path beside the field he'd been walking, paying no mind to his horse tied to the branch of a tree by the wayside. It had, after all, only been a month since his wife's pregnancy had ended in a stillbirth. Their first child, a son whom he had sought to name after his father; a proud name, for what should have been the proud life of a proud son in a noble house. Instead, Providence saw fit to deprive him of the pleasure of raising his first child. His wife Aeliana had taken sick with grief for a week, eating nary a morsel until the physician forced her to take sustenance. Severus himself had hid himself away, trying to preoccupy his thoughts with the tasks at hand. Try as he might, ignoring the pain in his heart was proving troublesome. If only he could have held his child but a moment longer...

Even so, not as I would, but thy will be done, Lord. Forgive me, please.

In any event, what was could not be rectified, and dreaming wistfully of such wanton pleasures was unbecoming. Severus looked towards the southern horizon, taking note of the deepening gray squall line. Even from the bluffs of Viridi, he could see white caps churning in the sea far in the distance, bringing the renewed promise of a cold, frigid rain by the morrow. Already annoyed with his daydreaming, Severus set his mind to the tasks at hand, going over his itinerary for the coming week. He still had to drill his youngest company before their formal revue at the basilica, and the Order's own livery required careful attention. He still had to send his young attaché to Legavus to procure more oats for the horses, and he had placed an order for more stone from the city quarry that had to be hauled to monastery grounds. The roads would become impassable to the quarry if the early-Autumn rains arrived; the steep, rocky ascent would become a soupy bog, precluding the wagons needed to haul the cut stone back to the church. If he could send for his servants before the evening mass, he may manage the trip before darkness set in...

Someone is coming up the road...

Severus cocked his ear to the side at the sound of hoof beats on the pathway leading to the field. A rider, unfamiliar to him save the vestments of a church altar boy approached, following closely by his most loyal friend and adjutant, Vedius Cursor. Though he relished the opportunity to break bread with his long-time friend and confidant, he had not expected him this day, which implied something important was afoot. That he came resplendent in his finest attire was another sign; Decimus scowled, unable to contain his frustration outwardly. There was too much to do yet to be sidetracked by some pitiful errand of a cleric or his master. Even as the two approached, he had to work hard to reject his temperamental faults and resolve to display a quiet, thoughtful countenance to his two guests. It would be uncouth to demonstrate impotent frustration to his subordinates, or so he had to remind himself. Sometimes he wondered, and not for the first time, whether he wouldn't have been better off entering the priesthood. Alas, the peccancies of Valle Crucis would not cure themselves, no matter how wondrous it would be.

Though the young altar boy arrived first to the clearing where he stood, Vedius was already dismounting before the young messenger had even managed to get a word out. "Live forever, Lord Decimus! I pray we may have an audience?"

"Good day, Master Cursor," Severus exclaimed, moving to embrace his noble companion. "I wasn't expecting the honor of your company for another week or so. I take it your wife is in better health this day?"

"Indeed she is, thank you sir," Vedius replied. "Her fever broke the day before yesterday. The midwife and the physician have both taken residence with us; Master Florus believes she will be delivered in a fortnight."

"It seems like only yesterday, we were in flight from my father for breaking into his tobacco pouch," Severus laughed, remembering his incorrigible youth. "Running barefoot into the forest, fearful of the skin on our backsides. Now here you are, preparing for your first child; the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways."

"Indeed, He does," Vedius nodded. "Which reminds me; I am deeply in your debt for the effects you sent last week. I know how hard it must have been to part with such sentimental items. Truly, I am in your debt, Lord Decimus."

"It's what Aeliana wanted, and I obliged her," Severus shook his head, patting him on the shoulder. "In any event, think nothing of it. What brings you two here this day? Have you some news from the city to share?"

Master Cursor nodded, motioning towards the young messenger, who by now had dismounted, and was waiting patiently with neatly-folded parchment resting in his hand. "M'lord, with the compliments of Father Paulus."

Severus reached for the missive apprehensively, simultaneously reaching into his side pocket for a coin. He gently traded the paper for the money, nodding. "For your troubles, little one. Now return to the abbey with haste. It wouldn't do to be caught out on the roads after dark, not this far from the city-proper. And tell Father Paulus Lord Decimus thanks him."

"Yes, m'lord," the altar boy replied, bowing deeply, considerate enough to pocket the coin before mounting his colt. Vedius carefully walked his own mount out of the path of the messenger, who quickly retreated back down the road. As Severus unfurled the parchment, his mind was considering any number of monotonous tasks required of him by the church fathers. What he found however was so unexpected, it nearly took him aback. Without even looking at the signatory on the missive, the handwriting was quite familiar—he had become accustomed to the shorthand of his former mentor and teacher from his schooling. He had spent seven summers apprenticing under Brother Gharat Lokaran at the Monastery of Meqn in Azmir. He recognized the writing of his former master almost immediately, but the surprise was quickly consumed by the severity of the account provided, rendering any capricious remembrances ill-gotten. It was as if the full gravity of Brother Gharat's letter had pierced the very spirit within him, shaking him, leveling a task upon him far more dangerous and daunting than any in Valle Crucis could rival.

Image

AUGUST 1ST, 1301

MOST NOBLE MASTER DECIMUS, ESQ.:

I pray that this missive finds you well, or, at least better than our present circumstances here in Meqn. I regret to inform you
that a terrible calamity has befallen the great city of Tyarz in the north. Pagan armies have laid siege to it, and their situation
is most critical, I am sorry to report. Without the timely intervention of His merciful hand, it is thought that Tyarz may fall several
weeks hence. I pray you, seek guidance in these matters with your parish leaders. I fear that if Tyarz is allowed to burn under
the heel of a heathen army, all of Christendom may be put to the sword. Tarry not, my friend; make haste for Azmir and the
ports of Meqn. The Grace of the Most High to you and yours, my friend.

Image

Severus re-read the missive twice, then stared upon the parchment for a moment longer, as if he were continuing to read. The magnitude of defeat Christendom would experience should Tyarz fall unaccounted for was too grievous to consider. The mere fact that heathen armies were loosed on the continent was worrisome enough, but to consider the loss of Tyarz... his mind could barely grasp such a concept. During his time in Meqn, he had made several journeys to the great city, marveling at its fortifications. It was the presence of the Order of Saint Misrav in Tyarz that had inspired Decimus to establish the Equites Olivets in Valle Crucis; he had even shared in their colors, if not their signets and banners. To consider the loss of Tyarz was frankly an abomination unto God; such that could not stand, lest the souls of His servants be judged for their wanton disregard of duty and service to the Most High. He was forced to the conclusion that all other troubles would have to wait; Christendom was being put to the sword by the devil and his agents. His very soul could not find rest were he to abandon his solemn oaths before God.

I have already suffered the fierceness of His wrath. I should not to endure it again...

Vedius obviously took note of the grave concern on Severus's face. "I was in conference with Father Paulus at the basilica when a runner found him with the missive. Is it a request from the city fathers for our services?"

Decimus carefully folded the parchment, his expression most grim. "It is a communiqué from my former master at the Monastery of Meqn in Azmir. The great city of Tyarz has been brought under threat by a heathen army."

His adjutant's expression soured in the same moment he slipped the missive into his pocket. "Brother Gharat sent for you?"

"Yes, he did," Severus said more forcefully, already resolving himself to action. He had already started towards the grove of hickory trees where his mount was tied, running over the things to accomplish. "We mustn't tarry here for long, Master Cursor. I need you to return to the basilica and acquire a Writ of Passage from Father Paulus. Then I need you to ride out and sound the alarm; we must recall our strength quickly if we are to berth our forces in Azmir before Christmas."

"Sire, most of our troupe is busy tending to the harvest," Vedius winced. "It may be some time before we can muster at full strength, unless the city fathers see cause to assist in the management of their fields in their absences."

Severus openly grimaced, clenching his fist. "We can't wait on them to harvest their fields! Every day we delay our departure is the folly of our brothers and sisters in Christ. But the city fathers would not permit us this favor."

Cursor shrugged. "Could Father Paulus be persuaded to donate a tithe to them? Sweeten their disposition, perhaps?"

"I will pretend I did not hear that," Severus barked at his adjutant, seething. "I shall not impose upon the Church what we ourselves should resolve to undertake. We'll muster the Highborn Troupe, instead. We can take this company to Meqn shortly."

Vedius nodded slowly, warming to the idea despite a brief pause. "Yes... yes, that would be more expedient. Our best company would produce a better showing anyhow, and most of them needn't worry about harvesting their fields."

Decimus nodded confidently; a course of action was better than no plan at all. "Ride now, Master Cursor. Don't stop for anything; we muster at the quay in two weeks. Then we set sail for Azmir, and for war. Understood?"

"Yes, Lord Decimus!" Vedius answered boldly, climbing up onto his horse. "I will send the word!"

The adjutant hawed at his steed, using his riding crop to spur him onward back down the path from whence he'd arrived several minutes earlier. Decimus was already moving at a brisk pace towards his own horse, his mind racing in a thousand different directions. With the present company included, the Equites Olivets could field nearly one hundred men at arms; surely, the Knights of St. Mirsav were already mustering their forces for an attempt to liberate Tyarz from the siege of the pagan armies surrounding the city, if they had not already accomplished as much. Even still, the knowledge that precious days would be wasted in-transit to the continent expedited his movements. Christendom on the continent could not be allowed to be cast asunder by the blasphemous acts of the barbarians, the pagan heathens. If there was but one breath left to be drawn into his body, he would spend it casting his sword into the defilers who would rape and desecrate the House of God. Tyarz had been besieged, and Severus intended to ride with the full fury of the Host of Heaven with him into Azmir. For his Christ, he would that his life should be made forfeeit.

May Your fortune and favor find me once more, Lord, and my sins cast away.

"In service to you, my King," Severus prayed, climbing up onto his horse, preparing to make for his estate. "Amen."
Last edited by Lexmark on Tue May 10, 2016 8:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Romberg
Senator
 
Posts: 3964
Founded: Mar 15, 2013
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Romberg » Tue May 10, 2016 10:03 pm

Open waters

The small fleet now sailed into open water. Hugging the coast was too dangerous as native cannibals and head-hunters were rumoured to inhabit these lands. Besides, the air currents out at sea would be stronger, allowing for faster travel. This was desperate times. Even though Christianity had reached places as far as the Rombergian and Nikolian lands far North, things were much more dire closer to home. Much of this continent was still heathen. Unsaved. Hellbound. And he could not bear to know this. Every person deserved salvation. Why would one willingly turn away from hope and love? It was all very strange to Ansgar. But still, there were fellow Christians at risk here. Tyarz had fallen - once an example, a shining beacon of christiandom in an ocean of darkness. And it looked like if the momentum continued, this could spell the end of christianisation in these lands. Millions would be plunged back into ignorance and the fires of hell. The thought of this was almost unbearable. Hitting closer to home though was his precious bishopric. If the Northernmost states fell, it would surely be his turn not long after. He was prepared to die for God of course, but still there were many better ways to go than impaled on the spear of some pagan. On a more selfish note too, his little bishopric had grown rich from trade between the crusader states to the North and with established Christian states to the East. Preserving this cash flow would be to his benefit. Already unlikely to inherit anything, it was ultimately the only way he could sustain the way he lived. He was a noble after all, and it did matter that he was not living like some serf in a dirt hovel. Every person had their position in society after all.

There were times to think of such philosophical matters, but this wasn't one of them. The seas were just terrible. Gales blew alright, allowing the ships to sail at a brisk pace. Yet coupled with these winds were terrible currents in the seas. Waves battered the ships, tossing it several dozen feet into the air before crashing back down again. In a matter of seconds, the decks were swamped. Baling out was useless, as water would continue to flow in. Still, not sinking was a good objective to work towards. The weather did little for the health of Ansgar, as seasickness took hold of him and held tight. It seemed that whatever he ate, twice came back out. A very poorly state of affairs this was indeed. "Why, God?" Ansgar often wondered. But he knew God had a plan. It was a test of his faith and piety. Besides, compared to Christ's suffering, what was his? It certainly pales in comparison. All he could do now was pray. Maybe it was a sign too that he wasn't doing enough. And if prayer didn't work, he'd pray harder. That, and the hope that landfall could happen soon. Meqn would soon be the frontline, and he knew war was hell, but anything would be better than another day on these rough seas.
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Trellin
Envoy
 
Posts: 226
Founded: Jun 05, 2012
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Trellin » Sat Oct 08, 2016 7:31 pm

September 14th, 1301


Outside, stifling. The heat of the September sun crumbled earth to sand and baked sand to glass. Only the gardens of the Siresian monks and the cloistered lawns remained green within the walls of Meqn, and the orange trees regretted committing their moisture to their fruit. Nevertheless, birds sang throughout the city's many squares and streets, hidden in innumerable branches. The trill of a sparrow from a window ledge; the call of a gull perched on a rooftop.

Inside, cool stone and cool air. The vaulted ceiling of the cathedral lost far above the Mass-goers, just as the Latin of the Book of Jeremiah was going over their heads. The monks, crusaders and nobles among the congregation understood at least some of the excerpt, but to the average Meqni layman the Word of God was clearly never something they were meant to comprehend. More exciting was the presence of Saleb Resis in the congregation, sitting in the front pew in his finery as though he had not lost Tyarz but been made King of Meqn. Dressed like he had triumphed.

Yet, to the average Meqni layman, Resis' presence here confirmed their every fear. While the siege had been ongoing it had been possible to deny the rumours. While refugees streamed in it had still been possible to see some ray of light in the darkening skies. Even as ships had limped into harbour there had been many in the city who clung to the dwindling hope that Saleb Resis could still save Tyarz. Even if all his men deserted him, Resis was a hero, a demigodly figure. If there had been any hope for Tyarz, it was the knowledge that Resis was still defending its walls.

And now? Here he was in Meqn. Tyarz was lost.

The congregation rose and fell like the waves beneath the quays outside as reading faded into psalm and psalm segued into hymn. The Gospel - Luke - washed over the massed laity before, with the thunderous solemnity of the cathedral's water organ drowning out the silence, the bishop, in his red vestments, ascended to the high, carved pulpit. With one last jarring chord the organist commended his audience to Tariq Lemithri, bishop of Meqn.

"In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti," he began, and every man in the building dutifully crossed himself before he continued in Khadenz. "Today, brethren, we heard from the prophet Jeremiah that the Lord makes known to His servants when the wicked would lead them like gentle lambs to the slaughter. Here in Meqn we are no strangers to enemies of the faith. Indeed, it has not been one day since the pagans of Azmir assailed Tyarz. It has not been one day since Tyarz was seized by pagans. The weeping and gnashing of teeth in this city at that news! You would think that Periax had seized the gates of Heaven itself. The pride of men deemed Tyarz an impregnable city, a second Jerusalem, never to fall until the end of time. Wrongful pride made Tyarz to be invincible. Pride was its sturdiest wall, foundations built of avarice.

"It is not always wrong to be proud. Saint Paul wrote in his letters to the Corinthians that 'Whoever boasts should boast in the Lord.' When we are proud of our God and in His grace we glorify Him. When we are prideful and proud of ourselves we sin against Him. Let us not, therefore, put our faith and our pride solely in stone walls, however mighty, or in strength of arms, or in our own power. Let us rather trust in the Lord to deliver us who are His people by His hand. Let us trust in God and in the men who serve Him. Let us trust in our guardians and our soldiers and the heavenly grace bestowed upon them, that they may safeguard the Christian people of Azmir.

"Those of us who read Scripture will recall," Tariq sternly advised, "what Jeremiah goes on to announce, that the Lord will go to punish those who seek to destroy his servants. Just as the Lord was rejected in Nazareth, so too was Jeremiah despised by his people in Anathoth, and so are we opposed by the people of Azmir though Meqn has stood here for centuries untold. The Lord says "I am going to punish them", and so too shall the heathens and the heretics of this day meet justice. Let us not trust merely in our walls but in the strength of the Almighty. Let our warriors go forth to meet theirs on the fields of Azmir. We people of Cadenza, we Christians all, are here merely to spread the Word of God to the ignorant. As the Lord says, "But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and slaughter them in my presence."

"In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, Amen."

The congregation once more blessed themselves, silently wondering when their bishop had become so bloodthirsty even as they fervently agreed with the call. All eyes turned to Resis. Would he answer the summons and deliver Meqn from its enemies?
Last edited by Trellin on Wed Jun 07, 2017 10:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Trellin
Envoy
 
Posts: 226
Founded: Jun 05, 2012
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Trellin » Fri Apr 28, 2017 8:54 pm

September 14th, 1301


As the congregation dispersed after the Mass, a group of Meqni merchants picked their way through the thronging crowd to intercept Saleb Resis. Their leader, a warehouse owner named Timiet ti'Qarnin, manoeuvred past interwoven deacons and townsfolk, slowly gaining on the retreating figure of the local Order Master as Resis drew ever closer to the great front door of the city's cathedral. ti'Qarnin came within arm's reach of the man before a huddle of visiting pilgrims forced their way across his path. When they moved, Resis was gone.

ti'Qarnin cursed under his breath, stopping just over the threshold as his three companions caught up with him. Their eyes scanned the crowd, but for all his radiant finery Resis seemed to have vanished. Another curse forming on ti'Qarnin's lips nearly made its way out into the simmering world of Meqn before he suddenly espied the glitter of a knight's helm to one side, rising above the crowd. Taking its prominence as a portent, he shunted his way through teeming masses — all uttering some variant of "Good morrow, bishop, a wonderful sermon" to the enrobed figure of Tariq Lemithri, there in the portico — to come upon three Misravic knights, among them —

"Master Resis, a word, if you will." Thank Heaven above; ti'Qarnin and his associates had pressing concerns to air with Resis following the fall of Tyarz, and now there was talk of a siege or a battle here, at Meqn! It was vital that the city's merchants knew whether they were safe or if they should prepare to evacuate by sea.

Resis turned, inwardly frustrated at having been cut off mid-sentence. He breathed. "Ah, gentlemen. What can I do for such prosperously attired persons?"

That Resis did not immediately greet ti'Qarnin by name did not appeal to the merchant's long-nurtured vanity. He left his premeditated task by the wayside while he attempted to reassert his dignity. "Master Resis, it is a pleasure to have occasion to speak to you again." Recognition still did not flood across Resis' face, and so ti'Qarnin generously offered a prompt. "Timiet ti'Qarnin? We spoke at some length not two summers ago, about provisioning an outpost of yours on the Marzisa road."

"I provision many outposts on many roads every year, Timiet ti'Qarnin. I regret that I do not have the time to remember every face that organises a grain cart."

There were several moments while ti'Qarnin fumed internally and longed to offer some cutting retort for that insult, but he heroically fought the urge. His companions attempted to make eye contact with the wall while Resis stood patiently. "I shall take solace, then," he finally replied, "in knowing that your men at least appreciate the labour." Resis' smile in response seemed somehow sarcastic.

"Ah, Master Resis, as I am sure you have realised, we are senior members of this city's guilds," interjected one of ti'Qarnin's colleagues, bowing slightly as he introduced himself. "I am Karieg int'Roha, owner of the city's dyeworks. You must know that the prosperity of Meqn is vital to the prosperity of the republic as a whole, quite aside from the fears of this city's residents for their own livelihoods. What we mean is to seek some reassurance, a guarantee that you will do all in your power to protect this last great fastness from harm."

"Mister int'Roha, your question is one weighing heavily on every mind in Meqn. Indeed, I tell you, even when I have expended my utmost strength defending this city from harm I will not stop fighting her foes. You have my assurance that Meqn will be kept safe."

"Comforting words, no doubt," said ti'Qarnin, "but what substance lies behind them? I do not mean to sound incredulous, for your reputation is hardly founded on deceptions, but it is scarcely a day since Tyarz fell to innumerable assailants. Great numbers of our own guardians lie grievously wounded in the hospitals and barracks. The roads north are empty for fear of Periax's men and sailors are loath to unload their cargoes, so uncertain is this city's fate. How can this host, diminished since Tyarz, stave off what seems now so inevitable?"

A small crowd had gathered around as the merchants pressed their inquisition on the Order Master, all interested to see how the vaunted Saleb Resis would respond. His presence was some comfort, yes, but the creeping realisation was inescapable: Tyarz had fallen, and Meqn would have to be the next target. A handful of outposts on what had once been deemed the safest road in Azmir would do little to delay the marquis' approach. What, really, was there to be done? The questions voiced were demanding, haughty, but every imperious tone masked a fear common to all those who had grown accustomed to dwelling in the security of Meqn's walls. Never before had any Cadenzan city felt so real a danger. Even when the outer wall of Tyarz was breached, its defenders believed they could snatch their rightful victory, but here in Meqn the circuit of the sun simply counted the hours until their doom.

"What do you wish for me to tell you? That in my left hand I hold a shield wide and sturdy enough to safeguard a nation, and that in my right I hold some heavenly thunder with which to smite Periax from over the gate? Good people of Meqn, you heard the words of your bishop. The Lord will deliver us if we are faithful. I ask only for your trust and for your prayers. Have I an elaborate stratagem devised already? Hardly. I have been here but a day. Yet even now our scouts survey the land. Even now I and my commanders are conceiving plans to repel the enemy. But you know all this. There is no labour we would not undertake for the safety of this city. There is yet time for such things. For now, I must go to speak with Tiberius Asmiranus, of the Order of the Dragon, and with Meqn's own captain of the guard. I plan on meeting our foe on the fields outside this city, so that her walls may see no blood stain their stones and Cadenzan steel might win the day in a setting more familiar to us."

Resis bowed to the merchants and the assembled people, but as he made to leave a voice from the crowd called out insistently. "You have not answered his question. What will you do to protect Meqn? When the Knights of Saint Misrav lie bloodied in the field, when the ladders are propped against our parapets, what tactic will save us then?"

There were murmurs, mostly of agreement, although one or two seemed to chide the speaker. Resis simply nodded. "For that, good citizen, I would direct your inquiry to one who knows this city better than I. Such a man is Romulus Caius Agrippa, a good knight of my order. Into his hands I commend your question. Good day, gentlemen." With that, Resis was gone.

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Blackhelm Confederacy
Minister
 
Posts: 3364
Founded: May 31, 2006
Father Knows Best State

Postby Blackhelm Confederacy » Mon Jun 05, 2017 5:08 pm

The years had not been good to Lucius Vedius. As he sat, rocking back in forth in his cabin, watching water creak along the rotting wood walls, he recalled back to better days, days when he whiled away his time beheading natives and ransacking the mud huts and villages that they called kingdoms. It was only a few years back when Vedius himself had been an inquisitor, and was tasked by the Emperor himself to clear out newly conquered portions of the empire of the filthy pagans that once inhabited it. This was a job he loved, and he reveled daily in watching the fear in the eyes of those heathens as they begged and pleaded to be spared. But their fate was sealed. They had decided to resist conversion, to cling to the ways of their old defeated gods, and for that they needed to pay.

But all that, all that was years ago. Lucius had since fallen from grace, losing that much coveted position and any semblance of honor that he once held dear. And it was all because of those blasphemous tribes in the Highlands. Had they just submitted, or better yet just converted, Lucius would never have ended up in this mess. But now, as he sits in the hold of the creaky, rocking galley, he could even still hear the screams of his men, his friends, his own brother, as the savage Highlanders launched their painted bodies into their ranks, seemingly appearing from every angle, attacking with a vengeance and hatred even Lucius himself had never seen before.

He had just barely escaped with his own life, although there have certainly been times since when he wished that he hadn’t. He and the handful of men who survived the onslaught in the Highlands trickled back to Paradisa, where they through themselves at the mercy of the emperor and his court. It was not anyone who would have been spared for losing an entire legion of Imperial troops, but the emperor had a heart for Lucius’ past service, and so allowed him to keep his life. That, however, was just about all he was allowed to keep, as everything else was stripped away, and the former inquisitor quickly found himself a pariah in a society that once embraced him. None of his former friends would allow him to join them, to ride with them into the Highlands and bring vengeance upon those who had so wronged him, and thus Lucius decided to find his redemption in a land far across the sea. Word had spread throughout Paradisa that a force of men were needed to defend Christendom in Cadenza, and any able bodied many would do, even one as shunned as he. It took no time at all to make up his mind, and today, Lucius and a company of roughly a hundred and twenty other men, some social outcasts such as he, others stalwart believers in the cause, were pulling into a harbor far from home. Many would likely die in this foreign soil, but for those that survived, there was the ultimate goal; the chance at being welcomed into the world or heroes at home, and the chance to take on step further in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven into fruition on this Earth.
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Tarsas
Minister
 
Posts: 2035
Founded: Mar 25, 2010
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Tarsas » Sun Jun 25, 2017 8:57 pm

Meqn, Misravic Order
March, 1301 AD


A cloud of sand trailed the horses as they charged off into the distance towards the gate, rider's cloaks billowing behind them as they moved. People hurried to get out of their way on the crowded main thoroughfare that lead towards the main road, which would then lead off to the gates of the city. Romulus Caius Agrippa had ordered these men to go, his scouts. It was vital that they acquire word or proof of Periax's movements so they could plan their next action. He had no doubt that the man was planning his next move, but without so much as a single report, he was beginning to wonder.

He turned back towards the vast wall behind him. His section of the wall was directly next to a large barracks where his watch stayed and contained several rows of stables and other structures. Houses and businesses weren't allowed directly against the wall. Defenders had to be ready quickly without people in the way. Several chambers and dwellings were built into the wall's large stone face for people to shelter in or defenders to hide in and be a thorn in an enemy's side.

Agrippa had been contemplating battle strategies and drawing up plans based on his limited information for days. He knew that some wished to go out onto the field of battle and engage the enemy before they arrived at the walls. He thought them fools, the lot of them. The same enemy that broke Tyarz couldn't possibly be met without significant defenses behind the defenders. Honor and dignity was an effective court tactic but a poor battlefield one. The enemy cared or how honorable you were, only how he could best end your existence.

As he stood going about his business, he was suddenly accosted by a finely dressed caravan of merchants. They rode up up where he stood in pomp and splendor that he so despised about people on this kingdom and stopped, looking down as if he were supposed to bow or pander to them. He resisted the urge to drag the man that seemed to be the leader off of his horse.

"Timiet ti'Qarnin at your service sir. I trust you are Romulus Caius Agrippa? The good commander of these defenses?"

Agrippa raised an eyebrow. "Yes, I am he. What is it that you require merchant?"

Obviously offput at being addressed so casually, ti'Qarnin frowned. Clearly he was used to being addressed with some form of respect. "Saleb Resis has referred us to you in order to get an answer to our question. What do you intend to do to protect the livelihoods of this city and its people? It is important that you do so. We seek assurances so that we can assure those under us and those who depend on this city for their bread."

Agrippa frowned. Discussing his carefully laid battle plans with guild leaders was not something he was going to do. "Master ti'Qarnin, let us both be honest with each other here. You seek to know what I will do to specifically protect YOUR livelihood, not anyone else's. We are clearly men of conviction and ambition, though I took up the cloth and sword and you took up the coin. Both are necessary to any good society. The only assurance I can offer you is this; I will do all in my power to protect you and this city from the hordes of infidels. We are doing what we need to do to raise our chances of success, but what we are facing is a force unlike any other we've ever faced before. The city's walls are formidable, but our foes are also formidable."

He laid down the sword he was holding and leaned the pommel against a nearby wall. "The assurance I offer is this; though we may be outnumbered, we have the almighty God on our side and the infidels do not. We have a battle hardened capable force, we have wealth, and we have the supplies and strength to hold. Most importantly, we have the sea. As long as we have those things and God on our side, we cannot and will not lose this city ." He hoisted up his sword and raised it to the sky. "You have my word sir, that all of us in the order would sooner die than see this city fall to those animals, so help us God."

He replaced the sword in its sheath and turned away. "Now, if you'll excuse me sir, I have business to attend to."

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Trellin
Envoy
 
Posts: 226
Founded: Jun 05, 2012
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Trellin » Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:08 pm

September 14th, 1301


The dried and tumbled mud crunched underfoot as thick boots trudged across a barren field. To the west, just a stone's throw away, the chief thoroughfare of western Azmir lay silent and empty. A horse stood by a trough, disdaining the tainted water it held.

It was hard to believe that the roads were still watched by the eyes of the Misravic Order; that the outposts were still manned by stalwart Swordbrethren; that most of this land still recognised the authority of the Cadenzan Republic. Yes, Tyarz had fallen, and the ripples of that particular stone were still rippling westward across the Sea of Jajich, but it was Meqn that was the heart of this Christian province. If Tyarz had been a thorn in the side of Azmir, Meqn was a sharp lance through the foot, a constant source of difficulty for the margraviate, forever stymieing its westward expansion.

The horse whickered to itself, shaking its neck to remove some intrepid flies. The iron rings in its bridle jingled.

It was hard to believe that from this parched land flowed resources essential to the continued prosperity of the merchants in Cadenza and Canve. Vineyards across the province cultivated grapes and olives to make wine and oil, commodities prized by the kingdoms to the north. Gold was mined beneath the volcanoes which loomed over the coast like vast dragons, jealously guarding their underground hoards, like to anger without a moment's notice. On the thin coastal plain which stretched westward from those ominous peaks, another gold was cultivated: fields of wheat which fed the burgeoning cities of Meqn and, until recently, Tyarz. The harvest had been taken in, leaving the fields desolate.

The boots trampled across the dry mud of this now arid field, the hot September sun cracking the shallow and empty furrows and scorching any weeds that attempted to take hold. These boots were not the first today to leave footprints in the earth, though it was unlikely that the first pair would walk anywhere again today.

It was hard to believe that this territory, so vital to the power and prestige of that republic to the west, had been allowed to suffer so at the hands of vengeful Azmir, and not just suffer but see a prized jewel wrenched from the crown of the Misravic Order. Even the advisors and commanders of the Azmiri marquis had not expected Periax to capture Tyarz. It seemed likely that the duke and earls in Cadenza still believed that city, Christian Azmir's sturdiest rock, firmly under their dominion. The dust was only just beginning to settle. No one had time to waste.

The man bore no insignia, no badge of his office or order, but the deep blue cloak which identified him as a rider; but this was not new information. His horse stood patiently at the trough. A stamp on the inside of his helmet, now lying upside-down on the ground, identified its maker as a smith from Meqn. Already some sand had settled in the bowl of the upturned helm, and dust stained his spurred boots and the ends of his cloak. In turn, his blood stained the earth under his neck and head, stained the shaft of the arrow lodged in his neck, its splintered tip buried in the mud. He had been running away when he was slain; but this was not new information.

With a firm push of his thick boot, the soldier who had slain this man rolled the corpse onto its side. There was clearly very little this dead man could tell him. Slinging his bow over his shoulder, he knelt down to pull the cloak away from the man's chest, but again there was neither emblem nor badge. The coin purse at his belt was nothing more than a coin purse — but it did hold coin, so it was stuffed into this marksman's boot.

Hardly a marksman, really. This man, like his victim, was a scout, albeit a servant of Periax rather than whoever commanded at Meqn. It was simply luck that the shot had slain his quarry as he fled, surprised while watering his horse and thinking, for whatever reason or in a moment of confusion, that he could flee on foot. The shaft, hurriedly loosed, had pierced his neck. Perhaps he would have been more informative alive than dead, but it was better that he not inform the enemy.

The enemy, of course, was the garrison of Meqn, just over four miles away. The undulating terrain would hide it from view for another two miles, as the foothills of the Vekra Yarsali marched west to the coast. Nine miles to the north lay Tyarz, just within a day's march. The countryside seemed moribund, a jarring change from what had been, just months before, the chief road in western Azmir, a route that saw constant traffic of messengers, merchants and men-at-arms.

Vacant acreage stretched away to the horizon. To the east, it was crowned by the line of volcanic hills, grey phantoms in the heat, that constrained Cadenzan Azmir. To the west, somewhere beyond the ridge of the road and the curve of the globe, a softly evaporating sea rocked and swayed with the turn of the tide. But here — here there was nothing but a horse, a trough, a dead man and a scout.

And, of course, the spontaneously-generated flies.

There were seven sturdy outposts along the Meqn-Tyarz road, waystations fortified into watchtowers. The most northerly two lay abandoned since the siege at Tyarz, too close to Periax to be safe for their Christian custodians but too far from the siege lines to be reoccupied in their absence. These towers stood about three thousand paces apart, a mile and a half, and between each pair was a drinking trough for horses. In times of peace the road was constantly patrolled. Even with a great heathen army now festering in the north of the province, it was far from safe for an Azmiri soldier.

The horse did not belong to him, and he did not take it. There was no sense in attracting unwanted attention, or surprising his compatriots on a foreign horse and finding himself dead.

The Trellinese were unsure of their position. They must be, or they would not be reconnoitering their own territory with such intensity. They did not know where Azmir's forces were nor, presumably, their numbers; and their communication lines were broken, or they would not need to send scouts on the road from Meqn. This was all useful information to an invading force. If Meqn's commanders remained in the dark, she would soon find herself besieged and alone.


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