Scions [Fantasy|Reboot|IC]

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Scions [Fantasy|Reboot|IC]

Postby Krugmar » Wed Mar 17, 2021 4:52 pm




Old Palace, Varla
Tervain, Nekhur

From the balcony one could see the ruins of the River Palace, a vast and ostentatious display of elven and human architecture. It had once been the centre of the city, lording over its isle at the western end. Now little remained of its splendour. It had not been sacked during the siege, no, Imirian VIII had surrendered Varla before Nekhur's army had even started digging trenches. It had been demolished and ransacked as a message: that Tervain had fallen, and that all who refused Nekhur's ultimatums would suffer such a fate.

The court had moved to the older palace on the northern shores of Varla, nestled upon a hill. It had been refurbished some centuries ago, with new elven sections added, but the squalid and basic fortress at its centre remained. A perfect prison for a crownless king.

Mnesus moved back inside, ducking his head to get through. The doorways had not been designed for Kisharites. He made his way down the stairs, and entered the central room. It fit the criterion for a throne room, though it lacked the most important part: a throne. Mnesus had arrived in Varla to find Imirian lording over the nobles and Nekhur's own generals from a silver throne, a relic of old Erdelon. It had been melted down immediately, its silver going towards the war effort. Imirian had protested, so Mnesus had found him a wooden stool. Further public outbursts saw the king relegated to his chambers for the month.

It had been a peaceful month, but now Imirian had returned to tarnish the stool with the royal posterior. His robes were modest, Mnesus gathered most of his belongings had been taken during the sack of the River Palace, or servants had been stealing the rest. No crown or circlet adorned his head, another casualty of this war. The table supporting the map, around which generals of numerous nations and races were gathered, had been set up some way away from the king. Only a few Tervine nobles surrounded him, unaware of the otherworldly parasites within their brains.

"Lord Mnesus, no word from Khosrov at this time." Said Amar-Sin, a bald Kisharite general from the old aristocracy.

Mnesus nodded, and observed the map.


Khosrov's figure was nearing Folven, the first step to Monroyel. He had command of 30,000 soldiers. A mixed bunch drawn from across the empire, with Relyan archer corps and several war-bred Keratadons. A fearsome force by itself, but it was merely the vanguard. Yarim-Lim was in Rayen, with the remnants of his army. The Duke of Durheyn had won a surprise victory, enough to rouse interest in the rebellion at home and abroad. Irhamuwa had departed south with a small force of 5,000 to lay siege to Durheyn's keep. Would the old duke stand by his princess, even if it meant his lands would burn? Yes, but it would serve as a message to other Southron lords thinking of defecting.

Then there was the issue of neighbours. Aemia was like to stay quiet, hoping to remain forgotten. Gin Molduhr and Paluva had no love for Tervain, diplomats would soon be sent to placate and win them over. Tervain's fate would lie in the response from the big three: Serebyan, Valamir, and the Ironmark. It was the latter who could disrupt his plans the most. Serebyan was ruled by intelligent but cruel dukes, who would let their rivals do the bleeding, all the better for reaping the rewards in the anarchy afterwards. Valamir's king now had a personal stake in the war, with the death of his eldest son, but faced threats within and without.

The Ironmark, though, sat as the defender of the Southern Realms. A charge long forgotten by even the rump state of Severa, but not the proud Horse-Lords. It was the basis of their ownership of the Mark, of their protection of the Halflings and Dwarves, of their preeminence amongst the Southern Realms. A haughty and rough people, but skilled in war and horsemanship alike. The question was not whether they would intervene, but how quickly. Once mobilised, they would likely be entering Tervain by the time information reached Varla. Would they take the roads through Chaon or Venant, or pass through the Irongate and move immediately to Monroyel's aid?

"Inform Khosrov he is to give no quarter. If Folven does not surrender, it is to burn to the ground, the entire population to be made slaves and moved to Kishar. This will be the fate of any rebel settlements." Mnesus said, Amar-Sin quickly noting down the message.

A few thousand Balorenes were in Tervain, ravaging rebel-held settlements. They were a scattered and disorganised force, easily defeated in pitched battle, but a constant menace if all their war-parties were left unchecked. More gathered in Arugal. Mnesus had little control over them and their chieftain, as soon as word reached them of any Athedain forces entering Tervain, they would likely seek a chance to reclaim their homeland. Perhaps it would be wise to reach out to the Red Orc clans? Many of them harboured resentment against the Horsemasters, who had, with others, thrown them out of their new conquests. He would wait, once unleashed they could not easily be pulled back, and much of the Southern Realms bore hatred for them. This war was for now minor, best it kept that way for as long as possible.

He stared at Monroyel. It was the reason he had travelled down south, and now it was out of his hands. Everything would be sent to get it back. Men, elves, orcs, and goblins. Dogs of war, and the savage lizard-folk. Great beasts and otherworldly horrors. And if all else failed, he would take to the field. His ally had promised him help, and os he would take it if needs be.

First Monroyel, and then the world.
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Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Lunas Legion » Wed Mar 17, 2021 7:10 pm

Isabella de Tervain
Citadel of Monroyel
Monroyel, Tervain

Isabella was no military genius. She was not so arrogant as to presume she was, not with how she was raised, and most certainly not after her humbling the Battle of Faesyun the previous year. Perhaps this rebellion was, ultimately, doomed to failure, but even if it was, it was her duty to her country, to her dead husband, and her to rightful crown to at the very least try.

The Duke of Durheyn, that old bear of a man, was not here sadly, as much as she might have wished him to be. He was far more of a commander than she'd ever be, even as she looked down at the slightly torn map, small wooden pieces marking the armies of the rebellion. The Count of Alamine, Thevot de Dolvorn, was no patriot nor a particularly notable commander; he was, however, notoriously trickly, or he had been when Tervain was still a kingdom, for all his cocky and foppish persona. Marked by a wooden tower, it sat over Dolvorn Castle, perilously close to Rayen.

The Duke of Durheyn was of course a knight, sitting at Folven. He had the largest of the rebellion's armies, over half the strength that it had mustered itself. She neither trusted nor particularly liked the mercenaries that had been provided, but if nothing else, every mercenary that died for her cause was a good Tervine patriot's life spared. Finally, there was, of course, her own army, marked by a queen at Monroyel. She had been preparing to move south, to besiege and take Chaon and secure their rear, before joining with the Duke of Durheyn's army and campaigning eastwards just as she had last time, seeking to rally the south through victory.

Of course, even the best laid plans would hit snarls, like the letter in her hand, penned in the blunt, inelegant scrawl of the Duke of Durheyn's own hand, carried by messenger on horseback to her.


Six times my number approach towards Folven, according to scouts. I will give battle and take as many scum with me as I can in Henri's name. Long live the Kingdom.

Hermain de Durheyn, Duke of Durheyn

It broke her heart a little to look at whenever she read those words. The old man had never really gotten over his son's death, and she had privately suspected that the rebellion was as much about the chance of success, however slim a thread it might be, as it was about dying with a purpose and lance in hand rather than wasting away in his castle to him. Even so, she could understand why he did not retreat. There was nothing to hold between Folven and Monroyel, and despite the strength of Monroyel's ancient citadel, she did not know how long a siege it could withstand. If they were to win they could not simply hide away in their fortresses for the Nekhurians to crush them one by one.

No, they would have to meet them on the field. Victory would rally her kingdom to her, give them a chance at victory.

"Paper, and a quill." She called out, not looking away from the map, a waiting servant scrambling to provide them and she began to write with slow, graceful strokes.

My Faithful Duke of Durheyn,

I have obviously received your message, and if this arrives in time, I would ask you as your Queen to avoid giving battle alone and in vain against the foe that approaches. I will march out with my own host and place it under your command, so that whence we give battle to the enemy it is with the fullness of our might opposing it to grant ourselves the best chance of victory, for the Gods smile upon those who help themselves, and we shall sweep the Nekhurians from our fair fields.

Isabella de Tervain, Queen of Tervain

She rose slowly from her chair, folding the letter in half cleanly, melting a blot of wax onto it before sealing it with her signet ring. She did not possess the royal seal, sadly, as that lay with her cowardly traitor of a brother, and so she only had her own personal seal instead.

"Let the Duke's rider rest for the rest of today, but find him a fresh horse, and present him with this to return to the Duke." Isabella said, handing the letter off. She had an army to rouse to move, after all. They wouldn't be departing tomorrow, but armies were slow things to move at the best of times. She could only hope her army made it to Folven before the Nekhurians arrived.
Last edited by William Slim Wed Dec 14 1970 10:35 pm, edited 35 times in total.

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Postby Liecthenbourg » Thu Mar 18, 2021 2:13 pm


The Kingdom of Relya

The Solar Court, Arevitun
The Kingdom of Relya, Nekhur

"He did what?"

Her voice echoed throughout the empty hall. The Solar Court had adjourned, with little standing in the rays of resplendent sun that shone across its halls. Stained glass had made it so, when the architects had weaved their magics in the stone and assembled it for the Elven Emperors who once reigned, the entire court would light intermittently in bright oranges and blues. When Toros had sworn his fealty to Cimon; he knelt in the blue whilst his liege stood in the orange.

Vana now stood in the orange, her skin coated in sheets of the colour of the sun. Before her was a lone figure before countless portraits of Elven kings and queens, a painting of the Fealty of Toros and the crossed banners of the coat of arms of the Sun and Moon of the Elves and the Bull of Nekhur. This was not even beginning to describe the furnishings in the room: grand tapestries, carpets, water fixtures and places for sitting, eating and dancing. Behind her, what some Elves had seen as treasonous in its placing, was the portrait of Great King is Sadyhattes IV. A man few had met, though from what Vana recalled of her travel to Eatar -- he was pleasant enough.

The nobleman, to his credit, stood in the blue. He shrunk in its colour, staring with a look that sparked embarrassment and concern. This was no normal courier, no, the man in the blue had been to the Solar Court countless times in his youth. Once deemed a potential suitor to the heir, Amon of the line Gsus had seen his chances turn to cinder when he had failed the intricacies of the Elven courting system. Despite his preparation, the man had stepped on Vana's toes as they had danced at her 130th birthday.

Since then, he had served as one of Khosrov's lackies. And in this case, his errand boy.

"Well, it is said -- well, no, I saw it. He rode in Varla, atop his white horse Kaytsak, and approached Ati Mnesus of Nekhur himself, it is said. And he declared, with his sword held to the sky, that the lands and holdings of Sanant, Chie, Arac and their outlaying forts: Nuvoe, Harev and Burun were 'rightfully Elven' and were 'expected' by the Solar Court as compensation for their assistance in the subjugation of Tervain."

She scowled and sneered, her brow scrunching as her eyes narrowed to daggers. Her stare bore into him and weak men would melt under that gaze of the sun. The circlet she wore around her head shone brightly, the many gems that encrusted its form reflecting the beams of the sun in a radiance that mapped the stars around the room.

"And why did you or any of his retainers inform him this was a bad idea, Amon, of the line of Gsus, Who Knows Not How to Dance?" The Elven queen held her hands to her hips and raised her eyebrows at the man.

Amon, a friend of Khosrov and of his circle, was a secretive man. His hazel eyes hid countless a story, from what he had seen on campaigns to what he had overheard at court intentionally or not. Part of his charm was his charisma in telling a story, and part of the distrust of the man was that a man with words never fought fairly. Words as weapons were twisted and dipped in honey and poison; and as of late, Vana had heard herself, that Amon had taken to cavorting and drinking with Kisharite women -- and spending far too long with Ambassador Ziusudra.

"We could not, your Grace, for he was set on that course of action. You know Khosrov to be impulsive and rash, of course as his eldest sibling, and often vainglorious in his attempts at recognition." Amon often presented his case with appeals to common knowledge and understanding and when he was trying to court her, Vana had found it amusing. Interesting. Friendly. Here she saw it for what it was; a deceitful lie wrapped in his self-serving interests.

"I will give you a final chance to tell me truth and not falsity; Amon. For old time sakes, and for the love you once claimed to have for me." Her words were soft, but carried by the court. And they were sharp and clear, accentuated by the subtle fury in the fire of her eyes.

When he failed to reply, the crystal in the centre of her circlet cascaded in purple and pink.

Whilst Amon could not comprehend what was happening to him, save for sudden sensation of instantaneous paralysis, Vana could see it. For her, it was as if time had suspended its hold on the world. She stood, hovering over the ground, surrounded in the arcane energy that channelled through her and the circlet. Her eyes had glazed over, her form had become incorporeal and wraithlike, and her spectral hands clutched Amon on either side of his face.

"You are mine!" she echoed, though only he could hear.

In this instance of a piece of frozen time; Vana Arslanian had channelled into the Circlet of Arevlusin. Such a device was an ancient manifestation of religious and magical power, respected and revered, and held in custodianship by the Arslanian family. Its origins were mystified; but it was likely taken by the relatives of Firumbar who had established Ōrel Lyaṙn in the time of eons past; some four generations of Elves ago.

It allowed her to exert her control over her own kind, a way to harness secrets and desires.

The places were her hands held Amon's face grew cold and withered and she stared into the whites of his eyes, the cold sweat that formed on his brow and then the slow movement of his mouth as it exhaled a soulless breath.

"Your soul is my soul, you can't hide from me," she whispered as she placed a kiss on his forehead. She had learnt what she needed, feeling his memory and intention seep through his pores and through her essence. And then all returned to normal.

Amon clutched his head and rubbed his face, with Vana feigning a concern to him.

"Are you alright, Amon?" she asked with a tenderness only a mother could have.

The searing pain that ran across his head and mind, as well as the palpitations in his chest, caused the Elven man to reached for a support in a nearby stone bench. "I am fine, your Grace, I just need to lay down... it seems as if the journey from Tervain to here has left me quite winded!"

"Perhaps, my lord, that you should rest then. I will have some attendants cater to what you need; before you return to Khosrov with my stern warning." She held her hands at her lap and smiled, as even then servants that had remained hidden in side rooms and behind curtains funnelled out with jugs of water and wine.

Yet behind that smile, Vana was disturbed. For his words were false. Her brother had done what he had said, yes, but... Amon and the others; Barsam, Garabed and Nazar had told him it was a smart idea. They had goaded him on. For what purpose, she knew not. But it was disconcerting.

The Vanguard
Nearing Folven, Tervain, Nekhur.

A map of the city was sprawled out upon a table within a tent.

It was a purple and silver marquee that was erected upon a hill; around which a camp had grown in all directions. The outlaying villages had been saved the typical collection of food and produce given the

Placed atop the map were carved figures of marble, jade, brass and a singular of silver. The singular piece of silver stood outside of the city of Folven, a resplendent symbol of the mixed sun and moon sigil that was Relya's iconic piece of arms. The brass ones were to represent Mnesus all the way in Varla and the army coming from behind Khosrov. The jade was the remnants of the other armies under its command, inconsequential to Khosrov's grander schemes. The marble was a material "too fanciful" for the rebels; but for the Elves Monroyel was a city of marble. And that was what it would forever be remembered as.

Khosrov pressed his knuckles into the table, already adorned for the day in his plate. A sword was at his belt, and around him munching on their breakfasts were bald and tattooed Kisharites and braided haired Elves. Even a Talassan or two.

"What it would be to put it to siege, do you not think? What a fight that would be!" Khosrov lamented before clapping his hands together and pacing around the table. The others gave nods of approval and grunts with their full mouths, eating stews and breads and an assortment of dishes. One of the officers nursed a flagon of Tervain wine.

Khosrov reached for the flagon and yanked it from the man; scowling at him with narrowed eyes. "You have time to drink when we win, Elutil." The name came out strange and stressed, as if there were difficulties in the pronunciation of the tongue. "Yet it may be for some time."

"We will do as is expected. We can expect and anticipate, as per the words we received from Mnesus, of the mobilisation of those Horse-Lords." The first thing that crossed his mind was a pang of resentment: that they would bring themselves to bear in this instance and not when Cimon waged war on the Elven coast. "And we are to send a missive to Folven; and to prove I am serious in its intention my squire and younger brother Kourken shall deliver it. Along with the sword of the Duke's son. Let him remember that I struck him down; yet that I am not without mercy. He fought valiantly."

In truth, it was not. Khosrov, if he had done the felling blow, did not remember it. The rush of an abjuration fuelled martial brawl, which he then nursed away the exertion with alcohol, did not lend itself to memory. The kill had been accredited to him, however, and he had found the sword in the aftermath of battle.

"Kourken shall go with the offer of surrender and the sword; ahead of us, and by the time they've had it to ponder -- Folven should be within our grasp anyway."

Addressed to the Duke of Durheyn,

This will be your only chance of surrender. If you do, your people will be left undisturbed. Your soldiers will be allowed to return home. You and your fellow nobles will be taken to Varla, but will not be harmed.

If you do not surrender, you and this entire city will die.

Along with this letter you will find the sword of your son. He fought nobly and valiantly.

Khosrov, Prince of Ōrel Lyaṙn.
Last edited by Liecthenbourg on Fri Mar 19, 2021 5:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Rodez » Thu Mar 18, 2021 3:42 pm

Jalo Roveda
Citadel of Nurkkaly

To see the prince’s ear blossom is to look upon a child of the divine. So Nindrol the Bright, elf warrior-poet and first of the Ten Saintly Masters, had written. Their conical, lilac-colored flowers were said to bring good fortune to those who looked upon their first bloom at winter’s end. Inland, the prince’s ear was found in the wooded wilds of Mestan’s four river valleys, tucked away between hillocks and hiding a little piece of the country’s beauty.

Here amidst the state gardens of the citadel Nurkkaly, in the great port-city and capital Mishgrod, the prince’s ears were confined to a handful of embankments around two central fountains which fed the greater part of the gardens. It was tradition, in the first weeks of springtime, for the Shogun to invite the notables of Mishgrod to his fortress-home to witness the very first blossoms. It was a way for the Mestani to inaugurate a new year, and a means of forgetting past troubles. All was made anew under the lilac of prince’s ear.

It was not springtime now. Jalo Roveda sat cross-legged in the grass, draped in simple sea-green robes held together by a white-lacquered leather belt inset with onyx stones. His gaze was fixed on the stands of prince’s ear, which were no longer newborn blooms but fully blossomed flowers, obscuring the stone fountain walls with lilac and giving the impression that the water was rising from among their number.
Jalo adjusted his belt, called the Band of Kings, which only the Shoguns of Mestan were permitted to don. He himself was no king – a Shogun wore no crown, sat no throne, and controlled a dynasty only inasmuch as he cultivated political proteges. For the warriors of Mestan, the soturi, had risen against their corrupt monarchy three hundred years before and cast it down. Eino Hevesi, last of the palace Shoguns and the first of them to rule, had stripped the Band from the battered corpse of Tarmo Enyedi, the last king. Now it formed a symbol – not only of the mere office, but of power – the power of the soturi, these warriors who were now the power in Mestan. That had been the War of the Houses, after which Mestan had known no royalty.

His fingers taking the utmost care, Jalo bent slightly and took a cup of mulled wine from the tray the servants had lain before him. His hawk features strained under the heat of the drink, green eyes shrinking and squinting. He had a stony, hardened face, like the wind had blown unceasingly over it for the forty-one winters of his life.

A little wine caught the bottom of his prominent nose – slightly large on his craggy face, or so said his detractors. He pulled back instinctually, made a sour expression. The poets who liked him – and most did – enjoyed the old scars that distracted from a razor-sharp jawline, and the last remnants of child-like dimples that gave him an air of youthful charm.

But the most marked feature of the Shogun, by friend or foe, was his copper hair. The Mestani, by primeval custom, placed great store on shades of red or copper in the hair, marking it as a sign of fate for its rarity among them. Jalo’s opponents saw the shoulder-length copper locks and spoke of a storm of fire, a cataclysm that would swallow the realm whole. His friends trumpeted him as a banner of glory, a return to national splendor, the herald of a new age.

Of late, Jalo was worried more and more that the former interpretation held the ring of truth to it. The Mestani were superstitious folk, to be sure, and Jalo was just a man, but the encroaching hordes of the Ishkhanate spelled imminent disaster for the whole Shogunate. Never mind a threat to the Shogun’s power – the orcish warlord to the south might well represent the end of Mestan if his armies could not be turned back. More princes than he could count had fallen to the Ishkhan these last ten years, whether by blade or by submission, it made no matter. They all fell.
Jalo grimaced a little, wine-touched lips curling over straight teeth in an animalistic snarl. If we are doomed to fall to the hordes of the steppe, it will be a battle for the ages, he promised himself.

“‘Their victory will be purchased with rivers of blood,’” intoned a voice off to his right.

The Shogun turned a little, recognizing among the golden-berried comberry bushes the diminutive figure of Tukkaa Veralainen, his suuri vanhin these last seven years. The position was one part bodyguard, one part butler, one part chief minister. Which was good for Jalo – besides being a highly capable administrator and devoted friend, Tukkaa was also the best swordsman he had ever seen. The vesireitti – “way of the water,” as foreigners called it – was the ancient sword-art of Mestan, and Tukkaa knew every subtle move and dance the way a hunting hound knew scents. That was, indeed, how Jalo often conceptualized the man: a loyal foxhound, except one that was liable to cleave off your head with a katana.
“You quote from the Saintly Master Usko Bottyán, Third Analect,” Jalo guessed.

“Allow me to persist, then,” Tukkaa said, stepping out onto the stone path from behind the bushes. His jet-black hair sparkled under the pale sunlight, dark eyes piercing the confusion of the gardens and locking directly with the gaze of his Shogun. “‘The good general does not submit to long odds.’” He spoke with the certainty of a man who spoke truth. Although he was well into his fifties, the faint lines of his rounded face gave him the look of a man little older than Jalo himself.

Jalo shook his head slightly, finished his cup of wine, stood. “Walk with me, Tukkaa.”
The suuri vanhin fell in besides the Shogun, slipping easily into the position on his flank that had now become instinctual. They strolled at the easy pace set by Jalo, beginning at the central fountains, and proceeding towards the stands of young silver birch.
“I am not submitting to anything,” Jalo said. “But I am forced to acknowledge the gravity of the threat before us. The Ishkhan – he’ll march soon.”

Tukkaa found sudden interest in his sword belt, which held both the katana and shorter wakizashi blades that were the military staples and social symbols of the soturi. He adjusted it needlessly. “Your Eminence, the realm is not ready to bow and scrape before an orc. Many are scared, true. But they need the strength of your leadership, not the wavering of the hopeless.”

Jalo gave his bodyguard a hard look. Any other man in Mestan would have lost his tongue for speaking that way to a Shogun. Part of being the Suuri Vanhin was having his absolute confidence – the ability to speak frankly, as friends. Even the Grand Council, when in session, had to observe the minimums of decorum. “You know that I am not hopeless,” Jalo retorted. “It would make little difference if I were. You’ll recall as well as I that the Creed also commands the warrior to fight regardless of his hope for victory. His honor is staked upon it. Mestan’s honor is staked upon resisting the Ishkhan’s hordes to the last. He has arrived, and there is nowhere to run. We’ll face him down amidst our hills and lakes and have an end to this terrible thing.”

“News came this morning of another raid on the border, this time along the shores of Palosaari,” Tukkaa said. “Two or three hundred orcs, and a few snake-men. Two farmsteads were burned, the families slaughtered. The border guards came upon them and chased them back south.”
A stiff breeze came upon the garden, lifting the boughs of the silver birches and whipping a few loose leaves around like leaping fish. Jalo gritted his teeth. “The Great Council meets tomorrow morning,” he said. “I intend to ask it for war powers. None can deny that we have arrived.”

“You already had a majority, even before this news,” Tukkaa pointed out. “This will surely push a few of the fence-sitters over to our camp. Those that insist on voting against you now risk the label of traitor –’’

“Let’s not go there yet,” Jalo cut in. “Dire as the situation may be, I am not yet ready to subvert three hundred years of custom.”
“It will be necessary,” Tukkaa warned, halting mid-stride, and forcing the Shogun to turn and face him. “Our people are accustomed to war, but not like this. There should be no limit to the lengths you are willing to go.”

Jalo said nothing. “Until I win the vote tomorrow, we are not having that discussion,” he said finally. “For now, we must strengthen our defenses where we can. The garrison at Taszár . . .?”

“Five hundred soturi in the fortress,” Tukkaa answered instantly. “And its levies are ready to be raised at your word. The most war-ready province in Mestan, as always.”

“Send four hundred of the Vermilion Guard to reinforce them. And send another three hundred to Kurikka,” Jalo ordered. “I will ride south myself, the day after tomorrow. We will also need to exercise some diplomacy. There is no winning this war without allies.”
“Basuvar?” Tukkaa asked, his face betraying disdain. “They are a shadow of their old power.”

“And our ancient enemy,” Jalo added. “But I do not think this matters any longer. They share a border with the Ishkhanate, same as us. They’re as threatened by him as we are. It would be folly to fight him alone. You will dispatch an emissary to their capital. I was thinking the old Councilor, Riho Csatar. He is a soldier of great repute. My son will go with him.”

Tukkaa pursed his lips. “You would send Tahvo? He would be safer here in Mishgrod.”

“Which is why I would have him accompany Csatar,” Jalo countered. “Nineteen is more than old enough for the lad to get into the thick of things. It does not become the son of the Shogun to sit at home at a time like this. His presence will lend the mission much credence.”

Tukkaa bowed hastily – not in the obsequious manner required of a common man. “It will be done, Your Eminence. Is there anything else?”

Jalo held up a hand. “One more thing. Dispatch a ship to Rhelerica and one to Tamarask. We’ll have need of the former’s fleet if they will agree to help us. And we must search for mercenaries in Minilar.”

Tukkaa nodded. “The treasury is not overflowing with coin, but it could support a regiment or two. I will ensure that no door is left unopened.”

The two men embraced. Jalo allowed himself a small smile. “We are going to war again, Tukkaa.”

“Your Eminence, you know that to die in battle, in your service, is a death of incalculable magnificence. Should I desire it to be another way?”

“Mhm. For myself, all I desire at this moment is some of the shrimp broth the kitchens are making for supper. Shall we?”

The suuri vanhin bowed to the Shogun again and fell into his usual position. Foxhound and master made their way from the edge of the gardens to the citadel’s curtain wall, where a harsh southerly wind roared against the waiting stone.
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Reverend Norv
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Founded: Jun 20, 2014
New York Times Democracy

Postby Reverend Norv » Fri Mar 19, 2021 2:43 pm

The Bronze-Hall
March of Ealliren (The Ironmark)

Twelve Days Ago

The last league went quickly. From the rickety palisade of Ethandune, whence a man could see for many miles across the sea of grass, the Warden's guards watched the distant hwiða and rider gain speed as they raced across the moor. Man and beast could sense home, and hard-earned rest, near at hand. Now both raced through the gate in a spray of mud, and one of the guards turned to his comrade. "So," the eórod said laconically. "It will be war, then."

The Ironmark was not a country of cities. The Aðadain were a people of the steppe; their homes were scattered ranches upon the vast and rolling grassland, where the endless leaden sky could comfort their spirits. And so Ethandune was, by most standards, little more than a village: a maze of wooden homes and livestock sheds and stables, piled on top of each other upon a gently sloping hill. Through that maze, hwiða and rider wound their way uphill to the great oaken hall at the city's apex: the Warden's hall, where bronze runes glinted upon the walls and gables under the colorless sun.

After six days' hard riding from Folven, Hereward Brandling wanted nothing more than rest. He could feel the same yearning in Feácandel: his hwiða, the battle-comrade of his youth. The warhorse put on a good show for the watching townspeople, but the bond between man and beast was too strong for Feácandel to hide his exhaustion from Hereward. When the general reined in at last in the small packed-earth square in front of the Bronze-Hall, Feácandel let his head drop a fraction of an inch. It was all the admission the hwiða's pride would allow. Hereward slapped the side of Feácandel's neck. "My good friend," he murmured, and Feácandel whinneyed in spent recognition.

A woman marched determinedly toward hwiða and rider across the square. Leofflaed Sumorling was tall, and beautiful in the Aðadain fashion: her face was all chiseled cheekbones and chin, symmetrical and unyielding. She took Feácandel's bridle and looked up at Hereward. "Will you stay?"

Hereward glanced at the Bronze-Hall's steps. A small group of older men waited there, clad in the buff leather and mirror-bright Colborn steel of eórodain armed for war. They deliberately averted their gaze: for Leofflaed Sumorling was a widow and no wife: nor of Hereward, nor of anyone else. For her part, Leofflaed followed Hereward's glance and tossed her head scornfully, dismissing the opinion of the Witangemot without uttering a word.

Despite himself, Hereward could not stop the admiring smile from flitting across his face. "I don't know yet. Aedelfrid needs to raise the Black Banner. Tervain will not last the fortnight without help. So I suppose I'll be staying until he does."

Leofflaed nodded thoughtfully, and stroked Feácandel's forehead. Then she looked Hereward straight in the eye. "It's good to see you."

For a moment, it was there in the air between them, thick enough to cut with a knife: loneliness, and need. Hereward allowed himself to hold Leofflaed's gaze, until he saw the ghost of a knowing smile behind her eyes. She leaned back her head, and her dark hair moved off her white neck. Hereward kicked his feet free of the stirrups, and slid to the ground alongside his hwiða. Feácandel, a sympathetic chaperone, discreetly shifted to place himself between the lovers and the waiting war-council.

They were face-to-face now, and at least somewhat hidden from prying eyes. "Tonight?" Leofflaed murmured. Hereward nodded.

That was as far as they could go, in public. It was in the nature of things: an open secret still had to remain a secret, at least in name. Leofflaed led Feácandel away toward the stables. And Hereward turned, and trudged up the steps of the Bronze-Hall to join the Witangemot. A great grey-haired man with a Colborn steel hook in place of his right hand clapped Hereward on the shoulder. "Welcome home," said Osbeorn Wulfling, and raised his hoary eyebrows. "Well?"

"They will not last the fortnight without that we ride." Hereward's voice was flat. "The Warden?"

"Your cousin is..." Osbeorn's voice trailed off. "Well, see for yourself."

Inside, the Bronze-hall was dark and smelled of smoke from the low bed of coals in the center of the hall. At its far end, facing the door, sat Aedelfrid Brandling. The Warden of the Ironmark was not a king. He had no throne. But he did have a High Table: for the Bronze-Hall was designed for feasts, not formal audiences, and at the front of it was an elevated table where the Warden could entertain his eórls and the elders of the Witangemot. There Aedelfrid sat: eyes closed, rubbing his temples, listening while his dwarven secretary read the day's correspondence to him.

When the Bronze-Hall's door creaked open, Aedelfrid looked up and saw Hereward among his other councilors: a tall man, lean and strong but with prematurely greying hair, his cloak and armor spattered with mud from the road. The Warden waved a hand. "We'll pause there, Armann. For an hour." The dwarf nodded, and began tucking his parchments back into a leather bag.

The gate creaked again, and then closed, leaving the Warden alone with his council. For a long moment, Aedelfrid just looked at Hereward, and Hereward looked back, and suddenly realized: the Warden looked old. Only fifteen years separated the two men, but Aedelfrid's dark hair had gone thin, and the skin was tight around his face and his bony wrists. At Hereward's side, Osbeorn Wulfling cast Hereward a significant look.

Still, when Aedelfrid spoke, his voice had the calm, reassuring reasonableness that had won him his office at the Eórodmot. "Welcome home, cousin," he said to Hereward. "What news from Tervain?"

For the third time, Hereward took a tight grip of his feelings and replied: "If we do not ride now, all will be lost in a fortnight."

Aedelfrid smiled ruefully. "Well might you say it. Eorl Osbeorn has been telling me the same thing this last fortnight and more, even without your report." Aedelfrid's cloudy green eyes shifted to the one-handed warlord. "Perhaps he has the Second Sight."

"Perhaps it doesn't take the Sight," Osbeorn snapped back: treason, in another court. But the Warden was a servant, not a king; oath-bound, not anointed. The men in this room spoke with near-equality.

"Perhaps." Aedelfrid repeated. Hereward watched his cousin's thin hands unconsciously wringing each other in Aedelfrid's lap. "Perhaps. Perhaps the weather will change, and Mnesus' siege train will bog down in mud. Perhaps he will be assassinated. Perhaps Tervain could have stood on its own. Last year - the year before - the year before. Perhaps..."

Hereward darted an alarmed glance at Osbeorn. Aedelfrid had always been a somewhat passive spirit, but this was different: the rambling of a seemingly very old man. If nothing else, Aedelfrid had at least always been smooth. Hereward stepped forward. "Lord. I know what I saw. An we raise not the Black Banner - "

"Aye. All is lost. Aye." Aedelfrid braced his hands on the table and forced himself to his feet. He legs were trembling, Hereward saw, and suddenly suspicion became certainty: this man is sick. "But what if we do raise the Black Banner?" Aedelfrid demanded. His gaze raked over the old warriors of the Witangemot. "We ride to battle against half the world, lords: an empire that reaches from here to the farthest waste beyond Kishar. We may triumph on the field for a day, but Nekhur measures its plans in centuries. They will bleed us white, and even if we prevail for a time, what will we have bought with all our sons' lives?" Aedelfrid threw up his hands and collapsed back into his chair. "Tervain. Arrogant, sneering, naive Tervain - the weak link in the frontier - back to gall us again. For that? For that you would have me risk our utter destruction?"

There was a long moment of horrified silence. The Warden had spoken blasphemy, or something very near it. Osbeorn's face darkened with fury; Hereward clenched his jaw and looked away. Finally, Eadgar Leohtling - a slim, graceful old man with a mane of silver-white hair bound back in a loose queue - took a step forward. "Nor flinch thou, nor falter, in the face of fell fortune," he recited. "Nor aided, nor daunted, nor ceasing, nor hoping - for aught but grey-iron, for duty and death." Eadgar's voice was soft, but it carried the authority of absolute conviction, and the Witangemot nodded solemnly behind him. "Our oath, my lord, does not count the cost. If this be our end, yet it is not within our power to shirk it."

"Not even for Tervain," Osbeorn grunted, and a low chuckle ran through the small group of men.

Aedelfrid stared at his hands. As the chuckles dissipated, Hereward felt the tension in the room. Only the Warden could lead the Mark to war, and the Witangemot could not remove him. But the Eórodmot could vote out a Warden, and no Warden had ever been reelected against the advice of the Witangemot. The Eórodmot met in just under two years. By that time, if Aedelfrid did not ride, it would be too late for Tervain. But it would also be too late for Aedelfrid.

"I do not know why I wanted this duty," Aedelfrid softly said into the silence. "Truly. I cannot remember why."

There was a long moment of great stillness. Hereward saw Osbeorn Wulfling, who had once been Warden, nod wearily to himself and look away.

"So be it," Aedelfrid said hollowly. "I will raise the Black Banner. The First Fyrd will be ready within the week." This meant the first six thousand eórodain to respond to the summons: usually men from the ranches and homesteads closest to Ethandune. Those areas were mostly inhabited by Brandlings: the clan of Aedelfrid and Hereward. "My cousin will take the Fyrd to Tervain, to buy time - along with all of these mercenaries who have been eating us out of house and home of late: the silver men and the barley dwarves and the silly plume-headed men from the south." For just a moment, now that the die was cast, Hereward could hear the old Aedelfrid again: the sly irony, the knowing humor. The Witangemot laughed, and the Warden nodded to Hereward. "The rest of the Host will take longer to gather, but it will come."

"We will need to be ready to strike Aragal, too," Osbeorn noted. "Mnesus will unleash the Balorenes. I can harrow them with five thousand spears, force them home to defend their farms."

"Then the next fyrd will go to you," Aedelfrid nodded. "And the one after that to Eadgar, to guard our western approaches. Avion's greed waxes great in Seher, and it is not impossible that Nekhur will use them to open a second front."

Eadgar, whose lands were in the west, nodded soberly. Osbeorn shook his head grimly. Hereward looked at Aedelfrid. "With six thousand spears, I can buy time for Monroyel," he agreed. "With the mercenaries to help, perhaps I can even press the foe onto the back foot. But no more."

"The Host will come," Aedelfrid said. "My heart aches sore for it." He looked at the men of his council, and closed his eyes for a moment. "But you have my word. The Host will come."

Afterward, blinking in the weak sun outside the smoky darkness of the hall, Osbeorn laid his hook gently on Hereward's arm. "Thank you," he said quietly. "I do not think he would have gone along so willingly without that his kinsman asked it of him."

Hereward shook his head briefly. "Perhaps he wagered poorly. He fears for his chair in two years, when the Eórodmot gathers." A muscle twitched in Hereward's cheek; he thought of Leofflaed, and the warmth of her bed, even if only for one night. "But I do not think my cousin has two years left to live."

Osbeorn sighed, and then let out a short, humorless chuckle, and shrugged. He nodded to northward, out across the sea of grass. "God knows if any of us do."

* * *

First Fyrd
Approaching Monroyel
Kingdom of Tervain


The last league went quickly this time, too. From the walls of Monroyel, six thousand eórodain appeared at first as a distant mirage; a distorted shimmer hanging in the air upon the south road that led to the Irongate. It was the effect of the sun reflecting upon a small river of mirror-bright Colborn steel armor, so that from leagues away the light seemed to twist and flicker in a glow around the cavalry. That distant halo swiftly resolved itself into a less glamorous, but more welcome sight: a column of riders, six abreast and well over a mile long and surrounded by a cloud of outriders, moving toward Monroyel at the distinctive fast trot - much faster than a man could run - that let hwiðas travel more than a hundred miles each day and arrive still with strength to fight. Closer, the mirage-glow faded, and the riders looked worn: their buff leather and plate splattered with mud, many unshaved and hollow-eyed. But sword and bow and quiver still gleamed on each saddle, and the long eórod-lance swayed upright in its travel scabbard behind each man's leg. The wind whistled above the riders' heads through a low forest of wickedly sharp spearpoints.

They had made the ride from Ethandune in five days: a brutal, exhausting pace even by Ironmark standards, and somehow almost a full day faster than Hereward had made by himself. Most of these men of the First Fyrd had been riding for another three or four days before that, reporting in from the steppe around Ethandune to answer the emergency summons of the Black Banner. But all knew that time was everything, now: an extra day's rest might mean the difference between victory and defeat. And so Hereward and his second-in-command, a grizzled warrior named Redweald Weardling, had forced the pace. Now, as Hereward saw Tervine banners still flying over Monroyel's marble towers, he knew that his haste had not been in vain.

The mercenaries, whatever their other merits - which most Ironmarkers were inclined to regard as profoundly dubious - could not possibly have matched the eórodain's speed. Partly in recognition of that, and partly to confuse Mnesus' spies, Hereward had sent them by a different road: west from Ethandune to Venant, there to turn north toward Monroyel. Hereward had heard that a Nekhur garrison was still holding on in that border town, and he hoped that the slower-moving sellswords might take the opportunity to chase the enemy off and secure the rebellion's rear. More importantly, the fact that Nekhur troops were in Venant meant that Hereward knew for a fact that Mnesus would hear when the Silver Cloaks and Barley Regiment and their ilk appeared in the area. With luck, he would believe that the Mark had chosen to attack from the south, and he would not realize that six thousand eórodain were already in Monroyel - not until it was too late.

The mercenaries, of course, had not been told of the reasons for this plan. Hereward wondered if Theron, the clever Talassan captain, could guess them. None of the sellswords had been eager to take orders from the Warden; they had been hired by the Tervines using Serelyodi coin, and the Mark had no part of their contracts. But Aedelfrid had been naysaid quite enough already by the Witangemot. He had made it clear to the mercenaries that they could either march for Venant or get out of the Ironmark and find their own way to Tervain. The answer was a foregone conclusion.

Hereward was grateful to Aedelfrid for that much, at least. He had grasped the essentials. Speed and surprise: that was the key. The fyrd had encountered a raiding party of Balorenes two days earlier. With more than usual bloodthirstiness, the eórodain had hunted down every single man. None could escape to tell Mnesus by what road the Mark was riding. Some of the riders' cloaks still bore the bloodstains that proved their thoroughness.

Now, this battered and bloodied column reined in at last before the shining white walls of its destination. The eórodain lacked many of the fripperies of other armies. They had no embroidered banners, and no gilded armor or silken cloaks to mark their leaders. Hereward and Redweald, at the column's head, looked much like the men all around them: two more haggard figures in mudstained buff leather and Colborn steel and dun-colored canvas travel cloaks.

What the eórodain had instead were fyrdhorns: made from the horn of an Ironmark aurochs, often longer than a man's arm, and emitting a blast so deep and resonant that, when the fyrd's trumpeters hoisted their instruments toward the walls of Monroyel and blew, Hereward could feel his eyeteeth vibrate fiercely in his head. The fyrdhorn's cry was unmistakable: generations of Tervines had heard it often enough, Hereward thought, in the final moments before they died.

As the echo faded, Hereward clicked his tongue softly to Feácandel. The hwiða took a few steps forward: away from the column, toward Monroyel's gate. Then, with typical showmanship, Feácandel stopped and held his great head high: casting his intense gaze over the soldiers upon the walltop, making eye contact with each. One intelligent creature greeting another.

Hereward stood up in his stirrups, and filled his lungs, and cried in a great voice: "Tervain!" We're here, he thought. We made it in time. And the weariness of the road seemed to fall from him like so much dust. "We honor our oath! Hail, Sons of the South!"
Last edited by Reverend Norv on Fri Mar 19, 2021 4:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
For really, I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he. And therefore truly, Sir, I think it's clear that every man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that Government. And I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.
Col. Thomas Rainsborough, Putney Debates, 1647

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Lunas Legion
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Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Lunas Legion » Fri Mar 19, 2021 7:49 pm

Isabella de Tervain
Citadel of Monroyel
Monroyel, Tervain

The city of Monroyel bustled like a hive of ants that had been kicked as Isabella looked out of the window, down upon the city. An army mustering to move from where it was quartered in among hundreds of inns was an ungainly thing at the best of times as knights and lesser nobility gathered their assembled retinues together, a river of a riot of colours that flowed through the streets, the reds of those sworn to the once-Dukes of Monroyel, their line having perished in the last rebellion, the grey of the Baron of Irongate, the pale blue of the Count of Tarcain and her own royal yellow.

It reminded Isabella of the mustering at Castle Durheyn, so far to the east, all those years ago, although the colours had been darker then, the black and white of House Durheyn and its retainers. Henri had been so optimistic then, almost eager for the battles to come from the faint hint of a grin on his face, and he had looked so noble and gallant upon his white riding horse, his father Hermain riding beside him with the grim-faced determination of someone who had seen battle before rather than the eagerness of a fresh-faced youth who did not know what was yet to come.

It had been the last time she had seen Henri alive.

The sight had made her wistful, and so she crushed the feeling. There was no room for such petty reminiscing of the way things were, for that was gone, scattered to the wind like ash from a faded flame, naught left but smouldering embers.

Perhaps this was indeed a doomed attempt to relight that fire, but she could not simply step back and away and... Give up. Not while there were others yet willing to fight for it, in that river of colours below. Her message to her father in law had been... Overly optimistic. For all she had spoken of victory, it would truly take an intervention by the divine to save them now. Ten thousand against thrice their numbers, and they had known naught but defeat against Nekhur except for the Battle of Varla, and even then victory had swiftly given way to yet more bitter defeat.

They would march regardless. To victory, or to defeat. The last embers of what had once been the Kingdom of Tervain would not go silently into that dark night.

Isabella turned away from the window, turning back to her own preparations to travel. She was, despite her lack of experience, still the Princess of Tervain, and so it was her duty to go with the army. Even if others more experienced than her would be commanding it, it was her duty to be there, for to hide behind walls while others fought for her would be cowardice, and she was no coward. She would leave what little finery she had behind in Monroyel, the only sign of her status being the simple beaten silver circlet on her brow, for the crown of Tervain still rested in her traitorous brother's hands.

Her maids walked in and silently collected first of the two chests she had prepared for the journey, most likely her last. The room had belonged to the Duke of Monroyel, once, and his coat of arms, a white spire upon red, was still painted over the fireplace, the bed still done up in the same red and white of that dead line. Most likely it would be the last room she slept in as well.

She made her way down to the courtyard, where her own retinue, wearing yellow emblazoned with a black hawk's head upon it, was mustering, loading up the wagons of their supply train and harnessing their horses. None lifted their heads to look at her as she emerged, not that she expected them to.

A horn howled in the distance. Even from Monroyel's citadel she could hear the sound, echoing from the ancient marble walls, the sound unmistakable, for the deep, bone-rattiling echo could be nothing but the fyrdhorns of the Ironmark.

Silently, blinking tears from her eyes, Isabella looked to the sky and said a silent prayer of thanks.

Perhaps they did not march to their deaths yet.

"My horse!" She cried, and her horse was brought out to her, already saddled for the march to come. She mounted it swiftly, kicking it into a canter and bursting out of the citadel's gates as she charged through the streets, the crowds parting in front of her, relishing that feeling of hope within her breast that Tervain did not stand alone against the coming shadow. She slowed her horse down to a walk as she approached the gate, the retainers guarding it gathering into a small guard of honour as the gates slowly creaked open and she rode out to meet the riders.

She recognised the lead rider almost immediately; Hereward had not changed much in the last year, it had seemed.

"And hold your oaths fulfilled, Hereward Brandling." Isabella said, bringing her horse to a halt with a gentle pull of the reins. "I had feared that Tervain might stand alone, but would fight regardless. You are most welcome, but I fear there is precious time to wait. The Duke of Durheyn sent a message reporting an army six times his number approaching Folven, and I mean to march to his aid to join with him before Nekhur's horde surrounds and sets him to siege."

Herman de Durheyn, Duke of Durheyn
Folven, Tervain

Hermain de Durheyn, Duke of Durheyn, last of that name and line, shuffled uneasily as he stood inside the watchtower, peering out the narrow gap of the arrowslit. The enemy was coming, he could feel it. It was not simply the knowledge that his outriders and a trickle of fleeing refugees had bought, but an instinct, like the tension in the air before a thunderstorm. He could not quite decide whether to welcome it, or to dread it. It was oddly comforting knowing that you were to die, if not the appointed hour, but knowing that it would be soon.

I will do you proud, my son.

He lifted his head slightly, squinting into the distance. Was that movement? All his outriders had returned, and he had no expectation of reinforcements from the east. Maybe he was just seeing things in his old age, or a trick of the light-

No, that was movement. That was most definitely movement. An advance guard of the enemy army, perhaps?

He could see the faint cloud of dirt behind them as they rode closer at a slow walk down the dirt road, giving him a better view of their numbers.

Too few for the advance guard. Scouts, making sure his army had remained in the city and not committed to battle?

The cavalry drew closer, the lead rider carrying a single pale pink banner flapping in the wind, a half sun obscured by a moon set upon it, a smaller banner set below that he couldn't make out, but seemed to be of the same colour. He could make out their armour now, all silver plate and chain, covered with coloured tabards speckled with the same half sun and moon or various sea creatures, wielding a mix of lances resting on their shoulders or bows on their backs.

"I bring a message from Khosrov, Prince of Ōrel Lyaṙn, for the Duke of Durheyn!" The lead figure called out.

He didn't feel like answering, looking silently to the sentry standing vigil alongside him in the watchtower.

Silence reigned, for his men knew he was with them, and would not dare to speak on his behalf while he was there. The lead figure began to pace his white horse impatiently from side to side, staring up at the unresponsive walls as Hermain peered down at him.


He turned to the sentry in silence, and raised his hands, miming shooting a crossbow. The sentry leaned forwards, looking out his own arrowslit towards to the ground, judging the distance, before nodding, moving around the tower and then across the gatehouse where the portcullis sat lowered, informing the other guards before moving over to the other tower as the rider waited, increasingly impatient from how he twitched.

The satisfying twang of crossbows filled his ears like song as bolts flew. The horse died quickly, two bolts finding its chest, others burying themselves in the dirt but one bolt flew true and struck the leader in the armpit as both topped to the ground.

A faint smile graced Hermain de Durheyn's face as the panicked group turned and galloped away, bolts striking the dirt as they galloped away.

Whatever message had been brought did not matter, for he had sent his own; that there would be no peace with the enemy, no truce or surrender while he still drew breath.

"Someone go out and bring that body inside the walls!" He roared out, glaring down at the corpse outside. "I mean to have that head on a spike above this gate when their army shows up!" It was all the Nekhurians deserved. They had slain his son, widowed his Queen and would unmake all he still held dear, and even if he could not stop it forever, he would do so until his dying breath while sending as many of them as he could to the grave first.
Last edited by William Slim Wed Dec 14 1970 10:35 pm, edited 35 times in total.

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The Holy Dominion of Inesea
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Postby The Holy Dominion of Inesea » Fri Mar 19, 2021 9:35 pm

Gozpodin Yernica
Citadel of Monroyel

Gozpodin Yernica did not like the role he was forced to play in Tervain. As the representative of the Dominion, he was responsible for dispensing the funds allocated to the Princess’ Regime. Most of those had gone to funding mercenaries hired to fight for the Tervine rebels. They were a rough type, not the sort of characters that Yernica usually enjoyed associating with. Thankfully, the hiring was mostly done by the Tervines and all the companies hired were answerable only to the Tervines. Yet some still wished to meet the issuers of the letters of credit. Letters of credit were only as good as the issuer, of which the Dominion was top tier, but it was not without risks of forgery in a state like Tervaine.

The other role he played was that of a bearer of bad news. Or no news, which was effectively the same to the Tervine cause. For half a year he had been in Monroyel. And for half a year he had to inform the Princess that no, there would be no soldiers from the Dominion. In the wake of the battle, when she had lost so many and was at her worst, he had no extra money from the Dominion to give her beyond what was already allocated. At his discretion he was able to issue a small letter of credit from the Archduchy instead of the Dominion.

Yernica did feel for the Tervine cause, though he feared that they would not succeed in their endeavors. He was of the thought that the Dominion should have done more for their cause. There were political and moral reasons to defend the realm, as well as economic. The slow march of Nekhur south would threaten Serebyan eventually. The encroachment of Nekhur would threaten Serebyan trade in the long term. And Serebyan was one of the great realms of Minilar. If they did not take a stand against the Bull, who would? Yet the Dukes had seen fit to vote down any further involvement. Without victory or allies, the Dominion would not move.

The Tervines were busy. He could hear it from his room. It seemed that they marched to war, though for what he could also guess. Perhaps to ride to the Duke of Durheyn in Folven. Yernica would find out soon enough. As he worked on a letter to the Assembly, to be sent by messenger hawk, on the most recent troop movements, a bone rattling skirl sounded through the castle. Though he had never experienced it himself, the sound of the fyrdhorns of the Ironmark was unmistakable.

Yernica dropped the quill and paper and reached instead for a case in his desk. He pricked his finger and smeared it across the seal of the case. Letters in the temple script appeared across the silver-inlaid wood before the whole case disappeared. Left behind was a single gem, whose color seemingly changed from every angle. The gem was immensely valuable, worth far more than its weight in gold. When shattered, a paired gem somewhere else would glow. With a predetermined message, it allowed some degree of long-distance communication. In this case, it meant that a foreign power had marched to defend Tervain. While unable to indicate that it was the Ironmark, it would have to be presumed that it was they and not Valamir that marched first. Hopefully. This news needed to reach Zoloto far quicker than a messenger hawk, though a more in depth letter was sure to follow.

Archduke Rabinov
Palace of Saint Konstatin
Zoloto, Archduchy of Zoloto
Serebyani Dominion

The setting sun gave the calm waters of the Staribyan Fjord a red sheen. The evening phenomenon was often called the Martyr’s Blessing, after the blood ritual performed by the Martyr that supposedly founded the first Zolotoi Duchy. The sea turned red to symbolize the blood sacrificed by the Martyr for all Kynd to live free of elves. Some commoners went so far as to say that rubies could be found in the fjord in the morning, formed from the Martyr’s Blood itself. To the Archduke however, the sanguine waters of the fjord represented not the tall tales of myth, but the real loss suffered in Tervain.

The Fall of Tervain had sent shockwaves through the halls of power of the Southron Realms. One of the major realms, long a bastion against the expansion of Nekhur, its rapid collapse had stunned the Dominion. Yet the fools in the Ducal Assembly refused to act. The trade faction and the religious faction in the Assembly wanted no money wasted fighting for a land of half-breeds, though Tervain barely qualified for such a label. Archduke Rabinov relied on the trade faction to maintain power, and thus so far had been unable to act publicly beyond a harsh condemnation of the blatant aggression shown by Nekhur.
When the Princess rallied her banners and met the invaders in the field, the Archduke had leaped at the opportunity to support her. Using her as an inspiration, he was able to get the Assembly to pass funds secretly to the Tervine rebellion. But alas the aid did not arrive in time and the Princess was beaten in battle. The money would instead go towards hiring mercenaries, backed by the full faith and credit of the Archduchy of Zoloto.

The defeat of the Princess also meant that the war support that had allowed the passage of the funding bill evaporated overnight. No longer a sound investment, she was. New victories or new allies were needed if the Ducal Assembly was going to increase support for the war.

The Ducal Assembly was one of the greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses of the Dominion. Unlike many noble assemblies, it reserved many fundamental powers of the state. This curbed the excesses of the high nobles and brought to bear more voices than most Courts heard. Yet it also prevented swift executive action from the Dominion. Especially for an Archduke like Rabinov, who was elected not from the ranks of the Grand Dukes but rather from the Assembly itself, the consent of the Ducal Assembly was essential for governance. The Archduke had gone to the extent that he could, with the funds allocated by the Assembly the year prior and within the limit of his own powers. Gozpodin Yernica, a staunch ally of the Archduke’s, had been dispatched to Monroyel with a convoy of silver, gold, and letters of credit issues against the Dominion Treasury. In addition, if needed, the Gozpodin also had several letters of credit from the Archduchy itself. A reserve measure if the war dragged on but the Assembly refused to act.

As Rabinov watched the sun fade behind the horizon, and the waters turn from red to black, a knock sounded on his door. To come so late at night, it must be serious news.


An official from the Court Mage’s office entered, bearing a letter with the Court Mage’s mark. Bowing, the official left the letter on the table before withdrawing. Letters from the Court Mage to the Archduke were not for any given official to hear. The letter only had one sentence written on it. The paired gem from Tervain was glowing. A foreign army had marched to the Princess’ banner. Given that there were no reports yet of Valamir mustering, it could only be assumed that the self-proclaimed Wardens of the Southron Realms, the Ironmark, had marched.

The Archduke summoned a scribe into his quarters.

“Bear these words to the Assembly, Grand Dukes, and Lords Ministerial. There will be a session of the Assembly tomorrow and all will partake. The situation in Tervain has changed.”
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Rodez » Fri Mar 19, 2021 10:47 pm

Theron of Talassa
Company of the Silver Cloak
Vicinity of Venant, Tervain

Time indeterminate

The blackness was absolute. It was not the darkness of night, where the light of even the faintest stars might suggest a few murky shapes among the miasma. Nor was it the murk of a deep dungeon, where the nearest torchlight might be far down the corridor and around a steep corner. No - this was the gloom of dreams.

Theron awoke and knew at once that he had returned to the Black Chamber. Dread swallowed him, deep and potent. This isn't real, he tried to tell himself. He's just pulled you back here to play with you. This is a phantasm of the mind.

He swept the "room" with his eyes, or what he felt was a rough approximation of one. Nothing Kresimir ever constructed here was definite.

There was a darkness there - a deeper darkness. A force lurked amidst the nightmare-soup.

"What it is you want, I can never tell, but I am no plaything of yours," Theron growled.

There was a sharp pull, like an intake of breath. Then a voice, cavernous, musing: "Always such . . . liveliness with you, Theron. Marching to your death in a war you cannot win. Yet you still find the energy to get belligerent with me. Admirable, really, if it wasn't so pretentiously short-sighted."

Theron had hoped against hope that this had been a regular dream, but that voice never came to him in such. He would recognize it anywhere: resonant, yet hard as an armored gauntlet that reached deep down into his soul. And evil - a strange kind of vainglorious depravity.

Attempting to stand, Theron found himself chained to a formless bench, as usual. "If you would permit me a clean death, I should be obliged to forgive all your past transgressions. And there are many to forgive, Kresimir, as you recall."

A shuddering began, starting in the "corner" until it grew outward; slowly, inexorably. The thing advanced until it was face-to-face with Theron, breathing stark oblivion against his long golden hair. "I made you a champion," it said jealously. "Most of the princes of Minilar now know the strength of your sword-arm because of the gifts I gave you. You, Theron! and no one else. Never let it be said that Kresimir Modzelewski is not generous to his friends." Suddenly it sounded like a pouting child - like Theron had cleaved its doll into a thousand pieces.

"I never wanted your 'gifts!'" Theron shouted with the weight of twenty-five years of slavery. "I picked up an amulet, that's all. You sought me out. You cannot pretend it was otherwise."

"Yes," Kresimir said. "I, the vampire trapped in the chain that you greedily snatched, sought you out. Are you a dullard, Theron? Who do you think picked me up before you? You are a far better friend to me than that lich-king you slew."

Theron recoiled instinctively. "That's what worries me," he whispered.

The darkness smiled. Theron could see nothing, still, but he felt a grin spread across the formless thing that Kresimir claimed as an avatar within the Black Chamber. "You bare my burden so well," Kresimir purred. "I'd prefer the chain remained around your neck, and not around that of your spirited offspring. I'd venture you agree with me there."

"Kleitos would cast you into the sea if he could," Theron retorted. "As I should have done, as a younger man."

"You've not the constitution for that sort of thing," Kresimir returned with a self-satisfied smirk - again Theron could feel the vampire's emotions in his bones. "And in any case, you did no such thing, and now we are here. You dwell on destiny too much for a mortal."

"Destiny?" At hearing the word, Theron was able to choke down some of the noxious fear that filled him. He would always be terrified of this thing that lived in his head, but sometimes he was able to seclude that dread from the rest of his emotions. "Tell me something of destiny, then. We both know you glimpse fragments of what is to come. You brought me here to tell me something regardless."

Theron felt Kresimir slip into a trance. "Your men and the dwarves, the Karpacians . . . mere bait. The Markers - Hereward Brandling - they don't trust you a farthing's worth. Bait that sets the fishhook, all of you."

"Bugger all, I knew that much already!" Theron yanked at his chains. "Worthless, flesh-sucking dog. There's not fifteen hundred of us! Grant yourself a form so that I might slay it."

The darkness pulled back a little, hurt. "The day I drink blood is the day I've won," Kresimir pointed out. "For now, I drink the souls you feed me. And you haven't fed me since that young shepherd in the Balorene borderlands three weeks past. I've gotten awfully hungry since then, Theron. Fortunately, this war is good for that."

Theron tried to stand again, uttered a wordless bellow at the formless vampire. The feeling of helplessness which the Black Chamber induced was the very worst of melancholies. "I swore an oath to wage war against Nekhur long before I met you, beast. It may mean little to you, but I'll not let your machinations cock it up. My ungodly bond with you does not supplant my life-pledge to my old friend Erastos Mavridis. I must war against Mnesus of Tyria. Elsewise you may as well kill me."

"Mhmm, not the words of a sellsword, that," Kresimir acknowledged. "I know well enough what this war means to you and your men, precious few that are left. A chance to tear down the empire that wronged you - what better chance is there than now? But you should know, nothing in this war is as it seems. There are plots within plots, shadows behind shadows. Tread you lightly on the pages of history, if you wish to make a mark. And by gods old and new, know that Venant is for you and the dwarves to make noise and bleed over, whilst Hereward steals the glory."

"Is that all you have for me?"

"For now, my friend. Now wake up. Wake!"


Theron opened his eyes. He still sat atop his war-horse, Mincho, and the craggy hills of the Tervain borderlands still formed his horizon. He breathed a barely-audible sigh of relief. Little time had passed, it seemed, since Kresimir had called him to the Chamber. Perhaps only mere minutes had elapsed. That would be fortunate, indeed.

His gaze fell to the black chain around his neck. May the Ten Thousand take it for the devilry it is, he swore. He knew that if he tossed it aside today, the mind-sickness would take him tomorrow, and he would abandon his men and his son in a bout of madness and go seeking for it. I'll never be rid of the vampire.

But my son. My son! He whirled around in the saddle, suddenly frantic.

There was Kleitos, eight or ten paces behind him, sitting his own mare. Right where I had left him.

His son's vivid green eyes met his own. Kleitos had tied his mother's brown hair back in a ponytail for the ride to Tervain, a few recalcitrant locks cascading down either side of his brow. He looked at his father with a knowing vigilance. "Is something the matter, Father?"

That heartfelt look said it all. He knows. Kleitos had known of his father's plight with the vampire for going on four years now - the youth was all for casting aside the chain and riding as far and as long as it took for the madness to fade from his father's mind, but Theron knew it was more complicated than that.

Theron adopted the stern face that the Strategos of the Silver Cloaks was expected to wear. "Kleitos - see to the outriders. Gather their reports and return to me."

Kleitos shot him a hard look, saying all that could not be said in the presence of the men. But after a tense moment, he yanked the reins and rode off to meet with the scouts.

Returning his attention to the situation at hand, Theron marked the the distant presence of stone walls off to his left. As the column of mercenaries marched down the frontier road, these walls grew to encompass a modest town.

One of the outriders galloped halfway back to the main force. "Venant!" he shouted.

That told Theron all he needed to know. Sliding on his fearsome orcish helmet, he maneuvered Mincho around and steered the horse down one side of the column. He spotted Basoth Opalbrew at the head of the Barley Regiment, in their resplendent full-body Dwerrow armor, and called to him. "Opalbrew! Venant lies ahead. We must take council."

He rode on past the Dwerrow-folk until the full-armored dwarves gave way to the extragantly colored Karpacian regiment. "Colonels! A council, if you please. Venant lies before us." Theron rode back to what he judged to be a mid-way point between the dwarves and Karpacians, so that they might decide on a means of striking the border town. He remained within full view of the outriders, and trusted Kleitos and the Silver Cloak scouts to halt the column while this talk took place.
Last edited by Rodez on Fri Mar 19, 2021 10:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Formerly known as Mesrane (Mes), now I'm back
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Postby Union Princes » Sat Mar 20, 2021 3:14 pm

Georg van Galen
9th & 10th Epitis Regiments
Approaching Tervant, Tervain

In Ovaros, there lies a house
Known as the Rouge Soleil
It ensnares many a virtuous soul
By Matthia, it ensnared me...

The sound of flutes, lutes, and drums accompanied the two Landskneckt regiments as they marched with their mercenary allies to Tervant. With them, the banners of Karpacia and the regimental colors of Epitis waved proudly in the sky. As far as anyone was concerned, that was the only way to know that these men were part of the same unit. To paint a portrait of the scene of marching Landskneckts would be a nightmare to any artist for the two thousand men wore 300 shades of ten different colors.

Of the loudest voices that singing the marching song was an honor given to the four warrior priests of the Magyrarite cult. Whether as mercenaries or as the soldiers of Karpacia, seldom is there an army without the holy priests preaching virtues through battle. Unlike the Landsknechts, the warrior priests are indistinguishable from one another as they wear the plate armor and use two-handed weapons.

However, their glory tune was interrupted when riders of the SIlver Cloaks rode by calling for the presence of Colonel Gernot May of the 9th and Colonel Kai Myers of the 10th. Due to the religious gravitas of the Cult of Magyars, the warrior priests felt obliged to participate as well. Not that the colonels can refuse, that would be heresy.

“Brother Galen, with me..” Baldwin Klemm, a warrior priest of the 9th Regiment, addressed his holy brother of the 10th, “Brother Essen and Riegel can watch over the soldiers and prevent poor discipline. That would be unbecoming in the eyes of Gorgei.”

“Aye, Brother Klemm.” Georg van Galen agreed as the two marched behind the colonels. “Is your throat parched? I offer my water sack after such a long journey.”

“No thanks,” Brother Klemm waved the offer away, “I have my own. It would embarrass me to Boroevic for having a soft throat.”

Van Galen silently nodded before speaking up.

“Would you believe we are to hold Tervant? The Ironmarkers were rather selfish in sharing the campaign details.”

“We’re mercenaries, Brother.” Klemm answered, shaking his head. “King Horvath II is no ally to the Tervains but is no enemy either. But I suspect he sees opportunity in crushing the Bull’s horns outside of the glory for Matthia.”

“I hope this won’t end in folly.” van Galen sighed, feeling the anticipation at the end of his neck.
There is no such thing as peace, only truce between wars

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Postby Great Confederacy of Commonwealth States » Sat Mar 20, 2021 5:06 pm


The Archive Memorial
Deeping City

Only scant light illuminated the deeper levels of the cliffside canyons; orange and pink reflecting off the bone-white stone, only providing enough light to see the vague outlines of the buildings carved into its walls. From the Deeping City, you could just see the sun set behind the Avione Bay, giving its last light to warm the city before dusk. Already, the braziers were being lit, as the faint orange glow was too dim to see by, and soon it would be so dark that people would not be able to safely find their way across the stone-carved paths. The unlit roadways, made damp by the misting seawater below, were made treacherously slippery, and an unguided step sometimes meant people where devoured by the black crevice below.

As evening fell, the busywork of the inner city fell silent, and its constant sound was replaced by the soft creaking of ship hulls docked in the Lower Canyons. The deep crevices of the cliffside made for excellent natural harbours, if one did not mind the atmosphere of the dark caves. Elrand, looking down from the carved balcony of the Archive Memorial, did not mind. The Archives were not even that deep into the caves, which he had explored in his younger years. Those canyons and crevices could go on for miles upon miles upon miles, and most were not explored to their natural ends. There lived unspeakable things there; no dragon had made it their home, despite it being the perfect lair, and the Dragonwrath had left the city unscathed. Dragons would not dare come close to the city, which only lent further credence to the idea that there was something truly horrific, deeper in those caves.

Elrand, again, did not mind. He would rather have lived a millennium close to an unnamed, unseen terror than face the destruction of the Dragonwrath, which had spared his city. Looking at the sunset, the bright orange sky, he was reminded of the time it had looked like that at night; when the dragons had put the Avencore peninsula to the torch for the death of one of their compatriots. Avion they had left alone, but so many of his friends never returned. Elrand had cursed himself for a century for not joining his brothers in arms, but even centuries pass in the life of an Elf. In the end, his death would have meant nothing. Now, he looked around, and saw his life’s work: shelves after shelves of his personal records, stretching across the centuries of his life.

If you live 800 years, you start seeing your past selves as entirely different people; people who inhabited the same body, but who were so fundamentally different from yourself that you would be hard-pressed to even remember their justifications, or their emotions, or their hopes and dreams. Like a Ship of Denaïs, of which every plank was replaced one by one until no wood of the original ship remained. He had changed so much, that every half-century or so, he learnt to love in an entirely new way, that made all his previous engagements feel hollow, as if he loved again for the first time. The books of his library sometimes felt like they had been written by other people, although he distinctly remembered writing every single one.

The sun had now set entirely, and one by one the stars came out, reflected in the dark waters of the Bay. The calming caress of the waves against the white stone echoed throughout the canyon. Despite the lateness of the hour, Elrand sat back down at his small desk, and finished his journal entry for that day:

A large shipment of arms and armament, with three young knights of the House Mevinion (two brothers and their cousin) left the City today for Seher and the frontier. More knights are drawn to the Campaign every month, it seems, and Avion proper seems devoid. A happy coincidence is that the House Sons who are not abroad are generally poets and administrators rather than soldiers, which has already yielded significant improvements in record-keeping and the use of weights and measurements in markets.

A knock on the door drew the attention of Elrand. He left the book open for the page to dry, and sat back in his chair.

“The door is open” he said, a bit crankily. The hour was already late, and though he was still awake, he was bothered that someone would assume he was willing to receive visitors at that hour. The Archive would still be there in the morning.

The door opened, and a young man entered. Every man was young compared to the Elf, but this man was young for human standards, perhaps only in his early thirties. He had a kindly face, and his head was topped by dark red hair. Modestly dressed, he silently slid through the door, making almost no sound. Closing the door behind him, he smiled at Elrand, who gestured for him to come closer.

“Yes, now, what do you wa…”

Before Elrand could finish his sentence, the young man stepped forward into the light of a brazier, and revealed his red eyes. Elrand’s words stuck in his throat as he jumped to his feet; his agility not lost over the centuries.

“Your Excellency, I…” Elrand began, starting to clean up the litter from his desk. The House Hameldion was his primary financier, and keeping up the appearance that their money was well-spent on the ancient institution was of great importance if Elrand wanted to keep it, and if he wanted to remain in charge of it. Hemvald raised his hand and shook his head.

“No worries, Elrand. Apologies for me coming unannounced, I did not know ahead of time when I would have an empty hour to make the trip” he said, taking a seat at the other end of Elrand’s desk. Hemvald acted as if he visited the Archive often and was familiar with the place, even though he had never been there before. There was something disarming about the familiarity with which he carried himself, and Elrand now too sat down.

“A regent’s work is hard work?” Elrand asked. An unbecoming question, which he felt compelled to ask out of care for the prince. Hemvald simply nodded.

“As taxing as you want it to be, really. But I have real trouble sitting still when there is somewhere else I could be, you know?”

“Yeah… I was like that, once” Elrand said. “Tea?” he asked, kindly. All his frustration with the late visited had vanished, and Elrand was now singularly occupied with ensuring the Prince was comfortable and cared for. Hemvald shook his head, however, but smiled at the sharing of that little detail of Elrand’s past life.

“I shan’t be long, I just wanted to pop by and discuss a matter, just for your consideration. Is that okay?”

“Of course!” Elrand blurted immediately, leaning forward to signal his interest. “Anything”

Elrand had never much cared for the House Hameldion, apart for their deep pockets, but Hemvald made him feel a personal connection; a warmth, a gratitude, that went beyond the shallow materialism of funding for his Archive. Elrand felt he could trust Hemvald, and that trust seemed to make comfortable his whole office.

“Thank you” Hemvald began. “So, as you know, I have been taking care of this city since my brother left. Now it seems that his campaign in Seher will take considerably longer than originally thought”

“Why is that?” Elrand interjected, but a momentary flash of annoyance in the Prince’s eyes shut him up immediately, and he felt guilt wash all over him like a cold bath.

“Apologies” he added, and when Hemvald smiled, the splash of cold vanished almost in an instant.

“No matter. Suffice to say his attention is needed there, so I will have to prepare to rule Avion long-term. And if I want to do that properly, I will need assistance” he said, pausing a moment.

“I will need men and women of wisdom. And I need the man whose memory reaches back almost to the founding of this city”

Hemvald’s eyes shone a little brighter as the Prince smiled a wicked smile, broad and mischievous, which felt infectious. Elrand smiled back. He felt so proud, so inclined to take Hemvald up on his offer, that it took some effort to stop himself from blurting that out immediately. He focussed, concentrating on his deeper emotions and desires. Surface-level emotions parted like warm clouds to reveal the inner machinations of his own mind, which he knew so well but which seemed somehow distorted and vague. Nearly a millennium in his own head, and Elrand had difficulty knowing himself.

“I… I will have to think about it…” Elrand said. For the briefest of seconds he felt an incredible shame for his ungratefulness, his lack of loyalty towards his prince. But that feeling disappeared swiftly, as if it were a fleeting whisp of smoke blown into the wind. He could not even remember why he had felt that way for a man he had never met before, especially since he had no particular love for the House Hameldion. Hemvald smiled again, nodded, and stood up.

“I will be at Mabrod House once you have made up your mind” he spoke, turning towards the door. His eyes were still red, but now almost brown, not nearly as bright as they had been before. As Elrand saw him head for the exit, he wondered for a moment about his own emotions, his innermost feelings; how he cared so little for this Prince, and yet he had felt so strongly but a few moments ago.

“My liege” Elrand said, finally, just before the Prince left his sight. Hemvald turned around.

“Never warm my blood again, or by the Divines, I will burn this whole library to the ground”

It was the first time since he had walked in that the Prince didn’t smile. He made a slight bow in deference, and disappeared into the wet, cold night of the Inner Canyon.


Vesper Hill
Aldahar County
South Seher

Even though the heavily gilded ducal chariot was heavy, the two black war horses had no trouble pulling it up Vespter Hill. The hill provided a unique vantagepoint from which one could observe the entire Aldahar valley; the river Dem, a tributary of Grand Ardelane which now formed the southern border of Nekhur, shone like silver in the afternoon sunlight. A light breeze caressed the flowing bunches of yellow-green grass which made Seher to recognisable. In the distance, a small town hosted the only bridge across the river Dem for miles. Only the plumes of smoke and the single temple spire marked it out as human habitation. A road from there snaked north, right into the High Ardelane Basin; a remote region that bordered both Embweald and Nekhur, and which was notoriously hard to traverse.

The town was surrounded by wood fires and the reflection of sunlight against steel. Count Aldahar, who had remained neutral through most of the conquest of Seher, had finally picked a side when he hosted a fleeing rebel army. The last remnants of that army, made up of the remnants of various local forces, had escaped destruction just a month before, and had been on the run ever since. Whether the Count Aldahar wanted to or not was no longer an issue; he could expel them or face Avione together, and he chose the latter. Now, he had taken full command, and was desperately trying to flee into the High Ardelane Basin; where he hoped the knowledge of the terrain and pressure from Nekhur would stop Avion from pursuing.

Duke Hameld XII Hameldion jumped off his chariot as soon as it came to a halt, right in front of his command tent. He immediately spotted the group of hobelars standing near their hobbies; they looked tired and foul, but sprang up as soon as they saw him. He nodded curtly and swiftly entered the tent, which had been put up only half an hour before his arrival.

“Good afternoon, my lord” Count Gildeon said, bowing at the waste. The House Gildeonion was almost as old and storied as the House Hameldion, and his bloodsteel armour was a testament of that fact. Count Gildeon was a trusted military advisor, but advanced in age, which meant he was primarily suited as war council; drawing up plans and ensuring the baggage train kept pace with the advancing army. Gildeon headed a small detachment of knights of proven quality, who together made up his staff. During the Seher campaign they had elevated warfare to a science, using every victory, and every defeat, to sharpen the effectiveness of the ducal army. They were gathered around a large oaken table with all kinds of measuring equipment, and coloured wooden blocks indicating troop positions.

“So, our situation?” the duke simply asked. Gildeon gestured towards the table, and picked up a scroll.

“Those scouts you saw outside report the count is planning to cross the bridge tomorrow” he stated, matter-of-factly. Gildeon and Hameld always had been familiar, but the duke and the count had gotten incredibly close during the campaign. They could communicate as much non-verbally as they did through words; Gildeon’s stern professionalism made it clear a lot depended on the coming hours.

“If he does, he will destroy it behind him, and that will give his army another few days head start while we construct a bridge that can hold our troops. With his knowledge of the Basin, that means we will only catch up to him once he is ready”

“Or when he is close enough to Nekhur that we can’t advance without violating our agreement with Mnesus. I informed his dignitaries of our planned actions, but they are principally unwilling to renegotiate our terms” the duke said. He could not blame them; if he had been an emperor of the same power that Mnesus held, he would probably have done the same.

“So, plans?” the duke asked. Gildeon nodded, and pointed at one of his lieutenants. A young lad, brown-haired and somewhere in his twenties, looked up.

“Sir Mevil Mendelion, my liege” Gildeon introduced him. The man bowed deeply, until the duke gestured for him to rise.

“A son of count Mendel?” he asked, to which the youngster nodded. “Fifth son, my lord” he replied.

“You might remember him from Cadorn; he advised Sir Iftar to secure the enemy supplies before attacking them head-on. Somewhat of a natural aptitude for warfare, it seems”

“Is that so?” the duke asked. Mevil blushed.

“The count honours me, my lord”

“Explain your plan then, Sir Mevil” Hameld commanded. Mevil quickly brushed aside some maps and scrolls, and placed a few wooden markers on the map. His style was swift, to the point, but graceful and elegant. Hameld noticed that Mevil did not make any unnecessary gestures; even when he scratched his nose, it was done in a single motion that incorporated some other task.

“The count will try to rush his troops across the bridge, but he will need to stay behind to manage the crossing, and to ensure his troops don’t panic when he eventually attack. His army matches ours in numbers, but we have quality on our side; they lack any heavy infantry or knights. Their rear guards, though, are made up of vicious crossbowmen, who pose a threat to our advance. They can probably keep our forces at bay long enough for the rest of the army to cross”

He began moving around the wooden blocks again; red indicating the ducal forces, blue marking Seherene.

“Our best bet is to swiftly take the bridge and hold it while the enemy attempts to cross. This will allow us to encircle the enemy and force their surrender. However, for this to work, the rear guards need to be preoccupied first. Our best bet is to wait until the crossing starts, and then take the bridge in the confusion, while most of the reserves are still maintained in support of the rear guards”

“If the main army swings around and threatens the bridge from the road, I believe the rear guards will take up advanced defensive positions. This would allow a small force to reach the bridge before they can respond, and take it with only minimal defences. Once we take the bridge, the enemy ought to surrender”

Mevil relished in the opportunity to explain his proposed tactics and strategy. A clever lad, with a heart in the right place. Hameld nodded, and pointed at the block indicating the small strike force.

“This force would require stout leadership and complete trust in the plan” he said, looking directly at Mevil. His red eyes met Mevil’s brown eyes, and both men smiled wicked smiles.

“Are you up for it?” The duke asked. Mevil’s eyes began to shine.

“If you command so, my lord” he responded. The duke nodded.

“Bring me a thousand prisoners, Mevil, and you shall be duly rewarded”
The name's James. James Usari. Well, my name is not actually James Usari, so don't bother actually looking it up, but it'll do for now.

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Remnants of Exilvania
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Postby Remnants of Exilvania » Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:03 pm

Dread Princess Elizabeth of Palemoor
The Immortal Court
Palemoor, Embweald

Palemoor was, by comparison with many of the old and established cities of Minilar, young. Afterall, it was constructed only after the Dragonwake and the end of the succession war that had plagued the country back in those old days. And yet, despite its youth, the city was caught in an air more reminiscent of an ancient tomb than the bustling activity one would except. But that was Embweald, a depressing atmosphere hanging over any and every place for death was all around the people there. Palemoor was where this atmosphere was perhaps the strongest. The explosion of the great tower had showered much of the city in magical fallout, killing tens of thousands immediately. Many more died in the following years or moved away. When the Ashen Plague hit and further decimated the city it became briefly uninhabited, none but the corpses of the plague victims and their spirits haunting the city. A city, once housing nearly a million people, becoming completely uninhabited within the span of just two decades was a sombering thing.

Now the city was a far cry from what it had once been, many of its old outskirts having long sunken into the murky waters of the fens. Only the walled city center as well as the circle of fortresses that had once protected the outskirts remained.

And yet life had returned. As the watch over Embweald waned, foreign or local wardens succumbing to sickness, assassination or corruption, old loyalists crept back into the fortresses. And it was only a matter of time as the lights were lit again behind the windows of old Palemoor and shadows patrolled on its walls.

That was more than 50 years ago, the Dread Princess thought as she wandered the corridors of what her ancestral home, two of her Crimson Dreadguards following her discreetly, so as to not upset her. They knew better than to do so for Elizabeth often thought back of the past. Almost anyone in Embweald did for their past had been glorious, a time of wonder and joy, of pride and might. The present on the other hand was grim and bleak and only the most delusional madmen, who absolutely existed among her servants, thought the current state of affairs to be excellent. The past was especcially precious for the Elizabeth however for entirely different reasons. While she too wished for a return to power and prosperity, not just for herself but also her subjects, she longed so much more for her family. A family she had lost in a senseless war. All because these stupid humans and elves had refused to become something greater than they had been before, to unite together in a single realm where war would be a thing of the past.

A sad smile appeared on Elizabeth's cold, pale face, showing off her fangs for but a split second as she looked at the ruin of the old great tower, melancholy in her eyes. No, of course it couldn't have been this easy. It would never be which was why the mortals needed them, no, him. Her father had been the kindest, wisest, most just man she had ever known. He would have known how to settle everything, how to deal with Nekhur or the Ishkhanate she heard from. But now he was gone and the Southern Realms had thrown away their only chance at survival.

The muffled sounds of armoured boots on an old, moth-eaten carpet caused her to perk up and return from her thoughts about the past and all the could have beens. If she could hear them coming, it usually meant that they wanted her to and indeed, when she looked up she was met with the sight of Etheltryth Zakatos, the Captain of her Crimson Dreadguard, no doubt the best fighter in all of Embweald and also the first wife of the Pale Lord. When Elizabeth turned towards her, the ferocious warrior immediately knelt before her and lowered her head, saying calmly:

"The Immortal Court has gathered, as you commanded, Dread Princess. They are awaiting you."

She motioned for Etheltryth to rise, coolly replying with:

"Thank you. I will make my way there at once."

Etheltryth nodded, lowered her head again for a moment and then left the Dread Princess to attend to her own duties, leaving Elizabeth to stare after the woman. Normally you would expect someone like the first wife of the Pale Lord to be envious of Cecilia, her mother, and by extension her. Yet Etheltryth and the remaining Crimson Dreadguards had saved her back when the spire detonated. They had hid her and protected her during the harsh times, when foreign armies still prowled the land, trying to find their kind and bring them to justice. And they had almost been like surrogate parents to her over the almost two centuries of her life. She had always wondered why and had even asked Etheltryth a number of times, the veteran always replying only with: "Because you are his." and nothing more.

Pulling herself together and away from all her reminiscing, the Dread Princess inhaled and exhaled deeply, a technically useless act as she did not breathe, and then turned to head towards her meeting with her court, her Crimson Dreadguards falling in step behind her.

The throne room had once been one of the most impressive halls in the entire city, boasting some marvelous architectural designs and expensive interior decorations. Now, 200 years later, disrepair and lack of maintenance were clearly visible there, though atleast things had been somewhat cleaned up, the ground free of rubble and dirt and the windows replaced again. Tattered flags hung from the ceiling, the coats of arms upon them long faded and rusty chandeliers hung above the heads of the gathered crowd, giving off a ghastly, pale glow. The hum of whispered conversations sounded through the room as the roughly three dozen members of her court chattered among each other, spinning their intrigues or merely exchanging news.

All of that ceased immediately when the old, heavy doors swung open, loudly crashing into the walls and announcing the Dread Princess' arrival to truly everyone who wasn't completely deaf. The entire court took a knee almost immediately, some, primarily humans, being a bit slower to do so, age or wounds hindering them. But Elizabeth didn't spare a glance for them as she walked through the room, past her kneeling court and to where the old throne of her father stood. Yet she did not sit and would never do so if it could be avoided for it was not her throne. She desperately wished it wasn't. Instead she turned around to face her court and motioned for them all to rise, the court following her command like a single being, giving Elizabeth an ever so small bit of satisfaction.

"Thank you, all of you, for assembling here on such short notice. I cannot emphasize how glad I am to have such a dutiful and punctual court."

Few in the court reacted to these words, most at best feigning joy at her words, a few of the humans perhaps feeling actual joy. It was all just standard procedure afterall and nothing of actual substance. Still, having such procedures did help to placate the court a little.

"I am sure all of you have been wondering why I have called you here, at this hour. I am certain many of you had important business of your own to attend to but...I have received important news from abroad that necessitate that we act."

She pulled a sroll of parchment from her dress, waving it through the air so everyone could see it.

"Today I received a message coming from Tamarask. It was written by my faithful servant, the Count Kollár. All of you may remember that he left my court years ago, having lost my favour. In fact, I have sent him far to the east, the wild, untamed, mysterious, unknown east, all in order to find a precious, precious artifact that would greatly change our fate if we could find it and use it correctly. He now writes that he has in fact found what I have tasked him with finding and is currently on his way to Avion from where he hopes to take the land route."

She ceased talking, looking expectantly over the assembled court, trying to see how they reacted. Count Istvan Kollár had played the game of her court fairly well during his tenure untill she had decided to enlist his direct services, at which point he had staged his fall from grace. Many in the court had seen a mere upstart in him at first and later an arrogant buffoon too full of himself. These news were undoubtedly causing some here to rethink their stances on the man. But most importantly, they were without a doubt causing everyone at the court to torment their minds in an effort to figure out just what artifact she was talking about. Eventually one spoke up, a human by the looks of it. Old nobility too considering his relatively regal and well kept appearance. The Baron Líszer:

"These news do indeed sound excellent, your majesty, but may I inquire what kind of artifact you are talking about? It would be for the best if we knew, so we could aid you with whatever knowledge we have concerning it or its uses."

She gave the man a fanged smile before cooing softly:

"Oh, no worries Baron Líszer. You will be informed soon enough. I intend to unveil it once it has been brought here for I believe this deserves a grand reveal. Which does bring us to the point of how we will get it here. Docking in Avion should be of no consequence for the Count, who is smuggling the artifact. However, I am told it is quite a large artifact and he will hardly be capable of bringing it through Avion alone and undetected. He insists on docking in Avion, claiming that continued travel, bringing him and his precious cargo close to Avencor, Marad and Seher is a risk far greater than attempting to smuggle something through Avion. So then, I expect to hear suggestions on how this delicate situation should be handled."

At first the Immortal Court was silent, then some of them started whispering among each other, ideas being hotly debated while the Dread Princess looked on, her red eyes staring at one after another, trying to see who would step forward first. It turned out to be one of the Nightlords, some of the most powerful members of her court. Old vampires, sired by her father himself and their power exponentially increased through all the humans they had gorged themselves on. This specific Nightlord now was from Seher, Nightlady Fleur du Peresan. She had, during the reign of the Pale Lord, assisted her father in his laboratories and was an extremely skilled and heartless Alchemist among others. Offering Elizabeth a winning smile that showed off her own fangs, she came forward from among the assembled nobles and boldly stated:

"It is of the utmost importance that we send a delegation immediately to treat with Avion. From what my agents have been telling me, Hameld XII Hameldion is currently busy fighting rebellions in Seher, leaving the younger and more inexperienced Hemvald Hameldion to reign in his stead. I am certain Hemvald could be manipulated to our advantage, though offering him our kind of immortality is likely a poisoned cup he would never accept. But there are many ways in which we can offer our aid to him and surely he would be open to atleast one of them. We could appeal to any love and support he may have for his brother, sending aid to their occupation of Seher with which they are struggling so much...and if he does not bite, we can always threaten to invade Seher instead. We could also appeal to his personal vanity and thirst for glory and recognition, we could offer our support if he should wish to assume the throne of Avion. Or we could even just appeal to his rightenousness and offer some of their Blood Mages to them. I believe there are still some holed up in Oden Point which we could hand over to them. They are very eager to punish those.

And if all else fails, our delegation should provide plenty of a distraction for the Count to unload the precious cargo and leave the city."

Approving murmurs were heard from the other members of the court and Elizabeth nodded her head in thought before standing straight and saying:

"Your arguments convince me that you have this well thought through, Nightlady Fleur du Peresan. I will delegate the task of organizing, briefing and sending this delegation to you. Should this endeavour end in failure and we lose the artifact, I will have you be personally responsible for its retrieval. You may leave to organise what is necessary."

The Nightlady bowed before leaving the throne room, leaving the court short one member as Elizabeth continued her address:

"Now, as I am sure you all have heard at this point, the shadow of Nekhur approaches from the north. Tervain has fallen, a stain on the Ironmark's spotless record of protecting..."

, she pronounced the word as though it was the most twisted, contorted interpretation of it before continuing as though nothing had happened:

"...the Southern Realms. This is both a danger and an opportunity for Embweald. Our time to defeat the Bull from the north is running out rapidly yet at the same time I hear the flames of rebellion are burning in Tervain. The Ironmark will doubtlessly march to their aid, as is their duty, leaving them incapable of responding to new arising situations.

This leaves us in a unique situation as the Markers will have the majority of their forces concentrated elsewhere. It will allow us to finally act and lay the groundwork for the Embweald of the future, a prosperous Embweald, a mighty Embweald, an Embweald like my father always intended it to be!

And the first step to that is a fed Embweald. An Embweald where its citizens do not starve on a daily basis. To the south lie the fertile plains of Maront. The traitors enjoy peace and prosperity while we, their righteous lords and brothers suffer and are forced to live a pitiful existence in decrepit ruins. No longer shall that be the case! We will strike the traitors and return their lands to their rightful rulers, ourselves!"

Applause rose immediately after she finished, many of the present nobles already busy trying to divide the likely spoils of war among themselves. The war against Maront had been in preparation for a long time at this point, spies and scouts often crossing the border together with raiding bands harrying the farmsteads and villages for basic necessities. Pretty much everyone in Embweald knew that at some point there would be a grand strike against Maront...yet the Immortal Court planned for decades at the bare minimum and so the thing had become a toothless threat that Embwealders would dream off, shake their fists in the direction of Maront and swear...yet its actual feasibility always seemed so far away.

"But your majesty, what if the Markers ride nonetheless? Maront consists of open, fertile plains, their accursed cavalry would break our troops with ease and there would be nowhere we could escape to."

, again it was Baron Líszer who spoke up, questioning. She didn't like the fact that he always questioned her but that was exactly the use this aging human had at her court. He frequently pointed out things she had missed or simply hadn't mentioned yet. If he were to stop doing that he could just as well get out of her court. Again she gifted the Baron a fanged smile before screeching:


Silence fell over the crowd once she was finished, the haggling over future territories, herds, farms and people stopping as everyone looked up. It didn't take long for the sound of armoured boots on the floor outside of the throne room to approach. A shadow became visible under the door, the footsteps stopping. Several of the humans and younger vampires slunk backwards, out of the way while the older, more powerful members of the court held their ground. When the former Marker finally opened the door, he was greeted with an air of fear interlaced with hostility. Several of the vampires hissed at him almost like cats as he approached the Dread Princess, lowering himself onto his knees once he was before her.

The once proud Marker had been turned a long time ago and little remained of his heritage. His skills as a rider were unrivalled by none in the province of course, his skill as a warrior and commander great and his knowledge of the Ironmark proved its worth every now and again. However, he also had an absolutely rotten personality, often coming into conflict with other vampires, being rebellious and suffering from bouts of what was clearly the onset of madness. The ways of the Markers had long lost their meaning to this wicked creature that now knelt before the Dread Princess, who smiled smugly at the massive, black armoured Marker before her.

"Cynebald Wulfling, it appears your ears are as good as ever."

The Marker looked up, hungry red eyes staring at her from out of a gaunt, pale face. He took off the helmet before plunging one of his armoured fingers forcefully into one of his ears and turning it a few times. When he took it out again, it was covered in blood.

"Sometimes it is better than I want it to be. Like when you hear the woodworms working themselves through your coffin all day..."

The Dread Princess had managed not to grimace during Cynebald's awfully tasteless display, instead deciding to continue:

"I am certain you have heard of the news from Tervain?"

Again the Marker nodded, putting his helmet back on and stating:

"Yes, yes I have. I told you the Markers will ride. Failure to do so would break the oath. They will all ride, bound by their duty and their oaths and their honour and once they've all impaled themselves on Nekhur's spears their widows will sing songs of their bravery. That is if I will permit it. I might feel merciful enough for it, depends on how they will welcome me back in Ethandune."

Well, atleast the Wulfling was still very much motivated. Some in the court had whispered long ago that he had lost his edge, that his exile from the Mark and the loss of his entire identity had pushed him off a cliff and into a deep crisis. Many had figured he existed only to pity himself and seek conflict with his peers, blaming everyone but himself for his fate. But no, he clearly still had a mind of his own and plans of his return to the Mark, a return as a Warden more terrible and powerful than any before him.

"And that day will eventually come, Cynebald Wulfling. Ethandune will be ours, wether it be through force of arms or through old men and widows begging us to protect it. But for now our goals lie in the south, in Maront. To feed and grow our people, the traitors of Maront must be made to rejoin us at all costs. Yet the Mark might not sit by idly, even if they try to tackle the Bull in the north. I need you to go eastward, take a few men local men force the Markers to stay put out of fear for their own loved ones and their herds.

I do not know how you will do it. Motivate the Balorenes to come south. Unfurl the ghostbanners again. Fake increased activity in the forests. Regardless of what you do, you must make the Markers be on their toes, ready to repel an invasion that might come at any moment and prevents them from riding hard into the west."

The Wulfling lowered his head in reverence, swearing solemnly:

"It will be done, your majesty."

Yet when his head came back up, his formerly gaunt, hollow and lifeless face seemed to almost glow with vibrant life, his eyes' pupils having shrunk and shaking, his lips forming an incredibly wide smile, baring all of his teeth and his nostrils trembling from sudden and frequent intake of air. His voice too trembled with anticipation and ecstasy as he reaffirmed:

"I will keep them on their toes, atleast those whose toes I won't cut off."
Ex-NE Panzerwaffe Hauptmann; War Merit Cross & Knights Cross of the Iron Cross
Woodhouse Loyalist & Inactive BLITZKRIEG Foreign Relations Minister
Furchtlos und Treu dem Hause Württemberg für alle Ewigkeit!

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Grande-Louisiane » Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:44 am

The Sun Court, Deskariad Palace
Severan District, Spithica
Principality of Marad

Tellanael stood out in the Court of the Sun. Mingled among the dark complexions, flamboyant attire, and ever-present din, the towering but mild-mannered Tsorvamor was an easy man to find. Many of his kind had made their home in Spithica, the ancient capital of Marad, seeking refuge from the chaos of the continent. For centuries, the Maradim welcomed refugees and exiles from across the Southern Realms, mostly Edlehedron, eager to capitalize on their specialized knowledge and magical talent. Indeed, many Arrozim, foreign Elves and Half-Elves, like himself had found themselves vaulted to positions of importance relatively quickly.

Tellanael fled Relya with his family when the Kingdom was surrendered to Nekhur, and had found work as an administrator for the city's busy drydocks. From there, his eye for detail and frugality caught the attention of the late Prince, and from there, he had risen quickly through the relatively simplistic bureaucratic hierarchy to sit at the Sun Court itself. The Court was a literal courtyard on the Deskariad's east wing, quite magnificent he had to admit, where the Dakars had held court for a millenium. Yet the term also referred the the handful of advisors, seers, and commanders that advised the Dakar and ran the island's day-to-day affairs. Since ascending to the throne a decade prior, the young Eliskid had come to rely on Tellenael's age-old wisdom and count him as a friend. The man, perhaps not even fifty, was not like most Princes the advisor had met. While the Maradim had their reputation as proud, violent, and sensual people, the older Elf was surprised and impressed when he got to know the sober and reflective Eliskid.

Even as a youth of thirty or forty, Eliskid had been a particularly thoughtful man. He read widely and spoke a number of languages. His father, a truly benevolent man, had not taken near as much interest in governing. In particular, Eliskid had concerned himself with foreign affairs, and especially the goings-on of the continent.

That was what concerned the court at present.

"... and with the Fourth and Seventh Phalanki returning home from Tiraid, we can have 2,000 Goldspears ready to sail at month's end, with 3,000 more next month if His Grace returns from the South before then." This set off a round of laughs, and even sober Eliskid grinned. His father's bastard, Nylos, was not nearly as renowned for his punctuality as his skill on the battlefield. The orator was Lyessa, a deceptively small woman of Maradim common stock whose prowess as a strategist and swordsman had earned her effective leadership of the Dakar's Goldspears, part paramilitary royal army and part mercenary company. She spoke with a reverent confidence from the center of the court, where she stood before the Dakar and surrounded by a rough semi-circle of advisors.

Eliskid nodded. "Very well." He paused for a moment. "Tellaneal."

The elf stepped forward and bowed, "Yes Your Radiance?" He had a high voice, but even his most envious detractors had to admire his mastery of the difficult Maradim language.

"Have you prepared the missals we discussed?"

"Yes Radiance, as well as the attached gifts. Shall I dispatch the envoys?" The Prince, dark and lean with a serious, angular face framed by a mane of wavy black, affirmed and dismissed the Elf to do as he bid.

He'd prepared two separate letters, bearing similar messages to the human princes of Avion and Nekhur. The former's ascendance had been monitored with great interest. Trade with greater Avencor was an important component of Maradim commerce, and with the Duke's poorly hidden ambition to control the Kingdom proper and beyond presented a unique opportunity for partnership with the Avione. Beyond the obvious benefits of a friendly neighbor and the usual proceeds of Goldspears, Eliskid had become particularly concerned with the rise of both Serebyan, perhaps the most actively anti-Elven force known, and Nekhur, which presented a common threat to the South at large. He and Tellaneal were of the opinion that a constellation of independent, powerful states in the South was necessary, both to prevent any nearby realms from becoming too powerful, and to protect against subjugation from the North, or if rumors were true from the south and east, elsewhere.

As for Nekhur, it had been the long-standing policy of the Dakari to avoid conflict with the much larger Empire to its immediate north. When the Seherene were subjugated and partitioned, Nekhuran armies and ships became a much more imminent concern. The Goldspears were reigned in and barred from making war against Nekhur or its proxies, for fear of angering the bull. Now Eliskid sought to warm relations between the two very different powers, and in much the same way that he planned to befriend the Avione: with gifts and readily available, elite mercenary units.

Within the hour, Seahawk riders were sent out from the Palace, bound for southern Seher and Relya respectively. Neither prince was at home, the regent Mnesus governing from Relya and Duke Hameld on campaign in County Aldahar. The former was, even atop the swift Seahawk, a journey of several days, while the Seherene bound messenger would arrive by the next morning's light.

Tellanael watched them go, two groups of three riders, an envoy and pair of Sunguard each. They bore the sealed missals, along with a crate of goods and gifts meant as a pleasantry. He was perched on a stone ledge, high above the azure waves. The arabesque arch and his loose, plain robes did little to shelter him from the cool ocean gales, but he did not mind. Before long, the riders had flown far, and even his sharp eyes could barely make them out against the pallet of gold and violet made by the dying sun against the clouds. With them, the envoys may just have carried the future of Marad, and of all the Southern Realms.


His Grace Duke Hameld XII Hameldion,

It is my sincere wish that my envoy finds you well. Reports here say your campaign against the Seherene holdouts is proceeding well, and that the province should be under your control presently. You are, like myself, a practical man, so I will not waste your time with empty words and pleasantries. I propose a new era of friendship between your kin and mine. In times as tumultuous as these, the need for cooperation in the west could not be greater. That is all I propose - cooperation. You are aware that Maradim traders are a common sight in your country, and have seen what riches they bring to the ports of Avencor. I trust equally that you are familiar with the Goldspears, for they have served the lords of your country before. With two regiments at the ready and three more on the way, Marad stands ready to assist Your Grace in his ambitions.

I invite you to establish an ambassador at the Sun Court, to facilitate our newfound relationship. I have sent with my riders a cask of our finest wine, jewelry from the personal collection of the Dakarissa for your women, and seven Maradi Shortspears, crafted in my own forge for your enjoyment. I confess I am not as familiar with your customs as I would like to be, but I am sure you will find use for them either in sport or war.

Your Amicable Neighbor,
Eliskid II Lanorris, Dakar of Marad


The Honorable Ati Mnesus,

I hope my envoys find you in good health and high spirit, honored regent. The empires of Kishar have always conducted themselves honorably towards our humble isle, and you shall find a small token of our gratitude and good will with this message. Along with our finest wine and crafts, you will find three hatchling Seahawks, which will grow to serve as fearsome mounts for your retinue, or at the very least a small flock of remarkable creatures. They are particularly adept anglers, and you'll find them most enjoyable at open sea.

I write you, not to discuss birds, but to extend my invitation for the envoys of Nekhur to make embassy in Spithica. The Empire and Marad share any number of common interests in our region, and the opportunities for mutual gain are manifold. Your eminence is familiar with our Goldspear companies, and their capabilities, as you are aware of our extensive trade relations with your provinces in Seher and Talassa-Nearest-Us. It is my intention not to maintain but to expand these avenues of cooperation, and offer my assistance to your endeavors in the region.

Our historians tell us our human ancestors hailed from Nekhur, and in the interest of strengthening our bonds, I extend the friendship of myself and the Maradim.

Your Friend,
Eliskid II Lanorris, Dakar of Marad

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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Liecthenbourg » Tue Mar 23, 2021 5:32 pm


The Kingdom of Relya

The Vanguard
On the Outskirts of Folven, Tervain, Nekhur.

Khosrov stared at the woman opposite him. Her face was coated in dust and dirt so much so it looked like she was wearing a mask of mud. The pink tabard that depicted a Sun and Moon was torn and creased and painted in blood. The silver plate was silver no longer, marked in brown and red streaks where the blood from her horse had rubbed off from it. She was slumped on the stool and held a wineskin to her mouth, the red liquid dribbling down her chin and adding to the collection of red stains that dotted the tabard. It was as she hadn't drunk in days, and Khosrov watched with each gulp as the tears in her eyes became more pronounced and left streaks in the mud on her face.

She stared at the Prince, who was hunched over with his elbows resting on his knees. His head rested on interlocking fingers. Lowering the wineskin, she wiped away at her mouth with her tabard and frowned. "I'm sorry, my Prince -- we tried to keep him in line. We tried to tell the Prince Kourken that the humans aren't to be trusted, to let us produce the truce."

"And they shot him?" was the breathless, quiet reply from the Prince.

She nodded. "First his horse, it tumbled from under him. Then a bolt pierced his hip; he fell off the falling steed. And..." She raised the wineskin again and Khosrov exhaled in an impatient sigh but let the woman continue as he rubbed at his face.

When six riders had returned, frantic, in disorganised singles and doubles Khosrov wondered what had gone wrong. He awaited by his marquee for the white stallion of his brother to return, for a breathless, younger him to warn him that the Duke of Durheyn had no intention for parlay. His heart sank when he did not come. When he did not ride up to tell him the battle was close; for the offering of peace had been rejected.

No, Kourken did not return. His body not even allowed to be collected. And all through Khosrov's mind was what was awaiting for him at Folven: what mockery that they'd display a Prince of Ōrel Lyaṙn on the battlements or on a pike or hanging from the walls. As some homage to morale; as some... prize or taunt.

Thoughts raced across his mind: how he would need to write home about this event, about how his siblings would react, about how he would be seen as sending his brother to his death. But all accounts of honour and conduct were emissaries were emissaries. He frowned; because in his eyes the death of the Duke's son had happened on the field of battle. This? This was an insult, a crime!

He was brought back to attention by the mounted retainer coughing up some of the wine, and he continued her sentence for her: "And...?"

"The continued to shoot him," she added with a grimace. "Khatchadour tried to return to take the body; but they shot at him too -- he was luckier. He told us he saw them drag it inside as he watched from a distance, but I don't know my Prince."

"You may go. Tell Khatchadour he has my thanks. And I will remember his attempt for the rest of my life."

The soldier parted the tent without another word and as she left, Khosrov's officers marched back in. Each nodded in a solemn moment, before Khosrov turned to their battlemap. Two daggers were embedded into the parchment and the table where Folven was. Compared to his calm demeanour now; the Khosrov of a few hours ago was a savage beast of an elf. He had cursed and sworn, and threatened and beaten the messenger. He had spat and kicked and fought with anger.

"Before we storm that settlement; I require the Talassan horse. To ride to the villages nearby; to rally all the people there. The men, the women and the children. All of them. And if they question that order, move on to the next soldier to do it. And if they are not in their villages, but fleeing in any direction -- they are to be corralled. They are to round those poor excuses for people up, bring them to our camp. Understood? If this Duke plans to rattle me by killing my brother, he has succeeded. Now all of Tervain will join him in losing their sons."

The Talassans among the group nodded and left without a word; even if some were concerned.

He continued, practically frothing and entering a stupor of anger. "And if they think that I am without mercy, we will let them know that we offered them peace before he was shot by the gate. And if they think that I am without mercy; when Folven is taken we will ensure that they all understand it could have been avoided had their Duke and Princess been smarter and not self-serving, power hungry idiots."

The collective eyebrow raised. "We are not going to put the city to siege?"

Khosrov laughed. It was a horrible, chesty cackle as the man gripped the table. "No. We're going to storm it. Folven has walls; but they're nothing remarkable. We outnumber their defenders by considerable margins; or so the letter from Mnesus seems to imply. And we have countless avenues of attack; every facet of the wall will be attacked. The Duke's men will be spread thin and all the while the walls are stormed; well, the keratadon shall batter the gates and the archers will reign fire. And I will lead from the front. Let them try to do to me as they did to Kourken."

Before they could reply, Khosrov was up again and pacing.

"Entana, write to Mnesus. Tell him of what happened to my sibling; tell him that I will no longer give quarter in this war. And that if he has issue with that, to replace me. I will not sit here and let my family be butchered for aiming to conduct things as they should be. Folven will fall, or I will die taking it." Entana nodded but moved to speak; but the outstretched gauntlet of Khosrov stopped him.

"No, you don't need to quote that verbatim."

An uncomfortable silence hung around the air, as Elf and Kisharite that remained shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another. Noticing their apprehension, their confusion, their... concern, Khosrov cleared his throat. "Tell the siege train to begin its planning: we need escalades, ladders, mangonels. Even if they're just going to be a bit of a distraction... and get that keratadon's horns sharpened and armoured."

They bowed collectively and one by one left the marquee; with the Prince of Relya left to himself as he began to pen a letter.

"Dearest Vana," he said aloud and to no one.

Vana's Teeth, Arevitun
The Kingdom of Relya, Nekhur

"I thought I might find you here."

The sea air was crisp, salty and fresh. It was remarkable to breath and take in; it was as if one was reinvigorated by its inhalation. And the sights and sounds and smells, such a contrast from the quiet Court, were a pleasant alternative. The sound of the tide; and of gulls, brought her memory to a simpler time. To a time where the responsibility of the circlet atop her head had not yet been thrust upon her. Of a time where she wasn't alternating between matters of state and an investigation into what had been finally assessed to have been a murder of her uncle.

To his credit, the Kisharite man looked somewhat pleased to see her as he turned around at her comment. As he turned, his hands moved from behind his back to segue himself into his bow.

To Vana, everything about the Kisharite was strange. He was tall and lanky, with copper skin, and a clean shaven face and head. The latter was marked in ink. He was practically hairless; as if he had been chiselled from sand stone only to be worn away by the desert winds. For all that he looked alien to her, she figured that she must've looked strange to him too.

Ziusudra opened his palms and gestured to the largest ship he saw being constructed. Ahead of it were more, all at different sections of this shipyard, and behind it further still. Yet none were as imposing as this one. Some 26 metres long, Vana had been informed in a late update in the early morning; which had prompted her to come in the first place. Its hull, carvel curved, was already upon the water and had been for some time. The ship was floating to a next point in its assembly. Ahead masts were prepared to be brought abroad and raised. There were to be three in total. Down the assembly line both Ziusudra and Vana could see a smaller ship receive its rigging; or its sails. And further still, it was likely that other accessories were being prepared: including deck mounted artillery and ballista.

The Kisharite man turned to the Elven queen with a smirk on his face; a rare sight indeed. His black and yellow robes fluttered gently in the breeze as he prodded a thumb towards the ship's frame and the thousands of Elven artisans working across the water from them. "They say that your teeth can chew out a ship a day. I have been coming here and back for about a week. But I have to say that I am impressed, your Highness. This 'ka-rak' is an interesting thing to me. The sister ship to your own personal vessel, I am told?"

"Indeed. A gift to Nekhur, as per the acquisition of the port entailed. We were happy to build it with the materials paid for so graciously by the Great King himself, it is said."

Ziusudra nodded in agreement but scowled. "Its not necessary to pander to him, when he's a thousand thousand miles away at Eatar."

"I do no intent to offend His Highness, and know that there are many things across the Empire with ears." She pursed her lip and then smirked; painfully obvious she knew she was being facetious and naïve. "Though I'm not here to talk about the vessel; the Tyria. No, I'm here to talk about your investigation."

At that the Kisharite clenched his teeth and stood up straighter. He cleared his throat and fought the temptation to rub the back of his head. "What of it?"

If she were someone other than the queen of a subservient kingdom; she would have sighed. "Well, what have you and your men uncovered? Did any of the leads in my uncle's tower go anywhere? The patterns in the floor? The letters? Something in his books?"

"No," was Ziusudra's decisive reply.

That was disheartening, immensely so. She was left with more questions than answers; but part of her felt the man was withholding information from her. So she pressed on: "No?"

"I am not finished. But I suppose my words were incorrect. His abode, we feel its warded. Or protected. And it might need a familial bond or some thing you may know to access it. We were intending on telling you once we were certain; but I suppose there is no harm now."

He paced along the pier, before stopping to check the ship. Vana moved up next to him and rested her hands on the barrier between them and the sea. "And what led you to this conclusion?"

"A tome with a lock that was not a lock; a series of images, things I have concluded to be riddles. That damned glass armour of his, there's something up with it. We can't even touch it. It doesn't let us. But you managed fine when you were there last and caused it to light up the entire room."

Vana smiled. Perhaps her uncle had prepared for some Nekhur interreference. And she was glad she was needed.

"I will go," she said. "Alone."
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Postby Ceystile » Wed Mar 24, 2021 12:14 am

Zerzi Tremere/Madoc Shaw
"Composing again?" Zerzi peered up from her sheet music through her thick blonde mane at the sound of the familiar voice, roughened from sleep yet still entirely recognizable. "Of course. Did you expect any less?"
"My little nightingale." Madoc walked over and dropped a kiss on top of his lover's head as she smiled up at him. "This place is crawling with nobles, adventurers and knights who want their deeds immortalized, especially now that there's war brewing. I'm up to my ears in work."

"You're not the only one. The Church decided that this was a wonderful time to spread the word of our Lord Mathari to the peoples of the world."
"Usually you'd be pleased by that. Now, you don't sound so sure."
"I'd be fine with it, people need spiritual guidance in times like these. They need something to cling to, but there's a difference between being brave and just being dumb. Some of the bishops want to send off acolytes, priests who haven't even completed their trainingyet and they literally want to send them into death traps. Warrior-priests know how to take care of themselves a little better, our men are missionaries. They're not cannon fodder, sending anybody into an open warzone who isn't a combatant is just criminal."

"Did you object to it?" The Mathari Church had a recent meeting at their home base in Rhelerica, and Madoc had just returned a few days prior.
"Of course I did! It's suicide, I don't know why the Archbishop is even allowing this. The woman's gone mad, I swear."
"Seems the whole world'sgone mad, really." Zerzi sighed. "It's been hard for all of us, people are losing loved ones...I'd be better off if I had a steady employer and patron, but unfortunately I don't right now and it's not the time to look for one."
"At least you have more creative freedom this way. Your songs aren't meant to kowtow to some stuck up gilded arse."

"Father! How unrighteous of you!"

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Postby Great Confederacy of Commonwealth States » Wed Mar 24, 2021 2:54 pm


Marching along the stony banks of the river, just before dawn, felt to Mevil like the silence before the storm. Unlike the previous days marching, the sun was still hidden behind the treelines to the east, and the splash of the river against jagged rocks made it feel like a spring excursion. It would not take long, Mevil knew, before the sun was out in full again, and the men behind would be choking on the dust of the men in front. Already, by force of habit, some soldiers had wrapped cloth around their mouth and nose to protect themselves. The column was silent in anticipation, and aware that their mission was one that required at least some stealth to pull off. But their quietness had an eerie quality, Mevil found, as if they were already mourning themselves.

At the centre of their column came Mevil’s personal banner, given to him by the duke himself just an hour before. The woven cloth was white with streaks of bright red, and it hung limply without a breeze to carry it. That too would soon change, Mevil suspected.

“Sir Mevil, you undertake a dangerous mission. Your valour will determine whether you carry this banner home, or if it will carry you. Do me proud” the duke had told him. Mere moments before, the haematurgs of the duke’s court had wrapped the woven cloth tightly around the body of a fallen scout, dragged back to camp by his horse. The first casualty of the battle to come. When the duke unwrapped the cloth, it left behind the hydrated husk of the scout. Fettah, his name had been, and he had been a Seher local. As soon as the banner cloth had been taken off, the haematurgs began wrapping the body in oiled rags, chanting incantations as they went.

“Fettah has given his blood to you, Mevil. His body will be your charge if you return”

The oldest families had entire catacombs dedicated to the mummified bodies that had once died their flags, and that reminded them of the battles of their ancestors. Back at his father’s estate, there was a small chapel with about six bodies this entombed, but those would all pass to the care of his older brother. This one was for his keep, and the beginning of a collection if his own bloodline proved strong enough.

Fettah he had left at camp, of course, but the banner was now his own, and it would lead his company into battle. With his oak-and-steel battle chariot, he drove up and down the line, trying to remember all the faces of those marching for him. It was too much, of course; two thousand faces were too much to remember. When making his sixth pass of the day, he met Sir Belovan half-way, riding in his own battle chariot. The broad-shouldered knight, bearded and bellied by years of comfort, had a more ornately decorated chariot; iron figures moulded against its side told the story of the Battle of Vestedan, where Belovan’s ancestors three centuries before had earned their first banner. Belovan had been assigned as Mevil’s second-in-command, but the old veteran was also there to guide the young man; a task Belovan revelled in.

“The column is progressing nicely, sir Mevil!” Belovan shouted, with the tone of a parent congratulating their child on a meal well-eaten.

“And your banner is a profound work, too” he added, this time more sincere. Mevil could not fault him; the patterns that the blood of Fettah had painted were intricate and flowery; spiralling patterns branching off one another like vines, and twisting deeper and deeper into the fabric. It gave a three-dimensional feel to the cloth, as if it were an optical illusion. The flag of Belovan, which was carried alongside and which had long since Vestedan turned black, had lightning bolts flashing from a single point. It was said that those patterns divined the nature of your bloodline, and Mevil wondered what it would mean for his future offspring.

“Anyway, the front of the column has reached the forest edge” Belovan continued. The plan was to wait in the tree line for the main force to begin their attack, and for the enemy force to start crossing. Then, they would attack the bridge head-on, cutting off the enemy’s only line of escape.

“The forest is much further away from the village than we suspected” Belovan said, concerned. “And there is no further cover on the field; no hedges that could hide our advance, but none that could hinder it either”

Mevil nodded. He would have at least hoped for some more cover, or a short sprint between the forest edge and the bridge. But as long as the enemy did not keep too many reserves, and not too many crossbowmen, it would not be a concern. In fact, perhaps the long advance would trigger a rout before they actually arrived. At least their chariots would have a clear advance, even if they had only three.

“And count Davot?” Mevil inquired.

“Back at the line, keeping an eye out for enemy movement. Their camp has been broken down almost entirely, it seems” Belovan answered.

“About thirty minutes too late, then” Mevil noted, as the sun began peeking through the woodlands to the east. “I would have expected them to start crossing sooner”

“Aye, nothing goes as planned during such a move, sir. Weevil comes at harvest” Belovan offered. Mevil nodded in agreement.

“I should go join Davot, then. You just keep the column moving, alright?” Mevil ordered, and Belovan bowed down with a reverence that seemed almost feigned. Despite his infantilising tone, Belovan was a great and patient teacher, and Mevil felt like their respect was mutual, even if Belovan Belovanion pretended like he was his grandson.

Mevil ordered his chariot driver up the column, and it wasn’t long before he reached the forest edge. He had to park the chariot behind a large mossy boulder, and walk the rest of the way to where the line of men was forming, just behind a slope in the landscape. First Mevil had to pass through a line of reserve swordsmen; then past the javelinists and crossbowmen; and then up to the first line of swordsmen and spearmen; three ranks deep each. Behind a tree, recognisable by his breast plate of red-tinged blood steel, stood count Davot. The count was a slender figure and sharp features, and eyes which were constantly set in a suspicious slant. His red eyes peered across the field, towards where the enemy was readying itself.

“Any movement?” Mevil inquired, whispering. Davot jumped up in surprise, but managed supress a shriek. Regardless, the soldiers closest to them had a good-humoured chuckle, quickly silenced by the stern looks of the count.

“From what I could see, the cavalry tried to cross first, but they were recalled half-way. Much of the night guard also deserted, which explains their late march. They overslept” the count explained with a smirk.

“You can see all that?” Mevil asked. The count shook his head.

“No, but I can smell it” he said. His red eyes were bright, as if reflecting the early sunlight. Mevil could see his family banner catching the early morning breeze; dark bordeaux streaks in wind-like patterns, fading in and out of the background.

The silence of the early morning was suddenly shattered. From the distance came a rolling sound that resembled thunder; first a boom, and then a gradual dying-down. Unlike thunder, though, it was rhythmic; and it was speeding up. The duke was sounding his war-drums, indicating he was about to attack. The distant sound was followed by martial shouts nearby; the captains in the village were turning their formations around. Slowly but surely, the bands of soldiers were herded out of the village towards the source of the thunder drums; each formation desperately trying to be the slowest, and to keep close to the bridge. The cavalry, however, stayed put, instead of riding to either of the flanks. Mevil cocked an eyebrow.

“The right flank has arrived!” Belovan bellowed from behind. Mevil turned around and nodded.

“Take positions and wait for my command” he ordered, first looking at Belovan and then at Davot, who would take the left flank. Mevil ran back to his chariot, allowing the driver to advance as far as he could while still keeping cover behind the thick undergrowth and the lay of the land. The two signal drummers, their large drum-cart pulled by two hobbies, followed him like a shadow.

The minutes crawled by, and then the quarters. It was impossible to say what a good time would be; Mevil had to wait at least until the first sound of battle, or the enemy army could just turn around and meet them. But with 2000 men here, the duke’s main force was outnumbered, and the enemy outclassed them in cavalry. The small hobbies were good for scouting and foraging, but made for poor war horses. Picking the right moment was instrumental.

In the distance, beyond the western south-western woodlands, the first shouts were heard; metal striking against metal. It sounded far, like the drums. Mevil took a deep breath. His heart was pounding in his throat. He had to give the order, and he had to give it at the right time. For a brief moment, he held the fate of the battle in his hand. He raised his fist, indicating his signal drummers to take notice.

“When I give the order…” he began, but then he noticed something. Movement in the streets. He had to really focus to get a good look from that distance, but when he did, what happened was unmistakable. The bridge was guarded by a few footmen, slowly allowing the wagon-train to pass first. A smart move, because it would allow the army to pass quicker should the battle go badly for them. However, the horsemen were also edging closer and closer towards the bridge. Mevil lowered his hand and kept observing the scene.

A few minutes later, count Davot came running down the line.

“Mevil, what are you waiting for? We need to…”

“Shhh…” Mevil answered, pointing at the village. Davot followed his lead.

“What do you… ohhhhhh” he said, his look of surprise shifting towards a grin. The lead horseman had now gone onto the bridge, but had been stopped by the foot soldiers. They were talking to one another. The horseman tried to push on. The footman lowered his spear and pointed it at him. A standoff ensued.

“Davot… you better get back to your flank” Mevil said with a smirk. Davor simply nodded and ran back up the line. Before Davot was fully out of view, the horseman had drawn his sword and brought it down on the spearman. The other horsemen followed his example; the footmen began forming up to oppose them.

“Now! Advance!” Mevil shouted. Immediately, the drummers brought down their hammers on the instrument, sending ripples of sound down the line, indicating a cadence. At once, the whole formation began marching forwards, leaving the cover of the treeline. They raised the banners, and shouted war cries as they closed on the village. There was still a lot of field to cross, but it took the enemy a long time to respond with their own little war going on. The cavalrymen, not inclined to stick around after their bout of treason, began galloping across the bridge, or rode out of the village in other directions. Mevil followed his own formation closely, his war chariot giving him just the vantage to look over the heads of his soldiers.

“Hameldion!” he shouted, drawing his sword and raising it skywards. The troops followed his example, and repeated after him.

“Hameldion! Hameldion! Hameldion!”

They were half-way across the field when the first enemy bolt was loosed; it buried itself harmlessly in the ground, having been fired way before they had come within effective range. Soon, however, the line had passed that point, and bolts began bouncing off against shields and breast plates. It was not long before the bolts began finding weak spots on accident, hitting under the arms or in the groin. The formation began trailing white-red coloured soldiers, some screaming in agony, some silently lying face-first in the dirt. Then, the bolts began penetrating even the metal cuirasses of the soldiers. The bolts came from inside the houses, but the enemy was forming an opposing line as well, and crossbowmen found shelter behind the bristling wall of shields and spears. The Avione crossbowmen loosed arrows in return, but reloading while advancing made them less effective.

“Charge after javelins!” Mevil shouted. Javelinists ran up to the back of the front line, throwing spears at the ready. As soon as they threw their volley, which buried itself in the opposing line, the front line charged and crashed against the enemy. It looked violent and deadly, but Mevil knew that the close-up line melee was a shoving match; the front line tried to get their sharp edges in, but most of their focus was in not falling down and getting trampled by their comrades. The opposing line was not nearly as long as their own force, and Davot’s left flank had already circumvented them and moved onto the village itself. He could see the count’s chariot following closely behind his soldiers. However, at the centre and the right, the enemy was holding firm.

Avione military strategy relied above all else on its knights. Even one could make a tactical difference, but only if deployed at the right time against the right enemy. The myth of one Avione knight besting entire armies was based on the fact that they could play a key role, but alone, they were almost useless in a battle. For the Avione knight, seeing where he was needed was as important as actual fighting. So Mevil drove his chariot up and down the line, watching for weaknesses.

He spotted one towards the right; his line had begun pushing a bulge into the enemy line. This was good, but it was not sustainable. A bulge into the enemy line meant more enemies could push back against the bulge, which would lead to status-quo. Unless someone could breach it.

Mevil jumped down from the chariot as they passed and drew his sword. Elbowing his way to the front, he was immediately swallowed up by the world of close-up melee. He felt his own soldiers pressing in all around him, and he had to be careful not to trip over the bodies and weapons of the fallen. Pressing his way forward, he immediately felt how hot it was there, and he could smell the stench of sweat and blood all around him. It almost made him gag. After some shoving and elbowing, he found his way to the front. He felt the stab of enemy spears and swords against his plate armour, but they were rendered entirely ineffectual. As long as they did not take the time to find his weak spots…

As soon as he arrived at the front, he raised his sword to eye level, and lightly jabbed towards an opponent. He only made a tiny scratch on the man’s chin, but that was enough. The world turned red before Mevil’s bloodshot eyes, and he simply brushed past the scratch with his hand. Quite quickly, the wound started bleeding profusely, with the wound getting bigger and bigger. First blood began to seep, then it sprayed, then it fountained out, covering his compatriots in streaks of red. Soon after he dropped his weapons and fell backwards, his face pale with loss of blood.

“Witchcraft!” came the shout from the enemies. There was confusion among their opponents; the line began to move. Mevil grabbed another soldier by the shoulder; for a moment he looked afraid, and then his eyes and mouth began to bleed. He too fell quickly backwards, almost turned completely white through blood loss. This gave the line enough leeway to push through entirely, the enemy breaking before their charge.

The break made the enemy line untenable. Soon, the enemy was on the run, the swordsmen of Avion in their wake. Those crossbowmen who could not get away in time were especially unlucky, as soldiers took revenge for their fallen comrades. To his right, Melvin saw Belovan advance, wielding his large two-handed sword almost like a scythe. The red lettering on the blood steel glowed every time a streak of blood ran across it, and with every enemy cut down, the mowing movements became faster, the weapon gaining in power.

“Hameldion! Mendelion! Hameldion! Mendelion!”

Mevil’s chariot driver quickly caught up with his lord; he had affixed blades to the sides of the chariot wheels, as was customary for running down fleeing enemies. Mevil jumped on; his own soldiers jumped aside as he came riding through the streets, cutting down enemies as he went. Many of them could not jump away in time and lost their lower legs; those who managed to get out of the way were cut down by the Avione. The rout did not stop at the bridge, and soon, Mevil and his men captured it. Mevil himself planted his banner atop the structure.

He shouted out in joy, but quickly, his eyes narrowed. Davot and his men were arriving at the town square, Davot frantically up front. His panicked eyes told Mevil enough, and looking up towards the south-west, his fears were verified. The enemy army had withdrawn from the battle with the duke’s main force, and turned around to meet them.

The duke’s drums sounded in the distance, but the trumpets of the Seher sounded even louder.

“They’re going to have to go through us!” Belovan shouted bravely, his sword now positively glowing red. Mevil simply nodded, handing over his banner to one of his soldiers.

“Aye, my lord… That’s what they’re going to try…”
The name's James. James Usari. Well, my name is not actually James Usari, so don't bother actually looking it up, but it'll do for now.

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Postby Finium » Wed Mar 24, 2021 7:27 pm

Gin Moldhur

It came to pass in the days of King Vithalbanairon Morghad, who the people called Vithiron, that the men of Monroyel rose up against their Tyrant and brought strife upon the land. Now the Tyrant knew of Vithiron and also knew that the great folk of Ingorsolm had no love for the quarrels of men, so he sent out envoys to treat with them.

Up, up, and up; the unending ascent was characterized variously by banks of fog and missing stones in the road. The chilly, potted road led up through the hills from Sesson to the extravagantly positioned elven fortress of Ingorsolm, where the petty king Vithiron kept his court. Perhaps the mouldering fort was once a hospitable home for the garrison stationed there, but Imdi-Ilum knew that Vithiron’s real keep was a hole bored directly down into the mountain, likely kept warm and homely by furnaces and the commotion of the dwarven colony there. On the surface of the mountain, however, there were only vast diagonal planes of gravel and grass inhabited by goatherds and the humans unfortunate enough to become entangled by the dwarvish tradition of thralldom. Occasionally, a warm breath of fire would emerge from the haze where such solitary figures sat huddled, ensconced in threadbare cloaks and staring intently into their meagre dung fires.

These slopes were once wooded, but the needs of the great house at the crest of the ridge had demanded that a massive swath of land be laid bare, especially along the course of the main road. The road, filled with rotting cavities though it was, was still the best infrastructure that the dwarf lord kept above ground. In fact, since Imdi-Ilum had passed the border post, they had not seen a single dwarf on their long ascent. Yet that was undoubtedly by design; Vithiron’s men did not patrol the surface and so there was plenty of room for all kinds of malcontents to move in and slip quietly between the far flung outposts of thrall goatherds. More often than not, it was orcs who sought refuge on the desolate slopes and the precious, comparatively paradisiacal valleys that could be found on the other side of the old fort. But the orcs knew to stay away from the road, after all, it was more likely to be an armored band of men from Valamir than Imdi-Ilum’s diplomatic convoy.

After an interminable age of chill and damp, they finally reached the outskirts of Ingorsolm. A mass of huts and hovels made from rubble and thatch, interspersed with a few freshly painted wooden longhouses, marked the city that had grown up around Ingorsolm. It was still cold and there was a haze in the air, but Imdi-Ilum could smell the refreshing scent of woodsmoke from braziers instead of fetid burning goat dung, and the refreshing chatter of citizens instead of the unidentifiable and ominous movements of gravel laden mountainside. Through the unorganized maze of homes and shops, the road cut straight up towards the fortress.

Ingorsolm was perhaps more a work of art than a military installment. It had been built during the long golden years of Severa and it showed in every detail. Slender towers sprouted from unadorned slopes and then ran long, branching tendrils of viaduct to neighbors and interior turrets overlooking them. The forest of arches and glimmering white stone was playful, perhaps even arrogant, in it’s delicacy and perfection. It was in every way, a completely average and inspiring Elvish ruin. The decorative minarets and superfluous gatehouses exuded a great presence which, much as Imdi-Ilum had feared, gave way to yet another ascent out of the city and up to the keep.

Up close, the fortress was disappointingly small compared to the illusion of grandeur that could be seen from the city. Many of the fort’s buildings had crumbled into vague outlines of dormitories and warehouses, which had once supported the garrison when they still lived above ground. Not it was only the keep and a handful of supporting towers that remained. The keep itself was nothing more than an impregnable, perfect cylinder since the roof had rooted away generations ago. Wood was better spent on the rare, warm houses of dwarven overseers down in the city than in maintaining the distant memory of Ilcallan and his king. Nevertheless, Imdi-Ilum departed from the carriage and began another ascent, this one composed of stairs, that only served to remind them of the precariousness of the whole realm of Gin Molduhr. It was all perched on the edge of a knife, waiting for an overloud shout to bring down their little castle in an avalanche of death.

Up the steps and through a series of outer doors and rooms, Imdi-Ilum could not help but notice just how precious few retainers there were. All of them were stout dwarves with their unmistakable steel plates and bushy bearded faces scowling at the outsider, but despite their best effort at intimidation, Imdi-Ilum counted only ten men, and this, they suspected, was a grand show of force. Behind the surly dwarves and the door they opened was a vast, circular yard paved in white polished stone, and there sat Vithiron, the captain of Ingorsolm.

He was like a picture of Candramand from a storybook; bent and curled into a great wooden chair, buried in a white beard that spilled out past his feet and onto the dirty flagstones. There was no sign of Urdsaen, that sooty relic that the dwarves loved to trot out when they felt arrogant. Instead, Vithiron wore scalemail, a traditional dress for the refugees of Harmengath, and while his brow was bare, he had had a plentitude of gossamer golden necklaces around his neck and his fingers were festooned with gems. He wore the garb of a merchant lord, at least among the dwarves, and doubtless assumed that Imdi-Ilum knew this too.

Around the throne were arranged Vithiron’s favorites, mostly aging dwarves like him with grey hair and drooping faces. They did not carry arms like the guards and lacked armor, wearing simpler shirts and breeches of wool, but each had a decorated broach showing their rank. There was Master Miner, Master Smith, and on Vithiron’s left were the jewelers and the men who owned the herds of goats that fed them all. Behind them was a rank of thralls with their faces cowled, although their clothes were in such disrepair that Imdi-Ilum could see that they were humans.

“Greetings, Imdi-Ilum kisherthrall, what brings you to my house?” the stern voice said, although Imdi-Ilum could hear a deep frailty in the echoes that bounced from the white walls of the yard. “Do you bring word of the little mountain lord, the Duke of Durheyn? Or are you here to trade promises for silver?”

“I bring words and gifts from Sadyhattes IV, Ensi of Eatar, Tyrant of Myrrha, Beloved of Belrim, Lugal of Nise Matati Kisitti Qatiya, and Sole Bearer of Heavenly Power. The Radiant King wishes good tidings upon you and your people, seeking only friendship with Your Majesty.” Imdi-Ilum began, delivering a well rehearsed flowery speech. It was not only for Vithiron. One among his party, or perhaps several, or all, could be agents of the Tyrant.

“Unfortunately it appears the Duke of Durheyn has made a grave error of misjudgement, and has aligned himself with an unsavoury and illegitimate band of bandits. I am here instead to offer you peace, trade, and an accord. In return for acknowledging Tervain’s decision to submit to Nekhur, and acknowledging the Great King as sovereign of all the earth and beyond.” He concluded. It was not the ultimatum that had been delivered to Tervain, Imbar, the Seheran cities and duchies, and countless other polities. It seems the Tyrant had no desire to invade or integrate this dwarven hold, at least at the present time.

“Yes, we have heard much news from the lowlands this… banditry. Perhaps you can bring me one of their trifles, Edhelvain’s seat from Varla?” asked the old king, with a put on slyness that did nothing to hide his obvious desire for the symbol of kingship of Erdelon. His courtiers tensed with the question, each frozen in pretended ease, looking intently at Imdi-Ilum.

“The Silver Throne was melted down upon the order of the Tervine king, Imirian. He decreed that it had been sullied by his family’s actions, and the riches within should go towards reimbursing Nekhur’s great expenses in developing and safeguarding his lands.” Imdi-Ilum replied, lying without hesitation. Imirian had of course been horrified to learn of the artifacts' destruction, but outside of the court all were to believe it had been his intent.

Imdi-Ilum’s pronouncement causes a ripple of concern across the clenched row of courtiers. They muttered in Calennorian and the murmur grew until one overwrought old timer shouted ‘sacrilege’ at which point Vithiron’s bony fist shot up to silence the crowd.

“The dead are already worrisome, Master, it is a dire thing to hand them over the rites of kingship,” the king said with a level of sincerity that Imdi-Ilum could not pierce with cynicism. “But we have not the luxury to worry too much about old thrones or… dead dukes, in times such as these.”

“Indeed, your Majesty, it is a time to think of the future. The dead are in the ground, and it is time for new flora to sprout.” Imdi-Ilum responded.

“Let them stay dead then, as you have said,” Vithiron acquiesced. “But perhaps you can tell me, what promises shall I send to your master in exchange for his mercy and lavishments?”

“His Radiance requires only your friendship, and that you honour his position as Sovereign of All-Earth.” He answered, lavishing the prisoner in Eatar with yet another fanciful title.

“Ah friendship, truly the thing that all kings desire and surely lack,” Vithiron said, regaining the greedy glee that he had presented when asking for the old throne. “Priceless, I say it is, like a perfect gem that must be sold by a proud jeweler to feed his family, though the joy it brings cannot be measured.”

The old dwarf trailed off, caught up in his own metaphor as he twiddled his own bejeweled fingers to observe the play of light. His silence stretched until interrupted by a shuddering cough from one of the assembled thralls. His eyes refocused and he peered over his shoulder with a look of disgust, but none of them wavered, keeping their eyes fixed on the floor.

“Yet the family must be fed in the end,” he sighed. “I suppose I could give your lord my unreserved friendship and respect for a share of the great king’s wealth for my people.”

“The Great King’s friendship, in that regard, does come with a few requirements.” Said Imdi-Ilum. “Your mountain passes, passages, and any routes known of or suspected, must be closed to any bandits and traitors and any in the Southern Realms who would seek to foolishly aid their criminal endeavour. Furthermore, you must allow none of your citizens to intervene in the situation, and it would be… appreciated if you were to commit to the recapturing of Durheyn from its treasonous garrison.”

“His Radiance remembers well his enemies, and his friends.” Imdi-Ilum said, providing a clear threat, warning, and offering all in one.

“Of course I can deliver you Durheyn!” the king laughed with his courtiers, “for a thousand of your wondrous bulls I can bring every stone of Durheyn to the Tyrant’s doorstep.”

“That would be a most kingly ransom, and Durheyn’s keep is not sufficient of such a prize.” The perfumed diplomat replied. When parlaying with dwarves, he had found one would gain more in being straightforward, particularly when it came to particulars of deals.

“Then perhaps the great king of all lands and seas could give us something lesser, a trifle really, the small horde of treasures that Lord Durheyn keeps secreted in his mountain fortress? The king asked, leaning forward and peering over Imdi-Ilum. “After all, we of the great folk are known to hunger after treasure laying in foreign mountains.”

He did not respond for a second. Not that the demand was outrageous, it was in fact the opposite. “That would be most agreeable. Any treasures or artifacts, in Durheyn’s keep or crypts, or otherwise spirited elsewhere in haste, shall be considered your personal property.”

“Then let us set aside our ledgers and purses for a time, come Master and see the hospitality of my hold!” Vithiron announced, suddenly full of energy.

Imdi-Ilum smiled, and motioned towards his party to prepare for the evening, and likely a nightly stay. Sablelocks and Amberpad dwarves began unloading a few chests of silver, while Vithiron was presented with two new belongings, a Grey Elf, who looked most displeased at her new predicament, and a Desert Goblin, an aged veteran who had run up one too many debts.

Vithiron’s pronouncement brought in the guards who the Nekhurians had passed along the way. Their scowls were replaced with bows and scrapes as they ushered the embassy through a series of doors and to a great wooden platform that was suspended on chains. With them went the two fresh thralls to drink away their last few hours free from drudgery and service. The dwarves had already produced wineskins and bottles of sharp dwarven spirits by the time they reached this point. They readily handed around their liquor and they laughingly warned the embassy not to look over the edge and slapped one another on the back as they pretended to lose their balance. With a lurch, the floor gave way and began the halting descent into the lantern-lit hold of the dwarves.

* * * * *

Above the burgeoning party, the courtyard, which had once been the towering keep of the fortress, lapsed into a silence as all eyes turned away from the king and towards one of the thralls. He was a tall fellow, who stood out among the rest of the thralls in that he was neither enrobed in rags nor was he pinched with hunger. As he threw back his hood, all could see that he was also not human. His sable skin was decorated with two red lines running from his eyes to his jaw, his head was clean shaven, and the two tusks protruding from his lower lip were decorated by golden tips.

“And what say you, Lord Dathod?” Vithiron asked the orc, “Shall you also earn my countenance this night?”

The orc was one of many hundreds who had sought the protection of the mountains after their armies had been broken on Valamir’s great shield. His own mother was the matriarch of his tribe and their lesser kin in some other tribes and they all now lived comfortably in a hidden valley with a stream full of fish and visited often by herds of small mountain deer. It was a good life, for a band of refugees, though above them sat a dwarven hold where small, stocky silhouettes cast impossibly long shadows across his home. Thus Dathod sat in council with the king, being the sole representative of his kind.

“Durheyn shall be delivered to you” he said plainly and, after a full pause, “My King.”

“Do not throw away the lives of your people,” one of the grey-bearded councilors said. “Let Nehkur break the castle, but be sure that you are first into the crypts.”

Others among the dwarves nodded for, while they had little love for the orc or his kin, desired secrecy above all else. They sought nothing more than a rumor, a vague memory of an elder city that had long passed away into the most distant memory of dust among men. It was said among the old men of the great folk that there had been a powerful seer in Candramand’s day who had passed through Gin Moldhur on his way west. Though this was only known in the vague whispers of men whose grandfathers had seen such things, it was said that some of his artifacts had been gathered up and stored away in the black places under Durheyn’s mountain. That was all that Dathod knew, but it was enough to make him wary of his would-be masters and their plot.

“I shall dispatch my kinsman Gurdrane this very night with a force of my folk, you shall go with them and bring your own kin,” Vithiron continued. “I know it is not your custom to accept foreign arms, but now that have you given yourself over to my cause, I shall give you Renglasur armor and any tools you require.”

With that, Dathon was dismissed back to his tribe. The old dwarves and their cluster of thralls slowly gathered themselves up and went down to entertain their guests in the hold below.
Last edited by Finium on Wed Mar 24, 2021 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Remnants of Exilvania » Sat Mar 27, 2021 5:11 pm

Csaba Horváth
A standard Raid
Borderlands, Ironmark

Pale moonlight shone upon the vast shrubland that covered the northwestern Ironmark, casting the illusion of a well lit landscape to the distant observer. Yet moonlight, while beautiful, was weak and paled in comparison to the light of the sun, creating deep shadows among the shrub, not to mention the essentially black wall of darkness that was the border with neighbouring Embweald, high, dark trees rising to the sky, their twisted, gnarled branches and blackened bark preventing the moonlight from reaching far into the forests there or illuminating anything. No, the only thing on the other side of the border that was in any way illuminated was the old road that connected the two countries and cut through the old forest. Despite having fallen into relative disrepair on both sides, it still snaked through the landscape and its white stones seemed to reflect the moonlight, glowing with a faint, pale glow.

Ghostroads they were often called.

They were rarely travelled these days for ever since the fall of Cynebald the relations between these once fairly close countries had soured greatly. And the end of the Pale Lord as well as the partition of Embweald merely further entrenched both sides in their animosity. Yet still people travelled between these two countries...albeit not by the road as movement among the brushes indicated, branches rustling quietly and leaves falling.

The Embweald raiders were well experienced, men of their trade who had for the most part made these kinds of raids multiple times in their lives already or atleast being led and advised by men who did. Their clothes were the usual tattered patchwork that the impoverished of Embweald sported, backed up with occasional pieces of armour, often rusting and in otherwise poor condition. But nobody was banking on armour anyway. The Markers' cold steel would easily go through most armours anyway. No, these men were banking on stealth as they snuck through the brush. And in case of any Markers coming upon them they had the right equipment. Crossbows, long, barbed spears and heavy axes, in short, just the right weapons to bring down a hwida. Powerful bolts to penetrate deep into its flesh, barbed spears to penetrate and stick and axes to cleave at its legs. For without legs even the most amazing horse was nothing but dead weight.

Their leader was Csaba Horváth, a bandit lord in the border region, leading his band of raiders onto their raids from a fortified logging camp within the accursed forest. By Embweald standards he was a well fed and trained man, a fearsome bandit lord of the border region who claimed to have ancestry among Embweald nobility...but no documentation or holdings to back himself up, always claiming that those had been ceded to the Ironmark and razed to the ground, all his belongings having been stolen or gone up in flames.

And this man, Csaba Horváth, now stood in the shadow of a large bush and looked out towards some lights in the distance. A house, belonging to one of those goat farmers around here no doubt. Gripping the hilt of his sword tighter, the bandit lord stepped forward as silently as he could, the pieces of armour he wore clattering slightly as he moved forward. Technically wearing armour was not conducive to the raid he was trying to undertake but for him it was a matter of pride and authority. Men clad in armour were respected in Embweald as it said about them that they were either martial or rich. Behind him there was more movement in the brush, moonlight occasionally glinting off muddied speartips as the raiders advanced.

Somewhere, someone tripped, falling flat on his face and rustling the brush more than usual, causing the rest of the raiders to halt momentarily. Nobody even dared to breathe as they strained their ears to try and hear the familiar sound of the hwidas or the horns of any Markers. But nothing was there other than the occasional baa from a goat, causing the entire force to collectively exhale while Csaba hoofed it over to where his man had fallen.

It was Adrián Balla, one of the older folks, who had tripped. The man was only just getting up, dusting himself off a little while using his spearshaft as support. Csaba was thankful to the Pale Lord that there was barely any light here among the bushes for Adrián was no appetizing sight to see, the Ashen Plague having taken the man's lower jaw. It was why he didn't even bother to ask for an explanation or anything because he knew the man couldn't provide one. He couldn't even speak. Instead he just roughly grabbed him by the shoulder and lifted him onto his feet before pushing him forward and hissing:

"For fuck's sake is it too much to ask that you move quietly instead of alerting everyone within shouting distance?!?"

co-clopp co-clopp co-clopp co-clopp co-clopp co-clopp co-clopp co-clopp

Csaba closed his eyes, a single droplet of sweat running down his forehead as his ears picked up a terrifying sound right after he stopped hissing. In the ensuing silence, it was almost deafeningly loud and came from behind them, meaning their escape route was likely cut. Hoofbeat was a sound anyone from Embweald dreaded for it rarely brought good news. Most times it brought only gleaming, cold Colborn steel, soon to be lodged inside their bodies. Already Csaba could hear some of the men whispering among each other, nervously shuffling. Morale was at a breaking point and if he didn't do something now, his entire group would disintegrate and every man would attempt to make it back to Embweald on his own.

"Everyone, keep calm. If we run now, they'll know for sure that we're here and will hunt us down one by one. They're faster than us afterall. Now, get on the ground, lay low, stay behind the bushes but be ready to attac on my command. Crossbowmen, with me. If they figure out anything, I don't want them to get away."

The moment had passed and to his luck his men listened, the raiders hiding themselves among the brush while Csaba stepped forward, walking towards the hoofbeats. Several crossbowmen joined him, hissing silent curses as they made their way through the brush. Atleast untill there was no more brush, a ghostly shining road before them instead. And it was then that Csaba realized that something odd was afoot. The Markers usually did not use these roads. Yet judging by the hoofbeat, whoever was coming clearly was coming from the road. With some hissed instructions he had his crossbowmen take positions at the roadside while he dared to go peek out of the brush and tried to see what was coming.

They had come much, much closer in the time it had taken him and his men to set up, the hoofbeat echoing through the night and destroying any pretense of stealth there may have been. Even if they did not get spotted, these newcomers would surely turn the attention of the Markers here and then the mere idea of a raid would be suicide. Granted, as would be going hungry. Now, from what he could see there were 7 riders coming along the street, moonlight glinting of weapons and armour, indicating that they all were very much armed and armoured and likely capable warriors. So avoiding a confrontation was for the best, Csaba thought as he vanished back into the brush, hiding, biding his time.

From his position he couldn't see much, he could only hear the hoofbeat getting closer and closer while he and his crossbowmen waited, holding their breath. Every second felt like minutes during this wait, every hoofbeat like the thunder of the apocalypse creeping ever closer to them. He heard one of the crossbowmen next to him uttering silent words of prayer, reciting some litany over and over again like it was going to do anything. He was too far away for Csaba to reach him, else he'd have nudged him to stop him.

When the riders finally reached their positions, Csaba's worst nightmare seemed to come true as the lead horse suddenly rose, its neighing bone chilling for the hiding men before its hooves hit the road hard, evoking unbidden images of what it would be like to have those hooves kicking him. The other horses came to a stop behind it, neighing as well as their riders brutally forced them to comply. Csaba's brain didn't even register this, his vision focusing on the horselegs before him. The glow of the road illuminated them well, showing off how black and skinny they were. But still, the size was unmistakeable. That was a hwida. Too bad he couldn't see the rider.

And then the sniffing started. Someone on the road was loudly sniffing in the air like some dog. For a moment Csaba even thought it was a dog but he quickly realized that no, at best this was a human pretending to be a dog. No dog sounded like this. And no dog could speak. Like the rider did, a cold, slightly manic voice that said:

"Come out, come out wherever you are! I can smell you, you know? The air is rank with the stench of your fear. And the beat of your sweet, precious hearts is like thunder. Though perhaps that's the horses' hearts. The poor things have been ridden for a while now and could surely use a rest."

It sounded like a Marker but at the same time it didn't, Like, it had the Markers' accent Marker would speak this way. Never. Few Markers came to Embweald but of those who did he had met and talked with a few. Really only one had ever spoken like that and he had simply been deranged. Still, Csaba elected to hope it was all merely a bluff and didn't give the order to let loose the bolts, waiting for the riders to go on instead.

Suffice to say that he was very disappointed when they did not, the lead rider instead turning his horse so it was directly facing Csaba. Again he called out:

"Come out. If you are not willing, I'll use force and drag you onto the streets."

Things were not adding up. Riders coming from behind, using the street, somehow knowing they were here, the way their leader talked and even, as he just realized, the way they treated their horses. Those neighs before were neighs of protest and pain as the riders had furcefully brought their horses to a full stop on short notice. No, these weren't Markers. And if they weren't Markers...well, there was a wide range for what they could be but virtually anything was better than Markers.

With a nod to his crossbowmen, Csaba Horváth stood up and slowly made his way out of the brush and onto the street, keeping a tight grip on his sword. Yet what he was met with immediately made him relax that grip for surprise washed over him like a tidal wave. Before him stood a horse that was no doubt a hwida, judging by its sheer size. Or atleast it had been for the blade lodged through its bare skull indicated that this specimen was very much the way Csaba preferred them to be. Dead. Its body looked similarly dead, the bones clearly visible below blackened skin, giving it an almost mummified look. There was no hair save for a dirty, reddish-brown mane on top of its neck as well as a tail, the black skin being otherwise utterly hairless.

This thing should be dead, his mind screamed at Csaba and yet the horse stood before him, unmoving but still standing. And perched on top of it was a rider, clad all in and looking like a hole within the night sky for there was no reflections, no light, no anything. No, there was only a pair of piercing, slightly glowing, red eyes that stared down at Csaba before hollow laughter rang out and the lead rider said:

"Ahahahaha, the good old threat of force still works, eh? No confidence in your men? Oh no, I know there are more, I can smell them, hear them, see them..."

Csaba didn't need any further confirmation of what his mind was already suspecting. A dead yet moving horse? An armour, black as the blackest of nights? Piercing red eyes? Uncannily good senses? He immediately bent his knee and lowered his head before the creature before him, not having any illusions concerning his chances if the creature should decide to actually become hostile. Trying to sound as submissive as poissible he asked:

"Mylord, I did not know, I thought-"

But the vampire cut him off, waving his armoured hand dismissively as he said:

"Yes, yes, you thought we were a patrol of Markers, coming to get you on your petty raid to steal some goats. Honestly, don't you think the Markers ought to have something better to do than hunt down goat thieves in the middle of the night?"

Csaba was caught a little off guard by the unknown noble's demeanor, trying to make sense of it. He had heard those clad in the black armours were a bit...eccentric at times so perhaps this was the case here too? Still, he tried to please the vampire however he could, trying to answer:

"Well, yes, your excellency but-"

Again he was cut off, the vampire tossing something into his hands that Csaba managed to catch just barely while the vampire went on:

"Excellent! I knew you Embwealders still had it in you! The spunk and the hatred to show these horsefuckers who used to rule these lands! Come on, open it. Unfurl it."

The portion about who used to rule these lands hit home with Csaba, far more than the vampire had likely intende dto. Csaba remembered his father and the tales he used to tell him. Tales he had in turn heard from his own parents. About how they had lived in a great castle beyond the forest. How they had watched over a great number of peasants who would pay them tithes. How they would command great and proud soldiers, bathe in clean water or eat meat seasoned with fine spieces. How all of this had been taken from them, taken by this filth that was now letting goats graze where their ancestral home had once stood. Csaba immediately pulled the dirty rags apart that hid what was inside, in the process almost dropping the precious thing.

Yet when he held it in his hands, Csaba's eyes went wide for it felt light, too light to be any normal fabric. It flowed in an invisible breeze that seemingly only affected the fabric he now held in his hands for he couldn't feel or see it anywhere else. It made the fabric almost seem alive. Glowing, pale and slightly greenish as it was, Csaba knew exactly what he held in his hands. The old tales weren't forgotten yet. Tales of black hosts under ghostly banners, of a great war, greater than any other war. His hands formed into fists, tightly holding onto the banner as he looked up at the vampire, determination sparkling in his eyes:

"What are your commands, your excellency?"

He could hear the vampire's smile as the creature of the night answered, more of Csaba's men who had listened in on the conversation slowly making their way out of the brush and reverently staring at the vampire and his companions:

"Tonight we will do much more than just just steal some goats. Tonight we feast on the flesh of the hwidas and the blood of the sons of the Mark! Tonight the fires of their homesteads shall warm our cold and clammy boides! Tonight we send a sign to horselords, high and mighty on their beloved horses, that they have not won, never! That even now the sons of Embweald know what was theirs by right and will not rest, not now, not ever, in their pursuit to reclaim what is rightfully theirs!

Tonigt we do not slink back like beaten dogs after having stolen the scraps from under their table! Tonight we topple the table and spit in their faces! Let the banners of old fly high and show these fools that we are still here!"
Last edited by Remnants of Exilvania on Sat Mar 27, 2021 5:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Grande-Louisiane » Mon Mar 29, 2021 9:55 am

Ktesias ten'Exiode
The Great Port City of Iavila

The sun shone fair on Ktesias' bare bronze frame, the hard, dark body starkly contrasting the soft white silk that surrounded it. The Half-Elf was awake, if only just, as the ocean gales kicked back lace curtains to let in the disruptive light. Before him was a chamber of some opulence, decorated to appear fine without incurring unreasonable expense. The establishment was, of course, a business, and any onlookers yet unaware of the nature of its trade would quickly find their answer in the two other forms that laid alongside the bronze bastard of Marad.

Whores. They were whores, he remembered, studying the features of the lithe, pointy-earred man to his left, and the magnificently beautiful Kisharite woman to his right. Expensive ones, if he recalled correctly.

Ktesias slipped out of the admittedly comfortable four-poster bed and strode over to other end of the room, remembering through the haze of morning and the lingering effects of far too many, far too large mugs of Karpacian ale just why he'd chosen this room in particular. Taking a long drink from a nearby wineskin, lukewarm water helped to clear his dry throat and ease the gentle throbbing within his skull. He halfway clothed himself before stepping into the sun and out onto a narrow terrace that overlooked the city's massive harbor. The glare abated and the brightness of the mid-morning reflected off the gold and jewels that decorated his face, ears, and braided, coarse hair.

Ktesias was in a way, the picture of a young Maradi. He was short by their standards, just over six feet, and dark, if only slightly. Years of battle and mis-adventure both sculpted and scarred his torso, producing a robust but lean frame interspersed with tattoos, scars, and piercings. The Maradim were a flamboyant people, unabashed in their dress and manners, and Ktesias was no exception. His eyes were a soft amber that did little to betray the active and mercurial mind that sat behind them.

Just below the terrace, across a wide cobblestone avenue and down past the pier, was his pride and joy. The carrack Larissa, like the young bastard who captained her, was unmistakably Maradi in origin. The long hull was finely crafted but sturdy, painted dark yellow along the bottom and crimson along the railing; the sails were triangular and sharp, designed to cross the oceans with ease. It had been a gift to him from his brother, who lead the Goldspear Company at large, as he was placed in command of his own autonomous regiment. The ship had been the reason for their extended stay in the ancient port of Iavila. After a conclusive battle with a band of Red Orcs-turned coastal marauders and a less favorable encounter with Tirard-aligned privateers further west, the ship was in dire need of repairs, and the only shipwrights he trusted with his prized vessel were the Elven masters of the Silver Sea's brightest jewel.

Their extended stay in the South had brought new opportunities too. While reveling with his lieutenants, he'd encountered a pair of foreign envoys. As it turned out, they were from Mestan, a Kingdom to the South, and by all accounts the last real redoubt against the Ilkhan's ferocious tide. Some rice wine later, he discovered their purpose in coming north was to solicit mercenaries or other willing armies to join the Shogun in the defense of his country. With a few hundred Goldspears at his command, the possibility of employ in the South interested him for two reasons. Principally, the Maradi had never been to Cadmira. It was a strange land, a world away from his sun-baked island home. But as the winds grew stranger and colder, Ktesias found his lust for discover growing. Secondly, their extended rest in Iavila had been expensive. The accommodations and still-sleeping comforts behind him had not come cheap, neither had the wine, food, and lodgings for his three hundred men. Work would refill the company's withered coffers, not to mention the promise of new sights and sounds that lured so many young men and women into the Goldspears' heterogenous ranks.

Ktesias couldn't help but grin. They would leave today for Mishgrod, Mestan's metropolitan capital and grander even than their current port. They should arrive within the week, by his calculation, if they could depart before noon. He almost forgot to fully dress and grab his belongings, the excitement of setting out robbing him of his senses.

~ ~ ~
~ ~

A churning plane of azure, punctured only by the lapping seafoam raced below Ktesias, who clung tightly to the Nnira's feathered torso as her great wings carried them, seahawk and rider, through the cool breeze and foreign hues of the southern sea. He leaned hard to the left in the doeskin saddle and Nnira complied, banking hard and back towards the Larissa. A sharp cry pierced the flat din of the rough waters and cutting gusts, and the Maradi squinted his brown eyes to find its source. Just above the horizon, gliding just above the waves, sailed another Seahawk, its rider a half-thumb silhouette against the dying light. Nnira returned the shriek, and both riders guided their mounts to their roosts aboard the carrack, which grew from a child's bathtub plaything to its full size, cutting the rough tide with the unmistakable grace of Elven seacraft.

The call meant land. It had taken them the better part of five days to brave the oceanic desert that separated Cadmira from the Realms. Stormy weather kept the hawks from scouting, and a savage eastern wind had brought them roundabout and slightly off course. But Ktesias was relieved, not only because of the ennui of long-term sea voyages, but because of the growing sense of urgency he'd realized over the last several days of their journey. The Ilkhanate could begin its assault of Mestan at any moment, Mishgrod sacked and nobody with the gold or necessity for their services. His company was a good lot, overall. He'd engendered at least some good will by being a particularly generous paymaster, and by selecting recruits personally. He preferred bastards of high birth like himself, typically well trained and with little to lose. The same applied to the several dozen legitimate children of lesser houses that had found their way to him. Even peasants and foreigners dotted the ranks, as did Arrozim (Elven immigrant) archers and healers and of course numerous kynd of disparate origins.

It was one of these kynd that awaited Ktesias at the bow, where Nnira landed gracefully with a gentle thud that rocked the ship just a little. Grondrim was an old Dwarf, how old, Ktesias could not guess. He could expect, as a noble Maradi in decent health, to see two full centuries, but he wagered that his best friend and most trusted, if ornery, lieutenant, had more years than that.

"I never will get used to those damn things." He said from under a heavy, auburn mane that fell below his tiny bottom and down below his navel in a neatly knotted beard. He had long abandoned the habit of craning his neck to lock eyes with the towering Maradim, so he pretended to scan the empty horizon as he spoke. Ktesias, dismounting in a single motion, patted Nnira on her great beak, shaking his head and grinning. The dwarf's Maradi was clumsy and flat, but Ktesias had learned to understand for the most part, even if he couldn't stifle the occasional sneering chuckle. He couldn't fault the little man, their tongue was a picky one, too quick in conversation and nuanced in pronunciation to easily pick up, even after a decade of pillaging alongside a few hundred talkative Goldspears.

"Now now," Ktesias managed, patting her beak again, "You don't think we'd have made it out of that mess in Valore if it weren't for Nnira do you?" The dwarf huffed, joining his Maradi companion in making his way to the stern. The mood on the top deck had been tired before, but was jubilant now, with the mention of land just out of sight. The other rider, Lyra, had caught sight of the Mestan shore, and even before she piloted her own mount deftly to land alongside Nnira, the crewmen had heard its tell-tale shriek.

She dismounted much as he had and met the captain and dwarf at the helm. Her long, dagger-like ears jumped eagerly as she recounted the dim outline of their destined port. Ktesias spoke with her for a moment in their language, and directed the helmsman as she had directed him. With any luck, the Larissa could dock before nightfall, and more comfortable lodgings found for he and the men. Sore joints and cold bunks wouldn't do for the warriors of the 5th Phalanke, not least if they made to stand against the great Ilkhan and his legendary host.

The renewed cries of the seahawks again pierced the backdrop din, and either beast, relieved of their saddles, flew freely within sight of the ship, occasionally seen diving into the water to retrieve some ill-fated sea creature. They would likely be an alien sight in this corner of the world, but he didn't wager the arrival of some three hundred warriors to join their cause would rile the sidrim (Cadmirans) more than the mix-matched horde on their doorstep. No. He carried a letter from one of the envoys, scrawled out in their script, that should help him with the harbor authorities and point them in the right direction. Before long, the shore became mass, a thin line of earth in the distance that grew with the rousing song and dance of the jubilant crewmen of the southbound Larissa.
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Postby Rodez » Mon Mar 29, 2021 1:16 pm

Written in conjunction with Union Princes and The Empire of Tau

Vicinity of Venant, Tervain

An outrider approached. Theron brought Mincho around to meet him, the roan-colored stallion snorting in acquiescence.

The rider slowed to an easy trot. “Hail Strategos,” he called, and made the salute of the Khloraeans - four fingers touched to the opposite shoulder.

Theron recognized the salt-and-pepper curls and hawk-nose of the scout. “Hail, Akylas,” he answered, and returned the salute. “What news of this town? Can it be taken?”

Akylas smirked, the way a hunter might when a stag wandered into his vision. “Venant’s walls are high,” he answered, “but they are old, and not too thick. I sent men around to mark every tower, taking care to stay behind the tree line, of course. We think it to be fairly strongly held - eight hundred, maybe a thousand men. Hard to know for sure from outside. But every tower is manned.”

“You’re still smiling,” Theron pointed out. “That didn’t sound like good tidings to me. We’ve about thirty-two hundred men; enough to storm the town perhaps, but a garrison of a thousand would make us pay the butcher’s bill for it.” He threw significant glances at the Dwarven commander, Opalbrew, and the Karpacian colonels and their war-priests.

“The thing of it is,” Akylas said, “These are no soldiers of Nekhur. They fly the banner of Imirian, the puppet-king in Varla. And we heard them speaking Tervine up on the walls. As near as we can tell, these are all local troops.”

The significance of this dawned on Theron like a crashing wave. “My thanks Akylas. You did good work there.” He turned back to the assembled commanders, dwarf and Karpacian alike, motioned in the direction of Venant. “You all heard my man just now. The town is held by Tervine troops. Last I counted, five of my number themselves hailed from Tervain. I sense an opportunity here that could save many of our men’s lives.” He gazed at each of the commanders in turn, hoping to drive the point home. “It’s a risk to be sure, and we would reveal ourselves, but it has to be worth it to try and win the garrison over to the rebellion. Their loyalty to the puppet-king cannot be too ironclad.”
“That is rather genius…” Colonel Kai Myers muttered, his armored hand slowly stroking his magnificent coffee-brown beard. “Since the whole point of the rebellion is independence…”

“Aye!” Colonel Gernot May agreed with a nod, “If we could convince even a half of their number, it would not only grant the city to us freely but also bolster our own numbers for the coming fights.”

The warrior priests themselves kept to the background in a silent but watchful stance. Whatever opinions they had they spoke quietly amongst themselves. Perhaps in concordance with the scout report.

“We just need to find a way to convince them the rebellion is just.” Colonel May proposed, “The giant armies of the Northern Bull certainly cowed the Tervains into submission.”

“At least we have enough troops with us to take the city if all else fails.” Colonel Myers shrugged. “We’re mercenaries today, after all. Doubt the words of a sellsword would convince a Tervain to go patriot.”

“Which is all the more important for the brave Tervains of the Silver Cloaks to convince the garrison.” Georg van Galen spoke up loudly, getting the attention of the commanders. “Matthia willing, my brothers and I will go with the Silver Cloak Tervains to assist their mission.”

Theron nodded at van Galen and the Colonels. “Aye, it’s got to be worth the attempt, no doubt.” He turned back to Akylas. “Find the mage, de Beausoleil, and Adalard, and the Lavaud brothers. Tell them we have need of them. And make sure they have good armor on, because gods know the brothers don’t have it.”

The dwarven commander, Opalbrew, said nothing. Theron guessed that his surly expression marked a primal desire to split skulls with that axe of his, as well as a disdain for schemes such as the one they were now devising. Theron could sympathize on a certain level; soldiers fought, they didn’t parley. But as the lives of his own men were on the line, and as Opalbrew said nothing to contravene the plan, Theron took it for tacit approval.

Close to an hour had passed before the four Tervines stood in the open ground before Venant’s main gates, sitting the best horses and wearing the very finest shining armor. Theron stood with them, though a little off to the side - he felt more than a little useless here, unable to speak and within crossbow range at that. He hoped that the white flag of truce he held in one hand would be enough to save the five of them from a bolt to the breast.

Gregor de Beausoliel, a grey-haired Inveigler who had long been the most senior of the Silver Cloak mages, threw Theron a questioning glance. “Should I begin?” he asked.

“Your voice carries the best,” Theron pointed out. “And you have the banner, Ser Knight,” he added sardonically.

De Beausoliel did, indeed, have a banner. The image of a white lion over a blue stripe against a field of black shimmered slightly, although there was no wind to carry it. The false heraldry had been a last second innovation on Gregor’s part. Theron had complained that he had no Tervine knights to give the plan credibility, so the mage had invented one. Not for the first time, Theron thanked his Ten Thousand for Gregor’s great skill in Illusion.

The mage tapped his horse in the flanks and trotted forward, placing himself between the gate and the others.

Theron glanced back. Behind them stood a company of the Dwerrow-folk and one of the Karpacians. He had not wanted to reveal their entire force to the garrison, but the token display arranged before the walls would hopefully reinforce whatever de Beausoliel was about to come up with.

The mage gazed up at the gate guards and offered a mailed hand in greeting. “Hail, Venant!” he called. “I am Ser Manuel de Parmentier, of Emeraud. Thevot de Dolvorn, Count of Alamine, is my lord. I bear greetings from him and from the Princess Isabella.”

Gregor lifted his false banner high in a great flourish. “You see my arms, so mark my words close. I implore you - the whole garrison - to open the gates and join the rebellion underway to resurrect our kingdom from the tyranny of Nekhur. Any man who joins us will be welcomed as a brother, as a patriot. I know that the armies of the Bull are strong and frightening. But I also know that you have no love of the puppet-king, Imirian, and are shamed by his kneeling. I also know that six thousand of the eórodain crossed the border into Tervain not a few days past, that the Black Banner has been raised, that many thousands more are coming to our country’s aid.”

The mage paused for dramatic effect. “I know that Tervain’s honor is tattered. I know your fear. But the winds here are changing. The Bull’s rule is no longer a sure thing. Open the gates, I say, and you will see that this is so. But know also that we have been ordered to take Venant for the rebellion one way or another, and that if you resist, we will have to show you another way. That decision, I leave with you.”

“Rise, free Tervain!” shouted Adalard Chaillou.
“Rise, free Tervain!” bellowed the Lavaud brothers. Theron hoped their distinctive Tervine lilt carried up to the walls.

Having finished, Gregor lowered his banner slightly and returned to the small cluster of Silver Cloaks.

“You are the king of horseshit, Ser Manuel,” Adalard Chaillou announced to the mage.

Theron waited for a sign - any sign - and hoped that it was a shouted response and not an arrow in his gullet. Now would tell the wisdom - or folly - of their scheme.
Last edited by Rodez on Wed Mar 31, 2021 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Krugmar » Fri Apr 02, 2021 10:29 am



Old Palace, Varla
Tervain, Nekhur

It was not often the Conclave met, particularly in full force. They were powerful men, and power demanded much of one's time if it was to be sustained. They had last met in such a fashion after his conquest of Seher, a dour council which had achieved very little besides criticism of its newest member.

His ring began to burn uncomfortably, and he knew it was time.

He let his mind run blank, pouring fluidly into the ring. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them again he was in an ethereal chamber. Glass made of light surrounded them, keeping them separate from the vast cosmos around them. Stars dotted the horizon, as nebulae danced and swirled in the distance. A white marble table, circular with no head, was surrounded by nine matching chairs. He noticed that they were already seated, he was the last to arrive. Had they been here for some time, having convened a secret meeting?

"Lord Mnesus, please join us." Spoke Essereg the Younger, one who fancied himself the greatest of their number.

Mnesus did as he was bid, taking his seat. "Am I late?" He asked. Their faces betrayed nothing.

"Not at all, though I fear there may have been some interference." Replied the Halforcen. He was in truth only a quarter, though he had inherited much from his mother's orcish half.

Half a minute passed in silence. They were nervous, and clearly the one they had marked to begin a painful discussion was beginning to have second doubts.

"Very well." Mnesus sighed, "There was no interference. What were you discussing before I was called here?" He said bluntly. For some of them it took them off guard, but others hid their emotions well.

It was Essereg who spoke first. "Your invasion of Tervain and Imbar has jeopardised the order of the Southern Realms. Like Seher you failed to inform this council of your decision, or to wait for any assent." He spoke in an aggreged tone.

Mnesus shot him back a cocky half-smile, "The policies of Nekhur are not under the purview of this council. Disapprove of it as you might, there is no action or recourse you can take, nor was there any need for me to inform this council of Nekhur's activities and plans. Indeed Essereg, you did not feel the need to inform this council of your activities during your beloved Valamir's annexation of Alagos." He said harshly.

Essereg glared at him, preparing to open his mouth and unleash a volley of insults, accusations, and rebuttals. But it was the ancient elf prince Celevon who spoke first, "That, Mnesus, is not why we are here today. Nekhur's business is its own, and though we find its invasions at this time most disquieting, especially with the encroaching Ishkhanate in the south, we shall speak nothing of it." He started.

"No, this council has been called because evidence has been gathered on two matters. The first is that some of our agents have noted that the Grinning Doyen has been most active recently. As always his movements bode ill for our realm. The second is that it has been noted that contact has been made with a Kindly Master outside of the Four Knowns. We have not confirmed it, but we do not believe it is contact between any of the Living Gods and their patrons."

"If it was not to do with Nekhur, then why was I kept late?" Asked Mnesus.

It was the alchemist who spoke first, "You are a suspect, Mnesus. You are one of the premier conjurers of this era, and much of your work delved into the Pale Realms."

Mnesus shook his head, "I understand the concerns, but I am afraid my academic days are behind me. Nekhur takes all of my time, and I must add that my research only looked into the Pale Realms to attempt to understand its link to the Impossible City. Failed research I might add, for it was inconclusive."

Celevon raised a hand to his blackened cheek, "Then your reasons for invading Seher, Imbar, and Tervain are entirely your own?"

Mnesus chuckled, "Though I am called the Tyrian, I am Kisharite by birth and blood. My ambitions for Nekhur are great, though as I am finding in Tervain perhaps my abilities are now stretched to cover them. I hope that this council believes me and removes me from suspicion, though I will understand if its present distrust of my actions may cloud its judgement. There are other suspects?" He asked.

"A few, but nothing concrete. To tell the truth I am more concerned of the Doyen. The Noxtide was calamitous. We must reach out to the Vespera, they may have further information."

The meeting lasted for several hours, continuing on as many members speculated about the Doyen's actions and potential plans. Mnesus gathered as much information as he could, while spouting what he expected them to hear from him. By the time it was over he felt relieved. Essereg detested him, the Valamirian seeing Nekhur as a threat to his position, and there were some on the council, like the Halforcen, who would back him no matter what.

But it had been Celevon who had unsettled him slightly. The elf prince was from another time, the only living grandson of Firumbar to remain. Yet for all his knowledge he had been blind. Indeed he had been oblivious to so many threats over his many lifetimes. Mnesus had hoped he would remain patient and calm, content to slowly investigate the coming disasters, and hope to wait it out as he had always done. Yet it seems here, at the end of his life, he may finally have grown a backbone.

Tervain, Nekhur

The guards at the gate listened to "Sir Manuel" intently, though they offered no immediate reply. A few minutes later another arrived. "I am Sicart Corriveau, lieutenant to the commander, Yvo de Vernier, Chevalier royal. Were you at Imbar, Sir? If you had been I would doubt you would be consorting with mercenaries for this lost cause. They say the Tyrian plans to bring monsters from the north and east, and invite orcs and Balorenes to ravage the rebel's countryside. What hope is there in forsaking our king for Isabella? You should know better than anyone the strength of an oath, Sir, why should we break ours?" Asked Sicart.
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Postby Rodez » Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:14 pm

Mishgrod, Mestan
Great Council Chambers

10 Days Prior

“. . .That is our only course of action,” concluded Bela Vaszoly, eldest among the twenty-five Councilmen and the representative from the province of Nádudvari in the far southwest. “To raise every retinue, every levy, mobilize every force at the realm’s disposal. To defend every fortress and dispute every hamlet. If we are the last among the nations of Cadmira to stand against the Ishkhan, let us be the last. Submission to his rule will mark the beginning of our slavery – to orcs, no less! That is not survival. Two raids have already been launched against my people in the last two moons. To kneel to the Ishkhan now would only formalize their looting and killing. I’ll not stand for it. The Shogun must have the war powers necessary to defend the realm. I’ll vote for it.”

A clamor arose among the twenty-four other Councilors gathered in the circular hall of granite; an ancient place carved out by the old Severan elves. The clerk of the council banged his gavel to bring a gradual silence to the chamber. “That’s quite enough! Kalev Pihjala, of Ebes, you are the Council’s last speaker. Have your say, then.” Even the clerk, who Jalo knew was required to be an impartial arbiter for the body, said the name with a hint of contempt. Everyone knew where Pihjala stood.

There were a few hisses as a thin, gangly man took the stand. “Councilors, Shogun,” he said with a mock bow in Jalo’s direction. “It is reality with which we must contend today. I fear too many in this chamber have ignored it for too long. Well then, let me oblige you all: the Ishkhanate is a new empire. Its armies’ number many, many times ours, even at the realm’s full strength. All the tribes and princes of the steppe-lands have submitted to him. The orcs follow him like a god – the old kingdoms of man which he has conquered know better than to test his wrath. Why do we not know better? We have no great mountains to protect our borders, like the men of Marelac. Let us make an accord with the Ishkhan if he will offer it. We may even profit from an agreement at Basuvar’s expense. Think of the province of Petnehaza returned to us. Think of peace in our lands. Is the pride of a few men worth the destruction of our whole people?”

Jalo stood from the back, pointed. “You speak poison!”

There was another uproar – shouted accusations and insults flew like arrows. The clerk banged his gavel ceaselessly, and the Vermilion Guards present had to slam their spears against the floor to win the quiet of the assembly. Even so, a faint murmuring continued, most of it directed towards Pihjala. Jalo knew he had a majority, but he worried about the effect the cur’s words might have.

“That. Is. The. Last. Speaker,” the clerk breathed. “Now we vote. The choice at hand: to give Jalo Roveda, Nineteenth Shogun of Mestan, Protector of Taszár and Guardian of the Veszto monastery, total war powers for the period of two years, for the purpose of the mobilization of the realm against the forces of the Ishkhan.”

He shuffled some papers, looked down a list. “We are to vote by roll call. I will read a Councilor’s name – he will stand and vote. Let us begin: Immo Asztalos, Councilor from Harcsa.”

Asztalos stood. “Aye!” he called.

They went down the list. Being a small body, it did not take long for the clerk to mark twenty-five votes. Jalo breathed a deep sight of relief when the final count was read out: twenty ayes and five nays. He had carried the day and would ride south the next day.

The Shogun turned to Tukkaa Veralainen, who sat next to him in all Council deliberations, as the suuri vanhin always did. “There is a difference between a personal dislike of me and voting nay on a vote like this,” Jalo said. “You were right, Tukkaa. You know who those five men are. They marked themselves today. I want them trailed from now on. I want to know every goings-on in their daily routine. If we are to save Mestan from this monster we must ride to war, and if they inhibit the defense of our own country then they are the enemy.”

Tukkaa nodded, stood. “Your Eminence, the blade is drawn,” he said.


There was a restlessness in the air. Mishgrod had always been a bustling city; anchoring the southern end of the Silver Sea trade, home to merchants of every race and nationality. If the fishermen tied up their boats at sunset; the half-elf thespians in the Felver Quarter were just beginning their shows for the night. If the market stalls in Mishgrod's thirty-six squares closed at dusk, the Dwarven tinkerers of the Dwerrow Quarter were just rolling out of bed for the night shift. The Mishgrodiläi, as they called themselves, knew full well that coin was the lifeblood that fed the city, and that to stop making it at sundown bordered on the criminal. There was rarely the ebb and flow of the morning and evening rushes so common to other cities. In Mishgrod, there was only a hum; the sound of six hundred thousand souls chanting the well-worn rituals of commerce. It never ended, never slept. Nothing was permitted to intrude upon it.

Except that, as the last bright hours of the day charged the cobalt skies, something had.

An unfamiliar sound swept the Mestani capital; encroaching upon and overwhelming the sights and sounds of daily life. This was the treading of boots in strict column, the clinking of armor plates, the heavy breathing of soturi warriors. Men drilled in the district barracks; drilled in the squares, patrolled in the streets. The clanking of wooden katanas and spears against each other drowned out the shouted prices in the markets, or the catcalls in the Pleasure District. Mestan was going to war.

Tukkaa Veralainen, Suuri-Vanhin to the Shogun, lifted his head wearily and watched another company of city levies trudge by. The sergeant was losing his voice screaming at the green recruits to stay in formation, which they had probably just learned yesterday, or the day before. The Grand Council had voted the Shogun the war powers needed to raise the soturi - Mestan's freeholders - and the peasant and city levies of the realm. Jalo Roveda now had the power of the old kings his kind had overthrown three hundred years before.

Crisis presents the most beautiful of ironies, Tukkaa reflected as the column passed. His black hood was up - no one would see his characteristic jet-black pony tail. He clenched his fist to hide the sapphire ring that adorned his left hand - the only symbol of his office.

There was his height, of course; Tukkaa was of diminutive stature, standing a full head below the average man. In a man of his position, that was a striking thing. Not that anyone in Mishgrod was liable to mock him for it though; the Suuri-Vanhin's modest height was less a laughing matter when the same man was the best swordsman in Mestan, and had literally written the manual on how to kill a man with a katana.

Tukkaa drew his black cloak close about him and returned his attention to the modest house across the street. The four men who stood behind him were Vermilion Guard of Mestani fame - but their legendary red-lacquered armor was similarly concealed beneath black traveling cloaks. To the casual observer, Tukkaa and his guards appeared to be a highly paranoid merchant and his entourage.

That was alright with Tukkaa, who was waiting for an actual paranoid merchant to emerge from the house's sliding wood doors.

"D'you think we ought to just go in there and cut off his head, Sir?" One of the Vermilion Guards enquired. Tukkaa could sense the eager smirk behind the man's hood.

"Give him a moment," Tukkaa answered. "Brelo knows the score; he talks or it's his head."

Presently the sliding doors screamed open. There was a grumble, a crash of pottery. A half-clothed courtesan came careening out of the house, followed by a thick-set man who looked most displeased.

Tukkaa looked to the sky, sighed. "Your manhood, Brelo. By Creed, cover yourself, such as it is."

Muttered apologies ensued. Tukkaa pulled back his hood and laid his gaze on the portly merchant, who now thankfully had a tasteless green and black kimono to cover himself with. "Are you ready to talk, Brelo?"

"This is illegal," the merchant huffed. "You need a formal inquiry, a trial-"

"Your cheap whores haven't told you?" Tukkaa spat into the cobbled street. "There are war powers now, Master Nieminen. Nothing is illegal. Nothing, do you hear? Now tell me about Kalev Pihjala. We both know you two are friends. We both know he's not been seen in three days. Tell me of his whereabouts, or I'll have run out of reasons not to decorate this lovely boulevard with your head."

A resigned grimace spread across Brelo Nieminen's broad face, dragging the flabby, baby-like cheeks downward. "I only know up to yesterday morning," he said hurriedly. "And he might be gone from the city by now, but he was lying low at the House of Shuia's Heart in the Pleasure District. It's a big place, but if you flood it with men you can probably grab him. What's the fool done?"

"He spoke treason at the Grand Council last Solmath past," Tukkaa said acidly. "But you knew that full well. Stay out of politics, Brelo, or the coin you spend on women will fund the war effort instead, and your head will make supper for carrion crows."

He beckoned to the nearest of the Vermilion Guards. "You. Run back to the citadel and round up thirty men. Swarm Shuia's Heart. I want Pihjala in irons today."

"Aye, Sir." The guard made a hurried bow and took off as fast as his feet could carry him.

"There's another thing you should know, if it will help me keep my head."

Tukkaa realized with a start that Brelo hadn't retreated meekly back into his home, and turned back to the merchant with his sword-hand resting easily on his katana hilt. "Speak, then."

"A ship came. A strange ship; docked an hour or two ago. They are . . . Maradi, I believe, if the girl told it true. They call themselves the 'Goldspears,' and they have birds. Very large damned birds, apparently. Official papers from Marad, too. But the harbor constables panicked at the sight of the birds and won't let them disembark. They sent someone to the citadel, but . . ."

"But I've been busy hunting traitors," Tukkaa finished. He shook his head. "Keep your head then, Brelo, and remember what I said. Next time you hear whispers, report them to me and not to your Pleasure District friends."

Tukkaa motioned to the three remaining Vermilion Guards. "Cast off your cloaks then, we're official now."

The Nieminen residence was only a twenty minute walk from the harbor, but Tukkaa and his escort broke into a sort of loping walk-run and made in in fifteen. The Mishgrodiläi stopped to call after Tukkaa as he made his way through the twisting streets of the Blue Quarter, but he paid them no mind. "Vanhin!" they shouted. "Sword of the South! Sword of the South!"

By the time the Suuri-Vanhin made it to the jetty where Larissa was docked, a crowd of a hundred or so dockworkers had gathered along the wharf to marvel at . . .

What in heavens? Tukkaa's gaze was drawn upward to marvel at a pair of birds. Birds? Yes. They were gargantuan seabirds, easily big enough to carry a man or three, circling the foreign carrack with their eyes cast to the ground, looking for threats. Or prey. Tukkaa felt a momentary stab of fear enter his heart, put it away gradually with the vesireitti breathing techniques. After a few brief moments, there was nothing amiss. They have large birds, he told himself, a little more calmly this time. And I have a sharp blade.

The burly dockworkers immediately recognized the dark robe, jet hair and sapphire ring that marked the Suuri-Vanhin. Reverently, they cleared the way for the little man and his escort.

Tukkaa made his way down the jetty to where a quartet of constables were arguing with a tall, dark-skinned, Half-Elf looking fellow. The constables turned to tell him off and recognized immediately the man who was the Second of Mestan.

"I'll handle this now," Tukkaa said softly. "Return to your duties. And tell those longshoremen to stop gawking and get back to work as well."

The constables hurried off, the Vermilion Guard escort taking positions around Tukkaa's flanks as they did so, their red armor shimmering in the late day's light. Tukkaa saw their hands fall to their katanas and waved them off with a slight hand signal.

Tukkaa looked up at the strange Half-Elf, the Maradi, if Brelo wasn't feeding him horseshit. He realized with a start that of course, the foreigner couldn't possibly know who he was - attired in a simple black robe and with nothing but a sapphire ring to mark his station.

Glancing back up at the circling seabirds, Tukkaa swept his gaze downward and across the deck of the carrack, noting as he did so that the crew was well-armed, well-attired for war. Fighters all. This could be a favorable wind indeed.

"You have fine birds there," he said to the half-elf by way of greeting. After a brief pause, he pressed on. "Forgive the nervousness of the constables, they know not what they see, and frankly neither do I. You should know that the Shogun himself is not present in Mishgrod. He has ridden south, to raise the realm's armies, for we are soon to be at war. I am the Suuri-Vanhin - a strange word to you, no? No matter. I am his Second. Mestan's Second. I rule in Mishgrod while His Eminence is away. But you may call me Tukkaa," he said.

"I am told you have papers signed by the emissaries we sent to Iavila. I will see these papers now."
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Postby Grande-Louisiane » Wed Apr 07, 2021 7:17 am

Ktesias ten'Exiode
Mishgrod Docks

At first sight, Ktesias was astounded by the grandiosity of Cadmira's greatest city. Mishgrod, as it was known, straddled the gentle shore, the metropolitan bulk of the city before him and fading out into the periphery on either side. It was easily five times the size of Spithica, he thought to himself as he scanned the ancient city from the bow of the Larissa. They had to have been seen by now, with the evening sun casting enough light yet to clearly make out the elaborate banners of crimson, gold, and orange that flew from the tallest mast. The Seahawks too announced their arrival, circling low enough over the thinning stretch of tide separating the carrack from Mishgrod's docks that their unmistakable cries had to have been audible to the dockworkers and sentries below.

Nnira and the other Seahawk, Ladat, tended to make sentries nervous. Indeed, sometimes neither Maradi nor mount were welcome in the lands of men, elf, and dwarf, their foreign ways and dangerous precedence too bitter a poultice to stomach. But Ktesias was betting on two things, principally, to keep he and his charges from decorating Mishgrod's palisades on the ends of pikes by day's end.

One, it was no secret that the Ishkhan eyed the kingdoms of northern Cadmira jealously, the last points of resistance on his warpath north and across the Silver Sea. It was equally well-known that he had at his command a mosaic horde of monstrosities, beast-men, Orcs of every gnarly stripe, and all manner of levies from the Ishkhan's tributary peoples. The envoys he'd consorted with in Iavila had made clear the Shogun and his lieutenants were in need of fighting men to join their resistance, and the letters they'd provided him attested to that. No formal agreement had been struck, but the papers would at least inform whoever was in charge that they came as allies, hopefully before a nervous watchman provoked Nnira into something regrettable.

Mestan was, or might as well have been, under seige. It was not, perhaps as some more cynical thinkers would conclude, a hopeless situation, either in the minds of Mestan's leaders nor in that of Ktesias. The odds were maybe not in their favor, he could concede, but that was what made them Goldspears. To drive past new frontiers to fight the battles of foreign lords, not only for the retainer gold and plunder that fueled their lavish island, not merely to tip the scales of politics and war, nor even to keep Marad's enemies far, few, and fearful. Indeed, for a Goldspear, and to a lesser extent, all Maradim, adversity was what defined one's life, what separated the mighty from the meek -- and no adversity served as a greater test than battle. In preparation, in execution, in victory and in defeat, battle, in their view - and that of Ktesias - the body was made hard and the soul light.

The second reason Ktesias expected a less than hostile reception was presentation. It was certainly always at least eyebrow-raising when a foreign ship full of foreign mercenaries arrived at port. Yet Ktesias held no illusions about how mismatched the odds would have been if he meant to attack the redoubt of a city with a single ship and two overgrown ospreys. And the locals knew that. Besides, the Larissa was only one of several dozen ships that dotted the violet evening horizon. Mishgrod was a busy port after all. Even with the clearly martial nature of their complement and menacing seahawks, Ktesias was confident he could talk his way out of a confrontation. It would hardly be the first time the silver of his tongue would spare him the steel of a blade.

It was with this in mind that he spoke to the woman alongside him. " I trust you are not too rusty to do a spot of translation, no?"

"Hmm?" She had been daydreaming as she stared out at the sea. He shook his head, amused.

The woman, a half-elf like himself but different in speech and stature, was Suraa. The Fifth Phalankeon had picked her up some years ago from a Tirardian slave ship, where she enthusiastically recounted a rambling tale of misadventure that had begun with her employment as a court wizard and turned tragically when a bout of overzealous experimentation nearly incinerated the lord's hall, leading to her imprisonment and enslavement. The uses of a mage aside, Ktesias was fascinated both by her arcane skill and mercurial intellect, but more than anything entertained by her manifold eccentricities.

Most relevant today was that Suraa hailed from Mishgrood. Though she had left the city five decades ago in her youth to pursue training as a mage and scholar, she spoke enough of the language to help them get by and to teach Ktesias a handful of pleasantries.

Once the helmsman had found a dock large enough to house the carrack, the Larissa furled her sails and eased into the harbor with a steady grace. No less than a dozen constables, armed and apprehensive lined the dock to greet them, with many more workers and passer-bys stopping to gawk at the pair of beasts circling above. Suraa had come to with a gentle nudge, and called out in her native tongue from under her gray cowl, "Hail!"

~ ~ ~
~ ~

The Maradi Captain was ready as soon as the gangplank hit the pier, linking the ship to land for the first time in the better part of the week. He disembarked first, clad in his finest armor over a cotton tunic of gold and crimson and sabre by his side. His hair was braided and adorned with several gold and jeweled rings, and his long, sharp ears and hands were similarly adorned. Behind him was Suraa, comparatively plain-clothed in a hooded robe and unarmed, and then Grondrim, armored in dwarven manner and bearing twin hand-axes.

The trio shuffled onto the deck, where they were confronted by a growing crowd of alarmed guardsmen, onlookers, and dockworkers. Ktesias was immediately challenged by a constable, who appeared to be an officer of some sort. Through Suraa's sometimes garbled interpretations, the situation diffused somewhat when Ktesias presented the guard the letter he'd received from the Mestani envoys. This gave them some space, but the constables remained apprehensive, and everyone observed the Seahawks, who circled carelessly above the shore, with a mix of fear and wonder. The Larissa didn't escape attention either, nor did the several hundred Goldspears that had packed tightly onto the top deck to observe, with the same wonder they received from the onlookers. Mostly Maradim, the mercenaries were armed and armored in much the same way as their leader, and must have appeared knife-earred, dark, and flamboyant to the assembled locals.

Still watched closely by the wary constables, Ktesias' entourage remained on the pier for some time. Suraa began to chat with the captain, who appeared to be friendly enough once the initial apprehension faded. The Half-Elf explained their presence and answered his endless questions, fluency improving as the rust was knocked off her native tongue. An hour or so passed before another group arrived at the docks.

The diminutive creature at the formation's center was simply clad, forming a stark contrast to Ktesias as he neared. He was like a beam of sunlight, warm, long, and gleaming, and the man before him seemed to him like the moon, small, pale, an accessory to the exotic scenery before him. Yet his importance was betrayed by the respect the crowd paid him, parting as he passed and heading his command. The escort, well-equipped and disciplined, indicated Ktesias looked down on a man of importance.

He bowed curtly and his companions did the same; Ktesias listened to his words, picking up the introduction and name, which he struggled to pronounce. Once the words were translated for him, he spoke in his own tongue to be translated in turn. " Fine birds indeed," his amusement transcending linguistic barriers. "I am Ktesias ten'Exiode, Captain of the Fifth Goldspear Phalankeon, and I have come at your Shogun's invitation to lend you blood, spear, and talon all. It is my pleasure to meet you, Tukkaa." He added the final sentence in broken Mestani. Suraa obliged the Suuri-Vanhin--who Ktesias guessed was something of a regent--and presented the papers.

He gave the man, whose forwardness the Maradi appreciated, a moment to review the documents before speaking again, still through Suraa. "I was told to find you should the Shogun have already departed. Your envoys implied a more formal arrangement could be reached here. Suraa," he motioned to the mage, who was playing with her hair as she listened," tells me the letters will verify that we have two hundred spears, a hundred bowmen and skirmishers, and ...," convinced they no longer faced danger, he whistled sharply with two fingers to summon the seahawks. Nnira and Ladat complied, their great wings outstretched and guiding them down to the pier. Nnira landed forcefully on the end of the pier, behind the trio of Goldspears and shrieked loudly as she stood back at her full size. Ladat landed with similar dramatics on the ship's bow, startling the nearest of the remaining crowd and drawing a mix of cries and excited cheers from a nearby gaggle of urchins.

"We are ready to fight when and where we are needed. Give the men the night to get their land legs back, and our spears are yours."
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Postby Krugmar » Wed Apr 07, 2021 4:54 pm



Forbidden Quarter, Gorodar
Hanva, Ishkhanate

The night sky was filled with the ash and embers from countless fires burning across the city. Great bonfires had been constructed throughout the city, many built from the scraps of torn down houses, and what was left of the once numerous forests near the city. Soldiers of all stripes gathered at them, sharing stories and tales in every language imaginable. In this way Gorodar was not so much a capital, as it was a vast army camp.

She passed by an empty house, a manor of stone which had once borne a gilded doorway and boasted many glass windows. Now all ornaments had been taken, and no occupants remained. The fate of its former inhabitants a mystery, perhaps they had died when the city had been pillaged, executed afterwards as many of the nobles had been, or been sent into slavery, either in the camps or sold on elsewhere.

"Vae Victis." She uttered under her breath, continuing on. She observed drunken jousts, angry bursts, joyous drinking, and many instances of gluttony and enough inappropriate scenes to enrage a priest and make a maid blush. She did not, however. For while she had the appearance of a young woman in her prime, she had been born near five-score years ago. The longevity of her family, first shown by her grandfather, who had lived near three centuries, was a mystery to many. That they were mages, and naturally attuned at that, was a sufficient explanation for most.

She passed entered the grounds of the palace, and none of the guards even met her eyes. They preferred to look away. She knew what they called her when she was out of sight and out of mind, 'the Northern Witch', while some of the more knowledgable, usually the mages, called her 'the She-Tyrian', a reference to her father.

Her entrance to the main hall was met with a familiar sight. The many lieutenants and captains of the various hosts were sat around a vast table, eating and drinking. There were orcs, mostly brown but some green and one red, a dozen of centaur lords, and a handful of snakeskin and tiger-headed men from Kumarik. Of humans, there were a few dour captains from Shambkai, their ashen skin marked by numerous tattoos, denoting them as slaves to particular gods. Men of the conquered kingdoms of Gostvir, Vaestwald, Brindria, Midegn, Byussa, and Frei sat by themselves, sharing few words with each other or the mercenaries from Marelac and the Southern Realms. They had little to celebrate, for they were now in the presence of, and ruled by, beings they deemed inferior to themselves. Others there were too, cyclopes, vargs and garwalfs, a single ogre chieftain, and all manner of creatures from the Morcari Wilds.

Such a coalition was monumental, a diverse and ill-fitting host that outshone even Nekhur's heterogeneous nature. Where that had been assembled over many millennia, under Kisharite tutelage, this had been painstakingly brought together in under a decade. Its architect was in the very room, not sitting upon the throne, but walking up to it to stand by its side.

The Ishkhan was somewhat drunk, as he often became during nights of feasting such as this. Next to him was a cloaked and hooded creature, a foul thing reeking of death. An Asera was a dangerous thing, the kind of ally one did not wish to keep close, and yet against her counsel it was here by his side albeit not by his doing. Her father's meddling in affairs best handled by herself.

"Ah, I had wondered where you had gone. It does not feel right without my mage by my side." Said the Ishkhan, a small grin appearing across his face, contorting his many gruesome scars.

She laughed sarcastically, "Missing your favourite ornament?" She mocked.

His grin did not diminish, "Perhaps that is how they see you. But where did you go? No matter, you will give me the barest response." He said, answering his own question. "Does my benefactor bid me stay here a while more, or do we enjoy again the thrill of battle and the sweet sense of victory?"

"The latter." She replied

"Pray tell." Hissed the creature to his right.

She felt no obligation to answer it, but pressed on for the Ishkhan's sake. "Two small parts of the host will diverge from the main group. One will head east to Basuvar, and one north to Mestan, both large enough to be perceived as invasion forces. The main host will move to the mountains, where your advisor here-." She started, before it interrupted her.

"Imros Palaehatin." It said, saying it with a level of dignity and pride unbecoming of its foul nature.

"Yes, Imros and his kind will lead us through an old passage through the mountains. There will be Goulds, perhaps other creatures, but nothing that can pose at threat. We will likely emerge behind the Mestani army. Half of our forces will move to attack them, while the other half will move to destroy Kurikka. The centaurs and other swift peoples will be set loose upon the countryside. Once Mestan has fallen, we shall move on to Basuvar, which alone will pose little threat. After that a great fleet must be constructed, to take Rhelerica and Iavila." She said, finishing the barebones of the plan.

The Ishkhan nodded. While a capable military commander, even before he had been moulded and reshaped by ritual and old arts, he knew better than to voice any opinion contrary to his benefector's desires. He was a creature bought and sold, and he understood it, even if those who now served him or suffered his chains knew not. If there was discontent boiling within, it was well hidden.

"Very well." He said quietly, before pushing himself to his feet. The hall, filled with rambunctious laughter and quiet mutterings quickly fell silent. "My captains, yonight we feast in Gorodar, but soon, we feast in Mishgrod!" He shouted, to both genuine and forced cheers.

Whether he had spoken truly, remained to be seen.
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Postby Of the Quendi » Sun Apr 11, 2021 7:56 am

The Kingdom of Valamir
Cammlon's Citadel, the City of Gwentanceastra
Under the Sovereignty of Uthyr I Benn Aerouant


Princess Yseult of Valamir

The 4th of Mede 143 Anno Convocandi

The citadel of Cammlon, the principal seat of the line of the Benn Aerouant since the glory days of Gwyltaz the Glorious before the Valamireans embraced the true faith, was a place, half castle and half palace, of majestic beauty and an ancient strength, built as it was in an age when the power of Tulcar had not yet declined. The citadel was a large castle complex spanning many acres of land. Three tiered walls it had, each stronger and higher than the previous, all made of white stone, fair as marble but strong as granite, imbued with powerful elven sorcery. Sitting on a hill just east of the river Danumir, on the far side from the Gwenta itself, the citadel's first wall was more fence than wall, not a full eight meters tall and scarcely two thick, yet guarded by sixteen towers and a fortified gatehouse protecting the hedge gate. Behind this circular wall, reaching up the slopes of the hill of Cammlon was a great hedge maze where many a maiden and her knight had played hide and seek, and few enemies had found themselves lost. After the hedge maze was the second wall of Cammlon's citadel. It was a great octagonal structure, twenty meters tall and ten thick guarded by fifteen great towers and a massive gatehouse protecting the outer gate. Behind the second gate lay a wide water filled moat and beyond it the inner wall rose. Thirty meters tall was this octagonal wall and each of its angles had a large tower guarding it and its inner gate was protected by a gatehouse of its own. And beyond this gate, lay the wonder that was Cammlon's citadel, seat and home of the descendants of Valamir, Aerouant and, of late, Wôtanaz.

And what wonders was it not. Unconquered for a thousand years, behind the walls of the citadel the Benn Aerouant had built a magnificent seat filled with laughter and love. Their fortress had groves and fountains, shady courtyards, and marble colonnades filled with bards and singers, musicians and artists, poets and philosophers who would stroll the gardens filled with flowers each practicing and studying his or her art to the delight of the residents of the citadel. And these knights and ladies, so noble, so chivalrous, so chaste, in whose heart dwelt neither evil nor vice roamed the castle grounds conversing with these troubadours and wisemen. For their pleasure and delight they would sail in barges that served no purpose but entertainment on the river Danumir, singing songs, telling tales, professing undying love. In the rich forests on the eastern bank of Danumir they would hunt for deer or fox. In tourney's the knights, in resplendid armor, would clash against one another honorably with the favor of their ladies tied to their lances. Or better still these virtuous maidens would grant their honorable knights their favor as the knights rode across the realm of Valamir and beyond fighting injustices wherever they encountered it and elevating the nation in the light of the Unconquered Sun that shone triumphantly upon the city.

That was the Cammlon of one such maiden, Yseult, daughter of Uthyr, the King Most High and his second wife Morygwen. Standing on a battlement outside the citadel chapel this fair maiden looked north with a gaze filled with sadness and sorrow. Nekhur. That dark word came unbidden to the lady Yseult's mind as she gazed northward as an omen of a darkness drawing near to the light of Yseults splendid Cammlon threatening to extinguish it, like it had that once proud and powerful neighbor Tervain. Nekhur had claimed the life of Yseult's brother Medrawt. She had never been close to a much older half-brother but he had been the prince, the heir of Valamir, Aerouant and Wôtanaz. Now he lay death in Kastan, his strong body broken by Nekhur. Was Valamir next the princess wondered. Was her other brother Artwyrys, or her cousin Gwydry and their armies in Alagos? Would Nekhur soon swarm across the border, their endless legions marching to do what the Red Orcs could not and extinguish the light of Valamir? Defiantly the princess shook her hand and folded her fair hands in prayer. "Lord Sol, protect your people, protect your Valamir. Protect Gwydry, Lord of Alagos and all his kith and kin, defend him from the darkness of Nekhur. And protect Artwyrys and his knights and banner men, your sworn soldiers, that they may defend your kingdom from Nekhur and the Night-without-End. This I ask of you. I beg and humbly supplicate you, hear and grant my prayer and I shall in all things be yours and only yours." Yseult prayed her fair features practically illuminated by a deep, unquestioning fervor in her faith.

The strength of her faith like a tidal wave rolled through her mind and soul and for a moment the sadness of her appearance faded away and the beautiful fair haired princess looked so calm and serene, majestic and beautiful that she more than warranted her nickname, the Fairest Lily of Valamir. Then Yseult felt a familiar presence and heard a familiar voice filled with an unnatural strength and unbending wildness, call out at her with a snarl. "Your Sun god will not help us defend our kingdom. He is an aberration and a lie imposed on us by those who fear the true gods. Only when we denounce him completely and embrace the old ways will we find the strength to defend ourselves against Nekhur and all its villainy" Nymueh proclaimed.

Yseult sighed. Having fallen to her knees during her prayer she rose slowly and turned to face her twin. Nymueh, while shorter than Yseult, was as always slightly disturbing to gaze upon. While the young woman of slightly above average height with her long curly red hair and deep green eyes was undeniably beautiful and her lithe figure and slender form did not suggest strength or power there was always something about her. Nymueh was like a force of nature, somewhere deep inside her a strength that exceeded that of ten men seemed to reside and it cloaked the princess in an aura of power that always made Yseult tremble before her twin. Whom she loved above all others in the whole of the world.

Gazing into the intense green eyes of her sister Yseult shrugged diplomatically. "You have your way, sister. I have mine." She politely suggested. Nymueh snarled contemptibly, but she did not further comment. "Father is not going to get better." Nymueh declared. Yseult, her deep grey eyes filling with sadness nodded slowly. "I know." She declared. Uthyr the first of his name and second of his life, the Benn Aerouant and King Most High of All of Valamir, was more than sick. To Yseult it seemed unlikely that her mighty sire would ever again rise from what seemed likely to be his deathbed in a not at all distant future. She already mourned her father's imminent passing. He had never been much of a father. He cared little for girls and after Yseult mother had been banished, Yseult was told that her father had become a hard and cold man, the only father Yseult had ever known. But Uthyr was a great king who had ruled long and ruled well over Valamir. The passing of such a king Yseult would mourn greatly, especially now that Nekhur was on the march.

Nymueh nodded quickly. "If he dies, who shall rule?" She barked commandingly. A question easily answered, Yseult thought, but not satisfactorily so. "Medrawt shall rule." Yseult declared with little enthusiasm. "A clubfooted boy of one?" Nymueh retorted with a callous bark of a laugh. "If so your god give strange answers to your prayers. Medrawt cannot lead our people to greatness. He can't even keep himself from soiling his royal robes the little changeling." Nymueh cynically declared. "Artwyrys on the other hand? That is a different tale, and one I would like to see play out." Nymueh proclaimed.

Yseult shivered. Her sister's boldness and recklessness shocked her to her core, not so much because of the unthinkable that Nymueh suggested but rather because Yseult could not deny that she had thought the same thing herself. "Sister this is treason." Yseult begged. "Medrawt's claim is greater than Artwyrys's, surely you see that? And our father has forbidden Artwyrys from ascending the throne." Yseult said. Nymueh merely sneered, her attractive features twisting in an animalistic rage that made Yseult's heart rate rise. "Claim? Spare me your legalism, what claim did our grandfather have to the titles and honors he took? None. He took what he wanted, including our grandmother and destroyed those who objected. That is how kings are made sister, by blood by steel and by fire; not by some noble lady pushing a still nobler offspring through her private parts." Nymueh declared.

Blushing at her sister's almost bawdy and certainly respectless words Yseult shrugged. "Even if it is as you say, Artwyrys thinks differently and do not desire the crown, and father insists that Medrawt shall succeed him. We are powerless to prevent it, unless you wish to tear the kingdom apart by conflict." Yseult counseled. That seemed to calm her sister's recklessness. For a moment Nymueh looked ponderous and worried. Then she nodded and declared; "You are right wise sister. As long as Medrawt lives Artwyrys cannot become king." The red princess of Valamir declared. Yseult looked at her twin with horror in her eyes. "What are you suggesting sister?" She asked in shock. For a moment Nymueh did not reply, her green eyes shining hypnotically like a serpent enthralling its prey. Then Nymueh sighed. "Nothing I suppose." She promised absentmindedly.

Yseult, still rilled by the terrible implication of her sister's words and stunned by the extent of Nymueh's bloody fanaticism nodded quickly. "Good." She, very adamantly declared. Nymueh nodded slowly. But then new life was breath into the wild untamed red princess. "Very well, I shall suffer the little changeling on the throne. But no infant, king or not, ever ruled a kingdom. Who shall rule when Medrawt is but a child?" Nymueh asked. Yseult pondered it for a moment. She wanted to invoke her brother's or cousin's name but that did not seem likely. "Morwynna?" Yseult suggested, naming Medrawt's mother. "A regency?" She added.

That did not please Nymueh. "That woman shall not rule ten hides of Valamir while there is breath in my body." Nymueh vowed violently. "That pious fool was hardly fit to be the wife of the Etyfedd and she is certainly not fit to rule anything." Nymueh declared. Yseult shrugged and sighed. "What would you propose then?" Yseult asked. That Nymueh pondered silently for a moment. "A regency council, aye. Lead by Artwyrys with some of your foolish priests perhaps? As for Morwynna, send her to marry a foreign king and appoint him the changeling's guarding. In this manner we shall build a strong alliance with one of our neighbors. Ironmark perhaps? They are traitors of course but I hear they wish to march to Tervain to fight Nekhur, perhaps we can join them like we did when the Red Orcs came. Without the Old Gods our people shall never be truly free of the shadow of Nekhur, but if the arms of Valamir, Ironmark and Serebyan are united then much may well be gained." Nymueh proclaimed.

Yseult, despite her antipathy towards her twin's old beliefs nodded slowly. It was no bad plan. Unlikely as an alliance with Ironmark and Serebyan was in ordinary times it had indeed proven a useful model in resisting the Red Orcs. Perhaps it could be employed to deal with Nekhur as well. "Will father go for it?" Yseult asked. "Is his hatred for the empire that slew his heir great enough to overcome his antipathy towards Ironmark?"

Nymueh closed her eyes and took a deep breath of air. "Perhaps. Perhaps not." Nymueh replied. "The Derwydd will know." The red princess declared. "The Unconquered Sun alone knows." Yseult at once admonished her sister. Nymueh snarled. "You try your god, I will try mine, time will tell whose are the strongest and who shall deliver us from the northerners." Nymueh ominously proclaimed.
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Rodez » Sun Apr 11, 2021 10:40 pm

Tukkaa Veralainen
Mishgrod Docks, Mestan

Tukkaa listened as the Maradi captain explained himself. He took the papers from the tall, dark Half-Elf, scanned them over. Yes, this is Paavo's mark alright. He recognized the stamp of Mestan's foremost diplomat anywhere. Two hundred spears and a hundred bowmen, it's all here.

Then the Maradi whistled, and the two sea-birds pulled into a steep and terrifying dive, careening straight for the pier. Tukkaa questioned for a dizzying half-moment if this was some elaborate sneak attack, if he was about to join the ancestors. But then the birds slowed, pulled themselves up. One landed thunderously but harmlessly at the edge of the pier, while the other settled atop the foreign carrack's bow. Both animals erupted in a primordial shriek, and though the theatrics set the hands of his Vermilion Guards back on their swords, Tukkaa couldn't help but admire the savagery -and beauty- of the birds up close. He made a clucking noise at his escort, calmed them with another hand signal.

"We are ready to fight when and where we are needed," the Maradi said. "Give the men the night to get their land legs back, and our spears are yours."

Tukkaa gave the captain - Ktesias, he called himself - another hard appraisal, then extended his gaze to the Half-Elf's lieutenants, and then to the gathered Goldspears atop the Larissa. He knew then what had to follow. If he could not secure the allegiance of these men, and quickly, then Jalo would have him commit the ritual suicide, friendship between them or no.

"I do not know why you have come, Ktesias of Marad," the Suuri-Vanhin said finally. "But it speaks well of your courage. No others of the Ulkomaalai, or foreigners, answered our call, not yet, anyways." He gestured to the looming black towers of Nurkkaly behind him, which rose up from the city like a father watching his children. "In less . . . desperate times you would not be permitted within the citadel. However, half the Vermilion Guard has gone south with the Shogun, or east to Taszar, so there are beds aplenty for your company. You and your men will be honored guests of the Mestani state, and we will work out a contract amenable to both parties. You will enjoy the bounty of Csehi Bay for tonight. Starting tomorrow, Mestan has need of your profession."

Jalo Roveda
Szunomár, Mestan
North of Kurikka

The village that had once lain cradled beneath a hillock by the Salovaara River had disappeared. It had been replaced by row upon row of black tents that stretched along the river bank as far as Jalo Roveda could see in either direction. Middays' sunlight laid a shimmering pattern against the sable shelters of Mestan's gathering army, and as one looked to the edges of the camp, the shapes of men and tents began to blend and merge with the trees.

Slowly, the Shogun of Mestan rose from the gentle slope of the hill which overlooked the collection of mills and farmsteads that Szunomár had been a few days before. A slight breeze picked up, made his copper hair dance about his shoulders over the ancestral lamellar cuirass of the Roveda clan. A few grey hairs streaked the copper now, and Jalo reflected that this war was not like the contests of his youth. A certain grimness pervaded the camp, a dark mood which the veterans often carried, but was not to be found among the fresh-faced youth.

Jalo gripped the hilt of his katana, remembering with a twinge of wistfulness the war against Basuvar in his twentieth year. There had been much bloodshed then, yes, but even in the heat of battle, there had been none of this doom-feeling, this dread that seemed to settle gradually over the whole of Mestan, whose Shoguns had once made the whole of the northern steppe bow their heads in acknowledgement of Mestan's power. Now the hordes of the orc-lord, this Ishkhan, were barreling towards the border to make an end to the nation. Jalo's advance scouts on the southern shores of Lake Palosaari had already detected the movement of large columns northwards.

This must not turn to terror, Jalo determined, as he made his way down the hill and into the heart of the bustling camp. Resolve must be in every man's heart.

As he passed through the tent-city, soturi warriors in varying stages of dress cleared the 'streets' and bowed to him. A verbal salute arose from their gathered voices: "Shogun-johtaja!" Jalo met the eyes of men here and there. They all carried the same glassy-eyed look of apprehension, the mask of guarded, angry fear. They were afraid, but they would fight all the same.

Jalo stopped and chatted with his men every so often, asking after families and inquiring if they were ready to kill orcs. It slowed his journey to the command pavilion, but he did not mind. It was clear to him that his army needed steadying, and that the men would feed off their general's energy if he provided it.

But that fuel only lasts so long, Jalo reminded himself as he swept aside the silk curtain-door and stepped into the command tent. Three of his marshals were bent over a war-map of Mestan and straightened immediately to bow before the Shogun. "Shogun-johtaja!" They intoned, echoing the greetings of their men outside.

"The men are nervous," Jalo announced. "We must strike directly, or the disease will be fatal."

The marshals said nothing. All three were Councilors - elected lord-legislators for a province of Mestan, who served on the Grand Council and helped Jalo run the country.

"The Ishkhan's numbers are . . . overwhelming," muttered Vaino Latorcai, Councilor of Csongrad, along the River Halmosi. The curly-haired youth of twenty-six had been elected easily the year before last, carried by his personal popularity and great skill-at-arms. But the young man had never fought a real war, it was clear, and was now blanching at the prospect of one where the odds measured poorly.

"We must gather the full weight of our strength before thinking of giving battle," Vaino offered hopefully.

"We must avenge my kin at Virttaa!" barked Staban Taivassa. "Orc raiders slew my cousin's family like dogs. "I'll challenge the Ishkhan to a duel, and bring his devilish head to you on a pike, Your Eminence."

Jalo knew this for the wrath-talk that it was, and gave the white-haired Councilor from Kustavi a hard look. "Use your head, Staban. I mourn for your kin, I do, but the border-folk can guard the River Nyirtass well enough for now. No. We must strike at the enemy rapidly and withdraw, like the adder does to rodents."

The third Councilor, Urmas Eotvos, said nothing. Jalo gave him an appraising glance. The broad-shouldered, bare-headed Councilor from Hollai was his own age, had come up to the Grand Council a year or two after him. Eotvos was no friend of Jalo's, and had been among the five Councilors to vote against the war powers bill ten days before. Yet he had donned his armor and called up Hollai's levies for the war just the same. Nor could his understanding of battlefield tactics be denied, which explained why he was present in the command tent and not rotting in a cell like four of his compatriots. In any case, Eotvos was respected among the soturi of Hollai, and Jalo was not about to remove him. Either he has devised this as a means for saving his skin, or else he has a sense of duty which I did not foresee. I cannot see into his heart.

Eotvos felt the eyes of the Shogun on him and cleared his throat. He spoke haltingly, as if the words were drawn out of him by way of the stretching rack: "If you desire to launch a large raid across the Nyirtass, Your . . . Your Eminence, then let me be the first to volunteer to lead it. If you doubt my sincerity . . . " he trailed off, concluding with a defiant glare.

"I don't have time to doubt any of you," Jalo retorted. "Least of all a commander of your skill, Urmas. You will command the force."

The Shogun turned back to Latorcai. "How many men are we now?"

The youngster half-closed his eyes, running a few computations through his head. "At dawn this morning we were fifteen thousand, about two-thirds soturi and one third levies. Four hundred men from Arvai arrived just before lunch. But it will take some weeks before-"

"Before all the soturi are gathered here, I know." Jalo finished for him. "Weeks we don't have. Dispatch one regiment of soturi eastwards to Taszar. You will accompany them, and take command of the fortress when you arrive." Jalo pointed at the black point and tiny script on the map which marked the Anvil of Mestan, nestled in the foothills of the Viake Mountains. "That should fill out the garrison nicely, as every tower must be manned in full. Taszar will be our rock in the east. With cellars carved deep into the mountains, no army can starve out the garrison. It will either be stormed" -Jalo threw a significant look at Latorcai- "At the greatest cost, or it will continue to command the roads west to Kurikka or northwest to Mishgrod."

"Taszar is the finest fortress in Cadmira," Latorcai said proudly. "I happily accept its command."

"And you will not surrender it," added Jalo. "Not that one can negotiate with the orc-lords in any case. You leave tonight."

The Shogun next turned to Taivassa. "Staban. You and I will break camp tomorrow morning. We'll take the bulk of this force down to the shores of Lake Palosaari, on the south bank of where the Salovaara is born. That will be our new marshaling point for the remainder of the soturi and their levies."

Staban placed his finger at the point the Shogun indicated. "The wooded country could obscure the army well, keep us close to the border and to Kurikka."

"And my force?" Eotvos had folded his tree-trunk arms, scowled like a drillmaster. And that really was the question, wasn't it?

"Cavalry," Jalo said simply. "Every horseman that isn't shitting red death tonight will leave with you tomorrow morning. "Thats . . .?"

"Thirty-five hundred men," Latorcai answered immediately. "Or very near to it."

Eotvos' scowl hardly budged. "And my orders are what? Charge the enemy and die gloriously?"

"Under no circumstances!" Jalo did not attempt to hide the edge in his voice. "I fear there will opportunity enough for that later. But you will find their advance columns south of the lake, get a better appraisal of their numbers. Strike their slow-moving troops, or when they are overextended. Strike to confuse, to keep them guessing. Do not at any point commit yourself to full battle. Am I clear, Urmas?"

Eotvos gave a curt nod. "Debilitate them. Like the adder's bite."

"You have it," said Jalo. "Now lets eat; you especially, Urmas. Good steak feeds the orc-killer."
Formerly known as Mesrane (Mes), now I'm back
Joined April 2014

Go Cubs, Go!



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