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Introduction: What?


This Isn't Even My Final Form!
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Jul 6, 2011
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Demon, Devil, Doll

Introduction: What?
He who drinks oceans of blood shall never cease bleeding from the mouth.

The Autumn Court invaded our lands. They butchered us and pushed us to the edges of the world, we peaceful children of winter, for the sin of honoring the Winter Fey. We, who survived the ruin of elven civilization, face our doom.

A young sorceress, Immarel Winterswrath, made a pact to save us all. The power to protect her people from extermination and fight back. And all the Everfrost Prince asks in return is to bring an endless dead winter upon her foes.


Welcome to Anbennar, which is a mod that takes EU4 from 1444’s Earth and instead puts all of these mechanics into a Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world. Witness the rise of states and empires and technology like never before! Create a magocratic totalitarian police state, destroy an empire that worships catgirls using magitek war-robots, build a new Dwarven Kingdom under the mountain with the power of multi-racial prostitution!

If you don't know anything about this game, no worries. This AAR will try to explain things in ways that are clear enough, even if you don't really know what EU4 is. Doubly so for Anbennar’s unique races, faiths, and world. I’ll keep it simple and fairly narrative for you to understand! [Stuff in brackets is my own OOC player thoughts and opinions.] Everything else will be broadly from an in-character soap opera narrative POV.

In much the same spirit of my other two Anbennar AARs, That Lucky Old Sun and Blue Moon, Paradox Plaza is actually a mirror. The main place this is posted is somewhere I don't expect the reader to be too familiar with EU4 or Anbennar at all. As such, there's a good few OOC asides where I briefly explain EU4 game mechanics as well as Anbennar's quirks. Bear in mind this is for readers who don't know either property, and I'd like to introduce them to it.


Y’know how most fantasy works focus on a generic fantasy Europe with knights and castles and fair maidens? Maybe even a pagan religion that weirdly resembles Christianity somehow.

Yeah none of that here.

We are Gemradcurt, a tiny country of ethnic snow elves located in the frozen, swampy wastelands of Eordand, on the lost continent of Aelantir. We’re basically an insignificant aboriginal state located in the fantasy Americas. And yes, the fantasy Europeans are coming. It is a land where the border between worlds is weak, where the Fey enter the material plain, everyone hates everyone else, and where magical radiation mutated all the surviving elves like it’s Fallout and Todd Howard has it out for you specifically.

All of our neighbors religiously despise us. We need to wage wild wars of aggression to survive even though they’re likely to crash our non-existent economy. You have to destroy four entire religions and their ethnic groups, or else they will never stop rebelling. And everything you do is going to make you implode.

Our only real weapon is Immarel Winterswrath, a powerful elven sorceress and our leader, whose powers over war magic and necromancy will be the keys to ensuring our nation’s victory. In game, Gemradcurt is the story of Immarel as she gaslights, gatekeeps, and girlbosses her way from one atrocity to the next for the survival of her people.

At least our survival in our homeland. We have to work incredibly fast. Because, far across the sea, you have to remember the true final boss is out there.

Humanity is coming.

Let’s die in a blaze of fucking glory, yeah?

Basically this story is the unholy mix of Europa Unversalis, Dungeons & Dragons, and K6BD
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Chapter 1: She's a Demon, She's a Devil, She's a Doll
Chapter 1: She’s a Demon, She’s a Devil, She’s a Doll

Blood is alive.

The Frostman taught me that. After the Tuathak crusaders killed my parents. When I was alone and the tears froze to my cheeks.

Exposed to the cold, blood flinches away in pain. It retreats up your arms and legs, hiding in your heart. You can coax it back with promises of warmth. But sometimes, a more reliable way is to force it back home, like sucking venom out through a wound.

You’re freezing to death. You sit down and die. If you stand and move, the blood has to go to your extremities out of brutal necessity. You need to take the next step forwards, swinging your arms for momentum. Everything heats up inside like friction in your veins.

The Frostman told me to stand up. He told me to take that next step. Told me to follow him. He led me to the priestesses and druids of the Taigan Order, where I once again found the simple warmth of a fire and survived.

That was nineteen years ago.

My blood is alive.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s the only part of me that is anymore.


Gemradcurt. Home. Or what’s left of it.

In this land of motherless boys and fatherless girls, I still wonder why the Frostman would appear only to me. Time after time as I grew up with the women of the Taigan Order. I can’t even say if he came first or my talent with magic. I barely understood the significance at the time. I just knew he was there when I threw a tantrum and created a blizzard, giving me harsh advice and stern criticism in the same breath.

He was my only constant, in some ways. I came to realize the Frostman was no mere elf. He wasn’t even alive in the traditional sense.

The Frostman was something more, and I was the one he’d chosen.

It was up to me to do something with these circumstances.


I’m naturally talented in evocation war magic and have secretly dabbled in needful necromancy. I’ve worked hard to get here, and I know it’s still not nearly enough.
[Immarel is a powerful mage, a unique feature of Anbennar. As our ruler, she can study, master, and cast ferocious spells that can turn the tide of any war.]​

I watched the Tuathak continue their brutal crusade. I grew up in the shadow of bloodletting and the Fey spirits of the land that picked their bodies over. I learned to wield winter as our people’s only true weapon against the invaders.

I rose through the ranks. It’s hard to say no to a girl who can freeze your blood. Not when she has a creature like the Frostman pushing her forwards.

We didn’t win that war.

We just clung on to the parts of Eordand that nobody else could be bothered to conquer.


The borders, faiths, and peoples of Eordand. Centered around the ancient Fey forests of the Domandrod. It’s the whole world, for what it matters. The Tuathak came from our southwest and spread across our homeland, establishing Slegcal and Jhorgashirr as hostile crusader states.
[Eordand is, in typical Anbennar fashion, a thunderdome. Full of different peoples and religions who all hate each other, the only way to survive is to be hyper aggressive and dominate your region before you can expand into the wider world.]

It wasn’t magical power or valiant hearts that defeated the crusaders.

It was politics.

The Autumn Court is just one group in Eordand. When it looked like they would finally defeat us, the Peitar people intervened. Not because they wanted to save us, not because they cared about anything like that.

They did it because they didn’t want the Autumn Court to become too powerful. They wanted to maintain a balance of power, politically and among the Fey courts.

We survived because our deaths would have been spiritually inconvenient to another people, and that’s it.

The crusade is supposed to be over.

But I didn’t get this far by trusting my lying eyes alone.

“Lady Immarel, a moment?”


Captain Talaran shakes his black hair from his helmet and frees his long ears. He is, like me, an ethnic Snecboth, a snow elf. He's tall and lean with battle scarred forearms. Skin pale like snow. Due to the Ironhunger, the rarity of iron in Eordand, he wears sturdy armor of silvery bronze and animal furs and carries an officer’s flute on his hip. Were it not for the Crusade, I wonder what this man might have been. Probably another wanderer, moving with his family as the seasons changed.

In this world, he’s a warrior. One of my best lieutenants and head of my personal guard. After I expanded the Taigan Order to allow men in, he’d joined and fought by my side ever since. He hands me the reports.

“You were right. Still got Tuathak remnants looting and marauding the north. The Peitar don’t seem to mind so long as the war is officially over, and our own scattered forces exist mostly on paper. It’s about ten pounds of shit in a five pound sack,” he says with a slight drawl. He pauses before adding, “Ma’am.”

The juxtaposition makes me snort. “You’ve always had a way with words, Talaran.”

He shrugs. “Why sugar coat a rotting corpse? You get sick if you eat it either way.”

I make a warding gesture with my fingers, to metaphorically throw off the evil eye. “What do we have at our disposal at the moment, captain?”

Talaran inclines his head, thinking. He doesn’t use his fingers to accentuate his thoughts or feelings. He’s almost impiously rigid. “Some six thousand soldiers trying to hold down what’s left of the region. And some guy tied some logs together and claims it’s legally a navy for tax purposes, so I guess we have that, too.”

“Will it be enough?”

“No. But it’s not like that’s ever stopped you before. Whatever happens, I promised to see this through with you till the end.”

I gesture for good luck. “I’ll draft the orders, captain. Be ready to receive and execute them.”

“Executing is my favorite part of the job. I love making work for the Rat Catcher.” He makes no gesture of respect before leaving.

And I find myself alone with my thoughts. With nothing but this old desk in a little town that’s halfway between organized refugees and a war camp. Here in a room that’s little more than a fortified hut with a stone hearth to keep my hands from freezing in the cold. The Snecboth didn’t used to live in towns like this. We didn’t have desks and quills and paperwork. The Tuathak and their invasion forced us back, concentrating us. We had to settle and bunker down for once in our existence as the crusaders ravaged our homes and trails.

Now, a generation of children will grow up never knowing the old ways. The existence I fought my life to defend is almost a myth.

All I can do is…


The Frostman. Or, in reality, the Everfrost Prince. An Archfey. Almost the closest thing I have to family anymore.

Once, in the aftermath of my first battle, I saw a man wandering through the field of corpses. Some were our people, pale skinned Snecboth. Others were Tuathak elves, skin midway through their season change in color. Most of the bodies had frozen to some degree, standing in place with shattered limbs.

I was just a kid, another orphan girl in the druidic Taigan Order. But age didn't stop me from watching people die. Killing them, even. I was too strong, too useful, to be allowed a childhood.

I sat there, bundled up next to a fire. And just watched the man walk through the battlefield. Casually strolling among the dead. Occasionally exhaling smoke through a pipe through his mask.

This huge, hunched over figure in a dark cloak and mask picked through the bodies. Until eventually he found a young boy who had been a mage like me. He reached out a six-fingered hand from beneath his cloak, and I saw the jerkied eyeballs hanging from his wrist. He noticed me looking, and then went back to taking the mage's eyes.

I tried to get up, thinking maybe I would stop him. Until one of the older women stopped and held me back.

“The Fey are stronger here in the aftermath of magic. Look away!” a woman said. “Don't watch the Rat Catcher work!”

“Why is he doing that?” I asked.

The woman shook her head. “He is the Rat Catcher, taker of dead mages. He is of the Fey. The Fairfolk simply do and are. Let him be lest you draw his attention. Who knows what he might demand of you.”

She taught me the warding gestures, ways to move my hands and figures to appease or ward off the Fey, be they Seelie or Unseelie. Gestures for pardon. Gestures for them to ignore me. I’m not sure the Fey take any real mind to what we do like that. But the purpose is half for them, and half as much to make sure that, when Fey are around, they can’t use magic to twist your words. They do that kind of thing.

The Everfrost Prince was like that. One of the Fey. Not a God, not a person, but something in between from outside the material plane. Drawn here for his own inscrutable purposes. Stronger than most of his unknowable kin.

I had made the mistake of thinking him a friend when I was a little girl. Because he was all I had when the Tuathak killed my parents and left me to die. I don't think the Fey have our mortal conception of emotions and relationships. I don't understand a lot of things when it comes to him and why he dotes on me.

I just know that with his help, we can finally beat back the Autumn Court. We struck a bargain ages ago. Not a true pact, but something more informal. Help and patronage, his knowledge and support so long as our goals align.

With his help, his patronage, I can save my people.


No matter the cost.
[And here we see the real twist and story of Immarel. Her quest is to follow her Archfey patron to the path of immortality and eternal power.]

But until I complete my end of the bargain with the Everfrost Prince, I must focus on the task at hand. I need to find sources from the Fey and those who came before me on how to master the magic I was naturally gifted with.

I took control of the Taigan Order and all of Gemradcurt when I was just eleven because I was stronger than everyone else. Our old leader was a coward who just retreated. I struck him down with winter’s fury, and assumed my position as leader by right of might.

In the legends, however? Of the fair Fey, of old druids, compared to them I am still nothing.

There’s so much left to learn and master if I am to save my people and complete the Everfrost Prince’s grisly task.


And in the end, I shall be found faultless for what I’ve done.
[And here we start Immarel’s true journey. She is but one Ruinborn elf. She is still mortal. But mages can study and master schools of magic, any school. I’ll need to master Evocation to destroy my foes, and Necromancy to attain eternal life and power.]

But the quest for old texts is an expensive process. I have to send members of the Taigan Order on expeditions to old ruins to find information. All the while, I need to be mindful of just how few resources we truly have.

I could bankrupt Gemradcurt if I pursue this task too madly.

So I can either focus on fulfilling my end of the deal wholeheartedly mastering sorcery, or I could prioritize resources to practical efforts like the military, our fortifications, and the other innumerable costs associated with any standing nation.

It’s funny, really. Before the Hiberal Crusade, when we were nomadic, we lived off the land and that was it. To survive, we needed to replicate the state structures of the Tuathak peoples. To play by their rules.

And our attempts at replicating civilization did not paint a pretty picture.


Far to the south, in the lands of the Spring Court of Arakeprun, there are lone cities as rich and populous as the entirety of the Snecboth Winter Court. I should probably get rid of our fake navy and get rid of that tax loophole.
[Like I said, Gemradcurt is an icy wasteland with little in the way of valuable goods and few people. We make .4 of a money a month. Meaning the economy is IN SHAMBLES, WOO!]

It’s readily apparent to me, from all the reports from scouts and diplomats, that Gemradcurt can’t survive alone. We were just one of the organized Snecboth peoples when the crusade ended.

The others? At least ones who survived the Crusade? Reotcrab [Frozen Tree] and Gelcolle [White Forest] are just as isolated as us. Even then, Reotcrab are mostly pirates and raiders with no love for their brothers. And if my spies are to be believed, behind the smiles of Gelcolle lie people who claim to be “forward thinking” and trying to commune and work with the Tuathak people, as if rolling over and playing nice will finally make our ancient enemy consider us people.

They’re fools and idiots.

No one in history has ever won their freedom by appealing to the better angels of those keeping them in irons.

If the Snecboth are to survive at all, we need to form a united front and stand against the other Seasonal Courts. And I won’t take no for an answer, no matter how much palm greasing, enchantment magic, and even murder it requires to make our fellow elves see reason.

These are the first steps we must take.


And so, I have Captain Talaran and my friend, Captain Ishera, oversee the build-up of our forces, plying both diplomatic overtures of unity and maneuvering my army near their borders to demonstrate we have the might needed to protect Winter.
[The long Gemradcurt mission tree begins in earnest. In EU4, mission trees represent concrete goals for your nation, broadly guiding you down a historical path, and giving you bonuses or new mechanics as you progress. Anbennar takes these up to 11, and you will see how big and insane this mission tree really gets.]

It’s been nearly 1445 years exactly since the Day of Ashen Skies, when Elven Civilization died in a blaze of horror. We survived due to the great mountains to our west, and within the Feywilds of the great Domandrod forest.

In practice, that means that it’s near the end of the year, start of the next. It’s the dead of winter, where the Fey of Winter Court are at their strongest. When I am most in tune with my magic. And most alone. Just me, the weather, and whatever scraps of literature I can find about old necromancy.

Someone knocks on the door to my office as I’m staring out the window into the snowstorm. Before I can say anything, Ishera Fasacminn walks in with a bottle of something. I quickly roll up my scroll before she can get closer and read what I’m doing.

“Hey, Immie,” Ishera says with a smile. She pretty much stopped getting taller when we were still young women in the Taigan Order, and they don’t really make armor in her size. What she lacks in physique she made up for in spellcraft and literacy. Ishera looks at the bottle in her hand and hides it behind her back. “You didn’t see that, by the way.”

“Captain Ishera, what are you—”

She holds a finger up, then curls them into a gesture of pardon. “No ranks here. It’s a new year, and you’re all alone.”

I creep towards my desk to hide my scroll. “I was looking over reports.”

Ishera gives me a dry look. “Workaholic.”

I force a laugh. “Yeah, that’s me. Just working.”

Ishera looks at the scroll and I suddenly feel hot. She scowls. “Put that away. I have a gift for you. Well, two, but one for the moment.”

I scramble to put the necromantic writing away and try to look casual. I can’t figure out how to stand or where to put my arms to actually look like I wasn’t studying forbidden magics in the name of an Archfey. Like a normal person does. “What is it, Ishera?”

“Guess!” she says, stepping up to my desk. Gestures for hope. Technically, the way she flicks her wrist and fingers is asking for a good harvest or abundant foraging, or a gift of food from the Fey, but the meaning is the same.

I lean to look past her, and she waves her arms at me.

“No cheating, Immie!” she says with a pout.

I stand there, still unsure where my hands belong. “Alcohol?”

Ishera grins, holding up the bottle. “Old-fashioned Snecboth mead like my mom used to make. C’mon, sit with me by the fire. If I drink it with a friend it’s socially acceptable. You wouldn’t force me to drink it by myself, would you?”

She pours us cups and we spend the evening just… talking. Like normal people. As the snow comes down, a snow that will eventually blow over, Ishera and I just talk. It’s nice. She was one of the first people I met in the Taigan Order, another fatherless daughter like myself. The Taigan Order used to be all women, and in the days of the Crusade we were all orphans in some way or another.

The only difference between us was I was far stronger with magic. But that never stopped her from taking up the sword and fighting for our people with me. She was the closest thing I had to whatever I had with the Everfrost Prince.

At some point, as I’m seeing double, lost in giggling fits about the stupid things we used to do as kids, or some strange tricks of the Fey we’ve both seen, she gets serious.

“The other gift. I got a letter!” she says chipperly. Then frowns. “Well, two letters. Shit, I cannot count.”

“What…” I blink, trying to focus. And nearly stumble in the fireplace. Ishera grabs me and pulls me back into a chair. “What about?”

“My work in Gelcolle and Reotcrab,” she says, fishing around her trousers for the paperwork.


One agreed. One rejects us. Fuuuck I am too drunk for this shit right now. Ishera, you… wait… no, how do I use my mouth again to make words? Ah, I remember!

“Ishera, you’re supposed to lead with this stuff!” I say, pushing her away from me and trying to make the letters on paper stop blurring.

She frowns. “I was going to. I was going to celebrate. But you looked so grim and serious I figured you needed to relax first.”

“Celebrate?” I scoff, rubbing my forehead. And gesture for good luck, though I feel I lack any right now.

“Yeah. Gelcolle agreed to join us in a defensive pact. That’s great!”

I hold my face, pressing my fingers in my eyes. “Ishera, this is terrible. Reotcrab is happy to just let us all die. To raid the coasts and stick to themselves.”

She shrugs. “So? Most of the Snecboth people are together.”

“No, you… you…” I shake my head and reach for some water. “We need to work together. If we move to push out the invaders, what if Reotcrab attacks us? They’re predatory, vultures if we can’t contain them. They’re a dagger pointed at the heart of the Winter Court.”

“No,” she says, shaking her head. Nervously running fingers through her nearly white hair. “Ishera, you don’t need to think of it that far. You don’t need to be paranoid. They’ll sit back; I know people from Reotcrab. Gelcolle and us together are enough.”

I stand up sharply. “You’re wrong, Ishera. You’re dead wrong.”


What? Go away, I’m busy!​

It takes a day to sober up. And another for the hangover to cease. Stupid Ishera. Why did I ever let my guard down? I do it for one moment, and this happens.

I had made such a show of reaching out to our fellow Snecboth. I’d raised and moved armies for it. And only Gelcolle had agreed. Reotcrab stood in defiance, spitting in my face, in the face of everything we’ve worked for.

Already, the nobles and merchants whom I’d cajoled into helping fund these projects are wondering if I’ve made a mess of things. Wasted resources on playing nice with people we had no business treating with.

It’s like when I was a little girl. After I killed the old leader of Gemradcurt and took over with the help of the militarists. They’d tried to use me. And at the urging of the Everfrost Prince, I rid myself of them and assumed full control.

This was no different.

I looked over my shoulder, as if I’d see the Everfrost Prince again. Like he’d know what to do and push me towards it.

But he’s not there.

And I have to do what’s right myself. What I should have done this entire time.


If they won’t cooperate peacefully, I’ll have no choice but to make them!
[Ah, war. The meat and potatoes of EU4. My neverending unhinged wars of naked aggression begin now!]

Ishera protests. But I force her away and tell her to take her post like a good little captain. Talaran, for his part, already seems ready.

He just smiles when I march into the military headquarters. I nearly blind him with a frostbolt then and there.

“I’ve already got Ewandil sal Einn leading the troops on the border,” he says. “Five thousand regulars, and four thousand adventurers who’ve signed up on temporary contracts.”

I stop. Blink. “You’re already prepared to invade Reotcrab?”

Talaran shrugs, leaning forwards slightly. Now grinning. Still never making any gestures for the Fey, as if he doesn’t care if they’re ever watching him or not “Lady Immarel, I ain’t known you all this time not to be able to figure out what you’d do if those northern kings spat in our face.”

I take a breath and try to straighten my hair, slowly gesturing for thankfulness. “Very good, Captain. I commend your initiative. How soon can we march to secure the north?”

“How soon do you need to join the men?”

“Not long,” I say. “We’ll show them the best Winter can muster. And then we’ll swing down south and drive out the invaders.”

“I’ll get it done in two shakes of the fairy’s wing, Lady Immarel,” he says evenly.


The adventurers would normally be fighting monsters and appeasing minor Fey, but they can serve the Winter Court in a pinch for the right price. We’re the best elvenkind has to offer.
[But, despite what they think, we are NOT actually elves. Actual pureblooded elves are in Fantasy Europe and still live centuries. We are Ruinborn, the mutant elves who survived the apocalypse, a different race. Every race in Anbennar has a unique government administration and racial military, like diggy dwarves, magitek gnomes, savage ogres, elite true elves, and generic humans. Ruinborn elves are basically the Native Americans of this world, but they run the gamut from knightly feudal peoples, to Greek-like city-states, to hive-minded swarm organisms.]

I arrive on the border to inspect the soldiers. We have a distinct lack of cavalry. Horses are expensive to house and care for, so what we have are all infantry. Spearmen, archers, and the occasional mage for support from whatever Order I could cajole into supplying them. Plus a token of support from our theoretical allies in Gelcolle, not that they count for much so early into our partnership.

Then there’s the adventurers. They’re not regular troops. Little more than sellswords we’re corralled into the service to act as warm bodies.

It’s all the Winter Court truly has.

I feel the winds of magic and breathe Winter into my lungs, and order the armies march for the city of Marathmas, capital of Reotcrab.

And find…


Almost no one.

“You’re shitting me,” I say exasperated

“Language, my lady!” Ishera says, gesturing for forgiveness, but I wave her off.

Captain Talaran looks over the walls of Marathmas, shaking his head. “No shit, Lady Immarel. You remember those random logs that one guy put together for tax evasion purposes?”

“Yes, the one I was meaning to get rid off until Ishera distracted me on New Year’s.”

Ishera just looks embarrassed

He points over his shoulder towards the frozen sea. “The entire army of Reotcrab was on their island up north, getting ready for a raid. Turns out, if you tie enough logs together and put sails on them, you can pretend to have a navy large enough to convince an entire army they wouldn’t make it across the sea.”

“You are. Shitting. Me.”

Ishera frowns at me. “Look, if they don’t have an army that can fight back, maybe we can resolve this peacefully. It’s like pretending to steal a child’s nose. ‘Haha, we got your capital city, now let’s all get along and focus on the Autumn Court.’ Y’know?”

I look towards the walls of Marathmas. “Wait them out?”

She nods. “They’ll have to surrender eventually. No one has to die.”

“Except that the longer we’re here, the more time our enemies have to realize we’re not at our southern stations,” Captain Talaran says, and spits into the snow. “I don’t see what your problem is.”

“My Lady, please, just think about it,” Ishera says.

But already, I am feeling out the Fey winds of magic. Sensing the cold coursing through my veins in raw, unadulterated force.

“You’re right, Captain,” I say. “The sooner we take that city and end this war, the sooner we can secure ourselves against the Tuathak.”

“Good. Always wanted to bloody highborn noses,” he says. “See what colors come out if you stab a blueblood.”

I shake my head. “You won’t have to do anything. I’ll tear those walls down myself.”

Ishera bites her lips, but I’m already preparing for what I must do.


And I tear apart the very earth itself to break the walls, and let our soldiers into the city to take its leaders hostage and plunder it of all resistance.
[This is the power of a Powerful Mage as leader. Immarel can just summon powerful war and siege magic, making our soldiers into killing machines, or tearing down the walls of entire cities. Why wait a siege out when you can magically nuke everything?]

The walls come down, in a chorus of crumbling earth and screams that the howling blizzard soon overpowers.

Captain Talaran orders the soldiers into the wasteland as soon as they have their feet solidly beneath them.


Winter will not be denied. You can join us, or you can die.

And the city is taken, its garrison put to the sword, and all who survived made to kneel.


It’s as close to bloodless for our side as possible. Minimal losses and record pace, ensuring we can move south.

The representative from the noble family of Gelcolle stares, eyes wide, at the scene. Her hands shake.

“Glad you made the correct choice?” I ask her, arms behind my back.

She glances towards me, making some half-formed emotional gesture. “To cast our lot with you?”

I nod. “Imagine if it wasn’t us. If it was Tuathak. You should feel overjoyed that your leaders were more forward thinking.”

“So, what, this is an object lesson?” she asks.

I tilt my head. “A lesson implies there’s something to learn. This is more like disciplining an unruly child.”

The diplomat just nods, saying nothing. Her long ears twitch uncomfortably.

I feel oddly warm inside.

The Reotcrab Snecboth aren’t happy to be forced to cooperate, to cease raiding and instead focus on serving the common cause. Their still-living aristocrats bicker and moan, but I don’t care.

Because finally, finally, everyone was working together.


And the long march south begins.

Autumn is a season of rot. You can see it every year when the leaves fall from the trees. They land on the ground and remain there until they stink of decay. Until the cold winter covers up the stench under a cleansing snow.

The Tuathak applied the same principle to us. We march south from Marathmas through forested Gelcolle, seeing the furthest extent of the Hibernal Crusade. We pass old battlefields where snow elves were left to fester, stripped naked of all belongings. Trees where the nooses are covered in corpse wax from their Snecboth victims. Once, in the forests, we find an old domcolle, rare longhouses where Snecboth clans would share fire and hunt the land. The Crusaders destroyed these too, even the women and children.

“We should burn the bodies,” Ishera says quietly. “Funeral honors.”

“Ain’t worth the pause,” Talaran says. “Longer we’re up here, the longer the border ain’t defended.”

“It’s the least we could do for the victims.” Ishera tightens her hood. “Someday when I die, I hope we’re safe enough that I can be burned the same way. Peacefully with honor.”

I allow Ishera to take the mages and tend to the dead.

Everywhere we go, the land is scarred. No matter how many years after the end of the war, we never stop finding new ways the Tuathak tried to drive us to extinction.

We winter just outside Gelcolle itself, less of a village and more persistent fire hazard with ramshackle defenses and imitation domcolles. The matriarch of their king’s clan promises us food and soldiers for our campaign, but they’re slow-coming.

“There’s only so much we can hunt and gather from the forests in a season,” the old woman tells Ishera and me.

I have no choice but to accept whatever help she offers. Snow elves are not farmers by nature, even if the cold north was easily arable. The fact I even have a single, coherent army that’s held together this long is a testament to Ishera and Talaran’s organization abilities.

When the campaign season begins, I’m in the war camp with my lieutenants.

Arms folded, Talaran says, “We can’t stay here any longer. Gelcolle is acting like we kicked in their door and slept with their wife. Don’t care none for us foraging their lands. Claim if we remain any longer, we’re going to cause a famine.”

I rub the side of my face. “Is that true?”

He scoffs. “No. They just don’t like us so close to their capital after what we did to Marathmas. They’re getting antsy, like we’ll discover they’ve done something and attack them.”

“You mean rumors they married into the Tuathak realm of Eighard?”

Talaran shrugs. “I think they’re playing for time. Reckoning they can be regional peacemaker.”

“Idiots,” I say, gesturing for scorn.

“Ain’t nobody able to suck that many dicks at once and survive,” Talaran says. “Eventually you suffocate.”

“Talaran!” Ishera snaps. “That’s vulgar.”

He stares at her blankly. “Okay, and?”

Ishera sighs, putting a map she’d drawn by hand onto the table. “Look, whatever. Here’s where we are. And here are the crusader states. We know Tuathak marauders are coming up through these borders. Some of our foraging parties have skirmished with some of them, even. They’ve been getting more common as the seasons change.”

I examine the map and all the notes Ishera helpfully added. “We don’t have a choice, do we? We can’t stay here and build up our forces any longer. And the Tuathak are getting bolder by the day, thinking we won’t do anything.”

She nods. “The longer we do nothing, the more innocent people will die. Even if we’re not ready yet, we have to act, or we’ll lose all credibility with our supposed allies. Then everything we’ve done to get this far will be for naught.”

“How soon can we march south?” I ask.

Talaran almost looks offended. “What kind of milksop do you take me for, my Lady? I’ve had them ready since the moment I walked inside this tent.”


[The yellow slashes means we have claims on those provinces, so we have a war goal. The Thunderdome begins in earnest. May God save us all, for no one else can.]

So here it is. We break camp. We march together south.

We prepare to make war against the people who tried to exterminate us. Who colonize our rightful land and put snow elves in chains.

All my life I’ve prepared for this moment. To cross the rivers and forests to emerge like an avenging wraith from a blizzard.

My heart beats irregularly. I hold a hand to my breast and just try to breathe. To stay calm. To present an iron face for those I lead. The Everfrost Prince wouldn’t forgive me if I got cold feet now of all times.

I united Winter for the first time in its history, and now I must make use of it to destroy armies, raze cities, and bring the icy cold upon countless foreigners. A maelstrom of death from the heart of winter itself. To kill, kill, and kill again to the future of my people. To feel no doubt or regrets for these needful things.

And then everything will finally be okay.
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Good to see you writing another!
  • 1Like
Good to see you writing another!
Every time I tell myself "no more writing, my watch has ended, I may now rest," I get dragged back in :(

Figures, though. I been a fan of AARs since I first read I Am Skantarios on the Total War forums. So here I am again, with another cool nation and mission tree I wanted to turn into a story.
Another Anbennar AAR by @Crushric is always worth following!

It looks like our Ruinborn protagonist has a thousand and one problems - and one solution. Subjugate them all!

I'm looking forward to this "immortality and necromancy" thing.
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Another Anbennar AAR by @Crushric is always worth following!

It looks like our Ruinborn protagonist has a thousand and one problems - and one solution. Subjugate them all!

I'm looking forward to this "immortality and necromancy" thing.
Subjugate implies any of the snow elves' former oppresses get to live, and that's not something Immarel intends to give them a say in. Vae victis. Woe to the conquered.

Gemradcurt's whole mission these focus on Immarel and her quest for power, and then transitions into Immarel dealing with the fallout and implications of her actions and ties to the Everfrost Prince. But it's going to be a bloody road to get there. And bloodier still to keep it.
Chapter 2: The Clarion Call
Chapter 2: The Clarion Call​

There is no carrion left. Not this deep into winter. The bodies will remain until it warms, and the beasts leave their lairs and the hearthfire begins to wane.

I taste blood in my mouth as my tongue remains in one place for too long, peeling away and leaving behind little strips of flesh.

The Fey of the Winter Court are strongest in these times. Especially here in northern Eordand. They’re not our friends. They’re not our allies. They’re more a force of nature, here to help you like a good harvest, or destroy you like a bad blizzard—for equally incomprehensible reasons. I take my chances anyways, as always, reaching into the ethereal cold, feeling my blood shrink and hide from it until I am numb enough to risk true damage.

I commune with magic and the Fey.

And beckon their support for our just cause.


A howling blizzard heralds our invasion.
[Immarel is skilled in Evocation magic, a catch-all term for offensive magic useful for battle. War Magic is terribly useful. In EU4, there are two damage types: shock, like a cavalry charge, which is most useful in the early game; and fire, like massed musket or artillery barrage, which is most powerful in the mid-to-late game. War Magic lets your soldiers fight longer and do a lot more shock damage. Thus, Immarel is able to turn her early game armies into killing machines.]

And with the fury of winter behind us, I exhale once.

Captain Talaran gives the order with his flute. Ishera organizes the mages of the Taigan Order.

We march.

Not into the lands of the Autumn Court and the Tuathak elves, but into Strutmar and the greater Eordellon Court.

Under cover of the blizzard, they have no idea we’re coming.


Our invasion of the Eordellon Court of Strutmar begins.

The Peitar elves hold to the Eordellon Court. Long ago, they swore an oath to the Fey to preserve the balance of the seasons, and waged war upon Eordand. That’s why they called themselves “Eordellon,” as if they speak for everyone.

The Peitar were defeated, of course. But they never truly went away or even gave up. Persisting as a thorn in everyone’s side.

When King Harvestcrown launched his crusade against the Snecboth people, the Peitar just stood by and watched. Until Harvestcrown’s crusaders were too successful. After years and years of fighting for our lives, the Peitar decided to intervene to preserve balance.

They killed the Tuathak’s king. The great kingdom of the Tuathak broke apart into a mix of crusader states and little remnants.

We would have been destroyed without them. But all it did was prove to me how weak the Snecboth truly were, divided and separated and at the whims of other elves.

So when we attacked our former saviors, they were caught completely off-guard and unprepared. Their soldiers, who had moved into our old lands, were busy trying to farm and preserve their stores for the winter.

We broke their spines in a lightning attack.


Strutmar and all the Eordellon Court are close allies, but they’re too far and too spread apart to do anything. By the time we shatter their armies and make it to Strutmar’s capital, Dungat, it’s already too late.

Strutmar and the Peitar elves may not be Autumnal crusaders, but that doesn’t mean much. They still migrated into Snecboth lands when we were driven off. Taking them as “spoils of war” and patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

Even though they defeated Harvestcrown and the Tuathak, I still think they’ll be an easier first step than the Tuathak themselves. The egomaniacal war wizard of the crusader state of Jhorgashirr, Jhorgas Frostguard, is possibly the strongest mage in Eordand. For the moment, he’s left us alone, and I don’t trust in my soldiers to be able to face him until all of our flanks are secured and we’re truly prepared to fight that monster.

For now, we handle the Peitar. Here in a countryside I feel very familiar with. This is near the edge of the Feywild Domandrod forest. Near the Winter Gate, one of the only know ways to really enter the Domandrod from the north. Not that the Fey let anyone in or not, not since the Peitar convinced the Fey to let their armies through to defeat King Harvestcrown years ago.

Somewhere along the road to Dungat I pass by familiar glades and lakes.

“Is something wrong, my lady?” Ishera asks, nudging me. She gestures for hope.

There is, but I can’t tell her that. Over there, in that grove, I remember watching my father chop lumber to build our house. My family were, uncommonly at the time, sedentary. Farmers, really. These were Snecboth lands, the peaceful realm of the winter elves.

Captain Talaran is side-eyeing the both of us, but says nothing. He just looks tense. Like he understands what I’m thinking, and it makes my stomach cold.

I shake my head, though. “Feeling the winds of magic, Ishera. Can you sense them?”

Ishera tilts her head, cocking one of her long ears. “A little. Hard to put into words, but Winter itself feels a little more contained here. Is Spring that close?”

Captain Talaran urges his horse forwards. “It’s because, for years, the Peitar have been trying to soothe all seasons. All their balance does is make everyone weaker.”

Ishera frowns. “I don't know about that, Tally-boy. At least Winter is here. You can feel it dying when you get nearer the Tuathak. Well, no, that’s the wrong word. I’m struggling to put it to tongue.”

I hold up a hand. “Save the philosophy for after we’ve taken Dungat.”


The unimpressive capital of Strutmar and the northern Peitar elves. From here, they launched their counterattack to save us. And from here, we’ll show them Winter needs no allies, no saviors. We can do this ourselves.

The Peitar armies lay defeated all along the road. I’ve taken my scrolls on necromancy and, in our downtime, attempted to play with reanimating the corpses. Following old wisdoms and the occasional sense I got that the Everfrost Prince was watching me.

Some of them do rise, creakily. Those I dress up in Snecboth armor and winter masks and have them just line up with our soldiers. Pretending that they’re alive.

I know Captain Talaran isn’t fooled. He just stares at the sudden and silent reinforcements. At first, I think he’s going to react harshly.

Instead, he shoots me a grim look and nods his head towards the city of Dungat.

I nod. Enough time practicing my dread magic.

We need to take this city and now, before any Strutmar’s allies have time to march to their defense. The Eordellon Court must be shattered in the North with one fell swoop.


The ground shakes with the force of a subterranean blizzard, knocking men off their feet and crumbling walls.
[Siege magic is so damn useful in the years before siege artillery and cannons are invented, I love Immarel’s evil little magic.]

And, all at once, our once friends are at our mercy. The walls and defenses fall like wheat before the scythe.

Ishera rubs her hands together, sometimes pulling at the tips of her ears, or casting little spells to keep her mind occupied. Like she doesn’t want to watch or hear the screams.

But Talaran just regards the new situation. “I think it’s over, Lady Immarel.”


And Strutmar truly falls.
[Early game sieges can last for years, because you’re just standing there waiting for everyone to starve to death, but magic and good generals can turn them into minor speedbumps.]

And now, truly, Winter stands alone.

The Peitar saved us and killed King Harvestcrown. We destroyed Strutmar for their insolence, retaking all of their lands for the Snecboth people. Eliminating the threat they posed. For if they were willing to defeat the Tuathak to preserve balance, what would they do to my people once we began earning our rightful vengeance?


The die is cast. And Winter alone stands ready to defend the north.

There would be no more charity. The Snecboth, my people, would defend themselves. And drive off the invaders by our lonesome. Under my command, we would be free, and we would be safe.

There was just the matter of Strutmar’s official surrender, and what to do with these foreign colonizers. The Peitar people of Dungat and those who had started farming and tending to rightful Snecboth land.

The city is ours, but the Strutmari leaders still attempt a formal parley to discuss the terms of their surrender. As if they have any ground to negotiate anymore.


Ishera, old friend, shut your goddamn mouth for once.

I look at Ishera, unsure what expression to make. Were it anyone else, anyone but the girl I grew up with in the Taigan Order, I would have had her thrown out onto her ass at the very least.

Now was not the time to be presenting weakness to our enemies. To let them know there were any who dissented without the ranks.

We needed a united front, a single face, to present to the world.

But before I could speak, Captain Talaran’s face sours. He steps forwards, sharply jabbing a finger at Ishera.


I stare at Talaran, trying to remember when I’d told of my birthplace. How he knew that this, in a roundabout way, was where I was born. Before the Tuathak killed my father and drove me north with the women of the Taigan Order.

All the while, he stands nearly rigid. No gestures to the Fey. It was like his concern wasn’t the Fey, but that he almost seemed offended. Not by the fact Ishera was suggesting mercy. Offended for my sake. As if this was a personal slight against me, and he wouldn’t stand for it.

In a way that humiliated me.

I flashed a spell for everyone’s attention and threw my hand out.


I stand there, and I think. And I think. I look at Ishera’s hopeful face, and at Talaran’s grim determination.

She is right that the Peitar people saved us. But that’s the problem, too. I don’t fault her her earnesty, merely her naïveté. I wouldn’t trust her if she kept her feelings from me. It doesn’t mean she’s correct, though.

Talaran, however, is loyal. He’s level-eared. He’s trustworthy. To the point.

And in all honesty, letting the Peitar remain and hold to their inappropriate veneration of the Fey would leave a permanent fifth column without the lands of the Winter Court.

Ishera looks on in horror as I make my decision.


And the Peitar elves in our homeland are… liquidated.

Talaran marches into the city, surrender denied. And puts it to the sword. Driving out the Peitar once and for all.

Our soldiers fall in line without issue. Ishera hides with the medics towards the rear of our camp, tending to our wounded and even a few Peitar refugees. Tending to their survivors as we throw them off our land. Some flee towards the Winter Gate as if the Domandrod will shelter them, while others flee to the realms of Autumn.

I pay her no mind. Her heart hasn’t been frozen by the needful things we need to do to survive.

I just oversee correcting the errors in our land.


And the northern Peitar are finally vanquished.
[Not pictured, me technically just sitting around for a long time picking off the armies of their allies until Strutmar just surrendered.]

The land of my birth is finally in Snecboth hands, like it should have always been.

The task is now expanding the nascent administration of Gemradcurt to cover our new lands. As a single, sedentary nation, we’re still very young. More of an army and religious order that’s taken down root, instead of the truly settled kingdoms of the south.

It’s still not most of the Snecboth people. Not while the crusader states of Jhorgashirr and Slegcal still rule over and oppress our people. To say nothing of those who migrated and escaped into the wilderness.

But it’s a start.


[My name is biggest on the map, therefore I am the best.]

But, as it turns out, violent expansion doesn’t sit well with our neighbors. In the past, it’s led to things like the Peitar intervention. Today, however?

Our veneration of the Winter Fey and our rapid consolidation is scaring our neighbors.

Which is good.

They are right to fear our vengeance.


And so, while we incorporate new lands, we prepare to finally drive out the crusaders.

But running a country is far more than just endless conquest and self-defense.

When I was a little court, the druidic class was weak. And with the help of mercantile interests and the militarist nobles, I took over. Playing politics and using winter’s sorcery to take what was rightfully ours.

But actual consolidation of the realm is weak. My government only officially controls about thirteen percent of all land in Gemradcurt. I cannot rule with an absolute iron fist. Even if it annoys me and drives us in circles, I still need to meet with the powerful interests of the realm.

The Klar, representing the druids, whose faithful adhere to Winter, we need.

The Aslaud, the nobles of the military whose soldiers and land we need.

The Malartak class, traders and merchants whose money the state needs.

The Amhasg, the sellsword adventurers and mercenaries who augment my army.

The Taigan Order, the order who raised me and my main instrument of power, specializing in magic.

I meet with their representatives, with a very quiet Ishera by my side to help me negotiate for their continued support, funds, and soldiers.

And in the end, we agree to the proposal of the Taigan Order.

Our next moves will be to invade Eighard and their allies Jhorgashirr. We will take the land of Minnorac, where the Tuathak king Harvestcrown was killed, and recover the Precursor artifacts buried beneath the ancient ruins.


[These are our “estates,” representing the powerful landed interests and crown of the country. Anbennar includes two unique estates, mages (“Taigan Order” here, who cast spells for you) and DnD Adventurers (called “Amhasg” here, who are mostly mercenaries). Typical for the start of the game, the crown is actually very weak, owning only 13% of the land, and the estates are very powerful. This must be corrected over time.]

But we still must consolidate and build up.

And with the Everfrost Prince as my guide, patron, and witness, I will finish what I have started and drive the invaders from our land once and for all.

a/n I actually think their elven ears just sort of wiggle up and down a bit, but in the local parlance they use more words to describe them like how we use phrases like “eyebrows shot up” when in reality it's a fairly subtle movement. Consider it an ongoing figure of speech no one questions.
  • 1Love
I'd normally say that this is a little harsh, but Immarel's logic makes sense.

Let's hope that the Fey remain favorable to these elves. That magic looks useful.

"It's better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both...", but that quote also ends by counselling against being hated. It's a fine line these exiles will have to walk - to much expansion, and their enemies will cooperate to destroy them...
  • 1Like
I'd normally say that this is a little harsh, but Immarel's logic makes sense.

Let's hope that the Fey remain favorable to these elves. That magic looks useful.

"It's better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both...", but that quote also ends by counselling against being hated. It's a fine line these exiles will have to walk - to much expansion, and their enemies will cooperate to destroy them...
Immarel is not a nice lady at all. At almost every major junction but one for Gemradcurt's early game consolidation of Eordand, you are given options for how to proceed. The text even changes colors. You get the paths of pragmatic villainy and Due Vendetta. Ishera advocates for one, and Talaran and some other people advocate for vengeance. But you have options. No matter how it goes, Immarel is not a good person, but you can flavor aspects of the Immarelian Regime going forwards.

For some reason, in a normal game, I go for the good guy options. But in EU4 Anbennar, like I did for Rogieria, I got for the more evil options.

Immarel and her patron, the Archfey Everfrost Prince, is the only Fey she need really worry about. His motives are a mystery. But so long as she stays with him, works with him, she will grow stronger and stronger. He is the patron of the entire Winter Court, which is the Fey faith of Gemradcurt. She basically has the boss of her religion on her side.

It's a shame that, no matter what happens, Immarel has already started down a very dark path. You can always back out of it in-game, but where's the fun in the smart, sensible options, when we could go for the fun wickedness Immarel is best known for in Anbennar?
The Fey add a unique feeling to the region. I wonder if Ishera will break down at some point, because of her friend's cruelty? Really curious to see where the campaign will go.
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The Fey add a unique feeling to the region. I wonder if Ishera will break down at some point, because of her friend's cruelty? Really curious to see where the campaign will go.
The fey are very temperamental, too. I don't show it often, but you get a lot of events where they basically just screw with you. Like kill an advisors or steal your baby. It's just those random actions don't overall fit the story here as they'd be very distracting to the narrative.

Ishera, tho? Why, she's perfectly loyal. Certainly doesn't have doubts about Immarel's constant evils and abuse and cruelty. Certainly not a slow boiling issue that culminates in horror and despair/

I'm expecting this story to go in wonderful, wholesome directions, given the previous experiences we've had in the other two AARs.
Look, it'll be fine. I've written 2 Anbennar AARs before. It has only ended in tragedy twice. I think we'll be good :)
Chapter 3: Jhorgas
Chapter 3: Jhorgas​

There’s a story I think about a lot these days. The worse things are, the more work I put in, the harder I research old necromantic tomes; and it surfaces time and again.

Ewan and the Boar King. The story of a man who makes a pact with a Fey and travels into the great Domandrod forest on a quest to find a cure for his beloved.

I remember an old mage of the Taigan Order telling it to me and Ishera around a campfire one night. I was never able to really memorize long-form poetry. But something always stuck with me from the tale.

The Domandrod is treacherous,” said Ewan. “Time and distance abhor meaning, and every path leads left. I fear my poor heart will give out before long. How on earth can I protect it, if not by iron?

You can’t,” said the Boar King. “A hero must always wear his heart on the outside.”

Ewan learned a great deal through the gladeways of the Domandrod. He found his own as a hero, fighting for others, and taking important moral and Fey-kin lessons to heart.

And he never came back out.

I think about it a lot ever since I placed myself in control of Gemradcurt. Expanded the Taigan Order to include men and used them to subvert the government into a more productive shape.

Iron can only go so far. An elf’s heart isn’t meant to last forever. But take any piece of fruit and let it sit outside in the heat, and you can watch it rot away and die. There’s so much I’m doing for show, for people like Ishera. And then so much I’m keeping away from all of them. My relationship with the Everfrost Prince, and the price I agreed to for his help.

It’s moments like this I stop to think about what I’m doing. My end of the bargain with the Everfrost Prince. And I shudder, making the appropriate gestures to ward off the wrong kind of Fey.

Before banishing those thoughts and returning to work.


“Captain Talaran,” I say, meeting him at our main warcamp. The sun burns bright, thawing the last frost of the season.

He’s bent over a table, looking at maps and little figures representing soldiers and borders, like a grown-up’s version of warrior dolls. His long ears stand tall and attentive. “Ma’am,” he says curtly.

I wait for him to figure out why I’m here, almost a little excited to see if he’ll guess correctly. Instead, he turns back to his work and hands something off to a courier. I feel my heart sink a little.

I clear my throat, gesturing for hope. “Captain?”

His ears lower, as if surprised I’m still here. Takes a moment to think. “Eleven thousand infantry, two thousand cavalry, give or take. The generals say it’s more than enough. But with that monster Jhorgas out there and his magic? I’m still worried. Hard to stab a spear through a fireball.”

“Did Ishera tell you about their actual troop numbers?” I ask.

Talaran nods. “Yeah. It was a smart call you made, using looking ponds to scry our enemies. I woulda just used regular spies, but this worked way better. We’ve got a pretty good picture of their numbers and where they’re at. Our position looks good externally.”


“Just externally?” I ask.

He moves a piece on his board. “You’ll want to find Ishera. She’s been trying to sort out supply line issues, but, well, Gelcolle and Reotcrab are assholes as always.” He points with his officer’s flute. “She was over that way last I saw her.”

I nod and follow his directions, bringing my guard along with me. At this point, I’m not sure I need a personal guard. I have trouble imagining anyone being able to harm me anymore. But, what was it the Everfrost Prince once told me? “Beyond the means of destruction lies a higher power” or something.

It makes me think of Ewan and his adventure. It makes me think that the moment I think I’m invincible, is the moment I’m going to be lost forever.

I find Ishera in a tent, arguing with diplomats, and frantically gesturing a slew of emotions towards any Fey who may or may not be watching.


You’d think invading someone to force them to work with you would make them like you, but no.

The diplomats storm out. Or maybe they see me and run away. It’s hard to tell.

“Ishera?” I ask.

“What?” she snaps, then sees me. Her expression softens and she gestures for pardon.

I reach out and put my hand on her arm. She sighs heavily. “Bad day?”

“You got no idea, Immie.” She looks up and sees my guards, then awkwardly adds, “Ma’am.”

I smile.

“Reotcrab and Gelcolle are being difficult again. Our supply lines depend on grain shipments from them, but they’ve been delaying pretty badly. Arguing they need to keep their grain and store it locally due this past bad winter.”

I think it over. “Maybe when the dust settles down, I should attend to the matter more personally. You think a nice dinner to soothe tensions over might help?”

Ishera finds a chair and sits. “Honestly, when I’m in a bad mood? Well, preface time: you remember that time Mother Eorda whipped me for accidentally freezing that one girl’s hair off, and you found me crying in a pantry and we ate everything together, and then we both got whipped?”

I remember the literal pain in my ass, and laugh. “Yeah.”

“Until we got whipped again, I did feel pretty good. So, maybe that’d work with Gelcolle and Reocrab. A nice dinner party. Even Tally-boy might loosen up with a good drink.”

“I’ll take that into consideration. Until then, do we have supplies for the next offensive?”

She blows a stray bang from her hair. “You mean against Jhorgashirr and friends?”


Jhorgas Frostguard and his lackeys.

We talk and strategize the day away. Captain Talaran even stops by.

Three hostile states stand in our way. Autumnal Crusaders, mostly. The Tuathak wizard Jhorgas Frostguard leads an alliance of all our remaining enemies: Eighard, Jhorgashirr, and Slegcal. They’re smart enough to have seen what I’ve been doing and have us surrounded.

That alone would be bad enough, but Jhorgas is perhaps one of the strongest mages in Eordand. At least, his are the most akin to my powers. And while I support from the back, Jhorgas fights from the very front. He alone would be an epic battle. Include his friends, however?

“But we still have more warm bodies,” Talaran says, and shows us the math. “We can still leverage that with your magic and eek this one out, and finally drive that fucking monster from Snecboth land.”

Our mages have spied their troops. We believe they have thirteen thousand men under arms in total between the three nations. Gemradcurt outnumbers them just slightly. The difference is, they’re not a single army like we have.

“It exists more on paper than reality, my lady,” a new voice says, strolling into the tent. A tan-skinned Tuathak elf with red hair.


[Advisors increase your mana income, which are abstractions representing the civic and military abilities of your government. Also he’s half off, so I needed him!]

Captain Talaran reaches for his sword. “Who the hell are—”

“Stop, stop!” Ishera calls out, holding her hands up. “This is Dorndor. I know he’s Tuathak, but hear him out. He came to us as an exile. He opposed the crusaders and they threw him out, so I scooped him up. He was a general once before.”

Dorndor spreads his hands, grinning. Like most Tuathak, his tan skin looks partway through changing colors to a dry leaf-like brown like his people do every winter. “Aye, the lady speaks true, if ye can stomach it. It’s like spycraft, but with extra spying. I’ve seen which way the cold wind blows, down south from the glaciers up in the White that Wends. I’m not liking the alliance’s odds, and they didn’t like my ideas for how to actually make an army function like they do down south, so here I am. At your service, my lady.”

Talaran scoffs.

The Tuathak makes a gesture at him for forgiveness.

I stare for a long, long moment. “What can you offer us that scrying spells can’t, Tuathak?”

He’s still grinning. “Why, for the right price, a way through the walls of Darblath and where they’re hiding their treasure.”

Ishera holds up her hand. “Actually I already paid him. I thought you’d be glad.”

“You done miscalculated,” Talaran says.

“It was a really good idea, I swear!” she says, ears lowering.

I compress a breath. “Let’s see what you know.”


[The economy, fools!]

In the end, I’m back in Gemradcurt city itself. In a lonely little office made of old heartswood and a stone fireplace. An old bottle of alcohol Ishera had brought sits on a shelf, and I don’t know what to do with it.

I sigh.

And look over my ledgers.

We had made decent money sacking Strutmar, but that money wasn’t going to last. The cost of maintaining our swollen army and fortifications was going to destroy us. To say nothing of whatever Ishera promised that prancing Tuathak traitor for his help.

At current rates, in theory, we could maintain this deficit for, what, 165 years? But as soon as we needed to ramp up and supply troops in the field, our costs were going to skyrocket.

I hated economics. I hated organized taxes. I hated that something as stupid as a “budget” and “shiny metal” might mean the difference between our people either going extinct or driving the invaders out.

I look at a little note from the Taigan Order. And it’s signed with Dorndor’s name.


[One of the events you get when you study magic. I’ve been getting a bunch in the background. We need 1500 experience in total to unlock the next level of Necromancy]

Apparently, that’s how Ishera found him. My agents of the Taigan Order, helping me locate old magical tomes, had found a considerable stash in the city of Darblath, the capital of one of our enemies. Dorndor had apparently leaked the information in exchange for safe passage to Gemradcurt and a chance to betray the Autumn Court.

I close my notes and run my hands over my eyes. Pressing them deep into the sockets, until they squish and all I see are strange blotchy things. Part of me wants to invite Ishera over and just talk. Or… no, I want to call out to the Everfrost Prince. To call out his name and ask him for his advice. For him to help push me.

Our finances are a wreck. Only a fraction of the Snecboth people are willing to follow me and do what’s needed. We’re surrounded on all sides by enemies and one of the strongest wizards in the world.

And I’m still hardly any closer to mastering necromancy than I was a year ago.

The Everfrost Prince would know. I almost say his name, wishing him to appear.

…but, no. I know what he’d say. He’d say the choice was obvious. And waiting around, I’d just rot and die like my people. Every moment we waste is another chance Jhorgas has to build up.

It’s not even really a choice, is it?

I grab my quill and ink, and sign the orders.


War on two fronts. Nothing I can’t handle, right?

Captain Talaran already seems to know why I’m here before I say it. He just nods.

I take my position with the mages and we march for war against Jhorgas.

But we don’t go straight into Jhorgashiir. They’re the biggest threat, yes, but that would be like trying to disarm a mugger by punching him straight in his knife.

No, we’re going to collapse the Eigharder front first.


They’re not ready for us.

I’m sure the reports have only reached Jhorgas when we cross the border into Eighard, marching day and night to reach their capital of Darblath. Dorndor and our scrying mages confirmed their army isn’t in position at all.

Eighard doesn’t even try to fight back, not really. They just fortify up in their capital, while their armies try to sneak behind our ranks to rally with Jhorgas and his army.

It’s the perfect opportunity for us. I have all the time in the world I need to feel the winds of magic, to sense the Everfrost Prince’s breath in my lungs, and bring the howling blizzard down on the city.


The storm rages, shaking their walls down. All the while, following Dorndor’s advice, Captain Talaran has his sappers and elite troops find a secret way into the city through hidden passageways.

Ishera is there, too, of course. She watches on in silence. We can’t hear the screaming. I make sure to twist the winds to keep them from her ears.

But they’re there, all the same.


[Siege magic just straight up isn’t fair, bro.]

Darblath is taken in a lightning storm. Captain Talaran has the soldiers spread out, occupying the entire countryside and putting it under our boot. Mopping up resistance as the main body sacks Darblath, plundering it of riches in gold and knowledge both.


It’s strange, really. At some point, walking through the rivers of Tuathak blood, I realize I don’t really feel anything. Not joy. Not excitement. Not even hope, not really. Soldiers, regulars and Taigan Order both, drag Tuathak from their hopes and take everything from them.

And I make my way through it, just watching. Finding what I came here for.


This is what they all deserve for what they’ve done to us.

As night falls, the city burns. All we can do is pile up the countless dead Tuathak bodies. These people, who came here as conquerors and colonizers, now leave in a mass grave. As an unseasonable snows coats the city, soaking up the blood and ash and coming down a black, slushy mess.

A fitting end for Eighard.

And I feel nothing.


My patron makes his appearance.

I send all but my personal guard away as the Everfrost Prince appears, disguising himself as something else. He leans in close, whispering to me.

And I understand what he wants.

I have used so much power to tear this city down. But it isn’t enough. Not all I am here for.

I had been studying the deathly arts. And now, I had to make use of them. Surrounded by the corpses of our enemies, nearly alone, I reach as deep into my soul as I can, feeling the icy eyes of the Everfrost Prince on me, and bring the dead back to life.

The first one falls down in a rotting mangle of flesh.

The second one is able to stand. It turns its head too fast, and its torn neck severs. The head comes off.

I get it right the third time, and feel the sweat on my brow.

By the time I’m done, I’m soaked through, and it’s all begun to freeze to my body like a shimmering gown of ice and ash.


[Rise, my minions!]

“Hmm,” Captain Talaran grunts.

I gasp, nearly stumbling over. He reaches out to catch my arm, and lets go just as soon as I’m steady.

I don’t know—I—I just stand there, surrounded by an army of the living dead. Some were soldiers, most weren’t. And now they are all mine.

“How long were you watching?” I ask, looking around. The Everfrost Prince is gone. Almost as if the Archfey was never there.

Talaran watches the shamblemen forming up into neat little rows of soldiers. He doesn’t make any gestures. He doesn’t attempt to ward off evil or pray for hope or anything. He just looks at my work, his ears level.

“Does it matter, my lady?”

I look over my shoulder. I’m not sure where my personal guard has gone. Maybe they’re lost in a sea of the dead. Or maybe, I got carried away, and Talaran has them standing back.

I set my expression and glare. “So what? Do you find this profane? Are you going to scream and run and call me a witch now?”

He looks genuinely surprised, and still doesn’t make any emotional gestures. “No, Lady Immarel. I would never. If this is your will, then it’s your will. It simply is. I trust you.”

“Do you?” I ask, feeling suddenly self conscious.

He examines one of the shamblemen as it tries to hold a weapon, and just nods.

“Don’t just say it, captain,” I say harshly. “Your hands remain impiously rigid.”

Talaran looks over his shoulder. “Why would I ever gesture to them?”

“To ward off the Fey or ask them to let you be. They can twist your words; they can’t twist your fingers.”

Captain Talaran looks at me for a very long time, his blue eyes softening. He looks like he might say something, then stops. Lowers his ears. Tries speaking again. “Is that really what you’re fixated on right now?


Talaran compresses a breath, shaking his head. “Fuck them all.”


He bears his teeth. “Where were the Fey when we needed them? When the Tuathak made a nation of orphans? Where were they when we were forced off our land? Where were they when we fought back? They were playing their little games and tricks, same as they’ve always done. Why would I ever give piety to creatures so uncaring?”

Talaran shook his head. “They weren’t there. You know who was? You were, Lady Immarel. You were there when we needed someone. You saved us from the brink. You gave me purpose and a sword. So no, I don’t care to give the Fey my belief and piety. Because the only thing I believe in, is you.”

I stand there, unable to make words come out of my mouth. Unable to do anything. I can’t even find the energy left to shiver in this frozen-over sweat. The worst part is, he’s wrong. The Everfrost Prince was there for us. And he was there through me. But I can’t tell him that. I can’t tell anyone that. All I can do is stand there like a frozen fool.

Captain Talaran takes his coat off and drapes it over my shoulders. “I know I speak for a lot of us when I say that, my lady.”

“Yeah,” I say breathlessly. Tightening the coat around myself. “I know. Find masks and armor to give the shamblemen. We can’t sit on our laurels here; Jhorgas and the last of the crusaders are still out there.”


Shamblemen are slower than living soldiers, but the pace helps us catch our breath.

Talaran and Ishera report that Jhorgas had originally launched a quick counter invasion of our lands to try to relieve Darblath. He’d opened up the front like we’ve feared, of course.

But when we arrived with our full army before he had taken the walls of our border fortifications, he had retreated cowardly.

A part of me fears that fear of Jhorgas evaporating. He was supposed to be this terrifying war wizard, this Tuathak crusader who smashed through the lands of winter. But with half of his allies already destroyed, he’s retreating deeper into his little crusader state.

Jhorgas scorched the earth, however. We break down his border forts and find he’s put the farms and forests to the torch to prevent us from following him at any quick pace. But not all of my army needs food to survive. It’s not nearly as bad as he might suspect.

And finally, we find him. In the lands of Fogrim, rallying with his allies from Slegcal.

I feel the winds of magic, and they are strangely hot. But I’m confident that I’m the stronger of us two. And I know my army is larger.


Come here, Jhorgas!

This old ghoul, this enemy of a past war, dies today in the forests of Fogrim. The air is strangely warm, and where I was freezing in Gemradcurt I find myself unseasonably damp in uncomfortable places down here.

Fogrim is the rightful homeland of the Snecboth. It shouldn’t be this bad.

And finally, our armies draw up for battle. Their armies are half our size. With the howling blizzards behind us, and knowledge of how they fight from Dorndor, I am confident.

Until I see him. From nearly a mile away, I see Jhorgas Frostguard.

I support with magic in the back. But there he is, at the very front. His head is a pillar of fire that stretches into the sky itself. Riding with his cavalry at the speartip of their formation. I can feel the heat from a mile away.

I take a breath and almost make a gesture wishing for good luck from the Fey, until I realize Talaran is looking at me.

I don’t need the Fey like that. I have the Everfrost Prince. And I have my loyal soldiers.

I give the order, and Talaran leads them straight into Jhorgas.


Another victory like that and we’ll lose this war!
[Shock pips cap at 6 possible points, which are added to your combat dice rolls during the shock phase of battle. Jhorgas has nine, because he is a war wizard. Jhorgas just straight default dancing on us.]

I remember my first battle. When I was a little girl. A child forced to draw ice into her lungs and pull on the wind to try to mislead arrows.

I remember seeing someone die, and thinking it wasn’t as bad as losing my parents. The smell of death was putrid, acrid. I recall a time where I walked through a battle, reaching into my core for ice to freeze the bodies because it made the stink stop.

I remember Ishera after one battle, holding herself and crying. She’d been grazed by an arrow and was bleeding and wouldn’t let anyone touch her. I had sat with her. Talked to her. She let me bandage her up. And I held her the entire night until she cried herself to sleep.

I think I said something like “They were bad people, it’s okay.” And “We won, it’s okay, people died but we won.”

Right now, I sit on a hill. Just staring at the burning forest, and the field of bodies below and the changeling birds laying maggots in their bodies. Ten thousand people lie dead. Burned to crisp under Jhorgas’ fire and lightning. Some are frozen. Most, however, drown in mud. Jhorgas’ pillar of fire had collided with my blizzard, and it turned into a hurricane.

It wasn’t enough to put the fires out.

I watch men wading into waist-deep mud to retrieve their fallen comrades. I watch the carrion creatures circle and fly down to feast on roasted elf.

We had won, if you squint. Only because Jhorgas decided to retreat for the day, after spending an afternoon slaughtering Snecboth.

As night falls, a messenger from Jhorgas’ camp reaches me.

He expects to do battle again tomorrow for Forgim, but requests we move a mile to the south to “avoid the mud.” And, as the messenger claims is Jhorgas’ direct breath: “I expect you to have no problem with this. For by what right would a witch who feeds on the blood of motherless boys have to whine about having her skull split?

In the morning, I numbly have Captain Talaran link with our fresh reinforcements and draw up in front of Jhorgas again.


This isn’t sustainable.
[This War Wizard MF just twerkin’ on our graves, Jesus Christ.]​

He’s painfully visible in the light of the burning Fogrim forest, even this deep at night. I’m not even sure he’s trying to hide. His shadow stretches for leagues and flickers in every direction at once.

A massive, hunched man under a heavy cloak, wearing a mask. I watch from a distance as he lumbers through the sea of corpses. It’s nearly five miles across and twenty-thousand men deep. Most of them are fair-skinned Snecboth.

The Rat Catcher reaches out a blood-soaked, six-fingered hand, and I see the eyeballs tied to his wrists. Countless eyes bound together by their ocular nerves, like some sick version of a rat-king. He digs those long digits into the head of a dead Taigan mage, wrapping his fingers around and pulling it out by the root.

He looks at the eyeball, rolling it in his too-long fingers. Before calmly yanking the whole thing out and tying it to his wrist. Almost thoughtfully, he reaches for a long pipe and sticks one end into a hole in his mask, inhaling and exhaling smoke.

I watch the Rat Catcher work for hours and hours and hours.

He has no end of dead mages to choose from. He can be picky.

When day breaks, the Rat Catcher is done. Countless dead mages stare up at me without eyeballs.

Jhorgas has left with his army.

I know this is not the last I will see of Jhorgas or the Rat Catcher.

I gather my forces up, and proceed to lose ten thousand more before this war has ground us all to dust.
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  • 1Like
I'm kind of interested in the epic referenced at the beginning.

The war is a bunch of Pyrrhic victories. That could be a problem... hopefully the necromancy helps with that?
  • 1Like
I'm kind of interested in the epic referenced at the beginning.

The war is a bunch of Pyrrhic victories. That could be a problem... hopefully the necromancy helps with that?
It's an fragmentary fictional epic poem I based it off, which only exists as some footnotes in a comicbook.

But yeah, Jhorhas is not fun to find. Immarel's current power levels only let her make undead sometimes via event. I still need to officialy achieve the next level to make any real use of an undead army, but I hold off on changing my actual racial military so that I can stack shock damage in the early game. I find it more useful at the moment, as Ruinborn have bonus shock damage. With Immarel's evociation war magic, I find the living more useful at the moment. I think I can get to like +50% shock damage by stacking modifiers and magic.
Chapter 4: The Price of Empire
Chapter 4: The Price of Empire

“You ever wonder,” Ishera says, gesturing for hope, “what we’ll do when this is all over?”

I stand there in my war tent, alone but for Ishera. Looking over the maps and figures and little toy soldiers Talaran had left. Before Jhorgas had burned him enough to send him to the medics, where I thought Ishera was working.

Slowly, I rouse myself. Trying to figure out where my tongue is and how to speak. “I don’t understand.”

Ishera stands across from me, cocking one ear curiously. “Everything you’ve done, everything we’ve fought for, when our home finally belongs to us again? When we’ve driven out the invaders and turned swords into plowshares. When we can be a peaceful people again like our forefathers were. Do you think you’ll settle down? Maybe get married? Be able to relax.”

“Relax,” I say, and the word is bitter on my tongue. I gesture for scorn. “I don’t know if I can relax, Ishera. I don’t know if I’ll ever even be done.”

“There’s only so many Tuathak and Peitar. This is the last of them in our home,” she says. “That’s going to be it.”

I look at the map of Eordand, at the fuzzy borders where we think the other elves have claimed. “Ishera, two days ago I sent ten thousand men to their deaths. Yesterday, I did the same. At this rate in less than a week, I worry I’ll have killed more Snecboth than King Harvestcrown did in a decade. There’s a part of me that worries I’ll grow numb to it. That it’ll stop bothering me. Like how you can get used to a hangnail. I don’t think someone like me should ever be able to relax.”

“And then what?”

“I don’t know.”

“Think. Plan. What will you do when it’s over?”

“I—I don’t know. Learn how to dance?”

Ishera stares at me for a long moment. Then snerks. “You, dancing? It is so like you to want to learn a boy’s hobby.”

“Shut up,” I say, covering my face with a hand, cheeks hot. “You asked. I panicked. I always thought bladedancers looked elegant. There’s legitimate magic rituals that work with dancing too! And there’s mixed-sex dancing styles out there. Maybe it is a boy’s custom, but so what?”

“I’m not making fun of you, Immarel,” she says, her smile warm. “I think it’s nice your dreams are so normal, y’know?”

I shrug.

Ishera reaches out to take my hand. I try to push her way, but she gestures for pardon and holds on tighter. “I think when it’s over, I’d like to find somewhere nice and quiet at night. I’d like to look up and count how many stars there are in the sky.”

“How many do you think there can be?”

“Enough to keep my mind occupied,” she says, brushing away a stray bang.


The pure drama I’ve been dealing with instead of focusing on the war.

“My mind wanders over the dead, and if people were right about that Tuathak Dorndor.”

“I told you it’ll be fine,” she says. “Do you trust me?”

I’m silent.

“Immie,” she says, more sternly. “Don’t blow me off like Dalgat or Reotcrab. Do you trust me?”

“I do,” I whisper.

She lets me go and lays down on the ground, on the grass that makes up the floor of the tent, hands over her stomach.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“I’m getting in practice for when these wars are finally over. Care to join?”

I gesture for confusion. “Counting stars?”

Ishera waves her hand for me to join her.

Slowly, I get down until the grass scratches the backs of my ears. My knees creak, and I can suddenly feel how close I am to turning thirty-five. But I lay down beside Ishera on the ground. She points at rivets in the tent. “See those? Little strings and thread. I think that came from an animal whose hide we poorly tanned. A lot of these war tents were made in haste.”

“What are you doing?”

Ishera points again at another spot on the roof. “A speck of dirt, see? From when this tent was rolled up last time in haste. What stars do you see, Immie?”

I focus on my breathing, feeling my stomach rise and fall. Eyes wandering across the ceiling. “I see… I think there’s some mold in that corner.”

“Oooh!” she goes. “Yeah, it’s like a constellation. Of disease, maybe, but good eye!”

We’re like that for an hour. Ishera and I pointing at bits of the ceiling, at the underside of tables, just noting any little spec or dot. Pretending like they’re stars. Ishera ends up counting a little over a hundred-twenty “constellations” we’ve discovered here.

“Good practice, I think,” she says, nodding and smiling. “I could definitely get used to this when this is all over. You should join me. You saw seven more than me.”

I laugh. “That’s stupid, Ishera. You’re stupid.”

Ishera elbows me. “You’re laughing.”

“Because you’re a goof.”

She props herself up, looking at me seriously. “No, I mean it. You were so wound up like you were going to explode. And now you’re able to laugh. Even for just a moment. It’s these moments that we’re fighting for. For our children, for our children’s children. What point is there to fighting a war if the world isn’t a better place when we’re done?”

I’m silent for a long moment, looking up at Ishera. I want to chastise her. I want to say she’s being childish. But the longer I think about saying that to her, the more ashamed I feel. I turn away, and realize I’m still lying on the ground.

Ishera hands me a letter. “Oh, and I came with this. Don’t yell at me for waiting till now. I was worried you’d work yourself into a heart attack if I just threw it at you.” She smiles. “As usual, I was right and Tally-boy was wrong, so ha!”


That little Tuathak traitor didn’t betray us in the end. I’ll be damned, Ishera was right.

“He pulled through for us,” Captain Talaran says, posted up in the medical tents. We’d turned nearly half the warcamp into a hospital for all of the hurt and dying. Talaran is sitting there, shirtless, chest wrapped in bloody bandages. “That little pet of Ishera’s.”

He looks over the documents Dorndor had given us. It also lists locations for our mages to watch with scrying spells, tracking the movements of Jhorgas and his army, and the status of their defenses.

Frowning, he looks up at me. “I fear I now owe her an apology. And some money.”

“Money?” I ask.

He grimaces, looking away. “I made a bet with her about Dordor.”

“Ishera gambles?” I ask, eyes widening.

“I’m touched you worry for her moral habits and not mine,” he says dryly.

“That’s not what I meant, Captain,” I say quickly, resisting the urge to gesture.

He smiles toothily. “She’s your friend. Makes sense you’d be concerned. Surprised you didn’t know she had a bad girl streak.”

I wonder suddenly how well I truly know the woman Ishera’s become.

Talaran stands, grunting with pain and effort. “In any case, I made some notes on how Jhorgas fights.”

“With fire and sword,” I say.

Talaran squints at me. “Mages,” he finally says. “You were looking too much at his spellcraft. Makes sense, the way you were fighting it. But he moves and positions his troops strangely. To take advantage of his magic. That’s both his strength and his weakness. I’ve been looking over the reports. He tries to make a great show of magefire and audacity. Big and flashy. Frivolities and fairy lights is all he’s good at.”

I tilt my head, letting him organize his thoughts out loud.

“From what I see, Jhorgas don’t reckon much with the small things: where are we strong, where are we weak, how do we make our enemies tired, how can we make sure the enemy has the sun in their eyes, how do we make them fight in the mud—shit, how do I make them skip breakfast?

“And that’s what you’ve always thought about.”

He nods. “We play to my strengths, but we also copy his use of mixed-magic and bronze. I think if we meet him like that, we can outdo his magic and tactics both. You’re the better sorcerer, and I’ll set my watch and warrant to that.”


Even in defeat, we take pains to learn what went wrong so it can’t happen again.
[Technology is a big theme in EU4. This game spans from the end of the medieval period to early industrialization. Investing and keeping up to date in technology is the difference between victory and being a backwater tribal for the fantasy Europeans to steamroll when they eventually arrive.]

“Are you well enough to fight and get back on the march?” I ask.

Captain Talaran rolls his shoulders. “I’m alive. That’s more than I can say for a lot of us. Jhorgas and his Tuathak are still out there. I don’t have the right to sit on my laurels.”

I think of Ishera. “What do you plan to do when this is all over?”

He gives me a weird look, like I’ve asked the breast size of his mother. “I prefer not to think of hypotheticals. I don’t think you do, either.”

I’m silent, ears level.

“My lady, let’s focus on recouping our losses, handling supply lines and their rebel issue, and finishing this war. One step at a time is the only way we can drink life.”



Stupid, stupid! I was so focused on the war I forgot about the homefront!

We came to Folgrim as a massive army. We march away as a broken column of survivors. Not deeper into the crusader states, but back home to handle an insurrection by Peitar survivors.

Reinforcements trickle in as my Taigan Order cajoles and drafts anyone who can hold a spear. We don’t really have a choice. The costs of moving so much manpower and reinforcing our lines is great.

We handle the Peitar rebels and hold fast to regroup for the next wave of invasion.

I have some time to delegate and tend to the affairs of the state. Which, in reality, translates to expanding the Taigan Order to act as my will. With the entire state focused on war, and the Order so wrapped up in it, it’s not hard to use this to further cement control over the unruly upper classes.

We need everyone in line, marching in step, if we’re to finish this war.

Then maybe Ishera can finally figure out how many stars there are in the sky.


I have the Order begin major building projects in the capital.
[They hate to see a girl bossin’.]

I leave the homefront in capable hands, content that nothing will collapse this time while I’m away finishing this war. When it’s over, I’ll have the tools I need to sort out the last of Gemradcurt’s problems and…

Too many steps ahead. One foot at a time.

The problems begin to mount the moment I step away in any case. Jhorgas has scorched the earth and keeps retreating. He’s not giving battle, but we also can’t catch and arrest him.

More to the point, between draining myself in Darblath and the storms I’d been fighting in the battles against Jhorgas, I feel spiritually and magically drained. It’s enough that if I lean too hard into the kind of magic I’d used to destroy a city, I wonder if I’ll faint or cause myself more serious damage.

So I lead the army to Slegcal territory, the fortress city of Dolmthir, and lay siege to it.

A traditional siege. Where we wait them out. Fight sallying battles. Try to cope with bandit and monster skirmishes, and the guerilla campaign Jhorgas has organized. Since Reotcrab, I’m used to lightning offensives, with victory after victory, walls falling after a magical surge.

Dolmthir holds out nearly nine months.


Is this what a normal war is like? I hate it.
[Behold! A normal siege in EU4 without siege magic. I neglected to spend the military points for an earthquake because I’m trying to preserve those for statecraft reasons. But good lord does this normal speed suck.]

Everything drags to a grinding halt. The friction of bodies and fortifications. This is the nature of war without sufficient magical oomph to push things through.

Days turn to weeks turn to months which threaten to become years.

This last glorious hurrah for the Snecboth people against their invaders, instead becomes a crawl through the mud. Jhorgas isn’t even present most of the time.

I expected this to be a hellish war of death and violence. For every day to be a new Folgrim.

I never expected boredom and monotony and the temptation to invite Ishera to go drinking to pass the time.

And still the government I left behind can’t stop bickering. My Order keeps the peace, but everyone else finds some way to deliver news to me that some special interest group, some rich powerbroker, is upset and wants change.


Again with this shit? Leave me out of your squabbles, I’m trying to win a war!

Dorndor shows up again at the warcamp as we’re pushing our way through Slegcal and rooting out the last of the Tuathak armies and cities.

“I found him, my lady,” he says. “Via spies in the woodwork.”

“Who?” I ask.




Apparently, that’s where he’s been. He took the Tuathak navy and has resorted to raiding and piracy along the coast. Our navy, which still mostly exists on paper, can’t do anything about him.

Jhorgas will occasionaly stop by to harass our rear lines, before retreating to his boats. We can’t even properly siege the last of the Tuathak forts because he keeps the maritime supply routes open.

And he won’t even fight us in a straight battle. Whenever we try to engage his landing parties, he skirts away to the sea, gesturing curses to us and the Fey. And then he continues his campaign of blockades and piracy up the coast.

Everything he raids ends up going back into the cities of Slegcal, helping them stave off our advance. Keeping us trapped outside their last strongholds. It’s almost like they don’t even care. Like Jhorgas can do this forever.

I can’t even pin him down and capture the bastard!


[I told you the economy of this country would be in complete financial apocalypse for most of the story.]

Jhorghas is playing a long game. He is destroying the nation’s entire economy, trying to force us to the bargaining table. I read report after report from Ishara that we no longer even have an economy.

There’s currently just a giant money fire behind our warcamps. We’re burning it to stay warm.

This wouldn’t be happening if Jhorgas would just fight me.

I know we’d suffer. I know it’d be blood. And I know we’d be feeding the Rat Catcher. But at least then I could do something about it instead of just waiting and trying to soothe tensions.

This final, epic confrontation between the Snecboth and our enemies isn’t going to be a blaze of glory or an epic charge.

It’s going to be bankruptcy.

I don’t have a choice. I take an escort and, with Ishera, meet with the monied Malartak class of traders and bankers.

I have to ask for a loan, a bailout.


I am your Esbagg, your leader. I am the state. You know I’m good for it. You can loan me the money. It’ll go straight into the moneyfire and be super useful.

“Immie?” Ishera asks softly.

My fingers grip the edge of my desk, the knuckles going white. “Bastards. They’re bastards!”

“Immie,” she says again.

I throw my hands up. “We’re at war. I can’t afford this fairyshit! I’m trying to drive off Jhorgas and the Tuathak, and all anyone cares about is money and their own petty affairs.”

She hugs herself. Even standing near the roaring stone hearth, she looks so cold. “Because they’re thinking of tomorrow. We’re going to win, Immie. But what then? People like that, that’s all they think about.”

“But we won’t get to that tomorrow if everyone is playing their stupid little games,” I hiss, gesturing against the evil eye. “They’re upset because I’m better than them. That I’m getting things done while they’re sitting around, crooning like old hens. They hate that a lowly girl of no great lineage is in charge of them. They hate that I make them so useless!”

“If they were useless, why are they here?”

“Because I haven’t killed them all yet for their insolence,” I say sharply.

“You don’t mean that.”

“Don’t I, though?” I say. “They’ve done this before. The nobles and warriors, the militarists, who tried to use me as a pawn when I took over the Taigan Order. I threw them in irons, too. I’ll do the same as soon as I’m done. As soon as this war is over, I’ll sort this all out.”

“They’re just thinking of tomorrow. Of what to do when this is all over. Like you should do.” She steps forwards, reaching for my hand.

I swat her away. “Not now, Ishera. I’m sorry, but no. These bastards can’t see past their fat bellies; I don’t believe they can see tomorrow. And if thinking of what we’re doing when this is all over turns men into petty things like that, then maybe it’s better I never stop. So I never become like that!”

Ishera grabs me, pulling me into a hug.

“Get off!” I say, struggling against her.

“It’s okay, Immie. It’s okay,” she says softly.

I push, but get nowhere. “Let me go, Ishera.”

“Just calm down, okay? We can’t solve everything with another bloodbath.”

“Can’t I, though?”

“You can’t,” she says, holding me tighter. “What do you want?”

“I want to kill them all.”

“What do you really want?”

I think of my parents, suddenly. Dead in the snow. I think of the Everfrost Prince and tomes of old magic. I think of Captain Talaran and his sword. I think of counting stars.

“I want to finish what I started,” I say.

“We start by saving our people. And we end by saving our people,” she says, head to my chest. “I know you can be harsh. I know you’re angry. And honestly, you have every right. But I know you’re also smart, you’re so smart, and determined. You can’t let these people get to you. Not until this is all over and you can solve it the right way, instead of the anger of your gut.”

I’m silent.

“You remember what Mother Eordas told us, when we were girls? When you pulled that one girl’s hair for making me cry?”

I nod.

“She said ‘He who drinks oceans of blood shall never cease bleeding from the mouth.’ You need to know what you’re going to do when it’s over. The ends that justify your means. I don’t want to see you bleeding, Immie.”

“Are you calling me old?” I ask, trying to deflect.

“I worry how much blood you have left, Immie.”

I sigh out a long, shuddering breath. And, reluctantly, hug her back.

It’s the only way to make her loosen her grip.

Because my word with the financiers isn’t over yet.

In exchange for their financial support, extending the state a “generous line of credit,” the Malartak also demand a special council of the diet. Allowing the estates of the realm a say in the war effort and whatever else it is that I’m doing that they think they have any right to interfere with.


That’s it. It’s over. I’m gonna kill ’em.
[This is actually a good diet agenda. You always want to pay off your loans, so this is basically “free loyalty” from your estates. But the fucking audacity…]

And that’s it. The diet agrees to help fund this war, but they’re “oh so worried” for the state of our finances and, out of concern, want the government to focus on repaying our debt.

With interest, of course.

We traded poverty in one moment for enriching their pockets the moment this is over.

Ishera squeezes my hand one last time, and then we’re back on the road to Slegcal.

At least Captain Talaran in the field doesn’t give me the mushy-feely stuff.

We arrive to a fallen garrison, and Gemradcurter flags flying high.

And I realize that we’ve won. The money and supplies I was able to procure was enough to keep the army functioning long enough to break down the last of the Tuathak resistance.

Jhorgas is still missing, however.

But we’ve won.

We’ve driven the last of the Tuathak out.


What’s left of Jhorgashirr surrenders unconditionally.

Jhorgas himself is, of course, nowhere to be found. Nor is his navy.

He just stole whatever he could, gathered his fleet, and sailed away.

No one knows where he’s gone. It galls me that after everything he did to our people, he got away. He escaped. He’s alive.

But, one step at a time.


Forty-five thousand men are dead. The majority were Snecboth.

We loot everything. The cities of Jhorgas and Slegcal are sacked and plundered. Every gem and piece of shiny metal are turned over to the state and our coffers. And most of that goes directly into paying back our loans.

It’s a strange thing. The economy only works through plunder. Looting and spoils of war keep the entire engine running.

Thirty-six thousand Snecboth lie dead in this final conflict. Some died of attrition. Most were killed by Jhorgas alone in battle.

But finally, finally, it’s over.

At least, mostly over.


The North belongs once again to its rightful Snecboth inhabitants.
[Biggest name. Shame the land is a wasteland after all I did to make peace.]

I don’t need to explain myself anymore. I don’t need to justify my actions. I don’t need to wax and wane about what the Tuathak did to us.

And I don’t feel guilty about what I have and am about to do.

Guilt implies some kind of regret. Some sense of wrongdoing.

The closest to regrets I have are more “how I could do it better if I could do it again.”

I walk through the occupied city of Slegcal, Jhorgas’ last stronghold. I provide alms to the Snecboth natives who lived under foreign occupation. Ingratiating our new people to their rightful liberators as the first true snow of the year falls.

Ishera is too happy to help, providing medical care and clothing to our people. Focusing on help. Humanitarian aims. Finding orphans whom the Taigan Order could help raise and educate, to teach to read.

While outside the city walls, the great pyres burn.

They burn all across Jhorgashirr.


The Tuathak upper classes, the nobles and merchants and mages, are simply done away with. Any who resist are treated like the invaders they are. Ishera is the only reason any survive. Those who don’t fight are given food and thrown off their land, made to march through the dead of winter to anywhere but here. Maybe to the lands of the Summer court, or to the homeland of the Tuathak people.

I don’t really care.

The smart ones take what mercy I offer and leave.

Everyone else?

It lasts seven days. Seven days of blood and fire.

The air is full of the plaintive cries of fools struggling pitifully to bend the arc of their own destruction.

Until all is right. All is silent.


[We do a substantial amount of trolling.]
[Ignore the random Summer Court up north. Sometimes religions change on their own in Eordand due to the seasons, and my vassal let it happen.]

I march home upon a great white elk, like the Everfrost Prince himself. At the head of the greatest, most veteran army in Eordand, the mighty host which drove out the Peitar and Tuathak. The caravans and wagons laden with gold and loot.

It is a true triumph. A celebration. The city of Gemradcurt celebrates our victory until the entire city risks a hangover.

I retire alone to my office, at the base of a great mage tower we’re building.

I gather logs and charcoal to light my hearth. And I hold my hands out to it until the blood creeps back towards the warmth, until I can feel something again, rotating my wrist like I’m gesturing for the fey.

“Do you think it’s over?” I ask the empty room. “That the fighting is over. I can focus on governing my people with justice. I can master magic in peace now and uphold my oath?”

I know as soon as I say it I’m with company. I’d called out to him. In my heart. And whenever I call for my patron, there he is.

The Everfrost Prince stands behind my desk. Tall, fair-skinned, eyes and eyes an icy-white. He almost looks like an elf, but like none I’ve ever seen in Eordand. Like something out of the myths of the Precursors, before our ancestors lost themselves in the Feywilds.

Why ask me what you already know, child?” he asks, somewhere between harsh and disappointed. “Peace is but a beautiful lie, Immarel. Look westwards to Harvestcrown’s living children and their hunger for your answer. Then, gaze beyond the sunrise to the coming children of Munas and Castan.

He steps forward and puts his hands on my shoulders, and I feel my blood flinching away from him beneath my skin. I refuse to move as he leans down to whisper.

When you are done, there will be a mound of corpses so high it sticks into the eye of any god too afraid to look away.

“And then it can all be okay,” I say breathlessly.

The Everfrost Prince nods.

And I am alone.

There is work to be done.
  • 2Love
The question of what to do when the war is over really helped characterize our characters here. Good job there...

Dancing is a man's art for the Snecboth? That's... somewhat different from humans. What other cultural stuff do they have?

And, naturally, there can be no end to the carnage. Blood for the Everfrost Prince! Ice for his throne!
  • 1Like
The question of what to do when the war is over really helped characterize our characters here. Good job there...
The characters of the original mission tree and events were what drew to this AAR idea most. Gemradcurt is a fun mission. But Ishera and Talaran only have bit parts, compared to the heavy 1st person focus Immarel herself gets in the story. Ishera and Talaran have actions in-game, but I really wanted to explore them more and more.

Get a sense of them.

Explore them. And what leads to them their eventual places in the Immarelian Regime
Dancing is a man's art for the Snecboth? That's... somewhat different from humans. What other cultural stuff do they have?
Honesty? Iunno. The nitty-gritty of gender and other minutia of a culture aren't super well defined in Anbennar, because of conservation of detail. The mod doesn't need to go into the deep day-to-day life on people for most countries, becayuse you are playing as the nation in broad strokes. It's like how EU4 can tell you about France, but it cannot tell you anything about the French. By nature, Anbennar is very surface level in a lot of places in order to make them easily comprehensible.

To note, since this is based on DnD style worlds, "gender roles" don't really exist to the same extent as in our world. Girls can be fighters just as good as men

So a lot of the culture stuff, like the gestures, legends, and some gender role stuff, is purely of my own invention to flesh out the Snecboth as being a bit more foreign and alien. It's for my own curiosity. Author interest, really.

Part of me would like to go into more details about smaller culture stuff, but the format of an AAR leads me to being more precise with my words and what I'm doing. So it only comes up with it's noticeable and story relevant.
And, naturally, there can be no end to the carnage. Blood for the Everfrost Prince! Ice for his throne!
The Everyfrost Prince desires more than corpses. That's merely a happy accident.

He wishes for a servant on Halann. Someone to bring about eternal winter and power for his Winter Court.
Chapter 5: And Justice For None
Chapter 5: And Justice For None

I never met Jhorgas Frostguard. Not before we destroyed his kingdom and he escaped.

But I still remember the words of his messenger after the first slaughter of Fogrim.

By what right would a witch who feeds on the blood of motherless boys have to whine about having her skull split?

I wake and sleep at my desk, looking over the devastation of the war. Of Jhorgas’ piracy. The cost of evicting the Tuathak to make room for the return of the land’s rightful Snecboth.


Half of the realm is, in effect, a burned wasteland barely fit for life.

If Ishera were here, or even the Everfrost Prince, I might have someone to talk to. To vent about the monumentality of the task before me. Gemradcurt had been in a state of near total war for nearly twenty years now.

Maybe it’s better they’re not. That the Prince is doing whatever an Archfey does, and Ishera likewise. As if Jhorgas was right. That I don’t have the right to complain, after everything I’ve done.

After all I’ve yet to accomplish.

I slap my cheeks and plant myself at my desk. It used to be a small thing. I’d stolen Jhorgas’ very nice desk from his capital and now it is my ornate workshop. It’s lovingly carved exotic wood from the Domandrod and makes everything else in the office feel dull and lifeless. Wherever he is, I hope he’s suffering.

I sift through the reports from the nation. Work on repopulating the destroyed lands. The needs of the army from Talaran. And…

The economy.


Ahaha, fuck.

Reading deeper, I find it’s not as bad as I might’ve thought. We were able to pay off our loans through looting, and that’s what mostly makes up my coffers. Our other costs are for trying to rebuild destroyed units from the war, which is only temporary.

Last, and most extensively, is maintaining the network of old fortifications and castles built for the Hiberal Crusade. Most of those can be abandoned as they no longer have a strategic reason to exist.

In just an afternoon of reviewing finances and signing orders, I actually feel a little giddy. I’ve sorted out our financial apocalypse and freed up our budget to put into our reserves.

I’m the best at economy.

This whole ‘running a functional country’ isn’t so hard. In fact—


Oh, come on!

Captain Talaran delivers the news. His wounds have been healing nicely since the war ended. If you didn’t know he had them, you wouldn’t know, the way he carried himself beneath his armor.

“Trouble to the south and north,” he says. “More of Jhorgas’ remnants causing problems. We’re rooting them out, but it’s making peacekeeping hard. Especially with the problem Reotcrab’s been having with their own people.”

I frown. “What have they done?”

He hands me the reports to look over as he says, “Overtaxation, overworking people. The usual for any inefficient government. The people have risen up in rebellion. The governor is refusing our overtures to help, and is utterly failing to contain what’s becoming a full scale revolution.”

“So our Snecboth brothers have been failing their tasks as wardens of our people?” I ask.

Talaran shrugs. “That’s more poetic than I’d say.”

“How would you phrase it?”

“They really screwed the pooch you gave ’em, ma’am. They weren’t able to supply our armies in the war. They kept losing their contributions to our combined war chest. And they’ve still abused their people bad enough to make them take up arms against them, and thus against you.”

I think on it for a moment. “I think I have a solution to the problems with our incompetent allies.”

“I’m all ears, ma’am.”

“Hold on, let’s get a hold of Ishera. It was her idea, actually.”


Reotcrab’s incompetence is offensive.

“A feast?” Ishera asks, eyes widening.

I nod. “Remember that idea you had a long, long time ago? Everyone feels better on a full stomach. I think we can round up the leaders of Reocrab and Gelcolle in, say, Daidh, the border with both. Talaran can provide security.”

“You’re actually listening to me!” she says happily, almost bouncing in her seat.

I frown. “Ishera, don’t say it like that. You’re my friend. I trust you.”

She looks away, sheepishly. “I know, I know. But ever since Dugat, it always seems like you’re taking Talaran’s counsel instead of mind. Listening and spending time with him.”

I shake my head. “No, that’s not—Ishera, don’t be silly. I don’t rule this country alone. I know how to keep level heads and good friends around.”

Ishera grins wide. “I can draft the plans and invitations. We can get the mages to help make it a real feast. Wow and impress our allies so we’re all feeling good and can talk some sense and reason into them.”

“That sounds perfect, Ishera. Thank you.”

“I’ll get started right away!” she says, jumping from her chair.


I know this isn’t exactly what Ishera had meant when she suggested this, but…

Ishera is excitedly talking to the delegates, the rulers and upper crust of our allies. Constantly glancing back at me and smiling, as if seeking nervous approval.

“And after that, we’ve got a bard quite famed in Gemradcurt and his entourage,” she’s saying, gesturing for excitement. “After dinner and with ample drink, we’ve got music and dancing all set up. My lord, I know your daughter is here, and—between you and me—we’ve got quite a few eligible bachelors in the room.”

She claps her hands. “Ooh, actually! Imm—Lady Immarel, you should join us in the dance.”

“You can dance?” I ask, puzzled

Ishera giggles. Her smile is downright Fey-like “So I maaay have gotten Tally-boy to give me some pointers after stalking him for a week. Just enough so that maybe I could teach you, just like you always dreamed. It’ll be fun; what do you say?”

The offer nearly throws my entire train of thought.

I drink and eat and pretend to agree with Ishera as she talks. She keeps pointing to me and asking me to confirm or add my own input on everything she’s set up for this feast.

Captain Talaran, however, is standing in the back. The scars covering his arms are on full display, sword at his hip. His expression is tight, but his ears stand alert and attentive. I meet his eyes and he just holds my expression. Not anxious or expectantly.

The only thing he does is tilt his head towards Ishera.

I find myself stopping Ishera mid-sentence. I grab my glass, stand, and gesture for silence.


Ishera’s genuine enthusiasm is what made this plan work so well. No one suspects anything.

Ishera is suddenly rigid, her blue eyes going wide. They rattle in her head, scouring the room, looking between the delegates and our soldiers. Until finally they settle on me, trying to mouth something. Raising her hand.


I know it’s harsh, Ishera will have to understand. This is for everyone’s good. No more parasitic nobles and lords.

Captain Talaran steps forwards without hesitation and drives his sword through the monarch of Reotcrab. The blood splashes across Ishera and her open mouth. The panic only starts after the royal families of our allies are murdered. Foreign nobles and merchants scramble from their chairs, and are cut down where they stand

Some make it as far as the doors, before my soldiers emerge and kill them too. My warriors of the Taigan Order, commoners born of the land, lay waste to these aristocratic parasites who think themselves above the common good of the Snecboth people. Blood, thick and viscous, coats the floor and the food. The only ones who survive are the upper class of Gemradcurt, who I want to witness what happens to all those to stand in my way.

Ishera is standing there, hand raised to me and frozen. Ears drooping. Royal blood is smeared across her face.

I finish my glass of wine.

“I think you were right, Ishera,” I say, gazing into the empty cup. “I do feel much better on a full stomach.”


Finally, everyone was working together!

Captain Talaran rides forth with the men to our allies’ capitals to mop up any resistance. The fools who stood by their monarchs after their deaths are put to the sword. Their wealth and property is confiscated by the state.

In less than a week, Gelcolle and Reotcrab are made to submit, and cease to exist as independent entities.

The Snecboth and all the Winter Court now answer to one sovereign leader.

One vision. One purpose.


I make the proclamation the next day. The Winter Court is truly united.

Now was the time to fix our confusing little faith. Correcting the errors in our old customs and habits, our passive and timid ways that led to us rolling over when the Tuathak invaded and brutalized our parents.

No more an oral faith. I have the Taigan Order enshrine the true form of worship, of venerating the Fey, in written texts for the first time. More in line with my needs and the needs of the Everfrost Prince.

I have Ishera assist with the task.

She doesn’t reply when I give the order. She just stares at me. And slowly nods.

I know she might feel sour now, but like Dungat I know she’ll get over it. She’s smart. She knows everything I do is for the good of our people. To ensure we are never made to play the victim ever again.

That’s why I know I can trust her to carry out my will.


There are so few bodies to throw into the fight.

With our internal enemies quashed, I can return to more productive, forward-thinking policies and actions.

Between the great northern war, and eliminating the last cells of resistance, we’ve made use of nearly every available hand in Gemradcurt. We need time to recover from that, mostly. But until that, we can rework our system of conscription to be more in line with a functional army. No more mere volunteers we grab on the march, but a more professional force.

I work on ensuring that when we call upon people to serve, they know their duty, where to report, and where to train, so we can rebuild and strengthen the army of Gemradcurt.

Now, as for my studies?



The issues of money again. I feel so close to mastering my craft. I can taste it. But the last steps keep eluding me.

My agents report sources of knowledge, and I’m unable to make use of them. They’re outside the shallow purses of my country. Or, worse, the best sources are likely trapped within the realm of the Tuathak and the Autumn Court.

I’m so close. So goddamn close. But I keep getting held up at the last inch of the marathon.


Screw you too, buddy.

My office has expanded. As we complete the mage tower, the heart of the new Taigan Order, I’ve begun moving into it as the needs and apparati of the state expand.

My office is now in a real building, with floors, and wings. With other people making their way through the halls. I’m not far from the head of the military, from our financial minister (I have proper ministers now), and near enough to our diplomatic corps (which is really just our spies).

One of them hands me reports from our neighbor, the Tuathak kingdom of Raithtall. When we ended the war with Jhorgashirr, we’d forced out any Tuathak we hadn’t killed. Those that survived, by and large, ended up in Raithtall. Their petty little king expelled our diplomats after the Feast of Daidh and has begun seeking allies and support as he builds up his army.

It’s a threat, is what it is. An insult.

But for the moment, there’s little I can do about it.

I need to secure the realm’s infrastructure to be able to sustain my next great project first.


Starting in the former capital of Reotcrab.

A decade ago, I summoned a great symphony of fire and fury to destroy the walls of Marathmas and force Reotcrab to submit. Since then, their now-dead lords had turned it into productive farmland built upon an ancient Precursor city.

I think of Ishera and even ask her about the idea.

“Sure,” she says and returns to her paperwork.

“Is something wrong, Captain Ishera?”

She looks up at me, the candlelight on her desk flickering in her eyes. She has an office now. “No, my lady. Everything is fine. Your idea is good. I can make the arrangements for you. Like I always do.”

I nod. “See to it.”

And we embark on a great building project. There are no cities in the north like those in warmer south, but I intend to change that. We expand the forges, clear land for farms, and work to more proactively count heads for tax purposes.

The Taigan Order oversees the great expansion of the city. And soon, the richness of the city I build, and all of the offices of the Order, leads to an explosion in new, productive thought.


I very much support the current new ideas that will give Gemradcurt the edge we need.
[The Renaissance is the first “Institution” of the game, which represents radical changes in ways of thought. This would normally never show up in Eordand, as most originate in Cannor, the “fantasy Europe” of this world. Lacking it would leave us a technological backwater. What I’ve done here is called “institution forcing,” where I rapidly build up a city to make the institution show up in my country, allowing me to stay on technological par with Cannor.]

The lessons we learn are turned around and put to work in the capital of Gemradcurt itself. What was little more than a collection of huts and tents when I took over is soon the bustling capital city of a new empire, where all roads in the north lead.

The population booms. And we have more riches and warm bodies both.


Behold, an economy!

The rapid growth and expansion of my country, now solidly under my control and subject to my vision, is revolutionary. We’re no longer relying upon looting and pillaging to fund the regime.

Instead, fair taxation and an even-handed justice system ensures everyone can contribute to the growth of the nation.

With all the bureaucrats needed to run the increasingly complex state, I end up having more time to focus on my studies.

Until, one night, I make a breakthrough. And, almost effortlessly, I am able to bring a little caged bird back to life.

I don’t say this lightly, but all of this put together? It is awesome.


Necromantic mastery is ever closer. But that’s hardly why people disdain my usage of magic. The elves of Eordand seem to frown heavily on my constant use of earthquakes to destroy cities.

It’s another late night in my office. I have a home in the city—the city—of Gemradcurt, but I’d had the builders put a little bedroom behind my office in case of nights like this. The flame from the stone hearth illuminates my work, the bookshelves lining the wall, and a little shrine to the winter Fey filled with sacrosanct ice.

Soon, everything I’ve worked for since the fall of Jhorgashirr will come to fruition. I’m working with pen and quill, outlining the members of my government I’ll need to work this project through, and considering calling upon the Everfrost Prince, when someone knocks on the door.

That’s odd. I don’t have any appointments at this hour. I’d sent my secretary home for the night, even.

I stare at the door, ready to blow someone’s head off with a frostbolt, when Ishera slinks in. There are bags under her eyes and her hair is disheveled. She looks nothing like the excitable little girl I’d met in the Taigan Order. Now she almost looks like a motherly old warrior who outlived a family.

“Lady Immarel,” she says, raising her fingers to make a gesture. Then pauses. “Are we still doing gestures?”

I ease slightly, gesturing for calm. “Why wouldn’t we?”

She looks to the side and takes a breath. “It doesn’t matter. I got you something. I guess.”

“What’s the occasion, Captain?”

Ishera sucks on her lips slightly before placing a bottle of alcohol on my desk. “Happy birthday.”

I blink. “Huh?”

“You’re forty now, you know.” A thin little smile. “Officially a spinster.”

I scowl, gesturing for amusement. “You shut your mouth, you crone. I don’t look a day over thirty.”

She sits across from me and shakes her head, ears limp. “No, you do look different. Very different. Sixteen years ago we were fighting against Strutmar. Thirty years ago and you were a little kid taking over the Taigan Order. I don’t think any of those yous are the same you of today.”

I reach into my desk and take out glasses to pour for us. “Alright, so maybe I get crow’s feet when I don’t get enough sleep. So what? Matronly is very in chic these days.”

Ishera looks at her glass, but doesn’t take it. “I got this bottle for you sixteen years ago.”

“Excuse me?” I ask, squinting at the bottle.

“We were in Marathmas the first time. A merchant from the south arrived in town to find it a ruin. I stopped by and purchased his entire alcoholic stock for the soldiers, but kept one bottle to age to give to you. Of course, back then, I thought we were just making hard choices because we had no choice. I didn’t like them, but I understood them all. So I held onto the bottle to let it get better so we could celebrate together sometime later when the bad times were finally behind us.” She purses her lips. “That was my mistake. I bought it for the Immarel of sixteen years ago. I feel like I’m giving it away to the wrong person now.”

“You say that like I am a different person,” I say, resisting the urge to gesture. I don’t know how to twist my fingers. What I should be signaling to the Fey.

“Yeah,” she says, taking her glass. She sips at it. Slowly at first, then she drinks it all, and pours herself another. That one vanishes just as soon. She takes a breath after readying a third glass, rolling her shoulders like she’s working herself up to something.

“Captain Ishera, maybe you should stop.”

“Maybe that’s where I went wrong,” she says, as if she doesn’t hear me. “Originally, I mean. Different people behind the same eyes. But the thought that I’m wrong is what scares me the most. Because what if you didn’t change, Immie? That after everything we’ve gone through together, everything I’ve stuck with you through, this was just how you always were. Difference is now you can actually do it.”

My fingers dig into the glass. “Captain, explain yourself.”

Ishera runs her hand over her face. It rests over her mouth as she tilts her head, staring long out the window at the lamplight of the city. “Maybe you didn’t change. But the Snecboth people have. Our faith has changed. I don’t think we’re the same people our parents were.”

Captain,” I say more harshly, gesturing for scorn.

She gestures for pardon. For amusement. For loss. “This… was not my first drink of the night. I half thought you’d do something to me if I showed up without an appointment at this hour. Needed to work up the courage.”

“You know I wouldn’t hurt you, Ishera,” I say, rubbing the back of my hand.

Her eyes go to me. Just staring. “I’m not afraid of what you’ll do to me, Immie. It’s everyone else I’m scared for.”

Before I can say anything, she stands up quickly. A little too fast. She wobbles in place, gesturing for pardon. “I know what you’re planning. And know I’m by your side. I believe in giving our people a future, and I’ll never stop believing in that. I care for you Immie, just… please, Immie.”

I swallow. Everything feels cold. “Please what?”

Please,” she says quietly.

Ishera turns and leaves.


I draw up the orders and give the commands.

Ishera makes no comments.

Talaran executes them swiftly. Our rebuilt and well-funded forces marshal together and move into position.


The Everfrost Crusade is at hand.

Captain Ishera is still there at the border, leading the mages of the Taigan Order.

I look away.

And give the order to cross the border to finish what the Tuathak started and bring the goddamn war home.

[Bonus Picture]

[Bro had a full ass story arc]
[I legit couldn’t make this work for the story, because it would probably bother Immarel too much for her to let go and would throw off my groove, but a Dark Murder Fey killed poor Dorndor the helpful elf. Literally everyone wanted him dead and gone and this is how he goes after I stood by him because he was half-off. RIP to the real ones.]
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Is Immarel having doubts?

Poisoning them all is one way to deal with intransigent nobles.

Ishera cutting ties with Immarel felt so sad...
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