BlackBishop

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A Depiction of King Oruk, surveying the battlefield upon his victory over the Wilder Orc Clans

Mid-Winter
21st Year of the New Age

A moderate winter has settled across Agorath, with snows reaching as far south as the Azeratii Peninsula. Many of the peoples of Agorath are now relying on autumn stores to stay fed. While many grapple with the onset of winter, in places such as Hroniden and the southern Wilds, the precipitation has heralded the end of the dry season, and relieving rains have set the deserts into bloom, and swelled the Amenra River.

The bite of winter is felt nowhere worse then in Norseland. News has spread that King Thrunrul of Norvegr's conquest of the Frostfang Inlet has been halted by the paralyzing snow and cold. Word spreads that much of Norvegr's army has succumbed to starvation and desertion, putting his conquest in jeopardy. King Bethod the Bloodless, who cut across the Vale Mountains toward Stronghelm following his victory over Ethelbor, has disappeared. Riders are said to have been dispatched to search for the wayward king, but it is unlikely that any sign of him will be found until the passes that in the spring. Starvation has struck Ethelbor hard, or so says Norse sailors sailing down to Kalar just as the upper Rill began to freeze. Much of the land was scorched in the war between Ethelbor and Stronghelm, and many are said to be starving.

A declaration was issued from Coal, seat of Queen Nienna, stating that the beleagured Fae of the Vahamil Steppes are welcome back to Galadriel with open arms. Devastated by the War of Darkness, the Fae became disillusioned with the plight of the blessed forest, and struck out on their own, determined to rekindle the flames of life upon the barren landscape of Vahamil. Though they shunned the rule of Nienna, the Elven queen has made it clear that no resentment is harbored for their decision.

Kalar is said to be strengthening trade ties following a one sided trade deal with the Kingdom of Ecclestius. Emissaries are said to have crafted deals with the outer marches, including Thaanos. It is said that Azeratii/Kalar Trade Pact, signed following the outbreak of hostilites last year, was crafted to placate King Varian, and though it has secured peace, is proving to hinder the Kalar economy, waving thousands of crowns in tariffs per season.

Outrage has been voiced among various sects of the former Order of Light, as news spreads of the brutal betrayal and execution of a group of former soldiers turned deserters in Ecclestius. The company of soldiers, who have come to be known as the Pious Brothers, deserted from their stations in the Royal Ecclestian Army after taking revenge on a baron who hung mages found distributing the outlawed pamphlet, The Pilgrim's Path. The King dispatched an army to root out the outlaws and secured their surrender, only to have them hung, drawn, and quartered, their dismembered bodies buried in the corners of the kingdom as a final insult. The firm hand of the king is thought to have been used to discourage further dissent.

The march to war in Highathar seems to continue unabated. With Ordivantis torn apart by civil war, Yurdaesti proclaiming the high throne an affront to the sovereignty of the underkingdoms and Mahakam Clan of Mount Carbon denouncing High King Deagrin Victor as unfit to wear the crown, the High Kingdom is poised for war, though only minor border skirmishes have occurred so far. That is expected to change once the mountain passes thaw in the spring. Along the western border of the High Kingdom, Goi'Orka and the Urdnot Kingdom of Orcs have expanded their borders, said to finally have defeated their enemies in the Wilds, pacifying the last of the belligerent Orc clans, finally cementing Goi'Orka and Clan Urdnot the ruler of the Orcs of central Agorath.

In Hroniden, the outbreak of war between Mutikabir and Herasnia threatens to engulf the entire desert kingdom. Shah Zaahir Rostani, lord of Herasnia, has dispatched messages far and wide, across the holds and roaming camps, of the desert kingdom, calling for aid and warning of the rise of the tyrannical Lord Arshad. Meanwhile, Lord Arshad, the emerging leader of Mutikabir's Council of Nine, has been paralyzed by riots sweeping across Mutikabir. Claiming Rostani and the Ayyubid pretender are the root of the unrest, he continues to marshal the great families of Mutikabir and greater Misr against Herasnia.

The Karmont campaign against the Fae Elves of the Vahamil Steppes is said to have reached a stand still for the early weeks of the winter. Though the Birchian forces have not advanced, it is said they have ceased their marching to consolidate power in their newly acquired lands. The Elves are said to be bracing for the coming of their final assault, though according to fleeing Fae en route to Galadriel, the Birchians have assassinated several leading figures of the Fae and plunged their forces into chaos. The war certainly seems to be turning ill for the Fae of the Steppes.

Beyond the barren landscape of the Wilds, not much is known of the west. Some slave traders from Goi'Orka have spoke hearsay of a war between Ashlander Orcs and the Drow holdfast of Akkum, but little else in way of news has passed from beyond.
 

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Honeymooners
(Set shortly after the wedding of Armas and Anwën)

The sun was shy in Tall Pass, barely able to rise above the great canyon walls that stretched along the sides of the river. It was a peculiar village. Located not long from Carbon Pass, the Tall Pass was built onto the rockface near a rushing waterfall, ejected from the middle of the cliff. In half moon circles the village was built in layers, one larger than the other, as it went closer to the ground. On the top was the Master’s Estate, a quite humble abode considering its current occupants, a crown-prince and his bride. The chill morning was staved off with an orange brazier, burning intensely with scented coals. Anwën was still asleep on her side of the bed, her slight figure but near covered by a thin silk sheet and a night-gown hardly worth calling a full garment. Cut low by the waist and an invisible neckline, she insisted it was of her own design.

Armas himself stirred slowly, awoken by the myriad of calls from the birds that made their home in the canyon. He wore only tan breeches, the sort of practical clothing he had become accustomed to during his travels as opposed to the finery of court back in Coal. As his consciousness drifted upwards from pleasant dreams he rolled to his side, propping his head up with his hand, and watched the soft rise and fall of Anwën’s chest, drinking in her beauty. He could not help but to think of how wonderful their short time in Tall Pass had been. The town itself was in little need of their rulership, so they were free to spend their time with each other insulated from distractions except for those of nature. With each passing day he seemed to feel himself growing closer to Anwën.

After a time he shifted closer to her underneath the cold sheets, placing a light kiss along her collarbone. “Anwën,” he said, hardly louder than a whisper, “rouse yourself,” before kissing her again, further up her neck. Anwën whimpered in delight as she squirmed on her side, as she met her soft hand upon Armas cheek.

“Why? I seem to be in full content just laying right where I am.” She said, drowsily. Her glistening white hair reflecting in the sunlight, shuddering at his handling. “Have we slept for long? Too long?”

“Not too long, not if you wish to stay, but it is late enough that even the bottom of the canyon can see the sun.” He said with a quiet chuckle. Anwën gave an unapologetic blush before turning her body towards Armas with a smile.

“It seems perfectly too early, my prince.” She stretched her head and stole his lips with her own, moving to stride over him in the bed. “The best work happens at dusk afterall. When the waterfall shines with the gold of the setting sun.” She combed her hair to the side and Armas found it hard to deny her point. “The lightning is just right to guilden this silver tiara, and the gems in demon ruby. Let them gasp upon their rulers of beauty in awe!” She giggled, as she traced her nail upon his chest. “Or perhaps you miss Coal?”

Armas laughed again and shook his head. “You’re not in Coal, how could I miss it? To say nothing of the demands of court.” He leaned back, closing his eyes for a moment and silently thanking his ancestors for liberating him from courtiers and attendants and noble squabbles. “I could stay in Tall Pass for the rest of my days.” She gave a sympathetic sound as she rested her head upon his chest.

“You’re the unlikely ruler. The ones who don’t want it are always the best. Isn’t that what they say, my prince?” She curled up and moved her face closer to his. “But you could do it so well, so why would you not want it? Demands are fleeting, and could weigh easy the next day, could they not?”

“You spent more time in court than I ever did, surely you know that the bickering of the nobility never ends.” He wrapped an arm around her, holding her close. “Are you certain that’s not something you would like to oversee when our time on the throne comes?” He asked lightly.

“I do.” She said, taking a deep breath. “Then again, I cannot in good conscience just reside here. Unless you sit in the lion’s den, you won’t know when they go out to hunt. As much as a den this is…” She made a gesture towards the room and balcony, where the sun still was fighting to enter. “...it’s more of a burrow. A very…” She forced yet another kiss upon his lips. “...very pleasant burrow it is.”

Armas said nothing for a time, simply savoring the feeling of her lips on his. “You’re right...of course. But it is a fine dream.” Running a hand through his red hair the prince sighed, some of his good nature gone as he looked at her. In all of the excitement following the wedding and arrival in Tall Pass they had neglected to discuss the matter of Varian’s decree, and as much as he might like to act like it did not exist, Armas recognized that Anwën would not be able to simply forget. “Speaking of lions...Something must be done about your brother’s actions.” Anwën looked at him as she sighed dejectedly.

“To think he gave me such a nice dress too. I am but a tool for his ambitions, and now they set on undermining both mother and me. I doubt mother would ever raise her hand upon her sweet boy, however.” She grunted. “I think he’s actually gone mad, or gone brilliant. I do not know which is worse. But I’ll die before losing my birthright, both title and legacy.” Anwën moved off the bed, and hung her head by the window. “This land seem so small in comparison. I do not know if I’m happy, or lost.”

“If you are unhappy here we don’t have to stay,” Armas said as he followed her to the window, suddenly wondering if he had been selfish. If in his enjoyment of Tall Pass he had failed to recognize Anwën’s own despondency. “We could travel, or...return to Coal, whatever you would like.” She leaned on Armas instead.

“That’s not what I’m saying. Or maybe it is…” She sighed. “It’s too soon if anything. When the turmoils brew, my mind doesn’t stop turning. And the people deserve you, Armas. That is what I hope you’ll realise.”

“I do Anwën, I do.” Armas placed a hand on her shoulder, looking out the window as well. He wondered how it was that she was so certain of his ability to rule, when he was so unsure. The prince was not too humble to admit that he was quite intelligent, and that he had learned much during his time traveling Agorath, but knowledge alone did not a king make. But he would not pull on that thread, not wanting to write off Anwën’s feelings. “If you ever find yourself feeling lost here, only say the word and we’ll go. But it is quite nice, isn’t it,” he asked with a smile as he pointed out over the village, “This place has a rare beauty to it, I think.” Anwën nodded, taking his hand and pointed at the pool which collected the rushing waterfall far beneath them.

“Mother used to take us all as children to this place. A time when the Chasm’s walls was as black as dragon glass. She used to say that life starts where the river starts, and asked for this place to be built upon the cliffside. For fifteen years, this place has flourished like a slow blooming flower. It’s quite amazing.” She pointed more to the north towards the caves leading into the canyon walls. “You see those? Dwarves paid well to grow their mushroom farms in their bellows. Rich with burnt lime, those caves kept the sour taste of the soil away from the fruits.” She pointed towards the peak. “When Barumin first sent his apprentices to scout the Chasm river and its source, they say they found a great eagle and a phoenix sharing the same airy on the top. The phoenix represents the everlasting river that keeps the Chasm alive, and the eagle was the freedom the Deep Elves would find from their more Light drunk kindred. It’s only mythos, but I used to find those stories intriguing.”

“Light drunk?” Armas asked with a chuckle, well aware that the priests in Coal had similar things to say about the elves of the chasm. “Is that what your people thought of ours?” Anwën laughed.

“They did. All of Deep Elven culture comes from the simple schism that the Light and Dark both serve a purpouse, whereas that was quite the radical statement among some tribes. Barumin even went so far once to say that the Dark One’s powers are best harboured by the lords of Light.”

“Radical indeed,” Armas mused, having done quite a bit of reading on the founder of his wife’s family, even apart from where Barumin appeared in Eöl’s tale. He had always found their occasionally antagonistic relationship fascinating. “But it certainly shows where you Mindrillas get your audacity from.” Anwën giggled as she turned and reached around Armas waist.

“Some say we are the inward and quiet type. The very model of grace and precarity.”

“Then they have not met you,” he replied, placing a kiss atop her head. “Or your mother...or sister...or aunt. Not to say that you aren’t graceful, because that much is clear, but all four of you are also bold in the extreme.” She laughed at his comment.

“You’ve never been a woman in a Deep Elven court. You know, by law of this realm, you practically own all my actions and will? Besides, abiding to expectation are too dreary.” She said as she straightened her bang over her long ears.

Armas scoffed at that. “I could not even begin to imagine owning the actions of that girl who dragged me along to steal my uncle’s bow. I fear she would have me wrapped around her finger by the day’s end.” Anwën gave him a conspicuous smile, as she wrapped her hand around his.

“Are you actually trying to claim I haven’t already? I’ve stolen both your will and admiration, I believe, my prince.”

“You are wrong on that account my princess,” he said with a sly look, “you can’t steal what’s been freely given.” She lowered her hand to caress his arm.

“Ever the wordsmith, aren’t you? What would you tell my brother to defend my honour? Or tell the Dwarves to still their constant crashes?” She smiled. “What words could you conjure to awaken my everlasting faithfulness and desire, which I’ve not already acquired for you?”

“You may have mistaken me for my mother, any verbal skill I may seem to posses is largely good luck I fear. But let me give it a try.” He rubbed his jaw, to look as though he were giving the question serious thought. “Your brother must be met with confidence and certainty, so perhaps a firm ‘stop’. The dwarves, ever aloof, are more challenging, in their case I might try to make certain promises. To you...I could only ask ‘please’.” Anwën giggled.

“My brother speak only one language, and that is his own. The Dwarves won’t even let you past the gate without a guard at Benthorn’s court, so promises gave me naught. Cold, hard ink and coin was only what mattered to him from me. As for please…” She whispered into his ears. “Perhaps you’re doing it backwards. Make me say ‘please’, my prince.”

Taking the hint, Armas chuckled and swept his new bride into his arms, suddenly especially thankful for the muscles he had gained during his journey. “I suppose I could try that,” He answered, voice filled with joy as he walked her over to the bed.
 

BlackBishop

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A Dangerous Man
Snowfall, 21st Year of the New Age
co-starring Terraferma

The Amenra River is said to be the lifespring of Hroniden, and it is easy to see why. The barren landscape of it surroundings is but a graveyard, or rather it would be if not for the nourishing waters that the river provides. Like a clear blue ribbon it springs forth from the mountains of Highathar, falling from the heights of the Dwarven kingdom, and winding around the rocky knees and desert plateaus and canyons that mark the border regions between Highathar and Hroniden.

When the seasonal rains come, this giver of life becomes engorged, bloated and glutenous of its ravenous intake of water, draining in from the surrounding valleys. In an instant, the river can suddenly turn deadly. Swelling with rainwater, it becomes a great rush, flooding the lining banks and sinking whole villages.

It is both a giver of life, and a bringer of death.

A voice broke Duncan of Westmarch from his thoughts. “Shiek is just beyond the next river bend, Grand Paladin.”

“Excellent,” smiled Duncan to his lieutenant. The man was actually new to the Order, having just come to his service from Ecclestius, but his noble birth demanded a high place with in the Order of Paladins.

“Are you expecting any trouble, Your Grace?” The highborn asked.

“Nay, young Mathlion. The Sheiki people are a reclusive lot and stick to their own affairs, but if I can sway Hroniden along with me, they’ll follow suite, I’m sure.”

“I do not know of this Hassam Sabir,” said Mathlion, flicking the auburn hair from his eyes. “And I have studied the great houses of Agorath all through adolescence.”

“Not so long ago they were not a great house, only recently coming into power with Hassam’s father…” Duncan stroked his trimmed beard thoughtfully. “Come to think of it I know little of the man as well.” The call of the sailors caught their attention. Towers from Sabir’s palace were seen in the distance. They had finally arrived.

The various servants and court officials were in a sheer panic due to the unexpected announcement of a rather major figure visiting the nation. Grand Paladin Duncan. Though some expressed some weariness to this incoming event, Padishah Sabir was quick to silence any dissent with prompt acceptance. This would be a mostly private meeting, with Sabir and his wife playing host along with a handful of servants and esteemed members of the court. The Attaturk General was notably absent as well as the country’s Spymaster. Only the Vizier of Outside Relations, or more commonly known as the Minister of External Affairs, Nizaar Masri was present. He stood at the ready in his grey robes flanked by two guards to receive the newcomer.

Grand Paladin Duncan entered Sabir’s palace void of the usual entourage one might expect from one of his standing. Smiling broadly, and giving thankful nods to those who rushed to his greeting, Duncan was accompanied by a mere paige and a single officer, the rest of his party remaining on his ship.

“A grand day, and one long overdue,” Duncan smiled. “A shame this jewel of the desert has escaped my sight for so long. My lords, my thanks for the warm welcome.”

The Vizier came fast approaching, gesturing towards himself and then towards the royal couple behind him sitting in their gold-clad thrones.

“Grand Paladin welcome! Welcome to Shiek. Right this way,” Turning on his heel Nizaar almost collided into his guardsmen, waving them off and forcing them to stand on either way of the purple carpet that led straight to the heart of the Emirate. A sly whisper entered Hassam’s ears.

“Is this him? Interesting.” Aliya grinned.

“Shh. Remember your place.” It was a cold retort from her dear husband.

Once Duncan was within earshot the great leader stood up with his arms wide.

“The Emirate of Shiek welcomes you! I do hope the citizens and my royal officials received you warmly at the dock? As you know, foreigners are rather looked down upon with suspicion. For that I do apologize.”

“On the contrary, honoured Padishah,” the paladin said with a bow. “Your people have been most welcoming. Regardless I know full well why one might hold such suspicious dispositions in such a time and place. The Darkness of the west is before us, after all.”

With a nod, the patriarch of the most powerful house in the Emirate walked over to the honored visitor and offered his hand.

“Yes. Indeed. These are trying times, war consumes most of our neighbors: Mutikabir, Herasnia, Damasiz. Even the Vahamil Steppes. I’m afraid it is only a matter of time before we are drawn in. Armed Neutrality is already being tested, but time will tell what is to come.”

Turning to face his wife he continued, “May I introduce you to my wife, dearest Aliya. The man who greeted you earlier is Nizaar Masri, Vizier of Outside Relations. The others here are the heads of the various houses. I found it prudent to have them as the audience, while making it as private as possible.”

Duncan made a round of brief introductions, taking each firmly by the hand, the bowing to kiss the hand of Aliya. The hello’s were brief but courteous. Finally he stroked his short cropped beard and smiled. “Well then, with the introductions out of the way, I hope you won’t mind if we discuss business before we partake in leisure.” His eyes made a subtle drift toward Aliya at this last word but found Hassam again in an instant.

Aliya, ever the eagle-eyed observer caught his eyes, a slight smirk dancing upon her lips.

“Of course. Why are you here?” Hassam’s voice was more inquisitive than demanding.

“Firstly let me assure you, Your Eminence, that I am not here solely on matters of the spiritual. This is a matter of war and protectionism. A western presence cannot be tolerated upon the steppes of Vahamil. This is a danger to all the followers of Light, and if it is allowed to stand, it is done so at our peril. To be blunt, Your Eminence, I have come to enlist your help in a campaign to thwart the Birchian Cultists of Malarx and take hold of Vahamil against them.”

Duncan was met with silence. For a time there were hushed whispers among the other houses.

“I see. Did the Elves go to you to enlist your help? Or is this a independent initiative of the Light Basin?”

“The Elves may as well be blind and dumb, trapped by their own seclusion as they are. No, no. This is bore out of necessity, a joint venture among many I hope.”

His Eminence shook his head.

“I’m afraid you’re running against time. Most of Hroniden is at war, I doubt others will answer the call. The Steppes is a highly defensible area, the Elves can hold out with proper supplies. Though my forces are numerous, I do not presume victory by numbers alone. As much, the Elves are in possession of territory that is ancestral to Hroniden. The Western Nomads have petitioned us for aid, and while we let negotiations take place...they were for nought. War was partly responsible but we have no real belief they will follow through. Why should we help them?” He was supported by an emphatic nod from the crowd.

“An apt question, my lord,” Duncan replied, nodding his head. “By my reports the Elves will likely driven out by the time the rains cease. I am not here to pleade the cause of the Elves. They are finished, and the architects of their own doom, for they stirred up the draken’s lair by instigating conflict with Malarx and the Birchians. We must presume that we will contending with a Birchian presence in Vahamil, and very soon.” His voice turned grave. “Remember the Battle of Azure’s Ridge? How many thousands died during the War of Darkness because our foe held those steppes? We cannot let that happen again. We must not!”

The Padishah remained unmoved. “Yes, Azure’s Ridge. As I said, how do you plan to rally the rest of Hroniden? What of those in the East? And what is the Light Basin prepared to do?”

Duncan rubbed his hands together in ponderance. “It is my hope to broker a peace between Mutikabir and Herasnia. Now I am no statesman, but surely they must recognize the threat of Malarx supersedes their own fued. If I fail, then I shall move east and enlist the aid of the Lords of Light of Galadriel, Ecclestius and Westmarch.” He paced back and forth with an index finger pointed upward as he recounted his plan. “Already the Hussars of Kholgrov are with us. My forces are too slim to mount a campaign, but the Light Basin is in an advantageous position to thwart any Birchian attempts at resupplying the Steppes.” He stopped and turned toward the Padishah, making a sweeping gesture with his arms as he awaited the lord’s response.

Aliya chimed in, giving her husband time to return to his throne.

“A sound strategy Sir Duncan, but do you have any leverage in bringing the successor states to end their differences? This war has been on-going before their own conflict.”

Duncan shook his head. “My lady I doubt such leverage can be found. I fear the conflict is doomed to continue until the coming of a Sultan once again. The best I can hope for is a suspension of hostilities, to be preserved until Vahamil is under the Light’s protection once more. I had hoped I might find guidance here in that regard.”

Before she could speak a chuckle could be heard, “Oh, I doubt they will listen to me. Or my wife.” Laughter rang out throughout the surrounding audience. Several unidentified voices spoke out offering their two crowns worth.

“Shiek should remain neutral!”

“The Elves refuse to give us our lands why should we even bleed for them against mere cultists?”

Silencing them, His Eminence ventured forth.

“There is a way, a remote one. Herasnia. A form of peace from them would likely get the other parties to back away, the trouble is while the former capital given the circumstances I am sure would accept it so long as reparations are made, Damasiz is a different story. You see, these conflicts invite ambition, to finally unite the land. Once a man embarks on this, they will see it to the end. My ally will not obey such a request, not from you or me. Or so I think. But if they put aside the conflict, I would give it further thought and finally decide whether the Emirate of Shiek takes up the sword. I would need time to think on this and prepare.”

Aliya complemented her beloved words standing up and approaching the Grand Paladin.

“Our nation prides itself in neutrality, we do not want others to meddle in our...affairs,” She eyed the man sizing him up. “So we do not meddle in the affairs of others, all while maintaining our sizeable army. In fact, even for trade we are restricting.” The woman circled the man, as if a predator observing its prey.

Duncan maintained eye contact with Aliya, his grey eyes steadily tracking her as she gracefully circled. At last he faced Hassam with a measured gaze. “Neutrality is all well and good, but what purpose does it serve when an enemy, wholly evil, marshals at your gates? You must do what is in Shiek’s best interest, of course, but recognize the power of Malarx grows, and if we do not act soon, we are doomed to darkness.”

Rubbing his chin the Padishah became pensive. He looked over to his wife who watched him expectantly before scanning the rest of the abbreviated royal court.

“I will give assurances that I will talk to Damasiz, as well as making a concerted effort to try to support your moves for peace in Hroniden however temporary. If those pieces fall into place, I will...make a final decision. Does that suffice? Believe it or not, Shiek has been indirectly involved against Malarx. We supplied the Elves with grand weaponry to good effect.”

Duncan’s eyes glinted inquisitively for an instant before he bowed. “That is most sufficient , Your Eminence.”

Whispers followed, Padishah Sabir figured it was of surprise tinted with displeasure.

“Yes noble houses, I covertly gave the Elves a fighting chance. We have not forgotten what Birch has done. The enemy of my enemy is our friend, or so the saying goes. Better to make our enemies bleed without putting our own sons in danger, yes?” He stared at them all, daring them to oppose the notion. Silence was the only reply.

“Your eminence is most wise,” Duncan stated in support.

Hassam returned his attention to his guest, “For how long are you staying Grand Paladin?”

“I must be off at first light, I fear. Though do not doubt I shall return at the first opportunity to sample the delights of Shiek. One night among such fine company is far too brief, Your Eminence.” He smiled, catching the eye of Aliya once more for a fleeting moment.

“One night? Pity. Then I shall make it a delightful one, Aliya will make sure you will get a grand feast for your dinner. From there you will be shown your room for the evening.” In unison, the ruler and his wife rose and bowed slightly.

“This is now concluded. If you’ll excuse me Grand Paladin, I have diplomacy to attend to. Vizier Nizaar, a word with you.” Duncan smiled, seemingly pleased that his visit had been a success.

As the Paladin and his officer exited the grand hall, Duncan turned to his lieutenant, Mathlion, and whispered… “Seems I have gained some insight into Hassam Sabir this trip, after all. He is a dangerous man, and one we should keep on our side.”
 
Last edited:

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haunted-forest.jpg

Mo'yokj Gro'ijk cracked his back, for he was old and full of aches. The prestigious members of the Mo', known far and wide for their extensive intelligence, had run to Mo'yokj like a scared litter of runts. They spoke of ghosts in the water, shadows in the forest, golems in the trees. It didn't help that the goblins, though eager to trade wears, were just as eager to trade scary stories. If it wasn't the way of the tribe, Mo'yokj would've smacked the daylights out of each and every member. Alas, it was common to be weary of the unknown. Furthermore, ghosts did exist, so that threat was heightened in the eyes of the tribe.

Mo'yokj wasn't scared of the ghosts, but he was not sure what to think of the golemns. Consulting the trees of the forest, particularly a bitter old root by the name of Toosh aa Halla, he found the stories of these mounds of stone made living true. Thus, it was ordered that the tribe was to be kept to the edge, away from the swirling rumours of evil. Furthermore, finding Toosh aa Halla was a blessing of a kind, for the burnt birch was a terrible gossip, although calling Mo'yokj an "uppity smoothface goblin" never helped relations along.
 

BlackBishop

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Commentaries on the Holy Doctrines
Volume I


by
Ailmar Elayra
formerly,
High Mage of the Order of Light

bff7edab6db81956b1c113fc2d059c33.jpg


The problem that stems from the Holy Doctrines of Light, while at the same time being a strength, is its susceptibility to interpretation. The words therein may exemplify a bold truth to one, yet mean something else entirely to another. Since the Holy Sages of the Age of Heroes began writing the scrolls that made up the first iterations of the Holy Doctrines, their words have been met with a wide variance of meanings, and their maxims recalled to justify any given situation.

I deem it is reasonable then, to cut through the written word, and focus predominately on that the overarching themes of the Doctrines, and the universals that are undeniable and wholly profound.

One such universal is the Law of Duality that permeate through the schools of the arcane, nature, consciousness, and all of creation, for that matter.

Light and Dark. Order and Chaos. Good and Evil. These are the things that course through our paradigms and societal structures and to our very core. Mages, scholars, and philosophers, have created bodies of work on identifying such polars en masse, filling the vaults of the now submerged Tower of Light. Its one thing to identify that such duality exists, but what exactly are we to do with such information. How can it help us?

The answer is to achieve balance.

There exists a place, between the poles of duality, a place of meaning, where balance can be achieved. It is pure and important, and above all, meaningful. Studying the early centuries of the Empire, it can be observed that this universal truth was the guiding hand of the Ecclesson Dynasty. The construction of Imperial governance, and the institution of the Assembly of Lords was the precise implementation, and concentrated effort, of obtaining a balance between Order and Chaos.

By imposing, or rather lack thereof, the lax implement of rule over the kingdoms of the Empire, and nurturing the chaotic swirl of cultures and laws, while maintaining one single head and chief directive above all else, that being the defense from the Dark hordes, the early empire achieved this balance, and created the pinnacle form of governance of which we could aspire.

Only later did the balance become disproportionate, and the Emperors began to seek control of all things, bringing a lash of Order to consume all, and eventually provoke the return of overwhelming Chaos. To the pain of all, we see the pattern repeated today with the shift to Absolutism in Ecclestius, a paradigm doomed to failure.

Finding balance between duality is not something limited to monarchs and governance, but also something to strive for from nobles to baseborn. We all have Chaos and Order pulling us to and fro in our lives. It is evident within our households and our very minds. The tyrannical maid will rule her domain with an iron fist, ensuring that each bauble has its place, and any upset to her perceived order is met with crushing animosity, so much so that any and all are driven away for fear of guest rights. The same can be observed for the chaotic layabout, unsure and unmotivated, letting the chips fall where they may but unable to get anything done because all is chaos and lacking focus. Both ends of the spectrum lead to destruction.

The key is finding balance. So say the Gods.
 
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Several letters are sent to the neighboring areas within Hroniden proper baring a familiar seal

175px-Gridania_Flag.png


To the Rulers of Mutikabir, Damasiz and Herasnia:

You are hereby cordially invited to the Emirate of Shiek, there are many matters to discuss first and foremost the on-going war that has engulfed much of Hroniden. We face a threat larger than ourselves. As Padishah I beseech you to at the very least come to my lands and grant me an audience, only I will not be the sole person requesting your presence. Grand Paladin Duncan from Light's Basin will be present as well. In fact he is already here. He bears a message for all of you to hear, personally. Shiek is prepared to act as a neutral party to discuss and possibly find a solution, to the current conflict. Come yourselves or bring a retinue, it matters not so long as our laws and peace is observed. I will receive you all at the docks or at the border myself if need be. We must make haste.

~Hassam Khanduras Sabir, Padishah of the Emirate of Shiek​
 

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Old Wounds
Joint IC with Bishop and Greatslayer

Snowflakes covered Varian’s hair and fur coat as he exited the carriage, his guards saluting as he went past them. Auril wasn't too far away from Azeratii, but the trip had felt like an eternity. His mother, stubborn as always, had crossed into Ecclestius and demanded his attention, threatening violence should anyone attempt to move her, with Narien next to her. He had expected his mother to act eventually, but he had expected her to bash down the doors of the Royal Palace to speak with him, this was different.
This was not at all changed when Eklow informed him of the events that transpired in Saxon, upon Eklows arrival to escort the Queen Dowager south. His mother of course had resisted, and his sister alongside her had taken up arms against Eklow. Varian had supported her every step she had taken since she left, sent her money, men to protect her, sent letters often with barely any reply. Then for her to return and turn her sword against him, it hurt him, it hurt him more than he thought it would. The illusion he had of his younger sister, the little girl always up for a fight, them sneaking it out of their rooms at night to steal lemon-cakes from their father's desk, later to play tennis against one another several times a week. Perhaps now was the time to bury that girl. She had been gone for six years, six years of change for the both of them, was she still the sister he had sent Eklow with an army of rangers north to find those five years ago? Together they had wounded, with varying degree, a dozen soldiers. Varian worried what might have happened had Eklow not already been in the area, hunting down the deserters.
As Varian’s sat in thought, waterdrops began falling from his hair, the snow melting from the heat of the candlelight. The more he had sat in his thoughts, the more his eyes were alight with rage as he held a goblet of wine in his hand, trying to calm his nerves. As Varian’s mother and sister entered the room, they stood in chains before him, which was a handy work of Eklow to ensure that no more of his men would be hurt.

“Long time, brother,” said Narien in a cold greeting, a bruise visible across her forehead.

“Sit down.” he said short as he looked at her. Eylinn was remarkable with her silence, looking down at her chains with an empty stare, life bereft from her eyes. She looked worn, and aged, despite her youthful appearance.

Complying, Narien sank sullenly in a chair across from Varian. “Dark times for our family in the age of peace.”

“Perhaps strife is what keeps our peace.” He said as he nodded to Eklow who brought Eylinn forward to the chair, before removing her chains as well as those of Narien. Eylinn rubbed at her wrists, and gave Eklow a defiant look, as she sat down.

“I managed almost forty years without a Man putting me in chains. I now know the feeling.” She glared at Varian. “But for that Man to be my own son? That I couldn’t have foreseen.”

Varian looked back at her, not much compassion in his eyes, “You act as if I personally gave that order.” He said before looking at them both, “You did not need to fight my soldiers, you made that choice, Eklow acted to ensure that no more of his men needed suffering due to this.”

“I never asked for struggle. I waited for you in Saxon, yet you would not come. Instead you send an army to fetch me. Perhaps this is to be taken as a compliment.” She grinned. “A thousand men needed to bring your mother to heel? Worthy of songs by the skalds if I ever saw it.”

“You did not just wait, you demanded, mother, demanded. You threatened violence from the start.” making Eylinn roar back.

“That is not true. I was met with threats of punishment and imprisonment the moment I stepped into your borders. What was I supposed to do? Diligently placed myself under some ranger guard’s power with the promise of death in Azeratii?” She snorted. “You know me better than to start a struggle. Never did I threaten anyone of them with harm. I said, would they make a move on me or my daughter, I would take their precious weapons away. That is all.”

He considered his response as he drank some wine while looking at Narien’s bruise, “A worthy struggle no doubt.” turning his attention and just staring at his mother for some time, “You arrive in Saxon, you defy the local authorities, you threaten my soldiers in even escorting you to Azeratii. After I sent Eklow you still fought, even after you were to be brought here and not Azeratii, you still fought. You risked the lives of twenty men.” He said as he drank some more wine, it was quick and in anger, “Fuck the men, worse yet you risked your own life, you risked Narien’s life, for what?” He yelled “To show that you were defiant, to try and show you where in command, that you could fight. What in all the Creator’s power got into you?” Eylinn’s tears could not be stayed any longer, as her face twisted in sorrow.

“To see if my own son would strike the head off my shoulders! I didn’t defy anyone! I dared you. To see how far you’d actually go to exact your hate upon me. To not only take away my home, but also that of my children, to banish us from your door and have us hung upon return. I gladly surrendered my life to your mercy the moment I stepped before those guards, and resisted nothing!” She wiped the snot from under her nose, shaking with grief as she blocked her damp eyes with her fists. “And for what?! For inviting the world to what was supposed to be a day of joy, Light, and unity? A day to celebrate peace and venerable love? Who then cares a fucking shit?! How was I to know you’d hate me so?! Or us?! Who?! Whatever did we ever do to you?”

Narien placed a consoling hand on her mother’s shoulder. “This has all gone too far. Had I known what a precarious place we now find ourselves I would have breached the Dwarven vales for home long ago. Surely your intent isn’t to kill your kin, Varian. Are you so ready to take up the mark of kinslayer?”

“That I hate you?” He said as he stood up from the chair, leaning over the table. “You abandoned me! You abandoned me and your home! And you wonder? You think I hate you?” He said in anger, not just for now, but for all the time that he was painted as the ungrateful son, the unworthy brother. “You left me, mother. You used us as pawns, you did not stop once to reconsider, and now. Now you invite my father’s murderers to dinner, they killed him! You think you are the only victim, you think you are innocent of where we are? They killed my father and you invite them to dine, you didn't even bother informing me!” He said as he began shifting towards Narien, looking her directly in the eyes “And why is there even coming a quack from you? You left us six years ago, you ran away. I supported you every single step, even in defiance, and the first thing you do upon your return is to attack men sent under my command only to then come here and accuse me. What gives you the right.” He said as he slammed the table while Eylinn looked at him with her eyes peeled open.

“Pawns?” She looked over at Eklow. “Have they not told you what they planned to do with you when you were but an infant? I asked Asharian why, and all he could answer is how much it would hurt your father. My husband!” She snorted, and whimpered. “Your father was my husband, Varian! You had already made up your mind, and he as well. What could I have done? What would you had wanted me to do? Since I was a child, fighting was all I was ever good for. I could smell war a mile away, and what your father did was practically oozing of it. I didn’t want my children to live through that. And then he left me aswell…” She gritted her teeth. “For that is all war ever does, boy! Haven’t I taught you anything?! All war does is make people leave. For good, and to never return!”

Narien watched her mother in wonder, gleaming insight she had never considered, and a side of her father she hadn’t seen. “Curse Westmarch for taking father away too soon,” she said finally. “Curse father and his hubris that led him on that path. Are we to shun the peoples of Westmarch forever for the banners they fly? What’s done is done, atrocities on all sides from my understanding. Varian, do you not entreat with Kalarians, or is that false news in my ear? Why is it so unforgivable when done in Galadriel yet accepted when from your envoy?”

Varian looked at Eklow, who clearly could see the message in his King's eyes, before quickly nodding and leaving the room. “I do not invite them for bread and drink, to share laughter as we raise our cups in cheers around a campfire. I treat with them as far as I must, because it is my duty to maintain the interests of Ecclestius, but I will not sit and drink with those fuckers, to pretend to be merry.” He responded swift, in quick pace of words before turning to his mother, “You could have stayed, you could been my mother. I don't care if my grandfather was an ass, you left me, you ran away.” A shake in his voice as he uttered the words, he had never forgotten that night, or the following year. He had felt so lonely then, his entire family gone and his father fighting a war. For his mother to call it a choice, it was his home, his inheritance, his life.

“Father?” A weak voice called out, it was dark, the rooms and corridors only lit by the candles. It was overall very dimmed and several of the candles had burned out already, all but the ones around the oak desk. His father’s face was buried in papers, his adviser standing next to the desk with a stack of papers in hand. The advisers face was hidden behind his long hair as he bent over the desk, instructing the old king of the content within. Varian however could recognize the voice, no matter how hushed, the hair, always somewhat greasy and clothes, Rodney.

“Varian? Why are you not in bed?” his father asked, a soft caring voice with a small smile. They hadn't spoken nearly as much since their return, either because of Varian’s anger, or the King’s busy schedule in the face of rebellion.

“P-please make them come home.” Varian said hoping that his father would finally give in.

Ra’Gru sighed and frowned as he looked upon his son, “I’ve told you, your mother will come home when she feels ready. You want to send her another letter?” He asked, trying to make the young prince feel better.

“Please?” Varian asked, a flicker of light from the candle revealing his face to his father properly for the first time, making the old king tilt his head slightly to the side, grinding his teeth.

“Varian, come here.” he said as his son walked forward, “no over here.” He said, directing him to come over to him behind the desk. The old king placed his hands on son’s cheeks, wiping away the tears. “Varian, please.” His father just pleaded.

“Please.” Varian once again pleaded, tears now streaming down as he cried, his father pulling him closer and hugging him, trying to comfort Varian, to little avail.

“-proudly too.” Eylinn sniffled, bringing Varian out of his memory. “If I couldn’t bring in all four, I had to at least protect your sisters from it. I’m not asking you to understand, nor forgive.” She stated as she stared at her knees. “I thought that at least my husband would keep our son safe.” She quivered. “And to see that never happens again, what happened to him, what happened to you, I would both break bread with those fuckers and drink the piss of their wine! I would even pretend to be merry! But it wasn’t just lords of Westmarch. I would break bread with the Norse, even with Kalare, who slaughtered our people and bound them in chains. So tired am I of war and conflict. That is the decision I made.” She crossed her arms. “And had you bothered to help with the wedding preparations, you would had known of my decision and the reason for it. So saw both me and my queen fit the responsibility of a step closer towards healing a world in rifts and marred of the Dark One’s onslaught.”

“I'm not you.” He said short as he sat down. “I'm not your double, I am not a different you, you may sit with them, that does not mean I can bring myself to it.” He said as he just looked at her with a hint of sadness in his eyes before he sighed and continued. “Not once did it cross your mind, did it? To ask about how I felt about it, to even inform me. You may have forgiven, you might have been willing, Im not, had you just sent a letter you would have known.” Eylinn sobbed, albeit calmer than before.

“You seemed uncaring, Varian. I thought such matters had become below you. This last year I can hardly recognize you. Rude, mean, and even insulting to your family. You spite your aunt for no reason, and make your sister feel like nothing but a tool in your pocket. She gladly accept her duty, and you write it on her face? Then you banish us under the pain of death!”

“You think I was happy with what happened?” he asked her “My sister may feel like a tool, and I am sorry if she feels as such, but as for my aunt, dont. Anwën should not feel as a tool, but that does not change that we are all just tools at one point in life, Evhana made sure of teaching me that, and I will not sit and be preached about love by her.”

“I care not what you want to hear. It is a matter of concern I’ve yet seen from you. How callously and easy it seem to make the most cruel comments upon your family, that is my concern.” Eylinn rose, and stretched over the table to look him in the eye. “So if you intend to stick to your fucking decree, then strike off my head here and be done with it! For the Creator’s mercy, I do no longer wish to suffer hearing my shortcomings one after another if I’m to die anyhow!”

“This is getting is nowhere!” Narien put in, her eyes telling of the fear of what may come next. “If we let circumstances drive us apart so, there’s no telling where it might end up, what consequences that not only we will face, but all of Agorath! Varian, I urge you, in the name of Light and crown, rescind your decree. We have real problems ahead of us that we will be unable to face if we allow grudges of the past dictate our actions,” She pleaded, trying to sound sure of herself.

“If you are about to say that you found Duncan in the wastes and religion in your trials, that you have found a greater calling, i'm smacking you.” Varian sighed and looked at his mother “I wont have you killed, don't be dumb, but if you wish to speak with me, you will have to care. You say I am the only to exchange cruel gestures and rude comments not to mention being sick of hearing your faults, yet it has stopped no one in this family to constantly return the favour.”

“Dumb?” Eylinn said as she looked around. “What is this? A jest? You deal death penalties on a jest?”

“For the sake of the creator, you are my mother.” She shook her head in disbelief.

“At least of that we agree.” Eylinn said as she sat back down. “I cannot recall a single moment I’ve been either cruel or rude to you, Varian. I will say my peace, whenever, but I would never treat you ill. If you cannot see that, I have failed in my role for a very long time. Frankly, I do not know which is worse.”

“Mother, we have done what we set out to do, have we not?” Said Narien. “We have defied the vile clutches of Eklow and secured our lives from the decree of the king. I swear Varian, if you ever set that man upon me again I’ll visit a fate upon you so bad the minstrels will shy from singing of it! Clearly there is much to mend, but can we at least find some common ground to move forward, a goal that we can set our minds to?! I believe Anwen is in very real danger!”

“In that case I shall not restrain him again.” Varian merely responded. “As for Anwën, I know, I felt it as well, marriage can be truly dreadful, apart from that I see no reason to think she would be in danger.”

“You’re reign will be short, Varian, I swear it!” Narien said with a cautionary finger, allowing the hint of a smile. “But it’s funny you should mention religion…” She hesitated. “I had a dream, no not a dream. A vision, more like. Well I don’t know what to call it, but it's something that Anwen and I both shared, and I saw her death.”

Varian just looked unimpressed, “And you want me to?”

Narien sighed. “I don’t expect you to believe it. You’ve always been a man of facts and figures, yet I tell you the danger is real, and there is Darkness at work.” She raised her chin confidently to face Varian. “Lend me the services of Sir Lucias of Eklow and his knight errants. See to the safety of your sister and by the Light, let’s be a family again!”

“Fine, just don't get him killed, or yourself for that matter.” Varian sighed and looked at his mother, “So mother, where do we go from here?” Her eyes were still tired, yet her sobbing had stopped.

“I never intended on stop being your mother. What else can I offer?” She wiped her nose. “In a political sense, it’s not well. With good conscience to my people, I cannot accept concessions in regards to mending our relationship by any pardon. It looks bad enough a Human outlawed an Elf from his domain. Revoking the banishment seem the most logical.”

“You wish to return to Luríen in that case? To protect your daughter from this perceived threat?” Varian asked as he sipped some more wine. Eylinn shook her head.

“She must go on this quest alone. I still have our domains to watch over. Irritable Nords to stand vigil against, and our dear Dwarves in upheaval. I need to look over both mine, and the kingdom’s troops as it stands.” Eylinn nodded towards Narien. “Her sister will take care of her.” She smiled. “Finer, or crazier, swordswoman would be hard to find in Ecclestius.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Narien grinned.

“With any luck the Dwarves will just kill themselves, saving us later trouble.” Varian said with half a smile, half a hope. “But as you wish, do however send a letter next time you want to contact me, it would be best to avoid more skirmishes.” Eylinn raised an eyebrow.

“Should that be necessary? I thought this debacle was over and done with.”

“Rather be clear than waking up to another suprise. Don't worry, it's jest.”Eylinn sighed, but pulled the corners of her mouth into a smile. She stood and walked around the table towards Varian, opening her arms.

Varien looked at her with a slight sigh before tilting his head in acceptance, they may be happy, contend, but he was not. They made have made their peace, settled their newest dispute, but this would take longer time to heal, at least for him, but he would not deny his mother this as she pulled his head into an embrace, without taking a no for an answer.

“Now bring us food and drink lest we think you rude,” quipped Narien, “and let’s be content to think that this ugliness is behind us, and I hope it is.”
 

BlackBishop

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Several letters are sent to the neighboring areas within Hroniden proper baring a familiar seal

175px-Gridania_Flag.png


To the Rulers of Mutikabir, Damasiz and Herasnia:

You are hereby cordially invited to the Emirate of Shiek, there are many matters to discuss first and foremost the on-going war that has engulfed much of Hroniden. We face a threat larger than ourselves. As Padishah I beseech you to at the very least come to my lands and grant me an audience, only I will not be the sole person requesting your presence. Grand Paladin Duncan from Light's Basin will be present as well. In fact he is already here. He bears a message for all of you to hear, personally. Shiek is prepared to act as a neutral party to discuss and possibly find a solution, to the current conflict. Come yourselves or bring a retinue, it matters not so long as our laws and peace is observed. I will receive you all at the docks or at the border myself if need be. We must make haste.

~Hassam Khanduras Sabir, Padishah of the Emirate of Shiek​

251px-QorgyleCoA.png

Lord Jayr Arshad
House Arshad
Chancellor of the Mutikabir Council


As this is the month of Serpentine, a holy month for Hroniden and celebration of life, the Council of Nine will grant you an audience venerable Padishah. Expect myself, Lord Mus'ab al-Sayed, as well as Lord Rushdi al-Yacoub to represent the Nine.


Expect us on the seventh day of Serpentine, along with a retinue to ensure the safety of our persons. Under current circumstances we deem it necessary.

~ Jayr Arshad, Chancellor
 
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BlackBishop

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Smoke in the Wind
Serpentine, 21st Year of the New Age

The hot desert air blew over the dunes, carrying the heat from the sand. It swept over Shiek like a warm embrace, rekindling in some of those windburnt faces the memories of lost love. Sitting alone, a man exhaled a puff of silver smoke from a hookah, lost in thought. Not even the expansive view beyond the balcony from which he's perched could rouse him, the canvas of crimson sand and fiery palm trees abask in dusk's glow going unappreciated.

"I love you Jayr.
...I love you."

Said a voice from his not too distance past. Accompanying the voice was the recollection of slashing steel and blood. The man shut his eyes, turning to the side with a grimace, dropping the mouthpiece of the hookah in his lap. Why must my memories of her lead to that horrible finality?

Jayr Arshad picked up the mouthpiece with a sigh, drawing a long breath from the hookah, as it bubbled and smoked. He wore turban wound upon his crown, a jet black beard, and piercing green eyes, and an orange silk sash across his chest and waist. Suddenly he became aware of another figure lingering in the shadows of dusk.

"Ah. I thought I was alone," Jayr said in surprise.

"You were," the man said with a peculiar Ecclestian accent. "I only just stepped out. Beautiful view, no?"

"That is an interesting accent you have there," Jayr noted. "Erendorian?"

"Thaanosian," he said, taking a seat on the scattered pillows circled the hookah.

"You must be Duncan of Westmarch," Jayr guessed.

He smiled. "Yes, at your service, Lord Arshad."

Arshad tilted his head inquisitively. "At my service, really? And what is it you offer?"

"I offer guidance, my lord. The Light's will is often muddled and needs clarity."

Jayr laughed at this. "The warrior priest! Kill and maim for the Light, hmm? The will of the Creator, is it?"

Duncan raised an eyebrow, as if recognizing a challenge. "This is the mortal world, my lord, in all its cruelties. I accept that, but will not shun the divine. May I join you?"

"You may, mage. But do not hope to preach. You would only be wasting your time."

"Very well, though I am not here to convert you." Duncan let a slow inhale of smoke fill his lungs. "I am here to discuss matters of mutual benefit."

"Ah yes," chortled Jayr. "The purpose of this summit."

"You doubt terms can be reached?" Duncan asked bluntly.

Jayr set Duncan with a steady gaze. "You must be an important man to summon the lords of Hroniden to you."

The paladin blushed, raising his hands palms out. "I was preparing my ship for Mutikabir mere days ago. It was the Padishah that summoned you here. Ask yourself why he would do such a thing?"

"Your reasons are clear enough; Karmont has invaded Vahamil." Jayr said with a shrug. "You deem the Light Basin is under threat and need help to secure it. Cut to the chase, mage, as to why I should give a damn."

"Why you should give a damn?" Duncan questioned with a furrowed brow, becoming flushed. "Well I'll tell you. Without the Light Basin protecting your western border, how long do you think Hroniden will stand?"

Jayr clapped his hands in amusement, laughing heartily. "Oh please! The war is over, mage. The West is defeated. Broken. They are no threat to Hroniden, merely a threat to your supply lines. We have our own problems that supersede your caravans."

Duncan bristled. "That's Your Grace, my lord." Jayr merely raised a dismissive hand. "You underestimate the power of Karmont. There's much my rangers have uncovered. They can challenge Hroniden, certainly now, divided as you are!"

"Oh please! Birch needed the power of Gods, the impotent pustule, in order to threaten Hroniden. What can his disillusioned worshipers possibly do to endanger us?"

"Look how easily a rabble of Elves took the west banks of the Amenra," Duncan said pointedly, a wisp of smoke escaping his lips and curling to the darkening sky. "What do you think an army of fifty thousand sweeping down from Vahamil could achieve?"

Jayr's smile faded. Duncan rose from the comfort of the pillows. "See you at the summit, my lord."

Jayr nodded after a moment. "Your Grace."
 
Last edited:

baboushreturns

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Portents of a Bloody Future

Blood, feces and the smell of woodsmoke clung to the air as Oruk made his way through the field of corpses that greeted him before the gates of Yroh fortress. Stepping through the mud, his guards behind him, Oruk's eyes scanned the old battlefield. For hundreds of yards all that greeted him was the sight of half starved Yroh warriors locked in their death pose with his men sprinkled around them. The cries of the wounded had long ceased and the smell of rotting flesh had long since replaced their screams. On the other side of the field, near the gates of the fortress he spotted several orcs waving at him, their hands in the air a head clenched in one of their fists. That was why he was walking across this field of death once again. Reports had been filtering in all day from his scouts that there was a great commotion was taking place within Yroh fortress and at high noon the banner of Chief Gaakt had been severed replaced with a new banner. Several hours later several emaciated tribesmen had emerged from the fortress, surrendering themselves and reporting to Oruk's men that Chief Gaakt had been killed by his sole remaining son who intended to surrender the fortress to him. Now it was time to see if these reports were true.

When Oruk finally reached the party of warriors standing alone almost fifty yards from the gates of the fort he was unsurprised by their state. Their leather and copper armor hung off of them in and their bones showed through the tightly stretched skin on their faces. Their black hair was matted down to their skulls and was colored brown, stained with blood and dirt. All of them looked weak and he wondered how many would last another week in their present condition. He waited for them to say something, staring down each of his sworn enemies in turn. An orc on the left was the first to speak. "King Oruk, your call has been answered, several hours ago Chief Gaakt's last remaining son, Gait Serpent Tusk launched a savage assault upon his father and succeeded in wresting control of the fortress from the old man." Suddenly a head was flung into the dirt by another member of the party. "Here is his head as you requested. We are here to surrender the fortress to your forces and open the gates to your men."

Oruk kicked at the thing with his foot a grimace struck plain across his face. He turned to General Corgak leader of the famed wargs and said "Summon the men we march into Yroh today." Turning back to the half starved contingent of wilder orcs he barked "Well what are you waiting for take me inside the fortress!" The wilder's were cowed and several minutes later the gates to the place were opened. Inside the smell was worse than out on the battlefield and suddenly the taste of acid and bile at the back of the King's throat reminded him to swallow hard and not breath too deeply. He looked at the orcs who had brought them in and yelled in his harshest tone to "Bring me Serpent Tusk!". They bowed before him and as he waited for the welch the remaining garrison of the once proud fortress began gathering around them. Many of them were unable to walk upright for their wounds and even fewer had the strength to carry a sword or shield anymore. Soon his own men started to arrive at the fortress gates and Corgak along with his other lieutenants began channeling the fortress garrison out of the gates while Oruk waited for Gait to arrive.

Several minutes later he would, the young orc looked just as starved as his men but his hair was clean and his armor looked well cared for, especially in contrast with the vagabonds who now made up his army. Oruk would speak first this time. "I hear you have, in accordance with my request murdered your father and have finally made the garrison come to its senses about surrendering...very interesting Gait." The young orc simply bowed before him quivering with what Oruk thought to perhaps be fear or nerves. Regardless when Oruk completed his sentence Gait spoke softly to him. "Yes, as you can see my lord, the fortress is yours I will be your most faithful servant my lord, name me ruler over these lands as my father was." At this Oruk simply scoffed. "Oh do not speak of devotion to me you worm. You slaughtered your own father did you not? You used treachery and betrayal to advance your own means. I will never accept a vassal like that with open arms. For I could not sleep a wink at night knowing such a man was there to watch my back." Instead Gait Serpent Tusk, instead here you will meet your end like your father and your brothers did. There will never again be a Yroh who rules over these lands."

As Oruk spoke the smaller orc flinched and when Oruk was finished he drew his sword and with a swift clean slash severed Gait's head from his body. The wilds would be his and there would be no sharing them.
 

Mikkel Glahder

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To the Rulers of Mutikabir, Damasiz and Herasnia:

You are hereby cordially invited to the Emirate of Shiek, there are many matters to discuss first and foremost the on-going war that has engulfed much of Hroniden. We face a threat larger than ourselves. As Padishah I beseech you to at the very least come to my lands and grant me an audience, only I will not be the sole person requesting your presence. Grand Paladin Duncan from Light's Basin will be present as well. In fact he is already here. He bears a message for all of you to hear, personally. Shiek is prepared to act as a neutral party to discuss and possibly find a solution, to the current conflict. Come yourselves or bring a retinue, it matters not so long as our laws and peace is observed. I will receive you all at the docks or at the border myself if need be. We must make haste.

~Hassam Khanduras Sabir, Padishah of the Emirate of Shiek​

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To the Padishah of Shiek
I will attend this "conference" even though I am sceptical of its attempts at anything meaningful and I am also sceptical of this "Grand" Paladin Duncan. He seems like nothing but a pauper.

~ The Emir of Damasiz
 

Galren

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To Hassam Khanduras Sabir, Padishah of the Emirate of Shiek,

I will grant an audience to both you, respected sir, and Grand Paladin Duncan along with my chancellor Masoud Ali due to an interest in what you both have to say. A retinue of soldiers will also accompany and I hope their presence will be tolerated due to strained relations between Mutikabir and myself.

- Zaahir Farah Rostani, Shah of Herasnia
 

Sneakyflaps

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Varian’s Various Loves
(Partly joint IC with Pluto)


The sweet taste of wine still danced on Varian’s tongue as he danced around in the middle of the ballroom together with lady Garrett, having returned the day before from Auril. Only to having to ride back in a few days’ time to speak with his sister, who had decided to stay there. Lady Garrett was not particularly pretty or in possession of great intellect, but she was a good dancer so she had caught the eye of several members of the court, much to a content smile upon her father’s lips as she danced with Varian. Though the King’s eyes lingered on another, someone standing further back in the crowd offering him a smile before giving a small nod and heading off. She had stood beneath the winter decorations, branches and leaves finely decorated to celebrate the coming of the New Year, and the first defeat of the Dark One and the Kingdom’s namesake. As the winter progressed through the Kingdom, a few of the more unfortunate peasants and the beggars freezing to death in the cold, nothing was different for the nobility. Roasted meats aplenty for the picking, cakes and sugary goods for all, the latter which was in great increase within the royal court thanks to the King’s sweet tooth.

As the music came to an end the crier banged the floor three times, as befit of any member of the royal family and called out the proper address, followed by the title and name of her Majesty, Queen Anne. She stood proudly with her back straightened, she took short steps with a quiet pace and as she moved forward, the court began to move out to the sides, clearing the floor, leaving Varian stand in the middle as he turned to his wife.

As she stood before him, she dropped to her knees, lowering her head submissively in gesture as she took a breath before she began her speech. “Your gracious Majesty, my husband, I come before you as your humble wife, as my conscience and the heavy weight upon my heart has forced me into inability to continue down this path without redress. We are well aware that the Queen Dowager has offended you most deeply, gone against your wishes and the wisdom granted to you by the Creator when she broke your decree in defiance.

Her offenses are many and great, but she is my mother-in-law by marriage, both that of ours and that of your father, and I ask for you to show mercy to her. She has been a mother, as any other true mother, to your Majesty in his most fragile and darkest hours. I beg you for the sake of your health, your humors and your conscience to forgive her transgressions. For while she is no mother of blood, she is one of spirit. Forgive her transgressions against your Majesty, and be the force of mercy, for she is but a woman, with all the imperfections of her sex and uncontrolled emotions that so plague us.

If not for my sake or that of your conscience, then do it for the wellbeing of your children, whom the Queen Dowager is as of a grandmother to, just as she was a mother for Your Majesty. They love her deeply and I ask that if for nothing else but the innocence, love and happiness of your children, to stay your most gracious hand and show the kindness and love which I so found in you upon our early years of marriage.” And with that the Queen rose from the floor as whispers circulated the room, most of the courtiers more focused on the nobility next to them than the King and Queen, with Varian himself standing there, staring at his Queen as walked away.

It did not take long before the festivities died down and the King sat by a fire in his rooms. He didn’t look up as his wife approached, lost in thought as he stared into the fire. “Quite good, no?” The Queen asked as she approached him, thanking Thomas who offered her a goblet with wine before sitting down next to her husband, looking at him staring at the fire. “Even you looked surprised.” She said with a contended laugh, “Now then, I want the necklace you promised me for doing this.” With Varian just responding with a slow nod as she looked at him, “Weakness of emotions,” Anne said as she shook her head, giggling, “you know Varian, perhaps if you learned to control your anger when it concerned your father, you wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.” She said before the Queen placed her hand on her husbands, “Varian, are you listening?” To which he nodded.

“I am.” He said as she gained a smile on her lips.

“Thank you,” she responded, caressing his hand with her thump, “When you are with them be yourself, be Eylinn’s son, Anwën’s brother, don’t just be the king, they are not your subjects, they are your family, be a person, your person, not a figure. You changed within the last couple of years, and not all for the better. Convince them not with heavy words, decrees or commands, be gentle, show your feelings, your opinions, your thoughts and they will listen to them. They love you Varian, if you do not take care then you will lose them, maybe not today, but eventually.” She stopped herself, taking his hand into hers before continuing. “I don’t want to see you hurt, you may try and hide it, pretend not to care, but I know you better.” She said before she sat back quiet, drinking the rest of her wine and giving a small sigh. “Is she in there?” She finally asked as she looked towards Varian’s bedchamber while rising from her chair, which just made him nod once again.

“She is.” He said, with the Queen slightly frowning before shaking her head and regaining her smile.

“Come visit my bed tomorrow.” She responded, leaving Varian with a surprised look before she continued “What you told me Nienna said was right, there comes a time. I’m tired of being angry, of being alone and lonely, there comes a time.” She smiled as she spoke and leaned down, kissing him on the cheek. “I wish you a happy night, husband. Just don’t tell her I said that.” She said before she straightened herself back up, starting to turn before she stopped herself. “Oh, and apologize to your aunt, banishing her was below you, no matter what issues you had in the past, deep down you know that as well.” As she took the first step away, he took a hold of her hand, placing a kiss upon it.

“I will be there early tomorrow.” He said as she nodded her head, still smiling at her husband as they wishes one another goodnight as she left the King to his thoughts, eventually to retire to his bed. This changed little as his mistress laid beside him, as he for a long time just stared into the air, becoming more and more contend, until he eventually rolled over and embraced Valria. “Have you decided what to wear for Linwë’s masquerade?” He asked softly as he gently nudged his head against her shoulder.

Valria sighed happily, shaking her head. “I think maybe a butterfly?” She answered without much certainty. “It is not so easy as your inevitable lion, I assume?”

Varian laughed, “Would you prefer that I dressed differently?” He asked as he looked at her. “What else if not a butterfly?” He asked her, eager to see what else she wished.

“No, it’s not that, I only meant that your heraldry makes for a rather obvious choice,” She turned her head to meet his gaze. “My husband’s is a stag, quite noble, but not entirely suiting for a womans mask I don’t think.”

Varian was lost in thought for a moment, “Well if not a butterfly, maybe a hummingbird? songbird.” he shrugged, “A peacock?” He said in jest.

“A hummingbird would not be so bad I think, and I always do like watching them in the gardens.” She looked at him and smiled. “You seem better.”

“Was I ill?” He asked as he returned her smile.

“No…” Valria answered somewhat hesitantly, “but you were certainly unhappy yesterday. I figured that things had gone poorly.”

Varian sighed deeply as he laid down on his back and looked up onto the painting in the ceiling, studying it for a short time. It was fairly new, having been repainted while he was in Saxon earlier in the year. “It didn't go worse than I expected, not the meeting at least. I had however hoped that my mother would have come without a fight, and preferably without being in chains for that matter. Not even to begin talking about Narien.”

Valria frowned upon hearing that, but thought better than to confront Varian. “Well...I am sorry, but you seem well now at least, as I said.”

“I have been thinking of inviting my sister to stay for the masquerade and celebrations, but knowing her she is probably dying to get away already.” He said with a hint of sadness in his voice, and he was, despite her having changed he had hoped she would have stayed, if only for a month, a week.

“Perhaps not,” she offered with a smile. “And it cannot hurt to ask, if she says no it is no different than if you never even tried.”

Varian nodded before gaining a grin across his face, “I have a gift for you this coming spring, but I cannot decide, have you earned it?” He asked playfully as he looked at with a soft smile.

“A gift for spring?” She asked curiously, before nodding confidently. “I think I have, yes.”

“So confident all of the sudden.” He responded with a laugh, “”I am always so unsure when I think of it, maybe you will just have to work harder to convince me.”

She thought for a moment before raising an eyebrow at him. “How am I to know that I even want to convince you? What if your gift is worthless?” She teased.

Varian shrugged as he looked at her, faking uncertainty “Who knows, you will simply have to work all the harder to find out.”

Valria rolled to her side, looking deep in thought, before raising a finger triumphantly. “Oh, I’ve got it. Perhaps the queen knows! She is quite aware of what goes on in Azeratii after all, I could ask her!”

“Oh she has wits no doubt, perhaps she truly does know what lay in my mind.” He said as he looked upon her. “Or maybe she would want the gift for herself, are you willing to take that risk?”

“What other choice do I have?” She giggled. “Surely by now you recognize that I am hardly a fan of hard work.”

“You must use your imagination.” He said as gently pinched her, “if I cannot reward you, I will have to punish you instead.”

Valria yelped at the surprising pinch, before laughing again. “Should that frighten me then?” Varian tilted his head as he looked at her, this time responding by spanking her. “Ow,” she cried, before giggling again. “How dare you!” She managed to say, before he did it once more…

Two days later, the edicts issued upon the wedding were repelled.
 

BlackBishop

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A Regal Hunt

Snowfall, 21st Year of the New Age
A Bishop Sneaky Collaboration

The frost tinged undergrowth of the woodland gave way before the horses’’ feet. The crunch underfoot seemed to be intensified ten fold contrasted by the quiet of the forest. A fulmar above them spread it’s wings screeched a warning call as it guarded over its nest. Despite the sounds, seeming so loud in the silence, Narien knew the wind was on their side, masking their approach as they followed the tracks with bows in hand.

“Does it hurt?” Varian asked referring to her bruise as he rode next to her, the forest around them, or what was left of the forest now that both autumn and winter had taken its toll.

“I’ve had worse scrapes.” Narien responded in a hushed tone, her eyes scanning the trees ahead. “Thank you for your concern though, brother,” she added, giving him a sly smile.

He let out a small chuckle as he watched ahead, not really interested in the birds above. “So why return now? Did the dream really scare you that much? Six years and barely a word.”

“It did.” Narien’s horse, Harthil knickered as a hunting dog trotted ahead of them, it’s nose twitching at the air. “It was no dream neither… It was like the magic of a Seeing Stone, a vision ushered by some arcane source that I do not know.”

Varian sighed, riding along as he shook his head, “You know why we don't use them anymore, you remember, they corrupt, spin false tales of darkness and deceit, convincing the receiver with lies. We of all people show know this, what happened to those that used it, what happened to father.”

“You’re right,” Narien conceded. “Yet this did not come from a stone, it just seemed similar. Regardless it's impossible to ignore. If you seen it, I know you’d agree.”

“Yet I haven't.” he said, stopping for a moment just looking at her before continuing “What I worry about is you, not Anwën. You race from region to region, with no stop, seeking danger and war.”

Narien shrugged. “I have a lot to live up to. We all do. I suppose I’m looking for meaning, some role to play beyond the drudgery of court. Hopefully one day I’ll find it. Maybe I have.”

“Ever considered that the reason you haven't found it is because you never stop to see where you are? Instead of constantly running about.” Varian eyes grew worried when he looked at her, “What happened in Norseland, with the Half-Moon boy, you defied almost all, the court, your whole way of life, all for love and yet in a year it was over. Worse yet, why never come home, not even a visit, you knew we missed you.”

“I was infatuated with the Norse. Their rugged code of honour, the celebrated shield maidens… I wanted so much to be a part of that I was blind to Half-Moon’s faults. Once we were married it became all too clear. I was but a trophy, a shiny trinket from the south to summon and discard at leisure. When I refused to play this role, the beatings were meant to remind me. So I plunged a knife in his heart and ran away and didn’t stop until the West was before me.” Narien fumed. After a moment she calmed, giving a conciliatory gaze to her brother. “I should have come back, just all the responsibility I felt upon me was crushing. I needed to be free. I suppose to look back I feared I might be chained by it again. I don’t think I feel that way anymore.”

Varian’s smile disappeared as Narien’s story continued until he eventually had a deep frown and shook his head, looking down at his horse “It was very wrong for you to run away.” He said before looking up with a slight grin, “You still owed me a lemoncake after that last tennis match.” He tried at the very least to cheer her up until his tone became more serious once more, “Though I am truly sorry you had to endure it, you should have come home, or written home the first time he beat you, I would have stopped it. Mother would have stormed down the gates of the Norse until she found him.”

“Of that I have no doubt” Narien smiled. “I needed to handle it on my own, though. Maybe to prove I wasn’t some mere trophy, you know?”

Varian nodded, “I do, more than you might think so.” He smiled, “Its funny, no? Most families has a dark sheep, we have two. Father would have done all he could to prevent the path you have taken, mother curses the path I am taking, it seems only Anwën is blessed with the right path.”

Narien’s face strained with concern. “I fear for Anwen, I truly do. I might have agreed with you a year ago, but now…” She shivered a memory from her mind. “Tell me about the path you walk, brother. Where are you steering Ecclestius. I heard tidings of war with Westmarch. Is this so?”

Varian sighed and shrugged, “One moment its war, another its peace. My navy had a skirmish with Kalar last spring, we won, naturally.” He said cocky and self-confident, though it was clear that he made it sound just a bit more so on purpose. “But the new.. Whatever they call their leader gave me a rather favourable treaty, so for now there is peace. Which may be gone in a year, maybe two, maybe a month.” Varian said uncertain. “As for the path, I am unsure if you truly wish to know.”

“Westmarch cannot hope to win a war with us, surely they must know that. But come, tell me. What’s on the horizon for Ecclestius?”

“Reforms, centralization and hopefully prosperity. There are several projects underway across the kingdom, a very large census is taking place, far larger than any of the old Emperors ever attempted. All of which has its cost, the path of Ecclestius with any luck will be one of green pastures, what I leave in my wake is already far more bloody.” Varian chuckled, “But as long as I pay the writers, get enough paintings and make it all appear glorious, I have no doubt we can leave out a few details for later generations, and while Westmarch cannot win a war, the Rill would flow red before it was over.”

“I agree. I hope it does not come to that. What of your family, Varian? Do they fare well?”

“Anne is faring better, she wants a necklace that one of the goldsmiths in the city designed, he has yet to craft it however, due to the price of it. Ana decides on a new favorite colour every week, and wants her dolls dressed in it, Eylinn cries when she doesn't get Ana’s dolls. On the good side then Ares cries less at night.” Varian looked at her with a smile, “When he is two I will make him Prince of Varanu.” A content smile on his lips before he asked her, “I take it you still have no wish for a family?”

“I wish I could stay longer, I’d love to meet them. One day soon, brother, I promise. As for me, I can’t say I’ve ever given it much thought, aside from the fancies of my youth. I suppose I should before age begins to creep. I just can’t imagine a litter of brats screaming about my feet and bosom,” Narien laughed.

Varian laughed, “Do as I do and get a wetnurse. When you do finally decide to have children, at least pick someone half decent this time, every door is open to you. Preferably find someone who is rich, dumb as a door and has no interest in politics.”

“You left out handsome,” she smirked.

Varian just laughed, “It's a husband, not a lover. If he is ugly as sin, you can always rest assured that you have him for yourself.”

“A fair point!”

“It is indeed.” He said as he looked at her, “So why do you want to keep Lucias, I thought you would have hated having him near you. Eklow also asked for him, apparently he wasn't with you, probably for the best or Edward would have ripped him a new one.”

“I didn’t like it at first, but Chief Einir was raising his banners and I couldn’t exactly turn down a troop of Ecclestian knights,” she shrugged. “And I suppose he did grow on me. He’s good in a fight, and not exactly the spoiled brat I remembered from Azeratii.”

“I suppose.” Varian said as he shrugged. “Just send him by Edward before you leave.” he rode a bit forward looking back at her, “I take it I can't convince you to stay until spring, there is the annual party in Linwë’s mansion, I think you might even enjoy it.”

“I am tempted truly, but I must see to Anwen. I hope Edward will be content with a letter. Sir Lucius stayed behind in Galadriel after all, and I don’t intend to linger.”

“Tell him that I am not going to forgive him next time if he abandons his charge, or if he fails to return as is his duty once he finds it complete.” Varian said, clearly annoyed at the man.

Narien blushed. “He would have… that is if mother hadn’t compelled him to remain in Lurien.”

“If mother hadn't compelled him?” Varian just asked, “And how did mother compel him, I have tasted Galadrian wine, it's not that good to forsake an oath and duty for.”

Narien attempted to laugh it off. “Well, you know mother. She can be quite persuasive.”

Varian sighed and straightened on the horse, “What did she do?” He asked, his voice already giving his rather ill expectations away.

Narien sighed. “She sort of had him arrested… It’s not what you think!” She said quickly, seeing anger rise in her brother’s face. “We planned to cross the border despite pain of death! He threatened to warn of our coming and we couldn’t risk some mad errant looking to win your favour with our heads, not to mention we were unsure of the state of your mind.”

Varian just looked at her, his mouth slightly open “Unfucking believable. She put him in prison!?” He said with clear anger before just looking up at his sister, “Send him home.”

“More like house arrest,” Narien urged. “We could have been killed and we couldn’t risk him escalating the confrontation. Peace endured, did it not? Let it go, Varian.”

“You put him in prison” He said, although with less anger, “You march into Saxon and fight my soldiers and you are afraid he will escalate tensions?” He just asked somewhat dumbfounded, “If you were worried for your life then send a letter. Why in the Creator's love would I agree to order him to follow you any further. You left him in a prison to go fight for only the Creator knows why.”

Narien pulled the reigns to halt Harthil, staring crossly at Varian. “You banished Anwen and mother from Ecclestius under pain of death! Death, Varian! Yes in hindsight, perhaps a letter would have been easier to gain what we achieved but you saw mother. She’s at her wit’s end! We needed to see you, to put this to rest, and he was an unknown that mother couldn’t risk. Let it go… For me?”

Varian sighed, “Ugh, fine, you really want me to order someone you left in jail, to follow you around? If you want one I can just send you someone else.”

“I’d rather Lucius. I’ve grown accustomed to him and his men. I’d prefer men I know beside me if we need to fight.”

Varian sighed again, “Fine, on the condition that if you stand with the choice once more, you dont leave them in prison while you run off to play warrior.”

Narien smiled, urging Harthil forward once again. “Very well, I promise I won’t leave Lucius in prison next time… Though I will confess the more I think on it the more I am amused by it!” He just shook his head as he followed her. “He will be so pleased Your Majesty is so concerned with his well being,” she grinned.

Just then a rustling up ahead caused the dogs to spring into action. Narien dug her heels into the hind quarter of Harthil, Varian’s stallion close behind. An arrow whizzed by her head from Varian, yet she hadn’t spotted their prey just yet, masked in the twisted brambles ahead.

She released the reins, trusting Harthil to catch up to the elusive deer. The string of the bow strained as she pulled the arrow back as far as it could go, the birchwood sighing as it was pulled to its limit. In an instant the deer appeared, its eyes black with fear as it ran madly for its life, dogs barking just behind it. She released the bowstring, and the arrow whistled, carried by a gust wide off its mark.

For several more miles they gave chase, until they found the doe lying in a ravine of downed poplars and firs. It panted frosty breath as it lay there, waiting to die. Varian’s arrow had pierced it, so the death blow fell to him.

The creature screamed as it was bled out, halting suddenly as Varian pierced the heart with Narien looking on. She watched her brother carry out the task with grim efficiency, his actions instinctual judging by his swift work. He did what was necessary, letting no distractions hamper what needed to be done.

Narien loved Varian, her brother despite not being bound by blood, unbeknownst to him. But in that moment, and after what transpired over the past week, there was something else…

There was fear.
 
Last edited:

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Baby Steps
(A co-op with BlackBishop)​

Back at the Palace of the Just, the seat of power for both Shiek and House Sabir, Duncan was eagerly awaiting the return of the Padishah. The candle-style chandeliers were dormant, yet they swung ominously above his head. It was dawn. In fact, much of the grounds have yet to stir as the immediate area was eerily silent. Originally he was slated to stay for a mere night but once Hassam recommended his stay be extended in order to facilitate the arrival of all interested parties, it was hard to refuse.

The morning rays were barely breaking through the high-top palace windows, a small group of armed High Blades stood at attention, the sole custodians of the throne room; the Paladin their pseudo prisoner. Once the large double wooden doors opened, the Grand Paladin’s host strolled through, seemingly gliding over the lavender carpet that lined the center of the modest space. He had a somewhat pleased, if slightly guarded look on his face.

Duncan, adorned in a fine silk robe, appeared to have making the most of his time among the markets outside the castle. Bowing as the Padishah entered, and catching the pleased look on Hasam’s face, he approached. “I trust your venture was a success, Your Eminence?”

With a sharp nod, Sabir spoke. “All parties have been contacted, all accepted. Though Damasiz is the more skeptical. Of you in particular. The most promising is Mutikibir. However, I must say that was not the hard part. What comes next is. I am sure you know the various points that will be discussed. Reparations to the city in exchange for any seized property to be returned to Shah Rostani and his allie’s next of kin since allegedly his ally in the 6th Ward if I am not mistaken was killed, this is what I plan for those two. The city faces riots for food, I will continue to smooth it over by offering food to the city, I can send Lord Jayr Arshad a caravan of food now that the Amenra River has begun the early season flooding. It wouldn’t be free but it would be a gesture of goodwill to help improve the situation.”

Sabir paused, taking a deep breathe. “However, would Damasiz accept this if the city does as well or would he continue on his own initiative to fight Shah Rostani? Another point will be succession, no doubt at least two of all of us involved want to unite Hroniden under their banner, and claim the crown. In fact, Rostani may not seek the crown but he has his own backer, Nasir Ayyubid. So everyone has a claim, but me.” Hassam smirked.

Duncan stroked his beard. “We should keep in mind that it is a white peace we seek. I fear if we get too far ahead of ourselves, and let the summit steer to these deep seated problems, the only outcome will be failure. I believe that if we can get Rostani and Arshad to agree to the truce, Fatumid of Damasiz will follow suit.” The paladin smiled. “Nevertheless, we’re progressing further than I might have guessed. You are proving a formidable ally, Your Eminence. I thank you.”


He was waved off briskly. “Do not be easily impressed. And do not allow yourself to be lured into a false sense of confidence. Assuming we evade deep seated issues such as succession and we are able to bring about a white peace, if temporary, how would we convince them to commit to fighting cultists? I do not think any of them want to lose men for Elves, me in particular.”


“We have every reason to be confident,” Duncan smiled. “If these lords were so Dark-bent on fighting, they would have spurned your invitation. We will explain the nature of the threat that Karmont poses, point out that this campaign isn’t to help the Elves, but to help Hroniden. Surely they will see the sense in fortifying the Vahamil Steppes against the Western hordes as beneficial.”


“Say we fortify it? Who will own the Steppes?” The point was quick and precise.


“Whoever’s brave enough to take it,” Duncan laughed. “Vahamil is a barren land, void of any use. The Elves discovered this, ‘tis why they were willing to risk reprisal by occupying the Amenra. It’s only use is as a bulwark against east, precisely why we cannot let it fall.”


“So its only true value is its defensive position. What if no one wants it? What if all of us want it?”


“I would be interested in maintaining a small outpost perhaps, if only to ensure a safe route for Pilgrim’s along the Path. If the lords of Hroniden have interests upon it, so be it. We can carve the land up with priority given proportionately to the troops provided. Something similar to the Crusades of the early Empire.”


The ruler of Shiek crossed his arms giving that proposal thought. “Who would lead these forces?”


“I would assume the mantle of Lord-Commander, with participating lords and their officers as commanders. Given the tensions, I believe it prudent to act as a cohesive unit, if we hope to achieve victory. Wouldn’t you agree, Your Eminence?”


“Sure why not,” He responded coolly. “A more neutral choice. However, is the Light Basin itself unified? I remember word of a disagreement among the ranks.” Padishah Sabir eyed the man, awaiting his words.


“We are unified in this, you can have no doubt of that,” Duncan said quickly. “It’s true we had troubles with Pyrit men of Kholgrov spreading their heresies, but its no longer a problem - and the Hussars of Kholgrov are with us!”


“Kholgrove. Last I heard a large dragon from Highathar was heading that way. And you yourself ventured from there. What happened to Kholgrov?” His spark of memory caused Sabir to raise an eyebrow at the paladin.


“There were reports of a dragon stirring east of Kholgrov, terrorizing the roads. When I left, however, the danger was passed. Dragons rarely attack settlements unless provoked. Likely the result of some suicidal looter after its gold, or some nonsense. Whatever the case, Kholgrov was free from dragon-fire when I left.”


Duncan was met with a morbid snort, “Or annihilated shortly after you left. Let us hope a white peace and a coalition is formed. Are we allowing the Elves to remain in the Steppes?”


“If there hostile dispositions against outsiders remains, I should say not,” Duncan replied.

“I’d only ask that the area they occupy is handed over to the Emirate of Shiek, Western Nomads have petitioned us for some time now, but strategic information was instead observed, until now that is.”


“That’s your prerogative, Your Eminence,” he agreed.



“Then come, let us make for breakfast. Aliya await us.” With a gesture, the patriarch led the way.


Duncan followed close behind. “I look forward to it.”
 

BlackBishop

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Opportunities For Peace

Serpentine, 21st Year of the New Age
A Bishop, Mikkel, Galren joint

The Palace of the Just had rapidly become as busy as an inn over the past fortnight. The comings and goings of retainers of various lords’, servants hustling to carry on the finishing preparations of the summit, and the lords themselves; powerful men and their advisers who, by all accounts, should be on the battlefield. Prior to the summit, the palace was a relatively quiet place, content in its seclusion, and happily ignored by the larger world. Now, in nearly an instant, it was the center of politics for the kingdom of Hroniden.

Watching with piqued curiosity, Duncan of Westmarch observed servants entering the grand hall of the palace, carrying various packs and belongings, as well as men clad in mail and plate, bearing the sigil of House Fatumid. Duncan rose from the silk line sofa where he sat, approaching the guards in anticipation of Emir Salah al-Aziz’s entrance.

Salah walked in, clad in his katafrakt army which breastplate was decorated with scenes from his youth. Behind him walked a servant, carrying his helmet as if the emir had just returned from the battlefield. On his right side walked Shashir Al-Ami, his grand vizier who he decided to take with him, so that his son, Amar Al-Omar to rule in his stead. The emir was in an especially bad mood and he hissed at Shashir when he tried to inform his lord that a strange eastern-looking man was approaching and Salah motioned to his bodyguards to confront this, to him, strange man.

“Duncan of Westmarch, of the Paladin Order,” Duncan stated loud enough for Salah to hear as a guard raised a halting hand to stop his approach. The Fatumid guard, looked over his shoulder at his lord, to see if the easterner could approach.

“Your eminence,” Shashir began, “that must be important, the order is of great…” Salah placed his hand over the vizier’s mouth, gave him a stern look and said in a cold voice: “Thank you, I know who and what they are.” He turned to the guard and said: “Let him pass.”

Duncan approached, undeterred by the perceived foul disposition of the Emir, and acutely aware of his imposing figure clad in scaled plate, compared to his modest silk robes. Standing before him, Duncan bowed. “Grand Paladin Duncan of the Holy Paladin Order, at your service, Emir Fatumid.”

Salah stared at the man and thought: “There is nothing especially grand about him.” Staring for another second or two, the emir finally said: “What services could you possibly offer me?” He tried not to sound too annoyed, but ultimately failed this endeavor and his voice was ice cold and irritated.

“Counsel, Your Eminence, if you will listen,” He replied, his head remaining bowed.

“Please do raise your head, paladin, and I will listen to your counsel.” The emir paused, moved his head ever so near Duncan and said: “But do not let this be a waste of my time.” He stood up straight once more and said: “Where and when do you wish to speak?”

“That is good to hear, Your Eminence,” Duncan said, straightening his posture. “I would hate to impose on you so fresh from your journey. Perhaps I might join you in a few hours, after dinner perhaps? I am eager to speak with you before the formalities of the summit begin.”

“Perhaps that is for the best, I need some rest. An hour after dinner we can meet at the inner battlements. My vizier will fetch you when the time comes.” Without uttering another word, Salah moved away from the scene closely followed by his guards and servants. Duncan bowed as the Emir took his leave, his gaze trailing after him and a smile upon his face.

* * * * *


The Gilded Scorpion was accustomed to the frequent faces of the upper nobility of Sheik and their retainers, yet on this particular evening, the cantina was nearly bursting from the influx of dignitaries that had come from all across Hroniden to discuss terms of peace. As might be expected, the tensions that permeated in the greater kingdom were tangible within.

The great families and their guards had carved up the cantina as they might their own fief, sticking to a particular hookah circle, or a cut of the bar, or particular table. The entire chamber seemed one wrong look from a brawl. Not even its high vaulting ceiling, tapestries and luxurious throw pillows could detract from the brewing storm.

Sitting watching the scene in seclusion was an Imperial, sipping at a clay cup of arak, a bemused smile on his face.

In another part of the cantina, one table was occupied by Zaahir Rostani, his chancellor Masoud, and his guards. All of them had drinks, but only Masoud was regularly taking drinks. Putting down his arak, the Imperial strode to the table, looking much like a local, adorned in silk robes.

“Hail revered guests,” the Imperial said. “From Herasnia I presume?”

Zaahir looked a bit suspiciously at the Imperial, then responded. “We are.” He thought for a moment before continuing. “I am Zaahir Rostani, Shah of Herasnia. The gentleman next to me is Masoud Ali, my chancellor. The rest are my guards. And you are?”

The man smiled broadly and bowed. “Duncan of Westmarch, of the Holy Paladin Order, at your service.”

Masoud took one last sip, then faced Duncan. “I really hope you have good news to bring. I would rather be anywhere than sitting near both Lord Arshad and Emir Fatumid.”

Zaahir sighed. “Masoud needs a drink to calm his nerves,” he explained. “The thought of getting murdered hasn’t exactly sat well with him ever since I discussed bringing him here.”

Duncan’s face grew concerned. “I would say that rivals coming together to speak is indeed good news. Let us hope malicious intent is left to fester in dark hearts rather then acted out. May I join you, Your Eminence?”

Zaahir signaled a guard to vacate his seat, freeing a seat for Duncan. “Of course,” Zaahir replied while offering the seat.

“My thanks,” said Duncan taking a seat and setting his arka down in front of him. “I was hoping we would have a chance to speak before the summit officially opens, your Eminence.”

“There is nothing wrong with that,” Zaahir said with a small smile. “What is it that you wish to discuss?”

“I am hoping to gleam some insight into your stance, my lord, and whether or not you are open to peace. I assume by coming here you are. Is that a safe assumption?”

“You are correct,” Zaahir answered. “Unlike Masoud, you likely have bad news. I am open to peace, but that will depend on what happens here.”

“Indeed, I hope for the best, but brace for the worst,” Duncan nodded. “It is my hope, that if peace can be achieved, I may enlist the aid of Hroniden in driving out the Birchian Cultists from Vahamil. Surely Your Eminence has been watching the situation in Vahamil with concern?”

Zaahir shifted a little, taking a bit of time to come up with an answer. “Admittedly, most of my attention has been focused on Mutikabir. I am quite concerned with the success of the Birchians, however.”

Duncan took a slow drink of arka. “I must admit that is a relief to hear. Most cannot see the krakken beyond the circling of sharks. If I may be forthcoming, may I rely on you, Your Eminence, for aid in securing Vahamil from the Cultists? Provided the summit proves a success, of course.”

“You can rely on me,” Zaahir confirmed. “I have witnessed the forces of Darkness attack Hroniden before, and it would be prudent to prevent it from happening again.”

Wrapping his knuckles against the table in quick succession, Duncan nodded. “Of that, we can be in full agreement. I will pray for peace to prevail in Hroniden, for only then can we confront the looming Darkness. Now, I fear I am late for a meeting. I look forward to our next meeting, Your Eminence.”

“I will as well,” Zaahir said.

Duncan rose with a bow, leaving Shah Zaahir among his company with fresh optimism. If the aggressor against Mutikabir was this clear sighted, perhaps Emir Sabir wouldn’t be such a challenge after all. Behind Duncan, drowned out by the noise of the cantina, whispered in Zaahir’s ear. “You two are far too optimistic about this upcoming conference going well.”

Before speaking, Zaahir made sure that Duncan was gone, disguising his action by taking a drink. “We never said anything about this conference going well. We both recognized the threat of the Birchians. That is all.” Normally, Zaahir would chuckle at Masoud’s high-strung nerves, but the tense atmosphere of the cantina kept the party at the table sitting quietly.

* * * * *


A bright moon settled in the sky, illuminating the lands below. The Palace shone from a gentle rain a short time ago, and a mist had settled along the dunes beyond, slowly creeping towards the Shiek capital. Up high upon the battlements, the two men walked, followed at a distance by the emir’s guards.

“Thank you again for speaking with me, Your Eminence,” Duncan smiled.

The emir, now in a much better mood and in a silk garb from south-eastern Hroniden, smiled back and said: “My pleasure. What do you wish to speak about?”

Duncan spoke in a measured tone, his hands folded behind his back as he walked at a leisurely pace. “Well, Your Eminence, I do not make it a custom to speak on matters that do not concern me, and Hronidian politics are certainly not my place to speak, but if I may say, it seems to me that Hroniden cries out for strong leadership and a decisive victory. Not for a single emirate, but for the kingdom as a whole. To be blunt, I think you may be the man to provide both.”

Salah al-Aziz walked at the same place with his right hand at his side and his left at the hilt of his scimitar, which silvery scabbard glinted in the moonlight. At first, he said nothing, deep in his own thoughts. “Why does this foreign paladin think so highly of me?” A few moments later, the emir said: “First of all, what decisive victory do you speak off and why do you think I am the one to lead Hroniden?”

Duncan chuckled. “I may make my home on the fringe of the Wilds, but there is much my order sees. You served in the war, stood up to treachery of the worst kind following the murder of your father, and you, Your Eminence, stood victorious, bringing peace and stability to Damasiz. Yet for all your efforts, Hroniden bleeds. It has been so since the war. Surely the people cry out for a single unifying victory. As Hrondien was rebuilt, the power of Karmont grew. Their influence has spread, their armies strengthened, and now a mere sneeze from Malarx has heralded the end of the Fae. Make no mistake, the Elves will fall, and the Birchians will stand upon the entirety of Hroniden’s western border. What will happen then, Your Eminence? I fear by then it will be too late. The time for your victory is now.”

The smile on Salah’s face vanished clenching his right hand, controlling his urge to throw Duncan down from the battlements. “I have no love for either the elves or the Birchians, but I have no love for my treacherous neighbours who for long have planned to take over Mutikabir. If this summit reaches no positive conclusions, I cannot send anyone to fight a foe in a land that is not mine, bleeding out my manpower so that Lord Arshad or the Emir of Herasnia slowly but surely increases their power. There is conflict in Hroniden as you may know. And the decisive battle does not yet lie in the west.”

“Let us suppose for a moment that the summit has a favourable outcome,” Duncan urged. “Hroniden comes to a peace to drive out the Birchians, who not so long ago salted the Amenra Valley, and they are driven from your borders, led by your valiant charge, Your Eminence. Your name would be lauded from Shiek to Almeria. You cannot buy that kind of influence, Your Eminence.”

“Yes, that or nothing would change at all, leaving the same status quo in place which has reigned ever since the last ‘pure’ Ayyubid sultan died off, with no offspring. It could bring glory to my name true, but it could also be an unfortunate end to me at the hands of treacherous factions in Hroniden. I am curious however, why are you telling me all this? While I would be honoured, it can’t only be because you want me to rule the land. What is your agenda.”

“Hroniden politics are not my place, as I said. I am merely presenting you with an opportunity that would be to your benefit, provided your rivals agree to support the spirit of this summit. I don’t give a damn who holds the Desert Crown, my concern is the Light Basin, and the enemies that encircle us. I want your troops and your tactical mind on my side when I march into Vahamil.” Duncan sighed, reiterating his point. “You can either fight for the crown as the Emir of Damasiz with a weak claim, or a heroic unifier who vanquished what would inevitably be a Birchian invasion. The choice is yours.”

Salah’s urge to pick up Duncan and throw him to his death increased, but he refrained from touching him and instead said: “Suddenly, it doesn’t matter who holds the desert crown. I see where you’re coming from and I do understand your… concern.” Salah stopped and looked over the city. Skies had formed, dark skies. “However, I do not believe in prophecies or fate, and I’d wait for the summit to conclude. If it ends as you and I hope it will, there is a chance I’ll lead my forces against the blasted cultists. Was there any more?”

Duncan stopped and bowed. “Nothing more until the summit opens, Your Eminence. I hope I may count on you when the time comes.”

“We’ll see about that. Goodnight to you, paladin.” Salah turned around and proceeded to walk to his chambers. Duncan remained upon the battlements for some time, staring out over the castle grounds as it became engulfed in mist, and fearing what he had discussed with Hasam Sabir; that Emir Salah may indeed be the one to bring down the summit.
 

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Chaos from the Mountainhomes
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A season has passed since the murder of Dwarven High King Deagrin Benthorn and the ascension of his son Deagrin Victor to the throne, but little has been resolved in Highathar.

Ruling from the High Mountain the young High King so far has managed to consolidate his position amongst his supporters, aiming to prevent any internal attacks against his crown from occurring, but has not tackled the two most serious events that shook the Dwarven Kingdom to its core; the declaration of independence from Yurdaest, and the proclamation of Underking Mahakam Yarpen that he was the true inheritor of the crown.

The three Dwarven factions have so far taken different steps, the High King pursuing a policy of consolidation that has currently done little but secure what support he current holds with the still-loyal nobility. The Yurdaesti Dwarves have continued to defend their borders zealously against any and all would be invaders, and have recently began to conduct raids on neighbouring realms to boost their coffers. The Mahakam claimant however has pursued a more active, diplomatic, approach, sending out diplomatic missions to the Queen of Galadriel, the various rulers of Hrondien, the Birchite realm, and even to the Haunted Forest, home of the Ghullkazid Dwarves, seeking their support and recognition for his crown. He makes many a promise to those who listen about how their friendship will not be forgotten once he has his throne… While the Mahakam is one of the most honoured and respected clans of Highathar many a cynic points out how these promises all rely on immediate support for future rewards.

The Civil War of Highathar has been relatively self-contained so far, but the actions of the Dwarves of Yurdaest threaten to change that. Their heavily armoured warriors have recently left their Mountainhome to harass and sack any and all merchant caravans that pass through the High Mountain, and now that trade is beginning to divert around the Dwarven kingdom, they have travelled east to northern Galadriel. Reports are spreading like wildfire across the Elven realm of Dwarven soldiers attacking the innocent and robbing the defenceless. So far the attacks have been contained to the immediate border regions but it seems likely that they will soon become bold enough to venture a full-scale attack.

With the current conflicts consuming the attention and resources of many Dwarves of note in the High Kingdom, despite the relative lack of actual armed conflict between the various forces for now, the powerhouse of industry that are the Dwarven mountainhomes are producing less and less goods, and their merchants are beginning to stay close to their homes rather than travel afield for their wealth. Already the effects of this sharp drop in mercantile activity has seen the internal Dwarven economy slump sharply with the neighbouring Elven kingdom of Galadriel feeling this most strongly of all of the main beneficiaries of Dwarven trade. The painful loss of revenue threatens to worsen in Galadriel, and spread as the Dwarven goods become scarcer and scarcer.

Dwarves weep and tear at their beards at the misfortune that has befallen their ancient home. May the Creator have mercy on Highathar.

***************************************************************************************************************************************​
  • All factions within Highathar lose 50% of their trade income for the duration of the civil war.
  • All factions within Galadriel lose 20% of their trade income for the duration of the civil war.
  • Trade loss is yet to be fully felt in many other lands of the east, but if the civil war continues for too long a loss of trade income should be expected.
 
Last edited:

happycats517

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Name: Berilion Cuereil
Race: Elven
Age: 88
Location: Vahamil
Specialty: Strategy - While the years spent as a nomad may have dulled his skill, he is still one of the greatest military minds of his age.

Bio: Berilion was once a proud and patriotic elf. He once wanted to see Galadriel rule all of the world. He grew up in a small town in Galadriel, the son of a carpenter and his wife, and he dreamed of one day joining the military. When he was of age he did become a soldier, with dreams of glorious battles and great bravery dancing around his head. Instead, what he got was guard duty on the edges of the lands, with little action. However, this idle time proved to be a blessing in disguise. He met a priest who taught him his letters, which he had never learned, and he became a voracious reader, learning about military history and tactics whenever he could. He was soon assigned to deal with some bandits and showed aptitude in leadership. By the time the war against the darkness rolled around, he was an officer for the forces of Galadriel. During the war he distinguished himself time and time again with his tactical acumen and covered himself with glory throughout the war. However, for him, the war was a personal hell. He saw many of his friends die during the war and came through it a scarred and broken man, barely a shell of his former self.

Upon the completion of the war, he was offered a promotion and could have been one of the leading figures in Galadriel in the new age. He turned down the offer, deciding that he had grown tired of all the fighting and war. He stayed in Galadriel for a time, helping the realm rebuild. Rumors spoke of a robed elf who wandered from town to town, helping build houses and work the fields and do other odd jobs and only asking for food and lodging in return. Most of the rumors agreed that the man had a large scar on his left cheek and short blonde hair. Berilion used his time travelling around Galadriel to consider life. He had realized that he had become quite disillusioned with the world and was looking for something to inspire him. Thus, he threw himself vigorously into many pursuits. He first picked up drinking, until he found himself thrown out onto the street from one too many taverns. Next, he picked up gambling, but quickly found that he was a poor gambler and his habit was eating up his ever dwindling supply of money. Next, he tried finding comfort in the arms of women, but he found that his nomadic lifestyle gave him little room for love and, even if it did, he found that he was terribly awkward around women. He had nothing to talk to with them and he always found himself wishing he was sharing a drink and a laugh with one of his long dead brother in arms instead. Barely a year after the war, he was down to only a small pittance of his soldier's salary and only had a few mementos of his friends and the clothes on his back to his name.

It was then, in a tavern, that he met a bard by the name of Taniyan. He was immediately enraptured by the man's music and his poetry and he begged for Taniyan to teach him. Taniyan was unsure at first, but eventually relented and allowed Berilion to be his pupil. Berilion spent a couple of years with Taniyan learning to play the lute and to sing and to make poetry and weave stories. Berilion used this knowledge to write songs about the friends he lost and "Berilion's Requiem", which Taniyan always said was Berilion's magnum opus, is still played in some taverns in Galadriel as a tragic ballad about the war. The songs he wrote eventually helped him come to terms with the loss of his friends and to begin the slow process of healing from the war. Eventually Berilion and Taniyan grew apart as Berilion grew tired of Taniyan's womanizing and drinking and began to argue with Taniyan that they needed to do something more, that they owed it to Galadriel to write a great ballad of the war so it would be memorialized in history. Things came to a head when Taniyan accused Berilion of being jealous of the women that Taniyan slept with which caused Berilion to fly into a rage and leave. After his falling out with Taniyan, Berilion tried to travel around Galadriel, once again trying to help people rebuild. However, he found himself dreading every town he came to, filled with fear that he would run into Taniyan again. Finally, Berilion decided to take his leave of Galadriel and see where else the world would take him.

Berilion travelled for a time, plying his craft in tavern after tavern and scraping up a living on being a bard. During this time he travelled much of the land and saw many wonders and just as many horrors. One day, he came upon a clan of Wilder Orcs and was certain he was about to meet his end. However, through quick thinking and faster talking he managed to get them to agree to a one on one fight between them and their chieftain. The fight was to be fought hand to hand and the Orcs gathered in a circle to watch. Berilion went round after round with the Orc chieftain until finally he knocked the chieftain down and he did not get back up. The Orcs roared in rage and were about to strike Berilion down when their chieftain stood up, laughing, and declared that "the little elf" was one of their clan. Berilion spent some time with the clan, learning their ways of war and fighting alongside their raiding parties. However, the chieftain eventually died in the fighting and, after a struggle for power, a new chieftain rose who did not care for "the little elf". Berilion knew when it was time to leave and took the little he had, including a finely crafted sword that he had used during the raids, and made off in the middle of the night before the new chieftain could decide to have Berilion killed.

Berilion returned to his nomadic lifestyle, however this time he did not travel long. He soon came across a community of the Fae of Vahamil. They were suspicious of him at first, as he was from the Ancient Land and had not joined them in their self-imposed exile. However, he shared with them his stories of the war and how he had lost his friends and they sympathized with him as many of them had suffered the same. They allowed him to stay with them for a while and they gave him food and lodging in exchange for his work in the field. During this time, he agreed to enter a self-imposed exile as well and become one of the Fae himself. Now that he had decided to live with the Fae, he wished to have a craft to call his own and soon discovered that this village had recently lost its carpenter, an old man with no family, and was in desperate need of one. Berilion, remembering a little of what his father had taught him in his youth, agreed to take up the task and took over the old carpenter's workshop. He soon began cursing himself for not listening to his father more as his first attempts were sloppy at best. However, after a few weeks of practice he began to hit his groove and became a capable carpenter in the coming years.

His stay with the Fae gave him time to reflect on his life, to remember what he had seen, and to recall why he had become a soldier in the first place. He found that there was a part of him that missed his old life and longed to return to Galadriel and serve in the armies of his homeland again. This part told him that he had met the only men he would ever consider his brothers in the army and his military service was the only time he had done something meaningful. It reminded him of his skill as a commander and how he was wasting it by being a cowardly carpenter hiding among the Fae. And it reminded him, no matter how much he didn't want to admit it, that he enjoyed killing. That he enjoyed his time with the Wilder Orcs, free to raid and to kill. That there was a darkness inside him even if he refused to admit it. This part, however, he buried deep inside him, as he told himself that he was a Fae now and that there was no longer a place for him in the Ancient Land. Over the years he found himself content with the life he led, he had gained a great many friends in his village and while he had no family of his own he was the godfather of more than a few children and he never had to eat a meal alone unless he wished to. He had grown quite happy with the idea of spending the rest of his days as Berilion the carpenter, a kind and well loved man. And, in time, he found that he could even go to sleep at night without wondering if everything he had built with the Fae was just a duplicitous façade.

That is, of course, until news reached him of the declaration. It was only ever spoken of in whispers, but from all accounts it was true and some of the Fae from his village had already acted on it. Queen Nienna had granted amnesty to all of the Fae and they were all free to return to Galadriel. The emotions he had kept repressed for years swelled back up. He could hardly believe it. He could return to his homeland and perhaps once again he could be a soldier. However, guilt and doubt ate at him. Could he really abandon his village? He had taken on an apprentice and that apprentice was almost as good as he was at carpenting, so they would not be need of his craft, but he still had so many friends here who he would never see again. And what of the invasion from Birch? His village had been spared from the war so far, but how long would that last? If he fled he would likely be abandoning his neighbors while they died at the hands of the Birchian forces. If he stayed and joined the army here he could at least die knowing he had done his best to defend the life he had built. Berilion sits as a man caught between two loyalties, unsure whether to continue his life as a Fae or to return to Galadriel as he has longed to.
 

baboushreturns

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To the Dwarves of Yurdaest,

I wish to extend my warmest greetings to the Dwarves of Yurdaest and make it known that I can understand the great plight of their peoples. For here in Goi'Orka we the orcs did for years were forced to name an unwelcome overlord our master. Thus I wish to make it known that we would be happy to extend a hand of friendship and alliance to your people. That said, an alliance would be contingent on Yurdaest ceasing all aggressive activities within the boundaries of Galadriel forthwith and your agreement to allow trade to come forth into our mountain home unmolested. If these two conditions are met your city shall have my swords and my gold at disposal for its defence.

-King Oruk Ruler of Goi'Orka and Conqueror of the Wilds