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The Last Stand


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Chapter 1: As the Morning Rises




"I desire only the peace that my blade affords me. I shall lay my blade down to rest mantled upon our wall once this business is at last settled in finality. I shall avenge your betrayal, Maude, for the wrongs done onto you by those you helped. This I swear not only as your husband, but as your most solemn friend on this God given earth."

- Spoken to Maude Fredericka Montalt by Sir Paul, prior to the outbreak of the Petran Civil War


Since he was a boy, Pavel had spent his life alone. Among the dredges of society, he formed a bond with thieves and ne’er-do-wells of the worst caliber. He was descended from a nobleman, his mother had told him. The Baron of Cherskavy, a Raevir lord of repute for his part in the Emperor Philip III’s Aster Revolution which saw the land of Oren changed forever.


To some Pavel’s father was a foul killer, while to others he was a strict knight who had dedicated his life to the preservation of the Holy Orenian Empire. Pavel first met his father Dima when he was five and decided early on he wished to be nothing like him. A womanizer, a thief, a wanton up-jumped crook with a penchant for radical violence. 


Now Pavel was a near eighty-year-old man with gout. A feature that to him was growing more and more unceremonious to him by the day. The world he had fought for no longer existed. His wife had died years ago. His children were grown and now led their own lives. His weary joints ached. He yearned for an honorable death and nothing more. Humanity was fractured, their policies dictated by the line of Haensetian kings who had filled the power vacuum after the fall of the Empire. 


He assumed the name Paul Montalt for years. The Hero of Petra. It made him laugh. People who abandoned him throughout his life could claim to have known him, but they had betrayed his wife when she had needed them most. Where Pavel was the boy, Paul was a man, and Paul missed his wife dearly. His wedding band remained on his hand as he lifted it up, allowing the sterling silver to catch the light. A red ruby was affixed to its epicenter. Once, his hand had been cut off; but as a Tawkin mutant his hand had merely regrown some weeks later. His left pinkie remained missing, signifying his bond with his band of brothers in the Ferrymen. 


Paul set about his business in his vineyard, tending to the grapes with his calloused hands, filling wicker baskets full of the fine and rounded fruit that had littered plants on his remaining private property where he lived on in exile. He imagined that beloved woman dressed in regal finery with auburn hair, their time spent together playing the lyre, laughing beneath the canopy of those trees for so long. Whether the battle was in a court or a war, the two had stood by one another for their entire lives.


He made good on his promise never to marry again. When he turned over for the night to rest, he died peacefully in his sleep after one last stand upon his two feet. He reclined against the pillows with his head swimming, as the pain of his joints caught up with him, his own beating heart betraying him as he entered his resolute slumber with a resolved and peaceful look on his face. His heart ticked thrice for the final time, before the pulse ended and he moved on to join her.


As Paul stood now in the shadows of an uncertain future, with his body laid to rest by his children, he saw a familiar golden-haired figure in his dreams. A vision of a gaggle of soldiers in Orenian finery and regalia. They were the many shades and silhouettes of his past. A blond-haired and bearded man smiled back, the man Paul had fought beside as a boy in the Brothers War. Gustaf de Vilain, his mentor, and worst enemy.

At last, the veterans were again reunited on the same side. 



Chapter 2: The Sun Always Sets on the Holy Orenian Empire




"Пусть душа твоя покоится с миром.

Peace be to your body."

- Ruskan Adage


Peace be to your body, Sir Paul Dmitrievich Montalt - his epitaph read on the stony surface of his tombstone as the sun began to fall over the horizon, a dusk setting framing the stony surfaces in a kind of sad melancholy feeling as the tall silhouettes of his children stood over his grave - Captain of the Kingsguard, Knight of the Order of the Petrine Laurel; the Unspoken, the Tongue, the Twice Betrayed. Grand Knight of the Republic of the Petra, and more importantly a Ferryman - for only the Ferrymen did not betray him in life or death.


And so he was laid to rest in the apple orchard outside his home, where once he and his wife found solace together in the peaceful hours of the nighttime, reading poetry and sparring with their practice blades in a candlelit sanctuary of their own making far from the reach of their enemies. His tombstone was beside that of his wife and their first child who miscarried. Maude Fredericka Montalt, Lev Dmitrievich Montalt, the tombstones each read respectively.


Paul had lived through an empire and the formation of countless petty kingdoms. Now, he had died peacefully, hopefully on his way to join his many friends in the Seven Skies.

So closed the tale of a bastard who rose to prominence once the sun had at least finally set on the Holy Orenian Empire. His life had been fraught with violence, turmoil, and indecision. Yet, he had never once forsworn his basic principles, and saw to it that his children would lead better lives than he himself had.

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Valentin Mareno greeted his blood enemy from the Seven Skies, unlikely allies forged from the collapse of their homeland. A smile spread across the old radical's face, a few sly words leaving his mouth. 

"They hardly knew us Pavel, for all we did, they hardly knew us."

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Farewell, my dear father,

Until I am worthy enough to meet you again in the golden fields of Mardon.


Sir Peter sat in the flowing river of the hills of Middelan, laying his sword in front of both his deceased parents and the brother he never knew.

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Philip stood wordlessly above his brother's sword and the tombstones of both father and mother, fists clenched tightly as he contemplated his next move. After paying his respects, all he could show was a scowl.

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A woman, this Knight’s ever devoted and formidable wife, would welcome him with the same love that she had felt in life into her embrace, were there truly a heaven. 

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The one daughter stood. She knew not how to mourn nor grieve. The heel of her boot was dug into the earth, and she set back off.


The name Pavline she now called her own.

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