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About Xarkly

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    man with a plan
  • Birthday 04/23/1872

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    Tíocfidh ár lá.

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    a loyal haenseni patriot
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  1. SONG OF THE BLACK CHAPTER XII: DRUNKARDS IN DULES A Lord of the Craft novella set in ancient lore. Previous Chapters: Chapter I: Osyenia Chapter II: Lahy Chapter III: Mejen Chapter IV: Soul & Sword Chapter V: The Eyes of Ruska Chapter VI: The Shadow of Dules Chapter VII: A Pact of Glass Chapter VIII: Dules Besieged Chapter IX: The Sons of Karl Chapter X: Banners Red ... Chapter XI: ... Banners Black In 246 B.E.S., the future Prince Barbov Karovic captures the Trade City of Dules in his quest to reclaim the throne of Ruska. After Prince Kosav's cunning plan to force the Electors of Dules - the city's ruling council - to surrender, the result led to the 10,000-man Karovic army triumphing over both the 30,000-large Nzechovich army commanded by Vladrik Nzechovich, and the combined force of the Dulen Guard and the Stagbreaker mecenaries - numbering nearly 18,000 - commanded by the sellsword captains, Josif Tideborn and Dragan Skullsplitter. Now, as the impact of the historic Battle of Dules ripples across Ruska, a week has passed as the Karovic victors find their footing. Vlasta of Osyenia finds herself at a loss as she's unable to get training from her mentor, the famed Ratibor Skysent, he has isolated himself in a depressed drunken stupour after his defeat at the hands of Dragan Skullsplitter in the Battle. It falls to the Bogatyr Stanislaw Horselegs to pull Ratibor out of his depression, but that brings with it some uncomfortable reflections for the cavalry commander. Prince Barbov himself and Prince Kosav find themselves unable to celebrate their titanic victory as Kosav is haunted by those whose blood stains his hands, and Barbov struggles with the pressure of those who have died in his name. A lone gull soared through a cloudless sky. Beneath the gull's wings, the rushing waters of the Lower Huns River glistened in the morning sun as ships glided to and from the western bank, where the domes and towers of the Trade City of Dules - the Jewel of Ruska - sparkled in the summer sunlight. At a glance, it seemed like Dules had already forgotten about the great battle fought in its streets barely a week prior; no longer did rib-sailed carves blockade the port, no trace remained of the siege encampment that had said beyond the walls except for miles of dead grass, and the markets thronged from sunrise to sunset since trade had resumed. But only at a glance. The fires were extinguished and the bodies buried, but the memory of the Battle of Dules was engraved on the city. The gull glew above finely-garbed burghers wearing haggard looks and paranoid eyes, as if they could still see the blood running in rivers through the cobbled streets and the smokestacks blotting out the moon. For all its wealth and influence, Dules had never been a city of warriors -- for its townsfolk, war was a distant thing that existed beyond their pale walls. Now, though, it had scarred their utopia, and they could never forget the fear it had brought with it. As the gull drifted above the city's western wall, it was not the Dulen Guard - the city's peackeeping force - that patrolled the fifty-foot high stone ramparts in their resplendent breastplates and blue-gold jackets, but instead it was common armsmen in drab gambesons and chainmail hauberks. The Dulen Guard themselves, ashamed after their defeat in the Battle, patrolled the streets below with sour expressions and downcast eyes, and the locals met them with looks ranging from pity to spite. The wind ferried the gull to the heart of the city, where the Battle's greatest scar stood in the form of the Electors' Palace with its magnificent spires and onion-domes stretching high above the sea of tiled rooftops. From the heights of those spires flew not the aqua-gold banner of Dules, but the black-red flag of the Karovid dynasty, billowing like a single stormcloud in the otherwise blue sky. From every corner of the city, that banner could be seen, and try as they might, no one could ignore it or what it meant. Beneath that banner, in the Palace itself, ran a warren of hallways, chambers, and parlours, and every inch of every room oozed the wealth for which the Trade City was so famous for. Gold-worked pillars flanked the walls, silver scrollwork scaled the bright stone walls, and tapestries and rugs splashed the Palace with vibrancy. Since the Battle, the courtiers, staff, and the Electors themselves remained recluse in their apartments, and so instead it was wide-eyed Boyars and nobles in service of the city’s Karovic conquerors that roamed the corridors, incredulous that just a few rooms contained enough wealth to eclipse their own. It was in one of those corridors that a young woman stood frowning at a soldier guarding a door. The two could not have been less alike. Vlasta of Osyenia was lithe and slender, her dark hair tied back to frame a pale, proud face of noble heritage, and her arms were crossed over her maroon jacket as she tapped her boot impatiently. If Vlasta’s build made her a twig, then Serkov of Ketzej was the trunk; the Karovic retainer was both tall and broad even without the added bulk of the chainmail vest beneath his coat. His long face was pocked with scars and he held his spear with a comfort that belied deadly skill, yet despite that, he bowed his head apologetically. “I’m sorry, my lady, but I told you before -- my lord has ordered that he is not to be disturbed. You know this.” “I know that it’s nonsense,” Vlasta answered curtly. “Lord Ratibor is meant to be my mentor, but he’s refused to see me since we took Dules. That’s almost a whole week, Serkov!” “Please understand, my lady. Lord Ratibor is -” “Drunk,” Vlasta finished flatly. “Again.” Before Serkov could answer, a slurred shout boomed from behind the door. “I am not drunk!” When Vlasta only arched an eyebrow at him, Serkov sighed. “ … my lord Ratibor is still recovering from his duel with -” “Do not say that hog’s name in my presence!” barked the voice again. “ … with the … um … large Waldenian,” Serkov concluded weakly. “For God’s sake - Ratibor!” Vlasta yelled back, and Serkov flinched at the noise. It only vaguely occurred to her that she was yelling at one of the famous Bogatyrs and a veteran soldier, and felt not an ounce of fear. How could I? Unbidden, images of the Battle of Dules - of arrows whizzing through the night, of dying men writhing on the ground - flashed through her mind. “How long are you going to wallow in there?! I’m your squire; you’re supposed to be training me!” “Wallowing?! How d-dare you speak to … speak …” Ratibor trailed off with a bout of hiccups, and when he spoke again it sounded as if he was trying not to vomit. "… speak to me … like that.” Vlasta’s eye twitched as she opened her mouth to yell back, but both her and Serkov’s attention were drawn by a sudden voice down the corridor. “What’s this racket?” Stanislaw Horselegs - one of the three Bogatyr left in the service of the Karovic Princes, like Ratibor - strode towards them with a leisurely, but sturdy, grace. He wore a brass-buttoned jacket instead of his mail, but he still looked every inch a Ruskan warrior and commander with the sword belted at his side, hardy face beneath his beaverskin cap, and the rigid set of his shoulders. “Lord Stanislaw, sir!” Serkov saluted, but Vlasta spared the Bogatyr no such formalities. “Ratibor is still sore that he lost to Dragan Skullsplitter in the Battle,” she explained. “He won’t come give me my lessons!” “I TOLD YOU NOT TO SAY HIS NAME!” roared Ratibor, and something ceramic shattered inside the room. While Serkov edged away from the door, Vlasta’s glare hidened. No, he doesn’t frighten me. After pulling still-living bodies with their guts spilling out from the battlefield last week, Vlasta didn’t think anything would frighten her again. “You don’t command much respect from behind a closed door, Ratibor, you cowar -” Stars swam in her vision as she staggered back, and her jaw throbbed with a sharp pain. It took her a moment to realise that Stanislaw had struck her across the mouth. “You forget yourself, squire,” Stanislaw spoke coldly, but his expression harboured no malice. “Ratibor Skysent is a Bogatyr and a hero to our cause, on top of being your master. Even when he does not act the part, you owe him your absolute respect at all times. Is that understood?” “I …” As her jaw ached, a mix of shame and anger grappled in Vlasta, but as she turned her glare to Stanislaw’s calm face, she really did feel fear. It was not the same fear she had felt at Mejen or the assaults leading up to the Battle of Dules where it was death that frightened her - now, as she locked eyes with Stanislaw, she was overwhelmed by the sudden fear that she had gone too far, that she would be stripped of her role as squire, that she would never become a Bogatyr. If that happened … then all the hells I’ve been through from Mejen to Dules would have been for nothing. She could not think of anything more terrifying, and she bent herself into a deep bow. “I most humbly apologise, Lord Stanislaw. Please, I beg your forgiveness.” “Hmph,” Stanislaw grunted. “It’s to Lord Ratibor you owe your apology.” “Right, I - Lord Ratibor, please forgive me,” she called louder. There came a drunken belch behind the door, followed by, “Yes, well, just don’t run your mouth again. Dumb broa -” “Thank you, Ratibor,” Stanislaw cut him off firmly, but kept his eyes on Vlasta. “Now, leave us, squire. I’ll see to it that your training resumes as soon as affairs here in Dules are put in order.” That could be weeks, damnit. Still, Vlasta cowed herself to meekness as she repeated her apologies. “Of course, my lord. I won’t forget myself again.” “Good. The Princes have put a good deal of faith into you, to name you a squire in such an unconventional manner. It would be a true shame to see that go to waste.” For that reason, and many more. The invasive memories of her battles so far were broken briefly by the image of a smiling Prince Kosav on the night they spoke outside Mejen. That had barely been a month ago, and yet it felt like a lifetime. With a salute of her own, she turned, and stormed down the corridor. I can’t loosen my tongue like that again, she scolded herself as her boots clicked on the polished tiles. But I can’t afford to wait around for Ratibor to pull himself out of his stupor. If he won’t train me … then I’ll just have to find someone else that will. Vlasta of Osyenia Stanislaw sighed once Vlasta was out of sight. “I should not have struck her,” he mumbled as a dull pain pulsed in his hand. “I am fond of the girl, but you are well within your hearts, lord,” Serkov offered, albeit half-heartedly. “Discipline is important.” Stanislaw only grunted as he stared absently down the hallway where Vlasta had vanished. Discipline … Back when the Princes had started their campaign in Vlasta’s family home of Osyenia, the girl had always been full of spirit, but in a cheerful, mischievous type of way. Now, though, after their battles at Mejen, their assaults on Dules, and the final attack on the city, that playfulness had been replaced by a steely determination. I just hope you don’t end up regretting it, Vlasta. “Has Ratibor left his room since I last visited?” he asked as he turned back to Serkov, and reluctantly put Vlasta out of his mind. Serkov shook his head. “He takes all his meals, but he will not leave or see anyone. He even grew violent when the doctor came to change his bandages.” His eyes nervously flit to the door as Stanislaw reached for the handle. “... be careful, lord.” “Violent, you say? Good.” He smiled faintly as Stanislaw began to pull the door open. “It’s like you said, Serkov: discipline is important.” The stench of vodka washed over Stanislaw as he stepped into Ratibor’s apartment, and closed the door behind him. The curtains were all drawn, casting the opulently-furnished parlour with its cushioned chairs and dark-wood furnishings in shadow, but the balcony door had been left open to admit a pleasant breeze that stirred the opaque silvery curtains. In the centre of the parlour, facing an empty hearth and surrounded by plates of half-eaten food and empty cups, a pair of booted legs were slung over the armrest of a couch. Stanislaw bristled at the smell as he walked, carefully avoiding cutlery and cups abandoned on the floor, before he stepped into the middle of the room to get a proper look at Ratibor. Flat on his back on the couch, Ratibor was shirtless except for a lining of bandages over his torso where Dragan Skullsplitter had broken two of his rubs, and his beaverskin captain’s hat was angled to cover his face. A smashed cup in a puddle of liquor stained the rug, and his scabbarded sword lay across his lap. “Go to hell, Stanislaw,” came a mumble beneath the hat. “I haven’t said anything.” “Yet.” Stanislaw narrowed his eyes. As the caw of gulls echoed through the open balcony door, Stanislaw yanked the curtains back to let the morning sunlight flood into the pearly rooms, and pool right on Ratibor, who swatted a muscular hand at the light as if to shoo it. “Vlasta was not wrong. You are wallowing, Ratibor. Wallowing like a child.” Ratibor swiped the hat off his sweat-slicked face, exposing his venomous glare through misty, unfocused eyes. His cheeks were hued a bright red. “... Tsch. Is the girl with you?” “Vlasta? No, I sent her away after I made her apologise.” “Hmph. Good. I was close to coming out there myself … but not for training.” His sword clacked metallically as he patted the scabbard. Stanislaw turned towards the balcony, and the sunlit rooftops of Dules spread out before him. “And why is it you have refused to train her? Vlasta is your squire, by order of Prince Barbov himself.” “Pfft. You blind?” There came a swig behind him as Ratibor scooped up one of the many cups littered around him, and drank from it clumsily, sloshing vodka over the rim and onto the floor. “I’m injured.” “Not too injured to drink yourself into a stupour, though.” Briefly, Ratibor scanned the parlour’s adjoining rooms. At least there’s no sign of any courtesans having visited. “I thought Dragan Skullsplitter only broke your ribs, but now I fear he’s broken your spirit.” Ratibor’s eyes tightened. “Don’t say his name around me.” Stanislaw took a slow breath. Once, when he had first been named Bogatyr, he had been intimidated of Ratibor Skysent for his skill, temper, and influence as a holy warrior. Now, though, as he looked down at the wounded drunk, he found it hard to believe anyone he had once felt like that. “Why?” he asked softly. “Are you going to do something about it?” For a long moment, there was silence but for the din of the city beyond the balcony as the two Bogatyr exchanged stares - Ratibor’s smouldering glare against Stanislaw’s icy composure. Finally, Ratibor hissed through his teeth, and his eyes panned to the roof. “When did you grow a pair of balls, Horselegs?” Stanislaw ignored the insult as he eased down down on a stool facing the couch. “This war has changed all of us if you cared to notice, Skysent.” In the light, he could see splotches of bruised flesh peeking out from Ratibor’s bandages. Dragan really did a number on him. Even now, he could recall that fight in Dules’ harbour clear as day; the titanic Dragan swinging his flail in deadly arcs, and Ratibor blurred between the strikes and biting with his sword. “Are you really that upset you lost to Dragan Skullsplitter? The fact that you survived the fight is achievement enough.” Ratibor firmed his jaw as he stared up at the ceiling. “I … have a reputation to uphold.” Despite his intoxication, there was a seriousness beneath his red cheeks and misted eyes. “So ... you're sore over the fact that Ratibor Skysent, holy warrior and champion of the Lendian Church … lost to a pagan.” “Don’t pre-pretend …” Ratibor grit his teeth as hiccups forced his way up. “Don’t pretend this is just about me!” “It is just about you.” “Come on, Stanny,” he growled. “You’ve grown some balls, but now grow a brain. It’s a bad omen for everyone in our campaign.” Stanislaw just stared at the other Bogatyr for a moment, and tapped a finger on his knee. He did not care to admit it, but Ratibor wasn’t wrong. Most Bogatyr drew their power from strength at arms, horsemanship, or as commanders, but Ratibor Skysent was different -- while a fearsome warrior in his own right, his power came from his name. Everyone knows the legend of Ratibor Skysent, whether they love him or admonish him, Stanislaw thought bitterly. The man who killed Burgov Godsbane. Indeed, everyone had heard that tale. Close to twenty-years back, during the height of King Karl’s reign, the faith of Lendian Canonism had spread like a wave through the regions of Ruska, most of whom worshipped the spirits of the Maenvestiyaeo until King Karl’s conversion to the southern Canonist faith. That wave, though, had been dammed in the west by Burgov Godsbane -- Stanislaw had only been a boy at the time, but he remembered the stories of Godsbane - of how he would raid villagers that had converted to Canonism, and impale survivors alive in their churches - kept him up at night. Godsbane had been nothing more than a particularly brutal marauder who stripped Canonist churches and missionaries of their gold and silver, but he was lauded as a hero by those towns and villages that still adhered to the Maenvestiyaeo, and protected by them. His raids, and the religious division, served as a black mark on King Karl’s rule - despite Godsbane’s viscous raids, the King could not assemble an army without escalating a civil war, and the few Bogatyr that were sent to take Godsbane’s head never returned. Then, Burgov Godsbane raided the hold of Ketzej. Ketzej was a larger holding and comprised numerous farmsteads along the Upper Huns, but it Godsbane attacked like a lightning strike. The local lord - Boyar Drezensk - had been surrounded and killed in the fields while trying to rise his levy, and though Ketzej burned, Godsbane never left alive. Amidst the flames, he crossed paths with Boyar Drezensk’s fifteen-year-old son - a boy named Ratibo - and was slain by a breadknife to the gut. When the smoke cleared, there was no explaining how a boy so young could have killed one of Ruska’s strongest warriors. It could only have been the will of God, or so everyone proclaimed, and the Lendian missionaries soon declared that Ratibor had performed a miracle. The young boy was taken to the Royal Court in Lahy to train as a Bogatyr, and without Godsbane as a rallying figure, the Maenvestiyaeo resistance died. Once he became a Bogatyr proper, Ratibor personally saw to the conversion of many of the remaining Maenvestiyaeo strongholds, and so his fame and support grew. Today, most of Ruska practised the Lendian faith - save some older bloodlines, like the Nzechovich - and many attributed that to Ratibor. There was no denying, then, that the name Ratibor Skysent had power, and it had influence. When he stepped onto a battlefield, he instilled both fear and awe as the man everyone thought wielded God’s fury, like he had that day when he smote Burgov Godsbane. Now, though, that fury had been overcome by Dragan Skullsplitter. “ … Tell me something, Skysent,” Stanislaw found himself speaking softly as he reflected on the tale. “What?” Ratibor took another clumsy swig from his cup, carelessly splashing liquor on his bandages. Stanislaw’s mouth had gone dry -- it was not the first time this question had occurred to him, but he was uncertain if he wanted to hear the answer. “If the Nzechovich had not been one of the few bloodlines that hadn’t converted to Canonism … would you have still taken the Princes’ side in this war?” There was silence for a long moment, save for the noise of the city, and the song of a windchime on the balcony. “I don’t know,” Ratibor said at last. “I’m not like Slavomir, who follows Prince Barbov like a dog, or you and your friendship with Prince Kosav.” His eyes - deadly serious, now - slid to Stanislaw. “Why do you ask me that now, of all times?” Stanislaw stared back. “I’ve … just been wondering for a while now. Before King Karl died, we were three-hundred Bogatyr strong … loyal and strong warriors, sworn to the Ruskan throne … and yet only three of us are in service of the Princes. If it weren’t for the fact that the Nzechovich just so happened to follow the old faith, then it would just be one and Slavomir.” Abruptly, a laugh - shrill and bitter - forced its way out of him. Ratibor eyed him askance, and then looked back up to the ceiling. “It’s not as if they’re all dead. Most of them just joined Msitovic and the Nzechovich - if not before the coup, then after. Besides, we had other comrades. Had you forgotten while you were busy giving yourself a pat on the back for still being alive? What about Lorszan, and Paitaer, and Movedric? Or Caize? Bozidar? Akhiev?” Stanislaw closed his eyes. “No,” he whispered. “I … haven’t forgotten.” He could not forget if he tried; those warriors had been his brothers and sisters at Lahy, and he had been powerless to prevent their deaths. Lorszan had died after leading a successful charge to reclaim Svetjlast - the sword of the Ruskan kings - from the reliquary when the Nzechovich began their coup; Paitaer and Movedric had stayed behind to hold a barricaded door while the Princes were ushered to safety; Caize had been overwhelmed by the enemy while holding the stable gate; Bozidar had simply gone missing in the chaos; and Akhiev had escaped with the rest of them, but died of his wounds not long after leaving the city. There had been others, too, not to mention the hundreds of common soldiers who had laid down their lives for the Princes, too. And only three Bogatyr loyal to the Princes survived that day. As he opened his eyes, he stared down at his open palm. Not for the first time, he wondered if it would have been better if he had traded places with any of those who perished. Instead of him, would Caize Snakeblade had been a better tool for the Princes, what with her affinity for executing enemy commanders in the heat of battle? Or Bozidar Kindheart, who let nothing past his tower shield? Stanislaw had loved them all, even those who had turned cloak to join the Nzechovich. Try as he might, he could not even bring himself to hate them, for he knew they had seen reason in the Nzechovich coup. Lorszan … Caize … Bozidar … everyone. It’s all up to me to make it so that they didn’t die in vain. That was the single thought that kept him awake at night, and that plagued him of nightmares of the Coup of Lahy with troubled sleep. “You’ve gone awful quiet, Stanny,” slurred Ratibor as he swished the contents of his cup, and splashed more onto the floor. “You angry with me?” There was just the hint of a challenge in his voice. “No,” Stanislaw answered under his breath. “No, I don’t care why you fight, or if you’re just using the Princes for your own ends … just so long as you do fight.” So long as you help me carry their spirits … Stanislaw rose to his feet, and approached Ratibor. … until we win this fight, and they can rest in peace. “Yes, well …” Ratibor shifted uncomfortably on the couch. “It’s too late to go back now, anyway. My sword’s not going anywhere. It’s like I said - I have a reputation to uphold.” The stool creaked as Stanislaw stood, and stepped across the parlour to loom over Ratibor on the couch. “Good. Then quit your damn wallowing, and go act like the hero you pretend to be.” He extended a hand. “Give me that booze.” Ratibor frowned uncertainly, but when he handed the cup over, Stanislaw drained the contents down his throat, and then poured himself another. Stanislaw Horselegs Prince Kosav drank from his silver cup. Out of habit, he anticipated the burning sensation of vodka, but instead a spiced fruity flavour flooded his mouth. "This stuff," Kosav exhaled as he slapped the cup back down on the marble tabletop, "is very good. What did you say it was called?" "Mead," chimed his brother with a grin. Prince Barbov - the heir of the late King Karl of Ruska, and the recently-elected Prince of Dules - sat on the other side of the round table in a high-backed chair, and his legs were propped on the table. His shoulder-length dark curls hung unkempt around his broad, strong-jawed face, and there was a rosy hue to his stubbled cheeks. "Apparently, some Dulen merchants travel to Carnatia every spring to buy it." "Carnatians? There's no way Carnatians could make something so ... nice." Kosav had never met their tribal nations to the north, but all he had ever heard of them was there raids on Ruskan borderlands. "That's the thing - they don't! They buy it from a tribe that's even further north, way past the mountains!" Kosav felt the heat in his own cheeks as he indulged in the exotic brew again. "A tribe even further north than Carnatia?" He supposed it was possible, but he had never seen a map that charted north of the Carnatian hinterlands and the Ulvenraek Mountains. "What are they called?" Barbov waved a dismissive hand. "The Skif, or the Scyffe, or something like that. Boyar Tega says they grow crops on ice and worships bears as gods." "Bears as gods?" Kosav smiled faintly as he stared into his distorted reflection in the mead. "I don't think Ratibor would be very fond of them, in that case." "No, definitely not," his elder brother agreed with a chortle before he tilted back his jewelled goblet, and emptied it of mead. "Still, they make some good booze, even if they are heathens." Kosav only nodded his agreement as he continued staring into his murky reflection. They were meant to be drinking to celebrate their victory over Dules, and yet, despite their smiles, Kosav felt far from celebratory. As he watched his face in the cup, he could see a shadow cling to his gaunt-set eyes that had nothing to do with exhaustion. He blinked, and another face appeared in the cup. A woman looked back at him, her hair parted around her comely face by a silver circlet and her wide eyes sparkling in the reddish liquid. Her beauty was unmarred, except for a deep, bloody gash through her throat. Kosav swat the cup away, and the mead spilled out across the snowy marble as the cup rolled towards Barbov. It was not the first time Kosav had seen Yaina's haunting face since he had ordered Slavomir to cut her pretty throat to secure their victory in the Battle of Dules, alongside four of her fellow Electors. That face had kept him up every night since, depriving him of even a moment's rest, and she seemed to watch him silently from every shadow of the Palace. Now, he had come to rely on liquor to keep her ghostly face at bay, but he knew he could never escape her ghost, and the weight on his shoulder for her death. Barbov brought the cup's roll to a stop with a finger, and flashed a concerned look towards Kosav. "Are you ...?" "Yes," Kosav breathed as he steadied himself. "I ... I'm fine." As he looked across at his brother, though, Kosav saw that that same shadow clung to his face, too, and no amount of drinking or boasting could hide it. "Are you alright, Barbov?" "Huh?" he narrowed his eyes. "My coronation as Prince of Dules is in four days. Why would I not be alright?" Kosav, however, only kept staring at him, and finally Barbov sighed. " ... Fine. It's just that, well ... sometimes I worry that this is all a dream." "A dream?" "A dream that we're here." Barbov spread his arms, gesturing to the ornately-decorated parlour in which they sat, where oil paintings of long-dead figures looked down on them from the walls and the furnishings glittered in gilt. "We should have never have made it out of Lahy alive, brother. We escaped with barely two-hundred supporters, and we raised an army of three-thousand at Osyenia. We won at Mejen, and then we grew to ten-thousand. That wasn't nearly enough to take Dules by force when we had the Nzechovich and the Stagbreakers in our way ... and yet, here we are." "We've been ... lucky," Kosav said meekly. "Lucky that our Bogatyr died to get us out of Lahy; lucky that Boyar Olske offered us shelter in Osyena; lucky that Vlasta saved our hides at Mejen ..." " ... Lucky that my brother figured out a way to capture the Trade-City of Dules, right under Vladrik Nzechovich's nose. I still don't understand how you thought of your plan." "It was easy," Kosav said briskly. Even broaching that topic made Yaina's specter linger on his mind. "We just had to understand the type of people that the Electors were. I already told you; Dules is a city of wealth, not warriors. They fear for their lives, not their honour. That day, when Slavomir and I were able to sneak into the Electors' Chamber ..." He pressed a hand to his forehead as he remembered the look in Yaina's eyes when Slavomir placed his sword to her throat. " ... all it would have taken for Dules to have won the battle was for the Electors to call my bluff, and refuse to let me use them as hostages. If they had let themselves die, then our path to victory would have gone up in smoke. Josif Tideborn would have defeated Vladrik Nzechovich at the gates, and Dragan Skullsplitter would have crushed you and the rest of our army at the docks." "You should be King." Kosav narrowed his eyes at Barbov, and frowned when he saw he was not laughing. "What?" "I'm serious. You should be the one to become King of Ruska when we win this war, not me." "Barbov, what are you talking about?" With a hint of desperation in his eyes, Barbov lowered his legs and pressed his palms against the table. "Kosav, we owe so many debts to so many people - not just those like Boyar Olske, but everyone who took up a weapon for our cause. Tell me - why would they do that? Sure, the Boyars think we'll favour them with rewards and favour, but why would any common soldier raise their blade for me? Why did all those Bogatyr die for me?" "Because ..." Kosav's voice had gone thick. He had never seen that wistful look in his brother's eyes before, except for the night of the Battle of Dules. "You are the rightful King of Ruska." "No," Barbov said softly as he shook his head. "You know that can't be it. Was it because they think I'm a better choice than any enemies they have in the Nzech court? Or because I'm easy to control?" "It's ... it's because they believe you'll become a strong king." Kosav's own words rang half-heartedly. Barbov laughed mirthlessly. "But I won't be, Kosav. I'm not strong like father, or smart like you. I couldn't have escaped Lahy without all those Bogatyr who gave their lives, I would have gotten us all killed at Mejen if not for Vlasta, and I could never have thought of a plan to capture Dules like you did." He sighed deeply, and closed his eyes. "So many people have already given their lives for honour, or because I'm some rightful King ... and I'm going to squander their sacrifice, Kosav. If it's left up to me, their deaths are going to amount to nothing. So please, just ... agree you'll become King, and take this weight off my shoulder." For a moment that felt like eternity, Kosav stared at his brother -- at Barbov, son of Karl. Until the day that had been ousted from their home, Kosav had always felt like a husk of his brother; Barbov had been boisterous, brave and strong, whereas Kosav had been reserved and quiet; Barbov had preferred his martial training, whereas Kosav lost himself in books; Barbov had been the favourite of their father, a worthy successor to the Ruskan throne, whereas Kosav had been obscure and easily-forgotten. To see him now, dejected and depressed, felt ... wrong. "I refuse," Kosav whispered softly. The sad look in Barbov's eyes as he opened them made Kosav's heart sink, but he pressed on. "It doesn't matter if you're not strong or smart, or if you don't know what you're doing. You have me, Stanislaw, Slavomir, Ratibor, and all the others to make up for whatever shortcomings you might have. You'll get to Lahy, and you'll sit on the throne, even if someone - or ten thousand people - have to carry you there." "But ... why?" Barbov said scarcely. "Why carry somebody like that? Tell me honestly, Kosav ... wouldn't it have been better if I had just died at Lahy? None of the Bogatyr would have died to help me escape, Miliv wouldn't have been cut down in an ambush at Mejen, and the Electors and every soldier in the Battle of Dules wouldn't have had to die. Msitovic Nzechovich could have controlled Ruska from the shadows, and we would all be better off." Kosav shot to his feet, and knocked his chair to the floor. "And so what if it would!?" he snapped. "We're here now, Barbov! We're here, and all those people have already died! We already owe these debts! We can't go back and wish we had died to change things! So ..." he sucked in a deep breath as his brother looked at him with wide eyes. "No. I'm not going to be king instead of you. I'll drag you to Lahy myself if I have to." "Kosav ... why?" "Because," he growled through grit teeth. In the marble's polished reflection, he glared at Yaina's ghostly reflection with that gash in her throat. "You're my brother. I am not going to let you fail." Kosav Karovic Vlasta fumed as she stormed through the Palace's winding halls. To hell with all of them! First, Ratibor drank himself into isolation instead of training her; then, Stanislaw said he was too busy helping the Princes set up their new administration in Dules; Slavomir had just given her a sideways look when she asked for tutelage; and Villorik, although a squire himself, was a terrible teacher. Any time they sparred, he always won. "It's no surprise, since you've only been a squire for a few weeks," she mimicked what he had told her in a high-pitched taunt. "And besides, don't forget - women are weaker than men!" She spat as those words echoed in her mind. She had attacked Villorik right after, as if to prove him long, and the memory of that defeat only made her angrier. Fine. Forget them, she glowered as she finally found the staircase in the corner of the Palace that led underground. I'm not giving up just because they're idiots. I'm not going back to sit around Osyenia until father marries me off, and I'm not giving up after surviving those battles. It was after her spat with Villorik that a memory had come to her -- a memory of a fearless, female warrior who had almost delivered the Princes a crushing defeat in the very first battle of their campaign. The white walls and marble columns of the Electors' Palace gave way to dreary stone corridors lit by plain copper-case torches as Vlasta followed the stairs down, and before long, she found herself at the foot of the dungeons. Karovic armsmen - replacing Dulen Guards - lounged about in the front of the barred doorway that led deeper into the dungeon, with three playing a round of cards at a rickety table by the door, and a fourth tending to a kettle boiling above a stove against the wall. All four looked around in surprise as Vlasta came to a stop, her hands on her hips. "My name is Vlasta of Osyenia, daughter of Boyar Olske and squire to Ratibor Skysent," she declared sternly, before any of them could speak, "and I wish to speak to a prisoner." The guards exchanged confused looks. One of them quietly pocketed what appeared to be a flask. Finally, the one tending the kettle - he looked to the be the oldest of the four, with a tinge of grey to his thick moustaches - cleared his throat, and uncertainly asked, "Ah ... which prisoner would that be, my lady?" Vlasta stared past the barred doorway, and the cells beyond. "I have a proposition for Mylah Nzechovich."
  2. Well written but like most lore submissions it's just way too long so it's indigestible. Lore on LotC should be accessible and comprehensible to the average player, and novella lore entries don't service that.
  3. In the camps of San Luciano, Villorik var Ruthern sweated off the last of his baby fat as he assailed the scarecrow he had conscripted as his training dummy. "Just like I promised ..." He grit his teeth as he gripped his sword in mid-guard, sweltering in the southern heat. "Mamej, papej ... I'll slaughter as many pagans it takes to earn Godan's favour, and bring my sister back!" @PerfectlyPeachy @Demavend
  4. "Well, fancy that." From atop a shattered rampart of Karosgrad, Legate Sedda of the Clan Torath watched his Clan's legions of Mori march out of the ruined city. Their bootsteps echoed like a drumbeat of thunder that washed out every other sound for miles around. Ash and smoke wafted through the air, but all of the fires from the sieges had been extinguished to bathe the north in blissful night. "You're not getting cold feet about our deal, now, are you?" Grinning in anticipation, Sedda cocked his head backwards as a row of beetle-mounted cavalry crossed beneath the wall, dislodging chunks of loose stone and dust with their passage. "Razvien?" Behind Sedda, leaning against a still-standing battlement, Legate Razvien's bowed head was bathed in shadow as he ran a cloth along his slender, curved sword. " ... No," he spoke softly. "No, I'm not."
  5. MORI'QUESSIR EVENTLINE A RECKONING IN THE NORTH In the light of the Fell Moon, Razvien of Clan Torath stood atop the frozen walls of Fenn. “Tsch,” he hissed through grit teeth, and his breath seeped out in misty plumes. “How could it come to this?” Beneath his helmet of lacquered black plates, the Mori Legate surveyed the rolling snowscape beyond the walls. Two things disturbed the otherwise blissful darkness of the Full Moon - one was the ceaseless descending flurries of snow from the swathes of stormy clouds above, and the other was the tide of Srow banners billowing in the wind outside the city. “Lack of preparation, unfamiliar terrain, incompetence from the perimeter defence,” Khazen - Razvien’s right-hand officer - murmured wistfully at his side. “Take your pick, Legate.” “We are Clan Torath,” Razvien growled as he glared at the Descendant siege encampments in the snow below. “We do not fail to prepare; we do not allow the terrain to hinder us; we do not suffer from incompetence. It is …” The leather of Razvien’s gloves creaked as he balled a fist. I sound like a tantruming child, not a commanding Legate, he scolded himself. “ … it is not meant to be this way,” he finished, deflated. “... Many things are not how they are meant to be,” Khazen intoned solemnly. “All the same, Legate, the fault is mine. It was my duty to repel them from the city outskirts, and I failed.” Razvien’s head twitched back towards his lieutenant. With his helmet tucked under his arms, Khazen’s knot of white hair streamed in the wind, and his grizzled, scarred face wore a begrudging frown. When the Descendant army had broken through the mountain to lay siege to the Torathi legion in Fenn, Khazen had taken a mounted arachnid to repel them … and he had barely returned alive. “You … fought with valour,” Razvien murmured uncertainly as he panned back to the Descendant siege lines, and the snow gusted around him. _______________ Sedda of Clan Torath took a knee. He was a Legate, and so he was used to many eyes resting on him, but this was more than he was prepared for. What was once known as the ‘palace’ of Norland was lined with Torathi legionnaires in their black-lacquered mail, most sporting a trimming of gilt as a sign of rank. True to their Clan’s reputation, they stood rigidly alert, and spearmen of the Citadel Guard were posted at every doorway, window, and opening. Though they would not let so much as a rat sneak into the palace, but it all made Sedda roll his eyes. There’s not a rat who would dare sneak in here. Knelt at the top of the palace’s great hall, he kept his head bowed. In front of him, lining the throne, the Dreadknights of the Obsidian Infantry loomed over him with their gold-worked halberds and greatshields, and flanking the walls and pillars to the side of those Dreadknights stood a squadron of the Onyx Retinue in their winged helmets. Both the Obsidian Infantry and Onyx Retinue were the personal forces of the Matriarch of Clan Torath, but she hardly needed them to declare her presence. With his head bowed, Sedda could feel her eyes on his neck. The seconds since he knelt before the old Norlandic throne felt like an hour; Sedda was painfully aware of the sounds of soldiers breathing through their helmets, shifting their hands on their spears, and their footsteps from outside the great hall. Only the Obsidian Infantry were totally silent -- them, and the Matriarch. Finally, though, she spoke, and her voice shattered the silence like an arrow through glass. “I see and acknowledge you, Sedda of the Clan Torath, Legate of the Halfmoon Legion.” “As but a servant, I am duly honoured,” Sedda gave the ceremonial response. Naturally, his voice did not ring like the Matriarch’s, and he kept his eyes on the floor. _______________ “Fought with valour?” Khazen snorted. “You forget yourself, Legate.” Razvien firmed his jaw, and did not answer. He knew Khazen was right -- Clan Torath, the military backbone of the Mori’Quessir, had no regard for valour, only results. I am making excuses, and he knows it. What is becoming of me? Raziven opened a palm, and watching the snow fall between his fingers. It is not meant to be this way. “... With your permission, Legate,” Khazen began again, “I wish to command the vanguard when the Srow assault the city walls.” Razvien cast him a surprised glance over his shoulder. “The vanguard? No. I will need you by my side in the command centre. Signifier Teryal will lead the vanguard, as planned.” Khazen’s red eyes remained locked on the Descendant banners as he spoke. “I ask that you reconsider, Legate.” “Why? To redeem yourself?” Khazen’s nod was stiff and slow. “I failed to drive them away from the city before. I will not fail again.” The frustration that had knotted Razvien’s stomach only moments ago had vanished, and in its place it left a faint inkling of fear. “You would likely die.” _______________ “ … then, as a humble servant, you shall carry my will.” The Matriarch’s words, smooth as steel, reverberated throughout the throne room. “I will, Great Matriarch, and serve as vessel for its fulfilment.” Get on with this farce. His head twitched in anticipation to look up at the Obsidian Infantry, the Onyx Retinue, and her. “Then hear me, noble vessel, and obey.” In the pause between her words, the northern wind whistled outside. “I say and declare that Razvien of the Clan Torath, Legate of the Tidal Legion, has been besieged by a Srow insurgency within the ruins of Fenn. I say and declare that it is my will, as Matriarch of the Clan Torath, that you, Sedda, my noble vessel, march with your Legion and a contingent of the Obsidian Infantry, will lift this siege. I say and declare that no Srow is to leave the lands of Fenn alive.” Well, fancy that, Razvien. Seems I’m to ride for your rescue! Sedda was glad his bowed head hid his smile. “As but a mere vessel, it shall be done.” I hope Razvien knows I am not dying for him. Not until he sees the truth, at least. “Make no mistake, Legate Sedda. You are to turn the snow red by the time you are done. The colour of their banners, and any pride with which they fly, is to be drowned out and forgotten in this slaughter.” “I hear and obey, Great Matriarch.” _______________ “If I do,” Khazen answered, “then is it atonement.” Razvien snorted. “Atonement for a failure that was not your own? It was no fault of yours that the Srow army overwhelmed the perimeter defence.” “It is a failure all the same.” He closed his eyes gently. “It is as you said, Legate. We are Clan Torath. We do not bicker and divide like the other Great Clans - we are one, and the failure of one is the failure of our Clan.” Razvien’s glare was not for the Descendants, now, but for Khazen. “You speak above your station, Optio.” He felt cruel saying so; Khazen was an older Mori than Razvien, but he had always been content in his rank. When the Matriarch had thought to honour him with a legion of his own, Khazen had refused, and the Matriarch had taken offence - never again had he been offered a promotion. Although Razvien still struggled to understand Khazen’s reasons, he had been more than happy to keep the Mori as his premier officer. Without him, where would I be? Dead to slave insurgents at the Drowning of Zhafris? Slain beneath a tide of Clan Ghrazi arrows at the Siege of Yhend? Vanquished in these very snowfields? “Perhaps I do. If you think I speak untrue, Legate, then strike me where I stand.” Razvien’s eyes shot open, and his heart drummed. Those words were far too close to what Legate Sedda had said when they had spoken last, in these ruins. _______________ “Make no mistake.” Each of the Matriarch’s words was a hammer on nails. “Our foe are Srow, Legate Sedda. They are less than slaves.” “I hear and obey, Great Matriarch.” You disappoint me, Great Matriarch. Your legions may be victorious so far, but we fight and die to fight these Srow you call less than slaves. “Our foe are Srow; surface-dwellers, thieves of our birthright, and contenders of our forebear Zanunder’s legacy.” “I hear and obey, Great Matriarch.” You speak as if we are still in the Underdark, Great Matriarch. You speak as if the Srow we fight are the same fairytale we supped on as children … the same debased savages, incapable of little more than bloodshed for bloodshed’s sake … the same pitiful fools who would welcome our enlightenment … “Legate Razvien has allowed the Srow to bring humiliation unto him, and unto our Clan.” Great Matriarch … I see now. If you truly believe all you say - or if you do speak for the sake of appearances … _______________ I could simply refuse his request. For all the whistle of the wind around them and the sounds of his Legion preparing for a siege, Razvien and Khazen stood in silence. I could refuse him, and command him to stand safely by my side in command. Khazen’s eyes remained closed, and Razvien’s glare remained fixed on him. It could be as simple as that. He opened his mouth to give the order, but then closed it wordlessly. That would make me no better than Sedda … questioning our very way of life. Our Clan. _______________ “I will not tolerate a second offence to our Clan, Legate.” “And I will not allow one, Great Matriarch.” Would that I could take my Legion, Great Matriarch … and shove it where the Fell Moon does not shine. “Go on, then, Legate Sedda - cull each one of them.” _______________ “ … Go on, then, Optio Khazen,” Razvien grunted half-heartedly at last. “Redeem yourself, and our Clan.” _______________ Sedda donned a gracious smile, and pressed a fist to his heart. _______________ Khazen’s eyes flittered open, and he pressed a fist to his heart. “I hear and obey.” | “I hear and obey.”
  6. "VERILY!" peeled the senile boom of Ser Vanhart, brandishing his hammer at the heavens. "FACE ME, DUKE OF ADRIA!" His bellows continued until his daughter dragged him back inside. @EnderMaiashiro
  7. As Vanhart the Carrot retrieved a certain hammer from the old tailoring shop in Karosgrad's square, the moment where his former Squire had stopped existing to him stained his memory as he cast the fire into a smith's forge to be melted.
  8. As Georg wept, his grandfather's stone statue watched. Wherever the soul of King Sigismund III now dwelled did not matter. As Georg's tears dripped against the stone, as his sobs echoed through the lonely crypt, Sigismund knew that was the moment that Georg realised the truth -- the weight of the Crown was not meeting your people's expectations, nor slaying one's enemies, nor shouldering the weight of justice. The true weight of the Crown was the loss that one had to endure. The role of King was the loneliest in the world. Sigismund looked down on his weeping grandson. He knelt, and his arms phased through King Georg as he embraced him.
  9. MORI'QUESSIR EVENTLINE WRITTEN IN ASHES Atop an eroded tower, Razvien of Clan Torath stifled a sigh. Hazed in a swirling blanket of descending snow, the ruined city falled Fenn spread out beneath the Mori Legate. He was told that Elves with skin as white as the moon once settled here, but Razvien was not sure if he believed it. When he had first come to the Surface, when he had first felt the kiss of the wind and the chill of the air, he had thought snow was the most incredulous thing; a soft, white rain that glazed the land in an arsenic white, that obscured dirt and grime and ugliness beneath it. No longer, though. How could the children of Malin ever settle here? In the months since Razvien had commandeered the Legions of Clan Torath to secure their foothold in the north, the snow had come to represent his growing impatience and ill-temper, both of which were traits Razvien had always prided himself on not having. It is this unrelenting cold that has frayed my nerves. That is all, Razvien assured himself for the umpteenth time, but he knew he did not really believe it anymore. “ … consolidated in Alisgrad, and Legate Nekaas has fortified the forest. Seems he’s already repelled numerous attacks.” Razvien sucked in a breath of freezing air as he tuned back into Khazen, his Optio and favoured lieutenant, reading the report at his side. Focus, now. We are not done here yet. Never forget -- absolution through order. Whether it was because of the snow or the knot of frustration growing in his mind, Razvien’s days had all began to blur into one -- he woke in the blissful dark of the Fell Moon, and listened to the watch-captain’s report over a breakfast of mushroom broth; then, he and Khazen inspected the Mori Legion setting up camp in the city and clearing out the ruined buildings, before he observed the beast-tamers in the stables, watched the formation drills, and reviewed the rations. “So. We wait, still.” Razvien’s breath was marked by mist as he spoke. “Same as before, Legate,” Khazen echoed wistfully. Little seemed to phase the grizzled Optio, even when he returned from his mission in Haense with most of his unit slaughtered. Even now, the veteran officer - his black-laquered mail gleaming faintly in the darkness, the tassels on his heavy lance streaming in the wind - seemed anchored to place like a rock. Razvien had once thought himself like that - unflappable - but that impression had not survived the invasion of the Surface. From his wars at Sheiven, Zafris, and Yhend, he had never felt this … turbulence when he fought battles and killed enemies beneath the ground, in the Underdark. He did not know why he felt it now. “Very well.” Despite his best efforts, Razvien sighed. “We still await word from the Matriarch, then.” As he and Khazen began to descend carefully down the frost-glazed steps of the tower, Razvien just wished that word came soon. He had come to hate this place called Fenn. A true battle would soothe him -- it had to. Atop the tower, the northern wind’s howl had muted the sounds of the massive Torathi encampment in the abandoned city, and so as Razvien and Khazen descended the din of talk, distant drills, the hammer of smiths’, the creak of cart axels, and the flap of canvas all rolled over him. The streets of Fenn were shovelled and salted every morning, but Razvien still watched his step; several dozen Legionnaires had already had to be treated for broken bones for slipping on the ice, and one had even cracked his skull and died. There was no ice and snow in the Underdark -- this freezing phenomenon was all new to the Mori. Braziers and bonfires of Akkesh mushrooms - a fungus from the Underdark that burned hotly, but produced no light but for a thin cyan flame - burned wherever one could fit to ward off the biting northern cold. Frostbite had proved an even worse problem than slipping on the ice for his Legion -- over half his slaves had perished already. Beneath billowing Clan Torath banners, Legionnaires, many carrying Akkesh torches as they went about their duties, snapped to alert and saluted Razvien and Khazen as they passed, and Razvien acknowledged them with only a curt nod. As they approached his command pavilion - the buildings in Fenn were all too eroded to live in - tucked away in a sheltered section of the city, Razvien could sense something was amiss. The din of talking voices - normally dull and monotone - had an edge of surprise and commotion to it now. Khazen felt it, too. “Someone’s slipped on the damned ice again is my guess, Legate.” Razvien scowled, and gripped the sword sheathed at his side as if to draw some kind of comfort. “That would be just our luck. Let us see.” As Razvien marched across the salted flagstones towards his black-canvassed pavilion, two of his retinue turned away from the door of his tent at his approach. “Legate, I - he just walked in!” one of them - Cetzen - blurted. “We didn’t even see him arrive!” “Who just walked in?” Khazen barked, but Razvien only narrowed his eyes on the Torathi crest emblazoned on the tent’s doorway. “Wait outside,” he muttered absently, and even Khazen eyed him in surprise as Razvien threw open the door flap and strode into the tent. There, sat slouched at the foot of the Akkesh fire smouldering in the heart of the tent and with a steaming, ceramic cup in hand, was a Torathi officer, his black mail marked with the gilt of rank. His plumed helmet lay on the ground, exposing a scarred and red-eyed face framed with a long mane of silver hair. As Razvien entered, the figure spread his arms, splashing liquid over the rim of his cup, and beamed. “Razvien!” “Legate Sedda.” Razvien clenched his jaw. “What are you doing here?” “Well, I thought I’d make myself at home.” Sedda gestured around the tent with his cup. “We’re all brothers-in-arms, right? What’s mine is yours?” Razvien’s teeth creaked. “What are you doing in Fenn? I thought you were with the Matriarch in Norland.” Abruptly, a second thought struck him. “Did she send you here?” “Not exactly.” Sedda slurped from the cup noisily. “I just thought I’d come visit my old friend.” Razvien’s fingers switched on the hilt of his sword. Friend? If there was one person of Clan Torath Razvien despised most, it was Sedda. Unlike most Mori’Quessir, Clan Torath’s strength came from the collective; soldiers were drilled from a young age to work as a unit, and that necessitated strict discipline and order. Sedda had been no exception, until he had risen to the rank of Legate shortly after Razvien himself. That was when his … quirks had started to show, and they had only grown worse since coming to the surface. Razvien would have advised the Matriarch to reprimand him, but the very order he was sworn to prevented that. “Hm? You going to attack me?” Sedda asked dryly as he watched Razvien’s hand. “Well, I suppose I couldn’t blame you. Looks like all you’ve had to fight up here is the cold. Heh. I heard you lost one of your Hadd’ro, too. That true?” Easy. Calm yourself, Razvien. Absolution through order. He peeled his fingers off his hilt. “... We retrieved it. The Srow had taken it captive, but it we found it later in the supply tunnels.” “Ah, well, lucky you! Can’t say we’ve had it easy in Norland,” Sedda droned on as he sipped from the ceramic cup. “You should have seen the bloodshed at Alisgrad. The Srow didn’t go down without a fight.” Razvien’s nose twitched at the scent from the cup. “Are you drinking my kiurelle? From my cup?” Sedda grinned broadly. “Why, yes, actually. It’s very good. You don't mind me serving myself, right?” He extended the cup. “Care for a sip -” In one fluid motion, Razvien back-handed the cup out of Sedda’s hand. The foamy green fungal brew splattered to the floor as the cup rolled across the floor of the tent. When Razvien spoke again, he did it with ice in his voice. “Tell me why you are here, Legate Sedda, or the next thing to roll will be your head.” Razvien Torath, Legate of the Tidal Legion Sedda’s surprise was only momentary, before that smirk returned. “Empty threats will do neither of us any good, Legate Razvien. We both know you wouldn’t wipe your own waste without the Matriarch’s orders. But fine, fine,” he raised a forestalling hand, with green kiurelle dripping down his fingers. “I came to ask you a question.” Razvien closed his eyes for a moment. Absolution through order. He exhaled long and hard through his nose, before he glared back at Sedda. He was right -- Razvien wouldn’t dare kill a fellow Legate, and the fact that Sedda knew that only stoked Razvien’s ire more. “What question?” he slowly eased himself down on the cushion on the other side of the blue fire, watching Sedda. “Have you figured out why we’re here?” “You’re a fool, Sedda.” Razvien pinched the bridge of his nose. “We’re assembling the Legion here before the Matriarch gives the signal to -” “No, Razvien,” Sedda cut him off with surprising softness. He wasn’t smiling anymore. “Have you figured out why we’re here … on the Surface?” Razvien was about to cool him a fool and worse, but he blinked when he saw the look in Sedda’s eyes. There was something … different about them. Something far more serious than Razvien had ever seen in the Mori. What happened to him in Norland? “ … It is our birthright,” he answered slowly, “to reclaim the Surface as our own, and the legacy that Zanunder was bereft of .” The faint light of the Akkesh flames danced on Sedda’s face. “But why?” “Hmph. You know why. We cannot live and grow in the Underdark forever. The Greatwyrms are eating away and collapsing the Underdark, bit by bit. The tunnel networks are collapsing, and monsters infest caverns where we used to farm like a kicked anthill. And that is only the outside threat - we scheme for resources, and the Clans compete and conspire for power. We'll tear each other apart before the Greatwyrms do.” Sedda nodded slowly. “So … coming to the Surface will fix all that?” “Yes,” Razvien answered firmly. “Once we vanquish and enslave the Srow, there will be land aplenty for each Clan to live in harmony, safe from the Greatwyrms, and - ... and safe from each other. That is our birthright.” The look on Sedda’s face now enraged Razvien more than his smugness, his arrogance, or his antagonism ever did, for it was a look of pity. “Razvien,” he cooed softly, “do you know what I saw at Norland? I did not see a race of debased savages, incapable of unity and living in squalor and begging for our enlightenment … I did not see the legacy of Zanunder restored, and I did not see the salvation of the Mori’Quessir.” He leaned forward, the cyan light flickering on his face. His voice dropped to a whisper. “Do you want to know what I did see, among the corpses of my dead Legionnaires?” Razvien watched Sedda very carefully, and gave the slightest of nods. “I saw our fate,” the other Mori answered. “We scheme and fight for power below ground in the Underdark, even with the Greatwyrms at our throats, and we would scheme and fight for power above ground on the Surface. Each of the Great Clans would claim a fraction of this land, but it’s only a matter of time before greed puts us at our own throats. You know this, Razvien.” Now, it was Sedda’s turn to sigh into the fire. “That is Zanunder’s true legacy … the fate of the Mori’Quessir. We’re not invading to save ourselves - we’re invading to delay our race cutting each other to pieces.” For a long moment, there was silence but for the faint crackle of the fire and the flap of the canvas walls in the wind. “Is that what you really believe, Sedda?” At last, Sedda leaned back. “It is. I saw it in the ashes of Norland, plain as the moon. Do you think I’m wrong, Razvien?” “I do.” Order through absolution. I cannot forget. “Come, now. Think about it for yourself, for once.” A few loose blue cinders drafted up from the fire between Razvien and Sedda. “If you think I am wrong, then you know I speak of open insubordination. Now you are well within your rights to kill me for questioning the Matriarch.” Razvien only stared at him through the dim blue glow. “Go ahead.” As he spoke, Sedda exhibited the unfaltering calm Razvien had once treasured in himself. He bowed his head, and brushed away his mane of white hair to expose his neck for beheading. “If I am wrong, then kill me, Legate Razvien. I will not resist.” Razvien tried to think - tried to formulate the words in his head - but it was if his mind had become a whirlpool, and he could not latch on to anything. The whistle of the land, the crackle of the flames, Sedda’s tauntingly calm eyes … He was not sure how long he sat there in silence, or how long Sedda waited. Eventually, the other Legate rose leisurely, and licked the kiurelle off his fingers before he picked up his helmet. As he moved towards the doorway, he lay a hand on Razvien’s shoulder. When he spoke, his old demeanour - chiding and mischievous - was back. “Well, this has been fun, Razvien, but I should return to Norland before I’m missed.” Razvien found himself unable to look away from the faint flames of the Akkesh. Why can’t I …? The cold sweeped in as Sedda lifted the door flap. “I’ll be waiting in Norland,” he called back, “for when you make up your mind.” As the door flap closed and left Razvien alone, he sat alone by the fire. He sat there past his noontime inspection, and after his dinner duties. He sat there long into the night, until the blue flame had almost died. He sat there, and he thought of what Sedda had seen in the ashes.
  10. THE JUDGMENT OF LORENA GANT: TRIAL BY CARROT Issued by the CARROT On this 11th day of Jula and Piov of 474 E.S. UPON MY NAME AS VANHART THE CARROT, I HEREBY DECLARE that I stood present as Lorena Gant, daughter to Lord-Palatine Otto Gant, was apprehended in the Morrivi Prikaz by her father, my lord son Wilheim Barclay, Lord Carolus Colborn, and Ser Vlad Hothand following the pontificial enthronement of his Holiness, Sixtus V. The Lord-Palatine levied upon his lady daughter the charge of treason, for she had defected to the hostile state of Adria. Ser Vlad Hothand, having investigated the the matter, testified that this was the case, and I, knowing Ser Vlad to be a reputable man of honour, have no cause to doubt him. Furthermore, I was present when a Kharajyr by the name of 'Jester' did previously testify that Lorena Gant had partaken in the armed activities of Adria against the Kongzem of Haense's allies. I witnessed as the Lord-Palatine, deaf to his lady daughter's pleas, condemned her to beheading for her betrayal. I HEREBY DECLARE that the Lord-Palatine departed after he ordered Lord Carolus, Ser Vlad, and my lord son Wilheim to take the condemned Lorena Gant to the square for execution. I took to the patrol the walls with my lady daughter Edith of Aaun, while the condemned Lorena Gants was given her last rites while resisting her sentence. As I returned to the square, in the midst of disorder and commotion, it was I who bid Ser Vlad stay his executioner's blade as the condemned Lorena Gant continued to resist. As I called for silence in the square, I approached and examined the wounded woman, and I, as a sworn servant of his Majesty and his laws of the Haurul Caezk, did bestow unto the accused Lorena Gant the chance to rebuke her father's charge by way of Trial by Combat. I HEREBY DECLARE that all gathered in the Karosgrad Square stood witness as Lorena Gant accepted my challenge. Upon medical inspection by Amaya Colborn, I, having been satisfied that the condemned Lorena Gant was in no condition to fight, gave her leave to return to her new home of Adria and that, upon her recovery, she was to return to Haense to face me in battle. Should she prove victorious, then never shall her name be stained with the allegation of treason and betrayal. Should she fall in battle, then I shall enact judgment upon her. Should she fail to come before me to duel, it shall be my oath to my God and my King to hunt down Lorena Gant and, through all means necessary, vanquish her as a craven and a knave. I HEREBY DECLARE that, upon my hammer and the name of the Lady Johanna, I shall not falter in this duty. @liz WER RASTET DER ROSTET SER VANHART BARCLAY
  11. As someone with extensive experience of trying to navigate issues like these (and, I'm sure, being guilty of it at times), leaving it generally in the hands of the community is (a) ineffective and (b) inflammatory as it promotes open confrontation which will yield (at least most of the time) no resolution. I don't intend to come across as curt or dismissive with the previous reply, just stating that my experience without being superfluous. My opinion isn't necessarily the right one, though. Edit: I don't think Unbaed is holding you personally accountable for the Admin's ineffectiveness, but rather highlighting how a proposal to leave things in the community's hands as the Admins did before was ineffective, and therefore the proposal itself is ineffective.
  12. anti-rp stances are seldom if ever cracked down upon
  13. Vanhart the Carrot wiped a tear from his eye - equal parts relief, and grief - as the wind swept over Hallaburg Castle, where the squires gathered for their yearly training. "I ... thought it was over," he whispered hoarsely to himself. The sun had turned a dull red as it began to set, and its rays flashed haphazardly on the waters of the Staal Eada snaking through the land far below. "I thought ... they wanted peace." Memory of that warning of his beloved daughter and grandson captured - at a funeral, no less! - made his heart thrum and his legs wobble again, and the relief of hearing of their safety while the Brotherhood was abroad fighting the Mori did little to ease him. He sniffed back his disdain, and narrowed his eyes into a watery glare at the sunset. He was an old Knight, now; the swing of his hammer meant little. But in what precious years he had left, he would never forgive that insult.
  14. Which kinda sucks I think? If something takes 30 pages to explain then it's not being explained very well, is my view. Anyway like I said it's not a critique on this particular piece but this unfortunate LT standard in general. When it comes to writing, conciseness is a hallmark of quality.
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