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About Xarkly

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    man with a plan
  • Birthday 04/23/1872

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    a loyal haenseni patriot
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  1. Vanhart von Alstreim, once the Knight of the Carrot, was glad to be away with Georg, far from the cowardice of his descendants.
  2. SONG OF THE BLACK CHAPTER XV: THE BURGUNDIAN HOST A Lord of the Craft novella set in ancient Ruskan 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 Chapter XII: Drunkards in Dules Chapter XIII: Kusoraev Chapter XIV: Blood is Nothing In 246 E.S., the man history would remember as Barbov the Black captures the Trade City of Dules. For the young Prince Barbov, this victory marks the first major step in his quest to reclaim the throne of his late-father - Karl Ruswalda’ Karovic, King of Ruska - after Barbov and his brother Kosav were driven from their home by the Nzechovich dynasty, their nemesis from whom Karl Ruswalda took the throne. While Prince Barbov plans his next move in Dules, a sleeping bear stirs on the other side of the River Huns -- the Burgundian Host, a famous league of Canonist mercenaries, venture out from their keep of Burgstad for the first time since the civil war between Barbov and the Nzechovich erupted. While many expected the Burgundian Host to pledge their allegiance to Karl - who, like his father, is a Canonist in a realm home to many pagan faiths - an officer of the Host finds himself escorting an important guest to the Royal City of Lahy, seat of Nzechovich power. As a boy, Lazar’s parents had told him tales of the Burgundian Host. The holy order of Canonist mercenaries were villains in some stories and heroes in others, depending on who told the story, but all accounts agreed on their prowess. Since they had first been formed generations ago by the holy hero Jan Yeremi, the Burgundian Host had carved their name into Ruskan history, for it was the Host who vanquished the tyrant Nikolaus of Dules in their maiden battle, who cleansed the realm of the Vampyre of Bretzenov, and who had fought to place King Karl Ruswalda on the throne of Ruska thirty years ago. Those stories had filled Lazar’s head all throughout his childhood, and so they had eventually turned into dreams, and, finally, ambition. At age six, he played pretend sword-fighting with the other boys and imagined himself as a warrior draped in the Host’s namesake cloaks; at age fourteen, when his father was teaching how to hammer horseshoes, he instead dreamt he was smithing blades for the Host; and, at age eighteen, he left behind his family home to travel to the Host’s stronghold of Burgstad to enlist. And now, eight years later, here I am, Lazar thought as his warhorse - Aegal, a Carnatian thoroughbred - carried him down the Lahy Road. An Attaman of the Burgundian Host … stuck guarding an overweight priest. He sighed and patted Aegal’s neck, before he looked over his shoulder at the priest in question. Of course, Merilaus of Khosentar wasn’t just any priest - he was the Archbishop of Lahy, which made him the highest-ranking member of the Canonist Church in all of Ruska. Merilaus did not exactly look the part, though: the middle-aged, portly Rhenyari wore plain and dark grab, save for a modest touch of silver scrollwork on his cloak, and the impassive frown on his dark-skinned face did not quite radiate charisma. A small pipe was clenched in his teeth, from which he puffed blue-grey smoke every few moments. “Something the matter, Attaman?” Merilaus arched a bushy eyebrow as he spotted Lazar staring, before he plucked the smouldering pipe from his mouth, and offered it out. “You want a toke? It’s good tabac, from back home in the Rhenmarch.” “... No, thank you, Your Excellency. I don’t partake.” “Really, now?” Merilaus popped the pipe back into his mouth. “Well, give it time, son. Every man takes to the pipe or the bottle sooner or later.” “But it is the light of God that keeps men from straying too deeply into vice,” chimed a sing-song voice as a woman urged her horse up beside Merilaus’. Despite her cheery disposition, scars pocked the freckled face of Chaplain Idle of Burgstad, whose unkempt coppery hair stuck out from beneath her plumed half-helmet. Like Lazar, she wore a burnished breastplate over a wine-red coat and a white-trimmed burgundy cloak, emblazoned with a white Canonist Cross. “Isn’t that so, Archbishop?” She flashed the Rhenyari a knowing smile. “Indeed, Chaplain,” Merilaus grunted dryly. “How wonderful that you are so learned in the matter of basic vice and virtue.” Idle’s giggle was mischievous as the gleam in her eyes, but it was disarming compared to her battle-scarred face. “Well, I was blessed with an excellent teacher, after all.” Lazar frowned as the pair of them chortled. I don’t understand those two a whit. Though Ilde was an Attaman like Lazar - an autonomous company-commander within the Host - she was also Burgstad’s Chaplain, responsible for administering all holy rights, and so she had mentored under Merilaus before she had risen to her current rank. The way she behaved around the Archbishop was more like a daughter than servant, though, and Lazar did not approve. It simply was not proper. And it does not seem like the Archbishop is much better, he added to himself. Before he had met the Archbishop for himself, he had thought that the foremost cleric in all of Ruska, the leader of an infant church in a pagan-infested land, would be both stern and wise, sagely and strong. Instead, when Merilaus had come to Burgstad after the Coup of Lahy, Lazar had found a man that was plainly dressed and plainly spoken, who seemed far more cunning than he was wise. Lazar had been … disappointed. At that moment, though, as Aegal carried him down the Lahy Road at the head of a column of fifty riders of the Burdungian Host - warriors from both Ilde’s company and his own - it was not his expectations of the Archbishop that bothered him. Rather, it was their destination. We should be travelling to the other side of the Lower Huns, to Dules - to Prince Barbov, Lazar thought for the umpteenth time. Not travelling to Lahy to break bread with the Nzechovich. Lazar and Ilde’s mission was to escort Merilaus safely to the Royal City of Lahy, where the pagan traitor Msitovic Nzechovich had summoned a Grand Duma, on which the Archbishop had a seat. It didn’t make any sense to Lazar. During the Elk War - when King Karl Ruswalda had overthrown King Nestor Nzechovich IV - the Burgundian Host had been the military backbone supporting Ruswalda. In doing so, they had created Ruska’s first Canonist king, which had ended decades of religious persecution of Canonists and spread their faith like wildfire. But now, King Karl is dead, God rest of him, and so is most his court. Lazar’s expression darkened as he glared out across the sloping green fields surrounding the road. And the Nzechovich have retaken the throne. So why in the hells are we not riding to Dules to support Prince Barbov? Lazar did not realise he had let out an audible curse until Ilde sped her horse up beside his. “Something the matter, Lazzie?” “No,” he retorted harshly. “And I have told you to stop calling me that.” “I know,” Ilde said with one of her infuriating smiles. “It’s just that you look like a thunderhead. Are you -” “It’s nothing. Just - just keep your eyes on the road. Lahy nears, and we may well not be welcome in the city anymore.” “Oho. Look at you, giving orders to a fellow Attaman. If that’ll help loosen that spear up your backside, then I’ll do just that, Lazzie.” By the time Lazar’s eyes snapped around to glare at her, she had already dropped her house back past Merilaus. Her melodious laugh hung in the air, and there was a creak of leather as Lazar clenched Aegal’s reins in frustration. He continued riding with a scowl. The rolling green countryside around them gradually became dappled with more pastures and fields brimming with grain almost ripe for harvest as their party passed the seven-mile marker to Lahy. They had passed some traffic that morning, all of whom had been peasants driving wagons to market in the city, but as the morning drew on, the roads from Bretzenov and Rezenskc joined up, and traffic increased exponentially. By the time they had passed the five-mile marker, Lazar had to assign Kusot - one of his juniors - to ride at the front and yell at the rabble to keep a clear path so as not to trample them. Lazar was grateful they encountered no Nzechovich patrols, but they did cross paths with a convoy of nearly one-hundred mounted and scale-mailed soldiers escorting a Boyar to the city. Lazar did not recognise the banners they flew, but, judging by the icy looks they gave the Hostmen, their master was a pagan ally of the Nzech. Other travellers gave their burgundian cloaks disparaging or frightful looks, but, for the most part, the peasants and merchants travelling the roads watched Lazar’s company pass with intrigue or even cheers. The regions south of Lahy were predominantly Canonist - in no small part thanks to the Host’s influence, since Burgstad sat two days’ downriver from Lahy - but Lazar suspected that welcome would not last much longer. Merilaus claimed that since he had been invited to the Grand Duma, they would not be harmed in the city, but Lazar was not so certain. “I bet you’re glad I didn’t wear the hat now, hm, Ilde?” Merilaus remarked at one point after they were forced to slow their horses to let travellers disperse for the fourth time. “This lot would be asking me for prayers and blessings every step to Lahy.” “It’s a mitre, not a hat, Your Excellency,” Ilde tutted, “and I daresay it might not be a bad thing for your flock to see their shepherd among them once more. You have been gone for three months.” “Yes, well, matters of politics can’t be helped, now, can they? Besides - it will make for a triumphant return!” “As you say, Your Excellency.” __________________________ A rider of the Burgundian Host. __________________________ Despite Merilaus’ efforts to travel incognito, he was recognised by a band of peasants travelling by foot near the three-mile marker, and the Host had to move their horses off the road while Merilaus obliged the peasants with a short sermon. Merilaus took a slab of stone rubble on the roadside for his dais, and the watching peasants quickly grew from thirteen, to twenty-five, and then more than fifty. While the rest of the Host took their steeds to water from a nearby stream, Lazar remained atop Aegal, watching the sermon with his arms crossed over his breastplate. “You don’t feel like joining in, Lazzie?” chimed Ilde as the Attaman joined him once again. Lazar gave her a frosty, sidelong look. He was not going to let her get a rise out of him with that name anymore. “I have already said my morning prayers.” “I know,” Ilde rolled her eyes. “I was there. You can relax, you know; the Nzechovich aren’t going to attack us. Not yet, anyway.” Slowly, Lazar looked back to the ring of peasants sitting around Merilaus, who gestured animatedly as the sermon continued. “How can you be so sure of that? Not only are the Nzech pagans, but the Host helped overthrow the last Nzechovich king. We should be mortal enemies.” “We can be sure because Merilaus is sure.” “Merilaus is -” “A smart man,” Ilde cut across him quietly, but firmly, “even if he might not seem like a model priest. He’s been Archbishop for nearly fifteen years in a city that’s divided between pagans and Canonists. He knows the politics at play here.” “Politics?” Lazar sneered. “For God’s sake, Ilde, he’s an Archbishop, not a prince.” “Skies above, Lazzie, you’re not really that dense, are you?” “You had better reign in your tongue, Attaman,” he seethed. “One more petty insult, and I’ll make you defend those words in a duel.” “You go ahead and do that, Lazzie, but before you do, you should know that there’s power in prayer. It’s happening right in front of you.” Lazar peeled his glare off to look back to Merilaus, and saw that the crowd of worshippers had grown even larger. A burgher draped in fine wool and furs, flanked by two helmeted armsmen, had even joined them now. “And where there’s power, there’s politics. That’s just the way of the world.” “Politics,” Lazar repeated the word bitterly. “Is that why we’re going to Lahy in the first place? Is that why we’re breaking bread with the Nzech instead of breaking their bones?” “Is that what's bothering you?” “ … Yes,” Lazar said tightly. He had no idea if she would relay his misgivings to Merilaus, but he did not care at that moment. “We’re on the wrong side of the River.” “Huh,” Ilde said, without a trace of mockery. “You think we should be fighting with Prince Barbov? It seems you’re quite political yourself, then, Lazar.” “It’s not a matter of politics,” he grunted back. “It is simple right and wrong. The Burgundian Host are an order of Canonist mercenaries, and so we should be fighting to put Barbov on his father’s throne. This business of going to Lahy to meet the Nzechovich …” He grit his teeth. “It’s cowardice.” “Just … think about it for a moment, will you?” Ilde’s tone took Lazar by surprise; there was none of her usual wit that made everything she said sound insincere. Even her scarred expression was pensive as she stared absently at Merilaus. “Does it look like the Nzechovich are about to start purging Canonism from Ruska? We haven’t heard of any churches being burnt, no clerics murdered, no scrolls burned in the streets. Skies, if that was their intention, Vladrik Nzechovich would have marched his thirty-thousand man army on Burgstad, and not Dules.” “Hmph. It is only natural that they fear us.” “Except I don’t think it’s fear, Lazzie,” Ilde clicked her tongue. “With Karl Ruswalda as King and Msitovic Nzechovich as his High Chief, Ruska had thirty-years of relative peace. Say what you will about the Nzech, but Msitovic Nzechovich is a smart man.” Slowly, she panned towards him. “He might have usurped the throne from Ruswalda’s son, but he clearly doesn’t intend to incite religious violence.” “Tsch. Sounds like conjecture to me. Who's to say Prince Barbov does not want the same?” “That’s the point - who is to say? Barbov’s practically still a child, and he’s been forced to surround himself with opportunists for allies who seek to use his fledgling power for their own ends. I’d wager some of his Boyars are just siding with him so they’ll get a sweeter deal from the Nzech to switch sides at the right time, not to mention he’s got extremists like Ratibor Skysent at his side, who would see paganism punishable by death if he had his way. Barbov might very well allow that - point is, Msitovic Nzechovich is known and respected. Prince Barbov is not.” “Ratibor Skysent is a Canonist hero,” Lazar cut in harshly with a clenched jaw. “And so what if Barbov does take a harsh stance on paganism? We should be glad for it! The Host’s ethos is to spread Canonism; not accept the Nzech’s status quo!” “And what does spreading Canonism mean, Lazzie? Telling folks to murder their neighbours? Forced conversions? Razing the lands of every pagan Boyar? Pfft. Half of Ruska would go up in smoke within the week, and the rest would follow quickly enough.” Lazar opened his mouth to retort, and then closed it with a click of teeth. For a moment, he just stared down the road, at the throngs of people making their way towards Lahy. Chatter, laughter, the creak of cart axles, the bray of horses, Merilaus’ booming sermon, and the wind in the trees filled the air. He closed his eyes, and sighed - he hated that she was right. “So … you’re saying we should choose the daemon we know?” “I’m saying that Merilaus and the Host are not fools for hearing what the Nzech have to say, especially if that means the civil war between Barbov and the Nzechs won’t escalate into a religious war. The Burgundian Host prefers to raid pagans outside of Ruska, after all.” Lazar opened his eyes. He slouched in his saddle, as if he was deflated. “I do not like politics.” “Good,” Ilde snorted. “That usually makes folk less insufferable. I suppose you’re an exception, though.” “I - hey!” he growled, but as he narrowed his eyes into a glare, Ilde had already begun to trot away. “We’re still going to duel at Lahy!” Lazar called after her. “I’m not tolerating your insults any longer!” Ilde only laughed, and that stoked Lazar’s ire even more. When Merilaus had finally finished her sermon and their company mounted up once more, Lazar found himself filled with a different kind of anxiety as they set out, wading through the traffic of travellers. No longer did he wonder whether or not the Nzechovich were going to cut them down as soon as they were trapped within the city walls; instead, Lazar’s mind was shrouded by Ilde’s words. He didn’t want her to be right, but he couldn’t ignore the truth now that it had been presented to him. The daemon we know … Before Lazar knew it, they crested a slope in the road, and then there Lahy was. The Royal City spread out before him. A quilt of farmlands, almost ripe for harvest, blanketed the land all around the city walls, at the foot of which clusters of farming hamlets pumped chimney-smoke into the sky. The late-morning sun beamed down, and sparkled against the Tapestry Wall, which was given its name for the enormous mosaics inlaid on the stone to depict scenes of long-dead heroes, vanquished foes, and galloping horses. Naturally, the entire face of the thirty-foot tall curtain wall was not covered in those rainbow tiles - just stretches here and there - but it was enough to lend Lahy a grandeur and character that no other city could match. Despite his mood, Lazar could not help but smile. Lahy was his home; he had been born and raised in the city’s Farrier District, and it had been nearly six months since he had last come to the city to visit his parents. His smile did not last long, though, because he knew the city he beheld now was not the same city he had visited those six months prior. Karl Ruswalda no longer lived, and a Canonist King no longer sat the throne. It was the green-red banners of the Nzechovich dynasty that streamed from the onion-domed towers atop the Tapestry Wall, and not the black-red of Ruswalda’s Karovic lineage. Home, and also not. A part of Lazar had expected the city to have been torn asunder by the Nzechovich government, but Idle was right - there was no sign of that. Traders bustled in and out of the city, and the farms swarmed with straw-hatted labourers preparing for the looming harvest. It was a city at peace, but that did not still Lazar’s restless mind. He had wanted there to be living proof that the Nzechovich could not be trusted on the throne, that they were cruel tyrants who simply had to be overthrown for the good of all, and yet … “Why have we stopped, Attaman?” Merilaus piped up behind him. “I can only guess he must be stunned by the view,” Ilde sang. “It is a beautiful sight, don’t you think, Your Excellency?” “Bah. Shit still stinks, no matter how much you polish it. Let’s get a move on.” “ … Right,” Lazar said absently. “Of course, Your Excellency.” As he heeled Aegal into a canter down the slope towards the city gates, his eyes remained locked on the Nzechovich banners flying from the Tapestry Wall. The Daemon we know. Pah. God, grant me patience … And, if it came to it that the Burgundian Host actually trusted the Nzechovich … … and grant me forgiveness, too. Lazar of Lahy, Attaman of the Burgundian Host.
  3. No, that's not what I'm saying. Raids should be able to achieve a variety of purposes but mods need to have an idea of what wider goal they're trying to achieve on the server via reforms (ie more PvP, more CRP, easier offence, etc.) Several layers of cap here We had raid warnings on Atlas on a highly intense and regular basis (while they were a thing) where they were contested on several occasions. Also talking about nation rpers like they don't say the exact same about pvpers is lol
  4. I'm not really sure what Mods are actually trying to do with raiding, I think it would help both you and us if you formed a vision for what you want raiding to be, otherwise this just feels like aimless back and forth between the RP/PvP camp.
  5. SONG OF THE BLACK CHAPTER XIV: BLOOD IS NOTHING A Lord of the Craft novella set in ancient Ruskan 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 Chapter XII: Drunkards in Dules Chapter XIII: Kusoraev In 246 E.S., the man who history would remember as Barbov the Black captures the city of Dules in his quest to reclaim the Ruskan throne. In Lahy Castle, Lord Msitovic Nzechovich - the man who orchestrated the Coup of Lahy to restore his family to the throne and ousted Prince Barbov - reflects on the difficult choices lying ahead of him. Surrounded by scheming factions and fleeting allies, Msitovic feels more alone than he ever has as he tries to precariously balance the civil war that he has created. In a moment of doubt, he seeks comfort from Bozidar Kindheart, an old friend but also an enemy sworn to Prince Barbov, who is held in Lahy Castle under house arrest. Msitovic fully explores his heart and mind over a game of Lafsk with his friend and enemy, and resolves to see his ambition through -- to save Ruska from its history of violence and infighting. The piece clacked against the wooden Lafsk board as Msitovic moved it. The piece was barely three inches tall, but it felt heavy in the High Chief’s fingers. It was a kind of weight that Msitovic had felt before, many times. When his father, stern faced and demanding, had first thrust a sabre into Msitovic’s hands when he was six and told him that he would use it to defend Ruska and the Blood of Nzech, Msitovic felt that weight for the first time. He felt it again when he was sixteen, and he had skewered that same sabre through the gambeson of a Carnatian raider in his first true battle. He remembered the weight when he was twenty, and he watched a unit of Nzechovich armsmen charge to their deaths in the Battle of Vsevford for no other reason than because Msitovic was a Nzechovich, and he had ordered them forwards. The weight had been there when Msitovic had knelt before King Nestor IV Nzechovich - his own uncle - and sworn his undying fealty, only for Nestor IV’s reign to go up in smoke three years later when Karl Ruswalda declared his rebellion, smashed the Nzechovich loyalists, and drove Nestor IV into exile. The weight had never felt more crushing than when Msitovic agreed to serve as High Chief - or Chancellor, as the title was also known - to King Karl Ruswalda, in the hopes of mending the bitter gap between Karl’s victorious Karovic lineage, and his defeated Nzechovich kin. Msitovic had been haunted by the weight in the years that followed as he signed laws and enacted change on behalf of the slothful King Karl, but the last time he had felt it - truly felt it - was a mere two months ago, when King Karl had died, and Msitovic ordered that his son and heir - Prince Barbov - was to be killed. That weight - the weight of power, death, and consequences - had been part of Msitovic’s life for so long now that Msitovic wondered if it was part of him, and whether would have become an entirely different person if not for how that weight had warped him. Now, as he stared at the Lafsk board in front of him, he felt it again, pressing down on his shoulders, threatening to crush him. It was, of course, not the board game before him that brought on that weight, but the moves playing out in his mind. For it was Msitovic’s turn to make his move against Prince Barbov, the boy prince he had failed to kill at the Coup of Lahy. “Come, Bozidar,” Msitovic tutted absent-mindedly. “Make your move already.” “Hmmm …” came a brooding rumble from the other side of the board. “I can sense the makings of a trap, but I do not see where it will spring.” “A wise fox trusts his instincts and runs, instead of waiting to see if the wolf pounces,” Msitovic recited half-heartedly in turn. “Yes, well, I do not think I am much of a fox.” “ … No.” Despite that weight bearing on his mind, Msitovic cracked a faint smile at his opponent. “I do not think you are, Bozidar.” Bozidar Kindheart’s massive shoulders shook as the man chuckled. The Bogatyr that sat before Msitovic was far closer to a bear than he was a fox with his barrelchest and tree-trunk arms, which strained the fabric of his shirt. Despite the fact that Bozidar was the largest Bogatyr to have served the Ruskan throne in generations, the man was far from intimidating. With that innocent cast of his eyes, the warble of his voice, and the spring of blond curls clinging to his shiny scalp, Bozidar seemed more like a stuffed teddy bear than a grizzly one. The man’s reputation did not help, either; his moniker was self-explanatory enough, and, besides which, Bozidar was famous for his oath to never kill another man. It was almost comical to Msitovic that Bozidar - despite his size - was the only Bogatyr who had not earned his station through bloodshed. Where Bogatyr like Slavomir the Drowned and Ratibor Skysent were renowned for cutting their foes to ribbons, Bozidar handed out alms to the poor, and shared his wealth with whoever fed him a sob-story. That was not to say Bozidar was useless in battle, though; while he held to his holy oath to never kill another man, Bozidar’s famous greatshield served to turn the man into a walking fortress on the battlefield. Ever since the Elk War - when Msitovic’s family had been toppled from the throne - Bozidar Kindheart had been the sworn shield of King Karl Ruswalda, and no arrow nor blade had ever made it past him. “You, on the other hand, would make a fitting wolf, I think,” Bozidar said with a toothy smirk as he finally advanced his own Lafsk piece. “I would hope not.” Clouded as his mind was, Msitovic instinctively assessed Bozidar’s move, and saw it posed little threat. The man was playing without a plan, it seemed. “I was never partial to hunting. Besides, if it were my choice, I’d much rather be a friendlier creature.” With another clack, he moved a piece of his own, and the trap Bozidar sensed began to close. “Like what? A sheepdog?” “More like a peacock, perhaps.” That brought out another bout of chuckles from both men. “Though, a sheepdog isn’t inaccurate. I certainly feel like one - I’m stuck chasing things that continue to run from me.” “So it seems, aye,” Bozidar said, a touch cautiously, before he made a reluctant move on the board. “I have heard you have called the Duma to sit.” Mention of the impending Duma made the weight press deeper into Msitovic’s shoulders. “Yes,” he answered softly. He stared over Bozidar’s shoulder, to where an ajar window looked out at the tiled rooftops of the Royal City of Lahy, glistening in the evening sun. “I have. Prince Barbov has taken Dules, against all odds, and now I must do something about it.” “He has earned your personal attention, has he? I pray my Prince Barbov steps lightly, then.” “Yes, well, he survived last time I tried to kill him,” Msitovic grumbled, before he nodded towards Bozidar’s side of the board. “Move.” Bozidar blinked at the board, as if he had forgotten about the game, and then pressed a piece forwards. He was trying to form a line of defensive pieces until he figured out Msitovic’s stratagem. “Still, it almost sounds as if you are impressed, old friend.” “That’s because I am,” Msitovic answered bluntly, and he watched Bozidar blink in surprise as Msitovic moved one of his pieces on the opposite side of the board. The move was a decoy, just to throw Bozidar off the scent of his trap a little further. “Like I said, Barbov and his ragtag band of exiles has defied all odds so far. They went from a few-hundred men on the fringe of Ruska, to an army of ten thousand holding the realm’s richest city. They defeated the Electors and outwitted Vladrik in what I can only call a stroke of daring military genius, and before they ever reached Dules, they defeated Szitibor and Mylah at Mejen.” Mention of Szitibor and Mylah - his niece and nephew - caused anxiety to bubble up within Msitovic. Those two had begged him for the opportunity to battle Prince Barbov and snuff out his little reclamation before it could get started, and Msitovic had eventually relented. It had been over a month since news reached Lahy of Szitibor and Mylah’s defeat at Mejen by Barbov’s Karovic insurgents. “Szitibor? Your nephew? I remember the boy. Excellent with a sword, is he not?” “He is,” Msitivoc answered faintly as he stared at the Lafsk board’s polished tiles, and the pieces gleaming atop them. “Did he and his sister survive Mejen?” Bozidar made his move as he spoke, but Msitovic hardly noticed. “I … do not yet know. I -” he stopped himself, and closed his eyes as the weight grew heavier, grew crushing. One thing at a time. If I do not focus only on what I can control, then I will drown in what I cannot. With a slow breath, he opened his eyes again, and calmly moved one of his pieces on the board. “That is another reason that it is time to call a Duma. Our intelligence of events on the other side of the Lower Huns River is patchwork at best. Our main army is still intact and camped a few leagues away from Hunsburg, and though it remains under Vladrik’s command, I have a good mind to take that boy’s head myself.” Msitovic could not muster the anger to match his words. Vladrik was another one of his nephews, and, until the Battle of Dules, he had been hailed as the young prodigy of the Nzechovich clan. He had proven himself as a skilled warrior in his own right, and a commander of smaller companies fighting Carnatian raiders in the northern hinterlands. For all his talent, he was plagued by an arrogance that made Msitovic’s blood boil -- it was the kind of arrogance that made Vladrik think himself invincible; the kind of arrogance where he did not bother to disarm his foe because he so thoroughly believed they could not harm him. Vladrik’s command of the thirty-thousand Nzechovich army, and their mission to subjugate the Trade City of Dules, had been meant as Vladrik’s debut as general, and he bungled it. And, because of that, Barbov Karovic has gone from an annoying fly in my periphery to a colossal threat at my doorstep. “What is it you intend to put before the Duma, then?” Bozidar’s eyes did a final scan of the board, before he scratched his moustache, and slid a piece forward. “You could find out for yourself.” Msitovic moved his own piece barely a second after Bozidar had taken his sausage-sized fingers off the board. “You could stand with me at the Duma tomorrow, as an ally.” “You know I cannot,” Bozidar said softly. “I have told you many times, old friend. I swore myself to King Karl Ruswalda, and so I am bound to serve his heir - bound to serve Prince Barbov … as you should be, Msitovic.” “You seem intent not to change your mind.” “I am. You swore to serve King Karl as I did. Our oaths hold to his heir, and I intend to keep mine.” Msitovic only sighed. The Coup of Lahy had been the culmination of months of planning in preparation of the death of King Karl, during which time Msitovic had deftly spun the threads of his plot, compelling allies to his side through lies and promises and appeals to the restoration of the Nzechovich reigns of the past. Speaking those things had made Msitovic sick at the time, but it had been necessary to enact his plan. Those that he knew could not be convinced were marked for assassination on the night of the Coup, namely the inner circle of King Karl’s Bogatyrs. Bozidar had been among those, but, much to Msitovic’s relief, Bozidar had slept through the entire Coup, oblivious to swords ringing in the halls and his kinsmen being cut down in the halls. He had appeared the following morning in the bloodsoaked pantry for breakfast, without a clue what had happened. Bozidar had been confined under house arrest ever since, and Msitovic was grateful for it - he was grateful he had one friend he did not have to kill to realise his ambition. Msitovic had found himself visiting Bozidar more and more often as his quest to stabilise Ruska dragged on - as he found himself more and more alone. “I understand,” he said stiffly at last, and idly moved a random one of his pieces. His mind had long since drifted from the Lafsk game. “Then, when I kill Prince Barbov, you will be absolved of your oath, and I trust you will be at my side then. I could use a shield like you, Bozidar. Unless, of course, you think your oath will compel you to seek vengeance.” A dark look flashed across Bozidar’s face, and then mellowed into weariness. “Come now, Msitovic - you are not feeling sorry for yourself, are you? I must say,” he bristled, “it does not suit you at all.” Msitovic managed a weak smile. “Don’t be foolish. I was the one who chose this path, and I was under no illusions when I did so.” It felt like his bones were about to creak under that unseen weight on his shoulders, on his soul. “I’m just … tired. I have to balance half a dozen competing factions who seek to manipulate me and our infant King for their own gains, I have to coordinate our diplomatic and military efforts to bring the Boyars in the south-east of the Basin on board, and now I have Barbov to contend with in Dules.” There was silence for a moment, broken only by the distant toll of a bell from outside. “But all that is to be expected. It doesn’t bother me.” He stared at the board’s polished wood, unblinking and unseeing. “The only part that grates on me is that they all think my goal is to restore the Blood of Nzech to the throne of Ruska.” Bozidar regarded him uncertainly, and narrowed his pale eyebrows. “I daresay you hardly find that surprising. You are Msitovic Nzechovich, after all - nephew of King Nestor IV, and uncle of Nestor V, a boy-king that you installed after your Coup. As far as most of Ruska can see, your motive is clear - after decades of reluctant service to King Karl, you have ousted his sons, and are restoring your family to the throne.” “Most of Ruska … but not you.” “ … No,” Bozidar agreed after a long moment. “Not me. I fear I know you too well to think that.” That was a small comfort to Msitovic, the slightest relief to the weight. “I am just glad someone knows, at least.” His eyes broke up from the board at last, and flit up to meet Bozidar’s own beady eyes. “Even if they do serve my enemy.” The Bogatyr snorted, and crossed his massive arms over his chest. “Still, there is ambition, and then there is pure arrogance, old friend. You have plunged Ruska into civil war, killed comrades, and sullied your own honour - all because you think this is how you will bring peace and prosperity to Ruska.” “I will bring peace to Ruska,” he affirmed. “Through war?” Bozidar challenged. “The wheels of change must be greased by blood, Bozidar; there is no way around it,” he retorted. “The common folk care not a whit who rules them if they have wealth and times of peace in which to spend it. You know I can give them that, Bozidar - you know that I have been giving them that for years!” He felt the heat rise in his voice, but it felt … good. It made the weight feel a little lighter. “King Karl might have worn the crown since he deposed my uncle all those years ago, but you know who really ran his court, who really stabilised Ruska.” Bozidar nodded stiffly. “I do. You, and the White Sage.” That name - the White Sage - brought a different sensation to Msitovic. Not the unseen weight, but a sense of mourning, of grief. Diedrik Karovic had been the younger brother of Karl Karovic - who reigned as Karl Ruswalda after overthrowing Msitovic’s uncle - and he had been Msitovic’s personal mentor. It had been Diedrik who convinced Msitovic to take the post of High Chief of Karl’s court despite the fact that Karl had taken his throne from Msitovic’s own family, all because of Diedrik’s belief that infighting and feuding between families would eventually tear Ruska apart if someone did not put an end to it all. That was no small part of why Karl Ruswalda’s reign had been so fruitful - it had been Karovic and Nzechovich, working hand-in-hand. Of course, King Karl himself had little part in that: he might have been the face of Ruska, but Diedrik and Msitovic were its left and right hands. So acclaimed was Diedrik’s wisdom that history had come to remember him as the White Sage. “Would that he were still here,” Msitovic said under his breath. The White Sage was not dead, but he had left the Royal Court seven years ago after a falling out with his royal brother, and he had not been seen since. Msitovic could still remember his white cloak and mane of silvery hair riding out from Lahy’s gates, and his own pleas to try to convince his mentor to stay had fallen on deaf ears. Diedrik had only placed a gnarled hand on Msitovic’s shoulder before he left, and spoke his last words. Sangk kes Toza. Those were words that the White Sage had uttered several times in his long tenure as his brother’s left hand, but that last time haunted Msitovic ever since. Sangk kes Toza, he thought wistfully to himself as the evening light flooding Bozidar’s apartment gradually grew darker. Blood is Nothing. That had been the White Sage’s driving belief, a belief that he had imprinted onto Msitovic ever since the fall the King Nestor IV; it was the belief that one’s family ties, one’s religious alignments or political interests, should mean nothing compared to the good of the realm - the good of all Ruska. “That’s it, then?” Bozidar queried with an arched eyebrow. “You simply believe you can rule … better than anyone else?” “Diedrik and I already proved it. Think, Bozidar; twenty years ago, our country was about to tear itself apart over religious friction between the pagans and the Canonists, and now they coexist together in this very city because we made the Edict of Yuultiba to equalise religious worship! The Rhenmarch Boyars were fighting wars against each other every summer because of Rhenyari inheritance, but it was Diedrik and I who brought an end to it with the Basika Decree, and we silenced their objections at the Battle of Khosentar! Now, and nary a blade has been unsheathed in the Rhenmarch since! And need I remind you of the Saltfens? How many acres did we cede to Hanseti encroachment, before we finally sent them back across their side of the river at the Battle of Vizstenya?” Msitovic found himself breathing heavily as he finished, and his hands had clamped the edge of the table. There was a desperation in his voice that he hadn’t intended, and he was not sure why. Bozidar was a good and honest man, but it was not as if Msitovic craved his opinion. Unless … I am still trying to convince myself of all this. Bozidar opened his mouth as if to object, but then closed it again. He merely frowned at Msitovic for a long moment as another chorus of bells tolled outside - to signal the end of evening prayers for the Canonists, this time - and scratched his moustache. “Could you not have simply guided young Barbov, as you did his father? Then there would have been no need for anyone to die.” He closed his eyes, then, and pinched the bridge of his broad nose with even broader fingers. “Lorszan, Paitaer, Movedric, Akhiev, Caize … all my fellow Bogatyr slain …” Msitovic knew those names, of course. They had been his friends, most of them - except for Movedric, at least; Msitovic had it on good authority that Movedric had beaten his wife to death - and they had all died as a result of Msitovic’s ambitions. They had been too close to King Karl, and they would have never stood down while Msitovic deposed his son. Therefore, they had to die. The wheels of change must be greased by blood. He sucked in a slow breath, and reclined in his wicker chair. “Perhaps I could,” he answered Bozidar at last. “But Barbov is young, reckless, and headstrong. He didn’t listen to his tutors, and often not even his father. What if he fell in with the Canonist radicals, and revoked the Edict of Yuultiba? Or if some other snake like the Boyars in the Hanseti’s pockets convinced him to give the border fort at Vizstenya back to them? All the work of Diedrik and I could have been undone in an afternoon! I - … it just could not be risked, Bozidar.” Bozidar said nothing, but his eyes had widened slightly. The two of them sat there in silence for a moment as the din of the city beyond drifted into the room, and clouds passing over the setting cast slants of shadow across the two men and their game of Lafsk. Finally, Bozidar said, “I just wish -” Msitovic slammed a hand into the table, and the pieces clattered on the Lafsk board. “You just wish that no blood could have been shed?” He seethed through grit teeth. “You wish that we could have all been friends? That we could have all been happily ever after? Your wish is misplaced, Bozidar! If we had done nothing - if I - had done nothing, the King of Hanseti would continue his schemes to pay off Boyars of the Duma to push treaties that would cede more and more land until he was ready to invade! Both the Canonist Archbishop and the Maenvestiyaeo Oracle would stoke the fires of persecution, sparking riots in the streets until the Royal Court picked a side! And do you know what the worst part would be, Bozidar?” Hands pressed against the table, Msitovic leaned in towards the wide-eyed Bogatyr. “Every time our incompetent kings breathed their last, this wretched cycle would repeat itself! Blood is nothing, Bozidar. If I can end this cycle, I will.” With that, Msitovic sank back into his chair as if suddenly deflated. His cheeks felt hot, and his fingers twitched restlessly. Bozidar did not seem sure what to make of it all, but the man seemed more shocked than Msitovic had ever seen him. “I … I’m sorry, Bozidar. I should not have raised my voice. I - …” He cut off as Bozidar burst into laughter, of all things. It was not a rumbling chuckle like before; now, Bozidar’s massive chest heaved as he boomed his amusement. It was Msitovic’s turn to narrow his eyes. “What’s so funny?” “Oh, nothing,” Bozidar said between laughs. “It is just … it is good to see some life in you again, old friend. I thought all this business since the Coup had turned your heart to stone.” “Is that so?” Msitovic rubbed his temple. He was not sure if he ought to have been relieved, or offended. “Indeed,” Bozidar hummed. “And do not mistake me, Msitovic; I am just a guardian who has taken a holy vow never to slay another. A man like me, though, can never change the world. I am not a smart man, but I understand that much. I never had the … constitution to be a man like that. So,” he straightened one of the Lafsk pieces that had been knocked over when Msitovic banged the table, “all I mean to say is that my opinion should mean little, as should any other’s. If it is approval you seek, old friend, then you will never escape your doubts. Now, shall we finish the game?” Msitovic shook his head, and smiled back in spite of himself. Maybe I am feeling sorry for myself. He stopped himself then, and leaned forward to overlook the Lafsk board again. Well, not anymore. “The game? Hm. Will you accept my humble surrender, Bozidar Kindheart? I feel as if this is a victory that belongs to you.” Bozidar’s eyebrows shot up. “What?! What slight is this? You cannot trap me, and then surrender! You rob me of a defeat with dignity!” “It is a game of Lafsk, Msitovic.” The chair creaked as Msitovic rose to his feet, and rolled his shoulders. “But if I have offended your honour, noble Bogatyr, well then …” He spread his arms. “By all means, kill me.” Bozidar snorted. “Well played, High Chief. Perhaps you might send me some more wine. There is little to do in this cooped up room other than drink.” Msitovic smiled once more, and this time it was warm and genuine. “I will, old friend. I owe you that much.” “Owe me?” Bozidar asked as Msitovic turned, and made for the door. “Owe me for what? Msitovic?” As he stepped into the tiled hallway and closed the door to Bozidar’s apartment behind him, the trio of guards standing guard snapped to attention, and planted fists over their hearts in greeting. “Have the Lord Bozidar brought some good wine,” Msitovic told them idly, and started down the hallway. He still felt that weight bearing down on him, but he no longer felt like it would crush him. Bozidar Kindheart
  6. "Hmph." In the dim light of the chapel, Villorik var Ruthern's piercing eyes stared absent-mindedly at the altar. He was wary when any aristocrat raised a holy banner - wary of whether they invoked Godan's name for their own ends - but the eradication of Darkspawn was a cause worthy of any volunteer. "Let your work be done, then, Lord God." The next morning, he embarked for Petra.
  7. I'll take a different approach and draw attention to the fact that the server doesn't appear to have any apparent direction whatsoever. Ongoing projects, goals, improvements are all either non-existent or obscure. It appears to be the case that each Admin is just pursuing their individual goals (with varying degrees of success) while calling their fellow Admins useless in private settings. Where are our recruitment and marketing efforts after a non-Admin actually put us on the map for the first time in years with the TikTok? Where are efforts to build up the server with things like historic or lore video series? Where are the the grand eventlines that aren't cobbled together at the last minute? A coordinated effort to our RP approach, as you query in this post, is yet another example. These don't scratch the service of things a unified server direction should aim for instead of the undeniable fragmentation we see now. Even if you guys turn around and say "oh, well we have a clear direction in Admin chat", this impression does not survive outside of the ivory tower and continues to erode any faith left in the Administration (which, unless you're a kid or new, is likely 0).
  8. Yeah if you're going to literally force everyone to use a new term can you make a better choice than an existing ERP abbreviation road to 500 btw
  9. Prolly a hot take but building off what Unwillingly said What even is the point of combat locking. It just seems to create far more problems than it solves, and we're left with these nonsensical timeskips and groups being unable to respond to threats happening within render distance. That this rule prevents metarallying and stalling is false. It's easy to punish metarallying since it's about as subtle as raining pianos and will often have a paper trail for mods to follow up on. When it comes to stalling, you're ignoring the very real inverse -- I can just stall MY emotes to trigger combat lock instead of the other person stalling for aid. This rule solves absolutely nothing and like with what Unwillingly said creates a new array of problems. Definitely in need of serious revision, I do not think this rule works at all.
  10. I think this amendment removes the entire gravitas of foregoing the cure in the first place. It effectively nullifies the consequences, which I don't think is the point of the lore at all and can trivialise the intended character development that comes with such a choice. It's meant to be a significant and consequential turning point in this CA, so I don't think this amendment improves the CA.
  11. The heels of Villorik's boots clicked on the tiled floor. As he walked through the halls of the Holy See towards the Inquisitor's barracks, his face was still and serene, but his fist crumpled the latest of many letters. His sword faintly creaked as the scabbard bounced with his steps. Blasphemers who would invite a newborn Vampire into the world. The words echoed in his mind. Blasphemers who let a darkspawn into their court. They are lost you, God. You are far too patient. Villorik did not share his lord's patience, though. He knocked on the door of the barracks.
  12. Villorik var Ruthern didn't get the fuss. If the mother was a Vampire, her spawn was of the same cut. He just wished the bickering would stop as he knelt in the Basilica for high-bell prayers. Wretched heretics, weeping for a Vampire.
  13. I'm gonna be real and say that, although well-written and clearly based on a lot of passion for that GoT/HotD aesthetic, I don't think this warrants a unique and independent culture divorced from the rest of human players. Normally I wouldn't take this view -- I believe one of the genuine appeals of LotC is the ability to try make your creative ideas into a reality, but, at the same time, this has to be balanced with regard to the actual state of the server. By that, I mean there is already an abundance of human groups and smaller unaffiliated in which this faction could thrive. Because there's already a bunch of human groups, I don't propose splitting that human playerbase any further nor setting the precedent that this can/should be done. Humans thrive on large groups and clashing factions, and this is a major appeal for new players and the human race as a whole -- the idea of dividing humans more than they already are only waters down that experience and scatters roleplay. I'd always be inclined to think a city with 30 people in it is a much better asset for the server than 6 cities with 5 people in it (absurdism example, but you get what I mean). I think you and the Staff appraising this application need to consider that there are already six independent human nations on Aevos, and this isn't accounting for smaller unaffiliated nations which this aesthetic has the potential to fit in (Vortice, Lurin, etc.). With that said, that hesitation can be of course be overcome, but I wouldn't be convinced that's the case here. While the passion evident in this project is commendable, I also think it is a bit of lengthy stretch to say that this couldn't exist within one of the existing human or smaller nation aesthetics. A rigid nobility structure wrought with intrigue is not an exclusive factor that can only work in its own vacuum; nor is reverance for a bloodline, nor is political and factional intrigue, and the staple of the religion based on the documents linked is a symbolic focus on dragons but otherwise cites no doctrines or creeds that would render it incompatible or uncooperative with existing human religion (bearing in mind you can also settle in a secular nation). I want to be explicit in that I don't nor ever want to stifle creativity or people's ideas on a server meant to facilitate them, but again we have to remember none of our ambitions or plans exist in a vacuum. I don't think there's a reasonable argument to be made that the continued fragmentation of human RP is beneficial for the race or the server (when humanity is theoretically meant to represent the opposite ideal). In other words, though, I don't think the success of a great idea like this is contingent on getting independent realm/lair/settlement/whateveritscalled status. What I would prefer to see if for a group like this (which, again given its very obvious inspirations is 10000% compatible with the basic political gist of most human nations) is to either take over an existing human group either organically or via conflict, which would represent a much more natural development, staunch human fragmentation, and secure a much larger and longer legacy for a group like this.
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