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UnBaed

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About UnBaed

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    Ain't that just the way
  • Birthday 12/23/1999

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    UnBaed

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    Human

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  1. Arianne Helvets cracked a grin upon meeting the Stafyr in the Seven Heavens. “Pah, there you are, you old coot. I’ve been waiting to join you on that hunt you had promised me, many years ago. What do you say?”
  2. https://youtu.be/P7yHWtzZEj4 Alexandria on Lake Milena, with view of Scyfling siege camp in the mountain passes, 1772 [[Art by me]] A Look Further on The Scyflings A treatise written by Her Royal Highness Alexandria Karina Barbanov Published under The Northern Geographical Society After a horrid and bloody decade, the war of the Scyfling Invasion has finally come to an end with the death of Bralt the Boar. This has been a war that has crippled both the populations of Crows and Scyflings alike, for many had perished in the countless battles and raids. With the bloodshed finally coming to an end, perhaps now is the chance to find peace between us Crows and Scyflings that remain. Our histories have always been intertwined, even if many of us Haensemen weren’t aware of who, exactly, the Scyflings were until the arrival of Bralt’s fleet or our rediscovery of Athera. Our ancestors of Siegrad had once known the ancestors of the Warchiefs that had recently invaded our shores. The Scyflings had been native to the land of Athera, living as hunter-gatherers when our ancestors and the rest of the descendants had first discovered the continent to construct their cities and homes Siegrad was erected upon the territory of the Scyflings and an influx of our ancestors began to make home of their forests, surely disrupting their ways of life and survival. Either from the stubbornness of our ancestors, theirs, or some other barrier separating our people from theirs had caused the Scyflings to make raids upon Siegrad’s farmsteads, hamlets, and whatever else that was not shielded by stone walls. Life of the sword and pillaging began for them there, and only became strengthened when Athera was torn asunder by the Great Worm. Our ancestors and the rest of the descendants had fled the ruined continent in search of a better place to call home, while the Scyflings stayed and thought this as a victory for their people; at last, the land would be left to them again. Unfortunately, there would be no going back to how things originally were. The Great Worm had caused an insurmountable amount of damage and forever scarred and ruined Athera; the soil was infertile, the weather was unforgiving, and the wildlife only grew more dangerous. Food and comfort became scarce and the Scyflings were forced to turn against one another for their own survival, forming clans that would raid and pillage the other. The Scyflings had once had their own language and dialects; however, with their interactions over the generations with those unfamiliar with it, they gradually resorted to Common - though their thick accents remain. It now remains broken up, though it is used similarly to how Naumarian is used by Haensemen. They have no name for their tongue, for they hadn’t had many other languages to compare it to in Athera for it to require one. Their language is rather rough on the ears, and seems almost guttural; however, I think it pleasant in its own way and fascinating to learn. The way that I had learned all of this, as well as having been able to understand Scyfling culture more, has been through my many talks with Segn, otherwise known as the Scyfling Warlord called The Vile Tooter. I feel like I have learned a great deal from him, and have appreciated his company and wisdom greatly; I would call him a dear friend to me. The words that Segn had taught me were: Skathrynn: Battle-bard; Segn had been one of these, favoring his flute. He would use his tunes and melodies to command his men, taunt/distract his enemies, and even - as Segn describes it - romanticize death for his men in battle; a form of inspiration, perhaps. Myrka: This is used to describe someone that becomes overly intoxicated, or as “plastered drunk,” as Segn has put it. Skai: A death in battle worthy of a warrior. Roskai: Supposedly means the exact opposite of a death worthy of a warrior. The final two, Skai and Roskai, seem to be rather important to focus on, for they offer more insight on the values of Scyfling warriors and their views of honor. Why else would they have a word meant for a proper warrior’s death, if it had no true meaning to them? I have yet to study further on what may or may not be considered a proper death of a warrior, but I’m led to believe that it should be something rather dramatic, honorable, and following the values of Scyflings. An example of such would be a Scyfling fighting against Crows; “A good Scyfling would die fighting Crows” To focus, for a moment, on the relationship of Crows and Scyflings… Their hatred toward us Haensemen is more complex than how it is seen. They are not just blood-thirsty barbarians led by a man with a grudge toward our King, which is what I had once believed to be the truth and resented the Scyflings and Bralt for it; however, I had eventually learned and pondered more about the Crowslayer’s Vow and its connection to the invasion. For generations, the Scyflings had been raised on tales of our Crow ancestors and grew up with the general belief that we were evil and cruel; it was a belief formed within the heads of most Scyflings that our people and theirs were to be sworn enemies due to our unfortunate past together - though to a less serious degree. The severity of how much a Scyfling may dislike a Crow would vary per person; some might just sneer at you, while others might take joy in seeing our heads roll off our shoulders. Though, while they raised their kids on tales of Crows, our ancestors forgot about the small groups of raiders that had once harassed the outskirts of their Kingdom. The Crowslayer’s Vow was just another tale shared around the Scyflings to help them imagine a life better than what was offered on Athera. Though… With our rediscovery of the continent, hope was placed more in the Vow and Bralt had used it as a means to rally every Warchief under him, uniting the Scyfling forces at last to find the better life they all had been dreaming of for centuries. Segn had told me that Bralt was a clever man who knew how to cater to people’s wants without them realizing it. Not every Scyfling cares to see Haense destroyed and our King killed, some just want to live in peace on fertile soil and believed that Bralt would be the one to lead them to a gentler land to call home and raise their kids. Scyflings seem to don a form of stoicism and carry a sense of pride in self strength and self control, and dismiss most aid from others, even if they might require it. This stoicism is likely embedded into their lifestyles due to the unforgiving landscape Athera offered - as well as the state of unrest and war amongst the Scyfling clans before their unification for this war against us Crows. Pain, suffering, and war, in their past homeland, was something to be expected. To wallow in misery would mean death. The way a Scyfling views the world is rather naturalistic, which coincides with their religion or cultural beliefs with nature itself. Pray to the sea in hopes for good weather to sail and fish, pray to the soil in hopes of having a bountiful harvest; nature is something they respect, as I had mentioned in my previous treatise on Scyfling culture. To quote myself: “The Scyfling religion is a curious thing; their symbol that is somewhat reminiscent of God is the moon. Scyfling Shamans claim its pale light holds a power within it and that, without the moon, Darkness would triumph. The range of zeal a Scyfling holds for this belief, however, varies from person to person as faith varies in all men. Despite that, the words and actions of Scyfling Shamans seem to be taken with respect by all Scyflings, though some still think of them as a bit strange or difficult to comprehend.” When someone dies, it is believed by Scyflings that their spirit goes to the Moon. I’ve not been able to learn much about their beliefs on afterlife, though I know that they believe there to be something. There is a ceremony that I have come to learn about, that is similar to how we might pray to our deceased loved ones and Godani. When a deceased Scyflings birth star is to arrive, which signifies their birthday, one may prepare a message to offer them. The message must be carved out on a wooden board with runes of the Scyfling language, which can be rather intricate to make. The message can be anything you’d want for it to be. When a full moon comes and the sky is clear of clouds, the board is laid out in water beneath the moonlight and is left to be taken away by the currents. There, the message shall be read by who it is meant for. A Shaman isn’t required in order to do something such as that. Scyfling Shamans seem capable of doing far more complex and curious rituals and ceremonies, due to their in-depth knowledge and understanding of plants and fungi. A shaman is capable of making incredibly potent concoctions or utilizing other mixtures of their creation that allows for them to do a range of things. There is Tyndraugg, which is a potion that grants the shaman inhuman strength, speed, and endurance for battle - which can be a rather terrifying thing to witness. I have seen Tyndraugg used before by a Shaman named Taro the Tower, who had almost managed to single-handedly defeat an entire unit of Haeseni infantrymen raiding a Scyfling camp. Though, there is more than just mixtures that can enhance a warrior physically. Other Shamans are capable of sharing visions, similar to a dream to others; they can be quite vivid and intense and are rather intricate. They can be powerful in swaying how a person might behave, being capable of turning the mightiest warriors around to run away in fear. What is eaten in order to induce such visions is a peculiar pink powder called Mushpu. Another trick used by Shamans, which I’m sure many have become familiar with now, is one that makes the Shaman difficult to detect. It is an incense of sorts, which allows for the Shaman to move quietly and almost invisibly - much like a blur. Such is how Qeun the Quiet, the Shaman Chief of the Scyflings, earned his title, for he uses it often. I would still not describe him to be a threatening figure, for he does not hate us Haensemen; however, that does not mean he isn’t powerful. I have met Qeun only a few times over these years and think him to be a rather odd though wise man. I had sought him out when the war was nearing its end in hopes of trying to prevent the siege from happening. My plan was to convince him to use his abilities to give Bralt a vision vivid and intricate enough to make him disinterested in continuing the war. Segn had aided me in contacting Qeun, through the use of smoke signals in the northern forests of New Reza. We were successful in contacting Qeun; however, he could not be convinced to aid me with my plan. He had shown me that it wouldn’t stop the battle from coming, that it would be an inevitable thing to come - even if Bralt was convinced to step away from the war. The Scyflings would have turned on each other, as they marched toward Haense, and death would still come for many on the battlefield. He had displayed this all to me and those who accompanied me through a vision, which is something that shall remain ingrained in my memory for many years since it had been so life-like and intense. During all of this, Qeun had said a rather curious comment about the war and what was to come: “There is an art to losing.” It was something that stuck with me as we returned to New Reza, and lingered on my thoughts for many days. Clearly, Qeun had meant something by this but he has always been vague with his words and intentions, which makes it difficult to decipher what, exactly, he is meaning. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the war had come to an end that I realized his meaning. Bralt had wanted to lose. I don’t know what had made him come to this decision in the end, I could ramble on with a bunch of theories and ideas but they shall all lead to the same end: Bralt is dead, the war is ended, and there is a good number of Scyfling refugees now and they should not be forgotten. I have desired for there to be peace between our people and the Scyflings since the start of this war, but knew it was a near-impossible goal to end the conflict myself. With Bralt’s death, I think there now will be a chance for us to live in peace and to help the remaining Scyflings to settle down. Perhaps now they may be freed from lives led by the sword and pillaging, perhaps now they might have the salvation that they have sought.
  3. https://youtu.be/xALyzDallZs It is a risk to love. What if it doesn’t work out? Ah, but what if it does. [Peter McWilliams] 1779 The soft and cool winds carry the melodious chimes emanating from the Basilica of Fifty Virgins across the fields of Haense; fields that had been recently scarred from war, once littered with bodies of Crows and Scyflings with carrion crows looming above. With the passing of the winter and the ushering in of spring, which breathed warmth back into the now quieted forests of the North… Life returns to the Kingdom of Haense. [Lovers in the Grass by Alois Kalvoda] THE WEDDING OF BARBANOV AND WICK ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- With the threat of the Scyfling Invasion having been removed from Hanseti-Ruska, the betrothed couple of Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandria Barbanov, and His Excellency, Sir Konstantin Wick, would like to cordially invite all citizens and allies of the Kingdom of Haense and the Holy Orenian Empire to witness the ceremony of their wedding and to partake in merriment in celebration of their union. The ceremony shall be held in the Basilica of Fifty Virgins on Vzemy and Hyff, led by Bishop Benedict. [[OOC Time: Friday | July 31st | 2:00 PM EST]]
  4. Bailey Horen smiles the sun’s smile as she drinks her grape juice, unable to legally have a glass of wine for like five more months.
  5. Alexandria Barbanov waters her plants in her garden, frowning at the thought that her quiet space would soon be filled with guests and dreaded the idea of any of her plants being trampled on.
  6. It was finally over. Alexandria Barbanov could hardly believe her ears when the clangor of battle ceased in New Reza and she heard the distant calls of victory emanate from the palace’s courtyard. The war was ended; Bralt had fallen. Alex didn’t know what to feel, or really how to feel about the events of the siege; she almost felt numb or stupefied. Ten or so years of her life had been dedicated to dealing with the invasion of the Scyflings; ten or so years of her life in war had made her into an entirely different woman. When the invasion started, Alexandria had been so naive and fearful. She was frustrated about the Scyflings, and thought Bralt to be a man of greed who held some bitter grudge against her brother. A hatred burned within her for him, for bringing this war to her Kingdom that would end the lives of thousands. She was certainly not one for battle and cursed herself for her uselessness; however, a sense of hope had formed within her after one fateful day in the forests of Graiswald north of New Reza. Alexandria had come into contact with Segn, the Scyfling Warchief known as The Vile Tooter; because of him, she had hoped to be able to find peace for Crows and Scyflings. Her pursuit in peace, to her, felt as if it were in vain for the most part... War could not be avoided; battles had to be fought and death came for both Scyflings and Crows. Alexandria often believed herself to be a fool for clinging to such a hope, there had been many late nights where she considered giving up with her dreams. Though, she always chose to remain steadfast. She had grown to greatly admire and respect the culture of the Scyflings, thanks to her many talks with Segn, who she had begun to now view as a father figure in her life. She could not stand idly by and allow for their numbers to be annihilated in battle, and the same went for her own people. “There is an art to losing.” The words of Qeun the Quiet rang in her head as the princess gazed solemnly over New Reza, distant plumes of smoke still rose up where the city’s gates were. The stench of war was carried in the cold winds today. The hatred Alexandria had once felt for Bralt, many years ago, was long gone. She had realized his intentions with this siege now, with how he had chosen to end it all. He had looked through the wreckage his desires had wrought, he had seen the pain it brought to his people what other toils would follow; no salvation would be had. And so, he took the steps to save what he could in sacrifice of himself. For that, she respected Bralt. Perhaps now, peace may be found with those few that remain. [[Crazy fun eventline!]]
  7. hey... you’re kinda cute... 🙈👉👈😳

  8. i’ll just throw away my next five character ideas since they’re all gonna die to this epic lore +1
  9. welcome to the server! hope you enjoy your time here 😄
  10. “Wait, I could have gotten like four medals!” Arianne Helvets said from The Seven Skies, pointing down from the heavens. “Damn that Scyfling and his aim!”
  11. @NJBB I offer thee my humblest and sincerest of apologies; my behavior had been MOST uncouth and almost irredeemable when I had broken thine golden greaves upon clicking on thine’s Minecraft person.

    1. NJBB

      NJBB

      forgiven thank you 

    2. UnBaed

      UnBaed

      oh i don’t want your forgiveness, that’s a sign of weakness.  i shall RETRACT my apology

  12. https://youtu.be/ZFr7AyT17sI “Come away, O human child!; For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” The Stolen Child, W.B. Yeats 1744 Arianne Renée awoke from her light slumber as her head fell from her hand, having lost her “balance” as her carriage passed over a moderately sized stone in the road. She squinted her eyes as she brushed aside the small curtain to her window, being met with the sight of a sprawling meadow freckled with some wildflowers and framed by a brush. Upon further inspection, it looked to be a clearing of a forest rather than a meadow since birch and oak trees past the young princess’ carriage window. Although it was a simple sight for her to bear, Arianne couldn’t help but smile as the thought of getting ever more close to Kaedrin came to her. Naught a week ago, the sights that decorated the roadside were rocky fields of frost-covered heather and forests of pine; the sights of Hanseti-Ruska that Arianne had grown more accustomed to during her years spent within the kingdom in order to become more acquainted with her betrothed, Andrik IV, and her future people. Although she had found the land to be rather enchanting, young Ari had grown awfully homesick over the years and became wracked with worry for her father’s declining health--which is what has brought Arianne to where she is today; on the road to Ves from Reza. It had been a little over five years since she had last been home. The thought of her seeing her brothers and father in just another week practically made Arianne giddy. She had grown a lot since the age of ten, and was excited to show her father what she had learned in her sword lessons, if his health even allowed him to leave his bed. Even then, Ari would be eager to show her father her specially made sword gifted to her by Andrik. “Krusaevorev - To Protect and Serve,” Arianne’s betrothed had said with a smile the night he presented the blade to her. Ari rested a hand over the sword’s sheath as it sat beside her within her carriage. The ruby within its hilt glistened faintly, drinking up whatever rays of sunlight would pierce through the thin curtains. A contentful sigh escaped the princess, she leaned her head back to idly watch the trees continue to pass her window. She was on the verge of dozing off before a thunderous crackle and rumbling pierced the air, being accompanied by the anxious whinnying of the hackneys and coursers, and the muffled commands issued by the knights of her escort. The coach came to a halt. Confused, Arianne creaked open the door to figure out what had happened to cause their delay. Upon peeking her head out, she could see that a tree fell onto the road just a few yards ahead. “Jus’ a minor incident, Your Highness,” said the coachman, nodding assuringly toward Arianne as two guardsmen past him were warily nearing the brush, their hands on the pommels of their blades. “I don’ think it somethin’ serious - this, ‘ere’s, an old forest, trees likely fall all the--...” He never quite finished his sentence, since his words were cut off by a sickening crunch; the product of a throwing axe hitting its unfortunate target -- that being one of the levymen who were nearing the thicket lining the road. “Raiders!” shouted one of the knights of the escort, his sword hissed out from its scabbard as he reared his horse. Chaos followed his words and all the rest was a blur for Ari, because the next thing she knew was that she was back in her carriage, hearing the muffled shouts of men, the clangour of swords, the cries of horses, and the roaring of her coach’s wheels as it began to race off. Arianne’s heart pounded in her ears, she was jostled around within her enclosed carriage as it was run off the road. “Hang on, Princess!” called the coachmen’s voice from outside. “Stay down, it’s the Morsgradian Basta--..” Again, he was unable to finish his sentence as he was interrupted by a familiar crunch. The last sound the poor coachmen ever made to Ari was a weak gurgle, in which the princess brought a hand to her mouth in horror. Following that, a loud snap was heard from beneath Ari as a wheel shattered, which threw the carriage off its balance. Before Arianne could brace herself, she was being tossed and thrown around the inside of the coach. Her vision went dark. A few moments passed before Arianne stirred, groaning quietly as she came back to her senses. The carriage had, with no doubt in the world, rolled over several times. The glass from the small windows had shattered and cut up her left arm a bit, which caused a trickle of blood to run down her fingers. Her head throbbed, as did the minor cuts on her arm and, when she went to rise, her knee ached. Outside the carriage, the sounds of death gradually ceased and unfamiliar voices were heard a distance away. Arianne’s escort had been slaughtered. The leather roof of the coach had been torn up during the crash, Ari had noticed. She grabbed her longsword and began her climb out with some of the glass cracking more beneath her weight. Before she could straighten herself, a figure appeared before her with blood splattered along his tattered garb. “Looks like another one for the ransom, Svaen!” the man said with a coarse chuckle, eyeing Arianne. “A little kitty, with a long claw,” he added, noting the sheathed sword in her hand. “Careful she don’t scratch you, Eyvald!” teased another man, closer to the road. He was in the process of freeing his axe from the abdomen of one of Ari’s guardsmen, who remained deathly still in the soil blackened with his own blood. The man named Eyvald released another harsh laugh, he went to step closer to Arianne when... She drew her sword, tossing the scabbard away from her. “You will not approach me, you barbarous filth!” hissed the princess, donning her stance. A few more chuckles were heard near the road as the other surviving Morsgradians listened in. Eyvald seemed to be only amused as he watched Ari, not threatened in the slightest--especially after having successfully ambushed her escort. “Come on, girl. You know you can’t take us all on,” he said, gesturing to the six others who were gradually making their way from the roadside. “You’d be wise to surrender now, then perhaps we’ll give you a swift death when no one pays for your ransom.” Arianne only adjusted her grip on her sword, saying nothing. To be frank, she didn’t know what to do. Her heart continued to pound in her ears, she couldn’t feel the sting from her cuts anymore. Eyvald eyed her for a moment further, taking another step in her direction. He looked at her expectantly, though in a dismissive fashion--as if he were growing tired of this “joke” of a young woman of gentle birth wielding a blade. Behind Ari, she heard the snickering of two other Morsgradians muttering to each other. She shifted the weight on her feet. Fear coursed through her body, rendering her speechless as Eyvald stood before her now, reaching a hand to take her arm. Would this be how her life ends? “No!” Ari suddenly blurted out, closing her eyes as she jerked herself away. She jabbed her blade forward, knicking something, as she twirled on her feet before shuffling back. A curse came from Eyvald’s voice as she opened her eyes again, realizing they had traded places. The man pressed his hand to his side, where his shirt had been torn and where blood oozed between his fingers. It was a shallow cut, though it was still a cut nonetheless. Arianne was shocked, as were the rest of the Morsgrad raiders; their snide whispers and chuckles were gone now. “You little bastard!” growled Eyvald, his expression darkening. “She nearly impaled me!” He stormed toward Arianne, who was now frozen with her fear. He slipped his dirk free from his belt, reaching his other hand out to grip the terrified princess by her arm. She dropped her sword as the pommel of the dagger smashed against the back of her head. Arianne’s knees gave out before her vision darkened. She fell unconscious. --- Arianne stood in a garden. The gentle warble of birds surrounded her, occasionally accompanied by the sighs of leaves from various plants surrounding her when a breeze found its way into the Varoche Palace’s courtyard. In front of her, sitting in the grass, was a girl of four years wearing a lemon pink dress; her little sister. She was hunched over something by a peony bush. “What have you found, Margaret?” Arianne queried, kneeling beside her sister in the grass. Margaret was weeping, clutching an injured sparrow close to her. Its wing was broken, and it looked horribly dazed. “It flew into the wall,” the little princess muttered tearfully. “Is it going to die, Ari?” she then reluctantly asked, bringing her doleful eyes up to look to her older sister for comfort. “No… No, Margaret, it won’t,” Arianne replied, wrapping an arm around her sister’s shoulder to comfort her. “We can try our best to nurse it back to health, yeah? Come, let us take it inside.” She helped her sister up, going to guide her back into the palace. --- It had been several days since Ari had been taken. Perhaps it had been a week, though she wasn’t certain. Ari wasn’t sure where she was anymore in relation to Haense or Kaedrin either, since a dirty sack was kept over her head for the majority of the time she travelled with the group of Morsgradians; however, she was finally allowed to not wear it yesterday since they have moved onto far more unrecognizable paths. In the evenings, when a camp would be set up, a large man with a beard named Halstein would attempt to interrogate her to learn more about who she was, which she caved in to. He looked to be the largest of the raiding party, though he did not have the most brooding of features. Arianne grew to be less intimidated by him as the nights would pass, for she would hear him singing in a voice of honey during the daytime. He seemed more sympathetic; much unlike Eyvald, who frightened her. She sat in the back of an old, wobbly wagon drawn by a scraggly man with thinning hair, her hands bound together. Two others from her escort had also seemed to have been taken, though they weren’t kept within the wagon with her. Instead, their bound hands were strung to the back of it where they were to walk along the unforgiving roads. Everything, save for their clothing, had been stripped from them. Arianne’s sword had been taken, which now looked to be in the possession of Eyvald for she noticed it strapped beside his horse’s saddlebags. He often eyed her rather spitefully, and sometimes she overheard him muttering and cursing about his cut festering to the others in the party, though they just passed it off; It seemed like Eyvald was one for sympathetic attention. The time came where they would set up for camp again, for the sun’s light gradually shifted toward a hue of gold and orange. Arianne was placed by a relatively thin tree, where she would be tied to in order to be kept from running; she had tried to the first night or two and failed in her attempts of escape, having received a few swift punches to her gut as punishment. “How much longer ‘till we reach the camp again?” Arianne overheard a few of the Morsgradians mingling with themselves as they carried firewood back to where they had chosen to settle down for the evening. “Eh..” One, a relatively young lad with dark moppy, and curly hair, shrugged his shoulders as he plopped his twigs down on the dirt. “Two or three days, methinks - if the weather is kind. It’s growing colder, y’know? Might snow.” “So that’s how long I’ve got…” Ari thought to herself, dread beginning to grip at her heart. She didn’t know if she would be ransomed for a handsome amount of mina, or if she would be given a brutal death that would be turned into an example to boost morale for the Morsgradians. Either way, she knew she had to escape soon. But how? Upon glancing around, Arianne noticed that the campsite was relatively empty. A good number of the experienced warriors were absent, having likely gone to the nearby stream to wash up and refresh themselves; leaving the younger lads to keep watch of the camp, horses, and prisoners. An idea came to mind. “I’ve seen snow in the late spring!” argued one of the lads, it seemed their conversation devolved into a debate of sorts. “It’s possible!” If only they would see the summer snows in Haense, Ari thought. Their little squabble would be interrupted. “Hey! Can one of you untie me? I need to go to the bathroom.” Their attention shifted to Arianne now, falling silent - for the most part. They exchanged mutters, some wearing partially amused expressions. “Piss yerself then, wench,” one of the older boys called back with a snicker, nudging another next to him. They shook their heads and went back to collecting firewood for the night; a lot would be required to keep warm. It was getting colder. Arianne awoke that morning to find frost was building up on part of her clothes, and she felt chilled to her core. She wasn’t often kept too close to the campfire and was only provided a thin and wretched-smelling blanket, so the cold easily reached her. With the sun gradually nearing the horizon now, Ari could tell that tonight would be another dreadfully brisk one, so a tinge of hope flickered in her eyes as she noticed one of the wood-gatherers had lingered behind. It was the mop-head. “Will ye be quick about it?” he queried her after glancing over his shoulder to ensure none of the others noticed his absence. The young man stepped closer to Ari. She recognized him as one of the archermen retrieving arrows from the corpses of her escort the day she was taken, his name was Svandred… or something like that. Ari never quite caught it, and didn’t care for it. She nodded to Svandred’s question. “Yeah. Of course.” She held a sort of earnestness in her gaze as she looked up to him. Svandred narrowed his eyes slightly upon her, his lips curling in a mild frown on contemplation before he sent another cautious glance in the direction of his friends - who had disappeared within the brush. He gave a gentle nod to her and knelt down. Arianne could feel her heart beginning to race as the bindings around her hands loosened, though she tried to conceal her dumbfoundedness. “Come on, geddup - ye said ye’d be quick, aye?” She blinked and nodded again, going to rise to her feet. Her wrists were bruised and felt raw, and ached mightily as she moved her hands; however, that didn’t bother her now for her heart continued to race within her chest. It was as if time slowed for her, the world around her grew distant as she stepped near a shrub by the side of the camp - Svandred standing just a foot behind her. Arianne knelt down as she spotted a sizable rock, and took it into her hand. --- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTL_rAfcEC4 The next thing Arianne knew was the crisp air brushing against her face as the thunderous galloping of a dark mare blended with the beating of her heart in her ears. Trees and branches raced by her as she sped through the wood, kicking for her horse to go even faster as distant shouts erupted far behind her. Her cheeks burned from the cold wind nipping at her flesh, which was then whipped and scratched by low-hanging twigs; the woods were thick and difficult to maneuver through. The pit of dread in Ari’s stomach gradually dissipated into nothing the longer she galloped and the quieter the shouts of the Morsgradians became; she was almost free and could return home. Her hands trembled with her adrenaline and rising joy; however, such excitement faltered and shrank back once her mare’s foot snagged on a root and sent the princess flying and the mare tumbling down a ditch ahead of them. Arianne plunged into a shallow stream and landed harshly within it, narrowly escaping the black mare’s body that tumbled alongside her. The poor creature released a loud wail of pain, for its leg had snapped. Arianne was practically in a daze, having smacked her head against the rocky bed of the stream. Her head pulsed as she felt the icy water drip from her face and rush over her hands as she pushed herself up, the taste of blood was in her mouth. The horse thrashed beside her, splashing the water around and making a ruckus loud enough to stir the whole forest; her captors would be upon her soon enough. She had to leave now. A glimmer of red within the shallow waters caught her eye; Krusaevorev. She had to have used Eyvald’s horse for his escape, but there was no more time to think. Arianne swept her blade up and bolted for the thicket across the stream, just as the distant shouts of the Morsgradians began to echo around the area. Her heart pounded within her chest as her feet thumped on the forest floor. The sun was crawling beneath the horizon now and the forest was growing darker, and colder; however, Arianne felt nothing except for the burning of her legs as she continued to power through the brush, twigs occasionally whipping at her arms or face. This was her escape. Arianne didn’t quit her running until late into the night, when the cold really gripped her and when she felt as if she were going to collapse and cough up her lungs, which also burned painfully in her chest. The woods were silent around her and she felt as if she were allowed time to rest, but she knew that she had to continue moving; that she needed to return home. But how could she do that? Arianne was lost; set deep within a land unfamiliar to her with the threat of Eyvald and his group still present. Her name wasn’t safe, neither was her appearance; Ari knew that if she wanted a chance of making it back home, she would have to become a different person. Arianne Helvets would be no more, not for now. Joanne Lovell would then be born. Her hair was shortened, though done in a horrible manner since it was cut by her sword, and her travelling clothes - which were stained with sweat and smeared with mud and dirt - were discarded; a new outfit was obtained, having been stolen from the clotheslines of a farmstead by a creek. All she kept with her was Krusaevorev and her necklace, which was a golden Lorraine Cross. Small jewels were set into it, though it looked as if a few had fallen out or cracked from her unfortunate ventures these past weeks. Still, she kept it close to her heart. 1745 Arianne had been missing for several months now. It took her a great deal of time to figure out her surroundings, as well as to find a way to keep herself from starving. She had taken up work at various shabby inns or businesses; aiding in preparing meagre meals for other weary travellers, scrubbing floors, or even shining shoes to earn coin or a warm meal for herself and a roof to sleep under - be it stables or a mattress stuffed with hay. She eventually discovered that she had somehow wound up in the north eastern territories of Arcas, but she was gradually making her way back west; to where she could return to Kaedrin, and be delivered back to Haense in safety, where she would go forth in marrying Andrik and carry her duties out as Queen. She clung to that hope, it drove her on; to see the faces of her siblings again, to be welcomed back into the city that she would help rule over and protect… The day would come eventually. The Plump Otter was the name of a little inn Arianne currently found herself resting at, it was located on a crossroads and its caretakers were keen on keeping the establishment in good conditions; so business was abundant. Many curious travelers and wanderers looked to make their way through, watering their horses and filling their stomachs with mead and bread before returning to their journeys, where they would take them. Ari was seated at one of their tables and was in the process of stuffing her face, for she hadn’t had much of a meal in the past two days. Nearby, she overheard a conversation. “If the wind’s in favor, I’ll be able to make it in time to the wedding,” a man mumbled to his companion beside him at one of the tables as he drank thirstily from his mug. “Lots to be sold at weddings, especially royal ones. Always got festivals for ‘em.” Arianne slowed her eating, pricking up her ears. A royal wedding? “Not sure on how well you’d do in trying to sell your sweet wines in Haense,” commented the man’s companion as he reclined in his chair. “I hear they fancy that Black ale there.” “Pah, it could still make for a good gift to present to the King and his bride; get in their good favour.” “Pft, what are you expecting from them? A keep for your gracious gift?” The man’s companion snickered and shook his head before he raised his mug to his lips. “Good luck.” Arianne felt confused and almost struggled to process what she had overheard, so she stared blankly at her plate. They really think I’m dead… The buzz of the tavern grew distant and became muffled as thoughts raced through her mind, her lips pressed tightly together. It’s not too late, I’m so close to home. A flicker of hope passed through her eyes before she abruptly rose up from her seat, stepping out from the inn and into the yard. A man and the tavern’s stablehand looked to be prepping his wagon and horses for travel. “..Excuse me, sir,” Ari called to the man, who was in the process of strapping down sacks of grains. He cocked his head toward her, a perpetual grimace lingered on his weathered features as the sun shone on them. “Eh? What is it you want, girl?” he queried, seeming rather hesitant to address her as an actual woman as he eyed her grimy, cut hair and attire, which was an ill-fitted coat and trousers with nordling patterns died into the fabric. She looked more like a highlander boy who was yet to grow out a beard. “Are you headed west?” “Pah, I’m nay a cabman. Piss off.” He spat at the dirt by her before resuming his work. The young stableboy only eyed her curiously, most notably staring at Krusaevorev on her belt. She had wrapped the crossguard and hilt with a cloth, so no one would be tempted to thieve it from her; the ruby drew unnecessary attention. It still remained an odd sight for most, to see this young “boy” with a blade. “No- I need you to take me west - to Kaedrin, at least. It’s urgent,” Arianne replied in earnest, she took a step closer to the wagon to try and meet the man’s gaze again. He paused and looked to her, though more curiously. “What fer?” “To reunite with my family; I am Arianne Helvets, daughter to King Adrian. I was--..” She could not finish her sentence, for the aged man bursted into a fit of rough laughter. “Pfft, quit pestering me, child,” he dismissed her with another rugged laugh. “Go play yer games elsewhere.” “I’m not playing any games! I am Ari-” She was cut off again. “Pah! And I’m the Emperor of Man. Now piss off!” Arianne gritted her teeth, she could feel her anger rising up within her. “Look,” she said to the man on the wagon and withdrew Krusaevorev from its scabbard, the Slayersteel blade reflected the light of the sun; its ruby glimmered as she removed the cloth around it. Upon the crossguard were heraldic bats and crows of Helvets and Barbanov; it was a fine blade. However, for the man, it was almost too fine… He narrowed his eyes at her and stood up straight. “Now how’d a kid like ye get yer hands on a weapon like that?” “It was given to me, by my betrothed.” “Aye? That so?” “Yes. Now can you take me west?” He scratched his chin and eyed Arianne a moment longer, before waiving the stablehand off. “A moment, girl,” the man grunted before hopping off of the wagon. Without another word, he disappeared into the inn. A few lengthy moments passed as Ari waited by the wagon, having tucked her blade away again. She felt her frustration beginning to fade away as the man returned to the yard; however, a handful of others stepped after him. Most were armed. “Aye, that’s her,” the man said and pointed toward her. “The thief trying to pose as the King’s dead daughter.” Arianne’s eyes widened as she looked over the group, her rage boiled up again as she backed away. “It’s not true!” she snapped, though her hand went for the pommel of her blade as she continued to eye the group bitterly; by the looks in their eyes, there was no way they would believe her - nor care enough to investigate. They believed Ari to be dead, and their hands withdrew their own weaponry from their scabbards. “Don’t be foolish, child. The Princess is long dead, gone. Now drop that stolen blade and your hands might be spared,” called one of them, who wore a tabard; the crest was unidentifiable to her, for it looked heavily worn and stained from prolonged use and travel. He was likely some knight or another, who kept to the eastern territories of Oren to fend off any raids for the war; many plagued the farmsteads and hamlets dotting the roads. Arianne gritted her teeth as her eyes darted between them all. There was no chance she could fight here, not after her display with Eyvald. So, she did what she currently knew best to do, and that was to turn and run. Ari darted across the dirt road and vanished within the thicket of trees, which lead to the southern hills of the Fell country. --- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNiOnMMxak0 Dejected, hurt, and sour, Arianne lost herself. Her own name became foreign to her, unwanted; she clung to her new identity of Joanne Lovell, the bastard daughter of some spice merchant who took to travelling northward from the sandswept lands of Korvassa. Joanne’s hair was a warm auburn, Ari’s was a dirty blonde; she had managed to acquire the dye for it upon discovering a modest tailoring shop, led by some half-elf. Her frustrations gripped her as she shoved the echoes of her old life away. Everyone she knew had thought her to be dead, yet hardly mourned her passing in her eyes; instead, they moved forth quickly in replacing her. Had I ever truly been welcomed to Haense in the first place? Her thoughts returned to her time within the walls of New Reza, where she often butted heads with the other young women of the court and struggled with her freedom under the shrewd eye of Queen Milena while she still lived. A rare few had treated her kindly; Primrose, Otto Sigmar, and Andrik... Andrik. Did he not care for her too? She could not linger on such thoughts, and her mind went to home; Kaedrin. Is it even safe to try to go there? Arianne knew of the inner turmoil and struggles her father’s kingdom was going through during his illness; she recalled the letters from her brother Leopold expressing his concerns of safety in the capital, with ambition plaguing the minds of power-hungry Fleeperites. She could easily be removed, if identified by the wrong individual. Weeks passed. Joanne was squatting at the edge of a farmer’s field with her sword resting in the dirt beside her and was trying to dig up potatoes from the soil. The snapping of a twig was heard from some distance behind her and she quickly turned, only to see the blur of a figure dart behind one of the oaks that dotted the fields. “Who goes there?” Jo called with some alarm, gritting her teeth. There was no answer, however. Instead, an arm appeared from the tree, only to toss a stone away from it. There looked to be some attempt at being discreet; however, it was done horribly. Moving in the opposite direction from the stone was a dark elven man, who was prone and crawling along the soil through the brush of the crops. Joanne simply blinked. “I can see you plain as daylight!” she exclaimed, almost dumbfounded at the man’s further attempts at stealth. He was slender and without hair, a jagged scar went across his face and blinded his right eye. His other eye was crimson. Both narrowed at her. “No ye don’t.” “Yes! Yes, I do!” Jo said as she became even more bemused. “Who the Nether are you and what are you doing?” The elf sighed and pushed himself up. He tried his best to brush the dirt from his garb, but it was smeared with the soil; despite his dirtied appearance, he didn’t seem like a typical brigand or loafer looking to cause mischief. He wore leather armor of decent quality, and carried two blades on his person. “All right, ye see me,” he said defeatedly. His accent was a thick Kaedreni one. “I’m Devitus, was trying to see what ye were doin’ out here.” Joanne narrowed her eyes a little, a frown creased upon her lips. “Why?” “There’s gremlins out here, been a bit of an issue fer the farmers. I’m here to try ‘n’ stop their mischief, or to make sure their mischief ain’t some kid like you diggin’ up the crops or drawing away the cattle.” Jo wrinkled her nose. “I’m not just some kid!” “That so?” Devitus queried dubiously, he crossed his arms before himself. “Indeed! I’m, uh-.. A hunter.” A hunter? It was something that randomly sprouted within her mind; she had to say something back to this elf. Devitus simply looked amused. “Yer a hunter, aye? Catch any game in that dirt? And where’s your gear?” A scoff came from Jo. “I’ve got a sword,” she replied rather haughtily, her nose wrinkled. “You see-...” Joanne’s words trailed off as she felt for her blade that she had sat in the soil beside her. It was gone! Jo gasped as she twirled around, hoping to have only misplaced it a few feet off; however, Krusaevorev was nowhere to be spotted. What was spotted, however, was a small shape across the field darting away. It had rather large ears, which bounced with the creature's movements. “GREMLIN!” Devitus bellowed out with excitement. “Come, girl!” He jogged after the creature with Joanne in tow. Together, they saw the big-eared gremlin disappear into a den beneath some stones. Krusaevorev was in its grip, though the longsword was too unwieldy for the tiny creature to properly carry, so it was dragged across the soil. Devitus and Jo weren’t able to get into the den, for it was far too small and cramped. They could get a look within it if they knelt down, however; a great deal of snickering emitted from within as Jo poked her head down. “You little sh*t, give me back my sword!” she barked toward the little beast, who only taunted her with more snickering and an insult in broken up Common. “I’ll tear your ears off, if-- AHCK!” Jo reeled back as it hurled a clump of mud at her. “That ugly fiend has no manners!” She spat out mud. “It’s a gremlin, kid!” Devitus said as she watched Jo wipe her face angrily, he looked utterly amused and humored. “They never have manners, but they’re harmless shites.” He scratched his chin as he eyed the den. “Go fetch me some twigs, we can smoke the little bugger out, aye?” “Why can’t you fetch your own twigs?” “Because I’m watching the shite here to make sure he don’t run off!” Joanne huffed as she stood up, spitting again as she still tasted mud in her mouth. Vexed, she gathered twigs and other kindling for Devitus, who clumped it all near the den’s entrance. He withdrew a match from one of his pockets and leered at the once-smug gremlin, who ceased its taunting; it had nowhere to run. “All right, ye little shite,” the dark elven man said coolly. “I’ll give ye one chance to return that sword to the kid here, then you can leave these fields so I don’t have to skin ye. Because, believe me,” His hand tapped a slightly curved dagger on his hip. “I will, after I make you choke on smoke.” A torrent of broken up insults and threats poured out from the den. Devitus ducked his head just in time to dodge a clump of mud being hurled at him, which almost smacked into Joanne. All became silent, however, once Devitus lit his match. “Last chance.” --- “What’s yer name anyways, kid?” Devitus asked after he finished counting his earned coin a third time. “Joanne, uh- Joanne Lovell. Are you really a monster hunter?” “Aye, I am. Are you?” He already knew the answer. “Ye’ve got the sword for it, slayersteel is a choice metal. It’s strong like steel, but bites like aurum; very expensive.” He looked toward her curiously as they made their way down the road leading away from the farmstead, pocketing his coin now. “How’d you manage to get that blade of yours?” Joanne blinked, though opened her mouth and said whatever came to mind first. “My, uh- My father gave it to me,” she said, then continued. “He… knew of my interests in tales about those Marked Men, and gifted me it. There would be nothing for me to really earn or keep at home, since- eh.. I’m a bastard, so he gave me this and sent me away.” “Pah, he likely wants ye to die. Something to get ye out of his life.” Devitus released a dry laugh and shook his head. “This business ain’t like a fairy tale, kid. Yer better off in selling that sword and finding yerself other work.” “Well-.. Why can’t you help me?” “I don’t got time to teach you how to use that thing.” “You don’t need to teach me!” Jo insisted as she walked alongside him. “I already know how to use it and handle myself. If I prove to be horrible and die… Well, then you can take my sword for yourself!” That looked to be enough to convince him, he piqued an eyebrow as she looked at her. “Hrmph, if ye say so. Deal. Just don’t expect me to hold yer hand.” Devitus and Joanne became a pair that afternoon. Jo managed to eventually prove her worth with a blade as they were hired for smaller jobs, such as fending off brigands or dealing with ratiki infestations on the outskirts of Kaedrin. They proved to be rather efficient together and earned a great deal of coin, which was often spent on their travels looking for more work. Five years would pass. 1750 Over the years of her work with Devitus, Joanne’s skill with the blade had improved immensely and she had worked to train her body to be stronger in order to better wield her longsword. She was no longer some lithe maiden, but a hardened warrior of a woman; her temper and personality still remained fierce, she took enjoyment in this new life for her. Being head-strong and bold worked in her favour, for the world was not kind to the meek and rewarded those who took action. Word of their skill began to spread around the northern bits of the Empire, which led the two to a job commissioned by a mirror merchant. His caravan was ambushed by harpies as they traveled through the mountain passes north of Ves, and he had lost a lot of his investments when one of his supply wagons was overrun. He reached out to Devitus and Joanne to clear the nest that had been made and return whatever mirrors they could for a hefty sum of minas in return. So, the duo set their sights to the north and sought out the harpy nest. Joanne hadn’t quite gone so close to Ves before, and they would need to pass near the capital in order to enter the mountains. She wasn’t sure what to expect, truth be told, but was tense and uneasy; fearful of finding a familiar face, or of just confronting memories of a life now passed. None of that quite came, in truth, for there was a shift in mood as the walls of Ves were spotted along the horizon. The common folk of the inns, fields, and roadways were all speaking of news from the capital; King Adrian Helvets was dead. Taken from his sickness. Joanne was sick to her stomach and felt numb for a long while, her words becoming distant and half-distracted whenever she spoke to Devitus. He had noticed her shift in demeanor, though made no comments. It wasn’t until their encounter with the harpies, when Arianne snapped and let loose. It was her fault that she didn’t return home; her frustrations blinded her and kept her from returning home; she had allowed for her stubbornness to keep her dead. And for that, her father passed away thinking his daughter had died at the hands of roadside bandits. Her emotions took control of her when the harpies swooped down and she grew too bold. A wordless shout of anger melted into a scream of agony as the claws of one of the flying hags bore into her left forearm, tearing into her flesh and muscles to grip her and begin lifting her up from the ground. Her blood poured everywhere. As her vision grew dark and the shouting of Devitus became muffled and distant, a bolt sunk into the chest of the harpy, which caused them both to drop and return to the earth. Darkness came to Arianne. --- https://youtu.be/cKJA-D3ltPM “I want to get my fortune read!” Arianne chirped eagerly, tugging at the skirts of her mother with one hand while the other clung to her father’s pant leg. A bright smile adorned the young girl’s visage as she gazed wide-eyed toward a booth on the festival grounds of Ves, where an elderly man with a milky-white beard sat. He was in the process of examining the palm of a young lad, tracing one of his gnarled fingers over the lines of the boy’s hand and uttering to him about curious prophecies. A crooked sign hung over his head, reading in mystical lettering: Wise Old Wick. Annabelle offered a hesitant look to Adrian, though the king gave an assuring grin as he patted Arianne’s shoulder. “Pah! What harm could a peek at our sparrow-bat’s achievements do? It shall only take a minute, go on ahead Ari.” He gave his daughter a little nudge, though she quickly scurried forward and toward the Wick soothsayer as he finished up with his previous customer. “Me next! Me next, please!” Ari called as she scrambled onto one of the stools that sat before the wooden counter, which had flecks of bread crumbs leftover from the Wick’s lunch. “Read my fortune!” The soothsayer offered a hearty chuckle at the princess’ excitement, he bobbed his head and took hold of the hand she was waving excitedly before herself. “All right, all right, let’s have a look…” he muttered and narrowed his gaze, a look of thought crossing his weathered features. “Oh! Oh, my!” the Wick exclaimed after a moment, he stroked his beard sagely as he pondered further, before wiggling his fingers and waving his hands spiritually before himself. “I see... ! I see…!” he said, before setting his eyes on Arianne again, who held her breath with her excitement. “I see… you going forth to achieve great and wondrous things! A leader, you shall be… of an army! You will be a general, yes… And you shall battle powerful armies of foriegn and nefarious lands! Such is your Destiny!” Arianne gasped, her jaw dropped. Of course, the Wick was merely guessing based on what he had seen and heard about the princess; her fiery spirit was well-known about within the city, and she’d often be seen around the streets of Ves or on the outskirts of the Varoche Palace chasing after stray cats or waving sticks around with her brothers like they were fabled swordsmen living out some grand adventure. He had made a decent guess, for the girl grinned widely and dumped a few coins into his tip jar - alongside a rock that she thought looked pretty neat and kept in her pocket. “Did you hear that?!” Arianne called back to her parents, she twisted around in her stool to face them. “I’m going to make for a great warrior!” Annabelle wore a soft smile as she watched her daughter, her arm looped with Adrian’s as she said, “You could be made into a Dame in time, you know.” “She’ll be more than a Dame!” Adrian replied with a warm chuckle. “She’ll be a Queen; a good one, too, who’ll defend her people and land well. That right, sparrow-bat?” Arianne was beaming, she nodded. --- She awoke within an abbey. Devitus stood across the room she was rested in, peering out of a narrow window that offered a view of the cloister. Warm sunlight poured into the room. A jolt of pain shot through her left arm as she attempted to move it; the wound inflicted by the harpy was tended to, but it still needed to heal. A tired breath left her, which caught the attention of the dark elven man. “You’re awake,” he stated as he turned to her, his arms crossed before his chest as he leaned his weight back against the plain wall behind him. “Aye,” Ari replied with a sigh, turning her gaze up to the ceiling. “I am… What happened?” “Suppose I should be asking ye the same.” Devitus shook his head softly. “I don’t know what came over ye, but ye seemed to think it best to try and pummel that harpy with yer sword and fists ‘stead of keeping with our plan. Damn nearly got taken away by one of those hags, sliced yer arm up real nice.” “Hrm…” She still felt weak, her head being cloudy. “Thank you.” “Ye gonna explain to me what got into ye? Ye were acting strange the whole trip there, ye know.” “Aye, aye… I know.” Arianne closed her eyes as another exhale left her. She knew that she could run no longer, that her past would always come back to bite her in the ankles. Her memories still clung to her like fleas would, and wouldn’t cease their nipping and reminders of their existence. She had to face the truth. And so she did. Arianne revealed everything to Devitus. They talked for a while, until the sun dipped beneath the horizon--then they talked more; the hours of the night grew small; the moon hung high in the dark sky; and the wax of their candles was half-melted away. She explained her frustrations, her pain, and her confusion; however, the more she opened up to Devitus, the more her head began to clear and the less lost she felt. Devitus was greatly confused in the beginning, and almost thought Ari to be messing with him; however, he could see her genuinity and her grief within her grey-blue eyes as she insisted he listened to her. When their lengthy talk ended, he insisted she try to return to her former life; to reconnect with her family and redeem herself rather than continue to wallow in her turmoil and live a life of running and regret. She agreed to this. They would eventually part ways, though Devitus stuck around until Ari’s strength returned to her. The abbey they were given rest at was along the north western territories of Kaedrin, nearing the territories of Haense. Occasional pilgrims would pass through to and from their visits to The Basilica of Fifty Virgins, some began to speak of troubling news from New Reza; the Queen, Maya Valeriya, had been kidnapped by a defected group of Haeseni soldiers that wished to hold her for ransom against King Andrik. Last one of the pilgrims had heard, the King wasn’t interested in negotiations and was in the midst of rallying a rescue party to head north to where their camp was settled. Something didn’t sit right with Arianne as she heard this. Andrik wasn’t a proper fighter, that she could recall; she remembered his struggle with his father’s attention and approval for not favoring swordsmanship. Ari grew worried for his safety, as well as for Maya’s; she knew she must return, to seek out her redemption, to keep her oath of Krusaevorev. To Protect and Serve. Such was her Destiny now. --- https://youtu.be/K0etyrdJSC8 Arianne hadn’t realized how much she had truly missed the frigid lands of Haenseti-Ruska until she was greeted with the familiar sights of rocky fields of frost-covered heather and sprawling fir forests, when the cool winds brushed aside her hair, or when the dreary clouds occasionally parted to allow for the sun to shine and cause Lake Milena to glimmer and glisten. Such had happened as Ari neared the front gates of New Reza. She felt anxious, nearly sick to her stomach with worry, though she still made her way through the portcullis and onto the streets. There was a lot of excitement in the air, many people were moving about and shouting. It took a while for Ari to try and figure out what was going on, for the rabble of everyone was rather overwhelming as she tried to maneuver through the crowds. “The clinic, the clinic!” “MAKE WAY, MOVE!” “Step back, keep your distance!” “Where’s the damned doctor? The King needs her!” It was utter chaos. Andrik had returned from his mission to rescue Maya, and it had been successful; however, he had been injured during the conflict and was returned to New Reza for treatment. Arianne was unable to reach him during that time, and found herself a bench to sit at within a nook as she waited for everything to grow calm again. Many hours passed by and the sun’s golden light began to shine red as it drew closer to the western horizon. The streets grew quiet as the cold crept more into the city, many took to their homes to be warmed by their fires; all was still. With a frosty breath seeping out from her, Arianne stood and sought out the clinic. “Halt right there,” said a man donned in the colors of Barbanov, wearing the armor of the Royal Guard. He was standing near the entryway to the clinic alongside another gentleman in the same setup. Both eyed Arianne and her sword curiously. “What business have you here?” “To speak with His Majesty, King Andrik.” It took a little bit of a while for Arianne to finally be welcomed into the hospital, in truth. She was nearly arrested, and she had to keep herself from snapping out of frustration at the guardsmen when they had begun to argue about her being there, as well as the genuinity of her identity; however, before much more could be escalated… A young page peeked his head out from the clinic doors and said that Andrik would see Arianne. It turns out their argument had picked up in volume and caught the attention of many, the King included. Ari was escorted into the building and was shown to a room where a familiar man with dark hair rested. “Godan…” The King muttered in a hoarse voice as his weary eyes settled upon the lost princess. “It’s r-really you, Ari.” He was propped up by pillows, being too weak to sit up on his own. Sweat was formed on his brow and his breaths were ragged. His arm draped over his stomach, hand gently clasping over his freshly bandaged side. He really had been gravely injured, his energy was drained; however, despite his weakened state, something within the King pushed for him to remain conscious, to see Arianne. Perhaps he thought she was a mere dream; a hallucination; but something kept him from wanting to “wake” from this dream. Something in him didn’t want for this ghost of his youth to disappear again, so he remained awake. His stormy blue eyes never left Arianne. She stepped further into the room, and they were left alone… “I don’t know what came over me, Andrik,” Arianne murmured, she was seated in a stool near his bedside. Her arms propped herself up on her knees as she gazed solemnly at the floor. They had already spoken for a decent while by now, the shock of Ari’s return had faded; the time for truth and rectification had come. “I just felt-... I felt like it was better for me to remain dead in everyone’s eyes. I was lost and hurt… And in my pain, I only caused more with my absence.” A quavering breath left her, Ari closed her eyes as she felt the sting of tears gathering. “I’m trying to fix it all now; I’ve stopped running and I’ve come to face my destiny.” “You were lost… But now you are found,” Andrik replied, he had managed to form a faint smile as he gazed toward her. “Have you returned to your siblings in Kaedrin yet?” Ari shook her head as she opened her eyes, glancing toward Andrik. “No… I haven’t quite figured out how to return to them. I only came to New Reza as soon as I had heard word of what happened to Maya and you.” The King dipped his head softly. “Your sister is set to marry my brother. The promise that our father’s set in stone shall be fulfilled, Godan-willing. S-still a couple of things to work out, but it will be done.” He paused a moment as he eyed her. “He misses you; L-Leopold… He inherited your f-father’s tites as Duke of Cathalon. Kaedrin is… collapsing though, I’m afraid. I f-fear it may not survive terribly long after the war…” His hand suddenly reached out toward her, fatigued eyes staring pleadingly toward Arianne. “Please, Ari… S-stay here. C-come back into my Court and serve my regent- and my son, as the Master of Hunt. Please.” Arianne took his hand with hers, she sat in silence as he spoke to her. Her eyes rarely met his, being wracked with grief and guilt; however, at his request for her to stay, she blinked and slowly leveled her gaze with his. “Master of Hunt..” she uttered slowly. “I-it is a humble position, b-but one I think you would enjoy greatly. Your spirit is s-strong, Ari… You’ve always wanted to fight for this Kingdom, to p-purge it of monsters and ward it of other dangers; to protect and serve. Th-there is still time for you to do that… There is still t-time for you to come back and begin your new life.” He placed his other hand atop hers. “Please.” --- That evening, Arianne had become Master of Hunt and swore an oath to King Andrik with Krusaevorev; the sword he had gifted to her years ago, when everything was so different. She had used that blade over a dozen times to protect herself, but now she would wield it with intent to protect The Kingdom of Haenseti-Ruska. Arianne would wish to dedicate the rest of her years to the Kingdom she was promised to at her birth; she would wish to give all of her strength and compassion to the Kingdom she had grown to love; she would wish to give her life to ensure the safety of the King she loved, as well as to protect those close to him. Although they had been separated for many years, Arianne had loved Andrik. She knew he did not feel the same toward her; how could he after she had been “dead” for so long? His heart was for Queen Maya, which Ari accepted; she was beautiful, wise, and benevolent. She was a woman that Arianne respected; she was a Queen that Arianne would wish to protect and serve as well. In the remaining months of Andrik’s life, Arianne kept close to the King and Queen’s side and did their bidding. She gained the courage to seek out her siblings and reconnect with them at last; however, such was not an easy feat for Arianne had lived a life completely separate of theirs and struggled to relate and connect with them. Although the wound of her disappearance had healed, a grotesque scar remained. Only time could make it fade. Still, her love and dedication to her family remained unwavering; Ari refused to make any more mistakes again. When Andrik’s illness grew worse and took his life, Arianne became more reclusive from the rest of the Haeseni Royal Court and took to isolating herself in the northern forests of Haense through lengthy hunting trips that would last weeks, sometimes even a few months. The cold forests became her home; they were her life. She roamed the Kingswood, Graiswald, The Steel Hills, and the Wickwald and found her solace at last in the heart of it all; the heart of Haense. She defended it from poachers, ensured the wolf populations wouldn’t grow too big to threaten farmers, and escorted travelers, pilgrims, and any other weary wanderers through the pathways to ensure their safety. She would take occasional trips back to the capital to check up on the Royal Family and see if they would have any tasks for her, as well as to sell the pels she had managed to acquire through her hunts. Arianne rarely kept any coin for herself, however, and often donated her earnings to The Basilica of Fifty Virgins; she did not think herself deserving of much. Her life was now dedicated to protecting and serving Haense; it made no sense for her to earn minas or other forms of reward for such. All she kept with her was Krusaevorev and her mother’s cross. Many years passed and Arianne continued her service for Haense. Troubling rumors eventually formed and began to float around about a soon-to-come invasion; Scyflings were coming to Haense. Concerned, Arianne looked more into it and realized the threat of war coming to the Kingdom. She decided it was time for her to return to the Royal Court and leave her duties to the forest aside, to protect the Royal Family as she had promised Andrik many years ago. Court was held in New Reza, in which Arianne presented herself and laid Krusaevorev out before her in order to reaffirm her Oath to King Sigismund II. The winds of Destiny called to her, she would not run this time. 1768 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0ySBYbKMnk The war had been raging on for a few months now. The Scyflings had made an attempt to try and siege and take over Valwyck, which led to a grand battle. Arianne had defended the Queen during it, and assisted in defending Fort Buck from a band of Scyflings that had tried to claim it while most of the Haeseni forces were distracted in the north. The battle was gruesome and bloody and Arianne knew that only similar encounters lay in wait for the future. A counter attack was to be made on the Scyflings after the Battle for Vasiland, though this one would take place on the sea; an attempt to destroy the Scyfling fleet would be made. Arianne kept close to Princess Amelya during it, her shield being raised over the Princess the whole time to protect her from arrow fire. It was their ship that began a chase after a rogue Scyfling longboat that slipped past the Haeseni forces. It was making a mad dash through the waves to head south, toward Vasiland. It had to be stopped. Their chase went all the way to the Vanir Hold, where a battle ensued within the keep. Arianne remained close to the Princess’ side throughout it all, her shield and sword at the ready. She was determined to keep Amelya safe and sound; such was her duty, and she would not fail to upkeep that again. Somehow, a fire had managed to start within the attic of the keep and it was beginning to cause parts of the floors to collapse and fill the building with smoke. It was no longer safe to be inside. Arianne was in the process of trying to escort Amelya out when a splintering crack occurred from above, cinders and debris fell into the dining hall before them, alongside the body of a man familiar to them both; Godfric Alimar. Ari had known Godfric when she was young, the two often butted heads and teased one another as kids usually did; however, he had ended up marrying Arianne’s sister after complications arose with Andrik’s brother. She also knew of Amelya’s attachment toward the Alimar. He could not be left behind. Both were horrified to see his unconscious body on the floor, half covered in smouldering planks and soot; however, he emitted a faint groan of pain to show he still lived. He desperately needed medical attention and could not be left there, so Arianne passed her shield to Amelya and sheathed Krusaevorev. She stooped down to lift up the Prince and carried him into the courtyard. There, they discovered that Vasiland had been surrounded by the Scyfling forces, with many Crows still behind the walls. Escape would prove to be dangerous; but it still had to be attempted. This battle was lost; Vasiland would be taken. The Haensemen had to escape with their lives now, and tried to move out from the front portcullis. Arianne kept beside Amelya, instructing her to stay at her flank away from the Scyfling archers as she continued to carry Godfric in her arms. Johnstown was so close to them; if they could make it through the field and under the cover of the trees, they would find safety within the town and medical aid for Godfric. So, in the midst of all of the chaos of the battle, the three made their attempt to reach Johnstown. They had made it halfway through the field when a deep shout was ordered in the Scyfling ranks, ordering a volley of arrows to be fired toward them. As Arianne heard the familiar whistling of arrows in the air, she turned her back to it and stepped before Princess Amelya, yelling for her to duck down. She clutched Godfric close to her front as she remained hunched over the Alimar and Barbanov; shielding the two with her broad body. A sharp gasp of pain left Arianne as she felt the tips of arrows sinking into her back, burying deep within her body, causing her to drop to a knee in the grass. Her body felt rigid and stiff with the arrows protruding out from her, the sharp pain went deep into her chest and kept her from breathing normally. Arianne’s energy and strength were fading, but as she gritted her teeth as she managed to push herself up to her feet again, maintaining her hold on Godfric. Amelya looked horrified and tried to assist Arianne in rising, ushering her across the rest of the field. Fortunately, the archers that had their sights on them became occupied with the other Haeseni forces trying to pour out from Vasiland. They entered Johnstown. Arianne laid Godfric in the grass, her breaths were ragged and unclear; she coughed blood as her vision blurred and could barely stand now. Her energy was spent. The next thing she knew, she had somehow managed to seat herself at the base of an oak nearby Amelya. She and other medics looked to be trying to treat Godfric and any other wounded that had managed to escape Vasiland with their lives. The chaos of everyone grew distant to Arianne as she turned her gaze over the forest and Lake Milena that Johnstown looked over. Her hands, covered in the blood of Godfric’s and her own, gripped her scratched up and worn Cross of Lorraine that her mother had given her when she was just a child. Her thumb brushed over the empty crevasses of it that once held fine gems, now lost from her many rough endeavours. She was dying. Her vision began to darken and her pain melted away, replaced by a cold and numb feeling. Before her now stood King Andrik, smiling warmly with saddened eyes. “Andrik…” Arianne rasped out, resting her head back against the trunk of the tree. “I kept my Oath…” And so, the wind-bitten bat closed her eyes and passed on. Arianne Helvets was dead. Arianne Helvets in the Wickwald [[Art done by me]] [[ Thank you to those you let me play the character and develop them. I wanted to write a story about her life to make up for the time that I had been inactive on her. A lot of my plans for the character never quite worked out or became a possible thing due to various issues and other roadblocks, so I felt disappointed in what I had managed to do with her. I wanted this post to represent something for her, I’ve put a lot of work into it over the past weeks/months.]]
  13. Alexandria Barbanov’s skirts were utterly soaked, as were her sleeves and slippers; however, all was well worth it for a rotund toad croaked in her hands as she grinned proudly toward her sisters in the garden, who were bouncing with glee – all while their mother pinched the bridge of her nose for the great mess the triplets were causing. It was the second time this week that the children had opted to play in the garden pond; another set of slippers were ruined. Neither of the triplets seemed to care in the slightest, however, for the Princess of the Lilies was discovered that eve. That memory felt so distant now, so far away. It was much like a dream to Alexandria now, who sat in stillness on the edge of her bed. She had just left the hospital, where she saw the corpse of her beloved sister was resting. After she was discovered in the lake, she was carried back to New Reza; where Alex heard of her sister and distant uncle’s demise. Her face was so pale... Alexandria thought to herself, feeling the sting of tears in her eyes again as she released a quavering exhale. Alexandria wouldn’t leave her room for two days, and once she had, she rarely offered even an utter of a greeting to any she passed as she began taking lengthy trips out onto Lake Milena in a rowboat, with naught but a journal and fishing supplies with her. Her solitude and studies brought her a sense of solace; her small measure of peace. She could not find that within New Reza, nor the palace, for it all brought back too many taunting memories of an innocent youth that was no more.
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