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  1. Sermi’s Execution I had already lost so much by that day. My closest companion, Juniper, left me in the middle of Lurin after I made it clear that I couldn’t separate myself from my mother. I couldn’t hold her accountable for her deeds. Naya had left me after I repeatedly returned to Sermi in a hopeless attempt to save her soul. My actions achieved the opposite of what I wanted; they pushed her further down the path of darkness. The people of Kaethul didn’t trust me- they knew I walked in the shadow the cursed child left behind. I couldn’t exactly blame them for it either, seeing what she had done. I had hurt so many people in the foolish attempt to preserve my relationship with my mother. I always blamed the others for her actions, and lashed out at those who tried to tell me I was wrong. I had been burned, mauled, maimed and manipulated by the Infernal Court of my mother, yet I was unable to tear myself away from her. I still saw the caring, loving woman of years gone by that would have done anything to look after me. . .to keep me safe. Sermi requested a meeting with Atsuko - my Sensei and guardian. A brilliant yet troubled Oyashi-woman who tasked herself with guiding me to become a better version of myself, to follow the warrior’s path. I facilitated such a meeting, the three of us below our fortress home in Sakuragakure. I did not realize that this was planned to be my final trial. The proposed final step in becoming a Samurai. As Sermi and Atsuko spoke, The Yasu-Tori, Danzen entered behind and prevented her from leaving. It was made clear that I would have to make a final choice. Either I could kill Sermi and prove that I was on the path of light, or fail the samurai trials and ultimately fail my Sensei, Atsuko. My mother didn’t argue, dropping to her knees and lowering her head. I found tears forming in my eyes, even though I knew it was always going to end this way. I had hoped it would take centuries. . . or at least years, until I was in this position. But fate had decided enough was enough. The rasp of my sheath cut through the air as my sabres were drawn. . .and slowly I advanced upon my mother. The blades felt heavier with every step, with walking becoming harder by the second - as if I were wading through tar. I soon found myself standing before the devil; my eyes met hers. She knew what had to be done, and gave me her final words. Sermi understood why I was doing what I was doing - appearing content that at the very least she could hurt me no longer. My blades crossed before her neck, with every fiber of my being begging for this to be a simple test of some kind. Of there being an escape. Atsuko and Danzen awaited my actions from the corner, a soft re-assurance being provided. I apologized to my savior for what I was about to do. Even after everything she had done, I could only see my beautiful, kind and loving mother - not the monster within her skin. In less than a second, the nightmare was over. The blades drew together sharply, taking my guardian’s head to finally absolve my sins. Her lifeless body dropped to the ground with a soft thud and just like that - the devil was no more. The Queen of Haense was avenged, the Samurai trials were completed, and the Inferi finally being pushed back, if only an inch. A wave of emotion raged within me as the weight of my actions sat heavily on my heart. I gazed down upon her body as the others looked on, tears streaming down my face. The curious yet fearful Fox Kyrell embodied was finally permitted to rest. In its place awakened the Inu, Ren, protector of people. It would be a long, difficult and painful path ahead - time would only tell if it was all worth it. (This is a POV post, not a missive. Please do not take this information as IC)
  2. THE MIND OF A CHILD A POV of Andrik Pierre af Brasca Andrik had not slept for many nights. Instead his mind occupied itself by counting the cracks in the stones of the ceiling of the palace he now had to call home. Every time he thought he had counted them all, he’d notice a new one and have to start over, The number grew each time. The mind is the greatest prison of a child. Andrik had learned this young, having always been an outcast from the rest of the children. He spoke the language of a Raevir, yet was surrounded by none like him. he grew up without a father, shameful some would say, now who would he learn to become a man from? Yet throughout all of this he had never felt this bleak, like a fish that could not fight upstream, stuck trying and never growing tired. Andrik had watched countless die in the attempts of building his home, and now heard stories of even more dying to defend it. He watched as the Brascan soldiers entered Veletz, carrying the injured and dead to the infirmary. Many soldiers he had seen patrolling the roads and the city now lay on cots, unable to even patrol their own minds. Some would say 10 is two young for a child to understand death, but Andrik had understood it from the day his father perished. So Andrik kept counting, not wanting to think about those who died to defend his home “1” “2” “3” “4” He started again, he had lost count how many times he had done this, yet there was nothing else for him to do. Sleep only brought memories of the dead, and silence only brought the prison of his mind. Andrik wanted to fight, he believed in the cause. He knew Godan would not want Canonists to fight fellow Canonists, how would that be just and fair? Just and Fair Andrik was very zealous, some would even say too zealous for his age. Yet now in the time of war he wondered what Godans concept of Just and Fair really is. Was it Just for Andrik to be left without a father Was it Fair for Andrik to be left without a home? The feeling was wrenching, yet he knew Godan had a plan for him, there was a reason for this pain. Maybe he is being punished? Was it Andriks destiny to live a life of agony? To Andrik, only Godan could know, and if it was his destiny to live a life of turmoil he would live it. “Thunk!” Andriks brother Jan shifted in his sleep and his hand had hit the ground startling Andrik and making him lose count. The fool he thought, To Andrik Jan lived the life of a dreamer. He tried to impress girls and prove himself to soldiers, with no care on what his place was in the world. Not Andrik, his mind consumed him, it did not matter how hard he tried to escape it, every time he was sucked back into his mind, the damned prison he could never escape. With all his might, Andrik went back to counting the cracks. “1” ‘2” “3” “4” While Andrik counted, he allowed for his mind to wander, and only one thought would come to mind. It would recur and not leave his naïve mind. Once Andrik was old enough, he would never want to lose again. He would be a winner in this war, in Veletz, and in the world.
  3. The Baroness of Brasca, donned in mourning blacks after the death of her husband. The widow peered upon her recently finished home. Thirty-seven years of age, married all of two years and in war for a majority of the time she’d been alive. Her first memory was of running about the refugee camps at the edges of Aaun with her eldest brother, Istvan. They chased after a Goat, intent on capturing the animal. And then her next primary memory was the end of the world as she knew it, and she and her family traded one refugee camp for another; Savoy. Brutality. Grief. Horror. It all became a never-ending cycle in the Ivanovich life. The next place she’d come to be with her family is Aaun, building up their community of Raevirs in the Duchy of Stran. She was warded off in what felt like a moment, and then she was moving again, this time to Whitespire in which she lived in their palace and wondered what her family was doing now. And then another move. This one her choice. She’d come to fall in love with a man, his heart large, his smile jovial. George Marc af Brasca. They’d met through letter and familial connection initially, letters that have faded with how many times she has read them over, clutched close in hand. He’d eventually come to ask to court her, and was given three trials and three trials he did. And so she married him, bore four beautiful children and fostered three more. And then he was dead just like that, cruelly taken by the machinations of Deadmunds deadmen. The very next day, a light shown in the form of a man she’d only spoken to once or twice before then. Sir Gaspard van Aert, Captain-General of Veletz. He came with his men, riding into her late husbands lands, and speaking of a promise he made to her now late husband. He will protect Viktoria, and their children in the event of an untimely death. So they left, packing what little they could carry upon their back. Only later would she hear that Petra heard of the happenings, believing the harried widow to have been kidnapped and thus opted to do nothing upon this belief. Their visit was meant to be temporary, until it wasn’t. Veletz provided a home, one welcoming to both her and her children - it provided safety, happiness, something more that she’d never thought to seek out. Some years passed, and her smiles grew more frequent, watching her children grow and begin to come into their own. And then war came again. One she wished not for her children to see. A siege. And now another. Those of the Covenant sought to take the newly gotten home from a widow and her seven children. And thus the widow, with a heart aching in sorrow and pain, broke her promise. One promised to her mother so many years ago. One to never pick up a blade, nor a weapon. And a sword rose, sharp and weighing heavy in her hands. “For vy, y dzieckos, y will fight.”
  4. A depiction of the snow-covered mountains of the Grand Principality of Aeltarys. Winter's icy touch caressed Arabella's spine, but she embraced the chill with ease. She was always the one to defy convention, wearing minimal layers even in the coldest of seasons. Her family found it peculiar, but Arabella ran warm, and her eccentric tendencies served her well now. Her husband was a few meters ahead, engrossed in conversation with his advisors, directing the construction of a building in the newly established camp. A camp - an unconventional choice, but one that suited Arabella's preference for a simple lifestyle. She had never been enamored with the trappings of nobility, and yet here she was, married to a prince, with people looking up to her for guidance. Embracing the challenge, she walked on, her boots warm and sturdy, leaving silent imprints on the thick snow-covered ground. For the first time in a while, she found herself alone in this winter wonderland. Inhaling deeply, she felt the sharp sting of cold air in her lungs, exhaling as a plume of breath appeared before her. A nearby rabbit caught her attention, its white coat blending with the snow, and its crimson eyes seemingly locked onto her own. Arabella dismissed the fleeting thoughts and decided on a course of action. Returning to camp, she marveled at the progress that had been made. Tents were raised, and a comforting fire crackled, tended to by one of the elder Aeltarosi members. The scene felt like something out of a storybook, and Arabella couldn't help but smile. Amid the laughter and warmth of the campfire, Arabella pondered the responsibility of leading a group of people. She had her doubts and uncertainties, but the camaraderie around her reassured her that she was doing just fine. As the night wore on, Arabella settled in, having found a place to store the rabbit she had encountered. She contemplated the future, the challenges that lay ahead, and the paths she might take. As a sense of contentment settled over her, she realized that leadership was not about having all the answers, but rather about finding the courage to take the first step, even in the midst of uncertainty. Arabella Valraenos, the lady who had never conformed to societal norms, was now embracing her role as a leader. Guided by her own instincts and a desire to make a difference, she walked the path of leadership, one step at a time. And as the campfire flickered and laughter filled the air, Arabella knew that she was where she was meant to be.
  5. TWICE CURSED A POV post by the young Lady Viktoria of Stran. Viktoria wondered if she was twice cursed. She never thought much of the first, her family's curse, even as it did tend to affect her day to day life but now.. Now, she stood by her youngest sister as her heart ached and her stomach churned. She explained what wardship was, but did not explain its reasoning. War. The child had wished she could say the war never affected her, but she knew of it as long as she could remember. One of her first memories was herself at the mere age of three, toddling along behind her eldest brother within the refugee camps of Aaun as they chased after a Goat. She beamed and laughed, not knowing any better as threats were made upon her family's livelihood. And so it continued. One moment after another. Her mothers title stripped away, and thus her heirship in turn. She had become simply the Lady Viktoria then, and it took her time to find her bearings. And then the end of the world, or that of the land of the Almaris as she knew it came and a whole new war began. It was different, it took away what she knew as a ‘home’, if you can call a refugee camp home and simply sent her into another refugee camp, one in Savoy. Time passed, and she found herself in a new land and this time, in a true to GODANI home. Vaska. --- Things were looking up, or so it had seemed. She went from place to place, all kept succinctly within the Kingdom of Aaun. Vaska, Minitz, Whitespire. Repeat. But it became her new life and one she came to enjoy. She did not live in a tent but instead had a room. One she could call her own, with paintings decorating the walls, and embroidered pillows of her own making strewn everywhere. A day came, though, in which she visited Whitespire with her eldest brother. Viktoria prattled on, as she often did, about the interview she did for the mayoral candidate just earlier that day. She was excited to be a field reporter for the Aaunic Herald! Istvan listened, and poked fun as siblings often did, as the duo paused by the candidates booth. That excitement soon faded. First a man, then multiple came to them, claiming she had committed a crime! Viktoria had no idea what crime she could have committed, and the men did not wear the armor of any of the places of Aaun. In fact, she did not recognize their armor from anywhere. She tugged on her brother's hand, some anxiety there, as the small girl of thirteen wished to get away. Her heart pounded, frantic and not sure what to expect. They grabbed at her, yanking her from her brother who soon pulled her back and a fight broke loose. It was all such a blur and it all happened so fast. A sharp pain came, having taken something sharp, she couldn’t even be sure what sort of weapon it was; straight to her gut. Viktoria collapsed upon the floor, and she cried for her brother, bony hands pressed over the injury at her waist. The pain was debilitating, and the last thing she could remember was one of her fathers men stepping in front of her prone form, standing before her. The next she’d awoken, everything had hurt and blurry faces were seen before her. Her brother, and her family were not among them. She was in the Minitz clinic. Her brother in the Whitespire clinic. The siblings were separated, unsure if the other were alright. --- It took some time to heal fully. Her movements were careful, and she was not allowed to step foot outside of her home during then. Vaska had become Stran sometime before her injury. A great pride that made her beam, further so when the King so graciously accepted her petitioned gift, as she’d improved in her embroidery. And finally, some time later, she was healed. She didn’t go anywhere without her guard anymore, even if she were with one of her family members and things seemed to be getting back to something better. The bandits, though, they kept coming back. Always causing trouble, and always seemingly running the moment things had gone bad, attempting to entrap those back in their homeland; Adria. And so the day of the royal wedding came, and the Lady Viktoria made way for the basilica with her guard - and soon afterwards the palace. She took note of her dear friend, Leutwin who seemed to be nowhere to be seen after that of the wedding and she went in search of him about the palace as the feast took place. There was no sign of him, the young girl of now fourteen unaware of her friend being tortured by those who sought to take her previously. And so she explored, and she spoke to others, until she came to a standstill within the palace gardens. Her father and the Princess Adeline spoke and a deal was made. She is to be warded. She would move to the palace. She would see her family less and less. Why? War. Viktoria wondered if she was twice cursed.
  6. A confession. She couldn’t feel anything at first. Nor hear anything. Until suddenly it all came rushing to her, the roaring passing through her ears, the rapid thud of her heart. The grief clogging her throat. Sofia naturally had her suspicions. She never did believe him innocent in his trial originally. And now there had been another murder. This one her father. Their father. She tried for a moment, to remember a time when she thought of the man she shared a womb with, as her brother and her mind drew blank, hazy. What cruelty this was. He always did have a way of ruining everything, coddled until he couldn’t be no more. A feeling welled up, one familiar yet foreign. A moment of satisfaction. That she was right. He had dealt such pain to the family. That feeling soon left, though, favored by grief. Despite herself, she found she had occasionally missed the man she once called her brother. What would life had been like if he was not a psychopath? Could they have been close? The cliche of twins you may read within a novel? Or would it have been the same? And as that last feeling joined the rest, she felt nothing but vengeance come over her. If it were not for him, her father would be here this day. If it were not for him, the family wouldn’t have splintered as they grieved. Always, always if it were not for him.. Sofia de Pelear, daughter of Cesar and Laurelie de Pelear sat upon the pews of the church after having signed the Lorraine and bowed her head. And so she prayed, "DIOS, in your name I pray, free me from this grief and anger alike. This hatred I feel for who was once my twin. He took life from this world, that of my Padre and does not regret it. Vengeance may be a sin and yet, I feel it burning through me. Show me your light, your guidance. DIOS, I plead to tu deliver me from this pain and allow me to think with a clear mind and body. DIOS, in your name I pray. Amen.” A tear slid down her cheek, growing silent within the expanse of the church.
  7. The Man You Will Not Be Life is cruel and unfair. Any semblance of happiness may be retained or harshly stripped on fickle whims. And while the tides of fate are beyond the control of any single man, one can control how they navigate the storm. Within the depths of Staalgrav, the room of the Young Master Audo Weiss went untouched by his presence in the days following the wedding. Only one person was privy to his absence - his newly wed, Veronica Weiss. Though it should be noted that her knowledge came not of her careful observance but of her last sighting of her husband in a brief moment of melancholy they shared as they sat beside the rain-swept docks of Sheffield port. “I hate this family,” Audo lashed, though his teary gaze remained glued to the distant waves that grew ever-closer, “It brings nothing but pain.” Showing tears to women was weak, or so he had learned. Perhaps his words were, too. Though the spilling of his heart with such wrath did nothing but scar it. In his stubbornness, despite knowing that the lady he loved was surely pained too, he had chosen to remain alone, merely promising not to do anything rash. A wilting candle-flame licked weakly at the encroaching shadows with which Audo has surrounded himself. His lone form slumped over the desk allotted by the budget the military held to decorate each room of the barracks. Ever-present, the tug of sleep pulled at his weary form and yet it eluded him for with it came visions of that which haunted the recesses of his mind. All that were by his side were two celebratory jars of Zvaervauld Lilac Honey, lovingly crafted and adorned with imagery fit for the Houses of Weiss and de Pelear, and a bottle of Carrion Black. The singular owner of the jars, however, was dead for all Audo knew. Death, which haunted him. Even in his happiest of days, there it lingered as it threatened the tethers of his friend to this world, as it threatened himself, his brother, his father, his sister: Death. “Form a ‘V’, wait for it to charge!” Came a call he understood. In the tense waiting of the moments before the clash of the Haense forces and the invading Inferi, all was quiet except the screams of the commanders. The boy was too young to know who all the people were, merely that he had picked the front with the one family did know, the de Pelears. The Grand Prince had attended the Eastern front, too, and yet the boy’s father had not. “Now!” The cry broke, and in a wave of unison the soldiers sliced at the sides of the flaming boar that rushed through - before shrieks followed and the imps upon its once-armoured back fled as cannonballs smashed down into the crowd from their own side. Disoriented from the crash, some distant awareness that the boar was wreaking havoc on the backlines lingering, the boy took up arms when a new order followed, to charge the Inferi with the other loyal citizenry of Haense. Perhaps GOD smiled upon the loyalty shown that day, or perhaps He pitied the whimsy of a child who wished to save his father’s mind. Either way, through some miracle the boy, though blinded from his shattered glasses, lived the battle in place of his unfortunate allies. He was a blessed one, to escape Death - to sob into the arms of Felix Weiss. He was a blessed one, to ward off Sorrow with the Carrion Black his father gave him. Audo Weiss shifted his gaze from the jars of honey to a bottle of Carrion Black that sat upon the desk. Unopened, it lingered on the rim of the candle’s light. Tauntingly, it dared to glimmer just like the jars of honey under the scrutiny of the man’s gaze. He reached for the bottle, grasping it firmly as his torso rose from the desk with a groan. With a practiced hand, he unscrewed the lid. The stench burned. The boy wrinkled his nose and coughed after he sipped from the king’s goblet. Carrion Black was all the king ever drank, a vile-tasting tar as far as his tongue was concerned! Though his eyes watered, and the lad’s body thoroughly rejected the intake of the alcohol, he slid the drink in front of Karl III: a bad taste it may be, but it was not one of Death - yet. Unlike the young one, when the king raised the goblet to his own lips he could drink as if it were water. He afforded the boy a passing glance, before returning it to the room and those that squabbled across the table before him. Even after Karl III passed, he had words of wisdom for his cupbearer, his shield against would-be assassins. Upon receiving the goblet of the late king, inside a stained black void, Audo was bestowed with a wish that made his heart sink: ‘I hope that you will not become an alcoholic by the age of fifteen’. Perhaps those words might have done some good if spoken while the king had lived. A bottle of Whiskey in his hand, a teenager, Audo sat in the crypt of the kings of yore. Though Karl III had yet to find his resting place, for some years he had made a habit of visiting the likes of Sigismund III ‘The Golden’. His visits started as a naive apology, but had grown into the likes of a one-sided discussion. Some part of him believed the king must’ve been well-loved, and surely such a king would care unconditionally. As he talked, and talked, of the grand Felix Weiss and of the inquisitive Haus Weiss, and of all that tore at his family and his mind, but only the dead were present to hear. He talked, he drank, and he stumbled home. Yet, home was not to be where he would find himself. Drunk as he was, he cursed his younger sister, Sierra Weiss, for failing to heed his warning of safety for the youngest, Via Weiss. “You’re a disgrace to your father!” A call came, as Audo staggered out of the tavern. Speak of the man, and he shall appear. Unfortunately, as Audo stumbled out he fell into the graces of his mentor, Georg I. As he spoke, Felix stood aside. Unrelenting, the glare of the patriarch bore into him and the bottle of whiskey each time Audo swung it as he spoke. Being pleased that the king chose Audo for a task was far from Felix’s mind. Hunching, Audo huffed out a cough, “Papej!” He cried after a hit was laid into his gut. In a feeble attempt to defend himself, he lashed out for Felix’s towering form, only to end up on the ground. With a harsh grasp, Audo’s head was yanked back and in the following moments, he was drowning in whiskey. It burnt his eyes, his nose, his lungs; he spluttered though continued to fight. Empty, the bottle was shattered against the far wall on the alley. In his stupor, Audo could not land a single attack and once pulled to his feet, another hook laid into his gut. His back connected with the alley wall as the contents of his stomach splattered the cobbles below. Felix Weiss, an umbra, loomed before he stooped down to eye-level with his blubbering, pathetic boy. “Son, you’ve hit rock bottom.” But by that time, they were not the only ones in the alley. Felix’s wife, Maria Weiss, looked upon the scene from afar, approaching when she saw fit. A mother, this woman was not - not to Audo. Their time spent together had been minimal, and accepting another figure into his life at such a late age was something he had thus far failed to do. And yet here she stood, to mother him at supposed rock bottom. Her words were not easy, and not all comforting. She was as harsh and as stubborn as Felix and his heir. But even so, she cared. Perhaps a meaningless nothing in any other situation, Maria retrieved a shattered piece of glass from the floor. Outstretched towards him, what little light did shine into the alley glimmered from the rough edges of the remnant. “Take this as a reminder of the son you will not be.” Clasping the Carrion Black in his hand, Audo Weiss raised it to his lips. The bottle tilted ever so slightly, but none of the liquid inside kissed him. Slowly, he drew the bottle away, staring down to the contained blackness. As the candle-light flickered, the reflection wavered in the glass. His grasp tightened; the bottle shattered against the wall, spilling its guts against the wall and floor. Creaking, the chair tilted as Audo raised himself to sit back. A solemn glower fell over his features as he observed the pool of Carrion Black growing at the base of the wall. If Death and Sorrow wanted him, they would have to fight for him.
  8. THE DAY OF RECKONING A POV Post of the Rear Guard from Gaius Rosius var Ruthern 7th of Peter’s Glory, In the Year 41 BA The ashes covered the city of Atrus but its citizens were more than ready to defend their beloved city from the oncoming onslaught of the necromancers and their pet, Cloudbreaker. Gaius Rosius var Ruthern awoke early that day. He read his prayer book and murmured a soft prayer as he signed the lorraine before donning the armor of House Ruthern. He had only one mission in his heart and mind, to defend Balian. Breakfast was merely an afterthought as he exited his home. He first went to the square to check on the preparations the Balian Army and its allies had made for Atrus. Next, he made his way through the streets of the city and around the walls to ensure the walls were all properly defended. The young Baron of Marsana made further plans to properly ensure the wellbeing of the cannons and ballistae, helping the Lord Seneschal Ledicort Vuiller deliver the black bolts to the defenders tasked with manning the ballistae. He then set around cauldrons with water for the cannoneers to use. All of this was done through help from his good friends and comrades Kasimir Sarkozic and Hreidunn Fehn. Once the final preparations were done, he and his comrades made his way back to the square. From there he met his sister, Eryane de Rosius who came to see him, fearing it would be the last time she would be able to speak to him. The two exchanged words and assurances that their family will be together again before she departed with the other citizens of Balian in their evacuation to Castle Renduzzo. “Are you ready?” Kasimir spoke to him as he donned his helmet. “Da. Y am.” Gaius would respond as he too then donned his own helmet. The call from Drako Darkwood, Count of Renduzzo, to the defenders of Atrus to rally was heard by all of the descendents in the city. Gaius and his comrades made their way to the rear of the city, they climbed the ladders to man their station at the rear walls where a certain orc shaman that went by the name Borok delivered an inspiring speech to his comrades from Krugmar and Nor’Asath. The descendants tasked with the rear defense of Balian soon went to their respective stations upon the rear walls. The humans made their way to the middle and right side of the wall whilst the orcs and mali’ker stayed at the left side. Gaius, Hreidunn and Kasimir manned the rightmost cannon. The three of them checked the health of their cannon and the proper supplies were ready for use for the artillery. The three comrades were soon joined by Drako Darkwood and Cardinal Teodosio, ready to keep the right flank of the wall secure. Soon enough, the Haelunorians and the Aaunites arrived to offer their assistance in the rear. The Aaunites took hold of the ballistae at the right hand side whilst the Haelunorians and the Paladins took control of the one at the tower. Among the Aaunites was a familiar sight, Gaius’s Raev brethren, his cousin, Jan Ivanovich. “Yam here to help cuz.” Gaius smiled underneath his helmet as he then nodded, “Da cuz. Jest dobry to see you. Come stand with us.” Now they were all ready. After a few hours of intense anticipation and small talk among the defenders crimson lightning broke through the skies above. It was soon followed by a distant roar of a dragon. Cloudbreaker was coming. King Alexander I of Balian stood at the center of the wall calling for his human brethren and his fellow Balianese citizens to offer a quick prayer to GOD. Gaius and his comrades joined in the prayer. Another streak of crimson lightning followed, battering the skies. Now was the time to fight, the defenders manned their cannons, aiming it beyond the wall towards the field. The ones who manned the ballistae in the rear kept their focus upon the sky. As for the others who were not stationed at the artillery, they drew their crossbows and potions, ready to wreak havoc upon the Iblees worshippers and their undead minions. First came Cloudbreaker, distant roars and shouts from the front gates of the city could be heard as the defenders at the front walls of Balian scampered to shoot the dragon as it approached Atrus. Gaius tensed his shoulders but he kept his torch ready to light the cannon as his comrades loaded it with powder and a cannonball, focusing on the impending invasion from their side of the wall. The Baron of Marsana took a deep breath as he waited for the oncoming onslaught at the rear. Finally, the shrill laughs of the necromancers could be heard from beyond the rear wall out towards the trees. They were coming. A certain descendent shouted, “Ready your cannons!” As soon as that was said, the voidal obelisk that was built upon a roof of the building close to the rear wall exploded behind the defenders, the concussive force caused some who stood there to fall from the roof of the building whilst others were knocked back. The shrapnels pelted many of the defenders. Fortunately, their plated armors shielded them from the shrapnels. Gaius felt his own body being pushed against the cannon as he regained his balance. He was fortunate to not be too close to the explosion radius. The descendants recovered from the explosion quickly, returning to their posts as the undead army now began to March towards the rear wall with only one goal: the destruction of Atrus. Gaius quickly ordered his friend Hreidunn to aim the cannon towards the right flank of the marching undead. Once Hreidunn had done so, the young Baron then lit up the fuse with the torch. After a few seconds the cannon was fired towards the mass of necrotic bones at the right flank, pounding them into the ground. The other cannoneers continued their work at the middle and left flank. Cardinal Teodosio filled a bucket with water from the cauldron beside the cannon and passed it to Gaius who immediately poured it over the barrel to cool it down. Once it was done, they prepared and loaded another cannon ball for a second shot. Jan Ivanovich and Drako Darkwood used their own personal ranged weaponries to give Gaius and his fellow cannoneers cover as they continued to prepare the cannon for another round. However, the second shot did not arrive. The cannon began to malfunction as soon as Gaius lit up another fuse. He cursed under his breath as he stepped away from the cannon, about to call to his cousin for another bucket of water until he heard a familiar roar followed by a flapping of wings and a streak of lightning from the clouds. This time, it was close. “BRACE YOURSELVES!” Someone in the rear defense shouted those words. Immediately the Ruthern looked up towards the sky to see Cloudbreaker circling above them before diving downwards. He then opened his mouth, ready to breathe whatever horrific harm it could bring upon the descendents. Immediately Gaius brought up his shield, stepping in front of Hreidunn to protect him. As he did so, he called to the Cardinal, Kasimir and to his cousin Jan Ivanovich to form a shield wall. The three of them quickly stood shoulder to shoulder with their shields raised towards the Dragon. As Cloudbreaker breathed its gorey substance upon the descendants, the shield wall protected Gaius and his comrades. The dragon then flew away to terrorize the front gates again. A sigh of relief escaped Gaius’s lips as he brought his shield down for the moment, only to hear shouts from the tower. It turned out that the gorey substance had formed into undead corpses that were now terrorizing the people who were manning the ballistae. Some went up the ladder to help whilst the others focused on the undead who were still marching towards the walls. Amid the gorey chaos, Gaius turned his head towards their cannon, only to see it had been destroyed along with part of the wall in front of them. Cardinal Teodosio immediately shouted, “Form a shield wall here!” Immediately, the former cannoneers complied. They raised their shields forming a wall whilst Gaius withdrew his crossbow, loading it with a slayer steel bolt as he stood behind the shield wall. The undead archers were readying their bows, aiming towards the middle of the wall. As they did so, the field trembled slightly. Behind the undead army lumbered two giant behemoths of flesh, blood and gore making their way towards the walls. Amid the potential doom that was spelled by these flesh giants, the descendants however, did not lose their morale. Rather, they were further emboldened to fight when one of the paladins had managed to cast a form of holy flame against one of the giants. The shamans had begun casting their own spells. "DO NOT LET THIS WALL FALL!" A defender shouted amidst the oncoming second onslaught. In the midst of this fight, Cardinal Teodosio attempted to raise the morale of the group at the right flank by coining their shield wall, the ‘Shield Brothers of Ablution’. The name was befitting for the sons of Exalted Horen who took up their shields and arms to protect a bastion for humanity. The shieldwall was soon accompanied by the Haelunorian phalanx at their right flank, protecting the descendents stationed there from any other potential volley of arrows or projectiles from the undead monstrosities. Gaius continued shooting his slayersteel bolts towards the giant and the undead archers, managing to hit the giant a few times while downing some of the undead archers. He grit his teeth under his helmet however when he saw the giant readying a cart full of dead cattle carcasses. Soon enough the cart was flung towards the middle of the group of defenders upon the wall followed by a volley of arrows at the same location. The Ruthern turned his head to see some of them hit by the carcasses whilst the arrows bounced off their armors. However, a few soldiers felt the arrows pierce through the joints of their plate armors, leaving injuries. Drako Darkwood himself was almost hit by one of the carcasses, until he was quickly dragged out of harm’s way by another soldier. Nevertheless, Gaius focused on the battle before him. The shield wall was protecting them from the volley of arrows so far and that was a good thing. Both giants were downed finally by the ranged weapons and spells from the defenders. However, there was no time to celebrate. More undead reinforcements joined the ranks of the invaders. They were now scaling the walls, ready to climb. This did not look too good. Gaius prayed to GODAN in his mind that the descendents tasked with destroying the Phylactery and the reinforcements at the canyon would be victorious. Who knows how long they can hold down the city for? The morale of the soldiers however were slowly diminishing. Reports of a breach at the front gates and the burning of Saint Lothar’s Square and the church seemed like a grim omen for the defenders of Balian. The Duke of Minitz had now begun to argue with Borok the Shaman about retreating back towards Eternal Sun Square and continuing the fight there. However, the orcs and most of the defenders on the wall preferred to stay on the wall and hold it down until reinforcements from the descendents arrived. As the descendents prepared themselves for the potential breach of the walls, infighting began to develop. The orc shaman who was arguing with the Duke of Minitz kicked him off the wall and down into the city. Fortunately, the Duke of Minitz did not die but was severely injured. King Alexander I and King Charles Alstion of Aaun immediately rushed to save him. The actions by the orc now sparked a fight between some Aaunites and the orc of Krugmar. However, this fight was soon settled by both sides when they realized that dealing with Cloudbreaker and the undead were more important at the moment. It was at this moment that the cavalry had finally arrived. The soldiers who had ventured to the canyon had come back victorious, cutting off any future undead reinforcements, they were now charging with the thundering hooves of their horses towards the undead horde in the back, cutting down the archers one by one. Some of the undead, however, had now finally managed to climb the walls and reach the top. The descendents, with their newfound morale, however, were ready. Gaius sheathed his crossbow as he then equipped his shield and mace. He charged forward with his comrade Hreidunn, using his mace to deliver a blunt impact on the undead and force them to stumble backwards and fall back from the wall, back down to where they came from. As the breach from the top of the wall was taken care of and now that the reinforcements had arrived on the ground, Cardinal Teodosio, having heard news of the church burning, wanted to save it. The Shield Brothers of Ablution followed him as he climbed down the wall and back into the city towards the church. Unfortunately, they were too late, the Church was beyond saving. Cloudbreaker demonstrated its wrath of its malflame throughout the square and the Church. Gaius, Kasimir and Hreidunn gently guided the Cardinal towards the Arena, promising him that Atrus will be rebuilt and its house of GOD will look better than before. It was then that Cloudbreaker now arrived, right in front of them, atop the roof of the library. Immediately, the Descendents clambered down the walls and made their way to the square either to escape or go forth towards the Arena and into the evacuation tunnels. King Alexander I himself manned the singular cannon in the Eternal Sun Square with some others, aiming it towards the skeletal dragon of ruin. However, there was something odd. The dragon was unmoving, immobile even. Within a short minute, it then flew back up towards the sky, before crashing down, landing outside of Atrus with its head severed. The soldiers that had gone to destroy the Phylactery had succeeded, Cloudbreaker is no more. The help from the paladins and the other soldiers who fought it until it was gravely injured only further nailed its coffin. Its severed head rested upon the mesa desert in front of Balian. The descendents now made their way towards it cheering in victory. They have felled the great necrotic dragon and amid the chaos, the raining fire from the sky melted the remaining undead, forcing many of the necromancers to flee whilst the others were slain by the blades of the descendants. It was then that Worm, the devourer of realms, appeared. It let out a screech before burrowing itself deep into the ground, causing a small earthquake. Immediately Gaius called to his comrades to flee to Renduzzo, knowing Atrus might collapse completely if the Worm made its way to the city. The remaining descendants, having defeated Cloudbreaker, now fled towards Renduzzo Castle to regroup and rest. The injured were quickly taken to the clinics whilst the others conversed with one another and embraced their family members and friends, happy to see each other again. However, they all knew that many lives were lost during this siege. Many of whom do not know their names yet. Gaius and his comrades returned to Atrus after all was said and done to find any stragglers, injured or corpses of their fallen compatriots. It was there, among the ruins and bodies of the deceased that Cardinal Theodosio led the soldiers of GOD to sing “Non Nobis Domine” to honor them. Gaius returned back to Renduzzo that night wiser and more learned from this siege. He had defended Balian, his home. The descendants were victorious against the necrotic Cloudbreaker and its masters. Atrus will be rebuilt soon, its citizens determined to bring their beloved city back. However, this pyrrhic victory and the sighting of the Worm made Gaius wonder what the future holds for Almaris. If the descendents were to save themselves they must work together for another reckoning is on the horizon for them. Hence, as Gaius entered within the gates of the castle he thought to himself, What jest next?
  9. The day, that day, would one be burned forever into the Hyspian Princesses mind. It’d haunt her dreams, her waking moments, awakening her as her frightened gaze darted about those first nights since. She’d weep and cry and pray, much like she did the day of the siege. It was still all so fresh. --- Princess Sofia de Pelear, merely fourteen years old, had awoken within her recently renovated tower of the Ciudad de Plata palace. The ministrations of day to day life was had, a Lady-in-Waiting brushing her hair, breakfast being delivered upon the table as she sat with her family, uttering out a prayer before breakfast. It was all so simple. Peaceful in its own way, with its mundane likeness to the young girl. It was simple until it wasn’t. Her father, Viceroy Cesar de Pelear stood tall, strong as he rallied the house guard, this coming shortly after breakfast as he was called from their table. They were to protect Haense, to protect their people and ensure the day was not lost. Her guard, her friend, she’d taken Wyn to the side mere moments before they left for the capital. Teary-eyed and frightened, she peered up at him and with all of her usual demands bleeding into one, and her vulnerability and moment of weakness showed, she’d state with no lack of strength to her tone. “If you die, I will kill you.” And so they marched. Armor, it felt so cold against her skin at first. The pieces a bit too big, fitting not quite right as she’d never donned it in her life. Soon, though, that cold turned suffocating. Sweat beaded. Had she ever sweat before? Had she ever felt that sweltering heat bearing down on her? The soldiers gathered, from many a nation, many a vassal and she could feel her heart thudding frantically in her chest. Thump. Thump. Thump. If she hadn’t known better, she may have thought she was running a fever. Her gauntleted hand clasped at her sisters, that feeling all too strange as she felt Veronicas small hand in her own and as the words of her father came down the line, they were sent to the palace to await what may happen. --- And so they rushed. The jostling and clanking of armor sounding, the heavy breaths and pants as they paused in the grand foyer. Fabric rustled, a medic preparing a med-bay for those injured during the siege and footsteps sounded. The Princess Royal was soon leading them, the woman keeping careful steps as it went round and round deep into the crypts, grip ever so tight against the wall and pews, movements tight due to her pregnancy. They’d made it. Sofia removed her helmet, taking in the stale crypt air with shuddering gasps leaving her as she kept close to her sister, worried for her family and friends undergoing the siege outside. They sat upon a mattress, and the scent of blood soon seeped into the crypts, cloying the air and the stench choking up the space. Many a time, a perfume bottle rose, spritzing the area around them but it’d only help so long. Leathery scents adding to the blood, honeyed scents only highlighting it in turn. Then, the prayers began. Never had she prayed to GOD so much in a day and yet, the prayers spilled out, leading the fellow children within the crypts in prayer as the adults spoke in their own corners, worrying over what was happening above. "Saint Edmond, as our soldiers go into battle today, grant them fortitude and protect them. Pray for God to show mercy to the dead, and that in hoping for victory today, we may win the peace tomorrow.” One after another, it’d come forth, whispered and cried as the thudding booms crashed and rocked the ceiling above. Dust and debris filtered down, and more joined them. The Princess Royal, she’d collapsed against the wall and her water had broken. Medics overwhelmed by the injured above, it was the mothers, mothers who’ve had babies of their own previously that saved the day. They led the woman through her birth, even as the cries and prayers of the people echoed around the crypts. And so a little girl was born amidst dread and disaster. --- A meteor struck soon after. It rocked the palace, delivering destruction and renewing the cries and prayers with a fervor. The Princess Royal seized, and the injured were delivered down below as the scent of blood grew only stronger and the children in the back prayed and pleaded, wishing to be with their parents, to go home, to see another day. And yet, the crypt was not safe. The buzzing of bugs within the walls sounded, echoing and shaking the walls. The Haense gates at the front were overtaken. And evacuation went underway. The previously seizing Princess is carried, her newborn baby lost within the crowd as the girl is brought to safety. Sofia kept her hand in Veronicas, frantic whispers sounding as she feared losing her sister in the now converging crowd. One last prayer was said and they were off. Rushing up the steps with Ser Walton leading the way. Coverings taken from windows, the carpets, a dress to protect from the flames raining down. Feverish pleas and cries coming forth from the evacuees, as they made way for Reinmar. Fire. Fire was the first thing Sofia noticed upon the exit of the palace. It overtook the sky in a terrifying kaleidoscope of burnt oranges and bloody crimsons, almost beautiful in its misery. The plop of something wet was felt as they made their escape. Then another. And another. Blood. Blood rained down on them, drenching those in their escape. But they did escape, they made way to Reinmar, taking refuge within yet another basement. This one was smaller. The press of the bodies were all too tight. The stench of blood, sweat and fear clogging the very air as the children of the group pressed close, frightened they may lose each other in the chaos. More injured are ferried in. News came, as her dear friend Wyn entered, delivering more injured. He was okay. Uninjured. Her father is alive. And then he was gone, back off to fight. And news soon came, of the triumph in the battlefield. The group rushed, pushed as they exited the basement of Reinmar, cries of joy and relief sounding as they poured forth in their effort to go home to Karosgrad. Her family made it. Her friends are alive. She is alive. --- As she went home that night, peeling off bloodied pieces of armor in favor of silken dresses and dinner around the table with her family following a prayer, she knew one thing. She’d never think of it as mundane again.
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