Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Grijs
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Grijs

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Brothers shall fight
and fell each other,
and sisters' sons
shall kinship stain.
Hard is it on earth,
with rampant whoredom;
Axe-time, sword-time,
shields are splintered.
Wind-time, wolf-time,
ere the world falls.
Nor ever shall men
each other spare.



Slot-Pharamond, the Royal Faramundian Citadel of Aaixen

Slot-Pharamond, castle-fortress and home to generation upon generation of Chlotarian Kings, stands with perhaps impregnable walls, built of the same clay that can be found throughout the rivers of central and northern Chlotaringen; a boon which has lent itself to many aspects of Chlotar construction, most notably in this very Royal Capital. The Royal Castle is an impressive and certainly ambitious construction for a yet semi-barbarian and nascent civilization. Great towers and domes dominate the skyline as somber sentinels, a testament to the power of Chlotaringen. It is said that on a clear morning, one can see those very same imposing towers of Slot-Pharamond from a hundred leagues away – as their power rises ever closer to the heavens, so too shall Chlotaringen be the foundation for a Kingdom to define this age.



Within the citadel’s central hall banners bearing the heraldry of the Faramundian dynasty, the Chlotar Lion, hang proudly from sturdy wooden beams holding up the throne room’s ceiling. Assembled are the subjects of the new King Cauroman, his Paladins at the fore. Each one a legendary warrior and personal friend of the King, outfitted in gleaming scale-armor and wearing long dark green or blood-red capes. Tales of their exploits are sung in hearths throughout the Kingdom. The blood of such heroes has built this Kingdom. From the far and wide borders of the vast Chlotarian expanse this gathering has come, some traveling for as long as months to Aaixen for no other reason than to hear the address of their new King.

Cauroman enters through the columns and climbs the elevated podium at the far back of the room, stopping right before the throne -- but does not sit down. The throne is merely a ceremonial embellishment, for a Chlotar King never sits idle, but belongs on a horse -- leading the men!
The young King is lean and tall, though not quite so tall as half his Paladins that currently stand before him. Though he dons much the same attire as them. The key difference being that into Cauroman's spangehelm is forged an iron crown to denote his kingship; from under his helmet strands of long blond hair fall over his shoulders and back, with a similarly coloured short and trimmed beard covering his chin and jawline.

‘’My warriors!’’
King Cauroman surveys the crowd, and waits till his voice has grabbed everyone’s attention. This swiftly done, the King speaks sonorously through the long hall.
‘’From the confines of Udos and the Holy City wherefrom I returned, a horrible tale has been brought to my ears which I will relay to you.
The tribe from the kingdom of the Lamperts, an accursed tribe, a tribe utterly alienated from Godas, has invaded the lands of the Amalians.. and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; it has led away a part of the captives into its own Kingdom, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures.
I’ve heard that in these tortures they harvest the blood of the faithful to spread on their altars and pour in their vases in perverse rituals unheard of in our lands.
Who can carry out the labour of avenging these wrongs and recovering this territory, if not you? You, upon whom above all other tribes Godas has bestowed glory in arms, great courage, will and strength to humble all who oppose you.

Soldiers, brothers and allies...
Hear my words: In the name of my ancestor Pharamond, himself Part God, I trust on you the burden to defend our world.’’


Cauroman walks off the stage, stopping before his first Paladin -- Vetericus.
He is a tall, long-haired warrior, imposing in both stature and mannerisms even when not adorned in his typical warpaint. In his left hand he grips the haft of his distinctive axe, head resting on the floor, saluting King Cauroman with his right instinctively, the thud of his fist on his armoured chest audible.
‘’Vetericus of Baltia, I entrust you, and only you, to lead the subjugation effort against the ungodly Tautans. I believe you’ve witnessed firsthand the evils that happen within the Tautan confines…’’

“More vividly than most would ever fear to, my Emperor.”

The King nods, smiling uncomfortably at an outlandish honorific as Emperor, but he takes it as a compliment.
‘’You Baltians are renowned for your ferocity, your zeal and your willingness to smite malice. And I think no one understands this enemy better than you do.
Through my revelation in Udos I have learned the evils of their ways. Through their debauchery they seek to undermine the justice of Godas with the intent of undoing Him forever. The debauchery of the Tautans, and their King’s wanton whoring is a means to an end. He and his thralls seek to kill our almighty Father thereby.’’


The assembly behind the Paladins turn to clamour.
‘’To kill… God? Impossible!’’
‘’Unbelievable!
‘’Unthinkable!’’
‘’They will pay for this!’’
‘’They will pay with their blood!’’

The Chlotar King raises his hand, signaling his subjects to silence.
“I have none other in mind for this exceedingly important mission than you, Vetericus. While the Lamperts are the main target, we must deal with the Tautan heathens too. And perhaps more urgently even. You will plant on their smoking ruin the banner of Godas. And bring an end to the Tautan King's reign!’’

Vetericus with a gruff and ringing tone gives prompt reply.
“I will see it done, as sure as I draw breath. The Tautan stain upon history and God’s sacred lands shall be purged.”

Next Cauroman walks up to Paladin Einhard, who stands besides Vetericus and observed their dialogue cautiously. He salutes the King of Chlotaringen as he approaches.
Einhard, another tall and strongly built man, can be marked immediately as a Chlotar warrior in that regard. However, while not rare his brown hair and eyes are certainly not the norm for someone who claims direct descent of the legendary Chlotachar. He still retains a youthful appearance at the age of twenty-four, with the lack of scars demonstrating his juniority in this warrior society. From his belt hangs his mace… for the tale goes that Einhard was not found worthy to wield his ancestral family sword.
The young King speaks to him:
‘’As I muster the forces to march against Lampertei, you, Paladin Einhard, will lead the vanguard.
Long have our people tried to move an army across those perilous mountains. The Rudines. And everytime, the Lamperts have driven us back.
In these dire times, where our world begins to wind down, I can think of but one way we can defeat Lampertei for good and all.’’

The Paladin Einhard stands still, having listened carefully to each word.

‘’Ten years ago my father, Carlovech, sent your father, Mauger, into the mountains with the very same mission as I impart now to you.
Mauger was Chlotaringen’s finest, and this was not without reason. I do not think we will see the likes of him again…
That said, I bid you pick up from whence Paladin Mauger left off. For your father carried with him the only weapon that will defeat the Lamperts.
The Millennia Horn’’

A silence falls over the gathering at the mention of the lost artifact.
Another Paladin speaks up.
‘’My King, the Horn is lost. As the cowardly Lamperts slew Mauger in ambush, Godas sent down an Angel to pick it up, and took the Horn to the heavens as to not let it fall in Lampert hands. It is no longer of this world.’’
Yet another Paladin speaks.
‘’An angel? I thought it was a white dragon!’’
Some in the crowd behind the latter Paladin nod affirmatively. ‘’I heard that version of the story too.’’

‘’Warriors!’’ Cauroman yells. ‘’I tell you the Horn is still within this world!”
Cauroman sighs.
‘’Last night I dreamt in a fever -- Eulal-- I mean, Godas, sent me a vision of it. The Horn is waiting to be found. You will have to trust me on this, for the Millennia Horn is our only hope to defeat Lampertei.‘’
Again the King turns to Mauger’s son.
‘’Einhard!’’
Einhard drops to one knee, and speaks forcefully.

“By Godas, I will either return with the Millennia Horn or I will follow my father’s brave footsteps into the afterlife for our people’s sake.”

Einhard turns to the rest of the paladins and yells “For Godas, King Cauroman, and Chlotaringen!”
The hall erupted into cheering, those who had brought weapons thumping them against the ground to add force to their words as an echoing chant of ‘Godas, Cauroman, Chlotaringen!’ overwhelmed all other sounds in the world -- at least to those present.

At the last Cauroman raises forth his hand, outstretching three fingers.
‘’Three months.
Three months and we march to war against Lampertei. Perhaps even sooner. There is no time to waste, my Paladins, my warriors.
And so that is the time you have to complete these tasks I have assigned thee. When the time comes, I will recall you to the southern marches at the feet of the Rudines, where my Camp will be.
I need all twelve of you Paladins at my side as we march across the mountains. And most rest of you too! Remember this!
Here, we stand. There is no alternative to victory. Should we falter... then all is lost.
Go with Godas. ‘’
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Wernher
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Wernher

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TAUTOM CITY


The premises of the marvelous luxurious Balti Castle, seat of King Orso Balti




Whoring. Everywhere Theodonus looks there is some degree of whoring going on. Regular whoring in the lower commons and sophisticated whoring in the higher echelons. And Theodonus thinks that is just fine. After all; he is a product of whoring himself.

He is headed for the palace of the King, which isn’t really a sanctuary against the debauchery of the rest of the city, but rather the very zenith of it. It's an awfully opulent place full of over-the-top embellishments shamelessly displaying all forms of hyper-decadence. The white glistening walls are covered in mosaics with depictions of perverse symbolism, but also the epics of King Odovakre’s heroism and the founding of Tautom city and the Balti dynasty.

''Tell the King that Doux Theodonus, son of Valaris, has returned. Pronto pronto!'' Theodonus speaks as he moves a hand through his silky smooth hair, majestically.

Servants in various states of undressness scurried around, bowing before the noble. This handsomely built stallion however didn’t seem he’d allow anymore time for a warning than it’d take for him to walk up to the throne room. Seeing what was going to happen, the Captain of the guard interposed himself.
“Theodonus!” He exclaimed to get the attention of the Doux who turned to offer him a wide smile.
“Pelos!” He answered, the two of them went to the gymnasium together from time to time and had respect toward one another the way two men dedicated to peak physical abilities had. They raised their hands up to share a manly handshake, pulling each other's shoulders together.

“The king is busy, Theodonus, I’ll ask you to wait.” Asked Pelos. He didn’t want to have to order him to wait, in the last year Theodonus had become more influential in the city than maybe even his father had been before and while he seemed friendlier, he wasn’t known for his patience either.
“The king can multitask Pelos, and its important.” Having said this, Theodonus went on to walk to the door, only to be stopped when Pelos stepped in front of him.
“The king will receive you when it pleases him, Doux.” The two stared at each other for a moment, neither of them smiling.

Ultimately however, it was Theodonus who laughed it off and slapped the guard’s shoulder.
“He IS the king I suppose. Alright, but make sure he knows it's important. And that I won’t go away until it is addressed.” He said, focusing on that last part.

An hour passed, and as Theodonus was frolicking in the nearby fountained gardens chasing some servant girls, finally another guardsman came up to him.
‘’The King will see you now.’’ Grunts the beefy guardsman with the most glorious abs as he beckons the Doux to the direction of the throne room.

‘’But I’m all wet now from the fountains!’’ Replies Theodonus. ‘’Bring me a fresh toga, and quickly!’’

Thirty minutes later Theodonus finally presents himself once again before the throne room, all fresh now, and Pelos opens the door.

As the grand door leading to the great Hall opened, Theodonus could imminently feel a sweaty damp and steamy air drifting into the hallway. The Doux bravely wades through the murk and into the personal domain of King Orso.
At the far end of the throne room is, as you might expect, the throne of Orso, a gaudy seat elevated by a high set of marble stairs looking out over the rest of the great hall. At the feet of the stairs lie some dozen young women only barely covered up by towels of the King’s seraglio on long cushioned benches.

It would be about now that someone would feel as though his complaint was perhaps not all that important. Where one would meekly walk toward the king and mildly speak his concern before being turned away. But not Theodonus. There was a time when he was like all others but it seemed his experience abroad at the court of Eodaland had given him the strength of character to stand firm. Though it was probably because he came back with more than just experience from King Badastan.

The Tautan King looks up from his high gaudy throne, and through the steam can make out a familiar visitor.

‘’My friiieennddd~’’ speaks the king with a dumb smile on his lips. ‘’You’re just in time. I order you to make yourself at home.’’

King Orso Balti, beyond being a pathetic and gaunt little man, is nonetheless a King of some notoriety and should certainly not be approached lightly.
Whosoever comes near him can never resist the divine aura Orso radiates with. All the population of Tautom can feel it, but never so strongly as when you are in his direct presence. To think that this man is Part God is not flattering to God.

‘’Your Majesty.’’ Theodonus halts at the center of the throne room, looking past the seraglio upward the long set of stairs where Orso is seated.
The Doux has the King’s attention, but it is ever fleeting, and soon as it becomes apparent that the visiting Doux isn’t going to lie down and enjoy the sauna the King becomes indifferent to his presence.

Theodonus awaited to be asked to speak, but from the silence and the already bored look on the King’s face, this would never come, and so, the Doux went on to speak.
“Your Majesty…” He repeated. “...Our city faces a crisis like never before.” He said direly before swiping the air dramatically with his hand.
“Our glorious armies are quickly recovering from the setback we suffered last year and while we face a great many challenges, we are afflicted by one of the worst ones yet…”

He clenched his fist. “The lack of horse hair!” A… terrible thing indeed?
“We lack enough material to properly furbish the crests of our brave warrior’s helms. Without a proper helm, we would look like weaklings to our enemies, they will laugh and take this as us being at the limit of our resources! There is not a strand of hair left in the city, but surely the islands can be levied to solve this crisis? Syrome and its Doux, who have not paid their taxes in living memory!” He finished, looking at the king silently for his approval.

‘’Doux Belisar? You accuse my most trusted man of tax evasion? You speak silliness, Theodonus.’’
Orso clearly becomes visibly annoyed with Theodonus, not because he would slander his favored subject the Syromean Doux, but moreso for bringing up the actual problems facing his City-State. And yes, a horsehair deficit counts as one. Orso really doesn't want to hear about it. Nevertheless the Tautan King decides to humor the Doux with a response.
‘’You seem to be capable enough, why don't you go and take care of it?’’

Theodonus kneels before his king, smiling as he does, content to have his way. “To be trusted by you on this matter is the greatest of honors my king. I will have edicts drafted at once and be sent to you to revise and put on your seal of approval! I will be then on my way immediately to solve this problem.” Yes, just a matter of… reading, and sealing and dispatching…

Next to the king however, a woman Theodonus knew more than well slowly got up from the stair she was sitting on and, displaying all the womanly charms she had with how her hips and chest moved side to side with her every motion, she went on to knee next to the throne as one of her delicate hands caressed the king, begging his ear to be whispered inside.

And whatever this particular woman just spoke seems to have won Orso over. The King at last perks up to Theodonus, and bestows him his blessing.
‘’Ya ya ya, take my seal and do the thing, I anoint you the ‘Grand Domestic of the Royal Stool’.
See you later friend! You're dismissed.’’


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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Not Fishing
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Not Fishing The Mediocre

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The Lord Captain

The Sea of Tears, east of Eodaland and north of Syrome

The Storm's Herald collided with the much smaller Eodaen ship, their hulls noisily grinding together. An exchange of crossbow bolts quickly ensued, but the men of the smaller ship took far more injuries than they delivered. Grappling hooks were thrown, pulling the two ships together.

"Crew, prepare to board! Aella! The Herald is yours!"

And with those words, Lord Captain Leofric, pirate Earl in self-imposed exile, strode forward, clad in full chainmail with longsword in hand. "With me, men!" He shouted, vaulting over the railing and landing on the enemy deck below.

He slashed out with his sword, cutting a diagonal slash across the chest of his first combatant. A woman lunged at him, but he merely sidestepped the thrust and delivered a horizontal slash across her belly, before parrying yet another strike and plunging his blade through the foe's chest. While his blade was stuck in the enemy's torso, a fourth attacker attempted to rush him, only to be felled by a crossbow bolt to the neck.

Then Leofric's own men joined him on the deck, cutting their way through the ranks of the enemy crew with vicious determination, beating back the foes that had begun to surround their captain. Leofric pulled his blade free and continued fighting, never relenting. Somehow, he managed to cut his way out of the melee and came face to face with the enemy Captain and First Mate, both of whom had hung back from the fighting.

Together, they rushed him.

Leofric sidestepped a thrust, and parried a slash, before feinting towards the captain. The captain instinctively stepped back, and the first mate struck again, attempting to take advantage of the opening. Suddenly, Leofric's blade changed direction and moved to bat aside the strike. Leofric then followed up with a strong kick to the stomach, sending the First Mate stumbling backwards against the railing, gasping. A crossbow bolt lodged itself in the man's chest a mere moment later, finishing him.

Meanwhile, the enemy Captain charged in once again, and the two locked blades. Leofric had been about to bring his knee up into his foe's unprotected groin, but the captain acted first and spat in his eye. With a twist of the wrist, the Captain then disarmed him, sending Leofric's blade skittering to the deck. Leofric then ducked under the Captain's swing, before bringing his fist up in an uppercut, striking the captain in the chin.

As the captain staggered backward, Leofric rushed to his sword and picked it up by the blade. As the captain came at him once again, Leofric swung the crossguard of his weapon into his opponent's face, sending bloody teeth skittering across the deck. A kick in the knee brought the captain to the floor, and then Leofric's sword was at the man's throat.

"Yield," Leofric ordered through grit teeth.

The captain opened his ruined mouth and spat out blood, as well as another tooth. "I... I surrender..." he managed to gasp out. "I surrender!"

Some of the enemy sailors heard him, and began to throw down their weapons, which caused the remaining sailors to throw down their weapons as well. Cheers rang out. Leofric wiped his sword off on the railing, and smiled.

---

"Captain, we found this one hiding below deck."

Leofric glanced at the man who had been brought before him, and immediately scowled when he took note of the robes. A Squirrel Priest.

His crew was already in the process of transferring their ill-gotten goods onto the herald, while the survivors of the enemy crew lay facedown on the deck, with some of Leofric's men watching over them. Any religious symbols dedicated to the Squirrel-Demon had already been thrown overboard. Save for this priest.

Leofric turned to the Captain, who stood next to him, disarmed with his hands tied behind his back. "You might have mentioned him," Leofric stated calmly, pulling out his dirk and turning the weapon over in his hand.

"He's... he's just a priest..." The Captain muttered, blood dribbling from his mouth. "He won't fight you, he's no threat..."

Leofric frowned. "And yet you still felt the need to hide his presence. So quick to protect him... I'd say you've forgotten your God."

"Heathen. Your God is a lie, nothing m-" the Squirrel Priest began, before Leofric's gauntleted fist slammed into his face.

"You have all forgotten your God," Leofric declared to the captured crew, raising his voice so that all could hear. "I would say you need a reminder." He pointed his knife at the enemy Captain. "Hold him down."

The Captain's eyes widened, and he sputtered out a protest, drops of blood falling onto his jacket as two of Leofric's men pinned him to the deck. Leofric pointed his knife at the priest, who lay on the ground covering his head. "Hold him up." Two more of Leofric's men complied, turning the priest so that he would be forced to watch what was about to happen.

Leofric knelt beside the Captain and pressed the tip of his knife against the man's forehead. The Captain began to pray, and then the prayers turned to screams as Leofric began to carve. There was neither joy nor satisfaction on his face as he went about the deed; merely grim resignation.

Half a minute later, Leofric stood, looking down at his grisly work. A holy symbol of God had been carved into the Captain's head.

"As for you," Leofric pointed his bloody knife back toward the priest, who appeared both sick and sweaty, "you led them down this path. I would say a more severe punishment is in order." He pointed to the two men who had held the Captain down. "You two. Fetch a long coil of rope.

---

The transfer of goods was finished. Every weapon as well as anything of value had been looted, save for enough food to bring the surviving enemy crew into the nearest port.

A rope was wrapped around the captured ship, with the priest acting as the 'knot' that held it together; one end was tied to his ankles, while the other end was tied to his shoulders. Several men held onto the rope, while the remainder stood in observation. Leofric and Aella had grim expressions on their face. Peric's eyes were downcast. Alicia tried not to betray any emotion at all.

"Begin!" Leofric shouted.

The men pulled on the rope. Slowly, the priest inched across the deck, then over the side, and finally under the water, vocally praying the entire way.

By the time they pulled him up from the other end, he was no longer capable of praying.

Leofric walked up to the priest and examined him closely, noting that he was still breathing. He pulled out his knife once again, and cut both ends of the rope, taking care not to damage the priest any further. "Right then, that's done." Leofric declared as blood pooled beneath the priest's unconscious body. "Back to the ship. We sail for Syrome."
Hidden 11 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Grijs
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Grijs

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Far away beyond the mountains – there live a people that hate God.

-Chronicler Domentziolus on his working chronicle ‘Barbarian Races of Visandza’’




Skadan Castle, throne of Dalgiserius

Skadan Castle is built high into the Rudines at the northern outskirts of Skadania, from where the dark Castle menacingly looks out over Lampertei’s Royal Capital -- ever a stern reminder as to who is in charge. It is home and headquarters of the Lampert King Dalgiserius and his Gastald thralls. Where the Chlotar constructions tend to be built of clay, due to them being largely a riverland people, the Lampert constructions are often built of rocky rubble masonry – stone from the very mountains in which the Lampert capital is built.
Though initially a more-or-less ordinary castle, with the coming of King Dalgiserius, Skadan began to resemble a sinister labyrinthine ‘pyramid’ after more and more subterranean levels were added with the construction of tunnels and hallways. Underneath the throne of the King is a large network of dungeons where the Lampert’s many hostages are kept. The poor fools dragged into there will never see the light of day again. After the initial screams, their voices are, by means unholy, snuffed out from this world. Their fate known to few save for the Farigai that operate Skadan’s dungeons.
The Farigai is a sinister policing force and cult of personality centered around King Dalgiserius. After the old clergy of Lampertei were driven out, the Farigai is more-or-less what filled their vacuum.

Before Skadan castle is a somber court area flanked by Rudine cliffs and walled by the towers of a great battlement. Through the great entry gate is a long hallway leading to stairs, corridors and smithy chambers. And finally, the nethermost hall – the Throne of the King of the Lamperts.

The throne room is a very dark place due to being the deepest section of the castle. No sunlight reaches there, and the only light sources are dim braziers flickering with green flame – giving the dark netherhall a general greenish and unnatural glow.

There, on a large monolithic stone throne sits the King himself – Dalgiserius. An imposing man with the likeness of a great black bear. On his head rests a tremendous tower-like horned metal crown. With a vicious scowl he gazes at the assembled thralls situated around a large and long dining table, a great piece of furniture that is at the centre of the hall, around which his Gastalds sit for their supper. It’s supposed to be a feast, but the mood is never merry. Ever.

In total the assembly sitting around the whole of the great table consists of some fifty men. And the number of women can be counted on a single hand. The more noteworthy of the Gastalds present are:

Liutpertus, a model warrior-noble that even during feasts brings his lamellenhelm and lamellar armor. He is the King’s stalwart sword-bearer and bootlicker, swiftly recognizable by his missing eyeball and crooked nose, platinum blond hair and long drooping mustache.

Then there is the soothsayer, Giselart. Leader of the Farigai, he is a mighty sage, loremaster and foremost advisor to the King, and by far the oldest among them. Whispers of sorcery and superstition surround his grim figure, bent under the weight of years, and voices of more palpable fear. Even now, none can be certain that an army of faceless, black-cloaked shadows is not watching his every gesture from a darkened corner, ready to seize upon anyone the elder may point at in condemnation.

There is Ardoiwn, the only foreign-blooded amongst the Gastalds, with long earthen hair and a short scraggly beard. Despite his blood the man has been found strangely and admirably devoted to the King. He scanned the table with his deep blue eyes, still new to the court and learning what he could from those around him, however his shoulders were slumped and his hands nervously held under the table as he was indeed still new to the table, and the king.

And then there is the girl Antonia, the King’s adopted daughter, who sits as silent as the grave with her bright eyes carefully averted. She has forgone a gown and instead wears a simple leather jerkin and cotton breeches, but even in her plain clothes she looks very out of place in the company of these old and battle-tested men. Yet none question the King over his decision to include her here.

For a long time there reigns an eerie silence, and the only sounds heard come from the flickering of the braziers and the strong mountain wind howling through the pathways. As the King always has the first word before a feast may commence, each of the Gastalds remain deadly silent as they await the royal word.
The King finally grunts with a deep and booming voice, intensified by the echo inducing walls.
‘’Eat, you mangy rodents. And Curse God!
Drink to the final battle! Drink to the world’s end!’’
Dalgiserius raises his mace-like-scepter.

‘’Death to God! Hail King Dalgiserius!’’
The Gastalds speak in choir, raising tankards and horns of foaming mead as their unison of voices boom through the castle halls.

The Gastald sitting closest to the King, Liutpertus snarls at a nearby cup-bearer:
‘’BOY. Where is the King’s tankard? Get it! And be quick with it!’’ As he uses his rope-belt to lash at the boy’s feet with a ‘CRACK’.
The cup-bearer of some age of 12 yelps and scurries through the large stone columns, returning seconds later carrying a red cushion, on which a skull-cup… with a thick orange alcoholic liquid in it. Too thick to be regular mead. And the unfortunate man the skull belonged to had been a particularly hated enemy of the King.
‘’About time, damned be God. Give that here, mutt.’’
Liutpertus growls at the boy, his face red with a passive seething as he whisks him away with his hand.

‘’y-Yes my lord!’’ The cup-bearer stammers.

Having taken the cushion and skull-cup off his hands, Liutpertus turns around to present it to the King nigh him. And just like that his red face turns mellow, and a smile falls on his lips.
‘’Here, your excellency…’’ The Gastald drops to one knee and lifts the cushion up within arm lengths of Dalgiserius.

Not even commenting on Liutpertus’ familiar fawning, Dalgiserius takes hold of the skull and, after taking a mighty gulp of its contents, turns his attention to Giselart.
‘’Soothsayer.
Tell me the omens. When has the ritual been finalized for me to make my charge?’’
The King speaks cryptically to Giselart over the table, expecting him to know exactly of which he speaks.

“Soon, my king.” The defiled icons and symbols scattered among the old man’s robes and beard ring with low, melancholy notes as he rises to bow before the sovereign. Twisted pieces of precious metal catch gleams from the sickly light of the braziers in their flowing motion, so that it appears that Giselart himself has wrapped a shroud of green flame around his squat, but firm body. The gnarled shell on his breast glows as though restored to its monstrous life. Yet not a single glimmer reaches his own eyes, which are two deep black wells amid his weathered face.

“The blood of your foes spells signs of ruin over their broken shrines. Every drop of it that falls is a spear to God’s rotten heart.” The sage’s voice is as deep and rumbling as that of a man twenty years his younger.
“I have watched the shapes of the stars, heard the voice of the waves and read the liver of those that died by my knife, and all speak of fire and death. If you move before the year turns, Udos will fall.”

For the first time this evening, the King gives off a mild suggestion of satisfaction. ‘’And so…’’
Dalgiserius stands up from his throne and speaks forcefully.
‘’Before the first snows of winter -- God will be yet another foe that I have defeated!’’ The last three words were accompanied with Dalgiserius harshly slamming the table before him. ‘’And show the world..! --- NOT A FOE can stand against the GOD-SLAYING LAMPERTS!’’

‘’Hail King Dalgiserius! Hail!’’ Raising their tankards and horns many sensible Gastalds cheer in choir in anticipation of their kingdom’s approaching and final victory.

Antonia is so used to seeing the man scowling that the sight of him even slightly content has her on edge. Her thoughts are disturbed by the sudden call of her King:
‘’Girl!’’
Antonia can tell, sense, by the dark and familiar foreboding that always emanates from the Lampert King that he is looking directly at her. She bites down on the inside of her cheek hard, but despite her best efforts she can't stop the shiver that runs down her spine.

‘’You have been found worthy of being anointed to the select few, and thereby be hosted at my table.
Now begins the gruelling process to make you one of them.’’
The King motions his scepter at the Gastalds around the table, all their eyes on her, before continuing.
‘’…And I know just where to start…’’ The King gestures at Liutpertus, as he takes the skull-cup off the King’s hands. Then the one-eyed Gastald walks over towards Antonia’s seat.

‘’Drink.’’ The King snarls.
‘’Drink merrily with father.’’

Liutpertus pushes the skull into her hands a little harder than necessary, causing some of the honey colored drink to slosh over the sides. Antonia can feel everyone’s attention on her but for a moment she stands frozen, blue eyes boring into the skull in her grasp and the frothing liquid that is contained within it. She knew without doubt it belonged to her true father because the King had just had him hunted as a message to the queen, and it’s exactly the kind of hateful behavior she’s come to expect from Dalgiserius at this point.

Still, it doesn’t make it sting any less.

Antonia feels her eyes grow hot but blinks the sensation away just as quickly. “Yes, father,” she says in a quiet but steady voice. “Damn God and long live my king,” the girl professes solemnly before taking a drink.

‘’There’s a good girl. No, not a girl. You are my new Gastald.’’ He lets out a faint chuckle, though the sneer on his face doesn't betray any good will.

Liutpertus takes the skull from her hands and brings it this time to Giselart, as the one-eye wantonly slaps the soothsayer on the shoulder before making for his own seat again. It was his Farigai, after all, that had captured and slain the man it once belonged to.



As the evening progressed, two men are allowed in the netherhall to plead with the King. The first is Laiamicho, a loyal scout and servant of the Royal Family. The latter, based on his single-garment dress, sandals and lack of pants, must be a Tautan emissary.

Most of the warriors had long finished eating, and some were already hoping to leave the dark hall. But now this brat, this Laiamicho with his youthful and smug face and handsome black curls, is making them wait. King Dalgiserius perks at the sight of his two new guests.
‘’Speak.’’ Dalgiserius blurts impatiently.

‘’Yes my King.’’ Laiamicho says as he makes a deft and deep bow.

‘’I have traversed into Chlotaringen per request of Princess Dalgiserata. And I bring you ill-tidings, o almighty ruler. For the Chlotars have a new King, who has gained the mastery over the whole of the Chlotarian territories. He is assembling his armies and marches them south as we speak -- seeking to challenge us, your excellency.’’

‘’So what? They’ve never crossed the Rudines before. We’ll beat them back yet again.’’ Liutpertus quips, who happens to have won his Gastald status by being an accomplished Rudine patrolman.

‘’This time will be different, for the Chlotars seem more committed than ever. I heard whispers that they seek, or already have in possession, a weapon by which they can cross the mountains…’’

‘’No such weapon exists!’’ Exclaims another Gastald in the back of the hall, standing up as he was just about to leave the room, and thereby frustrated towards Laiamicho for holding him up.

Liutpertus, however, grows pale as the tale seems to ring familiar to him. He speaks hesitantly:
‘’Is this weapon per chance a horn?’’

‘’So it is said.’’ Laiamicho replies.

The one-eye slumps back into his chair in contemplation. Giving away a twinge of nervousness as he brings his hand towards the hole where his right eye used to be.

‘’Hrm….’’ The King mutters. ‘’None may interfere with our march on Udos. I will send more of our boys to fortify the northern perimeters. What else?’’
Laiamicho nods, not quite content with the answer, but not willing to push his luck either. He makes another deep bow and retreats towards the back of the room. Dalgiserius this time looks at the flustered Tautan who, realising it is his turn to make an appeal, drops to the floor as he folds his hands together. Whatever rational diplomatic proposal he might’ve prepared as he traveled to Skadan was lost to him now, because Dalgiserius’ oppressive air is one that no outsider could prepare for.

‘’O magnificent King of Mighty Lampertei! Please… Please…! Now more than ever, on behalf of our Noble King Orso, Baltia seeks alliance. We.. We are on the verge of collapse! Our allies have deserted us! Only your intervention can prevent Cauroman’s total hegemony north of the Rudines!’’

The Lampert King looks away in disgust from the groveling Tautan.
‘’Pathetic. Celesean scum. Or Viigoc? You are all the same to me. My people are not here to remedy your self-inflicted disease. Your laughable weakness is not our business.’’ Slamming his fist on the table, the King yells out in anger. ‘’Guards! Remove this disgusting creature from my sight!’’

Two Lampert guardsmen carrying maces enter the netherhall, seize the Tautan still there groveling on the floor, and drag him out by the feet.
‘’Your majesty! Please! Please! Please! You must hear m--’’ As the man wouldn’t shut up, the guards begin kicking and beating him, and begging turns to screaming. Then the gates close shut.
A new silence reigned, and it was unbroken. Dalgiserius stares into the hall, with the Gastalds quietly looking back. Then after a brief moment of hesitation, a voice rings through the netherhall loud and clear.

“My King if I may, I believe this is in fact our business”.

Everyone looks to who spoke; it came from Ardoiwn.
The young man had stayed quiet up until this point, not yet ready to speak under the oppressive air that seemed to follow the king, however this was a matter of importance.

“If you’ll pardon my interruption sire. Tautom falling would not go over well for us. With access to the Sea of Tears the Chlotarian’s may just be able to flank around and bypass the Rudines entirely. Such an action would put lands dear to me in grave danger and as such I must volunteer myself and my men to this.”

Ardoiwn at this point was standing out of his chair, his passion getting the better of him as he considered what may happen to his home should Tautom fall. The moment passes and suddenly Ardoiwn feels the number of eyes upon him and sinks down into his chair, the aura of his king beating down his fervor as Ardoiwn offers another more collected thought,
“Of course, defending the walls of Tautom will also mean more Chlotars dead without any risk to our own fortifications, stalling their armies and giving us ever more time to build up our defences.”

...Dalgiserius remains quiet for a while. ‘’...Your men?’’ The King eventually grunts. ‘’You seek to take my warriors to whore for foreign interests.’’ The king sends a vile glare towards the Gastald that so brazenly spoke out.

Sensing an opportunity to suck up some more, Liutpertus speaks to the king with a hushed tone:
‘’What hubris this man displays with his defiance… radical disciplinary measures are surely warranted, your excellency.’’

‘’Quiet.’’ The King grunts at the one-eye.

‘’Gastald Ardoiwn --- was that your name? You raise one point -- Carlovech’s worthless Spawn has the audacity to challenge Lampertei. If what Laiamicho says is true, he means to cross into our rightful territory. I would be hard pressed if he could claim the Stronghold of the Celeseans, which has resisted Chlotar dominion for half a century now. Let alone pass into invincible Lampertei!’’

With a groan he follows.
''I do not wish to show good faith to those degenerate Tautom wurms. Nevertheless I will permit you and your personal retainers to go there and offer your services to the Celeseans… And no more than that.’’
Dalgiserius finishes with a low, threatening growl:
‘’No more than your own handpicked retinue… Am I perfectly clear?’’

Ardoiwn flinched under the words of his king, but managed to muster enough spine to make his words clear, “Ye- yes, my king. We shall do no more than needed, with as few men as possible.”
Ardoiwn would allow himself to sink as deeply into his seat as the chair would allow him, fear dogging his mind as he tried to find out where exactly he made his mistake and how to account for it in the future.

The day passed and the Lamperts made ready for war.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by StonemanCharles
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Halbuhr Castle, Eodaland


Night. Tomorrow is the young Prince’s sixteenth birthday, though he doesn’t know how to feel about it. On the one hand, there will doubtlessly be a royal jubilation, apple pie, and he’ll see his mother after seven long months of unofficial exile at Halbuhr. On the other, he will be forced to watch his uncle sit on the throne his mighty father once reigned from.
...The grotesque King Badastan, sitting on his father’s throne, the thought disturbed and deflated the Prince. And something tells him that he’s not keen on leaving it. Alric has had months to accept that his uncle’s election at Cantaware will no sooner be overturned and his birthright restored than the likelihood his father will triumphantly return from the dead and lift his people from Badastan’s rule. His birthday celebrations would be a reminder of this fact and despair gripped Alric tight.
The first month was easy. Badastan had been King a mere four months and Alric’s godfather, Ine the Black, spent a great deal of time in Cantaware, writing back to Halburh of rumours a court faction was keen to restore Aethelbehrt’s lineage to the throne. Now however, it seemed as though Badastan’s position has become more solid than ever and the Prince’s hope is gone.

Alric’s mind began to slow and soon he dozed off. He dreamt of sailing.The fresh breeze of the sea. The gulls calling over the tranquil waves, until vanishing into the blackness ahead. Alric then found himself alone in that endless sea of black ink. ...A violent storm was whipped up from one second to the next. A storm, equally black as the inken ocean. A terrible hail pelting down on his red cheeks. A thick dark vapor filling the sky and blotting out all light.

The storm’s wind carried a voice -- a woman’s voice, kind, but sternly spoken. And it is speaking to him. ‘’Black...- Grim…- Oppressive…- Dismay!’’ This is all he can discern. Though what little he understood through the ink tempest was rather foreboding. It sounds like someone’s trying to warn him of something.

Alric cries out into the blackness. ‘’What are you saying?!’’

And the voice of the wind replies. ‘’Overcome this Black tide. Though your future is one of Grim deeds. Though your future is one of Oppressive tyranny. Do not… be Dismayed!’’ A dark spectre floats above the waves before his small vessel.
‘’What? What are you talking about!?’’
The voice, now distressed, continues. ‘’You have to wake up! They’re coming for you! Get out to sea!
You have allies in this fight! Awake! Wake! Wa-’’
It abruptly fades out as the poignant dark mists subsumes all the world around him.

Alric jumps wide awake, horrified, all sweaty. He hears the creaking of the stairs and in an act of sheer instinct leaps from his bed. Swiftly climbing into yesterday’s tunic and trousers, he heads to the window and launches himself onto the branch of a great oak growing outside his bedroom. Alric, still half asleep and in a panicked daze, struggles to navigate down the branches in the pitch dark and his foot slips. He falls onto the grass spraining his ankle, and it feels like he even broke a rib. Run now, worry later. With adrenaline flowing through him he held onto his torso and moved as fast as he could to the deserted stables, passing an unknown brown steed that whinnied as he passed. Alric clambered onto his white steed and held tight, with no saddle nor reins the ride was difficult and exhausting but he rode nevertheless.

The Prince rode for as long as he could but his injuries made it painful and the pain drained him of all energy. Eventually the Prince slipped, tumbling at great speed to the ground, knocking him out.
Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Guinemerz
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Temporary Baltavigoc Guard Camp, Aaixen Perimeter


Vetericus, adopting the same posture as he had before King Cauroman hours before, stood alone amongst the immediate hundreds. The only strangers within them belonged to the officers of the Chlotaringen contingent, doing their best to not look out of place. Beyond this heart of the camp thousands more had joined his Baltavigocs in the hazy mist of early morning, a gathering in the making for several days. The Guard present, the greying mane of First Captain Crocus at their fore, kept a respectful silence that let a stillness most unusual for a camp of warriors to fall. Vetericus broke it, deliberately meeting as many eyes as he could.
“My Baltavigoc kin! If rumour has reached you that Emperor Cauroman has bid us march, then rest assured! Indeed, we are to march. We return to our vigil on the fringes to ensure no underhanded Tautan,” Vetericus nearly spat the word out as he spoke, his hatred clear. “Will attempt to leave their pathetic land again, as we once taught them the folly of.”
“And Tautom?!” A voice suddenly broke out amongst the otherwise silent Baltavigocs, murmurs of agreement quickly following it. The Chlotaringen officers shifted uncomfortably, expecting some sort of retribution from Vetericus.
“Were it so easy, my friends! To perform God’s will in the south we must ensure the quiet of the east. The Tautan scum will be laid lower than even they can force themselves, in time.”
The Chlotar officers, wrongfooted by such a friendly display, quickly spoke up with their most senior.
“What are our orders precisely then, if I may ask, Paladin Vetericus?”
At once every eye was on the man, who, to his credit, simply returned the steely gaze of Vetericus. Stepping down from the small platform Vetericus switched his great axe to his left hand as he walked, balancing it over his shoulder. Stopping within arms reach Vetericus adopted a much more conversational tone.
“Am I to understand you are the man who speaks for the Chlotaringen to be joining us?”
“That is correct.” The man nodded, nearly as tall as Vetericus though lacking in the long hair. “Myself, Palace Mayor Vierland, and these men beside me.”
Vetericus returned the nod before suddenly extending his right arm. The Chlotar Palace Mayor looked at it for a moment, perplexed, before doing the same with his own, Vetericus gripping his forearm and shaking it.
“You honour us with your presence! Though I have to question why your banner hangs so low.”
Vetericus released the man, gesturing towards the camp heraldry which now held the officer’s own a respectful distance beneath the Baltavigoc Guard colours.
“I didn’t wish to impose, Paladin.”
“Nonsense, Captain! What are we if both not servants of our Emperor and God, sharing purpose? We will be speaking often in the coming days.”
Vetericus, very noticeably substituting ‘Palace Mayor’ with ‘Captain’, adjusted his grip on the axe so that he held it by his side halfway down the haft, turning to walk back onto the platform without awaiting response.
“To answer your question however, orders will be dispatched to you, and from you to your men. Similarly, our First Captain,” Vetericus paused to bow his head respectfully towards Crocus. “Will see likewise done once I have had a moment to speak with him and Captain Vierland. In the meantime I expect to see not a man unready to march by the time I am finished.”
The assembled Guard quickly took its cue to disperse, the lesser Chlotar officers mixed in amongst them leaving Crocus and the Palace Mayor alone to follow after Vetericus.

Once all three stood within his tent around a table which bore a spread map Crocus spoke.
“Am I to assume there is more to this than simply watching the border, Vetericus?”
Vetericus nodded, the officer remaining silent for the moment.
“Yes, and no.” Vetericus glanced at the officer. “How many are with you?”
“King Cauroman has granted me the lead of 7000.”
“By no means enough to take those wretched walls of Tautom directly, even though they are held by Godforsaken dogs.”
Crocus grimaced, thinking the situation over before speaking.
“Wait and see then, is it?”
“More or less. Suffice to say, walls can do little against anything already within them.”
“You mean to say…” Vierland trailed off, Vetericus finishing his thought.
“That there are still those within Tautom who serve things greater than their most basic, depraved instincts? Yes. God willing Tautom will be delivered to us through their efforts.”
“That is good to hear Paladin,” Vierland quickly said, confidence regained now that talk had turned to strategy. “But I must ask, suppose that does not work. What then?”
“Then we will be left no choice but to break Tautom’s back, whether by starvation, flame or steel, it matters little. Freeing the world of their corrupted souls can only be a blessing.”
With a map in front of them, Crocus, briefly scratching his chin, couldn’t help but to raise an additional point.
“How do you plan to hamper their port? A blockade will be impossible with how few men we have.”
“If it comes to it, Emperor Cauroman can provide the necessary troops so that we may control both land and sea. Pray that God favours our first course. At any rate, until I or Emperor Cauroman says otherwise we will have to keep our distance. We will be needed for when the time comes to cleanse the world of the Lamps. Tautom cannot be allowed to halt us.”
Vetericus looked between the men for further comment, though it seemed as if both were satisfied for the moment.
“We will use our own outposts near Tautom to keep us supplied and garrisoned, and my galleys for transport. Specific deployments will be decided as we sail. My Guard shall lead.”
Crocus and the officer departed to attend their final matters, Vetericus remaining for the same task.

Less than an hour later the odd mixture of arms and armour, some leaning more towards their Vigoc origins, others supplemented by the Chlotaringen armoury, that made up the Baltavigoc Guard stood in perfect marching order several thousand strong, the Chlotar warriors bringing up the rear in a similar formation. Vetericus at the very front, Crocus by his side, faced his men.
“Baltia awaits me!” he shouted.
“And the Guard salutes!” came back the cry, every Baltavigoc voice picking it up in a wave heading front to back.
“Bid farewell and wave goodbye, because gentlemen, we, are heading home!”
Without further delay Vetericus turned and set off at a march that row by row every man in the column matched, thousands of boots treading the ground in unison for some time before chants of the Baltavigoc Guard broke out, at first bewildering the Chlotar detachment though over the leagues to the port, and the Baltavigoc fleet waiting within, they too began to join in, standard-bearers holding their posts high as the accordions favoured by the Guard near each played to match the chanting.


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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by StonemanCharles
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Unknown Docks, Eodaland


Alric awoke to the noise of seagulls and soft waves, his eyelids slowly blinking as the grey sky came into view.
“You took quite the tumble, my Lord. Found you on the side of the road, we did, in no good shape, I’ll tell you. Found your horse not too far off the path as well.” Alric followed the rough voice to his side where a brown-haired man sat on a stool, looking down at him. Alric recognised him. A wool merchant that had been collecting produce from the dozens of sheep on Halbuhr’s grounds.
“Where have you brought me…” Alric spoke, his voice weak.
“The docks, my Lord, not too far from where we found you. You were injured so we thought best to patch you up here.” The man seemed cheerful. Alric found the strength to position himself upwards. His leg and torso were bandaged and he lay on a rag on the deck floor of a boat. Large bald men continued their work, loading barrels from the dock to the hold, passing him without a glance.
“You can’t send me back- I beg you, sir.” Alric appeared panicked, looking around frantically as he spoke but the man replied softly.
“We shan’t be sending you anywhere, my Lord. You must’ve been in quite the hurry ridin’ with no saddle, alone, at such an ungodly hour.” He stood up.
“You take some time to rest an’ I’ll come back to check on you. Then you can tell us what this strange business is about and I’ll do my best to serve.” Alric was confused and exhausted. All he could do was nod. He had seen this man many times in lengthy conversation with Halbuhr’s steward but otherwise he was a complete stranger. Then he remembers his dream. ‘Get out to sea’ the voice had said and here he was. Alric decided to take a leap of faith.

Later Alric explained he had been escaping from assassins and Halbuhr was no longer safe. He would request the man take him to Dorestead where the court of King Poppo of Radboudy was. There he could find his eldest sister, the Princess Sunniva, and with great hope, safety. For where else could he flee? His rescuers agreed to take him and once the cargo had been loaded upon the ship they set sail. Alric was helped into his tunic and even given a crutch by some unfortunate peg-legged sailor too generous for his own good. Perhaps this would be the only present the boy would receive as it only just occurred to him that today was his sixteenth birthday. Time for celebration was long passed however and the Prince was advised to rest below deck and so he did.

Suddenly Alric was thrown from his hammock onto the wet floor. What misfortune burdened him now? He clutched his sides in pain as he tried to pick himself up but this proved difficult as the ship tossed violently. Crawling to where his crutch had fallen, Alric tried again to get onto his feet. He limped with great strain up the steps to the deck where the crew appeared to be in full panic.
"What’s going on?!" Stumbling, he managed to climb onto the deck, and immediately he saw just what was at hand. Black clouds filled the entire horizon, the rain soaked the deck, and the tranquil waves turned to vicious salty lashes, rocking the vessel as easily as a clam shell in a maelstrom. Alric had been a keen sailor these past years and this was the worst storm he’d ever witnessed. The Prince tried to help the sailors but his injured ankle hindered his efforts. As the storm raged the crew tried to combat it but, but to no avail. And worse was yet to come. As Alric looks across the ocean he observes pillars of water emerging from the sea going upwards, piercing the very sky. At least fifty of them. The ship found itself trapped in a colossal whirlpool. All men aboard held on for dear life, as it was increasingly clear to everyone that this was definitely no ordinary storm. There was nothing they could do.
"I’ve been sailing this sea for fifty years, and this is by far the worst storm I’ve seen! I think in recorded history! What in Xeaxaenot’s name are those pillars of water?!"
"It’s divine wrath!" Another crewman cries out through the pelting rain.
"Only the Golden Squirrel-demon can save us now! Praise him men, praise him!”

Alric refused to listen. He closed his eyes and prayed.
“Father God, forgive these men who have been led astray and save us from damnation. Calm this ocean and clear these skies, I beg you, it is not my time.” A crack of lightning struck the mast, obliterating it into a million splinters. The tormented sailors were cast overboard, screaming and petitioning the divine Squirrel for help. But the rage of the storm snuffed out their prayers, and soon they were no more.
Alric opened his eyes, hoping the worst had passed. But before him approached a wave so great it blocked the sky. He held his breath and gripped tight.



Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Grey the Fairy
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TAUTOM CITY


The premises of the marvelous luxurious Balti Castle, seat of King Orso Balti




As Quintus Vitalius of Amal walks the streets of Tautom, his bodyguard follows him close behind. For being this out in the open is ever a risky affair. The threat’s not just lurking in the lower commons where all the gutter swine dwell -- no, it is not them Quintus fears. It is the ones in their high pearly towers. The Douxes, who seek to undermine him at every step and their many henchmen. One can never be too careful in Tautom City.
Even after entering the courtyard of Balti Castle, the Amalian captain is ever on edge. He approaches the gate leading into Orso’s domain, where a shirtless man with shining, oiled, rippling muscles orders him to stop, crying:
“STOP.’’
Quintus began to slow down, taking his time before coming to a halt within arms reach of the shining, muscular guard, making it clear he would only stop on his terms.
The Guard speaks through his hoplite helmet.
‘’Who goes there?’’
Quintus’ stern brown eyes stared down the guard, a hint of frustration and anger glistening behind them before they vanished in a moment, replaced by a well practised, cool smile, and a bright, friendly gaze.
“Doux Quintus Vitalius, may I have your name?” He paused for a moment, his mouth tightening, as he seemed briefly in thought before continuing
“Hm… Actually no I don’t have time for such trivialities. I’m here for my audience with the king.”

The guard clears his throat.
‘’The name’s Pelos. Yes, yes. You Douxes come and go these days to meet his Majesty. Well see, the King is busy at the moment.’’ As the bulging muscled guard spoke these words, Quintus can observe steam pass through the gaps of the shut gate leading into Orso’s throne room, behind whom can be heard the distant giggling of maidens.
‘’I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a bit till the King is finished.’’ Pelos continues.

Quintus frowned for a moment, looking the guard over for a moment, taking in his oiled and well defined physique, yet absolutely useless militarily, lacking even the dullest sliver of steel. He contemplated the thought for a dangerously long time before he forced himself to speak: “Yes!” He pushed a fake laugh, playing along with the guards small talk. “Douxes do come and go, don’t they? Well… Not as often as guards come and go, hm?” He left the thinly veiled threat hanging in the air before adding in a firmer tone
“Perhaps you might inform Prince Zeno, that I am here? He is expecting me.”.

‘’Hrmpf. Well. I am posted here, you see. You’ll have to uhh. Hey! You there!’’ The most-athletic gate guard beckons at a nearby servant girl. ‘’Get the Prince, will you?’’
‘“Which of the 63 princes? Sebasteas? Nonnonso??’’ The girl stammers.
‘’Zeno!’’
‘’Ah, right away.’’

As Quintus had to bide his time, the servant girl hastened off towards a distant corner of the Balti Palace Complex, returning 10 minutes later with a young 13 year old prince. Quintus recognised him immediately, for he had trained him himself. The youth was tall for his age, with mousy blonde hair, and a wiry frame draped in a bordeaux-red embellished toga with golden outlines, a testament of his princely status. Quintus smiled warmly, opening his arms in greeting towards Zeno.

Recognising his mentor, the Tautan Prince proclaims: ‘’Ah!’’ With a crack in his voice. (puberty) ‘’I’ve been hoping that it was you, Quintus. You’re the only Doux we can trust.’’ Zeno walks towards Quintus and embraces him as a son would a father.

The young prince is a bit soft spoken, but he is studious, diligent and hard working. He understands duty and discipline.
‘’What are you here for? Come to see my fath-- King Orso?’’ The boy sighs. ‘’Why bother? He never has time for anyone, not even his own children...’’

“Yes, nor do the Douxes seeing to his city’s defence commit to the wellbeing of the final bastion of hope in this wretched land. But come, here isn’t the place for the such talk. I can practically see myself in Peblo’s oiled abs. Let’s head inside. I have news.” He skipped over the guard’s name without care, smiling as he lifted an arm towards the gate.

Pelos who was still just uncomfortably standing in front of it this entire time overheard them. ‘’Uh. But I still can’t let you inside. The King’s busy.’’

Quintus then looks at Zeno, expectantly. As if telling him to test his assertivity as a ruler-to-be. Zeno gets the hint and speaks to the guard.

‘’You! In the name of my father, the King! -- let us pass this instant! He invited us!’’

Pelos just grunts at this point. ‘’As you wish, my Prince.’’ Making a bow, he forces open the metallic gate. And an incredible cloud of moist and perfume pours into the hallway.
‘’You may see the King. Your guards will have to wait in the hallway, however.’’

Quintus purposefully ignores the guard for now. But tells his own bodyguard to wait outside. Dropping a hand to his belt he remarks quietly to Zeno under his breath as he walks towards the open gate, his astute gaze looking forward. “Good. Remember though. Make orders under your own authority, not that of others. You are still a Prince.” He looked down to the boy and smiled
“But the news. Eudoxia took it well. Very well. Hesitant at first, but after a few words she seemed rather keen. And yourself?”

‘’Yes, master Quintus. I am prepared. I know it is for the future and security of the realm. Someone has to take control of this chaos, if Orso will not.’’

Walking into Orso’s throne room, the two quickly spot the Tautan King and his seraglio of many wives having a nice spa bath. Apparently the throne-room is rather multi-functional. Celesean technology. The king’s face is covered with an ointment of grounded vegetables to purify his skin, and paired with his nipple piercings and skin paint and hair, he looks rather ‘eccentric’ for a king. All the young women around him also have these strange ointments covering their skin and faces as they enjoy the hot waters.
‘’Hm?’’ King Orso removes the cucumber slice covering his right eye. ‘’Who opened the gate?’’

“Your majesty. My king.” Quintus presses a fist to his breastplate, inclining his head towards the naked monarch, his eyes briefly looking over the women embroiled in the spa treatment.

‘’Oh it’s you again, Qui-ran Vulturius Something Something Amalius, right?
Come and join me! The waters are still hot!’’
Orso says with a laugh, turning to his guest.

Quintus smirks, almost laughing himself. Biting his tongue, nearly hard enough to draw blood he managed to force the laughter back, well aware of the king’s jovial aura, silently hating how it twisted his mind… But surely it wasn’t that bad. Was it a bad thing to laugh? Feeling his mind already straying, he kicked himself.
“The waters look so enticing I find myself hard pressed to refuse, my king. However important matters are at hand, for I bring your esteemed son, Prince Zeno with me.” He places his hands behind his back, tensing his shoulders as he looks down at the king, thankful of the thick steam, an excuse to hide any hint of displeasure he has at the scene in front of him. “With your blessing, your son seeks my beautiful daughter, Eudoxia’s hand in marriage.’’

The King perks up, the cucumber slice covering his other eye falling and hitting the water with a splash.
‘’I love royal marriages! You seek to bring our families closer together? So you did listen to me when I pointed out we should all aspire to be one big family in Tautom. You finally understand, Quiran! I knew you’d see the light eventually.’’

Prince Zeno remains quiet, biting his lip as to not burst out in an indignant tirade at Orso’s platitudes about family, while completely neglecting his own son all his life!

‘’Is that the Prince right there?’’ Orso looks over at Zeno. ‘’I believe your name was Zeno, right? You grow so fast. I am proud of you, my son! Go with my blessing!’’

One of his wives sitting besides the King speaks up, caressing him playfully. ‘’Um, my dear Orso… If I may speak. You should really reconsider. How can you trust this man? Blessing this union might only decrease your hold over the Kingdom, love. Can we afford further division?’’

Quintus brushes her words away with a charismatic air.
“My king, I command 3,000 soldiers, and I have no rightful heir. With your blessing, you will have earned the unquestioning loyalty of every soldier, and brought the loyalty of our Kingdom’s Amalian community even closer than it already was. The celebrations alone will give cause for every citizen to drink to your health!”

Orso turns to his wife: ‘’See? Quiran thought everything out! I don’t see why you have to doubt his good intentions -- we’ve been friends for years! That’s not the mentality to foster solidarity. Why so distrusting of a fellow Tautan officiary? We are all in this together.’’

This wife just looks at Quintus with a sassy glare, cynically aware of Quintus’ true intentions. Orso’s words give no respite, for she represents a different faction in Tautom’s power struggle, one that certainly dreads Quintus’ growing influence.
And for him she’s certainly a fearsome rival to contend with, disregarding that she’s presently completely undressed, exposed and her skin covered with food.

Another woman rose her voice, Kalisto, mother of Theodonus and spider hiding at the center of the webs of intrigue.
“Yes, why so distrusting? Why should the king have to ‘earn’ the unquestioning loyalty of every soldier, does he not have that already? ...Or are you aware of things the court isn’t, Quintus?”

‘’Wow, wow, Kalisto! So you’re saying I am not totally aware of everything that’s going on in my city’s structure? What you are saying!’’ Orso proclaims in drunken indignity, before looking back at Quintus with a goofy grin.
‘’Women! am I right?’’

Quintus glared at the woman with a stone cold glare, but he felt the corners of his lips lifting in a friendly smile a moment later, the words coming forward from a well practised silver tongue
“Men are fickle, some are bought with silver, some with ideas, i’m sure my lady Kalisto is familiar with such practices, it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. The king deserves their respect and admiration, and as I owe my position and life to his good grace, it is my duty to ensure it is so.” he finished speaking by looking at the king, and inclining his head once more.

‘’You are a true friend, Quiran!’’ Then the King of Tautom stands up from the spa in all his undressed glory, having the decency to grab a towel to cover his privates before walking out the waters, and towards his gaudy throne at the back of the large chamber.
Having scaled the steps towards said throne, he grabs the scepter laid thereon, and lifts it up. He then dramatically points it at Quintus.
‘’Very well then! In the name of my ancestor Odovakre, I bless the unbreakable union between your noble daughter and my beloved son!’’

He waves the scepter some more, with nothing seemingly happening. But in effect, the marriage has been sanctified with the King’s divine powers. Really.

The Doux looks down to Zeno to gauge the boy’s reaction, spotting the hint of a smile on his face, Quintus looked back to the king and inclined his head, before raising his voice
“Your words warm my heart, and i’m sure your Son’s as well!’’

‘’Yes, I will do my duty for Tautom, and I can hardly wait to tell Eudoxia the good news!” Zeno said as he straightened up, rather awkwardly avoiding the gaze of the women present, glad that his mother isn’t among them. The prince instead manages a confident smile aimed towards the king “And if I might be permitted to do just that?”

Orso makes himself comfortable in his throne, looking down at the two.
‘’What do you mean, son?’’

“Well… If.. Ma-” Zeno began to flush, struggling to explain his own words, before Quintus stepped in with a confident air “With your leave, my king, we will go give my daughter the good news. Glory to Tautom!” The Doux then pressed a fist to his breastplate, before turning around to leave, gesturing for the Prince to lead him out.

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Oraculum
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Skadan Castle, Halls of the Farigai


The seat of the Lampert King was no place for merrymaking, and none knew this as well as his faithful watch-hounds, who had taken to living in his shadow as birds of prey do to deadly crags and menacing cliffs. Yet what was a life spent without revelry? Where, if not from feasts and celebrations, could a warrior draw strength to face an enemy that was far beyond human and all his hosts? The words of every wise man were in accord on there being no such miraculous wellspring. Thus, the Farigai celebrated in their own way, and indeed they thought that no other could be better than it.

It was not in the lofty towers that they made their nest, though some of them were always up there, gazing into the distance with rapacious eyes or vociferating at night along with their king. Nor was it in the high halls and the old abodes of royalty, though no one, be they Gastald or servant, could move a step through them without catching the sharp gaze of a black-clad figure leaning against a corner. No, it was below, near the entrance to the dungeons. From there, they taunted the prisoners with the smell of their banquets, and the descent towards the chambers where they did their grim duty was never long.

That day, the Farigai had gathered in force around the long, coarse tables in their bare and malodorous stone chambers. Horns and cups filled to the brim with pungently sour mead were passed around, and the sound of knives clattering against bones and plates covered the half-whispered conversations of the revellers. The feast was certainly far louder than the one Dalgiserius had held the other day, but, among the stern walls of Skadan, this was not saying much. Only a single unaccompanied voice monotonously intoned an old Lampert song, though it was joined by more and more others as the cups were drained again and again.

At the head of the longest table sat three figures whom the others addressed rarely and with deference. One was Giselart himself; to his right was a burly man with a peasant-like beard who sent cutlets of meat to his mouth with a single motion of his left elbow, which tapered to a gleaming blade, while to his left a long-limbed warrior with a protruding paunch and an eye overhung by a maimed brow eagerly sipped from two horns, occasionally adjusting the Locust-shaped headwear hanging over his chest with a shrug.

The Soothsayer emptied his cup in a single gulp and turned to the one-handed man. "Did he say anything before you cut off his head?" The last hours of Dalgiserius' latest captive were something he sorely regretted to have missed.

Ratechi shook his beard from side to side. "Nothing new. We tried the rack, the needles, the pincers, all the rest, but he wouldn't tell anything we didn't already know." He swallowed his mouthful and poured his master a new serving of mead. "Towards the end he started shouting that everyone upstairs is also the witch's lover, but you know how that is." He dismissively waved his good hand.

"We have been watching his people since we got him," the disfigured warrior, Dauraulf, interjected. "None have tried fleeing south. None had any letters hidden anywhere, either, unless they ate them. I didn't feel like opening that many bellies."

The three, and those at the table who had been listening in to their words, shared a guffaw, then Giselart reprised. "Well, that was the last we'll get out of those worms. I've lost count of how many she's had. And they call themselves "Virgins"." He spat over his shoulder. "Make sure word that Dalgiserius will move at last reaches her in good time. She'll be desperate to warn Udos, and this time we'll have her."

"You know we never stopped watching the castle." Dauraulf frowned, a grisly sight with his maimed eyebrow, and set aside one of his horns to carve himself a piece of veal. "And always her witchcraft slipped the real proof past my people. How do you suggest we fight it this time?"

"The girl, that's how." Ratechi replied. "She'll be passing by there, we know, and I'd be amazed if she didn't take up some secret goods in the way." He bared his yellow teeth in a cruel smile. "And if she doesn't, we'll make her cough some up anyway. Dalgiserius won't mind this time, right?"

"Right." Giselart tapped the table with two fingertips. "Dauraulf, have some people you're sure of ready for the journey. One of you two will need to be prepared to follow."

"That'll be good practice for our outriders." Dauraulf nodded. "Shouldn't we make sure her shieldbearer is with us too?" Catching the others' interrogative gazes, he gestured with a horn as if to explain, being careful to not splash more than a few drops over the rim. "You know, what's her name. Adlechi, Theocleft and some others spoke well about her breaking temples a spell ago." When Giselart and Ratechi continued to frown uncomprehendingly at him, he rose on unsteady legs and called out over the tables: "Anyone here remember the- The king's other - not his daughter, but, you know-"

A hall of befuddled faces stared at him. Dauraulf shook his head and sat back down. "Well, mind you, the girl's shieldbearer. We'll have a use for her in this."

"See to that, then." The Soothsayer motioned to Ratechi, who nodded and reached somewhere under his cloak. "We'll need every last blade we can muster in this. If this goes ill, there won't be a second chance for any of us. You can take my word that the last days are here, and we must make sure they go the right way. And if they don't, rip out my tongue on that."

"We believe you, elder." Ratechi replied in a solemn tone. "We believe you!" Dauraulf rejoindered. Someone at the table caught on, and before one knew the entire hall was clamouring, cups held high: "To the elder! To the last days!"

Giselart stood up. "Never you mind that. Drink with me to the Farigai! God is dead!"

"The Farigai! God is dead! God is dead!" the revellers roared.

Down below them, some voice wailed out from the catacombs, only to be drowned out by the joyous yelling.
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Grey the Fairy
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The Amalian Quarter, Tautom


Quintus stepped out his manor, his boots tapped on the worn down cobblestone as he took in the warm air. Dressed in drab brown clothes and a worn travelling cloak, he looked nothing like his usual proud, armoured self. Behind him was a soldier, dressed in shining, but scratched Lamellar mail. The bright red crest on his helmet indicated his status as an officer. Following close behind Quintus with a wax pad, scribbling down notes.
“-And the fourth. I want their best equipment from their armoury, don’t let anyone near it. They’re to be replaced with the old kit. It’s a waste not to use it when we have more loyal and effective soldiers in the second. Understood?”
“Yes sir.”
They walked through the busy, hustling streets of the Amalian Quarter. They were overcrowded, sewage running down the sides of the cobblestone street, with crude timber and stone buildings packed so closely together even a small spark could risk setting the entire quarter ablaze, yet none of this seemed to worry the inhabitants who had become desensitized to their surroundings.
“Give the best Lamellar Mail, swords and shields to the second’s armoury, that’ll teach those plebeians a lesson until they can keep their kit in better order.”
The officer hurriedly notched the notes down, struggling to avoid a beggar lying in the street as they walked, the Amalian quarter was cramped, bitter and overpopulated, but it had become a way of life for them.
“That’s it for today. I’m riding outside the walls to personally invite some extended family members into the city for the wedding. The wife insists. Your final job is to inspect the second. If you suspect anyone of being lazy, undisciplined or worse… Disloyal. Move them to the fourth. Got that?”
“To the fourth. Understood.”
“We’ll get them in shape, God grant me strength…” Quintus muttered under his breath as he approached a horse, already saddled and ready to go. Putting one foot in the stirrup, he hauled himself up in a smooth and practised motion.
“Dismissed Arminius. I should be back before Noon tomorrow. If i’m not, send out a patrol.”
Pressing a fist to his chest, he nodded to the officer who responded in kind, before disappearing in the crowded streets, the deep red crest still visible above their heads. Clicking his tongue, Quintus looked thoughtfully over the streets, thoughts played through his mind, the legacy of his once proud people reduced to refugees in Tautom, the whispers of war and strife from travellers, to the city’s defeat at the hand of the Chlotars. Finally, he drove his heels into the flanks of his horse, heading out Tautom’s gate with a determined expression.

Aemoot, a Baltian village two kilometres to the west of Tautom


“Coin fer my services boss?” A youth called out, resting against a set of wooden poles driven into the mud and dirt outside a tavern, looked not much better than the muck he was trying to avoid. Quintus glared at him, before sighing. Producing a coin, he tossed it to the youth before dismounting, handing him the reins.
“If she’s clean and fed when I’m done, I’ll give you more of that.”
Looking around properly, he took in his surroundings. A crude, simple village. It’s roads were dirt, mostly mud from the constant passage of carts and horses. Timber frames and wooden walls dominated the village, but the streets were wider than the Amalian Quarter, giving him a sense of relief as he finally turned to the large thatched building that dominated the street.

The youth offered a crooked and yellowed smile, nodding as he tied the horse to one of the poles. Looking up to the tavern, Quintus inspected the sign verifying it matched the name, ‘Odovakre’s Rest’, that had been written on the small scrap of paper he’d received. Even so, he hesitated, and couldn’t help but wonder ‘Why here?’ He didn’t entertain the thought for long, stepping towards the tavern, he adjusted his cloak and the sword hidden beneath its confines, before reaching out to open the heavy door of the building.

From where he had taken a seat in the smoky confines of the tavern the sound of a door being pulled open, doubtlessly the front from its volume, could be heard over the bubbling voices and occasional cheering of patrons. At once he recognised the man stepping through, and it would seem he him as the eyes of Vetericus and Quintus briefly met -- in his eyes Vetericus recognised the same grim determination he had witnessed a year ago.

A year prior on the fringes of Baltia.


A small skirmish, a small fight between a few hundred men. It never left the field blood red, coated in mud and gore. It certainly hadn’t prepared Quintus for a pitched battle. His past victories felt meaningless, and indeed they were as he knelt on the cold, damp earth, the cacophony of screams and wails of dying men. The pleading cries of those who were dead, but simply hadn’t realised it yet. He looked around, struggling to blink past grime that coated his face. All he could see was bodies. Swords. Spears. Bodies contorted in their death throes, some with the weapons that had taken them still cleft in their bones. They said war was glorious. Heroic. The shock was greater still when you realised most men died struggling to hold their blood or guts in with scrabbling fingers, then simply falling over lifeless.

“For God and glory! We shall prevail this day!” Vetericus yelled, at the front and surrounded by his kin bearing his same red and black warpaint who scythed through the Tautan lines like so many rows of wheat. “Show no mercy for those who stand in our way!” Onwards they charged as one, Baltavigoc chanting mingling with the clash of steel, brothers united and finally able to reach for the throat of those who had sought domination unearned over their home. Thoughts of revenge and a burning hatred inspired in them a strength far surpassing what their enemy could muster, making their way towards the banner of the Tautan General, Valaris.

Quintus looked up. He was surrounded by the Amalian soldiers who hadn’t routed, or simply hadn’t started routing soon enough. Each of them was covered in grime and blood. Usually their own. Some begged for their lives. Some were silent… quietly resigned to their fate. Fewer still glared defiantly at the enemy around them. Weapons were cast aside, around them, stood dozens of Chlotar barbarians, weapons pointed at their captives. He twisted, looking further down the line to the Tautom soldiers, where the center of their battle lines had once stood. As he watched, a barbarian plunged his longsword into the neck of a captive, who simply fell like a damp towel, fingers clawing at the steel embedded in his flesh. Quintus flinched at the cold brutality, wondering if the same end awaited him and his men.

The other clusters of survivors experienced similar fates, a Baltavigoc stepping forwards to question each man of their loyalty to Tautom, and more importantly their devotion to God. The hedonists, those who perverted the sanctity of God would be executed on the spot by axe and sword. Very few were left alive. At last Vetericus himself approached the confined Amalian warriors, followed closely by several warriors speaking in low tones. He and his entourage stopped a short distance before the foremost Amalians, Baltavigocs parting to let them through. The great axe balanced over his shoulder slowly fell towards the ground until its head remained resting there, a loose grip kept on the top of the haft.
“Who amongst you can be called Captain?” Vetericus said in a tone harsh using his native Celesean, but with far less disdain in it than he had given towards the other captives he had already come across.


Quintus stared at the fearsome Viigoc warlord as he approached. Upon hearing those words his stomach sank, feeling the cold dread rising up through him as his mind forced him to run through every possible way he was about to die. Lifting his hands, he unstrapped his helmet, letting the crested helmet fall to the floor as he forced himself to stand up, wiping his face clear of the grime and gritting his teeth, summoning the last vestiges of his determination, staring Vetericus down. “Me.”

Vetericus watched the man stand, nodding as his helmet impacted the earth now muddy with blood. Of all things his tone softened, though it never lost its gruff and warning edge.
“May I have your name, Captain?”


Quintus let out a slow breath, his eyes drifted down, looking at the discarded weapons, he felt his resolve hardening, wondering if he even stood a chance. Before the idea became a reality, he clenched a single fist, nails digging into his palm as he spoke
“Quintus Vitalius of Amal… And these men are from my Amalian Battalion. ...The ones who broke last. If you’re going to cut us down, I don’t think our names matter.” He forced out between his clenched jaws.


“Indeed,” Vetericus retorted, eyes glancing around the surrendered men scattered about Quintus. “Who broke last. Do you know what the men who stand beside me say of you?”
Vetericus gestured with his free hand towards the Baltavigocs nearest him.


“I honestly don’t have a clue. I’d imagine that they want to kill us?” He replied, his eyes narrowing on the men surrounding Vetericus accusingly. He still could not shake the sense of dread he was doing his best to hide.

“They say that you and your men fought well. Bravely, in fact. Tell me, Quintus Vitalius of Amal, are you a man of God?”
Vetericus’ bloodsoaked figure loomed menacingly over the Amalians, clear to all that the survival of Quintus was dependant on his answer.


Quintus didn’t respond immediately, caught off guard by the question. It didn’t take him long to think of a reply. “Give me a blade and your word that your friends won’t interfere, I’ll do you one better and introduce you to him.”

Vetericus responded with a grim smile, the intent of which was hard to discern through all the blood.
“I think mettle has been proven enough today. For your men to follow you so well, they must share a similar conviction, no?”


Quintus simply nodded, he shifted his weight, allowing himself the brief respite as his armour wore heavy on his shoulders.
“Aye. We are of Amalia. Our faith is strong… Stronger than some. Stronger than…” Quintus frowned. He looked back over the captive troops to where the Tautan soldiers were laying, executed mercilessly, realising the true weight behind Vetericus’s question. Immediately he felt anger and relief. Anger at the crude barbarity of murdering captives over their faith, and relief that his answer may have saved his life. Deep down he couldn’t help but feel that after what he had witnessed inside the city, the Tautans had deserved their fate.


“You and your men may go free, so long as you leave your weapons. But be warned; should we meet you in whatever battle may come after, this offer will not be extended again.”
The Baltavigocs did not move, waiting to see the reaction of Quintus.


Quintus stared at Vereticus, biting his tongue as he took in what was happening. Eventually, he simply nodded, reaching down to pick up his helmet. He ran a finger over a cheek guard, wiping the mud off of it as he looked up. “I’ll keep this then.”
The present.


Vetericus pushed himself up, on this rare occasion without his axe for the sake of appearing inconspicuous. Casually walking past Quintus he pushed the door open, nodding to him politely as he would a stranger, expecting him to follow. Idling outside the door for a moment he continued on as Quintus matched his step, leading the pair away from prying ears and eyes.
“I was unsure you would come, Quintus.”

Quintus looked the man over. He certainly wasn’t as foreboding as he remembered. He almost looked normal without the blood of his soldiers drenching his armour. He simply looked past him out to the street as he walked with him
“I wasn’t sure myself Vetericus. I’m surprised I didn’t turn up to see you surrounded by your soldiers. You must be serious about this.”

“Baltia is to be freed of the Tautan mockery that resides within that city, Quintus. You know them to be the festering rot plaguing it as well as I. I remember what you said a year ago. The means are within your grasp.”
Vetericus kept his voice low, speaking as if Quintus was simply a friend he had stumbled across in the night.

Quintus slowly came to a halt on the outskirts of the village, looking across the farmland that he perhaps in the past fought over, back towards Tautom city itself in the distance. He toyed with the sword under his cloak, frowning as he recalled what they had spoken about barely a year ago.
“And I remember what you said.” He furrowed his brow as finally he turned to Vetericus, releasing the blade under his cloak.
“What did you have in mind..?”
What followed was a hushed exchange of words, a plan forming between the two. Both remained alert to their surroundings, careful to not allow any passerbys to overhear, not that there should be any real fear of that in the now Chlotar-held territory. As time wound on an agreement was reached.
“We will meet you then. Soon, Quintus.”

Quintus smirked “Soon. Don’t forget your wedding gift, aye?”.

With a concealed grin Vetericus departed, heading back towards the tavern, leaving Quintus to return to his duties.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by neogreggory
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A Dirt Road In Lampertei, A Mile Out from the port town Bressenra

"I've been meaning to ask Ardoiwn, how was he?" Mounted on horseback Ardoiwn and his comrades were journeying eastward towards the coast in order to book passage to the great city of the Tautoms. Riding alongside Ardoiwn was Cleph, one of his closest friends, a man with fine hair and a thick mustache, who carried a thick shield with which he protects his friends.

He was of course talking of the king. After returning home Ardoiwn told his comrades and the village as a whole his duty and where they were bound, before gathering his closest allies and the supplies required for such a trip. However during the days nobody had asked Ardoiwn how his time in the capital had gone, indeed the normally jolly leader had been almost forlorn and reserved during the days of travel.

Now that the party, numbering only shy of a hundred, neared the port town however Cleph decided that this quietness had gone long enough and was ready to press his friend for answers.
Ardoiwn was still ruminating on the king. His loyalty was of course never in question, but the near constant fear that dogged the young man during his stay in the capital still haunted the deepest parts of his mind. The nights he spent in the capital weren't exactly peaceful either. The ideals of leadership that his father had imparted to him were now in open conflict with what the king had displayed, and-

"What?" Ardoiwn was snapped out of his thoughts by his friend, who upon waiting too long for an answer to his question decided to jab Ardoiwn in the gut with his sheathed blade. "Well? How was he? The king?" Cleph asked again as Ardoiwn seemed to return to the world around him. "Ah, um, er-" Ardoiwn stammered before finding himself again and answering, "He was kingly. His presence demanded respect and his words impossible to ignore." Cleph nodded, accepting his commander's words before asking, "Is it true he spends all night atop a tower shouting at god?"
"Yes, I can't imagine how anyone in the palace sleeps at all." Ardoiwn states, as Cleph brings his chin down into his hand in thought, before wondering, "If he spends all night shouting and all day in is duties when does he sleep?"

Ardoiwn hadn't considered that... "Ah haha! I have no idea!" Before long Ardoiwn and Cleph were laughing, making jokes and friendly insults at one another as they crested a hill and descended into the town. It did not take long to charter a ship, this was of course the official business of a Gastald. Once prices were haggled out the party were packed into a ship along with fresh supplies before setting out from the port towards Tautom.
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Skadan Castle, the hallway leading toward the Eoin Tower




On the old Stronghold that is Skadan Castle are built two great towers. One of them is old and weathered, purposefully constructed by the first King Alboin to oversee his nascent Kingdom. This tower has become the living quarters of the King’s trueborn daughter.
The second and higher tower is a much newer addition to the Castle -- it is the tower Dalgiserius had constructed from whence to challenge God. The Eoin and Serius towers respectively. And it is in the latter where his adopted daughter rests in a room adjacent the long stairway up. ...Two towers for two daughters.

The hallway leading up to the old Eoin Tower is where the Princess often links up with Laiamicho, a steadfast retainer of her family.
For a Lampert woman Dalgiserata is on the short side, likely taken after her mother. By contrast she inherited the dark hair and icy eyes of her namesake father, Dalgiserius. Her forehead is beset with a diadem of gemstones. Over her embellished robes she wears a dark and heavy bear pelt similar to her father's, which around her neck is also beset with yet more gemstones. For Lampert royalty it's not the gems that is considered Alboinid regalia, but the bear fur. All Lampert royalty, be they male or female, are expected to wear a mantle made from the pelt of a black bear. Unbefitting for a Princess, however, is that under her regal robes the king's daughter wears trousers rather than a dress, for she and her retinue often embark on horseback.

As for Laiamicho, one wouldn't think that he's a royal servant based on his ragged overcoat and worn tunic, though with his errands of subterfuge, perhaps that's the point. His clean-shaven face and well-kempt hair betrays his standing however. And everyone inside Dalgiserius' stronghold immediately would recognize him by face and voice alone. Of all her servants, the Princess trusts him most.
‘’The King is not taking the warning as gravely as I hoped he would.’’ Laiamicho sighs. ‘’The Chlotar enemy are preparing something big. Greater than anything to date. There’s something off with their new King, this Cauroman.’’

‘’You’ve done the best you could, Laiamicho. I know of the strain it takes to address my father…’’
The scout sighs. ‘’I’m just glad to be out of that accursed hall. Outwardly I could carry myself calmly enough, sure, but in truth I was Goddamned pissing myself from anxiety. Almost literally too.’’

‘’You did your duty to the Kingdom. My father is grateful for your reconnaissance, even if he doesn’t show it.’’
‘’Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for pity. Pity rather your half-sister. Is she seriously a Gastald? I honestly thought it’s a joke! The Gastalds are fearsome warchiefs and the like, and she’s just a meek lit--’’ He abruptly quits talking when he spots Antonia approaching from over the Princess’ shoulder. He abruptly clears his throat and straightens his overcoat, uncomfortably looking another direction in the hopes she hadn’t overheard.

Antonia raises a brow at Laiamicho’s hushed remark, but Gundiberga lets out a bark of laughter that cuts through the silence and causes the royal retainer to give a startled jump.
“Do you hear that, little fox?” the shield maiden askes, twirling a coil of the girl’s ginger hair around her finger and yanking on it. “He thinks you’re meek. I told you that you’re too precious for your own damn good. Maybe you ‘ought to take your training more seriously.” Antonia hisses and bats the blonde woman’s hand away while shooting her a glare, which only causes Gundiberga to give a grin that is more a baring of teeth than anything else.

“Thank you, Laiamicho. I’ll do my best to be more fearsome in the future,” the redhead quipped dryly before flashing the servant a half smile to show that while she was annoyed at his remarks, Antonia bore him no ill will. Afterall, it was ridiculous to imagine a nineteen year old, not yet battle tested girl as a mighty Gastald.

“My apologies, my lady. I just thought… I-” Laiamicho coughed, giving his coat one final tug. “-I’ll be on my way. Glory to Lampertei and the High King. Death to God. Have a pleasant evening, ladies”, finally making a swift bow to Dalgiserata ‘’Princess.’’ before hastening off.

“Death to God,” both women echo, Antonia in a practiced monatone and Gundiberga in her typical manic timbre. Dalgiserata remained quiet the whole time, casting a stern gaze at Gundiberga as to dismiss her, and only addressing her half-sister when Laiamicho and she had removed themselves from their vicinity.

‘’The skull drinking… it-’’ The Princess struggles to find the words, her face pained.
‘’It was cruel. That my father’s dogs would do such a thing to your true father.’’

Antonia purses her lips and remains silent while she waits for the other proverbial shoe to drop.

‘’...In his own way, my father -- our father -- was trying to help you, I am sure.’’

...and there it was. Antonia lets go of a sigh, the exhale sounding explosive in the tiny corridor.
“That's enough, Serata,” the freckled young woman finally says, not unkindly, before placing a hand on the princess's shoulder.
“I'd rather not speak about it now, if it's all the same to you.” As much as Antonia loved her sister, she knew better than to argue with her over Dalgiserius’s ways.

‘’Of course.’’ Dalgiserata lowers her head respectfully as to acknowledge her wishes. This isn’t court protocol or anything, it’s in her nature.
‘’My father’s dogs, they--’’

Speaking of the devil, a bearded sentinel turns up from deep down the hallway, speaking with a voice low and hoarse as he taps his halberd hard against the stone tiles.
‘’Gastald Antonia. The High King summons you to the netherhall. -- Don’t make him wait.’’ Then the large man turns around, expecting Antonia to follow behind.

‘’It seems as though another trial has been prepared for you as a Gastald.’’ Serata hushes at her.
‘’Things will get better for you, I swear it. My father will yet learn to value your true worth.
Be strong, sister.’’


Returning to the Netherhall, the place has gotten colder and darker now that the seats of the grand table are all vacant, and the green flames of the braziers dying. There is no one in the hall, save one great shadow that the green embers cast far over the whole of the floor. The shadow of Dalgiserius. With a fist resting against his worn bearded face, his icy eyes look up with a scowl into Antonia’s direction.
‘’You kept me waiting. Come hither, Gastald Mouse.’’ Dalgiserius' imposing voice echoes through the hall with a low hum.

After her eyes attuned to the darkness, Antonia can tell that the King is not in fact alone. At his side, shrouded in shadow, stands a figure whose sparse metallic glimmering betrays it as Giselart, the Soothsayer. The old loremaster is bent down, his beard trembling as he whispers something in the King’s ear, before silently withdrawing into the darkness to observe the girl’s approach.

‘’Each of the men hosted at my table are there for their demonstrated might, and selfless devotion to Lampertei. Still, each has been found wanting.

The insult to the Lampert people and our ancestors… Udos… and the evil witch whores therein yet live. The queen of all witches schemes there, the source of all mayhem. A decade ago my ‘best’ men could not take the city. Nor I could take Udos as I charged myself into the breach. But you, little mouse... I trust will succeed where all my stumbling wardogs have failed.

Only a warrior of your… ‘unspoiledness’... can undo the City of Witchcraft of its warding hex.

Now tell me, my beloved daughter, how would you like to see mother again?’’


Antonia stands motionless for a moment, before carefully answering,
“I would only see her if that is what my king wishes of me.”

‘’Hrm.
You are right to be wary. She is a dark deviant. A shameless schemer. A hag of hazards. Yet nevertheless your mother. Think of the... ‘’
Dalgiserius struggles to say the word, forcing himself as he spat it out ‘’..JOY.. it would bring her old heart.’’
The King stares intently at his adopted daughter, trying his best to keep his perpetual fury contained by grinding his brittle teeth against one another -- which makes it all the more unnerving for her.
Despite the king’s efforts to control his aura the atmosphere inside the hall feels extraordinarily oppressive and it's a struggle for Antonia just to keep her feet firmly planted instead of sprinting for the door. She is speechless, so in lieu of answering she responds with a quick nod.

‘’Yes. I thought you’d like that.’’ Dalgiserius mutters as he reveals a mere glint of contentedness, but never enough so for his perpetual frown to fade.

The Soothsayer’s deep-sunken eyes gleam briefly as he emerges from the dim, stooping once again to the King’s ear. He soundlessly whispers some more before vanishing back behind the seat.
Dalgiserius’ brooding voice, even in attempts to remain calm is induced with only barely contained rage as the King’s voice echoes through the stone fundaments.
‘’You… will wish to become one of the witch queen’s vile cultists… the Vestal Virgins. And the best way to earn their boon is by presenting yourself as Nanperga’s daughter.

Then, and then alone will you have access to their vaults of sorcery. From there, you will know what to do.. And you will understand what is at stake if you do not.’’

That last line sounded very threatening, though Antonia does not fully understand what the King meant by it. Nevertheless she understands not to trifle with a royal decree from Dalgiserius.

“Yes, father,” she responds.

‘’On the morrow you will ride south away… Escorted. Then present yourself at Nanperga’s Hold.. Dare not return before you have seen this through to the end, Gastald Antonia.’’
King Dalgiserius waves with his crude iron scepter, then pointing it at the exit. ‘’Begone!’’

Antonia bows deeply at the waist before walking as quickly as possible out of the Netherhall. It's only when she makes it out into the courtyard that she allows herself to stop, sagging forward and covering her face with her hands while taking deep breaths to calm her racing heart.
“The king had good news then?” Gundiberga asks from her place beside a black rose bush. Antonia is not surprised to find her there.

“He wants me to take Udos,” she huffs, still in shock. “No one’s ever taken it and he expects me to do it!”

“Watch your tone, little fox,” Gundiberga growls, voice turning hard as steel. “Our king knows best.”
“Of course,” Antonia says after she has recomposed herself, holding her hands up in an attempt to placate her shield maiden. “I was only surprised, that's all. He wants me to become a Vestal Virgin.”

At this Gundiberga squinted and scrunched her nose up unflatteringly. “You’ve never had a man before?”

Antonia’s face turns the same color as her hair and Gundiberga erupts into a wild, cackling laughter that is unique to only her. Embarrassed, the king's ward chooses not to answer, opting instead to turn on her heel and stomp back towards her chambers at the Serius tower.
Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Grijs
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Nevelholt Forest, South-east of Aaixen


The Great Army of King Cauroman is on the move towards the far-away Rudine Marches, Chlotaringen’s southern frontier. Having moved through the riverlands surrounding Aaixen, the king's army of some ten thousand men is recuperating at the edge of a vast, ancient and ancestral woodland known as the Nevelholt. The King’s initial host was larger, but for logistical reasons they were split up in several smaller armies entrusted to the Paladins.
Meanwhile Cauroman is accompanied by three of his great Paladins. With Vetericus assigned to the Baltian Marches, it leaves Einhard, Cauroman’s own, Wulfbehrt, champion of Udos, a crusader for Godas and Defender of the Holy City -- of whom songs are sung throughout Visandza, and last Autchar, the Sword-bearer to Cauroman’s bedridden brother King Dagobert, who ventured out on his behalf.

The twilight shines through the leaves as the fiery sun disc fades into the horizon. The Nevelholt, already considered a mystical woodland, appears even more otherworldly underneath the orange-purple sky.
In the great Chlotar encampment at the edge of the forest, Paladins Einhard and Autchar stand with the Chlotar quartermaster around the hewn base of a once large oak tree central of the pavilion, that they use as makeshift table. There they discuss logistics with the quartermaster in regards the Long March over Visandza... Though not letting the opportunity pass to toast a drink.

‘’It will take some months for an army to travel from Aaixen’s heartlands to the Rudine Marches.’’ Says to quartermaster. ‘’In the meantime we ought to take it easy, the men are tired after another day’s march.’’
‘’No, we must stay on alert. I’ve heard ominous reports from this part of Chlotaringen.’’ answers Autchar, pouring himself and the other paladins a curious beverage of fermented grapes, which the Celeseans call ‘wine’.
The quartermaster, after inspecting the liquid, takes a cautious sip of it.
‘’Hrm. Good, but a tad sour. These were imported from the Baltian marches, no? It takes some getting used to. Where’s the mead?’’ He blurts with a grin. ‘’Hey, come on Autchar, why so dour? Don’t get distraught from hearsay.’’
‘’It’s not hearsay.’’ Autchar speaks solemnly, after passing the waterskin of wine to Einhard ‘’For years word has spread as a plague through these lands, of ominous and sudden disappearances of those who rode out too deep into the Nevelholt.’’ The paladin then casts his gaze to the east past the trees and into the darkness beyond.
“What, afraid the goatmen are going to come and take you?” Einhard replies sarcastically as he takes a swig of the wine Autchar presented him. “The only thing that we need to worry about are those by Godas forsaken Lamperts and their devious king.”

‘’You think it’s outlandish, and perhaps it is. Except that among those missing are two Paladins, deployed by late King Carlovech to investigate the disappearances.’’

‘’Berengar and Ojevar…’’ A third voice interjects as someone enters the pavilion. It is Cauroman.
‘’My King!’’ Autchar utters in surprise, instinctively pressing his fist against his chest as salute. Einhard halfway drops to one knee, then back up with a nod of his head and bellows “High King Cauroman!”
‘’Hail, brothers. Be at ease.’’ The Chlotar King speaks, taking off his crowned spangenhelm and placing it on the great oak stump before them.
‘’Autchar, I remember these two Paladins you named from my youth, Berengar and Ojevar. They were most loyal, and formidable above all.‘’
The King is quiet in a moment of contemplation.
‘’I always did wonder what had become of them. Had these disappearances of our kinsfolk never been resolved?” Cauroman looks at Autchar inquiringly from the corner of his emerald eyes.
“Not that we know of, my King. Once it became common knowledge that the forest abducts the living, your subjects have wisely ceased going there.’’

“So it is no longer a problem.” The quartermaster says.

‘’No…’’
Cauroman's voice is beset with resolution.
‘’If my father’s Paladins perished in there, it must not be ignored but confronted. As Paladins and as King, it is our duty to either retrieve or avenge them.
However at present our attention cannot be diverted from the great war to come. I suppose it is something to look into once the war with Lampertei has come to pass.”


“If we will live to survive that war.” The quartermaster smirks, half in jest, having meanwhile turned to the mead to wash away the sour wine-taste.

‘’Better to die on the battlefield against the Lamperts than in some forest” Einhard mutters.

“Whether we live or die, it matters not so long that we WIN.
Should we fail to save Godas, Visandza - no, all existence, - will fall to final darkness.’’
Autchar groans solemnly, to which the quartermaster can only sigh.
‘’Autchar, your grimness is the reason we are trying to have a toast right now. Just have a drink.’’

Cauroman raises a clenched fist.
‘’Gentlemen! Let us not brood on what is to come. But one thing is certain; this forest is hexed. It is best to be on high alert, as Paladin Autchar so wisely asserts.
Quartermaster!’’

The man’s back stiffens. ‘’Orders?’’
‘’Double the nightguard. We need volunteers.’’
‘’I shall see to it posthaste.’’

Then spotting an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment, Einhard slams his fist on the oak stump, proclaiming as he chews a mouthful of pork: “I will keep watch through the night.”
Cauroman turns to him with a grin, arms folded;
‘’Ever a dependable warrior, much like your father.’’
The Chlotar King picks up his spangenhelm and holds it under his arm.
‘’My warriors, I will see the three of you at dawn. Do your forebear proud as I myself strive to.’’ He leaves the pavilion to make for his own tent. One whose regalty is outwardly only betrayed by the banner of the Faramundian lion planted on top.
Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Grey the Fairy
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Tautom Commons


The tower bells tolled out across Tautom, echoing off of every lead roof, every lowly gutter and the highest walls. Not one soul hadn’t heard of the day’s joyous occasion, posters, leaflets and criers had been posted on every street and inn to make sure it gathered as large a crowd as possible. And it had.

The city commons, a great urban district at the centre of the city, had become the stage for a royal wedding. The usual grey cobblestone and wooden timber had taken on a bright shine as even the weather had warmed and brightened for the festivities. The houses and shops that lay on the outskirts of the central plaza looked like the heavens had opened up and released a flock of white bunting, now draped over every chimney, sign and corner, the Amalian crest, a silver evening star on a blue field, was side by side with the Baltian dynastic flag, a golden, imperialistic eagle clutching a phallic star in its talons on a red field, draped on every other building. The streets, usually filled with hawkers and prostitutes had now been completely cleared, the grey cobbles swept and cleaned, looking almost as if they had been laid that very morning. Large benches and chairs had been placed in the plaza haphazardly, but there was a clear aisle running down the middle, with an alter at one end, decorated with the flowers and cloth, both red and blue in colour to represent the two families.

Quintus looked out over the crowds gathered around the very public affair expectantly. There was a very good reason it had been made public, but not one he had cared to share with many. A smile twinged the corner of his lips as he looked back from the guards standing between the commoners, who were watching the ceremony excitedly, and the Douxes and royal senators, most especially where King Orso himself was seated, oblivious to the real reason Quintus wanted him present.

He looked to Arminius, his second in command sitting beside him in the same full military dress he wore, nudging the man with his shoulder to get his attention before leaning close
“Is everything in place?”
“Yes. We have troops stationed in the Cassium district ready to move.” He responded quietly. Quintus nodded, sitting back in his chair. He watched the Grand Domestic of Royal Ceremonies speaking, a skinny and effeminate man wearing only a loincloth, with the marks of many self-inflicted lashes covering his body. He is a flagellant, the closest thing to a priest in Tautom. And in front of him were two figures, one, the royal prince Zeno, dressed in an armour not dissimilar from Quintus’ own. The other was his own daughter, Eudoxia, standing a head smaller than Zeno, she was dressed in a fine white wedding dress, with a train that spoke of Tautan decadence.

Over the muttering of the crowd, the Grand Domestic of Royal Ceremonies spoke with a melodious and booming voice before the altar, impressive for a man so outwardly frail, gathering the attention of all.

“Bless and fill the hearts and eyes of whores
We pimps, outcasts, fools and criminal sores,

Take pity on our long misery, o Odovakre’s heir,
On us, bestow salvation from despair,

Unite these two sinners in fidelity and infidelity,
With the seal of the Baltian immortality!

You who knows each weak and shameful thing,
Grant unto this duo Oath’s ring,
Orso, merciful King.”


‘’I so shall!” King Orso proclaims, standing up from his seat in jubilation as he holds aloft his rather phallic ceremonial scepter. Then he began to slap his feet about and starts dancing like a baboon. It is a divine Tautan custom. For a true King, who is God’s highest creation, understands and emulates also God’s lowest.

There was a tense silence as Zeno and Eudoxia exchanged smiles, slipping a golden band onto each others ring finger. The silence lasted but a moment as the Flagellant spoke once more.
“By King Orso’s benevolence, I declare your souls and beds linked! My prince, sanctify your oath by kissing your bride sensually.” Zeno bent slightly to reach her height, lifting a hand to take her shoulder he kissed her modestly in front of the crowd. The commoners in the background erupted into cheers, while those seated began clapping as the two newly-weds turned to face them, smiles splitting their faces as Eudoxia’s pale cheeks began to flush red.

Quintus immediately stood up, Approaching the King who was seated on the other row as he saluted him smartly, speaking in a hushed tone. “My king, if you wouldn’t mind, the Amalians have a small surprise planned.”

‘’Why would I mind, Quizzicus? I do love surprises!’’ The Tautan king says, rubbing his hands in joyful anticipation.

Quintus nods, the smile he wore only grew in size. Looking back to Arminius, he inclined his head. The officer saluted, pulling his helmet on and walking down the aisle and out of the plaza. On the other side of the plaza, there was a woman’s scream as suddenly, the sound of horses moving down a street began to fill the plaza, quickly joined by the tramp of marching boots. Quintus stepped back, putting a hand on the hilt of his ceremonial blade at his hip as he announced confidently.
“Then, my King, you are going to love this.”

Quintus gestured towards the street where the scream originated, as a dozen horses adorned in red ribbons began to appear, drawing carts. Each cart had two horses, and each cart was stacked with neatly arranged crates, with plenty of room to sit around and beside them. Quintus walked towards Zeno and Eudoxia, opening his arms wide.
“Congratulations to the pair of you, my daughter, I am so proud of you. And Zeno, you have taken another step towards greatness. You two are going to be the talk of the city. Are you ready?” Zeno nodded, hesitation growing clear on his face as he looked towards the carts “Is it quite safe?”
“I assure you. Nothing is safer. My best man will be guarding you.” Quintus responded with his silken smooth tongue, putting a hand on Zeno’s shoulder.
“This will win the city folk over to you like none other before you. Now off you go… I can see Arminius returning now.”

Zeno looked towards a growing commotion, he could see a squad of men forcing their way through the crowd of commoners, red horsehair crests adorning their helmets as they surrounded the carts in a well oiled fashion, kite shields and swords held ready. Zeno smiled broadly, looking to Eudoxia and offering his hand
“Are you ready for a tour of the city, my wife?”
“Yes but… Why?” she said with wide eyes, never taking her eyes off the carts and their contents. The young prince simply smiled and led her over to the closest cart, still holding her hand he helped her into the back before climbing in himself with the help of a guard as the contents were now obvious. Food. The carts contained everything, ranging from bread, to dried meats, even exotic fruits imported from Syrome. As the two climbed into their cart, servants began to climb into the rest.

Quintus remained by the king, watching as the carts began to set off down the main street, as his daughter and son in law began to throw food and treats to the crowds, quickly joined by the servants, a throng began to gather around the carts, delight and cheering began to echo as the crowd followed them, the armed guards shoving back anyone who got too close for comfort.
“They will be travelling through the poorest districts, giving alms to the masses, all in the name of this new union my king. There is no reason your subjects shouldn’t share in today’s delight!” Quintus couldn’t help but find himself clapping his hands together like a jester at the thought in the presence of the King’s aura.

“Say Quiralus, you are a most benevolent subject! If only more Douxes were like you! Which is to say, taking after me! Generous, kind, beloved.’’ Orso laughs at Quintus, prodding him with his elbow.

“You flatter me, my King, I only live to serve Tautom, especially after everything you’ve done for the Amalian people. I wish more Douxes were like you too! The city would be filled with mirth and pleasure, as it should, no?” Quintus laughed without realising it, caught up in the King’s aura. But at the back of his mind he remembered his purpose, knowing he was so close. The familiar feel of his swords’ pommel in his grip helped him keep his bearings.

As they laughed, a runner entered the plaza, looking red and winded. Spotting Quintus, he ran up to him with a sealed letter, dropping to a knee as he held it out to him, struggling to catch his breath. Quintus stopped laughing abruptly, regarding the letter like one might a snake. Taking it, he examined the stamp before opening it and reading the contents, making sure to play up the expressions on his face accordingly as he read it. “...”

Orso clapped an oiled hand on Quintus’ shoulder, impacting with a wet smack, joviality never departing him despite the change in mood.
“Why so grim, Quirkus? Tis a day of merriment! Perhaps a dip in the royal pool would do you good!”

Quintus’ face darkened, he lowered the letter and looked up “My king, a group of bandits are in the process of setting up a barricade over the Laelae river, already several sailors have been attacked, and the Chlotar barbarians do nothing to stop its construction!” He states dramatically, scrunching the letter up in an outraged fist.

“Laelae River?” Orso waved a hand dismissively, leaning back to bask in the sun with a smile on his face. “It’s too cold.
I’ve no need to bathe in the Laelae, what concern is it of ours?’’


“The Laelae River is a vital supply line, my King. It is one of our few lanes of trade, trade that is at risk if this isn’t dealt with.”

‘’Trade at risk? Since when do we trade with the deep continent? That’s all overrun by barbarians nowadays, and last I checked they hate us for our freedoms!’’

‘’Renaqui -- we import our lumber from the semi-independent and autonomous Chlotar vassal of Renaqui. We have hitherto maintained cordial relations between our great city states. But we do need that lumber desperately.’’

‘’Well obviously, I am the King! I knew all that. I was just testing if you knew.’’ Orso asserts.
‘’But what can we do? The maintenance of the Laelae is no longer under Baltian jurisdiction. All that land has fallen to hostile autocratic savages! What hero can resolve this most pressing crisis?! I don’t see any! We are doomed, Quitulius, doomed!’’

Quintus lowered himself to one knee before the king, pressing a fist to his chest as he bowed his head
“I have well trained and disciplined troops ready and willing to set out and deal with this problem at your word. My fourth maniple can ride out with me, and with your blessing, I will crush this blockade and ensure our great city begins to assert its rightful dominance over our Baltian possessions once again.”

‘’I don’t know about that, Quirsan, I am quite happy just being King over Tautom. Not to mention; you will die! The Chlotars will kill you when they find you! The risk is great! But wait, I know a way to keep you safe -- probably.’’
King Orso turned to face Quintus as best he could from where he sat, lifting his scepter high in his right hand. His left reached for Quintus’ face before it half-slapped him, an oily imprint now left on the man’s cheek. Quintus certainly felt something, but whether it was tied to the disgust of the king’s slippery hand now sliding across his face, Orso’s aura overpowering said disgust or divine power he couldn’t tell.

Quintus blinked, slowly lifting his face to look up at the king, confusion etched on his stern features.
“I am… Blessed?” he seems to frown, clearly it wasn’t exactly what he imagined it being.

‘’Indeed you are, friend, indeed you are.’’

He snapped out of his confusion, rising to his feet again and saluting the King, announcing loudly.
“Then it is done. I shall ride out tomorrow morning for the river, and put an end to those brigands for the good of the City-State of Tautom!”

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by TheOneDemon
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The Chlotar Great-Camp, Nevelholt Forest


Night falls.
All Visandza is covered in a shroud of darkness, the lands engulfed in silence. Except in the Nevelholt. Sounds emerged from the brooding woodlands, and the Nightguard, which had already been doubled, is particularly on edge. Not least by the insistence of Paladin Einhard.
‘’Godas’ Iron, what is that noise?’’ A guardsman murmurs. It was hard to discern. But out there in the unknown dark, bitter watches of night stand opposed to the Chlotarian watches. And their ruckus and howling is like wolves, eerily familiar. But not quite. The bestial howling, as they came nearer to the edges of the Nevelholt where the camp is, seemed to be some kind of mangled attempt at speaking. The creatures of the Nevelholt were trying to communicate to them.
“What the hell kind of wolves are out in this forest….” Einhard nervously took a sip of wine from the waterskin Autchar left him. “Perhaps I was right about the goatmen.” Einhard half-snorts with a grimace.

The sounds are coming closer to the encampment, cries too bestial to be human, and too human to be bestial. But as they get closer, they also get quieter. Whatever is out there knows it is outmatched by the Chlotar warrior host. Those of the nightguard positioned east all look to the perilous Nevelholt, some drawing out their swords and holding forth their spears, almost expecting something to jump out at them.
Then when the sounds got really close, they also stopped. It is beginning. The Chlotars hold their breath.

But nothing happens.

‘’Hm. Whatever it was, it’s gone now.’’ Says one after a minute of anticipation.
Relieved, and perhaps a little bit disappointed, the guards carry on with their duty.
But Einhard spots a shadow floating overhead, which vanished in an instant. “Hold firm men, our trail may not be over yet.” Einhard proceeds to raise his torch to the sky with his left hand, as his right hand goes to the handle of his mace. “I could’ve swor-... I believe I saw something in the sky…” After a few moments, Einhard sees nothing in the sky above him other than a celestial void, and begins to relax, lowering the torch. “Hmph, must be this damned forest.” Einhard mutters softly, figuring he should’ve perhaps have laid off the alcohol.

‘’Paladin Einhard! The King is under attack!’’
“What!?” Einhard shouts and jolts back to attention. “How the hell did an enemy get past our defences!?” he exclaims.

‘’Something snuck into his tent!’’ Another voice shouts.

“Men to your King, I don’t want to see a man left of us standing before even so much as a scratch is made upon our King!” Einhard belows to the nightwatch.

Meanwhile inside the royal tent, Cauroman was disturbed from his rest by a spawn of darkest night. Its bone-chilling shriek awakened the Chlotar king, and as he looked to see from where it came, the creature lanced him off his mattress using its horns. The king, still donning his scale armor, had perhaps anticipated an assault and sustained the attack mostly unharmed. As he regained his bearings, he observed the assailant…
A black goat, standing on its two hind-legs, bulging wide blue eyes and dripping yellow saliva from its gaping mouth. Its udders are filled to the brim.

Lowering its horned head, the beast takes a voracious gulp of its own udders… before spewing out a bolt of transparent milk at the King. That should be not be a lethal attack, nevertheless Cauroman felt he should steer clear regardless. He made a leap for his shield resting at his bedside, grabbed it and raised it before him. The substance splashed off. ‘’Godas blood, where is Halogan?!’’ The King searches the tent for his sword in vain.

The creature then proceeds to make a tackle. Ramming its horns against the shield, screaming relentlessly with a voice that sounds ominously human, but the words spoken incoherent. ‘’CAU-AN, DEPRISON FOW GOAS WRAD’’

Einhard rushes into the tent followed by other stout watchmen with their weapons drawn. “My king!” exclaims Einhard, but pauses at the sight of the beast. “What the bloody hell is that thing?!” a guard behind him hisses in disgust. Einhard attempts to lunge at the beast swinging his mace, but the thing evades.

Disoriented by the nightguard entering the tent, the creature leapt backwards into a corner, and seeing no way out, charges straight into the wall in an attempt to escape, dragging the entire tent with it and getting itself entangled.
‘’It’s stuck!’’ A guard screams. ‘’Kill it!’’ One of the Chlotars leaps forward at the stuck beast, thrusting his spear down into the entangled mess -- impaling it.
However… the beast didn’t respond, or cry, not even flinch. When the tent was pulled off, a black snake was seen slithering quickly away, out of the tent leaving a trickle of blood. There was no sign of the goat-spawn, it returned to the darkness from whence it came.

Einhard at this point began to piece together what the shadow was in the sky, and how the creature bypassed the defenses unnoticed. ‘’A shapeshifter…?’’

‘’Don’t let it get away! The hunt calls, boys!’’ One of the night guards screams in a frenzy, javelin in hand. But Cauroman raises his hand, yelling:
‘’HALT WARRIORS. Do not give chase. It will lure you into a trap. Wait ere sunrise, then we shall determine our move…’’

The watchmen lower their weapons. For them the night is not yet over.



The following morning


Cauroman and his foremost officers and Paladins gathered in the pavilion, once more surrounding the ancient oak’s stump.
Upon seeing the King, Paladin Autchar kneels down before him, sullying his knees in the mud.
‘’My King, my deepest apologies for not having been there at the fell beasts’ attack. Where did it come from?!’’

‘’It matters not what nightly crevice it crawled out of. Only that it’ll end skewered on my sword. It has issued a challenge to combat, and Cauroman never turns one down.’’

But Autchar reminds the King of their purpose;
‘’As much as the beast cannot be tolerated to live, we have a pressing objective to reach the Lampert marches by the end of next month.’’

‘’Indeed, the army mustn’t dawdle in this stretch of forest any longer. Moving a royal host from one side of the world to the other will take some time yet, more time than we can afford...’’
And so the King turns to Einhard, the one Paladin present during last night’s encounter to whom Cauroman owes a debt of gratitude.
‘’Mauger’s son, once more you’ve demonstrated valor and duty. Remember the Millennia Horn I entrusted you?
You will be an outrider of the Chlotar host. Ride out. Go with Autchar and the other cavalry to the Rudines. Ahead of the army.
That beast -- it interrupted me from another vision -- I saw a Horn, etched with runes and beset with bronze, on a snow capped mountain top, surrounded by a charred ruin. It is little to go on but Godas willing you shall uncover it yet. The Horn is waiting for you to find it.’’


Einhard presses his right fist into his chest and nods his head. Following this he saddles up his horse. “You will have your Horn my lord… on my life.” As the Paladin was about to venture out, he paused and turns to face King Cauroman a last time. “Perhaps on the way to retrieve the Millennial Horn I may stumble upon the remains of my father… I would quite like to give him a proper burial, my King”

‘’Do your duty to blood and land, brother. Go with Godas.’’ Cauroman draws forth Halogan, its holy iron gleaming in the rising son that it appears as though god imself imbues it with otherworldly power, pointing it southwards. ‘’Go!’’
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Baltian Chlotar Great-Camp


“My friend, you hold it as if you expect it to bite!”
The small gathering, a mixture of Chlotar soldiers and Baltavigocs, burst into another bout of good-natured laughter at the fumbling attempts of a flustered Chlotar to follow the instructions of a Baltavigoc who had lent him his accordion.
“Show some mercy, Viigoc!” A Chlotar chuckled, clapping his embarrassed comrade on the shoulder. “All he was ever taught was the one-two beat of putting one foot in front of the other!”
Vetericus was more than happy to partake in the joviality, this group of Chlotars well past any awkwardness of associating so closely with a Paladin. Sitting in the same circle he tried to offer his own advice now and then, though whether it had any actual practical effect was hard to say. At any rate, Vetericus thought, it was a good thing the Chlotar had been started off on a simplified version of a tune every Baltavigoc child knew well, or he wouldn’t have ever even tried. Glancing up for a moment, the sound of cheering near the gate to the encampment caught his attention, standing up and leaving the group largely unnoticed save for a few respectfully nodded heads.

First Captain Crocus acknowledged words of congratulation and welcoming as he slowly walked into the camp at the head of a few warriors, some Chlotar, some Baltavigoc, and all unusual in the fact that they bore no banners, symbols nor warpaint. This was, of course, the entire point. Past those who came to greet their return at the gates Crocus noticed Vetericus coming his way in a similar situation to himself, a man or two walking alongside him for a moment to say something before splitting off back to what they were doing before. Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for them to be facing each other with their customary forearm handshake.
“Back so soon?” Vetericus asked with a wry grin, glancing towards the men who had returned with him. “I was afraid you would stop to rest your old bones!”
“Bah, you’ll sooner find one of these young ones asking for a rest than me. Are we all back?”
Vetericus switched his gaze to a nearby member of the garrison, figuring him to be more likely to know exactly.
“Of those who left this morning?” The youthful Chlotar confirmed. “Almost. By my reckoning just a few more yet.”
Crocus nodded. No surprise, they had staggered their leaving the camp and all taken different routes so as to not draw attention. It was only natural for the journey back to be similar. Certainly, they had not incurred any losses raiding the Laelae River. Vetericus gestured sidelong further into the camp, imploring Crocus to walk with him as he spoke.
“Quintus will have his excuse to leave the city with his men now. We need to move to meet them as soon as the rest arrive.”
“In that case, I will see to preparations at once.”
“No,” Vetericus shook his head. “I have made them already. In the meantime, Fridigern is trying to teach a Chlotar to play the Ostro-Waari.”
Crocus stopped for a moment, an eyebrow slowly raised towards Vetericus. Vetericus, once he noticed Crocus was no longer beside him, stopped and stared back at him.
“I was wondering why the rendition sounded so ill. I suppose then I shall…” Crocus coughed. “Go observe the morale of the men.”
Vetericus found himself now chuckling as Crocus headed towards the same group he had left just moments ago.

A small horde of Tautans now filled the field, roughly five hundred, being shouted orders to Vetericus wasn’t close enough to hear from his concealed spot in the surrounding woods. He couldn’t spot Quintus amongst them. Perfect, the lack of their most prominent officer would do them greater harm. Only he and a token scouting force observed them, the bulk of their troops, which in total matched the Tautans, was a ways further back to complete the element of surprise. The Tautans soon began to set up camp, stripping their polished armour and beginning to dig firepits. Lowering their guard.
“Crocus, take the left flank. Ataulf, the right. I will vanguard the centre. Crush them between us and kill them all.”
Commands whispered, the three men broke off back to their commands, leaving behind a few scouts with banners in their possession. The five hundred between them would be spread thin, but fighting outnumbered had become something of their speciality. Besides, every advantage an ambusher could hope for was now on their side; Quintus would have to be thanked for delivering his men so thoroughly.

The three groups had all done their best to ensure they could get close as quickly and quietly as possible. Each had abandoned all but the lightest of armour and a single weapon, the arming sword each carried as a secondary for most, scabbards not included. Even their warpaint. Nothing scraped, jangled or hung loose. If no scouts had been posted, blood would be spilled long before they realised what was happening. Skulking forward independently of each other, the five hundred’s formation got looser and looser until it almost met in a large ‘U’ that encompassed the Tautan camp, coming to a short halt until the banners left with the scouts were raised in unison, the signal to attack. The Baltavigoc preference to join battle with chant and song was forgone for a march-turned-run in near silence on a course for the utterly oblivious Tautans.

A Tautan warrior busied himself with the gathering and occasional chopping of wood, absentmindedly wondering for how long they would be led on this fool’s errand to protect some river from what he could only assume were petty Chlotar barbarians. As if that wasn’t redundant, he thought. None of the Tautavigocs ever had to have their time wasted on things like these, they knew it was better and much happier to stay within Tautom, and they never had busybody officers like Quintus ordering them about on whims constantly. A grumble in his belly turned his mind to hoping someone had at least gone hunting to make use of the wood he now carried in his arms, hatchet balanced atop the stack. The sound of a twig cracking made him stop. Came from somewhere behind him. Dinner? Another crack. The bandits? He quickly turned to face where he guessed it came from. The sight of a sword-wielding maniac, soon joined by a line of his fellows, tearing through the underbrush just a few feet away made him drop what he was carrying in surprise. Before he could lean to grab his hatchet, draw his dagger or think to shout a blade through the gullet caused his breath to catch. A moment later and his blank eyes stared up at the shining sun as his blood stained the leaves, though saw nothing.

Like a bolt of lightning the Baltavigocs flew down the forested hill, tree-trunks and rocks passing by. The few Tautans foolish enough to try and gather food or lumber were cut down as they went and before long all that was left was the camp waiting out in the open field. Fingers reaffirmed grips on sword-handles as anticipation came close to bursting. Sudden shouting from the Tautans made it clear their presence was known, though it would have taken officers with skill far surpassing theirs to try and create some semblance of order out of the panic with the time they had been left. At best, the Tautans were underarmed and underarmoured; at worst, they had to scramble for whatever was nearest at hand. With satisfaction Vetericus noted his wings were to smash into the Tautans at nearly the same time as his vanguard. A pathetic attempt at a rank was formed by men who looked as if they were hiding behind their weapons rather than intending to use them opposed Vetericus, not even the slightest hesitation entering his step.

Deftly swatting aside the spear brought against him with the head of his axe, he stepped into the man’s guard and brought his axe’s haft around to smash him in the jaw. The spearman’s disorientation was brought to an end by Vetericus’ axe slicing into his neck with such force it nearly cleaved through. His corpse fell back, spine severed, and Vetericus seized the initiative to cause chaos with the gap he created, assisting those nearest. Soon, the Tautan resistance here was shattered.
“Forward! And forward again! Into battle we march, with God by our side!”
On the left, Crocus was leading his men similarly. From the vanguard he heard a shout followed by cheering, and then a chanting that grew out along their line. Knowing Vetericus was breaking through, Crocus spurred his own men on.
“Cut them down, sons of Baltia! Don’t let them regroup!”
Crocus’ sword tasted flesh in the rare occasions he engaged, instead preferring to direct where and when to fight, the Tautans before his wing rent asunder by the ferocity of their attack. Before he knew it the ground between himself and the rough centre of the camp opened up, blocking his view of the third wing across from himself. He could only assume they too had broken through.

Vetericus saw the right flank stall for a moment longer than the left from where he stood but it soon joined the now universal charge. Those within the camp had had longer to prepare, the occasional pocket of resistance popping up, but never enough to hold. Any time the rampage through the camp was halted, the other wings would wrap around and surround. The number of Tautans surrendering began to mount, though most fell before they even had the chance to. The most valiant amongst them were the officers, some miraculously scraping together formidable resistances which, upon briefly beating back a few overeager Baltavigocs, taught the attackers a degree of respect for their foe. Nonetheless, between presences of Crocus and Vetericus, all within the camp were either dead, or had thrown their weapons aside.

Vetericus and a few others, now echoing the events of the past year uncannily, went about deducing the faith and loyalties of those surrendered. As it had been, most were executed where they stood. This time, the rest were imprisoned and a few Baltavigocs marched them back to the nearby Chlotar garrison. Crocus meanwhile assessed their losses, pleased to hear of nothing irreversible; light woundings primarily, but a few which cut deeper and would keep some out of any further immediate fighting.
“Vetericus!”
The shout of a Baltavigoc suddenly drew his attention. Wiping his blood-coated axe clean on the unsoiled portion of the tunic of a dead Tautan, he stood to watch those nearest the source of the noise part to let a man pass. Vetericus found himself, axe in hand, staring at the only survivor from the city left on the field; Quintus, once again surrounded by the hundreds of corpses of his subordinates, and hundreds of Baltavigocs.
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Narcotic Dollie Weasel Wrangler

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Skadan Castle, Training Grounds


Once she had verified that her charge was tucked in safe and sound for the night, Gundiberga had gone to the training yard, passing the time by hurling her throwing knives at straw training dummies. Her aim was impeccable, as always, so she had taken to trying for more and more obscure spots, like the buttons on its shirt. The king’s shouting still cut through the air, his fury cackling like thunder in the cold, bleak night sky. While some people found it hard to sleep through, the blonde warrior believed the king's booming hatred for God to be reassuring most of the time.

Still, it was hard to sleep through such a thing, especially when all the king's magic ever made her want to do was slaughter the religious. For the next knife she imagined the dummy was a priest and the corners of her mouth quirked up into a wide, snarling sort of grin as the weapon flew through the air and imbedded itself right where the left eye should have been.

“Good throw”, a voice remarked from the shadows at the yard’s edge, followed by a knife that flew past her, plunging into the dummy’s coarse simulacrum of a pair of legs. A large dark stain broke away from the penumbra, gradually taking shape as a human figure as it moved into the torchlight. Its features were half-obscured in the leaping, inconstant light, but the glinting of a blade under its cloak gave away its identity clearly enough. Even in Skadania, only one person went about with an unsheathed knife all day long.

Ratechi stopped at a brief distance from her and squinted in the dummies’ direction. “Pity we don’t have enough proper targets in here, but the elder wouldn’t stand us wasting people like this. And the king, either.” He made as if to throw a glance at the greater tower, but his left eye remained half-closed and fixated on his interlocutor.

“Hm,” the blonde hummed in agreement, admiring the other’s perfect aim before she turned to face the man with a blade for an arm. The weapon in question seemed to take on an ominous glow in the low light of the moon, but was still mostly obscured by the guard’s cloak. “Hello Ratechi,” Gundiberga greeted, tilting her head up to meet the stare of the eye that was still on her. “Strange to see you out and about without the king’s soothsayer. To what do I owe this honor?”

The Farigai nodded and gestured with his one hand by way of salutation. “It’s he that sends me on this errand, so we're not far in intent.” He turned back to face the woman as he spoke. “I, and we all, know that your devotion and hatred of the Enemy are exemplary,” he continued, “And we know also that Dalgiserius trusts you and your charge greatly in his scheme for Udos. It wouldn't be my place to question our king, but it's my duty -” he fingered the Locust-head effigy hanging on his chest “- to make sure his trust is not misplaced.” His arm-blade flashed as he twitched it under its draping. “Can the King of all Lamperts rely on you, Gundiberga?”

She returned the question with a blank look at first, a neat crease forming between her brows as she drew them together. Her ink black eyes drifted to Locust-head at the center of him, then shifted to the sword-arm shuddering beneath his onyx mantle, before they finally settled on his face again. Gudiberga moved her head in a slow, deliberate, owl-like tilt as her pale lips quirked up into a deranged and toothy grin. “Always,” the blonde answered, the wild look that was so common to the warrior back in her eyes once again. “I am at the king’s full disposal. He may always depend on me to carry out his commands diligently.”

“Good.” Ratechi nodded, his stump coming to rest. “Then what I say shouldn't be any trouble. We don't doubt your good will, but the king’s ward…” His eyes narrowed again, either in focus or disgust. “She may be too feeble to carry the fate of us all on her shoulders. We will follow to ensure she doesn't stray from the path our liege set for her. If she tries to hide anything, or if we must intervene,” he raised his blade into view, pointing it at the shieldmaiden, “we’d like to know we can count on you to do what's necessary.”

At this bit of news Gundiberga frowned deeply. “The little fox is loyal,” she stated in a tone that was starting to sound frustrated. “...and not as weak as she first appears.” The shield maiden couldn't really blame Ratechi for the assumption as Antonia was too skinny and gangly for her own good, but in the three years she'd been under Gundiberga's guard the girl had been nothing but faithful to their king. Plus the princess's archery skills were getting quite impressive and had surpassed the blonde’s long ago.

Of course, Antonia was still shit at hand-to-hand combat and she had never once bashed a skull in, but with Gundiberga as her tutor it was only a matter of time.

“But if she strays, I’ll gut her myself,” she finished, her tone never wavering. “I do not abide by traitors.”

“I think the king would prefer her alive.” The blade was lowered, but the man’s gaze and words were still laden with a shade of distaste. “Certain of it, in fact. Whatever happens, do not be rash. Nor too quick to trust in the faith of a witch-spawn.” Ratechi spat over his right shoulder in superstitious haste before continuing. “Your fox has unclean blood in her veins. But I’m glad to hear you’ll keep it in check.” What passed for his left arm disappeared under his cloak once more. Without its gleam, his figure grew all the more similar to a shapeless mass of shadow. “She must not know, of course. Let her never be aware that she’s being watched for a misstep on this journey, not by us, not by you.”

“So it shall be,” Gundiberga nodded abruptly, crossing over to the training dummy and pulling the daggers from it's straw body. She came back to Ratechi and extended a sinewy arm, holding his knife out towards him hilt first. “I’ll wait for your people to find me and report on what I know once we’re inside Udos. The princess will stay the course or we’ll bring her back to our king together.”

The proffered knife was swallowed by the blackness with but a slight tug to mark its passing. “We will see to all in its due time.” Ratechi began to withdraw towards the denser dim of the walls. When he became little more than a rustle amid distant cries and a half-guessed movement, he paused. “Until then, be well. God is dead.” And, with nary a sound more, he was gone.
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Cantaware, Royal Seat of Eodaland





Inside Red-Wyvern Castle


‘’Hello? King Badastan? It’s me, o King. …Aelfgar. You were asking for me, my lord?’’
Having knocked, Aelfgar cautiously pushes against the great willow-door, and it creaks open to the quarters of the Eodaen King.
Catching a glimpse through the narrow opening, he spots the grotesque posture of King Badastan turned to the wall, where he looks through a wooden window-frame, wherefrom he analyzes the docks and the brilliant ocean beyond, with the setting sun shining on his mustached face. There is a live squirrel sitting on his left shoulder – her name is Lamble and it’s the Eodaen King’s best friend and spiritual advisor.

Aelfgar himself is a skinny man in a long weathered wooly overcoat. He has proportionally long legs, a pointy nose, long curly red-brown hair and a groomed stubble beard. Because of his legs he is nicknamed ‘longshanks’. Looks however can be deceiving, for Aelfgar is much stronger than he appears, and it is his inconspicuousness why he’s so frequently employed as Badastan’s ‘armed muscle’.

‘’Ah, Aelfgar.’’ The King speaks with a low hushed voice, his back turned to him, continuing peering at the pier. ‘’I trust you invited my beloved nephew over for his 16th birthday? ‘’

‘’Oh yes, I was going to strangle hi---‘’

Badastan abruptly turns around, pressing a finger against his thick lips.
‘’SSHHHHHHH!
You were going to deliver unto him his beloved uncle’s birthday gift.’’


‘’Uh, of.. of-course my lord…’’

Badastan continues, turning his back to him once again and back to the window,
‘’And am I to assume you did not see your delivery through?’’

‘’Not.. Not exactly my lord. The bed was empty. But I could tell he had slept on it that night. The window was open.. And a horse was missing when I went to see the stabl-‘’

‘’Aelfgar Aelfgar… Take a seat Aelfgar!’’

‘’Uh. Yes my King.’’

Aelfgar stumbles about a bit, looking around, half-tripping over the carpet as he made for the chair placed behind him.

‘’How’s the seat cushion, Aelfgar?’’
‘’My lord, this chair is mighty fine my lord!’’
‘’Good.
And how’s the wife?’’
‘’She’s also mighty fine.’’
‘’Good, good.’’

An uncomfortable silence ensues, before the Eodaen King resumes.
‘’Now listen Aelfgar, serious talk.
It seems you’ve let the little rodent miss out on his own birthday celebration. Have you any idea how sad his dear mother – my stunning wife – is?’’

‘’Probably mighty sad my lord.’
‘’Yes. Mighty sad. You could say that.
And how do you think I feel about not having seen my dear nephew for a year?’’


Aelfgar doesn’t really understand what he has to reply with.
‘’…Sad? I think?’’ He chuckles nervously.

Then the King turns about, threateningly approaching Aelfgar who is pinned down the chair from anxiety. The King’s massive frame covers the henchman in his tremendous shadow. Badastan looks down, and his brooding frown suddenly turns to a kindly smile as he gives the man a hearty pat on the back.
‘’There there, Aelfgar! I am not angry that you’ve failed me! Not least when there’s a tremendous crisis at foot that only you can resolve!’’
‘’Me, my lord?’’
‘’Yes you, Aelfgar. You see, some of my beloved subjects have gone rogue. And for the life of me I couldn’t understand why! Can you?’’

‘’Not at all, my lord. Your rule with great wisdom, and you’ve rid this Kingdom of religious superstition. And who doesn’t love squirrels?’’

Badastan nods. And so does the squirrel on his shoulder.
‘’Now see, I have reason to believe these subjects are now in league with the Celeseans of Syrome. Merchant vessels, but more importantly, peaceful squirrel clergy are under great duress at their unprovoked aggression…’’

Badastan places both hands on Aelfgar’s shoulders, gripping them and pulling him up with force.
‘’They. Must. Be. Stopped!’’

Aelfgar rubs the droplets of saliva off his face from Badastan’s indignant proclamation as he is faintly being held up by the King.

‘’And that’s where I come in?’’
‘’And that’s where you come in.
You’re a fine naval captain, Aelfgar. Mighty fine even. I trust you can handle yourself on the high seas, swashbuckling some squirrelphobic corsairs.
In the name of the one true Squirrel Demon – Xaexeanot – you will take the helm of the flagship, the Herald of the Golden Acorn, prepared for you at the Cantaware pier, and sail the fleet to Syrome. I’ve already sent a pigeon to Belisar of your arrival. We shall see if the old-fox will honor his alliance with Eodaland, hm? From there on, scour the Sea of Tears to bring these criminals to justice. Finding them won’t be hard once you’ve got access to their suppliers.

Nothing you can’t handle, I am sure?’’


….Aelfgar turns quiet from the huge assignment he has just been saddled up with. From an assassin to an admiral? After a moment of contemplation, the man gives slow be it hesitant response.
‘’…You are most generous, my lord.’’
He would never question King Badastan, of course, for such is Badastan’s divine power -- he could convince animals of the rightness of his religion. And Aelfgar is a reverent squirrel-follower.

‘’That’s not all: succeed, and I shall make you my new Earl... AND you’ll get a castle of your choosing! The world has great things in store for you, Aelfgar!’’ Badastan laughs and lets go of Aelfgar’s shoulders.

‘’Yes my King.’’ Being set free, he takes a few steps back towards the willow door, preparing to leave. Not least to get away from Badastan’s sweaty odour. ‘’I shall see it done, my King. With the Squirrel-demon as my witness, this unruly pack of traitors shall rue the day they raised swords against the Eodaen Kingdom!’’

‘’Oh, and if you happen to come across Prince Alric, send him my regards.’’

‘’Yes I will kill-- ‘’
Badastan frowns sternly, about to interrupt, and Aelfgar immediately revises:
‘’--deliver him his delayed birthday gift.’’
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Curtain Wall of Tautom


“Open the gates.”
“Do we have to?”
“If you don’t he’ll start screaming and make us parade march again.”
With a sigh of frustration, the guardsman’s friend walked off in the direction of the gatehouse. Taking a moment to stare back into the city of Tautom a flurry of things flew through his mind; he longed to be off duty. Just a few more hours, and then he could return to the roaring nightlife of Tautom. Oils, incense and perfumes; play-fighting with the local rapist and every other worldly delight he could imagine. Wistfully he let the thoughts fade and returned his gaze to the band of warriors trudging up to the gates, Quintus at their head. He didn’t like Quintus. As far as he was concerned Quintus did nothing but stand in the way of his fun, apart from finally relenting on making them wear armour. It felt good to be free of those metallic constraints. Still, it could be worse. He’d sent a bunch of men into the docks for some naval exercises or something. He didn’t really care, he’d gotten enough of those pointless busybody jobs from his downer of a commander to last a lifetime. Let somebody else suffer it he says, life should be for pleasure!

The weight of the great gate shifting could almost be felt atop the wall, slowly creaking open at the hands of several men, and a rudimentary pulley system. The guardsman kept an eye out on the treeline that more or less now marked the only border Tautom had left. Land beyond those trees teemed with the Chlotar hordes, the kind of boorish people he would never want to tangle with. All the more reason for Quintus and his patrol to hurry back in, and hurry in they did. The guardsman crossed the wall to glance down at the men now inside, yelling to his comrades in the gatehouse.
“They’re in! Close it!”
Quintus, hearing his voice, tilted his head all the way up to the top of the wall, having to shout for his words to be made out.
“The Laelae flows free again! And we found a trophy in the process!”
The guardsman wanted to disdainfully reply with sarcasm, but held his tongue.
“Sounds like good news, sir!”
Quintus nodded, pausing to say a few words he couldn’t hear to the patrol that was spreading out around him, presumably making them resume their watch on the walls as they made their ways to the towers which encased the stairs up and down. It will take a lot of foot rubs before they’ll walk happily again, thought the guardsman. Quintus drew his attention again.
“I am off to oversee the docks. Make sure that banner hangs nice and high so the Chlotar dogs know what’s been done to them!”
Chlotar? Hadn’t it been bandits? Chlotars resorting to banditry, most likely. No surprise. They probably didn’t even know how to grow or hunt their own food, it’s a wonder they even have any kind of a civilization.

The patrol piece by piece got back onto the walls, filling in the more vacant spots of the skeleton garrison Tautom could scrounge up these days. He got a close look at a few of them as they walked by, patting some sympathetically on the shoulder as he noticed their dejected demeanor; being near Quintus made him depressed too. The banner they brought with them did shock him a great deal however as it was in the red and black of the despised Baltavigoc Guard. If Quintus had managed to grab one of those, Cauroman won’t be happy at all. The image of Cauroman enraged, slapping away uselessly at Tautom’s impenetrable walls, made the man practically giddy. The banner was hoisted directly over the gates, hung like a corpse made an example out of. The guardsman might just actually spend the rest of his watch happy for once. That only lasted for a few minutes, until a dagger cut so deeply and ruthlessly into his throat it severed his vocal cords.

The Tautan watchman fell like a sack of potatoes, head smashing with a crack onto the flagstones as his hands grabbed for his throat in a hopeless attempt to staunch the bleeding. Vetericus glanced to his left, checking the progress of his fellows. All along Tautom’s southern curtain wall the garrison was cut to ribbons quickly and efficiently by the five hundred Baltavigocs now spread out amongst them, with the majority of them focused on the three southern gatehouses. Sure that the plan was unfolding smoothly, Vetericus quickly took off to the right, through the third gatehouse and the collapsing bodies of the Tautan guard, Baltavigocs already working to drag the gates back open. Knowing now that the hardest fighting would begin along the wall to the Tautovigoc Gate, Vetericus rushed to stand alongside his kin.

Concealed in the trees, the combined Baltavigoc and Chlotar army had split into three groups. First Captain Crocus was to take the left gate, his command composed entirely of Baltavigocs. The hosts of Chlotaringen were split between the two remaining gates, Palace Mayor Vierland taking the centre and his second set for the right-most gate. The sight of the red and black banner hanging from the wall was their cue to get ready, Crocus watching the gates like a hawk. Minutes dragged by, a mixture of excitement and subdued nervousness contending with each other. At last, the first of three gates started to open. Vierland could be seen tearing out of the treeline alone for a few seconds before the stomping charge of his soldiers followed in his heels, Chlotaringen colours sailing by in their wake. Crocus glanced around at those nearest before standing, turning to face the thousands behind him.
“The wait is over! We are taking the head! Let not a single Baltavigoc be beaten into that city by any man alive!”
Crocus, not being the youngest man, was by no means the fastest, but Tautom city being so close to falling without its defenders even realising lent him speed. Out of respect his pace was not exceeded, which indeed turned out to be a wise decision as the gate ahead, at that moment seeming a hundred leagues away, had not yet begun to open.

The fighting in the gatehouses was confused and sometimes pathetic. Some within the Tautan garrison at first thought it was spontaneous mock fighting. Baltavigoc determination showed them the error of their assumption, and Vetericus charging into the third gatehouse helped put a swift end to their resistance. A Baltavigoc glanced through an arrow slit, picking out the red and black warpaint of the host approaching their gate with ease. Knowing time was of the essence, he moved to rush the gate’s mechanism open, joined by several others quickly. Ahead of their gatehouse shouts, ringing of steel and splintering of wood made it clear the first resistance had finally been encountered, Vetericus bounding out after it with a slightly shorter axe he’d managed to find as a substitute for the one left temporarily with Crocus.

At last the two gates started to open, and with enough haste so as to prevent any need for waiting. The narrow bridges, the only crossing points in Tautom’s great moat, would have proved a terrible bottleneck had their combined army tried to cross at once. With it split into three groups, Baltavigocs and Chlotarians alike streamed into the streets of Tautom, the bewildered citizenry near the gates quickly retreating deeper into their quarters and locking themselves inside their houses. Spreading out so as to ensure their foothold, like water rushing through a riverbed the Baltavigocs led the way through the Amalian quarter. Moving the line forward, sometimes with assistance from the Chlotar-sympathetic Amalian population, the Chlotaringen contingent cut down any foolish enough to resist in the rear. Baltavigocs in the towers leading up to the walls opened the way for reinforcements coming through the gates. In mere moments the grand curtain wall of Tautom, impossible to assail frontally, had been utterly compromised. Now all that stood in the way of the palace district was a single tower of the Tautovigoc gatehouse, certain to not hold long against the assault.

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_______________________________________________________________

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The sun had barely risen, the air was thick with swamp stink, and Antonia had never been happier in all her life.

“Stop smiling so much, it’s obscene,” Gundiberga grumbled from her spot next to the princess. The two companions and their small group of escorts had been on the road for five days now, and while Gundiberga’s mood had only blackened with each passing sunset, Antonia was thriving. Though the nights were frigid and her bedroll was less than comfortable, without the king’s oppressive aura and midnight shouting sessions she was thinking clearer than she had in years.

“It’s just that I’ve never been outside of the city before,” Antonia explained, before gasping and pointing at a dilapidated tree stump. “Look, a crow!”

“Of course it’s a fucking crow!” Gundiberga barked, causing her black gelding to pin his ears back apprehensively. “This place is infested with the damned things. Why do you think they call it ‘Crow Valley?’”

“Well I know that,” Antonia huffed, somewhat petulantly. “But that one is...um...really big?”

Gundiberga stopped then, halting her horse and peering out through the marsh's haze to where her charge had pointed. Sure enough, perched atop the remains of an oak tree was a large black bird, so gigantic in fact that it appeared to be almost human in size. Immediately the warrior held up her fist to signal for the group to stop and the bird chose that moment to twist its head in their direction, its eyes snapping open and glowing with a sickly green light. “That’s no crow,” the blonde started, tightening her grip on her halberd. “It’s a--,”

“Night Bird!” one of the guards behind them screeched in warning, prompting the monster to shriek and beat its giant wings to take flight.

“Back the way you came, little fox,” Gundiberga ordered, swatting the flank of the princess’s dappled grey mare before the redhead could argue. “Stay back until I call for you!” she yelled as the horse whinnied and took off, racing away from the oversized crow and passing the soldiers as they were readying their weapons. Once she was sure Antonia was out of range the shield maiden turned to the men and shouted over the crow’s wailing, “Mind its claws, boys!”

The night bird let out another howl before descending on the group, its talons gleaming menacingly as it swooped in and raked them across the face of of an unlucky archer. The young man let out a gurgled sort of noise, an eye hanging out of its socket by a mere thread of gore as he slumped forward on his mount. “Establish a perimeter,” she continued, spurring her horse onwards. “Archers in the back, everyone else to the front. Keep the damned thing back so they can shoot it down!”

The group spread out and formed ranks seamlessly, the archers loosing arrow after arrow into the beast’s inky feathers while the others brandished their halberds when it got too close and sank their spear tips into whatever part they could manage. It was all going well and the night bird seemed destined for a swift death until it feinted a strike to the east side of the circle, but with a flap of it's great wings it had pulled a complete about-face and was barreling full speed toward Gundiberga. The warrior pulled back on her mount’s reins hard, causing him to rear back and shield her from the brunt of the attack. The gelding’s cry was piercing as the night bird drug its claws through the horse’s soft belly, entrails spilling out as he collapsed lifelessly to the ground. Gundiberga managed to bail off and roll away to avoid being crushed beneath his corpse, getting her halberd up right as the night bird started bearing down on her.

An arrow flew threw the air, burrowing deep into the side of the monster’s neck. The night bird shrieked again, pulling up at the last second and changing course for its new attacker. Gundiberga was able to roll again to avoid its talons, squinting when she stopped moving long enough to see where the beast was headed now. She cursed when she finally spotted what it was bound for.

Tied up at the base of an ash tree Antonia’s mare was prancing nervously, and halfway up said tree the princess had found a perch to shoot from. “Shoot it down!” Gundiberga shouted over the din, already on her feet and running for the tree. She watched as arrow after arrow missed its mark or sunk into a non vital area with increasing concern, only to be filled with relief when Antonia nocked her own arrow and fired the projectile directly into the night bird’s right eye. It gave a final cry as it folded in on itself, crumpling and falling towards the valley floor. In the midst of its violent descent the night bird managed to clip the branch Antonia was positioned on and the freckled girl gave a startled yelp as it gave way and sent her careening towards the ground as well.

Gundiberga got to her charge just a few seconds before the rest of her guard did, dark eyes searching for any obvious injuries. “Are you well?” the shield maiden finally asked as the other soldiers came to stand next to her, with the exception of two that had gone to behead the nightbird to be absolutely sure of its death.

Antonia’s mouth opened and closed once or twice as she tried and failed to take in any air, but eventually she was able to inhale with an explosive gasp. “Y-yes, I’m fine,” the blue eyed girl managed. “It just knocked the wind out of me, that’s all. Did I get it?”

“We all got it,” Gundiberga snorted, but the skin around her eyes had softened considerably now that she was certain the girl was fine. She extended an arm and yanked the younger woman up, rough hands brushing all the dust she could from the princess’s clothes. “Next time you disobey a direct order, I’ll skin you and make myself a nice new pair of gloves,” the warrior threatened, delivering a slap to the back of Antonia’s head to drive the point home. “Now go help the men get the horses ready to move, and I’ll go put that poor bastard out of his misery,” she said, jerking her pointed chin in the direction of the soldier moaning with his eyeball hanging out of his head.

“Are you certain he can’t be healed?” Antonia asked, sympathy bleeding into her features as she stared at the soldier who was folded listlessly over his own saddle.

Gundiberga shook her said. “No, little fox, the talons of the night bird are toxic. He wouldn’t make it through the night without the proper salves, and we are at least another two days from Udos.”

“Oh,” Antonia said simply, voice suddenly small. “I see. Well, I hope he goes with peace then.”

“I’ll make it quick,” Gundiberga conceded, shouldering her halberd and heading in his direction. “Help the men ready the horses, I want to be out of this stinking swamp before nightfall.”
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