Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

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Past -- George part 2/2

The dust that kicked up shrouded the mound into a tan silhouette, where it pulsed and moved, as an unknown beast. The blob heaved and a gut wrenching roar blew the dust away as the baritone shook the ground, revealing the monster underneath.

Seemingly hundreds of massive snakes tangled into a knot hidden away by the slithering necks and great mouthed head snapped at the troops. The viper like heads whipped and struck out, its monsterous screeching maws glistened with rows of teeth as they tangled around and snatched the unsuspecting soldiers.

The serpent of many mouths chewed and spit the blood of it’s victims as the sound of metal crushing and teeth sawing through flesh added a macabre harmony to the cacophony of curdled screams and beastly roars. It’s long greyish necks speckled with scarlet as it whipped around to the horror of the troops.

As the mighty jaws of the beast snatched and threw the troops, George’s eyes thinned into a line, his heart swelling with sudden fear. Never before had he heard of such a hydra, of such a monster and gorgan, and now before his eyes a great otherworldly beast of tangled snakes chewed and swallowed his mighty army like they were simple meals.

However caught off guard George was, he wasn't about to let this abomination have its way. He brought his sword to point and kicked the flanks of his horse.

The white stallion reared backwards and retorted the demand with a loud snort. George slapped the horse’s rump and this time the war horse shot forward, hooves digging into the recently upturned loom.

The cold crisp autumn wind cut into George’s grey eyes, causing them to tear up as he charged, his arm ready to strike one of the thick whipping necks.

The mound of knotted serpents grew to monsterous and gigantic sizes as he approached where it was eating into his line of troops, the soldiers desperately swinging and thrusting their blades to fend off from it’s cobra like swipes.

George let his arm fall, his sword whistling through the air as one of the fleshy reptilian necks pulsed beside his charging horse.

Before his glistening sword could bite, the red skies reflecting off its sheen, a powerful head slammed into him. The great maw of the beast wrapped its lips and grated its dagger like teeth around George’s chest plate as the crushing force tore him from his saddle.

The snake head shook George wildly as it chewed, eager to cut through the metal barrier that saved his soft flesh from the ruthless assault. George felt his blood rushing to his head as the momentum blurred his senses into a mess of confusion and stress.

His grip tightened around the handle of his sword, eager to hold on. As he grew more and more distressed, and the scraping sounds grew louder as the smell of strained metal permeated off his chest and into his nose along with the stench of the alien beast’s acrid maw.

A subtle burning grew inside his chest as he was swung left and right. The emergence of magic tickled his body as a reservoir of energy electrified his skin and cleared his pounding mind. The hot swarm of power swelled in his muscles and his pupils shrunk to pin points as he gritted his teeth, the power of stromism taking over.

His blood rushed to his fist and he gripped his sword tightly. With a sudden powerful thrust, brimming with magical might George drove his sword into the roof of the beast's mouth, a grunt of strength emphasising the stroke.

The snake roared in pain as a dark puss oozed from its mouth, George slipping out from the bed of teeth. His body rolled from the mouth and plummeted through the air, slapping hard as he bounced off of another swinging head and landing on another aggressive neck. All around him the snake heads whipped and lashed at his troops below and blocked his vision.

The neck snapped out and looped around as the head that the neck belonged too became aware of his intrusion. No light of the red sky shone on George as the massive necks of the beast blocked out the light, and only the glare of the evil eyes sparkled in the consuming darkness of the slithering battlefield George now found himself in.

His eyes narrowed as more of the heads turned to him, fearful of his close proximity to their core and eager to tear him to pieces with sawing teeth.

George hugged the rough skin of the beast tightly as he tried to upright himself on the slithering flesh. His body glew with power as the stromist magic permeated from his skin and from underneath his armor. A white light overtook the darkness of his pupils and shimmered from behind the grey iris of his eye.

He planted his feet firmly onto the neck of the beasts, awaiting their onslaught as more and more heads turned with drooling reptilian lips. The wind rushed at him as his battlefield moved and the fight began.

A massive dart shaped head of one of the snakes blasted by him, his feet running along the neck of the irritated beast, leaping from the floating skin as the head crashed in onto itself.

He landed onto the slick edge of another neck, his boots slipping as he tried to scramble up top. He could hear the previous head behind him, roaring through a blood gurgling mouth as it tried to dislodge it’s spearing teeth from it’s own neck.

With one hand claiming his sword and his other tried to reach for the top of the neck, he soon felt his balance failing. His body slipped down the side of the neck. George swallowed a helpless scream as he felt the air take him. His body tingled with magic and his mind festered with a sudden fear as the pillow of wind was all he felt around his body. He closed his eyes to hide their panic.

The wind suddenly halted as a ghostly hand grabbed his free hand, and yanked him back onto the neck. George’s helmet flew off from his head from the force. The metal helmet falling down into the scream of the battle below. George’s black hair spilled around him, long from the days of war. His eyes shot open as his feet felt the squishy battlefield return underneath.

The blue eyes of a chestnut haired ghost looked at him sternly.



All at once a dozen heads whizzed towards the pair. Together they leaped onto the neck of another as the heads slammed against each other with a skull cracking sound. Few of the heads spun and whipped back towards their new battleground.

The pair ran up the neck, wind whipping them as their knees bent to match the angry squirming of the beast below. As the head perked up the neck turned upright and the two jumped.
e and the pumping magic, George thrusted his sword into the air.

A great cheer took the troops throats as they rallied under victory. Dust coughed from their lungs as they roared fro George, and shook their shields in a sudden vibration of relief and excitement that so soon follows the end of such a slaughter.

The wind caught them for only a moment as they brought their swords to point and dove back down onto the face of the surprise beast.

With perfect synchronization Caleb drove his ghastly sword into the eye of the beast while George jabbed the other eye. The head howled with pain, and macabre remnaints of one of George’s troops spitting out from it’s maw as ooze popped from its bloodied sockets.

Another head struck out at them, it’s lower jaw scratching up the neck of the dying head, mouth agape and wet with crimson. George grunted and kicked his feet off from the howling head, channeling his magic as he sprinted towards the approaching snake.

As a blur, George leapt into the open mouth of the snake, but before the beastly head could recognize what had happened, the back of it’s skull burst open in a bloom of carnage. George came barreling out, a battle cry on his lips as he leapt from the head and into the air, falling back to the bulk of the fight.

The wind watered his bestial eyes, and he brought his sword before him. The blade cut through the air as he plummeted, the pitch and dark center of the abomination slowly growing bigger as he descended. It’s cavernous center of knotted hills and shadowed valleys threatened to swallow him as he fell. Behind him a glowing ghost fell, eager with a sword of his own.

The darkness took the pair as they joined the knot of the many headed beast. A magical glow pulsed from the center, and slowly, one by one, the heads fell to the red stained field under the crimson sky, life exiting their dark orbs.

With each stroke of magic, and each powerful swing, another head was disconnected. The massive necks slammed the ground and caused it to quake underneath the feet of the surviving troops. The sky rained the scarlet droplets of the massive head’s demise. Their limp forms slapped the ground harshly and forced the troops to hide behind their shields in fear. It seemed to last forever as the gargantuan necks littered the ground with large crashes and the great heads cracked and clicked as their thick skulls slammed against each other and into the quaking ground.

Slowly the men looked past their shields as the onslaught against them stalled. Before their astonished eyes they saw George silhouetted by the scarlet void of the sky as he stood alone on a mountain of grey flesh, necks sprawling out from the fleshy spire, and blood flooding from the limp mouths of the evil heads. With an arm flexed from us
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by solamelike
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solamelike Probably not even real.

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Gattannia- Rehaven

Sunrise, another sleepless night. Charlie sat up as the orange light spilled through the slits in the window, the beams manoeuvring around the boards nailed to its frame. Outside was quite, no bird sang, nor where there any sounds of people or even… them . It had happened so suddenly, black rips appearing all over Gattannia, many believed it was the work of “The Kind One”, here to present himself to her followers, those where the first people to perish. The monsters attacked indiscriminately, it didn’t matter if you believed them to be good or evil, if you stood in their way, you were slaughtered.

Charlie heard movement and quickly scampered to the window, he peaked through the barricade and looked out into the small street, the street that once had many people he knew and loved. Mr Findle, Old Eric, people who were now gone. Black creatures where moving down the street, Charlie gasped suddenly as he saw them. The beings of an evil force, coming to take away the very nature of this world.

“No! No please!” A womans voice, Charlie spotted the church doors open and a woman was hurled out. A sacrifice for the creatures, it wasn’t rare to see these kind of displays, people believing the dark ones to be of the Kind One and therefore giving the black creatures people in which to destroy.

The creatures advanced on the woman, and Charlie could only watch as they ripped her apart.
This was the darkest of days.
It wouldn’t be long until everyone would be gone.

Gattannia- Chorkester – Mast Thornbreds Personal Chambers

“What is the meaning of this!” Mast Thornbred yelled in outrage, reaching for his sword that lay on the desk beside him. The royal guards were quick to enter, led by a man in long white robes, they had swords drawn towards the Emperor. “We have come for the throne, your highness” The robed man spat, a smile striking his face as the armed guards moved forwards. “The Kind One was very specific with what happens to you” He added, retreating behind the guards as the moved forwards, readying to strike at the emperor.

“What has that witch told you!” Mast exclaimed, his sword quickly entering his hand and finessing gently in the air, warding off the guards. “You must understand that what she has told you is a lie!” He continued, a sword flashed towards him and Mast was quick to block. The manoeuvre however left an opening in his side which a second guard took advantage of, slashing at Mast’s sleeping wear. He buckled but then quickly regained his defensive stance blocking another blade.

“You are all fools! Do you not see what she has done to you!” Mast slashed at the air, causing the guards to move back slightly and giving the emperor some room for movement. It was little help however as the Guards advanced forward once again, Mast swords struck true yet did not have the power to pierce the heavy armour of the Royal Guard. The same could not be said for the Guards attacks, which slashed through the silk of the emperors garbs and spilled his stomach.
The guards jumped back as the deed was done, Mast fell to his knees, his hands clenching at his torso. “You….fools..” He muttered before collapsing into the pile of gore that lay in front of him.

Just outside of George’s Battle Camp, The Imperial Provinces

“Miss Helton, we have arrived” The strong, heavily armoured man spoke softly to the small woman beside him, they looked ahead to the fort, the structure of safety and, most importantly, where newly appointed Emperor George was located.

“It would seem that way wouldn’t it” Skyler replied smiling softly, her long white robes had been replaced with the torn remains of military gear, her once blonde flowing hair was now a bob cut more suitable to the wilderness she has been traversing. The party of fifty had slowly dripped down to just these two individuals, each man laying down their life for the woman they cared for.

“Now we can relax, we can be wed soon” The strong man said happily, an arm circling around Skyler into an embrace. “Yes dear, we shall” She replied, her arms wrapping themselves along the man’s waist. “As I had promised, we will wed as soon as we enter the camp, there will be a priest I assume and we shall be together before plans are made with George.” Skyler said happily, her head nuzzling into the man’s chest. The guard smiled, they were finally here, the place that Skyler had told the others of, the place of safety. The place that they could not rest until they had reached it. They were here, together.

Skyler was glad the man’s last thought would be a happy one, his death was over quickly enough, his spinal column was rather exposed from the back, and he hadn’t even noticed the woman’s small agile hands slip the blade from his hip.

The man crumpled backwards as Skyler wiped away the blood, the knife landing softly on the grassy floor. She began the small walk towards the military base.

She was here, she would finally be with George again.
Nothing could stop her now.

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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Afina
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Afina Retired Account

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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by solamelike
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solamelike Probably not even real.

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Fort Centrum

Fort Centrum was a tall and imposing castle. It held the sky in its spires and a natural river spilled into its wide moat. From its thick stone towers the forest could be seen on the horizon, as well as small tendrils of smoke that wisped from where George’s camp had been.

The march was quick although long, but the troops were eager to finally get behind friendly walls and George had chosen Centrum, the fort presiding right next to the city of Salutem: The Imperial Provinces safest city after the fall of the capital. With the imperial lands split in two from the fall of the palace, Salutem had been hub capped as the center of the western half of the province, and where George had submitted their stand to firmly place its feet.

Inside George found the accomodations better than what he had suffered throughout the war, albeit still poor in comparison to the plush life of the palace. Williams suggest that perhaps they made their quarters in the city, but George dismissed it, claiming that this way they could keep a better account of their troops in the larger garrison provided by the fort.

A few citizens of the neighboring city even started making homes outside the tall thick walls of the fort, thinking perhaps in case the dark forces came this way, they would be safer closer to the building the Emperor himself put stock into.

Inside the grey walls of the fort, George laid out his little belongings he had become acquainted with during the war.

His room was fit for the garrison commander, and still it was not much more than a small desk, an almost empty bookshelf, a rickety bed with a thin mattress and four grey walls. Of course he had luckily got his hand on a few extra pillows, but even then no complaints ever left his lips or formed in his mind -- He was just happy to have a bed again.

Clearly this fort was built for pragmatism, and not show. George for the first time since he left the palace, he felt safe. Passing through the many doored gates, he was able to see just how amazingly thick and layered the stone walls of the fort were, and he was impressed. Only further was his amazed impression when the garrison commander explained to him how deep the foundations were, fit to outlast even the most steady sieges.

Either way, war was not on his mind -- he wouldn’t let it be, not for at least five minutes. Yes, five minutes, at least five minutes a day he would forget everything. The cool ignorance, even so brief, would chill his mind and warm his chest -- granting him what solace and sanity he could find -- but then he would quickly return to reality, and what buzzing soft smile graced his lips would straighten and he would be at war once more.

A solid knock vibrated off the thick wooden door, a seal of the portal that so matched the rest of the wide fort. George looked up from his tiny pile of things and tucked a long dark lock behind his ear as he stood, a long simple earthen tunic falling over his knees.

“Come in,” He bellowed, feeling the cool of his five minutes fading.

A metal faced helmet popped past the door and a guard spoke quickly, “Skyler Helton is here to see you, my Emperor.”

George cocked a brow and he chewed the inside of his cheek. What excitement he would be feeling seemed to fall numb on his stomach, his emotions so drained from the loss of his sister, father, and best friend. Even his joy seemed bland, sore from his reuniting with Sophia.

“I’ll be right out,” George nodded slowly.

“Well, if you excuse me sir, she seems content with coming right in,” The guard spurted.

George scratched his thick stubble and nodded again, “show her in.”

Skyler entered the room, looking far different from the woman the emperor had met mere months ago. Her hair was cut short and sat messily on her head. Skylers once untouched face now lay a large scar across the left cheek, her arms were toned, strengthened by the battles she had fought to make her way to the garrison. The elegant robes she had once worn were now replaced with clothes more suitable for a soldier, a short sword hanging on her hip.

“Hello George” Skyler greeted, moving a few steps into the room. The bow of George’s lip curved into a gentle smile. Despite her changes, the sight of a familiar face warmed him just enough to fight off the numbing sedative his heart had covered his head in since the departure his sister.

“Hello Skyler,” He spoke back, uncrossing his arms and taking a friendly stance. The guard slowly slipped from the room, closing the door behind him.

“It's… been awhile” Skyler replied, moving closer, her hand moving to her face in an attempt to cover her scarred cheek.

George stepped close and hesitantly brought a hand up to her’s. His eyes slimmed to suspicious slits as he observed her slender fingers hiding the scar. He curled a pointing finger and cocked his head, “what happened?”

“War happened George..” She spat back harshly, then exhaled deeply. “Sorry..” Her eyes met with the floor as she looked down, her hands scrunched into fists as she sighed deeply once again.

George’s curled fingers formed a fisted ball as he retracted it. His suspicion turning to frustration as he let it fall back to his sides.

“I know,” He said sternly, “although I had hoped that the fringes of Jerrovia at least might have been spared.”

“Gattannia has fallen, Mast hasn't helped matters by sealing himself off in the capital. Any news from the other vassals?” Skyler asked “I have only heard rumours on my travels.”

“Charessia is in tatters, @Darkspleen never posts anymore, and overall chaos,” George groaned, “once I can stabilize the region, we can send aid… I just wish I could afford to split my forces now.”

I’m tired” He whispered in a nearly silent sigh, his mind sketching out his weary thoughts.

“I can only imagine…” Skyler muttered softly, embracing the man quickly and forcefully. Her arms wrapping around his waist.

George’s heart jumped, sending adrenaline into his arms at her quick movements. His teeth clenched and slowly relaxed as his reflexes realized he was indeed not being attacked. A deep sigh escaped him and his arms squeezed her back.

He found it hard to relax in her embrace at first, his senses and nerves so worked up and tense. But after a bit, he let go -- trying to remember exactly how close he was to her what seemed like an eternity ago. Through the flashes of battle, and the muscle memory of the feeling of his sister's body going limp, he only could find foggy memories of what he might’ve felt when he was with her so long ago. He wasn’t sure if he was suppose to hate the fog or accept it, but his numbed demeanor seemed to just let it go, and he squeezed her in between his arms.

“I missed you George… I doubt I would still be here if it wasn't for that” Skyler spoke softly, her face resting on George's chest as her eyes began to water. The time had moved slowly, and the travel from Gattannia had been brutal, but she was here.

A truth found it’s way to George’s lips as he frowned, “I was worried that something had happened to you. Many things had been lost- many people.”

He loosened his grip on the woman to look at her again, his grey eyes scanning her teary face, his mind trying hard to fight off the fog of war.

“A lot has happened.” He murmured.

“I want to help George, you are not sending me away again” Skyler said bluntly “I have many skills and I know I can be helpful” Skyler had practised this speech, listing what she was good at, reasons why she should stay, and yet as she spoke she felt like her argument was already losing.

George bit the inside of his cheek and nodded slowly, agreeing, “I won’t send you away again, this is the safest place, I fear.”

“Do we know what is happening, what are these creatures?” Skyler asked hopefully.

A strange look took over George, “I will know soon enough. But right now, all I know is that it correlates to-”

“-To the death of my sister,” George finished grimly.

Skyler looked into George's eyes. “George… I'm sorry...I didn't know” She said softly, her face filling with worry.

“How could you know,” George sighed. He felt blood trickle over his tongue as his teeth chewed into his cheek, not knowing what to say about the situation, only remembering the crushing pain.

Skyler was unsure of how to answer, and so instead nuzzled her head in to George's chest “If I can help, in anyway, just ask” She muttered softly.

“I’m still trying to figure it out myself,” George admitted quietly, his eyes trailed to the golden blade that laid on the thin desk, “all I know is that I will not let her death be in vain.”’’

“That sounds like a good plan and I will be with you every step of the way, we just need to know what the hell is happening..” Skyler replied, her thoughts trailing off.

“I’ll know soon enough,” George nodded.

“What’s the plan?” Skyler asked, hugging George tightly then releasing him, stepping back a few steps and glancing around the room.

“There is a being here with us, who I was told holds the answers to our questions,” George started, a determined look on his face, “tonight I will meet with him.”

“Alone?” Skyler questioned.

“It might be best,” George nodded.

“But, is it wise? How much can you trust this… ‘being’... How do you know that it knows what you are searching for?” The priestess asked.

“I trusted him once on the recommendation of three people I trust, I can trust him again.”

“Ok… I hope the meeting will go well…” Skyler asked, slightly confused. “What are we doing now? Anything need doing?” She asked, moving the topic on quickly.

George let out a sigh and sat on his bed, “I’m waiting for the meeting. I’m supposed to be resting, but I can’t get my mind off of things. This being, he is-”

George paused as he mimicked the word Das used, “a precursor.”

Skylers expression was quick to change. “A… precursor?” She repeated questioningly. “I… can I come with you?” She asked hopefully.

“I’m not sure if you should,” George scratched the back of his head, “I have no idea how it will turn out.”

“Do you know anything about the precursors?” She asked

“Yes,” George admitted, “although Josephine was more schooled in the Imperial Legends than I, I did pay attention enough to Reginald’s stories.”

“Well wouldn’t you rather bring someone who has studied them? Who has had library sections full of the legends, the stories?” Skyler added, knowing that she must come with George, she must know what was fact and fiction in her readings.

“Maybe,” George said thoughtfully, “but I have a feeling that things we were taught might be a little different in actuality.”

“Would you rather take a letter opener into battle or nothing? Same deal.” Skyler said, thinking how stupid the comparison was after she had already said it.

“Fine,” George gave in. He paused, thinking, “be ready to meet them in five hours.”

“Sounds good to me, I will wear my best robes” she joked, moving to sit on the bed beside George.

George looked over at Skyler, lifting a finger and touching her scar gently. His lips contorted into a look of worry, “so much has changed, so much will change.”

“The world seemed so simpler back then… my only worry was being bored..” Skyler took George's hand in her own, “Atleast they didn’t take my head off..” She noted, forcing a smile as she moved the man's hand away from her scar.

“At least,” George gve a small humored smile as he agreed. His fingers slipped from her hand and poofed her short hair from out behind her ear, “did they get this too?” He joked with a subtle wink.

“It was made for convenience… less to grab “ She smirked.

George cocked a brow, but it quickly settled into understanding, “and this?”

His fingers lightly pressed a toned and tight muscle that slightly protruded from her arm.

“Well… I didn't have servants carry everything for me the entire way here, you can blame this” Skyler stood up, sliding her sword from its sheath, the short blade battle worn and chipped. “I believed I would never use it, was for decoration mostly. Had to swing it a few times on the way here..”

“You didn’t travel alone did you?” George asked, a hint of worry in his voice.”

“I had many men… none of them made it however..” Skyler replied softly.

George’s eyes widened, “oh…”

He bit his lip, “it’s too dangerous out there.”

“Yes… I can agree with that..” Skyler muttered softly, then shook her head to bring herself back into the room “Anyway, i should probably begin to get ready.. this will be an important meeting and all…” Skyler sheathed her sword with a flourish.

“It will be.”

George looked down at the floor, his mind slipping to a vision he had not long before she had arrived. As he slipped into his thoughts and memories, a soft flutter found his lips and his eyes widened in shock, finding Skyler looking back at him -- her lips tenderly pressed to his.

Pursing his lips and ending the kiss with a subtle smack of their lips, George gave her a small smile. Skyler curved her lips in reciprocation then poked his shoulder playfully, a tiny wink leaving her eye as she turned and ran off.

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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

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The room was cold, only a single slitted manhole letting in any fresh air. The stone walls gave it the feel of a deep cave, but the flickering orange torches made it dry and welcoming despite it’s cavernous atmosphere.

It was spacious, with little decoration besides a few purple imperial banners in between the braziers. Wooden chairs circled a large table, giving it the feeling of a conference room where military leaders might convene.

Instead of commanders and generals however, sat the mighty minotaur Freg, his great book resting on the table heavily. Next to the silent bull sat the Precursor, his face revealed and his flesh carved runes that etched in his face showing.

The golden skinned being of perfect symmetry sat with his hands folded as he leaned forward, a stoic gaze falling on the bewildered George who sat across from the pair, Skyler hooked to his arm.

“So you spoke to Sosolam?” The precursor questioned suspiciously. George simply nodded, his attitude in awe. The runes tickled the back of his mind’s eyes as his gaze glanced and bounced to each of them.

“I spoke to him enough to know your name,” George spoke in a trance. The precursor leaned forward slightly, a look of interest in his eyes, “go on.”

“Tomko,” George named the being, “Sosolam had told me to trust you two, but further more he told me to seek answers from you two.”

“I see,” Tomko sat back into his chair, the wood creaking softly, “what do you know?”

“Nothing,” George admitted, “I hadn’t much time with Sosolam before those beasts interrupted us.”

“Damn,” Tomko cursed, “then we must start at the beginning.”

“The very beginning,” Freg added with a low grunt.

Tomko raised a hand, catching George’s stare as he spoke, “In the beginning, there was the smoke and there was the mist.”

“From the wild smoke was born the beings who enjoyed the freedom of chaos and free will, and from the serene mist was born the beings who enjoyed the serenity of peace and order. Immediately the beings escaped from the tendrils of the smoke and mist, to meet on an ancient battleground.

They fought and fought, neither side gaining the upper hand on the other, and soon the ancient space between the smoke and the mist was piled high with the bodies of both the Smoke born and the Mist born. But still they fought on the macabre mound.

From their mutilated corpses two brothers were born, of neither smoke or mist, but of both. Prax and Solam are their names. Together this young force -- these Brothers of Harmony -- hid away in the mountain of the fallen, and took the power of the failed warriors and bent them into a new realm. From the bodies of both mist and smoke, smoke and mist, a balance was formed in between the realms of both. This was Ampexida.

Immediately the leader of the Smoke Born, the Tainted King, sought to claim this land of balance in the name of the chaos, while the leader of the Mist Born, The Serene Ruler, sought to claim the land of harmony in the name of the order.

Prax and Solam immediately cast a powerful spell, creating a magical barrier between the land of Ampexida and the lands of the Smoke and Mist. The Smoke was cast into it’s own realm, and the Mist into it’s own. Ampexida was then cast into it’s own realm, and the void -- the ancient battleground -- remained as a buffer should any being ever escape the barriers, thus creating the four realms.

The brothers smiled at their work, happy to have saved the land of balance from both stillness and chaos. But then they saw their new home plain. So they dressed it with water and plants, and made their home in a gentle green valley between mighty mountains formed from what remained of the fallen warriors of the first war. This was the valley Unifax.

So they lived on the realm Ampexida in her valley Unifax happily. Soon however, they grew lonely and they grew bored. Prax had an idea, and Solam had an idea. Solam crafted a white orb from the air to speak to the realm of the mist, and Prax crafted a dark orb from the dirt and rock to speak to the realm of the smoke.

They spoke to the beings of the mist, and the beings of the smoke. To the greater beings of each, to the lesser. Eventually they found the smoke born and the mist born to be sore and sour over the Brothers of Harmonies intervention in their war and so the Brothers Harmony were forced to hide the orbs away.

Prax crafted a chest from the trees and Solam placed the portals into it and locked it tight. Soon though, they grew lonely again and they grew bored. Solam had an idea, and Prax had an idea. They took up the dust and the clay of the rivers, the ores and precious stones of Ampexida and the fire of her core. Together the Brothers Harmony crafted the first beings: the Precursors.

The Precursors were golden and perfect, crafted by the brothers with care and skill. But they did not move, and they did not think. They were as lifeless as the stone and dust they were formed from. Solam frowned, and Prax frowned.

Solam took a staff from a tree, and Prax took a staff from a tree. Solam called his “time” and Prax called his “life”. Solam marked his staff with dates and intervals and Prax marked his with action and movement to move through time. Together they struck the lifeless beings and soon the Precursors moved and functioned through time with life.

Prax smiled, and Solam smiled. The Precursors were incomplete still. So Solam taught them thought and ideas, how to speak and how to live. So Prax taught them his magic, how to create and how to manipulate Ampexida to which they gifted their children in the valley of Unifax.

The Precursors smiled with the Brothers Harmony, and not knowing chaos or stillness, they lived in the balance of Ampexida.

Prax and Solam hid time and life in their home they had built in the center of Unifax, content with letting life move through time and to watch their children enjoy their land for all of eternity.

Then there was a Precursor by the name of Purp Leon. He enjoyed Prax’s lessons, and was a favored student of Solam.

One day he was looking for Prax and Solam in their home, unaware that the Brothers Harmony was out in the mountains looking over the valley. He came across the chest, and it moved and hummed with life. An eerie song poured from it’s moving hinges, speaking as if alive, and it was.

The staff of life leaned against it, and the orbs with in taught it things as the beings of the Mist and the Smoke talked through the orbs.

Purp Leon was curious, never hearing this song before and approached the chest. The chest told him about the orbs and the Precursor grew curious ever more. The chest opened itself and Purp Leon reached in, grabbing the Orb of Prax, the Orb of the smoke.

The Tainted king spoke to Purp Leon, and told him that if he held both the staffs and the orb, he could let the Smoke Born out, and they could be friends. Now since Purp Leon knew the magic of Prax, and the staffs and orbs held the power of the Brothers Harmony, he could threaten the barriers of balance.

Not knowing the danger, Purp Leon listened eagerly. With the staffs in one hand, and the orb in the other, he cracked the barrier of smoke and void.

Immediately Purp Leon was mutilated into an oozing and disgusting figure as the taint of the smoke overtook him, and his mind was lost to the Tainted king.

The smoke leaked into Ampexida, and the Tainted king blew the horns of conquest. The taint twisted the purity of Ampexida and shook the balance of chaos and stillness it held, overbearing it with chaos.

Some Precursors were changed and morphed into different races, while others remained the same, hiding from the taint.

The Brothers Harmony rushed into action and together with the Precursors, sacrificed their harmony to protect the realm. They rushed to the rift in the barrier and fought bravely against the smoke born.

Knowing the balance grew too one sided the Brothers Harmony left the front lines briefly to open the barriers to the Mist born, and soon the Serene King marched in.

Prax and Solam knew that if Ampexida was tainted, it would grow chaotic and unbearable. But they knew if it was pacified by the mist, it would grow still and frozen. But if they balanced the two, Ampexida could continue to flourish in harmony of both.

The Tainted king unleashed his generals, the Smoke king and the mutated Purp Leon upon the alliance, while the Mist born unleashed The Graceful One and The Still One to balance the battle -- Prax and Solam not allowing the Mist born to use any more forces than the Smoke born did.

Still the Brothers Harmony felt the battle swaying in the Tainted kings favor as they watched his chaotic smoke choke Ampexida. Solam had an idea, and Prax had an idea. They would create a general of their own, a champion to help them balance Ampexida once more.

Prax pleaded the Serene King for some of his blood, while Solam collected some of his own. The blood of the Mist Born was mixed with the blood of the Brothers harmony, and placed upon the anvil of the brothers.

Prax struck his anvil, and Solam stuck his anvil, and drips of blood fell to the floor, and a new breed of Precursors popped up, born with Mist Blood as well as the Brothers Harmony; these were called “Jerrovians”. But the greater creation happened on the anvil as the Brothers Harmony fashioned their champion.

The winged champion was born and he was named “Sosolam” after the blood of Solam, and was given a sword fashioned from the same mixture of blood and this was called “ Sword of Sol “.

The Champion and his blade could cut through the fabric of the barriers it was so sharp, and it’s power could only be equipped by those of its blood, the Mist or the Harmony. But only those balanced blood may be called those of the mixture if not the pure of either side, and so it became safe guarded against misuse.

With their winning plan, the Precursors of Unifax, the Brothers Harmony, Sosolam and the Mist launched an attack on the rift of Smoke, eager to end the battle once and for all.

But the Jerrovians were young and scared. The Graceful One had become tainted, and her care for her alliance to the Precursors was disfigured and turned into a dangerous lust.

Seeing the weakened state of these beings, the Mist grew greedy in the absence of the Smoke’s competition and they fought over the new creatures with The Tainted Graceful One.

The Jerrovians grew scared, and desperate. Not trusting in the final plan of the Brothers Harmony, they foolishly gathered in a great wood and took up a shard of the Sword of Sol that had sparked from the Anvil. Combining all their blood and magic, they cast a devious spell.

They cut the land they occupied from Ampexida, taking the greedy mist born and the Tainted Graceful One with them as they flung their land into the void. Sosolam rushed to stop them but it was too late, and Jerrovia was cast into the void.

The spell was finalized, and a new barrier was created, weak and frail compared to that of the Brothers Harmony. The seal destroyed the memories of Ampexida, and guarded the ignorant beings from the happenings of all outside the seal. The Tainted Graceful one was tossed in a limbo between the seal and the void, as were the greedy ones.

The Jerrovians saw their mistake and quickly appointed one of them to wear the words of warning and set up a line of Precursors so that they blood of balance might not be diluted. All Jerrovians but the one covered in the word soon forgot due to the screech of the seal, and when the one of warning tried to remind them, the seal would scream and drown out his words.

Jerrovians could no longer hear the truth beyond the seal, nor why or how it was created. Only the words carved into the one of warning could remind them, and only to the eyes of those of the blood of balance, the old blood. Only the line of the Imperial Family held the blood pure and in balance, every marriage secretly composed by the one of warning to keep it in balance.

Every time a new blood of balance was appointed to authority, or the seal started to wane with time, the one of Warning would appear with the shard of the sword of Sol. They would travel to the tree of the seal now in the palace gardens and give it the blood of balance to drink so to revitalize the seal.

In the forest a counter seal was formed where the devious original spell took place, the Seal of Void. As every realm has a connection to the other, Jerrovia has the trees as Ampexida has the orbs. Should the blood of balance spill of the tree of void, the seal would be destroyed.

The one of warning was told at the start not to let this happen, as Jerrovia would be cast back into it’s war with the Tainted Graceful One and the Mists of Greed. And slowly the land would be lost in the void that the Jerrovian’s so foolishly cast it.

But there was hope, hope that one day Sosolam would return when the seal could no longer hold, so that he may bring Jerrovia back to Ampexida with the Sword of Sol. He would choose a Champion to aid him, and together the two would defeat the Tainted one of Grace; as Jerrovia cannot return to Ampexida carrying the taint with it or the mist, as it would bring war back to Ampexida.

The seal had weakened as people forgot their duty to refresh it, and through a devious deal with your father, did the Tainted Graceful Once snake through the weakened seal and possess the unborn Josephine. From her the Tainted Graceful One created Gennisberg, opening her influence in Jerrovia. I had not known of Gennisberg, and since he was of the mist as the Graceful one was, he could hold the Shard of Sol. Using it he broke her skin and the bark of the tree of the void, and spilled the blood of balance on it, breaking the seal. Now the war has resumed, and Sosolam has chosen you to be his Champion.

We must end the war with the Tainted Graceful One and the Greedy Mist Born, and then perform the ritual against the tree of the seal to send Jerrovia back to Ampexida. The time has come to fix the mistakes of the founders.”

George’s eyes were wide like a child’s as he listened, his mouth open in wonderment as the information settled in his mind, but one question came first, the slowly opened a torrent of hundreds more, “what happened to Ampexida though? How do we know it is safe to return… What happened to the Brothers Harmony and- and what is the ritual-- what is my place… How- how!”

Freg grunted, and laid a hand on the great book before him, “inside this book holds the answers to those questions.”

Skyler looked up from the floor she had been gazing at. “So… who… who have I been talking too?” She muttered confused, glancing between the two figures in front of her.

Tomko broke his intense gaze with George and looked over at Skyler, “what do you mean?”

“Th.. the kind one..” She muttered back, moving her gaze back to the floor.

“A liar,” Tomko answered quickly, “a confused grace, tainted with the Smoke.”

“Oh..” Skyler slumped down into her chair, her face sinking slowly as she kept her gaze to the floor.

Tomko looked back over to George, “open the book.”

George slowly reached a shaking hand over to the book, his fingers trembling with a strange and excited anxiety. His lower lip slipped between nervous teeth and his fingers pinched the edge of the book’s cover.

The cover wafted a dusty air as it flung open, scattering a breeze across the room that smelt of parchment and leather. Immediately George’s eyes fixed on its words and his vision blurred. His mind spun wildly and his eyes were forced shut.

The sounds of the torches flickering and cracking faded away. The smell of the paper and soot that conquered the cavernous room escaped his nose and the chill of the stone turned into a blazing heat that hugged his skin and blistered goosebumps across his bare neck, his thick red cape suddenly becoming heated and cumbersome

The back of his eyelids pinked as a great sun blasted through the thin skin. He no longer felt the pages between his fingers, but the burning slither of heated sand escaping his balled fist and catching into the breeze.

The sounds of waves of sands tickled his ear and pecked his exposed skin, and the overbearing smell of a crisp desert forced his eyes to jolt open.

There in front of him stood a man dressed in flowing robes the color of sand. He leaned on a green metallic spear wrapped in copper sheets, and a thick grey ash colored his skin.

Great reptiles the size of the largest horses, and some double the size scampered behind the man like massive geckos in the midst of a sandstorm.

George opened his mouth, the dry air instantly giving it the feel as though his mouth was stuffed with cotton.

The ashen skinned man looked upon him stoically, but with eyes of wisdom, “they are the fuwma.” He answered an unspoken question.

“And I am Gori Lamillur, the First Star of the Ashtoken.”

“The who?” George asked, his eyes pained under the brightness of the sun.

“The Ashtoken, people of the desert of Ashishia,” Gori answered swiftly, “I had been expecting you shortly. Welcome to Ampexida.”


“Yes, Ampexida. You are not really here, but you see upon it through the book. By this spear I see you in return, and by its ancient power I knew of your coming. Please, come with me, so that I may answer the questions you seek.”

Gori spun on his heel and started walking towards a great clay building that had shimmered out of the heat, George quickly stumbling behind.

Inside the building sat soft silken pillows on thick rugs. Sandstone floors hid underneath and only a speckle of sand trailed in around the doorway, the rest kept clean. Windows were small and circular, not letting in too much of the blazing sun and the thick walls kept the interior cool compared to the scorching exterior.

Lounging chairs were pressed up against the walls and two hefty men, also stained ashen stood by the chairs, unique and strange curved blades hung on their hips.

Gori blunk and moved his facial features, and the guards obeyed as if given strict and detailed commands. They bowed low and exited the room and into another.

Gori motioned silently to one of the lounging chairs and George sat on the plump mattress, perfume poofing from it’s stiches.

“Yexara,” Gori spoke cryptically. George cocked a brow but Gori quickly and stoically answered, “the swords on their hips are the Yexara. They are important to our culture. One family has at least one, named for a great deed or heroic family member. Each of the six tribes of the Ashtoken have one above all others, named for the tribe. The blade sings as it is swung, said to be the voice of the heroes, or even the grand Ashtoken himself. Uniter of the tribes and slayer of the beasts of sand that plagued us in times of myth.”

George nodded at his words, slowly taking in the new culture. Quickly though his mind refocused to the task at hand, “in the creation story, during the war of the realms -- what became of Ampexida.”

Gori pursed his ashen lips, “you sit in it now, so I would say it had survived the conflict. Let me tell you the end story of the war. How much do you know?”

“I know of Ampexida until the Jerrovians left,” George admitted.

“Then let me fix this for you,” Gori nodded with a blank expression, “The Jerrovians left, and with them took a general that once was Mist Born, but turned Tainted. Under the command of this Tainted Mist Born was an army of tainted precursors and beasts of the Smoke, as well as Smoke Born. The Jerrovians also foolishly took with them untouched Mist born, bent on capturing or pacifying the land for the Mist.

The Champion was too late to stop them, and quickly redirected his focus on the war at hand. The Smoke king met the Champion in battle, vanguard to the Tainted king. The battle was long, but the army of the Brothers Harmony stalled the Smoke Born and the Champion ripped open the barrier to the void and sent not only the Smoke king into the ancient realm, but also Purp Leon.

Without his Generals, the Tainted king was vulnerable. The Champion mustered the combined army of the Serene King and the Brothers Harmony and met all the force of the Smoke in battle by the entrance of Unifax.

Prax and Solam held the slowly widening fabric of the barrier, limiting the Smoke’s reinforcements and saving Ampexida from being overflooded with both mist and smoke. While the Brothers Harmony did this, Sosolam rushed to meet the Tainted king in battle.

With his mighty sword he was able to wound the Taint, and after days upon days of single combat, the Tainted King was pushed back into the void, and then fought all the way back into the realm of smoke, where he was sealed away by the Champion, closing the smoke from the void and Ampexida, and trapping the two generals in the void.

Prax and Solam then forced the Serene King who had grown lustful over the now smokeless land back into the Mist. Sealing the mist from the void as well as from Ampexida. Now the two forces had left the Balanced realm, but the fight with the Serene king had rendered the brothers blind and forced them to hide away in the valley of Unifax.

The Champion sealed the remaining rifts from the void, standing steadfast for when he would be needed once more. But Ampexida would never be the same, just as a still pool of water splashed with a stone will never still once more, Ampexida was now in turmoil.

The Precursors and the child races of the Precursors now knew chaos and order. War was born and the land was forever stained with imperfection, and slowly the children’s children of the once flawless races grew imperfect.

But the Brothers Harmony remained in Unifax, hidden away from the rest of Ampexida, where they would welcome those who have passed back into what remained of the land of Balance -- until deemed fit to straighten the world once more.”

“I see,” George rubbed his chin as he stared at the ground. A sense of wonderment fluffed his chest as he repeated the story in his head, “and how do I play in all of this?”

“Jerrovia must return home,” Gori said simply, “The tainted Mist born must be dealt with, and the Mist born must be banished, so that you may return Jerrovia home.”

“I’ve only heard of the Tainted Mist born, we call her-”

“The Dweller,” Gori nodded, “yes that is her, but don’t be fooled, she has many forms. Her dark armies are a mixture of taint and smoke. But also be wary of the Mist Born.”

“I have yet to see or hear anything of them,” George mentioned.

“Be wary then, for they are quiet and sneaky. They will appear in the blue mist, and attempt to pacify Jerrovia, swallowing it in stillness. They are clever and smart, and will persuade even the most willful minds. Your people called them the Graces,” Gori blunk.

George heart sunk into the pit of his stomach, every word Gori spoke deepened his worry for all of Jerrovia. Each word made the conflict bigger and the stakes higher, “So I must defeat both?”

“And then return Jerrovia to its place,” Gori agreed.

“And what of Sosolam?”

“Did you not see him?”

“I did,” George admitted.

“And what was he doing?”

“Holding… holding the fabrics… of the barrier,” George looked down thoughtfully, everything dawning on him.

“Just as Prax and Solam did, Sosolam keeps the barrier from opening large enough for the denizens of the void to enter and interfere. Should the Smoke king and Purp Leon who still lumber in the void enter, I’m afraid all will be lost,” Gori said grimly.

“So I just have to move faster,” George feigned confidence, but Gori’s stoic glare seemed unaffected by his facade.

“And you must return Jerrovia.”


“Take up the Sword of Sol, that of which you took from your sister, defeat the Tainted One with it -- for this is her bane. Use it to banish the Mist Born, and then sacrifice the blood of the balance upon the Tree of Ampexida.”

“The tree of the Imperial Gardens?” George questioned be freezing, realizing exactly what Gori was asking him to do.


“Yes,” Gori said grimly, breaking his stoic attitude slightly.

“Myself, as my sister was?”

“Yes,” Gori said, “the blood of balance must be sacrificed upon the tree with the Sword of Sol.”

George’s brow furrowed, “fo...for Jerrovia.”

A ashen hand laid it’s hand on George’s shoulder, “for all the realms.”

George’s eyes shut tight at Gori Lamillurs touch. His vision faded to darkness and his head swirled with thoughts. The smell of perfume faded and the soft touch of the lounging chair turned hardwood.

The chill deepened to that of a cave, and he felt his fingers slipping off of the edge of a book. A loud slam and poof of dust forced his eyes open. He stared into the bovine eyes of Freg, the great minotaurs hand on the closed book.

“Do you know, Hinan.” Freg grunted.

“I know,” George answered quietly.

“What now..” Skyler muttered softly, keeping her crushed demeanor.

George looked over at Skyler, “we defeat the Taint.”

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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Monkeypants


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The Chalessian Realm

Shalessa, Capitol of the Chalessian Realm... some time ago.

The sky had grew dark in the moments leading to this moment, Lightning struck in the distance and rain began to pour from the grey clouds that were now circling above the once mighty Chalessian city. It's walls had been destroyed and structures were crumbling. The massive rivers that had long been the lifeblood of the city had begun overflowing its banks which had slowly flooded the streets. The cries for help, the screams of terror.. the loud screeches of the incoming soulless warriors filled Fay's ears.. but all she saw was the Palace in front of her, the end of this horrible nightmare and the beginning of a new and bright future under a ruler whom was benevolent and just.

Elainna stood with her fists clinched, her brow furrowed and an aura of pure anger. "Fay, Be careful here. There are other forces at work in this world and many are set to stop us."

Fay was growing more and more confused by the minute. The giant war machines, heartless beasts with no real objective but to destroy. There had never been anything like this in her life, maybe anyone's life at this point. She lowered her bow and turned her attention to Elainna, "What do you mean? Is Catya really that strong?"

Elainna unclinched her fists and stood upright. Her expression went from anger to peace. "My friend, there are forces so powerful in and around this world.. We must do what we can to stop them."

"In and around? What the fuck are you talking about!" Fay remarked angrily.

"Let us finish our mission here.. we must end Catya for peace to come."

Fay sighed in relief at her friends direction but she still couldn't shake the feeling that more was going on than she could imagine. "Ok.. I'm right behind you."

Before the two got far, Catya's ferocious warriors sought to bar the duo's way once more. Lightning arrows and ethereal forces destroyed foe after foe as the only hopes for this world to remain untainted by the Kalkai empire pushed to the steps of the royal palace. Fay shot off one last arrow before seeing the massive doors of the Palace.

"Shit! Elainna... those doors are made to withstand the strongest battering rams. What are we going to do now?" Behind Fay, the sounds of oncoming warriors filled the distance. "We are running out of time."

"No Fay, we have all the time we need."

She extended her arms once more and pointed them directly at the doors. That bright blinding light burst from them once more, blasting the door into oblivion along with a large portion of the roof. Large stones fell and the ends of split metal frames were glowing white hot. Fay just stared in amazement as the once proud Palace now had a gaping hole.

"Alright Fay, I need you to stay close."

Elainna and Fay made their way through the blasted entrance toward Catya whom was standing by the throne. "You..." Elainna said softly. Catya began to shake but found her resolve and stood to fight her sister.

"You dare face me?" Catya said confidently.

Elainna made no expression but merely stared at Catya.

"Answer me!" Catya demanded.

Elainna took a step forward and softly said, "I am going to kill you."

Catya shouted and thrust her hands forward, sending out stream of lightning. Elainna just stood there as the electricity jolted around her before discharging. Catya lowered her hands and could only stare at her sister, whom was entirely unaffected. "Elainna, I.. I was possessed!!! I am free now.. What happened?!" she said dumbly. Elainna didn't answer but rather started walking towards her sister.

As Elainna drew closer, Catya ran back behind the throne but there would be no safety there as it just seemed to crumble away, leaving a cowering Catya wiping tears from her eyes. A strange force seemed to lift Catya and draw her to Elainna. "We used to play in this very room. What made you so heartless?" she said softly, staring blankly at the trembling Catya.

"What have you done, Catya." Elainna said as a massive host of creatures began rushing into the room. Catya, smiled and spoke, "If this Pendant falls from my hands, the army will enter a frenzy... they will kill everyone without a thought." With that, she tossed the pendant towards her forces, catching Elainna off guard.

Fay was ready for this though and jumped as high as she could to catch the pendant, "Not today Catya!" she shouted but within seconds she turned pale and hit the ground unconscious

Catya smiled at her sister, "You are the heartless one, Elainna.. how many have you killed by attacking me!!"

Elainna's eyes opened wide with anger as she slammed her sister against the ground. She forced her hand into Catya's chest and tore her still beating heart out. Catya spasmed as Elainna brought her heart into view. Elainna shouted at her sister, "You find me heartless?! Now you know what it is to be truly heartless." Elainna sharpened her gaze, staring deep into Catya's slowly dying eyes before whispering "Was it worth it?". Elainna smiled for the first time, watching as Catya slipped away.

Fay had awoke, brought to by the screams in the capitol. The creatures were slashing through the unarmed denizens of the city without pause. Man.. woman.. child.. human.. elf.. They did not discriminate. Elainna knew this so she walked towards the Pendant and took it in to her hands. Fay piqued her brow "It only responds to royal blood." Elainna stared at it but could not figure out how to command the armies. Fay shouted, "Destroy it!" Elainna nodded and attempted to break it but to no avail. "Damn." she said softly.


"Elainna, please.. end this nightmare."

Elainna smiled, "Be safe... Faylaiwan."

Fay began to tear up and shake her head. "Please, please no!"

Elainna began to wail, enough to make a Banshee cower. The ground began to shake but Fay just fell to her knees and stared at her friend who was slowly rising into the sky. Her eyes were bright blue and her body was glowing white. Wind picked up, strong enough to start pulling trees from the ground. Fay was in the epicenter, free from the destruction all around her. "Please Elainna.." she said.

As Elainna reached a high point in the sky the pendant exploded with the sound of shattering glass. The symbol of Kalkai's hatred burst into a thousand pieces before burning up themselves. At once, Kalkai's dark army turned to pure white ash.

Fay tried to look upon Elainna one last time but with a final deafening scream. A bright light blinded her followed by a sound that was loud and terrible, the sound of pure and utter destruction.. As Fay's eye sight returned, she found herself miles away from the capitol.. what was left of it. A massive cloud of smoke and fading ethereal fire rose miles into the sky. Enough to be seen hundreds of miles away. Below it was a crater which was rapidly filling with water from the river that once calmly flowed through the city.

Somewhere in the north

Fay's eyes shot wide open and a cold sweat sent shivers down her spine. "These dreams.. "

She slowly stood up and grabbed her things before setting out once more. Her eyes were dark and her body had gone pale from the waning food and lack of sleep. Her mission was important though and the years of living off the land gave her a fighting chance in this harsh northern world.

As she moved through a rock outcropping, she could see lights in the distance. "Finally civilization." Her attitude seemed to improve as she grew closer to the lights, the hope that she could find fresh supplies and a soft bed. Luck wasn't on her side though as she got close enough to see what it really was... the remains of a small town, still burning from a battle not even a day ago. Her attitude went to depression once more, "Fuck.." she muttered.

She searched through the rubble and found only one thing of use, an unbroken bottle of wine. Her fingers stumbled with the cork and she finally gave up when her fingernails began to hurt. With a small bit of force, she cracked the neck off of the bottle and retrieved the cup from her pack. "And they said keeping a cup and ladle was pointless.." Her eager lips twitched as the cup filled with the precious liquid. This drink was so much better than the dirt filtered water that she had long grown accustomed to.

In the dark distance, she caught sight of the mountains. They were white with snow but darkened by the dismal sky that swirled red above. Small storms began to form in the distance over the mountains. This only triggered the memories of that day in Shalessa, the day her world changed. It seemed like days that she traveled, avoiding everything alive. There were a few times that she came across a small village that had yet to be affected by the darkness but she still skipped them, only stealing meager supplies before moving on.

As Fay grew closer to the mountains, the air only got colder and thinner. She had scaled the mountains of the Chalessia and Imperial border but they were nothing like this, and she wasn't even at the base of the mountain. But this was it, this was her mountain to climb. "This has to be a joke, it has to be.. " but through her reluctance and fear, she pushed on. There was no going back as in the distance she could hear the sounds of marching. There was no telling if it were friend or foe but it didn't matter now, "The book said go to the mountain.. the bull-man says I have an army here.. " she huffed, "This shit mountain is where they will find my body decades from now.."

Fay jumped up to clinch a ledge only to lose her grip and fall on her back, stripping wind from her lungs. For a while, even after she caught her breath, she just laid on her back staring at the sky. Her eyes grew heavy and a gentle, warm breeze seemed to come from nowhere. It was comforting enough where she slowly began to drift in and out of sleep. Before her eyes closed completely she said under her breath,

"Fuck this mountain."

Western Chalessian Realm

Explosions shook leaves from trees and the sounds of combat sent what little wildlife that survived the darkness scurrying away. Overhead scavenging avians circled the field, waiting for their next meal to be readied. In the middle of this battle stood Eriah of the Realm and the Goblin Kafshe shaman. Their battle had last for nearly a half hour. Casting and dodging magical attacks and engaging in close combat was starting to fatigue both of them. Eriah had never encountered a foe like this before though he had trained against stronger opponents. This was different, this was life and death. There were no controls and safeties like training, one false move and he would be a scavengers next feast.

"Damn this thing moves fast.." Eriah said before sending a bolt of fire into the tree line. He lost sight of the creature as it dashed behind the brush. For a moment Eriah thought that the beast fled but the incoming bolt of fire proved otherwise. "Watch out!" he shouted to one of the nearby Elven warriors but it was too late as the explosion sent bits of the warriors body in all directions. Even with the battle reaching nearly ten goblins deaths to only one elf, there was no victory in sight.. these goblins were everywhere. He had no idea that he was in the middle of an entire host and his meager group stood little chance in the open fields. Eriah knew he had to find higher ground for his men, somewhere he could fight this Shaman from an elevated position.

Nearby a hill caught his eye so he dashed for it, motioning to every warrior he passed. "To me!" he shouted and without hesitation or a second thought, the Chalessian warriors rushed for the hill. Though not all made it up the slope, the ones that did drew their bows and rained death upon the goblins who made the mistake of rushing the hill in the open. Eriah blasted ruts in the dirt for his warriors to fight from and used his destructive powers to create ditches around the hill to further slow the goblins.

The goblins began flee back into the treeline and an eerie silence befell the fatigued elves. "Hold fast, take a breather but keep aware." Eriah said while slowly rising from a ditch to survey the field. All he could see was dead Chalessians and Goblins alike. Eriah was in trouble now, half of his host had died and in reality, not even a fifth of the Shamans warriors had even entered combat. Before anyone could catch a real breather, an fog encroached the field. "Shit, archers at the ready! they're going to try and advance through the fog." On cue, fires lit along the tree line and a barrage of flaming arrows rained upon the beleaguered elves.

The goblins weren't accurate but prayed that their superior numbers would make up for it.. it wasn't the case as when the Chalessians returned fire, it was devastating. Nearly half of the goblin archers fell dead along the tree line but it didn't stop the melee goblins whom had crawled through the fog during the goblin barrage from attacking. The archers let loose another volley against the Elves and when the Chalessians returned fire, the melee goblins attacked. Eriah laid down fire but he himself was hit upon the should with a flaming arrow. As he reeled in pain, he saw the goblins killing his pinned men. Goblin arrows continued to rain upon his men and the Goblins alike. The Shaman didn't care how many of his own men died at this point.. he had thousands to replace the losses.

Time seemed to slow for Eriah as his men fought to the death before his eyes. A rush of energy overcame his body and he began sending waves of fire and lightning upon the goblins. Burning bodies began to pile as Eriahs fury was brought to bear. Chalessians cheered as Eriah destroyed their ranks but it wasn't to last as the goblins had scaled the other side of the hill. With a sickening horn, Goblins rushed from all sides and engaged the few remaining warriors. The first arrow that hit Eriah didn't phase him much but the next two sent him onto his knees. He was stronger than most as his body now had three bolts sticking from it and he was still breathing.

As he fell to his knees, goblins rushed past him, bypassing the easy kill and going for the remaining Elves. Before any retaliation could be mustered, the goblins stopped fighting and began stomping the ground. It was a somewhat common victory chant among goblin kind.. Eriah was now surrounded and quickly bleeding out. The Goblin Shaman made its way before Eriah where it then stood. There was a strange grin across the creatures face but before it could do anything else, loud goblin screams could be heard in the distance. The Shaman motioned towards Eriah and two goblins grabbed the Elven mage. It was incredible that Eriah was still alive as they rushed through the forest. He gazed down at his dragging feet which had gone numb during the fight, he saw the three arrows in his body. There was no bleeding from them, he could only smile at his luck.

Eventually the screams faded and the Shaman ordered Eriah be put down. The Goblin licked its lips and leaned in. There was strange goblin talk that eventually turned to silence as the Shaman slowly pulled the arrows from Eriahs body. He moaned in pain as the blood once more began to flow from the open wounds. The Goblin ran its tongue along the arrow, enjoying the taste of Eriahs blood. Without any warning, the Shaman dropped the arrow and slowly rose off of its feet. From its gut, two blackened spear like objects protruded which were dripping with the goblins blood. From behind the Shaman a strange shadow began whispering an odd language into the creatures ears. Eriah couldn't make it out before falling onto his back. As he stared at up, the two goblins were impaled and drug out of his view before Eriah's eyes closed.

Eriahs eyes shot open to the sight of an what looked like a dark skinned elf hanging over him. She cocked her head and then caressed her hand across his cheeks. Her voice was deeper than most surface woman but was still feminine and soothing. "What have we here?"

Eriah turned his head away from her hands and coughed before softly saying, "Who are you?"

She smiled a bit before raising up, "Oh my.. Where are my manners." She cleared her throat. "My dear, I am Lady Amaranth of Fuhrlanx."

"Fuhr... Fuhrlanx?" he said before slowly looking to his left to the sight of a long segmented leg with a sharp tip. He gulped then replied with a shaky voice, " O-Oh my."

Lady Amaranth rose up to reveal a long torso attached to a blackened body... its long legs protruded from the darkness before she revealed her full form. The fore half of a woman... the aft of an arachnid. His eyes shot wide with fear as he kicked his legs. His eyes focused on her right hand which held a very thoroughly cleaned goblin Shamans skull. Eriah tried to find an avenue of escape, all he could see was more of those creatures feasting upon the dead goblins. He started to panic, "What are you?!"

"I am of Furhlanx.. From what your privileged kind would call underground." She said almost sarcastically.

"From underground?" he said, quivering at this point.

Amaranth lowered back down to him and gazed deep into his eyes. She smiled and gently caressed his face once more.

"Yes, and you my dear.. Your kind have awoken us."

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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Isotope
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Isotope I am Spartacus!

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The Under Cells of Castle Fallars

The heavy wooden door ground on its hinges and came to an obstinate stop hardly three quarters through the process of opening it. Unable to force the ancient rotting thing out any further Kersic stepped into the dim and damp hallway that led to the dungeon proper. With a tentative breath he brought the stale air into his lungs, and immediately regretted the decision as he nearly keeled over.

Fetid was conservative, no, it was utterly misleading. The smell was inexplicably worse than anything Kersic had ever imagined and he found himself understanding why few prisoners ever stayed here for long. After a week he was sure he'd be begging for execution too.

If he wasn't sure the noxious atmosphere would cause him to retch if he tried, he knew he'd be cursing Mardene. In his entire life not once had he ventured into the foul labyrinthine, and somehow he got the impression little was missed save practice in shallow breathing and distasteful facial expressions.

Trying to push the scent, and his likely unhelpful rumination on the cause of it, to the back of his mind Kersic advanced past the door and down the stone hall and it's erratically placed torches. He was searching for one cell in particular, and he noted that the guards he could normally have asked were all but absent.

He supposed that wasn't surprising, the fit of rage Rense had gone into upon hearing of the traitors return was enough that it was obvious Mardene would be trying to hide her interest in the man. All things said, Kersic had often wondered how much loyalty the old king commanded and from the speed the guards had carried out the old mans orders he was only more bothered by the issue.

Still, all considered Kersic was unsure he would have done much different, Telor Enole had twisted Stromism into something beyond heretical and unholy and created twisted aberrations out of loyal men. Rense Sesen held a legendary hatred of the man, and loyalty or no it wasn't so strange the guards had been willing to do as they were told, even without the Queens permission.

A break in the silence pulled Kersic out of his mind and into reality once more, he strained to hear it but unmistakably it was a babbling of words he hadn't a clue as to the origin of. Still, they seemed cold and cruel in a way he couldn't quite place his finger on. Regardless of what was begin said Kersic had no doubts as to the source.

With some sense of direction he followed the sounds until they became clear. With a glance down into the cell they emanated from it was clear Kersic had found the man he sought.

In a bid to grab the rambling mans attention Kersic cleared his throat and spoke, “Telor Enole I take it?”

In a sudden and jerking motion the thin mans words cut off and he retreated into the darkness of the cold and damp cell where his voice ground out more coherent words, “So you finally come then?”

With a nod Kersic fished for the key he'd been given and opened the cell door, grabbing a torch off the wall and stepping in, “That I do, it seems the Queen is more willing to see your case than her father.”

“Of course she is! You see she doesn't have a choice anymore, she can't hide from reality like her father did. Why I-” Cut off by a violent cough Telor rubbed his throat but seemed ready to continue the tirade.

Before he could Kersic spoke out, “I don't need to hear your ramblings, nor do I have the patience to. Her majesty is aware of what you have done in the past, but as you say these are dire times and all help must be sought out, that is all there is to say on the subject.”

Yet as he lookied down at the man Kersic struggled to imagine what help he could ever be. Telor was not the great stromist mage he had once heard of, but rather a parasitic shadow that seemed to live off the hollow bones of an ancient body. With a sigh Kersic continued, “You are to follow me, a double will be found and you will disappear so long as you do what we say. Now, lets depart to the quarters we have prepared. The queen will meet with you there once you have made yourself... Presentable.”

With a hacking laugh Telor rose to his feet in a motion more fluid than any his body should have been able to make. In ruined rags he moved out of the cell with Kersic, “Of course.”

Later that night.

A great layered chandelier cast it's warm glow over the room and the circular table below it. Scents from the freshly prepared meal at the tables mid wafted over her and for a moment Mardene forgot that this room was at the very deepest level of the castle, unknown tons of dead earth above it held back only by the grand supports that seemed to dominate every open surface of the walls.

Of course it was only for a moment. She despised being this far underground for more reasons than could ever be counted, and even the most comforting things in the world would never distract her from their location.

With a sigh she watched on of the candles on the table burn, Kersic was supposed to have shown Telor in ages ago. If this went on much longer the food would get cold, and Kersic would wake up to a very rude reminder of his duties when the servants stopped attending to him tomorrow. For the first time in a while Mardene smiled. She always had enjoyed annoying her elder cousin.

As if on cue Kersic opened the door on the rooms far side and gave a small bow. By the looks of it he was more than done with the day, and the likely reason followed him out moments later. Telor looked old, far older than she'd heard he was. The best way to phrase would have been broken, like something had snapped in the man long ago and refused to be mended, yet despite this the man managed to retain some crude dignity in the new robes he'd been provided.

Mardene stood and greeted them before all took their seats and Mardene spoke, “I hope you'll forgive the lack of help, but we shall be helping ourselves to the food tonight. I presume you both see the reason for that.”

Kersic nodded but Telor had long since already gone for the food and was devouring it at an alarming rate, and Mardene didn't doubt he'd been on the verge of starvation for a long time. For a time all ate in silence before Kersic seemed sated enough to rest. Taking the opportunity Mardene spoke first, “I hope you've been enjoying the meal, but I fear the time to discuss other thing is fast approaching Telor. You have an idea why I've brought you here I presume?”

With a chuckle Telor put down his fork and looked towards Mardene, “An idea indeed, but lets not circle each other with small talk and pleasant words eh? Too many of you nobility do it having yet to discover it amounts to much said and nothing done.”

Tapping her finger on the table Mardene replied, “If you wish. You once crossed the boundary of what as considered acceptable, but of what records remain it seems you were not without results. In the face of recent events you represent a resource that can be exploited for the sake of the Delta. Blunt enough for you?”

Telor gave out a hoarse snicker at that, “Very your majesty. You want what I can give you, you very well need it. If the realm could do it why not you? Correct? You want an army that can shrug off the cold and fight off forces thrice its size because you know without it there will be nothing left.”

Telor scratched the uneven stubble on his equally uneven chin, “This... I can give you. It comes however, with cost. Power will be needed of course, but beyond that men to turn into your army, men that will not survive as thinking beings. Is that a price you can pay my dear?”

Mardene stopped tapping and looked over to Kersic, the look of disgust on his face making his position all too obvious. It was a look she knew she'd have worn mere months ago, but not one she could afford. If she refused the agent of madness before her the darkness would swallow far more lives than were demanded.

It was too similar to the old deals many had with the very being that now assailed her kingdom, but Telor was right. She had no choice.

With a sigh Mardene took a drink of the wine before her and answered, “It is a price we all must pay, you will have the wretched opportunity you long for and I will have the continuity of my people.”

She turned to Kersic and went on, “A price you will not speak of. You have held this nation up while I was weak Kersic, and you have aided me in the absence of Escaen, but whether you see the necessity or not the punishment for those who betray the throne is always the same, understand?”

Kersic gulped and nodded while Telor showed blackened teeth in a grin that seemed to suck all the warmth from the room. She was fine with that though, all the cold and death in the world was a burden she'd carry for the Delta.

A burden to carry for all that she had.

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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

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The tall walls of Ektan were filled with troops. Men, women, Orcs and even a few Elves had been hastily conscripted and armed with whatever weapons could be found once news of the encroaching horde arrived. Shahzadeh Yekta’s (now officially proclaimed a traitor to the realm and condemned to death by scaphism, in absentia) former host also crowded the walls. Alongside them a multitude of Mobads and Herbads (the Shahdom’s priestly caste) strolled along the battlements, praying, chanting and inflaming the religious fervor of the defenders. While alchemists rushed between towers to unleash their deadly brews against any assaulter. Deeper into the city, the Palace Guard prepared to defend the Citadel once the outer walls fell.

Ektan’s population had been hurriedly packed into the redoubts and hideouts spread through the Sughbenid capital. And surprisingly into the Palace of the Celestial Empress too, along with the nobility and religious leaders (they had the insistence of a group of Mobads and Herbards to thank for that. But the Sughbenshah wasted no time in claiming the credit for herself and earning their misplaced adoration). While supplies were hurriedly seized and accounted for in case the enemy decided to siege the city instead of storming it.

Twitters had been sent to all corners of the Shahdom demanding the recruitment of a relief army. But the only thing these messages achieved was to spread panic as the gravity of the situation only grew with each retelling. Nevertheless, the Dwarves of Nibiru had ramped up their efforts to form up an army from their local militia and hastily conscripted Chalessian refugees, while also preparing for the eventuality of resisting a siege of their last fortress. In Gava Rauka, to the south, the local garrison had to put down a large scale riot prompted by blind panic and the mad ramblings of a renegade Mobad.

But the struggles of her subjects were the last thing in Arzamidokht’s mind at the moment. Properly sheltered in the bowels of her palace, the Sughbenshah could only wait impotently as the horde of abominations prepared to tear down her seat of power. If it were up to her she would’ve already used the underground tunnels to sneak away from the city. But if word got out that she had fled the morale of the defenders would crumble and the city would fall. Besides, even if she managed to escape, she would still end up essentially wandering blindly across the countryside infested by these creatures. In short, it was better to try her luck behind thick walls manned by thousands of troops. At least for now. And who knows? Maybe they would win this and she would have the satisfaction of seeing that ungrateful bitch she called a daughter suffering a slow and agonizing death?

Before the mighty walls a dark flood appeared in the sands. The very air behind the massive distorted horde seemed to rip as dark shadows appeared in the fabric of the atmosphere and a mighty dragon roared before the walls as the chanting army came to a sudden halt, exploding with the sounds of war.

The grievous figure of Shkkaak shouted from atop the lizard of hell, his voice monsterous and demanding, “KNEEL TO ME, FOR I AM THE TRUE LORD OF THIS LAND.”

The spears and twisted weapons of the void colored army stabbed the air as the beasts howled battle cries, sending vibrations across the very sands. The dragon opened it’s massive toothy maw and a spout of blazing fire flashed from it’s throat as it trembled a spine chilling growl.

The soldiers at the wall shuddered at the terrible spectacle below. Several stepped back instinctively before the officers forced them back in place with shouts and cracking whips. The preachers on the battlements got louder and more frantic in their speeches while the siege weapons atop the towers and walls were trained at the large beast. Even though it was still out of range.

Meanwhile in the middle of the dark horde, Yekta shifted uneasily atop her armored horse. The idea of assaulting her home did not sit well with her, despite the righteousness of their cause. And she suspected that her cultists shared the same opinion. But now that her hopes of getting the city to surrender peacefully had proved to be a pipe dream there was no turning back. The city would fall, she was sure of it, but even then the casualties for both sides would be high. And though she was sure that her Lord would have no trouble replacing his losses, the damage done to the capital could be catastrophic. Furthermore, the legitimacy of their inevitable triumph would be contested at every turn. Which would make their road to victory much harder. But if that was the way things were to be then so be it. The city would fall and its people would be massacred because her mother was a proud fool.

“Rejoice my brothers and sisters!” She shouted suddenly, catching the attention of the cultists. “Today we stand at the edge of greatness! These paltry walls aren’t enough to stop the course of fate! With our returned Lord leading us the slights and errors of the past shall be corrected!” Yekta paused for a few seconds for effect as she guided her horse to stand before her human servants: “Our years of struggle and hard work will soon pay off when our Glorious Prince storms the Palace held by my treasonous mother and her band of blasphemous lackeys! And when the butcher’s work is done there will be nothing standing in our way! We shall remake Sughben into the greater and worthier nation that it was always meant to be. No more plotting nobles or snivelling priests! No more courtly intrigue and backstabbing! Once we’re done here we shall finally be worthy of the destiny that awaits us!” She then raised her armored arms and shouted at the top of her lungs: “TODAY EKTAN, TOMORROW THE WORLD! PRAISE THE SUN! HAIL OUR PRINCE!” She chanted as the cultists followed her lead.

The foggy void that backdropped the sight of the amazing horde of darkness shimmered as strange gurgling words were shouted among the evil beasts. The red sky split behind them, and a shadow inconceivable by the eyes ripped through the atmosphere, it’s solid darkness deep and curious, giving the startling and disorienting sense to the onlookers in a similar way that staring towards the ground from great heights might blight.

A great roar that rivaled the dragon’s emitted from the devious gateway and plumes of smoke spilled from it as great beasts pounded out from the void. The wore heads similar to rams, and stood as tall as battering rams fit to take down the tallest towers. Their legs were like stone pillars or trunks of trees and each monster had six of them, bashing the ground with a vibrating force as they made their way to the front of the hordes battle line.

The living thick skinned siege engines roared as they started their cumbersome advance towards the walls. Dark one’s carrying pavise followed close behind, making a pavise wall for their marksmen to duck behind as they found the line of scrimmage to stand by and volley at the walls men.

The sight of the hellish beasts spurred the priests to increase their religious drivel while officers whipped any would be deserter back in line. And as the horde approached the defenders unleashed a hail of missiles against them. Intent on challenging every step the horde took towards the walls. Besides arrows and ballista bolts, the Shahdom garrison also launched large clay pots filled with alchemical poisons and incendiary mixes. Large boulders and ballista bolts were fired against the huge ram-like monsters while arrows and fire rained upon the horde.

While the front ranks of the besiegers were cut down, Yekta and her followers decided to let the battle follow its course without their intervention. After all what would thirty more soldiers add to the assault?

Still, if Yekta were to be truly honest with herself a very small part of her felt almost pride in the way her former army was fighting against the hordes of her Master. It was tragic that her mother’s foolishness and blindness had doomed most of them.

The pavise rose at an angle, but the pounding arrows pin cushioned the advancing rows of marksmen. Quickly the first row was replaced with more pavise and more marksmen, and soon sickly black arrows were spitting from the horde in response to the wallsmen.

Thick and powerful ballistae bolts flung from the walls and dug deeply into the flesh of the walking behemoths. Their stoic faces remained resilient as they continued their approach, only being knocked off course by the crushing pounding of large rocks.

The beasts oozed a thick black slime at the puncture of the ballistae bolts and the regular arrows simply bounced off their hides. One beast slowly fell forward into the sandy ground, a ooze puddling around it’s lifeless face.

Upon the sight of one of the rams falling, the dragon roared angrily and with a hurricane force, launched into the air, it’s master on it’s neck.

The great beast flew high above the walls, screeching as the giant beasts approached the facade.

Atop the wall, several officers redirected their ballistas and archers to fire against the dragon. But it had little effect due to the speed and distance of the beast. The change of tactic however lessened the rate of fire against the charging horde. And even though the defenders eventually corrected their mistake they had missed the chance to kill more enemies before they reached the wall while still taking the same losses thanks to the demonic marksmen on the ground.

The great beasts began their devastating assault as their mighty horns met the walls with loud, stomach turning crashes and bangs. More dark ones reinforced the pavise wall as the monsters slammed heavily into the walls. Chips of stone burst around their heads as they continued their assault.

The archers and weapons closer to the beasts redirected their fire on the living siege weapons while officers barked for their remaining men to clear the areas being rammed while also trying to avoid the return fire from the horde. Meanwhile, messengers and signals were being sent to forces deeper into the city to rush towards the area where the wall was being directly attacked by the beasts. With any luck they would be formed and ready to meet the horde before they could spread out from the breach.

The dragon swooped at the opportunity, taking shallow dips into the air to send forth great flames from its gaping maw. Much like an eagle diving for a field mouse the dragon savagely dove and rose, belching fire and reaching out with deadly talons.

The walls shook and a foreboding crack began to form along the face of the wall. The troops manning the battlement burned and fell to the ground as the beast swooped down upon them. Coupled with the constant battering by the larger beasts below, sections of the wall were left empty (save for the burned bodies) as its defenders sought to get away from the dragon. While the great stone wall slowly but surely showed more and more signs of cracking under the incessant pressure of the horde.

A ear shattering crash shook the ground as a portion of the wall caved in on itself. A gurgled cheer rose from the black mass as a single beastly ram stuck it’s head through the crushed hole it had punched out and with pounding feet it started to try and clamber through. It’s limbs pounded and kicked at all debris in its way. Eager soldiers of the void waited behind it, ready to charge through.

The troops on the other side of the wall launched a hail of arrows, spears and even a few bolts and incendiary pots from a few siege weapons deployed in the rear of their formation. Hoping to kill the beast before it could wreck their formation. Meanwhile, units of cavalry formed up in nearby plazas and streets, waiting for the enemy to engage the infantry to harass their flanks with hit and run tactics.

Nearby, another section of the wall fell, taking a few scores of soldiers with it while the rest resorted to simply dumping what was left of their alchemical potions on the horde below before evacuating the unstable sections of the wall. Before the breach another group of infantry formed up to meet and stop the enemy head on.

The dragon perched ontop of a large building behind the waiting infantry. It’s maw opened and let out a mind shaking roar. The great behemoth on the other side of the infantry slowed as a few of the projectiles it in the eyes, slowing its advance as dark ooze dripped from its disfigured visage. Slowly with each step it slumped more and more, until it fell heavily on the other side of the path it had pounded into the walls. A horde of dark armor colored demons rushed from behind the large corpse, large spears leading the way in front of gruesome axes and hammers.

The dragon lifted up from it’s perched and darted into the sky as the armies clashed, only swooping back down to continue it’s fiery attacks.

The dark wave crashed upon the Sughbenid ranks and forced the armies of the Shahdom backwards several steps through sheer force. But despite everything they still held on to their position and formation. The toll was heavy on both sides as squadrons of cavalry rushed into the flanks of the horde and withdrew just as fast. Ballistas and archers on the ground tried to shoot down the dragon but what damage they did wasn’t enough to stop the winged abomination from sweeping down and burning entire sections of their line. Forcing those who survived to keep changing positions or outright abandoning the heavier ballistae, effectively cutting a significant of support fire to the melee.

While the battle evolved on the ground the walls were being evacuated, save for what small pockets of soldiers remained isolated in the cut off sections and those closest to the breaches who continued to fire directly at the surging horde. Most troops were being redirected into the ground battle while other groups streamed on from different sections of the city.

One of the great behemoths rushed through one of its own paths of debris and into the city. Its earth quaking limbs pounding aggressively as it charge on lumbering feet. Its massive body slammed through a line of defenders and crashed into a small building. The building collapsed around the beast, engulfing it in the shrapnel and debris.(I mean come on, we had to have one of this fuckers crash into a building XD)

And so the battle went on for hours. The horde pushed and slowly forced their way through the Sughbenid lines. But in the narrow streets of the city the effects of their numbers were lessened. Unfortunately for the Shahdom, their enemy still had a dragon on their side to ensure that the tide would not turn in their favor. But even then the struggle to breach the Shahdom lines proved to be a bloody slog. And though the Dark Ones could afford the losses, the Sughbenid lines were finally starting to buckle as local commanders desperately asked for authorization to conduct a fighting retreat towards the Citadel. And as the Dark ones finally managed to push their way into the city and force the remaining defenders to start their retreat, a multitude of horns sounded in the distance. Of course, those inside the city fighting for their lives would not be able to hear it, but the message wasn’t for them anyway.

Almost four thousand cavalrymen were now formed up facing the rear of the horde. Shahzada Khamul had taken every horsemen available in his army, from Orc raiders to Imperial knights, in a forced march to reach the capital. The infantry was still miles behind them, along with the supply train. But he had no time to waste. Every second wasted was one second these monsters got closer to his children inside the Citadel.

“Empress protect us…”One of his bodyguards muttered. “Is that a dragon?!”

“It doesn’t matters.” Khamul replied as he turned to one of his aides. “Sound the attack signal.”
The Sughbenid heir spurred his armored warhorse into a gallop, riding past his commanders he shouted:

“Shiren to the right breach! Break through their flank! Hakam! Take the left breach! We all meet in the middle! With me Lord Arrow!” And with that he turned towards the horde, muttering a silent prayer as he lowered the visor of his helmet, sculpted into the shape of a woman’s face. One of his bodyguards handed him a lance as he slowed the pace of his horse to match that of his force.

The Shahzada positioned himself in the middle of his unit as the cavalry gradually sped up their pace, waiting until they were closer to change into a full charge.


But then darkness swallowed the battlefield, and although the charge was great and the fight magnificent, Sughben fell.
Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Monkeypants


Member Seen 2 mos ago

Castle Centrum

Goldeagle-Monkeypants collaboration

Eriah could only stand in awe of the massive formations of Fuhrlanx warriors. To him, numbers such as that should've made a thunderous crash as metal clad feet laid into the ground. It sent a chill down his spine to know that this force was so quiet.. but his shock turned away as Amaranth motioned ahead. "Do you see that? Is that the place you speak of?"

Eriah leaned forward, unable to truly tell what the speck of grey at the end of the road. "I think?" he said curiously, admiring the creatures long distant sight.

"Good." She said.

Eriah turned away, admiring the creatures bravery. He knew that the imperials not be too fond of a race of creatures that they have never seen before emerging from the depth, especially with everything that had happened. It didn't matter at this point though, he had no choice but to let her push on.

As the group arrived within sight of the castle, Amaranth motioned ahead, "Well.. So.. do we just walk up?"

Eriah shook his head then turned to his few remaining men. "Form ranks.. get the banner up."

"Banner?" Amaranth said curiously. Before Eriah could answer, Amaranth motioned with her rear legs towards the immediate Fuhrlanx. They made no sound as they spread out and hid, Leaving only Amaranth, Eriah, and an handful of Chalessian soldiers.

As the small group approached the tall walls of the castle, Eriah sounded a Chalessian horn, signifying to the entire area that the Elves of the Realm had arrived.

Across the shimmering moat that reflected the ruby red of the sky, a baritone voice called out. It echoed from atop the tall imposing walls.

"What say you, what news do you bring?" The voice shouted loudly, almost hoarse from the excursion.

Amaranth chuckled a bit, "This is akin to the beginning of a lovers tale among my people."

Eriah gave her a stern look then began to shout back as loud as he could, "On behalf of the true King of the Chalessian Realm, Lord Rodderick. We hail from the Elven city of Laselye, reinforcements'.. although meager.. for Emperor George's call." He took a deep breath then turned to Amaranth, "Now we wait."

A loud clank boomed from the impressive gate house, and a grid of steel lifted high, making way for a thick wooden bridge to slowly lower across the wide moat. Two more gates shivered and grinded up into the gate house behind the first, and a entryway that tapered towards the castle laid open for the visitors.

"You may enter" The voice croaked loudly from the walls once more.

Eriah called to his men to begin marching into the castle. Amaranth tried her best to watch the formations march in for future reference at the least. Eriah looked her over for any weaponry that might frighten or confuse the imperials. He then laughed, the whole damned thing is going to frighten and confuse them. "Ok, now. just casually walk in."

Amaranth adjusted her purple and gold embroidered silk and silver plated bodice, the one garment she did wear. Her stride was alien to the surface world, gently swaying back and forth gently as her six massive legs moved in a seemingly random but beautifully choreographed motion.

As she moved past the first wall and massive wall, she was somewhat stricken by the complexity of such a place. She had seen the massive and well built fortifications of her nation but this above ground world was very new to her. All she could feel was the stares of the soldiers that had gazed upon this new form. She kept her chin high and casually glanced at the few that were close to being in her way.

The spacious courtyard opened up before the group, towering spires marking it's defensive perimeters, and inner walls sectioning it off in a work of grand architecture. George's entire Imperial Army was here, awaiting the conclusion of the war council.

Out of the gates that lead to the keep that sat navel in the protective circle a blonde man around George's age exited. His shoulders were held back and caped with red, and the breastplate of the Imperials shimmered across his chest, as dents and scrapes caused its smooth surface to distort.

"Williams," the man offered his hand to Eriah, but his eyes strained in the corner of their sockets wide as they soaked in the sight of the massive arachnid with the torso and face of a woman.

Eriah graciously took Williams hand and offered his name but was denied by his shock at the sight of his new friend. Eriah then moved in between Williams and Amaranths sight, doing his best to subtly gain attention. "Greetings on behalf of the Realm. I am Eriah, Marshal of the Laselye mages circle. These are my men, all battle mages as well. We have come to answer the Emperors plea for help." He motioned towards the woman behind him, "And this is Amaranth, hailing for the.. furlo.. um." She chimed in, "Fuhrlanx.."

She slowly moved forward, her massive stature offset by her complete lack of sound. All he could hear was the gentle pattering of soft feet against grass, similar to a childs. "I am Lady Amaranth of the Fuhrlanx, I am interested in talking with your." She gazed about then brought her attention to Williams, "Stran... Unique kind."

"S-Speaking," Williams chirped with wide eyes.

"Myes.. I." She found herself strangely nervous at this point. Eriah broke the awkward moment as best he could, "What she is saying is her kind are willing to talk to us regarding our plight."

Williams slipped his still hovering hand back to his side and turned to Eriah, "Um, well."

He scratched his chin thoughtfully, "who exactly... is her kind?"

A simple grin flashed upon her face, "My people, the Fuhrlanx, have only recently decided to come to this world, our plight seems to share the same origin." She leaned back a bit, resting her elbows upon her larger segmented forelegs. "I am curious to see what we can do for one another!"

"Recently decided to come back to this world?" Williams took a step backwards, "I hope you aren't trying to tell me you're one of them."

Amaranth leaned forward and gently rose her hands towards him, "Oh no my dear, your world, the surface world.. is so strange to my people. It is quite literally a new world to us." She leaned back once more, "Do you truly believe me to be one of-" Eriah interrupted to conversation once more, "Ah, well. We are all victims of this new darkness, regardless of where we live."

The giant Fuhrlanx took a few steps forward and spoke softly to Williams, "Please rest assured, I am not here to harm you or your kind."

Williams leaned back slightly as she hovered, "very well," he all but yelped. Straightening himself out he snapped his neck to the side with a pop and took a deep breath, "a new strategy is being formed as we speak. New information has arrived, and we plan on using it to our advantage. If your troops would report to the barracks, I'm sure they will be found useful at once."

"And Lady Amaranth," Williams looked back over to her, "perhaps it is best we get diplomacy and questions out of the way as soon as possible. We've been knee deep in things popping from the ground and thin air, so if you could understand any ambition conclusions some might have."

Lady Amaranth gently nodded at Williams in approval. "I understand. I suppose it would be a sigh of relief though.. relief that something from the ground -isn't- trying to kill them, just the same as we would be happy to know that not all things from the surface wants to kill us."

Eriah carried out Williams request for his men as well and with the simple motion of his hands,, the Elven soldiers dispersed towards the barracks.

"It is a bit unnerving that I'm assuming your land is not registered or incorporated into the Empire," Williams folded his arms and a look of concern crossed his face, "the Mortal Empire was supposed to consist of all the Mortal Races. So it had until these dark beasts showed up, and now... well you know."

Amaranth chuckled at Williams comments about all mortal races being under the empire, "Well, regarding your empire.. it seems we must've slipped between the cracks." She started to laugh but was quick to show seriousness once more. "Even though we aren't part of your empire, is there a clause stating we cannot be friends? Is it going to be an issue that not all mortal races have fallen under your banner?' She looked to Williams with a smile, "Well technically we were under your banner, but still."

"It just raises questions is all," Williams answered simply.

Amaranth reverted to her serious tone once more, "Fair enough. I can understand the confusion. However these questions seem rather pointless with the advent of this Darkness that has befallen the world."

Williams smiled a pearly grin, "I'm a curious man is all; however, you are right. What are you offering?"

"Well, I would offer food as we have plenty but when Eriah tried some, he found himself vomiting and defecating every few moments. So going by that example, it's likely not a wise idea that we do that." She turned her head, "We can offer military assistance. And perhaps logistical support in the form of our tunneling expertise. Perhaps create 'safer' passages?" She wasn't sure about the second as not only would that take time to do, time they may not have, but it wasn't going to be an easy command, Alright men.. lets march into the dark tunnels the spiders dug for us.

Amaranth still shown confidence, perhaps the humans would actually be humbled and accept that help as well. She spoke once more, "So, Williams, do those sound reasonable?"

"Yes," Williams chuckled, "but it's not my say -- I'll relay the message."

Williams furrowed a brow and continued slowy, "wouldn't help if I asked if you were the top Furhlanx would it?"

Amaranth gently responded, "Well, I am one of the leaders. You wouldn't really expect our queen to just come up into the unknown.." She paused, realizing her snarky behavior. "I apologize, What I mean is. Yes, I am one of the leaders of my people. My decisions carry immense weight among my kind and the offers I have given are already authorized by my queen." She paused for a moment before looking at him curiously,

"So.. you're not this 'The Emperor' that Eriah said would want to speak with me?"

"Nope, but would you expect the ruler of all of Jerrovia to be jumping around on ghastly beasts of the unknown? Because he does that, and that's pretty damn worrying," Williams joke turned concerning as he made a face, "I digress. I was going to ask if you were the leader, if you wanted to... well simply put, make your pledge."

"You have my pledge." she said simply.

"Do you know what you are pledging?" Williams asked hopefully.

She shrugged, "Honestly, I am not very knowledgeable with your people's customs here. I would hope that you mean that I pledge my honesty. Just as if I asked for your pledge, that is what I would expect." She crossed her arms almost as if she were annoyed but her answer was honest.

"Well that's just it," Williams grinned with a friendly sparkle, doing his best to explain, "I expect your honesty without pledges, and I certainly don't need you to be the Queen of your people to get it, do I? No, I was more or less asking concerning the vassalization of your lands, as I'm sure that will be brought up eventually."

Amaranth stood shocked, "In the midst of a war and a new force that is offering its help arises.. the only thing this 'Empire' thinks of is taking our lands?" She uncrossed her arms, "My answer is simple.. and this is on behalf of all my kind. No. We will not become pawns to the surface world nor would we expect you to be pawns of us. We will retain our sovereignty." She took a deep breath. "I am sorry for my outburst. I will still offer my people's support but they will never agree to become part of the surface worlds 'Empire'."

"I'm disappointed," Williams said simply, his lips stretched into a line and he thought for a moment. After a few moments he shrugged and opened his mouth, "I don't know what more you wish to say, I won't stand here and defend my questions, because I feel they are self evident. I am hurt on the language you have used, but I don't hold anything against you. I am not of rank to do much but ask questions, I'm just a friend, we are all friends in this castle."

Eriah reached out his hand as if to intervene but Amaranth just looked at the ground, seeing her feet gently displacing the dirt at her feet. "Eriah made a comment not long ago, 'don't harm the messenger.'. I suppose those questions will become important at some other time." She looked up to him, "And friends are always welcome among my kind." She slowly took a few steps towards Williams, "So, Friend.. how exactly does all of this 'diplomacy' work? will this 'The Emperor' make the decisions regarding all of this?"

"Probably," Williams answered, "hopefully soon the great armies will merge to conquest against the Dweller."

"Well hopefully he can decide quick.. There is so much at stake." she said grimly.

"I'm sure it'll be quicker than you think," Williams reassured her.ku
Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Darkspleen
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Darkspleen I am Spartacus

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Ivlada, Xoskea

“This deal is simply unacceptable!”

“Does the emperor really expect us to allow a…a tyrant to have complete control over the army?”

“Tyrant? How dare you! Princess-regent Cressida has broken no laws! How dare you defame such a noble individual while you stand behind those who would take the throne by force!”

The Athanas family had gathered in the imperial palace three days ago to discuss the possibility of setting their differences aside as Emperor George had requested. And for three days the family had bickered, throwing accusations and insults at each other but doing little towards bringing a resolution to the civil war that had taken hold of Xoskea. Thankfully a minimal amount of blood had been spilt, although Taryn’s blood had been spilt; surely one of those present was a kinslayer. Regardless of the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of Cressida’s actions during the civil war, she certainly was in a bad position now. Her control of the army was quite firm, but few among her family supported her. And that was before the family had been gathered in one place. Now she had just two relatives who stood at her side, while the remaining Athanas family members supported Isolda, Xylia, or where undecided.

“How about we strike the tyrant down and hold elections at last!” Baronetess Narella drew her blade as she began to approach Cressida. Narella was one of the few who had actually brought a weapon to the meeting. Cressida backed away as Narella approached; it was the only thing she could do since she had decided to not carry her own weapon. Her two remaining supporters drew their own swords as their placed themselves before Narella.

“Enough!” Isolda yelled, her voice halting Narella in her tracks. “Cressida summoned us to discuss peace. I will not stand idly by as she is murdered” She leveled her gaze at Narella. “So long as Cressida does nothing that goes against the intent of making peace I will consider an attack on her to be one made against myself.” Narella quickly backed off, sheathing her blade as she mumbled an apology. Cressida’s supporters also sheathed their own weapons, albeit slightly slower, before returning to Cressida’s side.

“Thank you Iso-“ Cressida began, but stopped when Isolda held up her hand.

“No, don’t. I did only that which I believed to be right.” Isolda sighed before continuing “Can you just allow the elections to take place Cressida? We can all see that you’re sorely lacking support. How long do you intend to drag out this farce?”

“And what will you do when you come into power?” Cressida snapped back. Isolda didn’t quite hide her surprise at Cressida’s sudden shift in demeanor.

“Well we have obligations to aid the Emperor and Shahdom” Isolda said after a moment.

“Screw the Emperor!” Someone yelled. “We have to look after ourselves!”

“Exactly.” Xylia said. “We must secure our own borders. We can send some food to the Imperial Provinces and Shahdom and call it good. Perhaps we’ll help alleviate the Shahdom’s refugee problem by bringing some of them back here as slaves. It seems only fair.”

“What is wrong with you?” Isolda turned on Xylia. “If anything we should be eliminating slavery, not taking advantage of this crisis to add to it!” She took a deep breath before continuing “We are fairly secure hear already. Should we not focus on trying to prevent our allies from falling?”

“What we do here and now will determine the course we take for the next hundred years” Euphemia spoke for the first time since the family had gathered. She might have been ignored, except she managed to pour a sense of authority and certainty into her voice. “For centuries” She continued, keenly aware that all eyes were on her. “We were content to let others determine the course we took. Surrounded by fertile lands and gold we grew fat and lazy. I must wonder how different of a place the world would have been if we had played an active role in it. Might the world have avoided the situation it now finds itself in had we chosen to be a leader instead of a follower?”

The gathered Athanas family remained silent, their faces donning thoughtful expressions. Some their eyes hardened as they determined that what Euphemia said was wrong. And yet as time passed many of the thoughtful expressions turned into regret or despair; their eyes seeming to say “we did nothing to prevent this.”

After a few minutes Nicia finally spoke up. “I believe we should make Euphemia princess-regent.”

“Explain yourself!” One of Cressida’s supporters demanded.

“We have never had a situation in which a princess-regent has passed away before,” Nicia began, “so I can’t exactly say that Cressida assuming the role after Taryn’s passing was unlawful.” Euphemia gave a hesitant nod in agreement. “However does it not make sense that Taryn’s immediate subordinate take over the role?”

“That… follows logically” Isolda agreed. Xylia gave a nod of her own after a moment’s thought. All eyes shifted to Cressida, one of her supporters seemed about ready to refute Nicia’s stance, but halted when Cressida held up a hand.

“Very well” She said, closing her eyes. “I shall surrender the title of princess-regent to Euphemia.”

The words had barely escape Cressida’s lips before a great cheer erupted amongst those present. Cries of “The war’s over!” and “The tyrant has fallen!” were shouted over and over. Even Euphemia could feel herself getting swept up in the celebratory mood, although she resisted the urge to let out a cheer of her own. Finally, after what felt like an hour, all eyes were once again on Euphemia. Despite the fact that all were quite a single question seemed to hang in the air: what now?

Euphemia took a deep breath. She had to be careful. What if she messed up? What if she made the wrong decisions here and now? She could feel herself begin to shake at the thought of failure. She could imagine the blood of thousands on her hands because she simply said the wrong thing here and now. Hell, even if she did everything perfectly she would probably still have all that blood on her hands. She could feel herself begin to panic, but then Nicia reached over and grabbed her hand, giving her a gently squeeze. And with that squeeze she could feel her panic dissipate. She could get through this if for no reason other than that her friend was beside her, ready to catch her should she stumble.

“For too long have we been content to be a junior partner in the Empire” Euphemia said. “Xoskea will stand with the Empire as the Emperor’s vassal, but we will stand beside the Imperial Provinces as their equal. And as such we will take a more active role in both the Empire’s defense and its management. We will also do away with the act of calling our ruler a princess. That was a practice suited for when we were a willing junior member of the Empire. But let all throughout the lands now that next sovereign of Xoskea will be a queen!”

Euphemia’s audience erupted in cheering and applause. She could see their eagerness in their eyes. They were ready for this. They wanted this. For how long had this energy, this desire, been ignored? Could it have been that without an outlet for this desire the Xoskean people had settled to channel it against each other? It was a chilling thought, one that Euphemia would be sure to remember.

“As princess-regent of Xoskea” Euphemia began.

“Don’t you mean queen-regent?” Isolda said, resulting in more cheering.

“As queen-regent of Xoskea” Euphemia corrected, “I proclaim that we will hold elections for the first queen of Xoskea in one tenday.” She paused as those around her let out another cheer. “Let those who would nominate a candidate be heard here and now.”

“I nominate Countess Isolda” Someone said.

“I second that nomination!”

“Very well, I recognize Isolda’s candidacy.” Euphemia said.

“Xylia is the only one fit to be queen” Someone else shouted. “I nominate Archpriestess Xylia!”

“I recognize Xylia’s candidacy as well.” Euphemia waited for a few moments before adding “Are there any other candidates?” Her gaze shifted to Cressida and her two supporters.

“Ten years ago there was a woman who said many of the things that Euphemia is now saying” Nicia spoke up before one of Cressida’s supporters could. “She was well loved by all and would have surely been our queen now had she not been stolen from us.” Euphemia’s eyes widened as she realized where Nicia was going. “I nominate the daughter of Lysandra, Countess Euphemia!”

“I second that nomination!” Cressida cried out to the shock of all and the dismay of her followers. If that hadn’t been enough of a surprise for Euphemia others began to voice their support for her candidacy.

“I….” Euphemia’s voice trailed off.

“Show us the resolve you had just a few moments ago” Isolda said.

“I recognize my own candidacy” She said. She took a deep breath before continuing “We shall hold the election on a tenday. Until then I shall manage the country.” She took another breath. “We shall render aid to our allies. I want all of our ships filled with food and other supplies and a thousand soldiers. I want those ships to leave for the Shahdom within three days.”

“My followers and I” Isolda began “have already prepared to send aid to the Shahdom. Our ships almost ready to go. If I send a message now they’ll be ready to leave by tomorrow afternoon.”

“See that it be done.”

“What shall we do about the refugees?” Xylia asked.

“Those willing can ride on our ships on their return trip and serve as indentured servants here.” Euphemia answered.

“You would have them become slaves?” Isolda didn’t try to hide the disgust in her voice.

“No. I would not” Euphemia calmly answered. “We have what they need: food, shelter, and some sense of stability. They have something we need: labor. They will agree to sell their services to use for a set duration of time. Once that time is up they will be free to do as they please. Remember: every human or elf working the fields or mines increases the number of lamia we can send to deal with the crisis. If they so want, they can also fight alongside us.” Isolda hesitated for a moment before nodding in agreement.

“Xylia,” Euphemia turned towards the archpriestess, “would you be so kind as to declare a crusade to retake the imperial capital?” Xylia silently nodded. “Excellent. I would like to send five thousand crusaders immediately to render aid to the Emperor. Can this be done?”

“I have troops positioned near the border that could make for the Emperor’s position immediately.” Cressida said.

“Excellent. Now…” Euphemia frowned as she stared at Cressida. “Some present have insinuated that you are a traitor Cressida” Euphemia quickly raised a hand to forestall any reply. “This is not a matter I intend to handle as queen-regent. The future queen shall decide your innocence or guilt. Until then you are to continue your duties and prepare are armies for war.” She let her gaze shift from Cressida to Xylia and finally to Isolda. “We have a lot of work to do. Let’s get started.”

Outbound Messages

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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Ivlada, Xoskea

Isolda looked out the window of the parlour to the city of Ivlada and the jungles that lay beyond the city’s walls. The parlour was one of many to be found in the royal palace; situated on the third floor, it was considered to have the best view of the city and landscape, though some complained about its ‘modest’ size and lack of art. That suited Isolda just fine, as the view was the appeal of the parlour, not what laid within in. Much of the parlour’s space was taken up by an ornate table on which rested a variety of dainty sandwiches and a variety of drinks, namely tea and coffee. Several chairs rested around the table: some made for humanoids and some for lamias. The door to the parlour remained opened as she had instructed; a pair of lamia guards waited on either side of the door in the hallway while her greatest supporter stood at the ready near her.

One such chair made specifically for humans or rather the bipedal races of average size sat a rich looking woman. Her velvet laced chair devoured her slim figure as she sat into it. Blonde locks curled at the end of long golden strands, brushing her soft and feminine shoulders, and red clothe, almost matching the chair, draped from her shoulders into a fitting dress. Silver laced into the extravagant dress and trinkets adorned her swan like neck and slim fingers.

A vicious pink curl tipped her light and content smile as she brought a white porcelain cup to her lips and silently sipped the strong tea. Her fingers moved carefully and with nobility, not leaving a fingerprint on the sides nor a crumb on her lap as she slowly made work of a watercress sandwich the size of her thumb.

Green eyes looked over and out the window by half closed lids, tired or maybe pretentious and feigning disinterest. A single freckle marred her otherwise pure and white skin under her right eye, and it crinkled slightly as she suddenly flashed a pearly, politicians smile at Isolda.

She shifted in her dress, bringing one leg over the other, interrupting her formal knee tight position she had held for the entire luncheon. Placing the tea down gently onto it’s plate, with little more than a clink only heard by a mouse, should one permit itself audience to such a regal lady of court, Isabella started to speak with a gentle and experienced voice, young yet demanding respect.

“It is so nice to finally enjoy a luncheon with Isolda of Xoskea,” She pursed her lips politely, “ I would admit since my transition from the Imperial Province, a Grand Duchess as myself isn’t so used to the isolation I have been suffering.”

“I must apologize for allowing you to get caught in the middle of our family’s disagreement” Isolda said, shifting her gaze from the landscape outside to the Grand Duchess. “Let’s us be thankful that a resolution was found before things got out of hand.” She took a slow sip of tea before adding “And might I add that it is an honor to speak to a member of the Heinrich family?”

Isabella flashed her blinding smile and rested her fingers onto her lap. She closed her eyes and opened them with a flutter as she started to speak, “please, the honor is all mine. I enjoy such splendid hospitality in such dreary times.”

“I hope that Cressida treated you well during her time as princess-regent, if nothing else” Isolda responded. “She didn’t bring shame to Xoskea, did she?”

“She was a gracious host,” Isabella glanced over to her tea, the very waters stilling at the command of her eyes as she slowly picked it back up, “a true loyalist to the cause of the Mortal Empire.”

A soft slurp ended her sentence and a warm rosy fuzz came to her pretty cheeks, “but of course I find all the regal family of Xoskea to be so admiringly accommodating.”

Isolda raised an eyebrow at the comment about Cressida being a true loyalist, but her smile remained pleasant. She took another sip of her tea before asking “Is there anything I can do to make your stay more pleasant? I may not be the queen-regent, but I still hold a certain degree of influence here.”

“Nothing beyond finding a new abode for that dreaded Count Valdo,” a light smile teased on Isabella’s lip as even her insult came out woven in silk.

Isolda chuckled before saying “I’m sure I can arrange some new accommodations for you.”

“Splendid,” Isabella mentioned approvingly as a quick white snap of her teeth bit a finger sandwich in twain. She chewed slowly and carefully behind pursed pink lips, one arched brow cocked in thought.

A quiet swallow shifted down her throat and after a quick lick over her teeth, her smile reemerged, “it would only be polite if I were to see if there was any help I could offer my hostess?”

“I appreciate the thought” Isolda simply stated, neither accepting nor declining.

Isabella waited for a moment or two, her eyebrows arched in suspense as she awaited the second half of Isolda’s sentence, but when it never came her eyebrows lowered back into a look of disinterest. Her fingers slipped around the handle of her tea cup and she shifted her attention back to slowly sipping the luke warm brew.

“Could I bother you to tell me a bit about Count Valdo?” Isolda leaned forward slightly. “A human noble is quite a rare sight in these lands, even, or perhaps especially, during these times.”

A soft fluttering laugh mused from Isabella, “I try not to fancy myself a gossip, Isolda of Xoskea.”

Her vicious curl conquered her lips and she continued softly, lowering her half worked tea back to the table and letting her leg slip off the other, pressing her knees together as she thought.

“However, for the name of curiosities, as you so put it, a rarity, I suppose I can let slip a few words on his behalf,” Isabella sat back into her chair, her back straight.

“He is quite the promiscuous man, one of intellect, but one of fleshly desires. I do not desire a housing accommodation anywhere near him, and only sparsely do I enjoy his unique and seasoned wit,” Isabella laced her fingers together in her lap and sighed a tiny breeze, “however, I do accept his validation and notable title in the Imperial Province and under the right of the Mortal Empire. He has done nothing to make me question his ability to lead his titles appropriately.”

Isolda raised an eyebrow as she looked over her shoulder at the man standing behind her. The man returned her look with an amused smile of his own. She let out a very soft sigh as she returned her attention to Isabella. “I can see why a lady of you standing might want to put a bit of distance between yourself and him.” She let the smallest of smiles spread across her face as she added “Though I’m sure the count will, or already has, found the capital here quite to his liking.”

“I’m sure he has,” Isabella added dimly, tapping her fingers together in her lap as she thought to herself.

She looked slowly over to the guard behind her hostess and then back at Isolda, “such high security as of late,” she mused, “but then with the state of affairs I mustn’t judge.”

The human guard chuckled before saying “Apologies my ladies.”

“His role is slightly different than what you may imagine” Isolda commented. “Though you are more or less correct about those guards” She gestured towards the hallway. “And considering the fate of Princess Karissa… well let us say that my supporters wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“An understandable measure,” Isabella smiled, “although I’m not so sure what ill fate lies at the hands of a few sandwiches and some tea.”

“Perhaps the turmoil has upturned some paranoia,” She offered.

“It’s only paranoia if the fear is unwarranted” Isolda stated simply. “I’m sure there are more than a few in Xylia’s camp that would like to see me disappear.” She shrugged “Not that I have any evidence to back up that claim, of course.”

“We’ve already halted two attempts on my lady’s life” The human guard added. Isolda shot him a look, to which the guard simply shrugged.

“Things are under control” She added with a smile.

Isabella tilted her head as her golden brow arched, “so quick to interject on conversation, he must very well be more than a regular guard. I hope you don’t find me offensive, my Dear Isolda in saying, but I’m growing a nasty doubt at how under control things really are. Would you care for my personal guard to oversee your health? I assure you they are quite the Imperial Standard.”

“I’m afraid I must decline” Isolda answered. “I’m afraid that accepting guards from a foreign power would be a sign of weakness to my opponents. This I can not have.” She slowly shook her head. “And you do not need to worry about my guard. My health is his highest concern, even if he has a habit of talking out of turn.” She gave him a quick glance, to which he simply mouthed the word ‘sorry’. “What would my own supporters think if I accepted your offer? That I didn’t trust them? That I lacked the ability to protect even myself? Or perhaps it’d be a sign that your family holds an undue amount of influence over me. I’d rather not deal with any of those things right now.”

Isabella cupped her cheek as if shocked for a moment, dancing her fingers along her cheek bone in thought, “a most troubling speech, Isolda of Xoskea. That the principality of this province had so drifted to the idea that it was foreign to Jerrovia. We are all one country, and all nobility belongs to the same imperial family. Perhaps the turmoil of Xoskea had blinded the relationship she holds with the rest of her country.”

“I am not a foreigner,” Isabella laced her fingers back into her red silken lap, “I am a distant cousin, concerned with the well being of a province of her country.”

“And yet that is how the people of Xoskea see it.” Isolda stated simply. “And given that this may be a turning point for Xoskea my close relatives are especially sensitive to these kinds of things.”

“Well I do hope Xoskea remembers her home in this great country of ours, a stable element to the well being of the Mortal Empire,” Isabella lounged back into her chair, a happy smile on her lips as the plush velvet curved to her frame.

“Xoskea will stand with the Empire” Isolda said without a trace of hesitation. “It must. I believe even Xylia understands this, otherwise she’d have never called for a crusade.” Isolda leaned back in her chair as she continued “What stands to change is Xoskea’s place in the Empire and how it conducts itself in the context of both the Empire at large and within itself.”

“Fluidly, I would hope,” Isabella offered, “there is a mighty difference between standing next to the Empire and being a working limb of the Empire. It is what the founders envisioned, a seamless system stretching and uniting all of our great land. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Isolda shook her head slowly. “I believe that Xoskea no longer wishes to be a hand of the Empire, mindlessly doing as it is told. As I see it Xoskea will do one of two things: become an increasingly active voice in Imperial politics or a distant entity that interacts with the Empire as little as possible. I would see it be the first of those two options.”

“I see,” Isabella nodded slightly, “a distant entity would be quickly defined as an ill idea in such a supposed seamless system we have all adopted, so I would encourage the latter.”

Isolda nodded. “I will have much to do after I’m elected to be the queen” She commented. “Xoskea is sick” She said with a sigh. “For too long have we allowed such revolting practices such as slavery to exist here. No more.”

“And then what to do with those who have birthed such distressing philosophies so close to open rebellion against the political body of Mortals?” Isabella questioned, “and what to do with those who seem to agree, are they truly opponents?”

“For many it is not there fault” Isolda said after a moment. “Their acceptance of slavery is simply a continuation of their mother’s acceptance. I’m sure in some sense they view at a tradition, perhaps even an essential one. They will conform eventually, but only if pushed to do so. And for those who refuse” Isolda paused for a moment as she sought the exact wording she wanted “they will find that Xoskea will no longer be a home to those lacking morales.”

“But what do you think of Euphemia?” Isabella suddenly switched the conversation, “my cousin, our dearest Emperor George had sent her with a task that was outright ignored. Yet it seems you two seem to have similar ideals on how to progress the principality.”

“I’m not sure that the task was not ignored so much as deemed impossible.” Isolda idly brushed a lock of blonde hair out of her face. “You have to understand that his proposal involved allowing a woman that many see as a tyrant and traitor to maintain control of our army.” She slowly shook her head as she continued “Even had both Xylia and I been okay with that, the other members of our family certainly wouldn’t have. I suspect we’d have simply fractured into even more factions had we tried to force that. More importantly wasn’t the spirit of the Emperor’s task not to see Xoskea unified once more? I’d say we are certainly more unified than we were a tenday ago.”

“Which is why I wonder if yourself and Euphemia could simply come to agreeing terms, you are both very much alike in the view for the Empire and its provinces,” Isabella idly added.

Isolda gave Isabella a warm smile. “I would ask her to be my steward if only she were not already in the Emperor’s service.”

Isabella laughed a melodic chuckle, “if only that was how one comes to terms with their political opponents. No, I mean perhaps, since you are both very like minded in politics and policies, two groups could be one -- especially since I’d be more than assumptious yet secure in assuming Euphemia has a certain support already going towards her in regards to our newest Emperor.”

“I already have a majority of the family behind me.” Isolda commented. “Why bother?”

“Because it is the mark of an Imperial Noble, a good leader,” Isabella’s pink curl deepened, “don’t take pride unless you have all the support.”

“What you say does have merit” Isolda said after a long pause. “But I’m not quite sure it's as simple as you are making it out to be. Some support her simply for who she is. Even if she were to publicly support me there would still be those who would support her.”

“In fact that’s almost the situation we’re in right now” The human guard commented. “Despite accepting her own nomination Countess Euphemia herself has made no attempt to gather any support. And yet Nicia Athanas and a few others are doing everything in their power to grow her support base. I have to wonder if Euphemia really doesn’t want the crown herself or if she’s trying to pretend to be a disinterested party.”

“It's a moot point” Isolda said with a shake of her head. “She won’t get the support she needs to threaten my victory.”

Isabella sat up, straightening her back at the sudden intrusion. Her emerald eyes stared hard at the guard for a while past half closed lids before she turned her attention back to Isolda, “it would be poor to not try. You have garnered yourself plenty of support through the hoops and hurdles thrown at you thus far, I would hope a talk of peace and unity would be worthy of you to try out next. Limit the parties to the like minded, the majority, and then things can be considered on the track to unity, albeit not there yet. Speak with Euphemia and her supporters, build a better Xoskea to fit in the system of the Mortal Empire, so that all may prosper from political stability and balance.”

Isabella stood up, brushing her pristine dress flat against her stomach as if there was a mote of dust hidden, “I’m not sure I have much more to say this Luncheon.”

“I thank you for your advise” Isolda said as she rose as well. “I will consider what you have said carefully. If you wish to speak again my door will always be open for you.”

“The rest of Jerrovia is watching; Xoskea is not alone in her ordeal,” Isabella curled a polite smile. With what might have been a tiny bow of her chin, Isabella gracefully strode out of the room, paying no mind to the door guards.

Her hard soled shoes clacked against the flat hallways as she made her way down. Her light dress swished with her long strides natural to her slim figure. Her eyes remained distant to the decor around her, and her mind frozen on other matters than atmosphere and fluff.

“May I have a moment of your time?” A voice said from behind her. “I don’t believe that we have had the pleasure of speaking before. I am Nicia Athanas.”

Isabella stopped with a clack and she slowly turned to meet Nicia, her dress swirling around her legs from the motion and the silver shimmering with the light of the hallways.

“Grand Duchess Isabella Heinrich,” Isabella stated firmly. Even her strict words seemed candied by her quick smile, “and yes you may.”

“It is an honor your Grace” Nicia said as she rendered a low bow. “I was hoping you would lend me your ear for a moment.”

“Of course,” Isabella smiled, “what would you like to say?”

“Thank you your Grace.” Nicia returned the smile. “I was hoping to discuss the upcoming election. There is much to do, you see, if we are to ensure Euphemia’s victory.” She gestured down the hall, “And I’m sure your Grace wishes to speak to her yourself.”

“But of course,” Isabella’s single freckle crinkled as she smiled.

“This election will determine a great many things for Xoskea” Nicia started to very slowly slither down the hall in the direction she had gestured earlier. “What role Xoskea will take in the Empire. How it treats its own people. That sort of thing.” She paused for a moment. “But it will also determine how well the country is run. And that, right now, is perhaps the most important thing.”

“I see what you are saying,” Isabella nodded politely, “please continue.”

“Xylia… well let’s just say that we shouldn’t consider her an option for a great many reasons. And Isolda.” Nicia’s smile seemed to widen ever so slightly. “Her heart is in the right place I’m sure, but she will be prone to ignoring the realities of today in order to push her own sense of ethics onto the entire country.” She paused again. “And perhaps more importantly she has little experience ruling. She inherited her titles only recently, you see, and while she has made an admirable job thus far she still lacks experience. Euphemia also only recently inherited her titles, but there is one very distinct difference between the two.” Nicia paused again. “When Princess Karissa was still alive Euphemia worked directly under her steward, Countess Taryn. More importantly she excelled at the administrative work she had been given. And her current actions as queen-regent indicate that she has more than a little aptitude to be a leader. One that will work for the best interests of both Xoskea and the Empire. As I see it we” she put a strong emphasis on the word, “have but one real choice.”

“I see that Emperor George favors her work in his office, and if she could bring that to stabilizing this branch of the Empire, then I see little reason to be against her in her endeavours,” Isabella commented as she walked beside the Lamia.

“I’m glad you see it that way your Grace” Nicia said. “The unfortunate thing about this situation is that Euphemia refuses to actively try and gather more support. She claims she doesn’t want the throne, but… I can tell it's a lie. I’m just not sure if the lie is for herself or for others.”

“Dearest Nicia,” Isabella looked over to her slithering companion, “if I may address you in such a casual way, wouldn’t it be wise to simply confront her about this directly, and then situate the events. If a leader doesn’t want to lead, then the leader certainly won’t do.”

“She just needs a slight push in the right direction” Nicia countered. “And I was hoping that a word from you, your Grace, would be just the push we need. Otherwise the alternative is Isolda who, I fear, will end up unintentionally tearing this country apart.”

“Very well,” Isabella instinctively flattened her dress against her stomach and nodded, “where may I find her?”

“You have my gratitude your Grace” Nicia said as they turned the corner. “And you may find her right in this room.” She stopped at a nearby door, adding “Convenient, isn’t it?”

Isabella’s fingers curled to her palm as she held it out towards the door hesitantly, “does she expect me?”

“No,” Nicia answered, “but she will welcome your presence.”

Isabella let her hand fall back to her side, “I don’t want to impose, Nicia of Xoskea, but could you inform her of my arrival? Can’t be too casual, can we?”

“But of course” Nicia said as she rapped a fist against the door twice. “Grand Duchess Isabella is here to speak to you” Nicia said loudly.

“Let her in” Came a voice after a moment’s pause. Nicia flashed Isabella a smile as she opened the door for her. The spacious room was dominated by a large table of which a variety of maps and documents were spread across its surface. Euphemia and Cressida occupied one side of the room, while a pair of lamia servants occupied the other.

“Your Grace, I will be with you in just a moment” Euphemia said as she looked at the grand duchess. “Please make yourself comfortable.” She then turned back to Cressida.

“I think it’s one of your supporters” Cressida commented.

“Perhaps, but I don’t doubt it.” Euphemia answered. “While some may think it’d make me win the election should something happen to Isolda, I think it has less to do with me and more to do with slavery.” That statement got Cressida to raise an eyebrow. “Isolda is the only one who is openly against slavery.” Euphemia clarified. “They may be thinking that with her out of the picture the issue of slavery will no longer be an issue.”

“Will it?”

“It doesn’t matter” Euphemia responded. “I want to know who is behind those attempts on Isolda’s life. Understood? Good. How can I help you your Grace?” Euphemia said as she turned back to Isabella.

“I wish to speak with you about the political body and health of this province,” Isabella tucked her arms behind her back and laced her fingers together, a friendly curve bending her lips.

“Of course your Grace” Euphemia’s look of bored indifference didn’t quite reach her eyes, which seemed to shine with interest. “How can I help?”

Isabella looked around the room past her dissatisfied lids before perked her attention back to Euphemia, “perhaps a more private setting? It feels like a war room in here.”

“Strictly speak it is” Euphemia said. “Leave us” The two servants immediately headed for the exit. Cressida waited for a moment before rendering a low bow to Isabella making for the exit as well.

“I shall be right outside if I am needed” Nicia said before leaving and closing the door behind herself.

“Now that it is just you and I,” Euphemia gestured towards one of the chairs near Isabella, “What would you like to discuss?“

Isabella patted her dress flat against her butt, sliding her hands down the back of her legs as she sat down. Pressing her knees together she gestured idly towards Euphemia, her voice inquisitive yet gentle, “do you want to be the queen of Xoskea?”

“No” She said after a few moments of hesitation. Her eyes belied the facade in her words. She placed her hands on the table before her and leaned forward slightly as she looked down at a map of Jevorria. A deep frown spread itself across her fair features.

“Then, shouldn’t you think you are wasting everyone’s time then? That is, unless you like to lie,” Isabella folded her arms, “there’s a lot of people who believe in you to do a certain action, that you don’t want to do. I think I’m starting to see the flaw of Xoskean politics.”

A vulpine smile warmed her cheeks and her eyes softened behind her visage, “come now, Countess Euphemia, you do not need to trick or fool me.”

Euphemia looked up at Isabella as she said “What if I’m not up for the task? Is it right for me to fight for a position that another may be better suited for? And what if all I do is weaken Isolda’s position so that Xylia takes the throne instead? What if I make the wrong decisions?”

“So it seems you have a lot to wonder,” Isabella straightened her posture, “but really, confidence is a mark of a leader, and confidence you need to find. You will mess up here and there, just make sure you don’t mess up the larger prospects of leadership. Think things over like you are, but if you think things over and plan, while denying everything, then you’re already failing. If you want to do this, say so, and then I will let you in on a few secrets of politics you could put to use.”

“I….Thank you your Grace” Euphemia said. She didn’t quite smile, but her body lost some of its tension and she seemed to relax slightly. “Perhaps there is some merit to what Nicia, Cressida, and now you are saying.” She took a deep breath as she looked back at the map. “Eight days till we have a new sovereign.” She muttered. “Is that enough time?”

“Enough time for what?” Isabella smiled a white smile.

“Gather enough support.” Euphemia answered. “Assuming I did want the crown for myself.”

“Now, Countess Euphemia,” Isabella smiled, “I’ll only help the cause of someone who has a cause. If you aren’t clear with me about how much you want this, then I’m not sure what I can do.”

She shrugged her feminine shoulders and danced her fingers along the armchair, a youthful glow curling in her smile as she waited.

“Okay” Euphemia said after a long pause. “Let’s make this happen.” She gazed at the map of Jevorria for a moment, tapping the location that indicated the Xoskean capital with her finger. “In eight days my family will grant me the crown, and I will be the first queen of Xoskea.”

“Do you know what that means?” Isabella’s eyes widened with a sudden interest.

Euphemia raised an eyebrow as she looked up at Isabella. “I believe I do.”

“The problem with rulers of the provinces for the past couple hundred years is they forgot that they hold a certain role. You’re not here to emulate being the Emperor, but rather to unite all the lands and peoples into a common virtue,” Isabella pursed her lips, “I’ve grown interested in Xoskea because I notice many of the candidate's force and push themselves so hard for the crown, and they don’t even understand its function other than it’s fancy shape. So if you can stand there and tell me, a Grand Duchess of Jerrovia and cousin to the Emperor, that you intend on raising this province back to it’s glory in being a thinking continuation of the body of Jerrovia, I will let you know what I know to secure your place. We talk as noble ladies of the courts of course, so I need not remind you of honesty.”

“I won’t lie to you. I feel that Xoskea’s role in the Empire needs to change.” She frowned. “For centuries, perhaps even since the founding of this country, we have been content to simply do as we were told. No more, no less. Historically our army has been among the largest and our lands fertile, yet we chose to partake in Imperial politics as little as possible. And look at where it’s gotten us” She gestured at the map. The wooden pieces that indicated armies or fallen settlements. “The Empire has been declining for a long time to the detriment of us all. We allowed the likes of Aaldorenfeald and Gattania to do as they please. What if Xoskea had spoken out? What if it had played an active role and tried to share some of the burden with the Imperial Provinces?”

“Then change it,” Isabella shrugged slightly, “it won’t be easy, but I agree. As a province of the Empire it is Xoskea’s duty to play a part in the politics of Jerrovia. We are all Jerrovians, and such we all need to contribute to its governing. The incident in Aaldorenfeald should model what I mean when I say some provinces seem to have forgotten who they are. As Jerrovians we have to stand united under one banner, one banner we all contribute and uphold, or we are just barbarians with shiny trinkets and false authority.”

“I stand with the Emperor” Euphemia agreed, “with or without shiny trinkets.”

“Of course you do,” A pink curl approved, “you’re an Imperial noble.”

“That I am.” Euphemia paused for a moment before turning towards the door. “Nicia, would you join us?”

“Someone finally talk some sense into you?” Nicia asked as she entered, making sure to close the door behind her. She gave Isabella a quick glance before shifting her full attention to Euphemia.

“Something like that” Euphemia conceded. “I’m sure you’ve been doing all you could to garner support, despite my orders not to. How many back me?”

“Fourteen.” Nicia answered. “Isolda has twenty-four and Xylia has twenty. That whole slavery thing is really starting to hurt her.”

“That’s a lot of minds to change in a mere eight days.” Euphemia commented.

Isabella moved a rebellious golden lock back behind her ear as she sat smiling, “it’s all in time management. Besides, you know right away that twenty four voters would be willing to support your ideas; after all, in the eyes of a voter, you aren’t far from Isolda in ethics -- minus a few poorly chosen decisions on her part. Might I suggest cooperating with Isolda to see if you couldn’t mend the gap between your two factions, meanwhile your political friends can set about garnering support.”

“Why not make use of your mother’s legacy?” Nicia interject.

Isabella’s lids fluttered with amusement, “do go on Miss Nicia.”

“Before her death Lady Lysandra held an immense amount of influence” Nicia explained. “Had it not been for her untimely death she would be wearing the crown right now. She was much loved and some of her greatest supporters at the time were Xylia and Isolda’s mother. Perhaps if we phrase things like ‘She is her mother’s daughter’ we might be able to tap into some of Lysandra’s support base from ten years ago.”

“Potentially,” Isabella agreed, her lids falling back over the glisten of her eyes.

“I still find it hard to believe that mother came that close to ruling” Euphemia commented.

“Baroness Cressida will sing Lysandra’s praises all day if you’d let her” Nicia ran a hand through her hair. “Oh and I forget to tell you that I sent word to the Delta asking for them to support you as well.”

For a moment Euphemia wasn’t quite sure if Nicia was joking or stating a fact. Finally she responded “I don’t believe for a second you just forgot to tell me. When did you do this?”

“Right after we decided on the candidates” She shot Euphemia a guilty smile.

Isabella folded her hands gently in her lap, “seems we have some organizing to do. We have to make sure everyone is on the same page. I will not tolerate a chaotic political campaign.”

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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Isotope
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The Purple Road

He recognized it all too well, what the monsters were doing. It was a hunt.

He should have noticed it before, it was all too obvious. They'd been herded here, between the perilous imperial forest and the insurmountable Achian mountains, onto this tiny purple road. The damned things that pursued his forces had planned it all out, on the very first night they had ambushed his twitter carrier and cut him off from the world. Ever since they had pushed him and his men further onto this road where they could chew his rear guard to pieces night after night with impunity. They'd started this march with three thousand odd men, and now he feared the army held half those numbers.

Fifteen hundred dead, and he had personally failed every last one. On some level he knew this was the only avenue of retreat he could have taken, that the forest would have bled them far worse, but still the bitter taste lingered. Failure, defeat, concepts he had never understood were now all too intimate.

Yet... None of that mattered. They had to keep running, they had to keep dying; the living shadows that pursued them would permit nothing else. With a sigh Heren looked back on his own men, they were beaten, tired, and yet still they trusted him—how could they not? He was as close to their king as any man could be, and in their eyes he was the only hope of survival.

He desperately wanted that to be true, but the reality was that Prince George and his army represented the real chance at survival, and whether they managed to reach the princes camp alive was to be decided by their luck alone. He had never fought a battle, and he had never seen a man die until this march, but until they arrived Heren had to the symbol of their salvation. Luck might determine their fates but he'd be damned if they ever knew that. So he put on the act as best he could, sat straight on the back of his horse, and continued onwards, ignorant to the cold wind that heralded the coming of winter or the rustling of dead leaves under a dead sky which heralded something far worse.

As he rode the rustling of an approaching banner got his attention and Heren looked over to see one of the scouting companies men coming up on his thin horse. With a raised eyebrow Heren wondered what the scouts had to report so soon after he'd dispatched them, and he suppressed a shiver when he saw the look on the scouts face.

When the haggard looking scout was close enough for words Heren spoke before he could, “Not here, come up with me.”

When both the horses and men had widened the distance between them and the main group the scout finally opened his mouth after a nod from Heren, “It's... It's the Imperial camp sir, just off the road ahead.”

In spite of the scouts tone for the merest a moment relief spiked in Herens chest, “You've made contact?”

“No,” The scout tugged on his collar before he continued, “it's all empty sir, what's not packed has been scattered around by the animals.”

The words were palpable, painful. For a moment the world fell out from under Heren, and he feared not only for his life, but for his very spirit. If deeds can make men into gods, can they not do the opposite? What punishment would await he who had failed so many? The cold thoughts swirled and spun, threatening to take everything with with them.

His hands turned to fists and he lashed back at his own mind, if the camp was empty then George had moved on, and he would follow. Heren took off his silver helmet and exposed a determined look in his blue eyes, “You will not speak of this, not to anyone. Gather all the scouts who were there and we shall swear them to secrecy. Then come to me in the night, and we will do away with this distraction.”

The scouts look of confusion bled into understanding quickly enough, and soon Heren was once more alone, the cold wind biting at his cheeks. With a turn of his horse and his helmet by his side he rejoined the column to tell his commanders that the scouting parties had discovered an obstruction they'd have to go around, nothing of serious concern. He would not allow them the truth, he would not allow them to doubt. He would be their signal of hope even if luck had betrayed them and fate saw fit to damn them to oblivion.

That night Heren would take his leave of the column and move with the scouts to the remains of the princes old camp. Remains that symbolized everything he had to lose, and remains which he put wholly and unerring to the flame.

As the fire reflected in his eyes he understood that more would die, that the blood on his hands would thicken until he drown, yet in the morning all who knew that truth would report nothing, and a mysterious column of smoke would be all that spoke of the hope that had been smashed. Heren would move forwards, if not to a camp then to castle centrum, and even if that fortress had fallen if but one man of his command survived he would march to another, and another, not until the worlds end would he surrender his post.

He would march on because he had to, because he was expected to, and because he was afraid to do anything else. He was no great leader, no grand reincarnation of an ancient conqueror, he was no great man. So he would move forwards as simple men always did, forwards because he was terrified of looking back, forwards because it was the only way a man like him could be strong enough to lead.

The only way he could be the hope the many behind him clung to.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Afina
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Isotope
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Castle Fallars, City of Safall, The United Kingdoms of Aleria and Dicorden

The letter slid from her hands and onto the oak writing desk as she leaned back and her eyes closed in contemplation, with a soft smile she thought aloud, “Curious…”

It had come in some moments ago while she and Kersic were dealing with the scout’s reports on the movements of the dark ones; a seemingly meaningless task given her generals had read the reports first but also one that she’d decided had to be done. After all ruler should always know how effective their orders had been and the best source of that information happened to be the notes scrawled by the many scouts who observed the invaders first hand. Unfortunately there were many such notes, and while she’d regretted having to call on Kersic before she now found that serendipity had been on her side.

Across the room sifting through all manner of documents dimly illuminated by the morning sun bleeding through the blinds Kersic looked up to inquire, “What is?”

Running her finger along the paper Mardene replied, “A letter, from Xoskea no less. Quite unexpected given I’d written the Lamia off some time ago, their little civil war set to damn their nation to oblivion. A pleasant surprise that they’ve managed to overcome their differences… Even more surprising is who we can thank for that.”

“Isolda perhaps? I hadn’t heard much of her but the news was she’d managed to wrangle a truly staggering amount of support. I’d be unsurprised if she managed to persuade Cressida into surrendering her title.” Kersic guessed.

Her look of thought turning to something more refined Mardene eyed Kersic closely, “Not quite, it seems your half-sister and my own cousin Euphemia has decided to involve herself. More than that, it seems she has taken the new office of Queen-regent until one of their elections can take place, one she’ll be running in.”

Standing from her seat Mardene set her chair aside and made her way over to Kersic, her look becoming determined, “Why her loyal supporters have just sent word that they wish for our support in the matter, that being Euphemia’s successful ascension of course.”

Raising an eyebrow Kersic questioned, “Have we not just received news she had become involved? You’re speaking of Euphemia’s victory like it’s a certain thing your Majesty, surely Isolda still retains her followers? Have you thought of some sort of plan to change that?”

Mardene sat on the desk Kersic was using and waved dismissively, “Isolda doesn’t concern me cousin, because I mean for Euphemia to take the southern throne, and I mean for her to support us in ridding the land of the abominations that have made even the most basic tasks trying.”

Leaning in she added calmly, “And Kersic, I mean for you to ensure that happens. It shouldn’t be hard; she is our blood after all.”

Kersic opened his mouth to voice some protest, but the look on Mardene’s face made it obvious he would have no sway. With the Shahdom in ruin they- no, the Delta needed, allies that could be counted upon. It was obvious the only place to acquire them would be Xoskea.

Resigned he only added, “I know little of Euphemia you realize? My father hardly speaks of his time in Xoskea, let alone the child he has made a habit of forgetting.”

With a shrug Mardene got off the table taking several ancient documents with her. Dusting off her green dress she looked back to Kersic, “How well you know Euphemia isn’t my concern, she’s our blood and she’s the only one who appears to have the slightest modicum of sense in that entire province. I will make arrangements for you to leave by ship within the day, if all holds you’ll arrive a few days before the election and you will make certain I am not disappointed, do you understand?”

Kersic nodded, “So I take it the guards from the lower tower will be accompanying me?”

Mardene turned away and opened the blinds, extricating her pipe from a pocket and starting a small plume of billowing smoke that drifted out the open window, “I’m glad you understand, though do try to refrain from using them unless it becomes necessary, it’d be a shame for Euphemia to lose a pawn that might be valuable.”

Kersic stood to collect the papers Mardene had sent to the floor, “Then I should finish with this, I presume a ship will be prepared by nightfall?”

Mardene kept looking out the window as she gave a nod. With an inward sigh Kersic collected the rest of his papers and made his way into the hall. While he’d readily agreed to aid Mardene in her official work a trip to Xoskea was certainly not on his list of expectations, especially given the current state of the Delta. Still, he couldn’t deny the benefit a stable Xoskea would bring. Even if it meant the trip meant he had several days’ worth of letters and reports which he now had to file through in a few scant hours.

Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Darkspleen
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Ivlada, Xoskea

Leon narrowed his eyes as he turned the corner, bringing the door to Isolda’s room into eyesight. Something was wrong. His hand drifted towards the longsword resting at his hip, something that distinguished him from any other human in Xoskea, as he neared the room. He was the only man permitted to carry weapons in the palace, with the notable exception of visiting nobles of course. Leon’s eyes widened and he picked up his pace as he realized what was wrong. Where were Isolda’s guards? For that matter he hadn’t seen any guards for some time.

“My lady?” Leon called as he reached the door. The only answer was a feminine cry of pain and the sound of something heavy hitting the ground. “Isolda!” Leon cried out as he tried to open the door. No luck, it was locked of course. “I’m coming!” He stepped back and kicked the door, sending fragments of wood flying into the room as the door swung inwards. He drew his blade as he entered the room, but his entrance had come too late.

“I was wondering when you’d return” Isolda said, before grimacing in pain. She bled from a dozen wounds, the worst of which was where a dagger protruded from her back, just below her left shoulder. The floor around her was littered with the remains of four lamia, one in the armor of the royal guard and three others outfitted in simple leather armor. None of them moved.

“Are-“ Leon began.

“Go check on the queen-regent” Isolda said.


“I’ll live, but I fear for the queen-regent’s wellbeing. Go. Now!” She winced as she pointed the door.

Leon bit his lip as he nodded his head, sheathing his weapon as he turned towards the door. He sprinted down the hallways of the royal palace, slowing only to inform some royal guards that Isolda had been attacked. The sight of Euphemia’s door, obviously broken open, caused Leon to curse under his breath. Was he too late. Had the queen-regent fallen?

“Queen-regent! Are you okay?” He asked as he rushed into the room, his hand resting on his longsword’s hilt.

“Back. Now.” Nicia Athanas demanded in a voice that brought Leon to an immediate halt. She stood between the queen-regent and the door, two kukris dripping in blood held firmly in her grasp. An unmoving lamia laid on the ground before her.

“I am fine” Euphemia said from behind Nicia.

“Why are you here?” Nicia demanded.

Leon looked at the unmoving lamia for a moment before responding “Countess Isolda was attacked as well. She ordered me to ensure the queen regent was safe.”

“And that you have done” Euphemia responded calmly. “Return to your lady.”

“As you say your Highness” Leon rendered a low bow before turning and heading back to Isolda as quickly as he could.

***** ***** *****

“I… My life wasn’t what they were after was it?” Euphemia asked as Leon made his exit.

“Probably not.” Nicia agreed. “I suspect this was a plot by some pro-slavery relative to kill Isolda and that you were attacked only to hide their objective. Sloppy work.”

Euphemia’s face paled as she looked at the unmoving assassin. Nicia shifted her body in an unsuccessful attempt to block Euphemia’s view, a look of worry etched on her face. She placed a hand on Euphemia’s shoulder as she said “Don’t worry. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Euphemia slowly shifted her gaze away from the assassin’s body to Nicia’s face and gave a small nod. “I want to know who is behind these attacks. Now.”

“As you wish queen-regent.”
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Monkeypants


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Somewhere beyond civilization, far in the north.

Bloodied knuckle's held tight to frozen rocks as boots struggled to get footing. Fay was doing her best at this point "Fucking books.. Fucking rocks." She said angrily. The white vapors drifted from her mouth upon every exhale. "What's next, Trolls?"

Minutes? Hours? How long this trek had taken was long lost to the now pale with frost Elf. Every outcropping she found was merely a resting place at what felt like the base of the mountain every time. Her efforts weren't in vein as when she looked down upon the fertile valleys far in the distance, she knew there was some progress made.

On her next ledge was a strange tunnel like structure and as she examined it, she felt a strange desire to go through. It was dark inside but it didn't take long before she was outside again, deeper in the mountain. This new area was strange though, more smooth rock and what appeared to be plant roots.

Fay grasped root after root as she made her way up this new towering mountain but her efforts paid off as she reached a strange rocky shoulder. She gazed into the distance and gave a sigh.

Everywhere she looked there was only more snow and stone but this calm was shaken when a rumbled caused her to lose her footing. She was lucky to catch herself from a deadly fall. But that was the least of her worries as that rumble occurred once again and as she struggled to keep her balance, a set of huge eyes opened and turned their gaze to the Elf.

Fay's heart nearly stopped as she realized what she was staring at. One of the most feared beasts of this world, a Titan. Her panic turned to desperate purpose as she jumped onto the Titans massive forearm and then onto the snowy ground. She hit the ground on all fours and with a heavy breath she stood up to see the full scale of what was now hunting her.

Fay ran as hard as she could but heavy breaths started to overwhelm her senses. Her legs grew heavy as her malnourished and fatigued body begged to give out. She halted abruptly and in a last ditch attempt of defiance, her mighty bow was brought to bear.

Her stance was at first flawless, an aggressive posture supporting a powerful drawn form. This facade was made evident as she released her deadly bolt that completely missed the quickly approaching titan. Fay could only smile as she remembered her comments about the mountain being the death of her. The smile faded as she drew a heavy breath and fell to her knees.

The destructive stomping of the house sized feet of the titan grew closer, and with each stride a copse was destroyed by its rampage. It did not halt, and it did not hesitate as it kept it's charge brisk and quick.

As the unstoppable giant was bearing down on Fay, a white blur streaked across the already white snow, a helping arm hooking and snatching Fay from her feet, and away from the Titan.

The monster yelled and fitted behind fay as she was carried swiftly away. The snow whipped like icy daggers as it misted around the heated form of the beast of white and it's rider, Fay underarm.

Fay's broken body laid limp in this strangers arms. As her eyes slowly opened, she could see the intrusive snow flakes landing upon her cheeks. She felt numb, but the warmth begged to awaken her strained eyes.

"What.. Who.." She said with a confused but soft voice. her weakened eyes begs to open and her focus began to return as she turned her gaze upon her savior.

A pointed ear spiked from a metallic helmet, covering the cheek of the rider as his other hand held tight to a long spear. There were no reigns and the furry beast he rode seemed to have a mind of its own as it galloped through the deep snow. All she could see was white triangle ears behind a mane of fur, like a cat's, and the frozen pale green tip of the rider's ear.

Fay blinked a few times and then squinted at the figure, "Did I die?" She had never seen a figure like this before. It was almost crude and alien but strangely well crafted and familiar at the same time. What the fuck is going on?

"Are you hurt?" A strange tongue hissed from the behind the helmet, a silhouetted chin bobbing from the metallic cage.

Fay hesitated as she further examined her rescuer. "Who are you?"

"Opi," The name came out simply, and quick, "what are you doing here?"

"Opi?" She paused once more and then a faint smile crossed her lips, "A minotaur... A fucking minotaur sent me." Fay took a few breath as she felt like hers was a fanciful story of its own, to be ridiculed by this new stranger.

"You shouldn't be here," the rider hissed. The wind picked up and with it the blizzard. The howling of the Titan faded as the pounding flakes of snow white washed the scene, only Opi's voice and the faint crunch of the beast underneath's foot falls broke over the roar of the wind.

"You shouldn't be here.."

As Fay gazed over the pale white snow, she could only agree. Before the darkness this would never had been a thought. A strange bull man, a magic book. This would've all been the rantings of a lunatic but this was real now.

"I..." She hesitated once more, still fearing the answer she may receive, "I have seen this place from a vision. That vision is what drew me here."

Fay clinched her weakened fists "I didn't come to this forsaken mountain to be turned back."

"Fine," was all Opi said, and the beast quickened it's pace, "we will go to warmth, then you will tell me everything."

There was no response from Fay as she closed her eyes. She wasn't to fall asleep but the sway from the beast as it gracefully crossed the snow was making her feel at ease.

Mile passed underfoot, or what felt like miles in the shivering cold. Wind kicked the snow of the blizzard up thickly, and vision failed to recognize anything but sheets of white. The wind howled and all other senses were drowned out by the storm.

The sound of fabric brought Fay's senses back to par as he body was lifted from the great beast, and slowly the blizzard stopped whipping her frame. A hard yet warm surface held her back as she was set down, and an orange glow refilled her eyes with sight.

All around her was plush wool fabrics laid out like mattresses, and a great circular wall of flapping fabric barred the storm from her as she sat up in the bizarre landscape.

She was in a tiny hut. Her eyes could make out the wooden beams, and a cracking fire sat dead center. The rider stood alone in the hut with her, and he stood shorter in comparison to her own height. Despite this, his alien armor gave him an aggressive look.

Fay was in disbelief of her situation, this new scene and reprieve against the glistening white fields outside. She stretched her arms towards the fire, feeling and hearing pops from damaged and abuses joints. Her fingernails were cracked and underneath was bits of dirt and stone. Her knuckles were red and swollen from the cold. She had long lost feeling in her extremities but the warm fire was bringing the life back to them.

She cocked her head to the as she examined the strange creature. Its imposing armor frustrated her as she wanted to shrug off its aggressive look due to the lesser height. However, with all she had been through, she knew better.

Fay leaned forward and opened her mouth as if to speak but abruptly furrowed her brow and looked to her hands once more. After a few long moments, she exhaled and opened her mouth once more and after clearing her throat, she finally broke the silence.

"Thank you for saving me back there." She was almost ashamed when she spoke but reality sunk in, she couldn't do anything about her plight alone?

"So uh... Who." She sized up the small armor clad creature, "er.. What are you?" She said with a piqued brow.

"I am the Tiger-Ruhn," Opi said flatly as he lefted his heavy masked helmet from his face. A goblin's face stared back at Fay, but his skin was pale, and reddish iris's peeked from large eyes. His nose was but two slits on the center of his face, and a serious look washed over his features.

Long stained ginger hair that fell gently across her face did little to hide her surprised pale green eyes. A creature from a race she was born to hate stood before her. Fay quickly looked to her boot in the hope that her knife was there. "shit." she said under her breath, realizing that it was gone. She remembered a futile attempt to use it angrily against rock to help her scale the mountain.

Fay's surprise faded to acceptance of the situation. "I never thought.." Her abrupt stop was followed by an empathetic nod. "Pardon my behavior towards you." She said cautiously, followed by a gulp.

"I am Faylaiwan of the Chalessian Realm. I am here because of a plight to my lands. I am curious, why would a creature.." She paused realizing her rudeness, "The Tiger-Ruhn would save someone such as an elf?"

"Would you ignore someone in need of help?" Opi asked skeptically.

"Well, Not always. There aren't always favorable circumstances. As bad as that sounds." She said with a hint of remorse.

Opi perked a brow, "well be that as it may, you're safe now."

The goblin picked up a steaming chunk of poultry from a deep black pot and tore a large portion with his teeth and quickly gulped it down.

"Why are you here?" He questioned between loud bites.

Fay's eyes were locked on the meat the goblin had been eating, Long had she went without any real meal and this was reminding her body of the pain of malnourishment. As her stomach grumbled she muttered, "I am here to find something to fight the darkness."

"Did you try light?" Opi answered simply, motioning over towards the fire that sat underneath the steaming pot.

Fay presented a toothy grin as she contemplated Opi's comment. "This Is a different kind of darkness. Creatures that do not discriminate their foes.. Elves, Humans." She paused and looked deep into Opi's eyes, "even Goblin folk, all are victims to this new plight upon all of our lands."

"So you search for an object to stop them?" Opi tilted a thin arching brow.

"Yes. I was told there was an army here, one capable of combatting this darkness." She said anxiously.

"There is no army here, just the Tiger-Ruhn," Opi insisted.

Fay gave a simple shake of her head, "I refuse to believe that, Opi."

"Other than the Titans, we are all that live in these mountains," Opi clarified, "just the Tiger-Ruhn."

"if I could tame a titan.." She said with a smirk. "So.. Opi. May i ask, what is a Tiger-Ruhn? "

"THE Tiger-Ruhn," Opi clarified, "we are a people, a civilization of the mountains."

"A civilization of the mountains?" She asked whilst reaching for the pot.

"A civilization on the mountains," Opi agreed, "and you found it."

"Is there any chance that your people could help stop this dark force that plagues the lands?"

"Maybe," Opi cynically responded, a dimming interest in his eye, "eat, sleep. You can meet the Tiger-Ruhn in the morning.
Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

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Isabella’s slippered feet padded softly across the solid cold floor of the palace. Her arms were folded tight to keep a rich robe over her thin silken nightgown.

Her hair was neatly combed, despite her early and sudden rise from her nap. Nothing about her was out of place, and even her frowning ruby lips matched her quickly but very well put together wardrobe.

The fabric of her gown swished at her ankles as she came to a sudden, shivering halt by the door to Euphemia’s room, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“What is the meaning of this noise?” She hissed, her eyes half closed and uninterested, “I alerted all the guards that I was to take a nap around this time.”

“How improp-” She stopped as her slight chin dipped and her skeptical eyes met the sight of the dead assassin.

Returning a stoic and unamused looked she gazed at Nicia, “what’s the meaning of this?”

Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Darkspleen
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Ivlada, Xoskea

“We had a few unwanted guests” Nicia answered dryly as she eyed Isabella. “Needless to say I dealt with the immediate threat.”

Euphemia let out a long sigh as she peeked out from behind Nicia, a bored expression plastered on her face. Her clenched fists indicating that she probably wasn’t all that bored. “Countess Isolda’s servant was here just a moment ago to check up on me.” She commented. “Apparently the countess was attacked as well.” She let out another sigh before adding “This has gotten out of hand. Nicia, fetch Cressida.”

Nicia seemed about to say something but thought better of it. Rendering a low bow to both Euphemia and Isabella, she quickly made her exit. Several royal guards positioned themselves in the hallway, but waited for permission to enter.

Isabella squirmed ever so slightly in her spot as she pulled her thick robe tight across her chest. Her sharp gaze cut across the fallen assassin and then at Euphemia.


“I doubt it.” Euphemia answered. “Xylia isn’t stupid. She wouldn’t try something so...overt. I don’t think they were really after my life, they just wanted to make it look that way. This was probably planned out by some pro-slavery group who wants to make the issue of slavery a non issue.”

Isabella bit her lip as her eyes squinted in thought, the ideas whizzing past her eyes as she studied the lingering air between her and Euphemia.

“Could we,” a charming smile curled on her fair face as her eyes glistened innocently, “just say that Xylia is responsible? Pin it on her, it was her friends after all.”

“You would have me frame an innocent person? My aunt and the archpriestess of our faith?” She didn’t sound as incredulous as one might expect. “That…. sounds like something Karissa would have done.” She frowned as she stared into the hallway past Isabella, as if seeing something there that really wasn’t. “Ha. In fact that’s exactly what she tried to do, to me. It would have worked had Xylia not stepped in…”

“I will… give it some serious thought” Euphemia said after a moment.

“Let me explain,” Isabella’s smile straightened and pursed, “Xylia represents a faction of Xoskea, no? This is an election after all. Her being, her person is not what everyone is concerned with. Barbaric I know, but such is this form of monarchy. No, it is her ideology they vote for, I’m not saying let’s attack her person, but without a doubt, lawfully we can almost be certain her faction set this up, therefore she as a head in the faction is responsible for the recklessness of her ideologies physical body. Framing is illegal and despiteful, I only offer politicians justice,” Isabella nodded to punctuate her words.

“The crimes of a subordinate are those of the leader?” Euphemia quietly asked. She bit her lip as she mulled over Isabella’s words, only to be interrupted by Nicia’s return.

“You called queen-regent?” Cressida asked as she entered the room with Nicia.

“What do you know about this?” Euphemia was quick to question.

“Not much beyond what Nicia told me on the way here. I’m fairly certain that the one’s behind the previous attempts on Isolda’s life were pro-slavery, but beyond that I’ve just got pure speculation.” Cressida winced at the look Euphemia shot her before shrugging.

“Inform the family that we are having a meeting first thing in the morning.” Euphemia said with a tone that oozed “dismissed.” She sighed again before turning to Isabella “Would you care to attend at my side tomorrow?”

“But of course,” Isabella smiled, “just to conclude my thought. If the leader doesn’t mend the trespass of whom they are in charge of, then they are just as guilty. I feel as though a woman of your thoughtful caliber already understood this, though.”

Isabella’s ruby crescent deepened as she sucked in a breath, “I’ll be by your side tomorrow.”

“You have my thanks” Euphemia said. “I suspect tomorrow will be far from a pleasant affair.”

***** ***** *****

The rest of the night had passed without further incident, a fact that Euphemia had feared would not be the case. Euphemia and Isabella had met fairly early in the morning to enjoy an early breakfast while they hashed out how to tackle the meeting. The only problem was when Nicia burst into the room, scant moments after Euphemia had taken her first bite, with word of bad news.

“We’ve got a situation” Nicia began, eliciting a soft groan from Euphemia. “The family has already gathered and… well Cressida is having a hard time keeping the peace.”

“I believe I’d specified a later time in the day…” Euphemia commented.

“Yes you had” Nicia agreed, “but some of our esteemed relatives decided to meet earlier apparently.”

Isabella nibbled quietly on a biscuit as thin as a wafer. Her eyes rolled slightly as she silently swallowed the bread and rubbed her tongue along her teeth before speaking, one hand held to cover the indecency of her mouth.

“Do they not have any shame?” She commented, “it is far too early for the meeting.”

“Well you know the saying about a group only being as smart as its dumbest member” Nicia said with a shrug. “Anyways Cressida, Isolda, and Xylia arrived shortly after hearing word of this themselves and have tried to keep things under control, but… well Thoosa started railing on Isolda the moment she showed up. I think she’s going to try something.”

Euphemia brought a hand up to her temple at the mention of Thoosa. “We’d better hurry then.” She said as she rose. The trio reached the meeting room in fairly good time given that Isabella wasn’t prone to going fast. And it was probably a good thing that they got there when they did.

“I will not stand for these insults any further!” A young woman yelled as she pulled off one of her gloves and threw it at Isolda.

“Thoosa!” Xylia snapped. “Stop this madness!”

“I will most certainly not!” The young woman, Thoosa, snapped back.

“Oh shit” Nicia muttered under her breath. “Haven’t seen someone challenge another to a duel for a long time.”

Leon, always Isolda’s stalwart champion, stepped forward with a grim look on his face. “I will stand in as the Countess’s champion.”

“Ha! Do you think I will risk my life in a duel with an inferior being?” Thoosa spat.

“Funny how you just so happen to challenge me to a duel the day after I’m attacked” Isolda commented. Although she tried to hide it, she was obviously in pain. It was all she could do to prevent herself from grimacing all the time and the shadows under her eyes indicated a sleepless night.

“And now you start throwing baseless accusations at me” Thoosa retorted. “If I didn’t have cause for a duel before I certainly do now!”

“She can’t win, can she” Euphemia whispered.

“Not in her current state” Nicia agreed. “Not if her opponent is Thoosa.” She narrowed her eyes as she gazed at Thoosa. “A duel between the two of them right now can only end in one way.”

“Doesn’t this seem all the bit rash to anyone?” Isabella softly pouted to no one in particular, clearly annoyed behind a sharp gaze.

“While not exactly bright” Nicia whispered, “Thoosa has always been an opportunist, if nothing else.”

“And what is your justification for demanding a duel” Euphemia spoke loudly enough to make herself heard, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“The countess” Thoosa turned towards Euphemia, her eyes momentarily lingering on Isabella’s form, “has made insults against my person and some of most honored traditions.”

“You baited her into making those comments!” Someone yelled, eliciting a short chuckle from Thoosa.

“It makes no difference. By ancient law my justification stands.”

“Not good” Euphemia muttered. She clenched her jaw as Thoosa demanded someone fetch them a fair of swords. “I have to do something.”

“Be wise,” Isabella muttered back, “Don’t ruin your standing. Is there a justification of elders we can call on to determine innocence or invalid claim?”

“Unfortunately no” Euphemia answered. “This is a very rare occurrence, though I heard duels were common a few hundred years ago.”

“Well at least you benefit from this” Nicia muttered earning herself a hard stare from Euphemia. The two stared at each other before Nicia widened her eyes slightly and mouthed the word “no”.

“The crimes of a subject are those of her leader” Euphemia said as she turned to look at Thoosa. “And since I am queen-regent you are all my subjects.”

“Don’t do this” Nicia said, leaning in towards Euphemia.

“I will stand in as Isolda’s champion” Euphemia continued as her hand came to rest on the hilt of one of Nicia’s kukris. She tried to pull the blade free, but Nicia placed a restraining hand on her wrist. “As I hold a higher rank than both of you” she continued, seeming to not notice Nicia’s grasp, “You have no basis to complain.”

“She will kill you” Nicia whispered. “You can still back down.”

Isabella sucked in a breath and puffed her chest, eying the arguing pair with daggers of distaste. Slowly her shoes clicked against the smooth floor as she walked past them, her unconcerned eyes on Thoosa as she approached, stopping a few feet in front of her.

Thoosa’s gaze shifted from Euphemia to Isabella and back again. She held Euphemia’s gaze for a moment, a hushed silence falling over all who had gathered. At last she turned back to Isabella as she asked “Is there something you’d like to say?”

Isabella’s pink curl tightened on her lips, the tips of white pearls spearing from the smile, “I would hope you find better manners in the future. What is your name?”

“Thoosa Athanas” She said after a moment. “Countess of the Slumbering Coast. Your Grace.”

“My grace?” Isabella looked around to see if anyone else found her shift as humorous as she had, “so I suppose you know who I am?”

“I know you are a noble from beyond our borders” Thoosa answered with narrowed eyes.

“I am the gentle fingers of the purple majesty you call home,” Isabella smiled sweetly, “Grand Duchess of the Imperium, Cousin of George IronWill Heinrich, Niece of Wilhelm the mad, second to the Mystic Throne of Mortality, and Voice of the Ancient Law.”

Isabella held up a finger, “you invoke an ancient law, no?”

“That is correct” Thoosa answered after a moment’s pause.

“Countess,” Isabella pondered, “if you invoke a law of yore, then surely you are an educated noble, one worthy of respect. So tell me why I am displeased with the notion of bloodshed on a parley, justified or not, tell me what Law do I have the right to invoke on this occasion.”

“Trial by combat has been a part of our tradition since before Xoskea even existed” Thoosa said, a thin smile spreading across her face. “And it was put into formal law by Princess Zara I. It was, I believe, the third act she did as the first princess of our lands. Princess Karissa also recently reaffirmed the legitimacy of holding duels. Prior to her untimely death of course. If anything we should have ended this civil war earlier by having you two fight in honorable combat” She pointed at Isolda and Cressida. “Unfortunately it seems that not all present care about our traditions as much as I do.”

“Quick with your tongue,” Isabella nodded, “but none the less, you did not answer my question.”

Isabella turned to Euphemia, setting her back to Thoosa, “By the right of the mortal laws, signed into motion by all nobles of Jerrovia, and indoctrinated in the young country by Emperor Frederick and his gift to his Lamia wives, stated in the original laws of the Empire, and her agreed nobles, during parley, or violence between agreed nobles, by request of any afflicted person.”

She paused, “which since this is a meeting, includes every person here… each of you are granted the right to request Imperial Intervention on ruling of invocation of law, custom, right, or any disagreement in all parties. (stated in the OP) By taking up land of Xoskea, you took up her ancient traditions, and her agreements with her Father, Emperor Frederick, just as I took up the role of offering the old laws to the present. If anyone here disagrees with the context of the duel, they have the right to request it imperially nulled until the dispute of titles are settled, in other words, Queen Regent Euphemia has the final say in the right of bloodshed in her parley.”

Thoosa stared at Isabella, a scowl spread across her otherwise fair features. Her eyes darted about the room, looking for allies, finding none to stand beside her. Finally her gaze landed on Euphemia, whose hand still rested on Nicia’s kukri, and found a steely determination she had not expected. Her face blanched, and quite visibly, as she said “Perhaps I was a bit rash to demand a duel.”

“Yes you were” Euphemia simply said. “And I find it most distasteful.” She let go of Nicia’s blade, and Nicia in turn released her restraining grasp. “Princess Karissa cared not for the suffering of her family and she felt no concern for her subjects. But I do. Let it be known that I will stand with my subjects, through the worst of it, so long as I am in power.You are my subjects and I will protect you. All of you.” She swept her gaze around the room before letting it fall on Thoosa, her tone taking on an acidic quality. “Countess Thoosa: be warned that should something happen to Countess Isolda I will hold you personally accountable. Am I understood?”

Thoosa’s mouth opened and closed silently a few times before she managed to mutter “I understand.”

Isabella smiled widely at Euphemia before taking a spot right next to Isolda, a gleam of pride on her green eyes.

“Traditions are important” Euphemia said, “but so too is justice. And no matter much thought I put into it, I simply cannot find the traditions of trial by combat and dueling to the death to be just traditions. We are a country of reason, a country of thinking beings, not one of mindless violence. It is time we put such barbaric traditions to rest. Let it be known that I, in my capacity as queen-regent, am outlawing dueling to the death and trial by combat!”

A hushed silence fell over the room as Euphemia finished her short speech. For a moment she thought she had gone too far, but then someone began to clap. Her eyes widened in surprise as she looked up to see Xylia applauding her, only for Isolda, Cressida, and many others to join in. She let herself be swept up in the moment, a wide smile spreading across her face.

A thunderous clapping erupted to the far side of Isolda and Isabella. Gloved hands coughed against each other as a slim black haired man beamed, having just walked in. A fox’s hungry grin spread on his face, and light brown eyes widened at the slight scowl from Isabella that secretly shot from her fair face.

“Did I miss much?” He leaned in close to Isabella, having walked the closing distance.

“Get away from me,” Isabella hissed past a smile, her own eyes finding elsewhere to concentrate.

“Count Valdo” Isolda said as she moved to his side. “What a pleasure it is to finally meet you.” Leon was right beside her, his face kept carefully neutral.

Euphemia gazed at Valdo a moment before turning to respond to something Xylia said. Nicia kept her eyes locked on Valdo.

Valdo spun at Isolda’s voice, his hand carefully taking Isolda’s hand. He bowed his head and kissed the knuckle of her ring finger before making eye contact, “if you would excuse me a noble’s custom, my Countess.”

“You are quite the gentleman” Isolda said with a smile. “A rarity in these lands, I assure you.” Leon raised an eyebrow at that statement, but otherwise kept a neutral expression. “I hope this bit of distasteful family drama hasn’t left a foul taste in your mouth.”

A dark arc curved over happy eyes as Valdo nodded in a slight agreement, releasing Isolda’s hand, “perhaps it might’ve if it was not for the extravagant participations sedating the issue at hand.”

His eye crinkled into a wink, surrendering the meaning of his words, “don’t think I don’t know who wears the civility of Xoskea on her capable shoulders.”

“You have an impeccable way with words” Isolda returned. She shifted slightly, causing her to wince and bring a hand up to her wounded shoulder. “So tell me” She said after a moment, “what are your thoughts on this whole affair?” She was keenly aware that some nearby family members, most notably Nicia, was paying keen attention to her conversation with the count.
“It seems far from over,” the Count folded his arms and leaned close, letting his vision wander across the gathering of nobility, “in such dark times, we can afford every solid border we can get.”

The gathering continued for some time with the various factions trying to gather any additional support they could. In this Nicia was most successful, especially when she spoke of the Queen Mardene’s support for Euphemia. It was clear that many of those gathered now viewed Euphemia in a new light and the balance of power was tipping away from Isolda to Euphemia and Xylia. For her part Xylia seemed to be a more passive entity in the meeting, allow others to come up to her but otherwise not engaging with those present. Finally, after a few hours, the room was empty save for what Euphemia had come to consider as her inner circle.

“Are you mad?” Nicia demanded. “Thoosa would have killed you had the two of you dueled.

“No she wouldn’t have” Euphemia calmly answered. “Thoosa’s goal was to protect slavery, not kill Isolda.”


“So had I died it's a sure bet that Isolda would come into power and put an end to slavery, whereas I have made no claims about wanting to end slavery.” Euphemia paused for a moment to let that sink in. “In other words she was trying to ensure Isolda wasn’t elected.”

“Even so” Cressida cut in, “it was too risky.”

“Perhaps, but I think that it more than paid off.” Euphemia brushed an idle lock of hair away from her face. “The end is in sight and the balance of power is in our favor. We just have to push a little bit more.”

“And push we shall,” Isabella added idly.
Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Castle Centrum

Stand by for more!

The Imperial soldiers had nested into the fortress well. Workshops were quickly erected by the troops, and makeshift homesteads soon followed by the refugees of the Empire. The thick smoke of smithies lingered in the still windless autumn air, and the shuffle of busy and anxious feet pounded the dirt courtyards of the mighty fortress.

People hawked and clambered as if it was a usual circumstance that brought them to the grey walls of Centrum, but even in the casual banter that cluttered the atmosphere of the impromptu streets between newly made shops, the quiet whisper of worry nipped at the ends of the conversations, and many allusions to the terror were chirped even jokingly.

The earthen dust caked and cracked George’s once proud black boots, and his red cape fell dirty from his wide and tired shoulders. To his right shuffled Reginald in tarnished and repatched once green clothing not fit for the Emperor’s aid.

“This is getting out of hand,” George nodded, agreeing with himself as the two slinked through a crowd of hungry men that occupied the stalls of a baker.

“It’s definitely a lot to take in so soon,” Reginald added, "especially with recent travesties. I wonder, if it might be too much to tackle-"

“I’m fine, Reginald,” George eyed the skeptic with bloodshot eyes.

“Of course,” Reginald nodded, “but if I may be so bold, Emperor.”

George groaned inwardly at the drop of his latest title, the cause of his promotion kicking him in the stomach.

“You haven’t even mended your suit from your last encounter. I just wonder if you could use some help organizing these dire revelations,” Reginald pointed a stiff chin at George’s chest, as if reminding him of his caved breastplate he had hanging in his room beside his crushed greaves and pauldrons.

A thin line formed on George’s lips as a look of consideration furrowed his brow.

“Remember what I had advised on the virtue of a leader listening to his followers, confessing with them for clarity and understanding,” A teacher's tongue wagged from Reginald, "as I said, it might be took much to tackle... alone."

George sighed, “do you think I did what was right? Do you believe the stories of the precursor?”

“I feel like I had already known, deep down,” Reginald offered, “don’t you? It makes sense, their words. It matches the tomes of old, the rituals of the previous Emperors, and it explains quite a bit.”

George looked over Reginald’s stoic features, digging for the comfort he had sought since he was a boy. A slight crinkle around Reginald’s eye caught George’s eye and a tiny bit of warmth lit up his otherwise sick stomach.

“You had done what was right, you did what your father could not do. You put the people before yourself.”

George looked at his feet and continued to walk along the dusty path, “I feel rotten.”

“Bliss doesn’t always erupt from the right decision. Patience my Emperor,” Reginald looked forward.

“At least, one of my friends still walks beside me. My family is not dead,” George looked over at Reginald and a thin crescent slightly curled the old servant's mouth.

A small green clad boy kicked up a cloud of dust as he grinded to a halt before the pair. The boy panted with exhaustion as he gulped down breaths between his words, “the… military… council… everyone is ready.”

George looked over to Reginald, “I have to go.”

Reginald bowed his bald head, “I shall see to your suit of armor in the meantime, good luck with the council.”

“Thank you,” George smiled. He turned, his words riding on an inward breath as he began his trek to the council, ruffling the small boys sandy hair on his way past him, “family.”

The boy turned to Reginald, a look of annoyance on his young face, but the amused Reginald waved the look away.

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