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Current V.1.26 (House of Caecilius Iucundus); 4091: Whoever loves, let him flourish. Let him perish who knows not love. Let him perish twice over whoever forbids love.
10 mos ago
Hello and good tidings to thee! What brings you to this line of text?
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10 mos ago
People of Jewusalem! Wome is your fwiend!
2 yrs ago
dun dun dun du-dun dun da-dun dun dun du-du-du-dun
2 yrs ago
Lo, tis a creature of the avian category! Lo, tis a mechanical elevating carriage! Lo, tis Especially Competent Bipedal Sentient Creature!


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"I'm not at liberty to say," Kutur answered, sheepishly. "I gave Commander Mardex my books regarding the titular histories of the Bythesea Empire, where I studied. In exchange, he gave me a rather . . . vague explanation of his plans for the imperial legions. Beyond that, I know nothing." It was a lie. Kutur was never good at lying. He had some practice, certainly, especially since his retreat from the court. They were barely worth thought, small matters such as where he is going tonight, or why he won't be available during certain days. His word alone was usually sufficient to dissuade anyone from pressing a matter further. However, this was not, as he must remember, just another military official, who knows that behind Kutur stands always the unquestionable power of Rughoi himself. This is a foreigner. "Perhaps it is by His Might Rughoi's design that . . . whatever is happening is . . . happening. I would be more than willing to introduce you to the court. Or if not him, then his matched one, the empress Ardasa. They together hold the power of the army, and would be much more likely to answer on it than myself."
Kutur decided against extinguishing his fireball. His masters had taught him too well for that. Their words still echo in the vast chambers of his mind, shouting commands of aggression and defensiveness all at once. Never let your guard down. The first move is the most deciding move. Those you might not outfight you shall outwit. Kutur blinked, both with his eyes and within his head. Neither of them have made any sudden movements, and if she was such a friend of Kali's, she can't possibly be a danger, right? Desperately, Kutur tried to reclaim all his thoughts, and bring them back under control. He is more than capable of reasoning like a civilized entity.

"What do you want?" Kutur finally decided on saying, the flames dancing little rings about his claws. No, that didn't sound right. Too accusatory. Quickly, reword and try again. "What do you seek in the domains of Xigyll? I'm sure if there is something you need, I might be of great help obtaining it. I don't mean to be arrogant, but I might arguably be one of the most influential kobolds in the court. Should you have a problem that requires a remedy here, we may have it sorted out very promptly." That sounded about cordial enough. She was technically an ambassador, after all.
"Oh Wise Metal, protect my journey," Estazar whispered. She felt like crying, but she didn't know why. Was it because she was leaving? That seemed the most likely answer. This had been her home, once. Her first memories came to her in flashes, never a full picture. She was in a room, reaching up to the high ceiling painted in gold and red and orange. They were twisting and winding shapes, dashes and chunks, they were fire. She could hear rumbling, the steady rumble of a voice. What words they were saying had been lost. Then, she was on her hands and knees, scurrying about on carpeted floors. Shouts of surprise and fear followed her, and finally, a word pierces through that she understood. "No!"

Had so much time passed between those two moments? Estazar knew there was at least a year between them, but they seemed so close, she could have been in one scene one second and the next in the next. Her hand made its way to her arm, tracing the long scar that wound itself about it up to her shoulder. A mobad had told her, years later, that she was lucky to have suffered such a merciful cut. She was there again, crawling towards what she could not say for sure. The carpet loomed before her, stretching into the distance. This was far before she could stand up, and view the ground from above in a standing position. As far as she knew, the horizon dipped below the world into a void of nothingness. Of course, she realized now that she'd been told that it was no void. It was merely a flight of stairs. Down she tumbled, towards the statue that stood at the bottom. A statue depicting Shah Bandaves "the Scourge of Qaro", his spear jutting towards the base. Her arm struck home, sliding across the brutal stone. She opened her mouth and screamed.

More scenes came, they became longer and more complex with her developing memory. She watched her grandfather destroy the statue of Bandaves, taking a great hammer to it again and again and again, screaming and shouting vile curses, until nothing was left of it but pebbles and dust. Entire conversations followed, none related to what she was seeing second before. She reached out her arms to a tall, muscled man, sporting a wide smile and a close-cropped beard. "Pick me up, daddy!" she heard herself scream, and he did, laughing and tousling her hair. Then, he set her back down, and kneeled so that they met eye to eye. She had learned to stand, sometime between the last scene and this.

"I can't be picking you up for a long time. I'm going away," he said. His face began to blur away, when it had once been so clear. His voice, too, passed into muffled territory, and soon she could hear nothing and see nothing but vague, far-away shapes and sounds. Then, his voice pierced though, with a simple message. "I'll be back within a few months or so, and I'll bring a new mommy with me." Then, although she did not see, she somehow recalled, if recalling was the right word for it, that he had left to fight the Qaroitn raiders. That was seven years ago.

The door behind her opened, and she jolted back into the present. She stood up and turned, to be greeted with two figures. One was a Garmardom, of her own height and skinnier even than a man from Nithush province. The other, a Giyamardom, towering over her at perhaps three or even four times her own height. Together they bowed their heads and kneeled before her.

"You shahbanu. I Satrap Farrodana, Zirpin Province. Little shahmardom, many garmardom. I serve you," the garmardom said.

"I Satrap Abafrir, shahbanu," the giyamardom said, standing back up and ducking his head as not to bump it on the ceiling. "Tansa province. Many grass, many giyamardom. We chosen by shah. Take shahbanu to Tammir."

"Is safe, Tammir. No Kehmeyid. No assassin," said Farrodana. "Come. No time."

"I have wagon. Big space. Food. No worry," said Abafrir. He reached out his hand to take her own, one strong and steady and the other trembling. "Many speed. Go Tammir." Nodding slowly, Estazar allowed the two of them to lead her out of the prayer room, towards where the wagon awaited her.
"Are you sure you don't want me to escort you the rest of the way?" Sabil asked. He stretched, and squinted into the blazing sun. Waves of heat emanated from the ground, twisting the horizon any which way it rose.

"No need, Captain Sabil," Kutur responded, scratching the bump on his head. Of course, he was Strategos Sabil now, he just didn't know it yet. Swept without his knowing into the coalition of the new kobold nobility. What a force they would be, together against the imperial legion. Rughoi's power is waning with the peace, and they know it as well as he. "You should be off. The Talon Pass won't watch itself." Sabil bowed his head and rattled his gear, taking off for the horizon where his men await.

Kutur watched him go with dispassionate eyes. Sabil was a strange character, younger even than Rughoi. Unlike many of the officers in the legion, Sabil joined the army after the establishment of Xigyll, and outside of a few raids on undefended dracon merchants, has never seen battle at all. He would never have gotten to the position he held at all if not for a fateful meeting the two of them had, not too long ago, nothing more than a pleasant chat at the riverside market. Kutur pulled a few strings, and presto, a new captaincy position opened up. Despite that, however, Kutur remained confident that this young warrior would become a talented commander, perhaps even rising through the new nobilities to become a dux. He has already exhibited impressive competence in organizing his small band, and seems eager enough for more power.

All of that shall have to wait. Kutur excitedly looked down at the bag in his hand. A few more "chance" encounters like this in the fish market and this may become a regular thing. Perhaps he was getting old . . . what a scary thought. He made his way to his door, and opened it, then froze.

Someone was in his house. Someone dracon. His body froze, and he dropped his fish bag into the sand. He couldn't see his other hand, but he knew by the warm feeling that the years of Red Discipline training had paid off. He was holding a fireball there, ready to fly at a split second's notice.

" . . . Don't do anything rash," Kutur said, slowly squeezing the words through his contracted throat. " . . . Don't make me do something we will both regret."
Sure, I'm okay with that.
The border was quiet. It has been for a while now. There was a time, not too long ago, in fact, when Commander Mardex had led the far left flank in the Meratid conflict, that he had hoped for a bit of quiet. Now it crushed him from within. Look at him! Was he not still a warrior? Did he not still serve with the same zeal, the same passion for glory, as he did when Rughoi was yet the farmer-king, who rose up against his dracon oppressor and led his people to victory? Questions like these plagued his mind, as he sat under the cover of this large pavilion built along the Talon Pass. Surrounding him were commanders, chiefs, and handfuls of captains, warlords, and kobolds of other titles, enough to nearly pack the tiny space full. He knew well enough that lower-ranked officers, both within the imperial system and without, were crowded around the tent outside, listening for every scrap of conversation that might imply a decision.

Between them all, sat the very reason for this near-secret meeting. A book, bound on leather and thick enough that it required two of the strongest legionnaires to carry it. A book recording the history of human nobility tradition, and the titles used within the human empire across the sea. They had all read it, they who surrounded the low table. These were most, if not all, of the major players in the burgeoning game of politics within the imperial army. It was very possible that no three people in this inner circle kept the same title.

"I call this meeting to order," Commander Mardex said, staring at the pages. "Let us hear some preliminary thoughts." Shouts of dissent immediately followed, challenging his right to call the meeting to order, followed immediately by questions regarding the necessity of this meeting and the risk of threatening Rughoi's legitimacy. "I promise you, there is no threat to His Might's hold over us. He is unquestionable, that we know without doubt. This is merely an . . . agreement. Between us. To cement our power within the court and to centralize the kobold peoples within His Might's order." Mumbles, both sarcastic and concurring. At least they daren't say anything to his face.

"I agree. We are the most loyal out of anybody to Rughoi's vision of a free kobold people," said Chief Vajra, standing up and leaning on his staff. His mangled leg was on display for all to see, Vajra's final word on any who doubt his loyalty. If the rumors are to be trusted, he lost it dueling a dracon captain in the assault on Traeton. "We are aware that the military is in shambles. There is no trust, no loyalty. Look at us now. Over in the corner are Rajas, around the entrance stand the Warlords, and sprinkled around are the Underkings." Nods, nods at his words. "With this, we hope to fix all this. We hope this will finally bring the entire army together, as one empire, the way His Might intended."

"Thank you, Chief Vajra," Mardex said. "So, in short, we are assuming titles that will finally be universally recognized, as well as make clear distinctions between the ranks. So, to begin, let's look at what the book calls a 'Vasileus Vasileon Vasileuon Vasileuonton'. That would be, without question, Rughoi." Shouts of praise, as well as prayers to Arda, followed the naming of that particular title. A chant started up for Rughoi's name, but quickly fell silent. "Now, it says here that right under that . . . that, is the 'Dukoi', or the 'Dux'. They are the greatest in power under the emperor himself, and serve closest with him." Immediately, the meeting was in chaos, with each of the ranks vying for that name.

"Silence!" shouted Vajra, and they did. Mardex acceded to himself that if anyone got to be a Dux, it would be Vajra. "Now, we have decided to surrender this title. "Now, if Raj Shavan, Commander Rebat, Underking Qerso, and Raj Azarg could join us at the front." With a shuffling, they did. "Now, the six of us, together, shall be the Dukoi. We, together, hold far more power than the rest of the room combined. I think it should go to us. Any objections?" Some did, but none loud enough to make themselves known in the crowd. Rebat nodded, silently.

"If this means I may better serve His Might," he said, gravely.

"Good, we're all in agreement," Mardex said. "Dux Mardex. I think it fits. Now, as for all bearing the name of Underking, as well as Rajas Risi, Xolot, Ervan, Zati, Vaishya, and Commanders Qort, Mazant, Kezlin, and Vargan, shall be granted the next title down, the Count." It was a dracon title, and they knew it. The complaints began rolling in. "We know, alright!? We know! But recall, if you will, that Rughoi took the name Count of Traeton, to appease the dracon mercenaries. And besides, it was adopted from an early human society, so that is that." With help from the other Dukoi, the new Counts finally came to terms with their burden. "Chiefs, Rajas, Marzobans, and Commanders not previously mentioned, as well as Captains Tilx and Sabil, will thus be assigned the title of Strategos. All remaining members of this meeting will be titled Legates, and those not present shall keep their styling of Captain. Now, are we in agreement?" There were, fortunately, no objections to that. Everybody now designated Strategoi and Legates were outside.

"Good. Praise Scen, and praise His Might," Vajra said, gravely. "Everyone will, of course, keep this meeting secret. It won't do for His Might to find out immediately that everything has changed." Nobody said anything but mutters.
" . . . Thank you," Ardasa said, between breaths. She was shaken, shaken in a way she had not been in a long time. The images, they were still too clear in her head. What did it all mean? Her children . . . are they destined to fight each other, to be poisoned by fate and their own efforts, to lose the empire once again to vengeful dracon hands? "I'm scared, Kali," Ardasa admitted, after a period of silence. "Scen might not be able to protect my children from the hands of war. What if . . . what if one of them is killed? Or both of them? What am I to do as a mother?" Their haunting faces, so many expressions locked within, all bursting out before her like the colors of the sky after a rain. That, she is sure will haunt her for the rest of her life. So too would the harsh faces of the stone legionnaires, and worst of all those eyes. Eyes without a body. Eyes full of malice, hatred brought upon not just her, but all things good and living. "Please . . . I need to be left alone. Just for a bit."
@Shadow Dragon Oi. Stop pinging me. I'm always here.
"You wished to see me, grandfather?" Estazar whispered. Just earlier, she had been pacing outside those great woven flaps that separated the diadem room from the main hall, for how long she could not say. The sun stood at its greatest height when she had entered the palace. It was now rapidly approaching night. Would she be in trouble with grandfather? Would he be displeased at her lateness? Does he even recall her meeting with him? She stopped, biting her lip and squeezing her eyes shut, in a near perfect emulation of one of the statues in the main hall. It was of the death of Vedad "the Arm of Wise Fire", who brought the Garmardom and Giyamardom under the sway of the shahdom. The statue depicted him kneeling, clutching at a spear rammed through his chest by the last Chief Bizamid "the Infidel" of the Garmardom, when Vedad and his band of converts were ambushed in the mountains. The way Estazar felt, she might as well have been pierced as thoroughly as he. The longer she waited, the more her grandfather would be angry with her, but the sooner she approached, the sooner his wrath came. Enough! She pulled the flaps aside, and called to him.

Her voice carried across the silent room, bouncing off the marble and sandstone, refracting her one voice into hundreds. The room was dark, with the blinds pulled down over the glass such that only minuscule amounts of the evening sun may enter. At the end of the room sat the diadem of Shah Demes, perched on its place so far above her. The blinds, by design, would not stop the sun from shining upon the diadem, and each of the five jewels embedded within it were alight, as if the gods were peering through them at her from the other side. To its immediate left, sat in a humble stone chair with an arm propping up his face, was her old grandfather, who in his sleeping form, looked as if dead. Perhaps he had not even heard her at all, and she could sneak off before he awoke.

"Don't bother thinking about it," boomed Shah Koudad's voice, more emanating from his still form than speaking. Estazar yelped in fright, and nearly jumped straight back into the hall. Koudad's eyes snapped open, to reveal the brilliance beneath. Harsh green eyes, rarely found in the entirety of the empire, stared deep into her brown ones. He looked less a shah and more an evil magus from the stories, here to place a curse upon her forever and ever. "I'm not stupid. I've seen the same look in the faces of my goat-brained satraps, when they come to bear ill news. Is that how you intended to carry yourself to me?"

"Not at all, grandfather," Estazar replied, breaking her gaze away to focus on the ground before him. "I . . . I've come to answer your summons, like you said. Please don't punish me, I tried my best to be here on time."

"Pull up that blind there," Koudad said, pointing. Estazar did so, letting Wise Air's sunlight wash through the chamber. "From here, I could stand and watch as you and your escort approached the palace, some . . . six candles ago." Estazar nodded slowly, squeezing her eyes shut again. In fourth a candle, this would all be over. Maybe even two stories. Then she could go back to her books and never have to worry about this again. Something in her told her otherwise. She would reach this point eventually, whether she liked it or not.

"I'm sorry, grandfather, I was scared. I know I should not be," Estazar stuttered, but Koudad stopped her with a wave of his hand.

"Enough," he said. "You were scared. I know what that means. You have never met your grand-uncle Nafolosh, but he could bring a giyamardom to heel with his glare. I . . . had never realized I could possess the same presence." His face began to soften somewhat, and Estazar could see just a little bit of the grandfather under the shah. As quickly as the crack in his face opened, it closed again. Perhaps he was a magus, and could control his face with magical powers. Perhaps he intended to steal hers, and add it to his collection of bodies he puppets about pretending they are still people within. She had to get out! She had to escape! She had to . . . ignore these foul impulses. "Put your hand on the diadem," Koudad instructed, pulling her from her internal conflict.

"I cannot, grandfather. I am not shahbanu," Estazar replied, staring up at it. If the stories are to be believed, Demes was as old as she when he united the many peoples living in what is today the Kera province of Kera-Bijan. He was only a year older when he conquered the unbreakable city of Bijan and made their language the standard across his domain. However, a tired huff from her grandfather sent chills down her spine, telling her that it would not do well for her or if she were to disobey. With shaking hands, she reached for the grand diadem, running her hands first along the golden band, then each of the five colored crystals lining its face. Red for air, yellow for fire, green for water, blue for wood, and finally white for metal.

"Do you recall why a shah touches the diadem when passing judgement, but does not wear it?" Koudad asked, his hands wrapping around hers to lock them against the metal monstrosity.

"B . . . " Estazar was at a loss for words.

"You're not leaving until you answer."

"B . . . " as her finger crawled towards the white crystal, she suddenly recalled. "B-Because the shah borrows power from Demes' judgement, but may not equal him. In that manner, the shah recognizes himself as great, but not so great as to challenge the gods themselves, who granted their wisdom to Demes. Thus, it is a lesson, given to the shah every time he touches the diadem, to be strong in times of weakness, yet remain humble, even in the face of his inferiors." The words tumbling from her mouth were not hers, but rather belonged to something else entirely, borrowing her mouth as an instrument of noise. She was under his spell, he the magus, who is the true power behind her grandfather.

"Good," Koudad said, letting go of her hands. "You would be surprised as to how many of your cousins either do not know this, or have chosen to forget. Go find Satraps Abafrir and Farrodana. They have been tasked with escorting you from the city to our allies in northern Kammir, where you may avoid the daggers of our more . . . upstart relatives. Go to your room, and gather your things. You leave as soon as may be done." Estazar nodded, and nearly ran from the room, tucking her arms close to herself. She had only ever left the city of Zanateyin a few times in her life, and now she was to leave it behind. Her mind was racing with thoughts, and how many of them truly belonged to her, she didn't know.
"Hello?" Ardasa called. "Excuse me! Sorry! . . . Where am I?" The two figures didn't respond, seeming content with staring at each other. Their faces shifted frequently, from sad to angry to happy and back again. Ardasa continued to shout and wave, to no avail. These were her . . . children? Ardasa could not say. It was a gift from Arda, this prophecy, and she was honored to bear it, but she never had a head for philosophical analysis. Perhaps she could be a better servant of Arda's will should the goddess just descend from the heavens and give her the answer.

Such was not meant to be. The ground beneath her quaked, and Ardasa fell to the ground. Slowly, the ground beneath the two figures rose up, higher and higher, nearly touching the swiftly brewing storm above. Lighting crackled down, illuminating two mountains that were not there a second ago. Then, Ardasa realized to her horror that they were not mountains at all, but kobolds. Huge, gargantuan kobolds, dressed in the crude armor of the legion. Her children each stood on one of the fingers, frozen to their places, excepting their expression, which continued to change.

Slowly, the kobold legionnaires shuddered into motion. They glared at each other, keeping only anger upon their face. Their fists smashed into the other, each blow causing thunder and lightning to rip across the sky. Occasionally, the bolts would strike one of the legionnaires, knocking a chunk of stone off their frame.

Through the thick billows of clouds, two eyes shone through. They were dracon's eyes, but not like any she had seen before. Fear lanced through her, as she stared up at them, which seemed for all intents to be staring back. A bolt of lightning, differently colored, tore open the clouds, and evil grey smoke began to seep into the fighting legionnaires. The legionnaires' movements became slower and more sluggish, until they froze completely. Then, Ardasa woke up, gasping for air.
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