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Final post is up, after months of forgetting. We are done now... with a cliff-hanger of sorts.
Farewell friends!
Captivity and interrogation

Collab between Grijs and Oraculum

The sun retreats behind the somber grey clouds at the end of another chilly day in the Visandzan mountains.
Four night Einhard had passed in captivity, and by the filth in his cage the Paladin’s sorry state is starting to show. Crusts of dried blood are on Einhard’s blue and inflamed face from the beating he received the evening before, and the cup of Einhard’s ear had been cut off by the Gastald Liutpertus when the Paladin refused to talk. Paired with the malnourishment from being critically underfed, slowly the Paladin feels hope receding, and death approaching.

‘’I’m not done with you, Chlotar swine… I WILL make you talk, one way or another.’’ Liutpertus hisses at him as he locked the cage and withdraws to the outposts’ interior.

For now the Lamperts have called it a day, and most of the outposts’ garrison retreated back to the central hearthfire, or their tents, with only a few sentries remaining to stand watch.

Silence fills the camp’s premises. Einhard hears only the throbbing pulse of his bleeding and mutilated ear, and a soft, distant howling wind soaring by the mountain tops.

For hours he sat there, the once proud and honourable Paladin, now cowed by the evils of his fellow men, surrendering to a miserable fate in the dead of night.
Most of the Lampert garrison is asleep, save for the night shift shuffling on and by the sentry towers.
Yet more hours pass, when finally Einhard can sense footsteps approaching his cage...
He does not bother to perk up.

‘’You sad man sitting in defeat. You are Paladin Einhard from the Chlotar Kingdom, is that correct?’’
The voice of a woman.
Einhard looks up at the approaching form, saying nothing in return.
‘’Have you succumbed, or do you yet have some spirit in you? Your people need your strength, Paladin.’’
Einhard responds, “Chlotar men don’t forget easily.” He pauses as he straightened himself. “I will do my duty as my fathers before me. Our vow to Godas has never been broken in my line.”

The woman nods.
‘’On the subject of fathers… I see that my own father’s men have not been kind to you. But I am not as them… so listen to me, and I will do my best to set you free.’’
As the woman spoke these words, Einhard takes notice of the embellished garments, furs and jewels adorning her. And it finally dawns on him: this woman is a Lampert royal!
‘’My name is Dalgiserata, namesake of my father Dalgiserius… I believe you’ve been acquainted with him, a little.’’
‘’What do you want?’’ Einhard snarls at her.
‘’Justice for both our Kingdoms. We are not your true enemy.’’
Einhard just looks at her incredulously as though she takes him for a fool.

‘’Let me have an audience with your King Cauroman. If it is at all possible to avoid war, we must do everything in our ability to make it so… Wouldn’t you agree?’’
Sighing, the Paladin leans up. Einhard has always been a reasonable judge of character, and has a nose for the smell of liars. Locking eye contact, he makes attempt to read her sincerity. …By the looks of it, she seems serious. Her face is beset with concern -- a quiet melancholy. Does she really care?

‘’All this death and turmoil will not be necessary, we will only wind up weakening one another.’’

Einhard takes a deep breath and gives reply; “Every Chlotar, from babe to crone knows not to trust a Lampert, just two-legged snakes looking to sink their fangs into you.” Einhard shifts forward towards Dalgiserata, “How do I know you weren’t sent here by your father in witchcraft inspired plot to kill my lord?”
Dalgiserata sighs. ‘’I knew bartering with you would not be easy. As a gesture of good will, I feel you are entitled to know just who had betrayed you..
Odo, the chief of Rudinberg, had been harbouring Lampert agents and providing information to my father for the past three years now… That is how we knew of your coming. That is why you are here now.’’

“Odo broke bread with me and my shield maiden, he swore an oath to King Cauroman, one would not anger Godas in such a manner.” Einhard spat back at her.

‘’Laiamicho, come here.’’

A lanky, handsome man with dark curls and a shaven face appears besides the Princess, and Einhard recognises him immediately. He was at Odo’s side in the hall of Rudinberg!

‘’Hello again, good Paladin of Chlotaringen. It appears we meet under different circumstances now.’’ The man, Laiamicho is his true name, gives a sly smile.

Dalgiserata speaks again.
‘’He is my most trusted servant. His loyalty cannot be questioned..’’ She says, after which Laiamicho follows:
‘’Sadly the same can not be said for Odo’s loyalty to your King Cauroman.’’

The Paladin and the Princess lock eye contact again, and in the moment Einhard knows not how to respond. He opens his mouth, but is immediately interrupted by the princess.
‘’If your king is indeed the honourable man he is known to be, tell him everything. Tell him about Odo. and tell him about my request...

If war can at all be avoided, this is the only way. Will you do this, Paladin?’’

Einhard is still perplexed, overcome with a variation of feelings… Confusion, to name one. Disbelief, and also revulsion -- revulsion for himself that he let himself be betrayed, and that his lack of vigil has endangered Chlotaringen’s entire war-effort. He knows not how to respond to the Lampert Princess’ offer, and neither is he given the chance, for in that moment he could sense the approaching footsteps of someone else coming out of the dark.

A group of figures draped in dark cloaks strides into the tent, glints of reflected firelight in their folds betraying the blades they carry at the ready. Faceless as shadows in their hoods, at first sight they barely appear human, filing behind one whose head is distorted in a monstrous insectile visage. Only at a closer look reveals that it is Dauraulf wearing his Locust-head helmet. The others bear similar countenances on amulets of roughly graven wood.

The adorned helm turns from the captive to the Princess, the Farigai’s hoods following its motions as sword-points budge near them, before the mouth underneath lets out a half-voiced exclamation.

“Pest!” Dauraulf moves a step towards Einhard, blade now well in sight, but stops, glowering at Dalgiserata. “Treason in the King’s own camp! And by whose hand! From you-” he points at Laiamicho, “-there’s no surprise. Rotten mongrels always try to find a way to him, else we wouldn’t be on our feet day and night. But his blood! You’d throw out your father for the Chlotars?” By how he spits the last word, it is clear that is in itself a most grievous curse for him.

If nothing else, this encounter is all the more evidence to the Paladin at least, that the Princess was being honest. Or it’s a very elaborate ruse.
Carrying herself with strength, with no sign showing fear in the presence of her father’s most dreadful retainers, she retorts:
‘’You, from the Farigai. The likes of you should know better than to make such accusations. You serve the Royal Family, and what I do is for the good and survival of our Kingdom.’’

Scowling from the back, Laiamicho calls agitated towards Dauraulf.
‘’The prisoner is our business. Your presence here displeases her highness...’’ To add power to the statement, the armed escort draws his broadsword up from his sheath unto its point, halting a bare second from brandishing it fully.

“Pest and famine! You must think I have rot for a head that you’d have me believe that!” The Farigai leader points his sword at Einhard, his men moving past him into the tent, bristling with blades. “What good’s going to come from dealing with snakes and swine? If this isn’t treachery, you’ve gone mad. Be that as it may,” he steps forward, “we’re taking the Chlotar.”

At his signal, the cloaked men advance into the tent. While they carefully step around the Princess, avoiding so much as brushing against her, they are less considerate with Laiamicho, who finds the points of several swords inches from his throat within the blink of an eye. Under Dauraulf’s direction, they tug open the Paladin’s cage and roughly haul him out of it, the enfeebled prisoner’s weak resistance amounting to nothing as he is dragged out into the night. As his henchmen push their charge out between the tent’s flaps, the leader turns for the last time towards Dalgiserata.

“You’re lucky we’re more loyal to the royal family than anyone in this wretched land,” he sneers, “but remember we serve the King above all. Hope that this doesn’t reach his ears.”

The Princess stands mute and defeated as the Farigai take away her one chance at bartering for Lampertei's future. While Laiamicho only scowls at the men that had threatened him, though cold sweat is on his brow, betraying how scared he actually was underneath the swagger.

Einhard was burning with resentment, but he was unarmed and malnourished, weak. He could but imagine what perverse cruelties these freakish looking Lampert men sought to inflict on him.
The company of men with the prisoner trod down the mountain slope from where the Lampert camp was, southwards towards the green valleys of Lampertei. The wind ceased howling, as though the elements themselves stood watch of what transpired. Save for the torches of the Farigai men, they and Einhard were in total darkness. Darkness, until the first light of day broke through the eastern sky, beaming at the group of men. And following this first beam of dawn, two white wings soared past the mountain tops directly towards the Farigai. As it approached, the Farigai halted, sensing its approach, and looked towards it unnerved. From afar it looked like a seagull, except much bigger. Einhard looked up as well. A darkling after night time? That can't be. Is it a predator of heaven, preying on the enemies of God? None of them could grasp its form by the angle and sheer speed it flew with. Only when it got very close could they see what it was… a white stork? But they saw it was clutching a lance in its bird talon, and it had an oversized helmet on its head. Before they could contemplate how silly that made it look, the stork with its lance swooped down at Dauraulf.

‘’My King, the Horn is lost. As the cowardly Lamperts slew Mauger in ambush, Godas sent down an Angel to pick it up, and took the Horn to the heavens as to not let it fall in Lampert hands. It is no longer of this world.’’
Yet another Paladin speaks.
‘’An angel? I thought it was a white dragon!’’
taken from the Intro Post
Hey palls, not sure if anyone'll still be reading this, but since nothing had been OOCly said for literally half a year I figured i'll break the ice. I'm gonna wrap the RP up. There'll be 2 more posts and then.... I think we'll leave it discontinued.

Is there anyone still here?

Additionally, would it be an idea for me to give at least a summary of the possible endings I envisioned for the story? If the RP is over, spoilers don't matter anymore. Yea, I know, after prolonged periods without progress people quickly lose interest, that's how it always goes.
Premonition of the four kings
(You're free to only read those sections that are relevant to you.)

Location: Central-north Gardonia, before the City of Donvoile
Date: February 24th, 4901 YDC YDC
Fourth Cycle of the Fararual Calendar - Season of the Scion

A storm has swept over the land. A flood of death, pillage and fire, for wherever the hordes of Miran appeared, a new horde of the displaced refugees was driven before them. They fled eastwards, now clamouring and begging for shelter in the city of Donvoile, the greatest hub of northern Wulfram.

It wasn’t long after that the Miranid army arrived, with the conqueror Amir Miran himself leading the core, consisting of some of the world’s most powerful creatures, forged into a single unit. After days of burning and ransacking, his multiplus hordes have assembled before the city of Donvoile to bring Wulfram one fell and devastating blow.
Donvoile is one of the grander piece of Strigoi urban architecture, its spires and gothic arcs of all sorts piercing the skies in fashion that seemed to defy the laws of nature. Mostly because they did. The Master of Donvoile, like that of any other city, had found the perfect way to deal with being so outnumbered by the mortal populace within his walls: use his magical abilities to hold it all together for an enchantment exists only for as long as its enchanter does. ‘Defy me and see the ground crumble before you’.
This day, however, the Master had a new and greater threat than his own citizenry to contend with. Because today it is the subjects of Miran that are bent on crumbling the city, for the destruction of the powerful city of Donvoile will be a blow so total… so decisive, that Wulfram himself will be brought to his knees. The warriors of Miran number in the hundreds of thousands, so numerous that the earth and fields behind them have been stripped and plucked bare of life. Not even the grass there remains, only bleak patches of barren desolation is what the once lush fields of Gardonia have become.

The same warlord as before, Jafaroglu, and his advisor Valjeanus, are positioned on the left flank with their cohorts of Tzücomen, Gnolls and Gardonian defectors. They are still licking their wounds after the damage their army sustained in last week’s battle.

The Firesage Antaxaxes commands the right flank. A great Fararual marshall leading a cohort of flame; Üarim with arquebuses, Golems and many beasts of war, Griffon riders and scores of cannons. With his golden skin, arcane scepter and flaming hair, Antaxaxes is a rare and imposing sight. Particularly for the denizens of Wulfram, who certainly have never seen one of such mystical beings in the flesh, their existence having, at best, only passed into legend.

And at the last there is Amir Miran himself among his most elite in the centre. Originally but an Üarim warlord from the Fararu Luminescence, the warlord Miran has in the last decade risen to legendary standing. The lands of Transtulania have not seen his likeness in perhaps a thousand years. Through scores of successful military campaigns he achieved a rare supremacy over most of the Üarim lands, though Amir Miran’s victories are owed largely to the skillful employment of the great Üarim super weapon; the Oliphaunts, amid which he now stands. Colossal monsters, that carry similarly monstrous sized heavy and ruinous bombards on their backs. Casted in the mystical foundries of Aranagh, the bombards are so devastating that its power is supposedly owed to the fiery blessing of Axbak-Kamen.

Miran raises his sacred Flaming Sword, Zara-Thuster, and points it towards the mountain-like city before him. With a sonorous voice he proclaims: ‘’Consume the Vampires in flame! Raze low the mountain!’’

A fell, ear shattering barrage blasted from the monstrous bombards on the Oliphaunts and right into the walls and buildings of Donvoile. Stone crumbles, walls shatter and the rubble created pelts down on the helpless citizenry as they wailed, and fled, and died.
The lower districts of Donvoile had to sustain the brunt of the devastation. Their hope now lies with their Strigoi oppressors/protectors, whose armies have arrived to engage the invaders.

In front of the Miranid camp, the Strigoi host had established its own, complete with field fortifications, the work, it seemed like they had expected the horde to come tumbling down against them the very moment whatever the warlord that headed them was named heard about their presence. After she had sacrificed whatever surprise effect she might have had, this would have served Hildegund, Favored Daughter of Wulfram, a lot of trouble.

In short, she had to empty every village, every city from Vaudevent to here, bribing, menacing and sweet talking her way to here to amass something resembling an army. Thousands of local strigoi landlords with whatever served as their cohorts ranging from the more organized Day Guards to rabbles of cannon fodder and masses of fanatics craving for blood and the promise of immortal children.

That had been the easy part.

It had been 14 hours since they established camp as the morning light rose, daring the enemy to attack them during the day light (something everyone had hoped for as to cast a nice eclipse spell and violently counter attack and be done with it) and during most of this time, the Favored had been in a tent with a hundred of her kin, all screaming at her for how to act.

She knew how to act, she knew she should listen to the little voice of reason against her ear, a Daywalker under the name of Vincent who whispered sweet words of wisdom. Vincent was not a local land lord or powerful kin, he rather simply was an educated student of the Realm’s War Academy. Little knew the Realm even had such a thing, but it was she, Hildegund, who had commissioned its creation to study and counter Amrea’s military. To make sure that despite the terrible state of the Realm’s internal affairs that it might stand a chance if worse came to worse. But despite the effort she had made to have this opinion that she knew held more wisdom than this entire assembly of centuries or more old Strigoi could offer, his voice had been drowned, like all others, with another, her own.

‘If they are so eager to all die foolishly, why stop them?’

She HATED them all, none of them liked her in return, none of them even appreciated how she was the only one trying to stop this Miran! Instead of trying to stop a needless slaughter, why not just… let it happen and instead plan for the fallout? It wouldn’t even be so bad actually, a new page in the history of the Realm! So much free land, she could award it to loyal servants who knew how to obey, who’d be indebted to her. Yes, let them all die!

And so it was decided. At dusk, they attacked. The vile creatures, those who had never in their long lives encountered anything that could match their savagery, cheered. Attack and be done, the weaks may die, but of course, the weaks were everyone but them, right?
5th Year of the Gwangyeong Era, (23rd February, 4901 YDC)
The Jungles of the Aarehani Principality

A steady stream of grey, wispy smoke rose through the air as the Amrean Steam-Junk pushed through the waters of the Eaamhan River. Sweat continued to drip down Kong-Lan’s brow whilst he stood on the deck, peering out into the jungle that bordered the banks of the river. And not just his brow, his entire damned body was sweating. He could see why the Aarehan shaved themselves now. The heat was a secondary concern for him though. It wasn’t the worst thing about this Sun-damned jungle!

No.. the worst thing about this place is not the suffocating heat, nor the mosquitos, not even the local customs… No, none of that. The worst thing is the monkeys -- The Monkeys are everywhere! Hanging from every liana, and hounding the ship from the ceiling of branches that follow the river as though waiting to strike. One of them had the audacity to hang low enough to snatch away Kong-Lan’s hat, only to put it on his own head. This was an hour ago, and ever since the hat-wearing monkey had been trailing their ship, as if to taunt them…

The rest of the crew seemed to be faring much better than him as well. Most of them were merely annoyed at the heat, rather than suffering as he was. That perhaps was to be expected, given that he was not used to the tropical heat of Southern Amrea and the Aarehan Principalities. Being born and raised in the temperate capitol region tended to do that to you.

In the distance, banked to the shore of the Eaamhan, lay the foremost municipality of the Aarehani principality. There is the estate of Prince Zaanjikyong, appearing strikingly Amrean, though lacking in regal furnishing. The Aarehan are a very austere people and it shows in their buildings. It is the first sign of civilization since having left the domain of the revered Gwangyeong Empress, and into the great perilous unknown that awaits them in the wild southlands. The steamship began to push through the river currents with newfound strength and the paddle-wheels mounted on each side cut through the water faster than before, as the crew were eager to make landfall after nearly a week in the Sun-forsaken undergrowth.

The ship finally docked at a pier on the edge of the estate, the primitive steam engine sputtering out its last few gasps of smoke before turning off.
As the crew disembarked, they can hear the deep resounding of a gong, used to signal the denizens of the municipality of the arrival of visitors. Hastily, the serfs working on the spice plantations withdraw into the estate, and a delegate appears on the pier. It is a bald man, completely shaved, including the fox-like ears and tail, a custom for which the Aarehan are known. In addition to the robe-like garments he adorns, his absence of hair makes him very reminiscent of a monk. Perhaps he is a monk.

He makes a deep bow before the delegation, speaking monotone:
‘’My master, the Prince of the Set Sun bids the subjects of the Gwangyeong welcome. I am Zezhao of Laanba monastery, here to receive you.’’
He remains bowed down, not looking up before the delegation have articulated their motive in visiting. In response, Kong-Lan bows lightly, in recognition, before explaining his presence here. “I am Count Kong-Lan, of the 2nd Rank.” He says, making sure to emphasize the rank in particular. The northerners did pay special attention to the noble titles granted by the Imperial Court, after all. “I have been charged with delivering a message to the Warlord Miran, and have come to inquire with your master on his whereabouts.” Kong-Lan says this rather impatiently, as if he cannot stand the sight of the shaved man before him.

The delegate stands up straight. ‘’I will be showing you into the Prince’s estate, revered Count Kong-Lan. Be mindful, that as your coming is on short notice, I cannot say if my Prince will be able to receive you immediately.’’

“Even if he cannot, I can wait.” He says tersely before following Zezhao inside.

Sitting on an ornate chair in an austere stone hall, Prince Zaanjikyong looks sternly to the guests that have entered his domain. In contrast to his subjects, the Prince is bushy haired, with a bearded jawline and long, flowing red hair reminiscent of manes combed backwards. The base of his tail is shaven save for a great plume at its end. It is no mistake that this man is going for a lion aesthetic, a tradition among Aarehani leaders. Zaanjikyong certainly looks imposing enough to be called a lion, with his broad shoulders, athletic build and dark-gold-like skin complexion.

He addresses the Amrean delegation with a low, graveling voice.
‘’Late is the hour where the Empress has begun to show care for its southern neighbors. Much too late… State your intent, northerner.’’

Kong-Lan bowed deeply, in reverence to the Prince whose nobility outranked his. As shaved as his tail may be, Prince Zaanjikyong was still an Amrean, and nominally an Imperial subject. Thus, it was only proper to bow in respect.

“O Prince, our revered Empress has commanded me to deliver a missive to the Warlord, Miran Shaykh Gurkani. It is of great importance, thus I come south to ask you of his whereabouts.” He replies, head bowed until he finished.

The prince scowls. The Count’s mannerism and words did not satiate him in the slightest. ‘’She would ask of me this boon... Tell me, Count, where was your Empress’ aid when my people, her people, were subjected to the sword, pillage and fire?’’

He lets out a gruff sigh and reveals his left hand. The top phalanges off his fingers are missing. They had apparently been cut off, and then seared painfully by fire to seal the wounds. ...This gesture alone conveys more than any words could.

Whilst Kong-Lan’s head hangs low in shame, Zaanjikyong lowers his disfigured hand and continues;

‘’We Aarehan are a strong people, not simply cowed by force. Many thousands, tens of thousands, had perished defending these lands against the Miranids. The actual statistics on the death toll is accumulating even now... We fought, to stall them from entering your lands also, but Amrea stood passive, silent....
...And now, you ask for my boon.’’

Receiving no response from the ashamed dignitary, the Prince sighs again.
‘’Nevertheless, I shall humor the Empress -- and this should please you. Amir Miran has departed for the realm of Wulfram. Having taken along the better portion of my Aarehani army with him.
I suppose, now, their skills are put to test in the slaying of the ungodly Strigoi and their vampiric ilk. Well deserved I say.’’

Kong-Lan bows multiple times upon receiving the answer.

“Thank you for your beneficence, O Prince. For now, rest assured that the time will soon come for the barbarian to be put in his place. The Phoenix has risen yet again, and its fury shall be known. How many day’s ride to Miran’s warhost?”

‘’You mean to trail the footsteps of the Miranid horde?’’
Zaanjikyong strokes his reddish beard as he analyzes the men accompanying the Count, as if to determine their capability of undertaking such a rigorous journey. After a brief discomforting quiet, he raises his voice.
‘’I understand fully your devotion to carry out an imperial decree, but know that you might well be riding to your death. I say this in good faith. Not just for the prolonged arid climate and sandstorms, but more the marauding locals who will be drawn to assail one as prestigious as an Amrean Count… If crossing the width of Transtulania, and then the Pyrünüs mountains into Wulfram isn’t perilous enough, there is no saying what Miran’s men will do to you even if you reach them… It is as you say; they are barbarians.
I urge you consider carefully.’’

Kong-Lan begins to wonder, searching the recesses of his memory for a map of the Southlands he once saw. He couldn’t remember much, but he did remember that further south were larger, more ancient cities, home to races who rivalled the Kou’ji in prestige and blood. Perhaps he would find ears there?

“Tell me, where is the nearest city that swears fealty to the Warlord? It has been made clear that attempting to track him is foolhardy. What alternative do you suggest, O Prince?”
‘’The Eaamhan streams into the Jeravan river, which leads to proximity of Aranagh, the city of Fararuals, a more civilized race. I advise you go there. Sun God willing, you will find a listening ear.’’

The Count nods in acknowledgement. The Fararuals… At the very least, he’d be able to get home faster than if he’d crossed the length and breadth of the Southlands on a fruitless chase.
“I will take your advice.” He says, bowing deeply one final time.

The Prince places a fist to his chest in a dismissive salute. ''Sun God’s speed.’’ He then motions to his robed and bald servants, to show the Amrean delegation out towards the pier.
Deep Rudines

Day breaks over the mountains, with beams of light breaking through the overcast mountain skies. Since the Jet Hound’s attack, no Darkling had fortunately been drawn towards them in the night.
Raditsch was the first to stir from slumber in the cave’s seclusion, and as he emerged into the light of day, a bird flew over, loosening a blob of its feces that landed stark on his head… invoked by the unholy and cruel powers of the curse.
Raditschs grumbles. ‘’Forgot mine hat in the grotto.’’ He was about to retreat back into cover, when he spotted on a distant sky the gathering of dark clouds, many of them, hanging over some unseen dale beyond the far mountain tops. It is a great and heavy tempest, another anomaly of these sinister lands.
The cursed wanderer looks upon them, and a glimmer of hopeful anticipation reflects in his eyes. ‘’The day of reckoning has comen…’’ He murmurs under his breath.

Einhard having been roused by the cursed man’s wakening followed his lead out of the cave, being met with the very same view. For the Paladin the dark clouds had the opposite effect, filling him with doubt and pondering on their meaning.
“How many men has your King doomed to wander these mountains?” Einhard asks Raditischs somberly.

But Raditsch speaks to him reassuringly, making erratic hand gestures and motioning towards the clouds as if they are a good omen.
‘’That is where the Horn is… and the lair of the Huntsman’s beast.
That is where you must go, Paladin.’’
This he says, but not without his usual layering of foreboding.

Einhard nods his head at Raditsch’s statement, “If that is what you state, I don’t believe I will ever understand these cursed mountains.”

For the better part of the day onward, the three moved towards their destination, treading cautiously, moving through narrow passes and treacherously steep trails. All the while Einhard never lost sight of those looming dark clouds beckoning him from afar… Is the Millennium Horn really there? How will he recognise it?

Hours follow, and having come close, the tempest now nearly engulfs them. The sound of the wind seems to speak to the three through ominous howling. Distant and unrecognisable sounds are carried on them, yet none in the company can surmise from what they are. But regardless of from where they’ve come, the three are very close to its source…

Marozia had been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the whole day. But now she pipes up nervously to Einhard, “Uh… Master Einhard, I think I hear something through the wind.”
Einhard continues to forge ahead as he takes in the sound of the wind. After a long quiet he answers; “Aye little one. It must be the sound of that demonic creature… And something else...”
Indeed, carried on the wind are yells, screams, the fierce clank of iron and the dull chop of wood being cut and splintered.


Their objective is past them, and Einhard, bound by oath to his King, will kill as many of them as is necessary to see his mission done.
The sound of men seems to be coming from down ahead. When he observes a cliff leading down into a clearing, the Paladin pauses, and looks behind towards his Shieldbearer, and then to Raditsch. He raises a hand and says:
“I will take a look. Stand back.”
They nod.
Einhard proceeds to climb the slope in front of them to peer down the edge of the cliff.

His intuition proved correct: as the Paladin looked, he observes a great Lampert encampment, perhaps more like a makeshift fort, protected by battlements, rock formations and palisade walls. He sees armed and mustached men moving all over the place, carrying felled game, recuperating and patrolling.
Einhard goes on to analyse if indeed the Horn is there.. or the Demon Hound… Or anything. But what he sees is none of the things he came looking for, but something entirely different that catches the Paladin completely off guard.

“Autchar…!” he hisses under his breath.

Against a pole in the centre of the encampment is a gagged and bonded Autchar -- he has been captured by the Lamperts!
And standing opposite of him is a tremendous presence, clearly distinguished from the other Lamperts by his stature and armor and iron crown. The pinnacle of Lampertei’s host.
‘’The God-hating Lampert King himself? Now? Here of all places?!’’ Einhard curses inwardly at this turn of events. With Dalgiserius’ presence here, it explains the unnatural clouds looming over this place.

The paladin returns to brief his two traveling companions, with a hush filling them in on what he surveyed...
‘’King Dalgiserius is here? What terrible luck!” Marozia splutters.

Einhard grimly looks to Raditsch, and sensing what he is thinking, Raditsch is filled with shame. “I fear it is mine curse at work again to be so afflicted.”
But before Einhard can start to reconsider the wisdom in having brought the cursed man along, Raditsch continues:
“All is not lost on this day of reckoning. For I ken the lore of shapeshifting. With a brew of Rudine fauna growing near here, I can create you a concoction which allowaz you assume different form. Thereby you can enter the camp, and liberate your swordbrother.”

Einhard sarcastically mutters to himself, almost loud enough for Raditsch to hear. “Perhaps you could turn me into a dragon, so I can turn the lot of them to ashes...” Einhard does not know whether to take the man’s word seriously, but speaks louder this time, “Go do what you will, I will search for a way into the encampment.’’

As the Paladin left to see to his work, the cursed wanderer turned to the shield bearer.
‘’Marozia, was that your name? So you are of Lampert stock, as much as I.’’
Marozia turns to the cursed man with a half smile, “Ah yes, my parents were originally from the Lampert side of the mountains.’’

‘’I need you to leave.’’
‘’In the dale we had passed in our coming here, I observed there grew special Rudine fauna in its blossoming. With the Purper flower there, I can create mine shape-shifting concoction. You must go, Marozia, and reap it.’’

“Uhhh… why do I have to go and get the flowers, you are the one who knows these damned passes!”
‘’With mine old eyes, I ken not to differentiate between the purple and the blue. And we need purper flowers specifically.’’

Marozia sighs and heads off to find the flowers. Making sure to wait till she is out of view, Raditsch then approaches Einhard who is keeping vigil into the enemy encampment, and frowning deeply by what he sees.

“The odds are stacked against us…’’ Einhard grimly proclaims, sensing Raditschs’ approach, and gestures towards the rigid Lampert defenses.
‘’So they are.
I never doubted your good will when you vowed to lift my curse, Paladin.
Though I am long beyond reproach, I beg your forgiveness.’’

Einhard turns his head sideways, not sure what the rambling man is on about this time, when he is suddenly pushed, forcefully cast down the rocks and into the clearing below.

‘’There -- There he is!’’ A Lampert man with a missing eye snarls at the fallen Paladin, and immediately an assortment of armed watchmen carrying halberds encircle the dumbstruck Chlotar. He is betrayed.
Location: North-western Gardonia
Date: February 11th YDC
Fourth Cycle of the Fararual Calendar - Season of the Scion

Mirza Jafaroglu, a warlord of the Üar-og Emirate rides over the virgin soil and grassy hills of western Upstream Gardonia, at his back a multitude of rows of monster and man. The Beys of the Tzücomen lands have crossed the treacherous slopes and trails that line the Pyrünüs mountains, each leading their own clans into cohorts. The Gnülonlar savages of the northern wastes spanning from Transtulania to Dathanar, and amid them many other absorbed and conquered peoples.

‘’This issuh Gardonois, mon Mirza.’’ Says Lanfranjean Benencase with a thick Gardonian accent. He is a defector from Wulfram’s border outposts, many guards of whom have opted to join the invading Transtulanian warlord over being utterly ravaged and despoiled by mindless gnolls. Lanfranjean is a hunchback with red disheveled hair and a lump of sagging skin covering his right eye.
‘’We-uhh shoulda expectois zhe armée du Wulvram any time soone.’’ The honourless hunchback henchman speaks to Jafaroglu, galloping his white pony in a swift trot by the warlord’s side. ‘’Wid all zhe villáges zhat had been pilláged, zhe local armée must hav been made awares.’’
Jafaroglu grunts affirmatively, pretending to understand what the Hunchback is saying. In truth he is very poorly versed in foreign speech, being able to speak but a single Transtulanian dialect. He therefore keeps a multilingual interpreter as part of his retinue, whispering into his left ear, even to the fields of war.
His army of some twenty thousand men, beasts and creatures move on as Lanfranjean continues to use his single useable eye to scan the horizon for sign of the local lord’s banner.

“Sauvages.” On the other side of the battlefield on a hill dominating the battlefield, Etinivien Christofalde looked in his spyglass, the large and expensive well ornamented golden piece of equipment mounted on a tripod. The man wore a magnificent and chique uniform along with the most fanciful of tricorn hat adorned with plumes of exotic birds.

In front of them, a horde of unwashed barbarians grossly the same color prepared to attack them. This irked the Daywalker who had a love of symmetry and aesthetics. But then again, these savages would be blown to pieces into a modern work of ‘Art-Chaotique’ by his artillery so it wasn’t that bad. No, the worst part was when he removed his eye from the spyglass to look at his own forces. Some wore a similar uniform to his, others another kind and others still were just a step above those he faced. The army of Wulfram seemed indeed to include very little of his sons and daughters!

Truth was, Christofalde and his ilk were part of a compromise solution by Favored Daughter Hildegund. For the invading army this was barely understandable, that nation on the continent with the most professional warrior per habitant would be so paralyzed to deal with an invading force, but for him it was part of the usual business. Strigoi feared nothing, nothing but an equally fearless and powerful opponent, so, nothing but each other. Which was why this whole ‘Miranid Invasion’ was only a sideline to them, a little annoyance to be bribed for it to go away while they schemed against each other.

Hildegund was a practical woman who prefered to use a minimum of resources to deal with a problem. While she would have prefered to bribe Miran directly like she did with Amrea so he’d begone, truth was this would send the wrong message to the other neighbors of the Realm. Paying Amrea, the most powerful nation on the continent, the eternal enemy, for peace was one thing, but if any upstart warlord found wealth in the Realm there would be no end to this.

Thus, the present situation. Twenty three thousand men, mostly mortals, tasked to end this little rampage and return business as usual. This was kind of insulting really, Christofalde had the largest mercenary army of the realm, some eleven thousand men, more than enough to defeat an army of savages exhausted after crossing the mountains, but Hildegund had been extremely clear that she wanted thus crushed, no surprise defeat or unexpected outcome. Well… he found solace in the fact he was still being paid his full tariff. She hadn’t even tried to negotiate.

‘’Mon capitan!’’ Shouts one of the watchmen of Christofalde’s host.
‘’Zhey are coming!’
Indeed, the bark and clamour of gnoll and beast echoed over the fields as the interlopers advanced swiftly towards them, now clearly within sight and aim of Gardonian artillery. Split divisions of the savage horde had been manoeuvring from the north and the south to beset the Gardonian hill from three directions. Thousands and thousands of them streaming over the valleys!

‘’Scatter Üalfrum’s pathetic slave army! Those halfman vampire-thralls are undeserving being called men, for they willingly live like sheep, where we live like LIONS. We shall now show them the wild pride of FREE MEN!’’ Jafaroglu cries in his own dialect, so that only a fraction of the mostly foreign-army could understand, yet by the forceful way spoken, all men and beasts could easily guess what the Mirza wills of them. The warlord raises a pistol and fires a shot into the air. ‘’Charge!’’

The archaic Tzücomen cavalry, primarily armed with javelins, bows and arrows, charge the frontlines, firing their projectiles as they ride while the Gnülonlar swarm the neglected north and south flanks of the Gardonian host.
Before the shock infantry even reached the enemy, other Gnülonlar formed up down the hill, armed with all manner of ranged weaponry from crude matchlock muskets to slings. There they indiscriminately fire shots, bolts and fling rocks into the enemy as much as they do into their fellow gnolls.

“As expected.” Answered a smirking Etinivien. “Artillerie! Distance Maximum! Feux!” The larger cannons fired their ordinance at the incoming onslaught as they passed the distance markers already in place. “Rockets, Feux!” The enemy advanced rapidly but now was time to try something new in Christofalde’s arsenal. Amrean rocket artillery! It may sound dramatic, especially for an old worlders, but these were wooden frames with rocket propelled arrows with at their tips, small amounts of explosives. The 3 constructs began firing their payload but soon after, screaming was heard in the ranks.

“Feux! Feux feux feux!” Looking away from his spyglass in annoyance, Etinivien saw something what would be comedic if it happened to any men but his own. One of the rockets had been stuck in the device! Trying to unjam it, it had become loose and fell on the ground, creating a small explosion downing 3 men. But it wasn’t the end of it as soon after, the entire area was covered by a cloud of smoke as the reserve ammunitions were ignited, destroying the engine and its remaining non fired rockets!

The incompetence! Looking for the responsible, the artillery master covered his face with shame. Still, the remaining, more reliable artillery, did what it could to weaken the enemy. “Graaah! No matterz! Send in zhe skirmisherz to cover zhe flanks!” After a quick acknowledgement, a soldier sounded for the skirmishers to engage and on the south, there was a rumble of hooves… But nothing from the north. Christofalde had to turn his eyes to the skirmishers, part of another company than his own to see him point at the enemy with incomprehension. “You’ree skirmisheurz! Skirmish for Moon’z sake!” The commander screamed at the top of his lungs. The captain of the lesser mercenary company sent him a look filled with resentment, thinking the man nominally in charge was an imbecile trying to get him killed.

This battle which seemed to be nothing but a series of blunders and communications problem continued, getting all the more ridiculous and frustrating for the man in charge as it went. What a ‘gachis’ he thought, for all these problems, the mercenaries did a superb job whenever they actually did what they were meant to, having a superiority of equipment especially in the form of artillery and heavy armor, even with some mages to cause significant casualties to the enemy! Further more when the second wave of humanoids engaged, after the gnolls were butchered, a lot of them actually switched side! The fools had enrolled Gardonians in their armies, no doubt promising them freedom from Strigoi rule but after spending some times with these savages they had began to have second thoughts.

In the end, the mercenary ensembled was battered, much more than it should have been when facing a relatively inferior enemy as they had today, but they can sense victory. The gnolls and horsemen had been repulsed, and the enemy infantry had been coerced into a disorganized withdrawal, demoralized by rampant death and the soaring blasts of Gardonian artillery.

However, all men could then also sense a reverberating quake through the valley, and the faint braying of trumpets beyond the hills… The most damningly piercing of which coming from a great horn drafted onto the battlefield.

It was a carnage, or rather a devastating stampede followed by a decisive en masse surrender of the mercenary army. The Miranids rounded up prisoners while Lanfranjean was given Christofalde, for him to do with as he pleased. The hunchback was beating the mercenary leader’s face to a blue and blotched mess while tirading: ’’Zhis is what you get for getting all zhe wimmen, pretty boy! Where iz your 'andsome pretty face now?!’’

Meanwhile Mirza Jafaroglu and his gryphon flew over the red field to observe today’s dead. A scowl formed on his face: for every Gardonian felled, there were at least three Gnülonlar or Tzücomen. Worse yet, of those Gardonians dead none of them were Strigoi and but a few were daywalkers. It was a diversion, as much as his own army had been. Nevertheless, these vampire-slaves had pulled fate’s short straw this day.
Looking over his shoulder, a titanic beast is casting its vast shadow to encompass this valley of death, the selfsame to whom is owed his victory. The numbed Gardonian prisoners are overcome by feelings of fear and awe both; it is seldom they had seen such a godly monstrosity. Though is it the beast for whom the mercenaries of Wulfram cower, or more the menacing specter of regalty perched atop the beast’s head, clutching a radiant flaming sword...
Date: Unknown
Fararu Luminescence, the Holy City of Aranagh

Kind solace in a dying hour.
Such, Axbak-Kamen, is not now my theme—
I will not madly deem that worldly power
may shrive me of the sin
that unworldly pride hath revell’d in—
I have no time to dote or dream:

You call it hope—that fire of fire!
It is but agony of desire:
Through my atrocities and slaughter --
I still catch cinders of the haunting dream
of the Luminescence's daughter..

''Negh… Worthless. The last lines does not flow…''

In the dark temple of Axbak Aranagh, the Conqueror sits crossed legged before the altar of Axbak Kamen, writing, outpouring his soul on a piece of parchment held in his calloused hands, put against a hand-held wooden board.

An idol of the Luminescence’s daughter rests on the altar before him, though it failed to capture her beauty. Like a depiction of the sunset could never hope to truly integrate the glamour of the true sunset. Replicating such beauty is not in the fingers of the artist, only the Divine.
He takes up a blank slate of parchment, and sets it on the board to put into words his laments.

In my torch I carry your light
Where its rays sear me true
Pain of your flame is reminder of the why-
Of why I took up the flaming sword

In my charger swift I delight no more,
Nor in costly garb and in finery,
Little do I care for conquest’s booty
Who is there the glory that is mine to share?
Before whom shall I of my conquest boast?
Tore whose gaze shall I my rich garb display?

''No.. no.. Worthless, wretched.''

With a savage gash he scratches the last lines, then fumbles the paper altogether before casting it away. He tries again on a new piece of parchment.

O! craving heart, for the lost flowers
And sunshine of my summer hours.
Th’ undying voice of that dead time,
With its interminable chime,

O! Axbak Kamen
Know thou the secret of my spirit
Bow’d from its wild pride into shame.
O! yearning heart, I did inherit
Thy withering portion with the fame,
The searing glory which hath shone
Amid the jewels of my throne,

Tears in the eyes never convince,
But rather defies under weight of sins
All the same, I bid you, grant me your boon
As I walk your armies into the den of Ualfrüm

Finished writing, he is scarcely content with it, yet perhaps the Divine Fire may appreciate it all the same. The Conqueror offers the writ up to the pyre upon the altar. The old fumbled parchment swiftly catches fire and in seconds is subsumed by flames. Smoke rises towards the ceiling dome of the sanctum, and the Conqueror knows that through such revered rituals, the writ has passed the boundaries of worlds into the otherworld, where his loved one is waiting.

‘’Fire of Fire, brighter than all flames. This I dedicate to Axbak Kamen and you.’’

He rises from the altar, about to leave the sanctum’s premise. When suddenly, a flicker appeared from the cinders remaining of his writ upon the altar. A flare. The Conqueror turned around, and his golden eyes widen in disbelief:
‘’Mulk Khamun.’’

The form of a woman appeared upon the altar, a blazing beacon more stunning than you could imagine, her long hair flowing radiantly about her head with the likeness of sun-beams. It is a display of such regal majesty that to behold it, takes the breath from the Conquerors lungs.

When their eyes meet she stretches out a hand to him, smiling warmly and with otherworldly grace. She wants to say something. Possessed and enraptured the Conqueror is not himself, and takes a small step towards her. He reaches out his battered hand to clasp hers.
And at the moment their fingers touch she flickers out. Like a lamp that had been abruptly turned off, she vanished. The Conqueror is perplexed, and the light leaves his eyes.

His knees fall upon the rigid stone tiles before the altar. He is truly alone.

''Amir Shaykh Gurkani…''

The Conqueror had only just left the sanctum when a voice calls from out the dark, with footsteps reverberating towards him.
‘’Forgive my intrusion, it is I; Hierophant An-Mara. Rekindled as your most humble, willing slave.’’
The Conqueror does not look him in the eye, staring stark at the murals on the walls with his arms placed stiff to his back.
‘’An omen, my Amir.

Late in the night, as the silver beam of moonlight shone unto the pond, I beheld therein three carps, two silver and one gold. The gold one had died, but drifted at the pond’s surface, with the two silver ones rapidly swimming circularly about it, as though keeping it afloat. Than.. a single droplet landed on top of the golden carp’s eye.’’

‘’Elaborate now, Hierophant.’’ The Conqueror speaks orotund.
‘’It is a sign from the Sun God. The Silver carp, truly it represents you, where the golden carp represents the late Luminescent. The Sun God at last acknowledges you as The One successor of Kamen’s Lineage, keeping his authority afloat on this mortal coil.’’
‘’Are you certain of this?’’
‘’I speak these words beyond the shadow of doubt, Amir Shaykh. The omens are right.’’
‘’And who, pray tell, is the other silver carp, if one of them is me?’’
The Hierophant lowers his head, and strokes his long grey beard.
‘’Time will tell, Conqueror.’’
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