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The Voice of a God

Pier of Göl Kasabi
Ostrob - 300 AWH


The day is unnatural. The skies are never this clear in proximity to Uudhin. The distant sun and red star never so brilliant. The people of Kasabi island speak of a divine omen. For it is common knowledge, at least in the upper commons of the city, that this day the Metropolitan’s selected heir is departing with a treasure fleet at his back. Gifts from all corners of Materia to which the Merchant Despotate has established lasting ties. Accompanied with rows of heavily guarded ships to see to the safe passage to East Ouroborasia. Even the Salt Prince, in his occasional mercy, has bestowed tranquil waves for a safe voyage to the other side of the dark strait of Noirmoro, which separates Uudhin from Ouroborasia.
For many this favourable weather should be a welcome sight of better times to come. Yet to the more cynical, it is a dreadful omen of Justinian’s growing power and the impending annihilation of Edukar’s last bastion. For the perpetual and brooding tempest is the norm in Uudhin.
Leaning at the railing of the northern pier attached to Göl Kasabi’s upper commons, the young Principe reminisces over what is to come, and dreads it.
Synogchouta wears Soghba’s charm around his neck and has his usual wine red mantle covering his sinewy frame against the cold. Black curls cover his forehead. Under his eyes are dark bags from a sleepless and another depressing Uudhin night. Sadly something Edukesh's long exiled tribes are only too familiar with. Cast from grace by the tyrannical usurper gods, to reap the shallow bounty of the most accursed corner in Materia. So they endlessly tell themselves in self-pity. But he woke up from that darkness to the most aberrant morning imaginable. The pure beams of the sun actually gracing their little island empire?

The skies spotless, and peaceful silent laughter from the gulls is heard floating over the still water. Strange. The skies shouldn’t be this shade of colour. The cerulean blue envelops the pier so that its red mosaic tiles too seems as though touched by the celestial plane. There is even such clarity that the northern coast at the other side of the water is visible to the naked eye.
The Principe cannot believe his own eyes. He had been idling on this pier many times in his life, but never had the boon of catching a glimpse of Ouroborasia from as far south as Göl Kasabi. Caught in wonderment Chouta’s gaze is fixed on the northern horizon, unable to process what is happening. He has been to that very Ouroborasian coast before, but from this distance and on this day it is totally unrecognisable. In matter of fact; the distant ivory shore cannot be of this world. Those pine trees should not be piercing straight through the sky... The mountains behind them should not be shaped as rows of shiny molar teeth. And the southern harbour did not have those colossal pearl gates barring entry into the dockyard. Despite being at least a hundred miles away, Synogchouta can swear that the glistering gates have words inscribed on them. They are large enough that the Principe swears he can read them. He squints his eyes and leans forward over the railing.

There he stood, and the longer Synogchouta tried to decipher the awfully familiar words of the gate, the more the wind picked up as though responding to his intrigue, gliding rapidly over the water surface. The volume increases and somehow shifts to whispers seemingly carried with them. The speech of the wind smothers the familiar bawking of seagull and seaghoul that the Kasabioi are accustomed to. All sounds from the urban areas behind him likewise fades out by voices not quite human. A language that no other sapient race on Materia should be capable of producing either. For it is the wind that is speaking.
‘’The mist of the sea is an invitation to the great Dark. Embracing the abysmal north star, where the host of all souls gather. Over them, through them, without and within.’’
That is what it says. A voice unmistakably harmonious and inseparable from the noise of the very tempest. This is the language of entities of a greater plane. What all Men are inclined to call Gods.
‘’Who are you?’’

‘’Bring your gift to his viceroy that dwells so deep, so deep down under the northern star. A material pact upheld.’’

‘’Axohaan?’’

‘’Hasten. The destiny of Eudeye’s Tribes, alike with the Olden Refuge and the Deicidal Messengers of Archonnen hang in your balance. A cataclysm to be averted.

He awaits.’’

Then the celestial sky takes the form of a face. A kind face of a man, with a warm and embracing smile. Chouta is completely perplexed. But he snaps out of it when bumping his head against a lantern hanging from a column adjacent to him.

Rubbing the spot where his head was struck, Chouta’s eyes dart back to the sky. There is no face there. How is that even possible? Something as shapeless and infinite as the sky -- yet he could swear he recognised the shape of a human face therein.
Then he looks at the Ouroborasian coast to the north. Squinting his eyes he can just narrowly make out a thin strip of land at the far end of the horizon. Which is still incredible and very unusual considering the distance. Yet all the same, over there is not the celestial landscape he previously bore witness to. And those pearl gates are nowhere to be seen. It must have been imagery out of a lucid dream…

The unrestrained exposure of such paradisiacal weather is clearly playing with his head. Understandable perhaps; because an Uudhinite inhabitant is accustomed only to elements dark and raw. Anything that isn’t that is simply overwhelming their psyche? That is what Chouta deduces, anyway. But the scent of salt once more fills his nostrils, a reminder that his God is never far...
‘’Did the Salt Prince send me a vision?’’ The Principe silently mutters to himself.
His mind is adrift once more with the waves of the strait, and only ends when a sudden voice ambushes the pier.

‘’The Metropolitan sent me. Saying Yaldbaw has left and that you ought to follow his example. ‘Our family did not prosper through indolence or hesitation.’ He says.’’

Still mentally elsewhere, the Principe hardly gives a visible reaction towards his uncle’s henchman. And so he continues speaking.
‘’Either way, the crew is assembled; ready to leave on your word. Combined with the treasure fleet and the assortments of armed escort, it makes for a mighty fleet in total, I must say. I hope the Ouroborasians won’t mistake it for an invasion. Heh! Hehe.’’

It is Bacanoc Ormaoth, a confidante and henchman of the Daveithai family from about Chouta’s age. One would be hard-pressed to think he too hails from a wealthy family. His outdoors attire consists of weathered old garments and leather, having certainly carried him through much rain and wind over the years. Bacanoc is hardy and fierce built, wide shouldered with prominent cheekbones and short black facial hair around his chin and jaw in contrast to clean-shaven Chouta. He has a square-shaped skull with dark slanted eyes under thick and heavy eyebrows – actually a little bit reminiscent of a gorilla. ...Though one shouldn’t say it to his face. Bacanoc is certainly no handsome or refined man like his friend the Principe, though certainly capable in the primordial art of violence. Which, paired with his loyalty to the Island Despotate, is exactly why the Metropolitan favours him so.

The Principe is visibly frustrated. He had barely time to reflect on the theophany he just experienced before reality has come to seize him as his uncle’s political pawn to curry the Emperor’s favour.
He came to this part of the city specifically to be away from the intrigue and nosy henchmen of his uncle. ‘Can’t a man have some peace?’ He thinks to himself. It seems there is no more time to enjoy the view. And he might never get another chance, too.
When the Principe fails to give an apt response, Bacanoc speaks up again.
‘’Your rivals are seeing your lack of initiative as a sign of weakness.’’

Chouta raises an unpersuaded eyebrow.
‘’Tsk. Listen here; I don’t like them and they don’t like me. And we both know it. Why should I bother appeasing them? They aren’t going to think better of me whatever I do. What’s the point, pray tell? In matter of fact...’’

He looks away from the dark waves and into Bacanoc’s gorilla vision. ‘’I am not so certain I like you, either. Damn you Ormaoths. How much property and investment have your people done in Solnisata and Drakma at the expense of our Despotate?’’

Bacanoc groans. ‘’... Need I still prove myself? I have lived in Göl Kasabi all my life. I have served your family faithfully more than even my own. I have won the Metropolitan’s trust; why can’t I have yours?’’

‘’Trust isn’t freely given. You may have successfully wrapped my uncle around your little finger, but I am not so easily deceived.’’
The Principe sighs, figuring he is being a tad rough he follows up to his professed distrust:

‘’Though consider my expedition a chance to prove your loyalty.’’
Bacanoc simply nods like a beat dog and turns to leave. It’s as good as any response he has come to expect from the likes of Chouta.




Later that same tranquil morning, Bacanoc walks up to another of the Metropolitan’s Henchmen. This man is at least twice Bacanoc’s age, tall and lanky and stern with a goatee and wearing clean embellished robes, reflecting his status as one of the more powerful of the Kasabioi Patricians.
‘’Doux. Compared to yesterday, the Principe seems to have had a change of heart. Yesterday he was utterly miserable over having to leave his little island paradise. Though when dismissing me he insinuated agreeing with the expedition. What could have persuaded him? Zeal for our Salt Prince?’’

‘’With or without a god, a good night’s sleep performs miracles by itself. The boy had only come to his senses.’’ The Doux replies with a faint smirk, fiddling with his facial hair.

Now having the vague understanding that a lot more is at stake than meets the mortal perception, Chouta scales the gangway of the flagship to be introduced to his loyal subjects. That is to say; his crew that will be accompanying him on this voyage. Synogchouta has made up his mind.
He is first met by a man hailing from a human commune on the Uudhinite mainland, places far more sinister than the isolated Göl Kasabi. A beefy and bullnecked man; Tokko of Jeziorze. At the sight of Chouta’s figure entering the ship he speeds towards him and, taking stance and sticking out his chest like a pigeon, he combusts with a salute:

‘’READY TO SET SAIL, PRINCIPE. ANY DAY. I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING FIRST-MATE OF YOUR SHIP, PRINCIPE. MAY THE SALT PRINCE GUIDE THE WAY! HE WHO IS RULER OF THE EARTH. LORD OF THE WATERS. MASTER OF UUDHIN AND EDUKESH. PRAISE BE!’’
‘’Gross. You spit on me.’’
‘’…
MY APOLOGIES, PRINCIPE.’’
‘’Yea, well, make sure you swallow next time before blurting your swagger.’’

Bacanoc and the Doux now also scale the same gangway of the Metropolitan’s lofty flagship in Chouta’s trail. They, and many other officials, are all part of the envoy deployed to the Imperial Court of Ouroborasia to represent Göl Kasabi and perhaps Uudhin as a whole.
‘’There, Principe. I have taken liberty of finding you this man hailing from the very lands we are about to embark to.’’ The Doux gestures towards his two lionmasked bodyguard – the esteemed Saltenguard – coming onto the deck dragging a gaunt and pale looking man by both arms.

‘’An Ouroborasian in origin. Justinian. It seems he wishes to atone for his ancestor’s crimes by being so courteous as to accompany our exalted mission.’’

Pretty rich coming from an Axohar -- Synogchouta would think, but he is preoccupied observing the poor man that is being presented to him. He is dropped to the floor, landing on both knees and remains there. With a shrill voice the Ouroborasian speaks.

‘’Ionut Luizaraad… I am Ionut Luizaraad and I am no Justinian. Nevermore. I heard your family was searching for a native Ouroborasian speaker to aid you… with a tour. But those Lionmask guys brandished their scythes at the sight of me before I could even think of applying.’’

‘’No surprise there – just look at you.’’ The Principe responds. ‘’You’re filthy.’’
Ionut ignores the comment, seeming to agree.

‘’My understanding of the eastern territories of Ouroborasia is subpar, but I will do my utmost best, lord.’’
Not fully convinced, the Principe turns to the Doux once more.

‘’Litayyan, where did you find this man?’’

‘’It is as he says; my escort detained him.’’ The Doux answers with a bark, whose real name is apparently Litayyan.
He follows up:
‘’In the past few days I had my men distribute warranties through the suburbs of Göl Kasabi, with the urgent request for Ouroborasian-speaking volunteers. But it was on short notice, and this man seems to be the best option so far. I trust you will agree we can make due with him. Do not let his impoverished looks deceive you – he has more aptitude than meets the eye… The name of Luizaraad was in fact a decently well-off noble house in Ouroborasia, at least prior to the Civil War.’’
Ionut casts his gaze down to his knees, reminiscing the sad fate of his home and family. He does not comment.

‘’Is that so? Yet you forget the only family name with any semblance of weight on this vessel would be Daveithai. And so a Daveithai will be the judge of that.’’

‘’Naturally, o Principe.’’

Chouta steps towards Ionut, gesturing to the Saltenguard to lift him up to his feet, so that they can see properly eye to eye.
‘’Seeing there is little else to pick from, I accept your enrolment in our little expedition. Consider yourself employed. Though first things first; I insist you dress properly and clean yourself up. Just think; what would the Emperor think if he saw some plebe as part of our sacred envoy?
Litayyan! See to it he is given a fresh set of garments. Not for free, though. The Ouroborasian is to pay off his debt through the toils expected of him.’’


‘’Principally, o Principe.’’




As the fleet departed from the harbour, Synogchouta could briefly catch a glimpse of the Metropolitan's own formidable posture. Frankly Chouta had not expected his uncle cared enough to make an appearance at all. But as befits him, he merely came to see them off and not to bless their journey or bid them goodbye or whichever he ought to. The reason Chouta could recognize the Metropolitan at all was by the elaborate retinue of scythes suddenly entering the pier, and the coloured, over the top plume of the Metropolitan's hat sticking out above his henchmen.
So it came to pass that the fleet of Synogchouta Daveithai, comprising of at least ten ships and loaded with gifts, spices and armed escorts, leaves the harbour of Göl Kasabi under clear skies and with the winds in their back. With such favourable weather it should not take longer than a few days of crossing Noirmoro strait and trailing the inland rivers. And though it is too late to regret his decision now, a clinging pain falls unto the young heir as he sees his island home, which he has ever loved, fade away into the south… And far to the south he can already tell dark clouds pulling from mainland Uudhin to cover Kasabi island once more in ominous Axohar tempests. But this is as it should be.



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Mainland southwestern Ouroborasia, the Battle of Iviragne

Ostrob - 300 AWH



The Ghoulish march


The windswept plains of Ouroborasia are beset by dark clouds, their bleak and dominating presence in the sky engulfing the light and casting there the shadow of Uudhin... From afar the demon hordes moved in, holding aloft the hellish braziers and standards to represent the celestial Prince who made them. Sauntering, dragging, clawing, crawling in their myriads of unsightly and ghastly manifestations. Not quite animal, not quite man, and not quite natural even by the contorted standards of Materia. Their clamouring is heard far and wide as the spawn to the fore beat harsh drums, slam sinister gongs and blow on crude, screeching trumpets.

Tactician Kè; a commander of the Ghouls of Ouroborasia, who has been bred with the wit and guile to trample his enemies, addresses the rows of other prominent Ghouls that had gathered to him. Each of them look diverse enough that one would be hard-pressed to think they belong to the same vile race. They are the Tacticians Ghirjûn, Jauka, Eiyzayun and Glûstremm, standing before him. Each of them stoutly built, about the size of an adult man or longer, and of a superiour breed. Kè alone is the one that lacks any physical presence for he outwardly appears unseemingly sickly and gaunt, a plucked bird with an exposed ribcage and limp appendages of a man.



Kè speaks and hisses with harshly guttural sounds.

''Ioïnro kauteran ihzan dûrxa taan, lôhrung ranz...
Axoa Uudhi deikûr sîy reiyharx ung.''

Eiyzayun retorts.
''Ghaok taan lôhrunga razi âth Ourokûra...?''
And the other three seem to agree with him more than Kè, leaving the Ghoul tactician flustered and angry. Scolding at them.
''Tâk ath, ung Axoa deikûr Uudhi taan Uudhin! Cáarath! Baoth! Parokôk!''

''Axoa kâthar! Axoa dûyvil! Axoa kâthar! Axoa dûyvil! Axoa kâthar!''
The tacticians all cry in a hellish choir.

The other Ghouls that march and encircle the city of Iviragne seem to overhear and respond as if by instinct to the cry of Kè, and now screech the same choir in unison. Their tens of thousands of cries produce such a deafening wave of sound that the inhabitants of the city and the garrison manning the wall dread dearly what is to come. In the face of this multitude of foes and the hellish tumult they create, Justinian's voice is smothered utterly; reduced to the nothingness. For years Ouroborasia has been a dark and forsaken land, far removed and forgotten by the Pale Star of the West. Only the Red Stars of the Axohar Cohort grace the soil now. The lands where hope and daylight die.

Eventually from the northern hills resound the horns of the Human Opposition. And not a moment too soon. They are a fearsome order of warriors known as the Red Gauntlet. With speed they came to the defence of Iviragne to break the Ghoulish advance. They are led by general Krojan the Lumani, an esteemed Red Gauntlet officer. Clad fully in crimson platemail from spiked-helmet to red sabaton, and always atop a mighty black stallion. The soldiers of the Red Gauntlet are perhaps the finest and most elite troops West Ouroborasia has to offer. Most battles of this Civil War that involved their banner resulted in Justinian victories. Even their horses seem to be of a larger and stronger breed than those employed by regular Ouroborasian cavalry.
They would not give up their homes and lands without a fight. Absolutely and under no condition not...

''Form ranks, and face the scum of the Red Pantheon!'' He roars from under his helmet with a thundering voice as he points his scabbard down the hills, where a thick layer of grey covers the valley with speckles stretching far into the southern hills. It is a layer that they will and must not tolerate.
''SIR!
HOO!-HA!''
The forces nigh him gave response. The Red Gauntlet wastes nor reserves even a second to launch their offensive. They are trained to lash out at anything anti-Justinian wherever they may perceive it, and with no quarter. With a fistful of steel and fire they charge down the hills screaming like maniacs. Infantry in the centre, cavalry at the sides. A red wave dawning onto the grey one. Beasts against monsters.
They know what is at stake -- their homes, their property, their sovereignty, their faith. But one thing they are less concerned about are their own lives; these warriors are fierce and do not fear death, never expecting to leave a battlefield alive or in one piece to begin with. Justinian will deliver them. With the aura of Krojan the Lumani at the helm of the army, they are committed to victory.

A depiction of Hell presents before the walls of Iviragne. The ghastly ghouls facing away from the city walls, the very vast majority of them unmounted and small creatures, were trampled by horses while the Gauntlet's infantry with their signature spiked maces strike out at the malformed heads and frames of the frontlining Axospawn.
The Ouroborasians struck hard, and mowed down many foes in the very first clash. However it appears Kè and the Ghoul tacticians deliberately placed their most worthless spawn at the edges of the legion to absorb the blow.

''ITLÛ RA CÁARATH OUROKÛRATH.'' hoarse shrieks came from the back of the ghoul army.

Serpentine warriors rush to the fore with long lances and stakes. With inhuman precision they aim the narrow and rigid ends straight into each chink and gap in the Gauntlet's breastplates. They begin the process of driving the Ouroborasians back, and some that are not paying attention are outright impaled by the deed of those creatures. This gives the maimed and dying Ghouls that were engaged previously the opportunity to retreat to safety behind the Serpentine cover. Some of them with missing and hewn legs crawling vainfully away from the Red Gauntlet. As the Serpentine infantry go about their bloody and precise work, one very strong Ghoul holds a long stake on which he preternaturally impaled three dying Ouroborasians at once. He lifts it towards the dark clouds, the blood stained and bungling bodies of those three men hanging from it like a standard, bent on demoralizing the enemy by depicting classical Ghoul malice.
The Ouroborasians are hardly demoralized however. In fact, one of those hanging three men not yet dead begins screaming at the top of his lungs. ‘’JUSTICE BE DONE! JUSTICE BE DONE! JUSTICE BE DONE!’’ As he in vain holds the stake that pierces through his abdomen, trying to break it and free himself from it.
But, from on high a sharp rock crashes into his helmet; fracturing his skull. At last dealing to him the killing blow, and releasing him from the anxieties of this world. A flying fishghoul cast the rock at the poor man’s head for sport.

Drifting along the ominous clouds, more of those very same winged fish-like demons descend down to glide over the valley of Iviragne, each holding a heavy, sharply chiselled rock. ‘’SCHRATTÔR RA!’’ One of them gurgles at his fellows, and they each drop the rocks into the valley, before retreating back into the clouds. A next line of flying Ghouls take their place, also holding rocks and casting them into the red formations. This is undoubtly part of tactician Kè’s machinations.
On the ground, meanwhile, the heavy impact of the rocks is tremendous enough that the uniform Red Gauntlet helmet is not enough to protect their heads. Some of them are crushed by the heavy rock’s ridiculous velocity. Other humans orientate themselves to the skies and raise up their metal-coated shields, on which the rocks leave a large dent and a harsh 'CLANG!', yet otherwise do their job in keeping the wielder alive.

Krojan yells at the heavens in fury. ‘’Is that it?! Is that all you got?!’’ Before motioning to the Red Gauntlet huntsmen that stand in long rows behind him.
‘’Shoot those curs down to the earth!
Fire at will!’’
The huntsmen raise their crossbows, their arrows ignited by a fiery spell attuned to the string, and open fire at the winged fish creatures that dance among the clouds. Unfortunately many are simply way too high up for the projectiles to reach them. Some, through a miracle or Justinian’s direct intervention do leave their mark however, and a few of those flying Ghouls tumble down to crash onto the crimson battlefield among the Ouroborasian ranks.

Others of those flying beasts were drifting closer over the battlefield, and seemingly for no purpose. Close enough that some of the Red Gauntlet infantry attempted to use their long pikes to pry them from the air, which the creatures dodged gracefully. What Krojan did not know, however, is that the flying Ghouls are actually looking for him, or one like him. Kè specifically instructed them to find and eliminate the enemy commander and deal his army the decisive and fatal blow.
‘’Master Lumani! Look there! Watch out!’’
‘’BAOTH OUROKÛRA DEIKÛR!’’
General Krojan hears the unholy language of Axospawn from perilously close-by. He looks up. One of the flying Ghouls has indeed found him, and is now descending fast on him with high speed. Before Krojan knew what was happening he was tackled off his horse.
‘’GRAH!’’ He exclaims as the fish-like creature was using its long penetrating claws to grasp onto him, leaving dents in his armour and trying to bite at his throat.
The defiant general held his sword unsheathed at all times, and used the pommel to beat it away. But the creature is tenacious, and uses its claws to sink ever deeper through the chinks of his mail, and ever more frantically continues to chatter its jaws lined with many long teeth for a bite at the general’s exposed neck.
So instead, Krojan decides to feed it steel! While holding the malformed head and jaws away from him with one hand, he used the other to drive his blade through its gaping mouth, slaying it. The creature splutters and gurgles angrily, before loosening its grip and falling off. Its lifeless carcass rolls down the hill towards the backs of the fighting men.

A wicked cacophony consumes all the land. The shrill voices of dying humans, the screeching and taunts of Ghouls, the clatter of steel, the neighing of injured horses -- and whichever unsightly creatures Ghouls sometimes ride on.

A messenger runs up towards the general, who is being pulled back on his feet by his honour guard. ‘’Master Lumani, the deployed Executioners have arrived.’’
‘’…Than our victory is still in reach. Send them forward to reinforce the line. Pronto!’’
‘’Yes sir!’’


As is custom in many regions of West Ouroborasia, many of its people have tattoos or otherwise cultural or religious markings on their skin. The warriors known as the Executioners, however, take this to a new level entirely; their skins are covered head to toe with white markings and emblems to represent worship and idolization of their god; Justinian.
The leader of the Executioner’s squadron is a formidable man, bald shaven and broad shouldered. His name is Zenun, and his tattoos are arguably the most ridiculous out of any of the Executioners.
Reacting promptly to Krojan’s command, Zenun shouts:
‘’BOYS! Getcha club, getcha mushrooms... AAAARRGGGHHH!!!!!’’ And his following sentence devolves to incoherent screaming and bestial grunts/snorts as he lifts his mace to ready the charge.

Down the hill, additional fresh Serpentine units point to them their pikes to intercept the new attacking wave. Both the Ghoul formation and the Red Gauntlet infantry previously engaging them have been badly bloodied at this point, and fatigue is setting in. Though to the mind of the Ghoul tacticians; seeing that the Serpentine unit has been successfully the last time, surely they will be so again. However as Zenun charges, the tattoos on his face and body begin to flare up as if responding to his zeal and fiery temper. The marks covering his body shine so radiantly that the light passes through his breastplate and clothing and into the opposing army. And not just Zenun; the other Executioners too seem to bring back Justinian’s light to Ouroborasia… surprisingly literally. Both the Ouroborasians and the Ghouls are astonished, as something as this certainly has not happened prior.
The serpentine phalanx is blinded; they try to concentrate for the interception but to no avail. Thus the Executioners easily bypass their pikes and slam their maces into their skulls. The Executioners break through the pike formation, and any Ghoul that tries to fight back is blinded. Some try to block their attacks – to no avail. Or even land a blow of their own? The creatures can’t even see them. One by one they falter to the sound of Zenun’s inane laughter. It appears the man himself is not even aware what is happening to him, or why the Ghouls can resist him so poorly. But Zenun is already too far gone either way.
Tactician Eiyzayun who oversees the Serpentine unit is dumbfounded to their magic or stratagem. He hisses in frustration to his cohort. Yet he too is blinded.
‘’Ourokûrath itlu deibaoth….
Xajtan! Xajtan pûrgatora!’’

His cohort comprising of tall carp-headed Ghouls are ordered to engage the radiant Executioners. However the creatures feel reluctant to enter a battle where the enemy can’t even be perceived to their bulging fishy eyes. They are only coerced to attack when Eiyzayun starts whipping them with an iron chain. They dashed off into the bright light to their unseen fate. Eiyzayun tries to see them off, but the nauseous light caused him to turn away. Only a moment later the light will come for him, too. The tactician was too distracted to see a Red Gauntlet horseman charging at him. And Eiyzayun is struck through where his lungs are – or would have been if his creation had not been marred by a Red God’s disdain for mortals. With a terrible and humiliated shriek of fury he is no more.
His death causes a major opening in the Ghoulish legion. The commissars of Eiyzayun’s battalions each react differently to the strange radiant tattoos of the Executioners, as well as the death of their commander. The Ghouls waver. With some of them already breaking off from the main force as others make a desperate suicide charge to wear the enemy down. Even the winged fishghoul among the clouds, who continue to hail down heavy rocks, can only do so much to silence Zenun’s rampage.

General Krojan, re-adjusting himself back in the saddle of his black steed, notices the discord in the Uudhinite legion’s centre, and calls for the next push. ‘’ADVANCE! Break through and obliterate!’’
‘’HOO-HA!’’ The heavy Red Gauntlet warriors respond with manly deeds, smashing deeper into the lightly armoured Ghoul infantry. Many Ghouls at this point are already withdrawing towards the southern hills and swamps.

Meanwhile Tactician Kè is taking matters into his own hands by rallying the warriors under him to reform, and brace for a second charge. The fighting is still fierce and ongoing, the Ghouls being defiant to maintain the blockade on Iviragne. However their forces are losing ground fast. He recalls the troops encircling the walls of Iviragne to first deal with the Red Gauntlet on the field. Kè orders the Ghoulish archery to open constant fire into the radiant light and quell whatever rage goes amok in there, while sending a Flying ghoul away to relay a message to the other legions for back-up. He is determined to salvage the battle from the clutches of disgrace.
However something happens he did not anticipate; the garrison of Iviragne found the nerve to leave their posts and stations on the walls and instead come storming out of the gates, exposing themselves yet catching the Ghouls completely off guard! Even more fanatical men in red armour carrying red flags, swords and spiked maces to deal with. The demon horde is now beset from two sides; the front and the rear. And the burning white light stemming from the Executioner’s white marks is still not showing any sign of wearing off, even the other Ouroborasians have to steer clear of them. Kè’s dreams of domination are in tatters.

Begrudgingly he admits there is no more salvaging this battle for Uudhin. Thus he calls for the full withdrawal of the Salten legion, effectively also lifting the siege of the city (which had barely begun at that point)… yet not before he yells at his enemies a menacing threat. Particularly directed at that self-righteous and pretentious Krojan and his wild little baboon Zenun.

‘’Axoa Uudhi deikûr…’’
OUROBORA-APOSTATES.. YOU HAVE WON THE BATTLE – YOU WILL NEVER WIN THE WAR.
’’

Those were the last words he spoke before his oversized rat-mount rode off into the southern marshes, disappearing from sight. A good chunk of the army, frantically hastening off after him.

Victory.

The Ghouls were defeated, the march of the Demon Hordes on Ouroborasian soil, thwarted. Those that remained were either fighting to the death or in the process of routing, while the Red Gauntlet clean the field. Those Ghouls that are too injured to desert the premises in time are shown no quarter for their crimes against the Ouroborasian Empire.

Euphoria fills the air as the bright light of the Executioners finally subsides, as though recognising the dispersion of the enemy. They have fulfilled their task, and may well have been the cause of this victory. Though a halfwit as Zenun deserving the credit for the Red Gauntet’s triumph is certainly not something General Krojan would tribute him with. That light – could it have been Justinian himself?
The general lifts his sword to the sky in triumph, exclaiming:
‘’O almighty Justinian, you who cannot be assailed, who cannot be deceived, to thee we give praise for delivering us!’’
The Red Gauntlet, as well as the garrison and militia of Iviragne cheer to the sky in unison. ‘’JUSTICE BE DONE!’’

But the skies above are still dark and overcast. A running messenger runs towards Krojan.
‘’General Lumani! Grim tidings, master. The Ghouls… The Ghouls…’’
‘’Are slain and dead. This is a blow from which they will not soon recover.’’
The general answers with a harsh monotone voice.

‘’Your forces prevailed, yet not all divisions of the Red Gauntlet incurred Justinian’s favour as much as you did, o master. The cities of Fushaz, Mogilashi, Ballkuq and Bozhigrat have fallen to them.
Unspeakable cruelties are being inflicted on our brethren and countrymen, o master…’’


As it turned out, the Lumani division of the Red Gauntlet could respond only to one incursion at a time. Kè’s final threat proved correct; Krojan had won only a single battle this day. Hardly could his division deter the great entirety of the Uudhinite invasion.
Yet the Ouroborasian civil war has hardened Krojan enough to be accustomed to such grim setbacks. The initial shock for him lasted only a second, if even that. After minimal silence he gives prompt response. ‘’Then our work is not done. One by one we will retake the communes we lost.
Scribe!’’
‘’Sir.’’
‘’Send a missive to Grandmaster Rozarosu of our victory here. Request he approve the reinforcing of Iviragne’s garrison forces. Smoke out any Red Pantheon collaborators inside the city’s confines, too. In the meantime we will march to relieve the city of Fushaz, then Mogilashi, then Ballkuq and yes, then Bozhigrat. We will free them all from the clutches of the false gods. One by one. Sword by sword. So long the eye of the Pale Star is on us, we will never waver. By the Justinian’s own hallowed blade, mark my words.’’

‘’Yes sir. Indeed so sir.’’

‘’Justice be done!’’




Meanwhile on the island of Arban…
(next post)
Do you even have to ask that?
I am currently working on two at the same time. Progress is slow because I am depending on some other players for information.
We're still looking for new people & recruiting!
^Added the above under ''TIMELINE AND PASSAGE OF TIME'' at the bottom of the OOC mainpage.
Edukeshan Sea , the Gulf of Ouroborasia

Ostrob - 300 AWH

(Collab with Publius, whose hard work I shamelessly butchered.)


The spectre of night had long plunged the dawn far beneath the horizon, and the tumbling seas were shrouded in thick mists. The blinded Justinian captain came onto the deck of his ship, named The Watchman. His was accompanied by another ship and a smaller boat, tasked with navigating the eastern seas ahead for any sign of hostile elements, before the Justinian fleet of the Domain would enter the Gulf of Ouroborasia in full force. The sky and sea turned from the calm sunlit cerulean to sombre grey, sailing for the shores of night. Torch-lit, the vessel glided gently on the haunted waters; a vanguard of a small candle through the vast dark.

Clad in the ocean’s mists, hostile shadows are closing in on the crew. Dark motions. A boy-sailor alerts the Captain, Therus Faldrow -- a wizened grey man a couple scores of seasons past his day. Unknown vessels are upon them, their masts and heathen Red Pantheonist banners, though barely visible, wave in the eastern wind as omens for death. Therus gives the signal to retreat. And so his ship, named the Guardian, abruptly manouvres about to set course for the opposite direction again, and warn the main force. The Scout ship follows. What remains is a single vessel of Magna Excelsiorum, the smallest of the three, the Watchman, to buy the others time to get away and stand against the impending attack. Its captain understands he is tasked with a heavy burden. The unknown Red Pantheon fleet come ever nearer, and the Watchman manoeuvres sideways and prepares its sole cannon; all the while the captain prays that the Guardian will make it to safety, and their own sacrifice not be in vain. Though the captain also knows he needn’t worry, for the Guardian is a battle hardened ship and the agent of many a good ship's doom.
Meanwhile the Second Mate of the Watchman, a human woman, pointed a blunderbuss at the rows of silhouettes from the strange people awaiting her on the opposite deck, now only meters away from the bow of their ship. But ominously still silent as the grave, and the mist between them is so thick that it cannot even be said whether she is facing Humans. She fires with her blunderbuss, and the intense bright spark therefrom lifts the fog, if only for a second. A scream is heard, and it sounded human. At the very least, she now understands that what they’re up against are not the alien creatures the southern oceans are notorious for. Yet all the same, her effort to stave the enemy off is vain – their lone vessel is hopelessly outmatched. And having opened fire at them already, the Justinians can expect no quarter.

Then came their response.

A hellish blaring of castanets and the beating of drums rings through the dark fog and through the eardrums of each man and woman in vicinity. The Red Pantheonists came on steadily with a vicious clamouring of masculine roars and jeers towards the three Northern ships, rowing fast. The sound of beating drums and the braying of zornas spread across the nearby water as the first corsair ship cast hooks attached to rope at the scouting vessel, while untold numbers of other corsairs closed in. It was impossible to make out just how many of them there were, but as they were all chanting and screaming it sounded like a great many hundred bloodthirsty men, making noises as feral beasts to invoke the demon of war. Perhaps they were thousands.
As the clamouring and encroachment went on, they were blasting holes through the hull of the Watchman with their cannons, and water from the salty brine poured in through the holes.
‘’Don’t waste your powder. Go and warn the others before they take the ship!’’ The captain cried at her frantically. The Second mate looks to him and she soon agrees. The signal is lit, though it is far away enough that the bulk of the Northern Justinian fleet might not even perceive it in the ocean’s dark and misty veil. There is only the hope that the other two scouting ships will make it back safely.

Then a voice is heard in a language the northern Justinians did not understand. A cloaked man of swarthy complexion with a strange symbol on his garments, and armed with a curved blade, a pistol and clad in black lamellar mail, had boarded the ship. He looked at the Second Mate with a fickle glare, blood visible between the bleeding gums of his bare and grinding teeth. He was, without a doubt, one of the Axohar from Uudhin.
‘’Yield.
Or.
Kill you.’’

The Axohar man spoke to the northern Justinian crew in Sancthiyin, with a very thick accent.
The boat was already sinking as more Uudhinites entered the deck to seize the northern sailors and any possible loot stashed away. Meanwhile the other corsair vessels were hot on pursuit of the two ships that had evaded capture, where they are led to an uncertain fate.
Artros the boy sailor, an elven migrant and ship's cleric, stashed and hid his Canonica in his satchel. With bowed heads, he and his comrades were dragged onto the Uudhinite flagship.

The following morning

The mist had partially cleared away, and the sun’s dimmed light graces the Edukeshan waters through the grey and sombre clouds. The Northerners from the scouting boat captured in yesterday’s skirmish, were tied up and gagged – sealed below deck with no clue as to where the Axohar will be taking them. Above deck, captain Yaldbaw of Daveithai stands atop the bow of the Uudhinite flagship as he narrows his eyes firmly at the western horizon. An island had appeared, and his lips curve once more into a vicious grin.
‘’The Island of Arban. These infidels have no right to the Islands of Edukesh.’’

The Uudhinite fleet navigates its course to remain out of sight of the watchtower flanked on Arban’s eastern coast, lest the fog is completely gone, for making use of it was essential to their strategy. At the south of Arban, the Uudhinites were well aware the area is barely populated, if at all, and an organized assault would cause any of the remaining Ouroborasian garrisons to succumb. Or so they thought.
Four lone carracks split off from the massive corsair fleet, heading south to take roughly 300 Uudhinites to the southcoast, while the other roughly eighty ships circumnavigates around the island towards the western coast armoured in fog, from whence the Ouroborasians would expect the relieving force from Magna Excelsiorum.

After several hours, a flare was seen coming from the island. The corsairs from the four carracks had seized one of the towers from overland, and lit the beacon. Through intel they gleaned from Axohar locals that had lived on that island since the time of Axohaan’s Second Rebellion, the Uudhinites learned how to communicate the arrival of allied ships to the Ouroborasian garrison. They would believe, falsely, that the fleet of Uudhin is the one from Magna Excelsiorum.
Now Yaldbaw knew the time had come to move in the remainder of the fleet. The corsairs lowered the sigils of the Salt Prince and hoisted up those they had captured in raids against the Justinians, now with the Watchman in addition. The banner of Magna Excelsiorum was depicted on the Flagship.
So far, everything is going according to plan.

The fleet rowed towards the north-eastern beaches towards a castle positioned there. The fog had mostly dispersed by then, and the ship’s Justinian banners flew proudly in the wind for the castle garrison and Arban’s other inhabitants to see.



Meanwhile on the Ouroborasian mainland’s coast,
the fishing village of Bajarë


‘’The Northerners... are far away foreigners in a strange and distant land. Our peoples might both be Justinians now, but they know nothing of us, our customs or our history. They have no knowledge of just what they are up against.. They have never seen them. The Demons of the Deep – the Ghouls of the Salt Prince.’’ An old fisherman spoke, smoking a pipe as he cast a gaze outside through his bushy eyebrows, and through the window of his old shack out over the sea. Pitch black clouds were drawing towards the land from the horizon, and the wildlife has migrated deeper inland. As the wind was setting up, dogs were barking anxiously at the cloud and the waters. Beyond that, it was eerily quiet. It is as though the seagulls had sensed the impending catastrophe and completely dispersed.
‘’Delin, tell the other children to get to the lighthouse on the hill...’’
‘’But, grandfather. How do you...
Alright, grandfather’’
Delin, the young grandson, rushes through the ramshackle door to reach his friends frolicking at the beach, where they gaze with wonderment towards the distant skies, and what is already happening there.
One of them speaks with enthusiasm, oblivious to the supposed dread that is about to befall their home.
‘’Da says that an evil phantom known as the Prince of Salt lives over the horizon there! The dark clouds appear because he is belching the seawater. And that he has an army of horned octopuses that eat sailors and drag kids into the waters... Prolly why every fisher here’s forbidden from drifting further from shore than about a mile, huh?‘’
‘’Horned octopuses? I want to see one!’’ A young village girl speaks up with a cheer. ‘’My uncle once reeled in a HUGE fish! But it wasn’t really a fish.. More like some.. monster-creature? It was covered in spikes and had at least 5 eyeballs and fins growing on places there shouldn’t be any... It was pretty freaky. But also pretty awesome.’’
‘’Bah. T’is all stupid lies I tell ya! Just tales to keep us kids away from the beaches.’’ A boy says.

‘’Guys! Guys!’’ Delin catches up to the quarrelling children.
‘’My grandpa says we need to get off the beaches! It’s not safe out here!’’
A boy replies. ‘’What are you talking about? -- the seas are mostly cleared of vessels! No corsairs or other of them pirates will raid us when the weather’s THIS bad! They’d be insane! Just look at the thunderstorm that’s brewing over there!’’
‘’Yea, this happens at least once a month remember? We’ll definitely survive some rain, that ain’t never bothered us!’’

The black clouds drew closer. The scent and vapour of the wild salty brine entering their nostrils.

‘’That’s not what my grandfather .. I mean.. it’s not the weather or pirates we should be afraid off. This isn’t natural weather.. this is.. I think he meant to say the Salt Prince is angry that our families haven’t been bringing him sacrifices anymore. And now he’s going to flood the land, and the only place we’re safe is the Lighthouse!’’
‘’Come on, there aren’t any windows in that damp old lighthouse. I don’t want to miss out on the action…
...
Alright, alright. I’ll come.
’’ Sighs the boy, ultimately caving in to what is sensible.

Inside the lighthouse, it appears the grandfather for his part had busied himself gathering and evacuating his fellow fishermen, together with all their wives and families, and most other folks that lived in their coastal community. It was cold, damp and dark inside, and certainly not meant for this number of people. Many of them huddled in corners or climbed to the small balcony on the second floor from whence they could look out over the forested hills and the ocean. The dark clouds were now directly upon them, and from above was heard the distant murmuring of slithery and baneful words. Strange new birds were flying overhead, high and far enough that none of the Ouroborasian villagers could recognise what they actually were, but strange sounds were coming from them -- some of them resembling words of actual speech that, to some of them, might’ve been faintly familiar.
The lighthouse was outwardly a square-shaped stone building, sturdy built to withstand many a storm or hurricane. Above the entrance hangs a wooden ornament, depicting a sigil of sorts. At the centre of the domed roof a small tower, narrow enough that stairs wouldn’t fit in its interior and so it can only be scaled by a rusty iron ladder from the outside, from the balcony earlier mentioned. Since only one person can fit on the tower (and because the lighthouse is incredibly crowded), the children weren’t allowed upstairs lest they be seen by the birds. The grandfather watched in the tower, with a look of concern on his face. Yet not one of fear or surprise. He looked at the waves of the Edukeshan sea, who have gotten greyer.
‘’Hey! There are still some people at the beaches! Someone needs to warn them to get out of there, and fast!’’ Cried a village senior watching from the balcony.
‘’No. Don’t!’’ Responded the grandfather to the man below him. ‘’Those aren’t people.’’
‘’Come on Gencian, you know better than to say that of others.’’
‘’No you fool.’’ The grandfather sighed with a hoarse and monotone voice. ‘’Take a better look at their proportions.’’
‘’By Justinian… They’re coming out of the water.’’

On the beaches were indeed crowds appearing, seemingly washed ashore and grasping onto the white sands, as they pulled more and more of their fellows onto land. And they weren’t gathering in one place, either. Looking from the top of the lighthouse Gencian saw new people appearing on the Ouroborasian shores for as far they stretched, and as far his failing eyes could still see.

The further they moved onto dry land, the more they resembled an endless array of angry and swollen, bloated people. And each new one to rise from the water is less human than the next. And just when one thinks a creature couldn’t appear more horrifying, the following one is worse. From closeby one can tell there is not a shred of conventionality to them -- creatures completely alienated from Materia’s mortal races, all resembling grotesque animals. Horrible. Ugly. Angry. And each was different; no two looked alike…
When they came out of the water, they were raging and smashing and stomping around, including at each other, and hissing and gnashing and screeching. Yet strangely, they completely bypassed the homes of the local villagers and touching close to nothing of their property. Their soggy feet only sauntering through the narrow streets and alleys.
At the sight of them, words as ‘’unbelievable’’, ‘’horrifying’’ and ‘’ungodly’’ were oft repeated by those humans in the lighthouse.

‘’Hey Delin, how come they aren’t coming this direction? What does your grandfather know? Who IS your grandfather, anyway?’’
‘’I... I’m not sure I know.’’


The Ghoul Invasion of Ouroborasia


The villagers of Bajarë dared not leave the lighthouse; all they could do was wait out until the Ghouls had left. It took hours, soon a whole day. The sun went and came. The grandfather stood watch from the tower and saw it all. Even deep into the night; their unholy clamouring was heard, resounding in the cool night air. There was no end to them. Yet they came not to destroy or ransack their homes, nor did they even notice the buildings comprising their village. They did not ravage the crops, or nibble the fish hung outside to dry. They cared for none of it but rather moved straight forward, bypassing the lighthouse, further inland where they disappeared into the hills. Screams were heard in the distance.
The Ouroborasian villagers were confused, and only few, such as Gencian, dared guess what is happening, or going to happen in coming days. The warriors of the Salt Prince returned to renew their ancient war in Ouroborasia. And this time; they are there to stay.
In the days that follow, they would spread out quickly and suddenly across the countryside, rallying outside every city’s outter walls across the southern vicinity, where they raise the Salt Prince’s sigil on their tattered banners as a direct challenge to the Ouroborasians, and their right to inhabit these lands. It was the same sigil that hung above the entrance of the lighthouse. The creatures form ranks to something resembling armies; that now there could be no mistake as to their intent.
@CollectorOfMyst
''I mean, its sad
I actually kinda liked Myst''-Serpentine

Myst, O Myst. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?
Merchant-City of Göl Kasabi

Capital of the Uudhinite Humans
Sciroccon - 300 AWH


Kasabi Island, just off the coast of mainland Uudhin. Though similarly bleak as the Uudhinite mainland, the Island is considerably habitable and compared to wartorn Ouroborasia a safe haven for life. The place’s sharp rise to power in the past few centuries has been a cause for concern in the southern ocean, with piracy and vicious oceanic monstrosities having beset the ocean as an unholy plague. But the city itself looks unassuming – there are few impossibly high buildings, and certainly none of the splendour and décor that graces the Exaltarchy or Lamash. The most significant of the large buildings with some grandeur to them would be the Daveithai Manor, which is the family home of the Metropolitan. But the majority of the city consists of slums and new-built suburbs to house the steady growth of refugees from dispossessed Red Pantheonists of the mainland, particularly at the hands of the Justinians. And the skies above are perpetually grey and windy, locked in an overcast tempest -- the city couldn’t look any more sombre. Yet for all its soberness, this day the city is aflame with festivity and celebration, the domes of the towers are lit with brilliant fires and flowers imported from Gushawar dress the window, the lanterns and the roofs.
The cause for the celebration is this; the leader of Kasabi Island, the Despot from the Daveithai family, has successfully arranged a marriage to link his bloodkin to the Ouroborasian imperial caste.

‘’Principe Synogchouta Daveithai! Congratulations on your wedding. Ouroborasian women are quite beautiful. But one from the Imperial lineage? Many patricians will envy you for sure!’’
Synogchouta replies surly to his visitor with a short: ‘’Thank you.’’ Already looking to the next guest to have gathered, in rows, to meet him. Each come from wealthy Patrician families in Uudhin’s largest (and some would say ‘sole’) great City, and Synogchouta is the host of his family Manor to receive each on behalf of his uncle... His uncle that did not have the decency to make an appearance himself. And each of the visitors come with gifts for Synogchouta to present to his bride-to-be. Chouta sits behind a long refectory table on a high upholstered and elaborate seat, with only his retainers as company.
The young heir of Kasabi is slender built, dark haired and olive hued as descendants of Edukesh generally are. Their menfolk come generally with beards, long goatees and moustaches, though Chouta and his uncle are an exception to the norm as they seems to have established a lasting grudge against facial hair and thus always shave. As such Chouta normally has a youthful boyish look to his face, despite being well in his twenties. He wears a richly embellished wine-red cloak and a black tunic, and a silver bejewelled ring on each of his fingers as though he himself were royal, for Synogchouta certainly has the prim imposing attitude, and grace, of one.

Another young man about Chouta’s age came before him, a Patrician and sailor from the Miamai family, and he presented the Principe with expensive Gushawari spices.
‘’It’s sad your noble uncle couldn’t attend. The Despot Metropolitan is the one that set up this diplomatic escapade! And it bore fruit in the end, full and ripe. Just how I like my women. I’ve travelled to Ouroborasia a lot on behalf of my father, and by the Salten God, the women there have some buxom teats. The Kasabioi floozies we have? Or anywhere in Uudhin that isn’t a Ghoul-infested hellscape? Eh. They lack substance. Anyway, you lucky devil. -- this is a cause of celebration!’’
Synogchouta feigns a polite smile.
‘’Thank you for attending.

You goatfondling primate.’’ He angrily mutters as follow-up, inwardly enough that none would overhear. The Miamai man had just left, and is already replaced by a series of three women from the Ormaoth family. It is a name associated with depravity and hedonism, and their distinguished ties to Gushawar are not entirely unrelated as to why. The Principe is already bracing for yet another debauched conversation.
‘’Oh my Salt! I am so, so, so happy for you, Chouta-boy! I just love Ouroborasian lady's fashion. It’s the best in the world I say! No disrespect to Kasabi, but honestly us being linked to Azagôde only causes people to regard us as freaks and cultists or whatever.’’
The second woman speaks up.
‘’So what is the lucky lady’s name, Chouty-booty?’’
‘’Princess Cassiopeia, and please don’t call me Chouty-booty.’’ The Principe retorts with a solemn grunt.

This would go on for the better part of the day, and the Principe grows weary and frustrated by it all. Not only because he despises these people, but because for no reason is he being married off voluntarily. Synogchouta was already engaged to another woman, someone he loved dearly, but with the death of his cousin – the Metropolitan’s son – Chouta was a year ago anointed by his uncle as Principe of Göl Kasabi. The heir.
Synogchouta was never an ambitious person, and his elevation in status has only been a source for ire. Now to be married off with some Ouroborasian slut, the very people who were so recently the enemies of Göl Kasabi. Who had killed his father, and his father’s father. And now his uncle gets to call the shots and decrees he is to marry one. As if that wasn’t enough, the Ouroborasians also expect the Principe to come to Ouroborasia and pick her up too, as they themselves don’t have ships to spare for transportation across the strait of Uudhin.

Soon another guest enters the receiving hall of the Daveithai manor. A man in windswept and frayed garments laced with white fur. The Principe did not recognise him at first, but it’s Yaldbaw Daveithai, another of Synogchouta’s adventuring cousins, and from the looks of it he just arrived in Göl Kasabi from overseas to meet with his cousin. Unlike the other generally clean-shaved Daveithai, Yaldbaw dons a full and elaborate beard and stache, though understandably so to keep his face warm in the cold climates he is exposed to, down in the icy deep-south of Materia.
‘’Chouta! My own cousin the Principe! You look stronger since last time we met. Why so dour, my friend?’’ He exclaims with a voice loud and stentorian with arms outstretched.
‘’Ah, Yaldbaw. A welcome sight to see a family member. A sign of civilization, despite you being dressed up like a swashbuckling barbarian.’’
‘’Ha-ha! Well, I have become sort of a swashbuckling barbarian in recent years, to be frank. In my station it is an inevitable change. Erimachaf holds no place for the weak... The things I’ve lived through, well, princely greenhorns as yourself couldn’t imagine.
But my own heroics aside, I am not here to patronize you this time. I have a gift for you, and I think you’ll appreciate it!
’’
‘’Hrmpf. Judging by what I’ve been presented so far, I am skeptical of that.’’
‘’Trust me -- It’s from Hypernotei.’’ And Yaldbaw presents the Principe with what appears to be a curved sword of a shotel format, nothing out of the ordinary. Chouta accepts the thing reluctantly and observes it for a moment, unamused.
‘’Remove the scabbard.’’ Yaldbaw adds.
And Chouta does as instructed, and the sword reveals its metal. He now understood why his cousin spoke of the sword so reverently. Its blade is pure white and gleaming with mystifying sparkles. In matter of fact; it’s not even made of metal. Chouta places his finger on it, and immediately retracts. It’s bitingly cold to the touch. It’s ICE.
‘’Unbelievable… how is this… Is this – is this from the Kasabioi outpost our family helped finance 2 years ago? Erimachaf? I had heard rumours of progress, but were always skeptical. For what is there to find in Hypernotei beyond cursed ice, frostbite and certain death... But it seems I was proven wrong once more.’’
‘’You are correct though. Hypernotei indeed offers those things, but there are untapped riches there that only the bold – such as myself – dare lay claim to. We call it Eternal Ice, harvested from the abominals at the edge of the world. Immeasurably rare, only few in Materia have had a blade forged of the material. You are now a proud owner of one of the few Ice Swords.’’
‘’So what am I to do with it? Present it to the Ouroborasian dynasty? It’ll be bound to impress them I suppose. No way they’ve ever seen anything like it, even with all their newfound witchcraft.’’
‘’You misunderstand. This isn’t a gift for the Ouroborasian royals. May the Salt Prince damn them to His deepest abyss. This is a gift I am giving to you, YOU and none other.’’
For a moment Chouta’s spirit is lifted. He looks his cousin in the eye with gratitude.
‘’Thank you, Brother Yaldbaw.’’
‘’The pleasure is all mine. I was certain you’d like it.
Now, if I may take that seat to your left.. I see it is unoccupied, and my legs have gotten stiff from the journey.
’’
‘’Don’t let me stop you.’’



For the remainder of the day, the still-melancholy heir sits quietly at the head of the table of the merry feast, passing most of his time inspecting the mystifying Ice Sword while he obliges to receive further guests. Some came all the way from Eudaz and even Yuwanist nations. Synogchouta, his retainers, family and guests are served plates of exquisite dishes imported from as far away as Lamash, and spices from Gushawar, yet none of it can lift him of his own deep shadow -- more than Yaldbaw's gift did, anyway.
And when the doors to the manor finally have shut, and the Principe was certain there’d be no more guests – he was proven wrong once more.

The door flung open and an eerie chill enters the large hall. A gaunt old man in rags and a very long grey beard going down all the way to his waist, steps in.
A sentry cries at him: ‘’Hold it. No beggars are welcome into these premises. Who let you through the courtyard?’’
But the guardsman soon recognizes the idol and elaborate insignia of the Salt Prince that emblazons his robe, and did not speak or act further. A group of Axohar clergy with horned masks and pitch-black robes followed him into the Manor, not uttering a single word and more-or-less doing nothing beyond look intimidating. Which is something Axohar are very good at, actually.

‘’…With unholy impatience. To vanquish the anti-cosmos and drive them anew into the crypt of creation. The shadowmoths move us about as pieces of chatrang for their own leisure -- and stratagem. To mar them one can only set course for the God of the Northern Wind.’’

Synogchouta rises up from his high seat, intrigued as he looks at the ancient man. He was about to speak up, but his crude cousin Yaldbaw spoke first.
‘’God of the Northern Wind? This is not how an Antimagi would typically refer to Axohaan. This is unbecoming of a Hierophant, even one as inane as Soghba.
Finally left your ramshackle cottage, old fool?
’’
Synogchouta speaks up. ‘’Quiet Yaldbaw. A Daveithai is obliged to receive his guests with hospitality, whether he likes it or not.’’
The air of festivity was smothered in a layer of darkness invoked by the mere presence of this ancient Prophet and his followers. And now everyone in the building, the hundreds of them, looked at Principe Synogchouta and Hierophant Soghba both as they converse. A deathly silence fell. The prophet spoke, his voice ringing through the stone foundations of the manor.
‘’Blood of Baltaogliac. I bestow to you my boon.’’ The man approached the table where Chouta sits, and stretches out his arm to him.
In reaction the Principe reaches out to receive that which the old man clutches in his hand.
‘’What gift do you wish me to present to the Ouroborasians, Hierophant?’’
‘’..Trail the rivers under the frozen sky. Swallow the ghost of the lucid dream… and Silent will be the mournful beast.’’ And he opens his hand. An amulet, a charm in the shape of a bell with a white gleaming crystal at the top.
‘’Harness it to resist the weary eye.’’
‘’Wait, do I give it to the Ouroborasian princess? Pray tell me. Soghba!’’
But the old man turned around as abruptly he had entered, and so did those men who slavishly tread in his footsteps. Leaving Synogchouta and his fellows in bewilderment.
Yaldbaw mutters under his breath.‘’Is it such a part of their dogma to be as cryptic as possible? ...Religious nutjobs tend to be like that -- worthless. Just accept his little trinket as another gift for your bride.’’ The celebration continued, though the spirit of merriness had left the manor for the rest of the day. Many of the guests that had come to the Daveithai manor were Axohar themselves, and Soghba’s appearance and ‘gift’ could only be an omen...
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