The Hunter Riding Towards High Castle
The air was cool and breezy due to the rain that fell the night before. A man dressed in a dark green ranger outfit with a red boar insignia on his left shoulder was riding his black steed briskly towards the great structure in the heart of Styria known as the High Castle of Visserine.
High Castle is the ancestral stronghold of House Knightfall for over a thousand years. Alfred “Mason” Knightfall initiated the castle’s construction a thousand three hundred years ago during the 200 years war between Visserine’s great houses. High Castle is on both sides of the mouth of river Visser. Whenever one side of the castle is under siege the other side is free to continue on its normal business. This makes sieges on the High Castle very difficult and why it has never been taken by force. By utilizing its strategic location, house Knightfall managed to control trade and movements of people on land between the east and the west of the island. This has made the city very wealthy and influential. This is especially true during recent encroachment of the Union Empire on Styria. With the Union utilizing its naval fleet to blockade a number of city ports on the island, multitudes of Stryrians have preferred to travel on land to ensure their safety. Knightfall leaders believe that this recent increase of Visserine’s economic and political influence is the real reason why Puranti attacked the city. Since Stryrians have been paying toll to Visserine for generations there was no way they would also pay Puranti, thus justifying a war that ultimately ended in status quo.
The man racing through the forest on his horse is known more colloquially as the Hunter of the Central Forests. More formally, people recognize him as Ser Arty Knightfall, the nephew of the Grand Duke of Visserine. Under his hood he has short brown hair, a full beard, and light blue eyes, which characteristically defines the men of Knightfall. Arty has a sleeker physique compared to his other kin. Throughout the years, he has trained in the central forests around Visserine to be faster, nimbler, and quieter than most. Even his mount moves swiftly around the forest barely making a noise. By this time, Arty had been riding without stopping for some time because of the importance of the message he bears. This message is for Visserine’s High Council and he knows that his words will shape the future of Visserine. As he approached the western gates of High Castle, the guards on lookout saw him from miles away and one of them shouted, “the Hunter is coming.” This message was passed on from person to person until it reached the ears of the High Council. The guards had recognized his silhouette from the many times he sped towards the gates before with critical council business. He quickly passed through the outer gates and a number of interior gates to get to the White Citadel, which is part of the Western Palace the largest structure in the western part of High Castle. Arty arrives inside the High Council chambers with all of its members waiting for him. The council is composed of the heads of the four noble houses of Visserine which are House Knightfall, House Fullerster, House Fairwards and House of Cunningbeard. There are also five additional members from House Knightfall who are tasked with key roles in the management of the city.
“My lords and ladies I have ridden none stop and as fast as I can to tell you that the Grand Duke Avidor says to Visserine that now is the time. He has officially given Duke Buraimi the ultimatum of surrender or destruction.” Arty says to the council members sitting on the long oak table while the sweat continues runs down on the sides of his face. It is evident that he is bone-tired because of the ride.
Lady Galdine of House Cunningbeard is an older lady who is in her late sixties but looks much younger responds sharply, “It is not too late. We don’t have to answer Avidor call. Just because he fancies himself king of Styria and is willing to shed the blood of thousands doesn’t mean that Visserine needs to be embroiled in his war.” Her outfit was an intricate white dress with red laces lining it.
“Avidor is not just some Duke from the north, he is family of House Knightfall and we have an oath to keep to him and to the people of Talins.” Ser Phillip Knightfall responds. He is the Commander of the Guards and is responsible for the city’s defenses. It is from this role is where he gets his nickname the "Warden" from. Philip is also the brother of the Grand Duke of Visserine and would have been the only person in the city that could have matched him in military prowess.
Clenching her left fist Lady Galdine then slaps it on the table after Philip finishes talking. She then looks out of the window and softly responds, “It was an oath that was made by your late father, may his soul find rest, but we are technically no longer bound by it. We must now make a decision and the time for discussions is over.” It was clear that this discussion had been going on for a long time, way before Arty had arrived to deliver the news.
Then a hushed silence fell on the room and all the members looked at the head of the table to the Visserine’s Grand Duke Devarn himself. Then he spoke, “I know some of you are war weary and none more so than me. Although, aside from the oath my father made to Talins many decades ago, I believe that my decision will be what is best for the future of our beloved Visserine. We will answer Avidor’s call.” The Duke continues, “Philip prepare the men who have been chosen to lead our soldiers for this mission we ride in thirty minutes.”
Philip takes a huge drink from his goblet and rises from his chair. He clears his throat to answer, “Your Grace I have already prepared and briefed your knights who will be your commanders. They and all their men are ready to go right now.”
Devarn rises from his seat. He is a towering figure and he says with the finality of his booming voice, “Then I will ride out with them now. Philip, since we are about to go to war, I want you to ensure that we have our city’s defenses fully prepared. I also want High Castle to have enough supplies for men and horses that will last at least a year if not longer should our city come under siege.”
The Visserine army leaving the city comprised of thousands of men who started to move immediately and they were marching to position themselves to the south of Musselia. Their main goal was to cut off the city from any support that would come from the south. Dervan actively used horse riders to constantly conduct scouts of areas around his army to ensure that there would be no surprises against his men and to locate the best tactical positions. Once the army was in position he would use the river Visser as part of the path for their supply lines and to transport their heavy siege equipment. By not carrying their heavy equipment the army was able to move at a rapid speed. The Visserine boar can be seen everywhere on this army. Flags and banners of different colors donned the wild boar insignia on it. All of the knights carried colored shields with the same boar on it. The pike men, men at arms, and long bow archers all wore surcoats with the same boar represented on their chests and backs.