City of Kel Trach
Ports of Kel Trach
Back at home, the week-long journey to Kel Trach had left Lavar and his party in poor spirits. One of Lavar Brav’s
aids had journeyed out too far during a rest in a village near Kel Loch and was ambushed by Raptors who nested nearby, his remains scattered and half-devoured before the camp could even react. It was a sad state of affairs that despite all the bluster of the Coladdic’s famed roads, built by the dead, they lacked any and all means to defend these roads. Lavar even noted to his aid and servant Lila
that the roads of Hilgas were as well managed as the Coladdic ruled all of Caslan, ‘a decaying and rotten thing built high and mighty in its prime, but laid abandoned to the march of time.’
When Lavar and Lila finally made their way back home, the mighty city of Kel Trach was a sight for sore eyes, the billowing smoke from one of the temples had just signaled a sacrifice had been made, mixed in with the busy sounds of city life. To meet Lavar there, on horseback and clothed in the old red garb of Orduin imperial might, was Tesner Uman
. Tesner rode up with his own entourage which was mostly parts of his family, including his son and brother. Tesner gave a quick bow to his friend and dismounted to embrace his friend. Despite being a shrewd paper merchant, Lavar was always impressed with Tesner’s firm grip.
“I see you return earlier than usual, Lavar. When I heard of you returning, I was worried they had kicked you right out of the Kycer.”
“Ha! The uproar on that would have considerably ill indeed! No sadly, we met for only one session. Our overlord and ever watchful overwatch makes a mockery of such an institution by using it as his own personal speaking platform. I have much to prepare for, as Mel Coldfinger is coming to the city.”
Tesner looked surprised “Mel Coldfinger himself? That old lich barely ever leaves Hilgas. . .”
Lila interjected out of habit “Well, not technically, Mel is known to travel to Fesdan, and of course there was his journey out of. . .well . . .Oh. I am sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to sp--” Tesner was a little annoyed, but Lavar only gave a friendly pat on Lila’s back. “She is right. You and I have only known Mel to live in Hilgas, but in our most sacred histories, he is known to travel and make his way across Caslan. His view of time greatly differs from ours I think. Being an immortal lich and all.”
Tesner felt a shiver of discomfort with the word ‘lich’. He may have sworn himself to the Kerk’s gods, but the practice of necromancery still felt wrong to him, and he had ignored it mostly. Lavar continued “I must gather the entire clan to a meeting, and prepare for Mel’s arrival along with many others. You will join us, friend?”
Tesner smiled and nodded “Of course Lavar.”
coming arrival to Kel Trach was cause for celebration for many, but concern for others. Lavar Brav called a meeting of the clan, which may as well have been a meeting of the entire city, to discuss the coming festivities. The clan bickered loudly and violently, as all Kerkian clans did, and eventually it was decided to let the local priesthood command the effort to prepare for Mel’s arrival. The merchants from far off lands who may have been in Kel Trach soon found the Kerks making their preparations, and the dock workers, normally Okan slaves who made their home in a slum enclave in the city, were abandoning their work to make sacrifices in the local temple before the Lich arrived. This was often done in emergency festivities such as these, otherwise the Okan would not have any opportunity to make their sacrifices to the gods due to being conscripted to help set up for the coming festivities.
Lavar and Tesner paid an absurd sum for the coming games and attraction, with Tesner and his people hiring out some popular performances. One was to be a mock battle between two Beurian clansmen in a faked and highly stereotyped gladiatorial battle, more comedic then dramatic, while for the calmer Kerks, a troupe of elves from the north would perform a popular play on Caslan known as The Fool and the Prince
, a dramatization of the life of Gazhain and Dezhain who invaded the isle long ago, depicting Gazhain as a naive, arrogant idiot. Lavar also planned to open his library entirely to the guests, along with providing a massive amount of ale.
The first guests to arrive were Shov Coladdic
alongside many important zupans and Kycer clergy who had joined him. His procession was priestly, but his attitude towards Lavar as the two met once again was sour. Shov had come early and was quick to only make small talk with Lavar, and immediately head towards the temple to perform the rituals of their faith. Lavar could guess that Shov was unhappy, and avoided him the best he could, as an upset Kerk could quickly turn violent if not left to their own devices. The next arrivals were the Geuderians, among them was Dylon Geuder
and Pelkov Elkwood
. Both Zupans embraced Lavar quite publicly when they met, but in private were quick to be more distant from him. Lavar expected this behavior from an ambitious creature like Dylon, whose public appearance he felt was more important. This was usually abnormal for the Kerks, but Dylon could pull it off quite well.
Yet of those to arrive before Mel did come by the most absurd means. A Okan fishing vessel docked in Kel Trach and three Kerks made their way into Kel Trach. Lavar was notified that a zupan came by ship, and went out to meet them, only to find Duman Hazel
and his brother Jaskov Hazel
drinking among the commoners. Lavar calmly came to greet the Hazels, but was instead embraced by the younger Kerk, his youthful expression was cheery.
“Lavar Brav! It's good to see you again. I had originally thought of not coming, but once word reached me of Mel’s intentions, I supposed me and my brother would at least enjoy the festivities!”
Lavar smiled as Duman and his brother chugged down the beer from wooden mugs. They may have been royalty to the common Kerk, but they looked more like ragged bandits. They both wore their armor, rusty breastplates which was covered in a dark green cloth. Another Hazel clansmen was with them, but he was already fast asleep nearby, having drunk himself into a stupor. Lavar found such behavior intolerable usually, but the Hazels were a young family, and were quite agreeable.
“I had hoped you would arrive. You were missed in the Kycer. I imagine your envoy has told you of what happened?”
“Aye. Pelkov mumbles so openly against me when I am not there.” Duman’s mood shifted suddenly, an anger in his eyes. “I am not surprised, but I am not here for festivities alone. I am to speak with Dylon soon, and get a taste of his fury.”
“You suspect he wants you to join the Kycer?”
“Yes, but I am not so certain. I am no priest.”
Lavar laughed “Neither is Dylon nor myself, yet here we are. Come, enjoy the festivities. We have much to do on this fine day.” Lavar led the Hazels through the street, the three talked like friends amongst the crowds of Kerks.
Mel’s arrival was quite dramatic, as a black shape of his procession moved alongside a magical mist which covered his group as they traveled, protecting them from the dangers of Caslan. Tesner watched from the ramparts of Kel Trach as the levitating lich came through the open gates, the magical mists disappearing as he appeared amongst the people. Tesner had never seen a Lich before, let alone an undead abomination, the floating mummified corpse wrapped in the decayed purple cloth of the Kycer’s highest clergy was unnerving to him. He turned to see Shov Coladdic and a procession of priests make their way through the crowd and bowed humbly before the Lich, who bowed in humility back. The ancient undead made its way to the temple in the city, and many followed.
Mel made a sacrifice to the god of knowledge, Melakos, before the temple and spoke to the crowd gathered at the foot of the temple itself. Mel’s vast cadre intermingled with the Kerks, a mixture of Bylamen guards, death knights, and undead which stood without motion. Mel preached of the need of knowledge, the will of the gods, and other typical things. It was an uninspired speech, as if the lich was in a hurry to leave, and was quick to allow Shov to take over as he made several long rituals to the point that even his fellow conservative priests became bored. The festivities continued as Mel was soon off towards the docks.
The planned festivities certainly had their effect as Lavar joined with the Hazels as they got a taste of Tesner’s planned bloodsport. Two Beurian clansmen comedically fought one another in a pretend duel, cracking jokes to the crowd in a makeshift arena. The crowd of humans and Landarric kerks were enjoying themselves, but the Geuderians got rowdy and some flooded onto the arena and began boasting loudly. Lavar was about to call guards in, but Hazel convinced him not and instead had the acting Beurians retreat from the field. Three sets of Kerkian clans of the Geuderians soon began to brawl, much to everyone’s entertainment, and much to Tesner’s horror. The viciousness in which the Kerks broke skulls and smashed each other with fists amused the crowd even more so, but eventually the normal play was allowed to continue in a more secure part of the city, as the Geuderians continued to lay down their grievances against one another.
Tesner was unhappy with such a state of affairs, but he was pleased when the Coladdic Kerks became amused by the play being performed by the elven troupe, although this was often interrupted by the scribes and Kerks who were always quick to point out their own histories. During one recess of the play, Tesner listened to a small fight breaking out between two Coladdic clergy over a dramatization of Gazhain’s recorded words, neither of the Kerks agreeing to what was said. Despite such incidents, Tesner was just glad the Kerks also decided to not turn the stage into a brawl.
However, of all the festivities, it was the opening of Lavar’s library that was perhaps the most popular attraction. Lavar was joined by the Hazel brothers as members of the scribes were soon settling down and reading from Orduin historical records, journals, and reports as if they were watching some grand play. Many Coladdic Kerks were also there, although of those Lavar was surprised to see was his servant Lila and a member of Mel’s entourage, the elderly scribe master Cragov Bystan
. The elderly kerk, his white unkept beard was barely hidden beneath his absurdly rich robe of purple and green, as he and Lila were looking over an old manuscript and deep in conversation.
Lavar came over as Lila snapped back to attention and quickly tried to excuse herself “I-I am sorry, sir, I was just. . .Just, ummm. . .”
“No need to apologize, Lila. I know who this is. It is an honor Cragov.” Lavar humbly bowed to the elder who gave a bow back. “The honor is mine, Zupan Brav. Zupan Hazel. We were just discussing the older district borders of Governor Antonius, and his absurd proposals.”
Lila was a little embarrassed, she had been under Cragov’s partial tutelage before her poor parents had sold her to Lavar due to their outstanding debts. However, neither Lavar nor Cragov thought of her as a servile, nor treated her as such. Lavar sat down at a table of the library as he look to the Okan servant “Lila, why don’t you get some of the finer vodka from our kitchens. A proper drink of the high society of us Kerks, aye?”
Lila went off and obeyed as Duman and Jaskov Hazel sat next to the group. “You know each other I presume.”
“I know all of my scribes, both successes and failures. Although in the young Lila’s case, it was abnormal. It is always sad to lose such a studious scribe to such a sordid state of affairs. Poverty is quite a bane to many young and intelligent minds, as any scribe can tell you.”
“Hear hear.” Jaskov noted “So what is the leader of scribes doing here anyhow?”
“I will be joining Mel Coldfinger on this journey, of course.”
The Hazels looked surprised, but Lavar seemed rather disappointed. “I see. Who will take over the scribes while you are gone?”
“Several members will decide, a Coladdic I think most likely. Shov had been pushy on that issue entirely.”
“You are old, master scribe. You must certainly think that this journey Mel will drag you along will be beyond difficult for you.” Duman noted.
“It will be, but I am prepared in both body and soul to serve the will of Melakos. In his thrall, I serve the pursuit of knowledge to my dying days, just as Mel and many other Liches have done. I do not intend lichcraft, but I will do as Melakos commands me, for the sake of knowledge. What is not written in history will be forever lost, young Hazels.” Cragov coughed, but looked happier when Lila returned and served the group mugs of vodka. Almost without thinking, Lila looked back down at the old manuscripts and maps as Cragov leaned in.
The happy little moment as the group talked was soon interrupted by a loud crash. Two Coladdic scribes were scrambling about, as two Elkwood clansmen entered the library, partly drunk. The two clansmen, yelling in slurred language at one another, began to knock over several of the visitors to the library. Lavar shot up, yelling at the two to leave, but the two Elkwood clansmen only crept closer. One of the Elkwoods took one look at Lila, and demanded of her to grab them drink. She stood still, and the Elkwood clansman didn’t understand and yelled more harshly at her again. When the two aggressively began to close in, Duman and Jaskov stood in front of the group and silently looked at the Elkwoods. There was a silence as Lavar tried to calm everyone down. This failed as one of the Elkwood got a good shot and punched Duman.
Duman’s head went to the side and slowly returned back around to look at the Elkwoods, and without thinking and with warrior’s speed he grabbed the Elkwood clansman by the throat and threw him to the ground. Duman began to punch into the Kerk over and over again, hitting his face with increasing brutality as his brother grappled the other. Lavar was mortified as blood began to spill from the Elkwood’s head as he intervened, trying to get Duman up. The Kerk had not calmed, but Lavar stood in his path. Lavar and the group looked down at the body, the face mangled and bloody. The Elkwood kerk convulsed for a moment, coughed, and then slumped down. Only realizing what he had done after his rage left him did Duman and Jaskov quickly exit the library, as others looked on.
“Such is the way of the Kerks.” Cragov quoted from an old saying.
Mel was on the docks, as if awaiting to already leave when Shov Coladdic came up to him, his face shallow and grim. From beneath the waves, there was a sudden appearance of an ancient ship coming out from beneath the water. It was a massive, coral covered thing which broke the water’s surface and docked in the harbor. The ancient wreck then began to repair itself, wood from the water creaked and added itself onto the ship and water spilled from it. It was once the ship Mel had used to travel to Caslan, and it was truly ancient, but was big enough to contain a huge crew and bigger library. Shov was unimpressed, the casual use of magic and the size of the ship did not matter to him much, and he personally seethed as his eternal patriarch began to summon shambling Drowned Lyches to make the final repairs of the ship. Of the necromancers and their pupils who watched, they were in the complete thrall of what they saw, and how little energy Mel had used to summon such a ship to his will.
“Something bothers you, Shov Coldfinger.” Mel began, looking over his vessel.
“You are open with me, so I shall be open with you, my eternal patriarch. Why have you cursed me, your own flesh and blood. Our enemy circles us like wolves, and you abandon us to go on some trip to entertain yourself. You leave some wretched niece of mine in charge? Your personal librarian? Am I a joke to you, oh my eternal patriarch, avatar of Melakos, Br--”
“Your passive aggression does not amuse me, Shov, I’d only appreciate your honesty.” Mel was used to the fury of fellow Kerks, nor surprised by Shov’s fury. “The wolves who circle you are little more than an upstart Geuder and his damaged friends, and you are of an age which should be wisened to the politics of the Kycer to keep them in line. I will be with Naya at all times, keeping me informed and versed in the schemes here. I will not make the same mistakes as last time. You will obey the directives I set before you and keep the Kycer stable in my stead. However, my distrust is towards the nature of the Kycer, not towards you alone.”
Shov sighed and took in the lich’s words. The group was soon being passed by a large number of scribes and necromancers, all hand picked by the ancient lich. Mel would be the last to board as all the zupans and members of the Kycer came to see him shove off from Kel Trach’s port. As Mel levitated onto the ship, joined to his side by his ancient bodyguard Granchkov
. Mel looked down on Shov who bowed humbly to the Lich, and the Lich bowed back. After much fair and bluster, the ancient black ship was soon beyond the port, and Mel began his journey to the mainland. Shov remained on the docks, looking out at the sea, depressed as he watched the ship disappear beyond his sight.
“I want their heads.” Pelkov seethed under his breath, looking over the body of one of his dead nephews. Pelkov Elkwood and Dylon Geuder were in the basement of Kel Trach’s temple, as Lavar and son Torpov Brav
were overseeing the body of the dead Elkwood, being covered for the return home for burial. Normally, such a minor member would have been buried in little more then a shallow grave or thrown into a mass pit in a tomb city, but Pelkov was quick to declare his nephew another martyr in the ancient feud between him and the Hazels. Lavar tried to calm down the Elkwood zupan.
“Duman Hazel was enraged, and defend me and my honor beyond what he needed to. I know you seek vengeance, but I would prefer it not to be done in my lands.”
Pelkov pounded the table where his dead nephew was on, uncaring of the work he was disrupting with the priests. “You have much to say, you wretched snake! The Hazels kill one of my clansmen in your city, and you defend these murderers! I should have both your heads one way or another.”
“Pelkov, please.” Dylon interrupted “What the Hazels did was wrong, but we can be at least civil. More than once you and I have accidentally killed in a fit of rage and fury. I will sp--”
“No more words, Dylon. No more words.” Pelkov shouted “The Hazels have lived long enough in my ancestor’s lands as the bandits they are, and this is more than enough proof to demand their extermination. I will gather my armies and I wi--”
“And you will die, like last time Pelkov.” Dylon shouted back in authority. Pelkov held his tongue, because what Dylon said was true. More than enough times the Hazels had beaten him in campaign and the field of battle, each defeat more costly than the last. The idea of facing down Hazel clansmen did not sit well with the angry Zupan. Duman had personally defeated Pelkov on the coast years ago, using Okan slingers and skirmishers to swarm his flanks in what he thought would have been a one sided slaughter, and that Duman had some mysterious benefactor amongst the undead who gifted him and his clan some magical benevolence. Pelkov sighed and looked to Dylon “Then join me, Zupan Geuder. They live on your lands as well.”
“They do, but the Hazels are more useful to us alive then dead. They prove something which I haven’t failed to notice. Our armies are trash, our people rely on slaves to fight for us, and the Hazels are competent. That kind of clan is useful to my. . .” Dylon caught himself and looked at Lavar and smiled. “Useful to my faction. He is quite popular amongst the Okan, and their vote has proven to be influential before.”
“Quite.” Lavar raised an eyebrow. As the three talked, a Okan Ghilman came through the door, rushing to Torpov and whispering something in his ear. He nodded and went off. “The Hazels are here, looking for you Dylon.”
The Zupans went out, much to Lavar’s annoyance. He had told the Hazel brothers to flee the city, but instead the two brothers were outside the temple, meandering awkwardly at the foot of the temple. Duman looked up at Dylon Geuder as he and his cadre came down. When the group reached the Hazels, Pelkov drew his sword, which prompted Duman and Jaskov to draw their flat blades. The situation turned worse when several Brav clansmen came over, drawing their own weapons. The standoff was tense, but Dylon spoke quickly. “Enough! We are not here as enemies. Please, all of you, put down your weapons and let us reason with one another.”
“I am not letting this murderer go, Dylon. . .”
Lavar spoke up “Harm them in my city, Pelkov, and you will be a murderer yourself.” Pelkov shot a deadly glance at Lavar, but reluctantly sheathed his blade. Jaskov was the last to put his weapon down as Dylon practically dragged the two inside the temple.
Pelkov felt empowered as he, Duman Hazel, and Dylon Geuder went into a temple office to discuss. Dylon yelled and shouted over Duman as he tried to defend his actions, with Dylon practically threatening to abandon the Hazels to the Elkwoods. The Hazels were partly defended by the Geuders, although that relationship was often strained at best, and the threats by Dylon made the Zupan feel meek. Dylon then levied a compromise between the two, demanding that Duman’s clan pay for reparations for the death, and to leave each other at peace. Duman was shocked when Pelkov agreed to such a thing, mocking Duman that ‘If he cannot pay in coin, he can pay in friends’. This was a rather subtle nod to Pelkov’s intentions, planning to take the free Okan who lived amongst the Hazels as tribute. As Pelkov left the two alone, Duman was shocked as Dylon’s mood changed and shifted, as he began to chuckle and laugh outside of Pelkov’s range of hearing.
“Holy shit, the bed fellow I make. Come boy, sit down.” Dylon looked around for something to drink and Duman slowly sat down, a bit confused. “You are angry, are you not, Dylon?”
“Disappointed, not angry. Your antics are unwanted and dangerous, but I’d prefer your company to Pelkovs. I need his money, not his ideals.” Dylon found what he was looking for, Vodka hidden by some priest which he quickly took a swig of. “Now, for the real conversation.”
“Aye, are you deaf?” Dylon’s mood changed suddenly again to a sneer. He poured Duman a drink and motioned for him to drink. “Taste only slightly better then Lich’s cursed blood, mind you. I can forgive this foolery, but on some conditions. You have slacked in wanting to become a Minor Priest, which starting now, you will put forward to join the assembly.”
Duman looked concerned and shaken, but nodded. It was a rare opportunity to be forgiven by his ally, as Dylon took another swig. Duman had a realization and looked up at him “And of you? Getting into minor priesthood is no easy feat. I would be stealing from your voting block I take it.”
“You would normally, but the way the Kycer works is considerably estranged. You will be up against some Coladdic nobody, which I plan to fund heavily against. You are right however, you would be dipping into our normal votes. However, this is abnormal.”
“Aye. I will be looking to run for Head as Assembly this coming election. Everyone else knows amongst my allies, so you are the last to find out. I hope you are in on this affair, otherwise this is the last time we meet as friends.”
Duman sighed and nodded, the one thing he tried to avoid now was slapped into his face. He disliked the priesthood, and disliked the rituals they conducted. He found it boring and too far fetched from his own beliefs. Dylon could see Duman was unsure, and it disappointed him considerably. Duman was a capable leader, but lacked any ambition. Yet before they left, Duman spoke up.
“My clan is quite poor, and any run to become apart of the Kycer will be expensive. Pelkov’s reparations will be brutal on me, and my clan, and I fear I will truly have to trade those who call me friend for coin. That would hurt my chances overall, and all of us as well.”
“Dylon, we align with the Okan for our vote, and although many slaves in Pelkov’s lands vote for you, they do not vote for Pelkov. Besides, a slave’s vote is only half of a commoner’s. If Pelkov is grievous towards me, he will lessen my chances. . .and yours of victory.”
Dylon grunted and then smiled. “I see. I will pay a share to pay for your. . .reparations to Pelkov. Now, return home and prepare for my instructions. This year is going to be a very long year. For all of us.”
Duman left Dylon alone in the room as the Geuder Patriarch felt a tinge of rage. He hoped all the effort he put into this young and fool clan would be worth all the effort. Sour days were ahead for Caslan.