“Magister Lanaya Triskell Dionisa, Advisor to the High King, Duchess of House Dionisa!”
The announcer bellowed her titles across the garden for all to hear. Lanaya was important now, and she wanted everyone to know it. Though the list of titles she held was not as long as some others in attendance, each one was meaningful and powerful in its own right, allowing her to more easily outshine her fellow guests with prestige.
A quick wave of her fingers as she crossed the threshold turned the sky a glittering gold for a moment, illusory gold leaf raining down upon the gathered Nobles, instigating sounds of awe, wonderment, and then disappointment as they realised they wouldn’t be walking away with fistfuls of gold. Lana smiled elegantly, hiding her amusement at the reactions of the nobles as she entered the party.
She had decided that, with so many people in close proximity, it would be better to wear a full length dress. Without illusion it was simply a fairly mundane blue, cut more for comfort than style. But that was not how everyone would see it - she had gone to a special effort on the illusions this night, in an effort to be the most radiant woman present. The fabric shimmered, appearing to be inlaid with impossibly fine detail of her house crest. The rich blue was accentuated by the crimson gem upon her breast, and her fiery hair - done up in an elegant style that was both understated and daringly different from current high fashion.
She noted many guests as she made her way to the High King’s table, nobles and petty Kings from across Formaroth were of course present, yet there were many more interesting attendees as well. Ser Lycaon Issorat was there, as well as the half elf merchant and her curious servant creature. Apparently even Urd had had been persuaded to attend. A scowl flashed across Lana’s face for just a moment when she noticed that her sky illusion was being hijacked by another mage… Cinero Lupus to be specific. She was not impressed with this, and it only added to her scathing opinion of him. In her eyes he was an uninspired hack coasting on natural talent.
For a moment she wondered if Alasdair had invited him just to spite her, but quickly dismissed the thought. Chances were slim Alasdair, or anyone else outside the magical community, knew what she thought of the ‘storyteller.’ Besides, it made sense. She could hardly be the one providing the entertainment now, it would be demeaning of the King’s Council and her position as magical advisor. Only an ignorant King used the mage on their council as a cheap party trick.
For a time, Lana sat at the high table, nursing a single goblet of wine and making small talk with the less important people at the table. It was mostly for show - to be seen being seen. Eventually, she became bored of it and decided to mingle amongst the more interesting people in the Gardens…. And the more sycophantic ones as well.
“...and this is my good friend and colleague Lanaya.”
Lana turned gracefully as yet another noble introduced her as ‘a good friend’ despite barely knowing her at all. It was a little annoying that they kept doing this, but at the same time she couldn’t help but bask in the implications of importance that came along with it.
She nearly jumped in surprise when she saw that it was none other than Isabel De Reimer that was speaking to her. So unused to the idea of Isabel speaking pleasantly or sounding happy was she, that she hadn’t even recognised her voice. No doubt Isabel was counting on that, trying to make a fool of her.
But Lana would not be caught out at the party of the year - she was fully focused on social manipulation tonight. Her eyes moved quickly over Isabel, noting the extravagant dress, and the fact that she was arm in arm with Goodwin Wulfrick of all people, searching for an acceptable reason for her surprised expression.
She found it quickly, in the golden ring on Isabel’s finger, signifying her engagement.
“Isabel, my friend!” Lana exclaimed. “You didn’t tell me you were getting married. That’s wonderful news!”
“Truly? I would have thought that it would have been known to someone as important as yourself” Isabel replied with a fake smile “This, as I am sure you know is Goodwin Wulfrick, my husband to be” on cue Goodwin stepped forward before taking Lanaya’s hand “Pleasure to meet you” before kissing it. Despite being a known womanizer, this act was simply common courtesy in Nash.
“The pleasure is all mine Lord Wulfrick.” Lana said, with a shallow curtsey and a demure smile, before turning back to Isabel. “Oh Isabel, you know I don’t have time to monitor the rumors at court anymore… I have just been so busy arranging to feed the whole city and ensure this event had bountiful food and drink.”
“I must say, I am surprised house Dionisa was able to find the funding to afford all of this” Isabel said as she gestured towards the table. While this was a concealed jab at Lanaya’s wealth, Isabel was genuinely curious as to where Lanaya ascertained the funds.
“Oh, I would be happy to tell you all about it later.” Lana said with a saccharine tone that clearly indicated she would be doing no such thing. “But we wouldn’t want to get into such a dull and lengthy topic during such a rare and wonderful time of celebration.” Lana was both indirectly calling Isabel boring for specialising in finance, and calling for this exchange to come to an end. As much as she enjoyed stabbing her fellow council member with words, she didn’t plan on spending the whole night doing so, nor did she want to escalate it into a scene if Isabel proved less calm and collected than she appeared…
Though she remained smiling Isabel’s eyes narrowed a bit, clearly angered by the comment that Lanaya had just made, “Indeed” Isabel said with a slight venomous tone “Well I shall not keep you from the celebration, who knows perhaps you will meet someone. I imagine it must get very lonely in that new manion of yours” as Isabel finished both she and Goodwin gave a courteous bow before leaving Lanaya to join the rest of the celebration.
The night was beginning to age when Alasdair finally deigned to make his speech. Lana knew what was coming, and was slightly surprised he had waited until half the crowd was drunk out of their heads to announce it. The perks of Council membership included knowing about virtually all major decisions Alasdair made before anyone else did. She waited patiently as he went through the motions, a long and tedious speech meant to justify his ultimate announcement.
And then there it was - the High King crowning himself Emperor of Formaroth.
She made the appropriate surprised and excited gestures and cheered with the crowd, but her heart was not in it. It was far too complex a thing to be happy for. On the one hand, it would make it harder for Eli to seize the throne if Alasdair could call on the united might of the Concord as Emperor. Yet it would likely also serve to split the Circle of Magi away from him, since it implied more direct control of the Summer Isles from Nyhem. And if she could somehow put herself in that new position, she could reap the benefits of control without dealing with the inevitable backlash of state reform...
That… And ‘Empress Lanaya’ did have a nice ring to it...
Lanaya was perched haughtily on one of the chairs in the box reserved for the King's Council, simultaneously appearing both aggressively bored and sulky. She did not technically have to be here to watch Claus getting rid of Alice for the King, but it would be considered very rude of her not to attend a duel between former and future Council members. And so here she was, with the others of the Council and a few very well off nobles influential enough to get a box seat, forced to watch a couple of Mundanes beat each other to death with metal sticks.
It was dreadful.
Worse, she mused as she pretended to pay attention to the events below, she knew who would win already. There wouldn’t even be any surprise shift of politics. The King wanted Alice gone, and so that is what would happen. Lanaya didn’t know with certainty how the King would throw the fight, but she knew it would happen. She couldn’t see any illusions being used to distract Alice, so her money (if she had been a betting woman) would’ve been on poison. Though she wasn’t well versed enough in combat to be able to pick out the signs of debilitating poisons. Or even really tell who was winning. Or what was going in the fight all.
The only thing that had piqued her interest at all this morning, was seeing Claus walk into the arena with a very exotic sword. She’d seen a weapon similar to it before, though it had been a dagger, not a greatsword. The thought of the dagger, and the fact it’d gone missing when Lord Dominus Thale had died, sent a brief flutter of apprehension through her heart. What Eli would think when he learned it had seemingly been stolen? She quickly suppressed that line of thought. The matter at hand was far more important: how had Claus managed to acquire a sword made of Dragon’s claws and scales? She would definitely be asking Eli about this in the future, for if he was favored by the Blackwells, it would change many things.
This one interesting piece of trivia did not serve to distract her from the tedium and vulgarity of the whole affair though. The idea that someone could influence such a thing as membership of the High Kings Council with a glorified brawl was preposterous... and yet, it was law.
Unfortunately, such close proximity to her fellow nobles had forced her to buy and wear an up to date dress - and the recent fashion seemed to have no consideration for comfort at all. This had not helped her mood at all. Worse still, she might be stuck with it all day if she didn’t disappear fast enough. There was a high chance that one of the insufferable Nobles would ambush her with polite invitations to tea, to discuss some insignificant local affair that they believed to be of world ending importance. That was one the things she disliked about her ascent to power. Being on the King’s Council gave the nobles the impression that she would bring their plights to his Majesty even when they were completely unrelated to her official field of expertise. She was beginning to understand why Aurelia had spent so much time in her tower.
Lana turned her attention properly back to the fight just in time to see a particularly gruesome sight. She gasped in shock and went pale as Alice’s arm was severed clean off in a fountain of blood. She looked away quickly, only to glance back as an analytical part of her mind assessed the wound based on her theoretical knowledge of restoration magic. It was ugly, and she suspected Alice would be lucky to survive at all. Yet Claus refused to finish his foe off, a fact for which the squeamish part of her was very thankful.
She was jolted out of her shock only by the nagging voice of a Noble, first asking her if she wanted to visit his estate, then if she was alright. That gave her the excuse she needed to get away from him. She quickly responded that she was feeling faint at the sight of such carnage (which was true - something of a rarity for her excuses) and dismissed herself, making her way quickly to the carriage that would deliver her home.
She quickly arrived back at what was once Thale Manor - the grand, three story building she had lived in since her arrival in Nyhem several years ago. She paused outside to look up at it, murmuring to herself “Not Thale anymore. Dionisa. Mine.”
She was still getting used to the idea that the grand old building was hers now. Her coat of arms flew above it, and between this building and the lands that came with it, she was a genuine power among the local nobility. Entering, she found the interior in a state of controlled chaos. Since Lord Dominus Thale’s death, she had decided to redecorate and hire additional staff. It wasn’t that it hadn’t been a pleasant place before, it certainly had. But the way it was before was known by all the houses guests as Lord Thale’s preference. She wanted to make it clear to the City nobility that she was not some favored mistress inheriting wealth - she was a power in her own right.
She stepped around burly men moving furniture and nodded approval to young women hanging new tapestries on her way to the stairs, only for the captain of her house guard - Reginald Moros - to catch up to her. “Ma’am.” He said to get her attention. “Captain. What’ve you found?” She replied. She had him scouring the City for young or vulnerable mages at all times, but had also tasked him to investigate the events surrounding Lord Thale’s death during the recent riots. “I’ve not found any since the riot. I’m worried some youngster mages might’ve been killed that night.” He sighed, clearly dejected, but quickly moved on. “I haven’t found anything about Lord Dominus’ death either, but there is… No. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
Lanaya stopped and turned to him then, looking up at the weary, well worn face of the man. He was no mage or even learned man, but she had observed a keen intuition in him over the years, and found it frustrating that like many servants, he often suppressed it rather than ‘trouble his superiors’ with insight. “What is it Reginald?” She asked. “In my experience, things are rarely coincidental in this city.”
To his credit, he did not show any emotion at the subtle rebuke, instead answering efficiently. “Quite so Ma’am. I have found that the morale and acceptance of the transfer among the guard and the militia in the outlying areas has been extremely high, despite recent anti-mage sentiment in the city.” Lana looked puzzled at that, and responded “That’s good isn’t it?” The captain’s expression became troubled then. “That’s just it Ma’am. The reception is unusually positive. Almost as if the ones who would issue with the transfer of power have already disappeared. Yet the rosters don't show any such disappearance.” Lana nodded. Put like that it did seem odd. “You are right, that does seem unusual. Keep an eye on things would you? I want to know if my Guard needs re-arranging.” With that, she dismissed the man and continued upwards.
Only to be ambushed by her seneschal, with yet more news. “My Lady. We must discuss the logistics of your promise to the King.” He said rather insistently. She kept walking, but nodded. The struggles of nobility never ended did they? “I trust we will be able to meet the demand?” She said expectantly. “M’lady, I’m afraid things have begun to fall behind schedule. Raising the output from the ex-Thale fields while also rebuilding Dionisa orchards and wineries is demanding more labor than we can pay for.” Lana’s face was once more twisted by a scowl. “Mr. Elan, we cannot renege on this promise. House Dionisa must make its presence known, and I will not have that achieved with an embarrassment.” The seneschal, doing his best to remain composed while keeping up with Lana’s purposeful stride, began to reply “My lady, there is simply not enough-” She cut him off. “Has Thanatos’ inheritance been claimed yet?” She snapped. “No, but he still has-” Once again he was cut off. “Then reclaim it, and spend it on restoring the orchards. The ungrateful little brat doesn’t deserve it.” The disgust in her tone was plain to hear. “But M’lady, he still has eleven months to claim it.” Lana finally stopped and turned to face her beleaguered Seneschal. She didn’t raise her voice, but her impatience was written all over her face. “Make it happen Victor. I know you can.” With that, she turned on her heel and left him to figure it out on his own.
Soon, she arrived on the top floor, in her combined study, library and quarters. Safe at last from the tedium of managing a house or the intrigue of advising the King. She sighed, casting a glance at the books of magical lore still open where she had last left them on her desk. She felt like she had studied more in the past few months than the several years since she left the Circle. No. As interesting as it was to sift through Aurelia’s notes, or tap some of the more obscure knowledge she had recently acquired, she was just in far too foul a mood for it. She needed a diversion… Something fun to take her mind off the intrigue and horrific sights of battle from the morning duel.
She knew just how to distract herself. She began to untie the various laces holding her in her uncomfortable dress as she was contemplating which secluded grove to head to, and which farmers sons to torment. By the time she had finished unlacing her dress, Lana had a mischievous smile on her face. Slipping out of the restrictive garments, she stretched and admired her body in front of the full height mirror mounted in one corner of the room. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman in all of Formaroth… Yet her well formed, well cared for body and flowing auburn hair had caught the eye of many young men even before she layered on the illusion.
With a flick of a finger, she could summon all manner of illusion about herself. And for the sake of practice, she did just that - recreating dresses, jewelry, even crowns, all just as stunning as the real thing, and without spending a single coin. Then came more outlandish illusions. Wings, scales, barkskin, even a fish tail from the waist down - all were within her power to create and maintain. The last one had brought about the rumour of the ‘Mermaids of Nyhem’ that was now quite well entrenched in the local docks and beyond.
Common folk only needed to see something fantastical and alluring once or twice before they started seeing it when it wasn’t even there. She found that quirk of the human mind rather amusing. Today she would reinforce the growing myth of Dryads in the forests near the Raldan border. She turned and prowled towards the door to her third floor balcony, beginning to chant a shape shifting spell as she did so. Caring not at all for her state of undress, she flicked the door open and stepped out. If anyone had been in a position to see, and been looking at the time, they would be treated to a rare sight. But a momentary one, for no sooner had she stepped outside than her shape began to alter in a burst of magelight. A few seconds later, a magnificent eagle with a red band about its neck was perched on the balcony.
With a sweep of her wings, Lana took to the air.
For a time she simply circled, gaining altitude on the thermals above Nyhem. She admired the sails of the ships at port, picking out the flags of traders from all over the continent with her enhanced eyesight. There was even a Summer Isles Catamaran pulling into port. Something to investigate upon her return. Once she was high enough up, she set out on a lazy, gliding flight path towards the forest she had in mind. Far below, the city and its outskirts quickly gave way to the neat fields and muddy roads of the farmers that kept the great city fed. Some of them belonged to her, but she hardly cared to inspect them. This wasn’t a business trip. After a time, the fields became less ordered, and eventually stopped entirely, transitioning into ever more thickly wooded countryside.
Spying the movement of a rabbit in a clearing below, she screeched and dove from on high, purely for the thrill of it. She had no intent of catching the small creature, despite the distant animalistic urges that wearing this shape invoked…. Yet it was at times like this, plummeting through the air towards a singular target, that she almost understood why Drevala preferred this life to that of a human. There was a primal thrill that was hard to replicate in her real body. At the last moment she veered off, instead spreading her wings again and gliding to a soft landing. A moment later she had retaken her normal form.
She took only a moment to weave an illusion about herself, taking on the appearance of a beautiful forest spirit with an elegant twirl. There was a village nearby, and with a light step she set off towards it. She quickly spied some prey on the outskirts - a young, ruggedly handsome man chopping wood outside a small cottage. With a flick of her fingers, a wisp of light appeared on the end of the axe. The man soon noticed, and began to peer at it with a very confused look on his face. Lana giggled at the sight, and by the time the sound reached the man, it was distorted and otherworldly, yet not in a terrifying manner.
He looked towards the treeline immediately, searching for the source of the sound. For a moment his look of confusion deepened, then his eyes found hers as she leaned out from behind a tree. She froze, giving her best ‘deer in the torchlights’ look as the man's eyes traveled down. Slowly, she raised an arm, and with one finger beckoned to him once. The moment he stepped towards her, she turned and ran into the forest.
The chase was on.
He gained on her quickly, his long legs used to work easily outpacing her, but before he could get close she leapt over a protruding root and slipped behind a tree. He tripped, and in that moment she concealed herself, laughing gleefully, but bending the sound to come at him from another direction. As he pulled himself up from the ground, the man looked around for her. He still had an eager look on his face as he turned towards the sound. But just as he looked set to stride off in pursuit, she conjured a faerie light in a different direction. He turned towards it and followed, and she, in turn, followed him.
After a time following the wisp, he seemed to be becoming frustrated. It was then that she extinguished it, laughing as she did so. He turned towards the sound, and she let him see her again, this time with none of her body concealed behind a tree. Just like that, the chase was back on, with all the vigor of before.
She repeated this routine several times, though with different details each time. Sometimes he would be slowed by branches hidden only from him. Other times, lights would always appear on the edge of his sight, leading him back and forth at her whims. Other times, laughter would come from all directions, making it seem as though there were many Dryads around him, haunting these woods. After forty minutes of this, physical weariness was beginning to overtake Lana’s sadistic glee and she decided to end the charade. That, and the man was looking quite frustrated and downtrodden.
He had been good sport though, so she wouldn’t just abandon him without any payoff. Drawing him towards her once again, she waited until he was about to pass by the tree she was behind, then stepped out suddenly. Leaning up on the tips of her toes, she planted a kiss on his lips, relishing the look of surprise and joy on his face.
But that was all she would give him.
As she withdrew, she channeled electricity into her hand, shocking him just enough to temporarily stun him, but not enough to injure. As he fell to the ground, she flitted away between the trees once more. Within minutes, she had take on a bird shape again and left the poor man to find his own way back to his village. She was sure he’d find his way back. At least, mostly sure. Not that it mattered.
When she was younger, these diversions had often led to her laying with the frustrated men. But now, she had Eli, and the idea of laying with a random mundane peasant for fun was not appealing at all. How could they satisfy her as he did? A quick dip in a clear running river on the way back served to wash her feet clean of the mud and leaves, then she continued homeward by wing. She would arrive home in much better spirits. A run through the wild always served to clear her mind of all the less pleasant aspects of court life, and this had been a very enjoyable run through the woods indeed...
Name: Lanaya Triskell Dionisa (or to those who know her personally, Lana)
Titles: Duchess of House Dionisa, Magister of the Circle, Magisterial advisor to the High Council, Founder of the Collective.
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Position: Noble / Magister
Personality: Lana is a woman of many masks. Amongst the majority of company, she maintains the appearance of a proud and knowledgeable Sorceress, cloaked in mystery, beauty and demure smiles. Yet amongst those that she knows share her views, she is quite different. Here, she will discard the facade and let her arrogance and extreme views shine through more readily. Though extremely well practised in concealing her emotions and presenting the exact image she needs to get the most of the people around her, she is not entirely unflappable. When in a very emotional state her mask may slip, and her true face will be revealed. Here she can be extremely biting with her words, or inspired to great emotionally fueled outbursts.
She is persistent and prejudiced, holding those without magic in contempt, requiring them to prove themselves before she will consider them even remotely equal to her and swiftly condemning those who make mistakes or work against her… Though it is rare she shows this element of her thoughts openly. When wronged, she is a curious mix of vengeful and ambivalent. Though she is eager to hold a grudge, she understands that she cannot let such things get in the way of her plans, and so will only act on her spite if it will not interfere with her grand schemes.
On a personal level, she greatly enjoys travel for the sake of sight-seeing. She enjoys singing, dancing and the primal freedom of motion given to her by her shape shifting. She enjoys tantalising and tormenting men, and is responsible for a number of local superstitions about mermaids, dryads and river nymphs. Most of these encounters are glorified games of hide and seek for her, and she rarely lets them become physical. She very much enjoys her high stakes political games, yet finds the administration and logistics that so often go with them somewhat dull.
Weaknesses: - Lana hates and fears the idea that she might be a pawn in someone else’s plans. She will act quite irrationally if she believes she is being manipulated, and forms grudges with those who succeed in manipulating her. - Lana is extremely arrogant, viewing humans without magic (mundanes) as lesser forms of humanity. She is quite callous with their lives, eagerly sacrificing many mundanes to save a single mage. She is also prone to underestimating them, and thinking the worst of their motives and actions. - Lana despises physical violence and combat of any kind. She has not trained in any form of such combat and would be more dangerous to herself with a blade than any enemy. While she is neither excessively frail or unnaturally weak, she will always be easily overpowered by combat trained individuals. She has no qualms regarding magical violence however. - Though she does not know it, Lana is barren, unable to have children or even get pregnant. She will be the last true blooded Dionisa. - Not entirely herself…. Of late, Lana has not been acting quite herself. She has been irritable, prone to excesses of negative emotion, and far less diplomatic than usual. She isn’t entirely aware of this, and the reason for it remains a mystery….
Appearance: Lana is of average height (5’6), and low weight, maintaining a slim appearance. She is not particularly curvy, but nor is she unpleasantly lanky. She has pale skin, green eyes and straight copper-red hair stretching down to her waist. However, few have seen her in this natural state. As one of the most skilled illusionists in formaroth, Lana often subtly alters her appearance. Common alterations include more vibrant color in her eyes, hair and lips, and occasionally a very faint glow.
She quite often moves about either naked or wearing only underwear, with an illusory dress visually indistinguishable from the real thing as the only thing to cover her modesty. In colder climates, when she expects to be in extremely close proximity to people or when she is traveling, she will wear either a full dress decorated with illusion or warm, simple travel clothes. In addition, she regularly accentuates her appearance with illusory jewelry that rivals what even the high queen would have access to.
Finally, she always wears a simple necklace with a large red gem as its centerpiece. It is always present and visible no matter what the rest of her outfit may be.
Background: Born Lanaya Triskell Dionisa, first daughter of house Dionisa, a minor noble family living in the capital city, Nyhem, Lana’s early childhood was a relatively normal one as far as noble children went. As soon as she was able to speak, her education began, her parents obsessing over ensuring she would be a worthy continuation of the line. Despite this, they still eagerly granted her almost every wish, doting on her in the extreme, particularly when she did well in her classes. Needless to say, this quickly turned her into a spoiled brat who expected to get whatever she wanted whenever she wanted.
Near her seventh birthday, everything changed. An abrupt and clear manifestation of magic drastically altered her parents view of her. Suddenly, in their eyes, she would not be able to continue the family in any way. Though it was not exactly a dishonor for her to be a mage, it ruined their carefully laid plans for the future. Though it was not her fault, she was nonetheless blamed for the manifestation of magic. No time was wasted in contacting the Summer Isles to inform the mages they had another child to take.
Mere days later, she was collected by mages from the city and sent on her way to the isles. The last expression she remembered on her parents faces as she was taken was one of profound relief. To her, it seemed they were happy she was gone.
By most standards, the journey to the isles was a smooth one. To Lana, it was something else entirely. She had never traveled beyond sight of the city before, much less been on a ship. It was terrifying at first, but once she realised she was safe, both from the strange mages around her and the road and sea, she began to look upon the wilderness with wonder. After a time, however, she became so eager to see the next grand sight that she became impatient with the slow speed of travel. Fortunately for the mages accompanying her, she only began to act up the day before arriving at the Isles and the Circle proper.
The mages identified her as a possible trouble maker early on and did their best to eradicate her attitude, knowing how much of a catastrophe it could be to teach a child with such a mindset how to bend the world to their will. Their success was limited, and by her tenth yeah she had changed from openly demanding to subtly manipulative.
Her magical studies went on regardless, though in the first two years they were extremely unfocused. Early on she lacked discipline, and had a tendency to flit between the next most impressive magic on the list, dabbling in the basics of many different kinds of magic. She was a nightmare for the teachers, who could see clear signs of potential and finesse in the basic techniques she learned, but regularly found themselves being informed by the self important young girl that she was going to go learn something else instead.
By her tenth birthday, Lana had finally decided on a type of magic to focus on - illusion. For three years she focused exclusively on illusion magic, despite her teachers recommendations that she study more broadly. Her focus within the field was broad, focused both on illusion to create art and illusion to aid in subterfuge. When she was thirteen, the wanderlust of travel began to once again grip her. Initially, she roamed the area near the circle during her downtime, but quickly decided that walking was far too slow. This led to her taking an interest in shapeshifting. By taking the shapes of other creatures, she reasoned, she would be able to travel faster. To the surprise of her teachers, she did not abandon her study of illusion at this point, instead balancing her time between the two pursuits more reasonably.
By the age of 15, she had become quite capable with several bird forms, each suited for a different kind of travel. With these new skills, she decided to travel back to the capital city and visit her parents, hoping that perhaps, they might be happy to see her again.
Initially, they were. But the initial joy at seeing their daughter again lasted only a short time before they tried to incorporate her into their political machinations once again. For a time, she stayed, hoping to be something other than a playing piece in their political games, but however valuable a piece she was to them, she was never more than that. Three months later, she left once again, returning to the circle, now with knowledge of what it was like to be on the receiving end of manipulation. She decided when she left that she would not be manipulated ever again.
Upon her return, she further diversified her magical studies - picking up destruction magics to better defend herself against those who might seek to control her with force. It was only one year later that the Remonnet-Manshrew civil war broke out. Lana did not have the dubious pleasure of taking part, instead watching events unfold from afar, safe on the Summer Isles. Her personal hope for much of the war, was that the Remonnets would be victorious, but that the despotic king Heylot would fall in battle. Safe as she was, however, it was all somewhat surreal, affecting her little until the end came. With the conclusion of the war came news of the fallen.
Several of her friends from the circle, older, more battle capable mages, had left to fight in the war - none returned, all sacrificed for some tactical advantage or another at the hands of generals who often did not understand their abilities. As well, she discovered her parents had supported the now dead King Heylot. Whether from fear or greed, she did not know, but as minor as they were, they were not spared the fallout. They were among those to die at the order of Patrick De Reimer, though they were not important enough to warrant his personal presence.
The entire affair convinced Lana that the leadership of Formaroth could not be trusted to the political machinations of the mundane, the unwise who held no magic. She kept this opinion to herself at this time, knowing that agitating about it would get her nothing at this time. She requested, and was granted, the chance to study politics and governance within the circle. As with most pursuits she set her mind to, she learned quickly, though not abandoning any of her magical studies.
In particular, she was seeking ways to push her newfound agenda without having to become directly involved with any particular family as an advisor. At the age of twenty, she was deemed to be sufficiently capable to leave the circle, however, she was also sufficiently capable in Illusion and shape-shifting by this point to begin assisting in teaching novices in the circle. Thus, she remained on the Summer Isles in the official role of a teacher, while continuing her own studies in fields both political and magical.
At the age of 22, Lana decided she had studied sufficiently to try her hand at some real politics. She was able to call in sufficient favors at the Circle to gain the rank of Magister and choose a specific house to become advisor to. She chose the minor House Thale, a once proud Nyhem noble house with a singularly weak leader - Lord Dominus Thale. At first she advised on magical matters only, but within the first year she had influenced Dominus to follow more and more of her recommendations regarding non magical matters. After her third year as advisor, House Thale was totally dependent on her for its running.
Five years after her becoming the Thale advisor, Lana was speaking openly for Dominus, having become head of house Thale in all but name. It was then that the last of the Remonnet Kings died, leaving no heir. Lana saw the ensuing Throne War as a great opportunity to further her plans and rise in power, or perhaps even become the High Queen herself by marrying one of the squabbling Kings herself.
Though it has cost her much, including her close friend High Magister Aurelia and many of her early followers, Lana has gained much from the war. She has formally founded the Mages Collective, an organisation dedicated to safeguarding those with magical talent beyond the Summer Isles. She has drawn many powerful High Magisters to her cause, and many lesser mages from more prejudiced kingdoms have also flocked to her banner. She has joined the Council of the new High King, Alasdair De Reimer, and restored her family name and privilege to new glory. She has forged a secret relationship with Eli Blackwell, hoping to one day rule Formaroth at his side as High Queen.
Yet she is not without enemies. Relations with Alasdair have become somewhat more strained of late, and the now dead Lord Dominus Thale’s son Thanatos lurks in the shadows, resenting her for many a slight, both perceived and real. She is poised to become the de facto opposition of the anti-mage Johannia Heretics, and though she still claims allegiance to the Circle of Magic, some amongst its number are growing tired of her agitations, weary of her growing political power, or perhaps both.
Despite it all, she has never wielded more power than she does now, be it magical or political. Fueled by ambition, she is poised to seize even more influence and use it to change Formaroth forever.
Skills: Magic: Illusion - Grand Master Lana is one of the foremost Illusionists in Formaroth. Though there are those in the upper echelons of the Circle that could rival or exceed her, none beyond the Summer Isles can claim that privilege. She can create all manner of illusions large and small. She can create convincing moving illusions. She is especially adept in the long term maintenance of illusions, and smaller illusions such as her illusory clothing cost her almost no mental effort to maintain over the course of an entire day. She is well versed in the art of creating illusions that fit well enough into their environment to be overlooked by all but the most attentive of people. She is equally as adept with sound based illusions as she is with visual ones. Finally, she can also maintain multiple high quality illusions at once, the smaller they are the easier it is to maintain more of them.
Her recent research efforts have been focused on tying Illusions to Glyphs, something that she has finally succeeded at after some correspondence with High Magister Barden. As such, she can now create illusions that only trigger when their corresponding glyph is triggered, functioning much like traditional destruction glyphs.
In addition, she has seemingly developed a capacity for much larger illusion spells of late. While her upper limit on size was once roughly roomscale, she can now conjure illusions the size of buildings or ships with enough effort. The cause of this sudden boost in magnitude is unknown.
Shapeshifting - Adept Lana is a decent shape shifter, though with a somewhat limited repertoire of shapes to take on. Her most notable feat in the realm of shape shifting is the ability to shift with not only her clothing but a number of small objects or a small backpack as well. It takes more casting time and effort to do this, but its benefits are self evident. In addition, since acquiring High Magister Drevala Blackwell’s codex and High Magister Aurelia’s notes, she has been investigating many other shapes beyond the ones she has currently mastered.
Her current set of shapes are: Eagle - moderately sized, normal plumage with a crimson band around its neck. Owl - small sized, dark plumage. Falcon - small sized, normal plumage with a crimson band around its neck. Tern - moderately sized, normal plumage. Songbird - three different variants, all normal examples of their species, excepting a red band around their neck. Dolphin - Normal sized, normal coloration.
Destruction - Master Lana is a powerful destruction mage, having studied the school extensively during her time at the Circle. She is particularly focused on dealing with crowds of lesser foes, and has also studied Glyphs extensively. Of particular note is Lana’s ability to change the point from which her spells originate, summoning bolts from the sky or other unexpected vectors.
Force - Lana’s grasp of Force magic is strong. She can create both wide and narrow waves of Force, easily enough to knock a man over. She has also studied how to generate such waves from sources other than her hands, and though such spells still require a somatic element, she can bring force down from above or other directions. She can fully integrate Force based attacks into glyphs. Notable Spells include: Glyph Circle of Force - Lana creates a circle of Glyphs around her feet, or around a group of people she is in (though this enlarging requires time to cast instead of being instant) that will detonate when crossed by an object sending a radial wave of force outwards. Suppression Field - Creating a sustained downward force in a wide area around her, Lana can drive weaker individuals to the ground and hold them there as long as she keeps putting effort into the spell. Strong foes, Armored Foes and other Mages will at most be forced to their knees.
Fire - Lana’s grasp of fire magic is the strongest in her destructive arsenal, and she is capable of generating incredibly hot fires in bolts, sheets or glyphs. Notable Spells include: Glyph Circle of Forceful Flame - As Glyph Circle of Force but with an added flame element. Insufficient to overcome plate. Spontaneous Immolation - Summons a relatively cool flame from directly beneath the target with almost no warning. Dragons Flametongue - Requiring a pre-existing source of flame larger than a torch, Lana can, after an involved casting process, generate a controllable tendril of fire hot enough to melt narrow holes in steel plate.
Ice / Water - Lana’s capability with Ice magic is less than fire, and she cannot generate temperatures much lower than freezing. She can however, create a wide aura of this lowered temperature around herself, as well as the typical ice bolt type attacks. Notable Spells include: Moranion’s Precipitation Avoidance - A fairly simple spell to be cast when it is raining, this will stop Lana from getting wet in the rain. It will make anyone next to her more wet though, as droplets are diverted around her. Localised Rain - If humidity is high, Lana can cool the air enough to make it rain for a short time. This can supply her with water to freeze or use as is.
Lightning - Lana’s least capable elemental magic, she is limited to summoning a single directed bolt from her hands, or, if outside and in sufficiently cloudy weather, above. Though not strong compared to what other mages can achieve, she can easily kill with this lightning.
Like all mages, she is capable of working with others of her kind to generate larger, more destructive spells. Given her great power and knowledge, she is often elected the leader of such a channeling group when involved in one, though not always. Notable Group Channeled Spells: Ball Lightning - A complex mixture of Fire and Lightning, the group summons a searing ball lightning from the sky above that they can direct. This horrific spell will instantly immolate all it touches, but cannot be maintained for long unless in a large and well prepared channeling group.
Restoration: Lana can heal paper cuts. As a known bane of mages the world over, the vile paper cut is something Lana spent the minimum possible time studying restoration to counter.
General Magical Knowledge: Though incapable of effectively casting any other forms of magic, Lana is quite familiar with all forms on a theoretical level, in particular recognising what a spells desired effect is likely to be and methods of countering or mitigating it. This knowledge allows her to accurately advise on all but the most extreme and specialised of magical matters.
Her knowledge of general magical theory is also fairly extensive, though often not up to the level of more dedicated Magisters, as she does not dedicate as much time to its study as most of her similarly ranked peers.
Mundane: She is a capable dancer, both in typical courtly manner and for performance’ sake. She is a skilled singer, both with her natural voice and that of the songbird form she can take. She is an adept ruler, though focused on magical solutions to problems. She is a master manipulator, unafraid to employ magic in her manipulation but not relying on it. She is a skilled swimmer, having swum with the dolphins near the Summer Isles long enough to learn to take their shape.
Name: Drevala Blackwell
Titles: Princess of Alenius, High Magister, The Dragonslayer
Sexual Orientation: Homosexual
Position: Princess, High Magister
Personality: Perhaps the most amicable of the Blackwells, and also the most dangerous. While she is no martial master, the woman has a pleasant air and a friendly smile- disarming qualities on top of a surname that bears nothing but lethal intent. The woman is a far cry from the martial and military prowess presented by her siblings, and is, still, a bit distanced from the statecraft presented by her brother. She is a genuinely amicable woman, with some reservations to those outside her family.
She is one who puts faith and trust in her family, and is quick to trust others. She was raised and educated primarily by the mages of the Summer isle rather than her father's brutal manner of raising his children, thus she has drastic alterations from the usual Blackwell harshness.
Weaknesses: The Dragon Slayer is protective of her family to a lethal degree. She'll not throw herself in the middle of a debate or argument, or even into a single combat scenario, but she will throw herself in harm's way to shield her family, and will even sacrifice on objectives and tasks in order to heal and take care of her loved ones.
The Dragon Slayer finds trust to come easy. She believes in the good and natural intents of others, and easily finds herself trusting others.
Magically Dependant; The Dragon Slayer is dependent upon her shapeshifting and healing magics. Without them she is probably the least martially capable amongst the Blackwell family, which still makes her admittedly a good fighter, but she is one that relies on her natural penchant for shapeshifting to see her through issues from combat to day-to-day travel. She'd feel trapped without it.
More Beast than Women. Drevala spends a great deal of time outside her own shape, and it has had an effect. She finds herself more comfortable and at home among the birds and the beasts, rather than the high flying political games of her fellow humans. While not antisocial or shy, she prefers to leave the politics to others, and will never be anything more than a pawn in others schemes. An extremely valuable pawn, but a pawn nonetheless.
A woman with short black hair and an athletic form, whose strength does not lie in her own body. Her skin is soft, unlike her siblings', and her voice is softer still. She does not have the hard gaze that analyzes threats, but rather the inquisitiveness of a natural learner and profound thinker. She has a natural grace that permeates all actions, and despite her plain-ness she has a sort of nobility and serenity about her.
Of course, at another moment she may appear to be any variety of creatures.
Background: Drevala is a peculiarity amongst the Blackwell for she bears magical power. This being said, she was not forced into the Old Man's usual test, and was instead sent to study at the Summer Isles- where it was found that she grasped magical concepts with exceptionally quick aptitude. Having chosen the school of shapeshifting, Drevala was quick to attune to the magic and discover its finer nuances. Restoration was but a secondary schooling for her, and she has but standard understanding of its principles.
Shape shifting- now that was something Drevala was truly interested in. Studying animals, learning just what made them move and what muscles accomplished which task- it was a deeply liberating experience for the young Blackwell. Learning how to fit into another creature's skin created a deep empathy for others within the woman, as well as a deep understanding of her own body and natural instincts.
Tapping into the primal urges that lie within the concept of life itself were what Drevala found to be key in fine tuning her art. Humans, through their construction of civilizations and religions, have distanced themselves from these internal urges- have warded themselves away from their primal instincts of fear and survival in order to reward suicidal and reckless concepts of honor, courage, and bravery.
Drevala's acute understanding and belief in natural instinct and animalistic urges are a driving force in the woman's actions and life, and have played into her distinctly singular understanding of the art of shape shifting to extreme efficiency.
To put it in the Lay; Drevala is an animal in human's skin, and finds shedding her natural form to come easily to her.
Drevala's most notable achievements were during the Blackwell Dragon War, where she gained her title of 'The Dragonslayer' due to her unprecedented display of tenacity and efficiency at the eradication of the great beasts known as dragons.
She was alone. She was often alone these nights, with naught but her own inconsistent skin as a shield against the chill wind of the mountains. Drevala forsake clothing on nights such as this, and stood bare to the world as she breathed in the chilled air of the high mountain tops.
A single breath drew in, then the woman threw herself from the Cliffside and into the air; her body warped and twisted, and she fell for little more than a few seconds before her body now possessed the shape of a great bird of pretty- a monstrously sized falcon. She was on the hunt tonight, and her prey was of a size and power far greater than the falcon's usual prey.
Tonight she hunts dragons
The great falcon swam through the thin air, fighting to gain purchase in the high altitude and climb ever so much higher. Soon she was above the tops of the mountains, and could see for eternity in all directions.
Far below her, a great bonfire raged; her family, in its nightly celebrations of survival and of a challenge sought on the morrow. While her family rested, recuperated, and made merry... Drevala went on the hunt. She had learned the weaknesses of the great fire breathing worms through a year of careful study- she had studied scales, bones, teeth, talons, muscle, sinew, tendon, spine, tail...She had studied the creatures in their entirety, and had found their few weaknesses.
She had discovered a way to overcome the great dragons with but the power of common beasts.
She soared away from the camp and flew for roughly an hour before she came across a dragon. They were beasts, and beasts needed sustenance- thus they could be easily found when hunting. Drevala, being of her instinctual nature, could easily find the places most frequently hunted by Dragons by observing the habitat in a similar fashion as she was now.
The dragon was low to the ground, beating its great wings slowly as it powered its almost lazy flight along the forest tops. It was truly a stark and contrasting violence when Drevala's talons blinded the creature a few moments later as she pecked and clawed at its vulnerable eyes and destroyed the creature's primary observational tool.
Drevala had but a few moments to do this, but this was a practiced action, and as she beat her wings furiously to arc away from the dragon and laterally towards the ground, the great beast roared with fury and pain as it cascaded downward in its blind flight- its body tearing through the tree line and eventually slamming into the mountainside with a tremendous crash.
By this time, Drevala was standing, naked and human once more, on the ground far below and observed the higher ground the dragon had ultimately slammed into. The ground shook, and the mountainside rumbled with an impossible force as stone and rock tumbled downward and cascaded over the still form of the great beast.
However, but a short few seconds into this unnaturally caused phenomena, the dragon's fiery breath erupted into the night air as the great creature thrashed and rose from ground, throwing the rubble from its body and roaring.
It was wounded and afraid; the words barely registered in the back of Drevala's mind. Rather, she saw this as 'my prey is weakened', and crushed all sympathy she had for the creature. She needed to be a predator, not an equal, in order to beat it. The falcon could cripple the dragon, but she needed the raw power of one of nature's strongest creatures in order to combat it further.
And so, with great lumbering steps forward, Drevala once more turned into the great falcon and flew high into the air, skirting the edge of the dragon's furious flames, and alighted atop the cliff above the beast once the rockslide had concluded.
She waited for a few moments, reverting back to human skin, until the beast had calmed and fire no longer flew in all directions. Then she shut her eyes tight and slowly slipped down the mountainside, her form changing in the span of a minute to the minute form of a mouse.
The mouse was far too small to be detected by the dragon, and far too little to be smelled in the aftermath of the scorched stone.
The dragon had no way of detecting Drevala until it was far too late; the mouse, at the dragon's feet, suddenly grew into the iconic guardian of the forest- the form of a great bear.
The bear lunged through the air with a roar and brought its full weight down upon the neck of the dragon, forcing its head towards the ground where its fire was nullified by its lack of angular direction. The dragon's body was still a threat, yes, as the bear's claws and teeth could not pierce its scales- but Drevala needed but this one strike to bring her critically wounded foe to its death.
As the great bear drove the dragon's head towards the ground and brought the ultimately surprised beast to the ground in a tremendous crash, the bear's body reared up and brought its entire weight crashing down upon the base of the dragon's skull.
Caught between unyielding stone and the startling power of a great bear, the dragon's scales held steadfast; however, the dragon's innards- being protected by nearly impenetrable bone and scale- was simultaneously scrambled and destroyed by what usually kept it safe. To put it simply, the impact had smashed the dragon's brain against its own skull and killed the beast.
Drevala had, once again, overcome a dragon using naught but simple woodland creatures as skin. This night, it was the roar of a bear that echoed throughout the mountains.
During the Throne War, Drevala faced many losses and difficult situations. She blames herself for the dire injuries and following radical personality change of her youngest sister Naomi. She also blames herself for the loss of her other sister, Beatrice, who was slain fighting Andriss while her father looked on without acting - a fact she has not forgotten. Though her familial losses have pained her deeply, she also holds hope that Lanaya will join the Blackwell family by marrying Eli, a union she strongly encouraged, for it will bring Lana as close to her as realistically possible. She is very much in love with Lana, but knows that the feeling will not be reciprocated by the completely oblivious Magister, and considers making her a sister the next best thing.
In addition, she has joined the Mages Collective at Lana’s request, and as a High Magister sits on its council, though rarely acts beyond supporting Lana. She does not particularly believe in the Collective, especially as her own jurisdiction of Alenius already treats mages with great respect.
Skills: Magic: Shape Shifting - Grand Master Drevala is without a doubt the most accomplished Shape Shifter outside of the Summer Isles, and possibly even the world. Her repertoire of shapes is as numerous as there are types of animals, and her ability to shift into larger or smaller variants of those shapes is practically second nature to her. She is able to shift very rapidly into most forms, with only the truly massive forms requiring a longer casting time. She can easily shift with her clothes and weapons, though she has been known to forget this in casual or rushed situations. Her most outstanding accomplishment in this field, however, is the ability to take on the form of a full sized Dragon. This is a secret known only to two other people - Lanaya Dionisa and Giles Blackwell.
Restoration - Adept Drevala is a capable healer, able to heal both her own and others wounds, though only for one person at a time. She suffers somewhat in the area of complex organ reconstruction however, and for severe wounds must spend a great deal of time and effort, combined with more mundane medical sciences.
General Magical Knowledge Drevala’s general knowledge of magic is broad, but deep only on the topics of most interest to her, namely shape shifting and restoration. Nonetheless, her title of High Magister was not gained by default, and her knowledge rarely fails her in analysing magical matters.
Mundane: Martial Skills - Adept Drevala is a capable warrior in her human form, whether armed or not, however she prefers simple weapons such as the spear. Even though she is a mage, she is also a Blackwell, and all Blackwells are born fighters. This statement is perhaps most true of Drevala though, for she fights more through instinctual understanding than learned or practiced art.
Strategy Drevala’s grasp of strategy is unconventional but effective. Though she has not acted as a commander in many traditional conflicts, she led the Dragon war, and developed a good understanding of asymmetric combat and guerrilla style warfare there.
Education Having spent a great deal of time in Circle of Magic, Drevala’s education on all manner of matters is significant, and her knowledge has only been heightened in Alenius, thanks to her good relationship with her brother Eli, with whom she shares a love of knowledge.
Family House Name: Dionisa Kingdom: Nyhem Crest: A stylised blue Rose on a midnight background. Family Motto: Persistence Conquers All Relations with other Houses: House Dionisa, having only recently been restored by royal decree, enjoys both suspicion and admiration from most other Nyhem nobles. It is directly beholden to House De Reimer for restoring it, yet with Lanaya in charge, it is unlikely this debt will be considered. She does, however, ensure good relations with House Blackwell. Family Reputation: House Dionisa’s recent history is rather tumultuous. Prior to the fall of King Heylot Remonnet, they were a somewhat influential house in Nyhem, held in good standing for the luxury goods they produced. Yet they sided with the Mad King and fell along with him, being declared officially a dead house when Lanaya’s parents were executed. Only recently has the house been restored to existence by High King Alasdair De Reimer, and with Lanaya as its only member. In Nyhem, the nobility is unsure what the resurgence of the house will mean for local politics. On the one hand, they seem favored by the High King, yet on the other hand they just absorbed House Thale in its entirety, despite a legitimate Thale heir still living. Beyond Nyhem, it is unlikely many even know of the House, and if they do, depending on the age of the rumors, they may have all manner of probably wildly inaccurate views. Family Background: House Dionisa rose to prominence two hundred years ago as a wealthy family of vintners were elevated to full noble status by the High King of the time, allegedly for making ‘the finest drop ever to pass the lips of royalty.’ They grew slowly but surely, eventually becoming a reasonable economic power in the great city, though little known beyond Nyhem. The family itself has always had difficulties maintaining its line, with high rates of infertility among its women, yet a distinct tendency to end up with more daughters than sons. This has been kept a secret, seen as a shame rather than something to acknowledge and perhaps cure with magic.
The recent history of the House is bloodsoaked and abrupt. With the family having dwindled to only the Lord and Lady and a single daughter, prospects for the lineage to continue were looking grim. Economic success was great, but it seemed that as more wealth was accrued, more family members died and less children were born. Ultimately though, none would get to see whether nature intended the Dionisa line to die, for the former Lord and Lady sided with King Heylot in the last great war. When the war ended, they were executed for their allegiance, their daughter, Lanaya, spared only by virtue of her being a mage in the far off Circle of Magic. Yet even she had her noble title stripped from her for her parents poor choice in allegiance. So ended House Dionisa.
And yet, Lanaya became as skilled a stateswoman as she was a mage, and for services to the new High King Alasdair De Reimer, she had her family name restored to glory, and so began the new House Dionisa. Though this restoration came with some of the Houses old lands, it seemed as though they would have to work their way to wealth once more… Until Lord Dominus Thale of House Thale died suddenly, bequeathing all of his land and wealth to Lanaya. This sudden takeover of a functional noble Houses holdings has ensured that Dionisa is on the path to greatness again, and though still not as wealthy as they were, they now command more land, people and militia than they ever have.
Yet Lanaya remains without heir, or even husband, and the House is beholden to her will and motivation, which goes far beyond mere economic dominance of Nyhem. It remains to be seen if the resurgence of the House will last, or merely create a short lived puppet for a radical Magister. House Motives: House Dionisa consists only of Duchess Lanaya Dionisa, and so the Houses motives are her motives. Yet some distinctions can be made, for she is skilled in statecraft and uses her House as a Noble House should be used, rather than squandering it on whim.
The Primary motive of the House is to see to the betterment of mages in Nyhem, and to this end its guard is well trained in specialist knowledge usually known only to the Summer Isles guard. Along with general security, the guard searches the city for young mage talent overlooked by the Circle recruiters, and maintains a bounty for information pertaining to such.
A secondary motive is to restore the former economic power of the House. Once well known for their wineries and patronage of seamstresses and lace-makers, the resurgent House Dionisa is a shadow of its former wealth. It seeks to reclaim this lost economic power, and exceed it, a task made easier by the integration of the former House Thale farmlands. Ultimately, it seeks to control the supply of both food and luxuries into Nyhem.
Name: Captain Reginald Moros Age: 39 Gender: Male Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual Position: Dionisa Captain of the Guard Personality: Captain Moros is a dedicated and loyal guardsman. A veteran of House Thale, he was initially confused at the shift to House Dionisa, but believes in the will of the once great Dominus Thale. He also has a healthy respect for Lanaya, thanks to both her teaching and willingness to expend her own wealth on helping the more common people of the city, even if only the common mages of the city. He has a somewhat fatherly, protective streak that often kicks in when he rescues young mages from the streets. For the most part, he follows the leader of the House without question, but does have enough initiative to question orders if they seem unnecessarily bloodthirsty. Appearance: Moros can almost always be seen in his guard captain armor - a plate breastplate and pauldrons over a full suit of chain, with the Dionisa tabard. When not in his armor, he usually just wears the padded layers that would be under said armor. His face is worn beyond his years, for he has seen much blood in his time. He has a well kept beard and mustache, though both this and his short hair are beginning to grey. He carries himself as one who values his duty and believes in his Lord, yet a touch of deep weariness can be seen by the end of the day. Skills: Melee Combat (all typical infantry weapons) - Adept Command - Apprentice Battlefield Inspiration - Adept Anti-mage tactics - Apprentice General Magic knowledge - Novice Weaknesses: Getting Old - Moros is not as young as he once was, and would prefer to retire with all his limbs attached in five years or so. Accordingly, he is a cautious commander, perhaps overly so, and he will usually avoid engagements with warriors he knows to be far superior to himself. Sick of Massacres - He has seen one too many blood-soaked massacre occur in Nyhem, and is quite sick of them. If he thinks events are deteriorating to the point where another massacre will occur, he may begin to act irrationally or be open to an allegiance change. Protective - Moros never had children of his own, and so he considers the mage children he rescues from the street at Lanaya’s bidding to almost be his own. He will go to extreme lengths to keep them safe, including putting aside his dreams of retirement.
Name: Seneschal Victor Elan Age: 44 Gender: Male Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual Position: Seneschal Personality: A quiet and reserved man, Victor prides himself on accuracy in record keeping. He has little time for those below him in rank and generally prefers to be left alone to focus on his job. Appearance: Pale skin, a bald head and an elaborate, greying moustache and goatee ensure that Victor is fairly recognisable, despite his usually drab clothing. Skills: Administration - Expert Espionage - Apprentice Poisoning - Novice Swordplay - Novice Weaknesses: Survivor - While some may consider it a strength, Victor’s uncanny ability to weather Nyhem politics has more to do with a tendency to always switch to the winning side at an opportune moment than any real talent of any sort. Consequently he can be easy to bribe and corrupt if his current master isn’t doing well.
Name: Arianna Zerrikan
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Position: Tide Master
Personality: Arianna is a fiery and independent woman, resentful of the expectations of greatness placed upon her, yet at home in command of others. A sailor at heart, she tends to be direct and concise in her speech. She is trained in dealing with nobility, but not a natural at it. She is not a schemer, but a strategist, eager to apply military and magical theory to any problem she is faced with. She is stubborn, determined and prone to holding mild grudges. There is little she fears, and that which she does she tends to charge straight at rather than cower away from, often over-estimating her capabilities in the process… She is used to being known by the reputation of her family name, and tends to be aloof and distant when meeting new people, though she enjoys the chance to get to know people who have never heard of her or her father.
Weaknesses: Brash - Arianna is quick to act and prone to solving problems directly, even when such an approach is risky and dangerous to herself or those around her. Untouchable Fantasy - Arianna believes that there is no problem that she cannot outrun or out fight, either directly or through the influence of the Summer Isles and the Navy. She does not realise how tenuous her position is, or how many enemies she already has. Politically Overconfident - Arianna has been trained to deal with Nobles, but she has never truly engaged in politics. She believes she knows what she is doing, but in reality she could not be more out of her depth when dealing with the schemes of the Nyhem court.
Appearance: Arianna is a typical Summer Isles native - with tanned olive colored skin and flowing brown hair that she usually keeps in a neat bun. She has brown eyes and the strong, rugged hands of a sailor. She typically wears practical clothing suitable for life on a ship in the warm Irman sea. She always carries a utilitarian dagger and is often seen with a shortsword at her hip as well. While not unfamiliar with the loose robes of the more scholarly mages, she is fairly unfamiliar with dresses, preferring more practical finery - the sort one could fight or climb rigging in without first having to rip a skirt off...
Background: Arianna Zerrikan, daughter of Arthur Zerrikan, the legendary Admiral of the Summer Isles Zephyr Fleet, is very much defined by her father's shadow. As a Summer Isle’s native and the daughter of two mages, Arianna was tested for magical aptitude from a very early age, and to no-one's surprise, was found to be a mage by the time she was 4. As soon as this was discovered, she was guaranteed a place in the Circle.
Arianna’s early life was uneventful. She was middling in her studies, neither excelling nor falling behind. Her most notable attribute at the time was a higher than normal aptitude for summoning magic. Once she had learned the basics of magic, she branched out into Destruction and Summoning almost immediately, supplementing her magical learning with close combat and sailing classes.
She was thirteen when her father achieved fame and glory - destroying a grand pirate armada and killing the notorious Akki Noble come pirate lord at its head. Arianna was still too young to truly understand much of what was going on, but as the next generation of the now mighty Zerrikan bloodline, her life was affected in many ways.
Her father, despite being at the Summer Isles more often, suddenly had less time for her as he was drafted into frequent lecturing at the isles Naval college and meeting a seemingly endless string of officials, nobles and admirals from the mainland. Her teachers suddenly expected greatness from her in every area she studied. Her classmates varied between sycophancy or avoidance thanks to her new found celebrity-by-association status. Finally, she came under immense pressure to work towards Tidemaster, and later Grand Tidemaster, status and follow in her father's footsteps. While it was always something she had considered, it was now seemingly out of her hands.
It took nearly a year for Arianna to adapt, during which time she did poorly in all of her classes. Yet eventually, she did adapt, through a combination of will, rebellious desire to forge her own path, and the lessening of pressure as the magnitude of her father's deeds faded with time. Now largely without any close friends, she threw herself into study, and began taking naval strategy classes as well. She still never excelled in anything quite as much as her instructors seemed to expect, despite becoming an effective summoner very quickly and grasping naval strategy at a very young age… Yet this only seemed to spur her on.
At the age of eighteen she was deemed capable enough to join the crew of one of the Summer Isles Catamarans, where her study took on a far more practical nature. At first, the captain and crew were hard on her - believing she had only gotten the position thanks to her father's influence. Which was true, though she did not know it. She quickly found herself volunteering for the most dangerous of tasks and leading the way in combat and investigations both - though often with reckless abandon that got her - and others - injured more than once. It also led to her developing a somewhat aloof attitude towards those she does not know well.
Despite this rocky start to her career however, one cannot live on a ship for any length of time without forging a strong bond with ones crew, and within six months her crew had come to respect her, and she them. She took part in several tours of the Irman sea, hunted a few pirate ships and learned a little about every Kingdom bordering the sea. She also spent more time back on the Isles, whenever the ship needed shipyard maintenance or the crew was due any extended leave. She, like most of the magically inclined crew, took the time to visit the Circle again and cram more classes in to heighten her magical power, though she also always made time to update herself on the latest naval theory at the college.
Late into her twenty-first year, Arianna was promoted to Tidemaster when the captain of another Catamaran decided to retire… Ahead of several other more experienced candidates and at an age that makes her the youngest Tidemaster to command a Catamaran in the history of the Zephyr fleet.
The realities of command have tempered her fiery nature somewhat, but she remains a dynamic and aggressive captain compared to her peers. Her reputation in the fleet is very mixed - the older officers tend to see her as an inexperienced upstart coasting on her family name, but the younger sailors look up to her as an example of what can be achieved by a dedicated, determined student. She is oblivious to the extent of her influence on the fleet in this manner, seeing only a continuation of the isolation she has lived with since her father became famous.
Recently, she has become swayed by the rhetoric of Lanaya Dionisa and the Mages Collective, thanks in no small part to seeing first hand the destruction and rampant piracy wrought by the squabbling Kings of the mainland. Yet she is ever the Summer Islander, and prefers a milder interpretation of the concept of mage supremacy, one that doesn’t marginalise her trusted mundane crew members or plunge the Isles into conflict.
Skills: Magic: Destruction - Master Arianna is a well trained, if a little inexperienced, Tide Master. This means a significant focus on Destruction magic of the sort useful at sea. While not the most accomplished war mage in Formaroth, she does have a great deal of training in group cast spells, making a her presence on the battlefield more significant than one might expect for a mage of her youth. She has also trained in Glyphs for combat application.
Force - Arianna’s study of Force magic is quite unusual in its focus, though quite normal for a Tide Master. In addition to typical blasts, she has trained in esoteric uses like conjuring winds and applying slow, steady Force on large objects, like ships. These feats require a group to achieve though.
Fire - Though not a prime focus for Arianna, the control of fire is nonetheless paramount on a ship. She has focused primarily on controlling existing flames, as well as smothering them magically.
Ice/Water - One of the key abilities of a Tide Master is control over water. Arianna is no exception, and demonstrates the ability to control a significant amount of water on her own, going so far as to pull it out of the air in humid environments. She can freeze and thaw large amounts of Ice, allowing her to shape a battlefield with ease. With a group of mages, she is able to move the water around a ships hull in such a way as to propel it forward at incredible speed, or bring it to a complete stop.
Lightning - Arianna’s personal favorite among the schools of Destruction. She has trained in manifesting storms of bolts from even mildly cloudy weather. She can chain bolts from her hands to strike up to three additional targets beyond the first and she can fatally electrify small areas of water. With a group, she can conjure lightning at extreme range and of a ferocity easily able to set a ship ablaze.
Summoning - Adept Most Tide Masters choose to learn either Shape Shifting or Summoning magic, with the more difficult Summoning being known as ‘The Admirals Choice.’ Arianna has put significant effort into the study of Summoning, and has befriended two shades. Albatross - A somewhat ungainly sea bird of large size, this shade regularly accompanies Arianna when she is at sea, serving as a scout, soaring far above her ship. Orca - This formidable and sizeable shade is seen only rarely, usually manifesting either when Arianna is hunting a large sea creature with her crew or in particularly fierce combat. But when it does arrive, it is a fearsome and intelligent combatant, making the water near her even more of a no-go zone, lest a foe wishes to face many shredding teeth.
Alteration - Novice Arianna studies Alteration primarily for a few utility spells. Water Breathing in particular comes in handy for a sailor, though she has been known to employ limited telekinesis for small, intricate tasks like tying knots in rope.
Mundane: Sailor - Master One does not become a Tide Master without also mastering the many intricacies of traditional sailing, including more versatile skills such as stellar navigation. This also includes climbing, both with and without ropes, as well as, obviously, swimming. Melee Combat - Expert Arianna is a capable combatant, wielding the kinds of weapons typically found on a ship with skill and precision, though her personal preference is a shortspear. Naval Strategy - Adept While nowhere near the level needed to match a Grand Tide Master, or even live up to the expectations placed upon her, Arianna is still a reasonably capable Naval tactician, having led her squadron to victory on several occasions.
Mary, maid servant of House Thale, was afraid. The riot had been going on for hours now, and though the Magister had scared the mob away from the manor for a time, bands of angry people from the lower districts still came by occasionally, shouting, waving torches and clubs. Until now, she had considered herself quite lucky to live and work in the Garden District, for even as a mere servant she still had it better than most. She knew there would always be food, often good food. The manor was always warm, and she even had the good fortune of a kind master, who paid her and the other servants quite well for their station. Sure, sometimes she had to do some quite unpleasant jobs, and sometimes she would be shouted at and ordered around by the mysterious Magister, but all in all, she thought it was a rather safe and comfortable life. A good life for a farmers daughter.
But now, she was afraid. Fearful that she would be beaten, killed or worse - simply for working and living in the house of a Nobleman and a Magister. The people outside had plenty of hatred for both. If they got in, she would be just another mage sympathiser, or lackey of the nobility.
And so it was that she found herself ever on the heel of her master, Lord Dominus Thale. She felt safe near him - he had donned a chain shirt and taken his shield and mace from the display on the wall. Although, admittedly, it was less the old, fat man's state of armament that made her feel safe, and far more the fact that Sir Hansen of the Order of St. Elenor also followed him. He was a tall man wearing plate armor and carrying a long two handed sword as though it weighed no more than a feather. She knew that the gods would safeguard him and those that followed him. And if not, then the steel he wore would certainly empower him to defend her.
Just then, there was a loud knocking on the houses grand door. She nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound. She told herself that the guard were still near, keeping the streets safe. It couldn't be rioters. And they wouldn't knock anyway. Would they?
Sir Hansen went to check who it was, with Dominus close behind. Mary followed the men. Dominus was shouting - he had gotten quite worked up about this whole affair. “If those blasted ungrateful peasants have broken through, by the gods I’ll put them back in their place! My mace will remind them that it’s the right of the nobles to rule and protect, and the right of the peasants to-” He stopped suddenly as he saw who it was at the door.
Before them, in the acrid, smokey air, stood three figures. The two on the sides were gigantic men, wearing a variation of the Thale Guardsmen uniform that marked them as hailing from the provincial lands. The one in the middle was clad in black, with a voluminous black cloak about his shoulders. There was an expensive crossbow slung from his shoulder, and a sword clearly visible at his waist. His hood was down, revealing a face with sharp features that were haughty, but also somewhat weather-worn. “Father.” He said on catching sight of Dominus. “Good to see age hasn’t made you too soft on the peasants!” He said, though there was little mirth in it.
“Thanatos, my boy!” Dominus said, waving him and the guards in. They all filed in to the great hall just beyond. “What brings you back to the city? And on this dark day?” There was far more joy in Dominus’ voice than his sons, yet Mary could sense the tension between the father and son. She knew there had been some unpleasant history in the past. She hoped that would not boil over now. This day really didn’t need to get any worse. “I came for news of the war. Yet when this chaos broke out, I knew I had to come by, and make sure the rioters hadn’t gotten to you.”
“Ah, very noble of you my boy.” Dominus said. “But you needn't have worried. Lady Lanaya has the house well defended with sorcery.” Thanatos’ face took on a dark expression at that. “I see. It is good to see you safe all the same father.” They talked for a time, of casual things, and of the family holdings, yet something felt wrong to Mary. Not merely Thanatos’ calm in the midst of this chaos, but something else. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she did not feel safe. Yet it was not her place to trouble her betters with her petty fears and worries.
“Where is the Sorceress anyway?” Thanatos said, his words once again catching Mary’s attention. There was an odd tone in his voice - It was normal enough for him to speak of the magister with anger, but this was something else. Dominus didn’t seem to notice, but replied sternly all the same. “You’ll not be picking a fight with her again boy. This is my command. She sits on the High King’s council now, and it is to his Majesty that she has gone this night. Angering her may bring the Kings eye down upon you Thanatos, and not in a good way.”
Thanatos looked cowed and… almost disappointed by his fathers reply. “Yes Father. I understand.” That set warning bells off for Mary again. Never in her time serving the Thale’s had she seen Thanatos back down from such a stern talking to by his father. Dominus seemed not to notice, merely saying “Good.” Mary thought maybe she should say something, but caught her tongue just before voicing her observations about the strangeness of it all. Noble’s worked in mysterious ways, always fencing with words and saying things they did not mean. No, it was not her place. Besides, should anything untoward truly be going on, she was sure the gods would let Sir Hansen know.
Thanatos dismissed himself then, walking up the stairs presumably to retire in his room. It was far too late for him to travel back to the Thale estate in the countryside, if he could even leave the city safely. Dominus made his way to a chair at the side of the hall and sat, seemingly deep in thought. Mary tentatively approached and spoke. “Milord, is there anything you would like?” He looked up at her, his features softening. “No thank you Mary. But if you could check on my Son, make sure he is comfortable?” She nodded and set about seeing her lords wishes made reality.
Ascending to the second floor, Mary made her way to the guest rooms. She was expecting Thanatos to have already made himself comfortable in what was once his room, but this was not the case. She stopped suddenly when she saw the man staring into the room that had been given to the young girl Captain Moros had rescued from the streets. After a moment of confusion, she timidly spoke up. “Milord, are you alright? Is there anything I can get you?” He was silent for a moment, then, without turning to face her, asked “Who is that?” Mary answered promptly, without thought as to the consequences. “Thats Miriam. Captain Moros rescued her from the streets at the Magisters request. She’s supposedly a mage.”
Only after she finished did she realise that it might not have been a good idea to tell Thanatos of all people the whole truth.
He turned to her then, a vicious looking grin now twisting his features into a rictus mask that chilled Mary to her core. He very pointedly said “Thank you. That will be all. You may go.” Then turned and walked deeper into the Manor. Mary turned and abruptly headed back to Dominus, trying to put the image of Thanatos’ face out of her head.
Fifteen minutes passed, and Mary finally began to relax. There hadn’t been any more mobs immediately outside the Manor and everything seemed to be getting back to normal - at least as normal as possible when Thanatos was in the house. Then, for just a moment, a muffled scream sounded from upstairs. For a moment Mary thought she had imagined it, but then Dominus bellowed “Whats going on up there?” And got to his feet. He was just approaching the foot of the stairs when Thanatos’ came down to them from above. “Don’t worry father. This is all for the greater good. I’m going to save you.”
He descended the stairs, his two brutish guards behind him. One of them was awkwardly carrying a young girl with a strip of cloth bound over her mouth and her hands and feet tied off with rope. Mary immediately recognised her as Miriam. Dominus immediately raised his voice and responded, a rare steely sternness in his voice. “Now you listen to me boy. I do not need saving. Lanaya is not controlling my mind.”
“Father I know you think that.” Thanatos began, his voice conciliatory. “But that is what she wants you to think. I’ve seen it. Your mind isn’t your own. It hasn’t been for a long time.” He was clearly passionate, yet it did not sway his father.
“You’re insane.” Dominus roared. His face was a brilliant shade of red now. “And how do you plan to save me by kidnapping that poor girl?”
“You don’t understand father. Your mind belongs to the witch! I’m helping you!” Now Thanatos was raising his voice. Mary could only stand by in shock as father and son railed against each other.
Suddenly, Dominus’ voice cut his sons off mid-speech with a terse command. “Sir Hansen. Retrieve that girl and bind my son as one of the rioters!” He was practically hysterical now. The Knight spared only the slightest sidelong glance at the furious Lord of the house before springing into action. He strode forward, raising his arms to act - but Thanatos acted faster even than the knight.
Before anyone realised what was happening, the young man had swung his crossbow into firing position, aimed the already primed weapon and but a bolt clean through the chainmail around the Knights neck. Sir Hansen was flung back off his feet by the force of the weapon, hitting the ground with a clank and gurgle.
Mary was frozen in shock, and could only look on as Dominus suddenly clutched at his chest and fell, as if in slow motion, to the ground. Between gasping for air, he managed to rasp “What have you… done…”
Thanatos’ face shifted as rapidly as his fathers had, from triumph to despair. He rushed to his father's side, kneeling down and cradling the large mans head in one hand, while taking a clawed hand in the other. “Father, no. No! what has she done to you! Stay with me. You have to stay alive. You’re stronger than her sorcery. Please.”
Mary continued staring in shock as tears streamed freely down Thanatos’ face. Dominus had already stopped moving. She could only watch as Thanatos’ remaining unencumbered guard sauntered up to her and roughly grabbed her from behind. She was vaguely aware of tears now flowing down her own cheeks.
Moments crawled by like hours as Thanatos remained kneeling over his father’s body. When he finally rose, it was not grief that defined his features, but fury, and the unrestrained hate of a man who has just lost the person he cared most about. “That witch will pay for this.” He said quietly, cutting the silence like a razor. He began to turn to leave, but then stopped and turned back to look at Mary. For the second time tonight he was looking straight at her, his face twisted into a demonic visage. She screamed.
“Sorry.” he said, his voice now a strange combination of sadness and disappointment, as though he were informing her she wouldn’t be getting the gift she wanted for her birthday. “But we cant have any witnesses.” He pulled a vicious dagger from its sheath and stepped towards her. Tears rolled down her eyes as she pleaded. “Please, I wont tell anyone. Please milord. I don’t want to die…” He raised the dagger up to her throat, but paused, speaking now with a tone of inevitability laced with hate. There was madness in his eyes. “I’m sure you wouldn’t. But you see, the Magister would just bewitch you as well. You would have no choice but to tell her everything. So its her fault really. She may as well wield the blade herself. In your last moment, know that it was Lanaya Dionisa that killed you. Tell the gods about it when you see them, and maybe they will punish her.” With that, he quickly and brutally drew the blade across her throat. The guardsman let her drop to the floor, and she scrambled meekly at the gash as it bled profusely. There was only pain and emptiness in her mind as her lifeblood spread across the polished stone.
--- Wrath of a Magister ---
Nyhem, Above the Docks, around the same time.
Far above the city, Lanaya’s hawk eyes searched for an ideal spot to intervene. With her petty errand for the king done, she was now free to actually make use of her full power to put a stop to this insane riot. She was not feeling particularly kind, however, after her argument with the king and his underuse of her abilities. No. She had priorities to focus on. Mages deserved help first, nobles a distant second, and everyone else would get help if they still needed it after all of that.
And so it was that she spotted the flicker of magelight below - at the docks, where one of the Summer Isles Catamarans was docked. Its crew, mostly mundanes but also a few specialist mages, seemed to be trapped on the dock, just out of reach of the swift vessel, surrounded by a crowd of peasants with all manner of daggers, torches and improvised clubs.
She swooped down, diving towards a clear spot just in front of the ship’s crew. There was still a several meter gap between the two groups, as the crowd warily eyed the mages and the unearthly light emanating from them. Lana wasted no time in retaking her original shape as she touched down, remembering at the last moment to cover up the ugly bruise on her face with magic. She would not let the mundane scum here get the idea that she could be injured.
Amplifying her voice, she spoke while the crowd was still shocked at her sudden appearance. “By order of the Circle you are to disperse and go back to your homes at once, or face the wrath of a Magister!” There was fire in her voice, and magical flames began to lick at her fingertips as she spoke. The gem upon her breast glowed a vibrant crimson.
Some of the crowd began to look uncertain, but these people had already made up their mind to attack known powerful mages. They would not be cowed by her display, and the uncertainty quickly passed. In fact, it spurred them on. Someone shouted “Burn the Witches!” and the crowd surged forward. Some of the ship’s crew fired crossbows into the crowd, their bolts all finding fleshy targets in the dense mass of people. Others prepared swords for melee. Yet they never got a chance.
Power surged through Lana as she raised her hand to the sky, her tongue twisting around arcane, inhuman words of power. Then she suddenly dropped the hand to point at the ground, marking out a half circle in front of her. As soon as she finished the gesture, a glowing half circle of runes appeared on the ground, surrounding the ship's crew in the front, with the edge of the dock behind them. As soon as the first mundane foot touched one of the runes there was an intense flash of light. A wave of force rolled outwards into the crowd, smashing them to their feet. Those near the water were thrown into the blood slicked crimson waters. Those near the back of the crowd were thrown bodily into the buildings that lined the dock with a sickening crunch.
But Lana was not done. She had not cast any destruction magic on this scale since leaving the Summer Isles. She had forgotten how much of a rush it could be. That feeling mixed quickly with her hatred of mundanes and their mundane violence. She couldn’t stop now. They had to learn. She had to make an example of them. Her hands sprung into motion as she began to cast another spell. The gem glowed brighter.
Out of the waters behind them all, long, sharp shards of blood red ice began to rise. They floated gently above the waves, aimed towards the crowd. The moment a rioters picked themself up from the ground, one of the ice spikes shot forward and impaled them. There was so much force behind the shards that they picked each victim up off the ground and propelled them into the building behind, where the spike stuck and held them aloft. Some of the rioters tried to rush the ship's crew again, and every one of them was slain in this manner. Others got up and tried to run. They too were cut down. Two minutes of this indiscriminate slaughter passed, Lana’s hands in motion the whole time. The very air seemed to twist with the arcane words she spoke, regularly punctuated by the screams of her targets.
But then, she stumbled, barely remaining on her feet. Even she had limits. The ice shards fell back into the water, and those that already impaled rioters already began to slowly melt. Many of the smarter people in what was left of the crowd took this opportunity to leap up. Many ran, but not all. Some of them were driven wild by the horror they had just witnessed. These remaining fanatics sprinted towards Lana specifically, screaming for blood and vengeance. Lana raised a hand and blasted them back with a simple wave of force. Yet this was not enough. They all began to pick themselves up again to charge.
But Lana was not alone. Behind her, the ships mages had joined hands. They formed a circle behind her, and she felt two hands on her shoulders. It reinvigorated her instantly. Standing tall again, she began to chant a new spell. Behind her, three more voices joined in the same chant in unison. The sky cracked with thunder. The clouds above momentarily took on a red glow. And then it appeared. From on high, a searing ball of what seemed to be white fire streaked towards docks. It consumed the first two of the maddened rioters immediately, leaving nothing but charred husks. But it did not strike the ground. It moved sharply, darting to each man in turn, until all fifteen of the remaining rioters on the dock were charred beyond recognition. Then, with a pop, it disappeared.
Safe at last, Lana and the other mages were free to collapse. None of them hit the blood soaked ground though, as the hands of the mundane crewmen caught them. Lana felt that she was being carried towards the Catamaran by the ship's crew, but all she could think of was how heavy the now dark gem felt.
--- Epilogue ---
Bay of Nyhem, Aboard the Summer Isles Catamaran Petal of Light
Lana awoke with a start. The world was rocking about, ever so gently, and she immediately realised she was on a ship. From the wood and construction style, she also realised it was a Summer Isles Catamaran. She was confused for a moment, and could not remember how she had gotten there. All the signs of magic induced exhaustion. She felt weary, and as she stood up from the bed she had been placed in, her dress suddenly felt so very heavy. Though it was nothing next to the weight of the large jewel hanging from her neck. Oh how she wanted to strip it all off right now. Her hand moved towards the latch on the necklace, but just before she could undo it, the door opened. It was one of the ship’s crew. “Ah, Magister. You’ve recovered. Good. The Tide Master wants to thank you. I’ll take you to him when you’re ready.”
Lana looked at him blankly at first, but then the words seeped through the weariness. She remembered that she had no time to be laying about, and though she couldn’t really muster up the feeling of urgency right now, she still didn’t want to waste time. “I’m ready now.” She said, trying, and failing, to sound energetic. The crewman smiled and with amusement and simply said. “Very good Magister. This way.” It clearly wasn’t the first time he’d dealt with a mage trying to look like she wasn’t exhausted from her magic…
She was lead through the ship to the mage in command of the vessel - the Tide Master. When he saw her, he smiled and spoke. “Thank you Magister. You saved my crew in its entirety, not to mention myself. I am in your debt.” Lana meekly returned the smile, then went to the nearest of the comfortable looking seats built into the wall of the cabin. “I just did what was right.” She replied.
“That was very impressive Ball Lighting.” The Tide Master said, sounding genuine in his admiration. “Thank you… I’m not sure how I managed it to be perfectly honest. I have never cast it before. I don't think I could’ve without you and your companions.” She wasn’t even sure if that was true either. Her memory of the whole encounter was… fuzzy. But it would make the Tide Master happy to hear it.
“Even more impressive then. I’ll be sure to tell the others what you said. But for now, we must decide what to do next. I intend to return to the Summer Isles, but if you have another directive…” He trailed off expectantly.
“No. Return to the Circle. They must know what transpired here. But tell them that I intend to step up the actions of the Collective. If even the citizens of Nyhem can embrace the idea of burning our kind for no reason than our existence… Then we must act now if we ever wish to walk the lands beyond the Isles again.”
Meanwhile, in Thale Manor
Guard Captain Moros was distraught. He had returned from his patrols to find his Lord dead and Miriam, who he had saved, nowhere to be found. He felt responsible. Maybe if he had been there, he could’ve saved them. He was ready to accept the blame when he informed Thanatos and the Magister. But what he was not ready for, was handing over the document in his hand to Thanatos. Having taken his Lords key and entered the study, he had acquired Dominus’ will, to ensure it was not ‘misplaced’ by any stray hands. In his curiosity, he had seen who the estate was left to.
It was not Thanatos.
According to the will, he and all the Thale lands, fortunes, rights and titles now belonged to Duchess Lanaya Triskell Dionisa.
The scene outside Thale Manor was chaotic as the riot erupted. A crowd had formed, including many who had been present the last time such an event occurred, though few would notice that fact. Some shouted Johannia’s name, others railed against the hoarding of wealth. Others still roared in a more wild rage, caught up in the crowd and the city's general unrest. Unlike the crowds elsewhere in the city though, this one was being egged on by a very well armed man. He had a fine mace at his side and wore a fine chain shirt - though this was somewhat obscured beneath his dark cloak and cowl. A few others also stood out amongst the crowd - big brutish men with crude but effective weapons and rough leather armor. Hired muscle to be sure - thugs that would give the crowd more punch if, or rather when, violence broke out.
Before the Manor’s grand doors stood Captain Moros and several House Thale guards, shields raised, but weapons still sheathed. Alongside the Captain, Sir Hansen of the Order of St. Elenor stood, longsword tip down… For now. He was sworn to safeguard Lady Dionisa from exactly this kind of threat, just as Moros and his guardsmen were sworn to safeguard the Manor and its occupants.
“Disperse! Go back to your homes!” Moros was yelling, though even his booming voice was drowned out by the din the crowd was making. Even the hooded man could barely be heard now as he whipped the crowd into frenzy. They shouted and pushed closer to thin line of armored men before the door - two sword lengths away, then one. Then they were pressing up against Moros, not yet attacking, but pushed forward by those behind. He shoved them away with his shield, many falling to the ground only to be trampled by the mass.
It was chaos. Seconds dragged on, then minutes, as the crowd shoved, shouted and roared. Then there was a clang of metal on metal as a hammer struck the shield of a guard. Swords were drawn - some of the front of the crowd tried to scramble away, though to no avail. Others saw it as provocation and struck at the guardsmen. Sir Hansen’s greatsword rose into the air - and was about to strike when a female voice cut through the roar of the crowd. It was commanding and proud. Powerful beyond the capacity of mortal lungs. It simply said “Stop.”
Above them all on the small second floor balcony, Lady Lanaya Dionisa stepped forth, and the crowd was silent. All eyes turned to her, some burning with hatred and rage, most fearful.
Someone in the crowd shouted “Kill the witch!”
Several rocks flew, aimed squarely at the fragile looking lady on the balcony. Apprehension filled the crowd for a moment. But then something unexpected happened. The rocks sparked off a glowing white barrier, being repelled back over the crowd’s heads at great speed only to shatter on the stone walls of the buildings behind them, showering them with shrapnel. As quickly as it had appeared, the barrier faded, only now two arcane glyphs, one each to either side of the balcony bled harsh witchlight out over the street.
The crowd froze, shocked into silence once more. This time, primal fear was etched into their faces. Lana spoke again, her voice still magically amplified, only now her eyes blazed with power and light radiated around her.
“This House is protected. This City is protected. Go back to your homes, lock the door, and await the dawn if you value life and limb.”
The crowd remained transfixed by the beautiful, yet terrible sight before them, though it was now evident many sought to leave. Lana continued, her voice now taking on an edge of challenge, and of wrath.
“To those heretics among you, to those who would see all mages burn. Come now, test your faith, your hate, against my will. My power is a gift from the true gods, and I will eagerly do their will by scourging your falsehood from this land!”
At that, there was motion in the crowd. Three of the thuggish brutes and two men with torches pushed forward, taking her challenge. She reached one hand up to the sky, then purposefully made a fist. The word of power she spoke split the sky itself. A great fork of lightning snaked down from the cloudless sky in an instant. It split into five tendrils, each sought one of the men moving towards her. The bolts struck perfectly. All five targets were charred to a cinder instantaneously, the blackened remains falling to the ground. The silence persisted only a moment longer as the events of the past seconds sank in.
Then the mass of people broke, running, fleeing as fast as they could, their faces masks of abject terror. Within seconds, the street was empty, save for the five charred corpses and the thin line of the houses guardians.
Moros had barely begun to congratulate his Lady when he noticed more witchlight from the balcony above. Then a swift bird with a streak of orange-red around its neck took to the air. It circled for a moment to gain altitude, then soared in the direction of the palace.
Lana circled above the city for a few minutes, quickly confirming her suspicions. It was a city-wide riot. From the shouts she had heard outside her own dwelling, it seemed to have two distinct elements: one religious - the mad heretics of Johannia, an apparently more capable foe than she had first thought… And the discontented general populous. With the recent string of monarchs being bled dry by the Ironbarks, the people had begun to feel the financial pressure as well. The war had only worsened matters. Nyhem had been a midsummer bonfire just waiting for a spark. A spark Lana was eager to lay at the feet of Johannia.
The scene below was horrific. Lana had never seen the sights of war herself, but this is how she imagined it would be. Fires, thankfully still fairly small, dotted the city. Mostly churches, but several manors in the garden district were ablaze as well, and someone had evidently accidentally lit several smaller structures in the market on fire as well.
The masses writhed through the city, clustering around a few locations consistently but otherwise on the move. The Market was filled with looters and the Garden district was being hit hard - the people evidently deciding to take out their displeasure on the wealthy nobles. The bank of Nyhem was besieged, but the Ironbark guards seemed to be keeping them at bay, at least for the moment. There was a notable absence around her own Manor - her display of power had apparently been effective. She could see the banners of the Steel Fist merc company proceeding through the Field and Stone Districts, wooden staves in hand, displaying all their famed efficiency as they set about quelling the riot.
The final conspicuously empty place, however, was the courtyard before the Grand Temple. The stones there were slick with blood, and the waterways and drainage systems were already beginning to flow red. It was then she spotted yet another massacre just as the last rioters were being cut down - virtually on the steps of the Palace. Glistening plate armor and barded horses covered in gore could mean only one thing. Lycaon’s men were slaughtering the heretics wherever they found them. Even from on high, the sight horrified Lana to her core. Such bloodshed as she had never seen. The streets ran red with a river of blood - and already the harbor was taking on a crimson hue as it began to drain away. She could not imagine what it was like up close.
She decided she had seen enough, and began to swoop down towards the Palace. She spotted Duncan and Isabel atop the wall and vectored towards them, but changed course at the last moment when she spotted Lycaon emerge. Instead setting down out of sight, but within earshot, she remained in bird form and eavesdropped on the King’s conversation… As one sided as it was… With Lycaon.
When she heard Lycaon leave she flew back up and, landing several meters away from Duncan, re-assumed her normal form swiftly. “My King” She said, stepping towards him, barely stopping to hurriedly curtsy as she did. “The harbor runs red with Nyhem’s blood. The bank is besieged and the Bazaar is being looted. The garden district is suffering badly as well.” She wasted no time reporting what she had seen from the sky in a clipped tone that almost, but not quite, hid her horror at it all.
Despite his best efforts to calm himself, Duncan was still furious. However, his anger was now not only directed towards the riot, but towards the realisation that Lycaon had far more power than Duncan had previously thought. Now that he had killed the heretics, Lycaon had complete support of the people of Nyhem. A feat that the Duncan could only ever dream of. Right now the man was untouchable; even after committing a bloody massacre in the center of the city. If Duncan attempted to apprehend him then the people would be in an uproar. Lycaon's power was becoming a threat, and it was all of Duncan's own doing.
Duncan was surprised by the sudden appearance of Lanaya, however his surprise did nothing to cool his temper. "You think I don't see that" he snapped at Lanaya as he violently gestured towards the city "The entire city is burning right in front of me, or do you perhaps think I am blind"? He knew that Lanaya didn't warrant any of Duncan's fury. Right now he was simply venting his anger and Lanaya had been unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end.
Lana was taken aback by the sudden rage directed at her. She was only trying to help the King with accurate information, not rub in his apparent failure. “My King.” She began, her tone mild. “I think no such thing. Not all the city burns - already the Steel Fist begin to clean up the outer city. I can descend to the streets and subdue the populace as well, but I can only be in one place. Which would you have me prioritize?” She spoke as a humble servant, imploring him to direct, as was his role. Yet deep inside, an irrational anger began to flare.
Duncan paused for a moment as he tried to compose himself, to no avail. It was flaw both he and his siblings suffered; once his anger started it spread like wildfire "fly to the steel fist and order them to secure the garden and then proceed to Bazzar. And be quick about it" He shouted before mumbling "perhaps you might finally be of some use to the Concord".
Lana began to turn away and prepare her shifting spell again - it was an errand unworthy of her, yet it was the king's order. But when he called her worth to the concord into question, she whirled back around to face him. Who was he to question her value? Just a mundane with a fancy chair and circle of useless metal. When she spoke her voice was icy cold.
"My use to the Concord? Hah! My work will unite all of Formaroth, then force the Elven Imperium to acknowledge us as their equal."
Both Duncan and Isabel were taken aback by Lanaya's retort. Isabel was the first to reply "How dare you speak to you king in such a way" She shouted as she looked at her brother, expecting him to punish Lanaya for her insolence
"Your work" Duncan coldly laughed as he walked towards Lanaya slowly "The credit of your work doesn't even belong to you, it belongs to Aurelia. I would be careful making such bold claims for someone who is merely riding the coattails of her betters".
"You're right." Lana replied, cold fury overcoming her. What had been a heat of the moment retort now led to words of icy and hurtful intent. The Gem upon her breast flickered and glowed as she continued. "Aurelia was better than me. Better than all of us. You didn't deserve her. To think I ever encouraged her feelings for you. Madness."
Duncan's response was almost instant; without a second thought he punched Lanaya squarely in the face, breaking a couple fingers as he did. Duncan had never punched someone before and the sudden realisation of what he had just done was enough to bring him out of his anger. Even Isabel stood in shock at what had just occurred. It wasn't the first time she had seen Duncan anger but she had never seen him like this before.
Lana staggered back from the unexpected blow, her cheek stinging like fire. It hurt more than anything she could remember. She fell to one knee as she lost her balance and looked up at Duncan, stunned. She had never considered this a possibility, and for once, she was completely without words. All she could manage was to bring one hand up and gingerly touch her cheek where the blow had landed.
Duncan was stunned. It had been years since he had let his anger take control of him, and the last time it happened he had sworn he would never let it happen again. Duncan just stared at Lanaya, not with malevolence this time, but simply with shock unsure what to do or say. In the end Isabel was the one break the silence
"Consider yourself lucky, you deserved to executed for your vile words" Isabel said. She tried to sound confident though she was clear still shaken by Duncan's actions "Now do as your king commanded and be quick about it".
Lana barely heard Isabel’s words as she stood. If she had, it wouldn't have made much difference - she already despised the De Reimer sister. She turned and began to walk away half in a daze, still running her fingers over her cheek. It hurt so much… Yet really it was barely a noteworthy blow at all. It only hurt because she was so unused to such physical pain.
After a moment she gathered her wits about her again, and in the midst of wondering why she had done something so stupid, transformed back into a bird. She would do as the king said and inform the Steel Fist of their new orders.
As soon as the all powerful gem had come into her possession, Lana immediately began to consider ways to keep it safe but available at the same time. Eventually, she had come to the conclusion that it was most safe in only one place - on her person. And so, she set about arranging for it to be placed in a necklace for her to wear at all times. It was easy enough to commission a piece from one of the many jewelers in Nyhem, yet getting it done immediately instead of after the other projects the nobles and occasional well off commoner had commissioned before her was more difficult.
Yet coin solves many problems, and after she had showered her chosen jeweler in silver pieces, he brought forward the priority of her request. It was hard to give the gem to someone else, even for this, and even for such a short period of time. She found herself unwilling to leave the shop while the man worked, regularly bugging the Jeweler’s assistant for updates on his progress. It was quite rude and unbecoming behavior by her standards… Yet she hardly noticed she was doing it. All she could think about was the fact that some mundane fool was poking at the most potent magical artifact in the city without the first clue of how important it was.
Eventually, the man was done, and brought the necklace with the gem - a simple, unadorned piece that consisted only of a fine silver chain, a plain silver ring housing for the gem, and of course the gem itself. She quickly put it on, and only once she could feel the cold stone against her breast did she feel secure again. She paid the man without incident - giving him a frankly exorbitant sum for such plain work - and promptly left to attend to other business.
~| Some time late - Thale Manor |~
Lana had been studying much of late. Aurelia had kept many notes, and it had taken a great deal of time to get through them all… But she had finally done it. It had cost her time in court, and time frolicking amongst the waves or trees, yet despite the cost, it had been worth it. The gain in theoretical knowledge of the gem alone was significant. There was even more than that, Aurelia had had several projects running and independent research as well. Lana had devoured that knowledge too, but unfortunately some of the higher order theory was beyond even her. Despite being several years Aurelia’s senior, Lana had never quite kept up with her friend in theoretical research.
Time in her past spent politicking and accidentally creating myths of forest nymphs, mermaids and other such playful yet elusive creatures was not time spent studying. And even had she restricted her appetites for fun and manipulation in favor of study, she was no prodigy in high theory.
She reflected upon this as she began studying Drevala’s works - another mage who’s dedication and natural talent outstripped her own. Of course Lana had contributed a little to the Circle’s ever growing library and catalogue of magics… But she knew she would never be remembered for these meager cantrips or subtle mergings of illusion with other schools.
Her latest work, which she had found only the time to, with the aid of the Gem’s raw power, brute force into existence, was the merging of timed glyphs with short illusions. Replacing the stored elemental energy of a glyph with a static image or a short sound would be useful for communication, but without creating a method that could be easily replicated by others it was not even worth sending a letter to the local mages about, much less the Circle.
No. She would be remembered… But not for that.
As she leafed through Drevala’s book, she noticed something land on the small balcony outside her third floor room. Moving swiftly, but not so much as to look like she was hiding something, she closed the book and sheathed its drab cover in an illusion as she stood and moved to put it back on the shelf. When she noticed that the bird on the balcony was shape shifting not into a local colleague, but Drevala herself, she slowed. There was no need to hide the book from its author after all.
Drevala was, as usual after most non-combat shape shifts, completely naked. Lana immediately felt her cheeks and ears heating up - not so much at the sight itself, but at the idea of someone on the street below seeing a strange naked woman on her balcony. Thankfully, Drevala quickly opened the always-unlocked balcony door and entered the room. Lana only waited to put the book on the shelf before rushing to embrace her friend. Drevala returned the embrace, holding on longer than Lana expected. When she finally pulled away, she couldn’t help but notice that her friend looked… distant.
Stepping to the side and opening a draw with some of her travel clothes for the shape-shifting mage to put on, Lana spoke first. “My friend, it is good to see you. What news from the front?” There was concern, but also gladness, in her voice.
Drevala replied as she pulled the simple but warm clothes on. “Lana I… I’m afraid you will have one less new sister.” Drevala spoke softly - it seemed to Lana that she had not yet fully processed the loss.
“Beatrice has fallen in battle.” Lana said. It was not a question, for it was the only logical assumption under the circumstances.
“Yes.” Drevala replied unnecessarily. “The victory of our armies seems hollow when it comes at such cost.” It was strange for Lana to see her normally quietly exuberant friend looking so dejected.
Lana stepped forward and put her hand on her friends shoulder in a comforting gesture. She knew it must be hurting Drevala deeply to suffer such a loss, and her heart skipped a beat in concern for how Eli might be handling it. Yet she felt little over Beatrice herself; for Lana had barely known the, by all accounts, rather simple and brutish woman. “Drevala I’m so sorry. Who…” She hesitated a moment, wondering if this was the right question to ask, then pressed on anyway. “Who bested her? Was vengeance claimed at least?”
Drevala reached up to put her hand over Lana’s, glancing down at it for a moment, then stepping away and sitting on the end of the bed. “It was Andrew. He is relentless in his hatred of my family. Father was there too - he would’ve taken Andrew’s head, but was slowed as the coward sent his men to die for him on the Old Man’s blade. Andrew escaped certain doom many times that day.”
Lana poured two goblets of clear water as Drevala spoke, taking in the news. She handed one to her friend, then took the chair across across from her. “That man has caused your-” She stopped, then with a quick, halfhearted smile corrected herself. “Our family much sorrow. One day, he will pay for that. I promise you.” She let the words hang in air, her eyes taking on an unnatural fire to them for just a moment.
Drevala did not notice the vicious expression that momentarily overcame Lana’s face however, for she was staring into her own reflection on the surface of the water in the goblet. “Maybe if I had been faster…” she began, slowly.
Lana was no expert on grief or counseling those struck by it, but she knew that this line of thought would go nowhere good. “No. It was not your fault. If your father could not save her with all his might, then you would likely have had little chance either. Think no more of this.” After a brief moment she thought it better to move the topic on. “Tell me, what of the armies mage contingent? Were there injuries?”
Drevala looked up at Lana then, her expression pained. “Lana I’m sorry…” She said, her tone hesitant.
Lana’s face went pale then as her mind rushed through worst case scenarios. She was silent, but kept her gaze on Drevala, willing her friend to continue.
“Two thirds of the contingent were killed, and half of the survivors injured.” Drevala eventually managed, meekly.
It was all Lana could do to control the energy sparking at her fingertips - she gripped the arms of her chair to avoid her hands balling into fire wreathed fists. Suddenly the gem felt heavy on her breast. “Which fool allowed this disaster to occur?” She asked, her voice deathly quiet but filled with venom.
Drevala looked very uncomfortable, recoiling from the sight of her friends fury - a sight she had not witnessed before. Her hand fidgeted with the goblet and she avoided eye contact as she answered. “It was Patrick De Reimer. He deployed them to counter the Alliance Elephant charge. They did, but the enemies light cavalry overran them before they could withdraw. I tried to save them all, but the enemy was too fast.”
“De Reimer!” She stood abruptly, her voice raising several octaves. “Why didn’t Eli stop him from using such a dangerous tactic!” She near screeched, her rage boiling over. “Patrick! I’m going to -” Her voice broke and as she repeated her unformed threat the intensity dropped off sharply. For all the fire of her rage, it was short lived. She wanted to hate Patrick for his actions. She wanted to hate Eli for his inaction. Yet she could not escape the nagging truth - she had sent many of those mages to that battlefield herself.
When she looked at Drevala again she saw her friend recoiling back with a shocked, almost afraid, look on her face. The sight brought her sharply back to present. She forcibly relaxed every muscle in her body, then blinked in surprise as she felt tears rolling down her cheeks. “I’m sorry Drevala.” She said, dejected. She began to turn away, but stopped as Drevala stood and put her hand on Lana’s shoulder. Turning back, she stared for a moment, then tentatively took her friend into an embrace. She was relieved to feel arms around her back as Drevala returned the gesture.
Speaking softly, and without any emotion at all Lana could only say - “I hope this is all worth the price in the end.”
Drevala spoke then, her voice confident and reassuring now. “It’s alright. I’ve got you. We will all be alright.”
Lana and Drevala stood then for a long while, each taking solace in the arms of the other, grateful, even if for entirely different reasons...
“I’ll have another!” A man said loudly, but respectfully to a passing barmaid, waving his tankard at her as he did so. “Hey Jones!” He continued, apparently addressing his companion. “Did you see that fine lady down at the docks before?” He asked.
“What, the elf girl? A bit blue for my tastes.” The response from Jones sounded a little inebriated.
“No you moron. The ship she came in on. Real ocean going beauty from the elven lands. They don’t make ‘em like that here.”
“Sure.” Jones began, slurring his words, but obviously appreciating the sentiment all the same. “She was pretty, but my eye was on that mage ship… The cat- catam-” Jones grasped at the word, but was not able to find it until his companion corrected him.
“Yeah. That. Can you imagine sailing on one o’ them? I hear they can top fifty knots on a flat sea! It’d be like… like… being a bird!”
“Sure Jones, fifty knots. I think you’ve had one too many. Even the mages aren’t that good. But it was certainly a good looking boat. His majesties war galleys have got nothing on some of the ships in harbour today.”
Behind them, the doors opened - as they often did - but this time, for well armored guardsmen. Heads turned, but quickly went back to their drinks when it became clear the guards manor was casual. The sailor, however, stood from his chair, leaving Jones confused. “What, you got business with the law?”
“Yeah Jones, I sure do. Lucrative business at that.”
The guard, clad in green and gold livery, walked up to the pair at the bar. “You had something for me?” He asked, gruffly.
“If what I heard about that Magister woman paying people for sightings of little mages is true, then I sure do.”
The guard looked at him for a moment, then pulled a pouch off his belt. It jingled. “Magister Dionisa will see you rewarded if you have information leading to the rescue of children with magical talent. One silver now, and the rest of the bag once we’ve confirmed you aren’t messing us around.”
“How kind o’ you. I saw a little girl playing with what could only be a little ball of fire a few streets away - here let me show you where.” He said, pointing towards a map of the docks district that hung in pride of place on the wall. Then he held out his hand.
The guard dropped the silver piece into his hand, saying as he did so “The Magister thanks you for your service. We’ll be back with the rest if it's true.”
By this time, Jones had dragged himself up to stand next to his friend. “Oh I could think of a few ways she could thank us…” He slurred, earning an annoyed look from his far less drunken friend. The look said that the sailor had been thinking that, but was too bright to say it, weary of losing his coin to a guard that took exception with an insult of the lady’s honor.
The guards reply was droll as he turned away. “Don’t get your hopes up gents. You ain’t her type.”
With that, he turned and left the Inn as quickly as he’d arrived.
Captain Moros, of the House Thale guard, strode purposefully out of the seedy dockside tavern and into the street. He didn’t much like having to deal with the people in this part of the city, but it was necessary for the job. And the job was far better than any of the alternatives. He’d rather be searching Nyhem for young mages than fighting on the front in the war. This one was far safer, and he had to admit that he did feel a bit of pride and almost fatherly protectiveness when they did manage to save some of the less well off kids.
He motioned to the two men accompanying him to follow as he began down the street. This had been a solo job originally… But then the Manor had been all but attacked by an angry mob. Since then, the Magister had ordered groups of three or more to be assigned to this task - just in case they had to save someone from the stake.
A few minutes down the street Moros caught sight of something. Faintly glowing witch-light from around a corner - a sure sign that who he was looking for was close. He made haste towards the light, unslinging his shield from his back while he did so, just in case the child was caught by surprise and threw a firebolt at him. It was unlikely, but one of the more gifted ones had done that before.
He was just about to turn the corner when he heard a scream of surprise and shock ahead of him. He wasted no time, surging around the corner before bracing his whole body and angling his shield down - just as the Magister had taught him. He was expecting some kind of magical carnage. What faced him was all too mundane in nature, yet no less horrifying for it.
In the narrow street, four cloaked and hooded men loomed large. The rear two seemed to be in the process of restraining a young girl - one held her from behind in a bear hug while the other tried to push a sack over her head - being held at bay only by her wildly flailing legs. The others were standing nearby, keeping a lookout down the street.
“Keep her still.” The one with the sack said angrily. His voice was smooth and his words proper, his accent marking him clearly as a Nyhem native. “I’m trying boss.” The one holding her replied, his voice much gruffer and more guttural. “They found us!” One of the others shouted, again in a rough voice, as he caught sight of Moros and the other Thale guards.
Moros rushed forward, drawing his sword as he did so. For a moment there was indecision between the four criminals, the leader seeming to want the rest to carry the girl away anyway, while the rest seemed to wanted to run. That was just the opportunity Moros needed, as he leapt forward at the closest hooded figure, shield held close to his shoulder. Slamming into the man before he could brace, Moros’ shield tackle sent his target sprawling. The man that had been holding the girl dropped her and turned to flee, the girl managing to land unsteadily on all fours.
Rather than give chase, as the city guard might have done, Moros stood protectively over the young girl, staring down the posh sounding sack man. Next to him, the other Thale guards briefly fought the remaining criminals, quickly gaining the upper hand due to their training and equipment, thoroughly outmatching the criminals, whose primary goal had apparently been stealth.
The criminal leader seemed to reach for his weapon, but then, behind Moros, the sound of running boots could be heard. A City guard patrol, drawn by the commotion, came around the corner and upon seeing the House Thale heraldry, immediately stood by Moros’ side. Now outnumbered by better equipped me, the criminals chose to cut their losses and run, the leader grudgingly choosing not to draw his weapon at all. The other guards gave chase, but the criminals were quick on their feet and escaped into the dying light.
It was then that Moros put away his sword and knelt before the young girl, though his stature meant he was still looking down at her.
“Thank you mister.” She said sheepishly, seemingly still unsure of the intent of her apparent saviour.
Moros put on a smile and replied “Just doing my job lass. Did those men say anything about why they wanted you?”
She stared for a moment, then shook her head. It wasn’t very convincing. Moros spoke again, trying to keep his tone as reassuring and friendly as possible.
“Is it because you have the gift of magic?”
Again, a sheepish look, but this time defensive as well.
“It’s alright lass… I work for Magister Dionisa, who works for the King. My name is Moros. What’s yours?”
She seemed to relax a little then. Whether it was because the King was mentioned, or because it was calming to be exchanging names, Moros wasn’t sure, but the result was welcome all the same.
“Miriam… But my friend call me Miri.”
Moros nodded. “You’re very brave Miriam. Do you have any parents?”
She looked a little distant then. “My Ma is dead… My Da went away on a ship a long time ago.”
Moros wasn’t terribly surprised, and while it was sad, he was also relieved, because it would make his job a lot easier. “I’m sorry.” He replied immediately, by way of formality, before moving towards his real goal. “Would you like a chance to meet a new family? My mistress, Magister Dionisa, sent me to look for you. She is very interested to meet you. You could come and meet her tonight if you want, at Thale manor up in the noble district. There is more food there than you can imagine, and the softest of soft beds.” He held a gloved hand out to her then.
For a moment she looked scared, seeming to think things over. But this lawman had saved her, and she had very little to lose. After a moment, she seemed to make up her mind. Putting her hand in his and nodding.
When Captain Moros and Miriam arrived at the manor, both Dominus Thale and Lady Dionisa were waiting for them. Evidently, word had gotten back to them of the evening's events.
“Ah! Moros! My good man! Tell me of your travels! And who is this?” Dominus bellowed in his enthusiastic, good natured voice.
“My Lord. My Lady.” He nodded to Dominus, then Lanaya. “This is Miriam. A young mage from the docks.” The girl scowled up at Moros for so blatantly revealing her secret, but upon noticing Lanaya’s face lighten, seemed less concerned. Evidently that was not quite the response she had grown accustomed to.
He looked down to the young girl, who was still clutching his hand fiercely, and spoke “This is Magister Dionisa, a great and powerful mage from the Circle, and advisor to the king.” Lana held out a delicate hand to Miriam then.
“I’ve been looking forward to this. Come, let me show you something.” Lanaya spoke with a warmness Moros had only heard in her voice rarely, and never to him or the other servants. He had to tear his eyes away from her, as usual. He wasn’t normally so easily entranced by beautiful women, but the Magister always had a touch of the fey about her, an otherworldly glamour that demanded attention beyond what her physical features might otherwise command.
Fixing his eyes firmly on his Liege-Lord, he began to report the evenings events, in order. As he did so, the two females stepped off to the side. Every so often there was a flicker of witch-light as a minor magical display was put on. Moros presumed it was the Magister’s way of helping to let the young mage feel more secure and comfortable talking about the subject.
When he came to recount the events of the apparent attempted kidnapping of Miriam, he noted movement out of the corner of his eye. Lanaya’s flowing crimson hair shifting as she turned her ear to their conversation more pointedly, even as she continued speaking in hushed tones with the young girl.
When he completed his report, Dominus clapped him on the shoulder and said “Another job well done Captain. Excellent.”
Moros turned away, a satisfied smile on his face, but then stopped. “My Lord, there is one other thing. One of the thugs… the one who sounded like a noble… Something about his voice and his posture. It seemed… Familiar. I cannot place a name, but I swear I must have met this one before, without his cloak or deceptions.”
“Interesting. Yes very interesting.” Dominus said thoughtfully. “Inform me immediately if you recall a name to fit our mysterious attacker. We cannot have children being abducted off the streets… And by a noble no less!”
Moros nodded, then, with a wave to the young girl, left the room. His job was done today, it was now up to the great and powerful to figure out what came next.
Alice hated Nyhem. The city was too loud, crowded and no matter where she went there was always some sort of unpleasant smell. Had she the choice she would have continued her research in Cawaport. However certain matters here required her immediate attention and she couldn’t afford to leave them be. Alice was currently making her way towards Thale manor where magister Lanaya Dionisa resided, though the meeting had be planed to take place at midday Alice had chosen to leave at night so as to avoid the crowded streets. Now that Aurelia was dead Lady Dionisa was the newest member of the high council, but more importantly she had inherited all of Aurelia’s research regarding Alice’s work. This meeting would decide whether Lanaya would be more of a help or hinderance to her work. As Alice approached the door she signalled for the two Cawanori soldiers that had accompanied her to wait outside, she then made her way over to the door before knocking a single, incredibly hard, knock on the door.
The maidservant - Mary - opened the door, flanked by a house Thale guard. She was surprised to see this guest at this time, but showed her in all the same, past the Knight of St. Elenor, who still faithfully stood guard in the hall. She led Alice into the manor and up the flights of stairs to third floor - which was dominated by Lanaya’s room. A short knock on the door followed by an announcement of Alice’s presence - then silence.
On the other side of the door, Lana was caught unprepared, not expecting this meeting at this time. She wondered briefly if this was a tactic from Alice to achieve some unknown end, but quickly dismissed the thought as she cast the usual glamour of a courtly gown over the warm nightdress she wore.
As she walked to the door she quickly ran through what she had been able to read of Aurelia’s notes. The discovery was fascinating - yet she couldn’t help but feel key elements of the project were undocumented in the notes she had. There was no way such a thing was accidental - if Alice and Aurelia had wanted people to take the project seriously they would have to have had everything recorded for peer review. She had questions… But she wouldn’t be so blunt as to begin with them.
She opened the door and waved Alice in. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. I was not expecting guests at this time of night. Is there something amiss? To have you arrive so early?” Her tone was respectful, and only slightly concerned. After all, she was speaking to a High Magister.
Before responding, Alice took a long detailed look around the room. Judging from the amount of parchments and scrolls that were piled on Lanaya’s table, it would appear that the magister was a very busy woman.
“Nothing is amiss” She said as she continued to look around the room “I simply thought it I would save us both time and get this meeting sooner rather than later” At this she finally made eye contact with Lanaya “So you are the one who has inherited the late High Magister Aurelia’s work. My condolences, I was informed you were close” Though she offered sympathies her voice was without emotion and almost distant.
“Thank you.” Lana said, subtly relaxing at the news that nothing was wrong. “Her passing was a great blow to me… But I will not let my grief get in the way of this research.” Lana noted Alice’s simple appearance - a plain dress and the simple, tidy arrangement of her hair. It was evident Alice cared little for the fashion of Nyhem, but that was hardly a surprise. Most mages were interested in research first and keeping up appearances a distant second. Lana kept up her illusion anyway.
“I have read most of Aurelia’s notes. This is truly a fascinating discovery.” Lana couldn’t stop a small degree of schoolgirl excitement slipping into her voice despite everything. This could change the world after all.
“Of course it is” Alice said as if Layana had just stated the obvious “For years Formaroth has neglected magical study and as a result we a far behind any magic found in the Imperium. With this power we could finally rival the mages of the Imperium, a feat I am most proud of being a part of.” Alice took a pause as she eyed a fruit bowl atop a table. Without saying another word Alice strode over to the bowl before helping herself to a apple. She took one large clumsy bite out of it before continuing “Now that you have taken Aurelia’s position am right in assuming you have inherited her quarters in the keep”? She said with her mouth still full.
“I have…” Lana replied cautiously. She was still getting the measure of the other mage. So far she could tell Alice was blunt, perhaps to the point of rudeness - yet it didn’t bother her nearly as much as it might’ve had Alice been a mundane. Her voice took on a slight steel edge as she spoke again, turning towards the political reasoning of her actions over the emotional ones. “I prefer my current location however, at least for now. I have enough suspicion leveled at me already without moving into her quarters in the castle right away.”
Eager to move away from the still painful subject of her departed friend though, she latched on to something else Alice had said. “Of course we are behind the Imperium. Our kings have allowed the burning of mages and the destruction of precious arcane lore for hundreds of years. Court mages are lucky to be treated as anything more than glorified entertainers across the majority of Formaroth. How can we keep pace with Elven research when the average mage must worry about survival and basic rights instead of research?”
“Glad you see sense on this matter, many of the other High Magisters have dismissed my comments and have continued to keep their research limited to the circle. Squandering the true potential of us mages.” Alice said as she took another bite of the apple “Fortunately now that those ignorant Remonnets are off the throne we actually have a family that gives a damn about magic. A surprising turn of events, though I suppose it is to be expected from a family that has a history of magic.” Alice paused as she realized what she had said “Though if you're asked you didn’t hear that from me.”
Lana’s eyes lit up at the mention of the De Reimer’s apparent magical lineage. That was extremely valuable knowledge. It seemed that Alice’s disdain for courtly demeanour had a useful upside as well, in the form of a less guarded tongue.
“A welcome turn of events all the same. Alas, Aurelia’s death robbed us of a significant political coup. His majesty was quite smitten with her, and she reciprocated the feeling. She’d’ve been queen within the year I expect.” Breaking it down into the political reality made it easier to discuss without feeling a little hollow inside.
“But the future is looking up for our kind. Myself and a number of other mages across Formaroth are working towards the establishment and enforcement of proper law to protect and eventually empower mages. A Mage's Collective… If you will… That seeks to play the nobles own game against them. Does such a thing interest you?” Lana was wasting no time in ramping up her rhetoric. Alice already seemed to share her views, and if she could secure the High Magisters support, it would do much to aid the legitimacy of her group both inside and outside of the mage community.
Alice’s eye’s shot up as Lanaya talked about how Aurelia and Duncan were lovers, She quickly averted her eyes before replying. “Indeed I have heard of your mages collective and I must say it has peaked my interest. If you allow me I would be most interested in joining your group.”
Lana noted Alice’s reaction carefully, though it was not far from the expected. It was a surprise to most people to find out the relationship between the former High Magister and the King. Both were very private people after all. Still, it wasn’t pure surprise Lana had seen, and that bore further investigation. Yet, for now, she was simply happy that Alice was on her side - and without so much as a single justification beyond the initial one.
“Excellent. Your support, even if you do not act directly at all, is a significant boon to my… or rather, our - cause. We will see magic brought to its proper place in Formaroth soon enough. But here I am talking politics - that isn’t why you came all the way to Nyhem. Let us speak of the gem. What can I do to assist you?” By now, Lana’s initial trepidation at meeting a superior mage had passed. She was returning to her usual demeanour, confident that she was the superior politician and conversationalist.
“Right now I wish for you to continue with Aurelia’s work” She said once again making eye contact with Lanaya “While I have managed to create the gem I haven’t been able to test it’s true capabilities” At this Lanaya reached into her pocket and produced a small locked box. She fumbled around with the lock for a bit before finally opening it. Inside was the red gem that Alice had been speaking about “I want you to test this and let me know everything of use; how powerful it is, how long it lasts and whether there are any potential weaknesses”.
“I’d be honored to…” Lana said, reaching for the box with the gem. Her initial surprise at being so directly integrated into this project did not last a moment, giving way to thoughts of the power that would be at her fingertips when she had that gem. Taking the box and cradling it in her hands, she looked up at Alice again. “Are there any dangers we are expecting? Or other aspects I will not find in Aurelia’s notes?”
Alice paused for a moment before she answered with a clear “No, none at all. Now I don’t wish to waste anymore time, unless you have anything else to ask me I must be on my way” “Nothing else springs to mind…” Lana said, looking down at the gem once more. “A servant will show you out. It was good to meet you High Magister.” She spoke the platitudes absently, still trying to fully process what had just occurred. The amount of power and knowledge that she now held in this room was staggering.
There is never any harm in backing things up of course. Just from a server perspective, there are many fewer things that can go wrong compared to previously... I don't recall details though, it was a while since that happened and equally long since I looked at the details.
Guildfall was an unfortunate event in which the servers that this website runs on suffered catastrophic failure. The Guild was down for a few months and much of the old material was lost. Its actually happened twice since I've been on the guild, but Mahz has things sorted out since those days, so we shouldn't have to worry about it happening again.