Aednadh sat thoughtfully by the fireside, studying the correspondence from King Atanamir with a rueful smile as she sipped her brandy. The doings of Perdan held a special place in the heart of this youngest daughter of House Dubhaine, and not just for the natural distaste she felt towards a people so obsessed with their self-importance that they named it religion. Oh how this dog Atanamir would pay, the very hound who besmirched her mother's name and with his master Jor had compassed the ruin of her childhood home. Nor had that most ancient of blood debts been forgotten, the treachery which had overtaken Fontan and fuelled the northern war for a generation. Aye, many a brave man and many a brave elf had fallen in that conflict, and all so the dogs of Perdan could plant their heathen seed north of the Bescannon.
But there stood above all this a towering debt. The spilt blood which screamed for full and unremitting justice, at thought of which a cold fury hardened her heart and flowed like ice water through her veins.
Oh how well Aednadh remembered that dread day. The day when glory had sanctified her mother, standing at the last alone before the ruined gate of Krimml as she purchased enduring fame with her life's blood. The young squire had watched from the relative safety of the inner barbican, guarded by the hulking frame of Yfain. Her mother had wanted to send her away before the siege began but she'd refused with the characteristic stubbornness of the fuil Dubhaine and Yfain had sworn that whilst he lived, so should she. Thus she remained, to bear witness to the senseless carnage of that bloody siege.
There Rhidhana stood undaunted,
A General without an army,
Spurned by the highborn who brought Fontan low.
There upon the green sward of Alexi's folly
Where the first fruits of treason were sown
A defiant Lioness she roused herself.
Before the gathered legions she bared her breast,
Unflinching in life and unyielding in death.
Even there amidst the carrion she stood uncowed
And in her dying breath was a terror to behold.
Proud amongst the lowborn she did her duty,
Calm amongst her sword kin in the face of death,
And within that ring of shaft and steel was courage sovereign
To be sung of ever more!
Waves unnumbered sought to break that ragged line,
The chivalry of the shattered gate
Who in that act of sacrifice secured their nobility.
Whilst one yet lived the way was barred
From the rising of the sun in hopeful splendour
To its mournful setting in a pool of blood.
How their mighty bow staves thrummed
Hour upon bloody hour the black-feathered shafts took wing.
Oh glorious the report of that valiant band,
Their quivers emptied they purposed with stave and blade
To surrender not that day
Though death himself contest the way.
They who stood in honour against fair Elven host
Showed no less measure of dignity
Arrayed though they were against foul minions of hell.
Assured that their suffering would one day be repaid
In fullest measure of northern wrath,
They staunched their courage in blood's acrid liquor.
In the thickest of the fighting pressed Aednadh's dame,
Rhidhana of the gold-spun mane.
As the sun fled westerly she cast aside her Lion helm
Her blonde locks burning a vivid flame.
The wolf's head blade drank deep and fell,
Sharp Lannceann MacTiré of the slakeless thirst.
Oh woe to thee servants of Jor,
Your doom is sealed!
May thy flesh perish before that blade is once more drawn,
The day when Rhidhana's vengeance is due!
"The Lioness at Sunset" a eulogy by Fernic of Negev
Alas the memory of her mother's enduring fame was cold comfort to Aednadh, whose eyes had witnessed first-hand the bestial and unremitting carnage of that bloody day. The blank, staring faces of the Westmoor foot as their officers drove them forward with whips. The haughty blasphemies of the priests who marched behind them, hollow paeons to Humanity issuing from their profane lips. And aloof in their train the vultures of Perdan. Had the sun not fled in shame at the horrors it witnessed that day, the gate would surely have fallen and all within been butchered.
Under the cover of darkness Aednadh and Yfain had joined the small party which slipped from the city to recover the fallen, hoping against hope that some of that brave band might yet live. Indeed even that her mother might though some miracle have survived in a swoon. Instead they found the fallen General hemmed in on all sides by the corpses of her enemies, and though her body lay bloody and broken her face was tranquil and untouched as if in death all the cares of mortal flesh had at the last been set to one side.
Yfain tenderly wrapped Rhidhana's body in her tattered colours, the quartered Lion and Sunburst, and carried her back to the relative safety of the city much as a father might nurse his sleeping daughter to the safety of her bed. Never in all the years that he'd stood guardian of Aednadh's life, nor those of her dame and grand dame, had that fearsome giant blanched. But on that day his face was ashen and his eyes wet with sorrow as he carried that most precious burden to her temporary rest.
In the following days Krimml paid a terrible price for her continued defiance of the Theocrat and his allies, the death of noble Basilius compounding the woe of a people betrayed by their own Chancellor and his sycophants. For Aednadh these were bleak days, too young to wield a sword in defence of her people and wracked by guilt that she couldn't die by her mother's side...
'"You're looking grim lass," Yfain's voice broke her reverie as he hunkered down across the campfire.
"It seems war will soon be upon us," she passed him a sheaf of parchments, and sipped thoughtfully whilst he scanned the contents.
"This has Jor's stench all over it. Let's hope that this time he's overreaching himself."
"I hope so. My mother's blood screams for vengeance, as does that of all the martyrs of Krimml."
"And vengeance she'll have lass. Vengeance she'll have."