Difference between revisions of "Dubhaine Family/Aibhlidhn"
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! Age !! Class !! Honour !! Prestige !! Swordfighting !! Jousting !! Leadership || Spellcasting
! Age !! Class !! Honour !! Prestige !! Swordfighting !! Jousting !! Leadership || Spellcasting
| 47 || W/C ||
| 47 || W/C || || 48 || 44 || 40 || 70 || 16
! colspan="4"| FAME
! colspan="4"| FAME
Revision as of 13:14, 14 February 2020
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Background
- 3 Appearance
- 4 Personality
- 5 Stats
- 6 Unique Items
- 7 Career
- 8 Household
- 9 Commands
- 10 Battles
- 11 Personal Journal
- 11.1 January 1018, Against The Rainbow Alliance
- 11.2 March 1018, Against The Rainbow Alliance
- 11.3 April 1018, Against The Rainbow Alliance
- 11.4 May 1018, Against The Rainbow Alliance
- 11.5 4th May
- 11.6 August 1018, Hordes of Darkness
- 11.7 December 1018, All Besieged
- 11.7.1 5th December -- Daytime in Jyl
- 11.7.2 5th December -- Evening in Lloringel
- 11.7.3 7th December -- Evening in Fronepu
- 11.7.4 8th December -- Evening in Fronepu
- 11.7.5 18th December -- Evening in Seven Rivers
- 11.7.6 25th December -- Day in Bisana
- 11.8 February 1019, To Hold Agyr
- 11.9 March 1019, To Hold Agyr
- 11.10 April 1019
- 11.10.1 5th April -- Summer Day Jyl
- 11.10.2 10th April -- Summer Evening Baqua
- 11.10.3 13th April -- Summer Evening Baqua
- 11.10.4 15th April -- Summer Day Baqua
- 11.10.5 16th April -- Summer Evening Gethsemene
- 11.10.6 17th April -- Summer Day Gethsemene
- 11.10.7 18th April -- Summer Day Sniika
- 11.10.8 18th April -- Summer Evening Sniika
- 11.10.9 19th April -- Summer Day Sniika
- 11.10.10 24th April -- Summer Evening Jyl
- 11.10.11 30th April -- Summer Evening Qrelg
- 11.11 May 1019
- 11.11.1 1st May -- Summer Day Qrelg
- 11.11.2 1st May -- Summer Evening Xhahgus
- 11.11.3 8th May -- Summer Day Xhahgus
- 11.11.4 18th May -- Summer Day Keffa
- 11.11.5 18th May -- Summer Night Keffa
- 11.11.6 19th May -- Summer Day Keffa
- 11.11.7 23rd May -- Summer Day Sniika
- 11.11.8 27th May -- Summer Day Sniika
- 11.12 June 1019
- 11.12.1 5th June -- Summer Evening Tepmona
- 11.12.2 19th June -- Summer Day Gethsemene
- 11.12.3 21st June -- Summer Evening Hirzmet
- 11.12.4 26th June -- Summer Day Hirzmet
- 11.12.5 27th June -- Summer Evening Hirzmet
- 11.12.6 30th June -- Summer Day Haji
- 11.13 August 1019
- 11.13.1 1st August -- Summer Evening Mekoter
- 11.13.2 2nd August -- Summer Day Mekoter
- 11.13.3 8th August -- Summer Day Gethsemene
- 11.13.4 29th August -- Summer Evening -- Bil Havil
- 11.13.5 30th August -- Summer Day Tepmona
- 11.13.6 31st August -- Summer Day Tepmona
- 11.14 September 1019
- 11.15 October 1019
- 11.16 November 1019
- 11.17 December 1019
- 11.18 January 1020
- 11.18.1 9th January -- Summer Day Rengo
- 11.18.2 17th January -- Summer Tepmona
- 11.18.3 24th January -- Summer Evening Tepmona
- 11.18.4 28th January -- Summer Day Fronepu
- 11.18.5 29th January -- Summer Day Fronepu
- 11.18.6 29th January -- Summer Evening Fronepu
- 11.18.7 30th January -- Summer Evening Fronepu
- 11.18.8 31st January -- Summer Evening Fronepu
- 11.19 February 1020
A name in the archaic Fontanese tongue Aibhlidhn means hoped for or long sought. Hence Aibhlidhn's full name means "hope delivered to the women of dark countenance".
As with all the line of Moira she has the powerful, sinewy frame of a seasoned warrior. The midnight-jet of Aibhlidhn's hair grows thick and long, framing a strong face with high cheekbones and a commanding demeanour. Her amber eyes rival the piercing stare of a hawk or eagle when she's angered though at other times they sparkle with a good-natured humour.
Aibhlidhn's wargear is modest for a reigning Queen, modelled after that of her Royal Fusileers. A plain kettle helmet adorned with a simple coronet distinguishes her rank whilst her body is protected by a steel corselet over a scarlet arming jacket made of quilted silk with a reinforced leather core. A steel gorget protects her throat and matching bracers guard her forearms.
An archer's sword hangs from her girdle, light but deadly with two razor sharp edges and a curved guard for blocking attacks, and a poignard runs horizontal across her back for use at closer quarters or as a parrying blade. However her main weapon is the Agyrian Fusil, a recurve bow fashioned from a single length of flintwood (hence the name fusil) run through an adjustable grip, paired with a quiver of matching bodkins. Flintwood is found mostly in the forests of northern Agyr, a black hardwood, light as ashwood but rigid with a translucent sheen which when properly worked by a master craftsman is strong and flexible like steel.
At court Queen Aibhlidhn favours linens and light gowns of bright brocade or dazzling silks whilst for State Occasions she wears the magnificent Royal Diadem of Ar Agyr and bearskin robes of Kingly Office over the scarlet dress tunic and hose of her Royal Fusileers.
Aibhlidhn stands highest in martial virtue of all the House of Dubhaine, a cavalier since her youth who has never turned from honourable battle and risked her life more than once in duels with other nobles. Although by nature a peacemaker Aibhlidhn is a cunning and implacable foe when war is unavoidable and her force of will is such that the small professional army of Ar Agyr has earned glory throughout Beluaterra far beyond its size.
Beluaterra has been plagued by Daimon Invasions for generations and Aibhlidhn is fully committed to defeating the Lords of the Nether once and for all. To this purpose she will intervene wherever she detects infernal interference whatever its nature and she enjoys a close relationship with her great grandmother Moira who is a shadowy influence at her court.
Strangely for a woman so driven by a higher calling, Aibhlidhn's manner is often light-hearted and during rare hard-won periods of peace she's a patron of the arts, of literature, and of scientific learning. Scholars and explorers of all sorts are welcome at her court and she's widely read in her own right, able to discuss the finer points of alchemy and philosophy and the natural sciences.
The following scores are based on anecdotal evidence.
|Cruel Ring of Melhed||Ring||03.10.1019||+5|
|Cruel Coat of Tyranny||Armour||04.10.1019||+6||+8% Infiltration|
|Vial of Scherzer's Ashes||Accessory||+9||+26% Spellcasting|
|1015||August||Knight of Sirion|
|November||Baroness of Tabost|
|December||Dame of Ar Agyr|
|Banker of Ar Agyr|
|1017||June||Dame of Fronepu|
|September||Countess of Tepmona|
|Marshal of The Angry Agyrian Army|
|October||General of Ar Agyr|
|1018||April||Queen of Ar Agyr|
|1019||January||Duchess of Avalon|
|February||Duchess of Havilmark|
|Morag||Lady of the Privy Chamber|
|Dubhaine Guards||Army of Sirion||Linus
|Republican Guard||Army of Sirion||Erman
|Ironsides||Angry Agyrian Army||Dietrich
|27 + 3||C||53||90||45||0||91||24||430||100||+Chummily Brewery
|Rengo Fusileers||Angry Agyrian Army||Fosten
|Rengo Fusileers||Angry Agyrian Army||Ulfman
|Royal Fusileers||Angry Agyrian Army||Caedberga
January 1018, Against The Rainbow Alliance
A mysterious portal is opened within the borders of the Shattered Vales and five undead armies in rainbow shades are unleashed upon the south. Aibhlidhn leads the West March of the Angry Agyrian Army to assist, joining decisive battles in Sandlakes and stopping a major incursion in Drinilla.
March 1018, Against The Rainbow Alliance
16th March -- Morning
Aibhlidhn established a beachhead in Wheling for amphibious landings by the West March of the Angry Agyrian Army.
22nd March -- Evening
The armies of Ar Agyr and Shattered Vales were ambushed in Cjelorg by a phantom army of monsters and undead totalling 108K CS.
April 1018, Against The Rainbow Alliance
The Shattered Vales have lost control of the coastal landings so Aibhlidhn launches a TO in Ketampkin to establish a beachhead for future campaigns.
May 1018, Against The Rainbow Alliance
3rd May -- Evening in Ketampkin
Goriad II Gabanus
Goriad had had a long travel behind him coming from Fheuvenem, but he had been hearing rumors of Ar Argyr forces in Ketampkin and as such he wished to arrive before they would leave. When he finally arrived he saw a big camp outside of the main village that flew many different banners. "Good, Sigmund it seems we got in time, that sure looks like Ar Argyr banners doesn't it?" The man standing next to him nodded "It sure is milord, so what now?"
"The horses are tired Sigmund, we go in to greet them of course. I still have an open invitation by Aibhlidhn, better use it."
And so the two men rode towards the main gate of the pallisade eracted around the camp and Sigmund dismounted his horse to announce his Lord: "Grand Herald Goriad II wishes entry. I have an ivitation by your ruler, although she is not yet expecting him."
The soldier in battle-stained armour who stood solitary guard at the gate of the hastily erected rampart eyed Sigmund and Goriad suspiciously, sucking air through his teeth and rubbing his chin with a heavily calloused hand. It'd been a tough day for the Angry Agyrians, a red day, a killing day, a day of notched blades and broken bowstaves.
"You look lively enough," he surmised, "Go on through, you can't miss Queen Aibhlidhn's pavilion. It's the one with two standards outside."
The banners of half-a-dozen Agyrian Great Houses fluttered in the light breeze, each marking a pavilion and it's cluster of soldiers' tents, and at the centre of the encampment the Arms of Ar Agyr and the Scarlet Saltire of Clan Dubhaine.
It was clear as the pair rode through the camp towards the Queen's Pavilion that the Angry Agyrians had recently fought - and lost - a pitched battle. Women bustled from bivouac to bivouac, camp followers nursing the wounded and the dying. Here and there a burial detail drawn from the few uninjured warriors bore the corpses of their fallen shield-brethren to the waiting funeral pyres, their faces sombre as they carried out their grim task.
And when they reached the Queen's Pavilion they found Aibhlidhn and her knights in conference, not a single one of them unmarred.
Evening — Ketampkin
Goriad II Gabanus
When Goriad II entered the camp it looked like a warzone and he could not help but smirk.
"Aibhlidhn," he said as he saw what must've been the Queen "Welcome to the south. You've come at a strange time, although from the looks of it you already found that out," a slight grin appeared on his face.
"The great undead and monster hordes of the south are collectively moving up. I've learned that it were the daemons who raised these hordes during the invasion to keep the south chained. But now they're moving up. I believe the recent attempt of opening a door to the Netherworld in Ardmore may have somehow broken their magical chains keeping them south. We can only be glad that the daemon magic could not hold steady in Ardmore and the portal collapsed. I can explain you why that happened, but I've spoken long enough."
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet in person Goriad,” Aibhlidhn’s wry smile and informal attire - a half-buckled arming jack and armoured hose - spoke of a Queen well used to the vicissitudes of war, “I trust your journey hasn’t been too fatiguing. Would you care for refreshments?”
A page appeared unbidden from the Queen’s pavilion bearing a jug of wine and several pewter cups.
August 1018, Hordes of Darkness
17th August -- Daytime in Marpii
Bad Weather? Good Weather?
Beluaterra rumbles. Sand dunes shift shape and the seas withdraw from the coasts. Landslides careen down mountain slopes. Stormclouds gather above. The thunder rolls. Lightning flashes through the sky, striking the ground. The wind whips through Beluaterra, bringing salty sea smells to central Beluaterra. Peasants claim to see a fierce face within the clouds. Nonsense, obviously. The rumours still surge throughout the commoners. Bovine look confused. Priests at the local temple offer sanctuary. False oracles prophesy that all is well. Sheep are on edge.
In Hcallow, Tahgalez, Kording, and Watersdown, five adventurers find themselves the target of lightning strikes originating from the beam of portal energy as their portal stones attract the magical-electricity. When the portal stones are struck, they erupt. In small explosions for Herbert 'The HalfBreed' and Sabre. In moderate explosions for Khamul and Jane. In a large explosion for Conugo.
Meanwhile in Rummannen, Mordok is enjoying a campfire in the middle of the day. Why? I don't know. Perhaps the dark clouds? Ask him why he has a campfire mid-day. Anyway, Jayne is hoping her laundry finishes drying on a clothesline in Glongin before its too late. And Aaron is napping away outside in Pequad, apparently sleeping through all the lightning.
None are prepared when the clouds above finally gush forth, causing flash floods throughout the land. Flash floods that sweep thousands of undead and hundreds of monsters away into the sea. Flash floods that miraculously fail to cause damage to human lands. This time peasants claim to have seen a gentle face within the waters. There's always new peasant nonsense.
The rains cease; the floods dissipate. Winds calm. Silence reigns. Ominous clouds part. The crickets cautiously begin their chorus. Bovine and sheep resume grazing. The seas return to the beach. The landslides do not move back up the mountain.
17th August -- Evening in Fronepu
Rumours spread that inside Castle Iato the great hall had been requisitioned by The Imperial Alchemists, and it had seen a hive of activity for many weeks. Pinned to a board against the feasting table was a check list for collecting portal stones of which only 6 had been ticked off, but most activity centred round competing projects presented across the hall. A model of the continent had been created initially to test various migratory theories but was then adopted as a testing board for competing plans for what to do with the stones; schemes to be supplemented by the amassed skills of the proudest alchemists in the land.
One team had studied exclusively on the core subject of transmuting base metals into gold, some of which would hopefully have been spent fighting the rogues but which it was more often argued should be spent on refining the process of turning base metals into gold.. Others had looked at brewing blessed concoctions to protect the Vales’ most besieged city with enchanted defences, but this group too were divided by those looking at bolstering defences with great vats of brimstone broth or greek-fire and those looking to enchant the stones of the walls themselves. The third group had squabbled over an elixir of life to be blessed by the portal to either enchant a champion or great weapon destined to be the saviour of the land. All factions competed bitterly for Imperial patronage believing their personal projects alone could prove the answer to the plague of monsters.
As the dramatic events of the great tidal surge unfolded, the simplicity of the solution began to sink in and the senior alchemist poured a simple jug of water over the model to simulate the effect of the monsters being swept away. Yes, water that ought to work he thought sweeping away the complex apparatus he had been working on until now.
And so the great assembly of alchemists were dismissed back to their private studies. Towards the back of the room the would-be gold transmuting alchemists began packing away their project with greatest care.. we were so close to a break through their scholar cursed to himself!
December 1018, All Besieged
5th December -- Daytime in Jyl
Mara and Captain Margarita rode on horseback entering Jyl. The fog was just lifting from the warmth of the sun.
Captain Margarita wore worn leather armor that was nothing special and carried an assortment of weapons. One weapon in particular was a crescent blade, all black, with a gold dragon breathing flames from the hilt up the blade. She carried a mediocre bow and quiver on her back and the other weapons were covered up but you could easily tell there were a couple of swords.
The Queen wore her normal traveling attire of black cloak and a scarf that hid most of her face. One eye green and the other covered with an eye patch. Perhaps she suffered a gruesome injury which is the reason why her face is covered. The only weapon visible was a bow of ordinary quality.
They entered Jyl on the main road from across the bridge to the north and hoped they would be successful this time.
5th December -- Evening in Lloringel
An Eerie Echo
As night falls, and the people of Beluaterra look out in fear, determination, or resignation at the hordes of undead and monsters just beyond their walls and the lights of their lamps and torches, a sudden and unexpected hush falls over the land.
In the midst of that strange quiet, a sound echoes across Beluaterra—it seems like the sound of a distant bell. Perhaps a bell...underwater?
That sound means little or nothing to most of the humans on the island. But the ranks of marching skeletons and the rampaging beasts all turn their attention southward as it ripples past them.
7th December -- Evening in Fronepu
Queen Mara and Captain Margarita reach the city of Fronepu in order to conduct their business with the Queen of Ar Agyr. Captain Margarita could hardly contain her excitement. She was going back home to slay some lions. Mara on the other hand could fool anyone with having an expressionless face but she too felt the same way as her captain.
After being captured by the enemy for the 4th time, Mara was sure she'd be executed and didn't expect to be shipped off to Thalmarkin. It's been 60 days since they've been home and questions began to form in their head. Was there still a war? How much of their realm has changed? Will there be anyone they know to greet them? Everything is always uncertain when your so far away.
Anxious to find out, they don't spend anytime sightseeing. Short and sweet, just how Mara likes it.
8th December -- Evening in Fronepu
A Procession of Terror
As the days go by, it becomes clearer and clearer that the monsters and undead (at least, most of them) are riveted by something in the south. Small groups join up into larger bands like rivers flowing to the sea, all marching, skittering, galumphing, or crawling toward the south. Dozens of monsters leap into the ocean of the Avalonian Coast and start swimming, or knock down trees to form makeshift rafts. Hundreds of undead simply march straight into the water and keep going, heading inexorably southward.
The woods and fields of the northlands have grown unusually quiet.
18th December -- Evening in Seven Rivers
"Give me my Hammer!" the Witch-king shouts to his captain as he stands in front of the shut entrance gate to the palace of Wudenkin.
Thhe captain gives the signal and immediately three soldiers of the Morgul Guard come over carrying the mighty Silver Hammer of Evangeline, the preferred melee weapon of the Witch-king in melee combat. A gift from his relatives from East Continent, a mighty hammer of a long-gone queen of a once mighty human realm. A hammer so big, that it needs to be carried by three men, and just in the size for the giant Witch-king.
Elured takes the Hammer and smashes the gate open and its wings fall out of the hinges as the way is open inside. The Witch-king enters the palace, the occupation of Bara'Khur had begun...
25th December -- Day in Bisana
Sounds from the South
As the first light of day spills over Mhed, with most of the people asleep in their beds, no matter how far from the southernmost sea, a dream comes to them, of how things there must be...
For most of a month now, the undead and the beasts have crowded through Jidington, wrecking its streets. It's not at all obvious why they are here, or what their intent is, besides causing fear. Now, though, their chaos gradually shifts into new order. Monsters that drift this way and that, milling about are starting instead to sort themselves out and form into patterns: circles, then lines. Undead, too, are starting to all march in time, and the terrible din that has been like a fence around the city has faded to blissful silence.
But then, as the undead and monsters all join claw in hand, the dreamers and those who could hear on the wind all heard a new sound near the drowned Eno: it starts in quite low...then it does start to grow...
In voices that range from the peep of a frog to the deepest of bellows, as old as the fog, all the undead and monsters stand in a great ring that goes all the way round the whole city, and sing,
"Bat-tle-Mas-ter, Bat-tle-Mas-ter welcomes Christmas, one calm day! Bat-tle-Mas-ter, Bat-tle-Mas-ter, let's be peaceful, come what may!"
February 1019, To Hold Agyr
21st February -- Day in Lloringel
Outo Olavi Cosula
OO heard that there is monsters at Tepmona.
He arriwed and saw that they are still scattered around farm land. He calmed the people of Tepmona.
"Worry not people! We will kick these beasts on the nuts this evning! Angry Agyrians will take care of you!"
The people seem to enjoy your story, and you manage to raise their spirits. Morale rises by 10 % to 98 %. Your story also causes the citizens to become more patriotic.
March 1019, To Hold Agyr
15th March -- Day in Fronepu
The Queen took another generous mouthful from her cup as her squire Aelwyn set her steel corselet on the arming stand and turned his attention to unbuckling her travel-stained arming jacket. Mud had soaked into the scarlet silk, turning it the colour of dried blood.
The Northern Tundra had been plagued by unseasonal storms since the beginning of Summer and the Queen's progress from her estates in Tepmona had been hampered by heavy rains, the runoff making the fords in Seven Rivers treacherous to cross. It came to something when an expedition to fallen Wudenkin had proven less of a logistic nightmare than crossing the heartland of her own realm. As it was she'd been forced to march through the night, relying on the keen senses of her scouts to find safe crossings for the fusileers and their baggage train.
"Is there anything else you need Ma'am?" her squire looked at her through red-rimmed eyes, his youth as yet untempered to the hardships of campaigning.
"That'll be all Aelwyn. Go have a hot meal and a good night's sleep."
"Thank you Ma'am," he bowed and withdrew towards the Queen's outer chamber, as he did so colliding with Morag, the Lady of the Privy Chamber, and had she been of less matronly construction they doubtless both would have ended on the floor, instead the poor squire found himself tangled in a heap of feminine attire as both Queen and Lady broke into peels of laughter. Poor Aelwyn didn't know what to do with himself, his cheeks flushing red as his head emerged from a linen shift, and a torrent of profuse apologies spilled out as he struggled to his feet, all the while fighting the layers of fabric as he did so, followed by even more bowing and apologising as he pressed the garments back on Lady Morag, his short-lived attempt to regain some dignity turning almost immediately into a flustered rout as he fled the scene.
"That lad has barely the sense he was born with," Lady Morag placed her treasures on the Queen's bed, sorting them into ordered layers.
"He means well," Aibhlidhn stretched the knots from her muscles, at once both glad to be free of the constricting armour and yet missing the sense of purpose it engendered. Many years had passed since first she won her spurs on the distant battlefields of Sirion, daughter to her General and heir to the dynasty of Moira, greatest of all the daughters of Clan Dubhaine. It was a strange fate which had carried her here to these daimon-haunted lands, to be reunited with her with her great-grandmother so far from gentle Krimml and the ramparts of elfhame. Not that Moira would publicly acknowledge their kinship, one of that rare breed who'd rather foreswear their nobility than their duty.
"That he may Highness, but since when has good intent been proof against steel?" she clapped her hands and a half-dozen maids entered carrying heavy pails of steaming water.
"I don't think I have time for a bath Morag if I'm to lunch with Count Zatir."
"A gentlemen will always wait on a Queen with good temper Highness, and the more so when Her majesty smells sweet as honey wine," she looked pointedly at the cup in the Queen's hand.
"I'll have you know that was strictly medicinal m'lady, and had you trudged nightlong through the mud you might feel equally in need." The look on Morag's face suggested quite the opposite and Aibhlidhn resigned herself to the tender mercies and glamorising arts which were duly imposed upon her, washing away her weariness and replacing the passage of years with the fullness of regal splendour.
Zatar sat idle with one foot up upon the table as he awaited the Queen. The only other Queen he had met was his wife, but she's gone now and he felt he was due an upgrade anyway.
"You're wearing that?" a servant said, trying to drop the hint. Zatar looked down at his somewhat rugged leather and cloth tunic.
"What of it?" He replied, having never been questioned on his attire before.
"Sir, you're meeting a Queen, and your tunic has blood on it." The servant looked quite disgusted. Zatar eyed the dry blood splatter along his side, trying to work out how it got there and who's it was. before he could finish his thought, the servant continued "There's blood on your trousers too..." and true enough, there was a long splash of dried blood down his trouser leg. "What do you do again?" The servant asked.
"I run the bank. Why?" Zatar looked confused as to why he'd ask. The servant, clearly not believing this story, looked him up and down, before politely bowing his head and taking his leave.
"Weird folk round here" Zatar thought to himself. I haven't even found a single place to buy lottery tickets. No advertisements for wall insurance, the guards seem to be wearing realm insignia rather than their Business sponsor... "Do they even have rich mountain hermits? A bathory? Gentleman's clubs? What do they even do here?" he wondered.
15th March -- Evening in Fronepu
Sometime later Aibhlidhn emerged from her chambers a riot of fashionable colour and pattern, a rustle of skirts and petticoats as her gown trailed the flagstones, to find Chamberlain Stefano, Captain Caedberga and three troopers of the Royal Fusileers waiting for her. The soldiers fell immediately into step behind her and the procession made a leisurely progress through the halls and passageways of the Royal Palace, allowing the Queen to address the business of the day.
"Good Morning Your Majesty," Stefano was taller than average though a back stooped from a lifetime at a scrivener's table, made that hard to recognise. A bureaucrat of advancing years, his neatly trimmed hair and beard were touched with bold streaks of grey. In his arms he clutched a sheaf of papers, some bearing the State Seal, others the Seals of Ar Agyr's Great Houses.
"Good Morning Chamberlain, and what have you to trouble me with today?"
"Just the usual Ma'am," he passed her the topmost document, "Starting with this week's summarised tax accounts for your inspection."
"These seem in order Stefano. A good week for the Kingdom" Aibhlidhn glanced at the neatly copied columns of figures, once more thanking providence that her mother had taken the time to teach her letters and numbers at an early age.
"His Grace the Duke of Jylmark requests guidance on further building works."
"Send him a bag of gold towards a new granary," by this time they were nearing the Great Hall "And what of Dukes Marzo and Bob?"
"Both report modest increases in population Ma'am and there is some discussion of how best to restructure militia garrisons against future need."
"That has to be down to their Lordships' will."
"Very Good Ma'am," he bowed as much as his stooped spine allowed and hurried away to attend to his duties.
"Caedberga," Aibhlidhn turned her attention to chief the of her guards.
"I shan't be needing your presence in the Great Hall."
"With all due respect Ma'am the gentleman is preceded by his reputation..." the sentence trailed off.
16th March -- Summer Evening Fronepu
Greyson arrived at the Great Hall after his march from Seven Rivers. His men were tired, but they were in good spirits after the battle to the north of the Capital the day before.
He deployed the men at the entrances and exits to the Great Hall and throughout the Hall itself. He was the type of man who trusted, but work was needed for him to trust others. The Queen was receiving a guest Greyson did not know, and such, did not trust. Hence the security. He was not requested to do so, he simply took it upon himself to do it.
One could never be too lax when the Queen was near. Eyes on everyone and everything was his motto for times such as this.
17th March -- Summer Evening Fronepu
As the Queen's party drew nigh the Great Hall she did her best not to smile at the subtle increase in security, small detachments of bowmen discretely standing watch amongst the colonnades or posted at arrow slits and on overlooking balconies. They were Greyson's men if she wasn't mistaken, handy lads in a tight pinch much like their master though as regular troops perhaps not a match for the imagined dangers they faced.
Aibhlidhn recalled an occasion when as an eager young knight newly blooded in battle and keen to prove she was made of the same stern stuff as her late mother she took similar pains to guard then Prime Minister Ivo during a state engagement, only to have all her arrangements reworked by her Aunt Brigdha. Even then the Margravine had been well known for her attention to detail in matters of espionage and the crestfallen Aibhlidhn had redoubled the effort she committed to her studies, determined one day to be as knowledgeable and as astute. Even now with a successful career as a General behind her the Queen still wondered when that day would arrive.
Of course life in the Elven Republic was considerably less dangerous than here on Beluaterra, not only for the want of Daimons and the cultist servitors working secretly to return them from the Netherworld, but also for the incomparable wealth and power of the Elven people. Nowhere else in all her long travels had she encountered such majesty and magnificence as she had taken for granted in her youth.
The Queen determined to find some suitable favour to bestow on Sir Greyson for his consideration and to encourage his future endeavours. For now though a little good-natured military humour seemed in order.
"Caedberga, what do you think the odds are if they fall foul of Count Zatar?" Aibhlidhn spoke unguardedly, seemingly oblivious to the watchers and yet clearly directing her comments at them.
"That would certainly be unfortunate Ma'am," Captain Caedberga's tone was characteristically deadpan when she was on duty, "Sir Greyson would be writing quite a few letters of condolence in such an eventuality. I trust he keeps his inkwell full."
"Then it's a good thing we're here to protect them, eh Captain?"
There was little danger of course in this particular meeting, Count Zatar being a landed aristocrat of Ar Agyr's neighbour and long-time ally Thalmarkin. Admittedly his penchant for sneaking into other peoples' vaults was to be discouraged - at least with regard to Agyrian vaults - but she'd been impressed by his aptitude for such work. She was reminded of Dame Esel, a good personal friend with a talent for such things who sadly had retired from public life some months earlier.
As the doors of the Great Hall opened before them a trio of cornets blared from the shadows, playing the arresting refrain of Clubs and Claws, known colloquially as Indigestion of the Bears for the unsettling effect it was said to have on the digestion.
5th April -- Summer Day Jyl
To honour the Queen and our warriors we raise the banners of Jyl and above the banner of Ar Agyr and the house Dubhaine!
10th April -- Summer Evening Baqua
Met with little resistance, the Goathorde combined with the might of their allies in Thalmarkin and Ar Agyr made quick work of the militia standing in Gotland's rightful pasture of Baqua.
Quartz ordered for a takeover to commence. He directed for celebrations to be thrown with flowing barrels of ale and wine in the center of the main village of Crullok's Boot and outside of the old paper mill that stood iconically in Baqua's horizon.
With the takeover under way, he took advantage of the moment of quiet to sit in a field near his camp. Quartz closed his eyes, let his mind go, and focused on He Who Is Smelly and Wise. He took in breath after breath, noticing the scent of the blooming grass and wildflowers of the summer, and the smell of dew from the night. A few minutes went by, and he smelled an all too familiar stench that could only mean one thing, the Great Goat was arriving. With each passing breath the beautiful reek of the The All Smelly One grew stronger and stronger, until all Quartz could smell was the Great Goat himself.
At first he saw two hooves, thick and sturdy with the power to end any man with one firm kick. Then he saw His beastly legs, resembling that of a formidable tree's trunk covered in short but thick and fine brown fur. Next came into view a torso with such muscular development and width it left one in awe wondering what it is He could not wield. His arms were long and thick, in his right arm he effortlessly carried a gigantic maul that must have weighed no less than half a man, designed to shatter bones with a single blow. At last the Great Goat's face came into view, and who could forget such a splendid sight? His massive snout, his razor sharp teeth, and especially his beautiful and large horns that curled back and far.
"Great Goat", Quartz said, "it has been too long since I have last seen you. We pray for your mercy and strength as we fight Angmar and their puppets that occupy your lands".
The Great Goat huffed in dissapointment and began to speak. "You spoke to the shell of a ruler for far too long before doing what you knew must be done. When you fight for Haji you will come to know if you have my mercy or not. Carry on with your duty to Me and the Goathorde, I trust you will see this through as required."
Quartz understood where he had gone wrong and what The Great Goat demanded. "Thank you your Pungentess. To show you my dedication I will refuse to bathe until Haji is once again ours. I will reek in your honor, and all that face me in battle will know my smell."
The Great Goat nodded in approval, and with that vanished from Quartz's vision, as if he were never there to begin with. Quartz opened his eyes and smiled, but there was still much work to be done.
13th April -- Summer Evening Baqua
The night was dark, and somewhere in the distance an inhuman shriek rent the chilly air.
An old man picked his way through the ancient ruined shell of a noble manor in Gor Ault.
Had Heimar been the kind of man for musing, he might have mused at the irony of his situation. Alone in a lost and monster-infested land, surrounded by all the dread of dark and creaking boards and spiders and Creator knows what else scurrying off into the gloom, he feared none of it half so much as he feared the very thing he sought.
But Heimar was not a man for musing. He was an old soldier, burned out from too many battles and too much raaha smoke to cover the pain of lost friends. So he did not muse. He pushed aside his fears, his very thoughts, consigned them to the dark place behind the well-built walls of his soul, and continued on his mission.
The thing he sought - and it was a thing, for what other word can describe that which cannot be called human, and yet is not spirit, nor elf, nor beast, and yet moves as though it had will, and sense, and kills and kills again? - was somewhere within these crumbling walls, somewhere in the shrieking plains of Gor Ault where man was predator or prey or long gone.
Heimar had been sent by a master he'd once loved to find this thing to which he had somehow become bound, this killing machine that had turned his life into a nightmare unending, this yoke he thought he'd escaped twice, only to be dragged back under its crushing weight. That weight had smothered all love in his heart, until all that was left was duty unshirkable and the yearning for the release of death.
For now, Heimar believed, death was his only escape.
He found it collapsed in a dusty corner, like a doll tossed aside by a storming child. The yellowy eyes stared blankly off at empty darkness. The cruel mouth twisted in a meaningless grimace, exposing sharpened teeth behind the cracked and ragged lips. The clawlike hands twitched intermittently, spasmodically, on the ends of arms askew, splayed out at angles unnatural to the human form.
Heimar drew in a slow breath, shoved his hands into his pockets as he looked down at it. Was there life within? If so, it showed no sign of seeing him or sensing his presence. He thought - but perhaps it was the wind through the cracks in the rotting walls, but he thought - he could hear shallow rasping breaths.
He hoped against hope that he was too late, that he would fail in this "last" duty and go back to his peaceful life as a beggar in the streets of Agyr. But he knew better. As he drew forth the stone chip the nameless Khalkar brother had thrust into his hand by surprise as he sat smoking on the docks, he could feel the power within it surging forth as it never had.
It had led him here, and now he must complete the mission.
The thing stirred even before he pressed the stone to its convulsing palm, a great creaking shudder up from the base of the spine to the base of the skull. Heimar drew back and fought the urge to vomit.
"Can't be helped," he muttered to himself after a moment. "Made an Oath..."
Forcefully, he pressed the stone into the outstretched palm. A wheezing gasp racked the supine form, the spine arching toward the ceiling. Heimar backed away as it siezed and shuddered, rasping groans grinding forth from between the desiccated lips.
At last the limbs shot out at crazed angles, the yellowed eyes opened fully, the mouth opened, and a rasping scream worse than that of a tortured animal burst forth from between the sharpened teeth. Then it collapsed, and was silent.
Heimar hoped again, briefly. But the thing stirred, slowly this time, the claws seeking purchase on the warped floorboards, turning itself, forcing itself to its hands knees.
The head rose slowly, lanky hair parting to reveal the strange, barklike skin of a face halfway between human and monster. The yellow eyes glinted. It bared its sharpened teeth in a savage, bestial grin.
"Captain... Heimar," it rasped.
Heimar drew breath, fighting the wave of nausea that threatened to overwhelm him.
"Lord Kilhorn," he said, clearing his throat. "You have been assigned a task."
If a tool of murder can be said to smile, the thing known as Kilhorn Dodger smiled.
15th April -- Summer Day Baqua
Heimar looked at the letter with horror.
A nomination for Lord Kilhorn? Did the young noble whose name Heimar did not know understand what he was asking for?
Heimar burned the letter before Lord Kilhorn could see it.
Terian rode silently next to Araman and had been silent for much longer than is usual, suspiciously long one might say.
"Oh for heaven's sake, spit it out Terian! Your silence is deafening." Araman yelled frustratingly.
"Well my lord, would it not be prudent, if you don't mind me saying, to share your expertise of military warfare given the circumstances?". Terian asked genuinely.
Araman laughed. "My good man, such are your aspirations that only a few days upon arrival you suggest I throw my hat into the ring to lead the armies of the realm!"
Not riding to Araman's joking tone, "your knowledge is amongst the finest, as is your lineage, my lord", he replied earnestly.
"Be that as it may, I need time to acquaint myself with the current position of the forces, realm and just as important, the nobility. I doubt there are many here, or anywhere for that matter, who would see kindly to a newcomer making such a bold statement. I appreciate your sentiment, Terian, but let us take one step at a time." Araman replied.
The unit continued on in silence en route to Fronepu.
Heimar looked at the private letter with even more horror. Blood and sweat? Then this noble he had never heard of had family ties to... and he probably knew Lord Kilhorn from...
The last thing Heimar needed was for Kilhorn to start "commanding" armies. That was much more than he had been assigned to handle. He had heard enough of the screams of innocents...
So he burned the second letter too.
16th April -- Summer Evening Gethsemene
Araman and Terian watched as the strange noble who he knew only as Kilhorn rode off into the distance.
"Not very friendly, is he?" Terian asked rhetorically.
"What were you expecting?" Araman replied flatly.
"Considering we are the sole reason neither his nor Sir Grano's men were injured in this battle, a thank you at least." Terian replied, not attempting to hide the anger in his voice.
Araman turned to his men, none had died in the battle, such as the skill of his handpicked, but 13 were injured. His healers were experienced and he was sure all would recover within the coming days, ready for the next battle. He always made sure to travel with one healer per 15 men as his family had always advised.
"This is a strange land and one plagued by undead and monsters, as well we have seen. That brings with it a certain type of character... if the man cannot see that our tactics saved him and his men injury then it makes little difference. We're here to fight, Terian, not make friends", said Araman.
"Even so, some gratitude wouldn't have gone amiss. His men wouldn't have fared nearly half as well against the creatures we faced head on and archers are much less equipped in melee combat", Araman replied bitterly.
"Perhaps not, but now we know who we're dealing with. The land here are plagued by these creatures and the nobility, this one included, have not been able to stop it. He would do well to take note of our tactics, but if he chooses not to, it is his head on the line." Araman replied.
"So we stay the course?" Terian asked.
"Our tactics do not change on a whim, least of all from one of equal rank. When this realm sees a General emerge and we fight in greater numbers we can adjust our strategy to fit the scenario. But until then we do as we always have and that is succeed." Araman replied matter of factly.
"What of Sir Grano?" Terian asked, gesturing to he and his archers camp in the distance.
"If he wishes to make himself known, he will. Set up camp and give the healers chance to work." Araman ordered.
"Yes, sir." replied Terian as he rode off toward the makeshift camp.
17th April -- Summer Day Gethsemene
Word reaches you of a skirmish in Daisha. According to the rumors, a Gotland company was attacked by local militia from Caelint, screaming bloody murder about the theft of Baqua as Gotland rode by on a routine patrol of the border. Apparently there were troops from Thalmarkin near by who immediately rode to the aid of their allies.
The militia, being outnumbered, fled back into Daisha and their foes gave pursuit in the heat of battle.
18th April -- Summer Day Sniika
In Jidington, work on the temple had began. Eva watched as the small shack was being expanded into a small temple. Not far away a voice of a small boy could be heard, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" Eva turned to see the boy standing on the street corner peddling newspapers. Intrigued she walked over and bought a copy for a single gold coin. Quickly scanning the paper her jaw dropped slightly, "a love affair?" she thought aloud. She shook her head, disregarded the rumor as unilaterally false, and went back about her day.
18th April -- Summer Evening Sniika
Heimar was horrified... Kilhorn under the control of... the real Kilhorn?
The body parts were arranged in the shape of a chessboard, with crude outlines of the pieces ready to play...
Had it... learned?
What had it learned?
The hermit in the tattered cloak recognized some familiar faces that were a rather uncommon sight in these parts of the continent, but then again he was a stranger too and so he didnt give it another thought and continued his journey...
19th April -- Summer Day Sniika
A Priest in tattered cloak was seen preaching to the common folk:
The wolf also shall dwell with the goat together.
And the bird and the bear shall feed their young ones together.
The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice'den.
Throwing some incense into the fire the Hermit continued in a singing tone:
The task was to string a mighty bow and shoot a target in the sky, which was the moon, while looking at its reflection in oil below, a feat only few could perform. After all the princes fail, many being unable to lift the bow, four brothers each took their turn and the youngest one won. They return home and inform their meditating mother that the youngest brother has won a competition and to look at what they have brought back. Without looking, the mother asks them to share whatever has been won amongst themselves. Thus, the Princess ends up being the wife of all four brothers.
24th April -- Summer Evening Jyl
Orders from Kilhorn Dodger
All rally refit recruit in Fronepu
Keep an eye out for victims
[an undead eye rolls out of the last fold in the parchment]
Keep an eye out
The eye cannot move or even blink, lidless as it is, and yet it seems to stare directly at you.
30th April -- Summer Evening Qrelg
Heimar squinted at that one.
"Male" was probably a more accurate term, but nothing was certain with Kilhorn anymore...
He took a pull on his raaha joint as he ambled his horse up a bit closer to Kilhorn's.
At least they would be fighting undead on the morrow and not humans.
1st May -- Summer Day Qrelg
Crooak... so many killed...
1st May -- Summer Evening Xhahgus
Timsen sipped his wine as he read the latest round of letters. Getting to King Osgar's letter, Timsen smiled and looked to see what his previous ruler wrote.
Spluttering his wine at the contents of the letter, Timsen shouted, "SCRIBE! GET IN HERE" "GUARDS, BRING A WHIP!"
8th May -- Summer Day Xhahgus
Kilhorn would not stop rasping "Cleofa Rica Orbita" to himself for hours. Over and over, like the chanting of a devotee, until the meaningless words turned into a pounding rhythm in Heimar's ears and mind...
18th May -- Summer Day Keffa
“Sir, we have captured an enemy scout”, the Captain announced as he approached Araman.
Wiping blood from his sword surrounded by the ruins of the walls which stood before their assault, “Is he alive”, Araman replied?
“Of course not, sir.” the Captain replied plainly.
“Then throw him on the pile.” Araman gestured to the pile of enemy bodies, some 50 or 60 heigh. “And if you get any more scribes coming from our “allies”, throw them on the pile too. Their constant whining is enough to drive a man mad.”
“Yes sir.” The Captain replied as the latest scouts body was thrown into the mound of dead bodies.
“This has been a good day”, Araman spoke aloud to himself, taking in a deep breath of blood and corpse filled air. “A good day indeed...”
18th May -- Summer Night Keffa
Heimar sat behind an abandoned smithy, the little track that posed as an alley cut by a swathe of dross, a little river of b*stard metal which had no doubt run for years once upon a time. Hands shaking with the first stages of withdrawal, he struggled to strike flint to steel.
Keffa was probably a depressing little city in the best of times. The last invasion had scoured these lands. Civilization stopped outside the gates. The people here were probably frightened enough when there wasn't an enemy army tearing down the very walls that kept out the monsters and wild-eyed savages that wandered the roguelands outside.
Well, here we are, Heimar thought. The heroes of the north, here to right wrongs and whatever other bullsh*t the nobility thought up today to justify their campaigns of terror.
Praise the All-Creator, the damned tinder finally caught. On hands and knees he bent his old bones to earth, put the end of his raaha joint to the meager flame and sucked desperately. The sweet, acrid smoke drew down deep into his lungs, and he collapsed onto his back in the middle of the dingy little alley.
To hell with it. He would never get up. He would smoke this last joint and lay here and stare up at the stars until the sun rose, and then he would stare at the sun until it set and on and on until thirst took him.
But he knew that was a lie even as he thought it. The drug had a hold on him that transcended life and death and the desire for either. In an hour or two the high would wear off. In another hour or two the itch would start, then in another little while the shakes. Shortly thereafter he would be ready to murder every damn man woman and child in this damn city for a hit.
And who would provide it to him? Whose bounty ensured that poor Captain Heimar, veteran of too many wars, smoker of too much of the Udorian Herb, would manage to make it another day without clawing his own skin off?
"Captain," the all-too familiar voice rasped, somewhere nearby, somewhere too close. Heimar sat up and looked around in the dim light of the pre-dawn.
The smell was what guided him. The Gotlanders had taken it better than he had thought they would, probably because Kilhorn's family name was well known and they needed the Agyrians to get their lands back. But Heimar really, really wished Kilhorn would take the damn mask off already.
"I am here, my Lord," he groaned into the darkness, and a shadow emerged from yet deeper shadow, a cloud of buzzing flies emerging with it.
Kilhorn was, as always, dressed in Dodger black, a long hooded cloak over his leather and mail. The severed goat face he wore over his own monstrous visage, bound messily to his head with a length of string, was, however, not nearly so traditional.
Heimar did not understand the perverse sense of humor that had overcome his master since the emergence of the real Kilhorn only weeks prior. He only knew that, as bad as being Kilhorn's keeper had been in the years he'd served the Khalkar by looking after its deadliest and strangest weapon, things were only going to get worse.
"How can I serve, my Lord?" he asked.
Kilhorn paused a moment, looked him over from behind the goat mask.
"Killing," he said.
19th May -- Summer Day Keffa
Time moves slow when one smokes raaha.
The Revenants are not what one tends to think of when one hears the phrase "living man."
Neither are they undead.
Usually, those with experience in them tend to call them "in between."
23rd May -- Summer Day Sniika
"Did we not plan to dig in?"
"Yes, we did Sire!"
"So? What happened while I was sleeping?"
"We had no shovels, Sire!!"
"Ah, and now?"
"We took some from the enemy, and the spikes and pokes are set up, too!"
"Ah, oki, I go back to sleep, wake me if something interesting is happening".
The captain saluted and walked out ... 'interesting happening' he murmured ... 'how should I know what is interesting ...'
27th May -- Summer Day Sniika
"Maximum retreat, he says" ....
"Does that mean we retreat if we have no man left?"
'Sire, I suggest we retreat when ... cough cough ... if it is desireable'
"That will do it! Give the orders!"
5th June -- Summer Evening Tepmona
Rowan looked around the battlefield. Every single one of his men was dead. They held the ground, and not one ran away. He was proud of them.
19th June -- Summer Day Gethsemene
Clouds and mists
They are midair transformations;
Above them eternally shine the sun and the moon
21st June -- Summer Evening Hirzmet
Into a soul absolutely free
From thoughts and emotion,
Even the tiger finds no room
To insert its fierce claws
26th June -- Summer Day Hirzmet
"Alan, that makes you look academic. Get over here."
"How may I help, my Queen?"
"Translate this, boil it down, and give me a one sentence summary that a working stiff's daft cat would understand."
He putzed over the Grandmistress' letter, making a few notes. Then he smirked, as he cleared his throat.
"Do whatever I say, or we'll kill you all, because the Padre in the sky said so."
"Thank you. Most eloquent."
"Happy to be of service, my Queen... Although couldn't that new pet of yours done this for you? If I remember, he was quite skilled with his wordplay."
She smiled wistfully. "No. He's been spying in the deep South for a time now. Haven't heard much until the other day. He does pen these dire messages in the most lovely script though."
27th June -- Summer Evening Hirzmet
Erasmus spoke unto his halfbreed warriors
"You are gifted with the harvest on this day! Feast!"
He then turned and faced the bloodied battlefield to all men of all realms.
He bellowed in a voice that echoed far across the camps:
"...For you my children will be gifted with the harvest of my body and blood.
My beastly cattle will plague the lands. Those who tame and consume, shalt find their place in my temple; Those who deny, shalt succumb to the devastation of their sins....
May the Lord Zraath show no mercy to the sinful!"
"Feast!", before retreating from the field.
Some distance away from the carnage of battle and the swirling magic energies that had been unleashed, away from the hordes of snarling monsters that had been called forth, Heimar stood at Lord Kilhorn's shoulder, still shaking from the adrenaline of battle and the sudden terror that had followed.
The Angmarite lord seemed half-crazed as he gesticulated and shouted at the monstrous host. "May the Lord Zraath show no mercy to the sinful!" he cried as he finished his ranting and moved away toward the southron camp.
Lord Kilhorn stood stock still for a time, his rasping breath steady and slow. "...Zraath..." he croaked at length, his voice hushed, like a man in contemplatiom, and shook his head slowly.
Heimar was loath to ask questions of his liege at the best of times. After too many years of serving the bloody Nightblade of House Dodger he had learned to perform his duties as a Captain - what few there were with a liege like Kilhorn and soldiers like his silent and ghoulish Revenants - and to keep his mouth shut.
But after what he had just seen, he had to know.
Still, he hesitated and coughed, the words seeming to catch in his throat. Kilhorn turned to him with a jerk of his neck, yellowed eyes sparking from inside the deep folds of his hooded cloak as if surprised to find Heimar standing there, his sharpened teeth bared in a snarl.
"Speak," was his rasping command.
"Lord..." Heimar began nervously, "What is this Zraath he speaks of?"
Kilhorn snarled again, a sneer curling the rough and cracked corners of his savage mouth. Slowly he turned back to watch the monsters as they began to stalk off in all directions, seeking prey from the wounded stragglers of the battlefield.
He was silent a long time, and Heimar settled into silence as well, figuring he would not get an answer. When Kilhorn turned to him again, he gave a start of surprise.
"Zraath..." Kilhorn rasped. "It is a daimon lord of the Far East... What is Zraath and what it desires, many men have been killed trying to find out... There was a place in Azros... The Temple of the Black Sun... What was in its depths would blister a man's soul to see... If Zraath has come to the Beluaterra..."
"There will be much killing..."
Rufus Exterus Esotericus
At the southeast edge of the allied campground where the host had been gathered, sat the Nothoi contingent.
Proud pennants still billowed from several of the tents though Rufus saw one come down even as he watched.
The Nothoi camps and those of all their allies were being struck with an unusual amount of haste and the noise and near chaos was a sight to see.
In many ways the simple soldiers had the easiest time of it as their own kips tended to be very simple and packing their equipment for the march was by now second nature to them. Of course, after packing their own they were then required to work together with the drivers and loaders to get the rest of the train loaded and ready to go with all their equipment, weapons and spares, and partial palisade loadouts.
Still, compared to the obvious headaches occupying the minds of those in charge of the nobles' quarters the soldiers had it easy. Despite the haste which rode foremost in all their minds, the nobles refused to lose or leave behind even a single item or trinket and could have the head of any who had the misfortune of being the poor to misplace something.
The noise was great and compared to the familiar sounds of the battlefield it was chaotic and annoying to Rufus. Walking to the edge of the camping area to avoid the crowds he had found a small rise that had been just a little too tall and just a little too small around to be a good fit for any noble's tent and as such had been left unoccupied.
Now, as he stood at its highest point he let his gaze reluctantly turn to the east, and the reason for the nearly frantic pace with which the armies attempted to strike their camps.
In the distance could be seen portions of the larger battlefield where the enemy forces had clashed, although the entirety of the battles had spread across a surprisingly large area in maneuver and counter maneuver.
Somewhere past those blood-soaked acres were the remaining enemy forces, those who had come to claim the lands of Nothoi's allies and friends. Those who had come and threatened to spread their unholy and suicidally dangerous Demon worship. Evil? Possibly. Dangerous? Certainly.
But they lay too far in the distance to be seen. Besides, their takeover had been stopped. With enormous losses on both sides yes, but they no longer posed an immediate threat to the region.
No, the immediate threat lay close enough to be seen, though still a distance away for now.
At the fringes of the battlefield and throughout the area could be seen flashes of motion, some evidence of movement where none should be seen. There were none left on that field but the truly dead and they were unlikely to be moving.
Yet that was exactly what was happening.
In order to ensure the retreat of the enemy forces and their reinforcements, magic had been done.
After any large battle it was well-enough known that some of the dead may somehow become animated again with a dark semblance of life, returning to motion and with a hunger to kill any actually living creature it detects. They are typically dealt with promptly by any competent military force.
Sometimes the aftermath of a battle can draw in more dangerous scavengers from outside the battle itself- orcs and trolls, men sometimes called them. These orcs and trolls, dangerously intelligent beasts, were sometimes attracted by the overwhelming stench of blood and entrails that inevitably littered the ground after a battle.
But this time, magic had been done.
Scrolls had been read that would project the stench of death outward from the battlefield into the scattered camps of the blood sniffing beasts, bringing them from much farther afield than would otherwise happen.
Other scrolls had also been read that would ensure that more of the dead would rise again to threaten any creature that strayed too close.
The goal of this magic had been to ensure the enemy would indeed be driven from Hirzmet altogether.
Magic had been done.
Perhaps, too MUCH magic had been done.
Rufus had never even heard STORIES that told of the enormous numbers of Orcs, trolls, and undead shambling beasts that even now began to congregate out on the swampy much of yesterday's battlefield.
The speed with which these creatures had begun to swarm the battlefield after the scrolls had been read had been disturbing to all who saw it. The fact that the monsters were STILL coming in, the numbers still growing and with no sigh of letup, was frankly terrifying.
What have we wrought?!?
A runner swiftly appeared at his side.
"My Lord, the Tentmaster reports your supplies will be loaded within the next quarter hour."
None too soon.
"Bring me my horse, boy."
30th June -- Summer Day Haji
Eleanore squinted. Even the dim light of the tent hurt her eyes, and her head. Her mind was clouded, and her thoughts moved like they were slogging through mud. "The medicines, mistress. They'll do that sometimes. It should clear in a day or two."
"Did I say that aloud?"
"Thoughts slogging through mud? Yes, miss. We had to keep you from thrashing about. Couldn't have you tearing open the sutures before they'd had a chance to start healing, could we? So we gave you a tincture to keep you still for a couple of days."
"You kept me still for a couple of days? How long have I been here?"
" Near five days, miss."
"Five days!" Eleanore jumped from the cot and stumbled out of the tent. Off in the far distance, down the slope of a long ridge, she could see the torn turf of the Hizmet battlefield, still ringed with a handful of camps. Even from this distance, she knew that they wouldn't be the Goats or her own realm mates. She turned to the healer, confusion in her eyes.
"Where is everyone?"
1st August -- Summer Evening Mekoter
Mordoc studied Glynkar's face. He was surprised to see so many scars. Slightly less than he had on his own, but no matter.
The man was much taller, and more formidable. But there was a sadness there.
They embraced. A moment of understanding about the wight on their shoulders.
They did not acknowledge each-other as they walked in opposite directions.
2nd August -- Summer Day Mekoter
After several steps, Gkynkar turns to look and talk over his shoulder.
"If we are still going to share that cup, the better inns are to be found in this direction" He says with a smile.
"But if you plan to stick around, you may get a better room across the way which is run by a Daishi local."
"Old Shiela has the best rooms in town, but she waters her booze a little, so it is best to go drinking across the street."
8th August -- Summer Day Gethsemene
Eleanore trudged along the dusty track, one hand on her horse's reins, the other shading her eyes from the midday sun. The mare was recovering from the limp that she had picked up in the mad dash from Djembe, but best not to push it too hard. Walk a few hours, ride a few. Rest the horse, rest herself. Slow travel, but keep putting one foot - or hoof - in front of the other, and you can cross continents.
Eleanore was recovering from her own limp, as well. This had not been a successful campaign for her. New scars for her collection, in any case. She might have been considered pretty once, but this most recent one where the arrow had pierced her shield, and then her left cheek, lodging in the bone, had laid any presumptions of beauty to rest. Twice wounded, laying in the healer's tent for days at a time, waking to find herself alone. At least the first time, even though the army had moved on, some of her troops were still with her. This last time, they had all been killed or captured, and she had been truly alone, in enemy territory. Then to hear an enemy noble calling after her as she rode away ... that part grated. She knew that she had been unsteady enough on her feet that staying to challenge him would have been the height of foolishness, but to run away from a challenge ....
But she was home now. The relief that she had felt seeing the sign at the border in Jyl was like a draft of cool spring water. Soon, she would be in Seven Rivers, rest a bit, then see about hiring some more archers. But first, maybe a bath.
Yes, a bath sounded good. She would be home soon.
29th August -- Summer Evening -- Bil Havil
Yao Ling Pryde
Yao Ling let the letter slip from her fingers and bowed her head.
Finally and utterly dead.
There had been so many rumors and stories of his death over the years, but this one felt real.
Her cousin had always had a death wish. Well. That might be unfair. He never had really wanted to die. But he'd always charged headlong into battle and dared it to take him.
Now it had.
Her cousin was dead. The patriarch of her family was dead. Her childhood playmate was dead. The man she'd followed to this blighted land when she was a young woman was dead.
Yao Ling found a rock to sit down on and let her eyes roll over the lands of Worvobaen. They had walked these lands together in better days. And in worse. These very hills. Those trees. This road.
She could see him everywhere around her.
And now she would never see him again.
Yao Ling sat on the rock and for the first time in a long time wondered what she should do next. What she COULD do next.
Her oldest friend in all the world was dead, and she did not know what came next.
30th August -- Summer Day Tepmona
Yao Ling Pryde
Yao Ling walked through the forest of Jaekind and watched ghosts of a time long gone.
She stopped at a waterfall and saw the past unfolding all around her.
Several troops of archers had stopped to drink before continuing pursuit of the traitors from Reeds. The uniforms were those of long dead Plergoth, back before even Daishi existed.
She looked upon the old egg symbols and shook her head. They'd all followed Omnivoism in those days. Before the traitors turned it against Creasur. Before the rise of Daishi in defense of the great city.
She watched much younger versions of herself and Regstav drinking in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and let out a long breath. They'd been so young and innocent back then.
They had been warriors together, gone to a land far from home in search of glory.
Now Regstav had collected the ultimate glory and left Yao Ling behind.
She sat down and just watched everyone drink their fill.
It was so peaceful here, surrounded only by ghosts and memories.
They didn't mind if a random person cried around them.
31st August -- Summer Day Tepmona
Yao Ling Pryde
Yao Ling walked through the old temple in Creasur and saw ghosts of the past flowing through the corridors. Was it the first temple? Or the second? Even she couldn't remember anymore.
But she still remembered the Plergoth Civil War. Creasur warring with Reeds and Dyomoque. Omnivoism taking the side of the rebels. Daishi rising to protect Creasur. It was such a long time ago. And she had been a warrior of a different kind in those days.
She and Regstav had fought back to back in defense of Creasur for so long. Fighting Reeds. Fighting Dyomoque. She still remembered the battle when her archers struck down the king of Dyomoque and killed him. She had been a different kind of warrior, for a different kind of war.
Now the three cities were unified once more, as they had not been since she was a young woman. Most people now alive remembered those days only in songs, if even that. Just like Regstav.
Yao Ling stepped out onto an open deck to look upon the city she and Regstav had spent so much of their lives defending. She with words of faith and light after joining the priesthood. He with cold steel and a flaming sword from horseback.
Yao Ling smiled at the memory of that sword. He'd taken the teeth of Daimons he'd help slain and put them in that hilt. She wasn't certain that had ever been a good idea. The Daimons had powerful magic. But he always did think it gave his sword real...ahem...teeth when it came to fighting the Daimons.
Maybe he was right.
Yao Ling sighed and sat down. It certainly wasn't the Daimons that ever managed to kill him, even if they had still taken him away from her. They'd taken Creasur from both of them and cast the city into darkness and blight. They'd sent her running north to Grehkian lands. And they had captured him just outside these walls, in his final fight, defending the last of the refugee columns to leave the fallen city.
Then they sent him away and she never saw him again.
Now he was dead. The man that stood against Daimons and dared them to kill him brought down by the hands of men. Fighting to the end, protecting the armies of three nations from a surprise attack on the way home from a successful campaign.
She would never see him again, but at least she knew that through all of his trials away from these lands, he had never lost that iron stubborness of his. He'd died defending others until the very end.
And now he fought in the armies of Daishi. She would meet him there again. In the next world. They would stand back to back together and laugh at those who thought they could destroy them.
Yao Ling looked foward to that day now more than ever.
Regstav Pryde was dead in this world. Long live Regstav Pryde in the next.
I have enlarged the temple of Creasur. It is once more the largest temple of Daishi, as it was in the days when I and Regstav fought the Daimons together.
My cousin is dead, and this is the tribute I send in memory of him.
"Lo, there do we see our fathers.
Lo, there do we see our mothers.
Lo, there do we see our sisters and our brothers.
The line of our people back to the beginning.
They do call to us to take our places
Where the brave live forever."
16th September -- Summer Evening Haji
Bae read the reports from Djembe, her eyes narrowing.
"Scribe," she called, waving the man over.
"Yes, Queen Marshal, what seems to be the matter?" The man asked, wringing his hands.
"Are the... reports of the times these letters were received accurate?" She asked, lining the different report types up by the time of occurrence.
"Why, yes your Highness, I believe they are." The man sounded perplexed. "Shall I investigate the ones who submitted the reports?"
"That won't be necessary," Bae said with a smirk. She tapped the stacks of letters before her. "These little sheets tell a Marshal all she needs to know."
29th September -- Summer Day Ircymbar
Bae's brow dripped with sweat as she finished affixing the new nameplate to the base of the chair.
It wasn't a chair, really. It was a throne. A massive gilded beast of a seat, fit for a king with all the frills and cushy comforts. It was a chair for sitting.
It was Glynkar's throne, taken from Firbalt.
The plaque read "Wilhelm's Neutrality Chair." Bae wiped her forehead and grinned.
15th October -- Summer Evening Haji
And so it was on this day, Angmar were the last fighters to stand upon the bloodied fields of Haji, proudly overlooking the carcasses of their enemies!
"You! Angmar hath grown in strength and union!" Erasmus bellowed for all to hear.
25th October -- Summer Evening Fronepu
Outo Olavi Cosula
OO finally got back to Fronepu. He paid to his men, asked captain to recruit more.
He headed to tavern and ordered barrel of wine and started to go through letters...
He first laughed... "Oh boy, are these adults? "Apologize! Not good enough.. try again!""
He started to get more serious... and getting a bit drunk.
First trying to write letter by himself, but after few errors, he gave up and asked boy to get scribe to him.
OO started to be a bit more drunk and had a bit debate with one young noble.
Finally scribe came and OO spoke the letter. Scribe made few remarks and wanted to be sure if OO really wante that to be written up.
Good day allies and former allies and whiny margrave.
I cant believe what i have been reading lately? Thalmarkin used to be land of brave knights and warriors, who hunted Daimons and hanged their bodies on the walls of Unger, now these days they cry out apologies from their neighbours?
If you dont trust the word of Agyrian, then you dont. We want to be allied with you, but if you dont want to be protected by Angry Agyrian Army, then you can suck my socks and beg your apologies from somewhere else.
I was hoping this utterly stupid and whiny issue would have been over before i get back to Fronepu from the frontlines... but no.
Back in the days when Thalmarkin had some brave knights this kind of issues would have taken care without drama. "Oh, this kind of poop happened, oh damn... take a beer and sign the paper and we are good to go!" but now you keep nagging some sort of proof and apology from us?
Suck my sweaty and bloody socks i say....
I know my good queen has more sense and diplomatic skills than i do, so i hope she deals with this so that scared little margrave can sleep her... his beauty sleep on peace behind walls of Unger knowing that Angry Agyrians will protect him.
I wonder what someone has ever thought to give that kind of whiny kid city take care of.
Oh and before you start to cry, i apologize my harsh words... not.
He read the letter and smiled and told to send it over...
Bae picked up the letter from OO and smiled. "ah, finally," she sighed with relief. "Someone who sees things the way they ought to be."
She picked up the quill.
Dearest OO, your words are a balm. Nicely penned, and down with the niceties! Warriors ought to be blunt and plain!
So let's start over. Thalmarkin is a beast, and we'll hang anyone from the walls who dares try us! An insult from an ally.. What do you say, a friendly raid should be the reprisal? Something bloody and fun, yes? Why bandy words! Haha! And yes, those Agyrians are angry! I love it! True, my big Bear Thalmarkin is as active and strong as ever, and could eat any alive, but would we do that? No! Haha! Allies, my friend. One day soon.
Seems we are all strong in the north. We, the strongest. Try me! Bwahaha!
I think we're on to something here. Comfortable in our knowledge that we northern allies split heads together, words are just words. Battle is the true test. Strength, that is the measure. Follow us, and the pinnacle of northern strength (I'm talking about me, humility is for the washerwomen).
Make no mistake - when the Daimons come, and we start ripping them to pieces and painting the walls with their insides - I will lead the charge. Until then, the Bear eats all in her path.
I ride the bear!"
She threw back three more mugs of ale, and then threw the letter at the messenger. "and we if Otto will meet me after dark... I want to see if that old one still knows how to ride!"
The messenger blanched and hurried off.
8th November -- Summer Evening Ossmat
Duncan sat in the tavern in Tor waiting for his lord to finish his business,
He looked at the piece of parchment the messenger handed him before Duncan spilled his guts out onto the floor.
It is time, you know what you must do, we will avenge our home
He laughed slightly, at long last, it was finally time, now all he had to do is bring Obia'Syela crashing down onto his dear Cousin's head,
Duncan faintly whispered "Oh yes, this is going to be fun indeed"
10th November -- Summer Evening Djembe
Your men bring you an enemy scout who was captured while trying to gather information about the region. You can beat out of him that he was sent by Count Aubin Ledoux, who has his camp in Baqua currently.
Skalros was pacing back and forth in a matted tent, flecks of blood was stagnating in the still pools of water of muddy water in the dirt. The origin was sitting in a chair. Beaten and bloodied while flanked by two nervous looking infantrymen. During his pacing Skalros drew in a sharp breath and took his time exhaling.
"Why did you nab one our own? Who did you think they were when they were leaving OUR camp, dressed like one of OUR scouts?" The pair looked at each over sheepishly.
"Well. They did look like a giant maggot, but different." For a good minute Skalros proceeded to massage his forehead before realising he is still in the same dimension he was in before. He stood before the scout and crouched down in front of them, making sure he was able to maintain eye contact.
"Do you understand that this incident was a misunderstanding? You aren't going to return to your lord and tell them what happened here for the stability of the realm?"
"No my lord! Not a soul!" They maintained eye contact for a time, letting the words hang in the air.
"That's good to hear. You have put me at ease." He then made his way around to the back of the chair. Undoing the knot binding the scouts hands before taking a dagger from his belt and lodging it in the scouts neck. After a minute the deed was done; he was thankful there was a sheet to catch the spray even if they would have to find something to clean their hand with now.
"As usual I have to clean solve every problem but I will not let this incident fall on my head!" Tossing the dagger to the pair who where in such shock the receiver almost sliced their hands fumbling in an attempt to catch it. "Take them a mile out from camp and wait there, I'm going to have to explain to the count where his scout went."
Aeneas Gabanus Bluelake
The wolf-eared man turned his back at the 23 bodies hanging from the gallows. His wrestlers were celebrating a job well done, but Aeneas just wanted to go back to his pups.
"I have no bounty, nor am I anywhere near AA's lands or it's people. That little bitch-" The scribe stopped for a moment, and looked up to the Marshal. Dancer was pale, even for him, and beads of sweat glistened on his forehead. The healer continued to change his bandages, both stab wounds reddened and oozing a white goo.
"Marshal, are you sure you want to-" Dancer shot the scribe a dirty look. The scribe shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Of course, Sir."
28th November -- Summer Evening Tepmona
Marcus and his men were marching to Avengmil, he turned to regard the slowly approaching Novans and Valemen, he scowled, traitors, bastards, evil dogs the lot of them, he would enjoy spilling their blood and watching the seas turn red with their blood, he felt a strange calm overcome him, his eyes felt strange and they began to glow a bright silver, lighting arched off him and he screamed in pain, he shot out his arm towards the van of the army "PATI!!!" he screamed and he heard the pained shouts as the Ruler of the Vales, that damnable talking monkey Monquise was struck with pain, he then aimed his arm at his men confused and shocked at their commander, "FORMIDO!!!" he cried and the men clutched their heads as fear and dread overwhelmed them, Marcus stopped glowing he shook his head confused and remounted his horse, he rode off back to the Dwilight relief force his cousin Michael had sent him, he had to make it to Avengmil before the Novans
1st December -- Summer Day Mhed
Unsure Esotheria entered the door to the reavers rest guildhouse in tepmona. ALL arround her looked old, not decrepid or forsaken but antiquated. Could this be the place her Great Aunt dulcinea spoke about when she told of her adventures during the first daemon war on beluaterra?
2nd December -- Summer Day Mhed
A dirty looking hobo knocks at the door of the servants, servants quarters. I have a message for her majesty Aibhlidhn.
You may not remember me, I am just a vagrant on your land thankful for Bounties awarded for slaying evil creatures. My great aunt Dulcinea was here during the first daemon invasion, she was the first adventurer member of the reavers rest or whatever was in its place in those days. I have one relative on these isles and although she is of noble Blood and I am not we grew up together and we sometimes write letters.
She sent me a most disturbing message about a daimonoc bloodcult that sprang from Nova and is rumored to hit your shores with destruction in its wake. They are rumored to drink blood and for some of them to be if ancient age. I fear they may be hard to stop but they have their weaknesses none the less.
Esotheria of Ibkadesh
By means known only to Aibhlidhn and a few of her select intimates, a message winged its way from her hunting lodge in Tepmona to the keep of Mhed. She was sat in a private chamber contemplating a map of the Five Duchies when a tall servant dressed in sombre livery entered.
"A message ma'am," Djieves discretely cleared his throat, "From Tepmona."
Aibhlidhn looked up from the carefully arranged wooden figures each posed as a warrior in the fray and decorated in the colours of a great house bearing the matching knightly crest. She extended her hand to accept the rolled parchment, opening it to reveal writing in a subtle script. The news within made sense of other reports which had reached her earlier in the day, tales of sea raiders making landfall in Marpii and disturbing the Queen's Peace.
You may not remember me, I am just a vagrant on your land thankful for Bounties awarded for slaying evil creatures. My great aunt Dulcinea was here during the first daemon invasion, she was the first adventurer member of the reavers rest or whatever was in its place in those days. I have one relative on these isles and although she is of noble Blood and I am not we grew up together and we sometimes write letters.
She sent me a most disturbing message about a daimonoc bloodcult that sprang from Nova and is rumored to hit your shores with destruction in its wake. They are rumored to drink blood and for some of them to be if ancient age. I fear they may be hard to stop but they have their weaknesses none the less.
Esotheria of Ibkadesh
"Inform Tepmona to provide Mistress Esotheria with fine lodging and food. Perhaps one day we'll have the pleasure of seeing her attain rank befitting her talents and not her birth but for now be sure she knows she enjoys her Queen's favour."
11th December -- Summer Day Jyl
Kell, shortly before Sunrise.
"They are moving in, Sir."
Dancer paced his tent, nearly wearing a trench into the dirt.
"And Dame Gilly?"
"Left an hour past, Sir."
He could feel the familiar anger rising up, and his mouth already tasted of copper. Two hundred well equipped men, more then enough to take a few weak Grehkians.
"Dan. You cannot die, because I need you as much as you need me."
Anyte's words echoed though his head, their conversation from several days ago throwing a bucket of proverbial water over his head. He narrowed his eyes at his captain, and gritted his teeth.
"So be it, move out to Junohep."
16th December -- Summer Day Bil Havil
Outo Olavi Cosula
OO was on his camp swearing...
"Attack or not to attack that is the question...."
Suddenly one of his officers hopped in:
"General, there is Thalmarkin noble here at Bil Havil, looks like she is Margravien of Sandefur, Lady Madeleine!"
OO said, "send few men to give her some good Agyrian ale and MHedian wine and tell her, she is most welcomed to visit our camp, we will not harm her!"
after that OO mumbled... "For the second i thought Thalmarkin would have attacked here... that would have been something..."
9th January -- Summer Day Rengo
"A new temple! In Fianik, it says." Gomersall read and re-read the announcement for further details he might have missed.
"Won't last. The beasts will be on it within days."
"But..surely the walls?"
"Ha!" Mud laughed scornfully. "You've never been to the volcano, have you? Fire badgers, and they're just the start."
Gomersall thought quietly for a few moments.
"Then we will go and defend it!" he said.
"Defend it? We?"
"Yes, we," he answered, and took up his walking staff.
17th January -- Summer Tepmona
Timsen raises an eyebrow at the mention of a false name for Frobisher Cavendish. He checks several documents, letters, and registers. Then groans when he confirms that he erred on the name. What a mess to drag that poor woman through.
"Hestor, please bring me a stiff drink. Apparently I am too sober to be properly writing apologies and offers of aid."
24th January -- Summer Evening Tepmona
Word spreads, as words tend to. The common folk far and wide live on the tales of merchants and travelers, looking to live a moment in the shoes of the Nobles of Belueterra.
Merchants bring tales of the great city of Wudenkin being cleared, and the streets being cleared so that stalls and shops can resume. Speaking of markets and potential riches of a central trade city, removed of the dangers of undead.
Squires and aspirants speak of great battles against the dead, how the men and women if this new Order laid their lives on the line for the people of Verdomite, fighting to their last breath until liberating the villages of Verdomite from their horrid oppressors.
Bards sing songs of heroes, the Maidens of War "Tempest" "Storme" and "Gildre", battling with sword and axe enough to split the realms heart in half. They spin tales of the Shadow Alchemist, Azizah, and the shaman Seior, and of the Crimson Judge who chooses the axe the size of a grown man, as his gavel of law.
Fathers scare their children with their stories of Winter's Wizard, who brings the winter with him upon the back of a massive wolf, snatching up people to be eaten, his bite fiercer than that of frost.
All of them elude to, but avoid to spin the tale of the center of it all through an unsettling omniscience. Lord Silverblade, the Duke of Vordul Sanguinis, and soon to be Emperor of the Sanguine Empire. Blood and shadow, what they refer to as the Eternal Blood.
So do the rumors spread, and one thing remains consistent among them.
Wudenkin is open again, to trade, for adventure...
28th January -- Summer Day Fronepu
Brand waited till one of the lowest rank servants of The Queen's Household was walking alone. Without any hesitation, Brand caught up with the servant and made sure that person would spread the word that some kind of foreign commoner is around, selling several scrolls.
29th January -- Summer Day Fronepu
"Your Majesty," the Lady of the Privy Chamber entered the Queen's private quarters and curtsied, her formal court dress and manners in stark contrast to the informality of Aiblidhn's loose-fitting linen gown as she lounged on her chaise longue reading, a half-eaten box of rosewater candies and a sheaf of aged parchment on the neighbouring occasional table.
"Yes Morag?" the Queen looked up the book she was studying and stretched, covering her mouth with her hind to stifle a yawn.
"There's talk amongst the palace servants of a new bookseller hawking scrolls and other oddments. Do you wish me to have a servant inspect his wares?"
"I think we can do a little better than that Morag," Aiblidhn set her book down, "Djiev..."
"Ma'am?" the Queen's valet had this disconcerting knack for being just where he was needed, when he was needed.
"We're going shopping."
"Very good ma'am."
29th January -- Summer Evening Fronepu
Fronepu, Location "Poor Men's Quarter".
Brand had been waiting near a small shrine for some time now.
Exactly the spot he told the servant he would be waiting; 3 times a day.
Brand always liked to watch people being busy ... well.... for a few days.
Suddenly he noticed a small difference although all the people around him looked the same ....
..... It had been in the air...
.... A smell
..... Something like that strange bar of soap thing he never understood....
Aibhlidhn savoured the opportunity to wander the streets of the capital without her usual military escort or wargear, remembering her youth of dashing balls and great public spectacles in the tranquil cities of the distant Elven Republic, back before her grandmother's summons to fight in the last Invasion had drawn her across the wild ocean. For the first time in many years the burden of command was lifted from her shoulders, passed to General Greyson and Marshal Valgerður, and the Queen was determined to enjoy her newfound freedom and the opportunities it offered.
Of course it was something of a conceit to imagine herself unguarded when her Royal Fusileers were running hourly sweeps throughout the city's stews under the watchful eye of the demanding Captain Caedberga, detaining undesirables with the deft efficiency to be expected from Beluaterra's most feared soldiers. Aibhlidhn pictured her aide de camp pacing in the war room, studying the disposition of pickpockets and thieves the same way she'd tracked the companies of Caelint and Angmar and Nothoi during the Gotland campaigns. Judge Outo Olavi's magistrates would certainly have their work cut out for them dispensing justice as the Captain never shirked from her duty and the Queen had every intention of enjoying her holiday.
Few nobles anywhere were held in higher esteem by the common folk for their courageous deeds in battle or their unwavering noblesse obligé than the Queen of Ar Agyr, a fact of which she was charmingly unaware, and she had that knack all great commanders have not only of remembering names and faces, but of setting their bearers immediately at ease. And it was quite apparent to anyone who saw the Queen that afternoon that she was indeed as much in love with her people as they with her, stopping at the many stalls and shops of the commercial district, purchasing small gifts for her friends with just the degree of haggling good manners demanded, and yet somehow always paying an extra silver or two more than her purchase justified, oblivious to the admiring smiles she received wherever she went.
Behind her Djieves maintained his usual sombre demeanour, at once both valet and bodyguard. The Queen's relationship with her manservant was a close one and she'd chosen him as much for his perspicacity and cool head as his domestic's skills, though he never disappointed in either capacity. The valet was flanked on either side by two smartly attired young pages of the Court holding baskets to carry the Queen's shopping. Truth be told Aibhlidhn would have been quite happy to carry her own shopping but protocol would have obliged the ladies of the Court to follow her example and she couldn't see that being taken well - at least not in private.
There was of course more to this excursion than met the eye, and as the afternoon wore on Aibhlidhn and her companions found themselves approaching a certain shrine on the outskirts of the slum district, an area rarely frequented by members of the nobility let alone royalty.
30th January -- Summer Evening Fronepu
Fronepu, close to the shrine.
It did not take long before Brand noticed the two persons nearing the shrine.
One of them was focusing at the shrine and at some people around it; the other one seemed more interested in the people around themselves.
Good news, he thought; The Queen did sent two servants.
Usually, one was carrying the coins and would do the trading, while the other one was protecting the person with the coins. well... at least protecting the coins.
Brand walked to the couple.
... good afternoon, I hope you will buy some good paperwork and as such, you will not disappoint your Queen...
31st January -- Summer Evening Fronepu
For now, dear servant ... for sale ....
Magic Armour (x2)
Glow of Health
2nd February -- Summer Evening Fronepu
Aibhlidhn was deep in conversation with her tall companion, seemingly oblivious to the unkempt figure pressing through the afternoon crowds with that unmistakable arrogance she'd come to associate with the Witch-King's subjects. It had never been entirely clear how many of Angmar's commoners were trained adepts of the craft though she doubted it was the legion Elured used to boast of before his disappearance. Sorcery after all was a dangerous endeavour...
"Good afternoon, I hope you will buy some good paperwork and as such, you will not disappoint your Queen..." the man thrust himself between Aibhlidhn and her companions.
"I beg your pardon?" the Queen's surprise was very convincing.
"For now, dear servant ..." Brand opened his coat wide, revealing a selection of weathered scraps of parchment and vellum, "for sale ...." and began recounting a list of charms and enchantments.
"Hmm... it all reads like nonsense," Aibhlidhn's lips struggled to shape some of the more legible words on a scroll of Hammerfall and Brand hurriedly shoved it back into its pocket before she accidentally triggered one of Beluaterra's most devastating enchantments.
Djieves gently cleared his throat and interjected in his characteristic stentorian tone, "Her Majesty has a passing interest in such curios and will pay handsomely if they're genuine. Might I examine them in more detail?"
3rd February -- Summer Evening Fronepu
....Brand hurriedly shoved it back into its pocket.....
While cursing in himself, he thought "... Just saved this neighborhood ... , that stupid servant ... the moment she sees something of power, she likes to experience it more.
Brand could control his anger. After all, he was in a Realm, only neutral to his own.
Another reason had been that guy at her side.
Nevertheless, he could not control an impulse and blinked to her while telling her to step back a bit, just in order to avoid a small misunderstanding.
.....Might I examine them in more detail?...... he heard the other person asking.
Brand showed him some scrolls
5th February -- Summer Evening Fronepu
From her quick perusal it was clear to Aibhlidhn that the scrolls bore genuine enchantments, the proximity of their imminent power even now causing the fine hairs on the back of her neck to stand proud. However it remained to be seen if they were in fact the enchantments their owner claimed or something altogether more illusory.
"Her Majesty is a discerning collector of esoteric art," Djieves drew a small jewellers glass from his pocket as he spoke, fixing it to his right eye and leaning forward, making an ostentatious display of examining the ink used for the lettering on the scrolls and the textures of their fabrics, "with exacting standards as I'm sure you understand."
Aibhlidhn coughed gently, covering her mouth with her hand and turning away to conceal the smile that was spreading across her features. Djieves had a deadpan manner which never failed to entertain when the tall, sober valet unleashed it on some poor unsuspecting tradesman. Whilst the Queen's manservant drew out the theatre of the moment Aibhlidhn turned her mind to certain rotes of habit she'd had drilled into her as a child at the court of her renowned kinswoman Brigdha, talents which had stood her in good stead more than once on the battlefield even though war was never really their purpose.
The Queen's will hovered momentarily outside the strictures of time as she focused her inner vision on the eccentric texts, turning their logical conceits this way and that as she considered their import. They were for the most part harsh magics, heavy with the actinic stench of the Nether, tools of war with little subtlety of effect and yet deft in their construction... a wry humour infused the phrasing... a certain irrational beauty which... which ... Aibhlidhn forced herself back into linear time, all too aware that such sorceries had beguiled greater sorcerers than her to their doom...
"Djieves, pay this man and let him be about his business," the Queen turned to Brand as her manservant unbuckled the satchel at his side and drew out a purse heavy with Agyrian gold crowns and folded letters patent in the Queen's own hand.
"You have dealt honestly with me Brand of Angmar, as my grandmother said you would, so name your price and know that you have the Queen of Ar Agyr's favour and permission to deal lawfully within her borders."
As the exchange was made a keen observer positioned on a certain rooftop overlooking the shrine might - if they had skill to do so - have remarked certain nondescript figures in the nearby crowds, seemingly no different to those around them, relax their posture and drift from view. They had little in common save for one thing: each wore a blade horizontal across their back, the close-quarters choice of the Royal Fusileers.