Dubhaine Family/Brigdha/Roleplays/2017/September

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5th September

Letter from Brigdha Dubhaine to Garas Gabanus

Prime Minister Garas,

Seeing you defy the might of the north I wonder at how tightly wyrd has wrapped you in its skein.

Brigdha Dubhaine

Countess of Aureus

Priestess of The Shadows

Letter from Garas Gabanus

Priestess Brigdha,

Perhaps customs in Shadowdale have changed you milady, but I do not have an idea of what you just asked of me. I do wonder why you left Sirion however and perhaps my mind plays tricks on me further, but were you not once a priest of the Flow of Balance?


Garas Gabanus

Prime Minister of First Oligarch

Royal of First Oligarch

Request from Brigdha Dubhaine to Garas Gabanus

Prime Minister Garas,

Forgive me, the question was rhetorical. You appear to my horologist's eye a singular instrument of fate - or perhaps Oligarch herself sets forth her desire to stand unbowed. Her history lends a certain weight to such a notion...

My service to Shadowdale may appear at first glance accidental, a consequence of Negev being apportioned to the realm when it was birthed. However accident is but a cloak beneath which the hand holding the Balance conceals Her purpose, much as The Shadows give form to The Flow. Had I not been a Lady of Shadowdale I probably should not have been able to bring your wife relief during her confinement, though I must confess that wasn't entirely without cost.

I would visit with you if you will and tend to the spiritual needs of those of your people who still hold to the old ways of the Balancewalkers.

Brigdha Dubhaine

Countess of Aureus

Priestess of The Shadows

Letter from Garas Gabanus

Lady Bridgha,

We shall indeed never simply bow and remain strong in our conviction of doing what is right. You may call it fate, we call it determination and honor.

I remain most grateful for what you have done for my wife and shall not forget it. You shall always be welcome in Oligarch City as long as it is under our control. I fear however that my wife has now been taken and I do not know by whom. My daughter is all that remains, she reminds me much of her mother, although she's more the scholarly type. She even dug into our family history through my mother's journals and it seems my grandmother was a Moira Dubhaine, although it was kept a secret as she and my grandfather were political enemies within a realm called Fontan or so. I must confess, my daugther knows more of these things than do I, but I could not help laugh at the irony.

Oligarch has always been open to all religions, however the Shadows were banned as her priests used the faith and religion to fight the political war that is brewing. Before I would allow any to preach again, I must have insurances that faith holds itself to faith and does not interfere with politics. I would not so simply even suggest this, had it not been for you and if such promise is made, it shall be done so on your word, which I trust and respect.


Garas Gabanus

Prime Minister of First Oligarch

Royal of First Oligarch

Letter from Brigdha Dubhaine to Garas Gabanus

Prime Minister Gabanus,

This is most intiguing news and I will be interested to discuss the matter with your daughter during my visit to Oligarch. My sister Moira was - indeed still is - a woman of many secrets, and she birthed a number of fine, strong daughters who've earned a name in their own right. If this is not some misunderstanding or confusion then your House is indeed lucky to share her blood.

It's unusual for a Dubhaine daughter to be given up to the father as our House practices matrilineal succession but it's not unprecedented in times as violent and confused as those of Fontan's Civil War - especially with a younger daughter.

Brigdha Dubhaine

Countess of Aureus

Priestess of The Shadows

Letter from Garas Gabanus

Lady Brigdha,

You are most welcome to come to the royal palace and discuss it with her. I hope you will excuse me if I do not join such a discussion, perhaps at another time, but I have a lot of things to arrange and not much time as we speak.

If you are interested I can also share with you the letters of Kronogos Brock, so you can see the deterioration of the mental abilities of your allies.

I'm afraid my mother never spoke much about my grandfather and never really mentioned my grandmother. I always thought my family originated from Dwilight and was rather surprised to learn that this is not entirely true. Perhaps if I do have time my daugther can tell me more also, but now I have the survival of a nation to attend to.


Garas Gabanus

Prime Minister of First Oligarch

Royal of First Oligarch

6th September

Morning -- Oligarch

The guards at the ruins of the Great Gate of Oligarch were sheltering from the noonday sun, content that the few remaining pickets of the Northern Host could do nothing to threaten their day. Their battered wargear and bruised bodies told the tale of recent battle, the desperate defence of these once imposing walls as the war engines of Elves and Men wrenched ancient stoneworks from their moorings. The work of long-vanished Orcs, haughty Elven Lords and the mighty men of Fontan's glory crumbled to ruin.

It was here amidst the rubble and detritus that Garas had mounted his desperate defence, calling all able-bodied burghers to the defence of their homes. A host at once glorious in its might as it was ludicrous in its juxtaposition: old soldiers in ill-fitting cuirasses; young boys in the hand-me-down hauberks of their grandsires; bureaucrats in their ostentatious but impractical dress armour; peasants armed with billhooks and reaping knives; hoydens and gentlewomen with their skirts trailing and a motley of umbrellas, cooking implements, pokers and brooms, for one brief moment united in their hatred.

Such a host could never be wielded in open battle, but here in the moraine of fallen masonry, littered with the scree of burnt houses and broken war machines, even the haughtiest warlord could meet an undignified end.

The nobility were want to dismiss such militias as final acts of desperation and perhaps they were right to do so, but Brigdha new the truth. She'd seen that fear in the eyes of battle-hardened veterans, the gorge choking their throats as they realised the true power arrayed against them. A Citizen Militia was not an unthinking mob. It was the raw expressed power of the termite mound when a small boy foolishly thrusts a burning branch into its midst. There for but a brief moment the desire to build so common to all social creatures becomes the incandescent will to kill.

And why should not the people of a great city such as Oligarch feel that rage when foreign princes destroy so much that they'd striven to build? When their brave soldiers had given their all what other outlet for their rage could there be?

Such thoughts were not comfortable for those who drew lines on maps and moved their armies like chess pieces, and Brigdha had known more than her fair share of those in her long career. The martial popinjays who thumbed their nose at Fontan's Assembly were a fine example of that breed, all glory and honour but little humanity or soul. She'd noted an old KDF banner as she passed a company of guardsmen in the colours of Nivemus on the long road from Commonyr, her dark robe wrapped around her frail frame as she leaned heavily on her staff for comfort. Few of their eyes registered the itinerant old woman and those that did had little in the way of kindness to them. A defeated Lion still craves its meat.

Had the watchers at the gate been less mauled, had their relief at surviving so dreadful a siege been less, had the long days of fighting not tired them beyond endurance, perhaps they would have seen Brigdha's approach. Perhaps.


"Grandmother," Etain whispered into the dark interior as she perched precariously against the window sill, left arm and leg wrapped in coils of the silk-wrapped hemp rope descending from the crenellations far above. This was the third window she'd checked since losing the toss to her brother Leopald, the former Ghost Watch captain slapping her on the shoulder with great mirth as he'd lowered her over the embrasure.

What did the mad old bat think she was doing, wandering into the heart of the enemy's camp even as the armies of the North sped away with their tails between their legs? So much for all those long lectures on duty and caution...

Etain kicked back from the wall and slipped down to the next storey, cursing the lunatic who planned the high eyries of Oligarch's rambling palace complex. The cunning stonework and near-ethereal flying buttresses demonstrated the annoyingly flawless craftsmanship she associated with the Elven Republic and she wondered if this part of the complex had been commissioned by the enigmatic Doc.

"Grandmother?" a glimmer of light broke through the thick brocade curtain as Lady Brigdha drew it aside, revealing a well-appointed sitting room.

"Etain!? What on earth are you doing dangling outside my window at this hour?"

"Isn't it obvious Grandmother! I'm here to rescue you!" her voice sounded considerably more confident than she felt.

"Oh, a rescue. You think I need rescuing? Who do you think I am? Some frail crone at the mercy of any damn fall with a blade?" the force of personality caused her to inadvertently jerk backwards.

"Are you okay down there sis?" Leopald leaned over the embrasure with his bow half-knocked.

"I might have known," Lady Brigdha crossed her arms, "Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber."

"Please Grandmother, keep your voice down," Etain shifted uncomfortably as she scanned the night for signs of danger.

"Keep my voice down? I'm not the one hanging from a rope shouting my head off for all and sundry to hear."

"That's hardly fair!"

"Oh, do come in. You're making the place look untidy. And you Leopald," Brigdha stretched her hand out of the window and snapped her fingers thrice in quick succession.

A few minutes later they were sat around a roaring hearth drinking tea as a maid served delicate pastries. It wasn't exactly the circumstances Etain and Leopald had expected to find their grandmother enduring and they were still somewhat on edge.

"Oh alright, I apologise for calling you Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber. I know your hearts are in the right place, and I apologise for worrying you. But I know what I'm doing," she handed them the letter from Prime Minister Garas and they sipped their tea in silence, mulling its contents.

"Is it true?" Etain elegantly placed her cup and saucer on the occasional table next to her chair.

"I don't know for sure," Brigdha sipped her tea, "but it's true that your great aunt has always kept her private life very private indeed. I still don't know who the fathers of any of her children are Rhidhana was three before Moira even told me about her. So yes, it's possible Garas may indeed be my grand nephew and your second cousin. I have to examine the journals he refers to and compare their dates with our family archives."

"So should we stay and help?" Leopald popped a particularly sweet pastry into his mouth, causing him to mumble his words slightly.

"There precious little to kill in an archive," Brigdha's brow creased in amusement.

Garas Gabanus

Glory had left the old lady in the tower to read the journals she left her and went to get a few more books from the library. "This one, oh this one for sure... Where is the book on Fontanese history?" she asked to one of the servants who had joined her "I have it here milady," he replied but Glory shook her head "No the one about the schism and the creation of the Sultanate," she said as she paced away, "I've got it!" she yelled and placed it on top of the pile of books the man was carrying when she returned. "Perfect, I'm sure we've got everything now, follow me" she continued as she walked back to Brigdha.

When Glory knocked and subsequently opened the door, she was only holding a single blade, and was followed by two servants who carried the books for her. When she opened the door however she saw Etain and Leopold in the room and did not recognize them. Leopold and Etain only saw the blade in her hands and jumped up from their seats, while Brigdha remained seated calmly. "Sit down you two," the old lady said, "This is Princess Glory Gabanus, we are her guests. My Princess, these are my grandchildren, they came to 'rescue' me."

Glory quickly settled her surprise and responded with a smile "Well it is a pleasure to meet you both." She excitedly turned back to Brigdha and placed the blade on the table. "This was a present given to me by my mother, she had received it from my father at their wedding, who in turn had received it from my mother who had only said it was an important family heirloom. While reading to her journals however, I found the blade mentioned as well. Apparently it was a gift from Moira Dubhaine to my grandfather, Aeneas Archirium. Here you can see the wolf head beautifully carved at the handle," she said as she gave the blade to Brigdha. "I believe the wolf refers to the Sultanate of Asena," she continued as she ordered the servant to hand her the book on the Fontanese civil war. "This book details the internal conflict within Fontan at that time period, showing how the military council had created a plan to form a new realm from Kazakh, even before it was captured, but did not inform the Fontan Assembly which was their governing body. When the news leaked from the military council, a civil war of sorts broke out. It seems Lady Moira was one of the major spokespersons of the Fontan Assembly while my grandfather spoke mostly for the Military Council."

Glory paused for a moment and then started smiling even more, the kind of smile only a young girl can get when she dreams of princess and fairytales. "It makes this all the sweeter," she said as she took her mother's journal "look here, my mother describes a story of how my grandfather and Lady Moira grew together in this time of conflict and a mutual respect grew into much more...ooooh it's so romantic!"

12th September

Evening -- Oligarch

Brigdha examined the journal, speed-reading the soft flowing hand with its elegant flourishes. It reminded her of another journal, long since set aside, and the tales of the Idyll of Cagil before the death of her beloved but unacknowledged father. Being a Dubhaine was a heavy burden, much of import left unsaid to satisfy honour and duty.

"I cannot vouch for the tale," she said, trying to reconcile the tenderness revealed with the sister she knew and loved, "but it's true that Moira seemed to mellow for a time. Her correspondence had generally been focused on the great debates in Fontan and the heroic battles against Sirion, but for a little while there was a lightness to their tone which frankly was most out of character. That was before the Civil War. Before the rape of Oporto. Before the betrayals."

"So do you think...?" Glory's face shone with excitement.

"Let me see that blade girl," Brigdha accepted it, raising the wolf's head to her forehead, following the thread which had led it to this place and time. Back through the generations of heirloom her mind's eye stared, to a pavilion, one amongst many, and a field of chivalry. Thence to a forge high above volcanic scree, and a headland gazing towards the glassy cliffs. The blade was hot in her hands as she watched its forging, charms of warding and grace woven into its tempered steel.

The young noblewoman could barely contain her excitement as she watched.

"I know this blade by its twin," Brigdha released the blade and it fell perfectly straight, biting cleanly into the wooden floorboards and humming sweetly, swaying like a sapling in the summer's breeze, "though I know not its name it is undoubtedly the brother to Lannceann MacTiré."

In the thickest of the fighting pressed Aednadh's dame,

Rhidhana of the gold-spun mane.

As the sun fled westerly she cast aside her Lion helm

Her blonde locks burning a vivid flame.

The wolf's head blade drank deep and fell,

Sharp Lannceann MacTiré of the slakeless thirst.

Oh woe to thee servants of Jor,

Your doom is sealed!

May thy flesh perish before that blade is once more drawn,

The day when Rhidhana's vengeance is due!

"That blade passed to my niece Aednadh and after her tragic death I returned it to my sister. One day Lannceann MacTiré will return to feast deep and long on those who have sated themselves on Fontan's carcass," for a moment the cloak of age fell away from the priestess, offering the merest glimpse of the young warrior she had once been. Few now were the band who'd stalked the woods of elfland, feathered death on ashen stalks. Fewer still those who knew the secret war which had raged beneath that conflict, to thwart the plans of the dragon.

13th September

Evening -- Oligarch

Garas Gabanus

Glory could not hide her smile, especially not when she was told that the blade had a twin "Lannceann MacTiré" she repeated, "But if it has a twin, and that belongs to your family, then surely it must mean..." she was interrupted by Brigdha "It could be, but I am not convinced yet." When the old lady spoke of Fontan however, Glory became more and more convinced that the old lady knew more than she was saying. "So you have never met my greatgrandfather, or seen him together with Moira? Two of such great names, surely something?"

She kept asking question after question to the old lady, who could barely hide her amusement of the enthousiasm of the young princess. Perhaps it reminded her of her own when she was little, or perhaps she thought it to be foolish, but in either cases Glory did not notice the expressions on Brigdha's face. She was so focused on learning more of her heritage, of solving the mystery of her greatgrandmother.

But then Bridgha spoke with fire and fury herself, almost as if the years had not halted her passion for a mere second "One day Lannceann MacTiré will return to feast deep and long on those who have sated themselves on Fontan's carcass," and Glory just stared at her for a while and let her speak. She was intrigued with Fontan's history ever since she found her grandmother's journals. "It was supposed to have been the greatest democracy in existence" she said, "Larger than Vix is now to our south west, and stronger than any single nation in the world. Its assembly said to contain over a hundred members. How glorious must that have been to behold."

She looked at Brigdha's face, now perhaps for the first time and saw a combination of fire and love in the old lady's eyes. "It was my dear, it most certainly was. Upon the gleaming towers of Krimml two hundred banners and more fluttered in the summer breeze, and when the horns blared for war a separate company marched beneath each banner. Thus was Fontan in the noontime of her might. And yet all fell in a single night..." her voice trailed off, the fire in her eyes turned to hoarfrost.

Glory was stunned, jaw uncharacteristically slack as her quick mind tried to reconcile this revelation from one who had lived through it with the well-known histories of Fontan's long, slow, painful self-evisceration. She could not help but ask: "I do not understand. How did a single night cause Fontan City to fall to the Caligans, Westmoor to Perdan, Krimml and Oligarch and Karbala to the Elves? Were there not long and bloody wars fought over each."

Glory had become so certain of the truth on the matter of heritage that in her mind this new mystery was worth investigating further, almost as if she had forgotten the original conversation so quickly did she fire these new questions at the old lady.

Brigdha Dubhaine

"Oh there were my dear, long and bloody wars in which I and my sister and our children all fought. Wars of men, and wars of faith. Wars not just for the cities you name but for Akesh Temple and Ashforth, for the towns of the Caligan plain, for Kazakh and Avamar. Wars which merged with those of Ibladesh and Itorunt and Tuchanon. But these were the symptoms, not the fatal cause, and that my dear is a tale I have never told for rightly it is not mine to tell. Only my sister Moira knows the full truth of it though my old friend Meristenzio gave me reason to believe it. A tale of betrayal and necromancy."

The room fell silent, the air still with the warmth of summer even as sounds of distant thunder spoke of a storm breaking against the city's fallen walls. On days such as this women of Glory's rank and station should know fear, for fear would keep them alive.

"To the unlearned, wars are born from the frailties of our kind. Never do they ask probing questions such as might be asked in a court of law. Questions such as why three firm friends should tear at each other with unbridled violence until two cease to be and the third falls to endless dreaming? Why Fontan and Sirion and Old Rancagua fought with such vehemence? Why indeed Sirion should forge common purpose with her oldest and most ancient enemy, a realm literally committed to the murder of every elf and elf-friend."

"Behind this surface skein, these facies which beguile us, there are hidden hands - personalities if you will in that great immaterial ocean of which scholars write - hands for whom Kings and Princes and Chancellors are amusements. Diversions. Stringed instruments to be plucked as the mood strikes them, one moment harmonious, the next shrill discord. And unremarked amongst these hidden hands is an ancient foe, implacable as he is patient. The Dragon he's named in ancient Elven lore, the dark counterpart to The Lilith."

"In Fontan we held The Lilith in high regard and we forgot The Dragon. That was our mistake. We were so proud of our reason, of our faith in Darton and the other saints, that we forgot the Balance holds opposites in check. The more we embraced The Lilith, the more we empowered The Dragon. Our hubris became our nemesis."

The priestess's words were delivered with the same matter-of-fact tone she might use to report the annual stock breeder's show, and as Glory considered them her eyes moved from Brigdha's face to those of Etain and Leopold, then back again. Living in Oligarch she knew of many strange tales, often linked to the dark rites of the Maunts, but there was no hint of their fervour in this Lady of the Shadows. Indeed religion itself seemed to be a veil thrown about Brigdha's reason as one might conceal a lantern beneath their cloak in foggy weather.

"Grandmother, is there really time for this?" Etain eyed the doorway with ear cocked as if expecting armed men to burst in at any moment.

"Aye," Leopald stood up and shrugged his shoulders, moving to the window and the rope beyond, "we're in a hostile city and it seems our countrymen and their allies are battering at what remains of its gates. We should be gone whilst the going's good."

A wry smile crossed Brigdha's lips and a breath of fresh air filled the room, "Is that your way of suggesting we leave Leo? That your addled old grandmother is about to get us all killed by outstaying her welcome?"

"Oh please, no, please don't think that!" Glory's face by turns showed shock, embarrassment, and conviction, "My father gave his word that you'd be unmolested."

"It's not your father my brother's worried about m'lady," Etain stood and moved to the door, brutally efficient stabbing sword in one hand, hooked knife in the other, "A palace is no place to be found when the city it commands has fallen."

"We won't be disturbed," Brigdha spoke with finality.

"I'd still rather have my sword to hand, just to be on the safe side," Etain shot back, "sorry grandmother, I didn't mean that to sound the way it did."

"As you prefer dear," Brigdha poured a fresh cup of tea and sat back in her chair, "Now where was I? Oh yes, your grandmother's journals begin some years after the events in question, when the March of Negev had ceased to be a safe place and my niece Rhidhana was fostering in Ashforth with Duke Elberan Carnes. It seems your grandmother's childhood in Asena was a more peaceful one."

"But where was Lady Moira? What happened to her?" Glory was perched on the edge of her chair.

"Civil wars are anything but civil my dear and Fontan's was no exception. Riven from within, assailed from without, paranoia poisons all counsels," she paused to take a sip of her tea, "and smoothes the way for evil. There was a certain young nobleman by the name of Jon Paul Ogren. Jon Paul burned so bright, bright as stars upon the moonspun roads. And his tongue was silver and honey and the promises of power. All adored him, from Chancellor Katalynfae to the lowliest knave, from Master Sullivan Koga to the humblest soldier. And the concerns of those who didn't adore him were simply ignored."

"Jon Paul was a priest of the Church of Ibladesh, a controversial authoritarian faith, the anti-thesis of everything Fontan stood for. Yet this priest was acclaimed General and defence of the Constitution fell to his hands, for those who trusted only their own somehow trusted him as well. When Master Sullivan realised his mistake he sought to rectify it, and that's when The Dragon bared his claws."

The sounds of battle were growing nearer, perhaps as close as the hurriedly erected barricades patching the once mighty walls, and tension was building.

"Jon Paul was no crude hedge wizard dabbling in scrolls and potions and talismans. He was a sorcerer of the first rank," Brigdha paused for a moment, considering her words carefully, "perhaps the most powerful sorcerer of this age. In a single night he compassed what no army could and broke the Lions, slaying Master Sulliven and more than a dozen of his knights in their sleep. Their loss was a mortal wound - one the victim would suffer for long, agonising years. And all this he achieved without revealing his hand."

The barricades had fallen, the brave men and women of the Citizens' Militia proving little impediment to Elven veterans and their human allies, warriors tempered in the crucible of perpetual war.

Glory shuddered, remembering the tense hours at her father's bedside as black sorceries wracked his flesh, "How can anyone do such things?"

"You're young my dear and your eyes have yet to suffer what seemingly decent men - gentlemen - will do to achieve their ends. I pray that innocence lasts past today," Brigdha reached across the table and gently squeezed Glory's hand, "but if it's much comfort, sorcery on such a scale comes at a terrible cost and is never perfect. Great though Jon Paul's power was, a handful of his intended victims were untouched, and drained he resorted to more traditional, mundane methods. The hidden assassin. The poisoned blade. The silent kill. Patience and murder."

"But as the Balance swings it widens its gyre, and what is cast forth upon the Ocean in anticipation will at times return multiplied. In the slow gathering of agents to do his deeds, Jon Paul step out of his carefully controlled world and entered that of my sister, the webs of spy and counterspy Moira controlled from the Bureau of Irregular Warfare. I don't know the details, Moira never shared them with me, but Jon Paul was unmasked and his own trap turned against him."

"We all thought that the end of the matter, but some months later someone bearing a striking resemblance to Jon Paul was sited at his former estate in An Najaf and a party of knights led by Armstrong Ironsides went to investigate. Days later they returned with a terrifying tale of necromancy and a fearsome battle, the spirit of Jon Paul transforming into a dragon. They claimed to have defeated the spirit with the manor consumed in the ensuing firestorm. Armstrong would later lose his mind, seizing this very city for himself and dying a sad and lonely death."

"Not long after the events in An Najaf my sister took her leave, sending Rhidhana to Ashforth and swearing me to secrecy. Where she now is I cannot reveal, but there too is Lannceann MacTiré, in the common tongue The Wolfshead Blade or more poetically They Spear'd The Wolf. The gift of Aeneas as this blade of yours was the gift of Moira."

The din of battle could now be heard from the courtyards below and Leopald reached for his bow, "I see Ecthelion's banners, they've breached the palace gates and it doesn't look like he's taking prisoners."

Glory rushed from her chair to the window, a look of dawning horror on her face.

Brock Ketchum

Oligarch city. How many fallen realms he has witnessed around this great city. Westmoor, Fane to name a few. It seems to be a curse whoever hold the city will fall eventually.

Taking a deep breath, Kronogos Brock meditates inside a room with only his Captain guarding the inside room while the rest of his men tend to their injuries and some healthy ones are patrolling around the city.

    • Sometime later after his meditation

Walking alongside his Captain Valeria atop Oligarch city wall which appear much broken after the siege.

Looking at the south east direction where Krimml city is, Kronogos Brock feels a sense of nostalgia overcome him. It was there where his career first took off, from his humble beginning roots as adventurer. It is where he learnt the realm financial managements as well. How time has passed in a blink of an eye.

He continues his walk. And not long, he sees a familiar face: Lady Brigdha.

Brigdha Dubhaine

Three storeys below in the crowded palace the distinctive forms of Ecthelion's bodyguard were cutting their way through what remained of the city garrison, proud hawkish faces contorted with rage as their blades fell again and again and again like forks of cold lightning within the primal maelstrom of the Great Ocean.

As Brigdha joined Glory at the window and cast a soldier's eye across the bloody slaughter below she was reminded of Durion Eyolf Serpentis, dressed in the flayed flesh of her countrymen as he and his soldiers...? warriors...? demons...? literally ran up the walls of Krimml and fell upon the defenders with that same savage blood-hunger which even today poisoned the firmament around the former Imperial Capital.

Those who knew the Elven people by their fine crafts, their cool reason, their magnificent pomp and circumstance, knew only half the measure of their kind. The dark rites of the servants of Ora were a child's immitation, half-wrought and filled with naïveté, against the alien dreams of the ancient fey, for whom life and death were as subtle as the shifting slumber of The Dragon in the vaults of eternity.

That Ecthelion had given himself over to those atavistic instincts was all too apparent from the carnage below, and for the first time Brigdha understood why Meristenzio had placed The Sword in her safe-keeping, far from the halls of Sirion and those who might use it to fulfil ancient prophecies of Elven ascendency. All those years sitting across from him in council, debating with him in the Heru Mellen, sharing bread and wine, they'd lulled her into a false sense of amicus.

The thought carried her back to that night here in Oligarch, the wedding feast when Ecthelion was poisoned. Instinct had warned her that The Sword must be moved from its sanctuary beneath the Temple of the Flow - or was it instinct? She would have to consider this new insight later, back in the safety of her Manse - or better yet, in the restricted scriptoria of the Grey University where until recently she'd served as Rector.

Whatever Garas had done to merit what Ecthelion had unleashed in vengeance would be made clear in due course. Right now she had a promise to keep. Two in fact. One to Glory, and another given long ago to Glory's mother. Resting her slender hand gently on the shoulder of the young princess, Brigdha turned her from the horror below and infused a portion of her own phlegmatism into the girl's horrified thoughts.

"I told you we shall be unmolested, but you must trust me" there was a mischievous gleam in her eyes as she shared the details of a plan long-prepared.

Leopald scrambled up the chimney flue with practiced speed, barely encumbered by his heavy knapsack with its precious cargo of journals and heirlooms. As he approached the top floor fireplace his hands searched the wall for a steel lever, and with cunning born of repeated necessity, they triggered the entrance to his escape route.

During the long centuries Oligarch's palace complex had been destroyed and rebuilt many times, sometimes to suit changing tastes amongst its Orcish and later Elven and Human rulers, other times of necessity following one of the many sieges the city had been subject to, in the process accruing a labyrinthine network of passageways. These architectural phantoms were largely forgotten but during Fontan's occupation Minister of Defence Rhidhana had made the control of the city the lynchpin of her plans, and as any wise commander does had appointed army surveyors to map its defences with the exacting thoroughness the Dubhaines were known for.

Whilst the resulting maps were now dated, much having changed following the fall of Armstrong Ironsides, they were still a reasonable guide to this hidden world as Leopald's previous visit to Oligarch before the current war had confirmed. The route he now followed would lead him to a water cistern deep in the underpalace and from there via a deep-delving culvert to a small copse of woods beyond the city walls. Once there he would make good his escape and rendezvous in three days in Karbala, the unglamorous work of the rat-runner being central to Brigdha's greater purpose.

Etain Dubhaine

Etain's task was to reach Garas and inform him that his daughter was safe - or at least as safe as she could be in a city subject to the random violence playing out all around them. Under normal circumstances meeting with the Prime Minister would be a simple matter of presenting her bona fides to a court official and joining the long queue of petitioners awaiting their turn in the daily court proceedings.

The rape and pillaging of a great city were not normal circumstances. Not even for much-conquered Oligarch.

Garas would be in the field with his Royal Guards, leading the city's garrison in its tenacious last-ditch battles. She'd read highly romanticised accounts of such endeavours, several in the stirring ballads her grandmother's liegemen used to sing on dark winter nights with mead in their cups, the wolves crying in the deep snows and the thoughts of the old veterans turned to the fall of their much-lamented homeland.

Some had never forgiven Brigdha for deserting Fontan and bringing Negev into the Republic, but she tolerated their gruff belligerence for the sake of her niece and her dear friend Basilius. Usually when realms fell their leaders fled like rats, looking for safety wherever they could find it, and to the grizzled greybeards it was a mark of honour that compassing Fontan's fall had taken the death of two great heroes.

Etain wasn't so sure. In her experience heroes died unremarked every day, the courage of their humble births denying them even a footnote in the august histories. But still, there was no denying that her first cousin (once removed) and Chancellor Basilius had both shown a rare willingness to face death sorely lacking amongst the wider nobility.

Would Garas be willing to risk so much? That was unclear even to those with deeper sight than hers. However one thing was certain - that he wouldn't let the city and his determined independence slip from his grasp without the bloodiest fight, no matter the forces facing him. So far his people were of like temper and if he could rally them again who knew which way the Balance would tilt?

Idly she wondered if the people of Karbala would stand as firmly behind the Shadow King if he were ever brought to this test, warily padding through the palace complex with her blades drawn, keeping to the servants' passages, her destination the old armoury by the northern wall.

Few amongst the nobility evinced an interest in sorcery. Outside the borders of Shadowdale it wasn't considered a fit topic for dinner conversation, and even there the Shadow King relied more on the reputation inherited from the realms founder than on the actuality. However in recent weeks many sorceries had been unleashed on Oligarch. Some of these were obvious, direct attacks on Garas and his ministers, others much more covert.

There would be no accounting for the unholy rites performed in hidden fanes, the fell powers bargained with and sated according to their unearthly desires, all to bring Garas to nought. Fell powers who now hovered over the city, slavering for their choice sweetmeats.

Etain was crossing the sombre charnel house of one of the palace's many reception chambers, the scene of a bloody slaughter as fleeing servants found themselves caught between Ecthelion's killers and a handful of half-petrified courtiers compelled by pride to hold their ground. None of them had slowed the Elven reavers, rune-wrought steel cutting through flesh, bone and ceremonial armour with equal indignity.

The turmoil in the High Firmament was a conflagration of such proportions that even a novice such as herself couldn't help but sense the pervasive actinic tang, the hairs on her neck catching stiffly in the rough silk padding of her jerkin. Etain tugged at the collar and wrapped her scarf around her lower face and neck, partly to ease the itch and partly to block out the sweet cloying stench of death.

As she did so she felt, as much as heard, a deep base thrumming, it's speed increasing as she moved further into the room. Months hunting in the haunted vaults and sepulchres of Krimml and Karbala had tuned her instincts to the danger which now surrounded her and she burst into a sprint as she made to cross the chamber as swiftly as possible, but alas to no avail.

The gruesome hulks of courtiers and servants, men and women, young and old, snapped to their feet like marionettes on tautened strings. Though for the most part unarmed there were a good two dozen of them or more and the eyes of each burned with the same cruel intelligence as broken limbs cracked into place and bloodless hearts beat a deathly uniform tattoo, each cadaver but one appendage of a superlatively subtle hand bent to her destruction.

It beggared belief that such dread and unquenchable malevolences could exist, and yet to the unremarked night rangers such as Etain - men and women held in contempt despite their tireless battle to hold such chthonic madness at bay - such encounters were a.. routine? yes, a routine occurrence. A routine occurrence in the crypts, the sewers, the unholy fanes of backwoods cults and ancient barrows... but not fresh and vital, dead flesh rising from the wreckage of a battle still being fought.

Bloodied hands scratched at her, pleading faces mocking the fear building within her breast as the press threatened to overwhelm her. Drawing on every fount of discipline and courage she stilled her rushing pulse and stared deep into the eyes of the corpse pressing closest to her, a girl of no more than eight or nine years, her hair a dirty thicket of honey-blonde tangles, caked with blood from the head-wound that had stolen her life. Despite her slight frame she had the strength of several men and Etain struggled to bring her knife to bear as the girl crushed her arms in a powerful embrace.

Had it not been for the unexpected arrival of guardsmen in the livery of Chief Justice Maximus, Etain would have joined that dreadful danse macabre, instead a furious melee ensued as swords and feet and hooked knife slashed and stabbed and stomped, repeating the butcher's work of Ecthelion's killers with adrenal-fueled desperation - tragedy turned to mocking farce.

Standing half-exhausted amidst the bloody ruins Etain cleaned her blades and held them hilt-first to the sole surviving guardsmn, letting the scarf fall from her features, "I'm Etain, bodyguard of Lady Brigdha Dubaine, and I'm your prisoner."

Brigdha Dubhaine

As her grandchildren set about their appointed tasks Brigdha turned to Glory and drew herself to her full if still modest height, the glamour of age fading like winter snows with the springtime thaw to reveal a more noble countenance beneath. This aspect of her plan was the boldest, the most dangerous, perhaps even the most foolhardy - and there was the risk it could cost her dearly.

"I know not if you are my sister's blood dear, and frankly at this juncture it matters little. Long ago your mother made me promise to see you safe and today I plan to fulfil that promise. In at most an hour - and probably much less - Elven troops will have seized control of the palace as the base for their provisional administration. If it were Prime Minister Ivo's lads down there at the gates you could expect civilised and honourable treatment, but it's not. It's Ecthelion's Killers and they won't stop until their rage is sated. We have to get you out of here safely."

Brigdha drew a bundle of clothes from her travelling pack, dark rough-spun quilted silk and straps of leather armour, similar to the clothes Etain wore. The uniform of the Toxophilites.

"These should be about the right size," she handed them to the princess, "now get changed as quick as you can."

"I'm sure to be recognised!" Glory was hesitant, uncertain if she should place her trust in Brigdha, and also desperate to see her father. But she couldn't forget the look on the faces of the Elven soldiers below. Escape felt like a betrayal and she was nothing if not a loyal daughter, but to stay was surely death...

"Look in the mirror," Brigdha had slipped the wolfshead blade into a scabbard with the Dubhaine armorial, an upthrust armoured forearm atop a crimson saltire.

Glory picked up a hand mirror and held it before her face. Unable to believe her eyes she touched her cheek, her lips, the curve of her brow. In every particular she looked different, although quite how was difficult to describe. None of the proportions had changed, and yet somehow it was a different face.


"The forces unleashed by your father's enemies are not the only magic in this world. Now, let's take a proper look at you."

Brigdha studied Glory from head to toe, adjusting a seam here, tugging a crease of material there, and as she did so the self-conscious smartness of a noblewoman was replaced by the easy comfort of a professional sell-sword. Content with her work, she buckled the wolfshead blade about Glory's waist.

"Yes, that's the look we're after. The blade is a little ostentatious, but not so much as to arouse suspicion. After all, you're travelling companion to a Countess and I have my standards to maintain. A little ostentation is de rigeur. And for a finishing touch, a broach to match the scabbard."

"Captain," Brigdha held her hands outstretched to the Elven officer, casting an easy eye over the half-dozen killers arrayed behind him. Her calm demeanour stood in stark contrast to the raging storm all about her. The cobble stones of Oligarch, sticky with the drying blood of her citizens, screamed for justice and bloody vengeance. The priestess blocked the all-consuming rage of the recently dead with a series of meditative disciplines practiced over long decades and a smile warmed her lips.

The Elven warriors blazed and fumed, their anger at the wounding of their master in the assault on the city redoubled by their battle to secure the lower levels of the palace. They were Killers who in war knew no other purpose, and now they stood leashed by their Captain's will, waiting the command to continue their bloody work.

"I know you," he studied Brigdha's face, his keen Elven eyes looking for some hint of otherness to confirm his suspicions that he was being deceived. He found none and his inherent superiority made his examination of her companion cursory at best, a curl of his lip the only hint that her sourness had been taken at face value.

"It would be strange if you didn't, given that your Master and I long maintained the most cordial of disagreements in the Heru Mellen," Brigdha resisted the urge to smirk as she saw the recognition in his eyes.

"Lord Speaker Dubhaine!" the Captain's eyes warmed, "What are you doing here?"

"That's Countess Dubhaine these days Captain, and I'm sure my reputation is sufficient answer to that question."

Navigating the streets of a city during a brutal takeover is much easier when it's your army dishing out the brutality. The Elven Captain had offered to accompany the Countess but she'd assured him that her bodyguard, a brooding, taciturn shieldmaiden as like to Glory as sour is to sweet, was more than sufficient. Just as well. She had to get Glory to safety and in the vast camp being erected around the city's ruined wall there was only one man who could be trusted to help.

They'd not gone more than two ruined streets from the palace compound before the battle standard of Kronogos Brock came into view, the Lord of Nivemus having established his headquarters nearby in one of the battered watchtowers south of the shattered gatehouse. Once silent guardian of the road to Krimml it was now a busy hive of activity as messengers ran too and fro.

"There my dear is our salvation. Kronogos Brock is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and even when war separated them he always held your mother in the highest esteem. In his camp you'll have sanctuary, and after that it's up to you where you choose to go. I for my part have other business here in the city which doesn't concern you, and when that's taken care of I'll return to Karbala. Leopald will be waiting there with his precious cargo and the archives of the Grey University should be sufficient to authenticate their contents."

Reaching the wall unmolested, they climbed the ragged stair to the battlements and as they did the sourness fell away from Glory's demeanour and she was once more herself.

Garas Gabanus

The siege was about to begin and Garas had given orders to his captain to rally the men and as she did he had his most trusted advisor called to him. Reinhart had been his captain since about halfway of the last great war and he had served him ever since. These recent years Reinhart however had served Garas in many different capacities and led his royal guard and secret service and performed much of his work behind the scenes. It was now that Garas called upon him however "Reinhart, you will not lead the temple guards today." A look of confusement came upon Reinhart's face, but Garas quickly explained his choice "You will not lead the royal guards, you will not fight in this battle, you will not protect the city! In stead you will protect that which matters most and I don't care what you do to achieve it, you hear me. Glory leaves this city if it falls, get her to a safe location and do not look back. Come to me when the time is right, but get her out first now, that is all I ask of you my old friend."

As Garas prepared his armor, Reinhart left to take the princess. "No, no, get the old armor for today," he said to the servants dressing him "The old Gabanus armor, the arm pads with the wolf heads, and the two long blades I had made in reference to my grandfather's dagger," and his servants rushed to get it, while putting away the newer armor, with the Oligarchian swords on the breastplate. As they arrived however, Garas refused to wear much of the undergarment, which resulting in much of his skin still showing beneath the arm and shoulder plates and he refused the wolven head helmet as well. Now dressed in an armor showing off quite some of his skin, burned and mamed. His face had not healed much and remained to show burned scars allover. He looked more like some of the undead one would face after the necromancy than he did human, more so when one would look into his now fiery red eyes, but he wanted them to see, to see him.

He marched out followed by a hundred of his men, they took their place just outside of the walls and as the battle raged they shot arrow after arrow into the enemy ranks. Garas knew well that it would not be enough and when he saw banner after banner raise up onto the walls and some elvish flags raised on the Eastern Gates he ordered his men to move back into the streets and from there they would fire into multiple directions. Taking out one soldier after the other, but there were simply too many. One after the other Oligarchian banner fell and the streets were flooding with soldiers who cut down through the population. Thousands of deaths throughout the city, women and children hiding and the streets filled with blood, excrement of dead men and panic.

Then suddenly Garas stood face to face with two distinct units, both banners he recognized and both still had many men left, while Garas commanded only 13 men. It were the banners of house Foxglove and the house Ketchum. He knew this could mean only one thing, Duke Thomas and Kronogos Brock had come for him. He refused to surrender however, especially to these traitors as he saw them.

"Brock, behold what you have done. Look at me you coward! You side with these necromancers who bring dark magic and fire to those who oppose them and you bent the knee. Come and get it!"

The melee combat quickly ensued after those words, but in the mids of battle few could see what really happened. Garas was hit left and right, cutting through his open armor, but just as Garas lost conciousness he was taken by two of his own men and dragged into one of the nearby homes. Through there they moved him from house to house untill they finally reached one of the underground tunnels of Oligarch. When the chaos of the streetbattle cleared, it became obvious that somehow Garas had disappeared, most likely escaped.

Achmed-al-Tasim-bi-Tolla Adul-Laffha

I am guessing this is the yellow colored page?

Brigdha Dubhaine

Oligarch was a Great City by every measure of the term, in peaceful times the glittering jewel of the northern plains, exalted with every craft and science, its temples and fleshpots competing for the souls and coins of its teeming masses. Now the fleshpots were abandoned, the unctuous panderers and silken whores fled, rooms ransacked for their rich furnishings and decadent artworks, whilst the temples were crammed with the injured and the dying.

For days to come the Elven host would sweep through the dense tangles of rubble-strewn streets, killing with casual impunity as the final pockets of popular resistance were brutally crushed. There would be no compromise, no compassion, no mercy for the brave burghers who twice now had risen up in defence of their homes, the memory of their courage to be excised cut by painful, bloody cut.

It was the will of First Oligarch's conquerors that her honour be held eternally cheap, her memory contemptible, her sons and daughters expendable. A pointed lesson in the unbreakable will of the Elven people. What remained of her nobility would be driven into anguished exile, their lives spared to serve as a living reminder of the fate awaiting those who defied the Empire.

Brigdha had lived through such scenes only once before in her long life. The day Krimml fell. And she had hoped never to live through barbarity ever again - whether as conqueror or conquered. It was the bloodshed that day which led her to seek out the priesthood.

The Great Northern War had raged for years, somehow spawning a Civil War upon the smouldering embers of Old Rancagua's death, as some who claimed to love democracy more than others made common cause with foreign powers who despised it. Brother turned on brother in futile rage, tearing apart everything their sires and grandsires had worked to build, until one day Elven armies stood at the gates of the Imperial Citadel, a choice morsel sacrificed to secure more strategic holds in the ravening maw of the self-aggrandising Serpentis.

Krimml was never a large city, not like Oligarch, and its dignity and prominence were the curse of circumstance (or divine providence, depending who told the tale). That so small a head be graced with the crown of so large an empire was a bafflement to the fool and a delight to the sage. And yet it's fall had been no less spiteful, no less cruel, no less uncouth, than the events she witnessed playing out all around her as she walked purposefully from Brock's headquarters to the small shrine of The Shadows in the Street of Shroud-Makers.

There was nothing she could do to prevent this madness, no counsel of hers which carried the weight to sheath swords, no command to withdraw armies. Whatever currency her voice had once carried in Sirion had long since been devalued. But she was not powerless, though the power of compassion and steadfastness was less obvious than that of steel.

Her voice brought hope, her hands brought healing. She could help these traumatised people understand the true nature of this painful life and reconcile them with the vicissitudes of fortune. She could show them that their suffering was not unremarked and that spirits could be healed as surely as broken flesh.

As her boots crunched in the strewn wreckage of everyday life she passed many a silent dwelling, door bolted and windows shuttered, it's occupants likely praying against all hope to whichever gods they worshipped for safety or a swift death, without the slow defilements armed men demand of their victims. But here and there a face - braver perhaps than its peers - would peek from its bolthole, and some recognising the priestess from her many visits to the city would emerge to beg and plead for her protection.

To each she said the same thing, "Follow me, I will be your shield."

And follow her they did, the able-bodied encumbered with the bloodied and the old, orphans clutching keepsakes of their wrecked families, beggars and urchins who'd been too much trouble to kill, distraught burghers in their tattered finery, a handful of soldiers with the hollow trauma of defeat in their eyes, and even a couple of deserters from the Elven army, warriors of good heart unable to kill for the sake of killing.

At one of the many market squares they found trestles and barrows to bear the wounded and a bottle of clear spirits to clean their wounds, at another stale loaves and wheels of hard-rinded cheeses. But for the most part the city had been picked clean.

Thrice Elven patrols stopped her procession, tired eyes checking her diplomatic credentials and eyeing the crowd at her heel with undisguised contempt. Thrice they stopped her and thrice they let her pass, as much out of amazement as respect for her station or allegiance. And each time as her convoy passed they heard anguished screams from nearby buildings as the Elven companies pursued their bloody exterminatus with lusty efficiency, the knowledge that to intervene would be the death no comfort.

By the time the convoy reached the shrine some three hundred souls and perhaps half as many again accompanied her, far too many to fit within the narrow backstreet let alone the cramped chapel with it's single table and half-dozen chairs. As the nearby buildings were largely deserted Brigdha set about quartering the refugees within, organising the entire neighbourhood into an improvised hospital, far more chaotic than those associated with the larger temples but sufficient to the needs of the moment.

To ensure they would remain unmolested she had white sheets marked with the crimson saltire of her family armorial prominently displayed at each of the approaches. All who came upon the banners with violence in their hearts felt remorse and with nightfall word spread throughout the city that the Street of Shroud-Makers was a place of sanctuary.

21st September

Morning -- Oligarch

Selenia JeVondair

Oligarch was burning.

Bannermen from half a dozen kingdoms had cordoned off the city while those invaders within went about the brutal business of a siege. The besiegers, however, were focused on keeping people from getting out, not from getting in. And so it was that a lone, hooded traveler astride a southern mount made her way all the way to the shattered city gates without being challenged. A bored-looking elvish gate guard reached for the horses reigns. His hand never touched the leather; one of his more observant comrades grabbed his wrist and bade him use his eyes. The horse had been ridden hard, but was a product of one of the finest lines the South had produced, made obvious by her powerful, compact build and fine chocolate-brown coat. The tack matched the mare's high standard and the Redwing of Xavax was tooled boldly into the leather revealed the traveler's likely origin. The gate guard could have spent an entire day looting freely and would not begin to have enough gold to afford its like. Next to the exotic mount, the rider was almost an afterthought. She was slender of build and frame and probably barely matched the mare's shoulder in height. Her garb was well made, but in need of a stitch here and a patch there. Her boots were muddy, her cloak was tattered at the hem, and stains that appeared all too much like old blood blotched her apparel here and there. Dual kukris were sheathed and tied to her saddle and a cavalry saber hung at her hip. As she approached, enduring their scrutiny, she tossed back her hood, letting her long blonde braids flow freely as her cool blue eyes challenged them to stop her. Duty aside, the guards silently, but correctly, surmised that whoever she was, they were not being paid enough to risk upsetting her.

Since the soldiers did not move to arrest her, she did not slow and was soon cantering passed into the city itself. In her wake, a Sironite captain blustered up to his gate guards, demanding why a rider had been allowed through unchallenged. Upon hearing her description, she cursed them both for fools and hurried to dispatch runners ahead to inform all commands in and around the city.

The Phoenix Queen had come.

Once passed the gate, Selenia relaxed despite being in a city torn by war. War was nothing new to her, the place almost felt like home. Thoughts of her defeat in Xavax always seemed to trigger a pain in her chest from an old wound, so she redirected her thoughts to relief that she hadn't been stopped. She despised paperwork and was not the biggest fan of pomp and ceremony to begin with. There was time enough for that later.

Since horses were of little use during a siege, there were precious few people mounted, most of whom were nobles or couriers from one house or another. So soldiers and brutalized townfolk alike hastened to make way for her. Selenia had never been this far north before, but she knew well how sieges worked, she was confident she'd be able to find her own when she pleased. For now, she roamed.

Godric Tórrarin ka Habb

There was little word of Toren terrorizing Oligarch as they were meticulous in their work: none survived. Like men possessed by some hateful diety of blood they wrought pain. Godric is no sadist, the killing of Smallfolk brings him no joy. Nor does he care. It is simply so, the way of the world, another thing that occurs. All men die.

Not all women apparently. His eyes narrow as he hears the runner. A whispered phrase to one of his men and then the grinding of the Toren language. The men cheer as Godric barks orders, the bannerman hoisting up a tattered and bloodied, but still recognizable, Redwing. He rides alongside Godric as the men make haste to her last known location.

The mark of royalty is undeniable. She rides confidently forward, knowing her ferocity in single combat and noting that it is highly unlikely any foe or peasant is mounted. As he draws in closer Godric removes his helm and speaks, "Godric Warbornsson approaches. Hail to the Lady Xerarch." As he makes out those familiar blue eyes, a smile almost threatens to crack his notorious grimace. "I believe I am obliged to ride as your guard, being your hirdman. If your grace accepts, I will give my life in your defence, as will my own men as if the oath was their own." He nods solemnly.

Selenia JeVondair

She should have known that the old Toren would be among the first to seek her out. Selenia sat still astride her mare as Godric Godric removed his helm and spoke, "Godric Warbornsson approaches. Hail to the Lady Xerarch." A smile almost threatens to crack his notorious grimace. "I believe I am obliged to ride as your guard, being your hirdman. If your grace accepts, I will give my life in your defence, as will my own men as if the oath was their own." He nodded solemnly.

Godric was a large, fierce looking man, made doubly so when atop his well-bred southern charger. Next to the Xerarch, he seemed positively enormous. Next to even the soldiers he lead, he seemed all the more ferocious. He drew attention, and fear, wherever he went and for very good reason. Even now, peasants parted for him and his men, some in awe, some in terror. To Selenia, however, he was an old, very dear friend. Smiling freely, she eased her horse forward through the increasingly crowded street until they were side by side, reaching out her hand for a warriors grip across the forearms. "I accept you, Godric Warbornsson, as you knew I surely would. And to think," She said as she embraced him, "you were almost free of me forever."

As she pulled away, she looked behind him, jutting out her chin to indicate the Mounted Toren that followed him. "Send riders. Rally the Redwings to me. Our heroes, our High commanders, all of them. I wish to see my people." Before Godric could make the order, however, Selenia caught her reflection in a pane of glass. "On second thought, perhaps there is a bathhouse in this great city? After weeks spent on the road, I'm a little surprised you did not mistake me for a litch!"

Godric Tórrarin ka Habb

Godric snorts, "I have seen your grace in far worse condition." He arches an eyebrow as his thoughts swirl, "And for a lich you have far too much skin. Them I recall quite thin, like a bundle of reeds." He speaks to his men a moment then turns back to Selenia, "We do not know where a bathhouse is, but we will search by the Great Library." He draws his spear threateningly and rides into the crowd, clearing them as his men form an escort around Selenia.

Brigdha Dubhaine

For days Brigdha had tended to the steadily increasing casualty toll as the pent-up rage of the city's Elven conquerors boiled through it's wide boulevards and narrow allies with equal fury. Some thousands of refugees, many - but not all - members of the city's substantial Shadowist congregation, now dwelt under the protection of the Crimson Saltire. Just feeding such numbers was a substantial undertaking, let alone finding the medicines and other supplies necessary to tend to the wounded.

The considerable resources of House Dubhaine were currently focused on projects elsewhere, building works in the Colonies and the great crusades of Beluaterra and Dwilight, but still Brigdha was able to trade on a number of old family and business connections to acquire the supplies she needed. And where those sources failed her the stealthy veterans of the Ghost Watch had a way of acquiring things. Thus the vital task of saving lives had grown from a perilous pipe-dream to a well-organised endeavour affording her the time for other, equally pressing concerns.

The Great Library of Oligarch had always been an impressive building, its ancient vaults and scriptoria among the few constructions to survive the ravages of time and successive conquests, and an equally impressive repository of ancient lore. People naturally assumed the Library was founded during the first Elven occupation, the long-extinct Orcs being mostly remembered for their savagery. But those alleged savages were indeed it's original architects. And is it really so surprising that amongst a people capable of founding such a mighty city there might be some whose minds dwelt on the collation and preservation of knowledge?

Admittedly few of the remaining works from that period - largely contained in the restricted archive - were easy reading, nor necessarily good for the sanity of the reader. Even an adept of Brigdha's stature had to be careful which tomes and codices she lingered over, rigorously holding to certain rotes of memoization and disciplines of inner sight to press the undiluted knowledge into strict semiotic containment. Still, preserved here were secrets of great value to the Senior Fellows of the Grey University in Karbala and as its sometime Rector the Countess was determined to salvage what she could. If in the process she found clues concerning The Dragon and a certain sword, then all the better.

Nor was it only Orcish texts which drew her interest. The great Lord Doc had squirrelled away many fascinating tomes and grimoires during his long regency, shelf upon shelf of parchment, papyrus and vellum inscribed in the elegant calligraphy known as Elven secretary hand. Brigdha recalled the long hours spent mastering the finer nuances of the Elven tongue during her time as a Senator, building on the basic familiarity acquired organising black market shipments and leading raids during the Great War. Her grasp of the language was now fluent but there were still habits of thought in elder Elven literature which surprised and occasionally unsettled her - and probably there always would be. Habits of thought every bit as alien and invidious as those of the Orcish writers, but cloaked in much fairer guise.

Only once before had Brigdha enjoyed such free reign to explore the Library's darker corners, and that had been hampered by her own ignorance. At that time the Kinseys had only recently been expelled from Fontan and Brigdha's ascension to the ranks of balancewalkers still weighed heavily on her, steeped in The Flow but still innocent and unseasoned.

Thinking of the Kinseys for the first time in several years revived painful memories, a wry smile creasing her lips, her eyes unconsciously speed-reading the documents in front of her even as her mind's eye drifted back to the last act of the Civil War. The bloody years-long conflict was entering its final months, Avamar fallen and its landings lost, the great haven of Karbala besieged, and the road to Krimml wide open.

Knife ears Gabriella named them, the then fair Lords of Elfland recast as inhuman monsters, repeating the libels her counterparts in the Church of Humanity had long peddled. The path of hate is a dangerous emotion - the unchecked tide of anger and rage a boiling cauldron of facies, not just feasting on the rawest emotions but cultivating them, teasing them from their hidden places, and in the process consuming those who release them. Gabriella drank deep of its poisoned waters and with the aid of her brother Andrew raised the coastal provinces in a tragically doomed rebellion.

The reaction when it came was equally bloody and whole families perished in Elven reprisals, just as they were perishing today in Oligarch, the improvised arms of farmers and herdsmen no match for the professional warcraft of Sirion's warrior aristocracy. And whilst the eastern provinces burned the Assembly debated... and debated... and debated... If reason couldn't tame the violence, what could?

Sorcery is more than fire and thunder and grinding ice. Sorcery is will. Sorcery is words writ in matter with unyielding conviction. The slow dripped of poison in trusting ears. The fragile scroll consumed in utterance. The subtle confluence of thought and deed. The warping, sheering, tortured High Firmament shaping flesh and spirit in its roiling image. Sorcery sat at the root of problem, so only sorcery could unroot it.

In the battle between Brigdha and the Kinseys, it was the will of the Kinseys that faltered, their sorcery which was undone, their turbulence subsumed in the Great Ocean... and Brigdha had taken her first faltering steps on the path of the balancewalker.

Selenia JeVondair

Reaching down, she placed her hands on the inn keepers shoulders and raised him from his knees. He was a good deal taller, and wider, than she, but fear caused him to rise with alacrity.

"What is your name?" She asked.

"Indrik, if it pleases yet ladyship. This is my establishment. I-"

She raised her hand, cutting him off. "Hello Indrik. I am Selenia. Do you know who I am?" Indrik's eyes had gone wide as dinner plates as he nodded, swallowing over a visible lump in his throat. His wife started crying. Indrik started to move, but a gruff warning from one of the soldiers arrested him. The innkeeper l, his situation hopeless, visibly sagged as he resigned himself to whatever cursed fate had in store for crossing his path with that of the Lich Queen of Xavax.

"Good, then I have only three questions for you, Indrick," Selenia said, her voice and demeanor tired as she held up three indicative fingers. "Does this place have a bathhouse?"

Indrick, expecting some pronouncement of doom, stumbled over his words as he reoriented, but managed to shake his head yes.

Selenia lowered one finger and held the man's eyes with her own. "Very good." She looked around at the very large, very empty, inn. "And I assume you have rooms available?" Indrick nodded again, his expression slowly changing as he realized he and his family.might survive this. "Excellent," she continued, leaving her pointer finger aloft.

"One last question," she said, "How much for all of your rooms?"

26th September

Evening -- Oligarch

Andross Blint

Andross laid his head back and let the steaming water wash over his neck and shoulders, he smiled at Gia and nodded at Smiddich. He turned his attention to Selenia as she asked after Leatho, Andross responded kindly telling her was faring well and serving with a relative of hers, the relation of which he could not recall.

Skia nuzzled Gia's ear and licked her face before playfully nipping at Lupa. Skia was still smaller than Lupa, but not by much. She had grown rapidly in the months that they had been apart. Skia entirely ignored Smiddich, Andross couldn't be sure, but it looked like the Pirate may have reached out to pet Skia, either way she back away from him, not baring her teeth but giving him a look that said "Touch me and you won't get that hand back..". Andross loved her more for it. Finally after noticing Selenia's raised eyebrow at the interactions of his wolf, Andross chuckled to himself and Skia, as if noticing she was there for the first time, excitedly padded over to Selenia. Skia nudged Selenia's cheek with her nose as if to beg for attention, and laid down when Selenia began scratching her head. Andross laughed out loud at the interaction and then stopped when he saw Skia eyeing Hogni up and down. Her look said "What is this tiny Selenia looking thing...? Can I eat it...?"

Andross called out to her and said "Den eínai éna snak" which translates to "Not a snack." Skia pranced her way around the pool and came to rest next t Andross once again. Dipping her paw into the water and resting her head on his shoulder. He leaned his head against the side of her face and closed his eyes for a bit. Letting himself relax.

Ivo Mersault

Ivo rubbed his forehead as he stood outside the bathhouse. He wasn't sure what customs they had far south but this was surely too far.

Who talked business in a place like this?

He sighed. There was no way he was breaking out the Legolas speedos.

"Oy, we're either doing this outside or not at all!" he hollered at everyone inside. If there was anyone that is, and this wasn't just some elaborate prank.

Serina Kye

Never one to be overly self conscious of her own nudity Serina Kye welcomed the prospects of the bathhouse. Afterall she had just rode back to the city with great haste and was in dire need of a good cleansing.

Though young she walked into the bathhouse with confidence and quickly disrobed, joining the rest that had already gathered.

Hector Serpentis Tandaros

"Ah thank you, Aria!" the prince bowed his head in gratitude. Thoughts of the future began to fill his mind in a daydream. A fresh burst of laughter shook him loose. He wadd to the edge of the pool and took a goblet full of wine from a servant, resting against the edge and took a sip.

"Good evening, Dame Serina! Good to have you here. So many great houses are here, elders and youngsters alike!" Hector welcomed the latest newcomer. Fresh clouds of steam rose, the innkeeper doing their best to keep the stones below red hot. He surveyed the inside - when he entered with just the Xerarch present, it was shockingly quiet, but now the casual conversation of the reunited Redwings grew louder & echoed off the walls.

Standing again, Hector Serpentis raised his goblet and called out, "A toast! Let us give a toast, everyone! Cheers to the conquest of Oligarch, to the whole North which has finally reclaimed this city from usurpers! Cheers to Sirion, a mighty land which has taken us in as family! And cheers to Xavax - now in bandit hands - the true Xavax lives on as our hearts of bravery! To Greater Xavax! To Sirion! To victory!"

Gia Dragonfyre

Gia settled on one of the benches. She was placed so she could watch Hogni (who was guaranteed to disobey her orders to wait in the changing chamber until summoned with Lupa) When he and his mother saw each other again. It was a surprise Gia had saved ..... if for only until the boys curiosity got the better of him. She leaned against the warm wall. It reminded her of a sun warmed wall in summers eve. She took a deep breath glad to be with her Xavax family again. She dearly missed one who was not yet present. Something flickered on the edges of her awareness. She thought she caught a whiff of his preferred cigars.....She opened her eyes. As if the Paragons had heard her unspoken wish there standing in front of her was Smiddich. Gia stared at him almost unsure if he was real or a heat dream from the steamy bath. It must have been more then a month since they had seen each other. As he came and kissed her cheek and sat beside her. "Welcome to Oligarch, love", he grinned, "You get lost?" She finally smiled. She had been so surprised to finally see him again. She gave him with her very best smiles born of sunshine and happiness. She took his cigar out of his mouth and pulled him in for a passionate kiss. Just like the very first time she had kissed him that way she left him speechless. Gia grinned teasingly at him. Taking a drag on his cigar. "It is very good to see you again Pirate" The way she said "Pirate" made it sound like an endearment.

"Smiddich!" A young boys voice shouted in joy. Hogni came running out of the changing area Gia's unit was guarding along with Lupa and her pack. Lupa followed Hogni dutifully. But halfway to Smiddich Hogni was distracted by an even more dearly wished for sight "Mommy!" he changed direction and threw himself in to the bath pool. Lupa barked excitedly also delighted to see Selenia.

Gia patted Lupa and Skia and started them to play with each other. Their playing added to Hogni's excited babble about his adventures. Riding the wolves, learning to swim and to fight and also how to play and 'win' at several card games. She slipped into the pool next to Smiddich still holding his cigar hostage. She gave him a squeeze before turning her faze to Andross. She smiled.

How have you been!? Skia has gotten huge!'

She ignored Selenias dissapproving looks anout the gambling. But she noted not the fighting.....

Nicolas Harkle

Nicolas was tired and irritable. He was already overwhelmed from all the tasks he had during the occupation of Sirion, and now there was a formal invitation to a party at a... bathhouse?


From supervising the healers tend the wounded in the numerous makeshift wards set up around the city, to knocking down doors and proclaiming the fall of First Oligarch, and even from tasks as minimal yet meaningful (to his troops, at least) as keeping the mess tent stocked and writing up ledgers, he was exhausted. He had almost no time to himself, and when he did, he tried to find more to keep himself busy with.

Now that Sirion had firmly established control in the city, set up guard patrols, and replaced the administrators, Nicolas had a chance to give the Xavax aristocrats a piece of his mind.

The sound of metal boots crunching echoed down the lime halls of the bathhouse as Nicolas walked in with his men in tow. The sentries outside protested, but didn't feel like trying to stop 25 armed men from entering the facilities.

Clad in his full plate armor, he barged into the bathroom where the festivities were occuring and lined his men up against the wall. First, he threw his tattered Gilded Standard down on the floor next to the bath, and then took off his helmet and threw it into the water. The ill tempered knight did the same with a dented sword, and his unit followed suit with their arms.

Nicolas cleared his throat. "I thought I would stop in and say hello, nice to see you lot are having fun."

Nicolas motioned over at his men, who chuckled lightly at the comment.

"I hope you don't mind the dirt, or the blood. As you can see, we've been a bit busy. Anyways, now that the bellows at the smithy are blowing again, and the bank has its doors open, I might as well buy brand new arms for my lads."

Dirt and blood floated near the edges of the pool, where Nicolas had his men throw in their weapons. The warm stone floor around the steam baths were now muddy and caked with dirt from the boots of the soldiers.

"Ah well, that will be all. Not quite sure who I serve now, but this 'warrior culture' you boast about is a bit laughable. And put some damn clothes on, you're grown adults."

With a last chuckle the Gilded Company filed back out of the bathhouse, the crunching of their boots trailing off into the distant, cold night.

Aria Lucchesi Attano

Aria stared blankly at Nicolas. Blood and dirt didn't bother her.

"Good sir, I do not recognise you. However, your careless disposal of weaponry has put the Xerarch's son and court in danger. And for that, I expect to out in the square outside of this inn. With your blade." She stated, rising out of the water.

She stayed long enough to ensure that everyone was alright or not seriously hurt, before she left and armed herself with her claymore and armour.

Ayden Torrarin

Ayden listened to Godric as a disciple would a prophet. Him being both savior and mentor to her. While he spoke, she sized up the Apprentice. She could kill him quick as a blink, that was the first thought that came to mind. After all, she was of Tor. The second was that he was rather nice to look at and it would be a shame if she had to. He was clearly no southerner, that she could tell. He had the look of Dwilight about him. But he was fair to look upon...

Just then, Ayden noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. She raised a hand to alert her master as a group of 25 armed and armored men bullied their way through the Mounted Toren's perimeter and stormed into the Dragon's Flagon. It was the Gilded Company. She remembered them during her soldiering days with the Fearless. Ayden did not know how or even if they'd breached Godric's perimeter without spilling blood. Without a word, she drew both blades and waited for her Master's command, her body still and pointed toward the threat like a hound on the hunt...

Serina Kye

The discarded helm from the interloper land in the water near Serina, splashing the hot water about. She could not help but notice the pools of dirt, grim and blood oozing outward around the now sinking helm…Disgusting.

Furious she grabs the helm just before it settles to the baths floor and raises it up out of the water as a weapon. Heedless of her own nudity she too beings to remover herself from the waters to comfort this brute.

Selenia JeVondair

As Nicolas 'stormed' in, as much as fully armored men carefully picking their way down slick, narrow stone steps with minimal tripping or cursing could storm anywhere, Selenia's first thought was not for her own safety, or even that of her beloved son, so confident was she that no threat could reach past the Xavax and their wolves. Even Hogni squared his little shoulders when he sensed a threat to his mother. Rather, Selenia's first thought was how much Nicolas Harkle reminded her, in that moment, of Noriam Kah. Kah was a foolish young man who had lost such faith in his Xerarch that he'd betrayed her, challenged her to a duel, and met his end by her hand immediately thereafter.

Selenia wondered if Nicolas was going to challenge her to a duel as well. She'd never killed a man while wearing only a towel before...

But Nicolas only wasted his moment in the spotlight for a disappointing tantrum and as chuckled his way back up the steps, Aria spoke to challenge him and Serina made to follow, but Selenia bade both women be still as she raised herself from the water, "Your service to me began​ during a party, Nicolas Harkel. I raised you and your family from Isadril's nothing to a Knight of the Black Swan." She said just loud enough for him to hear over the din of his own departure. She motioned to Hogni to collected the gilded banner and bring it to her. It, too, was sullied with blood and dirt. "It is fitting, then, that it should end the same way.”

“It is the privilege of the young, baring no responsibility, to believe themselves all-seeing and all knowing. “But there is more to being a knight than killing. And there is more to being an adult than wearing clothes.“ She reclined against the rock up to her neck in water as Hogni returned with the sullied banner. Selenia began undoing the banner thread by thread. Her eyes and tone left no mistake that the Phoenix Court was now in session. “For his past service, Nicolas Harkle will live beyond this day. *RIP* But by his own hand and word, he is no longer one of us. *RIP * Perhaps he thought this some grand gesture of defiance, that one or all of us would rise up as his enemies and thereby grant him some measure of purpose or importance. *RIP * We will not *RIP *, and he will have neither of us.” With one final tug, Selenia’s unweaving released a seam and the tattered banner all but fell apart. “Besides,” She said, holding the bloody threads in her fist, “I’ve know use for a foolish man who thinks he knows everything. Dearest?” She looked for her son and pointed with her chin toward an oiled leather satchel hanging on the wall. The little prince was there and back in a splash. Selenia, dropped the remains of the gilded standard in the bag for later.

“I invited you all to join me here because if anyone in all the world has earned a bit of respite, it is the Redwings of Xavax. We fought impossible odds for years, and we did it alone. Aye, we lost. We were betrayed, isolated, tired and overwhelmed. Warrior culture…” She mused, taking a sip of wine before continuing, “No one else could have done what you did. No one could have held it together against a foe like the Southern Alliance as well as did we. And what did you do when Xavax fell? Did you rest? Did you lay down your sword to take up farming? No! You jumped right in to someone else’s war, one that had been raging since before Xavax was even founded, and in less than a month, you won it for them. So yes I damned well do think you deserve rest and relaxation and a damned lot more. But I did not summon you here just to tell you what I think you deserve. I did not summon you hear just because I missed you all like I missed my own son. I summoned you here to discuss what Sirion believes you deserve, and for you to help me decide upon a fork in our Path that will determine our continued journey as a people. Each of you who are here, and each of you who have yet to arrive, will learn what I know and share fully in the decision we must make here, today, about how we will continue our war."

Selenia retrieved a letter bearing the broken wax seal of Sirion. She passed it first to Hector, whose eye’s widened as they devoured its content before passing it along. “That-“ Selenia began “Is an official letter from Prime Minister Ivo. The Sirion royal is on his way here, to this very room, to meet me for the very first time. Whether he arrives or not, we will discuss the contents of that letter and choose our Path. Together."

Andross Blint

Andross was first alerted to the coming "threat" when Skia picked her head up and turned toward the noise. A growl began in the depths of her belly and slowly started to rise. She picked herself up and lowered herself on her haunches, preparing to tear apart whatever came through the entryway.

As soon as Nicolas Harkle appeared and the Xerarch began speaking, Skia didn't move, she didn't have to, nor did Andross command her, he didn't have to. He knew that Skia sensed his loyalty to Selenia was undying, and that she would protect the things he loved.

Selenia declared Nicolas no longer of the Redwings, and Andross stood there, waist deep in the water, steam rising from his torso and water dripping off his muscles staring after Nicolas. Andross also took the letter from Hector after he had finished reading it, and passed it along. He was furious at its contents, but he controlled his rage, pushed it aside, and sat back in the water waiting to hear what is Xerarch had to say.

Godric Tórrarin ka Habb

Before the Apprentice or the Huntress can respond, the Gilded Company, their obnoxious banners are undeniable, storms past the poor two Toren in the midst of an argument on the merits of offal fat or lamb's spit as lubricant. The Huntress draws her daggers at the ready tense and ready to strike. Godric places his hand on her shoulder, "My darling, please make sure my Apprentice stays safe as I am about to go kill a few men. Take care not to study the situation too firmly." He draws his axe and bellows out "Brynjar! Here! Now!" Striding out into the courtyard, Brynjar charges in on the horse, helm removed, looking quite surprised.

"Brynjar what has happened here?" Godric growls, somehow making a man on a horse seem very small. Before Brynjar can start, Godric speaks, "what is the purpose of a perimeter?" - "Has this perimeter been breached?" - "Do you think somehow this shouldn't have occurred?" - "Do I now need to clean up your mess? Am I your mother? Do you sometimes have the urge to suckle from my teat?" Brynjar snorts and stutters and ultimately elects to say nothing. "Give me my f'cking spear and tell me what else is happening." Godric is a very particular type of enraged, a maddening kind, a dangerous kind.

Brynjar clears his throat as he passes the spear to Godric, "My Þegn, there is the minister, Prime Minister, of Sirion at the front of the bathhouse, so to receive him we had gathered and left a small guard at the Flagon's door but the buildings connect and those men charged through. We were unsure how to proceed." Brynjar eyes his lord cautiously, hand creeping towards his dagger in case he is be made example of.

Godric stews a moment. "I will deal with Ser Harkle, you will continue to be me. See the Prime Minister in, join the proceedings, report back to me what is said." Brynjar gulps, wide-eyed. His mastery of the common tongue is incomplete at best. Handing the helmet to Brynjar, Godric adjusts his armour and weapons. "How's my warpaint." Brynjar nods assuringly. "Good, it is always a good day when Godric Warbornsson doesn't sweat off his warpaint." Godric stalks off into the darkness as Brynjar understands the gravity of the task before him.

Godric Tórrarin ka Habb

Brynjar is nervous. He thought being disguised as Godric would be fun, boss around the men, have a laugh or two. Instead he must now entertain the Prime Minister of Sirion and attend the Phoenix Court while speaking almost none of the language. He rides to the front of the bathhouse to catch Lord Ivo screaming about his Legless Spedos. Lego Spudholds? Who even needs that many potatoes?

Riding up to the Prime Minister he dismounts and hails smartly, "I am Godric Warbornsson, walks this way." He turns on step and beckons Ivo inside. He has somehow forgotten that he looks nothing like Godric and realizes he will need to wear the full armour the whole time. He has already begun to sweat. The limestone is slippery. He stops, noticing Lord Ivo is simply watching him curiously. He beckons again, "Xerarch is expelling you. Must not to waiting." He bows courteously, gesturing down to the bath.

Godric Tórrarin ka Habb

Godric watches the smug Gilded Company file out of the Flagon. He heard no screams but the perimeter has been breached and they no longer have their banners. Stalking quietly through the darkness, Godric is reminded of a long time ago in the deep South. Like a jaguar stalking his prey, he creeps slowly through the hedges. As they come closer, he finally springs out.

"Harkle! Explain yourself!" He has leapt to the front of the men, where Sir Harkle is leading. "Where is your Redwing? Your banner? Explain yourself you traitor!"

Gia Dragonfyre

Gia snapped from her flirtation with Smiddich to tense attention with Nicolas's entry. She along with other was not phased by her nudity and she was ready to fight Nicolas in the nude if necessary. Much like Andross though she stood to hear her Xerarch' s orders before taking action. In the end she decided her best move was to return to her seat along side her love.

Sometime after the bathhouse and all of it's events: "Lady Gia Dragonfyre", he said formally, "I love you. Will you make me the happiest man in the world and be my wife, forever?".

Gia gasped her hands flying to her face. She loved Smiddich and she believed he truly loved her, but she has never thought he would ask for her hand. She hopped off the platform of the cannon and dived into his arms. Kissing him a few tears of happiness slid down her cheeks. "I will never be a 'proper' wife" she said looking him in the eyes "I will never give up my life as a warrior to sit at home and wait for you to return from where ever..... I will always be fighting by your side. I will always fight .....I will do what I want when I want...... But I will always love you, I will watch your back in battle and I will tend your wounds until you are well....... If you accept my terms dear love then Yes! nothing would make me happier then to be married to you!" Smiddich nodded And Gia kissed him passionately....... So passionately in fact ..... the 'kissing" didn't stop until morning.

28th September

Morning -- Oligarch

Andross Blint

Andross has left the bathhouse not much longer after Gia and Smiddich. He had said his farewells to the Xerarch and his other Redwing family and was wondering the streets of Oligarch with Skia at his side and Gabriel close in tow. He was in a rather decent mood, the bath had really rejuvenated him, and seeing his friends and family had lifted his spirits. He wandered past a barn with the familiar sound of wolves playing and running about, Skia perked up too. He started to walk towards it when he heard Siddich's voice.. "Lady Gia Dragonfyre", he said formally, "I love you. Will you make me the happiest man in the world and be my wife, forever?".

His heart sunk, he knew the two were infatuated with one another but he never thought it would come to this.. His heart sank even further upon hearing these words from Gia's mouth:

"I will never be a 'proper' wife" she said looking him in the eyes "I will never give up my life as a warrior to sit at home and wait for you to return from where ever..... I will always be fighting by your side. I will always fight .....I will do what I want when I want...... But I will always love you, I will watch your back in battle and I will tend your wounds until you are well....... If you accept my terms dear love then Yes!

He had stopped dead in his tracks, he was expecting to fight back tears, but none came. He was only filled with sorrow and regret. Regret for not telling Gia sooner how he felt about her. However much he wanted to run into that barn and kill Smiddich on the spot, he pushed that instinct aside. He pushed aside all feelings and thoughts except for one. "The only thing that matters here, is that she is happy". That thought echoed through his head over and over. Gabriel looked over his young charge and sadness overtook him. He felt the pain radiating off of Andross and it shattered his heart he could do nothing for him. Andross was murmuring something to himself, that Gabriel could not quite make out. He stepped closer and hear him saying "The only thing that matters here, is that she is happy" over and over again. This shattered Gabriel's heart even further. He put his arm around Andross and said "Come my Lord, let us find an inn for the evening."

After walking away from the barn in silence for several blocks. Andross took a deep breath and stopped staring at the ground. He looked forward and took another deep breath. He knelt and Skia came rushing over to him, he put his arms around her neck and hugged her into him. The moment they shared together was so pure and said so much. Andross stood and began walking again, this time with purpose and determination.

They walked a little further before Gabriel broke the silence and said "My lord, if I may be so bold, you might still be able to tell the lady how you feel.." Andross shook his head and quietly whispered "No." Gabriel, not wanting to see his charge suffer said "If it is a matter of nerves, I would be more than willing to draft a letter and deliver it myself... I could-" Andross whirled on Gabriel faster than Gabriel could react. He shoved Gabriel into a wall, his hand on Gabriel's chest, his icy pale blue eyes staring a dead stare into Gabriel's and his voice dripping with lethality. "You will not. Nothing good would come of that. She would suffer for it, and in the end nothing positive would be gained. I forbid any action be taken that would jeopardize their engagement. I will not be the source of her pain. Ever." Gabriel nodded, with every intent on complying with Andross's orders. Andross dropped his hand and softened his tone and said "I'm sorry old friend.. I shouldn't have - " Gabriel stopped him and said "My lord, the apology is mine and mine alone to give. I should not have presumed so much. Forgive me." Andross nodded, and the two friends continued on their journey in search of an inn with strong wine and hot food.

Aria Lucchesi Attano

Aria sat back down and calmed herself. "As you command."

She listened intently to the Xerarch's words, she was surprised by her removal of Nicolas from the Redwing court. She felt pride when Selenia mentioned the fall of Oligarch.

The letter interested her, and she eagerly awaited the chance to read it.

Nicolas Harkle

Nicolas was somehow surprised at the overreaction of the Xavax nobles after he performed his little show. He hardly considered a protest such as throwing weapons into a bath an act of treason or a major threat, but on the other hand he had already been familiarized to the fanatic zeal of the Xavax aristocracy.

"My Xerarch, I believe you are a bit confused as to my background. My house hails from a small town in the western highlands of Dwilight, and the Gilded Company was the creation of my father. When monsters began to ravish the western part of Dwilight, the local lords frantically tried to raise bands of hunters and warriors to protect their lands. My father was among the first to answer the call, and thus the Gilded Company was born from a ragtag group of commoners and farmers that my father knew at the time. Getting its name from the color of the cloths they tied to their armaments, the Company was wildly successful, and while the nobility never really cared much about the affairs of peasants, the locals in the surrounding regions told stories of how my dad and his companions bravely fought off hordes of monsters and saved innocent people from slaughter and destruction. Granted, this is a bit exaggerated, but he was a very brave man nonetheless.

His gambits did not go unrewarded, and soon we found ourselves with a small cottage and 200 acres of farmland. He hung up his sword when he became a landed member of the gentry, and we had a pretty decent life for our background. While not a full member of the noble social stratum, his rank in the feudal structure was enough to secure my sister, Absicca, an estate and knightship in the grand theocracy of Astrum when she came of age.

When beasts descended back down upon the people of Dwilight, he called the Company back to arms. His old bones didn't have the same prowess as before, and he was struck down by a hellish beast while leading from the front, holding long enough for the rest of the mercenary band to escape with their lives. That is how my father died, a hero. Certainly not by our outdated aristocratic standards, and thus his legend only lives on in my family. Nevertheless he is the reason we were able to become 'nobility' in the first place, through his bravery and unmatched leadership. This is the legacy the Gilded Company strives to maintain.

"The monsters ravaged Western Dwilight, and pretty soon every village and hamlet was in burning ruins. We fled to the East Continent, with the Gilded Company under my command, and the shadow of my father smothering me. When I stepped off that boat, Isadril was a city of wonder for me. The way the Xavax soldiers marched, the way the city never slept. It was a city of fire and steel, unrelenting, unforgiving, and unbreakable. It reflected the warrior culture of Xavax that I came to love and admire, an adamant people forged by the hellfire of war.

I owe my success as a leader and warrior to you, yes. When I handed my papers to the customs inspector in Port Isadril, I was a sellsword, a brigand, a lowlife by your standards. But when you handed me that letter of knightship, when you pronounced me a Knight of the Black Swan, and I swore my loyalty to Xavax, with a solemn oath to uphold, protect, and defend the people, property, and soveriegn territory of Xavax, you made me into a true soldier. A true man of virtue, and gave me the true potential to achieve what I have achieved, but I ended up in your arms, a toddler tossed across the sea on a boat, because of the sacrifice of my father."

"I have given as much, and lost as much as anyone in this room, and honestly a lot more that quite a few in here", Nicolas said, gesturing at the younger nobles present.

"I have lost friends, I have lost good men. I have lost my own blood, and I've even lost my faith in inhumanity in my years of service to you. I am no less Xavax than any one person in here. I was there when Uthred the Unstoppable fell in battle, and I witnessed him stand back up and fight on. I fought alongside Jarvin the Redwing and watched as he took an arrow to the head in battle, his dreams, ambitions, and life splattered all over the wet grass. I wept when you yourself were struck down defending Xavax city in an attack, and drunk to your legacy when it was pronounced across Xavax that you were once again in the realm of the mortals, living and breathing, commanding a larger presence than ever before.

"But I have also seen the people of Xavax suffer. I have led boys, sons, future fathers, into battle. I have watched as smiths toil in the heat from sunrise to sunset, to drive the Xavax war machine. I listened to the cries of cold infants, their parents too deprived of sustenance by taxes to afford warm clothes during the winter. I have seen this all, and most cruelly of all," Nicolas's eyes became dark, "I have seem the shattered hope of thousands of Xavax citizens abandoned to their fate. To genocide, rape, murder, and torment under an evil bandit regime.

"I quite honestly didn't come here today to renounce my service to you, but seeing you tear up the same banner my men clutched as they bravely fought off waves of bandits, the banner they thrusted ahead of them as they danced into battle, the banner their blood stuck to as their life was mixed with the dirt, as they were all struck down in a hopeless conflict, and the very same banner that the people burned over the parapets of Xavax as our army marched out that one day, leaving them to their fate--- it leaves a sick footprint in my soul. Xavax are a people. We are a people, commonly bound by one cause-- to survive. Xavax is not the people in this room, it is the endlessly oppressed, endlessly fighting, and always perservearing warrior culture that defines a people who have lived under the shadow of total destruction for their entire lives, who gave everything to fuel a regime that vowed to protect them, and lost everything when that regime abandoned them. You aristocrats are not Xavax, the peasants, workers, fallen soldiers, violated women, and always suffering citizens of Xavax, that I vowed to defend, that you, Xerarch Selenia, Lich Queen of the Bathhouse Court, abandoned when the time best suited her. When the long con was coming to an end, and her warrior fantasies were concluding. You call yourselves warriors, but you didn't fight to the bloody end. You didn't stay and suffer the same fate as the people from which our just powers are derived, you left them. You ran, you retreated, you gave up, and then you invented a thousand different euphamisms to justify it. I am not a traitor, you are. I swore fealty and everlasting service to Xavax, and I fought to her very end.

"One day the Phoenix may rise, but it has already burnt itself out in its zenith of glory. You're a lunatic sitting in a bathtub, clinging to a throne that is seated 500 miles away in a razed and burning city, holding court while your loyal followers fan your ego and cuddle you at night while you cry yourself to sleep. You are not Xavax, I am Xavax. Every man who is not with us right now, who is not with their family, who is lying in a forgotten grave, hurriedly buried with one hundred other lifeless corpses after the dreadful dance of battle-- they are Xavax. Every man any of us have led, every peasant we have taxed, and every innocent young woman raped and murdered while we cower, and of all things, bathe, is Xavax. And their legacy lives on with their suffering, 500 miles away, as their struggle for survival lives on under yet another cruel regime. When Xavax is liberated, when it truly rises again, I will return. I will serve the brave people I vowed to serve until death, and I will gladly serve them until death. But that time is not now. Xavax is dead, and with it my oath. Any city Sirion mistakenly grants to a lunatic such as yourself will end in the same tragedy, another people coddled with lies of protection, only to be abandoned when the shadow of the enemy looms in the distance."

"I came here in protest, to voice my opinion, to show this 'court' my feelings about our lives of excess, how we bathe and dine as our soldiers toil under the Northern rains, doing the dirty work for us. When you took such an impulsive action as ripping up my standard and denouncing me, you finally proved to me that Xavax really is dead, that the people in this room are nothing more than Her Majesty's Personality Cult, that what we all supposedly stand for has wilted under the misfortunes of war. Your kind live in a volatile echochamber that surpresses progress, constantly padding each other's ego as you leave your subjects, the ones that make it all possible, to toil under your hammer. I was about to head to the tailor to produce a new banner after I retired my Standard, but such a hateful act makes me intolerable of what you stand for. I shall commission a new banner, crimson with the blood of Xavax, representative of the eternal strife of my people, and proudly fly it into battle, for I have earned that right. I serve Xavax, eternally and forever, even if I also fly Sirionite purple above me as I charge. And when I vanquish my foes, it will be with the true image of Xavax in my heart."

There was a commotion and one young woman who was very easy on the eyes, especially while unclothed, seemed especially upset. She rambled on about Nicolas, clearly ignorant of the purpose of his actions.

"M'lady, I've never seen you before but I hardly think you truly understad the context of the situation, or the struggle we've endured. I threw my weapons into this water to voice my disgust at our lifestyle ans slothfulness, not to harm anyone in this room. I didn't come here to wet my blade, and I would feel especially bad if I were to injure or kill a young lady who seems to enjoy playing warrior in between her dress-up sessions. Besides, without my sword it would hardly be a proper duel, although perhaps it would even the playing field. Although, of course, I would hardly decline an invitation to your bedchambers."

Nicolas grinned and his retinue burst out laughing.

Outside the bathhouse a monster of a man blocked the path of the Gilded Company, and Nicolas felt actual fear. The presence of the hundredslayer was commanding, and his mood was quite clearly one of no quarter.

"Ah, Son of Tor, a mighty warrior of House ka Haab greets me. I am quite honored in your presence. I apologize for.. ah, intruding, but I don't believe I am in violation of any laws-- not that they would matter anyways in a Sirionite city-- but after all, I was a noble of Xavax, er, before it fell of course. And my men are just as entitled to the festivities as any other warrior. Without their contribution of course, and the contributions of all other soldiers in this cursed city, First Oligarch would still be in control.

If you were to challenge me to a duel, I would be quite honored, although I would decline as there would hardly be any honor in the matter. There would be as much honor in me challenging a child to a duel! If I have earned your just wroth such that you desire me dead, and you wish to become a hundred-and-one-slayer, I am very ashamed, although I will note there is much more honor in trying me in a court of law if that is the case. In single combat I would hardly stand a chance!"

Nicolas grinned sheepishly, hopefully this manbeast had a humor for quick words and sharp tongues.

Godric Tórrarin ka Habb

Godric listens to Harkle try to weasel his way out of the rage. He stews a moment after he finishes, choosing wisely his next words. "You have broken the perimeter. There was no announcement. Your men have simply burst past my men, who were rightfully seeing to the Prime Minister of Sirion, as if you are entitled. You've made me a fool of. What was your purpose. You stayed but a moment. Tell me before the blōdlust drowns my hearing."

Godric speaks quietly, eyeing Harkle. His nostrils flare and his brows furrowed seem to cast his eyes dark. Forearms like great oaks, shoulders wide and square, from a distance and with no comparison he would seem a giant but in person is just below average height. He is truly broad, however, and the tales of him ripping the arms of undead champions do not seem far-fetched.

Ayden Torrarin

Before the Apprentice or the Huntress can respond, the Gilded Company, their obnoxious banners are undeniable, storms past the poor two Toren in the midst of an argument on the merits of offal fat or lamb's spit as lubricant. The Huntress draws her daggers at the ready tense and ready to strike. Godric places his hand on her shoulder, "My darling, please make sure my Apprentice stays safe as I am about to go kill a few men. Take care not to study the situation too firmly." He draws his axe and bellows out "Brynjar! Here! Now!-"

Ayden was already moving, knives disappearing into sheaths as she grabbed the Apprentice's hand and pulled. "Come, MyÞegn speaks, we move," she whispered urgently, her voice a flat monotone as she ignored the thrill that raced up her spine at the touch of him. When he was too slow to respond, she grabbed a fistful of his shirt and heaved him towards the Flagon, silently grateful that he'd no longer be able to see an errant thought's cross her face. When he veered toward the Inn's front door, Ayden grabbed his hand and pulled him down a side alley...

Gia Dragonfyre

Before the proposal earlier in the bathhouse:

Gia had likewise seated herself as the Xerarch spoke. She listened to Nicolas's speech...... Smiddich noticed her muscles slowly tensing up as Nicolas built to his case against those assembled. "Lich Queen of the Bathhouse Court, abandoned when the time best suited her." Gia shot to her feet. Smiddich could feel it coming, but he also knew there was nothing he could do to stop her. "Don't you dare call her that dreadful mocking title!!" Gia growled. Selenia waved her away. Gia fixed Nicolas with an icy cold stare..... "I am not a traitor, you are" Gia couldn't help herself she took a menacing step toward Nicolas. Selenia shot her a look. Gia glanced at her and fixed Nicolas again. It was a decidedly canine look. The look an angry wolf gives an ally. "no promises" it said.

"You've made me a fool of. What was your purpose. You stayed but a moment. Tell me before the blōdlust drowns my hearing." Godric said to Nicolas.

"I'll tell you why he came Godric, He came to pick a fight..... and he succeeded.... Those are strong words Nicolas...... " Gia said wading closer to him across the pool. "very strong words indeed" she said from behind him. Nicolas now faced Godric in front and a furious Gia behind in the pool

Selenia JeVondair

Selenia saw Gia and Smiddich sneaking looks at each other like guilty children urging whoever was bravest to fess up to some misdeed. She doubted that she was the only one to notice, but armored footsteps on stone drew her attention back to the staircase. Because of the armored sound, she'd expected Godric come to explain what had happened with the Gilded Company. Instead, Selenia was likely not the only person in the room surprised to find Sir Nicolas Harkel once again before, this time with none of his men in sight, apparently after he'd had some time to mull over the Xerarch's words. His speech them, with the passion, respect, and sincerity with which he infused his words, was the speech he should have given the first time. Had he done so, Selenia would have patiently explained, as was her way when questioned by one of her own. But by first showing her such great disrespect, lacing his words with insults and cruel humor, the damage had already been done. He'd thrown down his banner, denounced her, denounced them all, and laughed about it. And so Selenia had stripped him of his honor and dignity as a Redwing.

She could not, however, bring herself to stop him from speaking, or from leaving. Foolish though he was being now, he had indeed served honorably and well over his years of service as a Black Swan. And so she permitted him to speak his second peace and departed once again, leaving the Phoenix Court to await the arrival of the Prime Minister.

The germ of an idea spread to mind as Selenia wondered absently if she could summon Harkel at any time by misrepresenting some portion of his family's history. She suspected this would not be the last she heard of Nicolas Harkel, late of Isadril.

Aramon Abjur

The giant had left his armor and swords in his camp, for this time, the first since he set foot on the Path of Ash, Aramon was not marching to battle. Instead he wore a deep maroon robe, his face smeared with ash to the point that the runes and sigils tattooed there were all but invisible under the grime, a habit he had started when he had started North, to him a visible mark of the dishonor he felt at not dying on the walls of Xavax. Word had reached his camp and he made haste to the gathering of the Redwings. He noticed the Prime Minister of Sirion and the various soldiers and guards, but despite his size and fierce appearance, the former Shadow Tyrant could make himself unnoticed when he wished, and slipped into the bathhouse without drawing attention to himself. Shedding his robe he took a towel and made his way to the baths. He was more than a little self conscious that in doing so he was revealing more of the foul tattooing that covered the majority of his body. He was almost to the gathering when he heard the familiar voice of Gia shouting at someone and he forgot modesty and shame as he surged forward at a run.

Ivo Mersault

Ivo grumpily stomped into the Bathhouse, his mood not improved by the mess that greeted him within. It appeared a tornado had gone through the place recently, or at least a mild-sized orgy.

"Are we going to do this or not?" he growled. "Where's the Xerarch?"

Aria Lucchesi Attano

"Playing warrior?!" Aria questioned, the fire in her eyes blazing greater.

"The closest thing you are getting to an invitation to my bedchambers is a crossing of blades outside of my family home in Betholm." She glared at him as she said that.

"Especially without your sword!" She called as he left.

Asher Renodin - A Rough Tumble

"My Þegn will want you later. Our Xerarch may want you later." She leaned in closer to him, breathing deeply, memorizing his scent. She advanced until his back hit the wood. "But you are banished from Sirion." She continued, her ash-marked countenance a pronounced counterpoint to her body language as her hands felt along the wall behind him. She leaned up into his ear and whispered, "Prime Minister must not see you, but I must keep safe..."


Ayden flipped the latch she'd been feeling for and the pair tumbled through the Servant's Entrance into the unoccupied stable of the Dragon's Flagon

~ Ayden Torrarin

Godric marched off, axe in hand and an entirely different hand grabbed hold of his. Asher's eyes widened at the impetus of the leather clad daughter of the Hundredslayer. He stumbled forwards as he tried to catch himself, both proverbially and literally. The cobbled road as bumpy as a freshly created bog after a week long downpour on a meadow, or so it felt to him. Clearly not preforming up to standard the feminine hands released only to clutch his shirt. Beginning to utter words of protest Asher fond himself being all but manhandled towards an inn. Confusion finally started to make place for, not excitement, although that was there too, but indignation. He'd never been treated such. Least of all by a beautiful and extremely direct woman. Whom seemed to be of common birth, but was Godric's daughter? Confusion reigned some more.

His eyes spied out a dragon sign dangling from the doorpost of the inn. The clutching, soft hands released again. Asher breathed. His hand instantly gripped with an insistence and again he was being pulled along. This time into a side alley that ran parallel to the Inn. Finally they stopped. Safety eh? well I guess he didn't say stealthy. Asher thought as he looked around and tried to figure out where they were. Not much time for that either it seemed as Ayden leaned in close and then some more. Advancing on him as his words ended. He felt the planks of the building behind him connivingly inform him that there was no more room to fall back into anymore. Her hands trapping him in place as she pressed both of them against the wall. Her voice sweet in his ears and shattering the locks on the great, black, iron gate that held the beast called lust. He smelled her hair as she was so close but there was no time to savor.

The scant light that existed in the alleyway dimmed further. It felt as if he was in water. His eyes saw dark mahogany hair. Her hair? spill over him. Panic tickled the base of his spine and like falling off a horse he felt air racing past his face. Her warm body pressed against his. It made the cold sensation that the dragging air made on his back more pronounced. What was going on? Why did the world tumble? How could he spin? He was falling down. She had pushed him down a hatch. Perhaps not exactly the hatch she had intended.

The landing was hard. A crunching noise it had made and both himself and Ayden were darker because of it. His eyes adjusted to the light and he felt a wave of heat engulfing his skin. Oi, What are you doing here?! A stunted voice called out to them. Clarity returning to his vision Asher beheld a somewhat thickset man. Fat beats of sweat populating his forehead and in his hands a soot stained shovel. A quick glance around informed Asher that he was in some kind of oven room. Himself and his companion laying on a bed of coals yet to be tossed into the hungry fire.

Something stung in his lower back but the vitality of youth overcame and so he all but leapt to his feet. That had been his intention but the shifting coals betrayed him and he fell forwards and over his companion. Was that a muffled laugh he heard? The thought of great import yet inconsequential at the same time. He worked himself free of the sea of coals and confronted the man with the shovel. He raised a hand to him. This never happened and you will speak not a word. Asher did his best to look intimidating. As good as an early twenty-something young man can be to a forty odd year, seasoned husband. The matter of his entrance and the soot stains on his clothes didn't help either.

Regardless, the assumed imperious manner that Asher displayed, a trait learned at his father's Court, was warning enough for the wise innkeeper not to press the matter any further. Looking back at Ayden, Asher learned that she was quicker on her feet than he was. Nimbly she escaped the coals and as she did so he instinctively offered her his hand. Meant more as a sign that said This way rather than the actual invitation that it was.

Like schoolchildren they stole away and for all the imagined fun, they came upon a very serious matter. Winding through the poorly lit, warm hallways they could hear voices reaching out to them. At first a male voice. Then more of them. Water splattered and then moist feet clattering on a rock surface. The sounds echoed well but the words often distorted. The tones though, they informed both of them of the gravity of what was being said, even if the words were ineligible. Asher looked at Ayden, his message unspoken but he felt she understood. Instead of going up the flight of stairs they were going down. Deep into the clouds of stream that kept coming from that place. Words started to carry.

Suddenly, at a junction, an old man, a huge old man covered in tattoos rushed by. His towel hanging on for dear life and just barely managing to keep around his waist. The scene stopped Asher dead in his tracks. What the.. he glanced at Ayden before resuming on their way. Where curiosity often leads to discovery and at times bad things, what they came upon next was certainly a discovery and bad things might indeed follow. They stood at the entrance of a spacious room. The shapes of perhaps a dozen people partly obscured by steam and in part thanks due to the ambient light what others might simply call dim. The sounds of water were more than clear and the rush, splash and slosh of it was a stark contradiction in its playfulness with the image of another man on the opposite side of the pool. Ivo? Asher muttered as he looked across the room and the pool at the Prime Minister of Sirion. Surely the air must be spiced with herbs of a stronger kind to invoke such images before his eyes. What else had he just stumbled into?

"The closest thing you are getting to an invitation to my bedchambers is a crossing of blades outside of my family home in Betholm." She glared at him as she said that.

~ Aria Lucchesi Attano

The plain but quality, white linnen shirt Asher wore felt increasingly more damp. His legs covered by leather breeches circled by a fine belt of doe leather and from it hung not just a coin pouch but also a scabbard containing a length of steel originating from his homeland. Nestled around his neck was a bordeaux scarf of silk. In the absence of detail upon its fabric the coil of silk seemed like a great, elongated, autumn leaf given flexibility along with its already present grace. Awarded by a benign sun heralding its departure as it took from the world warmth. So too did Asher's nerves unsettle as he started to recognize the people present.

Godric Tórrarin ka Habb

Brynjar is confused. He is standing in the baths, fully armoured, sweating buckets. His eyes nervously scan the many naked and partially clothed people. The Prime Minister is confused. Who is that tattooed giant. There are far too many boobs in one room and he is afraid his coin purse might be too small. Is this what nobility get up to all day?

He waddles over to a bench, realizing he cannot really sit down without the leather making an awful squelching sound. He elects to stand like a sad Toren statue. Two more people run into a doorway, some sad soul in her leathers and a noble in quickly dampening clothing. Brynjar grunts his hello, hoping his disguise is working.

Smiddich Fontaine

Smiddich swept her off her feet into a crushing embrace and long kiss, "I shall never want a 'proper wife' for having known you, my love", he grinned, "I can neither keep nor contain you against your will. If what it takes to be your husband is to have you by my side forever, then that is the price I shall happily pay", grinned the pirate. He slipped the iron ring onto her finger. Though he had taken it from his pinky it was smooth, warm and old. "We should tell the others", he said carefully, "When they are.. attired, and proper. It can wait!", he laughed as she pressed him up against the wall, interrupting him thoroughly.

As they walked back to their holdings for the night, he supposed, "We could have the paragon Priestess marry us...", he teased, "Tonight!", he laughed as it looked like she might threaten to knock out his teeth, "Oh, if we only had a boat, and some water to cast her in, I could marry them too", he grinned, "I'm still a ships Captain. Technically", and his laughter boomed all the way down the streets of Sirion. He was the happiest man on the earth.

Flavia Arindal

"Well, it could be worse," said Flavia to Captain Voltz. They were standing on the balcony of her quarters in Karbala, looking over the troops assembled in the courtyard. Considering the sorry set of losers they had been when she'd first recruited them, they looked superb now. Decently armored, quick to respond to orders, and able to deploy themselves without falling over one another -- none of which had been the case this time last month.

Her family had always favored archers, although she herself had also fought on foot and mounted. So she'd fallen back on what was familiar when she came to a new realm, and so far it seemed successful.

Gia Dragonfyre

Gia was still shouting angry insults at Nicolas's retreating back. Aramon appeared abruptly. Gia greeted him with a familar nod. He noted she didn't bat an eye at his fierce appearence. She shifted her posture from fight ready to annoyance as she glared angrily after Nicolas. Ivo appeared next. He looked throughly vexed.

"Are we going to do this or not?" he growled. "Where's the Xerarch?" Gia turned to face him. "We just resolved a disagreement amoungst ourselves Lord. It was a bit unexpected." Gia looked around pointedly at the mess. "Allow us to calm ourselves a moment, I'm sure Selenia will still want to speak with you" Gia glanced around at her companions. "I shall go summon her" She glanced behind her to Smiddich who took her hint to exit the bath with her. She stopped next to Aramon and breifly whispered Nicolas's basic message. "Thank you for coming friend" she nodded to him and left with Smiddich.

Down the hall away from the others Gia made a frustrated growling sound and Lupa murmured back to her. "Lupa, find Selenia" she said and Lupa sniffed the air and trotted off down a hallway.

Selenia JeVondair

The sudden influx of arrivals into the bathhouse went almost unnoticed as various redwings through curses and threats at the retreating Nicolas Harkel, but the thunderously ...dramatic effect of Aramon's entrance was sufficient to shift their attentions. It had been a long time since Selenia had last seen him. She'd forced him to join Lionel Kinsey in leading the Xavax north to safety while she remained behind when, in the end, he had been right all along. Selenia smiled warmly at her appointed heir, opening her arm to welcome him before her attention was drawn to a lumbering, armored form leading an irritable-looking old man behind him.

Selenia recognized the warrior as one of Godric's Toren, though why he was dressed as Godric, she could not fathom. She fixated instead on the man she did not recognize. To her, his expression seemed as though he was personally offended by just about everything in the room. "Are we going to do this or not?" he growled. "Where's the Xerarch?"

"Relax, Prime Minister," Selenia said in a languid tone, as she shrugged an apology at Armon. "We celebrating a great victory are we not?" His eyes tracked the sound of her voice and locked on her. Selenia herself relaxed up to her neck in the bathes with her back to the far wall so as to watch those who entered. At her side was a young boy who looked to be the very definition of mischief, and there was something about his appearance... I'vo's eyes switched back and forth, then swept the room before returning to her. She appeared to be in her late 30s and wore only a towel to protect her modesty. Above the swell of her breasts and slightly off center was a fist sized scar, marring her flesh like a thunderhead on the horizon. Her blond hair was pinned up, framing her face in wet ringlets as she poured herself another of Indrick's finest red."Besides, bathes like these take years from one's face." She nodded at him, her expression and demeanor inviting him to join her in the steamy waters.

Ayden Torrarin

Asher leaned in further, straining to hear what was being said, but the now-familiar grip of Ayden took hold by the collar of his plain but quality, white linen shirt and pulled him back into the alcove.

"Dangerous for you here" Ayden whispered in warning. Clearly a woman of few words. To avoid choking her charge, the Huntress shifted her grip from his nape to his waist, heaving the larger man into a sideroom he hadn't noticed. A wine cellar. Darkness enshrouded the two as Ayden closed the door shut behind her. Between the ash on her face and the black hunting leathers she wore, she all but vanished right in front of him.

"Less Dangerous for you here." She whispered from the dark. Asher heard a shuffling sound. "The Xavax cannot see you." The sound of flint striking steel. "The elfkin cannot see you." With another strike, flame blossomed upon a torch on the wall, illuminating the form of Ayden in gentle firelight beneath, her back to him. She turned, to face him, blocking the door. "Here, only I see you. For now, you are safe."

Andross Blint

  • In the Bathhouse*

Andross watched Gia furiously chase after Nicholas and shout at him, as well as the comings and goings of other Redwings. He noticed the heavily armored man leading a grumpy looking fellow into the bathhouse.

Selenia welcomes the prime Minister and Andross turned to really look at the man, he was curious. The man appeared to be incredibly uncomfortable with the amount of naked and semi naked nobles in one bath tub. Andross chuckled quietly when Selenia invited the Prime Minister to join them.

Asher Renodin -- Ripen with Time

Straining to see and hear what was going on in the main bathing room Asher startled as he felt those hands at it again. Not his own but those feminine hands that worked with intent and a fierceness that warred with a matter of factness in their application. Ayden pulled and heaved and pushed him until she had managed to work him into a nearby side room. Asher fought back this time but the overriding objective of not making any sound quickly proved to be his undoing as she clearly cared less and plainly abused the obvious weakness.

Backing into the dark room Asher all but hissed the words. What are you thinking! You madwoman! Noticing Ayden really didn't care about whatever he just uttered he saw how she markedly turned away from him. That was about all he could see in the raven gloom. Looking left and right in a an attempt to make out where they were was pointless, yet he did it anyway. "Less Dangerous for you here." She whispered from the dark. Asher heard a shuffling sound. "The Xavax cannot see you." The sound of flint striking steel. "The elfkin cannot see you." With another strike, flame blossomed upon a torch on the wall, illuminating the form of Ayden in gentle firelight beneath, her back to him. She turned, to face him, blocking the door. "Here, only I see you. For now, you are safe."

~ Ayden Torrarin

The faint glow from the freshly lit torch cast a warm luminescence over Ayden's features. Slender and compact shoulders firm with muscle giving way to the long and elegant curve of her back and ending with tendrils of light teasingly informing his eyes of her rump. He felt a warmth rush to his cheeks and averted his eyes from her skintight leathers. Rip was a better term but Asher tried to think rationally. His eyes met hers. She stood to block the path leading out. The torch told the story of the room without words. racks of dust covered bottles lined like barracks. White chalk lettering and numbers indicating the grape and year of harvest. Beyond and only faintly visible, the large oak barrels. Small tears running from their top. Early wine tears long dry but to be shed again in the future as the wine was evicted from its temporary wooden home and taken to its next timber residence. Until ultimately, it too would find shelter in permanent glass like those hundreds already seated comfortably in their racks.

You mind explaining why I would be in danger among my own people? Asher tried to look upset and deeply furrowed his brow. A sense of normalcy had to be established. She was still a common born and he was a Noble. Noticing or rather feeling that his shirt had cropped up on his shoulder way too much he dropped the frown and instead focused on smoothing his shirt out. Looking back up at her. Well? Care to speak? Or are you going to drag me into one of those barrels over there next? He indicated the wine barrels in the back of the cellar. Look, whatever you think you need to do, it's fine. Just step aside and you'll see. A hand gestured at the door and at the same time made the signals a horseman would use to calm a spooked horse. While speaking he had taken a slow step towards the door and inevitably, towards Ayden.

Ayden Torrarin

You mind explaining why I would be in danger among my own people? Asher said with an expression of consternation furrowing his brow. His indignation missed the mark, not because Ayden wasn't listening, she was filing everything away for later, but her primary focus was not on his words, but on his body language. She studied him passively, her arms crossed, her eyes peering out from the shadows of ash around her eyes. She didn't even blink. Besides, he was very fine to look upon.

He dropped the frown and instead focused on smoothing his shirt out. Looking back up at her. Well? Care to speak? Or are you going to drag me into one of those barrels over there next? He indicated the wine barrels in the back of the cellar. The image stayed with her. Look, whatever you think you need to do, it's fine. Just step aside and you'll see. A hand gestured at the door and at the same time made the signals a horseman would use to calm a spooked horse. While speaking he had taken a slow step towards the door and inevitably, towards Ayden.

The Huntress shifted her weight subtly from her heels to the balls of her feet and uncrossed her arms, placing her hands on her hips. The effect drew attention to her trim waist...and the hilts of various weapons festooned about it. She did nothing to stop him from coming closer however. Instead, she jutted her chin toward one of the nondescript barrels. Coincidentally, it was the same one that Asher had gestured to. His head snapped back and forth between her and the barrel and Ayden belatedly realized that she'd better explain further less she be misconstrued. "Innkeeper Indrik. Done some work for him before. He has a habit."

She stalked passed Asher, her fingers twisted something beneath the barrel and it cracked open to reveal that it was not a barrel at all, but a camouflaged well. Slowly, deliberately turning her back to him, she bent to reach deeper into the fake barrel. She appeared to be working a small handcrank within and soon enough she came up with a wet glass bottle, chill to the touch: A bottle of Tharan's Totan Red. She tossed it to Asher as she past him to resume her post near the door.

"Not safe for you out there, so we stay here. Noblemen like wine, yes? My Þegn will be pleased if his Apprentice is well cared for." For her few words, the huntress did not affect the demeanor of a jailor. There was a tenseness to her that had nothing to do with Asher and everything to do with the nobles beyond the door in the Xerarch's presence. As though she were ready to turn and draw at any second. "We stay here until they-" she hooked a finger over her shoulder, "-are done or My Þegn summons."

Asher Renodin - Before the Storm

"Not safe for you out there, so we stay here. Noblemen like wine, yes? My Þegn will be pleased if his Apprentice is well cared for." For her few words, the huntress did not affect the demeanor of a jailor. There was a tenseness to her that had nothing to do with Asher and everything to do with the nobles beyond the door in the Xerarch's presence. As though she were ready to turn and draw at any second. "We stay here until they-" she hooked a finger over her shoulder, "-are done or My Þegn summons."

~ Ayden Torrarin

Silver droplets transformed as they separated from the chilled wine bottle that sailed through the air. From the shadows they had borrowed sable but from the fire they stole gold. Impossibly small to luscious fullness they danced in the space between Ayden and Asher. Their spectacle invisible to all for their role ever so mundane. To fall to the ground but as they did so, marvels of the imagination they displayed boldly for any keen enough to notice.

Scrambling to catch the wet bottle Asher managed it. It collided with his chest, his lower two ribs to be more precise. A flash of pain manifested itself in a wrinkled nose that he quickly suppressed. Looking down at what his hands had caught he felt confusion and a bit of outrage. Wine?! He spat the word as he looked at Ayden. His eyes full of disbelieve. Before speaking he halted himself. A foot already eager to begin a stride but was held back. Lips moistened with a small and pointy tongue. Your Penguin be dammed!

In a snap motion the bottle experienced new dimensions of speed and excitement. It departed his hand and found itself propelled across the shadowy room. What droplets had refused to leave its surface before now streamed after the fact as they were left behind in mid air. The neck of the bottle met resistance first. It crashed into the wall somewhere off to the right of Ayden by a fair margin. Never intended to actually hit her. It exploded into a deep violet maelstrom of wine and shattered glass. Anger roiled over Asher like black clouds filled with thunder. Being pushed as far away as possible by a fretful gale called will. Before being forced to unleash its enmity in words and actions made of forked lightning. His sapphire eyes took on a new meaning of hardness and his stature shifted and grew.

Words laced with the colors of murder and fatality.

Stand aside.

Ayden Torrarin

Message sent to everyone in the region Oligarch (37 recipients) Ayden's nostrils flared as the scent of very fine wine just spilled filled the cellar. The curve of her lips dipped into a frown, the first note of displeasure she'd yet displayed, then she shrugged, resigning herself.

"No." She said simply as she unbuckled her weapon's belt. It dropped to the ground with a thud. She kicked it behind her and took a step forward, never once taking her eyes off his. He was still very fine to look upon. But since The Apprentice wished to learn the ways of Tor. She was ready to teach him.

Barely an arm's length separated the two now. His sapphire eyes burned into her emerald ones as she widened her stance and centered her weight. The torchlight behind her framed her hair with an auburn halo. Her blinks came slow and her chest heaved completely with air, exhaled, and calmly waited between the Apprentice and the only exit.

"My Þegn will be displeased if I let harm befall his Apprentice..."

Asher Renodin - Unbalanced

"No." She said simply as she unbuckled her weapon's belt. It dropped to the ground with a thud. She kicked it behind her and took a step forward, never once taking her eyes off his. He was still very fine to look upon. But since The Apprentice wished to learn the ways of Tor. She was ready to teach him.

"My Þegn will be displeased if I let harm befall his Apprentice..."

~ Ayden Torrarin

Eyes beheld as the sable specter of womanhood stepped away from the door and weapons and advanced upon Asher. Her eyes were like a rare, black jaguar and a stance to match. Her breath measured and her focus singular. The rising fury he had felt a moment before shaped itself into purpose. Asher saw his chance and his eyes shone with perceived opportunity.

Turning to point his right shoulder at Ayden he dropped into a steady crouch. Steadying his breath he drank in every detail he could. The amount of cobble stones between them. Which ones were smooth and which ones stuck out a bit. The fall of the light on Ayden's shoulder and neck. Which way her thumbs pointed and in which direction her feet were indicating. This and more. A shrill sound blossomed into life. A flash of silvery grey warmed by the flickering light of the torch to an amber sheen. A backward skip had created the distance necessary but Asher had no intent to retreat.

His familial sword in hand he continued to absorb every given detail he could from Ayden. The blade double edged and exuding craftsmanship like a handsome man does virility. His swordarm poised to deal a killing blow being within perfect range. The manner of the blow rehearsed in his mind over a dozen times already, in a dozen more different ways in which he could.

There they stood, the choice clear, to resist or to relent.

Ayden Torrarin

Ayden said nothing when Asher drew steel. Her eyes followed it for but a moment, committing its dimensions to memory. Filled with wine barrels and other accoutrements as it was, the cellar would constrain them both to limited mobility in close quarters and Ayden felt that they very much in her element.

She made no move to draw a weapon of her own. Her only response was to shift her right foot, which was her lead foot, slightly behind the left. She balanced on the balls of her feet. Other than that, she faced him squarely and stood her ground. Her body was drawn tight as bowstring

"No." She repeated. Her very phlegmatism robbing Asher of his most oft-honed weapon: his words.

If she was going to move, she would have to be moved.

Asher Renodin


"No." She repeated. Her very phlegmatism robbing Asher of his most oft-honed weapon: his words.

If she was going to move, she would have to be moved.

~ Ayden Torrarin

The word carried power and it filled the room. While softly spoken it was more profound than the bottle smashing against the wall. When eyes speak they tell tales in an instance and in that moment. Sapphire turned to dark Beryl. With a single handled grip Asher was spartan in his assault. His other hand behind him for added balance. A jab with the tip towards the foot and a quick follow up jab towards the shoulder and the combination finished with a short lunge. Ayden had to fall back in the absence of space to dance around Asher. As she did so he swept backwards with his blade and brought it up for a circular motion ending in a measured chop that brought him forwards. It was centered on her chest and forced Ayden to crash into a wall, awkwardly scrambling for space.

Glancing behind her she could see her weapon's belt. The wall was her ally in that instance for she rolled backwards and added speed with the power of her legs bracing away from its surface. The move caught Asher off guard but he didn't want her to keep him trapped here. Wine or no wine. Advancing quickly to keep up he realized it was to no avail. During her roll Ayden had managed to grasp not one but two weapons. Sizing up his adversary anew Asher noted now easily she held and allowed the dagger to almost flow through her fingers. Never even looking at it. In her other hand she held a longer blade. It was slightly curved and designed to slash but most certainly could deliver a nasty stab if required.

Reach was still in his favor and she had little room to manoeuvre. Not waiting on a battleplan of her own to be revealed he pressed the attack. Continuing the stabs and short chops. Focussing on her wrists and shoulders. Closest for him and instant game changers if she were to get injured. Ayden was resolute in no longer surrendering any more ground than she already had. The door just behind her and the young man she was fighting didn't allow her the lucky break of being able to parry or block or even snare a slashing attack.

The dogged defense both annoyed and impressed Asher. It's not all show then, she's got some of that fighting blood of Godric in her after all. The thought formed in his head. Although he didn't like the fact that he thought so. It meant that he wasn't getting out quite as easily as he intended to. Cease woman! Step aside and you won't have to worry. Or don't and never worry ever again. He emphasized his words with a downward stab aimed at disarming her. At the last shifting the purpose of the stab towards a batting motion against her weapon.

Ayden Torrarin

Ayden had always been leery when dealing with nobles. One word from them was enough to see the low-born likes of her strung up. To actually spill noble blood would be a death sentence, regardless of her own benefactors. Cease woman! Step aside and you won't have to worry. Or don't and never worry ever again. He emphasized his words with a downward stab aimed at disarming her. At the last shifting the purpose of the stab towards a batting motion against her longer, right-hand weapon. It was the moment she'd been waiting for-

Ayden did the last thing Asher was likely to expect: she moved. Asher was deadly quick, but his skills had be honed on the training mats. Hers, however, had been honed on the hunt. Instead of the ringing sound of steel on steel, Asher felt her-now familiar grip on his wrist! As he'd brought his sword down to disarm her, instead of meeting or avoiding the strike, Ayden had voluntarily dropped the shorter dagger she'd carried from her left hand and brought that hand across to grapple his wrist so instead of steel, Asher's sword batted nothing but air. Ayden dipped her right shoulder down and swept her left leg over her right, spinning in place to use Asher's forward momentum against him. Her back was to his chest as she used her own momentum to launch his sword arm over her left shoulder and forward, propelling the blade to stab into the wood of the door between the knob and the simple bronze latch that served as a lock, jamming both in place.

Asher had an instant to realize that his precious sword was stuck, but Ayden had never stopped moving. Maintaining her grip on his wrists like a vice, she ducked under the arm. Asher sensed more than felt a tug along his waist as the steel of her curved long-knife kiss leather. That barely had time to register, however, as Ayden, now behind him, brought the knife to his throat and her arm around his waist, holding him tightly. Very slowly, he released the hilt of his trapped sword. He could feel her body pressed against him, and her warm breath in his ear. "Xavax and Sirions do not harm fools-" He swore he could hear a smile on her lips as she gently released him "-I think you would look very foolish if you leave me here now."

Asher's eyes narrowed at the Huntress's added inflection. He knew little of her, save that she was very skilled, apparently fearless, and obviously a woman of few words. He, being exceptionally good with words himself, surmised that she uttered nothing without purpose. It was then that he noticed that Ayden had not retrieved the knife she'd dropped in the scuffle. Gripped in her left hand instead was a belt, it's buckle still fashioned and a clean slice through marring the fine doe leather. As if waiting for him to notice their plight, Asher's fine leather breeches dropped to the ground. With deliberate control, she made a show of tossing his belt over her shoulder, losing it among the wine racks. Then she dropped her longknife before him. And then, working buckles of her own, Ayden finally did smile. Slow and languid. Torchlight danced in her emerald eyes like an open invitation.

After all, Asher was still very fine to look upon...