Dubhaine Family/Ciarghuala/Roleplays/1017/December

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3rd December

Day -- Poryatu

Letter from Aldrakar Renodin

Esteemed members of the Realm, Sir Nicholas Archival, Sir Staedtler of House la Stylo,

Knights of the Kingdom of Earth Hall, Blades of Poryatown.

Furthermore, any information or insights you may have towards the current political climate within Luria Nova and Dwilight at-large would be more than appreciated -- I wish to cultivate my understanding of current affairs as swiftly as I might, to be of better service to yourself and the realm. ~Nicholas Archival

Before I delve into that set of questions, I will elaborate on the titles above it. Know also that I write this letter to the Realm at large so that everyone else may benefit these words also. The Empire of Luria Nova, our home, is the third installment of such an Empire. The Greater Luria region stretches all the way to the City of Shinnen, The Tomb Islands now occupied by D'hara, the mountains to the North with the seat of Balance's Retreat and extend well into the Palm Sea.

The Halls of Luria, of which Earth Hall is but one, are former Kingdoms that were absorbed, peaceful or otherwise, into the Empire. As such the Rulers of those Halls are referred to as Kings. Bond to the Emperor and governed by the Imperial Laws. Each Kingdom however has jurisdiction over its own lands. That immediately brings me to the next topic. Lurian lands are greatly diminished. The last time Luria was great it held thrice the amount of Nobles as she does this day and age.

Back then Luria stood against the world as the Monster ravaged the Western Half of Dwilight. All humanity was extinguished there by the fang and the claw of the dark ones and the monsters. We, Luria, were among the few to accept the Noble refugees from that side of our continent and gave them a home. Promised them a new Realm and fought for them until our countrymen died. Bonds were forged back then. The East and nigh all its Realms did not like our Generosity. It was they that declared war upon our Empire. Led by D'hara, whom we now call allies. They invaded us. Realms that no longer exist fought us back then. One remnant is the Morek Empire. Cast your eyes onto a map and see in the north the small green trace they are now. They used to comprise of all the lands currently held by Arnor, Avernus, the Druid Realm and more even. Now they are but a spec of the painting they were before.

Since those heydays, the world has know a great deal of darkness. Monsters leaned to swim the highseas and they visited from the West onto our shores. The Empire had by then created a Realm called Westfold around the City of Unterstrom. More on that city later. The monsters came in numbers beyond counting. Their might inhuman and our lands were ravaged. It was an age of terror. We survived however but what you see before you is the limping body of that once great empire.

Lurians are Nobles, High Nobles, the Highborn. We have been accused of looking down our noses at other Realms. And we do. We have. We had a good right to. We did better, we were stronger, we were wiser. Still the name Luria is spoken of with reverence and fear. Our ability was without match. Much of that knowledge is still with us but the Old guard is not enough to quicken this world. There you come in though.

Hands are needed coupled with wisdom to breathed life once more, not only into memory but also into the future. Luria always believed in meritocracy. In giving chances and allowing the best to rise to the top. At times other Realms called Luria a warzone of blades and words. When Luria wasn't facing an enemy, it looked within itself and fought itself. The Lurian Civil wars are the stuff of legends. Recall the Halls? Each of them was a Kingdom of Luria that stood independent and fought one another.

The Currently Empire was forged by the First Empress, Alice Arundel. Long may her name be remembered. She was a harsh woman. A brilliant sword-fighter and possessed great cunning and indeed a devious mind. Her husband the Crown Prince Hendrick Madigan was my first Liege, then Lord of Mattan Dews. I've seen all the ages of this Empire and am willing to share my knowledge with you all.

Before I continue with more practical matters, I shall share an old letter by a most venerated Lurian. A man called Malus Solari. A king of the Northern Reaches of Luria. A great teacher.

Letter from Malus Solari(Approximately December 2012)

Ladies, lords, dames and knights of Sun Hall—

Since our realignment with the Houses of Luria Nova, I have had much time to think. Mostly, I have thought about ale. How it is brewed. How it can be improved. Strengthened. Stuff of great import. Occasionally, I have devoted time to another, singular thought: what does it mean to be Lurian?

Now—For me, at least—I believe I know. It means fighting. Striving. Yearning for something better. Pursuing it at any cost, by violence if necessary. That passion defines us, and when we are not free to express it, calamity or inner death is the result. I have witnessed many calamities in my time, but now I believe we find ourselves at the threshold of a malaise. You shouldn't stand for it. I won't.

In my idle time, I have begun drafting a Lurian code. Not some law that dimwitted bureaucrats enforce with their hammed fists, but a personal code. A way of being. It is the distillation of what made Solaria great for a time combined with my observations of other successful Lurians. It will be the lodestone of Sun Hall, and any who aspire to great things under the banner of this duchy would be well served to consider it, at the least.

What is this code, then? Certainly, it must not interfere with other creeds. It makes no grand claims regarding the divine. It does not tug at your many loyalties. Simply put, it is a code of service. Honor. Perfection in whatever you do. Ignorance should be your greatest shame. Do you march to battle? Do so with a keen understanding of martial tactics. You do not know them? Learn them. Ask. Do you administer the courts? Your task is often thankless. No longer. Your sharp mind will be regarded as equal to the sharpest sword, with all the rewards due to you. Are your talents in the cloth or the granary? A people must have comfort, and armies fight better with full bellies. Your service, however it is given, shall be rewarded. The Lurian code leads to a life of continual striving toward the ideal. Something can always be done better. A machine can always be improved. We are machines made flesh, no? We should strive for perfection of the self. You are not asked to undertake a personal struggle without reward. It is time that you enjoyed greater liberty. But how do we get there?

Ladies and lords shall be required to take up the code. If you find that a life of stagnation meets with your approval, then I wish you a long and happy tenure, because your successor will always be waiting in the wings. For your commitment, you shall have an immediate stake in the future of the duchy. Through referenda, your interests shall collectively become the official policy of Sun Hall. There is no matter too great or small for your consideration. War. Trade. Politics. Sun Hall shall be governed collectively.

For dames and knights, you may expect the largest estates. Immediate elevation to lands and titles when such vacancies occur. Assistance for recruitment. Vigorous defense against your enemies, external and internal. Support for your training in any of the arts.

This is all very sudden and vague, I know. I believe it to be critically important for the restoration of Sun Hall and Greater Luria. Let us demonstrate that we are masters of our own domains and captains of our own fates. By demonstrating the superiority of our ethic, it is likely that such a code will be adopted by the Duchies of Giask and Shinnen, when such time comes. Let this code, this way of being, be the first step toward a genuine cultural and political reform of Luria. Who will take up this mantle with me?

Glory and honor,

Malus Solari

Ambassador of Luria Nova, Duke of Sun Hall, Margrave of Askileon Purlieus, Priest of Sanguis Astroism

Now, onto the more practical matters and those questions.

Furthermore, any information or insights you may have towards the current political climate within Luria Nova and Dwilight at-large would be more than appreciated -- I wish to cultivate my understanding of current affairs as swiftly as I might, to be of better service to yourself and the realm. ~Nicholas Archival

The political Clime within Luria is a tranquil one. The Grand Panetier is a woman of great respect. She in no small measure has fed the Empire and is currently undertaking a great project to see wealth trickle down to the Knights of the Realm. The Grand Pantry Guild is where you should take up membership to augment your income.

Heed her words if you value the prosperity of the Empire and indeed your estates.

The Empire is very centralized presently, it wasn't always so but partly due to my own actions, power is strongly vested in the Emperor. Where in the past we had many enemies we've sundered the Realms south of us, Fissoa and Madina and they are no threat anymore. To the North we had founded the Realms of the Druids, and Westfold. Unsterstrom as you might recall, was the capital of Westfold. A realm of Refugees from the West. This Realm was destroyed by the Realm of Astrum.

That very Realm has declared war on the Realm of Swordfell. North of us. In response Swordfell, whom were the owners of Unsterstrom in recent days, have split their Realm in twine, creating the Realm of Sol. To better combat this aggression. Astrum is the stronger Realm and likely to win a prolonged war. The Empire of Luria has had an amicable yet irritable relation with Swordfell. the Region of Flying Hongrns is ours. We lend it to Swordfell during the Great Monster invasions but despite promises they never returned the region to us.

There is also the memory of Kamron Lorgan, former King of Earth Hall. Whom longed to set ablaze the Fellish Mountains. We never have till this day though. Further north, Arnor is supporting Swordfell on the basis of Religion. There is a great Faith that has been shattered, split, politicized and more over time. The Faith of the Bloodstars. One of our own Emperors, Seoras, became a prophet of a schism of said Faith. Regardless, the Bloodstars must be in balance, there are three of them, and the Realms of Astrum, Arnor and Swordfell (Sol) are now at each other's throats.


To the new Knights, Diplomacy, Ambassadorships, Courtiers, Warriors, Marshals, Vice Marshals at that and more is available to you. Plan, bring forth Ideas and see your thoughts made Reality.

Join the Royal Rangers Guild, a place I helped elevated to have spread across the entire continent. Its purpose is to fight Monsters and undead but it will also bring you into contact with Nobles from every Realm. Ask questions, be curious, have fire in your belly.

Be Lurian and be welcome, Aldrakar Renodin Imperial Magistrate of Luria Nova Royal of Luria Nova Duke of Earth's Hall Margrave of Poryatown

Letter from Ciarghuala

Not only does my esteemed colleague Imperial Magustrate Aldrakar gives most excellent advice, his history of Luria Nova has inspired me to tell my tale and illuminate some of the history which has shaped the situation all of Dwilight now finds itself in.

I was not born here in Luria but across the inland sea in the Free City of Via, the daughter of an exiled noblewoman from a distant land. When most think of the West they think of monsters and the fell things dwelling in ancient tombs, for in recent years these horrors have cast their shadow even here in the golden halls of Luria. But there are worse horrors in the West, their names whispered in the secret councils of witch and sorcerer, the profane ancient Lords of the Zuma Coalition who dwell in the Ruins of Walfurgisnacht and worship their Dread Gods at the Temple of Dragon Song. For though the Age of the Sun is little more than 40 years old (approximately 8 Great Years in the Calendar established by Lord Gregor) the Zuma dwelt here uncounted Ages in the darkness before the first men set foot on Dwilight's shores.

Those lands and the evil they contain are well known to me for I ranged them in my youth and there learned the ways of battle, before the call of duty drew me north to Niselur and the first battles of the Great War Against Humanity which to this day rages unabated.

If you look on your maps in the far northwest you'll find the land of Westgard, a colony established in recent years by knights from foreign shores in an effort to reclaim some of what humanity has lost. But in my youth that was Niselur, the home of the Horse-Lords, a realm supposedly under the protection of Sanguis Astroism. Many are the nights my dreams turn to the First Edreun of Niselur and our doomed efforts to hold the Provincial City of Gaston, the mighty Temple City of Darfix already silent beneath death's uncaring rule. Where were our allies then? The proud and haughty Lords of Astrum laughed in our heralds' faces, and though good King Falco was a most reverent and orthodox servant of the Blood Stars did Sanguis Astroism rally to our aid?

No. Those quarrelsome and self-serving clerics - the very ones whom Emperor Seoras would later seek to purge from that faith - turned their back on both King and realm, claiming we were heretics and our fate written in the stars. Would the Gods have revealed the Forgotten Crown of the Austere Star to our people if they had turned their back on us? No! And so the Gods withdrew their protection from humanity even as much of humanity turned its back on a godly realm. And now look at humanity's predicament?

In the the years which followed I ranged the Inner Sea, escorting King Falco and the Crown to sanctuary here in Luria Nova before expeditions to the Tombs Islands and leading the last desperate attempt to hold a beachhead in the West at the mighty haven of Golden Farrow. No greater army has ever gathered in Dwilight than the horde which threw itself against Golden Farrow's walls, nor braver men and women than those who stood against them. Even then, had the Northern Realms done as the Gods surely desired and stood in unity and faith we should have endured.

But alas they did not. For there is a corruption at the heart of Sanguis Astroism and its name is Astrum.

So I settled here in Luria, the one realm in all of Dwilight which offered the Lords of Niselur sanctuary without contempt. And today, many years after those events, I use the skills I learned in the wild lands of the West to do what the Gods have always asked of the nobility: to safeguard those too weak to safeguard themselves, to mete justice in honesty, and bear proudly the banner of mankind in the face of all who assail us.

It is my hope that one day the corruption of Sanguis Astroism will be purged and our brethren of the north commit the energies they expend betraying each other to the Great Crusade humanity must surely mount if we are to reclaim all the lost realms of Dwilight.

Until that day Luria Nova will remain a shining example of what honest men and women can achieve if they are willing to place the good of humanity ahead of their own venal desires. Just as I was once proud to ride with the First Edreun of Niselur I am proud to now call myself a Lurian.

​For Truth! For the Empire! For Humanity!

Aldrakar Renodin

A Royal Letter

Accompanied by an escort of Rendorian Heavy Cavalry sporting not entirely ceremonial gear a, veritable emissary of the House Renodin, the King of Earth Hall, your overlord, arrives. Before inspecting you in a curious and somehow imperious manner he hands you the following parchment. A heavy thing in and of itself. Even without the added velum for thickness and the small gems studded along its border. Garnet, tigers eye and rose quarts most prominently:

Nobles of Earth Hall,

Here follows the words of his Majesty, the King of Earth Hall, the first of his name, the Master of Poryatown, former Emperor of the Empire among many of his titles.

All Nobles and their servant bondsmen, banner-men, warriors, hired blades and other such acquired fighters are to be assigned to the Army of the Emperor's Will. It is the express order of his Majesty that this be done and that all will serve faithfully in this army to the best of their ability.

All Nobles with estates within the Kingdom of Earth Hall are to take up membership of the Guild known as The Grand Pantry of Luria. His Majesty has decided that the goals of this Guild are in line with his ideals of ensuring the Knights of the Realm are well supplied with funds. Particularly so when his Majesty casts an eye on upcoming military campaigns.

A great Feast is to be held in the Golden City of Giask. The former Seat of his Majesty and the home of his Children and late wife, the Imperial Conciliator Lucini Talratheon. All Nobles of the Kingdom of Earth Hall are hereby personally invited by the hand of King Aldrakar. To be his guests on this occasion. Audiences will be granted. Failure to properly represent the Nobility of Earth Hall at this Feast will be greatly frowned upon and will earn the ire of his Majesty.

So are the words as recorded for His Majesty, King Aldrakar of House Renodin of Earth Hall.

Feeling the parchment in your hands a finger absentmindedly pokes one of the luster gems embedded in the parchment. The Emissary casts you a last glance before departing. One that conveys a certain expectation that somehow was already hard to miss reading the laden words of the Scion of House Renodin.

You mind wonders, what to do, what to wear perhaps even.

Matthew Coffey

Perhaps it was fortunate that Matthew had been performing his speeches at Giask when the messenger arrived. Immediately he knew the crest of House Renodin, having been from a local family in Poryatu, recognising such heraldry would have been taught during his upbringing. A necessary skill. It dawned on him just how much he had been anticipating meeting the nobility of the realm in person, the real ​nobility of consequence, but the true weight of the situation had only hit him as the emissary peered down from their horse, awaiting the pale pink faced youth to take the letter. Indeed, the letter itself told of a grandeur and richness that his family would never have seen, only being minor landed nobles themselves. Forgetting himself for a moment, Matthew took an inappropriately long time regarding the wealth displayed on a mere missive, before addressing the messenger as he would if Aldrakar had been there in person. Once dismissed, Matthew did not hesitate to return to his room to open the letter in private.

​Having returned to his lodging, a fairly modest room within one of the many fine inns scattered about the city of Giask, Matthew scanned the words at great length, as if trying to glean some sort of greater meaning from it besides the literal orders presented. Firstly, he made a quick note to remind his newly hired captain Wolfram the next day that the troops need be informed of their new position within the "Emperor's Will". This was of less interest to Matthew, as he had already known of the military implications of his pledge to the empire. He was looking forward to leading his troops into the fray, having only tasted real battle once against the beasts that lurk the outskirts of the realm, expectations of glory and honour were running high in his mind.

​Matthew smiled slightly to himself, skimming briefly over the next segment about joining the "Grand Pantry", having already done so at the request of his liege, Ciarghuala. Being the Margravine of Poryatu, the Coffey family had no doubt interacted with her servants, although unlikely in person. Thankful of her advice thus far and warm words of encouragement, Matthew hoped he would meet his liege in person soon enough, and it seems his wishes were to be answered.

​The next segment caught Matthew somewhat by surprise, not that the feast was unwelcome, and after all, the wealth of Luria Nova was unmatched so noble feasts were inconsequential from a monetary perspective. More so that he were invited, personally, by the king. He reminded himself that such was probably sent to all the nobles of Earth Hall, shaking the notion of importance off swiftly. Humility was to be his saving grace, his family had told him upon leaving the safety of the estate, but young bravado had been taking the better of him up until now. His mind drifted once more to the people he might meet at the feast, what they would talk about, how they would react to his presence. Such a spectacle, attendance was not only expected, it was mandatory in Matthews eyes.

​Certainly, his next task was to see a reputable tailor.

Night -- Poryatu

Ciarghuala savoured her wine, eyes glinting like sun-struck sapphires in the hearth's warm glare as she conferred with Captain Septinia and her 1st Lieutenants of militia, Audley and Kimball. Night after night the four of them sat together in her parlour, accounts of the day's business interspersed with plans for the future, reminiscences of past battles - to which the Poryatu garrison were no strangers - leavened with ribald tales of the sort soldiers share in their private moments.

As evening turned to night her companions one by one retired to their quarters, leaving Ciarghuala to enjoy the quiet as her eyes studied the guttering flames in the hearth. On the morrow she'd inspect the garrison, that small army of sworn men who guard the land approaches to Poryatown and the arsenals of the north, and then head south to Giask at her King's invitation, wearing aires and graces wholly alien to her nature. The north could weather her absence for a week or two, but could she weather polite society?

Leaving the cups for her servants to clear away in the morning Ciarghuala stifled a yawn as she entered her bedchamber, careful not to disturb the figure slumbering within. With practiced ease her tunic and breaches fell to the floor and she slipped beneath the linen sheets and felted blankets, snuggling close to the warm body of her companion with surprising tenderness.

5th December

Day -- Poryatu

Tohrm Elrath

It had been a most fortuitous journey to Giask thus far for the up and coming noble of the Elrath family. The wind was in their favour as Tohrm and his small retinue of retainers set sail from Askileon. The brisk sea breeze buffeted the man as he surveyed the coastline. The seas were familiar to him, a pleasant sense of safety washed over Tohrm as the ferry rocked its way onward toward the capitol. After taking a moment to appreciate the views of this new land, he turned in to his quarters. The ship would not take long to reach the city, but there were some matters that needed attending too. Pouring over the letters he had received from his newly assigned contingent in the Emperor's Will, as well as his correspondence with his direct liege, Ciarghuala, Tohrm could not help but let out a contented sigh. Life was taking a turn for the better, his family had been struggling to find a place to call home, and now it seemed possible that they had found one.

Tohrm was jolted from his idle day dreaming over the words arrayed infront of him, by the coarse calls of the Captain of the ferry. "Land ho', Giask in sight!"

He thought to himself that this seemed a little early, but not wanting to curse the fates for a prompt arrival, it was time to see to his men who were waiting anxiously for a chance to spend a night or two in warm beds, and not huddled around the army campfires.

"Sir Elrath, we've arrived. What are you orders?" A rather unassuming soldier asked his peer.

The knight of Poryatu smiled warmly to his men through his bushy beard.

"Then you all best be ready to receive some company. It's been a long road."

A few cheers emanated throughout his meagre ranks as the ferry drew up against the dock. Tohrm paid the Captain his due and set off toward the market square. His men had broken up into their usual groups of comraderie, and were counting the few extra coins their liege had provided them for entertainment amongst their own scant pay.

Now the men had been seen to, Tohrm was ready to acquaint himself with the city proper, but as luck would have it, this would have to wait.

A messenger hurried forward along the pier before he had a chance to leave the dockyards. The wiry young lads eyes kept darting between Tohrm's face and the tabard emblazoned with his family crest. It was clear he was looking for him.

"You boy, what is it?" Tohrm beckoned him forward swiftly once he realised his purpose. The messenger hesitated, then corrected himself and dashed to the side of the knight.

"I bring word m'lord from your liege. Your orders for the army, and funds to see this happen."

Tohrm took the proferred missive and scanned it with due diligence. A rearranging or orders, and to expect combat soon. Fine he thought to himself, fine indeed.

"You may leave." Waving the messenger off, Tohrm continued toward the city center of Giask.

After gathering his bearings, and collecting a most generous donation from the Emperor to aid in this task, Tohrm made his way to the barracks and recruitment grounds of the city. Inspecting the troops arrayed there was a pleasure. Most were well drilled, equipped and seemed to be in good spirits. Solid men to make a solid line.

Picking out the local soldiers who hailed from the estate land he had been granted, the Aestian's as they were called, a man of stocky build and impressive moustache to boot stepped forward. He introduced himself as Gundred, hailing from the northern borders of Poryatu and had been training the Aestians for some months now. He offered his services as captain to the newly appointed knights forces, and Tohrm was happy to accept. Shaking the burly mans hand, Tohrm felt reassured that his orders would be fulfilled, not just to the best of his ability, but to exceed the expectations of his lieges.

Once the unit had been refitted and tasked under his command, Tohrm set back out to reclaim the rest of his men to make their way toward the rally point of the army.

It was there, that a most ostentatiously graced messenger halted him. More orders, Tohrm wondered as he regarded the gilded and studded letter that was passed down to him. Directly from the Emperor perhaps? Upon finishing the letter, a polite smile crept across his weathered features. Turning to the horsed messenger, the knight assured him that he would attend this feast and was honoured to have been invited. An excellent chance to mix with the new and old blood of the realm, he supposed.

"Gundred, take the men to Askileon Purlieus. The others will be whoring and drinking on some side of the docks I'm sure. Once they've been roused from their stupor, march through the countryside and keep sending scouts forward to the main army. I want to arrive and see a force of stout lads ready to fight the beasts back from our borders. Drill them, regularly on your way back north. Understood?"

"Aye Sir. And what of yourself?"

Tohrm chuckled as he spoke.

"I'll be engaged in a most serious business. One which requires my utmost attention. It's critical, in fact, to the realm, so far as you're concerned, that I am in the city here until my task is done."

Gundred's eyes widened slightly at the fresh Lurian knight.

"Aye, a drink or two for myself is just what this realm needs." Tohrm grinned happily and fetched another handful of coins from his purse. "And a drink or two for the men, just to be fair."

The new captain laughed and took the coins. "As you will m'lord. I'll see it done. I think I know a tough Lurian brandy that'll go down well in the camp."

Tohrm patted the man's shoulder before turning, making his way into the market proper.

His fortunes had seemed to turn, most fortuitously. The Elrath's had indeed found a new home. Once he had celebrated this fact, he would be ready to fight for it.

The feast, awaited.

William Fitz Roberts

Sir William stood at the prow of the ship as it sailed towards Giask. He had heard tales of its magnificence and from this distance it did not disappoint. Time would tell as to whether this remained the case. He glanced down at the invitation he had received the day before,astonished that his superiors had taken such interest in lesser nobility of the realm. Nevertheless he was looking forward to it greatly. However, first he had buisness to attend to. The White Shields were nowhere near the condition he would feel comfortable presenting to his Marshall when he returned to the mustering point; they were under manned and under trained. His own sword skill was not up to scratch either. He was hoping to rectify these flaws during his stay in the city. He toyed with the scarlet fox badge on his chest for a moment, before turning back to join his men.

Night -- Poryatu

Nicholas Archival

The journey to Giask had been taking longer than expected. The roads were not of pristine quality, and though Nicholas was astride his destrier, Stalwart, the retinue that followed in his wake marched by foot. His Sworn Swords, as they had rather bombastically taken to calling themselves, were not what he was used to. He thought back, only days before, to his final hours in the Archival estate. The thundering of galloping hooves was a familiar sound, now confined only to memory... at least for the time being. Mathis Archival had been a fine cavalryman and knight, but had not the money to afford his son such a unit. Instead, it was the mundane reality of the small infantry unit that he had since accustomed himself to.

He would make do. It would not do for him to make any complaints; his position offered him far more than the typical citizen of Luria might expect. Coin enough to support himself, his estate and an armed retinue was a blessing in of itself that Nicholas did not permit himself to forget. "To think yourself above the men you serve is a short road to hubris and betrayal," his father had always said. It was a valuable lesson, and one he strove to remember, even as his circumstances seemed ever more likely to direct him toward grander standing. The surprise of receiving direct correspondence from both his king and emperor had yet to sink in. Though there was a voice gnawing at him, reminding him that he was one of many. Even amidst the wave of knights presenting themselves to the Empire, the glow of pride was not so easily dimmed.

Aldrakar Renodin, though foremost his king, was the Margrave of Poryatown. It was useful, then, that he had chosen Noble Manor Square for his residence and area of administration. He had not placed himself under the direct leadership of Aldrakar with the express intent of seeking greater influence, it seemed possible that it may occur as a side-benefit. No doubt it would prove useful at least to earn of himself the man's ear. In the regard, it was not so great of a surprise that he had received contact. What remained unexpected, however, was the recognition of the Emperor. Though it was less personal, the gift of both acknowledgement and the two-hundred gold bond gave Nicholas enormous satisfaction. It became apparent that the time with which he moved to represent his family more widely throughout Luria was opportune. None of these facts would escape him, lest he miss the chance to grasp the greatness that so teased itself before him.

Nicholas shook his head, dark tresses whipping in the evening breeze. He had been allowing Stalwart to dictate their pace for quite some time now, he realised, with the setting of the sun above. The knight shifted in the saddle and glanced over his shoulder. The Sworn Swords continued to follow behind him without falter, despite being without mounts of their own. Like their leader, the men of the unit were young and eager, keen to find their place in the world. Though youthful exuberance was no substitute for regimented, diligent training, it was an encouraging start. They were amenable and loyal, to both Nicholas himself and to Luria. They were a fine beginning to his military career, but would soon find themselves amidst greater numbers upon reaching Giask. With that in mind, he consulted his map; Askileon and its port could not be far. Already he could smell the sea-breeze on the air. The occasional gull swooped overhead, before wheeling off back towards the coast.

He had never had the honour of visiting Giask before, and this first arrival promised to be far more interesting than could have been predicted. Recalling both the military summons to the Emperor's Will and the impressive procession of King Aldrakar's emissary, Nicholas took a deep breath to steady himself. Frayed nerves would not fit him in the capital. He had ever been a man - or boy - of slight stature, but to stand amongst the greatest of Luria at the coming banquet, he would have to be tall.

6th December

Day -- Askileon Purlieus

Aldrakar Renodin

The Golden Feast

With great, big clouds lazily sliding across the amber, evening sky he looked out over the great city. The home of his children, the place where they had grown up and where he had met his late wife, Lucini Talratheon. Leaning forwards onto the fine, marble balustrade of the balcony that ringed most of the great hall of the Golden palace, Aldrakar looked down onto the City. It sprawled away in every direction from the Palace complex. North to the grand docks that even now did not know quiet. Torches and lanterns lit what hundreds of men still did. They worked so that the huge city would be fed, so it would function. Like poetic, fishy lungs the docks inhaled at night and breathed that life giving breath of commodities and goods by day.

A wry smile crept onto his face. ‘’City doesn’t change.’’ The cool, evening air filled his own lungs as he took a deep breath that slowly escaped through his nostrils. The Golden Palace was build over the span of many, many years. The libraries were full of its projects and yet, none of the librarians could quite agree when work had first begun or that it indeed ever truly finished. Situated on a strategic set of hills of which the highest one is commonly agreed to be the site of the oldest section of the Palace Complex, over time all of the hills in the immediate area were gradually incorporated. Enclosed with a series of high fortifications. Circling walls both pragmatic in their thickness but decorated in their own way with smart use of architecture, ornamentation and of course, banners. That tested and true way of signifying which Noble House was where. Aldrakar could still find more than a handful of his own insignias, banners and markings left over from the time that he was Emperor and indeed, was Master of Giask.

Some of his most memorable times in the palace he had spend in the gardens. Of course there were a great many of them and a fair few with their own water elements still, his fondest memories were among the cherry and peach groves. A section of the gardens quite old as they once served the dual purpose of providing food stuffs for the royal kitchens while at the same time providing prestige by the very design and layout of the groves. When means are few, things have to have several purposes or else they will become too costly. Aldrakar grinned at the thought. ‘’It’s no longer about cost these days, we’re still rich.’’ As if to confirm the fact his eye wandered over the royal stables. A complex vast enough to be mistaken for an estate all on itself. Paddies, jousting lists, armourer, medicus to just name a few of the ancilliary buildings associated with just the royal stables.

Sweeping his gaze across the other ‘’lesser’’ palatine hills Aldrakar saw the builds that houses foreign emissaries, the residence of the Emperor, the Royal Barracks, the huge entrance gate district, the place really deserved to be called a district for a small village would fit in it. Not bothering to inspect all of the grounds associated with the Palace Complex Aldrakar pushed himself away from the balcony balustrade. As he turned his ears heard the songs coming from the aviary below. The Nightingales are early tonight he thought to himself.

Upon entering the Great Hall he beheld the vast space that had housed entire Royal and indeed, Imperial Families. Collossal marble pillars reached impossibly high to support a roof made by the hands of master craftsmen making their labour of love. Not a single expense had been spared. While that was generally true for the entire Golden Palace, this room in particular was given special care to stand out. It was where the Lurian Emperors made their decrees after all and where Foreign Rulers were brought to feel small and be humbled. While it impressed Aldrakar if he took the time to look at it all, it didn’t really anymore. He had slowly grown used to it. Walking past a neatly arranged area specifically for wine and accompanying foods he nodded benignly to particular servants he recognized. An old habit stopped him in his tracks. His eye had spotted a wine it did not recognize. Feeling a certain modicum of defeat he mildly rolled his shoulders and whispered. ‘’Alright, you win.’’ Turning around Aldrakar instantly saw the triumphant look on his old wine stewards’ face. The man was portly and had a very kind, round face. His voice was full of merit and one could easily believe the man hadn’t even ever thought of hurting a fly, much less ever having done so. Looking down and then returning to look at the steward Aldrakar spoke. ‘’Ismos, what, is that wine?’’ Special emphasis on the word -what-.

The man’s belly swayed and shook gently as he uttered a soft chuckle. ‘’Whatever do you mean your Majesty? This one perhaps?’’ Ismos’ hands gracefully and with the dexterity of a seasoned warrior picked up the bottle he had surely planted where he had stood before. ‘’A rare find indeed your Majesty.’’ He licked his ruddy lips. ‘’From the faraway lands of old Asylon. Uncovered by a most daring adventurer. Deep, down in the cellars of a ruined castle. Or so I’m told.’’ The round face turned several shades of red, from that of a radish all the way down to a gleaming, healthy apple. His eyes alluring and teasing. ‘’The test is in the tasting of course!’’

Unbidden Ismos was already filling a glass and handed it delicately over to Aldrakar. Whom accepted it with a foxish grin. ‘’You know just to how entice me, you had this planned from the start, haven’t you?’’ A single eye trained on Ismos as Aldrakar took a sip. Swirling the wine in his mouth he couldn’t deny it was an exceptional vintage. Rich, full of body and with a strong, lasting finish. Nodding appreciatively Aldrakar looked the man in the eye. ‘’You’ve outdone yourself Ismos. Please see to it that some of the bottles find their way into my cellars.’’ Ismos bowed victoriously. ‘’It shan’t fail to be so, your Majesty.’’

After this little back and forth with an old friend, as such Aldrakar regarded Ismos, he felt his mood much improved. A smile upon his aged face that seemed to ignite smiles in those he looked upon. Still fancying himself handsome Aldrakar stood with the pose of a warrior. A lingering legacy of a lifetime wielding the sword. His once golden blue hair now streaked with white but still worn in the way he had when he was younger. Freely around his shoulders and allowed it to frame his angular face. Vitality still part of his being despite his years. Being favoured by all the ladies of luck, not a crippling blow had ever found his body in all the countless battles he had been through. Enabling him to still have a spring in his step whenever he felt like it. Worn hands smooth with care and the crowning jewels of his arms that in turn sported a healthy amount of muscle. The sign of man that took care of his body with regular and physical training.

Now striding through the Great Hall, Aldrakar was anxious to take a seat and officially open the banquet. Everything was set and the servants were in good cheer, in part because they saw and served their old master. A man they had grown to love, known to be a benevolent and kind individual.

Taking seat in one of the thrones arranged in the Great hall, the one reserved for the King of Earth Hall. Aldrakar raised his right hand, pointing with both index and middle finger and dipped them as a gesture. On cue, the servants opened the half dozen, great doors that permitted entry into the Great Hall and a stream of music cascaded down from the hidden balconies that lined the ceiling on the inside of the room. Nobles and dignitaries from across the Empire bustled into the hall and each donned in finery and splendour.

The scent of delicious food, warm hearths crackling invitingly and an array of pleasures to be sampled and experienced awaited all that would attend.

Aldrakar, simply sat on the throne and enjoyed the remainder of the Asylonian wine.

William Fitz Roberts

William gave one final check over the White Shield's equipment before departing for his lodgings. He wished he had left enough time before the banquet to arrange the necessary repairs that had resulted from the day's training, but it could not be helped. As he walked through the streets of Giask, he thought back on the day's events. Immediately upon his arrival, he had gone to the bank to access the necessary funds for expanding the White Shields. He had hired new soldiers to compliment his small retinue, but it would be some time before they could work together effectively. He knew that no amount of individual skill could oppose a well trained force of loyal comrades, and so it was vital that his soldiers learnt to work together. He had little time for slackers and knew that a few days hard drill would bring cohesion to the band. Never one to sit back while his men got dirty, he had taken part in the brutal regime of marching, practising key formations and pike-drill, hiring the best tutor he could find from the academy to oversee his personal training. He did not feel that he had improved in the slightest, vowing to try harder on the morrow. He would not shame himself on the battlefield, war had made his family and he would not bring dishonour to their lineage, humble as it was.

He continued through the winding streets, marvelling at the beauty of the architecture that surrounded him. He had taken humble lodgings, as he wished to save every possible penny for improving his soldiers, the better to serve the empire. He had packed little clothing on his journey to the city, receiving his invitation to the banquet after he had left his estate. However his travelling clothes were most unsuitable, as were the clothes he had worn earlier that day during training. He therefore selected his only viable option, the clothes of all black that he had worn during the mourning period following the death of his father. They were nowhere near as fine as he knew would be expected of an imperial banquet, but they would have to do. He changed quickly, pinning the scarlet fox of his family to his chest and pocketing his invitation. Taking care to lock the door behind him, he donned his hat and walked off in the direction of the palace, struggling to contain his anticipation of meeting such a fine collection of nobles

Staedtler la Stylo

Staedtler began his third day within this new, beautiful continent pushing beans about his bowl with his fingers, uncomfortably seated upon the camp supplies. As his retinue make their own morning meals over the dying campfire, Staedtler's scribe, Hannity, goes over their invitation for an eighth time. Staedtler cleans his plate and tosses a chunk of firewood over to the feet of the designated cook - a leathery apron hanging over his tabard - who promptly drops it into the flame. A cloud of ashen cinders ploom about his feet, smothering the pan of sausages to a chorus of groans. No man under the La Couvercle de la Stylo banner truly knew how to cook better than any other. In truth, the armour they wear is as deceiving as the apron in that none of them deserved to don in. They were not traditional soldiers. Most of the unit had never been in a fight, some hadn't even sparred before. One of the men had never even worn a gamebeson before three days ago, often found to be wearing the thing back-to-front on more than one occasion. Hannity technically had more combat experience than a good quart of the force, having once lost a fist-fight outside a classroom when he was a student of literature. The La Couvercle de la Stylo are a small collection of college pals and academics; educated toffs bumbling about the countryside roads, eating nothing but cold beans in the time between civilisation, guffawing about the golden days of their educations back home. If they spent more time marching and less time collecting flora, sketching the landscape, and rambling about poetry then they might've made it to Giask itself by now. Staedtler is in a constant cold sweat, always asking for the time and date, anxious for an unfashionably late arrival to the first banquet he would attend as a knight. Reputations are a dangerous thing, especially since he would sorely be pressed to earn them with a sword in his hand rather than a quill. A timely arrival would establish a healthy president of efficacy for Staedtler. Lateness would betray the true fool hidden beneath.

Hannity concludes the recital of the invitation and takes a quaff of water from his flagon, wiping sweat from his neck with a wet towel. Staedtler had not been listening, however, and asks him to repeat it again. For clarity's sake, naturally.

Nicholas Archival

It was set to be a short journey across the eastern, smaller stretch of the Euschean Sea. The Myrmidon was a repurposed warship, made obsolete by naval advancement. It provided an efficient - if not comfortable - ride. The waters appeared calm enough, giving the blessing of smooth sailing. Askileon was quickly shrinking in the distance, left behind. The arrival at Giask drew ever closer.

Nicholas explored the ship, driven by a restless nervousness. He had given the Swords leave to entertain themselves during the trip. For their dutiful marching, they deserved the rest. It would not be appropriate for him to lose face before them, though a lump had continued to persist at the back of his throat. Giask represented everything he had been prepared for. Everything he had been trained for. He was acutely aware that any failure to match the lofty heights of Luria’s greatest city would not serve him well.

Deep breaths, he reminded himself. Nicholas gulped in the fresh sea air, pausing as he looked out across the azure waves. His bout of panic began to subside and his good sense once more prevailed. He sighed; this kind of weakness he would have to set aside once he arrived at the capital. The knight shook his head, dark tresses windblown by the gusts. It was ridiculous - he had faced numerous men more skilled and more experienced at arms without flinching, but the idea of a banquet caused him to panic.

Nicholas squared his shoulders and returned indoors to the Swords, who raised their mugs and tankards in salute. Giask awaited.

Night -- Askileon

Ceryn Onyxis

Arriving at the Golden Feast

Ceryn strode through the doors of the Golden Palace's Great Hall, attempting unsuccessfully not to look around him in wonder. While he was certainly no stranger to magnificent architecture, the Palace occupied a higher echelon than he had ever imagined. Goals for the future, the most prominent words flashing through his mind.

Making an attempt to regain his composure, Ceryn tore his eyes away from the nearest pillar to get his focus and surveyed those attending the Feast. Many Lords and Ladies, dressed in finery uncommon even to those in the highest classes of nobility, milled about the room. Still not having met the majority of the Lurian nobility in person, Ceryn did not recognize many faces. Instead, he sauntered slowly to the nearest area for libations, listening intently, hoping to place noble names to noble faces through iconic speech patterns that had been displayed in the letters and missives circulated throughout the realm.

Nearing his destination, he did spot a familiar face. Standing around the wine area, speaking to an old man whom Ceryn presumed was a wine steward, was His Majesty the King of Earth's Hall Aldrakar Renodin. The sight of his liege made Ceryn pause slightly. I must be in top form. Ceryn surreptitiously looked towards a window, pretending to focus on the garden outside while instead focusing his attention on his own reflection on the glass. He inspected his outfit, a raven-colored outfit, the nicest parts of which being his vest and cape. Satisfied that nothing was out of place, he turned back towards the direction of his liege. And the libations, one cannot forget the libations.

"My liege, it is an honor to be invited to such a grand event."

7th December

Day -- Giask

Aldrakar Renodin

message to all nobles of Luria Nova

The Empty Glass

Having acknowledged the third dozen or so Noble family that presented themselves at his throne Aldrakar brought the wineglass once more to his lips. Wondering in the quiet places of his mind if he’d get a neck-ache before too long. Tilting the glass an odd sensation greeted him. His lips informed him that there was not naught but air left in the glass. Perturbed by this fact he cautiously glanced in the direction of Ismos and the wine corner the man so fussed over.

It soon became obvious the man wasn’t going to look into his direction. Aldrakar sat up and matter of factly positioned the empty glass upright on the armrest of his throne. Raising his head and staring right at the wine corner as if to give a silent command. Moments stretched into one long pause. Aldrakar breathed the air that he had held in his lungs out hard, through his nose. He glances left to see if he could spot any servants nearby. None. ‘’What nonsense is this?!’’ He muttered under his breath. He ventured a glance to the right. The same absence of servants greeted him there also.

Right at that time another Noble of some important presented himself along with his fetching daughter. It was no secret Aldrakar’s two adult sons were still bachelors as was the man himself. Not listening to the man’s words or even catching the name of the daughter, Aldrakar nodded regally as a well rehearsed trick. The Noble took his cue from that and ushered his somewhat disappointed daughter along.

Not waiting to see if anyone else was going to present themselves Aldrakar pushed himself up from the throne and strode towards Ismos and the wine the man guarded with smiles and well timed laughs. As Aldrakar approached Ismos turned and danced around the wine tables like a ballerina. Never meeting Aldrakar’s gaze and ever seeming a step ahead of the King. Using the crowd as roadblocks but to the most perceptive of people, Ismos smirked and enjoyed the chase. The game.

Satisfied that nothing was out of place, he turned back towards the direction of his liege. And the libations, one cannot forget the libations.

"My liege, it is an honor to be invited to such a grand event."

~ Ceryn Onyxis

A frown upon his face, Aldrakar heard a voice call out to him. Turning to the source he found a young Noble clad in sable. Keeping quiet and letting his gaze linger on the younger man Aldrakar veritably inspected him. Nice jacket. Did anybody die? Aldrakar mused to himself. The new hopeful from house Onyxis.. named... Cerwil?.. Cer.. Ceryn!

‘’Sir Ceryn, you honour your family by presenting house Onyxis for Earth Hall.’’ Aldrakar offered a small yet friendly smile as he gestured around the great hall that was stuffed with Nobility from all over the Empire. ‘’It seems there’s so many people that even my former wine steward cannot find time or moment to attend to his former liege.’’ The words more sarcastic than Aldrakar had meant them to sound. He held up his empty wine glass for Ceryn to see.

‘’Get us some wine Ceryn and we’ll share words, alright? And don’t let Ismos give you any of that second grade wine he peddles to the lot of them.’’ Aldrakar indicated at random Nobles sipping from their wineglasses.

Benedict Dupont

Arrival at the Feast

The journey from the estate to the Palace took longer than expected, as the route seemed winding and unfamiliar. The days since Benedict arrived at his new estate had been filled with a list of things to attend to, and the intimidating presence of the Palace looming over him only furthered his procrastination in attending the feat. One must make an appearance, Benedict, he told himself this morning, and after an hour choosing a suitable outfit and a clean shave, he set off through the twisting streets towards that great monument to the men he aspired to be.

Although this was his first time in the Palace grounds, Benedict was not a stranger to the city proper, and had little trouble from the guards as he passed through those great doors and was swiftly directing by servants towards the Feast. As he entered the Great Hall, the cavernous size defying what the outside view suggested, Benedict's mind raced as his eyes and ears were assaulted with scenes of magnificent grandeur. Countless nobles and Lords milled around, eating and drinking many of the glorious foods and drinks displayed in the hall. They make it look so easy, Benedict worried as he saw nobles converse with higher Lords with grace and confidence. How am I ever going to manage that without breaking into a sweat?

As if to add to his fear, Benedict realised he had been walking slowly as he mused. Not too far away, in his path, was Aldrakar Renodin, Imperial Magistrate of Luria Nova, Royal of Luria Nova, Duke of Earth's Hall, Margrave of Poryatown, talking to a young noble. Benedict quickly corrected his course, making a swift move towards the nearest servant.

"First, wine, I will be needing lots of wine", he muttered to himself.

This was going to be a long feast.

William Fitz Roberts

William walked at a brisk pace through the city of Giask. Being unfamiliar with the city, he had got totally turned around and now was late. He was furious with himself not only for acquiring a guide, but for failing to make much progress in his duelling, despite having hired the finest master he could come across. He was beginning to realise that nothing could beat real combat experience. No matter, he would return to the field soon. But for now he had a banquet to attend.

He finally arrived at the gates to the palace and presented his invitation to the guard at the gates. He was hurried through to the hall, but as he arrived a steward demanded to see his invitation once more. Puzzled, William handed over his invite. He saw the steward's eyes widen with something like glee as he glanced over the letter. He had seen that look before. He had seen it all his life. 'Sir William Fitz Roberts, eh', the steward said, placing emphasis on the Fitz. 'Why would someone of your lineage be attending such an occasion' 'If you must know, my family was legitimised 3 generations ago. I am certainly more noble than you. Now if you don't mind, I have a banquet to attend'. He snatched the letter from the steward, who stood their in shock at the bluntness with which William had dared speak. William pushed him aside and entered the hall. He sighed. He knew that would not be the only person to question his name before the night was through

Nicholas Archival

Nicholas inspected himself in the ornate, gold-encrusted mirror. He grimaced at what he saw. Broad-shouldered and chested, but stocky. Long in the face and too solemn by far. Although his attire, crafted of expensive silks, was of fine quality, befitting a nobleman of the realm, it felt a superficial sham. He tugged on his cloak, adjusting the clasp; it was a sweeping thing, black with a gold trim. Though he would have sooner arrived in armour befitting the battlefield, it would have to do.

His first day in the capital had led up to this. Trudging through the aristocratic sections of the city, a grim-faced youth amidst a sea of colour and esteem. Visiting the most vaunted barbers and tailors in Giask, to ensure he would arrive at the feast in a manner befitting a Knight of Poryatown and nobleman of Luria. The noise had felt deafening; a cacophony of voices and sounds, a far cry from the edge of the empire he was comfortable with.

The Swords had been left with their new additions, having finished the day’s training, while Nicholas himself had left for the palace. The guards had let him pass without much fuss, recognising quickly his stature. Guards, the common soldiery, these were people he knew how to deal with. Honest, simple men without lofty ambition. No doubt the guests within the palace were to be of a different species altogether. It did not soothe him to think that.

Eventually, with a deep inhale of air, Nicholas strode away from the mirror and continued down the pristine corridor. As he approached the great hall, a trio of women of the court tittered at the sight of him. Is my cloak unclasped again? Do I look ridiculous? Doubts beset him, but it was too late to turn tail and run. He had seen the undead before; a few border skirmishes in the Archival Estate had given him that. But those creatures did not instil in him such fear as this - with steeled nerves, he entered.

He looked across the huge room, taking in all the majesty the palace revealed, grey eyes too bland by far for such sights. Striding forth with the rigid discipline of a seasoned soldier - and stiff by the standards of a courtier - he approached a nearby servant, while his attention was caught by the sight he had hoped for after but a few goblets of wine. Aldrakar Renodin; his liege. It seemed as though the King of Earth’s Hall was occupied with another, a man he supposed he recognised from the streets of Poryatown, though could not place a name to the face.

Sir Nicholas plucked a goblet, heavy with wine, and took a long gulp. As he considered his options, he caught some words, quietly spoken as though without the intent to be overheard. It was convenient was so closely placed. He glanced sidelong to see another of the court - apparently within the same position as he.

"First, wine, I will be needing lots of wine", he muttered to himself.

~ Benedict Dupont

“That would be you and I both, sir,” Nicholas remarked, a faint smile touching his lips with wine not long to follow. “Sir Nicholas Archival, Knight of Poryatown. And you?” he asked. Confidence amongst cowards was an easy thing to find.

Benedict Dupont

With one strong gulp, the wine was gone. The rich, fruity tones were lost on Benedict as he searched for more, before setting his eyes on a full jug to his right.

He was lost in the pouring of another glass when the words of a man next to him jarred him from his trance.

“Sir Nicholas Archival, Knight of Poryatown. And you?”

It took a moment for Benedict to focus on the man next to him. From his words he occupied a similar station, and from his wine he was in a similar situation. Benedict smiled, for it was comforting to know he was not the only nervous noble at the Feast.

He finishes pouring his glass, although with a few spills, and replies:

"Ah, greetings good sir... Ah, pleasure to make your acquaintance."

He extends a hand.

"Sir Benedict Dupont, Knight of Giask."

He takes a strong swig of wine, his figure becoming relaxed as the liquid works it's magic.

William Fitz Roberts

Sir William turned as he heard two names he recognised. He had corresponded with both a sir Benedict and a Sir Nicholas. Could these be the same men? Unsure as to how to act in these situations (courtly etiquette was not something taught in the Fitz Roberts household) he walked over to the two figures and, gulping down some wine before he spoke, said 'did hear correctly? You are so Nicholas and Sir Benedict?', William extends his hand to one and then the other, waiting for them to finish their greetings to one another before interrupting, 'I am Sir William Fitz Roberts, I believe I have shared letters with both of you? It is excellent to put a face to words on a page'

Night -- Giask

Donald Augustus Allan

Donald Augustus arrives at the Feast

Evening had fallen upon Giask and the cooling evening air hung about the capital, under the moonlight the city looked peaceful and quiet, almost tranquil. But this illusion was soon to be banished as Donald Augustus headed towards the main gate of the Great Hall, and even as he approached he could hear the clamour and excitement of merriment and festivities, as if to defy what would have been a simple evening. Moving towards the hall he placed his hands on the great wooden doors, pushing them aside and stepping from the dark in to the brightly lit room.

As the door swung wide a gust of cold air entered with Sir Donald, causing his golden locks to dance in the light as if they too had joined the festivities. His golden face lit up in to a merry grin as he scanned the gathered crown and caught the site of the abundance of alcohol. Moving further inwards he seemed to glide across the floor, dressed in bright flamboyant robes and a matching cape decorated with the sigil of his house. His doublet was velvet green and blue with scenes of merriment and drinking carefully woven in silver fabric.

A group of fine ladies, gathered in a small circle, stood in his path but Donald Augustus carefully penetrated their ranks, smiling gracefully as he went by. Just as he parted these fashionable noblewomen his delicate yet firm hand brushed one of theirs and in that moment of blissful contact, she swooned. And was fortunately caught by one of her companions. Stepping in to the centre of the Great Hall he acquired a goblet of wine from the silver platter of a nearby servant and sought out a group of nearby noblemen.

"Greetings!" he spoke, his voice like silk upon the ears "I am Sir Donald Augustus, a Knight of Askileon"

Nicholas Archival

“And you, Sir Benedict.”

Nicholas clasped Benedict’s hand, shaking it firmly. At the very least, he did not give a weak handshake. With his smile yet in place, he inclined his head courteously in recognition of his fellow aristocrat. As he moved to respond, the voice of another cut through to claim his attention.

As William introduced himself to the two of them, Nicholas turned to regard the man he had shared correspondance with. He raised his glass in recognition, taking a second mouthful of the crimson wine he had selected, before reaching forward to shake his hand.

“Ah- Sir William. I was wondering whether I would find you here. It is good, indeed, to make your personal acquaintance--”

With the booming voice of Sir Donald, echoing throughout the hall, Nicholas fell into another silence. The name did, however, ring a bell. The knight took a few moments to place it, before it came to him.

“So that would be the man, Sir Donald, who claimed to the Emperor himself to be the most handsome knight in Luria,” he thought.

Nicholas resolved to watch and wait, to see what the loudmouth would do next. At the very least, it might provide a good show.

Cador Andrasta

As the farmers left their hovels in droves to start their days of tilling the soil and planting the crops that would see the realm through the next winter, they were greeted by the sound of fifty men singing in unison. The voices were led by one other, a loud, booming one that echoed through the morning mists. Whatever the one sang, the fifty would repeat.

As the golden banner flies, see there o'er the hill "By the Stars!", fair maiden cries, 'tis the Emperor's Will! But the buxom and the built, they shall raise no clamor They want them who have the lilt, and await the Hammer!

The smallfolk knew at once that these were the men of the Silver Hammer, their singing heralding their arrival. As they passed the fields, the men working them would begin to sing along with, while the women shook their heads in disapproval at such bawdy rhymes. As the column cut through the fog, clad in grey plate from head to toe, polearms held aloft, they were a fearsome sight to behold. The metallic thumping of their feet provided a leisurely beat to accompany their singing. At the front of the column, six men on great horses led the way.

Then, suddenly, the six riders spurred their mounts, and galloped away, their blue-and-crimson cloaks snapping behind them as they sped on towards the city.

Ceryn Onyxis

‘’Get us some wine Ceryn and we’ll share words, alright? And don’t let Ismos give you any of that second grade wine he peddles to the lot of them.’’ Aldrakar indicated at random Nobles sipping from their wineglasses.

"Of course, my liege."

Ceryn turned towards the wine steward. Ismos, that was his name, or something like that. Serve my liege, and get wine. Two birds with one stone, I suppose.

Walking towards the wine steward, Ceryn put on one of his sincerest-looking smiles. Logic and teaching had long imparted the lesson on him: give a certain level of respect towards those who handle your food and drink. "My good sir, Ismos is it? If you would be so kind, the good King Aldrakar is out of wine, and as his knight I have been tasked with remedying the situation. If you could help me with this duty, and perhaps guide me to some good wine for him and myself, I would be most grateful."

The wine steward wordlessly nodded and smiled. He put placed the bottle he was holding, having finished filling the glass of a minor noble Ceryn didn't recognize. Instead, he reached for a bottle cleverly hidden in the middle of other wine bottles, but which looked quite distinct from them once removed. Fetching two glasses and filling them with the wine, Ismos handed them to Ceryn, who thanked the man before turning back towards the direction of his liege.

Heading back towards the throne upon which Aldrakar sat, Ceryn put on a different smile from his bank of facial expressions, one that said "it is my honor to serve" instead of "I am honored by your service." Time to converse with those higher than I. Let's make it good. He extended one of the glasses.

"Here you are, my liege."

8th December

Day -- Giask

Aldrakar Renodin

The Attention of the King

Heading back towards the throne upon which Aldrakar sat, Ceryn put on a different smile from his bank of facial expressions, one that said "it is my honor to serve" instead of "I am honored by your service." Time to converse with those higher than I. Let's make it good. He extended one of the glasses.

"Here you are, my liege."

~Ceryn Onyxis

Having returned to his Throne Aldrakar accepted the wine from Sir Ceryn. ‘’Thank you.’’ He said matter of factly. Not looking at Ceryn but rather taking a much sought after sip of the wine. Only then did he allow a single eye to fall onto Ceryn. ‘’Well done, this’ll do, this’ll definitely do.’’

Settling into the throne Aldrakar looked around the Great Hall before returning to Ceryn. ‘’Please take a seat.’’ He motioned to the seats arrayed near the throne that were reserved for Nobles of Earth Hall. So arranged for the purpose of allowing them to take audiences from the people gathered in the Great hall. Alternatively any Noble of Earth Hall could not take a seat and thus avoid having to go through the officious business of nodding at people and listening to their requests and words. An official function if you will. It also allowed the Nobles of Earth hall to gather and converse if they so chose. The lesser Thrones and seats were set up in a half circle facing the Great Hall.

Something caught Aldrakar’s eye. A group of Nobles that seemed somewhat out of place. Like rabbits among a foxhunt. Pretending to be hounds but lacking the conviction. ‘’You see those young men over there Ceryn?’’ Aldrakar motioned towards the group including Nicholas Archival, William Fitz Roberts and Benedict Dupont. ‘’You recognize them Ceryn? I don’t.’’ He took another sip of his wine. Unceremoniously Aldrakar put thumb and index finger into his mouth and gave a sharp whistle. Hoping to catch some attention and at the very least, the attention of the three Noble youths. Unsure if he’d done so or not he raised his right hand into the air a bit and beckoned them over with his index finger.

More than a few faces turned to Aldrakar in confusion and surprise. Some of them smiling as they thought it was they, Aldrakar, had motioned at. His gaze was quite direct however and his eyes looked straight at the trio. ‘’Ceryn, this’ll be fun.’’ Aldrakar glanced mischievously at the knight. ‘’Bust their balls a bit when they come over.’’ The words spoken in a soft voice and where accompanied by a small smirk.

Somewhere else in the room, a beautiful, young lady dressed in a lavender, silk dress fluttered her eyelashes at Sir Donald and teasingly threw him a smile that portrayed her full and red lips. Before he could do anything though, like the expert tease she was, she darted away. Her destination in curiously close proximity of the Throne of Earth Hall.

Matthew Coffey

The proceedings had begun, that much Matthew could tell from the myriad sounds coming from the Golden Palace. The smooth marble steps heralding his ascent, with armoured guards keeping watchful vigil like chiselled statues, complementing the architecture as well as providing a stalwart defence over their betters. Matthew travelled with one other, a servant it seemed, accompanying him exactly two steps behind at all times and keeping pace like a well trained lapdog. The young man looked over his shoulder to double check, offering a thin smile to the servant, who returned it. Superficial of course, neither particularly got along with the other, nor did Matthew expect it, they were of different breeds now, after all. Still, a trained and delicate hand to fetch him wine or deliver messages when he were trapped in conversation would be useful, no, necessary at this event.

​He nodded to the guards as he moved through the great Palace doors, entering a preliminary corridor, studded with grandiose artwork along its length. Music drifted down the gargantuan hallway, as did the laughter, speaking of good things to come. Matthew welcomed it. He was at home here, whilst all the bravado might follow him on the battlefield and in his speeches, it was the courts that called. Here he was in his element, as his former tutor always noted with mild derision, a now deceased knight whom he owed much for his squiring. Horsemanship and swordplay are one thing, but it was never these things that brought his family this far, he reminded himself. As lowly as commerce and hard work might be, his lineage always preferred mercantile and academic pursuits, with only a handful of ancestors appreciating the sword. It was a good thing Lurians prided meritocracy, unlike many other realms, otherwise his new life may never have come to be.

​A curt nod came to the steward collecting invitations; manservant swiftly heeding the silent order with the bejewelled letter that Matthew had received from his overlord, Aldrakar Renodin. He entered without taking the briefest glance back, arrogant assumption that he was granted passage and that this was where he belonged. The open doors released a cacophony of sweet imperial grandeur. Confident that his simple purple tunic with white hose, embellished with but a sturdy leather belt, was dressed enough. The quality of the material could not be disputed, velvet from D'hara, or maybe Madina. It wasn't local, that was certain. Matthew made note to keep his jewellery to merely his signet ring, a golden serpent pinned to his tunic and a single golden ring, set with a modest pink tourmaline, on his right index finger. One could also not forget their sword or dagger, as much a part of his dress here as on the battlefield, his former tutor had informed him. He didn't dispute it, and whilst thinking it unnecessary to have a sword, he certainly felt the knife might have practical applications of opening letters or eating with at least. Neither were particularly impressive at the hilt, but the scabbards were lined with silver swirling patterns, a mild attempt at prettying up what was essentially a butchers tool.

​"Sir Matthew Coffey, knight of Summerhill Hall." heralded his servant dutifully and clearly, though Matthew expected the formality would be lost on the din of music and chatter throughout the great hall. Nevertheless, he stood tall, gazing over the crowds once. Then twice. Slowly and methodically, casting his eyes about for his overlord first, and then his liege. Not seeing Dubhaine about the thronging noble and servile crowds, he strode toward Renodin with purpose. Spotting the king was no effort really, his presence was given due distance from lesser nobles and his attire alone had him standing out like a sore thumb. Good for Matthew, at least. Thankfully, the training he'd been conducting saw him fill out his tunic a bit more so than usual, hopefully betraying his youth. With his charcoal hair bobbing about the shoulders as he approached at some speed, he motioned for his servant to come forth. Having arrived at his destination, being dwarfed somewhat by Aldrakar's trained physique and kingly bearing, the young knight bowed deeply to his king. He did not rise until he was spoken to.

​Once Aldrakar had recognised the young knight, he cleared his throat before speaking clearly yet softly, "Sir Matthew Coffey, at your service, my king. I come bearing a humble gift as gratitude for your invite, I hope it is worthy of finding itself in your secondary collections." He offered forth a letter to the king, signed in his own hand, for a stallion that had come from his own stud up in Summerhill, currently stabled with no expense spared at the Palace stables. "I trust he will serve you faithfully and fully." Retreating a step, Matthew smiled briefly, inclining his head to the man.

​This would be good night already, he could tell.

Benedict Dupont

As the firm handshake from Nicholas ended, Benedict was able to take a more restrained mouthful of wine than before, his confidence slowly coming back to him. Before he could take his second sip, a new noble makes his way towards the two.

"Did hear correctly? You are so Nicholas and Sir Benedict?"

The man extends his hand towards Nicholas, and then to Benedict once the former had returned his grip, introducing himself to the two of them.

"I am Sir William Fitz Roberts, I believe I have shared letters with both of you? It is excellent to put a face to words on a page"

So this was the man with whom Benedict shared a brief correspondence with the other day, it was pleasing to be able to put a face to the name.

"A pleasure to meet you, Sir, how are you enjoying the fe-" Benedict attempts to say as the loud voice of an unknown man echoes in their direction.

"Greetings!" He spoke, the arrogance prickling Benedict's nerve "I am Sir Donald Augustus, a Knight of Askileon".

Before Benedict is able to respond to this newcomer, a sharp whistle pierced the air around him, cutting the conversation like a hot knife through butter. Benedict turned to see who had warranted such attention, and from whom. Unfortunately the answer to both questions were not to Benedict's liking, as the King of Earth Hall was beckoning to none other than himself and his nearby acquaintances, a look of sharp intent in his eyes. Benedict quickly quaffed what remained of his second glass before adjusting his posture and striding over. The heat of the wine had started to warm Benedict's body, and the last vestiges of nervousness had begun to leave. However, this was Aldrakar Renodin, not some mere noble vying for attention.

First thing... Benedict thought to himself, the first thing I need to do is present myself, bow, and await his response... Easy as that. Or so he hoped.

Benedict had not looked back, so was unaware whether he had company has he walked purposefully towards the man who's stature seemed to grow larger with each passing step.

Then... A reprieve.

The young knight barged past Benedict, and straight into the presence of the King, bowing as soon as he arrived.

"Sir Matthew Coffey, at your service, my king."

As the knight drawled on in front of Aldrakar Renodin, Benedict was able to steady himself. Taking up a position behind the postulating noble, he remarked how the King responded to this young man's introduction, taking up mental notes of how each action was received.

By the time the two were finished, Benedict's confidence was back in full force, and he approached the King, taking a deep bow as he did.

"My name is Benedict Dupont, a Knight of Giask, a pleasure to be at your service, my King".

Nicholas Archival

It took Nicholas a moment to catch his bearings. So many words, gestures and smells all continued to assail him at once, unabated by notions of tact and timing. After the moment passed, his focus found its mark: Aldrakar Renodin was gesturing him - them - forward. Sir Benedict and Sir William no longer held his attention; it would be unwise to turn his focus away from the man seated upon the throne. With his goblet, of which he had only drunk two mouthfuls of, set aside onto the tray of a passing servant, Nicholas moved into a smooth stride toward Aldrakar. Though clad in the luxurious silks of an aristocratic, his gait yet remained in much the fashion of a professional soldier; efficient and forthright. The knight had little movement or thought to spare for flamboyance - though his cloak did much of the job for him.

As he approached, any discomfort began to fade. It had been the build-up causing him nerves, overthinking his expectations for the gathering. Without sparing a glance to the many courtiers and aristocrats arrayed in the Great Hall - many of whom eyed the Knight of Poryatown himself with envy - Nicholas quickly arrived to place himself within the King's presence. It was then he acknowledged the presence of Sir Matthew - the gallant, glory hound who had called for so many of his fellow knights. He was much less than Nicholas pictured; there was no impressive warrior-to-be. In his place was a youth, more courtier than knight. A boy making pretend that he was a man; Nicholas knew the type. Perhaps this was the way of things in capital. He had not the experience to judge for certain.

Regardless, upon approaching Aldrakar, Nicholas took his place after Sir Benedict and fell to one knee. He drew his sword - a decorative heirloom, inlaid with gleaming silver - and held it before him, his gesture of fealty. The knight looked up, directing his blue-grey eyes to make contact with the monarch's. At close inspection for Aldrakar to view, Nicholas appeared to be swiftly on his way to becoming more man than boy; broad-shouldered, strong-jawed and with any softness of boyhood melted away through the trials of sword and steel. His hair, a dark-brown, was kept in the comfortable middle-ground of style and practicality. In the short breath before speech, he took in his liege; now this was an impressive man. Much as he had imagined him to be, opposing the relative disappointment of Sir Matthew. With all the rigid, military discipline he had come to find comfort in, he addressed the King with the utmost respect:

"My king, I am Sir Nicholas Archival, Knight of Poryatown. I am humbly at your service, and thank you for your most generous invitation to this feast. My sword is yours."

Service, respect, fealty. These he had been readied for. These he knew. Courtly etiquette would come in time to follow, no doubt.

William Fitz Roberts

Sir William turned at hearing the whistle. He decided to let Sir Benedict introduce himself before he did, to give him time to assess what this king was like. He was his better, certainly. However, William was not one to be played like a fiddle and decided that he would rather Benedict be made a fool of than himself. He followed behind his fellow knight and, upon reaching the king, bowed, but remained silent besides a courteous 'my king', waiting to see how this would unfold.

Ceryn Onyxis

A Sharp Tongue

More than a few faces turned to Aldrakar in confusion and surprise. Some of them smiling as they thought it was they, Aldrakar, had motioned at. His gaze was quite direct however and his eyes looked straight at the trio. ‘’Ceryn, this’ll be fun.’’ Aldrakar glanced mischievously at the knight. ‘’Bust their balls a bit when they come over.’’ The words spoken in a soft voice and where accompanied by a small smirk. -Aldrakar Renodin

Ceryn, having taken a seat in one of the chairs King Aldrakar had indicated, turned his head towards the first of the knights to approach. The knight handed Aldrakar a letter after introducing himself; a gift of some sort, based on the words of the knight. The knight stepped back from Aldrakar, and Ceryn rose and proffered his hand in greeting.

"It is good to meet you. Sir Matthew Coffey, was it? Of Summerhill Hall? I am Ceryn Onyxis, Knight of Poryatown. Always a pleasure to meet fellow Lurian nobility. Tell me, have you met Sir Cream? I think you and he would get along splendidly." Ceryn waited for realization to dawn on the knight's face at the joke. "Forgive me, sometimes I cannot help myself when such amusements arise in my head. Truly, it is good to meet you. I do like coffee; I'm sure it will be an honor to serve alongside you."

Ceryn turned his attention to the gathered knights more generally. "It is an honor to serve alongside all of you. I would be a fool not to realize how well-trained these new knights of Luria are; you all answer to a whistle! As is the duty of all knights, of course."

Ceryn glanced around the knights, looking towards the party. "I hear the handsomest knight in all of Luria is in attendance. Have any of you seen him? One would think his presence would be obvious in the crowd, but I'll admit I can't make him out." With this, Ceryn took a large sip of his wine glass. My, this wine is good. I will have to remember that wine steward; perhaps I can convince him to train mine a bit.

William Fitz Roberts

Sir William watched in silence, waiting to be addressed. He noted the words of the man on the King's left. He would have to watch that one. If he was willing to joke at the expense of a name like Coffey, what would he make of a Fitz? He braced himself, preparing to defend his lineage. He had been right not to lead with his name.

9th December

Day -- Giask

Aldrakar Renodin

Meeting the King

Having whistled and not caring for what people thought about that, Aldrakar quietly enjoyed the breach of etiquette. The Nobles that leaned too heavily on protocol were the ones he disliked most. Always powdering their noses and keeping the most bizarre of pets. Particular rat-like, little dogs. He hated those.

With shoulder length, raven hair Sir Matthew Coffey was the first to reach him. The young man waited politely for a moment and made sure Aldrakar duly acknowledged him. An almost automatic and near imperceptible nod made it so.

​Once Aldrakar had recognised the young knight, he cleared his throat before speaking clearly yet softly, "Sir Matthew Coffey, at your service, my king. I come bearing a humble gift as gratitude for your invite, I hope it is worthy of finding itself in your secondary collections." He offered forth a letter to the king, signed in his own hand, for a stallion that had come from his own stud up in Summerhill, currently stabled with no expense spared at the Palace stables. "I trust he will serve you faithfully and fully." Retreating a step, Matthew smiled briefly, inclining his head to the man.

~ Matthew Coffey

Rather than waiting on a servant to mediate the gesture of handing the letter over, Aldrakar rose from his Throne and reached out to take it. In the process showing that he wasn’t beneath doing things himself and at the same time showing the young man that the hand that grasped the letter was strong and bore the marks of battle. Tiny scars that indicated failed parries, ill fitting gauntlets and the sort.

Listening to the remaining words coming from Matthew, Aldrakar opened the letter and looked it over momentarily. Is it a Rouncey or does the boy have the guts to offer me a hunter or perhaps even a destrier Aldrakar wondered. Hearing the silence lengthen, Aldrakar looked up at Matthew. ‘’Thank you, you must have done your homework. Not too far away from the Palace you’ll find the Rendorian Equestrian Academy.’’ As if he was in a private conversation with a long lost friend, Aldrakar stretched out his arm and pointed in the rough direction of where said Academy was. ‘’My son trained there and some of the Empire’s finest cavalry men and steeds come from there.’’ Good choice of gift.’’ Aldrakar made a smile that looked awefully much like a grin. ‘’Come see me there sometime, we’ll test your horse against some of mine.’’

Around this time Sir Ceryn Onyxis chimed in and threw out a taunt and a jest.

"It is good to meet you. Sir Matthew Coffey, was it? Of Summerhill Hall? I am Ceryn Onyxis, Knight of Poryatown. Always a pleasure to meet fellow Lurian nobility. Tell me, have you met Sir Cream? I think you and he would get along splendidly." Ceryn waited for realization to dawn on the knight's face at the joke. "Forgive me, sometimes I cannot help myself when such amusements arise in my head. Truly, it is good to meet you. I do like coffee; I'm sure it will be an honor to serve alongside you."

~Ceryn Onyxis

Aldrakar waited a moment and keenly observed the young knights before him. If any of them were hotheads, he’d rather know about, sooner, rather than later. All the while busying himself with putting Matthew’ letter down on the little table beside the throne.

By the time the two were finished, Benedict's confidence was back in full force, and he approached the King, taking a deep bow as he did.

"My name is Benedict Dupont, a Knight of Giask, a pleasure to be at your service, my King".

~ Benedict Dupont

Aldrakar awarded the young knight’s introduction with another of those well rehearsed and nearly imperceptible nods. He then made a bit of a show of looking Benedict up and down, as if inspecting a cow he might buy and himself being a rancher. ‘’Giask you say?’’ A frown started to appear on his face. ‘’Heavy responsibility.. heavy indeed.’’ The words were close to being mumbled. Then, suddenly, Aldrakar’s expression turned and out came a smile. ‘’There’s a long history of distinguished serve from the Knights of Giask. Former Kings, Generals and heroes have gone before you. Giask is the greatest City on all of Dwilight and you best remember that Benedict.’’ He paused a moment before continuing in a softer voice. ‘’Also, better to drink brandy rather than wine if you need some more liquid courage in the future.’’ Aldrakar nodded sagely.

From taking his time observing Aldrakar Benedict could certainly discern that the aging man had the bearing of a warrior long before he ever wore a crown. Broad shouldered and with a chest that bespoke of a long wind fit for running or indeed, fighting in armour. From his face it was clear Aldrakar had gotten used to being surrounded by important people and almost seemed to expect people to heed his word, as if this had been done many, many times in the past.

Upon approaching Aldrakar, Nicholas took his place after Sir Benedict and fell to one knee. He drew his sword - a decorative heirloom, inlaid with gleaming silver - and held it before him, his gesture of fealty. The knight looked up, directing his blue-grey eyes to make contact with the monarch's. At close inspection for Aldrakar to view, Nicholas appeared to be swiftly on his way to becoming more man than boy; broad-shouldered, strong-jawed and with any softness of boyhood melted away through the trials of sword and steel. His hair, a dark-brown, was kept in the comfortable middle-ground of style and practicality. In the short breath before speech, he took in his liege; now this was an impressive man. Much as he had imagined him to be, opposing the relative disappointment of Sir Matthew. With all the rigid, military discipline he had come to find comfort in, he addressed the King with the utmost respect:

"My king, I am Sir Nicholas Archival, Knight of Poryatown. I am humbly at your service, and thank you for your most generous invitation to this feast. My sword is yours."

~ Nicholas Archival

Seeing Sir Nicholas bend the knee and offer the formal displays of fealty Aldrakar felt a sense of pride swell in his chest. Nodding deftly he himself rose from his Throne and touched the blade, centre wise.

Aldrakar looked across the room and saw those that beheld them, the small group of Knights in front of the King of Earth hall. Standing as he did, expectation rose and so, the Monarch spoke:

‘’Sir Nicholas, Knight of Poryatown.’’ A measured pause followed. “And to your Oath I shall hold you. Until such a time that I release you from it or death does claim you. In turn I will provide you with an upkeep suitable to your service rendered onto me. Providing enough so that you may command a company of good and loyal men in my name and do battle for the pleasure of the Realm and our Sovereign master, The Emperor.” Aldrakar raised his chin and his face hardened with patriotic pride

“I swear to do right by you as long as your Oath is strong and shelter you in my homes, provide you cloth to garb your body in and see to the nourishment that grants you life. Justice shall be mine to give and my hand to shield you from the evil of others. This is my sacred vow onto you as Liege and I accept your Oath.” Another pause. “The estate known as ‘Noble Manor Square' is now yours by bond and oath, use it wisely.” Aldrakar took his time to swallow and take in a lungful of air.

“Sir Nicholas, you do me proud and make swell my heart with hope as the future just turned to a stark Gold against the black night sky.’’

The old oath Aldrakar used for his sworn Knights. This one shows promise. He thought to himself. Another lingering thought suggested to that the youth looked akin to his eldest son, Aldrakar II.

Sir William turned at hearing the whistle. He decided to let Sir Benedict introduce himself before he did, to give him time to assess what this king was like. He was his better, certainly. However, William was not one to be played like a fiddle and decided that he would rather Benedict be made a fool of than himself. He followed behind his fellow knight and, upon reaching the king, bowed, but remained silent besides a courteous 'my king', waiting to see how this would unfold.

~ William Fitz Roberts

Thirdly, Aldrakar looked upon the features of Sir William. The beard stood out but more so the way the man kept to himself and displayed restraint. ‘’Sir Knight.’’ Aldrakar responded in kind. ‘’What might be your name? For you lack in the giving of it.’’ Aldrakar gave a brief yet stern look. ‘’No matter, what is in a man’s name? It what a man does that counts.’’ Looking William squarely in the eye. ‘’There’s more doing in there than prattling isn’t there.’’ Aldrakar paused. A time in which thoughts crossed the Monarch’s face. ‘’After this banquet is over, you will seek out and report to the Imperial Marshal Cador. He is my friend and sworn brother.’’ The words accompanied with a fist placed onto his own heart. ‘’There you will ask him to take you under his wing.’’ Knowing this was an order, Aldrakar observed William to see if he took it well. ‘’Cador will show you the ropes. Blade in hand, yes? Do well and know that I will be watching.’’ Aldrakar relaxed. ‘’If you do particularly well, you might earn yourself a Vice-Marshal title.’’

‘’If you fail to impress Cador however, you’ll prove yourself every bit as effeminate as that one over there.’’ Aldrakar blatantly pointed in the general direction of Sir Donald Augustus Allan. Aldrakar finished his address by offering William a small yet private smile. Hoping to encourage the youth.

Having concluded his initial words he took a sip of his wine and looked over at Ceryn. “You were so very hard on them. Play nice.” Offering a conspiratorial wink while his nose was buried in the wineglass.

Ceryn Onyxis

Having concluded his initial words he took a sip of his wine and looked over at Ceryn. “You were so very hard on them. Play nice.” Offering a conspiratorial wink while his nose was buried in the wineglass.

"Of course, my liege." Ceryn sipped his own glass of wine. None of the knights had overreacted to his taunts; this was likely a good sign. Either the other knights were timid, and would be easily cowed, or they were competent at social maneuvers themselves. Both were better than hotheads.

Matthew Coffey

’Thank you, you must have done your homework. Not too far away from the Palace you’ll find the Rendorian Equestrian Academy.’’ As if he was in a private conversation with a long lost friend, Aldrakar stretched out his arm and pointed in the rough direction of where said Academy was. ‘’My son trained there and some of the Empire’s finest cavalry men and steeds come from there.’’ Good choice of gift.’’ Aldrakar made a smile that looked awefully much like a grin. ‘’Come see me there sometime, we’ll test your horse against some of mine.’’ ~ Aldrakar Renodin

​Matthew followed the direction of Aldrakar's arm, nodding slowly as he was spoken to. Relieved that the gift was well received, the youth could only hope that the Palfrey was good enough. A bit ill tempered, true, but strong and fast, one of his better stallions. Hopefully the stud could find a new stallion, perhaps from Matthews adventures. Returning from his trail of thought, his gaze returned to the king at the invitation to test his skills. It sounded a lot like his old mentor, and horsemanship wasn't one of Matthews fortes. Still, his smile didn't falter as his nerves were tried, "I would relish the chance to ride with you, my lord." A practiced bow followed, stepping back to receive Sir Ceryn.

"It is good to meet you. Sir Matthew Coffey, was it? Of Summerhill Hall? I am Ceryn Onyxis, Knight of Poryatown. Always a pleasure to meet fellow Lurian nobility. Tell me, have you met Sir Cream? I think you and he would get along splendidly." Ceryn waited for realization to dawn on the knight's face at the joke. "Forgive me, sometimes I cannot help myself when such amusements arise in my head. Truly, it is good to meet you. I do like coffee; I'm sure it will be an honor to serve alongside you." ~ Ceryn Onyxis

​Perhaps forgetting his etiquette for a moment, Matthew couldn't help but bark a laugh, turning to his tormentor. During his squiring such banter often got bandied about amongst the hopefuls, all seeking approval from their betters and from each other. The joke was not original, but hearing it in these imperial halls made him feel at home, his posture slouching somewhat to accommodate his newfound ease. "And a pleasure to meet you also, sir Ceryn, I have not the fondness for the drink myself. Too bitter, see, but perhaps if we can find lord Sugar..." his speech trailed off, smirking at the knight as if he'd already said enough.

​Content with viewing Aldrakar's interactions with the other knights, Matthew took the time to inspect his equals. Nodding to himself as he silently named each of their families from their distinctive heraldry; these were the men that had answered the empires call to arms. He appreciated that, these men could be counted upon. More would come, he was certain of it. Straightening up for Aldrakar's speech to Nicholas, he could not help but feel the same pride Aldrakar did. This was his king, and he would see to it that both his family and his overlords would be honoured, as was right and proper in this realm. Once the procedure was finished, he snapped for a servants attention. "A toast perhaps?" Matthew spoke loudly, looking from the group assembled to other nobles nearby to the throne, "To the health of our king and the glory of the empire." He rose a glass of red wine at that, smiling pleasantly enough to those gathered.

William Fitz Roberts

Thirdly, Aldrakar looked upon the features of Sir William. The beard stood out but more so the way the man kept to himself and displayed restraint. ‘’Sir Knight.’’ Aldrakar responded in kind. ‘’What might be your name? For you lack in the giving of it.’’ Aldrakar gave a brief yet stern look. ‘’No matter, what is in a man’s name? It what a man does that counts.’’ Looking William squarely in the eye. ‘’There’s more doing in there than prattling isn’t there.’’ Aldrakar paused. A time in which thoughts crossed the Monarch’s face. ‘’After this banquet is over, you will seek out and report to the Imperial Marshal Cador. He is my friend and sworn brother.’’ The words accompanied with a fist placed onto his own heart. ‘’There you will ask him to take you under his wing.’’ Knowing this was an order, Aldrakar observed William to see if he took it well. ‘’Cador will show you the ropes. Blade in hand, yes? Do well and know that I will be watching.’’ Aldrakar relaxed. ‘’If you do particularly well, you might earn yourself a Vice-Marshal title.’’

Sir William noted his king's words carefully, locking his own grey eyes with those of Aldrakar before bowing. 'I shall do as you command, sire.' He paused for a moment, wondering whether he dared question the reasoning behind this order. He decided better of it, but still wondered why he had been asked to do so, but the other knights present had not. He stepped back away from where the king sat, turned to walk away, then had moment for pause. He turned his head back and said 'and my name is Sir William Fitz Roberts of Poryatu. I am prepared to do whatever service the Empire requires of me, no matter what it might cost me'. Being a man of few words, he returned back into the crowd, though remained close enough to observe his king's reaction and interaction with his fellow Knights.

Staedtler la Stylo

Staedtler makes pace towards the banquet hall, tucking his locks and curls beneath the brim of his cap. He is late. Disastrously so. The fashion of an anxiously awaited arrival is lost upon those who have no name worth remembering and he is yet to announce himself. Behind him, bustling down the streets in a gang of excitable chants are his men. They are rushing around any and all who happen to stray into their path, always following their noses. For the stink of wine floods through straw and stone like blood through water, and these predators hunt as one. The alleys and market streets echo with the war cries of wine, war, ​and women - things that they have not tasted the heat of in many a year upon cold, harsh roads. Tonight, they will make recompense for their painful abstinence from luxury, or die trying - the pride of the warrior's way - for, with good fortune, the best of the Golden Feast is yet to come.

Pouring into the hall, cascading around the boredom of pleasantries and introductions, are a dozen guffawing men of no more than twenty winters each. Much like water, they take the path of least resistance, and the flow of their evening draws them off towards the oasis of food and drink as they playfully push and shove eachother around. As they steal away more cups than they can carry, one breaks off from the stream. Tall, sharp, young - much what you would imagine a quill-pen would resemble if they were a man, except the only thing he has written across his gauntish face is the look of a embarrassment. Regardless, with belt drawn tight to his waist, cap freshly feathered with a peacock plume, and every attempt made to avoid eye-contact withe his calamitous retinue, he walks to the sharpest guest he can spy. The shorter man amongst the group of half a dozen will do, the one with black hair - he seems astute. Staedtler clumsily catches the heel of someone idly stepping across his path and stumbles. A dozen distant shouts of 'WAHEY' strike up chorus from the table behind the roast hog.

Nicholas Archival

As Aldrakar spoke, Nicholas bowed his head to present openly his fealty. As the King continued with the oath, all other sounds - once so overbearing - felt distant, muted. This was what the knight had come for. Not for the pleasantries or fawning or courtship, but for the pledge of his sword and spirit. It was his duty to do so - and, if nought else, he knew duty.

“Sir Nicholas, you do me proud and make swell my heart with hope as the future just turned to a stark Gold against the black night sky.’’

With the conclusion of the speech, the Great Hall's grandeur and cacophonies returned. Nicholas rose to his feet and sheathed his sword. He bowed his head toward Aldrakar and, with some final words, moved backward in order to better inspect those who had also arrived at the steps to the throne. It remained plainly clear that he was a man not of courtly intrigue, but of action and tenacity.

"In the name of the Emperor and my honour, I swear it shall be so, my king."

Thereafter, he took stock of the responses to his peers, particularly Sir William. With a quietly quirked brow, he waved over another servant, upon which he plucked a second goblet from their silver tray. His nerves had been soothed by the purpose he had received, the beverage now a matter of enjoyment. As Sir Matthew spoke, Nicholas lofted his goblet in toast and repeated, "To the health of our king and to the glory of the Empire." They were good words, well-spoken, he decided. It gave him enough pause to reconsider the ostentatious knight; perhaps there was more bite than bark after all. Only time would tell.

Night -- Giask

Benedict Dupont

Aldrakar awarded the young knight’s introduction with another of those well rehearsed and nearly imperceptible nods. He then made a bit of a show of looking Benedict up and down, as if inspecting a cow he might buy and himself being a rancher. ‘’Giask you say?’’ A frown started to appear on his face. ‘’Heavy responsibility.. heavy indeed.’’ The words were close to being mumbled. Then, suddenly, Aldrakar’s expression turned and out came a smile. ‘’There’s a long history of distinguished serve from the Knights of Giask. Former Kings, Generals and heroes have gone before you. Giask is the greatest City on all of Dwilight and you best remember that Benedict.’’ He paused a moment before continuing in a softer voice. ‘’Also, better to drink brandy rather than wine if you need some more liquid courage in the future.’’ Aldrakar nodded sagely.

Benedict regarded his words for a moment, the combination of levity and seriousness in his tone taking the knight by surprise. A blush came to his face, possibly unnoticeable against the glow of the wine, but it was there all the same after Aldrakar's remark about his 'liquid courage'. The knowledge that the King had a sense of humour did little to encourage Benedict, for nobles of his station could not afford to risk mistaking the jests of a higher Lord with an invitation to commence in banter. His words of wisdom regarding Giask did remain in his mind, however, he had heard that Aldrakar was once Lord of this city, and such words would therefore carry significant weight.

"I thank you for such generous advice, good King. I can only hope that I am worthy to shoulder the honour of serving such a great City."

With that, Benedict takes a bow and withdraws from the King's presence, taking a mental note to try some of this brandy the King suggested. He watches as the line of nobles succeeding him approached Aldrakar in similar manners to Benedict, with Nicholas swearing fealty in front of the towering presence. Were that I had the opportunity to win his favour in that fashion... He mused, as he sought out the nearest servant.

Once his cup was filled, Benedict felt the social burdens he had felt before had disappeared, and he drifted among the various groups of nobles, doing his best to avoid Sir Donald at all costs. Finding a seat at table occupied by nobles Benedict had seen around Giask, he began to tuck into a nearby joint of pork and enjoy the Feast proper.

Ciarghuala Dubhaine

The sea journey from Askileon had been largely uneventful save for the weather, the Spring swells coursing through the Straits of Orz pitching and yawing the cog in a most unsettling manner for those first-time sailors amongst Ciarghuala's bodyguard. As an experienced sailor herself, who'd travelled widely across the Inner Sea, she'd been in her element and spent much of the voyage pacing the aft deck, cheeks uncharacteristically flushed by salt spray carried on the bracing wind, unmindful of the warriors unmanned at the rails, puking their guts into the waters below. Thankfully for the landlubbers the cog's crew knew their business and the spires of Giask swung into view well before nightfall.

It was nigh on a year since the Lady of Poryatu had last visited Imperial Giask, the city who's welfare dominated so much of the work of the Grand Pantry. As a leading commander of Earth's Hall she knew she should be excited at the prospect of the King's Feast and the many young knights who'd be presenting themselves before the gathered nobility of the Empire. That had certainly been the gist of the argument which had preceded her departure...

"How long do you think it will take to get our kit sorted?" her first concern was always her command, the brave men and women of the Free Fontanese Guard she fought alongside, exiles from her mother's distant homeland who'd found a new home and great honour amongst the generous people of the Empire.

Captain Septinia looked up from the rail, her face somewhat less puce now the cog was riding the tide into gentler coastal waters, "Probably a day or two. Why? Are we in a hurry?"

"Not especially," Ciarghuala's fingers drummed idly in the basket-hilt of her sword, still uncertain if she'd made the right choice accepting King Aldrakar's invitation. It wasn't like she didn't have ample legitimate excuses for staying in the north, close to hearth and home. When had she become so soft? So dependent on the sentiments of another?

"I sent ahead an order for two dozen new brigandine doublets before we left," the Captain's voice cut through Ciarghuala's reverie, "with the triple-riveted steel plates you prefer, and that kidskin we used last time - from the tanners in Glover Street."

"Do you mind taking care of the fittings? I've some personal business to take care of whilst we're here."

"Of course not ma'am. Shall I try out some new recruits as well?"

"Probably best to whilst we have the chance. This lull in the fighting won't last forever. Use my name if you have to."

The Giask Guild House of the Royal Rangers was the second-largest in all Dwilight, surpassed only by the massive fortified complex in distant Gelene. Constructed with the same impeccable good taste which characterised all Giask's major public works, Ciarghuala doubted its architect had ever expected the woes of distant Gelene to one day press upon Luria's borders.

"Lady Ciarghuala to see the Lodge Master, I believe he's expecting me."

The reception clerk ran his eyes down the open pages of a large leather-bound appointment book, "Ah yes M'Lady, he'll join you in the Members' Lounge. If you'll just sign in here..."

Ciarghuala scribbled her signature next to the diary entry then made her way through an ornate arch flanked by double-doors into the Members' Lounge. It was several years since she'd last visited the Guild House but very little seemed to have changed: the oak panelling; the lifelike heads about the walls; the bookshelves; the heavy oak furniture with its leather upholstery; the retired hunters slumbering beneath last week's broadsheets.

Several months ago Ciarghuala had received a letter from the Lodge Master in Gelene with news that her youngest sister Threiginion had gone missing near Eidulb on her return from a Guild organised expedition to Darfix. The young adventurer had started to make a name for herself and her presumed demise had deeply affected many of those who knew her well. Ciarghuala wasn't so sure her sister was really dead and had tried to use her influence to get the Gelene Guild House to look into the matter but distance made that difficult. So instead she'd turned to their counterparts here in Giask.

"Lady Ciarghuala!" the Lodge Master's smile beamed as he extended his hand to the Grand Panetier.

"Lodge Master Ebert," she shook his proffered hand, "Thank you for making time to see me."

"Don't mention it m'lady. I'm honoured to assist you in any way I can. In your letter you mentioned that the matter is delicate," his voice fell to a conspiratorial whisper, not that anyone in the Members' Lounge was listening.

"It concerns my sister Threiginion," Ciarghuala's voice just barely registered her sadness, "against my advice she took it into her head to become an adventurer, hunting in the lands between Eidulb and Darfix."

"Oh," it wasn't the first time the Lodge Master had heard of a young noble running off in pursuit of adventure. It rarely ended well.

"Indeed. Some weeks ago I received a letter informing me that she'd gone missing near Eidulb but my efforts to learn more have fallen on deaf ears. I'm hoping perhaps you can help me?"

10th December

Night -- Giask

Logan Waters

The sound of gulls passed over the Great Harbour of Giask, drowning out the quiet noise made by local fisherman preparing their boats for the morning with only the light of a fading moon and sparse lit braziers across the various docks.

​Logan strode along the edge of the docks, taking in deep breaths of the cold ocean breeze which moved along the harbour and made the sails of the docked boats ripple gently. A satisfied smile formed on the young knights lips as he stopped before a large trading ship, it's crew nowhere to be found and most likely enjoying the 'pleasures' Giask had to offer.

The ship was broad in structure, a large mast protruding from it's centre with a sail tightly wrapped around it. The wood looked smooth and glossed, the moons reflection in the water almost making it look like the moonlight was dancing across it's exterior. The aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon filled Logan's nostrils as his eye caught part of the ships cargo sitting idly on the dock. Logan strode forward towards the pile of spices, slowly squatting down as much as his leather jerkin would allow and running a finger through the fine brown powder. The aroma of nutmeg only grew more pungent as he disturbed it.

Logan had always had a passion for the harbour, to watch the many ships pass through on a daily basis from the window of his estate. It showed a display a wealth, of power that not just the city of Giask possessed, but the whole of Luria Nova. He would fight to keep the prosperity of his beloved city intact, to see the beating heart of the empire continue to grow.

​The young knight brushed the nutmeg on the skirt of his jerkin, returning to his full height and continuing on with his stroll up and down the harbour until sunrise.

11th December

Night -- Giask

Donald Augustus Allan

The Feast

“So that would be the man, Sir Donald, who claimed to the Emperor himself to be the most handsome knight in Luria,”

“Indeed it would” Donald clasped Nicholas’ hand in greeting “no doubt you can see why” he boomed, with his brazen smile gleaming like a hot summer’s day.

“It is unfortunate that I have no heard of you” he said with a hint of what may have been, real, genuine interest “no doubt the two of us will become firm friends in the Emperor’s service!”

Their conversation was interrupted by a sharp whistle coming from the direction of the throne of Earth Hall’s throne, where an estranged individual was seated, “Excuse me, good Sir!” he said to Nicholas before promptly disappearing in the direction of the piercing noise.

Turning his attention to the throne he ascended the steps gracefully, like cat strutting along a fence post where the dogs below could not reach. Several Knights had already beaten him however, with many introducing themselves before the King. When it was Donald’s turn he bounded up, and giving a wide and slightly over-the-top bow.

“Hail to thee! I am Sir Donald Augustus, Knight of Askileon, at your service for as long as you require it” As he spoke his head dipped low, his golden locks slipping across his unblemished face and briefly obscuring his vision and awaited the word of the King.

Nicholas Archival

Nicholas descended the steps and away from the Throne. Although Sir Donald had launched himself towards Aldrakar first, it was he who departed as the - self-proclaimed - handsomest knight in Luria strode up to greet the monarch. Perhaps he had gotten lost along the way? No matter, it would certainly provide something worth watching. If nothing else, Nicholas was warming to the eccentricities of the capital.

He approached the large table, central within the Great Hall. He sat himself comfortably, briefly fidgeting to adjust his position; there were not banquets quite so magnificent at home, and it would take quite some getting used to. But he was nothing if not dedicated to the tasks set to him. He took a sip of his wine, savouring the taste - he was no connoisseur, but he was an able judge of what found his tongue wanting more, and what did not. It was a good wine; perhaps he would start a collection of his own, at Noble Manor Square. If Aldrakar's presence at the feast was anything to go by, he had a refined taste. Nicholas was determined to accommodate this, one day.

To his right someone feminine cleared their throat, to gain his attention. With a brief pause for recollection, the young knight realised it was one of the courtiers who had tittered at him perhaps only an hour before. Nicholas quirked his brow in surprise, before the endless letters of courtly chivalry reminded him that he must be polite. He inclined his head amiably, and introduced himself, all the while taking a few longer moments to subtly appraise her (it would not do to stare overmuch no doubt, and he was capable of maintaining his good manners). She was pretty, he realised, and, without the fog of apprehension before him, interested.

Perhaps the capital had its charms after all.

While they spoke, Nicholas kept some small measure of attention on their surroundings. It would be inappropriate to completely forget his position and where he was. As he did so, he scanned the Great Hall. He watched for the knights he had already met - William, Matthew, Benedict, Donald - and for any other matters of interest. The jeering of some rather more rambunctious members of the landed elite caught his - and his companion's - attention, as a tall, skinny nobleman slipped and fell nearby, just within earshot.

"Hello there, friend," he began, addressing Staedtler, while approaching to offer him a hand in standing, "Are you quite alright?"

Ciarghuala Dubhaine

Much against Ciarghuala's better judgement she'd been cajoled by her squire Synne into wearing a formal dress for the festivities rather than her dress uniform, a mark of respect for King Aldrakar and the customs of the Imperial Court.

The pressure of tight satin and whalebone corsets against her ribs was strangely reminiscent of the brigandine to which she was more accustomed, but the inconvenient explosion of petticoats was a firm reminder of why she so rarely attended these kinds of functions. Still, with so many fresh faces amongst the nobilis militarum she could hardly have declined the invitation.

Standing before the dressing-room mirror she barely recognised herself, face artfully painted in the latest fashionable style and waist cinched with increasing severity as Synne tugged at the corset's stays.

"How do those court ladies bear this day in, day out?" she panted as the last half-inch of lacing was achieved with the judicious use of Synne's knee.

"It's not just the court ladies ma'am," Synne tied off the laces, "Many of the gentlemen are similarly laced to attain a manly physique."

"Oh give me strength," Ciarghuala let out a sigh, "If a few more of those pampered lollards joined the Emperor on the battlefield they'd attain a manly physique soon enough."

"Perhaps ma'am, but it's still considered the height of fashion."

"Height of fashion my arse," the Grand Panetier muttered under her breath, already viewing the evening ahead with the same phlegmatic mood she would an unavoidable battle on unfavourable terms. Synne was wrangling an armful of burgundy shot silk as she mounted the dressing stool so Ciarghuala helpfully raised her arms above her head and prepared to be entombed in the froth of skirts.

It occurred to her that she looked older in makeup, an alien thought she had considerable difficulty grappling with. Should the most powerful woman in the Empire care about trivialities like age? Was this nature's latest gambit in its attempts to make her settle down? Hadn't she done just that? Well, after a manner.

"Right, let's get this farce finished," she stood perfectly still as the cascade of silk slipped into place and Synne adjusted the shoulders just so, revealing just enough décolletage to be fashionable but not so much as to be unseemly. Ciarghuala couldn't help but be fascinated by the unaccustomed sight of her cleveage, even more so as Synne settled a choker of blood rubies in place.

"There are shoulder-length gloves as well ma'am - they're all the rage this season in Giask - and I took the liberty of purchasing matching heels."

"Oh great, so I'll spend the entire evening perched on tip-toe, forced to make polite conversation with the same pompous nobles who bombard my office with tiresome requests for lax rationing. I might as well..."

There was a firm rat-a-tat on the boudoir door and the warm, familiar voice of Captain Septinia, "Ma'am, the carriage is ready when you are."

"I'll be another five minutes, pour yourself a drink whilst you wait!" Synne was busily buttoning the heeled calf-boots so Ciarghuala began working the kidskin gloves up her forearms. The glovers had done their best to accommodate her archer's musculature but the leather still complained and she considered a strategic withdrawal...

"Ma'am!" the look on Septinia's face was priceless.

"Like it?" the Lady of Poryatu twirled left, then right, then left again, as her captain's eyes widened in disbelief.

"I assumed you'd be wearing dress uniform ma'am," her hand fidgeted with the silver buckle of her baldric, the polished oxblood leather bisecting the maroon dress tunic of the Free Fontanese Guard from shoulder to hip.

"Well aren't you going to offer this Lady your arm? I don't think these boots are designed for walking unaided."

Jeffrey Birkenhead

Dark clouds were gathering on the horizon, a towering, black shape in front of an ever reddening sky. Jeffrey Birkenhead, youngest son of Severin Birkenhead, knew what that meant.

After King's Spiral, a splendid, but, in comparison to others in Askileon, small estate, went vacant, Severin Birkenhead managed to call in old favors to secure it for Jeffrey, just as he came of age - a fitting gift indeed, and a token of appreciation from his father. The Birkenhead family is scattered far and wide, despite the wishes of patriarch Severin. Frederic Birkenhead, for example, pledged allegiance to the king of Predan on the East Continent, seeking a life of conquest and power, and for that, he even stole from his father! Jeffrey decided to stay, and got rewarded handsomely; along with the estate, he got put in charge of a squad of archers, named "The Birkenarrows", and a brand new set of banners, one showing the insignia of Luria Nova, and the other... Or, a per pale purpure, over all a pegasus passant vert - the heraldry of the Birkenhead family.

The winds began to grow harsh. The crew tried to take in the sails of the ferry, but the wind suddenly picked up considerably; they struggled. Half of the Birkenarrows were hanging over the railing, their moans inaudible as the waves crash against the bow of the ship. The storm went on, shaking them, up, down, back, forth, brine was splashing all over deck, those on it were soaked, those below probably got seasick, and the wind was howling, the elements pulled on the ferry, but the crew knew their ship and waters.

The Birkenhead family once had been grand, but over the last decades, was facing a steady decline in power and members. Jeffrey wanted to change that. Coincidentally, at the time of him being put in charge of the Birkenarrows, the reconquest of Shinnen was to be taking place soon. but for that, he had to travel to a city he had never been to before, a city of tales, said to be spottable from the highest towers of Askileon with a spyglass or similar, the Great City.


After the storm died down, the light of the moon's reflection turned the sea into an expanse of stars, and on the horizon, no longer shrouded by clouds, was the capital of Luria. Here he'd recruit more men. Here he'd probably meet the emperor himself.

Here he'd take the next step into his future.


A small figure wandered out on the main square of Giask. The figure carried a box. In the middle of the square it put the box down, climbed on top of it and pulled it's hood back, revealing a woman's face, neither young or old.

"I am bringing a gift to the King from Earl Max Bennet of Swordfell! Where can I find him?"

Matthew Coffey

Once the toast had been conducted in the kings name, Matthew, satisfied so far with the results of the feast, would spend the majority of his time wandering the halls of the palace. Wine in hand, he would often stop to speak to nobles he passed by, occasionally refilling his glass and drinking far more than he could manage. He was not particularly good with alcohol, despite his slightly larger size, "perhaps I'll get used to it​", he mused to himself. Contenting himself meandering about, red in the face and barely admiring the grand statues and paintings he passed by, it wasn't long before he stumbled across the great library contained within the palace walls.

​Seeing this as a good opportunity to cool off and perhaps indulge his curiosity, Matthew stumbled into the veritable complex of knowledge. The archives were vast, containing generations of information about all manner of subjects. Unsurprisingly, nobles, servants and scribes pottered about here as populously as the labyrinthine corridors about the palace. Quick to strike up conversation, Matthew could be found for most of the evening thereon burying his head in old history books, maps and accounting ledgers. Dry topics to many a scholar, let alone a noble. Scribbling away on some parchment as he went, the young knight made many notes and drawings as he read, offering light conversation with any noble that passed by, but generally ignoring the rest of the libraries denizens.

​He continued ordering more wine throughout, but made certain it had been watered down some.

Logan Waters

Captain Margarita

Logan strode down the off ramp with a quickened pace onto the dock of Askileon’s harbour. The young knight had enjoyed his ten hour trip aboard the “Serpent of Giask”, a small brig which carried him and his retinue across the Euschean Sea to the Silver City. The sight of a new city was breathtaking. For a boy who had nearly spent his whole life confined to the city of Giask, the Silver City with its sprawling aqueducts and mud brick buildings offered new insights into the diversity of Luria Nova.

While Logan stood breathless at the majesty of Askileon, his men did not share his enthusiasm. Many struggled to find their way down the off ramp, still feeling the effects of the bumpy ride which saw them over the Euschean Sea in good time. Brine clung to their hair and made it droop down over their disheartened faces as one by one they off loaded onto the dock. Logan turned his head to the sounds of his disgruntled men slumping themselves down wearily onto the dock.

For a Seaguard, they certainly have an obvious distaste for sea travel. That will have to change, in good time.

The thought crossed Logan's mind as he inspected his men with a clear look of disappointment plastered across his features. Until he spotted a women push her way past two scrawny looking infantrymen and advance towards him. She was tall in stature, broad in the shoulders and carried herself in a very determined demeanor. Wavy, unkempt black hair fell down the side of her head to just above her shoulders. Her face showed both age and experience as small scars littered the right side of her face and heavy wrinkles dominated under her eyes and across her forehead. If Logan was to guess, he would say she was no older than fifty. He dared not ask her the question however. She adorned a set of plate looking armour, the two headed eagle of Luria Nova inscribed into the centre of the breastplate in shades of gold. Two short axes hung by her waist, the morning sunlight glistening off their pristine edges. Logan had seen her train back in Giask against some of the other new recruits. She fought like a rabid barbarian he had read stories about when he was younger, wielding those twin axes with an unwavering ferocity which could topple any man she came against. And for such a brutal character, she had the most mismatched name.

“Captain Margarita!” Logan called out across the dock, bowing his head courteously towards her as she approached him.

“Sir Logan. The men are weary from the travel at sea and may need time to rest” She towered over the young knight but she looked at him with soft eyes, showing concern behind her otherwise rugged appearance. It was obvious she cared deeply about the men.

“I would let them rest if we could. However, we have a strict timetable to adhere to and right now we are just about on schedule. Have the men compose themselves then begin loading the needed provisions onto carts and make ready to leave for Askileon Purlieus with all due haste” Logan kept his gaze locked with Margaritas, trying not to show weakness with his command.

Margarita held the gaze for a few moments, narrowing her eyes as she inspected the young knight, only giving an audible scoff in return as she turned on her heels and walked away.

“Yes, Sir” She spoke loudly when she was some distance away, almost spitting the last word out and drawing attention from a few of the men who were closeby.

Logan bit his tongue, his expression visibly tensing up. He would let this slide for the moment, Captain Margarita was a grizzled warrior who had earned respect from a lot of the men already while he was still considered ‘wet behind the ears’ as lots of people put it. If he was going to keep this unit functioning, he would need her onside and loyal to him. This would come in time but for the moment, he had business to attend to.

Cador Andrasta

Three hooded figures emerged from the woods, into a small clearing with a small stream skirting its edge. One of them had a large stag slung over his shoulder. It must have weighed three hundred pounds, but the figure carried it like it was nothing. The second carried a large warbow and a quiver full of arrows. The one coming up the rear had a large boar spear, it's foot-long blade flickering in the moonlight. They made their way to a small camp where a fire still smoldered. The tallest, the one who had carried the stag, began skinning and butchering the carcass. The bowman took to rekindling the flames, while the spearman leaned his weapon up against a tree and filled a large cooking pot with water.

When the fire was roaring brightly and the stag was simmering in a stew of barley, neeps and carrots, the figures removed their cloaks and passed a bottle of strongwine around.

The tall man drank first, who large gulps. "I'm pretty sure this constitutes poaching.", he said, as he passed the bottle to the spearman.

The spearman took a healthy swig before passing the bottle. "They're my woods, Grimwold. I can do as I please.", he grinned.

The bowman took a sniff, and nearly retched at the smell. "I hope the stag tastes better than this swill."

The big man roared with laughter. "Swill, he says!", he boomed, "This is what fighters drink to work up their bloodlust, little lord!"

The little lord crinkled his nose. "I'd rather drink the blood."

That made the spearman laugh. "You, Cencius? Drink blood? I'll believe it when I see it."

The tall man rose from his seat and took a small wooden bucket filled with the stag's blood, still a little bit warm. "You're on, little lord. Drink the blood or drink the swill." The little lord recoiled, but the tall man was on him in a heartbeat, and pinned him to the ground in an instant.

The little lord looked pleadingly at the spearman. "Lord Cador, make him stop!"

Lord Cador smiled mischievously. "You heard him, Cencius. Blood or swill. You'd better choose quickly!"

After Cencius had wisely chosen to brave the strongwine, the three men took to discussing more serious matters.

"You've seen some of them, Grim.", Cador said, "What do you think?"

Grimwold shrugged. "Green boys. Took their lessons from the masters-at-arms at their estates, some better than others I imagine, but none of them's killed a man, much less a beast or a revenant. Gonna be a rude awakening for some of them."

"All of us were green boys once.", Cencius said between spoonfuls of stew.

Grimwold chuckled. "Not me. My mother gave birth to me during a fight."

"Grim's just the exception that proves the rule.", Cador said, "Cencius is right. Better we wake them up quickly, though. The sooner they learn the ropes, the sooner we can put them to conquering."

"One more thing, my lord.", Grimwold said. "So far, all of them are leading infantry."

Cador thought on that for a moment, then laughed. "All the better. Grim, keep an eye out. Find out who the best fighters are. Cencius, you and the artillery make sure they don't get torn to shreds at first contact. Gods willing, we'll find some strong hordes... then we'll see how good their master-at-arms were..."

12th December

Day -- Askileon

Sofia Nistalia

Sofia marched from Santoo with the men whom she considered most loyal to her, and were skilled enough with the blade to cut something other than themselves. Her men were poorly trained, and that is something she could not abide. Every day she taught them the techniques she learnt from the books of her childhood. How to hold a blade, how to not hold a blade, and how to use it as more than a club. She had two days to reach the capital, but it mattered little. If she couldn't impress the god-emperor with her troops, she would do with something else.

Following her retinue, 32 peasants were chained in a single row. Men, women and children with their clothing torn apart were forced to march under starvation and poverty. By day, the burning sun and the insects assaulted the prisoners constantly, by night it was the rats. Those who even dared to speak were whipped, if they had already been wiped, they were killed. Those who fell never had the luxury to get back up ever again, their corpse left to rot in the sun and their spot in the chain filled with whoever dared to aid the prisoners. They were those who dared to even whisper against the god-emperor himself, chained to be nothing more than used as a political and religious offering in her mind, and then executed. The prisoners were forced awake by the various guard shifts during the night, who prodded them with a long wood stick, not letting them fall asleep. Those who fell asleep never had the luxury to wake up ever again, and their bodies were degenerating quicker than the regular starvation that they grew with in their hometown.

The guards, as fanatical and impulsive as their leader, spent their days training and singing praises to the god-emperor on their march, burning any signs of what was dissent and corruption in their minds, her parade of prisoners was feared by the time she reached Orz, news of her arrival tensed the citizens of the towns she came across.

"I am the spearhead of the new generation of nobles! Open way in the name of the Divine Emperor!" she eyelled at every single town she came across. It was her chance to meet her god, and it would not be wasted.

Benedict Dupont

The Feast Continues

Benedict mused at his seat, his mind a haze from the continuous glasses of wine, watching as the nobles milled around him in their packs, each one vying for the attention of their betters, or swatting off those doing the same. Benedict sighed, his waist line bulging slightly from the bounty of the table.

Perhaps now would be a good time to depart, he thought, absentmindedly.

Alas, the wine and brandy had gotten to his head, and his willpower was not enough to move him from his seat.

Very well, his mind spoke, I suppose we can wait here a few more moments.

Benedict remained fixed to his seat, as if in a trance, oblivious to the ignorance or attentions of his fellow Feasters.

Night -- Askileon Purlieus

William Fitz Roberts

Sir William sat in his field tent, thinking over the days events. He had arrived in the evening, and so has decided that it would be better to introduce himself to his fellow Knights in the Askileon Rangers on the morrow. He had instead ordered his men to set up camp and immediately begin training with their polearms to keep their skills sharp. He intended to give them all halberds as soon as possible, but for now was content with the assortment of halberds, bills and other various weapons his soldiers has acquired for themselves. They were training hard and had been travelling for near 3 days, and songs had finally relented to their requests and accompanied them to the local taverns for a night of revelry. He knew he would regret it in the morning as he tried to cajole his hungover band into ranks, but it had been a good night. He opened up the locket he kept beneath his clothes and stared at the miniature portrait of his wife, Anne. ' We will see each other again soon, my love'. He sighed, fell back onto to the furs that served as his bed and descended into a troubled sleep

Natalie Vrathe

As the Feast proceeds, another Knight finds her way into the hall. Late at that, Dame Natalie arrives with her aide. The Knight, dressed only in a moderate dress, lets her gaze eye over those about curiously. For now, the emerald gaze largely ignores those who do not appear to be of nobility, as she tries to determine who's worth paying attention to, and who's not. After all, she's new in the realm.

Before long, the Dame finds herself with a glass of wine in her hand, which she watches for several moments, before drinking from it. Judging by her expression afterwards, she hardly does it for the sake of enjoyment. Slowly, she starts moving about, mingling one might say, if not for the lack of interactions. Her focus is clearly on observing, while her aide fawns over the various people there. Every now and then, her whispers reach the Dame's ears, with little or no response.

There seem to be something of a pensive notion to Dame Natalie.

Day -- Nid Tek

William Fitz Roberts

William awoke with not as much of a headache as he had imagined, but it certainly wasn't pleasant. He washed his face to wake up properly, and was just sitting down to break his fast when one of his scouts rode up to him, panic on his face. 'What is it?' William asked, already dreading the answer. 'There's a horde of undead approaching from Smokey Hills into Grodno'. William took this in calmly, collecting his thoughts. 'How many soldiers do we have in the area?'. The scout paused, adding to William's already mounting concern. 'from what I could tell, under one hundred my lord, many of whom are militia. There does seem to be some very good troops on our side though'. William swore loudly, and began shouting at his men to break camp and get marching immediately. He sent his scout off to tell the other commanders in the area. He hoped that they would get there on time

Jeffrey Birkenhead

A mounted figure approached. Swiftly.

Sir Jeffrey Birkenhead and the Birkenarrows were on the march to Outer Giask, as a rider approached the unit from a branching street. "Hold.", Jeffrey said to his men. "Someone's approaching us. Get ready for anything." So they stood in the open of friendly lands, on their way from Giask to the military camp in Outer Giask, and saw a rider coming ever closer. Before long, one was able to spot the colors of the Suzerain Emperor on said rider, and that he carried no arms - a messenger. "Are you Sir Jeffrey Birkenhead?", the messenger asked as he approached the unit along with its only mounted member. "That I am. What do you have for me?", Jeffrey replied, in a calm fashion. "Twofold; Orders from the Emperor, and a report. Though I do not know of their contents, and the seals are unbroken." The young messenger, almost as old as Jeffrey, maybe a year or two younger, handed over a letter and a scroll. He spoke the truth, both were sealed, one with the insignia of Luria itself, and one with a familiar other crest. "The Roberts family... why is William writing me so soon again?" Jeffrey turned his attention towards the messenger again. "You've done well." Jeffrey handed some small silver coins to the boy, who replied with a nod and rode off again. As he opened the scroll and read it, he murmured something to himself, and swiftly went on to read the letter. Reading that one, he turned pale, deadly pale. "A gross in number?! ... this is bad." Jeffrey needed a few minutes to compose himself, his archers getting somewhat restless standing behind him, they themselves murmuring to each other after Jeffreys exclamation.

Jeffrey finally turned around to adress his men and women.

"Men, we have received new orders. We are to rally in Grodno. On the other hand, we received dire news. An undead horde of considerable size is on its way to there as well. We will continue on to Outer Giask and stock up and hire some scouts for ourselves. This could have been us going there, and not knowing what would have awaited us; also, we likely won't make it in time to help the main army with this threat. In outer Giask, you will have some time to rest, and maybe I'll even pay for some entertainment. Let's make haste and march on now."

Night -- Nid Tek

Sofia Nistalia

Sofia Nistalia's group grew in number when reaching Outer Giask, leaving in Orz three houses completly empty as the men, women and numerous children were added to her chain of poverty in Orz. The prisoners from Santoo were forced to marhc the entire day and the entire night, with brief pauses for the soldiers to eat, rest or socialize. Sofia herself made good use of her brief stops to hunt and distract herself from the ever-growing interest on her, managing to hunt down a deer, cutting its horns off and with the aid of a few soldiers, attaching them to her helmet with rough leather straps for a more "imposing" look as she called it.

Her march did not go unnoticed, fearful peasants who heard of her arrival took no time to hide and lock their houses with the hope of not being seen by the dame or her retinue, even the mere act of feeling pity for the prisoners, or offering aid to them had an entire family chained with them.

On her right hand, the letters sent to her from interested nobles raised plans in her mind, plans that quickly crumbled and were changed by even better plans. The capital of the empire was at her reach, and she would gather the loyal on it, disperse the impure and banish the traitor.

14th December

Day -- Poryatu

Sofia Nistalia

Sofia had made all the preparations, and she was ready to enter the grand feast. Her retinue increased in size, more soldiers added to the ranks of her recently re-named "Nistalian Dragoons", halberdiers that she found in the city needing for money and would help her to further protect the empire. She also hired menders and a banner-weaver, preparing herself for the hardships of war. Her soldiers visited the market, emptying their dame's coins on flowers and other exhuberant gifts for the Emperor, the finest she could find. She also hired the poor who admired her, she needed them for her entry.

And the moment came, her appearance announced by a young, well-dressed preacher and annnounced by a dozen of trumpets. -Sofia Nistalia, dame of Santoo and spearhead of the "new generation" is now entering the feast! The gates opened side to side, as her personal banner-weaver walked in, scorted by two halberdiers and followed by ten young women, their clothes made to fit and each of them holding a basket filled with flowers, peppering half of the carpet for her Dame's entrance. And only after the young girls covered the entire carpet did Sofia made her entrance, clad in her armor. Her helm held on her belt by leather straps.

Her fist held an empty shackle, carrying on her hand the entire chain of malnourished, thristy, unrested, diseased, bare-clothed prisoners. Their bodies a shadow of their former selves, whipped to exhaustion and some of them with burns over their skin, stripped of their sandals and covered in mud to the knee. Sofia walked through the petals, while the prisoners walked not on the carpet, but next to it. Her retinue followed her, only walking on the side of the carpet with no petals in a single, ordered line. Each step, the room's chatter fell more and more into whispers, by the time she stood before the nobles, the room was but whispers and stares. All the prisoners knelt on the ground at the mere twitch of Sofia's wrist.

-This is my gift to the divine Emperor, a fury to crush the faithless and impure, to strenghten his grip of the populace, and make his enemies tremble in fear. In front of you stands the true threat of Luria Nova, our glorious empire. Not enemies from an enemy realm, not plagues of undead and monsters, but the faithless populace. Those who praise false gods in the divine emperor's lands, those who seek to disestabilize the wars fought in the name of the Divine, and those who have the power to threaten his divine position, granted by the gods for us all to praise and follow. Its our holy duty to burn the tree of hereys that has been let to grow in our lands, prunning away the branches and cutting it does little to stop the true roots of heresy, it always grows ever stronger, such is the nature of heresy and why it is so difficult to destroy. All I want in exchange, is to become Lady of Santoo, owner of the entire region, and you shall have the corpses of the heretics hanging from their false temples. Some may question my right to purge the empire's lands, that I am only full of myself. Only those who truly understand realize that I have no right to let them live, no sacrifice is too great, no treachery too small. This is the Imperial Truth, the re-affirmation of the divine emperor as the only god, and purge of all heretical behaviors. It is your time to choose now, to follow me in cleansing the lands of the impure and faithless, to set the power of the Emperor where it rightfully belongs, to make your enemies kneel before you in defeat, or to sit here cowardly, barely raising a finger to defend the Emperor's lands, to be branded a traitor to the empire, its emperor, its people and its nobility.

And so the speech ended, Sofia taking a carefully-wrapped object, opening the white cloth to take out a dagger, tossing it to the ground. Its blade still dripping with blood, before her and her retinue left the feast with her prisoners, headed for the Gate district.

William Fitz Roberts

Sir William walked amongst the corpses of the last battle, looking at the fallen dead. His men were spread out alongside him, picking at the corpses though it was becoming clear that they had all been looted before he had arrived. He had been surprised to find himself unperturbed by the sight of so many dead. He had expected to feel revulsion at the vision of rotting corpses and ghastly, grinning skeletons, or at least sadness at the sight of fallen fellow Lurians. Instead he felt... nothing. Nothing, save perhaps a cold, grim fascination with the sight of the dead. Looking around, he could see how each and every corpse had been brought low: a spear thrust there, the blow of an axe here, a well placed dagger in the spine, all of these images registered in his mind. For the first time in his life he felt something. It was a sense of belonging, a sense of home. Mayhaps his was the blood of the Fitz Roberts speaking to him, mayhaps this was the reason every one of his ancestors had turned to soldiery: it was the only place they truly belonged. He shook himself out of these thoughts as his sergeant spoke' 'there is nothing here, sir. The corpses have been picked clean' They both turned as they heard a sound of a soldier retching 'whoever that is, have them flogged Kaspar. We cannot have weakness in the White Shields' 'As you say, sir' 'We return to camp. Have the men prepare lunch and then get to training. We are still not ready for what is to come' The White Shields picked up their scattered weapons and returned to camp in a loose formation, disheartened by the lack of loot, though looking forward to seeing the punishment of their comrade who had dared show his weakness

Night -- Poryatu

Benedict Dupont

Benedict returned to his estate late at night, having spent the day after the feast journey to Askileon Purlieus and back.

As he rode through the gate district, he noticed the banners of Sofia Nistalia, a fellow knight whom he had offered a spare building for lodging. Judging by the large congregation of sickly peasants chained together, it would seem that she had made herself comfortable.

As long as they don't leave any everlasting stains, he pondered, then I suppose she can do as she wishes... It's best to foster as many good relations as I can.

Sofia was not present when he arrived, nor did he have time to seek her out. He did, however, leave an open invitation with her guards if she desired to discuss anything with him. But Benedict was not in the mood for idle chit chat with a fellow knight. No, for words of the encroaching threat in the outlying regions had reached his ears, and he knew it was time for action. He summoned captain Aurela, "Captain, I know we have traveled for over a day, but the men must be ready to head out on a moments notice". No, not a moment, there were letters to be written first, Benedict couldn't just join an army without the leave from his Lord. "Let the men know they have the night to rest and recuperate, have a few barrels of ale opened for them... Invite our guest's men as well, just make sure they behave."

"Of course sir", Aurela responded, curt as always, and disappeared.

Benedict retired to his study, a small glass of brandy at his side, as he put his quill to the paper and began to write.

16th December

Night -- Nid Tek

Nicholas Archival

The dust of the battle had long since settled, as Nicholas and his Sworn Swords picked over the remains. It was unclean work, not fit for noblemen or commoners alike, but it had to be done. Equipment was only a finite supply, and to ensure that both himself and his men did not perish quite so easily at the hands of the enemy, some scavenging - or retrieval, as he had phrased it to the men - was a necessity. The older men, veterans of past battles, put themselves to task without much by way of hesitation - their experience in handling the matter was discomforting about the realities of warfare, but it was a lesson well learned, Nicholas decided. The younger men had appeared taken aback by the order; they had expected glory, as they struck down monstrosities with righteous fervour. The Knight himself had been fortunate to have been spared that delusion during his training, at least. Not that it settled his stomach at all. The stench was already beginning to become revolting and he was hard-pressed not to gag.

As the men rummaged and retrieved whatever bits of slightly less battered armaments they could find, Nicholas set off to attend to his own objective. He strode across the field of battle, weary but uninjured, and still in most of his armour. It paid to be careful; who knew how these undead would act. They were already dead, playing possum was doubtless easy for them. Further, he was well-aware the damage they could cause. Nicholas had watched both Sir Donald and Sir Matthew be carried off during the second battle in Grodno, though had been unable to come to the aid of either. Their conditions were treatable, so he paid it little mind for the moment. Instead he focused on the bludgeoned corpses of man and monster alike. As he continued, he found himself growing numb to it - not from callousness, but likely his mind's inability to properly comprehend the horror of it. It would take time, his father had always said, to become accustomed to the savagery of war. It was better than vomiting, at least.

He scanned across each face he came across. The undead looked typically disturbing, and he tried to give them a wide berth. Instead, he was looking for the minority - the men who had not yet been taken from the battlefield for proper funerary rites, the men who had not been accounted for. Eventually, something caught his eye; the White Chevalier of his family. It was emblazoned on a man's tabard, though his face was hidden under the corpse of a shambling monster. Nicholas steeled himself, before striding forward and firmly planted his boot against the undead, to shove it away. The sight revealed was what he had anticipated. The boy - Alaric, Nicholas remembered - looked peaceful in death. It was a blessing that his features had not been ravaged, despite the cruel axe embedded in his shoulder. The Knight sighed quietly. It was the obvious conclusion, when he had not reported for his usual post, guarding Nicholas within his tent. Of all the eager youths among the Sworn Swords, Alaric had always seemed a step too idealistic, too enamoured with the romanticism of battle and chivalry. He was a reminder of what Nicholas himself might have faced, had he been taught a little differently. His sacrifice would be a lesson to the others; recklessness was an easy road to death.

A short while later, he returned to his men, grim-faced by the experience. He waved over the soldiers, expecting a report.

"We've found some bits and pieces, milord," one older soldier remarked, "Though not enough to fix all our gear. Not by far."

Nicholas nodded simply. "It will do. I passed Alaric's body; collect it if you would."

The soldier paused, before giving a deft salute in response and yelled some commands to the other soldiers. "Still, milord, we lost less men than we might've."

"Fewer," Nicholas corrected absently, before retiring from the field and back to his tent.

Logan Waters

Logan brought his sword down in an overhead swing into the rusted helm of the undead soldier, the metal giving way under the force of the blow as he felt his own blade sink into the abominations rotted skull. Leaving his blade, turning to face the armoured man laying sunken in the mud.

Looking down, he noticed the ornate armour the man adorned, although now covered with a mixture of sickly black ooze from the undead, wet mud and even splatters of what he only could of guessed was human blood. The man threw aside his shield and raised a plated gauntlet towards Logan. The young knight quickly stumbled forward to grasp at the other knights gauntlet, the soft mud beginning to engulf his boots as he pressed his weight down and pulled back. Armour creaked and nearly gave way as Logan called on whatever strength remained to bring the knight back up onto his feet, feeling the other man push himself upwards.

Fatigue set in once more as Logan stumbled backwards, releasing his grip from the other knight as to not drag him back. Looking towards the armoured knight, the mud began to slip from his form and reveal the golden serpent emblazoned on his tabard.

The Golden Serpents.

Logan remembered to the start of the battle, looking to his side, seeing a larger force led by a knight with pristine armour atop a steed, the same golden serpent sewn onto the tabards of ever infantryman who stood behind him. After the first wave of undead subsided, formations barely held as the second wave closed in, not allowing time for rest or reorganisation. Finding himself separated from his Seaguard, the voice of Captain Margarita shouting over the battle guiding him back towards his formation before he spotted a lone knight grappling with the armoured undead.

Heroism and self preservation conflicted inside him, fear and bravery tearing at his mind and heart as the fatigue of battle ached in his bones and muscles. Logan was never a brilliant fighter or an inspiring leader. The grip of a quill was more comfortable to him then the hilt of a sword. The safety of his lines were nearby, a few steps over the mangled corpses of undead and Lurian alike and he would be safe from this nightmare. Yet, the young knight mustered some unknown courage, lifting his short sword with shaking arms and took towards the help of the pinned knight.

Composing himself, he stepped towards the knight, abandoning his blade to stay lodged in the undeads skull.

“Sir Matthew! Is that you?” He peered at the close-faced helm but did not wait long for a response.
“The dead are failing, we need to join back with the others!” Logan reached down, picking up a rusted mace from one of the undead, breaking off the hand still attached to it.

Benedict Dupont

Benedict nursed his shoulder, the pain of the dislocation remaining even after the healer reset it. I thrust too hard, he thought as he remembered the monster charging at him, and the weight of the beast as it suddenly went limp. His thoughts drifted off to the rest of his camp, some of the men also tending to similar injuries. Luckily none of his men fell to the enemy, but there were some close calls, with Captain Aurela coming 2 inches away from decapitation at one point during the fray.

When will it end.

He was a knight, a warrior in service to his Emperor, but Benedict had always found this life distasteful, barbaric. Sure, he trained regularly, and ensured his men were ready for battle, but that was just going through the motions for him. He had to play his part, so that one day he could rule... Could avoid this... Mess.

He watched as the men began to remove the head of the beast he killed. At least I was on the right side of this ordeal, he considered as the trophy was taken away to be cleaned and mounted.

Matthew Coffey

The young knight quickly stumbled forward to grasp at the other knights gauntlet, the soft mud beginning to engulf his boots as he pressed his weight down and pulled back. Armour creaked and nearly gave way as Logan called on whatever strength remained to bring the knight back up onto his feet, feeling the other man push himself upwards. Fatigue set in once more as Logan stumbled backwards, releasing his grip from the other knight as to not drag him back. Looking towards the armoured knight, the mud began to slip from his form and reveal the golden serpent emblazoned on his tabard...

Composing himself, he stepped towards the knight, abandoning his blade to stay lodged in the undeads skull. “Sir Matthew! Is that you?” He peered at the close-faced helm but did not wait long for a response. “The dead are failing, we need to join back with the others!” Logan reached down, picking up a rusted mace from one of the undead, breaking off the hand still attached to it.

​With the aid of Logan and no small amount of adrenaline, Matthew managed to stand, swaying slightly where he stood. Dazed, he looked around the battlefield once more, watching the knights' combined forces cutting down the undead before them. Bodies littering the now ruined field. His attention turned back to Logan. "I owe you my life, but you are right, we still have a duty to the empire." Struggling, still clutching his wounded arm, Matthew nodded toward the battle. He had no intention of fighting anymore, regardless whether he could use his sword arm or not. But his troops needed to know he still lived, and the battle would not wait for him to collect himself. With Logan's assistance, they might just make it back in time to see the foe felled. "Let us not hesitate now, my legs still work, and that will do!" He barked a hollow laugh, looking toward his newfound companion as mud dripped from the faceplate ungracefully.

Logan Waters

With Logan's assistance, they might just make it back in time to see the foe felled. "Let us not hesitate now, my legs still work, and that will do!" He barked a hollow laugh, looking toward his newfound companion as mud dripped from the faceplate ungracefully.

​"I pray it stays that way!" Logan failed to hide the concern in his voice as he managed a nervous chuckle, turning off towards the fighting and beginning to trudge through the mixture of sunken mud and rotting corpses.

​"Just follow my tracks and stay close to me. With any luck these corpses should stay corpses." He said wearily. Keeping his new mace close at hand he continued to walk with some haste towards the frontline alongside his companion. The moans of the wounded could be heard from beneath the bodies of others, the cries for help sent a cold shiver up Logan's spine as he continued to stride ahead, blocking it out and focusing on the sound of the fighting.

​"We can send the healers for them later." He didn't say with much confidence, turning to look back and make sure his new companion was coping alright. Ooze and mud covered the exposed part of his lower face, a bleak expression shown on the features not hidden away by his helm.

William Fitz Roberts

Sir William sat back in camp, thinking back on the last 2 battles. They had been as brutal as he had expected, and he was thankful for the cautionary tales of the realities of war that his father had told him and as his brother. It had been enough to prepare him for the horrors he had witnessed today, at least. The same could not be said for the new bloods in the White Shields, many of whom were still visibly shaken from the day's ordeals. His scribe came up to him with a roll of parchment'

'A list of the dead and wounded, Sir'

Sir William took a cursory glance down the list, noting who had fallen. 2 dead, 7 wounded. Both of those who had been killed were new recruits, and both had not kept in proper formation, allowing the undead to separate them and bring them down. The formation had of course broken into a swirling melee later, but their hubris was what had killed them. Of those wounded, most had already been patched up and would be ready for battle should there be another tomorrow. One would need longer to recover, having fallen in the thick mud and been crushed as the rest of the White Shields pressed forward. He had already been fashioned a crude crutch by one of the healers, but would not be suitable for action for some time

'Other knights are bringing their dead from the battlefield for proper burial, shall we do the same?, his scribe asked after a long silence

'No, we must teach the men that in war one cannot afford sentimentality', this was said loud enough for most of the soldiers near him to hear, which made many look at him darkly. One youth, who had been close to both of the slain, looked at him reproachfully through silent tears.

'If you cannot cope with death, then you are in the wrong career. Grow some guts or you can go back home without pay, those are your choices. I have no time for weakness in my band', William snapped at the boy, who looked visibly shaken at the words. William noted that it was only the young who had looked angry at his decision to abandon the dead to the crows. His sergeant, especially, looked on with something akin to respect on his face.

'Good', William thought, 'father's lessons appear to have been right'. He hefted his poleaxe over his shoulder, and went over to the crude grindstone his quartermaster had fashioned for sharpening. He would give his men little time to rest. The day's events had proven that he had been too soft on them.

17th December

Day -- Nid Tek

Sofia Nistalia

The Nistalian Dragoons had to be on the center of the formation and bear the blunt of the charge, the fiercest beasts impaled themselves on the halberdiers, and orders where shouted by the fanatical noble, the troops held the line as best as they could, only in the midst of battle a young man deattached himself from the group, getting himself trampled and killed by the undead abominations, his hole quickly filled by a halberdier in the formation, managing to avoid any undead from spilling past her ranks, slaying hundreds on the field, coprses piling up in front of the halberdiers and eventually forming a small mound from where her men had the upper ground.

After the fight, Sofia gathered her men, stripping the banner from the fallen recruit's corpse and burning it in the field. Most of the recruits watched in a mix of fear at respect at their leader.

-Our god-emperor has tested us today in battle, and the faithless and unworthy has been purged from our ranks!

The soldiers from Santoo cheered, histerical. The recruits from Giask were more kept, some of them cheered but others remained silent.

-Now prepare to march, this glorious is far from over!

Matthew Coffey

"I pray it stays that way!" Logan failed to hide the concern in his voice as he managed a nervous chuckle, turning off towards the fighting and beginning to trudge through the mixture of sunken mud and rotting corpses.

​"Just follow my tracks and stay close to me. With any luck these corpses should stay corpses." He said wearily. Keeping his new mace close at hand he continued to walk with some haste towards the frontline alongside his companion. The moans of the wounded could be heard from beneath the bodies of others, the cries for help sent a cold shiver up Logan's spine as he continued to stride ahead, blocking it out and focusing on the sound of the fighting.

​"We can send the healers for them later." He didn't say with much confidence, turning to look back and make sure his new companion was coping alright. Ooze and mud covered the exposed part of his lower face, a bleak expression shown on the features not hidden away by his helm. ~ Sir Logan Waters

​Lumbering behind the knight, Matthew did not respond to any of his comments as they made their way across the field. His gaze was fixated on the backs of his battalion. Once they reached it, then they would be safe. He'd considered making it back to the camp, but afraid of a shambling corpse ambushing him in this state, he agreed with Logan. Biting back the pain, they marched on. "I'll hold you to that drink when we return in one piece now..." He wheezed, sounding far more nervous than reassuring at this point as they passed the mangled bodies of friend and foe alike.

​Reaching the back felt like aeons, and the battle seemed close to over. Matthew mustered up what manner of strength he had left and shouted toward the back of his lines. "No victory until every last one of them is put in the ground, press on!" Perhaps it sounded better in Matthews head, but over the din of battle and his usually quiet voice, barely the nearest few troops heard the order. He did not care at this point. He thought only of a strong drink, followed by a long sleep. Panting in his helmet still, he knew that would not be the case.

​At least for they could have a brief respite from the fighting.

18th December

Day -- Nid Tek

William Fitz Roberts

Looting Goes Awry

Sir William limped back into camp, followed by what remained of the White Shields. None were healthy, all had sustained some injury or another from the hail of bolts that they had encountered not one hour ago. He had the most wounded, a young lad from Grodno, across his own back, as remarkably William was the only one to have escaped injury. It had begun as a simple raid. He had defied orders to support the takeover of this land, he knew, but his men and women had deserved a morning of sport as reward for their hard work. They had come across a village that they thought would be easy pickings. They had looted the houses without resistance, which William had thought nothing of at the time, but in hindsight he knew that should have been his first warning. It was when they had entered the village square and forced open the granary door that all hell had broken loose. The soldiers at the front were hit by a hail of bolts, causing the majority to go down on the first impact. Almost simultaneously, the air was nothing but whistling bolts as the local guards revealed their hiding places and began loosing their crossbows indiscriminately into the crowd of White Shield. William ducked low behind a shield as he tried to look for a way out, but he knew that they were surrounded. He turned to the woman on his left and shouted 'back the way we came, come on, we have to fight our way out'. He watched in horror as the head of a bolt protruded from her mouth as she turned to reply to him. He stood up, levelled his poleaxe and charged into the group of guards that were blocking his path to salvation. The White Shields followed him, and had quickly cut through the small numbers of guards that were blocking that particular path.

After that they had run, or in the case of most at least attempted to run and instead managed a sort of limping jog, until William could tell that they were no longer being followed. He had turned, done a quick count, and swore as he realised the extent of the disaster. Nine dead, and by the looks no White Shield had escaped without a wound from a bolt or the slash of a sword. Seeing one lad on the floor, a bolt through his thigh, he picked him up and swung him over his shoulders without hesitation. When they at last arrived at camp, they had all fallen, almost in unison, with exhaustion. The healers had rushed out of their respective tents to deal with the most pressing wounds. Sir William looked around and saw the man who had scouted the village and had categorically told him that there were no guards present.

'No guards, you said. Absolutely no chance of guards, sir, were your exact words if I recall' William spoke. His voice was calm, but had a certain menace behind it that made the man recoil in fear

'Sir, I could see no guards. You saw what it was like, they were hidden', the man stammered, backing away, clutching at his wounded arm

'Did you even bother to look properly? I mean in the name of the Emperor there were sodding BARRICADES

At these last words, William struck the man with a mailed fist so hard that the man fell back, spitting blood and teeth. Sir William did not give him time to recover as he continued to strike the man's face. The remaining White Shields looked on in silent horror, daring not to move or speak, as at last they heard the crunch of bone and William relented. He turned to the sribe

'Note it in the records. Ambushed while looting. Ten dead, remaining wounded. Scout punished for his failing to spot the tell tale signs'

'I though only nine had been killed in the ambush, sir', the scribe said quizzically. William looked down at the bloodied mess beneath him and said, almost smiling

'Ten, the record will stand at ten. Ten White Shields were killed today'

With that he stood up and walked to the nearest village. He needed the company of someone who wasn't a soldier. A drink in the local inn would clear his head and hopefully let him know more about the local area

Sofia Nistalia

Sofia made a good work of the recently-conquered region. Clerks, traders and mayors were hanged upside down from the towers of their churches, their backs flayed open, letting the blood trail down the cold stone, their churches burning as the population were rounded to forcefully watch as the barely-alive men died, or were eventually consumed by flames. All of that while Sofia preached the glory of the Emperor, and what would happen to those who opposed her. Fear spreaded through the populace, the seeds had been planted by Sofia.

Bandits weren't spared either, hunting them out of their hideouts, forcing them to take down trees and building the crosses where they all were impaled, each side of the road of entry layered with cruicified bandits, their clothing stripped of them and their torsos cared to have the word "Traitor", bloody and exposed to infection. Their hands bolted to the wood, and their legs free. Their own weight forcefully straining their arms to a painful degree. She wanted to send a clear message, noone can escape the Emperor's fury, not even by hiding on the darkest forests.

21st December

Day -- Nid Tek

Matthew Coffey

Sir Matthew sat in his tent, flexing his left leg with a grimace. "​That mob was particularly enthusiastic", ​he sighed heavily, rising with some difficulty from the bed. Another battle, another wound. "If we carry on like this, you'll be the laughing stock of the army​", chuckling to himself with a self assuring nod of the head. The past few days had been strange indeed. Sulorte's locals had attacked the army en masse, apparently aggrieved based on accusations of looting and loss of independence. As far as Matthew was concerned, the locals lost their right to independence and their possessions when they seceded from the empire. Lurian born or not. Not that it was his decision to make. Nor did he particularly care about the well being of these commoners, especially ​after applying a hammer to his knee. Plying the marketplace with watered down swill, which if it didn't come from the armies stocks, may as well have been looted from a local tavern at the prices (or lack of prices) they were paying for it. His words were hollow, and he clearly wasn't very good at selling them well. The peasants were suspicious of him, and the rest of the knights. "​They're always suspicious​", reminding himself, so as not to give them too much credit.

​Leaving his tent with a wince, the light glaring at him menacingly; Matthew began to scan the collected tents set up outside the town. There was dissent among the ranks. Already sir Donald and sir William had fought over matters of honour, regarding accusations of the looting. Sir Donald had won, but from what Matthew knew of sir William, he would unlikely back down from his stance... Or forget this. It was a shame too, as he enjoyed his company with sir Donald and sorely hoped this issue wouldn't linger like a bad smell. He'd surprised him, from his foppish appearance he expected less competence, but so far that were not the case.

Another sour look crossed his features abruptly, as he remembered the words of the marshal. Now that​ he didn't agree with. A minor spat over some commoners grumbling and he was ready to dishonour every knight here and disband the campaign army. ​"​We're being treated like children​". To put the peasant folk in such high regard was unbecoming of any noble, let alone the imperial marshal. A nearby soldier from his battalion gave him a funny look, clearly the distaste for the decisions made so far was visible. Having little time for his troops on a good day, Matthew glared daggers at the soldier until they skulked off, ruining his private contemplation in a public space.

​Something had to be done to salvage this affair. Clearly the populous and productive province had looked a tasty treat for the mongrel soldiers of one of the knights retinues. He was certain that no knight, unless ordered, would attend a raid on the common folk themselves. A disciplinary action taken by the knight whose troops were in their jurisdiction would have been enough to alleviate all these problems. The rebellion they had cut down was of the peasants own doing. If they'd known any better, which clearly they didn't, they wouldn't have thrown barely armed townsfolk at the soldiery. Grievances should be levied to their betters, not taking up arms. Madness.

​Shutting his eyes and taking a moment to compose himself, breathing in deeply, Matthew snapped for the attention of his servant. Always two steps behind him. "As is proper for a commoner​". Letting out his restrained frustration, he turned to the young woman. "A feast! What better way to celebrate the success so far, and the, peaceful, occupation of Sulorte." The servant knew it wasn't a question for her, just one of Matthews outward musings and orders all wrapped into one. He continued, turning on his heel to face the rest of the war camp. "Let all the nobles of Luria Nova here know, that a bountiful feast will be held in my camp, this evening, to celebrate the victories we have won so far and the many more we shall win before this campaign is up."

​As far as Matthew was concerned, a good roast pig and strong wine solved all problems.

Night -- Nid Tek

Matthew Coffey

Hustle and bustle amidst the Coffey camp heralded his planned feast. "Right on time​", he grinned to himself in the mirror, allowing his servant to brush his dark hair through. Sulorte had just announced its capitulation to the army as the evening came about, and as far as he knew, some of the locals were attending the feast with the common soldiery. The thought made him smile, genuinely, for whilst he held derision for the lower classes he'd so luckily avoided, he was a soft man. It was the sort of smile a parent would give to their child after receiving a shoddily made gift, but a smile nonetheless.

Rising before his servant had finished, causing a squeak of surprise from the woman, Matthew dressed in his usual white gambeson. More military wear than feasting attire, but he wasn't quite comfortable in the region yet, and given recent hostilities he'd rather have some extra padding besides his fleshy body. Two scabbards soon followed, the first his knife, the second his sword. He hoped he'd just be using the utensil and not the weapon tonight. Accompanying his semi-battle ready gear was a couple of rings and a brooch, just enough jewellery to remain civilized, but not too much to be prancing around the war camp looking dainty. After all, having suffered the most blows amongst the young knights, Matthew might just give off the impression of being fragile and that just wouldn't do.

​Emerging from his tent in good haste, Matthew began to purview his realm of delight. A large table had been set up where previously tents had been. He'd ordered the soldiers to move their camp, as their presence wasn't wanted in his eyes. Candles were lit, and cloth was laid. It wasn't terribly fancy, but they were on a campaign after all, so it'd have to do. Taking in a deep breath, the stout man savoured the smell of suckling pig on the spit coupled with various strong cheeses already put out. Fruits would accompany the cheese to start with, served with wine. Most of it local, which he'd practically stolen at the price he got it for. Not that it bothered him, the peasants should be grateful for real Lurian coinage.

​His attention was stolen away as a greying old man was brought into the camp, escorted by servants. Matthew beckoned him over with a grin. "You're the mystic I've heard about. Wonderful! You shall come on after the juggler, when the first pig has been eaten and the guests wish for seconds." Without waiting for the elder to respond, he'd already begun to wave him off. Those two and the archer he'd hired should be good enough for a start. Then he would engage the guests in some song and dance. He was grateful to have found some paid servants whilst handing out ale in the market. "​I suppose it wasn't all that bad​", he conceded silently, taking one last sweeping scan of the arrangements. Hopefully it would all go to plan.

​Now all that had to be done was await the guests to arrive.

Lotheridan Hartford

Another battle had occurred, more peasants mobs had formed despite the colossal defeat only the day before. They were not as numerous as the last and were easily dispatched, sir Hartford and his men joined the ranks reluctantly to fight back the angered peasantry. After it was over the young noble fell to his knees, mourning the loss of innocent lives of a region that'd fall under their control. First there was grief, then rage as the youth swore to never rest until "all evil had been smitten from this realm".

He retreated to his tent, his cloak red of peasant blood, with his healer in tow. It is said that the healer, a priest of sorts, had often spoken to the noble these past couple of days, offering him counsel about various matters.

Dorian Pavus

Sir Dorian leads the Pavus Guards alongside Captain Franz away from the village and to the Coffey camp. He missed Askileon, and the Coastal Fortress, but to be among both normal men and women as well as the Rangers was a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. One that he may not always get the chance to enjoy again with the rumours of insurgent townsfolk. He had fought some townsfolk with his men, which was nothing he was all too happy about. The lands of Sulorte were ever so pretty to him, and a feast in them is nothing short of bliss. The Pavus Guards, too, welcomed the change. Instead of helping the local peasants with tasks or getting poor looks, they could both be at peace. Sir Dorian and Captain Franz appear to be avoiding fellow nobles, at least approaching any, and was so very eager to greet the peasants. He really seemed a man of the people, so long as he has his loyal Captain at his side.

He was going to enjoy this, and nobody was going to ruin it. And if the traitor is revealed, he will be battling his tongue to stay quiet.

William Fitz Roberts

Sir William limped towards the feast, looking out for Sir Matthew. 'Say what you like about Sir Donald', he thought to himself', 'but the man could fight'. He was also looking out for sir Logan, as he owed the man an apology as his actions had, in part at least, led to the battle that resulted in his injury. He had worn his usual black, but had made sure to choose a set of clothes that did not have blood from the peasant's he had killed on it. Given what most of the loudest members of the Rangers thought of him, turning up with the blood of his victims on him would not play well. He at last spotted Sir Matthew, who looked like he was fussing over the final arrangements. He made to go quickly towards him, wincing as he remembered his leg, and instead carefully limped towards him

'Sir Matthew', he nodded, looking down at the wine set at the tables. He was very glad he had decided to bring his own. He fiddled with the pommel of his sword as he awaited the arrival of the others

Benedict Dupont

Benedict's head was heavy when he woke, his eyesight dim. A servant woke him... Bryce? Was that his name? He thought as his head swam... Yes, that's it, Edgar's boy, remembering the time his guardsman introduced the lad.

"Bryce... What... What is it", he moaned through a dry throat.

The lad expertly passed him a glass of water, "You told me to inform you immediately if you received a letter sir", the boy stammered.

Benedict emptied the glass in a single motion... "Ahhh... Yes, yes, very good boy, thank you". It took a while for Benedict to make out the words, the 'cultural' celebrations he had enjoyed with the locals the eve before the region joined the realm has left their mark on the knight. I should really drink less next time... He read the letter, this is my chance then, he thought as he read the invitation Sir Matthew Coffey had extended.

Right then, some hair of the dog is in order.

Benedict ordered his best tunic and trousers and he was on his way to the feast within the hour. Not realising he was still fairly inebriated from the recent revelries, he grabbed a cup of wine and absently drank it as he made his way to the nearest noble.

"Ahn haw arr yuu?" He spoke, most eloquently, to the knight... Or at least, that's what he assumed.

Nicholas Archival

Nicholas glanced over his shoulder. Over in the distance, the sound of revelry emanated from Sir Matthew's feast. It seemed an appetising affair, and he had intended to partake in it - but other matters had to be prioritised. He looked down to the scout report on Shinnen Purlieus and sighed. A greater number of Undead were heading towards them and it would not do to be caught ill-prepared or unawares. His men already knew their tasks as they moved to and fro, executing some final combat drills and fitting whatever salvage they had found from the previous battlefields to their damaged armour - the travelling and the fighting had taken their toll on the Swords' supplies. The knight himself continued to quietly survey them, one hand idly on the pommel of his sword, as he readied himself for the fights ahead. Sulorte had been reclaimed, but it was only the first stepping stone in the campaign.

Benedict Dupont

Benedict looked up slightly, hearing a voice speaking towards him.

'Someone's started early. Fun night, was it?'

Noticing Sir William, Benedict responds with as much self respect as he could muster.

"Ah, Sir Waaliam... Goohd ta seeeh yoush... I shupposhe I got a beeeht carreehd erhway with the shelebrashons with ther localsh... But I wersh onlay doahng my dutay." Benedict said, every word clearly pronounced to further illustrate his point.

With the conversation seemingly over, Benedict walked towards a table of food, annoyed at the number of servants who seemed to walk into his perfectly straight path.

23rd December

Night -- Poryatu

Cador Andrasta

"Rider, fast approaching!"

The shout came from the back of the column. When Cador turned his horse around, he saw a man in plain clothing, driving his mount at full speed towards them. The leather bag over his shoulder revealed that he was a messenger.

"Grimwold, Cencius, with me.", Cador said, spurring his horse and galloping past his men towards the rider, his two captains in tow. When they were almost on him, he halted, made a hasty dismount and fell to one knee.

"My lord, urgent news from Sulorte.", he said between heavy breaths. "The Emperor was caught in battle. The hordes came down on his camp as he was preparing to leave."

Cencius gasped in horror, as Grimwold's hold on the reins turned into a vice grip. Both wheeled their horses about, meaning to run back to the men and turn the column around so they could rescue their ruler, but Cador raised his hand to still them.

"Did you see the battle, courier?", he asked.

"I did, my lord." A broad smile appeared on his face. "His Grace lives! He had prepared his men for a valiant last stand, yet against all odds, they drove back the hordes. When I saw the day was won, I rode to find you at once. I passed many knights and their retinues, and many more villagers, so I told my tale to all who could hear, and all along the road the people are raising our banners and singing the praises of the Emperor!"

Grimwold exploded in laughter, and Cencius finally managed to let his breath out. Even Cador could not suppress a smirk. "You did well, rider. Cencius, take him to the wagons, see him fed, and make sure he gets a skin of wine and a fresh horse. The road to Giask is long and he has many praises to sing along the way."

24th December

Day -- Poryatu

Zajar Essenhorn

message to all nobles of Luria Nova The Imperial Duck.

"How many?"

"Half a dozen, your Majesty."

A scowl curls the edges of Zajar's lips at the mention of 'Majesty', a sharp dip of his chin prompts the soldier in front of him to a crisp salute and subsequent swift retreat from the large army tent.

The space inside is fairly well lit by several torches, candles and a brazier, although the latter more for heat. The area is dominated by a large circular table crafted from dark oak wood, it's surface marred by pits and scratches, the piece of furniture covered with unfurled leather maps, chess piece like figures, some silver coins and an eerily lifelike wooden painted duck.

"How many of mine able and ready, captain?" Spoke Zajar, as he reaches for a platter with a slice of dark bread and some sausage, the duck a silent observer.

"Thirty or so, add a dozen extra if the healers patch them up." His captain stood at the other side of the table, peering over the leather map entitled 'Sulorte'. He places a thumb sized carved figure of a skeletal soldier and one of a monstrous horned beast on the drawn landscape, opposite of a warrior figure armed with a crossbow and sword, it's tiny surcoat engraved with the Essenhorn family sigil. "Reports show the remnants of the undead we fought at dawn have risen again and head for the camp, with what remains of the beasts trailing them, as usual."

Both men peer at the map, one at the figurines, the other absently chewing some bread and sausage. Sounds from outside filter in from time to time, indistinct chatter, a shout, horse hooves, some birds. Neither of the occupants take any visible notice.

The captain gestures at the tiny carved wooden tents, placed just behind the warrior. "And apparently half a dozen commanders wounded, or otherwise indisposed to travel to Grodno." He casts a glance to Zajar, awaiting a reaction.

"What of Master Cador?" Was the reply.

"Leading the remainder of the young commanders to Grodno, as planned."

Another moment of silence falls, brows furrowed in thought, a brief clink and bristling of cloth as Zajar returns the now empty platter, his free hand gently caressing the wooden duck, eyes flitting over the map and the figurines lining it's surface.

"Then we wait Leopold, and we hold, at least for the night. We will cover their retreat and they will recover and grow into fine Lurian commanders."

In response the man addressed as Leopold offers not so much as a blink as he draws his dagger from its sheath and uses the tip to clean his fingernails.

"You don't approve, I know that face." Continues Zajar as he rests both hands on the tabletop and peers at the captain of his retinue, "after fourteen years I know all of them, and none of them pleasant make no mistake. Luckily both of us posses a face alike a carving board, one of the blessings a lifetime of war on men and demons has brought us, so I won't hold it against you. This has to be done, I won't risk the young ones being shredded, we need the numbers.. I'll see you outside.." A brief shrug before stepping out of the tent.

After a moment Leopold sheaths his dagger and makes for the exit himself, yet stops halfway and turns back to the table. He locks eyes with the duck, and scowls.

"He's right, I don't."

Matthew Coffey

"​Perhaps we'd decided to celebrate too soon​", Matthew considered gloomily, looking over his shoulder at the cart that carried half a dozen wounded. Their banners were lost, one of the healers had gone missing during their flight. He'd gotten away lightly this time, only a hefty bruise on his arm where he'd been trampled after falling in the fight. How badly had it gone? They were only matched man-to-man, but the undead cared not for their rusty tools of war, whereas the army was riddled with problems. Half were unable to fight when that horde approached, and those who could were wielding near broken swords, axes and spears. "​Shambles​", he cursed out loud, drawing the attention of his captain. An older sergeant, reasonably experienced when he'd found him. Matthew scowled, "​He'll be gone with the rest of them once we reach Grodno".

​The festivities after the occupation of Sulorte were cut short. Sentries marked out an approaching group during the early hours of the morning. Some of the knights who hadn't attended the feast were ready with their troops at the field, the others, like Matthew, made do with what was on hand. That was when they struck. Unrelenting. Numberless. They'd cut down hundreds of the dead, and the locals. But they kept coming. The soldiers that fought were only human, and constant battle ruined their equipment and bodies. Few fell at a time, but it was that constant trickle of dead and wounded, some of which died afterwards, that drew the campaign to its early closure. It all left a sour taste in the young knights mouth.

When the rider came past, bringing somewhat joyous news of the emperors valiant stand against the hordes, defeating them and allowing the army to flee, Matthew's spirits were lifted. Albeit only a little. He thanked the messenger, offering him food and drink should he need it, before sending him off. An uncharacteristic gesture, perhaps he felt if the emperor found out of his scant generosity it would reflect poorly later.

​After reaching Grodno, Matthew ordered the Golden Serpents disbanded, and to join the militia. Captain Wolfram only nodded, and most of the troops were happy to be let off the hook. They'd lost more than half their number, in no more than a week of battle. Paying them their due, Matthew set off with but his servant and the remaining physician, whom drove the cart. He'd need to find a new company, and preferably soon. Groaning at the thought of stretching his meagre wealth left over, he only hoped his next battalion would operate as successfully as the first. He had to give credit where it was due, and the troops did hold well despite the constant barrage of foes.

​Time would tell whether they'd be able to get back to Grodno in time to resume the campaign, and how far they would make it.

Night -- Poryatu

Roleplay from Nicholas Archival (18 hours, 9 minutes ago) message to all nobles of Luria Nova The warmth of the afternoon sun beat down upon them as they marched. Blunted swords, battered helmets, banners tattered through battle. It was not an imposing or impressive sight. Many still nursed their injuries from the last battle or those before; some of the men marched with splints, or rode in the wagon. Nicholas himself continued at the head of the column, astride Steadfast in brooding, imperious silence. Though the loss of life - and the extensive loss - was to be expected, it still did little to lift his mood that his expectations were thoroughly met. The men who had fallen had fought bravely, they had fought honourably... and they died. The others, though beginning to be comforted by the kiss of the sun above and the approach to safer, more secure territories began to improve in morale, there was still rumblings of disappointment, mostly from the younger lads. Their experienced brothers marched into knowing silence, while the youths spoke in hushed whispers among themselves. Nicholas knew what they would be speaking about; how it was not what they been told in the tales. He gave a wistful sigh. The Knight had tried to explain the reality to them, but they would not have it. As far as they had been concerned, war was this glorious thing, smiting monster and the undead alike. Now they knew it would not be so.

He shifted in the saddle, growing sore from the ride. The message had been delivered that the Emperor had held their backs, and he felt a swell of pride. A man who would place himself in harm's way for the sake of his men - for the sake of the young knights who had answered the clarion call - was a man worth following. It was the kind of valour that a leader must have - although, had he been privy to any discussions on the matter, he would have ushered Essenhorn ahead of the rest, to ensure his safety. But he was but a lowly knight, and had the greatest respect for the gesture he had been shown. With hum, he wondered whether his comrades felt the same way on the matter. Sir Donald had been granted Sulorte, still little more than a battleground, but was being led away from his new lands for safer climes. Perhaps he was displeased; he was certainly headstrong and forthright enough to be agitated by it. Although, that being said, Lord Donald Augustus had proven himself a little more savvy than that, though clearly a man of grandiosity and strong gestures.

Nicholas shrugged and glanced over his shoulder. One of the men strode nearby, keeping pace better than the others. No great surprise, his acumen had led to his assignment as the quartermaster of the Swords, and as such was kept away from the front line of the unit. He waved him over and was promptly received.

"Yes, my lord?" he asked, the correct pronunciation surprising Nicholas.

"Prepare letters for when we arrive back at some civilisation. A great few men have fallen and I would show their families the courtesy of knowing," Nicholas directed, "And... tell them that they fought and died honourably, with the name of Luria and their Emperor on their lips. That should suffice enough."

26th December

Night -- Poryatu

Bennet Selemnir

Bennet walked out of Giask in front of his new column. Captain Haaldred seemed like a good man, but he regretted leaving Haalman by himself in Nid Tek. Regretted, but was not remorseful. If there was a commoner he entrusted with the defense of that region it was Halmaan. A sturdy man. A hard man.

Bennet looked behind him at this new unit of special forces, and committed to himself to decide what was so "special" about them. Any good man where he was from could wield a bow and a sword equally, but these men could do so against these undead and monsters of this strange land....apparently. No, not apparently. He had seen their prowess under the Grand Panetier's banner in the battles in the North. They were formidable. As was she.

Bennet's mind found itself drifting to those battles, and to her. A formidable woman. He had felt humbled as he commanded her unit forward- to see her take full control of the battlefield was a sight any noble or peasant would be awed by. He shook it off. That road only led to trouble.

He saw Ser Tohrm's column on the road, the man looking splendid in front of his column. He commanded his captain to keep pace as he made moves to catch up to the man. Tohrm had a smile on his face as he had when they first met. But it was one of determination. He would need to get to know the source of that better.

He laughed in spite himself. The dirty joke Tohrm had told him when they briefly met still ringing in his ears. Was it dirty? Bennet still wasn't sure - he had no ear for these things. But the man had made him smile. No easy feat, he'd been told.

With that, he waved the man off again and continued his solace in comfortable quiet. The march continued unabated and he considered his options. Their equipment was in ruinous condition; some men were wearing a few scraps of plate or chain over a gambeson and and calling it a day. It would not be anywhere near sufficient if they were to fight another horde like the day prior. It would not be a happy ending if another pitched battle like that were to occur before they got out of harm's way. He would not call any of them cowards - not the young boys, not their elders and not himself - but the idea of throwing oneself into the fray over and over with diminishing supplies, numbers and gear would give even the most hardened of warriors pause. Instead, no, they needed repairs. They needed new recruits. The Sworn Swords had become a cohesive unit, working together with such togetherness that had he not known better, he would have thought them all the oldest of friends. New faces would disturb that unity and equilibrium but too few faces posed far greater a risk. A trip to Giask was no doubt needed, if they were to push further toward Shinnen.

With that in mind, he signalled the men to keep marching.

29th December

Night -- Poryatu

Natalie Vrathe

Dame Natalie's jaw remained clenched as she watched the battlefield from afar. With the battle over, she had ordered her Seekers to salvage what they could find, and they were out there amidst the corpses of monsters and undead. She didn't envy them, but it was necessary. Even so, every battle with the monsters, while in charge of her men, seemed to dull her reaction ever so slightly. It had made it simpler to cope with the horrors, so for now she counted it a blessing. She loosened the otherwise clenched hand around the sword at her side, which at this point was more decorative than anything else. The Knight straightened her back in a subtle shift of attitude as she noticed her Captain approaching.

"They've have found some useable parts. We can repair some of the worst wear on armour, Dame."

The Captain stood at attention and was quite clearly seeking the Dame's attention further. Natalie nodded faintly at first acknowledging the words and as the Captain lingered, the Dame turned to her, resting her emerald eyes on the sturdy woman which cared little for feminine features it seemed. "That's good, Hadrelilla. What else is on your mind?"

The Captain adjusted her grasp of some of the salvage she carried still. "I know why you ordered us to help repair the damage done to the Region, but it rarely ever does anything for morale, and right now the morale of the soldiers is pretty far down. You asked me to tell you these things, and I'm telling you this battle was rough on them. If we're going to hunt any more monsters, you'll have to work to keep things together, Ma'am."

Natalie inhaled slowly as she listened to the blunt words. Captain Hadrelilla didn't ever seem to go out of her way to put things nicely, and this was no exception. On the upside, she was truthful, as far as Natalie could tell, and helpful beyond her exact duties. "I'll see what I can do about matters of morale. For now, we have no orders to move elsewhere. Unless such arrive over night, expect to maintain camp here and have the men train and rest an hour or two. Perhaps the next time we pass a tavern, they can be rewarded for their good service so far." The Dame paused, then fixed her drifting gaze on the Captain once more. "Yourself included. If there's nothing else."

The Captain nodded. "Thank you, Dame." Along with the salvage carried, Hadrelilla departed with a quickly fading clattering. Even so, the area bussed with activity while the Knight allowed herself time to simply stand there and look and think. Her long brown locks, occasionally whipped about by the wind, fell loosely onto the breastplate. As a Knight, she had come to find that she stood apart from her men, yet she found no commonality with the other nobles of the realm. Perhaps simply because she had yet to establish proper relations with them. She never expected the rise to Knight to be an easy one, but she had not anticipated the wear of these battles, with the lack of someone to confide in.

The conclusion seemed simple. For now, she could only steel herself and cope with what was, while serving the Realm. The rest would come, given time and effort. Finally, the emerald gaze was pulled away from the battle field and came to rest upon the fidgeting aide a few paces away. Dull matters of logistics soon claimed the Knight's attention as the night grew deeper.

Nicholas Archival

It had been a surprise to catch up with the army in time for the arrival at Grodno. It should have taken a few hours more, after the first engagement with the hostile forces within the region, but here they were. So unexpected was it that the men, Nicholas not withstanding, were shifting uncomfortably on their saddles; they had had little time to become accustomed to their new role as cavalrymen - the men were entirely inexperienced, and the Knight himself was not used to commanding them as such. It had not helped that in their rush to make up for lost time in travelling, the select orders from Lord Cador had been lost by the quartermaster. It was already proving to be a fiasco, but his pride dictated that he keep the matter to himself - surely it could not end that badly. Sir Matthew's forces were astride steeds too, he would follow their lead.

Then, after what was only a few minutes of preparation, the horn sounded for the battle to begin and Nicholas ushered his men to the head of the vanguard; they would need room to charge, no doubt, and the shock of their clash against the undead hordes would give the array of archers ample opportunity to loose their arrows. He looked to both sides of him; the captain to one side, his personal guard to the other. He gave them both firm nods, before raising his voice to address the Swords,

"Men, ride with me. For Luria!"

They roared their enthusiasm; if nothing else, their exuberance could not be dampened. They were good men, and they would prove their valour once again, here and now. Nicholas hold his sword aloft and with a bellowed, "CHARGE!", they hurtled forwards. Hooves beat against the ground, arrows launched overhead and their lances were drawn, ready to smash through the defences of the array of monstrosities before them. But... it was too quiet. Where was Sir Matthew? He looked to his left, and then to his right. He was not there. There was no one else there. Something had gone terribly wrong, and then with a crash of steel, of bone and flesh, their charge met the horde. Steadfast crumpled under spear, sword and claw and his rider was thrown to the floor. Everything went dark.

Nicholas staggered from the battlefield. He was drenched in blood, most of it not his own. Sir Matthew and his men, or those left, retreated beside him. But he saw no Archival banners; he saw none of the Swords. Through error and foolhardy idiocy he had led them to their deaths. It was all he could do to stand on his own feet as the healers rushed to his aid.