- 1 4th January
- 2 10th January
- 3 11th January
- 4 12th January
- 5 13th January
- 6 14th January
- 7 15th January
- 8 16th January
- 9 18th January
- 10 20th January
- 11 21st January
- 12 22nd January
- 13 26th January
- 14 27th January
- 15 29th January
Night -- Poryatu
They had nearly arrived home. The journey to Poryatown, now reaching its end as the small force passed through the pastures and townland of Poryatu, had been almost entirely uneventful. In contrast to the fighting near Shinnen, the waves of monsters and that final charge of the Sworn Swords, all seemed calm - a curious tranquillity given that malign forces had been rampaging through Earth's Hall not long ago. Despite the lack of action and excitement, or perhaps because of it, Nicholas was pleased. It was reassuring to know that upon his return home, there would not be monsters to contend with. He had only spent a short time in his Noble Manor Square estate, but it had been a place of warmth and comfort; though well-acquainted with the martial life, even he could anticipate a soft bed and a warm hearth.
After a quiet hum of thought, the Knight raised a hand and the column paused. Captain Raedfleda, a spindly woman but a few years older than himself, approached with her bow ever in hand. He regarded her for a moment in expectant silence, before she remembered her manners and bowed her head. He had always allowed a small amount of informality with the Swords... but they were gone, and the Archival Arrows were in their place. Nicholas would not make the mistake of over-investment this time. With curt mannerisms, he requested the report.
"All seems as it was yesterday, and the day before that, Sir Nicholas," Raedfleda began. "It looks like we'll be arriving at Poryatu at first light. The men are eager to set up shop in their new headquarters, so they'll keep on marching 'til we get there."
He considered this for a moment, before offering a brisk nod in response. "Very good, captain. Ensure that they are presentable upon our arrival. I would not want to arrive at the estate in which I govern with a poorly-assembled force. The peasantry must know to respect and admire me, and the men in my service. That would be all."
The Captain bowed once again, before striding over towards the men, to whom she shouted instructions. Nicholas took a few moments to observe her work - she was diligent, loyal and expressed his orders with an attitude which brooked no dissent. It was what he needed; with the Swords he had led them personally, with no captain beside him. That was probably his greatest folly. These men were born and trained to serve Luria in their way, just as he was in his. They served to fight and to die for the cause and for the realm, if that is what it took. It was Nicholas' duty to command, to direct them to where the Empire needed them most. It was not his duty to become friends with them. No doubt it was a short path to a nobleman losing his edge, should he fear overtly for their lives.
It would be callous to disregard them and their livelihood, something he intended to never do... but as he had learned in Grodno, to become too close spelled disaster all the more.
Day -- Poryatu
A final volley of arrow fire put flight to the last four beasts plaguing Grodno, allowing Kaguya some time to contemplate the battlefield as the skirmish wound down.
It was a strange experience to be fighting on "foreign" soil. True, Kaguya had made the momentous decision to land in the Hegemony and had sworn allegiance to the Lurian Throne, but settling in to new peoples and cultures was taking some time. Each day that passed she learned a little more about her new home, but the traditions of Yamatai remained strong within her and her household.
So much that she did not know!
Kaguya could not help but compare, for instance, the stark difference between her troops and those of her comrades. The heavyset jerkins and mail hauberks of the other men were still a novelty compared to the brightly painted oriental lamellar that she and her retainers wore.
But it is they who will find us exotic, she thought, keeping in mind that she was the foreigner here.
Their ways of war were so different. Of course her retainers were bowmen as per Fujiwara tradition, but everything about Yamatai and Lurian archery was dissimilar; from the type of bows used, to the stance, even down to the base philosophy.
"All the men are accounted for, milady."
Kaguya waved to acknowledge the captain's report and noticed with some consternation the tremble of anxiety in her hand. She gripped the reins of her horse quickly, hoping to hide the moment of weakness.
Perhaps - though she would never openly admit it - she was not as acclimatized to warfare as she had hoped.
Yet another thing for the young Fujiwara heir to get used to.
At peace though the realm seemed, battle was never too far away.
After Lurias great campaign came to a temporary halt just before the walls of Shinnen, Jeffrey saw it necessary to tend to his troop's equipment. Bows were starting to break, armor beginning to fall apart, even cuttlery was at the point of looking flimsy. Had he pushed forwards, he could not have guaranteed for his troops fighting capabilities.
The travel through Sulorte to Grodno took about a day. Everything went smooth, there were plans of not halting at all and directly continuing towards Outer Giask, but those plans were cut short when reports came in of a Monster horde. A minor nuisance, thanks to some allied forces being in the region as well.
Allied... forces. What allegiance did those strange looking bowmen hold, with their outlandish equipment? Jeffrey's never seen anything of the likes. Jeffrey ordered his captain to hail that unit, and not long after and quite surprisingly, it was established they were loyal to Luria Nova, and preparing to confront the Monsters as well.
Without further ado, as the forces of evil were approaching quickly, Jeffrey's archers took positions next to those strangers, and the battle commenced. Drowning in a hail of arrows, the monsters did not stand a chance. One could even have pitied them, as they looked increasingly similar to pin cushions throughout the skirmish. They were soon exterminated, while the noble defenders did not even receive a single blow! Yes, archers are valuable assets, one that Luria was pitiably short of.
Following the inconvenience, Jeffrey made arrangements for asking the leader of those strange soldiers for a meeting, noble to noble, and now was waiting for a response.
Night -- Poryatu
The Fujiwara captain stood at the eaves of Kaguya's tent. She dared not enter. No one would; Kaguya's private space was sacred unless invited into. The Fujiwara lady had made that clear from the beginning.
No response. Overhead, a flight of birds against the darkening sky. A cricket chirped in an adjacent bush.
Godmona cleared her throat again.
A voice from inside the tent. "...Yes?"
"A letter came for you this afternoon, milady. From Sir Jeffrey Birkenhead, milady, Knight of Askileon."
"What is his entreaty?"
"He wanted to meet with you, milady."
Kaguya emerged from the tent. She had dispensed with her armour, having changed into a carnelian yukata that complemented the evening sun very nicely.
"Then perhaps we should go and meet with him, my captain."
"Yes, er... That is to say... He's left Grodno, milady."
"He left before this evening's battle, milady."
Kaguya's eyes narrowed. "And you permitted his invitation to tarry without response?"
"You, uh, you were in your tent, milady!"
"You could have knocked."
"But yesterday I did, and was told that you weren't to be disturbed..."
"Yesterday, I was in contemplation. Today, I am not. Tomorrow is not yet here. The difference is like Spring is to Winter. You, too, must learn these like the seasons."
"But I can't... I mean, you... I just... I mean, yes, milady."
"Very well, my captain. You shall prepare a response to the Honourable Knight that we would be most pleased to take tea with him at the nearest opportunity."
The two women parted ways, one serenely back into her tent... the other to the barracks, a perplexed frown plastered firmly on her face.
William Fitz Roberts
Sir William rode at the head of his beleaguered forces into the capital of Luria. The last week had been the opposite of successful. His unit had been decimated in numerous battles, he had been prevented from returning to the Rangers in their campaign to retake Shinnen, and, worst of all, he had been captured. He thought back to that day
It should have been a perfectly normal battle. Let the archers do some damage to the monsters, charge in, and then let the infantry advance and mop up the rest of the monsters. Of course, that is not how it had played out. It still could not quite remember what had happened. All his memory revealed to him was the sound of horns starting the charge, and then laying flat on his back as the battle continued on around him. He could barely see anything from the visor of his helmet and, for reasons unbeknown to him, he was unable to stand. He had then heard voices talking excitedly, and grasping hands dragging him away from the battlefield. He had blacked out at this point, and when he awoke he was in some crude cell with an ugly face leering over him.
The conversation, if one could call it that, had been a simple exchange of insults that ended with William being bludgeoned repeatedly about the head with some form of cudgel and being demanded to give over 90 gold in payment for his release. This had been the order of the day for the next few mornings, insults followed by a beating followed by demands for money. It had begun to dawn on him that rescue wasn't coming and so had eventually haggled down the ransom to what little money that he had on him. Gathering his men, who had been scattered all across Sulorte, he had ridden through Grodno, attempting, unsuccessfully, to avoid the monstrous presence there.
The experience of the last week had taught him one thing: the security of parts of the empire was somewhat lacking and needed reorganising. All this he had conveyed to the Emperor, who had agreed to his new initiative with enthusiasm. Sir William looked back to the men and women behind him. They had fought had and well, but the realm had little use for their kind right now. He still had use for them over the next week, but after that they had more than earnt their retirement. He had it all planned out. Now all he had to do was to work out how to tell them that he had no further us of them. There were a few that he had genuinely bonded with. Two of them had been with him from the beginning, and had survived every disaster that the unit had experienced. Ah well, one last drink and then down to business. Service to the realm was far more important than personal camaraderie or honour, after-all
Amidst the evening meal in Dorian's camp, he rang a bell to bring his men to attention. There was nothing the men were aware of, especially evident by Captain Franz's reactions.
"Ladies, gentlemen. This evening I must share something important with you all. I am not like the other Knights. For many reasons, of course. Many have long lines of heritage, but I am the first of my family to ascend. Perhaps I will be the last. But despite our ranks, our places in the world, we aren't so different. Many nobles watch their men charge off to war with little care, but not me. That is not the Pavus way."
He took a deep breath as the sun glistened on his dark skin, beads of sweat forming. He brought his right hand across it, removing it. Bell in his offhand, he walks around his camp shaking hands. The sharing of sweat was certainly strange. Yet oddly metaphorical. They bled together as they sweated together. And it would be impractical for some kind of blood brotherhood to be formed amidst a feast.
"It is with this hand that I - that we - change the world. The future of Luria Nova will be shaped by us. I am not just a knight - I am a hero. Your hero. A hero of the realm. And if that shall one day cost me my life, so be it. For the Empire. And I am not just words. That would be strange. I am preparing to restore the Order of the White Rose. Such qualities cannot be forgotten. Nor can such history. And at my side, you are all going to act as Luria's greatest men and women, one time or another."
The soldiers begin to applaud him, but there is one man that claps much more than the rest - Captain Franz. "You've always done me proud, Sir Dorian. And I look forward to spending a long time at your side."
"It would never be the same without you, Captain," Dorian nodded, "You're an essential part of my unit. And very... important to me. I would be disappointed if we had to part." he lets out a smile.
"I see. I feel much the same way. But let us finish up our meals. We are nearing Giask."
"You're right, Captain. Let's get to work."
Evening -- Ciarin Tut
Donald Augustus Allan
The last few days had been troubling. The momentum the campaign had regained not so long ago seemed to have faded, and all the while it seemed that everything was not quite right.
Some of the campaign's most promising Knights had swanned off, taking up bureaucratic work no less. Deciding rather to count bushels of wheat than to count the men in rank, perhaps they could no longer stomach the battlefield. Sir William had called for aid in Grodno and by the time Donald, and a handful of other companies had arrived, he had gone. Rumours of capture abounded, and that after some tribulation he had arrived safely in the capital. It was strange to think of that huge man being captured, the blow to his must have been harsh.
And yet, that was hardly half the story, stranger tidings had happened upon the armour. Apparently Sir Dorian was a hero of the smallfolk now, an example to us all. Although as far as Donald Augustus was concerned the man desired nothing more than to claim his six feet of earth, a highly coveted location in these times. So while fighting alongside Dorian, the man who desired a hero's death, came something even stranger. A Dame had joined the army recently, a foreigner from a foreign land with foreign customs. How had this women acquired her Knighthood? Was Luria pushing aside its own in favour of barbarians from Eastern lands? These were troubling questions.
But the most concerning man of all was the Marshal. Donald trusted the recently re-elected Imperial Marshal Lord Cador, but his last orders had been some time ago, and it seemed the army was losing purpose. Some were stationed in Grodno, some in Shinnen, some further west and some... well, Donald had no clue. The whole business was hardly befitting of the Hegemony of Luria Nova, that was for certain.
Donald looked down, his cup of wine had run dry: "Servant!" he yelled "fetch more wine, and be quick about it!"
"And get me my damn scribe as well!"
After arriving in Giask, Dorian heard rumours of his captain having treasonous thoughts. Dismissing them at first, he decided it was essential to speak to him.
"Yes, Sir Dorian?"
"What are your views on the Empire?"
"It's entirely necessary and lawful. We all have our... concerns, of course."
"Like if a poorly-run rebellion succeeds, Franz?"
"Something like that, yes."
"If that law was removed, what would we have?"
"Justice. Mercy." Franz's smile holds sadness. "Freedom."
"Chaos." Dorian said. "Lawlessness. War."
Franz shakes his head. "Perhaps I have a more optimistic view of my fellow beings than you do. So you consider this a bulwark against others? For how long?"
"How long will you accept tyranny as a necessary part of the Empire?" Franz asked. "Until all resistance is silenced? Until all others are vanquished?"
"Perhaps your optimism isn't as strong as you claim." Dorian said. "The tone of a government is set by its leader. But Emperor Zajar will not live forever. When it comes time for his authority to be handed to another, I must be a senior noble to allow me to influence the choice of that leader."
"And do you expect that new leader to spread light into the darkness?"
"There is hope that he will," Dorian said. "But if others are victorious, that hope will be extinguished. Forever."
"Hope." Franz shakes his head. His stance holds no such hope. "I fear, Sir, that you're still dangerously naive on political matters." He lifts a hand. His body stance holding defeat. "I hope you're right. I fear you're wrong."
"We shall see."
"Some of us shall." Franz said. "others of us will be long gone."
"I see," Dorian said. "Then I expect you and the Pavus Guard will return home. Perhaps find my sister. Do as you will. You are dismissed. Permanently."
"There are no buts. Don't make this harder than it already is, Franz. We cannot do this. Not anymore."
Later that eve, Dorian was approached by an older woman. Grey hair, black skin, wrinkles setting in. It much contrasted the milky skin that Dorian had; its youthful glow, his auburn hair, his moustache. She holds a sense of intrigue looking at him.
"Yes?" Dorian said.
"Your unit has abandoned you. They took off and didn't look like they're coming back."
"I'm aware. I am planning replacements."
"Then look no further. Trajania is my name. Couple dozen or so others me at your service. Askileon Warrior Monks, no less. Fund us and we'll fight with you until the end."
"An interesting offer, Trajania. Why?"
"Why should I choose you and your people?"
"We are heroes in our own ways. And having a bigger her to serve would be ideal."
"Very well," Dorian said. "We'll work that out. You and your men will be known as... The Chimera."
Time moves slowly for the dreamwalker, and so it seemed ages had passed since Jonn's eyes had last opened upon the waking world.
His soul again and again passed capriciously between the mortal world and the strange plane betwixt life and death, the realm of visions and illusions.
He flew like a bird without form across Dwilight, across the oceans and the lands beyond, watched realms fall and new ones rise, watched his young children grow in high halls of stone, stood witness to the deeds of friend and enemy alike. He breathed without breath the fresh sea breezes of Garuck Udor and the Dark Isle, the rarefied air of the Akesh highlands, the claustrophobic smog of Taselak, the humid reek of the Abakan swamp. And alongside and betwixt them all, he gazed into the plane beyond.
He walked with the father along the beaches of Ecsetuah, the last place he had seen him alive. They looked out over the strait to Nbasah as it had been in the days of his youth.
"Arcaea grows strong again," his father said sadly, and Jonn understood. "You must be mindful, my son." Jonn looked; his father now held his severed head in his cupped hands, his neck feebly spurting blood. "You are sure to meet my fate if the mainlanders have their way. Arcaea grows strong again. You must be stronger."
His father disappeared, and through the river mists a boat appeared just as quickly, and a familiar voice rang out. "Are you ready to learn the ways of the sea, Mistwooder?"
Jonn smiled to see Shintuk again, proud and swaggering on the bow of his longship. His heart yearned for another taste of their wild youthful days of adventure, but he knew it was not yet time for that voyage. He waved, and watched as the ship took to the strait like an arrow from a bowstring and faded into the blue distance, and yet it seemed to draw closer at the same time.
A familiar cackle rang out from all around him, and suddenly he was in the darkness of the deepest Mistwood, in a circle of standing stones. "Not yet ready for death, Jonn?" Fae asked mockingly as her stooped and wrinkled form appeared from the shadows. "You're just like your old grandmother after all. How long will you cling to this forsaken world? Two lifetimes already, you'll be as old as I before you know it!" A thousand ravens cawed and took to the sky, the beating of their wings like a clap of thunder in his ears.
But Jonn smiled as he replied. "A man does not choose his time," he said, "only what he does before it comes to pass." The old crone gave a cry of consternation and disappeared, and the trees parted and grew less dark and gnarled around him, until he found he was in a different part of the Wood entirely.
A familiar path was beneath him, and he turned a corner to find the old stone bridge that crossed the River Enlod just a short way from his childhood home. On its edge sat Merritt and old Habbo, Kellan's father, and they looked up and smiled as he approached; Merritt in his quiet and inscrutable way, and Habbo with his dimwitted but earnest eagerness.
"Are you ready, Warleader?" Merritt asked. Jonn knew for what without asking, and together they crossed the bridge, and suddenly his sword was at his side.
Three cities he entered, their great gates of iron flung wide for him. The streets were lined with the dead, and their sunken faces gazed upon him as he made his way through to three high castles. Within each, a feasting hall and a long table lined with dead warriors; they raised their swords in salute as he entered.
In the first a cup was poured, and it was filled with blood.
In the second a cup was poured, and it was filled with flies.
In the third a cup was poured, and it was filled with ash.
And in each he drank deep, and they placed upon his head a crown of iron. And he raised his sword and the castles fell, and the beasts of the earth were shattered, and the stars fell from the sky, and all became as dust, until he too was as dust.
He awoke in his small cell beneath the streets of Unterstrom, and his hand was on the hilt of his sword.
Jonn rose and stretched, joints and ligaments screaming in protest after long stillness. Feeling his way ahead in the dark, he found the staircase upward and ascended. Twenty-two steps, then the door, which he pushed outward.
Even the dim candlelight of the dingy storeroom was enough to set him squinting for some moments, but in time he could make out the rows of barrels, crates and sacks that lined the aisle that led to his secret cell. He pushed the door closed and it seemed to disappear into the wall again, completely innocuous to all unaware of its existence. Only a few living hands knew where to press to open it again.
Gathering his sable cloak about him, Jonn made his way toward the front of the storeroom, the candlelight growing brighter with each step. As he stepped out from the aisle a group of four men gathered around a cluttered table came into view. The one facing him looked up and his jaw dropped before his face broke into a great smile. "Warleader!" he exclaimed, and rose from his seat to show his scarred palms, the Khalkar salute.
"Ho, Brother Martin," Jonn replied, raising his own hands to return the gesture. The other men rose as well, saluting Jonn; their faces were as much a mix of shock and elation as Martin's.
"We did not know when you would rise from your slumber, Lord," said Martin. "You must be famished! Go, Adolphus, fetch the Warleader food and drink!" The youngest of the group nodded and scurried out the front door.
Jonn did not feel particularly hungry or thirsty, but he did not protest. Adjusting his scabbard, he sat in the vacated chair and greeted the other two men. They were all sworn men of the Khalkar Ravens, tasked with guarding the secret cell of their Warleader while he walked the planes.
The boy returned with a feast and a small black dog, and from some unseen corner a less small brown dog bounded forth, and they were entertaining for a while. When the feast was over the smoke came out, and they all got high and spoke of old wars and new.
The hour grew late and Jonn grew restless. "I think I will go and see my city now."
The men protested, saying Unterstrom was not safe anymore, that it would be better to stay safe and let hands and ears get to work in the city. But Jonn would hear none of it. Gathering his cloak about him, he stepped out into one of the dockyards of Unterstrom's grand canal...
Day -- Ciarin Tut
Benedict watched from the railings as the last of his men boarded the ship to Giask, soon to leave Shinnen behind.
It hadn't been a long campaign, or a very arduous one, though Benedict had no prior experience to compare it to, so it was still significant in his mind. At least I can return to my estate and get some rest, he thought.
Captain Caedwen strode to his side. "Sir, what are your plans for the Men once we arrive in Giask?"
Benedict had considered this for quite some time. The Dupont Rangers were certainly an admirable fighting force, but they were of no use to a man who wished to turn to administration and bookkeeping.
"I will have them disbanded when we arrive at the docks. They will receive their pay, and will be commended for their attitude. And you, captain? Do you intend to stay with them? I will have need for a captain for my personal bodyguard."
The captain regarded his words, mulling them over, clearly deep in thought. "A tempting offer, sir, but I've known these men half my life, can't just leave them without their leader".
A fair response, Benedict thought, I suppose I will have to hope for another exemplar subordinate when I head to the recruiting grounds.
"Very good captain, it will be a shame to have a man of your talents leaving my service, but I won't hold it against you. Dismissed". And with that the captain gave a quick nod and headed below the decks to attend to his men.
By now the last of the equipment had been loaded and the ships were slowly leaving the shore. Benedict watched as Shinnen grew smaller in the distance. I'm sure I'll return in due time, he wistfully mused, as he left the railings and headed into his cabin.
"Now where is my wine..."
Night -- Ciarin Tut
William Fitz Roberts
Home at last Sir William at last reached the crest of the hill and looked down at the bustling village square below him. In the distance, at the top of the opposing hill, he could see a large fortified manor-house, with the colours of the Fitz Roberts flying proudly, the blood red fox staring down at the people below. He was home! The campaign and brief imprisonment had kept him from his family for too long. He wanted to see how his children had grown. He wanted to see how his brother, Leopold, was managing the estate. He wanted to read the reports of how his cousin Franz was fairing in the lands to the east. But most of all he wished to see his wife again.
He looked behind him, at the men and women who made up his retinue. They knew that they would not be employed by him much longer, but he had promised that he would find them work and they had seemed content with that, for now in any case. He could not afford to keep them on and train the militia of Grodno, as he had been entrusted to do by the Emperor himself. His family would show much pride by that honour, perhaps at last they could rise from the dregs of the nobility and achieve high honour and prestige. But he was getting ahead of himself. Service to the realm was far more important that the seeking of honour, glory and riches. He had encountered nobles who thought nothing of these things. He hoped that they would soon learn better, but he doubted
Lost in these thoughts for a moment, he shook his head as if to clear it. He did not have long here, he had business elsewhere, so he was going to utilise every minute available to him. He spurred his mare and cantered down the hill towards his home...
To few, Sofia was nothing more than a nuissance, a hotheaded dame with little patience and words. For the peasants of Luria Nova, she was a legend of war. The tales of her men being led on the frontlines against rebel, monster and undead were twisted at each pass of tongues, some claimed she was an angel sent from the heavens to aid Luria Nova to reach its rightful place. Others were rightfully jealous, claiming she was nothing than a legend, a tale that people made in times of need to soothe their worried minds. She was a hero of the people, and Sofia didn't care less.
For her it was just a duty, to live and die for Luria Nova and the divine emperor, as was every soldier and noble's duty. During her way back to Giask, her men and her joked with the stories they overheard on their way to the Capital, laughing at those too twisted to be real. Needless to say, her arrival in Giask was extatic. Hundreds amassed in the main gate as she made her way in, cheering the hero of Luria Nova as she passsed the gates of the Capital, some dared to call her a living saint, others called her the 'hero of the people'.
She liked those titles.
Dorian and The Chimera had found themselves on the Euschean Sea, travelling back towards the rest of his peers. Trajania had just lost a board game with her second, Sergeant Ifan.
"Do you know the difference between an error and a mistake, Captain? Anyone can make an error, Ensign. But that error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it. In chess, you don't get that luxury. But in your head you had made that move. It was exactly as it would have been, guaranteed. You made an error. But you did not correct it. That was a grave mistake that can reflect on the battlefield." Dorian said. Trajania was taken back, not expecting such a lesson from tactics from her leader.
"Risk has always been an inescapable part of warfare, Sir Dorian." retorted the woman, still pondering why a man half her age was giving her military advice. War was her career. She was born in it. She flourished in it. But Dorian studied it.
"Concentration, focus, long-term thinking--those are the qualities that separate a warrior from a mere flailing fighter. When you let these qualities fall in a game, you switch off. That should never happen. Every move you make in your mind should be done with perfect clarity. Only then will your leadership improve."
"I've got my own ways and ideas, Sir Dorian. I don't mean to reject your words, but I know what I'm doing." sighed the Captain. She wanted a game not a lecture, after all. "I just fear to undermine your authority when any of this comes to me."
"My position and ego are not at stake here. Suggest as you will, so long as off the battlefield. Critique every move I make after back at camp. But question me on the field and we will have problems, Captain. Back to your games." Dorian conceded, returning to his quarters.
It was a fair-sized room, though crammed full of odd relics of no value to the ordinary man or woman. Art from Askileon, and other parts of Luria. Perhaps the largest reason he became a hero was because of his way of understanding the Lurian men and women. From the art, he learned the culture. From the culture, he learned the norms, the values, the lifestyles. He would continue to study the art, and read from tomes, to further his position. And, of course, he would have to prepare for when he returned to the battlefield alongside his new unit.
He had played his first card when he had come to Luria as a noble, setting up estate with the Emperor as his direct liege. The ensured safety that came with it guaranteed a safety net, and more reasons to be in touch with a powerful royal.
The second card was played when he joined the diplomatic corps and learned about the Order of the White Rose. They allowed him to use the very virtues of the Lurian people in order to truly become one.
The third card had been played when he replaced Franz with The Chimera. Special Forces were nothing light, and he would have to wait and see what scenarios they were so good at. But until then, the game of war and politics was just beginning.
Evening -- Ciarin Tut
Passing through Askileon Purlieus, the renowned hero Sir Dorian had an opportunity arise; a new manor for his family. And it was one that would do them well.
The manor itself was small, by all means, but comfortable. His uncle often remarked about getting out of the city of Askileon and into the out into the townslands of trade. After helping set up the state as his family moved in, he spent some quality time with them. After all, it had been well over a month. He spent time telling his nieces and nephews about his battlefield tales, encouraging the kitchen staff that they're cooking is great (at least if you've been eating out on the field for sea for a month) and reminding his parents that everything was just fine. In fact, they were better than fine. He was serving his nation. After the end of the day, he returned to his quarters and was met with a familiar face. The late Captain Franz.
"Sir Dorian," he said, "I can't sit by and not serve you. Not after all the men we've lost. Not after-"
"This is war, Franz. Not an opportunity for personal revenge."
"I understand my duty, Sir."
"Do you? Do you indeed?"
"Yes, sir. My duty is to the Empire, and to you, and to the men and women under my command." Franz asserted, a strong confident essence filling the room.
"Very good. To the living, in other words. Not to the dead." Dorian said, closely watching Franz's reaction.
"That's a little... cold."
"But honest, nonetheless. I will not have you serve on the field, Captain Franz. However, I do have an offer for you." Dorian smirked. He had all the power in this situation, and had prepared for his return - even if it did come as a surprise. He expected to meet in a tavern as opposed to his bedroom.
"You will serve here. Many are eager to serve the family of a hero, and you will train volunteers to keep an eye on it. No formal guard force like in Askileon, just security. It also means I will able to see you when I return home."
Franz halts. His face shows confusion, perhaps a mix between the delight to see his Dorian regularly, and a sense of disappointment he will no longer serve alongside him as his Captain. Before long, his face just appeared content.
"Very well, Sir Dorian. I would be honoured." Franz prepared to leave the bedroom.
"Before you leave," said Dorian, "You may as well stay a while. In here."
Day -- Ciarin Tut
The canal docks still moved with life as the full moon above shined brightly, casting long shadows across the city of Unterstrom. Local boatmen stood at every corner. Some were drunk, speaking loudly, while others spoke quietly to ladies of the night. Others still moved in silence, no doubt engaged in many of the unlawful practices for which this part of town was well known.
The men from the storehouse followed Jonn reluctantly into the street. "At least leave your sword and cloak behind, Warleader, there are still too many who will know you by them!" Martin protested.
Jonn fixed the old Khalkar soldier with a baleful glare. "Do you think I intend to skulk in the shadows, Martin?" he asked. "I fully intend that the people of this city shall know me, and remember." Martin grinned and seemed much more at ease.
They walked the great promenade along the canal like a royal procession in miniature. Half of those they passed recognized Jonn, some flashing the Khalkar salute and offering welcome, others merely standing with their mouths agape, others running off into the night to inform parties unknown of the Khalkar Warleader's return. The other half were either merely curious why this man was getting so much attention, or shying away at the sight of the sword on his hip.
They came upon a staircase that led up into one of Unterstrom's tight and winding streets, and Jonn made to ascend. "Warleader, no," said Martin, his face now truly showing fear. "We can't go into the noble quarter, not yet!"
"Nonsense, Martin," Jonn replied. "In my city, I go where I please."
Martin did not grin this time, but he continued to follow anyway. At the top of the stair a beautiful street stretched before them, the high stone walls of the buildings which loomed overhead covered in ivy. It was a street well known to Jonn from the time when Unterstrom had been his.
As they rounded the inward curve of Market Street they took a left, and now they were drawing attention of a different kind, guards wearing the sign of a bladed sun. The word went down the way and men moved up from side paths until the way was choked with soldiers. In the front there were a dozen with spears, and another dozen stood with crossbows behind.
"You can slay them easily, Warleader," said Martin, a grim gleam in his eye. "I will charge and cover you!"
"No. Take my sword and cloak," Jonn said, removing his sable cloak with a flourish before unbuckling his sword. He handed them to Martin, who ran back from whence they had come. And Jonn stepped forward.
"I am here to speak to your government."
The Takeover was going wall. much to Bennet's surprise .
He was in awe a little bit, when Ciarghuala marched in at the head of her unit. Power and beauty. What does one do with that?
Her grace was... inciting. But he knew better.
He would have o talk to Sir Tohrm when he arrived. And get his head straight, This was going to be a problem....
The ship entered the harbour of Giask, finally the arduous journey he had undertaken came to an end. Lotheridan had barely ever set foot on a ship before, not properly, at least, and especially not for so long. In hindsight simply taking the road back from Shinnen to Giask might've been preferable, and he'd feel less nauseous as he did. Those were things he had to carry with him now, though, and he had to appear strong to the local population as soon as he set foot on the docks.
Captain Maxia awaited just outside his cabin with a wide smile. He, too, was eager to return to Giask where he could rest for a few days straight. The smile vanished as soon as he saw Lotheridan, however, and quickly rushed to his aid. The young nobleman might've felt okay aside from being sea sick, but to others he looked sickly pale with dark circles under his eyes as if he hadn't slept at all for days. The concerned captain spoke up as he, much to Lotheridan's chagrin, supported him towards the bow of the ship.
"My lord, is your illness returning?"
"It never left, I think." Lotheridan replied with a soft smile. The injuries he took when they'd taken over Sulorte haunted him now still. The healers assured he was fine and ready to battle, but an infection never made him feel 100%. There were times he'd get up late at night, throwing up into the nearest bucket he could find before he went back to bed, or some times not at all. Neither the healers nor his men were aware of the infection, though, as he stubbornly kept his condition a secret. Only his trusted captain knew, and he kept his lips shut tightly.
"I'm going to be fine, captain." He reached for a small pouch hanging from his belt and gave it to the captain. "Here, gold to repair the men's equipment and to pay them for their services, it's long overdue."
The captain gave a reluctant nod as he accepted the pouch. "Are you sure I shouldn't--"
"No, no. I'm ill, not dying."
Captain Maxia let go of him as they stood at the bow, watching the crew unload the cargo onto the docks. The two exchanged a final glance before Lotheridan's captain, his friend, took his leave to get the Vanguard sorted. Lotheridan remained behind a little while longer, inhaling the familiar air that belonged to Giask. It brought a smile to his lips. He could rest here, he could make sure everything he needed was...
His heart began to beat rapidly, a cold chill ran up his spine as he looked behind him but saw no one. His legs seemed to strain under the weight of his body yet he tried his best to remain standing. It was not to be as the nobleman simply collapsed, his head hitting the floorboards with a dull thud. Everything went black.
Lotheridan gasped for air as he woke up. He saw a hooded man stand over him, clad in black robes. The stranger's snow white beard was the only thing he could notice with his blurry vision. They stared at one another in silence.
He noticed he was no longer on the ship, in fact everything was white. He was nowhere. The stranger extended his hand to Lotheridan, but he refused and stood up himself. An amused chuckle followed as he took a few steps back.
"Who are you?" The nobleman asked the stranger.
"I begin but have no end, yet I end what begins. Sit." He gestured to a chair to Lotheridan's right. Strange, it wasn't there before. Again hesitation filled his mind as he sat down on the chair. Suddenly he was sat at a large, yet simple dining table. The stranger at the opposite side, his sight became clearer over time. He started to see more than that bushy beard of his, he saw the pale skin and sunken eyes. The man was old, ancient perhaps.
"Do you know why you are here?"
He had an idea. After all, he must be having this conversation in his own head. The things he saw, the things that happen were because he wanted it... he thought.
"Am I dying?" Lotheridan asked cautiously to the stranger.
"Yes." The man replied.
"I don't want to."
"But you will."
Lotheridan clenched his fists and slammed them on the table. The figure simply shrugged and smiled at the young man's anger. There was something amusing to see in someone refusing to accept they will die.
"You can be of use to me, however." He said after a moment of silence. Lotheridan perked up, not saying anything so the man could say his piece.
"Worship. You want to live? You worship the very thing that stands in your way. You worship me."
"You? Who are you?"
"I begin but have no end, yet I end what begins. Some try to outrun me, but fate cannot be avoided. I am..."
A wicked grin was barely visible underneath that beard of his. He nodded. "You want to live? Find a way to worship me, or we will meet again."
Everything went blurry again. He could hear a voice scream his name in the distance. Lotheridan looked behind him as the voice came nearer and then, for a fraction of a moment, everything went black.
Things flashed before him. He saw Maxia. He saw the busy streets of Giask with curious onlookers staring at him. He saw the gate to his estate. He saw his room. He saw the priest. Then, he lost consciousness again.
Day -- Ciarin Tut
The hero Dorian is seen in a town square giving a speech to some of the townsfolk in Ciarin Tut.
"All of us begin our lives with hopes and aspirations. Among these aspirations is the desire that there will be a straight path to those goals. It is seldom so. Perhaps never.
Sometimes the turns are of one's own volition, as one's thoughts and goals change over time. But more often the turns are mandated by outside forces. It was so with me. The opportunity of Knighthood was not one such thing I expected. Nor was it one I could ignore. The life of a commoner would end, and fine dining would begin. My path had turned here. Where it would have led, I could not say. But like every one of you, I took what life gave me. I took opportunities. Luria Nova was one such opportunity."
After, he gives a small courteous bow, before walking off.
"That was something, Sir Dorian," Captain Trajania had been paying close attention. "You didn't shout, you didn't threaten, and you were far too reasonable. It was bloody marvellous!"
"It was, yes" said Dorian.
"What now?" she replied.
"We give them free ale and we celebrate freedom. That's all it will take, along with time."
"Are you sure, sir? We could..." she trails off.
"Please suggest, Captain. "I have no qualms about accepting a useful idea merely because it wasn't my own."
"There is more that we can do that just this, is what I'm saying. Exchange culture and whatnot."
"Perhaps we'll give that a try, Captain. Thank you."
Evening -- Ciarin Tut
"Come back to bed mistress," the warm, soft voice beckoned alluringly from the mass of furs and linen in the shadows cast by the dimmed storm-lantern.
"I've work to do Em," Ciarghuala was pulling up her britches, tucking in the hem of her silk chemise as she did so, "go back to sleep."
"It would be easier with you here beside me..." that beguiling tone on a misty autumn morning at home would have had Ciarghuala shedding her clothes and slipping back under the covers.
"I sincerely doubt that," a mischievous smile momentarily coloured her lips as she fastened her green fatigue doublet, barely noticing the weight as the bridandine plates settled into place. The people expected many things of their heroes. Tenderness was not one of them.
"Don't I at least get a goodbye kiss?"
Evening -- Ciarin Tut
Twenty one years. Dorian's birthday. He spent it supporting the takeover at Ciarin Tut, though knew he would have to celebrate it - eventually. Perhaps an encounter with Franz, or a meal with his men. Perhaps both.
Inside his tent, following a day hard at work, two of the warrior-monks step in.
"Sir Dorian?" one says.
"Sergeant Matis, what do you need?"
"Nothing, actually. We came to give you this," he says pulling out a small trinket. A ring that surely costed far more than they earned.
Dorian begins to inspect the ring, asking "Where did you get thi-" but stopping as he realises an engraving. "From Franz Beaumont" written on the inside of the ring. He had remembered. Wherever he was. He had cared for Dorian - he still cares for Dorian - yet he pushed Franz away.
"Thank you Matis, you are dismissed." said Dorian, still looking at the ring. He had questions. Why? Why send it, why now, what for? But Dorian had no answers and after a final glance at the gold band, put it in his pocket. This was for another time. For now, he would enjoy his evening with little regard for this encounter.
He found himself on the battlefield again. Just by looking around him briefly he could see it was Sulorte, and that it was during the battle that'd see him injured. He stood with his men, the Lionheart Vanguard, on the front lines to await the incoming undead horde. From behind the archers rained fire upon their ranks yet there were too many to kill. Living and dead clashed against one another in bloody combat. Lotheridan heard the screams of men, terrified as the restless dead tirelessly hurled themselves at them, cut down but only to rise shortly afterwards. Mere cuts would do nothing except coat the grass on which they stood with more unnecessary blood.
The white cloaks he and his men wore quickly stained red with blood. Blood of their enemy, blood of their friends. He saw a familiar face lose his helmet after it had been slammed off by sheer force of a monstrosity. The nobleman wanted to help him, and he rushed forth to come to his aid only to see it split in two by a rusty axe. The blood splattered across his visor and he stumbled back, away from the chaos. He was never such a good fighter, preferring to strike quick before retreating... but he could not do that here. All around him the fighting raged on as the line threatened to be shattered by the sheer numbers. He was afraid, so afraid. The countless horrors not even his faith could ease ate away at the flesh of the living.
"My lord, watch out!" Rang Captain Maxia's voice, and he turned to the left. A chipped sword found its way through a gap in his armour and shortly afterwards he fell onto the ground, his assailant following and determined to see his life ended. The undead creature snapped its jaw at him, edging ever closer to his throat. With what little strength he had left in him he tossed the monster aside, placing a hand on its throat and saw the rotting flesh simply give way by the touch. It disgusted him, but he could not focus on that. The thing had to be killed and he reached for a rock that was near him, using it to bash the skull in repeatedly until at last it was laid to rest.
Just as he had thought the creature was vanquished he looked over his shoulder, the battlefield grew distant and he found himself surrounded by bodied. Bodies of his men, bodies of the undead. The sun was shining brightly and the smell of rotting corpses attracted the carrion birds which circled high above him, ready to claim its food. Lotheridan panicked and turned his gaze back to the undead he had killed, only to see himself. Dead. He looked pale, helpless, afraid... The lips moved and he could barely hear his own words.
And then he woke up.
Lotheridan rose from his bed, gasping for air as if he was without for ages. He looked around him and saw the familiar furniture of his room. It made him feel more at ease, knowing he was somewhere safe. Droplets of sweat dripped from his forehead onto the white sheets as he tried to recollect his thoughts. The last thing he remembered was being at the docks... the boat... then that cold and uncomfortable feeling. He felt life slip away from him as he hit the floorboards. He died, but why was he here? Who'd brought him home? The more he remembered, the more questions he had. It made his head spin and focus hard to keep track of. He didn't even see the servant girl who'd been looking at him with wide eyes, unsure what to do.
"M-my lord?" She asked, slowly approaching the bed. There was something about him that made her scared, reluctant to actually stay. Yet she did it anyway out of obligation to her lord.
His bloodshot eyes darted up to meet hers. She stopped and lowered her head a little, enough to avoid looking at him. For a time nothing was said, he watched her as she patiently awaited an answer. He'd seen her before in the estate, but even for such trivial things he needed time to place her somewhere specifically. All that time she stood there, unmoving, her raven black hair falling in front of her emerald eyes. There was something attractive about her and the way she stood there. "Your name?" He asked, and she looked up at him again.
"Alice," he repeated, weighing her response as if to determine the truth behind it He nodded once. Another awkward moment of silence passed between the two before he beckoned her closer. "Am I alive?"
"Y-you are, my lord."
"Then show me. I want you to sleep with me."
Day -- Askileon Purlieus
Bennet breathed heavy as he approached Askileon Purlieus. He would let no one see it, but this had been trying. Ciarin Tut was back in the fold. That was something to be proud of. So why was he discontent.?
His thoughts drifted to Ciarghuala. No, To Lady Ciarghuala. The Grand Panetier. Stop being an a fool.
He barked orders at his men and they hopped to it. Work to be done. No time for nonsense.
Evening -- Askileon
Some people are good at taking holidays. They know instinctively how to pass time unproductively without any lingering sense of guilt. Which is to say they don't understand time as a limited commodity to be spent in pursuit of their goals, but rather as a continuum of experience to be savoured...
Ciarghuala was not one of those people so finding herself at a loose end in Askileon, a city famed throughout Dwilight for its many aqueducts and water gardens, elicited somewhat mixed feelings.
Firstly there was the irritation she'd felt the previous night bartering with the smiths of the Kher district, a succession of fire-bronzed, sweat-stained, muscled hephaestii with garlic-heavy breath and singed leather aprons, sucking their teeth in that all-too-knowing way. Grand Panetier or not, they'd fleece her for every gold crown given half a chance. Not that gold mattered as much to Ciarghuala as the two full days she now had to kill before the Guard could head back to Poryatu and the northern marches. But still, her tenants worked hard to earn their livings and she felt equally obliged to use their taxes wisely.
If that wasn't frustrating enough, her morning survey of the realm's granary reports proved depressingly positive. After three tough years as Grand Panetier, scrimping here and saving there to ensure no Lurian died of hunger, the reality of a rich harvest was something of an anti-climax - even if that anti-climax was precisely what she'd been working towards. A few transfer orders here and there to reduce spoilage provided a brief sense of purpose, then nothing. A very different nothing that which followed the fall of Golden Farrow. The fall of Niselur. The fall of the West... but nothing none the less.
"I'm guessing you've never been good at relaxing," Em flicked the checked blanket she'd removed from her wicker basket so it spread wide, a pink and white parachute matching her gingham sundress settling gently on the emerald green lawn. Her dress was outré by Lurian standards, a swish of cotton skirts and petticoats to mid-calf paired with a patent leather belt, matching pumps and a straw hat she referred to as a boater. Though Autumn was now well underway she'd eschewed her striped blazer, settling for a colourful umbrella and a pair of horn-rimmed sunglasses - reminiscent of the pince-nez popular with scriveners but considerably more alluring.
"I've not had that much practice," Ciarghuala lowered herself onto the blanket edge, smoothing the skirt of the light damascene gown Em had chosen for her as she folded her legs to one side. This custom of picnicking was apparently common where Em came from but it was new to Ciarghuala whose prior experience of open-air eating usually involved drunken soldiers telling old war stories in some muddy ditch or overgrown copse.
"I plan to work on that mistress," Em expertly set crockery, cutlery and a selection of elegant plated delicacies on the blanket before pouring them glasses of a light, effervescent wine quite unlike anything known in Dwilight. They gently clinked the glasses, another custom from her homeland.
"You shouldn't joke that way too often Em, the Empire may be relaxed compared to many realms but my peers still take their rank seriously," Ciarghuala sipped the champagne, her cheeks blushing as the bubbles tickled her nose.
"And so do mine," Em helped herself to a dainty sandwich filled with wafer-thin slices of cheese and a watery green gourd she called a cucumber, "but good manners require them to pretend otherwise."
The Lady of Poryatu couldn't help but smile, remembering the many boorish noblemen she'd met on her travels, ever hungry for war, and always eager to boast of their wealth and power. Their idea of good manners was to bully their servants, their wives, their children - pretty much anyone in fact of lesser status than themselves. Thankfully such practices were largely unknown in Luria. Still, her companion's lightness of spirit - so alien to her own experience - was a window on a very different world. A summer idyll of wild flowers in untouched water meadows, punts lazily progressing down meandering rivers, and trees full of children scrumping for apples free from the threat of war.
That was her secret dream for Luria: a bucolic land of fat, contented peasants, kept safe from the dangers lurking beyond the Empire's borders through the hard work of wise nobles and courageous adventurers. A dream she'd acquired at her mother's knee far away in the desolate borderlands of the Zuma where every day brought a new death for the unwary.
"War leaves little time for good manners," Ciarghuala took a tentative nibble of a freshly baked ham and egg pie before eagerly devouring it, making a mental note to have the recipe shared with her company cooks.
"Well you some seem to have picked them up somewhere darling," Em smiled and held Ciarghuala's gaze, even as a deft thrust of her fork speared a pickled onion and brought it to the Margravine's lips.
"Are you trying to disarm me madam?" Ciarghuala accepted the offering, savouring the crisp tartness of the preserve as her teeth crunched through its pickled flesh and a river of vinegar trickled over her tongue.
"I believe I already have m'lady."
Day -- Askileon
Sofia finally had time to think about yesterday's combat as her men dug their positions in Garuck Udor. Her arrival was a surprise for Marshal Cador, one she didn't meet in the battlefield for a long time. Even if the theat of three monsters was insignificant. After presenting her respects to the Marshal, she took ranks on the battlefield, leaving a long gap between the marshal's forces and her Holy guard. Bright purple and white shields, decorated with golden wings and similarly colored armor, their blades sharpened and decorated hilts. Sofia made sure her troops were to be seen on the battlefield, both by ally and foe.
The battle was quick, as the Holy guard advanced under the orders of Captain Adric, a man she relegated her command on the field on the most part, a skilled tactician with little in the way of regrets, precisely the man she needed for the job. Arrow volleys flew overhead and downed the monsters, one after the other. By the time she arrived, they were dead. After her men confirmed their deaths, she raised her blade to signal their death to Cador's forces, the battle was won.
"No threat shall be left unchecked, come from within or outside." she thought after remembering the short fight, resting on a chair inside a tent alongside captain Adric, as the two of them reviewed a map of the nearby lands crudely drawn by her scout, scratching her chin at tactics she disapproved from Adric, and nodding at the ones she liked. The Nistalian Holy Guard was ready.
William Fitz Roberts
William sat in a tavern, intently reading reports of his own scouts regarding the militia of the realm as well as what few books he had managed to find on the proper recruiting, training and garrisoning of militia in rural realms. The texts had been infuriatingly sparse on the matter. Clearly no scholar had yet considered the defence of the realm by non-noble commanders important enough to record or discuss in any detail. He intended to change that one day, but not yet. From his petitioning of other nobles and his own, extensive research he had found a pattern he considered at least somewhat serviceable. The ideal would have been a model based on that of the militia of his own homeland, Poryatu, but that was not possible at this time. Despite his participation in numerous battles and skirmishes, his renown was still not high enough for the truly elite captains of Luria to consider selling their services to him. This too he hoped to rectify in the near future
He looked down at the names of the captains he had hired and so quickly dismissed. There had been anger in both of the women's eyes, the one called Victoria in particular had not held back her fury at being assigned the lowly post of militia commander in Sulorte. She had certainly not taken kindly to William's insistence that personal honour mattered not compared to the importance of the service of the realm. He had tried to stress this importance to other noble of the realm, but most had turned their noses up at such a notion. If there was something William could not stand, it was glory hunters, those nobles calling for more and more land to be taken for the empire instead of looking to the development of the land the empire already possessed. Were the constant monster invasions not enough to make the others realise that the current situation could not continue, that it was unsustainable? The survey that Matthew had sent had given William some hope that other nobles might realise this, but the overwhelming response in favour of reclamation of land had sunk him into another level of despair. He could see a point where the empire might tear itself apart. He hoped he would not live to see it
None of that mattered anyway. It was out of his hands. All he could do was continue the task set before him. The grants from the Imperial Treasury were growing and he hoped that soon his militia system would be adopted in all the border provinces. Once that was done, he could take to the field proper once more and assist in the growth of the Empire. Even if he did not agree with the current situation, he would not defy the will of the Emperor.
Night -- Askileon
Earl. Dorian like that. Lord Dorian Pavus, Earl of Ciarin Tut. It was appropriate for a hero to be in lands so far from the capital. But at least now they'd have a true icon of Luria Nova. But there would be more he would come to give to the people. He had begun preparations to restore the Order of the White Rose right there. It would take time, but all things with purpose do. His influence grew, and with each passing week he had spent in the realm, he had new contacts with new perspectives. He was on the right track. He would stop at nothing to see that Luria Nova grows, and that he would be remembered as a real hero. Not one of folklore and simple stories, but perhaps the most well-renowned to ever come out of any of the Lurian kingdoms, past, present or future.
Day -- Poryatu
"So this is the great Inner Sea of Dwilight?"
Kaguya and Captain Godmona stood by the shoreline of Garuck Udor, near the place where the warm waters of the shallow Euschean met the colder currents of the Inner Sea. The two women savoured the pleasant weather. The waves crashed softly on the white sands as above them, gulls went about their business in the mid-morning sun.
Actually, only Kaguya was enjoying herself. Godmona grimaced behind her lady's back. What were they doing here, staring out to sea at nothing? There was a region to take over, soldiers to train, patrols to be set up!
A thousand little things had to be done, and here was the Fujiwara heir wanting to stop by the beach.
She decided to risk voicing her concerns.
"Erm. Ahem... My lady."
Godmona pursed her lips. "My lady, perhaps we should see to the troops while the sun is high?"
"Patience." The Fujiwara turned to regard her retainer with a distant smile. "一期一会."
"I have no idea what that means, milady."
"One life, one encounter. There is beauty all around us, my captain... If every moment is not treated with due reverence, then how should you be prepared for momentous events that happen but once?"
Godmona nodded absentmindedly, not quite understanding what her lady was getting at. How does one apply "due reverence" to nothing?
"But the take over-" she ventured again.
"I have seen to it." Still the same distant smile. "My retainers are afield, bringing wine and good news to the commonfolk of this fief."
Godmona blanched. As captain, how could she not have known about this?
"But I... I did not know- How-"
Kaguya dismissed her captain's concerns with an airy wave of the hand.
"Patience," she repeated. "I rose earlier than you this morn. If I am not permitted to command my own retainers, how then am I to be your liege?"
"Now come and enjoy the soothing winds with me, while they last."
Night -- Poryatu
"The scouts report an Undead horde ahead in Maf, my lord. Fifty of them. Are you certain this is wise?" Captain Maxia asked, shuffling nervously on the spot. The idea of actively going out hunting Undead without any back up did not inspire much faith in the man. Whatever had changed about Lotheridan ever since he woke up unsettled him. He wasn't afraid of death anymore, and he was adamant to ensure that all his men thought the same or they wouldn't be fit to serve under him. People would die fighting the Undead and for some inexplicable reason the Captain knew that Lotheridan was aware of that yet went ahead with it anyway.
"Yes, Captain. We outnumber them. We will achieve victory and rid the lands of these vile creatures. They are dead and belong in death's embrace, not wandering out in the world of the living. Get the men ready, we strike at dawn."
Day -- Poryatu
Sofia stepped forth as the monsters disbanded, marching her men on the hunt for their nest. The Holy Guard was ready to fend off any attackers on their way.
"I am bored of sitting and waiting", remembered captain Adric as they marched on. The dame who hired his men was one of little patience, always looking to prove herself to a cause she didn't tell him. Sofia thought the opposite of her captain, a tactical man with little patience for combat, more suited for the planning and diplomacy than she was, but less willing to fight despite his rank as captain. The two of them barely exchanged words since their departure, only speaking about the unit's necessities and little more. There was a tension between the two of them, a friendly rivalry to see wich one's ways were more efficient. It looked polarizing from ourside the unit, but thanks to such, a middle ground was often obtained in discussions, and the unit's cohesion was slowly rising from it.
Day -- Poryatu
William Fitz Roberts
Sir William finished writing and closed his notebook, looking up as his scribe entered the rooms he had rented in a tavern during his stay in Irvington. It was finished. The writing of what he intended to send to all Lurian nobility had taken several weeks of thought and consideration. It had started when he had been a prisoner, alone in a dark room with only his thoughts and rats for company. During that time he had begun to think about what it meant to be Lurian, what it meant to rule, and how a noble might best serve the realm. He was well aware that there were several works on the nature of being Lurian. The High Magistrate had been kind enough to share several treatises and ancient law codes to that regard. However, he had yet to find a suitable treatise that even came close to his own opinions on the correct and proper nature of rulership and service. He had realised then that he must write his own. For too long now, he had stood idly by and watched as certain individuals put their own glory and honour before right and proper service to the realm. He very much doubted that the greatest offenders could be swayed by his word, but he hoped that others might be and would join him in the chastisement of those nobles. Of course, it was neither his place nor his right to openly attack the actions of his superiors. He knew his place in society. However, he could get away with the indirect criticism of certain individuals. He doubted very much that the most blatant of offenders would actually realise it was to them that he was addressing.
He was shaken out of his thoughts by his scribe, who had been thumbing through the pages that she would be expected to copy up and send to every noble of Luria.
'These words will shock many, Sir' She said, pausing over the point on lying being occasionally justifiable, and then again on the breaking of one's word being entirely justifiable in certain circumstances
'Good, those who will be shocked are likely the ones who need to read and understand the message'
'Sir, some of these words might be considered treasonous'
'Only if they are misinterpreted by those who wish me harm. I am utterly loyal to this realm and this current Emperor. I only put in those clauses should we ever have an Emperor whose very actions might bring ruin upon the realm'
The scribe sighed, 'Very well, sir, when would you like me to send them?'
'Send them on the morrow, there might be a few alterations to be made before they are suitable for other eyes. I hope only to spark a discussion, not a revolution, as that would be entirely the opposite of the point of the work'
As the scribe left, William looked down at his ink-stained hands. He hoped that he was right and no one took the work as a call to arms against the current Emperor. He actually embodied many of the traits that William had highlighted in his maxims. Only time would tell whether the Emperor saw it that way...