- 1 14th February
- 2 17th February
- 3 19th February
- 4 20th February
- 5 21st February
- 6 24th February
- 7 25th February
- 8 26th February
- 9 27th February
- 10 28th February
Autumn Evening - Shattered Shores
For many generations, since humanity first came to these lands to study the Bloodstars, the Theocracies of Sanguis Astroism have led the faithful of the Bloodstars.
In Crusade and in Peace, the Theocracies have protected the faithful. In times of War and Diplomacy, the Theocracies have stood tall for the faithful.
Adam has been opposed to the Theocracies since my own husband stood as Archon of Astrum. He called for the destruction of Morek and helped make it happen. He called for the destruction of Astrum, and has gone to great lengths to make it happen. He has called for the Theocracies to be replaced by better Theocracies that will be more pliable to his demands. This was all long before he was granted the position of Light, in clear violation of the Charter of Sanguis Astroism, and the Elder Council of Sanguis Astroism. This elevation has resulted in the retirement of many Elders, and the banishment or retirement of over a quarter of our membership.
And Adam's personal little Crusade has continued. When Avernus asked us for better relations, Adam's first response was to antagonize them and to call for their ruler to be declared an enemy of the faith. That led directly to the call for a full Crusade against them, a call that I opposed, and that I voted against. When nations seek an Open Hand of Peace with us, it is wrong for us to respond with the Closed Fist of War.
And when every nation on Dwilight recognized this and rejected the Crusade, Adam joined Astrum, proceeded to travel immediately to Avernus, and continued his little game of brinksmanship with them. He personally raised the people of Sanguis Astroism to attack Avernus. All while hiding behind Astrum's alliance with Avernus to keep himself safe from any attempt to stop him. Or to spoil our relations with Avernus and bring about open War. With Astrum aligned against every other nation on Dwilight who have rejected this Crusade. That would most certainly lead to either the defeat or the destruction of the last Theocracy of Astrum, as Adam has long wanted.
The Theocracy of Astrum does not tolerate attacks under flag of Truce or Alliance. We are faithful in War and in Peace. We stand in honor in times of Crusade and Diplomacy. Our word is our bond. Adam violated that word and that bond, and so I ordered his banishment from the Theocracy of Astrum. The Hand of the Auspicious of Astrum fulfilled my orders and Adam is now deprived of the protection of our name from the wages of his actions.
We are Astrum, Last Theocracy of Sanguis Astroism, and this is where we stand.
Autumn Day - Mistight
A number of messengers that had been sent out recently with letters talking about stars are returned by brightly dressed humans who arrive on horseback, throw down a bag, then leave without a word. Inside the bag is the head of the messenger along with the letter they had carried.
Autumn Day - Farrowfield
Solomon had just arrived in Farrowfield as the sun rose over the Farrowlands, after many days travelling between Via and Eidulb, he was pleased that he could finally see the start of the process that would lead to the Golden Farrow Accords.
It also pleased him that his old friend had made the journey across the seas to join him on this momentous occasion. Potentially a new acquaintance can be made today as well.
Therefore, Solomon with his small retinue set forth to the administrative centre of Farrowfield, the Golden Keep. It was the best location for the ceremony where he himself first took the lordship of the region during the founding.
He anticipated that his fellow rulers would join him.
Salvador had arrived a week early, -or perhaps it was more, to the war-ravaged lands of the Northwest.
The first night had been met with the Lord General against the attacking hordes. In the day or so that followed, the Lord General had finally been relieved of his stewarding lordship. Then, Salvador had spent most of the time either defending against more and more of the monster hordes to ensure the stability and well-being of Farrowfield region while in protective custody, -or simply waiting. And then, waiting some more. He had been annoyed enough with the endless waiting, but now with a smile of chagrin, he had come to peace with his frustration. Meditating on it, he had come to acknowledge the complex schedules and necesseties of the Golden Farrow Accord process with respect. And he was now simply happy and finally releived to help enact and be witness to this treaty process.
There, in the Golden Keep, Salvador and his company of elite men, kept vigilant watch on the horizon and awaited the diplomatic delegations and their lord rulers. An important cermemony for the transfer of this region sovereignty would take place to help officially usher in the end to hostilities. A new look upon the face of a former foe would perhaps change to friendship.
Autumn Evening - Golden Farrow
Golden Farrow Accords Ball
It was arranged that the Margravine Sairyn was to host the signatories of the Golden Farrow Accords treaty, which was signed only two days prior. Within the estate near the port, Solomon entered the what would be a small ballroom, an intimate affair reserved for the nobility of the realms of Dwilight, their key aids and a couple of key figures of Golden Farrow. Greeted by a couple of attendants, eyes immediately were drawn to the Navarch, dressed in his courtly attire of Tol Goldoran red, green and gold. Realising the immediate need to provide a speech, Solomon was ushered to a staircase where a vantage point of the cosy ballroom could be seen. While Solomon had nothing prepared, his words flowed with ease:
"Nobles of Dwilight, on behalf of my host Margravine Sairyn of Golden Farrow, I welcome you to this momentous occasion where we celebrate the signing of the Golden Farrow Accords as well as peace!"
A hearty cheer erupted from the crowd of soldiers, diplomats and as Solomon caught the eye of the Archon Gheric Arylon of Westgard. With the eye contact, Solomon continued to speak to the room:
"Yes, this is a grand achievement that has unanimously brought an end to the Gold Coast War. Yet, I shall not accept your praise alone. I also wish for you to praise Archon Gheric Arylon for his monumental role in securing this peace we all hold. I will be brief when I state that without him, I would of never of believed that a compromise nor peace with Westgard could be achieved. Through our long conversations and our rather intense summit in Walefishire, we both came to realise that the only way forward towards peace was to accept that there is no victor or loser in this war, only Dwilight at peace."
Accepting a glass of wine from the nearest attendant, Solomon rose his glass to lead the next toast:
"Therefore, I ask you to raise your glass to Archon Gheric Arylon of Westgard. For peace!"
Another rapturous cheer came from the crowd as Solomon took a sip of what appeared to be rather fine Westgardian wine.
"What I would like to dedicate my next toast is a subject not in celebration, but in remembrance."
The nervous yet excitable energy died down as Solomon turned to the more sombre topic:
"We all have lost loved ones, comrades, gold, property, status or even honour in this war. Tol Goldora has lost three nobles to this conflict and personally I have lost a couple of dear comrades I would have called brothers. Therefore, I ask you all to raise a toast to those whom are lost, those whom are now at rest and to honour the sacrifices of others so that we can be here today enjoying the fruit of their labour."
Raising his glass, every person in the room responded in kind, in unity responding to Solomon's feelings of grief as silence fell for half a minute. The Duke thought of Semund and his sacrifice in this city, to Bennet, where-ever he now dwelt and the men and women who gave their lives for the cause. Breaking the silence, Solomon concluded:
"Thank you all for paying your respects. I shall not take away this pivotal and historical night from you all, so we shall not dwell for too long on such thoughts. There are many other important nobles I need to thank which I shall hold back in reserve; they all know who they are. I wish to raise my final glass of wine to three announcements of matrimony. First, I wish to formally celebrate my betrothal to Margravine Sairyn Son of Golden Farrow, our gracious host tonight. Second, I wish to formally celebrate the betrothal of Archon Gheric Arylon of Westgard to Dame Ninsianna Nuanet of Tol Goldoran. Finally, I wish to celebrate the marriage of Dame Alessia de Medici of Tol Goldora to my kin, Frederick Greybrook. To our future!"
With the final cheer, Solomon gave a gracious bow to descend the staircase to finally mingle with the prestigious guests, friends old and new as well as those who came to visit the Golden City for this historical night.
Alessia de Medici
Alessia sat in her chair, listening to the speech given by the Navarch. Behind her towered a large man of dark complexion, arms folded as he watched the speech with diligence.
Her burgundy and gold dress emitted fullness; Waist accentuated as the smallest part of the body, fur lined sleeves, and a most extravagant pleated skirt fitted around the waist. Her hair was worn in a Coazzoni style. The large man accompanying her wore a complimentary pleated coat, hose, and a velvet coif.
By the end of the speech, after giving s night applause, she looks around the ballroom from the side, eyeing potential friends to find. Tonight began the first day of the rest of her life.
Gheric allowed Greybrook to descend the staircase and greet the guests in his immediate vicinity before he decided to interrupt the pleasantries with his own clink of a glass.
One of the benefits of a crown is that people will stop to listen when you wish to speak, even if they do not truly want to hear you. The office commands great respect and weight to one's words, so as Gheric stood to address the room, a deadly silence fell over the attendees. They would listen.
Holding his wine glass in his hand, The Archon directed his eyes at Greybrook specifically.
"I would like to thank Navarch Greybrook for his warm words and hearty congratulations. Those words were genuine and I appreciate them greatly. Thank you, Navarch." Polite applause broke out at Gheric's rather pedestrian thanks.
"I am not a man of eloquence, so I will not subject you all to many of my words," he continued, "but I did have something I wished to say to the Navarch in return."
"Most people see the world as it is, and accept it as inevitable. We, as people, fall into routines, which become habits. We get used to the way things are, and no matter how difficult our reality, it becomes comfortable. Like... old leather, worn and used." The audience was lost, and Gheric was clearly losing the room. Greybrook, however, had an almost imperceptible smirk on his face.
"For years on Dwilight, this war was that broken reality. We were used to it. We had fallen into habits. Indeed, our fighting and killing one another was something we had grown accustomed to, and it felt like nothing would ever really change the paradigm of The West."
Now, heads began to nod.
"On both sides, generations of soldiers fought and died, with many now having come to our lands after the beginning of the war, and fought because others told them they needed to, rather than because they felt it necessary."
"It was time to do something about that. Golden Farrow is one of the jewels of this continent, but it is only a place of stone and mortar. It is a people and a purpose that make any city... any realm worthy of repect and honor. Westgard fought for what it considered its right to the city, as did Tol Goldora." He sighed.
"But in the end, men must be willing to see a brave and visionary future, in order to break the stranglehold of the status quo. I... did not think I would find a kindred spirit... a man devoted to a new world, and a new page in history."
Gheric raised his glass. "Navarch Solomon Greybrook, in you I found not only a King and a statesman, but a man of honor, integrity, honesty and fierce devotion. In our many long conversations, I realized that I was no longer negotiating with a hostile adversary, but rather working with a partner in peace."
"So I raise a glass to you, Navarch Solomon The Peacemaker. You are a man of rare gifts and indomitable will, and you are my friend. May the future of Tol Golora not only be a bright one, but one of a deep and abiding friendship with Westgard."
With that, the crowd erupted, Gheric buried his drink. Greybrook walked over to his table and gave Gheric a warm embrace, and the two men raised their arms together in triumph.
The handover of the city would take place within the day, and the whole world seemed new.
Autumn Day - Golden Farrow
Ciarghuala lounged against a convenient marble column, listening to the speeches with a good-natured smile that belied her conflicted feelings, a never-emptying cup of wine in her right hand as her left rested lazily on the basket hilt of Shieldbane. The Suzerain Queen of Luria Nova wore her dress uniform casually, the collar of her maroon tunic unbuttoned to reveal the white lining within. By her side stood an attractive, dark-haired woman dressed elegantly in cornflower blue silk and the kind of modest adornment only a master jeweller could conceive. This was the Lady Emily, the Queen's companion, reputed to be a traveller from distant and exotic lands.
Clustered about the Queen were three women of professional demeanour, her closest friends and most trusted advisors: Captain General Septinia who fought by her side throughout the long siege of Luria, promoted to command of the Lurian Marine Corps following the raid on Ammando; Royal Equerry Synne, once Ciarghuala's squire and still her sparring partner; and youngest of the three, Captain Aelfmona, officer of the Queen's personal bodyguard, the freebooters of the Free Fontanese Marines.
That very morning the Queen had entered Golden Farrow accompanied by a large, boisterous shore party of arms men in motley dress. Together they'd made landfall in Mistight several days earlier as Ciarghuala sought to see for herself the reawakened Zuma power, coming ashore in dinghies as the stately curves of the dragon barge Waveburner disappeared over the horizon. The landing itself had gone smoothly as would be expected of battle-hardened marines but pressing inland they'd been ambushed by a sorcerously concealed Daimon Host and only Ciarghuala's somewhat rusty knowledge of those parts had allowed the party to escape northwards, skirmishing with the horrors who dwelt in the shadow of the Zuma as they pressed on through the night to the bucolic calm of Demyansk.
Ciarghuala took a sip of her wine, putting thoughts of the Zuma out of her mind as her former protege and good friend Solomon gave the floor to Gheric, the new Aeon of Westgard. Luria Nova was advancing a pretty penny in gold to guarantee this war was brought to a quick and peaceful conclusion, but she was still in two minds as to whether Westgard could really be trusted. For long years she'd been the Empire's most prominent supporter of the Order's crusade to liberate the lands of the northwest, seeing in them a shadow of the Horselords amongst whom she'd won her spurs, so the disillusionment when they'd turned their weapons against the colonists of Tol Goldora was all the deeper.
It wasn't the war so much that disturbed her. Ciarghuala well knew the fractious ways of nobility having lived through the internecine conflicts of the Empire. No, it was Golden Farrow that lay at the heart of her disquiet. Golden Farrow, scene of the final act in Dwilight's greatest tragedy, that inglorious day when a tide of monstrous filth burst from the west and overflowed the city's towering walls, slaughtering all in their path. A day which often played on the Queen's mind when she considered higher callings than the thrones of Luria. Indeed in hindsight her whole life seemed to turn on that day, on those fraught hours holding the quay alongside her guards until the last evacuees were safely on the waiting boats.
Only then had the Watchmistress of Niselur looked to her own safety and that of her soldiers. Only then did she turn and plunge into the surf, leaving behind her a tomb city and too many good friends to be mourned and never forgotten....
"The Aeon had better keep his word," she thought to herself.
Autumn Day - Golden Farrow
A weather beaten adventurer walks up to the city gates.
She looks worn but seems nimble and light on her feet.
Her unkept hair and ragged clothes are in tune with her weapon, a crudgel of unusual shape and size able to deal out damage like none other.
She is let into the city and proceeds to find her way to the inn for a bath and a change of clothes. Later she will hit the bars, Perhaps train her skills and look for the next job. Her name is Electra of Inladesh.
After the speech of Archon Gheric, he managed to mingle his way to one of his oldest Lurian allies, Ciarghuala. Navigating around the convenient marble column, the Suzerain Queen's ensemble stood at attention as Solomon tried to engage old of his oldest comrades whom still walked the continents:
"Ciarghuala, I am so very pleased to see you again, the seas of Dwilight seem to grow wider every day."
Managing to part the three advisers from their Queen, Solomon gave a small bow and a kiss on the ruler's hand as he continued:
"There is so much I could speak to you about in this moment, while the night is in full swing, I fear I shall not get round to many of them. Yet, there are two very important causes I must address."
Reaching out to grab the elder woman's hand, Solomon's sincerity flowed through his words as he spoke:
"I thank you for all that you have personally done for me, my nobles and ultimately your final actions in ending this war. Without the aide of those whom I grew up with before I left Luria Nova, I truly believe the world be a different place."
With the other hand, Solomon fumbled in his cloak pocket to find a sealed letter with the Greybrook Heraldry stamped shut:
"Second, please give this to family Selemnir, if they still dwell in Luria Nova. It pains me greatly that I was not able to advise Bennet one final time. He spoke often of the weight of the crown upon his head, only if he knew the strength he brought to others."
Quickly understanding that his emotions were getting the better of him, the Navarch graciously let go of the Suzerain Queen's hand, awaiting her reply whilst also seeking the opportunity to re-introduce the kin of an ex-Emperor once again.
Autumn Evening - Golden Farrow
The Queen accepted the letter, slipping it discreetly inside her tunic, uncertain what to say. Bennet's fame had so far eclipsed that of his House, one of those rare flashes of brilliance who rose from the lesser nobility through sheer force of personality and precocious talent. But now he was gone and what remained of his kin had returned to the obscurity they clearly preferred.
It would be easy for a daughter of a House as renowned as the Dubhaines to dismiss the likes of House Selemnir as of little consequence but that was not Ciarghuala's way even had Bennet not been a close personal friend. Truth be told his decision to abdicate was one she'd long hoped he'd repent - if only for the good of the Empire - and now without his companionship and wise counsel Luria seemed diminished.
Ciarghuala hadn't felt that way when Aldrakar disappeared. No, that had definitely been a relief. There was no doubting the old Emperor had been a force to be reckoned with and Luria's enemies had wisely feared him, but towards the end of his reign so had his subjects and the Grand Panetier had slept with her pistols close at hand, ready to defend herself and Em if the Emperor's agents came calling in the night as was their want.
Of course Bennet had made his fair share of mistakes, as indeed had they all in their time, the most grievous being the blind eye he turned to the farcical execution of Lady Bellatrix. Ciarghuala had worked bloody hard to establish so valuable an asset within Westgard's ranks and to see her protege treated with such casual cruelty had for a time placed a wedge between them but his mistake had been an honest one and he'd not relished the unsavoury manner of her death the way others had.
"I was younger than you Solomon when I was driven from Golden Farrow and I lost so many good friends that day," the Queen raised her glass in a toast, "Rule wisely swordbrother and reign in peace."
Autumn Day -- Golden Farrow
Paulrus Badgerton d'Aragon
As the Imperial vessel neared the docks, Paulrus watched the gulls fly over Golden Farrow. The roofs and domes and ornaments of gold that crowned every building shone as brightly as the tales told.
His captain knocked, and said “Your Majesty, we have boarded. Navarch Greybrook is waiting for you on the docks.”
Paulrus put on his coat of hermin, with all three Imperial Arms embroidered on the back and brought together by excessive motifs of golden thread. As he stepped out of his cabin, the sunlight and heat reminded him that such heavy fabric were only suited to the dry and significantly colder climate of Sol. “Remind me to have another coat tailored when we come back”, he whispered to his scribe.
He stepped on solid stone, and, as he walked to greet Solomon and the few Goldorans waiting for him, thought to himself: “At last I see what my people has so bitterly fought for.”
Paulrus was quite relieved now.
Solomon donned his royal garments as he awaited on in the Golden Port for the Emperor of the Lurian Empire. He hoped that this would also be a good opportunity to meet with once again the Suzerain Queen if she did not need to depart soon. Paulrus' support had been invaluable to ensure the ease of transition that occurred in the later stages of the war, something the Navarch was indeed grateful for. While the wind was strong coming into the docks which was indicated by the fluttering of the standards of the bannermen, the sun was particularly invigorating upon the skin this morning.
As Paulrus' party disembarked from the Imperial vessel, Solomon came forward to greet the Solaran for the first time by reaching out his hand:
"Suzerain Emperor Paulrus, it is a honour to meet you in the flesh. Tol Goldora is grateful for the effort you have not only made to visit our home but also for all you have done. Come, I have prepared a suite for you in the Royal Palace, the part of it at least that is built!"
Solomon gestured down the jetty as the two rulers walked side by side, flanked by their units as they headed inland to the Royal Palace.
Autumn Evening - Golden Farrow
Waves sluiced across the pale volcanic sand of the north strand, sparkling and glinting in the late Autumn sunlight, the rhythmic pulse of the surf punctuated by the squawks and caws of summer-fattened gulls swooping and whirling on dancing thermals. It was a hot afternoon for this late in the season, the sun beating down from a cloudless sky with the only respite a cool breeze from the Inner Sea's northern passage. Far off over the horizon the burghers of Libidizedd would by now be planning for a harsh Winter, thankful no doubt for the newly signed peace and a chance to gather the harvest without fear of Lurian raiders.
Ciarghuala felt a mild pang of guilt as she strolled barefooted with her arm around the shoulders of her beloved Em, carving out this brief quiet time from the duties of State sat ill with her sense of duty. This was the first harvest in many years that she hadn't been in Poryatu to personally oversee the Pantry clerks as they routed rations to each Hall's fortified granaries.
"Relax Ciara," Em pressed herself against the Queen, "this is a holiday... of sorts."
"Of sorts," agreed the Queen. This trip had after all been unavoidable so no one could blame her for snatching a moment of peace amidst the chaos. Not that she'd have avoided it if she could. No, The Accords were important and so was showing Luria's determination to stand by their friends the Goldorans, but those weren't the reasons she'd brought Emily here. Here, to this city where the Old West died.
They'd spent the morning walking the streets of the city together and Ciarghuala had recounted as best she could the events of that day, burned as they were so deep in her memory. The names of the warriors who'd fallen as the walls were overrun; of prominent citizens who'd taken up arms to hold barricades whilst women and children were rushed to the docks; of that forlorn hope who'd held the quayside alongside her as the last refugee ships struggled through the tide.
Em had never before seen her usually self-contained lover shed a single tear. That morning she couldn't count the tears as the last barrier between them crumbled.
Autumn Day -- Golden Farrow
As Solomon was preparing to hold a early breakfast with the Suzerain Emperor of Luria, the news came.
At first, the Navarch was shocked and ultimately disappointed that he did not know sooner that his fiancée was to step back from noble life. Yet, as Solomon thought about the circumstances, he could see that this was a long time in the making, which brought great sadness to him.
With a prompt letter to Archon Gheric regarding the status of the Accords, Solomon donned his royal clothing and headed to see the Emperor in the guest wing of the Palace, in Golden Farrow.
Autumn Evening -- Golden Farrow
Alessia de Medici
Alessia sat in her study, going over her documents for the rest of the palace of the Gylden City. There is a knock on the door.
"Khadan, enter," she calls out as she diligently continues her work. The door opens and a large, dark-skinned man steps in.
"Ambassador, I had written to your mother to arrange staff to come to your new estate. You are an ambassador now, and so we can put your father's Imperial employees to work." He speaks as if his words were recited. Alessia places down her papers, standing up and turning to the door.
"Manfred Manfedi, a man most loyal and devoted to your house. You will know him for his work as your father's chancellor. Now he is yours. He brings with him his family, notably his son, Piero, who will serve as your physician."
"Inform him that I shall take on his daughter as my lady in waiting." Alessia replies, nodding as she listens.
"Of course. Finally, your mother will be moving here. She believes it key that she is with you during your early years as a mother. Aunt Andreola will also be coming to help oversee the newspaper works in your absences."
"Mother is coming, truly? Then I had best get to work and seeing this estate furnished. Visit the merchants, get their finest wares."
Autumn Evening -- Golden Farrow
Solomon resided in the palace of Golden Farrow as the sun came over the horizon near the Golden Port. The Navarch contemplated the last few weeks, the drastic change and even the large influx of new nobles. Was this the new Tol Goldora, welcoming nobles from far and wide to reside in her borders?
He hoped so.
The Navarch did not need to grieve for Sairyn but did often wonder where she was. As much as their engagement was short, he did hope that the future was very bright for them. He aspired for the success of the city and the realm but more importantly, family. It was now that the war was over he wanted to finally raise a heir.
Nevertheless, he couldn't dwell on such thoughts, there was much to be done. The Archon Gheric had rumoured to have found a new partner to fulfill the Golden Farrow Accords...
An unassuming calling card was sent to the royal palace, declaring that one Dame Sibylle Kinsey sought an audience with Navarch Solomon.
As the Navarch just finished his paperwork for the morning, he was due to visit the academy for a sparring with one of the tutors there when he was interrupted by one of the courier's of the palace:
"My Navarch, an audience has been requested by Dame Sibylle Kinsey, noble of Westgard."
Solomon sat back down at his desk and gestured for the card and read it over:
"Is this the potential marriage candidate that was rumoured to have been agreed in Westgard? What do we know of Dame Sibylle?"
The courier known as Alistair paused and for a few moments and recalled some of the information he knew about the young woman:
"My Navarch, she is a particularly strong young woman, at only 17, she seems to have accumulated a great amount of honour and prestige, her family is particularly well known and infamous. She is related to the former Westgardian general known as Kay my lord, you are acquainted with him during the Gold Sea War."
Solomon knew that the ex-Westgardian general had retired a month ago but did not know of any relations that had succeeded him:
"Please send a reply to welcome her into the Palace. I shall recieve her."
"Keep your guard up!" Ciarghuala struck the young recruit's blade such a hammering blow with Shieldbane that his wrist shuddered from the force of it, sending his sword clattering to the flagstones, a blur of motion filling his field of vision before he even realised the Queen was moving, pivoting lightly on her heel to brush her off-hand seax under his chin, a hair's breadth from nicking his carotid.
The rest of the Queen's Marines formed an untidy, amused circle around the sparring pair dominating the courtyard of the city gymnasium, laughing and joking as they watched their would be brother's thorough humiliation. An experience each and every one of them had survived in their time. No one joined the Marines any other way, no matter who spoke for them or how pure their Fontanese blood. No, it took more than being of exile stock to sail with the Reaver Queen, you needed the will to withstand cold steel and imminent death...
"Now then lad," Ciarghuala pressed the blade of the seax a little higher, a little closer to the throat, forcing the warrior onto his toes, "tell me again about these fighting skills of yours..."
He swallowed hard, the shattered look on his face all too familiar, stammering out an incoherent response more suited to the schoolroom than the battlefield as his mind raced to cope with the actinic taste of imminent death forming in the back of his throat.
The Queen's eyes softened and a mischievous smile spread across her face as she took a step backwards, sheathing her blades. "Well at least you've not pissed your pants, so that's a mark in your favour."
There were hearty chuckles from the company and several reddened faces as those who'd done just that during their first sparring match with the Queen shuffled sheepishly from foot to foot, hoping no one would remember their embarrassment. There really wasn't any preparing for this particular test which was always administered without warning.
"Alright, let's try that again shall we?" she slipped the toe of her boot under the tang of the recruit's sword and effortlessly propelled it upwards, catching it by the hilt guard and offering him the hilt, "Only now you get a blade and I don't."
The boy - a disingenuous term as was a good twenty summers or more, a robust slab of muscle topped by a shock of strawberry blonde hair - didn't look much reassured as he flexed his hand once, twice, thrice before accepting the sword. He was larger than the Queen and young enough that he should have easily outpaced her but age had done little to dull Ciarghuala and the closer she came to her birthplace the wilder her heart beat, the faster her blood coursed in her veins, the heavier her hand smote.
"No tricks lad," Ciarghuala shrugged off her baldric and unbuckled her belt, wrapping them around her weapons and tossing both to Aelfmona, standing casually in blouse, britches and boots as she let him regain his composure, "You try and stick me with the pointy end of that steel in your hands, and I lay you flat on your arse in front of all these fine ladies and gentlemen so they can have a good laugh."
The company erupted in raucous laughter and a torrent of bawdy jibes, knowing full well how outmatched the young volunteer really was. But he was game and it'd take more than a shaming to put him off his dream of serving in a hero's retinue. And he wasn't a bad swordsman. A little too formal perhaps, suggesting he'd practiced hard with a good master but seen little actual combat. Still, he moved well and could easily be seasoned. Any other company would be sizing him up as a sergeant or even a future captain.
He circled cautiously, crouching low, sword couched two-handed in a high guard. The Queen kept pace with him but didn't seem overly concerned, body moving with the economy of a prizefighter, flexing her muscles as she prepared to parry and counterstrike.
When the strike came it was perfect. Fast, fluid, and utterly futile. Ciarghuala's left palm knocked the blade aside as she stepped into the blow, turning to meet the young recruit with her back as her right hand struck into his shoulder and carried his bodyweight forward as her outstretched leg tripped him off balance, the whole a balletic dance which propelled him head over heels flat onto his back with a resounding thump.
He lay there winded, panting, trying to make sense of what just happened to him.
"So Marines," Ciarghuala looked all around her to gauge the mood of the company, "who fancies wiping this whelp's arse for him until he learns a few of our tricks?" They were by most standards a scruffy bunch, warriors rather than soldiers, and sea-raiders at that with a motley of arms and armour to suit their varied backgrounds. But looks could be very deceiving. Put them on a battlefield - any battlefield - and these were the finest organised killers not only in Dwilight, not only now, but quite possibly in any human realm that had ever been.
There was a long pause as the company assessed what they'd seen, each knowing that a 'yes' meant not only taking on this hopeful's training but if necessary being the one who'd see he was buried with dignity if slain in battle, or put out of his misery if he ever turned traitor.
"I'll take him, he has potential," a veteran stood forward, her tone matter-of-fact, the right side of her comely face riven by three fading scars where a troll had nearly taken her head, "Luvna, Sergeant of the Second Platoon."
The recruit got to his feet, drawing himself up to his full six feet and more of height, defeated but not broken.
"Heath of Farrowfield, do you swear yourself to my service? To march at my word? To fight at my word? To die at my word?"
"Then swear the words and become my liegeman."
He took a deep breath and knelt before the Queen, hands resting on the pommel of his sword, "I swear myself to the service of Queen Ciarghuala of Luria Nova until she releases me or unto death, whichever comes first. To march at her word. To fight at her word. To die at her word. If I betray my oaths may the sky fall upon me and crush me, may the earth open up and swallow me, may the seas arise and overwhelm me."
"Arise Heath of the Second Company and take your place as Luvna's apprentice," the Queen gestured towards the sergeant, "you'll serve her until your training's complete."
Autumn Morning -- Golden Farrow
Sibylle marched up to Solomon with a soldier's stride. She wore the brown leather armor that was usually seen on House Kinsey nobles outside of combat. Having left her weapons and equipment with her retinue outside, she only carried her gloves in her left hand.
The young woman had tanned skin, brown eyes, and light blonde hair. And while she could not be called a beauty, she was tall, and carried a regal demeanor that could only be bred from an old and storied noble house.
Sibylle gave Solomon a crisp salute. "Navarch Solomon. Archon Gheric has sent me here as a part of our obligations of the Golden Farrow Accords. I seek your permission to join your realm, and to take up residence in the city of Golden Farrow."
Solomon greeted the young woman inside the Palace entrance, dressed in his formal court regalia of red, green and gold. He was ultimately impressed by the way that the Dame Sibylle conducted herself, a true representation of her upbringing:
"Dame Sibylle, you may of course take up residency here. Please, let us discuss this arrangement further somewhere more comfortable. I have arranged some refreshments on balcony looking over the Gold Sea, the weather is kind to us today."
The Navarch walked side by side with the Dame as they eventually arrived at the balcony which looked over the Golden Port. While Solomon was comfortable assuming his couple of decades long martial discipline to match the Dame, he hoped that they could break that barrier down. If this was successful, they would be betrothed and then shortly married. While it was not unaccustomed that nobles of different ages groups would marry, being twice Dame Sibylle's age, the Navarch hoped this would not be a barrier as the guard left the potential couple alone to discuss their future.