Evening - Oligarch
"Grandmother," Etain whispered into the dark interior as she perched precariously against the window sill, left arm and leg wrapped in coils of the silk-wrapped hemp rope descending from the crenellations far above. This was the third window she'd checked since losing the toss to her brother Leopald, the former Ghost Watch captain slapping her on the shoulder with great mirth as he'd lowered her over the embrasure.
What did the mad old bat think she was doing, wandering into the heart of the enemy's camp even as the armies of the North sped away with their tails between their legs? So much for all those long lectures on duty and caution...
Etain kicked back from the wall and slipped down to the next storey, cursing the lunatic who planned the high eyries of Oligarch's rambling palace complex. The cunning stonework and near-ethereal flying buttresses demonstrated the annoyingly flawless craftsmanship she associated with the Elven Republic and she wondered if this part of the complex had been commissioned by the enigmatic Doc.
"Grandmother?" a glimmer of light broke through the thick brocade curtain as Lady Brigdha drew it aside, revealing a well-appointed sitting room.
"Etain!? What on earth are you doing dangling outside my window at this hour?"
"Isn't it obvious Grandmother! I'm here to rescue you!" her voice sounded considerably more confident than she felt.
"Oh, a rescue. You think I need rescuing? Who do you think I am? Some frail crone at the mercy of any damn fall with a blade?" the force of personality caused her to inadvertently jerk backwards.
"Are you okay down there sis?" Leopald leaned over the embrasure with his bow half-knocked.
"I might have known," Lady Brigdha crossed her arms, "Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber."
"Please Grandmother, keep your voice down," Etain shifted uncomfortably as she scanned the night for signs of danger.
"Keep my voice down? I'm not the one hanging from a rope shouting my head off for all and sundry to hear."
"That's hardly fair!"
"Oh, do come in. You're making the place look untidy. And you Leopald," Brigdha stretched her hand out of the window and snapped her fingers thrice in quick succession.
A few minutes later they were sat around a roaring hearth drinking tea as a maid served delicate pastries. It wasn't exactly the circumstances Etain and Leopald had expected to find their grandmother enduring and they were still somewhat on edge.
"Oh alright, I apologise for calling you Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber. I know your hearts are in the right place, and I apologise for worrying you. But I know what I'm doing," she handed them the letter from Prime Minister Garas and they sipped their tea in silence, mulling its contents.
"Is it true?" Etain elegantly placed her cup and saucer on the occasional table next to her chair.
"I don't know for sure," Brigdha sipped her tea, "but it's true that your great aunt has always kept her private life very private indeed. I still don't know who the fathers of any of her children are Rhidhana was three before Moira even told me about her. So yes, it's possible Garas may indeed be my grand nephew and your second cousin. I have to examine the journals he refers to and compare their dates with our family archives."
"So should we stay and help?" Leopald popped a particularly sweet pastry into his mouth, causing him to mumble his words slightly.
"There precious little to kill in an archive," Brigdha's brow creased in amusement.
Evening -- Oligarch
Etain's task was to reach Garas and inform him that his daughter was safe - or at least as safe as she could be in a city subject to the random violence playing out all around them. Under normal circumstances meeting with the Prime Minister would be a simple matter of presenting her bona fides to a court official and joining the long queue of petitioners awaiting their turn in the daily court proceedings.
The rape and pillaging of a great city were not normal circumstances. Not even for much-conquered Oligarch.
Garas would be in the field with his Royal Guards, leading the city's garrison in its tenacious last-ditch battles. She'd read highly romanticised accounts of such endeavours, several in the stirring ballads her grandmother's liegemen used to sing on dark winter nights with mead in their cups, the wolves crying in the deep snows and the thoughts of the old veterans turned to the fall of their much-lamented homeland.
Some had never forgiven Brigdha for deserting Fontan and bringing Negev into the Republic, but she tolerated their gruff belligerence for the sake of her niece and her dear friend Basilius. Usually when realms fell their leaders fled like rats, looking for safety wherever they could find it, and to the grizzled greybeards it was a mark of honour that compassing Fontan's fall had taken the death of two great heroes.
Etain wasn't so sure. In her experience heroes died unremarked every day, the courage of their humble births denying them even a footnote in the august histories. But still, there was no denying that her first cousin (once removed) and Chancellor Basilius had both shown a rare willingness to face death sorely lacking amongst the wider nobility.
Would Garas be willing to risk so much? That was unclear even to those with deeper sight than hers. However one thing was certain - that he wouldn't let the city and his determined independence slip from his grasp without the bloodiest fight, no matter the forces facing him. So far his people were of like temper and if he could rally them again who knew which way the Balance would tilt?
Idly she wondered if the people of Karbala would stand as firmly behind the Shadow King if he were ever brought to this test, warily padding through the palace complex with her blades drawn, keeping to the servants' passages, her destination the old armoury by the northern wall.
Few amongst the nobility evinced an interest in sorcery. Outside the borders of Shadowdale it wasn't considered a fit topic for dinner conversation, and even there the Shadow King relied more on the reputation inherited from the realms founder than on the actuality. However in recent weeks many sorceries had been unleashed on Oligarch. Some of these were obvious, direct attacks on Garas and his ministers, others much more covert.
There would be no accounting for the unholy rites performed in hidden fanes, the fell powers bargained with and sated according to their unearthly desires, all to bring Garas to nought. Fell powers who now hovered over the city, slavering for their choice sweetmeats.
Etain was crossing the sombre charnel house of one of the palace's many reception chambers, the scene of a bloody slaughter as fleeing servants found themselves caught between Ecthelion's killers and a handful of half-petrified courtiers compelled by pride to hold their ground. None of them had slowed the Elven reavers, rune-wrought steel cutting through flesh, bone and ceremonial armour with equal indignity.
The turmoil in the High Firmament was a conflagration of such proportions that even a novice such as herself couldn't help but sense the pervasive actinic tang, the hairs on her neck catching stiffly in the rough silk padding of her jerkin. Etain tugged at the collar and wrapped her scarf around her lower face and neck, partly to ease the itch and partly to block out the sweet cloying stench of death.
As she did so she felt, as much as heard, a deep base thrumming, it's speed increasing as she moved further into the room. Months hunting in the haunted vaults and sepulchres of Krimml and Karbala had tuned her instincts to the danger which now surrounded her and she burst into a sprint as she made to cross the chamber as swiftly as possible, but alas to no avail.
The gruesome hulks of courtiers and servants, men and women, young and old, snapped to their feet like marionettes on tautened strings. Though for the most part unarmed there were a good two dozen of them or more and the eyes of each burned with the same cruel intelligence as broken limbs cracked into place and bloodless hearts beat a deathly uniform tattoo, each cadaver but one appendage of a superlatively subtle hand bent to her destruction.
It beggared belief that such dread and unquenchable malevolences could exist, and yet to the unremarked night rangers such as Etain - men and women held in contempt despite their tireless battle to hold such chthonic madness at bay - such encounters were a.. routine? yes, a routine occurrence. A routine occurrence in the crypts, the sewers, the unholy fanes of backwoods cults and ancient barrows... but not fresh and vital, dead flesh rising from the wreckage of a battle still being fought.
Bloodied hands scratched at her, pleading faces mocking the fear building within her breast as the press threatened to overwhelm her. Drawing on every fount of discipline and courage she stilled her rushing pulse and stared deep into the eyes of the corpse pressing closest to her, a girl of no more than eight or nine years, her hair a dirty thicket of honey-blonde tangles, caked with blood from the head-wound that had stolen her life. Despite her slight frame she had the strength of several men and Etain struggled to bring her knife to bear as the girl crushed her arms in a powerful embrace.
Had it not been for the unexpected arrival of guardsmen in the livery of Chief Justice Maximus, Etain would have joined that dreadful danse macabre, instead a furious melee ensued as swords and feet and hooked knife slashed and stabbed and stomped, repeating the butcher's work of Ecthelion's killers with adrenal-fueled desperation - tragedy turned to mocking farce.
Standing half-exhausted amidst the bloody ruins Etain cleaned her blades and held them hilt-first to the sole surviving guardsmn, letting the scarf fall from her features, "I'm Etain, bodyguard of Lady Brigdha Dubaine, and I'm your prisoner."
Evening -- Oligarch
The faint glow of guttering flames cast a sickly pall across the plains north of Oligarch, the intermittent fires still burning in the city providing the only light in a cloudy, moonless night.
"Hwuuuurt!!! Hwuuuurt!!!" the rabbit paused, its ears pricking as the sharp call of the wraithawk echoed in the darkness, perfect stillness its only protection against the deadly night hunter. Inside it's nearby burrow a clutch of kittens snuggled in a nest of dried grass and soft stems.
Minutes stretched in silence.
"Pyrwhipt!! Vyroot!! Pyrwhipt!! Vyroot!!" the crested corn warbler's desperate cry was accompanied by movement in the undergrowth, and hearing it the rabbit shot for its burrow, disappearing into the depths and welcome safety.
"It's good to see you Ma'am," Kris slipped his hooked hunting knife back into its sheath.
"Less of the formality Kris," Etain threw her arms around the former Ghost Watch sergeant and squeezed tightly, "what brings you out here at this ungodly hour?"
"Her Ladyship thought you might like some company."
"And don't tell me, you drew the short straw?"
"Don't I always... Ma'am?" the trooper grinned at Etain's discomfort.
"Funnily enough I've been considering heading back into town. The hunting out here's been pretty slim," Etain drew a strip of jerky from her purse and tore off a generous chunk, offering the rest to her companion.
"You might want to wait until our Elven friends have finished sharing their goodwill with the poor sods. It's pretty bloody grim right now."
"Not too grim for my grandmother though?"
"Her Ladyship could walk through the fires of hell and still find some cause for hope."
"And you'd follow her every step of the way Kris, even if she told you not to."
The trooper sighed causing his whole body to shift, "That I would Ma'am. That I would."
"Alright then, let's go kill some revenants."
|06.09.1017||Oligarch||Night||1||undead||disorganised few||victory||0g 4s||small diamond|
|1||monsters||a few||victory||0g 4s||+1 swordfighting|
|18.09.1017||Oberndorf||Night||2||undead||organised unit||victory||0g 3s||+1 swordfighting|
|2||undead||large organised unit||seriously wounded|
|21.09.1017||Oberndorf||Day||2||monsters||warband||victory||0g 5s||wooden stauette|
|21.09.1017||Oligarch||Night||1||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 0s||junk|
|1||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 0s||small barrel of beer|
|2||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 2s|
|1||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 0s||+1 adventuring|
|22.09.1017||Oberndorf||Day||1||monsters||a few||victory||0g 0s||honey|
|2||monsters||small group||victory||0g 2s|
|23.09.1017||Oberndorf||Night||1||monsters||a few||victory||0g 2s||honey|
|2||monsters||small group||victory||0g 1s|
|24.09.1017||Oberndorf||Day||1||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 0s||crystal globe|
|2||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 1s|
|25.09.1017||Oberndorf||Day||1||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 0s||moonstone|
|27.09.1017||Oligarch||Night||1||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 0s||fool's gold|
|Night||2||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 1s|
|Night||1||monsters||a few||victory||0g 6s|
|29.09.1017||Poitiers||Day||1||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 2s||+1 swordfighting|
|Day||2||undead||a disorganised few||victory||0g 3s|
|Day||2||undead||small group||victory||0g 9s||quartz