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[ARC 1] Tales from the West

on Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:44 pm
Kztóre Rakhát, Kšúkhešim, Toshkhat Empire.

Draped in a flowing, white cloak, a man that, judging by appearance, was somewhere in his mid-40s, stood on the edge of a small walled garden in one of the city's central market squares. He beckoned, pleaded, and shouted, attempting to corral the attention of those in the square and other passer-bys. The overall majority made a point of actively avoiding the man, clearly aware of his presence but actively avoiding eye contact and giving the man a wide berth as they passed by, like a bad smell, or as if he himself were a manifestation of the disease that he spoke of; a raving, rambling, toxic thing to be avoided.

Whether this was simply because they couldn't understand his words, spoken in his native language, or because they didn't care, or something else, the man wasn't certain, though certainly it occurred to the man that it may in fact be possible that they couldn't understand what he was saying, for as it was, he was the only human in the square, all the others there all being, though clearly both sentient and civilized, of races and species that he'd neither heard of nor encountered at any point in his life before.

Though the man considered himself relatively tall for a man of his species and race, he was dwarved by the vast majority of those he could see around the square. The vast majority of those, though standing on two feet like humans, were superficially felid in appearance, and though they certainly weren't mute, as attested by that he could clearly hear them talking amongst themselves, thus far, they'd not spoken a single word to him.

More concerning than being actively avoided however, despite the desperation by which be spoke, was that a significant portion of those in the square second only to the overall majority seem to be eyeing him up from a distance, watching him like a hawk with eyes of suspicion and disgust. He'd pleaded his case with the people for the better part of an hour, and though he'd had some concerns for his own safety since the moment he'd began the trek to the market square from the camp his crew had set up on the main highway just outside the city (this was, after all, a completely new land, to which his people had never set foot on before, new peoples, and new races to which his own people hadn't had any relations with at all to-date; he didn't know quite what to expect), nobody had bothered him yet, but at that moment, he couldn't help but feel as if something was wrong, like something bad was about to happen. Unable to see what could be the cause of this sudden feeling, he continued his case. "Please, I beseech of you all! This disease will reach ALL lands of the world! You MUST listen to me, and prepare for what will inevitably come! Nobody is safe, but.. my people and I, we have EXPERIENCE with this disease, and we can HELP you fight it! We can..."

It was then that he noticed the three men - at least, what he assumed were men, given that they weren't human and he'd had no prior experience with their species or races - all at least nearly two heads taller than himself, approach from the edges of the market, eyes remaining locked to his own. It was only then, as they stopped in front of him, one of them no more than a few feet away, that he noticed that all three were armoured, heavily armed, and now, aiming their armaments directly at him. The closest held a sword, while the other two aimed crossbows, in the case of all three, weapons somewhat larger and heavier than would be a comfortable burden for a human to bare. The one with the sword spoke sharply, not shouting, but loudly enough to be clearly heard. "Stop speaking, immediately. Step down, and turn around, slowly. You're hereby under arrest. If you..."

Unfortunately, much as it seemed that these people couldn't understand his words, it seemed also that he couldn't understand theirs. Seeing only the imminent threat, the man panicked, hastily turning to run in the opposite direction. As he turned and jumped off to wall to run towards his nearest escape route, he also failed to realise that it hadn't, in fact, been just three men. Landing on the square's cobbled paving, he came upon another, and before having any chance to slow down, to react, or reconsider his escape plan, a large, furred fist came snapping towards his face.

Not a moment later, darkness took hold.

When the man awoke some time later and opened his eyes, darkness remained. The air felt different, and he could hear some sounds, though they weren't the sounds of a marketplace or normal city life. The ground below him was smooth, cold, and hard. Wherever he was, he quickly ascertained that it was not outside; likely either in a fortified building, or underground. A bruise lingered across his entire face where he'd been struck, as well as several other small bruises along his wrists and feet, though he found himself otherwise unharmed. Though he could see nothing, his clothing remained and he hadn't been restrained, so he carefully stood up, and put his hands out to slowly feel around his surroundings. The first thing he discovered was a small, wooden table in front of him, as well as two oddly shaped, wooden chairs. Moving around them, but before he could explore any further, he heard a deep, commanding, yet controlled female voice speak from somewhere further ahead. He immediately looked to the direction of the voice, but could still see nothing, nor hear anything else to give away anything about the voice's owner. "Kèitú déne Toškhát'lu..?"

Though it sounded like a short question, he didn't wasn't sure how to answer. After a moment came another question. "Kèitú déne Kšúkhši'lu..?"

Still not sure how to answer, the process continued, with more questions, followed by more moments of silence. "Sudai'lu..? Baiši'lu..? Ban koth nói têng Warenlandr..? V'tlato t'Katzis q'e..?"

Until eventually, he heard something he could understand. "Do you speak common tongue..?"

Almost tripping over his own tongue, the man stammered a reply. "Y-yes! Yes, I speak common tongue! W.. Where am I?"

The female voice audibly exhaled in relief, before continuing, just as controlled as before. "You were placed under arrest. Tell me, what is your name?"

The man paused, processing what he'd heard. "..Under arrest? But.. W.. Why? What did I do? I didn't do anything wrong!"

A slight tapping, like the sound of a pencil on a desk, or a nail on a board could be heard. "Illegal border crossings. Undocumented, illegal border entry. Unauthorised public staging. Unauthorised encampment. Accessory to an illegal construction. Causing a public disturbance. Disrupting the peace. Violation of public health and safety laws. Violation of anti-propagander laws... And attempting to evade arrest."

He felt panic building up inside as the female voice listed off one item after another, all of which came as quite the surprise. A minute or two passed as he attempted to calm his heart rate and breathing, both which had accelerated a moment earlier. In particular, her mention of "unauthorised encampment" and "illegal construction" alarmed him. He had arrived with others; Had they been arrested too..?

"I ask again: What is your name?"

He wasn't sure whether he should respond, or how he should respond. Should he give his real name? Should he remain silent? This was a new land, and he knew nothing of the laws of this land, yet alone its legal processes, or what fate it may have in store for him. Feeling strongly that he hadn't truly done anything wrong though, he opted to place faith in the truth. "My name is Thanos."
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Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the West

on Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:47 pm
Trialith Mountains, Toshkhat Empire

High in the mountains, far from civilization, a rather odd pair felt right at home. Miranda, a human, climbed around the side of a near-vertical slope, skillfully moving from one handhold to the next. Beneath her feet was largely an abyss; any mistake here would be almost certain death. However, this was no deterrent for Mira. Even with the extra weight of a winter coat, a pack full of camping gear and her twin hook swords she moved almost as easily along the cliff face as others would on level ground.

Her companion, on the other hand, was in little danger here. As a fairy Leeta could easily dart from place to place on her emerald wings. For her any place that was a usable handhold for Mira was a ledge to stand on. Still, Leeta seemed to be far more concerned for her companion's safety than Mira was. She flew back into a hover some distance from the wall, scouting the route ahead of Mira, but could not find a way forward. She flew back towards the cliff, pausing just behind Mira's shoulder to ensure her soft voice could be heard.

"So... you got a plan? I don't see a way forward here."

Mira paused to look farther ahead, checking for another set of handholds. Leeta was partially right; past a few feet there was nothing else to grab within arm's reach. However, past the smooth section there was a rocky outcropping, several feet outside of arm's reach from the nearest handhold.

"Sure there is," Mira replied. She moved ahead to her last handhold, found a few spots to brace her feet against and leaned towards them, bending her knees. Leeta quickly realized what she was about to do, even before she saw the outcropping. "Oh here we go," she said, just as Mira made her move, kicking off the wall and launching herself laterally. She caught the outcropping with her right hand, using her momentum to swing her legs towards an indentation, which she caught with her left foot. With that she brought herself to a stop, found a hold for her remaining hand and foot and resumed climbing, ascending towards a small ledge.

"You do understand that I probably can't heal you if you break every bone in your body... right?" Leeta asked.

"Don't be so dramatic," Mira replied, pulling herself up to the ledge. Leeta readied her staff and darted around Mira's arms and legs, using her magic to heal the various scrapes and bruises she had accumulated. She had traveled with Mira often enough to know where the injuries would be; the fact that she couldn't see the scrapes through Mira's coat was barely a hindrance.

As Leeta finished her work she perched on Mira's shoulder. The pair of them paused for a moment to take in the view. From their vantage point they could see for miles across the landscape towards the east, as well as a small part of the ocean beyond that. They looked to the northeast, following the path they had taken to get to this point. The coastal town of Serái Rakhát was somewhere in that direction, the place they had originally sailed in to from Drakenlloch, though by now they were too far to see it. Towards the south and southeast the mountain ranged continued much farther than they could see. For several minutes neither of them said anything; the view may not have been the reason they traveled this far but it was certainly a bonus, one neither of them was eager to pass up. The only sounds were those of the gentle breeze against the mountain and their own breathing, forming small clouds of fog with each exhale.

It was Mira who finally broke the silence: "Rest of the path looks easy enough. Should take us right up to the cave."

"Oh good, so that stunt of yours was the hard part."

"Oh no," Mira replied, starting on the next path up the mountain. "We're not at the hard part yet."

The pair shifted their gaze towards the peak to see the real reason they had traveled here. A massive reptile slowly circled the mountain, held aloft by a pair of leathery wings. It constantly adjusted its gaze, scanning every inch of its territory, until something caught its attention. The creature folded its wings and dropped into a steep dive, following the mountain's slope within a few feet of the ground, talons outstretched. It dropped out of view for a moment before ascending back over the ridge, wings extended and legs swept back. With the dragon back in line of sight Mira and Leeta could now tell what had prompted the move. It was clutching a pair of large mountain goats in its talons, both thrashing helplessly in an effort to escape.

"So... uhh... dragons don't really like to hunt people... right?" Leeta asked.

"Right, more trouble than we're worth for less meat," Mira replied. "All we have to do now is avoid drawing too much attention and make sure they don't think of us as a threat."

"Right. Simple enough..."
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Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the West

on Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:48 pm
Serái Rakhát, Toškhátšim, Toshkhat Empire.

Nestled against a river, in a frozen valley where few things grow in the far north of Toškhátšim, backup by vast mountain ranges to the west, and facing the ocean to the east, lay the port town of Serái Rakhát. With the exclusion of Dragon Watch, Serái Rakhát stood as the northern-most settlement of the empire, and despite its cold environment and being mostly frozen over for most of the year, stood as a warm and welcoming place for almost all that sought harbour there, a popular place for traders and merchants of all description, and a main port of call for anyone traveling to or from the empire via the cold and desolate northern reaches.

Nestled in the port's docks, alongside various merchant ships, fishing boats and the likes, were a handful of military ships hailing from the neighbouring nation of Drakenlloch, there by invitation of their current host nation, the Toshkhat Empire. Having docked several hours earlier, by that point, most of the passengers of these ships had already acquainted themselves with the immediate area, including a medium-sized tavern located directly opposite the docks, on the other side of the strip serving as the main thoroughfare for those entering or leaving the docks. This tavern, owned by the Toshkhat military and equipped with lodgings, had been cleared out prior to the arrival of Drakenlloch's ships and prepared as a neutral location for officers from Drakenlloch and the Toshkhat Empire respectively to meet up and coordinate.

A hundred or so meters up the strip, a small group of Toshkhat headed towards the tavern, mostly various officers from the Toshkhat side of the impending joint operation for which the empire had invited Drakenlloch to Serái Rakhát. Amongst them was Iantó Lansemár; a tracker, mountain guide, professional hunter, and former shock trooper, recently commissioned to serve as a guide and tracker for one of the Drakenlloch squads. Though Iantó, being Baiši, felt at relative ease in the cold weather, a number of the others in the group, shivering, looked visibly uncomfortable as they moved brisky on their way.

The ranking officer of the group briefly waving his identification tag to a guard at the door and the two of them exchanging a quick nod, the group entered the tavern. Though to an extent, the empire claimed citizenry of a multitude of different species, ethnic groups and denominations, its citizenry was compromised primarily of the toshkhat, and so, entering the tavern, the group encountered a somewhat higher degree of diversity than the norm by the standards of the empire, due to significant diversity of Drakenlloch's own citizenry, and thus, military personnel and associated attaché.

Iantó waited and watched as the ranking officer of his group slipped away to the back of the room and spoke quietly to the envoy responsible for commanding and organising Drakenlloch's part in the impending joint operation. The ranking officer pointed to Iantó briefly, both they and the envoy locking eyes momentarily, the envoy giving a brief nod of acknowledgement before the two returned to their quiet conversation.

One of the other officers in the group looked to Iantó and two other non-officers in the group, before moving off. "Stay here until told otherwise."

The remainder of the group had already melded in with the crowd by that point, leaving Iantó and these two others, a female Baiši and a slightly shivering, male Sahrai, standing together as they were. They'd already each made their introductions earlier, had conversed with one another thoroughly during the course of short journey together, and knew why they were all there, and there wasn't much else left to be said by that point, though there wasn't much chance for further conversation anyhow, as a few moments later, the ranking officer from earlier returned. "Iantó. Follow."

He gestured as he began heading towards one of the squads in the room, situation near the far corner. Arriving, he saluted the ranking officer of the squad, before gesturing to Iantó. "Squad leader. This is the guide and tracker assigned to your squad, as per the brief. Any problems at all, the brief, staff, equipment.. See me before you head out."

Not a moment later, he turned, heading back towards the other, presumably to take them to where they needed to be. Iantó briefly looked to each of those in the squad; A wide range of different species, shapes, and sizes, including a six-limbed individual that he thought might've been lynel, though he couldn't be certain, having only heard of them, and never actually seeing one before. "Iantó Lansemár. Nice to meet you all."
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Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the West

on Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:59 pm
Citadel Shallowsend, Commonwealth of Kayerin.

The first light of dawn came poking in through the window, an unwelcome intruder to Caulin’s sleepy eyes. Old Kayric legend claimed that the sunrise began when the Ancient Fisherman cast his net into the Umber Sea, rowing his fishing boat from East to West as the day passed. When nightfall came, the Fisherman hauled in his catch, the drowned remnants of those who had perished that day; the souls of men.

This particular morning, Caulin Vale found himself wishing he was a drowned remnant, and out of his misery. He sat bolt upright, only to find that the headache generated by his hangover was particularly exquisite this morn, throbbing as if multiple blacksmiths were using his brain as an anvil. The negative effects only intensified as a loud, staccato knocking commenced at his chamber door.

He shuffled out of bed and promptly tripped over his own boots. Simultaneously, the door flung wide open, and Caulin locked eyes with a scowling Sergeant Brauleck. The craggy-featured man with sandpapery salt-and-pepper facial hair regarded the sprawling young Chivalric with equal parts contempt and mock astonishment.

“So sorry to disturb your rest, Leftenant Vale…sir,” the sergeant quipped. “But your carriage awaits downstairs. Shall I relay him a message?”

Caulin’s cheeks reddened. “I’ll be down in five minutes.” Insolent fool. Brauleck was constantly treading the edge of insubordination, and Caulin knew the Sergeant regarded his junior officer with a deeply seated hatred. Caulin heard the whispers of the Chivalric squadron, in the mess, on the practice fields. Privileged, they called him, an inferior progeny of a once-proud but now failing family.

“As you wish, Leftenant.” Brauleck saluted and took his leave, his mouth quirking in a wry grin. The rumblings of discontent might make their way up the chain of command, this time. Well, fuck if it does. I never wanted this position anyway. Any of this.

Ironically, he was being summoned back to Fairhope for the Ceremony of Accolades, a function where members of the Chivalric Order were honored for their accomplishments. Caulin was to receive the Blooded Rose, a decoration denoting high valor in the midst of combat.

An empty glory, for he didn’t deserve it, a truth only Caulin knew. Even thinking of receiving the Rose caused guilt to gnaw at his stomach. But facing the truth, and the consequences, would be even worse.

Fortunately, on his dresser, the bottle from last night was not yet empty.

Caulin drained the last of it. It was wiser to stay numb. It was better this way.
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Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the West

on Mon Apr 02, 2018 1:47 pm
Only a faint light could be seen as it touched the edges of the horizon, soon to chase away the darkness with the light of morning. It was still the early morning, so early that even the birds had not yet awoken to great the dawn with their chirping sounds that signaled to all that a new day was about to begin. It was still early, but for those that guarded the capital city of Fairhope, it wasn't early at all. The day had already begun.

Standing outside in the courtyard of Fairhope's main courtyard stood numerous rows of men, each donned with armor and fitted with weapons ranging from swords and spears to axes and morning stars. They all maintained a perfect formation, not a single one of them moving in the darkness that would have made it almost impossible for anyone to discern the slightest sign of movement. At least that's what one of them thought.

A tall, lanky lad of about sixteen years old felt a slight pain in his ankle, so he decided to shift his weight ever so slightly to remove the discomfort. That movement, though executed in almost utter darkness, didn't escape unnoticed.

"Move one more time, boy, and you'll be moving a lot more in discomfort once I hand out some discipline on this fine morning," a voice suddenly said right next to his right ear, but coming from a height of somewhere around the very top of his shoulder. The voice was ever so soft, but at the same time so quiet that it made him shudder internally. He dared not move again, knowing all too well who was standing in the darkness right beside him, most likely looking up at his face to gauge his reaction.

"The sign of a true warrior is the ability and fortitude to endure extreme discomfort, pain, and even death, knowing why he is doing it. Discipline builds character. Don't fail in building yours. You've been warned," the voice continued in that quiet tone, making it very clear that another infraction of that sort wouldn't be tolerated.

"Yes, ma'am," the startled boy replied as he refocused his attention on maintaining complete and absolute serenity.

He heard the sound of footsteps leave his side, and he refrained from releasing a sigh of relief that the encounter hadn't gone any worse. If there's one thing the members of the Army of Fairhope knew, it was not to underestimate, disrespect, or disappoint Major Rexan.

Major Rexan continued her methodical walk among the rows of men in formation, looking for any sign of failure or mistake. She had a sharp eye, and everyone she commanded knew it. As one of the only female officers to date in the Army of Fairhope (the only actual army in the entire country of Kayerin), she had earned her place by being in the same position that these men were in on that morning. She knew full well what the experience was like, because she had lived it. In fact, she had lived it since she was thirteen, and twenty-two years later she could say that she had come very far in her military career. Here she was, commanding the respect of her soldiers and demanding that they give their upmost to their solemn duty of defending Fairhope and its designated leaders.

At first glance, a bystander would have probably guessed that Major Kantyn was a man, simply due to her short-cropped black hair and her overall demeanor. But she was still a woman, one who had to fight an uphill battle to secure a position in the military and one who firmly believed in what she defended as a member of the Army of Fairhope.

By the time she finished her morning inspection of the troops, something she did quite regularly, she retired from the proceedings, leaving just as the sun started to creep over the horizon. She was gone before the soldiers could actually see her face in the daylight, leaving them with only the memory of her quiet voice to haunt them for the rest of the day.


Last edited by MirkwoodArcher on Thu May 10, 2018 11:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the West

on Mon Apr 02, 2018 3:35 pm
Citadel Shallowsend, Commonwealth of Kayerin.

A drizzling rain had started earlier that morning, and only intensified as Caulin concluded his travel preparations, clinking grey drops slicing down from an overcast sky. Once the sun had topped the horizon, the ruddy light of dawn had dissipated, giving way to a dreary leaden hue.

The last order of business was to saddle up; the stables were on the western flank of the Citadel, virtually straddling the cliffside. Caulin looked briefly from an outer window; the Bay of Antlers frothed below, more turbulent than usual; the high tide was coming in with fervor, dashing foam against the rough mottled sand. It would be hard going for any ships trying to make port that day, for the Bay was narrow to begin with, and on the outskirts of the Bay, just past the cliffs, lay ranks of sharp rocks like jagged teeth. Shallowsend was a grim watchman atop the Bay, melding with the natural rock formations as if it was hewn from the mountains themselves. The city was mostly built with the same dark stone that formed the cliffs, and from a distance it was equally jagged, with many towers and spires jutting out above the outer walls. It was the last frontier of Old Kayerin, the last border outpost before the lands of the winterborn, the Icri, called in their native tongue the Taügumiat. They were a swarthy people, dark-haired and dark-eyed, with strong jutting foreheads – Icri in Old Kayric meant Heavy-Browed.

Although the Clans nominally bore allegiance to the Grand Conclave, the ruling body of Kayerin, and had for a hundred years, it still was more of a truce than a true assimilation. Kayerin still, to most of its citizens, consisted of the traditional boundaries of the old country, although in the past twenty or so years some had migrated south to the Clan lands, and on the island of Siak, settlements apparently had been established, populated by mixed-race children with both Taügumiat and Kayeraini parentage.

The stablehand was one of those half-breeds, Caulin knew, a tall youth with jet-black hair and the Icri forehead, yet his eyes were a green hue that no full-blooded winterborn would bear. He was a solemn and expressionless fellow, silently bringing Caulin’s mount to him saddled and bridled, and only giving a brief nod in response to Caulin’s thanks. No wonder they group together on an island, Caulin thought to himself. On the mainland, the stablehand would probably never encounter anyone who could accept him as one of their group – he was relegated to the outskirts of Kayeraini and Taügumiat society alike.

“I hope you’re ready for the journey, old friend,” Caulin murmured to his mount. The gelding was getting on in years, yet his brown eyes flickered with a keen intelligence. He had been Caulin’s mount ever since he had joined the ranks of the Chivalric Order, a long-limbed, sturdy animal named Smoke for his mottled gray-black coloring. He snorted, as if hearing and responding to Caulin’s statement.

The rain was going to make it an uncomfortable day of travel, Caulin knew. He was wearing his full gear, silver mail that had once been bright and new, but had lost its luster years ago. It wouldn’t do in Fairhope, of course. The Chivalrics would certainly replace it, encasing him in a new silvery beetle-shell that would look appropriately imposing for the ceremony. Everything in Fairhope was like that; focused on appearances, while underneath the surface, the wheels and gears of politics turned unceasingly. The Commonwealth of Kayerin, they styled the nation; the irony of the title grew with each passing day, as the ruling factions trod over the common people. Fairhope was wealthy, yes, and so was Porto Qualis and Caurispont; cities whose decadence was on par with the faraway regimes of Thysia or Castinis. But meanwhile, the poverty in the nation grew; small villages became ghost towns as people clustered in the most populated cities. And on the outreaches of the nation, in places like Shallowsend, the people became ever grimmer and less friendly, even hostile, resenting the inlanders as wealthy parasites. Even though some resented Caulin because of the Vale family’s reputation as typical rich pariahs from Fairhope, he realized that over his years on the frontier, he had grown to be much different than his family. And he found himself not wanting to go back. Shallowsend was his home, dark and lonely and unadorned as it was.

Hopefully, he could muster up the resolve to tell the truth, even if it meant that he was no longer deserving of the Blooded Rose. For if Aruunoq, the Deathbreather, survived, then it was not only Shallowsend that was in danger, but all the realm.

“Leftenant Vale, sir,” came a voice from the side. It was a skinny blond man with only a faint wisp of beard, but his armor was that of a Chivalric acolyte. The youth’s name was Peppan, an Uscreni street urchin who had joined up and promptly been sent out to the frontier. He was a plucky lad, though, and a hard worker no matter what task was assigned to him.

“Yes, Acolyte Peppan?”

“Some of the men…er…wanted to give you a parting gift. For the road, as it were. Might keep you warm, especially if this wind whips up into a storm as they say it will.” Peppan held up a gauntleted hand.

Caulin grinned as his fingers gripped the outline of the glass bottle. It was fine Thysian wine from the fabled vineyards of Apóvlitos, and very expensive.

“..And I just wanted to say, sir, if I may. I’ve been honored to serve under Caulin Shamanbane. I hope one day I can become like you.”

Caulin felt his smile freeze, reminded once again of his failures, of his deceit. He bent down, looked the acolyte square in the eye. “If I’ve learned one thing in my life, Peppan, it’s that there’s no such thing as heroes. Only men with blood on their hands.” He watched the youth’s face fall, and regretted the coldness of his statement, but knew that it was also true.

“Without heroes, the world would be a sorry place, if I might say so, sir.”

“The world isn’t built by heroes, Pep. It’s built by men like you. Remember that.”

Caulin spurred Smoke onward, and the gelding trotted out into the rain, which was pouring by now, soaking the hood of Caulin’s olive-colored cloak and running down every crevice and chink in his armor. There was a fog rolling in from the coast as well, thick and white and cold. Peppan held his salute for a long time, and Caulin looked briefly back at the outline of the young yellow-haired Chivalric until he was finally obscured by the mist. Shallowsend’s spires were visible for a little longer, tall and dark, but their outlines grew gradually fainter and fainter until they, too, were lost entirely.

The rain was going to make it an uncomfortable day of travel, Caulin knew. He was wearing his full gear, silver mail that had once been bright and new, but had lost its luster years ago. It wouldn’t do in Fairhope, of course. The Chivalrics would certainly replace it, encasing him in a new silvery beetle-shell that would look appropriately imposing for the ceremony. Everything in Fairhope was like that; focused on appearances, while underneath the surface, the wheels and gears of politics turned unceasingly. The Commonwealth of Kayerin, they styled the nation; the irony of the title grew with each passing day, as the ruling factions trod over the common people. Fairhope was wealthy, yes, and so was Porto Qualis and Caurispont; cities whose decadence was on par with the faraway regimes of Thysia or Castinis. But meanwhile, the poverty in the nation grew; small villages became ghost towns as people clustered in the most populated cities. And on the outreaches of the nation, in places like Shallowsend, the people became ever grimmer and less friendly, even hostile, resenting the inlanders as wealthy parasites. Even though some resented Caulin because of the Vale family’s reputation as typical rich pariahs from Fairhope, he realized that over his years on the frontier, he had grown to be much different than his family. And he found himself not wanting to go back. Shallowsend was his home, dark and lonely and unadorned as it was.

Hopefully, he could muster up the resolve to tell the truth, even if it meant that he was no longer deserving of the Blooded Rose. For if Aruunoq, the Deathbreather, survived, then it was not only Shallowsend that was in danger, but all the realm.

“Leftenant Vale, sir,” came a voice from the side. It was a skinny blond man with only a faint wisp of beard, but his armor was that of a Chivalric acolyte. The youth’s name was Peppan, an Uscreni street urchin who had joined up and promptly been sent out to the frontier. He was a plucky lad, though, and a hard worker no matter what task was assigned to him.

“Yes, Acolyte Peppan?”

“Some of the men…er…wanted to give you a parting gift. For the road, as it were. Might keep you warm, especially if this wind whips up into a storm as they say it will.” Peppan held up a gauntleted hand.

Caulin grinned as his fingers gripped the outline of the glass bottle. It was fine Thysian wine from the fabled vineyards of Apóvlitos, and very expensive.

“..And I just wanted to say, sir, if I may. I’ve been honored to serve under Caulin Shamanbane. I hope one day I can become like you.”

Caulin felt his smile freeze, reminded once again of his failures, of his deceit. He bent down, looked the acolyte square in the eye. “If I’ve learned one thing in my life, Peppan, it’s that there’s no such thing as heroes. Only men with blood on their hands.” He watched the youth’s face fall, and regretted the coldness of his statement, but knew that it was also true.

“Without heroes, the world would be a sorry place, if I might say so, sir.”

“The world isn’t built by heroes, Pep. It’s built by men like you. Remember that.”

Caulin spurred Smoke onward, and the gelding trotted out into the rain, which was pouring by now, soaking the hood of Caulin’s olive-colored cloak and running down every crevice and chink in his armor. There was a fog rolling in from the coast as well, thick and white and cold. Peppan held his salute for a long time, and Caulin looked briefly back at the outline of the young yellow-haired Chivalric until he was finally obscured by the mist. Shallowsend’s spires were visible for a little longer, tall and dark, but their outlines grew gradually fainter and fainter until they, too, were lost entirely.
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Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the West

on Fri May 11, 2018 12:14 am
The warm rays from the rising sun shone through the open window, inviting natural light into the normally cold room. The sound of clanking, armored feet echoed up from the courtyard as Major Rexan stood at the window, now observing the troops from high above where they would not notice her presence. After retreating from the inspections grounds, she made her way up to the room that had been turned over to her upon her promotion to major. Only higher ranking officers were allowed to have their own "chambers" or "office" in the higher levels of the Commonwealth's military headquarters, and Major Rexan had achieved such a feat.

A slight gust of wind blew through the window, ruffling the simple white drapes that outlined the window frame. Simplicity, especially in a military context, was a sign of detachment to extravagance and personal possessions. While most of Major Rexan's peers among the officers' corps, all of whom were male, preferred some level of simplicity, she was set to prove that she could master that mindset and lifestyle better than anyone else. Her office was furnished with a wooden desk, one without any ornate carvings that would be expected for positions of higher prestige and respect. On the wall behind the desk was a mounted display of arms, one of which was the sword that she wielded in the defining test to become an officer. Apart from those sparse fixtures, nothing else noteworthy had a place in the room.

The knock at the door, while sharp and unexpected, did not break Major Rexan's stance at the window, nor did it cause her to flinch.

"Enter," she said in a very neutral tone.

The sound of armored footsteps echoed across the wooden floor, stopping roughly four paces behind Major Rexan. Her trained hearing could judge distances even without seeing them.

"Ma'am, the preparations are in order for the ceremony of the Blooded Rose," the young corporal reported, standing erect and stoic even though her gaze was not yet upon him.

"Very good," Major Rexan replied, executing a perfect about face. "This ceremony must take place without any mistakes. Leadership will be watching, and I was placed in charge of this event because anything less than the best is not an option. Is there any word yet on whether the recipient will be in attendance on time? Better put, he is supposed to be there on time."

"About that, Major Rexan," the corporal begin, a hint of uncertainty in his voice, "the last we heard, the recipient is supposed to be in route."

"Is that uncertainty I hear in your voice, Corporal?" came the icy question.

"No, no...my apologies, ma'am. The report confirmed that he has been informed and is in route," the corporal said, regaining his confidence.

"I expect nothing less," Major Rexan replied, turning about again to signal without words that the corporal's purpose for being in her office had come to an end.

The corporal retreated without a word, thankful to have avoided an unwanted reprimand from his superior as to why he expressed uncertainty. However, he, like his fellow military comrades, knew that the recipient of the Blooded Rose had his problems. The corporal simply hoped for his own sake that those problems never found their way into the ceremony, or anything leading up to it.
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Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the West

on Sun Aug 05, 2018 4:33 pm
Atlisqo, Protectorate of Katzlan.

Raeng's journey thus far had proceeded without any hitches or unpleasantries. Paying for a bunk on a merchant ship, she'd set sail from the port city of Xamsot, on the northern coast of the Warenlandr Commonwealth, experiencing several days of smooth sailing on warm, gentle winds shared with a friendly but otherwise mostly unremarkable merchant crew before arriving at the port city of Atlisqo, nestled in the swampland delta formed between two diverging rivers as they met the southern coast of the Protectorate of Katzlan.

Having booked in at a small inn overlooking the port's harbour to spend the night, she'd spent the better part of the day trying to locate a willing vessel for the next part of her journey, thus far, without success. Without a doubt, there were plenty of boats and ships docked at the harbour, and plenty of them willing to take on passengers. The problem, however, was that thus far, none of them had been interested in going the direction she'd needed to go. Certainly, her destination was not an unusual one, but as it was, she seemed to have arrived at the wrong end of the month, where routes had most traveling elsewhere.

She could wait if it came down to it, but given the nature of her journey, she would've preferred to not wait for too long if at all possible. Luckily, a few vessels still remained near the end of the docks, so she continued onward.

As she approached the next, looking across the deck, she could see only one crewman aboard; a tall, brightly coloured T'katzis, appearing more like a scholar than a sailor in his loosely fitted robes. The vessel wasn't quite as large as the merchant ship she'd boarded to reach the Protectorate, but on appearances at least, seemed seaworthy, and very new.

Stepping towards the edge of the vessel and facing the T'katzis crewman, recalling her knowledge of the T'katzis language, Raeng called out. "Hello there! Where abouts are you headed?"

The robed T'katzis, who had been absorbed in counting supplies and loading crates onto his ship jumped slightly at being called. Turning about, he spotted the unusual stranger peering at him and his ship. She was certainly no T'katzis, he noted—judging by appearances, she appeared to be a Warenlandrnen. One of the first he would ever speak to.

"Greetings, traveler. I sail east—I don't have any specific destination planned. If you don't mind my asking, what brings a Warenlandrnen to Katzlan? You're quite far from home." He asked. His voice was low and gravely, befitting of his appearance, however well-spoken and well-mannered.

Raeng smiled. This particular T'katzis seemed friendly, and receptive; a good sign. The vast majority of them were, of course, but as with any peoples anywhere, not all of them were. "I'm from the Mechanics Guild in Taisot; a small town in the Warenlandr Commonwealth. I've got a short-term contract for a job up north in Kztóre Rakhát, and I'm hoping I might be able to find someone willing to get me there, or at least somewhere reasonably close to it. I would be paying, of course." Putting on her most hopeful, disarming smile, complete with slight head-tilt, she continued. "I'm guessing it might be a bit too far out of the way though..?"

Scratching his chin with a clawed finger, the T'katzis closed his vivid amber eyes for a long moment as he considered her proposition.

"Hmm, well, with no destination in mind, I don't think being 'too far out of the way' would be much of an issue." He answered eventually. "I'll take you there, traveler—hopefully you don't grow weary of my company."

Raeng's smile grew wider. "That's great! And I'm sure I wouldn't grow weary of your company at all. I've already got everything I need with me", Raeng said, indicating with a sheathed thumb to the laden backpack she wore. She'd already checked out of the inn earlier, being hopeful of being able to leave that day, despite not being entirely sure at the time, and had already repacked her belongings and equipment she'd had prepared for the journey. "So, I'm ready to leave at any time. Shall I come on board and we begin planning?"

"Hmm, fine then. But before you climb aboard, perhaps we should exchange names? I'd rather not call you by something like 'Warenlandrnen', 'Traveler', or 'you over there'." The T'katzis said with the hint of a smirk. "My name is Tir'eólan Vn'aradh. Colleagues and friends call me Tir." He ended with a short, polite bow and a nod of his horned head.

Raeng chuckled a little. "Of course. I should introduce myself. My name is Raeng Thévinh." She bowed politely in return. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Tir."
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Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the West

on Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:33 pm
At Sea, Eastern Coastline of Protectorate of Katzlan.

Water lapped calmly against the hull of the ship, rocking it slightly to and fro as he sliced through the waves. With their bearing northward, and having already traversed the channel between T’xoco Tlawitlqo and the small island bearing the coastal town of T’xoco Huitzlqo, all that lay before them was the rugged coastline of the Protectorate to the immediate port side of their ship, while a vast open ocean lay to their bow and starboard.

Though more of a scholar than a sailor, a talent for manning a vessel and keeping her en route was in his T'katzis blood. With little effort, he manned the rigging and direction of their single-masted ship adeptly. In the calmer waters off the coast, he took the time to sit at the helm and enjoy the sense of adventure in the air.

His company in Raeng also interested him deeply—it had been years since he last spoke to someone who didn't have scales and claws. With the relative quiet of the ocean, and not else to do aside from enjoy the ride, he took the initiative to get to know his newfound compatriot.

"Miss Raeng, if you don't mind me asking, what is it you're traveling for? It's not often we happen upon travelers, especially in Katzlan. And especially Warenlandrnen." Tir asked, not bothering to mask his curiosity.

Raeng, staring thoughtfully towards the horizon, gave a second or two pause before responding. "Some people back home have caught wind of some interesting rumours, about some things which might be about to happen in the Empire. The rumours are a bit.. vague.. and probably false too, I think. But, I've been offered the contract to investigate them. That, and it's a good opportunity to find out whether there's been any interesting new things developed in the Empire recently."

Raeng, now facing Tir directly, gave a sheepish smile. "I mentioned when we first met, that I'm a member of a Commonwealth mechanics guild. There are a few guilds and such in the Empire, too. If there's an opportunity for it.. It could be fun to compare notes."

"Fascinating..." Tir said, looking to Raeng as he continued to steer their vessel alongside the coast. "Mechanics are rare as it is—you're the first I've ever met. Though I suppose when you consider things from an archeological perspective, the corner-stones of civilization are built upon the skills of mechanics—thinkers and do-ers, if you will. What is it that you create?"

"Mmm.." Raeng was momentarily indecisive about the best way to answer. "I've invented, developed, and built a wide range of mechanical devices and contraptions throughout my career. This includes everything from every day items like pulleys, triggers, spring devices and such, through to more complex things like clockwork armour, automation tools, watches, clocks, timers, sequencers... I've built a few odd automatons before, in the past. I don't specialise in any one particular kind of creation though. Much of my work does tend to have at least some element to it though related to improving mechanical theory in some way.

How about yourself? I get the impression that you've had some academic background yourself."

"How intriguing—it sounds like quite a life you've led up until now! As for myself, I suppose you could call me both a teacher and a student." Tir chuckled for a moment, thinking back to his days as a pupil in school, voraciously learning as much as he could from his teachers and mentors. "However, my background has always been in archeological history and anthropology. Until now, much of that was focused on Katzlan, however my passion has always been in understanding much and more of the world outside the Protectorate." He gestured his arm about their ship. "Hence spending the coin on this beauty... I think I shall call her The Eún L'uáth."

Raeng nodded in acknowledgment. "Interesting.. I don't know much about archeology, but it sounds you've got an interesting plan, I think."
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Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the West

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