Post by AK_Brickster on Mar 7, 2014 12:02:30 GMT -8
I will add to this as more elements of the story are developed.
If you'd like to read the sections in their entirety, complete with pictures, the links for each "chapter" are provided for your convenience.
To discuss the Global Storyline, or suggest corrections or changes, use this thread here.
As we begin our story of the Land of Roawia, we find a country divided between four factions: The faction of Garheim in the northern realm, Lenfald in the forested central lands, Loreos in the southern deserts, and a hodgepodge of independent outlaw barons and bandits scattered throughout the lands, though mostly concentrated in the swamps and mysterious islands of the deep south.
For a more comprehensive history of Roawia, please read the official lore, which can be found here:
As explained in the lore, the king of Roawia is mainly a figurehead, although his presence has, for now, kept hostilities between the factions in check.
Global Challenge I - THE ROYAL FEAST
With tension growing between the factions and the number of outlaw raids increasing, rumors of war travel on whispers throughout the lands.
Vexed by this state of tension, the King has summoned representatives from each of the three factions to announce a day of feasting and celebration. To the far reaches of the realm he has dispatched wagons brimming with food and ale, which he hopes will help put the smallfolk at ease and win him favor among the nobles.
However, the roads of Roawia are treacherous, and some of the wagons have already found their way into outlaw hands. Perhaps some of the outlaws will do some celebrating of their own!
Global Challenge II - THE SEARCH FOR THE SWORD
Long ago, a king by the name of Karlamac ruled Roawia. His rule was just and fair, but also one of the sword. Roawia was still a young unity, and many rebellions and brigands still needed to be crushed. The sword that King Karlamac wielded into many battles imposed fear on all his enemies, and lifted the spirits of all who were his allies.
Some say that the sword was given to the King by the gods themselves, and that it had true supernatural powers, but there was also a catch: The sword could only be possessed by the one to whom it is given by its previous owner. Anyone else who has tried to wield this weapon has often had its mythical powers fail them at a most crucial time.
Duke Wirklich Nervig of Lenfald, the most recent owner of the sword, fearing its power, hid it in a remote location for safe keeping. Unable to produce an heir, he failed to disclose its location before his death, and the sword has been lost for nearly 100 years now. Since its master never gifted it to a successor, the power of the sword is believed to belong to anyone who can find it. Many treasure-seekers and those who yearn to utilize the powerful weapon still search for it to this day, but it may never be found, for it is rumored that the Duke left many false clues and planted counterfeit swords throughout the land in the hope that the sword would remain hidden forever. There are questions that perhaps none can answer about it. Where is it hidden and what does it look like? Does it still posses the magic that once made it the most powerful weapon in Roawia?
In his continuing effort to unite the land, the King has offered a handsome reward for anyone who can procure the true sword and will turn it over to him. He plans to use it to squash the outlaws in the south, as the Loreesi and Lenfels have been encountering fierce resistance despite their best efforts. Of course the outlaws, hearing this news, are eager to locate the sword for themselves. Some would sell out for the treasure reward, but others with greater aspirations see it as a way to seize the power for their own dubious uses.
Who will prevail? Will the sword be returned to the King, or will it be used for a power-grab?
(A Loreesi merchant by the name of Thomas Arrowford was able to locate the sword. However, the sword’s powers seem to have faded due to years of non-use, and it is now nothing more than a decorative relic hanging on his wall)
Global Challenge III – PURGING THE MAGIC ISLES
For years, the lawful rulers of Roawia tolerated the use of magic on islands isolated off of the eastern shores because the Lands were divided and we were on the brink of internal war. Now, with mutual treaties bringing the factions closer together, the King of Roawia has decided that it is time to finally cleanse the world of the vile and dangerous practices of sorcery! Together, we can rid our lands of their filth!
Join together, Lenfel, Garhim and Loreesi, and we will vanquish this evil once and for all!
Prince Jarius of Loreos stormed into the agreed-upon meeting place, fuming at the lack of support in the latest battle. The Loreesi had gone forward with the attack, expecting reinforcements from their Lenfald and Garheim allies, but had been mowed down and slaughtered when none came to their aid against the heathen foe.
He strode up to Lord Triphian and Jhirian Eindrik. He pierced their eyes with his flaming gaze. "How is it that the Loreesi must fight alone, while their allies bask in the shade?! I lost 300 of my best knights, while you all relax!"
The Lenfel Lord replied hotly, "I remember nothing about being asked to help you fight this battle! And If you had brought more soldiers, you wouldn’t have to beg for our help so often!"
The now-infuriated prince unsheathed his sword in a flash, and it would have come to blows but for Jhirian Eindrik. Silent until this moment, he boomed "Now this is insupportable! Stay your arm, desert prince, for you are among equals!"
Piqued, Lord Triphian yelped, "I can defend myself, thou over-bearded Garhim!"
Jhirian Eindrik did not reply, but turned a deep shade of purple and sent the Lenfel leader a smoldering glare.
Enraged, Jarius charged from camp and ordered all the remaining Loreesi troops to immediately depart from the magic isles...
The attempted purge was over as soon as it had begun.
Now more serious problems have arisen... war looms once again on the horizon of Roawia.
THE ARRIVAL OF CHARTRES
Mark of Falworth was finally able to complete his journey across the vast expanse of the Galaphona desert. He arrived at the capital city and proceeded to the palace of Lorean to see the Prince Jarius, who he had not seen since his return to Loreos from the Magic Isles.
Prince Lorean spoke, "I have a very important mission I would like to set you on. Do you remember when I contracted an alliance with the house of Wenseclaus to secure peace between Loreos and Lenfald?"
"Yes, I remember, But the High Lord Godfrey Wenseclaus II died not too long afterwards without an heir, there was much civil disorder as the nobles of Lenfald fought to straighten things out."
"Your statement is true, except for one facet. Godfrey Wenseclaus II did, and still does, have a legitimate heir!"
Mark took a step backwards in shock.
"What!? That is impossible! The reports from Lenfald..."
"...Are not always as truthful as they should be, Mark. This scandalous treachery is, no doubt, the work of the evil baron who tried to seize the province after the High Lord died.
The true heir was being held prisoner in a small castle to the south of Isil Oro and he just barely managed to escape some weeks ago."
"I can still hardly believe it!" Mark shook his head. "Where is the heir now?"
The prince smiled. "In the hallway waiting for me to call him in."
The prince rang a bell and the door at the end of the hall opened, and a tiny lad of about eleven-years-old skipped towards them.
"Mark, allow me to present Lord Chartres Wenseclaus, the true heir to the province of Lenfald.”
Lorean continued. "I intend to try to reestablish young Chartres to his rightful place on the throne of Lenfald."
"A wise move, Uncle. Such a step would greatly damage the reputation and the cause of the ridiculous imp Triphian."
"Indeed, but I am certain that Triphian, having ruled Lenfald for some time, will not give up his title and position to one younger then himself. So we Loreesi must be the force of justice. And I intend to put my best man at the front of this planned restoration."
Mark's puzzled expression allowed the prince to continue.
"Yes, Mark. As one of my most warlike and powerful vassals you are a perfect choice for the job."
"I will gladly serve in any way you need me to, Uncle. But could you be more specific? "
"You will take charge of young Chartres, train him in warlike exercises, and lead a substantial force into Lenfald in an attempt to restore him, the true ruler, to the people of that province. A third of the army of Loreos will be at your disposal, that combined with your own extensive forces should be ample for anything you might choose to accomplish."
"I could not refuse such a glorious mission! Thank you, Prince Jarius!"
"You are entirely welcome, Mark! I am glad to have such a weighty matter off my mind, now that I know everything humanly possible will be done. Godspeed."
And with that the prince returned to his throne.
Mark of Falworth turned to little Chartres. "Well, lad, it seems we have much work to do."
"Indeed, Lord Falworth! I hope we shall be successful!" Chartres smiled beneath his freckles.
"I believe we shall. But first... we must find you a good suit of armor." Mark winked.
Global Challenge IV - AND SO IT BEGINS
Swiftly, and with cat-like reflexes the shadowy figure leaped across the rooftops. He looked across the street and saw several other figures going the same way. The great castle loomed over them like some sort of stone beast, waiting to strike them down.
They arrived at the great wall and with ease threw ropes attached to grappling hooks on the battlements. They knew no guards would be there for several minutes, more then enough for them to enter the castle.
They topped the wall and arrived at the keep without so much as breaking a sweat and proceeded to follow their way to their target. Silently their feet ran the stairs up in to the great tower. Two guards came in their way, and two guards where left in a small niche, dead, without so much as making a sound.
Now came the hard part, if one would call it that. One of his brothers threw a small knive, planting it just below the ear, killing the guard in front of the door immediately.
The door was locked, but with a little metal rod he opened it with a sot click. They entered the room, but not quietly enough...
A longsword came at them, which they avoided just barely. He drew his blade and sliced the neck of the man trying to kill them. The King struggled and grabbed his cloak, but died soon after. Their mission was accomplished and yet another target was victim to the their blades. They opened the window and tied one of their ropes to the bed, with a knot they could easily untie from the other end. As swiftly as they came, they were gone again, leaving hardly a trace that they were there to begin with, except for the corpses of those they had slain.
The captain of the guard rushed in the room and saw the King in a puddle of blood, with his son and members of the court around him. The atmosphere was riddled with sorrow and mourning and he was startled. How, in the name of the gods could this have happened? How did they bypass the guards and get in here so quickly? Surely magic had to be involved in this matter. A retribution from the purging of the Magic Isles perhaps? No, that would be impossible so soon after.
He walked over to the body and inspected it. He discovered a small piece of cloth in the hand of the King, not bigger than a fingernail. It was of fine quality, with threads of silver woven into it. He knew this fabric, for he had seen it before during his travels through the southern deserts. There he had encountered a group of warriors, renowned for their stealth tactics and their many ways of killing men. There was no doubt in his mind when he whispered one simple word, silencing every man and woman in the chamber....
And so it has finally come to this. The spark to light the powderkeg in Roawia. War is upon us. Choose your side!
A MAJOR DEVELOPMENT
The ocean spray was thick in the air as two figures and a small group of Illion Knights (an elite group of Lenfel warriors) met in a secluded section of the Southern Lenfel coast.
The meeting was one of utter secrecy, so the small party walked toward the edge of the sea cliff where they would not be overheard over the crackling spray of the ocean by anyone who attempted to eavesdrop. The knights of Ilion turned to face Lokitan and the stranger.
"I admit, I am intrigued," said the captain of the company, "Why is it that we were asked to meet with you esteemed sirs?"
Lokitan smiled and replied, "Highlord Triphian has a mission of dire importance for us. This war has dragged on for far too long and we have suffered many losses. He feels it is time to once and for all drive the warmongering Loreesi back to the arid desert which they call a home."
"Indeed, Lenfald has suffered many casualties. We dare not risk a frontal assault or counter invasion, the Loreesi war elephants are practically invincible," The captain replied. "I presume you have a solution?"
The darkly-clad knight now spoke, "Sir, my name is Malcus, and I hail from Loreos." Interrupting the captain as he began to sputter, "Sir, before you protest, I will tell you why I am here. My mother was a Lenfel before she fell in love and moved to Loreos with my father. Her family was slaughtered during a recent Loereesi raid into Lenfel lands. I cannot idly sit by while this tyrant sheds innocent blood for his own selfish political gain."
Lokitan and I will sneak into the palace gardens of the Prince, and silently eliminate the Prince if an opportunity presents itself. I have contacts in Loreos who may be able to help us execute the plan."
"Hmph, very well.... if you are sure your information is good, you may proceed. After all, the best way to kill a snake is to cut of its head. We can provide you with a small vessel and crew to facilitate your travel into Dalmantha. Good luck."
With that, the Illion captain and his men turned to head back toward Stonewald, leaving Lokiten and the Loreesi, whose name was Malcus, to carry out their secret mission.
Under cover of darkness, the Lenfel and Loreesi commandeered a light trading vessel and set sail southwards, the travelers disguised as harmless Loreesi merchants and all arms and armor stashed away safely below the cargo of the ship.
They arrived several days later in the city of Dalmanutha, and after securely mooring the boat and packing down the weaponry for further transport, Malcus and Lokiten went strolling along the quay, looking for a quiet residence from which they could commit themselves to reconnaissance and the planning of the final details of their sinister plan.
Emerging from the limited space of a narrow side alley, Malcus made up his mind and nodded to his Lenfel companion as they passed a lone Loreesi guard. Up ahead hang a worn sign bearing a decorative painting of a horse’s head, signaling that the door beneath led to one of the multiple port-side inns where the less fortunate travelers and residents in Dalmanutha spent their time.
The place was a ramshackle, perfectly unnoticeable building, and as Lokiten caught Malcus’ eyes from the shade beneath his hood, the two compatriots quietly agreed that this was the place. Cautiously stepping over the fallen body of a lone, drunkenly mumbling sailor, the duo went up to the low wooden door of the establishment, pushed it open, and entered resolutely.
A guesthouse like this would be used to visitors with shady stories and motives, and Malcus could tell from his former experiences with the darker side of Dalmanutha that no unnecessary questions would be asked. It was an excellent place from which to fill the last remaining holes in their plot, as well as safely store their weapons until they were needed.
The morning air was crisp and clear. Prince Jarius Lorean calmly walked through the palace gardens enjoying the peace and quiet, glad for a brief respite from the duties which his position as leader of Loreos required him to perform.
The war with Lenfald had taken a harsh toll on him, though you would never know from his demeanor. He was a master of keeping up outward appearances. These daily strolls helped him gather his thoughts for the rest of the day's events.
A few yards up the path, two dark cloaked figures crouched behind a large rock, lying in wait. The reconnaissance they had obtained had been accurate. Here came the prince, alone, just as they had been told was his daily routine. Their muscles tensed as the prince drew nearer, beads of sweat gathering on their brows, despite the morning chill.
The prince appeared lost in thought and unaware of the impending threat, drawing closer to where they laid in wait with each step.
"Here he comes Malcus!" Lokiten whispered, quietly drawing his blade. "Shh! Get ready....", Malcus replied. "It's time to cut the head from the snake."
However, just as Lorean was about to reach the place where they were hiding, much to their horror, the Prince abruptly stopped as the clamorous sound of hoof beats pounding the sandy ground came to his ears. The would-be assassins winced as they saw him quickly turn to see who was approaching. They waited to see what was going on.
"Your Majesty! I bring news...!" They overheard the rider calling out as he pulled his frothing horse to an abrupt halt in front of the Prince. The rider extended a sealed letter with trembling hands.
"I wonder what this be all about..." Malcus whispered, his annoyance clear. They watched and listened...
Jarius snatched the letter from the courier, irritated at being interrupted from his thoughts, but curious to see what could be so important.
As he tore open the seal and quickly scanned the contents, his eyes widened, then watered. "Mark..... captured?" he gasped.
Quickly, he gathered his wits about him, as he was never one to lose his composure, one of the traits that made him such a competent leader.
"Give me your horse, boy!" He barked at the rider, quickly mounting the still panting steed as the courier jumped off and bowed in deference to his lord.
As he took the reins, Jarius said as calmly as he could muster, "It seems that my nephew, Mark of Falworth, has been captured by a Lenfel dragon rider. Run to the barracks as fast as you can and fetch my generals. We must come up with a plan!"
The lad, who was still rubbing his saddle sores after such a hard and fast ride, nodded. "I will do as you comman..."
Jarius did not wait to hear his reply. With a quick jerk, he whirled the beast around and charged back toward the Palace, leaving the courier jogging behind to deliver his message on foot.
Wide-eyed, the two figures behind the rocks watched the Prince and courier head back up the path. They knew in that moment that their plot had failed, but they were astounded at what they had overheard. "THE Mark of Falworth, Champion of Loreos.......captured!" Malcus was grinning from ear-to-ear at his Lenfel compatriot. "Do you know what this means, man?" Lokiten said thoughtfully, "This bloody war might be over!"
And with that, the two shadowed figures made their way back to the palace wall, the guards none the wiser of the assassination attempt.
RISE TO POWER
After many months of brutal fighting, Roawia is finally enjoying a state of peace, albeit a shaky one. Young Chartres has been sent north to reside in Garheim for a time, and the faction leaders are still thrashing out the final details of the peace treaty, arguing over the retribution of damages and a possible demilitarized zone between Lenfald and Loreos.
The wife of the recently deceased king, Queen Aethid, has taken temporary control of the throne until a new ruler can be found, but her limited influence is doing little to mitigate peace talk disputes. All across Roawia, the people fear that without a strong central ruler, the factions will soon fall into conflict again. They yearn for someone with the political skills and leadership required to reestablish the state of closeness which existed prior to the disastrous campaign on the magic isles and the resulting bloodshed that followed.
Rumors have begun to spread across the land; stories of a kind and benevolent ruler who can grant the peoples’ wishes. The figure being whispered about ironically hails from the magic isles, an exiled woman by the name of Galainir. It is said that she claims to be a descendent of the long-dead King Alphundus, who efficiently ruled Roawia many years ago!
Taking advantage of recent conflicts, the distractions enabling her return to the mainland, Galainir has spent the last few months gaining popularity by taking to the streets to raise support. Droves of simple peasants and laborers now flock around her, smiling and cheering, as she makes extravagant vows to mend the broken relationships of Loreos and Lenfald. The mysterious woman has gained a myriad of supporters among the soldiers as well, as her promises of peace appeal to their war-weary hearts. With the end of the Lenfel-Loresii conflict, the only subject now heard spoken in the taverns recently has been speculation on when she will be crowned Queen!
The factional rulers, however, are less inclined to believe her claims of legitimacy. Despite their ongoing differences, they have agreed that she must prove herself to be of royal descent, or be cast back into exile. At the peak of her popularity, Galainir sends a messenger to them proposing that they meet with her to discuss the issue. Reluctantly, they agree to grant her an audience in the coastal Lenfel town of Durrough...
The sun rose gradually over the ocean’s horizon, casting long rainbows in the early morning mist. The Factional leaders waited anxiously at the the bow of the ship, waiting to make landfall. An hour later, they caught their first glimpse of the port of Dourrough, and as their ship sailed smoothly over the mild waves of the Great Northern Sea, it soon began to make its final course corrections as it coasted gently through the open gates of the harbor’s wooden boom. Scanning the shoreline, the Faction leaders recognized the pennants fluttering above the crowds on shore. They were the colors of none other than the Lady Galainir!
“She must really have the townspeople’s loyalty, for such a display as this!” Prince Jarius declared. Then, muttering toward Jarl Eindrick, “Those simple-minded Lenfels seem to be willing to follow just about anyone, other than Triphian, it would seem.” Lenfel’s Lord was too busy staring mouth-agape at the scene before him to notice the jab.
In a few minutes, they were alongside the pier, and the Lenfel dockhands were securing the vessel with ropes tossed ashore by the crew.
As they descended the gangplank, Galainir herself met them on the pier, escorted by her personal men-at-arms.
After exchanging traditional greetings, the four then made their way to the great stone courthouse in the center of the town. Once the town militia had set a perimeter around the building, the leaders were led by Galainir into a small room of tan sandstone, with a smooth tiled floor and a row of beautiful stained glass windows. Apparently, she had been given this area by Dourrough’s leader, Duke Cartney, as a sort of headquarters.
Once inside, Jhirian Eindrik began the meeting with his usual diplomatic proficiency. "Lady Galainir, your intentions seem sincere, and you obviously have support of the people. However, the three of us have no idea who you are or from whence you came, and we have come to regrettably inform you that the ancient laws state that the crown may only be claimed if proof of royal heritage can be made. Now, since you have no such proof we must unfor..."
"My Lord, I believe your assumption is made in haste," Galainir politely interrupted with a slight smile.
“Grimlang…” she said, motioning to her servant, who was carrying a small, ornately beaded leather pouch.
As the faction leaders looked on in astonishment, she carefully withdrew a golden chain, fastened to which was a large, beautiful golden signet ring. Unclasping the chain, she removed the ring, and presented it in outstretched hand for their inspection.
The trio gasped in amazement as they laid their eyes on the on the gleaming ornament before them. It was a large ring of solid gold, which glinted and sparkled even in the half light of the chamber. Engraved in the face of the ring, was the unmistakable seal of the King!
"Fetch any reputable historian," Galainir continued. "And he will confirm that this is the final ring of the ancient five rings of King Alphundus, four of which were distributed among his descendents. Alphundus’ ring and the three belonging to the founding fathers of Loreos, Lenfald, and Garheim have all been recovered and are currently being kept in the royal palace."
As Lorean, Triphian, and Eindrik struggled to take this all in, Galainir continued on, her confidence growing with each moment.
“The ring before you was given to Alphundus’ daughter, princess Rosethorn, before she fled the country for fear of her life from her half-brothers. They, of course, made stories up about her and even dared to blame the death of the king on her in order to keep her away forever, and they succeeded. For many generations, Rosethorn’s descendants have lived a life of lonely exile. The ring has been passed on from one generation to the next, and we have been waiting for the proper time to reveal ourselves. With the untimely death of the king, and none of you willing to allow the other to take the throne, the time seemed right for me to come forward with my story, and to give the people the leadership they deserve.”
The three Faction leaders stared in awe. Galainir was actually a legitimate heir! They had never seen such a confident, compelling, and beautiful woman. As she stood before them, flushed with the passion of a leader taking claim of her birthright, they couldn’t help but feel the same sentiments of the clamourous populace outside the walls of the courthouse. Perhaps she was indeed destined to become Queen of Roawia!
Gathering their wits about them, they began the formality of verifying the authenticity of the ring, though in their minds, there was no doubt about the validity of her story.
Within a few days, messengers returned from the royal palace. The ring was an exact match.
As they officially presented the new heir to the town of Durrough, the crowds roared in approval, and a coronation date was set. Dispatches were sent to invite all who were able to attend the coronation ceremony, and across the land, people began preparations to celebrate the crowning of their new Queen.
Global Challenge V - THE CORONATION
The Land was bustling with activity; the Lady Galainir had finally been confirmed as the true heir to he throne of Roawia! Never before had a people been so united upon a single wish, their burning desire and commitment to Galainir was ultimately the impetus for the decision of the Leaders to grant her the crown. Celebration feasts were prepared throughout the land, and as a show of thanks for their support, Galainir proclaimed that there would be a grand banquet for any and all who wished to attend. This would occur at the Royal Palace following the coronation ceremony. The leaders of the Factions were to be the guests of honor.
After much anticipation, the day of the coronation finally arrived. Droves of peasants, knights, and lords from across Roawia donned their finest garments and flocked to the palace. It was truly a spectacle to behold. There was an eye-watering assortment of vivid blues and reds, greens and yellow, and even the occasional sparkle of gold. The crowd gaped and gasped in astonishment at the myriad of lavish decorations that adorned the great hall.
Around mid-morning, everyone found their seats and the ceremony began with the trumpeting of gleaming silver horns by the Royal Guard. Galainir, looking utterly majestic and beautiful, sat at the throne as Prince Lorean presented the crown to her (it was decided that he should present, as a good-faith gesture after the speculation that Loreos was behind the assassination of the previous king).
As Galainir placed the crown on her head, she smiled at the shouts of, “Long live the Queen!” that shook the rafters of the royal hall.
The trumpets sounded off again, as the newly-crowned queen exited the hall, followed by the three faction leaders. The room became abuzz with activity, as gossiping guests filed out, and servants began to set up for the celebration banquet.
A few hours later, as the guests began to trickle in and find their seats at the long table, the Queen arrived and took her place at the head of the room, along with Triphian, Lorean, and the Jarl. It appeared that the leaders had perhaps taken it upon themselves to sample some of the wine, for Lorean and Triphian were arm in arm, chucking like a couple of old friends. The normally steady Jhirian seemed to be having an easier time holding his liquor, though even he admittedly did not walk the straightest of paths as he made his way through the crowd.
When the hubbub had finally subsided a bit, Galainir stood up to address the people. “My fellow countrymen, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to dine with me and our beloved leaders.” She smiled broadly as she surveyed the multitude of distinguished guests in attendance.
“Let us all enjoy ourselves, for tonight is for you, the people of this great land!” The Queen raised her glass and proclaimed, “For Roawia!”
“For Roawia!” the people chorused back, drinking deeply in salute to their beloved Queen and Country.
With that, the feast began! Waiters appeared at the mighty oaken doorway to the hall, laden with dishes of mouth-watering delight. Platters of roast venison supplied by the great huntsman of Lenfald, plates of fresh fish brought by the efficient fishermen of Garheim, and beautifully browned turkeys from the southern grasslands all filled the room with the most delightful of aromas. This truly would be a banquet to remember!
The volume of the room gradually began to rise with talk and laughter, as the people gorged themselves with food, and guzzled wine. The Queen seemed pleased to see everyone so enjoying themselves.
“You must eat, your Majesty!” declared Triphian, whilst gnawing on fat a drumstick with intense fervor.
Prince Lorean joined in, “Yes, have you tried these potatoes? Marvolish!” It was a wonder he could even give such an appraisal, as most of the potatoes seemed to be finding their way down the front of his ruby red robe. Jarl Eindrick, ever stoic, simply chuckled and poured himself another tall glass of wine.
Suddenly, the sound of barking dogs and a large clamor in the corner of the room drew everyone’s attention. Startled, the crowd looked to the source of the noise.
A moment later, the room’s tense atmosphere dissolved into a roar of uncontrollable mirth! It seemed that one of the guests had become so intoxicated that he had managed to stuff his entire head into one of the large Loressi turkeys!
Someone stumbled over to the door and cracked it open, escorting the dogs out of the room. “Are you alright, good man?” He asked on his way back to his seat. “Errm… yes, just fine!” A coarse but muffled voice came back through the side of the bird. “Just enjoying some of this delicious fowl!”
The raucous din of laughter died back down to a dull roar, as people turned their attention back to their meals, drink, and conversation.
Well on into the night, the people dined on, celebrating their new queen and the prospect of peace that her presence would ensure. A few diners began to doze, head rested on folded arms of the table, happy with food and liquor.
Near midnight, a cool breeze caused the candlelight to flicker, a second loud noise came from the far end of the room. “Goodness man, haven’t you had enough to eat!?” Eklund turned to say to the turkey-headed man in the corner. “Oh!!” He yelled, stumbling backwards in drunkenness at the sight before him.
The room suddenly fell quiet, the cool night air combining with sheer terror to give the entire attendance goose bumps. Somewhere in the room, a woman screamed.
Through the now-open doorway of the great hall, a darkly clad wizard, with over a dozen formidable-looking men were entering the room. The Royal Guards who had been guarding the entrance did not appear to be anywhere in sight, having been brutally slaughtered, the noise of the conflict drowned out by the din of the feast and the thickness of the mighty doors.
Shocked, unarmed and too drunk to fight anyway, the crowded room as a whole slunk back from the soldier’s menacing approach. All, that is, save one.....
Schmidt was having a grand time at the banquet. Never before had he enjoyed such incredible food, but the wine was otherworldly. Never one to pass up free drink, he’d had a few bottles of the stuff by this time, and as always happened with him when he drank, he was getting a bit feisty.
Like everyone else, when the doors burst open, he was caught off guard by the men storming into the room. Unlike the rest of the attendees, his reaction was not fear, but blind rage. As everyone else stepped back, he strode forward. Once he reached the edge of the crowd, he took a deep breath and bravely charged headlong toward the menacing foes, his mind set on protecting his fellow countrymen!
“FOR ROAAAWWWIIAAAA!!” He shouted, targeting the biggest, meanest-looking intruder, and sprinting forward with all his strength and speed.
Just as he was about to drive his shoulder home into the enemy, the soldier, unencumbered as Schmidt was by several pints of hard liquor, deftly stepped to the side, leaving brave Schmidt, who was expecting to make impact, suddenly off-balance and tripping headlong onto the wooden floor.
In almost the same moment, the soldier took a powerful swing, felling his sword onto the back of Schmidt’s neck, and the tussle was over even before most of the dazed crowd could process what had happened.
As Schmidt’s blood began to mix with the wine that had been spilled on the floor, the crowd parted in terror as the wizard strode straight for the queen! In a show of selfless Garhim bravery, Jarl Eindrik moved to block the wizard’s path, but a commanding voice from the throne platform froze him in his tracks. It was the voice of Galainir.
"Jarl, make way."
Turning their gaze away from the soldiers to the other end of the room, the audience gasped, many rubbing their eyes in an attempt to clear the fog of booze from their vision. There stood Queen Galainir, surprisingly clad in a dark dress and draped in a blood-red and black cape, the result of some sort of enchantment. A shadow seemed to pass over her face, masking her beauty, her eyes gleaming with a yellowish tinge.
The three Faction leaders, utterly amazed, took a step back from the woman with whom they had now seemingly too-hastily invested their trust, and the wizard strode past them, joining the new Queen on the platform.
In a dark and commanding tone, she began, “Too long have I waited for this moment! To long have I sat in the darkness, as droves of mindless buffoons ran amok across the continent! What have your leaders done to mitigate the violence? What have they done to serve their people? They are unfit to rule, as were those who came before them!
“They turned against my own ancestor, Princess Rosethorn, and banished her on nothing more than trumped up charges. My family has suffered ever since, struggling to survive on that infernal island for generations!
“Fortunately, your foolish plan to “purge” my island worked to my advantage, as I manipulated the campaign from the very start of the invasion. Sabotaging Lenfels here, Loreesi there, making sure that the three factions would blame each other for the mess. This, of course, brought on the inevitable civil war, which granted me the perfect opportunity to return from exile undetected and endear myself to all of you simple-minded fools. Rest assured, I will make you SUFFER for the crimes against my family, just as my family and I have suffered for generations!”
With that, she gestured for the guests to be taken away. Still trying to totally grasp what had happened, they stumbled out, passing Schmidt’s now lifeless body, a reminder that any resistance was futile.
The leaders, too enraged at the incredible betrayal to even find words of protest, were shackled and led off to the highest prison tower in the castle.
Galainir smirked in satisfaction as they exited, her well-laid plans coming to fruition. “Finally, I am the true leader of this land now.” she cackled, her beauty hidden behind the darkness of her intent.
“Maldrake, let’s get this place cleaned up, shall we? Those stumbling pigs have turned my new throne room into a sty!”
The wizard, known as “Maldrake the Silent”, nodded and stepped down to the main floor and began to wave his staff in circles above his head, arcs of energy coursing through the room as he did so. When the clouds of ethereal smoke had cleared, the mess had vanished, and shields adorned with snorting dragons had replaced the existing Royal Lion sigils, banners of red and black now fluttering from the rafters.
“It is time,” she began, her eyes soulless and devoid of expression, “to put the next phase of my plan into action. Send out troops to occupy every stronghold in Roawia. Make it clear that any resistance will result in the slow torture of their beloved leaders and family members. If the surrender is not immediate and complete, their loved ones will pray for death to save them.”
With that, Maldrake made a deep bow, and exited to carry out her commands.
Up in the prison tower, the rulers of Roawia could only stand and stare at each other, the alcohol and shock combining to cause the room to spin before them. What had just happened?? They could not believe how utterly deceived that they had been. They agreed that Galainir must have used a subtle spell to influence them, as well as the people. Looking around, the cell seemed to be inescapable. They had no choice but to wait to see what would happen in the coming days.
Without saying a word, they shared the same thought; Roawia would soon be plunged into darkness....
Global Challenge VI - A GLIMMER OF HOPE (PREPARATION)
It has been many months since the evil Queen Galainir seized control of the land by capturing the leaders of Roawia at her coronation banquet. The countryside has been overrun by her minions, and the peoples of Lenfald, Loreos and Garheim have been helpless to resist, for fear of bringing harm to their beloved leaders, friends and family who remain imprisoned in the Queen’s dungeons.
Until now, all hope has seemed lost. Until now, the people have cowered and fled the Queen’s forces.
A coalition of forces from across Roawia has been diligently questing for a mythical sword, the Sword of Arondor; a weapon that could be used to combat the Queen and her evil master sorcerer, Maldrake the Silent. The sword is rumored to be secured in a secret vault that requires several crystals to be recovered in order to unlock it. The coalition is currently attempting to find the crystals so that the sword can be recovered and used to help free Roawia.
Prince Chartres, now a young knight, is leading the rebellion efforts from a secret camp deep within the Dark Forest of Lenfald, but the Queen’s forces are constantly hunting him, attempting to quash the rebellion before it has time to materialize. If the sword can be found soon, Chartres and his men have a plan to use it to free the hostages and remove Galainir from the throne.
Since the Queen's henchmen are on high-alert, utmost secrecy is required among local patriots who seek to overthrow her.
The time is now, while the sword is being recovered, for the people to begin gathering their resources for a full-scale uprising, to occur immediately once the sword has been attained.
GALAINIR PUSHES BACK!
Preparations for rebellion against the Queen have been going on in earnest for many nervous weeks, as the people of Roawia readied their arms to drive the tyrant from her stronghold, and free their leaders and their land from her reign of oppression.
The Queen's spies, well entrenched throughout the land, quickly learned of these plans and wasted no time bringing word to the royal palace.
"We must remind those foolish peasants that I still hold their leaders in captivity. Perhaps they are tired of our threats and need something that strikes a little closer to home....", the dark Queen muttered angrily to Maldrake after the spy exited the throne room.
Maldrake the Silent, ever true to his name, said nothing, but simply produced a scroll and quill from seemingly nowhere. He nodded in the direction of the tower where the leaders were held, and Galainir understood his intentions.
"Ha, that is an excellent idea. We will have the leaders write letters to their provinces forbidding military action, on fear of their lives. Let it be so. If they refuse, you have my permission to 'convince them', however you must."
Maldrake nodded, turned and exited the chamber, gesturing to a couple of the queen's thugs to follow him to the prison cell.
"ARE YOU MAD?? I'll NEVER!", the furious Jarl spluttered through his overgrown and unkempt beard as Maldrake extended the paper and pen towards him. The queen's thugs standing behind the wizard adjusted the grip on their swords nervously at the sight of the big man's rage, but Maldrake simply continued to grin evilly.
"I'll wipe that grin right off your twisted face, you ugly no-good son of a walrus!" He shouted, lunging at the wizard before hitting the end of his chains, falling helplessly to his knees as the last of his energy gave way.
These had been a long many days for Jarl Eindrik, Prince Lorean, and Lord Triphian. They had been locked in the central tower of the castle with only the barest of dried bread and putrid water to sustain them. Now, Maldrake was demanding that they write letters to their countrymen to remind them that no military action was to be taken against the queen. It was clear that disobedience of his demands would not be pretty, if the array of torture instruments laid out before them was any indication of his intentions.
Triphian and Lorean sat slumped against the wall of the prison, watching the burly Jarl as the massive man attempted to hold on to the last shred of his once great Northern pride. Triphian clenched and unclenched his fists in anger, his gaunt and stubbled face boiling crimson at the thought of complying with Maldrake's orders, but the beads of sweat on his forehead betrayed his fear of the alternative...
Prince Lorean remained slumped against the wall, eyes closed. Triphian was confused as to how the prince could remain so calm in the face of such demands, but took it as a sign that his former Loresii enemy was either too weakened to protest, or simply too resigned to death to care that he was about to be tortured mercilessly.
The now prostrate Jarl Eindrik of Garheim was approached by the queen's men, his shoulders roughly pinned to the ground. Maldrake noiselessly mouthed a short incantation, and the tip of his staff began to glow, becoming red-hot in a matter of seconds. He approached the burly man, wand extended to begin the 'convincing' that the queen had authorized.
The smell of singed hair wafted through the small cell as Maldrake's wand was about to lay fire to the Jarl's flesh, when a soft but stern voice chocked out the words, "No. Stay your hands, vile Sorcerer."
Maldrake paused and looked over to where Lorean sat leaning against the dank wall of the cell, eyes still closed. "We will do as you ask, but do not harm the Jarl", the prince spoke in response to his gaze.
"Coward...." muttered the Jarl through his still-clenched teeth, but he lacked the strength to say more.
"Are you out of your mind, man?" Lord Triphian whispered harshly at the prince from his spot against the wall.
Lorean cracked one lid open toward the Lenfel lord, and Triphian noticed a twinkle in the beleaguered eye as Lorean replied in hushed tones, "Quite the contrary Triphian....You must trust me."
Then, to Maldrake, he said in full tone, "I will write the letter on behalf of the three of us. The Jarl is in no position to pen his own, nor would he, and this fool Lenfel can barely read, much less write."
Triphian took extreme umbrage to this insult, but held his tongue. Something about the look Lorean had given him gave him pause, and he thought it best to play along for now.
In the next few minutes, Lorean penned a letter to the oppressed peoples of Roawia, urging them to refrain from military action against the queen, and reminding them of the peril that their beloved leaders would face should they rebel.
When he was finished, he carefully folded it, pressed his signet ring into the seal, and handed it to Triphain to do the same. After a moment of hesitation, Triphian complied. The Jarl still laid on the ground, now unconscious from his effort, so Triphian mustered his strength to stumble over to him and carefully pressed the proud man's ring into the wax to complete the deed.
Maldrake waved his hand, and one of the soldiers stepped forward, snatching the letter out of Triphian's hand. The thug smiled, then gave the Lenfel a hefty shove, sending the proud Lord sprawling backwards onto the floor, his weakened state offering little resistance.
The soldiers all got a hearty laugh out of the nasty deed, and even Maldrake cracked an evil grin from behind his beard before turning and exiting the chamber with the guards.
"You better have a good reason for this." Triphian snarled at Lorean as the door slammed shut, wiping the blood from his mouth from the split lip he'd just received from his fall.
"Don't worry, Triphian. I always have a plan" replied the prince confidently.
Triphian crawled over to check the Jarl's neck for a pulse, but decided against trying to navigate the thick beard and instead tried a wrist. Satisfied that Eindrik still lived, he returned to his previous spot against the wall, and limply leaned into a seated position, exhausted.
Lorean continued in hushed tones, "The Areani have a secret encryption technique that I am familiar with, as all Loreesi leaders are. In the letter I just wrote, I hid a message that only someone with such training will be able to extract. I provided information about the castle, it's defenses, and details about our holding location. With this information, the rebel forces should have a much easier time planning the impending assault."
Price Triphian, ever cautious, took a moment to mull over Lorean's hasty plan. "Well then, Loreesi, let's hope your coding is as foolproof as you think it is. Our lives and the success of the rebellion depends on it."
As he rolled over to rest, he added, "Let's also hope that the Jarl stays passed out until rescue comes, because I have a feeling he'd wring your neck if he knew you gave in to Maldrake's demands, no matter the reason."
With that, the three leaders resumed their state of captivity, waiting for the rescue that they all prayed would soon come.
Global Challenge VII - THE REBELLION STRIKES BACK!
Leaders of the rebel forces had gathered in a hidden campsite, deep within the Dark Forest of Lenfald. Here, they had spent the last few days trying to decide if, when, and where they should begin the impending uprising.
"We have forces mustered at a hideout in the Sister Peaks" the Garheim general was saying. "Additionally, we have...."
"Sir, SIR!" A guard broke into the conversation. "Excuse me sir, but one of our scouts was handed a message by a member of the Queen's army!"
"Well what are you waiting for? Send him in! The general bellowed, his companions urging the same as the guard hurried out and returned a moment later with the rebel scout.
"Let me see that letter..." a Lenfel captain said, snatching it from the young lad's shaky hand. "What? This can't be right..." he muttered, "This letter is from our captured leaders, urging us to refrain from action, lest their lives be lost in torturous death! This is the last thing that I'd expect from them!"
"Forgery! Our Jarl would NEVER agree to such a letter!" the Garheim general boomed in disbelief.
"No, it's legitimate. Look, here are the signet seals of all three men. We must delay our troops from engaging at once!" The Lenfel set the letter on the table and turned to find someone to pass on the message.
The Garheim general, distraught at the idea of his beloved Jarl suggesting surrender, slumped back into his chair, utterly defeated.
With a quizzical look, the Loreesi baron reached for the letter on the tabletop and began to study it. He puzzled over it for a moment, his brow furrowing in deep thought, as if trying to recall something from years past. Suddenly, his eyes lit up.
"Hold on a minute, I think I see something..." he said excitedly. "Look, this ornate handwriting clearly belongs to the hand of Prince Lorean, but a few of the letters are oddly scrawled out, as if to give them some sort of emphasis.
"Hurry, get the guards to bring one of the Areani scouts in from the field. They may be able to make something of this."
A few minutes later, a tall, rugged man strode in, clad in black. He was one of the famed Areani, the elite military force of Loreos.
The Loreesi baron had been busy noting all of the odd letters while they were waiting, and he presented his findings to the scout. After what seemed like an eternity to the rebel leaders, who at this point were all crowded tightly around the table, the Areani spoke. His words were full of confidence and authority.
"My lords, this is clearly a secret message from the Prince. The code used is an old version of the one we Areani are currently trained in, and it is a little jumbled, I assume from lack of practice, but the message is clear."
"Well, what does it say, dangit?!" The hot-tempered Garhim cut in impatiently.
The Areani allowed himself a small smile. "It says that they are being held in the central tower, that the guards change every 4 hours, and that we must strike as soon as we are able."
"Ah, yes! The Lenfel commander chimed in, "The moon is but a sliver in the sky and will not be full again for a few weeks yet. This will give us the cover of darkness to launch our assault!"
"Well, men, I believe the time has come that we've all been waiting for." said the Loreesi baron. "Our rebellion, our push for freedom from the evil oppressor, Galainir, starts now!"
A REBELLIOUS ASSAULT
“There’s the Gate!” Exclaimed one of the excited rebel soldiers.
“Haha! I told you lads we would push those Harpy Monkey’s all the way up the hill” Roared the Garheim Commander as he smashed another Queen’s soldier down with his mighty war hammer.
“Now… now… Lulfen. We haven’t breached the Castle Gate yet…it’s not time to gloat” exclaimed the Loreesi Baron with a grin as he slashed with his sword at another Queen’s soldier.
“You’re one to talk. You smell like a sewer rat…What part of the Castle did you crawl up from again?” replied Lulfen Garinson the Garheim Commander with a vicious smile to his compatriot.
“Hey…just because I crawled up through the Privy doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. I got that gate open didn’t I” hustled the Loreesi Baron Darius Hreaðemús.
“Aye…less chat, more hack” Huffed Lulfen as the rebel forces pushed forward until they heard a loud twang from behind and both men stopped abruptly as a swarm of arrows took out the rest of the Queen’s men along the walls of the Gate to the Castle from the City.
With a sigh of relief the Loreesi Baron Hreaðemús turned around and said “Well it’s about time you showed up with those rangers of yours Isaac. I was starting to think you Lenfel’s were just going to let the rest of us die against these Queen’s beggars”
“We were just merely doing what all Rangers do…bide our time and choose the best target” Calmly replied Lord Isaac Stoutbow as he peered with steel eyes from under his hood.
“Aye…more like taking your sweet time while watching real men fight” Laughed Lulfen.
“Whatever…let’s get inside the Castle and finish the job” said Isaac as he brushed past the two men with his rangers in tow.
“What’s his deal?” said Baron Hreaðemús
“He’s one of those Ranger types…they are all silent most of the time and prefer to be a little shady…I’m used to it…I’ve spent enough time in Lenfald to know his type...just remember not to cross them…they are excellent in a tight fix and remember everything like those trees they often are found in.” warned Lulfen as the rebel troops marched into the Castle through the Gate as the Baron merely shrugged off the words of advice.
“No matter…it looks like they cleared most of the Guards in the Courtyard…but that door over there…” pointed the Baron Hreaðemús.
“I see it…lads…its HAMMER TIME!” roared Lulfen as he grasped his hammer and began to bang at the stout wood and iron door.
As the men attempt to smash the door in, a loud boom was heard from above. Immediately all the troops stopped what they were doing and looked up to see Maldrake from a balcony while a contingent of Queen’s Guards poured out from all over to cover positions along the interior walls.
“Welcome to the Party!” Exclaimed the Captain of the Queen’s Guard who was standing next to Maldrake.
“We are so happy you all could make it to this fortunate event” firmly announced the Captain.
“Event…Mage, and you…whoever you are…I’m going to have your head!” said Lulfen as he pointed his hammer up.
“Try as you might…but my Lord Maldrake has a plan for you all…BEHOLD!” Yelled the Captain as he pointed to the other side of the Wall at the Giant Statue of a Queen’s Warrior.
“BWHAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s nothing but a statue you lout and those troops along the wall…fodder that my friends from Lenfald will make cheap feed out of” Laughed Lulfen as he jested to the Rangers.
Then with a crack of thunder the mighty Statue turned its head and stared at Lulfen with red glimmering eyes.
“awww….Nuts…” said Lulfen as the Golem merely climbed over the Wall with ease.
Immediatley Lulfen lifted his hammer and rushed at the fiend and attempted to jump and smash his hammer against the Golem’s leg shouting in a blind furry “DIE!!!”.
However, with a quick flick of the Golem’s shield the blow was deflected and Lulfen sent flying against the wall where he was knocked unconscious by the force of the blow.
The rebel troops immediately looked to the Rangers and Isaac realizing this was his chance, shot several arrows at the Golem’s eyes hoping that would blind the creature. Instead the Golem with speed beyond the norm and precision lifted his sword and blocked the arrows then with an equally fast response cleaved the Rangers apart with a flick of his sword.
“NOOOO!!!!” Challenged Baron Hreaðemús as he jumped at the Golem who looked down at the stained man like he was a flea on a dog. Immediately in a rage the Baron used his sword Lightbringer and slashed then hacked at the Golem dinging the plate of the Golem’s armour until the Golem annoyed with the flea shook the Baron off and crushed him with a foot stomp into the ground leaving the man broken.
Following these quick moves the Rebel soldiers began to pull back from the Golem to create some distance. The Golem then marched towards the Balcony and stood in front of Maldrake stating “Your Orders my master”.
Immediately Maldrake turned to the Captain who shouted “RELEASE THE BLACK GUARD!”
Soon after the door opened and Heavy Black clad soldiers poured out into the Courtyard.
Then Maldrake with a magical voice exclaimed “KILL THEM ALL”
Jhirian Eindrik looked at his fellow captives with great interest. Triphian grimaced while rubbing the tip of his index finger against his brow in an effort to soothe the pulsing migraine that had come on suddenly.
Jarius Lorean hadn't changed his demeanor much since forcing Eindrik and Triphian to sign a false document to the inhabitants of Roawia, telling them not to attack the royal palace Galainir had taken control of. Jarius had insisted to both men an encoded message had been included in the letter, but the Jarl was not convinced. Even now, nothing had happened; no one had come to save them. And yet, Jarius sat there as serene and gentle as ever, eyes closed.
Eindrik wasn't sold on Jarius' plan just yet.
"How can ye sit there all peaceful an calm when the future o' this land is so bleak?" The Jarl questioned Jarius.
"Patience Jarl, patience," Lorean faintly smiled, eyes still closed. "You will see your kinsmen again. They will come. They will find us. They will set us free."
"For your sake you better be right," Triphian growled, still vigorously rubbing at his forehead, attempting to ease his migraine.
Lorean chuckled quietly but didn't say anything.
Time slowly passed. Eindrik wanted to believe this confident prince, but still held so many reservations of his own. Still, the only hope they had, were the words of this calm desert leader.
Sitting there in darkness, the Jarl heard a sound he would never forget for the rest of his life. The terrible roar of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object. The unmistakable sign of a trebuchet boulder landing in the midst of a stone wall. The foundation of the prison cell shook.
"Bloody wolfs-foot, what was that?!?!" The Jarl bellowed out in excitement.
Not even Triphian's migraine could placate his joy, as he quickly spoke with brightened eyes, "Lenfel trebuchets, listen to the whistle!"
Sure enough, dozens of whistles of siege weaponry trebuchets sung in the deep evening, as boulders were hurled to the battlements of the royal palace. The invasion had begun, the armies had responded, just as Jarius promised.
"He did it!" The Jarl roared mirthfully, "the flea-infested, camel herder bloody did it!"
Triphian warmly clasped the right shoulder of Jhirian Eindrik, "we shall see our people again, tis not the end!"
Even so, Jarius sat there, eyes closed, still faintly smiling.
Minutes turned into hours as the siege took place. A bloody battle ensued, and hundreds of lives were lost. Deep within the confines of the the castle, the three leaders waited patiently, listening to all the commotion of siege weaponry, and the eventual clang and clatter of combat between soldiers who had managed into the castle.
Eventually, the prison guards were called out to defend the castle, a sign the leaders immediately recognized that the defenses were not holding and all bodies were needed to stop the attack. Their anticipation rose as each second passed. The atmosphere in the castle was very grim, as the army was forcing its way inside.
After hours of waiting, the three leaders of Roawia heard a voice in the dungeons.
"Osvald, Gabriel; we must find them, and quickly!" The strong voice confidently insisted.
"But my lord, there is no time to spare!" Another voice quickly interjected. "If you would but listen to me... we have to leave now. Your life is in danger! Maldrake has summoned terrible, dark forces, and the assault is wavering. A massive golem is cutting our men down like wheat! If we linger, we will be caught in the pincer and surely be cut down!"
"If we leave them Gabriel, then all of this is for naught; every death will have been in vain! You must trust me!" The heroic voice encouraged.
"O...of course, my lord. Osvald and I are yours to command." Gabriel reluctantly offered.
"Back here!!" Triphian yelled, "we are in this cell!"
Feet rushed to the cell where the leaders were held.
"Quickly Osvald, use that mace and break off the lock!" The strong voice suggested. It was the steady voice of an experienced man; a man who had faced much adversity in his life and had overcome.
With a loud thud, the man named Osvald swung the mace and the lock of the cell was broken off. For the first time in weeks, the door of the jail cell was opened up to light. As the light poured in, the three leaders looked up in joy at their rescuers.
"By the gods..." Jhirian Eindrik whispered, filled with awe.
"Is it really...?" Triphian began.
Jarius' eyes immediately opened up, " what, who is it?!"
"My brothers," the voice calmly spoke, yet with great strength, "Roawia needs you once more. Please, come with me, we must leave now!"
Together, the three leaders rose to their feet with awe-inspired confidence in the man they were following to freedom.
His freckles had long faded, and the chiseled face of a man was before them. His timid posture had all but been forgotten, as his towering frame dominantly stood, shoulders broad. His weak, squeaky voice had been replaced with a confident, rich tongue. His thin, lanky body was now thick and muscular in the way of a hero.
Prince Chartres was no longer a boy, but a man. And he had come to set them free.
"Gentlemen, we've got problems..." Arturius, Loreesi Steward announced as he limped into the tent of the commanding officers. Maps were scattered across the center table in the midst of the tent that was erected for the commanding officers of the assault on the Royal Island. Arturius, cane in hand, hobbled to one end of the table, looking at two of the men who had helped design the offensive front.
"Somehow, Galainir has managed to reinforce her position within the city, and our troops have been halted. The offense is failing. I believe the time has come to order a strategic withdrawal from the Royal Island while our rear defense is strongly in place. We cannot hope to defeat Galainir here, she is too powerful. We must live to fight another day. We must leave."
"Flee?!" Scoffed the Garhim clan-leader known as Anngrim. "We Garhims never back away from a fight!"
"Mind thy words Anngrim," the Lenfald Noble Roderick interrupted in his baritone voice, "there is no need to risk more deaths. After all, my rangers have reported Prince Chartres was able to secure the packages. We should leave with all haste."
"If Roderick's words are true, it would be wise for us to disengage immediately," offered the Loreesi Steward.
"It may be that the princelings of the desert bend their knees to the knaves of the badlands, but no Northerner will ever submit to an outlaw; least of all a woman!" Spat Anngrim at Arturius.
"No, you are right Anngrim," Arturius coolly began. "There'd be no room for a Garhim to bend his knee with such a flea-infested beard in the way!"
"Bahaha," Anngrim laughed, "you are quite the kneebender yourself. Your legs have become so weak with bending you must now carry a cane!"
"Stop this now!" Roderick roared, slamming his hand on the table for emphasis. "You can stay here and die with your Garhims, Anngrim, but the Loreesi and Lenfald forces will be withdrawing immediately!"
"I will stay until one more powerful than you bids me leave!"
Immediately, the flaps of the tent door were held open as a messenger scurried in, handing a scroll to Roderick.
"Gentlemen," Roderick began, quickly reading the scroll, "we are to leave immediately."
"By whose orders?!?" Anngrim demanded.
"Chartres himself," Roderick suggested. "Our leaders have been set free. They ride this way now. We are to begin the withdrawal within the hour. The assault is over. So be it, Arturius?"
"So be it," the Loreesi Steward responded, bowing his head.
"Anngrim..." Roderick began, glaring at the Garhim Clan-leader, "so be it?"
Anngrim turned around as if to head out the tent. He stopped at the entrance and raised his broadsword high, slamming the blade in the ground and setting his visored helmet on the hilt.
"So be it," he muttered as he left the tent.
Global Challenge VIII - GARHEIM IN ASHES
As the mist of a quiet morning clung to the air, Roawia's noblest and boldest warriors made their way home. Some had fallen, many were wounded, but the pale and weak bodies kept locked away in the bleak stone fortress the Queen had been calling her throne had been rid of their shackles. Prince Lorean made his way back to the warm sands of Loreos, High Lord Triphian made his way back to the cool forests of Lenfald, and Jarl Jhirian and Chartres made their way back the mountainous land which both had called home once before.
A renewed sense of freedom coursed not only through the leaders' veins, but also in the people of Roawia. Free from the iron grip of the Queen and her dogs, Prince Lorean and Lord Triphian enjoyed the embrace of loved ones and fellow countrymen upon their returns. But the Jarl and Chartres were instead greeted with billowing black smoke pillars, an orange and red sea of flame, and a path of lost loved ones in the wake of the Queen's men.
The Queen had loosened her grip on the lands of Loreos and Lenfald, but had crushed any hope of rebellion in the North. Chartres had accompanied the Garhims on their northward march, as the young Lenfel prince had set up residence in the icy province some many months before. He asked permission from the Jarl to ride ahead of his Garhim kinsman to see if there were any lives left to be saved in the path of destruction.
The Jarl, hesitated, but then agreed saying, "Very well, but be careful, Lad. You're not as fierce as we Garhim on the battlefield, but I've a feeling ye might have a bit more heroics left in ye blade just yet!"
A village on the horizon bled black smoke as Chartres and a few men raced towards it. The embers of the fires were still warm when Chartres rode in on his Loreesi mount.
"Look for any survivors! Put out any remaining flames! Those black and red demons were just here!"
Chartres had proven himself a capable commander on the royal isle, but he was now showing his stress and emotion as he looked on at the destruction before him. He looked around at the skeletons of homes, at the charred remains of families, and began to break down. Chartres collapsed on to a pile of ashes, head in his hands.
"How could this have happened? How could I let this happen? The Jarl- no, not just him but these people too- they put their trust in me. And I- I failed them."
Chartres sat in a state of confusion and self loathing. How was he supposed to lead the greatest rebellion the lands had ever seen, if he couldn't even protect those who had granted him asylum?
Then, almost out of thin air, a man came running around the ruble of nearby house. He was cloaked in soot as he ran up to Chartres. He had a look of desperation plastered across his face. Chartres jumped up at the sight of this man appearing before him like a pale ghost.
"Sire! Sire! I need your help M'Lord!" Beckoned the man as he gripped a lone post for support.
"Yes! What do you need? Here take my horse, there has to be hundreds of men just down the road! They'll give you the assistance you seek!" Chartres said grabbing his horse's reigns.
"No M'Lord! My son, he's trapped- Please sire! I can not lift the beam! He'll surely die-" The man said nearly collapsing.
Chartres and the man sprinted to the boy as he gasped for air and relief. His cries for help were ear screeching.
"We're here now!" Said the man as he held his son's head. He turned to Chartres and said, "Surely we'll need more men! Go find your banner men!"
"There's no time" Said Chartres gripping the beam.
"Two men cannot lift such a beam sire!"
"Grab that end!" Chartres commanded the man. But he looked at Chartres with apprehension. "Just do it!"
Chartres and the boy's father gripped the beam and began to lift. At first they could only lift the thick timber a few mere inches. But then a power rush over took Chartres. In one swift motion Chartres and the man not only lifted the beam off the boy, but practically threw it. Chartres carried the boy to his horse and rode for the approaching men.
"Thank you sire! Thank you!" Called out the man as Chartres and the boy kicked up ashes riding through the remains of a gatehouse.
Chartres arrived at the vanguard of men coming down the road. The boy was clinging to Chartres' cloak as he wrapped his arm around the lad to keep him from bouncing right off the saddle.
"This boy needs help! Send your men into the town! There are survivors still left!"
Days after Chartres and the Jarl rode into Garheim they received letters from the corners of the North detailing similar destruction. The country sides had bit lit aflame. The Queen had no intention of losing another province, even if it was reduced to ashes.
Chartres, the Jarl, and Garheim's top generals amassed in the shadows of the burnt village to assess the full scale of things. They gathered around a hastily assembled table. Sitting on barrels, crates, and any other suitable object sufficed for the highest ranking men. The rest stood around the crowded table.
The Jarl nodded to a man on the other side of the table, who stood up from his barrel.
"We've received word from as far as Stormhaven, Rotheburg and Shardmines; all say the surrounding villages and towns, and even certain sections of their cities have been burned or put down by the Queen's dogs. Effectively, the rebellion has failed. Only small pockets of liberated people stand free of Galainir's oppression."
"We must help our people! Send the cavalry ahead!" Demanded a general as he slammed his fists on the table.
Another man quickly replied from across the table, "You know very well we can barely keep these men going. We've already lost scores of men fighting at the Queen's doorstep. I promised my men no more senseless fighting. I do NOT go against my word!"
"Jarl, tell this coward we must fight!" Growled the other lord.
The Jarl looked at his generals, and then to Chartres who sat to his left. "What say ye, young Chartres?"
"I know honor means a great deal to you men, but I know your people mean even more to you. We must ask the Lenfels and Loreesi for help. They will answer your calls with as much honor as you have. If not out of honor, out of fear that they're next of the Queen's list. We must send letters to the lords and nobles of the south as soon as possible! At the very least I'll personally send letters to the knights of Loreos, and the people of Lenfald who would help me in my time of need. But I beg you- You cannot fight this battle alone. You need help."
The generals turned their eyes towards the Jarl who stoked his beard slowly. There were a few moments of utter silence until the Jarl said in a confident voice looking into the eyes of his men, "Chartres is right."
Scores of men and women have now made their way north to come to Garheim's aid.
The siege of the Royal Castle by the united rebel armies of Loreos, Lenfald and Garheim had failed in capturing the fortress, as the wizard Maldrake's summoned golem had turned the tide in the queen's favor. However, the rebels did succeed in freeing their imprisoned leaders, leaving Queen Galainir and Maldrake with little in the way of negotiating leverage.
The queen still held fortresses in the northern realm of Garheim, but her grip on even those holdings was beginning to wane under the undaunted assaults by the united rebel forces. It was time for the queen to meet with her generals in the war room to discuss strategy, but things had taken an unexpected turn after the assault on the castle..."
“The news is not good your majesty. You need to return to bed!”
“Silence William… There is much still yet to be done. Where did Maldrake flee to?"
"I am not sure your majesty, he is lucky to have escaped when he did. Unfortunately, the rebellion was able to rescue their precious leaders. Hogwash, I say. Their time is coming."
"The very thought sickens me!" Galainir spat. "Insolent swine! Their time will come. They will fall at my feet and beg forgiveness for their crimes. Now William, we must head to the war room."
“But my queen, you heard the apothecary; you heard what Harlow said. If you move too much the poison will spread. You must stay in bed until a cure is found!”
“I know what I need to do William,” Galainir snapped. “You are to fulfill my orders. I will await everyone in the war room. Maldrake's poison won't stop me."
“As you command… my queen,” William reluctantly responded.
After William left the library of the queen, Galainir began mustering the strength to get up. Stepping on the cold, stone floor, she stood to her height. Immediately her legs buckled and she fell to her knees, weakened by the effects of the poison.
"Curse you Maldrake!" The Queen snarled contemptuously. "When I get my hands on you you will beg for death, this I swear!"
(IN THE WAR ROOM)
“Warlords Goffrey and Warren have been summoned. They should be here within the hour,” William informed Galainir.
“G….*cough*… good. And what of the others?” Galainir gasped out.
“I anticipate their arrival any moment.” William nervously added, eyeballing the queens visible paleness. "Our Generals are holding their ground in Garheim."
“William…” Galainir grimaced through the pain. “We must not lose Garheim... If we do... Roawia *cough*... Roawia will crumble."
"We will fight to the last man!" William swore.
"Gah! How could I... Have fallen for Maldrakes villainy!"
"None of us could have predicted Maldrake’s intentions." William assured Galainir. "We didn’t know the coward would try to use you as his pawn. Once you caught on to his schemes, his act of desperation was to poison you and take control! Once he found out the blackguard was coming to arrest him for treason, he fled as quickly as he could. Let him be cursed!”
“I… I hope *cough*… I hope you are right…” Galainir’s eyes closed, panting heavily. “I… I would cut the fool… myself… had I... had I the chance…”
“My Queen?!?” William rose to his feet, startled. “My Queen, we must call Harlow, now!”
“Agh.. it is… it is too late… Will… William. Cursed... Cursed be Maldrake! He must pay... with his life! He... He must pa…” with a heavy sigh, Galainir fell in a crumpled heap to the floor.
“My Queen?!?! Hold on, help is coming!”
The doors of the war room opened as a young lady strolled into the chamber, responding to William’s previous summoning.
“Where have you been?!?!” William, cradling Galainir’s head, barked at the young, fair lass.
“What is wrong?!?!” the brunette beauty managed out in a terrified voice, startled at the sight of William holding the lifeless Galainir.
“Maldrake poisoned the Queen! She’s not breathing!" William cried out.
"What?! Why?!" The lady responded in teary eyes.
"Galainir found out Maldrakes plans to kill her and rule Roawia as King. Never mind that now Emmaline, call for help!!!” William wailed.
The young lady, eyes full of tears, sprinted out into the hallway and found the nearest knight. Grabbing him, she cried out, “please, go and get Harlow immediately, mother has collapsed! And find Prince Rogell as quick as you can! Tell him his mother and sister need him now! Please!!!”
"As you command, Princess Emmaline!"
Black flags fluttered in the black night, and black crows croaked amongst the black trees. One large tent stood away from those belonging to the mass of Galainir’s army, next to a broad oak at the edge of a clearing. In that tent a man, if that is what he could be called, sat alone, brooding. The air was thick around him and it felt strained, as if it was alive and bent to the will of the cloaked figure. His beard was long and thick, covering his face, and in the darkness only the light of his eyes could be seen, piercing every side of the tent. He was Maldrake, formerly Galainir’s right hand and now his own commander, free to make his own decisions, and the most powerful being outside of the Magic Isles. Sorcery was in his blood, coursing through his veins as it had done since the day he entered the miserable world. Now that world was in turmoil – Maldrake’s world. His forces had failed him in Loreos and Lenfald, two dung heaps that had somehow held back his might. Even in Garheim, a land of drunkards, his armies hadn’t been able to secure themselves, and now they were on the run, fleeing the allied forces of Roawia.
A masked man appeared at the tent’s opening, wearing the dragon-emblazoned breastplate of Maldrake’s commanders.
“Lord Maldrake.” He bowed low.
Without moving his lips, the thoughts of the silent wizard were conveyed to the general.
“Tell me, Cryxus, how far behind us are the allied forces?”
Cryxus gulped. The telepathic communication always unnerved him. Taking a moment to gather his resolve, he responded,
“They gained five miles on us today, my lord. They’re ten miles away.”
“How many times will my forces fail me?” Maldrake conveyed through the ether, sneering. “No matter. They will meet us in battle; after all, that is their aim.”
“But my lord, they outnumber us four to one. We will be crushed by the Roawian scum. Is that what you want?”
“I forgive your doubts, Cryxus – the young always doubt – but you should know this: I will NEVER be defeated. I gave my plans.” Looking out of the tent, the wizard’s eyes came to rest on a small basket of firewood. “Bring me that basket.”
The commander bowed uncertainly, making Maldrake smile. He still doubted him, the fool.
The basket was placed at the foot of Maldrake’s chair, and the bearded man opened his hand.
“Watch closely, commander.” A lick of flame appeared in the upturned palm, growing in size each second that passed. Maldrake kicked the basket over and flung his hand towards the wood on the floor. Immediately the tent was lit by a burning light, causing Cryxus to stumble back in shock. The firewood became ash on the ground, nothing more, and all was still. Then, after a moment, the ash began to rise up, pieces moving together and breaking apart, forming indistinguishable shapes. When the movement ceased the shapes were recognisable. There were mountains, valleys, rivers and, in the midst of all this, a fortress.
“This fortress is mine, Cryxus, and it’s but ten miles away from here. We make it there and we can hold back those who would try to bring me down.”
“I will rouse the men so we can leave right away.” Turning to leave, the commander paused and laughed mockingly. “It will be good to see the Roawian attack break upon the walls.”
Maldrake opened his hand once more and the wisps of flame still glowing amongst the ash disappeared, and the hills fell away to nothing. Soon, the rest of Roawia would do the same thing. Black thoughts filled the wizard’s mind, and black crows croaked amongst the black trees.
ADVANCE WITH CAUTION
“I don’t think we realize the strength of the wizard’s power, nor his intent to rule all life forms. Maldrake wields a power which has never walked the face of this land, and his thirst for dominion over Roawia is greater than anything we’ve ever seen.He will not stop. He must be destroyed.”
“Aye lad,” Eindrik began,“but how do ye suppose to defeat the soulless wretch?”
“I… I do not know,” Chartres hopelessly responded, “but I know I must do whatever I can for the sake of Roawia and its people.”
It was late. The wolves had long stopped howling. The tavern had stopped up its ale taps. Despite all the chaos of late, all of Garhim was nestled into a deep sleep under a clear, wintry sky. Still, in the late hours of the night, the three leaders of Roawia: Triphian, Eindrik, and Jarius, along with their rescuer Chartres, and a host of advisors and commanders, met in the makeshift keep of the Garhim leader. All of the chairs around the large table were filled, with additional people standing around the table. A matter must be discussed. What was Roawia to do with Maldrake, who had retreated with his army to his fortress?
“Hmph….” Triphian began, “Just send a giant of a man with an even bigger axe and cut off the fool’s head. No amount of magic can stop a severed head.”
“As a matter of fact,” Triphian continued, “We still have the tattered remains of a few armies. Put them together, break down Maldrake's door, and let someone cut his head off. Simple as that;problem solved.”
“My lord Triphian,” Chartres interjected, “I don’t think you understand. Getting to Maldrake won’t be a problem, less than a third of his army remains. What little forces he had, have been decimated in the Garhim counterattack. He barely has enough soldiers to man his fortress, let alone defend it.”
“This bodes well for us. What is it that concerns you, lad?” Triphian remarked.
“I just… I have a strong warning… in my heart, against Maldrake.” Chartres began. “We all saw the giant wargolem he summoned on the royal island. I fear… I fear that was just the beginning of his power. Getting in won’t be a problem. Killing Maldrake…well… I believe he hasn’t revealed his full magical power yet, and that could complicate matters.”
“So then,” Triphian chuckled in annoyance, “we are to sit back like cowards all because of thy ‘feelings’? I mean no offense to thee, young Chartres, but my companions and I have made war since before thy birth. Our company knows how to fight.”
“Twould be wise for us to heed the words of Chartres.” Prince Lorean, silent until now, spoke out.
“And why is that?” Triphian scowled, temper quickly rising.
“I just believe… it would be best for us to not act rashly," Chartres offered. "We have all the time in the world. Maldrake has withdrawn all his men to this fortress of his. Heis no threat at the moment. There is no harm in taking our time, he isn’t going anywhere.”
“And what would you have us do boy?!” Triphian spat, his face turning a deep shade of red. “Rot away out here while the wizard builds his power?! What happens when Maldrake leaves his fortress with a bigger and more powerful army months from now? What happens when he comes and takes the throne by force? What happens when he wraps us in chains again andmakes us bend to his will?”
“Triphian… please, if you would but listen to the lad… ” Jarius began.
“No princeling!” The Lenfel, standing to his full height, harshly cut in. “My people, and all of yours as well, were mercilessly slaughtered by this degenerate, soulless monster! Roawia cries out in anguish at the death of its children! Tis finally time for judgment to fall upon the house of Maldrake! I will break down his gate and I will tear down his walls and then I will take him by his black, twisted beard, and I will cut his throat myself! And I intend not to sit around like a fool nor a coward; the wrongful death of thousands of citizens of this land deserves justice, and they will receive it! I will not make my people, my Lenfald, wait for justice any longer!!!”
“And you won’t have to.” A rich voice behind a thick, red beard cut in, silencing the room.
"Who in the world are you?!" Triphian bellowed.
“Erm... my lords, if I may? My name is Oglesong of Garhim, and I personally interrogated all the captives of Maldrakes’ deserting army. Through what I have accomplished, much about Maldrake and his power have been revealed."
"So Oglesong... what do you have to report which suddenly makes separating his ugly head from the rest of his body such an impossible proposition!" Triphian boldly suggested.
"Not so fast, my lord. Chartres is right, the power Maldrake wields could turn this stone keep into a pile of ashes in a moment. He is far more powerful than any of you, or your armies, all because of his magic.”
“That can’t be…” Triphian slumped back down in his chair, defeated. “His magic is meaningless out here. Magic is weak on the mainland, everyone knows this…”
“You are right lord Triphian,” Oglesong started, “magic is weak on the mainland; incredibly weak, as it were. But somehow, someway, Maldrake has managed to contain his magical powers within a large red crystal. No one knows where or how this crystal came to be, but our interrogations have told us that his power is directly linked to the crystal. And as long as this crystal is in Maldrake’s presence, and as long as it is with him, it gives him access to a power far more terrible than anything this world has ever seen. You are going to need something… some weapon very strong, to destroy this crystal.”
"Ugh..." Triphian sighed, face downcast. "What weapon is strong enough to destroy this madman's crystal? Who knows of a weapon?"
The room fell silent.
After a few moments passed, Chartres’ eyes brightened considerably. “Arondor,” he whispered.
“What is it lad?” apuzzled Jarl asked Chartres.
“The reforged sword of arondor… It’s not magical, but it is one of the most powerful swords in existence.” Chartres explained. “We just so happen to have this sword. It's very powerful, it might be powerful enough to destroy the crystal!”
“You are wise Chartres.” Jarius complemented. “Your wisdom is far beyond your years. Such a plan may offer success.”
“It’s simple.” Oglesong continued. “If you destroy this crystal, Maldrake is no more than a man. And a man can be killed with a blade.”
“We need that army Triphian,” Chartres perked up,looking across the table at Triphian. “We need that army to break down his gates and tear down his walls, like you said. With the past assault on the magical isles dealing a large blow on theLoreesi, and the recent Garhim excursion, you are left with the largest forces. Triphian, we need your army to help us destroy this crystal. Will you help us defeat Maldrake? Will you help us restore Roawia, and your people?”
Triphian, who had been staring at the table in deep thought since slumping down, straightened his shoulders and looked at Chartres through narrowed eyes.
After a moment, the highlord of Lenfald eloquently responded, “I have an army, Chartres, and you have a sword. We have a crystal to destroy.”
THE ASSAULT ON MALDRAKE'S FORTRESS
“Er…. Why does he keep staring at me?”
“I dunno laddie, but I don’t know that I would be starin’ back.”
“He has red eyes… and big pointy teeth… and don’t forget his slimy green skin… I think he wants to eat me; he won’t stop staring. I’m scared Bartholomew.”
“Oi Joseph, jus’ stop starin’.” Bartholomew lectured the young Scout Sniper, Joseph. “He ain’t gonna bite’cha. He’s on our side.”
“I don’t know, I thought we hated trolls and Outlaws? Why ain’t we just stuck this one? Why ain’t he sticking us?” Joseph mumbled to Bartholomew, quite concerned.
“Sometin’s different bout these trolls,” Bartholomew reasoned. “They don’t like these wizards and folks neither. Some big troll named Mythrog came wit a bunch o’ other Outlaws and they plan to ‘elp us stick ol’ black beard Maldrake. I lost a son an a brother to that ‘ol black monster! Anyone who helps stick that wizard, is a friend ‘o mine, Outlaw or no!”
“True… ‘slong as he don’t eat me…” Joseph responded, sympathetic, but not totally convinced.
“Hey you… human.” A deep, raspy voice breathed down Joseph’s neck.
Eyes bulging and knees wobbling, Joseph turned around to see a massive green troll, well over six feet tall, holding a war axe and wearing a crimson red cape with a bronze helmet.
IMG_3834 by SSchmidt--, on Flickr
“That there is Grimglock you’re staring at, and he loves manflesh. And the longer you stare at him, the hungrier he will get. The siege is starting, and if you don’t stop staring at Grimglock, in the middle of the battle he may just forget all about Maldrake’s soldiers in the keep and come for you, you tasty little meatbag...”
“Oi, I’ll stop starin’ right now!!!” Joseph sweating profusely, turned around facing the keep, watching the siege against Maldrake’s fortress begin.
“Heh, smart move laddie,” Bartholomew approved, “smart move.”
And with the fling of Trebuchets and whistle of siege engines, the allied forces began their assault of Maldrake’s black, twisted fortress. That grotesque keep was the final refuge for the evil, dark wizard, Maldrake, and the few hundred soldiers he had left.
The allied army was far from a standard faction army.
The Loreesi were unable to commit as many of their knights and pikemen as they would have liked, seeing as how their forces had never fully recovered from the “War of Roawian Succession” and the “War on the magical isles” before the former. Even so, Jarius, with some of his best remaining knights, accompianed the allied army to the fortress.
Garheim, led by the unwavering strength and courage of their Jarl, wasn’t able to commit as many as they would have liked either, having just liberated their own homeland. Still, the Jarl brought along some of his best tribes and clan warriors and militias throughout the frozen north, including the famed war leader Jorn Jakobsen and his fierce soldiers.
Oddly enough, a large force of Outlaw troops, accompanied by the famed troll High General Mythrog and his army, requested to join arms in the battle against Maldrake. Such a force consisted of some quite notable Outlaws, including Wolfgang Von Wolfpack, Gavin of Lockwood, and Captain Claw with his nefarious crew aboard the Obsidian Seawing. The different characters and races brought an unsettled feeling of mixed emotions upon most of the allied army, but once they were warmly welcomed by Chartres and the three faction leaders, they began to be accepted among the ranks.
Finally, the largest portion of the allied army (accounting for over half of all forces present) was manned by Lenfald’s, Highlord Triphian. Triphian, had become extremely passionate in removing Maldrake once and for all. Many questioned him and wondered if he had possible ulterior motives. Some suggested, Triphian wanted to exert himself in front of the young Chartres as a show of power and authority. Others believed he wanted Lenfald to receive the glory for committing the most troops. Still yet others were afraid he would use his large force to not only defeat Maldrake, but enslave the other faction leaders. However, all Lenfels knew none of those were true. Triphian’s unrelenting loyalty to his home and faction, and desire to see justice brought upon Maldrake’s misdeeds were the driving force behind his commitment to the war; precisely why his people, and great Lenfald, adored their leader so much.
Triphian had personally hired one of the most famed mercenaries throughout all of Roawia, Hans Zarkan, and his massive army of dedicated troops. In addition, the famed “Warlord of Lenfald” Sir Caelan Munro along with Sir Haymar Glen, Woric Boldine and the largest group of Scout Snipers ever assembled, accompanied the High Lord. Were it not for Triphian, the allied army would not have the force necessary for such a massive siege.
The Noble Loreesi would commit most of their forces to the western wall, apart from a legion of highly specialized desert elves, who Jarius reserved especially to help scale the southeastern wall (one of the more important parts of the keep).
Great Lenfald, having the largest amount of troops, would commit most of their ranks to bringing down the southern wall, the largest portion of wall on the castle. The Scout Snipers, along with their leaders would scale the south western part, while the mercenaries would help with breaching the gate and the southeastern part of the wall. A small group of Scout Snipers were to scale the eastern cliff with the goal of flanking the courtyard with arrows.
Brave Garheim, personally accompanied by their Jarl would scale the southeastern wall, while their spearmen would break down the small, entrenched, eastern gate.
The hearty Outlaws were to assist in various places throughout the battlefield, with the bulk under Mythrog tasked with breaching the southern walls and breaking down the main gate.
Such a battle plan seemed nigh unstoppable, according to the war generals of the factions. And they would be right, were it not for some unexpected events which would take place on the battlefield.
“Nay lad,” the Loreesi captain responded, “we must scale the western wall! The pincer attack is counting on it! Keep pushing forward!”
“But sir, we don’t have the range on our archers to reach the height of the black walls! None of our men carry longbows. They are picking us off; our whole legion will get slaughtered out here if we stay!”
“We can’t withdraw; we stay here and fight to the last man Davius! We must scale these walls! We still have a few ladders left; give them covering fire so they can get to th…”
TTTHUMP! An arrow landed right in the neck of the captain. As he sputtered blood from his mouth, his horse reared back, dismounting the dead captain before sprinting away in sheer terror. Eyelids still open in death, the shell of the man leading the Loreesi forces against the western wall of Maldrake’s fortress lay devoid of life on the treacherous ground outside of Maldrake’s fortress.
Davius ran to the dead captain, cradling his head in horror at the sight of the cruel, black arrow protruding from his throat.
“Davius! Davius! The attack is breaking, we must retreat!” A terrified soldier cried out, fleeing the battle along with the entire Loreesi line.
Davius broke away from his stupor and cried out, “Fall back! Fall back! Regroup beyond the southern wall! Fall B…”
Falling to the ground, Davius stared in a bewildered stupor at the arrow protruding from his chest. Turning his head from side to side, the last thing he would see were the Loreesi forces breaking like water against the black, unforgiving walls, of Maldrake the silent. The pincer attack had failed. Even now, the fighting on the southern walls would determine the outcome of this battle.
The archers of Maldrake stationed on the western walls, roared out in approval at the sight of the retreating Loreesi. Boethius the Exiled (one such Outlaw who had found himself in the service of these dragon knights) yelled out in excitement as the knights fled. Still hung over from a long knight of drinking off the taps, he stumbled about the walls surveying the battle. Hearing the crash of the battering ram against the front gate, he ran inside the keep to observe the carnage from a more safer location.
“It seems the battle greatly favors the allied army, my lord Rogell. Our scouts have informed me Maldrake’s army is being beaten off the walls. The Loreesi assault on the western walls has broken, but the southern walls have been scaled with siege towers and ladders, and the front gate has been breached. The allies are pouring into the castle right now. Maldrake will have no choice but to reveal himself.”
The gate falls by JBIronWorks, on Flickr
“Then everything is going according to plan Silas.” Prince Rogell, black wavy hair cascading down his armor, replied. “People speak of the convenience of killing two birds with one stone… I am aim to kill much more than that today.”
“Of course, my prince,” Silas nodded his head in acknowledgement.
“Give the allied army more time. Let them pour into Maldrake’s keep. It is there they will be trapped like rats, and everyone will see the might of Galainir once and for all!”
“What are your orders, my lord?” Silas asked Prince Rogell, the oldest child of Queen Galainir.
“When the army has fully scaled the walls, and Maldrake has revealed himself, we will charge.” Rogell responded. “With the bulk of the allied forces inside the keep, the three leaders of Roawia will have little defense on the outside. You, Silas, shall lead the Cavalry charge with me. Our warbeasts will flank from the north and the blackguard will flank from the south. With our charge, we shall kill Triphian, Eindrik and Jarius in one fell swoop!”
“As you command my lord. And what of the traitor Maldrake?”
“Once the three faction leaders are dead, we will deal with the wizard. Don’t let anyone touch him. Maldrake is mine.” Rogell spat.
“For the Queen.” Rogell responded with a devilish grin as Silas walked away, out of earshot, “and for my future kingdom.”
TTTHUMP! TTTHUMP! TTTHUMP!
The arrows of Lenfald’s Scout Snipers sailed over the southern walls of Maldrake’s fortress and continued to strike true on their targets. Dozens upon dozens of Maldrake’s soldiers were cut down in the fire. Hans Zarkans’ elite mercenaries had scaled the southern walls with ladders, and aided Mythrog’s trolls in breaking down the front gate. Steel upon steel and sword upon shield clattered the courtyard, as the mercenaries and trolls slowly overcame their enemies.
The siege towers hit the wall by JBIronWorks, on Flickr
High General Mythrog, along with a crew of his most trusted and powerful trolls, scaled the walls with ladders and siege weapons, ripping apart everything in their path.
“High General… Maldrake has yet to show himself,” one of Mythrog’s captains barked out, cutting down a terrified defender in his path.
“Worry not,” Mythrog responded, bringing his war axes on top of the unprotected chest of a disarmed opponent, “the snake will have to show his head soon. Send word to Chartres… he will be needed to scale the walls soon with the sword of Arondor. The crystal glows ever brighter on top of Maldrake’s tower!”
image by SSchmidt--, on Flickr
“As you comma… look High general, Maldrake has come out of the keep!” the troll pointed, noticing Maldrake’s presence.
Wordlessly, and with great confidence, Maldrake stepped out of the keep, noticing the slaughter of his men. He looked across the two bridges, leading from the walls to the keep, and noticed Jarius’ elite Loreesi elves had cut their way through the walls defenders, and were now taking the eastern bridge.
“Aha, there is the wizard!” one of the Loreesi elves, cried out, golden armor stained with the blood of Maldrake’s soldiers.
“Let us go, and end this once and for all!” another elf cried out, mustering the dozen or so elves already upon the walls.
The elves ran across the unprotected bridge, headed straight for their target, Maldrake. In spite of being alone, with no one to defend him, Maldrake continued to cross the bridge toward the elves, wielding nothing but his black, cruel staff, moving swiftly and confidently.
Maldrake stopped less than fifteen yards away from the elves, and planted the bottom of his staff upon the bridge, as if daring them to cross it.
The leader of the elves looked around at all the carnage; the siege weapons launching their devilish attacks, the Scout Snipers cutting down the defenders in the courtyard, the trolls and mercenaries slicing their way through every soldier that came in their path.
With a huge smile on his face, the elf leader chuckled out loudly, “Ha! Not so silent now, Maldrake?”
Maldrake lowered his head and looked at the leader of the elves with a deep, soulless, hatred. Unexpectedly, the evil wizard broke an even more evil grin across his face.
The elf leader looked on in deep curiosity, as the body of Maldrake bounced up and down, indicating the wizard’s gleeful laughter. With wonderment, then a sense of dread, he watched Maldrake, chuckling all the while, weaving and waving his staff back and forth in intricate motions. The elf looked up at the massive crystal above the keep, glowing and pulsating with such intense brightness as never seen before.
His smile quickly fading into a grimace, the leader of Jarius’ elves cried out, “Kill him!”
By now, the dozen of elves had grown in number to over twenty. With cat-like speed and heated vengeance, they crossed the bridge toward their black, twisted target, as the wizard Maldrake continued to move his staff, now in a circular motion.
Within a few yards of the wizard, the leader of the Elves jumped high in the air, raising his elven spear, ready to make one final slice and remove the wizards head.
Just before the blade struck true in the neck of Maldrake, the butt of the wizards staff hit the bridge, and an explosion of air unlike anything ever seen in all of Roawia burst forth, causing Maldrake to leviate several feet off the ground. Such an impact from the explosion blew the attacking elves from the bridge completely. Those who weren’t immediately killed were sent spiraling into the courtyard below, plummeting to their death from the massive fall.
Maldrake repelling the Loreesi Red Elves by JBIronWorks, on Flickr
“By the gods…” Eindrik mumbled out. “What manner of witchcraft is this? We’ve sent Chartres to his death…”
“Jarl Eindrik, we’ve got serious problems!” a young clansman yelled out in sheer panic.
“What is it laddie?” The Jarl slowly asked, unable to neither gather his bearings nor turn his eyes away from the fortress.
Maldrake had revealed himself from the keep, and was now using magic of which the world had never seen; summoning massive fireballs and huge gusts of wind. On one such spell, a massive, deathly green sword measuring over twelve feet long, appeared out of thin air and began slaughtering the allied army with such ease. Maldrake continued his noiseless chuckling, as he wordlessly slaughtered the attackers by the dozens. Maldrake had no need of any army. His magic was more powerful than any army ever assembled.
“Jarl, please hear me!” the clansman begged Eindrik, shaking his arm to get his attention.
“I’m sorry, please… continue.” The Jarl responded, attempting to shake his stupor in order to focus on the news the soldier was bringing.
“Loreos has fled the battlefield; most of their men were cut down in the pincer attack! The high elves have all but been decimated by Maldrake, and now it gets even worse!” the clansman sputtered out his words in terror. “There is a massive counter-attack headed right for the allied army, to the east flank. By our estimations, there are over four hundred cavalry, dozens of warbeasts, a contingent of archers, and the blackguard itself! The Scout Snipers guarding the east flank have already been cut down; this army will be upon us in minutes! What do we do?!?!”
“The wizard is too powerful…” The Jarl whispered, to no one in particular, a great sorrow coming over him. “We’ve led these brave men to their death. What fools we’ve been…”
“Shields up!!! INCOMING FIRE!!!” A Garhim captain screamed after noticing the blot of arrows from the Queen’s archers approaching the Garhim line.
The Jarl broke away from his troubled thoughts, and looked up to see the dark wave of arrows approaching him and his men.
“Cover the Jarl!!!” A clansman bellowed, rushing with a shield to cover their leader.
The clansman was fast but the arrows were faster. A long, cruel arrow struck true on the Jarl, finding exposed flesh between the noseguard and neckguard on his winged helm. The great Garhim leader, stumbled back a few steps, before falling to his knees. With the arrow protruding from his face, he fell in a crumpled heap to the ground.
“This way Chartres, with great speed!”
Chartres, along with a handful of personal bodyguards, navigated the keep of Maldrake’s fortress, heading for the top tower, where Maldrake’s crystal gave off a foreboding, blood red, light. Chartres’ stomach churned; he felt ill. With every few steps he passed over more and more dead bodies in the halls of the evil wizard. He looked down in horror at the faces of the men he had just been encamped with. Men he had grown to love, and appreciate; Roawia’s finest.
He fought back the urge to collapse and mourn the loss of all the brave men he had been commanding. In spite of all the broken, lifeless bodies he passed over, the sounds of fighting could still be heard in some of the farther corridors, as Maldrake’s men were slowly overwhelmed by the allied army. All of this, however, would be for nothing, should the sword of Arondor not pierce the corrupt heart of Maldrake’s crystal. The wizard, somehow empowered by this crystal, was systematically slaughtering the allied army with great joy on the bridges over the courtyard. Over one hundred and fifty men had already fallen by Maldrake alone and his great power. Chartres feared once Maldrake cleared off the battlements, he would make his way down onto the battlefield. Nothing could stop him then.
“Up here Lord Chartres!” the Lenfel knight called for their commanding general, pointing up a stairwell which led to the top of the keep.
A great explosion sounded as the foundation of the keep shook under such force. Dozens of screams and yells of pain were heard. Sounds of hurricane like winds roared as men were blown off the parapets and bridges of Maldrake’s keep.
“Gah, we must hurry!” Chartres encouraged, sprinting up the steps and passing his guards. With each step he took, Chartres’ heart sank even more, as the sounds of magic could be heard outside, the universe literally bending to the will of Maldrake the silent. As Chartres scaled the last straight of steps, he leaped to the top of the tower, only to look upon the battlefield below in utter horror.
The allied army was in shambles. There was no Loreesi presence to be seen, apart from the lifeless bodies of the westen pincer attack and the elves Maldrake had systemically slaughtered. A large force had counterattacked from the east, and the Garhims were being cutdown in the crossfire.
The Queen's cavalry charge by JBIronWorks, on Flickr
Their own pincer attack had been countered with another pincer attack. The blackguard cut through Garhim regulars with ease, as a large cavalry force pummeled the Garhim knights. Massive troll-like war beasts, mounted by soldiers of the Queen, cut through the northern flank of Garhim as if they were shreds of paper. Hans Zarkan’s mercenaries had left the wall to intercept some of the warbeasts, in a desperate attempt to slow down the counterattack.
"Hold the Line!" by JBIronWorks, on Flickr
Some brave trolls, namely High General Mythrog and his personal bodyguard, still pressed on toward Maldrake. The brave knights under Sir Caelan Munro and Sir Haymar Glen pushed forward too, within the walls, all trying to reach the dreaded wizard.
IMG_3829 by SSchmidt--, on Flickr
In these moments Chartres understood what happened. The Queen counterattacked when most of the army was inside the castle walls. Galainir intended to wipe every enemy off the face of Roawia at once. They were trapped.
The banner of Triphian still flew high but Jarl Eindrik’s banner was nowhere to be seen.
The black fortress reeked of uncontrolled death, as the mad wizard blew through wave after wave of attackers with his terrifying magic.
Chartres turned to face this crystal, with nothing short of pure hatred in his eyes. This crystal, this evil, soulless rock, was responsible for the death of thousands of Roawians. Chartres’ eyes burned, as he stared into the very heart of Maldrake the silent; this pulsating red crystal.
Unsheathing the sword of Arondor, Chartres raised the sword and yelled at the top of his lungs, “No more!”
“We have to do something! We must stop this counterattack or we will all be slaughtered on these wretched plains. What do we do Lord Jakobson?!?”
Jorn Jakobson scanned the battlefield around him. The Jarl’s body had been carried off the battlefield and Triphian, in combat himself, was trying desperately to muster the remaining western forces to finish Maldrake. There were no captains or commanders around. The counterattack of the Queen had cut through more than one third of the allied army and was showing no signs of stopping. The Garhim leadership was broken.
Jakobson called out to the Lenfel mercenary, Hans Zarkan, “you there, sellsword!”
Cutting down a straggler of the Queen’s army, Zarkan responded, “what have you Garhim?!”
“Do you wish to die today?” Jakobson questioned, meeting the mercenary side by side and cutting down another soldier.
“Not a chance…” Hans retorted. “All the coin in the world is meaningless if there is no life to enjoy it.”
“My sentiments exactly,” Jakobson agreed. “Let’s end this once and for all. Your skill can take down the warbeasts. My strength can withstand the cavalry. If we fail, Roawia dies! What say you?”
“I aim to please!” Zarkan acknowledged, charging the nearest warbeast. The warbeast had a mercenary in its mouth and one in its hand. With unimaginable fleetness, Zarkan lunged forth and sliced off the hand of the warbeast in one swift blow.
“Rally shieldmen, rally!” Jakobson roared, trying to reform some sort of line amongst the Garhims. “This ends today! We shall withstand the ground of the wizard one final time! Hold off the cavalry!”
The Garhim line bravely reorganized to face the cavalry charge heading right toward them.
“HOLD!!!” Jorn Jakobson bellowed as the horses crashed into the shieldmen.
A few spots had broken under the massive surge, but the Garhim shieldmen held their own against the cavalry, which had now begun to lose momentum.
Prince Rogell himself had been slowed down, and now the battle was on even ground.
A fierce melee was taking place outside the castle walls, as the Garhim footsoldiers furiously stabbed at the mounted dragon knights with their spears.
“Archers, take that wretched monster down!” Jakobson yelled, motioning to Prince Rogell.
The twang of bows could be heard as arrows were shot to the target. One such arrow landed right in the abdomen of the prince. Yelling in pain, Rogell, ripped the arrow out and continued to hack and slice at the Garhim footmen. Another arrow landed in his upper chest as he blindly slashed at the soldiers around him.
“My prince,” Silas yelled, his sword deftly landing in the soft spot of a red-bearded Garhim, “we must withdraw!”
Rogell, severely wounded, looked around and surveyed the battlefield.
“Fall back Queensmen, fall back!” Rogell bellowed out with a disgusted look on his face. "I intend not to die on these plains!"
The Garhims and Lenfel mercenaries roared in approval, as they had the upper ground. Queen Galainir’s army had begun fleeing the battle, but not without a heavy price.
Mythrog had cleared a path to Maldrake. The two now sparred, axes against staff. Being an Outlaw, High General Mythrog had unwillingly been exposed to magic time and time again. As the evil sorcerer continued to blow men off the castle walls, he had to deal with Mythrog who continued to evade his magical attacks and spells. Mythrog's strength was immense, as he swung his axes in a huge arc above his head. Maldrake hastily raised his staff as Mythrog brought both axes down upon the weight of the wizard. The staff broke under the power of the axes, forcing Maldrake to his knees. With uncharacteristic quickness, the wizard rolled to the side and evaded the trolls axe, intended for his neck.
Gathering his bearings, Maldrake rose and punched the troll in his mouth. The magic behind such a powerful fist sent Mythrog flying through the air, landing ten feet away across the bridge.
The wizard, smiling evilly, popped his knuckles and rolled his neck. On cue, Maldrake raised his hands high in the air, and brought them down with full force, sending a wave of air onto the back of Mythrog; the troll leader roared in pain under the weight of the magic.
You fool, Maldrake’s voice spoke inside the mind of Mythrog. No mortal being shall afflict me. Your death has come.
A deafening explosion sounded, as everyone looked to the top of the keep to see the red crystal shatter into millions of fragments. Chartres’ sword of Arondor pierced the black heart of the crystal. Both sword and crystal were destroyed. The plan had worked!
Maldrake fell to his knees, and yelled out a gut-wrenching scream, as if in total agony. His body pulsated with a glowing red light, as he continued to scream. His hands and arms bent and twist into contorted shapes. With a sharp jerk, he fell to all fours, gasping for breath as a fish out of water.
Mythrog weakly rose to his feet. He began limping slowly to the wizard. Maldrake, strength all but evaporated, raised his eyes to see the giant troll reach down to get him.
As if he were nothing more than a child, Mythrog grabbed Maldrake at the neck of his robes and raised him a couple of feet off the ground with one hand. In a daze, Maldrake’s eyes looked down at the massive troll who now controlled his fate. He grinned evilly, staring at Mythrog.
“For Lenfald!” Mythrog bellowed as his right fist landed right in the nose of Maldrake, sending the wizard a good four feet.
Mythrog picked him up again and screamed, “for Loreoes!” punching the wizard in the mouth and sending him rolling across the bridge.
A third time he picked him up, raising him into the air and yelled, “for Garheim!” The force of the third punch sent Maldrake rolling to the end of the bridge, near the keep. Maldrake’s mouth sputtered blood onto the walkway as his broken body tried to regain composure, smiling no more.
Mythrog picked up Maldrake one final time, and louder than before, yelled, “for the Outlaws!” The force of his final punch sent Maldrake cascading across the remainder of the bridge and down the steps, right in front of his keep.
Mythrog, with a snarl on his face, reached down and picked up his massive war axe, slowly approaching the broken body of the wizard. Maldrake weakly rose to his knees, looking up at his massive assailant. The troll general stopped right in front of Maldrake and raised his axe high into the air, gripping the handle with both hands.
“Your death has come, Maldrake.” High General Mytrhog softly spoke.
With those words, the war axe of Mythrog deftly severed the head of the Wizard.
The headless body of the wizard collapsed one final time on the stone floor of the black fortress, never to move again.
Mythrog bent down and picked up the severed head of Maldrake by the beard. Casually, he tossed the head off the keep and into the lifeless courtyard below.
“Maldrake the silent…” Mythrog whispered. “Silent, forevermore.”
THE JARL'S FUNERAL PROCESSION
The Garhim caravan trudged solemnly into Mikithdar, the surviving solders pulling carts of fallen soldiers behind them, returning their fallen brothers home for proper burial next to the graves of their ancestors. Pyres of mourning poured billowing columns of black smoke into the icy winter air. The wails of wives, mothers and children echoed from the mountains in sorrow, the news of their fallen husbands, sons, and fathers having reached them ahead of the procession. As well, the Jarl's fall on the battlefield was fresh in the minds of the entire country. Being loyal to the core, the loss of their leader weighed heavily on their morale.
The train of carnage from the battle of Maldrake's fortress continued on to the city center, a large covered litter being carried by eight sturdy Garhims leading the procession, bearing the Jarl to the royal palace.
A large group of spectators gathered around the city square, anxious for some sort of announcement regarding the nation's new leadership. The procession ground to a halt, and the litter bearers carefully set their cargo down on the ground. Two ornately-armored guards moved to the side of the litter, and to everyone's surprise, placed a set of stairs next to it, and a third guard produced a shaft from below his cape. The crowd gasped in astonishment as the curtain of the litter was thrown back, and a tall, noble figure, immediately recognizable, limped carefully but confidently down the stairs, begrudgingly accepting the staff, then brushing aside any attempts at additional aid by the accompanying guards.
"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!" boomed the deep voice of Jhirian Eindrick, to which the crowd responded with a deafaning roar of jubilation! The Jarl was alive!!
"Long live the Jarl!" the cries rang out, and it seemed that for a few moments some of the sorrows were forgotten with the knowledge that things would be alright once again in the northern realm.
Global Challenge IX - The Recovery
With Maldrake dead and the Queen still suffering from being poisoned by the traitorous wizard, the allied armies of Lenfald, Loreos and Garheim finally seem to be poised to return their lands to peace and prosperity once more. Unfortunately, the losses from the assault on Maldrake's fortress were tremendous, and the remaining troops have neither the numbers nor the morale to attempt yet another crusade to the royal isle to finish off the Queen's forces. She would have to wait, for now.
For the next few months, it is important for the men of Roawia to return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives and their villages. In the meantime, Chartres and the leaders of Roawia will begin to strategize the final push to remove the Queen from her seat of power once and for all.
The End of an Era
Bleak. Such a word was used to describe everything about Roawia as of late. Despite the recent rebuilding efforts, it was clear that a dark cloud hung over the united nations of Roawia. The tales of old and the songs and poems penned by the hands of minstrels had long been sung and quickly forgotten. Other than the capture of Roawia's leaders and nobles by the Queen, never had such a dark time been had in the history of the land.
The evil wizard Maldrake had been destroyed at the hands of an army led by Prince Chartres himself, but not without great cost. Thousands of soldiers and brave knights from all the provinces of Roawia, the Badlands included, lost their lives at the hands of the treacherous bearded monster. And even though victory had been achieved, the lands were left with a very bitter taste in their mouths. Families were broken. Husbands and fathers, uncles and sons, all had given up their lives in an effort to reclaim Roawia.
The post-war economy was suffering. With so few people left, there were fewer marketable goods to be sold, and the lack of manpower to till the soil and tend livestock meant that food was becoming scarce. Money exchanges were brief and small. Much of the land began resorting to petty thievery and crime in order to survive. Anarchy and dissension was beginning to be found not only among the badlands, but all the provinces as well, as people turned carnal in their effort to make ends meet.
The leaders of Roawia were facing struggles of their own. Chartres was looked upon with mixed favor among the provincial leaders. It was no secret that Lenfald as a whole despised the thought of Prince Chartres becoming what they considered to be a “puppet king”, due to his past relationships with Loreos and Garheim. The untended forests were quickly encroaching into the already limited pastureland that had been cleared with the blood sweat and tears of those now lost to the battlefield.
The desert province of Loreos was in no greater shape than their forested neighbors. Rumors began surfacing of estranged relationships between Prince Lorean and his close nephew Sir Mark of Falworth. Loreos as a whole was afraid that it could be spiraling toward its own civil war at the hands of bickering nobles and leaders. Entire herds of horses were being released into the wild, their owners unable to feed them.
In the far north, Garheim had problems of their own. In the days immediately after the battle with Maldrake, with rumors of the Jarl's death afloat, many clan leaders in Garheim had begun shifting powers and positions in the hope of taking on the newly-vacated Jarlship, despite the Jarl having his own son. Even when it was found that the Jarl had recovered from his wounds, some in Garheim still had lingering desires to take the very throne they hoped would have been up for grabs. Also, there were whispers the Jarl wasn’t nearly as well and healthy as he had let on, which only fanned the flames of those who sought power.
To add, Galainir, gravely ill, had been poisoned by the traitorous Maldrake. Some highly credible officials claimed it was in fact Galainir’s own son, Prince Rogell, that poisoned the Queen and framed Maldrake in order to claim the throne all for his own. Twould seem like a very Outlawish thing to do. Regardless, most of Roawia, now informed of her illness, earnestly hoped the Queen would succumb to such poisoning. Rogell’s younger sister, the stunningly beautiful Princess Emmaline tended to her mother in hopes of her healing while Rogell was nowhere to be found. With her grip on Roawia quickly slipping away, few sat by the bedside of the Queen hoping for a speedy recovery, and her time as queen seemed to be coming to an end.
The provincial leaders and Prince Chartres himself, made their way back to the Royal Isle, to confront the Queen Galainir one final time. They intended on forcibly removing her from the Castle and publically beheading her for the heinous crimes committed. The faction leaders of Loreos and Garheim felt Chartres displayed the necessary leadership to become Roawia’s next king. Despite the intense dissatisfaction displayed by Highlord Triphian, Jarl Eindrik and Prince Lorean planned to coronate the young Prince Chartres and give him the Queen's signet ring. However, the party was quite surprised when they arrived at the Royal Isle.
There were no armies of red and black clad dragon soldiers patrolling the docks. Cavalry escorts were not seen scouting the plains surrounding the castle. The castle itself, seemed devoid of all life, set against the backdrop of a dark, dreary sky. The parapets had no archers stationed, and the front gates boasted no manpower. An overall feeling of lifelessness hung over the imposing castle walls.
"It would seem as if the castle is empty..." Jarius curiously mumbled to no one in particular.
"Vile sorcery," Triphian quickly interjected. "Tis naught but a trap set by the evil witch herself. Twould be wise to stay on thy guard."
The portcullis began creaking and groaning, as the iron chains moved with the pulleys and levers in place. It raised, as if to welcome or dismiss whoever found themselves at the entrance of the castle. When the gate was fully raised, the leaders were quite surprised at what they saw leaving the castle.
A small crowd of no more than a dozen mourners, clad in black robes and garments, slowly followed behind an ornately carved casket, covered in gold inlays with the sigil of a dark dragon. A shocking realization spread over the allied forces... Queen Galainir was dead.
The outlaw army, already thinned by the initial assault on the castle, and then divided by those loyal to Maldrake, had apparently abandoned their leader in her darkest hour. Only the few who were loyal to the Queen herself, not just her position of power, had bothered to attend her funeral.
Chartres looked on with great curiosity as the funeral procession left the castle and headed toward the docks. Galainir’s body was to be shipped to the Badlands and buried along the coast of Amethyst Isle; a place she often ventured to when young. Her daughter, Princess Emmaline, headed the small group of front of the mourners, clad in a very thin black veil and elegant yet simple black dress.
"Ha! It looks like Maldrake's poison did our job for us!" Triphian chortled as the party watched some distance away. “None came her to side at the end. The evil cow got what she deserved, a lonely death, eh lad?" He sneered in the direction of Chartres, condescension oozing in the last words.
“Everyone deserves some small manner of dignity, my lord Triphian, even in death,” Chartres solemnly replied, nudging his horse to a trot to follow the procession. His disregard for Triphian's jab only furthered the Lenfel lord's feelings of ill-will toward the young Prince. The group trotted toward the mourners, with Loreesi Prince Jarius shooting a smug look in Triphian's direction as he nimbly passed by the Lenfel. Triphian's constant ire toward Chartres delighted Jarius to no end.
By the time the allied party had made their way down to the docks, the casket had been loaded upon a ship and was underway away to the Badlands. Princess Emmaline stood on the shores with her small personal guard as the ship slowly faded into the distance, getting smaller with each passing minute.
“I am sorry for your loss.” Prince Chartres gravely spoke, quietly approaching the Princess, her guards yielding to the much larger allied war party.
The Princess turned to her left and looked at Chartres in silence. Her eyes were full of anguish and suffering. After a few moments she turned her attention back to the waving sea, her heart in the deep shackles of pain.
“I truly mean that,” the young man softly spoke. Chartres was quite taken by the young princess's beauty.
“Tell me sir, of your name.” Princess Emmaline requested, her voice full of pain.
“I am Prince Chartres,” he respectfully answered. “If there is anything my men or I could do, we would gladly do it.” Chartres’ pledge was sincere. Still on horseback, the faction leaders were observing the interaction with mixed emotion. Lorean nudged the Jarl and winked good-naturedly as if to indicate young love was blossoming before them. Triphian could barely contain his disgust and just rolled his eyes at the other two.
“Can you heal a broken heart, good prince?” Emmaline’s heavy brown eyes, full of tears, met Chartres’ own. Even in sorrow, she was beyond beautiful; the beauty of her own mother. Her brunette hair cascaded down her slender shoulders and moved earnestly with the flow of the wind. Her face was pale, and her heart heavy. Although she was a young woman, her small frame felt weak and vulnerable under the sorrow of her mother's death.
Prince Chartres, having known the loss of his own parents, felt his heart aching for the young princess. “Princess Emmaline, you must know I…”
“Please, Prince, say no more,” Emmaline quietly interrupted, her tearful voice quivered with each word. “I know who you are and I know why you and your company are here. Go, take the royal castle. You have your trophy for winning your war. You have your crown. I only ask that you let you me grieve in silence.”
“Princess Emmaline…” Chartres sorrowfully began.
“I beg you Chartres,” Emmaline whispered, “leave me be.”
The heartbroken prince carefully studied Emmaline. Was this serene and gentle princess really his enemy? Emmaline seemed quite a bit different than her mother, Galainir. If anything was learned by the Prince during the Battle of Maldrake's Fortress, it was that there were some Outlaws whose hearts were brave and pure. The Prince respectfully lowered his head and turned away, saddling his mount and heading to the Royal Castle with his company. As he crested the top of the hill, he turned, and looked briefly to the shore.
Princess Emmaline, lone daughter of Royal Queen Galainir, had lost all stature and dignity that one must keep while in the company of royalty. Chartres looked upon from the hilltop in great remorse and sympathy. Her face buried in her hands, the beautiful princess had fallen to her knees, and as a child, wept bitterly over the loss of her mother.
CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST