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Fantasy The Dark Travelers


Servant Supreme
Dark Travelers Alt.png

The World of Nion, Year 735 of the Third Histories Calendar
"Silence, you dogs!" cried out Makar, the sniveling goblin steward of the Emperor Briggun's palace. "The emperor- he comes, he comes!"

In through the grand oak doors strode Briggun, a man two meters high, whose broad shoulders and brutish physique were only made more daunting by the black armor he wore and the large sword across his back. A hush fell over the room; the officers of the Dark Lord's vast and terrible armies and their associates and servants instantly paying respect to their master, even if each of them would slit his throat and rule themselves, if only given the chance.

Briggun knocked Makar to the floor as he passed him for no reason but to humiliate the wretched creature, and stepped up to the side of the table which once served as the centerpiece of Canaresch's great dining hall. Raising his gauntleted fist, he beat it onto the wood hard enough to leave an indentation. This was not the first time he had expressed his frustrations in such a percussive way, and the table was pockmarked with scars from his dissatisfaction. "Are we truly so hopeless that in the tenth year of my reign, the land of Erevan remains beyond my grasp!?" he leveled an accusatory finger on his spymaster. "Veno," he snarled, slowly regaining his composure, "what manner of treachery has befallen my commanders which hinders their progress?"

Had it truly been ten years? A servant at the rear of the room, having brought a small memento to commemorate the Dark Lord's ascent, quietly pocketed the bauble and made quick note to dispose of it.

His dark, horned helmet turned slowly, eyeless visor scanning the reactions about the room. Few of his subordinates had ever seen his true face, as Briggun rarely appeared without a helmet or mask of some kind. Along with Veno, there was the Wizard of Zo, Estro, whom Briggun had defeated in another lifetime, before the events which placed him at the head of an accursed army that toppled the Kingdom of Canar and formed the foundation of his new empire: Saarus. There was also Declan, who despite his stature was not a halfling, but in fact a human afflicted with the Wither plague, who had known that earlier version of Briggun- the Warlock, the Hero, the Savior of Canar...

...Perhaps it would be better to start at the beginning.

In the year 708, the Kingdom of Canar was in the midst of a great crisis. Although it had stood for centuries, the great and powerful Kingdom on the same-named Bay had grown restless, as its people yearned for progress, recognition for their work, and a larger share of the bounty- things which had been callously denied to them by the landed aristocracy. The nobles cast their judgement on any and all who would make trouble for their status quo, until a conspiracy led by a powerful mage- Estro, took shape against the noble class. His cultists rebelled against the King, and nearly succeeded in overthrowing the dynasty, when Briggun, then a young phenom of sorcery thanks to a pact with the fae which he kept a closely-guarded secret, delivered Estro a surprise defeat. After the wizard was imprisoned, Briggun remained on the royal court for a decade, until the secret of his pact was exposed.

Briggun was in love with a fae woman- Herasa, a woman as beautiful as the night itself, and powerful enough to warp the mind of any man or woman of her choosing. It is said that the fae are the descendants of man, mer, and others who went mad in pursuit of arcane power, warping their minds and bodies in the process, and for that reason close relations with any fae was strictly forbidden of members of the royal court. Briggun was exiled, and sent to live out his days in the Malenchanted Woods where Herasa hailed from, under threat that if any of his family were to return to Canar, they would be put to death.

Sadly, seven years later, a young half-fae boy ventured into Canar in search of the justiciars who governed his father's fate. Young Johas, an innocent, merely wanted to appeal to the judge's merciful senses and allow his father to travel freely. Instead, he was put to death, enraging Briggun and breaking what was left of his already-tormented mind.

He gathered allies:

Veno, the Black Rose - a Drow shapeshifter hellbent on uniting her people (and everyone else) into the service of her Goddess.
Baba Voyka - a matriarch of the Horned, determined to avenge her people and secure them a permanent seat of honor.
Kolthix the Cackler - a Shadeling, a monster of darkness which seeks to grow in strength and provide a place in the world for his kind.
Lucafiel, the Redeemer Prince - a Vestati fallen angel who has determined Briggun an adequate ally to help him witness the final death of his own God.
Borok, the Grand Runesmith - A sauroid who offered his expert arcane smithing services to Briggun out of hatred for Canar.

From the Malenchanted Woods, they came with their followers and pillaged the land. Soon, the Kingdom took note of their approach, and discovered all too late that their willingness to destroy the very heroes whom they had previously depended upon would cost them not just once, but again and again, until nothing more could stand against Briggun, because they all stood with him instead:

Vuldar Elegast, Sigurd of Ravgoth - dwarf who betrayed Canar in search of a better ally to help him reclaim his lost throne in Alemannum.
Lord Declan of Sathesbury - a noble whose personal affliction rendered him unwelcome among his peers, who then aided Briggun's rise to enact his revenge.

And not only did the traitors throw open the doors for the warlock's approach, but fellow schemers and villains from elsewhere threw in their lot with Briggun, knowing that he would serve as an easy path to power:

Estro, the Wizard of Zo - freed from his shackles by Briggun nearly two decades after his defeat, Estro returns to his intact cult to finish what he began, all those years ago.
Izaak, The Voivode of Skulls - an osseous human mage who joined Briggun simply to enjoy the thrill of conquest and destruction.

Together, they overthrew the Kingdom of Canar, and then moved north on the Kingdom of Poggost, cornering their army at Solzon. With their destruction, Briggun united the crowns of both kingdoms and founded an Empire named for the plane on which most of the two Kingdoms lay- Saarus. The elves just beyond the mountainous vale closed off the pass out of terror, and so Briggun turned his attention elsewhere, for a time. A hunger gnawed at his innards, never satisfied, and so sought the Grand Duchy of Rocher, gaining further allies from sources most foul:

Alexandre, Red Hand of Rocher - once a hero, Alexandre carries the curse of the Vampyr, and now she stalks the land as a pillager with an army of the undead.
Captain Cordia of the Butcher's Blade - a legendary pirate captain, summoned by Briggun to enact a bloody revenge against those who caused her death.

With Cordia and Alexandre, Briggun won the Bone Coast that Cordia once ruled as a Pirate Queen. His army and navy became an inescapable whirlwind of death which rocked the continent, expanding Saarus' borders to their current frontiers, swallowing up dozens of petty kingdoms and tribal lands along the way. But Briggun will never be satisfied, and as long as there are still men and mer with dark in their hearts, he will hold sway over their actions. They tend to make themselves known:

Adanach, Son of the Druadach - a barbarian mercenary who was betrayed by his employers and now seeks vengeance for the massacre of his people.
Yz, Identity Requiem - a sentience devoid of identity taking the form of a mask, Yz seeks to erase those who serve its cult so that something greater can be built.

And finally, there is one who has been forced to serve:

Lady Falwyn, The Dragonlord - a golden dragon obsessed with wealth and tribute, Briggun turned the tables upon the creature with the help of a magical artifact.

Now, with everyone gathered in this grand hall, Briggun lays out the map before them...


...and demands to know why his empire only covers a third of the known world, and not the entirety of it. Yes, there were many practical reasons why their armies had not yet claimed final victory. To reach the rich coastline of the Gantar Sultinate, for example, one would need to cross a wide and empty desert. Similarly, the mountains between Poggost and Eravan are like a wall, shielding the elvan kingdom from their southern neighbors. But, valid as they may be, the time for excuses is fading fast...

"Now, I want you each to explain to me which portion of this map you will win for my empire on your next campaign, and how. You will resolve any differences in your plans, and you will cooperate if possible," Briggun instructed them. The floor was open, perhaps the first to speak would prove themselves a bold strategist?
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A den of vipers, that was the only way Adanach could describe the court of Lord Briggun; a darkened hall, decorated with the remnants of dead kingdoms, and a beaten throne surrounded by sycophants craving power. He hated this place to his very core, it was an example of everything he hated about the so-called "civilized" folk. Lies, intrigue and deception echoes through these dark corridors, and the longer he stayed in this place, the more he wanted to burn it to the ground.

"You are doing it again..." whispered his wife, the Orc warrioress Bjorga, referring to his grimace. "...Forgive me, wife... for this place poisons my mind..." muttered the barbarian warrior as he looked away from his partner and focused his attention on the other lieutenants. He disliked most of them, though admittedly, he had rarely interacted with them. He did not care for their problems nor their objectives, and had little interest in forming alliances with them... but he knew that several of them disliked him, simply because he was a barbarian, a backwards tribal that thrives in chaos.

"I ask you this, love... you look at this people, and what do you see?" He asked, turning his attention back to his wife, who looked at the lieutenants. "I see many things, my love... they are enemies, no doubt... but some of them could be allies..." She said, her eyes studying some of the more interesting ones like Kolthix and Cordia.

"All I see are a buncha' TWATS!"

Several people turns to look at Rukkar, the Redcap warrior and one of the commanders of Adanach's horde of barbarians. A fearsome creature capable of using powerful blood magics, driven by violence and blood. He was loud, violent and rude, and while that might cause problems to Adanach's cause, the barbarian was amused by the little mans antics and grinned as Rukkar looked at the crowd staring at him, Bjorga on the other hand, shook her head in disapproval.

"The fuck ya' lookin' at, ya ugly minge?!" He said while looking at a Veno, the spymaster of lord Briggun.

"Rukkar... stand down, the last thing we want is to upset our gracious host." muttered Bjorga through gritted teeth. "Let him come! I'll tell the big man he needs proper fookin' leaders if he wants to conquer the land!"

While amused by the Redcap, Rukkar had to learn that if Bjorga gives him an order, he has to obey her. "Rukkar, enough." The redcap gave Adanach an annoyed look, but he would never dare to disobey the warchief... and right on time, as the goblin manservant of the Dark Lord told everyone of Briggun's approach.

"Silence, you dogs! The Emperor- he comes, he comes!"

As the Dark Lord enters his hall, Adanach pays his respect by bowing before him. It was a sign of genuine respect, Briggun might lead an empire of civilized folk and might play into the intrigue of his court, but he was undoubtedly a powerful warrior, and a master sorcerer who had conquered realms, he deserved respect. However, the warlock did not seem to care for his courts sign of respect, and was not happy with the other lieutenants inability to conquer Elven realm of Erevar.

"Now, I want you each to explain to me which portion of this map you will win for my empire on your next campaign, and how. You will resolve any differences in your plans, and you will cooperate if possible,"

"Lord Briggun..." said Adanach as he approached the table. "...the reason why I have not conquered Elven lands in your name is because I've mustered an army of warriors from several corners of the Druadach willing to die for our cause. These warriors will follow me into the Druadach with the intent to pacify it either by diplomacy or force." Adanach pointed at a specific region of the Druadach on the map. "This is Mors Gobonach, the land of the warring goblin tribes and the only region of Druadach bordering your realm... I plan to start my incursion here." Adanach looked back at Briggun. "I promise you that I will unite the tribes of the region and they will march alongside me as we unite the Druadach in your name."

"If we are successful in our quest, you'll have at your disposal the greatest horde of warriors the world has ever seen, like Heathen Armies of legend that brought the realms of men and mer to their knees."
The dark was the natural friend of a Sauroid, yet Borok Ronillson, Grand Runesmith and artificer, always kept close to the fireplace, as he hadn't felt the hot embrace of a furnace in what felt like ages. Warming his hands precariously close to the fire, his eyes rolled as Rukkar, a so called Redcap, started hurling around vulgarities. Painfully slow, a deep, guttural growl rumbled from deep within the reptilians core. But he did not turn around, instead musing on how the annoying commander might taste. Slowly, his rippled tongue did grind over his teeth, as he fondly remembered the fresh taste of manflesh the Sauroids got to taste in recent times. As Adanach, one of the few human individuals Borok could truly respect, silenced the Redcap, the Runesmith slowly turned away from the fire, for the arrival of the Dark Lord himself was announced.

His tiny eyes quickly wandered around the room to observe the fellow lieutenants, all while proping himself upright with the aid of his trusty forge hammer. Boroks hunch was more pronounced than that of most Sauroids, a testament to his early misadventures in the deep underworlds. Still, he managed to bow respectfully, as Lord Briggun entered the room and whilst he would avoid any spotlight, he dutifully approached the planning table, joining everybody else.

When the iron fist came crashing down on the table, Borok did not flinch. He patiently listened and observed, already trapped in thought about the plans and strategies his latest summonations had revealed. But he also couldnt help but spare a thought for his people at home. For ten years, they had been blessed with respite now and whilst he was still unable to return to the familiar forges of his youth, he felt like his service to Lord Briggun was the right thing for them. How good it had felt to fight free from the constant threat of the Canar - and now, it was time to prove worthy of this blessing once more.

Boroks gaze fell upon Adanach and he listened carefully to what he had to say, occasionally nodding along very faintly. Then, it felt like a good opportunity for Borok to speak up and he pointed a claw directly at the south-eastern rims of Erevan, the elven kingdom that was such a thorn in the Dark Lords side. "The Sauroid forges have sung of fire and death without interruption, Lord Briggun. All of my castings, every new laying of the runes lead me towards the elven kingdom you so rightfully desire. We have achieved a breakthrough in the southern border mountains and will continue to expand our tunnels, slowly but surely. No mountain shall be safe. We will grind our way through any magical barrier or blocked pass we find and let any other army willing to march north travel through our tunnel. With enough support, a wound in the south will open.", he spoke with a deep grumbling, before moving his claw towards the eastern part of Erevan, drawing an imaginery line between Erevan and the Gantar Sultinate, where the borders between them threatened to encapsulate the eastern part of the elven kingdom. "Here, we shall cut off the first chunk of flesh. We will separate them. We will hold the gap with tenacity unmatched. We will hold the mountains and take the east for you. We have fought in mountains, above and below, for as long as we can remember.", he proudly proclaimed, hoping to not only provide enough evidence for their work against Erevan, but also to put pressure on other warlords to join the campaign. With Borok promising access through the southern tunnel, there were even less excuses to be made now. The Runesmith knew that Erevan was likely too big of a task for him and his loyal warriors alone, but he would do everything to open more ways for others. Perhaps, elvish meat would taste as sweet as that of humans. Just the thought of the dreaded Canar made the reptilian eyes flash with hatred.
Some time ago, en route to the Emperor's Palace....

Lucafiel did not like carriages. Like so many other things he had come to learn in the past decade within this realm, carriages were but another humiliation he was forced to endure. In concept they were adequate - one could not deny the usefulness of traveling under coverage with several passengers together. The carriage he rode in had once belonged to an aristocrat, and was thus well-made with ample space for himself and his entourage, including room for guardians to ride about the front board and the rear. And yet... it was a device for cattle. It was a design by creatures who knew not the freedom of wings, and were thus by nature forced to create curious devices to compensate. In the depths of his darkened memories, Lucafiel could recall the warmth of the sun and wind upon his face as he and his kin soared the skies upon their ivory pegasi, armed with spears to lift their foes from the very earth below; if the force of a lance driven through chest and heart was not enough to slay an enemy, then the fall from tremendous heights certainly was.

And now they had wings no longer, nor did their steeds. With a tremendous sigh, and realizing his meditation was now crippled by his agitated thoughts, the Vestati opened his eyes. The confines of the carriage were overrun in silks, velvet, ermine, and cushions to support the comfort of the three other occupants, another two masked Vestati companions and a Yakal auxiliary, one whom served as a member of Lucafiel's harem and lifeguard. The Yakal people were one of the few that Lucafiel and the other fallen angels not only respected, but adored for their capabilities, wit, and charm. They were without a doubt completed vessels without the worst imperfections seen in... humans, for example, or many of the other lesser and more barbaric races that Lucafiel viewed with a mixture of pity and, at times, contempt. Just outside of the carriage, he could hear the measured step of an entire company of veteran auxiliaries marching along with them, armed with sword, spear, shield, and crossbow each. Much of their time was given over to construction and enforcement, or otherwise performing domestic work the Vestati were incapable performing, but warriors of a proud and supreme caliber they were nonetheless.

It came as only a small surprise when the carriage came to a stop, and an auxiliary appeared at the door within the second they ceased movement. Lucafiel peered down at them from behind the curtained - and barred - window.

"My prince, there is a body of peasants ahead. The chariots demanded them to vacate the road for our passage, but they refuse, even under threat. They are mourning the death of one of their own, a child thrown from a horse some short time before we arrived," the auxiliary explained. A human would have been much closer to the ground, but the Yakal was tall and lithe, blessed with firm muscules. They even stood above the Vestati in this regard, for while the fallen angels could see some manner of kinship in the elvan folk, they were not notably tall. In this, Lucafiel welcomed the power their mere presence dictated.

"An insult to the Legion is an insult to Emperor Briggun. The chariots should run them down," one of the Vestati legionnaires declared, but to this Lucafiel raised his hand. "Calm, my sister. We shall not waste our precious time on such things. We are far from our conclaves, and I do not doubt these people see us as little more than more soldiers in the emperor's everlasting crusade. Instead, we shall teach them," Lucafiel said. He nodded to the door, in which the outside auxiliary opened for him. The Yakal even offered their hand, which Lucafiel took. They were kindred spirits born into different bodies. They were subservient, yet beloved as siblings - they, too, were driven from their original homeland and faced extermination, far away in the desert lands. Under the guidance of the Vestati, this was no longer a concern.

Legionnaires and auxiliaries alike took their formations in drilled precision at the appearance of their prince, forming a wall on either side of the dirt track. Crusaders of the old guard flanked Lucafiel with gleaming, serrated swords resting against their pauldrons, wrought with beatific imagery that told of their struggle against the divine. One of them alone could cleave a path through a hundred peasants, and Lucafiel could sense this was precisely what they wished to do.

When they arrived at the peasant gathering upon the street, auxilaries had already circled the area, and in the distance upon the tilled fields he could see several chariots racing ahead with several Yakals onboard, ready to intercept a potential ambush force laying in wait in an unseen copse or ditch.

"Please, we do not mean disrespect," an old peasant spoke aloud, his white beard trembling as he strode forwards from the small crowd. "It is our way to mourn here, in the place of death. We... we have lost a precious child to our village, esteemed one. If we are to leave here before sunset, the soul of the child will be lost." It was a quaint custom, but far from the strangest he had heard, given that culture could vary from village to village even in the same region.

Lucafiel said nothing as he strode into the crowd, the sheer presence of his companions all that was needed to push humans aside like water before the bow of a ship. There, lain gently in the middle of the street upon a quilt, was the body of the deceased child covered in an assortment of flowers, coins, and candles. The visage would have been more peaceful if it were not for the dreadful angle of their broken neck, held in place by the gentle tying of a cloth about the head and shoulders.

"I have deemed mercy to be given today," Lucafiel said, making no care for introductions. "And I shall bestow a miracle." He knelt upon the funerary quilt laid against the trackway. Many of the peasants were sobbing with grief, while others looked on in fear and awe. Lucafiel oft enjoyed the artistic expression one could bring to any action, but Briggun had summoned his closest officers, and time was not to be wasted on such frivolties. As such, with a single gesture, Lucafiel brought his hand down upon the forehead of the deceased child. To restore life to an unmolded soul, one of a mere waif that had dubious potential and was unmarked and unseen by their betters, was like restoring life to a small animal. Lucafiel had tried in his life - in vain - to bring back life to veteran crusaders who had seen centuries of warfare, and such was the weight of their souls that the very act was near fatal to him each time.

But to peasants, this was nothing short of the most miraculous moment of their lives. The child awoke, their eyes fluttering open as their head twisted upright. This was no mere conscious movement, but the action of their bone mending in an instant beneath Lucafiel's hand of life. The surrounding crowd erupted into an ecstatic state of wonder and frenzy. Tears flowed with joy, not despair. Many fell to their knees in immediate supplication while others reached out to touch the mere fabric of Lucafiel's dress in hopes that this, too, would bless them. The auxiliaries were firm in keeping these cattle back, and Lucafiel stood without fanfare.

"Vacate the road," he said, "or I will claim this child's life myself, and they will know a death far worse than a fracture of the neck. By my mercy, and the grace of the Emperor, I have spoken."

And with that, he turned about and strode back the way he had come, leaving behind him a crowd of peasants who were now parting with the ease of a sudden landslide.

Now, at Briggun's Palace....

Lucafiel eyed the likes of Adanach, Bjorga, and Rukkar with hidden distate, for his porcelain mask hid all but his gleaming eyes; in the case of the latter, he wondered how the little redcap would look pinned to a post. Preferrably by the neck, so he would not have to hear the braying words dribble forth from the vulgar creature's mouth. Or strapped to the anvil of the master smith, Borok Ronillson, given the not-so-subtle growling emanating from the Sauroid.

At the very least, his barbarian master had the wit to put the rabid animal to heel.

With the arrival of Briggun, Lucafiel grasped his dress and performed a low, stately curtsy. From the moment he entered the chambar, Lucafiel could tell their lord was caught in a fit of wrath. The only surprise was he didn't do any further harm to the little goblin, Makar; it was a surprise to see the creature sill alive with every return here. Regardless, Lucafiel took a slight step back as their lord pounded upon the table, stepping into the close presence of his lifeguard, the Yakal warrior Zahari. This was not out of fear, but rather to avoid the contents of any cup upon the table falling and staining his dress.

Adanach and Borok both gave their proposals, plans that, admittedly, both had good merit in concept and had little to argue with on the surface. Instead, Lucafiel wondered about the logistics of moving a barbarian horde in any meaningful capacity, as well as the safe travel of armies beneath mountains. The need for food, transportation, and other material would be great - especially in the face of Briggun's anger, as he stood here demanding answers.

Lucafiel approached the table next, and in contrast to Borok's claws, he tapped a dainty white-gloved finger upon the northwestern country of the Lacans Republic.

"The Hallow Legion has naturally been working hard to maintain the foundation of this great empire from within; however, by your immediate command, my Emperor, we shall direct our scope to support your forces. Wealth and supply will be needed to further advance your borders, and to avoid the possibility of famine as lands are drained of resources and manpower, the Legion shall look to collapsing the northern Republic to fund this crusade... or crusades... whereever they may strike. We know the Lacans Republic is rich, but alone. Their slaves alone could fuel our industries and sow our fields for years to come."

"Tidiaus owes us, I believe, and could strike from their lands. Likewise, the Republic has no other allies to help them from the north, though I suspect our advances may see assistance from Arantino when they realize undermining their neighbors will only speed up their collapse when we reach their border."

Lucafiel paused only for a moment to clear his throat, an uneeded gesture merely done to give time for the others to think. "This endeavour would require some assistance if we desire expediency, but is open to adjustment. I do, however, highly suggest it as the Republic will be the needed kindling to whichever inferno we deem fit to start."
"It is best, then, to avoid open combat in such terrain." a stern voice sounded across the table towards Lucafiel. It belonged to a man of short stature, with a sickly coloration to his skin and eyes that shone like a cat's in the night. Not by choice he was afflicted with such unenviable appearance, but by bad luck. The Wither had left its mark on Lord Declan Asquith Elron, having dictated the course of his fate thus far; outcast, laughing stock, betrayer. He hated the old order for how it had treated him so unjustly, for something he had no control over. It left him bitter and cold, where in a normal life he would have been filled with the love his parents had given him unconditionally. When they passed, the House of Elron had changed hands to him. And yet, it left him with no more respect than he had started off with.

That was why he had opened the gates so willingly to Emperor Briggun's conquest. Vengeance for all the humiliation and slights he had collected for simply having existed. And he was rewarded as such by having claimed a seat at the Dark Lord's own table, a position of respect and power. And one he used dutifully to serve Briggun in matters of politics and empire building, given his own position as nobility. He knew how to corral what remained of the old aristocracy under the thumb of the new leadership, and he also knew how the lands of the old Kingdom functioned. Invaluable advice to reorganizing the old holdings and new conquests for the Emperor.

But, now, it seemed that Briggun was - understandably - frustrated by the lack of progress. But this, in turn, threatened his close standing with the Emperor should he deem Declan no longer a valuable commander. This was, simply, an unacceptable possibility. It threatened his desire to not only find a cure to the aftereffects of the Wither, but also his desire to rebuild his Great House.

"Lacans must first be weakened. Politically AND socially, to make it ripe for conquest. As it stands, it would take a force beyond counting to breach the republic as is. The mountains serve it well." Declan mused aloud, before turning to Briggun with a deferring nod of his head. "It requires time, and patience, your Imperial Majesty. But what I propose will not only limit our own casualties, but also clear an easy path towards Arantino, Tidiaus and Lorei. We must sow dissent amongst the slaves first and foremost, bring the ruling caste to crisis from revolt from within. I can already prepare my envoys for this. From this, we can bring a truly loyal army of freedmen to our cause. Uniting with them, we can secure easier entry into Lacans until - ultimately - laying siege and tearing down their Republic."

Declan then turned to Lucafiel: "If you are so inclined, it would limit your losses as well if you abide by my plan."

But his attention was also elsewhere as he looked towards Adanach. Declan wasn't particularly fond of northern savages, but in this campaign they could prove useful. "As for the wild man, he too can play a part in this. You are from those Northern Reaches, no? You can apply pressure to the Kingdom of Lorei as a pincered manuever with us from the South. This would not only draw attention away from Lacans, but also weaken Lorei from being able to respond to later incursions."

With confidence, he then turned back to Briggun and gave another deferring bow. "Your grace, I believe this plan to be the best course of action in dealing with the nuisances to our North. If given your blessing, I will begin preparations immediately for this campaign."

EdwardDewey98 EdwardDewey98 Emperor Sagan Emperor Sagan K0mori K0mori
In their own part of the table, sat a crew and their captain. The sea hag Cordia, now captain of the Butcher's blade and as her master ordained it, vanguard of his sea forces stood with her arms forming an arch on the table.

To her right sat her first mate, Crassu 'Sawtooth' Lonus. A merfolk from the depths that didn't play nice with others as he explained it. Next to him was perhaps the most hideous thing on the table if anyone was polite enough to ignore the redcap. When Corida was brough back from Hell, Mr. Gribbs was dragged along with her soul. An unforseen by-product, but rather than striking him down, Cordia found uses for the pathetic thing on her ship. Finally to her right was someone more unorthodox. A drow woman named Uripa. A noble, or so she claims. They haven't been able to verify, but the 'lady' had proven to be useful on the ship with her affinity to merge the art of medicine and necromancy.

Cordia had only known these people for a brief period and already she could feel her crew burgeoning with their opinions about those gathered. The captain herself saw things differently. None of them had claims to the sea, nor did they care to. Baba Voyka was a fellow hag, a rival school of magic maybe, but their realms were far apart. Veno was the emperor's spymaster, the trust there was non-existent, but discounting it would be foolish. She could feel something stir in Alexandre. Something dark and evil. Oh this one was not lashed at all. Lady Falwin was probably keeping apperances. Its hard to keep being as strong as a dragon hidden in a mortal shell.

Then there are the lords Declan and Rosarch. Men of ambition, but cursed in their own ways. Perhaps her and Voyka would be the unlikely allies to those men. Who knows best about curses than the hags? Kolthix and Borok are curious creatures. Unlikely members of this council, but here they are. They should prove interesting to keep an eye on. Yz and Lucafiel. Two strange beings hiding behind masks. Getting anything from them would be a prize of its own. If she had still been pursuing her old passions, then maybe they would have been her end goal. One of the masked wielders of power. Perhaps in another life. Adanach. Now there was a man. Fearless, brutal and dominant. Fools would believe him a simpleton and pay with their skulls split open. Estro Dorozan was on the other end of the spectrum. A wizzard of that power you cannot underestimate unless you want to end up as some plaything. Your mind wiped clean. Your skin boiled off the bones while you still feel every moment of it. Assuming of course he would be that cruel and not just scatter your body to ashes with a flick of a wrist. Now Sigurd was an unknown to her, but the stubborness of the dwarfs was legendary. Whatever plans were rolling around behind that helm would have a high chance for success.

All in all, a wide selection of potential allies and rivals. Yet they all would have to bend the knee to one man. Speaking of which. Briggan's entrance made the lords and ladies stand up for attention. He was frustrated. The campaigns had slown down and in turn, slowing his own plans. Codia bowed respectfully to her liege and waited patiently for the others to speak their reasons. Then she had her turn.

"Ship builders were behind scedule on several important projects. Those responsible were found, disciplinned and now serve on their respective ships until their debt to the Empire is paid. Never the less, I apologize for the obstruction it caused." She looked to the map. "The fleet is ready to sail and we have our first targets sighted. Teralia would serve as the stepping stone for the sea campaign and a launch pad for further campaigns. Holding those islands allows us to choke trade and travel in the seas, assuring our dominance. Once they fall, we would be free to move across the coasts to hit our targets." She looked to the others "Should anyone else undertake their campaigns on our southern neighbors, it would make things easier for you as well."
From a dark corner of the room, a woman clad in dark armor had watched the other lieutenants. Alexandre bore an despicable visage, something her current compatriots had noted during their time at the palace. During her stay she had been terse, but one could wonder what thought dwelt behind her slight grin and forboding red eyes. Alexandre herself did not think much of her so called allies, but had been ordered to attend by the Patriarch himself. She found them useful, if ultimately just pawns in the game of the Dark Lord. She held herself in no high regard however, viewing Rochers service to Saarus as a beneficial arrangement. For now.

But, there were two among them which made her keep her eyes. First, Sigurd, the traitorous dwarf. Across the ages when Rocher had fought with Canar, Sigurd had been there time and time again to save his cowardly and undeserving masters from having their blood spilled as would have been rightfully ordained. Yet now there was something different about him, something that tugged on Alexandres unquenchable thirst. Her eyes flickered, and she took a trembling breath. Perhaps she was in the presence of something quite precious indeed. The second person of interest was Cordia, the Banshee Captain. When Briggun brought Rocher into the fold, Alexandre had joined him on the campaign that saw the Bone Coast returned to its former queen in a splendid orgy of carnage and bloodshed. Such was Cordias wrath, and it had been a beautiful sight to behold.

The rest caused her no concern, but if time would tell if they required any personal attention

As Briggun entered the room, Alexandre stepped slightly into the light and gave him the traditonal Rocher gesture of respect, a deep bow with both arms extended in a half moon to the side.

As some of the lieutenant began laying out their plans to satisfy ther dark master, Alexandre listened intently, but found that they were inconsequential for her. They would be on the opposite side of the world and would neither hinder nor interfere in her matters. When Cordia spoke, she was re-invigorated. Having the banshee by her side would certainly lead to a war worth taking part in.

"Oh, my dear. You shall count us among your confederates in these campaigns" Alexandre said to Cordia, as she gave her a wide grin and put a sharp gauntlet on the captains shoulder as she took her place at the map table. "The Crimson wolves will march through the Bone Coast and lay waste to the north of Piantia." she continued, pointing a sharp finger at the part of Piantia that was seperated from the rest of the country by water. "And when the banshees song can be heard on the wind and the moon is right, we will cross...". Alexandre moved her finger to Piantia proper, and softly stabbed the map with her gauntlet. She seemed transfixed and lost in thaught, her eyes widening and her mouth opening slightly ajar as if she was about to laugh. She liked her lips and looked back up to Briggun, "Rest assured, your dark eminence, you will spy our crimson mark from this very city as the gulf runs red with their blood" she finished, her voice seemingly attempting to contain a terrible excitement. Having composed herself, she slowly straightened herself and stepped back into the outer circle of lieutenants and out of the direct light of the table.
Lucafiel narrowed his eyes through his mask as he turned, slightly, to observe Lord Declan, a slight gesture that revealed only two piercing slivers behind his porcelain facade. The First Viceroy of Sathesbury may have been small in stature, but was towering in ambition - an ambition that had brought them and kept them here, all these years later. It was an irony, perhaps, that one of the more dependable and powerful officers of the council was a twisted little husk of a man, a gnarled tree from some dreadful swamp, Lucafiel imagined.

The angel listened to Alexandre as she spoke, though her thoughts, like Cordia, lay to the watery domain in the south. Securing islands as a foothold to advance was a sound tactic, but one Lucafiel had little intention to support. After a moment passed, he glanced towards Declan to continue their point of discussion.

"The terrain is an obstacle, indeed, but one that prevents the Republic from bringing their armies to the field in full as well. My legion excels at such... irregular warfare, to bring the discipline and organization of larger formations to battlefields meant for smaller forces. I believe only significant forces would be required if the approach was to be a bullish attack in a direct manner. Such tactics would be best avoided, I believe. This is of course no disrespect to our militant commanders who succeed with such stratagems," Lucafiel said. He could well see the forces of the red butcher and her vampyrs flooding over the hills to die against the bastions of the Republic. While this would tire down the defenders and make the path easier for those who came after, it would still weaken the capabilities of the empire, and that would not do. And alas, such fiends were looking to the south for a fight anyways.

Lucafiel strode around the table, the fallen angel eying the map in the same manner as all the other predators in attendance, examining a wounded body for the bloodiest and most prime cut of meat to take.

"I do agree with your sentiment on weakening the Republic before attacks are made, but to give freedom to slaves...." Lucafiel trailed off. He knew what it meant to serve on his knees with chains around his neck. The Vestati had long abused their own before they turned their hands against the Forbidden One. "While a slave revolt would be a significant boon in a militaristic capacity, I do worry on how this would harm our economic capabilities going forward. Freedmen will not work to the standard of the slave, and will require - desire - more in return. This itself is not a problem, the Legion is wonderfully adept at securing efficient workforces, but in the period of transition it could cause... delays. But if this is to be the decision, preparations can be made on my behalf to ensure a swift labor doctrine is implemented. Though, I do warn about the upheavel that will come with breaking their chains for the forseeable future. I see the Republic as a treasury to be plundered. Your methods, Lord Declan, would cut our plunder in half, though at least secure a more stable future, perhaps. But if time is... limited... then we may very well need to resort to clear cutting, so to speak. No offense to our venerable Baba with such words."
Falwyn stood relaxed back on one of the poles in the great dining hall as the Emperor entered bursted into the room. She would not let this man fluster her, however crafty a warlock he might be. He was the one mortal that had proven himself an equal, for now, as long as he held that damned relic. Others bowed in subservience to the lord, but Falwyn was secure in her position she would be a conquerer for Briggun. And Briggun was secure in his place as Overlord of her. They had no need for such ostentations. Briggun soon began a rage pounding yet another divet into the place once illustrious feasts had been held. The dark gloom of a man engulfed by his own rage had snuffed out all of the ornmantenation from the days prior. The days that she could visit the past courts of canar, partaking in revelry and debauchery of all forms. The Canarians didn't really like her being there, but they couldn't say no either. The room now stood full of oppurtunistic vultures ready to grab a peice of the world from her own. The emperor soon demanded anwsers on how they would conquer the world for him.

The first to speak was of course that who had everything to prove. The barbarian Adanach couldn't control his own men that he had taken along to the gathering. The redcap sputtering insults towards the drow spymaster. She calmly drank a bottle of red wine. One of the many aged for over a century, the tributes of the Canar hadn't run out overnight afterall. And yes a bottle, not a glass, for while Falwyn didn't have the appetite of a dragon while in human form she still seemed to induldge excessively. The man claimed to have gathered an army of Druadach, and yet his first request was to unite his own lands. She mentally categorized the man quickly A Mercenary Lord Relying on Saarus Backing.

Next came the sauroid Borok who began developing a plan of countinuing to develop through the mountains and build a stranglehold around Everan. To most it wouldn't have worked but the sauriods belonged to the mountains. As long as the lizard stayed out of the systems of Tholmar's Rest she wouldn't mind his control there. It reeked to her of caution espically the seeming allowance of others to use their tunnels to attack Everan. A cautious plan that didn't allow blame to fall to them should Everan put up a valiant resistance as Falwyn believed they would. She observed the man to be a Cautious Planner and made a note to challenge the man to be more aggresive in his strategy.

The masked man in charge Lucafiel of the hallowed legion was the next to announce his plan. An attack on the Lacans republic. He presented that by conquering them he could turn the slaves their into a massive workforce of the empire. Falwyn couldn't help by giving some nods of approval to the mans reasoning. And if he was the one that eventually ran that region, well that could make a quite powerful warlord indeed.

Next however came Lord Declan having another plan for the region. One that required an internal strife. Quite suiting for the lord who betrayed his own kind. He wanted to turn the slaves there into an army of freeman. The man's proposal was that of a fool. For Briggun had no need of extra manpower. The strongest empire in the world needed industry to continue its conquests, not a population who had turned on itself and decimated its country into a useless wasteland. His plan was on hopes and of only securing the direct objective not the future. How strong would an army of men who had been forced into submission their whole life. A little man who wanted his little partially-culled slave army. She let out a little smirk as her thoughts came to that last line however her eyes lingered on Briggun as the man pronounced his proposal, how would he react. Was he short-sited to only see the conquest or have the vision to see what could come after.

The two proposals that came next were securing the southern coast and advancing on Piantia. The two warlords seemed to have a functioning relationship. Banshee and Vampre made quite the duo. One planned to choke out the sea with the banshee's fleet while the other would feast on the lands she forces preyed upon. A duo that could prove most deadly in the coming years. Assuming they didn't turn that hunger on eachother.

Falwyn strode towards the map. Tracing with her fingers across Saarus to the eastern side of Everan. "My plan is simple but effective. My strength is unparalled. I will break through Everan in the east. It should allow an opening for Borok should you wish to procede through your tunnels into the cental regions while they are reacting." She paused a moment, "You could of course build a slow stranglehold as you suggested. But that merely contains Everan. Our objective is to build the empire. Through conquest. Not allow a festering thorne to be merely trimmed." She let out a prolonged sigh "The wisdom of my suggestion... is yours to decide" She would then continue her finger through the deserts of Gantar, "My Conquest will be that of the Sultan. He thinks the desert sands prevent our invasion. I suppose he has forgotten the tales of dragons. I will be able to keep my armies logistics up through the sands with our establishment of terriroty in Eastern Everan. Believe it or not I can carry quite of supplies upon my wings. Once we arrive through the deserts I will begin my work in bringing the costal cities into our dominion." She let out a quick smile towards Briggun as she countinued "Their arrogance in their security will be their downfall. It shall allow me to secure a foothold, and the Sultan's unpopularity will do quite a bit of the other work for me. And assuming it doesn't... They do proclaim that the sands are scorching." She'd give a small chuckle and grin towards the audience gathered.

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Yz remained silent, huddled with one arm wrapped around her waist and another up to their face as if trying to chew on their nails despite not having a mouth to do so. The arrival of Lord Briggun was not one Yz found to be nervous about, but they chose to act in such a way as they held their voice. Lord Briggun had needn't finish for Yz to have began concocting ideas within their own head as the map was displayed in front of them. Immediately shifting from a shuffly and awkward stance to rubbing at their chin and concentrating thoroughly, waiting for the other lieutenants to quieten talking as Yz tried not to look at them too much.

"Very much of themselves, what would it be to do that for?" Yz spoke complete nonsense to themselves quietly just for the sake of making little sense. Speaking to ones self was simple, but for it to make less sense for those who chose to listen in without permission, it would prove questioning.
"Map. Map, map map, map map map, hmm... place" Yz hummed as their pupiless eyes scanned over the map they were staring at until they had come to an interest in both the Lacans Republic and the Kingdom of Erevan as well as an interest for those places the other lieutenents did not value as much, for it would be territory to work alone.
"The mossy elf-hole? Slave land? Could be a coulding, to could it be good... ooh~ what a good map. MIND-" Yz spoke quietly before coming to an aggressive and loud abrupt stop and recoiling from the map, recomposing themselves as they held their own hands in front of their body and returned back to the map at once and addressed it normally.

"Erevan and the Lacans Republic are both useful. The Erevan have a nice place, and the Lacans have such nice people with sad minds imprisoned that are useful. Obviously, there's a lot of place that might go untouched, but I just need a place and the people. My intentions are simple, nothing more. The slaves of Lacans would be perfect to get my hands on, but I would assume the same for many others. The other Kingdom that belongs to such elven kind? I just like their lands is all. I wouldn't mind receiving their numbers into my grasp, but I would enjoy that in general" Yz spoke in introduction of their ideas, humming as they gestured to the map.
"My plan is unconsidered as of yet, for I not conclusively know where I will end up. I will work to accelerate the success of another, or work in rather secrecy pulling strings and whispering in ears if I find myself working alone in one land. I will figure it out once I get there. Everything can be accomplished one step at a time, or so people believe. Every little piece. If someone else here succeeds, that is more for the me, no, yes? I offer my services to anyone, I don't ask or need much. The outcome of another's success benefits me, even if I don't speak how" they added as they tilted their head looking at the map. It sure was a lot of place to take, and taking territory wasn't entirely Yz's interest but one they would have to assist partaking in. Yz just needed Lord Briggun's expansion and the success of others to succeed, for they needed space to have access to people and land of which would come naturally if anyone to succeed. Whether they had to go somewhere to do it alone, or someone was willing to cooperate with that matter coming to fruition didn't matter, for if Yz could confirm the success of another's plans then it would just make anything easier to work with.

"The end is one, two. I get it" Yz blankly spoke as they scratched at the edge of their mask like they were trying to take it off but not willing to put the effort to truly pull at it.
"All the people are of use, and I don't need the space but I could help people get the space, or want the space. I just need a the one space. The one a nice space, like the elves have. These 'elves', a different people they say" Yz spoke, regarding the elves almost mockingly as they shook their head and began talking to themselves rather than directed at anyone else.
"No matter, they can be normal and great once reached. Anyone can be made into better once they give up their sorrows and weakness, they don't have to be themselves or as anyone else... EXCEPT THE rich for now" Yz considered as they aggressively glared at the map. Slowly tilting their head, they calmly stared and twitched at the place on the map as they spoke to themselves quietly.

"Yz will come soon, but not for now. You are safe, because I must manage, not teach the harsh lesson, but the good one. You are lucky and of greed, Yz will rob you of what material possessions you own, and then take your identity too. Not your life, Yz is a merciful Yz, but Yz will beat you senseless until you give up your name and learn to live correct. Lord Briggun's rule under one banner will make this all easier, for when all are under one, then Yz will reach greater and more" Yz rambled to themselves quietly as they twitched, tapping their splayed fingers against eachother as they pressed their hands together.

"O-oh, what is with the sheep? There is no dog. Can you find it?" Yz thought to themselves as they slowly started focusing on just blank space in front of them.
"NORMAL THAT ONE, CLEARLY. TO THE ENDS, I CAN SEE IT... no, it is me. That would be me. It is YOU that is not, now leave me to my masterpiece" Yz answered in argument to the thin air, shaking their head and sighing.
"What an idiot, there are more important matters. I must tend to life itself... who, are these PARASI- Creatures of others. Yz thinks they maybe not of listen, but of use" Yz pondered as they looked between the other lieutenents, considering who might be of use. If others worked out on where their own desires would lead them to go, then it would help in making the decision if a place of good use had someone striking it alone that could use the acceleration of their success story, or if there was untouched territory where Yz could work along and tug the strings of society to their own will.​
Adanach listened carefully to each lieutenant as they shared their upcoming strategies, but he had little insight to offer those who would focus their attention on the southern realms. It appeared that Borok will focus his attempts in creating new subterranean paths through the mountains that surround the Kingdom of Erevan. A sound strategy, and he considered lending a hand to the runesmith, not only because he had a mutual respect for the Saurid, but also to ensure the Elven overlords of Erevan would be distracted when the horde marches over Mors Denoch.

However, his attention shifted towards one of the most unsavory members of Briggun's court... Lord Declan, a noble man stricken with a disease Adanach never heard of. He thought little of the man, not because of his withered appearance or height, but because he was a southern noble, the same ilk who thinks lowly of people like him, and he could see it on the viceroy's eyes, to him, Adanach was nothing more than an useful, backwards barbarian.

"As for the wild man, he too can play a part in this. You are from those Northern Reaches, no? You can apply pressure to the Kingdom of Lorei as a pincered manuever with us from the South. This would not only draw attention away from Lacans, but also weaken Lorei from being able to respond to later incursions."

"It is a sound strategy, lord Declan... there's a problem with it..." He said, before pointing at the map. "...I believe the Kingdom of Lorei is here, correct? Next to it is Mors Fael, a fertile region inhabited by hundreds of tribes... beneath it is Mors Dakar, inhabited hundreds of Orcish and human tribes... I belive you know all of this, but you assume my campaign to unite the Druadach will be done just in time for the invasion of Lacans? Or do you believe I'll be faster that lord Lucafiel's attempt to weaken the region?"

"I do not wish to imply I'll take my time just for the sake of it, lord Declan, but even with my keen understanding of the tribes that inhabit the Druadach, it will take time to unite each region; Mors Gobonach alone will take me months to pacify."
Adanach looked at the map again, studying the five regions of the Druadach, and thinking of what is ahead of him. "Believe me, Lord Declan... if I could, I would have united the Druadach while I was gathering my army."
Voyka observed the other lieutenants that had gathered today at Briggun's behest. The past ten years had done much to bolster their ranks, as a sizeable chunk of their collective now consisted of those who had not been present for the fall of Canar - those that she referred to as the 'old guard'. Today was, to her knowledge, one of the first times their ranks as they were had come together, an important opportunity to greet.

She remembered when news of the Johas Controversy reached her ears, and soon after, news of the rageful despair Briggun faced. She had seen in him and his fellow fae wife the future, for their might would surely bring down Canar, and she, looking to ascend, would need to adapt to her soon-to-be overlord. As such, of the old guard, she was among the early five to join him. Soon, they gathered four more, and both Canar and Poggost were no more. Just as she had partaken in the fall of both kingdoms, so too did she partake in the fall of Rocher, but the allies they had gathered since had been more distant in her mind. Looking toward the waiting lieutenants, her gaze shifted upon each...


One ally whom she was more distant with was Adanach. She was scarcely familiar with him, knowing only that his focus lay squarely toward the north-west, where his homeland and the republics were, with vengeance in his heart. Her goals weren't as driven as his, but it would be foolish not to stick her nose into his business, as a grandma is known to do, especially when taking into account the usual politics that occur between those in the military. Though here they weren't just mere soldiers or units in an army, they were fundamentally distinct factions. And knowledge serves to aid. As she pondered knowledge, her eyes shifted towards Borok. He had been among the early, but had been among those she interacted less with. In her memory, the sauroid engaged little with those who made scarce use for his runes, such as herself. His enchanted weapons would trickle her way when relevant, but she never sought them out, for her war path never needed them. In a similar fashion to Adanach, he seeks return by his own means home. He never had a true interest in Canar affairs, in her eyes, but she would have to gain a further interest in him.

Her gaze fell upon Lucafiel, another early member of Briggun's ranks, but her lack of interaction with the fallen angel stemmed from similar-yet-distinct reasons. He too was driven in a way she couldn't relate, but while she could imagine someone such as Adanach or Borok willingly engage with her beyond affairs related to Briggun, she could not say the same for Lucafiel. The vestati were infamous for their views on 'vessels' that were not perfect in their eyes. Knowledge alone would not be sufficient with him, further tolerance was necessary. Her gaze shifted to Declan, ever the miser, in his own corner. She remembered when the Wither had struck the lands in the youth of her career. She had lost several of her peers at the time, and had offered to aid in efforts supporting the afflicted... when those efforts existed of course. She was unsure if any of her herbal teas reached the nobility, but she liked to think they did. Regardless, she doesn't consider her relations with Declan to be at their best, mainly due to having openly referred to him as a young scion despite his age, and she hadn't had much to rectify this as a result of his focus on the old nobility. She would have to ameliorate things in her grandmotherly ways. Speaking of hags, her gaze moved to Cordia. Cordia had joined them as part of the invasion of Rocher, but otherwise the two had not interacted much. The captain's domain was the sea, after all, far from what she herself was comfortable with, but at least like Borok there were no mutual issues. Same could be said for Alexandre, having similarly joined as part of the Rocher Campaign - no issues, but little interaction.

Another whom she had had little chance to speak with has been Falwyn, given her circumstances. Voyka was far more present in the field these days than she was in Canaresch's gilded halls, given everything going on in the Empire even when there were no active invasions to aid in, and even when both were in the field, they'd be in different sectors. Being on the receiving end of her attacks would be unfortunate. Similarly in terms of sector differentiation were things with Yz. A late-joiner like Adanach, Yz was very much in a world of their own, in pursuit of affairs comparable to a cult. What little she remembered of Yz speaking made her already put aside the prospect of being able to befriend them like a normal person. She could only hope for mutual peace. Speaking of mutual peace, there was the case of the Wizard of Zo, ol' Dorozan. Voyka was very much not fond of Estro, resentment born of the old days prior to Briggun, but they had come to a mutual agreement after he had discovered the pit she stored the bodies of people she had killed in secret. Just as she arrived to dump a freshly-murdered corpse, there stood Estro, digging in the pit for bodies to experiment on. It meant that she now had a personal reason to resent the man, for he knew now that she had committed many personal murders, but he kept quiet so that he had bodies to experiment on. On the complete opposite spectrum meanwhile, was Sigurd.

Oh, Sigurd. It may be presumptuous to say, but if her grandma had aided in making her the woman she was today, so too did Sigurd hold that spot as well. It was under Sigurd that the Horned were cut to size, it was under him that she found herself subjugated, forced to see the death of her grandmother, and more. It was thanks to his actions that she eventually saw the light, the light that brought her to become the loyalist she was today, driven to slaughter. Sigurd was in many ways the ideal in her eyes, and yet she barely interacted with him. Prior to Briggun, her one and only interaction was when she was brought before him after being accused of murder. The resulting several hours she had spent struggling to fight Sigurd, as she stood bloodied, but resilient and steadfast, remains one of her fondest memories, followed by her waking up hours later in a bed and being told by him that not only did he view her as innocent, but as the kind of woman the military needed. His decision to join Briggun made her immensely glad, so much so she refers to him only as Vuldar now - or Vule [voo-leh, "Vully"]. But aside from fighting with him in the campaigns, and receiving permission to aid in purging the military's non-loyal members with Kolthix, she had not had much time to interact with him, for he concentrated on his goal to retake his rightful throne. She wasn't even sure if he even remembered that encounter so many years ago, not that it mattered in her eyes. She was fine admiring him from afar.

In contrast, of the 'old guard', she had gotten closest with Kolthix most. Though one might initially assume they would have nothing to do with one another, the two quickly shared a bond over their past experiences. Each shared in their peoples being slaughtered, each share in an absolute joy in engaging in slaughter, each share in teaching others their trauma, and each share a great respect for the other's efforts. It was no wonder why, aside from Vuldar, Kolthix was the only other who had received a nickname - Kole [koh-leh, "Kolthy"] or Kolćić [kohl-cheech, "Lil' Kole/Kolthy"]. If any of the other lieutenants pushed against the shadeling, she'll push twice as hard back. Though he appeared to be late, likely engaging in his usual shenanigans in the borderlands. Meanwhile, there was shared elements with Veno, in uniting their peoples, but she was just another cultist like Yz and Estro, so her interests waned from there. What raised her interest back up was her position. She thinks they're on good terms, as she opts to refer to her as 'granny' only - so she's her 'dearie'. Otherwise though, she is useful for finding items she had lost. And then there was Izaak. They hadn't had much time to talk, but he certainly benefited from her slaughter in the field, given his abilities to reanimate the bones of the dead. He seems like the kind she would get along with, though she would rather he had not found the pit as Estro had, digging for bones as she was dropping off another victim.


Soon enough, Makar, the often-beaten goblin steward made Briggun's arrival known, though as always, such a thing was not necessary, for the Dark Lord was plenty powerful and audible enough for his mere presence alone to inform those present he was here. She watched from her spot as he leveled accusations during the tenth year of his reign on their failure to expand further. With the map laid onto the table, she approached and gave the others the opportunity to speak. Erevan remained a central focus, as it remained obscenely resilient against their forces. Though she specialized in rougher terrain, the elves had fortified the passes through the mountains substantially, likely necessitating a deeper incursion. It wasn't something that she was capable of dealing with by herself, hence why her characteristic smile and nod emerged upon Borok explaining his efforts. Similarly, despite the unhinged nature of their speak, she respected Yz's assurance of aid even if it was for selfish reasons. The north-west was of less interest to her, though she remained one of the few comfortable traversing through the Malenchanted Woods... they reminded her of home, and could be the place for a new homeland, but its diversity always dissuaded such a thought. She adored slaughter, but extermination was not something she would engage in. The south across the Bay of Canar was similarly of little interest to her, as she was largely land-based. The Rocherites were free to deal with that. Similarly, the dragonmaid was free to begin efforts against Gantar, for the desert proved a grand obstacle against her style.

She would have kept to herself until all spoke, but the vestati had to drag her in by invoking her preferred strategy as a seemingly undesirable last resort. It spoke leagues to her that he had chosen her as the example, rather than others like her who similarly enjoyed the slaughter, such as Kolthix... but it also meant her reputation still preceded her, which brought a smile to her face.

"Oho, it looks like you haven't learned from your hubris, if you're tossing out comments like that," Voyka approached the table. "Do I need to remind all present of the effectiveness of such 'clear cutting' in dealing with our enemies? Does Kolthix have to join me in reminding you all? Especially so not just in destroying the spirit of the enemy, but ensuring compliance among the conquered populace. Compliance that has aided in pacifying Poggost, making it suitable to stage an invasion into Erevan from to begin with. Birthing a populace that seeks the embrace of a caring grandma and ever-more caring Emperor, as opposed to the posh and overly long-lived," she commented, leaving it ambiguous as to whether she was referring to Erevan or the Hallow Legion, all while addressing what she had been up to that had slowed down expansion from her end.

"As for my plans, I am flexible, like Yz. I would not want to miss the Erevan Campaign, especially if there's going to be a concentrated effort, but if need be, I would aid elsewhere where my men can fight," Voyka explained, "whether it be offering to aid in fighting in the Malenchanted Woods, or heading southward towards the south and south-east. Just let there be forests, and endless slaughter for me and my men to enjoy."
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Estro regarded the menagerie of pawns that Briggun had mustered to his banner in his wrath against Canar and the world. Ten years of expansion and conquest. Ten years of serving as his loyal Court Wizard, resolving matters of the arcane and occult for the only man who had ever truly defeated him. Some would be tormented by their pride and ego. Admittedly he had those in excess, but life had taught him many lessons which included patience and adaptation. Unlike the others in the Royal Court, Estro had known about dear Herasa and their scandalous relationship. He'd never told a soul, knowing that secret was too precious to even dangle as blackmail. He took it with him to his imprisonment and it was what had made him smile at Briggun as he personally shackled Estro. It was said he laughed the entire day he heard about the exile, a stunning display from a prisoner who had been so quiet and calm for so long. It unnerved the guards. Estro Dorozan was one of the most powerful wizards in the history of Canar, which made some question if the prison could truly contain him.

The answer was never truly found out. Johas died and Briggun came. The once noble hero of Canar filled with hatred and wrath so intense, he released one of the most diabolical men in the history of his own homeland to help burn it down. It was said Estro met Briggun with the same smile he'd given him at the time of his imprisonment. One that was knowing and assured. Estro swore fealty without a second thought when Briggun offered him a position at his side. Ten years of putting out magical fires and resolving whatever strange bullshit the empire's expansion would trigger. All the while, Estro was experimenting, refining his methods and expanding the Cult of Zo to suit his needs.

Now it would seem that time was at hand for a new campaign of conquest. Briggun was frustrated, though he could hardly blame Estro for the failings of his more militant commanders. Estro did his part to lessen the blow of failures when he wasn't assisting with some issue or 'solving problems'. It was said the worst thing to see was Veno and Estro talking or dining together over some issue. Terrible things tended to happen due to those meetings. Estro could never compete with Veno for her mastery of intrigue. He made up for it by being an utter bastard in his various endeavors. Cultists wormed their ways into places, uprisings and sabotage or preparation for full scale rebellions. The conversion of defeated soldiers into loyal servants of the cult and empire.

Estro himself taking to the field could be a spectacle. The power of a true archmage unleashed was a rare sight. Briggun may have had terrible and powerful beings in his employ, including a great gold dragon but an archmage carried the same gravitas if one understood the powers they could unleash upon a battlefield. Meteor showers, elemental hordes, the very dead rising to kill their comrades and sow terror. Arcane magic at its peak was the stuff of legend and Estro could do such workings.

He wondered how many here took him seriously, but didn't care if they didn't. He was old news to some, considering Briggun had firmly established himself as superior with the previous defeat. Estro seemed to come across as his smiling and manipulative henchman. Acting on things before Briggun even was aware of them at times. He had protected his position of Court Wizard with a viciousness that only showed itself when someone dared to try to challenge his standing. Beyond that, he dealt with issues that could complicate his master's life. Eliminating rivalries in the ranks of the other commanders when he felt a power struggle might weaken a position. Shoring up affairs here or there. He found some actual enjoyment doing this for Briggun, because his position was earned and established. He did not have to battle the inane and enraging politics of the nobility as had been his life as the Court Wizard of Canar. The very thing that had made him snap and become who he was now.

Like all the others, he bowed at the arrival of Briggun and listened to him rage about the failure of conquering Erevan at this time. Then came the proposals of the many seeking expansion in the North. Curious plans some of which were competing. There were merit to each but flaws as well. Such was the way of things. He long ago accepted the flaws of his own plans because they were lessons that could make his future plans better. Finally the South started to be discussed by Cordia and Alexandre. Estro saw an opening for his own plans.

"While I do appreciate the efforts of my cohorts, it would seem the North has sufficient attention to deliver your needs there, my lord," Estro said in the calm and confident tone many had come to know. The smooth voice of the Court Wizard had whispered into many of their ears about issues he had 'fixed' for them from time to time. Or simply informing them of some matter they would need to deal with he had become aware of. "I believe the South is where I shall provide my expertise. Already I hear talks of Tarelia and Piantian. It just so happens I have an interest in the Civicerian Dominion."

Estro snaps his fingers as the map seemingly lights up those regions and markers begin to appear for Cordia, Alexandre and now Estro's personal sigil. It shows little ships raiding, vessels sinking as vampiric marauders slaughter and terrorize. The sounds of fighting and people screaming can be heard. The illusion spins the faces of refugees pouring out of the terrorized regions to flood into the safe zones across the gulf and into Civiceria. Those flows notably bear Estro's sigil here and there as if hiding among them to plant themselves into the regions fled into.

"The Cult of Zo has always had a talent for recruiting and converting the desperate and downtrodden. War makes many like that. I offer to provide my support to Cordia and Alexandre, so that my agents might flee with survivors into the target lands. Civiceria will have to respond. They'll have no choice. Their own survival will drive the Dominus and his Senate into doing so to prevent the war from entering their country directly. Plenty of time for me to reach out to the Plebian masses and colonized peoples held down by the Patrician families that dominate the Senate," Estro gestures and the illusion shifts again to show Civicerian forces deploying to likely attempt to hinder Cordia and Alexandre.

"So as always, I will facilitate the success of my peers. Always the faithful servant as your Court Wizard, my lord," Estro said with another bow. He rises to give another charming smile and snaps his fingers. The strategic markers, sounds and units suddenly vanishing as quickly as they had appeared. "That is, of course, if Cordia and Alexandre are open to my efforts. Civiceria would be my own primary target for this endeavor."
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Veno Dilach, The Black Rose
(Disguised - Imperial Spymaster)


--- --- ---
"The fuck ya' lookin' at, ya ugly minge?!"​

The blonde, red-eyed woman in a sleek purple and black dress eyed the redcap Rukkar, giving him a look of disdain. But, she held her tongue. He wasn't worth words. He was barely worth the look she was giving him. Soon, however, her attention was drawn to the lowly goblin Makar. Briggun was coming. She shifting her gaze towards where Briggun always entered the room. He was clad in his armor, as usual. She barely ever saw him without his helmet anymore, and even less so without his armor. She wondered what his wife thought about it, honestly, but dared not ask. The wife was Fae. One dealt with Fae when one was properly prepared to do so.
"Veno," he snarled, slowly regaining his composure, "what manner of treachery has befallen my commanders which hinders their progress?"​

The spymaster simply glanced to the table where Briggun has driven his fist. Not the first time he had done so, and it wouldn't be the last either. At least he wasn't beating that same fist into someone's skull. Bodies were easy to hide and dispose of, but hard to clean up after. A table could be mended and reused.

"Difficulty with the terrain, my lord, between our two regions. The routes that would normally be used to bypass the mountains have been well secured. Imperial scouts are attempting to find weak points, but the progress is slow." responded Veno, "Though I'm sure with some proper focus from your lieutenants and generals, our problems can be dealt with. However, to them, I am but a lowly creature peering over their shoulders. Simply an unwanted observer. They listen to you, my lord, first and foremost. Your input is needed."

Besides, Veno had other imperial matters to attend to as well. The empire had enemies without, but the empire also had enemies within. Ones that needed to be located and rooted out. Cut out like a cancer from the body. Otherwise, the empire could not focus on expanding. And if the empire could not expand...

...That meant that the followers of Akordia could not spread.

They could not reach their elven brothers and sisters, or spread their word and teachings to others that would choose to listen. The Old Ways of the Elves would not return, and Akordia's will would go unfulfilled. That simply would not do. Veno was responsible to bring Akordia's will to its execution. The goddess she often saw in her dreams, appearing to her clad in white that matched the very moon above that she held dominion over. Ever watchful of her multitudes of children below.


She often spoke to her in cryptic words and phrases, but Veno understood her. She understood her wishes... her will. It had to be done, and would be done. The Lady on High would be happy, in the end. And everything Veno did was a means to that end.

Soon, Briggun laid out a map on the large table at the center of the grand hall. A map of the known world, one she had seen far too many times to count. And then, her lord spoke again.

"Now, I want you each to explain to me which portion of this map you will win for my empire on your next campaign, and how. You will resolve any differences in your plans, and you will cooperate if possible," Briggun instructed them.

For the moment, Veno remained quiet. Silently taking in each of the lieutenants' statements. Their plans and thoughts. Dissecting each and every sentence, studying their faces and mannerisms. And the barbarian heathen was the first to speak, with Veno's eyes shifting towards him as he spoke of the goblins in the land of Mors Gobonach. Ah yes, the warring tribes. An annoyance, unwilling to bend the knee to the Empire. It made sense that the Heathens would strike at the Goblins. More uncivilized cultures drawn into the horde like a new link attached to a long chain.

Veno's thoughts on Adanach and his horde were they were uncultured muscle to throw at the Empire's enemies. She despised them, personally. Especially after discovering that they tended to enslave those that could not fight. Not everyone could fight, even if forced to. One of her inner circle happened to be one of those types. He bore scars around his neck and across his body, given to him by a slaver in that vast army of barbarians. Likely not under the direct command of Adanach, but still. A horrid bunch, all of them. Useful only as tools, and just like tools, could easily be disposed of when the time came.

Borok, the Sauroid runesmith, spoke next. A breakthrough in the mountains south of the Elven kingdom? Interesting. How long had he kept this a secret? His plan to split the elves off from the Gantar Sultinate was sound. Divide them, and if the Gantar decided to send assistance to the Elves, the aid would not reach them without having to go through Imperial forces. But how long would it take to bore through those mountains? Could they actually break through the elven barriers? Even her own scouts had trouble breaking through them at times.

Lucafiel was next, pointing out the Lacans Republic. A functioning imperial war machine required coin and manpower. As much as she herself loathed slavery, it was needed. A strike at the Republic would prove beneficial, and would allow the flow of more coin and materials into the empire to fuel additional war efforts. A sound idea, but one that would need support from the other lieutenants. Just like Borok's, really. And Declan seemed to support Lucafiel's intentions with the Republic. He added onto Lucafiel plan with one of his own, and attempted to draw Adanach into it. If everything went the way it was laid out, Arantino, Tidiaus and Lorei would be ripe for the taking as well. An excellent plan, and one she would applaud if they were in more private company.

Cordia was next, choosing to focus on dominating the naval aspect. As she she should. And Alexandre would follow along the coast. Excellent. A pair focused on taking the ports and coasts would prove most effective. And it would allow for the Empire to launch future assaults into the lower nations either by sea or land. She would applaud them as well, if she didn't detest the pair. She didn't like mindless slaughter. An empire needed subjects to rule, and she needed people to convert to the ways of Akordia.

It seemed Borok would find his support in the dragoness that was Falwyn, an endentured servant of Briggun thanks to the artifact that he held in his possession. But then Yz spoke. And the more they spoke, the more they confused Veno. Were they... simply babbling or attempting to string something together that was remotely coherent? She listened in, and eventually they did. They were simply waiting to see where they would be needed more. It seemed Granny Voyka was also in the same boat.

Estro, the Imperial Wizard, chose to throw his lot in with Cordia and Alexandre. He was doing it purely to get to the Civicerian Dominion, however. The man always tried to be several steps ahead of others. Veno smirked. So did she, honestly. Soon enough, she took a look at the map herself. What to do, what to do...

How about something a little more... entertaining?

"Weildach." she said simply, pointing to the nation's position on the map. "...I wish to light the powder keg."

She smiled, then looked to those focusing on the south. "Nothing quite as distracting as a civil war, wouldn't you agree? A bit of chaos to the south that we could certainly take advantage of. Especially those that would be focused on carving a path towards the south. And perhaps, we can enlist the aid of our... friends... in Sandach? Convince them that we wish to 'help them reclaim their nation', and... slip in the back door once we have Weildach in our hands?"

She didn't like mindless slaughter... but a little civil war now and then never hurt. Thinned out the idiots, honestly.

"I can send my own into the Theocracy, disguised as needed, to spread and sew disorder. The people of Weildach already hate one another as it is. We'll simply be giving them a reason to act on their darkest desires. The war will commence, and we will observe and stoke the fires as needed. Giving Cordia, Alexandre, and Estro the time to do what they need to. And when the time is right... we conquer the survivors."
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Far off from the middle of the dining hall, the Voivoide of Skulls, Izaak Rosach remained seated. His form, lithe and armoured, was loose in the ornate wooden chair, hands gingerly resting at the ends of the chair's arms. Despite how slack his body was, it was harrowingly still, a silent general who observed the gathered lieutenants with passing interest. The armour he wore was, perhaps amongst his peers, unique, a suit of bone molded to his stature. Sleek, slab-plates gleamed oily in the light of Canaresch's banquet hall, casting thin-veins of shadow over the strata of woven, red muscle that acted like a gambeson. A skull, white as snow and freshly-plucked, dangled from a chain around the slender-figure's waist, its sockets as dead and soulless as the black slits of the Voivoide's beetle-crested helm. The other affectation that he wore was a leather cord hung with the teeth and talons of dozens of predators, a huntsman could pick out the species if they got too close.

He wondered, for a moment, the depths of insanity that his peers enjoyed. No, he had not been here when their Lord and Emperor, Briggun, first began his warpath, one of blood-boiling wrath, to revenge himself against the tormentors and murderers of his son. Izaak had been preoccupied with other matters at the time, that and the towns that he ruled over were far-enough removed that the threat of Briggun's conquering stride a distant worry. Of course, a day would come when his domain would be put to the sword, Izaak knew that. So when it came, Izaak bent his knee to the towering might before him. Even with his mastery over the rotting dead, the Oss-mage lacked sufficient resources and power to defeat the newly-minted Emperor. Resist him, surely as the shore rocks resist the waves, but rocks wither and erode in the face of endless waves. The man smiled with self-amusement at the thought. Perhaps, he would've entertained that notion in another lifetime, but now, it seemed futile to do so.

The lieutenant was not alone. Excluding his peers in Briggun's court, one individual flanked his shoulder. He wore black robes with the cowl drawn down, leaving only his mouth visible, hands clasped together in the wide and looping sleeves. He was just a shy younger than Izaak, but the discoloured and sagging skin on his chin, puckered with scars, misled most people. Eyes pale and milky, but functional still. Strangely, he was not of Izaak's serf stock, but one who offered himself freely at his master's feet. A confidant and chamberlain. Izaak had done away with many of his father's people, save for those truly deserving to bask in his glory, Emil was one of his own choice. As Rukkar, one of Adanach's Redcaps, an ugly, vulgar thing, that spouted obscenities and goading remarks, Emil smirked, a tiny smile that parted his features, allowing himself a modicum of amusement.

Then the clitter-clacking of bones is heard. The small jaws of a canid creature mimicking living mannerisms that it possessed so long, long ago. From beneath the table's edge, a skeletal creature peaked its dog skull above the edge. Its lifeless sockets stared at Rukkar, indignantly glaring at him. Its bones yellowing from age, yet the former dog still persisted. Izaak's helm shifted as he looked to his canine companion, his gauntlet danced across the ridged spine, wicked talons caressing the dorsal horns, placating the small hound. His bones rattled as he shook and laid back down on the Voivode's lap. Izaak caught sight of Lucafiel eyeing Adanach, his wife, Bjorga, and the redcap Rukkar.

The fallen must be imagining such sweet cruelty to inflict on the boasting redcap, Izaak leaned to the left, supporting his head with a closed knuckle as he watched the porcelain-faced lieutenant with the near-obsidian of his helm. He was possessed of a certain respect towards the Fallen's manner of warfare, finding it novel. A degree of sympathy towards their cause, extrapolated from Izaak's own feelings and experiences. That is where it ends, however. He feels that the Vestati are not to be wholly trusted - their mania to deiciding their patron, whoever or whatever it is, can become a detriment to themselves and Briggun's court.

Makar, a down-trodden goblin speaker, announced Briggun's arrival, before being swiftly belted to the side in an abrupt act of sadism by the Emperor himself. Izaak could tell, from the very sound of his booted footfalls, that Briggun was bristling beneath his armour. Izaak snatched his hound and set him down, before rising to give his Emperor the exact amount of respect required. A bowed head with his cape of muscle-fibre flowing down. And nothing more, before falling down into his chair again. The amber eyes, clear as a crystal lake, winced when Briggun brought his frustrations onto the table, leaving a dent. Was that so necessary? Yes, he supposes it was.

The rest began their elaborations of their warplans, considered and like any plan, flawed. His was likely to be faulty in certain aspects as well. The soundness of plans is first tested. If it finds success, then it should be offered approval, that is Izaak's viewpoint.

Baba Voyka, a maestro of abattoirs, one that Izaak believes to be a formidable and reliable ally, along with the ever confusing and madder than a full-moon lunatic, Yz are being flexible in their deployment. A wise decision, Izaak ponders as Emil leans to whisper into his ear. He nods once before, following the archmage's strategy. He dare not underestimate such a being of mystical might, where Izaak is the specialist, and could defeat Estro in manipulating bones, it is his other avenues that make such a deadly adversary. Best to stay in the cult leader's good graces.

Suddenly, Izaak felt a burning in his skin, chest sore and red beneath the armour. That accursed lattice which hounded his dreams, haunting them into waking nightmares at times. He streaked his talons across his chest in a vain attempt to soothe his injury, screeching like a blade to whetstone.

It was then his turn to speak. He extended a hand then tapped with a talon on the map. "Gantar." Pieces of his gauntlet broke off onto the table. Snapping, contorting into puppetted figures of people, like they were carved by a carpenter. The figures marched unabated towards Gantar then mocked a salute before trailing back to reform Izaak's gauntlet.

His voice contradicted the figure that belonged to — deep, dry, and rough. A voice that belonged more to an executioner or mortuary scribe than a nobleman such as he. "With Felwyn's forces and my hordes, the Sultinate cannot stand for long, if at all." There was a flint-edged hardness to it though, almost like ice. "My mixed forces will suffer less in the scorching desert. Fewer supplies will be needed. The lines will be well-protected regardless by skeletonized enforcers." He added. "My forces are already on a war-footing, ready to be deployed at my command. As always, however, I do your bidding, Lord." He bowed his head one more time and placed a fist over his heart.
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As his lieutenants laid out their plans and bickered over the minor details, Briggun listened quietly and kept his eyes on the map, deep in concentration.

Borok had presented a simple, but captivating plan: To go, not over the mountains, nor around the mountains, but under and through the mountains to attack Erevan where the elves would be ill-prepared. If he could make good on his word, then a massive invasion force could strike at what was doubtlessly the least-defended province of the realm: Sabersval. However, there were risks involved: if the elves were to learn of the plan, then the tunnels would simply close as the pass did, years ago, negating the numerical advantage his armies possessed. Moreover, if the elves employed magic, they could cause a landslide, or simply douse the tunnels with foul gasses and choke any would attempt a crossing.

Lady Falwyn, then, provided the solution. She would attack the province of Ysaval, which, while heavily-defended by the elves, would likely draw away their forces and attention, vastly increasing the chances for success up the middle. He nodded slowly as she spoke; of course the dragon would be drawn to the richness of the northern coast of Gantar; it would be wise to indulge her to the extent that the empire could allow, as her strength was something Briggun could ill-afford to lose. Beneath his armor, an amulet lay flush against his skin, the very artifact which held her in her human form while in his presence; while he felt it possible to kill the dragon should he ever lose it, it was far safer and more convenient to keep her on a leash.

As the others took a break from speaking, the fate of Erevan was the first the Dark Lord spoke of.

"Your attack on Ysaval has my approval, Lady Falwyn. You may depart for Ostmajora immediately to gather your forces. Be as conspicuous as you can manage; burn them in spectacle. They must believe you to be the greatest threat they have yet faced, even greater than I. Such a mistake will be their undoing, as I have orchestrated your coming as surely as I have been the architect of their final destruction. If this should open the way for your schemes in Gantar, then all the better," he added, a bloodthirsty amusement creeping into his tone.

"For that matter," he said, turning to Izaak, "you have my permission to launch an attack on the southern Gantar province of Miraq. It will be lightly defended, no doubt, but is also worthless to us beyond securing a direct route to Midana and Arnone. I take it your intent, however, is to push on to Bhiran, leaving naught but the coastal lands the Sultan so dearly prizes, and Menzaar, beyond. This is also... acceptable," the Emperor spoke.

He then looked to Borok, giving a similar nod of approval. "I know of your tunnels and have been watching your progress for quite some time, Runesmith. While the other commanders look for easier takings elsewhere, if none will volunteer, then I shall lead the attack on Sabersval personally and drive a stake into their nature-loving hearts. But that reminds me that there is one great forest you have forgotten, Baba," he said to the hag. "You are welcome to join me in the elvan glades in our triumphant hour, along with anyone else who isn't preoccupied."

Turning his attention to Lucafiel, Declan, and Adanach as they laid out plans, his tone grew more agitated. His subordinates were clearly not in accord on what is to be done with the Lacanic slaves, once the territory is conquered. Declan's proposal to stir discord within the republic to destabilize it was a cunning plan, and the warlock understood the potential of freedmen in aiding their progress further into the country. They would know the lay of the land and the identities of rich and powerful landowners.

However, Lucafiel was right to question the end goal of the emancipations. Briggun did not need untrained, ill-disciplined irregulars, no matter their loyalty. He needed farmers to till the fields and craftsmen to shoe the horses. The slaves would doubtlessly clamber to the idea that they are owed for simply betraying the masters they already hated regardless in a time of convenience, and as the fallen angel expressed it, it would cost Saarus "half of the plunder."

On the other hand, Briggun felt no pity for the men and women he would place back in chains should they be freed, with the swiftness and brutality which he had applied equally to all of his campaigns.

"Lord Declan, I approve of your plan to foster a revolt within the Lacans Republic. Let them believe that acceptance of their bondage is akin to death, and to resist is the wind in their lungs. As the masters of that land lose their illusion of control, the Hallow Legion will attack the Province of Oitvemia from allied land in Tidiaus. When we're finished, we will bring upon the slaves a cruelty so heavy that it will squeeze the breath from their body and the voice from their throats, and they will be ours, forevermore."

He then turned to Adanach. "You are a Druadach, as are your followers. You are free to travel in that country if you are not making war against your countrymen, lending credit to Lord Declan's plan to pressure the Loreians. But your longer-term goals serve me better. Crush Mors Gobonach's resistance and begin the conquest of your homeland."

The Dark Lord held no response for Yz. He already knew of the puzzling manner in which they expressed ideas, and was ready to allow the strange being to simply be at large during the coming campaign. Instead, he turned his focus to the sea hag and the vampyr, a slow chuckle bellowing from the voids of his helmet. "...It is good to hear that the fleet is finally ready to serve its purpose, to wrest control of the waters from those blasted Piantians. While their colonial possessions are harried by the undead, their precious navy will be torn between the task of ferrying men and supplies across the channel and holding off Captain Cordia from taking Teralia, which will not hold out for long against us on its own."

He gestured again at the main, southern portion of Piantia. "Those fools are the weak link among their lot, and they know it. Should Piantia fall, the Civicerians would be next. As this would be a delayed offensive, I support your efforts to infiltrate and sabotage the Dominion with the Cult of Zo," he said, lifting his gaze to meet Estro's. "That leaves you, Veno," he said turning to face his Spymaster.

Her intent to fool the Sandach into believing themselves active partners in the war against their mother country was a master stroke; perhaps they would delude themselves into thinking their gods had sent Saarus to finally unify their accursed country under a single, virtuous banner. But once the mainland is taken, Sandach will be nothing but a footnote in the Empire's history. "I give you leave to meet with the Sandachians. Lead them into the fold so that they may be taken by poisonous hope, and then dash it against the rocks. Lead their brethren to destroy one another once more, until they have no strength to resist."

The shape of the grand attack was nearly finalized, and the commanders were permitted to leave. There was much work to be done to prepare. Briggun would linger for a while over his map, still ready to discuss the finer points with any who wished for further guidance. The rest would depart to begin the task of humbling the entire world.
Voyka bowed with her hand on her chest as Briggun offered her to join in the long-awaited Erevan Campaign, to be led under his magnanimous charge. She had very much not forgotten the forests of Erevan, but always considered anything involving elves Veno's domain. She personally felt slaughtering elves just made Veno's job of uniting them easier - there'd be less of them, after all! - but she didn't wish to ruffle feathers unnecessarily.

"No honor would be greater than joining you in the Erevan Campaign, your Rottenness," Voyka said, referring to him with one of her sillier epitaphs for him, a practice Briggun was all too used to. Just a little bit of grandmotherly fun, aimed at reminding all of what he was - the most powerful villain in the land, unchallenged in his brutality, cruelty and vileness, an idol to be worshiped in all his repulsiveness and meanness, to be imitated and replicated.

As Briggun concentrated on addressing the rest of the lieutenants not involved in that campaign, Voyka shifted her focus to the two lieutenants who had been silent thus far: Kolthix and Vuldar. To the first, she just turned her head to face him, and gave him her infamous twisted grin. It had been too long since the two of them, combined unparalleled in their murderous brutality, had been on a campaign. Were he to join, there would be fun galore, and that was without including the blood. She did consciously make sure Veno noticed her doing this; if she opposed the likely slaughter of elves that would come from the two of them being in this campaign together, now was the time to speak up. To the second, she thought it likely he might join the campaign too, given the path to Alemannum required crossing through Erevan, assuming he didn't join the barbarian and circumvented Erevan altogether. She viewed that unlikely though. The thought of a campaign that featured her, Kolthix and Vuldar, all following Briggun's lead, made her quite nostalgic. With the closing of the meeting, she made sure to linger. After all, there was a campaign to plan, and coordination would be key to victory.
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Falwyn stepped up with a brief smile towards the room Briggun approved of her conquering of the province of Ysaval. It would become a great staging ground for her steps into Gantar. Erevan would divert their forces to try to stop the terror of the dragon, but find themselves ripped apart by the various warlords who marched through the tunnels into the center.

"I will begin the mustering at once. They will learn to cower before me. I will bring them a spectacle of Death! We will feast in the clearings of ash when the province is won." She would look to the eyes of Briggun, Voyka, and any others who would join the campaign to the middle. She gave a glance to Borok, would the man join the others in the middle through his tunnels as she suggested? Either way she would be the one who took control of Ysaval. It was her conquest. She would raise her bottle to them. A fine vintage, mostly drunk at this point. Which it was perfect for marking the occasion. "Prosit! To the Empire of Saarus! To Everan's downfall!" She would then finish the bottle smashing it upon the ground to mark her intent to the toast and finality of the actions. She would then turn on her heels walking in confidence out of the palace to begin the rallying of her troops for invasion.
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With the plan of assault agreed upon, the only thing to do now was to rally the troops and await the coming slaughter. Alexandre felt the moon shining in through the circular windows that adorned the high roof of the once opulent dining hall. Feeling spurred, she retrieved a small vial from a small satchel at her hip. Opening it up she drank the sanguine liquid with greed, and when expended, crushed the vial in her gauntlet. With deep breaths, she emerged from the shade and walked up to Cordia. Positioning herself in fron of her, she grabbed the captain with both hands by the shoulders bringing her closer to her own visage.
"Alas, my sickly gueen of the waves, I depart for the edge of the bone coast. There we shall wait for your siren song upon the umbral wind with salivating breath." She said as she gazed deep into Cordias eyes, whom were met with two sockets in which there burned a swirling whirlwind of wrath and ruin.

"Then we go south and fall upon them" she said between a chuckle, "And there we will lay them out dead" she concluded with a wide grin.
Straightening herself up and brushing her slick hair back, she turned to give Veno and Estro a look of sadistic excitment. "And of course, I trust the two of you will also be there...", Alexandre said, looking from Estro to Veno. She eyed the spymaster intently, giving here a knowing smirk. "Skulking in the shadows".
Alexandre then made her exit, grabing her hideous greatsword that had been left by the main door. As she left the corridors to the courtyard echoed with a hearty laughter.
Well outside, she encountered a tall knight, sitting atop a stygian steed. "My my, Guillaume the Postmaster." she said, half-heartedly conceiling a mocking laughter.
The knight turned his hed slowly to her, giving her a disdainful look with his crimson, shimering eyes. He drew heavy breaths as he eyed the red butcher.
Alexandres demeanor switched suddenly to a bestial seriousness. "The patriarchs message has been delivered. We will march on the southern realms, with two sycophants in tow."
The knight growled lowly within his feathered helmet, his war-torn armor playing a forboding melody in the falling rain. Turning his horse around while maintianing a hateful gaze on Alexandre, the dark rider set away with terrifying speed into the moonlit night. Alexandre quickly saddled her horse, a massive and brutish steed called Henri le Massif.
Riding out into the courtyard, she bucked the horse and turned it towards the gate.

"Henri, mon terrible destrier! Rapporte-moi leurs âmes!" Alexandres cried to the heavens that poured down upon her, sending rider and beast away with speed rivaling the dark knight.

The two rider were bound east to Rocher, riding so fiercly that their passing invoked the tales of the Wild Hunts of yore.
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"THE SAND TREES ARE LISTENING, HIDE YOUR PET GOATS" Yz stated for no reason as the frantically flicked their gaze around the room before snapping their gaze back at Lord Briggun, who was answering to the plans that had been devised by each of the leaders as she noticed Lord Briggun had not even considered a word to him. Perhaps he was afraid of them and what he was concocting in her mind. It did not matter to Yz, for simply it was only a thing Yz could comprehend at the current time.

"The. Blood. Is. Sleeping. Where? Five of them sleep, the infinite gazes into my soul. It siiings~, for meee~, because I have taken its toe" Yz pondered in conclusion as they thought over their own matters, chiming in with quiet and debatably meaningless song as they had looked between the others. Lord Briggun's triumph within the Kingdom of Erevan would be useful, with that it held both people and arguably one of the nicest places to call territory. A place of verdant nature was the most bare-bones of egotistical society, where Yz could have a place of their own built from naught that would value the world and life they have. Not such pride that was gained by others. The elves there would make a fine following for those who would join. They could use a mask to hide their disgusting, prideful visages.

"YZ WILL BLESS YOUR STORY TIME, BIG MAN. LET EXISTENCE BE TAKEN AND RIGHT RIGHTED, MEN OF WAR BESTED OR RECRUITED, AND WOMEN AND CHILDREN TAKEN AND TREATED WITH RESPECT" Yz stated in reaffirmation that their first deed would be to help with what Lord Briggun asked, for Erevan was a great place that would assist to have and also winning over Briggun's favour could become of extreme use. Lord Briggun already had a spymaster, but Yz was also interested in proving that himself too would also be useful for similar affairs. Yz thought about his plans as she looked over Baba Voyka whom Yz heard would also be joining to his crusade.

"HmmMmmMm, grand-mama fears not war, Yz hopes the lady brought her walking stick. Mhm, ma-maa~. Ooh~, where is the OVEN, MY DEAR? We haaave~ to take out the rock turtles. They must be thirsty, as am I" Yz pronounced allowed to Voyka over their possible cooperation as he had gave a small bow, laughing maniacally before falling backwards and rolling sideways twice before sitting up.
"NO, I'M NOT A CRAB CONSUMER, only after the next three seconds... FOUR" Yz continued before she stood up, putting their hands on their hips in a sassy manner and abruptly shaking their head to flick long feminine hair that wasn't existant.

"The powerfully great me will consume your greetings of you all elsewhere, for I'm-" Yz spoke allowed before laughing abruptly before sobbing, covering their mask's eyeholes with their hands. Waddling over to the bottle Falwyn had smashed and falling to their knees, Yz fell to the ground and tried to scoop and cradle the glass.
"Thiemerschin! My childhood friend! You were always the bravest of us all! I'm sorry Lady Babydropper hath dropped you before your secondteenth birthhour. I will give the news to your family" Yz spoke softly to the shattered bottle, for the prideful dragon lady had broke it for no deserving reason. Their own thoughts and ideas of things were often clouded by ridiculous speech and actions. Yz clutched her fist angrily as he spoke quiet prayers for the lost. The Kingdom of Erevan would be taken in remembrance of the bottle who deserved a better fate than this. Yz was,  probably, ready for conquest.​
Voyka watched as the embers of the meeting finish off its last twinkles, as lieutenants share a last set of discourses and depart for their respective fronts... though there were those still yet to speak on their plans. And one such person would be Yz. She watched as the enigmatic being proclaimed aloud that they would be joining the Erevan Campaign. Given the circumstances, more hands on deck was certainly welcome, and it provides everyone who's also taking part in the direct portion of the campaign an opportunity to further familiarize with them, given they were among the newest in their ranks, an opportunity that might prove fruitful.

But then Voyka returned to reality and was instantly reminded by Yz's... nature. Immediately after affirming their plan to aid in the campaign, the oddball just went off on her... at least that's how it felt like. Before she could even finish making her familiar grin towards them, after implying she needed a walking stick, her expression shifted to confused amusement. They were genuinely unhinged, affirmed by the sassy flicking on nonexistent hair and mourning glass shards on the floor like a familiar friend (glass that she was about to swipe and turn into "pocket glass" to throw at her enemies' faces). All she hoped is that this wouldn't cause issues on the field.
"You are a Druadach, as are your followers. You are free to travel in that country if you are not making war against your countrymen, lending credit to Lord Declan's plan to pressure the Loreians. But your longer-term goals serve me better. Crush Mors Gobonach's resistance and begin the conquest of your homeland."

When dealing with Briggun, Adanach always choose to remain expressionless and stoic, as it was tradition among the Druadach tribes when talking with the chief during times of war, but when Briggun approved of his plan to conquer Mors Gobonach, Adanach could not help but to make a wolfish grin. "Aye, consider it done... the Heathen Horde will raise, lord Briggun, and we will fly your banner..." Adanach then pounded his chest, as did his wife Bjorga, a Druadach way to salute the chieftain.

As Adanach and his companions prepared to leave, he stopped to look at Lord Declan, whose strategy had also been approved of by the dark lord. "The dark master brought a good point, if the chieftains of Mors Fael do not stop me and my conquest is successful, I might be able to aid you either by attacking Lorei through Mors Fael or by crossing the Tidach Loch... either way, only the gods will tell." He then looked at both Declan and Lucafiel. "...The northern realms will fall. We will make sure of it."

He saluted both the Vestati prince and the Viceroy, before walking out of the hall. Before leaving, Rukkar looked at Mr. Gribbs, who was scowling at him. "The fuck ya lookin' at ya rancid cu-" Bjorga grabbed the redcap by the hat and dragged him away before he got into trouble with an angry gremlin.

War Camp.png

Not far from the imperial capital was the Druadach war camp, a large, walled encampment that consists of hundreds of tents providing shelter to many Druadach warriors. Compared to the grand architecture of Canarite origin, it was rather unsightly, but highly practical and functional, and not completely withdrawn of artistry, as hundreds of banners decorated its wooden walls. Inside the camp where thousands of Druadach warriors, the human warriors hailed from all corners of the Druadach and were mostly equipped with bronze weapons, some carried iron and very small minority had weapons of steels. The sizeable orc minority on the other hand hailed mostly from Mors Darak, and carried exclusively iron weaponry and armor.

When the guards by the gate noticed Adanach and his cohort approaching, they sounded the carnyx, announcing the arrival of the Warchief to the rest of the horde. Hundreds of Druadach warriors hastily gathered around the center campfire as Adanach rode on his hardy Senochii steed named Dunach, while his wife Bjorga rode a fearsome albino Warg named Wikkon. The Horde of human and orcish warriors looked at Adanach expectantly as he got off his horse and faced them.

Adanach noticed that his horde was starting to get rowdy, he had heard that some members would sneak off at night and attack travellers heading to the capital. They craved pillaging and conquest, and were not used to idly sitting by at camps and neither was he, he craved it as well, and was dying to start raiding and pillaging alongside his horde, but he knew he wouldn't be able to unite the Druadach through violence alone, and he had to make his horde understand that as well. He took a deep breath before addressing his horde.

"...we will march upon Mors Gobonach at once!" The horde cheered and shouted in unison upon hearing the news, but all fell silent when he raised his arm to quiet them down. "Remember, children of the Druadach! Our quest, is to unite the tribes, by offering them alliance!" The horde remained quiet, he could see a few disgruntled faces as he reminded them that diplomacy came first. "...but what if they refuse us, brothers and sisters? What if the Goblin chieftains refuse to talk about peace and understanding between the tribes? What if they only understand the language of the sword?" Adanach then bared his fangs likes a wolf, even thinking about war riled him up, his eyes and face twisted in a feral manner that brings fear into his enemies and even his own soldiers. "...Then our tongues shall become bronze and iron - AND OUR WORDS, A MIGHTY ROAR OF WAR!"

Once more, the horde shouted and cheered, but now in a frenzied unison. "BRING OUT THE TRIBUTE! CALL FORTH THE DRUIDS! WE WILL OFFER A SACRIFICE TO THE GODS SO THAT THEY BRING US STRENGTH!" shouted Bjorga, and quickly, the warriors brought a couple of slaves, a few sheep and a mighty boar. The slaves were from an old Canarite rebellion that Adanach personally squashed. They were peasants, and they begged the barbarians to spare them. Adanach grabbed one of them by the neck, grinning like a madman. "If you were strong, you wouldn't be here... now face the gods with bravery, so that they will accept you into the great halls above! OR ROT IN THE GROUND, DEVOURED BY THE UNHOLY MAGGOTS OF THE DARK GODS!"

The slaves were brought to the druids, wizened old men with powerful magics and attunement with nature and the old gods of the Druadach. The oldest of the Druids, Madanach the Wizened One, looked down at the slaves, he attempted to bring them some comfort in vain, they did not understand they were now going to be with the gods, and then painted their faces and bodies with blue paint made from woad. He, alongside the rest of the horde, chanted the Call to Carnunach, god of war of the Druadach, while the battle bards sounded hundreds of carnyxes that echoed through the valleys and even in the cities of the empire, bringing fear to the people and their foreign gods as Carnunach arrives!

"Andedion uediIumi diIiuion risun"
Carnunach aruerriIatin"
"Iopites snIeððdic sos brichtia anderon!"

The frenzied horde shouted in excitement as Rukkar, acting executioner of Adanach, beheaded both the animals and the slaves with his razor sharp enchanted Falx. The Barbarians proceeded to grab the animal carcasses and brought them to the bonfire to feast on the now blessed flesh, while the heads of the slaves were tied to the branches of an old oak tree, an ancient tradition that ensures the knowledge these people once had lives on through the land. As Rukkar bathed his cap on the blood of the slaves, Adanach approached Madanach, hoping to hear good news from the Druid.

"Was this tribute satisfactory, great one?" he asked, bowing before the wizened one, it was important to respect the druids and the elders. The starry eyed elder looked down at Adanach, he gently stroked his white beard, staining the tips with blue woad paint. "The gods look upon ye' favorably, Adanach son of the Druadach... but remember, the gods are fickle, they might bless ye today, and might take it all away the next day... honor them daily, and not just the gods of the Druadach." said the druid with his coarse, old voice. "Are you asking me to honor the gods of the Canarites?" the blind druid shook his head. "Ney, the gods of the settled peoples... they are beings of great injustice, who look unfavorably upon us for rejecting their dogmatic view... I speak of the old gods, the gods of people like ours, those who live off the land..."

"The barbarians..." muttered Adanach.

"Aye, those who are deemed barbarians, they are our kin, no matter how different or strange they are. Their gods, while not like ours, are just, they value strength and wisdom, nature and balance..." the wizened druid looked up to the sky. "...unite us, son of the Druadach, so that us who are strong of mind and body may rule upon the weak of spirit." Adanach nodded, saluting the druid before turning his attention to Bjorga, who stood only a few meters away, looking proud of him. "...Oi, don't give me that look." he said, trying to hide away infatuated look. Bjorga let out a hearty chuckle in response. "...Once done with the feast, order the men to pack everything, we will march out at once." He ordered. "Aye, it shall be done, my chief." She responded before walking towards the bonfire, ordering the men to prepare for the long march ahead of them.
Veno Dilach, The Black Rose
(Disguised - Imperial Spymaster)


--- --- ---
"I give you leave to meet with the Sandachians. Lead them into the fold so that they may be taken by poisonous hope, and then dash it against the rocks. Lead their brethren to destroy one another once more, until they have no strength to resist."​

"Understood, my lord. I'll gather my followers and prepare for the journey." responded Veno, giving his lordship a respectful bow. "I shall keep you posted on our progress."

As she straightened up, she looked to the others as they spoke as well. Soon, though, she spoke up in regards to the invasion of the elvan lands. "I humbly request that you at least try to take as many elvan prisoners as you can. Ruins full of corpses are worth far less than a fallen kingdom full of living, breathing people in the long run. Prisoners can be turned into slaves or loyal subjects. Slaves provide materials and manpower, loyal subjects supply commerce and trade. The steady flow of goods, materials, coin... and information... is the lifeblood of a lasting empire. Simply killing everyone doesn't help us, save to sate the voracious appetites of those in this for the mass slaughter." she stated, looking to each that still remained before glancing back to Briggun. "But as I said... 'tis but a humble request, my lord."

She then bowed to the others. "I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavours. Hopefully we'll all be bringing the best of news when we meet here again."

Once she had finished, she straightened up. She turned on the point of her heel, spinning a full hundred and eighty degrees, before walking across the guild hall towards a door in the far corner. The same one she had entered from, after having trekked through the vast castle for several minutes. It felt like an eternity of a walk, but, of course, that's the price you paid when the tower you selected for your abode happened to be the one at the very rear of the structure.

Originally, it had been used to house select prisoners and enemies of the crown that were waiting for execution. After Briggun's ascent to the throne and proclamation as emperor, She requested that it be used instead for the work of the Imperial Spymaster. Formerly, the Spymaster of Canar was housed elsewhere, deep in the countryside outside of the capital. She herself had sought the destruction of the old estate, however, during the invasion. It went up like a decrepit barn full of hay in the driest of summer heats, and any survivors were hunted down and executed on the spot. Canar wouldn't be able to use their spies to counter Briggun's march if they didn't have any, or a method to acquire new ones.

For several minutes, she strolled through the castle. Her heels clacked as she walked across the stone and hardwood floors. Occassionally, she'd recieve a greeting or bow from staff. She ignored most of them. The Imperial Spymaster had more important things to do than fraternize with the palace servants and guards. As she neared the tower, however, she grew more relaxed. There was a good reason for this, really. Most of those at the tower were followers of Akordia. They knew her, and she knew them. There was true respect. Obedience. Reverence.

Soon, she arrived at the double doors that lead into the tower. A banner hung over the entrance, and two others flanked the doors along with a pair of guards. The banners were marked with the symbol of the Cult of Akordia, a silver crecent moon, the opening facing downward with a smaller silver circle just inside its wide maw. On the larger banner above the door, a more complete variation. A spiked sun sat below the crecent moon and circle, and two stars flanked above the moon on either side. The symbology was quite interesting, relating to the Old Gods, but that would be thoughts for another time. She had to let the others know. They had to prepare for what was to come.

The guards moved, stepping over and opening the doors for her to step inside. Just on the other side of the door, she stopped and waited. Waited for the clunk of the doors, as they shut. And soon, she heard it. Cluh-clunk. She audibly sighed, then snapped her fingers. A moment later, her entire appearance began to shift and change.


It usually didn't take very long. Maybe about five seconds at most. But soon, the true Veno Dilach stood there. Her red Drow eyes darting around as she looked to see whom would be arriving to speak to her first. And if nobody came, then she'd go hunting herself. Talice, her closest and oldest friend, would need to hear about the current events first. From there, it would go down the line of her inner circle.
The countryside did not burn, but it did run red with blood. To a shadeling, fire was a curse. A plague born of the moral species or of nature. It scorches their ghostly forms, draining them of their strength if they are simply close enough to the burning heat, so when they lay siege to a stretch of land, it is not chaos or destruction that follows in their wake but eerie silence or the occasional scream.

Shadelings had learned to kill at opportune moments. They take advantage of their sheer numbers over the strength they may possess. Always be certain of victory before it is pursued, at least in smaller groups. However, all creatures were prey, and eventually they would eat and have their fill. A favored meal is that acquired after a successful raid.

A lone farmer had been witness to it all, and these are his observations. Caide is a simple man. He lived quietly and tended to his lands, his livestock. He was content with living far from others, but there were times when he has to make exceptions and go into town. He had to sell his goods after all. That’s the whole point of being a farmer. He just wished that he had held off until another day. Now he was caught in the madness of a shadeling attack.

He managed to be silent so far, just as quiet as the dreadful attackers. Perhaps that’s what has allowed him to survive as long as he had. There was chaos everywhere, but it was only the screams or shouts of villagers. One rarely heard a shadeling causing a commotion. Caide stalks through a side road, keeping his eyes on the roofs of buildings he passed. One thing he had noticed is that shadelings also enjoyed surprising their victims. It is as if the fear of their prey sates them just as much as their flesh.

A shout stops him in his tracks. It sounds as if it came from an older man, perhaps his own age? It was difficult to tell. Out of some morbid curiosity he sneaks in the direction of the shout, peering around a corner after a bit of walking. There, in a small clearing, stood a grown man surrounded by shadelings. The creatures were far smaller than the human man, about the size of human children, but they were a lot more vicious. In the wisp-like shadows emanating from their bodies, their eyes glowed fiercely. Hungrily. Each of the shadelings carried with them a dagger or blade. Something they can use to easily kill.

“Back! Away! Monsters!” the man screamed, but it was no use. He wasn’t a person to these creatures. He was their next meal, and no amount of pitiful cries would help. The moment the shadelings advanced, Caide had turned away. He was left with only the pained screams of the poor man, the gurgling as breath failed the fellow in his dying moments. Eager to get away, Caide had bitten down hard on hiss lip, drawing blood in the process.

Fear was a different beast during this attack. It was like nothing he had ever experienced before, and he had once been stalked by a wolf while hunting once. He thought that was terrifying at the time, but at the moment he would have preferred the wolf.

Caide begins to make his way out of the country, running through tall grasses and trees until the forest was in view. oddly enough, there were no shadelings this far out of the way of the battle. Usually they would patrol and capture any who try to escape. All creatures of flesh were a valuable resource for them after all, but there were none in sight. Though there also weren’t many survivors to see running through the fields.

After a moment of thought, Caide chose survival over heroism, running into the shadows of the woods. If there were no patrols to keep him from escaping, then he might as well take advantage of the opportunity. He slips through the growing dark, keeping his eyes peeled for danger. It would take him quite a bit of traveling to get through the woods, and he also had to account for the wildlife if he wanted to stay alive.

As the shadows grow longer and the surroundings turn eerie, Caide stops for a moment to look around. Something new had hit him. A tingling on the back of is neck. Instinct making his eyes flick back and forth. There was the feeling once more. That sense of danger. No, it was more than that this time around. He almost felt like he was being watched. He shivers slightly before he continues on. If he just keeps going, he’ll lose this feeling once and for all… but that was better said than done.

A few hours pass and the feeling lingers. Actually, it almost seemed to grow in strength. His body was screaming at him to stay on his toes, perhaps even to go back, as if anywhere was better than here, even the threat of the shadelings was better. He almost listened to these wandering thoughts until something caught his eye. An out of place color flickering past in his peripherals. A flash of crimson red. It was too quick to get a good look. He was growing more nervous now, but some morbid curiosity made follow where the color had gone.

He was far enough from the danger now to take chances. What if it was a person wandering the woods or who lived in them? Warning them about the attack would be the right thing to do. Could be anything really, but if it was trouble, he’d run for it, just like before.

What he finds unsettles him to his core. There, beyond a small clearing of trees, sits a child. This child wore red and black clothes and had deep black hair. The rest of the details were difficult to discern in the darkness. Whatever the case, it was unnatural. It spelled trouble for Caide. Why would a child be all the way out here, completely alone? Perhaps they were lost? Maybe they lived around here? He would have approached to ask as much, but something felt so terribly wrong.

His senses fired off the sensation of panic, as if looking at the child, he couldn’t even manage to draw in a breath. Like he was forcing himself to be silent. In the end, he took account of his bodies warnings and decided to leave the child. He turned and started walking in the complete opposite direction. This all smelled of trouble, and he swore to turn and run at the first sign of it.

His walking carried him a distance, but after a few minutes he arrives in another clearing. There, at its center, was that child again, still sitting there without a care in the world. The same child adorned in red and black with black hair. What unsettled Caide the most though was that the child still wasn’t facing him. Their back was turned towards him, facing the dark forest. Not a peep came from the child. Weren’t most kids afraid of the dark?

The sight brought back that feeling of panic again, so Caide turned and started walking again, this time a bit faster. He continued until he reached another clearing with that same child again. Over and over he ran into the child, he couldn’t escape the kid, and a few times he had been running as fast as his legs could carry him. He was starting to get irritable. He wanted an escape, and this child was distracting him!

In his frustration, he finally marches towards the child.

”Hey! You best be pissin’ off! Toying with me th’ way you have been!”

He gets closer and closer, fighting the urge to let his legs from freeze up. He reaches for the child, but stops short. The child stood up. That was all. They just stood up from their spot on the ground, still facing the forests ahead, but their head began to turn, slowly shifting to face Caide, though the child’s body didn’t move.

A horrible cackle filled the area, and when the child’s head turns fully to face Caide, their body still unmoving. What the farmer saw chilled him to his core. The child’s face was almost blank, a pitch black surface with no features other than a wicked, grin and two glowing eyes that stared, unblinking, into Caide’s very soul. The farmer shouts in panic, backpedaling only to trip on something and fall to the ground, but despite that, he kept his gaze locked onto the “child”.

The small child-shaped shadeling turned on heel, his body realigning with its twisted head and neck, still staring at the farmer. The dreadful cackled was unceasing. It was such a malicious thing, a pleasure hidden in its depths that was fueled by Caide‘s fear. The child steps forward, closing the distance slowly. After a few steps, the small form tenses and twists, the childs form tenses and jerks, becoming misshapen. The clothes on the shadow child’s body distorts and spreads out. Eventually, the once small child elongates and twists into a horrible, familiar, tall shape.

A long, pointed red hood is formed, draped over a body wreathed in shadow, covered in dark clothing and armors. All but that grin had changed. In truth, the grin might have grown even more fierce. There were no eyes to see the emotions of this creature, just that grin that promised suffering and death. However, there was recognition in the creatures tone of voice.


“Ahhh. How long has it been since I have seen this face. I know you, soldier. The one that escaped me so long ago. A pleasure to see you again, Caide.”

The farmers face goes pale. He knew this monster. This demon. Why was he here? A lieutenant of the Emperors army. Lord of the Shadelings. Kolthix the Cackler. This must be why the shadelings have managed to get through the local defenses. They weren’t the leaderless sort, they were organized. A warband acting as brigands. This was his fate for settling so close to the Empire’s border. He was going to die here.

”Why so quiet, Caide? I still remember your shouts when we met on the battlefield. Animal. Scum. Monster. Have you lost your bold heart? Traded it for the will of a common man?”

“B-Be silent, thing. If you seek to finally claim my life, then come and take it,“ Caide spits. Kolthix cackles in delight.

“There he is! The old soldier. That courage that burns so bright. If only flesh stayed as immaculate as the brave soul that possesses it. Tell me, my old enemy. Would you care to live?”

Caide peered at Kolthix, his mind still abuzz with wariness. “What manner of trickery is this?”

”No trick. You managed to evade all of my people in the attack, a feat none of these common folk have managed thus far. Besides, it is nostalgic seeing your face again. I would reward you for your skill, your courage and for such sweet memories.”

Caide growls slightly, pushing against the fear that has seemed to embed itself deep in his bones. Sweet memories? All he remembered was a slaughter. A nightmare that is war. What soldiers that died were feasted upon by thelse creatures. He can still remember when he first saw a shadeling gorging on the flesh of his comrades. The anger that filled him then was immense. He had sworn to take a hundred shadeling lives. His promises were false. He had been struck down by the very thing that stood before him, but he managed to be dragged from the chaos in one piece and not in a dozen stomachs.

”Why would you spare me? You are a merciless beast! You killed thousands in the previous war. It makes no sense that you would not slay me as well. Just kill me and be done with it!”

”No. There is a purpose for allowing you to live. You have proved to be… entertaining. That is truly all the reason I have or need to let you survive our encounter. So live on, Caide. Perhaps take up arms against me again. That would be a most interesting turn of events.”

The farmer and former soldier debated attacking. Provoking the Cackler that he might meet his end with a bit of dignity, as a man who died trying to do something good. However, he wold be no match. It would be a pitiful death. There would be no point to it. Besides, he wanted to live. It was some idea though, taking up arms again. To potentially slay this… thing. The Cackler turns and starts walking away. Seems he was done with Caide… for now.

Caide just stands there, his legs eventually giving out on him. He falls to his knees, allowing himself a moment to take a calming breath. He was alive. He just hoped to stay that way until he could meet with the Cackler once again. This time he would strike a blow against that monster. He had to. Dying before then would be a curse upon him in the next life.

Kolthix stepped into the dark forests, leaving his old enemy behind. It was interesting to meet an old enemy again. Fitting that it was done in the midst of a slaughter. He hoped that it could cause old Caide to take up the blade again. What he wouldn’t give for an enemy that he could cherish. A foe to meet him at every conflict and try to stop him. It would make things interesting. More interesting than raiding the countryside that is.

He cackles at the thought. Things would hopefully get interesting soon. As he walked through the shadows of the woods, the numerous numbers of his kind, the shadelings, began to join him from their spots among the trees. He could feel their ravenous nature, almost asking if they could go back and eat the old farmer, but Kolthix’s will kept them from doing anything unsavory, at least in this place. Those that weren’t with him were already indulging on the meat of the weak.

One of the shadelings ambles along side him, walking with a wide stance. This was one of Kolthix’s messengers. They relay simple things to him when needed. Often messages from other Lieutenants when they feel that his kind are wandering too close to their lands. This time, however, was a different, more exciting matter.

”The master calls. The master calls. He calls,” the wider shadelings says. Kolthix turns his attention to the messenger. Now this was certainly news. Good news at that. If the master calls, then that can only mean one thing.

The Empires bloody path of conquest was getting back on track.

This was a very good thing. Now Kolthix and his people didn’t have to constantly raid the small towns on the outskirts of enemy territory. He could finally engage in some true carnage. Really feed his people as they deserve to be fed.

When Kolthix arrives at the war council, it is after everyone else and after the arrival of the master. He was late, to put it frankly. However, he did not worry too much about it. He had been quite active in the past dormant years. He hounded the enemy borders, keeping them wary and overly cautious to make any bold attacks. In that same thought, he had no real desires when it came to the initial strategies.

He was content with any arrangement so long as it was entertaining and his people would be able to thrive off the bloodshed. That was all that mattered in the end.

When he arrived, it was through the shadow of the room. His special power of translocation through the darkness. Only would he use this ability to relocate quickly, never has he used it to flee battle. He was no coward. Not anymore. Upon his appearance, his form seemed larger than life, until it shrinks and twists into its usual configuration, albeit a bit tall for his liking. He was lanky and his appendages were abnormally long. He looked more monstrous than usual in truth. He also appeared with a cackle, but not one filled with the usual malice for those of the flesh. This one was more… genuine. Hearty even.

In a raised hand was a small, incredibly young specimen of his kind. It was only about the size of a rat, and almost shaped like one as well, but its face was curved and not pointed. It also lacked the tail that a rat should have. The tiny creatures eyes were locked on Kolthix as he stepped through the council room. Kolthix had, pinched between two long fingers, a piece of flesh. Where this meat comes from is anyone’s guess, but it was likely obvious.

He held it above the small shadeling, almost like he was going to feed a pet. However, shadelings are willful creatures, and toying with them for so long will make them fed up. After he pulled the small bit of meat away from the young shadelings attempt to take it, the small creature turned on him, biting into the fabric covering his hand. The larger, older shadeling did not react, but his eerie grin did grow wider.

“You have many many years of growth before you can consume me, little one. But your spirit is strong,”

The little shadeling released its bite on its leaders hand, scurrying back along his fingers a bit as Kolthix extended a hand, reaching for the creature. However, it wasn’t out of anger, as the shadeling soon found out. One of Kolthix’s fingers gently runs along the younglings head before the meat was placed before it. The little whelp of a shadelings scurried forward, taking the meat and ravenously tearing into it.

”Strength is good. Keep growing stronger for me and your people.”

With that, Kolthix drops the shadelings back through the shadows, returning it to where he had taken it from. He finally turns his attention to the meeting. By then, his body has begun to assume a more true humanoid shape. The length of his limbs was average compared to a humans. His hood turns to acknowledge those that he passes that yet remain. He especially regards his old allies, Baba Voyka, Veno, Lucafiel and Borok with proper respect, offering them a small bow of his upper body to them in a fond greeting.

Kolthix could be considered one of the more loyal sorts among the Lieutenants. Some might call him the dog of the Emperor, but he was more than that. He was a valuable compatriot that was more often than not an agreeable and helpful ally to have. However, he did, at times, have a tendency of testing his fellow Lieutenants. Pushing buttons where he can. It is all done for the sake of entertainment though, never anything personal.

As he goes, he offers a respectful bow towards Adanach and his lot as well before they depart. Kolthix felt a kinship with him and his people as another who revels in the chaos of combat. He was also respectful of any who came from the north. He himself has even acquired a small number of shadeling tribes from the Druadach region. Each of them has produced a variety of very strong shadeling specimens that hold a very special place in his army as raiders and ambushers. He equipped them with the tools to become a cavalry unit and hunt down those that tried to escape a clash.

He spent a few moments hearing the last bits of chatter before she speaks plainly.

”I shall aid whichever front requires me and my people. I have no preference for where I begin my efforts. However, once we have breached the eastern lands of the Civicerian Dominion, I wish to march upon the Duchy of Midana. That is where my interest lies.“
Voyka simply bowed as Veno made her request for elven imprisonment. She had wholeheartedly expected this to happen, and was going to respect it, even if it was going to require a lot of restraint from her part. But soon after Veno departed, was when Kolthix finally made his interests clear. She recalled how the shadeling had mentioned before his interest in heading towards the formerly-united kingdom that now stood as the respective duchies of Midana and Arnone, for reasons Kolthix himself could elaborate upon to the others when the time came. As they were occupied with efforts elsewhere, she had promised him at the time to aid him in his invasion into the region. She would, of course, keep her promise when it was time. But for now, he was as flexible as Yz and her, and she had a keen interest in having him take part in the Erevan Campaign.

She merely gave him a knowing look once more, that fun was to be had where Briggun was headed. But she kept her mouth shut, to allow others to appeal to him. She knew the invocation of Civiceria and Midana would draw Estro's ears, so she was curious to see if he would try to appeal to him. The meeting was over, but the fun from it was yet to end!

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