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Fantasy The Dark Travelers

"Huh...interesting." Cordia commented after Alexandre let go of her and watched the commander walk off to tend to her own forces. The banshee then turned her head and looked to the map and remaining commanders. The north is the primary target for many of them, but the south was where the machinachions would begin if the court mage and spymaster are involving themselves. Excellent. More chaos means more desperate people. "The elves who inhabit the islands have nothing to fear if they have the wits not to stand in my way, my dear." The banshee allowed to bare her teeth in smile. "But do prey to your goddess for protection. Prey for their salvation. If I smell a drop of blood of those that stole from me, I will feast on their hearts!" Sawtooth looked to his captain and revealed a maw of jagged teeth at the thought of her letting loose. "Lord Estro." Cordia next turned her attention to the wizzard "Should your cult require assistance in spreading among the shores, do let us know. Crows and pigeons are not suitable for messages, but I have no doubt you have a scrying orb handy."

"On that note." She next turned to the old woman "Baba, we must speak at the earliset convenience to us both. Capable hags are so few these days that I started to wonder if any of us were even left." The captain's smile never left her face. "I have a few ideas that I'm sure you will find delightful, but it is for private and...we are going to be so busy." She once again glanced towards the map. Specifically to the northern lands. "I do look forward to hearing what you're brewing in your cauldron. Good luck!"

With that, her business with the others was done so she turned and left the room. She needed to prepare the fleet for their conquest. Her crew followed closely behind, not wanting to stay and gawk at the others. A few steps down and Cordia noticed the gremlin tugging on her coat and pointing to his mouth. She snapped her finger and a burst of magic around the creature's mouth formed a padlock being broken.

"You may speak. Don't make me regret it."

"Wouldn't dream of it, captain." The creature spoke. "Bunch of stuck up fuckers in there tho. Not the emperor, tho. He gets to yell at people." The creature looked at his master and attempt to appear innocent. "What was that short ugly thing anyway?"

"That is lord Declan if I know my human politics" The drow spoke. "But its not his fault he looks like that."

"No, not him. The other ugly short thing."

"That is a redcap." Cordia answered with a slight annoyance. "He's not the only one, so you'll be seeing more of them if you stay in this plane."

"Euugh, I'd be angry too if I looked like that."

"You seen a mirror, mate?"

"I look good in every mirror I look at, jaws." The gremlin turned his head to look at the merman, trying to decide which eye to look at "You on the other hand need two to figure out how you look."

"Cap'tin, can I drown him now?"

"Find a better quartermaster first and then you can eat him for all I care."

"I don't know where he's been."

"You'll never find a better one anyway. Say, Uripa." He turned backwards to look at the drow "Felt you twitch a bit in there when the spymaster talked. You know something we don't?"

"She's not who she says she is." The necromancer gave a curt answe.

"Obviously. Spymasters would be shit at their job otherwise."

"No, there's something else to her. Beneath the skin she's something else. No human in this court would give a toss about the elves safety."

"You think she's an elf?" Sawtooth turned an eye to her "Half one at least. You land walkers like to mix and match and all that."

"Maybe?" Uripa shrugged "If she is, she's probably from some lower house or maybe a commoner."

"Not of any nobility you know or claim to." Cordia cut in. "We will speak more of this on board the ship, away from her eyes and ears."

"Would she bother with this chit chat?"

"Its her job you pimple afterbitrh."
Later on board the Butcher's blade

"Captain on deck you rotting shark bait!" Sawtooth's voice echoed on board the ship. The first mate wasted no time to get the cursed crew to stand at attention. Zombies, ghouls, skeletons and an assortment of any other drowned dead pull themselves together to show they're still good enough to serve. Cordia walked a few steps inspecting them and grimaced. They needed fresh ones and soon.

"Lift anchor and prepare to set sail." The crew shambled and ran to their posts. Cordia's opinion of them was a tad higher after she saw how dilligently they scurried to their occupations. One man was showing extra aptitude as he was nothing but chest, head and arms. Legs lost long ago in a battle somewhere. She'd better fuse him with the ship if he wants to work so hard. "Mr. Gribbs, I want a full report of what is in our hull. Lady Uripa, you are to inspect the crew's health and see if you need to motivate them. Sawtooth, make sure the rest of the fleet is ready to move and strike at our targets."

"Aye cap'tin!" The sharkman nodded and turned his attention to the crew once again. "Oi! Who told you to rest? Move your dead asses or you're chum!"

As the ship was prepared to move out of the docks, Cordia walked to the shp's helm. The time for talking was over, now with the emperor's blessing she would sail forward. The Butcher's blade will once again be the most fearsome sight for any ship caught in its path. From the mast, the flag was let to fly in the wind and a thick mist began to envelop the ship as it left the port. Behind the cursed vessel schools of sharks began to follow, being drawn not by blood, but by the will of the banshee captain. The calm sounds of the ocean began to dicipate as they gave way to the siren song. Even among the rotting crew, the honeyed notes of Cordia's singing were motivating them to work harder. Work faster. Be better. For her. For if they didn't, those same honeyed notes would sour and quickly turn into a banshee's shrieks.

As for those who were among the living and among her chose, who doesn't enjoy a good song? Even if it is one sang with cruel irony in mind.
Lucafiel departed from the palace with little fanfare, opting to only express farewell to those who had greeted him, or were otherwise deemed worthy compatriots - Veno, Estro, and even the wild-thing Kolthix. Declan was neither someone he would consider friend nor foe, merely one who was accepted; even with their disagreement on approaching the Lacans Republic, Lucafiel felt no ill will towards the other warlord, despite believing the aristocrat to be misguided on this matter. Indeed, overall he felt his terms were fair with most of the Emperor's inner circle, especially as he maintained a neutral font towards all. But there were a few he despised. These were no personal grudges but rather a relic embedded within his very being, feelings which were closer to instinct than conscious rational. The foremost of his ire were none other than the elder witch-woman, the Baba Voyka, and the aberration known as Yz. Both had long been an affront to his conceptions of order, and were without a doubt in his mind creatures of destruction that would consume until there was naught but madness left within the world. These were creatures he and his fellow Vestati and been created to purge, among others. And he had to suffer the indignity of an alliance.

As it so happened, the meeting seemed to be themed around the concept of consumption, and perhaps this was a manifestation of cosmic irony. Long ago Lucafiel had warned his own kind against burning their souls too bright for victory, and in the end it had brought them ruination not seen since the times of creation. In truth, Lucafiel cared not for Briggun nor his Empire. Again, this was no personal dislike, but merely an expression of reality. The servitude of the Hallow Legion was an action of timely necessity, and serve they would to the fullest extent. And it was for this very reason that Lucafiel found his lips tainted with the taste of blood as his tongue met his own sharpened fangs. He strove for order and stability, and yet the creatures born into imperfect vessels salivated at the chance to tear apart the fabric that ensured all was as it should be. In the case of Lord Declan's plans and the Emperor's approval of such, this was none other than the decision to free the slaves of the Republic, only to see them put into chains once again.

"A tragedy," Lucafiel remarked. His own companions within the carriage turned to him, quietly awaiting enlightenment. "The struggle against the forces of disorder are unending, even within our own ranks. And we are to bring order to that which does not desire it - to force water into a motionless, solid state. And I do not speak of ice."

"The slaves of the Republic will rebel, time and time again, once they have tasted freedom. They will forever resent us for the hand that has given them hope and snatched it away. Declan does not realize what his plans will do to the stability of the north, and our resource management. Nor does, it seem, our Emperor." Lucafiel steepled his fingers together in consternation. "All our methods of efficiency, uprooted. We will have to resort to baser and less productive methods. The Lacan slaves will undoubtedly see a significant reduction in prosperity now that Declan's ideals are to be realized in this campaign. To enforce upon them a harsher reality than the one they will have seen and tasted but mere moments before their newfound servitude will bring many to the brink of a mental - even physical - death. We must enact a new system," Lucafiel continued, his soft voice betraying only the slightest hint of irritation, "and one that must be quarantined to the north, among the Lacan slaves, lest our labor elsewhere becomes unruly - either in fear of further repression, or anger over the few luxuries that must be granted to ensure the Lacan supply of workers remains capable and willing to live under the yoke of their new collars."

"In another twist of the cosmic knife leveled at our throats, a curse of the primordial I do not doubt, Lord Declan may also be our salvation despite being the source of the problem."

Astrophel, sat across from Lucafiel, was as quick-witted as the rest of them, but quicker to wag his tongue, and Lucafiel had no need to even speak what he was alluding to, for his companions here were bright minds that had burned hot since the times of the great rebellion. "My prince, I am not certain of how wise it would be to utilize our soul fountains with Lord Declan's abilities to manipulate ethereal life. Our methods remain secret and beyond the grasp of the mortals of this realm. Our methods are nearly too secretive even for us, my prince."

"Indeed," the second and remaining Vestati spoke aloud, this one a fiery woman named Vulpala, represented by her life-mask etched with the flames of a crimson sun. "I suspect you wish to utilize a system of magical branding on the Lacan supply, and bind them to a fountain. To enact upon them an artificial afterlife that we control is as effective as it is traditional, but to mar these methods with Declan's own abilities...."

"A necessity. We lost much when the Forbidden one cast us aside. Declan is more attuned with the life of this realm by the mere nature of emerging within it. Our grasp, at times, can be more tenuous, and if we are to operate a system that requires the binding and branding of tens if not potentially hundreds of thousands of slaves across the Republic and the north... we will require the assistance of a mancer such as him."

Astrophel and Vulpala exchanged a look, but bowed their heads in unison. "You are right, my prince. But what if Declan refuses even this?" Astrophel asked.

"Then he will be even more fool than I thought him to be in this matter," Lucafiel responded. "And we will proceed around him. The production of this empire relies greatly upon our efforts. Our organized towns, our tower networks, our labor rotas are all built upon our systems. While the others prance about their battlefields and sup upon the wasteful spilling of blood better spent lubricating our field threshers, we will be making order of their chaos. When the time comes for them to turn upon themselves, as they always will, once the meat they so eagerly eat reaches bone, it will be our systems that keep this empire from collapsing; or, at the very least, in tact enough to weather the chaotic whirlwind of lesser, corrupted vessels who will in time be purged from this realm as the primordials ordained."
The Voivode of Skulls sat there, awaiting his turn for Briggun to offer assent or dissent towards his conquering goals. Analysing his own selection, Izaak had chosen Ganthar for the diametrical opposition in regards to mysticism. Different cultures, schools of thought, opposing viewpoints to what he had been currently researching. His hope being that he will find something - anything that isn't in his current trove of knowledge. When Briggun began speaking to him, he inclined his head slightly, looking directly at the Emperor with restrained satisfaction. "It'll be done, my Lord." He steeples his fingers in consideration, bony talons clicking against one another. The conversing of his lieutenant-peers would dim, as Izaak's mind began to formulate the necessities for traversal and siegecraft. Until Felwyn shattered a vintage bottle on the ground, after having drank all the contents.

Izaak leaned back in the form of his chair, tapping one armoured cheek as he stared at her. Really, another one? Is it so in vogue to abuse furniture and containers, I wonder?

The lieutenant rose from his chair, grinding the wooden feet against the flagstone of the chamber. The skeletal companion that he is so fond of, hopped onto the floor first. He shifted his head to his chamberlain. "Emil, send word to Antonas and Demetra, preparations must be made for the journey. As always, you'll have the charge of my manor and the territories within my grasp. Manage them well." In a furtive, whisper-like tone. The gaunt-figure nodded before replying. "Shall you require the reports as well?" He did not reply, considering his answer for the moment. "Yes, the usual method." "Very well, my Lord, have a pleasant conquering."
Estro watched the Emperor give his views and adjustments to the various proposed plans. Approvals and assignments came next as many were granted their desires for their own ambitions that would feed into the desired expansion for the empire as a whole. The archmage simply bowed his head slightly in hearing his master give him leave to start going to work on the Civicerian Dominion. It was a nation he could tap into well for this ambitions. The arrival of Kolthix drew his curiosity if only because of the method beyond the Shadeling tending to its own. The creatures were something he had familiarity with due to his duties previously as the Court Mage of Canar. He considered them as supernatural vermin. It wasn’t anything personal but more how he had to deal with them due to the actions of the nobles snarling about losing their precious peasants they’d no longer be able to milk for cheap or even free labor.

”I suppose Kolthix could assist myself in stirring things up in the Civicerian Dominion if he’s settling his ambitions upon the Duchies. Shadelings would be a suitable concern that could drive the colonized peoples in the north into demanding more from the military governors. Pressures creates fractures and opportunities, plus I’m sure it will provide an outlet for wrath. Targeting the local legions would help destabilize things. A simple offer, I’ll understand if other venues are desired,” Estro offers with a calm and reassuring smile. The serpent’s smile all knew well. He wasn’t petty and was honest that Kolthix refusing his idea wouldn’t be an issue. He just might find means to lure him into matters should it suit him.

While the others were seemingly withdrawling though, it should be noted that instead Estro would creep closer to Briggun to be closer by his side. He was ever the advisor and Imperail Mage, so he would linger to whisper to his master and provide insights until all were gone and perhaps even linger after in case there were additional matters Briggun might want seen to in the Dominion as the Cult of Zo went to work.
The shortened strategist didn't let it show, but he was annoyed by Lucafiel's obsession with the spoils of war and objections towards utilizing a perfectly reasonable source on manpower. If they were to build an empire, it couldn't be built on ashes. That was the pragmatic approach, but there too was another reason towards his disposition - in that, an army of freedmen would see him as a liberator and in turn willingly serve his own purposes. Both in other projects as well as a potential insurance card in certain... contingencies. Then there was Adanach's own concerns, which Declan listened to with a stony poker face.

Declan was bound to give a curt response to his would be companions on the warpath regarding tactics, but it was then that the Dark Lord gave said his piece on the matter. His judgment on the matter of what course to take made Declan give a deferring bow towards him, before speaking once more: "As you commend, your grace. I will begin preparations for subterfuge and campaign posthaste." he said, before turning to both Adanach and Lucafiel. "I look forward to seeing both of you on the field, at one point or another." With that said, he gave another quick bow before hopping from his seat and making his way out as quickly as his stunted legs could take him. Time was of the essence, after all.

Two guards at the door made Declan's job much easier, as they opened the door from the outside for him to leave. And it was there he was greeted by an all too familiar face who was noticeably out of place in this more formal setting.

"Ser" Dennor, a title unfit for a sellsword, couldn't help but scoff as he observed his lord's demeanour. The two were silent as they made their way out from the vicinity of prying ears and eyes before he spoke up at last: "I suppose things didn't go as planned? Judging by the dour look on your face."

"On the contrary, I got most of what I wanted out of my campaign plans." Declan said as the two walked towards the stables. A carriage had brought the two over from Sathesbury, and now beckoned for their return with an open door as they approached. "However, one part was changed. The Emperor has demanded the continuation of slavery in Lacans. Contrary to what I proposed to raise a retinue from the rebellion."

"Ah, shit." Dennor spoke, letting out a chuckle. "There goes our extra army."

"Not exactly. We can still work something to our advantage." Declan mused, as a stool was placed in front of the carriage steps for him to use. He hopped from the that wooden aid towards the carriage proper, before turning back to his confidant. "Though, it has become significantly harder to achieve. We'll need to be ahead of the curve on this one. Has Loraas prepared the envoys?"

"Aye. No sooner than you asked of her, she was busy scouting and gathering information. Clever little minx that one, how did you come by her?" Dennor asked as he stepped into the carriage himself, sitting across from Declan as the door shut. The driver gave a whip to the reins as soon as they were settled, beckoning the forces forward, and the carriage lurched as it began to move.

"She was wailing away in the archives of the old Magistrate. Her talents were better put to use with me than with dusty tomes and old boney scholars."

"Oh? As opposed to you, your shortness?"

From anyone else, it would have been a grave insult. But Declan had known Dennor for long enough to understand the friendly nature of the remark. He smirked as he looked out the window: "I have a lovely personality Dennor." Declan spoke before turning to his companion with a smirk, "Why else would you have stuck with me for so long?"

"Very true. We might as well be an old married couple by now. And like an old hag, I stick around for the money."

"Always the charmer, aren't you?"
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Sensing his commanders pulling for Kolthix' involvement in multiple fronts, Briggun grew tired of their schemes. The shadeling had made his preference known; he would enter the duchies in the east if provided the chance, and while he had spoken of the Civicerian Dominion as the first obstacle, the Emperor knew that it would be faster and easier to use the southern deserts of Gantar to traverse the distance instead. With Izaak already planning to pierce the bloated sultanate in its distended belly, the warlock judged Miraq to be the appropriate target for Kolthix, and he was not afraid to disappoint his subordinates.

"Kolthix," he said, "will follow with Izaak to Miraq. We do not need even more mouths to feed in the caverns of the Sauroid Mountains, after all, with the number we plan to send, the food stores of Poggost will need to be plundered to the last grains of barley and wheat to feet them all, and the people will go hungry. If the Shadelings go as well, they would need to feed on the local population, even before they cross into Elvan territory. Perhaps that would be for the better, as it would mean the weak would be thinned in favor of the strong in time for the harvest months, but perhaps not. No, it should be Ostminora that will bear that burden.

"Further," he added, turning his attention to Estro's suggestion that Kolthix attack the Civicerians to drive panic, "should the Civicerians suffer a blight of Shadeling attacks, they will know that we have set our sights upon them, providing your agents no time to sew the seeds of rebellion within their midst before they're forced to rally around their banner. So, I will have them bypass the Dominion entirely. Moreoever, it would benefit you to receive refugees from Midana to mix with the Piantians and muddle the situation further for all involved."

The Emperor's voice seemed to soften a bit as he spoke to Estro, and a younger man beneath the armor, the weathered skin, and all the years and anger resided in a hidden place there. He was ever a thinking man, ruled by ideas, and not by emotion. It was a voice which Briggun only used while speaking directly to Estro, as the latter knew him longer than anyone else, and could recognize the remnants of the man that once was. Perhaps it was a matter of respect, or maybe it was to remind Estro that the man that put him in chains still lived, sharp as ever.

"The Empress, sire," spoke Makar, alerting everyone to the approach of Herasa.

Briggun turned, meeting his wife's gaze as she breezed through the door, her evening gown both flowing in excess and yet woefully inadequate in its coverage. "My dear Emperor," she spoke, her voice like a silk sheet sliding over the minds of all who were present and leaving some with a chill, "is all well? Will you come to bed with me?"

All at once, Briggun's sharpness eroded into the texture of river rock. "Yes, my Queen. Makar, see to it that this glass is fully cleaned," he said, instructing the goblin to pick up the remaining pieces of Lady Falwyn's bottle. The meeting was officially over. All of the commanders had either volunteered for, or were assigned, a place to begin their conquest- even Yz, who had managed to string together enough of a coherent thought that Briggun was confident they would join the Erevan offensive.

Herasa closed the door as she led her husband away. All would go exactly to plan.


Act I

Turn 0 (Part 1 - The Northern Campaigns) - Year 735 - Early Spring

View attachment Turn 0 N.jpg

Druadach Campaign

At once protected by the great mountains west of Erevan, as well as the dangerous territory of the Malenchanted Woods, the Druadach often dismiss the threat posed by Saarus' expansion elsewhere in the continent, are instead fear and loathe their neighbors who hold so much contempt for the barbarian culture. Adanach, at Briggun's request, marches northwest through the dark and foreboding woods where the Emperor himself once claimed a home, reaching the border with Mors Gobonach with little incident. Perhaps the Empress gave him a mysterious Fae blessing to move about so freely? It is no matter; the goblins have not sensed his coming.

===Allied Forces===

Adanach, Son of the Druadach
Meals from the Field // Symphony of War // Drenched in Death
Location: Malenchanted Woods
Strength: 3

A Leader of the Uncivilized - Tribal Forces which have dropped below strength 3 have a 1/3 chance of joining Adanach if he attacks them. (Infinite Uses)
Pagan Zeal - In battle against highly religious factions, Adanach has a passive +2 advantage. (5 Uses.)
Even if there is a straight line demarking the border between Saarus and Druadach on a map, the reality is far less clear; one tract of woodlands appears much the same as the next, but Adanach senses the difference. The dreadful sense of horror which preoccupies the Malenchanted Woods gives way to the more mundane pathways leading to the north, and small signs here and there remind him that there are people living here. A whiff of campfire smoke, clinging to the bark of a tree, a broken arrow shaft jutting form the trunk of another... And then, from the edge of a clearing, Adanach spots a few isolated members of a goblin tribe. He knows the forest will soon give way to the plane, where the tribes fight one another for dominance over land that few else could want. The most powerful tribe here is Faska's lot, but he has plenty of enemies, if one were to simply ask around.

Trinkets from Abroad - It isn't long before Adanach begins to notice an unusual amount of baubles from the west, as if Tidiaus had begun to trade with the goblins. That doesn't seem likely, and Adanach is captivated by the question of what brought these goods to Druadach (and especially, if there are any more).
One is Too Few - After setting up camp at the edge of the woods, Adanach takes a walk to surveille the landscape. He notices a single goblin living alone by a narrow stream in the distance, with barely any shelter aside from a leaning shack. She seems disinterested in him, from a distance, and Adanach wonders whether he should bother investigating.

===The Enemy===

Faska, the Bloody Bastard
Meals from the Field // The One and Only // Drenched in Death
Location: Mors Gobonach
Strength: 2

Having carved out a sizeable chunk of land where his raiders reign supreme, Faska, a deadly goblin swordsman, rules as an absolute tyrant over his tribesmen. With spears and arrows, they control the roadways and roam the open fields as hunters, but their game is plunder and the weak. Most days, Faska rides about the country on a horse, clad in his makeshift armor, chasing down his quarry with impunity. Most nights, Faska gorges himself on the best cuts of meat his followers can provide, and then sleeps in a large tent with a harem of women, under the watchful eye of his strongest and most loyal guardsmen. To him, there is no world outside of Mors Gobonach worth troubling himself with; his alliances with the other Druadach leaders are tenuous and distant, and he is loath to honor them, regardless. It is therefore an oddity that he has not sworn his allegiance to Briggun. Perhaps he has a hidden agenda...

Erevan Campaign

On the northern frontier of Saarus, a destitute plane gives rise to increasingly rocky foothills, and then, quite suddenly, to massive, nearly-vertical mountains. Five of Emperor Briggun's war council plot a multi-pronged assault through the gaps, natural and otherwise, between the impenetrable natural barriers and into the fertile lands which lay beyond, in Erevan. However, from the enemy's perspective, only Lady Falwyn's forces in Ostmajora and the one they know as "Sigurd of Ravgoth," in the western mountain pass between Poggost and Wyldsylvain are visible. The threat of an invasion is therefore considered elevated, but crucially, the Kingdom has failed to grasp the imminent threat lurking behind the mountainous border between Sabersval and the Sauroid Mountains to their south. Time is counting down to the moment the Kingdom's long opposition to Briggun's claim comes to an end.

===Allied Forces===

Baba Voyka, the Warsome Grandma
Try and Take It // The One and Only // Chessmaster
Location: Sauroid Mountains
Strength: 3

Dreamwalker - On defeat in battle, Baba has a passive 1/3 chance of costing her opponent a token to draw even. (Infinite Uses)
Tough Skin - Passively immune to being poisoned. (Infinite Uses)

As Baba Voyka's forces move into the mountainous Sauroid lands, they unhappily make camp in the sparsely-wooded, largely still-frozen uplands at the edges of the cave system's entrances. Briggun's supplymen come nearly round-the-clock, toting large bundles and crates of supplies procured or otherwise plundered from the surrounding lands, in order to sustain the massed gathering of troops, but from there, it is up to the commanders to determine their best use. Old Baba finds much in common with Borok's mentality toward supply and attack strategy, even if the lizardman is a bit too keen on collaborating with his subordinates, in her wizened opinion. They have a mutual expectation of a slow and steady march into Sabersval that will seek to lodge itself in and grind the enemy's reactive attacks into a fine paste.

Ancient Kin - Some of the horned are known for their ability to survive in the harsh cold, and as Baba goes about her planning, she occasionally glances at the high mountaintops where, at the fringe where the rocky wall meets the white-gray sky above, there appears to be a line of trees where they might have wandered, many years ago. She wonders whether one could see into Erevan from such a vantage... or vice versa.

The Hungry and the Desperate - During the night, there are rumors of intruders creeping about in the darkness, threatening the influx of supplies. Sure enough, each morning there are a token few rations of food missing. Who would be so daring, or perhaps so starving, that they would steal from the Emperor's legions?

Borok Ronillson, the Grand Runesmith
Try and Take It // Symphony of War // Chessmaster
Location: Sauroid Mountains
Strength: 3

Tools for Battle - Ahead of battle, Borok crafts weapons specifically targeting his enemy's weaknesses, granting him a +2 advantage. (3 Uses)
Strength through Enchantment - When facing an opponent with attack strategy C, passively neutralizes their advantage. (Infinite Uses)
Heat of the Forge - Passively immune to burning. (Infinite Uses)

Playing host to two of Briggun's commanders as guests, Borok struggles to ensure that the surprise attack into Erevan's unguarded belly will occur without a hitch; the scheme requires significant supply line planning above all else, as an army force triple the size of Poggost's normal levy will need to be supplied through the very same tunnels that they will expect to progress quickly through, to safe and traversable terrain on the opposite side. Thankfully, with the spring thaw, the snow is beginning to clear ever-so-slightly, even on the north face, and so the campaign due to begin in mere weeks will encounter less natural obstacles. At last, the exits into Erevan, carefully disguised under transported foliage and snow-covered earthworks erected in the dark of night, are ready for the armies' approach.

Soft Ground - as the Sauroid diggers have reached the shallow ground near the Elvan territory, they have found the ground softening and giving away surprisingly quickly. One day, as the operation nears, Borok pauses and considers the utility of digging even further, rather than simply surfacing and crossing overland as the others intend.
The Demon's Gate - One evening, a fatal mistake in the digging results in a tunnel flooding with blindingly hot ash and smoke. While the Sauroids fare well against the heat, the choking atmosphere is a different story. Borok has worked around dangerous volcanic chimneys in the past, but he is surprised to see a lack of magma in the natural tunnel after the air is cleared. Instead, it seems as if the mountain itself is breathing here in a way which feels frankly disturbing.

Lady Falwyn Tholmar, the Dragonlord
Try and Take It // Symphony of War // Break Their Spirits
Location: Ostmajora
Strength: 3

Dragon's Fury - If Falwyn defeats an opponent with attack strategy A, they lose two tokens. (Infinite Uses.)
Dragonflight - If traveling over allied territory, Falwyn can move across two provinces in a single turn. (Infinite Uses.)
Golden Majesty - Upon conquering an enemy territory for the first time, Falwyn instantly gains a free token. (3 Uses.)

Ostmajora, formerly a dozen or so small kingdoms, republics, and other petty states, is now a rather quiet place; the roads, once filled with commerce, are now empty aside from the occasional Imperial patrol or shipment. The people have resigned themselves to the daily drudgery of agriculture and basic crafts, their aspirations disappearing into the malaise of Briggun's uncertain, oppressive future. Having flown over these faltering parcels of disappointment, Falwyn notes the bitter irony of the shimmering waves of gold beneath her- nothing more than wheat, blowing in the wind. Most of what was once worthwhile in these places now resided in great vaults under the castle at Caneresch or in her own hoard in Tholmar's Rest. To the north, the Elvan land of Ysaval waits, behind a deep, wooded ridge connecting her mountain home to the rocky cliffs at Gantar's edge.

The Once and Future...? - Somewhere in Ostmajora, a prince of a now (nearly) extinct royal family is rumored to be alive and living under a false identity. His existence might be a legend, as the royal jewels went missing when his kingdom fell to Briggun and the people may have invented his story in order to cope, or maybe, just maybe, there is a very crafty half-elf living in a shack somewhere with a truly impressive fortune under his floorboards.
Tears of the Vale - The great mountains separating Saarus from Erevan feed several major rivers on both sides of the continent's spine. From her vantage point in the air, while plotting her coming assault, Falwyn notices that one of Erevan's largest rivers is fed by an isolated mountain spring on the Empire's side of the border. Perhaps this might be useful...

Vuldar Elegast, Sigurd of Ravgoth
Try and Take It // The One and Only // Break Their Spirits
Location: Poggost
Strength: 3
The Fear is Enough - If a weaker foe attacks while this card is active, they lose a token due to abandonment, regardless of the battle's outcome. (5 Uses.)
Unyielding Contempt - At the cost of a token for one turn, Sigurd can bypass an enemy territory without a fight. (5 Uses.)

The march to Solzan, the former capital of the Kingdom of Poggost, was a long and lonesome one, as the land itself seems increasingly inhospitable to life in that direction. The nights seem longer, and darker, and the great castle there dominates the eye and the imagination as a truly menacing edifice, with high spires and windows of stained glass. Although it is Rocher which is known to suffer the curse of the Vampyr, Solzan seems to suffer a more nebulous ailment, which nonetheless chills the spirit right to the core. Sigurd and his army make camp to the north of the city, where the mountains narrow to the point that any numerical advantage is moot. Across the pass, Sigurd can see the distant elves on patrol, as they have been since Poggost's fall a decade ago. He can sense the attention they pay to his presence, and their unease. Maybe the hoard of defenders beyond the mountains in Wyldsylvain are enough to stop him, but should he choose to march on Erevan tonight, those guards in the pass would be the first to die, and they know it.

Under the Moonlight - Sigurd finds it difficult to sleep at night, as the air of northern Poggost is filled with a sense of dark magic. He knows it can't simply be a hunch; it must be coming from somewhere nearby. One night, a raven lands at his camp and speaks a single word: "Invited."
The Howling Dark - Another night, Sigurd is awoken by the sound of wolves howling, but it is not the normal, mournful call. No, something larger and more frightening stalks these frozen woodlands.

Yz, Identity Requiem
Meals from the Field // Nothing is Safe // Break Their Spirits
Location: Sauroid Mountains
Strength: 3

Yz-Arts - Yz cannot be taken prisoner. (Infinite Uses)
Without Identity - If not wearing a mask, Yz is unrecognizable to any enemy that has not fought them and can travel freely in their territory. (Infinite Uses)

Yz, ever an enigma, arrives at the camps on the south side of the Sauroid Mountains with their followers, a collective of cultists and imperial irregulars who are prepared for a much more nimble and aggressive attack than either of Yz's allies in the territory. As they fail to agree with many of Borok and Baba Voyka's directives, they are somewhat cutoff from chains of communication, as trying to herd the cats would present more work and frustration than would be worthwhile. However, this is exactly what works best for Yz at this stage; their forces are free to approach the coming battle with full independence, greatly increasing the complexity of the task for the defenders.

The Traveling Troupe - A motley group of performers has wandered to the foothills outside the Sauroid Mountains, and are offering to perform in front of the Empire's soldiers for meager compensation- mainly food. Yz notices immediately that the actors are already quite keen on wearing masks...
Erasing the Traces - While wandering about, Yz chances upon a crumbling graveyard full of headstones. There, the once-living have been relinquished of every possession, aside from their name. An identity that continues to trap them, long after the world has given them up; Yz feels a wild urge to smash the headstones and allow the dead to be forgotten.

===The Enemy===

Aelan Farandel, the Wolf of the South
To Weather the Storm // Come What May // A Truth Unassailable
Location: Sabersval
Strength: 2

Far from the known danger of the western pass, as well as the open fields of Ysaval, the elf Aelan believes her role to be one of a reserve, upon which her comrades in either direction might call upon if Briggun should reignite his aspirations of expansion into elvan lands. As winter lifts, and the glades and valleys begin to bloom, she divides her time between fortification of the inner territories, managing the heavy and well-guarded stockpiles which supply her forces, and rehearsing plans for battle against a surprise attack. Tragically, however, she envisions such a thing coming in the form of a reckless, unsupplied attack which has somehow pierced through Ysaval without hope of reinforcement. The southern boundaries aren't even considered; for her opponents to attack her directly from the Saarus Plane, they would first need to conquer the mountains themselves. But such a thing can't really be possible, can it?

Kande Abdolon, Viper of the Reach
Liberate the Materiel // Colleagues in Arms // Never Surrender
Location: Ysaval
Strength: 3

A human who ventured to Erevan from Gantar's deserts as a boy, Kande worked his way through the ranks to become the highest-ranking human in the Kingdom's employ. Known for his ability to conduct a raiding, sweeping offensive that remains resilient and flexible, even when divided and cut off from other units, he was judged to be the best leader to hold the relatively-vulnerable lands of the Kingdom's eastern reaches. Being in a relatively-warmer climate, Kande has gotten the jump on training and recruitment, even gathering a few mercenaries from his childhood home in Bhiran. In the last few weeks, as rumors circulate about large movements of Imperial soldiers, Kande has had trouble sleeping, as he knows that Erevan has already chosen its western territories as the primary defensive positions. He has instructed his commanders to plan for the evacuation of civilians as they fight a guerilla campaign against the invaders.

Rotwellain Martiel, Gatekeeper of the World
To Weather the Storm // A Master of the Art // A Reckoning for the Wicked
Location: Wyldsylvain
Strength: 5

The Kingdom's most decorated general, Rotwellain has been positioned in the deeply-forested western territory of Wyldsylvain to guard the pass into Poggost and the Saarus Plane. He is not a man to be trifled with; along with maintaining the highest discipline for his massive force as well as on a personal level, he is a well-read man of theory, and actively plans for every possible angle of attack on his lands. He has, for example, posited the possibility of a Druadach-led attack from the north, led by some barbarian ally of the Damned Warlock... Of course, Rotwellain isn't even aware of Adanach and his goals- this is merely the fantasy of a man overloaded with the responsibility of keeping evil locked out of the civilized world, earning him his grandiose nickname. Lately, he has taken note of the approach of Sigurd and has mentally prepared himself for the monumental task of holding off the infamous Headsman of Canar.

Gantar Campaign

In the far east of the Empire, the armies of Izaak Rosach and Kolthix the Cackler gather in the rolling, dusty hills of Ostminora. The tall and difficult mountains slope off lazily toward the far eastern side, and using these natural barriers as a wall to hide behind, the two commanders have managed to approach the border of the Gantar Sultanate without attracting much attention- not that there were many watchers to begin with. Miraq, to their northeast, is a large and flat desert, pockmarked with salty lakebeds with mushy, silty ground which are difficult to cross without significant preparation. Numerous small tribes and villages also dot the empty landscape, making use of wells and irrigation from the desert's few rivers to survive as they have done since times unrecorded. These people know little of nations and politics, and are more concerned with their own survival and questions of spirituality.

===Allied Forces===

Izaak Rosach, The Voivode of Skulls
Try and Take It // Symphony of War // Break Their Spirits
Location: Ostminora
Strength: 3

Years ago, Izaak roamed these lands as a conqueror in his own right, before Briggun's return that would set about the fall of Canar. As he passes by familiar landmarks, he wonders how things might have been different had the warlock not appeared. Would Ostminora have been a part of Izaak's own personal empire? In truth, Izaak felt it was better that things had not turned out that way. Briggun's ascent and Izaak's loyalty ensured that the osseus mage would have access to a far greater variety of magical texts and artifacts. He would take his time, and grow in power, and if he played his cards right, he may yet return to rule this place... After he's conquered Gantar, of course.

Skeletal Warriors - If Izaak wins a battle against a non-undead opponent, he will have a +1 advantage on the following turn. (Infinite Uses)
Raising an Army - While occupying territory that was forcibly taken the prior turn, Izaak gains a token every other turn until strength 5. (Infinite Uses)

Crystal Lake - On the long march to the edge of the empire, Izaak happens to reach a river which had flooded the prior autumn and lost the bridge which once spanned it. While working upriver in search of a shallow crossing, Izaak's army chances upon a perfectly still and clear lake in the foothills of the nearby mountain ridge and chooses to camp by it. In the morning, several of Izaak's soldiers report having had vivid, shared dreams after drinking of the lake's water. Izaak makes a mental note to return here and investigate the lake's properties.
The Lonesome Tower - Near the edge of the mountain ridge separating Saarus from Gantar, a shadow juts out from the landscape in just such a way as to convince Izaak that there's a tower on the Gantar side which might be worth exploring.

Kolthix the Cackler
Everywhere At Once // Nothing is Safe // Break Their Spirits
Location: Ostminora
Strength: 3

Arriving quickly in Ostminora, Kolthix and his kin quickly settle into the shadows of the mountains and the forested wilderness outside of the province's northern cities. Care is taken to feed the creatures, rather than allowing them to feast on the Saarus peasants there, but nonetheless the mere presence of the Shadelings is enough to drive them into a minor panic. Even in larger cities, people throughout the territory fear for their lives and refuse to go out at night.

From Unbound - Passively defeats any card which presents physical defensive barriers against attackers. (Infinite Uses)
One with the Dark - Unless kept in perfect light, Kolthix cannot be taken prisoner. (Infinite Uses)

Gods and Demons - Along the route to the edge of the Empire, the Shadelings discover a crumbling temple dedicated to the same Gods worshipped in southern Gantar by the tribal people. Kolthix can't help but wonder if there are forms depicted within which might aid in the conquest.
A Stitch in Time - Rumors of a skilled weaver in the area somehow reach the approaching Saarus Imperial forces. According to the story, a craftswoman in northern Ostminora knows of a technique to weave a cloth which renders the wearer invisible during the night. Kolthix is reminded of his own abilities, and wonders, with some suspicion, of how the weaver achieved the same effect.

===The Enemy===

Zomach, the Trench Digger
With Guile and Cunning // Come What May // A Truth Unassailable
Location: Miraq
Strength: 2

Zomach, an orc who has lived his entire life in the desert, has never had a hot bath, seen a rainbow, or heard music performed on anything aside from drums. He is known as the Trench Digger, as he has toiled for years to dig irrigation ditches for dozens of miles, snaking away from one of the few rivers which doesn't change its bends in the flooding seasons, to serve the vital strips of arable land in the territory. As a result, he is a mountain of muscle, standing head and shoulders above the tallest human warriors in the realm. His few spoken words command respect from his fellow tribesmen as if they're carved into stone, and he has used this authority to acquire a small warband- volunteers who might leave their farms in a time of crisis to fend off the pillagers thought to exist beyond the mountains to the west.

Lacans Campaign

After the contentious meeting, Declan and Lucafiel travel separately, each having their own approaches toward handling the well-defended territory. In the end, Lucafiel relocates to the quiet coastal border territory of Kokaria, while Declan goes further, opting to station himself all the way in deeply-wooded Tidiaus where he would have better access to the northern half of Lacans. It also has the effect of forcing the halflings' collective hand into honoring their alliance with the Empire. Mustering their own forces, they send their general to meet with the Viceroy and express their intent to defend the Principality from foreign harm. With the two lieutenants on opposite sides of the country, they each have the chance of influencing the nearest province to their own preference, outside the reach of the other's meddling, for now.

Declan Asquith Elron, First Viceroy of Sathesbury
Try and Take It // Symphony of War // Chessmaster
Location: Tidiaus
Strength: 3

Soulstealer - If this card is in play and Declan wins a battle, he will possess the enemy commander's soul, instantly defeating their army. (3 Uses)
Diplomat - If this card is in play and Declan loses a battle, he will avoid losing a token. (3 Uses)

Much like Adanach, Declan finds his travel through the Malenchanted Woods to Tidiaus to be safe and uneventful, almost eerily so. Finally arriving at the isolated principality, Declan's soldiers settle into the thickly-wooded territory quite happily, as food, it seems, is plentiful here, as are fresh water and medicine. The local architecture feels like a fresh change of pace, being meant for smaller people, Declan feels a sense of insight into the lives of the naturally able-bodied. Of course, the ill-at-ease glances and whispers he encounters from the local population remind him that he is not truly welcome here. Instead, he must set his sights westward, on the rocky, mountainous and rugged terrain of Lacans.

Fox Hunt - The commander of Tidiaus' army, Munsie Moldive, sends a letter to Declan's camp, asking to meet the Viceroy in private.
Breaking the Chains? - While positioning his army close to the border, Declan accidentally discovers a small group of escaped slaves, who were on their way east in hopes of securing their freedom in Druadach. Declan can't help but feel that this is an early chance to put his plans into motion, assuming that the slaves are willing to work with him to spread the word of rebellion.

Lucafiel sa Helendal, the Redeemer Prince
Everywhere at Once // Symphony of War // Chessmaster
Location: Kokaria
Strength: 3

Red Comet - When played, Lucafiel may redefine his three strategies. (Infinite Uses - Once Per Three Turns)
Hand of Life - Lucafiel can revive a dead character, or kill one who trusts him. (Infinite Uses - Once Per Three Turns)

As the Vestati arrive in the coastal province of Kokaria, a former kingdom, there is a terrible storm, dumping its spring rains upon the land by the bucketful. Lucafiel tends to his planning regardless, and seeks out weaknesses in the enemy's position. He finds himself facing Ikono Manakles, known as "the Ram of Iskulia", whose scouts keep watch over the northern border with their bows at all times. Even in the torrential downpour, they do not retreat inside. The Imperial guardsmen, by comparison, are sloppy, and often neglect their duties unless under direct supervision. Stagnation and poverty seems to be gradually befalling the land in the wake of Briggun's takeover.

Something Rotten in Iskulia - Although the enemy appears strong, and may actually be strong, Ikono's hoplites seem listless in the rain. Simply by observing their movements, Lucafiel ascertains that they are suffering form some illness which they are trying to conceal. The Vestati takes note of the opportunity for further investigation.
The Lacansic Pantheon - The people of Kokaria express a familiarity with the gods worshipped in Lacans, and openly provide direction to temples in the north of the province which were erected in dedication of the same deities. Lucafiel's curiosity is drawn to these old structures.

Munsie Moldive, Fox of the Forest
Everywhere at Once // Nothing is Safe // Break Their Spirits
Location: Tidiaus
Strength: 3

Munsie, a halfling ranger, is an expert at both archery and wildlife handling. Spending half of her young life under Imperial hegemony, she has come to embrace Tidiaus' place in the new world order, and dreams of one day ascending in notoriety to the level of the Emperor's War Council with such legends as Alexandre the Thirsting and Baba Voyka. When she learned that Declan, the famed traitor of Canar and one of Briggun's inner circle was coming to Tidaus to prepare the next phase of the Emperor's great plan, she appeared before the Principality's court and declared her enthusiasm for the cause, earning the court's commission to lead the land's rangers and mages in the coming conflict. While her orders were explicit: to prevent a Lacansic incursion into halfling territory, she nonetheless dreams bigger. She envisions herself driving deep into the human slavers' territory, right alongside Declan, to inscribe her name in the history books forevermore.

===The Enemy===

Ikono Manakles, the Ram of Iskulia
To Weather the Storm // A Master of the Art // A Truth Unassailable
Location: Iskulia
Strength: 6

The latest son of a household which has produced generations upon generations of warriors for Iskulia, Ikono is a beast of a man, standing at a full six-and-a-half feet tall. His physical prowess has been established not just in extensive battle training against his sparring opponents, whom he often leaves battered and permanently wounded, but in sporting events as well. Ikono earned the name "the Ram" when he was only a teenager, by shattering records and bones alike in events such as the pentathlon. Since then, he has eagerly awaited the opportunity to face the dreaded Saarus Empire in battle, where he is utterly confident he will dominate them. He spends most of his time working on his physique and laying with beautiful women (and men) of his fancy, courting adventure at every opportunity.

Petrokos Aklessia, The People's Hammer
To Weather the Storm // Colleagues in Arms // A Truth Unassailable
Location: Oitvemia
Strength: 6

An older champion given overall control of the Republic's armed forces by decree of the Aristocratic government in Oitvemia, Petrokos doesn't just impose with the use of heavy armor and a large battle hammer, he also surrounds himself with experts of various trades and mystics of the ancient sort, whose magics punctuate his smash-mouth style of combat nicely. Unlike his counterpart in the south, Petrokos does not actually want hostilities to begin with the Empire, in fact, he dreads it. But if it should come, he has taken many measures to prepare himself and his country for war. As spring rids the air of the icy chill which permeated the winter months, Petrokos spends his time watching the movements of Imperial trade ships and their naval escorts, mainly, looking for signs of an impending invasion. He has no idea of his foes' intent to invade by land, nor of their intent to use subterfuge to prime the country for its downfall.
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The settled peoples, from Lacans to Gantar, always feared daemons and devils and the harm they can do to a men or mer soul, but the people of the Druadach do not fear demons or angels for that matter, they only fear what they can see, and they have seen the Fae since the beginning of time.

From every corner of the Druadach, the tribes share countless tales and myths of the Faeries wickedness, selfishness and vile sorcery, and while there's plentiful tales and myths of helpful Fae, most of the Druadach continue to fear the Fae. The forests of the Druadach are full of Fae of all types, but the Malenchanted Woods, also known as the Coilltean Olc in the language of the Red Caps, is infamous in the culture of the tribes, and it served as the graveyard for hundreds of tribesmen who wished to conquer that wicked forest and plunder the rumored riches and enchanted items guarded by the Fae...

And here they were, a few weeks and more into their march, the ancient pitted cobbles of the empire's roads were long gone, and now they were traversing the darkwood. The sight of Sidhe dancing in the woods was enough to put fear into the hearts of the barbarian army. But Adanach kept reminding his army that they were safe since they had Rukkar, a Fae, leading them through the woods, and he did so to the best of his abilities. No warrior was lost to these wicked woods and their evil diversions, but when asked about it, Rukkar confessed that these woods were deadly even to the Fae that inhabit it, and that it would have been impossible for him to lead the warband through these lands without any loses and assumed that they had been blessed... either by the Gods of the Druadach, or by Empress Herasa, or the "wicked bitch" as Rukkar calls her.

After camping one last time in these cursed woods, the pagan army neared the border with Mors Gobonach, and while they were not out of it just yet, most warriors sighed in relief upon hearing this. The Druadach Uirodusios, naked fanatics of Adanach's horde, who paint themselves with blue woad and bleached their hair with lime water, served as scouts of the barbarian army as they ran ahead of the horde, they carefully trod the woods, making sure there were no enemy ambushes, or worse, deadly fae roaming about. Meanwhile, Adanach and his most entrusted warriors and companions rode ahead of the army. Next to Adanach's steed was Bjorga's albino warg, in her arms was a little half-Orc baby, Duach, the youngest of Adanach's children, behind her, sitting on the wargs hind, were two half-Orc toddlers firmly grabbing her mothers' waist, they were Cosnach and Melach, the twins, and Adanach's first children with Bjorga. All three of them were painted with several blue tattoos made out of woad, wards of protection against the evil fae roaming these woods, to prevent them from becoming Changelings.

...Even if there is a straight line demarking the border between Saarus and Druadach on a map, the reality is far less clear; one tract of woodlands appears much the same as the next, but Adanach senses the difference. The dreadful sense of horror which preoccupies the Malenchanted Woods gives way to the more mundane pathways leading to the north, and small signs here and there remind him that there are people living here. A whiff of campfire smoke, clinging to the bark of a tree, a broken arrow shaft jutting form the trunk of another... And then, from the edge of a clearing, Adanach spots a few isolated members of a goblin tribe. He knows the forest will soon give way to the plane, where the tribes fight one another for dominance over land that few else could want.

When the horde finally abandoned those cursed woods and entered the goblin highlands, most were relieved that the most dangerous part of the march was over. Adanach looked at the jagged mountains and hills surrounding them, and smiled... He was back in his homeland, and ready to unite it once and for all. He ordered the men to build a war camp, using wood from the Malenchanted Forest, and to create defenses on all sides to protect them from the goblin tribes or from whatever monstrous creature might emerge from the woods behind them.

He and his companions joined the efforts of the Uirodusios, exploring the landscape to learn more of the current situation of Mors Gobonach. It was as miserable as always, and the tribes constantly fought over resources and the herds of boars roaming the highland. While Adanach and his companions were exploring a ruined goblin village that used to belong to Ukkur's lot, he found a dead goblin with a colored shield, carrying the symbol of the god Nilbog... the symbol of Faska's warband.

Adanach was not surprised that Faska's lot had grown even stronger since Adanach's last visit. "Great..." muttered the barbarian as he tossed the broken shield aside. "Do you know those colors, my love?" asked Bjorga, still riding her warg. "Aye... I know that little bitch." He said, turning around to look at his wife. "Back when I was a wee lad going through my rites of passage, the strongest tribe in the land used the same colors... they were by a very old goblin named Otor." Bjorga nodded. "Heard of him, only goblin to ever be recognized as Vergobet by the Druid King of Cyrmm." She said, Adanach slowly nodded. "Aye... met the ol' fella, all bloated and sick... yet carrying incredible wisdom."

"He doesn't sound like "a little bitch", my love." said Bjorga with a grin, Adanach let out a chuckle before continuing. "Oh no, he wasn't... Faska on the other hand..." Adanach looked at his horse Dunach, more specifically at a satchel tied to its side. "What can ye say about Faska, Catu?" He asked, as a small creature emerged from the satchel holding what appeared to be a scroll with text roughly written on it. "Clever and wicked, master." said the extremely short Goblin. "All goblins are clever, but what makes this Faska wicked, Catu?" asked Bjorga as she looked at the broken shield on the ground.

Catu took some time to think his answer, his ears twitching slightly to scare away the hundreds of flies feasting on the dead goblins. "Well, mistress... Ol' Otor was old and bloated, yes, but he was no coward! Even in his old age, he knew how to swing his falx, so when Faska challenged him to a duel to determine the next chieftain, he did not refuse, even if it meant his death." Adanach nodded. "I met Faska a few years after his victory... when I was travelling with my two brothers and our warriors, we sought the wisdom of ol' Otor for the travels ahead of us, but instead we were greeted by Faska... and the wall of corpses surrounding the tribe, but he's known as the Bloody Bastard for what he did to Otor specifically."

"Aye, after defeating Otor, he beheaded him and crushed his head, so that it would not be hanged on the trees! Completely disregarding the traditions of all Druadach." Bjorga cringed and frowned upon hearing such barbarous action. "What kind of animal does such a thing? To crush the head of an elder no less..." Bjorga asked Adanach, who leaned against a destroyed cobbled wall. "...like Catu said, somebody who is both clever and wicked." Bjorga spat on the broken shield of Faska's tribe. "Then we must crush his head when we invade his lan-"


"Huh?" Bjorga looked at her husband, a bit surprised by his answer. "I will try unite the Druadach through peace first... Faska, he's a bastard who fights dirty, but he is clever and despite his tactics, he is strong... I respected Otor, but he had grown weak, and I while I dislike Faska for his lack of respect for our traditions, I respect his strength..." He looked at Bjorga straight into her dark eyes. "...I will try to negotiate with him first, send a good messenger, tell him that I have great plans for the Druadach and we could use his help, and that he would be rewarded with lands to spoil... but if he refuses..."

"We will destroy him." Bjorga answered accordingly, Adanach could not help but to smile at that answer, a part of him hoped Faska would refuse him, the part that seeks conquest, but he cannot lead a horde of wounded goblins, he needed Faska's tribe if he wanted to quickly pacify Mors Gobonach. Rukkar, who had been quietly sipping his hat on the blood of a dead goblin slave, raised his head to look at Adanach. "Oi, ya' realize that if he refuses, he might attack ye first?" He asked while putting his hat back on. "Hm... let him come then, we'll be ready." He said as he walked towards the main gate of the abandoned tribe... in the distance, Adanach could see a lone goblin hermit living on a meager shack, who knows what he'll find there?
Kolthix grinned as he received his orders, however, the location he was meant to aid in conquering was less than ideal. Gantar was a hell hole of a land for his people. The harsh light of the sun made it quite difficult for any shadeling to call the territory home, and most of their kind can call nearly any sort of environment home. Whatever the case, the lord of the shadelings can make do. There would be lots of digging needing to be done to create shelters during the day, but it could, and would, be done.

As he circles the table to return to the shadows to carry out his orders, he spares a moment to turn his head towards Estro. “Though your consideration for the use of my people is… appreciated, know that the shadelings will not act simply as a concern for our foes any longer. When we march upon Gantar, it will shall be to deliver fear into the hearts of their people. To meet those of the flesh with their due suffering. To be as it was always meant to be.”

Kolthix respected Estro as a a fellow under the command of their emperor, but he could always see the look in the wizards eye as he considered his kind. So it is with great pleasure that he announced that he would go beyond being a simple hindrance for enemy forces this time around. Besides, in the past ten years, he has gathered his kind. Assumed an army fitting for the day when the lieutenants were called once again to march to war.

As he returns to the shadows, he spares one last look around the room before suddenly slipping away.

Where he emerges is anyone’s guess, but he does appear within the darkened confines of a tent of sorts. He allows his body a moment to readjust after his travels. Each time he slips through the shadow, it always wants to spit him out in an odd, monsterous form, as if the mortal shape he prefers to assume is unnatural, like anything else is more suitable for the power he holds within. However, he enjoyed a smaller form. A more silent shape. It suits his desires, mostly because those of the world do not enjoy looking upon a shadeling that reflects their own appearance so. It’s like he’s taunting them.

He emerges from the tent and into the dim light of where he had settled his forces. The sight was spectacular, shadelings almost as far as the eye could see. They all turned as the red of their masters hood appeared. Two figures took immediate notice, approaching from their own individual camps. These two were Kolthix’s hands when it came to leading his armies, not that he needed assistance with such matters, but it is nice to be able to delegate such responsibilities to those he could trust. They were also the two that he entrusted to consume him should he fail in battle. With his power he knew that they could grow incredibly strong.

The first figure to approach was… massive, to say the least. A behemoth of strength. He could walk on two legs, but the sheer size of his upper body made it easier to use his large arms to help get around. His head was also quite large with the majority of it being all one big maw and two small glowing eyes upon the top. Kolthix believed that the shape of his head was inspired by that of sharks. He had a bit of an underbite as well, but it was honestly just an interesting little feature, nothing more.

The second figure was tall and lanky, but with curves suggesting that they might be female. However, such things are simply a matter of preference when it comes to shadelings. Their kind had no need for sex or reproduction, they merely exist, so a shadeling can choose how they will develop and can take about any voice they please when they learn to use the common tongue. Love and passion do exist for shadelings despite their lack of gender, but not before hunger, so seeking their next meal often takes precedence. This shadeling chose a lighter, playful voice, apparently inspired by a human that they once encountered. She knows how to wield magic as well, which is rather uncommon for most shadelings. A rare trait that Kol decided to nurture.

The two kneel as Kolthix approaches them as well.

“Gartoth, Rorika. Is the army ready?”

It is Rorika that raises her head to answer him.

”Of course, my lord. All of our people in the region have answered the call once word that the master had summoned you. They are eager for the conflict to come.”

”Good. Very good. Then we begin marching. We shall be on the Gantar front.”

Gartoth growls deeply at this.

”Gantar? Home of Miraq? That cursed desert?!“

Gartoth is silenced with a raised hand from Kolthix. Though the Cackler agreed with his lackey’s displeasure, they had their orders, and it would be done. In the end it’s just a matter of getting the battle over with as quickly as possible.

“We are shadelings. We adapt. The masters will guides us. We will march upon Gantar. Thankfully we will not have to travel too far into that land just yet. We begin with Ostminora. There are mountain ranges and forests. We shall take that land and turn it into our home for the time being. Settle the majority of our forces in the forests and have those trained to wield ranged weaponry or magic settled along the mountains. Burrow deep into the stone for shelter from the light of day. Lay traps along the passes. I want the land impenetrable.”

The two warlords bow their heads. Gartoth seemed pleased that they didn’t have to worry too much about the harsh sun just yet. He has had prior experiences with the large desert of Miraq. Nearly got him killed once apparently. It was a story that Kolthix would have to ask about sometime. He often minded his own business, especially because his subordinates didn’t always seem like the most talkative. That’s the one reason he enjoys some flesh creatures. They can actually hold conversations.

Despite the short notice of Kolthix’s arrival, the army of shadelings had begun to rise, pack their things if they possessed any belongings, snuff out their camps and began to march. Shadelings are a determined people. They can walk for days if needed with very little rest, but Kolthix would never force such a need on his kind. They shall rest, eat and drink when they must. It wouldn’t do any good to arrive in Gantar with an exhausted army.

The journey was rather easy. At times the shadelings would pass towns within the empires territories. Despite being members of the Empire, shadelings were given wary looks no matter where they walked. It was simply the way of things. The few towns that the army passed, there were no celebrations held for the shadow-bound soldiers. Just cautious stares from the townsfolk watching them pass.

Shadelings do not mind such stares. It is natural to be feared. After all, anything can eventually be food, even their own kind. Who wouldn’t fear being found in the stomach of a shadeling?

After a few days, the army approaches the Gantar region, drawing ever closer to Ostminora. One of the scouting shadelings scampers through the marching army, making his way towards Kolthix. As he approaches, he lowers down onto his knees. Kolthix stops to look at the scount, curious about what would be reported so soon.

As the scout speaks, it is not done in the common tongue. It is done in the shadelings means of communication. Now shadelings do not have their own language. They’ve never had the time to develop one. However, they can read a lot from each others body language and a mix of grunts, growls and babbling. It all often seems incoherent to those that aren’t shadelings, but between their own people, it was a clear and simple method of communicating what they need to.

”Lord must know. Temple found. Strange markings. Shapes. Shapes for the lord,” the scout reports with few hand gestures and lots of babbling.

Gartoth growls softly at that.

“New shapes are good for one that can take any they wish. May be useful for our lord?”

Kolthix nods his head, but seems keen on moving on.

“We must arrive on the Ostminoran front. However, I shall perhaps pay this temple a visit when time allows.”

The scout bows before it scurries away, getting back to work. Kolthix instructs Gortoth to reward the scouts under his command when he gets the opportunity. Information, no matter how simple it may seem, may eventually be of use. Which is why when the next scout came on Rorika’s side, he was eager to hear what they had to say. This scout speaks plainly in the common tongue, actually versed in the language, but they speak with a unique accent.

“ M’lord, we’ve picked up on a little chattah durin’ our scoutin’. Picked up word ‘bout ah weavah with the skill tah make cloths imbued with magic. Think that the word was somethin’ ‘long the lines of… cloths possessin’ magic that can make who wears it invisible durin’ the night.”

Now this caught Kolthix’s interest. A person with this sort of skill would be invaluable, especially if he could get them to weave together uniforms for a specialized unit that are capable of infiltrating enemy territory unseen.

”Wonderful work. Keep Rorika informed of any updates concerning this weaver. If we can, we must have eyes on them as soon as possible. We cannot risk them slipping from between our fingers, especially with such a useful talent. And there is always the chance that this weaver has worked for Ostminora. The city may have troops of their own armed with such garb. Keep exploring the land as we travel. Keep a keen eye out for those wearing fabrics made of unique materials.”

The scout offers a rather courtly bow before turning and skulking off through the crowd of shadelings, a bit more light on his feet than the other. Kol reminds Rorika to do the same as Gartoth and reward her scouts as soon as possible. He believed in giving good things to those that work hard. The shadelings serve under him willingly and with the utmost loyalty, but it is important to keep their spirits high and inspire them to work harder.

As they near the land they would claim as their own, the shadeling army took notice of another closing in upon the border of Gantar. Kolthix grinned.

“Ah. Seems good Izaak has made haste getting here as well. Perfect. This shall be a delightful invasion.“

Kolthix commands his army to approach Izaak’s own, just traveling alongside them as allies in the battle to come. However, the shadeling forces were already starting to look hungry, especially as they pass Saarus territories on their way to the border. The fear in the eyes of the populace drove some of the shadelings wild for bloodlust or something to feast upon, as was appropriate for predators circling prey, especially since they could not feed upon these people. However, tribute was given to them to keep the shadowed horde sated so that sacrifices didn’t need to be made.

Kolthix would walk out into the middle of the space between the two large armies before he calls out.

”Lord Rosach! It is good to see that you are as eager to get to work as we are. I am certain that the conflict ahead shall be a simple, quick matter, but let us endeavor to enjoy it, yes?”

Despite whatever distance there might have been between Izaak and Kolthix, the lord of the shadeling’s voice carried as if projected from a creature much larger than the humanoid shaped fellow.

Crocodile Crocodile Worthlessplebian Worthlessplebian
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Estro listened to the Emperor's decision and didn't seem at all disappointed. The tone of voice reminding him that somewhere in there was still the young man who'd bested him so long ago. The only one worthy of his service, earned in blood, combat and skill. Perhaps it was with borrowed power, but unless you know how to wield a borrowed weapon you would still be quite useless. Briggun had wielded that power expertly to the point of besting a man who had spent his life trying to be the best simply to survive noble intrigues and scheming against him.

"Of course, my lord. I will make excellent use of the increased pressures as they are poured upon the Dominion. I'm sure we'll find openings from it along with whatever might come pouring forth from the opening moves in the Gantar Campaign," Estro said with a bow of his head towards Briggun. He smiled despite his and Voyka's jockeying for Kolthix being denied. The new order served him even more in the long term while enabling Imperial expansion better.

"Good hunting, Shadeling," Estro said simply as he watched Kolthix vanish. He meant it too. The more those monsters ate and terrorized, the better. The more people would flood into Civiceria or other territories to spread instability and issues. Chaos was the name of the game when conquest was on the board.

As the Empress entered, Estro bowed his head again. The only other person he would bother to do so with. He had a healthy respect for the Fey and also knew deep down this woman was likely also the patron of Briggun, his true source of power. On a certain level, Estro envied that, to have so much power you could lend it out to others. Perhaps that would be his final evolution, to become a Fey Lord as other powerful arcanists had before. An amusing idea if he did not land upon some other variant of evolutionary ascension with his power. Briggun could keeps his empire of land and holdings. Estro favored power over the sheer forces of reality itself. Godhood potentially. The Empire could use a god, couldn't it?

Lost in that thought, he observed the Imperial couple depart. He looked to the others with another of his smiles before turning with a sweep of his ornate robes, laced with various protective enchantments. Estro exited the chamber finally with the Emperor finished and the others mostly gone. His master had issued his orders and now he could pursue them as he desired. Waiting for him were a pair of imposing figures. Balthazar and Valdin both stood taller than their master, each powerfully built for different reasons. Balthazar wore his ornate cult armor that glistened int the crimsons and golds of the Cult of Zo. Valdin work more practical half plate while still showing the red of the Cult.

"Is it time, Master? Does the faith spread to other worthy souls?" Balthazar asked in deep and melodic tone as he flashed a eager smile.

"Do we march to war? Should I gather the Cult Army?" Valdin asked in a gruff and serious voice. There was a certain eagerness as well. To make war upon those beyond the empire to spread the Cult of Zo by the sword. To recruit and convert defeated warriors to serve their grand cause.

"We have been granted Civiveria to play with," Estro said with a chuckle as he starts to walk with the pair, each flanking him as much bodyguards as Hands of Zo. Estro could inspire fanatical devotion and it showed in his Hands as much as anyone else that had embraced his teachings. "As amusing as it would be to march directly in, we have been given leave to make things more interesting. To go to serious work on the Dominion to prepare it for our style of warfare and conquest for the Empire."

"Splendid! I relish the opportunity to spread the teachings again. To sow the seeds of doubt as we bring them the truth of Zero Origin," Balthazar admits and meant every word of it. He was a product of the teachings, embraced fully by the cult without doubts about his intentions simply due to his appearance. Acceptance was a powerful tool in converting others and Balthazar believed firmly in that as much as he had profited from it.

"Hmmm, that means rebellion. I could use the challenge of training up rabble again, teaching some new cult commanders in the Lodges we establish," Valdin admitted as he rubbed his chin. "It'll be messy, but our works tends to be when it comes to uplifting others. We'll want to gather the rest of the Hands for this to begin organizing and planning more fully."

"Agreed, we'll need every Hand informed and coordinating to maximize our efforts. Plus we'll need to begin our usual operations of gatherings and establishing our operation caches," Estro mused as they exited the palace and were heading to what used to be the Royal Magic Academy. It was now the House of Zo. Magic was still very much taught there and various prisoners were being brought to it to disappear into the depths of its towers and dungeon labs. Monsters in stasis or cages exited its southern gates to be shipped off to various Imperial fronts for field testing or simply to be used a fodder at the various fronts where the other Lieutenants might accept and utilize them if they weren't being stockpiled for potential use in the Cult Army.

The trio arrived in uppermost chamber of the central tower of the House of Zo. The other Hands gathered and awaiting eagerly the news from their master. Estro moved to take his seat at the head of a round table, denoted by the higher chair back. The others moved to join and take their seats. All looking upon the Wizard of Zo with anticipation, knowing that Briggun had unleashed the Cult again upon some hapless nation.

"My friends, Civiceria is to be ours," Estro declares as he gestures to summon forth goblets as floating bottles of wine pour into them. Estro took his own and held it up while the others joined him in toast. "Zero Origin."

"ZERO ORIGIN!" Bellowed the Hands of Zo in response as all drained their goblets and the planning began.
As Briggun considered what to do with Kolthix, Voyka turned to face Cordia, the fellow 'hag' among the lieutenants. She gave her a sly smile, as the suggestion they should talk more was one that appealed to her. It at least confirmed there were no issues between the two, a relief in her eyes. "I await to hear what you have to say, dear. I'll be sure to cook something up for you and your crew! Good luck on the southern front," she told her as the pirate departed.

Soon enough, Briggun made his decision known - Kolthix would be heading eastward with Izaak, and in doing so, indirectly benefiting Estro's efforts. A clever tactic to be sure, to be expected from their Dark Lord. Shortly after, the Empress arrived. She gave Herasa a bow, and a knowing look with a smile. Her loyalty extended to her too, given her nature and precedent. And then the two lovers departed, leaving the remaining lieutenants to set their final plans and goodbyes. As per usual, she was going to hang around the longest, but she made sure to approach Kolthix before he departed, soon after he spoke with Estro.

"Good luck in Miraq, Kole, and see you for Midana," she told him plainly, with a fond smile not often seen by the others, and a reminder she hadn't forgotten her promise. If there was anyone she could feel to be sincere with, it would be him.

She turned back to the few remaining present, as it became clear who would be joining in the tunnel front of the Erevan campaign: beside the obvious inclusion of Borok, it would be her and Yz. It would be clear that Vuldar would be headed for the northern pass - the pass closest to Alemannum - so there was no one else to join them. Planning on what to do could be decided once they arrived there, so she merely approached Borok.

"I will go prepare my men. When we're ready to head north, come to my encampment near the barracks, so that you may lead the way," she said simply, with her usual grin.


Setting up camp after arriving at the cave's entrance in the north, many of her men expressed frustration at the cold. Like her grandmother would've done, she whipped them into shape and reminded them of how the cold built character, and how it would soon depart them. In contrast to her forces, who consisted of non-horned races, the cold did not bother her nearly as much. It reminded her of the days in her youth when she had nothing to protect herself with, forced to brave the elements, to prove she had what it took to fight in Canar's military.

Her men would supplement Briggun's supplymen when necessary, to ensure the supply line was as stable as it could be with the forces gathered here. In turn, she made sure to discipline regularly to not only keep the peace, but also keep the calm, for the last thing they needed was their surprise attack being discovered early. She found herself frustrated with Yz, however, even as she could imagine a use for them. If they wanted to ensure everything went swimmingly, they needed to at least partially be on the same page.

In that regard, she organized a meeting with herself, Borok and Yz. The three of them needed to finalize what they were going to do. Once they had gathered, she gestured for permission to begin the meeting.

"Thank you two for coming at such short notice. Given how much there is to prepare, we have all been fairly busy with our affairs, but I imagine you two would agree that getting our initial plans sorted would be beneficial to the campaign," she gestured at the two, as if seeking their agreement, "I imagine the both of you would agree just how sensitive this front is when compared to the eastern and northern fronts. Unlike those two, we are wholly in the shadow of surprise, the advantage is in our favor, and so, being on the same page on progress would ensure we take advantage of that as much as possible."

"In my eyes, we have two options. We could choose to attack immediately, strike the enemy unaware with our combined forces, and hope we are able to defeat them and establish a foothold in Sabersval. However, this option has an equal chance of backfiring on us. We fail to push out the enemy, and now we're stuck rushing to defeat them before they can be reinforced from the north. The other option, meanwhile, is to sit here and wait. Continue our preparations, and wait for news from the other fronts, particularly the front in the East with Ysaval. If Falwyn makes headway, any forces positioned in Sabersval might be compelled to head east and aid against them, allowing us to come from behind and take them wholly caught off-guard. This option isn't without flaws, however, as it relies on things going well for someone else now. Regardless, those are the options as I see it: either attacking together in unison, or staying put in unison," Voyka explained her thought process. For anyone only familiar with her in terms of slaughter, this level of strategy might catch them by surprise.

"If we had to choose between the two, however, I would go with staying put. I have noted the environment and caught eye of a vantage point that might allow us to see into Erevan, or for Erevan to see us here, but I believe they are unlikely to be keeping an eye. It is unlikely they are considering the idea of attack across the mountains, so there would be no reason to keep watch. More importantly, meanwhile, I have been informed of rumors of intruders threatening the supply line, and my men managed to confirm the theft of rations. If we can't maintain the supply line, we won't be able to fight to our fullest extent, so I would very much prefer that be dealt with first. If the two of you have any urgent needs, they can be dealt with now as we prepare for the attack," she rationalized, "but if you two disagree, I would love to hear why," commenting with her usual grin.

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Turn 0 (Part 2 - The Southern Campaigns) - Year 735 - Early Spring

View attachment Corisia 2023-11-13-23-37.jpg

Civiceria Campaign

While the Civicerian Dominion is a titan of industry and trade in the southeast, and would have been a great challenger to Canar's power in this era if not for Briggun's takeover, the same cannot be said about its northern, colonial possession on Saarus' border. The land of Bolia is nothing but a colony, through and through, with slaves and settlers living uncomfortably under military rule while ruthlessly exploiting the natural resources in the area. Imperial traders who have crossed through the territory report that it is heavily defended, however, the Civicerians have carefully maneuvered their armies and rotated their commanders in such a way as to distort the actual numbers and personnel involved. One traveler even reported seeing a cohort of soldiers endlessly walking around the side of the same mountain in a single-file line, giving the impression that an entire legion was present. Moreover, the Civicerians have invested heavily in counterespionage, and have proven difficult and wily targets for Veno's spies.

===Allied Forces===

Estro Dorozan, The Wizard of Zo
Everywhere at Once // Symphony of War // Chessmaster
Location: Bone Coast
Strength: 3

Arcane Exchange - If Estro loses a battle against a foe with attack strategy C, battle is re-rolled once. (Unlimited Uses)
Recruit from Rhetoric - If using a card to influence a foe's territory outside of battle, gain 1 token. (Unlimited Uses)

Estro arrives in the Bone Coast in the wake of Alexandre's ride with his cultish followers and Imperial guardsmen and makes his headquarters in a town nearby the borders of Civieria and Piantia. Appropriating a large inn for the purpose of his cult's forward operating base, he begins to direct the disbursement of agents across the frontier, at positions where they might discretely cross the border and embed themselves within the Dominion and be mistaken for Piantian refugees. As there is less in the way of direct combat to prepare for, the Cult can afford to be slightly dormant at the moment until a proper opportunity unfolds. Estro, always proactive, begins examining opportunities outside of combat to influence the outcome of things.

The Reluctance of Bolia - Unlike most other territories on the border of Saarus, little is known of the defensive capabilities of the Civicerian Dominion's northern holdings, only that they are better armed and trained than Piantia's militias. However, one thing that is known, thanks to defectors and recently-escaped slaves, is that the Province of Bolia's residents are very worried about the presence of Izaak and Kolthix's armies right over the border, and would be unlikely to join in the defense of Piantia. Estro wonders what is making the Civicerians so cold to their neighbors, and what might lead to more refugees being taken in.
The Fortune Teller - Along the desolate roadway leading into this remote corner of the empire, Estro passed by a fortune teller's roadside stall, a strange little attraction without much evidence of actual magic at play. But since then, Estro has seen the same woman in his dreams and wonders what his sleep may be trying to tell him.

Piantia Campaign

Going their separate ways, Alexandre and Estro each arrive in the Bone Coast to prepare their southeastern offensives. The former plans to hack and slash her way in through the soft and ill-equipped army of the Piantian Oligarchy, while the latter wishes to take a more nuanced approach to undermine the enemy's unity and morale in the Civicerian Dominion. The weather in this area is warm and relatively dry, warning of a somewhat poor crop season. The people of both seaside powers will likely take to the water in search of good fishing instead, safely protected by the Piantian Navy at the strait. The Oligarchy does not seem to fully appreciate the dangers posed by the Imperial armies in its vicinity, and are struggling to raise more funds to pay for more soldiers, when the truth is that they should have been trained already; With who they are doomed to face, it is possibly too late to prepare, now.

===Allied Forces===

Alexandre, the Thirsting
Meals from the Field // The One and Only // Drenched in Death
Location: Bone Coast
Strength: 3

Blood Feast - If below strength 3, instantly regain 1 strength on victory. (Infinite Uses)
Cloak of Night - If opponent has planning type B, 1/2 chance of dealing two tokens of damage on victory. (Infinite Uses)

Rocher, with its hellish, accursed warriors, arrived at the border in a thunderous cavalry charge to find the enemy practically sleeping. The border, being made up of numerous small rivers and creeks, slightly inconvenient land formations, and artificial barriers such as walls, was really an imagined concept; a determined attacker would easily find dozens of points of entry, and there was little that the inadequate and very outdated fortresses of the Oligarchy could do to prevent their own encirclement. The Piantians seem to have realized this long ago, and so said fortresses are considerably undermanned, and the army forces in this frontier are made up of light brigades of spearmen and archers who are well-suited to holding ground, especially cavalry, but utterly incompetent at taking it. Obviously, a blind charge into Piantia would be costly, but with the Curse of the Vampyr allowing Alexandre and the Crimson Wolves to feast on the dead, it may not matter at all.

Firelight Megalith - An ancient structure of unknown origin is said to exist in the dry wasteland of Kaula, a collection of steles and dolmens which are built as a monument to some lost religion or truth. A few traitorous locals in Piantia have expressed the general location of this monument, and now Alexandre considers the time cost involved with seeking it out.
King's Crest - One of the old and crumbling fortresses on the border between Saarus and Piantia is known as "King's Crest" as it was the most impressive structure built by an ancient king of Kaula, before the existence of the Oligarchy. There are some who say that the King haunts this place to this very day. Alexandre wonders what sort of secrets such a phantom might be keeping.

Cordia Dis, Banshee Captain of the Butcher's Blade
Meals from the Field // Nothing is Safe // Drenched in Death
Location: Waters near Bone Coast
Strength: 3

Siren's Song - If attacking another sea-based opponent, has a 1/3 chance of stealing a token from her opponent ahead of an attack. (Infinite Uses)
Banshee's Scream - Can deal one token of damage every three turns. (Infinite Uses - Once Per Three Turns)

Cordia's ship departs from the Bone Coast and enters the open waters, passing by small masses of Imperial warships which begin to fall into a loose formation behind her, preparing to lend a hand should the Piantian Navy sail west to meet them. It isn't long before they spot small and nimble craft flying the red and white banners of the Oligarchy off in the distance, before they quickly dart away over the horizon. After a few trips to the southern coastlines to probe Piantian interests, it seems that the culture of the Oligarchy's navy is to be swift and avoid engagement as much as possible. Cordia begins to suspect that the Piantians won't act until their hand is forced, and in the meantime, Teralia is ripe for the taking. Circling the island at night, there is next to nothing formally guarding the trading post. With only a successful landing, Cordia reckons that she could take the city in a single attack.

Dashed on the Rocks - While exploring the waters around Teralia, the Butcher's Blade spots the remains of a mast poking out of the water near the large rocks off the uninhabited islands only a few miles from the trade port. Cordia is tempted to get a closer look.
Marooned - A column of smoke rises from a small island in the sea, far from all civilization and barely more than a sandbar. Cordia considers diverting to investigate, but has little time to waste.

===The Enemy===

Ashryn, the Dark Heart of the Southern Sea
Everywhere at Once // Nothing is Safe // Break Their Spirits
Location: Teralia
Strength: 1

The Dark Heart's Hand - On any victory, Ashryn gains a token, in addition to her opponent losing one. (Unlimited Uses)

Ashryn, a drow necromancer, has been a patron of Teralia for years, slowly honing her craft and building a fortune by extracting a "tax" of sorts from traders who stop by the island. Local authorities, if there are such a thing in Teralia, are terrified of her and treat her as above reproach. There has long been a suspicion that Ashryn would soon join Briggun's ranks due to her reputation, but surprisingly, she seems utterly opposed to the idea and refuses to elaborate to anyone who asks. With all else who might have stood their ground having fled the island years ago, Ashryn remains the only obstacle that a landing party would need to face, but she and her undead army may prove to be a more difficult one to clear than anyone anticipates...

Jakabo Gratini, The White Eagle
To Weather the Storm // A Master of the Art // Never Surrender
Location: Kaula
Strength: 3

Jakabo, a former mercenary and albino, came to Kaula in the years before Briggun's ascent in order to retire somewhere more peaceful than Petrata, where he had spent most of his life guarding against a Weildach incursion. Over his long career, he overcame others' reservations about his appearance to climb the ranks, becoming an accomplished commander and achieving more for the Oligarchy's defense than many of their full-time generals had done. Now in his 70s, he suddenly finds himself the territory's most trusted and experienced leader on the land, and has been asked by local leaders to whip the militias into shape to hold off an attack by Saarus. Despite the long odds, Jakabo believes he is up to the task. He knows that the enemy will probably be overly-aggressive and will suffer losses against his soldiers if he can goad them into fighting the fights he wants them to fight. As Briggun sends riders from Rocher, Jakobo smiles; the gods may have cursed him with an unwinnable war, but also rewarded him with the very opponent he hoped to face, giving him his best chance of going out gloriously.

Sirius "Cutlass" Bandolo, Torpedo of the Piantian Strait
Liberate the Materiel // A Master of the Art // Never Surrrender
Location: Waters near Kaula
Strength: 4

Cutlass Bandolo, a wily young privateer working in service to the Oligarchy, has been a major headache for Briggun the entirety of this past decade. Beginning when he was merely the captain of a single vessel, Cutlass managed to board and appropriate eight merchant vessels in a single month of frantic activity when it seemed as if Saarus was going to push beyond the Bone Coast and into Kaula. He did this while evading the famed and terrifying Captain Cordia, helping to build a mythos of his impossibility to catch. Since then, he became the commander of a group of vessels, and then eventually, the leader of Piantia's famed navy, one of the strongest in the world. While Briggun has made several attempts to force his Imperial Vessels through the strait, each time, Cutlass has inflicted an embarrassing loss, and has escaped before retribution could arrive. The people love him, and treat him as an unkillable folk hero. Under it all, however, is a man who feels as if karma has been winding up a sledgehammer of a punch, and it will meet him square on the jaw and repay him for all the undue kindness he has received so far. With rumbles of all-out-war in the near future, he silently worries that the moment has finally come.

Sandach Campaign

Sandach: a nation of heretics. That is the summary the patriarchs of Weildach would give for their lost colony, whom were welcomed to join the peace agreement which gave rise to the Theocracy, but rejected it for the sake of vengeance. Sandach is, or at the very least once was, one of the most beautiful pieces of land on the continent when the colony was formed. After numerous conflicts with old Canar, the Kingdom of Oberngenia had fortified it to an extreme degree, giving it high walls, numerous canals and locks, and castles for the land's defense, but that was then, and this is now. Sandach cannot possibly hope to keep Briggun at bay with their eroding and rusted fortifications, and while they have a respectable army of their own, to meet their end against the forces of Canar would be an ignoble end which defeats the purpose of rebelling against the rest of Weildach in the first place: their everlasting mission to return home, across the Southern Sea, and unite their people under the True Gods of the Sandach Pantheon.

===Allied Forces===

Veno Dilach, The Black Rose
Everywhere at Once // Symphony of War // Break Their Spirits
Location: Canar
Strength: 3

Shapeshifter - Veno can attempt negotiation multiple times against targets who already distrust her. (Infinite Uses)
Mindbreaker - Without wards, targets can suffer possession, amnesia, or disability if they trust or negotiate with Veno. (Infiinite Uses - Once Per Three Turns)

One benefit of selecting Sandach as a target is that Veno did not need to relocate, as all of the other commanders had done. From her tower in Caneresch Castle, she is able to coordinate the movement of her spies and her Imperial army to strategic positions near the border with Sandach. Slowly, her agents will leech in, finding their places among the unwitting, and then, Veno will have the opportunity to carry out the Dark Lord's will, offering Sandach the chance to join the great offensive against Weildach, their reward for which being the reclamation of their ancestral lands.

Reading the Lore - While delving into the scriptures of false religions is not a task that Veno enjoys, it nonetheless gives valuable insight into the mentality of foreign nations and makes her a better spy. Now, a large case of books has arrived at Veno's door, and she wonders whether spending a few weeks reading might be the best use of her time, for now.
Making a Withdrawal - Veno is informed that her spies have caught the trail of Sandach's treasurers, presenting an opportunity to get acquainted with the republic's finances.

===The Enemy===

Swybeck Argnault, the Titan of the Temple
Everywhere at Once // Symphony of War // Drenched in Death
Location: Sandach
Strength: 3

After the small, seaside republic announced its alliance with Lord Briggun, much of the old guard of the local military resigned in protest. After a few made the perilous journey to the Strait of Oberngenia and attempted to cross, wild accusations of betrayal and subterfuge were afoot, and Swybeck, then a young man at arms for the country's leadership, was sent to claim the heads of former generals and their lieutenants. After the grizzly business was done, he returned home to find the Republic in sore need of new military leadership, and with his recent victories, legends began to spread of his supposed military prowess. The rundowns he had overseen against isolated, fleeing targets suddenly became pitched battles between loyalists and traitors in the public's imagination, and Swybeck was thrust into the spotlight. With little strategic knowledge, he has surrounded himself with those he could find to help him, and now seeks to defend, or perhaps expand, Sandach's territory using the usual, brutal methods.
Falwyn flew through the air free cutting through the wind free. Others built monuments reaching to the sky, but this was her domain. She looked below and saw her banners proudly bearing golden banners of the Dragonlord. It made her proud how her men kept up their moral, reveling in life with their own traditions. They were her treasures, and she encouraged them to indulge in life's pleasures. it was was to her dismay how this land had been crushed. What once had been flowing with commerce and the varying kingdoms, their lineages, their ideals, all had been lost under the boot of Saarus. She often wondered if things would have differed if she had played a more active roll instead of being content in her luxury. Still she had made her choices then and now was forced into the role of conquerer. Falwyn hoped that when she ruled these lands that they adapted to her new rule, but kept their own traditions. Another unique addtion to her treasured collection.

From her vantage she saw the flowing tears of the vale which seemed to lead from one spring into one of the greatest rivers of Everan beyond. Could it be possible to stop the flow? Or widen it causing a flood. Her curiosity on the matter ignited ideas, however both methods seemed cruel to the people of Ysaval. They would be her people, a diaster would not be productive to a land under her domain.

As night approached she landed as her men set up camp. It was an air of confidence. Some of her men even had family among the local Ostmajorian populations and had come to visit. A site of revelries were had with music echoed throughout the camp. Lutes played the tales of the various histories of the men. Falwyn relaxed in her human form partaking in a local vintage of wine with her spymaster Linota Zinres approached "We hear tales of a prince who has survived the fall. I figured the man may be of intrest to you. A half-elf whose kingdoms crown never fell to the wrath of Briggun." Falwyn would smile as she wrapped her arm around the back of Linota "Intriguing indeed, assign some of your men to it. The advance among Ysaval must come first, but after we may prehaps find this prince." She would then move to place a peck upon the lips of her most treasured prize. She would protect these people, her collection.

After a night of excess with tales of the prince who had escaped Saarus's grasp on being sung in an almost heretrical fashion she would move to her chambers carrying the drunken Linota with her in stupor. As she reached the inside of her chamber and tossed Linota onto the bed ready to coutninue her indulgence she was disturbed by Mia Levoran. She had recruited the canarian woman to manage her collection and she had a talent for divination. Presently the woman who she normally found to have cute blush was instead flustered for another reason. "Falwyn.." She stuttered, "I can't see them... my divinations, whenever I look, I see only darting movements. I can't pinpoint the enemy" Falwyn considered the matter with her smile changing to a frown as she began to worry. They were going to conduct a war of tircks it seemed. Then remembered that she shouldn't seem weak, weakness would make her treasures begin to doubt her. "Don't worry dear Mia. I will route out these cowards who hide amongst the thickets with fires who will make it seem as if they have been banished to the hells." She would go over giving the almost sobbing Mia a hug, "Do not trouble yourself with these worries."

The next day the advance would begin upon the province of Ysaval. And the hubris of Falwyn was shown most prominently. Her men initally advacned almost untouched the banner of the dragon flying proudly. Once they had reached to deeply into the vipers den Kande sprung his trap. Arrowfire launched down upon them through the right flank. Falwyn responded in kind with launching into action with claws tearing apart the flesh of the men and scorching them with firery breath anihalating the pocket of men as they fled in diffrent directions. But the echoes of her men behind her cried out in pain. She tore threw tp another pocket , but every time it seemed the damage she did was found to be only a diversion.

When she flew up to gain vantage the brushes of the forests clouded her vision. And most importantly the enemy didn't focus on her. It avoided her and took her treasures, one-by-one. Her Marshal Titus Dawnguard would sound the horns for retreat and Falwyn began to use herself as a sheild. Throwing her body inbetween volleys of arrows as the forest seemed to have sorounded her banners of gold and drowned them. Then she saw him... The Viper. His eyes focused, full of passion, intense in his operations. The defender of Ysaval. A hero, she yearned for him even as he tore apart her own men, and just as quickly as he appeared he vanished. As her forces finally broke free from the woods she finally snapped back to the reality of what had happened. A third of her forces, wiped out in the forest just like that. The viper had taken many she held dearly, all in a noble defense, fearless against a dragon. She would not underestimate him again. She swore that as she her eyes darted among her remaining forces. Their spirits broken as they retreated having to leave behind many of those who they had been in reverly with the night before. She would need to reconsider, and the creeping thought in her mind of the wrath of Briggun began to trouble her.
Damian0358 Damian0358 Sona Radar Sona Radar

Cpmpared to many other races, Sauroids were effected by the bitter cold in strange ways. Physically they were just fine, but sticking around for too long mellowed their minds, grinding every thought down to a much slower pace. It was part of the reason why Boroks delegation arrived carrying heavy torches and pots filled with flaming concoctions smelling of tar. Their somber procession lighting the darkened sky in orange as Borok stepped from between his armored anvil guard to meet with his fellow invaders.

It had not gone unnoticed that Voyka liked to hold the reins and dictate the proceedings. She had set up the meeting, chosen time and place and was now the first to speak, guiding everything into paths she must have carefully prepared. Under different circumstances, Borok would have played the diplomatic game differently, but with the eyes of their Dark Lord Briggun undoubtetly watching the Erevan campaign with great interest, he would cooperate more with surface-dwellers.

As the great hag spoke, Borok listened, quietly shifting around a small pile of glowing coals in his hands, keeping him warmer. "I agree with your deliberations. It would be wise to hold our hands for now.", he got straight to the point, taking a pause to look between Voyka and Yz. He still couldnt read the latter at all, which bothered him slightly. Their tactics didnt seem to align and Yz could be a total wildcard, which would certainly be helpful once their forces could unleash upon the Elves, but right now it seemed like they had to make sure to have Yz on board with the plan. "We can use the time for further preparations. The tunnels will be made safer, as we bide our time, not one claw will be idle.", he kept it short and simple, but there was much more behind his words.

The others werent to know, but through their eager diggings, the Sauroids had stumbled upon something quite remarkable. It was always a good idea to keep the tunnels free from surprises, but this time, Borok would have to deal with something his people didnt usually prepare for. "Thieves, you say? You better make an example of them. Our tunnels can provide safe passage for supplies and armies, as we control the entry points, but anything that is lost before entering... well, we cannot control that.", his focus quickly shifted back to the conversation at hand, lest anyone notice that he wasnt being entirely honest. "Who would even dare such a thing?", he growled with contempt. The peasants must have gotten truly desperate or perhaps Voyka didnt command enough fear among them? Professional saboteurs were another option and the only one he decided to mention. "You must deal with this issue quickly, perhaps our foes arent as blind to our presence as we presume...", was once again a very short answer, before the Runesmith turned his attention to Yz, looking them up and down. "I agree with staying put and waiting for message of Falwyns approach before we strike. But what do you say?"
The warrior-mage left the Emperor's court that day with his orders in tow, it took half a day for him to return to his dwellings, but even so made haste to return to work. A great structure of grey stone sat upon the head of the valley, framing the Voivode's village below it. Twin spires with black-tipped roofs jutted, stabbing at the sky. The portcullis, clean and gleaming against the afternoon's sun, were raised open. The inside of courtyard was bustling with activity. Serfs, a hundred or so, from the chief-coordinators to manacled slaves, were undertaking the necessary preparation of Izaak's soldiers; from sharpening spears to inspecting armor, inspected by dignified artisans — those privileged few, elevated by value, to not be shackled like dogs. Along with all the armoury-necessities, stable hands and horse-trainers tending to the needs of the horses and cavalry riders in Izaak's employ.

Then all fell silent upon the thunderous tread of a skeletal feet, and rolling wheels racing down the flagstone street. The cabin was gloomy. A solid box of dark wood and darker iron, its sloping ends curved up, body laced an ornate floral-pattern of gleaming gold. Its wheels ground to a halt, dirtied by mud and chipped at certain points, the carriage was well-used. The interior, however, was rugged with hard seats with contours that made it uncomfortable for most occupants, making it well removed from the haughty world of soft leather and highly-coveted wood that nobles were familiar. It was to Izaak's preference.

He had emerged from the cabin, pausing to observe his hard-work before him. The sun picked out the wicked edges of his bone-plate armour, a few of the serfs visibly blanched, still uneasy at the sight. He came down the wooden steps and onto the beaten flagstone path. He passed through them, occasionally shifting his head to observe them. The loud chatter from moments ago, the counting, the orders, the reprimands were hushed to meek whispers, like the mourning wind which moaned through a graveyard. The footmen amongst them stood at attention, the younger ones had eyes that gleamed of purpose and prideful loyalty, while the older looked weary and hardened, skin pockmarked with scars from previous battles.

Two figures awaited Izaak's approach on the far end, upon raised steps to the castle's great set of thick wooden doors emblazoned with Izaak's signature — a black iron gauntlet ontop crossbones. The right figure was a particularly broad knight, clad in soft trousers and a deep-red gambeson. At his waist, a simple longsword dangled in a brown scabbard. His smooth skin was pale as alabaster, easily burnt by the sun, even whiter than that of Izaak. Eyes were as green as the grass around the castle, while his ginger, long hair tied up in a rough ponytail that reached to his collar. His face was lean, angular, and cruel. To his left hand stood a woman, shorter than either men and slender too, with jet hair let down to her shoulders. Where the knight's skin was fair, the woman's was puckered with scars and a shade or two darker from exposure. She wore a loose-fitting dress, adorned with runic and arcane symbols, a thick collar of white fur from a predator's hide, her hand gripping a stave with an emerald eye.

"Antonas. Demetra." The Voivode of Skulls greeted his lieutenants. The woman bowed with her finger tips pinching the waist of her dress, while the man sketched a greeting sign upon his chest.
"Preparations are nearly complete, m'lord. Emil's message arrived swiftly." Demetra spoke softly in his presence. "Yet I do not see the chamberlain with you."
"He requested a detour. I granted it." The mage nodded her head, before Antonas voice filled the air.
"Yes, yes, understandable. But what is not, is this selection of yours." Antonas spoke brusquely. "It is terrible enough that we, your troops, must weather the harsh-scorching temperatures, and we'll be assaulted by the Sultanate's warriors. I, for one, do not wish to be belted by the full weight of commerce and coin." Antonas trailed off. Neither Izaak nor Demetra spoke. Both looked at him. The silence and stares made the knight wince, he'd been making a fool of himself, putting the needs of himself through the guise of others above the orders of his lord. Bowing his head shamefully, he went down on one knee. "Apologies, master, as you wish, master."

Izaak nodded once and turned his back, diverting his attention to the preparations before him. "At my estimates, we should be ready to depart soon." "Good. Your duties have been satisfactorily." The mage woman smiled, while Izaak held both hands behind his back.


The journey was simple, long, and ultimately, uneventful. The train of caravans and carriages marched unstoppably towards their goal, an ivory and obsidian wave. The ghastly and ghoulish shock troopers in Izaak's ranks drew frightened glances whenever they passed through the Empire's cities. Strangely, during the travel, Izaak had found himself pondering on the fate of his own would-be empire, had Briggun not existed to bind Izaak's ambitions and forces in servitude. An odd thought, of all things, perhaps the Iron lattice which bites into his chest and arms seeks to destabilize him or these were truly his own thoughts. Regardless of the perfidy of his mind, the Voivode admitted that it could still be possible to rule these lands again.

Several nights into their travels, Rosach and his men rested by a serene lake, crystal and clear as a summer's morning. Initially, he thought nothing of it until the men, flesh and blood as they were, drank from the font and their dreams were melded together, a unified vision of sorts. He counted blessings that the lake did not curse them with waking nightmares. He would return, or plans on it, to investigate the phenomenon of this lake. It could prove useful.

Izaak had also found himself intrigued by a jutting shadow over the mountains. It was too structured to be the sun casting down a mountain's peak, there was something, a tower most likely, on Gantar's side that must be scouted out. He circled where the tower could be on the map, narrowing the area down using the shadow's length.

The troops were not expecting immediate hostilities at Gantar's border, but were prepared for it nonetheless. What Izaak's army found, however, was Kolthix' shadeling army approaching to greet them. Excellent, Izaak allowed a dry smile to part his features. The army of men and skeletons diverted slightly from their course to be closer to them. A few of the men were unsettled by the hunger of the living shades though far apart they were, but discipline and doctrine masked their unease. While the skeletal shock troopers, with their sockets dead and soulless, could not be bothered nor were they capable of such emotions.

Izaak dismounted his steed and began walking over to meet with Kolthix in the middle of the space between the armies, all the way ordering for his army to slow down with a hand gesture. Behind him, trailed that hound of his, petite but in life, it hunted badgers as it's vocation, engaging in vicious tunnel combat.

He stopped a few feet away from Kolthix, as the Cackler spoke to him in a voice befitting a creature twice or triple his size. He did not know whether the creature does that intentionally or a byproduct of his immense power being stuffed in the diminutive package, regardless he extended a greeting. He slammed a clenched fist against his chest, gauntlet ringing against plate as if both were metal.

"Indeed, Cackler. Even here, I see the ferocity in your army. Their mood appears to be a bloody one." Izaak commented, the cape of muscle fibre flapping against the groaning wind. "There shall be sport here. For both of us." He continued, his icy words hanging in the air. Todor, his hound, clapped its jaw in joy.

Vexumin Vexumin (Kolthix)
As the scouting parties returned to the war camp, Adanach rode by a narrow stream towards the lone shack he had seen in the distance. The goblin woman living there must have noticed him several miles away, but did nothing about it. He stopped his horse halfway there, looking at his surroundings to make sure there were no enemies nearby, but the only thing surrounding him was the Goblin highlands. When Adanach approached her, she didn't acknowledge his presence, instead to focusing on the fresh boar she just hunted, this allowed him to look at the shack and her meager possessions.

The shack itself was properly built despite, made entirely out of scavenged wood, most likely gathered from small incursions into the Malenchanted Woods. The roof was made out thatch, now covered in green moss and grass, indicating she has been here for a while now. Adanach then looked at the goblin woman, who was now gutting the boar... She wore simple clothes made out of flax with goblin patterns, she also possessed a lot of jewelry, too much for a lone goblin woman living in the middle of nowhere, her woad tattoos implied a much nobler origin as well. She wasn't some random goblin, she used to be someone at some point.

"Hmm... Yer gonna keep ignoring me, lass?" Asked Adanach, but the goblin remain uninterested in him, that's when Adanach noticed she made a bad cut on the pig, damaging the valuable hide. "...If yer gonna keep ignoring me, at least cut the pig properly... from the neck to... there." Adanach pointed at a section of the animals belly. The goblin stopped gutting the pig, letting out a frustrated sigh before turning her gaze to Adanach, finally acknowledging him. "...Are ye Fianna, stranger? The only humans that come to Mors Gobonach are Fianna... or the Luchthonn... are ye a Wolfling? Here to rob me or worse... take advantage of me?" She asked with distinctive bitterness in her voice. The Fianna are the closest thing to a holy order the Druadach have, they are zealot warriors who fight in protection of the Old Gods of the Druadach, but are also known to fight in other realms, mostly to protect small temples and communities considered "pagan" by bigger religious organizations. The Luchthonn on the other hand, were bandits who donned the hides of wolves or werewolves, going around the Druadach and beyond, raiding and killing with complete disregard of traditions, for wolves have no traditions.

"I'm a devout follower of the Old Gods, but I am no Fianna... nor am I a wolfing, I raid and pillage, aye, but for my tribe as a whole, yer safe with me, as long as ye respect me." The goblin let out a chuckle and smiled upon hearing that. "Neither Fianna nor Wolfing, why should I respect ye then? Dead man walkin' in goblinland!" She said with a rather cocky grin, Adanach laughed as well, amused by the little womans confidence. "Woman, I lead three thousand warriors from all corners of the Druadach! Do I look like a mere man to ye?" The woman stops gutting the boar to look at Adanach from head to toe, and then shrugs. "Aye, ye look like every other human I've known, tall and ugly!" Adanach cocked his head to the side. "Hmph, ya got a sharp tongue for a lone woman livin' in the middle of nowhere." He muttered. "It takes great strength to live in these lands alone, stranger! The Gods, who I thought once had abandoned me, are blessing me with good health, good hunting, and good fortune!"

Adanach crossed his arms, looking at his surroundings again, noticing various fetishes hanging from the thatched roof of her shack... Nilbog, Leprech, Marathi, Nuna, etc. symbols of the Goblin and Druadach gods. "...Who are ye, woman? Are ye a wise druid? a witch? Is this yer temple?" The goblin woman let out a cackle upon hearing that, she stabbed her boars head then crossed her arms, her toothy grin growing wider, "Me? a witch?! HAH! Nay, I'm neither of those, I'm just a lonely woman."

Adanach couldn't help but to feel disappointed upon hearing that. He was hoping to find a mystic or wise druid that could grant him strength, not some hermit or outcast. "...but who are ye, stranger?" She asked, her eyes looking straight into Adanach's, who pondered whether he should answer or not, after all, was she even worth his time anymore? But he decided to humor her, as he liked her attitude. "...Adanach, son of the Druadach." She scoffed, and grinned upon hearing his moniker. "Bit pretentious innit? We are all children of the Druadach!" Adanach chuckled in response. "I have great plans, goblin. As I've said, I lead three thousand warriors from all corners of the Druadach, and I plan to unite our lan-" His answer was cut short as the goblin woman started to smugly laugh at his. "Oh ho ho ho! A visionary are ye? Ye want to unite the lands, like the Druadach kings of ancient times like Vergotix, Asterix and Rorix? Ya think yerself a King, Adanach son of the Druadach? In a land that hates kings?! Oh ho ho ho ho!" Adanach did not know how to react to this mockery or the comparison to the ancient kings of a once unified Druadach, all he could think of is why wasn't she intimidated by him? He was bigger, certainly stronger and better armed than she was, the only weapons she seemed to have are the dagger she's using to butcher the boar, and a bow that rested on the ground next to her, he could easily kill her or make a slave out of her, but she was not intimidated at all. "Hmph... I told ya who I am, and who I will be... but what are ye? Who are ye who so brazenly mocks a man that can destroy everything ye owns?" The goblin kept smiling, but her tone was serious. "...I am someone who already lost everything to the machinations of a petty warlord, I mock ya because ya don't scare me, Adanach son of the Druadach." Adanach clenched his fists and bared his fangs for a moment. "Answer my damn question, woman!" He shouted, the woman's smile grew wider, but realized Adanach was close to snapping.

"I am Leena, daughter of Grom... who once led five hundred warriors, warriors that now follow the man I was married to, the man who now litters the highland with corpses... I once was the favorite wife of Faska." She spat on the ground upon mentioning his name, but the revelation calmed Adanach almost entirely. "Hmph, guess that explains all the jewelry and tattoos, ye were once someone... but why cast ye aside?" Adanach looked at the goblin woman for a moment before making a wolfish grin. "Ya certainly a looker still." Leena grunted. "Keep yer eyes to yerself, twat!" Adanach chuckled before squatting down, looking only to at Leena's eyes. "As ye wish... but why are ye here... and not in that twats tent?" Leena looked away for a moment, Adanach noticed she was caressing her belly.

"There's something wrong with me... I can't b-b..." She muttered, Adanach stopped her. "...I understand." He muttered, offering her the closest thing to a sympathetic look. "I thought that Marathi had cursed me, Adanach, I thought the gods had forsaken me because I was weak!" She looked down at the bow next to her. "I tried everything to... be normal, and I got nothing... when Faska butchered Otor, he had gained the power to do anything he wants without any regard of our traditions... he... he expelled me from the tribe, he humiliated me, the daughter of a great warrior! And nobody did anything! He did not even enslave me, he thought I was so weak, that I was beneath the slaves." Leena was on the verge of tears. "...what hurts more is that... I actually loved that stupid bastard, I thought he was destined to be great! For Nilbog's sake, I told him to duel Otor! But instead of thanking me, he casted me aside and now sleeps with hundreds of women who are not cursed like me!" Leena clenched her fists, Adanach could see the hate on her eyes.

Adanach sighed, before getting back up. "...Ye said it takes great strength to live on this land on yer own, yer right about that, but why not take that strength against Faska? Why are ye here living like a hermit instead of taking the fight to him?" Leena scoffed. "I am a devout follower of Nilbog!" She pointed at the fetish of Nilbog hanging from her roof. "His songs granted me the will to keep on living, to keep on fighting and growing stronger!" She shouted proudly. "But he looks down on recklessness! If I were to charge Faska while he's surrounded by his warriors, I'll die for nothing, and the god of bards will not even sing a sad song about my life! I will get my revenge, I will fight him no matter what, but I will be more clever and cunning than he ever was!" She grinned again. "I've been tracking him... and his sons, for quite a while now... I just need the right moment to strike."

Adanach smiled with her, she was strong alright, perhaps not like him, but her trails have made her stronger mentally and physically, she had been wronged, and planned to get back at Faska for leaving her with nothing. "Hmm... ye impress me, Leena... say, why don't ye come with me... me and my wife could use another concubine." Leena stopped smiling with Adanach and grunted. "Tsk, yer a twat, Adanach son of the Druadach." She said while grabbing the dagger off the boars head and focused on the beasts carcass again. Adanach grinned. "Fair enough, but you know what else I could use? A strong woman who has hunting and tracking skills... someone who has knowledge of my enemy." Leena stopped looking at the carcass, but did not look at Adanach. "...I plan to first have a talk with Faska, I want to unite the Druadach without spilling much blood, but if he refuses me... rest assured, I'll allow you to have your vengeance." Leena grinned, but kept looking away. "...yer foolish if you think ye can trust Faska." Adanach nodded. "I agree, so I could use an extra set of eyes looking over him, should he agree to join me." Leena lets out a frustrated sigh, before looking at Adanach. "Ye will get yer revenge, I promise you that, but ye will have better chances in my army, then here on yer own."

The goblin remained silent for a minute, her eyes gazing at the highlands surrounding them. She then looked at her humble hut, at her meager weapons... "Fine, I'll join ye, but under two conditions! First, I'll have my revenge, even if he actually helps ye!" Adanach nodded. "As soon as I deem him useless, and I can ensure the stability of Mors Gobonach, yer free to gut him like that boar." Leena squinted her eyes for a moment. "...Fine, and secondly... help me pack my things... Warchief..."

A few days later...

The guards posted at the entrance of the war camp sounded the Carnyx when they saw the messenger they had sent to Faska's tribe arrive. The warrior was covered in blood and had a few minor wounds but did not ask for healing, instead, he asked for the warchief, and when told he was in the tent for the concubines, he rushed towards the tent.

It was tradition for great Druadach warriors to have concubines and Adanach was not the exception to this, but what does differentiate him from other chieftains is that he and his wife share these concubines, some tribes have the chief and chieftess have individual tents for their concubines, in some tribes women are not allowed to have concubines at all, but Adanach and Bjorga seemed to enjoy lascivious activities together as husband and wife. Inside the concubine tent, were several men and women who the couple had taken a fancy to, they were quite diverse in looks but they were all beautiful in a savage, tribal way.

As Adanach relaxed in bathtub, Bjorga laid on a couple of hides and talked with a rather petite Elf-Cyrmm woman. When the messenger entered unannounced, she was the first one to get up and grab her weapon, but upon noticing it was messenger and not some assassin, Bjorga threw the weapon away and slapped at her husbands feet, awakening him from his relaxing shower. "What's the matter love?" He asked before he saw the messenger, upon noticing the warrior's wounds, the chieftain got off the bathtub and walked towards him. "Did Faska harm ye, brother?" The messenger shaked his head. "Ney, my chief, I was attacked by a Barghest on my way to our camp." said the messenger. "Killed the beast and skinned it, it's black fur sits on my steed, I wish to give it to ya once I tend to my wounds."

"Good man," Adanach said as he patted the warriors shoulder. "But did ye meet with Faska? and... did ya look at his tribe?"

"Aye, I did chief - the Bloody Bastard rules from a walled tower, he has thousands of goblins living under his rule... I did not see the full extend of his warband, but I believe he has about two thousand warriors, mostly skirmishers armed equipped with simple weapons, but undoubtedly, they are clever warriors." Bjorga approached the messenger and her husband to better listen to this information. "Did he agree to a meeting, messenger?" She asked, and the messenger nodded. "Aye, he wishes to meet the chief and chieftess in the Cloch na Ríthe, in a day or two." Adanach smirked upon hearing the location they would meet. "...the Stone of Kings." Adanach knew how clever Faska is, and had to be cautious in this meeting, but based on the location, and it's historical importance in Mors Gobonach, he thought of two possibilities; either Faska wants Adanach to admit he is King of the Goblins, or is more than willing to accept Adanach's rule as Warchief as long as he gets profits... or perhaps he has other intentions, only time will tell.

Two days later...


Adanach and Bjorga both looked at the lone rock standing in the middle of the highlands, covered in runes and paintings depicting various members of the Goblin and Druadach pantheon, but on top was the bardic god Nilbog, only the cunning goblin god can sing the song of Kings. There was a strong, almost magical essence surrounding this natural monolith, and the coupled admired with pride, for even the squalid lands of Mors Gobonach had a proud history. As the couple wait by the rock, they noticed a lone horseman approach them in the distance. "It's him." muttered Adanach. Indeed, riding on top of a fearsome war horse, approached the tall, lean but muscular Faska the Bloody Bastard, a grin adorning his face as he approached the Stone of Kings.
As the Butcher's blade sailed the sea, Cordia did not sit idle and ocassionally replace Sawtooth on the captain's wheel. There were reports to look over, strength to amass and pick the right people to captain her ships. The Coven of the deep was her own project that aided her during her time as one of the living, so her return would mark its return as well. But such an undertaking needed talent. Upira was the first in this new Coven. Her talents in necromancy would prove instrumental, but she was not enough. This Ashryn presented an opportunity. A drow with the talents of necromancy? Uripa might have competition to push her harder.

Then there was the other upstart. Sirius. Dear little Sirius now calls himself The Cutlass. Cordia remembered the fresh faced little runt with his small vessel. How he evaded her grasp at every turn along with his loyal crew of misfits. He was fighting under a different banner now and made a name for himself by fighting back Briggun's forces. A folk tail had spun around him and was giving people hope. Something Cordia planned to snuff out when the time comes.

There were other promising leads they could follow. They were tempting diversions to take, but Cordia had to remind herself that she needed to secure their sea dominance first and foremost. Other adventures would have to wait for now.

"LAND HO, CAPTAIN!" The ghoul nailed to the crow's nest bellowed and pointed towards the direction of the landmasses he spotted. The captain of the Butcher's blade let go of the wheel so she could take a look through her spyglass. The mysts parted only for a short while so she could see. The islands of Teralia had enjoyed relative independence from imperial incursion and her own wrath. A fate they should consider fortunate that lasted so long considering how close they stood to every other port and how many trade routes passed through them.

"Looks like you were right, Uripa." Cordia spoke as she scouted the shores. "Skeletons, zombies, ghouls and the odd mishapen creature here and there."

"Ashryn is talented." The 'noblewoman' spoke "Her hourse is a lower one, but she has held a firm grip of these islands for a number of years. Gathering tribute in many forms. Either coin or flesh. You can see the results."

"That I do." Cordia collapsed the spyglass in her hands and put it back in the pocket of her coat. "Now then. We need to make this victory quick and not give her a chance to use her magic against us." She turned her head to Sawtooth. "Give the order to the rest of the fleet." Cordia made a circular motion with her hand. "I want us to circle the island a few times. Fire off a few shots if you have to. Draw as big of a crowd as you can. Once we sturred enough trouble, prepare for landfall."

"You want to prepare the boyz for a big fight, captin?" Sawtooth cracked his large neck.

"Don't expect too big of a fight Crassus." The banshee looked towards Teralia again. "I don't want to get their hopes up for nothing. Wouldn't be fun crushing them this time."

The plan went into motion as the Butcher's blade started to circle the main island followed by the imperial ships. The black sails and Cordia's flag was enough to raise an alarm and soon every bell was ringing. The trade vessels at the docks raised anchor and in desperation tried to escape. It proved to be a mistake as Cordia's ships saw an opportunity to increase their crews. The banshee captain could spare a few ships to break off to have their fun.

As the boarding parties descented on their prey, the main force aimed their cannons and fired on anything that looked important. Villas, barracks, the governor's mansion. The shots were not going to destroy and obliterate those targets, but they would inflict insulting wounds. An audacity that should not go unanswered. Something Cordia knew a noble no matter of their standing, could not resist. A sinister smile formed on her face as she could see the defenders scramble to put up a fight.

After another circle was complete and another round of shots blasted their way through, Ashryn finally showed herself. A vanguard of death knights had surrounded the necromancer, likely ancient corpses of glory seekers that tried to cleanse these islands of piracy in the past. Along with them a force of assorted undead both old and new had joined to form the bulwark of defense of this island had to offer. It was obvious that whatever living town guard existed, were merely there to keep the civilians in check. Yet they also marched with her.

Sawtooth jumped in the water and soon was followed by the rest of the raiders. As he made it to the sandy shores, a group of undead were there ready to greet him. He laughed as he broke every bone he could and crushed every skull in his palm. Ripping and tearing through the zombies and ghouls. If they were meant to soften the pirates up, then they failed spectacurally. But the main force was still marching against them.

Ashryn's forces were ready to charge the pirates. She gave the orders and the cacaphony of screams and roars was heard across the shores of the island. Too late they would notice the pirate raiders were grouped up in a particular way. One would assume for them not to be hit by the Butcher's blade cannons, but Cordia had prepared a surprise. There needs to be a show of force against those who would dare stand against Briggun. The banshee parted her lips and let out a screech not heard for centuries. The sonic waves cut through flesh and bone, scattering the main force to pieces. Not even the heavy knights could stand up to the force as the insides of the armor now held the torn flesh like cans of meat. Those not caught in the main blast were now dissoriented and confused. The undead were falling appart as the magic keeping them up was wanning. Cordia had struck their master.

As for the living, they were beset upon by the raiders. The captain said they wouldn't have much of a fight. She never said anything about them not enjoying themselves.

Some time later after the battle, Cordia was in her cabin when she heard the knock.

"Come in." She said with an hoarse voice. She poured herself some tea as Crassus and Uripa led a few of her pirates inside. The crewmen were carrying someone on a stretcher. "I see you found her." Cordia commented after drinking from her cup "Did she survive?"

"Barely." Uripa motioned for the crew to put the body of Ashryn down, then dismissed them. "The scream did a number on her. She wasn't dead center, but the blast took off her arm clean off the shoulder. Ruptured ear drums and internal bleeding if I have to guess where all the other blood is coming from. Still contious somehow."

"Could cut 'er open to be sure."

"No need Crassus." Cordia waved him off as he prepared a knife. "She's more useful alive." Cordia walked over to the drow woman's body, examening the damage she had inflicted. "Oh you poor soul. Fate had conspired to put you in this position." Cordia took another sip from her tea. "I suffer too you know. That scream wreacks havoc on my throat." She could feel the drow's eyes weekly follow her. "But yet I am here victorious while you lay at my feet. Dying and afraid. And what did you do to deserve such a cruel end? Be at the wrong place at the wrong time." Cordia knelled down in order to get a better look. "By all accounts you shouldn't even be able to hear me, yet my words pierce your mind don't they? You understand what I'm telling you." To Uripa's surprise, the other drow weakly nodded. The sea witch was invoking some kind of magic. "Then you understand that in your state you can't do much. So how about we make a deal you and I." The captain motioned with her finger between them. "I am in need of capable people in this armada I'm building. Triggun's men are competent, but they're not blessed with the affinity us three share." Another motion with her finger "You held an entire independant sea nation together before we smashed it and you're not on my list. So how's about it? You pledge your servituted to me and I not only get you back on your feet, but put you in an arguably better position?"

Uripa was shocked at the proposal Cordia had just given this dying woman. She was ready to argue, but Ashryn had nodded weakly again. Cordia stood up, finished her tea and ignored the ship phisician's attempts to say anything. The captain had made her decision. She walked behind her desk and retrieved a talisman from indise.

"Welcome to the Sisterhood of the deep my dear." Cordia placed the talisman in the woman's remaining hand. "The blood you're covered in will suffice. No need to draw anymore from you." Cordia grinned and spoke a few words in an language foreign to Uripa. Sawtooth on the other hand looked sick. He recognized those words and didn't like what he was hearing. "I'd tell you to rise, but you're incapable of that it seems. So lay down and rest sister Ashryn." The captain looked to Uripa "You're promoted sister! She's your neophite so she's your responsibility. Go nurse her back to health while I plan our next move."

Uripa was stunned. Neophite? Promoted? The surgeon looked at the other drow, who desperately needed medical attention even with her newfound sisterhood. She cursed under her breath and called for the pirates to come back in and take her bellow deck so she can be healed. Cordia however simply poured herself another cup of tea.
Faska crossed the grassy field from where he dismounted to where Adanach stood, his armor jangling with each step. For such a crude culture, the goblins were surprisingly effective metalworkers, and they had reserved their best work for their strongest warlord in the north, even if it was more than a little ramshackle by Imperial standards. As he strode through the tall grass, he hefted his greatsword onto his shoulder and flashed Adanach a devilish grin. "Oi! If it ain't the Emperor's dog, Adanach. How tha hell are ya?"

His demeanor seemed to suggest that he regarded Adanach as a friend, even if his words were laced with contempt and his sword was drawn. He didn't wait for an answer before giving his two cents. "Me? Oh, I been cheerio- jus peachy with all this loot fallin' right in my lap ever since th'empire came along and started scarin' everyone straight shitless, I swear... They know I'm here and they don' care a lick. I shake 'em down real good," he declared, his green almost ear to ear. "This is the life, Adanach. Why go lookin' for ladders ta climb in Saarus, eh?"
"Oi! If it ain't the Emperor's dog, Adanach. How tha hell are ya?"

Adanach grinned, genuinely amused by Faska's insult, because from a young age people compared him to a hound of some kind, it still amused him when people compared him to a wolf, or a dog. "I'm doing fi-" he tried to answer, before being rudely interrupted by Faska, who explained how well they were doing by picking off the refugees from Briggun's many campaigns. Easy pickings indeed, and weak ones too, they deserve the shackles that now fall on their necks.

"This is the life, Adanach. Why go lookin' for ladders ta climb in Saarus, eh?"

"Ya finished? Don't know how longer I would have keep listening to ya with yer breath that stinks like a devils arsehole, ye should try washin' them fangs with charcoal, does wonders." He with a bright grin on his face. "As for yer question... Why settle for anything less, Faska?" He answered before looking at the stone of kings. "I don't care for Briggun or the twats he surrounds himself with, only a few are worth a damn in that court." He said before looking back at Faska. "But ya know what I care about? Our people... Think about it, Faska, throughout history, when our people united, we were unstoppable, we brought down kingdoms and empires, and Briggun knows that, that we can destroy any realm he sends us against."

He then points at their surroundings, the desolate goblin highlands. "You are enjoying good fortune, but don't you crave more? More wealth and slaves from all corners of the empire?" He said before looking back at Faska. "That's why I wanted to have this meeting, we should unite our forces, create a great heathen horde like that of our ancestors, remind everyone that when united, the Druadach are unstoppable... and everyone will remember the goblin kings of old when you lead the goblin hordes into battle."
"Ya finished? Don't know how longer I would have keep listening to ya with yer breath that stinks like a devils arsehole, ye should try washin' them fangs with charcoal, does wonders."

Faska simply laughed at the banter. He was glad that Adanach had a sense of humor, but the sales pitch that followed made him straighten up and lose his flippant attitude. "...Yeah, ya talk a big game, don't ya? But whossat 'heathen horde' gonna answer to, eh? The warlock ain't one of us, doggo, and ain't no king holdin' up the Saarus colors got hands free to be carryin' the standard of ol' Druadach, least not in spirit." There was a silence for a moment as he walked past Adanach, and put his gauntleted hand against the monument. He smiled, looking out over the landscape as if he could see for miles. "...Out here, I'm free," he said, breathing in the clear air of the grasslands. "I gots what I want. And I ain't no man's servant, no loyal huntin' dog bringin' in game for his master's table. You though? Listen to yerself... 'We were unstoppable,' ya say. 'we can destroy any realm he sends us against.' Why's he got ta be the one to send us? We can send ourselves, ya know."

He looked back to Adanach. "Long as you keep beggin' at yer master's table for scraps, Adanach, I'm more a king o' the Druadach than you'll ever be."
The tent was purple with faded gold patterns depicting occult markings. It was the same as when Estro had seen it before, seen the woman who was posing as a Fortune Teller. There hadn't been anything particularly impressive about her. It was his dreams that had drawn him back here. That and the hint of a potential mental impression which made him check his own mind with his magics. The touch was there, nothing sinister but it was enough for him to feel drawn back before he used his arts to destroy said impression.

He approached with his mind guarded this time, leaving his escort back while he entered the tent. He could easily kill this woman, annihilate this tent in arcane fury. That was not his preferred method of doing things. Words were always attempted first and this curious telepathic touch had drawn him in. He would give her the opportunity to impress him. As he enters, he sees the woman in her faded purple robes with vibrant blue eyes like sapphires.

"You've come, I thought you might," sad the Fortune Teller as she toyed with her Soul Cards on her table. She regards Estro warily as if something was off about his entrance.

"It must be rare, not being able to peek into a mind," Estro mused as he moves to the table and took his seat with a calm smile. He had he air of a man completely in control of the situation. He rests his elbows on the table and steepled his fingers together as he looks over them at the Fortune Teller. "What's your name?"

"Jastia. Are you going to kill me?" She looks on at Estro with a somber expression as if she'd been waiting for this moment for many years.

"No. You're far too interesting to kill. But let me guess. You've a little too much of the Other World in you, hmmm? I can sense a hint of Fae in you, that spark of something beyond human lurking in your blood. Making that mind of yours so very.... special." Estro seems to smile more and makes a gesture. A bottle of wine and two glasses appear. He pours and pointedly helps himself to it first. "Please, drink with me."

"I've seen you, Estro Dorozan. Not much but enough to know the Imperial Wizard doesn't just come this far south for nothing. So I know too much." Her hand trembles a little as she drinks her wine as if still expecting poison. Why not? An archmage of his skill could probably negate anything he'd slip into a wine offered.

"You know things. That is a problem, but then I pondered. Why do you hide?" Estro looked thoughtful at that question and sips his wine. "The answer is simple. Fae. Your blood is touched by that terrifying power. The power that drove the nobles of Canar to drive away one of their greatest heroes. And then they killed his child. For fear. Fear of power. Fear of the different. You're afraid of what that fear will do to you if people knew."

"Fortune telling has worked until now. People tolerate you at the border of their lives. The wandering mystic seeing things, offering insights. You move around, never a bother but always there for someone to approach as seek advice. You help them, you take payment and move on before someone gets jealous or scared. And now its over." Another drink of wine, less shaky now as she continues to seem to embrace her fate at thinking her life was over.

"You scraped by and survived. I admire that," Estro admit as those inhuman green eyes settle upon her. He studies her again in thoughtful silence. "Do you know what Zero Origin is?"

"Your cult." She snaps a little defiantly but the sighs. "Your followers. That weird movement that tried to burn Canar down before the coming of the empire. I can see it. Your struggles against the nobles, cleaning up their shit. Clawing your way over the bodies of those who tried to destroy the commoner mage."

"Curious, so you can see back. Few people would know that after so long. What else can you do?" The fascination in his voice disarming as he seemed to be utterly lacking the urge to harm her at the moment. There was just the fascination of a wizard that clearly loved discovering new things.

"I can nudge people, plant thoughts. Its how I usually stay left alone. I keep reminding people I'm harmless, just a seer making her circuit," Jastia admits as she set sets her glass down and looks a little defiant. "Look. Just kill me and get this over with. Quit toying with me!"

"There you are, the woman whose tired of hiding. Ground down to the bone. You're lucky it was me who found you. Who knows what one of the others might have done to you. Or a Witch Finder from one of the nations beyond the empire. How would you like to have purpose? To know you would be surrounded by people who wouldn't fear you?" Estro asked as he gestured again. The wine bottle and glasses evaporating as he leans in again and drops his mental barrier to show he wasn't lying. "Join me, Jastia. Become my disciple and see what Zo can do for you."

Outside the tent, Darius and Valdin had been chatting on in seeming debate about what would happen here. Both turned as the Wizard of Zo exited the tent and offered a gloved hand to lead out the Fortune Teller known as Jastia. She looks wary but seemingly relieved to be alive. They approach as her tent seemingly packs itself up at the mystic command of Estro and a carriage is conjured forth from the aether. Estro helps her up into the carriage, all the while talking with her. The pair vanish into it and a rapping sends the spectral horses trotting off as Darius and Valdin ride after on their sturdy mounts. Both smiled as they realized Estro had gained yet another follower to his flock. One that would likely make things very interesting in their plans for the Dominion.
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"Long as you keep beggin' at yer master's table for scraps, Adanach, I'm more a king o' the Druadach than you'll ever be."

Upon hearing that sentence, Adanach clenched his fist in anger, he wanted to grab Faska by the neck and break it -- because he was absolutely right, and that infuriated him. Bjorga looked at her husbands reaction and worried what he was going to do now, but despite his anger, Adanach knew that if he were to hurt Faska here, he wouldn't be able to control the goblins, the most loyal warriors would be crying out for blood... So he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and admitted it; "You are right."

"You are absolutely right. But I am not doing this because I wish to serve some twat that copulates with Fae and proclaims himself emperor. I serve him because I know one thing, Faska."
He pointed back to the Malenchanted Woods, that were barely visible in the distance. "Imagine, hundreds of imperial legions marching through those woods, thousands upon thousands of warriors and sorcerers out for Druadach blood."

Faska opened his mouth to speak, but Adanach quickly stopped him. "These are not the soldiers of Canaar, Poggost or Erevan, Faska! These legion's are not the weakling southern knights we were used to slaughter, I am talking of an army far greater than anything you can imagine." Adanach looked back at the woods, once a natural barrier against the southern realms, now a perfect entry point for Brigguns' legions. "I've been serving Briggun's army for a couple of years now Faska, and I've seen what he's capable of! I have seen great heroes fall by his wicked blade. He has murdered dissidents and rebels with impunity and starved the masses into submission."

"The Druadach... Faska, our people will be trod and bled and starved and beaten and murdered and enslaved! No matter how epic our fight will be, how many of us will enter the great halls above bathed in glory, he will eat us, Faska! He will make pigs of all of us, and he will bury his snout into ours ribs, and will eat our hearts!"

"That's why I serve him Faska, to prevent his forces to march into our lands and destroy us, because I know I can unite the Druadach, and once I do, we would be unstoppable and he would not be able to destroy us... yes! We would march down upon his misbegotten realm and destroy every damned castle he owns! But if we keep fighting amongst each other, he will destroy us."

Adanach took another deep breath before speaking again. "I ask you again, join me, let us make the Druadach stronger... or else, I'll be forced to fight you and your army, and believe me, I will do anything in my power to unite the Druadach no matter who stands before me."
There upon a crested ridge sat a crown, bejeweled by stones of distant ages that had long succumbed to moss and the ardors of time. There was little that remained of Akatoria Castle. Once a proud fortress of ancient times, nearly a dozen towers once stood, connected by a low curtain wall upon the highest crest of the ridgeway, bracketed with innumerable stones jutting from the earth at odd angles that made the battlements all the more intimidating. There was little doubt that the barren, rocky ground was chosen for such a formidable construction, for the nearest land served no purpose. Cattle could not graze, not even goat or sheep, nor could the hillside be easily terraced for whatever meager crops could be grown here - grapes, perhaps, given the remains of an old villa that had once attempted to cultivate a vineyard here. Perhaps a town once existed at the base of the hill - the land was flat enough with many bare foundations almost overgrown with verdant grass - but this, too, had been lost to time. Other villages and towns had grown elsewhere, some further from the border and others directly on it. Whatever great threat Akatoria had once protected against was utterly forgotten long before the elders of the nearest localities could even recall. Beneath the remaining towers that hadn't crumbled away, bits of iron and bronze littered the dirt like the ice-pellets which heralded terrible storms. Arrow heads, some still sharp, remained to bite the soles of weary bare-footed travelers come to explore or children come to play upon the rocks. All that truly remained of any use was the thrice or more repaired manor, a squat and square battlement that rose high above the grandest of the remaining towers. The misfortune which had befallen it was not so ancient. Rather, the arrival of Saarusian control had been the final deathblow to the impoverished aristocratic family which had lived there for generations. Unable to pay upkeep or sell the needless castle, it had sat empty for some few years until the arrival of the Hallow Legion.

Lucafiel did not need a fortress, but what he did need was elevation, and it was the highest point in the vicinity of the border. It granted a view of the entire region as far as the eye could see, from the quiet farming villages unable to till all their soil, to the bustling towns grown stagnant as stability came but oppurtunities did not; and just over the border, marked by more unwanted terrain and streams that slipped between chalky outcroppings, Lucafiel could survey the immediate surrounding territory of Iskulia. More villages, more ridges, and the horrid mountainous land that encaptured the minds of all who imagined Lacans. Precious little could be seen in detail, even with a seeing-glass, but it was enough. The border was well guarded by the troops of the fabled Ram, who no doubt had great experience in manning these rocky hills.

From atop the flat rooftop of the tall Akatorian manorhouse, Lucafiel and numerous officers stood beneath a series of parasols held aloft by auxiliaries and servants. These grand coverings had been procured to keep the hot and bright sun away, but proved more than useful as the weather turned dreary. So long as the winds did not threaten to rise to greater gusts, there was no risk of the parasols - and the servants holding them - to go flying away like petals on the breeze. Indeed, such was the size of these parasols that Lucafiel sat at a small table, hands upon his lap, mask afixed in the direction of Iskulia as he watched and pondered.

"I concur with the scouts. Should we face a prolonged campaign of battle, we will need to conduct ourselves like the water below," Lucafiel said, raising a dainty hand and indicating the myriad rocky streams of the countryside. "We must flow about the stones, the ridges, the mountains - not crash against them. Even where a company may stand abreast and fight, they have no room to manouver. The valleys would become cauldrons of blood."

Thunder, low and distant, rumbled across the border. The gathered Vestati all peered expresionlessly at the sky, their masks shaded by the length of the parasols they hid beneath. Some clutched at their throats in a self-consious manner as if they were struggling to draw breathe, or had otherwise witnessed something that induced great distress. "It is not here," Lucafiel reminded them all. "No face has been seen, nor will it. The lightening is not for us."

One of the Yakal auxiliaries, a commander of a several sections, knelt down low so that they could be face-to-face with their seated lord. "My prince, the legion continues to erect pallisades and ditches in the lowlands below. If our envoy does not return with good news - or does not return at all - we may be able to entice the Iskulians across the border to die upon our own battlements. They are eager for blood. If they thought us as ill-prepared as the local Imperial forces...."

"We could sacrifice a great deal of land at little cost," another high officer observed, dressed in a light tunic and half-armor. "Only the port upon the border, Hekkalos, is of any value here."

Hekkalos was the largest settlement here and under direct Imperial control. The other side of the town boasted fair battlements, but they would be the first to fall against a powerful counter-attack by the Iskulians if war came, and Lucafiel had opted to obtain and control the better land further back. From Akatoria Castle, the town was in excellent view and one could spend a great deal of time counting lanterns in visible windows. But whereas the town had size, it had little life. Many ships tottered about near the piers, the sails dull and rolled up. A pressery for olives was being constructed on the outskirts - the keyword being was as it sat barren and skeletal like the remains of Akatoria, but fresh and new as stonework lay quietly without the direction of laborers and engineers. Perhaps before the Saarusian power came here, Hekkalos could have been something of note. But not any longer.

"It would be a shame to lose the existing infrastructure," Lucafiel mused, "but if the Iskulians smell blood... and the chance for looting... it is not impossible that some may be drawn into the town. We could burn it all down with them inside. The locals can rebuild at a later time."

"But what of the culture and history, your grace?" This question was posed by a Vestati in slender robes and a polite mask that was, for some reason, disconcerting to many who looked upon them. "Some of our scribes have already taken note of the pantheon here, of the churches. There is research that could be done and much to be learned. To invite war into the streets there would surly make this task an impossible one."

There was truth in that, Lucafiel knew, and he was indeed intrigued by the religion of this place. The thought of the divine warmed his blood and elicited a sneer all the same. "It may very well be the cost for victory. Regardless, I do not anticipate the war to be here, right upon our laps, if it is to come to that. Perhaps the opening act of the play may occur here, but our stages are distant and many. Across theose starried hilltops."

All viewed the surrounding border with their own quiet interest.

"Until then, however, we await the reports of our envoy and scouts. There seems to be illness in this land, and I do not speak of the lethargy of our Imperial compartriots in Hekkalos," Lucafiel said. They had already begun imposing some legionnaires with the local watchmen and guardsmen to ensure their laggardly behavior would not continue for the forseeable future. Indeed, one of their captains had been strug up nude to a pole outside the town on the main road, his hands bound behind his back and body held in place by rope about the neck, securing him tight to the post as he stood upon his tiptoes on a small slat just big enough for him to stand. Not a crucifixion, but a display - a warning.

"The fabled Ram of Iskulia may very well be open to dialogue. His lust is as great as his arrogance and strength. A sure weakness without good temperment. Whether we entice or goad matters not. This land will be ours in due time."

In the distance, more thunder rolled, low and ominous with the promise of not a torrential downpor of rain, but of bloodshed and arrows and screams.
Caneresch Castle

Veno Dilach, The Black Rose
(Imperial Spymaster, De facto Leader of the Cult of Akordia)


The myriad religious beliefs of Weildach (and by extension, Sandach) were ancient and vast, stretching back several centuries and through the occasional reformation here and there before eventually combining into one streamlined religion that both Weildach and Sandach devoutly followed. Dozens of tomes and scrolls recounted myths, legends, and sometimes the ramblings of actual factual history. Those very same tomes and scrolls now sat crammed into a black case, bearing Imperial Spymaster markings and situated on a table in the corner of Veno Dilach's private chamber. She had already gone through several of the books and documents already over the course of weeks, combing through the pages with scrutiny. A false religion, one she detested. To conquer an enemy, however, you must understand them. How they think and feel. What they believe in.

She prayed Akordia would forgive her for tainting her eyes and mind with the words of these heathens.

On a violet colored sofa, featuring several cream colored pillows and a swooping backboard that rose to the back of the neck on one side, Veno lounged in the corner. One of the many tomes in one hand, and a glass of a deep red wine in the other. A special blend, meant primarily for enjoying with company, but she chose to drink alone for the moment. It helped ease her conscious for having to deal with this filth in literary form. But she did, at least, find several things of use from the pages.

The pantheon of gods that the people of Weildach and Sandach believe in supposedly created the world and intended for its people to live in harmony. However, the harmony could only exist if the messengers of the gods (the Church of Weildach) remained in the hands of the Prophets (whom first brought fourth the myths and legends) and their descendants. Of course, this sort of thing always brings up its own problems. Should the Church be the government, or separate from the government? What happens if one descendant disagrees or feuds with another? Sandach felt that the Church should be separate from the government, leading to how things are in the present.

A particularly interesting thing, she noted, was the artistic rendition of several of the prophets in the various tomes and documents. She smirked as she gazed upon one such picture in the book she was currently reading. With her shapeshifting abilities, such a piece was very useful indeed. She would have to test things out at some point in the future. For now, however, she needed to continue her work.

But she would have to put things on hold for the moment, however, as she heard a rapid knock at her chamber door.

"Who is it?" she asked, glancing up from the book. Her red eyes locked onto the door where one's head would normally be on the opposite side.

"Who else would it be?" was the response. "I'm the only one you singled out as able to interrupt your studies."

Veno sighed. "Yes, you're quite right. Come in, but shut the door behind you."

The large wooden door swung open, and in stepped a lighter skinned drow clad in a long, flowing purple robe. The door, as requested, was promptly shut behind her.

Talice Omrath
(Imperial Master Torturer, Confessor of the Cult of Akordia, Right Hand of Veno Dilach)

Talice the Confessor.jpg
As the drow turned about, she spoke. "I bring word that our imperial messengers have made contact with members of Sandach's leadership. We should know if they intend to converse with us within the coming days, or if they simply choose to refuse us."

"Let us hope it is the former. We need allies if we intend to sew chaos in Weildach, and what better allies than those in Sandach? They know Weildach and its people. They know just where to put the right amount of pressure. When the civil war starts, they can swoop in and save the day." responded Veno.

Talice cocked an eyebrow as she crossed the room. "Right. Then the might of the Empire will be brought down on their heads. Much like a sledgehammer."

"Both Sandach and Weildach will be ours in the end. We'll spread our faith ever further into distant lands."

"True. Though there will be those that resist."

"That's where you and the others come in, yes?" asked Veno, motioning her wine glass towards Talice as she arrived next to the sofa. Talice simply nodded, slowly seating herself on the other end.

Veno smiled, before closing her book and setting it aside. She sipped from her wine once more, before speaking again. "...Speaking of the others, what exactly are they up to? I heard a commotion downstairs earlier." she said, looking to Talice once more.

"I believe you heard your... pet... attempting to eat one of the guards." responded Talice, glancing towards the door. "It seems they forgot to feed him today, and he decided to go looking for food himself. Cazna stopped it, and sent for an inmate from the imperial dungeons to feed to it."

"Good. I do hope she didn't harm my sweet Mickie."

"She didn't. A few firm shouts and a poke with her spear made him spit the guard out."

"Wonderful... How's Cazna doing, anyway? She having any trouble with young Naldor?"

"Things seem to be going quite well between the two. Naldor's using what she's taught him alongside what he picked up from Adanach's lot to help with his scouting. He's quite talented at this. You were right to put him in her care."

"You suggested it, remember? She could protect him in the event one of that vile horde attempted to come and reclaim him."

"Yes, she could easily defend him. It won't be long, however, before he could defend himself just as easily. She still shadows him, though."

"Almost like a mother defending her cub."

"Indeed. We need to keep him away from Viclara, however."

"Why is that? What did our resident plague bringer do now?"

"She's fed him poison three times now. Intentionally."

"What? Why?"

"Tests. She gave him the cure once the effect settled in."

"I swear... I pray daily to Akordia, asking just what we should do with that woman."

"As do I. But we do need her, in the end. A woman with the knowledge to craft poisons and cures is always useful. Especially in your line of work in Lord Briggun's service."

Veno sighed. She was right. Assassinations attempts were common threats. Poisons and diseases were effective means of killing leaders, and to have a woman talented in the use and countering of such things was invaluable. She could easily overlook the woman's eccentricism because of that alone. Veno gulped down the last of her wine, before setting the glass on the endtable next to her. She soon stood, allowing her own purple robe to correct itself and drape down to the floor.

"...What about Pellaran? What's she up to?" she soon asked, glancing to Talice once more.

"Tarot cards. At the moment, we don't have anyone in need of psychic intrusion, so she's keen on reading people's fortunes and futures." responded Talice. "Its better than her scaring everyone to death during the harvest festivals."

"...Indeed." responded Veno after a moment. "...Have her come up here, when you get the chance. I'm in the mood for a good fortune reading. Hopefully Akordia blesses me with good luck."

"Hopefully she blesses us all with good luck." was Talice's response, "The gears and cogs of the Empire are moving. Blood is being spilt in Lord Briggun's name. Who know what's to come for us?"
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7 Days after the meeting with the war council

Alexandre came riding hard over the arid hills towards the encampment the Crimson Wolves had set up on the border of the Bone Coast and Kaula, Piantias northern and regrettably isolated region. It had not been difficult to locate the staging area on her way there. Firstly, because she knew that she had given Constin de Sevre clear instructions where they would take their first bite. Secondly the trail that some three thousand knights, thralls and skeletons had left while marching east was still fresh, owing to Guillaumes swiftness of delivering the order in advance.

The camps perimeter was manned by groups of thralls and bone soldiers, evenly placed apart to alert the army of any movements, which could be considered a simple task, given the landscape of the region.

A horn sounded over the hills, followed by a bellowing shout from a Thrall Bannerman. “The Red Hand approaches!” With this call, both the Rocherite thralls and skeletons alike stopped in their tracks and followed Alexandres entry in eerie silence. The knights of the Crimson Wolves, happening across the path of their commander, gave her deep bows. Eventually, Alexandre and her steed came to a grinding halt in front of a tent at the center of the encampment. From said tent, Constin de Sevre, the Count of Sarzeau, emerged and greeted his superior with an equally stooped bow as his knightly counterparts.

All the preparations have been made for the coming campaign, my liege. We have some reports from our scouts that should intere…” He began, slowly rising from his bow and meeting Alexandres haughty gaze. She gave him a smirk in reply, after which she dismounted and approached him leisurely. “Well, it certainly seems that not all preparations have been made, my dearest Constin” she said as she stroked his chin while standing uncomfortably close “It’s been a hard journey from Canaresch”. Constin remained unfazed. “My apologies.” he said without averting his gaze, giving one of the nearby knights a quick hand signal. The knight promptly entered the tent, and shortly emerged with a copper goblet that was filled with blood. The knight then approached Alexandre, and knelt while presenting the goblet to her. Brushing Constin aside, Alexandre took the goblet and drank voraciously. Interspersed with detestable gulping were joyous moans, while a portion the sanguine drink flowed over the edges of the chalice, running down the sides of her face and onto her armor. After drinking her fill she slowly returned the beaker to the knight. She breathed slowly between clenched teeth, her visage one of delighted ecstasy. Constin observed his commander, and counted her breathes. “The scouts have made observations you might find interesting”, he finally said, feeling enough time had passed for his superior to not reprimand him for interrupting such a moment of bliss. Alexandres eyes shot open, lit anew by the loathsome refreshment. “Well then, my dear Constin.” She began, eyeing the count intensely “I see you are quite eager to tell me all about it”. Alexandre and Constin, along with their entourage of knights entered the tent to go over what would lay ahead of them once they rode onto Kaula.

The majority of the meeting was spent overviewing the general defenses and their current commander, Jakabo Gianti. Although now an old man, his reputation and accolades made him a formidable opponent. By all accounts, the militia now under his command had grown complacent before he was given the noble task of mounting the Oligarchies opposition to Brigguns terrible armies. Nevertheless, it seemed to be a task he had seen to with great diligence. All the better, Alexandre thought whilst licking her fangs in anticipation, imagining what sweet vintage the albino would make once they laid him out.

The secondary observations were the old fortress of King’s Crest. Legends say that the spirit of Giaches, the old King of Kaula, still roams the crumbling citadel. One might wonder what kept the monarch in those long forgotten halls. Perhaps it would be worth looking into, but if Giaches had remained for so long, he could surely wait a little longer, as Alexandre more interested in finally feasting on Piantia. On another note, rumors of a Firelight Megalith captured her attention. Her knights had divulged it from cowardly Piantians, whom had been spared the blade in exchange for the information. They scantly knew of its general location, and did not know to whom or what such an altar would be dedicated to. Alexandre remembered a passage from a book in the Patriarchs collection:

O friend and companion of night, thou who rejoicest in the baying of dogs and spilt blood, who wanderest in the midst of shades among the tombs, who longest for blood and bringest terror to mortals, thousand-faced moon, look favorably on our sacrifices!

Of course, the megaliths true nature could not be ascertained from such paltry knowledge. But this did not trouble Alexandre, whose mind had long since been enticed by powers that dwelt in the shades of mortal memory.

Then, they waited. The ever-present hunger gnawing at the wolves bones, making both masters and servants alike squirm for the inevitable hunt and the slaughter that would follow. Eventually, on an unseasonably cold eve, as the sun cast its last rays over the horizon, a chilling wind swept over the hills and through the camp. And on that wind, however faint, the wolves could hear the cry of the banshee.

As darkness fell, Alexandre and her cohorts set upon Kaula like starving beasts, their horrid army following their wake like cursed carrion.

1 month later

In the dead of night, the clouds parted to allow the pale moonlight to reveal the foul extent of Rochers damnable hunger. Outside of the small fortress of Paestrum, the fields were littered with the slain and mutilated Piantian militiamen that had valiantly, or perhaps foolishly regrouped to mount a gathered defense against the thirsting horde that had bit them in the backs all the way from the frontier. The fortress had been shut to save those who could not fight, which the Crimson wolves, in a caricature of benevolence, had allowed to escape once the bloodshed was over. Those who later encountered these refugees would find them hiding unspeakable horrors behind their frightened eyes, or laughing from madness.

Constin de Sevre had lead a detachment that had hunted down a routed company, of whom only the fortunate would live to tell their countrymen of Brigguns rabid dogs after the wolves sated their thirst. Returning to Paestrum, he witnessed a Rocher knight, standing in a field of corpses and singing an old lullaby to a captive audience of sitting skeleton soldiers. What was more sinister than the cantarist was the unnerving silence. Battles such as this would generally be accompanied by the odious calls of carrions and scavengers. But when the Crimson wolves had feasted on men, their ravenous army devoured whatever else strayed into their wicked path.

Entering the fortress, Constin found it to be empty. To their credits, the militia had indeed held their stand outside of the fortress, and the common folk had taken what they could carry and left in such a hurry it seemed they may as well have been swallowed by the shadows of the night.

Upon the slight rise inside the fortress, a small chapel could be seen with its doors wide open. Having been told of Alexandres presence there, Constin made his way over and entered the previously hallowed sanctum.

There in the light of the moon shining through stained glassed window, he could see the bishop of Paestrum laying utterly decimated upon the altar. Below this hateful image, he could see Alexandre on all fours, drinking the spilt blood that had pooled in the cracks of the floor after the bishop had been expended.

Constin stood silently as Alexandre, befitting her terrible moniker, lapped up every last drop with carnal delight. Once satisfied, she lifted herself to kneel, stretching her arms outwards as she looked to the great circular window at the far end of the small chapel.

Jakabo…” she uttered with bated breathes, her visage dripping with sanguine streaks. “How I long to taste you…

Meanwhile, in the waters of Teralia

While the Cordias fleet remained docked at the now subdued port of Teralia, a brigantine silently made its approach. Viewed from afar, it seemed a fearsome vessel. It's hull painted a deep red, with slightly tattered black sails. One might have thought the ship would have tried to ambush the Butchers blade as it laid anchored, were it not for the bright red lanterns that could be spotted at a great distance. The lights were also accompanied by a the tolling of a low bell, which signified that it wanted its approach to be known.

As the brigantine closed into the shallower waters near the port, a skeleton crew could be seen rigorously folding the sails, as well as deploying oars to close the the distance with greater maneuverability. In rythm of the bells tolling, the skeletal crew rowed the ship closer, before eventually letting it glide the rest of the way. As the ship came to a halt, Cordia could see a figure climb onto the bowsprit and steady itself on the rigging. With closer inspection, the figure was a short woman dressed in a naval uniform, by the looks of it assembled from many different attires. Most of them probably stolen.

"Greetings, Queen of the Bone Coast and rightful ruler of all the seas of the world!" She proclaimed loudly as she lifted her fathered hat of her head, revealing her vampyr features. "I am Gertraud de Landrezac, famed explorer and antiquarian of... unorthodox scriptures! In my possession is a letter of marque, signed and sealed by the Patriarch of Rocher himself!" she continued, handing her hat to a skeleton whilst presenting a piece of paper with a wax seal on it. After a long pause, just to make sure everyone had time to see her letter of marque, she put it away and motioned frantically to her bone crewman to return her headwear. She then hastily continued, leaving no room for interruptions, "By his permission, I would like sail with your armada and offer my services to you, if you'll grant me such honors." Gertraud then made a deep artistocratic bow, with surprising agility for someone holding onto a rope and balancing on a taperd pole. She then straightened herself, placed the hat back onto her head and gave Cordia a wink with her one good eye.

Her skeleton crew clapped their hands and clattered their mandibles, seemingly in awe and support of their colorful captain.
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"That's why I serve him Faska, to prevent his forces to march into our lands and destroy us, because I know I can unite the Druadach, and once I do, we would be unstoppable and he would not be able to destroy us... yes! We would march down upon his misbegotten realm and destroy every damned castle he owns! But if we keep fighting amongst each other, he will destroy us."

Faska lifted his chin, reached up calmly and tipped down his visor so that it would guard his face. "He won't 'ave to lift a fingah if ya destroy us first, Adanach. And when you and yer band run us lot down fer good, what use'll we be in your grand ol' uprising?" he hissed, gripping his sword's hilt but not brandishing it- not yet. "I ain't gonna bend the knee, call ya king, or aaaanything else yah say unless you prove to me yer not jus' another Imperial-lovin', Briggun-kissin' knob-polisher!"

Smoothly lifting his sword into position, Faska seemed ready to kill, but he waited instead for Adanach to be ready. "Fight me- jus me! If the gods think yah boot belongs on my neck then they'll put it there!"

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