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Fantasy The Dark Travelers

Voyka turned to face Yz as they began speaking, as what Yz was talking about began to process in her head. She wasn't sure if she had heard Yz correctly, and yet her expression turned to one of neutral shock, one that would appear on any grandparent's face if they had heard that their grandchild had not only broken their curfew, but committed several crimes whilst doing so. As Yz finished speaking, both Borok and Yz could tell that, in her eyes, granny wanted to gut the jester.

"...you did what?" Voyka simply asked, as she slowly approached Yz and looked them in the eye.

"...are you telling us right now that you had, without consulting the rest of us, gone ahead and confronted Farendal?" she maintained her tone and appearance, the dark circles under her eyes emphasizing her piercing stare.

"...you had gone ahead and nearly compromised this entire invasion effort, all for a little bit of inane whimsy?" she continued, slowly emphasizing more of her words, as emotion eerily returned to her face, as her boiling rage was unlidded. Her arms trembled, as she tried to resist raising them to choke the life out of the waste of life that stood in front of her.

"...don't you realize what the consequences of your actions might be?" she asked genuinely, as she titled her head and her face began looking a mix of despairing and raging, wondering herself too what Yz's actions might've caused... could what they had done caused Farendal to stay in the first place...?! No, no, Erevan cares only for its elves, and the east is guarded by a human, so they might care little to assign her east. But if Yz had encountered Farendal, that might've caused her to want to stay in Sabersval, if the Dark Lord's forces could reach that far from the East...

Her blood boiled with impotent rage, knowing that action against a fellow lieutenant could be cause for punishment from their Lord himself, yet in her eyes Yz needed to be disciplined like any of her men - beaten bloody and taught what they did wrong, taught to learn uniformity and respect, until they are loyal to whom they have to listen to. But while he could cause no direct harm, she would make her rage known with one final act. Before Yz could react, she swung straight for Yz's head, stopping short from nailing them directly into the ground, with Yz only able to avoid it because she had stopped. She paused to let her stance do all the talking, as she breathed calmly.

A moment later, she straightened herself out, and turned her eyes to Borok.

"...Borok, if Yz and you are successful in the incoming battle, credit for the battle's victory is to be handed to you squarely. As witness to this meeting, the two of us will speak to our Dark Lord when he arrives, and tell him of Yz's failures as part of this leg of the campaign. Do you understand me?"
 
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Damian0358 Damian0358 Abstracty Abstracty

Yz comically collapsed and fell over despite not even being struck, grumbling and sitting up as they looked up at Voyka and Borok. Hearing Voyka's response to the whole thing, Yz immediately flailed their arms in frustration as they sat on the floor.

"This isn't fair! You're not even doing anything and you want to tell bad things about me to Mr. Big Man! I can walk into Tambourineland all I want all by my little self and you're too scared to go in with all your uggy-friends and me and lizardman and all of us'eseses' friends! Is just about who gets the gold stars by Big Man is all you care about, nothing else! Why should I help at all now if you're going to lie about me, I've already been all on my own and seen all the stuffs they have and know what they do and they couldn't do anything abouts it, AND they don't know either of yous are here or where the tunnelsies are, and you call me a FAILURE when you sit here doing nothing but get older, you big baby!" Yz argued back, raising their voice believing they had no reason to be criticised.

"And then other fellow leader-antennae friends have things harder because you're scared of a single circus clown! The tunnels thing might only work once and you're all 'boohoo, I cannot believe this great masked one survived such a totally dangerous encounter and the dragons and super-turtle monsters all on their own, but they didn't go to BED ON TIME so we must tell Mr. Biggies'. I'm older than you, grandmami! You're being a big baby" Yz retorted in frustration as they crossed their arms in pout and spun in their seated floor position so they were grouchily facing the other way.

"Yz didn't need either of you, but if you're just doing it for gold stars to betray all the leader-antennae friends, Yz does not want to help. Is the kind of disgusting non-mask wearers that the world should be rid of.. " they huffed in a muttered voice as they turned their head a little to look at Borok.

"Is mean that you would be mean and selfish like this, I only got much information, know important stuff about the foe, and know my way around, and the whole plan is still secret, and I didn't need anyone!" they continued to vent as they returned back to not looking, poking at the ground in annoyance as they continued to mumble and pout.

"Stupid, big baby dumb-face, being a big, stupid. Thinking they're so wise because their old, but Yz is way older and smarterer. Stupid dumbface doesn't even like Mr. Bigman, just wants power and stuff and gold stars, making Yz and lizardman go to Tambourineland because she's scared, and making things harder for another Antennae-Leadieser to boost ego, when stupidface didn't do anything... ".
 
Turn 1 (Part 2 - The Southern Campaigns) - Year 735 - Late Spring

View attachment Turn 1 S.jpg

Civiceria Campaign

In the weeks since arriving in the region, Estro watched as his allies' movements produced a growing sense of unease, although nothing had generated the sense of panic the wizard had hoped to take advantage of. The Piantians, although frightened by Alexandre's advance, seemed less keen to travel east toward Civiceria instead of moving south across the water, and the Civicerians likewise seemed unwilling to provide shelter to more than a handful of refugees here and there. With the help of a few of Veno's spies in the area, some of Estro's cultists have slipped across the border and reported back their findings. From what they can gather, Bolia is being commanded by a mysterious General known as Lucius Segius.

===Allied Forces===

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

Turn 0 Recap:
Estro followed the lead "The Fortune Teller" and discovered the part-fey, Jastia, who became his follower.

Followers:
Jastia, the Wandering Mystic --- Meals from the Field // The One and Only // Chessmaster

Cards:
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)

Leads:
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.
Gladiatorial Games - Estro's agents report that Bolia is even more enthusiastic for blood sport than mainland Civiceria, which is already known for its fondness for gladiator combat. Estro recognizes many potential pathways to influence the country from such a literal arena- from the celebrity of the combatants, the presence of the influential in the stands, and the great amounts of money wagered at such contests.

===The Enemy===

Lucius Sergius, The Man on the Mountain
With Guile and Cunning // Colleagues in Arms // A Truth Unassailable
Location: Bolia
Strength: 5

Cards:
As Much a Doctrine - If captured, Segius' army will appoint an equally-capable commander and continue fighting. (Unlimited Uses)

The enigmatic Sergius first came to Bolia ten years ago in response to the rapidly-changing political situation in the Saarus Plane, and has since preferred to operate from the shadows, avoiding direct involvement with diplomacy or even leading his troops in the field. Instead, he often rotates and reassigns his lieutenants to ensure that the legions of Civiceria are well-trained and deeply familiar with each other's capabilities and needs. Off and on, he has traveled home, to the mainland south, and left his underlings in control while he has been gone. Spies have sometimes misreported his absence as a permanent reassignment, only for Sergius to suddenly reappear and assert himself as the top of the chain of command. His headquarters, located atop a large plateau in the territory, is simply known as "the mountain" and is respected by the military and civilians alike as both a physical and metaphorical symbol of imperial strength.


Piantia Campaign

The capture of neutral Teralia has shocked the Piantians nearly as badly as the incursion from Alexandre the Thirsting. In the span of a few frightful weeks, their militia captain Jakabo was caught in a taxing raid which saw him retreat haphazardly from the border and losing one in every three men to his army. The farmers on the dry soil which hadn't already sought greener pastures were overrun and captured by Alexandre, while those lucky enough to get away were turned away from the Bolian border and sent reeling southward, where the fishing boats of their countrymen began carrying them southward to Petrata. Thankfully, Cutlass Bandolo was there to reassure them that the seas would not be so easily challenged, as his white sails fluttered on the golden seas unchallenged.

===Allied Forces===

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

Turn 0 Recap:
Alexandre attacked Jakabo and won, costing the enemy a token.

Alexandre's surprising victory in the opening weeks of Briggun's new conquests was exactly the sort of spark the vampyr was hoping for to inspire her forces. Rocher's accursed riders could now afford to take their time and play with their wounded foe, and maybe follow leads in this desolate land to gather further strength. The locals are already taking note of the new "visitors" in their midst, and most are fleeing in terror, although not in the directions that the War Council had hoped. Perhaps Alexandre needs to turn up the heat another notch.

Cards:
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)

Leads:
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

Turn 0 Recap:
Cordia attacked Ashryn using her Banshee's Scream, defeating her instantly and taking Teralia. Cordia then chose to recruit Ashryn as a follower.

With Teralia safely in hand, Cordia could look in any direction for her next fight. If she wanted to move east, she could raid the coastline of Petrata or Kaula and terrorize either of her known foes at this moment, or, with Veno opening another front to the south, the hag could turn her attention to the holy coastlines of the Weildach Theocracy. Briggun wouldn't like it, but she could even leave the Southern Sea entirely and head for the Bay of Canar. She wouldn't quite make it to Kobakeli, but she could get a glimpse of that distant shore and measure the worth of the goblin lands there firsthand. She just needed to make sure she didn't leave herself open to a surprise attack from an enemy navy.

Followers:
Ashryn, the Dark Heart of the Southern Sea --- Everywhere at Once // Nothing is Safe // Break Their Spirits

Cards:
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 - Two Turns Remaining)

Leads:
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.
The Nameless Cove - While probing the territorial waters of Karlsbach, the Butcher's Blade locates a secluded cove between jagged ocean cliffs. There appears to be a cave at the far side of the calm waters...

===The Enemy===

Jakabo Gratini, The White Eagle
To Weather the Storm // A Master of the Art // Never Surrender
Location: Kaula
Strength: 2

Jakabo, despite all his bluster about the fight he wanted out of the Empire, could not have anticipated that Alexandre would run roughshod over his army despite his advantages. Now, the old man is licking his wounds, retreating away from the frontier, and searching for an opportunity to turn things around before he has his back at the ocean and the mainland cuts its losses. Perhaps Serius could make the difference?


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

On the other hand, Cutlass Bandolo isn't confident either. He had heard the news that Captain Cordia had swept all opposition off of Teralia with only a shout, a tale he was tempted to believe, no matter how far-fetched. Times were growing more desperate by the moment; there was no denying it, and Cutlass held a numerical advantage at this very moment that he could ill-afford to waste. The strait had to remain in Piantian hands!


Weildach Campaign

Having masterfully goaded Sandach into mobilizing the full strength of its army in service of the "noble goal" of recovering its lost holdings in Weildach, Veno now prepares to deploy across the Southern Sea to attack Weildach. The true objective, it is known, is not to conquer the theocracy outright, but to wear down both sides of the generational struggle until both can be folded under the Empire's traitorous machinations. The weather is getting warmer, and amidst the strong fishing season, the ports are more vacant to allow for a large volume of transportation ships. The enemy has not failed to notice this, either, as their dutiful scouts record the increasing likelihood of an attack from Sandach any day.

===Allied Forces===

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

Following his meeting with an Imperial Diplomat, Swybeck mobilized his entire army and relocated to the southern ports of Sandach, from which he could soon launch an attack on Weildach alongside his allies from abroad. His spirits are extraordinarily high as he speaks of "Lady Sarthyra" and the learned folks of Saarus, bringing the country's enthusiasm for the great reunion to an almost fever pitch. Recruitment is easy and training proceeds swimmingly. In more private settings, Swybeck focuses hard on planning the offensive ahead. His intent is to land on the long peninsula of Oberngenia and march his way inland, liberating the mother country which gave rise to Sandach in a prior era. He not only studies the tactics and strategies needed to overcome the lost sheep and bring them back to the flock, but the religious teachings which will be needed to guide them once they're there. Danthyn's jab about his lack of divine scholarship still hasn't fully left the back of his mind.


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

Turn 0 Recap:
Veno followed the lead "Reading the Lore" in order to learn the ways of Sandach's pantheon, and then employed this knowledge while conducting diplomacy. She also gained the card "Face of the Profit.

With all having gone well with her meeting, Veno oversees the movement of her army into the countryside of Sandach. The locals give the Imperials a surprisingly warm welcome- warmer than they would receive on their marches anywhere within Saarus itself, much to the soldiers' delight. This is somewhat annoying, as Veno begins to wonder whether her army will begin to mistake the Sandachians as true allies, rather than the pawns that they are. She also senses the great pressure now to carry out an attack, not just for the sake of satisfying Briggun's insatiable appetite for conquest, but also for the sake of maintaining the illusion of Imperial support for the war. Should Sandach open the conflict and not find her support, Veno might find it more difficult to extract the sort of blood she was hoping for out of a longer campaign.

Cards:
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)
Face of the Profit - Veno can disguise herself as a profit of the Weidach Pantheon. (Infinite Uses)

Leads:
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 Heretical Sciences - While planning the upcoming invasion, Veno stumbles onto rumors of a potentially useful institution in faraway Oberngenia. There, the Clerics of Endane are said to study matters of the occult to better understand the threat posed by evil spirits, such as those in Briggun's employ. Veno considers a clandestine mission to take a peek at the forbidden knowledge.

===The Enemy===

Bloquenyan Falkent, The Blade at Land's Edge
Liberate the Materiel // Colleagues in Arms // A Reckoning for the Wicked
Location: Oberngenia
Strength: 4

Cards: To Punish the Wicked - On any consecutive victory, deals two tokens of damage. (Unlimited Uses)

Bloquenyan, a half-elf, has a mouthful of a name, leading most to simply call him the Blade. Something of a rogue, the Blade never quite earned the spiritual respect of the church's officers in the land of his birth, but one can do little but argue with the results of his work. Few could say that they have done a quarter of the things the Blade has done to unite the lands of Oberngenia the face of the political and religious strife threatening to tear it apart from the inside, and he has done so with grace and finesse in equal measure to brutal discipline. His black-vested knights ride the mountainous peninsula as shadowy, looming figures of humorless authority, but they never raise their fist in the name of wanton cruelty. The man himself is as quiet and foreboding as the calm before the storm, and as rumors of Sandach's coming invasion mount, he can only stare at the horizon and welcome them to fall upon his sword.


Maldaryn Maltryss, The Witness on the Waves
To Weather the Storm // A Master of the Art // A Reckoning for the Wicked
Location: Waters Near Karlsbach
Strength: 3

Cards:
Ocean's Daughter - Can relocate from one sea to the next and attack at her destination within the same turn. (Unlimited Uses)

A mermaid in service of the Church is a strange sight indeed, but Maldaryn has always been a harbinger of the miraculous and unexpected. Captured as an infant decades ago by pirates in Teralia, she was sold as a curiosity to the owner of a circus in Karlsbach. This showman had intended to show his prize, but went soft in the heart for her, and instead sought the help of priests in a seaside village to care for the girl while he made his sleazy living elsewhere. After ten years or so, the showman returned for good and sought to teach his adoptive daughter a business trade, only to find her devoutly inspired by the good work of the church to uphold their pantheon, and to resist the growing tide of evil from beyond the sea. Maldaryn soon applied herself to the service of the navy, where her speed, grace, and knowledge of the ocean has served her quite well.
 
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Voyka turned her head quickly as Yz pantomimed getting struck, before the creature went on a tirade against her. Her neutrally-enraged expression cracked into a flabbergasted half-smile, before erupting into an immensely loud mad laugh, one so mad it rendered the nearby working Sauroids uncomfortable. As she approached the end of her laugh, she took a deep breath and looked down upon the frustrated Yz.

"The only 'big baby' I see is the one who sits here refusing to confront the consequences of their actions, so let me break down your complaints simply," Voyka spoke, as she honed in on the main points of issue.

"The absence of truth is not by itself a lie. Whatever report is to be written on the battle's aftermath, if we are successful, will list you as a principle player, regardless of whether you also receive credit for the battle. Credit that you have shown not to deserve. All you would do by not engaging the enemy in battle now with the rest of us is ensuring that what is currently 'absence of truth' becomes 'truth', so you have no choice but to help lest your incoming punishment were to become worse. As a result, the only 'bad thing' we would be telling our Dark Lord is that which you just admitted to, nearly compromising the campaign by engaging the enemy, and from what I can tell, in a non-combative manner," she explained, "It does not matter that nothing had seemingly occurred that undermined the campaign as a result of your actions, the fact you refuse to recognize the potential consequences in of themselves is enough. Our Dark Lord will tell you this himself."

"In contrast to you, all we have done is to ensure victory above all else. Our supply lines are more stable than ever thanks to my actions, and thanks to Borok, the battle will go smoother due to the brimstone he is armed with now. There is no sign of 'fear' in our eyes induced by our enemy, because what we care about is minimizing our losses and maximizing the enemy's. An important goal as we finally step into Sabersval and head to the core of Erevan, which is likely to be heavily armed just in case of breakthrough. Though we might be looked upon as 'cowardly', hindsight will justify us - hindsight which will look down upon you horribly. Even now as you speak of confronting the enemy, would she not rally her forces more swiftly if she were to encounter you? Something she would only do as a result of you encountering her in the first place?! Yet you claim this excursion enabled you to gain information, but as Borok here can further confirm, the only information you have shared is that you met her, you likely infuriated her as you do us, and escaped; information we could not only guess to have already been true, but information useless to a battle such as this."

For her final point, Voyka squatted down and directly looked at Yz, in case they turned around to face her. "Finally, do not question my loyalty to our Dark Lord. I have served Him proudly for the last decade of my life, earning my keep under him and ensuring victory in his name. I have no need for further power, nor for 'gold stars' - lest we forget Borok is to receive the glory. I have done my damndest for this Empire, and I will not sit here and let someone such as you act as if they can manipulate this world as if it were a game. Because you cannot, Yz. Your actions will lead you to your death."

As she got up, she finished up. "This is as much a punishment as it is a lesson, Yz. As you are amongst the newest of the lieutenants, I have enabled you to receive a lesson on how punishment works within this military system, inherited from before Briggun's rule. Bureaucratic backsliding at its lowest level, before corporal punishment. Because believe you me, if you had worked with any other lieutenant, they would give you this exact same punishment for what you had done, undermining your progress within this system. The only difference is that unlike me, they would not make you aware of it until it was too late."
 
K0mori K0mori

The Golden Horde was shaken upon being driven back. Perhaps those years of slumber indulging in the tribute she exacted had let her grow stagnant. Seeing the men she had lost, many without having their bodies retrieved Falwyn reconsidered her plans. She was of the Tholmar Bloodline. An ancient line of dragons who had thrived on more than just their strength alone. That vantage had given her sight of a possible advantage it was time she began investigating it. First it was time to regroup with her command structure.

She would meet with her most treasured prizes in her command tent. She laid upon a ostentious chair with thick wool padding. It had been made by a fine craftsmen from one of the petty kingdoms which had once ruled over Ostmajora. She would look over the campaign map reports from the field giving no indication of the Saroid mountains having any movement so far.
"The Viper possesses his own set of tricks, and I've allowed myself to succumb to arrogance. That won't happen again," she declared, fixing an intense gaze on Linota, her esteemed spymaster. "Send one of your agents with a message of parlay. I wish to gauge the mettle of this Viper, perhaps he can be cowed into submission. Despite his success, I'm certain his dreams are haunted by fiery visions."

Linota, the Drow spymaster, silently nodded, ready to find a way to deliver the message later. Turning her attention to Titus, her marshal, Falwyn praised the orchestrated retreat. "Ensure our forces regain their composure. Meanwhile, I will investigate the mountains and what caught my eye earlier." A silent understanding passed between Falwyn and Leon, the unspoken assurance that dissidents would not unravel the golden horde after a defeat.

As Falwyn rose from her seat, she playfully ruffled Mia's hair, earning a small smile. Exiting the tent, she left only herself and Linota. "One overconfident misstep cost me those precious treasures," she mused, voicing her self-reflection.

Attempting to console Falwyn, Linota moved closer, offering comfort through caresses, "It wasn't your fault." The warmth was one Falwyn wished to just melt into, but she managed to pull back with resolve. "No, all of this could be strangled from us by Briggun if I don't act."

She would get out her ink and quill and begin the writing of her message to the Viper.
To Kande Abdolon,

It appears your reputation as the Viper is well-earned. Skillfully maneuvering your men to strike the heels of the dragon rather then its head. Your forces executed your strategy with near perfection. Such prowess deserves recognition.

However, let us not deceive ourselves about each other's strengths. Your triumph in eluding me crumbles if I manage to catch the subtle trace of your presence. It is time we meet and discuss whether we truly desire to see Ysaval bathed in blood or if there exists an alternative path forward. I am willing to convene on neutral ground of your choosing.

Make no mistake – my proposal is not a display of weakness but rather an acknowledgment of the potential devastation that could befall the people of Ysaval. These are the people whom, I dare say, I am destined to rule. While I am a tyrant, my history reflects fairness. Consult one of your elven scholars if I have broken my agreeements once in the past century I received tribrute from the Cannarians.

By My Blood,
Lady Falwyn Tholmar


A messanger would find its way to the Vipers camp upon a horse with the banner of parlay they would attempt to deliver the message to the Kande. And the Dragon would await his response.

In the mean time Falwyn looked into the the mountains seperating Saarus from Everan and the isolated stream feeding one of the grand rivers of Everan. As she landed right by the stream she began investigation. Yes, it seemed as if the rocks here could be chipped apart here by her widening the stream and causing a major overflow. This would cause a cascading effect leading to a flooding of the lands below. Such a disruption would cause panic among the armies in Ysaval as they looked to avoid the flood, but also be potentially diverted to help in civilian evacuations. A tough "act of god" some religous folk might say. But there was a potential to possibly be a demi-god by Falwyn. She'd smile as she discovered this opportunity. A point of potential leverage in diplomacy against this Kande.
 
Sona Radar Sona Radar Damian0358 Damian0358

The meeting started out as smoothly as Borok could have hoped. He wasn't proposing anything entirely outlandish and Baba Voyka even made an enticing offer. The Sauroid slowly tilted his head with curiosity, crossing his arms as the listened. "So you assume I have yet to prove myself and are graciously allowing me to do so?", he deduced the most hostile way her offer could be interpreted by him on the spot. In truth, he wasn't against the idea of endearing himself to the Dark Lord, but a personal bodyguard seemed like more of a liability considering the unique way the Sauroids conducted their warfare. It also seemed like a convenient way to spy on the lucky recipient, but he wouldn't dwell on it for too long. "I don't care for the pleasure of killing her. One softskin or the other... their names mean nothing to me, take her or any other as you please. As for the head... I propose it either gets delivered by who actually gets to her in the first place or with entire anonymity. None of us have to prove anything other than our capacity to wage war on his behalf.", Borok offered a different cause of action, not hiding his disdain for the Elves or any other "softskin" on the surface above them. The occasional pained screams and cruel ripping sounds proved, that his fellow Sauroids in the tunnels had similar attitudes, pouncing on any worker collapsing from exhaustion to devour them alive.

It was under this atmosphere of misery and oppressive heat, that Yz managed to squash all semblance of a productive meeting. Borok wanted to hear her out first before responding to Voykas careful deliberations about the order of attack, when the enigmatic Yz surprised them totally. The runesmith growled in frustration as soon as he understood what her cryptic words meant and he slowly moved his heavy body to stand next to Baba Voyka, so as to support her standpoint quite pictorally. But the Sauroid remained silent and he would do so for quite a while. The spectacle which soon unfolded was one to behold, for all the wrong reasons. But the reptilian soon found himself able to observe it all, not needing to get involved. He slowly returned to his previous position, standing on nobodies side and giving disgruntled frowns for both of them. He found Yzs tantrum pathetic and yet it also seemed like a strange power move, as it drew Voyka into a longer - and somewhat revealing - speech. Meanwhile, Borok knew that silence was a strategic choice in itself and he listened carefully until Voyka finished. When she did, he simply changed his posture once more, standing slightly higher and as if coiled to snap at either one of them.

"The logic of the warmbloods is still quite mysterious to me.", he simply stated, enjoying a little more silence before looking towards Yz and then staying his eyes on Voyka. "I understand you. Yet, I will not speak of any failure, unless there is failure to wipe away Sabersval within the next assault. I will merely tell all things as they occured, should Lord Briggun ask for my testimony.", he made a point out of appearing cold to her demands. "You are both arguing over who the bigger... baby... is, certainly not the act Lord Briggun would approve of.", he even dared to fan the flames a little. He was entirely agreeing with Voykas points on the inside, but he couldn't just let her pull rank she didn't possess. Whilst he certainly appreciated her careful preparations and adherence to the plan, Borok couldn't allow her get the impression that she was above other lieutenants, no matter how right she was - and her speech could very much be conceived in that way. "What important information did you find out? When and where would you aim your next attack to ensure victory?", he very bluntly and directly asked Yz now, putting her on the spot to back up her claims of having gathered much information. "This shift needs to keep going... victory above all else, isn't that right?", he then turned back to Baba Voyka, using her own words to underline that he wouldn't pile on to either side. It was part of the little side game going on, since the Sauroids cold-blooded logic dictated that he needed to only listen to the strongest superior - which was Briggun, not any other lieutenant. "I can unleash hellfire and brimstone to initiate the attack and then immediately strike at Sabersval with weaponry carefully crafted and chosen for the task, for the fire does not hinder us. Then you two are free to strike wherever you see fit, be it east, west or north. I am contend with holding Sabersval and defending it until the Lords forces have sufficiently advanced.", he simply returned to the order of business, as if no bickering had even occured and ignoring much of the previous points, washing his paws clean of any tantrums in an attempt to show strength once more - as if all the previous spectacle was beneath him.
 
Voyka looked at Borok as he spoke, and could merely nod in response, albeit with a smile. It was clear to her that he seemed to consider himself above all this squabbling, a fair attitude to be had for sure, as she was never fond of it herself. But what was even more clear was the intent behind it. Not just earlier with his refusal to receive the honor of delivering Farandel's head and framing her graciousness in a negative manner, but even daring to fan the flames between her and Yz. Borok might respect her in terms of military affairs, but beyond that not much more. She did not mind that all that much, especially if things were just between him and her, but it stung deeply here, as she could see the sauroid thinking he rendered himself the 'adult' among 'babies', even as she was sure he implicitly agreed with her.

It harmed her image of him, for sure, but she still viewed him as more respectful than Yz. She had known men such as Borok in the military, she was used to them, she could work with them just fine. And as such, continued.

"...then you'll lead the charge," Voyka responded simply, choosing to do as Borok has, and continue the discussion that was being had prior to Yz's inaneness, "Given my suggestion to head eastward to aid Falwyn after, striking from the east may be most ideal in my circumstances, utilizing the position to fire upon her forces and charge with my men and cavalry. That is, unless the information Yz has would benefit them from that direction instead," she finished, building upon Borok's earlier statement to force Yz to back up their claims.
 
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To Kande Abdolon,

It appears your reputation as the Viper is well-earned. Skillfully maneuvering your men to strike the heels of the dragon rather then its head. Your forces executed your strategy with near perfection. Such prowess deserves recognition.

However, let us not deceive ourselves about each other's strengths. Your triumph in eluding me crumbles if I manage to catch the subtle trace of your presence. It is time we meet and discuss whether we truly desire to see Ysaval bathed in blood or if there exists an alternative path forward. I am willing to convene on neutral ground of your choosing.

Make no mistake – my proposal is not a display of weakness but rather an acknowledgment of the potential devastation that could befall the people of Ysaval. These are the people whom, I dare say, I am destined to rule. While I am a tyrant, my history reflects fairness. Consult one of your elven scholars if I have broken my agreeements once in the past century I received tribrute from the Cannarians.

By My Blood,
Lady Falwyn Tholmar

"So, what do you make of this?" asked Tarasyn, Kande's aide de camp. She was seated on the opposite side of a small camp fire, her features largely obscured by the silver shawl she wore about her plate armor.

Kande held the letter between his knees, using the fire's light to reread the dragon's words and try to discern their tone. "I think she sees the situation rather clearly," he spoke, his voice smooth yet bitter like black coffee. "She knows that if we continue to clash, without reinforcements from the north, she'll eventually run us down. But she's impatient, and she's weary of counterattack."

Tarasyn nodded. "She expects surrender. Will you entertain it?"

The question was met with a chuckle, but Tarasyn's expression remained utterly serious. Kande replied, "no, of course not- not while we have so much left to give in the name of Erevan. However, now might be the time to consider contingencies. Should we lose the numerical advantage, should we be denied reinforcement, should I be killed while the army still stands... These are all eventualities that we might need to prepare for. She will doubtlessly continue her aggression, even if we win the second confrontation."

"Doubtlessly...?"

"Yes," Kande said. "The Emperor demands conquest. From what I know of Briggun, his warlock magic is a blade to her back, spurring on her every movement. If she should forgo another attack this spring so that she might negotiate, then it might be an instance of her acting in defiance of her master. The same could also be said of us."

"Then you should accept her invitation to parlay," Tarasyn said. "Make her prove that she is not a mere puppet."

"Yes," Kande confirmed, "but I will not speak to her as a prelude to surrender. I'll speak with her about those contingencies I spoke of, and only on the condition that she suspend her aggression until the summer. It would give us more time to entreat the royal family into supporting us more adequately."

---​

To Lady Falwyn,

I will accept your offer to meet, and suggest the village of Sylvanica. This being on Imperial Territory, I should expect minimal ceremony around the event. In fact, I would venture to believe that our meeting would displease both of our masters. As much as it would further enrage Lord Briggun, I must also require a show of good faith; your forces must remain off of Erevan's soil for the remainder of spring, allowing for the planting cycle to continue uninterrupted. If you accept, then I should seek to discuss with you the possible outcomes of this campaign you're waging.

Respectfully,
Kande Abdolon
 
The Bone Coast had various villages along the border with Bolia, but only several truly matter when it came to trade between the Empire and Dominion. More so it also allowed the flow of trade with Piantian merchants, at least before Rocher and her bloodthirsty horde had surge across the border to spread death and terror as they drank deeply of their victims. The Cult of Zo had been very busy even if one could not fully see it. The Cult Army was mustering even now as they quietly built up for the eventual thrust into the Dominion. Many of their number were try to find ways in, but had been suffering setbacks with the Dominion's closed stance as of late. The flow of some merchant goods had continued obviously and Estro had elected to increase demand for Bolian goods.

The decision set a variety of actions in motion, utilizing what few infiltration points the Imperial Spies had managed to create for the cult to slip agents in with. Baskerville, Hand of Coin, was working his fiduciary magic to begin a major draw on Bolian goods which were admittedly being used for stockpiling or being openly shipped off to the other campaigns north or west of here. It was to create the illusion of Imperial need for those goods, to appear as if Saarus could not afford war with the Dominion when it relied far more upon its need for trade to sate its wartime appetite in attacking various other nations. It was from these leads and dangling bait of trade that they finally began to find much of what the sought.

In the depths of a manor on the shard borders, the Hands of Zo gathered in secret council. A round table set with chairs all of equal size and build save one which was grander in its stature. The Throne of Zo as some in the council would call it. The seat of the Wizard of Zo from which he held court and directed the various parts of his vast and secretive group. Even in the Empire, few could penetrate its depths save the Imperial Spymaster and her agents. They were tolerated if found, better to let Briggun see what the Imperial Wizard was up to, to let Veno have her peak as a professional courtesy. Around the table, various figures now gathered as the full leadership of the Cult of Zo had assembled to speak about the matter of Civiceria and its seeming reluctance.

"All this time and the bastards were planning a war of conquest and expansion of their own. What an utter failure of our spies until now," snarled Valdin, Hand of War as he slammed a fist angrily on the table. The once noble royal guard now a hardened battle commander for the Cult and Empire. Estro entrusted him with military details and planning, usually in conjunction with the others.

"Now Valdin, you know we can't see in every direction. And the Dominion has been actively obfuscating their plans. We're lucky my dear friends in the Noble Order of Merchants within the Dominion were even able to talk about this," countered Baskerville, Hand of Coin. He rubbed his jowls with ringed fingers in thought as he presented the reports from his contacts. The other Hands nodded thoughtfully, none ever to question the bloated merchant's skill in his fields. There was no contempt for him, for Baskerville was a self-made man whose efforts kept the Cult functional and self-sufficient.

"We are fortunate some of my people are now in the Dominion because of Veno," Rasa uttered in an husky voice from behind their mask. At the moment their frame was very slender, almost to the point of being unnerving from how empty the clothes hung upon the shapeshifter's body. A favorite form in meetings to remind all that the Hand of Faces had no true set form any longer. A gift of the experiments of the cult like others on the council had if in different forms.

"We should rejoice, my comrades! The way is opening even as we speak. Others already can hear the whispers of Zo even if not many. We are the river that wears down the mountain. The trickle has begun until it will be carved into a roaring torrent! Let us simply savor the joy that we finally know the paths set before us!" Balthazar, Hand of Faith declared as he spread his powerful arms wide with obvious delight. Some looked skeptical but others seemed thoughtful at the words of the Cult's master recruiter and voice in matters of its expansion and doctrine.

"Current projections dictate that direct engagement of the Dominion is unwise at this time. The Master's plan so far has proven the optimal outcome. We should pursue seeming partnership with the Dominion. Piantia represents the perfect means of bleeding Dominion assets while allowing more of our own to flow into their holdings. The Dominus has been planning expansion, while we cannot grant it so blatantly, our forces are positioned to tap that appetite for new resources and people to flow into the Dominion through treaty," stated Zothian, Hand of Creation. Estro's pet golem had grown greatly in ability since its initial making and now served well in compiling data considering its primary role as master of the Cult's various labs and experiments.

"I have to agree, it would seem we need to shift gears and dig into the weak underbelly of our neighbors. The Dominion forces are too numerous, gathers and ready for war. Let us tap our new mercantile connections to help keep them occupied while we muster more manpower and influence within. Piantia sadly seems the best means to do this without enraging Briggun," Torovein, Hand of Blood, replied before the others had time to assert their own points with the developing information. The master of the Cult's mages generally favored subtle action but at times was open to conflict like this for a bigger prize.

This triggered more arguing and debate as the Wizard of Zo sat silently and listened to his devoted followers expressing themselves. His expression thoughtful but every now and then he would lean over and speak with his new apprentice, Jastia. The mystic had become a personal project for Estro Dorozan, keeping her close and teaching her much of the cult's ways to show her she had a place there. None of the Hands looked jealous or concerned, for many of them had been in the position when Estro recruited them into the Cult. There was potential here for a new Hand and section of the Cult of Zo to develop in. Her mental powers were a boon and already she had helped ferret out these very secrets from the Dominion merchants for Baskerville. She seemed oddly happier here because no one cared about her nature, welcoming her as one of their own, seeking to show she belonged with them. A classic tactic of he cult to bring in new recruits, but suitable when their intentions were true such as here.

"I have heard enough," Estro Dorozan finally declared, his voice loud and resonant from a spell to not bother having to raise his voice. The debate stopped and the Hands all looked towards their Master. The Wizard of Zo had come to a decision on this matter. "We will prepare to stab our forces into Piantia. Much as I know this will anger Rocher and her ilk of leeches, we cannot pass up the openings it will create if we seize the territory first, doubly so with Dominion assistance."

With a gesture, a map fills the center of the table as markers spawn including the now visible Dominion armies sitting in Bolia under the command of their mysterious general. Pieces shift to show the Cult Army moving into position to march into the reeling Piantian forces in Kaula. A spearhead of cult troops eager to fulfill their purpose and feed into the greater dreams of their faith.

"We will seize our moment and strike. Waiting for the right time to snatch victory from the jaws of any in our path. The vampires have glutted themselves. We will find a greater use for Kaula, making it the lever through which the Dominion will fall in the end. I trust each of you to do your part. Let us begin!"

A dispatch sent to the embassy of the Civicerian Dominion, hand delivered by Darius, Hand of Peace:

To the Honored and Esteemed Civicerian Dominion,

I, Estro Dorozan, bid you greetings on behalf of the Saarus Empire and its master, Briggun. As of recent events, I am sure that the Dominus, Senate and your commanders are aware of the current status of war the Empire is engaging in at this time. I have become aware of the Dominion's intentions in certain matters and would seek to present myself to interested parties to better discuss matters in person.

Do let me know of a time and place if this is acceptable. I would sooner ease concerns when the Empire has great need of Dominion goods and materials at this time than to see such a flow become hindered due to unnecessary paranoia or concern. All may profit from what I have to propose and so I implore you to grant me this audience.

With Deepest Respect,
Estro Dorozan

Imperial Wizard
 
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Declan's War Camp, Tidiaus

The campaign remained uneventful as the planning continued for both slave insurrection and a ground invasion into Lacans. For Declan's troops, this was a welcome change of pace from previous campaigns - from Saarus' original conquests - as they continued to keep their spirits high in more ways than one. Their gracious hosts within Tidiaus made their time all the more pleasant to spend as the seasons were milder compared to back home. But for Declan, this was no time to rest as he sat in his tent and poured over numerous maps of the Lacans-Tidiaus border and Lacans itself. Each parchment held their own bits of information that the Viceroy attempted to parse and merge together into his mind, formulating a stratagem of land movement into the mountainous country. He wanted to get every possible detail down so as to ensure success on the initial front. He wanted to move, and move soon, as the spring was coming to an end. That would mean the melts would have dissipated and the terrain gone from mud to dirt again.

Across from him at the same table, Dennor was far more relaxed in his demeanor as he sipped lazily on a goblet of wine. His boots were kicked up onto the only part of the table that weren't covered by maps and documents. This annoyed Declan, but he kept it to himself as his "trusted" companion kept quiet. That was, until, he had an inquiry: "So I take it you have a plan by now?" Dennor asked.

"Mhm." Declan replied disinterestedly as he retained his focus on the cartography in front of him, using a calliper to determine the distance of two points.

"What if it goes to shit?"

"It won't."

"My, such confidence. Surely you can see the future?" Dennor said with sarcasm, prompting Declan to look up. He set down his tools and leaned back into his seat before rolling his eyes.

"Of course I have a contingency."

"And if that goes to shit too?"

"Then you'll be joining me on a mantlepiece on the Emperor's fireplace. So it won't happen. Don't you have work to do?" Declan then asked, narrowing his eyes.

"I *did*. Two weeks ago. I set up everything with the quartermasters - just as you asked. We're just sitting on our arses now." Dennor said before taking a sip of his wine. "No offense, of course. I don't mind the lounging. Besides, some of the halfling women I've taken a liking to. They-"

"I do *not* need to hear any details." Declan said bringing a hand up to put a stop to that line of conversation in its tracks. It was then that a courier entered through the tent flaps and delivered two letters before leaving just as quickly with a quick salute. "Haven't had mail in a while." the Viceroy commented as he picked up the first, with Dennor shifting in his seat to plant his boots on the ground. He was eager to hear any sort of news - and so Declan started with Lucafiel's message. "Hrm, that's an interesting development."

"What?"

"Our friend, the Redeemer Prince, is reporting that a plague ravages the south of Lacans as we speak." Declan said, turning his gaze to Dennor. "Seems that the republic is not as mighty as we thought." Dennor gave an approving nod as Declan finished reading the rest of the letter. "Seems he's planning on making a move, and soon. Right in tandem with us, much to our fortunes."

The Viceroy quickly took some parchment and dipped a quill into some ink to write a response: ( Emperor Sagan Emperor Sagan )
Salutation Lucafiel,

I hope this letter finds you in good spirits. Your news is of great interest, and an indicator to get the stone rolling on this campaign on Lacans. I have already conducted hefty preparations for an incursion by midsummer, when the melts have ceased and the mud return to dirt again. I believe the best course of action is to march within this same time frame, together, to put maximum pressure upon the republic. Regarding the plague, I have yet to meet any indications from the refugees I found prior of such ailments. Regardless, I will remain on the lookout for any developments. In the meantime, we both ought to remain in contact - though I propose we use ravens rather than couriers for speed. Things can change very quickly in a short period.

- Viceroy Declan Asquith Elron

With that business finished, Declan quickly placed it within a canvas envelope before sealing it with wax and stamping with his ring's sigil. "When I'm finished with this next letter, take this to our ravens and have it sent to Lucafiel." Declan ordered to Dennor, who only replied with a raising of his goblet. The next letter, however, was much more interesting given the circumstances. Declan's eyes first narrowed, before widening - a smile adorning his visage.

"You're smiling? That doesn't happen often with a grouch like you."

"Good news can make anyone smile. Find Munsie, tell her she is invited for dinner."



Later that evening...

The officer's tent for Declan's war camp was empty, save for the Viceroy himself as he sat at its head. In front of him, and in the seat to his left, were porcelain plates, wine glasses, and silver utensils laid out properly. In his pocket sat the letter that was originally meant for Munsie, which he would bring up after he had gotten her comfortable with the setting. He had an idea of how to use this development to the advantage of the campaign. When she did enter the tent at last, Declan greeted her as he hopped out of his seat. "Ah, Munsie! Welcome. I've been meaning to finally speak to you." he said with the courtesy of a host. "My apologies for having delayed our much needed conversation - but I hope this dinner makes up for it in some manner."

K0mori K0mori
 
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A day had passed since Faska announced to his tribe that they would be joining Adanach's horde. This meant Faska's reputation was tarnished, and half his army had abandoned both him and their tribe. Adanach knew this would not sit well with the goblin, and if he allowed the chieftain to be further besmirched then conflict could soon brew between the two of them. He could not allow that. He returned back to the horde's encampment soon thereafter and carefully prepared a celebration to appease the Gods, the Goblins, and most importantly Faska himself.



The following evening, at the great stone that depicted the goblin god Nilbog - where the two had fought prior - was now surrounded by tribal decorations depicting various Druadach deities. Women danced around tall poles depicting the mother goddess, while goblin bards played music to their patron so as to obtain his blessing for the horde with his muse. Men, orc, goblins, and beastfolk all feasted on roast boar and venison alongside endless streams of mead and beer. Sitting in front Nilbog's stone were Adanach, Bjoarga and Faska; the three of them enjoyed the good food and drink before them. But when Adanach raised his golden chalice - stolen from Briggun's keep when no one was looking - he asked for everyone's attention. All eyes turned towards him as the commotion of the festivities stilled.

"Hear me! The Gods have blessed us with plenty of food and drink tonight. And we must offer them tribute - by being here together, we are pleasing father Cinioch; who wants us to be together in the face of adversity! By drinking, and fucking, and celebrating we are pleasing Eoganan, who smiles down upon merry revelry of all kinds! By offering tribute, not just to the gods but to nature itself, mother Darlugdach will bless us with healthier animals, better hunts, and greater crops!"

Adanach then turned his gaze towards the Goblin bards and druids: "And by singing to Nilbog, we will be blessed with his songs in our coming victories!" The warriors of the horde nodded in agreement, letting loose disorganized hollers and cheers as they raised their cups and chalices. And Adanach continued his speech, raising his chalice again. "But let's not forget why we are here! Me and Faska fought here as real chieftains of old, just yesterday." the warlord spoke, turning to the other goblin warriors that sat across from the great pyre. The "loyal" swordsman of Faska, Urfan, glared towards Adanach with hatred that simmered under the surface.

"He fought with courage, bravery, and tenacity! Like a true chieftain! I know some of ye who doubt him for joining me..." Adanach then spoke, turning back to Faska and raised a toast to the goblin chieftain. "But he will prove ye wrong. That he's no weakling... Faska, the Bloody Bastard, I dedicate this celebration to ye! May the gods grand you strength!"

The non-goblins of the horde, upon seeing Bjorga's signal, lifted their mugs and changed the name of their rival turned ally; carried across the warband, his name sailed through the air. And they stopped as quickly as Adanach lifted his free arm to silence them. "I know many of ye distrust me for servin' the dark lord and aye... I do serve him. For now, that is." He looked at the horde with a big grin on his face, bringing about looks of confusion from some of the goblin warriors. "As I told Faska, I do not believe Briggun's words. Nor in his misbegotten realm! My intention is to save the Druadach! Unite us under one banner so we come as a united tide under the pretense of conquest. And we shall strike when the time is right! Tear down his cursed empire!"

This brought out roars of approval from the horde, and Adanach fanned the flames further. "We will break their warriors in steel! We will pull down the stones from their keeps! We will enslave their peasants and raze their cities! We will take their wealth from their vaults and rip it off their nobles! WE WILL TAKE WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY OURS! CRUSH THEM! AND TEAR BRIGGUN LIMB FROM LIMB!"

The horde's fervor was contagious as they shouted and cheered, and Adanach poured the contents of his drink down his gullet. Some of it spilled onto his chest and beard, before looking back to his warriors with a grin. "Now drink and eat ya bloody animals!"

Three days later...

Previously near the Malenchanted Woods, now at the border between Mors Darak and the realm of Cyrmm, the encampment had grown larger now that the goblins of Faska were joining them. While the celebrations had soothed any tensions between the horde and the goblins, there was another issue at hand; the warriors were growing weary, as it had been months since some of them had seen combat. They were itching for action, which sometimes spilled over into infighting over food and drink. Adanach knew that he had to deal with root of this as soon as possible, but there were other pressing matters at the moment - such as the pint-sized woman pointing a dagger at him.

"Ye told me yer gonna bring me revenge!" shouted Leena, baring her fangs as two of Adanach's warriors stopped her from getting too close. Adanach sat on a tribal throne of birch, bronze and gold - in its pagan magnificence - looming above the interloper of the current peace. "And ya didn't even have tha' decency of tellin' me ye were gonna host a feast fer that miserable cur!" Leena then shouted like a banshee, her glowing yellow eyes piercing straight at Adanach with righteous anger.

"Calm yer tits woman." Adanach muttered, slouching over his throne. "I needed time. I did not want ye to lunge after him. Don't ya understand what's at stake here, Leena?" He signalled his warriors to let her pass. "I told ye when I met ya, I was going to talk to him first. Try to make him see my point. And he did."

Leena scoffed at the answer, rolling her eyes. "Yer the biggest idiot I've ever known if yer so inclined to believe Faska the Bloody Fookin' Bastard!"

Rukar, who was sitting on the ground nearby, got up and brandished his falx. "Allow me to cut this daft cows' tongue, Adanach!" he said with a malicious grin. The goblin women took a step back from the fear this roused, nervous around a Fae even so mundane as him.

"Settle down." Adanach ordered as he looked down to his ally, causing the fae to groan before holstering his falx. He was disappointed from not being able to spill blood, and resigned himself to sit and drink again. "Listen carefully Leena, I am a man of my word. I told ya I was gonna help ya... but I am not going to fight yer own wars. If ya gotta kill that lanky son of a whore, yer gonna do it yerself!" the warlord shouted, "But NOT now! As I have told ye, if he saw reason, I wanted ye to spy on him. Use yer trackin' skills to make sure he ain't going behind my back."

Leena was visibly torn over this, but was continually surprised by how much leniency Adanach was giving Faska in the first place. And she above all abhorred spying on that brutish monster in the first place. "Ye want me to watch over the bastard that took everythin' from me!? And casted me aside for somethin' I have no control of!?" she shouted, clenching her fists. But by now, Adanach was losing his patience. He gritted his teeth as he took strides towards the wench, and was prepared to shout her down with the fury of a mountain for being so hard-headed. But the soothing touch of his wife upon his shoulder quelled that anger just as quickly for the moment.

Bjorga looked down to the goblin woman, whose height she dwarfed considerably. "Listen, Leena, I can't imagine the pain you've gone through. I never experienced such a curse. And I imagine some of the women who have had it must have lost their minds with grief... to be casted aside for something like that." The orc warrioress then thought for a moment, trying to put herself in Leena's skin. She squatted in front of the goblin lady to get closer to her: "But that's why my husband wants you in this army. Because after all you've been through, you didn't break. We need a woman of your skills here. We need someone with your keen mind to look over Faska and his unpredictability."

Bjorga then placed a hand on Leena's shoulder, which was the size of her head almost. "It... it doesn't feel right. I just... don't want to be used again." the goblin huntress then muttered.

"You won't be. You have my word as chieftess of this horde." With those words, Leena looked up into Bjorga's eyes and gave off an awkward smile. "Believe me, I dislike Faska from what I've heard about him. His disregard for our traditions is despicable. But as of now, he has kept his word. And that makes him an asset to our case."

Leena placed a small hand over Bjorga's and sighed. "F-fine... I'll do as ye say, chieftess... but ya promise I'll get me revenge?" she then asked meekly.

"Men like Faska are bound to do something stupid. And when he does, jeopardizing what we've worked for... I promise that I'll hold him still as you gut him. And you'll take his place."

Leena took a deep breath and sighed before giving her chieftess a nod. She then looked at Adanach, without saying a word, she left the chieftains tent. Adanach grinned as his wife got back up and turned to face him.

"Heh, ya always knew what to say to the ladies." Bjorga chuckled, but then gave a Adanach a stern look. "You really got yourself into a conundrum, because if Faska remains loyal, you'll have an angry goblin woman aiming an arrow at your throat for lying to her."

Adanach grinned in amusement as he slouched back into his throne, his wolfish eyes looking at his wife's body. "I expect my beautiful bodyguard to protect me if that's the case!" Bjorga crossed her arms, grinning as well before looking down at Rukkar, who was tearing a spider's legs off. "...Rukkar ain't that pretty." Adanach laughed for a good minute while the unnamused Redcap ate the legless spider. "Har har yer so funny, ya Orcish cow."

"So, what we doin' now? We've got two possible fronts to deal with now."
asked the Redcap as he looked at Adanach, the question made him frown, for there was plenty for them to do still here in Mors Gobonach. "Torrin the Ironheart... I knew from the moment I met her that she'd be the one to call herself Vergobret of Mors Darak." A vergobret is the closest thing the Druadach region has to a local noble or non-tribal ruler. Usually the Druid King of the Cyrmm grants chieftains said title, but a some chieftains, specially those who disregard the power of the Druid King, declare themselves Vergobret to show off their power to other chieftains. "She's too ambitious and greedy, she would never agree to bend the knee, and those among her tribe would follow her to the bitter end." Upon hearing that, Adanach clenched his fist and cursed under his breath at his situation. Two powerful realms were bordering him now, and while he wasn't worried about the Cyrmm, Torrin and the Orcish tribes of Mors Darak concerned him greatly. He would prefer to get Mors Darak through diplomacy rather than bloodshed, but that wasn't an option.

"However, the other tribes will follow you if you prove your mettle in combat... and of course, my father and the rest of my tribe will follow you, but to get to them, we must fight through Torrin's armies to get to them." Rukkar looked at them. "What about the Druid King?"

"Do not concern yerself with that, Rukkar... Our focus shall be Mors Darak, but first, I will talk with Faska about something I've noticed while traversing through his tribe. The amount of trinkets from Tidiaus intrigues me, I need to know if he struck a deal or something with the halflings." Bjorga raised an eyebrow, but she trusted her husbands judgement. "In the meantime, we shall prepare for the upcoming war, tell my Solduros t-"

Adanach stopped mid sentence when he noticed a pair of warriors entering the tent, behind them was a young man wearing a tunic, a red phrygian cap and sandals. He had several cuts and bruises but otherwise appeared to be healthy, albeit, scared of the barbarians surrounding him. "My chief, this boy arrived at the gates saying he's carrying a message for you." the warrior pushes the foreign messenger towards Adanach's throne, the poor messenger stumbles and falls to his knees. "I... I... m-my apologies, master Adanach, I b-bring you a message from the Redeemer Prince!"

"Who the fuck is that?" asked Rukkar as he pulled out his falx, intimidating the poor boy while Adanach raised an eyebrow. "...Redeemer prince? Lucafiel? What would that strange Fae want with us?"

Back in imperial lands, the two lieutenants barely interacted with each other, for a long while Adanach thought very lowly of Lucafiel, thinking he was just like Briggun and he always assumed the Vestati thought low of him as well, but he was always curious about the "faceless white fae" and his people. "It must be important." Bjorga figured, she doubted the Redeemer Prince would send a letter just to be social.

Since Adanach did not know how to read, he depended heavily on his scribe Catu, to read and write letters for him. Catu, being a goblin of extremely short height, usually rested in a chest or bag near Adanach's throne, often sleeping next to books or with writing equipment on top of him, he was a strange creature, but a fantastic scribe.

"Catu, ya up? I need ye to read me a letter, lad!" shouted Adanach towards a chest to his right, almost immediately Catu emerged from the chest and ran in all fours towards his patron, he held the letter, sniffing the paper several times before breaking the wax seal. "Smells pretty, sah!" said the Goblin before reading the letter. "Oooh! Fantastic calligraphy, sah!" Catu kept reading until finished, then proceeded to narrate the contents of the letter;

To the great warrior Adanach and clan,

The campaign to integrate Lacans will likely begin within the year and preparations go well. I, too, hope your activities in the east go well. However, I write with a request. The territory my legion faces is rather mountainous and wooded - ill land for easy maneuvering. If it is so possible, I am petitioning for a small forced of your soldiers to accompany my legion as scouts and skirmishers, especially those who have experience within the realm of Lacans previously. While this is neither a personal nor official request but merely an exchange of military purpose in service to our Emperor, I would of course be delighted to offer later assistance to yourself and your... clan people as you see fit. Do feel free to assemble as many centaurs, orcs, goblins, and the such as you wish. Perhaps you would like to see the value in a Vestati crusader in return.

"Why is he askin' fer Orcs, Goblins and beastmen?" asked a puzzled Rukkar, since most of the barbarian horde consisted of humans. Adanach was also a bit confused by the request until he looked at his wife and then at a tall Orcish warrior standing guard by the entrance to his tent. Adanach grinned and shook his head before speaking. "Don't think too much about it ol' lad, what matters now is that the redeemer prince needs some scouts." Adanach got off his throne, but Bjorga was a bit surprised by her husbands willingness to help a sissy southern noble. "Are you seriously going to send him some men?" Adanach nodded. "Aye, might not look like it, but I kinda like that twerp, he left me alone and I, in turn, left him alone, besides... ye never know when ya might need a favor from a fancy fae... Catu, do ya have a feather to write a message?" The diminutive goblin ran towards his chest and ran back to Adanach holding a pen and an ink pot that he stole from Estro back in the capital.

"I got it, sah!"

"Good lad, now listen carefully..."

A week later...

The once decrepit Akatoria Castle was now surrounded by a series of formidable defenses and watchtowers with guards taking turns every so often, while they were always on high alert in case of an enemy raiding party, the Yakal auxiliaries had grown accustomed to the depressing quiet of Kokaria and were not expecting anything to happen today, but that was not the case; two Yakal guards posted by the eastern watch towers noticed a large cloud of smoke approaching the castle, they signaled the other watchtowers of an incoming, unknown party. The two beastmen warriors prepared themselves to hold the tower as best they could if they turned out to be a hostile party, but as they continued to approach the Yakals noticed they were not raiders from Lacans nor a local bandit group, they were Druadach barbarians.

When the barbarians approached their tower, they were given the signal to stop by a Solduros and the leader of this party. One of the yakals descended down the tower to see what they wanted. "State your business, warrior." asked the Yakal warrior at the Solduros; he was a tall, imposing Orc wearing bronze and iron armor, he rode on top of a fearsome black warg. "I am a sworn sword of Adanach, I bring a letter for yer master, and I was instructed to join yer army." The Yakal looked at the seal of the letter, it was a wax seal with a pagan symbol on it. The Yakal then looked at the party behind the Orc; it consisted of Orcs mounted on horses and wargs, there were many Goblin skirmishers riding wolves and hounds and in the back there were a few Minotaurs charioteers, riding on top of highly decorated chariots.

The Yakal warrior looked at the party for a while, trying to determine if they truly were part of Adanach's horde, he then looked at the letter and its seal, before handing it back to the Orc solduros and signaling his partner on top of the tower to warn the other towers of an upcoming allied force. The Orc and his party continued down the road towards Akatoria without saying a thing, but one thing is for certain, they were not happy to be here.
 
The arrival of Adanach's warriors prompted some modest activity within the fortified legion camp. Once they were allowed past the ditches, stakes, and palisade, the barbarians would see that the inner confines of the camp was very well organized. The half dug-in cabins were well insulated from the rain and cold despite being constructed of gathered stones and wood with a canvas rooftop stretched tight overhead. Of these cabins, all were in orderly rows segregated by sections and companies, with each group indicated by small banners, fluttering proud in the now warmer spring air. Sanitation trenches had been dug extensively to deal with water drainage and trash accumulation, and in many cases acted to flush water towards the latrines, which in turn flushed accumulated waste outside and away from the camp. Given that the Hallow Legion was dug in and preparing for their eventual advance, the camp was currently highly populated - foraging and scouting teams were often only small parties, and the occasional cross-border raid usually only consisted of a section or two.

Despite the general activity of such a fortification, where numerous sections were training in formations and sparring with each other, many who were not currently occupied with work turned their attention to the arrival of Adanach's warriors. The main bulk of the legion consisted of the Yakals, though there were also numerous other races mixed in as well. All of the regular soldiers wore fairly varied uniforms, but most wore the usual colorful tunics and armored skirts expected of many legionnaires, and even many non-Vestati wore veils in imitation of their masters.

Of the Vestati themselves... many appeared in an elusive manner, almost without warning, their forms shrouded in much finer plate armors as these knightly figures emerged from odd angles. There was an ethereal sense to them, these Vestati soldiers and ancient crusaders. Despite their attire meant for a bloodied battlefield, they walked with a measured grace that bespoke great experience - a lifetime of war and training, honed into a fine art. The embellishments upon their armor were wholly unique, and no two Vestati knights looked the same as for all of them their armor and clothing was as much an outward expression as it was their outer skin. Nothing signified this more than their masks, some painted into nightmarish grotesques and others simple, modest plates of metal with slits for eyes. This headgear was not merely protective, for it shielded their souls against the unholy ire of their ancient, dying god.

The warriors were brought up to the main castle itself, past several more defensive lines built mainly to keep the legion busy during the slower weeks to keep active; naturally, should the defenses ever be needed, it was better to have them than not.

Sentries allowed entry for the main leaders and officers of the warriors, whoever they may be and of those who wished to enter the castle. Within this interior would they step into the true domain of the Vestati, shielded from the certain death of an open sky.

While the outside looked every bit an orderly military fortress, the inside looked more like the wonders of an unknown - possibly surrealist - market bizarre, filled with a dizzying array of foreign arts and materials. Embroidered tapestries had been put up, of which colored lace told intricate stories of the distant, near forgotten past, showing even more alien forms engaging in apocalyptic warfare. Soldiers with feathered wings of black and white fighting within a void black sky split by lightning, while upon the ground of tumbled stone and marble could thousands be seen locked in a titanic struggle in an ocean of blood. Of this particular imagery, the faces of each of the thousands of figures was depicted, etched in agony and ecstasy in equal measure. There was no way to tell who was friend or foe, merely that every being seemed cursed to struggle for their lives in an endless sea of death. Somewhere, haunting music was being played on instruments that seemed unfamiliar - were they string or perhaps brass?

Candles in bronze cases, etched with decorative lines and holes for the light to escape, lit all corners and walls of the castle, surrounded by their own entourage of lit candles and incense burners. Many Vestati knights, in an odd scene, merely lounged about the confines, their armored bodies relaxed upon cushions as they smoked long, thin pipes. Very few faces were revealed, for those who opted to remove their armored masks, they instead wore finely embroidered veils, revealing only watchful, narrow eyes. Of the Vestati who were not soldiers, either dressed in the fine attire of functionaries, acolytes, or master craftsmen, no matter how little - if any - clothing they wore, practically all concealed their faces, even of the tantalizing forms of dancers and servants clad only in loincloths and jewelry.

Those of Adanach's warriors who entered were brought to an old central chamber where the liege must have once given court. Here, even more Vestati were gathered, all sat upon the walls in their little worlds of cushions and low-tables. Many occupied themselves with peculiar table-games or card-like items with pictures. Fine foods and drinks were seen as well, though the Vestati ate less than the mortal races, preferring only the finest and not the bulk of a meal needed to get through the day. As such, many dined upon breads and olive oil, or fruits dipped in warmed chocolate. Perhaps the most egregious of this scene were some figures encompassed in fine blankets moving against each other, nestled within the assembly of seated and lounging forms at random. For the foreign barbarians, many silent eyes watched them closely, both of Vestati figures and of those clearly Yakal.

Without so much as a need to wait, a small entourage of figures arrived only a moment later, with one of them clearly the fabled Redeemer Prince. While he looked much like his kin, there was a demeanor and air to his form that was unique among an already tantalizing atmosphere of oddities. There was no doubt that he was a warrior as much as he was a ruler, or an artist, or a diplomat, or any other profession that one so long-lived might have been graced to perform. His gaze, when seen from behind his mask, was inquisitive and energetic, if not with a sense of mischievousness born from longevity - a casual nonchalance that took all in stride.

"Warriors of the great Adanach," a herald spoke, turning to the barbarians. "You have the honor to stand in the midst of Lucafiel sa Helendal, the Redeemer Prince himself. As you are neither kin nor auxiliary but instead guests, you may stand or prostrate yourselves as you wish."

Lucafiel himself looked over those who opted to enter the castle, posing one hand beneath his chin in contemplation. A scribe brought the letter Adanach had sent along with his soldiers to him and he read it - measured but quickly - before handing it aside.

"I am most pleased to see the skirmishers have arrived safely," he said, voice soft and melodic, but with the firmness of eternity. "I do hope your travels have been well. And, I must admit, I have been curious to see such... creatures as yourselves at work more closely. You have been brought here to assist as scouts for the harsh terrain we face, but I see no reason that it cannot serve to build more mutual and profitable relations between our clans, so to speak." It was likely there were political reasons behind his call for arms, though he did not elaborate if there were. Instead, he raised one hand, attached to his silken gold cape, and gestured at their surroundings. "If your commanders - do you call them that? - wish to partake with the officers, they may join the auxiliaries in their designated rooms of leisure. For the rest of your warriors outside, they may naturally camp with the rest of the legion. We have cleared and assembled space for your troops. If they wish to erect tents for themselves, they may, or we shall assemble them cabins. All amenities open to the legion are open to you - the baths, the training field, the armories, the forum."

Lucafiel strode slowly about those who entered into the castle, eying each of them, before at last approaching closer to the rather tall and splendidly muscular orc in bronze armor. "The... Solduros, yes? I welcome you, personally. You may partake with the high officers under my care and the luxuries afforded to them. I ask that your warriors keep the peace and respect our customs and actions. We are, for example, currently enacting a procedure of quarantine to ward off the disease in the Lacans territory. As such, your men will need to keep among themselves and not wander the camp, but officers may meet with officers, and soldiers may train with each other during their allotted times." It was evident, if not already noted upon arrival, that the Hallow Legion greatly valued their organizational and logistical skills. "You may note the Vestati do not follow much of these restrictions not out of disregard, but because we do not contract your mortal illnesses."
 
"Come in." Cordia called out after she heard the knock on her cabin's door. "Oh Uripa, how's the training going?" She didn't even turn around to see her phisician. She didn't need to, she could smell the drow's blood. A fact that always unnerved Uripa.

"Ashryn is settling into the role rather well." She fought the feeling off and spoke confidently enough. "Her necromancy proficiency was already above the average grave robber you'd see inland, so attuning herself to more focused spells has been easier. She even made suggestions on who we could recruit into the coven."

"I like the initiative, but I need to see them for myself." Cordia finally turned around. "Can't have just any fluzie with aspirations for a vampire husband in."

"Excuse me, captain?"

"Ah before your time I think. Back in the day some bards spread the word that vampire lords prefer their brides with a talent to corall skeletons and zombies to their side. The result was a surprising number of sorcerrer's aprentices forgoing their sworn duties and pledging themeselves to the dark powers to set themselves up for life. It didn't end well."

"There is absolutely no chance that is true." Uripa blinked in disbelief, slightly shaking her head.

"Oh?" Cordia smiled "You told me your great grandmother was the original owner of that grimoure you use. Should we hold a seanse to ask her why she picked it up and damned her bloodline?"

"I...I rather we switch the subject." A beat of sweat ran down the drow's brow. "The expedition you send after that shipwreck came back. They found a chest, but haven't been able to break the lock."

"Lets go see it then." Cordia was already halfway through the door when she heard that they had found a chest, the rest was just a bit of motivation. Once outside on the deck, she spotted Gribbs and Sawtooth directing trafic.

"Come on you wastes! Put that chest down! Forget being careful, the damn thing is locked up tighter than a nun's arse." The group of undead sailors that carried the chest took it as a que to just drop it unceremoniously. The loud thud made the ship 'growl' as if it was hit by it.

"Elfwood." Cordia muttered. "Enchanted. Lock is made of mythril. Rather strange looking lock." She continiued to comment as she examined it. "Sawtooth, for the future. Don't just slam random objects on our ship. Elfwood has rather unpleasant properties if weaponized against it."

"Eh, sorry cap'tin."

"I see why you've had trouble opening it. Its not locked with any key." She got closer and put her fingers on the lock. "The 'key' would be a cypher. You insert it and then you 'talk' to the lock to let you in." She tapped the magic lock "Must have been some wizard's stache or some wealthy merchant's goods."

"So how do we open it boss?" Gribbs asked, looking up to her quizically.

"You'll do nothing." Cordia shoed him away. "I'll have a chat with it." The gremlin was about to say something when his captain inserted a finger in the lock. The mechanism inside moved as clicking and claking began to eminate. "There you are." Something started scraping. "Oh you're not going to be a problem for me, are you?" The noise got louder. Now smoke started to pour from the lock. "Didn't think so. All that time down in the water. The salt eroded you. Made you weak." It 'screamed'. "Got you!" One final click and the lock opened. Cordia pulled her finger from the lock and shook off a tar-like substance from it. "Had to lobotomize it. Not much left in there for that given the water damage, but it was enough to keep you lot from getting a peek. Now." The banshee captain kicked the chest open revealing its content.

Scales. Worthless to the uneducated, but Cordia smiled as she noticed what type they were. Emerald dragon scales. Worth a fortune to any alchemist, ehchanter and mage worth their salt. A rich booty indeed.

"Gribbs, hold one for me." The gremlin picked up the prized regent. "Now, duplicate."

"Sure." He pulled another scale from his pocket. Identical to the one he was holding in his palm.

"More, Gribbs!" His captain scowled.

"Ehh, thats going to be a problem." Cordia looked at him with anger "Its a very hard to come by item and well...it takes a lot of time to duplicate it with the energy I have so..." Cordia kicked the gremlin across the deck. Sawtooth burst out in laughter.

"Useless little..." She regained her composure. "Fine...I'm fine...Guess we'll amass riches in another way."
 
To my most esteemed friend Veno Dilach,

I have exchanged some few letters with the fabled Ram of Iskulia, Ikono Manakles, and have found him... rather unpersonable within the page. If it is at all possible, I would like to see if you have an assembled dossier on his person and those close to him. He seems prideful, arrogant, boastful, and rash. A very ripe personality for exploitation. I suspect by the time this letter finds you, we will have already gone to the battlefield, though I suspect the campaign will be a slow and steady one. I do hope all is well within your life and labors.

I must also bring to your attention that there is plague in Iskulia and I have concerns on the maritime shipping here spreading the disease elsewhere. As I am certain you have a contact in every shadow that stretches on this continent, perhaps raise caution on Iskulian ships and goods. I intend to burn all, naturally. Plague is such a distasteful thing, no? And perhaps you can convince Declan of the foolishness of freeing all slaves of Lacans. The north may suffer less than the south, but plague cares little about boundaries. I will be most cross should he continue ahead heedless of the danger of disease.

- your dear friend, Lucafiel

Veno's eyes darted across the letter, half admiring the calligraphy and half actually taking in the information requested of her. Indeed, she did have contacts across most of the continent. She wouldn't be as good of an Imperial Spymaster if she didn't. If a flea bit the neck of a noble in far off Arnone, she'd know about it within a few days. Digging up a dossier on Ikono Manakles and those he primarily associated with wouldn't be difficult at all. She did wonder how Lucafiel would repay her, however. She didn't often do these things out of the goodness of her heart, unless it was directly for Briggun.

The plague Lucafiel mentioned next in his letter was of particular note. Plagues spread quite easily, and there was a risk of the plague not just spreading to the north. It could be unknowingly brought back into the Empire, or spread elsewhere. Killing carriers and burning their corpses was a sure method of containment, as was burning the locations of where plague outbreaks were centered.

Veno, however, had a master chemist at her disposal. Perhaps, with a sample of the plague, a cure could be developed and distributed amongst the armies for the time being?

"Guard." she said loudly, setting the letter down on the table before her.

The cloth cover to her large tent opened, and an armored head poked in. A drow knight, of course, bearing the markings of the cult of Akordia. They were camped out just outside of Sansey, Veno's army preparing for the coming weeks of war with Weidach. Though not everyone was here, of course. Talice remained back in the Imperial capital, overseeing Veno's duties while she was away.

Veno straightened up from the long wooden table, covered in maps of Weidach and the surrounding areas as well as documents from spies and scouts. She fixed her silky purple robe, before speaking again. "I need to speak with both the Huntress and the Chemist. Bring them to me, please." she stated, her red eyes travelling up to the guard from the table.

The guard nodded and gave her a proper salute before disappearing from the cloth curtain. While she waited, she returned to gazing down at the table. In particular, she stared at a note from one of her spies keeping an eye on her allies in the nearby Piantia Campaign. Word had made it back that Cordia, the Banshee, had captured and recruited a drow by the name of Ashryn. The woman, apparently, was a necromancer.

The name Ashryn sounded really familiar, but she couldn't quite place from where. She'd have to mull over it a bit more before she could place exactly where she knew it from. That, or she would have to meet this Ashryn in person. Doubtful that would happen unless she had a meeting with Cordia, however.

Minutes passed, before the two individuals she had requested made their appearances. Cazna entered first, as stoic as ever. However, instead of the typical garments she normally wore, she was now clad in bits of armor and chain-mail. She had likely been training the soldiers for the coming weeks. Veno flashed her a smile, before glancing behind her to another figure. One which was entering the tent rather noisily.

Viclara Tortlar
(Master Chemist, Self-Proclaimed 'Doctor')

Plague Doc.png
"I genuinely hope this is of the utmost importance!" said the oddly dressed high elf as she marched the curtains. There was an odd smell that lingered the air following her. "I was developing a particularly potent compound! One I hope can be used in your future campaigns, perhaps?"

Veno shrugged. "Perhaps... why do you smell like garlic?"

"It's the concoction itself, madame. It gives off the aroma of garlic and horseradish from what I can tell, after the proper mixture of ingredients! The liquid is also particularly viscous, and has a yellowish hue."

"...I hope I don't have to tell you that you shouldn't be testing it on anyone while we're here." stated Veno.

"By Akordia, no! I tested it on some idiot the guards brought in before we left the capital!" stated Viclara, waving both her hands in front of her rapidly. "So far, it seems to have a sort of irritating effect on the skin. I'll know more later!"

Veno sighed. "You could at least tell me you're going to do these things BEFORE you do them, Viclara." she muttered, before looking back down at the table. She glanced towards the letter Lucafiel sent, before speaking again. "Cazna, do we happen to have a dossier on the Ram of Iskulia, Ikono Manakles? Our friends up north have need of information on him and his associates."

Cazna nodded. "We do, back at the capital. Talice knows where to look." responded the armored drow folding her arms.

"Good. Send word to her. Tell her to send a copy of the documents to Lucafiel." Veno then looked to Viclara. "As for you, I have need of your 'doctor' services in regards to the north as well."

"Ohoho!" said the plague doctor, opening her arms wide. "Pray tell, what have our allies encountered?"

"A true plague, according to Lucafiel. One at risk of spreading due to the war." responded Veno, "At the moment, they're going to proceed with the typical methods. Kill and burn. But, I intend to send you back to the capital if they can provide you with a sample of the plague."

"And you want me to...?" asked Viclara, "...Cure it? Weaponize it? I can do both, you know."

"...For now, focus on the curing half." said Veno, eyeing the doctor for a moment. A glance back in Cazna's direction allowed Veno to notice that Cazna had something to say. "Yes, Cazna?"

"Those Clerics in Oberngenia. What do you intend to do?" asked Cazna, raising an eyebrow.

Veno had recently been informed of a group of group of clerics referred to as the Clerics of Endane. Supposedly these clerics were working on magics to counter her own dark magics and the magics of her allies. She sent spies shortly afterwards to investigate the matter... and found out something rather humorous. They were simple amateurs. Their wards would be worthless against her own force and likely the forces of her allies.

"...Nothing." said Veno, with a grin. "I shall leave them be. Let them practice their magics. We'll see who's is better when the time comes."

Cazna raised an eyebrow, but nodded at the response. "And the soldiers?"

Veno shrugged. "We can't exactly stop them from getting chummy with our allies in Sandach. However... you can instill a sense of focus. We're here to 'assist' with this war. When the 'assisting' is done, other things will need to be done."

"...Understood." responded Cazna.

Veno then smiled. "...Send a messenger to Swybeck. Tell him that I need to have a bit of conversation with him regarding our future assault on Weildach, especially with our opponents bracing for the coming storm."

--- --- --- --- --- ---​

To the honorable Redeemer Prince,

I hope this letter finds you well. I have received your requests, and have tasked my subordinate with sending you all we know of the Ram of Iskulia, Ikono Manakles. Thankfully, I've had my spies do extensive research into Ikono prior to these opening campaigns, and I do hope you find the included information useful in your endeavors. As for the plague, I'll see what I can do in regards to halting its spread into Imperial territories. Security will be heightened at our ports and borders, and I'll have my men and women keep a look out for potential carriers in neighboring nations as well. I do have a request, however, in regards to this plague. If at all possible, could you send a sample of it back to the capital for my master chemist to study? Perhaps we can develop a cure for the sickness, and distribute it amongst the standing armies as a means of protection and prevention.

As for the Lord Viceroy, I should make it a point that I personally do not approve of slavery. One is far more useful when they give themselves willingly into servitude instead of being forced unwillingly into it. I can not convince the Lord Viceroy to change his mind on the matter if I myself agree with him and his methods. However, it is more likely that he could be convinced if you were to go through, say, our Lord Emperor? Perhaps a commanding word is needed.

Kindest regards,


[An image of a ink black rose is drawn here.]

To the esteemed Lord Viceroy,

Salutations, Lord Viceroy. I believe that a letter is due after receiving one from our associate, the Redeemer Prince. In which, he made me aware of a plague spreading through the southern lands of Lacans. In particular, Iskulia. I advised him that I shall be making the effort to heighten security at Imperial ports and borders, and keep an eye out for possible carriers in neighboring lands. I advise you and your men and women to keep an eye out as well. If you should encounter the plague, you know the traditional methods of eradication. Kill, burn, bury. I have requested that the Prince send a sample of the plague to the Imperial capital, so my chemist can get to work on a potential cure. That way, we can prevent the spread through other means. If you should encounter anyone infected with the plague, I would request a sample be sent to my chemist as well. If at all possible.

The Prince also requested that I speak to you and try to convince you to change your mind on freeing the slaves. I advised that I can not convince you to do that if I already agree with you on the subject. Be aware that he may attempt to seek Lord Briggun's approval on the issue, however.

Humble Regards,


[An image of an ink black rose is drawn here.]

To the dreaded Banshee Queen of the Seas,

I do hope this letter makes it to you without too much salt-water damage. I see that your endeavors in the Piantia Campaign have proceeded with immense success. Things here on the Weildach side of things are proceeding accordingly, but my spies have brought to my attention that the enemy has a mermaid in their naval services. Now I, of course, can figure out a proper method in dealing with her as well as her half-elf ally on the mainland, but I couldn't help but offer you a chance at a little more bloodshed on the high seas. If you decline, however, I will understand.

If you would, offer the same chance to our rather blood-thirsty associate. If you don't want to take the chance, she may jump at it. I'm more than willing to share if it advances our collective plans for the Emperor.

Kindest Regards,


[An image of an ink black rose is drawn here.]
 
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To Lady Falwyn,

I will accept your offer to meet, and suggest the village of Sylvanica. This being on Imperial Territory, I should expect minimal ceremony around the event. In fact, I would venture to believe that our meeting would displease both of our masters. As much as it would further enrage Lord Briggun, I must also require a show of good faith; your forces must remain off of Erevan's soil for the remainder of spring, allowing for the planting cycle to continue uninterrupted. If you accept, then I should seek to discuss with you the possible outcomes of this campaign you're waging.

Respectfully,
Kande Abdolon
Falwyn looked over the message considering the proposal. It wasn't an unreasonable request by the man, however the offer to meet in imperial territory surprised her. Against other lieutenants of Briggun such a concession could have led to a potential capture and disruption of the entire command structure. Falwyn considered the thought briefly before audiably snorting to that low level of treachery.

So his tactic was to buy time, undertake risks neccesary to delay invasion. She had the advantage of the skies, fire, and come summer the rivers. And she would make him bend the knee, or at least put the thought in his head. One that would become increasingly appealing when the vast company under Briggun's command in the Sauriod mountains finally decided to undertake movement. She picked up her quill unrolling another roll of parchment beginning to pen out a message.

To Kande Abdolon,

I accept your proposal. My forces will stay in Ostmajora until the start of summer. I do hope for a good harvest. I will set camp in Sylvanica. If you do not come to parlay within two weeks time I will consider this promise forgone.

By My Blood,
Falwyn Tholmar


Falwyn stretched her arms out looking over the message she had written. Her delay would cause an anger to Briggun, but that could be sated by the blood which would be poured out come summer. She walked upon through the roughly beated out dirt paths in the outskirts of a town which they had taken camp outside of. The banners erected around the camp still shown her golden image, and the men had slowly began to regain their composure. Her marshal Titus Dawnguard overlooked the training grounds calling out critiques, "Joseph your dropping your guard." He'd pace forward looking as a broad muscalar man elbowed his sparing partner to the ground then resting his sword to his side looking at a smile to Titus. The man who had fallen on the ground had in the time managed to roll up and place a dagger to the mans chest. Titus shook his head, "Finish your battles. A cornered foe is the one that is most dangerous." Falwyn would finally call off to Titus, "Bring a contignent of our men to Sylvanica, I have a meeting to attend to." She would then walk off slowly transforming to her dragon form to the small cheer of a few men around her.

She took to the skies free the wind blowing against her true form. To coast across the skies was a delight viewing the world below as hers to explore. Going across valleys and hills of a land slowly broken in spirit she would spot the town of Slyvancia landing down near the outskirts. A local farmer boy screamed out in panic as she came falling down. The initial fear always did satisfy her, how they naturally fell to their knees before her. She'd slowly transform back into her human form as the boy looked on her puzzled, "Don't fear boy, I'm just here for a drink. where's the nearest tavern."

As time passed the contigent would move in directed by Dawnguard, golden banners dotting across the village. Falwyn would find her place of parlay upon the town square. A fine oak table was set out draped with a nice white wool tablecloth. Brought in from her collection it contrasted against the rusted fountain nearby that had long since stopped its flow. Nearby the people progressed upon their daily lives trugging through the daily tasks. They had quickly grown quite calm to the presence giving her due respect and providing her with the proper meat and alcholol to sate her appetietes.

As Kande Abdolon finally approached the village he would be led to the place of parlay a silver plate of cooked pork with cut potatos on the side. Falwyn was dressed in a fine white cloak, pauldrons and an intricate weave lacing the top near her neck. Her hair braided into two lusciously long pigtails that draped down her shoulders to the sides.

"I am glad that you have come Kande. Wine? Aged fifty years from the Abracion vineyards. Its a shame what happened to their family. The heir was quite an innovator." She'd smile offering to pour as the man sat across from her.

K0mori K0mori
 
Days later

"Captain! Mail for you!" Gribbs stormed into the cabin waving the cylinder in hand. The gremlin stumbled forward but managed not to drop the precious cargo. He stood up grinning holding it and beaming with pride. A bold of magic hit him square in the jaw and send him sailing outside. The container falling right into the captain's grasp.

"I didn't tell you to come in!" She scolded the creature. She motioned with a hand and the door closed itself. A muffled 'I'm fine' could be heard from Gribbs. Cordia rolled her eyes and oppened the cylinder. She had expected letters by now. Boastful captains and lawmen claming they will put an end to her. That sort of thing, but not this. Not so soon. It appears that Veno had some issues. A mermaid. The banshee captain wanted to go after Sirius and challenge his topedo moniker, but now an new threat on the waves had shown itself. This was always going to be a multi-front war. But perhaps pincering this little siren before she became a threat would put the fear of the banshee into the coasts.

But this was hardly a choice for only she could make. After all Veno had proposed Alexandre to join the fray. The wisdom of her splitting her attention from harvesting Kaula to pursue a foe by sea was dubious at best, and the spymaster had to know this. What game was she playing?

But letters had to be written.

To Spymaster Veno

I send you this letter to confirm your message has arrived safely to my ship and that your generous offer for mayham is considered. I will send you a folloup on what should be done to to the annoying little mermaid. Fear not, even if I am there to keelhaul her or not, I can still advise on how to treat a daughter of the deep.

Speak to you soon.
Captain Cordia

To the ripper of flesh and harvester of souls, Alexandre

I hope this letter finds you well, covered in blood and entrails. How goes the campaing? Rumors are starting to swirl of the Bone coast becoming a deathtrap once again. I cannot possible take the credit for such a development all for myself.

There is another reason I'm writing you this letter. The emperor's spymaster has apparently hit a new development on her end. Some mermaid has appeared and allied herself with Sandach. She asks if we are interested in joining in for some slaughter and while I believe you might delight in some additional killing, I do not want to commit on your behald especially when you might have other things that need more immediate attention.

I also suspect our spymaster may have some other machinachions in the works on account of her profession, but what they may be, I cannot say. I'll await your answer before I make any decision to Veno's proposal.

Best wishes
Captain Cordia
To Baba Vojka

How goes the war effort, Baba? My coven has recruited its first new member in a long while, so it got me thinking how my sister in haxes is fairing. Have you had a chance to expand your circle? Have you taken hold of the Erevanians fears? Do you throt through their nightmares? Teralia is fun, but I'm curious about the rest of the world.

Best wishes
Captain Cordia
Cordia placed the letters in their envelopes, but before she send them, she penned one last paper for the evening.

To the Torpedo

Oh captain, my captain. How I fear that dreadful pirate that has arisen from the waves. Her ship of whailing souls filling the sails with their screams. The hull decorated with the bodies of the slain. Their flesh melding to the wood as an affront to nature. How I wish you would act to save us.

Am I close, dear? Are these the types of letters you get? I do believe I'd make a great damsel in distress if I was given the chance. But the gods have instead decided to make me the villain of their tales. Shame really. It looks so fun to be a hapless dimwit waiting for the big strong man to come save me.

But go tell your king, queen and whoever that you beat me this time. That you intimidated me with that fleet. Piantia currently has no interest to me, for there are more interesting shores to plunder. You however, my dear Sirius. I'll keep an eye on your career.

With love and hate
Captain Cordia
Would he believe the lie? Probably not, but who knows what a man driven by fear would do. Cordia stood up from her chair and carried the letters to the reanimated crow skeletons and gave each one their repsective letter and whispered their destinations.

"Fly my preties!" She said as she oppened the window for their flight.
 
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As the encampment's palisade gates opened Adanach's warriors stepped through, unbothered by the curious looks given to them from both Auxilia and the Vestati. Many of them reveled in the attention they were receiving, and took every opportunity they could to make crude gestures and hurl inappropriate remarks at those that would soon be their superiors. While not as diverse as the Horde itself, this small group of warriors showed some of said diversity; the Orcish solduros leading them was a red-haired beast of a man wearing only the best armor and wielding the finest weapons that the blacksmiths of the Druadach could make. Behind him were other tall, powerful Orcs followed by Goblins - whose faces and bodies features great variety, some being unsettling while others almost humanoid. Some were even considered attractive by human standards. Finally were the minotaurs, who towered over the Orcs and whose physical strength were on display to see. Their shaggy red fur were covered in blue painted markings made out of woad, and they carried massive swords, axes and spears that could easily pin a grown man to a wall or cleave one in twain.

At the entrance of the castle, the Solduros chose his best warriors to accompany him inside; three Orcs, a lithe and handsome Goblin, and a one-eyed, monstrous Minotaur. While fewer in number than when they arrived, they continued to brazenly walk through their way into Akatoria Castle. But they were curious as to the opulent wealth surrounding them on display, wondering of their worth. And some couldn't help themselves but to admire the structures and art surrounding them. Unknown to many outside the region, but the people of the Druadach did value cultural arts, and seeing a small statuette depicting a beautiful VVestati was enough to trigger a barrage of questions from the warriors - wondering of the craftsmanship and the materials used to make it.

But fine art was not the only thing that had caught their eyes as they advanced further through the castle. Once inside the central chamber, the small entourage of warriors looked at the opulent court with shock. First, by the sheer amount of delicacies. But more importantly, they were surrounded by the courtiers and dancers of the Redeemer Prince. While these warriors knew that the Vestati were not man or mer, they never actually had seen what was under their exquisite armours. And while faces were hidden by veils still, they were charmed by the elegant beauty of their new patrons. And this was followed with lascivious looks and comment, with the goblin skirmisher going as far as to try and charm one of the dancers. But this attempt at courting was cut short when another entourage of people entered the central chamber.

"Warriors of the great Adanach, you have the honor to stand in the midst of Lucafiel sa Helendal, the Redeemer Prince himself. As you are neither kin nor auxiliary but instead guests, you may stand or prostrate yourselves as you wish."

Before them stood the famed Redeemer Prince - whom the warriors deferred actual respect to. Lucafiel was a powerful being, and they knew this. And power was respected in the eyes of the Druadach. The Solduros then handed Adanach and Catu's missive given first to a Vestati scribe, which was then given to Lucafiel himself.

To the magnanimous Lucafiel sa Helendal.

I hope this letter finds you well, your highness. If the language used in this letter appears to be sophisticated, despite the rather limited lexicon I must have used during our meetings in the past, it is because I am allowing my goblin scribe to write it for me. As I am illiterate, I cannot pen the letter myself - still, my trust in him is absolute and he will deliver my words and intentions across.

I personally selected some of the best warriors and scouts I can provide, ensuring that they were to your liking. I wish I could deliver more to aid you in these trying times, but currently I am facing a rather dangerous foe. An Orcish woman who has declared herself Vergobret, a magistrate, of Mors Darak. As such, I must focus on my conquest of the region before I can provide any more assistance to the Hallow Legion. But rest arssured that when the time comes, the Horde will be there to aid you during your conquest.

I am honored by your offer to send one of your famed crusaders to my lands. However, you must make sure to send a man or woman capable of understanding and tolerating our way of life. If you are capable of finding such a warrior among your ranks, I will be honored to have them in mine.

Best Regards,
Adanach - Chieftain of the Druadach Horde.

PD; I sincerely admire your calligraphy Master Lucafiel - Signed Catu, Goblin Scribe Extraordinaire.
"I am most pleased to see the skirmishers have arrived safely, I do hope your travels have been well. And, I must admit, I have been curious to see such... creatures as yourselves at work more closely. You have been brought here to assist as scouts for the harsh terrain we face, but I see no reason that it cannot serve to build more mutual and profitable relations between our clans, so to speak."

Once finished with the letter, the Redeemer Prince approached the small party before him. They did not think ill of him when he referred to them as creatures, for they would have done the same towards him under differing circumstances. To them, he was a Fae - a creature of magic, unaware of the true nature of the Vestati and their divine origins. When he mentioned the possibility of forging more profitable relations between their "clans", one of the Orcish warriors laughed. The rest laughed in unison, save for the Solduros. "Me thinks of a few ways to strengthen relations..." said one of the warriors, looking towards a male dancer in the court.

The Solduros looked over his shoulder towards the disrespectful warriors, his sharp disapproval getting them to quiet down. With that issue silenced, the Solduros looked back to the Vestati prince. "We are here to aid ye, Master Lucafiel. If we strengthen our alliance during our stay, we will." said the leader while looking down at the Prince with his intense red eyes.

"The... Solduros, yes? I welcome you, personally. You may partake with the high officers under my care and the luxuries afforded to them. I ask that your warriors keep the peace and respect our customs and actions. We are, for example, currently enacting a procedure of quarantine to ward off the disease in the Lacans territory. As such, your men will need to keep among themselves and not wander the camp, but officers may meet with officers, and soldiers may train with each other during their allotted times."

Having the Prince be this close to him made the Solduris curious of Lucafiel's true nature. The strange, alien aura he emanated was unlike any other Fae he had previously encountered. The closest he could think of was the aura of one of the spiked Fae the settled cowards referred to as "demons". But, before him, was clearly not such. He was something else entirely.

"Ye might call me Wealdmær, Master Lucafiel... I guess I am the closest thing to an "officer". But we have no such ranks in the Horde. I lead men because I am a faithful warrior of the Gods, and of my Warchief." He then looked to those under his command behind him: "As fer yer disease ye worry about... us Orcs are more resistant to such things. But I will tell everyone to respect yer customs, ye have me word..." Turning his attention back to Lucafiel, baring a toothy grin to reveal a tusk replaced by a golden denture. "But I must warn ye, keep me lads entertained. Else they grow a bit rowdy."

Just as he finished speaking, Lucafiel would notice the same goblin from before making a crude gesture at one of the dancers.
 
Having read through Adanach's letter, the prince smiled slightly beneath his mask, though this gesture was naturally unseen by all; instead, Lucafiel bowed his head in a slight way that demonstrated to the other Vestati that he was content. To the awaiting Solduros, Lucafiel said, "Your chieftain speaks highly of you, so my expectations will be as such. The war ahead of us will be one that relies greatly on the terrain, I believe, so the skills of your scouts and trackers will be just as valuable, if not more, than the strength of your sword arm." His graceful tone was as one would expect of such an ethereal-like figure, both alien and sublime, but grounded by the realities of their mere existence. Yet even still, within his words lingered another all too expected aspect - a sense of command, a sense that expected obedience where obedience was required, as well as an expectation to not be disappointed. The Vestati may have seemed strange, but not particularly cruel, though the truth of their ire was a rare firestorm that went unseen by more mundane failures.

"Given the particulars of the theater that your, ah... horde faces, and given over to previous words I have had with your master, I will also be sending some of my soldiers to his aid," Lucafiel explained. He canted his head aside to speak to a secretarial figure, though in such a way that allowed for the Solduros to be included in the information. "We shall assemble three crusader bannerets. Approximately speaking, Adanach should expect three Vestati crusaders and their assembly of auxiliaries and footmen. Thirty or so souls. While they may not be accustomed to the organization of your horde, even a single banneret has been known to put an entire town to heel. On the battlefield, they serve most excellently as shock troops. I feel this may be advantageous as they do not act in strict formation similar to your kind. Some of the bloodiest vestiges I have ever seen were the result of several bannerets competing to take the enemy banner, or the commander's head," the prince said in an almost whimsical voice. There was evidently a deeper history to his few words. "We will also send some gifts, perhaps a few choice items from our library."

"As for your band personally, that statuette which captured your interest so completely can enter into your care. A gift and token of gratitude from our people to yours,"
Lucafiel added, gesturing for a servant to bring the evocative little statue forward for the barbarians to take ownership over.

The somewhat unruly - and in some ways lascivious - manner of the assembled heathens earned a slight head cant from Lucafiel. Even among his retinue assembled around him like the orbit of celestial spheres, brilliant as the stars and shimmering atmospheres unseen, there was a slight commotion of activity. Words spoken in soft languages the Solduros had certainly never heard before.

"[They are beasts]," one Vestati declared to another in their ancient tongue. "[I doubt they recognize the divine artistry before them... their lust renders them servile, not enlightened as we]."

Another Vestati nodded, their eyes narrowed behind the slits of their intricate mask, watching the assembled barbarians with what amounted to disdain, though to an outward observer little could be read from their featureless face. "[They could never understand the sacred honor it is to serve within the harems]." However, others seemed indifferent or intrigued at this, and after a moment of hushed discussion Lucafiel glanced over his shoulder at his party. "[Some of you have been neglecting your studies. We slew many of our pontificies, but had you still been juniors, I suspect a punishment would have followed. Alas, I cannot fault this lapse. Survival has been our foremost concern. Regardless, rest assured that the instincts of the creatures before us are vessels which contain the utmost heat. Curiously, I do suspect that many of them have not yet met their kiln - the clay of their soul remains unfired. Vessels cast from the heat within... what a fascinating concept.]"

At last, Lucafiel turned back to the Solduros, gazing up at the large orc and meeting - and holding - his gaze with his own eyes, so white that they were almost empty orbs. "Then we shall establish you as an honorary captain, Wealdmær." He paused, as if tasting the unfamiliar name despite the perfection he rendered in pronouncing it. "It is equivalent to a senior officer here. Some will bristle at your inclusion to planning. Ignore them. We do not allow spontaneous dueling, for all such actions are accounted for on the last solstice of the year."

"And as for your entertainment...."
Lucafiel snapped his fingers and spoke once again in his ancient language. From the busy sidelines of the court, a lithe figure in barely concealing silk, gauze, and jewelry approached. This figure moved with what could be described as the impossible fluidity afforded only to water. Indeed, the sturdiest aspect to their loose attire were their shoes, cupped over the toes, giving them the quaint ability to walk upon their very toes if need be. They were veiled with two sharp ears jutting out from their coiled hair - a Vestati, to be sure, and not an elf given the location of this inner sanctum. When they bowed, they did so in a low curtsy with the strength of a single leg, the other outstretched in a bare manner that was as tantalizing as it was a testament to their superb strength and flexibility.

"I offer your company, Captain Wealdmær, the esteemed honor of being treated by a courtesan troupe. This will be six souls in number, and this one here that you have the honor of addressing is Yvettine, the commander of their troupe. They offer much in the form of companionship and the arts, be it singing, dance, music, or other more intimate activities. To be in the presence of such artisans is an honor given to very few outside of this sanctum. They are to be treated with the utmost reverence, and should a single scratch or bruise land upon them without invitation, then they who rendered such upon their forms will suffer the forfeit of the hand which harmed the body."

Yvettine turned to the barbarians in a flawless pivot and looked each over quickly through their veil, their eyes shimmering with interest and some degree of trepidation. When they spoke, their voice was a mere whisper, arriving with the cold certainty of a breeze on a moonlit night. "This one is unaccustomed to foreign palate, but shall serve with grace."

As the courtesan gathered their troupe of slender bodied acrobats in a variety of slim shapes and colors, they rejoined with the barbarians, looking them over without a hint of bashfulness. It seemed every movement was a genuine dance as if they moved with - not through - the air. The monstrous minotaur was an item of much interest as the Vestati fluttered about them, and even one of the dancers inspected the goblin, though the latter could sense the eyes of a hunter behind the golden laced veil that concealed much of the Vestati's face. "You are very small," one such dancer remarked plainly to the goblin; to the large minotaur, two inquisitive troupe members inspected them with the veracity of a butcher eying a prime cut of meat upon their table and likewise remarked, "Your size could lift many of us in but a single palm. We would like to stand upon thy shoulders at some point."

A messenger arrived shortly thereafter and offered Lucafiel two parcels which he opened and inspected, the letters being from Declan and Veno, having arrived at a postal tower for consolidation before being sent here. He read them swiftly and squinted at Veno's letter for a second longer before looking back upon the barbarians.

"I trust this will be all. Captain Wealdmær, you are invited into this chamber at your leisure and within mine upon request. My officers will handle all other aspects that you may require for your band - provisions and blacksmiths and the such," he said, and with a few more parting words, departed with his entourage back into the unknown of the upper levels of the old castle.

---

In his room once again, Lucafiel reread Veno's letter and penned a short response back to her. He cared not for Briggun nor dealing with the ireful Emperor's decisions in the operations of the land. Useful as he was, the heat within his veins boiled too hot. Concerning the man with anything outside of an emergency would be a waste of good ink.

Lady Veno,

We shall take afflicted prisoners for your studies. Expect, in time, approximately three wagons of them. Many are liable to perish during travel. A true, proper cure would be most welcome, and may be needed foremost for the returning troops who will be a prime vector for spreading plague. That or the slaves that our comrade the Lord Viceroy intends to free. Be it as it may, I care not for their status, merely that they provide one way or another. A healthy slave is more desirable than a plague spreading freedman crossing our borders, and for the land of Lacans to be depopulated by both plague and an escape of their chief labor force, I suspect the Emperor will not be pleased with the economic outlook of Lacans in the near future.

However - it is of no matter. The Emperor will have the land.

With regards,

Lucafiel sa Helendal
 
Damian0358 Damian0358 Abstracty Abstracty

Yz just gently tilted around and continued to groan like a fed up child until Borok had asked how their information could prove useful, eventually stopping and sitting in a short moment of silence before looking up at the two.

"Well you keep saying FIUR AND BWIMSTONE EVVYWHERE, and it's the only time all the peoples are in the one most single place to be Fiur and Bwimstoned Evvy-right there. And they don't know where I come from or anyone comes from anyway, and they have a bunch of silly people sleeping in their little tents that they're slow. If I woke them up already and they are PARANOID AT MY GREATNESS then they will not have had sufficient sleepy beddy-times and are sleepy and confused, and they will be even morest-the-MOST confuseded when they get a SURPRISE PARTY, and then Yz will continue to help Bigman-Friend because Mamama is NOT YZ'S FRIEND SHE IS MEAN AND DOES NOT SMELL LIKE STRAWBERRIES, YZ DOES NOT HAVE A NOSE AND YZ CAN TELL" Yz proclaimed as they held their hands up in the air, looking to them for confirmation that their plan was indeed fine and perfect.

"So you can spray for bwimmystone and go PSHHH everywhere all over the silly-guys and they will all dieded because they have no escapey-plan, and they only have STICKS and SLEEPINESS, and those are not good for hitting fires with" Yz answered as they briefly added on afterwards.
"Yz has tried. Multiple times. With different size sticks and different size sleepies".
 
When she did enter the tent at last, Declan greeted her as he hopped out of his seat. "Ah, Munsie! Welcome. I've been meaning to finally speak to you." he said with the courtesy of a host. "My apologies for having delayed our much needed conversation - but I hope this dinner makes up for it in some manner."

Munsie's amber-colored eyes widened as she met Declan's gaze, and she laughed nervously. "Oh, sir, you shan't apologize to me," she said with a curtsey, or a rough approximation thereof in her padded armor, augmented with plates. Unlike many of her fellow rangers, who preferred earth tones, Munsie had chosen a black and red ensemble that matched her long, braided red hair- it was immediately clear why they called her the fox. "I'm honored to meet you at last."
Once both had been seated, Munsie took the initiative to explain her eagerness to meet earlier in the spring.

"I understand that your time is very valuable, and Tidiaus is but a small part of the Dark Lord's design, but I am ever so hungry to change that. The royal family speaks merely of 'satisfying' Briggun's lust for conquest, but I am different, you see. I do not wish to be a mere bystander in all this great upheaval. I want to be at the forefront- to be the knife that thrusts! But... But I am merely one woman born of a cowardly nation, ruled by weak and rudderless royals," she opined, her mousey voice straining to communicate the force of the anger behind her words. "There was a festival, just weeks after you came - First Bloom's Night - I'm sure you recall. Had you accompanied me to the festival, then perhaps the court would not deny my enthusiasm for the cause, for fear of upsetting you..."
---
"I am glad that you have come Kande. Wine? Aged fifty years from the Abracion vineyards. Its a shame what happened to their family. The heir was quite an innovator." She'd smile offering to pour as the man sat across from her.

Kande sat himself down without a reply, but not in a grumpy manner. Instead, his brow was furrowed and his eyes distant, as he was ruminating on problems far greater than the current place and time. He had entered wearing a simple traveling cloak and scarf, as you might see on a merchant from the western deserts of Gantar. The smooth, greyish fabric contrasted handsomely with his dark skin and rugged features.

"Greetings, Lady Falwyn," he said. "All I would ask for is water. In my youth, clean and clear water was a true luxury, one which the people of Erevan value, but fail to appreciate in the same way as someone who's done without it. I imagine you miss your freedom in much the same way that I miss water. Might I ask- as you bring your might against us, what do you have to gain that balances what Ysaval and Erevan at large stand to lose?"
 
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K0mori K0mori

Lady Falwyn would sit down ushering over with her hand a local townswoman nearby to bring a glass of water for Kande who moved obediently to her will. The man proposed himself as one who accounted for everything in life and asked her for an account of the war. Freedom, it was a precarious thing to her these days since her submission to Briggun.

She'd take a sip of her wine as she considered her response to Kande, "My gain is a new set of people, one whose tradition and ancestry would be preserved and admired under my reign. All that I need is there be obedience. With that I can bring peace and order to a Ysaval, as a fair tyrant." She'd give a small smile to the thought of it, "Everan is set to become the first step in Briggun's conquests. You may be able to last for a while, One, maybe two years?.." She mused taking a breath, "But every victory you gain will spur on Briggun to punish Everan further."

She began to dig into her pork with knife taking a slice and chewing before going on, "The family of Alsare was a small house once upon a time, but they had developed a rich fortune with their vineyards. Still they maintained their distance from court, content in their passion to improve their product." She lifted her chalice of wine taking a sip her lips curling to a smile to the taste before stating flatly, "They were all executed by the headsmen of the Saarus Empire. They had no idea of Briggun's son's death, or any relation to that injustice. In fact I am quite sure they were willing to submit. That did not matter." She said giving off a small sigh, "Take the reasonable option while you have the choice, Submit."
 
Declan listened intently to Munsie as she went over prior events, as well as her feelings towards the current nominal rulers of Tidiaus, and gave a nod of approval. "I admire your desire for the initiative." the Viceroy commented, "And, believe me, were I not preoccupied with the planning of the campaign I would have joined you earlier. Regardless, the spring melts will fade and the summer season will begin. That is when I have chosen to begin the advance inwards." He took a sip of wine from his goblet before continuing: "And I suspect Lacans' commander within its northern provinces believes the same. There won't be much to catch them off surprise, save for the revolts I have been working to foment within the Republic."

Two servants entered swiftly, as if on cue, to deliver a delicious duck confit served with roasted and spiced potatoes with a red-wine reduction sauce glazing the protein. "How do you feel about joining me in this advance, Munsie?" Declan then asked, taking a potato with the silver fork available to him and savouring its taste as he chewed on it's crispy skin. "Prove your royals wrong in every measure in the process, and prove your mettle in battle in the Emperor's eyes?"

K0mori K0mori
 
Kande took a drink of his water, listening carefully to the dragon's words. She promised to preserve the tradition and ancestry of Ysaval, but how could she guarantee such a thing while standing in a land whose very name was regarded as so inconsequential that the Empire could merely call it "Ostmajora?" The Greater East. That was all Briggun cared for the cultures of his subjects. Then came the predictable deception of aggression-disguised-as-mercy. He had prepared for this.

"They were all executed by the headsmen of the Saarus Empire. They had no idea of Briggun's son's death, or any relation to that injustice. In fact I am quite sure they were willing to submit. That did not matter." She said giving off a small sigh, "Take the reasonable option while you have the choice, Submit."

"If you expect me to bow to avoid Briggun's wrath now, then there will be no end to my people's capitulation. He will take the land and the people, yes, but then it will be our voices and our beliefs which he will rob us of, and then our wealth and our livelihoods, all to avoid his punishment. Beyond that lay only our posterity. Should the children of Ysaval serve as conscripts on his endless warpath, or should they grow hale and hearty in the tradition of their forefathers?" Kande's eyes sharpened as his tongue probed at the heart of the matter.

"They are counting on me to win their future, Lady Falwyn. I cannot abandon them unless I have done all I can, and if I were to even try, they would rebel against my treachery, and rightfully so. But... should I fail, should you defeat me, what then? Will the 'fair tyrant' stand aside and let Briggun's headsmen reap their harvest? Or would you oppose him to protect the gains you rightfully won?"

---
"How do you feel about joining me in this advance, Munsie?" Declan then asked, taking a potato with the silver fork available to him and savouring its taste as he chewed on it's crispy skin. "Prove your royals wrong in every measure in the process, and prove your mettle in battle in the Emperor's eyes?"

Munsie perked up at the proposal instantly. "You need only demand their cooperation," she quickly answered, "the royals would not refuse the Emperor's War Council, and I..." She clenched her silverware tightly as a daydream seemed to settle over her, a bloodthirsty look in her eyes. "I would stack the Lacansic corpses so high the Emperor would see me from his garden. ...You say there are revolts coming?" she asked, excitedly. "Do tell!"
 
A dispatch sent to the embassy of the Civicerian Dominion, hand delivered by Darius, Hand of Peace:

I, Estro Dorozan, bid you greetings on behalf of the Saarus Empire and its master, Briggun. As of recent events, I am sure that the Dominus, Senate and your commanders are aware of the current status of war the Empire is engaging in at this time. I have become aware of the Dominion's intentions in certain matters and would seek to present myself to interested parties to better discuss matters in person.

Do let me know of a time and place if this is acceptable. I would sooner ease concerns when the Empire has great need of Dominion goods and materials at this time than to see such a flow become hindered due to unnecessary paranoia or concern. All may profit from what I have to propose and so I implore you to grant me this audience.

With Deepest Respect,
Estro Dorozan
Imperial Wizard

After roughly a week, a response arrives with the seal of General Sergius of Civiceria:

To the esteemed wizard, Estro,

There is little which needs to be explained about the Empire's actions in Kaula, as you must see matters similarly to us. The Piantian colony was little more than a fat, lost lamb, and thanks to the swiftness of Briggun's forces, it is the people of Saarus who will partake in the veal. Regardless, we welcome dialogue for the sake of our future coexistence. I must invite you to the temple of Juva in Venusa. Although I will not be physically present, you will find the space perfectly adequate to facilitate a dialogue. As a sorcerer, I am certain you understand the implication.

With earnest appreciation,
General Lucius Sergius
 
Munsie's enthusiasm was almost infectious, were it not for the appetite for seeing corpses piled upon a stake in a charnel tower, as Declan let off a knowing smile from the corners of his lips. "Indeed. Slaves that are discontent with their place in life will rise against their masters. That, and the plague ravaging the country's south, will pave the way to victory." Declan mused to his dinner companion, before adding to his words. "And I believe you will play a pivotal role within all this."

He pulled out the small envelope, giving it to Munsie: "A missive sent for you from Lacans, by "The People's Hammer" himself. He was hoping for a meeting with you. Instead, what he will get is a surprise attack. If you would respond to his request for a meeting, he will not see our combined steel coming. What say you, to this course of action?"

K0mori K0mori
 

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