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Fantasy The Dark Travelers

"Had we taken Bolia, we would have been tasked with the great effort of enslaving and relocating the local population, in order to ensure that they wouldn't rise up against us. Perhaps we would have offered a great number of laborers to our neighbors in the Empire in exchange for peace and trade," he mused, his smirk fading in favor of a more neutral, contemplative expression. "Given our... reversed roles, I believe the wise thing to do would be to accept your overture. We'll allow these refugees to cross the border, but in an orderly fashion, administered by my forces. I will also ensure a favorable status for Saarus in trade, and I will expect the same for Civicerian merchants in your ports."

Now seeming relaxed and confident, the General added, "One last thing- I would not be concerned with the preparedness of my legions. What opportunities we lost in Bolia, we may rediscover them on our eastern borders. One doesn't learn language to read a single book, nor study the blade to prepare for a single foe. We are, as always, prepared for all frontiers," he said, his tone resembling that of a man far beyond his years.

Estro looks on with a thoughtful expression again as the man relays his thoughts on the matter. He felt a certain degree of dark delight as they accepted he influx of refugees, but then again he knew they would like be looking at those coming in. It would be hard to infiltrate like that but the influx of them would suit the needs of the Dominion with this expression of acceptance on his trade offers. The Man of the Mountain or his stand-in was as shrewd as had been expected, which was fine. A clever man might pull apart his schemes or draw them out, but that just made the game more fun. He missed having someone like Briggun to match wits with, to battle and challenge. That battle had become quite direct and open. This one would be a wonderful dance in the shadows until it was time for the knives to come out, for the throats to be slit in another glorious culling of his foes.

"It is most gracious of you to accept my proposals, General. This will certainly simplify a number of matters I had obvious concerns about. Your aid in increasing trade flow between our lands is most appreciated. I will reciprocate quite happily and send word to Briggun himself to ensure a more fruitful status is afforded Civicerian merchants. We want them to feel welcome if they are to be provided much needed goods." Estro spread his gloved hands with an acknowledgement of the trade adjustments both sides would make.

"I understand your need to control the refugee situation. I'm sure you'll find wonderful use for them. Doubly so as it sounds like you already have formulated a few new adjustments to the Dominion's positions. I'm so happy to know we could make something mutually beneficial come of this. I'm sure you will make use of your wit and sword just as well as you claim, a pity for those who will find the points of both in the days to come." Estro rubs his chin with a gloved hand as he ponders the situation, feeling quite pleased with developments. The goods would actually be useful but also feed into the image he is trying to weave. Sergius might realize a deeper plan is at work, but let him do so since it sounds like his army has plans for the unfortunate Duchy of Midana.

"Do let me know if I can facilitate anything else for this arrangement, General. Otherwise, I bid you a good day." Estro rose and bowed politely, both for simple etiquette and a slight display of respect to a man that was proving to be a lovely challenge. The quiet game would continue, and he looked forward to how deeply he could dig his claws into Bolia while Civiceria seemingly prepared for its expansion elsewhere. He departs with haste to make his dispatches, ready to weave the needed protective spells around them.

A dispatch is sent by bound imp to Briggun himself:

My Lord,

I am pleased to inform you that matters are proceeding accordingly in regards to the Civicerian Dominion. Please enact favored trade status with Civiceria. You will find they will be granting the same to Saarus merchants at this time. Reciprocation will facilitate the greater works needed that you have commanded of me. I believe we can make use of this influx of goods as well for the various other campaigns in action, if only to further give credence to my discussion with their General Sergius in Bolia.

Please do not be surprised if matters in Kaula become complicated in coming months. Let us hope Rocher can continue to prove useful for greater matters in play. My efforts will continue in either case and our grasp in this region will only continue to grow stronger.

Do give my respect to the Empress.

Your servant,

Estro Dorozan

A second dispatch is sent to Veno also by bound imp courier:

Dear Veno,

I hope your efforts further West are proceeding as well as I hear whispers about. Please be aware that I anticipate increased Civicerian interest in our affairs beyond what already is likely in motion due to the open conflicts in the South so far and along the regions boarding their colony of Bolia. I know you probably already were taking these matters into consideration, but I am never not one to do my duty and still bring attention to it after the influx of information brought before me from your agents and my own cultists.

The Man of the Mountain is clever and dangerous. So I intend to be sure we take him seriously despite his seeming openness to my current diplomatic overtures. The board is set and the pieces are finally revealing themselves. I hope you enjoy the game I am set to play. I look forward to your own games in motion. Let the shadows dance with intrigue and blood flow where it needs to.

With regards,

Infab Infab
Munsie gave a cat-like grin. "Oh yes, sir," was all she said for a moment, taking a sip from her glass which she could barely swallow due to her urge to smile. Even her legs kicked a bit, suspended as they were an inch or so above the ground where she sat. "I will accept his invitation and inquire as to the meeting place. If it's far inside the border, I'll send an imposter so that they will see her traveling, and then, on your word, we attack."

"Most excellent!" Declan said with a joyous mood, lifting his chalice for a toast with Munsie. "To our partnership, and to our coming victories." Their glasses clinked to seal the deal, a fortuitous sign of things to come in the near future. A unified front of three armies now prepared to march onto Lacans, but deep in his mind as he ate his meal - beyond his own confidence - there was a kernel of doubt that remained to plague his mind. Something that remained when the meeting concluded and the two went their separate ways. Declan returned to his tent, while overall pleased, remained fixed on the possibility of failure.

Dennor, who had been sorting through other missives and reports, noticed this as the Viceroy entered to take a seat at his desk. He didn't comment at first as his eyes trailed Declan's path, until it was asked for: "You look like you have something to say."

"You don't look all too pleased, all things considered."

"On the contrary, I am. Munsie will march, bringing a third army into the fold as a result."


"...but, I still can't help but harbour my doubts. Even with all this preparation, we are still at a disadvantage. Lacans' natural geography is an imposing shield, and provides its defenders with ample opportunities to repel us."

"If I might speak, we all know the risks." Dennor then said with a smirk, "Hells, I take a risk every day working with you. But of course, the reward is what makes it worth it. We all have to gamble at some point."

Declan remained quiet as he leaned back into his seat, before looking up at the roof of his tent, eyeing the artisinal fabrics used in the embroidery. "Then the die is cast."

"Oh, and the pretty boy responded." Dennor then chimed in, "He says to use lanterns, and has given a cipher for missives between you and him."

"Hrm. I prefer ravens, they're quicker. But, if this maintains a working line of communication then I suppose I'll play along."

Declan leaned forward and dipped his quill in ink before bringing forth fresh parchment. Now he had to inform the Emperor of developing matters here.

A letter, bearing Declan's seal in wax, made its way to Briggun's court soon after attached to a raven:

Your Imperial Majesty,

Preliminary preparations for the assault into Lacans are complete, just in time for the spring thaws to end. Without having to worry about mud, there will be not two but three armies marching into Lacans at the start of the campaign. The forces of Tidiaus, led by Munsie Moldive, will be joining mine as we push through the country's eastern border. Lucafiel is in coordination to march in roughly the same time period from the south.

I suspect once we start to make gains, the slaves of Lacans will grow emboldened and begin their uprisings to further destabilize the Republic. Should our fortunes favor us, we can expect a spearhead to be made into Lacans by the end of summer.

Your faithful servant,
Declan Asquith Elron

K0mori K0mori
"Do let me know if I can facilitate anything else for this arrangement, General. Otherwise, I bid you a good day."

General Sergius bowed his head respectfully while remaining seated, and shortly after Estro rose from his seat, the temple workers removed the implements sustaining the connection to the General's location. As his image flickered away into the shadows, his voice could be heard trailing off: "As do I..."

Far away, the Man on the Mountain stood from his chair and exited the room through a passage which led to his map room. A table lay poised with markers denoting the positions of Civicerian and rival armies, commanders, and other known threats. The General reaches to one such marker and picks it up, examining it in the dim candle light, before setting it down again upon Bolia, a smirk crossing the corner of his lip.

Following her auspicious dinner with Declan, Munsie practically skipped her way back to her headquarters to deliver the news to her subordinates. They were... less than enthusiastic to learn of the coming march on Lacans, but Munsie warned them: "The Viceroy will make clear the present need of our direct involvement to both the Royal and Imperial Courts; if you mistrust me now and oppose the coming offensive, then I'll make sure to pass along your objections. I'm certain that there are others like me - ready to serve the alliance faithfully - who would gladly occupy your station..."

Twelve warriors of Lacans, alongside six slave warriors from a minor eastern tribe, marched down a narrow path of a cliffside unaware of being watched from afar. A goblin scout observed from the cover of his vantage, before rushing back to where the others were - hiding behind jagged rock formations - awaiting for the perfect opportunity. "Wealdmær," the goblin spoke, the same one that had accompanied him into Lucafiel's court, "Twelve warriors alongside six battle thralls. Eleven o'em wearing 'em fancy cloth armor. But the one leadin' em has one of 'em fancy muscle chestplate." Wealdmær, the Orcish solduros of Adanach and "commander" of the Druadacha Auxilia, grinned upon hearing the news.

Of the small scout force that had accompanied Wealdmær to Lacans, only half of them were here now as the others were working alongside the Vestati to scout for secret routes used by Lacanite forces to supply their southern outposts. He only had four orc warriors, six goblin skirmishers, and one minotaur warriors at his disposal. By all means, the Lacanite patrol had superior numbers and perhaps even better training than his warriors. And yet, he and his warriors craved combat; and a lone patrol was the perfect opportunity to test his men's mettle while also not attracting attention.

"What we gonna do?" asked Arco, the attractive goblin whose toothy grin grew wider as he could see the fire in Wealdmær's eyes. "What do ya think? The gods have granted us an opportunity to test ourselves. We cannot fail them, just like the Lacanites can't fail their gods. We must please them as well, give their warriors an honorable death!" said the Orc zealot, brandishing his steel sword and his large hexagonal shield. "Arco, you know what to do." he then said as he looked down at the goblin, who nodded as he tested the sharpness of his throwing spears.

The Lacanite Hoplites and their enslaves slingers marched through the cliffsides, their weary eyes looking at their surroundings. Leading them was a veteran warrior whose bronze muscle cuirass had several notches and scars from past encounters. While he did not look at his surroundings like his soldiers, he raised his fist to stop them. Something felt wrong, he could feel it in his gut. Those under his command grew more wary as well, feeling a sense of unease grow over them. And when the first spear was hurled, the veteran - with almost unnatural reflexes - grabbed it and tossed it back at the goblins hiding on the cliff above them. While his aim was true, he failed to kill and instead gave a facial gash to one of the goblins as it flew past it.

"RAISE YOUR SPEARS, SONS OF LACANS!" he shouted, his warriors lifting their enormous shields to cover themselves from additional throwing spears. Their slingers were left unprotected however, as all of them fell to the ground with spears sticking out of their bodies. That was when Wealdmær and his warriors charged at the patrol from down the road. Upon seeing this, the veteran forced half his men to raise their shields and aim their dory spears at the charging orcs and minotaur. The other half continued to provide cover from the skirmishers, forming a cohesive unit of both offense and defense.

This tactic, however, was shattered when the minotaur barbarian broke the spears with a single swing of his massive falx at their wooden shafts. With the range advantage gone, the Orcs were free to throw themselves against the shields of the Lacanite soldiers.

As expected of trained warriors with a strong martial culture, the Lacanites did not panic even as they came head to head with the sheer weight of the Orcs. Unsheathing their xiphoses, they engaged the orcs in melee to match steel with steel. Fighting with courage and zeal, two of the orc warriors fell and many wounds were delivered. But ultimately, the brutish strength of the barbarians proved to be too overwhelming in the end as some were still weakened from the disease that had ravaged southern Iskulia. The last man standing was their commander, who fought bitterly against Wealdmær, making several deep cuts to the orcs hide as they traded blows. But, at last, the orcish barbarian thrusted his blade through the bronze cuirass and pierced the man's lung.

"You fought bravely, old warrior. The gods are pleased." said the Orcish zealot as he pulled his blade out. The old hoplite spat blood from his mouth as he collapsed a knee. "Go... fuck... yourself, beast!" he managed to spit out, before choking on his own blood and falling to his side to bleed out.

Wealdmær grinned in response, looking down upon the body of his enemy. "Aye... a true warrior to the end. May his gods receive him with honor." he said before looking at the dead orcs. "May the mother bless you, brothers. The Otherworld awaits ye." He then looked to Arco and the rest of his men. "Kill the wounded. Cut off their heads, we must bring them." he said as he knelt to the old hoplite's body. "Yer aware our 'friends' aren't gonna be happy ye acted on yer own again, right? And I'm sure 'em pansies think that bringin' noggins to their camp is "unhealthy" and a "risk"... bah!" the goblin said with a mocking tone representing Lucafiel. It was rather accurate, despite his attempts to make it more effeminate.

Wealdmær knew that attacking this patrol would not sit well with his new masters, and he could already sense the visage of the Vestati in the distance watching from afar - atop the Iskulian Hills. But they would never understand the importance of their rituals, to some of them, they are superstition, or just savagery. "Aye, they will not appreciate it. But we must honor our gods. If they want to stop us, we will leave and return to our kin." said the Orc as he pulled away the warrior's helmet before raising his blade...

...Almost a day had passed when the Druadach scouts arrived to the gates of the encampment alongside the regular Vestati scouts. They did not pay heed to the entrance guards, who demanded to know about the severed heads the barbarians had tied crudely to their belts using the hair of beards. Almost immediately, one of the guards rushed towards the castle to warn a superior about this breach of the strict quarantine laws set in place. Meanwhile, the regular legionnaires and the Yakal Auxilia steered away from the barbarians as they heeded their master's instructions. This only amused the barbarians, with Arco grabbing the head of a rather youthful looking Lacanite and waving it around with a grin.

When the barbarians arrived at their section of the camp, Wealdmær turned around and looked at those who were not Druadach. "We are about to conduct a ritual. Stay away from our camp, do not interfere. Our gods protect us, the same cannot be said of you." he said before grabbing the heads of the dead Lacanites and the two dead Orc warriors. "Arco, tell your warriors to prepare their instruments..." he then muttered before walking towards the Tree.

The sole reason they had picked this section of the camp to pitch their primitive tents was because it was close to the trees that were growing by the ruined section of the castle. These ancient trees were now painted with blood; normally they would be painted with woad, but none grew in Kokalia. As a result, they had to use another sacred paint. Wealdmær looked upon the tree with reverence, and bowed before it before putting the severed heads at a large rock altar in front of it. As a solduros, Wealdmær knew a variety of important rituals to strengthen both his men and the land. He was going to do both, as he started to clean the heads with spring water. He painted various pagan symbols using boar's blood, before grabbing the old warriors head and thanking him with a symbol of strength painted upon his forehead.

The head was revered as a part of great importance throughout most of the Druadach, as they were seen as the source of all wisdom as well as the source of one's essence. When a Druadach grows too old and useless, they ask to be sacrificed and their head removed. It would then be tied to the tallest, healthiest trees, where the blood and essence would feed the roots and their wisdom would spread throughout the land. This granted strength to the soil, and knowledge to the people who nurtured the lands. Wealdmær looked at the camp around him; while the Vestati did not seek to ruin natural life, and in fact understood its importance, they put more value on the beauty of nature and how useful it can be. And while they most likely understood the balance of nature, they did not entirely respect it. Wealdmær found that despicable.

Before the Vestati and their legions had settled here, there were many trees forming small copses around the ruined castle. They had cut down the wood to build defenses and deprive enemy forces of hiding spots. This in turn hurt the land and spirits living in the trees. By tying the heads of the brave warriors to this remaining tree, and his fallen orcish brethren, Wealdmær ensured that their essence would feed the land and in turn help heal it. By the time he was done tying the heads to the tree, his tribesmen had finished preparing the ritual. He knew that the Vestati would sooner or later interfere, so he began the chant of the Mother, while goblins played with their instruments to catch the attention of those curious in the Druadach.
"I was wondering when you would make it up here," Lucafiel said, glancing only slightly over his shoulder at the arriving footman. He was on the small balcony to his quarters which once belonged to the monarch of this ancient keep. Ages ago the lord of this place might have stood here to review the countryside from afar, surveying his lands and the splendor of this place, and now Lucafiel looked out over palisades, ditches, campfires, and ruins. The master bedroom itself had persisted as a venerable chamber of stone, though it had been much transformed as a suitable living space for a Vestati who once lived in a realm of pure marble, where endless miles of monolithic structures had stretched seemingly forever against a horizon that never obeyed the physical limitations of a globe for it had been the Old Ream, the carefully crafted extraplanar realm of the Forbidden One. Lucafiel missed that place, but he could not think of it without remembering the outpouring of blood staining every surface until the soldiers of the lower steps had been wading through a literal sea of crimson ichor.

The footman behind him bowed. "Forgive my slowness, Your Grace. I came as quickly as I could."

Lucafiel waved a hand aside, a thin smile beneath his mask. "Your time was adequate. I rather a delay of a few seconds than an able soldier losing their teeth on the steps of this castle. Regardless, I have seen much of it already. Wealdmær's party has arrived. They seemed rather proud of their... trophies," he said, turning back to look out over the camp. He could see the barbarian scouts gathering in their little section of the camp, already cordoned off at a distance by auxiliaries. The sound of some drums and instruments began to play sporadically.

"They are surrounded and can be evicted at once, Your Grace," the Yakal footman stated matter-of-factly. "The gatemen also beg your forgiveness, for they intended to delay the scouts at the wall but were overruled by a decision not to cause issue with our... ahem, allies at large. They submit themselves to punishment."

"There will be no need - of either. I will go down and see what Wealdmær is doing and inquire as to why they behave this way personally. The gatemen are at no fault, so you may inform them of this. You are dismissed."
The Yakal bowed and exited in polite courtly manner. A moment later, Lucafiel gestured at a pair of figures lurking in the corners of the room to step forward and join him as he departed. Only a few souls remained, a pair of members from the Redeemer Prince's harem lounging in a languid manner upon the pillows of the bed, their bodies draped in thin silks. With their lord gone, they giggled to themselves and hurried to the balcony so that they, too, could watch whatever was about to occur.


Lucafiel's arrival to the barbarian section of the camp was a quiet affair, as he strode forwards as if a fellow on a walk through his garden. Several figures followed him in tow like the wake of a gentle wave, though none looked as innocent as such. Two of the companions were crusaders of the old guard in armor and cloth older than any tree and stone around the hilltop encampment. Both hefted lucernes - the hammer version of halberds. Behind them was a towering lone Yakal dressed in only an armored skirt, their bare upper body the very definition of muscular perfection, wrought with immense discipline, strength, and scars. A barbed whip hung from their belt. And just behind this auxiliary were several more, with one hefting a small chair.

They made their way towards the decorated tree and source of the chanting. Some of the auxiliaries made quiet quips in their language, a series of hushed barks that seemed displeased as they stared back at the barbarians. One glance from their tallest comrade silenced them, and as the party came to a stop, one of the Yakals stepped forwards to place the chair they were carrying down with utter reverence. A brush was then swept over the upholstered seat and Lucafiel sat down upon it, crossing his legs. As he did so, the golden trim of his robes shimmered with fiery life.

When the chanting of Wealdmær concluded, Lucafiel at last spoke, his voice rising above all in the same manner of a knife cutting through air. "An interesting display, solduros. One that has, it seems, brought some dismay to my troops." Lucafiel sat with his chin propped up on his hand, as he often did. He canted his head to the side as he eyed the gently swaying heads tied to the bloodied tree. "I can think of numerous methods to give thanks to the spirits and world, though I must inquire as to why you have selected this method. Many have already said that this is in violation of our pact - those heads are not purified in any manner sufficient to be within this encampment."
Once the ritual drums and crwth ceased playing, the barbarians turned their heads to look at Lucafiel and his entourage that followed. The barbarians were silent as Wealdmær gazed at Lucafiel with defiance, the silence only being broken when Arco started to speak. "well, well, well... our fae benefactor is here lads. Good afternoon our most magma-mi-moose lord. Would ya like some roasted boar meat? How about some fermented drinks made by our Troc over there." said the goblin, pointing to the enormous one eyes minotaur who huffed as the visitors stared at him. "Or, perhaps, ya wish to hear me songs? I tell ya, best bard in Mors Gobonach!" But before Arco could play with his crwth, Wealdmær shouted his name: "Arco, cease!" And the goblin did as told, but kept his toothy grin towards Lucafiel.

"Numerous other methods, huh?" said the solduros as he walked towards Lucafiel. This allowed the Redeemer Prince a better look at the orc, who was not wearing his traditional armor at the moment. He was shirtless, with a boar skull resting atop his head, and his fiery red hair hanging loose - some covering his face. "Ah, you must want me to adhere to other rites? Call the Pontifex Maximus and have vestal virgins play the lyre and sing beautiful songs about nature... or perhaps, you wanted me to silently worship alongside my brethren as scented candles burned 'round us while having an easterling monk blow incense into our faces?" Wealdmær grinned for a moment as he looked down at Lucafiel's face. But then he focused on the tall Yakal behind him. "OR, perhaps, ye wanted me to take off my clothes and offer myself to my brethren on our altar; chanting songs of incestuous gods like our furry friends here?" Wealdmær's mocking grin did not sit well with the Yakals.

"...why are ye here, Lucafiel? Are ye going to tell me how to worship my gods? How to commune with nature? How to strengthen the bond between my people and OUR gods?" Suddenly, the grin disappeared as a more serious face took hold. "I agreed to obey to yer rules. There were plenty o' wounded, but they were sick. So we killed 'em instead of putting 'em in chains. I told yer folk to stay away from mine, because I know how afraid you lot are of this disease. Yet, here you are, bringing yer susceptible warriors to my bloodied, unwashed hands..." the solduros spoke, showing his bloodied digits to Lucafiel. He then smeared blood onto his face, leaving a bloody hand mark on upon it. "Or, perhaps, yer here because ye want to meet our gods? I heard the stories... perhaps ye might like ours better."
The momentary tirade, the divergences in worship and pantheons, earned a few modest reactions from the assembled party. Some of the Yakals shifted on their feet and exchanged glances, a few surprised at the audacity and at least a couple displeased at the nature of the insults directed at them. Neither Lucafiel nor his crusaders seemed phased, either in word or countenance. The Redeemer Prince merely sat as he was before, watching. The label of fae was perhaps not an entirely unkind comparison, for one could easily imagine the lithe prince perched upon a thin tree branch, watching and taunting the mortals below as they strode into a realm of his creation.

"... on the contrary, I was going to suggest finding a tree outside the perimeter, or perhaps roasting the heads over fire before boiling the remnants away. You can achieve a rather clean skull in such a fashion," Lucafiel said, his voice soft yet as cutting as it always seemed, rising up from behind his mask like a dagger in the dark. "I would not suggest you worship in our methods, in the few instances they apply. We worship naught but ourselves."

Lucafiel raised one gloved hand. "And do not think we fear disease. It is less for our benefit than it is for yours, and the others cursed with inherited mortal traits. You may speak bravely of the gods, but when your organs melt within your body and your only god is agony, you will perhaps begin to wish that you took the time to practice restraint," he explained.

"But it is not even you we restrain ourselves for. You have your tribe, yes? Warriors and families all. Disease will make a mockery of them all, from the strongest warrior to the brightest child. Our methods reduce that possibility. Further still, like the Lacans we face, their own soldiers are weakened with the taint in their veins. Imagine, then, what could become of your homeland when an enterprising foe arrives to take advantage of this cruelness if you carried your sickness home. A soldier wears a helmet, girds their loins, and wields a blade. These are tools to help them. They practice war in the safety of their camps, dueling with their comrades. These are practices to help them. Thus I speak - our methods to render disease are to the same purpose. Illness, plague, sickness. These are merely alternative names for wildfire, a fire which burns through the body and soul."

"As for meeting your gods... hmm."
Lucafiel craned his head aside, taking in the sight of one of his crusaders beside him. The motionless knight seemed more statue than living creature, even as the prince removed his gloves, reached out, and ran a finger down sharpened blade of their greatsword. When he drew it back, there was the slightest bead of crimson lost within the ivory sea of his flawless skin. "For their sake, I hope not. Your hands may be bloodied by the stain of mortalkind, as ours are too, but there was once a time when they touched more than that. More than a single life, more than civilizations grown ancient and prosperous."

"For a time our very hands were once wrapped about the neck of the divine. And we laughed. Do not presume, then, in whatever tales you have heard, that your gods or my kin would wish to parlay. Two wolves in a cage may well attempt to devour each other. As for the stray rabbit who wanders by...."
His voice trailed off, the blood upon his finger disappearing within the folds of a handkerchief. What remained was that perfect skin once more, flawless in its eternal beauty, a mere hint of what was hidden beneath their robes and soulmasks.

Lucafiel fixed his gaze firmly back upon the soldurous. "You will not be punished for worshiping your gods in your methods, nor will you be stopped. You will instead be punished for disobedience. One that, perhaps, emerges from a fundamental misunderstanding of our mutual existence. As such, I will offer you the mercy of a choice, son of the horde."

The tall, muscular Yakal warrior stepped up, holding out the barbed whip for Lucafiel to take. The Vestati took it and held it gently, his hands tracing every twisted spine as if he were caressing a mere rose. "You may submit to the whip that I shall wield myself to flay your back, or you may return to your chieftain in disgrace. Some scars heal in time. Others do not. Be assured, we Vestati know this better than anyone else. Yet for you... it is your decision which you desire to take."
Yz promptly plodded on the ground as Voyka had helped them out of the barrel, hesitating for a moment as they took hold of the head and accepted Voyka's helping up. Listening to the lady talk, Yz held back any little snide comments about the things they could say until Voyka had finished as Yz chose to answer in response.

"I'm not sure if you've noticed, but we are fighting for an emperor, in order to conquer the lands of and slay those who oppose. What part of 'sacrificing other people's fun for your own' have you not partaken in yet? For all them years people live, you can all be quite silly billies with your silly ideas" Yz pointed out as they nonchalantly clutched Farendal's head and their newfound tambourine in order to take it to go for Yz had heard about the free food that could be mooched off of Voyka's camp.

"Hey, I'm not weak, I was letting you feel strong. Gosh, no respect for the selfless here, and here I was withholding all senseless drivel just so you'd feel smart enough to understand, but I guess if that's how things are-" Yz answered about the inability to escape the barrel, before visibly twitching harshly and changing to a dramatic pose as they pointed at Voyka.

"The TELLINGSTONES are not of all mud yet ever, goo gazelle of GRANITE WEAVE! Never I ever be a lemon, for the lemon is terror itself and will destroy the 8th realm in which the Kala-Mamuu Fractus resides!" Yz announced hyperactively as if performing on a stage, something about it bringing tears to them although there was obviously no real crying as they held their face in their hands and gently trembled.
"The SPIDERS and their DIAMOND RAZORS are within us, I have touched the blank cosmos and it asked me back to DEVASTATE THE BINDED HANDS- THE BINDED HANDS OF THE INCORRECT, AND I LAUGHED AND AGREED" Yz spoke before laughing abruptly and divulging into giggling like a giddy schoolgirl as they spun on their heel to take their leave.


Damian0358 Damian0358
Voyka continued to chuckle as Yz pointed out the hypocrisy in her statement, to which she could simply reply with a "The Empire's fun - our fun - takes priority," before continuing to listen to Yz's statement. She hadn't even thought that Yz was weak - hell, some of her own men get stuck in barrels, it's completely normal to her - but she was soon once more caught off-guard by the senseless drivel of Yz's usual rhetoric.

As Yz yelled about the spiders and their diamond razors, she briefly thought on how this was actually proving to be a valid strategy for Yz, just as embracing cold-blooded murder was for her. She really wasn't smart enough to comprehend whatever this bastard was yelling, and to some extent, she realized she was fine with it now. She can latch onto the relevant bits and just barely communicate through the sillyness - entertaining it to relevant extents would be good to do at times. She just give a smug grin upon Yz proclaiming they would meet again to her delight, instead concentrating on responding to the last bit.

"Make sure to clean up after yourself, a performance wouldn't be complete without its conclusion," she said cheekily.
"... on the contrary, I was going to suggest finding a tree outside the perimeter, or perhaps roasting the heads over fire before boiling the remnants away. You can achieve a rather clean skull in such a fashion,"

Wealdmær tilted his head as he heard Lucafiel's suggestion. "Yer an enigmatic man, Chief of the Vestati, for ye have great knowledge, having understood the nature of our ritual. And yet ye do not fully understand it." Wealdmær pointed to one of the heads hanging from the tree. "To remove the flesh and blood would rob the tree of the essence of the head." Then he tapped the dress of the boar's head. "This is symbolic, a decoration... that..." He pointed to the heads on the tree. "That is our offering to the gods."

"And do not think we fear disease. It is less for our benefit than it is for yours, and the others cursed with inherited mortal traits. You may speak bravely of the gods, but when your organs melt within your body and your only god is agony, you will perhaps begin to wish that you took the time to practice restraint,"

"Then worry about yer soldiers," Wealdmær said plainly. "When the ancestors of the Hrotharians came to our lands, they spread a vile disease that killed thousands of tribes, and only the strong survived," the orc said, and his warriors nodded in agreement. "When the Kushare crossed the deserts and invaded our lands, they brought with them a disease that weakened our men, but only the strong survived."

"When we sailed across the western sea alongside the Hrotharians, we came to a foreign land, raided and pillaged the native tribes, taking many as slaves, and we brought a disease back to our homeland, but..."
the orc knelt down a little to look Lucafiel straight in the eye. "...the strong survived, that's what Druadach is all about, we are the strong who survived the hardship, your disease? It does not scare us, few things scare us."

Wealdmær was not interested in Lucafiel's views on the gods, to him it was absurd to believe that a fae could kill a deity; Lucafiel was undoubtedly powerful, of that he had no doubt, but powerful enough to kill a god? Vanity and pride, a common affliction that afflicts the minds of weak southerners.

"You will not be punished for worshiping your gods in your methods, nor will you be stopped. You will instead be punished for disobedience. One that, perhaps, emerges from a fundamental misunderstanding of our mutual existence. As such, I will offer you the mercy of a choice, son of the horde. You may submit to the whip that I shall wield myself to flay your back, or you may return to your chieftain in disgrace. Some scars heal in time. Others do not. Be assured, we Vestati know this better than anyone else. Yet for you... it is your decision which you desire to take."

But when Lucafiel then explained that Wealdmær would not be punished for worshipping his gods in his own way, but for his disobedience, he could not help but smile at the outrageous suggestion. "Is that one of yer fetishes, Vestati? You want to whip a free man into submission?" Lucafiel and the Yakal soldiers could see that some of the Druadach scouts were visibly offended. Arco, who was closest, let out a savage grunt of anger and disbelief. "We are Druadach, we are free and strong! Not yer slaves! Only weak southerners whip their slaves!"

Wealdmær raised his hand to calm his men. "Calm down. We were sent here by our chieftain, we are here to provide a service and serve the gods." Arco looked back at Wealdmær in shock. "Yer not be serious, ya can not possibly agree to the impertinent request of this evil fae," he said in offence. "Are ye trying to upset the gods?" asked Wealdmær, to which Arco spat. "Adanach is not a god! He is a great chieftain, but not a god!" Wealdmær smiled when he heard that answer. "But Madanach says that Adanach leads our people to a better future because the gods look upon him favourably. Whoever dishonours Adanach also dishonours the gods." Arco was not satisfied with this answer and looked away angrily. "I will submit to yer punishment, but if ye expect to break a child of the Druadach, ye will be disappointed, Vestati," the orc said, not in a hostile tone, but with clear defiance.
Lucafiel remained seated as Wealdmær spoke amid the growing animation of the barbarian warriors. Auxiliaries and crusaders alike remained stoic in the mounting anger of those like Arco and his kind, but Lucafiel maintained a demeanor that was calm like the surface of a frozen pond; perfect and without flaw, yet every subtle movement, each spoken word the implicit threat of a sudden and unpredictable crack, one which was certain to swallow whole anyone foolish enough to tread over that innocent terrain, so very well blended into the snowy landscape around it. Whereas a viper or wolf saw and watched prey as they awaited the moment to strike, the pond of ice was something altogether mystical in its seasonal whimsy. None would know the depths of the water below nor the width of the ice until, in one unstoppable moment, their world was lost to a rush of freezing water and the shadows which reached up from below.

The Redeemer Prince's eyes seemed taunting, almost, behind the holes of his soulmask. Those white eyes bore two cat-like pupils, waned thin to the point of a well-hewn razor. Some Vestati utilized thin cloth to conceal even this, but not Lucafiel. His gaze was always known even when it was unreadable, and perhaps it was through this that many feared to be the attention of his notice. For Wealdmær coming near, it was no different than staring into an immaculate mirror - only to find the reflection on the other side was alive and not obedient to the observer.

"I have no intention of breaking a child of the Druadach," Lucafiel said, at last rising from his delicate chair. "Had I wished to do so, your mind and body would have already been shattered to a point that this moment would not be known to you. Such action is better reserved for more... pressing matters." The Vestati made a slight gesture and turned about, departing the barbarian encampment within his own fortress, and a pair of crusaders approached Wealdmær and likewise silently gestured for him to follow the prince. There was no grabbing, no chains, no rope nor barked commands, merely the casual expectation of obedience, simple and automatic as breathing. Even should one hold their breath, it would not be long before nature demanded a cessation to such foolishness. And all of this without the need for a raised hand or shout.

The large orc was brought towards a central position of the fort with little fanfare, though once again unseen and automatic actions occurred in the distance as auxiliaries stopped their labors and watched in growing crowds from afar. Those not already performing duties gathered around, always interested in whatever spectacle would draw the prince himself outside. No banners were raised and no instruments sounded, unlike the celebrations of the barbarians in their previous worship. Such horns and drums were saved for moments of glory. This was a task akin to that of a necessity, a chore. The spanking of a petulant child.

"Let us see some of that strength," Lucafiel said, stopping beside a singular wooden post driven into the ground. A knob at the top was meant for rope to be tied about, raising the arms of the punished upwards to be held firmly in place; yet as Wealdmær neared, he could see the indentation of fingernails and scratches midway up the post below this, where some instead gripped the post like sailors holding onto a mast in a tempest. "Those who fear they would collapse, or perhaps strike the bearer of the whip, take this punishment with their hands bound. Those who lack strength in spirit or body." Lucafiel tapped his hand against the post, drawing attention to these scratch marks. Stains upon the wood here suggested bloody fingertips. "Needless to say, it is shameful for one to take this punishment unbound and demonstrate behavior that requires them to be tied up like cattle. So, then, child of the Druadach. Let us see if you are cattle or warrior as you say."

A leather strap was given to Wealdmær by another Vestati in a ludicrously leering and smiling soulmask, overtly mocking by design. "You are to bite down upon this," the Vestati said. "This is not to be refused. Otherwise, your tongue may be bitten off, or your teeth could crack under the strain. This much is not allowed." As Wealdmær took the leather to bite down upon as he positioned himself by the pole, he could see the crowd growing larger, his warrior kin watching on with a mixture of curiosity and displeasure, the former already rippling over the foreign Yakals and enigmatic Vestati who seemed to materialize from thin air at every turn.

Opposite him stood Lucafiel. The Redeemer Prince waited for an attendant to approach him, and then he began to unbutton and unlace his cape, followed by his coat and a fine silken shirt beneath until his upper body was bare to the cool evening air. From the front he appeared every bit the lithe yet muscular statue, his body seemingly cast from white marble without an inch of impurity. But there were signs. A small black crescent moon was inked into the flesh of one breast beneath the curves of his collarbone. The angles of his abdomen, firm as a washboard, bore the slightest telltale whispers of scars healed by supernatural means. At his neck, one such scar peaked out from the edges of the cloth acting as a veil beneath his soulmask, showing that whatever hidden skin upon the front of his neck bore a more prominent scar - a throat that had been slit, yet did not end in death.

Then, with an almost deliberate turn, the Redeemer Prince handed his attire aside to his attendant, thus revealing his back to Wealdmær and all that were in attendance. Those who held no reaction were either already accustomed to this visage or were silent in shock, even as some murmurs broke through the crowd.

Upon Lucafiel's upper back were the scars of damnation. If his body were indeed the aforementioned marble, then these two scars were the results of a madman having taken an iron pick to the stone, gouging out two distinct ravines into his flesh without an utter care to the method of extraction or healing. The pale, nearly glowing flesh gave way to pallid black veins surrounding these wounds, not the sign of rot but instead divine blood seared into his body for eternity like the dripping of frozen tears. The wounds had healed, yet they looked fresh, stil baring a hint of crimson flesh of muscle and sinew broken. This was the mark of an elder Vestati who had been born with wings and lived to have them torn away. No, not simply torn, but sundered in totality so that what was lost could never - ever - be forgotten.

Lucafiel turned back to Wealdmær, whip in hand. "You must forgive us of our traditions in my appearing as thus. Blood spilt in punishment is unbecoming to be worn upon our garments, and so it shall easily be washed from my flesh instead," he explained.

Once the orc had grasped the post, the first strike of the whip came without warning nor prompt. The air cracked with lightning as the barbed weapon lashed out with the ferocity of a frenzied snake eager for vengeance. Each barbed knot upon the whip bit deep, and in the instant of striking the flesh, gouged out streaks of lacerations that burned with the intensity of hot iron upon being pulled away in the very next second. It became obvious then as the pain reached a flare of impossibility that this punishment was more than a simple flogging, but something devised by the Vestati to inflict a fraction of the pain they themselves had suffered upon their own backs. It was punishment and reminder bound together, a method to demonstrate superiority by saying to the accused that the Vestati had not only born worse upon their bodies, but could do worse if they so deigned to raise their hands to do so.

"Disobediance is a punishment worthy of ten lashes," Lucafiel remarked plainly, as if he were sitting at a dinner table. The whip coiled around him with ecstatic glee, a trail of blood already dripping between him and Wealdmær. "But I am told the warriors of Adanach, the very sons and daughters of the Druadach, do not break beneath the whips of foreigners." A second strike was then wrought, the air splitting. "I am told that a free man of the north will not fall in submission." There was only the slightest pause. "I believe this. The punishment shall instead be thirty lashes."

Then the whip fell again. It continued to fall, at an even interval of a painstaking few seconds, the time between each lash reigniting the pain of the previous strike. It burned like wildfire, like the molten claws of a demon. It continued until thirty exact lashes had been rendered, to strip the flesh raw and bloody.
Turn 2 - Year 735 - Early Summer

View attachment early summer.jpg

Having finished awarding Yz a unit of his personal guard, a ceremony which was as ludicrous as it was entertaining, Briggun sat in a recently-devastated forest clearing, laboriously drinking a stein of ale through the thin slot on his horned helmet.

Makar quietly said a prayer before beginning his summary of events. "Sire, the enemy has attacked us in Poggost, the Bone Coast, Kokaria, the Southern Sea, and Mors Gobonach. We inflicted humiliating defeats on the Lacanite and Druadach foes, but we have suffered losses on all other fronts." He paused a moment, expecting Briggun to lash out at him, but to his surprise, he merely took another drink in silence before speaking a single word:


Makar nodded. "Along with our successful offensive in Sabersval, the Voivode of Skulls dealt a defeat on Zomach in Miraq, and we are now on the verge of taking that desert land. However-" he paused, mid sentence, knowing that the next news would not be received well.


"Calamity, sire!" Makar exclaimed, falling to his knees and planting his forehead against the ground. "Kolthix and his shadeling army have been annihilated! A wizard from Midana summoned a sandstorm which scattered his forces to the wind. He is gone, sire!"

Briggun threw his stein to the ground, grabbed Makar by the shoulders and lifted him two meters off the ground so that the two would be at eye-level. "Are you saying," he asked darkly, "that we have lost an entire army?"

Makar nodded weakly. Briggun dropped him to the ground and with a single, windmilling arm, clocked him on the top of his head with a gauntleted fist so hard that the goblin was instantly knocked unconscious. Briggun remained standing there for a moment, staring off into the burned husks of trees and thinking of his long-term ally, Kolthix, and how he was presumably dead. He didn't care enough to hear the rest of the updates, not now. He kicked Makar in frustration, for good measure.


Civiceria Campaign

Having met with General Sergius (or perhaps someone speaking on his behalf), Estro has achieved one of his most critical goals- the opening of Civicerian borders to refugees from Piantia. This concession seemingly provides the perfect avenue for the Cult of Zo to infiltrate the country and seek new opportunities. For now, the Dominion appears to be under the impression that the Empire will not attack, but is it really? Estro suspects that his counterpart across the border might not be so easily fooled. He teases the Dominion's interest in Midanate lands to the east, but it remains to be seen whether he will truly retool the Dominion's war machine to fight such a foe.

===Allied Forces===

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

Turn 1 Recap:
Estro followed the lead "The Reluctance of Bolia" and discovered that the Civicerians had been planning to invade Piantia themselves, and were shocked when the Empire swept in and stole the prize before their offensive could begin. Civic leaders within the territory of Bolia were not told of this turnabout, and so they had naturally assumed that the military buildup under General Sergius was merely a response to the presence of Izaak and Kolthix in Ostminora. The general fear of Saarus then led to a total reluctance to aid the Piantian refugees, for fear of angering Briggun and igniting the powderkeg assumed to exist across the border. The merchants were among the most opposed, and were even willing to collaborate with Saarus if it meant preserving the peace. Estro gained the card "Whispers in the Arcade" as a result, and used this knowledge to better conduct negotiations with General Sergius.

Now, Estro is torn; while he continues to dig his talons into the civil society of the Dominion, his army is well-equipped to attack somewhere, and launching an attack on Piantia or Gantar would certainly help sell his explanations to Sergius. However, Miraq is likely too far away for Estro to reach before Izaak claims it for himself, and taking Kaula might anger Alexandre and Captain Cordia, who are working together to capture the territory themselves already.

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

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)
Whispers in the Arcade - Attacks against Piantia or Gantar carry +2 advantage. If used completely without attacking Civiceria, gain a token. (3 Uses)

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.
Bohemian Rhapsody - While the older generation in Bolia is quite well established in their traditions, hierarchies, and economics, there appears to be a divisive notion of rebellion within the youth, who are tired of the Dominion's exploitation of Bolia's lands. While all seem to appreciate the expertise of the Man on the Mountain, most also express a sense of hopelessness toward their future, stating that there are no opportunities in Bolia which equal those found throughout the rest of the Dominion. Estro considers what it would take to get the youth involved in a bit of subterfuge.

===The Enemy===

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

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

The deal struck with Saarus, granting the latter preferred trade status, was welcomed by the merchant class as a sensible move to placate the massive Empire and temporarily avert war. However, the common people are confused and upset at the influx of refugees, as there has been no clear definition as to what rights would belong to these newcomers. Many in the upper class are calling for the destitute to be enslaved, granting a higher station to Civicerian citizens, while the lower classes have already noted that the eagerness to reduce skilled and educated laborers to mere slaves was a chilling reminder of their rulers' contempt for the common man. Lucius, however, has sent his officers from town to town, assuring all who will listen that they should remain calm, and that any servitude will be a temporary measure to ensure that all are fed until a more permanent resolution can be found. As the refugees enter, they are catalogued by the military, with their names, jobs, and family members recorded.

Druadach Campaign

Sensing the need to investigate his new surroundings further and strengthen the unity of his horde before pressing on into enemy territory, Adanach sought the blessing of Blaidd. With the help of a ritual conducted by Madanach, several of the barbarians were gifted the powers of the wolf- that is, they became werewolves, adding a new element of strength and terror to the Son of the Druadach's forces. This was witnessed by associates of the Redeemer Prince, as Lucafiel and Adanach exchanged letters and personnel ahead of their summer campaigns.

===Allied Forces===

Adanach, Son of the Druadach
Meals from the Field // Symphony of War // Drenched in Death
Location: Mors Gobonach
Strength: 4

Turn 1 Recap:
Adanach followed the lead "Trinkets from Abroad" and discovered that his conquest of Mors Gobonach had inadvertently caused the collapse of a sophisticated criminal scheme: halfling traders from Tidiaus, lured into the goblin lands with false promises of new markets in the barbarian north, had been taken prisoner by Faska's underlings in the prior months. These prisoners would then be sold to ransom-seeking scoundrels (also from Tidiaus), who would either return their brethren home or sell them as slaves to Lacans, depending on who had the best offer. Now in possession of a number of starving, groveling halfling prisoners, Adanach realized that he had the chance to secure a favor from Tidiaus in exchange for their release, and gained the card "Quid Pro Quo." He was then attacked by surprise by Torrin the Ironheart, but successfully repelled her attack. It seems that Blaidd's blessing helped secure a decisive victory, costing Torrin a token.

Faska, the Bloody Bastard --- Meals from the Field // The One and Only // Drenched in Death

A Leader of the Uncivilized - Tribal Forces which have dropped below strength 3 have a 1/3 chance of joining Adanach if he attacks them. (Infinite Uses)
Pagan Zeal - In battle against highly religious factions, Adanach has a passive +2 advantage. (5 Uses.)
Bargaining Chips - Gain +1 advantage against Faska after each victory against him. (3 Uses)
Quid Pro Quo - Can exchange captives for one political favor from Tidiaus with GM approval. (1 Use)

What The Rocks Are Cooking - The new goblin recruits have a strange dish that they're accustomed to cooking on stones placed directly over a campfire, which they claim is far superior for feeding an army than what the Empire is supplying. They offer to teach the recipe if Adanach helps gather the ingredients.
Idle Hands, Devil's Workshop - A courier from Arantino arrives, apparently blown off course from his intended destination in the Malenchanted Woods. He has already burned the letter he was meant to carry, leaving Adanach a dilemma: allow him to pass, or torture him for his secrets.

===The Enemy===

Gwrtheyrn, Druid King of the Cyrmm
To Weather the Storm // A Master of the Art // Never Surrender
Location: Cyrmm
Strength: 5

Gwytheyrn isn't surprised that Adanach hasn't approached him. He knows that the young man and the horde he leads lacks both the physical might and the spiritual providence to take the sacred lands of Cyrmm, but that these disadvantages won't last forever. He has begun to call to the faithful to defend their lands against Briggun's puppet, and a steady trickle of warriors from the east are answering the call. He feels confident that even when Adanach is confident enough to launch his next attack, he will attempt to subdue Torrin, to his north, in order to reinforce both of his deficiencies. He has even made appeals to Blaidd, if the rumors are to be believed, suggesting that Adanach is seeking a decisive battle against the Ironheart.

Torrin, The Ironheart
With Guile and Cunning // Come What May // A Reckoning for the Wicked
Location: Mors Darak
Strength: 3

Sensing Adanach's hesitation and interpreting it as a sign of weakness, Torrin calls up her warriors and goes on the attack. Arriving at the frontier of Mors Gobonach for a nighttime raid, she is instead beset by a well-prepared and equally-fanatical war camp. The battle rages for hours before the Ironheart's horde breaks into a disorderly retreat. While the result of the battle has infuriated her, she remains confident, as do her inner circle. She's been in this position many times before. It will take repeated disasters to rob them of their zeal.

The Helm of Eimhir - In battle, if opponent has advantage and superior strength, 1/3 chance Torrin wins automatically. (Infinite Uses)

Erevan Campaign

The entire continent is now on notice. Harnessing the power of a volcanic eruption, Borok led the charge into Sabersval and took the first true bite out of Erevan after ten years of tense deadlock. In the ash-caked ruins of Valwake, the War Council members plot their next moves. Now that Aelan Farandel is dead by Baba Voyka's hand, and Briggun has arrived at the front to receive her head as a prize, the enemy will doubtlessly respond with severe aggression. However, they will meet a massive and united front of Imperial soldiers with high morale. A panic has befallen the rest of the country, resulting in surge of volunteers seeking to defend the remaining territory to the last. Prince Cameran has been chosen to lead this desperate force.

===Allied Forces===

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

Turn 1 Recap:
With the way cleared by Borok's advance, Baba relocated her forces to Sabersval.

Now, her soldiers are on their best behavior as their Emperor tours the new frontier. The environment is tragically damaged due to volcanic activity, but in time, the forests will recover and the vale will bloom. Spirits are high, and the only question remaining is: which of the three remaining provinces will fall next?

Dreamwalker - On defeat in battle, Baba has a passive 1/3 chance of costing her opponent a token to draw even. (Infinite Uses)
Tough Skin - Passively immune to being poisoned. (Infinite Uses)
Young Scouts - Grants supply strategy A in addition to the user's selected strategy. (3 Uses)

Buried in Ash - Baba's scouts have been scouring the desolate remains of Valwake since their arrival for any usable supplies, and have brought back plenty of useful goods. However, the location of Aelan Farandel's headquarters and map room have been seemingly lost due to the mass destruction. Baba considers the prudence of locating the structure and any valuable items and documents that might have survived.
The Windsplitter - Soldiers are reporting sightings of a shadowy figure in the night, one which plays a solemn song on a pan flute before flying away. The proximity of these sightings to the Imperial camps gives Baba pause and tempts her to investigate.

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

Turn 1 Recap:
Borok played the card "Volcanic Plume," which unleashed a volcanic eruption upon Sabersval and damaged Aelan Farandel's army. He then attacked through the tunnels from the Sauroid Mountains into Sabersval and took Aelan's remaining token. Sabersval is now Imperial territory under Borok's domain.

After such careful planning, it's only natural that Borok's execution would be perfect, seizing the southernmost province of Erevan while avoiding almost all casualties. Despite his triumph, he is content to spread the glory; Baba Voyka conducted the execution of the enemy commander, and Yz presented the disembodied head to their shared master. But Borok is already looking to the future. They are surrounded by enemies on all sides, and with Briggun momentarily satisfied, it might be keen to spend a few weeks searching for new opportunities in the elvan lands before attacking again.

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

Better than Steel - The elves are known for mining and refining an especially strong metal in their lands known as mithril, veins of which are thought to exist on the northern slopes of the great mountain ridge between Saarus and Erevan on the western side of Sabersval. Borok is tempted to gather as much as he can from the likely-intact mining villages in that direction, before other plunderers can do the same.
Rivers of Glass - the cooling volcanic rock left behind by lava flows has resulted in quite a bit of obsidian forming throughout the province. To Borok's mild surprise and amusement, a number of industrious elves have been sighted recovering this obsidian in order to create extremely crude tools and weapons. He considers the advantages of helping the locals rebuild, rather than let them struggle like this.

Lady Falwyn Tholmar, the Dragonlord
Try and Take It // Symphony of War // Break Their Spirits
Location: Ostmajora
Strength: 2

Turn 1 Recap:
Lady Falwyn followed the lead "Tears of the Vale" and discovered that by creating some earthworks on the Empire's side of the border, the summer snow melt would cause a great flood of water to enter into a stream which feeds a river in Ysval, which in turn would flood the province. She gained the card "Flood of Tears." She also met with Kande Abdolon and promised not to attack in early summer- a course of action she was already committed to.

Her meeting with Kande having been a bitter and unproductive affair, Falwyn nonetheless believes that she has planted the seeds for lingering doubt and reluctance in the Viper's mind. Perhaps, once he has tasted defeats of his own that place him in a hopeless situation, he will return to her and offer his surrender. But for now, he is in a precarious position, having lost an ally to his west, and unaware of the flood which might soon come his way...

Dragon's Fury - If Falwyn defeats an opponent with attack strategy A, they lose two tokens. (Infinite Uses.)
Dragonflight - If traveling over allied territory, Falwyn can move across two provinces in a single turn. (Infinite Uses.)
Golden Majesty - Upon conquering an enemy territory for the first time, Falwyn instantly gains a free token. (3 Uses)
Flood of Tears - May trigger flooding in Ysval, granting 2 points of advantage on attacking said territory in summer. (2 Uses)

The Once and Future...? - Somewhere in Ostmajora, a prince of a now (nearly) extinct royal family is rumored to be alive and living under a false identity. His existence might be a legend, as the royal jewels went missing when his kingdom fell to Briggun and the people may have invented his story in order to cope, or maybe, just maybe, there is a very crafty half-elf living in a shack somewhere with a truly impressive fortune under his floorboards.
Ride the Lightning - From seemingly nowhere, a wizard approaches Lady Falwyn's camp and proclaims that he can summon lightning to strike upon his command, but he will need help from the Dragonlord herself to prove it. Falwyn considers whether this man is worth her time.

Vuldar Elegast, Sigurd of Ravgoth
Try and Take It // The One and Only // Break Their Spirits
Location: Poggost
Strength: 2

Turn 1 Recap:
Sigurd followed the lead "The Howling Dark" and discovered that dire werewolves were occupying the wilderness near his camps. With some crafty trapping skills, Sigurd captured a werewolf named Valda, who agreed to join the war effort as his follower in exchange for a constant supply of fresh meat. However, the time taken to gather this new ally would come at a cost. Rotwellain mounted a major assault on Sigurd's position, driving him backwards to the original border and costing him a token.

Now that the weather has warmed and the sun remains in the sky much longer, the pass is a wet and marshy quagmire. Sigurd is now outnumbered nearly two-to-one, and will likely require assistance from his allies in Sabersval to occupy Rotwellain's attention while reinforcements arrive from Saarus.

Valda, the Prowling Reaper --- Meals from the Field // Nothing is Safe // Drenched in Death

The Fear is Enough - If a weaker foe attacks while this card is active, they lose a token due to abandonment, regardless of the battle's outcome. (5 Uses.)
Unyielding Contempt - At the cost of a token for one turn, Sigurd can bypass an enemy territory without a fight. (5 Uses.)

Oracle Bones - While looting the bodies of the fallen, Sigurd's soldiers uncover something unsettling: the body of an elf whose ribs are broken open and exposed to the air. Tiny runes and phrases are etched into the bones themselves.
Promise from the North - One morning, a hawk arrives in the middle of Sigurd's war camp with a note tied around its leg. The bird gnaws at the twine, releasing it, before flapping its wings and taking to the sky once more. The note within offers assistance to the Imperial forces from a band of orcish mercenaries from Mors Denoch. To hire them would take payment, and payment would require approval from Briggun. Sigurd begins to calculate the time and effort involved in enlisting this potentially valuable force.

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

Turn 1 Recap:
Yz followed in the wake of Borok's assault on Sabersval, arriving in elvan territory with their army without any significant losses. Having been allowed to present the Emperor with the head of their shared enemy, Yz was honored with Briggun's promised gift, a unit of his personal guard, and gained the card "Emperor's Guard." These battle-hardened veterans may have been few in number, but their presence promised to changed the outcome of battles, and maybe even wars.

The path is open now for Yz to explore the rest of the elvan territories, and even with Briggun's recent visit, no additional demands have been placed on Yz's next action. Although the enemy is great in number, most of them are paralyzed in fear and are not cooperating well. Perhaps, in the midst of all this chaos, Yz will finally find a partner for their next tea party.

Yz-Arts - Yz cannot be taken prisoner. (Infinite Uses)
Without Identity - If not wearing a mask, Yz is unrecognizable to any enemy that has not fought them and can travel freely in their territory. (Infinite Uses)
Body Doubles - If a foe targets Yz with a card, the effect is negated. (3 Uses)
Emperor's Guard - If played upon a battle victory, costs opponent one additional token. If played upon defeat, lose no token. (1 Use)

Bread and Circuses - There are many civilian survivors of the eruption and the subsequent invasion, but they are struggling to survive. While many hold out hope that the elves will reclaim Sabersval, others are ready to accept help anywhere it can come from. Yz sees an opportunity to spread some new ideas along with the food rations.
The Witness - Prior to Aelan Farandel's death, she provided a masked sketch of Yz to Marewyn, the captain of the city watch in Valwake, and told her of their meeting. Since the events of early summer, Marewyn is distraught, openly wondering if the destruction could have been prevented if Aelan had simply parlayed with Yz. A letter arrives from Marewyn, asking if there is anything she can do to assist the provisional Imperial leadership. Yz considers hosting a meeting.

===The Enemy===

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

After meeting with Lady Falwyn, Kande returned to Ysval grimly committed to the continued defense of his region, even if his fear of Imperial tyranny had softened thanks to the Dragonlord's nuanced dialogue. Having secured an armistice for the early summer, Kande worked to locate new soldiers and mercenaries from Gantar which could expand his ranks by early autumn, but he fears that Falwyn will attack before they're ready. His fears were multiplied by the disaster which befell Sabersval, as the presence of Briggun and three of his War Council in the neighboring territory meant that he could be assaulted on multiple sides before the end of summer. Thankfully, the capital territory has finally mobilized a true army and placed Prince Cameran in charge- a man Kande trusts not to leave him high and dry should the enemy gain a decisive advantage in the east.

Prince Cameran Erevyss, The Mighty Oak
With Guile and Cunning // Colleagues in Arms // A Truth Unassailable
Location: Erevan
Strength: 6

When the Kingdom of Erevan needed to confront the building threat of Saarus with a full-mobilization, a surprise dispute erupted almost as violently as the volcano on the southern border: all along, the plan had been to place Rotwellain in control of the vast reserves and allow him to appoint an officer of his choice to watch the pass, but as the enlistment surged after the war's opening maneuvers, several of Rotwellain's rivals as well as glory-seekers and ladder climbers made their self-serving opinions known. Prince Cameran was an odd choice, as he was known as a poet and philosopher, as well as a competent administrator, but not much of a strategist. However, he won the job after publicly delivering a stunning indictment of his peers that earned him the appreciation of the generals. Among Cameran's chief criticisms were the failure to properly support Kande's defense of Ysval, the refusal of Aelan to move east when ordered, and the failure of her superiors to overrule her. Had she done so, her army would have avoided destruction in Sabersval and would have allowed them to assist in the coming counterattack. Stepping into the role of a field marshal has given Cameran many sleepless nights, and he appears sullen and wracked with anxiety over his next move. However, he is sternly refusing to give way to the chaos that came before his appointment.

Rotwellain Martiel, Gatekeeper of the World
To Weather the Storm // A Master of the Art // A Reckoning for the Wicked
Location: Wyldsylvain
Strength: 4

Blessed victory! It is only a minor one, but an important one nonetheless. By driving Sigurd's army backwards, Rotwellain has given himself a serious advantage for the moment against his foe. The large number of Imperial soldiers in Sabersval is a bleak thought, but with the army of Prince Cameran behind him, Rotwellain is convinced that he can keep his focus on winning the battle in the pass while the capital forces try to retake Sabersval or back up Kande in the event of another disaster. Wyldsylvain stands determined to slam shut the gate once and for all!

Gantar Campaign

Having watched from afar the fall of Sabersval and the Empire's growing offensive into Erevan, the Sultan of Gantar is doubly alarmed to hear that the Voivode of Skulls has attacked the tribesmen of Miraq and left them bloodied and nearly broken. Calling on his generals, the Sultan initially proposes an immediate alliance with Erevan and a swift intervention into its territories, but, after some extended discussion, his nerves were calmed and a more pragmatic thought took hold at the planning table: Gantar would wait while Briggun's thugs bash their blades against elvan shields, and build its forces up stronger. When the time was right, they would then attack the Empire in Erevan, liberating the territory while installing a new regime that would defer to the Sultan's wise leadership. For now, he would focus on repelling the attack in the south.

Meanwhile, an unthinkable disaster has befallen Kolthix the Cackler and his soldiers. While preparing for the next attack against Zomach, the shadelings encountered a wizard from Midana who was carrying a mighty staff. Unaware of the strength of his magic, Kolthix attempted to have the man apprehended. However, the wizard stood his ground and called upon the wind, summoning a powerful storm which quickly escaped his control. The wall of sand, ripping and tearing at the flesh of all who were present, utterly overwhelmed everyone at the scene, and even carried on for several days. Survivors reported these details to Izaak's scouts, days after the fact, and informed him that Kolthix's whereabouts are unknown, along with the mysterious wizard who summoned the storm.

===Allied Forces===

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

Turn 1 Recap:
Izaak attacked Zomach with the help of his card "Bottled Omens" and dealt one token of damage. Due to his card "Skeletal Warriors," Izaak also gained one point of advantage this turn.

Under the scorching winds of a sandstorm, Izaak's soldiers have been raiding the remote villages of Miraq for weeks- terrifying the residents of desert as they watch their friends and loved ones be killed, only to rise from the sandy earth and continue fighting under Izaak's foul sorcery. Izaak knows that victory here is close at hand, and with a few more weeks of pressure, he believes he can crush the remaining defenders before Gantar can have the chance to send aid. He is also aware of the terrible disaster which has befallen Kolthix and his shadeling horde, and wonders just how long it will before he can confront the wizard which dealt such a stunning blow to the Empire's armies. He has a dark suspicion that the man didn't simply die in his own storm.

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

The Lonesome Tower - Near the edge of the mountain ridge separating Saarus from Gantar, a shadow juts out from the landscape in just such a way as to convince Izaak that there's a tower on the Gantar side which might be worth exploring.
Picking up the Pieces - Many shadeling survivors of the great sandstorm which struck the deserts this turn are still waiting to be reunited with their Imperial masters. Gathering them all up, however, will take valuable time that Izaak could be using to finish the enemy off.

===The Enemy===

Zomach, the Trench Digger
With Guile and Cunning // Come What May // A Truth Unassailable
Location: Miraq
Strength: 1

Zomach and the remainder of his forces gather in Makon, the largest village in Miraq that has not been overrun by the evil forces of Briggun's army. His calls for help having gone unanswered thus far, he has finally received word that the Sultan is sending help. But will they make it to Miraq in time to prevent the territory from being overrun? Unlikely, but the Trench Digger spends time each day praying for salvation nonetheless. With the arrival of the sandstorm and the sudden annihilation of Kolthix's army, Zomach's troops rally- they will fight heroically for their homes, in hopes that the gods will smile upon them once more.

Lacans Campaign

Although the Imperial Armies continue to menace Lacans from afar, the generals and statesmen within that land are quite proud that their defenses have daunted Briggun's soldiers so, and that they have not yet made a serious push into the territory. Petrokos, the People's Hammer, even felt inclined to reach out to Munsie Moldive and ask for an audience, as he felt that if he could drive a wedge between the Fox and the Viceroy, Declan, that he could delay open warfare with the Empire for at least another season, or perhaps even into the next year. Ikono, however, has been facing raids, not just from the fae-like warriors of Lucafiel's army, but from barbarians sent all the way from the Druadach territories, and he has lost his patience for waiting. After a heated argument with the oligarchs of Iskulia, Ikono launched an ill-fated attack across the border which ignored his own defensive advantage in favor of a reckless assault. His warriors faltered, of course, leaving him even more vexed than before.

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

Turn 1 Recap:
Declan followed the lead "Through the Grapevine" and learned of Petrokos' attempt to negotiate with Munsie. Instead, Declan laid a trap for his foe, having her promise to meet with the People's Hammer, only to launch a surprise attack instead. He gained the card "The Hand that Feeds."

During the summer, the soldiers of the Viceroy's army, as well as those under the command of Munsie Moldive, relocate to the border in an aggressive stance, ready to begin their assault at a moment's notice. Declan has been waiting for signs of instability within Oitvemia, but as of yet there are none. It would seem that he will need to create the conditions ripe for internal strife so that he can light the spark of a slave rebellion.

Soulstealer - If this card is in play and Declan wins a battle, he will possess the enemy commander's soul, instantly defeating their army. (3 Uses)
Diplomat - If this card is in play and Declan loses a battle, he will avoid losing a token. (3 Uses)
Blinded Liberators - If Declan attacks in the same turn as a slave revolt, both armies gain +2 Advantage. (2 Uses)
The Hand That Feeds - Can force Munsie to either meet with Petrokos as a spy, or attack Lacans. (1 Use)

Where None Dare Tread - The melting snow revealed the entrance to some sort of shrine on the side of a mountain that overlooks Oitvemia. Declan asks around and learns that the locals know and fear the shrine as a place of ancient evil. He ponders for a moment whether it would be prudent to send a party in to explore.
The Pathway West - Declan considers the operation ahead, and worries that attacking blindly without knowing the lay of the land might be a recipe for disaster, even with the army of Tidiaus at his side. A scout mission might increase the odds of success, but it would delay the general offensive...

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

Turn 1 Recap:
Lucafiel investigated the lead "Cult of Personality," and learned that Briggun holds a certain grip on the people's minds in these parts; a Kokarian cult surrounding his destructive power seems to believe that they are apocalyptically destined to lay down their lives for his "great project." With a simple instruction, Lucafiel could harness this zealots' energy to strengthen his numbers, or he could use them for a act more fitting of their wild imaginations. However, while making these discoveries, Lucafiel's impatient opponent across the border, Ikono, launched an ill-fated attack on Kokoria that simply cost him and his Lacanite forces a token of strength.

With the end of summer looming, Lucafiel senses the urgency of the war increasing. His enemy may have wasted the lives of many men trying to deal a blow to no avail, but he cannot expect Ikono to make such a mistake again, even if the man is known for his rather cavalier attitude toward war, life, love, and generally anything else that it's possible to ham-fist his way through. Perhaps the time has come to stop holding back?

Red Comet - When played, Lucafiel may redefine his three strategies. (Infinite Uses - Once Per Three Turns)
Hand of Life - Lucafiel can revive a dead character, or kill one who trusts him. (Infinite Uses - Once Per Three Turns)
Snake Oil - False cures for the plague are sent to Iskulia, giving them a disadvantage of 2. (2 Uses)
The White Horse - Gain a token. If played alongside the Red, Black, and and Pale Horse cards, inflict a terrible event- 5 tokens of damage against a target. (1 Use)

The Lacanite Pantheon - The people of Kokaria express a familiarity with the gods worshipped in Lacans, and openly provide direction to temples in the north of the province which were erected in dedication of the same deities. Lucafiel's curiosity is drawn to these old structures.
Under Black Sails - One would not normally associate kobolds with the ocean, but Forktung, a cutthroat who has been making the rounds in Kokaria's ports, is seemingly on a mission to change this. Recently, a note was found pinned to the door of a portside tavern declaring that Forktung would soon be the master of the Lacanite sea coast. Lucafiel wonders whether such a boast is worth addressing...

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

Having met with a member of Emperor Brigun's War Council at last, Munsie has calmed down in the last few weeks. She has calmly relocated her forces closer to the border and instructed them to await orders to cross the border. While she had been previously ordered not to take the war onto Laconite territory, she is confident that Declan will convince the royal court that an offensive war is necessary to preserve Tidiaus' future. Her officers are uneasy, sensing the depth to which she reveling in the key part she'll play in the coming bloodshed. None, however, dare to question her- exactly how she's always wanted.

===The Enemy===

Ikono Manakles, the Ram of Iskulia
To Weather the Storm // A Master of the Art // A Truth Unassailable
Location: Iskulia
Strength: 5

In the city of Pelospar, the capital of Iskulia, the oligarchs responsible for supplying men and materiel for Ikono's army are growing restless. Although the braggart pounds his chest, speaking loudly of the enemy's weaknesses and the inevitability of their defeat, news from afar of Briggun's advances in Erevan have caused serious pause within the minds of those responsible for lonely Lacans. In order to silence their concerns, Ikono ordered an attack on Lucafiel's army, only to be embarrassed when his troops, already laggardly from illness, crossed the border and were immediately bogged down in the Empire's defenses. Having wasted lives without progress, Ikono has finally stopped his boasting and is now meeting more actively with strategic advisors, even if, in the end, he is wont to ignore them.

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

Petrokos paces the hall of his villa, cursing Ikono's name to the heavens for his idiotic behavior. Lacans is, and always has been, a defensive powerhouse. To waste lives on an abortive offensive onto Imperial land was a disaster without justification, and it would surely be answered with a terrible vengeance. After hearing of the capture of Sabersval, Petrokos is now convinced that his only chance to avert an equally devastating defeat on his own land is to drive a wedge into the Tidiaus/Saarus alliance. Little does he know that the appointed "defender" of the halfling country was, in fact, one of the most cartoonishly bloodthirsty individuals on the continent, and that he was slowly luring his own country into a terrible trap.

Piantia Campaign

Disaster strikes! In the span of a few weeks, Saarus suffered a defeat on land and then at sea at the hands of the Piantians. It is fortunate that Briggun had already departed Canar for Sabersval before the action began, as he would have chosen a different course had the bad news reached him earlier. Instead, he sends a missive to Alexandre and Cordia warning them that he will reassign them to far less desirable duties if they cannot gain decisive control over the war in the south. The Piantian mainland, meanwhile, cheers on the actions of their defenders, sensing that their neighbors in the Civicerian Dominion have been hoping for their demise. Defiantly, they face the world with a grim smile. Piantians are free people, and will die a free people if need be.

===Allied Forces===

Alexandre, the Thirsting
Meals from the Field // The One and Only // Drenched in Death
Location: Bone Coast
Strength: 2

Turn 1 Recap:
Alexandre investigated the lead "Firelight Megalith" and found that the ancient monument promised a significant event in early autumn. She gained the card "The Meteor Caller." Afterwards, Alexandre was attacked by Jakabo, who found the exact opportunity he had been searching for to draw even with the vampyr and regain some of the lost territory in Kaula. Alexandre loses one token.

Unlike Cordia, Alexandre is not in a particularly dangerous position. Even after suffering a loss at the hands of Jakabo, she is occupying the same territory as an ally and has nothing but friendly territory behind her. Reinforcements are on the way already, and her primary opponent is merely even with her, and not outnumbering her two-to-one. The promise of the Firelight Megalith continues to entice her, but with Estro possibly redirecting his attention southward, questions remain of whether Alexandre will be in control of the territory in time to discover what the monument was meant to herald.

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)
The Meteor Caller - If Alexandre possesses Kaula and is present in early Autumn, gain a powerful card. (1 Use)

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.
Blight and Magic - On her travels, Alexandre learns of a hermit living in a secluded glen, surrounded by blighted food crops which kill anything that dares to eat them. As to why this hermit lives in this manner, no one is quite sure, nor do they know what is causing the blight. Alexandre is curious to learn the truth, of course.

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: 2

Turn 1 Recap:
Cordia investigated the lead "Dashed on the Rocks" and discovered a chest hidden within the sunken ship's cargo which was filled with valuable emerald dragon scales. Not long afterwards, in the midst of a heavy fog, the Butcher's Blade and its Imperial escorts were ambushed by Cutlass Bandolo, who conducted a textbook raid before disappearing once more into the gathering storm. Cordia lost one token as a result.

The path forward has become as murky as the waters of the bone coast themselves. Cordia finds herself in the southern sea with an obvious opponent, but no obvious target for her conquest. Kaula will likely belong to Alexandre or Estro within the year, Petrata is inaccessible until Cutlass Bandolo is defeated, and the coastal territories of Weildach are well-defended to prepare for the Sandachian invasion Veno spent the prior spring organizing. Cordia will need to act quickly to regain control, but how?

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

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 - One Turn Remaining)
Dragon Scales - Can bribe an enemy commander to meet with you if they are otherwise unwilling. (One Use)

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...
Prodigal Sons - Word has reached Cordia that a small pirate fleet belonging to Longshanks Vargas has just lost their leader in a failed raid on Kobakeli, and that they are now on their way to Teralia to lick their wounds. If they're willing to join the Banshee Captain's fleet, then it could prove to be just the windfall Cordia needs. If not however, it could be a costly waste of time at a critical moment.

===The Enemy===

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

An old dog proves he's not out of tricks just yet! Jakobo launched an attack on Alexandre's undead and accursed army in a well-planned attack which harried them, and then exploited their reliance on cavalry by utilizing classic formations and earthworks to his advantage as he tactically retreated. Kaula has not been rid of the Imperial menace yet, but thanks to the valiant effort of his soldiers, Jakobo has made the land battle an even contest. Sadly, he is not aware of Estro's presence in the Bone Coast thanks to the latter's comparatively low profile, nor does he know of the increasing incentives tempting Estro to attack Kaula.

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

Not just one, but two victories for Piantia, back-to-back! Not wanting to be outdone by his land-based counterpart, Sirius decided grit his teeth and do what he had been too frightened to do before: he attacked the infamous Captain Cordia. Utilizing the ugly weather of late spring to his advantage, he stung the Imperial Fleet while suffering minimal losses. With a significant ship tonnage advantage now, he feels confident that he can continue to hold the strait, so long as Jakobo can keep his luck coming as well.

Weildach Campaign

The war has begun with a lukewarm start, adding to the overall malaise of the southern campaigns as of late. Veno declined to attempt a sea crossing in spring, and instead left it to Swybeck, but this went poorly and immediately placed the Empire on the back foot. Briggun, already distraught over the losses suffered by Alexandre and Cordia, hardly noticed the misfortune on this front, but Veno knows that his inattention will last only as long as the war council continued to disappoint him.

===Allied Forces===

Swybeck Argnault, the Titan of the Temple
Everywhere at Once // Symphony of War // Drenched in Death
Location: Sandach
Strength: 2

Swybeck spent late spring attempting a first crossing of the southern sea, but his preliminary landings failed to establish a proper beachhead. Before more forces could make landfall, the first Sandachians to arrive were met with fierce resistance from the Blade at Land's End, which killed or captured nearly all of Swybeck's forces. This early defeat was frustrating, as Swybeck had been talking so much of the Empire's support for the war and the likelihood of a great success, only for Veno's Imperial forces to not attack in concert with him. However, he knows that Sandach, like Saarus, is preparing to reinforce his army further, and that this earlier failure will not define the war ahead.

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

Turn 1 Recap:
Veno followed the lead "The Heretical Sciences" and learned that the Clerics of Endane were rather amateurish with their approach to the dark arts and the wards they proposed for them. Surmising that their involvement would only hamper the enemy's defenses, Veno gained a card, "Endane Heretics."

As Veno feared, without bringing her army to Oberngenia in spring, the Sandachian forces faltered in their first attempt to cross the southern sea, and now questions are arising as to the Empire's true intentions with the war. It's clear that she will need to mount her own attack on Weildach, and soon, or else it will become clear that she is merely trying to lead others to war while keeping her Imperial soldiers safe- a revelation which could have dire consequences.

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)
Endane Heretics - If holder is in Oberngenia and card is played outside battle, gain a follower. If played in battle, enemy suffers 3 points of disadvantage. (1 Use)

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.
Long Lost - While researching her opponent in Oberngenia, Veno learns an interesting tidbit about Bloquenyan: he has a sister that he has not seen since he was a child. Veno considers the possible benefits of locating this lost sibling, or at least of learning all there is to learn about her.

===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)

And so, the first of Sandach's attempts to cross the sea was crushed. The Blade was neither surprised nor impressed by his opponent's daring, and within weeks of the Sandachian landing, Oberngenia was clear of invaders. While he has received word that Imperial spies may have entered the country, he seems unconcerned; he knows that no matter how many secrets the Imperials dig up, they will eventually have to face him on the field of battle, and he knows that the strongest of Briggun's War Council are busy elsewhere.

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

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

Hearing that Captain Cordia had suffered a defeat at the hands of the Piantian Navy, Maldaryn was tempted to attack the sea hag as well in an act of solidarity, since both Weildach and Piantia were at war with the Empire. However, she did not wish to risk putting herself at a disadvantage against an enemy who was not currently engaged with attacking her adoptive homeland at this time, and so she decided to save her strength, for the moment, and keep her eyes on the western mouth of the southern sea.
Damian0358 Damian0358

Falwyn sat comfortably in the ostentatiously created wooden chair with its comfy woolen padding. Nearby stood her most trusted lady concubine, the drow Linota, leaned against one of the poles of her command tent. A tent that had been growing increasingly extravagant over her time in armistice with Kande. Various trinkets of varying worth adorned the room, while the pelts of great animals lent the appearance of a carpeted floor. Fine silk sheets adorned a bed that was nearly the size of two king beds, an indulgence she had lustfully made use of many of times in spring as her nerves had calmed and she had regained resolve.

Still the most opportune moment had come in the conquering of the Sabersval. A chance to take Ysaval in one fell swoop before Kande's gamble for time starting paying its dividends. The question was who to approach. The answer came the in the one most loyal to the empire. The great witch Baba Vodkya. The one who would be willing to let Falwyn have her dominion if only for the strategic benefit. Falwyn picked up her quill and began to write.

To Baba Vodkya,

I have heard of the ashes that covered the land of Sabersval. It must have been a wondrous sight to see. Your conquest is to be commended as is the righteous hand that executed Aelan Farandel. I have heard of a poet prince being the one to come to power to lead the defense of the capital. I propose that he weep songs of sorrow as Ysaval falls. The viper is from the deserts and I believe he will soon have mercenaries reinforcing his ranks if we delay.

The time to strike is now. In the spring I have built earthworks that will lead to the summer snow melt causing a great flood from the vale. This combined with my might will be a catalyst for taking Ysaval. But the final dagger can come from you. Join me with a flanking attack from the west and we can claim Ysaval as we take another step towards Everan being under its rightful Saarus rule. I ask that you do not contest my rule of Ysaval as I will be able to sway the new subjects to join under my golden banner.

By My Blood,
Falwyn Tholmar
Voyka aided in efforts to ensure that the arrival of their Dark Lord would be seen as a momentous occasion, preparing festivities meant to venerate Him as he stepped through the mountains and came to Sabersval. Her plans in imprinting Yz with the role of capturing Farandel had worked out magnificently, as they were rewarded a unit of his personal guard, and completely incapable of refusing them. The ceremony would be as one expected of Yz.

With Briggun's arrival, the hag began her final preparations toward ensuring that her forces were ready to move eastward and aid Falwyn in Ysaval, as she had planned this entire time. However, as word came of developments elsewhere, her mind began to waver. Vuldar being pushed back in the west might necessitate aid to weaken, or at least distract, Rotwellain enough for him to recover. There's also interest to be had in investigating Sabersval further, especially with the sightings of that damned pan flute player near their camps. But the news of developments beyond their front put her at pause, especially the news of one in particular, which would in fact be the first of the news delivered to her.

Voyka sat at her camp, preparing, before she could feel the distinct presence of a shadeling. She turned around to face Ziman, a messenger that had periodically joins her party as a result of the many years of cooperation between her and Kolthix, often acting as the quickest means of communication between the two, and the stealthiest. She greeted him with the shadelings' means of communication, and Ziman responded in kind, before continuing in common speech.

"I bring urgent news," Ziman began.

"Urgent? Has something gone south in Ostminora?" she asked in a concerned tone.

"Yes, in fact, what happened was troubling," he replied, prompting her to lean in forward in the seat she had just sat down upon.

"Kolthix had been swept away by a wizard-enchanted sandstorm," he revealed, prompting her to stand.

"And?!" she wanted to know.

"We don't know where he is. His forces, myself included, were swept to the winds. I had barely managed to reconvene with Rosach's forces, where others had managed to arrive at. Knowing the seriousness of the situation, I have arrived here to inform you," Ziman explained.

Voyka stood there, her expression paused in time, unsure how to take this news. Slowly, she slumped back into her chair.

"...so, he's gone then..." Voyka commented plainly, with Ziman nodding with a visible frown.

Ziman could notice Voyka's hands instinctively grabbing at something, as if she was ready to tear apart someone, especially someone who had just taken away one of her oldest friends in the Saarus era. Her expression maintained a mix of rage and despair, as if finding herself suddenly lost now that one less person that truly understood her was in this world. After a long pause, steeping in her own emotions, she finally spoke.

"...Ziman, know that you are family, and if you seek a camp to be with, mine will always be open to you and other shadelings," she finally said, Ziman bowing in thanks.

"...thank you, baba. I'll aid you with my services for as long as I can," Ziman said.

Voyka nodded her head to herself, before dismissing Ziman, wanting to be left to her own.

With a formal report on affairs on the other fronts arriving days later, further confirming the seeming demise of Kolthix the Cackler, the thought of Kolthix made her waver on her plans. She grew increasingly tempted to head west, not wanting to risk yet another person she cared about among the lieutenants getting rocked. She sat at the map, conflicted. It would be at that moment, Ziman arrived once more.

"A letter from Lady Tholmar has arrived for you," he revealed, presenting the letter to her.

"Thank you," she responded simply, before dismissing him so that she could concentrate on the letter.
To Baba Vodkya,

I have heard of the ashes that covered the land of Sabersval. It must have been a wondrous sight to see. Your conquest is to be commended as is the righteous hand that executed Aelan Farandel. I have heard of a poet prince being the one to come to power to lead the defense of the capital. I propose that he weep songs of sorrow as Ysaval falls. The viper is from the deserts and I believe he will soon have mercenaries reinforcing his ranks if we delay.

The time to strike is now. In the spring I have built earthworks that will lead to the summer snow melt causing a great flood from the vale. This combined with my might will be a catalyst for taking Ysaval. But the final dagger can come from you. Join me with a flanking attack from the west and we can claim Ysaval as we take another step towards Everan being under its rightful Saarus rule. I ask that you do not contest my rule of Ysaval as I will be able to sway the new subjects to join under my golden banner.

By My Blood,
Falwyn Tholmar
The prose made it apparent that it had come from Falwyn, and the fact that her name had been misspelled an indication of their lack of familiarity with one another. But this letter was very much what she needed at this moment. Just as she had considered turning away from aiding Falwyn in her struggles east, she came to her for aid, revealing to her important information about the battle-to-be against Abdolon. The strategy was immensely sound, and there is a grand chance that she would be able to catch him off-guard and strike him down with her, if Falwyn's info on the enemy's status can be trusted.

The point on permitting Ysaval to fall under Falwyn's command did not bother her. As she intended to head north towards Gantar, and she was intent on aiding the Erevan campaign to its finish, it made all the sense to allow her Ysaval and in turn free her forces to either aid at Wyldsylvain or the core of Erevan.

Her mind was set. She would set forth east as planned. She penned a reply to Falwyn:

To Falwyn Tholmar I had already made plans to head east to aid you in your efforts in Ysaval, so I shall make my trek eastward as soon as possible. I will send my messenger Ziman to ensure we can communicate swiftly when it comes to the release of the earthworks' flood so that my men are not swept under its waves too. He will carry my banner with him as proof. Given your intents northward into Gantar, leaving Ysaval to you makes all the sense, and enables me to further aid in the campaign in Erevan. May the upcoming battle prove fruitful.

Yours Truly,
Baba Voyka

She called Ziman back and informed him that he is to deliver the letter to Falwyn's camp and remain with her until battle was ready, to ensure her plan with the earthworks went without casualties for either side. After his departure, she began her final preparations and had one of her men head to inform the others of her intent to head east for Ysaval soon as planned, and therefore, if any meetings were planned, they were to be had soon.
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The Oitvemia Front, Lacans
As summer came and the terrain dried from mud to dirt, the time to march had finally come upon Declan's forces. The general call for mobilization had been sounded and the Viceroy's warcamp had quickly been packed up. Marching with Munsie's own forces as additional support, it was not one but two armies that crossed the border into Lacans' mountains and pushed forward. A false rendezvous had been set by Munsie, and for their ruse to work they had to arrive earlier to set up and prepare. As such, both armies were pushed to advance at a rapid pace - almost to the point of exhaustion - before establishing themselves in one of the many valleys of the region. Using the cover of the forests that grew there, both forces waited for the opportune time.

And it came, as the People's Hammer approached with his own army in tow. Though it was noticeable that they weren't expecting a fight, given their pace and their overall demeanor. Petrokos himself looked stressed, especially after the developments down south had soured the political mood within the republic. Yet he could not imagine what would come next as the horns of battle took him and his forces by complete surprise. The approach of pikemen and infantry from the center, flanked by a charging cavalry from the nearby mountain steppes and supported by fire of halfling archers and slingers, turned the event into a rout.

As Declan marched through the aftermath of the battle, the land strewn with corpses of Lacans' northern force, he observed the celebrations from this combined force with satisfaction. Nearly a third of Petrokos' army had been wiped out from this attack, savaging the defenses of this region greatly for future conflict. News of this would spread quickly, and in turn start the fires of rebellion that the Viceroy had worked to foment. Although a small part of him cursed his caution in not pressing the inherent advantage further, he was not a risk taker when it came to the most crucial point of this campaign thus far: establishing a foothold. A victory of this magnitude was nothing to scoff at, and the soldiery recognized this as they went about not only cheering and celebrating atop the dead but also rounding up the few that had surrendered.

"Lacans will be bloodied after that." Dennor said with a smirk, observing the work his own boys had done. "Sent them with their tails between their legs."

"For now. They will regroup. But they have more than us to worry about now." Declan then said, placing his hands on his hips. "We've shown only but a part of our hand, and Petrokos will be more wary from now on."

"Still, a third of his army is scattered. I'd call that a fine day."

Declan looked up to the red sun rising above the horizon, painting the skies with orange, reds, and purples as a brilliant natural canvas. "A red day."

"How did you get Tidiaus on board with this?" Dennor then asked with a scoff, "They aren't ones for war."

"Well, my mere presence in their court made them reconsider their existing objections. And so Munsie was given free reign to follow me. Being a part of the Emperor's inner circle carries weight beyond words."

"I see. Now what's the plan?" Dennor then asked, eager to hear more. "Keep on pushing?"

"Perhaps. We'll see once the scouts get more bearings of the land. But I'll need you for something else." Declan spoke, turning to his mercenary companion. "I'll need you to travel to the Druadach, speak with Adanach. I've heard the reports of their troops effectiveness as raiders, and I believe having some of those at our disposal would be a boon for us. But also to see the possibility of him turning northwards."

"Well, sending me off to the savages eh?" Dennor commented with a laugh, "Don't get me wrong, I like to drink and fuck like they do but I'm not a diplomat."

"What are you, then?" Declan asked, entertaining the implied question.

"A whoreson, a braggart, a killer, and a motherfucker." Dennor quipped, which brought a chuckle from Declan.

"Then you'll fit right in with them."
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The night was calm, and a great many of the horde's warriors were resting in their huts and tents. Some were with the concubines, seeking companionship on this warm summer night, while others witnessed a calm nature ritual performed by Madanach; the blind druid chanted a song to the mother goddess while the faithful meditated in his midst.

Adanach and Bjorga rested on their bed, their babes Cosnach and Melach resting between them, while Duach slept upon his father's chest. Unbeknownst to them, their camp was being stalked -- Orcish and Human Harii warriors painted in black stalked the fort from the forests leading to Mors Darak. Leading this covert attack was none other than Torrin the Ironheart, donning her powerful enchanted helm. Behind her were several dead sentries, who were caught unaware of the shadowed horde on approach.

After studying Adanach's warcamp with preying eyes, looking over its defenses, Torrin ordered the attack to commence with a wave of her hand. Silently, her warriors crept towards the outer perimeter.

Nearing the well lit walls of the warcamp, it became impossible to hide as one of the sentries spotted them with a surprised yelp. Torrin sounded the attack with a yell, bringing her warriors forth; the sentry managed to blow a horn to sound the alarm before a spear punched through his chest. The Harii warriors shouted, and charged with zealous fervor against the walls. Using axes, they clawed into the wood in order to scale its height while the sentries on duty frantically fought a desperate defence.

Using their spears, they tried to keep the attack at bay but to no avail and soon Torrin's forces scaled the defenses. The sentries were felled with ease, before heading for the main gate and opening the way for the rest of the attack to commence. Elsewhere in the camp, Adanach shot up quickly as he heard the alarm in the distance along with the sounds of battle. Putting Duach down onto the bed, he rushed over to collect his sword and shield, with Bjorga following suit after handing the younglings over to a concubine.

Torrin and her Harii warriors would then fight through waves of disorganized Druadach warriors, boosting their confidence with every kill wetting their blades. It was then that Madanach approached with several solduros accompanying him, saying nothing as he ordered the armored fanatics to charge against the black shields of the Harii.


Torrin and her men changed their focus on the biggest threat now, as their thick armor made them difficult targets to fell unlike the sentries and dazed warriors from earlier. But she was unaware that this was a distraction, as goblin skirmishers emerged from the shadows nearby; using their slings, bows and throwing spears, they killed several Harii warriors and sparked confusion amidst their ranks from this new area of attack. And before she could respond to this development, she heard the terrifying sound of Blaidd's chosen alongside heavy footbeats upon the ground.

Turning around, she saw the enemy solduros breaking rank to make way for two charging werewolves - alongside wolflings and several minotaurs. With widened eyes, she realized that the defenses of Adanach's warband had kicked in full force now. The werewolves slammed through the Harii shield wall, their claws and teeth tearing apart their chosen victims in that moment. Much to their shock, any wounds dealt to them seemed to only annoy them - shrugging off the pain - as they continued to ravage unlucky stragglers.

The minotaurs came and scattered the Harii shield wall with their falxs, their enormous strength bearing the terrible truth of this attack's outcome upon the invaders. This left them wide open for the zealous wolfling warriors to bite into the necks of their enemies, pouncing on their exposed forms and tearing into their flesh. Blood flowed across the dirt and grasses below from this sudden slaughter.

Torrin, unwilling to cede ground, ordered her men to regroup and form a new defense behind her. Using her own martial skills, she killed several druadach warriors and even a minotaur with expert precision, before retreating to the safety of shields and bodies. Her skirmishers regrouped and forced the goblins back with their own ranged attacks, allowing them to then focus on other targets. Taking hold of the initiative again, Torrin roared to attack with renewed vigor; her example had restored order and morale, allowing the Harii to devastate the next few waves of warriors and beasts that came upon them.

Hundreds of wolflings and other druadach warriors fell to precise spear strikes, forcing Adanach's forces back against a wave of shields to their front. The tide had seemingly turned in Torrin's favor after all, but they never expected to be attacked by a more unusual foe. The Redcap Rukkar squatted atop a tribal hut nearby, observing Torrin and her army with ravenous hunger. Leaping over, he landed atop a Harii warrior and used his seax to cut his throat before charging other warriors nearby. Using the blood of enemies and allies, the fae cast blood magic to summon walls of crimson red to protect him from blows. His strikes cut through the Harii with unnatural ease, now adding a new layer of chaos to the unfolding battle. And the more he felled, the stronger his magic grew - his body becoming covered with blood.

The Voiceless was among the first to emerge, roused by the first frantic horn of a now dead sentry. Unlike the preparations required of those who could sleep without fear of their face being seen by the sky, most Vestati crusaders - especially of the old breed - lived within their armor like ancient shelled beasts. In a mere moment, rising from his seated sleeping position, the Voiceless removed the shroud to his war blade and stepped forth into the growing frenzy of the night, even as many others stumbled awake and clutched whatever they could to repel the sudden attack.

Only a minute later, the equally frenzied figures of Zavastria and Ystria appeared, their youth lacking the experience of responding to so swift a surprise attack; armored as they were, many matters of adornment were missing, leaving them more creatures of barren metal and scrawling script than enshrouded within regal, ceremonial cloth.

A thrown spear was the first to meet the Voiceless amid the throng of a growing battle tearing throughout the camp. He angled his shoulder in and took the approaching javelin against the heavy plate, a flash of sparks appearing as metal broke against metal. Yet without so much as a step backwards or hesitation, he pressed onward into a group of wild, black-painted figures, capitalizing on their speed and ferocity to emerge within them like a fiend of the night. His war blade, a massive two-handed ensemble without flair, was a silvered flamberge meant for breaking formations as well as enemy duelists. The mechanical precision of his usage was enough to stun even Zavastria and Ystria, too young to have seen this ancient warrior in his element. Every gesture was little more than an extension of his limbs, for such was the familiarity to him. It was natural because this was his life. Flawlessly, he could disembowel a howling orc berserker while pivoting to crush the skull of an approaching human attempting to strike from behind with his gauntleted fist, using his very body and form as a weapon against whatever he faced.

Unwilling to be outdone, the younger pair of Vestati pressed in to attack in tandem. Zavastria, a bold and brash soul whose personality bled into his fighting style, utilized a sword and shield in a decidedly aggressive manner. Every step was forwards, every swing was with killing intent. He used his shield more as a weapon than defense, and was often pressing himself into even typically disadvantageous positions by taking on as many foes as he dared, both arms acting as if independent of the other to mete out devastation. Ystria, on the other hand, in accordance to the dancer-like methods of her warrior cult, utilized a slender sword-glaive that performed like an elegant, yet deadly, dance companion to her fighting efforts. She was not afraid to utilize the backstep to draw in over-eager foes, to present the image of an uncertain wielder, before springing forwards like a spider emerging from their trapdoor.

"[Filth! Unkempt vessels of the mortal curse! Perish!]" Zavastria roared, unleashing a torrent of insults and oathes in the Vestati language, roaring and cursing like a chimney in the dead of winter. His sword-sister, Ystria, sang to herself, utilizing her lyrical notes as a measurement of her lung capacity and to measure her breathing habits to extend her endurance for battle. The Voiceless merely afixed his gaze upon a foe, and killed them when he deemed their time forfeit.

Torrin never expected these armored creatures and the wild fae to appear, realizing that she had to adapt to the situation on the spot lest she be overwhelmed. She ordered her skirmishers to focus entirely on the Vestati as her other warriors fought Adanach's with the intention to slow them down. The intent was to buy time for her more experienced warriors to flank them and to use superior positioning to destroy her foes. As the Vestati were pelted by many projectiles, the more zealous and experienced of the Harii moved into position for a flanking manuever from both sides. Zavastria managed to kill several of these warriors but overextended himself in the process, leading him to be surrounded. The spears and blades of the Harii lashed out, notching and bending the Vestati's armor, with pure hatred.

Upon seeing her brother in arms in peril, Ystria charged to his aid but was also surrounded quickly by the Harii. She managed to hold them off, a thrown spear denting her helmet and blades cracking at her holy armor. Cut off from both the Voiceless and their barbarian allies, the two Vestati were starting to feel the immense pressure being put on them by the Harii. But from behind these warriors emerged a towering figure, his blade cutting through seven warriors in a single strike and scattering the mob that had surrounded the two. It was none other than Adanach, now donning a solduros armor and his direwolf helmet, his eyes still glowing as if once more blessed by Blaidd himself. He looked down upon the Vestati and - while not visible - they knew that the barbarian leader grinned, chuckling to himself at the fact that he had saved them. He then turned his attention to the rest of the Harii and charged without fear.

Adanach's martial skill was unmatched, cutting down more warriors with ease before reaching the Voiceless and Rukkar, who were both butchering their way through the enemy horde. This allowed Bjorga to take control of the defenders with her leadership and ferocity; she managed to break through the Harii shield way and fell several attackers with her spear alone. But this did not stop Torrin from focusing on what mattered, for when she saw Adanach her heart filled with unbridled rage towards the man who was destroying everything she had ever worked for. Taking hold of a throwing spear, she hurled it at Adanach with deadly precision as it soared straight for his heart. Yet, to her shock, she saw Adanach grab the spear mid-air and her eyes widened as she met his haunting, glowing gaze. Adanach raised his blade at her and shouted at the top of his lungs in his native tongue: "BEIDH TU FINNE MO GHLOIR!"

Torrin's shock then turned to rage again, the hatred fueling her as she desired to clash blades with him. But she wasn't stupid, and recognized now that this battle was no longer in her favor. She shouted the order to retreat, and her Harii warriors ran out of the warcamp by the hundreds back into the dark woods surrounding it. Only the most zealous remained, working as a rear guard to buy time for their comrades to escape but also as a means to die in glorious battle. Once the last of the attackers fell to Faska's blade, the defenders shouted in a pure, blood-fueled frenzy. They finally got what they wanted most: combat. "BLAIDD!" shouted Adanach, lifting the head of a dead half-orc warrior. "YOU BROUGHT US GLORY!" He howled and shouted with the rest of his army.

Rukkar howled alongside the rest of the warriors, his body and hat caked with blood. He could feel his body grow stronger with the amount of blood he had taken in from combat. Bjorga watched with pride as her husband inspired his warriors. Faska left immediately, however, to return to his harem of concubines that he had been so rudely interrupted from tending to because of the attack. "You did well, my love." Bjorga said, patting her husband's shoulder. A still frenzied Adanach looked back with a manic grin.

"H-heh... heheh... hah... yeah, I did." he muttered between tired breaths as the rush from adrenaline began to recede, bringing him back to reality. "But this is only the beginning... the Gods are on our side. And we will not disappoint them." Adanach looked around, surrounded by death and glory on this night.

When Dennor arrived at Adanach's last known location with his army, he found the barbarian war camp almost deserted. A scant few people remained within its borders, some of the defenses having been dismantled already, and those few that were still there were mainly some solduros protecting a few shrines and their slave warriors. Some wounded barbarians and a couple of druids tending to them also remained as they worked tirelessly to get them back in shape to both travel and fight. When asking for Adanach, Dennor was offered by a solduros to guide him to the site of their new camp.


After several hours, Dennor would see the new encammpment in the distance right on the border of Mors Darak and Mors Gobonach. To enter, he had to walk through some sort of shrine, severed right arms hanging from twine upon racks of wood. The solduros explained that this was an offering to the Orcish god Taighaz, a blacksmithing and war deity that - according to druidic lore - was the main enemy of Blaidd, who bit off his right arm. The offerings on display are meant to calm the Orcish god and ask for his blessing even if Adanach and his chosen worship his sworn enemy. This warcamp was much more organized than the previous, as the defenses were more robust; the sentry towers were taller, and the men manning them were mroe numerous on all corners of the camp.

From what Dennor had heard in recent reports, they had been attacked recently. And from what he could see, Adanach had learned from his previous mistake of allowing Torrin to attempt a sneak attack on such a scale. He was intent on not allowing his sentries to be butchered by the Harii like before. Inside the fort itself, Dennor would also see thousands of warriors preparing for war; archers were making new arrows, naked fanatics were sharpening their spears of painting deities on their shields, and the solduros were checking their armor and asked the druids for their blessings upon them. He could also see many wolves and hounds pace around teh camp, with blue woad painted on their furs.

On finally arriving to Adanach's hut, he saw the barbarians sacrificing a man in front of a large tree; an Arantino man, who pleaded with the barbarians to spare him in exchange for secret knowledge. But whatever secrets the man held were forever lost as a female druid pulled his entrails out of his belly and lifted them in the air to read what signs she could discern from them. Were he a civilized knight, Dennor would have been disgusted by such a display; but as a mercenary, he was used to all the worst aspects of mortality, and looked even impressed at how brutal the act was. After witnessing the act of brutal augury, he was then led into the hut by a guard to signal that his audience had come.

Inside, he was welcomed by a peculiar sight; all of Adanach's commanders and great warriors were inside. A few Solduros were being blessed by the druid Madanach, while Faska was sitting on a stool without a shirt on - having a female goblin druid paint holy symbols upon his green body while two members of his harem caressed him. Rukkar was also now donning solduros armor while sinking his redcap in a bucket of blood, and Adanach sat upon a pagan throne with two werewolves resting by his side like faithful hounds. Bjorga was in front of her husband, and Dennor was surprised to see three Vestati standing behind her. "This fortress and tribe belongs to the orc chieftain Aidocugh, one of Torrin's more staunch followers. He has thousands of warriors and is known to subjugate the nearby goblin tribes."

Catu emerged from the chest with writing supplies for Adanach. "Aye, sah! Even before Torrin named herself vergobet, Aidocugh was troublin' me kin sah!"

Bjorga smiled as the small goblin talked. "Aye, I'm sure the nearby Orc and goblin tribes will thank us if we get rid of this filth."

"And we will..." muttered Adanach, who was slouching on his throne with only a kilt adorning his body. His body was painted with holy symbols from woad, and when he saw Dennor stand by the doorway he grinned. "Well, well, well... the robber knight of our majesty the Viceroy! Got to hand it to ya, lad... most knights that enter the Druadach die fairly quickly. I doubt the fae treated you well in the Malenchanted Woods... guess that shows you are made of sterner stuff, eh?" Adanach got up from his throne before pointing at his fwife. "This is my wife, Bjorga... my love, this is... Bruennor? No... Dennor!" Adanach looked happy with himself that he actually remembered the man's name.

"These three are Vestati, from our friend the Redeemer Prince... the cute one is Zavastria. The interesting one is Ystria. And this fella..." he looked at the Voiceless for a moment. "...is gonna lead our holy Solduros in the upcoming battle." He then turned his attention back to Dennor. "So, what brings ya here friend? I distinctly remember ye being more fun than our shortness. Here to try to local drinks? The local men and woman?" he then asked with a grin.
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I distinctly remember ye being more fun than our shortness.
The journey to the Druadach had taken the better part of two weeks to get to where he wanted to be. Despite the obvious discomforts of travel, Dennor seemed more than pleased to be here at last in the way he carried himself.

"Aw come now, he's not that bad. He's only half as boring as you think he is." Dennor said with a smirk, looking around quickly for a moment before continuing. "Still, he gets the job done and gets me paid just - just the way I like things." He turned his gaze over to the Vestati, moreso looking at the Voiceless before scoffing: "Fuck me, you're a big bastard. What do they feed you?" It was more a rhetorical question before turning his gaze back to Adanach: "Officially, I'm here on diplomatic reasons. I believe we have a few matters to discuss regarding troop exchange and Arantino." Dennor started, laying down his agenda first and foremost and being honest.

"And on unofficial capacity, I'm here to drink and whoremonger amongst the lads and lasses here and just have a bloody good time." Dennor then said with a grin. "I've had my fill with halfling women for the time being. I'm more interested in being adventerous." He wandered his gaze over to a nearby goblin lass, his interest piqued, before bringing it back to Adanach where he sat. "All things considered, I think celebrations are in order. We did just wipe out a third of Lacans' northern army."

EdwardDewey98 EdwardDewey98
Adanach was curious about the diplomatic proposition of the Viceroy, but upon hearing the name of the Arantino Republic his face darkened for a moment. Deep wounds visibly surfaced as his mind trailed towards the hatred he felt for the realm that murdered his brothers. However, once Dennor started to talk about a having a bloody good time, Adanach's face softened and he smiled in response. "I can see why you like him, love." Bjorga grinned as she commented to her husband. "But I'd watch out if I were you, Ser Knight. No matter the race, our Druadach women are fiery lovers." Adanach nodded in agreement: "Aye, southern men would fold like paper if they tried Druadach woman... I think I heard one of our Orc warriors say she crushed a Canarite soldier's pelvis once." Bjorga's grin grew wider as she recalled the same story as well, almost laughing aloud.

"But at any rate, today ya won't be able to celebrate, brother." Adanach pointed at his solduros. "We are going to attack an enemy fortress today, before the sun sets. If we are victorious though, I'll make sure to reward ye with strong brews and the prettiest women of my tribe... for now, tell me, what does the Viceroy want from me? And I'll tell ye if I can help or not."
Dennor cocked an eyebrow when Adanach made mention of an enemy fortress, making it sound like he was along for the ride on that front. Not that he didn't mind the action, but was rather surprised to be included on the front lines already in that manner. "The Viceroy is seeking two things. First, to have a raiding party join his own forces in the north of Lacans. He's heard the reports of how well they've performed already with the Redeemer Prince's oversight, and would see a raiding party in his own camp as a great boon to the campaign. He's willing to trade you bodies for it, as we've got quite a few prisoners rounded up after our most recent battle. We don't have the time to feed them, so they're better put to use with you in your own forces... if you'll have them."

Seeking to get a better edge on the negotiation, he decided to flourish the details a bit more: "Brave Lacanite soldiers and hoplites, having been ambushed and completely fucked with their pants down before they knew what was happening then. Worthy to make up for those you would send over to him." With a smirk he then changed the subject to the second order of business. "Now the second order of business has to do with Arantino. Our Lacans campaign is already going quite well, and eventually we'll be turning north once they're dealt with. Now... the Viceroy knows that you have quite the bone to pick with Arantino."

Putting his hands on his belt, he then prepared to give the proposition over to Adanach: "Seeing as it is the target of your blood feud, the Viceroy would prefer if you were available to attack there too. Both as a tactical advantage, and as a gesture of goodwill so as to not deprive you of your revenge."

EdwardDewey98 EdwardDewey98
Estro sat silently within his lair in the Bone Coast, his forces continuing to muster and prepare for their own moves. The Cult of Zo had been very busy but also very quiet. Stockpiles of supplies continue to be discreetly built up, including caches being built within Bolia itself now that trade was flowing between Saarus and Civiceria as favored nations. The Man of the Mountain was scheming as well, Estro knew that quite well enough at this point. He had allowed the flow of refugees in, but Estro had been very careful not to flood cult agents in that way. There would still be a trickle of them, likely some to be identified and followed. It was a game. The greatest game. The battle of wits.

"My lord, our forces are ready. Kaula stands at our mercy," stated Valdin as he looks at the map that was currently resting upon the table. Markers showing the positions of force in Bolia, Kaula and the Bone Coast from what scouts and spies could report on top of Estro's own scrying.

"That bastard, Jakabo, has given us a gift even as he bloodies the nose of Briggun's armies," Estro said grimly as he regards Kaula and its insufferable defender. It was bad enough that Cordia had also been struck by that privateer scum. Piantia had punched back impressively.

"A gift?" Valdin frowns and looks to his master in curiosity.

"They've unwittingly made my claims look more legitimate. That the Empire has need of those goods we're buying up. Supplies to feed our war as victory in the North extends our supply lines and these Southern setbacks mean we will need material from the Dominion to more rapidly recover losses. As Imperial Wizard, the success of those attacks enrage me, knowing that Briggun will be displeased if we falter here in the South. I had hoped to snatch Kaula for myself but I may have to reinforce Alexandre, make her success my own while I continue to work the Dominion," Estro explains as he drinks a cup of wine thoughtfully before setting it down.

"Yet, we could woo the Dominion more, my lord," Balthazar says with a wide smile as he regards the pair he had been summoned to consult with. "Already we can hear the grumblings of the plebians. The Patricians are tempted by our suggestion to enslave all those hapless Piantian's already flowing in. Jastia is perfect for our needs to nudge those various elites into the right outlook to begin the tumble of social order. The rocks that start the avalanche."

"I admit I would prefer to increase the social pressures beyond Sergius' control. He's waiting and I'm starting to think he's playing me. His forces show no movement towards the East. So he's waiting to be a vulture and snatch victory from us when we're weaker. He believes he can take us. He does have superior numbers. More reason to increase our influence over Bolia, it will seep into his ranks," Estro mused and sighed as he takes another drink of wine.

"We will have to see what Alexandre has planned to recover from this assault. Our forces are primed and ready, but we are patient. And our finest warriors could easily be sent to show the prowess of the cult to the masses in those gladiator games. A more subtle means of spreading Zero Origin. Let us see what comes. That will guide our next move."
["Cute?"] Zavastria said, his fists tightening. He glanced around at the room of barbarians before at last turning to Ystria. "[They continue to insult me, sister, and yet you call for patience. And all of this before some ill-bred mercenary of the Viceroy's horde. I am not cute! A knight of the prince's great legion is not cute!]"

Ystria sighed, keeping her voice from rising in the presence of others. "[They mean it as a term of endearment... or something. You remember how those orcs handled you the night of our victory against that rival clan? They thought you a woman under there and-]"

"["Oh, silence your filth. I dispatched them after reminding them to keep their hands away from divine blood.]"

Ystria leaned her head in beside Zavastria, whispering. ["Not the story I heard."] The young Vestati swordmaster began to shake, but silence at had at last claimed him as he looked away and kept his remarks confined, fortunately, to his head. Ystria instead turned her attention back to the meeting so that she could hear the news from this Dennor fellow, and of their upcoming mission.

The aftermath of Ikono Manakles' ill-fated assault across the border was displayed well across the Kokarian countryside. Much of the fighting had, predictably, been centered near and around the main position of the Hallow Legion - a series of daunting fortifications occupying numerous rocky ridges overlooking more tame land that, in better times, had seen a calm pastoral lifestyle. Now, much of creek-ridden border was littered with the remains of Iskulian hoplites. After skirmishes breaking out across the wider territory, Lucafiel was pleased - and somewhat surprised - to discover the largest contingent of attackers were indeed planning to assault the primary defenses at the Akatorian castle which had served as his headquarters over the seasons. It was not a paltry objective, having been reinforced repeatedly with palisades, stone barriers, trench-pits, and spikes. It seemed that, rather than settle in for a lengthy campaign as the legion had intended, Manakles had ordered, and clearly expected, a decisive strike to drive them away.

This was a miscalculation which had lost him a fair amount of troops and pride, and Lucafiel suspected the latter to be the most bitter outcome for his foe to swallow. Rather than a more orthodox attempt at utilizing siege equipment from afar to pummel their position, Lucafiel had watched with a mixture of interest and curiosity as the brave, albeit undoubtedly weakened, hoplites attacked the palisades with ladders and rams. After several failed attempts, the Redeemer Prince desired to see how the enemy would respond to a sally. This had proved the decapitating strike as several auxiliary cohorts ventured forth, girded by the Vestati knights who served in and among them as heavy infantry, and took the field by storm. What should have been an eager pitched battle degraded into a route for the Iskulians, who held only for some few hours over the course of a single fateful day. By sundown, a few hundred lay dead and wounded, the majority of which were the Iskulians who had been drawn out of their hills by the hubris of their commander. A grim mistake, but not one Lucafiel expected his foe to make again.

Of the enemy dead, they were rolled down hill with poles and buried in mass pits there, their weapons and armor stripped and sent to reinforce the local settlements. Clothing was buried with the bodies under concern of the plague, and trophies were likewise isolated until they were deemed safe for handling. The remains of a burned, half-torn Iskulian banner surrounded a pile of bloodied helmets near the front gate of the Akatorian battlements, placed so that those across the border would see this permanent reminder of their defeat. As for the survivors, they were herded into cages that could be seen from across the border and taken care of, given meager rations under guard so that any illness would remain isolated; more importantly, this care was genuine in the sense that it showed the Iskulians what awaited those who surrendered. Not death, but a blanket, a warm fire, and a meal. Submission was the rational choice compared to fighting the determined legion of the Empire.

Regardless, the time had at last come. Lucafiel had anticipated this sequence of events and planned accordingly, waiting for the right moment to press his attack against a foe who had bruised themselves against his position. Defeat was always bitter, the enemy would be momentarily exhausted, and fear would be at the height in the hearts of the people and soldiers alike.

In a mere day after the conclusive battle had taken place, the bulk of the Hallow Legion was already on the march.

The general strategy of attack had been outlined to all commanders and sections over the previous season. Terrain was considered the foremost enemy in this campaign, and much care was given to deciding on which settlements to assault, overpass, or avoid altogether in tandem to the geographic reality of their surroundings. Certain hilltops, ridges, and bridges were considered priority based on the reports of their scouts. This was to secure freedom of movement as well as to deny it to the enemy. Likewise, of the settlements selected for attack, all but the most strategic were to be razed. Once again, this was a factor as a result of the plague, for the Vestati had no tolerance for any structure or people ill with it.

With the usage of released prisoners, with their terms being to carry messages and letters into Iskulia, the Hallow Legion put forth simple terms to the people of Lacans.

The Empire has come to release these lands from the mismanagement of those who rule here. Those who do not take up arms will be spared. Those who give allegiance to Emperor Briggun will be rewarded. Those who raise hand and voice against Imperial forces will be destroyed.

As an addendum, sent by more trusted prisoners or outright by Imperial messengers under a flag of parlay, some were directed towards wealthier estates and trading posts. The message to them included more pertinent information directed to the ruling class of Lacans.

All slaves are to be freed by decree of the Imperial polity within the whole of Lacans. However, those who give immediate loyalty to the Empire and provide all service and assistance to Imperial forces will be considered friends of the Empire and granted this opportunity to keep their slaves. Those who remain on the sidelines will have their labor halved and taxed. Those who resist will have their labor emancipated.

This was, in effect, a ploy to stall the aristrocracy of the region into limiting their assistance to their leaders. Lucafiel knew very well few if any would become immediate turncoats. But by offering them a punishment, but a livable alternative, it was his hope that they would delay enough in a sense of self-preservation to keep as many of their slaves as possible; further, he would still be following Briggun's orders by freeing slaves, simply by his own numerical choice, while securing the loyalty of those most motivated by their own profit and punishing those too loyal to Lacans.

With the Hallow Legion already crossing the border, Lucafiel rode his armored unicorn alongside his staff officers as they approached a small village on their first route of advance. He could hear the horns of his legion communicating - or exchanging battlefield orders - in the difficult hilly terrain surrounding them for miles. Already, scouts had surveyed this position and the skirmishers, many of whom were the barbarian auxiliairies, had initiated the attack on this Iskulian village of Kalospiti.

A Yakal officer approached him, his section already tearing through the village and dispatching the few defenders who mustered a heroic, but tragic, last stand in the town square. The soldier bowed, then looked up at the soulmask of his prince. "Your Grace, the village has been taken. The markets are thin and some homes already empty, and of the people who were ordered to remain in their homes, we suspect numerous families to be harboring at least one person afflicted with plague." How much of this was natural, or the result of the legion's deliberate efforts to raid the countryside to disrupt their health and economy over the seasons, was uncertain.

"Your approximation of the remaining citizens of this settlement, lieutenant? How many?" Lucafiel asked. This was still the first day. The territory was poor here, the people not yet having the chance to hastily flee.

"About two hundred souls, Your Grace. Much of them elderly, women, and children. The more able-bodied are liable to have already gone to war or fled. We have found the town armory to already be empty, save for some spears for the watchmen we have slain," the Yakal explained.

Lucafiel nodded. His gaze swept across the area, taking in the delightful white-plaster homes and their orange or ochre tile-rooftops. Most of the homes were thatched, but the central village itself had seen some pride, and he could see banisters hosting small boxes of flowers. These few dots of color, of blues and yellows, reminded Lucafiel of a previous time in his life long, long ago when he had seen a similar display in another world and time. Flowers. They seemed to appear every where, perhaps following him in his life. They were delightful things, yet cursed to be taken from their fields and given over to containment in vases before their inevitable demise in the dark.

His eyes at last settled on some more distant structures on the outskirts on the village of Kalospiti. Two large barns. Large enough to keep the local cattle for cold winters.

He considered this for a moment before glancing back down at the officer, the light of the sun glinting off his mask with the movement. "Empty the barns. Slaughter the livestock for increased rations, add the rest to the train," he said. "Afterwards, assemble as many townsfolk as you can within them. Bar the doors. Burn them down. Spare only the households which show no sign of illness and pledge eternal allegiance to the Empire. For the next week, none are to leave the village to mitigate the spread of any remaining animalcules within tainted blood. All survivors will then adhere to the standard occupation doctrine as they are integrated."

The officer saluted and disappeared to carry off his order. Lucafiel and his staff waited while a full cohort advanced down the road, bypassing the village and carrying on ahead, while the few sections here combed the countryside, burning scattered homesteads. When time at last came for them to advance, Lucafiel paused at one of the village houses on the road with flowers on the window sill. The window itself had been broken in, and he could see the remains of an overturned table with pottery dashed upon the ground inside.

The Reedemer Prince reached out and plucked one small blue flower from the banister. He held the flower aloft between two fingers, twirling it about somewhat. He glanced back at his nearest staff and guardians. "I'm rather reminded of the pacification of the Dekkanofen, some three or four centuries ago. The High Council was in recess those years, I believe, and Veradine was the presiding Warmaster. Blue and gold. Oh, how those colors struck awe in those mortals. I recall being in awe myself, admittedly. Her guardians were among our best," Lucafiel said, his voice wistful. He tucked the flower into a corner of his breastplate. "A shame she remained a loyalist. A whore to the Forbidden One to the end, but she could organize an effective genocide."

Several others nodded along, caught about in the reminiscing. Those were good years at the time. Still, some of the junior Vestati who had made it into the ranks of the staff who were born after the Fall had no way to relate, but the elder Vestati were not intending to leave them isolated. Lucafiel and some associates picked a few more flowers and bestowed them upon their youngest until several knights were adorned in roses of blue and yellow. "Ah, how delightful. If only we had won you your wings. One day, we shall have them back," Lucafiel remarked, cupping the soulmask of a young knight. After a moment, they continued down the road, joining the army on the march.

On the horizon behind them, two barns began to burn.
A shadeling emerged from the shadows near Falwyn's tent. Falwyn turned with a quick glare, she was used to such creatures easily being able to be burnt away by the light of her breath. Such creatures were little more then beasts, but a nightmares were the associates Falwyn worked with these days. What suprised her was the Shadeling bearing the banner of Baba Voyka. "Yes?" Falwyn asked.

The messanger Ziman unfurled a letter, "I bring a letter from Baba Voyka."

Falwyn snatched the letter in a quick greedy motion.

To Falwyn Tholmar I had already made plans to head east to aid you in your efforts in Ysaval, so I shall make my trek eastward as soon as possible. I will send my messenger Ziman to ensure we can communicate swiftly when it comes to the release of the earthworks' flood so that my men are not swept under its waves too. He will carry my banner with him as proof. Given your intents northward into Gantar, leaving Ysaval to you makes all the sense, and enables me to further aid in the campaign in Erevan. May the upcoming battle prove fruitful.

Yours Truly,
Baba Voyka

Falwyn grew a thin smile as she read. First of the aid that would be received, then of the assurance of no contesting of her rule. She had reached out to the right person.

"Thank you Ziman. We will unleash the flood of the vale in a weeks time.. assuming that can be fed along precisely by you in a timely manner?" Falwyn asked inquistively. The shadeling messanger gave a nod.

Falwyn quickly began preparations after receiving the confirming letter from Baba. Orders went out to her various commanders and her lord and lady concubines soon had the units forming up into disciplined sections. A wooden platform was erected allowing for Falwyn to have a step above the rest as various wooden logs that had been accumalated from the lumber camps of the companies began pilling high. As the companies marched up she looked towards her long standing trusted advisors. Linota standing amongst one of the companies closest gave her a nod, that meant as far as her intel went no spys from the enemy had infiltrated. She gave a quick peck to the lips then ruffled the hair of her beloved Mia who stood nearby the stage as Falwyn began to stride upwards, the girl still had some anxiety from the past defeat. Who could blame her in the way that Cannar had fell. If Falwyn did too her sweet treasure would be shattered beyong repair, all of them would. Falwyn waited atop the platform waiting until her Marshal, Dawnguard came striding forward. He gave a nod to Falwyn who now stood on the erected platform before turning on his heels announcing with a booming voice trained for years, "Behold, the word of the Dragonlord!"

"We are about to partake in our first great conquest together! Initially I underestimated our opponent. The viper sunk his teeth in our advances into Yasval as his disorganized skirmishing slowly picked us apart. This will no longer be as so. For that dispersed force will meet four things. First, the righetous fire of the Tholmar bloodline! Second, the flood of the vale who will wash away their sin in refusing our guidance! Third, the flanking dagger of the great witch of the empire! And the most important, the might of your hearts and Steel! We come to take our first step in glorious conquest."

Falwyn spoke with passion as she announced their grand conquest. She thought with a postive hope that any minstrels in the crowd would take notes on her words and find ways to encorporate them into their ballads. Falwyn's passion ignited her men's hearts and that was something she could see brightly. The cheers slowly growing after every point announced filled into her visions of dominion.

"The might of the Tholmar name and legacy is carried by your actions. This is my destiny. To establish order and peace to a disunified realm. To whipe away chaos from a disorganized realm. And you all slowly earn a place in the righteous conquest that will be told for the ages. But let us not delay on the importance of tonight. The feast for heroes!"

Falwyn's voice boomed as she transformed into her golden dragon form, her skin turning into its mettalic scales as she grew. Her legs digged into the wooden platform of the stage as she rose flying up and unleashed her breath igniting the bonfire in one motion. The true merriment began after this with music being played from various areas of her explorations in years prior, and rations that had been gathered from the countryside in the past months being distrupted in abundance. They needed to remember indulgence, as was the way of golden horde. Glory was to be rembered and cherished.

Falwyn kept her eyes peeled throughout that night, even in her moments of lustful indulgence with one of her concubines. A raid before the grand plan was set into motion could have caused a disruption that would be hard to repair. Luckily it seemed the viper was set on being entrenched.

When the day of battle finally came as the earthworks released the flood her men advanced in an organized fashion as they had before. Unlike before the familiarity of the terrain by the skirmishers fell apart as their scattered units slowly became separateed by the flood. Falwyn flew with glee her breath slowly evaporizing pocket after pocket as she occasionally snatched a man with her own bare teeth munching on the organs and blood with a feast of indulgence. Her men organized with strong formations pushed. Everything red and orange, and her forces surged. Last time they had been the ones caught unaware. This time they were the predators fighting a cornered prey. Some of those prey put up decent fights, but as they came to the end of their paths they were consumed by the raging fire of Falwyn and her forces. She heard the men as they threw away their arms and pleaded for mercy. It mattered little in this state. They had taken arms against her. THEY had chose this. This was Falwyn's domain, her subjects, her treasures, and today her carnage.

As the lust for battle began to fade away Falwyn began to reorganize forces. From reports from her Marshal Titus Dawnguard, Kande had managed to lead a crossing with some of his forces. A small contigent of civilians had escaped with them as well hoping to make their way towards the capital as Kande drew a fallback line. They had little notice to the impending battle that lay ahead with Baba. Falwyn hoped the witch was as proficent as was claimed. Without a total defeat of Kande he would be able to recieve support to push her back, and the contacts that had been made with the east would soon be paying their worth.

All she could now do was begin instructing the her new people of their rightful leadership, and begin entrenching herself into her new domain as she awaited for words from the witch.

Across villages and towns conquered she would begin giving speech after speech echoing a calming message, "I come as tyrant, but be not afraid..."

"I come bringing a new age of order and peace..."

"The glory of the Tholmar bloodline brings forth a new age..."

"You only need pay the correct tribute and show due respect to your rightful ruler..."

"You can forge your own legacy under the banner of the dragon..."

What the people made of these messages only time would tell.
Adanach sat on his throne again as Dennor explained the Viceroy's proposal. He wasn't surprised that he was asking for a raiding party, as everything seemed to be seeking just the same. Druadach mettle seemed to be in high demand these days! But the mention of Arantino afterwards soured Adanach's expression again and continued to give Dennor an annoyed look as he explained the Viceroy's perspective on the republic and its eventual conquest. His grip on the throne tightened once Dennor was done explaining and he gave the mercenary a hateful look. But before he could do something stupid, his wife's soothing voice forced him to snap out of it.

"Adanach, my dear, please relax... save the anger for the coming battle."

Adanach sighed, realizing the folly of getting angry at Dennor for he was only the Viceroy's arm in these matters. Such flares would not serve anyone or accomplish anything at this time. "Listen here..." Adanach muttered, before signalling the Vestati and his other commanders to get closer. "Nothing would bring me more pleasure than destroying the capital of Arantino and butchering the Doge. But ultimately... what matters more? Revenge? Or to protect my people? Our way of life?" He looked at his commanders, knowing full well that his faithful Solduros would agree with this sentiment, with the exception of Rukkar who bore no flag and only cared for death.

"If I go north and enact my vengeance... what will happen with Mors Denoch? Mors Senoch? That Dalatians and the Kushare?" he then mused aloud, starting his response to Dennor officially. "I'll tell you what happens... I would leave them at the mercy of madmen! If the wicked Dwarf finally gets his hold of the Alemanni kingdom, he would descend upon the nomadic tribes of Mors Denoch and butcher them like he did in the past! And my birthplace, Mors Senoch, would be at the mercy of three wicked banshees. Baba Voyka would butcher our people, that weird clown woman would spread her madness among the tribes, and that golden dragon bitch would simply add them to her collection like the greedy monster she is."

Adanach slouched over his throne again, letting out an exhausted sigh. "...Borok is fine though. But I cannot just put my hopes that a fellow heathen, a lizardman, can control the wild tribes of Mors Senoch. I heard he and his kin 'ate elves... and while some tribes and myself are not strangers to eating fellow man and mer... to do it just to satisfy one's hunger is madness. It is embracing the worst aspects of the wild deities."
After her final preparations, Voyka made her last check-ins with her Dark Lord, Borok and Yz, in case they had any matters to speak with her prior to her heading east, but all she received were good wishes to her success, practically speaking. Affairs in order, and her camp packed, she and her men trekked to the border of Sabersval to Ysaval, and into Ysaval itself.

"Thank you Ziman. We will unleash the flood of the vale in a weeks time.. assuming that can be fed along precisely by you in a timely manner?" Falwyn asked inquistively. The shadeling messanger gave a nod.

During her trek, Ziman would appear to her once more, only to assure where the location of battle would be, before returning to Falwyn to be able to communicate when the earthworks would be released. While overconfidence could kill, Voyka felt assured that this upcoming battle would be swift. Falwyn had hopefully learned her mistake from her last encounter with Abdolon, and in the heat of battle, facing dragon and flood, the last thing he would think of is the enemy having reinforcements. As they approached the location of battle, Voyka already began explaining what route they would take to her men.

When the day of battle finally came as the earthworks released the flood her men advanced in an organized fashion as they had before. Unlike before the familiarity of the terrain by the skirmishers fell apart as their scattered units slowly became separateed by the flood. Falwyn flew with glee her breath slowly evaporizing pocket after pocket as she occasionally snatched a man with her own bare teeth munching on the organs and blood with a feast of indulgence. Her men organized with strong formations pushed. Everything red and orange, and her forces surged. Last time they had been the ones caught unaware. This time they were the predators fighting a cornered prey. Some of those prey put up decent fights, but as they came to the end of their paths they were consumed by the raging fire of Falwyn and her forces. She heard the men as they threw away their arms and pleaded for mercy. It mattered little in this state. They had taken arms against her. THEY had chose this. This was Falwyn's domain, her subjects, her treasures, and today her carnage.

As the lust for battle began to fade away Falwyn began to reorganize forces. From reports from her Marshal Titus Dawnguard, Kande had managed to lead a crossing with some of his forces. A small contigent of civilians had escaped with them as well hoping to make their way towards the capital as Kande drew a fallback line. They had little notice to the impending battle that lay ahead with Baba. Falwyn hoped the witch was as proficent as was claimed. Without a total defeat of Kande he would be able to recieve support to push her back, and the contacts that had been made with the east would soon be paying their worth.

All she could now do was begin instructing the her new people of their rightful leadership, and begin entrenching herself into her new domain as she awaited for words from the witch.

Soon, it was time for battle. Ziman, noting how long it would take to stealthily travel from Falwyn to Voyka on the day of battle, managed to correctly guess when to depart from the former to arrive at the latter just as the earthworks were released, with a scout confirming it shortly after. Her men got into position, preparing an ambush on the retreating enemy force, repeating her mantra to her men: "Round up the sharp ears, slaughter the rest!"

The battle that followed thereafter was just as bloody as Falwyn's initial attack. The enemy had been caught completely offguard, and the civilians were not spared by the attack either. It had been a complete and utter blowout.

As her men enslaved the elves that had survived and hunted down the remaining bits of Abdolon's forces, she approached the surrounded and defeated Kande Abdolon. Given he was a human, and doubly so the enemy commander, she could swiftly him executed right then and there, but she recognized she would be robbing the glory of a particular colleague by doing so. Kande had been Falwyn's 'rival' in this early section of the campaign, so it only made sense to discuss with her what his fate would be. She told her men to tie him up and make him captive.

Once everything was in order on her end, she and her men began their trek to Falwyn's camp, to inform her of the good news.
A bitter wind settled over the Voivode's encampment like a pall of corpses lit ablaze. It groaned through the camp, tents wrinkling, piling sand at the foot of rocks, breathing heat on the backs of the men under Izaak's stewardship. The general sat in the centre, tattered tarp underneath, next to the faded embers of a brazier from the night before. The Night brought no comfort in its cold darkness, no respite from the desert's wrathful heat during the Day. Izaak knew, having felt the chill down his spine once long ago. A few of his men, the fresh faced ones, were less prepared for the icy caress that would've felt like their blood was freezing.

Izaak had been meditating. His sword the focal point, where his concentration gathered. The wicked edged blade bore no name — it, like many of Izaak's armaments, were forged of bone. Fashioned from the skeleton of a fabled predator through mystical means, the carnage it unleashes when drawn had to be seen. A dark blade, It was the length of a long-sword, though that can be altered by its master, with an azure stone set in its cross-guard. Thousands of sand grains landed on the blade's face only to be shivered off as Izaak's weapon drummed against the ground. Suddenly, it shot up. It stood there in the air, holding no considerations for the laws of reality, its blue eye bore down on Izaak as if judging the warrior. He closed his fist and dismissed the blade within the leather scabbard, sheathing itself in a ghost-like manner.

His mind had swam in the lakes of peace, the solace found in the cool waters. He enjoys the silence from within, more so than the raucous chaos from the without, only ever goaded out of his trance by ambition or incessant interruption. This time was a mix of both. He sensed the shuffle of feet through the sand towards him, their shadows drawing them on. He rose, seeing his advisors before him, hoods drawn over their heads.

"Have you begun?" Izaak rasped, throat dry and hard. "Y-yes, milord" One hooded man replied, prompting only a nod from his master. "I just don't see the value in gathering the shadelings. Surely, if we atta—" Antonas began. "We could be done with Miraq and Zomach, the land ours, I know." Izaak said before he could continue. "These dark beings who gave of themselves to Kolthix were lowly creatures otherwise, but he had forged them into a people of strength, determination, and cunning. He may be gone, though I know not where he is or if he is truly alive, but his people must be tended. I've seen their fire and deemed it worthy. As for the Miraqi, let them stew in the fear, let their minds dream up atrocities yet to be, that is more macabre than any flailed skull or meat-shield. That, rather than urgency, is why I've chosen to assimilate them." Izaak finished, letting the words hang in the air. "Also, once folded, they will be treated as equals to our men. They are not mindless puppets to be taunted and played with, I've seen how some of our soldiers treat the undead. Make no mistake, they will eat you if you do."

Another hooded figure spoke up. "All well and fine, milord. But what if the Sultan sends an alay, a regiment to reinforce Zomach?"

Izaak paused before replying, whether if he was considering his answer or debating if it deserved one at all was unclear. Then he spoke. "The Sultan is an opportunistic man. He'd have no doubt heard the reports of attacks across the regions. He will send reinforcements, of that I've no doubt, but they will not be overwhelmingly. I take it his greed already has him salivating at assaulting Erevan once Voyka and Borok are through with it, a deal with the victors affair. Mobilising armies takes time and organisation." Izaak concluded, recalling the meeting with Briggun about their duties. "With haste, we will have bolstered our own by the time they arrive or conquer Miraq anyway."

"What of the wizard?" Demetra's soft voice raised an important question. "I have suspicions, but should he appear again, there will be no parley. Swiftly done." Izaak issued, with no falter in his voice. For the mage, that was all she needed.

The advisors and his lieutenants bowed their heads and began dispersing to issue their own orders. But, before Antonas or Demetra peeled away entirely, Izaak spoke. "Antonas, be well and vigilant. Zomach may grow mad at the twilight." The knight caught a stone in his throat then saluted, rapping his gauntlet fist against his chest.

Further away, Antonas spoke furtively to Demetra. "I still have my doubts about this whole... Decision." He breathed, letting his displeasure known. Demetra half-turned, features obscured by the cowl, a single eye visible, gleaming thinly with power. "If you were in the envoy of another general, they may have had your head for your words." "No, they wouldn't, would they?" "Confident." The silence grew between them, until Demetra spoke again. "I was here before you came under his service. I saw the man he was then. When he first became the Voivode, all too often he worried and second-guessed his decisions. Now, he seldom does so, letting each one live or die as it was meant. He has said that the right to judge him was always ours, you know." Antonas stopped walking, taking in Demetra's words. "Well, I have some thinking to do then..." "Don't let all that thinking distract you too much now." A faint chuckle was heard on the wind as they split off and the bristle of a wounded knight's ego.

K0mori K0mori (Action Taken: Investigating Lead: Picking up the Pieces)
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