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  1. Location: A secret chamber hidden far below the city of Sands End( C7 on war map). It is an ancient shrine to the Desert King, built during the height of his rule and recently reopened. The Southern Dwarf leader and his bodyguard have been invited to this hidden location by a mysterious letter from a Desert King ambassador,offering the possibility of a profitable alliance. The Dwarves are stunned to find themselves in a chamber adorned with many strange gold decorations and hieroglyphics. After dismissing his bodyguard the Southern Dwarf starts talking business with the ambassador. The ambassador shows offers him several chests full of golden coins and precious gems, attempting to impressing him with the Desert Kings vast wealth and great generosity. After lengthy negotiations the ambassador decides to go all out and offers an extremely generous deal. He offers the Dwarves all the gold and gems he showed them and in addition they would get this chamber and all its contents as a gift from the Desert King, in exchange for promising that his entire Dwarven tribe would swear loyalty to the rightful king of Kaliphlin. He then subtly reminded the Southern Dwarf leader that their new fortune is not safe while the enemies rule the city, providing motivation for the dwarves to free the city. He also mentions that other allies of the Desert King will be aiding in the war effort... figless This is a collaborative guerrilla attack by me and blufiji C and C appreciated
  2. Note to readers: if you're rushed for time, you can skip to the last paragraph. Siedna: Ah, good, we're all here. Council members, as you can see, we're joined today by Lady Akantha, at the invitation of the Alikos elders. Matteus: Okay, let's get straight to business. Ruadh must choose a side in this conflict. Look, I know y'all don't want to get involved, but we may not have a choice in the matter. The best defense is a good offense, right? Euphemios: That my be true in battle, Matteus, but I don't believe it's the best course of action for our community. Siedna: You'd prefer we remain neutral, then? Euphemios: The Tauri of the Alikos are not bloodthirsty like you humans! We wish only to follow our ways in peace. Together with the Atelier, Siedna, we have formed a prosperous and just community. Why would we leave it? Doing so would leave Ruadh exposed, and put us at risk of capture and slavery. Themis: Euphemios, you old coot, you know some of the younger Tauri are restless and eager to see the world, just like you used to be, before your muzzle turned gray. (Turning to Siedna) He's right, though. The Alikos will remain neutral. Siedna: Noted. And what of the merchants, Kristin? Kristin: As Euphemios said, Ruadh has been prosperous for us. Our success lies in following the Kaliphlin ideal of trading with all, equally and fairly. So long as it's profitable. (Grins for a moment.) Siding with a faction means, at best, loss of trade with the other factions. (Looks somber.) Look, Ruadh has been a place for many to start anew. Look at the Potters -- they came here from Mitgardia to escape strife. Why would we wish to bring it here? Why jeopardize a good life and good profit? Siedna: Thanks, Kristen. Seamus? Seamus: Regardless of the official Ruadhi stance, the Atelier must remain neutral. Sure, we train our artists to be good in a fight, but that's brawling. War and soldiering are another thing entirely. (Matteus nods in agreement.) More importantly, if we took sides, Ruadhi artists across the Guilds would be vulnerable to political attacks. In other lands, our welcome is dependent not just on our talents and geniality, but our disinterest in politics, local or guilds-wide. Siedna: I agree. Now, Lady Akantha, you've been rather vocal, working to persuade Ruadhis to side with the High Council. In fact, it seems you've been surreptitiously recruiting since you arrived in Ruadh. We'd like to hear your arguments. Lady Akantha: I wish only for the Tauri to continue to have the right to follow their ways as free people. The Desert King once enslaved us as beasts of labor. The Ulandians have subjugated an entire race;who is to say the Tauri will not be next? Only Flagg and the High Council have left us in peace. If the Tauri of Alikos remain neutral, they might be left alone, but what about their brethren throughout the Guild? Who will fight for them? What will happen to us if Ulandus or the Desert King prevails? We must protect our freedoms! And Ruadhi, as friends of the Alikos -- how can you risk them falling into slavery? Euphemios: How can you talk of fighting to protect our ways? Do you know nothing of our history, girl? As slaves we were used as beasts of war! And you suggest FIGHTING to protect our freedom to stay OUT of conflicts? Lady Akantha: (voice raised): Sometimes compromises are necessary! Surely you realize the ends justify the means! Euphemios: We WILL NOT have our culture compromised by lure of your exotic beauty, you hear me? We WILL NOT -- Themis: (inturrupts) Enough, Euphemios! (more calmly) Captain Corydon? What's been the mood in the Brute Squad? You'd know better than most how the younger 'Taurs are leaning; perhaps you could fill us in. Captain Corydon: Most of our troops agree with the Alikos elders, ma'am; they want to protect our home and our ways. There are few, what did you call em? Restless ones, eager to follow Lady Akantha. Siedna: And what are our defensive capabilities, Captain? Can we afford to lose anyone? Captain Corydon: Actually, ma'am, our troops have more than doubled, between new recruits and newly re-enlisted members who want to defend us. The Brute Squad is stronger than ever, ma'am, and more than capable of protecting Ruadhi peace. Those that want to fight for the High Council, well, to be honest, ma'am, I'd rather let 'em go. Don't want folks who don't really want to be here. Siedna: All right then. Lady Akantha, thank you for speaking with us. Council, it seems we're all in agreement. (Matteus rolls his eyes but remains silent.) I move we remain neutral and shore up our defenses. Short of closing the city, there will be spies and intrigue, but no violence or destruction will come to Ruadh. I also suggest we allow Lady Akantha to gather what forces she may. Active Brute Squad members must seek permission from the Captain to be released from their duties, so we don't become weak. All in favor? (A chorus of "aye" and hands raised.) All opposed? (silence) Ruadhi city council members, left to right: Captain Corydon, Brute Squad representative; Matteus Ruadh, founder; Siedna Ruadh, founder; Seamus Gallach, Atelier representative; Euphemios, Alikos Elder; Themis, Alikos Elder; Kristin Eriksdottir, merchant representative. ____________________________________________________________________________________ I'd like to claim UoP credits for: - Trade and Law: Governing Body (approved) Constructive criticism always welcome!
  3. Disco's Guerilla's Build: Here starts the counter Guerilla: Once passed under the Great Arch, the people started feeling save as they know it took Sultan Santani b'Rack Ji'Fall 5 years to conquer Everlast 1300 years ago, even with an army of 20.000 soldiers!!!! Just like any other day, daily life was going on in Everlast, with some heavy equipped guards patrolling in the streets. While suddenly, the assassin jumped out of a building!! With a quick and precious hit, he stabbed one of the guards... He was already calculating how to kill the other guard when suddenly he felt a sword piercing through his body... "Bloody idiot, before entering, you should know Everlast has Undead Riders... And what is dead, can't die anymore..." --------------------------- Figless: --------------------------- Congratz Disco for making such a nice guerilla attack!!! But I hope this one blows your stunning entry! C&C welcome ofcourse!! I would like to claim UOP-credit for Forced Perspective!
  4. At the edge of the Reservoir, a contingent of Yukar clean up after a brief battle with Ulandian soldiers. It's been a long time since the Yukar clansmen have been in a battle, but now Petera MacLean calls them to serve the High Council and serve they shall. The Yukar leader makes ready to plant a banner. Soon, other High Council troops will appear to take full possession of the waterwheel at this location. The waterwheel is considered a vital fixture on the aqueduct, one of a handful that other Yukar are currently capturing. The wheel pulls water up out of the reservoir and send it down the ducts to the rich farmlands nearby. Yukar are notorious for taking the heads of defeated enemies. Some might not appreciate the pollution of the reservoirs potable water, but it's the last thing on the mind of Tantam, First Executioner for Hataman.
  5. In the streets of a small town just south of Mpya Stedor, everyday life seems to continue unhindered, despite the civil war raging throughout the guild. Everyday Life by Beorthan, on Flickr However, in the shadows. something shady is going on. An official from the town council is being bribed by an agent of the High Council to allow ships, troops, and supplies to move in and out of Mpya Stedor. The Bribe by Beorthan, on Flickr Effectively, control of the town will be transfered to the High Council, together with the hinterland. Village square by Beorthan, on Flickr Guerilla build for the High Council against Ulandus, at square J15.
  6. Bombastia was probably the best bargain Osric Isentooth had made during his recruitment of mercenaries. For she was a woman, she could not demand the same payment as men. War business was still a male domain. But the tremendous warrioress was in no way less deadlier than any other mercenary. In fact she was even scarier and stronger than anyone in Isentooth's entourage.
  7. If winning, I pick H15 as new warzone. _______________________________________ Osric's troops attack a mill powered watering system. I hope you like it. I'm a little bit annoyed because it didn't turn out as well as I thought. But now I've learned much about composing builds. I should've put the water wheel in the backround. Will think more about the arrangement of the elements I want to show.
  8. "Get in position! This is our only chance." Lord Osric yellled at his troops, trying to prepare them for a desperate attempt to break the enemy's lines. The Desert King's advance in the west had been stopped by a fresh recruited and well equipped army loyal to the High Council. Now, after one week of bloody battles, the Wither Woods were cut off from the Pharao's main land in the east. His troops were far from being defeated yet, but Osric was not willing to spend the next two months trying to stand his ground while over Nocturnian captains would claim honour for conquering Kaliphlin's great cities and win all the loot and attention of their resurrected master. He would make a glorious attack against the besiegers and fight his way through the High Council's lines back to the Rakath Mountains. "Bring my rat!" When the rat lord spoke of his rat, he did not mean one of his men, to whom he referred to as simply "his men". "His rat" was his joker. Something that would guarantee their escape...
  9. Week 2 Guerrilla Challenges The following challenges have been made. Anyone may counter these Guerrilla Attacks, but remember each builder can only build one counter build each week, so pick wisely. If the challenger wins, they will earn 4 additional points. Each counter is worth 4 points. Voting will happen after the deadline. The winning side either retains the zone or captures the zone. NEW: If no one counters the challenger’s MOC, then the zone turns over to the challenger’s side, and they only earn 2 points. Counter builds should have a title with this tag in it: [CG: location, your faction vs the guerrilla's faction] IE: [CG:J13, U vs DK], Due Date: Mar 15th, anywhere in the world. Zone: J13 Challenger: LordDan What Faction can counter: Ulandus Zone: F13 Challenger: Kai NRG What Faction can counter: Desert King Zone: H6 Challenger: Garmadon What Faction can counter: High Council
  10. In a mansion in the north western parts of Kaliphlin, a group of councilors from the High Council have barricaded themselves, fearing for their lives. Outside, a band of brigands are preparing an assault on the mansion, and a retinue of soldiers have vowed to protect the councilors. The Prey by Beorthan, on Flickr Outside, the attack has started and Beorthan, our knight in shining armour, is leading the defense of the mansion. The attacking force carries no distinguishing marks, giving no clues as to who may be behind the attack, be it Ulandus, the Desert King, or simple brigands. The Battle by Beorthan, on Flickr Left to right, the warriors are: Beorthan, Lord of the Trifork; his bodyguards, Cassius and Marcus; his friend Lord William Drake; and Tauro, his tracker and scout. In the back, the marksman Brogar is taking shots at the enemies. These seasoned warriors are holding out against the superior numbers of the attackers, and everything points towards a victory for our heroes. The Warriors by Beorthan, on Flickr An overview of the build: Overview by Beorthan, on Flickr
  11. If winning, I pick E2 as new warzone. The boy's arm was already broken. Osric's men did not care if a prisoner got hurt as long as he was still able to speak. "Listen boy. I do not care about your politics down here. All I'm interested in is the loot." He looked at the rat holding the shaduf, an ancient and primitive well sweep that was used in the southern lands since time immemorial. The exiled rat king could se the desire in his soldier's eyes to just drown this foolish spy they had catched early in the morning. "I'm tired of asking. Now simply tell me all about strength and position of your battaillon and all of this will quick be over." The young soldier's voices was bruised from the blood pressing on his head:"You're going to kill me either way. I don't talk to vermin like you." Osric made a last desultory attempt to convince him:"Oh boy. There are so many ways to die. And some are not very pleasant. I could simply let my men gnaw off your fett and throw the pitiful rest of you into the river." "Nocturnian scum! Your mummy king will soon return to hell. Now end this, I am ready for it." Osric had lost interest in his prisoner. There were sure still other spies around to catch. Perhaps some who were easier to intimidate. He looked to the rat holding the sweep:"He seems thirsty. It was an uncomfortable morning for him. Give him water."
  12. Vengeance at Knightsbridge (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 19) Chapters so far: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 (ALSO: War of the Brothers Part II Chapter 1a HERE for more on that) Siegeofknightsbridge by skaforhire, on Flickr Vengeance at Knightsbridge Kaliphlin-north-east-0 by skaforhire, on Flickr Ulik’Boar, a Desert King scout, walked through the carnage at Knightsbridge. Severed heads, cauterized body parts, blood (but this build is PG because I am taking it to a show for kids this weekend. ), men with terror still frozen on their face. His fellow Kaliphlinites all of them, but many on this side of the bridge belonged to his side of the civil war. They had tried to take the town early in the morning, but their men had been repelled before even getting across the bridge into the heavier fortifications of Knightsbridge. aDSC_1943 by skaforhire, on Flickr The Desert King’s Mountain Eagle Division had a firm grip on another strategic town to the North, Needletop, this position was where the Peak Road broke off back towards Sultan’s Gate and also in the direction of the Sea. Knightsbridge was an important position because it controlled any movement to the south through the Rakath Mountain. It was for this reason that their commander, Ellan Boen, had decided to take the fortified mountain town. Knightbridge was mostly underground, it was an old dwarf stronghold, most people said. Upon realizing that the town and the fortifications were one in the same, Boen had made sure that the holdout High Councilor Lord Folston knew that they were coming. Ulik’Boar had personally counted the numbers of women and children that were sent down the mountain into Needletop for protection. The Desert King promised their safety, even if the men of the town chose to continue fighting. This would be the first full attack on the High Council, but the king did not want any negotiations hampered by an unnecessary slaughter of innocents. It was a hard fought battle from what the few Desert King survivors of the attack said, however, they were unsuccessful in dislodging Lord Folston. Two of the Desert King’s high guard had perished on the mountain, nad now Ulik’Boar could see one of their bodies. His hair on the back of his neck was still standing straight up. He couldn’t believe that he snuck into the town so easily, until he got to the first crest. All he heard was the rushing water of the river beneath the bridge, and all he could see were bodies. Desert King pledges, High Council troops, and Ulandians… He tried to piece together what had happened here. He covered Lord Folston’s body, after the high guard of course. aDSC_1944 by skaforhire, on Flickr As he moved across the bridge now, he was careful, just in case there were any survivors. aDSC_1947 by skaforhire, on Flickr The other side of the town was just as terrible. There was a siege ladder, up, but not one survivor. He made his way down the other side of the Peak Road now, about a mile, and found no signs of any living soul. He smiled for the first time that day. Looks like the Mountain Eagle Division had won Knightsbridge by default. +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+- A few hours earlier. Lord Folston had dreaded Lord Petera’s letter. He touched the amulet that came with it – the amulet was supposed to give Folston renewed vigor during a fight, but right now, the icy cold pendent just made him more nervous. A Desert King Army had taken Needlepoint, and the Ulandians were spotted only a few miles down the other direction on the Peak Rode. Things could not be worse. There was no place to even go if they wanted to retreat. He could not surrender, as both the High Council and Petera had given him direct orders to hold the ground at all cost – hold the ground so the Desert King and the Ulandians could not fight one another! Rumors had already made it to him that they were fighting elsewhere! He wanted to just camp high in his four towers and let both sides use the bridge. Let them fight it out right on the blasted thing. He would do his duty though. aDSC_1850 by skaforhire, on Flickr He didn’t have much time to fret. As the early morning mountain air just started to warm up, a century saw the Desert King’s men making it up the West face of the mountain. He was shorthanded… very shorthanded. He had less than 25 men left, a squad of archers and crossbowmen, and a squad of swordsmen. Even his personal fool was given a weapon. Knightsbridge was a chokepoint; this gave them a slight advantage, forcing the enemy to come nearly single file up the long windy Peak Road, that at points was no wider than a horse. The only problem was, if the Ulandians arrived at the same time, no one would be able to be on the East side of the river to defend the town. aDSC_1862 by skaforhire, on Flickr The Desert King’s Mountain Eagle division charged up the road, past the unmanned murder holes within the underground and up to the first switchback at the top of the mountain. Folston commanded his men personally, lending his own sword. His sergeant of Arms Macbarker Swane, his loyal companion for many years, took the vanguard position. The fight was on. aDSC_1855 by skaforhire, on Flickr aDSC_1848 by skaforhire, on Flickr The Mountain Mummies pushed hard, but by the time they made it to the final switchback, the plateau as it was called, the forces of the Desert King were exhausted and surrounded. aDSC_1863 by skaforhire, on Flickr Folston’s men forced the remaining enemy back down the mountain. And Victory was theirs. aDSC_1871 by skaforhire, on Flickr aDSC_1868 by skaforhire, on Flickr Until a shout came from the east side of the river. “The Ulandians are here!” Folston shouted to his men, the ones who had survived. “Quick, we must cross and hold the Calling Grounds!” His men, led again by Macbarker, ran across the bridge and down into the Calling Grounds, the open space between the road and the fortifications on the east side of town. aDSC_1876 by skaforhire, on Flickr To their dismay, the Ulandians had brought siege ladders up the mountain side. He could see the first few blue-clad Sand Wolves (the 3rd Legion he had learned) climbing the first ladder. “Knock’em down boys!” Growled Macbarker. SandWolves by skaforhire, on Flickr Folston had actually met with this company’s one armed leader, a grizzly old veteran named Shan’Feng. He had offered terms of surrender last week, but said that they would not offer again. Folston didn’t like the terms, which included a trip for his men to an Ulandus prisoner camp. Folston thought it odd that this was the company sent against his town. From what he had learned, the 3rd legion was mostly a reconnaissance organization. He had asked Shan’Feng about this, and the one-armed man laughed. He replied “Even the Third Legion has teeth, we are part wolf after all.” aDSC_1890 by skaforhire, on Flickr As this point, more and more Ulandians were pouring into the Calling Grounds. The Sand Wolves pushed Folston’s Men back, while getting into the small tower. Folston knew that if just one tower fell, they would use the secret passages between all of the towers to quickly kill his archers. Things were not looking good, and he fell back across the bridge. aDSC_1893 by skaforhire, on Flickr The bridge was wooden for this very reason. As he crossed he looked for a torch to light the bridge. It was a last ditch effort, but it should preserve half of his city. He turned to find his last guard fell by a Ulandian Drow warrior. Folston had always found it odd that the Ulandians had somehow broken their drow and made them normal citizens… His mind came back to the problem at hand. He looked up at his towers. aDSC_1899 by skaforhire, on Flickr aDSC_1911 by skaforhire, on Flickr It was only a matter of minutes before they would all fall. Folston made the decision to take out as many of these Ulandian scum as possible. “FOR EASTGATE, AND A WHOLE KALIPHLIN FOREVER!” He cried as he stepped into a pile of pursuers. aDSC_1906 by skaforhire, on Flickr As he fought, he felt the renewed energy… and the only other thought he had besides stab, parry, thrust, was that of his dear old friend. He hoped Macbarker found as honorable a death as he was about to have. aDSC_1908 by skaforhire, on Flickr +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+- Petera’s body went cold. He turned to Avona, his fiancé, and Wind-mistress of Historica, “Hold the Protective Shield. Keep Eastgate Safe. My good friend Folston is dead.” Before she could reply, he had teleported away. The necklace he had sent Folston was enchanted to give the wearer strength, but it was also attuned to Petera so that he could track the wearer. If a wearer was injured it would send a signal to Petera, but if the wearer was killed, Petera would feel it in the core of his being. Folston had been a good friend, a true friend. And when Petera blinked into existence at Knightsbridge, the carnage he saw near Folston’s body confirmed that the man was loyal and courageous to the end. Petera’s emotion raged, but he turned his anger into a hand in his mind, and the hand swept away his emotion and reached into to the magical void where all his energy came from. In a instant, he let the raw power take him into the depths of destruction and he was leviathan. aDSC_1916 by skaforhire, on Flickr He had ported onto the bridge, and immediately opened up fire on a Drow Ulandian. Executing him with a firebeam. Simultaneously he constructed a wall of power behind him to cut off the east side of the river, and a lightening shield crackled into existence on his left arm. aDSC_1917 by skaforhire, on Flickr He saw a rush of Ulandians coming from the West, and blinked into the middle of them. They raised their weapons to attack, but he was already dealing killing blows all around him. peterasveng by skaforhire, on Flickr They fell and he teleported to the top of the tallest tower, and executed three more. aDSC_1923 by skaforhire, on Flickr He could see their commander, and that would have been his next stop, but the commander’s mage teleported the two of them far away when they saw who exactly had shown up to finish this battle. Instead he teleported down to the Calling Grounds. This time using his wall of power to keep Ulandians from running away from him. aDSC_1931 by skaforhire, on Flickr Archers attacked him from the rear, and he could hear more soldiers running at him. He leapt up a wall and incinerated the closet Ulandian in midair. aDSC_1927 by skaforhire, on Flickr aDSC_1934 by skaforhire, on Flickr He threw his lightening shield and took out an archer. ADSC_1935 by skaforhire, on Flickr He landed and finished off another guard above him with a fireblast. takingcare by skaforhire, on Flickr Minutes went by… there were no more left. No more. For a moment he thought about going to Needletop and destroy the other enemy army, but as his rage began to subside, grief began to wash over him. He was tired. He had used too much of his power too quickly. He was vulnerable. He had just enough to get back home to Avona, where he spent the night in her arms, aching for lost friends
  13. Failing the Peace (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 20) Chapters so far: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Failing the Peace guildhall by skaforhire, on Flickr “But, if we give up the city, we will have no leverage to get it back!” Mikeo complained. “The battle at the Wither Woods will be for naught!” petera by skaforhire, on Flickr “Let me remind you that we LOST that battle. Perhaps we should have retreated to Gearsport after the battle. We would have had less deserters.” Petera said calmly. He knew this was the right decision. The longer Dugal sieged Eastgate, the longer valuable High Council troops would be in the Wither Woods doing nothing to stop the march of the Desert King or the Ulandians. Petera knew Dugal was too stubborn to abandon Eastgate for the greater good, so Petera would have to do it. Petera also knew that Dugal had maneuvered for a seat on the High Council for the ruler of Gearsport, which was supposed to go to Paulos. Petera would be legitimately back on the High Council, if he could clear the claim to the other GEAR Co. run city. “You are just upset about your friend. Why don’t we surprise attack Dugal or DaMaximus’s forces and kill a bunch of them – that will make you feel better.” Mikeo said. Petera was grieving the loss of his good friend, Lord Folston, but bloodshed never made him feel good. Ever. Mikeo was still young, he had died when they were 11, and Petera had only rescued his twin from the underworld a little over a year ago. Needless to say, Mikeo was much like a young teenager and did not think things through. “What would that do, but put the Council in even poorer position?” Petera said. Often he had to point out strategy that did not sit at the tip of his brother’s nose. “Besides, what has changed that we could force our hand like that? We would get tired and no one would be able to stay in the city and keep the protective shield up. If we lose, then the city would be lost too.” Petera had constructed the great shield to protect Eastgate from Revolword’s elementals. Now he used it to keep Dugal out. It was a system of amplification crystals and a few ancient relics. A mage of great power had to be operating it at all times. Right now Avona was controlling it. “Well, you wanted to abandon the city anyway; we might as try to win our own war before we go fight another!” Mikeo replied. Petera could see his logic, but knew it was flawed. “Again, keeping both armies intact would be more beneficial.” Petera said. “I don’t want to move to Gearsport, it is a backwater!” Mikeo said. “Perhaps you should lead my troops against the Desert King, while I concentrate on First Centurion and his Ulandian legions.” Petera retorted. Mikeo replied, “Do you think I am ready? I feel like I have so much to learn.” He did. Besides the stunting of his personality and emotions due to his premature death, Mikeo still had not fully reached his magical potential. He could have been as strong as Petera, but he probably would never hit that mark. Magic needed to be developed early, or else a sorcerer would miss out on some of his power. That is why Petera was apprenticed to Revolword so early, his power was predicted to be greater than any mage that was currently in the Eastgate College of Magic and Navigation. Mikeo, had he lived, could have been just as great perhaps. “Perhaps a little more experience in battle would help you hone your abilities.” Petera replied. “I seriously doubt the Desert King has much that can stand up to you. “ and he believed that, but he then added, “do not engage Raa by yourself. You are not ready for that, it is likely it will take both of us to defeat him, or perhaps even more mages.” “Or a well-placed blade, “ Mikeo chuckled. +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+- DSC_1640 by skaforhire, on Flickr Dugal and Gideon stood at the window in the small council room. “He says that he will leave Eastgate, move his headquarters to Gearsport, and relinquish his claims.” Dugal was telling Gideon about the strange message he had received from his brother. “He would then welcome me as a brother in arms again as we fight our common enemies.” “What about after the war?” Gideon asked. “It says that we would negotiate a settlement of monies and armies.” Dugal replied. Dugal knew that Petera wanted a legal seat on the High Council, perhaps this was the only way he thought he could get one without killing two of his brothers, and somehow making them stay dead. “Perhaps this would be the best way to heal your family and help Kaliphlin at the same time.” Gideon said. Petera had done a lot to hurt the Macleans. He had had Dugal Murdered, kidnapped Merith, tried to kill Paulos at Queenscross, fought one of the largest battles in recent Historican memory against his brothers, raised their third brother from the dead to turn him into a warrior puppet, and held Eastgate hostage. On top of that, he had sided with Revolword in secret, although he later claimed that he had left Revolword’s apprenticeship as soon as he found out that the old mage was waging a war on the King. Still, there was a lot to forgive. “Perhaps he realizes that he cannot call your axe, and knows that he is not destined to rule Eastgate?” Gideon continued. He was referring to the Golden Axe of Eastgate, which could be called by the city’s rightful ruler at any time. Dugal had been able to call the axe as soon as he left the underworld, apparently Petera had never been able to get the axe to come to him while Dugal was dead, but neither could Paulos. “He may realize that this is the only way out for him. You and him fight each other, and the Desert King or First Centurion kills you both. He wins, he is too weak to protect Eastgate. The rest of the High Council don’t accept him, and it falls. You win, you are too weak to protect Eastgate. IT is lose, lose, lose.” “I suppose with the most recent report from Knightsbridge, that we cannot stay out of the war any longer. The peacekeeping has failed, and we will need all the troops we can get.” Dugal was pretty sure that Gideon would side for the High Council, but nowadays no one could tell. He glanced down at the report in his hand. aDSC_1948 by skaforhire, on Flickr It came from a soldier who was at Knightsbridge when the Ulandians took it. He said that Lord Folston had beaten back a wave of the Desert King’s forces, but had to turn around to fight the Ulandians immediately. The soldier saw the Ulandians winning overwhelmingly, was told by Lord Folston to try and get a message to the council, then watched as Folston was killed. He was able to shed his armor and jump into the river below. The Ulandians shot arrows at him, but he managed to escape. aDSC_194a9 by skaforhire, on Flickr As if he was reading Dugal’s mind, High Lord Bain Ba’Elder walked up to the next window and said “ Shame those ruthless Ulandians killed every single soldier except one. I am just glad the Desert King’s men were there to take back the position. The real enemy are the Ulandians!” Lady Phlici was not too far behind him. “Are you serious? The Desert King attacked High Council peace keeping troops first! He is the enemy! We don’t know if this soldier wasn’t sent by him to fool us all. They are now in possession of the town, it is likely that they wiped out both sets of troops before taking it.” “You should be careful when talking about our rightful ruler.” Bain had clearly sided with the Desert King and was now just trying to drag the majority of the Council that direction. The rest of the council was in confusion. Three sides had emerged, those who thought that Kaliphlin should follow Pharaoh Raa to glory, those who thought that the Ulandians provided stable and strong partners to grow Kaliphlin, and a new third party, the High Council that wanted to keep Kaliphlin the proto-republic it had been under Dextrus Flagg, which Dugal supported. The High Council faction had seen that blood would have to be shed, they would have to fight to achieve a peace. Not knowing who started the bloodshed at Knightsbridge had led the council in the three directions. Some of the High Council faction had come to that side because they desired to punish both sides for bringing war to Kaliphlin. The High Council still refused to pull the trigger and begin operations against either side, there were still too many unanswered questions. If the Ulandians wiped out Folston and Knightsbridge, how did the Desert King get control of it? Reports were starting to come in that both sides were looking to take Queenscross, and operations were already on the way on the banks of the Arkbi river. Peacekeepers would soon be full-blown soldiers if the council had to fight to hold Qeenscross. But still, the council did not move to protect what territory it still held. Dugal looked out the window and sighed. He tried to tune the two out as they continued to argue. It was a beautiful day in Kaliphlin, but how long until war touched the capital? He looked down below him at the Lion Door, one of the main gates of the Kaliphlin Guild Hall. Many people went about their day below, some waited for news of the brewing civil war, while others were out for a walk, and some were just curious about the giant golden lion shields that adorned this part of the building. DSC_1644 by skaforhire, on Flickr DSC_1626 by skaforhire, on Flickr Then ground began to quake. The building shook violently. The ceiling began to bow and pieces fell around them. A rafter fell on Bain. Dugal couldn’t get to him as more of the decorated walls peeled off like a layer of fat on a good cooked roast. Gideon and Dugal ran down the corridor to the stairs. Phlici was nowhere to be found. Dugal could hear the centuries-old supports crunching and gnawing at one another. The walls continued to crumble, and some of the stairs gave out, but the two high councilors made it out the Lion gate in time, with only moments to spare. The whole structure fell on itself, and dust flew into the air. DSC_1660 by skaforhire, on Flickr As the dust cleared, Dugal could see Phlici, being escorted by her Centurion friend, Lat’ve. He was coughing, but both of them seemed to have made it out unscathed. What was he even doing here? Gideon yelled to Dugal, and when he turned to come to his friend, he saw why Gideon had yelled. One of the great shields of the Lion Door had fallen on a young child. Dugal ran over to help Gideon. DSC_1664 by skaforhire, on Flickr They shoved with all their might, but it was too late. The girl was gone. So was the little boy that Dugal had seen from the window. A rock had fallen on his head. His mother dead on the stairs to whatever was left of the Guild Hall. dest by skaforhire, on Flickr Bain appeared in the rubble. “You guys need to let it go, she is gone.” Dugal had not even realized he was still trying to move the shield. “What happened?” asked Gideon, “ was that another earthquake?” Dugal looked around. “No. this was an attack.” Dugal pointed at the other buildings surrounding the Guild Hall. They were all in perfect shape. The ground had not shaken anywhere but here. “Was this magic?” Bain asked, but Dugal felt that Bain was playing coy. “I can only think of one entity that has the ability to smite something this large.” Dugal said. “Your buddy, the Desert King.” “That is ridiculous.” Bain said. “Besides, why would he try to kill some of his followers? I was standing right next to you!” he shouted. Then he turned to Phlici. “What is he doing here? “ Bain motioned at Lat’ve. “Perhaps he put flammable liquid or used some sort of Centurion magic on the Guild Hall!” Lat’ve began to speak, but Phlici overrode him. “HE does not have to take this from you! You mummy loving sack of cat hair!” she growled. “Clearly, the council can’t protect us from the Desert King. I will throw my full support behind the Ulandians and their attempts to rid Kaliphlin of the Desert King. I fight with our brothers, the Ulandians!” She declared and stomped off. Bain, announcing to everyone who had not figured this out already, “This attack by Ulandus on the Guild Hall shall not go unpunished!” he yelled. “Raa shall avenge this deed!” He went off in the opposite direction. “You know this was a mass assassination attempt on all of us?” Gideon said. Dugal nodded. “We better see who is left.” Dugal motioned to the rubble. He began to talk as they searched “ Both sides would benefit from wiping out the council, the Ulandians would have no opposition, and likely rule the council. The Desert King would have no petty lords to stop him from ruling Kaliphlin as he sees fit” “I think you better make peace with your brother. We are going to need him.” Gideon said, as they both wandered the rubble.
  14. Well this one is the longest... A King Reborn (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 18) Chapters so far: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 A King Reborn (Sorry, I had some really bad lighting issues with most of the rest of the builds.) throneroom by skaforhire, on Flickr The Desert King Ark'Mora Raa looked down on the Nile Croc emissary lying prostrate before him. He was in his secret throne room in Kaligem – the lost city was being repaired quite rapidly, and he thought that he may be able to move the capital from Sultan’s Gate back to his home in a matter of months. But today, he was here receiving pledges. The Nile Crocs were an interesting lot, he could remember freeing their ancestors from the clutches of the Goblin King, 2000 years ago. Of course then they were mostly denizens of the Enchanted Forest and not the Mainlands. He was pleased with the emissary’s people. Apparently they had already begun to fight near Queenscross in his name. It did seem as many of Kaliphlin’s peoples were pledging to their true leader once again. For the first time in a long time, he began to think about his first life, how he came to be, and Ner’I’ti. Oh Ner’I’ti… +-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+ The very chamber that they sat in presently was not always a throne room. In fact, it had been the burial chamber the entire Raa Dynasty. His Greatest Grand Father still sat behind him, however the rest of his relatives were no longer occupying the chamber. tomb8 by skaforhire, on Flickr He remembered coming to the Tomb of Kings as a boy with his father Ahmendi Raa, his older brother Kalin’ti Raa, and his father’s closest advisor, Horros. This was the first time he had been allowed into the sacred crypt, and he had many questions. “quit your prattling,” his brother complained. “Father has brought you here to witness my ascension to the line of kings.” Ark’Mora was wise enough not to incur the wrath of his brother, and he knew that his brother was about to become a god, and his training told him one does not upset a god. Even if that god is his spiteful brother. The other gods had chosen Kalin’ti, and it was now time to begin his ascension. His brother was lucky, his father was still alive to start the process. His father began the sacred ritual, which lasted all of two minutes. “Fathers, gods, rulers to come, we call to you to begin Kalin’ti Raa’s ascension to Pharaoh.” Ark’Mora zoned out thinking about what this all meant. He was there because he would be first minister to his brother, although not a god like Kalin, he still would be essential in running the three kingdoms of Kaliphlin. His father had not been lucky enough to have an advisor of the same bloodline; he was forced to kill his two brothers to take the throne. His first minister, Horros, was a much different man, and Ark’Mora had realized early on in his tutelage that Horros likely kept the kingdom together, as his father distanced himself from the mortals. His father cared more for preparing himself for his second life that managing the kingdoms. This was evident in the current war against the Snow and Dark Elves of the northlands. There were rumors of the Western Marches preparing to rebel, also. His grandfather had destroyed most of the great Drow cities that were North of the three Kingdoms and had forced their people to begin to build settlements underground instead of above it, but his father’s turning away from military matters had allowed the Snow Elves and their darker kin to resurface. As first minister, he knew he would have to prosecute the war. DSC_1732 by skaforhire, on Flickr Twelve was a young age to be tutored in the way of statecraft, but Horros was sure that Ark’Mora was a promising student, so much that he had convinced his father to decree that Kalin’ti could not kill Ark’Mora. Kalin had already killed one of their brothers, as he saw him as a rival. Ark’Mora was considered too weak, and would soon become unable to bear and heir, thus taking away any sort of divinity. Ark’Mora snapped back to attention when he saw Horros’ bad eye staring at him. He knew the boy was daydreaming. His father was finishing the last part. “And May the line of Raa continue in eternity.” He had given Kalin’ti the blood amulet already, and Ark’Mora had been a little sad that he had not paid attention to the ascension. He wanted to see if Kalin’ti would change before his eyes or not. With the ceremony over, Ark’Mora began more questions. “Why is this space vacant he said, pointing to a position closest to the father of the Dynasty, Kaliph Raa. DSC_1730 by skaforhire, on Flickr “The closer to Kaliph Raa, the more important the Pharaoh. As you can see, the baby king is all the way at the end of this row, and right here, in the most important spot is your grandfather, conqueror of Nocturnus and Great Uniter of the Three Kingdoms.” Horros said. At this moment in time, Ark’Mora was uneasy thinking about the darkness of the third kingdom, Nocturnus. In time that would change greatly. Ner’I’ti… His father followed this up with his own boast: “That is my spot, I am worthy of my father’s spot. And for that reason, when Kalin’ti ascends to the throne in many lifetimes from now, I will begin my voyage to the second life here in this spot.” Ark’Mora was almost positive that his father would not be considered high enough by the priesthood for this spot, but there was a more suitable spot two sarcophagi down from his grandfather. He doubted that any of the living Raas could live up to his grandfather. His mind shifted to another time. He was walking through the streets of Kaligem with his brother and Horros. Horros was teaching the boys about responsibility. “You must be humble to people, they are your life blood” Because Kalin’ti was a god, Horros could no longer give him lessons, but he could give Ark’Mora lessons, which were meant for Kalin’ti to listen to and benefit from the same advice. Ark’Mora doubted that Kalin’ti listen to half of the speeches. Neither his father nor brother were very good with the people, and took the god aspect to a new level, his father would not let mortals touch him, while his brother believed that all mortal possessions, including their own lives, belonged to him. This was one of those times. “The hand that helps a lost soul, will have another soul to serve him in the afterlife…” Horros trailed off as Kalin’ti walked up to a sleeping man on the street. DSC_1803 by skaforhire, on Flickr “You!” Kalin’ti said, “Why do you pollute my streets with your filth?” The man jumped up immediately realizing who was standing before him. He immediately bowed. DSC_1804 by skaforhire, on Flickr “I am sorry my lord, I am a veteran of the West Marches Campaign. I came home and my house is gone, the new temple is being built there. I have no money, no more clothes, and my wife died of pox. I laid my head down here as the streets are the only home I know now. Please forgive me, I will move on.” The man graveled. DSC_1806 by skaforhire, on Flickr Kalin’ti threw the man up against the wall, and the frightened veteran cowered back to the ground. The prince lifted his foot up and began stomping on the man’s face. “You will not dirty my city. You are nothing. You are sand between my toes. You are fleas on a camel. You must know your worth – nothing. You could not have the courage to die fighting the Faeries of the Enchanted Forest, you can die here beneath my boot!” DSC_1809 by skaforhire, on Flickr Horros gasped, he knew he could not stop the prince, now that he had ascended. This was the first time the Desert King had seen someone die in front of him. +_+_ Ark’Mora’s mind flashed forward to his father’s death. He had died in sleep, and from the rumors the boy had heard, most likely from too much drink. He was now in the Tomb of Kings, where Kalin’ti was directing men to begin crafting the sarcophagus at the foot of Kaliph Raa. It was at this point that Ark’Mora had had enough. His father could not have been a god, let alone be buried next to the greatest god kings of all time. “The priests have not approved this yet.” Ark’mora said. DSC_1749 by skaforhire, on Flickr “You belittle our father after his death?” his brother said. “You think yourself on the same level to decide where a GOD is buried?” “I think Horros would agree with me, we must wait for the priests.” Ark’Mora said, knowing that he was standing on quicksand in this situation. “Horros has gone to the great hall to serve our father.” What? The Great Hall? This meant that Horros had been prepared for the afterlife – killed, mummified, and packed into the Great Hall. This was a common ritual for wives, petty servants, and cats, but not for a first minister. Horros was supposed to oversee the transition between Pharaohs. “That is not the way it is done!” Ark’Mora protests. “You will join him in the hall. Father demanded it.” His brother snickered. “Tomb Guard, take my brother to the Great Hall!” The tomb guard came forward to apprehend the boy. Without thinking, Ark’Mora ran to the tomb of the Greatest Raa, and took his staff. A gold Serpent that was said to hold immense power, that only a god could wield. Ark’Mora should not have been able to remove the staff, but he needed something to defend himself. DSC_1750 by skaforhire, on Flickr It slid out with ease, and he turned on his brother. The guard hit the ground prostrate and mumbled “oh great one.” His brother kept coming though. DSC_1754 by skaforhire, on Flickr Ark’Mora declared in a booming voice “You are not worthy, Kalin’ti. You and our father are not worthy of the power of these thrones.” And as he forced his brother back, he fell into the shallow water that surrounded the sarcophagi. But… DSC_1758 by skaforhire, on Flickr It wasn’t shallow for some reason. As he pointed the staff at his brother, his brother kept sinking… the water should not even come up to his knees, but still, his brother sank. DSC_1760 by skaforhire, on Flickr Until finally, his brother disappeared without a trace. Unlike the ascension of his brother, where Ark’Mora witnessed nothing unusual, he knew that in that moment he has ascended, and he knew he was a different person. +-+-+-+ The Desert King let his mind wonder. The War against the Shadows, The reconquering of the Drow. The decimation of the Snow Elves… his three greatest military achievements. The great Arch, the Triumphal Dome of Merriph, The great Golden Road, the third wall of Kaligem, his greatest architectural achievements. His land to soldiers initiative, his adoption of citizenship for all three kingdom’s residents, even the non-human ones, his greatest political achievements. He had accomplished this all before 35 years of age. None of it compared to the love he found in Nocturnus though. The staff had led him to a cave in the Dark Kingdom where he met her. She helped him tap his powers, before he fell in love with her, he never knew that he could be so powerful… powerful enough to destroy a whole subcontinent – twice. His mind immediately went to their last moments together. It was one year after he had sunk Ulandus, and they were back in this same chamber. DSC_1764 by skaforhire, on Flickr Things had taken a turn for the worst. He had used the same mass ritual to try and destroy most of the Western Marches. western march by skaforhire, on Flickr But something had gone wrong. It had not succeeded as planned. Another great force had played against his ritual, many of his priests had died in some sort of backlash, and his reports told him that a new ruler led in the West. One who over the next six months would unite the Western Marches, tap the power of the Faeries of the Enchanted Forest, enlist the Goblin King of the same realm, ally the remaining Drow, and find a way to maneuver and army hundreds of miles to Kaligem, while dealing devastating blows to the Pharaoh’s forces. His name was Agalmar, Lord of Pender, the largest city in the Western Marches, and we was now in the Tomb of Kings. DSC_1765 by skaforhire, on Flickr “False king, Kaliphlin scum, I come here to destroy you once and for all! The people of Historica are free from your bloodline’s tyranny.” The intruder announced himself. “I Agalmar of Pender will vanquish you.” Ark’Mora called back. “Your people brought this war upon them. Three decades of peace shattered by the killing of a baby! The nation of Kaliphlin will be restored.” He readied for a fight. He was exhausted, his magic was still recharging. Much of it had been drained in the long war with South Kaliphlin and Ulandus – They had risen up in protest over his connections to Nocturnus. A trait the Ulandians would hold even to the present day, a distinct hate for the immortal, the undead, the ever living. They still cursed the name Nocturnus to this day, and most during his first life knew that the region was the source of his great magic and immortality. “You attempted to destroy the West as you did Ulandus. Well, we were not so equally terminated. Maelord, our great Fae Wizard saw your spell in progress, and the Faery forces countered your blow before it was too late.” Agalmar said. Ark’Mora would learn after he began his second life that his spell had worked partially, destroying much of the landmass of the Western Marches, and creating the Mystic Isles. Avtoday by skaforhire, on Flickr Ark’Mora stepped forward to fight the man, only one guard stood in between the two rulers. But then, out of the shadows the Goblin King appeared behind the Kaliphlinites. DSC_1767 by skaforhire, on Flickr Ner’I’ti, always by his side since his pilgrimage to Nocturnus, had no chance. The Goblin King sliced her belly, and at the same time, their unborn heir, in one fluid motion. Ark’Mora raged. He turned on the surprised Goblin King and took his head in one motion. DSC_1769 by skaforhire, on Flickr He turned around to see Agalmar dispatch his last bodyguard. But before he could make it to the Western King, he felt cold… so cold. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the Faery Magelord, Maelord. His body weakened, but he still had to fight the upstart King. For her. DSC_1771 by skaforhire, on Flickr They spun, and thrashed at each other, block after block after block, and Ark’Mora could feel all his being draining from his body. Maelord was chanting. DSC_1773 by skaforhire, on Flickr Then he felt a blade enter his back. As he fell, he turned to see the Dark Elf Prince Drooz’Kang, his bloody face smiling after just receiving vengeance. DSC_1775 by skaforhire, on Flickr He could hear them talking over his body. He was not dead. He knew gods did not die. But he was trapped. DSC_1776 by skaforhire, on Flickr “We cannot let them have his body. He is immortal, he could still rise. It would be better to take him with us back to Avon Hill.” Agalmar said. “The staff is the greater source of his power. I will take this, and forge you a sword my king.” Maelord said. “You may need it in the coming battles of retribution. The rest of Kaliphlin will not sit idle. Drooz’Kang spoke up. “I consider our bargain complete human king. Do not come over the Northmounts, our alliance held until the Desert King fell.” “Believe me, dark elf, we have no desire to tread on your tundra filled lands. Stay north, and we will not have a problem.” Agalmar said. At this point, Ark’Mora’s vision faded to black as the last words that he heard came from Maelord. “Perhaps I will make you a new coat of arms too… something more… dragony? Maybe?” +=+=+=+=+= emptyw by skaforhire, on Flickr The next thing he remembered was waking up foggy, and walking. For hundreds of miles. Day upon Day upon day he walked without knowing where he was going. His first clear memory was back in this chamber. But it was so much different. All of his kin, save Kaliph Raa had been plundered. The powerful enchantment protecting his burial place seemed to protect some of what was around him, but mostly just his sarcophagus. empty by skaforhire, on Flickr He could feel his own body regenerating, he looked down to see that he was mostly in burial rags, but he could see fresh flesh returning to his body. He felt… good. But lost, longing for her, longing for his power, his throne. Sadness swept over him as he realized that the dynasty had ended with him, and that respect for his family had dwindled enough that people dare loot their graves! He knew at that moment that he would bring back his family’s honor. He would restore the great kingdom of Kaliphlin. DSC_1729 by skaforhire, on Flickr --------------+ In the weeks to come he gained men, money, and most importantly Kaliph’s staff. Which had been given to him by a supporter… Ra… he was brought back to the present by the Nile Croc’s voice. “My lord, may I please rise and tell you more about our operation?” The Desert King smiled, benevolence, humility, but power and strength. The four points of rulership according to Horros. He would show his subjects all these traits, and he would put the Ulandians back into the ocean, tame the rebel lords, and forge new alliances to strengthen Kaliphlin once more. DSC_1798 by skaforhire, on Flickr
  15. Amir Navabi was at war. The estranged son of one of the powerhouse families of Kaliphlin was angry, and he was showing it. His parents, for whom he had precious little respect, had sided with the High Council. Determined to defy the people he felt betrayed by, Amir had sided with Ulandus. And he was a more than capable fighter. He, along with some other Ulandian soldiers, had decided to take the aqueducts, as many as possible. Using his superior ability, Amir forced the swordsman to jump into the river. The battle had been won, at least at this aqueduct. Now is where I come in. "Good Pastnoon," I called. "What are Vikings doing so far inland?" Amir questioned, looking curiously at the three of us. "We were shipwrecked. We need a guide to take us north," I replied, curtly. The ship had encountered one of the worst storms I had ever known. We were lucky to be alive. "Very well," Amir replied. "But it might be dangerous." "Why," Rollo asked. "No one has informed you. Kaliphlin is in Civil War," He told us. "Gorlog's breath," I murmured. "Of all the times to be in Kaliphlin Builder's notes: This build was a throw together, but I wanted to contribute SOMETHING to my side in the civil war. I would build more, but some unforeseen circumstances have stopped me. Sorry. Author's notes: Same. The story was rushed, really just an excuse to explain why my Vikings are stuck in Kaliphlin. For the Praise of His Glory! ~Andrew
  16. Supporting the Council (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 17) Chapters so far: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 (ALSO: War of the Brothers Part II Chapter 1 HERE for more on that) petera by skaforhire, on Flickr Supporting the Council (Three Months after Chapter 16) It was unusually cold in Eastgate today. Petera MacLean placed the seal on a letter. He hoped it was not too late. The last two years had been hard for Eastgate, the constant siege and the jockeying of two brothers to take control of their birthright had left most of the old town thin to the bone in civilians. Dugal’s Army, backed by his strong ally Lord DaMaximus still sat outside the Old City walls, while most of the New city on the other side of the Red River thrived in this war economy. They had even constructed a makeshift port, and outsourced much of their shipbuilding to Carn, Eastgate’s little sister town on the inland sea. Petera was surprised that the siege still held. Most of Dugal’s mercenaries moved on now that Bishop Jamon was dead and not paying their wages. There was gold to be had in the conflict brewing, an mercenaries always went towards the scent of gold. DaMaximus had siphoned off some of his own soldiers to go back to East Kaliphlin, where Both Ulandus and the Desert King were making strides at turning towns and villages to their command, so far no violence between the forces of the High Council and the other two had broken out, however, the peacekeeping troops, had mostly retreated towards Petraea to avoid conflict, as their orders from the Council were clear not to provoke a fight. Pretty much all of Dugal’s Army that were Kaliphlin troops had been stripped from him by the council and sent to be peacekeepers. This made it a much more even fight, if Dugal ever decided to storm Eastgate. Petera’s forces were not in the best shape either. After a hard defeat at the Wither Woods, it was near impossible to build some of Eastgate’s armies that were loyal to him. Eastgate was one of the stronger cities when it came to military force, mostly because GEAR Co’s possessions stretched throughout the known world, and often times a show of force was necessary to protect them. However, with all of the armies recalled to Eastgate to fight out this civil war between brothers, many of Eastgate’s possessions had been seized by raiders, other Councilors, Ulandians, and even Mountain Mummies. Petera had just got a report this morning that some of the oilfields in East Kaliphlin had been taken by the Desert King. Eastgate had a good reserve in gold, but Petera was spending it quickly. The war between brothers had to end, but he was somewhat sure one of the two of them would have to die first. His Fiancé, Avona the Storm Mistress came into his meeting quarters. She had been a powerful ally, especially after the Wither Woods, when many of his mages deserted him. Not that that mattered too much, since he was one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world himself. But most of his power went to fueling the giant magic dome over Eastgate that Kept Dugal’s forces from going over the walls. “You sent for me?” she said. She didn’t like to be bothered when she was studying the arcane. DSC_1693 by skaforhire, on Flickr “Yes, you are the only one I can trust with this.” He said handing her the letter he had just sealed. “I need you to teleport to Knightsbridge, you know where that is?” She nodded and said “ That will be a tricky teleport. There are a lot of mountains in the way. “ “Good thing you are an expert teleporter.” He said. “This needs to be delivered to Lord Folston immediately. Our spies have reported to us that there is Desert King army marching along the Peak Road, and headed for Knights bridge.” “Why would he not take the Sultan’s road through the desert? It is much quicker than winding around in the Rakath Mountains, that is for sure.” She asked. “I am not sure, but I worry that they may get to Mypa Stedor through the back door, or Berigoria.” He said and she looked at him funny. “Your enemy’s town?” She asked. She had killed a few of DaMaximus’ men herself at the Wither Woods. “Despite our squabble, I am still a High Councilor. We don’t want to see Ulandus or the Desert King take over Kaliphlin. That would make the Valkarian Order’s overall plan to stabilize Historica much less possible. “ He paused. “Before Dugal’s resurfacing, DaMaximus and I were on fairly good terms and supported each other’s initiatives in the council.” “I am not sure this is the correct path, my love.” Avona said. “Even if it isn’t, I made Lord Folston. He was my friend, and I submitted his name to the Council for Lordship at that god-forsaken place. I can’t leave him with no help.” He said. She just nodded, took the letter, and vanished. DSC_1694 by skaforhire, on Flickr Almost immediately Mikeo and his enslaved Efrite, Donjini , entered the room. “Brother, we have a visitor!” But he stopped that line of thought. “I smell Avona’s perfume, is she here?” “I sent her with a message for Lord Folston. The Desert King moves on him.” Petera said. “But Folston is heeding Council Orders, why would you help him.” Mikeo asked. Petera explained the situation basically the same as he had just done for Avona. “Interesting. Do you want me to take my knights there? I am sure Donjini can teleport us there safely.” DSC_1698 by skaforhire, on Flickr “I would not be so sure of that master. I sense that there are numerous mana weaves throughout Kaliphlin, designed to catch teleporting groups.” The Efrite said. Petera knew this. He had webs up within Eastgate to protect them from teleporting intruders, but three very powerful mages were also weaving at that moment in Kaliphlin. He assumed there was a mage for each of the factions in Kaliphlin trying to prevent anyone from moving massive amounts of troops through magic. Luckily for Avona, these weaves were designed to catch large groups and not individuals. Mikeo, despite his fast study of magic since Petera pulled him from the underworld, was a bit confused. Petera did not have time to explain it, for in walked a man in Ulandian armor. DSC_1699 by skaforhire, on Flickr “I thought you were announcing me?” he looked accusingly at Mikeo, but did not wait for a reply. “I am General Royce Ponce of the Thousand Suns, First Centurion’s First Legion, and I have come to secure your friendship for the future of Kaliphlin.” He directed towards Petera. How did he get into the city? As if answering his thoughts, Ponce said: “pardon me for sneaking into your city, I took a small craft into your harbor, however, it is urgent.” Petera cut to the chase. “Why should we join Ulandus?” “You would be joining Kaliplhin, Ulandus only seeks…” but Ponce was cut off by Petera. “…to rejoin Kaliphlin, yes I have heard the spiel. That was months ago, your armies are all over Kaliphlin now. You have fought some battles against Kaliphlinites, you cannot say you come in peace!” In truth these battles were against the Desert King… “We only attack the Pharaoh’s men!” Ponce said. “We seek to be equals in Kaliphlin. Nothing more.” “I think that the equals thing is a cover.” Petera said. “You know that the council will mull over allowing Ulandus to join the guild, it would upset the balance some would say. But your emperor knows this. He also knew the Desert King was on the rise, and found his excuse to force the Kaliphlinites to decide.” Petera smiled. “It is clever indeed, “ he admitted. “ Letting the citizens choose sides in this war while their leaders talk. You will use your armies to defeat the Desert King, and when that is done, you will have a large enough foothold to force your interests to the Council. But… the demand won’t be to add five councilors, it will be to submit to the emperor. When the refusal comes, you will march your armies against your new enemies.” DSC_1700 by skaforhire, on Flickr Ponce sighed, seemingly unfazed. “Your war with Dugal has left you with little trust, I should expect this from someone who murdered their own brother.” “How dare you.” Mikeo said. “You are a guest here, a guest we could easily get rid of.” “You know not what you speak of, manchild.” Ponce said. DSC_1701 by skaforhire, on Flickr Petera butted in. “The Council had declined your offer. I being part of the Council must decline.” “Dugal rules Eastgate from beyond these walls. You are not on the High Council any longer.” Ponce said, and Petera was well aware that he had few supporters at the moment. “We can change that. You will be put onto the council when our negotiations come to fruition. Dugal, who has defied us, and has sent troops to keep us from going where we desire, is not a friend of First Centurion. We will see him deposed. Unless, of course you want to kill him again.” Ponce smirked. Petera had not killed Dugal during the war, although he didn’t stop Revolword from doing so, he also didn’t join the expedition to retrieve his soul from the underworld – but he used their portal to get Mikeo back. Mikeo felt a strong loyalty to Petera because of this, and for that reason a blade of ice quickly appeared in his hand and he began to threaten Ponce. “ That is one lie to many, Fork-tongue! “ DSC_1704 by skaforhire, on Flickr Ponce laughed. LAUGHED! “ You know not what you step into.” He smiled. “You can’t hurt me here.” Now Petera was interested, what made this guy think he could get out of here alive if Petera thought it prudent to end him? Mikeo moved forward but Ponce turned to the Efrite. “Alka’dar Baelos Moritt’guf, al’gernen de’coli pillianar.” Donjini’s eyes widened and he immediately bowed to Ponce and then turned to Mikeo. “He is right master Mikeo, I cannot let you hurt him.” DSC_1705 by skaforhire, on Flickr Petera remembered the incantation, he would have to figure out what just had happened, but it was most likely Old Olinor’s Tongue that he spoke it. It was said that Olinor was the location where the Djin and the Efrite parted ways, and forever Efrite were forbidden to use the old language. Something Ponce said, in that language, had turned Donjini into his guardian. Petera had a feeling that if he was to try to call his magic, he would be unable to do so. Although Donjini was not powerful enough to stop Petera in full sorcerer state, he could easily keep him from reaching that state if he had the drop on him, like he did at the present. A bit of panic hit him… Ponce could kill him now. =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+ Lord Folston was preparing for the Worst. Knightsbridge was to be attacked from the South soon. His scouts had reported that the Ulandians were making their way up the Peak Road – in his mind, more of a trail than a road—and they had high numbers. DSC_1712 by skaforhire, on Flickr Folston had only a few dozen men left. The council had not sent gold in months, and his soldiers were now deserting. He had taken out all the loans he could from villages up to thirty miles away. There just was no more Gold left from Needletop to Southpass. Kaliphlin-north-east-0 by skaforhire, on Flickr The council said that Knightsbridge must be held, as it would keep the Ulandians from reaching the territory claimed by the Desert King. The council feared that if major blood was spilled over a bit of land, then the winner would be less likely to negotiate or relinquish control of said land. Folston agreed. Even if his benefactor was no longer on the council. He thought of Petera, cooped up in Eastgate. He had been a good liege to serve, and Folston was happy to be placed on the high council with Petera’s support. But in reality, NOBODY wanted Knightsbridge. That is why there was a seat open, the last family abandoned its lordship. Knightsbridge was the crucial link on the Peak road. A small trail that went North to South, but also led to the northern Kaliphlin coast, a valuable trade route for spices and other small loads that one can bring by pack animal. Wagons could not travel on the road because of its grade and width at times. The town itself protected a bridge over the Al’Weri River, or Weary River in the common tongue. IT was the only passable place for the length of the whole river within the Rakath Mountains . Therefore its strategic importance was paramount, which was also why the Council subsidized the small town. The town itself sat mostly underground in an old dwarf den – or perhaps it was one of the outposts of the old Rat King’s people? Folston didn’t care, he hated it. It was damp, ugly, smelly, and he relied on the mountain villages to provide food. It was a terrible place to be Lord of. “Alright, we need to work quicker men!” he shouted as a few of his boys pushed barrels towards the secret door to get within the Trifort, The fortification of the south side (technically East side because of the way the river bent at this location) of the river. preparing for defense by skaforhire, on Flickr Just then, Lady Avona appeared next to him and he nearly jumped out of his skin. Damn teleporters! “Greetings Lord Folston, Petera sends is regards and well wishes. He has a message for you.” Avona said, and handed him a letter. DSC_1716 by skaforhire, on Flickr “Hello, Lady Avona, what a pleasant surprise” he said as his heart calmed down. In honesty, he had always been terrified of storm mistress. “Open it right away there is much we must discu…” Suddenly her eyes widened. “I have to go, Petera is in trouble!” with that she vanished. He opened the letter and his heart sank. The Desert King was attacking from the North. He had maybe two days. Petera urged him to keep the bridge at all costs, and to keep the two armies apart. Even if it meant fighting back, something the council had yet to do. DSC_1717 by skaforhire, on Flickr =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+ Mikeo was still upset. The meeting with Ponce, then his unexpected departure with Mikeo’s Efrite, and finally Petera telling him to just let it go, was wearing on his twin brother. “I will make this right.” Petera said. “I don’t think his power will last over Donjini for long, and I think, if I know my Efrite lore correctly, he will return to you, still your slave.” “Fine. But I want to kill that guy personally.” Mikeo said. Petera ignored that last bit. “Get a message to the Yukar, we need more reports about the Desert King’s whereabouts. “ Petera concluded. DSC_1710 by skaforhire, on Flickr With that, Mikeo left. Almost immediately Avona reappeared, ready to fry anything in her path. DSC_1691 by skaforhire, on Flickr “Are you alright?!” she demanded. “Fine.” He said. They embraced. He then told her about the meeting, and how the Ulandians wanted him to continue to distract Dugal’s forces, and in return, he would be placed on the council. Avona seemed to agree this was wise. But then again, what could he do when he had a Genie’s blade to his throat? Now… was he to keep his bargain?
  17. Forging Alliances (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 6) Previous Prelude chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Forging Alliances fortifying by skaforhire, on Flickr It was a long night at the Crown Inn for Lady Phlici Maderni of Sand’s End. Smaley had not caught the would-be assassin, and the town was on high alert. So it was even more disheartening when she awoke near dawn to the shouts of the guards, and the ringing of the warning bells. Three Bells, army spotted. She grabbed her dress from the previous day and hurriedly put it on. She was met in the common room of the inn by Ronalo Suarn, the mayor, he was frantic. “A man in blue marches in front of a host of green soldiers. The identifying marks are foreign to me, my lady!” He belted out. This was disturbing, Ronalo was one of the smartest men she knew, he also knew every major sigil in Historica. She prepared for the worst…. =+=+=+=+=+= Three hours later Phlici was standing in front of her inn with General Latrix Veringetrix, but he had told her his ”high sands name” was Lat’ve. He was a good looking man, in his 40s, strong, confident, and somewhat attractive. It was not his looks that got him through the gates of Sand’s End though. Phlici had been hailed by this foreign army when they approached the city. They flew a flag of truce and she was accompanied by Smaley to the parle. Before she left she made sure that every troop she had was on the front wall – she had to look like she had many banner men. She met the leader, dressed in Green. He said his name was Castrix, and he demanded she open her gates to his army, the Salamanders of Ulandia – the sunken city? She asked herself. He looked to have about fifty men at his command… but 20 of these were no man at all… they were insectoid creatures, stuff she only heard rumored from the Rakath mountains. As she was lost in thought, Castrix snapped again “We demand water and shelter, and that your gates are open to us.” She was about to call the whole parle off, when a man in a similar uniform, but blue walked up behind Castrix. “Captain Castrix, there is no need for this, I am sure Lady Maderni will be happy to have a few extra Kaliphlin soldiers held up in her town.” He introduced himself as Latrix, and then. She had 28 men, most of them fat and old, she had no choice. She could not afford a siege right now. So now, just a few hours later she was playing host to a military spectacle. The Salamanders, actually, only one twentieth of the whole legion, as Lat’ve was quick to point out, stood in her market displaying their arms. DSC_3863 by skaforhire, on Flickr “The bug things seem to have no order to them” she said to her guest. “They do what their masters bid in combat, and nothing more, my lady.” Lat’ve said. “ It would be waste of effort to have them line up in squares like the human troops.” He had explained earlier that these were a bug people from Ulandus, and that they were sworn into the Second Legion as harsh melee fighters. He also explained that most enemies surrendered before the “Kalcheta,” swarmers in the modern tongue, before they had to face them. He concluded with a line about the swarmers eating their enemies in the middle of battle. This sounded to her like the fierce battle gnomes of the Witherwoods. She took a quick inventory of the 1st company of the Second Legion. 20 swarmers, ten heavy fighters, 10 pike, and 10 tritons. An interesting compliment. “Where is the rest of the Legion? How many are there?” Lat’ve was slow to answer, as if he was deciding what to divulge. “Each legion has funding for 1000 soldiers. There are twenty companies in this legion.” Twenty companies??? More than one legion??? She was amazed at the numbers – how did they get all the way up here without being noticed by the eyes and ears of the Kaliphlin intelligence agencies? He continued “The Salamanders have been tasked by First Centurion to defend Kaliphlin during the Rejoining, their companies are scattered to all ends of the Guild for this purpose.” She had been told earlier that the Rejoining was the name for the process of bringing Ulandus back into Kaliphlin, as it was 1000 years ago before its sinking. She also learned that “general” and “captain” were just ranks that they were calling themselves to not sound foreign to the Kaliphlinites. Lat’ve’s real title was Third Centurion, while Castrix was a Fourth Centurion. As far as she could figure, there were many Second, Third, Fourth, fifth, etc… centurions, but only one first centurion – the leader of Ulandus DSC_3861 by skaforhire, on Flickr She watched as Castrix took his position on her walls to deliver a speech to her town, her troops, and the Salamanders. She started to wonder if it was her town anymore. Castrix began to speak. “Legionaries, centurions, fellow Kaliphlinites, lend me your ears.” He had a booming voice. “We come today as friends, as Kaliphlinites. In time you will know us as long lost brothers. Be not afraid, for we come to help take care of your border trouble here in Sand’s End. Tomorrow we will march out and take care of the bandit problem, the problem your leaders have not had the strength to handle.” She began to speak, but Lat’ve put a hand on her arm and whispered “He is one for theatrics.” She let it go. Castrix continued, “we will put down the Avalonian Scourge on the King’s way, tame the centaur menace to the north, and we have already put the sand bandits of the south in their place – the grave. Rejoice now that your brothers have come, eat, drink, be merry, know that peace has come to Kaliphlin again, and that the Great Disturbance is over. We are the Salamanders, we are your blood, and we shall spill our blood with you in the name of Kaliphlin!” Cheers went up from his men, and to her surprise, her men. Not her town anymore… She turned to Lat’ve, “what do you want from me?” He smiled, “your introduction and backing to the council. We wish our cities to be fully represented on the high council.” She had a feeling that this was not everything, but she could come to appreciate his smile. DSC_1563 by skaforhire, on Flickr =+=+=+=+=+=+= Three days later the Salamanders made good on their promise. salamanders by skaforhire, on Flickr DSC_1577 by skaforhire, on Flickr At Wagner’s Glen in the Cedrican Plains, the Salamanders met the last of the Centaur raiding parties. In phalanx formation they slaughtered almost every rogue centaur. DSC_1583 by skaforhire, on Flickr DSC_1587 by skaforhire, on Flickr They didn’t even have to take the swarmers, and they left them in town. Phlici found this very disturbing as the they mingled with the populace. hey girl by skaforhire, on Flickr Lat’ve stayed in town too, and she learned much more about Ulandus, but by this time she was more interested in the man himself, although she could not get over his and other Ulandian’s use of Leander as slaves. DSC_1597 by skaforhire, on Flickr
  18. Bannihal’s Report (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 13) Previous Prelude chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Bannihal’s Report Leovetus had left the council with Dugal’s assurance that at least Eastgate would support his side of the order. The MacLeans had had many non-human allies over the years, and he felt odd about Lord Kral ever since he had met him. Leovetus left the chamber with a written report by Bannihal, and the council had adjourned formalities to go over the papers. The first was a report about a sabotage mission that the Leander resistance had pulled off. (Thanks to Kai for this build!) Shipwrecked! by gid617, on Flickr A 12th Legion ship, apparently the 12th Legion, the Sea Serpents, were the naval force of Xersia, had left a city called Catarlacus headed for Mpya Stedor with a company of Thousand Sons. According to Bannihal, their mission was to unload near the city, take plain clothes, and infiltrate the city. Once inside, determine if DaMaximus was willing to champion the Ulandian cause for the Rejoining to Kaliphlin. If not, they were to take down the Golden Windows factory to hurt the city’s economy. Damaximus was not happy when this was read out loud, but Erudhalion reminded him that they should stay as objective as possible here, as they did not know if Bannihal was telling the truth, or even if he was a Desert King agent. Phlici seemed to think that the latter must be the case. The ship left Ulandus, but had one Leander rebel stowaway in the cargo hold. As it neared the Lesser Spice Isles, the agent began drilling two large holes in the hold. This caused the vessel to take on water, and in an attempt to make land, the ship was crashed upon a rocky reef in front of the Isle of Krag (their name for the island, Dugal had no idea which Lesser Spice Island it was.) The Leander got to shore where he hid himself to watch what unfolded next. Shipwrecked! by gid617, on Flickr The Isle of Krag is apparently inhabited by an isolationist tribe, for when they saw the boat crashed upon the reef of their island, they went on the warpath. Storming the beach in full war paint, the men of the island shot arrow after arrow into each 12th Legionnaire trying to make the beach. Many of the soldiers were lost in the wreck, and all of their supplies lay on the reef or at the bottom of the sea. Eventually a few survivors made it to the rocky shore of the island where they attempted a last assault on the beach. Shipwrecked! by gid617, on Flickr In the end, the islanders were too strong for the depleted crew. Shipwrecked! by gid617, on Flickr As the islanders recovered much of the 12th Legion’s goods, the last of the bodies floated back out to sea. Shipwrecked! by gid617, on Flickr At nightfall, the Leander agent snuck back onto the reef and took the ship’s boat back to Ulandus. “Well they are brake, no matter who they really side with, I will give them that. “ Dugal said. “If it is true” Said Siedna “Agreed.” Dugal said. Ageven put down the scroll, “If this is true, these Leander may be actually working for the Desert King. If that is true, we may be playing into his hands by supporting the rebellion.” “I think it is best that we stay neutral, and post an army in Western Kaliphlin as a peace keeping force.” Gideon said. “We have two distinct problems, the Desert King in the North, who has yet to make his intentions clear, and the Ulandians in the South who have stated that they are enemies of the Desert King.” “Why would we need any army? Let them fight it out, and if we have to, we will destroy the winner.” Lord Bain said, he had entered into the council chambers after the Leanders had left. Isabella had come back too. “Lord Bain, your lands may sit cozy on the other side of Kaliphlin, but if those two armies want to fight each other, they are going to march through what little fertile land between Ulandus and Sultan’s Gate. They are going to have to eat, they are going to cause trouble, and likely they will grab any fortified town they can along the way to hold an advantage over the other. Once they get dug in, they will be impossible to get out. We need to set up a road block.” Said Ageven . “Auner has already been shaken hard by the Great Disturbance. We can’t afford any more trouble.” “We could always take Lord DaMaximus’ army to his home city, that would surely stop the two forces.” Bain chimed in. Here we go again… thought Dugal. +=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+= There was one other piece of intelligence from Bannihal that interested Dugal – it was an overview of the Legions of Xersia and what their current missions were. It also described their uniforms. He learned that even though there was a uniformed color for each legion, the armor and appearance of soldiers within the legion varied from company to company, and even squad to squad. Untitled-4 by skaforhire, on Flickr Untitled-5 by skaforhire, on Flickr
  19. An Order Divided (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 12) Previous Prelude chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 An Order Divided Thanks to Mike S. Who built these two awesome builds. Petitioning the Kaliphlin Council by -Mike S-, on Flickr Octo Vargood of Dunladeen was still hungry. That Small Council Meeting took it out of him. All the screaming, the Ulandians kicked out by Bain Ba’Elder, Bain Ba’Elder got slapped by Phlici Maderni, Kyban had to separate them, and all the while it seemed that everyone had forgotten Flagg was dead. Now he was at the emergency High Council meeting, and nobody could forget Dextrus Flagg. Seven long memorials read by various members of the council, even a poem was read! When he died, Octo just wanted someone to dump his body into the ocean and use their time to wine and dine on jumbo shrimp and the finest wine in the realm! Finally they had resolved to come back to the issue of Flagg later. The real reason for tonight’s meeting was Ulandus. Apparently, at Masa’s behest, the council was entertaining a group from the Knights of Aslan. Octo was not so interested in this, as he only cared about merriment and money, like any good Kaliphlin lord. He often thought these high lords had too many morals, and were not the quality of the generation before them – now those men knew how to turn sand into ducats. It was sad to know that Flagg, a master of the oil industry was no longer, but it also meant that Octo’s own holdings would grow with Flagg’s business out of the picture. Someone had done him a favor this afternoon. Octo despised non-humans, and he could smell the Leander before they came through the door. “I am General Leovetus, we come to you as friends, as allies, and look for your support against Lord Kral.” “Kral? Your order’s master?” Dugal said. “Yes, but in name only. He has begun to favor human members of the order above all others.” Leovetus said. Sounds like a good guy, thought Octo. Octo could see Kral’s representative, Lady Isabella, start to fidget. It looks like there may be more trouble at this council meeting. “Why in the name of Aslan, would we help you?” She finally said. The other lords looked at her sideways, it was not often that a proxy led a conversation in these higher meetings. “I suppose you will not support us Isabella, but I speak to the rest of the Council now, as I bring forth evidence that Kral has long been associated with Ulandus. I bring with me the Leander revolt leader, Bannihal.” Leovetus presented the hard-looking Ulandian to the council. Octo yawned. “Revolt?” asked DaMaximus, “Ulandus is not united?” “I am Bannihal,” Bannihal began. “And no, there are factions within Ulandus that fight against the First Centurion. We are one of them. For almost 220 years, Leander have been forced into slavery by the Ulandians. This is our punishment for the Leander Revolt.” He cleared his throat with a small roar. “I know that Kral has been associated with Ulandus for quite some time. You see, the elite guards of the First Centurion are in fact, Leander slave warriors. Most are his trusted guardians, but we have spies amongst them. They have seen Kral come to Xersia, the capital, and meet with First Centurion many times over the years.” “This is ridiculous! There was no way to get to this island before a few months ago!” Lady Isabella objected. Petitioning the Kaliphlin Council by -Mike S-, on Flickr “That is not quite true…” Duc LeStrange said. They all turned to the often quiet Councilor. “the Petraea General Trading Company has, for some time, been in contact with Ulandus. There is a small town on the west coast of the island called Wreckton, it used to lay outside of the Void Tide.” He looked around, just noticing he had the room’s attention. “Well, we didn’t know about a First Centurion, we just knew it was where some of our sailors ended up when shipwrecked. They also supply coal and Skyfruit. You all like skyfruit! Well, that is where it comes from.” He seemed to bow under the pressure of so many eyes upon him. “We were not going to give away the secret of our monopoly! None of you would either.” “Are you saying there is a way we could take a navy to Ulandus, and your pilots know this course?” DaMaximus asked. “Yes, but I know the town is bordered by mountains, I am not sure…” LaStrange was cut off by Bannihal. “It is possible, but there is only one road to the heart of Ulandus from Wreckton. Wreckton makes its own rules, and they stay away from the Centurions. The First Centurion allows them to live in obscurity. They are not important, but you would not be able to move troops from there. The ten legions would crush your forces. If your whole navy even got to Wreckton.” “Let us back up to Lord Kral.” Isabella interrupted. “While we are divulging trade secrets, I will admit, Kral has been to Ulandus, recently, but not for years! His dealings are the same as those with Varlyrio or the other guilds. The order has business everywhere. The order IS everywhere. He is only continuing the work of Bishop Jamon, Creator rest his soul.” There were a few repeated murmurs of the phrase amongst the council. Octo sniffed. Jamon had one good quality in his mind, he dressed well and made much gold. Petitioning the Kaliphlin Council by -Mike S-, on Flickr Isabella, who Octo had now decided to woo, he liked his ladies feisty, began a new course: “Now we can see what the real motive here is. Whatever cat Leovetus dragged in from Ulandus, it does not hide the truth here.” There were a few sighs, as the lady used the racial slur, cat, to describe a Leander. Feisty and arrogant indeed, Octo could already imagine his dinner plans. “ Leovetus is power hungry. He defies the order by leading its non-human members in rebellion against its anointed leader, Lord Kral. He has courted the Desert King, and for all we know, has already signed a pact with him. He has send his ambassador to Shadowmere, and met with Lord Vladivus to bring Nocturnus against the other half of the Knights of Aslan. This is no more than an additional power play. What is wrong, Leovetus, did the nightdwellers turn you down? Why are you really here?” Leovetus responded in a fierce tone. “This is absolute nonsense and slander. I have never had contact with the desert king. I have not sent anyone to Nocturnus. I am here on the subject of the Ulandians, whom Kral has at least allied with, and who are not here just to bring peace! I bring Bannihal as proof.” Now Phlici went on the defensive. “ You are wrong!” Octo liked Phlici, it was too bad that she had fallen for a Ulandian, her new status as a High Lord made her a suitable match for Octo. Maybe if Lat’ve had an accident like Flagg… Phlici continued, “ The Ulandians are here to rejoin with Kaliphlin, nothing more. Their two legions are here to help us. The First Legion, the Thousand Suns, have been tasked with rebuilding Kaliphlin after the Great Disturbance. Right now, they are out giving out food to our hungry and rebuilding our homes! The Second Legion, the Salamanders, are here to protect our borders and bring peace and order to the realm. With so much disaster, our troops are spread thin from slavers, raiders, invaders, and drow! We need our brothers from Ulandus and their troops in our time of need. There is no question that they should be brought into the fold and reunited with Kaliphlin.” She really had gained some confidence since Flagg died and made her queen of the northern something or other… actually Octo had never paid attention to whatever title Flagg was supposed to hold over this town or that town. He didn’t care in the slightest. “I agree,” Isabella said, “We have no proof that they are here for any other purpose than the one they say. We do have proof that Leovetus is a sniveling coward that is trying to backstab us all!” And with that outburst, Siedna, a newer member to the council herself, said “I put forth a motion to remove the proxy of Lord Kral from the council session. Her personal attacks are out of hand, with no evidence, and she is bringing too much hostility to the chamber. We all know where Kral’s opinion stands, we don’t need her here right now.” “Seconded.” DaMaximus said. “All in favor” Siedna said. About nine of the fourteen presence said “Aye.” Isabella got up and stormed out of the room. Octo saw an opportunity and followed her out. +=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+= Dugal had cautioned Phlici to hold her tongue in this meeting, but that had been ignored. She had tried to find holes in Bannihal’s story for some time now, but without luck. The rebel Leanders had taken the fight to the northern most cities of Ulandus, these cities were not under the direct control of the First Centurion, but were controlled by warlords that seemed to have a culture very similar to Southeastern Kaliphlin. They dressed similarly, they fought similarly, and they even ate some of the same strange delicacies as those Kaliphlinites across the Rakath Mountains. Bannihal thought that these northern cities were weaker, and that the ten legions rarely operated in the Northern cities. Still, the Northern cities were loyal to First Centurion, who they also addressed as Emperor. Dugal saw a problem at this juncture with this Ulandian plan for a “rejoining” to Kaliphlin. Kaliphlin was ran by a High Council, and this was even more true now that Flagg was dead. There was no direct leader, although they may have to elect a wartime leader if the Council takes a side in this war between the Ulandians and the Desert King. Dugal wanted to stay neutral. Bannihal was describing First Centurion at this point “He is tall, seemingly ageless, and has a pair of wings like an eagle.” The 1st Centurion by -Mike S-, on Flickr “So he is not human?” asked Gideon. “In every other way he is” Replied Bannihal. “Although he is immensely powerful, we know not if it is magic, natural ability, or something else.” “Tell us more about Ulandus, do they really have 10,000 troops? Ten Legions?” Asked DaMaximus. “More. Xersia alone has ten legions. The northern cities have at least 4,000 men at arms between the two cities. The Xersia is the guardian of the southern cities, so they only have a rudimentary guardian force.” Bannihal said. “Then there is the navy.” LeStrange nodded to this, apparently the PGTC had encountered the fleet of Ulandus before. The Leander continued to describe the throne room of First Centurion, the opulence, the grander, and the demand for total loyalty within Xersia and the other “sister cities.” It was clear that First Centurion ruled the whole island… making it hard again for Dugal to swallow letting five new high councilmen into Kaliphlins inner circle – considering rarely do 15 show up to meetings, this would give them a sizable voting bloc. And how many lower lords did they want to add to Kaliphlin’s ranks? The 1st Centurion by -Mike S-, on Flickr “The people of Ulandus are generally honorable, yet steeped in history. Whereas people of the mainland have forgotten the sinking of Ulandus, the children of the subcontinent know every story of the Great Breaking, and learn about the prophecies of the Rejoining. They have prepared 2000 years for this day. And I tell you, they don’t just want to be part of Kaliphlin, First Centurion means to rule.” Bannihal finished. The 1st Centurion by -Mike S-, on Flickr “This is nonsense.” Phlici said, “You are obviously scared from your time as a slave. We need a second opinion, if we just invited Lat’ve in here…” Bannihal cut her off. “Lat’ve is here?!? He is one of their highest intelligence officers! This guild hall could be crawling with Sand Wolf spies!” “Sand wolf?” Dugal asked. “The third legion is the subterfuge and spy arm of Xersia.” Bannihal said. “If Lat’ve is here, the First Centurion knows exactly what we are talking about.” He looked panicked. “I must go, my men are in trouble! I opened my mouth up about the spies to the wrong chamber.” He turned to Leovetus “You should have told me there were Ulandians in the capital, I fear this was a foolish errand indeed.” He turned and rushed out of the room leaving the Aslanic Leanders looking at one another in disbelief.
  20. Traitors at Trade Day (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 5) Previous Prelude chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Traitors at Trade Day sandsend by skaforhire, on Flickr sandendonmap by skaforhire, on Flickr Lady Phlici Maderni of Sand's End stretched as she exited the Crown Inn. This was what was left of the Maderni fortune, her husband, killed at Queenscross during the battle against Revolword’s forces, had spent most of it trying to rebuild Sand’s End and defend its people. Now, the current drought in southern Avalonia and Northern Kaliphlin left the region a ghostly semblance of its former self. All her money was tied up in this Inn, that nobody ever visited. She was still the Lady of Sand’s End, and she still sat on the Council of Lords of Kaliphlin, although her husband had once been a High Lord. However, by the look of today’s trade day, perhaps Sand’s End would no longer qualify for even a spot on the lower council. One the first defense against northern aggression, Sand’s End had lost that importance and the council money for defense, when Northwall – a smaller, yet more fortified town to the north -- was annexed over a hundred years ago. Now the guild soldier called that town home, and kept the borders safe from bandits. Except… they weren’t. The Revolword War, the drought, the Drow, and now the Great Disturbance had taken a toll on Kaliphlin. The council sent less money and soldiers to Northwall, not at all to Sand’s End. The Lord of Northwall, Pryor Rhodes, barely sent the troops at his disposal out on patrol, and now Avalonian raiders, Centaurs from the Cedrican plains, and sand bandits cropped up all over Northern Kaliphlin. Her own men, the few she could afford, had to stay within the formable walls of Sand’s End to keep order within the town – they could not be spared to save the countryside. The Trade Day was the most recent casualty to the ongoing troubles in the region. DSC_1540 by skaforhire, on Flickr DSC_1533 by skaforhire, on Flickr As she strode out the door she was met by her Clerk and Mayor, Ronalo Suarn, a Varlyrian immigrant. He was always asking her to tighten her wallet, or else “the city will surely fall without due frugalness.” Today was no different. “My lady,” he said without bowing, “The payment for the guards is overdue!” W “I know, you will find we have this month’s wages in the strongbox in the inn.” She walked past Stelvin Crow, the last farmer within her domain. Stelvin was still trying to sell his gigantic carrots, but everyone in Sand’s End was sick of Carrot stew. When she ignored him, he almost attacked Ronalo. “Sir! These are the best Carrots in all of Historica!” He shouted in the mayor’s face. She tuned them out and noticed a strange pale man bowing to her. She had never seen him before. She moved to talk to Olgie Artsonbrose, the local fine craftsmen and jewler. Every week he swore he was not coming back to the market day. “No customers worth a grain of salt! And I haven’t seen a ducat in weeks, so I would be happy to receive salt!” He claimed last week. She looked around the market, nobody had even rented the large wall stalls and many tables were empty of wares– this was getting bad indeed. DSC_1543 by skaforhire, on Flickr She finally noticed her one-eyed guard captain, Smaley Al’Green, behind her. He was her only bodyguard nowadays. Olgie’s wares were fine, but also the same wares she had seen last week… and the week before… and the week before that. It looked like he really hadn’t moved any merchandise these last few trade days. She turned to Smaley, “Do you know who the man with the funny hat was? Where is he selling from?” “M’ladee” he said in one drawn out word, “ I am’nt aquainted wit da place he claims to call home, Ulanta I think?” he cleared his throat, “ But there’s ‘nother merch from tha place too. He brings books.” Books? She thought, incredible! She had not had a new book in her hand since her last visit to Petraea. She next went to Nelva’s table. DSC_1545 by skaforhire, on Flickr Nelva’s pitch was new. “I’ve got what this town needs, a baby mummy! He is the son of the risen Desert King!” She exclaimed. “ Only 100 Ducats! Think of the power you will bring to this town My Lady!” IF Only Nelva knew that Phlici barely had 100 ducats left, and by the turnout today, it looks like nobody would be staying in the inn tonight, and the receipts from table and stall rentals will be almost non-existent. Instead of answering Nelva directly, she turned to Ronalo, who was still being harassed by Stelvin, and said “Check if Nelva has the proper permit to sell ‘mummies’ within Kaliphlin Borders.” Nelva breathed quickly, an audible snort and blurted “well, maybe it is not a real baby mummy.” Phlici moved on to the Avalonian selling wine and beer. She hated that the only trader making money today was from Avalonia. She knew that Kendrick had free passage from the Avalonian raiders who now controlled the Cedrica Road. The same raiders that have kept her from making the last two council meetings. She turned to Smaely and said “Make sure that we collect all the taxes from this one.” DSC_1546 by skaforhire, on Flickr She bypassed the funny man with the weird hat’s table, it was basic prettys, but nothing she desired, and moved to the book cart. DSC_1553 by skaforhire, on Flickr “Greetings M’Lady, a caped man with a hook said with a very heavy southern Kaliphlin accent. “Are you a fan of the great works? I have many indeed.” He gave her a quick smile, but she was already thumbing through the titles. Edwin Kalphrate’s Seven Great Battles of Kaliphlin --- first edition!!!! Kaliphlin Proverbs and other short stories, author unknown. 1001 Tales of Princess Ali’De Shek Curlzon’s Greater Plane of Existence Smaley interrupted her. “I don’t like his slave.” He whispered to Phlici. Smaley didn’t like slaves in general, and Phlici refused to let them be traded within the town limits as her own distaste for the institution was widely known. However, they were allowed to come into the city. She glanced over and noticed a Leander man staring down Smaley – He had many scars, and did look on edge. However, she went back to look at the titles. Finally she asked “ Where are you from?” “I am one of First Centurion’s subjects.” He replied. “Who?” “I am from Ulandus” She looked at him hard now. “The sunken city?” “Much more than a city my lady, and we were never sunk, just lost. But that has all changed.” He smiled. Well, wherever this fool came from, he had some great books – many that had dates of publication hundreds of years ago that she had not heard of! He glee was then interrupted as Smaley threw her to the ground. DSC_1555 by skaforhire, on Flickr From the copse of trees came a very quick man, Phlici could not get a good look, but she was fairly sure he was Avalonian. Smaley parried the man’s blows as the Leander Slave jumped in front of his master who hit the ground also. Before she knew it the would-be assassin was dashing away with Smaley in pursuit. DSC_1556 by skaforhire, on Flickr Ronalo grabbed her and got her back inside the inn, where they bolted the door – definitely not making any money today, she thought wryly to herself. choose by skaforhire, on Flickr
  21. Bring In Your Dead (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 8) Previous Prelude chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Bring In Your Dead (Special thanks to Jorrith here, who put this build together within 24 hours of me asking him to. All pictures in this chapter are his.) 364586b by 1, on Flickr Wuulin felt fear for the first time in a long time. Sure, he had been in the presence of undead before, but none as intimidating as Lord Vladivus, Lord Anfauglir, and Lord Mortis. Perhaps this was the reason his master, the Desert King Ark'Mora Raa, had decided to seek an alliance with them. He also knew his master hated the Black Spire. When he last roamed the earth, Nocturnus was part of Kaliphlin, and the source of the curse that allowed Raa to rise again in this present era. 364591 by 3, on Flickr He had brought two domesticated Sand Scorpions for Lord Vladivus, he had heard the lord had a taste for unique and interesting things, and he thought the rarest pet in Kaliphlin might catch the lord’s interest. He continued on with his speech “as you can see, my master wishes only friendship with you and your cause.” He directed his words to Vladivus as instructed, but knew that what he had to say was meant for all three of the rebellion’s leaders. “After Kaliphlin is firmly under the old dynasty again, her troops will be at your call for your final assault on the Black Spire. My master is very interested in a close alliance with a region he feels so akin to.” Although many Leander had joined the Desert King, Wuulin was one of the few that was still “whole.” Most had been afflicted with the mountain mummy curse, and indeed the mountain mummies made up the majority of Raa’s forces. It was only natural to make an alliance with the capital of the undead. Wuulin glanced up at Lord Mortis and Anfauglir, they seemed to be judging him, or maybe judging his cause. 364590 by 2, on Flickr Vladivus spoke in a calculated, cool tone. “Your offer is… intriguing. However, as far as we have heard, Kaliphlin already has a ruler, what makes you think that he will give up his place for the old Pharaoh?” “My master assures you that Flagg will be no obstacle.” Wuulin said. “Nobody has seen him in years. He has been a recluse since his sister was taken. The High Council runs Kaliphlin, and they are divided and weak. My master is confident he will be able to secure their loyalty within the month. They look and desire for leadership in this troubled time.” “And what of the Ulandians?” Vladivus said. “We hear there is another army within Kaliphlin.” “My master remembers when Ulandus was part of Kaliphlin, he remembers sinking their island after they tried to defy his rule!” he replied. “ It is a shame some of them survived, and their descendants found another island to call home, but the Desert King does not fear the Sea Peoples.” He quickly added, “perhaps they will see the error of their ancestors and pledge loyalty quickly, or maybe we will just sink their new island.” He thought he heard a chuckle from somewhere in the chamber, maybe the guard? “You have given us much to think about Ambassador Wuulin. No go, be a guest in Shadowmere, you will have your answer in a fortnight.” And with the Vladivus turned and left, leaving Wuulin staring at a guard. =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+ Lord Vladivus, Anfauglir, and Mortis discussed the new proposition. 364587 by 4, on Flickr “He could be a powerful ally against the Spire” Angauglir said. “But can we really divide our forces?” Mortis asked. “Who says we have to send him our best forces?” Vladivus replied. “All of us have followers that may be better off away from the action here, those we least trust, or those that may challenge our leadership.” “I am still not convinced that a full commitment should be made.” Mortis said. Angauglir concluded “So we speak more on this tonight, for now there are matters to attend to.”
  22. Previous Prelude chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Food Shortage Barqa is located far enough away from the epicenter of the large earthquake that struck Kaliphlin to have been spared the worst of the destruction. However, all along the usually fertile Arkbri valley crop failures have happened for mysterious reasons, leading to widespread food shortages and famine. This has caused food prices in all towns and cities dependent on that food to rise dramatically. Reports of riots have made their way to Barqa, where the emergency supplies in the city's granaries and it's strong city guard has been able to keep major riots from happen. The only resort for many of the citizens is however to wait in long lines outside one of the city’s granaries, where the city council has authorized the city guard to start handing out some of the supplies stored inside. A sizeable force of guards is deployed around the granary to keep the peace and make sure that everyone keeps in line. Unfortunately, some of this food ends up on the black market even though the punishments for such offenses in times of crisis are very harsh. As food gets more and more scarce throughout the land, Gideon and the other officials of Barqa are increasingly worried that a refugee crisis might be growing as the rumor spreads around Kaliphlin of the still filled stores of the city. The fear is that people will start to flock to Barqa from smaller places where the granaries, if any, are rapidly emptying... Citizens waiting patiently in line, or at least they know that they will get thrown out of the line by the stern guards if they try to step ahead... Is this guy happy because he knows that his family will have food for the coming days, or for the money he will get for the food his “family” has received for free?
  23. The Death of Flagg (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 9) Previous Prelude chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 The Death of Flagg “And then I ran, and the Drow assassin chased me, but I finally remembered an invisibility spell, which saved my life!” The Sorceress Nefrillia concluded. DSC_1617 by skaforhire, on Flickr Kyban Wh'Ali of Khar'dek, current Lord Protector in council almost looked sick to his stomach as he investigated the mess. Two dead mage professors at the University of Petraea on his watch, and the leader of Kaliphlin disappeared and assumed dead. Dugal pitied the man, Bain and other High Council members were going to have a field day with this when the High Council met tonight. DSC_1622 by skaforhire, on Flickr “Are you sure Dextrus did not make it through the portal safely?” Lady Kylee asked. Nefrilla replied with eerie confidence “ when the Drow attacked us, and killed Professor Parker, it sent a backlash through the ritual stone. Flagg had crossed the threshold of the gate and was completely dematerialized at the time. As the backlash came back to the gate there was a red glow, and then it spit out Flagg’s shield.” She sighed, “ I am sorry, he is just… gone. The magic must have ripped him into a million particles.” That was a disturbing thought… “and you say that he was trying to reach Kathyrin? I thought her dead?” Gideon asked. “Indeed, he had us switch the polarity of the artifact to try and travel to the underworld using the hole Dugal crawled out of last year.” Nefrilla answered. “Well, this is definitely his shield.” Bain said, placing Dextrus Flagg’s most recognizable possession back on the ground. Dugal looked around the large room in the University of Petraea's Sciences and Magic building, “How does a Drow assassin hide in a pristine white room?” The rest of the council looked just as confused. +=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+= An hour earlier… Dextrus Flagg seemed extremely giddy, and more excited than he had in months. Rolo Audek, Flagg’s bodyguard was not as happy as his friend and master. He and Barden Warwalker, a famed undead hunter, were about to accompany Flagg through some sort of gate to the netherworld. Kaliphlin scientists and mages just recently got the Simultaneous Transport and Retrieval gate to work between gates in Kaliphlin, now they wanted to go to new planes? However, Sorceress Nefrillia, Professor Parker, and Clemte E. Pilsin, adventurer mage extraordinaire, assured their guild leader that the gate was ready for interdimensional travel. DSC_1603 by skaforhire, on Flickr “So this will take us to the hole near Queencross that Dugal came out of? And then to the underworld?” Flagg asked again. “Something like that, but you are thinking of the Stargate too limitedly, it does not travel in a path, but in a straight line between planes of existence.” Said Parker, and he was immediately interrupted by Pilsin. “Yer mean STRgate. “And” cannot be in the acronym! It is a STR gate!” Pilsin chimed. He was pronouncing it like “stir gate” and it was clear that the two had gone through the semantics before. “That sounds terrible, it is stargate.” Parker said, the clearly more educated of the two. “STRRRRRGATE!” I build the ritual stone and was the first traveler through the gate, I get to name it.” He declared. “STRRRRGATE.” Flagg interjected. “I don’t care about the name, can you make it home in on Kathyrin?” “That is not how it works” Both Pilsin and Parker chimed in. Nefrilla was oddly quiet. Barden patted Flagg on the back, “That is why you have me, sir. I can find her, no matter where in the seven hells she is.” “There actually are not se…” Pilsin started, but Flagg cut him off. “Very well, let’s get this started.” The three mages gathered around the ritual stone and began to pour magic into the small ruby looking stone. DSC_1604 by skaforhire, on Flickr Soon, the gate began to glow and then a water like surface appeared within the circle. Dex2 by skaforhire, on Flickr Rolo took up his position at the front, climbed the ramp, held his breath, and crossed the threshold. It was cold and then the world went black. Dex4 by skaforhire, on Flickr +=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+= The first two travelers went through the Strgate. Pilson was overjoyed that other humans were finally getting to experience gate travel! Flagg was about to step in when Nefrilla said “Oh Flagg, you can’t take that shield!” Parker and Pilson both looked at their comrade with a quizzical glance, but she continued. “The silver plating will not pass into the next realm, it could kill you or send the gate somewhere else!” Pilson looked at Parker. That was not true, there was no metal that could not travel through the gate, at least that they knew of. However, before Pilson could find words, Flagg yelled “thanks!” ran down the ramp, put the shield down, and ran back up the ramp to dive through the strgate. dex0 by skaforhire, on Flickr As soon as he was through, Nefrilla immediately let go of her magical stream, and the portal winked out of existence. Pilson was unable to question her, for before he could speak a knife quickly flashed in Nefrilla’s hands. She stabbed Parker in the neck, and Pilson wet himself. He turned to run, and he heard her cackle with amusement. He may have got fifteen paces before he felt a cold object pierce his lower back. DSC_1612 by skaforhire, on Flickr He gulped. She turned the knife, and pulled up hard. He began to choke. So this is how his life ended, well it had been a good one, he had written books… lots of books… seen the rise and fall of many men and women who led historica… had even been the court jes… he closed his eyes. He knew he would not sleep forever, heck maybe he would even see Flagg on the other side. Dex5 by skaforhire, on Flickr
  24. Picking and Choosing (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 14) Previous Prelude chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Picking and Choosing Dugal and the other lords of the Small Council for Western Affairs waited for the Desert King’s emissary. The capital was still in morning, and many of the other High Lords were meeting with the lower lords in order to calm fears that Kaliphlin was falling apart. Dugal had to remind some people in his Small Council that Kaliphlin had for some years now been ruled by the High Lords, and that Flagg was more of symbol of Kaliphlin prosperity and rule than an actual ruler. Ten days had passed since the emergency meeting with the Leander. Since that time, the council had become more polarized. Lord Bain led the pro Desert King faction and Lady Phlici, new to the council, led the pro-Ulandus faction, most of the major lords – the real movers and shakers of Kaliphlin – were still undecided or had vowed to stay neutral. Dugal was amongst the later, and more and more he began to like the idea of sending a peacekeeping force to Western Kaliphlin to keep the two sides from fighting. Without announcement, in came the emissary. He was a strange man, with a face painted in Gold. He wore the old noble headdress that the Mountain Mummies were so fond of. He wore scant linens, and seemed naturally adapted to the mid-day Petraea heat. His staff seemed almost… alive. DSC_1523 by skaforhire, on Flickr “I am Ka’ha’ton, speaker for his greatness, Pharaoh of Kaliphlin, Ruler of Kaligem, Priest of the Sun, Ark'Mora Raa. I come to you to give you his terms.” The man said. “His terms?” Asked Gideon.” “Yes the Sun King declares that he shall take Flagg’s place as ruler of Kaliphlin. The council will report to him. He will lead the guild back to greatness. He will rule fairly, and you all will have his respect. He will take your council, but will hold final decision. For your sacrifice, he will protect Kaliphlin, he will nurture her back to her greatness, and he will see you all richly rewarded.” The ambassador proclaimed. “Best sales pitch I have heard all day!” Said Lord Bain. “How do we know that the Desert King can even deliver on these promises?” Dugal said. “For the Pharaoh has already began working on these promises. He has rid Kaliphlin of Drow in the short time since he has been back. The last Drow were hunted down three days ago.” The gold-faced man said calmly. “He honor’s Flagg’s memory through this deed.” Drowhunter by skaforhire, on Flickr DSC_1573 by skaforhire, on Flickr “I don’t that could be true… Those things breed like flies, and live in the same filth.” Dugal replied. “It is true, although Raa believes that Flagg’s assassin may have left guild territory, as none of the Drow he caught would confess to the murder.” The ambassador said. Dugal knew that any guilty drow that was caught would have bragged about the deed before being executed. Then again, he still was confused how a Drow assassin could have hid from Flagg in a totally white room… “This is interesting, as my eyes and ears have report and extreme lack of Drow in the East, and I had mentioned to Lord DaMaximus this occurrence, and he replied that no Drow had been in Mpya Stedor for weeks according to his messengers.” Gideon said. “Perhaps we can assume that the Desert King has been the partial cause of this?” The ambassador said calmly, “He is the complete cause of this abnormally. The Pharaoh wishes it, and it is done.” Interesting. Thought Dugal. He wondered how many men the Desert King had. The ambassador continued, and pointed to the maps on the table. “His Greatness has claimed Sultan’s Gate as his temporary capital until Kaligem is rebuilt. He will move to Petraea when the majority of the Council submits to his rule. He will lodge himself in this great building.” “Where will the council meet then?” Asked Lady Kylee. “You will meet here, at his invitation.” The ambassador continued. “He wishes you all to have a part in the reclamation of honor that he will lead in Kaliphlin. Although he will be your master, he is a gracious master, and will reward you all handsomely.” “Well, I’m sold. “ Bain stated, his voice couldn’t be more cheerful. “ All in favor of putting this proposition to the High Council, say aye!” His cronies confirmed his suggestion, but nobody else did. “We must think on this, Ka’ha’ton” Gideon said, and the ambassador left. =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+ The secret meeting was going well. DSC_1525 by skaforhire, on Flickr In the middle of the table, General Royce Ponce was detailing Ulandus’s plan for a new aqueduct to supply the Parched Lands and the Lick of Salt. It was a huge, expensive undertaking, but Octo was impressed with the plans. Not that it really benefited him much, but he did have a few oil wells in the Lick of Salt, and keeping workers alive and hydrated did have its benefits. The Ulandians, more specifically “first Centurion” was willing to pay the whole tab on the project to show good faith to the rest of the council. Octo really didn’t care if the Ulandians joined Kaliphlin, but he knew that there seemed to be more upside than drawbacks, even if the other High Councilors did not come to the same conclusion. So much trade could be had! He was surprised that Lord Bain had come to this meeting, and that Phlici was strangely absent… then again so was General Lat’ve, and those two were clearly an item. What a shame, she was so pretty and probably easily seduced. At least he believed so. The talk of gold brought him back to the conversation. “Yes, there will be a large share for each of you, and the low lords in this room will be raised to high lord for their support.” Ponce said. “How do you suppose that will happen, the whole council will have to vote on that. First Centurion could not control this.” Lord Octo said. “Were you not paying attention?” Bain said. “IF the Ulandians have to force their rights by fighting those who oppose their rejoining the guild, then there would rewards for the low lords.” Octo knew Bain could not be on board with this, he was too proud of being a high lord to willingly let others join the rank. In fact, Octo was pretty certain that Bain was only here to spy on the Ulandians for the Desert King. “So in conclusion, First Centurion offers his hand in friendship. The five high lords of Ulandus offer their embrace as brothers, and the Legions of Xersia will be at the council’s command for the upcoming attempt to put a king on the throne of Cedrica.” Ponce said. “We offer new aqueducts, new trade routes, our navy, and our expertise of the Southern Ocean. All of these will help grow Kaliphlin commerce to new levels.” He cleared his throat. “I believe our good will has already been shown. The Thousand Suns have rebuilt some of the Southern villages already. We have brought food to places struck with famine. We have provided military training for those who want to be able to defend themselves, and we have already given much gold to you all, and many of the Kaliphlin lords. It is time for the rejoining.” Thosand Suns by skaforhire, on Flickr DSC_1682 by skaforhire, on Flickr DSC_1686 by skaforhire, on Flickr =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+ Dugal confronted Bain in the Small Council room. He had thought that the council was meeting without all its members, and he assumed Bain had been the source of this break in procedure. He assumed that Lord Bain just wanted to muscle more low council members to his position, be it on the Sand King or on Eastgate. DSC_1530 by skaforhire, on Flickr “Why have you broken procedure? You know our small council is to meet as a whole.” Dugal said. Lord Bain smiled. “You think I called a meeting to sit down with the Ulandians?” Dugal had not known the Ulandian ambassador was back, and oddly enough Phlici was not in the city today. “I suppose not. Who called the meeting” Dugal asked. “I have no idea, I received a letter under the crack of my Inn room door this morning. It said to come here and meet. Whoever put the meeting together must know your position to stay neutral. You have been a steadfast supporter of the peacekeeping force these last few days.” Bain changed his tone, “how they did not know my opinion, I am not so sure.” “So you spoke against the Ulandus plan?” Dugal asked. “Of course not, they paid me well to sit in that meeting, and I was curious to what they were up to.” Bain said. “If you have noticed, their grain trains have even reached the gates of this very city.” “I have, although my messengers say that none of that food has made it to the Eastgate area.” Dugal replied. “That is because they don’t want to feed your army. They know you are competition, and one of the larger forces the council has. If your army starves, they will desert, when your army has dwindled enough, you will be forced to side with them. This is an easy strategy to spot, Dugal.” Bain said as if he thought Dugal had not thought of this already. “You finally made a sound move and brought some of your forces West for the peacekeeping mission, spreading your forces will help you feed them better.” As he said that last part, Dugal had a bad feeling. Bain never gave compliments. “Now that I have won the debate in the High Council over your use of Kaliphlin soldiers for your war of heredity, I think the bad blood between us should subside. I encourage you to listen to the Desert King’s offers. He is most generous, and he is a true Kaliphlin leader. I fear that if the majority of the council keeps upon this path of neutrality, we won’t get a say in our new government.” “Who said we needed a new government?” Dugal asked. “You are stuck in the past, McLean. Kaliphlin is headed for great things, and we need to choose the right ruler.”
  25. Falling Apart (Challenge IV Prelude, Chapter 11) Previous Prelude chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Falling Apart They immediately reconvened the small council, there were many matters to discuss with Flagg’s death looming over them. Dugal though that it would have been wiser if they combed Petraea for the other high lords to make sure no one else had been assassinated. However, the circumstances surrounding Flagg’s death did not sit well with him. Dugal knew a thing or two about being assassinated, and he figured that there just was something odd with the Sorceress’ story. DSC_1504 by skaforhire, on Flickr One of the reasons that they reconvened was because there were ambassadors from both Ulandus and the Desert King to see the council. Procedure said that these emissaries had to be invited by a High Lord to speak in front of the High Council, since both sets of emisarries were associated with low lords, they had to be introduced to a Small Council first. First up were the Ulandians, who were the guest of Phlici Maderni. But, High Lord Bain Ba’Elder would not yield the floor. “I believe this is even more evidence that we need to take troops from Eastgate and distribute them to the rest of the Realm. We should also make a formal request that Lord DaMaximus bring his troops back to Western Eastern Kaliphlin, where we now know the Ulandian threat originates from. They have assassinated our leader!” Bain was beginning to get into a bellicose raving now. Phlici got a word in. “The last I heard, it was a Dark Elf that killed Flagg. Not a Ulandian, unless you know something we don’t?” she paused, but laid it on him. “Perhaps you are associated with the killer? And, why would we talk about removing troops from the West, this is the Small Council for Western Affairs! What are you plotting at?” Bain was outraged. “You care challenge a High Lord? We all know where you loyalties lie, we know the stories!” Dugal threw a glance at Gideon to see his reaction; they had spoken about Phlici’s “closeness” to the Ulandians before this meeting. Sand’s End was important for protecting the border, and neither of the two high lords wanted to see Ulandians doing that protecting. DSC_1595 by skaforhire, on Flickr Gideon seemed lost in thought, he had just told the council about the grain shortage in Barqa – Dugal knew that part of the shortage was due to his army needing supplies over the last year. Everyone had been stretched thin. Phlici roared back “And we know that you have taken money from the Desert King! You are not neutral on this council either.” That made Gideon, Lord Octo(who had joined for this second session), Kyban Wh'Ali, and Dugal’s eyes bulge. Bain was taking money from the Sand King? She continued. “And I bow no longer to you, high lord. With Flagg’s Passing, his title of Guardian of the North Gate passes to my family, for he has no heir. I am your equal, but I suspect in reality, your better.” She smirked. For the first time that Dugal could recall, Bain was speechless. Kyban, in his slow Petraean drawl filled the silence. “You are taking money from the Desert King?” Bain quickly rebounded, and began to beat around the palm tree. “Do you know this famine spreads further than the Arkbri Valley? It is not only Barqa’s storehouses that flounder in this drought. Let me tell you the tale of Sin’ta-da’Leen. “ (Builds by Goliath – Thank you! ) Kaliphlin Challenge - Starvation by The Goliath, on Flickr) “The people of this village, that all of you have stepped through at one time, are starving. It has gotten so bad that food vendors outside the town will not bring their dwindling wares because of what happened two weeks ago. The populace so hungry that they had turned to eating their racing ostriches finally succumbed to the madness of hunger. “ Kaliphlin Challenge - Starvation by The Goliath, on Flickr “They became cannibals! Two weeks ago they attacked a food wagon and even ate it’s driver and “guards. Kaliphlin Challenge - Starvation by The Goliath, on Flickr “Money in their pocket, they couldn’t buy food! They couldn’t even wait to make a transaction. Clearly Madness reigns in the outskirts of Kaliphlin.” He cleared his throat letting some of the more squeamish lords try to keep their lunch down. “So, if I have entertained an offer from our former King, who promises stability, who OWNS one of the greatest legends of all Kaliphlinites, who has the money and the might to put together our salvation, is there really a wrong here? Are we bound to a leader, especially without Flagg being present for the last two years? How… how dare you ask me in an accusing tone if I took his money? We are Kaliphlinites, we seize every opportunity!” His cronies clapped. Clapped! Even Kyban seemed to nod to this logic and Bain’s tirade. But that was not all. Bain surely seized the moment again. “It is not just food shortages, and warlords, but slavelords are starting to emerge from the sands. We all signed Flagg’s pact, no Kaliphlin citizen shall be slave, and all slaves must be taken on raids outside of the Guild or from prisoners. Well, without might, without troops – troops that Dugal hogs in his precious war for inheritance – Kaliphlinites can’t travel the oil road without protection. The illicit slavers are bolder than ever, even coming into Petraea! We need strength. We need a king again. You all know your history, Kaliphlin was the most powerful nation in the world at one point, and we owned all of Historica! Cedrica was a sapling to our mighty Kaligem! And now, our great Pharaoh has returned, and you hesitate to throw up the old banners in support?” By Kai: (Thanks, Kai! ) kai by Kai, on Flickr Slave Gang by gid617, on Flickr Slave Gang by gid617, on Flickr Everyone began talking at once. Dugal lashed back at Bain, “Do you work for Petera? Why are you so keen on seeing Eastgate stay in his hands?” But, Bain probably did not hear it over the screaming from Kylee at Octo, who was making crass comments about how perhaps Kaliphlin needed a few more slave girls to spice things up. Kyban was trying to contact the guard about something. Gideon was speaking across the table to Ral’ai, a minor lord and Bain crony. Gais Elmore, awoken from his sudden nap, nearly slapped Bandari Milsion, for a reason Dugal could not determine. The council was breaking down. DSC_1513 by skaforhire, on FlickrDSC_1513 by skaforhire, on Flickr Then came a voice that was not of the council. “There are other means to order. Your Sand Prince, is fooling you. Take his money, and you will see it sift through your fingers like the substance he beds in.” Dugal turned to see Phlici bringing three men into the chamber. Ulandians… The one in blue armor, a man late in his forties, but still with distinguishing good looks spoke. “I am General Latrix Veringetrix, but my sand name is Lat’ve. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.” “Who said you could enter this chamber?” Bain cut of Kyban before he could do his duty and Lord Protector of the Council. “I did.” Phlici said. “These men are the ambassadors from Ulandus.” Although the man in the blue uniform was talking ,Dugal could sense that the one in red was in charge. “This is Captain Castrix,” she said motioning to the one in green, “and this is General Royce Ponce, the representative of the First Centurion of Ulandus.” DSC_1522 by skaforhire, on Flickr Ponce, in red, began to speak. “ We understand that we must be presented to the High Council by a high lord. Thus we seek one of the High Lords in this room to champion our cause.” “There is no need Royce, I am a high lord now.” Phlici said. “We seek another.” Ponce said coldly. Dugal watched as she pulled her hand off Lat’ve’s arm. Perhaps the Ulandians were not a keen on the lady’s quick love connection with their general. Dugal figured Phlici was not politically viable to them because of this romance. “So what do you want? Why do you come to Kaliphlin with armies?” Gideon said. DSC_1517 by skaforhire, on Flickr “We do not come to Kaliphlin, we are Kaliphlin!” Ponce began. “Our separation nearly two thousand years ago was because of the Pharaoh Ark'Mora Raa. He sunk the great mountain, and rose the Void Tide to separate us from our brothers and sisters in Kaliphlin.” Dugal had always heard that it was a volcano that sunk the island city of Ulandus. Most scholars at the university said Ulandus was a myth. “If he destroyed your city, how did you come to be today?” asked Gideon. “Ulandus is not just one city, it is a region the size of Or’loral.” Castrix replied. “Or’loral?” Kylee said. “Er, I mean Gorr. I think that is what you call it now.” Castrix replied. Gorr!?! That was a sizable island. “We seek to rejoin our guild, our people, and be equals once more. We want our cities to have representatives on the high council.” Ponce said. “How many cities are on Ulandus?” Dugal Asked. kaliphlin-south-east by skaforhire, on Flickr “ Five that would be considered High Lord status.” Ponce replied. “Five? Surely they are not all great cities?” Bain said. “Xersea, First Centurion’s Throne, is as large as Ancient Kaligem.” Lat’ve said. Everyone sat in silence for a second. Bain was the first to open his mouth. “The real question is, if the Desert King can sink cities, and you are the 2000 year old enemy of the Desert King, why would we side with you?” “Because the Desert King seeks to control you all, not live with you as equals. This is why he destroyed Ulandus, because we rose in revolt as our freedoms dwindled.” Ponce continued. “We are your natural allies. DSC_1519 by skaforhire, on Flickr