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  1. 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.
  2. A DK soldier and two Goblins from the Rakath capture a scout.
  3. Lord Vladivus

    Making Alliances.

    After the visit from the emissary of the Desert King, Lord Vladivus sent Lady Sithanna to Kaliphlin to work with the Desert King. She has met with one of the Captains of the Desert King, Amrah Set. The meeting takes place in Amrah's personal chambers. Amrah: "Greetings Lady Sithanna. The Desert King rewards those who serve him. We have captured some Barquan Soldiers. We request your aid in delivering an ultimatum to Sir Gideon." Lady Sithanna: "Hail and well met. We have heard of your successes, and would endeavour to bring Sir Gideon into our fold, despite his position of neutrality on the Council. My scouts have also spotted Ulandian soldiers making their way through the Nestlands area. I am expecting a report from them imminently." A freebuild to show Sithanna making alliances with the Desert King, she will be my Sir-Brick-a-lot in the Challenge.
  4. Deep in the Nestlands, Lady Sithanna has sent her elite Blackroot Manbats to attack the Ulandian forces there. Fighting is fierce amongst the ruins of a temple to the Armoured Eagle Goddess. A Leander sub-species, the Leoparder are fierce warriors allied to the Ulandians. My entry to the Nestlands skirmish. C+C welcome!
  5. 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
  6. 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?
  7. 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.”
  8. 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.”