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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.