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  1. The setting sun blanketed the landscape in warm colors, making the ground appear to have twice as many colors as it did. Towering above the hills around it, a gatehouse stood solidly, it's ancient walls still standing firmly on the crest of a hill, high up in the Rakath mountains. Beneath it, clustered within a small vale, sat the small village of Estolad, the traditional holding of the Navabi family. Adira strode down the path leading to the gate of the castle, lost in thought. Beside her walked Mardil, a retired esquire to the house of Navabi, and keeper of the family Histories and Genealogies. Adira glanced at him, taking in his gray beard, his trim, healthy body, and his firm gray eyes. He walked purposefully, with the measured step of one who has been to both King's courts and pitched battles. He held his head high, as one who has nothing to be ashamed of, but one who was equally ready to give his respect to others, as long as they respected him. Adira turned toward him, and he stopped, his eyes focusing on hers. Adira paused, slightly uncomfortable under his piercing gaze. “So, I assume there is a reason you sent for me to aid you, instead of someone you had more ties to? I don't believe I have ever met you before...” She trailed off, unsure of what to say next. “Ah, but I have heard of you, even if we have not met.” The Historian said. “You are one of the few effective High Council Guerrillas known to me, and when I learned of the Desert King's plans to remove the Histories under my keeping to their capital, you were the first person I thought of. Does that explain things?” Adira wasn't quite convinced. “But if you wished merely for High Council protection, why did you not send to Berigora, or some other, nearer, High Council outpost? I was weeks away from you, while soldiers from Berigora could have arrived in half that time.” Mardil stared past Adira, lost in thought. Suddenly he turned and started walking down the path again, away from where Adira's troops were, along with the captured Desert King soldiers. Adira fell in next to him, and for a while there was silence. Finally Mardil looked up again, his eyes thoughtful. “I have decided to tell you something, something I vowed never to tell you, but that I can not in good conscience keep from you, especially with you in the midst of such a war.” Adira's palms began to sweat, and she stared at the older man's face. Apparently he knows more about me then I thought, she thought. Perhaps he can even tell me why my father was targeted... He turned, and his eyes were sad. “I called you here because you are the only remaining member of the Navabi family that supports the High Council.” Adira stood rooted to the ground, her mind reeling. I am a Navabi? That's who my true parents were? So that is why My adopted father would not tell me who my parents were! The Navabi House is one of the most ardent Desert King supporters of all the houses of Kaliphlin! Except for that one Ulandian raider, and myself, there is not a single Navabi known to be anti-Desert King. Adira hardly knew what to say. “How... how did you know?” “Simple, I was the one who gave you to Magdeburg. Or his deceased wife, to be exact.” Mardil, paused, as if unsure if he should continue. “You see, your parents were not interested in any female progeny, and they already had three heirs, so when I offered to “do away” with you, they didn't ask questions. Thus you came into Magdeburg's household.” Adira tried to take it all in. “So it was just luck that I came to the Magdeburgs?” “I have lived more then half a century in these lands of Historica, Adira, and I have yet to encountered such a thing as 'Luck'.” Mardil said. Adira didn't bother with a rebuttal. “So, how does this effect me?” “How does it effect you?” Mardil smiled widely. “You are now the rightful heir to the village of Estolad, as far as the elders, myself included, are concerned.” He turned, gesturing toward the castle. “This is the Navabi castle, and that,” he moved his hand in a general sweep toward the village, “is the holdings of the Navabi family, which have now come to you, under the direct decision of the Council of Elders, with general support from the inhabitants of the village.” Adira stared at the castle, her mind still trying to comprehend what she had heard. I am the Lord, or Lady, of a village! Granted, a small village in the middle of the Rakath mountains, but still... I wonder how my relatives will take this... Adira glanced at the smiling Mardil. “My parents won't like it, or my siblings.” “They are powerless without the support of the people, or without some external force,” the Historian answered confidentially. “And why would the Desert King bother sending a force here, when he has so many other things to worry about?” “I'm sure that, being out of the way, you are not as informed, but if you haven't noticed the Desert King is winning this war, despite anything we can do to stop him. If the rumors are true, then he has even conquered the capital of Ulandus! It is only a matter of time before he will be at the very gates of Eastgate, Barqa, Berigora... He has already taken Queenscross, and is fighting for Petrea. It will only be a matter of time before he will destroy us!” Adira didn't mean to say it that vehemently, but it only reflected the bitterness in her heart. Mardil's face grew serious, and his posture more stiff. “The Council would not have decided on this, if it were not for good reason.” He turned to Adira, and for a moment she thought she saw a glimmer of tears in his eyes. “I... I have seen what the Desert King does to 'insurgents' and 'law-breakers', especially when the executors of justice are people like your parents and siblings. Believe me, we of this village do not want our children growing up under such tyranny!” Adira nodded slowly. “So you are ready to endure any hardships that such a rebellion would entail? The destruction of war, starvation, death of loved ones?” She searched his face for any sign of hesitation, of unnerve. The Historian raised his chin, his jaw set. “We knew what we would have to face. We are not about to back down. There may be some still loyal to the Desert King*, but the rest of us will fight to the death for the sake of our liberty, and our children's liberty.” Adira paused. They can not know what they are getting into, all the suffering that will come upon them by their decision... but would it make a difference if I abandoned them? No, if the look on this man's face is any indicator, then they will not back down, whether I help them or not. Adira nodded. “Then I will help you, as best as I may.” A smile of pure joy spread across the older man's face. “I Can not thank you enough. The village can not thank you enough. I shall inform the elders immediately, and then we shall gather all able bodied men immediately!” Adira shook her head. “No. We can not defend this village in our present state. I must first go to Berigora and gather a sufficient force to defend this place, along with weapons for those of the villagers who wish to fight. You must lay low for a few a week, or several weeks, until I can get back. While I am gone, determine who is on your side, and who is not, and start stashing food away in this fortress, for the defenders, and in the hills, for the non-combatants*. I shall get back as soon as I am able.” Mardil looked slightly disappointed, but he nodded. “Bring back as many weapons as you can, and as much food as possible as well. I shall inform the village elders.” With that he turned and started off at a brick trot toward the road leading to the village. Adira frowned. Who do these people think I am? I am only human. The Desert King, on the other hand... But I can not leave them to their fate. If this is to end in blood, then we shall all bleed together! To be continued... The build. This is one of my larger (good) builds, about 48x48, as I really wanted to secure this one spot for future story. *notes: I would appreciate if anyone countering this would not do anything with my characters (Adira and her Guerrillas, and please don't kill off Mardil), so I included these to note possible ideas for counters. “Anyone with ears{/eyes}, let them hear!” The interior. I know the doors protrude a bit much, but it was the best I could do, seeing as they are plumb up against the inner workings of the round tower (see this: https://www.flickr.com/photos/112401269@N03/13682466383/in/dateposted/, and this: https://www.flickr.com/photos/112401269@N03/13707179664/in/photostream/, to get the basic jist of how I did it, though it was tougher since it was a smaller size). Hope the doors don't mar the results too much. Anyhow, hope you enjoyed the build, and if you didn't read the story, go and do it now, since it is definitely better then the build. Soli Deo Gloria & Sola Gracia!