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Found 16 results

  1. Louis of Nutwood

    Rise of the Baiamontes (Full Story)

    Beware! This is a heavy reading topic. A cup of hot beverage is advised. This story was written for Book III: Challenge V, Category B (Baiamonte Family, in Varlyrio). For each individual (concise) part, go to: Part I, Part II, Part III Happy reading. Rise of the Baiamontes By @Louis of Nutwood, @Gideon and @Henjin_Quilones A yellow orb of fire rose from under the blue mantel that divided water and sky to warm the face of land, wake the common folk, and put the isle in the middle of the sea to stand and meet the new season. From its study, The Rego snorted in satisfaction to hear the clatter of iron against wood as his guards, woken before the break of light, practicing the art of swordsmanship, as they did religiously every morning. This day, though, marked an anticipated time for both the Rego and the military force that supported and protected his kin, for on the first day of summer, when the sun was at its peak, the younglings, apprentices of the Varlyrian army, would be reckoned as men of the realm, called forth to swear their vows and win the honor of wearing the gold and white armor that made them protectors of the Isle. After 28 years in the military, Gen. Juan Rojas Baiamonte had attended the Ritual of Recognition on its every occasion since his youth. And for the past 16, upon being promoted as General after his late father Miguel Villaroya Baimonte, he was the one person that placed the golden blade of the Ancestors upon the shoulders the youngling soldiers, erasing their past and turning them into men devoted to a life of servitude in the army. In 28 years, Gen. Juan R. Baiamonte had faced the most difficult voyages, the most threatening battles, the most fearsome enemies. He had been to the Battle of the Seas, the Envoy to the Swollen Caves, even to the War of Famine, up in the continent, where soldiers have claimed to see winged beasts spitting fire from the sky. But none of these battles made Juan as uneasy as he was this day, for in the crowd of younglings that waited in a sea of anxiety to proclaim their loyalty, one boy with wavy brown hair and innocent eyes stood to him the most. As happened to Juan, it happened to Miguel, his father, and his grandfather before him, and after generations leading the Special Forces of the Army of the Isle, the Baiamonte family took the pages of history as the most cunning strategists and fearless warriors. At the age of 8, every child was to be separated from its family, stripped from all its possessions, deprived from all its comforts, and sent to live in a monastery amongst nature and other children. From youth, they would learn how to wield a sword and hold a spear, to raise a shield and perry a blow, to use hand-to-hand combat and to use nature on their favor, to trust and protect their brothers and to never give their backs to an enemy, to move, feel and think as a unit and to become a deadly weapon individually, just as much as in a group. To fear nothing but fear itself. Strength. Consistency. Trust. After years under observation and constant training, the younglings that showed capable of partaking military action, were gradually moved to battalions and frontlines to care, and learn from operative soldiers that fought for the realm and defended its sovereignty. This day, Gen. Juan Rojas Baiamonte would welcome the little younglings to their new life. This day, Juan, the little boy that was taken from his family and grew to become the most respected general in Varlyrio would welcome his only son to a new life filled with honor and responsibility. Juan could not be prouder, and he could not be more eager to once again, meet his only son Rufus. Banners flapped as the bright sun was at its peak. Lined in a trail were the younglings – some had not a strand of hair on their newborn faces – with puffed chests and clenched jaws. On their flanks, battalions of soldiers stood motionless with their spears stuck on the ground, rugged as a chain of trees. The Rego stood form his carved chair and raised his hands facing the young soldiers. General Juan Rojas Baiamonte was at his right and fell to one knee as the crown did the same. “All your past... is dust. Your family, your heritage, your mistakes, your achievements. Dust. All your future... is sand. Words in the wind. A blank page in the unknown. Sand. All there is... is now. This day, here. And this day... you are reborn! Raise, and face me in the eye. Look into my soul and pray. Who are you?” The line of younglings raised from their knees and punched their chests with fisted hands. “Ahooo! Ahooo! Ahooo!” General Juan Rojas Baiamonte left the Rego’s side and took the lead, unsheathing a golden blade from his scabbard and pointing it to the sky. Juan once again repeated the vows that bound him and every man to the Varlyrian Army together and brought his son closer than ever. … A great caravel of five masts had just docked over the harbor, following a hundred merchant ships from Avalonia, a thousand barges from Kaliphlin and countless fishing boats from Mitgardia. Over the past few years, the port area had become impassable, filled with people from all over Avalonia coming and going, trying to make a living. A welcoming place for thieves and robbers, as well as for those who envisioned a new start in a distant world. Recognizing the opportunity to develop political relations with the other guilds through trade and commerce, The Rego invested in the expansion of Varlyrian ports and established major trading routes with the continent. The recent alliance brought interest and curiosity to the Isle, as more and more people started to travel across the sea. The travel from the continent took several days and the investment in such endeavors were of great cost, so the regent Queen Ylspeth demanded the taxes on Varlyrian ports to be lowered, greatly impacting the Rego’s revenue. The Isle’s council settled, acknowledging the benefits of a larger circulation of foreign fleets, but consumed by greed, projects of exploitation were implemented to support commerce and dazzle the newcomers. Up in the Ridge Mountains, an interconnected chain of caves and tunnels opened and kept by the Island Dwarves gave way to an extraordinary route of rare gems, runes, and stones that overwhelmed the travelers with their beauty and stunned them with stories of their magical capabilities – some could heal, some could entice a loving person, and one other that was greatly searched for, they said was able to revive an old man’s vigor. Amongst all the riches in the Isle, these gems brought the wealthier lords known throughout the seas to spend their gold in the foreign lands. Exploitation in the mines had grown exponentially, from authorized groups as well as from prospectors from far beyond, and before long, the frozen Dwarven cities that were once calm and deserted, became packed with unwanted foreigners. It was called The Age of Exploration, and with it came robbery, depravation, smuggling and general chaos to the familiar streets carved on stone in the face of the mountains. Never have the Dwarves worked as much, pushed as hard and lived inside the rock for so long. Under the Rego’s order (pressured by countless lords and kings), new mines were opened daily, swept of all its riches and treasures, and left for the wolves to claim nests. The Varlyrian Guard was sent to rule the harbor and the supplies descending the mountains, and battalions took turns by the entrance of every human city in the Isle. But the army’s efforts of control were effective just to a point, until smugglers found a new way to do business and exploit both the Dwarves and the mountain. It was getting out of hand. General Juan knew it as much as the Rego. … It was common during summer for the days to be hot and dry, and as the sun started weakening, a damp breeze would swamp the streets, foretelling an expected summer rain to wash away the stickiness on people’s skins. That night, as water fell from dark skies, the Rego woke to the sound of horns being blown by the harbor, as an endless queue of ships and galleys had formed. At his chamber door, the Councilor stood soaking wet in his silken robes. “Your Highness, our ports operating way beyond capacity. The ships refuse to leave their ways as, apparently, their requests for precious gems and stones have not been fulfilled. There is a riot at the harbor and - “ “Unfulfilled? Well, can’t they leave with what they have?”, replied the Rego, grabbing a golden goblet and filling it with Kaliphlian wine. “Your Magnificence, their orders have been paid in advance. We collected their payment, but lack the product, and more ships are docking”, said the Councilor rubbing his hands together, each time more curved on his own belly. “Our supplies have been cut, your Greatness” The Rego peaked out his window and saw the flickering orange of the flames lighting the foot of the mountain, where the first Dwarven City was erected, and dwelt the Dwarven King. “Fetch me a horse, Councilor, and inform General Baiamonte I need his men ready” … The damp summer wind and the refreshing rain were long past, as in the foot of the mountain blew the of the glaciers that ran over stoned corridors before howling loose on the mountain’s scars. General Juan Rojas Baiamonte rode his brown stallion covered in crimson and gold, his scabbard kicking on the horse’s back. Behind him, other twenty men covered in boiled leather and plate, amongst which, rode Rufus, his son, weaving the white and golden banner of the guild. By the foot of the mountain, at the entrance of the first Dwarven City of Derem’tor, stood a gathering of shrunken men with thick beards that covered most of their faces, handling oddly large axes and hammers. “To what I owe the pleasure of meeting you in our town, Rego?! I was told you were not so fond of a little chill” said a bald Dwarf behind a red fuzzy beard covering his cheeks and chest. “You made quite the fuzz down at the docks, Rhloder. You know the docks? It is where those big turtles float over the water and bring the coin that buys the equipment and protection you are so affectionate about, but seem to have forgotten”, replied the Rego. “You are the one who seems to have forgotten, Rego, that unlike your garments and fancy pants, some things in this world have an end. Patience, for one. And your precious stones, Rego. I needed not have come to this. All we asked was for you to regulate the trade of gems, raise tax in the savagery you call your ports and keep those brutes off our mountain. But since you chose to ignore all my pleas, and since you do not listen to reason, I hereby declare that all the mining operations from this point on, are ceased”. “Ceased? On what grounds do you think – “ “You have been warned! Many a time. You cannot expect us to pick, drill and dig forever. There is a limit to where we can go, a limit to where our tools will reach. But we are past beyond that. To a point that we are losing lives and families to the mountain. The tunnels, they are treacherous and deceiving, collapsing each time we advance and take what is not ours. We cannot go further. Not like this. This is where we live. In here, carved under rock and stone are our homes. But the more we dig, more we are threatened. The mountain is turning against us, Rego” “This is nonsense, Dwarf. Mines collapse! Deal with it and move someplace else, but you must not, by your own will, terminate an established agree – “ “Agreement?” the dwarf smiled sympathetically, his hands over his belt. “You don’t understand, Rego. The mountain is alive. It has manifested. We can move, aye, but the mountain will stand against. Let it heal, Rego. Let it rest. Let us reestablish our connection to the Gods and nature, so we can all live another day. Or else, push through, and madness and death is all you will see” The Rego moved his horse across the snow, reaching closer to the line of dwarves. “Is this a threat, Dwarf?” “It is. But it is not coming from me”, Rhloder turned and looked up to the mountain before disappearing in the snow. … On the morning of the next day, General Juan Rojas Baiamonte left his barracks leading a group of twenty soldiers and thirty prospectors to the Ridge Mountains. The group found no resistance to enter the Dwarven City of Derem’tor, or when reaching the Mines of Rhangvar, a complex of interconnected tunnels with its wooden oaken doors, distributed on the face of the mountain like shut and blocked frames. Galloping towards the summit, the wooden doors to the mines became larger and longer, suggesting that the riches were broader on the mountaintops. But, in front of every door, from the bottom to the top of the mountain, dwarfs lay on the ground and over the white mantel of snow. Some wounded, some unconscious, some too tired and sick to even lift a pick or axe. Yet, they stood to prevent anyone from entering the mines. The last entrance, on the higher part of the mountain was marked by a stone sculpture of a dwarf holding a sword pointing to the ground, covered in a dabble of white flakes. Rhangvar – the dwarf god of prosperity. The stairs, carved in the face of the mountain led to a set of wooden doors engraved with iron spikes, so tall that reached the skies and disappeared on a frigid grey fog. On the foot of the stoned dwarf were the markings: Mines of Rhangvar. General Juan R. Baiamonte jumped aside of his horse and walked towards the set of stairs. He was met by a runt and stocky man, his nose thick and red from the cold, a brown beard covering his chest. “I would think again if I were you, brother”, said the short man, presenting himself. “I come in the name of the court and Your majesty, the Rego, with the order to reestablish all mining operations this instant and put an end to this folly of a strike. Shall you refuse, I am aloud to use force, seize you and your supporters for disobedience, revoke your right to housing and share of land in the Isle. Resist and I will put you to the sword. I am ready to substitute you and your kin with a more qualified manpower, if need be, in order to reestablish trade and commerce with our partners, and–“ The short man listened attentively, not giving a blink, and not showing a sign of resistance. “Well, go on...” “... Our partners, and don’t try to impede me, dwarf. I will use force against you and any pygmy that lay hand on my man”, snapped Gen. Baiamonte. “I see no need to do so, sir General. But I do sense you misinterpret the situation, sir. This is no strike. We wish to work, aye. We want no stress with the crown, no. Sire, we were kicked out of the mountain, you see. It is no safe to enter, no safe at all. Under no circumstance we are aloud to enter this mountain while that thing remains torturing our very heads. No, sir”, the dwarf explained as if sharing an ale with the general. “You mock me, dwarf?” “Mock, sire? You do not... I lost many a man to this mountain. This is no mocking subject” “Then get your gear, gather your men and start picking”, the General tossed a picking axe to the dwarf’s feet, that poured snow when landed. “I... I cannot, sire. I fear for me life. You all should. The creature inside does not joke. You can point your blade at me, take me head if you like. But if I enter these doors, I’m as good as dead” “Creature, you say?” “See for yourself, but I advise you not to wake the spirits of the mountain. Hear its roar, and you will shit your pants to death. It is not a pretty sight to die in loaded trousers, specially trousers as fine as yours, sire” “Leave my sight, dwarf”, said Juan, as the stocky man started his descent. At the base of the tall wooden doors, Gen. Juan and his men lifted the beams blocking the mine’s entrance. Thirty miners trembled in the cold of the Ridge Mountains, anticipating the intensity of a day’s labor, and questioning if the rumors of the mountain that lived would prove to be true. Rufus Baiamonte closed the envoy, as the last guard to lead the group into the mountain. Before entering, Juan put a hand in his son’s shoulder. “I need you to return to the Rego and report our triumph. His supply of gems will be reestablished. Alert the merchants and return with wagons. This folly ends today” “Father, -“ “I will not hear. Bring me those wagons and we will talk on the morrow. You are dismissed”, said the general bending his head. “Just be careful, sire”, whispered Rufus, but the General was too far away, heading to the tall wooden doors. ... The journey back to the bay took the whole morning and a large part of the afternoon. Rufus gathered a chain of forty wagons and needed over a dozen men to carry them through the frigid frost on the mountain’s backbones. After a day, the march reached the first Dwarven City, but Rufus fell out of place when he saw the city was deserted, and no man or dwarf lingered in the gates to welcome their arrival. Footprints deformed the snow uphill, showing the direction of a possible getaway. But then, he sensed the smell. A rotten and warm smell that pierced the throat and thickened the spit. Something burning. Rufus abandoned the empty carts and with a kick in his horse, bolted like and arrow through the trail of mines. The narrow paths, once vivid with merchants and miners was now dark and lifeless, as if a curse had swiped all souls from the face of the mountain. Closer to the summit, the stench of smoke turned harder and ticker. The horse’s gallop lifted brown snow into the air, his breath frosting on his nose. Up in the mountain, Rufus glimpsed the stoned sculpture of Rhangvar, the Dwarf God. Behind it, a wall of black smoke circled the mountaintop and embraced the set of stairs that led into the Mines of Rhangvar. The skies darkened and the ground shook. Fear lingered in the air, almost sensible to the touch. Rufus approached the entrance of the mine and finally, between deserted trails and pines covered in snow, he found his comrades. Some unconscious, others wounded, they lay on the snow, panting, and gasping for breath after being pushed out of what could have been their coffin. At least they are safe now, though Rufus. The boy meandered through bodies and trembling men, overwhelmed by the commotion. Between familiar and unfamiliar faces, Rufus saw the fear in his brothers’ eyes. All the years of training, all the quests in the forest, all those nights unslept with spear in hand, not even that was enough to keep them from shaking. Whatever they saw inside the mountain, Rufus did not want to share. But amongst all men, the boy searched for only one familiar face: his father’s, but that one was nowhere to be found. Up in the distance, fading in the freezing mist, the silhouette of a dozen men was drawn against the orange glow of the setting sun. Their bodies thick in width, but plain in height, were the last reminiscent of those who once populated these frigid settlements, now disappearing in the fog, as if leaving a prey to die, running away from judging eyes. “What happened here?”, asked Rufus, reaching a soldier that struggled to remain on his feet. “The mountain... the creature... We were massacred. We tried to run away, but these tunnels are so mischievous, they... I though it was my time. I saw my final moment in those flaming eyes...”, the soldier babbled and sunk his head on his hands, sobbing. The smell of smoke, burned meat, coal and ashes remained in the air, scraping Rufus’s throat, and painting the white mantel of snow with a soft veil of black dust. While the soldiers regained their feet, and assembled to leave this damned mountain, Rufus noticed that many of the miners and soldiers were still missing. “Where are the others, brother?”, asked Rufus to a red-haired officer whose clothes were torn and tainted with blood. “Some did not make it, comrade. The cave just... fell apart. When that thing... woke... Hell, I just ran. Some were fool enough to stay behind and buy us time to flee. But they couldn’t stand a chance” “What was it, brother?” “It was big, black. Like a giant snake, its eyes were flaming orbs. And its teeth... Hell, it was true, boy. It was just... all true”. The soldier looked away from Rufus and let out a long and lasting breath that covered his face in a freezing cloud. “The general... your father... he is a hero, you know. If it wasn’t for him...” Rufus did not want – or need – to hear any further. Despite his efforts to enter the mine, the doors were locked shut from the inside. The guards were too wounded, fragile, simply uncapable to even get near the mines, what could have been their final moments. Rufus glanced at the mountaintop, where midget silhouettes sketched the horizon, but there only remained the thin orange line of the final hours of the day. In silence, Rufus promised the gods he would have his revenge. … A flaming arrow crossed the night sky and landed on a pile of straw and sticks, lighting the dark path to heaven, where the souls of the fallen heroes would spend the rest of their days. The Rego closed the ceremony in respect to the deaths in the mines of Rhangvar naming Rufus his first lieutenant, and awarding him the star of honor, for the 28 years his father serviced the realm. A golden star the size of a cantaloupe with a striped fabric of crimson and white, to represent the blood and devotion of the ones who gave their lives to save their brothers. The following morning was grey and windy. The Rego remained on his chambers, while Rufus stood at his door for most of the day, expecting an opening for an audience. When he finally opened his door and called for the soldier, the Rego served two full glasses of red wine and sit by the balcony, where he could observe the canals and the Bay of Merchants, one of the finest districts in Varlyrio. “Your father was a brave man”, said the Rego. “One of the best”, Rufus bowed his head in a sign of respect. “Your Highness, I come to tend for different matters. I have reason to believe the Dwarves are plotting against your crown. I have reason to believe they are behind the events on the Mines of Rhangvar, where the lives of our men were taken” “This is a bold assumption, Lieutenant. Why should I-” “I saw it with my own eyes. Rhloder, the King of Dwarves is the responsible for my father’s death. His men flee the mines the moment I-“ “I will not accept it”, The Rego answered sharply. “Your Holiness, we did as you commanded and took the mines, but we were cowardly trapped and attacked under their-“ “Lieutenant, do you see these vessels trapped in the ports of our Island?”, Rufus did not answer. “I have promised to all of them an unimaginable amount of gold and jewels and stones and gems, capable of turning simple men into sons of gods. I relied on you, my most reliable men, to reestablish these supplies. Now tell me: where are my precious gems?” “Your Excellence, we were cravenly attacked!” “I asked for the completion of a simple task, and instead, you turned this into a bloody mess”, the Rego got up, filled another cup of wine, went to his desk, and searched for a parchment. “You have proven me that you chimps are uncapable of doing anything beyond waiving your swords and spears and looking strong. You are asking me to run against the only capable creatures of doing what we need, which is to explore our mines and regain our wealth”, the leader of the Isle opened the parchment and showed the signature at the bottom of the fabric. “The Dwarven King has just signed a treaty. Our stones will be restored in no time. More taxes, yes, but I do not expect you to understand any of my business” Rufus balanced the cup of wine in his hand, from which he did not take a sip, measuring his next words. The image of the dwarves fleeing from the flaming mines that trapped his father and took his life remained vividly in his mind. His promise faltered in his mouth with the known taste of blood. “At least let me fetch my father’s remains...”, the words felt unnatural in his throat, “... your Magnificence”. “To let you go back to the mountains and run the risk of you slicing the throat of my most recent commercial partner?”, The Rego snorted a suppressed laugh. “Don’t think me a fool, boy”, he looked outside once again, admiring the grey fog dancing over the canals. “Yet, the reports say the city has been abandoned, I see. And I am an understanding leader. You have your right to have your family, boy. And I respect that”, he swallowed the remaining half of his cup in large gulps. “Don’t make me regret this. Out.” The boy left the room glistering with golden ornaments without bowing to his superior. … The cold wind of the mountains felt less uncomfortable in Rufus’s back, he noticed. After days of expedition up and down the mountain, he could have been more accustomed, or it could be his blood was warmer with rage. The smell of smoke softened during the past week and there had been no more reports of attacks or suspicious activities in the mountains. How convenient. Slowly and carefully, miners returned to their duties, as the ships in the harbor departed one by one. Rufus trotted passed the Mines of Rhangvar. It was no use trying to enter – the doors were sealed and not even twenty men would suffice to force his way in. He would have to enter a different way. Rufus continued his journey across the mountain, up to the second Dwarven City, then the third. Mehlid’ravn was fortified with wooden watchtowers and stoned walls, barricaded with carefully sharpened logs, only a dwarf would be capable of carving. The houses, a mix of wood and stone, engraved with dwarven insignias and family sigils. Rufus reached the walls and was measured by two guards pointing crossbows to his chest. “Lieutenant Rufus Baiamonte, to speak with Rhloder, the King of Dwarfs” The doors opened with the clinging of chains. He expects me. In the main hall, the fire cracked in heath that ran all the way in the extension of the hall to an elevated wooden bridge with a centered oaken throne was covered in furs of fox, saber, and ox. A short man with a red beard covering his chest stared, as Rufus walked across the yellow-lit hall. “I should have your head, Dwarf” “You are grieving, so I will take no offense this time. You wished to see me. Now, spit” “Where is my father?” “Your father is a brave man. He remains inside the ruins of Rhangvar, sleeping with the beast” “Because you left him there, and all his men” “Believe what you will, but this is no true. The ones who left, they left because of him. There are living because the General sacrificed. But had he and your commander listened to our pleas, no one would have perished. I saw him stand against the beast. Leather wings spread, her fiery breath spitting... Yet he stood, sword in hand as his men and mine ran for their lives. We left that living hell and sealed the door behind us. I was the last one to leave, and no one else would have left. We took care of the most, treated their wounds as well as we could” “So, you are a hero, then? You care for the weak and give them supper, then flee to hide behind your walls... Ha... I do not believe you, Dwarf”, replied Rufus. “Your father is the true hero, boy. But I knew the moment he stood behind, that his stubborn men, with their tacky, inflexible, and revenging little minds would not be easily satisfied with the truth and would need to point fingers and search for a villain. When you fail to realize how the true villain is right under your noses, controlling each one of you”, he sighed. “Of course, we had to leave. But this act of bravery and stupidity showed that we have had enough death over those foolish riches. So, yes, I took the chance to make the Rego accept our terms, and now we can live in peace with the mountain and nature. Rufus stared blankly at the crackling fire reflecting on the round-shaped shields that covered the internal walls of the hall. “We should have never entered these damned mines”, said the boy, finally. “I... his body...” “Aye”, said Rhloder. “There is another way. We can take you there if that is what you wish”. Rufus spent the night. He ate pork and chicken, drank more mugs of ale than he could count, shared stories with the dwarves and sang their sad songs before passing out on the table. The next morning, Rhloder, Rufus and an expedition of two other dwarfs entered the broken tunnels of Derem’tor, in the search for the remains of General Juan Rojas Baiamonte. Gigantic halls that echoed infinitely gave way to tiny burrows in which Rufus found difficulty to course through. The walls looked fragile, leaning over the passageways, hanging still by the will of the gods, in the brink of collapsing over their fragile selves. They walked through cracks, hang from natural cliffs and in one passage, they even had to use ropes to traverse over a frozen lake inside the caves. Until they reached a point after a long corridor marked by two columns of ice, where the dwarfs stopped. “This is as far as we can go, boy”, said Rhloder, his voice echoing in damp walls, as he and the Dwarfs remained in the shadows of the cave. Rufus lurched through fallen rocks, reflecting pools and columns of stone. The farther he went, the warmer it got inside the cave, and it showed he was getting closer to where he was supposed to go. He cornered a long hall and found himself inside a hall fully lit by a deep crack in the ceiling of the cave, from which sunbeams passed and warmed the room’s interior in frigid grey and white stone. Rufus stepped on a chain of rocks, elevated from the ground. The rocks started as small pebbles, that turned larger and larger, poking out of the ground like stakes. The rocks twisted and turned, like roots trying to find their way through the earth. But those rocks were smooth and white as snow itself. Teeth and claws, solid as bones. He suddenly realized, he was not walking over a chain of stones, but over a skeleton of a fallen beast. Dead. He pondered how weak, yet still fearsome that gigantic creature was, even motionless and lifeless. Rufus realized the fear they all must have felt while gazing through the wholes that once held his eyes. Rufus felt a sudden relieve, thinking that the miners could return to their lives of picking, and thought of his father, General Juan Rojas Baiamonte, with proud. Bathing under the sunrays that flashed on the cave, Rufus noticed another set of bones, leaned against the tail of the fallen beast. On its side, a shiny steel sword that gleamed with the sun. On its handle was engraved the combination of three words: Strength. Consistency. Trust. The sayings of the Baiamonte family. Rufus reached for the fragile frozen and consumed hand of the skeleton lying in front of him and squeezed it tight against him chest, for a moment that would last the eternity in his mind. Rufus found his way out of the cave. Behind him, the tangling of the bag of bones reminded him that his mission had been successful, but far from complete. On the freezing wind, he saw the stream of water on the horizon, the main cities, the palace where the Rego passed his days, the monastery on the woods, where a proper burial should take place. But Rufus looked the other way, to the dry and yellow, to the deserted wastelands on the far west, where bandits, renegades, berserkers, and outcasts made their livings. Exactly where Rufus needed to go next. … Plok, plok, plok sang the bag of bones hanging on Rufus’s waist. Tuk, tuk, tuk, hummed the leathered sack on his back, starting to weigh and smell under the sun. His throat was dry, and sand ran over his face, scratching his skin and making his hair thick and parched. Invisible waves distorted the yellow horizon as the sun hit the sand and heat consumed the air. Scorpions and snakes were the living, who mocked the dried carcasses along the dirt road to the west. The wastelands. Land of the pariahs and social castaways, where men were thrown to be evaded and forgotten. In the deserts, holes, and caves, they found their ways trading favors, protection, and stolen goods. As social groups were formed, the wastelands deviated from the Rego’s established control, and while anarchy prevailed, so did the law of the strongest. During his youth in the convent, Rufus and his brothers learned about the different creatures that wandered across the Island and the best ways to fight them. Giants, for example, were extremely dependent on fire and light, being close to blind during the night. Take that, fight in the dark, and you would have the greatest advantage. Goblins, in the other hand, were creatures of the night, greedy and keen, always prone to negotiate terms and products. To have a shiny gem and convince them of its rareness was to have them on your side. But Rufus was not searching for giants or goblins. He searched for a witch. Old tales said that witches appeared in nights of full moon to perform rituals and sacrifices, in which they learned the words of the gods – chants and songs that, combined with different ingredients, had nefarious effects to entice, persuade, dissolve and control. His brothers told the tale of the three sisters. Three old ladies that roam between the realms of the living the dead were known to hide in the deep canyons of the wastelands, catching souls and condemned spirits that meandered between heaven and hell. If there was a way to speak to the dead, the three sisters would know how. Rufus counted days and nights, and not coincidentally, when the sun died on a red dried sea, the moon gleamed big and round, casting shadows over sandy tunnels. Leaning on a rock toppled over a wall of sand, Rufus waited, analyzing the holes punctured on the craggy facade. When the silver light of the moon penetrated the caves, a blue, unnatural glow illuminated the sand from within, and out of the caves, came three pale figures as thin as dried branches in the desert, in tattered rags, drifting over the sand. The boy followed the mystical figures until they stopped over the putrid carcass of a cow, consumed by the crows and vultures. They hovered in circles and chanted horrifying sounds of hissing and screaming, while the carcass gleamed in that bizarre blue light as if being evaporated in thin air. Rufus left his cover and approached the three sisters. One hand over the leathered sack hanging on his back, the other opened in his front as to calm the ghosts in front of him. Rufus carefully opened the leathered sack and took the head of a mountain wolf. Dried blood thickened his fur and maggots had found their way into his rotting meat. Rufus left the head on the ground and walked away, as the sisters circled their gift. His eyes glittered in blue, and soon, it all disappeared. The sisters turned to Rufus and floated in his direction. “A sound human, this is”, whispered the witch and a cold breeze swiped. “Would be a valuable sacrifice”, agreed the second. “Yes, the gods would gift us with splendor”, endorsed the third. “But, an act of goodwill must not come without a request... say, human, why the benevolence? What do you seek?” Rufus stared at each of them. “I seek guidance. I seek knowledge. I seek revenge”, he said kneeling on the ground and stretching the bag of bones in front of him. “Hmmm. The boy knows what he seeks and knows who to speak with” “Say, human, why should we give you what you seek instead of taking you whole back to our world” The boy bowed his head. “Grant me your guidance, sisters, and I shall forever live to fulfill your debt. Grant me your knowledge, sisters, and I shall forever live to serve your purpose. Grant me revenge, sisters, and I shall forever live to provide to you and your gods. Now and forever, my soul is yours to command, for I am your servant, follower of your rules, preacher of your will” A deafening scream echoed throughout the canyons and Rufus felt his breath fail him and his body stiffen, as if he had been tossed under a gelid waterfall that washed him from within. As the dark night turned darker still, his chest burst in pain, his heart struggling to push out of his throat, and he woke under the frying sun, laying on the sand, surrounded by a green pool of a thick and viscous liquid. Displayed on the sand were a set of white bones he found inside the tunnels of the cold mountains. “I’m sorry, father, for not being next to you when you time had come. Sorry for not being fast enough, brave enough. Sorry for being afraid. And I am sorry if I could not give you a proper burial. The day will come when I will reach you in that cave once again and hand you over to the gods. But first, I will have my revenge” Rufus tossed each part in the green water, and thought of his father, lying untouched inside the cave. The bones sank in the moss and a splash of green water lifted. The water began to bubble, and a white steam floated in the air. The skies turned from a vivid blue to a lifeless grey as the clouds closed in like a black curtain. A dark horn pierced out of the water and found its way to the sky. Behind it, a chain of scales, sharp as a Mitgardian axe erupted from the green vapor. Two arms black as leather and shiny as a blade stretched and covered the light, and a white set of teeth smiled back at Rufus, while a sounding roar tapped his ears. This black creature was released from the cold mountains of the north, and now floated untamed in warm Varlyrian skies. … Through cobblestone streets and flowing canals, through summer balconies with hanging flowers and greedy merchants, trough fish-smelling villas and wary stray cats, Rufus strolled on the city center, towards the Canal Square, where the court, the Rego, the council and every merchant in Varlyrio gathered to tend their businesses. This day, the fourth after the first full moon of the summer, the ruler, the councilor, and his followers gathered on the main square for a jaunt alongside the royal guard, to wave to the common folk, to flaunt their unending riches and unquestionable power. Seven days passed since his last audience with the Rego, when Rufus left to his mission on the Ridge Mountains, to recover his father’s remains, and since then, Rufus did not interact with his superiors. Leaving his post unattended and not communicating with your pairs was a punishable act – a fine, maybe a few days of suspension and cleaning latrines for a couple of days – but Rufus was surprised to see his face drawn all over the walls of Varlyrio under a sign that said “wanted for treason”. News ran fast on the canals of Varlyrio. But it did not matter. Rufus had expected to be pursued – collusion with obscure groups on the wastelands, plot with enemies of the crown in the mountains, use and traffic of illegal substances – one needed only choose which. Now that he thought, he was not surprised at all. Yet, he strutted. His chin pointing to the sky, and a crooked smile carved out on his face. Rufus reached the square and glanced at his brothers, all suited in full armor, surrounding a group of weak and outdated old men. The Rego on the center, waved to one side and the other, and when his eyes met Rufus’s, he stopped. “Bold of you to appear, boy. Now lay down your sword and surrender to me. You are convicted of treason against the realm for conspiring against the council, plotting against your king, and ravishing against the people” “Treason?” Rufus walked closer to the encirclement around the Rego. “I will not deny”, he extended his wrists to the guards. “But what you have been doing for the past decade, is far worse that whatever I have done in the past few days. For what I have done, I did for the people. And what you did, you did out of greed and thirst for power”, Rufus opened his arms and raised his fingers after each word. “Abuse. Diversion. Theft. Exploitation. Perjury. Assassination”. Rufus stopped. “Your days are over, your Magnificence”, and bent on one knee. A black shadow covered the square as if the sun had been a blown off flame in a dark room. A roar echoed through the canals and panic took the cobblestone streets. An obscure creature opened its leathery wings and lurched over the houses surrounding the main square. Its deafening roar was enough to break the encirclement of guards and leave the Rego exposed. The creature opened its mouth filled with infinite chains of teeth, as the ruler squeezed himself against the terracotta walls and beneath him, a yellow pool formed and ran to the flowing waters of the Varlyrian canals. The Rego’s councilor was shrunken on the ground, and noticing his ruler stripped from all his power, saw no alternative beside to acknowledge his new superior. “All hail the new king, the Mad Rufus Baiamonte!” Rufus laughed and his eyes gleamed gold as the sun, as he saw his future sitting on a new throne, under the chant of “Mad Rufus! Mad Rufus! Mad Rufus!”. THE END. ________ Phew! If you've reached this far, I truly hope you enjoyed the story an the builds. It was a very fun story to put together, especially alongside such amazing builders such as @Gideon and @Henjin_Quilones. Please, leave a comment and let us know what you think. Cheers! ________ Louis of Nutwood.
  2. Part 2 of the story about the Baiamonte family. My entry to Book III, Challenge V, Category B together with @Louis of Nutwood and @Henjin_Quilones. Rufus stepped on a chain of rocks, elevated from the ground. The rocks started as small pebbles, that turned larger and larger, poking out of the ground like stakes. The rocks twisted and turned, like roots trying to find their way through the earth. But those rocks were smooth and white as snow itself. Teeth and claws, solid as bones. He suddenly realized, he was not walking over a chain of stones, but over the skeleton of a fallen beast. Dead. Rufus Baiamonte Bathing under the sunrays that flashed on the cave, Rufus noticed another set of bones, leaned against the tail of the fallen beast. On its side, a shiny steel sword that gleamed with the sun. On its handle was engraved the combination of three words: Strength. Consistency. Trust. The sayings of the Baiamonte family. Rufus reached for the fragile frozen and consumed hand of the skeleton lying in front of him and squeezed it tight against him chest, for a moment that would last the eternity in his mind. General Juan Rojas Baiamonte Rufus found his way out of the cave. Behind him, the tangling of the bag of bones reminded him that his mission had been successful, but far from complete. The whole build
  3. Entry to Book III, Challenge V: Category A - The Varlyrian Troops. Howling in the mountain. The chilling cold pierced through my leather jerkin as if there was nothing but my bare hands to cover me. Rigid with the frost, my cloak flapped nervously behind my back and pulled me south, alerting me – no, begging me to turn back and run. But after a handful of days travel, I reached too far into the mountains to return, and was too committed to find the truth, even if it meant never to reveal it. It had been months, since these strange events have been occurring outside our once calm and monotonous village. It did not happen once or twice, but numerous, countless times, every so often – and I remember the day it started. It was late in the night when I woke to the sound of Bartosz, our grey-skinned hound, barking frantically at the kitchen window – it was unusual for him, as for the past 7 winters, he’d slept curled and tucked in his own fur under the wooden structure of my bed until sunrise. That night, tough, he’d made a fuss. Wheat grains covered the timbered floor, the oak-chair my pa built was split around the cottage and he’d scratched the whole wooden door from waist height to bottom so vigorously that the fur around his paws was tainted burgundy with his raw blood. For the first time in years, he glanced at me, ears pointed to the ceiling, his white teeth as large as my fingers glowing in the moonlight and liquid dribbling from his mouth to the floor, the muscles in his shoulders swollen, spasming at me, and he growled. A sound born from the core of a threatened, fearful beast. It made me tremble, for I was not staring into my dog’s eyes, but into the soul of a monster dragged only by its primal senses. I realized it was not only Bartosz who was acting strange, but in the distance, I heard the howl of another dog, and then another. It was rather a chant, as possibly all the dogs on the village were now howling to the moon, as if calling their animal companions to a feast, or worse: issuing an alarm – a pack behavior to become alert of what’s to come. It happened again and again, and it drove us insane. Not only the howling, but the growing cold that rushed through the village every time harder and harder. You see, we live in a village – the last human village before reaching the mountains - that’s not that far from the sea, filled with arable land, soft ground, perfect for planting fruits and vegetables – it rains when the sun is hotter, and the climate is rather friendly apart from occasional winter winds that come from the mountains. But it got so cold, so unexpectedly... Nothing grows from under thick layers of frost, week after week. So, it drove us... insane. Particularly Frignevr, the blacksmith – that poor bastard. He was as short-tempered as he was big, and you would mistake him for a giant if he wouldn’t assure us his mother and father were as human as they could be. That one night, I felt the chill stretching through the holes between the planks that held my house together, Bartosz woke and ran, and the howling started. Amidst the whistling chants, a desperate roar, not from any dog or beast, but from what could only be a giant man, echoed on the stoned streets of our frost covered village. That horrific gutted scream smashed our doors, hammered our ears, and settled within our dreams, and just as it started, the unnerving, desperate cry ceased, giving way to a perpetual dead silence that endured ‘til morning. From between the ice-covered mountains, the first light of the day painted over the white mantel a red trail to a land uncharted, for this was marked only by the spilled droplets of blood of one of our own. That day, attending for the realms request, an expedition of ten men was sent to investigate. That night, not only the hounds and wolves howled a constant, tenuous melody, but a raw smell, a stale, moldy whiff, a stench of putrid decay took the streets, and uninvitedly entered our homes. The smell was eventually dissipated into the mountains, from where the expedition never returned, and the trail faded over the layers of unwanted and unexpected snow. Under pressure, the realm gathered another fifty men – swordsmen, archers, bannermen, carrying the white and gold markings on their shields – for a second expedition, along with hounds and eagles trained to detect hidden trails and follow camouflaged scents. Sixty men short, the army supposed to protect our sons and wives started to look faint and incomplete, specially when four days past their departure, the group that left to the sound of our prayers, vanished and buried our hopes under the falling snow. At night I did not sleep, but jumped aside when the dogs started barking, the nauseating odor invaded my house, and a deafening roar that combined a thousand lions sounded across the cobblestone paths, and made my chest tremble with a shiver running through my spine. I wanted to move but couldn’t – and I prayed for the souls of those poor men that would never return to our lives. I woke to the unnerving sound of a fist pounding at my front door, and as sudden as the cold took our village, and our blacksmith and our army, I knew my time had come. “Ready your shield and sword. Beg your family farewells. We part on the morrow”, signed the High-King, the Rego, over his waxed seal. Carpenters, fishermen, merchants, old and young, experienced or – most likely – not, with sword in hand. The few remaining that populated our village reunited where the first light of day shone: between the mountains where a trail of blood leaded the way to our uncertain destiny. We camped by night if we were lucky enough to find a rathole or a cave, or under the starts and the moon, and the rocks and the cold, and marched by day, following whatever was left of the expedition before us – pikes, helmets, messages left on walls and trees, pieces of cloth, footprints... Until there was nothing left to follow, but a dim and distant rotten and burnt smell that refused to cease. Every morning, our group turned smaller and weaker, as the members of our crew perished to the fierce conditions and reckless paths we were thrown into. By night, we heard the scuttling screams and roars coming from above us and echoing through the scars carved over centuries on the rocks. Looking ahead to the unknown, the vagueness to put reason to the sounds, the smell, the unhuman thirst to kill and its psychological defiance, drove one by one to an abyss of despair. That night, we took shelter on a cave, and shared its roof with a family of skeletons that made this gap on the mountain their home for centuries. Despite the blowing wind and the drenching humidity, we were able to light a fire and roast the last of our game. While sucking the lean meat from the fragile bones of an overcooked squirrel, I glanced towards the bottom of the cave where the carcasses of our hosts lay, and looking into their empty sockets, I saw my destiny. On the wall, black markings made of coal caught my attention. The drawings depicted a group of men being followed by a larger silhouette with pointy ears. It could be a wolf if it were not for its height. A demon, perhaps, or a vision from people long forgotten. On the first light, I left the cave and my companions behind, for during the night, they have all joined our hosts in an eternal sleep. As I approached the summit, that putrid smell turned sour, stronger than ever, as if a thousand bodies were left in the open to disintegrate over time. The snow turned thicker, and the paths became steeper as I pushed myself against the blowing wind, depriving me from seeing ahead. My hand lifted and covered my eyes, and from between my purple fingers, I saw a narrow path that pushed the snow aside and left its markings on the ground – a fresh trail, I realized. I followed the trail as it took me to the summit of the mountain. Two pillars emerged from the ground like snow-white banners, showing the world the peak was claimed – not by men – but by nature itself. Molded into the rock, was the inner part of a dome protecting its center from the what looked like a shire devoted to – if not built by – the gods themselves. In its center lay huddle made of what appeared to be a tangled amount of... what is that? I approached it and identified the maze being made from bones stripped from flesh, broken, smashed, and crushed into a bed that smelled of mold and rotten flesh. Big and small, long, and thin. I saw the fabric scratched along the way, and the splinters of weapons left throughout the mountain. These were the remains of the expeditions, the leftovers of our friends, the pieces of our royal guard. I lifted my cloak to retain the nauseating smell, while struggling not to vomit as I moved closer to the basket. Inside were the remains of animals and men, piled at each other through time. Cornering a rock, I followed the trail of bones, and then I heard. The visceral sound of a meal being eaten, meat being pulled from the bone, blood dripping, and a constant snort of desperation. Over a large pile of bones, a dark creature full of fur leaned and feasted. Its dangled black hair dripped with blood, and the stench was more than I could bare. It looks like... a wolf. And I remembered the drawings on the interior of the cave. Three, maybe four times my size, thick and muscular, its arms stretched wide could reach me in a heartbeat. I tried to sneak away, but the mere sound of my pounding heart must have alerted the beast. It turned and stared with fearsome yellow eyes, and as I pointed my spear to its chest, one swing of its long and hairy arm was enough to blind my sight and numb my senses. Laying on the snow, my sight turned darker and I heard the bark of my best friend Bartosz. …The councilor knocked at the Rego’s chamber door. “Your Highness, we are being called to position in the war of the continent. They ask for men and weapons. Our presence is demanded at once”. The Rego took the parchment and tossed it in the hearth. “How can I take part, when all my men were sent to the mountains and failed to return?” ________ Louis of Nutwood. Hope you like it. Would love to hear thoughts and comments.
  4. Takeover - The Mines of Rhangvar Entry to Book III: Challenge V, Category B (Baiamonte, Part I). This is a collaboration with builders @Gideon and @Henjin_Quilones for the story of the Baiamonte Family, in Varlyrio. Part II: Finding the Lost General, by Gideon. Part III: A New Ruler, a Mad Ruler, by Henjin. The last entrance, on the higher part of the mountain was marked by a stone sculpture of a dwarf holding a sword pointing to the ground, covered in a dabble of white flakes. Rhangvar – the dwarf god of prosperity. The stairs, carved in the face of the mountain led to a set of wooden doors engraved with iron spikes, so tall that reached the skies and disappeared on a frigid grey fog. On the foot of the stoned dwarf were the markings: Mines of Rhangvar. At the base of the tall wooden doors, Gen. Juan and his men lifted the beams blocking the mine’s entrance. Thirty miners trembled in the cold of the Ridge Mountains, anticipating the intensity of a day’s labor, and questioning if the rumors of the mountain that lived would prove to be true. Rufus Baiamonte closed the envoy, as the last guard to lead the group into the mountain. Before entering, Juan put a hand in his son’s shoulder. “Return to the Rego and report our triumph. The mining operations will be reestablished, and we will soon have new riches. Alert the merchants and return with wagons. This folly ends today. You are dismissed”, said the general bending his head. “Just be careful, sire”, whispered Rufus in the hissing wind. And that was the last time Lieutenant Rufus Baiamonte saw his father. ____ This is a short extraction of a full novel written for the Baiamonte Family, in Varlyrio. Make sure to check the thread: Rise of the Baiamonte for the full story. Hope you like it. Louis of Nutwood
  5. Following the uprising in Mitgardia under Sir Uldain, Lord of Bleywood, the Northen Guild was is turmoil: To strengthen the popular support of his rebellion, Lord Bleywood sent out a group of men to seek out a shaman in the distant Clan Lands. Shaman Noiddi was considered mad by many, but during his episodes of trance he had vision of both past and future events. Rumors had spread of his vision of the old chieftain Krix the Cruel from many centuries ago that ruled almost all Mitgardian territory. Persuaded by Lord Bleywoods men, Noiddi seeked out the bog where the infamous chieftain had been buried the old-fashioned way in the dark, murky waters. With ancient rituals the shaman raised the bones of Krix the Cruel, and with them the last crown worn by something equal to a Mitgardian king. The antique artifacts were quickly transported the Lord Bleywood and presented to his son and heir, Sir Urdraigh. With the symbolic power of the chieftain of the olden times and the strength of the growing rebel forces, the Mitgardian people were ready to break free from the tyranny of the southern Queen… * * * It was finally time to face the battlefield for Lord Bleywood’s rebellion. So far they had succeeded in the political and tactical arena by gathering more and more lords and cities to their side, while at the same time the guild leaders in Valholl had been divided and undecisive in their actions. The support from the people had grown as well, and Lord Bleywood and his allies had increasingly became the true leaders of the lands of the Northern Guild. The threat to their success came now from the outside. Queen Ylspeth would not let a fourth of her kingdom slip away with out a fight. An army of loyal knights, mostly Avalonian nobles, and their levies marched north and set course towards Valholl to join up with the remaining royalist Mitgardians that were still holding out. The Bleywood forces made their stand at a bridge across the Whistling River in the southwest… The battle ended in a great victory for the rebellion. The Avalonian knights were lured out in the woods and picked of one and one, the footmen and archers tried to outflank the Mitgardians but got stuck in the mud, and the bridge was held by the elite troops of Theodore Bruin. The beaten royalists retreated to the south and the claim to the Northern lands by Lord Bleywood was now unquestioned. Sir Urdraigh took some noble prisoner to ransom and gave orders his soldiers: “Burn the bridges! We will have no use of them now that Mitgardia is once again a sovereign land. We want nothing from the southern lands anymore. The border is closed! Queen Ylspeth can try to salvage what little pride she has left, but one thing is certain: she is no longer Queen of Historica, because Historica as a unified kingdom is no more. The other guilds will soon follow us in their quest for independence.” More pictures can be found at my Bricksafe account: https://bricksafe.com/pages/Etzel/guilds-of-historica-
  6. Throughout Barqa the wealthy merchants and craftsmen of the city like to have a small walled garden on their property. The climate here where the Arkbri river meets the sea is favorable for the cultivation of many kinds of flowers, and many merchants take pride in their collection of exotic plants. Walled garden of Barqa Barqa is known for its black cats, and those who like the cats (or dislike rats?) make sure to have small doors for the cats to pass unhindered. Barqan cat door Additional images: My entry for Guilds of Historica Book III Challenge IV, Category B.
  7. Deep in a Dwarven city.... All across Historica there was suspicion and rumor while confidence in Queen Ylspeth reached new lows. In Mitgardia, the dwarves were arming themselves as their underground war industry restarted anew years after a failed invasion of Avalonia. The dwarven dissatisfaction with the humans and other races above ground had reached a critical point and the small, individual kingdoms were discussing banding together for raids against the sun-washed world above. But, at some point prior to anything regrettable transpiring, a Mitgardian lumber merchant stumbled upon a group of dwarves training in axe throwing. After turning to a dwarf leaning against a stone-carved door jam and instructing, "here, hold my beer!", the merchant--who was an experienced lumberjack and thus well acquainted with axes--started up an informal competition. Unknown to the merchant, the dwarf holding his beer was the lord of the dwarves in the area and after watching his warriors and the lumber merchant battle all night to a tie (while drinking a refreshingly strong Mitgardian beer), he came to see greater opportunity for his people through peace than through war. Before the merchant left that dwarven conclave, deals had been struck for the exchange of lumber, fish, and bread from the surface for axe heads from below and rules had been drafted for the first open axe throwing tournament to be held in the dwarven cities. Thus began the warming of relations between humans and dwarves during the reign of Queen Ylspeth. As other dwarven cities and human settlements heard of the tournaments and the profits in terms of gold, goodwill, merriment, and further trade agreements, both sides realized there was more to be gained with unity than with discord. After endorsement from both the Jarl in Vaholl and the various dwarven lords, many communities created their own axe throwing leagues along with increased human-dwarf trade agreements. My entry for Category A, long live the Queen!
  8. "So come take a drink and drown your sorrows And all of our fears will be gone till tomorrow, W'all take a pint thus for all it's a win, Here in the Royal Elk's Inn" The Royal Elk
  9. The Guilds of Historica Book III Challenge I: A Time to Rebuild Challenge II: Bread and Circuses Challenge III: What Will Tomorrow Bring? Challenge IV: The Turning Point Preludes: What Lies Beneath The Spring of Hope The Winter of Despair Even a Feather Can Tip the Scales Historica On the Edge The rumors have been pouring in from every corner of the land, of undead monsters, secret powers behind the scenes, rebellions against the guild leaders, demons from other realms, lizard people, giant chickens, and Drow invasions, to name a few. There is great unrest in the Guilds. It seems that Historicans find peacetime to be as difficult as war, perhaps because they had such high expectations for it after so many years of war. But work in peacetime is still work. Crops need planting and harvesting, bread needs baking, iron needs pounding. Life goes on, and so do the complaints. Is it Queen Ylspeth's fault? She is of the royal Cedrican bloodline, but is she the strong, unifying leader the Guilds need? Or is she weak, in need of a replacement? Category A: The Crown in Danger It is time. The uncertainty about the Queen must come to an end. Is she the queen or must we look elsewhere for leadership? Pick your side carefully. You must either: build a scene that depicts the end of the rule of Queen Ylspeth; or: build a scene that depicts the solidification of the rule of Queen Ylspeth. The scene could be anything: a decisive battle, a key assassination, banishment of enemies (or Ylspeth), or whatever else your imagination can create. It does not have to feature the queen in it, nor does it have to show the literal moment of the end (or the opposite) of her rule (though it could), but it should be a decisive moment that makes or breaks her reign, like Actium or Hastings. But again, choose carefully! This category will be scored by the judges in the same way as the quarterly freebuilds, taking both quantity and quality into consideration. If the side in favor of the queen has more points, Ylspeth stays in power; if the anti-queen faction wins, she topples. You, the people of Historica, are building the story of the Guilds. Size limit: your parts collection (a.k.a. unlimited base). But remember: bigger is not always better. Quality always wins over quantity in a LEGO build. You can build an entry for both sides if you so choose. However, in doing so, you are increasing the chances that the side you want to lose will win, unless you just don't care. Category B: The Crown in Daily Life While weighty events shape the course of history, most people are about their own ordinary lives. But even the ordinary folks are thinking occasionally about the events transpiring around Cedrica. So, build a scene of ordinary life in Historica, but with a catch: you must use at least one crown element in the build. Any of these will work: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12. The creativity of crown integration will factor into scoring. You can build in any scale (i.e. macro, minifigure, or micro) and use as many crowns, and styles of crowns, as your imagination can conceive. Size limit: 12x12 (or equivalent stud area) with limited overhang. General Rules Scoring: Builds will be scored on build quality, presentation, and photography with bonus points to entries with original concepts or stories. For both Categories, a 1st and 2nd place will be selected. Each Guild can have up to 1 winner per category (so 2 guilds could have 2 winners, there can be 1 winner per guild, etc.) Rules: One entry per side for Cat. A, and only one entry total for Cat. B. Borders can exceed the maximum size restriction, within reason. Maximum sizes can be varied as long as the build does not exceed the footprint of the given size restriction (e.g.: 32x64 instead of 48x48 is permissible). No clone brands (Megablocks, KREO, etc) allowed, but 3rd party fig parts and accessories (Brickarms, Citizen Brick, etc.) are acceptable. All entries should be posted in their own topic, with the title of: "CHALLENGE IV: Category X: Name of your build". Please also post a link to your topic here. Deadline: Entries due the end of the day on Oct. 31st. November 3rd. The deadline was extended so builders can use entries for the CCC if they so wish. Prizes: The build with the highest score in Category A will win set 75946: Hungarian Horntail Triwizard Challenge.* The build with the highest score in Category A, from the opposite faction as the first prize, will win set 70671: Lloyd's Journey.* The highest scoring build from the winning faction will have its story enter the official canon of Historica. *We reserve the right to substitute a LEGO gift card of equal value to the set if shipping costs to your location prove to be financially ruinous.
  10. Here is my entry for Book III Challenge IV, Category B "The Crown in Daily Life". It was a bright, sunny autumn day in Horgaard, but Sigrid was worried. The rulers of the nearby villages had gathered to discuss the rumors that kept being relayed and amplified. Bards from the south sang the greatness of Queen Ylspeth, her wisdom, and how pleasant and prosperous life was in Avalonia under her rule. Scalds from the north sang her weakness, her ignorance, and how hard and barren life was in Mitgardia under her rule. Some of Horgaard's neighbours wanted Queen Ylspeth down, while others were ready to take up arms to defend her. The debates had been heated, to say the least. And Sigrid had no idea of what was the right thing to do. The information that reached the tiny, secluded village of Horgaard was so inconsistent and distorted that she felt unable to make an enlightened decision. After an endless, sleepless night, she needed to empty her mind. She had neglected her precious garden lately, and there were many things to do to prepare it for the winter. As with my previous MOCs, the hidden text gives more information about the featured flora.
  11. Even a Feather Can Tip the Scales A prelude for Book III, Challenge IV Winda knew that her mission was important, but even so she did not like the man riding behind her on Bandea's back. He smelled bad. But Henjin Quilones and, more importantly, Galaria, had commanded her to carry him to his desired location. But he did smell bad, an unwholesome combination of fermented sweat, rancid garlic, and stale wine. Bandea agreed, but she also knew the importance of the mission. The had to save the Queen. What they had to save the Queen from was not as clear, but Winda was willing to do her part to preserve the hard-fought peace that the ascension of Ylspeth had brought to the Guilds. Years of civil wars and bloodshed had come to an end with her coronation, and all of the realms were more prosperous than ever, even if they did not all feel like they were. Winda had sat through more council meetings than she had cared to on Druidham, hearing about this Mitgardian lord's harvest or that Varlyrian lady's vineyard, about villages reborn and cities flourishing. Except for Nocturnus, Historica had never had things so good. And yet there was discontent from east to west, from north to south, even in Avalonia, which was flourishing best of all. Perhaps the years of war had made the Historicans intolerant of peace. Without conflict abroad, they created their own conflict within. Sword hands were itching for something to strike. Dragonriders from Druidham had visited Mitgardia recently, and spoke of the palpable tension in the air, as neighbor looked askance at neighbor and wondered which side he was on. Others reported that Varlyrio was slowly killing itself with assassinations and minor rebellions. Yet each had the freedom to rebel only because the Queen had brought peace and respite from the constant conflicts. As Bandea glided over the thermals, her golden feathers catching the uprising air, Winda saw down below the cliff that her passenger had pointed out. Who was this guy? How was he going to save the Queen? And what were they doing off the coast of Varlyrio? ________________________________________ ................................................................................ My lone entry to the Summer Joust this year. C&C welcome. Just the dragon and passengers:
  12. The Desert King meets with an impressive group of individuals in a grand audience chamber. "You all know why we're here. Individually we have each caused Historica to tremble, but ultimately have always been thwarted by the united might of the guilds. However with our collective strength we would be unstoppable!" The Algus snarled in reply: "And what conditions do you propose, oh king of the deserts? Though together we can undoubtedly conquer the whole of Historica, will all our efforts only serve to enrich you?" "Indeed, what reason have we to offer you our armies?" added the Drow representative. "Oh it's all very straightforward. As you see there are five of us, and five guilds. After all resistance is crushed each of us will have an entire guild of our own. Commander Basil will naturally have Varlyrio, the Algus Mitgardia, Raavage Nocturnus, and you Drow will finally be able to claim Avalonia." Will these villains accept the Desert King's plan? What hope has Historica in the face of such foes? And is the Desert King really the one behind all of this? Since the Desert King’s return there have been many rumors in Kaliphlin about what or who he really is. The latest juicy gossip reveals what the true nature of the ancient pharaoh is… Merely a puppet for one of the most powerful blackguards ever to rise in Historica: Victor Revolword. Rumor has it he’s been putting together clandestine meetings with the most dangerous of Historica baddies – even those reported as long dead! Here's my entry for category A of Challenge III. I’ve been wanting to do another build for Kaliphlin, and this challenge provided the perfect opportunity. I’ve also been itching to do some floor mosaics after getting a large PaB cup full of tan cheese – which led to me looking for potential designs I could use in this build. After a little bit of searching, I came across this pattern by the Queen of Cheese, Katie Walker. I thought it would fit quite well, and so replicated it, just tweaking the colors to suit our piece collection better. More pictures: Mosaic And there are more images on Brickbuilt. Thanks for looking, C&C welcome
  13. Who sits on the Dragon Throne in the keep of high Albion? Who rules over the greenest and greatest of the Guilds? Who thunders into battle at the fore of the mighty Flight of Dragons? Is it you? For many years now, the Guild of Avalonia has been missing its king. Artorious Rex - long may his legend live on - vanished, leaving the guild without a definite ruler. Regents have maintained order as best as possible, and High Lords have done their best to keep things running smoothly, but the time has come for the Dragon Throne to be occupied once more. AVALONIANS, THIS IS YOUR MOMENT! Your task is to create a 16x16 vignette depicting your claimant to the Dragon Throne. Not only should you show the man or woman you wish to see seated on the throne, but you should make it abundantly clear from the vignette why your claimant belongs on the throne. Is he able to slay countless enemies? Is she richer than the combined kingdoms of the dwarves? Is he the most handsome gentleman anyone has yet seen? Is she a skilled diplomat? Whatever sets your claimant apart, show him or her doing just that. Then this is where the Game of Thrones comes in. EVERY builder who is registered with Avalonia as of Friday February 8th, Anno Domini MMXIX, will automatically be entered into a tournament bracket. You will be competing against other builder's vignettes through several rounds until a winner is crowned King (or Queen) of Avalonia. If your opponent fails to build anything, you win that round by forfeit. Winners will be determined by popular vote of your Avalonian brethren, so make sure that you impress! The final round will require a new build, of 32x32 or less, from each of the two finalists, to make a final push for the Dragon Throne. What are you willing to sacrifice to get there? Details/fine print: - Open to official members of Avalonia only; you must have a sigfig posted to the Avalonian thread by February 8th, 2019 to qualify. No sigfig, no entry! - One 16x16 (or 256-stud equivalent, with proportions no further skewed than 32x8) build per builder will be used for all of the first rounds of the tournament. You won't need to build something new each round, unless you win through to the final round. Minimal overhang is allowed. Borders do not factor into the stud limit. - Official LEGO only - no 3rd party stuff (Brickarms, Brick Warriors, etc.) or clones (Kreo, Megablocks, Lepin, etc.). Also, no custom decals or painting or carving or cutting or gluing or any other altering of official LEGO products. The King or Queen of Avalonia should be able to be depicted by anyone who has the right LEGO parts. Yellow or fleshie faces are permitted. - The initial 16x16 build must be completed and posted in its own topic, with a link in this thread, before March 1st, 2019. If it is still February somewhere in the world, you can still post your build. - While you can try to put your own sigfig on the Dragon Throne, keep in mind that he/she becomes part of the public domain at that point. Your own personal story line will be essentially finished by doing so. It is the recommendation of the administration (HQ) that you create a brand new character for the contest, or else elevate a minor character from your story line, but not your own sigfig. - Regardless of the outcome of the tournament, Henjin_Quilones and ZCerberus will still be the in-real-life leaders of Avalonia. The winning character will be the leader for in-game story purposes only. - Builds entered into this contest count as freebuilds for scoring purposes. - While you are limited to 256 studs for the tournament itself, no one is saying you can't build more and bigger scenes to depict his/her exploits as regular freebuilds and add to the legend that way. Officially only the vignette counts, but it's not like we can make people forget or ignore other cool builds... - Voting in the tournament will begin on March 1st. If first-round byes are needed in the bracket due to the numbers, they will be granted to those with the longest time in Avalonia first, and so on down the line. If you joined in Book I, chances are you will get a 1st round bye; if you just joined this week, you won't. But everyone still needs to get their builds done before March. Only Avalonians will vote for their ruler - those from the other guilds can do their own lobbying for their preferred candidates, but they cannot vote. Any sign of Varlyrian tampering with the election, via targeted ads or skewed search algorithms, will be...expected. - We should have a King or Queen of Avalonia by April. - The winner will not receive anything except prestige, glory, and honor, and maybe a fancy title like "Kingmaker"; but no bricks are on the line here. [Credit for the throne design goes to @Derfel Cadarn who built it in Book I]
  14. My entry for Category C of Challenge II. As soon as I saw the back alleyways category for this challenge, I knew what I wanted to build. However, actually making it proved to be quite a challenge. I’m fairly happy with the overall result though. You can expect to see a build log on it in the coming weeks, where I’ll go into more detail on various aspects of the build. After the civil war, the back alleyways of Kaliphlin have fallen into a state of disrepair, and can be a dangerous place to lurk. These circumstances have also made it a place where under the table business transactions take place. Are these two figure shrouded in black cloaks just exchanging money for goods, or is something more sinister at stake? More pictures on Brickbuilt. Thanks for looking, C&C welcome
  15. A group of various Mitgardian lords and leaders meets in Daydelon after hearing reports of Queen Ylspeth's new edict. Glorfindel quickly got down to business: "All of you represent different groups of Mitgardians. How do they all feel about these new regulations on taxes, public entertainment to be funded by the nobles, and grain from Avalonia?" There was a moment of silence as the council members considered their replies. Karsten and Glorfindel had already discussed the issue with each other before the council. And in the end it was Vagn, a wealthy merchant, who spoke up first. "Meddling with Mitgardian business, that's what this is! Never trust governments to get involved with trade, it always ends up costing you more than it gives. And ultimately this 'free grain' is just being paid with by our own taxes! Not to mention these taxes aren't just going to the crown, but into the pockets of those tree loving Avalonians!" Lady Alsnotr of the Strong Shield clan quickly responded: "Even if the grain is being paid for by our tax money, surely it's advantageous to receive grain before our tax payments are submitted? Many of our smaller clans and villages are struggling to maintain their food supplies, and we'll need good stocks prepared to make it through another tough winter." "You all act as if this sort of thing hasn't been done before," put in Brigor, an aged dwarf of Hradcanny. "Edicts on food, trade, and taxes were common place enough when we had a King in Cedrica; why should our Queen be any different? No, it's the inclusion of these public spectacles that makes me wary. What is Ylspeth trying to distract our people from? She's practically forcing nobles to put on these events with her tax requirements." "Surely she could just be looking to brighten the common folks lives?" Ovarr asked. As a well-known hunter and trapper, the young man was far from wealthy and passed through many small villages and towns during his expeditions. "Whatever our suspicions of her motives, we have no choice in the matter currently," stated Drottin Manaor, Mitgardia's Prime Minister and representative of parliament. "Though it may not be in our best interests, we are in no position to defy the Throne of Cedrica. Mitgardia badly needs some years of peace to regain strength." "I'm afraid Drottin is right, for now we will have to watch and wait to see how our new Queen handles Historica. Those of you with concerns are welcome to summarize your thoughts in letters which I can include in our next official correspondence with our representatives in Cedrica." Glorfindel sighed as he sat back in his chair. When Ylspeth had been inaugurated the country rejoiced, for it brought some much sought stability to the lands. And while many of the common people were excited by the promise of entertainment, the current sense of discontentment and suspicion among the nobles and wealthy was hardly encouraging.
  16. Around the ruined granary, the rebuilding process started to take shape. Both peasnts and soldiers worked hard, to rebuild the storage building, befor the start of the harvest. Winter was far, but with everyday, it came closer, Conrad wanted tobuild, of fix many buildings, capable, to store food, for the time of need. "- If neccesary the lords of Avalonia can give shelter to the refugees. But if we are not focusing, to store our food,for the winter, we can't feed even our soldiers." -Said Conrad, every time, if someone asked him, why not building, or repairing the houses.