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  1. Well now. Evenin's are getting cold. Reminds me of the time I spent in the Great Alliance States. At least that's what you'd call it. Me, I call it the Ghaskin Confederation, on account of how it was founded by Nikolai Ghaskin, the Bear-Hearted, so many years ago. Oh yeah. All you folk looking Eastwards. You never thought to explore to the West. But I did. And I's got a story to tell: If there's one fella you ought'a know about among Kolya's Folk (cuz tha's what they call theyselves) it's Bogdan the Unstoppable. ---------------------------------------- Now, young-uns. Fetch an old sailor a drink, and I'll tell yeh a story. A tale of fencing, fighting, torture, revenge... Oh thankee! So, where teh begin? Our story begins in the year 530 (by our reckoning) in the Zhevrenai Delta. That's in the Great Alliance States, as I'm sure you know; the Delta being the main route into the Alliance States for any traders from old Halos.  What ye mightn't know, unless ye're a proper seadog like meself, is that the Delta is all shifting channels. Most of the Delta folk stay nomadic. Anythin' permanent is raised up high above the water on stilts, with houses made from straw or planks. There be a saying; "nowt lasts forever in the Delta". And there, and then, there were a young lad born and raised, called Bogdan. Ee was named after 'is great grandfather, Tsar Bogdan the Great. Y'see Bogdan was the son of Prince Ilya Bogdanovitch. If you din't know the name, it's prob'ly because Prince Ilya weren't a important member of the Royal Family. He certainly weren't a popular one. Did a lot of things that din't go down so well with the Tsar and 'is people. So it weren'ta surprise that Prince Ilya and his family were shipped off to the far-off Floating City of Salobrinsk, in the Duchy of Mechov. But that place might'a been the best thing that happened that happened to that family. It meant Prince Ilya could get Pan Twardowski of the Corrington Royal Academy as a tutor for his son. Gave him just about the best education a young man could get. And, for a while at least, they were happy. So, anyway, what was I sayin'? Oh yeh; life weren't all roses for young Bogdan for long. Aged 15 'ee lost 'is da. Salobrinsk were hit by the water-plague of 545. Royal Family weren't interested in pickin up the peices, so 'is ma took 'im back to her own people. Course, what yeh din't know is that her people were Hetmans among the Gorasnayan Host: Brakhask Cossacks. You might'a heard of Boyar Semyon Ivanovitch. Legendary raider? As many enemies his side of the border as on the other? Yeah, turns out he was young Bodan's great uncle or some such. Took the young lad under 'is wing. An it seems the Cossacks took to 'im, too. See them fellas are tough bastards. They'll kill a chap soon as look at 'im. But they'll ride through fire for a kinsman, even if it's a rival. But Bogdan weren't just kin to the Cossacks, he went deep into Mokolei territory with them. Led raids, fought battles, captured loot. In other words, he was a damn sight more successful than any of you lazy sods! Now go and fetch an old soldier another ale!  Finally! You young-uns are slow with your rounds, aren't yeh? It's too bad my regular audience have all swanned off to Weelond for Oktoberfest. Right! So yeh remember how Bogdan was with the Cossacks? Things seemed to be going well for him? He was quite happy? Yeah, that all went to shit, didn't it? See, by the time ee reached 'is 21st birthday, the Cossacks weren't just raiding Mokolei, but they were pushing into Kalkrein and even Coscovia. Well the Tsar didn't like that, did ee? Course, ee couldn't exactly push back; The Kingdom of the Great Raider were on the warpath in those days, and it was Coscovia that we're doing the main job of holding them back. So ee sent assassins instead. Now, you'll be glad to hear that they didn't survive their encounter with Bogdan. But, unfortunately, 'is ma and the Boyar din't fare so well.  And when the new Boyar, Kuril, started leading the Brakhask Cossacks... Well, Bogdan could see things weren't going to go his way. So, ee did what many smart folk've done before and since: Ee high-tailed and legged it, din't ee? Went off and joined a band of Oruman Gypsies.  Well, if ye're lookin' for em on a map, don't bother. Orumans go where they want; always have. True enough, they are Kolya's Folk. But when Nikolai Ghaskin was handin out territories, their ancestors were off playing knife-games and drinkin piss-water schnapps instead.  The Orumans are true nomads, even more than the rest of their countrymen. And that suited Bogdan just fine. Some reckon ee must've changed 'is name during that time. Went by "Oleg" instead, so the Tsar's killers couldn't find 'im. There are even rumours ee had a wife during this time. But if that's true, then the rumours she died in childbirth are like to be true as well. I never heard tell anything 'bout the child. It might'a been that, that made Bogdan leave the Orumans. Or it might'a been the fact that Tsar Bogdan III famously attended the Oruman Summer Gathering of 562. Either way, our Bogdan's story don't end here...