Ulthuan

Ulthuan, Home of the Asur
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PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2015 11:24 am 
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Chronicler

Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 11:47 am
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Location: Brisbane, Australia.
Prince of Spires wrote:
Aicanor wrote:
Makiwara wrote:
Does that make him a prince though?
Was this ever a question?

Actually, I think that the army full of fanatical, permanently angry shadow warriors looking for any excuse to 'teach' someone about Nagarythe makes him a prince. If you disagree you can take it up with Tanith and friends... The heirloom sword is just decoration.

It pays to know the finer details about everyone. And Spires and Vaal go way back. So I'm pretty sure they've been keeping an eye on each other over the past 2 millennia or so.

Rod


Yeah, this was kind of my thought originally; go ahead, question Spite's lineage and see what happens, go on, it'll work out real well. That's one kind of Prince definitely.

:lol:

However, with Ulthuan's whole did your great granddaddy carry a magic bauble with Aenarion Prince definition, I wondered if Vaal himself was that kind of Prince, the 'legitimate' Prince so to speak.

Now it's all cleared up, thanks to the Island Sinker.

Cheers! :wink:

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Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2015 2:12 pm 
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Rainbows
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Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 2:15 pm
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Location: Tower of Hoeth
Headshot wrote:
@Aicanor

You remember that 'coffee spilt' incident? Yeah. Well I was the one being dragged out by the ear. :oops:
That was you? Well, I can understand the need for good brew while trying to decipher old script, but did you have to spill it on that particular letter of great historical and political value?
You know, the one that says "Imrik, would you stop sulking and come? We have a fancy headdress to put on your head. It might involve fire. And no, it is not another costume party."
There are some quite interesting signature runes under it, including Aicanor's forefather's, as he was, due to a series of quite unfortunate events the only Nagarathi still present.

No doubt Palin'Tanith & co. had a good laugh about it though and I believe Headmaster Tiralya put the rest of your coffee stash to good use. :wink:

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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2015 6:01 pm 
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Ultimate End Times Chronicler

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Day Four – Part Three


Evening had come once more, bringing with it a chill mist and drizzle. Tim and the others had made it back to camp just as the last light of the sun was setting in the west, and having handed over the envoy’s sword to Palin’Tanith, had just enough time to grab a cold meal (and an even colder wash), before they were put back to work.

“Spend all day building it…. And now we gotta take the damn thing apart,” Willem groused.

Tim silently echoed the sentiments as he looked at the remnants of the corral they had spent so much time building. He grunted as he waited for Layk’s hammer to finish knocking a post loose, and then seized the timber and pulled it out, with a staggering step backward. He added it to the pile.

“Why can’t we just leave it here?” he asked to no one in particular.

Quill shook his head. “We are taking it with us.”

Tim stopped, and wiped the sweat from his brow. “With us?” he prompted.

“On the ship.” Quill turned. “See.” He pointed.

Tim looked down to where the grim knights and their attendants (squires?) had gathered the horses. While the boys worked on the corral the Dragoons appeared to be spending an awful lot of time studying the horses feet (hoofs?) and teeth. The horses were bareback, and only had a rope halter to their…masks? He wasn’t sure what that thing on their head was called. (There weren’t any horses in the Sky Stones!) But as he watched, it became clear that the knights and their charges were waiting for something.

“There!” Layk said with satisfaction as the last post was unearthed, and added to the pile of timber. The five elf boys stood there and looked at the result of their work, and then glanced around, unsure what to do. Then, as if on cue, Caleb appeared at the top of the sand dune, waving at them. He pointed at the pile of timber and then made a ‘come’ gesture. All five of the boys groaned. But they turned and gathered up the timbers among them, then with much grunting, and a few curses, started staggering across the grass and up the dune.

With sweat-soaked shoulders and blood on one palm, Tim finally made it to the top of the dune. He looked down and saw Caleb waiting next to one of the ship’s shore boats. It was half filled with the last bits of the camp, but there was a clear space at the fore, obviously in preparation for their timber.

Tim took a few short breaths and adjusted the stack he shared with his cousin. It’s only downhill now at least, he thought. So much work. So tired. Six leagues of running…and now this.

Who would have thought it would be so much manual labor to be a Shadow Warrior?

He shook his head, and chuckled grimly. Then started down the hill. In a few minutes he was loading the last of the timber into the shore boat, and wiping the blood and sweat off his hands on the corner of his cloak.

“Will you look at that!?” Willem said in amazement.

Tim barely felt like he had the energy to look up, but when he did, suddenly all weariness in his body was forgotten.

“What’s going on?” he marveled.

The gigantic vessel…the Hawkship… was still sitting out there in the bay just past the rocky point. But the railings on the shore-ward side had been removed. As he watched, he saw the crew of the ship, stripped to their waists, working feverishly to haul a massive plank over to the side of the ship. It looked grueling and back breaking work – the piece of wood was weighted at both ends with iron bands, and must have weighed a ton! But then, with a mighty splash, it was lowered into the sea. The elves were then busily securing the other end of it to the ship with rope and chains, and what appeared to be a pair of hooks. In the end, Tim saw that the plank had formed a weighted ramp from the vessel deck, down into the lapping waters of the ocean below.

“Loading the horses,” Caleb explained.

“What? How?” Willem asked surprised.

“You didn’t think we were gonna leave ‘em behind did you? Knights ain’t much use without their steeds,” the veteran said with a chuckle.

“But there are almost a dozen horses! And they are…big,” Tim chimed in, agreeing with his cousin.

“Yeah, they’ll have space for them in the hold,” Caleb answered off hand. At their confused looks he explained, “There’s a large hatch in the deck, covered in cross bars most of the time. They’ll open that up and lower another ramp down into it, so once they get up on deck they can just walk ‘em down into the hold. There’s straw and feed and stalls and all waiting down there for them.” He cocked his eyebrow at the boys. “You know, this isn’t our first war. We’ve got a bit of experience on how to do this.”

Tim blinked at him. “But how are they going to get them on deck?”

“Just watch.”

And watch they did. The boys stood beside the now full shore boat and watched as the knights and attendants led the steeds one by one up and over the sand dune and into a line on the beach. Then the knights came over to join them at the waiting shore boat, while the attendants stood with the horses. A banner was waived on the deck of the ship and one of the attendants waived a kerchief back. Then one of the young elves began to lead his horse down to the water.

Tim watched transfixed as the mighty animal calmly entered the briny cold; the handler marching into the frigid waves right beside the animal. The two, just joined by a bit of rope, walked out further and further into the water. Much further than the Romani boy would have suspected; he had no idea how shallow the sea was here. It was several minutes until the horse was just a head above the water, kicking out towards the waiting ship, with the young attendant hanging onto the neck. And then they were at the edge of the ship. He could see now why the ramp was so heavily weighted: its end went well below the ocean surface, carried by the mass of the iron there. And the steed was flailing water about, snorting, then with a clop clop it was making its way up the wooden ramp... still with the elf hanging off its neck.

The next horse was already into the water and making out towards the ship. One of the knights said something to Caleb. The Shadow Warrior nodded, then gestured towards the front of the boat.

“Ok, lads. Push!” he said with a grin. Then jumped into the boat himself.

***

Tim was finally on the deck of the mighty war vessel. His arms were like stone, his legs like lead, and yet still, all he could do was gawk and stare, his stiff neck shrieking with sore muscles as it craned this way and that trying to take it all in.

It was well into dark now, and the vessel was lit only by moon and star and the many lanterns that bedecked its masts and rigging. But even in this limited light, it was amazing! The brass fittings and plaques that covered the rails and fronted the castles of the ship, seamed to glisten in the light! The rigging, filled with sailors climbing like spiders, swaying in the night wind. The sounds of voices below and above speaking in a way like his, but different. Someone was singing somewhere…and the song was one he did not know! A new song! Imagine that! He thought he had heard them all at the fires besides the elders, or in the traveling carnivals. But this one was something about a princess and a reef….

What’s a reef?

There was smoke coming from the fore of the ship. A small opening with a metal pipe protruding. A…cook fire?! Yes, he could smell the scent of bacon being grilled. Despite having eaten some cold hash just an hour earlier, his stomach growled and grumbled. Then he was standing at the center of the vessel, next to a mast, as solid and wide as an elder black pine, and he was looking up…up into a medley of northern constellations seeming to gently swirl with the rise and fall of the ship. And way up there, far overhead, a tiny lamp swung and he could see the crow’s nest, and an elf standing inside it resting on the railing.

Suddenly he wanted very much to be up there in that tall place on the ship. Up in the sky…like home.

Maybe with a plate of warm bacon.

There was a whistle. One of the other Shadow Warriors was beckoning to Caleb.

“Warriors to the war council,” he called.

Caleb looked aside to Tim and the other boys. The other veteran nodded. “All the Shadows. Prince’s orders.”

***

Tim was standing in an aft cabin of the ship. The room was large – it ran the entire width of the vessel. And though he could see grooves in the roof and floors of the cabin, as he had entered sailors had removed the partitions that had stood there, allowing for more space. A bed cot had been folded into a wall trunk, along with a bench and table. Now there was only one large table in the room, under a pair of lamps affixed to the ceiling. The back of the cabin was all glass. So much glass! Glass filled with brass and…gold! Gold lattice work! By all the Gods! Such wealth! It was as tall as he and if he stood next to it, he could look out and see the ocean just below him. The waters were a drop some forty feet or so. And there was moonlight upon an anchor chain dipped into the waves. He could see a bit of the shore too. Nagarythe. His home. And he was looking at it from the outside. For the first time ever.

It was strange. But it was also amazing. And exciting!

The room was crowded with elves. Besides the ten Shadow Warriors, the Shadow Walker, Palin’Tanith was there, standing hovering over the center table, chewing on something. And then there were a half a dozen of the foreign elves, including the handsome Captain. That elf relaxed at a large chair next to the head of the table, resting his chin on one hand as the other held a goblet. One of the Knights, the Black Dragoons, was also in attendance, wearing a jerkin of heavy knit cloth. He scowled at the map on the table. And the captain of the archers… a stocky elf, with braided hair pulled back, leaned over the table as well. And…

The girl was there! He saw her across the room. And…and she was definitely…a girl! The slope of her neck and the curve of her hips, led nothing…or everything to the imagination!

He blushed. And tried not to stare. She was beautiful. And…exotic. Her blonde hair and slender face looked so different from the girls back home in the village. The way she chewed on her lip as she looked about the room. And the long white robes, so clean and fresh pressed. Nothing like Nagarathi dress. She stood there in that corner of the cabin and looked awkward as she watched the others in the room. Seeming completely alone.

Tim felt sorry for her then. He had his brothers, and his cousin. But this girl…she seemed even a stranger to the other foreigners. None seemed her companion. Did she go to war alone?

The cabin door swung open and the Shadow Prince strode into the room. On his back was the great blade Spite; it blue sapphire at its hilt glistening in the lamplight. The elf lord unbuckled the blade and sat it in a metal rest along one wall, then walked up to the table edge. He nodded to Palin’Tanith.

The old Islander cleared his throat, and Tim once more marveled at the scars that crossed his visage. Especially the hideous pink one that ran across the throat. When the voice came out, it was its usual gravelly baritone.

“Alright, here’s the situation,” the Rover said. “According to Captain-whats-his-name…”

“Aerion Ogustis Cumberlynn Flynn, the Third,” the foreign captain chimed in cheerfully.

“Right. According to Flynn here,” Tanith continued. The foreigner’s eyebrows crept up into his hairline, and his mouth took a slightly shocked expression. Tanith ignored him and said to the room, “Two weeks past a fleet of Bone Ships was sighted off the coasts of Cothique. And they were coming this way.”

Bone ships? Tim thought and frowned. He could see similar confused faces on the other recruits (and even the girl across the room), but the veteran sailors and shadow warriors just muttered amongst themselves and looked grim.

“And of course, the fleet did nothing to stop ‘em,” the old Shadow Walker added acidly.

“Ahem!” the Eataini captain chimed in. “Not exactly accurate, my dear Nagarathi.” He took a sip from his goblet. “One could point out that as much of the fleet is now - by the Crown’s command, I might add - supporting Lord Malossar’s jaunt in the north, and so is severely diminished in both ships and sailors, that we were not prepared for an attack in force from this direction. After all, it usually comes from the north. Where all our ships are right now.” He finished with a knowing look around the room.

The North. Meaning the Dark Elves, Tim thought. Yes, he guessed that must be the case. It was the Druchii that were the ancient bane of Ulthuan. And their raiders came from the north. If the fleets were that way with this Lord..Malossar, then perhaps the thinking was that they were already acting like a shield against potential invasion?

But then who were these Bone Ships? From the east?

“And,” the Altrais lord continued, “We didn’t just let them wander through our waters unopposed. That wouldn’t look good on the fleet’s record now would it?! A Eagle and its support craft were sent out of Cothique in pursuit. Unfortunately… we have not heard back from them.”

More swears in the room. The Archer captain, his hair and skin brand marking him as from the Vale, shook his head. “An entire Eagle? Maybe lost? How large an enemy fleet are we talking about here?”

Tanith scowled. “It’s big. The wing-brothers that watched it before it slipped into the mists north of Chrace said so. The ravens from Anlec confirm it. And… it may be bigger. If the foul magics of that lot have taken the crew of the Eagle and made them like their own….”

There was more groaning and cursing around the room. Tim just felt confused. Magics? Like their own? What was happening?!

“Well, at least their objective is clear at this point,” the grim faced Dragoon Knight said while staring at the map on the table.

“Aye,” the Shadow Walker agreed. A gnarled finger darted out and pressed a section of the map. “They are making a straight line for the Blighted Isle. There can be no doubt.”

The Blighted Isle!! Tim felt a cold hand squeeze upon the back of his neck. Talons like razors seemed to play along his spine. The Blighted Isle! The most cursed and feared place in all Nagarythe! The Isle of the Dead! The Isle of the Cursed! It was said there that Aenarion himself met his end. Because… there it was whispered….only late at night when the elders gathered next to the kitchen fires…that that was where the Star Sword waited. The Hunger Blade. The Eternal Night.

The Sword of Khaine….

The Ancient Relic of Khaine, Lord of Murder. Said to be the most powerful artifact known to God or Elf. It was said to contained the souls of ten ten thousand sacrificed upon his altar in the dawn of the World. And that it alone had devoured the essences of the Old Gods, before the New Creation. It was said the end of the world could be witnessed in the fires of its blade. And that its hilt was forged from the black iron taken from the Dark Moon itself. The Sword of Khaine…was madness incarnate. And deadly beyond description. And this…this was what this…’Bone Fleet’ was seeking?!

The Altrais Captain was shaking his head slowly. There was a twinkle to his eye and a twist on his lips as he spoke, “One would think that Settra’s raiders would have enough evil artifacts in their own land that they wouldn’t need to come here and steal ours!”

The Eataini paused, but no one laughed. The Nagarathi were staring grimly at the map, and each other.

“What should we do?” the Archer captain asked.

Tanith’s scowl just deepened. “What choice do we have? We make for the Isle of Blight, and we stop the bastards.”

“Can we though? If an Eagle and its convoy couldn’t…?” the Archer let his words trail off.

A silence filled the room. Suddenly the Dragoon spoke. “What of the wards upon the Isle? Didn’t the ancient Conclaves place them there to stop black magics? Just this sort of thing?”

There was a thoughtful silence to that, and then slowly all eyes drifted up and to the corner of the room where the girl in white robes stood awkwardly fidgeting.

“I…ummmm,” the girl spoke nervously, then paused and licked her lips. “There is much debate now in the Tower about the….ummm…efficacy of the ancient wards. Some believe that they are bound to Isha’s earth, and so should last til the end of time. While others are of the opinion that the ward magic is connected with the power of the Vortex and thus ebs and flows with its currents. And…well…others believe that the wards are fading over time. And may not function correctly any more. No one is certain,” she finished with an apologetic shrug.

Tanith looked like he had just swallowed dirt. “Well there you have it. Cold steel will have to do when magic is unreliable.” The girl flushed pink (she looked even more beautiful then!), but said nothing. He looked to the silent Nagarathi lord beside him, and waited.

After a moment, the ancient elf that had been standing as quiet and still as a statue, spoke:

“We will make for the eastern shore of the Isle. Once there we will scout out the approaches and find the enemy before they reach the Plain of Bones. We must bring them to battle before they come near the Altar.”

Nods around the room. The Eataini Captain was looking at the map. “Two days voyage from here to the eastern shore. Let’s hope we make it in time….”

There was some grumbling, then Tanith gestured to the door. “Alright, dismissed. Everyone knows the drill. Get things ready. We are setting sail as soon as the horses are stowed proper.”

Tim hesitated, bursting with a hundred questions, but he kept his mouth shut as the others broke up and made for the door. He noticed the girl was among the first to disappear out the portal, seeming relieved to be gone from the room. Finally he fell in step with Layk and Caleb. As the others were either gone or before them, he worked up the courage to say:

“Caleb….ummm.... what….or who…. Are the Bone ships?”

The veteran sent him a probing look. His face turned blank.

“Well Romani…. They are the undead.”

Tim blinked at that, and his eyes widened in shock.

“Yes,” Caleb said with a nod.

“We go to war to stop the armies of the living dead…”


***


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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2015 12:00 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 11:47 am
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Location: Brisbane, Australia.
Hmmm Nagarothi necromancers... interesting.

That's a bacon on bratwurst of enemies there!

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Only in the Dreaming Woods are Mortals truly free, t'was always thus and always thus will be.

Headshot wrote:
Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


Duct tape counts!!


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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2015 5:41 pm 
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Ultimate End Times Chronicler

Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 9:10 pm
Posts: 577
Day Five


Narrin’Tim awoke to a feeling of gentle rocking. He opened his eyes. He was curled up in a half size hammock suspended between struts in one of lower holds of the ship. All around him was jammed with barrels, netting, and more sleeping elves. A single ship’s lantern burned dimly from where it hung on a hook on a beam. He could see Willem in the hammock beside him, mumbling in his sleep. Everything smelled of horses. Tim slipped out of the hammock, stretched and grabbed his bow, then made his way to the ladder and the deck.

The sky was a patchwork this morning. Grey clouds, and fog, punctuated with open spaces of clear blue from which the sun poured down in massive golden columns of light into the dark grey waters of the Northern Ocean. In the south he could see the black line of the shores of Nagarythe - just a smudge and black line of mountains from here. Everything felt…vast…to him. Like the skies around the skystone, but different. At home it was…still. The skystones, lifted by ancient black magics, stayed unmoving in the heavens; the winds and the clouds all roared about them, but they were as the mountains. Only the smallest of the stones, drifted. Not the village stones. Well that wasn’t entirely true. The scholar had told him once that all the stones moved, but just imperceptibly. Which meant he couldn’t notice it; not while living on one. So there. But here, everything was in motion, from the rain clouds above to the rolling waters below. And the ship itself felt like it was constantly seeking a perch; one wave gone! The next to climb! Sprays of water gusted over the side and struck his face. And then….

They passed into one of the columns of light. He looked up. He saw blue skies, unmoving and warm. A pair of gulls circling above the mast. The sails, rain slicked, now glistened as if covered with diamonds.

It was…beautiful.

And it felt hard to believe they were going off to fight an army of the undead.

***

He was not alone for long. Life aboard a ship had a rhythm and motion all its own. Soon he heard a whistle, and the skeleton crew of the night before was climbing down from the rigging, while the day’s shift came stretching and yawning out from the hatches to the hold. The cookfires in the fore of the ship started spitting out smoke, and he moved to join the other yawning recruits into a line for breakfast.

The breakfast was…foreign. Sliced potatoes cooked in some sort of gravy, with strips of bacon…cut round! Very strange. He and the others sat sharing looks as they looked at the plates on their laps (having elected to go on deck instead of staying in the crowded mess hall, with all the foreign elves).

“Well,” Willem said after a bit, “I’m not waiting anymore.” He stabbed one of the pieces of potato with his fork and placed it in his mouth.

He is a very brave elf, Tim thought.

They all watched him chew with his eyes closed, ready to leap in to induce vomiting if necessary. His cousin chewed slowly, and at first his face showed wariness, then surprise, and then, he opened his eyes, and shoved another piece in.

“It’s good!” he said, mouthful. “It taste’s weird. There’s something in it. Not salt or pepper. I don’t know. Something…foreign. But its good!”

The others followed suit. Tim chewed slowly, cautiously. It tasted of potatoes. And cream. And something….spicy. But nice. He too started shoving more into his mouth. Than that strange round bacon. Salty. But not as salty as Nagarathi strips. And it was juicy and warm! Straight from the frying pan. Not left in a pack wrapped in leaves smeared with its own fat, as was normal in Nagarythe. Very strange.

But delicious! Soon the plates were gone, and Tim was wondering what the rules on board a ship were for seconds. He noticed the others were eyeing the door to the kitchen-mess as well.

“Another morning in the Host of Nagarythe!” a voice called out, and they saw Caleb approaching them. “You all eat yet? Yes? Did you remember to wash?” The boys paused and looked at each other sheepishly. “C’mon, I can’t always be here to mother you! Wash up in the bucket over there then meet me at midship.”

“What for?” Quill asked curiously.

“Well its one of the truths of being in the King’s Army,” Caleb explained. “Even for the Host. When you aren’t fighting in Nagarythe, you’ll be fighting where the Phoenix sends you. And that means a lot of time spent on Hawkships. So it’s best to learn what you can about the ship. Everything about the ship. You never know when you’ll need it.”

That sounded promising to Tim, so he hurried off to wash and rejoin the senior warrior.

***

“This is learning about the ship?” Willem groaned. Again.

Several hours had passed and the sun had climbed towards its zenith. It was already getting warmer on board, despite the wind and the spray. Probably, Tim thought, because they had spent the last several hours on their hands and knees, scrubbing at the deck of the ship. There were an entirely new set of pains in his back and legs now, and he was forced to agree with his cousin. All they seemed to be learning about was scrubbing.

And there was so much deck….

(And the damn foreign elves kept walking over the parts they just finished!)

“One day you’ll thank me,” Caleb called cheerfully as he walked up and leaned against the ship rail nearby. “You gotta start somewhere. But its wise to learn all you can about sailing one of these warships. You’ll spend so much time on one after all. You may be called to help. And someday the knowledge may save your lives.”

“But the crew,” Willem protested.

“Aren’t Nagarathi,” Caleb interrupted. He glanced around surreptitiously, then in a lowered voice said, “They tend to drop like flies once the fighting starts. Better to have the ship-craft in Rathi hands.” He paused and the let out a guffaw. “Why I remember this one time…. This was decades past. I was nothing more than a snot-nosed, know-it-all pup like you lot then. But we were taking a ship from Arnheim to the Citadel of the Rising Sun, by way of detour around the Jungle Coasts to the south….”

Despite himself Tim had settled back on his haunches to listen to the veterans story. Just the word of such distant cities. Arnheim, the Last Colony of the West. And the Jungle Coasts! Full of disease, but riches as well. He had heard so many tales of explorers returned and lost. He wondered if the birds truly were all the colors of the rainbow.

He had even heard tale of one jungle bird the color of fuchsia. And he wasn’t even sure if that was a real color at all! But the village elder reassured him it was. Said you could see it in the sunset sky sometimes….

“…And it was night. Black as you could imagine. The vapors from the forests swallow up all the stars you see. And the moon was in their shadows,” Caleb continued. “And it was quiet as a snow-capped meadow. Just still and silent. When I wake up to hear our watch yell ‘fire!’ And sure enough there was smoke pouring all throughout the hold. Just dumping down on everybody! Coming from all the hatches!” He shook his head at the memory. “Well we grabbed our gear and ran through the smoke, and what should we see when we got up on deck?” He paused and eyed the boys. Then a laugh. “A pair of Druchii Corsair vessels, one on either side! They had crept up on us in the dark and hurled vials of alchemist flame on deck before the ship’s watch was any the wiser! Stupid Altrais!”

“What did you do?” Tim asked breathlessly.

“I tell you what we did,” Caleb said chuckling. “There were alarm bells going off all over the ship. And the Altrais were already making for the rails, jumping into the sea, screaming, ‘the ship is lost!’ And we new recruits were looking around wondering what to do. There were screaming Druchii throwing grapnels and ladders to board…on both sides remember. And I remember, Druful, my mate, yelling it out loud: ‘What do we do?!’.” The older Shadow Warrior shook his head at the memory again. “And then there he was, coming out of the black. Rage. He came striding up to us with Tanith at his side and he said, ‘I’ll tell you what we do. We fight!’.” Caleb paused his eyes lost in the memory. The seconds lengthened and Tim wondered if Caleb was slipping into the Reverie as the elders were want to, but then another belly laugh escaped the elf’s throat. “So there we were. The Eataini jumping into the sea, flames everywhere, screaming Druchii swinging on board… And we Rathi, we being the dumbest of elves, standing in the middle of it all, fighting.”

He chuckled, grimly this time. “But those poor stupid northern bastards had picked the wrong hawkship that night. Rage was on board that one. And he was a nightmare. Had this axe see, big as a Chracian one. Taller than me! With a nasty spike at one end. And when he swung that thing about you could hear the air shatter! Just shrieks of wind. The Druchii were coming apart like straw dolls. Just heads and limbs flying all about. And they kept attacking. Firing their repeaters at Rage. But he was blessed with the Gift of Isha, see. He would heal. The blood would stop. The wound would close. And he’d scream and charge right into them. Why one time I saw him fighting the orcs in the Colonies…. But that is a different story,” he finished with an apologetic shrug.

Tim had heard of Rage. He had been Shadow Prince for a long time. But that was many decades ago now. He had passed into the Second Death when Tim was still a boy in his village. But even there, at news of his passing, the village had held a small service beneath the elder oak. He hadn’t understood it, but the sight of the grieving faces of his parents, aunts and uncles, had struck him deeply. He could still remember it all perfectly, these many years later.

“What happened next?” Layk asked, curious.

“Oh right,” Caleb scratched his chin. “Well the hawkship was completely aflame. And I remember looking to Tanith and saying, ‘The ship is lost!’ And I was all panicky. Not liking the prospect of a long swim home to Nagarythe. There were these big crocodiles in the water. Some of em bigger than a Hawk, let me tell you! Didn’t want nothing to do with them!” More laughter. “And Tanith is looking about, looking all angry, and cursing the Druchii. He spits on the deck. And I jest not…I could hear it actually sizzle! Well Tanith looks to me and he goes, ‘This ship is lost. But that one ain't!’ And he points with his falchion over at the Corsair vessel!” The elf stopped in his telling as he bent over and started laughing, hands on belly. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he continued. “So Tanith yells, ‘At ‘em lads!!’ and he shoots this Druchii off his rope as the poor bastard is swinging over, then jumps on the rope and swings back into the aft castle of the damn Corsair vessel. By all the Gods, you should’ve seen the look on the Corsair Captains face!! He thought he was pirating us, but we turned around and pirated him!” He laughed so loud that the boys couldn’t help but join in. “Well Tanith ran that Dark Elf through, and then he’s holding the rest of ‘em off the ship's wheel all by himself. Blade in one hand, bow like a stave in the other. All by himself!! Until the rest of us start swinging over. And then Rage himself made the jump. Twenty feet almost, and he just jumped it! Axe in hand. Then them Druchii started screaming and jumping into the waters. Hahahah!! All the smart ones at least. The dumb ones were getting their heads caved in by Rage’s axe!” He wiped the tears from his eyes again. “So there we were, the Druchii cleared from the ship, and all we Rathi standing on board it, looking about. The waters around were half filled with spluttering Druchii, and half filled with the Eataini, all kicking and panicked like. And Tanith looks to me, ‘Well, I guess we better pick them up’.”

With a last chuckle, Caleb leaned back against the rail, apparently content in his story telling. Tim was still frowning though. “But what of the other Druchii vessel? And what happened after that?”

“Oh they cleared out as soon as they saw their sister ship taken,” Caleb answered. “You should have seen ‘em! They went sailing north like the hounds of the Witch King himself were baying at their heels!! They certainly messed with the wrong Hawkship that night,” he added with a grim smile. “So we just had to pick up the Eataini from the water…. What ones we could find… And deal with the remaining Druchii, of course.”

He didn’t elaborate but Tim could guess. After all the suffering the Dark Elves had caused he found no pity in his heart for any of them. He hoped they all died screaming.

“But in the end,” Caleb added, “We couldn’t find enough Altrais to crew the ship. Never did find the Altrais Captain! Haha! So we had to do much of the sailing ourselves. Turned that Druchii ship around, and made for Lothern. After we pulled down her colors of course. Still almost got sunk off the coast of Caledor….. Gits.”

Caleb looked around. “Ok, story’s over. Back to work. You finish this, then I’ll show you some caulking below decks.”


***


Last edited by Headshot on Mon Jun 01, 2015 1:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2015 8:47 pm 
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Lol tanith is crazy, love it 8)

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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2015 8:58 pm 
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Classic tactic, if yours dnt work, take theirs, they don't need it, they daed.

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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2015 10:41 pm 
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I believe that is the first time I've heard a Caledorian referred to as a git.

I approve. :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2015 7:37 am 
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Headshot wrote:
He had even heard tale of one jungle bird the color of fuchsia. And he wasn’t even sure if that was a real color at all!

:D :lol: 8)
It's not, trust me. Fuchsia is a plant... ;)
Makiwara wrote:
I believe that is the first time I've heard a Caledorian referred to as a git.

It's actually one of the less colorful terms I've heard used.

Rod

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:58 am 
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Prince of Spires wrote:
Headshot wrote:
He had even heard tale of one jungle bird the color of fuchsia. And he wasn’t even sure if that was a real color at all!
:D :lol: 8) It's not, trust me. Fuchsia is a plant... ;)


There were long disputations at Hoeth about the nature of the term fuchsia and came to the conclusion there had been an actual colour pigment called fuchsine. For one whole year.
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Magenta was first introduced as the color of a new aniline dye called fuchsine, patented in 1859 by the French chemist François-Emmanuel Verguin. Its name was changed the same year to magenta, to celebrate a victory of the French and Sardinian army at the Battle of Magenta on June 4, 1859, near the Italian town of that name.


Prince of Spires wrote:
Makiwara wrote:
I believe that is the first time I've heard a Caledorian referred to as a git.
It's actually one of the less colorful terms I've heard used.

Yes, and it just got considerably worse with the end times coming lately. There is only one Caledorian worth that name left and that is Malossar. :shock: (If there are any who disagree they can place a complaint with the Tower of Hoeth Department of Contemporary History )

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Day Five – Part Two


Tim shimmied up the rope to the next set of rigging, examining the knots as he had been shown. He was forty feet above the deck now, and the sun had finally come out; bright blue skies, with only rain clouds on the horizon. He closed his eyes and drank in the salty air. Felt the wind upon his scalp and in his hair. For the briefest of moments he felt like he was home again.

But the Altrais were there. The Eataini sailors. They were up in the rigging, trying there hardest to ignore the five young interlopers in their world of sheets and ties. They were laughing and singing their foreign songs, and clambering, and swinging among the ropes with a bravado that had to be intentional. But if they thought they were going to impress a Nagarathi Romani, they had another thing coming! They thought swinging from ropes on a ship daring? Pshaw! They should try hanging from the vines on the Spiderlings during a gale! Now that had been a day! And what a hunt! The wind coming up, and he stranded upon a pair of the ‘lings, each no bigger than a cottage table. But strung together by the old purple vines that grew all throughout the Spiderlings. The ground a thousand feet below. With nothing between you and the earth but the vines in your hands and the slow tumbling stone at your feet.

Willem had been with him then of course. It had been his idea. Egg hunting. Checking on the falcon nests and gathering the big sea bird eggs to take home to their families. And then they had got stuck…

He looked over. Willem was still there. Still with him all these years later. The boy was standing on his bare feet, resting on a single rope, with one hand nonchalantly about another tie, staring off into the distance with a fierce smile on his face. He was obviously enjoying this.

Down below though was Shado’Layk. The mystery…. He still couldn’t figure the young Lowlander out. But right then, he saw the heavy set boy with arms and legs wrapped in a tight bear hug about the main mast. Tim chuckled to himself; it was equally obvious that the Lowlander was not enjoying this. But then, he was not Sky Romani. The People of the Wind. Though I suppose, Tim conceded to himself, he probably wouldn’t be very happy to visit the underground warrens of the Lowlands. The thought of all that earth over his head sent shivers into his belly.

“What do you think, Tim?!” Willem called out. “We are off to war!! Finally! The wind in our face. The cry of falcons in the air….”

“They are gulls, Romani,” Quill called out.

“Poetic license you dullard!” Willem cried back with a wink. “All I’m saying is that this is like the legends. The legends from before.” He gave a Romani war cry into the wind, followed by laughter. “Can you imagine what it must have been like before? What it would have been like to be in the Host under Rage? During the time of the Great War?!”

That gave Tim a moment of thought. The Great War. The last large invasion of Nagarythe by Malek’Kith and his legions of Dark Elves. They had come in their tens of thousands. So many as to fill up the plains of Nagarythe. They had seized the fortified ruins of Anlec, build fortresses throughout the north, and dominated the kingdom for years. He had heard they had marched south and laid siege to the great gates of the Annuli Mountains, the largest fortresses known to Asur. And they had roamed throughout the forests of Nagarythe bringing fire and war to wherever their raiding parties passed.

He supposed that they had even gone to the other kingdoms of Ulthuan. Though he wasn’t sure of that. Perhaps the Altrais fought the Dark Elves as well?

Probably not. The stories were all from Nagarythe. And it had been bloody. It was well before his time; before he was born. But then in a sense he was a product of the war. A ‘war baby’ as it was sometimes called. His father had served as a scout in one of the militias. His mother had been a herbalist and healer in a hospice treating the wounded brought into the secret camps. That was how they had met. And after the Dark Elves had been driven from the Kingdom, had wed. And he followed. So he had grown up with tales of the Great War and the cunning and cruelty of their ancient foe.

And Willem was right. Those tales, about the Host of Nagarythe under Shadow Prince Rage. What a time it must have been!? For at the invasion the call had gone out to all the clans. And all the clans had responded. Eagle Riders from the Romani. Iron Shields of the Lowlands. The Cataphracts of the Easterlings and the Raven Feathers of the Vale. Highlander Scouts from the Annuli Mountains. Even Rover Mariners from the Islands. And archers from every corner of the ancient kingom! From all over Nagarythe the warriors of the clans had come to join their strength to the Host of Nagarythe, making it a true War Host, the first in many a century, under the Shadow Lord. The hundreds of its warriors had become thousands, and for years they had waged deadly campaign after deadly campaign against the hated Druchii. Attacking supply lines, raiding isolated outposts, flanking armies besieging the Great Gates….even seizing and burning a Black Ark, the Winds of Despair. And in the end, at long last, the Nagarathi had driven their ancient enemy from their land.

(Single-handedly he suspected. There had been some talk about a legend of Tyrion. But that was beyond the mountains. Somewhere in the South. So not important.)

But here in the North… It was said that Rage even fought a duel with the Witch King himself. And slew one of the Sorceress Mothers of the Midnight Coven!

What a time it must have been!!

There was some huffing and puffing nearby, and Tim glanced over to see Layk finally making it to the next spar of the main mast. Eyes open he looked about, without once releasing the death grip about the large timber. “You know,” he said weakly, “Rage was of the Lowlands.”

The ship troughed after another wave crest, and the boy squeezed his eyes shut and redoubled his grip about the mast. Tim reached over and put a steadying hand on his shoulder.

“Truly?” Tim said.

After a moment, teeth gritted, Layk nodded. “Yes. He came from a village to the west of mine. But it is well known among our clans.”

“Well Lowlander or not, I would have liked to have served under his command,” Willem said, still smiling.

“Certainly better than what we got,” Quill groused. “Has our Prince even left his cabin yet?” he added and glared down at the captain’s cabin far below. All they could see from here were the large double doors, gilded with birch and ash trees in bronze, closed to the deck. But that was where they had gathered last night, and Tim still could visualize its opulence.

“He isn’t there,” Layk said.

“What?” Tim was starteled.

“He isn’t in the big room…cabin thing,” Layk repeated. At the other’s curious looks he explained, “I overheard some of them Altrais talking. They said that the Captain offered his cabin to him when he came on board. Said that was the custom, I think. Something about the lords on the ship getting the big room.”

“Yes it is,” Quinn commented. “Even our father is granted the Captain’s Cabin when he journeys to Lothern. It is his due for being descended of the Peerage.”

“And all Shadow Princes get the same respect. Or so I had heard,” Willem muttered.

Layk started a shrug but then thought better of it and kept his arms locked about the mast. “I don’t know about that. Just heard them sailor foreigners talking. They said he was offered the big room and he turned it down. Took one of the little ones in the front, above the kitchen thingy. What do they call it? The galley.”

“Why?” Willem said with a frown.

“Don’t know.”

“But its beneath a lord,” Quill said with a shake of his head. “It is unseemly.”

“I don’t know,” Layk repeated. “But he’s up there in that little closet room now. I guess the Shadow Walker goes in sometimes too. But I don’t know what he is doing there.”

Tim looked down and picked out the small door above the galley entrance. It was closed and unadorned; just plain oak with a brass handle. He wondered what the Shadow Prince was doing? Was he doing anything at all in there? Did he study maps and make plans of battle for them? Or did he sit alone in the dark? He never saw him. Hardly ever heard him speak. Not even when he had returned the blade and recounted what had passed at the Steps. Just a nod and a distant look.

He was inscrutable.

“I wish Rage was here,” Willem muttered and Tim felt inclined to agree.

***

“Alright,” Caleb called out to the assembled boys on the deck. “This is a Bokk’To. Get a feel for it in your hands.”

Tim looked down at the heavy piece of wood, wrapped and double wrapped in leather straps that nestled in his hands. He swung it about before him. It felt…weighty. Too weighty.

“It is heavier than the blade,” he commented.

“Aye, it is supposed to be. Same length though. But you want the extra weight for training,” Caleb explained. “When you are in a battle your blood is gonna be pounding and there’ll be so much going on, running about, that your body is gonna be so tired your arms will feel like lead. Then your blades are gonna feel so much heavier. That’s why you need to prepare now. Build up the endurance.” He held a Bokk’To in his hands and gave it a practiced swing. The muscles in his forearm corded like pythons. “What none of them legends and tapestries tell you is that a battle is a long affair usual like. Its not just the dramatic charge and then everyone packs up for a picnic!” A laugh. “Sometimes the scouting, forming up of units, maneuvering about. Attacks and fall backs. All of that could start at dawn’s earliest light and then go into dark. Only to start again next day after a fitful few hours of sleep up in the crook of a tree.” He gave that familiar shake of his head. “What I’m trying to say is a battle is more a Tyr Catlan then a sprint.”

Tyr Catlan, Tim thought. The ancient Nagarathi citadel in the north. Supposedly a warrior in full armor ran the six leagues between that outpost and Anlec to warn of the approaching army of the Brass Legion. Legend said he arrived just in time for the gates to be sealed shut before the onrushing juggernauts and then was slain fighting upon the wall. But to this day long distance running in Nagarythe are called Tyr Catlan in his honor.

“You need to build up your endurance,” Caleb continued. “Most important part of being a Shadow Warrior…still being the one standing at the end.”

And that is what this was about. After lunch Willem had pleaded for some ‘real sword training’ and grudgingly Caleb had relented. He had produced these wrapped sticks from the cargo hold. And now they were standing in a line swinging them in testing arcs before themselves.

“Swing them over your heads, like so,” Caleb said and demonstrated. “Feel the weight and reach. Those are the two important things of a blade. Weight. And reach.”

Tim did as he was instructed. He felt a somewhat familiar strain in his shoulders. His arms and shoulders were strong – had to be to use a longbow – but swinging the stick used different muscles than using a bow. It was a bit odd. Still, it was also familiar. Like every other boy of sound body, after his hundredth birthday he had been inducted into the village militia. He had trained alongside members of his own clan, then with the other clans of the village, mostly with the bow (which he was already good at from hunting), but also with the spear and the Nagarathi short sword. The Hanger he had been provided was not that much different from the old Glavius that the militia used. At least the length was similar.

So he knew something about swinging a sword. If only a bit. He was hoping that Caleb would actually show him something more advanced though. Something truly worthy of the Shadow Warriors.

But the veteran seemed content to watch them swing the sticks up and down over their heads. It was a bit dull. He had to fight down a yawn.

Then suddenly he noticed out of the corner of his eye the girl! She was up on deck wearing the same loose robes, but with a different under dress. Something clean and white and wispy. It ruffled in the wind and as the fabric pulled at the figure below it he could see the long curves of the body outlined against the white. She held a book in her hands and was fussing about a corner of the deck near some barrels, apparently trying to find a place out of the wind. But then she looked over at the boys and their sticks, with bright blue eyes. They seemed mostly irritated. But they were looking over here!

He redoubled his efforts with the stick.

“Now now, a blade is not an axe. You are not chopping wood, you know!” someone called out from behind them.

Tim glanced and saw the Altrais Captain watching nearby. The boy looked forward again and saw that Caleb’s eyebrows were raised. “You have something to add…. Captain?”

“Oh just admiring the swinging is all,” the Eataini said with a smile. “And thinking that these lads would do wonders at a Winterfest log pile!” A broader smile. “But a sword!” His smile stretched so far Tim thought his face might split. “A sword is like a woman! Its not meant to be manhandled. But caressed, and coaxed into action!”

“We prefer our women manhandled,” Caleb said dryly.

“Yes, quite!” the Eataini responded with a chuckle. “But there is elegance to a blade. A delicacy to its swing and to its cut.” He pulled out the slender saber at his belt and with a whip like gesture extended it forward then slashed it to one side, before returning it to the scabbard without a downward glance. “The razor’s edge needs little force to slice the skin and pierce the heart. It is about aim and direction. It’s all about style!”

It certainly looked impressive! And Tim thought that he would like to be able to wield a blade like that someday. But Caleb seemed unimpressed.

“Well we often ask the Druchii we put down to comment on the style of our sword play,” the Shadow Warrior said even more dryly.

“Haha. I like you, Nagarathi,” the Eataini smiled. “You jest.”

“Oh no, who’s jesting?” Caleb returned blank faced. “After we kill ‘em we often prop them up and stick our hands into the backs of their skulls so they can freely comment about our performance. Kinda like sock puppet theater.”

He said it with such an earnest expression that the smile on the Eataini’s face slipped a fraction of an inch. “Well then, I’ll leave you to it.”

But just then a voice called out. “What the hell is this???!!!”

Tim saw the Islander striding up towards the group, face like a storm cloud under his wild tangle of white braids. “No training,” the Shadow Walker hissed as he drew up. “We can’t risk an injury before battle.”

Willem groaned. And Caleb, looking slightly chagrined, said, “But Tanith, they should get some training in the blade before going into battle.”

“They’ve got it already! In the militias!” Tanith snapped back. “Now is not the time.”

Willem groaned louder, joined by the Easterling brothers. “But that is not fair!” he said. “We need to learn how to wield blades like Shadow Warriors. The secret arts!”

Wasn’t that what everyone always said? Tim thought. That the Shadow Warriors could wield blades like no others. With a skill and ferocity unlike normal soldiers. It was said that one Shadow Warrior was equal to any five normal warriors in battle.

And ten Altrais….

The Islander glared and turned a deeper shade of red underneath all his white scars. He grabbed the stick out of Caleb’s hand. “Fine Romani. You want a lesson in the secrets of the Shadow Warriors. Step up! And the rest of you clear back.”

With a hesitant look to his cousin, Willem stepped forward, stick in both hands, while the others backpedaled a step or two. Soon there was a little circle about the two in the center. Willem was now smiling, his arms swinging the stick around in front of him in testing half circles. The Islander just glared, holding the stick loosely in one hand.

“You ready?” the old Shadow Walker called out.

“Yes!” Willem said eagerly.

“Alright, come at me!” the Islander said and just stood there. Willem grinned, took a step forward, then suddenly the Islander scowled and looked past the boy’s shoulder, “What the hell is that?!”

Willem stopped and glanced over. “What…?”

But the Rover had already stepped forward and kicked the boy’s legs out from under him. Willem sprawled upon his back on the deck, the wind knocked out of his body, with the Walker standing over him, stick pointed down at the boy’s throat.

“There you go,” the Islander said with a growl. “Lesson one of being a Shadow Warrior. Even when you got a weapon in hand, you don’t stop your brain. Keep thinking. Your brain is gonna be your most reliable weapon.”

Tim glanced over. Some of the crew had gathered about and were looking on with smirks and smiles. And the girl was there too. She was watching the proceedings with curious eyes. He tried to stand straighter and tightened the muscles in his arms.

Willem was flushing in embarrassment now. He leapt to his feet. “That’s not fair! You cheated!” he exclaimed.

The Walker half-turned away. “That’s right. I’m Nagarathi. What of it?” He glared over his shoulder. “We get the job done. If that means shooting the Druchii in the gut before cutting his throat…all the better. Or having your mates hold him down while you knife him in the kidney…that just makes it easier. Doesn’t matter as long as the damn Druchii is dead at the end. If you want ‘honor’ and ‘rules’ and ballads being sung while you polish your hat, go live with the horse-lovers in Caledor! That’s probably where you belong anyways, Romani….” He started to walk off.

With a snarl Willem leapt towards the departing Shadow Walker. Without a backward glance, the figure stepped back ducking a bit to catch the approaching boy mid step. As they collided, the Walker stood up striking the boy under the chin with the top of his head. The boy staggered back, blinking in pain and confusion. Then another snarl and he leapt forward swinging wildly. The Walker took one blow on the shoulder before stepping in, and locking arms with the youth. They stood face-to-face, eyes blazing.

“And that’s lesson two,” the old elf seethed. “Get angry. Use it to fight through the pain. To keep fighting. Keep coming at them. No matter how much you want to lie down and die. No matter if you have to pick up your own damn guts off the ground! You’re Nagarathi!!” He said in a sibilant voice as rough and cold as a serpent’s. “You’re hurt. You keep fighting. Use your anger. Let it fill your arms with strength.” He glanced down. “But don’t get so angry that you ignore the knife pointed at your belly.”

Willem glanced down. Suddenly, the Walker lunged forward and hit the boy’s forehead with his own. The youth dropped to the deck, blinking rapidly. The Shadow Walker stood above him, then held up an empty hand and wiggled his fingers.

“You fell for that one twice, boy. Better work on it.”

Without a backward glance the old Sea Rover walked away.


***


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 11:37 pm 
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Aaaand this keeps on being awesome, can't wait for the next update.

I've missed Tanith, easily one of my favourites of the Host. Plus now I know how he trains people so I have a better idea of Karalael went through (poor chap).

I'm intrigued by Shadow Prince Rage, any plans to chronicle his tale? :)

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2015 7:16 pm 
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Karalael Moonsinger wrote:
I'm intrigued by Shadow Prince Rage, any plans to chronicle his tale?


I'm afraid that I do not know! I just tell the tales that Tim tells me. And I'm gradually learning not to make any commitments or predictions when it comes to my time here at Ulthuan.net. I am completely at the whim of the Nagarathi. #-o

All I know about Rage - other than what came out in the story - is that he was a Nagarathi expat before he became Shadow Prince. And like a lot of Nagarathi expats, he found work as a mercenary; first in the army of the King, and then later for various lords around Ulthuan and the Colonies. Apparently Nagarathi mercenaries are in high demand. (And its not like they have much of a varied skill set!)

Perhaps Spires has an entire dossier on him? But then, best not to encourage that guy. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 1:25 pm 
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If he does, then he hasn't told me. But don't forget, Spite and Spires grew up together. They served around the same time and had a fair few dealings with each other. Rage on the other hand was already Shadow Prince before Spires ever thought of founding the City. And has been dead for a decent while already. The City is still very young by elven standards.

So there has been little need to build a complete dossier on Rage and not enough time. Spite on the other hand already stood out to Spires when they first met. I'm sure in the same way Spires also has a file on Malossar or Kurnion. And I know for certain he has one about Tanith. But they are all people of interest (@Tanith, don't take that in a positive way...) who are still alive.

And then you have to add in the fact that it's tough to get any information from a Nagarathi about the Shadow Prince and his past after he has become Shadow Prince. You might as well try persuading a dwarf not to drink. So there is little in the way of information that can be found now.

Though I did hear some whispers about Mordheim in Rage's past...

Rod

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 2:13 pm 
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Dossiers, are not something I keep, any I did have were surely sunk with Ar Yvrellion.

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These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 5:14 pm 
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Day Five – Part Three


“Flotsam off the port bow!!”

Tim looked up. It was early evening and as the sun was seeking His bed in the west, the rain clouds had returned and brought a grey pall with them. The ship was slipping silently through the cold northern waters now, much of the crew like him, sitting about the deck eating their supper. Karee, the galleon cook had called it. A dish from the Colonies. It looked like a dog had vomited in a bowl. The hunks of meat in it were strange. The sauce was pungent. It was over some grain he did not know. But after Willem had tried it for them (he always was the bravest…) and declared it fit for consumption, Tim had dug in. It was spicy and hearty and he was on his second bowl. The call went out again.

“Cap’n! Flotsam off the port bow!!!” The lookout way overhead in the dancing bob that was the Crow’s Nest seemed more insistent this time, so Tim put down his empty bowl and stood up. He could see Palin’Tanith standing at the forecastle of the ship, and alongside him, surprisingly enough, the silent black figure of the Nagarathi lord. Tanith seemed to be doing the speaking, the other just standing there still as a statue. But the lookout’s cry had agitated the Islander, and turned him towards the waters. Tim could see the Altrais Captain also walking past him towards the middecks a long metal tube in hand. Tim idled up a little ways behind him. Tanith stomped down the steps and strode towards the Captain.

“That ain’t flotsam,” Tanith declared to the Captain who had his eye to the tube.

“Certainly looks like flotsam to me, my dear Nagarathi,” the Captain responded. “The largest clutter of sea garbage I’ve seen this side of Marienburg!”

Tanith spat. “Nah. It’s a Rover Nest. A meeting of the clans.” He stared out into the yellow-grey evening. “We had best dock with ‘em.”

“What? Why?” The Eataini put his glass down and looked at him surprised.

“To get news.”

“We don’t need news,” the Altrais countered. “We’ve got the sightings of the Eagles and the report from the Admiralty.”

“Which is all out of date. Haven’t spoken to a Wing Brother in a week’s time. I warrant you haven’t either,” Tanith countered. “Them lot. The Rover clans. News spreads like wildfire among them. These islands are their homes. They’ll know the latest wreckage, and migrations of the gulls. Where the tides are behaving, and where the Vortex is making them…funny. They’ll certainly know of an enemy fleet sailing through their waters. They are the eyes in these parts for the Rathi.”

The Eataini pursed his lips. “I don’t see the reason to hazard my vessel in open waters….”

“They’ll have whiskey. Home brewed. A lot stronger than that water-piss you get in Lothern.”

“…But then it is always best to get news from the locals…”

***

Tim could certainly see why the lookout thought the structure flotsam, he thought as the mighty Asur warship slowed with oars and a sea anchor to pull up a short distance from the floating mass. It was just that - a floating mass: of spurs and hulls, twin and single, masts and timbers, all connected by ropeways and gangplanks and lines stitched together from leather and hemp. It was a veritable tangle of wood, cloth and metal, and though he could occasionally see the outlines of individual ships and boats within the tangle, more often than not he could not tell were one boat ended and the next began. It just looked to be one giant conglomeration of wood and beams, with elves walking and leaping across it without a thought or a backward glance. By his estimate the whole thing must have covered almost an acre of the ocean’s surface – just gently rippling there with the motions of the tides.

“C’mon,” Tanith barked and waved to them. Earlier he had said ‘Shadows on deck’ indicating that all the Shadow Warriors were to accompany him. Tim was excited. He was eager to see these new Nagarathi. He leapt up to the gangplank behind the aged Shadow Walker and strode eagerly down. His brothers were around him, and even some of the Eataini, including their Captain, surprisingly enough.

“Tanith!” a voice called out. Tim turned and saw the Shadow Prince standing alone at the forecastle. He was surprised to realize the voice had come from him. “Do not tarry long,” the Nagarathi lord instructed. Tanith shot him a look and nodded, then continued down to the deck of this…flotsam city.

It was even stranger standing and walking among it, Tim thought. The boats were more like floating houses than seagoing vessels like the Hawkship. He could see elf matrons tending to their duties, alongside small children peering out at him from behind windows. The men, all with the wild tangle of braids that he had come to associate with the Shadow Walker (though mostly in Nagarathi black, not the shock of white that Tanith had), watched the newcomers with hard gazes from both deck and rigging. Bows and crossbows, obviously taken from the Druchii, were everywhere. And he saw two maidens standing behind a cooking pot at the rear of one deck. The women were dressed in skin-tight….skins, of some sort – leather-like, but more lustrous and pliable. They were long and lean and had the same tangle of dirty braids that the men wore. They glared at him briefly as he walked past. What seemed to be a massive shark’s tail was sticking out of the big iron cook pot.

“Do these people live here all the time?” he said in a whisper.

Caleb was beside him, he glanced a step forward to Palin’Tanith, but as the elder Shadow Walker seemed to be saying nothing, he turned back to Tim and spoke softly:

“They live on the sea for the most part. Only coming together like this once in a while to trade and meet up for clan things. Festivities, weddings, funerals, you know.”

“But they live on the ocean all their lives,” Shado’Layk pressed, apparently astonished at the thought.

“Mostly,” Caleb said with a shrug. “That’s why they are called Sea Rovers. They do build villages on the islands in these parts, and plant some crops. But these are abandoned for much of the year. Only during the Season of Storms I hear they beach their ships and live landside.” He explained. “That’s when the Corsairs are thinnest, and head back to dry-dock in Naggaroth.”

Tim shuddered at that word. None in his village would speak it out loud – the name of the Witch King’s realm. He was a little surprised that the veteran would say it so nonchalantly. Invoking the name of the nightmare realm was considered dangerous where he grew up; it could draw unwanted eyes, mad and evil.

“Could one of these vessels outrun a Corsair?” Tim asked.

“Not likely,” Quill volunteered. He looked about with a practiced gaze. But then he was an Easterling; he must have had cause to deal with the Islanders to their north before. “But they have spies everywhere.”

“Spies?” Willem said surprised.

“Yes,” Caleb agreed. “They’ve got watchers and lookouts posted all throughout these waters. And Raven’s nests, and a few Wing Brothers. Old abandoned lighthouses from the dawn of the Empire. Or just a hut on a lonely beach. They communicate with each other by smoke, light, and bird. And send warning to all those hereabouts. When a Druchii is coming, everyone here knows about it, right soon.” Caleb said grimly. “I hear they even have watchers up north, in the hinterlands of Naggaroth. But, that could just be legend.” He shrugged. “Anyways, that is why we are here.”

“And for the whiskey,” the Altrais Captain chimed in.

“And for the whiskey,” Caleb agreed and smiled. “Best in the north. Which means the best in the world!” He finished with a laugh.

“It just seems a strange way to live,” Tim mumbled, then blushed as he realized a pair of young Rover elves were standing nearby, watching him.

“It’s more than strange,” Palin’Tanith suddenly cut in as he leapt up to another walkway, and spat into the water below. “This place is filled with thieves, cutthroats, swindlers, and leeches! Smugglers and bandits and pickpockets thick as lice. And more than one pirate, praying on the ships of the menfolk of the coasts, and the occasional Cotii or Chracian. This place… its all the worst that Nagarythe has to offer.” He glared about. “It’s a regular hive of scum and villainy!” His glare turned into a scowl, and then he began stomping his way across the ramp. “And worse,” he snarled, “It’s filled with family….”

The Walker leapt down from the ramp into a fat twin-hulled beast of a vessel, dominated by a single large wooden building-structure at its center. The thing looked three stories tall, and covered with odd protrusions of wooden towers and walkways and jutting walks, with rope netting leading to isolated wooden islands up the rigging. All about there were braided-haired elves leaning, and looking, from window and ropeway down at them. Tim marveled at the size and scope of the building – it was like a fortress itself. Or a watchtower. Or…

“Clan building,” Caleb muttered, and looked to the other veterans. “Watch yourself inside. No sudden movements, hear me.”

Tim and the others nodded. The Altrais suddenly chimed in again,

“So, this is where they keep their whiskey?”

“Its their most prized possession, so…yes.”

“Excellent.”

And then they were passing through a portal at the side of the structure and the evening turned from sea breezes and starlight, to air thick with smoke and cooking smells, with ruddy lamps giving off a sooty red light hanging from rafter or sitting atop table. Tim blinked and let his eyes adjust to the new light. He could see he was in a large common room, filled with tables, like a tavern. But that is where the similarity ended. This room seemed to have been built helter-skelter by a madman. It went up as well as out. There were ramps and lofts above head, filled with more tables, or casks of barrels. And even in the center of the room, right above him, he saw a stretch of fish netting with a big board placed in its middle, from which another table rested, with elves leaning their elbows upon it and tossing dice. All about he saw more of the same, braided haired elves drinking, dicing, laughing, arguing, occasionally whistling at the elf maidens serving drinks. But then they noticed the newcomers, and the world went silent. So silent he could hear the creak of the vessel all about. The sound of the wind on the waves….

“Welcome all,” the Eataini Captain called out with a smile. “We are here for the aqua vitae! The finest in the North, I am told! And…we have good King’s silver to pay for our cups!”

He jostled a bag at his belt, and Tim could hear the clink of coins.

“Eataini,” Caleb said warningly, “I’m not sure that is such a good idea….”

“Well, well,” a voice called out from the interior dark. “Look what we have here. Look who’s decided to grace us with their presence, lads. Honest to Asuryan….Shadow Warriors!”

A nasty chuckle filled the interior of the room, and suddenly Tim became aware of how many more elves there were inside than there were of his party. And how many of them carried knives and hatchets at their belts. Tim could see the speaker now, a hard faced elf with black eyes, and hair a steely grey. His nose was a mash upon his face, having been broken more than once.

Tanith strode into the room, making towards the speaker. “Cut the crap, Tarn,” he snarled as he came up towards the other Rover’s table. “We are here for news. You are gonna tell us that. You can be a git all you want about it. But you are gonna tell us that. By ancient treaty, you must.”

The other Rover, Tarn, settled back into his chair. He was surrounded by equally hard faced companions. He gestured to a seat across the table. Tanith sat down.

“Well this looks like it could take awaile,” the Altrais Captain muttered. “Which way to the bar? Ahah! That looks promising!” And he sauntered off, smiling at a pair of serving girls as he did so. Tim stood awkwardly for a moment, not sure what to do, then decided to follow him towards the bar, all the while keeping an eye and ear on Tanith.

“A glass of your finest for me!” the Captain said, then glanced at Tim and Layk at his side, “And for my two friends here.” He winked at them. “And there’s an extra silver in it for you if the glasses are actually clean…”

The whiskey was brought out, filling the air with its bitter raw vapors. The Eataini tossed it back at one throw, his face turned red, and there was a gasp of air. “Now that is the stuff!” he chortled. “Drink up my young friends.”

Tim eyed his glass. It didn’t look that clean to him. He had never tried whiskey before; the Romani had vineyards, and some ales, but nothing like this harsh clear liquid. He reluctantly drew the liquor up to his lips letting the fragrance overpower his nose and palette. He took a sip, and it was like pouring liquid fire down his gullet. He spluttered. The Captain smacked him on the back. “Guaranteed to clean the bowels!” he chuckled.

Tim tried to get his breathing under control, and to stop the tears coming from his eyes, and turned back towards the table with Tanith. He could see the occupants of the table were still glaring at each other.

“You know as well as I do,” the other elder, Tarn, was saying, “that those treaties only obligate us to give information to the Shadow Prince himself. Not to some wandering Palin….”

Tanith bristled. “Well I aint some wandering Palin, Tarn, as you well know. I’m here on behalf of the Prince. He wants to know what sightings you’ve had east of here. Past the Big Isle….”

The Big Isle? Tim thought. Of course, the Blighted Isle. On the maps it was always the largest in these parts. The others at least seemed to know what Tanith was talking about, as they made signs across their chest as if to ward off something evil. Tarn’s mouth drew into a grim line.

“Where is this new Prince of yours, Tanith? He afraid to come on board the Nest?”

“No, he aint. He’s got better things to do then bicker with the likes of you, Krull’Tarn. Now answer the damn question before I lose my patience.”

“You’ve got some nerve coming here, blusterin’ and demanding like you own the place, Palin’Tanith,” the other said coldly. “What is this prince now? Huh. How many have you lost this past three years? Three, I heard tell? They are dropping like southerners under your watch.”

“You want to stop talkin’ right now, Tarn,” the Walker said in a voice like ice.

“And this latest. He was the one you were calling for all them years before, aint he? Your friend. The Lost One….” The other elder said with narrowed eyes. “The coward that fled Nagarythe…” Tim could see the veins on Tanith’s neck protruding now. “The others said he went east. I say, this prince of yours, is nothing but a coward…and a traitor…”

At that three things happened. Shado’Layk beside him bristled strangely at the elder’s words, his hand dropping to the hanger at his belt. The Eataini Captain at his other side suddenly squawked, “My silver!!”, and clutched at his belt. And…Palin’Tanith leapt to his feet and threw over the table before him and started landing blow after blow upon the Rover elder.

Tim was shocked. He had never seen the elders in his village come to blows before. But there they were, shrieking like furies, Tanith swinging and the other ducking and throwing jabs at his opponent’s jaw and gut. Tim blinked and tried to figure what to do. Then he felt something heavy and wooden smash across the back of his shoulders, and before he knew it he was lying face down on the floor in a puddle of something that smelled suspiciously like whiskey…. mixed with something else.

Tim felt woozy. He could hear shouting all about. Saw Quill punching someone in the nose, while his brother overturned another table, before going down beneath the blows of three of the Rovers. Tim tried to get up, pushing off the ground with both arms. Someone though kicked him in the belly, and in a shot of pain he dropped again.

Then Layk was there hurling big ham-fisted punches, and grabbing at his shoulder. Willem was sliding across a table kicking at whoever had kicked him, and Tim was on his feet again, unsteady, but standing.

Two Rovers appeared before them with knives in hand.

“Uh uh uh,” the Eataini Captain tsked. He still had a glass of whiskey in hand, but the other rested on his rapier. “Play nice or don’t play at all.”

As the two advanced, Tim dropped back, eyeing the brutal looking knives in their hands. Suddenly, the Captain’s rapier leapt out of its sheath and with a lightning strike sent one knife into the air, before coming to rest on the throat of the elf holding the other. The elf reluctantly dropped the knife. Then Willem leapt forward and punched him in the jaw, sending him to the floor.

Tim blinked at the swirling melee all about. It was madness! Elves dropping from the rafters, throwing punch and kick. Tables overturned! A screaming tavern girl, somehow still cognizant enough to rummage among the pockets of an elf on the floor! And then…

In a ripple the fighting was stopping among the elves near the portal. He could see punches freeze midair. Could see wrestlers stop, mid pull. As all eyes began to drift at what walked among them.

The Shadow Prince.

Tim could see him now, the tall lithe figure striding across the room, dressed in a long cloak and that black and gold armor. His face, alabaster and frozen in a thin-lipped expression of determination. His black eyes, like shards of ebon. He crossed the room, and where he walked, elves stopped fighting and drew back. Until he came upon the overturned table and the two flailing elders. Tim watched as the Nagarathi lord’s hand shot out and seized the arm of the Walker. Tanith jerked against the unexpected impediment, but it was as if he was pulling against an oak. His arm wouldn’t move. He looked back, and shock was on his face as he saw who it was. Sheepishly he lowered his arm.

But the other elder had not stopped. He drew his arm back and swung a haymaker at his opponent. Tim saw the arm swing about wild and furious, ready to collide with terrifying force and the jaw of the Walker….

And then the Shadow Prince stepped forward. The blow caught him across the face, turning his head with a sharp crack. Tim could see the turned face. The welt upon the cheek. The blood slowly oozing out of a split lip….

And once more the room became so quiet that all he could hear was the creak of wood and lap of wave. All fighting had stopped, and elf, Host or otherwise, stared towards the bruised face of the ancient lord.

The Shadow Prince slowly turned back towards the elder. “I am the one you want to hit, aren’t I, Krull’Tarn?”

The elder simply stood before him, hands in fists, shaking with rage. “You,” he seethed. “You abandoned us. Abandoned him! My son! You…. How dare you come here!”

“That elf is no more,” the Shadow Prince said calmly. “He is gone to the Evernight. This you well know….”

“No! Once a Vaal! Always a Vaal!! I know you, Son of Vaal,” the elder seethed. “And you do not deserve….”

Suddenly the elder’s fist swung out again, coming forth with terrific force towards the head of the Shadow Prince. Tim felt his hand drop to his hanger again. Not sure of what to do, but knowing he couldn’t bare the sight of someone assaulting his lord. The lord of Nagarythe!

But before he could move the Shadow Prince’s hand leapt up and interceded. He saw the hand clamp shut across the hurtling fist. Saw the fist stop in midair as if it collided with a stone wall. Saw the Prince standing there calmly as the elder strained before him, his face purpling as he tried to force his hand forward. But it would not budge.

“That is not my name,” the Shadow Prince whispered.

“Vaal…” the elder gasped.

“That is not my name,” came the whisper again.

The elder’s face was turning black with his efforts. Then just as suddenly white, in an expression of pain. Tim could see the hand of the Shadow Prince close across the fist of the elder in a vice-like grip. He could hear the crackle of bone being crushed.

The elder fell to his knees and gasped.

“Who am I?”

The elf lord’s hand tightened about the elder’s fist, and Tim could see the face drain of what little remaining color.

“THE SHADOW PRINCE!!” the elder called out in agony.

The Nagarthi lord dropped his opponent’s hand and turned to leave. “You will give us the information and we will depart,” he said as he made for the door.

The elder glared at his retreating form. “You may be the Shadow Prince,” he called out in disgust. “But Lileath help the rest of us….”


***


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 5:57 pm 
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Someone who knew Vaal, or someone who's relation was with Vaal I wonder. Interesting whichever way it is, or will be.

(Was/is anyone else expecting characters called Solo'Han or Bakka'Chuu or something similar to turn up after the hive of scum and villainy comment? XD)

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Besides, the battle of Finuval Plain was more a minor skirmish anyway. A good enough summary would have been "Teclis and Malekith ran into each other. Teclis cast The Dwellers Below on Malekith with IF, and Malekith failed his Strength test." Not much more to it then that really.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:05 am 
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Just connect the dots:

Headshot wrote:
- “It’s more than strange,” Palin’Tanith suddenly cut in ... “It’s filled with family….”
- “And this latest. He was the one you were calling for all them years before, aint he? Your friend. The Lost One….” The other elder said with narrowed eyes. “The coward that fled Nagarythe…”
- The Shadow Prince slowly turned back towards the elder. “I am the one you want to hit, aren’t I, Krull’Tarn?”
The elder simply stood before him, hands in fists, shaking with rage. “You,” he seethed. “You abandoned us. Abandoned him! My son! You…. How dare you come here!”
“That elf is no more,” the Shadow Prince said calmly. “He is gone to the Evernight. This you well know….”
“No! Once a Vaal! Always a Vaal!! I know you, Son of Vaal,” the elder seethed. “And you do not deserve….”

So Palin is actual a Rover. And we know Palin and Vaal go way back and that Vaal at some point dropped off the map. Sounds like Vaal actually spend some time with the Rovers before dropping off the map. And that whatever caused Vaal to disappear also is the cause for Tarn's hatred.

Rod

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2015 11:23 pm 
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Ah the Sea Rovers! A fascinating people. :D Also known as the Islanders, they are the ragtag survivors of the Sunken Lands of Nagarythe, forced by circumstance into a lifestyle of oceanic wandering where they subsist in a life of fishing, scavenging, and occasional trading. They are known to wander as far west as Arnheim, as far south as Lustria, and as far east as the coasts of Brettonia. And they are looked down upon even by other Nagarathi as a kleptomaniac culture! #-o Apparently the Rovers have a saying, “If it isn’t locked up they don’t really need it.” Which sometimes is interpreted as ‘if it isn’t locked up really well (i.e. behind something that I can’t pick) then it is free for the taking!’ And they are notorious for their ‘sticky fingers’, both on sea and in port. In fact I’ve often thought that the confused accounts of ‘elven raiders’ coming out of the human lands can be partially attributed to a lack of distinction between the Rovers and the Druchii! While the Druchii are far more violent in their attacks, and the Rovers like all Asur do not practice slavery, still it is not unheard of for a group of Sea Rovers to come upon some isolated Brettonian homestead and ‘liberate’ their cattle on some dark night. These sea faring Nagarathi are so aggressive in their urges to ‘borrow’ that it is sometimes reported that ships at anchor in the north have been boarded overnight and had cargo removed while the crew slept. There’s even one story of a Hawkship out of Lothern, recently transferred to the North Fleet with an unsuspecting captain and crew, going to bed one evening and then waking up the next morning to find all the gilding on the outside of their vessel mysteriously vanished!

And yes indeed, Palin is a Rover clan, and so both Tanith and his daughter Lili are of them. (Though she ‘did good’ and went to the Navigator’s College in Yvresse.)

I just thought I’d share this because it reminded me of a comment Tim once made – that being Shadow Prince to the clans of Nagarythe was sometimes like being a shepherd to a herd of rabid chinchillas!! :roll:

(Of course there are no Chinchillas in Nagarythe. Translators license there. :) He actually used the word Pochii. Which is a small animal from the Annulis that is rather like a chinchilla. Except it has a longer tail. And fangs. And a vampiric diet of blood. They are sometimes kept as pets by the mountain clans of Nagarythe. And occasionally one can see some comely mountain maiden wearing one about her neck like a stole – simultaneously being kept warm by and feeding her pet! But that is another story.)

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2015 11:24 pm 
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Interesting that the rovers don't practice slavery considering the sometimes steady influx of Bretonni slaves into Athel Loren, often from coastal areas unconnected to the forest...

Very few Asrai ever traded with Druchii, so it is rather... strange.

I'm told the former Seneschal of Belac Agaith had done some looking into it before his untimely end in the prelude to the End Times; he seemed certain that the humans must have come from Asur ships...

Again, just a strange coincidence, I'm certain.

:lol:

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 5:24 pm 
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Day Six


It was early morning. The world was all indigos before the sun’s first light, and Tim stood high above the Hawkship ‘Harvest Moon’, in the spindly bobbing world that was the Crow’s Nest. His elbows rested on the walls on the lookout, his eyes drifted out into that miasma of blues and greys.

He had dreamt that night. Or morning. He was alone. In a City of the Dead. Though not alone. There had been a Dawii there. Though how he knew that; he’d never even met one of the Stone Folk. He had run until his lungs felt like bursting…and then he had woken up.

He reached under his jerkin, felt the poultice patch on his ribs. Just a nasty bruise the Healer had said. Lucky he had been wearing his armor or it might have been broken bones. That and a matching nasty bruise on his shoulders made his entire torso feel like pounded jerky, both soft and tense. He wasn’t sure how he was going to wield a bow. How he was going to go into battle, like this?

But it had to happen. They were coming upon it now. Soon. Today. He could feel it. The Blighted Isle. It was out there in those indigos, waiting. He could feel its presence already, like an itch in the back of the throat. Or a pair of eyes in the corner of the vision. He kept turning his head, looking for something. Feeling something. But there was nothing there. And he would try not to think of it. Try to close his eyes and let blackness take him.

That was when the whispering started.

He couldn’t stand it anymore, so he had left his bunk and climbed up here, displacing the Altrais watcher and taking the early morning task. It was something to do. Something to keep his mind, his eyes, focused. To keep his jittery fingers on something solid. Just nerves. That’s what Willem had said. It’s just nerves. Nerves before the battle. One that Willem was excited to be going into. At last, his cousin had said. Now we will be real warriors! And yet… Tim couldn’t get the shaking out of his arms. Couldn’t forget the pain in his back, or the weakness in his legs.

He was afraid.

And the whispering dark knew it.

“How much longer, do you think?” Layk said softly from his seat in the bottom of the Crow’s Nest. Tim had been surprised when the big Lowlander had followed him up here; climbing the long ropes to get to the Nest far above the bobbing ship below. But the boy had persevered, like an overgrown puppy, and now sat on his rump on the floor of the Nest, refusing to stand and look; he preferred to have the walls over his head, he said. Then it felt comfortable for him.

Strange. Both of us seeking comfort up here, Tim thought. He seeks walls; I seek the wind.

He wet his lips a bit before speaking. “I don’t know. The Captain said ‘soon’ and ‘today’. But….” He didn’t want to speak anymore. Didn’t want to say what he was thinking: that he could FEEL it. He could feel the Blighted Isle out there, waiting for them. Feel it like a hand upon his heart. The whispering redoubled, and he thought he heard his name. Sinister and sibilant. It was madness to be going there. Madness to be this near to this place. How could anyone come this close? How could the Rovers stand it without going mad? Or had they already gone mad? Had the long years living upon the seas around this cursed place driven them not only to the brink of extinction, but of insanity as well?

He could feel it. Out there in the dark.

The Sword of Khaine.

The Relic of a God. Touched and wrought by a hand, not mortal. Designed by a mind infinite in scope and age. It was not of this world – and yet, here it sat. And they were coming closer to it.

Wrought by a god…. Those words tumbled about in his head. They said that everything was wrought by the gods. That the world was their Creation. The Sun. The Moon. The Winds. The Waves. All had been drafted and sung into being by the whispers of the Gods of Dawn. And yet… why this piece? This one blade of all Creation, should still exist. It shouldn’t. It was built into a temple older then the world. Surrounded by a graveyard with more tombs then there were Asur in history. Or so they said. It was a place of the Beyond, not kin to the patterns of this realm. And it was his… Not just any God. But Kaela Mensha Khaine. The God of Murder. Destruction. Of Endings.

And beginnings it was said too. That was why the elders of the village said they must revere him. There is no rebirth without death first. There is no forest without the red tooth of the fox, or the fallen timber of the dead oak. It had to be that way. And Khaine oversaw that.

But…but it was said he oversaw so much more. That he ruled the feelings of the night. Fear. Anxiety. Greed. Envy. Desire for that which was not yours. And those were the strings tied to the hearts of all elves. The strands that drove the Druchii into madness all those aeons ago….

If the stories were to be believe. And standing there in that night, feeling the pain of his labored breathing, and that strange touch upon his brow, Narrin’Tim did believe it. He believed it with every bone of his body. He felt the Great Eye upon him, and the whispering seemed to grow in confidence. In fervor.

“I…” Layk began. “I cannot think,” he said slowly. “I am told that Rage was of my people. That he was a Lowlander like me, strong and stalwart. He never ran. Never flinched. Was always in the center of the shield wall….”

The boy was mumbling now, not looking at anything in particular. Of course he could feel it too, Tim thought. Just as all Asur did. All the elves probably. This place. It was too close to the mind of a god.

“Standing there…strong…fearless,” Layk muttered. “But….but I am not him. I am no one. I am clanless….”

His voice trailed off. Tim wanted to ask, to speak, to keep his thoughts flowing against the freezing tide that swept over him. But he dared not. How could he ask that? Why are you less then a person? Why have you no clan to love and honor you? It wasn’t something to be spoken. He didn’t even want to think it.

There was a laughter now in the whispering. He felt a world devoid of family. Of Nagarythe gone beneath the seas. He shivered.

“It is not nerves,” Tim whispered. “I…am afraid.”

He felt Layk’s hand seize upon his arm. He turned and looked at the Lowlander. The boy’s eyes were frantic as he looked up at him.

“I am too,” the Lowlander said in a pained voice. “I…don’t belong here. I shouldn’t be here. I am not….”

Tim blinked. The light of dawn was finally burning through the blackness. He could see the crimson line of the first grey upon the horizon. And there… There eating that light, blocking it from view. The shadowy rise of landfall. A jagged coastline of broken hills and stony beaches, that stretched down and across the horizon before them. The Blighted Isle.

“We are here,” Tim whispered.


***


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2015 6:23 pm 
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Day Six – Part Two


The Shadow Warrior, Narrin’Tim (Tim to his friends!), walked across the grey gravel beach and stared at sweep of heath rising above. Even the grass of this place seems dead, he thought, gazing at the rustling grey of the slope. He turned. Behind him the Hawkship, ‘Harvest Moon’, lay at anchor in the bay. The beach itself was slowly becoming crowded with the cargo and bodies of the Host. To one side stood the tall, lanky figure of the Shadow Lord, already wearing the archaic black and gold armor of his station. He was in whispered conference with the young captain of the ‘Moon’, Aerion Flynn, whose youthful eyes were studying their surroundings with ill disguised anxiety.

Youthful! Narrin’Tim snorted. He was one to think such. He was the youngest of the Host. Just recruited from his kin little over a fortnight ago, due to sureness of foot and eye. And while it was true that he could hit a raven on the wing at a hundred paces, he did not know battle. Not like the others.

But then – no! – he wasn’t the youngest. There, stepping lithely from the bow of one of the Hope’s runners, was the new emissary from Hoeth. She was obviously just entering her womanhood. And with her green and white robes, rose-colored cheeks, and short blonde curls, stood in stark contrast to the pallid skinned, gray and brown robed folk of Nagarythe. No, she was from another part of the Ever Kingdom; somewhere beyond the mountains. It seemed as distant to him as the black faces of one of the moons. Standing there, her breath fogging the cold morning air, amongst a backdrop of his dour kin, Narrin’Tim thought that she looked like a patch of clear sky in an otherwise grey winter’s gloom. He did not know her name; she had only just arrived a few days ago. She did not know battle either. This. This would be the place that they both learned it.

They had come to the Isle of Blight, in the storm ridden seas north of Nagarythe. A desolate wasteland of life-drained gray. Here, so close to the black altar of Khaine, the Death Whisper, life was not permitted. Even now, just thinking about it brought a pang of fear and despair to this chest. And…something else. Even in the mountains and rocky hills of Nagarythe, its call could be felt. Sometimes the young and elderly would be found dreamwalking the woods at night, harkening to its voice. Sometimes they would not be found at all. But here - here so close! - it was like a red-hot needle buried into the flesh above his heart, twisting, and turning him physically toward the alter. Bile and nausea filled him. He did not want to be here. Not here of all places. It was this place the Host had come before. He had seen the broken and bloody bodies of the remnants who had fled this place. So the stories went. The stories also told how the previous Shadow Lord had been sent to the Second Death - the long walk into the haunted caverns beneath Anlec – as punishment for his failure here. And now his successor had brought them back.

It couldn’t be helped. The Fleet had spotted the Boneships of Settra plying the coasts here. This close to the Altar, whatever ancient magics the liche-dead were working could not be allowed. So the Host had come to cleanse these islands. Somewhere, he thought, looking at the jagged gray hills surrounding them, the dead walked. And schemed.

***

“What should we do?” Caleb asked, leaning on his longbow as he glanced about the grey and brown terrain.

Tanith was chewing on something again. He glared into the island interior. Tim saw rock and patches of sand, weeds that were iron black, but little else. “There,” the Walker said, pointing towards a hillock in the interior. “We finish unloading the ship then set up a forward camp on that there hill. Trenches and pits. And bring in some of the working Claws from the ship, and crew to assemble them.”

Tim’s stomach sank. He was filled with fear over the upcoming battle, but now it looked that first he would have to be using his shovel again. Already his arms ached. But then he looked up and saw the gaunt figure of the Shadow Lord approaching with the Altrais Captain alongside, the foreign elf looking oddly uncomfortable. And strangely enough, the slight figure of the girl (!) behind them.

“Tanith,” the Nagarathi lord said as he came to a stop, “Send Caleb and the veterans scouting along the coast the Islanders indicated.” The figure gestured along the shore towards the north. His face blank and emotionless. It was like he was dreamspeaking. A disconcerting thought. Tim felt queasy.

Tanith was nodding. Apparently the information they received at that Rover’s Nest would be good for something, Tim thought. “You want me to go with them?”

“No,” the Shadow Lord spoke. There was a moment or two of him just standing there, like he was confused, or lost in thought. The black eyes just flickering about. Maybe he was listening, Tim wondered. Distracted by the sound. He must hear it too. Hear the whispers! Was it a madness for him as well?

“No,” the Nagarathi lord spoke again, slowly. “I’ve just learned….” The voice trailed off. Then with an effort, “I’ve just learned that the Sapheri have placed an outpost here.” He gestured to the young girl, then added, “A watchtower. We…. “ He shook his head. “I want to make contact with them.”

“WHAT?!” Tanith was livid. “A WATCHTOWER HERE??!!! AND THEY DIDN’T TELL US???!!!”

All eyes turned to the slight figure of the girl. Her face was pale and flushed at the same time. Her eyes downcast. She mumbled something about a ‘research station’ for Hoeth. Tim didn’t understand what she meant, but Tanith still looked ready to spit fire.

The Shadow Lord was shaking his head in a strange, distracted jerking motion. “Peace, Tanith,” he mumbled. “We….we must…make contact. They may have information….”

“Or they may be mad or dead by now,” Caleb muttered under his breath. The other Shadow Warrior veterans nodded.

“How long have they been here?” Tanith snarled, though his voice was more level now.

“Eighteen months,” the girl said quietly, eyes still downcast. “At least. They should have been…. We… Master Tiralya said we haven’t received a report in some time….”

That news cut through them like a frosted blade. Tim stopped to consider what it must be like to be alone on this island. For over a year! Hearing those whispers. Feeling that eye upon you. As you wake. As you sleep. The touch. The iron claw upon your brow. Even now he wanted to scream and run. To break down and babble upon the ground. It took effort and fear to not just lose all semblance of himself. And they had only been here an hour! But an entire year and six months??!! Madness.

“They didn’t tell us,” Tanith was shaking his head. “What the hell study could they be doing up here??”

The Shadow Lord’s hand fell with a jerking chop. “We can ask them when we find them. The watch is not far from here. Just a couple hours inland. We…must start soon. To speak….” The words crumbled away and the black eyes were lost looking in the distant.

Tanith eyed the ancient lord for a second and Tim was surprised to see concern there in the usual pitiless gaze of the Islander. But in a moment the old fire had returned and the Rover was turning and barking orders. “Oy! You Warden! Get the camp set up on that hill while we are gone. And you make sure they got good lines of sight for the Claws!! And Caleb,” he turned to the senior Warrior. “Slip in soft and silent the way Krull spoke of. Find the enemy. Find em, and come back without them knowing the wiser. Find em so we can kill em. Permanent dead this time.”


***

“I wonder why the Rovers didn’t tell us about this place,” Willem mused under his breath as they finished scrambling down a gravel path to a dry ravine.

Quill snorted. “Them volunteer information. Hardly. Unless there was something to gain from it, they would sooner cut their own throats then give something away for free!”

“But to lie to the Shadow Prince?” Willem raised his eyebrow.

Quill glanced forward the some thirty paces where the Shadow Lord walked with Tanith, leading the way. “They didn’t lie. They answered our question about the undead right. They just…omitted.”

“Seems like some omission,” Willem said with a snort. He stopped, and turned to the back of their line. “Hey you! Altrais!!! Errr…. Sapheri!! What’s this place all about?”

The girl was huffing and gasping as she drew up the rear of their little marching column. Her robes truly weren’t suited to the terrain and were already covered in dust and grime. She was struggling with a staff in one hand and what looked like a little stick in the other. With a glare at Willem, she sat down and pulled off one dainty shoe, and started emptying it of rocks. “How should I know?” she shot back.

Willem stopped, and the familiar smirk was in place. The girl was comely alright, Tim thought. Though nothing like the girls of the village. He wondered if Willem was noticing how attractive she was now? “Cause you are the Sapheri, right?” Willem said, smirk firmly in place. “From their tower. You knew about this place, so you should be able to tell us what its about.”

“I am Sapheri,” she responded, saying it in such a way that the emphasis of the syllables was slightly different. And there was some other inflection in the vowels that was hard for Tim to hear, let alone mouth. “But all I know about this watchtower is what I was told by my headmaster. Right before I was sent….left… to come….here.” She struggled and flushed to finish the sentence.

“So what did they tell you?” Layk asked as he rested upon his bow. The others had stopped too. Tim sent a look forward, but could still make out the two elder Nagarathi climbing the far slope of the ravine. He waited to hear what the girl had to say.

“All they said was that the Department of Historical Research had allowed it with a grant from Lothern,” the girl said. “The faculty voted and it was approved by a narrow margin.”

Tim wasn’t sure what a ‘faculty’ was but the answer still confused him. “But what did they come here to do?” he pressed.

The girl looked at him like he was an idiot, and he felt his face flush. “Historical research,” she said, pronouncing the words slowly.

“A bunch of scholars? Here?” Quinn said with a shake of his head. His brother was also looking disbelieving.

“This place? What of the Druchii raiders?” Quill said.

“They had a retinue of guard,” the girl answered. “And it was deemed to not be a likely target of the Druchii, because…well…because….” She waived vaguely towards the island’s interior. Tim understood: even the Druchii avoided the Blighted Isle. Only their great warhosts and their most powerful sorceresses ever came here. And even then, only cautiously. This place was cursed….

He felt the Whisper. Saw a body, fair and long limbed….Burned black in a flame of agony and heard a voice shrieking to madness…..

He shook his head. The shrieks still echoing in his head.

Suddenly he heard a short whistle. He shook his head again but then noticed the others had turned towards the sound. He looked and saw Tanith gesturing towards them at the top of the rise leading out of the ravine. They forgot the girl, and broke into a jog.

They came stumbling up the gravel incline. Willem got their first, “What is it?” he asked.

The Shadow Prince was standing just past the crown of the gravel hill. Tim could see past him the broken rock swept downward and out to form a little shale valley, backdropped by a jagged rocky curtain of black obsidian, some fifty feet high. And there in the midst of the valley, a few small buildings standing in an isolated circle. And a stone tower – like a waystone tower – white and slender and a hundred feet tall, looking ancient and cracked and weather beaten – on the far side of the cluster of newer buildings.

And black pillars of smoke were rising from the buildings. He could see figures in chain armor with axe and sword weaving in and out of the burning ruins. And there just outside the encampment, a sigil placed into the earth. A sigil of the Chaos God, Khorne….

“Trouble,” Tanith answered.



***


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2015 2:27 pm 
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Well played Sir
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Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2010 1:46 pm
Posts: 7788
Location: Queensland, Australia
Heh, just had that Redman track, time for some action run through my head ^_^
Maybe I'm painting some new Shadow Warriors to replace my Mist Walkers...

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Beastly member of The Mage Knight Guild.
Narrin’Tim wrote:
These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2015 10:48 pm 
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Day Six – Part Three


“What are they?” Tim whispered.

“Men folk,” Tanith said with a glower. “From the old colonies in the north. They worship the dark powers now and come raiding upon the seas.” The old Rover paused as he contemplated the scene in the valley below them. “But they seldom come to Nagarathi waters. They know better. Strange that they should be here now….” His voice trailed off.

“Something in the winds calls to them,” the Shadow Lord said suddenly. Tim turned towards him, but could only see the profile of the elder lord. His eyes were locked upon the figures below.

“I…I count over forty,” Quill volunteered nervously. “And…only seven of us.”

“Eight,” the Sapheri girl uttered with a contemptuous look.

“Eight,” Quill correct. “But that still means we are outnumbered five to one!”

A silence followed. Tim considered the math. Tried to imagine slaying five foes at once. To slaying five men. What these things are. Things he had heard stories of and yet never encountered. Shorter. Brutish. Slow witted but fast living. Akin to the wild apes of the Southlands it was said. But right now, in black armor and bloody axe, they seemed dangerous. He felt twinges in his belly.

“Five to one…. I like those odds!” Tanith said with a vicious show of teeth on his face. His eyes burned as he looked to the boys behind, then he turned back to his prince. “What is the play? Wait for dark then slip in and start the cutting?”

Tim looked up: the sky was so grey and forlorn that it was easy to forget that it was still only midafternoon. There must be a few hours left until true dark settled.

“No,” the Shadow Prince answered. He pointed. “They have set that building aflame. And no others. Probably to burn out the inhabitants.” He paused, his eyes focused below. Tim marveled at the change; all day he had seemed distracted, even listless. But now in this moment the elder Nagarathi had a falcon-like intensity. “We must move quickly if we are to rescue them.”

Tanith stared and thought. “They are probably just Sappii,” he muttered under his breath, using a derogatory term for the southern kingdom.

“They are Asur. And our brothers. We will aid them,” the Shadow Prince answered quietly.

Tanith’s face bunched up into a coil of scars and wrinkles, but then relaxed. “Fine. But how? If we flank them from the rocks to the side, we can take many with our bows. But the rest will withdraw into the cover of the village, and still probably have time to finishing battering those doors down and killing those within.”

The Shadow Lord’s head bowed in thought. “No…” he slowly. “We must draw them out.” He looked up and over to the girl. “You said the scholars were accompanied by a guard of the Tower?” The girl nodded, and despite her earlier fire Tim could see she was white faced and wide eyed. “Then,” the Nagarathi lord continued, “We must see that we combine our forces.” He looked to the valley once more. Then he nodded. “Tanith, the banner,” he said and held his hand out to the elder Rover.

The old Walker looked surprised but then reached up under the bottom of his jerkin to pull out a piece of folded black cloth that had been secured there. “What…?” he started to ask. Ignoring him the Prince unshouldered his longbow, and unstrung it, leaving a stave seven feet long in his hands. He affixed the cloth to the end.

“I will take one with me and draw their gazes. You take the others and slip around to free those trapped within.”

“But….” Tanith objected, looking worriedly at those below.

“Trust me, Tanith,” the Lord said. There was a sad smile on his face. “As you once did.”

“Yes, my prince,” Tanith said and nodded. He looked to the boys, his eyes swept over the group. They hesitated on Tim, then moved quickly to Willem, and finally settled on Layk. “You, Lowlander. You stay with the Prince. The rest of you…” He glanced at the girl and seemed conflicted for a moment. “The rest of you, follow me. Quiet like.”

The elder dropped to a crouch and made quickly towards the nearest pile of rocks on the valley side. Tim hesitated. A heartbeat. A second one.

What would happen if I just sat down? If I feigned an illness? An injury? If I hid in the rocks….?

They would call me coward. And it would be true.

But I do not want to die.

But…Willem had already started to follow. He and the Walker were already halfway down the hill. If Tim returned to his village alone…. If they knew he had abandoned his cousin….his brothers. They would cast him out. He would be Shado….

That thought. He turned and saw the burly Lowlander standing there next to the elder prince. The Lowlander’s face was waxen, but he stood there as one condemned. The Lord handed him the bow stave with the black cloth affixed. And like a standard bearer the boy held it before him, face still stone in terror, and yet he held it.

And the wind caught it…. The black furled out…and suddenly he saw the banner of the House of Shadow Princes. The banner of Ancient Nagarythe! A night sky punctuated in stars of silver. With the green fields of Nagarythe below. And the rune of Lileath set upon it…. Hope.

Tim gritted his teeth and turned. He ran at a crouch down the slope.

Only then did he realize that the girl had waited as well. Only following after he started.

***

There were new cries coming from the outpost now. Tim heard words. Elffen!! Elffen!! Repeated over and over again. He heard the sounding of a trumpet. And then the sound of more shouting and beating of swords on shields.

His back was slick with sweat, yet in stark contrast his mouth felt dry as bone. He tried to wipe the ooze out of his face and lick his lips. Nothing was going right in his body. The others were ducking from rock to rock before him, working their way around the edges of the valley. He struggled to keep up, feeling a strange weakness in his legs. Suddenly Tanith raised his hand, signaling for them to stop. He dropped low, just keeping his head high enough to peer over a stone. He saw….

…the Banner of Nagarythe in rippling midnight hues…. Coming down the hillside, straight towards the encampment. Two small figures beneath it.

“That is madness,” a small voice whispered. It was the girl. “They will be slain!”

Tim couldn’t say anything back. But whatever the madness, it had worked to draw the eyes of the northmen. The low brutish figures were drawing out of the encampment and forming ranks before it, facing the oncoming pair. Tim could see them now more clearly – shorter than Asur, but broader across the chest and belly. They held axes in their hands and were covered in hair or fur, such that they looked like small bears, raised up on their hind legs. They growled and howled as they bashed their weapons against their shields.

And there was one. One alone upon a black steed. A figure, gigantic, in armor burned obsidian. It sat hunched over the massive horse beneath it. A giant axe in one hand, and horseman’s pick in the other. With its armored knees it directed the steed forward, and the ranks of men parted to allow it passage.

“Dammit!” Tanith swore. “A champion of the Dark Gods. We had best hurry. Hurry so we can get back and help the Prince!”

The Walker stood once more and ran forward. Tim could hear the battering of shields behind them, now in a strange, almost rhythmic fashion. And a call to some foreign god, uttered in dozens of throats. But he couldn’t pay attention he had to hurry. He had to keep up. There was Tanith, and the old Walker was slipping around the back of one of those buildings, searching its grey stone walls. Tim could see the burning pitch upon its roofs, and the bundles of brands lay at the foot of every window and entrance. Tanith went to one bundle and kicked it aside. Then he wrapped his hands upon the charred wooden shutter. But there was nothing. No sound. No reply.

And the chanting was growing louder.

Tim thought of Layk. The poor boy. Drawn out like that, exposed. Facing certain death, just at the whim of Walker. It seemed unfair.

Then, there was a grunt and a shout. Tim turned and saw a figure turn the corner around the building. A man-ape in chain armor. He had a spear in his hand and was already hefting it to hurl. Willem was beside him; the boy dropped to one knee and lifted his bow. But the spear was already thrown. His cousin dropped to the side and rolled away.

Tim was feeling thoughts crumbling. A strange ooze seemed to fill his limbs. He watched sickened as the spear flew out – a short thing, but with a heavy boar killing tip. It came out and flew at his cousin. And it was like he could watch it punching through the jerkin. Tearing the heart out of the chest. But then it was past and over and thudding into the dirt behind his cousin.

He looked up he was surprised to see his longbow in his hands. The string quivering after being released. A feathered haft was stuck into the ape man.

“Dammit!” Tanith swore again. “No time. No time!” He turned to the girl. “You come with me. We’ll try another entrance.” Then he gestured to the Easterling brothers. “Fall back to the watchtower. Try to signal those within!” Then a glance toward Willem and Tim. “Follow me!!”

And they were off running again. And thoughts were still crumbling inside him. He just felt his knees pounding into dirt. Felt his breath sucking between teeth. There were more shouts and cries. And he saw a path between buildings. A burning building. And Tanith kicking at the flames and battering at the smoldering door with his hands. The girl beside him. She started crying out in her strange foreign voice, using words that were alike but different than his own. And then there was a surprised cry from within the building. He could hear the sound of latches being thrown, of a crossbar lifted.

A startled face under a silver helm looked out of the smoky interior.

“Look out!” Willem cried.

Tim turned. He saw a band of men warriors charging down the street towards them. Willem was loosing arrows while he was still reaching for his own. The Shadow Walker snarled something and kicked a burning beam down and across the path before the men. Then leapt back with his longbow in his hands, loosing arrows as he withdrew. But as they struck man or shield, the tide of armored bodies continued to surge leaping over the flaming obstacle and coming up and towards them. Tanith wrapped one across the face with the end of his longbow then readied his blade.

Suddenly, a horn blew. A sharp, high pitched sound. Coming from within the building! And the door flew open. Warriors in tall helms and gleaming silver mail poured out, with greatswords in their hands. They swept out and in accented voices, cried out to Asuryan and Isha!! The blades rose and fell and in moments the street was clear of enemies.

“This was but a fraction,” Willem muttered in the aftermath, panting heavily.

“The Prince!” Tanith cried out and took off down the path.

***

They came upon the battlefield only seconds later. Though it felt like a lifetime. Tim could see them… See the broken bodies, lying like droppings along a road. Just crumpled here and there, in blood soaked rags and torn metal shirts. They were there scattered about in pieces. Some small things. Small oozing things. That he realized were heads.

And there, some fifty yards away. He saw the mighty black horse standing idly by. There was something on its back. Some sort of pack or burden. But as he took a closer look…. He saw that it was a man.

No. Half a man.

Half an armored body remained in the saddle. Cut through the center as if by a razor wire passing through ground meat. The blood and gore still oozed out of that gruesome burden.

And standing there, covered from head to toe in blood. The young lowlander, still holding the makeshift Banner of Nagarythe in one hand.

And the Shadow Prince.


***


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2015 3:44 am 
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Well played Sir
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What that poor lad must have seen...

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Beastly member of The Mage Knight Guild.
Narrin’Tim wrote:
These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2015 5:47 pm 
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Day Six – Part Four


Shado’Layk just stood there, mouth slightly agape, eyes wide, but not looking at anything. And Willem was all a fierce grin, clapping him on the shoulder telling him it was a fine fight. But the Lowlander just stood there, still not looking at anything.

Tim knew how he felt. There was a…nothingness in those eyes. He felt it. So as Tanith hurried to speak with the blood soaked Nagarathi lord, Tim turned and drifted alone back the way they came. His feet retraced their footsteps through the tumble of weathered buildings and past the still burning rubble of the final one before the tower. There were voices behind him. The Altrais warriors must be speaking with Tanith and the others. It was important – he knew that – but…

There he was. The man. The ape-man that he had shot. Still lying in the path past the building, a pool of dark red blood pooling under him.

Tim walked up to him slowly. The man-creature had seemed so large in life – a fearsome bearded face, with a boar spear in hand. Now. Now Tim could see he was a full head shorter than he. And his body, seemed small underneath the heavy ringed mail he had worn. It had done him little good; against the bodkin tips of Nagarathi arrows loosed at a few paces, he may as well have been wearing a cloth doublet…

The boy halted. The figure stirred. Just a moan and a clenching of one hand.

Tim felt a squirming in his belly. He got down on one knee beside the figure. He looked….

The face underneath the sandy blonde beard was…younger than he expected. He did not know how many winters these short-lived races saw, but this one… This one could scarce be into manhood. More a boy than a father. A son, perhaps, out to war for the first time. And there! He saw air bubble into the blood. He was breathing! He could see the lips part slightly. Hear the pained gasping of a blood-filled lung trying to expand. Weakly now; but it was there.

He knelt there and felt his stomach turn to knots. He was an enemy. A worshipper of the Dark Gods. And most likely a slayer of Asur. But… he was so pitiable. Just a child. An ignorant child brought to these lands by others likely. And…

…he had shot him.

Never before…. It was his hand that had loosed the shaft. The arrow was from his quiver; his fletch work protruded from this boy’s side. It was his work. His deed. He had shot an enemy of Ulthuan….

He felt no pride in the deed. Just a numbing horror at the rattling breaths and the squeezing fingers.

“There you are!” the voice of the Walker called from behind him. “C’mon. The Hoeth Swords say if any of their scholars are left they will be in the watchtower. We are going to check it out.” The old Rover drew up beside him. “What…. Oh, still breathing, eh?”

Tim looked up, still from his kneeling position. He suddenly and strangely felt ashamed. As if he had been spied doing something foul. He bit his lip and felt the emotions rage inside him. Not knowing what he should feel. But the Rover was just looking down with those hard black eyes, pitiless orbs devoid of emotion, behind that ruined face.

“Its not worth watching him squirm,” he said. “If he was a Druchii…. “ He let the word hang in the air and there was a sibilant hatred left on the tongue as he uttered it. “But he aint. Save your hatred for those more deserving.” He nodded to the felled warrior. “Finish him.”

Tim stared blankly, only half comprehending. He did not move.

Tanith’s gash mouth turned into a frown. “C’mon. Finish him.”

Tim tried to understand. “But he lives….”

Tanith shook his head. “No. Your arrow punctured the lung and it looks like it severed the spine. He will not live much longer. But his every breath will be an agony until he dies. Finishing him is a mercy he scarce deserves.” He glowered down at the figure in the dirt, then at the boy kneeling next to him. “You would not leave a deer in such a state would you Romani? No? Then do it.”

Tim turned back to the figure. Saw the fluttering of the eyelids and the parted lips. Even now the body clung to life. Even in the burning agony there was fear of the dark beyond. Fear of leaving. He could see the panic in those fluttering lids, and twitching fingers. Did he know the two Asur stood over him, and discussed his fate? Unlikely that he spoke their tongue. But…. He feared. And Tim’s stomach was turned into knots.

Suddenly Tanith knelt down next to him, and drew the knife out from the boy’s belt. He grabbed Tim’s hand and placed it over the hilt, then pushed it two handed so that the tip of the blade was placed just at the back of the neck under the skull. Tim could see the panic now grow in the face of the man-thing. See the fear, the twitching in the muscles. A plea-ful moan escaped those damaged lungs.

And then with a forceful push, the Shadow Walker pushed his hand into the butt of the hilt and the knife dropped severing spine and throat. And what was there… That spark of life in the man-boy… Was gone.

Was he created of Asuryan? He had loved once. A mother. A father. Perhaps a girl of his tribe. And now…nothing.

He felt his shoulders shake, and he was ashamed. It was the first time all over again. The first hunt with his father and he wept at the deer lying upon the glen. His arrow in its side. He wept that something so beautiful and strong was no more. And it was his fault. And his father had said it must be done. We needed the meat, and the soul would fly forth to Kurnous great wood. But the body would feed their family. But he was young and he didn’t understand, and he wept.

The tears would not come this time, but Narrin’Tim trembled as he looked at what he had wrought.

“It is over,” Tanith said and stood up. “Come. This is war. And there is more fighting to come.”

But…. How much more? How much more could he stomach without going mad?

***

He wondered if Shado’Layk felt the same way. Both stood outside their group in the small room at the foot of the Tower. The Lowlander looked pale and still was not meeting anyone’s eye, just standing there clutching the unstrung longbow and the banner it bore, to his side.

He had done well. That is what Willem had said.

He did not look well.

Yet the Shadow Prince stood there speaking with the trio of scholars. All Sapheri. All dressed in robes of white and blues. Faces dirt covered and releaved.

“Half our group was lost when they fell upon us at the waystone above the hill,” one said, and Tim still struggled to follow the lilting flow of his King’s speech. There were too many vowels in these Altrais speak he decided.

“What brought you here?” the Shadow Prince spoke softly. And there was something in his voice. A familiarity in the tone that mimicked the foreigners. Like he knew their tongue and ways.

“To study the Vortex,” another of the scholars explained with a nervous swallow.

Tanith raised his eyebrows. “You are damn far from the Vortex friend.”

There was an irritated jerking of their heads. “We came here to study the flows through the old waystones. The flows of the winds of magic. Across the isle and sea and to the vortex.”

“Why?” the Nagarathi lord asked.

“I…. well I don’t rightly know all the details. The lord researcher was here investigating it from Hoeth. We were just his assistants,” the Sapheri explained and licked his lips. “Something about a quickening and a vibration. I don’t know all the details,” he repeated.

Tanith shook his head impatiently. “Did you see any undead?”

That got some wide stares. “Undead? Here?”

A nod. “We are tracking a whole army of the buggers. Seen any hereabouts.”

“No. And nothing for a day and half since we were chased inside by the northern cultists.”

Tanith looked to the Nagarathi lord. “That answers that. We had best hope that Caleb comes up with something more.”

The lord nodded, looking thoughtful.

“What will become of us?” One of the scholars asked, nervously. Besides the three there were eight of guards from the White Tower that had survived. But only half their original party.

“You will come with us,” Tanith answered. “Back to our warcamp. And once our business is done we will set you loose at Anlec. You can find your own way home then….”

The scholars nodded. But the eldest of the Hoeth guard stepped forward. “Are you here under the King’s command?”

“That we are,” Tanith answered eyeing him. “Gotta put those walking corpses back into the ground.”

“Then I and my brothers would join your forces. According to the laws of the Compact,” the Swordmaster said simply and nodded. Tanith hesitated a moment, then nodded back. He glanced over at the Shadow Prince, who was still standing there. Still covered in dried blood. For a moment Tim thought the whispering had caught his mind again, but then he saw his face: the elder was deep in contemplation.

The Prince looked up. “Why now?” he said simply. “Why conduct these studies of the winds and Vortex now?”

The scholars looked at each other. “I don’t rightly know,” the one who had spoken before answered. “It was set up suddenly last year. We got permission from the faculty at the Tower….”

“And there was the grant. That large grant of silver….” One of the others volunteered.

The Nagarathi lord looked at him. “Silver. From where?”

The young researcher blinked under that gaze. Then frowned in thought. “Some colonial lord I understand. I can’t rightly remember the name.” He scratched his chin. “Wait. It was something odd. Yes, I remember.”

He looked up. “Spires. That was what the master researcher had said. The silver was from Spires.”


***


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 11:56 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 11:47 am
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Location: Brisbane, Australia.
An update for my birthday, grim business though it is.

Great to see Tim is seeing the morality of taking life as shades of grey even from the beginning.

Interested in seeing where this goes, interested to see Spires playing with the Winds of Magic even at so early a stage. Looking forward to the future.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 12:04 pm 
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Nothing wrong with funding scientific research for the betterment of the Ever Empire. Science is the future (well, it was the future of the past we're reading about...), even if the Nagarathi fail to see it.

And you can't blame a guy for wanting to profit from the research he's funding of course.

Rod

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 7:23 pm 
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Day Seven


There was the ocean. Its grey waters rolling and breaking upon the rocks of the isle. A morning mist hovered above the waves and the gravel beach. Through it he could make out the lines of the Lothern warship sitting at anchor in the outer edges of the bay. The grey-blue light of the predawn sky just giving the slightest of halos to the white rigging and rain-slicked masts.

It was cold this morning; freezing cold. The rainfall from last night had collected in pools throughout the camp and by morning had turned into patches of ice. At least the camp was built in his absence; the tents thrown up, a bit of an earthen wall and ditch dug in the landward side. Not much, but the rain had been kept off his head while he slept, and there were Eagle Claws set up along the bulwark, covering the approaches from land.

Who was he kidding? He hadn’t slept. Narrin’Tim looked down at the small wooden bowl in his lap, containing the morning’s cold gruel. It had been one of the longest nights of his life. Just lying in his bedroll, staring up at the wind quivering tarp overhead. Wanting to drift off, but his body felt like a coiled spring; his brain… In his mind all he could see was that pool of blood under that northman’s body. Hear the gurgling of his dying breath….

I am weak. I am afraid. I want to go home.

Twice he had gotten up from his fretful non-sleep ostensibly to search for the privy, but in reality, just to walk. To walk and shiver in the midnight rain. He couldn’t stand the tarp then; the sounds of his brothers slumbers. He had to feel the ice upon his face, the wind in his clothes. Had to walk, and ramble around aimlessly about the camp.

There would be battle today. Everyone said that. Even Tanith. It was all coming to a head. They were closing in on their foe. They just were waiting for the return of Caleb and the other scouts to begin giving life to the army. To start the marching. To start the mechanisms of war….

Caleb still hadn’t returned. They were worried. Tanith stood at the north wall watching the approaches. The Shadow Prince and Eataini captain there as well. They were worried it had taken so long. He should be worried too; they were his brothers. But all he felt was a shivering dread. His stomach felt like a freezing thread was coiled throughout his innards, waiting to be pulled taught.

I am afraid. I don’t want to go to battle.

He saw Shado’Layk. The Lowlander hadn’t said two words since the fight yesterday. There he was below the camp, seated upon a driftwood log facing the sea. His longbow sat in his lap, and Tim could see the boy’s two hands wrapped tight about its center.

Was he afraid? Or just drawn deep into himself? He did not know. He wondered what the boy had seen? He must have fought bravely against so many northmen warriors. Had to. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide in that valley floor. He had to stand before the onslaught of the Chaos worshippers. He must be brave.

Tim heard a sound. It was a thin, retching noise. He turned his head; he saw the back end of the Sapheri maiden’s robes as she leaned over the camp wall. She weakly leaned back and wiped at her mouth. Her eyes drifting back over the camp. They met his. Her bright blue eyes fixed on his slate grey ones. He saw shame there, and then the girl looked away and quickly got up and hurried back to the tent that she now shared with the researchers from the watchtower.

At least she wasn’t so alone now, he thought. It must be better to have countrymen with you at this kind of time…. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t.

He thought about that. She had come alone to Nagarythe. No support. No family. No friends. To fight, and if need be, to die, in other’s battles. She was brave. Braver than him. He could not do that. He could not face what was to come without his brothers.

Even then… I am not sure I can.

***

Word had come. Caleb and the others had returned. The enemy was found. ‘Skirting the ravines to the north, they make for the flatlands before the Plain of Bones,’ he had said to the Shadow Prince. And with a word and a wave, the camp had come to life.

The army lived. It moved with a purpose. Like a single mind. All but the few sailors that they were leaving behind to man the Claws and watch the stores in the camp, were drawn forth and assembled. Ranks and rows formed up. Weapons and armor were passed around and inspected. A solid phalanx of the Eataini marines now stood outside the camp, and with them the lines of the Nagarathi archers just as numerous. And there strangely enough to see, the small formation of the high helmeted swordmasters, their massive greatblades strapped across broad shoulders. Behind them were the neat lines of the Black Dragoon knights, finally mounted on their tall destriers. The fastest contingent on the field now.

Though they were not to be first. They did not lead the way.

That was the job of Shadow Warriors.

‘First into battle, and last to leave,’ was what Tanith had said. They would be scouting the approach to the battlefield ahead of the marching army. They must be quick.

Tanith was standing nearby, eyes lively, sweeping over the inland country. Caleb stood next to him, and softly conferred. There was nodding, and pointing fingers; but what it could mean, Tim did not know.

He could see the Shadow Prince walking across the camp towards them, with a pair of the Sapheri behind. The maiden, and one of the researchers.

“One addition,” the Nagarathi lord said softly as he drew close. He indicated the researcher behind him; the youngest of the surviving three, Tim remembered. Tanith looked at the youth curiously.

“I’m a Caller,” the young elf had said simply. “I learned the language of the Great Eagles. If there are any nearby, and they can hear my voice. They may come to our aid.”

The Great Eagles? The Wing Brothers to Nagarathi. Even in the Skystones of his home they had been a rare sight. There were roosts of warhawks among some of the stones, giant peregrines large enough for an elf to ride, and some of the clans prided themselves on training the birds so that their warriors could ride them. But only the highest of the high, only the greatest of warriors and the clan chiefs could lay claim to riding a Wing Brother. For they were not trained like the warhawks. They decided if an elf was worthy, and only then, would ally with them for war. They thought. They knew. They remembered. His father called them the ‘wisest of birds’. The elder matron had told him that made them wiser than most Asur. They lived long, and had memories even keener than the people of Asuryan.

Always faithful. Never forgetting…. Those were virtues aspired to by all the Nagarathi.

There was relief to think that they had a Caller among them – someone who spoke the whistling tongue of the Eagles. If they should come to their aid?

How many tales of the old battles ended in the arrival of the Great Eagles to save the Hosts of Aenarion? The Third Siege of Anlec. The Clash of the Red Tides. The Charge of the Roses. Even, the Battle of the Six Armies had only ended when the eagles had arrived, sweeping the goblins out of the hills and into the sea. He remembered all the tales. Had heard them many a time. And now perhaps, he would be living one. Could he be a hero in someone’s tale someday? He doubted it. No hero was shaking in their boots as he was doing now.

“We tried to delay them,” Caleb was muttering. “Tipped over some boulders with levers to tray to make a rock slide in the ravines. But it didn’t buy us much time. They just crawled over the debris. Like ants they were. On all fours. Just skittering up and over the slide….”

Tanith scowled and spat. The Shadow Prince nodded.

“There’s a lot of them,” Caleb said, his voice soft. “More than we thought. They have wings of nightmare chariots, and dead carrion in the skies. We barely made it out of the hills.” The older Shadow Warrior stopped and swallowed, and Tim realized something very disconcerting: Caleb was afraid too. That the senior veteran should fear this foe, the thought threatened to turn his feet to jelly within his boots. “And… they are led by an ancient Tomb Lord. I saw him. Eyes ablaze with a green light. One of them Nekharran princes of old. Still wearing the ancient helm and armor of that dead kingdom. His flail was wrought in blazing fire. It shattered the rocks before him….”

The senior Shadow Warrior swallowed again. “And there was something else. Something….evil…. In the blackness beyond the army. We could feel it. Feel it in our bones. The earth shook at its approach….”

Tanith’s scowl deepened, and the Shadow Warriors behind him shared nervous looks. The Shadow Prince stood still, eyes off into the distance again.

“How…?” Quill started nervously. “How are we to fight such things? Such monsters?”

Quinn nodded. “What good will arrows be against such foul magics?” There was panic in his voice.

The Shadow Prince said nothing. Did not turn; as if he hadn’t heard their fears. But Tanith glared back at them.

“Listen up,” he barked, looking at the new recruits but also the veterans as well. “I’m about to give you all a pearl of wisdom gleaned from more centuries spent in the Phoenix’s army than I care to think about…. So you’d better remember it.” He paused and glared at them. “In all that time, in all those battles. I’ve learned one important less. You listening?” A few scattered nods. His eyes seemed to burst from his head as his glare deepened. “I said, are you listening?!” Everyone nodded then. “Okay. Here it is.” Another pause. “Nothing, and I mean nothing, not even a long dead Tomb King… likes getting shot in the head. You put an arrow into that monster’s eye socket and he won’t like it.” He nodded. “Those skeleton warriors may be filled with black magic but good ole Nagarathi steel knocking off their skulls and breaking their bones will put an end to it right quick.” He looked at them again. Then glanced over to the Prince beside him. Nothing.

The elder Walker glanced back to the Warriors, “Alright, lets move out.”


***


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2015 11:03 am 
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Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:37 pm
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Ah the Eagles. . Lol nice subtle references in there . Great read as always

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