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02/27/2007 1:57 PM

"The king is dead. I watched him fall with my own eyes." The messenger's words hung in the air, palpably foreshadowing what everyone feared he would say next. "The Keldothi are two days march from Tarris Hold. No more."

Elmyn Gray, long known as the council's chief worrier, asked the question on everyone's minds. "And what of the king's force? How many remain?"

The messenger's eyes glazed over with recollection. He saw not the chamber in which he stood, but that of which he spoke. "General Bahn dispatched me to deliver this news. He has with him two-score men."

"And the others?" the elderly sage pressed. "What of Mires? Briggs? Dantonius? What of the rest of Arinor's officers?"

"Dead... The men under Bahn are all that's left."

Silence filled the room. Phillip Helms, seven years removed from active duty, and long-since past the prime of his fighting days, pinched the bridge of his nose. His eyes closed, his head hung low, he breathed a deep sigh of regret.

Nobody had seen this coming.

The bulk of the Arinoran military had been mustered, and marched under the banner of the king to meet the Keldothi invaders. It was all meant as a show of force. If the upstart Keldothi, who had beaten back every regiment and sell-sword thrown against them, saw that Arinor would give them no quarter in their land, then surely this whole business would be over with.

"Their numbers are beyond imaging..." The tone in the messenger's voice betrayed any hope they had had.

"Then we are undone!" Elmyn fumed. "If they have no qualms with killing our king, then what hope do we have?"

"We have the Hold," Helms growled. He ran a hand over his head, dimly noted that his hairline was drawing further back, and raised his eyes to the men before him. "This city [i]cannot[/i] fall!"

A scoff from the back of the room drew irate glares from the elder crowd. Daharian Mark, a lithe young son of a now dead nobleman, leaned casually against the wall. "Your years have caught up to you, old man. You think that bunch of sticks you've commissioned is going to stop a full-scale siege?"

"What do you know?" His voice rumbled as a building storm. "I was defending the walls of Norgard before you were a whisp in your daddy's pecker! I was standing on the shores of the Orey Sea, beating back the Logar Hordes! I saw the Fires of Algen! The Pillars of Kir! What do you know about it?"

Helms' fury did nothing to deter the Mark boy. He simply stared back with a smug smile. "I know nothing of war," he stated simply. "But I know madness when I see it. To you, the Pillars of Kir are a victory of ages gone by. To the rest of us, it is but another defeat at the hands of the Keldothi. What Tarris Hold means to you is a myth. This place is the stuff of legend to the foolhardy.

"This city will fall, and I demand that we order everyone left here to flee!"

"And who are you to make these demands?" Helms retorted, more for the benefit of the gathered than anyone else.

"The king is dead," he responded coolly. "And all his sons with him. The bloodline is broken, and I will not stand by while the people of Arinor listen to the ramblings of a bunch of damned old fools!"

"You are wrong, Daharian," Elmyn piped in. "As long as there is royal blood yet in Arinor, the line stands."

"And you think the people of Tarris Hold will listen to the word of an irreconcilable girl? She's daft, and not a self-respecting man in this city will be cowed by the words of a princess!"

"Queen," Helms corrected. "And, like it or not, her word is law."

[Edited by Unbeliever on Saturday, March 17, 2007 5:14 PM]

03/17/2007 11:29 PM

Damelon pulled the rope taut as Embry swung the axe down to cut it free. The sounds of similar labors could be heard in either direction, as the work on the far from completed pallisade continued. With the rope suddenly slack in his hands, Damelon fell back into a brief tumble, much to the delight of his young son.

The sun poured down on the cloudless afternoon. Despite their grim task, the men hard at work all carried the same congenial mood. They were men of every stock: workers and soldiers, aged and young, brothers and sons, husbands and fathers. Their work was in all likelihood a waste of time, but a necessary one. The Keldothi would never wage their war on the streets of Tarris Hold, but appearances had to be kept up.

Damelon grinned, brushing himself off as he stood. "We'll see how funny it is when you're the one about to tumble off this walk."

"You weren't even close, papa," Embry retorted with a laugh.

Damelon's grin spread into a full-fledged smile at the sound. Despite his best efforts, he let out a chuckle. If there had ever been a more infectious sound, he hadn't heard it. But, he supposed his opinion on the matter was as biased as could be. To him, there was no brighter light in the world than his son. Not since Acelia had passed three years before.

He ruffled the boy's hair for lack of a better way to show him how important he was to him. But, that only served to focus his attention elsewhere. "What's that? Over the ridge?"

Damelon followed his son's outstretched arm, and noted a dim haze on the horizon. "Must be a wind on the plains," he offered. A voice at the back of his mind spoke of other possibilities, but it was quashed by the same belief everyone in Tarris Hold had had. No invader would dare turn their attention to this city.

03/19/2007 3:57 PM

The wind was blowing, the sun was out, and Alan Vintry was stuck inside his smithy. The heat from fires and furnaces caused him to sweat even now as he pulled the blade out of the flames and placed it on the anvil. He grumbled to himself about the treatment of old men and analyzed the shape in front of him. The blade was a bit thick in the middle; he would have to widen it. In fact, Alan realized that he was probably being spared harsher work on the palisades outside of the city. The city guard had created levying parties and all able bodied men not performing other vital tasks were sent to work on the cities defenses. In all likelihood they would never see action. The weapons the King wanted would probably go to waste; hopefully he could sell them before they dropped in value.

This particular sword had been ordered by a rich noble, who had come in with all the pageantry of blue blood and set out specific requests for its construction. Alan knew from experience that when you were dealing with nobility only the highest quality work would make the cut. He scrutinized the blade once more and took a swing at it, flattening it in the middle and pushing the excess metal towards what would become the sharp ends.

After a few minutes shaping the mass it had cooled to the point that it was becoming brittle once more, and into the fire it went. The heat brought sweat to his brow and Vintry wiped it away with his sleeve. The thought that an invading army would attempt to attack Tarris Hold seemed absurd. The walls of the city had never had an attacker upon them, and Alan didn't think they would. Most likely their northern neighbors would sit this one out, and wait for the food stores to run dry.

The sword was ready again, and Vintry heaved it out of the blaze. It would be some time before this weapon was ready, the blade itself wasn't even finished, and then it would have to be specially carved. Life was a pain, it was true. He swung his hammer until his arm felt numb and the rectangular lump in front of him started to look more like the killing machine it was meant to be. He put down his tools and moved over to a barrel full of water outside that was being refilled by one of his servants. Wonderful boys the both of them, he ought to get to know them better. Alan took a long, grateful ladleful and used the time to look at his surroundings.

His smithy was located inside the outer castle wall, far away from the trenches and palisade that made the furthest defenses. If it came to fighting his place shouldn't even be scratched, then again if anyone broke through that outer wall who knew what would happen? The houses that around him were definitely upper-middle class; merchants, and tradesmen such as himself that were privileged enough to afford the extra protection offered by the first wall.

Across the street was the Merryweather Inn, a popular place for some of the townspeople to relax and an excellent place to do business. The keeper waved at Alan as he gazed at the place and he returned the gesture, which brought him back to the present. The smithy felt unnaturally warm from his cool position and he grimaced as he headed back inside to the heat and the work that awaited him. It was going to be a long day.

[Edited by Inferno on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 3:23 PM]

03/23/2007 3:31 AM

Edric lifted his face, tanned from exposure on many campaigns, to look out over the city of Tarris Hold. Smoke belched from hearth-fires and at least three smithies. The sky was slightly overcast now, a dark sign, broken shafts of sunlight streaming through faint cloud cover to reveal that it was sometime past mid-afternoon now. The city was ringing with the sounds of activity, though much less so than on a normal day in the city; a fair portion of the inhabitants being positioned around the outskirts, finishing the palisade. Edric himself had helped with this earlier in the morning, and had been relieved by some boy, couldn't have been older than the first months of his teens, who hardly looked as though he could lift a log, let alone place one.

Seated on a wooden stool, Edric was rolling his mail hauberk about in a barrel of sand - an old soldier's trick for polishing the metal and scraping away any smaller rust spots that may have started to appear. The son of the house of Laconos was just outside the stable, his horse tethered close, saddlebags open on the ground and sword propped against the lower rung of the stool. A much-used wooden shield, covered in leather and blazoned with the image of a rampant lion clutching a rose, hung by its enarmes from the pommel of the horse's saddle.

With a noise that was as much a grunt as it was a sigh, Edric stood tall, pulling his hauberk from the barrel and shaking out the sand that still clung to it. His equipment needed to be in inspection-worthy condition if he hoped to secure employment in the East. Placing the hauberk back in the saddlebag, Edric lifted from the other a coat-of-plates, eyeing it for any damage, and then returned it, satisfied. After securing his belongings once more, Edric belted on his sword and brushed a hand through his dark hair, eyes on the various inhabitants scuttling through the area.

'Damned fools. They act as though nothing can touch them here. If the dirty mud-eaters learned anything at the Pillars, it was that the flower of Arinor poses no particular difficulty to their Easterward expansion.' With a sigh and a subtle shake of his head, causing his hair to sway like a fierce mane, Edric brought the warhorse back inside the stable and tethered it loosely.

Some minutes later, Laconos' son sat in one of the few taverns nearby still open, the other owners on their required duty at the palisade. Staring intently into a dark liquid that probably passed for mead in this particular part of the city, Edric allowed his mind to wander back to the disaster at the Pillars of Kir.

. . . They were three-thousand strong that day. Edric's own company, mercenaries brought in to bolster the Arinorian ranks, consisted of some 370 crossbowmen, 212 infantry, and 124 cavalry - both light and heavy. Edric's place had been with the cavalry. Two other mecenary companies, together only numbering in the high hundreds, complimented the force. The rest was made up of true Arinorians - 950 crossbows, just over 600 cavalry, and twice that number in infantry. It was an impressive sight, banners and pennons fluttered defiantly.

The landscape was a wide valley between two massive rock groupings known as the Pillars of Kir. The valley was wide enough for more than 40 horses flank to flank. The invading barbarians were to be trapped, unable to pass except through this force. The armies clashed. Cavalry smashed into the fierce, stocky barbarians with punishing regularity, wheeling back only to crash in again, like some inviolate wave. Edric's lance had broken on the first charge. Without another, he was forced to cut a bloody swath through the enemy with his sword. Archers, damnable archers, took their toll on the cavalry, crippling horses and sending riders crashing to their deaths with broken necks or into stunned uselessness to be killed where they lay.

And then it just all went wrong. Some of the cavalry fled, crashing through friendly lines and sending the entire army into a disorganized mess. Some lines managed to hold. Waves of men on both sides fell in agony. The lucky died quickly. Edric's own company was smashed when skirmishers fell upon their position, raining javelins and arrows, while simultaneously the mercenary cavalry was caught in the midst of the enemy.

A flash of crimson. Edric turned in time to see a cruel-looking axe tear into Godwine's right shoulder. He slumped. Without a thought, and seeing the defeat that lay ahead, Edric grabbed the reins of his comrade's mount and urged his own forward - rushing them both to safety. Godwine had died weeks later of fever - brought on by the wound. He left behind a wife and four children.

They had called it a victory. The barbarians had been forced back due to heavy losses, while the stoid Arinorians remained, despite their own. Victory had cost the Arinorians the better part of their fighting men.

Edric shook his head, clearing away the memories as if wiping blood from his own hands. He took a swig of the warm, somewhat foul liquor and scratched his lightly-bearded chin. He would get out of this forsaken city tonight. To that end, Edric rose and went to prepare his horse.

04/29/2007 5:51 PM

"Even if I leave now i wont get past them"

Jasker said to himself as he sat at the bar of the tavern drinking some ale. It was true, he hadn't heard about the approaching army in time to get away...at this point he would be lucky to get a mile without being killed.

"Oh well, there is nothing i can do about it now"

He chugged the last of his ale and signaled the bartender for another round.

04/30/2007 4:59 PM

semi asleep at the bar Jasker suddenly stirred,

"Have i fallen asleep?"

He said as he looked around the now nearly empty tavern. Yawning and picking up his travel pack he exited the bar and searched for an inn that he might be able to stay at. After crossing several sidestreets he can to a respectable enough place and requested a room. After slightly indressing and climbing under the sheets he layed his head down and fell asleep, little did he know that danger was not for off.

05/01/2007 6:00 PM

Jasker had in fact been awake for quite a while. He only needed a few minutes of sleep a night, by the time he was ready to head back to the tavern he saw a strange looking man head around the back of the building. Deciding to follow him at a distance Jasker tightened his sword belt and kept pace with this man, upon seeing the man enter the back door of the tavern Jasker crept to the door. This stranger suddenly dissapeared down a trapdoor, Jasker easily put the old man keeping watch to sleep for a little while and entered the trapdoor and the room below just in time to hear,

"I have been meditating, where is the opponent?"

Jasker smirked from under his hood, this guy was looking for trouble and Jasker might just be the one to give it to him.

05/01/2007 6:34 PM

WTF!?!? ITS A RP...im not interupting your story...i only made one friggen post...dont like it?...dont acknowledge it!

05/01/2007 7:11 PM

listen...jeeze talk about a touchy subject...i came in at the wrong time...HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW!?!?!?...i will delete my last post if you delete yours

07/15/2007 8:50 PM

"Do you understand the weight of what I've told you?" Elmyn asked.


Elmyn was father's most trusted advisor. To Tzi, he'd always had an insufferable way of tracking her down when she least wanted to be found. Always with messages from her father and a certain disappointment in his eyes. Her father could never come looking for her among the commoners, and when she was with him, he showed only adoration for his only daughter. But when Elmyn looked down on her and spoke her father's words, it may as well have been him.

"Tzivonit! Do you understand?"

"I do!" she shouted in response. She'd had no time to weep for her father. The tears she'd shed for her brothers weeks ago seemed so fresh now. It had been three years since her mother died of the black lung. She was alone.

Elmyn's demeanor softened. He hadn't the heart to be the uncaring pillar. He never had.

Helms, on the other hand, had no such reservations. He strode to the middle of the room and stood before her, seated next to her writing desk. His face was set in its usual grimace, as though he carried an ever fresh battle scar. She thought the only scar that haunted him now was that he hadn't seen battle for years.

"Tzivonit Galos," he started formally, before adding with a bit of forced tenderness, "my queen."

The title stung her more than if he'd slapped her across the face. Her gaze fell to the back of her right hand. The blue serpent tattooed there seemed to grin up at her. The Serpent was the sign of the Galos family. She'd always abhorred it, and now it had damned her.

"My queen, there is no greater responsibility for a ruler than a crisis such as this. Your land is in peril, and we look to you for guidance." She could hear a hint of disdain on his voice. Helms had never approved of Tzivonit's tendency to sneak out of the castle at night to spend time with the common folk: the smiths, the barmaids, the stable boys. Even worse, the soldiers. Helms had spent his life teaching young men the necessity of protecting their king and his family, and this girl spent her free time acting as though she were a common ale rat.

Despite that, she knew his dedication to the mark on her hand was far greater.

Those that knew her, really knew her, would have been surprised by her temperament. She looked from Helms to Elmyn and back again. "I don't know what to do..."

She'd been taught the necessities of rulership at a young age, but what had they mattered? This was a land of men. It had meant nothing to her. And she was certainly never taught anything like this from a book.

Phillip Helms set his jaw firmly and took a loud breath. "Your father isn't here to announce his own death. You might start there."

Normally she would have fired back a sharp retort, but his subject of choice quieted her.

"Phillip," Elmyn intoned reproachfully. "That sort of tone isn't necessary."

Helms didn't spare so much as a glance to the old councilman. In his mind, Elmyn Gray served as the council's head in title only. The only voice that brought change was his own. His eyes were locked on Tzi's, appraising her.

She felt that battle cunning stare and returned it with a foul glare of her own. "Yes, -Phillip-," he hated to be referred to by his first name after so much time in military service. "I will announce my father's death and that his body wasn't recovered for a proper burial. Then shall I tell them we're all to die next? That before the sun rises twice, we'll be set upon by the Keldothi?"

Though his face soured, his eyes remained the same. "I'm sure the people would like to feel comforted that there is a plan in place to protect them, my queen."

"Is there?" she fired back.

Before Elmyn could speak, perhaps to set her at ease, Helms roared again. "Your birthright is their protection! Inside the walls of this place, no harm will come to them. You tell them that this place that you've always been so eager to escape will be what saves their lives." As if an afterthought, he added, "Steel will slay men, but stone will hold."

With his contemptious, if unflappably loyal, sneer upon her, Tzivonit stood. It was a gesture of politics alone, as she gained little height on the still proud standing warrior. "I managed to get out of this fortress. What makes you think the Keldothi won't get in?"

Suddenly, and most surprising to young Tzi, Helms smiled down on her. It wasn't a mocking smile, but genuine instead. "You're going to show us how to secure this place."

And again, she was brought back to just how absurd this notion was. She didn't feel like royalty. She was a sneak. Since being locked away and watched around the clock since her father had left to battle, she'd spent as much time thinking about him as she had the friends she'd been unable to see. Now she was their queen.

She walked to the window and looked out. She'd done everything in her life to simply be one of those people, milling around the common grounds, going about their day-to-day lives. It had always been a charade, she knew. She could never be that, and even when she was accepted among them, she was still something different. She hated to admit that, but it was the truth.

But how in the hell was she supposed to lead them?

08/02/2007 6:37 AM

The spinning wheel screeched, sparks leapt about and pranced to the barn's dirt floor. Aldred squinted, gaze blurred, focusing with all his will. His steel was dull and battered from last night, the free hand clutched his side at its long, shallow gash under blood-damped cotton. Yet this was his biggest challenge in days.
Yawning, half-conscious, Aldred held the spear's blade where he guessed the wheel was - one-handed. He needed it sharpened, this barn was unfamiliar though he seldom recognised places until he was completely awake. Which he usually was a split moment before opening his eyes each morning (or afternoon, for the job that brought him here).
This morning, all was a haze. He ignored the pain in his side, gripped the spear tighter just under its steel and pressed it nearer into the speeding wheel, until its shriek indicated it was shaving the killing bit.

He had to scare one man - get in, cut something unimportant and let him wake in his blood, but they'd expected Aldred. Creeping through a dark hallway toward the client's room, they'd run in against his unwieldy spear, given him a fight long enough to be proud of, then he'd woken in this barn. Beside a grinding wheel and his spear. Checking for noise at the walls, finding silence, he got on and worked the pedals. Now, here he was.

Creeping along the roof-tiles, analysing his surroundings (among the city's narrow streets, funny place for a barn), he reached the end and peered below. Another room, its patchy roof separated by gaps and knotholes. Men waited, holding last night's knives he only knew by feel, experienced by his ribs. It looked fun, but his side would ache when he gave it attention and Shadow would be starving. Aldred fled tiptoe to the roof's other side, found a foothold below and climbed down into the street.

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