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Adventures in Edassa: Summer, 1375 S.E - City of Menkor


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Midsummer's Day, 1375


Twelfth Year of the Reign of Avar Leduinne, King of Menkor


Avar Leduinne, King of Menkor, sat at the table with his councilors and advisers. Faces were grim in this room, as they had been for nearly three years. Three years since the cursed Inquisition had led a military expedition to the city, intent on rooting out all heresies and heterodoxies. Three years since Father Julian Mathienne, ranking prelate of the Martyr, was imprisoned on those same charges. Three years since the first bell had tolled for the funeral of their independence.


The ravaged countryside was a testament to that. Smoke rose almost daily from some new farmhouse, burned for some impropriety of worship. It was almost as if a war had passed over the landscape. Sometimes, Avar wondered if war would have been better than this.


He had taken the oaths of the Church of the Martyr under pressure. The Empire grew closer every year, absorbing lordships and dukedoms, kingdoms and cities. The Court of the Gods had bowed before his pressure, the King of Al'Lidne hung on a stake by his hands outside the Tribunal's Judgment Hall until he starved to death for opposing their decision. He had heard that the bones, picked clean, still hung there. With that capitulation, the fragile alliance of Atani dominions had fallen apart. The Church had seemed the only way out.


He hadn't considered the Inquisition.


And now he was here, on the verge of committing the greatest heresy yet in his kingdom. He had sworn the oaths of compliance with the Inquisition when they came, certain that nothing of note was unorthodox in his kingdom. His people had been instructed to comply with the Inquisition's orders. He had hoped that they would be satisfied quickly and leave.


It had always been a fools hope.


General Algoux spoke, breaking the grim silence.


"Your Majesty, I have had news from Norene." That was the last place the Inquisition had visited, another Atani convert princedom. Things had been bad there, too. "My agents report that the Inquisition followed exactly the same pattern there as they have here. They burn farms and shops to inspire terror, then isolate any political leaders who oppose them. By the time they moved on, leaving an 'advisor' behind them, Lord Kerrim was only a figurehead."


Lord Carlin, earl of Montdyke, spoke up next. "They will do the same here, unless we stop them."


The speech was a formality. The decision had been made in secret meetings weeks before. But the formality helped to stave off the fear over what they were about to do. But it was time now. The formality was over.


It was his turn to speak. "It must be done then. Carlin, I want a proclamation in the streets. The Inquisition is no longer welcome in Menkor. Any Inquisitors or their soldiers remaining in the city after nightfall will be arrested and summarily executed. General, is your strike force ready to storm the prison?"


"Yes, your Majesty."


"Then do it. Do it now. I want the prison ours by the time the proclamation hits the streets."


"Yes sir."


"Then this meeting is adjourned. Everyone perform your task with faith. And may the Martyr have mercy on us all."

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Shuster Tokutreed leaned against the wall at the back of the congregation- out of sight, fiddling with a loose button on his hat while the meeting drew out. As an agreement was being reached- Shuster drew the crumpled letter from his coat pocket one more time.

Written on fine paper, in block letters were the words:
"There will be a meeting in the Kings board advisory table this afternoon. Be there, the King will have a special task for you"
At the bottom of the page was a seal Shuster didn't recognize- two squares overlapping each other by the corner- with something running between them, as if interlocked with the "chain". A snake, or a sword perhaps- the seal was too small to tell for sure.

Shuster didn't like being manipulated by anonymous contractors- but he knew from experience not to ask too many questions to the wrong people. He'd only been in Menkor for a week- doing simple jobs like guarding and escorting officials for the king- but his reputation was no secret. The letter would probably lead to doing something he wouldn't appreciate- but he had to take what he could get. The atmosphere in Menkor was so tense, he would probably have to leave within the week again anyway, to anyone else who would hire him- leaving another country to the mercies of war, anarchy and conflict. How many had it been now? Shuster no longer kept count. It seemed everywhere he went- his support would only be the catalyst of something greater, forcing him to leave again and again. But what choice did he have? It wasn't his place to say what was right or wrong- he just needed to survive. Any alternative would mean...-

Shuster snapped awake. Had he been daydreaming again? Shuster instinctively reached for the hilt of his sword- a fine rapier stolen many years prior, which had become the icon- alongside his black weathered Tricorn- of his infuriating reputation. Stories of his exploits haunted him, often told with ridiculous exaggeration- so he tended to try and avoid them unless he needed to flag down an employer. His hat and sword, however- he was too attached to to pass on. Seeing there was no danger, Shuster slowly relaxes his grip on the hilt. It seemed the other members of the meeting were leaving. How long had he been staring into space? The King sat alone by table, his head in his hands. Sensing an opening, Shuster stepped forward to get the kings attention- trying to seem as subservient as possible. Once it had become apparent that the King knew he was there, Shuster decided to get to point of his intrusion quickly.

"Your Majesty... I understand you have a special task for me?"

Edited by Unodus
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Avar turned, frowning at the pale mercenary standing near him. "I don't recall giving you permission to attend a private council meeting, soldier." His face darkened for a moment, but it passed quickly. He sighed and put his face into his hands, looking suddenly careworn.


"It is of no matter. What was done here will shortly be made public for all the world to hear." He looked up again as he spoke. "And you are correct. I do indeed have a task for you to perform, one that requires your...unique abilities. As you have heard, the good general is planning a strike on the prisons. We aim to rescue my old friend, Father Mathienne. You know of him, I presume?" Without waiting for an answer, the king pressed on.


"I have it on good authority that the Inquisition has set two high Inquisitors, both with sorcerous powers, to guard the prison. They are reported to be ruthless. Your task is twofold. First, eliminate, incapacitate, or otherwise render powerless those sorcerers. Second, ensure that no matter what else happens at the prison, Father Mathienne survives and escapes. Even if it means letting the sorcerers go. I need him alive, and I need him here." The king's eyes were agate. "Do you have any questions, soldier?"

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Shuster eyes the king nervously, trying to act casual as to not offend the king.

"I understand.

There is, however- a small matter of pay. How much can I expect for the safe retrieval of this man? I hate to ask considering the circumstances, but mercenary work is mercenary work- and you seem familiar with my... particular skill set... so you must understand that I don't work for free. I hope I am not overstepping my place, but its best we have this discussion before the job is done..."

Edited by Unodus
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Bran, Banner General of the Raven sat with his two nephews in a dive of an inn, sipping on what passed for good ale here. Of course, it was nothing like the brew back home but that was not the pressing issue here. The three men wore non-descript clothing and wore no visible mark or weapon but only Hugi and Muni could be considered even remotely forgettable. It was... difficult, to say the least for a six and a half foot tall Norther to not be noticed. 


"Uncle, we have heard some frightful things these last few hours." Muni said in a low voice, "Yes, the Inquisition seems to be everywhere. No one feels safe and it seems to be getting worse by the day." Hugi continued as if his brother's last word was his first. The twins had a way of speaking as though they were one mind. To the untrained eye, one would simply think they were having a re-vision is the brothers passed them individually and seeing double if they were together. That was the way Bran liked it.


Taking a long drag off of his pipe, the General sat thoughtful for a moment and reached down to scratch the ear of his wolf who wasn't there, at least he was not visible to anybody but himself at the moment. Bran caught himself before anyone noticed. "Is there any other news I should hear about nephews, or have you only come to tell me what I already knew?" Bran was aggravated but not at his nephews but the lack of anything solid being told to him. The twins glanced at each other and sighed as one, "There is one thing Uncle." "I have seen a group of soldiers gathering near the prison where the Father is being held and my brother has seen other groups discreetly gathering." 


Bran smiled at the news, he knew what it meant, war. "Hugi, Muni, go report this news to our soldiers. Tell them to be ready to move but to await my order. These people may need our help soon." The twins bowed their heads and left without another word. 

     Standing, the General drained the last of the ale and dropped a silver coin on the table, "Are you ready old friend?" he asked and heard the confirmation from Fen. With a nod he threw on his long jacket and left, heading towards the prison and checking for his dagger along the way. 

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He sniffed the air as the One-who-was-Two spoke with Alpha. Alpha's familiar scent was there, as were others. Iron-rust coming from the Metal-men, Bad-Water coming from a few others. He didn't know why the Tall-Walkers drank the Bad-Water. He had tried it once, when Alpha had spilled some. It made his eyes and legs unresponsive. But he got in trouble when he tried to stop Alpha from drinking the Bad-Water.


Alpha reached down towards him, but stopped and pulled back. He never felt Alpha's Hand when the Tingle-No-See was on him. It made his fur itch, but nobody could see him, and the Tall-Walkers couldn't smell either. He'd seen them try before, they had to put their noses inside the containers to smell things.


He hoped they would see the Sky soon. Here 'inside' he couldn't see very far. Sometimes when Alpha and the One-who-was-Two went 'inside', he was told to stay under the Sky. He liked the sky.


"Hugi, Muni, go shshshshshsh move but wait shsh. Shshshshsh." He recognized some of the words, but it took a while for him to learn the meanings. He had learned 'inside' meant not under Sky, and Hugi Muni meant the One-who-was-Two. He also knew that Go meant move, and sure enough, Alpha stood, dropping something on the table, and began to leave. He rose to all fours, and followed silently. His Alpha's Silent, unseen Shadow.

Edited by The Only Joe
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Aachtineignisfina, who was known as Fina in these lands, was bored of doing nothing. She sat on the rough bed, bouncing slightly. Fina stared at her omega on the wall. The omega axe was almost as long as Fina's legs, which were long. The omega had two curved blades joined together at the top. It was shaped like an omega. Given the name, Fina thought that was obvious. Fina shrugged. Those things didn't matter. She stood up and looked out the small window. It was almost time for the proclamation, whatever it was. Fina didn't keep up with most of these things, but the man she had a contract with, Lord Carlin, had practically told her it was about the Inquisition. Fina had a personal beef with the Inquisitors. They had attacked her village and killed her family. Svalding warriors didn't fall easily, but there had been too many of them. Fina had been 8 then. Fina hefted the omega off of the wall and carried it by her side. The people of the city were gathering in the square. The palace with its overhanging balcony watched over them. 

    Aachtineignisfina walked out the doors, carrying the omega like it weighed nothing. Fina had been trained since birth by her Svalding cousins. Fina's black hair and pale skin marked her as from the Northlands, so there was no use trying to hide she was a warrior. People made way for her and her axe. Mostly her axe. They didn't care about her, other than that she was dangerous. They should be afraid of her. Ever since the death of her tribe and cousins she had trained harder than ever before. She became a mercenary for people who shared her dislike of the Inquisition. Her only price? Money and the right to hunt Inquisitional wrongdoing. Of course, most of the time she didn't have an excuse. So people didn't let her. She had been forced to dark alleys in the hope of finding Inquisitors. She had been successful plenty of times, but she worried about armies. She could probably fight a small one. A small army, that was. However, a large army of Inquisitors might be able to bring her down. So she worried about armies.

     "The royal proclamation!" The man announced. "The Inquisition is no longer welcome in Menkor. Any Inquisitors or their soldiers remaining in the city after nightfall will be arrested and summarily executed." Well, that was a change. Fina smiled as the crowd shifted. Some were angry. Some were happy. The Inquisitors watching the square were angry. Fina smiled. The Inquisition would not go. Her assassinations would be a lot more easy now that they weren't illegal...

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Avar looked the brazen mercenary in the eye. "Hazard pay? In addition to your standard retainer? You are quite the bold one. But your argument has merit. This is certainly above and beyond the terms of our original contract."


He waved the chancellor of the exchequer over, a short, balding man named Ferreit. "500 gold marks. Fifty now, the remainder payable upon your successful return with Father Julian. And an extra bonus if you bring back proof of the demise of the Inquisitors. Fifty apiece. Are we agreed?"

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Bran walked quietly towards the main square of the city, Fen trailing behind him still invisible to the naked eye. Just as he entered the square he heard the proclamation against the Inquisition. 


Chaos erupted almost immediately. He saw a group of three civilians mob the nearest Inquisitorial guard but they didn't stand a chance against a trained soldier and his ceremonial spear. The Paladin leaped in to action, drawing his long bladed dagger from beneath his coat and blocking the long shafted spear from splitting the last man's skull, narrowly. The surprise behind the Inquisitor's helmet was obvious, it was even more so when Bran stepped towards him and sheared his lead hand from his arm. In the Paladin's eyes, it was his duty to protect any who couldn't do so themselves no matter their religion. 


Bran yanked the spear from his enemy's single shocked hand and spun it through the other man's neck. He turned to the next opponent and began to dance in the way that Svalding men were trained from childhood. He attacked with a straight forward yet aggressive thrust called Charging Stag and turned it into Diving Falcon as the spear was reflected upwards. The long blade came down into the clavicle of the now dying inquisitor.


Searching for his next mark Bran felt a familiar tingle between his shoulder blades and saw what he was looking for. A tall man in slightly different robes from the other guards was standing on higher ground and wore no visible weapon but his hands were moving rapidly in the practiced motions of a spell. There was no way Bran could cross the courtyard in time to kill him so he did the next best thing and hurdled his spear as hard as he could. The long weapon glided through the air like an over-long arrow straight at the heart of the Mage but before it made contact the man reached out and deftly caught it in both hands. 


The Paladin's planned had worked, either to kill the man or simply stop his hands from completing the final motions of the spell. Either way the spell was broken, the Inquisitor's Familiar must have warned him with enough time because even with the heightened senses of someone casting a spell that would have been a tough catch. The Inquisitor looked right at Bran, knowing it was he who tossed the spear. "Time to go," the Paladin said to Fen as he turned and made for the same alley he came from moments before. 

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       Fina ran at an Inquisitor who must have had some magic because he was spellcasting. A warrior threw a spear at the Inquisitor, who caught it. Svalding warriors never used magic. They fought honorably. Actually, they didn't. Not really, most of the time they would fight dirty. But they didn't use magic. Most of the time, anyway. The warrior who threw the spear ran into an alley.

      Fina slashed down at the Inquisitor. He tried to knock her omega away. He didn't realize how heavy it was. Fina kicked the Inquisitor in the gut, but he dodged. A falcon swept down from the sky and grabbed her arm. His talons hurt. Fina slapped it. It kept holding on. She barely pushed her omega up in time to block a blow from the Inquisitor. Fina jumped backwards. She hadn't expected the falcon. Fina took her omega and tried to cut the head off of the falcon. The falcon saw it coming and let go. He started flapping all around Fina. Fina slapped it as she ran. Familiars. They were so annoying. 

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Shuster turns back to the King and bow respectfully

"Consider it done, my Liege. I will take my leave now, and complete your tasks to the best of my abilities. I will return here once the job is over." 

Without waiting for a reply, Shuster sprints into the streets. Using back alleys to avoid the crowded square, he works his way towards the prison. Upon arrival, he analyses the battlefield between the inquisitors and local soldiers- looking for an opening. Seeing General Algoux, Shuster dashes over to his side.

"General, whats the situation? Has the Inquisitor guards been suppressed yet?"

As General Algoux speaks, Shuster trys to catch his breath- getting ready to run again.

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General Algoux turned to face the Northerner mercenary. He was a stout man, with graying hairs. Instead of his fine uniform, he wore a breastplate over a leather jerkin; it would have taken far too long to don his full plate battle armor.


"General, what's the situation? Has the Inquisitor guards been suppressed yet?"


The clamor of the riot in the city reached them here, even inside the secure prison complex. That was, of course, the crux of the matter.


"We've been betrayed! They were ready for us. Somebody posted the proclamation before we had even moved to assault the prison. I've tried a frontal assault, but the gates held firm. With them prepared to meet us, it might take siege equipment to get inside the prison walls."

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Hearing this, Shuster quietly swears under his breath, and speaks again to the general

"We haven't got time to wait for siege equipment, if there is an informant among us- its possible the inquisition know we're here to rescue the father. If we wait too long, they might use him as a hostage..."

Shuster cups his eyes to try force himself to see the prison in detail

"If this is a prison, there must be separate entrances for staff and prisoners- maybe even secret passages. Since the prison was 'originally' ours, its possible the inquisition don't know about them- and therefor haven't barricaded them. That might be our only opening..."

Getting ready to run again, Shuster looks back at the general

"Are there any entrances your men haven't covered yet? Perhaps a side door, or an underground tunnel? We must be quick, because if the inquisition realize their oversight, they might block those entrances too- and we will miss our chance"

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Samuel strode through the streets of Menkor, fuming at the news of the recent proclomation.
How dare they? What right do such men have to forbid the Inquisition anything!?
Well he would show them, he would show them the futility of trying to resist the Inquisition. No one was above suspicion as far as Samuel was concerned, he would capture every man, woman and child of this city and cleanse them through fire for this.

Samuel was posing as a street tough for his current assignment, his sword and armour unfortunately left behind and replaced with a thin piece of leather and a primitive club. Nevertheless his training had covered such situations. Everywhere he looked citizens were rioting, some of the braver ones were even trying to attack his fellow Inquisitors!

"Heretics! Heathens! Fall before the Inquisition and know your place!" Samuel yelled, assisting one of his fellows and caving in the heads of several civilians.

The Inquisitor gave a nod of appreciation, recognizing Samuel as one of the Inquisitions resident magic wielders. Samuels mind was working quickly, if a proclamation was involved this was no simple revolt of the masses, someone with power had started this.

"The heretic, the imprisoned father!" Samuel said "They'll need a more tolerant figure to fill the gap. The guards at the prison may not be enough."

The prison wasn't far, but if this rebellion proved too much to handle he might need the help of his familiar.
The river first then the prison.

Samuel made for the river with speed, stopping only to retrieve the sword of a fallen Inquisitor.

Edited by Voidus
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The sun was warm. The mud was cool. Her belly was full. The air teemed with the smells of blood and Tall-Meat flesh.


It was a good day to be a crocodile.


Murk sunk into the riverbank, savoring the moist mud sticking to her scales. The river flowed in front of her, its billowing grey waters occasionally broken by a small fish or resilient turtle. Behind her sat the city of Menkor, roaring with the distant cries of fighting Tall-Meats. Murk didn't much mind the sound. Even in her first life as a crocodile she hadn't feared the silly creatures, and she was now well beyond their capacity to harm her. She was a spirit of the hunt made flesh; Death itself given an armored hide and a snout full of fangs. She was above all else a crocodile, by far the greatest type of animal. Murk felt herself as being in a fine position to judge, having lived as everything from a mosquito to a mountain lion.


Broken to bits on the riverbank was her newest claim to glory. Shards and splinters of a sailing river-boat littered the mud, attesting to her might as a huntress. Samuel was usually quite restrictive about when and where she was allowed to devour his fellow Tall-Meats, but she was confident he would not mind her taking the liberty this time. He had spoken passionately of the "heathens" in Menkor, speaking of them with bile and hatred. He often seemed to relish striking them down, and while he'd adamantly refused to devour them, Murk often felt she could see something of herself behind the Tall-Meat's dim-witted eyes. Though he didn't know it, Samuel would have made an excellent crocodile himself in another life.


As if in response to her thoughts, the muscular Tall-Meat came trotting beside the riverbank. Samuel was walking at a brisk pace, hand absently tapping a blood-flecked blade by his side. Murk made no outward sign of noticing him, save for half-heartedly splashing her tail in the mud. 


After all, Samuel knew she was always keeping an eye out for him. They were partners, crocodile and not-crocodile hunting side by side. Whatever task assigned to him by those ghastly superiors of his would no doubt require her magic.


And--if today were an exceptionally good day to be a crocodile--her jaws.


So she lifted a head out of the mud and stared up into her sorcerer's eyes. Her mind connected with his, manifesting as a feminine yet slightly gravelly voice among his thoughts.


"Hello Tall-Not-Meat," she said languidly. "Have you hunted your share of heathens today?"

Edited by Kobold King
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Samuel halted when he saw her, her voice echoing within the walls of his mind.

"Have you hunted your share of heathens today?"

Samuel gave a grim smile.

"Not yet, not by half."

Samuel spared a glance for the ruins of a sailing boat on a nearby shore, he was torn between admonishing the spirit for acting without permission and praising her for eliminating some of the unholy trash that littered the region. He did neither, neither would have any effect on Murk whatsoever, the crocodilian spirit might make a pretense of obeying but she was her own master. She was perhaps the only being outside of the Inquisition who Samuel respected in any way.

"There will likely be many foes, you can have your pick for the price. If not then we can find someone suitable for the hunt later, there won't be a shortage of enemies after today."

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General Algoux sighed. "There are two postern gates, but both are heavily guarded. There is a tunnel, however, that runs up to the ruins of the old foundation. We have no idea if the Inquisition has discovered it. Even if you are able to infiltrate Estgarde unseen through it, you will still have to fight your way across the courtyard and break into the Tower. I don't think much of your chances alone."


He waved several of his soldiers over. Holding his hand out to the nearest, a man dressed in full plate armor with the crest of a white lily on a green field painted in lacquer on his right shoulder, he introduced him. "This is Lord Earney, Knight-Errant, and his men of arms. If you are willing to accept an escort, they will accompany you through the tunnels and attempt to fight their way through to the gatehouse to open it from the inside. This may give you the distraction you need to get into the Tower. Will you accept their company?"


*  *  *  *  *  *


Paithyar Kondraty, high Inquisitor of the Church of the Martyr, cursed as he paced back and forth in front of his office in Estgarde. The messenger hawk that bore the fateful news perched on his desk before him. His spies were incompetent, scarcely able to get him news that Avar was moving against them before the attack actually happened. If it hadn't been for the hawk, they might well have been overwhelmed in the first assault. As it was, the situation was still precarious.


Avar. What in the Martyr's blessed name had possessed the man? Three years should have been enough to cow him, to bring him and his heathen city into holy submission. But no, the thrice-cursed fool of a heretic decided to try and throw his weight against the Inquisition. Well, he would learn the hard way the price for such defiance. They would all learn. When he was finished with this city, it would be a name to strike fear into the hearts of heathens and heretics for centuries to come. Smiling with satisfaction, he began to write out his orders.

Edited by Seonid
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Shuster stands up straight as the soldiers walk over.

"A knight, huh? Well, I'll take any help I can get..."

Shuster inspects each soldier sternly- then nods polity at Lord Earney.

"Don't forget, General- there are spies among us. I hope you have recommended these men because they are trustworthy, but be on your guard. With the oaths broken, there's not as much need to maintain a facade anymore- a turncoat amongst us could be our downfall. Once we've checked the tunnels, I'll send one of Earney's men back to let you know- so you can lead a full assault through the tunnels if necessary. Remember, the inquisitor support can arrive at any moment, so don't bother waiting for siege equipment too much- focus on picking off sentries with your archers, and keep pressure on both the gates."

Before the General can protest about taking orders from a lowly mercenary, Shuster turns to face the tower.

"Alright men, lets move! We must reach the courtyard before support arrives. If we can claim the prison before they inquisition gets here, we can set up siege in the inquisitors place, if necessary. The fate of this battle may be dependent on our success!"

Shuster starts to jog away, when nobody follows, he indicates for the Soldiers to jog with him, and reluctantly they follow.

Once they turn the corner, Shuster slows down to speak with the men as they head for the tunnels,
"Now look, I'm not here to make friends- but if this is going to work, you're going to have to trust me. All that matters is getting the Father out safely. I can do that myself, but I need someone to hold off any guards we come across- the less distracted I am, the easier this will be. Earney, can you spare one or two soldiers to accompany me to the cells? I have a plan to help support our side- but it will take too long to execute by myself- if you can lend me a pair of hands, I might be able to create enough internal chaos to break the siege from the inside. The rest of you should focus on distracting inquisitors from the gate- make sure nobody realizes that we came through using the tunnel, and we can get the general to send us support if we need it. Finally, the King will pay for every inquisitor head I can bring him- so make sure to grab onto some if you get the chance, and I'll see that you're rewarded."

They jog in silence for the rest of the way, as they reach the entrance to tunnel, Shuster turns one final time-

"Ok, this is it- the chink in the inquisitors defense. Maybe...

Once we've established that this path is safe, Earney-  send back one of your soldiers to give the general the message that the tunnel is open, and its safe to send reinforcements. Other than that, I probably won't be able to talk to you all in the same place again- but you all know what you need to do, so lets get this over with!"

Shuster draws the Rapier, lifting it up in a salute-

"For the king!"

The Group return the salute, and they begin their descent into the tunnels.

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Samuel's lips lifted, showing a row of white teeth. Usually in Tall-Meats this was a show of mirth, though little humor came through in the Inquisitor's voice.


"Not yet, not by half," he explained ruefully. His eyes flickered toward the remains of Murk's latest kill, but he said nothing. As she had expected, Samuel didn't seem to mind the boat's destruction. She filed that knowledge away--the knowledge that when it came to Menkor, her sorcerer didn't seem to care when or how she sated her hunger.


Perhaps she'd enjoy her time in this city more than she'd expected to.


 "There will likely be many foes," Samuel went on, oblivious to her thoughts. "You can have your pick for the price. If not then we can find someone suitable for the hunt later, there won't be a shortage of enemies after today."


"Oh, excellent," Murk crooned in response. Her senses scanned the Inquisitor, trying to glean what knowledge she could from him. He was standing tautly, his gaze flickering about urgently. Her nostrils picked up the sweet scent of blood and other fluids staining his clothing. Clearly he had been wading through considerable violence and carnage today.


And apparently there was far more to come. Oh, what fun they were going to have together!


"Where are these foes you promise?" Murk demanded eagerly. Her belly was full, but she was always on the lookout for the next hunt. "How far must we travel? Over land or through water?"


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As Bran ran through the alleys he came up with what was probably the best option for the city and it's inhabitants. 


Once the Paladin decided what was going to do, he turned the corner and headed towards the King's palace. After about ten minutes of searching he found the front gates of the castle, guarded by eight soldiers with swords and halberds at the ready. One man, clearly the leader, stepped forward and challenged the man who looked like a blood stained ruffian jogging towards them. "Halt, sir. Who are you to be coming to the castle gates in such a manner? Covered in blood and dressed like a beggar?" Bran smiled at the challenge, clearly the man cared to defend his king. "I am Bran Mariksen, Paladin and Banner-General of the Legion of the Gods. I demand a meeting with your king immediately in order to save your city from being burnt to ash." The sergeant looked at Bran hesitantly, it was an awful big title for someone to lie about and he had heard stories of "Bran the Blessed" being a hulking, bearded Svalding. This man seemed to fit that description pretty well.


"Very well, but let it be known that if you attempt to harm the King in any way, we will strike you down." You could try boy, and die doing so.

Bran nodded and reached under his coat, grabbing his long bladed dagger and handing it to the man who was picked to deliver the message to the king, "Give this to him, he will recognize it." 

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Feliex Donet, first Lord of Earney and Knight-Errant of Menkor was officially displeased.


Not because he had been chosen to spearhead a dangerous mission in the king's service, one that had a very high likelihood that he would have to find new people to be his men of arms. That was expected, given his station. When you were the lowest rank of nobility in the kingdom - the one reserved for immigrants only - you expected to be sent into dangerous situations so that the more important nobles didn't have to. It came with the territory. Hopefully he could at least save the suits of armor. Those were even more expensive than training the men to use them.


He was also not upset because he had to follow the orders of some pale Northerner mercenary. When you were a Knight-Errant, affronts to your dignity were not just common, they were an expected part of everyday life.


No, the reason that the first Lord of Earney had decided to make his displeasure official came from a lingering feeling in the back of his mind. That feeling said that somewhere, somehow, he was being played for a fool. Maybe it had something to do with the messengers from his neighbor, the Duke of Carlin, offering princely sums of money for his small parcel of land. For the seventh time. Maybe it had to do with the disapproving looks the tax collectors had given him last year when he reported that he was keeping eight men of arms on retainer, almost as many as a Knight-Landed. Well, he couldn't help it if he had ambitions that stretched beyond his current station. His father had been a Chevalier of the First Order in Al'Lidne, and would have been one of the Paladins d'Palais, if it hadn't been for a small incident involving a nephew and a duke's daughter.


But it was of no matter. In the end, the order was an order, and he would follow it - fool or no. He hadn't come this far just to end on a deserter's stake. He would just have to make sure that he survived the mission. Probably a tall order, but it would serve all of those self-inflated fools right. He smiled grimly to himself.


The mercenary had finished giving his instructions - Feliex hadn't listened to most of it, that was what squires were for - and raised his sword to lead a ragged cheer. "For the king!" Feliex turned to order his men into the tunnels. All told, there were twenty-three of them - eight men of arms and fifteen squires - and they made a rather impressive sight, if he did say so himself. Six of the squires carried crossbows and short swords, the others carried a motley assortment of billhooks, voulges, and halberds. The men of arms, of course, wielded great two-handed swords after the eastern style, a fitting counterpart to their suits of plate armor. He hefted his poleaxe and signaled his men to move out.


*  *  *  *  *  *


The tunnels were dark, lined with brick, and disturbingly damp. Jon Neve felt he should know, having scuttled back and forth through them seven times now, running various messages from Lord Earney's main body of soldiers to the forward scouts. It had been a devil of a time keeping his crossbow string dry during all of that, too, and with the Inquisition soldiery right outside in the courtyard, well, it was enough to make a man a mess of nerves. But it was all over now. The men of arms, squires, and the mercenary all stood gathered at the mouth of the tunnel. Above was the tumbled ruin of the old foundation. The tunnel emerged in what would have been a winecellar. The roof had never been constructed, but the walls rose to about seven feet before tapering off into broken bits of masonry. A collapsed arch marked where the door would have been. From there, it looked like a straight shot into the courtyard, where the Inquisition soldiers milled about, no doubt on some important mission or another.


Lord Earney picked out two of the squires, Ned Flyse and Joran Smyth, to accompany the mercenary. Both carried crossbows and short swords, which would be more useful in the cramped quarters of the Tower. The rest he bade follow him. At his curt signal, they dashed out through the arch. Towards the courtyard. Towards glory!


At that moment, a red light flashed and a sound like a loud bell rang out. Sorcery! He thought, looking around in fear for the source. There was no spellslinger near, it must have been a passive alarm. The soldiers in the courtyard looked towards the sound of the bell, still ringing. "Virgin's sighs!" He swore. Surprise was lost. This was going to be a rough fight.


*  *  *  *  *  *


Avar Leduinne sat in his war chamber, watching as messengers ran in and out with updates on the fighting in the city. Servants scuttled about, shifting the figures that represented Inquisition soldiers and royal forces in a complex, shifting pattern. But one place remained static. The one place that most needed action, and nothing was happening. Estgarde still held, and General Algoux had settled down into a siege position. Getting siege equipment through the rioting in the streets would be next to impossible, and the prison had enough stores of supplies to easily last a month. A month during which Father Julian's life wouldn't be worth even as much as a candleflame. Burned bones, but he wished he could get his hands on that imposter who released the proclamation early. Posing as a royal messenger, no less! The nerve of that smoking, ash-cursed man!


His reverie was disturbed by a messenger who approached him, quivering.


"What is it, man?" Avar's voice was terse, but not unkind.


"Sir, there's a man at the palace gates. He...he claims to be Bran the Blessed. The Paladin!"


Avar stood silent for a moment, shocked. That was impossible, wasn't it? A Paladin here, evading the Inquisition? That would have taken an incredible amount of luck. Or skill. Or likely both. But an opportunity like this was seldom due to random chance, in his opinion. He would be a fool to throw it away. He turned to the fearful servant.


"Send him up."

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Shuster cringed as the alarm broke out. The noise was unavoidable- the guards knew where they were. The tunnel would be enforced, the general would not be able to send reinforcements, and Shuster wouldn't be able to escape that way either. 


Guess I have no choice...


Turning to Ned and Joran, Shuster shouts over the alarm

"Prepare yourself, we're going to sprint to the tower- focus entirely on getting to the entrance! Don't try fighting the guards until we're in the tower!"

The defiance was instant- charging so recklessly into the enemy would mean a quick death, but Shuster just angled himself towards the tower-

"My name is Shuster Tokutreed, if you know who I am- then you know why we can't fail"

The effect was instantaneous, the two soldiers heads instantly snapped around, whispering in awe under their breath.




The Guards were beginning to move- racing towards the alarm, weapons drawn.


I'm going to need your help again, old friend...


Shuster focuses on himself, Ned and Joran- willing them to just be more.

Of all his skills, this was his most famous. This was what defined him as the finest swordsman around. This was the reason for all his success.

Shuster's concentration manifests itself as a bond between the three. As long as he kept focus, the bonds would hold.

And as the mental bonds solidifies the world begins to stop.

"Now!" Shuster shouts, snapping the two soldiers into focus, and together they run directly for the tower.

The guards hang in the air, as if running through syrup. Arrows fling across the courtyard- but none could hope to hit the three as they sprinted across the courtyard. Time still moved, but it was slower now- no, more like it was faster for the three of them. From the guards perspective, the three were racing to the tower at an impossible speed. Shuster estimated 8 seconds in "real time" were equal to one second in "distorted time", when he was just distorting just himself- but holding three targets probably took that up to about 5 or 4 seconds, considering that they were quite far apart- and Shuster's focus was more on running than maintaining the link.


Clearly Shusters gambit had paid off, as they quickly reach the tower. At what cost, though? Now that his identity was public knowledge, he would have to move again. Not that he had any reason not to move, in his opinion Menkor was a lost case- there would be plenty of bloodbaths to come. His identity being revealed, however- gave his enemies the perfect lead to track him down. Shuster doubted he could fight them all- so he'd need to move quickly.

As soon as the three are through the doors, Shuster lets go of the bonds- the stuff was simply too valuable to waste. The world started again, and time returned to normal. The sound of battle filled the air. 

"Barricade the door, then follow me!" Shuster shouts over the noise of people fighting, indicating to the soldiers to block the door- and then re-administers the "Chronomatic Bond", but this time only on himself.


The full weight of the distortion takes hold, and the world slows again, the slowest Shuster can make it. Feeling his "Chronomatic reserves" being drained, he makes haste up the stairs. Guards had taken position on some of the floors, but they were caught by surprise- and none could escape the fluidity of Shusters Rapier. They were so slow to react that it was like stabbing men in their sleep- the thought of that filling Shuster with guilt and regret. One by one, they fell soundlessly as Shuster ascended the stone tower. Only moments later in real time, and a majority of the Tower Guards were dying or injured. 


Ashes... This shouldn't of happened...


Finally, Shuster found the prison keys on the belt of a guard in one of the administrators office- and raced to the main prison cells. Closing the Chronomatic Bond, and raising the keys above his head- he shouts to the prisoners:

"Who here is Father Mathienne?"

There is a brief moment of silence, and then the prisoners all burst out simultaneously- each one claiming that they were the Father.

Who could blame them? When the sounds of fighting build up outside, and a stranger bursts through the doors with the keys in one hand, asking for a "Father Mathienne"- the decision should be obvious.


Why can't these jobs ever be simple...?


Shuster checks his reserves, he'd already burned more than two thirds of his acceleration. Wasting any more needlessly would mean he would run out. So, Shuster decided to wait for Ned or Joran to make their way up- and looks out of the window to analyse the battlefield so far.

Edited by Unodus
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While Bran waited patiently at the gate of the Palace, smiling to the guards who were clearly uncomfortable at the idea of a supposed Paladin standing before them, he heard a sound he had hoped he wouldn't. Boots. And a lot of them by the sound. Fen, go look and tell me what you see. He sent to his Familiar who was gone and back in a matter of moments. The wolf sent him an image of about sixteen men marching towards them. "You, soldier!" Bran looked at one of the guards, "Grab me and extra spear or sword , quick, there are men coming who mean to do murder." Unconsciously the man jumped and ran into the guard shack. 


While the guard was gone Bran turned to the court yard and removed his jacket, revealing bare arms covered in tattoos. Both arms bore the knot-work that was popular in Svalding art, from his wrist up to his biceps where they opened in to a circle surrounding a Svalding styled spread winged raven on his right arm and a Wolf's head in the Nessei fashion on the left.


The guard who had gone in to the shack ran back out with a long spear, not as good as his own but good enough. Bran caught the spear in mid air before looking over his shoulder and telling the men to be ready to fight. He spun the spear around, testing its weight and took up an offensive stance. The guards formed a line behind him, drawing swords or lowering halberds.


Moments later a group of Inquisitor's troops rounded the corner marching in perfect unison in two columns of eight. They halted as one at the sight of a few guards and one tattooed barbarian with a spear. Bran bared his teeth in a snarly grin and yelled, "Come and taste our steel, you filthy hrafnasueltir." The leader of the Inquisitors shouted for his men to charge and with battle cries the enemy descended on Bran and the Guards. 


The Paladin lunged at the first soldier to reach him, knocking away the attacker's sword and bringing the spear back to slam in to the side of his head, dropping him almost instantly. Bran moved like lightning, armor was goods and all but it weighed a man down and nothing felt as good to a Svalding as being outnumbered and unarmored and walking away with you alive and the enemy dead. Bran moved to his next target, stepping over the unconscious mound at his feet with a grace the belied his size and slamming the butt of his spear in to the chest of a dark man who came up to the Paladin's chest. The soldier's mail shirt probably would have broken to the tip of the spear, skewering him, but a crushed sternum was guaranteed to hurt and left the man open enough to allow Bran to relieve him of his larynx. 




Soon, ten Inquisitorial soldiers were dead and five more were wounded. These guardsmen were excellent fighters, Bran had only killed four and had left an equal number either bleeding or knocked out. Only their leader remained, standing to the side with the bodies of three dead guardsmen at his feet and blood dripping from his curved sword. The man made eye contact with Bran and nodded, this was between them. Paladin and Inquisitor. It was odd how the two religions wanted the same thing, loyalty to their gods, but went about such dramatically different ways to achieve their goals. 


Bran waved off the remaining guards and stood up straight. I may need your power against this one, Old Friend. He sent the thought to Fen who stood at his side, invisible. With a snarl, the Paladin charged at the Inquisitor at the same moment that the Inquisitor stepped towards Paladin with an icy calm. 


Bran's spear head had been broken off earlier in the fight so he was forced to pick up one of the short swords laying around him. Bran wasn't as good at sword fighting as he was with a spear but he was still an accomplished swordsman. Apparently not accomplished enough.


The two met in a clash of steel, fury on one side and coldness on the other. Polar opposites. For minutes the pair fought, parrying and dodging for their lives, weaving in and out of reach of each other before coming back together. Bran was good but the Inquisitor was better. Bran stabbed with his blade, aiming directly for his opponents heart but was batted aside with hardly any effort leaving himself open. The Inquisitor took advantage of Bran's opening and swung for the Paladin's head. Fortunately Bran was able to lean backwards in time, but not before earning a gash across his cheek. 


The Paladin had to act, and fast. He quickly scanned the courtyard and found what he was looking for. A dead soldier lying next to a spear about ten paces behind his foe. With a smile he ran at the Inquisitor with renewed vigor, performed an over head chopped which was predictably parried by a high swing, leaving the man's nose open to introductions with Bran's forehead. For the first time, the silent warrior he had been facing had made a sound. He shouted in agony as pain exploded in his face causing him to stumble back a few steps, Just a few more feet, be ready my friend, Bran sent to Fen. Again the Paladin pressed the attack, swinging his short sword with speed lent by heightened adrenaline. The Inquisitor blocked most of the blows only receiving light slashes on his forearms from the ones he didn't until Bran had his quarry right in front  of the spear. The Paladin parried a thrust and planted a booted foot hard in the other man's chest causing him to stumble back far enough for Bran to toss his sword up and catch it by the tip. He whipped the sword at the dazed man who just barely managed to block it and at the same instant he kicked the spear up into his hands. Now Bran yelled in his mind while he made the appropriate hand gestures and spoke aloud, "Mighty Argon, give me your blessing!" The Paladin's spear burst alight in a golden flame as he attacked his enemy once more.


Now, the Inquisitor stood no chance. He was able to block a few of the swings and thrusts but not more than what struck home. In a matter of seconds the man was bleeding furiously from multiple cuts and tears on his arms, face and hands. Bran smacked the Inquisitor in his already broken nose with the butt of the spear causing the man to step back again. In one fluid motion the Paladin took a single step forward, knocked the sword out of his opponent's hands and rammed the spear deep in to his chest. The man's eyes went wide with shock and he coughed up blood as heart beat it's last, the light leaving both his eyes and the spear. 


Bran released his weapon and let the Martyr's warrior fall to his back, the haft of the spear sticking straight up in the air like a flag-less pole. He turned to his allies and saw the shock in their eyes. "M'lord, yer bleedin', bad," One of the men said, pointing at Bran's stomach while one of the other guards whistled in amazement. 


Bran looked down at himself and realized that he was indeed bleeding. His arms were covered in scrapes and cuts, his stomach had a deep but not mortal cut going across it, his hands, legs and ribs were similarly slashed and scraped. And there was the painful cut across his cheek that needed mending. I need a little more power from you Fen, He thought to his wolf before gesturing in strange patterns and saying, "Lady of Life, I call upon you to ask for your healing." A faint light shone around the Paladin as his wounds began to knit shut, the wound in the cheek and on his stomach didn't close completely, leaving scars, More to add to the list, he thought to himself. Both he and Fen were getting tired, two spells in almost as many minutes after fighting for who knows how long had a way of draining a man and his Familiar. But he was not done yet.


First he walked to the wounded and laid hands on them, praying to the Virgin for healing, one at a time until the three wounded men were hale enough to get to a medic. After, he moved to all of the dead soldiers and said a prayer for each one, closing their still open eyes. This was the way of the Paladin and these men fought bravely for a cause they believed in, that appealed to the Svalding in him. Finally he made his way to the dead Inquisitor and repeated an old Svalding prayer for a man who had fought bravely and to his fullest capability but had fallen none the less. "May you'r Martyr receive you," he said before removing the man's belt and sheath and strapping it on to himself. He bent down and picked up the sword that had been like an extension to the Inquisitor, cleaned it on what remaind of his shirt and slid it home. 


When he turned around the man who had left for the king had returned and his friends were recounting what had happened. "The King will see you, Bran the Blessed." He bowed and led Bran into the castle. 



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Samuel flowed smoothly over the ground steady breathing carried him at a firm pace as he made his way towards the prison, trailed by his familiar, moving rapidly despite her size. He fought to keep calm, ignoring the melee that had erupted throughout the city.
No time for them, they will be caught, they will all face justice. For now focus on what's important.
As he neared the tower Samuel could dimly make out the sounds of an alarm. The enemy had already made their move. The guards had clustered at the door to the tower, trying to break it down. As he approached some few took notice of him and drew swords.

His shirt already torn in multiple places Samuel ripped off one of the sleeves, baring the mark of the Inquisition, stained with the blood of his many cuts but still recognizable upon his upper arm.

Samuel glanced towards the blockaded doorway as the soldiers around re-sheathed their swords, he was glad he'd brought Murk along the Door was no doubt too sturdy to be broken down without a ram of some kind.

Samuels concentration firmed as he located his mental preparations, he made few such preparations, preferring to rely on his sword over sorcery but sometimes such was necessary.

An instant later and the door had been blown apart by the fireball, burning timber showering the inside of the tower. Samuel and Murk led the guardsmen in to find and trap whoever had so defied the Inquisition.
Edited by Voidus
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He looked at the two Tall-Walkers in front of the door. They'd been standing there for a long time. He didn't mind. There were lots of good scents here. The ever present Iron-Rust of the Metal-men, Some sort of food from within, Salt and blood from the where they'd been. The smell of long dead animal was a bit rank, but the Tall-walkers didn't seem to mind it.


Far away, he could hear shouts and fighting. They had been getting closer, but Alpha didn't seem to care about them. He must be able to hear them by now, but he didn't react.  The fight ended, and the Tall-walkers started getting louder as they got closer. Finally, Alpha turned in the direction of the sound, and suddenly He knew he needed to run around the corner and see who was coming. 


He lunged from a sit to a sprint, reaching the corner in no time. There, charging down the hall, was a whole pack of Metal-Men. They were the same Metal of the men Alpha had fought earlier. He ran back, and gave the image to Alpha.  "You, soldier!" Soldier. He'd heard that word before. Did it mean Metal-Man? "Grab me an extra spear or sword, quick, shshsh men coming shshsh murder." One of the Metal-Men (Soldiers?) Quickly ran away for a small inside. Alpha started taking of his furs, as he faced the sounds.


The Pack from earlier rounded the corner and halted. One of them shouted something unintelligible, and then Alpha was attacking them. He always felt uncomfortable fighting with the Tingle-No-See. It lacked Honour, so He had decided to only attack those who fought without Honour. Whenever one of the Pack tried to attack Alpha or the Soldiers (Yes, that was definitely the right word.) He would be there, bringing them down.




Three of the Soldiers had fallen, but they had fallen with Honour, facing the Yeller from before. Alpha stepped forward, And As always, He just knew He needed to give Alpha strength. He did so and watched as Alpha fought the Yeller, his spear alight. He drove it through the Tall-Walker's Chest, and then stumbled back. He was there instantly, supporting Alpha, ans the soldiers descended on Him, attempting to heal him. He quickly gave more of His Strength to Alpha. He would need it to heal.


That much Giving and fighting was making him Tired, hopefully they could rest soon. 


The Door they had been waiting out opened, and a Soldier addressed Alpha. Then they Both entered the inside, leaving the sky behind to watch over the dead.

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