The Empire In the Path of a Viper

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Nym

The Viper of Salitra
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Varsa was a small, though wealthy city. It boasted an army that, while outnumbered by Nymeasha’s forces, was quite renowned for its exceptional training. Her spies had reported a significant contingent of minotaurs among their ranks too, formidable warriors who could turn the tide of any battle. What bothered Nym most were the rumours surrounding Varsa's Sultan, Leonidis. It was said that he coveted her wealth and power, and that he had even considered marriage as a means to unite their realms.

As expected, days later, the Sultan's vizier, accompanied by a retinue of his household guard, arrived on the steps of the Salitran palace to formally present the marriage proposal. They were granted an audience, but it was a short-lived affair. Within an hour, their bodies lay lifeless on the marble floors, a clear message to Leonidis, that her answer was no.

Nymeasha sat languidly on her throne, picking at her sharp nails as her general, Rasmus, knelt before her in a puddle of their blood. "I want Varsa taken by the new moon," she commanded, her voice cool and unwavering. Three days.

She rose, her presence commanding and unyielding. "Be ready to leave at dusk," she added, her tone leaving no room for argument.

Nymeasha was determined to lead her forces personally, despite the protests of her council. They argued that a Sultana had no place on a battlefield, especially one without an heir. But by fuck was she tired of being treated with fragility. She was and always had been, skilled in the art of killing. She had reclaimed her throne, and she intended to tear down any who'd seek to take it from her. Something she was quickly developing a penchant for. She would fight for what was hers, and she would ensure that all who opposed her would live to regret it.

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The dawn's first light spilled over the horizon, bathing the landscape in a blood-red hue that seemed fitting for the march of the Sultana of Salitra and her army. The city of Varsa lay ahead, a formidable silhouette against the skyline. Its towering walls and spires spoke of wealth and power, but Nym's heart burned with the resolve to bring it under her dominion.

Her army, a vast sea of steel and leather, moved with disciplined purpose. At the forefront, Nymeasha rode the great, winged lamassu, her emerald eyes fixed on the city ahead. Her fine armor gleamed, intricately wrought with gold serpents. The new sigil of Salitra, a fierce viper coiled around a blazing sun, which was emblazoned across their banners and breastplates, and the skins of the drums that now heralded their arrival.

As they drew closer, the reality of Varsa’s defenses became clear. The city’s soldiers were indeed fewer in number, but their formation and readiness spoke volumes of their training. Lines of minotaurs, no longer a rumour, their hulking forms armored and armed with massive axes, stood ready at the gates. Among them were human soldiers, their stances unwavering and their eyes set with determination.

Nymeasha’s General rode up beside her, his scarred face showing no fear, only a readiness for the task ahead.

“Your orders, Sultana?” he asked, his voice carrying the weight of the moment.

Nym’s gaze never wavered from the city. “We give them a chance to surrender. Let Leonidis know that he can spare his people - soldier and civilian - or their blood is on his hands. Ensure his people know that. We can't afford to be wasteful, every one of those soldiers are an asset - They will be given the chance to stand down and join our ranks, or they will die. They know they're outnumbered... The question is, are they willing to die for him?" she quirked a brow. She had not heard good things about the Sultan's treatment of his people. Unlike her own father, Nym had learned the importance of treating the common folk well.

Rasmus nodded and rode ahead to relay the message and minutes later, he returned, his expression grim. “He refuses to surrender, my Sultana. Leonidis himself stands at the gate.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Then we proceed. Archers to the front."

The air grew tense as her army moved into position. The archers, their bows strung and ready, stepped forward, their eyes trained on the city's defenders. Behind them, the massive siege engines, towering constructs of wood and iron, were readied. The sound of creaking wood and the clank of metal filled the air.

Nym raised her hand, and for a moment, there was silence. She could see Leonidis now, a tall figure clad in regal armor, standing resolute at the gate. The man who'd had the audacity to think himself worthy of her hand in marriage.

“Loose."

A volley of arrows darkened the sky, descending with perfect precision at the feet of their front line. The defenders raised their shields, the sound of arrows striking into the dirt echoing across the field. The siege engines followed, loaded with boulders that would destroy the city’s fortifications.

The lamassu's wings stretched out, the beast pulling itself and its rider into the air. "Surrender peacefully, and join my ranks - or make your peace with your Gods." she called down as she swept over them.

It was the last warning, before chaos ensued, and each man made their choice.
 
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The rumours of the Sultana of Salitra had been intriguing Emir for the past year.

Power hungry.
A child throwing a tantrum.
A Viper.
Deranged.
Paranoid beyond belief.
Beautiful.

His spiders whispered tales of torture, shows of great kindness, and a woman who chafed at the yoke of the Empire. As one of the closest kingdoms to his own it had always been in his best interest to keep an eye on Salitra's movements. Its previous king was a power hungry thing intent on expanding their boarders and the North where the Phoenix Empire sat often drew his eye. He had hoped when he had heard his daughter had taken his head, that that might end.

He had, apparently, been wrong.

The cities that had fallen so far were small, inconsequential things. But when rumours had come her armies marched on Varsa, Emir had decided it was time to see this... Nym for himself.

"Keep high my friend," he murmured to the Phoenix on whose back he sat. The great fiery beast clacked its beak to show she had heard and stuck to just below the cloud cover. Emir's eyes swept the land below as they travelled the expanse of his Empire and crossed over into the neutral land which had not yet declared for him, or the false Empire of the South. For the most part he did not mind they refused his offers of aid so long as they did the same to this Medja. A buffer would give his men time to muster should the need come.

Which was why Varsa concerned him.

West and South they swept until they came upon the city from behind. The armies were mustered out the front of the fortified city and posed an intimidating sight. He wondered how the citizens from within the city felt knowing by the end of the day they would have a new ruler.

Lazily the phoenix circled the doomed city and watched.
 
Among men stood what most would have stood a giant. Towering over those of ordinary height, Aries leaned upon the pommel of his sword. The scabbard dug into the soft sand below, his chin settled gently upon folded fingers. He watched the walls carefully, well accustomed to the reverberating earth beneath his feet as the siege began.

He was used to this sort of thing.

The threatening. The small back and forth. The push for surrender.

It was always the same. Things never changed. Someone made a demand, and some fool would deny them. People would die to day, and others would mourn their loss. Aries understood this, for he had been part of that cycle for nearly three centuries.

Another lay ahead of him, and his promise to her would be fulfilled long before that. A long sigh dragged from the giant knight's lips. His head shifting towards the tent where he had made his promise. Oaths such as those had been rare in his lifetime, but he was sure about making this one.

Even if it meant enduring another Siege.

At least he was on the outside this time. It was never pleasant being a hungry immortal. You're so melodramatic.

The blade he leaned on complained, waiting for their own order to march forward.