Open Chronicles Valor

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Kiros Rahnel

Pneria's Prophet
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The good news would have been heartening, were there not the promise of complication accommodating it. The awaited misfortune remained to be heard, and Kiros imagined that it must be dire enough to threaten their situation.

"The bad news, is that we expect it to be overrun." Grunni added, proving such pessimistic assessment correct.

To be attacked was one matter, but Grunni’s words implied belief that the loss of their position would be inevitable. Having witnessed the mentality of the orcs, there was little doubt that they could put forth the offense required to do so. The last battle against them had been arduous enough – and here they held no option to withdraw. They had been relentless in battle, disregarding death and even resorting to undeath in their pursuits. Of such savagery that the Abtati seemed hospitable in contrast.

Sardrun however, would surely find safety once they arrived. He’d be among the first to withdraw, along with those injured in need of medical aid. The orcs would be unable to get the boy, but grimly it was realized that slaughter may well have been their sole motivation. The dwarves could not travel through the portal stone in high volume, the process must be slow and gradual. Each one to leave would be unable to defend, and it would be only a matter of time before numbers dwindled enough to allow the orcs to overrun their position. Such was all but guaranteed to happen as Captain Grunni implied it would.

Words of solemn appreciation were spoken of the Army, further telling of the seriousness of the situation. As much resolve as Kiros held, it was all solely motivated towards the protection of Sardrun. Upon reaching the portal stone in a few days time Sardrun would surely depart for the safety of home. To see that happen was Kiros' greatest present hope – and once it did, his sole reason to fight and sacrifice would vanish as well.

As he reflected on this, Captain Grunni made his closing statement:

"You've done your part, and you've done it well. You have express permission from myself and Major Angrumm to depart with Sardrun and the wounded through the Stone back to Belgrath, if you so wish. Or you can stay and fight at the fort for as long as you'd like, catch another wave back. Whatever happens..."

A relief, though Kiros dared not display it before those who must stay and face certain death. To hear such news and yet bravely remain regardless was a true testament to the discipline of the dwarven Marines. Remembering an Amol-Kalit of decades past, he could not imagine receiving such news from superiors. Were a Kaliti officer to honestly report it, desertion of the ranks would be nigh immediate. Such as it was in land and time where kingdoms shifted as often as the wind-swept dunes, with greed and the pursuit of power being common causes for war. There could be no discipline from the old Kaliti ranks, for there was none from the leadership.

Yet the dwarves could receive this news without doubt that they'd remain. Captain Grunni truly cared about his troops, and had delivered brutal but respectful honesty to them. The dwarves had their home for a great length of time, and had formed a formidable sense of honour in defending it. Faith could be held that their kin would be cared for, and what sacrifice they'd be bid to make would be for the greater good.

At that, Kiros realized the difference between the two armies. The dwarves had a home worth fighting for.

There remained the option to stay in danger's path and do further battle, as Captain Grunni had so extended. To voluntarily do so himself was not even slightly entertained; this was neither his home, nor his cause, nor was there much hope for survival. Kiros looked to Heike, who looked to be in worried and conflicted state as if she might be entertaining such a notion. Having known her and her ideals in their time and travels together, he well believed she might.

"Send a prayer up to which god or gods you like. Our Ancestors will be watching over us all the same." Spoke Captain Grunni. There would be no prayer made to The Six, for while he considered them to be the holiest of the gods, they would surely not listen to the prayer of one with soul so tarnished.

Instead he would pray to Itra – not out of want, but need. The requisite amount of time had passed since he last did so, and failure to commune would forfeit Her granted holy magic and deliverance from The Pit.

Kiros set about construction of his altar. The task was simpler this time as he had one prepared and with him. A small square board was pulled from his bag of belongings, with short dowel-ended poles serving as the altar table's legs. It was completed upon attaching the legs to the board and draping the embroidered sheet of linen over it. The process took seconds, a tiny fraction of the usual set up time.

For this, he had the dwarves to thank. When they had seen what makeshift altar he'd constructed the dwarves had a hearty laugh, citing the sorry structure as a 'prime example of human craftsmanship'. Kiros was soon gifted his present version as replacement. One quickly hewn from scrap materials, but to a dwarven standard of construction. He imagined his old altar was still around and eliciting laughter from amused dwarves.

A great benefit that he could set up with such speed, for there remained only minutes before they would depart. As he had finished, Heike spoke, and Kiros turned his head and attention towards her.

"I will endeavor to defend the Ixchel fort for as long as I can."

His assumptions had proved correct, although there was hesitancy in her reply. Fear, doubtless overcome by honour and sense of duty. Unshared by Kiros, though he'd give neither a reaction of discouragement nor support. But another adventurer had words to add:

“You won't be alone in such a feat,” Spoke Dal, stepping forth to address the group soon after. Kiros paused with the completed altar in hand while the half orc continued:

“We've all fought together. Some of you I know by name now. We have prowess behind us. Do not doubt this. With blade and magic we can stand as one, our own contingent, our own force to be reckoned with. I say to you this. We should not be the last to stand. That is for the dwarves.”

The stalwart warrior spoke without fear in continued address to all present. He would remain and he would fight, and ultimately he believed that they ought to as well. Kiros would give no correction, for Dal would doubtlessly ignore it. Yet even if there was belief that Dal would listen there would be no outspoken objection, for the brash half-orc had chosen his path and had done so with conviction. Agreement was irrelevant – Kiros would still not stifle such selfless and valiant notions, even if they were unshared. Dal was correct in that Kiros had his own causes to attend. He had salvation to seek, and a goddess to escape; one who often enough put him at risk of death in Her quests. He'd need not take such risks voluntarily.

"I stand with Herr Heike! Will you stand against what approaches with us? Will you be unbroken? Will offer one final blow to the enemy? Will you stand with us?” Dal concluded. Kiros feigned a look as if he was in deep musing of the words – which he somewhat was; they were well delivered. Yet he was unconvinced, and would give no affirmation to the dare. Neither would he protest. Those who would remain were noble to do so, and he would much rather not be the bringer of unneeded discouragement. Dal's question implied expected answer however, and if Kiros were not to give it, he'd need to find some means to deflect it and withdraw from the gathering.

“Time is short; I must pray” Kiros spoke in stoic tone. Perhaps an excuse, but the statement was entirely true. Hearing Dal out had cost precious time, and there was little more to spend. There was not even enough to marvel at the rare circumstance; one in which She was useful.

With staff laid on the ground at his side, Kiros knelt down and began to meditate in silent prayer.

“Itra, I give report to you, and affirm my unending obedience and loyalty.” The opening words of prayer were but mandatory greeting.

And not a moment before you’re obliged.
Tell Me now then of why you're present here,
And why you must constantly cross His path?


“I know not why the War-Father's-”

Ever it is that you know not a thing!
What brought you to battle? Why are you here?


“For coin.” Kiros made his response brief in hopes She would gain no interest in his current endeavours. The less he made mention of, the less likely that was to occur; the less involved She remained, the better.

Despite valued services you possess?
Reveal to Me your true motivations!


Kiros paused. Obscurity through brevity had done nothing to appease Her. Short of time and in lack of any other answer to give, he was left with little other choice than to report his intent.

“...To save the young dwarven boy.”

Thus you involve Me on quest to save him,
And so soon after former indolence!
Was it not enough to help save The Crook?


“I sought not to trouble you with involvement on my task.” A truth if there ever was one. Involving Her in Farreach had been a mistake made in frustration and anger, that She had displayed clear.

Yet I am here, as is the War-Father!
All for misplaced impulse of bravery.


“We are moving towards the portal stone, and with haste. I am days away from leaving the War-Father and battle behind-”

Make no such coward's retreat! Shame Me not!

“But the battle is not one that-” The statement would not be completed, for She would not hear his reasoning before interrupting again.

As you arrived to play valiant role,
Thus remain to act the part! You shall stay.
Go make display of your imagined worth,
And do not depart before I bid so!


Once the lines of communication were cut, Kiros promptly and dejectedly dismantled the altar. His former stoic expression had been exchanged for one of worry. He now had his answer to Dal's question, to great fear. On rejoining the others, he would make verbal delivery of it.

“I too, shall remain in company.” He spoke the words in solemn tone, yet devoid of enthusiasm for the now agreed upon task.

Eren'thiel Xyrdithas Cauldwin Talson Valfnyr Tarathrieal Heike Eisen Dal Gil'Tyrnin Solcrest Felix Whitbane
 
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Eren'thiel Xyrdithas

The Broken Sword
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His chin tilted up.


Rain.


His eyes closed shut.

There is no way out.

There was certainty in this, the dwarves knew...

Behind their lids his eyes looked to one way, and then the other. He thought of the days behind, the strife he had faced in his years. He dwelled on the tragedy that had become of his home, and the sorrow of his own kind raising their blades against him. Quite clearly in this moment he remembered that dreadful fight.


The clashing of steel rang out in his mind.

Quiet steps. Quiet breath.


He'd slain Aidathin first. They had been as brothers. Pain burned like fire through his blood with the act.

Then, with a blow finally fatal to who he'd once been, Te'leis too fell by his hand. He held her in his arms, and saw something in her eyes that he had never known before this day, this day when kindred swords were drawn against another. But for a moment after, briefly before she passed, there was clarity in her eyes and the hatred was washed away.

Glee, and then, grief, and then...

Erën's thoughts now moved forward, and it was not so far ahead he needed to see. There was a task for him yet, beyond this one. It was one that whispered of sorrow, warning of the dreary days that lay ahead. Dread which he himself sought to take on. He felt he needed to see its end, before his could come about. But as did anyone, he supposed. Because now that he too had decided, quietly, that he would remain and outlast these orcs for as long as he could that perhaps he, like so many if not all before him, would come to his end before he had ever intended.

"I will also remain," he said, as would any like him.

As would any Sword of the Order.


 
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Cauldwin Talson Valfnyr

The Butcher of Alliria
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205
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(OOC: I've got a bit to cover here so bear with me.)

Cauldwin had made it to his blade wedged in grey muck. He set the weighted head of the maul in the ground, he then drew the blade from the mud. The gloppy grey fluid slopped off the blade against gravity, the rain that beat against it cleaned the remaining particles from the blade. It shinned even now in the dim light of the covered evening sky. He brought his damaged appendage close to the blade off instinct to carress his the nameless blade, one of the few things he owned.

Lightning flashed, and in the gleaming refection he could see the scarred and black-bloodied flesh behind his helm though the cavern-like eyeholes bored into his vissagless helmet. He distinctly felt that primal rage clawing at the back of his skull, or perhaps it was brain damage and a fractured skull? Either way, he knew one of his biggest quarries was here. Heike. Likely they did not know what she was, the dwarves, Kiros, Gil... if they did, why would they ever tolerate her abominable presence. Of course that isn't why he seeks her judgement, she could be a literal demon straight out hell for all he cared... she had a hand in his death.

The orcs don't get to kill the bitch, not the hordes of the undead, not even the gods. Until he heard her confess: only Cauldwin got to decide her fate. Then his thoughts were interrupted by a certain wiring in his mind that drew his attention to the outskirts of the fold, into no mans land: the command of a necromancer. He resisted the call, despite the irrefutable power behind that influence (See Cauldwin's "Iron Mind" trait)

This situation went from bad to worse. Powerful necromantic powers were at work, it seems he was never able to escape a necromancers presence for more than a week. A shame really, he had thought for a moment a horde of orcs had actually led themselves, but following the stereotype: be it dragons, necromancers, or hellspawn they are never capable of military conquest without existing as another creatures' tool. Fitting he supposed, the peoples existence would always be characterized by dull wit and savagery, countless engagements for Alliria and he had never seen any other action from 'true orcs'. The Warfather was right to wish their race exterminated, still, he knew a few orcs not born into tribes: though short tempered they were good people, there was proof their race was not waste of the celestials creation.

Hopefully Kiros's god would warn him of the dangers, and perhaps he would be able to be the linchpin in the unnatural forces destruction. He pondered if from their time in those mountainous blighted swamps he had pieced together his nature. If he had, he wondered if he would simply attempt to destroy him on sight. Then there was Gil... They had met in a frontier town and he had been more than ready to strike down a worshiper of a dark god and Cauldwin. Unless he was truly a fool, he knew what Cauldwin's nature was. After all the Lawbringer still had the burn scars from those radiant weapons of his.

He began to march in the direction of the dwarven braziers red-orange light. Then the the lightening cracked again and he saw it an injured dwarf in a bank, holding back his feral, bloodied, brother in arms. The wounds the feral one had distained were doubtless fatal for dwarven biology, and he should know, he'd killed more than few of the hairy midgets. He had to get to the front, but he couldn't march on and do nothing. He gave his greatblade a twirl before sheathing it, then he picked up the commandeered tribal maul. He then approached the injured dwarf fending off his reanimated friends snapping, half broken jaw.

He fought ferociously truing to keep his friend from going for his throat only barely guarded by his dented garget, the living one's right leg and left foot had been completely torn from his body. Likely do to an explosion, he had shrapnel lodged up and down his chest plate, the crimson ichor seeped though and down his thick black beard. He spat, cursed, and begged his friend to get off of him. His former brother in arms had been blown in half, his frayed red beard threatened to tear off his broken snapping jaw. Then the living one looked up and saw Cauldwin.

Cauldwin's green glowing eye peered into the dwarf's eyes as they narrowed from fear as he looked at the pale armored juggernaut in the dark, he roared stubbornly at the monster that towered above him, "Sel, grimgy fronga! Ush kal fron selgra! (Com'on, finish it! You couldn't take a stand'n dwarf!)" Cauldwin without word, slowly raised the maul and brought forward into the undead dwarf's arm and chest, tearing off its left arm, and with the force ripping off its jaw and mangling its right arm, as well as sending it into the muck. The dwarf looked up at Cauldwin bewildered, Cauldwin replied as he hoisted the dwarven marine on his back, "Come now mater dwarf, not all tallfolk warriors are craven and incompetent."

The Dwarf coughed, out an exasperated response that would pass for a thank you from a dwarf, "Aye... was a clean strike... I had it handled 'course." Cauldwin did not buy this of course, but he knew better than to argue with a dwarf. The dwarf continued, "Ya' shoulda... left me... my legs..." Cauldwin cut him off, knowing that any lapse in moral could result in the dwarf slipping away, "It's just an excuse to get some metal prostetics, they'll call you the 'Ironstanding'! Or... the 'Unbreakble!', you'll be fighting off the wenches with a warhammer... what's your name..? The dwarf scoffed and then retorted tired, "Yorr... Yorr Shonbrag (Stone-Spine)" He nodded in response, "Alright Yorr, we're heading to the front, there'll be songs about you yet. Just hand in there." They both laughed grimly.

He trudged on until even in the storm the pallisades of the stronghold were in his sight, then Yorr spoke to Cauldwin, "Your from Alliria, aint ya..?" He replied with a false name, "Damocles."
Yorr spit out blood with a weezing giggle at a what he could easily tell was a fake name, "Well, that name's shite... was born there myself... that was... seventy years?" Cauldwin gave a coy remark at this, "Ya carry yourself... like a deathseeker... Are ya?" Cauldwin replied, "In a sense..." He spoke with a certain grim finality to his next words, "Listen... and don't breath a word about what I tell you... I've seen what deathseekers go through... they're already dead... nothing but rage and hate left... there's a reason it's one of the worst fates a dwarf can face... no honor... no home... no kin... but you ain't a dwarf... you can choose somethin' to live for... rather than die for... nothin'... if not... a warrior's last thoughts should be of where your...", they were just passing the outer palisades.

He carried him back the dwarven stronghold, he roared as he entered the light with the bleeding dwarf on his back, he dropped the tribal maul and the sight of the ghostly titan carrying the bloodied dwarf cause the patrolling marines to look at him with shock, "I NEED A HEALER!" Before setting Yorr down against a wall, his comrades only looked at him grimly. Cauldwin became annoyed at this, he began to yell orders like a drill sergeant, "DID YOU HEAR ME MARINE? GET A-" He looked down at the pale unresponsive Yorr. He couched down and tore off his gauntlet in his left elbow he then put his hand to Yorrs' neck searching for a pulse. Nothing, he grabbed his gauntlet and stood up with a jolt, "No, no. We just spoke- He was- damn..." He then grabbed his maul continued on, he had to inform those in command as to what was to come.

Eren'thiel Xyrdithas

Kiros Rahnel

Gil'Tyrnin Solcrest

Tarathrieal

Dal

Heike Eisen

Savan Shade

Felix Whitbane

 

Heike Eisen

Knight of the Golden Blade
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570
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THE IXCHEL NORTH FORT


Hard marching. Seemingly endless hard marching.

Heike could feel the weight of the famed dwarven endurance bearing down on her. Among dwarves not trained under military rigor their endurance was already impressive compared to a human's, but the Arragoth Marines, the soldiers of the 1st as well, were all in peak form and condition, compounding that endurance into something truly astounding. She banished any intruding thoughts of a similar endurance once possessed whilst she was a vampire, squelching any temptation to even think such a "gift" to be a boon in light of its horrid cost. Legs sore, feet aching, Heike was merely glad that the end of their long march was in sight.

Across the stretch of mostly flat badlands, there stood the hastily constructed wooden fort. The Ixchel North Fort.

And there was not an orc in sight. Yet.

Heike reckoned that the Blights had to be gathering to the south, the southeast, and the southwest--effectively cutting off the dwarves from simply marching away into friendlier territories. Even at the great distance, Heike could see that a number of those sparse southern trees had been felled (in the effort to build the fort), but there was as well a long series of hills and ridges that way as well. Enough to screen the sight of the orcs. But they had to be there. It was the cunning move.

Still, at any time, the enormous horde of them could crest those hills and come screaming down them and charging at the fort. It was a blessing that they were not already doing so, for the dwarves needed every minute, every second, that the enemy allowed for them. Heike made no mistake. Here, unfortunately, the enemy would dictate the flow of the battle. The dwarves would be hopelessly on the defensive, holding out as long as they could. And they all knew it. Grimly accepted it.

So had Heike. She and Dal, whose rousing speech had cemented his determination to hold out as long as possible. She and Gil'Tyrnin, whose faith was as strong as steel and his conviction unbreakable. She and Kiros, whose compassion and stalwart resolve had kept Sardrun safe and had gotten the boy this far. She and Erën, whose dedication to duty, no matter the odds, made her heart swell in admiration and as well brought honor to his Order.

All of them had accepted it. This battle they could not hope to win.

Heike spared a glance down to Sardrun then; the boy had stayed quite close to Kiros for the duration of the march, and still he kept near the priest. She smiled.

The battle they could not hope to win, yes, but victory would be theirs perhaps before it even began. When Sardrun was, at long last, safe in Belgrath, there would be nothing the orcs could do.

For Heike maintained that no matter the losses suffered, no matter the supposed imbalance of the scales, scores of dead Marines and soldiers weighed against the life of a single boy, that it was unquestionably right that this raid to recover him had taken place. These dwarves did not abandon their own, and for that they had from Heike her undying respect.

* * * * *​

The embattled Marines entered the fort. As did the detachment led by Major Angrumm himself to escort them, rejoining the rest of their company.

"Get the wounded gathered around the Stone!" Major Angrumm shouted in general to the dwarves manning the fort. There had been several probing attacks against the fort by the Blights, and the 1st had endured their own share of casualties to match the Marines. "I want that Stone activated in five minutes, Arragoth!"

Responding calls of "Aye!" from Major Angrumm's soldiers sounded from around the fort, and some of the dwarven soldiers set about team-carrying their wounded comrades toward the small dirt circle (where nothing grew) around the Portal Stone. Other soldiers continued to the man the ramparts of the fort, the majority of them keeping close observation of the southerly directions. Captain Grunni merely cast a look back to his Marines, made a small forward gesture with his head, and they carefully retrieved their wounded down from the mules and began carrying them toward the Stone too.

Heike turned to face Sardrun. Said, "It's time for you to go. You're almost home, Sardrun."

The boy, still at Kiros's side, eyed Heike with a touch of uncertainty, as if this were all a dream from which he would soon wake to find himself back in the nightmare of Ungbarroud. He looked up toward Kiros, and said as innocently as only a boy his age, having gone through the horrors he had endured, could, "You'll be right after me...won't you?"

As Kiros gave his answer, Heike had a moment to consider just how relieved she was. She thought nothing of putting her own life at hazard when so demanded by duty. From the very moment she had received her Accolade from King Rommel, she had accepted the responsibility that came with wielding the sword in defense of what she held dear, this responsibility very much including the ultimate sacrifice. But Sardrun? A child? She had worried herself sick for his well-being ever since they found him at Ungbarroud. Now, at least, he would be safe. In a small matter of minutes, he would be safe.

And then she noticed Cauldwin.

White shock stilled her breath. She glanced to Dal, to Gil, to Erën, and then back over to Cauldwin. That armor, though horribly damaged and stained, was the same she had seen briefly during the Second Battle. It was him. And this marked the second time that she had thought him dead, only for him to return. Yet it certainly could not be worse timing. When she had been a vampire, when he had come to her for help, events had soured and he thought that she had betrayed him. He likely still thought this now. And there was no telling what he would do, for Heike found his motives to be inscrutable. After his accusation of her, she did not trust him in the least.

"Sardrun, go. Now," Heike said. And the boy looked puzzled alarmed.

Heike didn't take her eyes off of Cauldwin. Her hand found its way up to rest on the hilt of her sheathed longsword.

To Dal, Gil, Kiros, and Erën, she said, "Be ready."

The dwarven Marines and soldiers, occupied as they were with their tasks, did not yet take much notice.

Dal Gil'Tyrnin Solcrest Kiros Rahnel Eren'thiel Xyrdithas Cauldwin Talson Valfnyr Felix Whitbane