Fable - Ask War is the Father of All Things

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Kristen Pirian

Pirian's Chosen
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Cold was the ocean's spray.

Good. For it balanced well the fire of resolve that burned in her chest.

Beyond the dragon's head bow of the Norden longship, Kristen Pirian could see the baleful northern shore of the Blightlands rising up out of the dark sea, this like the colossal spine of some enormous and godsforsaken beast of old.

And upon this land battle would be joined and blood would flow.

* * * * *​

What greater reason to fight than for that which you love?

It was for this precise reason that Kristen had come to find herself so far from her home of Vel Anir, as far opposite to it upon Arethil as she could possibly go. The Eretejva Tundra and, more importantly, the Blightlands of Epressa, were each harsh and unwelcoming lands. But it was to this latter that Kristen's cousin Mina had been taken.

This all had started with a gala, a villain, and a plot. Mina Pirian and Jiya Luana, one the daughter of a Head of House and the other a Head of House herself, had both been kidnapped from Vel Anir. No ransom letter had come, no messenger, not anything to let either House Pirian or House Luana know where they had been taken. But work performed by the Vestigare, the Anirian Guards' investigative branch, had uncovered a lead that led all the way to the frozen northeast corner of the world.

A man named Ulren, whether he be the true mastermind of the kidnapping or not, had taken the women from the Falwood Portal Stone to the Eretejva Stone, and from there had sailed to the Blightlands.

Houses Pirian and Luana pressured the Republic to act.

And Kristen, upon hearing the news at the Academy, immediately began to demand with an obstinate intensity and near fanatical fervor that she be allowed onto the Rescue Mission. For the first time as an Initiate she threw the weight of her noble House around with reckless abandon—not that it earned her much more than severe disciplinary action at first. Proctor Magomo, however, eventually came around, seeing an opportunity in the situation to perhaps spur along the development of the Pirian girl into, at least, a salvageable battlemage (if not an actual Dreadlord, but the next few years would tell for that). He would allow her onto the Mission. Would arrange for her to lead it, in fact. But...she would need to return with a trophy: the severed head of a Blight Orc she had killed herself. If she wanted to go to war so badly, she needed to return to Vel Anir blooded at long last.

Kristen hesitated not one second. She agreed without reservation.

Meanwhile, Anirian diplomats had worked wonders with the Kingdom of Nordenfiir—or, at least, a small pocket thereof. Given the nature of Portal Stones and the extreme distance involved complicating any notion of a large supply line, the Rescue Mission called for a small and elite party. Said party would require passage across the sea however, and there was also no telling what level of resistance they would face, so additional troops in the coming assault would be of immense help. As it happened, one Jarl Yngvir was planning an offensive raid to the suspected shore that Ulren had taken Mina and Jiya, and the Anirian diplomats not only persuaded the Jarl to accelerate his plans, but to take the Anirian party with them on the raid.

All was set.

And the night before Kristen departed Vel Anir for the Falwood Stone, she had the opportunity to see her father and her mother, Lord Neil Pirian and Lady Josephine Pirian. Her mother was as stately as ever, but her father Neil...he melted with pride the moment he laid eyes upon her. He took Kristen into his arms, and both father and daughter embraced one another with a powerful and longing love.

"You have come so far, Kristen," he said, his voice brittle with tears. "To House Pirian, you bring naught but honor. And to me, naught but joy."

Kristen, her own lashes wet, said, "I love you, Father. I love you so much."

Neil steadied his emotions. Drew back and placed his hands on her shoulders. Said then, "Go. Go now, with my love. Find your cousin Mina. Bring her home."

* * * * *​

Kristen stood at the bow of the ship she and the Anirians were aboard, one arm up and holding onto a rigging rope. White foaming water splashed onto the longship with each wave the vessel collided into, splashed onto her face and into her hair and seeped through her tabard and portions of chainmail. She shivered unpleasantly but it was alright. Everyone aboard the vessel was drenched. High winds and rough seas had seen to it.

The fleet of Norden longships carrying hundreds of warriors sailed under a dark and clouded sky. By the time they made landfall, it would be night—perfect for the assault on Godendrung, the target of Jarl Yngvir's raid. Whether or not Mina and Jiya were being held in Godendrung, slaying the Blights there would make searching the surrounding area easier regardless, for it was the only significant settlement in the area.

The shore was growing closer.

As it did, the venerable old Norden man at the center of the longship recited an ancient poem once again, he calling out the main verse and all of the rowers calling out the reply. Kristen, swept along with the spirit of the act, cried out in unison with the rowers.

"Our axes are in hand."
"Steel, becomes our souls!"

"Our forefathers watch."
"Rage, becomes our souls!"

"No land is unconquered."
"Hail, to battle!"

"No foe is too great."
"Hail, to blood!"

"War! Is the Father!"
"OF ALL THINGS!"

And in Kristen's eyes the abandonment of peace.
 
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Alistair Krixus

The Rune Knight
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Alistair was looking far less majestic than his fellow initiate. He stood near her, trying to get a view of where they were heading. However, the young man usually well dressed and the poster child for calm and dignity was wrapped into a thick cloak of fur that he had wrapped tightly around his body.

His face was even more pale than usual and he had a small frown on his face. The travel had not been kind to him. Al had never had a problem with ships, but the rough waters of the north had made him sick for most of the ride. Add on the biting cold and wind and he was absolutely miserable.

He had asked to be placed on this mission in order to assist his friend Kristen. Of course, it never hurt to get out and travel and to save two high-value political individuals. He had to stop and hold his lunch down for a moment. Ok, scratch that. It might hurt a little to do this.

"It will be nice to finally get off this ship."

The idea of firm and unmoving ground beneath his feet was enough to encourage Alistair to hold everything in, for the moment. Chanting filled his ears as the sword on his hip seemed to feel more prominent at his side. Yes, some fighting would certainly help him back into the swing of things.

Kristen Pirian
 

Skarde Yjorenjaskr

The Cursed One
Nordenfiir
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Amidst the chanting came the laughter of a Norden, one who dwarfed even Kristen. Aside from the single white wolf cloak that draped his shoulders, the rest of his attire was light. "Have no fear, Southerner, we shall land shortly." Over the voyage, many of the Norden either looked to the warrior with fear, awe, disdain, or a combination of the three. His most prominent feature, aside the height, was the golden left hand. Forged by magick, the digits could bend and move, allowing him to grip the massive axe he bore.

It was rare now, that Maude allowed their kind to raid, so this was a special occasion. A blessing from the ancestors, from the gods. The spray of the ocean, the crashing waves, the aire of excitement before the raid. This would be the closest he would ever feel to having his soul again. And he would relish it. "Close your eyes and inhale.. feel the spirits of your forebears. Feel their courage, their hunger for battle. Embrace it in the charge, for the landing will be roughest part. Stay with me, little cubs, and you will find the glory you seek."

He would turn to leave. "I must go below deck, should you need me, wait for the landing."

Kristen Pirian | Alistair Krixus
 

Maraad

Member
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The wind whipped at Maraad's enormous form as he stepped forward. If not for his magic, which kept him warm throughout the entire journey, he would already be feeling quite cold.


Independently moving, his third eye cast wide-ranging looks across the desolate seascape. He could see that the land was close, but not at a comfortable distance. The endlessly wide and dark sea they were leaving behind didn't appear any more attractive.

He had traveled by sea before. He knew he'd never entirely get used to ships, despite the fact that his home was extremely far away and separated from the mainland and other continents by more sea than he could ever comprehend. He needed solid ground under his feet right now.

He made a half-turn to face the Norsemen. They didn't seem to care at all. Even those who had been rowing for several hours still had plenty of energy left in them.

It was an amusing sight, although no one so much as spared him a glance. All were too immersed in their own tasks.


He muttered, "Soooo," and shifted to the side, focusing on one of the rowers.


"How does it feel to kill orcs? I've never done it."

When Maraad questioned him, the man shrugged. For a humanoid, he was tall and stacked, and his beard was fiery ginger. Sweat beaded on his hairless head.


"Like any other kind of killing, lad. You bury whatever weapons you have in them and call it a day."


Maraad twitched at this response, raising his sharp eyebrows. Did the Norsemen consider these actions routine? This one undoubtedly treated them as such.


Maraad chose not to voice his other question, lest he seem rude. He was, after all, a hired mercenary. No one here was his acquaintance, much less a friend.


"They ought to offer more resistance than humans or elves. At least I'm hoping they will."

Kristen Pirian
Alistair Krixus
Skarde Yjorenjaskr
 

Brenna

Cadet of The Sanctuary
Nordenfiir
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The cold salt spray was a relief to Brenna's flushed face. As much as she loved the feel of the oar in her hands and the way it sliced through the choppy water it was hard work.

"Brenna! Swap with Olga!" The oarsman next to her nudged her gently in the side and she glanced up at the coxswain bellowing orders. Her head tilted to the side and the man grimaced in an apology. Your shift is over, swap with Olga. The young Nordenfiir flashed him a grin to ease his conscious; he wasn't from Faarin, the town who were used to working with Brenna in the silent hand-talk she had expanded from a simple hunters tool into a whole, complex language. But he hadn't balked when she had been assigned to his ship and had quickly picked up the language in the few lessons they'd had in his cabin. He looked relieved at her acceptance of the easy mistake and gave her a nod as she scampered out of her seat to go find her axe. They would be landing soon and there was no harm ensuring the edge was sharp.

As she made her way nimbly down the central walkway she glanced curiously towards the strange southerners who were joining them on their trip. Mages, from what she had picked up, and dangerous ones at that. She found her hand going to the medallion of protection she wore about her neck and fingering the figurehead of the Sea God and protector of raiders. Hopefully he would protect them from more than just rough weather and enemy blades this voyage.

Her expression brightened when she caught sight of a familiar figure already sitting by their bags and bee-lined her way towards her hulking shadow, Gylfi Runarsson

Have you spoken to the Southerners? She asked curiously as she sat down opposite and took up her axe and wetstone.
 

Kristen Pirian

Pirian's Chosen
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Participating in the battle chant had lifted Kristen's spirits, sharpening her will for what was to come. She should have been miserable, soaked to the flesh with seawater and beset by the frigid northern winds, stressed to a frayed breaking point by all that had led up to this point, but she was not. Her arms and her legs quaked with terrible shivers from the cold but it was as if her body was but a mere distant thing, for her mind was not cold nor drenched nor tense with anticipation. What miseries she was suffering were nothing before the determination into which her mind was set.

Now more than ever before, the air of a Dreadlord was about her.

To Alistair she looked. Smiled, even. A serene gesture, as if she were right at home. "A sight far more wretched than our last boat ride, wouldn't you say, Alistair?"

Yes. An ugly land draped over by an ominous sky and buffeted by cutting winds and angry seas, certainly a far cry from the idyllic sunshine and clear, calm waters of warm Elyr'Adith. And Kristen was ever more glad to have Alistair by her side for this mission, her appraisal of him only having become more favorable since the Canal campaign. He was steady, dependable, and dedicated, and these, somehow, were rare traits among her fellow Initiates. It boggled the mind. But Alistair, thank Aionus, did not disappoint.

Aboard the longship were incredible specimens of warriors and fighters. One such man, Skarde, took a small moment to speak with her and Alistair before departing. To him she gave a sound nod. The Norden man commanded an air of authority not just from his daunting stature, but from his eyes and his demeanor. He had seen battle, quite a lot of battle—far more than Kristen had or would for years to come. It mattered not that he wasn't Anirian nor a Dreadlord. He was accomplished in the art of war, and was possessed of a strength that Kristen herself aspired to, and for that alone he had her respect.

Even more massive than the hulking Norden man was Maraad, and all Kristen knew of the strange being was that he was a mercenary. She could not even say of what kind of people he belonged to, for she knew none who were four-armed, twice the size of the tallest man, and had either bluish-purple or purplish-blue skin. Yet if he was as powerful as he was formidable, then a good many Blight Orcs were going to their afterlife tonight by his hand.

She had not yet taken special notice of Brenna nor Gylfi, among the Nordens as they were.

So her attention returned to Alistair after Skarde took his leave. Idly, her hand touched the sheathed sword on her belt—her usual mace she had left behind in the Academy. For she needed the right weapon for the task Proctor Magomo had assigned to her.

One she would not fail.

Alistair Krixus Skarde Yjorenjaskr Maraad Brenna Gylfi Runarsson
 
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Alistair Krixus

The Rune Knight
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For every misery that Kristen was ignoring, Alistair was not fairing so well. His face was gaunt and covered by the hood that he had pulled up. It was easy to see that Alistair was annoyed and gloomy from the rough environment.

However, for others that might be a negative, but for every hardship he experienced, Alistair turned more and more inward, forsaking emotions to focus on the only thing he knew he could rely on, logic. This harsh environment only served to put Alistair more on edge, but that, in turn, made him far more dangerous than his normal demeanor which was usually softened with some sort of light emotions. He was like a well-crafted blade that was being sharpened on the cold winds of the north.

Al had glanced at the large Norden that spoke to him but tried to ignore him. The honor and sanctity of battle that they seemed to believe in and that Kristen was buying into seemed like more of a load of horseshit to him. He almost smirked at the mention of forbearers. Al was pretty sure his forbearers had been cowards

"Yes, much worse."

Alistair responded succinctly as pulled his cloak tighter. He had originally been excited about this venture. Getting to explore new cultures was always fun, but then the storms hit. Not to mention everyone here was gigantic. He saw the way some of the warriors on the oars looked at him. He was smaller than most of them and he wore little armor, but he would show them how dreadlords fought.

The curved blade had his hip felt strange, as this would be his first time using it in battle. He had spent weeks after his journey to Tyr, getting accustomed to fighting with the blade. It wasn't that different to a rapier, but it had taken a little getting used to...It was the least he could do.

A sudden lurch of the ship made Alistair stumble slightly.

"This boat is trying to kill me."

Kristen Pirian
 

Gylfi

Guardian
Nordenfiir
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Gylfi paused from giving their supplies a final count to look up at Brenna. [No,] his hand cut the air in front of his chest rather adamantly. They had come a long way since Nordengaard and Gylfi had opened up a great deal with Brenna. If one thing remained constant since the beginning of their journey, it was his reluctance to socialize with strangers.

His hand remained suspended in front of his chest as if he were deeply considering what to sign next, but he clenched his fist and returned to his task. The Norden had urged her to be cautious around the foreigners, especially once the fighting began, and she'd likely grown tired of his constant worrying.

After finishing the final check and feeling satisfied, Gylfi leaned forward to set Brenna's pack by her feet. His gaze steadied on her as he recalled the last time they'd taken up arms together, years ago, and how testing things had been then. And now, here they were, far from home, fighting for the Summerlanders.

[Venison stew, fresh bread, and fruited mead,] he signed at her, [That's what you owe me for this.]

Brenna
 
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Kristen Pirian

Pirian's Chosen
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Kristen let out a lilting laugh, taking what Alistair said as merely a lighthearted jest at his own expense (rare, that form of humor among the Initiates, but not unheard of).

"Well! The boat shall have to try more fervently than this to see it done!"

The shore was getting closer, their approach now a matter of minutes instead of hours. The roughness of the land was plain to be seen now. There was no beach, but simply a hill with a steep grade rising up out of the water as far as the eye could see. Draws and trenches cut through the dark land like old dried up wounds, evidence of an ancient river perhaps which split into an incredibly wide delta. Coarse, uneven, rugged—these three words were perhaps the most charitable descriptors one could apply to this slice of the Blightlands.

Kristen glanced over at Alistair then.

"Come midnight, it shall be my birthday. Seventeen summers. So few to others,"—she thought specifically of the elder Norden man, Skarde, but certainly the longship was full of venerable men and women—"so much to me."

And the tiniest hint of a rueful tone entered her voice. Perhaps it was drowned out by the sound of the sea spray and crashing of waves.

"What grave circumstances in which to spend a joyous occasion."

Alistair Krixus
 

Alistair Krixus

The Rune Knight
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Alistair's eyes were now stuck on the coast that would surely be their next battlefield. His face had been perpetually stuck into a frown since the harsh weather started. He hoped Kristen's first comment was correct, but if Alistair was dumped into these harsh waters, he had no idea how long he would last.

His mind focused on the task at hand. The Norden would all surely be close combat bruisers, so Alistair would focus on his speed for the day, maybe use some range to keep the enemy guessing. It was much easier to think about strategy and warfare rather than how miserable he was.

Al's eyes slowly came around to look at Kristen, and his frown finally rose into a light smile.

"Happy early birthday, Kristen. We will celebrate when this is all over."

He often forgot that Kristen was not like the rest of them, the idea of a birthday had long become foreign to him and many others at the Academy. It was just another day, like any of the others. However, Kristen had probably had greats balls or parties to celebrate the day until she joined the Academy.

"Grave, but it will also be joyous. We will rescue those we have come for and we will make the enemy regret ever testing the might of Vel Anir."

Kristen Pirian
 
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Maraad

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He realized that they were getting dangerously close to the coast. Maraad was surprised by how quickly the ship was traveling. The longboat was barely submerged in the extremely cold sea and appeared to float above it. It made him think that they were gliding rather than sailing. However, Maraad had limited knowledge of both ships and the technicalities of sailing.

"It's understandable why they named it the blight lands."

He made a half-hearted remark, "It seems like a barren nowhere." The two eyes seated in the middle of his cheeks shook open, their eyelids parting to betray glowing golden scleras.

Hmm. I wonder.

He continued to stare towards the trenches. He had a sneaking suspicion that not all of them were crafted through nature's harsh influence but rather by the devious hands of the locals.


Could it be that the orcs have anticipated their arrival? That they, aided by a premonition, opted to set up an ambush.

Perhaps. It crossed Maraad's mind that he should voice his concerns regarding the matter.

The ship rocked gently as small waves smashed against its side. They were entering shallower waters now. It was only a matter of time before they either landed or got viciously attacked, perhaps both.

On his bare heels, he pivoted and fixed his eyes on Kristen. By Kha'atari standards, she was little and not much to look at, but she was in charge of this mission, not him.

Over the chanting Norsemen, he yelled, "Hey!" and waved two of his monstrous arms at her.

He took a few steps in her direction, nearly slipping on a greasy patch and ramming his foot through the wooden planks.

Maraad discreetly swore. His angular face bathed in a disgruntled grimace.


"Are we expecting an ambush?"

Kristen Pirian
 
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Brenna

Cadet of The Sanctuary
Nordenfiir
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Brenna rolled her eyes.

Drama Queen, she signed but a smile played about her lips. If Gylfi didn't want to be there then he wouldn't be, no matter how much he grumbled about having to be there because of her. She had proven several times over she didn't require a bodyguard but Gylfi was too much of a wool-head to admit to anyone else he just liked her company. As the whetstone slid across her axe she glanced up once more to look across at the new faces on their trip. It wasn't just the mages that drew her eye but the other races they had picked up from the summerlands. Faarin was not a welcoming place to outsiders and few other races dared brave the frigid temperatures of the far north. For Bre, this was the first time she had seen so many different species.

I heard that they keep their mages in cages in Vel Anir, she signed and a few of the other Nordens who could speak the strange hand talk grimaced and nodded that they too had heard such rumours.

"Best place for 'em if yer ask me," Janus growled then spat and crossed himself. Three others followed suit.
 

Kristen Pirian

Pirian's Chosen
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A modest little smile crossed Kristen's expression. "You are right, of course. I ought to be glad that I've the chance to give, to help my cousin Mina in her hour of dire need." Just as Selene Avar had helped her on the isle of the Blades, nearly eight years ago now.

The idea of a potential celebration though, however small, was nice. Her sixteenth birthday was marked by no special occasion, no family nor gifts nor revelry, nothing. Like any other day it had come and it had gone, bearing no remarkable significance over any other since her enrollment into the Academy. To think that this was the normal state of affairs for most of her peers, all of them having grown up in their most formative years without having seen their families, some even for a whole decade or more, was dismaying. Starkly dismaying.

Hey!

Kristen glanced over. No, up. Glanced up. And, my, was it a strange and rare (though welcome!) sensation, actually glancing up at someone else. In the presence of this peculiar four-armed mercenary, Kristen held not the faintest insecurity over her typically towering height. She...well, she rather liked it.

Are we expecting an ambush?

A sidelong look to the dark and rising hill of a shore, and then Kristen said to him, "I should hope not. Jarl Yngvir let on that his raid would be swift and by surprise." And the Jarl was all too jovial whilst adding brutal and merciless as well. "Though, from my understanding of the Jarl's accounts, Godendrung is not so far removed from this shore. Mayhap scouts have seen our coming, mayhap not."

And, after a pause, she added, "My name is Kristen Pirian, by the way."

A prompting look to Alistair to introduce himself to the exotic mercenary then. They were allies here, and soon they would be facing down Blight Orcs together. Best they all be introduced, however succinctly.

Alistair Krixus Maraad
 

Alistair Krixus

The Rune Knight
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Alistair raised an eyebrow at Kristen and then at the large individual that had spoken to her. He lightly nodded to him before turning back to look at the beach head. Several runes activated along his arms that improved his vision in various ways. His eye began to glow as he forehead scrunched up in focus.

"My name is Alistair."

It did not look like an ambush, an ambush would not be able to hide from him, not any good one anyways. It was more likely that it was just some defenses there, and a few unlucky souls were stationed there without realizing that their day was about to take a turn for the bloody.

"I don't think, so but if they don't know then they will soon unless they are really incompetent. We should move as fast as possible when we land."

Alistair's fingers began to trace through the air, not using any magic, yet, but he was seeming to do some calculations in his head.

"I can hit them before we land, but I figure might as well let the Nordens do what they do best."

Kristen Pirian Maraad
 
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Skarde Yjorenjaskr

The Cursed One
Nordenfiir
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As the shore loomed closer, Skarde would once more make his way above deck. He would stalk to the bow, past the Southerners and through the columns of rowers until he reached the base of the dragons head, the decoration of their vessel. It served to both ward off the angry spirits of the sea, while giving the Blightlands rabble something to fear.

He would take in a sharp inhale, the salt of the sea strong upon the oceans mist. Amidst the salt, there was something more, fear. Anxiousness. The enemy new they were coming. He then began to climb atop the dragon, his metallic hand shielding his eyes as he took in another inhale. Orcs. There weren't many. Not enough for a true, ambush, but enough to tarry a charge upon the shore.

Skarde scanned the tops of the trenches looking for any real sign of movement. A sign for where to send the arrows. Seeing no clear sign, he would drop down to the deck.

"Dàrna leth, boghaichean deiseil agus ullaich airson losgadh air na trainnsichean. Saighdearan, còmhla rium."
Second half, ready bows and prepare to fire on the trenches. Warriors, with me.

He ordered gruffly, one hand lifting to unclasp the fur around his shoulder. The rowers in the back half of the longboat would set down their oars, whilst a handful of warriors rose to their feet and made their way to his side. "Kulean." He would begin with Kristen and Alistair, it was a term he had used for much of the voyage when addressing them. "You may make the climb with me, or take the easy path. Your choice, but the water will be cold." There was almost a predatory grin, as if the human had become one with his bestial half.

Making his way back to the Dragon Head, he would lift a single hand. "Teine aig toil." Those who set down their oars would begin to ready their bows, and rain arrows over into the trenches, some would be followed by a surprised squeal from an Orc.

After the order, he would charge for the bow before vaulting the rise and landing into cold water below. "Eogorath gàire ort! Glòir air son an Dott'rhi!" He bellowed as he crossed through the waves. Reaching, the cliff face, he would drive his metallic hand into the rock and use it to help him gain leverage for his climb up.

Seconds after, their longboat would lurch forward as it beached, and down the line Jorn Yngvir's longboats would land and the warriors would begin to disembark, making their way of the sandy trail that led to the trenches above them. They would need to be quick, surely reinforcements were already on the way.

Kristen Pirian | Alistair Krixus
 
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Maraad

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A modest little smile crossed Kristen's expression. "You are right, of course. I ought to be glad that I've the chance to give, to help my cousin Mina in her hour of dire need." Just as Selene Avar had helped her on the isle of the Blades, nearly eight years ago now.

The idea of a potential celebration though, however small, was nice. Her sixteenth birthday was marked by no special occasion, no family nor gifts nor revelry, nothing. Like any other day it had come and it had gone, bearing no remarkable significance over any other since her enrollment into the Academy. To think that this was the normal state of affairs for most of her peers, all of them having grown up in their most formative years without having seen their families, some even for a whole decade or more, was dismaying. Starkly dismaying.

Hey!

Kristen glanced over. No, up. Glanced up. And, my, was it a strange and rare (though welcome!) sensation, actually glancing up at someone else. In the presence of this peculiar four-armed mercenary, Kristen held not the faintest insecurity over her typically towering height. She...well, she rather liked it.

Are we expecting an ambush?

A sidelong look to the dark and rising hill of a shore, and then Kristen said to him, "I should hope not. Jarl Yngvir let on that his raid would be swift and by surprise." And the Jarl was all too jovial whilst adding brutal and merciless as well. "Though, from my understanding of the Jarl's accounts, Godendrung is not so far removed from this shore. Mayhap scouts have seen our coming, mayhap not."

And, after a pause, she added, "My name is Kristen Pirian, by the way."

A prompting look to Alistair to introduce himself to the exotic mercenary then. They were allies here, and soon they would be facing down Blight Orcs together. Best they all be introduced, however succinctly.

Alistair Krixus Maraad
As Maraad evaluated Kristen, all five of his eyes fixed on her. His smile expression friendlier and almost curious.

"Truth be told, I've heard that these orcs aren't all that intelligent. I've never met one myself, but if their crude technology is anything to go by..."

Maraad moistened his lips as his tongue slithered forth. It was a lengthy, sort of blue-colored, serpent-like object that was way too long to be of human origin.

The ship they were riding cut through yet another huge wave, drenching the deck in salt water. Maraad's hair and headscarf got wet when some of the liquid splashed his back.

He raised two hands to retrieve the moist bundle of fabric. When he smelled it, he found the scent to be most disagreeable. It was a muddy sort of aroma, almost acidic in a way.

"Ah, I suppose it isn't the orcs that I'm worried about, but the possibility of siege weapons being present."


"Although I know little about ships, I feel like it'd be a shame for these fine vessels to be wasted at the hands of some bare-assed orcish savages."


"My name is Alistair."

"Well, now, where are my manners?" he chortled, hunching forward to make himself more accessible to Alistair. Maraad extended one of his tattooed hands towards the smaller man, expecting him to shake it firmly.

"I'm Maraad Rua Uptar. And, as you can see, I'm a Kha'atari."
 
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Kristen Pirian

Pirian's Chosen
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And so a name was put to a face. Maraad. A name for the man himself and as well a name for the people from whom he'd come: the Kha'atari. Quite the ambassador for Kha'atari kind, at least in Kristen's view. Maraad was possessed of an enormous form, but he was far more genial than she would have guessed. A sharp cunning inhabited his eyes as well (of which, surprising in a mildly unnerving way, he seemed to have three extra).

"Siege weapons," Kristen echoed with a small hint of worry. "I should hope they have not such preparations available and readied." But who knew? All Kristen knew of the Blightlands, this far flung and gods-abandoned stretch of land far to the northeast, was that it was a place infested with slavery and torn ragged by war.

Perhaps the best she could hope for was that they were as Alistair suggested: incompetent. Yet this reeked of wishful thinking.

The big Norden man, Skarde, reappeared and brushed past the three of them and scouted from the top of the dragon's head bow. In his tongue he called to his fellow Nordens, and oars were being stowed and bows made ready. A glance back to the rising shore revealed some movement in the dim light of the clouded evening.

Orcs. Not many, but certainly there were some. Darker figures moving against an already dark land.

Skarde came back down.

Kulean. You may make the climb with me, or take the easy path. Your choice, but the water will be cold.

Arrows flew from the longship, and fewer arrows flew towards the longship from the Orcs. One even embedded into the mast at the center of the ship. Kristen didn't notice or didn't mind. Instead, she looked to Alistair. Said, "I haven't come across the entire span of Arethil itself to take the easy path now."

The longship rocked to a halt beside the slanted hill of a shore.

Kristen smiled. An inviting glance passed to Maraad as well, and to both him and Alistair she spoke, "Shall we follow the venerable Norden then?"

* * * * *​

As Skarde and several warriors jumped into the water and Kristen, Alistair, and Maraad were deciding, Jarl Yngvir strode forward from the back of the longship. He was grinning wildly.

"At last! WE'RE HERE! HA HA HA HA!" he bellowed, an intense excitement threaded through each word. It was the eagerness of a man who had long awaited the coming of something craved and lusted for. He was almost fanatic in his glee.

He turned to look at Brenna, at Gylfi, teeth still bared in a euphoric snarl of a grin. "Brenna! Gylfi! Are we gonna let those Southerners touch ground first!? BWA HA!"

And with that, the Jarl drew his twin ornate axes and went charging up the longship and jumped overboard and toward the shore.

Alistair Krixus Maraad Skarde Yjorenjaskr Brenna Gylfi
 
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Alistair Krixus

The Rune Knight
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Alistair made a mental note to do some reading on the Kha'atari when he had some free time. For now, he would have to be satisfied with being clueless. He needed his mind to develop a sound strategy. If given a few minutes, he could probably deploy a few spells that would make the initial push feel like a cakewalk...or not.

There was the rough as rock language again and with it came little chance of in-depth strategy. Alistair sighed as he looked up at the climbing norden and then at the choppy water. Yeah, he was done with being wet.

He grumbled as he undead his heavy cloak and let it fall to the ground at his feet. Alistair now stood in his more usual, lightweight attire, although a few furs had been added for warmth.

"Kristen, I'm not sure I'm the biggest fan of the north."

Having admitted that, Alistair activated several runes along his body that would help with strength and reaction time. Anything to help him climb this cliff. Nothing else needed to be said, so he took a running start and jumped up onto the cliff, and began the climb.

Kristen Pirian Maraad Skarde Yjorenjaskr
 

Maraad

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"It seems that we've arrived."

Maraad looked at the shore once more and thought to himself, "Oh, that's going to be one arduous climb."



He was suddenly smacked in the chest by something. He flinched at the abrupt sensation even though it didn't hurt. He looked down at his feet to see what had startled him from his reverie: an arrow.

It was a simple tool that hardly merited praise.
Maraad was unsure of whether the tip was made of steel or iron, but it was unambiguously metallic.

Forget about that.

More projectiles whistled overhead. His lower abdomen was struck squarely by yet another arrow, yet it was unable to even dent his supernaturally resilient hide. Instead, it deformed and split lengthwise as a result of the impact, erupting into a hail of splinters.


"I find their weapons lacking," commented Maraad, referring to the blight orcs. Although he spoke to no one in particular, a part of him anticipated that Kristen and Alistair would share his sentiment.

Without saying a word, he hurled himself at the steep hillside, clearing at least ten meters with the first bound.

Maraad crashed on the scorched ground chest first. He delved deep into it with his finger before starting to ascend like a spider. Many men would struggle to sprint with the same intensity and speed they used to overcome this relatively insignificant hurdle.

An orc suddenly appeared, barring Maraad's way. He wielded a long lance, which he intended to use as means of deterrence. With it, the orc attempted to stab Maraad in the face, but Maraad quickly turned away. He encircled the confused orc like a mist and reached out to seize it by the face with one hand.

He squeezed hard, and there was a horrible, wet noise as his fingers breached the skull and went into the brain. The orc's head popped like an overripe grape, and he collapsed into a boneless, lifeless heap of tangled limbs and dark blood
.

Kristen Pirian
Alistair Krixus
Skarde Yjorenjaskr
 
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Gylfi

Guardian
Nordenfiir
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Gylfi imperiously snorted in response, [What kind of cage can bind a sorcerer?]

The young Norden's understanding of magic came from stories told to him when he was a child. Tales meant to scare children into behaving. Though he knew now that those stories were comprised of mostly nonsense, magic was still a mystery to him.

From his comfortable seat, Gylfi watched as the first volley of arrows was loosed. Then he stood, his towering frame clad entirely in black. His wild orange locks made even more vibrant against his grim attire. A quartet of small axes dangled from his belt, and he took up his colossal blade from where it had been propped. It was his great-great-grandfather's blade, passed from father to son for generations. When Gylfi had made the unspoken vow to leave home so he could remain by Brenna's side, his father understood the meaning of his departure and left the blade in his hands.

When Yngvir departed, Gylfi was soon to follow. With the rest of his kinsmen, he trudged through frigid waters to make for the more navigable trail, where he would fight through scores of Blight Orcs. A quick glance was cast back to make sure Brenna hadn't been washed away by the tide.

[Move those little legs!] He signed to her, [Or I won't leave any enemies for you!]
 

Kristen Pirian

Pirian's Chosen
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Kristen, I'm not sure I'm the biggest fan of the north.

"At least the boat is closer this time."

One benefit of the steep shore was that the keels of the longships needn't worry at all about the underwater shelf—they could pull right up beside the land and throw anchor right there. Wading through the warm waters of Elyr'Adith had been pleasant. Here, it would be like some of the old tortures of the Academy Zael had once described to her (for the Proctors loved using cold water and ice on him).

Alistair jumped, and Kristen followed. She landed lower than him on the hillside, her jump far less impressive. And—Blessed Aionus!—she had to lean into the hillside, hands splayed out and her sabatons dug into the dirt, to keep from sliding down and into the foaming waves that awaited just beneath her feet. Standing up was near impossible, such was the grade. Looking up, Kristen could see that in some places the hill was in fact a sheer cliffside. The draws and trenches cutting through the hillside provided the most level ground that could be found, and it was from here that the Blight Orcs resisting the landing of the Nordens made their stand.

Fighting broke out almost immediately. The Nordens were astonishing climbers, bounding up the slanted hillside with an animalistic intensity, lunging into the draws and trenches with bellowing battlecries. Maraad had popped the skull of an orc nearby, an act that left Kristen feeling no sympathy for the orc but with a slight revulsion in her gut for the sight itself. Some orcs near the crest of the hill were already in retreat, abandoning their positions and scrambling up and over the top and onto the level Blightlands ground proper.

Kristen clawed her way up to beside and just below Alistair.

When, from the shelf of a trench above them, two orcs peeked out and each with a huge rock in their hands threw them down at the Initiates. One of the most simple and effective methods of castle defense, repurposed here.

Alistair Krixus Maraad Skarde Yjorenjaskr
 
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Skarde Yjorenjaskr

The Cursed One
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Skarde howled into the climb, moving quickly above Alistair and Kristen. The Summerlanders proved to be of good stock, especially Maraad, who seemed to leap all the way to the top. Already the giant had begun the bloodsport, already he sated his hunger for Orcish blood!

Skarde would shift in his climb for better footing, only to pause as an Orc ordered something above them. With a glance up, he saw the largest boulder being hefted, before thrown down towards the two Kulean. His right hand pulled an axehead free and he drove it into the stony cliff for purchase, before he swung to the side. Both boots scraped against stone as his metallic hand caught hold of the boulder.

He roared and flexed as the strain grew, calling upon the strength of his blood to reinforce his body. Another roar and he hurled the boulder back towards the enemy causing them to squeal upon the impact.

Surging forward into his climb, he would be upon them in seconds, catching them as they tried to regain their footing. The first Orc would be grabbed by the throat and lifted until its feet struggled to touch the ground. With a shift of his body, the future corpse would sail over the cliff, its body crunching atop the dragon head of the longship.

The second orc would roll to recover quickly, thrusting with its spear at his torso. The axe head would shift in his right hand to deflect the spear before he brought it backwards, removing the Orcs head in a single motion. A murderous laugh escaped his lips and fury danced behind his eyes. A glorious day for glorious battle!

As some of the other Nordens crested the top he would kneel at the edge. "Come, Kulean! The enemy breaks without you!" It was only a small guard here, but soon reinforcements would come and he hungered for that battle.

Kristen Pirian | Alistair Krixus | Maraad
 

Brenna

Cadet of The Sanctuary
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Brenna stuck her tongue out at her companion as she swum by. Even in the haze of battle those summerlanders who were not used to seeing a large bear do such a decidedly human thing gave pause to watch her as she passed. Bre was not the only one to take the cry of battle to change into their Svalen forms and the sea heaved with the great beasts as they struck their way towards the shore but upon reaching it most of them changed back in order to tackle the cliff face before them.

Race you, the shield maiden smirked over her shoulder at her ever-present shadow before dashing for the rock. Here her smaller frame made her more nimble than most of her kind. From her back she pulled her shield which she slid through her arm; wall defences such as falling rocks, arrows and tar were common tactics and the shield was worth carrying to defend herself, even if she lost some of her manoeuvrability. Her decision was proven to be the right one not long after as the orcs above threw down their boulders in an attempt to knock people from the cliff. Those strange races she did not have the words for above them provided most of the shelter but enough chunks fell down to wound normal men and Brenna found her shield hammered more than a few times by falling debris. The screams of a promising battle beyond fuelled her with adrenaline and she pushed on.

At the top the small unit of guards were already mostly overrun with their own forces but the march of hundreds of orcs, the jingle of maille and scale, and the steady beat of a war-drum announced the worst was yet to come. Brenna cracked her knuckles then loosened her axe from its leather belt loop with a determined smile.
 
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Maraad

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More, more, more!

Maraad pounded away at another orcish corpse. Bits of broken bones and squashed organs flew everywhere. Maraad hit one of the orcs so hard in the stomach that the poor thing shat out its entrails. At that moment, he looked like a man squeezing a tube of toothpaste.

They tried to retaliate, the stupid oafs, with arrows and swords and spears, but all their weapons rebounded harmlessly off Maraad's steeled flesh.

He felt nothing from these primitive creatures. To him, they were no more threatening than a wild animals. Their weapons were crude and ineffective, incapable of doing him any meaningful harm, and wielding magic appeared to be beyond their ability.

"Ha!" he exclaimed triumphantly, using a dead orc like a crude club to beat down a still living one. Maraad held the dead orc by the ankle, swiping left and right till the body was so battered that he could no longer effectively hit anyone with it.

He discarded the dead thing, kicking it down the cliff like it were no more than a trash bag. He peered over the edge, grinning toothily at Kristen's climbing efforts.

Why hadn't she used magic to get there? A sorceress would've obviously done that, right?

Her actions left him puzzled. All he could do was shrug his shoulders at them. He had better things to do than worry about the Anirian girl.

An ingenious idea crossed his mind. His eyes, flashing with brutish excitement, landed on a large, rounded boulder. Maraad stalked close to the hunk of granite and wrapped two of his four arms around it. It wasn't so big that he couldn't hold it, but it sure was heavy.

He rested the weight of the boulder on his better shoulder, keeping his elbow high so that it was horizontal to his shoulder.

"Ready or not!"
 
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Kristen Pirian

Pirian's Chosen
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Kristen's expression of alarm upon seeing the boulder hadn't even departed yet when Skarde caught it. Come, Kulean! he shouted. Kristen glanced sidelong to Alistair, a short bout of laughter both relieved and nervous coming forth.

But there was little time to reflect on nearly escaping peril. Kristen gave herself to the steep hillside climb once more.

Across the jagged slope pockets of battle continued to flare up and die down. For each of the orcs that gave flight early, there was one who stayed to fight, whether out of fear of cowardice or to win glory or simple bloodlust. The Nordenfiir were swift and savage, and Kristen heard several ursine roars as she kept to her climb. Maraad the four-armed mercenary was having a grand time higher up the hillside, another orcish corpse produced by his work tumbling and plummeting down the slope to join the one earlier tossed by Skarde. A thick crash of water as the body struck the sea.

Nearing the top, there was a small shelf of land that Kristen climbed on to get even footing for once, to take the moment for a short breath before pushing herself to climb the last little bit to the hill's crest.

Scarcely had she taken three breaths when an orc, slyly camouflaged by dirt and dried pieces of shrubbrush, burst into ambush with a fierce battlecry.

"Alis—!"

She couldn't even finish shouting her fellow Initiate's name before her foe was upon her.

And her first fight in this battle did not go well at all. Kristen's strength was no match for the orc's own, and each deflection of his axe felt like a blow in and off itself. Small pyrrhic victories, those deflections, brought on by practicing tirelessly in the use of the sword, but Kristen couldn't best the orc in direct, physical combat. Her magic saved her. A Withering Chain burst from the hillside and caught the wrist of the orc, preventing what would have been a killing blow to her skull. Undeterred, the orc didn't hesitate to boot Kristen in the chest and send her sailing off of the shelf.

It was all over in five seconds.

Kristen, like the bodies of the orcs previously, went tumbling and plummeting down the slope, the wind knocked out of her with each impact, sword flying from her grasp, as she struck again and again the dirt and the rocks. At last one bounce separated her from the slope and she fell freely. The hillside seemed to be flying away from her.

Until at last her back smacked into the water and she was engulfed in the midnight of the sea and the swirling stars of savage foam and rioting bubbles.

In agony she sank, her body wracked with horrid suffering from her fight and her fall.

It would have been easy to let go. To let the sea take her. To sink down to a grim relief.

Don't give up.

She opened her eyes. Saw her sword sinking down toward her underwater.

Ever forward, and never back.

The salt of the sea was invading her nose, and her lungs burned.

Should I fall, I shall stand again.

And she reached up for the sword as both she and it sank deeper.

Alistair Krixus Skarde Yjorenjaskr Maraad Brenna Gylfi