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A Knightly Deception

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Arion

Vampire Lord
True Blood
Joined
Sep 17, 2007
Messages
3,414
#1
Cool breezes drifted along the old animal track, stirring immense trees, lonely sentinels into action. This in turn agitated the small birds and menagerie of other forest inhabitants to flutter and worry about. Though perhaps that was the travellers fault, it was impossible to know. Dappled sunlight fell on the steady beating rhythm of iron-shod hooves. Far away away in the distance a wolf howled its loneliness into the air, likely further agitating such small creatures.

The party was travelling through a fairly open forest hugging the foothills of the grey mountains, just below the autumn snows. A horse's snort brought Draithon back to attention, he shook his head and stopped mulling over the journey, 8 days of travel had got them 500 miles or so, the battle at Drakenhof would be well and done by now, it remained to be seen whether his plots would be for nothing. He had now taken on his human personality, Duke Farseer, they had abandoned the coldones for his Ellyrion steeds at a waypoint where he had instructed them stabled. He had changed his appearance to one more.. human. The hands on his reins were unfamiliar and seemed ill-fitting.

"Something coming up!"
His head snapped around to one of the three retainers behind him and followed the gesturing hand to figure infront of them. Flanged red armour covered everything except the head. Tethered to a willow on the right was a black destrier, but the knights hands were the important part. One held a longsword, long, thin in plain style . The other held a gauntlet profferred in a classic challenge. They all halted four metres away.

"If one of you defeats me in single combat, you may pass. If not, another may try, again and again until you all lie at my feet in pools of your own blood." His voice was high but confident and full of arrogance.

Darkwater didn't bother with introductions, the concealable repeater pistol was in his hand within an instant, the trigger pressed in barely another. A red hole appeared in the knights head as he staggered backwards. Darkwater stared impassively as the barrel turned. A second bang ripped through the air as the knight's teeth were smashed and throat opened to the elements from behind. The knight stumbled weakly to the side as the smoking barrels rotated again. A third and final bang sounded out. The knight flew backwards, three holes through his head and collapsed into a muddy stream, swiftly turning the waters red.

"Young, Idealistic Fool", Draithons voice broke the silence.
"They all are sir. All those Warriors of the Blood"
"To true."
He carefully dismounted and cut the line attatching the horse to the tree. One smack on the rump was all it took to send it fleeing through the forest. Next to him Darkwater reloaded each barrel.

He remounted and led the horses past the dead vampire, their hooves breaking the surface of the water and sending bloody droplets over the body. After a moments consideration he dismounted again and picked up the sword before placing it over the warriors chest.

"He was turned recently, the body is not yet truely decaying."
Draithon ripped out the remaining fang and stuck it through his shirt lapel.

This journey was beginning to weary him, the Brettonia was infested by idealists like the corpse. Especially along the Grey Mountains where they hunted the monsters that roamed free in the untamed wilderness.

**************[hr]
It was on the thriteenth day that they came upon the burnt out village. The damage was recent, fires still burned and the acrid tang of smoke burnt Draithons throat and stung his eyes. This was in the duchy of Parravon, the normally vibrant wildlife was still and quiet. Every scent was one of decay and crows sqwarked high above.

They entered the town slowly, wary of what might have caused the damage. The horses hooves were drowned out by what seemed to be cloth and Draithon dismounted onto the muddy ground. Stormclouds hung over the sky. They had done so all day and were unlikely to stop. He dragged the material out of the ground, and it seemed to get longer and longer until finally unfurling.
"Seems to be a banner of some kind" Aerdiyl commented.
"You could well be right..." He replied as he drew his hands across the banner, trying to work out the symbol. It seemed to be a tower on a mountain, at the centre of which was a chunk of warpstone and could it be? Khemrian text on the border.
"How the hell did Mortael work so fast?" This remark came from Nalrys, one of the two female members of the group. Aerdiyl muttered his assent before dismounting, rolling it up and placing it through a coil of rope along his saddle bags.

"What matters is that he did. Everything seems to be proceeding along well, except for my nagging doubts that Sylvania is still ours. " responded Draithon.
"Well we all worry there. If they lost its unlikely a bird got through, might as well continue in absence of further knowledge."
"Of course"

Draithon smiled for the second time on this venture, somethings were working at least. Night was falling slowly, its coolness a relief as always. The critters and beasts less so. Not two nights ago they had run into a small warband of beastmen, the small tough to clean blood patches on Cerillye stood bloody testament to that.

"We'll set up camp on that wooded hill there." It was off the the right, an inconspicuos grove of trees. He had learnt to sleep during the night to accomodate for mortal servants. Indeed, he had learnt to sleep which was entirely unneccesary as an immortal.

In the distance the mountains of the Gisoureax pass loomed, among the was home, safety, security, Icekeel.
 

Arion

Vampire Lord
True Blood
Joined
Sep 17, 2007
Messages
3,414
#2
Riding is tiring, it may not look tiring, but after riding 14 days straight, 12 hours a day Draithons muscles had fatigue laced through every strand of them. But It was a necessity, he did not question that.

And finally, their destination, twenty thousand feet into the sky the blizzard capped peak stood, and Icekeel, its crowning glory stood high, silhoutted in the falling sun. The snow had been ever more evident as they travelled, and three quarters of the treacherous, rocky and sheer peak was pure white dotted by groves and forests of trees. Winding its way up stood the road with the keeps Sky and Ice dominating the it. And there, he could just spot it was The Flaming Bridge, so named because of the great bonfires that burned along its sides to warm and guide travellers in sudden blizzards. Yet none of this described the sheer natural force of the mountain, it stood like a god among its fellows, towering in unnatural cold might over the insignificant mites underneath. Capped with towers rising to the sky, looking over the world. Draithon gazed up and let the cold soak through him, cold that washed away everything. Majesty that made him so insignificant. He looked up and was glad.

They travelled up along the road for a little bit before a shout shook him from his thoughts. Ice stood like a dog at the base of Icekeel, guarding the only ways up, a road and a river running alongside eachother. Cliffs and a forest preventing enemies from skirting around. He spotted a guardsman pointing at his group.

The clipping of horses accompanied them to the gate, a wood and iron behemoth as befitted his first line of defence. They rumbled open and he stopped. Eight horsmen rode out and halted a metre away. He noticed Foxglove, the basepoint Guard captain, Ruddy and Neal, the rest were green as summer grass, new soldiers.

"Halt! Who goes there?"
Her voice rang out across the insignifciant gap, he could have lunged forward right then and killed two, Darkwater could shoot three, all before they could react. In answer he unbuckled his sword and threw it into the snow next to her, in the process drawing back his hood. She began to laugh as she dismounted and picked it up, almost reverently.

"Sir". She admitted.

"Good to see you remember me." He dismounted and crossed the gap , she did the same. They greeted eachother as comrades in arms with a thump on the back. Then retreated and remounted.

"I didn't recognize you under those cloaks." She sounded apologetic.
"That is their purpose."
"I see...," she paused ,"Its good to have you back with us, we've been hearing disturbing reports of undead attacks on outlying settlements. Can you confirm it? "
"Sadly yes, we came upon one of the towns on our journey here. It was burnt to the ground." Behind him the banner was unfurled. Foxglove cleched her fist and released it.
"Will you need refreshments?"
"No, all I need is to make my way up to the keep."
"Of course."

They turned and passed underneath the arches of the gate. Simple stone, but they kept the beastmen out, and worse. Lucien Farseer sighed in relief, the dread lords hadn't been here yet.
 

Arion

Vampire Lord
True Blood
Joined
Sep 17, 2007
Messages
3,414
#3
The warmth of the room contrasted sharply with the howling blizzard outside, as it was, lit by wall scones and a large glass chandelier, the tower seemed a haven against the elements. But the large glass windows were a constant reminder of what lay just outside.

Lucien sat at the head of the table, a rich, warm wood engraved with a prowling wolf, its lambent eyes of emerald at the centre. If one looked further down, four more figures sat, Ellrielle was currently absent. The four were richly dressed as befitted their position, chancellors and representatives of four Duchies of Brettonia, about as high as one could go before directly consulting the Dukes or even the King himself. Four servants rose from the walls and carried a undulating, perfectly sculpted map of Brettonia, with every river and side road marked in exquisite detail in three dimensions. Immediately everyone on the table crowded around it.

"You know why I've called you, you know what has been happening for the past few weeks. Encroaching steadily northward are a line of burnt and destroyed villages. Their people dead or scattered. Look!"

Luciens hand gestured to the map. A red wax marker pointed out the destroyed villages.
"Since the king has decided it is a small matter, on Dukedom level, we have to deal with it. Our people burnt, killed and destroyed. But nor is it a local problem, I believe we are facing something greater than beastmen or wildings, bandits or orcs."
This time he unfurled a larger map, it had obviously been used recently, as it rolled out without protest.
"A trail of destruction lies along the badlands, through the Border Princes and to the Northern Empire and Brettonia. It seems to head in the general direction of the cursed land of Sylvania, cutting a swathe as it goes. I have reports from other Kingdoms, several Keeps have been destroyed in the Border Princes, in Sylvania itself reports of catastrophic magic releases were picked up by the Colleges of Magic in Altdorf. So, an unknown force destroying as it goes, intent on some goal. May I introduce some new players in this game? The vampire council, my sources from the Empire have informed me of them. They have unknown motives, but it is rare that so many vampires gather for no reason. Yet it is not the Carstein banner that I found when visiting the sites of destruction.
Let me inform you of a legend, perhaps you have heard it, perhaps not. Millenia ago, there was a king of the Lands of the dead, bordering Araby where we fought so recently. And lost
. One of his princes wanted the throne, and through treachery and deceit gained it. However he had the goal of eternal life, so that he could rule everlasting. He, using the darkest of magics, created an elixir. His following exploits led him to become the most powerful wizard in the known world, and he has NOT been equalled. His power was unto that of the gods themselves. But he fell to the might of man, after millions died. The second time he came to the world only the demi-god sigmar could stop him. Signs indicate that he his returning yet again.
It was his banner I found trampled into the mud at Crowshill, Tworivers, and Loutton. The signs he is returning are subtle yet. But I
have noticed them. And I believe he is the cause of the trail of this destruction, and is biding his power to the east and south for an all out assault on those who stopped his acension aeons ago. We lie directly in his way.
These towns are testing our strength, probing us, and I believe we should retaliate in turn! I am but a minor noble, the king does not take my opinion seriously. I was the Strategist behind Araby, and under my lead we secured it for many years, but the head of operations was a traitor, subverting our efforts and we LOST Araby. This is a mark on our honour, a stain that can only be washed out with blood. Let the Arabians feel they are safe for a while, we should regain our lost honour, while serving our country as best we can. A holy crusade, Araby was ten years ago, we should have recovered by then. A Crusade on Nagash. We know he exists and is not destroyed, he is an evil stain on the world, that the lady does not allow."


Even as he said the last word a chill, which the weather was not responsible for, settled on the hearts of the rooms inhabitants. One spoke up.
"You are sure of this pattern. This story about long forgotten necromancers doesn't quite fit. What does he want with us. How do you know it isn't some imitator, Lucien?"
"His goal is a realm of the dead, his problem with us is that we live and breathe. And how do I know it isn't some imitator? I don't! But an imitator that can do such damage is certainly something to be wary of!."
They were muted, despite their reservations it made a strange sense, what they did not know was that a vampire, their indomitable will capable of being enforced on other merely by a look was in the room, and one skilled at illusions.

"I beg you, plead with you, inform your dukes, let them talk to the king. But before any decisions are made," He said, stilling their voices. "Let us dine, I am sure you are all wearied from your journey."
More servants stepped from the walls with laden platters, poisoned with undectectably potions, all designed with one role in mind. Coercion.
 

Arion

Vampire Lord
True Blood
Joined
Sep 17, 2007
Messages
3,414
#4
As the last clatter of cutlery died down, one representative, of Parravon stood.
"I'm sure I speak for everyone here when I say we will carry our messages to the Dukes. I cannot offer you any certainties now, but rest assured I will present your case well."
He sat down, and a murmered agreement followed.
"I thank you, perhaps you would all now wish to retire?" Proclaimed Lucien. Again, a murmered agreement followed, and every one turned to head out the door. Servants moved to clean up and Lucien gave himself an inward smile, they were cooperating, an some of the nerves could be settled.

***

Khardreth had heard enough, he held onto his rope and sped down, the ropeburn a relief to his numbed fingers, uncovered for dexterity.
 

Arion

Vampire Lord
True Blood
Joined
Sep 17, 2007
Messages
3,414
#5
Draithons room was circular, inside his personal tower and about ten and five metres across, dominated by a shuttered doorway that led to a stone balcony and a large four posted bed. Next to the doorway and opposite from the bed was a fireplace large enough to enfulge a bent over man, currently crackling and burning merrily, illuminating the darkness . A dressing table and two engraved wood chests were off to the side.

He stood with the shutters open, in a bare bedrobe, whipped by the snow. The moon stood above him, gazing down like a disapproving parent from midnights blackness. The cold gave him a sort of peace, like the twinkling stars, as joyful as a child's eyes.
"You know, that's making the room cold, and killing the fire." Her amused voice rang out behind him.
"I woke you?"
"If you are the snow and ice, yes."
He snorted, amused by the analogy. "Perhaps I am"
"Perhaps you are."
Draithon closed the shutters and bolted them, drawing the curtains. Scent and warmth enfulged him from behind.
 

Arion

Vampire Lord
True Blood
Joined
Sep 17, 2007
Messages
3,414
#6
Dabbing his face with a wet cloth, Draithon questioned the messenger, his voice slowing with dread.
"What do you mean they're dead?..."
Unsure and worried, the messenger continued.
"We found the envoys at the base of the Flaming Bridge, they'd fallen during the blizzard, though why they were out at night is a question we cannot answer."
"The guards at their doors?"
"With the bodies."
"It looks like they were fleeing, they carried all their accrouments and bags."
"They were found with the luggage?"
"Yes, though it is mostly in pieces now."
"Is the site untouched?"
"Yes"
"I will go there now, wait outside for a moment."
"Gladly."

***
The messenger hadn't lied, spattered in pieces on the rocks and snow were the dignitaries, barely recognizable. The blood bathed in the harsh sunlight of the morning, a cool, windy one, refreshing on any other day.
Snow crunched as he knelt down beside the body, cawing crows fled to the skies. But why? What were they fleeing?
"They died under our protection, a serious impingment on our honour..."
"Sir!," a soldier interrupted, "this guards throat is slit!"
"Sorry?"
"Throat , Slit"
Draithon sighed,
"They seem to have been murdered.."
The realization hit him then, a fist in the face, they looked like they were fleeing, and they looked like they had been killed. What would it have been supposed they were fleeing? Is that what people would think they were killed for, fleeing?
Fleeing.
He took a deep breath.
"We send ravens to the Dukes, we tell them on the journey out their messengers were murdered, feel free to spread the story that the murdered dignitaries were found here, from the wounds it looks like..."
Oh, no, not now, not here...Darkelves
He breathed in deeply,
"Reapers of Nagash, the jaggered torn flesh and extraordinarily quickly withered and rotted flesh caused by that of an undead assassins weapon. Get our Damsels of the Lady and prepare the bodies for burial, but don't bury them yet, they are to be taken back to their home duchies. I will pen the letters myself."
With the message I gave these... corpses...
 
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