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Tholarian Dreams

 
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Sorotor



Joined: 01 Apr 2005
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 PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 12:28 am    Post subject: Tholarian Dreams Reply with quote Back to top

In the year K.A. 1215, Perceal Ferre founded the Order of the Sword in the principality of Mayhew. At first intended to expand the scope of the City Guard, Ferre's Order quickly formed its own identity. By the end of the year, Ferre's Martial Academy was independent of the Guards, and his apprentices became known as Warriors.
Others soon followed this example. In Valmorgen, Lord Jennion of the Palace Guard founded the Order of the Crown, based in the Royal Warriors Guild. And in the northern city of Shovrah-Dan, Quistas Darkwreathe founded the Crimson Blades.
The Order of the Crown was by far the most popular. Jennion's Royal Code enjoined its followers to be models of virtue, protecting the weak and fighting only for noble causes. Because of their emphasis on respecting authority, they were readily accepted into the cities of the settled lands of Valmorgen and Cheswick.
The Order of the Sword was nearly as widespread. Stressing valour and determination in the quest to purge Ardania of evil, they were welcomed in the more unsettled regions of the Central Plains and East Provinces. Although the Code of the Sword was not quite as rigorous as the Royal Code, the Warriors of this Order were expected to defend their posts unflinchingly and to carry the battle into the wilds as often as possible.
The Crimson Blades, on the other hand, never gained much in popularity. Their Oath included a pledge of fealty to the King of Shovrah-Dan, making other rulers suspicious of them. Also, their practices were harsh, alienating the people and causing many Temples to shun them. Eventually, only the Priestesses would associate with them, and thus the Crimson Blades became limited to those towns where Krypta was in favour.
Nine years later, all three Orders were firmly established. An aging Ferre decided to host a tournament in Mayhew to celebrate the first decade of his Academy's existence. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, the Liche Queen was again seeking to extend her sway beyond the boundaries of Shatterwood Forest. At the heart of her growing forces was a dreadful being she had spawned from her dark magicks. The Great Tournament of 1225 was destined to be the proving ground for the champions who would counter this new threat.
- an excerpt from "The Roots of Modern Guilds" by Talaryl son of Aequiryl
 
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Sorotor



Joined: 01 Apr 2005
Posts: 283

 PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Tholarian Dreams

It had been five years since Sir Gregor Espatha, Master of the Sword, had come to Tholaria. Now his Martial Academy was maturing. Today, he would conduct the ceremony that would transform his first apprentices into full Warriors of the Order.
The induction was to take place in the main hall of the Academy. Sir Gregor was seated on the dais, surrounded by multicoloured light from the stained glass windows above him. On his right and left were his assistants, Lady Carille of Mayhew and Sir Triestal Ferre, younger brother of the Grand Master. Below him, standing loosely on either side of the long green carpet, were the apprentices in their grey tunics. The fledgeling Warriors were up in the North Tower, praying to whatever gods they worshipped. Unlike the Order of the Crown, the followers of Lord Ferre had no particular affiliation with Agrela or any other god. The chapel in the North Tower was plain and unadorned, allowing it to be used for any of the seven religions. At the door to the northern wing of the Academy stood Sir Vectrin Lamian, the Guild's sergeant-at-arms and principal instructor of the apprentices.
At a signal from Vectrin, Sir Gregor and his two assistants rose from their seats.
"Attention!" barked Carille. The apprentices hurriedly arranged themselves into a pair of neat lines. The door to the north wing opened, and the six young fighters emerged, accompanied by their families. Well, all except one. Sir Gregor watched with a strange mix of emotions as the fifth squire strode out of the door.
Lex Silvermint was an outsider in the Guild. He was a half-Elf in a city that distrusted all non-humans, Elves in particular. He was odd even for an Elf in that his skin, hair and eyes were all pure w
hite, although he was marked by none of that unhealthiness which accompanied a human albino. He was an orphan as well, since his Elven father had vanished soon after his birth and his mother had died five years ago. Fortunately she had been a noblewoman of some wealth, and her last act had been to donate her fortune to the Order on the understanding that her eleven-year-old son would be enrolled in the Guild. This arrangement did not do any favours for the half-breed in the eyes of the other students. On the other hand, Lex seemed not to care. He was self-possessed, even arrogant, and treated the other apprentices with disdain. And, as it turned out, he was the best swordsman in the Academy.
The young men assembled at the end of the carpet. They were all dressed in plain chainmail over white tunics and breeches. Once they became Warriors, that dress would change. White would become black, and the chainmail would be covered by a green surcoat embroidered with the emblem of the Order over the heart. These garments, along with thier swords, lay in neatly folded bundles at the feet of Sir Triestal.
"Salute!" ordered Carille. The apprentices, eyes wide, clapped their right fists into position over their hearts. The squires, accompanied by their proud parents, advanced up the carpet. As they reached the steps of the dais, their parents fell back, and the squires ascended the steps alone. They knelt and Sir Gregor administered the oath. They swore to it, he touched them lightly with his sword, and Sir Triestal presented them with their own blades and vestments. They then bowed, and stepped aside for the next squire.
Finally it was the half-Elf's turn. Lex strode up the carpet, none the worse for the lack of an honour guard. He knelt at Sir Gregor's feet, but it was not humility that looked out of those slanted, pale eyes.
"Lex Silvermint!" began Sir Gregor, his voice slightly more stern than it had been for the others. "You kneel before me as a man seeking to join the Order of the Sword. Do you swear to fight evil wherever you find it, to defend the peaceful citizens of Ardania, and to abide by the Code of the Sword?"
"I do so swear."
"Then I, Sir Gregor Espatha, Master of the Order, accept your Oath, and by this sword - " here he struck Lex on the shoulder, with more force than he consciously meant to use " - induct you into the full fellowship of our noble Order, founded by Lord Perceal Ferre. Receive your sword, Warrior, and arise."
Lex took the sword and bundle from Triestal, and rose smoothly to his feet. He inclined his head, turned, and paced away.[/b]
 
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Sorotor



Joined: 01 Apr 2005
Posts: 283

 PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Lex did not go back to his room in the South Tower. He detested that room, as he detested the rest of the Martial Academy. Now that he had finally been made a Warrior, he was no longer bound to stay there. He had already moved his belongings out the previous day. Now he followed them to the Drunken Wizard Inn, forever leaving behind the cramping walls of the Academy.
He slipped in through the door of the Inn, glancing around the common room. The Drunken Wizard was neither fancy nor run-down. Built in the Market Quarter, it was frequented by artisans and merchants, as well as travelers who could not afford the more elaborate lodgings in the Wizards' Quarter. It was also the temporary home of Lex's only friend. The half-Elf ignored the hostile stares of the other customers, and made his way to where a dark-complexioned man sat grinning into an empty tankard.
Roquist of Ravenswood described himself as a wandering inventor. Other people described him as a vagabond, a troublemaker, or a thief, depending on their experience of him. He was, in fact, all four, and was not quite a year older than Lex.
"Well, Roquist," said the new Warrior, seating himself next to his friend, "what are you so happy about? Has the beer gone to your head again, or do you have something to report?"
Roquist snorted. "I don't get drunk that easily, Lex. Just b'cause you can hold your liquor like a desert holds water, doesn't mean everyone else is drowned by it. I'm happy b'cause I finished the crossbow."
"Really?" Lex settled back in his join, and smiled too. "That's quite an achievement." And it was. The crossbow was a Dwarven weapon. It could be quite effective at close range, but it was cumbersome and most were unsuited for anyone larger than a Dwarf. Roquist had been improving it so that it could be put to practical use.
"You don't need t' tell me." Roquist glanced at his friend's expressions, then rested his gaze on the green bundle, which was now wrapped around the accompanying longsword. "I see you've also got something to celebrate. Congratulations, Lex."
"That's Sir Lex, to you." They both chuckled at this, Lex's Elven voice shimmering all over the common room. Several patrons scowled, paid thier bills and left. Everyone else glanced uneasily at the two, ondering what they were plotting.
Lex chuckled again as he caught the looks. "Come, Roque, let's go to your room. Our plans can do without this boorish audience."
"Whatever you say, Sir."
Still laughing, the two got up and headed for the stairs.
 
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Sorotor



Joined: 01 Apr 2005
Posts: 283

 PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

"I don't see why you bother," said Roquist from his position on the bed. Lex was changing his old clothing for the Warrior's garb. "I thought you hated the Academy."
"I do. You'd have to pay through the nose to see me inside that place again. But, I don't hate what it did for me. Power and wealth don't come at a whistle, Roque. I am now a Warrior of the Order of the Sword." He paused while he arranged his chainmail vest. "That means that I have gained a position in society. Unlike you, I can move in respectable circles, and my deeds will gain me merit instead of going unnoticed."
"You do know that most of my 'deeds' are supposed to go unnoticed, right?"
"Very funny." Lex drew on the surcoat. Glancing appraisingly into the mirror, he smoothed it down and cinched his belt around it. He buckled on the sword, and turned to face his friend. "Well?"
"Pretty magnificent," admitted Roquist, stretching. "What's that funny thing twined around that sword?"
"This?" Lex fingered the emblem sewn above his heart. Black on green, it depicted a reptillian creature whose long tail wrapped around the blade of a sword. Two forelegs clasped the pommel; a snarling head and outspread wings completed the image. "Sir Gregor called it a 'wyvern'. Don't mock it, Roque. This crest is our path to glory."
"Whatever you say, Sir." Roquist grinned. "So, what's the first step on your path?"
"The first major step? In two weeks, Grand Master Ferre is hosting a Tournament in Mayhew. That's where we'll be heading. The letter to Sir Gregor stated that the first, second and third place winners will get a considerable sum as reward. Not only that, but if I do well, everyone attending will see my skill and note me down. From there, it's just a short step to getting commissions and quests."
"'The letter to Sir Gregor'? What, does he read his mail to you?"
"Don't be so naive, Roque," laughed Lex. "It doesn't suit you. Anyway, we won't leave until tomorrow. In the meantime, I want to see your improved crossbow."
"Right." Roquist slid off the bed, stretched again, and went over to a chest. He knelt beside it, but paused as his hand touched the clasp.
"Lex? How are we going t' transport all this? There's my tools and your father's weapons, plus all our clothing and food supplies."
"You can steal a mule tonight. Right now, I want a demonstration."
"Right away, Sir!"
Out came the crossbow. They both spent a moment admiring it. The weapon was plain and unadorned, but it was well-crafted. As well it should be; Roquist had been working on it all during the three years that Lex had known him. The stock was of oak, the bow of composite wood and horn, the string of spittergut.
"All right," breathed Roquist as he stood up, the weapon cradled in his arms. "I wasn't quite able to beat a longbow in range and over-all strength, but this baby does have its advantages. It's far more predictable within its range, for one thing. A lot easier to use, for another."
"What is its range?" asked Lex.
"About a hundred yards," answered Roquist. "Beyond that, it loses accuracy and power. I've thought of several ways to increase its strength and effective range, but a winch would be cumbersome for my style and tensile metal is hard to come by."
"Someday we'll make an excursion up North," promised Lex. "For now, we'll settle for what we have."
"Right." Roquist went to the window. "Give me a target."
"Hmm. There." Lex gestured at a merchant's stand. "Shoot that potion bottle."
"No problem." Roquist raised the bow, set the bolt in place, drew back the string, and fired. The little arrow whizzed through the air, and in a second the bottle was shattered.
"Excellent!" Lex nodded in approval. "Now let's get some dinner. I trust you've acquired plenty of money?"
Roquist winked. He lowered the crossbow tenderly back into its nest. He removed a large pouch and shut the chest. He chuckled as he hefted the leather bag. "I think I make more money off this Inn than the owner."


Last edited by Sorotor on Wed Sep 21, 2005 8:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
 
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Sorotor



Joined: 01 Apr 2005
Posts: 283

 PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

As it turned out, Roquist did not steal a mule. One pack animal would not be abe to carry everything they needed to move, so instead Lex decided to purchase a cart, whose mules came with it. To make up for it, Roquist instead stole a pair of protection rings and enough healing potions to stock a small army. Other additional supplies, like the cart, were paid for legitimately by Lex.
They left as soon as Lex finished watching Roquist load the supplies. It was his own fault from the half-Elf's point of view; Roquist had insisted he be the one to pack his tools and on-going projects, and Lex had told him he could pack everything.
Dawn was slowly brihgtening into day as they left the city's perimeter. Tholaria had no walls. The city relied for defense on the Andrevyll Spires. These magical structures were very similar to the Wizard's Towers found elsewhere in Ardania, but their special alignment with each other and the Citadel of Magic in the heart of the city made them especially powerful and capable of unique magic. Andrevyll, great apprentice to Tholar I, had placed the Spires on the circumference of the city. It was said that, once fully activated, no hostile force could pass them. Not only did this knowledge comfort the citizens, it made it very convenient for people who wished to avoid gate guards.
The roads leading out of Tholaria were broad and well-paved, thanks to Dwarven engineers who travelled down from Shovrah-Dan and beyond. A further improvement was the fact that all trees and brush had been cleared away on other side of the roads to the effective distance of a fireball spell. Certain waggish folk claimed that such was the method used to clear the roadsides in the first place. Actually, the open areas were created and maintained by more refined magic, but how it was done mattered little to the travellers. They were merely grateful that the Wizards' Conclave had pushed the shadows of the woodland a safe distance from the highroad. Shatterwood had an evil reputation.
Lex and Roquist drove along peacefully. It was a fair distance from Tholaria to Mayhew, but they did have time to spare. This close to the city they had no fear of being attacked, and although the highroad was empty now, it would not be for long. Dangerous Shatterwood might be, but it was unlikely any of the creatures living in its depths would challenge a crowd of well-armed fighters on their way to Ferre's Tournament.
 
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Sorotor



Joined: 01 Apr 2005
Posts: 283

 PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2005 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Shatterwood derived its name from the condition of many of its trees. Once, it must have been vibrant with a young forest's life, but now its trees were withered, blasted by pestilence or evil magic. The ground had grown marshy in many places. The water that saturated the soil was filled with a mind-clouding poison and gave off a noxious mist. The only trees that still lived were ancient willows, but it was not a wholesome life. Like the ground, the bark of these trees was damp and slimy. A foul air was exhaled from the leaves; the catkins were black and dripped with the willows' polluted sap. Despite the lack of foliage, the wood's borders were shadowy and hard to penetrate with the eye; few cared to discover whether it was a result of the mists or something worse. Those that did try to probe this mystery and the others it hid were never seen again. Unless, of course, they were identified as one of the zombies that occasionally wandered out of the shadows.
Understandably, nobody went near the forest if it could be helped. Most travelers kept to the highroads; the cautious would not leave the paved surface even to camp in the cleared roadsides. All animals, natural or otherwise, avoided the forest as well. Insects and spiders, maybe, dwelt there; nothing else.
Nothing else alive, that is. The zombies did not always wander aimlessly. At times they were directed by a Vampire, an intelligent monstrosity generally attributed to Krypta. Such raids were devastating to small settlements, and a headache to the Wizards' Conclave. Since most of these hamlets looked to Tholaria for protection, the Conclave had to deal with them, despite the Vampires' dread ability to reflect spells back at the caster. Those who might be tempted to turn a blind eye were compelled to act lest the blight on Shatterwood spread. Several towns where the Vampires had triumphed were subsequently consumed by the forest -- literally sunk out of sight, in some cases.

The principal reason for the blighted land and the undead incursions lay some three hundred years in the past. In K.A. 901, the first High Priestess of Krypta broke her mind in vile rituals. After being driven out of the Temple in Shovrah-Dan, she built a sanctuary in Shatterwood where she pursued her warped plans. After a while her activity ceased, and it was assumed that she had perished. Undead might still haunt the area, but as Andrevyll had reported to Tholar II, "no sure trace of the abomination known as the 'Liche Queen' has been found."
Andrevyll was a genius in his art. But, it is true that even the best Wizards sometimes make mistakes. Several miles within the borders of Shatterwood, light glimmered from the broken dome of a half-sunken library. Within the chamber, black velvet draperies hung motionless, guarding an altar set on a raised platform. The altar was covered by a cloth also of black velvet. Upon this cloth were set several vessels of bronze. Two were tall jars from which emanated the pale, noisome light that flickered through the cracks above. A wide basin sat between them, containing a flat, unreflective liquid.
Before this altar knelt a dark figure. Wide shoulders were shrouded by a heavy cape. Red gems glinted malevolently against a dark hauberk. To one side lay an ornate, winged helmet and a long, ebony staff with a curiously shaped head. Grey hair was gathered back at the neck, allowing two eyes of green embers to watch the bowl.
Finally the patience of the watcher was rewarded. The light of the jars darkened to the colour of blood. The basin’s contents began to swirl, agitated by a new presence. Steam, red in the light, rose in tendrils from the restless surface.
“My servant, you have done well.” The voice came from the empty air around the kneeling figure. It rasped and rattled, drawn from a throat filled with the corruption of three hundred years. “From this shrine my power shall spread even further into the mortal lands. Now, give me your report.”
“My Queen,” said the figure, his voice deep and heavy in contrast to the withered tones that whispered around him. “A great part of the defenders of the Wizards’ City are departing for a competition in the east. Their defenses thus weakened, my agents there will take command of the Spires of Andrevyll. The wretched city will fall into my hand as ripened fruit. Those that leave for the tournament shall never find their way back to the city they once knew.”
“Then, like rotten fruit, crush it beneath your tread. Make it a bitter wine for the living to drink. So go, my champion; marshal my host, set your spies in position. Let the cursed city be destroyed ere the next full of the Moon.”
“Yes, my Queen.” The figure rose to his feet. His face was white, his skin a thin membrane over wan muscles and bone. A noble face but wasted, where the only life was in the burning green eyes. He bowed to the altar, where the light flared brightly in answer and died away. The flaring red was replaced by a smouldering green, the diffusion of the heat within the dark champion’s soul. By this light he caught up his helmet and staff. He strode to the exit of the chamber, where the rotten door had been replaced by a heavy black curtain. This he shoved aside, and stepped out into the noxious air.
Around him came murmurs and whispers. Blood-shot eyes stared at him, taking and returning the fire from his own. He set the winged helmet on his hand, and took the staff in his right hand.
“Before the next full Moon,” he said. “Then your hunger and your thirst shall be sated.”
 
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Sorotor



Joined: 01 Apr 2005
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 PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The road was indeed crowded. Far more people seemed set on going to the Tournament than Lex reckoned on. He made no comment to Roquist, but secretly began examining the other Warriors who passed their slow-moving cart.
It was a bittersweet day for the half-Elf. Among the fighters he saw many who appeared to possess strength and skill. Grim veterans, late of the City Guard; cocky youths, with less than a year of full Warriorhood; men in their prime, whose strength was tempered with maturity. At first Lex could not believe the number, for Tholaria had only two Guilds, a Crown Order Guild founded seven years ago, and his own Academy. Then he saw the red tabards and darkened mail, and understood. The Crimson Blades of Shovrah-Dan and its fiefs were also going to the Tournament. And he saw that Warriors were not the only ones going to Mayhew. Monks and Rangers, Guards and Wizards, also jostled along the highroad. Dwarves, too, were present, traveling from their distant homes in the far North. Even if all did not compete in the Tournament, it would be a stiff competition. And yet, if Lex did win, he would gain that much more fame.
That day did not bring them clear of the woodland. Lex had not expected it to. Shatterwood was a wide forest; it generally took two days to clear it, and with their loaded cart it would likely take an extra day. Before they turned aside from the road to make camp in the clearing, Roquist awoke from a light sleep and glanced around. His eyes growing wide, he pointed excitedly past lex.
"Look!" he hissed. "See that tall fellow over there? Walking all by himself? That's Draugruin of K'Hal Kratis. He's supposed to be the greatest Warrior in the Crimson Blades."
Lex turned and looked. The man was famous for his strength, infamous for his violent and capricious nature. He strode down the centre of the highroad, alone as Roquist said. No-one, not even the other Crimson Blades, wished to get too close to him. He stood over seven feet tall. His chest, shoulders and thighs were protected by black nevryl. Beneath this he wore a tunic and breeches of red silk. His helmet was also of the rare Dwarven metal. Its thick red plume was reputedly made of the feathers of a Roc he had killed as a boy. And, in his right hand, was the deadly double-headed spear that had already taken the lives of thousands. A black cape fluttered from his shoulders; embroidered on its back in thread of red and gold was a rampant wolf surrounded by flame.
"Draugruin," murmured Lex. "If he's going to the Tournament ... "
"Ah, don' worry about it." Roquist tugged on the reins, turning the mules off the road. "We've a ways to go. Enjoy the trip, and think about the Tournament when we get there."
"A leader should always plan ahead," replied Lex, but he started to relax. He closed his eyes, and decided that he need not win the Tournament, so well as he did well enough to get the recognition he desired.
 
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