All Hail the King: Elderun Awakens
My thoughts turn to my fellow travelers; my friends. We have fought countless battles alongside one another; saving each other's lives has become an old habit. Battling alongside them feels natural as donning a favorite tunic, but we think we may have overlooked some things these last months; what with Rowena's abduction, the war, Caliborn and Alfric's demise…there have been so many distractions.
Greyneth's home now lies empty of its bannermen, just like the Ramsgate. He seems to believe that study and ancient rituals may be key to reconquering our lands. We have not paid much attention to his work so far, but maybe he is on to something.
Cal's past remains a mystery, one long past time for uncovering. With the skills he dost possess, we are surprised that clues have not appeared to him sooner. He has shown remarkable patience journeying with us, as our path takes us further and further from his answers. But the King beckons, and even we can only keep a "Resupremo" waiting for so long. Howe'er, we intend to help Cal at the very next opportunity. In the meantime, we've had a new thought on how to utilize Cal's unique skills.
Now, during this age of chaos, is the time to snare every advantage we can get. We'll continue to assist our fellow nobles, indebting them to us and thus commanding their favor. But, in addition, it would also behoove us to actively scout for, how would you say, woeful indiscretions? Who knows what kind of filth we could find if we dig hard enough. Who knows which houses we could bind to our cause. The honey and the bitter, opposite means towards the same goals, we'll use both. We can all attempt to uncover damning knowledge…but Cal likely will be the best digger.
Too many betrayals checker my past to completely trust our two new allies, Cog and Duncan. Merriwether in particular still burns away at me, but my instincts tell me that Falcairn's messengers are good men. They provided valuable assistance during Onwyn's capture, and they have proven capable fending off the bandits and highwaymen that have plagued our travels since Weepinghound Glen. I count them as friends, and can see them becoming a permanent part of this menagerie of miscreants.
February 17th, Year 563
The meeting with Ector proved fruitful. The lord of Goshawk Hold values information highly, and we were happy to provide him with the details of Kyrk's treachery and kingly aspirations. I believe our dissemination of knowledge garnered some good will from Ossharp. In turn, we learned that the safety of Ector's brother has come into question. Lord Avalaria already owes us for services provided: if I can add Ossharp to the list of lords indebted to us…
Without house and land, providing assistance to other, powerful men, seems like a strong course of action going forward. The more favors I have available to call upon, the better I can position myself to retake my proper place in the realm's hierarchy. On that note, I will do my best to find Ector's brother, and report his well being.
It's time for me to act with more cunning than I have the past few months. No more will I blindly react as the world shapes itself about me; I must plan ahead of time, create opportunities myself. So what has the world become? Monsters roam the kingdom, and the darkness grows more cumbersome with each passing month; eventually famine will follow. Perhaps, instead of garnering favor from the nobles, I should attempt to garner favor from the peasants. Noble titles will mean nothing once the starving masses form. The world will descend to anarchy. Wars will be fought, not for titles, but for food and water. So how best to position ourselves if this eventuality occurs? Who has the greatest stores of grain and sustenance?
My thoughts turn to my boyhood home, the Southsend Duchy. Tropical in winter, scorching hot during the summer months, perhaps that is the place to go in this new, icy era. Can they still grow crops in those regions? I find myself wishing we had questioned the barbarians taking residence in Greyneth's homelands; what has become of the Gellantaras and their lands?
Suddenly it becomes obvious. The sea! No matter how cold it grows, the sea will not freeze before we do ourselves. Whatever Markal men remain left will learn boating and fishing as quickly as possible. Our contingency plan shall be to become self sufficient, so that we can survive if the need arises.
But perhaps…perhaps our hardships have left me too pessimistic. If I can believe in the existence of magic icons, slavering rats with human limbs, pythons the size of elephonts…perhaps I can believe this darkness the result of an enormous, evil magic. A curse, laid upon us by the elves and dwarves; spiteful and murderous. If a curse does cause our current discomfort, perhaps we can break it before mankind descends to savagery. Avalaria's words in Fourwell fell upon mostly deaf ears: the nobles will never set aside their grudges long enough to unite against subtle assassins, lurking in the shadows of the realm. So perhaps…WE will do what it takes to save this realm, starting with finding Porrus's champion tokens. We will end the curse, bring back the light, and I can finally get back to my real life…drudgery does not suit me. To compensate for Kyrk's unprovoked aggression, I will demand the Duchy of Dryfen be added to Markal lands. Morold can mind the Gate, while I reside in Walker's Barrow. With the world indebted to us, I imagine finding the political battlefield much more…entertaining.
I remember now. I am not merely a bloodthirsty soldier. I am Connor Markal.
We finally found Onwyn hiding in a small alcove above the kitchen. “Tell us what you know,” I demanded, the blood of a dozen men splattered over my person, my blade scarlet. With the sounds of the dismembered and dying coming from the room below, Onwyn's resolve quickly fled.
She admitted to killing my father and brother, and then asked for pity. She then claimed that Urtos had threatened to kill her boy if she did not carry out the murders. I don't believe her lies, her true loyalty obviously rests with Urtos. Otherwise, why would she hide the situation from her husband, her in-laws, and her father? One would think Rauford would have helped to protect his own grandson's life, yet she chose not to involve him. Her story does not ring true, and I take comfort that my father and brother's murderer has finally been executed.
So what to do now? The messengers sent from the king seem to be good, able men. Yet I believe in this new boy king perhaps even less than Ossharp does. Ector is a capable man, and would likely rule the realm better than some stripling who fails even to bear the Songsteel name. Now that the realm plunges into darkness and demonspawn, perhaps we can talk Falcairn into abdicating for the greater good…likely he is intoxicated with his newly handed power, so I won't be holding breath.
Nevertheless, I can no longer ignore the emergence of magics. With animal men and the giant monsters of children's tales springing to life, perhaps…Perhaps discs of power from stories of yore have returned as well. If Falcairn knows where those might hide, a visit to him could be the wisest course to follow. With unlimited power, I could take back the gate, restore our family's honor, and wipe the Kyrk's off the face of the world…
As blood flies and bodies pile up around me, I'm beginning to feel like the grim reaper himself. Death follows my blade everywhere I go, tis uncanny. Perhaps, somewhere along the line, I became the transporter of wayward souls; tasked with sending them to the Gray Basin below. Connor Markal: once a noble; now harbinger of funerals. Three more scoundrels approach me from around the barstool, swords in their hands, menace in their eyes. I adjust my footing and position my sword…wait, wait, wait for it…one of my assailants raises his broadsword and…I scream into action, swinging upward under the old dog's shield and hacking off his arm at the shoulder. The other two are at my back, but my sword has already flown into a spinning reverse, erasing them both from the battle. One of them, a haggard, pig faced youngster, clasps his hands to his face, newly in need of an eye patch. He screams and curls into the fetal position, no longer a threat. His compatriot, slashed across the throat, can not scream at all.
The day didn't start in violence. We had enjoyed a moment of rest at Weepinghound Glen, our caravan finally arrived. Not the rest of days gone by, but still a great relief compared to our icy, dangerous trek across the country. But as we left the dining hall, we finally saw the sniveling bitch herself, Onwyn Arroway. Across the courtyard, she froze like a frightened doe as we locked gazes. The panic in her actions confirming our suspicions, she bolted for a steed. Chaos erupted with Greyneth barking orders, myself drawing a bow, and others racing towards the stables. Onwyn, with the advantage of a head start, grabbed a riding horse and raced towards the closing drawbridge. I fired the strange longbow I now carry, attempting to spook her horse. My arrow sped towards the drawbridge, hitting with a flash of light, roaring like lightning exploding in your bedchamber. My ears still ringing, I looked up to see Onwyn somehow, someway, gathering her horse, and continue moving. Cog, the king's emissary newly met, aimed his crossbow carefully. The bolt flew at the horse, trailing a mist of barbs unlike anything I'd seen before. The mist entangled the stallion's socks, and the horse spilled to the ground throwing Onwyn forward. She rolled to the ground, covered with mud and filth. Yet, somehow, she rose, sprinting into the city streets, maintaining her lead.
We chased her to a seedy tavern, but found our entrance barred by armed crossbowmen. Cal bribed our way into the menagerie, and I strode to a table in the back.
“Tell me where the woman went,” I growled, towering over a middle aged man. The strong, oaken table shuddered as I planted my palm next to his beer. He blanched, lips aquiver beneath his reddish mustache.
“That way. Sir,” he trembled, gesturing towards the kitchens. With that proclamation, however, the other thirty men in the bar roared, drawing steel. The world descended to chaos, and I saw only red…
I can feel Torif and Uleric, Greyneth's brothers, looking uneasily in my direction as dinner commences. Polishing armor seems a pointless waste of time these days, so I sit; dull and dented. Some days I deign to scrape a blade across my face…today was not one of those days. When the servants came to wash and shear my hair, my scowl sent them running.
Unlike my friend, Greyneth's brothers were never forceful personalities. I suspect they always found myself somewhat imposing: now they just look scared. Torif wants to reprimmand me for my appearance, for eating with no regard to manners, for paying no heed to protocol. Uleric isn't even sitting in his normal spot at the table, preferring to stay as far from my person as possible. I'm making them uncomfortable. No doubt they worry I'll leap upon the table, draw my blade and cut their simpering necks if they dare comment…maybe I would…
They're not the only ones, Mother and Rowena's eyes dart furtively around me ever since Merriweather. The traitor deserved what he got though, I could happily impale his face a hundred more times if the gods would allow it. I can't believe he asked my forgiveness as he lay there, expecting me to let him finish his ridiculous apology and unburden his soul. I spit on his memory, and curse his mother for spawning her filth. I never suspected Merriweather's dishonor; had no idea he was a snake poisoning Markal's strength. I must live by one rule now; trust no one. Everyone's a traitor, until proven otherwise…
I once thought I could politic and deal our family into a position of greater prominence, but I was fifty steps behind before the game ever started. That game's over now, but I've started a new sport: bloodspilling. I'm winning.
Ambushed at the bridge! A likely place for an attack, we scouted the area thoroughly, but to no avail. Greyneth's plans to lead us across quickly descended to chaos as the sky rained arrows and the wood beneath our feet erupted into flame. The fire made the bridge unpassable, so Greyneth hurried everone into the icy rapids in our only hope to survive the ambush. Old lady Matilda and her niece, swept downriver, will never be seen again.
The rest of us managed to climb upon shore, only to find six soldiers awaiting. They hacked at me ineptly with their blades, but months of constant battle have honed my reflexes and sharpened my resolve. Their numbers meant little to me: I drew Ulythian's Reserve and hewed through them like kindling.
But suddenly the Knight of Cowardice burst from his copse of trees, letting loose an arrow as he ran. A powerful and perfectly airmed shot, it hit me square. The arrowhead punched through my chest plate, biting into the muscle beneath. I stumbled and lost my sword.
Haftwig continued to dance around the battlefield, launching arrows at Greyneth and Cal, a ghost no one could touch. Down to one knee, and slowly losing blood, my eyes began to close when I heard Greyneth's bellow, "He's coming your way! Now Connor, NOW!"
I looked up to see Haftwig retreating from my comrades…his path about to cross my own. Shaking out the cobwebs, I drew my flail and braced myself for when Haftwig moved within reach. Still on one knee, I screamed "Die!!", and exploded upward. The iron ball of my flail exploded with me, straining against its chains for a taste of Haftwig's face. His jaw burst into a pulpy ruin, tongue and teeth and blood spraying through the air. Thisthag spun like a top, but somehow kept his footing, his chin hanging askew. A look of panic in his eyes, he groaned and fled towards the forest. I moved after him as Cal raced by and Greyneth caught up. Fast as a jackrabbit, Thisthag was nearly out of range when we loosed arrows and daggers upon him. Unable to dodge the hail of fire, one of Cal's daggers found Thisthags calf, embedding itself nearly to the hilt. Haftwig went down, able only to groan his lament.
January 6th, Year 563
The gate has fallen. Father is dead. Caliborn is dead. The future looks grim. Morold has fallen to despair, and I may not be long behind him. The war has been lost, our people scattered, our family left to skulk throughout Mythraem like mangy dogs. Homeless, powerless, overwhelmed by an avanlanche of barbarian hordes, I don't know that we can do aught but survive from this point forward. Lord Gallahalt treated us with hospitality the previous month, perhaps that is where I will take Rowena and Mother. Aminfell's peaceful nature should provide as safe a haven for them as can be hoped in these tumultous times.
Rauford Kirk must die. No more negotiation, no more honor, no more mercy. Not in this new barren, ashen, Mythraem. I may no longer possess an army, but I will war against him until one of us no longer draws breath.
At last, a proper night spent with a gracious host. Lord Gallahalt has treated us in a befitting manner, and I expect Aminfell is the perfect environment for Rowena to recover from the worst of her injuries.
Rowena…our quest nears its end; I expect we will deliver her back safely to the Ramsgate within another fortnight. Our road likely leads through Goodkinsk and Arroway lands; as safe a route as one could hope.
I thank the gods that we managed save Rowena from Lord Kirk's murderous intentions. With his wealth and power, Kirk likely represents the worst of enemies to oppose, but he was not an enemy of our choosing. He chose us, and there is no lamenting our fate now. We must stir our bannerman, call our allies, and prepare for war like House Markal has never before. There can be no apology, no restitution. The attempted murder of Lord Arfic's only daughter can only be forgiven with blood. The other houses, when they hear of Kirk's abhorrent actions, will see that as well.
Now that the true face of our enemy reveals itself, this entire mystery begins to unravel. I am not a scholor to match Morold, or Greyneth for that matter, but finally I begin to see the truth. Onwyn Arroway was with father just minutes before his illness abruptly spiraled into death. She seemed a loyal Arroway, I thought not of her Kirk lineage. But now that I know the Kirks as our nemesis, her birthname becomes suspiciously relevant. And Caliborn…Caliborn reigned a horse before learning to walk; I can not believe him injured in the stables by chance. A freak equine accident reaks of further sabotage, and Onwyn "the horse trainer" once again finds herself in a suspicously coincidental position. A dangerous position, for her, once we return south.
Rauford Kirk appeared on our path back towards civilization, but we were able to remain undetected as he passed. Lord Rauford had with him that bully Haftwig, who had camped outside Rowena's prison, and whom we ran off the mountain. And so the Kirks must be those responsible for Rowena's ordeal…Damn them to hell. This is dire news…worse even than if the Ossharps had been responsible.
Stormwarden is no more. Greyneth's gallant steed lost his footing on the mountain ridge, and plummeted to his demise. We will have to find Greyneth a new charger as soon as possible.
We have her! We have retrieved Rowena from certain death! Glory to the gods! Still, it is not without cost. I lie in this tent exhausted, barely able to move, and lucky to be alive myself. We all are. While I gladly throw myself into honorable battle against respected foes, I'd willingly forget the trials endured during Rowena's rescue.
It began as I approached a cave entrance covered in thorny brambles, only for them to lash out at me as I neared! The more I struggled, the more they entangled, snaking down my collar, the scratches nearly slitting my throat. Cal managed to hack me out before I became fertilizer, while Greyneth lit a torch and burnt down the evil plants. I had never heard of such brambles, but I'll never look at foliage the same. I suspect I'll be ordering the servants to remove any potted plants from my chambers.
The cave turned out to be a tomb of some sort, with bizarre statues, and a strange casket. Rowena's cell lay in a chamber above, and we climbed our way to her nearly too late, as swarms of disgusting arachnids poisoned her. I stomped and smashed at the pests with my gauntlets, but they seemed an ocean of legs, and fangs, and poison. For every spider I killed, twenty remained. The world grew hazy as I struggled, but I remember seeing Cal having more success as his knives twirled like whirlwinds, too fast for the spiders to swarm him. Greyneth unleashed a special oil, highly flamable, to ignite hundreds of vermin at once. And then the world faded to black, and I remember no more.
I awoke next to Rowena, her face a ruin: covered in bites, puffy from poison. I expect I looked much the same myself. Still, we were all alive, and that was something. I'm not sure exactly what happened next, but suddenly the ground itself began to rumble. A huge chunk of the cavern ceiling fell down a mere foot from Rowena's head. Cave in! I shakily stumbled to my feet, still slow and weak from the poison. Greyneth threw Rowena over his shoulder, and we all raced towards the cave entrance. Rocks fell, dust rose, and I couldn't see anything. I stumbled towards the sunlight, hoping the others were still with me. We all burst into daylight simultaneously, only to find a sea of snow racing towards our path. We raced down the trail and away from the avalanche as fast as we could move. The snow flowed like the ocean, but we lived to find our fate another day.
Our family owes Rowena's life to Cal Eldrin and Greyneth Arroway, and we will never forget their bravery. I'm sure Morold will think of suitable rewards for them when we at long last bring her back to the gate…
I expect an arduous trek down the mountains, but I am optimistic that the worst of our journey is at an end. After carnivorous plants, hundreds of fist sized, poisonous spiders, a cave-in, and an avalanche, I never want to see these Frostforge Mountains again.
December 2nd, Year 562
I watch my breath freeze before my eyes, crystal before it even leaves my mouth. As we continue ever higher into the mountains, the air becomes difficult to breathe. Lesser horse would have perished a week ago, but ours continue the trek. Their eyes bulge, glassy and panicked, as they react to the thinning air. Winters spent travelling to the Ramsgate have been hellishly cold, and cost many a man his life. But this is an entirly different beast; we scale amongst the peaks of these godforsaken cliffs, and I have never had a reason to make such a trek in my homeland. "Vamanos a la chingata," I grin, thinking of warmer times.
Still, the icy cold of hell istself will not stop Cal Eldrin and Greyneth Arroway…nor Rowena Markal. She WILL be alive when we find her, and I regret that we'll likely have to kill her captors. The arduous journey home will challenge us enough, without adding prisoners to the equation. Tis a shame, for death is too kind a fate for those behind this plot to assassinate my sister. I would prefer them to live, so as to cut out eyes, sever tendons, and puncture ear drums. Then, deaf, blind, and crippled, I would allow them to live to a ripe, old age. I am Connor Markal, of House Markal, and as long as I draw breath my family is untouchable…time to remind Mytherum that agony comes to those who believe otherwise.
Mythraem descends further into chaos! Ossharp intends to lay siege to the Ramsgate. What a futile proposition; might as well attempt to fell a tree with a handful of sand. What can Lord Ector be thinking? Even against the combined might of the Ossharps and their allies, it would likely take them a decade to dislodge us from our mountains. Even if the intent is merely to hinder Markal movement in the current conflict, Ossharp would still need to commit a disasterous number of men to the task. Doing so would leave him much too weak against Songsteel and the King's allies. Perhaps this was Morold's plan all along when treating with the Ossharps. Has he insulted Ector so gravely that the man loses sight of his goal? If so, the war could already be won, with the Songsteels in our debt…bravo, Morold.
November 26th, Year 562
The journey has been long and tedious; weeks have passed. We awake each morning, and ride till dusk; I grow impatient. The journey into the mountains comes soon, and though we must brave the elements, I welcome them as we near the end of this chase.
We make ready for departure at first light. The assault on Sauger proved fruitful, as he had some information as to Rowena's whereabouts. He tried to convince us that he allowed us to find him, and that we possibly have goals in common; however, I trust him not. If he truly wished to treat with us, why didn't he initiate a meeting, instead of making us root him out of his hole? Still, his information is our best lead, and I keep faith that it will bring us to our goal.
The search for Rowena continues. After being asaulted at Providers Rest, we followed our assailants to the town of Fourwell. We half killed our mounts trying to gain ground on our prey, but to no avail. We lost the trail at the road's fork, and chose to investigate the nearby town of Fourwell. At the Old Knot Inn, a retired Gatesworn by the name Heels happened into the bar. I did not recognize him myself, but Greyneth knew him well, and promptly informed me of his presence. Greyneth's competence can not be overstated, his abiltiies are beyond reproach. His presence in our house is an asset of nigh unlimited potential. Though not Markal by blood, luckily he was born an Arroway: equally as honorable, and very nearly as beneficial to Markal influence.
After Greyneth alerted me to the situation, I discretely retreated to the second level of The Old Knot. I did not wish to risk the chance that Heels would recognize my royal demeanor, thus compromising our mission. I passed the time, acting nondescript as best I could, but caught the attention of the inn's proprieter before much time had passed. When he asked me my business, I introduced myself as Lance Kendrick, traveler, telling him I was interested in renting a room for the night. I agreed upon the price, and retired to a room. Eventually Greyneth brought Heel's to the room to meet with us in private. We shared a wineskin and toasted my father, Provider rest his soul. Heels was a wealth of information, informing us that since we had left the Ramsgate, Caliborn had befallen a terrible equine accident. I can't believe Caliborn would be so clumsy, and suspect that foul play continues to plague Mytherum nobility. However, I can not be distracted from my mission to save our sister, and trust that Morold will protect Caliborn, as well as root out the culprits responsible for his incapacitation. I do worry that Morold has acted hastily in sending our brutes to negotiate with the Ossharps, but I have to trust my older brother knows best how to lead house Markal down the right path.
Hours later, after Heels had departed, Cal returned from the city. Cal had spent his time traveling through Fourwell, gathering information that might help us continue our pursuit. He learned that the man we had been pursuing from Provider's Rest went by the name of Sauger: a feared and dangerous man who made his home in Fourwell. I don't know if this man knows anything of Rowena's abduction, but we have no better leads at this point in the game. Cal has learned of Sauger's location in the city. We will assault them tonight; provider have mercy upon their souls if they do not have the information I seek.
I cut off a helpless man's fingers today; I would not have guessed I had such evil in me. We captured one of the kidnappers after they tried to ambush Greyneth, myself, and the others. The man refused to give us any information, and in my madness I descended to the path of torturer. He told us what he knew quickly afterward. I would have kept him alive and in agony forever, if needed…I will do anything for Rowena's safety.
October 5th, Year 562
Rowena WILL be recovered. Until she has been returned, nothing else matters…there IS nothing else. I know not yet the responsible parties, but we will find them, and they will rue this insult to the Ramsgate. Once I find the true culprits behind the affront, I will petition Caliborn to go to war, crushing these cowardly enemies like the worms they are. The clues indicating Ossharp involvment seem to be deliberately placed subterfuge, and while I don't rule out Dellfold involvement completely, neither do I feel any closer to the truth. But I will find it, and I will find the the kidnappers. And they will pay. Oh, yes, they'll pay.