Monday, November 9, 2009


Chapter 9 – A Plan Emerges

“An elf? You brought an elf here?” the Grand Marshall questioned.

“They know more about what is happening here than anyone else. They can help us determine a course of action.”

“How are we supposed to do anything? The king and his sons are dead. We have no leader, no direction. What would have me do, call the army in from all parts of the country fight a war against an enemy who we have no idea where there base is.”

“The entrance to the shade is through the Dragon's Depths, as your people call them,” Arynn added meekly.

“The Dragon's Depths? I thought they were coming from the wilds,” Keladkha questioned.

“They are, but we lack the summoning ritual used to open more pathways. An ancient and fabled path is said to lie in the tunnels beneath those mountains. The songs of my people tell of great warriors entering there to defeat the evil and sealing it for generations to come.”

“Okay, so even if this hair brained plan of entering the Shade and dealing a death blow to the orcs or whatever you call them is the best plan, the army would have to be assembled from all parts of the country. We lack the ability to quarter all those men, let alone lead an assault in our current condition.”

“Regardless of whether we push an assault, we need to gather the nobles and armies to the capital to decide on a new King and provide protection for a rebuilding effort. I volunteer to set off and warn the fiefdoms of the dire need of this hour. I will gather the forces,” Shen stepped forward. “The nobles will trust me the most as I have met most of them from my years of service.”

“Fine, it is your death wish. I need to focus on securing the city walls and rebuilding all that has been lost. Get out of my sight,” the Grand Marshall angrily responded.

With that, the three of them exited the castle and made camp in one of the barracks that had only suffered minor damage in the fighting. It was here that they started to formulate a plan on how to gather the troops. There were three main fiefdoms in the country, led by the fortresses in Trelnoth in the Mishkarth Marshes, Caendor of the Fulgorth Plains, and Andor on the edges of the Tracopes.

“We should probably head to Caendor first. Earl Eaman has always been supportive of the king. He will be the most likely to send troops to our aid. It also isn't a long journey, maybe two days on horseback,” Shen said, looking over the maps they had gathered.

“Earl Howe of Trelnoth is a power hungry sucker. He will gladly accept news of the king's death if it means his line can take up the throne. We should probably head there second, though I don't envy traveling through the marshes. Too many strange tales of the beasts that live there. From what I've heard, if we arrive with all our limbs intact, it will be a major accomplishment,” Keladkha added.

“Andor will be the biggest problem. They still harbor bad feelings about the reunification war. Hell, Earl Montegard will probably see this as a good chance to officially break away from the empire without fear of retribution. Not to mention the forest folk harbor no reservations about killing a few of the King's messengers without asking questions.”

“There also are my people,” Arynn piped up.

“They would come to our aid after staying hidden for so many years?”

“I am sure that I would be able to convince mother that the need is dire enough. I mean if humans fall, elves would be the next to go.”

“I guess it is worth the shot. We will probably stop there after the marshes.”

With there plan assembled, they decided to rest before heading out on the journey. It was fitful night of sleep as each of them constantly had the corpses of the royal family floating in and out of their dreams. It was also hard to sleep with the constant smell of death floating about the city.

The next morning, the trio was willing to help with the stabilization process before heading out for their task, but the Grand Marshall refused to even allow their presence. Rejected, they gathered their few belongings and packed them into the saddle bags on the horses they had been able to requisition from the local stables. Their trek started off in the cool morning air with not even a cloud in the sky. If it hadn't been for the smoke escaping the few remaining fires in the city, the area would have looked quite peaceful.

Chapter 10 – The Snow Fortress

The journey from Belnor went by quickly. Riding from sun-up to sundown, they were able to make the entire trek by the evening of the second day. The city of Caendor had tall walls as white as the snow covered plains that surrounded it as far as the eye could see. The area was frozen year round, leading to a rough life for the citizens that called the city home. Yet they were a hardy folk, able to survive on the hunting of numerous flocks of beasts that roamed the plains year round.

The trio rode straight up to the gate painted as white as a fresh snowfall. The gate guards quickly noticed that they bore the seal of the king and let them in without harassment. Upon entering and asking to be directed to the earl, they learned of a terrible wrench in their plans. The earl had fallen deathly ill nearly a week ago, apparently poisoned by one of his own servants. Earl Eamon was currently lying in a comatose state and it was unsure if he would survive in a state that would allow him to continue. The guards directed them towards the castle where they would be able to discuss the matter fully with his wife.

They walked through the usually bustling town, only to have it seem emptier than normal due to the plague having hit the area particularly bad. The regal looking castle loomed ahead, an obvious focal point of the city. Its towers reached high into the sky and their whitewashed sides gleamed in the last sunlight of the day. The guards stationed at the entrance to the place allowed them enter the palace with only a minimal delay.

Once inside the magnificent building, the servants directed them to the earl's quarters, where they found his wife sitting on the side of his bed, wiping a damp cloth across his forehead. “Greetings, my lady,” Shen uttered, walking up close to her and bowing slightly.

“Shen is it? What are you doing here?”

“Unfortunately we are the bearer of bad news and need something in return. The King and all his heirs were murdered a few nights ago.”

“No... No... That can't be. Who would do such a thing?”

“The details are sketchy, but it appears to be the work of demons and the dark elves.”

Obviously shaken by the news that the King was dead and that her husband seemed to be headed down the same path, she began to tremble. “You said you needed something,” her voice quavering.

“We need Caendor's army mobilized and sent to Belnor at once. The capital has suffered greatly in the assault and many of our own troops died. We also need the nobles to assemble to determine the new King.”

“But only my husband can do that. He is the only one that would be able to give out the order.”

“There must be someway that we can either bypass that or else help your husband recover. What have the doctors said is needed for a recovery?”

“There is some mystical herb that seems to be the only reasonable way to cure the poison that was used. The problem is that it is incredibly rare, only found in one spot on the continent and we have no one to spare for the search.”

“Athaleas, that grows in the Cave of the Winds?” Arynn popped into the conversation.
“Yes. Yes, I believe that is the one.”

“I guess we will have to hunt this down. Arynn, do you know where this place is?”

“Yes, but the tales of the place have it guarded by terrible creatures. It would be a death wish to head down there without a full army.”

“We have no choice, we will have to attempt it. The army is necessary for the survival of the empire and those are only legends. With any luck, they will prove to be false and we can recover this herb and be back here before any more attacks take place.”

They left the lady to her grieving process as they returned to a guest room they had been granted. Once inside, they unfurled maps showing the entirety of the Fulgorth Plains. The Cave of the Winds had, in recent memory, became more of a place of legend rather than a landmark. Some ancient texts found in the library provided some further clues as to its location.

It seemed as though it had to be along the northern coast of the continent, as all the texts mentioned a constant sea spray. The herb that they would be searching for only grew in the pure blackness that permeated the deepest reaches of the cave. Unfortunately, this was also the supposed realm of a dragon. Dragons used to be commonplace in Ortheon along the northern coasts, but they had long since vanished. No one was sure why they had left, but it had allowed the growth of hamlets and fishing villages along the coast and grown the empire's economy greatly.

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