by Max Barry

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Palpuis
City post

The forest was huge, thick, and flourishing. Its canopy was claimed by cypress, redwood, and yew, who let through enough dancing beams of sunshine for dispersed sprouts to consume the stony grounds below.

Curving vines drooped from most trees, and a medley of flowers, which desperately tried to claim the last remnants of light, added colorful variety to the otherwise colorless scenery.

A variety of wild noises, belonging mostly to birds and vermin, resonated through the air, and were backed by the splashing of fish in a nearby lake.

There were fields far and wide, interrupted here and there by patches of forests left for local animals and plants. All around you deer and cows ran and frolicked in the sunlit pastures, and making their way through some of the fields ran a weed-ridden, gravel road.

The road eventually reached a minor fort eclipsed by the stunning temple in the back of the courtyard. The fort was showing signs of wear and tear, but in otherwise great condition. A number of bird coops stood next to the houses - clearly a merchant, a large, home-built pit stood at the edge of the town, and small inns stood to the side of the main hall like a miniature copy of the ones in the mainland. The town had a peaceful feel to it, it could be felt in everything from the landscape to the town itself.

Palpuis had been run by the chyrihas family for generations - their banner hung in the distance; Their emblem consists of a silhouette of a sparrow with a spear on either side, the emblem is part of the noble house and thus shown all the time.

The emblem stands for their tenacity, their hardship and their local flora.

Nine slim, round towers surround the fort, they reach twice the height of the walls and are connected by strengthened, narrow walls made of stone bricks.

Crude windows are scattered here and there around the walls in fairly symmetrical patterns, along with same-sized holes for archers and artillery.

A huge gate with thick wooden doors and a moat protects those in need from the treacherous lands outside and it's the only way in, at least to those unfamiliar with the fort and its surroundings.

Numerous statues of heroes and kings decorate the bridge outside, memories of glories of the past. This fort has stood the test of time, it stood it well, but cracks begin to show here and there. 

Palpuis is famous in Biscayye for their fish dishes and the salt they harvest - it still has the old Biscayyan architecture being one of the oldest territories this city has been standing for a long time. The city bubbled with activity merchants shouting about the goods and the laborers carrying planks while the citizens shopped.

"Beautiful is it not? I came to live here as a child, I forget how old I was six or seven; I couldn't have been any older. My father's father was the lord of this land and had sent my father to be educated back on the mainland."

"It is beautiful - I come with news Patinus; the king wishes for you to become the leader of a provincial district."

Pasaral
City post

"And the Patinus? Has he sent a response to my question?"

"I don't know my king - I've suggested my course of action. As your advisor I advised you to rip his title and exile him!"

Anthönius chuckled and rubbed his temples; reaching down he grabbed a goblet and took a small sip, "I grow tired of this waiting; i also grow tired of your shouting friend," Anthönius stood from his throne and let out a small yawn. He pulled the crown off of his head and placed it on the throne before taking a few steps to lower himself from the raised throne.

"My children await me, I promised the young Mamercus I would watch his duel today; it's a promise I wish to keep," Anthönius began walking away before he turned back, "send a final message to this man - either he pays the tax our his city will be put under new management. If he wishes to bleed for it we can bring the knife."

Anthönius left by a small door in a corner of the room, the hall was illuminated by multiple torch lights - he'd arrive at the courtyards in a couple of minutes. The boy had told him about some duel he had with another child; Anthönius didn't really care - he's the farthest from a fighter as one could get. Still Anthönius found it hilarious the boy was born with all this fire.

Reaching the foyer he removed his silk robe - exposing his tunic; pure black with gold trims on its collar and it's sleeves. Opening the door a horse drawn cart awaited him - he'd ordered one to be arranged earlier in the morning; he didn't know how long had passed but he believed the match hadn't started yet.

As he rode to the destination the matter of Pasaral bothered him - it was a matter he wanted to handle discreetly. Although it made him reconsider how the land was run; most of Biscayye is controlled in provincial districts - the empire is too large to be run by one man; he'd been luckier than his father however, he'd hardly had any infighting yet.

As he pondered the affairs of his realm the cart halted to a stop, curiously he looked up to the small hole on the cart, "have we arrived?"

"Yes my king."

Anthönius smiled and gave a slight head nod before grabbing his robe and walking out - the nobles of this land were gathered, as he walked he looked upon familiar faces; word must have gotten out he'd be coming. He wasn't in the mood for political as* kissing by these men. Walking to the front of the stadium he waved and smiled to those calling for him - two thrones sat in the front raised up and gated off that was his seat.

As he sat down he let out a sigh - he smiled too Violant placing his hand on hers he sighed again, "i hoped this to not become a public gathering; seems I've a leak to plug…"

Violant chuckled and waved her hand, "you know your boy is like you, he loves the attention," she put her head back and sighed, "these nobles bore me - tell me is something exciting, how does the Pasaral situation appear?"

"Situation resolved, let us watch the children!"

Naissus
fort post

A hastily put together dock greeted the sea sick travelers, King Anthönius had sent a group of builders and artisans to an island on the fringes of the empire; Edouard had left the island mostly to its own devices. Edouard had seen the potential in the island and tried multiple times to do something with it - in the Biscayyan civil war the island was useful to the loyal side, Edouard had a fleet built there.

Leaving the docks the party of builders were greeted by a thick brush. The forest was large, light, and primal. Its canopy was monopolized by linden, holly, and birch, and occasional openings in their crowns allowed plenty of light through for a motley of saplings to control the crunchy layer of leaves below.

Swooping tree limbs hung from most trees, and a variety of flowers, which desperately tried to avoid the shadows, added colorful, scented elements to the otherwise mundane lower level.

A tumult of wild sounds, most of which were birds and insects, reverberated through the air, and drowned out the occasional sounds of breaking twigs beneath the feet of larger animals.

As the party left the brush they were greeted by farmlands - clearly the people here had built something. There were fields as far as you could see, their view only broken by ros of trees surrounding the river flowing through this landscape. All around you cows and goats rested and grazed in the secluded pastures, and burrowing its way through and around the many fields ran a grass-covered, cobblestone road.

The road made its way to a charming farmhouse eclipsed by a makeshift temple in the back of the courtyard. The farmhouses were worn by the elements, and could do with a new coat of paint. A small pen housing a couple of chickens, rabbits, and other small animals was almost hidden in a corner. The farms had a homely feel to them, it was a combination of the tranquil landscape, and the isolation of the farm within these lush fields.

Already from the small settlement the group could see the four slim, round towers surrounding the tiny fort in almost a perfect circle around this small building and are connected by tall, low walls made of coral.

Small windows are scattered generously around the walls in seemingly perfect symmetry, along with holes of various sizes for archers and artillery.

A sizable gate with thick wooden doors and hot oil pots guards the only passage into the castle built upon a mountain top and it's the only easy way in, any other side would be futile.

One of the builders looked at Palamas, "Patinus, we are blessed! It is small and worn down but not unrepairable; this is way better than what we imagined! We knew they must have some fortifications but this is way more than we thought."

Palamas smiled and stroked his beard, "I'm as surprised as you - i heard that this island was used years ago to help in the civil war. It is a backwater with terrible infrastructure but we didn't know as much as we did back then; that's easily fixed!"

Ustafatara
Fort post

"Third attack this week!"

"Isn't it the fifth?"

"I think it's the tenth."

"Does it matter though? We've been attacked by large parties and small ones, sure we do repel them but it's growing tiring."

One of the soldiers raised their hand before speaking, "sir, why don't we send word to the capital and request permission to build a fort? We could protect this area better and not just live in tents and with hastily built barricades. The closest city is Absura - is it not an important trade route to the capital? We'd no doubt be accepted," the soldier shrugged and followed his arms, "sorry just a random idea."

The commander looked at the soldier and chuckled, "your name boy?"

"Jerune, sir."

"Where do you hail from? From that accent of yours I can tell you aren't from the mainland."

"Aye, I'm from Palpuis."

"Jerune of Palpuis, I have a task for you; you will be the messenger who delivers the request and remain there till it is accepted or denied."

Jerune balled his fist and placed it to his chest - standing up he walked up leaned in, "I don't have to write it right? Because I don't know how to Patinus Priadas."

Priadas chuckled and placed his hand on Jerune's shoulder, "ready a horse and grab two men you trust to go with you; I'll have the letter ready by then."

Jerune nodded and walked off, gesturing to two of his friends they walked over, "let's go get some horses - I'm on my way to the stables, it's funny it was a basic idea, I'm surprised nobody had thought about it actually."

His friend chuckled and patted him on the back, "I can hear the stories about you know, the humble messenger warrior! Many things can be said of Jerune of Palpuis, but at the very least you'll find out he's kind and sociable. Of course he's also tolerant, practical and decisive, but they're less prominent and often intertwined with being impatient as well.

His kindness though, this is what he's pretty much known for. People regularly count on this and his idealism whenever they need assistance or help.

Nobody's perfect of course and Jerune has plenty of less favorable traits too. His abrasiveness and prejudices tend to get in the way and reach all around.

Fortunately his sociable nature shines brighter on most days!"

Jerune chuckled as he rolled his eyes, "prejudices? I love everyone the same!"

As they reached the stables Jerune gestured to the horses, "you both chose first," honestly he was excited; he felt like a child - ready for an adventure with butterflies in his stomach.

His friends picked the horses they wanted - after saddling them they were off; with the scroll tied around his chest as he rode he placed his hand there to make sure it hadn't flew off. With him he brought the request to build the fort; and to send builders for assistance.

The gallops of the horses filled the air, the warm air turned cool at the speed they rode; maybe it wasn't a great battlefield but Jerune still felt happy being given this task.

Peace Among the Cherry Blossoms
Founding Post

The sound of rushing water came softly on the gentle breeze. In the warm air above floated delicate cherry blossom petals, the fragrance of their mother-trees flooding the forest. Below the rosy-pink canopy walked a lone figure, its long blue silk robes creating a small clearing behind them as they went; a clearing quickly overtaken by petals swaying in sweet harmony across the mossy ground.

In the distance, an octagonal stone structure could be seen. Its eight stone walls and patchy wood roof contrasting the white, pink, and brown cherry blossom trees which surrounded it. The figure approached the structure, soon finding that there were two others already there. The first man was aged, decades of leadership as a warrior weighing heavy on his thinning frame. Crowning this man was long white hair bound in a loose ponytail that was draped neatly over his right shoulder. His long, wispy beard flowed down past the burgundy sash that held his dull red robes about him. The second man was younger than the first by about twenty years. His round yet distinguished face gave the man a level of authority not seen in the first. His black hair stood in a tight bun above his head, topping off his towering demeanor clothed in green and silver.

The third man to arrive bowed to each, his blue robes cascading about him. The first two men silently bowed to one another and to the new man in turn before sitting on the stone floor of the ancient gazebo.

“Li Fu, Yan Chao[1], greetings.” The man in the red robe spread his arms out over the low circular table set before them. On the table sat three steaming teacups, each one lacking a handle. Between the triad of cups lay a single sheet of silk paper.

“It is an honor, Tang Min.” Li Fu, the man in the green robe said. He picked up his cup, taking a sip of the piping hot tea. Li Fu turned to Yan Chao, the last man to arrive. “Tell me, Yan Chao, why are you late to our meeting?”

Yan Chao’s face remained stoic, a bastion of calm against Li Fu’s question meant to throw the man off guard. “I was overseeing the release of Tang prisoners from my dungeons. If we are to end this war, then we must do it with a clean conscience.” Yan didn’t move, didn’t blink. To the surprise of all, he simply brought his hands out from under the table, sending his robes flying backwards in one quick motion, and signed the treaty. “My people are weary, my soldiers spent. The Yan Clan demands that we have peace before we have friendship.”

He turned the paper to face Li Fu, the man’s mocking smile having faded. Li set down his teacup, his eyes drilling his ancient enemy. “Right, peace.” Li’s battle-scarred hand grasped the ink brush and signed his name to the document. “But who shall ensure that this peace lasts?”

Tang Min, the eldest of the three men, took the silk paper and the jade ink brush. Dipping the brush into the ceramic inkwell, Tang Min found himself hesitant to sign the document. Ink dripped slowly onto the paper, his mind mulling over Li Fu’s question.

“Tang Min?” Yan Chao asked. “Why do you wait to sign the treaty? Do your people not also desire peace?”

Tang Min smiled tightly, his grip around the brush becoming stronger. In just a couple of quick strokes, the document was signed. Peace had come to Taegong.

Yan Chao stood and moved for the entrance to the gazebo, his mind on returning to his capital to make the necessary arrangements for the newly found peace. Homes had to be rebuilt, crops resown, families reunited, and old wounds mended before they became an excuse for yet another war. He was halfway down the steps to the forest floor below when Tang Min called out after him.

“You cannot leave yet, Yan Chao! We have one more item to discuss.” The old man had stood up rapidly, his long, wispy beard having flown in all directions. “There is the matter of leadership in our newfound peace. Our three clans have been at war for seventy-six years. Who’s to say that we won’t devolve into total warfare again once our feet have left this forest?”

Yan Chao bit his tongue, anger rising within him. Long had his hatred burned against them, a hatred born of deep and irreconcilable wounds. “We’ll just have to trust each other, father-slayer.” Yan bit out. “If we cannot trust each other, then how can there be peace?” He turned his back on the two men, walking swiftly by the way he had come.

About a hundred yards off, down near the river, was his horse and personal guard. He approached the two men, their backs turned to him as they drank from the cold stream. Their gōng’s[2] sudden approach startled the men who turned to face him, their swords drawn. Chao smiled, putting his hands up. “It’s alright Chen,” he said to the soldier on his right. “It’s just me.”

Chen smiled back. “My gōng,” he saluted Chao. “We were starting to get worried.”

Shun, the second guard, shook his head. “No, you were worried. I had complete faith in you, my gōng.” Shun saluted Yan Chao and put his sword away. “The horses are fed, rested, and watered. They are ready to go home when you are.” Shun approached the three horses, two brown mares and one black stallion saddled and ready for the day’s ride back to the Yan capital.

Yan Chao put his foot into the stirrup of his horse’s saddle and hoisted himself up. He glanced around the landscape, noticing something that he hadn’t before. Stone ruins lay in moss covered heaps all around him. All along the river were smooth stone walls which had turned green with age. “This was once the great city of Shanwei, the ancient capital of the Meng Dynasty,” he said to his men. “Tread lightly. This is hallowed ground.”

The Meng Dynasty had fallen ages before the Three Leagues War had broken out, but the disaster left in its wake was no different from the ruins left behind by the war now ended. It was odd that Tang Min had chosen the only remaining structure left in this long-forgotten city. Perhaps his hope was that at some point, the people of Taegong would come back together, rebuild this ancient place, and enjoy the same level of peace and prosperity that they once did under the guiding hands of the Meng Emperors.

Yan Chao scoffed at the idea. He knew that there would be no new emperor until one of the three clans conquered the other two, but the three clans had proven themselves to be evenly matched. Seventy-six years of warfare and not one inch of land exchanged hands. All that really happened was the utter collapse of the former Hui[3] Clan into smaller states. Yan Chao narrowed his eyes, thoughtfully considering these lesser clans. Many were in the north, untouched by the Three Leagues War for the last five years.

The gōng looked over his shoulder to the north. He scoffed once more, the idea being preposterous. There was no way that the Wei[4], Shao, or Wu clans would possibly be able to take on the might of the Yan, Tang, or Li. Yan looked forward once more, his horse finding its footing on the moss-covered road with ease. Smiling, the man found himself to be content with the peace that was brokered. Given time, the land would heal and Taegong would find itself in a position to compete on the ever-changing world stage.

Or would it?

An arrow flew past Yan Chao’s ear, embedding itself in Chen’s chest. The man let out a short cry before falling onto the ground, dead. “Run, my gōng!” Shun shouted, drawing his sword. Yan Chao whipped his horse’s reins like a madman, zipping this way and that as he attempted to throw off his attackers. He heard the sounds of a short sword fight behind him.

“Renzong!” Shun shouted before being forever silenced.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] Taean names are surname, first-name – unlike our first-name, surname.
[2] Gōng means “duke” in Taean.
[3] Hui would be said as H-way as “ui” is pronounced as “way”.
[4] Wei is pronounced as “whey”.

Kallaallit nunaat

founding

Kallaallit Nunaat the frigid wastes of the forever north are a sparsely populated tundra where the ice never thaws and the snow never falters. One would not think life could be supported in such a place, the Kalaallit people however knew differently for they had herded the reindeer of the far north before time was even measured.
“The old ways are best” was a popular Kalaallit saying.
The tribe lived a nomadic life traveling from ice cap to ice cap ice fishing, leading the reindeer and maintaining and building tunnels and igloos to keep warm in. Stories of the gods and ancestors would be told orally each night affront to a large bonfire whilst warm seal lungs are cooked and consumed by the tribe.

The shamans were able to speak to the great spirits and ancestors who take the form of both animals and people they watch over us as we honor them and their traditions. It is through our traditions that we thrive and grow by teaching children, respect, fear, and right versus wrong.

We perform trials of growth and destiny; upon reaching 6 years of age a boy must hunt his first seal and take all responsibility in its proper xahu (pure according to the gods) cleaning, preparing and butchering.
It is through our reverence and tenacity that we master over all beasts we may face from the mighty polar bear, the fierce walrus to the gigantic whale through respect and training we may master the ferocity needed to secure our safety along with hides and blubber.

Accomplished hunters amongst the tribe are known to keep trophies of their most testing triumphs over nature and beast.
To hunt and gather is our way thriving in the lands of the far north is never easy, but it is our way and we wouldn’t ever have it any other.

The days draw short and the sun vanishes for long periods. Inunnguaq as usual would lead his people and reindeer to safety coming from a long standing line of chieftains the short gruff man was fiery and wisended from many years of leadership and was determined as ever to protect their way of life for years to come.

This was the way of the Kallaallit Nunaat and would continue to be so as long as strong chiefs such as Inunnguaq had anything to say about it.

The shimmering lights lit up the night sky filled with mist and stars as sacrifices of animals are prepared to grant further protection from the gods they do so much for us and all they ask is our respect and offerings.
The ancestors and gods have granted us supremacy over this rigid landscape whilst they are ever forgiving we must remember to never draw their ire lest we risk our way of life for generations to come, together we will thrive and grow and protect the old ways.

The story of the north has many chapters ahead and Kallaallit Nunaat is destined to be a key player in shaping the landscape as a force of good.

All they must do is have faith and walk with purpose.

Taborius

A glorious new day
Founding post

The Republic was unstable. Revolts were everywhere on the cold peninsula, crime is as high as never before, only slightly better than the ongoing corruption, as the men and women feel as unsafe as never before. The Senate has elected Eernus as their new consul, as he saw the coming problems of the Republic one decade before they happened.

Now that Eernus was sworn as consul, he plans to do all the reforms necessary to heal the republic. First he wants to fight the corruption by eliminating the corrupt senators and guardians by employing someone loyal to him, who tries to bribe as many of the senators as possible to determine who is corrupt and then who. Then the senators will be eliminated and replaced by loyal and hopefully competent ones.

Then he plans to fight crime by financing a new guardian-legion, who patrols the city and imprisons everyone who commits a crime and then Eernus would only need to stop the Revolt.

But before he can do any of this he hears in the middle of the dark night loud screams coming from the Senate-Building, these screams are the senators. What's happening here? Eernus does not know what to do. Should he flee, should he try to go in to save the … No, this is insanely foolish. If he goes there, he will be killed. Eernus tries to flee the city and go into a near village for hiding. He runs as fast as possible, but then he is stopped by the guard at the cities-gate.

Guards: “Stop, the new ruler of the city has ordered, that no one is allowed to leave!

Eernus: “What, what what? What are you doing? I'am the consul of the republic. I never gave such orders!”

Guards: “You aren't the one giving orders!”

Eernus: “I'am the consul! I rule the city.

And then suddenly a legionary appeared behind him.

Legionary: In the name of the new Kuningas, you are arrested for treachery, betrayal to the faith and the kingdom!”

Eernus was without words, which Kuningas, which kingdom? And what faith, every citizen could choose their own faith since the beginning of the republic. And then he knew who it was, it was the Ex-Senator who claimed we failed the Gods, that we are “unpure” and that they are punishing us, the senator who had strange fantasies, that he would one day rule the Republic, but it can't possible be.

Eernus: “Makus Horokello, you were this!”

Makus Horokello appeared from the direction, where the Senate-Building was, where he heard the screams, guarded by two Legionaries.

Makus Horokello: “I was just doing, what the Gods wanted from me. I'm purifying the city from crime and corruption, I'm doing that what you oh so great senators couldn't do.

Eernus, outraged: “You are doing a massacre!”

Makus Horokello: “You dare to talk that way with your Kuningas?”

Eernus, furious: “Kuningas, KUNINGAS? YOU ARE INSANE HOROKELLO!”

Eernus storms angry with his sword at Horologus only to be stabbed by him in the chest when he tries to kill him. Eernus is dead

Makus Horokello: “From now on, this city called Taborius, will be the capital of one pure and strong Kingdom. And I as the Kuningas will do everything in my power to make sure the Gods are proud of us!”
Horokello takes a look on the great clock tower of the city.

The clock has just struck midnight.

expansion 1

Into the forest the Sanaq patricians would go their object was to set up logging operations in the area in order to expand the state’s frontier and procure much needed timber and charcoal for the cities increasing expansion; it seemed as if Askura would never stop growing as the urban sprawl continued so much had changed so quick recently bartering had been replaced with Biscayye coinage and the whole status of state seemed to grow more complicated by the minute.

Kurt in a way longed for the days of riding his horse throughout the endless steppes and sands of the open world, always the caravans these days at least he reasoned as he continued along marking groups of trees for removal by the loggers tailing not far behind.

There was a certain air of sophistication when it came to developing land these days having abandoned their rough and crude tools and elbow grease for precision tools and urban planning by committee.

Well one thing was for certain Sanaq was living up to its legacy to settle the mountain range “the edge of the world” we call it, it lived up to its namesake in tree coverage one could never deny the gigantic sprawl of: evergreens, spruce, oak, pine, maple, walnut and cherry. There were more certainly the forest atop the mountain range was the lifeblood of Sanaq life providing warmth, structure, food, and land, what else could one possibly ask for?

Kurt breathed softly as he procured a clipboard and began to detail the progress of the clearing and delegated minor tasks as appropriate “farmland needed zoning” in one breath followed by a “We need these forms stamped and certified for guild approval” All of it was so bureaucratic in a way, Kurt couldn’t necessary say he preferred things in this fashion, yet he certainly seemed skilled at it.

In this age of rapid change and development it was imperative one prove their worth the unimaginative and unskilled would find themselves either wasting away in an ocean of underpaid labor or begging for scraps on the roads of the city with the unclanned.

Kurt shook his head at even the thought as he surveyed the current progress. All was going to schedule at this pace he might even be able to report the clearing at below cost and time estimates the prospects of a bonus excited Kurt as he fueled the rest of his day with gusto and haste; this was new Sanaq alright and he was determined to make the best of it. The sound of falling trees would carry far echoing across the mountain top. Kurt wiped a bead of sweat from across his brow and let out a rare smirk the burghers and guilds would certainly be happy with his work; his thoughts turned beyond a simple raise Kurt now hoped for promotion.

Towards the day’s end the province could finally be roughly defined and Kurt submitted his report massively ahead of schedule.

Perhaps modernization was worth the perks afterall.

The Etlur-Insurrection I

Venusia is not united, it just seems that way, because nearly no one knows, that many Venusians worshiping the God Etlur migrated East and took this land without permission of King Alaric. These Venusians were led to this place by the Etlur-Order, who effectively created their own state eastwards of Venusia.

In one of the major etlurian settlement, the de-facto leader of the Order Ingomar is preparing plans, plans for conquest, plans for a quick assault, plans to kill Alaric, his servants and his familiy and finally take the throne of Venusia for himself together with some other etlurian leaders.

Ingomar: “They don't expect us, they currently don't even know we exist here. We definitely have the surprise advantage on our side, now only the question remain, how will we use this advantage?”

The others are silent.

Ingomar: “Men, don't forget, why we want to do this! Alaric has become weak and as a result Venusia will become weak. ´We were able to conquer on province of the Publectians after another and now we are conquering nearly nothing. We must stop this regression immediately and I want, no, I demand you to finally tell me how we are going to accomplish it!”

Sigurd, one of the men discussing a plan: “We may have the advantage for now, but if we would marsh on with a giant army, the news would surely spread quickly around Venusia. We may be the mightiest order, but we have a small number compared to the rest of the Venusians.”

Ingomar: “So we need an plan, how we will move the troops to Alaricstedt, without them noticing what we plan, or that we plan anything at all. I think the best solution, would be, if we would split our troops and let them go Alaricstedt as “settlers” we could get many of our warriors in the city without them noticing.”

Sigurd: “If only our men are traveling, it would be definitely be suspicious.”

Ingomar: Then we send the warriors together with their wives and children on traveling.

Sigurd: “But wouldn't they notice it if a large group would...”

Ingomar: “I said we split our troops, also they aren't going all at the same time. And they all will also take different routes to the capital.”

Sigurd: “And I'm sure you already have an idea for when to attack, right?”

Ingomar: “On the fifth full moon we will attack the palace, we will give a signal symbolizing the moment of the attack.”

Sigurd: “But, what if it...”

Ingomar:” Don't make waves and stay in line. Everything will be fine, just follow my commands!
We will go to Alaricstedt one by one, hiding in the open and when the time is right, we will strike for the palace for Etlur and preserve order and glory in the kingdom! Hail Etlur, the God of Strength and Power!”

Afterwards the orders were given to all warriors to prepare for an attack and go to Alaricstedt, everyone knows, they only have one try and if they fail, who knows what will happen. But if the Etlurians should succeed...

...will a new order come to Venusia?

The Etlur-Insurrection II

Ingomar, thinking to himself: “The attack will soon begin, soon the sign will be shown and then we can finally attack the palace and make me the king of Venusia.”

Meanwhile in the woods two men, belonging to the Etlur-Order, are beginning to create a large a forest fire, a fire which will show everyone of the etlurian warriors that the time for an attack has just began. The situation is optimal for them, as this day is a very hot day, where the forest is very prone to forest fire. The smoke coming from the burned trees and plants rises up in the air, visible for nearly all of Alaricstedt's citizens. Now the warriors of the Etlur-Order see the sign and the attack is about to begin.

~~

The giant forest fire outside disturbs Adelina, as her husband Zelig had gone to hunt in the forest a few hours ago. She hopes, that her husband will not be trapped in the forest fire and can somehow make it out the forest back to the city. As she is sitting in a room together with her two children, a servant is running into the room, with panic clearly visible in her face

Servant: “M.. my Lady, we are attacked, the palace is attacked, we need to flee this place now!”

Adelina was shocked, how can the palace be attacked? How came it to be that no one noticed anything before the attack? And who would attack anyway? Was this a publectian slave revolt or were they Venusians being angry for what reason whatsoever?

Adelina: “Warn my father of this attack! Warn Alaric immediately!”

The servant runs fast to Alaric's throne room as possible. Adelina tries to flee together with her two four-year old children. She takes a sword and a child and tries to flee the palace as fast as possible. She wants to first reach her father before fleeing.

~~

A servant came into Alaric's room, trying to warn him of the attack on the palace. But before Alaric could react, the attackers came into the room. They crush the servant's head and begin to surround Alaric. A man steps out of the group of the attackers and begins to speak.

Ingomar: “Greetings my King.”

Alaric: “What do you want, traitor?”

Ingomar: “I'm not a traitor, I'm the hero Venusia needs. Your rule began with conquest, but where is this conquest now? We need more men to lay siege on publectian cities and we need more time to conquer them. You are becoming weak Alaric!”

Alaric: “If I'm so weak, why don't you fight against me one to one?”

Ingomar: “A duel is what you're asking for? Agreed. Men, leave this room immediately and take care of others! May the strongest one win.

Alaric and Ingomar now begin to fight each others with the sword and for a moment it looks like both were equal in their fighting. Until Alaric stabs Ingomar in his chest. But as Alaric thought he had won, Ingomar uses the last of his strength before dying to storm to Alaric's direction and in a surprise attack slice up his throat.

~~

Adelina is almost there, she almost reaches the room where Alaric is, but then the attackers caught her and her children. With her sword and shield she tries to defend herself and her children and while she manages to wound and kill many of her opponents, she is overwhelmed by them. Luckily for her Zelig came together with some guardsmen and manages to kill the remaining attackers. Both Adelina and Zelig fall into their blood smeared arms, while the kids cry loud on the horror they just saw.

Zelig: “Are you all okay?”

Adelina: “Y.. Yes, we are... okay I think.”

Zelig: “I'm glad that nothing serious happened. I shouldn't go hunting this day, I shouldn't have left the city. Where is Alaric?”

Adelina: “Oh no, father. Hopefully nothing happened to him!”

She runs to Alaric's room as fast as possible, only to see her dead father's corpse lying on the ground. And as she saw her fathers death body, she burst into tears, crying out loud.

Adelina: “Father,NO! Father! No! NO! No, why must he die, why?

Her screams were very loud and the remaining servants and guardsmen in the palace knew what happened.

Alaric was dead!

The Etlur-Insurrection III

It was days since the attack and all of Alaricstedt is in shock, knowing their king is dead. Adelina is now the mightiest person in this land, although not queen yet. She wants to bring justice, to bring revenge to the attackers. But she doesn't even know who attacked the palace and why. She is sitting in the throne room, alone. Zelig comes into the room.

Zelig: “Adelina, I have found someone, who may help you. His name is Brando.”

Brando: ”I apologize to interrupt you your highness. But I think I know who led an attack and where they are hiding.

Adelina: “You think or you know?

Brando: “I... ehm, I know. I know absolutely. I have found this letter, belonging to a follower of the God Etlur.

Adelina. “Give me the letter!”

Letter: “It's time. Go to the East. Etlur has a quest for you. The priests of the Etlur-Order are planning something great to bring Venusia to glory, power and strength. In the East outside of the official territory of Venusia you will find villages belonging to the Etlur-Order. Forget all loyalties you have towards King Alaric. If you help us, a new King will come to Venusia's throne. One who deserves it!”

Adelina: “The Etlur-Order? But... how did you get this letter?”

Brando: “I'am or better I was a follower of Etlur myself and got this letter.”

Adelina: You deserve our thanks for telling us, but now tell me! Why didn't you came earlier? The attack could have been prevented! The death of King Alaric could have been prevented!”

Adelina tries to hide it, but the sadness and anger in her voice could still be heard.

Brando: “I thought it wasn't real. I thought it was someone hostile to the Etlur-Order fabricating it. It was only after I heard of the attack I realized that the writings in the letter were true.”

Adelina: “I see and how are we supposed to trust you? Who says you won't betray us?”

Brando: “How should I prove my trust your highness?”

Zelig: “In the letter is written that the Etlurians are supposed to go east. We may send a small part of our army there, an expedition force to see if there is anything noteworthy going on. Perhaps there is the basis of the etlurian leadership or something else? If something is there, we could march in with our army and eliminate any further threat.

Adelina: “And if there is nothing? Or if the expedition force doesn't return?”

Zelig: “We could still execute Brando in an unworthy way as punishment.”

Adelina: “Brando, I really appreciate your help in the crisis we are facing, but please excuse us that we can't trust you fully! Until the matter is resolved and the threat is eliminated you will be put under house arrest. If what you say was true I will reward you, but if not... If you lied to us in one of Venusia's darkest time, you will receive the punishment of the blood eagle[1]!”

The eyes of all in the room opened wide as they hear the punishment, asking themselves if this would be even a just punishment for him.

Adelina: “Understood?”

Brando, shocked: “Y...Yes your highness.”

Adelina: “Good. Guardsman, bring him into one of the guest rooms.

The Guardsmen leave the throne room with Brando, leaving only Zelig and Adelina.

Zelig: “A blood eagle? Isn't it quite harsh, a bit to brutal?”

Adelina: “If he lies he helped the ones who wanted to take over the kingdom, the ones who wanted and sadly succeeded in... in... killing my... in killing my father. You just don't understand .”

Zelig was standing there, not knowing what he should say to his wife and soon-to-be queen.

Adelina, with tears visible in her eyes: “I'm very thankful for all the support you gave me. Now I only want one thing of you. If there is really something in the East, if the Etlur-Order really has something there, from which they planned our demise, I want you to led the army to victory against these traitors.”

Zelig: “Understood!”

Adelina: “And... I'm asking this as your wive and not as you ruler, please let me go with you! I want to be there if revenge is taken.”

Zelig: “No! I will not put you into danger! I want you to be safe!”

Adelina: “And you think I will be safe here after the attack?”

Zelig: “What is with our children? Who will take care of them if we both die?”

Adelina: “Our loyal servants can take care of them, like they do already!”

Zelig: “But...”

Adelina: “Please, fulfill me this one wish! I don't want this to be an order to you!”

Zelig is thinking about this for a second and says hesitantly:

“Fine, you can come with me.”

[1]: A ritual method of execution, the lungs are pulled through an opened body in prone position to create “wings”.

The Etlur-Insurrection IV

Brando seems to have right, as the expedition force reported, that many etlurian settlements were build in the East. What they also found out is that the leadership of the Etlur Rebells is in dissaray, as their leader seems to have been killed in the attack. An excellent opportunity for the venusian army to attack. Despite the situation that their King was killed, the army has a high morale, as they too want to take revenge to the ones, who killed their king and are ready to follow Zelig and Adelina. The venusian army marches onwards, onwards to victory and onwards to revenge.

~~

Sigurd, thinking to himself: "This fool Ingomar has promised us glory! This fool has promised us a kingdom and now he is either dead or in hiding. I have warned this fool, that it is a bad idea at the moment, but what did he say? Oh yes: " Don't make waves and stay in line. Everything will be fine!” Yes, everything went fine. Now I need to somehow fix the mess he made.

Sigurd leads an etlurian army against the Venusians. Although only a small percent of the etlurian manpower was wasted during the attack, they are, like Sigurd feared, vastly outnumbered. Sigurd's only hope for his faith is to achieve some victories in battle and force the other Venusians for a white peace.

The scouts already reported that the large venusian army is on the way to the east and Sigurd wants to prepare and hides his troops in the forests.

~~

Zelig marches together with his troops to the East, together with his wife and soon-to-be queen Adelina on his side.

Zelig, thinking to himself: “Why did she have to come with me? Why couldn't she stay at home? We are here in the enemy's land. They could at any moment ambush us. If she wasn't my future queen I would just let her stay home. I just hope the eastern territories can be conquered quickly. ”

While the venusian Army marches through the area outside of Venusia, Zelig sees many abandoned settlements of venusian design. The men probably migrated back to Venusia or joined the etlurian Army, that means if they have still an army after the attack.

~~

The venusian army comes ever closer to the soon to be battlefield in the forests. Soon the etlurian army will ambush the Venusians. But then they stop marching why did they stop marching?

~~

Adelina: “Why aren't we going forwards?”

Zelig: “There is something in the woods! Men, we need to be prepared, an attack can always happen! Get ready to defend yourself if an ambush is coming!”

Zelig tries to listen closely. He heard something coming from a direction where none of his men currently is. Zelig takes a deep breath and considers his choices.

Zelig: “The enemy is hiding in this direction! Attack!”

Adelina: “What?”

The warriors were confused, but nonetheless obeyed the order and charged into a direction unknown.

~~

Sigurd was confused. Where did the enemy know where we are? Were the noises that obvious?
But now it's over and somehow the ambush advantage lost.

Sigurd: “Men, defend yourself and your Order! Etlur gives us strength and power! We can't loose! Into the battlefield!”

The two armies clashed against each other. The bodies fell on both sides, with the inner organs coming out of their dead bodies.

Adelina watched the bloodbath unfold. All these dead warriors, all the corpses lying on the ground. She wanted to see revenge and even thought the Etlurians get what they deserve in her eyes, she still felt somehow unsatisfied. But why though, isn't this the reason she came here? A dead warrior fell unto the ground, his eyes and mouth wide open starring soulless at her. Aren't this warriors men like her father? Don't they too have sons and daughters waiting at home at them. And as she came here, didn't approved she of this blood bath?

After a while the battle was over. Zelig and his men cheered over the victory they achieved. The hostile commander fled the battlefield. But Adelina can't understand why they are cheering, after many of their own comrades died. Zelig was right when he told her she should have not come.

The etlurian area will be conquered easily and then Venusia once more grows while being reunited. Would Alaric be proud of his daughter?

Is the daughter even proud of herself?

Expansion post
Dawn of a new era

The Country had been in shock ever since Kirkov had come back in a 'prismean' ship,or that there was another civilization besides theres out there.The king did not protest to this,however.The Death of verole meant he was in shock most likely,but he showed nothing to suggest weakness.

The Entire Vulcan shipyards were all on overtime to "modernize"Their ships.Although not much could be done.The Realms king was keen to fortify the borders and capital in case the prismeans turned hostile.This meant expansion,to put a buffer between the capital and prismea. Despite prismeans being on a island,they owned "Colonies"Which were on the mainland

The Reality was,Vulcan was no longer a single torch,another was flaming and growing nearby.This could also be a threat.despite prismea being peaceful,it was not to be taken for granted .The Country had to not look weak.The country was not weak,but the prismeans did not know that.

As Cerokov reflected on this,he was aware of the often things taken for granted in the country,which was little,such as , before prismea was contacted,the navy,which was more of a priority now,although not the most.He was expected to go on a expansion expedition soon.He had always wanted to see what the result of the new government would be,not that he would not live to see it,but the long term result.He was writing his new book,he had named it.The Dawn,in which he explored the options the country would take.He also went over the country history,he had a saying:If you want to know the future,look to the past.He knew the best way to predict the future was to look to the past,so that is what he was doing.Events,such as the prismean contact,the Reunification war,the start of the history for their culture,he was looking forward by looking backward.He had been writing this book for a few days,and he was not sure how it would turn out,as things changed all the time,the ideas in the book may become outdated one day.He had had a meeting with Kirkov the day before,and they discussed a lot of things,such as his experience,the people in prismea,their language,and many other things.So he could write about them in his book.The prismea section of the book,would review the things known about the prismeans and their Country.They knew they liked boats,lived on a island,and liked flowers.They had a map of the journey there,but all known was the shore and capital of which kirkov landed.They knew some of the shore kirkov saw there and on the way back.So,he made estimates of the island,and they had colonies,as if they knew if they really had them, they could not prove otherwise,and they agreed,that they had colonies,the book was very long so far,and he had a feeling it was nowhere near done,but he had spent almost all of the week or two since he started writing it,so he had a feeling it was close to done.he wanted to finish before the next expedition.

He put the book down,along with his writing tools,it was late outside,the moon was visible,and most of the noise was the wind.He would finish it soon,and the area, no, the country needed the book to feast,to satisfy their hunger for knowledge.

-the end-

Expansion Post: Decision

There was a gathering of nobles and tribal leaders in Tokhae, because of the arrival of large rallies the city was bustling again plus the city guard was on high alert and Andor was looking after the security of the palace personally with the help of a former Hisari general.

The Hisarians nobles had been summoned from all parts of their region to attend an audience held by King Ryuk Seung, obviously the Tokhae Palace had a good location to hold this audience, the roof of the place had been removed and a wooden throne had been built and put in place, the throne was used by the King when the Hisarians gathered.

The nobles and tribal leaders gathered and as was tradition the druidess named Jakhai opened:

``Welcome leaders and noble people of our people, Your Majesty Ryuk Seung summons you here today to help him how to respond to the attack made against this city and kingdom.´´ Jakhai spoke.

``This is an outrage! We should have broken off the alliance with the Hakadians when we had the chance, the fact that we made friends with that foreign leader is a disgrace to our people.´´ Said the nobleman named Shishio.

``Keep quiet, you imbecile! Lady Jakhai... What is your opinion on the matter?'' said the tribal chief named Gan Ryung, Shishio looked as if he was going to attack Gan but was stopped by a simple gesture from the king.

``I am very disappointed to see Hisari fighting against Hisari, but for me it is undeniable that we must gain friendship with the Hakadians so I understand the point of view of many members of this assembly and I agree with them.´´ Jakhai said.

`` Leaders, our people are dividing and as a consequence our kingdom is no longer as great as it once was, we must choose whether to ally ourselves with the northerners or to pick a fight with our neighbors.´´ Ryuk said.

``Let them come, we have defeated them in the past, and we can do it again!´´ shouted a nobleman.

``Your Majesty should be more careful when listening to the advice of bad people, my King.'' Shishio said.

There was real confusion among the people gathered in the assembly and Ryuk had to shout several times to create order, Shishio was a representative of a faction of hawks in the kingdom and Jakhai suspected that he even had connections with the Mountain Order but could not do much about it.
The Hisaris Kings in recent decades had their authority constantly challenged and almost everyone knew that they were the assembly that chose whether the current King could remain in power and who would be next to assume the title.

The Hakadians are now unified and at this very moment they are deciding who will be the future ruler of their nation, they are stronger than us and the Mountain Order did not achieve their goals in the attack on Tokhae, the new King of the North can be Hisari if we position ourselves but for that to happen we must have consensus in this assembly.'' Jakhai said.

``This is just nonsense, everyone knows that the Hakadians despise us, we should make peace with the Mountain Order.'' Shishio said.

Whispers began to spread through the assembly, but Ryuk took the right to speak.

As part of our agreement with the Hakadians, a general of theirs will be sent to advise me in military matters and to help strengthen our army, we should proceed to hold a vote... We will make peace with the Mountain Order or we will expel them from the kingdom?'' Ryuk asked.

After a few more lines the vote began and the Assembly chose to expel the Mountain Order from Hisaria.

Expansion Post: Planning and strategies

The Marshal called Hans Rucken was responsible for the administration of the army on the eastern border and held the title of Guardian of the East and Protector of Taunemburg, a lofty position for any Hakadian commander in the past however this title was constantly changing in fame as with the fall of the Kingdom of Arktisk the threat from the east diminished and the only problems came from outlaws or leaders of small groups of rogue Kanasi who sought to plunder the western lands.
Fortunately even these threats began to disappear when a man named Miezko gained influence in Kanas choosing to establish good relations with Kashania, the threat of civil war also disappeared and Taunemburg who was loyal to Otto Horkheimer saw no conflict.

As a result Hans had little to do but train future commanders of the Hakadian army, the title of Marshal was given to the supreme commander of the army and only the best of the generals was deserving of it, Hans had the experience to deserve it and as a result the job of educator was not something difficult for him.

The Marshal was experimenting with new armor developed by a half-witted scholar at Heglax University when a messenger arrived with a group of knights, apparently the Orkaz had given the Marshal an important mission and had even made knights of the Royal Guard available to him.

The Marshal was to choose one of his Generals and send him to Hisaria to help the King of Hisaria put an end to the Mountain Order, or so the messenger told Hans. The Marshal decided quickly that instead of sending one of his generals he would perform the task given by the King himself, nothing better than to participate in something dangerous and exciting, the most important Hakadian commander would be sent to strengthen relations with the Kingdom of Hisaria.

The Marshal set out with only the knights provided by the King and his personal escort, the best soldiers the eastern frontier had to offer, it seemed that Hans Rucken's debut had arrived.

Hans relied on Hisari trackers and managed to reach Tokhae without any problems on the way, the city seemed to be in a general mood of fear and people preferred not to talk to the Hakadians.

Hans headed to the Tokhae Palace where he met with King Ryuk and chatted amiably, soon the Hisari general named Wang Kyung arrived and introduced himself. The King charged the two of them to create a plan to destroy the Mountain Order and its allies if a war should happen in the region and the two commanders followed the order, first they began to establish a spy network in the region to see if they could identify who was affiliated with the Mountain Order and the nobles and tribal chiefs led by Shishio although they did not expect to have much success.

Hans also took the opportunity to learn the tactics that the Mountain Order used to utilize and arranged for his troops to be integrated into the Hisari army, the Hakadian operations there had begun in full swing.

In Pursuit of the Xia-Ding- Part I
Expansion Post

Tang Min lowered himself down into his seat, taking his spot once more across from Li Fu in the ancient gazebo. Yan Chao’s sudden departure from the meeting had been a bad omen, one that the old Tang Min could feel in his very bones. Without cooperation among the Three Clans, Taegong could never truly see peace. Smoothing out his wild beard, the elderly leader locked gazes with Li Fu, his eyes burning with impatience.

“I ask again, Tang Min,” Li Fu said, slamming his fist down upon the table. “Who will lead us? Which one of us will take up the mantle of Emperor and guarantee the peace that we have now brought?”

Min lifted his hand for silence, his mind rushing to find an answer. “We both shall lead,” Min said after a moment of contemplative silence. “But neither of us shall bear the title of Emperor.”

Li Fu sat up straight, indignation and anger gushing forth as he stared the old man down. “How can we lead Taegong and not be its Emperor?” He threw his hand wildly towards the north. “How can we quell the Lesser Clans if there is no Emperor to pay tribute to or to bow to? Our leadership would never be blessed by Heaven, Tang Min. Taegong requires a Son of Heaven, not pretenders.”

“But we will not be pretenders, Li Fu, if we possess the Xia-Ding[1].” Tang Min held up a spindly finger racked with age. “Those ancient vessels were how the Meng Emperors held power over the other clans. If we can find them then surely Heaven will bless us and grant us its approval.”

Li Fu scoffed, the idea of obtaining the Imperial Xia-Ding being an absolutely absurd one. The man opened his mouth, about to protest the idea, when the wind carried in the sound of a battle going on not far from their place of meeting. Immediately, the two men stood and reached for their swords, swords that were not to be found as the three clan leaders had chosen to meet without weapons or guards. Fearing the worst, the two men ran from the crumbling gazebo, Tang Min clutching the peace treaty signed not but a few moments ago. It did not take long for Shun’s final word, “Renzong,” to reach them.

The two men ran west, in the opposite direction that Yan Chao and his men had gone. Cresting a petal covered hill, they found themselves breathing a swift sigh of relief as their own guards came into view, but all was not yet well. Their men drew their own swords, charging towards them with all due speed and diligence as a saddled Renzong warrior came over the hill, his bow drawn. The warrior let loose his arrow, his target the younger and far more capable Li Fu. In one horrifying moment, the Great Clan leader was struck, and fell face first onto the mossy ground. The warrior smiled, his job half done.

He went to draw another arrow, his new target the slower Tang Min, but found his joy to be all but shattered when Li Fu’s men reached him with a biting vengeance. Too slow to react, the Renzong warrior’s countenance quickly fell; the edge of a sword from an angry warrior being the final thing the man saw before his head rolled to the white petals below.

Tang Min stopped running once he had reached his horse, the realization of what had just unfolded sinking in as he gazed upon the body of Li Fu. “My Gōng,” one of Min’s men said. “It is not safe here, we must flee.” But Min couldn’t move, the uncertainty of Taegong’s future weighing heavy on his heart now that one of the primary guarantors of peace and stability was dead. “Tang Min Gōng, we must leave now.” The guard said again.

Tang Min climbed on his horse, his eyes never leaving Li Fu’s corpse. As his guards began to ride southwest, towards the land controlled by the Tang, Min found himself moving towards Fu’s men. “Who shall lead the mighty Li in Fu’s stead?” He asked them.

One of the guards, tears in his eyes, looked up at Min. “Li Bo, the Gōng’s eldest son will succeed him.”

Min nodded his head. “Inform Li Bo Gōng that I will personally oversee the upcoming destruction of the men responsible for his father’s death.” The Tang leader gave one final bow to his old rival before following his own guard out of the ruins of Shanwei.

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[1] Xia-Ding (Shya-Ding) are tripod bronze cauldrons used in rituals - such as animal sacrifice - devoted to ancestor worship. The 13 Taean Imperial Xia-Dings are the mark of imperial power and authority over the land of Taegong.

In Pursuit of the Xia-Ding - Part II
Expansion Post

“The Xia-Ding?!” Exclaimed Li Bo as he paced about in front of his simple throne. It had been two weeks since his father’s death, and only eight days since the mourning period had ended. Yet, in all that time no one had considered telling the new gōng of the Li Clan just what his Tang ally had planned with his father in the Shanwei ruins. “The Imperial Xia-Ding are a myth! No one has seen one since the collapse of the Meng Dynasty nearly 200 years ago.” He shook his head in utter disbelief. “Surely Tang Min had begun to go senile in his old age.”

Li Bo’s chancellor, Guo Aiguo, stared down at the litter sent to the Li Clan from Tang Min. Aiguo knew that the bronze cauldrons had not been seen in some time, and that rumors persisted that they were most likely stolen by the Renzong, buried with the last Emperor, or melted down for weapons, but he could not help but to hope that they still existed. “What harm would it do to at least look, Li Bo Gōng? Surely, Tang Min Gōng has sought the counsel of more than one sage and has definitively concluded that the Imperial Xia-Ding are still out there.”

“But what good would it bring our people to look for them?” Li Bo asked, his mind struggling to see the logic in possessing such ancient vessels. “Would it not be better to simply make new ones, or to rule without them? The Great Clans have governed Taegong for two-hundred years, Aiguo, without them. Are they really needed now?”

Aiguo bowed his head, his experience telling him to never openly defy the gōng. “Your Highness speaks with wisdom beyond your years. I see now that Tang Min Gōng is wrong to search for things that surely no longer exist.” Aiguo spoke as if agreeing was second nature, his own mind and heart going numb as his desire to survive overrode his logic. Bowing low, the chancellor excused himself from the throne room, only to quickly make for Dai’s[1] military headquarters to speak with the general of the Li Clan military. While open defiance was not recommended, covert defiance that is easily passed on to someone else is.

“Chancellor Aiguo,” Fa Ai Jiang-po[2] said when the chancellor entered his headquarters “What brings you here?”

“We have received a message from Tang Min Gōng noting the exact location of the camp used by the Renzong warriors who killed our beloved Li Fu Gōng.” Chancellor Aiguo said flatly. It was, for all intents and purposes, only a half lie. The Li Clan had received a letter, but it asked for aid in searching for the Xia-Ding. The letter did not say where the Renzong were but where three of the bronze vessels are rumored to be.

The jiang-po sat bolt upright in his chair. “Where?” He demanded.

A smile tugged at the edges of Aiguo’s lips. “The Tang say that there is a Renzong encampment in the east near some caves. Its guard may number 450 strong by their estimates.”

The jiang-po allowed himself a sinister smile, revenge oozing from the hole left in his heart from Li Fu’s death. “Soon the Renzong will understand the true meaning of suffering.” He got up from his chair and strode around the pine table that he was sitting at. Maps and battle plans flew from the tabletop as the jiang-po’s foot collided with one of the legs to the table in his hurry to seek vengeance upon the Renzong.

Once he was gone, Chancellor Guo Aiguo smiled widely. Should his plan succeed, the Li would not only be stronger, but they would also be in possession of at least three of the Imperial Xia-Ding.

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[1] Dai is the capital city of the Li Clan.
[2] Jiang-po is the Taean word for general.

In Pursuit of the Xia-Ding - Part III
Expansion Post

Tang Min smiled widely, his eyes set on the bamboo letter laying before him. Chancellor Guo Aiguo of the Li had informed the Tang leader that the Renzong were being driven from the land that they had settled into between the Li and Shan clans during the Three Leagues War. While the journey east had yet to reveal any of the Xia-Ding, the chancellor was confident that it would only be a matter of time before some were found.

Our spies report that the city of Hanwu in the south houses at least one of the vessels of power; its identity revealed by the imperial standard of the Meng etched upon its legs. If we are to prevent the Xia-Ding from being utilized by the Nán[1] of Han to claim imperial authority, then I suggest that Your Highness move quickly to subdue the unruly nán. Bringing them and their vessel into the arms of our growing confederacy should be our primary objective as of this moment.

Chancellor Guo’s letter continued to outline the military capabilities of the city as they were known by the Li. While the information on how the city was guarded could be crucial to the Tang’s assault on the settlement, it was not the sudden knowledge of how the city protects itself that excited Min. No, because his own men had managed to secure one of the Xia-Ding while on a mission just to the west of Hanwu’s territory. If this letter spoke the truth, then the Tang would be in control of two of the vessels while the Li would have none.

Tang Min’s army set out from his capital, Yuanling, a week after he had received Guo Aiguo’s letter. Marching south-southeast, the Tang army passed by the rich rice and wheat fields of the semi-autonomous farmers who ruled the land apart from the other clans. As they went, Tang Min decided that he would claim the land for his own as they marched towards the city of Hanwu and had five drummers go before his army, announcing the arrival of the land’s Gōng. The farmers in the field couldn’t help but to laugh, but when Tang Min heard their laughter at his arrival, he swiftly had those who laughed dispatched and their heads carried on spikes through their villages. The Gōng wanted everyone to know that he was not to be crossed.

“Father,” Tang Jian said, riding up to Tang Min. “You shouldn’t have acted so harshly towards those peasants. A simple demonstration of your power was all that it would have taken to silence them.”

Min shook his head. “No, my son. The peasants are arrogant, ignorant farmers. They only know the way of beasts, that the one who is willing to kill will dominate the one who will not.” He waved his hand out over the rice paddies. “These people only know chaos and strife, but in time they will learn the way of Tang order and peace.”

Tang Jian’s eyes turned to the rice fields, his mind examining the words of his father. No, he thought. There has to be a better way.

Another day would pass by before the city of Hanwu came into view on the horizon. Tang Min ordered his men to stop, the sun still high in the sky. “We shall wait for nightfall.” He said before ordering them to begin making siege weapons against the city. By the time the sun set eight hours later, ten ladders and one siege ram had been constructed. Hanwu was ready to fall.

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[1] Nán is the Taean word for “baron.”

In Pursuit of the Xia-Ding - Part IV
Expansion Post

Darkness settled over the land. Rain clouds gathering in ominous unison high above the city of Hanwu spoke of its impending doom. Upon the ramparts stood a lone soldier, his torch burning brightly through the shadow of night. In the distance, a thousand tiny lights could be seen flickering in concert with one another. The attack had begun.

Tang Min marched at the head of the large army, his red armour prophesying the blood that would be spilled this night. He turned to his right, his son riding up beside him. “Is the ram ready?” He asked.

“Yes, father.” The man replied. “As are the ladders. Hanwu doesn’t stand a chance against our armies.”

“No they do not, my boy.” He unsheathed his sword, the sound of metal rubbing against metal ringing out into the night. Tang Min pulled the reins of his horse sharply, forcing the large beast to turn 180 degrees toward his men. “Hanwu,” Tang Min began, “the ancestral homeland of the Meng and the birthplace of Emperor Xiu Ying, the first Emperor of Taegong. Long has it sat in the possession of barbarians, of defilers and usurpers since the fall of the mighty empire.” Tang Min raised his sword high in the air, the light from the many hundreds of torches causing it to glint brilliantly like a beacon in the night. “No more shall our land slumber. No more shall our cities and our people lie destitute in poverty and weakness, struggling to survive. No, tomorrow shall dawn a new day; one where the Confederacy of Taegong is born anew as a mighty force to be reckoned with!”

He whipped his horse’s reins hard once more, causing the animal to shoot to its right until it had turned back to face the city. “Our glory begins once more with the city of Hanwu!” He pointed his sword at the city. “For death and honor!” He cried. His men repeated the phrase and began to march in unison towards the ancient city. “And may Di[1] bless your sword to be swift and true.”

The Tang army stopped just outside the range of the city’s crossbowmen. For several long moments neither side moved, a painful and desperate silence before the battle. Then, the Tang army let loose its volley on the city, most arrows falling short as the advance began. A bloody battle would ensue as the Tang soldiers scrambled up their ladders and onto the walls of Hanwu. With the soldiers on the walls distracted, the center flank drove the large ram into place at the city gate and began to bash the wooden ram against it. Hanwu soldiers rushed towards the gate, barricading it with their bodies as the Tang continued the assault.

After an hour of continuous fighting, the walls fell to the Tang army, their soldiers lining up en masse to shoot at the Hanwu soldiers below. With their defenses weakened, the gate finally broke open and the enemy began to pour in. Tang Min approached the city, his commanders sending reports to him as the battle unfolded that things were going well. Soon the city would be his.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] Di is the Taean god of luck and good fortune.

In Pursuit of the Xia-Ding - Part V
Expansion Post

The victorious Tang soldiers feasted well the following day, their spoils of war more than just food and drink. Hanwu’s many widows and vast hoards of gold became ripe for the taking as well, as the men satisfied their greed and hunger. Tang Min and his son, Tang Jian, were not at all interested in the spoils of war, however, and promptly searched the city’s many temples and shrines for the bronze vessel of power.

Three of the city’s temples had been looted and burned, their contents lost among the smoldering ashes. Others were spared but were quickly emptied of any valuables as the Hanwu people fled. But Tang Min knew that the vessel would not easily be moved, and continued his search clear into the palace. Inside, many cowering officials and concubines of the deceased Nán of Han, slain on the battlefield by Tang Jian, began to beg for Min’s protection. Min would dismiss many of them, sending them out of the palace and into the smokey chaos of Hanwu. Others would be spared this death sentence, the prettiest of the concubines were selected for Jian while the most capable ministers were taken to aid in the construction of the growing confederacy.

Tang Min searched the palace high and low, his desperation to find the Xia-Ding growing with each passing moment. As the hours went by, his hair became frazzled from constant yanks of frustration, and his proud walk became one of a disturbed lunatic. “Where is the Xia-Ding?!” Cried Min, grasping one of the capable ministers chosen to live. “One is here! I know it is!”

The minister’s mouth fell open, his face contorting with fear. He lifted a shaky finger towards one of the towering pagodas outside. “Th-there, Tang Min Gōng, oh gracious and most noble lord.”

Min’s face lit up, his hope reigniting once more as he made for the pagoda. Once there, he found that its interior was filled with smoke. Outside, two city blocks burned red hot in the aftermath of the attack. At the pagoda’s center rested an ancient ding gone green with age. Could it be?” Tang Min approached the vessel, his hands shaking as he searched it over for the Meng insignia. There, etched on the leg furthest from him was the soaring rooster of the Meng Dynasty.

Tang Min collapsed next to the vessel, relief washing over him. He clutched one of the two carved handles, the two tiger heads on each side of the handle gently caressing the edges of his hand. Resting his head against it, Min could feel its primordial power flowing through him. At long last, two of the Imperial Xia-Dings were his.

Suddenly, a gust of heat burst through the western wall of the pagoda, falling timbers sending embers and ash everywhere as the fire reached the structure. “No…” Tang Min said, clambering to his feet. “I won’t lose this!” He went outside, calling for his men to come to the vessel’s rescue. Twenty men answered his call and rushed into the burning building, each one attempting to grab some part of the Xia-Ding. Min watched anxiously from outside as the men quickly brought it out of the pagoda, carrying it for some time in turns towards the palace.

Victorious in more ways than one, Tang Min sat down within the main hall of the Hanwu palace. Cleaned up and refreshed, he wrote of his successes in capturing Hanwu and in securing the Han held Xia-Ding, eventually sealing his letter before having it sent with all due haste to Chancellor Guo in Li. The confederacy had grown, and with its growth came the validation of its rule.

Expansion Post: Integration I

The spy network worked well and because of it evidence to incriminate a tribal leader allied to Shishio was found, the tribal leader was arrested for aiding the Mountain Order during the attack on Tokhae city and King Ryuk chose to use him as a bargaining chip against Shishio in the future.

Fortunately the meeting with the nobles went well because Ryuk had the help of the druidess Jakkhai who seemed to have formed a very strong opinion on the matter, the nobles who were previously maintaining a neutral stance on the matter agreed to obey the King's orders as long as no large Hakadian army did not enter deep into the lands of Hisaria to fight the enemies.

It seemed that large stocks of weapons had disappeared from army warehouses and Ryuk was in no doubt that Shishio and his faction of nobles were planning a rebellion to defeat him and wage war against the Hakadians in the near future, Marshal Hans had suggested that he meet with the new King of Hakad so that they could begin a process of integration and thus avoid any future bloodshed as Hakad had a strong army and Shishio's faction would doubt fighting the northern Kashanites if they were not with the south unified under a strong leader, at least that was what Hans hoped, as the leader of the hawk faction did not have a history of being crazy or having much of a thirst for conflict.

King Ryuk sought Jakhai's opinion and she agreed with Hans' suggestion, soon King Ryuk began his journey north with a strong escort to protect them from assasins of the Mountain Order, on the way Ryuk's escort managed to capture an Order spy who was spared and sent to Taunemburg where he could be interrogated by Marshal Hans' troops.

After a week of traveling they reached the Road of the Kings, a short and simple stone path that was made to facilitate the travelers' journey and that led from the small villages on the border and passed through the holy city of Kjarnsburg, the path ended in Heglax and although it was nothing ostentatious it was the best road in Kashania being used for the facilitation of trade in the region, through it various products made the long journey to Heglax and from there were taken to the various ports of the Sea of Shadows.

Another three days of travel passed and Ryuk's entourage arrived in Kjarnsburg, the city where the Great Druid resided and which was experiencing a great wave of prosperity. The Hakadian army had built a small wall of stone and mud to protect the city, for although many doubted that anyone would try to attack a holy city, it was always good to take precautions.

Many foreigners who followed the faith of the Druids came to the city on pilgrimage, there were even some rumors that the Druids were gathering resources to build the largest temple that ever existed in Kashania, one that would even surpass those of Tokhae and Jindur.

Ryuk went to a building in the city that was used by the druids for meetings, the new King of Hakad was waiting for him there.

Destiny
Competition Post

Many Centuries have passed since the founding of Venusia. During this time the Venusians enlarged their Area massively, becoming a major power in the world.

Nowadays they are a modern nation, with skyscrapers build in the major cities, with smartphones in the hand of nearly Venusian and many more modern characteristics. One thing hasn't changed thought: The believe, that they are destined for something great and now after decades, after the Notra-Order took power and reshaped the nation into a technocracy, many Venusians now know or think to know, how this greatness will show itself, what their true destiny as a modern nation is.

~

A little girl is walking home from school. She needs to go home fast to help her impoverished father at the work home. While she walks home, she can hear a short part of a conversation between two boys.

Boy 1: “Do you want to go my home next weekend? I got for a birthday the new Froide-Console[1]?”

Boy 2: “What really? You aren't kidding right?”

Boy 1: “No I'm serious, I...”

The little girl stopped listening and continued her way. It does not interest her, she doesn't need a console and yet she is jealous, that this boy gets a new console, while her family can't afford many things at all, because they are to poor. They can't even afford new clothes, the can hardly afford something more than water and bread Her father has a bad job, because he was considered to be “unintelligent” by the state schools. This resulted not only in a bad job for her dad, it also made it impossible to receive state funds, as the “dumb population” are considered to be unworthy of receiving aid by the state. The only thing the poor people get are drugs imported from overseas to keep them silent, calm and distracted.

She is now entering her impoverished neighborhood going to her family's apartment. Upon entering the apartment she sees her father sitting at a table with a man in an orderly and cleanly black suit.

Man: “Is this your daughter Ava?”

Father: “Yes, that's her.”

Ava: “Papa, who is this man?”

Man: “My name is Ragnar Savanföld. I was sent here by the Notra-Order. It's about your results in the Notra-Competition last month.

Ragnar shows Ava the copy of her results in the test.

Ragnar: “319 points out of 321 possible points. The average student, reaches 143.21 points. Reaching such a high score is indeed impressive and noteworthy for the Notra-Order.

Father: “What does that mean for my daughter?”

Ragnar: “Well, as the Technate wants to support and patronize intelligent kids, the state is ready to give massive financial support to this household. Also your daughter is invited to learn and study in the best schools and if she keeps bringing excellent results later on ,in the best academy.”

Father: “This sounds very good. Is there something we need to fulfill?”

Ragnar: “No, all you need to do is to sign here, to confirm everything to the bureaucracy.

Ava's father thought about this for a second. His daughter gets free education and his family is finally freed from poverty.

Ragnar: “I should perhaps tell you, it is expected, that your daughter keeps getting good results in the future or else all state assistant will be canceled! But as your daughter already had one of the best results, this should be no problem, right?”

The father signs the paper. Ragnar gave him a copy of the paper and took the signed one.

Ragnar: “OK, that's all. Let's hope for the best for your daughter and goodbye.”

The man left the apartment. One could easily see that he doesn't want to be here and is glad to finally leave this place, despite his friendly looks.

Ava: “Does that mean we will not be poor anymore Papa?”

Father: “I hope this our destiny.”

~Some years later...~

Ava is sitting in her room, listening to music. She gets a message on Bundezung[2] from her boyfriend Widald.

Widald: “Hey babe, could you meet me at my home? It's about the school project we need to do?”

Ava: “OK, when should we meet?”

Widald: “Ehm, perhaps now?”

Ava: “Okay wait. I need time to prepare!”

Widald: “Okay, please come fast. I want to bring this to an end fast. Love you babe!”

Ava: “Love you too.”

She combs her hair quickly and puts on new cloth. She goes to her fathers room to ask him to drive her to her boyfriend.

As she arrives at Widald's house, Widald already waited for her outside.

Ava: “Oh, the Gentleman awaits me.”

Widald: “Welcome my Lady, but now come in. The Project awaits

The two persons enter the house and are discussing all the matters for their project.

Ava: “I was sick last week, so what was our project topic again?”

Widald: “We just need to construct something technical.”

Ava: “And that means?”

Widald: “Like a small robot or some kind of gadget, it doesn't need to be something great of course but...

Ava: “And it could be anything?”

Widald: “Do you have an idea?”

Ava: “I thought about creating a rocket.”

Widald: “What?”

Ava: “Of course not a real one, we're both only fifteen. But I thought about creating a miniature rocket, which can show how a rocket actually flies into the air and...

Widald: “Why are you that much possessed of rockets? You are the only girl I know with such an interest and even under us boys you are … quite unique.”

Ava: “You think I'm crazy?”

Widald: “I love you, but... yes.”

Ava: “For normal students my idea would be perhaps harder to accomplish, but aren't we studying at the NITS[3] ?”

Widald: “Yes, studying! Not actually working. We are just about to learn everything.”

Ava: “We both have the best grades in our classes, It can't be that hard for us.”

Widald: “Okay. How are we about to do this?”

Ava: “Believe me when I say, that I thought about this before we got our project.

Widald: “Ehm, then you won't need me I guess.

Ava: “Well I have only the theory how it could work, but I'm not that good at craftsmanship.

Widald: “So you want me to actually build this thing? Fine, as long as we can bring this behind us very quickly.

Ava: “I promise you, despite looking like much, if we work now hard on our project and don't procrastinate, you can easily relax and eat KholdooChik Ice Cream[4] in peace afterwards, while the others work their butt off in stress.

Widald: “Fine I believe you, but why rockets? I never understand what you like about them.

Ava: “They will bring forth Venusia's destiny!”

~Some years later~

She has done it, after studying for years in the venusian technical academy, she finally got her diploma for rocket science. Together with 6 other graduates, who got similar high result as her, she hold a speech celebrating their success. After 4 of the students gave their speech, Ava was there to give hers.

Ava: “I greet you all to this day, in which another generation receives their prove of success, the sign of their knowledge and skill. For years we all were studying diligent to improve our skills and show our intelligence. Sadly of course are the fallen ones, those who weren't good enough to graduate here and now, but it isn't everything lost for them. Even they who failed need to somehow get into this academy and be accepted to study here and while they won't be able to do the most important jobs in Venusia, they still will prove themselves to be useful for our society in one way or another.

I as a citizen of Venusia, am proud to live here in a society in which the diligent and intelligent ones are rewarded with success, are rewarded with leadership and control. Just look outside of Venusia! The voltanese banks are controlling everything in the shimmering sea working hard on keeping the poor poor and the rich rich. While of course we sadly too have a poor and rich population, every one of us can rise and fall very quickly. My family belonged to the poorer ones and yet my talent was found and patronized by the Technate. And also, this is sad story, but one which needs to be told, there were when I was still in middle school, students who did nothing done, who failed miserably in nearly all subjects. These students, who were children of rich parents, can I see now in the poor neighborhoods of this country.

It might sound disturbing, but this rise and fall mechanic is necessary so that we don't become a society, in which the rich keep getting rich only because they're rich, but instead a society in which the rich keep getting rich and the poor become rich because they prove themselves.

I agree that not everyone is equally good at something. Some have different talents and different interests. While some are good at doing one thing, they are miserably in doing other things and that's okay. But we need to find these talents and help to improve it to usefulness, no matter if this talent has something to do with nature, biology, chemistry, our language, our society or the medias and I'm glad that we are trying to achieve this. If we can patronize our citizens with the right talent. I'm very sure that Venusia's destiny will be great!”

After her speech ended the two remaining graduates begin holding theirs. But Ava is just happy for now, as she can finally apply to work at the Zikzal Company[5].

A company of which Ava thinks will bring Venusia to it's glorious destiny.

~Some years later~

Today is the great day in which the rocket will reach “Nexman”[6]. The state-owned Zikzal Company will soon prove what the Venusians are able to do. Not only will this prove Venusia's technological strength, but also the strength of venusian Technocracy compared to voltanese Capitalism or rigelian Comradeism.

Ava, singing quietly while driving to work:
“Ik dänk Kamrades, Roket Caraves
bringn us nash forn fon styarn nash styarn...[7]”

She arrives at a checkpoint of Zikzal.

Guard: “Name please!”

Ava: “Ava Celusstedt”

Guard: “ID card please!”

Ava inserts her card in a scanner which checks the identity of the person. She is allowed to drive further. The area in which her workplace is, lies in the savannah region in the north, as it is flat and sparsely populated. After parking her car she enters a large building used for the coordination of the rockets, which were and will be launched and the coordination of the rocket currently on it's way to Nexman. Ava works in the leading team of the company with her specialty being the coordination of the rockets.

It's been so long, so many long days since the rocket first started. At any point it could have gone wrong, at any point the fuel could've gone empty or the rocket could get destroyed by some random object in space. But Notra seemed to have blessed the Venusians as they are the first to land a rocket on Selm's neighboring planet Nexman.

Ava: “How long does it take for the rocket to land ?”

One Employee: “It will probably land within a span of four to six hours.”

It was five hours which passed and the rocket begins to get pulled by the planet's gravity.

Ava feared heavily, that the rocket may crash on the ground or that something else unexpected happened, but after some time, which felt like an eternity for most working right now, the rocket landed on Selm's neighbor. Venusia was now the first nation to land a rocket on an other planet. Everyone including Ava cheered on this triumph.

Ava: “We did it boys and girls. We achieved our triumph. There was sadly no man or woman in this rocket, but I promise to you all: If we manage to get this rocket back on Selm, we will send a man up there. And I promise you wholeheartedly, this is our destiny to go there!

Es iset user Zikzal![8]”

[1]: Froide is the name of a venusian Gaming Company
[2]: Bundezung is a social-media app comparable to whatsapp
[3]: NITS: Notra-Institutional technical school
[4]: KholdooChik is the name of a mokranshi Ice-cream brand
[5]: Zikzal is the name of a venusian Space travel company, currently state-owned, the name translates to "Destiny!"
[6]: Nexman is the venusian name for one of Selm's neighboring planets. It's venusian and means “Neighbor”
[7]: "I think my comrades, rocket caravans will bring us from star to star..."
[8]: "It is our destiny!"

Return to Nievelheim I
Expansion post 1/4

Occo's bones creaked as he leaned back in his chair. A groan escaped him as he settled into place in his chair. This was just another marker of his impending mortality and at this point he accepted it. In five or so years he'd be handing his estate to his son, Eccomar, on his deathbed. He chuckled — there was still so much to do yet there was no way to do it all. Immediately after his chuckling, all he could do was shake his head.

While he hadn't done too much, he knew he'd done just as much as he could. He had left the League better off than it was previously if the League Charter and the Leaf Road were to speak. But when did he find his posting as pedsagiad? It felt just like yesterday but the records told him 84 CE. He'd been cracking at this for nearly forty years now. If only he'd been there a decade before...

His head jerked up to the door when a soft knocking came from it. "Come in," he told the knocker.

The door opened to reveal the recently-crowned Cosca. There was a long pause before she shook her head and walked in. "Sorry. I haven't gotten used to this yet."

"You have drive and that is good enough." Occo waved his hand towards himself. "Come, sit. What do you need?"

She shut the door behind her. She took one of the few spare chairs near the desk and set it a few feet from Occo. "Okay, so..." Her words trailed off. After a shorter pause, she said, "Nievelheim."

"What about it?" Occo asked as he raised his brow.

"It's... uh... God, I'm not very good at this." She shook her head and sighed. "The people there; our territory there. Can you tell me about 'em?"

Occo nodded with a hm, letting his brow drop. He took a short moment to catalogue his points before speaking. "Well, that island has been a point of contention for a while now. It was originally Bjørnsburgian but by 80, Civilized Era, its southern coast came under Uinnlantish control. A few more years later and most of the island was controlled. The Tydmor took the northern tip of it, though it seems it became estranged from Agnæratha after the Tydmor o-Aknerat joined the League. It was included in the Heimdall Directive and soon most of the League's grasp was stripped by some agreement some rulers made in Apocrypha just six years after the Directive."

"Heimdall?" she asked. "Where's that? Is it near?"

"Yeah." Occo smiled. "I was one of the first troops sent there back in 77, Civilized Era. The locals were rather pleasant until some group, det Frie Mennene if I remember, thought it was smart to de-ear one of our soldiers. He was a young man beaten to death alongside it." He shook his head with a downcast expression which quickly left as he continued. "I was in one of the worst parts of Heimdall — the northeastern coast was as far from our ships as the colony went. No support and limited supply chains meant I was forced to trek under constant threat of death after being discharged for this." He raised his stub.

Cosca flinched. "Is it better there?"

Occo shrugged, letting his stub fall. "Reports seem to say that from about 86, Civilized Era, the attacks became less and less frequent. If I were to dare say, perhaps only 'freedom fighters' want to be like that know. I cannot say for Nievelheim, however, as they are currently under Rogalandish control."

"Okay, well..." Cosca tapped her hands on her knees. "Would going over there have a chance of making things better? Even just a lick of one?"

Occo raised an eyebrow. "What now?"

She put her hands together into a knife-hand shape and pointed them toward him. "A tour to Rogaland's capital if it has one so that we can peacefully make them a territory. Hear me out."

"I do not think I want to."

"Why not?" Her hands fell. "You just said—"

"Attacks, less frequent, mhm." He shook his head. "I also said I cannot say the same for Nievelheim because we do not know. Do you want to risk it—"

"Yes."

Occo stopped. A long silence preceded him asking quietly, "Come again?"

"You heard me."

He rubbed his forehead. His hand rubbed down to be over his mouth. "Spirits, give me strength," he whispered.

She shrugged. "What's the worst that could happen? I doubt they'll be that aggressive. Plus, they'd be angering one of the world's great powers. They'd know better than that."

He shook his head with an exasperated sigh. "Whatever you wish."

Return to Nievelheim II
Expansion post 2/4

"Hear ye! Hear ye!" cried a man clad in dark blue as he banged a rounded stick into the interior of a metal pot. He was walking along the street. "Arensmund, hear ye, hear ye!" Once he had done a few rotations and had brought most of the houses' families outside, he stopped and addressed them all. "Det Frie Mennene have heard your complaints! As the Uinnlantish menace continues plodding along the border with Rogaland, they continue spitting in the face of Bjørnsburgian sovereignty! Apocrypha may have forsaken us but we shall not forsake ourselves!"

Thank the Aspects, this town was an avid supporter of the Crown. Or, rather, of a Crown so long as it was Bjørnsburgian.

"All men who can fight are requested to stand up and fight for Bjørnsburgian independence! Det Frie Mennene want only to bring this town into the fold of the Nievelheim Free State! Reject the false rule of Austnievelheim! Their reign is unjust and must be apprehended! Reject Rogaland for it has turned its back upon our plight in order for false platitudes with the northern Tydmoric states!"

A few women brought hands to their mouths in shock at the absolute scandality of associating with Tydmor.

***

Night fell and the town was still bustling. Children were running around in play as women were milling about and men were talking about thing such as trades, weaponry and whether or not the Crown would be better than a republic. The bustling didn't end even as a few horses rode into town, their horsemen clad in similar apparel to the man who rallied them all.

"Is there a Torfinn here?" one of them called.

The man who rallied the town came jogging into the street at the mention of his name. "Aye! What's needed?" he called.

The horseman dismounted and took Torfinn's hand in a handshake. "Name's Gunnar Sylte, big wig supportive of your work. Listen," he said as he brought his hand from Torfinn's hand and set it on his back, turning him towards the direction from whence Gunnar came. "I just came from the south. I got word that little miss princess or whatever from Uinncair's coming by. I'd say it'd be best to focus on her rather than whatever 'guardsmen' are at the border. Öga för öga, tand för tand, yeah?"

Torfinn nodded slowly.

"Aye, that's it. Her end stop's either Stålvagr or whatever Nowheresburg is currently the top-dog of those northern Tydmor states. I'd bank on Stålvagr though. And she's got some kind of defense with her, though I doubt it'd be anything terrible. Be on guard when your guys are scoping her out — I could try to distract her as best as possible when she gets to Stålvagr, but I don't think it'll buy your boys long."

Torfinn nodded again.

Gunnar came in front of Torfinn and set his hands on his shoulders. "My comrade, we have the best opportunity before us. We can bring out all those Bjørnsburgians in fear out from their shells and into a revolution."

"We'll be surrounded along the coast and starved out."

"Nope," Gunnar said as he shook his head. "There are thousands of Bjørnsburgians in the League's militaries and levies. I know for a fact that they'll rise up, stand up and be counted as grand Bjørnsburg's rightful inheriters. The Aspects shall smile upon us. Kyohaku is only testing our people, though I know he will come to our side when the revolution begins."

Torfinn pulled himself away from Gunnar's hands. "It'll be a good, long and hard plan to get their hellspawn off of our land, but you and I both know that they'll fight with tooth and nail." He sighed. "Moris kråkene[1] should be here soon — we've just sent the letters to Verar and Klapp and their nearby villages. They should be here within the week."

"How many men do they have?"

Torfinn glanced at his hands and counted off of his fingers, the exact measurements arcane to anyone else. "I'd say about 150 fighting men and boys." He looked back up. "If the women have to get dragged in then that'd be about 100 more added on top. I doubt we'll need the ladies brought in through as those men are well-trained."

Gunnar was nodding along "Interesting."

"If the letters get sent to that one big ol' confederation up to our north, blocking us from Rogaland, we might have a couple thousand men added and a few thousand women. I'd say that, if all goes right, the odds are in our favor."

"How likely is that, would you say?"

"Not very likely. But, it doesn't hurt to hope."

——————
[1] - "Mori's Crows"

Return to Nievelheim III
Expansion post 3/4

To say that the Tydmor were in trouble would be an understatement. A decade ago, Morzride Maelgun mab Dujre had perished. What followed was a complete fracturing of Agnæratha into seperate fiefdoms as claims both legitimate and forged were pressed. Morzridy[T1] spearheaded invasions and other actions against one another. Some made a break for Nievelheim where Arktisk and the League used to hold swathes of territory. Most flocked to their banners for a steady mercenary's paycheck or even for a regular daily meal at the meadhalls.

Despite that all, Maelgun's right-hand man was still alive and kicking. He was known only as Brezi and was also a faithful son of Dujre. Despite his position of great power among the Tydmor, most refused to bow to his claim. The few that did allowed Brezi's territory to take most of northern Agnæratha. Still, it wasn't enough; there was such a small likelihood that the others would kowtow that Brezi relegated himself to trying to form alliances. That wasn't panning out for him. Any chance he could have taken would have ended up with the rest allying into a large-enough confederation that they'd be able to take Brezi and his allies.

The current times were rough, compounded by the League's general ambivalence towards the North. Not much was happening in the Sea of Shadows and it showed as trade was a crawl. True, there was 'contact' with some western people called the Mokrani, but it was little enough that it could safely be considered null. The Hakadi were quietly expanding; the Arktiskans were falling further into their shells; the Harlum protectorate was playing in its own kiddie pool; the Pale was being the Pale; and the eastern islands were being their own disastrous crockpot.

Yet, at the heart of it all, the current year was Brezi's break. There was conflict out east and the states there were minor enough to incur neither League attention nor local retribution. Not only that, but the land out there was enough of a chokepoint that he could press whatever Nievelheimish realms there into submission or alliance.

Brezi's musings were cut short by the door slamming open. Each head in the meadhall turned towards the man standing in the doorway, in his hand a parchment. He gave them all a small nod forward and raised the parchment-holding hand. Each man in the meadhall nodded and went back to their feasting. That man walk up to Brezi as he sat at his table.

"What brings you here?" he asked.

The man set the parchment on the table. "A letter from Queen Cosca of Uinncair herself. She wants you to go along Nievelheim while she attempts diplomacy with Rogaland."

Ah. Good. That was exactly what he had wanted to do.

"Do I have to write back?" With a curt nod from the man, Brezi also nodded. "Right."

As the courier left, Brezi looked to his side. "Arthrigwid, go set up the fleet and call the levies when the feast is over. We're headed to the east."

Arthrigwid looked over. "The east? Hmm. Why sir?"

"Those boys are too far to get help." Brezi took a bite of chicken. "If we can take their ships and men, we could take more of Agnæratha. It will all be under its rightful banner."

"Whatever you say, morzride. It will be done."

"Aye." Brezi looked back to his food.

***

The carriage rocked back and forth as it ran over small bumps in the road. The paths on Nievelheim were less trodden and so were often overgrown or littered with dead twigs and leaves. A few animal bodies were set neatly on the side of the road, implying that people still went through the brush. There was, however, the occasional stop where the guards in the carriage would have to disembark and throw a corpse onto the side of the before they could continue.

Cosca stretched her legs out. "How long's it until we're to Rogaland?"

"You have asked this five times already." Occo's voice was monotone. "We have to take the back roads — we do not know who or what may be lurking in wait to attack us."

She shook her head with a smile. "You're just paranoid."

"No, no I am not. These Bjørnsburgians are wily and tricksome. You would do well to learn that."

"Okay, cool." She sat upright and was quiet for all of... seven seconds, Occo counted, before she spoke again. "So how many hours—"

Occo hit his own hand against his knee. "Quiet."

——————
[T1] - plural of morzride "sealord".

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