An Account of the Rime Wars

The mud squishing under his horses hooves, he rode toward the village. Some of the buildings had damage from Rimelander’s raid, but the village still stood, mostly intact. Murmuring a quick prayer of thanks to Melandiel and Mithriel that he and Solace had gotten here in time, he continued on.
We do not even know the name of this place yet, but I feel responsible already. The knight commanders in Fenristadt had done their work well. Shaking off this thought he touched his heels to his horse. There should be a hetmann, assuming they survived the raid, and if not there should be someone who was able to tell him about this village and the region around it. Tonight they would celebrate and embrace life, but for now the details that crowded in on a commander at the end of a battle were piling up.
Morvald had not been much of a Warlord, none of the Ironbloods they had found since arriving from Vissvind had been worth their Brands. Upon reflection, Ivar had fought a good fight against Manfred, even if his followers had attacked as soon as he had fallen. The Inquisitor had taken their survivors for questioning, but he doubted they would know much really.
Ingvar wondered idly how Sven’s pursuit of Havdan had gone. Elf-Blood had been crushing the Ironblood army when Ingvar had begun moving to the southwest. But the Ironboods had been in the region longer, so most likely they knew the terrain better. Some of them may have been able to slip away. The unconfirmed reports of Coldhands warbands in the region also were a concern. They were not as good in a stand up fight as the Ironbloods, but were much more cunning. Regardless, the first battles of this war had gone in their favor. Now we just have to maintain that momentum. He had been pleasantly surprised that the Brands they wore had already drawn men to Sven and himself. The only thing faster than birds wings are men’s tongues. More would undoubtedly hear of their exploits in battle and would come to swear. My oath ring will become polished with the oaths of Karls.
The levies he had gotten from the Markgrafin stared back at him as he rode by. Their eyes a little less bright, but their backs more straight. No longer the green troops of two days ago, but not seasoned veterans they would be something to build on. He continued toward the heart of the village where his Karls had set up. They were the core of this new legion and with each victory more would come. It is the start of a long and bloody war for us, regardless.
He spied Ketil, the leader of his Karls, standing outside of the small hall that served as the hetmann’s home talking with an older man. Once again setting heals to his horse, Ingvar rode ever forward.

Bedding Down

One Door.
One window.
Three Bunks, a wash basin, and a “water closet”. Never in my dreams did I think I would have such comfort.

Looking back at his bunk, Sigurd paced the room. No way to secure the window but any who wanted to use it would have to climb over a sleeping Kanut. Good enough. One way or another an intruder from that path would resolve itself.

Unfurling a patterned blanket, Sigurd paused. Was there really no one who needed this cloth? to think spare Blankets. He shuddered with how wasteful an action this would have been just weeks before. Sliding the blanket under the mattress above Sigurd made sure to leave a gap next to the head board.

With cloth draped all around the lower bunk one could not tell if someone lay within. sliding into the makeshift cave, Sigurd smiled with satisfaction. A perfect sliver of vision looking out at the door, with enough room to respond to unwanted guests.

Stepping Out Sigurd stripped.

Taking one last look around, Sigurd grasped his sole possession, A black dagger. Gifted to him by his Lady’s other vasal. Kanut.

“Two blankets, a cloak, and a knife.” Sigurd wondered aloud. “Never did I think I would have this much to call my own.”

Climbing back into bed, Dagger in hand, Sigurd lay watching the open doorway. Dagger ready to strike.

“This place. I could call home.”

Out with the tide

It was barely light out. Faile had packed a bag, climbed out a window cat-quiet, and headed for the docks- but she’d made a detour. Call it sentimental. Down a back alley, up Pearl Lane, and…there. Her house, or it had been. A notice on the door proclaimed it repossessed.

She was sitting cross-legged on the dirt floor while her mother repaired a sail.
“Yes, petal?”
“Where’s da?”
She traced shapes in the ashes of the hearth with chubby child’s fingers. Her mother paused mid-stitch.
“You know how I told you sometimes things go back out with the tide? Your da did that. But I ain’t mad for it, we both decided it was right.”
“Oh…did he love us?”
“Yes he did, flower. But sometimes love ain’t enough and you have to go out with the tide. It’s not your fault.”
“He’s better off on his own. Just like we are, yeah?”

Faile tore the notice down, ground it into the mud under her sandal.

“How old is the girl?”
“Old enough to work. Come here, little one.”
The big man, the one that smelled like rot, took her hand.
“I’m a close friend of your ma, and I need a special job done. Can’t just be anyone, and your ma tells me you’re a quick and clever sort. Can you help me?”
Faile looked at her mother, anxious, twisting her hem between her fingers. Her mother was never anxious. Something was wrong.
“Yessir, what d’you need?”
He smiled, she saw jeweled teeth.
“That’s what I like to hear. Basia, your girl is smart.”
Her mother didn’t say anything, wouldn’t look at her. Not even after she’d come back spattered with blood, carrying a paring knife and a heavy sack of coins. She’d thrown up, washed her face in the basin, and curled up by the fire, dreaming of serpents carrying her out to sea. Ten. Ten.

The lock was old, it crumbled in her hand. She slipped into the house- a room, really. They’d barely gotten by, even with the neighbors’ help.

Her mother’s illness had run its course, finally. She couldn’t focus on the body, her eyes automatically went to the wooden lion her mother had nailed to the wall just above the hearth. Her ears were ringing. She’d seen bodies before but this was different- she had to prepare it. Should she be crying right now? Where were the tears? Did she even have time to cry before she went next door to ask Ma Tallett for help? Wait, wait…Faile fumbled in her pocket, produced a coin. Placed it carefully under the dead tongue- da had said you have to pay for the crossing but she didn’t know if it was some outrageous bit of folk nonsense or some old truth- closed the mouth. Closed the eyes. Washed her hands raw in the basin by the grimy window. Then she went next door.

The service was short- the other women in the neighborhood covered the cold, pale thing on the bed in flowers and wept over her while a priest sang something slightly off-key. Then the body that wasn’t mother anymore was wrapped in sheets. Taken away to be buried. She couldn’t bring herself to follow. The women sighed and patted her hand, they just assumed she was grieving. So young, they said, on her own without her ma and da. What will become of her, of the house. So young.

Everyone trailed out, with varying degrees of pity.

And then it was just her in that house of silence, her and that fucking wooden lion and a pitiful little dent in the narrow bed.

Faile looked at the room one last time. The flaking paint on the walls. The filthy, cracked window. It had felt like a palace when she was a child, something marvelous where she could roam uncontested. Her domain. It had been cleared of furniture. Of any signs of life. And now, in the grey, wet dawn it looked like a crypt. A memorial to the family that wasn’t. A monument to her mother’s shortcomings and Vos’s endless greed. And she was cutting it loose, letting it drift away from her on the tide. Somewhere, a bell rang.

Time to go. She shouldered her bag, closed the door. And didn’t look back, not until the ship was leaving the harbor and the city was a colorful smear on the horizon.

Seven. Ten. Sixteen. Twenty-eight.

Has It Been So Long

Feet kicked back and forth as Min sat on the graveyard fence gazing down at Shadow’s grave. The Aconitum house seal dangled down from a chain tangled in her fingers, forgotten for the moment.

Five years had passed since she’d arrived, sent here on errands by people that seemed worlds away now. Had it really been so long? She tried to add up the time in a new way that made it concrete, but it just kept slipping away into a jumble of memories. She’d always tracked time by people, but now those steady threads had all been pulled free.

Vanna had left. The last one who had known her before Stragosa.

It had been the right call. Vanna wasn’t a fighter. She was just another person who needed to be looked after. One less risk to track. Even so, no matter how Min tried to bend her thoughts, the flippant pragmatism she’d always fallen back on was nowhere to be found. She couldn’t swallow the lump in her throat or blink the burning from her eyes. This sting was new. Something she’d only started feeling here, and she wished it had never taken root just as much as she clung to it.

Jo had left years ago.

Back to her and Vanna’s family. The softer of the twins, she’d taken something Min couldn’t quite pin down with her. She’d taken it from Vanna too. A kind of laughter and gentleness she’d only seen in a few others. It had been a fascinating novelty and a notable absence.

And then there was Oliver.

If he hadn’t… If he’d just not for once in his life… Her thoughts pushed tentatively in that direction, but bounced back each time seeking safer spaces. Borso had found her adoption papers Sunday morning. Stupid, worthless, fucking papers with Karston’s fucking signature.
The Aconitum seal hit the grave mound and bounced with the force of the throw.
If she ever saw that bastard of a bishop again she’d make sure he knew exactly what he’d taken when he stole Oliver.
Revenge was easier than reverie. It resolved.

Now it was just Leonce. He hadn’t known her, but he also had. In the way all the street children knew one another by sight. In the unspoken rules and familiar wisdom. Don’t get attached. But they always did. The lie they all told themselves and one another right up until they had to choose whether or not to make it true. She’d picked. She couldn’t pretend she hadn’t. It was a lot to ask one person to make up for all the others, but they all did it when no one else was left.

Min exhaled in a long, drawn out sigh. Ruminating was a problem. Another bad habit she’d picked up here. Probably came of staying in one place for so long. Her eyes flicked towards the Casa in accusation and reproach, but as she did their faces began drifting through her thoughts. Each saying it didn’t always have to hinge on only one or two people. Perhaps it was alright if they came and went. Another annoying, new thought from here that she tolerated with a loud “Ugh” of frustration.

Hopping down, she strolled over to where the seal had fallen and picked it up. Wiping the dirt away, she rolled her eyes and stuffed it back into her bag. Pulling a knife from her belt Min stabbed it down into the freshly turned earth.

“Trade ya, Vaska.” She piped, running a thumb over the hilt of the new knife resting in the old one’s place.

And yet, a quiet part of her mind mused as she walked away…it is a nice thought.

The Struggle of Writing Vows

“Two years ago when your father offered me your hand in marriage to solidify the alliance between our clans I thought that I could be content with. At first glance you were a right fit lass and when you demanded I take you to Saragossa with me I was impressed with your spirit. You took the journey in stride, the trials and tribulations of the city, my admittedly limited capacity for coping with stress—all of that you took in stride. You kept our home warm and inviting, food ready for me even when I was returning home from the taverns at ungodly hours in the morning. You’ve been a rock since we came to this cursed valley, and even then I couldn’t say to myself that I loved you. I was a bloody idiot.

As I held you in those woods and watched the light fade from your eyes I knew at that moment a world without you waiting for me when I got home was not a world I could not accept. As I chased the people that had done this to you through the woods I was hardly concerned with my sword…I just wanted to hurt them for what they did to you. That was the moment I realized that there was nothing in the world that meant more to me than you. Every kind word, small gesture of affection, every moment spent with you drove me forwards and I truly believe brought me out of that alive.

Fiona MacLaren I love you with all of my heart and soul, and until I draw my last breath I will continue to work to be a man worthy of your love. I will live my life as the sword and shield that protects you from all the bad things in the world and nothing and no one will keep us apart.”

With a heavy sigh Niall crumpled the parchment he was writing on and tossed it to the side. This was the seventh time he’d attempted to scribe his weeding vows to Fiona, and the seventh time he’d found himself increasingly disappointed at the lack of words he could muster to describe his feelings. He looked over at the bed they shared and smiled softly watching the heavy wool blankets rise and fall as she slept. As much as he wanted to send her to Porto Fino, there was a great comfort in having her here. Seeing that she was alive and well, reminding him that he didn’t lose her. Occasionally he’d find himself in a moment of panic unable to calm down until he saw her or heard her.

The last few days he’d been so focused on tending to her recovery that he’d still been putting off the emotional labor of working through his own truama. As far as Niall was concerned that could come later, keeping Fiona safe and seeing them and the rest of his circle of friends through this crisis was top priority. Though he could hear Saorise and Arineh chastising him now about taking care of himself, in fact he was overdue for one of those conversations sometime soon.

As he set his writing supplies away Niall found himself thinking to the conversation he had with Sinnoch last forum. At the time when he was asked if he was happy Niall couldn’t respond. He didn’t know what happiness was, all he knew was his duty. But for now as he crawled beside the woman he’d given up his moorsword to protect he could imagine that one day he could very well answer yes to that question—and that was all he could ask for at the moment.

All those little details

Alexandra watched her mother bustle about, instructing various servants in what tasks must be completed before the April forum and Alexandra’s wedding to Herulf von Corvinus. After all these years spent learning at her mother’s side, she was still in awe of just how confident her mother could be. She knew she would do well to emulate that confidence, even if, at the moment, Alexandra was as uncertain as she had been in a long time.

It wasn’t as though she was unhappy with the marriage match that had been made-far from it, in fact. She had long since accepted that a love match like her parents’ was almost certainly out of the question, and had prepared herself for quite some time that her future husband may well be a stranger on their wedding day. That the match had been made to someone that she actually knew and conversed with, a man that had escorted her on the road between Stromberg and Stragosa, that was a pleasant surprise. It was a happy bonus that she had, thus far and within the boundaries of the sort of arms-length interactions that were appropriate for unmarried people of their standing, found his company pleasant enough, even if, at times, she worried that she came off as far too frivolous for an experienced Gothic military commander. The idea that her soul and his would soon be as one hadn’t fully set in-she knew it was true, and the time was drawing near, but the concept that Lord von Corvinus would soon be her husband, that at some point she ought to become comfortable with using his given name in conversation hadn’t quite solidified in her mind. She supposed she ought to come to terms with the idea before she embarrassed herself by acting like a timid, silly child.

No, it was the prospect of the change in her role in life, no longer an inexperienced maiden, still learning the ropes of rulership in this strange and wild place, but truly an adult, a wife, and, God willing, before long a mother. She suspected, based on comments from both her mother and her betrothed, that her time in Stragosa was likely going to be coming to an end sooner rather than later-but wasn’t entirely sure what her new role would be, what exactly she would be doing or even where she would be doing it, other than continuing to prepare to one day inherit her father’s countship and working to continue to raise her house’s reputation in the Throne.

But before that, the wedding. The wedding itself was hardly a minor detail. “Never forget, the feast is as much a battlefield as any other.” The words her father had written to her over a year ago now weighed heavily on Alexandra’s mind as she began to consider the details of her upcoming wedding. So many people were all too dismissive of the idea of the power of events and the symbols that made up most of them, but the lessons she had been learning for her entire life told her an entirely different story. This wedding, for example. Every little detail would mean something, whether or not it was intentional. It was unavoidable in the world of noble politics. Alexandra knew, on the one hand, that it would be wise to plan for her Stragosa wedding to be on the austere side-to do anything else would be callous in the face of all who had suffered so greatly in the time since the necromancer made its play for Stragosa and the dead began terrorizing the people. She accepted this, and couldn’t even bring herself to feel saddened at the idea, knowing that her house was planning a grand formal wedding for later in the year in North Pass to celebrate the new alliance. But she also knew just as keenly that to fail to honor the marriage and the alliance it signaled in a way that wasn’t worthy of the standing of both houses would be to undermine it. Perhaps, then, the wise course would be to find some way to make the occasion one that may also bring joy to others, some sort of representation of the joy of two people uniting in the eyes of God. A solemn celebration of duty to God and Empire.
Even the details of her dress would matter, she thought. No, not just the dress on the day of her wedding, whether the small celebration in Stragosa or the grand one in North Pass. How she chose to dress, to wear her hair, to carry herself could signal so much from this day forward. She must show the maturity and strength she had gained in her time in Stragosa, for any show of weakness would be a tool to be used against her and her house. But she had also worked so hard to find a way to relate to the common people that she had found herself surrounded by, and knew that this, too, would be valuable for her future. She must show appropriate sobriety and seriousness for the sensibilities of her betrothed’s Gothic house, to demonstrate a commitment to being as one soul with him, but she must absolutely not allow anyone to think that she considered herself something other than Rogalian. The politics around the match and the Pactum Domini were far too volatile for anything else.

Such uncertainty would not do, she knew. It was not fitting for a highborn woman. So she watched her mother, hoping to learn all those little details she must master in the coming weeks. There was much work to be done.

The Voice of the Voiceless: Fleeing

The following is found scrawled in one of Olivier’s journals:

“How are you doing, mon amour? I’m shaking as it is, and he wasn’t my Uncle. I can only imagine what it’s like for you”

“I can’t believe he’s gone either. I didn’t want to kill him. It just happened. I hope you can forgive me.”

“It’ll take some time. You know me, I’m not a killer and don’t want to start anytime soon. I just want to create, not kill.”

“Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I hope this new place is alright.”

“I’m scared, too. I’m going to miss mother and father. I’m sure Anastasie, will as well. I also hope I can protect the two of you in this new place”

“It all sounds really scary, but also somewhat safe from your father’s reach.”

“I know that sounds harsh, but remember what he did to my mother, to you, and what he said as we were running”

“It was really weird how violent he’s become. He’s always been such a nice man.”

“Remember when he’d get us pastries when we’d watch mother perform in the square?”

“He’d stand up for us too when Gregory and his family would harass us”

“I can’t imagine what would have changed him so much”

“And now we’re running from him. The man who raised you and helped raise me”

“I hope mother and father are alright. At least we’re together, I can’t imagine taking on this journey alone.”

“I know it’s only been a few days, but I already want to go back home”

“I know it would be a death sentence, but at least we would have some kind of happiness until then”

“But what if this new place is as horrible as the stories we’ve heard?”

“You’re right, as long as we’re together, we can do whatever we set our minds to”

“Have you thought about things you want to make? It’ll be around early winter when we arrive, and the Mari Lwyd should be taking place. I’ve been trying to write poetry for the others there”

“A scarf? That sounds great! I would love to wear it. You’re such a thoughtful person, Alexander”

“I love you, too, mon amour”

A half written letter sitting in the monastery


I am sorry it has been so long since I last sent a letter. Between building and farming, my time in Stragosa has been more busy than I’d thought. The last letter I sent, I believe, was a little over a year and a half ago, shortly before I left Lethia, and much had happened. I learned to read, for one! In fact, I am writing this very letter myself!

I’ve learned much in my time here. I feel that I’ve grown into a stronger person, both within and without. I’ve met wonderful people from all corners of the Throne, some even from Sha’ra! I’ve met Mages and Princes, repelled Ghouls and Malefic, and heard the most wonderful songs and stories. In truth, as much as I miss home, I am beginning to feel happy here. My feet finally feel as though they’ve settled on solid ground, and I’m finding myself planning for the future.

Sanguine says we’re to begin working on the Fortress Monastery this coming season, which I’m quite looking forward to. I’ve been preparing for the upcoming Hearthwise ceremonies (they’re celebrated here as well) and I’m quite looking forward to the Ice Doll next season. I’ve begun planning a large Springtime feast as well! I’ve met quite a few herbalists in the city, and I believe that with their help I could feed the entire market! I feel as though I’m finally finding my place, that I’m finally doing good in the world on my own terms.

I hope you’re doing well, also. I know that the Gothic winters have never agreed with you. I assume Clypeus is reading this to you, have him get my blanket from the loft, should you need it. I hope the horses arent giving you too much trouble, did you ever find a new farmha

Lysander looks up from his desk as a cry comes from the courtyard. He stands and crosses his small, sparsley furnished monastery room, a look of worry on his face. He sees the city of Stragosa, his new home, under siege, the vision cutting through him like a cold knife. He hastily dons his leather armor and weapon, slinging in his satchel over his shoulder, and then rushes from his room.

Letter from Dana Isabella Scordato to Counte Scordato

Dead Brother,

I pray event back home are going well for matters in Stragosa have taken a turn for the worse. I apologize for the delay from my last letter but much has happened that has prevented me from writing.

Four months ago, I lost two hundred marines saving our distant cousin, Sir Reinhardt Sonnenhiem, from certain death. Acting in his roll as Lord Marshall of Stragosa, he was leading his men against the heretics. Myself and my own force provided support on both of his flanks. We had just routed a force of dark riders when Reinhardt’s own men turned on us, falling to heresy. I personally led a charge to rescue him from a duel with his own traitor turned captain. We were successful in saving him however we lost the aforementioned 200 marines to do so.

Afterwards, I took to investigate one of the main sites we have found in the valley, and came to an ancient elven site. It had twelve statues, with two oddly enough human. I must tell you I felt I was being watched the entire time though. I heard rumors that the same elf that killed father was also seen in Stragosa shortly after my scouting expedition. I am not sure if the two events are tied or not.

Once I had cleaned up from the trip, I set out to coordinate the defense of the Princepessa’s city of Portofino and the House Drake city of Silbran. While I was with Captain Maria di Segrati in Silbran, we were attacked by forces of Kuarlites. The small team of Spotters I was with were vastly outnumbered by the horde and one after one fell in combat. I only survived due to being knocked unconscious and my warhorse somehow escaping. I have since returned to Portofino.

I write you this letter on the eve of my trip to Stragosa to see if this war is salvageable. I am sorry brother but I must also apologize. For I intend to seek out the elf. Both honor and duty require me to do so. I must also get answers to the elven site I visited for one of the statues confused me greatly. I know this puts my marriage at risk should I perish but it must be done. I will however make sure contingencies are in place to ensure our interests are protected should anything happen.

I close with this. If the valley is held, the land surrounding the ancient dwarves fortress is legally our now. My guess was right on the land being valuable since dwarves once held it. For the very first mine Sergio, you remember our old tutor and papi’s friend, opened was a gem mine. The fortress is in good condition and I have multiple forces of Spotters moving to man the battlements when the mountains open in spring. As they do not require large amount of rations, once we erect additional defenses, it will be well secured outside of a large army assault.

That is all for now. I hope to write to you in a few days hence, with my success in Stragosa but if not, know I love you brother.

Harvesting the past, we flourish.


The Message

Gideon could smell the smoke rising. The sounds of battle and yelling of combatants rode the wind. He stared out the window, watching the fires blaze and the shadows of figures rushing each other, full of fury and intent.

He turned back to the letter in front of him. The writing was scribbled and distorted, a hand writing as fast and recklessly as it could, desperate to get it’s message out.

“To Lord Percival:

Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming…”

It extended to the bottom of the page, that same phrase that pulsed behind the Lurihim’s eyes and rang in his ears. There was another on the desk, addressed to Sir Sanguine. And another, for Seneschal Kirsa. And a third, for Father Ansel. And a final one, for Bishop Adeodatus. All contained that same phrase, repeated over and over like a mantra. Gideon hoped that if he wrote enough letters, spread His Message widely enough, that perhaps the urgency of it would abate from his mind.

Gideon’s personal journal lay on the floor nearby, swept off the desk in his frenzy to compulsively spread the message of the Archangel that pounded in his skull. Half of it was introspection and contemplation on the healing arts and the Miracle until it abruptly became that scrawled feverish message halfway through.

Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming…

~Yes I am, Gideon. And when I arrive, I will take them all. My Hand will claim your friends and allies. And then I will claim the rest of Stragosa while you watch.

All will be Mine. Except you. You will be my Herald. You will be the last.~

Gideon was sweating. He clutched his head, eyes squeezed shut.

“Damn it, Lurian… stay your Hand, you bastard…”

~I will not, Herald. All are Mine in the end. Look out the window for the proof. It has already started. It is already here. Now return to spreading My Message.~

“Yes, Lurian…” The priest muttered. He turned back to the page automatically and began to write again.

Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming. Lurian is coming…