Author Topic: [Battle report] Prince of the Plains - Crystal Lotus vs. Blackblood vs. Vultures  (Read 5187 times)

Offline Horned Owl

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Duke Cadion of the Emerald House met his assassin in the dead of night.

For a long time, he stared at the shadows in his lavishly furnished bedroom, his emaciated hands clutching at the sheets.

"Were you a servant, you would have knocked and announced your presence. Were you a guard, and someting were amiss, you would be breathing harder. It follows that you are neither."

There was a slight rustling in the shadows, which could have meant anything.

"I am sorry to disappoint you if you meant to find me sleeping soundly. We, the aged, miss the deep slumber that is one of the prerogatives of youth... there are nights where sleep eludes me altogether. Forgive me for not offering a seat to my murderer." Cadion was proud that his brittle voice did not betray his racing heart. A lifetime of playing the Elven courts had its benefits, he supposed.

This time there was a soft laugh. Something moved.

"I have to admit that Iīm intrigued.", the Duke continued. "Why now? You have come to my chambers, past the nightingale floor and the secret Lotos traps, past threescore guards – quite a feat, I would say. Some would have deemed it impossible. I must assume your services command no humble fee. I am an old man already on the threshold of death. Why not wait half a year and simply let nature take its course?"

From the shadows, a melodious voice answered, "Duke Crassus is not noted for his patience."

Cadion willed his hands to stop shaking. "Yet he is also noted for his stinginess. In fact, I presume that at this precise moment he is shedding hot tears over the terrible sum of money that brought you to my chambers. So tell me, my unbidden visitor, why does Crassus of the Obsidian House desire my death, and my immediate, not to mention expensive one at that?"

The dark figure took a step forward. The shadows seemed to slide away from it, revealing robes of dark green and turquoise, and a narrow face deeply lined with worry. Duke Cadion might as well have looked in a mirror. It was his own visage that looked back at him. He did not wish to admit it, but the signs of age and decrepitude shocked him. He coughed softly.

"So, this explains part of the riddle of your unexpected entry, I take it. Of course the guards would have let their master pass."

His own face nodded. "And I relieved the watch of their duties. There is no one within call now." The tall Elf took off the mask, and the facial features on it seemed to harden into pale green jade. The face underneath was young and not uncomely, if somewhat ordinary.

"Thank you", Cadion said. "At my age, I feel I am already talking to myself too much for my taste. A Lotus Eater, then, presumably a Jade House mercenary?"

"You are quite correct. As to your other question, I can only speculate, but your opposition to the proposed marriage might be a motive."

The Duke groaned. "A marriage between my daughter and Crassusī son might have been politically opportune for our house. The Emerald Dragon would have much to gain from Crassusī lust. Yet I am not convinced that the Obsidian prince, or Crassus himself, for that matter, would be well for her health."

The assassin shrugged. "Crassus is a man who enjoys defiling for its own sake. Elves of his mindset always feel the draw of the fresh, the innocent, and the pure. It lures them the way the doe lures the tiger. Crassus would view her as a delicate canvas to work on – and I have heard he raises his son to the same artistic sensitivities."

"Crassus must know that my son will follow me on the Emerald throne. And Corian will be as adamant as myself on that matter. He loves his sister dearly and would never condone any harm done to her. Oh!"

The assassin was silent.

"You are not telling me that there is already a poisoned blade ready for him!" Cadion sat upright in the bed. His hands were trembling badly now despite his best efforts.

"He is out in the grassland plains, leading the fight against the Blackblood. Many things can happen in war, as you know. I believe his head already has a price attached to it with the Vulture clan."

Cadion was thinking frantically now. "You – you are a mercenary! I will not offer resistance to your task. I ask you only to – to save my son. Or at least impart this information to him that you gave so freely to an old dying man. The House of the Emerald Dragon is rich. Name a price! Itīs yours. I will not haggle." But the Jade Elf shook his head.

"I am afraid my employer has foreseen this, and there is a clause in my contract guarding against this request precisely. I am sorry, I really am." There was a blade in his hand now. The Duke shrank back against the head of his bed.

"This has been an interesting talk, but I suppose our time is up. Do not stir! I would like to make it painless." The assassin moved closer, around the corner of the bed. The shrunken, aged form lay very still, every muscle bunched.

When the knife came slashing down, the old Elf burst into frantic motion. He tumbled down the edge of the bed. The murderer lunged again, across the tangled bedding, and Cadion kicked the side-table against his shins. It was futile. Once he had been a proud warrior, leading armies from the front. But now he was a frail old man. His breath came in short, ragged gasps, and his back felt sprained. He knew he was no match for the trained, lithe young Elf. Not anymore. He looked down at the knife protruding from his chest, at the blood on the sheets. It was surprisingly little blood. His hands and feet felt numb.

He looked up, but the assassin was already gone. He heard steps on the spiral stairs. The guard. But too late. A wry chuckle shook his frame and sent blood bubbling on his lips. He felt the life leaving him rapidly. His thoughts had a strange, detached clarity. His son. His daughter. The blood. Yes, the blood.

He awkwardly dipped his numb finger into his blood and began writing on the sheets.



This was to be a game of Crystal Lotus vs. Blackblood... with a twist. The leader of the Crystal forces, Prince Corian of the Emerald House, would be ambushed by a small force of Vulture Clan Dwarves on Turn 4. On the same turn, reinforcements from the Houseīs Lotus Guard would arrive, trying to intercept the ambush before the Vultures can shoot down the Prince and his retinue.
"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."

Offline Manic _Miner

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 Great intro to a game.Set's the scene very well.Looking forward to hearing more and seeing what forces you use.

Offline Cirith

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Great intro to a game.Set's the scene very well.Looking forward to hearing more and seeing what forces you use.

Sounds exciting... looking forward to the read.
People willing to trade their freedom for security deserve neither and will lose both.

Offline Horned Owl

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The House of the Emerald Dragon is a minor House nominally affiliated with the Crystal Lotus. It sits on the Great Houseīs borders on the Northern Plains. The Dukes of the Emerald House take pride in their hereditary position of defending the Elven Realms against the numerous raiding tribes, Devout incursions, and recently, Blackblood ambition in this far-flung corner of the world.

The present, though, has seen its share of political upheaval. Duke Crassus from the Obsidian Houseīs Southern provinces blatantly claimed the hand of the reigning Emerald Dukeīs daughter, Lissa, for his son – backing up his courtship with political pressure in the Elven Courts and veiled military threats. The shrewd Crystal Duke Zazen has noted this turn of events with disquiet. The marriage seems a minor enough affair, but if something was to happen to the reigning Emerald Duke and his son, suddenly Crassusī son would find himself head of the Emerald House – which would expose the Crystal Lotusī Northern flank unless concessions were made to the Obsidian Dukes for the continued defense of those quarters.

Zazen quietly backed up the Emerald Duke with promises of military aid, and started to foil Crassusī allies in the court. Cadion, emboldened by Zazenīs support, dared to defy the Obsidian Serpent, refusing the marriage outright. Duke Crassus flew into a rage and ordered Cadionīs death and that of his son. Not even caring to disguise his lust, he swore that he would break Lissa to his will, make her his and his sonīs plaything, and force the summoned spirits of her father and brother to watch.

Crassusī hired assassin killed the Emerald Duke, but the old man managed to write a message in his own blood before he died, telling of Crassusī treachery and the dire danger for Cadionīs son. When Duke Zazen received word of this, he reacted immediately and sent an elite force of Lotus Guard and Crystal Knights to the grasslands where Prince Corian was orchestrating the fight against a blackblood incursion, trying to reach the young Emerald Prince before the trap was sprung. He just hoped his warriors would arrive in time: already the Vulture mercenaries were closing in on the area.

-----

The Emerald House Contingent

Prince Corianīs retinue were standard House troops. A honour guard of Axemen accompanied the Prince (as there was little chance of anyone on this battlefield causing fear, I decided to forgo the standard, but took a full complement of Axemen and Axemasters). For the Prince, we shook a quick set of stats from our sleeve. I did not think of him as in the same league as a Crystal Knight or anything similar. He was a young man who had had to mature quickly due to his fatherīs frailty, reasonably battle-trained but still reliant on advisors. One such advisor was Alaric, a Blue Lotus-Eater seconded from the Crystal House. His presence was fortuitous – with his sorcerous powers, he might be able to whisk the young Prince to safety, or protect him from arrows with the Ethereal Dragon.

The axemen were supported by two units of Spearmen from the palace guard with heavy oval shields and curved spears. The rest of the troops were Emerald House rangers (using Archer stats) and Militia – the Houseīs standard troops for patrols on the wide Northern Plains.


Prince Corian
CC [14] - MW [10] - Pw [ 0] - Ld [15] - Ac [ 3] - W [ 2] - St [ 0] - Mv [ 3] - A [24] - Def [-2] - S [ 1]
Special abilities: Immune to Panic. Secondary Attack. Feint.
Armed with: 2 Longswords.

Alaric
Blue Lotus Eater
- Ethereal Dragon
- Wind Blast
- Sky Chariot
- Tempest

Axemen (Corianīs honour guard)
8 Elven Axemen
2 Elven Axemasters
1 Elven Axeman leader

Spearmen
6 Elven Spearmen
1 Elven Spearmen Standard bearer
1 Elven Spearman leader

Spearmen
6 Elven Spearmen
1 Elven Spearmen Standard bearer
1 Elven Spearman leader

Militia
8 Elven Militia
1 Elven Militia leader

Militia
8 Elven Militia
1 Elven Militia leader

Ranger contingent
6 Elven Archers
1 Elven Archer Leader

Ranger contingent
6 Elven Archers
1 Elven Archer Leader
« Last Edit: January 10, 2012, 07:04:11 AM by Horned Owl »
"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."

Offline Horned Owl

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The rescuers

Zazenīs elite troops were hastening to the grasslands. They caught up with Corianīs rearguard and learned that the young prince was leading a sally against the retreating Blackbloods and had been separated from the main host. As no one could say for sure where the Prince could be found, Zazenīs host divided into several troops, each led by a Crystal Knight, and fanned out. One of these contingents finally reached Corianīs force just as the ambush was sprung.

This contingent would show up at the start of Turn 4 (at the same time as the Vulture troops). Each warband and individual would arrive at a random point in the Elven deployment zone.


Lord Phristan
Crystal Knight

Zazenīs Lotus Guard
4 Lotus Guard
1 Leader

Zazenīs Lotus Guard
4 Lotus Guard
1 Leader

Zazenīs Lotus Guard
4 Lotus Guard
1 Leader
"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."

Offline Horned Owl

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The Blackblood host

The Blackblood raiders had enjoyed some initial successes, storming and sacking two outposts on the plain. They then had ventured to strike out across the open range at the Emerald fortress of Zumurrad, but soon overreached themselves as their baggage train was harried by the Elven rangers. Realising that his large and unwieldy force was too slow to effect a retreat in the face of the nimble Elven skirmishers, the Blackblood commander split his troops and had the individual contingents retreat towards the Empireīs border fortresses separately.

Prince Corian, tasting victory, had gone against his mentorsī advice and pursued with his reserves, cutting down stragglers and preventing the main contingents from regrouping. When the Princeīs forces started to spread out and lose cohesion, the wily Ogre commander seized the opportunity and sent one of his contingents back, straight at the enemy leader and his guard. What had been a merry hunt for disorganised Goblins suddenly turned into a life-and-death melee.

The Blackbloods were outnumbered and outclassed (they had 400 points less than their Elven adversaries), but they were determined to strike down the Prince even if it meant their own death.


Troll
with Net, Falchion and Gauntlet Scythes


Troll
with Net, Falchion and Gauntlet Scythes

Orc Alchemist of the Burning Star

Outriders
2 Goblin Ripper Beast Lancers

Outriders
2 Goblin Ripper Beast Lancers

Assault Warriors
4 Orc Assault Warriors
1 Orc Assault Warrior standard bearer
1 Orc Assault Warrior leader

Assault Warriors
4 Orc Assault Warriors
1 Orc Assault Warrior standard bearer
1 Orc Assault Warrior leader

Spearmen
8 Goblin Spearmen
1 Goblin Spearman leader
"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."

Offline Manic _Miner

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 Great update.Keeps me checking back every day.

Offline Horned Owl

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The Vulture mercenaries

Duke Crassus had always enjoyed good relations with the mercenary Vulture Clan. When he told the emissary of his plight, the old Dwarf smiled a toothless smile, spread his hands wide and unctuously ventured a possible solution. Gold changed hands, and on the same day, a band of grim Dwarves donned their soot-blackened armour and started the trek towards the grasslands.

The Vulture contingent would arrive on the start of Turn 4. There were five possible exits strung out in a ragged line that ran the center of the tabletop, and they could choose where to appear. If a warband panicked, it would run towards the nearest exit and, upon reaching it, disappear. There would be no rallying.


Vulture Marksman

Vulture Marksman

Vulture Crossbowmen
4 Vulture Crossbowmen

Vulture Crossbowmen
4 Vulture Crossbowmen

"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."

Offline Cirith

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It is gonna be hard work stopping those Vulture clan Warriors from getting the job done.

Good Luck!!!
People willing to trade their freedom for security deserve neither and will lose both.

Offline Horned Owl

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Oh, I had the Ethereal Dragon and... but read on.
"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."

Offline Horned Owl

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There was a chill in the air that told of coming winter. The grass was brittle on the rolling hills, and the bare rocks seemed to jut out of the blue-green lichen like misshapen teeth from dry gums. On the left, the Elven archers had taken up their positions on the shallow flank of a hill, behind the militia who pulled their fur-lined cloaks tightly around their bodies. Their breath was visible as little puffs of mist. The right flank was held by an inverted triangle: two warbands of spearmen forward, the Prince and his guard of axemen somewhat behind them. The center was taken by the Blue Lotus Eater. He had told Corian his tactical opinion, and for once the young Prince had actually listened. He was learning quickly. Alaric just hoped it would not be too late.

The way the Lotus Eater had put it, Corian had two choices. If he pushed forward, he would deny the opponent the narrow passes in the center and be in a better position. On the other hand, it would take reinforcements more time to reach the front, and something told Alaric to beware of the cave mouths in the center. There was no knowing what might lurk inside.

The other option was to sit still and let the enemy come to him. With his spearmen and archers, Corianīs host was well suited to defense, but the enemy could pick where to attack and would be protected by the rocks on most of their approach. It was a cloven choice, to be sure. The young Prince looked down the line at his tired Elves, and decided for the defensive option.


On the far end of the plain, the Blackbloods grouped. Opposite the Elven spearmen were the outriders, Goblins mounted on ill-tempered Ripper beasts, followed by two large and grim-looking Trolls. The center was taken by a warband of Goblin spearmen. And on the right flank stood the proud Orcs. They were few, but they were assault warriors from Bezek, rightfully feared throughout the lands of Chronopia for their prowess in battle. The massing of the swiftest troops on the left, facing the Elven spearmen and guard, heralded a quick strike at the Prince. The Goblins and Trolls would then probably try to roll up the Elven flank from there.
"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."

Offline Cirith

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Good stuff.. the Elves better protect Alaric though, a well timed Sky Chariot will save the day every time.
People willing to trade their freedom for security deserve neither and will lose both.

Offline Horned Owl

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The Elves did little for the first two turns, holding their position and catching their breath from the chase as the Blackblood negotiated the rocky crags. The Lotus-Eater moved among the men. He seemed to grow taller as his body became suffused with the essence of Lotus he had ingested. His skin took on a eerie translucent quality. As he chanted,  a bluish mist seemed to wrap itself around the nearest militia like the coils of a great serpent – the Ethereal Dragon, called to shield the men from attack.

A waiting Elven archer suddenly gave a great shout and drew his bow, loosing at an assault warrior as he darted between the rocks. It was a difficult shot at a moving target in cover of the rough shrubs, but the Orc went down, with the arrow through his neck. A cheer went up from the Elven host.

Opposite the Princeīs position, the Trolls and Ripper Beast lancers had crested the low rise. The alchemist followed in the shadow of the burly Trolls, his scimitar still sheathed on his back. The Elven spears on the right flank moved slightly to interpose themselves between the Prince and the Trolls.

-----

On turn three, the assault warriors broke from their position between the rocks. The Elves were ready. More arrows sped towards the Blackblood elite, but skipped off their armour or buried themselves in the turf. The first shot had been lucky. With a deep guttural roar, the Orcs let their own arrows fly, slashing into the spearmen. Five went down. Then Alaric began his chant again. His robes began to flutter, buffeted by an unseen wind. He drew a deep breath. And exhaled.

Suddenly a great gust of wind sprang up. The Goblin spearmen staggered back against the gale. One Troll kept his feet, leaning into the wind and grunting with the strain, but his battle-brother was blown backwards into one of the standing rocks. Suddenly the Blackblood flank was bereft of its Goblin screen and wide open for the archers. Blue-green fletched shafts brought down the Troll who still struggled, cursing, against the wind. The Alchemist was by his side in an instant and forced a phial between his lips. The golden liquid trickled down his throat, and the Troll opened his eyes. Shakily he got to his feet, black blood still dripping down his muscular chest. A second potion, and his gaze grew steady. The blood flow stopped. The Troll fixed his eyes on the Elven line and bellowed his rage, but kept his position as his brother staggered back to his side. To have charged the hedge of spears alone would have meant his death.

Meanwhile, the assault warriors had let their arrows fly. The green line of militiamen grew thinner as the front rank was mown down.

-----

Suddenly, there was motion in the shadows of the rock. Ape-like, clad in soot-black armour, the squat forms of Dwarves issued from the cave. Suddenly the air was full of crossbow bolts. Before anyone could react, a third of the Princeīs guard of axemen was down, and the Prince himself dropped with a shaft through his shoulder. Just as one of the Vulture marksmen took aim at the wounded Elf, the Lotus-Eater waved his arms and shouted something. He was completely under the sway of the Lotus seed now, his form blurred and translucent, and once more, he conjured up the Ethereal Dragon. The blue coils wove themselves out of the air around the embattled axemen and their Prince, shielding them from the deadly ambush.

In frustration, the Dwarf marksman whipped his crossbow around and sent three bolts slashing into the spearmen. They found the gaps between shields, the vulnerable joints. The last spearmen on the left flank went down, their frost-rimmed banner sinking to the ground.

The Ripper Beast lancers spurred their mounts, and the Trolls broke into a run. Together, they charged the spearmen. The leader hissed a command, and eight spear-points formed a barbed hedge bristling with steel. When the Goblins crashed into the line with their lances, they were killed instantly. One Troll was run through the side with a spear, but he leaned over the Spearmanīs shield and punched his gauntlet scythe through his head. His brother smashed his falchion into the line of shields, then slashed left and right with his scythes. Elves were sent flying as he carved a gap through the warband.

Behind the Elven lines, the Lotus guard double-paced towards the battle lines. One unit scaled the hill to the left – too far away to reach the Prince! The second warband appeared far on the right, between the rocky outcroppings. But suddenly the air seemed to get colder, and like a silvery star rising on the horizon, the Knight came up right behind the axemen. Lord Phristan was a tall Elf, clad in the bulky plate mail of a Crystal Knight, his purple robes stiff with frost. Ice crystals had formed on his armour and weapon. With a detached glance, he assessed the situation, and strode towards the Princeīs left flank, where the spearmenīs standard had fallen. Reverently, he took up the banner from the dead Elfīs cold fingers and planted it upright in the frozen earth.

The militia and archers had moved up to intercept the assault warriors who loosed arrows from their bows as they strode forward towards Corianīs position. Red-fletched arrows sped toward Lord Phristan, who calmly batted them aside with the Lotus-shaped head of his spear.

-----

The Dwarves knew they had been foiled by the Lotus-Eaterīs magic. In frustration, they slung their crossbows and drew their bastard swords, marching towards the axemen. The Goblins ran forward and tried to form a shaky line, to protect the Vulture mercenaries until they could do their work.

Peeking behind the Trollīs broad back, the Alchemist threw a copper phial at the spearmenīs line. It landed on an oval shield and burst into flames, killing one Elf and singing another. The spearmen reeled, stabbing at the trolls and bringing one of the hulking forms down. His brother went into a killing frenzy, stabbing and slashing in bloody arcs, then he swept up the standard bearer into a terrible bear hug. Bones snapped, and with a victorious roar, he flung the maimed Elf down. The few spearmen that had survived his rage turned and fled.

In the center, Lord Phristan strode forward. His spear reached out, slashing one Vulture marksmanīs gut like a cold scythe. Frost began to rim the Dwarvesī armour as the temperature dropped sharply. The other marksman, with frozen fingers, fumbled a bolt into his crossbow and pulled the trigger. But the bowstring, brittle with the unnatural cold, snapped with a short pang. More arrows from the assault warriors pinged off the Knightīs armour, and then one of the Orcs found his mark. Suddenly, a red-painted shaft jutted out from between the icy plates. Blood seeped sluggishly from the wound.

The Lotus Guard converged on the battle, still too far away. The militia caught up with the second assault warband who had turned and readied their spears. There was a quick exchange of stabs and slashes at long range. Two Orcs and two militiamen died. The archers pulled fresh arrows from their quivers and sent them diagonally across the field, dropping more Orcs.

The situation looked grim. Two Vulture warbands, one Troll and the Alchemist were converging on the embattled axemen who desperately tried to protect the Prince. Already the Ethereal Dragon was dissipating into the cold air. On their left, the wounded Crystal Knight was impassively facing down two warbands of assault warriors. Alaric knew with sudden clarity that this was a cusp: one of those moments where fate hung in the balance, waiting only for the slightest tip to swing either way. And he was ready.

Blazing with Lotos energy, the Elf began to dance. Intricate steps traced invisible lines in a complex pattern. And the Princeīs axemen responded. They, too, seemed to shimmer, fading out of existence like phantoms. And suddenly, they were gone. There was a rush of air, as if an invisible chariot had passed, and their hazy forms reappeared near the Lotus Guard between the rocks on the right – far from the battle that was going on in the center. If the Guardsmen were surprised, their faces betrayed no sign of it. They calmly drew their swords, ready to defend their charge with their lives.

------

The Vultures saw their success snatched away just at the moment that their prey had been helpless before them. For a moment, they simply stood and looked with hate-filled eyes at the Elven line. Then as one, as if on an invisible cue, they unslung their crossbows and started shooting.

Alaric had known what was coming. With the axemen out of harmīs way, he stood alone on the plain. His last thought, as the bolts thudded into him, was on the clearness and beauty of the day. His gaze, all senses heightened by the Lotus state, followed the beautiful patterns that his blood made on the frozen ground. Then he was solid and real, all of a sudden, and fell over.

The Crystal Knight turned his face towards the second marksman. The Vulture Dwarf suddenly seemed to shrink. There was something in the unfocused, detached gaze of the Elf that could even give a stolid Dwarven veteran pause. He felt the unnatural cold seeping into his bones. His hands were numb with frost.

He did not feel it when the spear sliced upwards, taking his head off. He did not hear the shouts of his brothers, did not see the Knight go down in a shower of bolts.

On the left, the archers mauled the assault warriors. The Orcs shouldered their wounded and broke off, pursued by the militia. The Troll on the right bellowed with rage, but he knew better than to charge the Lotus Guard and Axemen alone. He was almost choking with the indignity. A quick glance at the Alchemist, who was tending to his fallen brother: the Orc shook his head. With a last mournful howl, the Troll set out back towards the cover of the rocks.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2012, 10:04:58 AM by Horned Owl »
"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."

Offline Horned Owl

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A makeshift camp had been erected out of spears and cloaks. Leaning against a stunted tree, the Prince watched as the chirurgeon set his shoulder and bandaged it with clean linen. Her hands were very strong and deft. The pain was receding, fading to a dull ache from the potion he had been given, and he finally had the opportunity to think.

The captain of the Lotus Guard stood in front of him with his arms folded. Fatigue was etched deeply on his face, but he did not betray any feelings. It was hard to like the Elves of the Crystal Lotus, Corian decided, even if one owed them oneīs life. Perhaps it was the constant exposure to the magical Lotus plant that had shaped the Elven Housesī character. Where the House of Helios was flamboyant and impulsive, given to swift action, and the Obsidian House carnal, with deep dark urges driving them – well, the Crystal Elves were bloodless, detached, and cold. Like their icy Lotus flower that grew only in the shadow of the harshest glaciers. This Elf did show no satisfaction though he had carried through his mission against all odds.

"I had no opportunity to thank you for the timely rescue," Corian managed to say, quickly regaining his courtly manners. "Please forgive me for not rising."

"There is nothing to thank for," the Guardsman answered coolly. "I was only carrying out orders. In the absence of Lord Phristan, I am afraid I have to give you a message that concerns your father, who was murdered five days ago. My liege, Duke Zazen, advises you to repair with all haste to Zumurrad, and to assume your regency. And he also would like to warn you that, by surviving, you have made an enemy of Duke Crassus of the Obsidian House. He bids you take the necessary precautions."

Corian felt as if he had been stabbed in the stomach with an icy dagger. My father, he thought, overwhelmed with shock and remorse. Then he regained his senses. There was a strange glint in the Guardsmanīs eye. Corian pulled himself upright and suppressed a wince.

"He bids me?" And with sudden and terrible clarity, he knew that this was a test. This Elf was measuring him, and he would be bringing back his opinion to Duke Zazen. His words and actions now would dictate relations between their Houses for the future. If he showed weakness now, Zazen would treat him accordingly. As a vassal who could be ordered. How had Alaric called this kind of situation? A cusp. Where the future balances on the edge of a knife. With an effort, he pushed back the awful thought of his old teacher lying lifeless on the plain, and concentrated on the danger at hand.

Could he afford to antagonise the Crystal Duke? He needed him as an ally. Desperately so. But he realised that Zazen needed the Emerald House as well – why else would he have intervened and saved Corian? But the captain was already answering.

"In your own interest, to avoid the fate of your father. He further suggests that marrying your sister Lissa to a suitable prince from the Crystal Lotus may not only further strengthen the bonds of friendship between our Houses, but also reduce the threat against your –"

"With all due respect, messenger, I am able to make my own decisions." The captain cast a wry glance at the wounded soldiers in the makeshift infirmary, the first sign of emotion that Corian had seen with him. He did not like it. Before the Lotus Guard could make an equally caustic remark, the Prince continued: "However, Duke Zazenīs advice is much appreciated, especially as it shows such consideration for my well-being. Please confer my regards to my Ducal peer," – this last was added with just the right hint of emphasis – "and assure him that I am positive the future will see goodwill between our Houses."

The captain was peering intently at him. Then, abruptly, he said, "So I will. If Your Highness will excuse me?"

"Of course. My lieutenant will see that you and your men are provisioned at once." A hint of displeasure, carefully disguised. Just like his father had taught him.

"Thank you very much, Highness." The messenger bowed and left.

With the Crystal Elf gone, Corian pulled aside the curtain and entered his own quarters. And finally gave in to the tears.
"How was I supposed to know he was an unarmed man? His back was to me."

Offline Cirith

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Ah Alaric... he died well..

Thanks for the report, it was a good read. I thought the Vultures would win the day for sure.
People willing to trade their freedom for security deserve neither and will lose both.