WA Delegate (non-executive): The Reconstruction of Aelythium (elected )
Founder: The Grand Empire of Rolais
Last WA Update:
Regional Power: Moderate
Today's World Census Report
The Least Corrupt Governments in Arkonos
World Census agents tempted government officials with financial and other inducements to bend the rules and recorded how often their proposals were declined.
As a region, Arkonos is ranked 24,385th in the world for Least Corrupt Governments.
|1.||The Protectorate of Tsifyrettop||Left-wing Utopia||“For the Greater Good”|
|2.||The Democratic Republic of Elikonia||Inoffensive Centrist Democracy||“Fostering Excellency With Social and Economic Prowess”|
|3.||The Republic of Russo-Japanese Empire||New York Times Democracy||“Από Πέρα από τον Τάφο”|
|4.||The Kingdom of Corcaigh Mor||Democratic Socialists||“Crom idir sinn agus an t-olc.”|
|5.||The Reconstruction of Aelythium||Inoffensive Centrist Democracy||“The Chimera forever defiant”|
|6.||The League of Baccar||Inoffensive Centrist Democracy||“Baccar forever”|
|7.||The Democratic Republic of Hastoecia||Inoffensive Centrist Democracy||“Pride and Industry”|
|8.||The Democratic Republic of Fuji||Anarchy||“United we stand united we fall”|
|9.||The Community of Hesukar||Anarchy||“If you can't see the sunshine, become the sunshine”|
|10.||The Democratic Republic of Camination||Civil Rights Lovefest||“Unus pro Omnibus, Omnes pro Uno”|
- : Holy united russian empire ceased to exist.
- : Reinchlandia ceased to exist.
- : The Tong Empire of Uyuti rejected Regionless's request for regional embassies.
- : The Democratic Republic of Alfenia departed this region for The Pacific.
- : Stephenwar ceased to exist.
- : Wild bohemoth ceased to exist.
- : The Fderation of Australian rePublic of the region Regionless proposed constructing embassies.
- : Mawagansett ceased to exist.
- : The Republic of Sevelto arrived from The West Pacific.
- : Nerchoo huomscaldvic ceased to exist.
Arkonos Regional Message Board
In the past, Armagdansk was once a civilization based on the coasts of the Margda Peninsula. The civilization was never able to expand into the inner parts of the peninsula due to once, a myth existed. The Unala was a creature, with 3 eyes, 2 strong legs and arms, everyone in the civilization feared it causing the civilization not being able to expand inner. Soon, a group of people appeared in the civilization, we thought it was friendly, however it was something much worse. They claimed to come from a civilization called "Kostua". They we're sent from their leader to expand their empire, we thought they we're friendly. Instead, they caused massacres in the civilization, yet also introduced us to many things, such as fire, ice, etc. They created a puppet state called Margda, which oppressed the people. One person however was against them, that person happened to be Skalae Armencei. He was strongly against the rule of the Kostua, once the Kostua Empire started to collapse, he started a revolution. The Margda Revolution was a revolution led by Skalae Armencei and was success causing the independence of two independent states, which we're Armag, and Dansk. Both had a horrible start, due to this, there we're many people who proposed for a unified state between those two, including Skalae Armencei. It seemed like a unified state was about to occur, but when people least expected it, Skalae Armencei died. Skalae's date of birth became the start of the calendar each Armagian and Dansker would use, the Armencei Calendar. With it, Skalae officially died in the year of 82. Due to this, the proposed unification of Armag and Dansker quickly plummeted. Soon on the year of 104, both kingdoms collapsed. For the years being, a united state was not able to be formed until a glorious year. The year was 522, a certain relative of Skalae called "Denarvi Armencei" was a strong supporter for a united state, he proposed the name of Armag-dansk, which would be a name known to many people located in the Margda Peninsula. Soon, the state called Armagdansk was finally formed on 21st Okvelia 524 on the continent of Tylos, on the peninsula known as the Margda Peninsula, the Kingdom of Armagdansk was formed. Soon on 16th Maertha 658, the Republican Revolution occoured, which caused Armagdansk to become a Inoffensive Centrist Capitalist, soon becoming a Democratic Socialist.[/u]
Thunder cracked in the night's sky like a whip coming down on the ground only to be followed by an explosion of lightning splitting a tree in half not thirty feet from Ulf and his. The damage was done, and at least four members of the opposing Jarls forces were now charred and dead on the ground. “Jarl Ulf, truly Wolf is smiling upon us. We must seize the moment for our people!” These were the words of a leather-clad berserker who stood next to the blonde-haired Jarl of the North who had sought to unify the Fesoan people for some time. And tonight they were engaged in combat upon the outskirts of the city Hamrar, a place that had been a neutral city for so long amongst the clans, but now was no longer.
“Fear not my friend, we will win this battle. But remember the goal is not to slaughter our kin but to bring them together.” Ulf reminded him as he motioned forward, sword and shield in his hands. As rain fell down upon them, mud kicked up underneath them as their boots stomped through the ground one step at a time on the battlefield. The Jarl fought his way through the enemy line, blood coating his blade as bodies fell before him. But he gave pause as across the field he could see the leader of the opposing forces, Jarl Floki Bragison.
It was in that moment that suddenly the world seemed to go still all around him, a gray fog sweeping the lands. No one was moving any longer, it was if all the fighting had stopped and Ulf was confused. Stepping forward he called out, “Erik, are you there brother? Freya, where are you?” he looked for his two closest friends and sharpest warriors on the field but the fog grew thicker. As he walked along further he was suddenly met by a large Wolf who sat in a clearing waiting for him. “Hello Ulf, son of Orm. Come and sit before me.” the Wild Spirit spoke, though its mouth never seemed to move.
Ulf was almost hesitant at first, humbled to be in the presence of the great Wolf Spirit, but he felt a calmness wash over him and did as he was told. “Oh great Wolf Spirit, why have you taken me from my men in their moment of need in battle?” he asked, curious as to what it was that he was being called away for. Had he died and not realized it? Was this the afterlife? If so were his friends and family, and all of the great mead halls? “Calm your heart Ulf, for you still live.” the great Spirit assured him.
“I have brought you here to give you guidance on the path that lies before you. What you do next will set in course events that will change the fate of all your people and there is no going back.” The warning was dire and vague as well. It spoke of something to come but said little more. “What, what is it I will do?” Ulf questioned. “I cannot tell you, but you will know in your heart by my lessons when the time comes.”
Ulf opened his mouth to ask another question but the moment was over and suddenly he heard the slam of an ax slamming down next to him and then from the corner of his eye he watched a decapitated head fall down onto the ground. “Jarl, are you okay? You seemed lost for a moment there.” It was the voice of Freya who he had been looking for just minutes beforehand. “Yes, yes, just…I will explain later. Push forward!” he replied as he looked for Jarl Olaf and moved through the battlefield once more.
Splinters tore through the air as an ax came crashing down into the shield of Ulf, his sword rising quickly to parry a dagger that lunged for his side. The two Jarls had found one another and now blows were being exchanged. Floki ripped his ax backward and tore it from the shield, more splinters flying out but with the momentum of the yank he was caught off guard and left open leading to receive a gash along the side of his left arm from Ulf. “Come now Floki, let us end this, surrender and you will die with honor.”
Floki stood at nearly six feet two inches tall, black hair pulled back in a ponytail, and on this day blood dripped down his face and in between his green eyes. Grunting he offered some choice foul words to Ulf before landing a succession of strikes which were met with parries, the sound of steel upon steel filling the air. It was the last parry however that Ulf was able to knock free the ax from his opponent's hand and send it flying across the battlefield. He followed the graceful parry with a counter, his shield slamming into the head of the Fesoanian, knocking him down to the ground and out cold.
It was there at that moment Ulf raised his blade to kill the Jarl Bragison. The battle would be ended and unification would be his to dictate. However, there was suddenly a nagging feeling in his heart. How would unification by force truly succeed? Would the brotherhood of his people ever be realized as great raiders, sailors, or even traders as he thought they could be if they were forced to do so? No, this had to be won by noble means. Lowering his blade, Ulf picked up Olaf, and then tearing cloth from his clothing he bound the arms of the Jarl together and captured him. It was that evening that was known as the night when Jarl Ulf, now the first King of Fesoan showed that mercy had its place in combat and brought together the clans.
The Long Game - I
Like nearly everyone else in Qirinai, news of Kaeleirai vacating the position of Aunatau had struck the offices of the overlooked bureaucrats who handled much of the necessary, unglamorous work that kept the nation running. An elected Parliament might pass the laws, but it was the appointed or hired workers in the back offices that kept things going. For one, Assistant Minister to the Navy Haolei, the times had shown him an opportunity. He was one of the old guard, growing elderly in years now, but not so old that he was beyond ambition. And his ambition was a return to the old ways. He'd been here before the reforms, and he'd be here after Kaeleirai and her ilk were gone. And for his he and his friends, they dreamed that those who would come to power now would realize the errors of their ways - or be made to realize them.
But things would need to be handled carefully. Time could not be wasted, but each move had to be considered carefully. The first move came in the form of a missive sent from a minor member of the ambassadorial staff in Rolais. That nation had recently changed its official religion if reports were to be believed, and while exchanging one human fallacy for another had no real effect on Qirinai, it seems that the new fallacy was leading to entanglement in affairs to the east. Eskeland had proven themselves friendly to Qirinai recently as well, so there was reason to be involved. The question was how to go about arranging it.
He thought for a while - until his tea ran out and his assistant popped in to say good night. Then he dipped his quill and began to write.
To the Hon. Daila K'thosi,
It has come to the attention of this office that we are in a position to repay the kindness of the Eskeland government and support our alliance member, Rolais. There is war brewing in the east, and our Navy is in a fine position to contribute to the stability of the region. It is therefore my recommendation that aside from such ships as is necessary to perform day-to-day duties, all active navy vessels be transferred to the Black Bay to assist Eskeland in any way possible, including the movement of troops, the evacuation of civilians, and the targeting of shoreline military targets. Our problem is that for months now, we have had no Ai-Aunatau, and now no Aunatau either. It is thus the recommendation of this office that emergency legislation be introduced to allow a one-time order of the navy, or to introduce direct Parliamentary control of the Navy until such time as an Aunatau be appointed. It is this office's interpretation of the law that if the Aunatau does not veto such legislation within seven days, that the law will be in force, and that vacation of the position of Aunatau does not supercede the time limit on vetos.
Asst. Minister to the Navy,
He folded his letter into a square, sealed it, and set it out to be picked up by the courier in the morning.
There. It was done. Soon, the navy would be out of play, and his plans could advance.
It was the following afternoon when the letter was received by its intended recipient. He had been chosen carefully. K'thosi was - to pout it simply - a buffoon who wanted his name to be known. It took him scarcely less time to read it than to act on it, and the bill he introduced into the lower house was very nearly word for word to what he'd received. But there was one more reason K'thosi had been a good choice. He had no real political clout, and so a bill from him, reasonable and friendly on its front, was readily agreed to, passed with some minor alteration to the wording to assure clear rules of engagement, and voted in.
The navy would be gone in a week, and once it was, there would be nothing in Haolei's way. Nothing to speak of, that is.
Dhorvas civil war: Fate of the Bay
Reflections in Silence
Ganai enjoyed the quiet before a major action. It was a moment of reflection on what they had done so far, and what they were intending to do. In the quiet, everything in his mind seemed to be laid bare for him. Mistakes, errors, solutions and plans for the future. He could see numerous scenarios unfolding each moment, almost in unison with the beating of his heart that was the only sound in the empty council chamber.
Much had changed. He knew some had questioned his decision to wait, to reorganize first, before setting out with ambitions. Ganai, however, was patient. The attempt against both he and his guest from Ryeongse had shown him that they had needed to focus on internal concerns first, less they become a festering problem later. He had initiated a purge and completely restructured both their military forces and even civilian life in Qalan. Niban had followed his instruction, implementing many of the same changes across the strait in Oyunai. The Tong had been influential in many of his changes.
Now the Tong were gone. Their departure was another reason many questioned his choice to wait, to bide their time. The Tong themselves had declared their goals complete, their task finished. Many lamented their departure, or more specifically the power that their presence had instilled. Ganai was less worried. The Tong had been right, their presence was no longer necessary. The Tong may be gone, but their lessons remained.
Ganai had benefited from their presence in many ways. With the aid of their fleet, they had captured many vessels of Borhai’s in the Bantry Bay. Vessels that were now part of Ganai’s own fleet. He had placed the dsen Ko Chul-Hae in command of this new fleet. This had been another reason for Ganai’s delay, to allow time for dsen commander to have their fleet amply prepared. It was one thing to acquire ships but an entirely different one to have capable forces for utilizing them.
While the fleet prepared, Ganai had set about restructuring their system of governance. He maintained the council, but it was reduced. Ganai understood now from observing the Tong that that had been a failing of Dhorvas. Too many voices with too many agendas of their own. It no longer surprised him that the Khurum had failed to maintain itself without one of the original founders at its head. Ganai now envisioned a more centralized system, a more unified purpose. He knew many of the bands and other groups would resist the idea. His fellow khemakh were accustomed to the Band system that had long been all they knew. The dsen, meanwhile, were still stuck in petty rivalries between their great cities. These divisions would have to end and be replaced by something stronger.
He would dissolve the bands outright for a start. A stable system required loyalty toward a single head, not divided loyalties to many. The dsen cities would present a harder problem to solve. Ganai considered that encouraging movement within the populations might help, both with the dsen and his fellow khemakh. With many people of different backgrounds, they would be less likely to rally as a united, rebellious force. Regional governors would be more preoccupied with maintaining order in their areas than with larger ambitions.
The silence of the chamber was broken by the sound of approaching footsteps. Ganai lamented its passing. He glanced toward the entryway to see Hun Syeon arrive. The dsen gave a salute, striking his chest with his closed right fist. He was dressed in his prefered tunic of red with gold trim beneath his lamellar armor. His curved horns were adorned with paint and small metal bands of gold. He held his almost bowl-like helm at his left side.
“We are ready,” said Syeon.
Ganai rose from his seat on the dias. He paused to look over the map that covered its wood surface. One could forget how fractured and divided Dhorvas was when looking at the map. There was much yet to be done, and it was time to begin.
Ganai reached the docks as the last few ships began to disembark, making his way to the vessel that he would be sailing on. He intended to see this battle through personally, though much of it would be delegated to Ko Chul-Hae. Shrada was there waiting for them as Syeon and he arrived.
“Ko Chul-Hae has already departed with the main force.” she said. She turned as she spoke, giving the usual salute.
“Very good.” replied Ganai. “Then let us not wait any longer.” He gestured forward and the three boarded. They made their way toward the stern as the crew began their well practiced work. Many of them were local dsen who had been mere fishermen before. They knew their way in the water. Now they were drilled and trained for sailing larger vessels and warfare on the water. They would soon find out the fruits of all their hard work.
“Finally,” said Syeon beside Ganai. The dsen was gazing out toward the horizon of the Bay. A number of ships in the fleet that had already set their course were still visible.
“Did you doubt this day would come?” asked Shrada.
“I admit, I was beginning to wonder,” said Syeon. He spared a sideways glance at Ganai.
Ganai smirked. He had to admit that seeing the fleet sailing before them stirred the anticipation and the eagerness in him as well. “Patience bears its rewards, as we will soon find.”
The others nodded in response and the three watched the fleet ahead of them, each awaiting the battle to come with eager anticipation.
Broken Peace in Fuyuan
Borhai watched the clouds meander across the sky. A couple were darker than the rest and he wondered if it would rain on them while they enjoyed a moment respite. He lowered his eyes back down to the game of Gurshavel he was playing. His opponent was still deliberating their move.
Tan Huo was deep in thought, brushing his long, groomed beard, which was beginning to show strains of white amongst the thick black that matched his fur. The older monsu was one of Borhai’s advisors since he captured the island for Dhorvas. He had also become a close friend and the two often played gurshavel or other games as they discussed anything from strategy and administration to the best way to enjoy coffee, such as they did at that very moment. It was a fleeting enjoyment as their reserves of such luxuries were limited these days. Something Borhai hoped to rectify soon.
“It’s time to make a move,” said Borhai.
“Are you referring to me or to your ambitions?”, asked Huo without looking up from the board.
Borhai let a small chuckle escape. His eyes flashed toward the clouds again. The threat of rain seemed to have gone. “The Tong are gone.”
“Their forces have left. Their ships no longer command the Bay. Ganai now stands alone.”
Huo was quiet. After a moment he reached forth, pushing one of his jachi, or spearman, pieces forward, taking one of Borhai’s morkharva, or mounted archers. “The Tong are more than their forces. The direct threat may be gone, but they will have left their impression.”
Borhai considered this. They had heard little out of Qalan since the Tong had left. They did not truly know what was going on there. Did it matter? He could not remain in Fuyuan. He had lost too many ships and needed to act, and act soon. He had hoped to expect support from Oghal and the Mergen, but news had told how they were bogged down in a war with the other Dhorva bands for supremacy. Oghal had even resorted to hiring mercenaries; elves from the far south. There would be no help from her.
“Either way, we cannot wait any longer. We need to secure the Bay, then we can move to assist Oghal on the mainland.” Borhai said as he leaned forward to move his mage and remove one of Huo’s spearmen.
Huo looked up at Borhai and was about to speak when the air began to echo with the sound of drums. It took a moment for Borhai to clearly hear the particular rhythm. Once the message begame clear his eyes widened. Both of them rose at once and began to make their way with a quick pace. Their game would have to wait. A new game seemed to be beginning.
Borhai arrived atop the battlements, dressed now in his armor of bronze lamellar plates atop an azure tunic that contrasted with his green scales. Huo was beside him, as was the alati human, Iodas. The human’s long, black hair was bound and his face painted with symbols of the alati. His armor was of simple leather. Two more khemakh officers approached; a male named Dhunan and a female named Cota. The two gray-scales saluted as they reached Borhai.
“What is the situation?” asked Cota.
“Aside from being attacked?” asked Iodas. Cota glared at the human.
“Khadan is leading our ships to counter Ganai’s fleet,” said Huo. The monsu did not look toward heer but kept his eyes out over the water as their own ships moved to meet the enemy.
“Then it is Ganai?” asked Dhunan.
Dhunan sounded almost relieved and it made Borhai feel a tinge of irritation stir in his stomach. Now was not a time for underestimating the enemy at their door. Huo must have felt the same as he turned to chastise the officer.
“It is too soon to feel relieved. They have us caught off guard, and their fleet may match our own.”
“But Khadan leads ours. Does Ganai have a shipmaster as capable?”
“We will know soon.”
“Enough” said Borhai. He turned toward the others gathered. “Dhunan, Cota, I want you to prepare our forces here for any land assault Ganai’s forces may attempt. I have already sent Hyo-Rin toward the north of the island to rally the soldiers there. You will support her.” he said, referring to the female dsen officer he had dispatched already. The two khemakh saluted and did not question the orders before quickly moving to carry them out.
“We would have had more warning if he had chosen to land on the north of the island.” remarked Iodas.
“Yes, it seems he chose to simply sail further into the bay and come straight for Fuyuan.” said Huo.
“Which means he has nowhere to retreat but back across the bay.” said Borhai.
That understanding did little to reassure him. First they needed to turn Ganai’s fleet back. The first ships of his own fleet were nearing the enemy now and he could hear drums across the waves, both Khadan’s own and those of Ganai’s forces. The fate of the Bay might well be decided this day.
Battle of the Bay
Ko Chul-Hae watched from the bow of his ship as the opposing ships scrambled to meet them in any form of defense. The tall dsen was an imposing presence even on his own ship, with his long horns arching upward which helped give him the impression of being a giant among the rest of his sailors. His armor was light to allow him speed when boarding other vessels, and he intended to board many today.
Ko had been a bandit before, a raider who targeted ships bearing luxuries into the ports within the bay. That had changed after he was captured near Qalan. He had been prepared to face his death then, but fate had had other plans. Ganai had sought to use his naval experience and made him a commander in his growing fleet, a fleet that Ko now commanded. He intended to make good use of it.
He had sailed his fleet further out into the bay to curve around toward the city of Fuyuan, bypassing the rest of the island where they likely had expected them to arrive. His own ships were spread out forming a long crescent on the water, seeking to contain their foe within and pin them against their own port. Keeping their ships together would make them easier to board.
“They think they can make a stand against us.” Ko shouted out to those on his ship. “Let’s send their corpses below with their ships!” A cheer erupted from those around. Ko shouted orders and he felt the ship shift beneath him as they were carried out, leading them straight for their enemy. “Archers ready!” he commanded.
As they closed the distance, Ko raised his axe high, signaling their archers to draw. When they were close enough to see their counterparts on the decks of their ships, Ko dropped his axe and a flurry of arrows released, carrying death to their destination. Some of the arrows had been lit, aiming to set the enemy ships ablaze. They struck home in a large vessel not far to the port of where Ko stood and his men cheered as the fire began to spread.
A shout from near Ko warned him and the rest of the arrows being sent towards them. Ko raised a small shield and knelt, trying to limit the target his large personage made. The patter of arrows striking into wood echoed around him, mixed with the occasional cry of pain as some were struck. Once the volley had passed he stood and surveyed the toll. Four men were down. Acceptable. Ko gave a defiant shout and the sailors followed. At his orders the ship turned to port, bringing itself near the side of the enemy ship and Ko prepared to board.
Khadan shouted for the fires to be put out before they could spread. The shouts of the wounded mingled with those carrying orders or trying to put out the flames. It all seemed to silence with a thunderous crack and their foe rammed into their ship, sending several falling off their feet. Khadan braced himself against the tremor as the two ships met. “Boarders!”, he shouted, rallying his soldiers to the defense.
The enemy soon appeared, climbing over the rails. They were led by a monster of a dsen whose horns seem to reach toward the sky. They weld a great poleaxe. One of the humans in Khadan’s crew bravely, but foolishly charged the giant foe and was quickly cleaved aside, the axe carving into their shoulder and tearing them away as the wind sweeps through the grass.
The battle between ships then descended into a melee as one crew fought to defend their ship like one would a piece of land. Similar battles were occurring all around them as ships engaged and became entangled in shipboard combat or perished from the flames or rams of their adversaries. Khadan rushed another khemakh as they were surmounting the rail, crashing into them with his shoulder and sending them backward over into the turbulent water below. Another gave a roar as they noticed him and attacked, thrusting with a short sword. Khadan knocked the lunge away with his own then brought his sword up, slashing their throat. His enemy grasped their own neck as the blood flowed free and tumbled to the deck.
Khadan etched his way in blood as he crossed the fracas on the deck until he reached the dsen commander. The dsen seemed to find him as he did, and swung his axe, cleaving away another crewman in his path toward Khadan. Khadan struck first, ducking low and swinging his sword for the dsen’s legs, hoping to topple the monster. His blade met only the shaft of his foe’s axe as they used it to block his strike. Khadan barely managed to back away as the dsen then charged forward like a bull, attempting to knock him off balance.
The dsen swung his great axe down toward Khadan, but he was faster. He darted to the side and swung his own strike, hitting the dsen across the back. Khadan sought to continue his assault but then he felt the ship lurch heavily as another vessel struck it. His sword arm staggered in its attack and the dsen deflected it again with the shaft of his axe before grabbing Khadan’s arm. Khadan felt himself yanked forward before being struck by the metal bar of his rival’s weapon. He felt himself tumble backward from the blow and hit the deck. His gaze centered long enough to see the axe plunge down into his chest. The deafening roar of the dsen was the last he heard.
Borhai watched the battle unfold on the water and the dread seemed to grow within him as the time passed. At first he had thought their response had been quick enough. It was soon apparent, however, that Ganai’s fleet had them outflanked on either side. First ships seemed to come alight like beacons here and there. Then the ramming began and their own fleet was pushed in against each other. The fighting was fierce, and to Khadan’s credit, they destroyed a number of their enemy. In the end, it was for naught.
The battle had lasted mere hours. Those ships not burning or splintered in the waves retreated and Ganai’s entered the port. Borhai had seen enough and took leave from his spot along the wall of the fort.
“Where are you going?” asked Huo as the monsu hurried after him.
“They will be landing soon. They have the bay, but the island will be another fight.” Borhai replied, forcing a confidence in his tone he did not feel.
Offering a Future
Borhai was giving commands and rallying soldiers for the defense on land when Cota found him. The human Iodas and the monsu Huo were with him. She gave a salute and waited for him to finish or notice her. The tension was manifest in the air as people rushed toward their assignments. The fortress within Fuyuan was strong, they could hold out for a time.
“Yes?” Borhai finally asked her, noting her silent presence.
“They have landed.” she said.
“That is all? Of course they have landed, there is nothing to stop them landing now.”
“No, just one ship has landed. The rest seem to be holding in the bay.”
"One?" asked Iodas. "What can they do with a single ship worth of soldiers?"
Borhai looked at her with a peculiar expression. One ship? Why had they not landed in force? Borhai could not guess at their purpose. He looked out toward the bay and sure enough, the majority of Ganai’s fleet remained stationary, holding their position.
“Show me where.” Borhai said, turning back to Cota. There was a reason for their behavior, and he needed to know what it was.
Cota led him from the fort and along a path that led just beyond the city and toward a beach that was past the port itself. Iodas had joined them while Huo remained behind to organize the expected defense. There just in the water beyond was a lone ship but it was what was on the beach itself that captured Borhai’s attention. A small table and wooden stools had been set out. A pole stood by, hoisting a pure azure flag, a sign of truce or seeking negotiations among the Khemakh of Dhorvas. On one of the stools sat a lone figure, a khemakh. Two others, a dsen and a khemakh stood back a number of paces.
It was a bizarre sight to Borhai. He began to step forward when Cota reached out to stop him.
“It has to be a trap!” she warned.
“To achieve what? They have control of the water, only a siege remains and they can hold it longer than we can. No, there is some other purpose.” he added and then stepped forth, making his way toward the strange collection on the beach. Cota and Iodas followed behind.
“Ah, I am pleased you came.” said the seated khemakh who then rose, giving a salute. Borhai slowly returned it.
“Ganai, I assume?”
“You assume correctly.” Ganai said.
Borhai shifted his gaze toward the others and Ganai spoke without looking. “They are here out of concern for me. They will not interrupt us. Please, join me, would you?”
Borhai gave a nod to Cota and Iodas behind him and they stood their ground there. He took his seat opposite Ganai. The table was more accurately a crate. On its surface was a board set for gurshavel. The pieces were already laid out.
“Do you play?” asked Ganai.
“Excellent”, continued Ganai. “You may have the first move.” he offered, gesturing to Borhai.
Borhai watched Ganai for a few moments, wondering what his counterpart was aiming for. He reached forth and shifted a jachi forward one space. Ganai responded by shifting one of his own. Borhai moved one of his morkharva next. They continued their game, trading off and taking pieces, before Borhai spoke up again. “Why are we playing this game now?”
“We have been playing this game for some time now.” replied Ganai. “Simply on a much larger board. I thought it might be more enjoyable face to face.”
“That game is over.”
“Is it?” asked Ganai.
Of course it is. thought Borhai. Nothing had gone the way it was supposed to have gone. Once more Borhai was reminded of the fragile nature of plans. He had long ago planned to be in control of the Bay by now, and on the mainland assisting Oghal as they vied with the other warlords for control. Instead he was defeated, playing gurshavel on a beach with the one who had beaten him, someone who he had once thought little about other than being a commander of a backwater. “You have me in an unwinnable position.”
“Against me, perhaps, but that hardly means the game is over.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, to be blunt, you could submit. Though defeated here, you are a capable commander. You were responsible for many of the military innovations as Dhorvas was united in the unifying wars. I would hate to see your potentiel end here.”
Borhai chuckled and shook his head. “You would like that, wouldn’t you?”
“I would.”, was all Ganai said in reply. He moved another of his pieces and then looked to Borhai quietly, seemingly waiting for another response.
Borhai obliged as he reached out and shifted another of his own pieces, placing a jachi in striking range of Ganai’s daichiva, or mage. “Just give up? I still hold Fuyuan. You might take it from me yet, but would I not be a coward to yield?”
“I would say too many capable people have perished before their time from worrying about being seen as a coward.”, replied Ganai. When Borhai did not reply he continued. “Look at the pieces of this game. Each has a purpose, but they are not an equal purpose. You have my daichiva if I leave it as is, but its movement is greater than the jachi, so it can easily escape that fate, able to strike again another turn. It would not be cowardice but strategy. What is served fighting when you know you will lose, even die? Whereas, if you live, you might rise again yet. Perhaps not as you originally envisioned, but there are too many ambitions in the world for them all to come true. But you might have a grand purpose if you survive to fight another day.”
Ganai then shifted his other daichiva and took Borhai’s jachi. “The jachi has a smaller purpose. While it can take pieces, ultimately it is there to act as regulars, even to be sacrificed, if necessary. To put it harshly, it is expendable, and it will never achieve what the daichiva or even the morkharva can. Its purpose ends as small as it began.”
A moment passed between them and Ganai gave a small, exasperated sigh. “You are right, Borhai, you could hold Fuyuan out a bit longer, and then I would take it from you, and you would die. And what will it have achieved? Your honor? Little comfort to the dead. If you die here, it will be as a mere stone that is washed away by the great wave of change I intend to bring. A jachi. All that you have been, and all that you might be, will wash away. Do not be a jachi, Borhai. Be more than that, and that is precisely what I am offering you the chance to be. It will not be offered again.”
Borhai listened quietly. His mind was weaving around the thoughts Ganai’s words had created in his mind. They made a certain sense to him. He looked out toward the water, past the ship Ganai had landed on to the fleet further out, and toward the horizon. He then turned to gaze back toward where Cota and Iodas still stood vigilant, and to Fuyuan and the people who were preparing to fight with him, even if they knew the cause was hopeless. At last he looked back to their little game of gurshavel. Nothing had gone the way it was supposed to have gone, but maybe that did not need to be the way it ended.
Sons of Vermundr
Copost with Volgaro
Kirill breathed in the cool morning air as he gazed over the rapidly flowing Dolgava river, and the Volgar encampment settled on the west bank. The perfidious savages had marshaled more of their hordes than he had anticipated, and now their camp across the river matched his own pious assembly of soldiers. He sighed then, truly The Greatest had given unto him the most difficult of duties, but ending the Volgar menace was one duty he was glad to bear, for their heresy and heathenry knew no bounds.
He turned his head to look over the army that had gathered to his banner and his holy mission. The original ten pious Boyars who had supported him had brought the entirety of their Voyniks and soldiers, even conscripting a portion of their serfs to serve as impromptu men at arms. Supplementing the core force was the entire strength of six mercenary companies and their commanding Marshals. But even with their formidable host, the Volgars had matched it and even surpassed it, with the addition of their southern thralls from Kohlenbirke.
But in the face of superior odds, Kirill had managed to endure, and even thrive. Dual letters had arrived, bearing the seals of the Grand Princes of both Torsen and Davir, promising their formal support and their men and resources. The full force of two Grand Princedoms and six mercenary companies was still only enough to match the Volgar forces opposite them.
The overcast sky broke for a moment, and a ray of the sun's light fell from the heavens and surrounded the Riddenheimic camp. Taking this as a sign, Kirill fell to one knee and clasped his hands together, his eyes closing as he began to pray.
“Almighty Greatest, see before You this pious host, assembled in Your name to do thine will. Lord, I am but a humble servant of Your eternal glory, but I carry in me the blood the great Prophet Himself. Lord, I ask that You bless this host with your infinite might, so that we might sweep away the infidel horde that assembles to tear down Your people, so that we might execute Your will and spread your word to the far corners of this blighted world, so that we might forge for You a Kingdom worthy of the blessings of You and the Prophet. Amin.”
The flap of the tent swooshed open quickly, and a figure in white rushed out, with the sound of screaming and curses trailing swiftly behind. The man made to speak but saw Kirill prostrated in prayer, and held his tongue until Valkovich turned his head and spoke first.
“Iosif, how are the proceedings coming along?” Iosif hesitated to speak to his Master, but managed to force out a report,
“The Marshals are demanding we attack at once before even more infidels arrive, but the Grand Princes are both urging caution and they advise us to wait for recognition and support from Valken.” Kirill was silent for a long moment before waving Iosif away. The sky had darkened once again and thunder rumbled far out in the distance.
He turned slowly and braced himself to re-enter the command tent where five Marshals, seven Boyars and a Grand Prince shouted and argued between themselves on the best way to dislodge and destroy the Volgar menace.
As he entered, he took note of the tents layout and the assembled personalities before him. On the far end of the long structure was a round table with a dozen chairs set around it, and a large map with an accurate rendering of the river and the surrounding countryside was depicted. Well over thirty carved wooden figures stood atop the map, arrayed in various positions on either side of the river. At the furthest end of the table, slouched in a chair was the Grand Prince Vasily Voloshin, eldest among the leaders and commander of the largest contingent of soldiers. He was an aged and haggered man in his late fifties, a half empty bottle of vodka in his hand as he pretended to listen to one of his officers explain the current situation to him. His eyes were red and puffy, clearly from a night of crying over his long deceased sons. The Prince looked up from his misery and stared at Kirill, being the first to have spotted the Prophet’s Scion. His officer stopped his report and looked up to stare at Valkovich, starting a reaction that saw every soul in the tent fix their attention on Kirill. He took advantage of the instant of silence to speak,
“Gentlemen, I..” He barely got the first words out before immediately being interrupted and shouted at by the stout Marshal Daro Galovin, who continued his previous tirade but now directed at Valkovich,
“Three months! Three damned months we’ve been camped on this bloody river, waiting and waiting while you siphon away more and more men and resources for your personal bloody vendetta! Either order an assault soon or I will ride to Valken with my men and denounce you as a traitor to Riddenheim!” Marshal Galovin began to raise his fist in an attempt to strike Valkovich, but he was restrained by Marshals Jochen Littauer and Otto Wallner. The chaos in the tent continued uninterrupted for several long seconds before the Grand Prince Alberich Ritter jumped to his feet and took a stance atop his own chair and cried out,
“Enough of this! Are we not noble men? Or are we savages no better than the infidels on the opposite side of the river? Be silent and let the Prophet’s Blood speak, for Iskren’s sake.” The Marshals and Boyars each mumbled their discontent before falling into silence. Kirill glared at a few of the louder voices, especially at Marshal Galovin, before striding slowly towards the center of the room and speaking calmly,
“Gentlemen, I must say that I am disappointed in you. I had thought that your trust in me was more absolute, that you would have the patience to stand firm while I communed with our Lord as to what we should do next.” Lirill’s scolding was interrupted by the snort of laughter from the back of the tent; Grand Prince Voloshin was chuckling to himself. He slurred out,
“He talks to you, does He? Hasn’t said a word to any mortal in over a thousand years, but of course He would speak to you.” Valkovich stared daggers at the slouched Prince as he sauntered over to him, and he spoke low and quiet, his voice filled with venom,
“The Greatest indeed speaks through me, for I am the Blood of Iskren, the only worthy descendant and heir to his glorious legacy to still walk this sinful world. And I will not have my name or the name of the Prophet questioned by the likes of you, drunkard.” Vasily offered a toothless grin before taking a long swig of his vodka and turning away from Kirill. Valkovich turned back to the assembled crowd of Boyars and Marshals and spoke again loudly,
“I trust that I will not have to remind you all about the righteousness and purity of our cause, so I will ask that you do not question me or my connection to The Greatest. It is through my communion with Him that we are assembled here, and it will only be through my communion that we will succeed and see the infidels scattered. Now, if there are no objections…” He paused and glanced around the tent, where no one raised their voices, though a significant few stared at Kirill with hatred.
“...I have just received a vision from our Lord, and He has told me how to proceed. If you will join me at the table, gentlemen, I will tell you of how we will wipe aside the heathen host.” They followed and huddled around the table as Valkovich picked up a wooden figure from the Riddenheimic side of the river and began to explain.
“We cannot destroy the infidels while they remain on the opposite side of the river, and we can’t gain a foothold on the western bank while their heathen host remains vigilant. Therefore, we must strike at night, with a small strike force to establish a beachhead during the dead of night, one that we can reinforce and surprise the Volgars while they sleep. Marshal Kubin, ready a suitable number of boats to ferry our men across. The rest of you gather your best men and ready them on the shore. We will strike tonight and be marching on Myrali before the sun sets tomorrow.”
On the opposite side of the river Drovij stared through a spyglass towards the Riddenheimer camp sighing and lighting his pipe.
“Any ideas?” A friendly voice said behind him. Turing Drovij saw the youngest amongst his commanders, Maxim Vladov, the champion of Volgaro.
“Unfortunately all we can do is wait and pray that the madman across the river has sense enough to back down, or that the priest gets word to Jander to end this before it’s too late.” The Lord Marshal said, taking a deep inhale from his pipe.
“Make sure our defenses are prepared l, I don’t trust that the Riddenheimers won’t get bloodthirsty enough to attack soon.” He added.
Maxim nodded, bowing before walking off towards the command tent.
Drovij then turned back to the horizon as the sun began to set. “I will be with you soon Maria, if this madness unfolds.” He said letting in the sunset for the first time in a long time.
Maxim entered the command tent all of the marshals staring at him expectantly.
“Our orders are to prepare for a defense, same as before.” Maxim stated the tent erupting into groans and sighs.
“Get ready gentleman, we have a long winter ahead of us.” Maxim said as the lot of them left the tent and prepared their men to dig in and prepare to winter along the Dolgava.
Later that night, on the furious rapids of the Dolgava
Captain Anton Vitalievich Sayankov sat low in the wooden boat and stared at the black beachhead on the far side of the western bank. Behind him sat twenty men, half of them rowing the boat slowly across the river, and further behind still were five additional boats, the first four filled with the finest men from the Riddenheimic host. Voyniks from all over the Kingdom sat huddled next to the fiercest mercenaries from seven different Companies. The fifth one was filled to near bursting with oil and pitch, the boatmen on either end of the rickety craft lookling with dread at their volatile cargo. In total, over one hundred men sailed with him across the black waters to the Volgar bank of the Dolgava.
One hundred men whose lives depended on the decisions and actions of Captain Sayankov. He turned his head back to make out the shape of his small fleet and pondered his orders over in his head. He didn’t like how little real reconnaissance Valkovich had ordered on the Volgar positions; they knew very little about the Volgar positions beyond the initial wall and surrounding land, how well they were manned, how well they were constructed and even if they existed and were standing ready to intercept him and his men.
He sighed quietly and turned his attention back to the western bank. He knew that his raid was hastily assembled and planned, but the bickering of his superiors mattered little to Anton. He had his orders and his duty to his men, he would complete his raid and return to the eastern bank with as many living men and as many Volgar kills as he could manage.
The slow yet steady progress of the boat was halted by a sudden jerk and stop; they had reached ground. Sayankov motioned to his men to lower their oars quietly as he quietly climbed from the side and set foot on Volgar soil. He took in his surroundings and took small solace in the fact they hadn’t been seen immediately. No shouts in Volgar echoed throughout the air, the only sounds that graced Anton’s ears were the river flowing behind him and the soft treading of armored boots on sand, a noise easily drowned out by the Dolgava to anyone standing further off the shore.
The other five boats docked on either side of Anton’s boat, and their men all jumped down to the shore in silence, slowly drawing their weapons and waiting for the command of Anton to advance. They waited a while longer though while Anton moved ahead of the group, off the beach and towards higher ground. He fell to his stomach as he caught a glimpse of the Volgar fort laid out before him.
He had to give the Volgars credit, the palisade wall they had built almost directly on the rivers shore was an imposing sight, even to an experienced Captain like Anton. But that same experience silenced Anton’s nerves as he examined the wall and drew a plan in his mind on how to optimally lay the pitch and escape back to the eastern bank.
Anton slowly crawled back onto the beach and quietly called a group of six men to him, sergeants and experienced Voyniks he had hand picked to lead various groups of men against the Volgars. He gathered them in a huddle and explained to them in whispered words,
“All right lads, we’ll have to do this quick and quiet. One barrel for every three men. Kazimir, Danya, Yegor, you three head north. Jaroslav, Boris, Tima, head south. Stop just shy of where the wall ends and head back to the boats. If you get caught, don’t stop unless you get surrounded. Any questions?” The officer named Danya asked quietly,
“This doesn’t seem like a great plan, Captain. If anything goes wrong with the boats we’ll be trapped with the entire Volgar army bearing down on us.” Anton nodded slightly to acknowledge his complaints and replied,
“You have a point, but this is Valkovich’s plan, and he;s convinced the Marshals of its soundness. Let us trust in his wisdom.” He looked to the faces of his men and saw doubt, the same doubt he felt when he muttered the empty words. But even with doubt in their hearts they had their duty, and it would be done.
“Enough chatter. The longer we linger the more we risk discovery. Get to work, and may The Greatest watch over us and grant us victory.” The officers dispersed, and led their men to their portions of the wall and oversaw the pitch as it was laid in the darkness.
On the walls the small night's watch peered into the darkness, a few of the noble captains smoking on pipes and laughing amongst each other. The common soldiers drinking one of the rusznics nudged the one beside him pointing towards the movement on the horizon.
“Halt!” They yelled pointing their matchlocks, another blowing a horn to warn the rest of the guards and the camp.
“Sterva!” Was all Danya could exclaim before a matchlock ball tore a hole through his chest, killing him. Anton jumped to his feet and raised his mace, shouting,
“Damn it all! Kazimir, get the pitch and spread it over the wall! Jaroslav, get the boats ready to cross! Boris, Tima, Yegor, rally your men to me! Keep the Volgar bastards at bay!” He let out a war cry, and the Riddenheimic raiders in turn matched his cry and joined in battle with the Volgars.
Amongst the camp the Volgars and their allies began to stir, as more of the Ruznics begna to fire and reload, warriors exiting the gates to begin trying to force the Riddenheimers back.
The pitch boat was fully unloaded and a contingent of men worked under fire of arrow and shot to unload, and behind the shields and swords of their comrades they continued their work, even as their comrades were cut down before them and their blood stained their armor and covered their sight.
Anton pulled his sword from a Volgars neck and afforded himself a moment to turn his head to see his men run back to their boats, Volgar reinforcements beginning to flood the beach. One of his men threw him a newly lit torch before getting a crossbow bolt lodged in his throat. With a final war cry, Anton threw down the torch onto the porch and began his retreat to the boats.
As the flames spread a few of the guards fell from the walls screaming in pain as they tried to put out the flames that began to meld armor and flesh. Many of the Volgar officers began commanding men to grab buckets to put the wall out, with only a few continuing to try and fire at the boats.
Anton dived into the last boat as it was pushed from the Volgar shore, and he saw as the long line of fire engulfed the Volgar palisade and the pursuant enemy became occupied with the inferno. He slumped down and looked over the retreating boats. The light of the rising fire gave him a good look at his remaining men. Of the hundred men he set out with, he would guess that forty gave their lives fighting the Volgars. Two boats had been abandoned, the pitch boat and a second that had been overrun before it could be pushed off.
Anton sighed as he took his helmet from his head and let it fall into his lap. He examined it and saw it was covered in the blood of Riddenheimer and Volgar alike. He closed his eyes as his nerves left him, and he let his head fall back against the boat and he fell asleep to the drifting tide of the Dolgava.
As the fire raged the marshals watched in horror, Maxim amongst them stared his eyes filling with rage as he ran to help his men douse the flames. Throughout the night the wall continued to burn, before close to dawn the flames were finally contained.
Anton barely managed a few minutes rest on the eastern shore before he was grabbed by burly thugs in white robes and rushed up the hill to the main tent. He was pushed inside by the thugs and found himself standing before the entire upper command staff of the Riddenheimic host. They had been in the middle of an argument, and the Marshals and Voynils all turned in unison to face the blood stained and dirt covered Sayankov.
In the center stood Kirill Valkovich, who took one look at the Captain and dismissively asked;
“Captain, your report.” Anton stood in silence for a moment as his mind processed Valkovich’s words. He finally spoke,
“The Volgar fortifications have been destroyed, but they discovered us before we could fully complete our objective. We skirmished as we finished laying the oil and destroying the wall, but many of my men died or were gravely wounded. The Volgars are on high alert and…” Kirill raised his hand and the Captain fell silent. Valkovich rubbed his temple as he spoke,
“Thank you, Captain. You are dismissed.” Anton saluted and hastily retreated from the tent. Kirill rose to his feet and announced,
“And there you have it, gentlemen. We have dealt them the first strike, and now it is up to you to deal them the fatal blow. Send the full might of our army across the river and we will break the infidel horde.” Silence echoes through the command tent as Valkovich finished speaking. After several long seconds of deafening quiet one of the assembled Marshals, Cyneric Prodan, broke the silence by stating bluntly,
“With all due respect, your holiness, it is the opinion of this council that sending our forces across the river is not in our best strategic interest.” Kirill stood in stunned silence before his face turned a deep shade of rage and shouted,
“Not in our best strategic interest? I don’t give a damn about what you doddering fools consider the best course of action! I am Kirill Valkovich and I order you to attack the Infidels!” Marshal Galovin shouted back,
“You have no authority over us, boy! We have listened to your insanity for too long, blindly following you as you lead us like sheep to the slaughter. No more! It is high time for us to settle this, our way. Now sit down before I order you seized and hung for treason, you pompous bastard!” Kirill struck Daro and drew his sword, weighing his chances against six seasoned Riddenhimic Marshals. He fled instead, gathering his white robed guards and mounting horses, fleeing deep into the Riddenheimc countryside.
The order to pursue him was quickly issued, but the Marshals instead turned to more pressing concerns. A proper messenger was debated on, and eventually a Captain named Vladimir Nikitavich Elkin was brought forward. Marshal Littaur debriefed him,
“Take a small raft and white flag across the river and deliver to the Volgars the following message: Let us settle things in the old ways, the ways of Rulav and Ragnvaldr. Let them pick a suitable location and choose a champion. If their man emerge victorious, tell them we will withdraw and provide compensation for all lives lost since Serzant. If we should win then we will ask for the same, along with the release of all Iskrenites held in captivity in Volgaro. Go and pray they don’t kill you before you cross the river.” The message was printed on fine parchment and folded into a crisp envelope and closed with the seal of the six Marshals, and Captain Elkin saluted and set off, leaving the tent in silence once again.
As the raft approached the Volgar side of the Dolgava, a horn was sounded, along the now gaping whole in the wall stood men crouched with matchlocks waiting. One in a slightly fancier garb said something in Sudenspiel the language of southern Volgar, before speaking
In the kostuan tongue. “Halt!”
Vladimir raised his white flag high and called out in Kostuan,
“Hold now! I come under this flag of truce to present your commanders with this message!” He raised the sealed letter high to prove his words.
The man tapped one of his men who went running into the camp. He then turned his gaze back to the messenger. “Come forth but keep your weapon on your hilt, understand?”
Vladimir nodded and ran his raft aground, and stepped onto the Volgar shore.
The captain led Vladimir through the camp, near the breach the Riddenheimic soldiers who had fallen had been gathered and cleaned up and their eyes closed. The two would come to a large tent within the center of the camp. “I recommend bowing when you enter lad.” The captain said before leaving back to his post.
Vladimir entered the tent and bowed to the assembled Volgar commanders. He raised himself back up held out the letter as he spoke in Kostuan,
“Gentlemen, I bring an offer from my superiors to end this madness without the loss of a great many men on both sides of the Dolgava.”
The marshals debated amongst each other in the volgar tongue before Drovijj stood from his chair. “What's your name son?” the Old Marshal said, lighting his pipe.
“Vladimir Nikitavich Elkin, sir. Captain under Marshal Jochen Littauer in his honored company.”
“I am Drovijj Van Utreik, Lord Marshal of Volgaro.” He said, giving a nod. “Now that we are introduced, what is this offer your Marshal’s have come up with?” he said with a cold gaze towards the messenger.
“The Marshals wish to end this in the old ways, a duel between chosen champions of both sons of Vermundr. The details are all in this letter.” He handed the letter off to Drovij and waited.
Drovijj opened it reading for a moment, then looking at one of the Marshals, a rather tall man even by Volgar standards with a singular eye. ‘Maxim my boy you will be ready for combat by the morn.”
Maxim nodded exiting the tent, Drovijj then looked back to Vladimir. “As for you, we will be sending you back with your dead, we have no wish to keep them from a proper burial in the way of their people, and in their home.”
Vladimir bowed again as he left and spoke with a tone of respect,
“Thank you sir, that is most generous of you. I shall see to it personally that each man is returned to their families for a proper burial, though I’m afraid I must ask for a larger boat to carry them, as my small vessel can barely fit myself.”
“You can take those that those men died to get back to, and it is not generous, it is simply the way we distinguish ourselves from the animals that stalk the wilderness lad.” The Lord Marshal said.
The next morning as the sun rose over the Riddenheimic side of the Dolgova, the Volagr host crossed the river waiting to meet the Riddenheimic army for the duel.
The duel would take place on a small island in the middle of the flowing river, separated from the eastern shore. The Six Riddenheimic Marshals disembarked from their boat and walked ahead of their champion, Sir Kazimir Rulavovich Malykhin ov Zhabin.
The old Voynik breathed in deeply as he stepped ahead of the Marshals and took his place between the two sides, ready to face his opponent. Stepping forward to meet him was the Champion of Volgaro, Maxim Vladov, one of the last of the Rabuśki warrior class that had remained in Volgaro.
He stared at Kazimir, taking out two axes. “May we both dine with our respective gods when this is over.”
Kazimir drew a gleaming silver longsword and struck its blade into the sand as he proclaimed an ancient oath,
“I am Kazimir Malykhin, son of Artemiy and descendant of Rulav. May one of us die here in place of thousands of our brothers.” He drew his sword from the sand and held it close to his shield as he steeled his nerves.
Maxim responded in kind, raising his axes in the air. “I am Maxim Vladov, son of Rogvir and descendant of Ragnvaldr. May one of us die here in place of thousands of our brothers.” He pointed his axes towards his foe, giving out a roar before taking his stance.
Kazimir uttered a quiet prayer to Iskren and The Greatest as he lowered the visor of his helmet and stepped forward, beginning to circle Maxim.
Maxim quickly began to attack, swinging both axes with speed and strength towards the Iskrenist looking as if he was out of tales of a berserker of the ancient Vermundric people.
Ancient tales played in the back of Kazimir’s mind as Maxim charged toward him, but he banished images as he raised his shield and dug in his heels as Great Rulav did in the old sagas. Maxim’s axes impacted with the force of a bull as sparks flew when metal impacted metal. Kazimir gritted his teeth as he pushed back Maxim, raising his sword and swinging to create space between the two warriors.
In a flash the one-eyed warrior swung one of his axes towards the knight’s sword, catching it with the curve of his weapon pushing it to the side while lunging towards Kazimir with the other.
In the second it took for his sword to be caught under Maxim’s axe, Kazimir had raised his shield and struck it forward, impacting Maxim while the sound of their blades colliding still rang in their ears.
Maxim smiled as he charged again with another barrage of attacks.
From the time the duel started to Maxim’s renewed offensive was roughly four seconds, at least in the mind and perception of Marshal Littauer. The two had barely finished reciting their ancient oaths before tearing into each other with a fury unseen in hundreds if not thousands of years.
He recalled the sagas his mother would tell to him as a boy, of the ancient King Rulav and his legendary battles, of how no foe, no matter how great or powerful, would break his will or break past his shield Nadziratel. He could not make out much of Kazimir in the sand and dust the duel was kicking up, but he could always make out the outline of his shield as it took blow after blow from Maxim’s axes. He could swear from then on that he had seen Rulav himself be reborn before him, if only for a single duel.
Drovijj stood watching his pipe stuck in his mouth, on his left one of the younger marshal stood stunned. “Is he smiling?” he said his mouth agape.
“For the first time since the his family left Maxim has found a worthy opponent, the Rulav to his Ragvaldrian blood, now we get to see two of the strongest warriors of our era fight, and Maxim not only fights for us but with the wrath of the people of Serzant behind him.”
After what seemed like hours but couldn’t have been more than a few minutes, the two duelists had managed to break free of each other, and now circled slowly across the sandy ground, both looking for a crack in the other's defense.
Kazimir was breathing heavily. He hadn’t fought this hard in his entire life, yet he felt as though he wasn’t fully in control of his actions, he felt as though an ancient force had taken control and was truly the one deciding on his actions.
Maxim looked at Kazimir with his one eye. “You fight well brother, but I can’t let you win.”
Kazimir readied his sword and shield as he called out,
“And what makes you think this is over?” he chuckled to himself as he closed the distance and renewed his assault.
“Because I fight for those your prophet blooded slayed!” Maxim roared almost animalistically once more charging towards his opponent once more.
“The Prophet killed no one. I’ll teach you to respect his name before one of us dies!” He shouted as Maxim again collided against his shield.
As Maxim continued to barrage the shield with his attack the head of one of his axes broke being sent flying behind him but without pause he continued his assault.
The axe head broke just as it tore away a piece of Kazimir's shield, striking his forearm and cutting away a sizable chunk of flesh. Kazimir did not scream or cry out, instead he raised his shield again as his blood began to flow across the shield's battered surface. His sword had fallen low and nearly touched the sand. Kazimir swung his sword in an upward slash that cut through Maxim’s chest and drew a long, red line of blood across the center of the Volgar champion's torso.
As the sword’s edge cut through Maxim’s chest his vision blurred for a moment, in his head he heard his father’s words. “We’ve no control of when the Gods will call us home, but we do control how much of a fight we give’em.” His vision then clarified his eye bloodshot and staring straight into Kazimir’s and roaring, as he slammed his axe into the shield once more.
“In the name of The Greatest, stop this madness at once!” A voice from the eastern river called out. The Riddenheimic Marshals all looked over and promptly fell to their knees as the King of Riddenheim, Jander the Second, approached the island in a commandeered boat, the royal flag flowing freely in the wind. Behind the King stood an elderly priest and a well armored Volgar man, both staring intensely at the duel as the boat ran aground on the island. Jander and his entourage jumped over the edge and the King tossed his cloak behind him, the Half and Half crown gleaming in the sunlight as he moved past his still kneeling Marshals.
“Rise you fools. Rise.” His Marshals rose to their feet as their King marched towards the still engaged champions. He shouted over the chaos,
“Kazimir Artemiyavich Malykhin ov Zhabin, your King orders you to cease this madness!” Kazimir’s sword plunged itself into the sand as he knelt before his King, narrowly missing an axe swing that would have decapitated him.
“Maxim! Enough my boy!” Drovijj shouted, causing the giant warrior to stop who looked towards Jander, breathing heavily and bleeding.
With the duel ended and all eyes on him, Jander proclaimed to all,
“I, Jander of Riddenheim, hereby order the assembled Marshals, Voyniks, Boyars and nobility to disperse from the Dolgava and end all hostility with Volgaro. Marshals will return to your postings, and the nobles will return to their holds. This charade is over.” The Marshals all saluted their King and returned to their moored boat, already shouting orders to their armies to disperse.
Drovijj shouted an order in the Volgar tongue, causing his men to mimic the Riddenheimic forces, he then walked towards the King, smoke puffing out of his pipe. “Your Grace we have much to discuss,” he said calmly.
“Indeed we do. Firstly, I would apologize for the crimes committed against your people at the hands of Kirill Valkovich. I swear that I will track him down and have him flayed alive before I throw his mangled body into the great bay with lead tied around his ankles.” Jander breathed and calmed himself before continuing,
“But before that, I can offer compensation to the victims of his crimes. I know it is small comfort to those who lost their family, but I hope it can be the first step in repairing our two nations relationship.”
Drovijj nodded. “I hope so as well my dear boy, the actions of your subjects have caused a great amount of death that could have been avoided.” the Lord Marshal said somberly.
Jander nodded solemnly as he spoke,
“I would like to speak with Isabella, if that is possible, to formally apologize to her for the shameful actions of my countrymen.”
“She did arrive back in the nation recently so I believe she herself would like to speak with you as well.” The Lord Marshal said, looking at the two warriors breathing heavily. “They fought well, you missed something out of the sagas.”
The following weeks were hectic, the arrival Isabella turned the banks of Dolgava from two fortified camps into temporary bases of the two nations leadership, as delegations from both raced across the river multiple times each day.
After a month of negotiations, a final agreement was reached and both sides met on the same island where Kazimir and Maxim had dueled to the near death.
Isabella’s servant set out chairs, the Reichsfrau and Drovijj sat, Maxim and the Reichsfrau’s personal guard behind them.
Though a chair was reserved for him, Jander stood tall and took short, quick drags on his pipe. Behind him sat the Lord Marshal Bazomir, the six Marshals who had assembled their armies here, a collection of nobles and diplomats, all guarded by the King's own Druzhina guard.
“Hello again, Jander.” Isabella said with a kind smile.
Jander took the pipe from his mouth and nodded in acknowledgement of Isabella.
“Your Grace, a pleasure to see you in good health. I apologize that we must meet under such grim circumstances.”
“Well it’s not every day your cousins burn your people.” She said with a smirk. ‘Firstly your priests will no longer come armed into Volgaro.”
“A fair demand.” Jander said, nodding.
“Secondly a binding Non-aggression pact, I wish for nothing like this brutality to happen again, thirdly I believe we should bind our houses to make it known we are unified in that goal.”
“I will agree to the second, but who do you propose for the third point?”
“Well I do have my older cousin who is still yet to marry, and Drovijj’s grandson is still young.” Isabella said with a smile, causing Drovijj to look over with a raised eyebrow.
“This is fortunate then, for my sister is still yet to marry. I offer her hand to your cousin, for the stability and continued prosperity of our peoples.”
Isabella clapped her hands together. “Fantastic! Then we have an accord, by the way did you bring that knight that faced Maxim?”
Jander turned his head to a warrior who stood among his guards, battered armor replaced with the gold tinted plate of the Druzhinniks. He called him forward and Kazimir bowed before the Volgars.
“Indeed. The story of his duel with your champion was truly worthy of the most ancient sagas, and as such I thought it fitting to honor him with a palace in my personal Guard.”
Isabella stood looking at the man. “I have heard you gave our Maxim a true challenge, we of Volgaro thank you for your honorable ways Sir Kazimir.”
Kazimir nodded and spoke,
“It was an honor to fight a worthy opponent, and I would welcome the chance for a rematch, hopefully under friendly conditions.”
Maxim chuckled from behind the Lord Marshal and Reichsfrau. “Next time I will win.”