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Author Topic: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon  (Read 3060 times)

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Offline Operative13

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #30 on: January 18, 2021, 02:33:18 AM »
The Legend of the Golden Dragon


The Banner of the Kingdom of Cairlann during the reign of King Korvan the Wise

It is said that King Korvan, the father of modern Cairlann, met a dragon in his youth with scales that glittered in brilliant gold and eyes that gleamed pure white. This ancient beast had seen the rise of humanity and civilization since its early days and, with its great wisdom and vast knowledge, foreseen the end of times. The dragon warned Korvan of a dark future for his kind if they continued to tread the path they've set for themselves. Korvan asked what they could do to prevent this dark future, and when the dragon only shook its head in defeat, Korvan too realized his people's fate.
 
Yet, as he was a stubborn fellow, Korvan refused to believe the dragon's words and asserted there must be a way to stop this great darkness. The dragon professed that the Dark Times cannot be stopped and that events set in motion long before Korvan's birth had already begun. Yet, the dragon, wise and all-knowing as it was, offered a deal to the young prince. The dragon promised to teach the young Korvan all that he knew. The past. The future. And the world at large. In exchange, Korvan would pledge his loyalty to the dragon and do as the dragon instructed. Skeptical of the dragon's intentions, Korvan asked the dragon what it sought to gain from this. The dragon only grinned at Korvan's naivety. It explained that when one pledges themself to a dragon, they form a bond that lasts for eternity. What Korvan believed death to be was only death of the physical realm. The dragon sought immortality through the spiritual realm. That is, the dragon sought to be remembered forever in his people's history. So long as the idea of the Golden Dragon lived on, it too will live forever.
 
However, Korvan remained troubled. The dragon knew the Dark Times was coming, yet it chose to place hope in the very people doomed to fail. The dragon concurred that Korvan was right. Yet, it confided that it placed hope, not in Korvan's people but of Korvan himself. The young prince had shown remarkable wisdom, courage, and ambition in both confronting this great beast alone and choosing to heed its words. It is in this profound impression that the great dragon chose to entrust its existence to Korvan. Only then did the dragon reveal that in their darkest moment, a Great Savior would rise to save them from the Dark Times. Korvan was not that Savior, and he would be long dead before the Savior's return. But, the dragon promised Korvan that if he agreed to its offer, it too would swear to protect his people from the Dark Times until the Savior's return.
 
With the future of the realm at stake, Korvan pledged his allegiance to the Golden Dragon and began his training under its wise tutelage. From thereon, Korvan would reforge his kingdom of Cairlann into a mighty realm, earning the famed title of King Korvan the Wise.
 
The Golden Dragon serves as an eternal reminder of the guardianship of Cairlann and the sacrifices made to protect it. It is a debt that the people of Cairlann are eternally bound to pay back through its remembrance.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2021, 03:26:06 PM by Operative13 »
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Offline Operative13

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #31 on: January 23, 2021, 03:08:01 AM »
A small teaser for A Tales of Cadamaria story! Full excerpt will be made available this Sunday.

Sign up here to support the project and become an early-access beta reader: https://forms.gle/ovQ1YoShxtqVYzeB9

Teaser
The budding of fresh grass seeping out from the fading snow signaled the end of winter, yet the bright sun beaming across the open road could not wean the dread seared upon Gulbrand's face. He rode hard with four others across the dusty road, past plowed fields and farmers planting the first seeds of the season. Some ceased their hunchback labor to glimpse with dulled eyes the five men in clattering chainmail. Elegant shields bearing the silver wolf hobbled on their backs as dust kicked behind the hardened steeds. Children waved and shouted to them as the banner of the White Ram fluttered in the wind. Their mothers sparkled with warm smiles, yet Gulbrand dared not share their sentiments. He only wished to spare them the inevitable pain. Today was a grim day, though no one in Demorea knew then.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2021, 03:24:24 PM by Operative13 »
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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #32 on: January 24, 2021, 08:53:35 PM »
A Tales of Cadamaria Story - Prologue

The budding of fresh grass seeping out from the fading snow signaled the end of winter, yet the bright sun beaming across the open road could not wean the dread seared upon Gulbrand's face. He rode hard with four others across the dusty road, past plowed fields and farmers planting the first seeds of the season. Some ceased their hunchback labor to glimpse with dulled eyes the five men in clattering chainmail. Elegant shields bearing the silver wolf hobbled on their backs as dust kicked behind the hardened steeds. Children waved and shouted to them as the banner of the White Ram fluttered in the wind. Their mothers sparkled with warm smiles, yet Gulbrand dared not share their sentiments. He only wished to spare them the inevitable pain. Today was a grim day, though no one in Demorea knew then.

Soon, the great timber walls came into view. At the sound of the watchtower's blaring horn, guards rushed out to open the gates for Gulbrand's party. The guards had only moments before the riders swooped by, barely giving them time to step aside.

Demorea, a fortress town crammed on all sides with aptly-placed markets, workshops, and homes, brimmed with activity. Though today it was uncharacteristically quiet. The sound of hammers pounding away at the forge, their hot forges burning away the cool mountain drift, echoed in the open air. The splash of water, followed by a distinct sizzle as bursts of steam fluttered into the breeze, the burning red embers cooled to a pale gray. Cold iron blades meant for swords and spears lined the workshops, ready to be fixed onto hilts and shafts. Fletchers whittled sticks and fitted feathers, and carpenters fashioned boards together with nails and rawhide. Whispers and huddled small-talk filled the gaps, with eyeing suspicion and dread sullying the already-mired scene. Everyone carried with them an edge, a small knife plainly visible on their persons. Not a child to be seen, and mostly men in drab garbs and hooded cloaks. Demorea roared, yet its spirit had all but vanished. What would have been a peaceful day in any other circumstance had been overshadowed by the coming of war. No one knew what to expect, but all had hoped that Gulbrand's arrival had brought good news. So when the people caught sight of the White Ram, they rushed out in droves to hear his message.

Through crowded streets and narrow turns, Gulbrand and the others rode, shouting their presence as onlookers gazed with wonder at the well-worn riders. They hailed with relief and excitement at the Fir's return and prayed to the Ancient Ones for good fortune. Yet, Gulbrand had none to spare. He could only deny their blessings as he sought his lord and master at Castle Finskalt, who would not be spared like the others. Gulbrand's men cried out to their patrons to make way. Like a ship cresting through water, the mass parted as the men rode their way up a winding road towards the towering castle perched atop a large mound overlooking the smoke-riddled town.

At the iron gates of this stone fortress, Gulbrand's party reared their horses and promptly dismounted as the gate guards approached. They took hold of the horses' reins as their hersir saluted Gulbrand, who removed his helm.

"Fir Gulbrand. We weren't expecting you back so soon," said the hersir.

"Neither was I. Is Jarl Finskalt present? I have an urgent message to deliver."

"He's here, Fir, but you should speak with Fir Valisen first."

"No. I'll speak to the Jarl directly."

"Fir Valisen won't be pleased to hear you arrived unannounced. Are you certain you don’t..."

Gulbrand's deadpan stare stopped the hersir's thoughts mid-sentence.

"...I'll send a man in your stead."

"Good."

Gulbrand had no intentions of delaying the inevitable. He had come to know plenty of ill-taken answers to the message he was soon to deliver. Some had taken it less gracefully than others. Others had refused to accept it. Soon, his duty would be the same. Gulbrand had resigned himself to that reality long ago. Now, he only hoped the others would soon find their way of accepting this new world in which they now lived in.

The hersir gestured up to the watchmen atop the gatehouse. With droning agony, the heavy chains rumbled, and the two rust-iron portcullises heaved into the air. The chains briefly rattled before coming to a squealed stop as the portcullises locked into place.

"My men will take you to Jarl Finskalt's study." The hersir gestured to the remaining guards, who promptly saluted their Fir with a clenched fist to the heart. Gulbrand glanced back at his companions before they followed the two guards inside.

Hard boots clattered the polished stone floor, marching in haste as they made their way through the thinly-lit hallways. Even at high noon, when the sun is brightest, the tight corridors and thin arrow slits hindered much of Castle Finskalt's natural light. Servants whizzed by the men, nodding heads and averting their gaze away from Gulbrand and the others. He could sense their worrisome gaze pierce through his armor as tacit gasps permeated throughout the stone citadel. Perhaps they too could sense Gulbrand's terror seeping out from under his rings of iron, unable to hold back what laid beneath. Or perhaps it was writ upon his face so clear as day that no one could mistake it. He thought to greet the familiar faces as they went. A soft word of comfort or two, as he always had. A sign, a sliver of hope, some blessing to bestow. Yet, he held himself back, for the man dared not deceive them of their fate.

As they rounded the corner, the light opened to a grand view of the castle courtyard below. Hundreds of soldiers pitched camp within the confines of the large open ground. Many of the men were the town militia, gathered here alongside foreign mercenaries, volunteers, and the Jarl's huskarls for Demorea's anticipated defense. Hersirs tirelessly drilled these inexperienced young men through basic combat and formations. Even a simple weapon like a spear required thorough training for proficiency. How to thrust. How to parry. How to claim control. Gulbrand admired the work of his hersirs and the progress they made since his departure. The recruits had become well-adjusted to the lessons of war and now held a firm look in their eyes than the quivering boys they first came as. All of them, ready to lay blood and spirit to defend their homes. Though, what good would their training do now?

Soon, the party came to a guarded door down the stone hallway. The meandering guards hastily stood to attention upon the sound of marching boots nearby. Their upright stance soon eased when they saw who came to greet them.

"Fir Gulbrand!" the large one called out. "An honor to have you back." The smaller one concurred.

"I wish it was, Gunder," Gulbrand replied. "I need to see the Jarl."

"He wishes not to be disturbed, Fir," the small one said. "He's writing a letter to King Vegard."

"Tell him I have an urgent message. His eyes only."

The two guards exchanged troubled glances. With a firm knock, the guards announced Gulbrand's presence across the door.

"My Lord, Fir Gulbrand requests an audience with you. He says he has an urgent message to deliver," said the large guardsman.

"Gulbrand?" a low, sullen voice bellowed behind the door. "What's he doing here? He should be in Braehinstael getting our reinforcements."

"He's waiting outside with us, my Lord."

There came a disgruntled scoff, followed by a moment of silence.

"Send him in."

Gulbrand stepped forward, ready to accept what awaited him. His gut soured, and his veins drained of warmth. He could feel nothing but the cold, dead air brushing across his weary face.

"Should we come with you?" one of Gulbrand's men said.

"No," Gulbrand resigned. "I'll handle this."

With a bold step, the door closed shut behind the old rugged man as he approached the Jarl. A large man with burning red hair sat poised in his ornate seat, fully fitted in polished chainmail and a gray cape. A shining helmet with golden-brass patterns and a wolf's head at its crown laid comfortably to the side of the pinewood desk. Jarl Finskalt seemed quite irritated sitting in such a small chair with all that armor. Gulbrand could not help but wonder if his lord had been conducting business all-day wearing such cumbersome attire. He never took Jarl Finskalt to be the paranoid sort. But Gulbrand's momentary pause broke when sharp, silver eyes struck his gaze.

"Fir Gulbrand," Jarl Finskalt began, his deep voice thundering across the desk. "You've returned."

Gulbrand saluted. "I have, my Lord."

"And with no army to speak of!" Finskalt's tone soured, his fingers stubbornly tapping the desk. "What did I last tell you when you departed these walls?"

"To not return until I have your reinforcements."

"Until you have my reinforcements," he repeated. "Where are they now?"

"There is none, my Lord."

"And why exactly is that? What could possibly have been the reason that you would ride back to me and report empty-handed? Cairlann is marching towards us as we speak! We haven't the means nor the troops to stop a thousand men storming these walls! They could be here any day now! Do you realize how much time we've just wasted?"

"There won't be a need for reinforcements, my Lord."

Gulbrand presented a sealed parchment to Jarl Finskalt. Finskalt's temper soon dampened as his eyes took hold of the wax symbol seared on the letter: the Royal Cross of Godwyn. Finskalt hastily took hold of the parchment and slit it open with a nearby cutter. Unraveling the parchment, a wave of emotions flooded the jarl's face. Gulbrand could not make out what exactly Jarl Finskalt thought at that moment, but he knew for certain that once his lord had time to think, blissful euphoria overcame his senses. Jarl Finskalt began to chuckle to himself.

"So that's how it is then..." Finskalt muttered. "...all for naught."

"What should we do now, my Lord?" Gulbrand asked. "Do we make the announcement?"

"More than that. We need to celebrate. Godwyn has fallen, but we shall make a name for ourselves as the first to welcome our glorious future with Cairlann. Where is Valisen? I must have him here!"

"My Lord?" Gulbrand asked, taken aback at his lord's apparent madness.

"Don't you see, Fir Gulbrand? While others weep for their past, we shall forge a new path for Godwyn, with Cairlann by our side to serve our interests. I'll show all those who doubted me for so long that my judgment has never been clearer. It is time we show our misguided people the true path to victory."
« Last Edit: February 08, 2021, 12:33:18 AM by Operative13 »
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Offline Operative13

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #33 on: February 01, 2021, 02:51:36 AM »
A Tales of Cadamaria Story - Chapter 1

Avelina could hear the faint tunes of the morning bird in the dead of night: it was time to go.

Her eyes could barely discern the soft shadows of her room as she reached for her bedside drawer and pulled out a little sack. She fumbled her fingers around until she could grasp a palm-sized iron grip, a hard rock, and a piece of cloth. Avelina wrapped the fabric tightly around the rock before taking the iron grip. With a solid strike, sparks flew, and she cupped the rock-and-cloth in her palms and gently blew. Nothing. Avelina froze as the floorboards creaked and a slight breeze whispered through the door break. Like a statue, she held her breath until only the silent void spoke back. She struck the rock again and blew once more. The scent of smoke followed, and a small flame grew in her hands. Seeing the oil lamp she had laid out the night before, Avelina gently brushed the cloth's fire onto the lamp's exposed funnel, which promptly burned and lit the room around her. Satisfied with her work, she snuffed out the burning cloth and set the tinderbox back in its place.

With the room sufficiently lit, the young girl propped open her wardrobe and rummaged through the collection of seldom-worn garments until she found her items: a heavy black-pelt cloak, a dark, long-sleeved tunic, and matching trousers. She changed out of her slim-pasty gown and into her attire, tucking and pulling until it held snug and warm. Avelina checked one last time her reflection on the polished silver of the free-standing mirror. Her soft fiery-red hair tumbled together in a sporadic cobweb. She sighed. Taking a brush and lightly dipping it into the water bowl on her dressing table, she stroked the entanglement away until it had all straightened out. The girl gazed once more at the mirror, still displeased with herself. She looked plain, lacking her usual braidings, and with only the dreadful shades of her outfit. She looked like a crook, a knave, someone up to no good. Most assuredly not the dainty young lady that had awoken. Yet, if the girl did not want to get caught, this would have to do. She quickly wrapped the dreadful entanglement into a ponytail, anxiously watching the window for a sliver of light across the horizon. With a confident look and a reassuring nod to her reflection, Avelina grabbed her rucksack beneath the bed and blew out the lamp's fluttering flame.

The castle still laid dormant at this hour, save for a few guards attending the entrances. Avelina blinked her eyes, pressing her cold hands against the stone wall next to her as she stammered through the pitch-black corridors and winding stairwell. It should have been obvious where everything was and where she needed to go. She had traveled these hallways her whole life, known every layout, every twist and turn. Yet crossing them in total darkness became a frightening ordeal. At times, she found herself waving in the void until her thick boots too found themselves unable to find the floor below. The pale stillness around her only tingled her skin as she swam until she found another wall to cling to. Eventually, her eyes adjusted to the thin veil of light sparkling through the curtained windows, and at last, she could tell the room around her. It was the Great Hall. Long rows of clothed tables and engraved chairs furnished the large musky room. Round shields draped across the high beams supporting the arching ceiling above, all gifts from other clans and family heirlooms of past generations. At the very front of the Hall, a row of four chairs with high splats rose over the others, the tallest of them seated at the center. She was close. The exit was just across the hallway out the double-doors, but two sentries always stood guard there. They would certainly catch her if she decided to go through there. But Avelina had another route in mind.

Instead, she doubled back and headed down the stairs towards the cellar, where a long narrow passage connected the keep to the postern tower underground. Another set of guards awaited her there, but they would not seize her the same as the others. They were loyal soldiers to Fir Gulbrand, a man sympathetic to Avelina's plight. He had arranged for Avelina to travel freely between the castle without her father's watch, so long as she returned home in due time. This time, however, she intended to break that promise.

The distinct scent of pinewood and sweet fruit gave it away. Completely cut off from natural light from its enclosure, she would need a light source if she wanted to navigate the cellar's maze of racks, crates, and barrels without stirring a ruckus. Fortunately, an oil lamp always remained available atop a stand at the entrance for anyone wishing to go inside. Exercising the utmost caution, Avelina fumbled around until her hands could feel the stand's smooth wood and the coarse clay of the lamp. She reached around the stand and grabbed hold of the tinderbox, only to stop and listen. The ceiling creaked above. She glanced around at the unmoving shadows around her until it was clear she was alone. She lit the cloth, then brushed the lamp's snout: a flickering flame. Putting the tinderbox back in its place, she took hold of the lamp and shut the wide cellar door behind her as she walked inside.

At the very end of the cellar, she found an unassuming metal latch superimposed on the undisturbed earthen floor. To the unknowing eye, it would appear as though the latch doesn't lead anywhere. It looked like any other metal latch used to tie ropes for the containers. Yet this one did not have any nearby. She grasped the latch with her free hand, and with one solid tug, the trapdoor unveiled its earthy illusion as it sprung out of the floor. Avelina peered down at the stairs descending further underground into a narrow tunnel. The guards waited for her at the end of the tunnel, yet she paused. She struggled to put her foot forward as she considered what her father would say. Or worse, do. She worried for the guards, who would almost certainly take the fall if he discovered their deception. Avelina's mind wandered. Would anyone notice her absence by morning? Will the guards come looking for her? Perhaps she should turn back.

Avelina shook her head. She couldn't doubt herself now. Her teacher was waiting, and she had made up her mind: she would become a Shieldmaiden. She had prepared for this thoroughly the day before. Both the head servant Elda and the hersir Fir Gulbrand pledged to support her endeavors. Only the fiendish castellan Fir Valisen that hawked at Avelina like her own father was someone to worry. He was just as sharp and attentive as her father, if not better. It was befitting for someone that always kept a tight ledger on the castle's affairs. Why else would the cellars continue to be stocked with imported wine when there was none to have at this time and age? She only wished Valisen wasn't as mindful of her as he was with the Jarl's coffers. The girl could only hope those two would keep the man occupied with matters before he realizes her missing. Taking another step forward, Avelina closed the trapdoor behind her and went into the tunnel, the dim glow of the oil lamp leading the way.

Soon, Avelina spotted the radiant light of the guards' lamp. She could hear the rustling of chainmail around the corner as the echoes of her heavy footsteps carried over.

"Who's there!?" a taut voice spoke out. Avelina recognized who it was.

"Sven?" she replied. She turned the corner to find two guards ready to strike, their hands hovering the hilt of their blades. They eased their posture after seeing her face.

"Frey Finskalt," the small one said, a look of relief in his eyes. "My apologies. I thought it was someone else."

Avelina smiled. "Were you expecting anyone else?"

"N-No! Not at all!" he quipped.

"In fairness, my Frey, we're trained to be on guard for anything," said the large one. "Ghosts, wraiths, spirits, you..."

"Very funny, Gunder," Avelina groaned.

She glanced past them to see the iron grating of the postern gate stood. The fresh dusk breeze drifted in, and she could feel a weight lifting from her chest as it washed over her.

"Well, thank you for overlooking this, you two, but I think I should get going now. Don't want to keep the old woman waiting."

"Wait one moment, my Frey." Gunder blocked Avelina just as she took a step forward. Her face sagged. She stood only a few steps away from the outside yet still couldn't leave. She sighed.

"What is it now?"

Gunder reached for his hard-leather pouch and offered a small piece of parchment to her.

"It's a signed letter from Fir Gulbrand. If anyone stops you, show them this, and they'll let you on your way. You'll need it when you get to the border wall."

Avelina hadn't considered that. She had assumed Berengar's friends in the militia would let her pass by without causing trouble, but she never thought that they could betray her trust. This parchment was evidence of Fir Gulbrand's complicity. Yet, he was willing to risk his position as the hersir of her father's huskarls for her sake. Her anxious temper soon calmed, and she bowed her head to the large man.

"Thank you for this, Gunder. Please give my regards to Fir Gulbrand. It'd mean a lot to me."

"Anything for you, our Frey!" Sven grinned under his spectacled helm. "Just don't get caught. Wouldn't want our necks to go missing, you know."

With a tepid smile, she thanked the two once more. The gates rattled shut, and the girl was alas free from the confines of the castle.

The town stood quiet and peaceful, a sleeping giant resting from its great perch. The soft kindling of smoke from the dulled cinders inside homes drifted away into the starry veil. Not a soul to be seen. Compared to the chaos in the days before, the change in atmosphere was one to welcome. The charred ground and burnt sticks littering the roadside from days ago remained. Yet, Avelina relished in her freedom to frolic around Demorea as she used to. No chanting mobs, no bloodied guards, no clashing of arms. She missed those days, and she missed her home. She thought to wander around and see all the shops she once frequented, but her heavy boots reminded her she had a duty to attend.

The tall wooden gates of the border walls stood before her, with its massive doors held shut by large beams stretching across its width. A group of militiamen in gray tunics surrounded a campfire near the base of the gate tower. Avelina steadily approached the group, and soon eyes turned as the fire's radiance caught her dark figure.

She hailed the men. "You're Berengar's friends, right?"

"Friends? More like brothers," one of them replied.

"Brothers?"

"He's a goat's ass, he is," one said.

"Telling us to get up early and hold the door for his dear Frey, he said," another chimed.

"He thinks he can go around telling us what to do when he's only been around for a few months, that kid," an older man grunted.

"I don't..." Avelina stuttered, confused by their banter. "Do you hate Berengar?"

"Hate him? Oh no, young Frey. We despise him."

"Hate his guts."

"And his pretty face!"

"Indeed we do!" They all concurred.

"Then why would you call him... nevermind. Berengar told me you'd open the gates for me."

"Aye, and we'll do just that. Keld, Olaf. Get the door for our dear Frey here, would you?" asked the older man.

"Anything for the young Frey!" they hollered. "Lucky bastard..."

They grumbled to each other as they walked to the gates and lifted the beams off the doors. As the two push the large wooden frames open, Avelina turned to the older man.

"You'll keep quiet about this, won't you?"

"Of course! And I'll make sure the rest of these scoundrels get the message too. But you best come back here before noon. We have a celebration to attend," A playful smile ripped across his haggard face. She couldn't tell if that was a threat or just his way of teasing, but Avelina did not wish to spend any longer making small talk.

Avelina strolled out to the gates, where the two young men held the doors open at each end. Although they offered to accompany her to wherever she was headed, Avelina declined their offer and assured them she could care for herself. She waved them all farewell, and as the gates slammed shut behind her, the young maiden looked onward to the road ahead and the wilderness that laid beyond.

The trek across the darkened path was long and grueling. Avelina's feet began to wince and sore. Her legs started to buckle, muscles tightening around the bone. The chill of dawn crept along her skin, but it did little to ease the pain. Avelina kept pace, but her stomach fluttered as the first rays of light broke through the branches. Her steps quickened as she eyed the roadside for a marker. She finally found it: a small ovular stone with Aurelian inscriptions. The house was only a short walk away.

Veering off the trail, Avelina crossed through the thickets with haste. Her boots stuck as they touched the ground, still wet from the melting snow. She trudged along, her muscles burning as she weaved through the dense forest until a large clearing came into view. Sunlight radiated the clearing, and there stood a lone longhouse atop a hill with smoke puffing out its chimney.

Her face sunk. She was late. Avelina came up to the house to find a woman with long golden hair and dim azure eyes sitting atop a stump. She was carving a narrow piece of wood in her hands as Avelina approached.

"You're late," the woman spoke, her eyes still focused on the wood carving.

"I'm truly sorry, Frey Eydis," Avelina said. "I didn't think it would take so long."

"Do you think I spend my days waiting around here like this for your convenience, Avelina?" Eydis blew the carving, letting the trimmings fall to the ground.

"To be fair, you do wake up every morning like this."

"Do you want me to teach you or not?"

Avelina could sense Eydis's curtness in her words. "I'm sorry. No, you don't like waiting."

"Then be on time. At least show you care enough for your training."

Eydis blew once more, clearing the carving of the last bits of trimming. Avelina couldn't figure out what Eydis was making. It still resembled a stick more than anything else, but she dared not risk any more questions as Eydis stuffed the carving into her pouch. The woman reached across the stump and raised a small sword in a leather sheath to Avelina.

"Your sword," said Eydis.

Avelina's eyes widened. A tingling sensation rippled across her face. She eagerly accepted Eydis's gift and unsheathed the blade from its cover. The sword had a wooden guard and grip, but the blade sparkled brilliantly in the morning light. Avelina had been training all this time with nothing but wooden sticks. Now, she could finally feel the weight of a real weapon in her hands.

"We'll need to replace the handle with metal later when you begin sparring, but for now, this will have to do."

"Thank you, Aunt Eydis! This sword is amazing!" Avelina exclaimed.

"It's only a sword, Avelina. They'll break and shatter. Don't get too attached to it."

"I've never held anything like this before. I thought it would be heavier." Avelina tucked the sword's pommel into her palm and held the blade out. She could vaguely see the reflection of her eyes on it.

"Every morning from now on, I expect to wake up to you practicing your strikes. One thousand swings, one thousand thrusts," said Eydis.

"Exercises? Of all things?" Avelina moaned. " Aren't you going to teach me something?"

"I am teaching you. I'm teaching your muscles how to work. Now start swinging. One thousand swings!"

Avelina sighed as she swung her blade in the air, lifting it, then bringing it back down as Eydis stoically watched, critiquing every fault made with each stroke. It went on until the sky turned blue and the sun blazed overhead. Avelina stood drenched in sweat, her forehead leaking as she made her last swing. She dropped to the ground, completely exhausted. Every fiber in her body screamed. Her feet cramped, her legs stiffened, and she could barely feel her limp arms attached to her shoulders.

Eydis returned from the house with a large waterskin and dangled it above Avelina's head.

"Here," offered Eydis. "Get some rest, and then we'll continue."

Avelina took hold of the waterskin and immediately chugged its contents. Cool, refreshing relief filled her body as she drank away the sores. Eydis suddenly grabbed the waterskin, stopping Avelina from drinking further.

"Hey!" Avelina yelled.

"Drink easy. You'll hurt your muscles otherwise."

Eydis slowly eased her grip from the waterskin. Avelina sat back up and took her time sipping the water as Eydis went to the tree stump and began working on the carving earlier.

"When did you take up carving?" Avelina asked. "I never took you as a crafter."

"I've always done carving," she answered, twiddling holes into the hollowed wood. "Since I was around your age."

"Did you ever make things for Mother and Aunt Brenna?"

Eydis paused. Avelina could tell the old shieldmaiden remembered. She had a sorrowful look in her eyes yet, oddly enough, a slight smile accompanying it. The moment was interrupted, however, by the scent of roasted lamb and freshly-baked bread.

"Who's hungry~?" a cheerful voice called out. A young man with striking blonde hair and deep green eyes came out of the house with three plates in his hands. He looked as if he was going to war: hard-leather armor strapped over his sullen-blue tunic, thick knee-high boots, and his trusty sword-and-knife clinging to his belt side.

"Berengar!" Avelina cried out. "I haven't seen you all day!"

"I certainly did," he said as he handed her a plate. "And by Tulls, you're out of shape. You look awful!"

She sulked. "At least someone got to sleep in and enjoy the sunrise instead of rising before dawn and walking miles out to get here. You should've ridden out to get me."

"While it's dark out? Even I know not to ride horses when I can't see. You did fine getting here!" Berengar handed the other plate over to Eydis, still fiddling with the wood.

"That's what you think. I've only just escaped my father's clutches by conspiring with everyone to look the other way as I hide out with my aunt-in-exile and you in some dreary hut."

"Train, you mean. Everyone knows the Jarl won't go out of his way to lock you up after what's happened. He'd be mad to do that again."

Berengar sat himself down alongside Avelina, and the two of them ate away their plates. Eydis continued to ignore her plate, carving out the rest of the wood. The wood began to appear like a proper flute, and Eydis blew into its narrow opening to test its sound.

"Or so everyone believes. He's my father. What's to say he won't change his mind and go back on his word?"

"So what if you ran off in the middle of the night? Just tell him it's part of your training. No one can argue with that. He agreed to it completely. I'd be stark-mad if he took it back, as anyone would!"

"He told me not to go out today," Avelina explained. "I was supposed to skip Aunt Eydis's training for Father's planned celebration. He told me it was much too important to miss."

"For the Cairlannders? Forget it. Those people aren't worth your time. It's disgusting how he's throwing them a victory celebration at all! What good have they ever done but brought death and destruction to us? You're better off staying here than with those animals."

Avelina stopped and lowered her bread piece back down. "That's what I wanted to consider. If I could live here with you two instead of at Castle Finskalt..."

"Absolutely not," Eydis's voice shot behind them. "Your home is Castle Finskalt, not here. If I have to bring you back there, I will."

"I mean, I wouldn't mind," said Berengar. "But living here forever? What made you consider that? I thought we settled on everything ages ago."

"I figured if I truly wanted to set my mind on becoming a shieldmaiden, I needed to do things on my terms. If I'm honest with myself, I know I can do better than where I am now. I was helpless, watching those riots, stuck in the castle, unable to do anything for so long. It made me realize just how little I could do on my own. I need to get stronger, not only for myself but for everyone that believes in me. I can't do that shackled in my room."

"And you will, in your own way. But you have to trust in people to have the best interests for you! Take me, for example. I didn't fare so well fending for myself until Eydis came along and made me who I am today. If I hadn't had faith in Eydis, I don't think I'd be where I am now. I suggest you give some time to think it over. If Eydis believes the Jarl will hold up his end, I'm sure he will too."

Avelina winced a slight smile. "Thanks, Bere. I'll consider it."

Berengar stretched his arms back and laid himself on the ground. Relaxed as he was, Berengar frowned as he looked up at the sky. "It's almost noon. They should be traveling up the road by now..."

Avelina and the others watched from afar as the distant road soaked with red, and the ground trembled from the stout marching, and blaring horns drowned the hymns of singing birds. Eydis had finally finished her flute and began to play a sweet melody that soothed Avelina's ears and gave a fleeting peace to her mind. There she watched from atop the golden hill, the last vestiges of her freedom slipping away. For she knew her father Jarl Finskalt had already reneged on his promise.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2021, 02:18:47 PM by Operative13 »
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #34 on: February 07, 2021, 10:45:04 AM »
Yo Op!

Hope you don't mind me offering my comments on this thread... it's so neatly organised I feel it's almost a shame to mess up the flow... But I wanted to offer you some feedback!

As a disclaimer, I didn't really read any of your world-building notes that you posted here first. I prefer to go into stories without prior knowledge so that I can accurately determine if you are effectively communicating details of your world-building in the narrative. BUT, from a quick skim it seems that you have a really throrough history laid out, such that the houses themselves might feel like characters, which I think is cool and will make for a really alive world in your story.

So hopefully you will be able to see my comments in this google doc here. Let me know if there are any issues.

If I had one particular piece of advice for you to keep in mind for future writing, it would be to avoid just listing out series of mundane actions that do not offer anything to the narrative. This only happened two or three times across the two chapters, but it was a noticable stalling of immersion in the writing for me. In my notes I give examples of how I would re-write those bits with immersion in mind, so that you can hopefully compare the effect.

I hope you find this feedback useful, and best of luck with continuing the project in the future :biggrin:

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #35 on: February 08, 2021, 02:54:10 AM »
Thanks No1sy! I appreciate all the feedback I can get! These are all first drafts, so I'll definitely have some errors skimmed over during my rereads. The most important part at this stage is ensuring the story flows well first before correcting all the minor details. I'm very pleased on the reception to that so far, and I hope that'll continue as I release more drafts of the manuscript. It'll be slow progress, but eventually I'll get around to correcting all these drafts in the near future.

There's much more content getting developed behind the scenes, more than what I put out here on the forums, so if anyone's interested in reading unprocessed junk, feel free to sign up on the google forms I have tagged in my signature!

Until then, stay tuned every week for more updates!  ;)
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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #36 on: February 08, 2021, 02:57:06 AM »
A Tales of Cadamaria Story - Chapter 2

Avelina sprang to her feet. Berengar was right: her father can't betray his promise. He couldn't. At least not publicly. Jarl Finskalt pledged to fully support Demorea's shieldmaidens and that she'd be allowed to study under Frey Eydis as a token of that commitment. If her father tried to obstruct her training, the other clans would surely know!

"I need to head back," Avelina suddenly said, a glistening beam in her eyes.

Berengar and Eydis froze.

"...what?" Berengar muttered.

"I said I need to head back."

Avelina didn't stop to clarify. She marched past Berengar and headed straight for the stables at the back of the house. The Jarl's daughter was determined to settle her affairs with her father for good. For so long, he had dictated her every beck-and-call as if she were just another pawn in his games, only someone to be used to further his ambitions. For so long, all Avelina had been taught was how to please others, how to exploit others. No one could be trusted but themselves. But she never learned what it meant to be herself. Avelina had become more than just the vain, drifting girl from before, always clinging to her father's words seeking meaning. She was her own. No longer would Avelina stay indebted to such a man. Instead, Avelina would carve a new future for herself, one that she had a say in. She only needed to act.

Berengar quickly got up and chased her as Eydis turned to watch.

"Avie, wait!" Berengar shouted as he ran to her side. "What do you mean head back?"

"You're right," Avelina replied. "He can't go back on his word. Not without everyone standing up to him. I should tell my father what I think and remind him of our arrangement. He won't bite so long as others are watching."

"Tell him what? That you'll do as you want and that he can't tell you otherwise?" he chided. "I don't like your old man as much as you do, but I don't see this playing out the way you think it is."

"Then what use will it be without trying? He'll continue to press me to do as he wants, and no one will stand up for me unless I say it. He's holding me on a chain, Bere. Just not one you can see. I've already broken his wishes coming here. I have to do it, no matter what."

"But does it have to be now?" he pleaded.

Eydis called out from her tree stump. "Your training isn't over, Avelina. If you leave, don't expect any charity from me."

Avelina let out a disgruntled sigh. She could never seem to escape the price of freedom from anyone. "Yes, Herre. I promise to pay it back to you."

"I expect a full stack of wood next to my door by sunrise," said Eydis.

Berengar blinked. "You're not going to stop her?"

"She's a grown woman," she said, picking herself up from the tree stump, empty bowl in hand. "She'll learn to take responsibility for her actions. Much like you did sneaking into the Jarl's castle."

"What does that have to do with this!?" he yelled. "You realize Avelina's going back to where those Velgytes will be, don't you?"

"Be gentle with Brunflek when you ride out. He doesn't like other horses." Edis strolled back into the house and disappeared from sight, leaving Avelina and Berengar to themselves. Avelina cracked a playful smile.

"I guess there are some things you two don't agree on, after all," she teased.

Berengar grumbled, snapping his tongue. "Fine. I'll take you back. But just to be clear, I take no responsibility for what happens next."

"And I fully accept it." A proud grin stretched across her face.

Berengar didn't say a word as he walked over to the stables and pulled the brown-spotted Brunflek out from his pen. Underneath his other arm, a shining iron helmet with glimmering brass lining. The young man raised Brunflek's reins to Avelina, a stark look on his face.

"Hold his reins for me," he said.

Avelina took hold of Brunflek's reins, patting the stallion's rough, musky mane. The horse nuzzled his snout against her hand, eagerly waiting for more scratches.

"I missed you too, Silly," she giggled, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

She loved watching Brunflek shutter his large, black eyes and wag his long, fluffy tail. It had been ages since she last saw him, having spent many days away in Castle Finskalt that Avelina had nearly forgotten what Brunflek looked like. Avelina then recalled a spot behind his ears that would make the horse snort with glee if she reached high enough. Just as Avelina stretched to find it, Berengar suddenly plopped the iron helmet onto Avelina's head.

"Hey! I wasn't ready!" Avelina exclaimed, adjusting the helmet around to see through the eye sockets.

"Yes, yes... you two can cuddle all you like when we ride back to Demorea," he teased. "We'll need to take a detour to get around the Cairlannders."

"Detour? What's wrong with the usual route?"

"Let's just say some folks will get the wrong idea seeing you with them. We don't want to cause a stir in town."

Berengar took back the reins from Avelina and threw them over Brunflek's head before heaving himself up over the hard-worn saddle and offering his hand to her. With a firm grip, Avelina took hold of Berengar's hand and pulled herself up behind him. She tucked herself close and wrapped her arms tight around Berengar's tough leather armor. Berengar looked over his shoulder to Avelina, which she smirked back.

"Straps," he uttered, tapping below his chin.

Avelina quickly dropped her smile upon realizing she had forgotten to fasten her helmet. This time Berengar was the one grinning as she tightened the straps.

Under the soft shade of sprouting trees, they rode through the dense hilly forest. Brunflek had no trouble galloping across the uneven ground with Berengar's guidance, easing and tightening the reins as each stride was taken. Avelina felt the saddle bend and lift in each turn, twisting her waist along with it, but none of it bothered her. Her balance kept centered, and the strides recanted a rhythmic familiarity to it, like a serenading lullaby.

The first time Avelina rode atop Brunflek, she clung onto Berengar for dear life, dreading the possibility of falling off and slamming into a tree trunk along the way. Indeed, it was her first experience riding a horse, and she remembered how hysterical Berengar laughed after she wept about never wanting to ride a horse again. Now, she yearned for it. Avelina had ridden with Berengar to and from Castle Finskalt and Eydis's abode many times since then. One day, she hoped to ride Brunflek herself and travel across faraway to see what laid beyond her humble home. Until then, Avelina had lessons to learn and problems to confront. And Berengar would carry her wherever she needed to have them done.

The forest soon broke away to tilled fields and a dirt road leading to the wooden gates of Demorea: the same gates Avelina had left since sunrise. Yet right away, the sound of blaring horns, marching boots, and the glistening of red banners disrupted the once-slumbering town; the Cairlannders were already there.

"By Tulls!" Berengar cursed as they rode into the clearing. "How did they get here so fast!?"

"I thought you said we were taking a detour," Avelina quipped.

"We did. I just didn't think the curs-ed Velgytes would get here before us."

"...now what?"

Berengar tapped Brunflek with his heel to urge him onwards. "We'll circle around and try to get in through another gate. If we're lucky, the guards there will let us back in."

"Definitely not!" Avelina exclaimed. "The huskarls will be looking for me, and I don't think I'll be able to convince them to keep quiet."

"I know that, but what do you want me to do? Either we turn back and wait for the celebration to end, which I doubt Eydis would approve of you staying, or we try our luck with your father's guards and pray I don't get thrown in the cells as your accomplice."

Avelina thought for a moment. She hadn't considered up to this point how she'd go through the guards without someone reporting her to the Jarl. The huskarls were her father's best men, sworn to protect the Jarl and Clan Finskalt from any threats. They were extraordinary beasts of war. With their thick beards and hulky build, every warrior trained at an early age and served for life as the Jarl's retainers. Each one carried an iconic great axe that battered shields and shattered blades with every swing and a decorated brass-hilt sword indicative of their high stature. The best of these huskarls became the Jarl's Hersir. Fir Gulbrand led this force of mighty warriors, but even he paled in comparison to...

"Gulbrand!" she exclaimed. Avelina rummaged through her sack and pulled out the rolled parchment Gunder had given earlier. "This will get us through the guards. If anyone's words mean something, it'll be Gulbrand."

"Fir Gulbrand?" said Berengar, a strained look in his eyes. "How in Godyrn's name did you get that man to help you?

"Remember back when my father made that pledge with the other clans so that I could train as a shieldmaiden? Fir Gulbrand is the one enforcing that pledge. He said he was only following my father's orders by allowing me to travel freely outside the castle, but it seems now my father disagrees."

"I don't think they agree on anything, really. Fir Gulbrand always spoke of honor more than worrying if something is within his authority. That's more like Fir Valisen's thing, I imagine."

"Valisen's just the castellan. He's little to do with anything outside of Castle Finskalt."

"Yet you always complain about him like you do the Jarl."

"As long as I live under Finskalt's roof, I'm beholden to him just like the rest of the castle."

"I find that hard to believe..."

After some time galloping around Demorea's vast border walls, Avelina and Berengar soon approached a second gate not far from the procession. Few townspeople passed by these gates, although today, there were none to see. Atop its timber ramparts, men encased in knee-high chainmail with gray capes watched as the pair rode up, and Berengar hailed the guards below.

"Halt!" barked one of the guards. He and his companion stood in front of their path as Berengar reared Brunflek to a stop. "State your business."

"It is Berengar of Hersir Tyll's company. I'm here to take this one with me into town."

"No passage is allowed while the procession is underway," the man growled back. "The Jarl's orders."

"We have a letter from Fir Gulbrand." Berengar nodded to Avelina. She handed the parchment over to the guard, who promptly skimmed over it. His stern temper didn't last when he read the parchment, and the man immediately bowed his head.

"My apologies. I wasn't aware."

The man signaled to the gatehouse, and within moments, the dark-pine doors creaked open as the Jarl's huskarls pushed from inside.

"Welcome back, Frey Finskalt."

The other guards saluted as they stood aside for Berengar and Avelina to ride in. Avelina thanked the guards for their understanding as the two went inside to the sight of empty streets and vacant markets.

"It must be quite a procession if no one's around here," Avelina remarked. From afar, the rumbling of drums and touting of horns reverberated over the rickety scales of rooftops. Even here, they could feel the tremor of thousands marching in unison from the other side.

"Or no one wants to come out," added Berengar. "Now, how do we get you back to the castle? You won't tell me we'll have to go through the front door now, right?"

Avelina scoffed. "Surely not! There's a postern at the back through a narrow path. I'll show you where it is once we're at the castle."

Berengar nodded, and he tapped Brunflek forward. Riding through the streets, they found a few curious faces peering behind half-open doors and windowsills. Children pointed at the pair, mistaking them for the Cairlannders marching across town, but were quickly hushed by their parents. Dread, panic, anger, exaltation. Nearly every emotion Berengar and Avelina saw as they passed by, yet none held interest to the lone riders trodding through. Instead, they listened, and they waited, for the clamor of the procession trailed only moments behind.

Soon, they came to the base of the hill that Castle Finskalt sat above. Its walls were an amalgamation of rough concrete slabs and neatly-packed stone bricks, a crumbling fortress of an age long ago. Avelina searched around for the narrow path that would lead her up to the castle and to the postern. As the procession drew closer, the girl wondered if she should appear for the welcoming ceremony. Albeit, she would have to go without her braidings if she were to arrive on time. Perhaps her father would be more open to listening if she did.

Avelina's thoughts vanished when the even-paced crackling of gravel nearby turned to red banners and shining helmets. The procession was coming their way.

Berengar twisted the reins to turn Brunflek around, but the streets quickly filled with townspeople looking to glimpse at their new rulers: battle-worn soldiers with beaten shields, muddied shoes, and ironclad visages. Each of them bore crimson tunics, their brilliant colors sparkling in the midday light. At the front of the column rode horsemen adorned in black surcoats.  At the surcoats' center was the emblem of the Golden Dragon embroidered so elegantly and bold. Their leader, a tall man in a dragon's helmet and white cape, sat stoically upon his steed, watching the gathering crowd as the huskarls cleared the path for them up to Castle Finskalt. Avelina froze as she felt the man's gaze pierce through her visor as Berengar guided Brunflek through the masses. She had never seen a man with such death in his eyes. Behind his faceless visage, the whites of his still amber eyes pierced her being.

Berengar suddenly jumped down from the saddle and pulled Brunflek into the nearby alley.

"Get down," he told Avelina.

At first, Avelina gave a confused stare. What was Berengar doing? She did what was asked jumped down before Berengar began to unbuckle Avelina's helmet and tossed her hood up, just in time as the marching column passed by, with the bodies of the crowd concealing their presence. The two watched as the red banners fluttered overhead before Berengar turned to Avelina.

"Are you alright? You look pale," he said.

Avelina felt the hairs on her arms tingle and goosebumps welting her skin. She looked back at the hardened men clad in red and then to the stark man that gazed back at her. She did not know why she felt the way she did. But to watch them trudging across her home like mindless creatures gave Avelina an ominous sense of dread. Something terrible was coming, but she didn't know what.

"I'm fine..." Avelina replied. "...I just got chills, is all."

"Don't stress yourself, Avelina. I believe in you to do what's best for you. If your old man gives you any trouble, I'll be the first to give him a piece of my mind!"

"Thanks, Bere... I'll keep that in mind." She couldn't tell him it wasn't her father that made her pale but the people she would soon meet: the Cairlannders.

Avelina took a moment to look around the alley and realized they were at the spot. She peered around a corner to find what appeared to be a dead-end walled off by wooden planks. Upon pushing one of the boards, the wall revealed itself to be a door leading to a dirt path squeezed between the castle mound and the town buildings traveling upwards. The postern would be at the other end.

"This is it!" she exclaimed, pointing to the pathway. "The postern is just at the other end!"

"You found it!?" Berengar breathed a sigh of relief. "By Tulls, I was starting to think there wasn't any other way in. I'll remember this place next time. Wait... why didn't you tell me this place existed!? I could've saved myself a great deal of trouble climbing up those walls!"

"Because the postern is for emergencies only. No one else but my family and some trusted individuals know where this is."

Berengar raised a brow. "And I'm not a trusted individual?"

"I just showed you where to go, didn't I?" she shot back.

He folded his arms, giving a brief moment to reflect. "Fair point... but still, I feel a bit cheated here. You best get going then. Don't want to keep the old man waiting."

Just before she took off, Avelina turned around and hugged Berengar. "I'll see you tomorrow, Bere."

"Until then, Avie," he said, reciprocating her embrace. After waving farewell, Avelina headed up the path, where she would soon confront the Jarl of Demorea.

Although Sven and Gunder did not work the postern guard shift at this time of day, the two guards retracted after Avelina handed Gulbrand's message to them, letting her pass through without issue. However, she did not go through the trapdoor as she did this morning. Servants would surely busy themselves in the cellars in preparation for the feast held in Cairlann's honor. Instead, Avelina climbed up the postern tower's stairs and opened the door to the courtyard grounds. The sight that greeted her sent chills down her skin.

From end to end, Avelina could see nothing but a sea of red. Crimson tails of Draco standards drifted in the scarce wind. Rows upon row of iron helmets and crimson shields filled the vast space, and at the very front of the courtyard upon a great platform flanked by the White Ram's banners stood a towering man with glistening auburn hair and a full beard: her father, Jarl Erik Finskalt.

With him stood the mighty Fir Bjorn Gulbrand. Gulbrand's age began to show through the wrinkles in his eyes and graying of his short, deep-umber hair. To Jarl Erik's left was the lanky yet sharp-eyed Fir Valisen, stroking the end of his pointed black beard, attentively listening to the Jarl's speech. And to the right stood...

"That man," Avelina uttered. She recognized that gaze. The one that stared at her from his high horse. He no longer wore his visaged helmet, keeping it tucked under his arm as he observed the motionless figures before them. His golden mid-length hair glistened brightly next to the others, and his clean-shaven face revealed a more youthful man than his peers on the platform despite the man's grueling appearance. Avelina had only heard stories of Cairlann's Golden Dragon from her old head-servant Elda. How its glimmering scales and burning eyes seared through those that gazed upon its magnificence. Avelina certainly had seen one now.

Jarl Erik ended his speech, at which point the blonde man stepped forward and dismissed the troops. The still crimson sea then sprung to life, weaving and tumbling between themselves like crashing waves as they departed to their encampments within the courtyard.  As she slowly walked against the walls to head back to the keep, the blonde man suddenly turned his gaze at Avelina. Her blood went cold as their eyes locked once more, and she froze in place as the man whispered something in her father's ear. It was then that Jarl Erik spotted her too, and with cocked fingers, grinned a devious smile and waved her over.

What should she do? Avelina had not changed out of her dreary-black garments, her boots still muddy from the long walk that morning. Her red hair was rough and unkempt, and the stench of her sweat still hung around. Jarl Erik would surely see by now that she had snuck away outside without his approval.

Avelina placed one foot after the other, slowly approaching the four as they chatted among themselves. She thought about the things she would say to him, what the others might think, how she'll get her point across without upsetting her father. The courageous determination Avelina had championed just moments before burned away as soon as the towering presence of these men shadowed over her.

"Ah! Avelina! There she is..." Jarl Erik called out, motioning her to come by his side.

Avelina nodded her head to the blonde man as Jarl Erik took hold of her shoulder. She could feel his grip tighten as he spoke, holding his proud smile to the others.

Jarl Erik continued. "This is Captain Halan Aldwych of the Knights Chaplain. He and his men will be staying here at Castle Finskalt as our new... protectors."

The blonde man placed a hand to his heart and bowed. "A pleasure to meet you, Lady Finskalt."

His soft-spoken voice eased Avelina's mind, its politeness and sincerely a warm welcome from the cold reception of her father's grip. Perhaps she had misjudged the man.

Avelina nodded her head. "As to you, Fir Aldwych."

Aldwych raised his hand. "Please, call me Halan. We're all friends here now that the war is over. There's no need for such formalities with me."

"Yes! Friends!" Jarl Erik bellowed. "And as any good friends would do, we must celebrate! A new beginning to our newfound friendship between former foes. We shall feast to our hearts' content and drink fine wine and thirst of ale until we are stupor!"

"We've prepared much in anticipation of your arrival, Captain Halan," told Valisen. "The castle staff has been at work all morning to prepare a grand banquet for you and your men."

"Why, you shouldn't have," Halan jested. "After all, we're here intruding upon your magnificent home as weary as we are from the long march. It would be obscene of us to ask anything of you further."

He gestured to two men carrying a large metal chest. After dropping it before them, one of the men twisted a key into the chest's socket to open a trove of gold coins neatly stacked inside. Their eyes widened upon seeing the amount. Avelina had never seen so much gold in her life. The closest she had were the small luminescent chests her father kept atop his desk, but her family had always worked with silver to pay for everything.

"How much is in there?" Jarl Erik asked, pointing at the shining metals.

"Six-hundred thousand aurelis," Halan answered. "Enough to feed two thousand men for the next two years."

Fir Valisen choked. "Six-hundred!"

"His Majesty, King Karsis believed it would bode well for us all if we repaid you in kind. The war was the doing of your former regent Vegard, and now that he is no longer a threat, it is time that we rebuild that trust between our peoples."

A glimmer sparked in Erik's eyes as Halan said those words. Avelina could tell he had something else in mind as he grinned with delight.

"Captain Halan. You'd be pleased to know that we fully support you and King Karsis for liberating us from the grasp of a foolish and erratic man. He had little interest in our affairs and indeed left us to fend for ourselves against your almighty armies. As Jarl of Demorea, I cannot accept this kind gesture, for you cannot put a price on freedom. You have given us the gift of freedom! What more could we repay you than to show our gratitude by housing your people of our own volition?"

Fir Gulbrand and Fir Valisen nearly riled on Jarl Erik for those words. Avelina, too, could not believe her father had just turned down the auspicious sum of money ever to have come across his reach. She had never seen him turn down gifts, even if it was customary to do so. What could her father possibly be planning to deny such an exemplary offering?

"Lord Finskalt, I believe you're sorely mistaken. This is not my decision to make. His Majesty was very adamant about repaying the debt owed to your people in these transgressions. You can turn it away, but I cannot use this coin for my own intentions. It'll only return to the Crown's coffers."

"Then let King Karsis know that the people of Demorea stand fully with him and that we are not the same as the vain jarls in the north clinging to their dead thrones."

Fir Valisen stepped up to his Jarl and pleaded. "My lord, please reconsider. We do not have the stores to keep thousands of men housed here for even a year. We must find a way to replenish the cellars. If we run out..."

"Nonsense, Fir Valisen!" he boasted. "These soldiers will surely pull their weight in gold. Why else would they send a fine man like Captain Halan to our doors? No, it is we who are indebted to them, and we must show our gratitude."

"You have a good man by your side, Lord Finskalt," said Halan. "He kept this old fortress running long after its original owners had long gone, and threw a feast in these hard days! Perhaps it would do well to listen to his concerns?"

Erik chuckled. "Oh, captain. I understand your worries. Fret not, for I too have been running Demorea's affairs for some time, and I know well what our people can and cannot afford. A good friendship is timeless, and that can never be replaced."

Halan thought for a moment. "An interesting way to put it... but I can understand the sentiment. Very well." He waved the two soldiers off, and they then locked the chest back and carried it off from the platform. "Lord Finskalt, Lady Finskalt, Sir Gulbrand, Sir Valisen. It has been an honor. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must attend to my duties. I'm eager to hear more from you all when we next speak again."

He saluted to them, giving Avelina a gentle smile before leaving.

Jarl Eric then turned to Fir Gulbrand and Fir Valisen. "Please excuse us. Avelina and I need to have a little chat."

"We'll need to talk about the funds, my Lord," Fir Valisen pressed.

"In due time, Fir Valisen! I'll have you in my study later. Now leave us."

The two bowed their heads as they, too, departed, leaving Avelina to walk back to the keep with her father. His hand had never left her shoulder the entire time. A tight grip kept her from walking out of arm's reach, and she could only feel it tightening as they strolled across the bristling courtyard.

"Now, my red flower..." her father's tone suddenly dropped, a stifled rage in his voice. "...where have you been?"
« Last Edit: Today at 03:36:15 AM by Operative13 »
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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #37 on: February 15, 2021, 01:11:42 AM »
Demorean Militia


Berengar of Clan Signe in his militia attire

Following Cairlann's early success against Vermaris after the Korvanian Reformations, many neighboring kingdoms rushed to standardize their armed forces. Much of Cadamaria depended on the feudal system to supply necessary manpower from local lords for military campaigns and national defense. However, this overdependence meant armies were slow to raise, and troop quality and numbers often varied. It was rare for pitched battles to occur for this reason, with much of Cadamaria's early warfare focused on raids and skirmishes as a result. Yet, with Cairlann's standardization and restructuring of its military, requiring nobles to arm and provide training for all able-bodied men as well as the formal organization of a national militia meant that Cairlann could field larger, professional armies at a fraction of the time than their counterparts.

While kingdoms such as Felwin and Vermaris were quick to adopt similar military standards to that of Cairlann (and in the case of Myseros, already a long-practiced system), not everyone followed suit. The Kingdom of Godwyn heavily divided power between the elected king and the jarls that governed the lands. Each jarl saw themselves as a king in their own right, independent of the royal authority their elected monarch held. This rivalry between the king and the jarls made any significant reforms slow to pursue. The Godwynians believed the king to be an equal among themselves, serving only as a uniting figure to rally behind rather than a master to obey. It was up to the jarls in their respective lands to implement the policies set forth by Godwyn's royal court. Near the end of the Cairlannder-Vermarian War, Godwyn had finally begun to introduce reforms under the great King Vegard, mimicking the ideals founded by Cairlann's King Korvan ages before.

However, such reforms came too late by the time Cairlann invaded. While Godwyn's reputation for producing superior warriors remained true, its forces lacked the supplies and manpower to land a decisive defeat against the Cairlannder aggressors despite the homefront advantage. Efforts to form a professional army were limited. By the time of the Siege of Godwyn, many jarls had already reverted back to conscripting local militias to fill their army's ranks.

Berengar of Clan Signe serves as part of Demorea's local militia under Jarl Finskalt, an early adopter of King Vegard's reforms. Militiamen were required to retain basic standards of equipment, such as a shield and helmet, and received rudimentary martial training from Jarl's Finskalt huskarls. Because of Demorea's strategic position at the foot of the Arvaltan mountains guarding a fertile river valley, iron deposits were abundant, allowing for the Demorean militia to arm themselves more extensively with blades such as a sword and seax.
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #38 on: February 15, 2021, 01:14:27 AM »
Fantastic work as always OP, you never fail to impress  :thumbsup:

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #39 on: February 22, 2021, 01:45:50 AM »
Thanks Green! I appreciate the support!  ;)
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #40 on: February 22, 2021, 01:46:01 AM »
A Tales of Cadamaria Story - Chapter 3

Avelina stood in silence, her fingers twiddling behind her back. The vast chasm of the study room, packed with books, maps, and antiques, scorned back at her restless mind, unable to piece together the thoughts held before. She opened her mouth, but words failed to emerge. A choking emptiness clouded her chest, stiff tightness wrapping around her frame. This was not at all how she expected her meeting with Jarl Erik to go.

In her mind, Avelina's talk would have been in the presence of others. Respectable figures like Fir Gulbrand or her aunt Frida, with which she could converse openly without repercussion or retribution. Instead, Avelina had found herself alone before the very man she hoped to persuade, isolated like cornered prey. Avelina's well-crafted message vanished the moment Jarl Erik asked where she had gone.

Her father's disdainful eyes fixated on her, arms crossed with growling eyes as he firmly sat across the desk, tapping his finger, waiting for an answer.

Avelina began. "I wanted to speak to you about..."

"That's not what I asked, Avelina. Where have you been?"

Avelina bit behind her lips. She dared not answer what Jarl Erik wished to hear, or rather what she believed he already knew. It would only weaken her case and perhaps provide the very fire he intended to use against her.   Avelina knew that arguing against him would provoke his just wrath and fury, but if she did not take a stand now, she could never hope to save the freedom she clung so fervently on. No, she had to fight. Avelina had to prove she was no longer the girl she once was: the shy little girl locked away inside a tower, kept away from the world only to be used as a tool for his own gains. She lived through that long enough. And she intended to show her father he no longer had power over her.

"Training with Eydis," Avelina fired back. "Am I not supposed to follow her instructions?"

"Don't play coy with me. You know very well what you did. Going out in the middle of darkness when we had a celebration to attend to. Not to mention the damned mobs we've had days earlier! Those conniving fools could've had their way with you if they'd known what you've been up to! Then what am I supposed to do? Pay off a ransom? Cave into their demands? All because some girl felt that her feelings were more important than her father's words?"

"I'm not some girl!" Avelina cried out.

"You're not. You're my daughter, and I expect you to act like it."

"Don't you think that's what I've been doing? I've spent my whole life not knowing the world out there, what I've missed all these years because I've been locked away in a castle. All I've known were your frilly words and vain aspirations. But now I realize just how much you've hidden from me. How much I've been cheated and lied to! Don't you think Mother would have raised me differently!?"

"And what!?" Jarl Erik spat. "Let you frolic about with not a care in the world while we all toil away for your petty feelings? There are more important things to concern yourself with than some silly trite."

"Shjaldmaering is not a silly trite! It's what Mother would have wanted!"

"And look where it got her. I tried to talk some sense into your mother, much as I did for you, but no! She felt her pride and principles were more important than her own family! Your grandfather and the rest of his unruly lot might approve of this farce, but as long as I am your father, you will obey my orders."

"You can't force me to abandon my training, Father. The others will know you've gone back on your oath. I'll tell everyone I can about what you told me just now. I'll make sure of it!"

Avelina grinned, confident that her retort would push her father to reconsider. However, it only enraged him further. Jarl Erik slammed his desk, rattling the entire frame, and stood up with searing eyes and snarling teeth. Just as quickly as her confidence came, Avelina immediately dropped her smile, and a look of dread followed.

"How dare you!" Erik screamed. "How dare you speak up to me like that!? I would have never thought that my own daughter would show such audacity to my face! Sixteen years I've raised you, and this is the thanks I get!? Dishonesty!? Disobedience!? Disrespect!?"

Avelina held herself firm as tears began to welt inside her eyelids. Never had she imagined that standing up to her father the way she did would elicit such a brutal response. Her mind flashed as Avelina considered her options. Should she continue? Should she stay silent? Perhaps she should retract herself...

"If you weren't my daughter, I would have had you whipped for your insolence!" he continued. "My own daughter! Turning against her own father... no doubt a result of your escapades with that boy, no less! Who do you think you are to speak to me in that way!? Who taught you all that you know, provided a roof over your head? Who gave you warmth and comfort when the masses could barely afford their own meals? Do you realize how lucky you are, and now you give me this!? What is this world coming to?"

For a fleeting moment, they shared a brief silence. Avelina wanted to say more, but her flushed face and choked tears stifled her tongue. She would surely break if she pushed any further, and so she remained silent as Jarl Erik calmed his temper and dropped back down onto his chair. He let out an excruciatingly long sigh, tapping the desk with his index finger.

"As much as I detest your nonsensical dreams, I cannot do anything about it. I am oathbound to allow your training to continue however Frey Eydis sees fit. But it must be within reason. If you are to leave before dawn, I want an escort to accompany you when you head out. Where you go, I want to know at all times. Everywhere you go. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Father," Avelina answered with a hollow voice.

The spirit she once possessed had all but vaporized. Her bones trembled, her chest stiff, and her eyes salty. Yet, she could not help but feel relief that her father's ire had eased. Perhaps, even welcoming so. But deep down, Avelina knew she had failed. The self-confidence she meant to espouse moments earlier receded instead to the assurance of Jarl Erik's even-handed words, unable to challenge him any further. As long as she quietly agreed to him, he would not strike out at her.

"Good." Jarl Erik nodded with satisfaction. "In the meantime, we'll have dinner with our new guests shortly. Make yourself presentable before you come to the Hall. We want to look our best when the feast begins."

"Yes, Father," she obediently said.

It sickened her to say that. It was as if Avelina had betrayed her future self, disappointing so many others that cheered her on before. She wanted to change. But what could a little girl do against a grown man who held all the power? Jarl Erik was right: Avelina was as prideful as her mother. Yet now, her pride had withered away, utterly dismantled the words of her father's fury. Avelina solemnly bowed before heading out, retreating to the safety of her room to change out of her sorrowful-looking clothes. If only she could change...



It came to her surprise when Avelina found several women occupying her room. A few thralls lined up against a wooden tub laced with a white cloth carrying pitchers, scrubbers, and oils, the water pouring steam from the heat. Two other women, a young maiden with red-flowing hair and a matching brilliant red-orange dress, and a plump old lady with a fishtail and deep-gray apron turned to see who came through the door.

"My goodness!" the young maiden exclaimed. "Avelina, you're filthy! Take those muddy boots off at once!"

"Aunt Frida!" Avelina said. "What are you doing here?"

"Why, to get you ready for dinner, of course! Who else is going to pick out your clothes to wear? Now take those dirty things off and get into the tub. We need to get you spiff and sparkling for our guests tonight!"

"Leg up, Dear," the old woman said. Avelina lifted her feet as the woman tugged the heavy boots off and tossed them into a corner.

"Thank you, Elda," Avelina said as the woman stood up and began to pull the girl's garments off. The others watched as a pile of black, dirt-ridden, and sweat-stained fabric formed off to the side before Avelina dipped herself into the steaming-hot water.

Avelina sighed, the thralls scrubbing away on her pale skin and tired bones, pouring warm water across her shoulders.  "I'm not looking forward to this. It'll be filled with nothing but rowdy old men chatting about... whatever old men do. Do we have to entertain them?"

"It's only proper that we show some respect to our guests," said Frida, sorting through Avelina's massive wardrobe. "And we wouldn't want to upset your father, yes? What were you doing sneaking out in the middle of the night?"

"I was training!" Avelina raised her voice, almost lifting herself up from the tub. "Eydis was very clear that I had to get up early if I wanted her to teach me. I even ran late with how far her house is. She was quite irritated when I arrived."

"And when did you two arrange to meet? We haven't taken you to her for days now, with all the mobs and rioting lately..." She stopped for a moment. "I was worried sick for you."

"I'm sorry, Aunt Frida," she apologized. "I should have told you about it. I didn't think you would approve."

"Well, most certainly I wouldn't! It's dangerous to be out alone, especially at night, given everything going on right now. Your father has made many enemies, and they would love to make him suffer."

"Thankfully, I had Fir Gulbrand's blessing and his guards to support me. Nothing bad ever happened when I went to Eydis."

"That may be so, but there's no telling what could happen. Please don't hide anything like that again from us. We're all here to support you, even if some of us hate to admit it." Frida pulled out a dark sapphire dress but quickly placed it back after a quick glance.

"I don't think Father shares the same idea as we do."

"You might not see it, Avelina, but he does care about you quite a lot. Perhaps in his own little way, but Erik is not someone to show weakness. We had to grow up without a father to look up to or a mother to cradle us. He's had to hide a lot of his feelings to take care of this family. He can come off as hot-tempered and uncaring, but I implore you to consider what he's done for us. This place used to be a small village in the middle of nowhere but now look where we are: a thriving community with luxuries most other places could only dream of. Not many people appreciate the things he did for this town, and I think many folks take that for granted."

"I'm not fond of how he does things. If I were in his place, I'd do things differently. Be kinder, gentler. Perhaps listen and consider others for once. Maybe then people won't hate him as much."

"People have principles. They wouldn't compromise it for anything in the world. You have yours as well as your father's. Now I don't agree with everything he does, but I can understand where he comes from. I suggest you try to do the same. We only have each other, after all."

"I'll think about it," Avelina replied, just as a thrall gently poured water over her hair.

"Wonderful! Now let's talk about something more exciting, like the feast we'll be having!" Frida turned and presented two dresses to Avelina. "Blue indigo with gold or forest green with crimson?" She playfully hid the forest green dress behind her back. "Personally, I think you should try something different."

"But it matches so well!" Avelina cried out. "Maybe if I were to dye my hair shining gold, the blue would look better on me."

"You're right. Blue always looked better on your mother. But if I were her, I would love to have my daughter wear my old dress to the occasion. How else will you impress a suitor wearing the same outfit all the time?"

"Frida!" Avelina flushed red.

The cheery aunt grinned. "It's very possible you might find a boy that strikes your fancy there! Maybe a charming prince with good looks and well-endowed manners, who'll spirit you away from this place to live in some tranquil summer valley..."

"As if I'd ever!"

Frida snickered. "Green it is then."



At the Jarl's long table, they all sat at the head of a lively banquet stacked from end-to-end with the brightest candles and the most exquisite delicacies.

The Great Hall boasted dozens of men in crimson-red tunics and white wool trousers seated within the many wooden long tables present. They cheered away, clattering mugs of ale and feasting on piles of pork, chicken, and lamb as the thralls cleared the empty dishes to place down more to satiate their growling bellies. Yet still, the rowdy men demanded more. They clattered their plates, pounded the table, howled at the servants tirelessly working to serve their new guests, nearly all of them a sultry face barely holding a smile. A small trope formed in one corner of the halls with flute and lyre and a hollering quartet. Everyone capered away into the night. Filling the halls with hymns and revelries, they sang of great heroes and valiant battles, of fair maidens and of home. Yet, it did not amuse Avelina to hear how Godwyn's greatest warriors were struck down. Not by Cairlannder steel, but by their own misguided pride and beliefs.

Jarl Erik held a wide grin the entire time from his high seat at the front of the Great Hall to the enormous feast put together. It was filled with boisterous talk and banter, the sweet aroma of roasted meat and tender bread, and the warm candlelights illuminating the majestic shields and banners that hung over the arches. Avelina only stared as the chaos unfolded, drunken men falling over where they sat as servant girls navigated their way through a sea of swooning men eager to pull them into their clasp. Frida sat beside her remarkably calm, helping herself to a serving of lamb stew as she held her gentle smile throughout.

"What an intriguing lot," Frida quipped. "They ask for more drinks but can barely keep themselves together."

"More like hogs, really," Avelina mocked. "They just don't know when to stop and fall over."

Frida raised a concerning look. "Is something the matter, Dear? You haven't touched your plate."

"I still don't understand. How can we be so generous with these people? Here they are, singing of our demise, and yet they expect us to forget what had happened and move on?"

"I'm sure they don't mean anything serious by that. Celebrations are a time to mend wounds and repair broken bonds. I imagine fighting can take a heavy toll on one's soul. Wars are no trifling matter. Such revelries are a way to ease their suffering, if only for a moment."

"At the expense of those who had..." Avelina muttered under her breath.

Fir Gulbrand and Fir Valisen sat off to their right of the table away from the others, uttering something between themselves. They likewise appeared to share the same restlessness as Avelina did, with their deep gaze and hoveled backs watching the red men pillage the Great Hall of its stores. Captain Halan and his entourage sat on the other side of the table, with Jarl Erik entertaining them as they laughed and joked and largely ignored the other company. Yet, Avelina could only glance at the one empty seat right beside Jarl Erik, the one her mother once held. Her family had always had their meals with that one seat present, absent any occupants. A token of remembrance, her father told her. A way for her mother to visit her, even from the Sacred Halls of Arvalta. What would she think of all this now?

"This is a wonderful feast you've given us, Jarl Finskalt," Captain Halan spoke. "They've definitely missed a decent meal since we left our vestiges in Cairlann. Eating on the march can wear a soul out after so long."

"Please, the honor is mine!" Jarl Erik gloated. "I must confess, I've taken a keen interest in your kingdom for a long time. I've heard great things about your people's accomplishments. How you repelled the Myserians and crushed Vermaris with armies only half their size. How you fielded thousands of men in only a matter of weeks and had them march halfway across Cadamaria in just mere days. If it were not for your people's love for cheap brews, Cairlann might as well have been the Empire reincarnate!"

"I'm flattered you think so highly of us, Lord Finskalt. But to be fair, the Empire was the one that pioneered our system. We merely revived what was already there. Certainly, your people have been trying their methods? I've seen the work you've done for your militias here. It shows in their cadence."

"Why I'm glad you noticed!" he suddenly exclaimed. "I was one of the first to implement King Vegard's reforms, seeing how superior your military prowess is. Compared to us, we would never have the strength to muster such a well-equipped and well-trained army as you would. Just look at all that red!"

Captain Halan chuckled. "It happens to be the cheapest dye we have on hand. And it gives us a sense of decorum. Something for the men to rally around."

"Is that so? I always thought it was some sort of tribute to the Old Empire. They too used red for their soldiers."

"And so did the Myserians!" Halan exclaimed. "But I find it amusing no one takes them seriously. I heard they're still trying to grow fine wines in that blasted Valley of Paradise."

"Yes, their Autarch is a strange man! For so-called successors, they're terrible at succeeding. How can you lose more ground winning a war than when you started?"

"It takes a sharp mind and a strong fortitude to win over the people."

"Anymore feasting, and we'll need a strong fortitude for our bowels."

The men broke into hysterical laughter as Avelina retracted from that nauseating joke. Captain Halan then turned his attention to Frey Frida and Avelina.

"Enjoying the festivities, my Ladies?" he asked.

"It's certainly much different from what we're used to," told Frida. "It's rare for us to hold a feast with this many in one room!"

"You wouldn't want to get used to it. Trust me. I've seen what these men are capable of when they get a few drinks in them."

"Oh, I wouldn't dare dream of it! I've been begging Erik here for ages to remove some of the Vermarian wines we have stored in the cellars to make room for other things, but he insists he'll need it one day for something like this. And yet still he serves his watered-down ale!"

"Wine? Well, why haven't I heard about this?" Halan asked.

"Frida, what have you done?" Erik jested. "Now I'm going to have to relinquish my wine collection!"

Another bout of laughter broke across the table.

"She has a sense of humor; I'll give her that!" Captain Halan then gazed over at the empty seat next to Jarl Erik. "I wished I had the pleasure to meet your lovely wife, Jarl Finskalt. She's missing out on all the fun!"

Frida corrected. "Oh no, Captain Halan. Frey Runa is..."

Captain Halan quickly retracted upon seeing the despairing look on the woman's face. "Apologies. I wasn't aware. I only assumed..."

"No, no. It's fine." Jarl Erik waved. "No one told you about it."

"Is that why there's an empty seat? For her?" Captain Halan asked.

"Yes," Avelina suddenly spoke up. "And she wouldn't have wanted any of this if she was here."
« Last Edit: Today at 03:32:29 AM by Operative13 »
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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #41 on: Today at 02:25:33 AM »
Godwynian Belief in the Soul


Godwynian Catacombs containing entombed bodies of noble families and their servants

Through the teachings of the One Faith, Cairlann believed the soul rests with the heart. However, the people of Godwyn, pagan followers of the Ancient Ones, instead believe that the soul resided in the head. It was common practice for these Godwynian traditionalists to take one's head upon their passing. Warriors would often collect heads of their slain foes after battles as tokens to the Ancient Gods to accept them into the afterlife. Many nobles housed underground tombs containing the heads and bodies of servants and relatives to connect the living realm to that of the dead and often held grand ceremonies in these dark catacombs, especially before and after great battles. In Godwyn, to find one’s head in the walls of these vast tombs is an honor to the Ancient Gods, but to the Cairlannders, it is a horrific defilement of one’s body and the grim imprisonment of the One’s servant in the clutches of demons.
« Last Edit: Today at 03:04:47 AM by Operative13 »
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